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“The thing is, Farley,” the doctor said, folding and unfolding his hands on the desk between them. “The results of your physical were a bit...concerning. You seem to be in excellent health,” he added hastily. “Aggressively good health, in fact. Peak condition for an eighteen-year-old boy.”

“Five organic vegetables and no less than two hours of exercise per day,” Farley said, a little nervously. “And I’ve never smoked a puff in my life. I have had beer,” he confessed with some hesitation. “Almost an entire twelve-ounce can of it once after we won the championship last season. Is that enough to—”

“No, no.” The doctor waved this away. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have said concerning. It’s just somewhat unusual, at your age. Your blood tests...well, your testosterone level. It’s not exactly up to spec.”

“It isn’t?”

“No. Not at all, in fact, not for an alpha, or even for a beta. It’s exactly the level we’d expect to see from a healthy young omega, however.”

“A—what? But I’m not…”

“A late omega presentation well past the onset of puberty is rare, but not unheard of,” the doctor told him gently. “Have you experienced any symptoms you can recall? Any, er.” He cleared his throat. “Heats?”

Farley started to say that of course he hadn’t, this was ridiculous, the blood samples must have gotten mixed up somehow...and then he remembered the dream. The dream he’d had a few weeks ago, the one he’d woken up from to find himself lying in a puzzling puddle. He’d stripped the bed and tried to shrug it off as an unusually wet nocturnal emission, but he’d had a weird feeling all that day, too, a kind of damp internal ache. A hollowness, deep inside, like a hole longing to be filled. He’d promised himself at the time that he’d mention it to the doctor during his upcoming physical, but then it had gone away, and he’d forgotten.

Farley felt his ears begin to burn. He was probably crimson from the neck up, and he wasn’t sure what to say, but the doctor was pushing back his chair and getting up from the desk, walking around to give him an awkward little shoulder-pat. “All perfectly normal,” the doctor assured him. “Just happening a bit late for you. I’m sure it’ll be an adjustment, but you’ll be fine. Omega health isn’t my specialty, I’m afraid, but give these folks a call—they’ll sort you out and answer any questions you might have.” He handed Farley a business card and gave him another brisk shoulder-pat. The interview was apparently over.

“Th-thanks,” Farley managed, with automatic politeness. “That’s...okay, yes, yes sir, I will, thank you,” and he got up on suddenly shaky legs and made his way out into his newly reeling world.

*

Farley made an appointment with the omega healthcare specialists without saying a word about it to anyone. He was officially an adult now, after all, and he didn’t need anyone to hold his hand. He still more than half hoped it was all a mistake of some kind. He didn’t feel like an omega. If anyone in the waiting room was looking at him, he figured, they probably thought he was someone’s extra-supportive boyfriend. He looked around furtively over the top of his hockey magazine and tried to decide who the omegas were. The bored-looking kid with the glasses and the weird sweater, a few years older than him? Probably an omega, yeah, he decided, but then another boy came out and took his hand and he said “All set?” and they left chatting together, so maybe not. Then they called Farley’s name, and he said “Here!” like a nervous dweeb, which he was, and he had to go in and change into the awful gown they gave him, everything off and open in the back.

He sat on the chilly paper-covered exam table, crossing and uncrossing his bare legs and trying not to look at the stirrups or at the tray of presumably sterile implements nearby—he’d read about what to expect at an omega wellness visit, but it was even more alarming in person. Probably it wouldn’t get that far, he told himself; the doctor would take one look at him and realize there’d been a mixup. He was a hockey star; there weren’t omega hockey stars. He glanced down at the, oh god, speculum on the tray, and he wished he had a hand to hold after all.

“Farley Gordon?” A young white-coated woman tapped at the door and then entered; she was very attractive, to Farley’s complete horror. He’d been picturing an older guy, like his pediatrician had been, or maybe someone motherly, but this person looked like a grad student, with a swingy black ponytail, and he forgot every word of his carefully prepared speech about the funny chain of events that had brought him here. “Hi, I’m Dr. Desai. Just a wellness check today, right?”

“Well, y-yes,” Farley stammered out. “That’s what I put down on the form, although I really wanted to talk to you about, um.” He lost his words.

“Birth control, I hope,” Dr. Desai said crisply. “I see here it says you’re not currently using anything?”

“I mean, no,” Farley managed. “I’m not, I haven’t needed any, not for myself, I’m not, not…”

“Not sexually active? We should talk about the options anyway, just in case; you’ll find that your heats get a lot more intense now that you’ve reached full maturity. Let’s get the unpleasant preliminaries out of the way first and then we’ll have a chat. Go ahead and lie back, feet up in the stirrups.”

Farley was nothing if not obedient. “The thing is, though—oh!”

“Cold touch now,” she warned, a moment too late. “Try to relax. Deep breath in…that’s it...and bear down on the exhale. Good! Speculum’s in; I always think that’s the worst of it, don’t you?”

“I, oh, gosh, no doubt about that,” Farley said, trying to remember how to breathe.

“And...open,” Dr. Desai announced, doing something that made it feel as though he were being stretched around a hockey puck. “Very good. I know it’s awful. Everything looks nice and healthy here, though. Now, where’s your cervix hiding?”

Farley opened his mouth to explain. At last.

“Aha, there it is,” the doctor said, peering closely. “Always a little hard to find on a young omega male. Let’s just get a quick cervical swab, then I’ll do the bimanual exam, and then you can relax. You’re very tense, Farley; is everything okay?”

He couldn’t speak. He tried to nod. A cervical swab? He didn’t have a cervix! This had to be a joke, an elaborate practical joke; maybe the team had set it up, that must be it, because he’d definitely know if he had a—

The swab touched something deep inside him that had definitely never been touched before in his life, and Farley yelped, jerked away so violently he nearly fell off the exam table, and burst into startled and completely uncontrollable tears.

*

Dr. Desai was extremely nice. She got the speculum out of him very swiftly and brought him tissues and cups of water, and apologized more than once for being in a rush and not listening to what he’d been trying to say, and they talked for quite a long time. When he was ready, he got back into the stirrups and she finished his exam, gently and slowly, explaining everything she was going to do before she did it. It was still horrifically embarrassing and felt incredibly weird, but it didn’t take long, really, and at last he was able to put his clothes back on and escape into the fresh air, clutching his brand-new birth control prescription and a handful of pamphlets on safer sex practices and managing heat symptoms.

It was true.

Now he just had to tell...everyone.

*

His parents, of course, were almost sickeningly supportive; gleeful, even. “I always knew you were too sensitive to be an alpha,” his father said, glowing with pride.

“Dad, Mom’s an alpha,” Farley pointed out. “Are you calling your own wife insensitive?”

“Well, male alphas are different, darling boy,” his mother said. “Everyone knows that.”

“That’s a bit gender-essentialist, isn’t it? Weren’t you two the ones who raised me on Free to Be Alpha and Omega? Even Simone de Beauvoir would disagree with you; the entire thesis statement of The Third Sex is that on ne naît pas oméga; on le devient. And don’t forget the whole social constructionist theory of sexuality, which was based on the Foucauldian philosophy of beta fluidity—”

“Grandbabies,” his mother said, touching his cheek, her eyes shining. “You’ll be able to give us grandbabies. Not any time soon, I hope, Farley dear—there are precautions you’ll need to take. You should really have a private talk with your father…”

“I know, Mom,” he said quickly, ducking away. “I know all about that. I’ve been to the doctor already for birth control.” His ears were reddening again; he could feel them heating up. “Not that I plan on...I don’t have anyone I’m…”

“Have you talked to Eve yet, son?” His father sounded serious.

“Not yet.” Farley fiddled with the laughing Buddha figurine from Tibet that they kept by the front door for luck. “I don’t know what to say to her. She was so sure we were soulmates. It’s going to break her heart.”

*

“Oh,” said Eve. “Well. That explains it.”

“Explains what?” Farley demanded. “Why I’m so sensitive and soulful? Not you with the gender essentialism, too!”

“No,” said Eve. “More like explains why we have the chemistry of argon and helium.”

Farley frowned. “Gassy?”

“Inert, you dingbat. Haven’t you ever wondered why we’ve never gotten past second base?”

“I thought...I was being a gentleman?”

Eve gave him a pitying look. “Thinking about kissing you was so much more exciting than the reality turned out to be. Sorry, Farley. I’ve been trying to figure out how to let you down easily, but I thought we’d both be off to university soon enough and we could just...drift our separate ways.”

“Ouch,” Farley said. “Really?”

“Really,” Eve said. “You’re a nice guy, Farley, and I hope we’ll still be friends, but honestly, it really has been like making out with my brother. Plus it’s always bugged me what a total asshole you were about Marco.”

“Well,” said Farley. “This is turning out to be a real week of unpleasant revelations.”

“Why, because it’s so horrifying being an omega?”

“No,” Farley hedged. “I mean, no, but...it’s a little tricky if you’re…”

“A guy?” Eve rolled her eyes. “Now who’s being gender essentialist?”

“I was going to say a hockey player.”

“Oh. Yeah, your team’s not exactly enlightened, are they?”

“They’re not that bad,” Farley said, but honestly, he wasn’t at all sure.

“Did you tell them yet?”

He shook his head. “Next on my list,” he said grimly.

“Well,” Eve said. “Good luck with that,” and she kissed him on the cheek. “Hey, do you want to borrow my copy of Your Changing Omega Body that my mom gave me when I was thirteen?”

“Uh, thanks, I’m good,” Farley said, but he turned back at the door. “Okay, yeah, actually, maybe that would be helpful, if you really still have it,” and she bit her lip but didn’t laugh as she pulled the book from a shelf and handed it to him. He hoped they really would stay friends.

*

Farley read Eve’s book cover to cover two times that night, taking notes on the second read-through. It was nothing he couldn’t have found out on the internet, of course, but he hadn’t been looking forward to doing a search that might provide him with way more (and more graphic) information than he was prepared to handle at the moment. On the one hand, a book geared toward young adolescents was reassuringly upbeat about the facts of omega sexuality, which Farley appreciated just then; on the other hand, it was frustratingly vague at times, with references to when you’re older that left him dangling in suspense. Also, it had almost nothing to say about the topic of sports other than that it was perfectly safe for omegas to take part in all normal physical activities, but that they might want to “take it easy” during the first day or two of their monthly heats. Take it how easy, Farley wondered, and why? And what if the first days of their heats happened to coincide with a crucial match-up against the Bearcats? What then?

The book did, at least, have a bibliography at the end for suggested further reading, and Farley used it to make reservations in the online library catalog for copies of Ourmega Bodies, Ourmega Selves and Heat’s Not the End of the World: A Sex Positive Guide to Omega Health. Then he closed his laptop, turned out the lights, and got into bed.

After a minute or two, Farley’s right hand, which had been resting on his stomach, moved down and slid slowly, tentatively, beneath the waistband of his pajama bottoms. The reading he’d been doing had made him half-erect, and his cock sprang eagerly up at the warm touch of his fingers. Farley closed his eyes and began to stroke himself in earnest, quickly and a little roughly. It felt different, touching himself while thinking about omega things. It made him want....he wasn’t sure what. Maybe he’d never allowed himself to really think about what he wanted before. He’d always done what other people wanted from him: his parents, or Eve. And that had been fine. He’d thought it had been fine. The only thing Farley had ever wanted on his own had been hockey.

Now he was thinking about hockey and about omega stuff at the same time, which should have been really weird, but instead it was...even more exciting? Farley felt a few drops of precome welling up from the tip of his erection now, and he sped up the movement of his hand, squeezing a little and spreading the slick wetness all around the head of his cock. He was thinking about being filled, being fucked, being made to take someone’s knot—whose? Some faceless alpha, he told himself quickly, it didn’t matter who, but in his imagination it was happening in the locker room, with its fug of wet gear and sweat and Axe body spray and the cold sting of dirty ice, the clash of skate blades and the snap of damp towels. He was bent over one of the benches, held down, jersey rucked up, big hands on his chest, on his throat, his ass, and someone’s low rough voice was steadying him as they opened him up and drove into him so hard it felt like there was cock rammed all the way up into the pit of his belly—

Farley squeezed his eyes shut and whimpered as his left hand slipped down to explore his ass, giving himself a finger, two fingers—could he find that deep-inside spot the doctor had touched, could he get inside himself at that angle? He couldn’t, but just the thought of it made his eyes roll back in his head, made his back arch as the hardest orgasm he’d ever had tore through him. He came and came and came in a series of convulsive shocks, mouth open wide in a nearly silent gasping groan, impaled on his own fingers and making a huge mess of his pajamas; he didn’t care.

And he wasn’t even in heat.

Afterwards, when his frantic heartbeat had finally slowed and the sweat and jizz had begun to cool unpleasantly on his skin, Farley peeled himself up off the sheets and staggered to the bathroom to clean himself up. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, wild-eyed and wrecked, and he had to laugh. “Farley Gordon,” he said to himself. “Who the heck are you?”

*

At practice the next day, Farley was distracted and irritable. He whiffed on three perfect set-up shots in a row, and after the third he cursed and nearly threw down his stick in a rage. Instead he swung around and tried to cross-check Moose, who elbowed him easily away and sent him flying into the boards, cracking his chin on the rail.

“Gordon!” the coach screamed. “Do that in a game and that’s five minutes in the penalty box, and you just might cost us the win! What is with you today?!”

Farley took a fast lap of the ice, trying to cool himself down, then signaled that he was taking five and stepped off the rink.

“Sure, what the hell, everyone take five,” Donker shouted. “Take ten. Take the whole rest of the goddamn season. Come back when you’re ready to act like men—I didn’t sign up to coach the Pee Wees or the omega league.”

The omega league. Was that where Farley belonged? Maybe he did. Maybe it was prejudiced of him to think he was too good for that. But he loved the Blades! But...what if it was the glory of being a star player he loved, and he just didn’t want to give any of that up? Was he really that much of an egotist? Farley sank onto a bench and groaned, head in his hands.

“Hey, Gordon!” Moose crashed down next to him and slung a heavy arm around Farley’s shoulders. “Sorry about the elbow, kid. Pure instinct. You okay? You hit the rail pretty hard. Here, let me see.” He tipped up Farley’s chin with a gloved hand and tried to look closely at him, but Farley flinched away. “Whoa,” Moose said. “Are you hurt bad? You really need to keep that helmet fastened better, buddy, I’m always telling you…”

“No,” Farley said, moving out of his reach. “It’s not that. I’m fine, I just…” He shut his eyes and blew out a long exhale. They were all going to find out sooner or later, no use trying to hide it, and it would only be worse the longer he put it off. “Okay, Moose, don’t tell the rest of the team just yet, but I went in for a checkup this week, and I got...I got some bad news.”

“Oh, no. No!” Moose’s eyes filled with tears, and he slammed a fist down on the bench between them. “Goddamnit, kid. How long have you got? We’ll make your last days special, I swear, whatever you want—”

“No, hey, I’m not dying! Why would you—oh, of course. I knew we shouldn’t have let you watch that double feature of Love Story and A Walk to Remember last month.”

“Love is like the wind,” Moose whispered. He wiped his jersey sleeve across his eyes, then cleared his throat and looked fierce again. “So, uh, what’s the bad news, then?”

Farley made himself say it. “I’m an omega.”

Moose laughed. “Okay, but seriously.”

Farley looked at him.

“But you can’t be! Since when? What about that cute little omega girlfriend you had?”

“Still cute, no longer my girlfriend,” Farley said. “And I guess it was kind of...latent, till recently.”

“Huh,” said Moose. “I mean, it makes sense, all the hugging, the yoga, the woo-woo organic kum-bi-ya…”

“Hey,” Farley protested. “I’m a product of my weird homeschooled upbringing, not my biology.”

“If you say so.” Moose looked doubtful. “What about your skills? Everyone knows omegas can’t play sports. Is that why you’re missing all those shots today?”

“What? No! I can still score. I’m still me, okay? Nothing’s changed. I’m just...having a bad day.”

“You sure about that?”

Farley felt cold all over. “I can still score,” he repeated, and shoved himself up off the bench. “Okay, guys, let’s get back out there,” he called out to his teammates. “Who’s ready for some agility drills? Dylan, Antoine, Kevin, look alive! Maurice, we need a goalie this time, not a sieve!”

*

“All right,” Moose said, at the end of practice, getting Farley in a sweaty headlock on his way off the ice. “That’s more like it. You’ve still got your skills; I’m convinced. But what are you gonna do? I don’t even know if it’s within regulations to have an omega on a league hockey team. What about when you go into—”

“Shh,” said Farley. “I don’t know. I’ll figure something out. Worst comes to worst, I’ll just say I’m sick for a couple of days.”

“A couple of days...every month?”

“I don’t know! Maybe? Or maybe I can just play through it and no one will notice…”

“Gordon,” said Moose. “Have you ever been within ten metres of an unclaimed, unfucked omega in heat? They can’t sit still, you can see the hormones coming off them in waves—”

“I know,” Farley said crossly.

“And the scent, it’s irresistible, you’d be like a juicy raw steak in a roomful of starving timberwolves—”

“I know!” Farley gave him a shove, which had no effect whatsoever. “So maybe...maybe I’ll have to find someone to fuck me real good on the game days I’m in heat. Take the edge off. Know any volunteers?” He swallowed and gave Moose a quick sideways look.

Moose had stopped in his tracks and looked frozen in shock.

“Kidding!” Farley said, shoving him again, and Moose shook his head and sort of laughed and kept walking toward the locker room. Okay, Farley thought, relieved. It was relief he was feeling. He had been kidding. Almost totally. “Look, maybe I can figure something out. Just don’t tell the rest of the guys yet, okay? And definitely don’t tell Coach.”

“My honour,” said Moose, “is unimpeachable,” and he drew himself up to his full, highly intimidating height. Farley swallowed again. “You can count on me, Gordon.”

“Count on you for what?” Dylan called out, passing them. “A reacharound when you’re six deep in his ass? Don’t believe it, Gordon, it’s a scam!”

“Hey,” said Moose. “That’s eight deep, uncut, and I always give…” He glanced over at Farley and wavered visibly. “Complete satisfaction,” he finished falteringly. “Come on, last one out of the shower has to lick the brown off Gordon’s nose,” and he raced ahead.

“Not a brown-noser,” Farley called out, but his heart wasn’t in it, and he didn’t race to catch up.

*

Two days later when he got to the rink, half an hour early for extra warm-up as per his usual habit, he found the rest of the Blades already assembled in the locker room.

“Hey, guys,” Farley said uneasily. “What’s up? Did I miss a team meeting?”

They looked shiftily at the walls, at the floor, mumbling and picking at their stick tape.

“Okay, don’t be mad,” Moose said. “I told them.”

“What?!” Farley threw down his bag. “What the...what the hell, Moose? What happened to your unimpeachable honour?!”

“It turned out to be a little bit peachable after all,” Moose said, holding his fingers a couple of centimetres apart. “Or, wait. Peachable? Impeachable? What’s the opposite of unimpeachable?”

“Traitorous!” Farley shouted. “Treacherous! Perfidious!

“Yo, bro, don’t diss the Moose,” Kevin told him, getting up. “Dylan and Mason overheard you guys talking, the other day, and they wanted to know what was up. So we called a meeting minus you. And we’re glad he told us, Farley. We need to act on this; you can’t just ignore it.”

“Fine,” said Farley, glaring around at all of them. “Yeah. I get it. Just have the knots to say it to my face. Don’t go Julius Caesaring me.”

