Yes, You Are by Willa Okati
Darian hit the asphalt track ass first, jolting backward on his bony butt, and oh hell no, he was not about to let that one slide.
He lashed out with his left foot and caught one of the guys who’d knocked him down in the ankle. Good and solid too, not breaking any bones but making him yelp like Darian had gotten him in the nuts instead and hop-stumble off balance like a fool until he caught himself. Cleats were better for more than a little traction.
Darian glared up at the group. He didn’t know which of them had shoved him, and frankly he didn’t give a damn. They were big guys, all of them, chunky around the middle and spattered with about as many zits as strands of wayward facial hair. He’d only caught one guy’s nickname -- Snickers, because my God, that bastard loved his candy, and he’d already gone through two king sized bars in one morning at this Goddamned field and track camp he’d been dragged to.
What the fuck even, seriously.
“If you’re going to spend your life picking fights you’d better know how to run when you get in over your head,” his dad said, exasperated, right before he booted Darian out of the car. “Now either go have fun or at least try not to kill anyone, okay?”
“No promises.” Darian bared his teeth.
After that, his dad had muttered something under his breath and driven away.
Anyway. Looked like Snickers and his clown crew buddies had finished razzing each other over getting nailed near the crotch and were back to hooting like they’d pulled the cleverest prank in the world by pushing Darian over.
“Little bitch went down easy, didn’t he?” Snickers jeered.
“Yeah, you know boys like him do.” One of the others grabbed his crotch, and ugh, unless he was a grower and not a shower, that bastard was in for a whole lifetime’s worth of disappointment. “You want to go down on me, pretty boy?”
Darian wiped a smear of wetness away from his upper lip and scowled when it came away red. Damn it, they’d given him a bloody nose. “Not even with someone else’s mouth on someone else’s dick.”
While they were gaping at that, trying to figure out what he’d said and what it meant, Darian shoved himself to his feet. “If you unpresented wannabe Alphahole dickheads think you can toss me around like a chew toy” -- because he was small and skinny and probably going to be an Omega --”I will be so happy to teach you better. You want to go? Let’s go.”
“You got some kind of mouth on you,” one of them sputtered. “You want to use that mouth for --”
Darian jerked his head around to look because that voice right there? That was the kind of voice that made everyone sit up and pay attention. It wasn’t the coach getting involved. He’d spent at least an hour bitching about Omegas being allowed on the same teams as Alphas, never mind that none of them were old enough to draw that line yet. Right now he was too busy pretending he saw no, heard no, and spoke no evil to do anything, and his assistant was setting up hurdles on the opposite side of the track.
Nope, it was the biggest of the guys on the field that day, and Darian meant big. A full head taller than any of the clown squad, wider at the shoulders, with hands that could probably palm a basketball and a jaw set like a battering ram.
Also? Super pissed off.
Darian could not tell a lie: that was pretty hot.
Big Guy thrust himself between Darian and the others. “Knock it off and leave him alone.”
Darian shoved back. Big Guy wasn’t easy to move, so he shouldered up side by side with the dude instead and jabbed an elbow into his side. “Fuck off. I can defend myself.”
“No you can’t, little pretty boy. Who’s going to stop us?” one of them jeered.
“You think I can’t?” Big Guy doubled up his fists. “Let’s go.”
“There’s one of you and three of us.”
Darian rolled his eyes. Some people never learned unless it was the hard way. “Three of you, and two of us,” he corrected. “And I don’t know about him, but me? I don’t fight fair.”
He dropped his shoulder and charged into the middle of the group at top speed, and before they knew what’d hit them he leapfrogged forward and pinned Mr. Candy Monster down. Drew back his fist and smashed the guy a good one right in his potato face. Pop went some cartilage, and scarlet flew everywhere.
“Now that’s how you give someone a bloody nose,” Darian said with a sharp grin.
Big Guy gaped wide-eyed at Darian. Wide and abruptly gold-eyed, like a hawk. Must have been his animal nature coming through, and Darian wouldn’t lie, that was pretty hot too. “Holy shit, dude.”
