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a mate worth having

Chapter Text

Hot. That was really the only sensation he could process. And hurt. Did he hurt because of the heat?

Kuroko was too tired to waste energy figuring it out. He just wanted it to stop.  

Kuroko had known today was different for some reason. All day he’d felt uncomfortable. By the time his last seminar had finished he’d realized what was wrong. He’d gone into an unscheduled heat. And he was unclaimed.

Kuroko knew he’d been pushing it. He’d hoped the medicine would at least let him get through exams without interruption. It seemed he wouldn’t be so lucky.

He was hiding in the library, hopeful that nobody would find him, waiting for a safe time to try to go home. His doctor had warned the suppressants would only work for so long and that his first heat after their failure would be that much more brutal because of it. He’d gotten a year. Just enough to nearly finish his first year at university.

Things didn’t used to be this way. He’d been perfectly normal and happy with his life. Until he’d suddenly changed and there were times when all he knew was this insatiable heat and aching emptiness. The suppressants meant he could usually schedule the heats during term breaks, allowing him to continue going to school.  Today they'd failed him.

Kuroko hated all of it. He wanted his life back.

His parents had murmured soothing assurances that once he was paired with an alpha, he wouldn’t be so miserable.

It was cold comfort. Especially now, when he was suffering from an unexpected mating heat.

He curled into a tighter ball, hugging his knees and trying to stop the flow of frustrated tears that streamed from his eyes.

Perhaps that’s why he didn’t hear someone approach.

It seemed a hand appeared out of nowhere, gripping his shoulder and urging him to look up.

“Oh? What have we here? A lost kitten?” The stranger spoke accented Japanese – a foreigner. Kuroko could see tattoos on the man’s neck and his left ear had a double piercing. Although the man wore a suit, there was an aura of barely restrained savagery about him. It made Kuroko afraid.

Even more worrisome, Kuroko’s body recognized this person for what they were, an Alpha.

Too dazed to form words, Kuroko only shook his head and tried to scoot away.

The stranger’s smile was amused. He did not relax his grip. Instead he bent his knees enough to get leverage and hauled Kuroko to his feet, keeping hold of Kuroko so that Kuroko had to lean against him.

Kuroko despised the new wave of neediness that swept through him as he inhaled the stranger’s scent and he couldn’t stop the soft moan from escaping his lips.

“Not lost, hmm.  But perhaps you need my help in another way?” The stranger pressed Kuroko closer and a hand skimmed down his back to rest at the base of his spine.  Kuroko did not misunderstand. He could not tell if his face was hot from embarrassment or need.

“No, thank you. I just want to go home.” Kuroko’s voice was soft under normal conditions. Now it was barely audible from his daze. He could barely keep his eyes open with the stranger’s scent so close and overwhelming.

The stranger nodded with surprising agreement and kept an arm around Kuroko’s waist. “I’ll help with that.”

Kuroko tried to thank him but the words wouldn’t form.

It was only because another’s voice intruded he had any reason to suspect something was wrong.

“I believe Kuroko-kun means his home, and alone, Nash-san.” The voice was cool, it seemed familiar to Kuroko though he couldn’t quite place it.

Nash’s smile widened. “Akashi. I wondered when you’d catch up. Kuroko-kun, hmm? Is he yours? I’m surprised you’d let him out of your sight like this.”

The name sliced through Kuroko’s fog. There was no doubt who Akashi would be. Everyone knew who Akashi Seijūrō was, he was the university’s star pupil and athlete. He was the same age as Kuroko and they shared a Japanese literature class.

Ignoring Nash for the moment, Akashi turned his attention to Kuroko. He could see Kuroko was in bad shape, but that Nash had not done more than fluster him.

“He is not mine. Neither is he yours. Let him go.”

“Why? You said he’s not yours. Sounds like fair game to me.”

Akashi’s reply was not immediate as he stared Nash down.  When he spoke again it was not to Nash at all. “Kuroko-kun? Do you wish to go with Nash-san? Or would you prefer I take you home?”

Kuroko’s ability to think was severely impaired. Even so, he knew Akashi, at least a little. Nash was a stranger that set off intense internal alarms. He smelled delicious to Kuroko’s omega nature, but Kuroko knew that was hardly a viable judge of character.

“Akashi-kun…” he left the thought unfinished, his energy too depleted to waste on words. It was enough.

Akashi glanced at the man holding Kuroko. “Nash-san, it would be truly regrettable if your visit to Japan was cut short before our business could be completed. However, Kuroko-kun is protected by Article 5 of the Japanese Alpha-Omega Code. No Alpha may forcibly claim an Omega. If you attempt to remove him from these premises, I will stop you. I am sure you do not need me to explain what will happen from there.”

Nash’s eyebrows shot up in surprise before a wave of anger swept through him, causing him to grip Kuroko more tightly. Kuroko whimpered, part in pain and part something else. Nash’s lip curled in something like a snarl as he released Kuroko and shoved him toward Akashi.

“Take him then. I anticipate our negotiations to take a more favorable direction tomorrow in light of this.”

Akashi didn’t reply, merely catching Kuroko as he stumbled. Infuriated he was being ignored, Nash tossed a final comment as he turned. “I won’t forget this.” It was more ominous than was warranted but he left afterward.

Kuroko didn’t mean to but he found himself burrowing into Akashi as he sought comfort.

Akashi closed his eyes briefly as Kuroko’s tempting scent filled the air. He’d noticed his classmate was uneasy today. However, Akashi had never dreamed this would happen. It was by mere chance that he and Nash had met at the library’s café.  

Nash had told him he was going to find something fun after they finished a preliminary meeting. Akashi had not thought anything of it until he saw Nash head for the rare books section. He decided to follow and then found them.

“I’ll take you home. Can you tell me where you live?” Akashi’s voice had gentled a little, though his aura gave off the same commanding intensity that characterized Nash. It was an Alpha’s nature.

Kuroko tried, he really did. It was just that he’d never felt a full heat before and the delayed intensity had taken over almost every part of his body.

Finally, he remembered his emergency bracelet and lifted his wrist to show Akashi. Omegas were required to wear them for situations like this. If Kuroko were claimed, it would show his Alpha’s information.

Akashi nodded, though it was taking an intense effort not to do what he’d warned Nash against. Kuroko’s smaller frame fit against him perfectly and he smelled nearly irresistible, some combination of vanilla and heat.

He glanced at the bracelet’s information, memorizing it and then stating, “Let’s go.”

To say Kuroko walked under his own steam would be too generous. He just followed Akashi’s lead as best he could.

Akashi’s chauffer didn’t raise an eyebrow at seeing his master practically carrying someone like this. He was much too well trained.

Akashi managed to get Kuroko in the car, unsurprised when Kuroko tried to keep clinging to him. He was in for a rough few days.

Giving Kuroko’s address to the man, he also relayed instructions for a staff member to go secure Kuroko’s bag later, as well as his own.