The Blades looked around at each other, shrugging.

“Don’t stab me in the back!” Farley cried. “You don’t need to go around having secret meetings about how to act on this. Say it. Look at me and say it: You want me off the team. You won’t play hockey with an omega.”

“Uh, that’s...not what we wanted to say, dude,” Antoine said. “Won’t play hockey with the best forward the Blades have ever had? What are we, insane?”

“I mean, we might be a little insane,” Moose put in. “But we like the way you score, Gordon, and, well, we like you, you weirdo. We’ve been through this before. Worked it out that time; we can deal with this, too. We’ve got your back, we’ll take care of you.”

“Oh,” Farley said, feeling red around the ears again. “So...what? What are you saying?”

There was more mumbling and tape-picking for a minute. Then Maurice spoke up from the back bench.

“We’ll fuck ya through it, when you go into heat,” he said. “Take turns, like. Six or seven orgasms, right before a game, that should setcha up good enough to get out on the ice and raise some ’ell, no?”

Farley’s knees gave out; they just gave out. He collapsed down onto the nearest bench. “Guys,” he said weakly.

“Hey, it’s no chore, really,” Dylan assured him. “Specially for the Moose; he’s been wanting to tap that pretty little ass since the first day you sashayed it onto the rink.”

“Eat my raw dick,” Moose told Dylan. “It was your idea.”

“Was not!” And that was all it took; the Blades were all clashing in an instant, practicing their best fisticuffs techniques in a big brawling pile of denim and skin and hockey gear.

“Guys,” Farley called over them, and got up onto a bench. “Guys! BLADES! All of you, shut up!” They all froze and looked up at him. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say to them, but he knew he had to say something, and what came out was: “Calm down, okay? There’s enough of my pretty ass to go around.”

They roared with approving laughter, and pulled him down into the center of the dogpile.

*

“Gordon! Wait up!”

Farley turned on his way out of the rink’s front doors and waited for Moose to fall into step beside him. “Hey, Moose.”

“Hey. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for...you know.”

“Oh,” said Farley. “No, it’s okay. I guess I’m glad you did it, actually.” He still felt weak and fizzy whenever he thought about what the team was planning to do for him. To him. He needed some time alone with it. He felt like he’d been blushing all afternoon, and he hadn’t been able to make eye contact with anyone for longer than a second.

“Yeah?” said Moose. “You can still say no, any time, no pressure, but...you think it’ll be okay, what we suggested?”

“I hope so,” Farley said honestly. “I’m kind of nervous about it, I have to admit, but maybe...maybe mostly good nervous. I haven’t,” he cleared his throat and stared hard at the sidewalk. “I’ve never...um, done it? With anyone. Before.”

“Jesus, kid, for real?” Moose looked stricken. “Were you saving yourself for your marriage bed, or, uh…”

“No! Just for...I don’t know. When I thought I was an alpha, I didn’t really want it that much, I guess.”

“But now you do? You’re sure?”

“Um, yeah.” Farley tried not to think about the nightly self-exploration sessions that were now becoming routine. He tucked his chin down into his scarf; he was definitely blushing again. “Kind of a lot, I think? I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when I’m actually...in heat.”

“Well.” Moose seemed at a loss. They’d arrived at Farley’s bus stop now, and Moose took a different line home; Farley waited for him to say goodnight and head for his own stop. Instead he hesitated, hemmed, and finally said, “Uh, so, I wanted to tell you. I’ve been thinking it’d be a good idea if I didn’t join in, when you, when they…”

“Oh,” Farley said, startled into looking up at him. “Sure, yeah, that’s fine.” He turned away and pretended to study the bus schedule.

“Because I thought,” Moose was clearly struggling to get the words out. “And now I definitely think, since it’s gonna be your first time, that there should be someone in the room making sure it’s going okay for you. The team, you know, they’re all pretty good guys even if they talk some shit, and I know they all have every intention of respecting you, but alphas have been known to, uh, lose their heads, in that kind of situation. So I thought I could maybe just...play referee. This time.”

Farley looked at him again. “Thanks, Moose,” he said, meaning it. “That’s actually an extremely thoughtful and smart idea.”

“Well.” Moose looked pleased. He tapped the side of his head. “I’m not just a pretty face, you know.”

“That’s definitely the truth,” Farley said, which was the kind of thing that would have made Moose put him in a hammerlock and noogie the crap out him on an ordinary day, but instead he just scuffed the sidewalk with his Converse and looked self-conscious.

“When’s it gonna happen?” Moose asked. “Do you know?”

Farley shook his head and studied the bus schedule some more. “Sometime in the next few days, probably? I don’t even know how regular my heats are, yet, but...if it’s on a 28-day cycle, it’ll be...maybe this Thursday. The day we play the Flyers.”

Moose nodded. “I’ll tell the guys,” he said. “Okay. ’Night, Gordon. Get home safe,” and he turned and jogged off abruptly.

“Oh,” said Farley. “Um. You too! Thanks again!” but his bus pulled up just then, so Moose couldn’t have heard him.

This time, Farley thought, gazing at nothing out the bus window all the way home. This time?

*

Farley’s next few days were busy. He had practice, he had an online cultural anthropology seminar, he had a recital of Eve’s that he really couldn’t skip out on if he wanted their friendship to survive the breakup, and he had a calculus midterm that he didn’t dare ask his parents if he could reschedule. In addition, he was trying to do all the research he could in his little free time about omegas in hockey, or in any organized team sports. It was difficult to find any information at all because until recently the subject had been completely taboo, and there was still a shocking amount of prejudice against it—Farley was abashed to think how he himself had taken it for granted all these years that omegas either weren’t interested in or shouldn’t be playing much sports. He wondered if there were any closet cases in the NHL, and how they handled it, if so. There weren’t any formal prohibitions against omega players in any of the league rulebooks, so there was that, at least, but he would really have appreciated a little advice on how to handle the logistics of it.

His books on omega health and sexuality had come in at the library, so he was staying up late reading certain chapters of those, too, and trying to catch up on what felt like a lifetime of missed opportunities for masturbation. After careful research, he’d gone to the drugstore for scent-masking spray and leakage-absorbing pads, and to the local sex shop for a plug with an appropriately flared base. He didn’t much care for the plug, at first; it felt too unyielding and impersonal inside him, but he kept it in for a couple of hours anyway while he read, and then discovered that taking the plug out felt so amazing that it was worth all the discomfort. The feeling of slow stretch and then release made him come without touching himself the first time he did it; that was an exciting discovery. Farley didn’t get much sleep that night at all.

“Dark circles,” his mother said a day or two later at breakfast, reaching out to trace beneath her son’s eyes with a fingertip. “You’ve been working awfully hard lately; maybe it’s time for a vacation soon. Perhaps a few weeks at that lovely little ashram in Rishikesh? I’ve noticed your Hindi’s been getting a little rusty lately.”

“Not until after the season ends, Mom,” Farley reminded her. “Twelve more weeks.”

“You’ll be prostrate with exhaustion long before that if you keep up at the rate you’re going,” she said. “Or starve to death. Is that all you’re having for breakfast? One slice of plain toast and a boiled egg? I hope this isn’t some new sports diet.”

“I’m just not that hungry,” Farley said, trying to be patient and not snap at her. “I’m fine, Mom.”

“Leave the boy alone,” his father told her. “He’s been burning the midnight oil lately with his human anatomy studies, I suspect. A young man’s appetites...haven’t you noticed our son’s been doing an awful lot of laundry on his own these days?”

“Dad!”

“Oh, come on, it’s completely natural,” his father said, tousling Farley’s hair. “Didn’t we raise you to be unembarrassed by the normal workings of a healthy body? When I was eighteen—”

“And that’s my cue to leave the house.” Farley got up and cleared his plate.

“But you haven’t finished your toast and egg!” his mother protested.

“I’ll grab an apple on my way to morning practice,” he told her. “I won’t be home for dinner tonight, don’t forget—I’ve got a game.”

That was the real reason behind his lack of appetite, Farley thought; it was Thursday, and he apparently wasn’t going to be in heat for game day after all. Which was good, really. He’d just gotten so keyed up about what would happen if he was...it was a definite letdown, and it had put him in a terrible mood.

On Thursday mornings, when he had time, he still scrimmaged with the local rink rats on the outdoor ice. He hadn’t gone last week because he’d had his appointment at the omega clinic; it seemed like a year ago.

“So kind of you to grace us with your presence, Mister Big Time,” Stan said, bowing to him. “What have you been up to lately? Modeling more underwear?”

Farley usually didn’t mind the teasing he got from the rink rats; he deserved most of it, he figured. Today it made him want to put Stan’s head through the fence. “Funny,” he said. “Let’s skip the hilarious Ginch Gonch jokes today and just play, all right?”

“He’s definitely been modeling something,” said Gump. “What’s your skincare routine these days, Gordon? He looks all glowy today, doesn’t he?”

Farley flipped him off and skated out to the center, twirling the puck on the end of his stick, and waited for them to quit laughing and join him. It wasn’t until halfway through the scrimmage that it clicked.

Poor appetite. Insomnia. Irritability. Unusually clear and glowing skin. They were all classic symptoms of pre-heat; it had been in every one of the books he’d read. He’d simply glossed over it because he assumed he’d feel something as well—and then, right at that moment, he did: a sort of liquid release at his core. He doubled over as if he’d been hit by a sudden cramp; it almost felt like one, but not exactly painful, just...clenchy.

“Whoa,” said Dave. “What’s up, Big Time? Need to take five?”

“Need to go home,” Farley gasped. “Sorry. Sick. Don’t...don’t touch me.” He hobbled off the ice and got his skates off, trying as hard as he could not to snarl at all his old buddies to stay away from him as they crowded around with offers of help and advice on home remedies for various maladies. At last he had to just get up and walk away, praying that his scent wasn’t too strong yet and that he could get away from them before they noticed what was really going on with him.

“Sorry,” he kept saying. “Thanks, guys. I’m fine, really. Seriously, don’t, I’m fine, just need to get home,” and finally, finally, they let him go, calling out well wishes until he was out of sight.

He’d tell them, he figured, sometime. Today was definitely not the day.

*

“All right,” Moose said when Farley called him. “I’ll tell Coach we’re holding a yoga class in the locker room this afternoon before the game; that’ll keep him away. How are you doing? Okay so far?”

“Hanging in there,” Farley said, trying to sound casual and fine. He was a sweaty mess; he had no idea how he was going to make it to the rink. He’d made himself come twice in the shower and once while trying to get dressed afterward, and it hadn’t done a thing to touch the white-hot ball of molten, aching need in his lower belly. “How...how soon this afternoon can they get there, do you think?”

“Let’s say...four? Can you hold out till then?”

“Definitely,” Farley said, closing his eyes and biting back a groan. “I definitely won’t be stopping random alphas on the street and begging them to knot me right there in public by four. Almost definitely.”

Moose chuckled. Farley hadn’t really been joking. “You’ll be fine, kid. We’ll take care of you. I’ll see if any of them can get there by three-thirty. Go have a drink of something strong and try to take a nap till then, okay?”

“Okay,” said Farley. “Thanks,” and he hung up, congratulating himself on having been able to keep from saying please, please make them hurry, I think I’m going to explode and die if I don’t get fucked hard really really really soon. He went and got his plug, and wished he’d bought a much bigger one.

*

He ended up taking an Uber to the rink, grateful for the option that allowed him to request an omega driver. It had been an excruciating, unsatisfying afternoon, touching himself, trying not to touch himself, feeling feverish and leaky and hopeful and terrified, but he’d somehow survived it. Only a few more steps to go, a few more minutes, maybe.

Farley wasn’t sure what he’d expected. A full-on orgy, maybe, like a hockey brawl but with dicks out, the whole team gathered around shouting and cheering like the first time he’d managed to light a fart. A day ago, he’d been worried about how unbearably awkward it was going to be, especially getting started. Right now, he didn’t care what it was like in the locker room as long as it got him a hard alpha cock up the ass in as little time as possible. He was surprised, though, to find no one but Moose there. Farley’s heart began to pound.

“I thought…” he said, looking around.

“Yeah, that’s still the plan,” Moose said quickly. “I just wanted to talk to you first, make sure you’re really still up for this, set a few parameters.”

“I can’t really,” Farley paused and swallowed, clenching and unclenching his fists; he could feel his left leg beginning to shake, and his mouth was watering badly. “Can’t. Think about. Parameters. Right now.” It was so unfair. He’d told himself he just had to make it till 3:30, just had to survive for long enough to get to the rink, and he had, and now he still had to wait? Moose was right there, he could smell him, so why couldn’t he just have what he needed so much? He was starved for it, he was overflowing…

“Okay, I can see that,” Moose said, nodding. “Jesus, kid, you’re in a bad way. I’m sorry. Let’s get you what you need first, and when your head clears a little we can talk about how it’s gonna go from there. Jack!” he called out. “Come on, you’re up!”

Farley still couldn’t think; he could hardly see. He was vaguely aware that Moose was helping him get his clothes off, and that someone else was there now, too, Jack, he guessed, talking to Moose in a low, terse voice. He knew Jack; Jack was a good guy. He’d wondered who his first was going to be, although really, the whole Blades team would be his first, in a way; he didn’t mind the thought of that at all. His mind fuzzed out again. They were leading Farley to a corner now, helping him kneel down on something soft—someone had put down some clean towels—and he leaned over the bench and begged please, please, please, because he thought he might actually throw up if he didn’t get what he needed soon.

There were warm hands on his back, then, steadying him, and one of the voices said he’s wearing a plug and the other one said here, let me and Farley whimpered as he felt it being drawn out of him slowly, with a rush of slick dripping down onto the towels. He couldn’t even be embarrassed; his entire body was crying out in need, his cock throbbing-hard and weeping in a steady maddening drip, hips hitching back to try to find the source of the warmth behind him.

Okay, do it, go, can you?—that was Moose’s voice, Farley thought, and then finally, finally someone’s cock was at his entrance, pushing in, filling him up sweet and hard and hot and right. He took a deep breath and his eyes opened all the way up, his vision clearing suddenly, and Moose was right there in front of him, hands on his shoulders, looking into his face with wide-eyed concern.

Fuuuuuuck, the other voice said reverently, just then—Jack, Farley remembered now, this was Jack inside him, oh god, he loved Jack. And Moose. He loved both of them forever for giving this to him, at last at last at last.

“Jack,” he said, and squeezed his eyes tight shut again, hands gripping the wood of the bench he was bent over. “Jack, I love your cock so much, please give me more of it,” and there was giddy gasping laughter—his own or Jack’s or Moose’s, or all three; he couldn’t tell.

“Yeah, I love your ass, too, Gordon,” Jack said shakily. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, that’s so sweet, you’re so tight, so wet, I’ve never—oh, man, I’m gonna come so fast, it’s too—”

“Do it,” Farley said, fucking back onto him. “Do it, I need it, need you to come in me, Jack, please.” He was about to come himself, in fact, without a hand on his dick or anything, the relief of being completely full at last was so intense, and a minute later it crested and he felt himself come with someone inside him for the first time in his life. “Oh,” he said weakly. “I can’t, it’s too, oh god, yes,” and Jack was right there with him, crying out, clutching at Farley’s sides. He must have been wearing a condom because Farley could hardly feel it when Jack came, just a pulsing sudden warmth, but he definitely felt Jack’s knot begin to rise. It was nothing like he’d imagined. He drew in a shocked sharp breath; his eyes flew open again, this time in sheer panic, but Moose was still there, grounding him.

“Easy,” Moose said, wrapping one big hand around the back of Farley’s neck. “Relax. Breathe. We’ve got you.” He couldn’t breathe, not at first; the knot was too big, trapping him in place, and it hurt; he gasped for air, tiny little hitches, but Moose leaned in and pressed his forehead against Farley’s and breathed deep and slow, just like Farley had taught him to in their team meditation sessions, and after another minute or two he was able to copy Moose’s rhythm. He was still making little whimpering noises, but Jack was stroking up and down his sides and trembling behind him, whispering shshshshsh, I got you, man, I got you, and it was going to be okay, Farley thought. His mind was starting to come back, bit by bit.

“Okay,” Farley said out loud. “Okay. Okay. It’s better now. I didn’t know—that is nothing like the books say,” he added, kind of crossly, and he didn’t mind when Jack and Moose both laughed at him.

“It’s going down now,” Jack said eventually. “I’m going to pull out, okay? Ready?” and Farley nodded, bracing himself.

“Say it in words,” Moose told him, and Farley looked up, surprised. “Sorry, just...it’s better if you can say it out loud.”

“Oh,” Farley said. “Yeah. Okay. Yes. Ready,” and then he had to breathe into it as Jack withdrew, but it wasn’t as bad as he’d feared.

Then it was kind of awkward, turning around and actually meeting Jack’s eyes for the first time, but Jack laughed and said “C’mere, you weirdo,” and wrapped his arms around him in a big hug. “That was sick, Farley, was it good for you?”

“I don’t know what that was,” Farley admitted, still feeling very shaky and not at all himself yet, but he felt a lot better than he had before, anyway. He was glad he was with his friends. Jack was the youngest and the smallest of the Blades, the least physically threatening presence on the team apart from Farley; he’d been a good first choice. “I’ve never—I mean, yes, it was good, thanks, man, thanks so much,” Farley told him, and Jack laughed again and ducked his head.

“Any time,” he said, and gathered up his clothes and headed for the showers.

Farley and Moose looked at each other.

“Sooooo,” Moose said, and handed Farley his practice jersey. “Parameters.”

Farley put on Moose’s jersey, which came down almost to his knees. “Okay,” he said. He was still breathing hard. “Give me a minute.”

“You’ll be stupid fucked-up with heat hormones again in another minute,” Moose told him. “Drink this.” He tossed him a bottle of purple Gatorade, his favourite kind. Farley managed to catch it, somehow, and even remembered how to take the top off the bottle, which he thought was doing pretty well, considering. He guzzled the drink while Moose talked.

“One: when you say the word ‘stop,’ it stops, no matter what is going on,” Moose said, pacing the locker room. “The obvious exception being that you’ll rip your guts out if you try to pull away from someone while their knot is still in you, so don’t do that. We’ll separate you as soon as it’s feasible. Two: if you can’t speak, you can still tap out: two taps on any surface you can reach, preferably skin. Three: you’re a rookie, and this is intense, so your partners and I are going to be checking in a lot; I want you to give verbal consent if at all possible. You did a great job of that on the last round, but it’ll get harder as it goes on.”

“You know, you’re going to be an excellent coach someday,” Farley told him.

“I’ll never coach. I’m retiring after fifteen years in the pros and then opening my own restaurant. Maybe a chain of restaurants. Don’t make me lose my train of thought. Four: everyone on today’s roster has provided me with signed proof that they’ve been rapid-screened for STDs within the past week, but they’ll wear protection anyway if you want them to, or if you’re not on birth control. We don’t need any baby Blades.” Moose paused to shudder.

“A sex coach,” Farley said. “You’d be an excellent sex coach. Yes, I’m on birth control, so no, they don’t have to use condoms.” He wanted to feel it, he thought, really feel it; he wanted the slick feel of bare skin inside him, and the hot pulse of alpha come. His mouth began to water again at the thought.

“You’re sure?” Moose sounded skeptical, but Farley’s nod was emphatic. “Well. Okay, moving on. Five: I’ll be assessing your physical and emotional condition after each round, and you’ll agree to abide by my judgment of when you’ve had enough. Six, final point: you’re going to review the roster as soon as I finish speaking and let me know if there’s anyone on it you want to veto before we proceed. We don’t have to tell them they’re off the list; we’ll just arrange the order so that we never get to their turn.”