Darian smirked at him, letting his animal nature show with a bared canine too sharp to be a human’s, then let them all go good and pointy as he waggled his fingers at the two jackasses left standing. “Anyone else want to see what a pretty little thing like me can do to you?”
And of course, that was when Coach decided to get involved. He blew his whistle at top volume. “Separate!”
“I’m sorry, did you not see him knock me down first?” Darian demanded, climbing off the blubbering former bully, who now had red snot bubbles dribbling down his chin. “You don’t see the blood on my face?”
The assistant coach must have noticed what was going on. He jogged over to put his two cents in. Big like all Alphas were, but not that much older than Darian and probably Big Guy either. “They did start it.” He pointed at the three aggressors. “I saw the whole thing. These two were defending themselves.”
“Separate!” Coach’s fists were shaking and white-knuckled with all the things he couldn’t legally say to an Omega these days. Fucking genderist bastard. “You three, go see the nurse. You two, far end of the field where I can keep an eye on you.”
“Wait, what?” Big Guy jostled forward. “Are you serious? That’s not fair.”
“Corner! Another word out of you and you’re out of here, understand?”
Coach stormed off without giving either of them a chance to explain, muttering those things about Omegas -- and weakass bleeding heart Alphas too -- out loud now but being super solicitous of the bastard with the bloody nose. The assistant shook his head and set out after them, shooting back arguments that Coach wasn’t listening to.
“That’s not fair.” Big Guy started to go after them, but Darian caught him by the edge of his loose-sleeved tank and yanked backward.
When Big Guy aimed a surprised scowl over his shoulder, Darian gave the dude his best unimpressed look. “That’s not going to make a difference. Pick your battles.”
“Like you do?”
“We’re talking about you, not me, and I do pick my battles,” Darian retorted. “I just pick all of them.”
“It’s still not right. They did start it, and they can’t get away with it scot-free.”
“Oh, they’re not.” Darian dug in the loose pocket of his gym shorts and came out with the last of Snickers’ three candy bars, waving it at Big Guy. “He’ll go for the comfort food pretty soon and when he figures out he lost this somewhere, his head’ll explode.”
Big Guy started to grin. “How’d you do that?”
“I have my skills. Come on, you. Coach said ‘go to the edge of the field,’ I say we go to the bleachers. I’ve gotten too familiar with the turf already and if he doesn’t like it, he can bite me.”
At that, Big Guy snorted. “He can try. I already know you bite back.”
“Which makes you smarter than him, so you’re already ahead of the game.” Darian waved Big Guy ahead of him, surprised when he didn’t drop onto one of the lowest bleachers but climbed a few up before picking a seat. He shrugged and followed him. “What are you, a hunting hawk bloodline or something? And what’s your name, anyway?”
“Mostly falcons. Some deer. Don’t ask. And my name’s Coby. It’s not short for anything. Just Coby. Would have been Kobe but my dad misspelled it on my birth certificate. He was a fan.” Coby bit at his thumbnail, looking torn between righteous wrath and some kind of inner conflict.
Normally Darian wouldn’t have considered that his problem, but for some reason he elbowed Coby in a rough kind of sympathy. “Sucks to be you, doesn’t it?”
“Tell me about it.” Coby cocked his head. “Wolf bloodlines?”
“Fox.” Darian broke the Snickers bar in half and passed over an equal share of it, wondering if he’d heard or imagined Coby muttering I’ll say before deciding that was one step too far into what the fuck for the moment. “Here. And I’m Darian. Not Darry, not Dare. Darian.”
“Darian. I’ll remember.” Coby’s stomach let out a basso rumble, but he had some manners on him and he hesitated before reaching for the candy. “Are you sure?”
“We’re getting rid of the evidence. Eat up.”
Coby thought about that for a second, but he was already grabbing for his half of the candy bar, and once he had it in his hand he shoved the whole damn thing in his mouth.
Darian’s eyebrows flew up. “Okay, hungry much? You’re going to choke yourself.”