All seemed like it would it be okay, until they arrived at Kuroko’s home and nobody was there. Akashi allowed himself a moment of disbelief as he felt the gods must surely be testing him.

The chauffer cleared his throat quietly and Akashi sighed. “You have a suggestion?”

“Akashi-sama, it might be best to take your friend to the hospital. He is clearly…distressed, and can’t be left alone.”

Akashi’s mouth turned down in immediate unhappiness. He didn’t want to give Kuroko to anyone else’s care.

“No. I’ll stay with him. I’ll call you when I’m ready to leave.”

The older man nodded his understanding, what else could he do? The two of them managed to get Kuroko out of the car – he was all twisting limbs and nonsensical babblings, quieted only when Akashi was touching him.

After getting into Kuroko’s apartment, Akashi sent a small prayer of thanks that Kuroko’s family had installed keyless entry that opened when it recognized Kuroko.

The chauffer left soon after helping Akashi get Kuroko settled into his room. He promised to return soon with Kuroko’s bag and supplies for Akashi. Akashi nodded and thanked him.

Akashi was left sitting in a chair staring down at Kuroko’s fitfully sleeping form. His body was not coping well with the heat. Akashi’s observant eyes swept across Kuroko’s desk and he saw the variety of suppressants Kuroko had been taking. His doctor should be fired – there were far too many to be safe.

Lowering his eyelids, Akashi took a shuddering breath of his own. The room was small and everything smelled like the omega. Still, he wasn’t weak. He could do this.

For a while the only sounds were Kuroko’s unconscious whimpering and small rustles as he moved anxiously on the bed.

Akashi knew Kuroko was reserved by nature and he would be embarrassed to know Akashi saw him like this. He regretted being unable to give Kuroko privacy, but it was the nature of an omega’s heat.

This was tested further when he had to leave Kuroko to answer the door when the chauffer returned.

Akashi had left him alone for no more than a few minutes, but Kuroko's labored breathing, sweat-drenched body, and flushed face told him more than words.

Kuroko needed Akashi’s alpha pheromones to be near to him for any semblance of peace.

Akashi looked at the wall calendar and made some mental calculations.

At least five days. If Kuroko’s heat was normal and Akashi didn’t know if the suppressants he’d been taking would change anything.

Frowning, Akashi weighed his options. He had to somehow continue his negotiations with Nash.

Akashi’s father did not let his son’s status as a student interfere with training him for the business, he certainly wouldn’t care about a seemingly random omega Akashi had run into – Akashi would have to work around this.

Looking at Kuroko, sleeping fitfully as he was, Akashi knew he didn’t have a choice. He’d taken Kuroko into his care, he could not abandon that responsibility now. Inspired by that thought, he made a quick phone call to secure advice from a medical source that was entirely more reliable than the one Kuroko apparently used.

He was Akashi Seijūrō after all. He wasn’t going to let anything stop him from his goals. Certainly not something like an omega’s inconvenient heat. He never lost. He would not start now.

 

Chapter Text

Kuroko didn’t remember coming home. He only knew he was there when he woke.

And he was very surprised to see Akashi sitting at his desk with the chair turned so Akashi could watch him.

Kuroko’s forehead wrinkled as he scoured his memory for what happened. While his expression was normally blank, it did not take much effort to guess Kuroko’s line of mental inquiry.

Akashi had folded his hands on his thigh and was looking at Kuroko with somewhat strained patience.

“Kuroko-kun, I believe I am on the verge of being offended. I do not consider it any great victory to take advantage of an omega in heat. My grandfather introduced Article 5 into legislation. I know more than most how important its protection is. I brought you home and that is all.”

Lowering his head and fighting a wave of shame at suspecting Akashi, Kuroko stared at his bedsheet, “I’m sorry, Akashi-kun. Thank you for your help.”

 “No matter. I gather this has been a trying experience for you. Your first heat?”

Kuroko wished for an instant death, he was mortified to be having this conversation with Akashi Seijūrō of all people. Still, Akashi had helped him. He could at least answer.

“In a way. I wanted to finish high school and go to university so my doctor prescribed suppressants. I go off them during breaks to not cause problems. I can stay inside and wait it out. They’ve worked until now. I wasn’t prepared for today.”

Akashi nodded, suspicions confirmed. It wasn’t unusual for single omegas to confine themselves during a heat. It was difficult for most of them to concentrate on anything except the mating urge anyway.

“Do you intend to finish university? Or will you apply to one of the match making firms to find an alpha given your medicine seems to be flawed?”

Kuroko’s fists bunched in the covers. “I want to continue with school. I don’t know if it is possible now though.”

Silence descended.

Akashi realized he had not thought much about the issues omegas faced. He knew society didn’t offer them many choices. Careers for omegas were rare. Not unheard of, but very difficult. Most dropped out of high school once they presented and went to match makers to find an alpha, it was too difficult for them otherwise.

“I’ve already spoken to your professors this term. They’ve agreed to let you sit for exams after your heat has passed. If you want to continue, you can.”

Kuroko stilled, afraid to get too hopeful. “I appreciate that, Akashi-kun. But why would you help me?”

 Akashi smiled. “Kuroko-kun, hadn’t you better ask me something else first?”

Confused, Kuroko tilted his head in inquiry.

“Aren’t you curious why you feel as well as you do right now?”

Shocked, Kuroko realized he hadn’t given that any consideration. He should still be wracked by the insanity of a mating heat. He was very tired but otherwise it seemed more as if he had a cold than heat.

Pleased with himself, Akashi allowed a small shrug. “Perhaps you have heard of Midorima Shintaro? He’s a rather good doctor specializing in care for alphas and omegas. He’s developed a serum that will help unclaimed omegas get through their heats more safely and remain independent if they want to. It’s due to be released in a few months, I asked him to provide some of his research supply for you. If you don’t experience terrible side effects, you could continue classes relatively normally, if you wish.”

Kuroko knew that name. Nearly every omega in Japan did. Midorima was a brilliant young researcher and had been working on a variety of treatments designed to allow alphas and omegas to blend into mainstream society. When it hit the public, this serum would be a game changer for many omegas.

Overwhelmed, Kuroko blinked away the threat of tears. He hated how emotional he became during heats but it couldn't be helped.

“Akashi-kun…thank you. But why? You…you don’t think I’m weird? For wanting to go?” Kuroko had received criticism for this, it was expected he’d settle down soon after presenting as an omega and give some lucky alpha as many babies as they wanted.

Akashi stared at a flyer on Kuroko’s wall for a long moment. It was an advertisement for a lecture series held at their university. Strange to think something like Kuroko’s omega nature could have prevented him from attending.

 “I knew you were at least a latent omega from our very first class, Kuroko-kun. I admired you were at university at all. It’s not an easy path for someone in your position. You must have a dream that is important to you to risk it. I see no reason not to give you a fighting chance to pursue it.”