“I love all the Blades. Especially right now.”

“You’re getting heat-loopy again. You’d love Walt Acorn if he walked in here right now with a hard-on. Just look at the roster, Gordon. Humour me.”

“I’m not letting Walt Acorn anywhere near my ass,” Farley promised him, but he looked obediently at the list Moose showed him. “Yes. Yes to all of them. Bring it on.”

“Finish the bottle of Gatorade first,” Moose ordered him.

“A sex drill sergeant,” Farley amended. “Yes, sir.”

“We’ve got about two more hours to get you good and fucked,” Moose sighed. “I’m regretting this already.”

*

Farley was never able to remember the exact order of events that took place over most of the next hour; looking back, it was like an extremely pornographic dream. He remembered that trash-talking Erik turned surprisingly shy and tentative and handled him almost reverently, and that Kevin fucked him hard and fast like a machine and then froze and cursed quietly under his breath when he came, and that Maurice couldn’t stop talking nervously and almost wasn’t able to go through with it at all. Farley couldn’t have said in what order it happened, though. He was so desperate and needy that he was really only completely conscious of the aching perfect sweetness of being penetrated and filled to the core, again and again and again, knowing that his band of brothers was taking care of him, and then the feeling of unbearable emptiness and loss that swept through him each time his current partner’s knot softened and slid out of him.

“You’re insatiable,” Moose marveled at one point, when Farley downed another bottle of Gatorade and asked impatiently who was next. “You’d better slow down, kid; you’re gonna bust a nut, or a...a heart valve, or something.” He’d been keeping his distance, mostly, since the first time, but now he came close, scowling, and pressed two fingers to the pulse point of Farley’s throat.

“Peak physical condition,” Farley said, grinning giddily and trying unsuccessfully to keep himself from leaning into Moose’s touch. “I was made for this.”

Moose’s scowl deepened. “No, you weren’t,” he said, with all the world-weary loftiness of age twenty. “I know you’re out of your head, but that’s some bullshit, Gordon. There’s a lot more to life than fucking.”

“Is there?” Farley couldn’t remember. “Why? Why does anyone ever do anything other than this? Wow. I think I’ve discovered the meaning of life. I’m going to have to write a paper, I’ll send it in to the Philosophical Review—oh, gee, you smell good,” he added suddenly, pressing his face into Moose’s chest and inhaling deeply.

Moose sighed. “Antoine’s up next. I’ll go get him.”

“Do I smell good?” Farley persisted, not moving away.

“You reek of sweat and omega-juice and half the team’s spunk,” Moose told him, and took him by the shoulders, holding him gently off at arms’ length. “You can keep that jersey, by the way—I’ll never be able to wear it now,” because Farley hadn’t taken it off again; he’d kept it on even while being fucked. It felt right.

Farley was glad about the jersey, but he still felt strangely crushed. “So I don’t smell good, then?”

Moose pulled a little vial out of his shirt pocket, uncapped it, and dabbed it onto his own upper lip. “I wouldn’t know,” he said. “Peppermint oil. Are you ready to go again or not?” He lifted up the front of the jersey and checked out the state of Farley’s dick. Farley shut his eyes and inhaled shakily. He’d die if Moose touched him, he thought, even his peak-condition heart couldn’t handle that, but Moose lowered the jersey again and went to the rink door and called out “Antoine! Come fuck this kid before he explodes!” and Farley sank to his trembling knees and bent over the bench again.

*

“Fuck, Moose,” Antoine said, when he got a look at Farley. “You’re sure he’s okay for this? Farley? You’ve been going at it for over an hour, you look...talk to me, bro, I’ve never done anything quite like this before.”

“I’m good,” Farley said, raising his head. “Or I will be, if you can just...please, Antoine, touch me, I need, I need—”

Antoine got down on his knees next to Farley, looking earnestly into his face. “What? What do you need?”

Oh, he loved Antoine, he loved him so much he was going to die if he didn’t get Antoine inside him. “Your cock,” Farley said, swallowing; his mouth was watering again. “I need, I need your cock in my ass, I need to get f-fucked, hard, please.” He dropped his head down to his arms on the bench and lifted up his ass; he couldn’t help it.

“Oh my god,” said Antoine. He glanced up at Moose again. “This heat’s really done a number on him, huh? Okay, okay, shh,” he said to Farley, who was whimpering now, and petted the back of his head. “Just, you’ve had what, four guys come in here already and come out again looking insanely well-fucked; they weren’t too rough on you? I don’t want to, you know.” He touched Farley’s behind, very gently opening him, and put one finger against his entrance. Farley cried out, but not in pain. “Fuck,” Antoine said, letting his finger slip inside, just enough to make Farley go completely nonverbal. “You’re. Oh, fuck. Okay. I’ll give it to you, buddy, hang on, just let me—”

He moved away, and Farley whined with need.

“Yeah, I know, I know, just gotta get my clothes off, or at least my pants—you wanna take off that jersey?”

“No,” Farley said, but he shoved it up enough to expose himself as much as he needed to. “Don’t—you don’t need to be careful, okay, Antoine? I can take it, I need you to give it to me hard, please, give me everything you’ve got. We don’t have much more time.”

“We’ve got long enough,” Antoine said. “Easy—” and he hissed as he sank his cock into Farley with an obscene wet sound. “Oh my god. Your ass is so—”

“I know,” Farley said impatiently. “I’ve heard all about it, just fuck it, please, go.”

“Mouthy,” Antoine said, and his breath caught as he bottomed out. “I should have known you’d still be...ngh...trying to call all the shots. Moose, what, you’re just gonna watch?”

“I’m not watching,” said Moose, who was sitting on the bench opposite.

“Well, you’re...listening, then, can you just…” Antoine was moving his cock all the way in and out of Farley, too slowly, but it was big and thick, and it did feel good; Farley bit his lip and tried to be patient. “Can you maybe...join us, or something? It’s weird.”

“Oh...gosh, yes, please,” Farley gasped out, and Antoine petted him again and then got a hand around Farley’s cock and sped up his rhythm a bit. Antoine was definitely his favourite so far.

“I’m the ref,” Moose said. “I’m a fly on the wall.”

“Yeah?” Antoine said, panting. “So why did you...get tested with...all the rest of us, then?”

Farley jerked his head up. “You what?”

“Blades field trip to the...the clinic, two days ago,” Antoine said, between slow deep thrusts. He gave his hips a crucial little twist at the end, each time, which would have been maddening, but Farley was all ears at the moment. “The Moose...went first. He only cried a little. We gave him a...lollipop.”

“Moose,” Farley said, distracted from the rhythm Antoine was working them into. “You did that for me?” Moose was famously afraid of needles. He’d cut his cheekbone on a skate blade during a brawl once, and it had taken four Blades sitting on him to keep him still while the medic gave him a few stitches.

“Just in case,” Moose said, and Farley felt a glow light him up inside that had nothing to do with how well Antoine was fucking him—although he was fucking him very, very well, still sliding that thick cock deep into him, almost hitting the spot Farley needed him to hit. He shut his eyes and thought about eight inches, uncut, and wondered if he’d gone an hour without thinking about that since Moose had said it, days ago. He hung his head again and groaned.

“Okay?” Antoine paused, and Farley was about to say yes, please don’t stop, but a wicked idea came to him, and he just groaned again instead.

“Did he tap out?” Moose’s voice came swiftly closer. “Hey, kid. Use your words. You okay?” He tipped up Farley’s chin and made him look into his eyes.

Pretty blue eyes, Farley thought, and he made his voice more lost and uncertain than it really needed to be. “Y-yeah,” he said. “I’m okay, I just...it’s not enough, I need more, it’s like it’s never enough. What if it never goes away and I feel like this forever and I can’t—” He let his voice choke up high with panic, and it was partly calculated, yeah, but not entirely.

“That’s just the heat hormones,” Antoine told him, and he pushed a warm hand up inside Farley’s jersey, petting him in gentle circles between his shoulder blades. “It’ll go away soon. Right, Moose? I know your first time’s gotta be overwhelming, especially when you’re starting so late. Let me knot you; it’ll help.”

Farley nodded. “I just thought...maybe if I could,” he swallowed, holding Moose’s worried gaze for a wide-eyed moment, then letting his eyes trail downward. “If I could have something in my mouth, too…”

He was looking at the bulge in Moose’s pants, and he could have sworn that it lifted a little when he said it, and that Moose’s intoxicating alpha-male scent grew stronger. It was Antoine who hissed in a fast intake of breath, though.

Fuck, yeah,” Antoine said reverently. “Fucking...Moose, can you, can we? Spit-roast him, that’d be so fucking hot...if, if he wants it, I mean; Farley, are you sure?”

“Please,” Farley begged, making his eyes puppy-dog round, glancing up at Moose’s face and then down at his bulge again and licking his lips, letting his chest heave with unfeigned longing. “Please, I need...I want to taste you, oh, god, Moose, please let me,” he begged, unable to stop himself. He bit his lip hard and squeezed his eyes shut, because he really wanted to say more than that: he wanted to choke himself on cock, feel it crammed all the way down his throat, he wanted to be taken in as many ways as possible, made to take it, held down and filled up—

“I’m sorry,” Farley gasped out now, glancing up again, and he wasn’t putting on an act at all anymore. “I shouldn’t, I know you don’t want to, I shouldn’t have asked, sorry, Moose, I’m sorry.”

“Oh, for fuck’s…come on. Gordon. Shut up, okay, it’s not that I don’t want to, just…” He took a step closer and put a hand on the back of Farley’s head, which brought his dick into really close proximity now; Farley swallowed and swallowed, but his mouth kept filling up with drool at the scent of it. Antoine was still fucking in and out of him slowly, driving him a little closer to Moose with every thrust, and Farley choked back another guttural whine of need and bit his tongue hard to keep himself from begging again.

“Moose,” Antoine said quietly over Farley’s head. “Quit torturing the kid. He wants you. Bad. I don’t mean just now,” he added, and stilled the motion of his hips again, making Farley almost cry with frustration. “Everyone with eyes can see it. The fucking fans probably see it, there’s probably, like, x-rated stories about you two all over the Internet. I don’t care if it’s not the perfect beautiful first time you wanted, he needs you right now, so just...man up and feed him your great big cock so I can finish the job I started here, all right?”

Farley thought that maybe he should protest. His heat-addled mind could only process some of what was going on, but the small rational part of him that remained thought that he shouldn’t want anything that was making Moose look the way he did right now. His lizard-brain was still stuck on feed him your great big cock, though, and it was ready to override everything else that might get in the way of making that happen.

Moose’s eyes darted down to Farley, and then back up to Antoine. “Okay,” Moose said, after what felt like an eternity but was probably only a couple of seconds. “Okay,” and he slowly unbuckled his belt and opened his jeans and lowered them a little, exposing himself.

Farley’s head was swirling, and everything in the room seemed to narrow to one point of hyperfocus while the rest of it fell away entirely. He’d been taking the team’s dicks for over an hour now but he’d never seen anyone’s up close like this, never come anywhere near having one in his mouth before, hadn’t even thought about it that much. He wanted it, god, he wanted it, but he wasn’t sure what to do, and Moose was...was very big and thick, flushed dark red with arousal, and the scent of him was totally overwhelming now.

Moose must have seen his hesitation, or else he had second thoughts, because he started to draw back, but Farley’s instincts took over before he could retreat out of reach. He lunged forward and got his mouth on Moose’s cock, licking at the tip of it as if it were an ice lolly. Moose froze, then wrapped a hand around himself and gripped Farley’s jaw with the other hand, holding him off. “Careful,” he said. “Go...go slow. Just the head. Tap twice if it’s too much. Okay?”

“Mmm,” said Farley, and kept licking him, maddened by the taste of it, by the soft electric feel of that strange slippery secret skin against his lips and tongue. He licked and sucked around the head of Moose’s cock, then opened his mouth wide—it was a bit of a stretch for his jaw, but he could do it—and took it in, as much as he could.

“Oh, god,” Moose said, sounding broken. “Oh fuck.”

Antoine, behind them, echoed oh fuck, that’s so hot, and began to move again, pushing Farley forward with each slow deep thrust, so that he was taking a little more of Moose, bit by bit, every time Antoine drove into him. Moose was still holding him off, which was good because Farley might have suffocated himself if he’d been allowed to—he wanted all of it, he wanted it down his throat, big as it was, he didn’t care. His whole body was pleading fuck me, trying to open itself up so that he could take in more cock, more and more; he was strained taut and shaking while every nerve in his body zinged pleasure back and forth between the two points of penetration.

It wasn’t possible that all three of them could have come at the same time, Farley thought afterward, but that was what it seemed like to him in the moment, or at least that it happened only a few seconds apart, each of their reactions triggering the others’. Antoine was buried deep in his ass, sobbing shit, shit, oh shit, so good, and Moose was trying to push Farley off of him, saying you gotta stop, stop stop stop, I’m gonna, ah, AH, and Farley was sucking for all he was worth, unable to pull away while his own pleasure was cresting yet again. It was all very loud, and sudden, and wet, and the taste that flooded over his tongue was weird but not bad like he’d been afraid of; he could take it. Farley swallowed, and moaned, his mouth and his ass so full, it was just what he’d been dying for this entire time, he thought—

Then there was a flash of pain as Moose got a hand into his hair and pulled himself out of Farley’s mouth with a deep groan. Farley stared up at him, come-drunk, and watched his knot begin to darken and swell and pulse. “Oh,” Farley said. “Oh, wow. So that’s what it looks like,” even as Antoine’s knot was throbbing inside him. “The diagrams I’ve seen really don’t do that justice,” he observed, surprised by the hoarse thickness of his own voice.

Antoine stroked one hand up and down Farley’s back again. “Didn’t you—oh my god, you feel so sweet inside I’m gonna die—watch any, you know...porn? To prepare for this?”

“There can’t be any porn as hot as this,” Farley said, swimming in afterglow now, basking in the warm full feeling of being held between the two of them, and it was like a cold shock when someone else spoke from the doorway out to the rink.

“Fucking A, there isn’t.” It was Dylan, the last one on the roster. “Look at you, Gordon, taking fat ones at both ends—if I’d known that was on the menu I would’ve skipped the line.”

“Hey, you know the deal. One at a time, no entry before your turn,” Moose told him. He turned away and tucked himself back into his jeans, which must have hurt, Farley thought, with his knot still swelled up and his cock leaking in spurts, but he only winced a little and didn’t say anything.

“Says the guy who just got to double-dip. Now I know why you wanted to play ref, Moose, ya big horndog.”

“Dylan,” said Moose, sounding dangerous. “I’m not playing. Get out of here. Now.”

“Yeah, fuck off,” Antoine suggested between gritted teeth, still buried knot-deep in Farley and clearly having a hard time speaking at all.

“Hey,” Farley said, trying to sound reasonable and conciliatory while he was being knotted, which was really beyond the pale in terms of demands and expectations, but as the only non-alpha in the room, he figured the peacekeeping role was going to have to fall to him. “It’s okay. Let him stay. Dill, just wait, I want you to stay, but just...wait, okay?”

Farley looked up nervously at Moose, whose jaw was tense, and back over his shoulder at Antoine. The three of them were normally friends, but three alphas in a room with an omega in full heat was too many, it seemed.

“Or maybe...maybe you should go hang in the showers,” he told Dylan. “Just give us a, a, a few minutes?”

“Or you could eat my cock like you did Moose’s while the Ant-Man finishes up,” Dylan suggested. “Keep you from quoting Sophocles or whatever at us while we’re fucking you, that way, too—I’m joking, I’m joking!” he said, backing away with his hands up as Moose took a step toward him. “Lighten up. I’ll go wait in the shower room, whatever you say, I’m a patient man.”

It didn’t last much longer, with Antoine, after Dylan had disappeared (though they could still hear him whistling in the showers). A minute or two later, Farley registered the now-familiar sensation of loss as Antoine’s knot softened inside of him, and another minute after that, he slipped out entirely, uttering a soft moan of regret. “Sorry,” he said, pulling away, and Farley winced at the separation, the sudden wet chill of emptiness. “Fucking boner-killer,” Antoine added, jerking his chin at the shower room while he got back into his pants. “Want me to go tell the Dill-weed to fuck off? Let the two of you have some, uh, alone time?”

“No,” Farley said quickly, because for one thing, he knew that wasn’t what Moose wanted, and for another, there was a strong possibility it would lead to an ugly fight. “Tell him...tell him to come in. I’m ready. I can take one more.”

“Sure about that?” Moose said, and Farley nodded, not looking at him.

“I want it,” he said, and he did want something; he could still feel that hollow ache in the pit of his belly that nothing seemed to assuage, not for more than a few minutes, anyway. “Need it,” he amended. “Just...just one more. Please.”

It was quiet, and Farley raised his head to find Antoine and Moose having a silent sort of conversation consisting of glares; he couldn’t interpret it at all. “Fine,” Antoine said finally, shaking his head in apparent disgust. “I’m out. Thanks, Farley,” he added, in a different tone, looking back. “I hope that helped. I’m right outside, if you need...anything,” and he left through the door out to the rink.

“Fucking finally,” Dylan said, appearing in the doorway to the locker room again, unbuckling his belt. “I lied about being a patient man. I’m dying for it.”

Moose stopped him with a hand on his chest. “Give him a second. Antoine literally just walked out the door; I haven’t had a chance to check in with him yet.”

“Ah, look at him, he’s so ready to go again,” Dylan protested, and shoved Moose’s restraining hand away. “Right, Farley? I can smell it all over you.”

Farley looked up at the two of them through the haze of his heat and realized vaguely that this was still not an ideal situation. Dylan could get kind of carried away, it was true; he was funny, sometimes, but sometimes just annoying. Hotheaded. Talked a lot of trash. Goaded other people into a lot of fights and then backed away without getting involved himself. He suspected that Moose had put Dylan down last on the roster for a reason.

“Yeah, I want it,” Farley said, making eye contact with Moose and nodding a little. It was the easiest solution. It would be okay.

Moose looked unhappy, but he took a step back. “Don’t forget the rules,” he said. “Stop means stop.”

“He’s not gonna say stop,” Dylan said, pulling off his t-shirt, and then he stepped around behind Farley and whistled. “Oh my god. Look at him. Fucking dripping. It’s almost worth it to take the team’s sloppy...what, sevenths? Just so I can get a good look at what a total comeslut you really are, Gordon; you know, I always suspected something like this about you—”

“Dill, I swear to god,” Moose began, stepping forward with menace, and Farley spoke up quickly.

“Yeah, Dylan, come on, give it to me,” he said, hoping to head this off before it got violent. “I can’t wait any more, just do it, all right? Now?”

“Oh my god, he’s begging for it,” Dylan said, and smacked him on the ass—not hard, but it made Farley gasp with the shock of it. “Sure, I’ll give it to you. I’m gonna give you the dicking of your life, gonna fuck you till you cry,” and Farley looked up again to see Moose’s whole face contort with disgust and fury.

“Stop,” Farley said, watching Moose, and then he slapped the bench, twice, just to make it extra clear.

“Oh, come on!” Dylan said. “I’m just talking. I’m not gonna—all right, hey, I’m sorry, okay?”

“He said stop,” Moose said flatly. “Did you hear him or not? It’s not happening, Dylan. Go on. Or do I need to show you the door by force?”