“Mmf.” Coby chewed and swallowed maybe half his mouthful, going pink-faced. Strike what Darian had thought before about manners, but for some reason it didn’t annoy him as much coming from Coby. Maybe he was in the mood to let it ride, and after he’d swallowed the other half of his mouthful mostly whole Coby did give Darian a sheepish shrug. “Couldn’t help it. I’m always hungry. I grew six inches this year already.”
“Big strong Alpha in the making, huh?”
“Well, I mean.” Coby gestured up and down himself, and -- Darian sighed -- he wasn’t going to be wrong, even if neither of them had presented as a real gender yet. “And…” Coby waved his hand awkwardly at Darian, sturdy but still short as hell with a heart-shaped face. “And. You know.”
Yeah, Darian knew. He still crossed his arms defiantly. “I didn’t need your help, you know.”
“No shit,” Coby shot back. “But even if you can take care of yourself, that doesn’t mean I have to sit by and watch. I don’t like how Omegas get shit on for being Omegas. I see enough of that at home. All that bullshit about them being good for nothing but fucking and babies.” He grimaced an awkward apology. “Which is stupid, you know? I mean, look at you. There’s a waiting list for this track and field camp and you don’t get in because you’re pretty.”
He went beet red, juicy ripe tomato red, when he realized what he’d said. Darian couldn’t stop laughing. He even tipped over sideways.
“Fuck it, whatever.” Coby hauled him up only to give him a light shove back down and laughed when Darian shoved right back because that was the okay kind of shove, give and take and give again. “You are pretty.” He went a deeper shade of red still while his eyes went hawk gold again, which actually kind of struck Darian as both weird and freaking cool. Still, he’d seen weird shit before. It didn’t shock him or anything like that.
What did shock him was Coby leaning over, fast and awkward at the same time, and pressing his lips quickly to Darian’s before zipping back like he was attached to a rubber band.
Darian stared at him, realizing half a beat too late he’d put his hand to his mouth in surprise like an Omega in a movie, for fuck’s sake. “What the hell?”
Coby looked resolutely away, going from red to purple before he took a few deep breaths and the color started to recede. He touched his mouth too. “Like I said. You’re pretty. And I wanted to. You’re brave. I like brave, And the point I was trying to make before, smartass, is that if you weren’t good at sports, if you hadn’t earned your place the way everyone says Omegas can’t, you wouldn’t be here, so.” He shrugged. “Do you want to kick my ass now for kissing you? I’ll give you a free shot.”
Normally Darian would do exactly that, but… Well, hell. He’d never been kissed before, and now he had. Kind of left him reaching for something to say, which was a rarity in his world. “Gender’s not a hundred percent guaranteed,” he finally came up with, and jumped on it in relief. “You do know that? But you’re not the usual kind of probably-Alpha, are you?”
“I don’t want to be. You’re not the usual kind of probably-Omega, yourself.”
Darian admired the bruises on his knuckles. Worth it, every one of them. “Nope. I don’t want to be. I’m going to be a terrible Omega. The worst kind. Because I’m not going to let it stop me. I’m kicking every ass I come across that tries to take me for less than what I am on the inside. Bet.”
“Yeah? Me too. Watch and see. Not that you can, I don’t even know where you’re from, but still. Respect.” Coby surprised him one more time by holding out his fist for a bump.
Eh, why not? Courage should always be rewarded when it was the real thing. Darian tapped knuckles with Coby. “Respect,” he agreed, settling back to rest his arms on the bleacher behind him. “Oh hey, you see? Dude just figured out his candy went missing. Told you he’d go apeshit. This ought to be good.”
Coby laughed and copied him, though he had to stretch those long legs of his out across two sets of lower bleachers.
Darian watched him for a minute, shaking his head, baffled but pleased at the same time. Watch and see? If they’d lived anywhere close to each other, he’d have liked to do that. Besides, Darian was going to make a bad Omega, but Coby was -- mmm -- fine, fine, fine, and only going to get finer when the guy Alpha-fied. Darian would have liked to see that too. Maybe jump him in a totally different kind of way. Try that kissing business some more. A lot more. See what happened after that.
Well, hell. It really was too bad they’d never meet again. They’d have made a killer team all on their own.