Akashi stood and stared down at Kuroko. “I have to step out for a while. I’ll return as soon as I can. Would you like me to bring you something to eat? Or would you prefer I start the bath for you?”

Belatedly realizing he must look a sight after yesterday, Kuroko flushed, remaining mute and hating how much of an inconvenience he was being.

Suspecting the reason for his silence, Akashi said only, “I’ll bring you something to eat. You can decide what you wish to do after that.”

Akashi didn’t mention how utterly beddable Kuroko looked right then with his clothes all askew. Akashi had not removed Kuroko’s clothing last night, feeling it was too great an intrusion when it was not strictly necessary.

Thanks to his fitful sleep, Kuroko was not as neatly arranged as he would otherwise be. The lingering scent of his mating heat was still there, muted now, yet enough that Akashi was having trouble maintaining his composure. He needed to leave for more than just business reasons. He needed a break.

Akashi went to Kuroko’s kitchen and retrieved a small tray with a light meal on it. He left it with Kuroko and extracted a promise that Kuroko would call him if anything happened.

Kuroko started to protest but Akashi just shook his head and pointed at Kuroko’s cellphone, charged and waiting next to his bed. “I’ve already put my number in. Don’t be foolish. Call me if you need to.”

The sentence was coloured with an air of authority. Kuroko could not have said if it was due to Akashi being an Alpha, or if he’d be that way regardless.

“I will call you if something happens.” He couldn’t completely hide the pout in his voice but Akashi was satisfied nonetheless.

“Thank you. Do you need anything while I’m out?”

Kuroko shook his head, somewhat bemused by the unexpected domesticity of that question. It felt like Akashi was merely running out to grab last minute groceries for them.


 

 Akashi left, needing to go home to shower and change. He was meeting with Nash again and did not want Kuroko’s scent to agitate the other man. He already knew Nash would be more aggressive than expected due to yesterday.

When Akashi walked into the conference room, he could tell Nash was plotting something. Nash’s expression was too cheerful to indicate anything else.

Negotiations went slowly, but not unduly so. They were brokering an international business deal after all. Both of them advocated strongly for their own interests and carefully avoided anything personal.

It wasn’t until they were calling a halt to the day that Nash let his bomb drop.

“I looked into that Article 5 business you mentioned. I wanted to make sure you weren’t bullshitting me.”

Akashi looked at him without blinking. “I trust you found everything in order.”

Nash nodded. “I did. Just as you said, Omegas are protected from nonconsensual matings.” He stalled for a moment, casting a sinister look Akashi’s way before continuing. “And then I kept looking.”

The tension was nearly palpable. Akashi waited Nash out, knowing there was no point trying to rush it.

Offering a mock-pout that Akashi was spoiling his fun, Nash said only, “I’m interested in Clause 3 of Article 5.”

It would take a very observant eye to notice Akashi’s irritation. Nash had one and inwardly he was delighted to rile Akashi. It made everything more fun.

Akashi spoke calmly. “Clause 3 stipulates no binding agreements made by an Omega during their heat are considered sound and are instead subject to nullification. What of it?”

“He picked you yesterday, but it’s not binding. You couldn’t file paperwork if you wanted to since he’s in heat. A word of warning, Akashi, I didn’t appreciate your interference yesterday. He’s truly fair game once this heat passes. I’ll be in touch with him soon enough and you should keep your distance if you know what’s good for you and the kitten.”

Akashi could feel his alpha aura reject this challenge from a potential rival. He tempered his anger and responded to Nash’s poorly veiled threat.

“I will return your warning, then.  Kuroko-kun has my protection without the claim of mating, I have not violated Article 5 in any way, let alone Clause 3. If you actually intend to challenge my actions or my authority I will warn you that you are reaching too high.”

Nash laughed, its mocking nature quite clear. “Perhaps, though I doubt it. I always win. Until next time then?” He winked and left the room, complete confidence in every limb.

Akashi was irritated, a condition he didn’t often experience. But he shook it off, he had nothing to fear.

He glanced at the time, he’d been gone longer than expected. Akashi decided to go back to Kuroko’s apartment.

The calendar in the hallway had indicated that Kuroko’s parents were away for business and not expected back for at least a few weeks. Akashi didn’t want Kuroko to be alone any longer than necessary right now.


 

When he arrived, Akashi pressed the intercom so Kuroko could let him in. He heard the click that meant Kuroko had granted access.

He went in, removing his shoes and knowing by scent that Kuroko was in the family room.

Akashi was unprepared though, to find Kuroko only in a light summer robe despite the fact it was still mild outside. His brain caught up with his eyes nearly instantly. Kuroko’s heat had worsened without Akashi’s Alpha presence nearby. Kuroko was doing his best to get comfortable by wearing the thinner fabric.

Inwardly cursing Nash for delaying him, Akashi moved to sit next to Kuroko.

“Welcome back, Akashi-kun.”

Kuroko’s eyes were a little glassy and he had the faintest trace of a slur. He seemed to sway a little, looking like his body hadn’t quite decided if remaining upright was worth the effort.

 “How are you feeling, Kuroko-kun?”

Kuroko blinked at him, looking both drowsy and unfocused.

“Hot.” He looked it. Kuroko’s skin had the same flush from earlier and he was giving off stronger waves of that vanilla scent that seemed to invite Akashi to taste. It was completely undisguised by the mild soap and shampoo Kuroko had used during his bath.

Akashi frowned. Midorima hadn’t mentioned the dosage was so short lived when he’d arrived that morning to deliver it to Akashi. He made a mental note to discuss it as soon as possible. For both their sakes.

Which reminded him of Nash’s threat.

“Kuroko-kun, there’s something I need to tell you.”

He turned so he was facing Kuroko more directly.

“Nash-san is planning to pursue you once this heat passes. I don’t know how far he intends to take things, but he is angry I interfered yesterday and would like to attempt to punish us both. I want you to be careful.”

Kuroko was quiet for a moment.

“I will do my best, Akashi-kun. Thank you for warning me. But surely he will forget?”

“You are not as forgettable as you seem to think. I warned Nash you are under my protection but he seems foolhardy enough to pursue it. He’s here because of a business deal with my father’s company. I believe he may try to manipulate me and by extension you, through it.  We will figure out a way to keep you safe.”

A different kind of warmth spread through Kuroko then. He couldn’t help it. His omega nature was reacting to the promise of an alpha’s protection. He was also gratified that Akashi was willing to help him, they barely knew one another after all.

Without quite meaning to, he offered a trusting, happy smile to Akashi who felt a sting in his chest in response. What was this? Was he getting attached? He could not. Kuroko was not his to keep. Kuroko was only in this situation because of him, Akashi had to remember that.

They retired soon enough. Kuroko nestled down into his bed and Akashi on a cot in his room. He was not taking chances that Kuroko’s body might rebel and take a turn for the worse if he were too far away.

 If something did happen, he was unwilling to waste any more time than absolutely necessary. Or at least, this was the reason he gave himself as he watched Kuroko sleep – not easily, not entirely well, but it was something.