“Farley,” Mason said, turning to him with his palms up, pleading. “I’ll shut up, I promise, just let me,” but Farley was already up off the bench, pulling Moose’s jersey down to cover himself.

“Not today, Dill,” he said. “I’ve...kind of had enough for now after all, I think. Got to save something for the game.”

“Fuck, dude,” Dylan complained. “You’re leaving me with epic blue balls here,” but Moose scooped up Dylan’s shirt from the floor and tossed it at him.

“Go stick it in that nice big pile of Zamboni shavings outside the front door,” Moose suggested. “And clean up your language, or we’re going to have a real problem.”

Farley held his breath for a long tense moment, but finally Dylan backed down; he just shook his head and left, still yanking on his shirt.

After a brief eternity, both of them spoke at once.

“I don’t think he really would have—” “Sorry, I just couldn’t—”

“You first,” Farley told Moose, who was looking everywhere but at him.

“No, I just...couldn’t stand hearing him talk to you like that.” Moose kicked at the bench and rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry.”

“I mean, it wasn’t exactly my favourite thing, either,” Farley said. “I don’t think he actually meant anything by it though. Just...alpha talk. I should get used to it, I guess.”

“No, you fucking shouldn’t.” Now Moose was looking at him, fierce and keen, and it was Farley who had to look away. He could feel the need rising up in him again, and his whole body wanted to sway toward Moose’s; maybe he should ask him for some of that peppermint oil. Not that it would really help. What was it Antoine had said? Everyone with eyes can see it. The fucking fans probably see it. Was he really that obvious? Farley felt himself blushing, yet again. He’d never blushed so much in his life as he had over the past week. Maybe it was an omega thing.

“Do you think there actually are x-rated stories about us on the internet?” he blurted out, and blushed harder, and tried to laugh.

“Ah, don’t worry about it,” Moose said. “You should see the stuff they write about Crosby,” and Farley stole a glance at him. Was Moose pinker than usual, too? Probably it was just warm in the locker room. It was very warm. Farley pulled out the neck of the jersey he was wearing and fanned himself with it a little. “Are you,” Moose said hesitantly, “I mean, it’s another thirty minutes, before the rest of the team gets here for warm-ups, are you, do you need, are you still,” Moose swallowed and seemed to get lost.

“Um,” said Farley, brilliantly. “I, I don’t know.” He shut his eyes and breathed. “I’m, it still feels kind of, um, intense, but maybe it’s okay, if I can just go off by myself for a little while and not be...near you, because I know you don’t want, you made it really clear and that’s fine, and I already feel bad because I sort of forced you into something you probably weren’t up for—”

But instead of moving away, Moose was actually coming closer to him now, which was really not helping things at all. Farley glanced up at him in despair and, wow, he was screwed, because Moose’s eyes were just...and the scent of him, and he was coming even nearer so it was overpowering, making Farley’s knees quake, and that hollow place in the center of him just ached unfathomably. A high-pitched little sound came out of his throat, because Moose was actually touching him now, cupping Farley’s face in his hands and making him keep looking up at him.

“Let me be clear now,” Moose said, and his voice cracked, but he kept going. “Because I don’t think I was before. The only thing I wasn’t up for was sharing you with anyone else.”

“Oh,” Farley said. The peppermint must have worn off, then. “That’s...yeah, that wasn’t. Clear. At all. But now it is, so...thank you.”

“Okay,” said Moose, and leaned down and then hesitated, as if Farley weren’t in enough pain. “Can I...can I kiss you?”

Farley couldn’t speak, but he nodded, and pushed himself up on his toes to meet him halfway.

It didn’t even occur to Farley until they’d been kissing for a while that this was his first time kissing another guy. It felt really, really different, and yet incredibly familiar and right, somehow, and Farley loved it. He loved the contrast between soft lips and rough stubble, he loved Moose’s huge strong hands holding him steady, loved the scent of him, the low sounds of half-stifled want rumbling up from his chest. He wanted to kiss Moose for the rest of the day.

The rest of Farley’s body had other ideas, though, and it wasn’t going to be content with just kissing for long, not in his current state. He broke away just enough to breathe a desperate oh against Moose’s lips, oh, I want, I want, can we— before needing to kiss him again. And again. Beneath the sharp lingering sting of leftover peppermint he tasted maddeningly good, tasted like arousal itself.

“Yeah,” Moose murmured into his mouth. “We can, yes, just let me…” He moved his hands down to Farley’s shoulders and pushed him just a little bit away, ignoring the wounded sound that Farley made, and yanked off his t-shirt, then started working on his belt buckle.

“Yes,” Farley said. “Yes, yes, yes please,” and he stripped off his jersey, too; he didn’t want anything in between them. He felt his eyes growing huge, and his heart thudding hard and fast in his chest; he wanted to look at Moose, and he wanted the feel of their skins together, and he wanted more kissing, now, and it hurt that he couldn’t have it all at the same time, immediately.

“Okay,” Moose said, watching him. “Breathe. Slow. You’re the breathing expert, right?”

Farley shook his head. “Breathing is overrated.”

Moose looked half amused, half alarmed. He sat down on the bench to pull off his shoes. “You’ve really lost your entire mind, kid, haven’t you? Slow it down. Seriously. We’ll get there.”

Farley’s heart sank. “You’re not...are you saying you want to slow down because you’re not sure about this after all? Or…”

“Oh my god.” Moose shook his head and laughed. His grin was beautiful; Farley despaired. “Come here. Sit here, right here,” he said, and put a towel down on the bench right in front of him. Farley straddled the bench, and Moose put his hands on his shoulders and leaned in to kiss him, softly and much too briefly. “It’s been killing me this whole time,” he said, and kissed him again. “Watching you. With all those guys. So hot and so…” A flinch passed over his face, and his voice dropped. “Taking all that cock, so good, so pretty, and I just wanted to punch everyone’s throat in and show them how to do it right.”

“Not really helping me with the whole...breathing thing,” Farley told him faintly.

“Come here,” Moose repeated, and he shoved his jeans and briefs all the way down and off and then lay back on the bench. He was hard, and he gave himself a couple of strokes, looking up at Farley.

“What, you mean—”

“Get on top of me, yeah. I want to see you.”

“I want to see you,” Farley countered, looking down at Moose. All of Moose. His mouth was watering again. Could he really take that much dick? It looked like it would reach all the way up into his ribcage. “Wow,” he couldn’t help saying. “That’s...that’s more than eight inches, Moose.”

Moose looked self-conscious. “I don’t like to brag,” he said. “Think you can take it? That’s sort of...also why I wasn’t thinking it was a good idea for me to, uh, fully participate, your first time.”

“Oh,” said Farley. “I can take it. I think.”

“I want you to ride it,” Moose told him, and Farley shut his eyes as a hard shudder of arousal slammed through him; he heard himself let out a choked-off moan. “When you’re ready. Come on, right here.” It took a little arranging, but Farley finally climbed up onto him, straddling Moose’s hips, with that huge hardness brushing up against his ass and his own dick jutting up defiantly between their stomachs. Moose looked down and ran one finger all the way up the length of it, lingering to rub gently at the tip. There was no end to the undignified noises he could draw out of Farley’s throat, it seemed.

“You think you’re ready?” Moose asked, and Farley nodded, although he didn’t know. He wanted, and he was terrified, and it actually seemed to sort of matter, this time, and he still didn’t have a real handle on breathing. “Lean forward, lift up a little,” Moose said, and let go of Farley’s cock to reach up beneath him, touching his hole.

“Oh,” Farley said, and quit breathing altogether for a few moments. “That’s, oh, yes, oh please,” he said in irregular gasps. He felt a fresh rush of slickness let down inside of him, and Moose’s forefinger slid into him easily; right away he added a second one, slowly fucking both fingers in and out. It felt good, but Farley was so loose and so wet that he was just greedy for more. “More,” he panted. “Please. I need it.”

“Not too sore?” Moose asked doubtfully, watching Farley’s face as he fingered him carefully.

Farley shook his head, although honestly, he wasn’t sure what he was going to feel like when the endorphins wore off. “Maybe a little sore,” he admitted, unable to lie to Moose’s open searching expression. “But I want...I want you. I’ve been, been wanting you this whole time, all those other guys I was just kind of, um, wishing, pretending it was you, I was glad I couldn’t see them because—” This was too much honesty, surely, and Farley squeezed his eyes shut and willed himself to quit talking before he ruined everything.

“Okay,” Moose said, after an agonizing silence, and he reached up and put his free hand on Farley’s chest. “Okay. Come on, then. We’ll try it. I’m gonna stop you if it seems like it’s hurting you, though.” He drew his fingers out and moved his hands to Farley’s hips, lifting him up, helping him position himself so that the tip of Moose’s cock was pressing against his opening and all he had to do was bear down to let it in.

Farley shut his eyes and bit his lips. It felt entirely different, being penetrated in this position, and Moose was thicker than any of the others had been. He was much more open and loose than he’d been an hour ago, but it was still a lot.

“Easy,” Moose said, his voice ragged and thick. His hands were still firm on Farley’s waist, holding him up and keeping him from sinking down onto him too quickly. Farley’s legs were taking some of his weight, too, but they were shaking; his whole body was shaking. He felt his hole flex and gape around the tip of Moose’s cock, which was only just breaching him, and another rush of slickness welled out of him: his own wetness mixed with Antoine’s come, and probably some of his other teammates’, too. It felt messy, slippery and hot. Farley’s face burned. He was still making embarrassing sounds, little whimpers and moans as Moose slipped into him another inch, and another, so slowly. He must look and sound ridiculous, Farley thought in despair, and then he opened his eyes and found Moose gazing up at him as if he’d just pulled off a triple deke to score the game-winning goal in overtime: amazed, and overwhelmed, and unguardedly fond and proud.

“Hi,” Farley said shyly, and then gasped. “You feel—oh. Really good.” His face burned hotter.

“The only thing better than how this feels is the view,” Moose said, and he turned his head to brush his lips against the inside of Farley’s wrist, making him shiver. “Are you really okay?”

Farley ducked his head and nodded, then remembered to use words. “Yes. Very okay,” he said, and took a deep, steadying breath in, then blew it out and shifted his weight from his legs to his hips and sat down on Moose’s cock, taking the rest of it in one smooth firm shove.

Moose cried out, and his eyes went wide. His fingers dug into Farley’s sides. “Fuck!”

“Yeah,” Farley agreed, his voice coming out all quavery. “That’s...the idea.” He shifted his weight again, rocking back ever so slightly.

Moose made a surprisingly high-pitched sound. “Don’t,” he begged. “Don’t move, it’s too, I’ll—oh, god. You don’t know what you’re...doing to me.”

Farley almost couldn’t hear him through the ringing in his ears. He was seeing stars. Not enough oxygen, his brain told him. Incipient hypoxia. He tried for some deep breaths, but even that slight motion set off fireworks inside of him as Moose’s cock nudged up against his prostate and his g-spot at the same time, oh, heaven, bliss, agony.

“Hold still,” Moose pleaded, and Farley tried. He’d come a lot already in the past couple of hours, or he probably would have shot all over Moose’s chest already—just the thought made him have to shut his eyes and focus on an om. “Okay,” Moose said after a minute. “Let’s...you can move, okay, but just, slow. Slow.”

“I’ll try,” Farley said, and he rocked back and forth, just a little, once; they both groaned. “Feels so good,” he slurred. “So big, it’s...needed this. All day. Forever. You, right here, right,” he rocked again, a little harder, “—there, ah, ah, yes—”

“Yes,” Moose agreed, sounding pained, and then “Oh, fuck, fuck, Farley, I’m gonna, you’re gonna make me—” He shifted, suddenly, and sat up, scooping Farley into his lap, and Farley wrapped his legs around him and held on tightly as he felt Moose begin to throb inside of of him.

“Come in me, yes,” Farley begged in a strained gasp. “God, deeper, can you—I want to feel you, all the way in, I need it right…yes!”

“You fucking prodigy,” Moose gasped, and took Farley’s face in his hands and kissed him, open-mouthed and messy, while he was still thrusting hard up into him. Farley’s cock was brushing up against his belly, leaking and slick where it was trapped between them, and that slight contact was all it took. He clung to Moose with everything he had, shaking and unable to make a sound now as his own orgasm began to flood up through his groin and then crashed over him in breath-stealing shockwaves.

Then Moose’s knot began to fill and swell inside of him, impossible huge and exactly right, and it was too much. Farley might have blacked out. He was absolutely overwhelmed, at any rate. When he came back to consciousness he found himself murmuring something in Greek.

“What?” Moose whispered, and pressed his lips softly to Farley’s forehead. “What are you saying?”

“Oh,” Farley said faintly. “It’s...it’s Plato. From the Symposium. ‘And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be alpha or omega, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment.’ Sorry,” he added, remembering Dylan’s remark about stop you from quoting Sophocles or whatever at us while we’re fucking you. “Pretty weird, I know.”

But Moose had leaned back slightly to look at him and was grinning in what looked like pure fondness again. “I love it,” he said, and laughed. “Never change, kid.”

“You called me Farley, before,” Farley said, and hid his face in the slope of Moose’s shoulder. “That was, um. New. I think.”

“Was it?” Moose’s hands were stroking up and down his sides, his back. “And you liked it?” Farley nodded slowly, still keeping his face tucked away. “Okay, Farley. I’ll remember that.”

“I don’t actually know your real name,” Farley mumbled into Moose’s skin, a safely cocooned confession. “I know it’s Mus...Muszy...Muszynski, right? But I don’t know the rest.”

Moose sighed. “Arthur,” he said. “It’s terrible. Arthur Muszynski.”

Farley raised his head. “That’s not terrible at all!”

“Well, I never liked it,” Moose said. “I got called Arthur the Aardvark a lot, when I was little. ‘Moose’ was an improvement.”

“King Arthur,” Farley insisted. “Or...Art? As in, you know, fine art.”

Moose made a face. “I kind of just like Moose,” he admitted. “How are you feeling? Still okay?” One of his hands trailed down and touched the place where they were joined, and Farley shivered.

“Mm,” he said. “Much...much better than okay.” Farley felt like he was still low-level coming on Moose’s knot, his whole body radiating warmth out from that spot, unbearably sensitive and tender and throbbing with waves of slow undulating pleasure that spiked up to nearly agonizing levels everywhere Moose was touching him. “You feel amazing,” he said, and he wanted to say more, but the words choked him.

“Likewise,” Moose said, and bent his head to nuzzle at the spot where Farley’s neck met his shoulder. He brushed his nose gently against the skin there, then licked at it, sending new shivers of pleasure up and down Farley’s spine. It was the spot, Farley realized with a sudden shocked thrill, where an alpha would bite an omega if they were laying claim to them, a pair bonding bite, and he drew in a sharp breath and opened his eyes wide as Moose actually set his teeth into him there, very lightly, just for a moment.

“Ah—!” Farley said, pulling away instinctively, and Moose pulled away, too, as far as he could get, which wasn’t far, at the moment.

“Oh, god,” Moose said. “I didn’t, I wasn’t going to, I mean...jesus, k— Farley. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Farley said, lightly shattered. “I know, I was just surprised. Um.”

“You just...you just smell really good, but I wouldn’t have, I would never...I mean, not without...fuck, fuck, I’m so sorry.”

“I know you wouldn’t. Really, it’s okay,” Farley insisted, and carefully wrapped himself around Moose again, head down on his shoulder, focusing on how good this felt, skin to skin, full and surrounded. Safe, he thought, and a weird yearning welled up inside of him that made him exasperated with himself. This was exactly what he’d wanted. Would he never be satisfied?

“Your heart’s going really fast,” Moose said. “I scared you, huh? Or...it is hurting you?”

“No. I’m good.”

“You’re trembling,” Moose observed, and held him closer, tighter.

“I like it,” Farley said. “I like it so much. I don’t want it to end, that’s all. I thought, you know, when I read about it? That it would be so awkward, after, being stuck together. But it just feels...really good. Also, you didn’t scare me. You’re incapable of scaring me.”

“Hey,” Moose said. “I’m scary. I’m a menace. I’m a terrifyingly massive goon.”

“You’re a six-foot-six marshmallow,” Farley told him. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.”

Moose had been stroking up and down his back with one hand and cradling the back of Farley’s head with the other, but now he stopped and flicked the back of one of his ears with a fingernail, not hard, and then lifted up Farley’s chin and kissed him. Farley felt himself clench around Moose’s knot with the shock of it, and Moose moaned into the kiss. “Not a marshmallow,” Moose said, when he broke it off. “Take it back.”

“I’ll take it back if you kiss me like that again,” Farley bargained, although of course it was true, and all the Blades knew it; it got him more kissing, though, which was what he’d been angling for, so he was happy to lie to save Moose’s ego.

*

It didn’t last forever. Nowhere near. It lasted five more minutes, which was lucky, because as soon as they’d shakily disentangled themselves and Farley was swallowing down the last of the Gatorade and trying to remember how his legs worked, there was a hard knock at the door that led out to the ice, and Antoine stuck his head in and whistled.

“...Okay,” he said. “No comment, for now, but you’ve got...maybe fifteen minutes until Coach shows up and starts busting our balls about warmup time. You gonna make it, Farley?”

“Yeah, definitely,” Farley said. “Give me ten.”

Antoine made a supremely skeptical face and shook his head, and looked like he really wanted to say something more, but he shut the door again and left them to put themselves back together.

“There’s no way,” Moose said, watching Farley struggle to sit upright.

“Well, I’m not gonna be sitting much, I hope.” Farley twisted his shoulders this way and that, wincing. It felt like his insides had been completely rearranged. “Um. Where’s that...that plug I was wearing, when I came in…?”

Moose finished pulling on his pants and went and fetched it. “You’re sure?”

“Yeah.” Farley slithered down off the bench and got onto his hands and knees. Hung his head. “Put it in me, okay?”

“I’m gonna wash it off first. It’s all, uh. Yeah.”

Farley waited, lowering himself slowly into balasana, child’s pose, because he was leaking badly. He didn’t move when he heard Moose come back and kneel down behind him.

“Fuck,” Moose said softly. “Okay. Lift up a little?” He put one hand on Farley’s lower back. “Little bit more. Okay, ready?” He touched the tip of the plug to Farley’s entrance, and despite being ready for it, Farley gasped and flinched.

“No, yeah, it’s fine,” Farley said shortly. “Go.” Moose hesitated, so Farley reached around and helped guide the toy into himself, gritting his teeth—it felt awful going in, and the squelch of various fluids made him wrinkle his nose, but he felt better immediately once it was in place and he wasn’t so open and wet anymore. “Okay,” he said, and paused to breathe. Moose’s hand was still firm on his lower back, anchoring him, circling warmly.

“Hey,” Moose said. “I’m gonna help you get dressed, and then I’m taking you home, all right? This was a stupid idea.”

Farley ignored him. He got to his hands and knees again, and then pulled himself up on the bench, and finally stood. His knees buckled a little, but they didn’t give, and he took a careful step, and then another. “I need to shower,” he said.

Moose didn’t say anything, but he spotted Farley the whole way, not touching him but staying close, and then he shucked off his jeans again so he could get into the showers with him. Farley leaned against the tile wall and let Moose wash him, not because he couldn’t have managed it on his own, but because it still felt so good to be touched by him. He closed his eyes and buzzed with sensation: warm water, the sweet scent of soap, huge strong hands carefully kneading over his hard-worked muscles, and the interior glow of having been well fucked.

“Thanks,” he said, when Moose had shut off the water and was drying his hair with a towel as if he were a little kid. “I can...I can take it from here, probably. But thanks. For…” Farley trailed off, unsure of what he wanted to say. Thanks wasn’t what he meant at all, really, but whatever he did mean was too complex and weird to articulate.

Moose hung the towel around Farley’s neck and looked down at him for a long moment, and then leaned over and kissed him, very softly and gently, making his breath catch and his stomach jump. “I don’t want you out on the ice tonight,” he told Farley. “Let me take you home.”

Farley felt himself melt inside at that, a bit; part of him wanted to bend his head and expose the back of his neck in submission, he couldn’t deny it. Another part of him flared up bright and hot, though: screw you, alpha, you don’t tell me what to do.

“I’m going out on the ice,” Farley told him firmly. “I’m going to try, anyway. I think I’m up for it. You can take me home after the game, though. If you want.”

Moose looked as though he might be about to argue with him, but before he could say anything else, there was a hammering at the door from the rink to the locker room, followed by the noise of at least a dozen Blades clattering in with all their gear, catcalling and shouting out crude remarks and shushing and smacking each other.

“Go grab my bag for me?” Farley asked. “It’s got my uniform and...stuff. Scent-masking spray. I’ll use a lot of it. Don’t worry.”

Moose rolled his eyes. “Not possible,” he said, but he wrapped a towel around his waist and went. Just in time, too; Farley heard the door from outside slam open a moment later, and then Coach Donker’s booming voice.

“Jesus christ! The smell in here! Yoga class, my ass—someone please tell me you benders haven’t been having a goddamn circle jerk in the locker room again!”

*

The game was only partially a disaster.

After a very wobbly start, Farley found his skating legs during warmup. Skating with a plug in was weird, and he’d just had the oddest and most intense workout of his entire life, but he felt very relaxed all over, which helped. It even felt good, once he got used to it: the nudging of the plug inside him, the constant thrill of a reminder that he was full of his teammates’ come. The Blades didn’t need a reminder; they loved it. Everyone kept patting him on the helmet or the shoulders, fistbumping him with their gloves, laughing and telling him was amazing, until Farley worried that the scent-masking spray wasn’t doing its job. He said as much to Dylan, who’d apparently decided that their failed encounter was water under the bridge and was busily trying to annoy Farley by tapping him on the ass with the blade of his stick whenever he turned around.

“Nah,” said Dylan. “I can’t smell a thing. We’re just in awe of you, kid. Taking all that dick, looking like you did, and still having the balls to get up and skate? You’re a fucking legend. I’m so pissed I didn’t get my turn. Next time, right? I’ll be nice, I’ll be so good, I promise, I won’t even speak if I can just get a chance to sink my hard knot into that sweet soft—” Dylan clapped a glove over his own mouth. “Shit, I’m doing it again. I’ll wear a gag, okay?”

Farley couldn’t help laughing at him. “Okay, Dill,” he said. “Next time. I mean, if there is a next time. I don’t know.” He looked involuntarily over at Moose, who was leaning against the rail on the opposite side of the rink, watching them, looking pensive. Farley realized suddenly that he hadn’t needed to search to know where Moose was, and he felt himself blush hot for the millionth time that day.

Dylan glanced over at Moose and then at Farley again. “Yeah, I see how it is,” he said. “Fuck! I missed my chance by a motherfucking millimetre! My stupid fucking mouth.” He was still grinning, though, and he leaned in and knocked his helmet against Farley’s, clasping a gloved hand around the back of his neck.

Farley looked over at Moose again and found him studiously not looking in their direction anymore, and the soft place inside him went warm and broody again, but he made himself stay where he was.

He played a deeply mediocre game, for him, and only scored once, early on in the first period. He was distracted, and nervous about his scent, and the exhaustion of the day finally began to tell on him as the game wore on. The real trainwreck of the night was Moose, though, who went savage on any of the opposing team’s players who tried to check Farley, even legally. He ended up in the penalty box for two minutes in the first period, and then again for five in the second, and Farley skated over to him as they left the ice for intermission.

“Hey,” he said. “Don’t get yourself thrown out, okay? I’m good.”

“You’re skating like shit,” Moose said, not looking at him, and Farley felt a little stab; he thought he was skating reasonably well, all things considered. “I mean,” Moose said, softening his tone a bit, “you’re not in any kind of shape to fend off attackers right now, that’s all.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll be on my own with that if you’re sitting out the rest of the game in the locker room,” Farley pointed out.

“I’m about to get railed by Donker. You’re putting him out of a job,” Moose said. “Sorry for trying to defend you.”

“Moose,” Farley said, putting a hand on his arm. “Come on,” but Moose shrugged him off and forged ahead, leaving him behind.

The third period was much worse. Farley was really running out of steam now. Everything ached, and the plug was starting to hurt. He was also becoming acutely aware that most of the calories he’d consumed that day had been in Gatorade form. Moose had changed tactics and was steering clear of everyone now, and the Flyers sensed weakness and began to harry Farley with everything they had. Farley got driven into the boards three times in the final period, the third time from behind and with exceptional roughness. He felt all the air leave his lungs with a painful whoof, and thought about just crumpling up and going down so this could be over. Then there was a collective gasp from the stands, and Farley looked around to see Moose, gloveless, seize the player who’d boarded him by the back of his collar and punch him dead in the face. Blood spurted; howls went up; a deafening chorus of whistles and boos pierced through the ringing in Farley’s ears. He made shocked, pained eye contact with Moose for two heated seconds before Moose turned and scooped up his gloves and accepted his ejection with a bowed head, then exited the rink without a word or a look back.

They won 3-2, finally, but no one seemed very happy.

A familiar voice called Farley’s name from the stands as he was unbuckling his helmet, and he looked around, startled. His parents were hosting a combination Save the Sloths meeting and South American wine-tasting event that evening, so he hadn’t had to worry about their presence, but he’d forgotten about Eve.

“Hi,” he said, skating up to her as she walked down the arena steps to meet him at the rail. “So that was...not our best game.”

Eve shook her head at him slowly. “Farley,” she said. “I really thought I’d given up being surprised at how clueless you are, for a supposedly smart guy, but...wow. What are you doing?

Farley wasn’t sure where to begin, or what she might have realized from watching his performance that evening, but Eve saved him the trouble.

“You know they make heat suppressants, right? You know that’s a thing. I gave you a book. I thought you said you’d been to a doctor!”

“Yeah, but...side-effects...there’s no, I didn’t think, I don’t know if it’s okay for…” Farley stammered, struggling to catch up. “And I did! It did come up. I remember now. She said I was too young!”

“Did you tell her you were an athlete?” Eve demanded.

Farley couldn’t remember. He’d been a little preoccupied at the time. This all felt very unfair.

“Look, I’m very happy for you and Arthur,” Eve went on. “It looks like you’re finally figuring that out, and—”

“How did you know his first name? I didn’t even know it until today!”

Eve raised her eyes to the ceiling of the arena and sighed. “He takes classes at the university where my practice studio is; we run into each other sometimes. We’ve had coffee. I know I’ve mentioned it to you, not that you were listening. He’s a sweet guy. He can’t stop talking about you for two seconds. And you’re going to torture him to death if you try to play through your heats and expect him to just magically be able to control himself around all those other alphas. What were you thinking?”

“But we’re not even...He doesn’t like the name Arthur. He prefers Moose.”

Eve made a frustrated sound. “Are you even listening to me now? Listen. With your ears. I’m making you an appointment at the clinic I go to. They make exceptions for young omegas in certain circumstances, which you would have realized if you’d ever actually thought about it—I sort of figured you had, but apparently I was giving you way too much credit. Tomorrow, Farley. And I’m going with you to make sure you actually keep the appointment.”

“Okay,” he said, chastened. “Sorry. Thanks.” He started to turn away, hesitated, turned back. “Do you think they’ll make me go through the whole exam part again, though, because that was really unpleasant, and I just—”

“You’ll live. And a pregnancy test, too, because I’ll just bet you didn’t use proper contraception, and pills are only effective after you’ve been on them for a month, in case you didn’t read that fine print either.”

Farley paled.

“And the morning after pill,” Eve sighed. “And then you’re taking me out to lunch, my choice, and listening to me talk about music for as long as I want to without interrupting. Not one single solitary word about hockey. Deal?”

“Deal,” Farley said gratefully, and left before she could somehow intuit the part about the rest of the team’s involvement in his...deflowering. Maybe she already had. He had a feeling, though, that she’d be much less helpful if she knew.

*

Coach Donker nearly went into an apoplectic fit when he came in to address the team after dealing with the media. The Blades, still in various stages of undress and disarray, went silent during the explosion; no one looked at Moose or Farley at all. Farley forced himself to keep eye contact with the coach, nodding or shaking his head and muttering “sorry, Coach,” whenever it was appropriate, but Moose kept his head down the whole time, glaring unresponsively at the floor. At last, Donker’s voice gave out entirely. He snapped a stick over his knee in lieu of any concluding remarks, threw it down, and stormed out the door. The rest of the team resumed their conversations, but in subdued murmurs. They got dressed and grabbed up their gear and followed Donker out within minutes, each of them pausing to give Farley an encouraging helmet-tap or a good game, bro, rest up, you look like crap, buddy as they departed.

“You never told me whether you wanted to take me home or not, after the game,” Farley said, when everyone else had cleared out and Moose still hadn’t done more than shift uncomfortably on the bench and sigh. “I’m...kind of assuming it’s a no, now. It’s fine, I get it, I’ll just—”

“Farley,” said Moose, raising his head. “Shut up. Of course I’ll take you home. I’m just pissed. At myself,” he clarified quickly. He stood up and began stripping off his jersey and gear, and Farley tried not to stare. He felt himself flutter helplessly around the plug inside of him, which made him have to bite back a groan. Again? He knew that heats usually lasted for at least twenty-four hours, but he was hoping he’d managed to accelerate the process somehow with all the activity he’d undergone. “Just let me hit the showers and rinse off,” Moose said. “Two minutes,” and he disappeared into the shower room.

Farley changed back into his street clothes. He was too tired to care much about how sweaty he was; just getting out of his gear and into his jeans and t-shirt was enough of a workout. He was still fumbling with the buttons on his flannel overshirt, cursing at them under his breath, when Moose reemerged in a towel.

“Here, let me,” Moose said, and came right over and did up the rest of the buttons for him. The clean scent of him at close range made Farley wish he’d bothered with a shower, too, made him look up into Moose’s face with what was probably the most ridiculous expression of naked longing. Moose didn’t notice, or pretended not to. He kept his eyes on his own hands until the last, then gave Farley the briefest look and an even briefer kiss on the top of his head before turning away to get dressed himself.

Like Farley was...was his little brother, or something. Moose probably did feel that way about him; Farley had always assumed that he did. Pure protectiveness. Was he doomed to have a fraternal relationship with everyone he experienced sexual attraction to?

“You need to get fucked again, don’t you,” Moose said, dropping his towel and pulling on a pair of clinging boxer briefs.

Farley swallowed so hard and so quickly that he squeaked. “I mean,” he said. “I could...yeah. But…”

“Yeah, you do,” Moose said, looking over at him. “And you need something to eat. I’m guessing your place is a no-go?”

Farley thought about his parents, and about the event they were hosting. He briefly considered the prospect of smuggling Moose past all the wine-swilling sloth-savers, up the back stairs and into his childhood bedroom, making the living room chandeliers rattle with what they’d get up to there. “Um. No. I mean, no-go, yeah. My place is...not ideal. Where...where do you live?” He felt stupid for not knowing. Eve knew, no doubt. She’d probably been over there for coffee, and to talk about what a ridiculous, clueless—

“I live with my grandmother, over in Roncesvalles,” Moose said, and Farley’s face fell, but Moose grinned at him. “I have the basement apartment. Private entrance. Pretty soundproof. Will your parents...if you want to spend the night, I mean, you can, if they won’t...but they seem, you know, kind of…”

“Oh,” said Farley. “I’ll just call and leave them a message. I mean, I’m eighteen. I stay out sometimes.” Technically it wasn’t a lie. He’d gone on an overnight visit to Dalhousie, with Eve, a couple of months ago, and they’d stayed in the dorms. Separate dorms. And he’d spent a few nights with his cousin and his cousin’s boyfriend, over Christmas; did that count?

He still thought maybe he shouldn’t be doing this. Putting Moose into this position, getting his messy figuring out of the whole omega thing all over him when he was obviously too nice to refuse. But he yearned so much, and this might be the only time, if he was going to go on suppressants tomorrow and they wouldn’t need to do this again…

“So, come on,” Moose said, and Farley suddenly realized he was fully dressed and waiting by the door for him, gear bag in hand. “I called an uber, an omega one—they’re almost here. Okay?”

Farley quashed his scruples and followed him out.

*

Moose’s studio apartment was basementy and a little cluttered, but not bad, Farley thought, especially considering that he probably hadn’t been planning on having anyone over that night. Moose took his coat and showed him where the bathroom was, told him to make himself at home and help himself to anything in the kitchen, and then went upstairs to check in on his grandmother, promising to be back in fifteen minutes.

Farley wished he had the mental wherewithal to poke around a little, at least to go over to the wall of bookshelves and read the titles on the spines, but all he could think about at the moment was the plug he was still wearing. It had been driving him insane, the whole ride over, and he needed it out. He headed straight for the bathroom. There was a stack of clean towels on a chair in there, and no shower but a nice big clawfoot tub, so he decided to take Moose at his word and clean up a little while he was in there.

When he came out, flushed and damp, towel-clad, Moose had returned, and was lying on the bed in his briefs and white undershirt, frowning into a paperback copy of The House of Mirth.

“I didn’t know you were such a reader,” Farley said, which was stupid, incredibly stupid and condescending and snobbishly awful, as if a hockey player couldn’t read books for pleasure, as if he thought Moose wasn’t intelligent, just because—

“I’m not,” Moose said, and followed Farley’s gaze to the bookshelves. “Those were my grandfather’s, mostly. Half of them are in Polish. And I’m reading this for my English Lit for Boneheads class at school. I hate it. Have you read it? These people are such assholes to each other.”

“I read it last year. Twice. I liked Laura,” Farley offered, perching on the edge of the bed in his towel, feeling shy. “Wasn’t that her name? Laura Selden. She’s not an asshole.”

“Well, she shouldn’t hang around with all these other dickbrains, then. I don’t understand why Lily doesn’t just run away with her and let Selden claim her. They’re obviously into each other.”

Farley nodded, hypnotized by the potent combination of literary criticism and Moose in his underwear. “I kept hoping she would,” he said. “Even when I read it the second time. I kept hoping someone would come to their senses.”

Moose looked upset. “You mean they’re not going to?”

“Well,” Farley hedged. “Maybe?”

“Anyway, fuck them,” Moose said, and put the novel down. “I didn’t bring you here to join a book club.” He put a hand on Farley’s waist, skating his fingers along the edge of the towel, drawing it down a little to caress his bare hip.

“You didn’t?” Farley tried to sound shocked. “I took all these notes, though…”

“I don’t see any notes on you,” Moose said. “Where are you keeping them? Under here?” He pulled at the towel a little more, until it fell open entirely, and leaned in to kiss Farley at the same time, his hands dipping lower. “Oh, no, wait,” he said, breaking off suddenly. “I was going to try and get you to eat something before we did this.”

“Later,” Farley said, staring at his mouth, swaying back towards him. “Later, not now, I just want—”

“You’ve got to be starving.”

“I am,” Farley said, and let his gaze travel down Moose’s body to rest on the significant bulge in his tight-fitting briefs.

“Okay, I walked right into that, but seriously—”

“Please,” Farley said, and looked into Moose’s eyes again. “Please don’t make me wait. God, it aches, you don’t know, I need, I need…”

“Shhh,” said Moose, touching his face, then reaching down to skim his fingers up Farley’s cock, making him clench his teeth and moan. “Okay. I’ve got you. How do you want it?”

Farley turned over, got onto all fours and then dropped his head and shoulders low, presenting his ass to him, absolutely beyond all dignity; revelling a little, even, in his lack of dignity. If it was the last time, he thought, he might as well go all out.

“Fuck,” Moose said reverently. “Look at you,” and got down behind him and licked him.

“O-oh,” Farley said, starting up. “You can’t, that’s not…”

Moose licked him again, hands firm on Farley’s hips, holding him in place. He did it a third time, tickling at the rim of his hole with his tongue-tip, and Farley squealed. There was no other word for it.

“You don’t like it?” Moose said. “It’s okay; I’ll stop, if you really don’t. Sorry.” He stopped, and Farley regretted it at once.

“Um,” he said. “I didn’t...not like it. You could...do it some more. If you wanted?”

Moose had replaced his tongue with one of his fingers, though, tracing it around and around, over and around and dipping it just inside, testing, teasing, making Farley clench down on him, making his hips grind and hitch. “Another time,” Moose said, and slid his finger in deeply, all the way in and all the way out, once, then traced it lightly and teasingly again around his rim. “I do want to. I wanna take you apart, slow, nothing but my tongue on you and in you for an hour. God, I want to do all the bad things to you that no one’s ever done before, take my time, make you love it...” Farley choked back a sob. “But right now,” Moose said, and drew his fingers away entirely, and Farley registered the whisper of fabric as he got rid of his t-shirt and briefs. “Right now, I’m gonna give you what you need. Ready?” he said, positioning himself.

Farley couldn’t speak. He tried to nod.

“Words,” Moose said patiently. “I need words, Farley.”

“Yes,” Farley gasped. “Yesyesyesyesyesyes please now yes OH FUCK,” he cried, and then went wordless again as Moose held his hips and pushed forward and filled him up, all the way, with one firm deep thrust.

It was so much better, Farley thought gratefully, doing this on a mattress instead of on a locker room bench. No comparison. He reached up and gripped the bars of Moose’s headboard, arched his back, and gave himself entirely over to being pounded hard and deep. He tried to gasp out yes as often as he could, because he was vaguely aware that the sounds being wrenched from his body on each thrust could have been mistaken for pain; there was an element of pain, but it only made it better, somehow, and he would have shouted YES the entire time if he’d had the breath for it. He spread his knees wider, arched his back harder, and tried to get even more of Moose’s cock into himself, loving the feel of it, wishing he could fucking impale himself on it.

“That’s good,” Moose gasped, pumping hard and frantic now. “You’re so good. Let me hear you. I want to hear you.” He reached down and got his hand around Farley’s cock, circling it gently, too gently, maddening, and Farley had to let go of the headboard with one hand and slide it down on top of Moose’s, squeezing it around himself.

“Harder,” he pleaded. “Don’t stop. I love it, I love you, I—” Farley bit his tongue, tasted blood, and felt his neck jerk back in hard spasms as he began to come.

Moose laughed. “I love you too, you fucking maniac,” he said, and then he drove in once more, gasping, shaking, and stayed, and Farley shut his eyes and savoured the deep inner throb, and the rush of half excited, half frightened anticipation of the knot that would seal them together and force them to give themselves up to this insanity for at least a little while longer.

Unfortunately, nearly as soon the knot had risen and Moose had gotten them both settled on their sides, spooning up against him tightly with his arms around Farley’s chest, Farley fell asleep. He was incredibly irritated with himself when he woke up, to think that he’d missed out on precious long minutes of this. He wasn’t even sure how long he’d been out.