He had much to do tomorrow and was eager to get started. At the same time, Akashi realized tomorrow would be the third day of Kuroko’s heat. His time with the omega would be at an end soon and they would go back to the way things were, more or less.

When Akashi finally fell asleep himself, it was with a bitter, unhappy taste in his mouth. His dreams quickly featured a savage battle with Nash defeated and bloody on the ground and a triumphant celebration with Kuroko. Eased by the tantalizing smell Kuroko gave off nearby and the more pleasant vision of his subconscious, Akashi soon settled into a peaceful slumber as the night hours crept by.

 

Chapter Text

Rising early, Akashi started his morning with a call to Midorima. After a quick exchange he got to the point.

“His dose wore off by early evening. I gave it to him immediately after you left yesterday. I thought it was designed to last a day?”

 “Was his heat as strong as when you found him the first day?”

“No. It was definitely weaker, but hardly minimal.”

“How long did you leave him alone?”

“Around five hours.”

“…”

“I can hear you thinking, Midorima.”

“I think we may have overlooked something during the clinical trial.”

“From your tone I gather it’s significant. What happened?”

“The Omegas that participated were never left alone for more than an hour because techs checked routinely to ensure they were safe. All our techs are either Alphas or Betas. I think the serum does work, but it may not be as groundbreaking as anticipated.”

Akashi filled in his own blanks. “It calms the symptoms overall, but it is only truly effective with ongoing exposure to Alphas or Betas.”

“It would seem so, yes. For now. It is possible the formula can be modified to eventually account for that.”

“I hope so. He wants to continue with university…”

It was unusual for Akashi to trail off and it caught Midorima’s attention.

“Akashi? You didn’t answer me yesterday, perhaps you will now. Why are you bothering with him anyway? Your duty was more than discharged by seeing him home.”

Akashi’s mind replayed the course he'd shared with Kuroko, oddly focusing on the diligent notes Kuroko took each class. Kuroko rarely spoke, yet his contributions were always worthwhile when he did.  He’d caught Akashi by surprise merely by trying to do something that was taken for granted by his classmates.

Kuroko’s chances of escaping a socially endorsed captivity were slim without the aid of medicine or an alpha. If he had not intervened, Kuroko’s file would already be processed for dismissal. Officials did not want to deal with the headache of an omega student that went into heat. As far as Akashi knew, Kuroko was the only omega enrolled though he’d certainly not advertised it.

“He interests me.”

Midorima knew Akashi well enough to know that short reply represented volumes.

The taciturn doctor sighed. Midorima hated when Akashi got interested in anything, it inevitably meant trouble for him.

"If you're that worried about him see if he'll agree to an examination. Maybe I can personalize a treatment.”

Akashi considered it. Kuroko wasn’t cleared to return to university yet. If he agreed to go there wouldn’t be many conflicts.

They ended the call shortly after, with Midorima promising to make time for Kuroko if needed.

Akashi held his phone loosely in his hands, wondering if he should wake Kuroko or not.

Deciding not to, he instead appropriated the kitchen and made a simple meal that would hold until Kuroko got up.

The apartment was quiet and Akashi appreciated the respite. He dug out his laptop and worked on various projects while waiting.

Absorbed in his work, it could have been ten minutes or two hours before Kuroko got up, heading straight to the bathroom. When Kuroko finally made his way to the kitchen he looked rumpled and sleepy.

His “Good morning, Akashi-kun” came out mumbled.

Akashi nodded. Kuroko was awake in name only, there was no point in conversation yet.

It didn’t take Akashi long to notice that Kuroko’s heat seemed different today and he had an idea of why that could be.

Waiting until Kuroko had taken a few bracing sips of tea, Akashi asked, “Kuroko-kun, you didn’t take a suppressant this morning, did you?”

Kuroko’s guilty flush admitted it without words.

Akashi could not repress the flare of anger that rushed through him.

The suppressants currently on the market were only meant to hold off heats, they were dangerous for an omega to use if they were already in heat. Kuroko would know that. He'd taken an unbearably foolish risk for nothing.

“It’s difficult for you while I’m in heat. I have already caused trouble for you. I wanted to help.” Kuroko’s voice was soft yet a slight stubborn lilt was there.

“No Alpha worth the title takes advantage of an Omega’s heat no matter how tempting they are. It offends me you’d imply otherwise and put yourself in danger in the process.” Akashi didn’t have to force the coldness in his voice.

Although his Omega nature was screaming at him to beg for the Alpha’s forgiveness, Kuroko forced himself to remain still.

“It was not my intention to offend you.”

Akashi rose from his seat and walked toward Kuroko. He stopped with only a handbreadth between them.

“I am not here because I thought it would be convenient. I know what a heat does to an Omega and my own reaction to it. I would not still be here if I was any danger to you. But I did not think you would be so ridiculous as to risk yourself this way. I gave you a serum only yesterday that helped. Why didn’t you wait for another dose?”

Kuroko didn’t answer, just stood with stubborn determination.

Akashi reached and lightly pressed his index finger to Kuroko’s chest for a moment.

“There is nothing wrong with being independent. Your determination to do things your own way is admirable most of the time. But remember this Kuroko-kun, I offered you my protection. I expected you to understand I was sincere.”

It was the disappointment Kuroko heard now rather than the anger before that made him feel guilty.

He lowered his head. “I am sorry, Akashi-kun. I will not do it again.”

Akashi nodded. “Speaking of medicine, I spoke with Midorima this morning. He’s agreed to see you if you’d like.”

Kuroko’s head jerked up and his usually blank expression was awash with shock.

“I couldn’t bother him like that. I’m fine.”

Akashi didn’t bother stopping a chuckle. “He would not have agreed if it was an issue. Even I can only bully him so far. If anything, he’s dying to get you in his lab.”

Kuroko was confused.

Seeing it, Akashi continued. “He’s realized a flaw in his trial. You’re new data.”

Straightening, Kuroko shook his denial. “I’m not going to be a lab rat.”

“You wouldn’t be. You don’t have to go at all. It’s entirely your choice. He just wondered if he could improve the serum for you so you would be able to continue with your studies.”

It was too great a temptation.

“You…you would be with me?” Kuroko wanted to snatch it back the moment he said it, disliking how needy it made him sound.

“Naturally.”  Akashi didn’t tease. It wasn’t unheard of for unscrupulous clinics to kidnap omegas for experiments. Kuroko’s fear was not unfounded.

Seeing Kuroko’s agreement, Akashi nodded. “We’ll go after you’ve had a chance to eat and get ready.”

Kuroko dipped his head briefly. They had a plan.

It seemed too soon before they were seated in the plush confines of Akashi’s car with the chauffer whisking them away to visit Midorima’s offices.

There was all the usual paperwork and Kuroko began dutifully filling in his information. He saw other Omegas in the waiting room with their Alphas and realized it would be assumed he belonged to Akashi. He faltered for a minute and Akashi glanced down to see what was wrong.

Seeing Kuroko’s unease and smelling the rise in his anxiety, Akashi leaned closer, “Everyone here is bound by a confidentiality clause. It is one of the stipulations of receiving care at Midorima’s clinic. They all have their own secrets, nobody here is judging you.”

Kuroko breathed deeply, taking in Akashi’s scent and noting his sincerity. It also brought Akashi’s own pheromones to him and Kuroko closed his eyes briefly before pulling back slightly. He nodded and finished his paperwork.

They did not have to wait long after Kuroko finished checking in.

Midorima met with them first in his office. Akashi approved, the room was devoid of any clinical apparatus that might spook Kuroko.

Kuroko was a little star struck to be meeting Midorima in person. Midorima was only a few years older than they were but he had a sterling reputation for innovative research.

Midorima stared at him, not seeing any immediate reason for Akashi to be so fascinated. Kuroko was an Omega and the associated heat would be compelling, but it didn’t seem proportionate.

He invited them both to take seats and they began discussing Kuroko’s medical history and other details.

Kuroko didn’t say this, but he appreciated that Midorima spoke directly to him to ask questions and get information.

Too often doctors would only address the Alpha and in this case, he and Akashi weren’t even paired. He felt better about the situation, like he was still his own person.

There was some awkwardness when they got to his sexual history, with Kuroko not looking either of them in the eye and his voice getting quieter. He was not a virgin, he just had limited experience.

Akashi was not looking at Kuroko but Midorima could see Akashi’s quiet satisfaction at learning Kuroko had never been with an Alpha before. Midorima felt a pang of sympathy for Kuroko, it was not easy to reveal details like this. They continued until Midorima felt they’d covered everything.

Sighing, Midorima sat back in his chair and pushed his glasses up.

“Would you be willing to let me run some tests, Kuroko? Nothing in what you’ve told me raises any flags, but it is all theoretical without your bloodwork and an exam.”

Kuroko froze. He had halfway expected it but the request still made him unhappy.

Midorima cleared his throat. “Akashi can stay with you in the exam room or wait here, whichever is easier for you.”

Blushing like mad, Kuroko managed to mutter, “Akashi-kun can wait here.”

Akashi wasn’t exactly surprised. Kuroko had divulged a lot of personal information during the consultation, he'd want to retain some privacy. He nodded and waited patiently while Midorima and Kuroko exited to go to the exam room.

They were gone for three quarters of an hour. Akashi had brought his laptop with him and resumed his work while they were busy.

When the door opened and Midorima ushered Kuroko back in, Akashi noticed Midorima looked harried. Well, that was to be expected he supposed. He doubted Kuroko was a particularly good patient.

Midorima stared straight at him. “I believe that if Kuroko ever needs to return, he may find it more comfortable to have you accompany him to the exam.” It was brief but Akashi understood, Kuroko had been nervous.

Akashi nodded and then brought up something he was sure Kuroko had not mentioned, “Before you process any of the bloodwork I must ask Kuroko-kun to tell you about his medicine use this morning.”

Kuroko sent a speaking look Akashi’s way that he met full on. “I am not inviting Midorima to scold you. It will only waste time if he doesn’t know.”

Tapping down the flare of irritation he felt, Kuroko realized Akashi was right. Glancing at Midorima, he explained.

“I took suppressants this morning.” He gave the name and dosage.

Midorima nodded and made a note on Kuroko’s chart. “I attributed the controlled scent to my own medicine, thank you for clarifying. It would be best if you do not take those during your heats, Kuroko. The medicine Akashi gave you yesterday is designed to be used during a heat, it is much safer.”

Kuroko nodded and just barely managed to stifle a pout. “I didn’t want to bother him.”

Midorima stilled in the process of writing and glanced over at him.

“If that’s the case, even more reason to take the medicine I designed. It’d be a much more drastic issue if your liver and kidneys failed due to conflict between your mating hormones and the suppressants. He’s staying with you right now, isn’t he? It would be Akashi that would find you in a coma or worse.”

“Midorima, that’s enough.” Akashi had been thinking the same thing earlier but he didn’t like the stricken look on Kuroko’s face.

He shrugged and let it go. Redirecting his attention to Kuroko he offered, “I will process your bloodwork in-house. The results should be ready this afternoon. I’ll call you after they’re complete.”

They left Midorima’s office soon after. Kuroko was looking tired and stressed. Akashi gave instructions to his driver to return them to Kuroko’s house.

Kuroko was very quiet on the way back, lost in thought.

Just as they arrived, Akashi’s phone rang. He glanced at it, seeing the name and made his apology to Kuroko.

“Excuse me, I need to answer this. I will be up in a moment.”

Kuroko nodded his understanding and after thanking the driver for his work, he went up to his apartment.

Akashi watched him go before hitting the answer key.

“Yes, father?”

His father’s voice, cold and controlled came through the air like a whip, “I heard the most incredible thing today. Rumor has it that you’re shacking up with some no-status omega and antagonizing business partners. I am sure you have an explanation. I want to hear it. Now.”

 

Chapter Text

“Father, how good to hear from you. What’s the problem?”

“Don’t pretend ignorance. It doesn’t suit you. You’re at university to network and remain a credit to the Akashi line. I can’t fathom how you imagine the past few days live up to that.”

Akashi stared dispassionately through the window as he listened to his father. When he spoke, his tone was calm.

“I have done nothing to discredit the family. A classmate was in an untenable situation. I intervened to prevent harm from coming to him. All I have done is reinforce the Akashis’ commitment to upholding the Alpha-Omega Code that grandfather helped create.”

“Perhaps. Yet you seem to be staying at the omega’s home. And you went to the extraordinary step of taking him to Midorima’s clinic. You can’t continue like this. People will get the wrong idea.”

“There is nothing to worry about. Nash-san and I understand each other. We will continue our negotiations and I will keep Kuroko-kun under watch. I thought you’d be pleased I didn’t take him to the manor.”

The scoff that came through the line said enough but Masaomi continued anyway.

“At least we could have kept a tighter lid on the whole situation from there. You’re not trying to keep him, are you Seijūrō?”

The question cut through him.  

“What exactly has you so concerned, father?”

“That’s not an answer. You know perfectly well that if you want an omega you can look far higher than someone of his class. Even if it’s just a fling, there are establishments that specialize in these arrangements. What type of omega wouldn’t be tracking their cycle anyway? It was probably all a ruse to try to trap an Alpha like you.”

Akashi’s hand gripped his phone tightly for a moment before he forced himself to ease the hold.

“With respect, Kuroko-kun is not what you suggest.”

“Then you’re being naïve. He has no business going to university anyway, not when he can’t possibly expect to finish. It’s all very suspicious and you should steer clear of him.”

“Is there something in particular that you wish from me?”