Moose stirred behind him, stroking up and down his arm, kissing the shell of his ear. “Are you back?” he murmured, his voice deep and rumbly, vibrating right against the side of Farley’s throat, so that he felt the words inside his own skin.

Farley nodded. “Feels so good,” he slurred. It was all he could think to say. It was all he could think, period. Was this what being drunk felt like? It felt like all the descriptions of being drunk he’d ever read, hazy and swoony, completely blissed out on sensation.

“Good how?” Moose wanted to know, and Farley tried to oblige.

“Warm,” he said. “Full. You. You all over me and in me. ’S perfect.”

Moose hummed with pleasure, the low sound vibrating through Farley’s body again and making him sigh and shiver. “Yeah,” he agreed, and held him a little bit tighter. “That.”

Farley could feel the back of his neck prickle with the proximity of Moose’s lips, his mouth, his teeth. He thought about the claim-spot, and how it would feel to be bitten there, and a sharp shock of desire splintered up through his body and took root in his brain. What if he asked? He could ask. Moose could only say no.

He thought about what it would feel like, the terrible guilt-heavy silence before and after that No, and he quailed and shrank small inside.

“Okay?” Moose asked, sounding concerned, and he loosened his grip and shifted back a little, moving his head on the pillow so that Farley couldn’t feel the heat of his mouth anymore.

He nodded. “Yep,” he said, and shut his eyes tightly, shut his throat, shut his mind. He could have this for now, Farley told himself. It was a gift, having it even just for now.

*

When Farley woke up again, it was daylight, and Moose was crying. Not just crying: sobbing, great wet sobs that he was trying unsuccessfully to stifle in his pillow. Farley sat up, alarmed.

“What, what is it, what—are you hurt? Are you okay? Is...is your grandmother okay? What happened?”

Moose shook his head and shoved something at him, blindly. Farley was still waking up, and frightened, and it took him a minute to realize what it was: the copy of The House of Mirth that Moose had been reading the night before.

“Oh,” Farley said. “So, you, um, finished it?”

Moose nodded. His whole face was wet. “She died alone,” he said, his voice breaking. “She never even knew...knew she loved her. God, why?”

Farley considered several possible responses—capitalism? overly restrictive social mores? The tragic inviability of the omega as an unclaimed and free-willed unit?—then realized that the only answer that made any sense at the moment was, “I know, it sucks so hard, it’s so sad, it’s completely tragic,” as he found Moose’s discarded t-shirt from the night before and used it to wipe the tears away from his face.

“Thanks,” Moose said, and sniffed. “It’s just so sad. So cruel. They should have been together!” he added, very indignantly, and Farley watched tears well up in his eyes again.

“I know,” he said again. “They should have.” He lay back down and carefully, daringly, put his head down on Moose’s chest. “You could just pretend that they did,” he suggested. “Rewrite the whole last chapter. Or reimagine it, anyway.”

“No, that would be cheating,” Moose sighed, running his fingers through Farley’s hair. “Besides, I have to write a paper about it. I’d fail.”

Farley couldn’t think of an immediate solution to that one, not with Moose’s hands on him like this, Moose’s chest rising and falling with his breath and his heart warmly beating just beneath Farley’s ear. It was impossible to feel the full tragedy of Lily Bart and Laura Selden under these circumstances; he could only hope that maybe the same was true for Moose.

He itched, was the only trouble. Something was in the bed making him itch. He tried to ignore it, but it was digging right against his skin, and after another minute he had to sit up and try to brush it away.

“There are crumbs in your bed,” Farley said, surprised, and then he remembered. “Oh my god. Cookies. You made me eat cookies in the middle of the night.”

“I made you eat one cookie,” Moose corrected him. “Because I didn’t want you to starve to death before morning. You inhaled the rest of the box. I thought you were going to make me go out and buy more.”

“I don’t remember any of that,” Farley said, and started to laugh. “You just let me fill your entire bed with cookie crumbs? You couldn’t have fed me, I don’t know, a banana?”

“You could have choked on it. You were asleep! You were totally asleep. How was I to know I’d invited Cookie Monster into my bed? And the sheets were a write-off anyway, after last night…”

Farley stopped laughing and grinned at him, shyly, remembering just how badly they’d messed up the sheets the night before, and Moose smiled back at him with a wicked upward twist of his mouth.

Maybe it wasn’t a younger-brother thing, Farley thought with a warm glow. Just maybe. Maybe Moose wasn’t only being overly nice to an omega teammate in need?

Farley’s phone buzzed, just then, with an incoming message, and he wrapped a blanket around himself and went to retrieve it from his jeans pocket. Moose got up, while he looked at his phone, and disappeared into the bathroom.

The message was from Eve. Bay Centre Omegacare Clinic, 10am. Meet there?

Farley looked at the clock. It was just past nine. He had time to clean himself up and take the bus downtown, but without much wiggle room. k he texted back to Eve, then thought about how she’d react to his single-letter response and added yes I’ll be there and then, a minute later, thx for doing this, because she really hadn’t had to; there was nothing in it for her.

There was a sudden banging at the door to the upstairs that nearly made him drop his phone, and a woman’s voice called down, “Artek! Chodź na górę, zrobiłem śniadanie! Przyprowadź swoją dziewczyna, chcę ją poznać.”

Moose stuck his head out of the bathroom and called back, “Chłopak, Babcia, nie dziewczyna! Nie wiem czy on może zostać. Zapytam go.”

“Oh,” said Farley. “Breakfast sounds great, and I’d love to meet her too, but—”

Moose’s jaw dropped. “You speak Polish?”

“Not really. My Russian is a lot better, but I can understand some Polish, if you speak slowly.”

“She’ll love you,” Moose said. “Stay. You need breakfast, anyway. The cookies aren’t going to cut it for long.”

Farley could smell the cooking now, drifting down through the floorboards, and he was actually incredibly hungry, now that he thought about it. He wanted nothing more than to go upstairs with Moose and meet his Polish babcia and eat breakfast with them, and then come back down with Moose and help him write a paper on Edith Wharton and maybe fool around a little, or more than a little.

“I can’t,” he said, very reluctantly. “I have to go.” He thought for a moment about not explaining why he had to go, or where, but it would have been rude, and it was something Moose should probably know, anyway. He stumbled over how to say it, though. “I promised Eve I’d meet her—she made an appointment, downtown, there’s this clinic and she thought—she was at the game, last night, and she kind of figured out that I, that we—”

Moose came out of the bathroom and took him by the shoulder and sat him down on the bed. He was wearing a faded old blue plaid bathrobe and smelled of lavender soap, and Farley loved him, despairingly, and thought maybe he’d just stay; maybe he’d tell Eve he’d changed his mind and wanted to wait on the suppressants for now. Maybe he’d give up hockey. Maybe he’d ask Moose to claim him so that he wouldn’t feel as threatened by the other alphas during gameplay. Maybe Moose would offer it and he wouldn’t have to ask.

“Hey,” Moose said, and sat down next to him. “Tell me. Why do you have to go to a clinic with Eve? Is she...okay?”

“No, it’s for me, she’s going with me,” Farley said miserably, and he took a deep breath and started from the beginning, repeating most of what Eve had said at the game the night before. He left out the parts about how clueless he was, but it was more or less implied.

“Oh,” Moose said, and he actually shifted away from Farley on the bed. “Yeah, that’s...that’d be great, huh, if you can just get suppressants and don’t have go through heats while you’re playing. I didn’t think. And I didn’t know about the birth control—god, yeah, you should go get the morning after thing for sure.” He paused and tilted his head, squinting at Farley. “You knew that last night? And you didn’t tell me to use a condom?”

Farley wanted to cocoon himself in Moose’s blankets and disappear until he reemerged as some other kind of life form. Hopefully something less stupid. “I, I wasn’t thinking,” he said, and his skin began to flush hot from his chest up to the roots of his hair. “Or, I guess I figured if I was going to go get the morning after pill anyway…” He trailed off.

“Farley,” said Moose. “That thing’s not a hundred percent foolproof. You know that, right?”

Farley hadn’t. He felt the flush drain away as the blood all left his face. “It’s not?”

“I mean, like ninety to ninety-five percent effective if you take it in the first twenty-four hours, it’s probably okay, but still...fuck, we should have been more careful. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, don’t look like that, I’m sure it’s fine. It’s my stupid fault, it was your first time, I should have—”

“Definitely not your fault,” Farley croaked. “It was me. I’m an idiot.” He really was. Why had he read all those chapters in the omega books about sexual pleasure and none of the ones on the reproductive system?

“You’re eighteen,” Moose said. “It’s your first heat. I should have taken care of you better. You want me to go with you?”

“No,” Farley said quickly, and got up to retrieve his clothes. “I’m good. I’m gonna just...take a really fast bath, if that’s okay, and then I’ll be out of here.”

Shame and horror, he thought in the bath, trying to submerge himself as deeply as possible in hopes of washing some of it away, knowing it was futile. Horror and shame. He’d ruined everything. He was eighteen, and he didn’t know a single useful thing about life.

*

He left Moose’s place without saying much more to him, too mortified to speak. It was over; maybe someday he’d be able to think about it again without the unbearable pain of loss and humiliation, but he doubted it. He accepted the little packet of bread and cheese and fruit that Moose gave him on his way out the door, promised to text him later, and ate his breakfast on the way to the bus stop without tasting it or thinking much about it, except that he was an eighteen-year-old dumbass in heat who didn’t deserve it.

The buses were slow that morning, and the clinic was unusually punctual, so he didn’t really have time to say more than hello to Eve before they called him in. She was still waiting when he came out again, though, and she smiled up at him and put down her magazine. “How’d it go?”

“Great,” Farley said crossly. “I’m super fantastically healthy, according to three different medical professionals now within the last two weeks. I’m really, really over getting naked and letting people stick things up my ass.”

“Poor baby,” Eve said, not at all sympathetically. “Did you get everything you needed? Did you talk to them about—”

“Yes,” he said. “Everything. I paid complete attention, I asked all the questions. I took notes.” It was true; he actually had. “Can we go? Where do you want to get lunch?”

Eve wanted pizza, so they went to Amato, and Farley inhaled an entire primavera pie and listened to her talk about Shostakovich for half an hour, which was actually incredibly soothing and took his mind off his troubles for a while. He’d always enjoyed hearing Eve talk about music, watching her light up, asking her questions to which she always had interesting answers. He felt a lot better, too, on a full stomach. Then Eve sat back from the table, gave him a sideways smile, and said, “So. Your first heat. You and...Moose. How was that?”

Farley groaned and slid down in his chair, covering his face with his hands.

“Aww,” Eve said. “Not as good as you’d hoped?”

“No, no, it was amazing,” Farley said despondently. “I spent the night at his place last night.”

“You what?” Eve sat forward again. “Oh my god, Farley. What did Edgar and Hope have to say about that?”

“I don’t know yet,” Farley mumbled. “I left them a message last night. They’ll probably make me go to family therapy with them again when I get home.”

“Well, good for you,” Eve told him. “Why are you disappearing under the table? What’s the big issue?”

“I just don’t think he thinks about me the way I think about him,” Farley said. “I’m like...his little brother, or the team pet, he’s just this really—this incredibly nice guy is all, and he likes looking after me.”

“I think whatever you guys did last night probably strains the definition of just being nice,” Eve pointed out. “He’s into you, Farley. You’ve been wrong about these things before, you know.”

“I know,” Farley moaned. “I mean...sorry. I know. But he really is that nice, and I’m just a goofy weird kid to him.” He didn’t want to get into the part where he’d basically made Moose watch him take five other guys’ dicks right in front of him, and acted like a scared rabbit when Moose’s mouth got anywhere near his neck—let alone the part where there was a five to ten percent chance that Farley might be carrying either his or one of his teammates’ child. It was all so fucked.

“Does he know the way you feel about him?” Eve asked.

Farley shrugged. “I...think he must?” He thought about the thing with Antoine the night before, x-rated stories all over the internet, and about the way he’d begged for Moose’s cock, and the fact that he’d said the words I love you right out loud and could never take them back. “It was pretty obvious, last night, I wasn’t exactly, um. Able to engage in subterfuge on any level.”

“Well, but you were in heat,” Eve said patiently. “He might think it was just the hormones talking. It wasn’t, was it?”

Farley covered his face with his hands again and shook his head.

“Then you need to go and talk to him,” Eve concluded.

Farley peeked through his fingers. “Could you maybe...say something to him? Just, you know, kind of casually bring up my name when you see him on campus, and see how he reacts…? No, okay, no, I know, I know!” he said, when Eve raised both eyebrows at him. “I know. I’m a jerk, and an ass, and…”

“Dramatic,” Eve finished for him. “You’re very dramatic, Farley. And you need to figure this out on your own.”

“I can’t.”

“Then you won’t. I bet you will, though. And that’s enough talk about you for now. You haven’t asked me about my love life.”

Farley sat up. “You met someone?”

Eve looked coy and played with her drink straw. “Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe someone a little bit older...a little more female...maybe even someone you’ve seen before, who knows?”

She refused to say much more, but he had fun trying to tease it out of her while they walked to the bus, and for most of the way home. It was good to be with her like this, he realized; he was very lucky in some things, if not in others.

*

He texted Moose that night. Clinic was ok. I’m on suppressants now. No more heats till the end of hockey season.

It was a full fifteen minutes before Moose texted back. Farley nearly lost his mind. He had to put his phone out of reach to keep himself from texting again before he’d had any response to the first one. When his phone finally did buzz, he lunged for it and knocked his cactus off the windowsill and onto his foot, then hopped around cursing while he read the return message.

That’s good right? Must be a load off your mind. Did they give you any trouble about it?

It would be weird, probably, to text him back instantly. Farley made himself wait. He unrolled his sock and picked six cactus spines out of the top of his foot, then casually reached for his phone again. They said they usually don’t recommend them for ppl my age, but make exceptions for short periods in extenuating circs. Like aggressive team sports.

The reply came back right away, guess you qualify then all right, so Farley didn’t wait to send his next message. He was afraid that if he did he’d chicken out.

I told them about multiple partners and limited protection. Got the full lecture. Have 2 go back in 2wks for pg test and STD screen. Prob ok tho, I’m not worried. Kind of a lie. But a necessary one, Farley decided.

Three dots appeared on the screen, then disappeared after an agonizing wait. Finally they reappeared again, followed by another message. Ok good. Ur right prob fine. You got the morning after pill right? How do you feel?

Kinda pukey, Farley admitted. Not too bad. Maybe just psychosomatic

Definitely psycho something

Farley wasn’t sure how to take that or how to respond. He was still thinking about it when another message came: anything else I should know?

Well, if they were doing teasing now…

I have a gorgeous cervix apparently
and really great childbearing hips

Farley fired off those two messages before giving himself enough time to think about it and instantly said “Oh god,” out loud in horror when he looked back at what he’d just typed.

Which I have absolutely no intention of putting to that purpose for at least another 15-20 years if ever

good plan for sure yeah
I mean
you’ll be a really good dad someday I bet, I didn’t mean that
and I’m sure your cervix is lovely
um wow it’s really warm in here is it warm where you are or just me

Farley laughed.

Just you yeah sorry

There was another lull. Farley picked another three cactus spines out of his foot. Then he typed How’s the english paper going, but while he was typing it another message came through, so he had to go back and erase it.

Sorry you feel pukey. Say the word and I’ll bring you some of Babcia’s chicken soup

Farley didn’t know how to respond to that one either. Was it a joke or a serious offer? Texting was terrible. He hated this. He never wanted it to stop.

Super tempting but I feel I must remind you I’m a tree-hugging vegetarian

right, how could I forget
beet soup then

organic locally-sourced beets right?

No reply. Farley’s palms began to sweat.

jk I’ve never met a beet I wouldn’t eat

Babcia really would love you
you’ll have to meet her sometime

Farley tried to think of a way to say that he’d love to meet her, without sounding nerdy and overly sincere or, worse, like he was fishing for an invitation.

does she ever come to games?

no, she’s got really bad arthritis
she doesn’t even cook all that much anymore actually
she’s tried to teach me but I suck at it like the big stupid goon that I am

Farley was speechless, riveted; he wanted to say so many things, ask so many things. He started to type that’s nice she has you nearby and so where are your parents in all this and you’re not in any way stupid, you big goon and ended up quickly erasing all of them, and then there were three dots on the screen again, so he stopped typing.

Hey I wanted to say about yesterday

Farley held his breath. The three dots came back, and stayed there for a long time, but he didn’t dare to do anything but stare at them.

I’m really, really sorry I didn’t make everyone use condoms. I should have known better and it’s totally on me, it was completely irresponsible and dumb. And I’m sorry if I made you feel bad this morning about not telling me, I should have been using one anyway, that was also on me and an incredibly poor choice, not your fault AT ALL okay?

Farley rubbed his forehead and frowned for a while.

um okay
thanks I guess
I seem to remember being there and having some say in the matter so maybe not totally on you but ok

Yeah but no. You were in heat and it was your first time and you were all overwhelmed and out of it by the time we even discussed it. I shouldn’t have left that choice up to you at all

Farley fired off his next text before he could think better of it. Right, the 18 year old omega pacifist shouldn’t get any say over what happens in his own first sexual experience, leave all the decision making to the big strong alpha real men, I see

Their next texts came almost at the same moment.

I’m sorry
sorry

I get kind of sensitive over the whole ‘you’re 18 you’re in heat you don’t know any better’ thing is all
Allow me the agency to make bad decisions independent of my age and hormonal state, ok?

ok
you’re a pretty amazing kid, you know that?
SORRY
an amazing guy
and I just wanted you to enjoy your first time so I hope I didn’t ruin it

I did, yeah
I did actually
the guys were so awesome about it

It was really true, Farley realized. Maybe the no condoms had been a terrible call, but still, his stomach twisted pleasurably whenever he thought about the day before. His teammates had all been there for him, making him feel good, worshipping him with their cocks, and he’d purely loved it at the time. He even loved (shamefully, he guessed) the fact that he’d known Moose was there watching him take all that dick, watching him be so good and so useful, maybe getting turned on and a little jealous. Everyone wanting him, more of him, all they could get. Of course he’d loved it.

well, good, I’m glad

Farley swallowed and found that his throat was painfully dry. He wished there were some way he could say that the times with Moose had been beyond just enjoyable. There didn’t seem to be any words in his eighteen-year-old dumbass lexicon for that, though, not ones he was allowed to use. Was there a code? A quote? A joke that would make it clear?

anyway yeah keep me posted see you at practice tomorrow I hope, g2g

yeah ok thanks

Well, that had gone...less than optimally, in the end. Farley’s stomach gave a painful lurch. He thought about beet soup, and groaned, then leapt to his feet and skidded down the hall, making it to the bathroom just in time.

*

Farley ended up skipping practice the next morning. He still felt shaky and tired and gross, and everything sort of ached, either as a result of the pill or post-heat letdown or maybe just his body objecting to everything it had been through in the past couple of days. He just wanted to sleep. He sent a quick text to Moose, Still not feeling great, can u tell Coach I’m out sick today?, then turned off his phone and went back to bed.

When he awoke, it was early afternoon. His parents had let him sleep through, miracle of miracles, although his mother had left a passive-aggressive note on his pillow with a list of the chores she wanted done that afternoon in exchange for his room and board, since he’d apparently decided that this was now a hotel. Farley turned his phone back on. There was only one message back from Moose: k, feel better, and he tried to tell himself that he hadn’t been expecting anything more than that. Anyway, practice had only let out a couple of hours ago.