“I want you to return home, without him just in case that needs to be spelled out, and forget about him. I do not want you to jeopardize this deal. In fact, it wouldn’t go amiss if you arranged for him to meet with Nash-san. I am sure he will give the omega a settlement when he’s done and all will be back on track.”

“Kuroko-kun does not want to be with Nash-san. A settlement is not the issue and I am not volunteering him for prostitution, which is what you’re suggesting. Our negotiations are already on track with the projections.  I am not the one endangering the deal. Should we even be entertaining a business relationship with someone who is threatening it just because he was stopped from harming an omega?”

“You’ve disappointed me, Seijūrō. I expect your apology when the omega’s heat has ended and you return to your senses.” Masaomi ended the call without saying goodbye.

Akashi lowered his phone and glanced at the timer – under four minutes. It wasn’t even his record for managing to anger his father.  Shrugging it aside for now, Akashi waved the driver farewell and went to join Kuroko. The door opened before he had a chance to press the buzzer.

Akashi felt a wave of surprise to see that he had been added to the door’s recognition feature. When he passed through and saw Kuroko he lifted an eyebrow in question.

Kuroko blushed and shifted his weight slightly.

“If it bothers you I can change it…” he trailed off, feeling unaccountably shy.

Adding Akashi to the registry meant Kuroko was acknowledging they might see one another past his heat.  To some, it could be read as rather presumptuous. For Akashi, he recognized it was a sign of trust, especially for an omega to give to an alpha.

Akashi felt his mood lighten. “No, it’s fine. I just didn’t expect it.”

Kuroko smiled, hesitant and brief, before offering, “Are you hungry, Akashi-kun? I can fix lunch.”

To this point, Akashi had overseen the menu. He looked at Kuroko carefully. “Are you up to it? You had a tiring morning.”

Kuroko waved that off. “It’s certainly my turn.  I feel fine.”

“Then yes, thank you.”

It did not take Kuroko long and Akashi saw why immediately. Lunch turned out to be hard boiled eggs served sliced over rice with a dash of broth.

Akashi held his tongue. Kuroko was free to eat what he liked even if it was not a particularly balanced meal. However, Akashi was not liking the pattern that was emerging regarding Kuroko’s sense of how to take care of himself.

Kuroko was unusually chatty during the meal. Akashi enjoyed it at first, picking up on assorted tidbits he didn’t imagine he’d otherwise know.

He learned that Kuroko had always wanted a dog, that he loved to read, his favorite treat was a vanilla milkshake, and that his best friend was someone he’d known since high school named Kagami Taiga –  now a firefighter.

It came at a price. Akashi gradually became aware of a rising distressed scent from Kuroko and he realized Kuroko was trying to hide that he didn’t feel well.

Akashi had further confirmation when they rose to clear their plates and Kuroko stumbled. Kuroko was not clumsy. He possessed a nimble grace that allowed him to weave through crowds and largely remain unnoticed. He did not trip over air.

Kuroko caught himself and avoided looking at Akashi, apparently determined to pretend nothing was wrong.

Akashi allowed it only to the point they got their dishes into the sink.

“Kuroko-kun, you seem agitated. What’s the matter?”

Kuroko inhaled sharply. He should have guessed Akashi would notice.

He kept his back to Akashi, unable to face him.

“I feel…not myself.” It was the closest explanation he could manage.

Akashi nodded despite Kuroko not being able to see. There was little else it could be.

“Come sit with me.”

Kuroko tensed at the invitation, his skin felt too tight and as if hundreds of little shocks were racing through him.

“Akashi-kun?”

“Your system is a little out of sync today. Let’s see if we can get you grounded.”

Akashi went to the couch and sat as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Kuroko followed, far more slowly. He sat on the opposite end.

It took everything Akashi had not to smile at the prim perch Kuroko had adopted. It seemed the omega had some survival instincts after all.

“This a modified version of a technique my psychology professor mentioned for people with panic attacks. It won’t fix your heat, but it’s meant to help when things seem out of control.  We’ll start with something small. Focus on one thing you can touch right now and what it feels like.”

Kuroko’s fingertips were resting on the knees of his trousers. He pinched the fabric and rubbed it briefly. The feel was comfortable, soft and broken in from years of laundering and wear. Familiar. Safe.

“Now one thing you can see.”

Kuroko’s eyes settled almost accidentally on Akashi – who was not quite familiar, not quite safe. But Akashi was someone who had protected him and was the Alpha taking care of him. His breathing evened a little.

“One thing you can smell.”

Kuroko closed his eyes. He smelled too many things. It should be chaotic, the swirl of scents from the meal, the accumulated layers of his home, the mix of pheromones and bodies and emotions, until he stopped trying to process everything. Akashi had said one thing.

He zeroed in on Akashi again. He allowed himself to categorize Akashi’s scent. Kuroko picked up Akashi’s concern, his soap which today was Kuroko’s, and even a hint of the brimming power that Akashi was keeping under wraps. He could drown in the heady mix that Akashi produced. That should scare him. It didn’t.

Kuroko opened his eyes. Akashi had not moved, he still had space, he felt calmer.

Akashi shook his head. “Perhaps we should not have gone to see Midorima today with you taking the suppressants. It might have been too many stressors at once. Combined with your heat, it’s no wonder you feel off.”

“How do you know so much about taking care of an omega, Akashi-kun? You’re not paired.”

Akashi stilled and it seemed he might not answer. Kuroko wasn’t ready when he did.

“I suppose it is only fair to give you a secret after all you’ve had exposed today. You’ve heard of my grandfather? And how he pioneered legislation to protect Omegas? He did so because he fell in love with an Omega but was not permitted to marry him. The Omega was forcibly claimed by another Alpha and it was decided they’d marry as restitution. My grandfather spent the rest of his life in mourning.”

Kuroko’s eyes widened. That was not part of the public record.

“The result was that he directed significant resources to learn more about Alphas, Betas, and Omegas. He wanted to improve options for everyone. I received access to his research after he died. It’s why I invested in Midorima’s clinic. He’s a family friend, but even more importantly, one that could continue my grandfather’s legacy.”

Akashi paused and met his gaze directly.

“Growing up, I knew I could be expected to marry for family advantage and that could mean my partner would be anywhere along the scale from a non-presenting human to a Beta or an Omega. It was better to learn as much as I could just in case.”

In sum, Akashi did not expect a happy marriage but he would be the best partner he could. That struck Kuroko as immeasurably sad.

He moved over to the middle cushion and slid his hand palm up over the fabric to stop next to Akashi’s.

Akashi looked at Kuroko’s hand for a moment as if he didn’t know what to make of it.

In the end, Akashi didn’t know if he was humoring himself or Kuroko by accepting the invitation, but he took Kuroko’s hand in a loose clasp. Heat passed between them, followed by a quick, startled breath from Kuroko.

Mistake.

It didn’t matter which of them had that thought or if it was both.

The simple truth was that they had spent a lot of time together recently. Kuroko was an omega in heat. Akashi was very much an alpha. In some way, their proximity had been a prelude itself.

Akashi’s eyes gleamed as he smelled the spike in Kuroko’s pheromones resulting from even this small contact. It seemed Kuroko’s body had decided he had waited long enough and recognized that an alpha was nearby.  Knowing it wasn’t wise, Akashi raised Kuroko’s hand, lifting it to his mouth and pressed a soft kiss across Kuroko’s knuckles.

His eyelids lowered as he processed the small taste. Definitely a mistake. One he wanted to continue.

Kuroko very carefully extracted his hand from Akashi’s, grateful that Akashi did not stop him. His heartbeat had increased and he wanted to flee. This was dangerous ground.

Akashi opened his eyes again and the light in them was unmistakably hungry. 

 “I should not have done that.”

Kuroko jerked his head in a shaky agreement.

“I’m going to my room.” There was no doubt Kuroko meant alone and Akashi did not protest as Kuroko got up and left.

Akashi had broken the fragile boundary of the past few days. Now he was not merely Kuroko’s classmate who’d happened to be in the right place when Kuroko needed help. He was an alpha that had expressed interest in an omega during their heat.

Akashi tapped the arm of the couch rhythmically as he thought.

The small gesture had thrown Kuroko, clearly, but he hadn’t asked Akashi to leave.

Perhaps he could make amends for the shifted balance.

Kuroko was panicking. Akashi wouldn’t normally be interested in him; Kuroko's heat must be getting to Akashi after all. The very last thing Kuroko wanted to do was make Akashi feel obligated to offer for him after the heat passed. Kuroko would have to make sure nothing else happened.

At the same time, Kuroko was fighting his new awareness of Akashi.  He only had flashes of the first day but Kuroko knew he’d clung to Akashi and greedily inhaled the amazing smell coming from the alpha. Kuroko had tidily shoved that embarrassing memory into a box and intended not to open it again. He’d focused instead on Akashi’s kindness and efforts to help him.

Just that brief brush of Akashi’s lips on his skin, the movement slow and purposeful, had sent a thrill of recognition through him.

Kuroko wanted to think about something, anything, else yet his brain stubbornly focused on that image.

Or rather, what it might have led to next.

Kuroko threw himself onto his bed with a frustrated groan, closing his eyes as if that would help.

This was one of the true hells of a heat. It took next to nothing for his body to demand satisfaction.

He tried to ignore it. But this was the very first time he’d been exposed so directly to an alpha during a heat. Kuroko’s chemistry was wired to respond to an alpha and it was beyond his control.

Kuroko stilled when he heard a knock on his door.

“Kuroko-kun? I am going out for a few errands. I’ll be back soon. Are you alright?”

“Yes, I understand. I’m fine.” Although fine wasn’t exactly how he’d characterize his mood, what could he really say?

The air in the apartment seemed to lighten after Akashi left and Kuroko sighed in relief.

Kuroko did appreciate that Akashi was staying there, just in case. His family would not normally be absent during his heat but they'd trusted the suppressants would continue to work. Akashi was simply too potent for his well-being in this state.

Trying to clear his head, Kuroko ran through the exercise Akashi had just taught him. It was far less successful this time. Kuroko’s brain and body had teamed up to focus on Akashi despite Kuroko’s strict instructions to forget the charismatic alpha.

Restlessness took hold of him. After a while, Kuroko decided he might as well take a shower while Akashi was gone. He doubted it would be that calming though.

At least he could lie to himself under the steady flow of the shower. The heat that flushed his skin was from the water, not his biology. The slight tickling sensation was just from washing, not the pinpricks that seemed to urge him toward burrowing into Akashi’s chest. Even the heaviness in his stomach was just from letting the steam get to him, not a bubbling need he was trying to ignore.

Kuroko pressed flattened palms against the tile and closed his eyes for a moment, trying to banish every thought in his head.

He nearly had it. Until his baser nature rushed to fill the mental vacancy with the reminder that Akashi had used this shower today and that they had started to smell like one another from sharing Kuroko’s living quarters. Then all was lost to a wrenching, painful need that swept through him.

Later, Kuroko would be told that his body needed a more balanced diet during heats to keep up his energy and maintain his presence of mind. He’d receive yet another warning that taking suppressants during a heat would only lead to trouble. And he was given the suggestion that he might consider leaving the bathroom door unlocked when he was in heat, just in case. For now, though, he could only think that the water raining down on him felt unbearably like thousands of tiny kisses and touches, and that his nerves were overwhelmed from the stimulation. He gave a hoarse, incredulous chuckle, was he really so pitiful that a shower had rendered him so low?

When his brain finally let him fade into unconsciousness, Kuroko welcomed it with a delirium he’d never before experienced.

 

Chapter Text

Akashi left Kuroko’s apartment on a mission. He didn’t have exact parameters, but he knew the desired result. To that end, he found himself seated across from Kise Ryouta and Momoi Satsuki at a trendy café about ten minutes from Kuroko’s home.

“I’m dying to know what’s gone so wrong that you need our help, Akashicchi.” Kise was holding his coffee cup playfully in front of his mouth, eyeing Akashi slyly over the rim.

“Don’t tease, Ki-chan. Akashi-kun has helped us plenty of times, it’s more than our turn.” Momoi scolded him distractedly, not easily disguising her own interest in the matter.

Akashi had sent them texts asking to meet, both had responded affirmatively with gratifying speed.

“I need to cheer someone up.”

They both waited expectantly and frowned when no additional information appeared forthcoming.

When Akashi merely stared at them, Kise gave an incredulous laugh.

“Akashicchi, we need more than that.”

Momoi nodded and twisted her napkin a little as she expanded. “Akashi-kun, is this person sick? In mourning? Did you make them mad? Is it a business partner? A relative? How old are they? Is this for a man or a woman?”

They waited for Akashi to take one of their hints and give them more to work with.

Akashi brooded for a moment. What was Kuroko to him? Akashi didn’t really know how to explain their connection. He found that uncertainty interesting in a way. It was an unfamiliar feeling.

“A classmate who has been under the weather.”

Their silence was nearly palpable.

Momoi regained her senses first. “Akashi-kun…it is…unexpected for you to intervene in such cases. Why do you feel an obligation now?”

Kise’s eyes narrowed, the playful expression melting away as he focused on Akashi.

“Did you get someone pregnant, Akashicchi? Is that it?”

Akashi’s already straight posture seemed to tighten even further.

“Certainly not.  And I would hope I’d pick someone that didn’t need to be cheered up by the prospect of bearing my child.”

Feeling aggrieved, Kise let out a dramatic sigh.

“Then can you give us something else to go on? We really do want to help but you’re making this difficult.”

Again faced with trying to explain, Akashi decided it was best to give a quick, though strongly edited, summary.

“Kuroko-kun is an omega who is having an unexpected heat. I am staying with him for now. It’s been a difficult few days. I’d like to cheer him up.”