There was a text from Jack, too: hey Farley hope we didn’t break ya buddy, get your ass back here tomorrow so the Petes don’t kill us

And one from Maurice, which was just a photo of something called Boudreax’s Butt Paste and a thumbs up sign.

Farley lay in bed feeling sorry for himself for a little while longer. He reached for Ourmega Bodies and skimmed one of the chapters on pregnancy, felt sicker, worried that maybe it was morning sickness, then read a little more and felt mildly reassured that it couldn’t possibly be, yet. He read a chapter on pregnancy termination, too. None of the options sounded very appealing, and he promptly decided that he wasn’t going to think about it anymore. Not until he had to, which, in all likelihood, he wouldn’t.

He got up and showered, did his chores, studied for a test in his Microeconomics AP course, and then went back to bed to read The House of Mirth for a third time until it got dark and his father called him down for dinner. He was in no way expecting Moose to text him again or to show up at the front door with soup, Farley told himself, so he wasn’t disappointed. At all.

He did, however, spend some time lost in thought after he’d turned out the lights that night, thinking about Moose’s big hands on his body, cradling him, stroking him, and about I want to do all the bad things to you that no one’s ever done before, take my time, make you love it. Moose’s tongue, his scent, the way his nose felt when it nudged at the curve of Farley’s jawline, just behind his ear, or at the vulnerable claim-spot at the base of his neck.

Farley had thought he wouldn’t be able to get any pleasure from touching himself for at least a couple of days after his heat was over. He was turning out to be wrong about an awful lot of things.

*

On Sunday, there was another morning practice and then an away game in Peterborough in the afternoon. Farley showed up for practice a whole hour early, feeling bright-eyed and awake. He hadn’t skated for two whole days; it felt great to get his gear on and get out on the clean fresh morning ice. Also, Peterborough was nearly two hours away, and Moose was always his seatmate on the bus.

The Blades trickled in while Farley was warming up on his own, and joined him on the ice, one by one, calling out to him and making it generally known that he was a hoser and a piece of shit and a lazy useless prima donna; in other words, that they loved him and were glad to have him back. Coach Donker came out and glowered at him, mustache quivering with the lecture he hadn’t be able to give him yesterday, and Farley skated over to apologize for missing practice.

“I’ve been dealing with a minor health issue, Coach,” he said. “All taken care of now. I’m really sorry for letting the team down, and I promise I’m bringing my A game today.”

He still got the lecture, but it was the abbreviated version; clearly Donker was relieved to see him back, too. Farley wiped the spittle from his face and got back into the drill.

Moose showed up to practice half an hour late. Farley had been watching for him, excitedly at first and then nervously and then anxiously, and when he finally did show up, he thought he might have to take five and go sit down with his head between his knees. He noticed that at least half of the Blades were watching him and nudging each other and grinning, though, so he just lifted his chin in Moose’s direction and said “Hey Moose,” like a total asshole, and Moose said “Hey kid, you’re good?” and Farley said “Yep, all good,” conscious that the Blades were watching this like it was a freaking tennis match—their heads swiveled and everything—so what else could he say? He couldn’t even make eye contact with Moose. It was going to be a long day. A long rest of the season, for that matter.

Farley felt queasy again by the time they got onto the bus. He sat in his usual window seat and tried to look unconcerned, tried to pretend he was reading the textbook he’d brought along for the trip, tried to pretend his heart wasn’t in his throat from the moment Moose climbed on board and started to make his way down the aisle. Farley kept his head down in his book until he heard throat-clearing, and then he looked up as if he’d been completely lost in the fascinating world of microeconomics.

“Hey,” said Moose. “You’re, uh, studying, huh?”

“Oh. Yeah. Big test coming up, you know, trying to get a couple of university credits this spring.” Farley pulled his backpack further onto his lap, making sure there was plenty of room on the seat next to him, but Moose still hung back in the aisle, looking fidgety. Farley noticed that the noisy buffoonery in the back seats had gone silent, and his ears burned; he didn’t dare to glance back.

“Okay, well, yeah, you probably want some space to work on that, huh,” Moose said, and then, not waiting for Farley to respond, “and I was actually gonna, I had this idea for some plays I was hoping to run by Antoine and Marc, so I’ll just, yeah, later,” and he kept on going down the bus aisle. There was a small chorus of awwws from somewhere in the back. Farley slid down in his seat, feeling hot and sick. He closed his eyes.

Someone plopped down next to him a couple of minutes later, and Farley startled up. “Hey,” Jack said. “Sorry, can I? Someone spilled Ripped Fuel all over my usual seat. I’m not trying to, like, lay claim to this one or anything, though...” Jack glanced down the bus aisle. “I mean, in case...anyone...wants it back, you know.”

“Doesn’t seem likely,” Farley said.

“So, uh, what’s going on?” Jack asked him, sliding down in the seat and speaking low.

“Nothing,” Farley said. “Nothing’s going on. I’m not in heat, so I’m no longer of interest to...anyone. Apparently.”

Jack looked amused. “Pretty sure that’s not true, Farley.”

“Well, what am I supposed to think?” Farley put his textbook away and stared out the window as the bus began to roll. “I feel awful. Maybe this is another weird omega thing—have you heard of anything like this? Where you can’t focus, and you keep thinking about this one person, and hyperfixating on everything you’ve ever said to each other...”

“Yeah, that’s...not an omega thing,” Jack told him. “That’s called having a crush. Didn’t you have a girlfriend before?”

Farley tried to remember the time when he’d been obsessing over Eve, jealous of every little thing she did with Marco. “That was different,” he said. “I was just a kid. Besides, this feels so physical, like...heart racing, palms sweating, stomach churning...maybe I’ve got the flu, actually, come to think of it.”

Jack shook his head. “Crush city,” he said. “Aww. Look at you. You’re like a little sad puppy. Don’t worry, man. You know the Moose. Just, like, trip over your stick and fall down on the ice or something, he’ll kill everyone in your path so he can be the one to pick you up and protect you.”

Farley thought about that. “Doesn’t seem very sportsmanlike,” he told Jack. “Coercing a teammate into physical proximity just for the sake of indulging what’s probably just my own procreative instinct-based attraction? No, I’d rather let things play out in a more organic way.”

“I only understood a few of those words, but okay.” Jack shrugged. “It’ll play out fine. Everyone knows how he feels about you.”

Farley risked a look back at the rear seats of the bus. Moose was laughing, arm-wrestling Dylan and Erik at the same time, both of them on one arm with the other one held behind his back by Antoine. Farley slid back down in the bus seat and sulked all the way to Peterborough.

*

They lost the game 1-6, their worst defeat since Farley had joined the team. Everyone was off. Moose wasn’t keeping Farley’s attackers at bay the way he usually did, so he was fending off a lot of dirty checks and was almost never able to keep control of the puck for long enough to take it to the goal. Farley was distracted, watching Moose, and the rest of the team was distracted, watching Farley watching Moose. It was a complete gongshow. By the end of the second period, Donker left the arena altogether and reappeared in the middle of the third, openly swigging out of a paper bag. The Blades waited apprehensively in the visitors’ locker room after the game to see how he’d react.

For several awkward minutes, the coach was silent, pacing around the room with his whiskey in hand, stopping in front of one player or another and looking as though he were about to speak, then closing his mouth again and pacing some more.

“Coach,” said Antoine, finally. “It’s not—”

Donker shushed him. “Okay,” he said quietly, after another long minute of shuffling, bench-shifting silence. “I just have one question for you all. What. The FUCK,” his voice rose to a strangled yell, then dropped back to a near whisper, “is going on. With. This team.”

No one knew how to answer.

“You’ve been fucked since Thursday,” Donker said, and there were a few muffled snorts from around the room.

“Some of us more than others,” someone muttered, and Donker whipped a glare around the benches.

“I...I don’t even want to know what’s going on. Just. Fix it. Gordon! Muszynski!” Farley and Moose sat up straight. “What happened with you two? Muszynski, I thought I could rely on you to cover his ass—you’re just gonna let the opposition make a snack out of him?”

Farley winced; the rest of the Blades smothered coughs with their gloves and struggled valiantly not to react.

“—and Gordon, what the hell with all the shots you were giving up? Even without the Moose taking the heat off you, you should have been going hard, especially in the first. You were wide open out there!”

The Blades began to sound like they’d all developed sudden, severe allergies. Dylan fell off the bench, wheezing, and had to excuse himself to go to the washroom.

“I give up,” Donker concluded. “I’ll be on the bus. Drowning my sorrows.” He took another long swallow from his whiskey bottle and staggered out.

Farley’s teammates collapsed in hysterics the moment the door slammed behind their coach, and Farley took advantage of the cacophony to slink away and be the first one in and out of the showers and then first onto the bus. Once in his seat, he buried himself in his textbook again, and didn’t look up until a small commotion in the aisle next to him forced itself on his attention.

Four of the Blades had taken hold of Moose and were escorting him to his usual seat beside Farley. They shoved him down into his accustomed place and then hovered for a moment as though making sure he’d stay put. “Work it out, you two,” Maurice instructed them. “We’re not letting you off this bus again until you do. Today was fuckin’ yumiliating.”

“Hilarious, but humiliating,” Kevin agreed. “Come on, guys, let’s give the lovebirds some space.” They trooped onward to the back of the bus, leaving a deafening silence behind them.

Several minutes passed.

“I didn’t mean—” “You don’t have to—”

“You first,” Moose said gruffly.

“No. You.” Farley was prepared to wait it out, and finally Moose relented.

“I didn’t mean to leave you undefended. I just wanted to, you know, not be all up your ass like, oh god.” Moose dropped his head and covered his eyes with his hand. “I mean, I was trying to keep my distance so I wouldn’t go crazy on anyone who got within a metre of you and end up in the bin again because I couldn’t control myself. I went too far in the other direction, I guess. Sorry.”

Farley was puzzled. “But I’m not...why would you go crazy now? I’m not in heat, and the suppressants are fast-acting. I’ve been on them for two days already.”

Moose shrugged and looked away. “I don’t know. I fucked up.”

“Yeah, you did,” Farley agreed, and Moose gave him a startled, open look and laughed in disbelief.

“So?” Moose said, after another minute.

“So what?” Farley’s heart was pounding again, his mouth was dry, and he was beginning to wish he were sitting with Jack for the return journey, too; he couldn’t take this for five more minutes, let alone over an hour.

“Your turn. ‘You don’t have to’ what?”

“Oh,” Farley said weakly. “I don’t...I don’t remember. Nothing.”

Moose frowned. “Are you sure you’re back up to speed?”

“Yeah, yeah, completely.”

“You’re not, uh, stressing out about the…” Moose looked nervous. “I mean, I should have told you before, ninety to ninety-five percent odds is pretty good, but if you were...you know...whatever you...you wouldn’t be on your own with anything you uh, decided to do. At all.”

Farley coughed and looked out the bus window. “Oh. Thanks. I’m not, I’m definitely not, I’m not stressing about...that. I’ve sort of just decided not to think about, um, any of that unless it turns out I have to. Which I probably won’t. Waste of brain space, right?” It was mostly true. He wished Moose hadn’t brought it up. It was like The Game: think about it and you lose.

“Okay,” said Moose. “If that’s...yeah, absolutely, good plan.”

Farley cast around for something to say. He talked to Moose constantly on bus trips. Mostly about hockey. He didn’t feel like talking about hockey right now. “Uh...how’s your paper coming along? The House of Mirth. When’s that due?”

“Crap,” Moose said. “Don’t remind me. I’m supposed to turn in a thesis statement and an outline on Tuesday.”

“Okay, well,” Farley felt on safer ground here. “Thesis statement. Any ideas? What have you got? Run it by me.” He got out a notebook and pen from his bookbag and handed them to Moose.

Moose groaned. “You’re gonna make me do my homework? Now?”

“Why not?”

“I still hate this book,” Moose complained. “It’s depressing. And it’s really fucking antisemitic, too.”

“Well, yeah. You could write about that, maybe?”

“Maybe,” Moose said. “I...kind of had this other idea, though.” He hesitated. “You know...you know when Lily tells Selden ‘an omega must be claimed, an alpha may claim if they choose’? Something like that?”

Farley felt the safe ground shudder and drop away from beneath him. “Um,” he said. “Sort of, yeah...and…?”

“I thought I might write about that. Whether it was true. And if that’s why she had to die, because she wouldn’t be claimed. Or if it’s just a forced situation to make the book more needlessly tragic to prove a point.”

“Wow,” said Farley, when he’d recovered the power of speech. “That’s...quite a thesis, Moose.”

“So, totally stupid, then. I figured.”

“No! No, kind of the opposite of stupid. I like it. A lot.” Farley wondered if he had it in him to talk about omegas and claiming with Moose without blushing to death in front of the entire busload of Blades. Then he looked out the window and realized it was getting dark now; no one would see him blush, so maybe he’d survive, if they kept their voices low and no one overheard them. “So...you think Lily should have, uh, let Laura claim her?”

“Well, at first,” Moose said, tapping Farley’s pen against his knee in a jittery sort of way. “That’s sort of the obvious romantic conclusion. But then I thought about it and, um.” He looked directly at Farley. “Now I think maybe no. That what she really needed was to be independent, unclaimed, and not have to choose anybody in order to survive. And that’s the real tragedy of the book, that she wasn’t allowed to make that choice, and got punished for it.”

Farley’s mouth was open. The light hadn’t faded that much yet; he felt like what he was thinking now must be all over his face. “I thought you said you weren’t much of a reader,” he said. “That’s, that’s a really good point. But I don’t know,” he heard himself go on. Was he bold enough to say it? Leave himself open like this? “I think...I think she could have loved Selden. If society hadn’t tried to push them apart from each other. If Lily could have, um, brought herself to seriously consider Laura, despite the, the difference in their backgrounds, or if Laura had, maybe, been a little more…”

“A little more what?” Moose wanted to know. The sun was going down, but not fast enough. Farley swallowed hard.

“Brave,” Farley said, acutely aware of the warm line all along his right leg up to his hip where they were touching, pressed together. “A little more brave. Like, what was she waiting for, really? It was so obvious what Lily needed.”

“Was it?” Moose’s left hand was resting on his own thigh, so close to Farley’s; if he’d just move it a little, just a little… “Why did Selden have to be the brave one, though? Just because she was the alpha? Couldn’t Lily have just taken charge of her own destiny, if Laura was really what she wanted?”

“I’m starting to think they were both just a couple of cowards who got what they deserved, actually,” Farley admitted, and he brought his right hand over to rub slowly up and down against his own thigh, just once, so that the outer edge of his little finger brushed the edge of Moose’s hand. It was a ridiculously small amount of contact, and it made him close his eyes and catch his breath, biting his lower lip.

Moose moved his hand right on top of Farley’s, and the rush of sensation was so intense, Farley thought he was going to cry out—did cry out, just then, because someone was leaning over the back of the seat, and Moose moved his hand away, fast.

“What are you talking about?” Dylan demanded. “We’ve got a bet on, back there.”

“Literature,” Moose said. “Fuck off,” and he gave Dylan a hard flick with his fingernail right between the eyes that made him yelp and disappear.

As soon as he’d gone, Moose moved his hand back to where it had been, and slid down in the seat so he could speak close to Farley’s ear. “I thought you said you weren’t in heat anymore,” he said softly, and it made every invisible hair on Farley’s neck bristle up at attention.

“I’m not,” he said. “I just...want you. You know that. You knew that.” Farley caught his breath again. Moose was just lightly touching his hand, but he could feel it everywhere: in his stomach, his nipples, in the back of his neck, his cock. It felt like hope. Little explosions and firecrackers of hope, shooting all through him.

“Yeah, but I thought it was just…” Moose trailed off. “You know.”

“Moose,” Farley protested, and let his voice drop down so low it could hardly be heard. “I told you I loved you.”

“You told everyone you loved them that night. You told Kevin.”

Farley thought about it. “I did?”

“I was right there,” Moose reminded him.

“Okay, well, that was the hormones, I guess. I didn’t mean it, with anyone else.”

“But you,” Moose swallowed, and Farley watched his adam’s apple bob in his throat, fascinated; he wanted to bite at it. “With me, you, um. Meant it?”

Farley lifted one shoulder. “I think maybe,” he said, although he was actually thinking yes, yes, you big goon, I love you, I'm in love with you, god I love you.

“I said it to you, too,” Moose said, even more quietly, and his nose was actually brushing Farley’s ear now; was it possible to orgasm from someone’s nose lightly touching the rim of your ear? Farley shut his eyes. “Maybe you were too far gone to hear.”

“Um, I heard,” Farley said. “I just thought...I thought it was just…but, so, it wasn’t?”

“Maybe not.”

Oh, lips, those were Moose’s lips at the skin behind his ear now, gentle and maddening, and Farley shivered. They couldn’t possibly make out on a hockey bus (he badly wanted for them to make out on the hockey bus) but maybe they could risk just one, just one—Farley turned his head and tilted up his face and looked at Moose’s mouth with intent, and Moose nodded and bridged the gap between them so that their lips met softly.

“Mm,” Moose said. “Yes,” and he cupped a hand carefully around Farley’s jaw and brought his mouth once more to Farley’s, a firmer press, his tongue darting out to lick lightly across Farley’s just-open lips, a tease, a promise. Farley felt Moose’s quick inhale; he felt it all down his own spine.

“We can’t,” he murmured against Moose’s mouth. “They’re all gonna see us, they’re probably watching right now, taking pictures, we’ll never hear the end of it…”

“Fuck ’em,” Moose said, and oh, that was...Moose saying fuck right against Farley’s lips, the plosive ck feeling like sex; Farley was definitely going to have an orgasm on this bus in another thirty seconds; it was too much. He moved away, loving the little hurt protesting sound that came out of Moose’s throat.

“So,” Farley said brightly, almost in his normal voice. “I think you have a really good thesis statement there for your paper, Moose; tell me more about that. Needlessly tragic to prove a point, really? So you’re saying it’s not realistic?”

Moose groaned, but he was smiling at Farley, shaking his head a little. He leaned back in and said quietly into Farley’s ear, “Come home with me tonight?”

His parents were going to lose their minds; they’d probably try to book another one of those retreats at that place in Saskatchewan that promised better channels of family communication through puppetry arts. He’d worry about it later. “Yes,” Farley said, and he daringly turned his hand over, the one that Moose was still covering with his own, and threaded his fingers into Moose’s. “Yes, please, I’d like that,” and they held hands in the dark for the rest of the way home, and talked about Edith Wharton and antisemitism and hockey and what was the most timbits they’d ever eaten at one sitting, and they were still holding hands when the interior bus lights came on at the end of the trip, causing their teammates to cheer.

*

It turned out to be incredible, having sex without being in heat. Farley had wondered. He still wanted it, but not frantically, not with the edge of desperation that had sharpened all his senses to a nearly unbearable pitch during their first encounter. He was able to do things like sit with Moose on the edge of his bed and just make out with him for the first half hour, feeling excited and happy and safe, loving the feeling of their mouths and their tongues together and their hands on each other on top of their clothes, gently mapping the contours of each other’s bodies, letting desire slowly build.

“Can I take this off?” Moose whispered eventually, sliding one hand up underneath Farley’s t-shirt to rest on his stomach, plucking at the hem with the other hand.

“Mm,” Farley said. “Yes,” and helped him pull it off, then sat there feeling shy and exposed when Moose sat back to look at him, as if he’d never been half-naked in front of him before, which obviously wasn’t at all the case.

“I did a pretty good job on that,” Moose said, and Farley looked down at his tattoo.

“Oh,” he said. “Yeah, you did. I was so excited when you gave it to me.”

Moose raised an eyebrow. “Excited? Like…”

“Well, mostly just regular excited,” Farley admitted. “Maybe a little turned on. But it actually did hurt like crazy, if we’re being honest.”

“Turned me on,” Moose said, and he leaned in to press his lips against his artistry. “Shocked the hell out of me. I could tell you were in total pain, and you were being all brave about it, and I just wanted to do this the entire time.” He kissed the tattoo again, then ran his tongue over it. It made Farley gasp and break out in gooseflesh, but Moose’s hands were warm on his sides, on his stomach, and the bumps subsided quickly.

“You don’t have one,” Farley said, putting his hand on the corresponding spot on Moose’s chest. Moose skimmed off his t-shirt to display the blank canvas.

“Nah,” he said sheepishly. “Needles. Not a fan. Maybe I’ll get brave and do it someday.”

“I’ll hold your hand if you do,” Farley offered, still feeling shy.

“Mmm,” said Moose, and began to kiss him on the mouth again. “I might get hard,” he said between kisses. “Like I did on the bus. That’d be...embarrassing.”

Farley was glad to hear he hadn’t been the only one suffering on the bus.

“Never got a...boner, just from...holding hands before,” Moose told him, still between kisses, and then he moved his mouth back down to the tattoo, brushing his lips against it. He hesitated, looked up at Farley, and then moved a little lower, kissing Farley’s left nipple and then fastening his mouth around it, sucking gently.

“Ah,” Farley said, “that’s, yes, I like that, please—” and he let Moose push him slowly down onto his back, then arched up halfway with a little cry when he felt Moose’s teeth set into him. “Yes, more, do that some more,” he panted, and Moose made a slight growling sound in the back of his throat and bit him again, a little harder. “Oh my god, that’s so, that’s so...do the other one, please, please,” Farley begged, and Moose pulled off slowly and then brought his hand up and kept playing with his left nipple, pinching it gently, rolling it between his fingers while he flicked his tongue-tip against the right one.

“Stop,” Farley said finally. His chest was heaving. “I need...need a break,” and Moose moved away instantly and came up to lie on the pillow beside him.

“Okay?” he said.

“Yeah. Really okay. I just...just don’t want to come in my pants,” Farley said shakily. He was throbbing-hard, straining against the fly of his jeans, and he fumbled the button open and unzipped them to give himself some relief.

“Mine are feeling kind of tight right now, too,” Moose said, and he unbuckled his belt and shoved his jeans off altogether, then lay back down in just his boxer briefs. Farley looked at him and swallowed; the shape of Moose’s erection was very, very clear through the white cotton. “We can take it slow,” Moose said, watching Farley look. “I’m not in a rush. Let’s just lay here for a while, okay?”

Farley nodded, hesitated, and then wriggled down his own jeans and cast them aside, and they lay there on their sides, facing, and looked at each other, not quite touching, just breathing the same air.

“It’s kind of scarier doing this when I’m not in heat,” Farley confessed. “I mean, I like it! I like that we can take our time. It’s just...I don’t know what we’re going to do. We could do anything, I guess.”

“We could,” Moose agreed. “Want to talk about that? What you want? What you like?”

Farley felt himself begin to blush, all up his chest and throat. “I don’t actually, um. Know? What I like. Like, that, just now, that was new. I haven’t done a whole lot.” He thought about the fact that Moose had actually witnessed pretty much the entirety of his own sexual experience with other people, whereas Farley had no real clue about Moose’s past relations. “I guess you...have. Done a lot.”

Moose, he thought, was blushing a bit, too. “I mean, yeah, I guess,” Moose said. “Being on a hockey team. Being tall. Gave me probably too many opportunities when I was too young. Till I got scary tall. Um, mostly with girls. Never with a teammate before.” He leaned in to kiss Farley, a soft gentle press against his lips. “This feels different. I know it’s all new and we’re just figuring it out, but...you’re not just another conquest. I, like, care about you and stuff.” He cleared his throat. “So, can I try sucking your cock?”

Farley laughed; he couldn’t help it. “That’s not the ending I was expecting for that speech at all, wow,” he said. “Um. Yeah. You can.” He blushed harder. “I don’t think...I don’t think I’ll last very long if you do, though.”

“That’s okay,” Moose said, businesslike, and slid down on the bed, positioning himself, shouldering Farley over onto his back. “I haven’t sucked a lot of cock. I might be terrible at it. Just smack me if I do something you don’t like, okay?”

“Or I could just say stop,” Farley said, smiling down at him, highly amused.

“Sure,” Moose agreed. “Do that,” and he bent his head, rubbing his nose against the soft strip of skin just above the top of Farley’s underwear. Then he took the waistband in his teeth, very gently, and tugged it out, peeling it slowly down over Farley’s erection.

“Oh my god,” Farley breathed.

“You have no idea how long I’ve been wanting to do that,” Moose murmured. “Fucking torture seeing you up on that billboard every day.” He used his hands to pull Farley’s underwear the rest of the way down to his thighs, then licked all the way up him with the flat of his tongue, base to tip. “Mm,” Moose said. “Just wanna lick you till you fall apart on me, you smell so good, taste so good—” He licked again, and then took the base of Farley’s cock in his hand and fastened his mouth around the head, working his lips around the underside and teasing at Farley’s slit with his tongue.

“Oh my god oh my god,” Farley said urgently. “Stop,” and Moose pulled off quickly, leaving him heaving and gasping and clutching the bedsheets.

“What? I’m sorry. Told you I was bad at it. Did I hurt you?”

“No, I just...wanted it to last longer than one actual second,” Farley gasped. “Slow down. Oh. Your mouth, your tongue, oh my...goodness, I’m going to...ah, I’m going to come right now,” he said in wonder, looking down at himself; his cock was jerking, leaking, and Moose took him in hand again and put his mouth around Farley carefully, just holding him there, moving his tongue slowly against the tip of him.

“Oh—oh, I’m—Moose, I’m going to I’m going to right now I’m—oh god, oh f...fuck,” Farley babbled, and came, shaking, in the soft heat of Moose’s mouth.

After a heavy-breathing minute or two, Moose got up and went to the bathroom. He came back smelling minty, got back into bed, and kissed Farley on the forehead.

“I’m sorry,” Farley said mournfully. “I did try to warn you.”

“That was nothing to be sorry for,” Moose said. “Loved it. I almost didn’t do anything; I don’t even know if that counts as giving a BJ or not.”

“I came in your mouth,” Farley said, pulling a pillow over his face. “I think it counts.”

Moose pulled the pillow away and kissed him again, this time on the lips. “I wanted you to,” he said. “I told you I wanted to make you fall apart on me. So hot.” The next kisses were less chaste. He pressed himself up against Farley, huge and hard against his hip with only the thin barrier of his underwear between them.

“Do you want to, um.” Farley felt shaky. Nervous? Maybe kind of nervous. Which was ridiculous. He made himself say it. “Do you want to fuck me?”

“Hmm,” Moose said into Farley’s jawline. “Not...no. I think you’re still recovering from the other day, aren’t you?”

He was, but he hadn’t wanted to say so. “Maybe kind of.”

“Maybe definitely,” Moose said, nuzzling at that soft spot behind his ear. He was grinding up against Farley’s hip, but in slow undulations, nothing too insistent. “So much other stuff we could do. Do you wanna fuck me?”

“Wow, I, I just came,” Farley said, feeling slow, also feeling some of the nerves in his dick try weakly to respond to the suggestion.

“Hmm,” Moose said again. He shimmied out of his briefs and then hitched his leg up over Farley’s hip, taking Farley’s hand and placing it on his ass. “You could use your fingers, till you get hard again, or just...just your fingers would be great, too, if you want. Only if you want.”

“I do want, yeah. God...yeah.” Farley cupped Moose’s ass, squeezed gently, and let his fingers drift lower, feeling unbearably bold. Moose ground into him harder.

“Yeah,” he told Farley. “Touch me, I want you to, I want, can you give me—ah, there, yes,” he said, arching his back as Farley found his entrance. Farley brushed a careful fingertip across it, pressed gently, felt it flare open a little beneath his touch, and Moose let out a quavery moan.

“You like that?” Farley said, a little surprised. He hadn’t known alphas did.

“I could come just from that,” Moose admitted, and kissed him. “I love it. Okay, let me...there’s lube, in the drawer there, you can…”

After a little maneuvering and awkwardness, Farley anointed his right hand and recommenced touching Moose, getting a finger inside him to the second knuckle now, moving it in and out of him slowly as they kissed, and kissed, and kissed. He’d smeared some of the lube onto his hip, and Moose’s cock slid through it more and more rapidly as he fucked himself up against Farley’s skin, fucked back onto his finger, making quiet little high-pitched urgent sounds now.

“That’s good, huh?” Farley said, feeling all swollen with tenderness inside at the thought of making Moose be the one to fall apart now, giving him something alphas weren’t supposed to want, taking care of him for a change. “Is it good? Words, Moose, I want to hear words…”

Moose gave a sobbing, trembling laugh. “Fuck you, Gordon, fuck it’s good,” he said. “Can you...another finger, I need...ah, god, yes, like…that, oh—” He froze, suddenly, and Farley felt him clamp down tight around his fingers in spasms, felt Moose’s cock begin to twitch and flood against his hip.

“Yeah,” Moose said when he’d finished, sounding shaky and overwhelmed. “That was, that was good. Thank you.”

*

After they got cleaned up, with frequent pauses for more kissing, Farley was surprised to discover that it was only nine-thirty in the evening and that he was famished. They got dressed, or semi-dressed—t-shirts and underwear—and Moose heated up a pan of pierogi, which they devoured like starving wolves at Moose’s rickety little all-purpose table, after he’d cleared all the hockey gear and clean laundry and textbooks off of it.

“These are really good,” Farley said, when he’d slowed down enough to taste them. “What’s in them?”

“Sauerkraut and mushroom,” Moose said with his mouth full. “Thanks.”

“You made them? What, from scratch?”

Moose swallowed and gave a self-conscious shrug. “They’re not hard. Kind of time-consuming, but if you make a couple hundred at once you just get into a groove with it...it’s relaxing. My freezer’s full of ’em. You want any more?”

“I’m good for now. You definitely don’t suck at cooking, Moose. You really want to open a chain of restaurants someday?”

Moose looked more self-conscious still. “You remember me saying that? When you were, um, right in the middle of your heat and couldn’t do anything but beg for more dick?”

“I wasn’t that out of it.”

“You were pretty out of it, kid.” Moose grinned at him and got up from the table. He came around behind Farley and grabbed his empty plate to take it to the sink, pressing a lingering kiss to the side of Farley’s neck as he leaned over him.

Farley flinched, and hated himself for it. “Sorry,” he said. “Sorry, just...sensitive spot.” He tried to laugh.

“No, that’s...that’s on me, I’m sorry, my bad.” Moose cleared away the plates, then came back to Farley and held out a hand to him. “Come back to bed,” he said.

“I have sauerkraut breath, though,” Farley said, because he was just that smooth, apparently.

“So do I. Come on, I want to...I wanted to talk about something.”

The pierogi were heavy in Farley’s stomach, suddenly, and he wished he hadn’t eaten so many of them, but he took Moose’s hand and let him pull him up into an awkward hug, and then got back into his bed. To talk about something.

Moose didn’t make him wait. “I don’t want to claim you, Farley.”

“Oh,” said Farley, and his ears burned. He wished Moose had put out the light before they’d had to have this conversation.

“I mean I don’t even know if you’d—maybe you don’t even—I’m not saying you wanted that but...I don’t. I mean, I do! I should have started with that. I’m a complete fuck-up.” Moose sighed and squeezed his eyes shut. “I should have, like, practiced this.”

“I’m kind of confused,” Farley admitted.

“I’m really confused, so, yeah.” Moose looked over at him ruefully. “Maybe we’re even.” He leaned in and kissed Farley, a sauerkrauty kiss of confusion that nevertheless made Farley prickle all over with desire again.

“Okay, let me try this again.” Moose shook his head, took a breath, blew it out. “Farley Gordon. I’m dying to claim you. You make me crazy, I think I’ve been in love with you ever since the day we met—which was real confusing when I thought you were an alpha, let me tell you—and that spot on your neck is like a, a magnet, but I just...am not going to do that.”

“Because I’m eighteen,” Farley said, feeling stupid and weird and rejected and...relieved? Maybe kind of relieved.

“Because you’re eighteen,” Moose agreed, and kissed him again, wrapping a hand around the back of Farley’s neck, drawing him in close. “And you’ve known you were an omega for, what, two weeks? And because omegas shouldn’t have to, they should be able to choose not to, if they want.”

“You’ve been reading too much Edith Wharton,” Farley told him. “It’s the twenty-first century. There are unclaimed omegas everywhere. And the bonds aren’t permanent; they can be dissolved now, you know.”

“I know,” Moose said earnestly. “But I still don’t...I don’t think you want to be claimed. If you’ve even really thought about it. Have you?”

Farley had, obviously. “Yes,” he said, and then wasn’t sure what to say. “I do want...I thought...I don’t know.” He thought about university, about the NHL draft, about all the reasons why it would be incredibly dumb to let himself be bonded to one person whose first name he hadn’t known a week ago. But he yearned; his whole body yearned for that claiming bite.

“I do really, really, really want to,” Moose said, looking at him like he was trying hard to read Farley’s expressions. “I...I hope maybe we can, someday? It’s just not the right time.”

“No,” Farley agreed sadly. “You’re right. It’s not.” He started to turn away. He didn’t want Moose to see his face. But Moose reached out and captured him and pulled him back to look at him.

“Could we maybe just be boyfriends for now?”

“Boyfriends,” Farley said. “Boyfriends?”

“Yeah,” said Moose. “I want you to be my boyfriend.”

“You mean, um,” Farley hesitated. “Exclusive boyfriends?”

“Except in cases of mutually agreed-on exceptions, yeah,” Moose said. “Like if you wanted to let the team fuck you when you were in heat again. Because I think maybe you liked that a lot.”

Farley had liked it a lot. “Interesting,” he said. “An interesting proposal.”

Moose looked anxious.

“I’ll think it over,” Farley said, and Moose nodded slowly and didn’t say anything. He still looked anxious. “Oh, not the boyfriends part,” Farley added. “I don’t have to think about that part.”

“Well,” said Moose. “That’s...good?”

Farley kissed him, and wrapped his arms around Moose’s neck. “Yeah,” he said. “But the exceptions during heat, I don’t know, I’ll have to consider it. How’s my boyfriend going to feel, watching me get taken by a bunch of big aggressive hockey players?”

Moose kissed him back. “I think he’ll be fine with it,” he said. “As long as they all play nice and follow the rules. And use condoms. I think he’d figure out how to control himself. Because it’d be really hot for your boyfriend to watch, especially if he knew ahead of time that you were going home with him that night.”

“Oh, well, as long as it’s hot for him to watch, that’s all that really matters,” Farley teased. “I’m kidding!” he went on, when Moose looked upset again. “It’s hot. It’s very hot. And I do love the team. Just...not as much as…”

Moose looked around, looked hopeful, pointed to himself, raised his eyebrows.

“Yeah, you,” Farley said. “Is that all the talking we have to do for now? Can we make out some more?”

“Anything you want,” Moose agreed. “And I’ll stay away from your neck, I promise, I know it makes you nervous.”

“No, it’s fine, it’s...I just never knew, if you were thinking...but it’s fine, if you touch me there, now that I know you’re not...yeah. It feels really good, actually,” Farley said shyly.

“Yeah?” Moose leaned over and brushed his nose against the spot, and then his lips, and Farley gave a deep shudder and made a high-pitched sound of pure want. “You trust me? You’re sure?”

“I trust you absolutely,” Farley said, because it was true. “Mój chłopak.”

Moose made a face. “We’ll work on your pronunciation before you meet Babcia,” he said. “I think, yeah, I think that’s enough talking for now.”

***

The pregnancy test and STD screening was no big deal; it was really no big deal at all. All Farley had to do was pee in a cup, fill out a questionnaire, and get two vials of blood drawn from his arm: child’s play. And he wasn’t at all concerned about the results—or at least that was what he'd told himself so often that it seemed as if it must be true by now—so there was absolutely no reason for anyone to go along with him to the clinic.

There really wasn’t any reason for the entire hockey team to go along with him to the clinic, but there they all were. He hadn’t been able to stop them. It was his own fault, really, for being stupid enough to tell Maurice he was going, and of course Maurice had told Jack, and Jack had told Erik and Dylan, and then it was all over.

“This is weird,” Farley told Moose, who was gripping his hand as if he were the one who had to have blood drawn. “I mean...it just looks weird. What are people going to think? Why is there a hockey team in the waiting room at an omega healthcare facility? They’re going to know, they’ll figure it out, it could make the local news, I could be suspended…”

“That’s what you’re stressing about?” Moose said, still white-knuckling Farley’s hand.

“Well, yeah,” Farley said. “Mostly. Yeah.” They called his name, then, and he had to try to disentangle himself from Moose’s grip. “Come on,” Farley told him. “Let go; it’s fine. I’ll be back in ten minutes.”

It was closer to twenty, actually, and Farley worried about Moose, who was no doubt waiting and watching the time and biting his nails past the quick. Maybe he should have let Moose come in with him. He got his results at last, though, accepted his lecture with good grace, and went out to share the news with the Blades, feeling unexpectedly shaky with relief and bracing himself for a lot of yelling.

They didn’t look up when Farley came back out to the waiting room. They were all gathered around Antoine’s phone, glued to something on the screen.

“Hey,” Farley said. “What’s going on?”

“Shhh,” said Erik, and Farley came around behind them to try to see what they were watching. Moose hung an arm around his neck and pulled him in close, but didn’t tear his eyes away from the video—NHL press footage, it looked like.

“So I got the all clear,” Farley told Moose, a bit nettled. “In case you were wondering.”

“Did you? Great, that’s great,” Moose said, and kissed him absently on the cheek. “Are you seeing this?”

“No,” said Farley, because there were at least six guys blocking his view. “What the heck is going on?”

“Sidney Crosby,” Dylan said, sounding dazed. “Just came out on the national news. He’s an omega. And he’s pregnant. And he’s not retiring.”

Farley felt a huge smile break over his face. “Really? Wow. Good for him. Guess all the cool hockey players are doing it now.”

Everyone whipped around to look at him in shock, and Antoine dropped his phone and cursed.

“I mean being an omega,” Farley clarified. “I’m not pregnant.”

There was, in fact, a lot of yelling. Everyone was congratulating him except for Maurice, who was dejected.

“I was kind of looking forward to being a dad,” he said sorrowfully. “Even just a sixth of one. We could have gotten it its own little skates. And a stick. And a little baby helmet, of course. And—”

“Hey, cheer up, maybe next time,” Farley told him. “I guess, if Sidney Crosby can do it…”

The Blades all shouted him down and jumped on him, and were asked, not very nicely, to vacate the premises.

“Relieved?” Farley asked Moose, when they’d all escaped out into the bright cold winter day and were roughhousing and cavorting their way down the block to the bus stop.

“Very,” said Moose, and kissed him. “Mostly that you’re okay. And it’s awesome about Crosby. You won’t have to hide it anymore. Yeah, I’m pretty happy. I could burst into song, in fact. Couldn’t you?”

Farley took a deep breath...then let it out again. “Nah,” he said. “I think I’m good.”