Momoi was not one to forget essential information and she remembered Akashi mentioning Kuroko before. She focused on another aspect for now.

“You’re not having sex with him, then.”

Kise choked on his coffee, aghast at her daring.

Akashi ignored Kise’s commotion and sent her a cool look. “No. It would help the biological impulse of course, but we don’t have an established relationship.”

Kise paused in the midst of wiping his mouth. “Akashicchi, you’re being cruel, aren’t you? He’s an omega in heat. If you’re there and not taking care of him, it’s like holding a glass of water in front of someone dying of thirst. Just sleep with him. He’ll feel better and you won’t have to worry anymore.”

Momoi winced this time.

Akashi narrowed his eyes. “I’ll ignore what that implies about me for the moment. Do you have any idea where that leaves him?”

Kise’s blank expression showed clearly enough he didn’t.

But Momoi realized something entirely more important from Akashi’s rebuke.

“You like him!”

Akashi took a calm sip of his tea, prepared to sidestep the accusation.

“Don’t put such a juvenile spin on it, Momoi-san. I respect what he’s trying to do and I have found nothing to discredit his character thus far. That is all.”

Momoi’s smile was nothing less than feline.

“Of course, Akashi-kun.”

Casting a speculative glance at Kise, she continued.

“Ki-chan, this is an area where you excel. You’ve had to cheer up people in a variety of capacities in your work. Surely you have some advice for Akashi-kun.”

Kise felt like he was being set up.

“Well, yes. My agency sends me on publicity runs to sick children or old folks’ homes, and of course an occasional fan must be consoled for some reason or another. And upset lovers have to be dealt with when I break up with them.” He hesitated, not knowing why he was feeling uneasy.

“Hugs and toys for kids, smiles and dancing with the elders, signed photos with fans, and jewelry or other gift for an ex.” He shrugged. “Generally, that’s the template anyway.”

Akashi sent him a dismissive look, clearly unimpressed.

“Kuroko-kun is neither a child, an elder, my fan, or an ex. Thank you, but I’m afraid none of those would be appropriate.”

Momoi’s giggle was only barely squashed. She managed to compose herself while Kise sulked and looked back at Akashi with some humor in her eyes.

“We haven’t met Kuroko-kun so our advice can only be taken as a guideline.” Smiling, she explained, “I think Ki-chan’s point is that you can bring him something he’d like as a distraction.”

Akashi considered it. A gift that would serve as an apology and perhaps make Kuroko smile. Something that would remind Kuroko of Akashi in a more favorable light. But what?

“We could go to Murasakibaracchi’s store.”

Surprised, both Akashi and Momoi turned to look at Kise.

“What? It’s got to have something. He and Himuro-san practically operate a shrine to this type of thing.”

It wasn’t untrue, exactly. Murasakibara Atsushi and his partner had opened a store that showcased all manner of luxurious items. The shop was half gourmet patisserie and half boutique, with Murasakibara handling the first and Himuro the second. It was a strange mix that somehow proved insanely popular.

Excited, Momoi nodded her head. “Let’s try there! We haven’t seen Mukkun in a while anyway.”

Somehow, Akashi allowed himself to be carried along with their enthusiasm and they were at the store almost before he knew it.

They entered on the pastry shop side, seeing Murasakibara was busy they only nodded and went through to the boutique.

Himuro stopped in the middle of arranging a display to smile and welcome them.

“This is a surprise. May I help you find something in particular?”

“Akashi-kun’s looking for a gift for someone.”

Himuro stilled, and although his hair covered one eye, it was easy enough to see in his expression he hadn’t expected Momoi’s answer.

He glanced appraisingly at Akashi, who had been in the store before, but never had he been the one shopping. Akashi had attended their grand opening because he was friends with Murasakibara, and he’d come in occasionally when the strangely gifted group Murasakibara was part of were meeting for one reason or another.

“I see. Akashi-kun, I suspect you’d like to browse on your own. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

Akashi nodded, appreciating Himuro’s understanding.

Kise and Momoi drifted away to look at things that caught their attention and Akashi turned to do the same.

The store was called Sweet Dreams in homage to its stock and eclectic decor. It escaped being labelled a junk store only by the high-quality nature of the items for sale, the charm of its proprietors, and the careful arrangements that showed curation rather than simple chaos.

Akashi stared blankly at a display of tea cups. They ranged from antique to modern with some collectible pieces for good measure. Lovely pieces all, but none of them were right.

He moved to a small section set up as a library. The shelves with books for sale held how-tos and blank journals, memoirs and bestsellers mixed in with local authors and graphic novels. He paused, knowing Kuroko liked to read. Shaking his head, he went to the next area.

Cozy sweaters, downy blankets, and fluffy pillows made up the next area. All things to make a comfortable nest. Akashi’s mind toyed with the image of Kuroko snuggled down in a cushioned retreat before he forced it aside.

He cast only a passing glance at the jewelry display. Not only would it be inappropriate, he saw nothing there that suited Kuroko.

The collection of prints and wall-hangings was also quickly discarded.

Himuro wandered over, noticing that Akashi had not really seemed interested in anything so far.

Feeling a slight whim of mischief, Himuro offered, “We recently added a new section in the back for those with more specific tastes. Why don’t you try it?”

Akashi looked at him with an unbothered expression. “If you mean the sensual aids and bondage items, I already knew they were there. Murasakibara-kun called me when you proposed it. They aren’t quite the type of thing I’m looking for now, thank you.”

Chagrined his fun was spoiled, Himuro shrugged. “As you like.” He left Akashi alone as another customer appeared.

Akashi felt irritated for some reason and stalked to the aforementioned section as if Himuro had personally challenged him.

It was much as he’d anticipated, with assorted outfits, toys, and other paraphernalia designed for intimate use. He gave the nook a cursory glance. Akashi would admit it was tastefully displayed, but rather missed the point of what he was making amends for.

His ire rose further when Murasakibara traipsed in to find him there.

“Aka-chin? I didn’t expect you back here.”

Casting a sharp look at the other man, Akashi’s tone was dismissive, “With good reason. But I will offer my compliments, it seems like this area will be a credit to your store.”

“Mmm. Kise-chin said you’re looking for a present for a friend?”

Akashi nodded, looking around the current selection critically. He’d admit a certain inclination toward seeing Kuroko in one or two of the outfits on display. Otherwise he had little use for what was here.

Silently Murasakibara pointed back through to the main store front.

Akashi raised an eyebrow but allowed himself to be guided to a portion of the store he hadn’t explored yet.

A rare smile crossed Akashi’s face as he saw it.

“Thank you, Murasakibara-kun. This is perfect.”

Murasakibara nodded. “We just got these in. I thought you might like them.”

Akashi looked at the options carefully before making his choice.

Murasakibara took it to the counter and without having to ask began wrapping the item for Akashi. He chose a beautiful cloth in shades of blue and green and folded the gift into the fabric with skillful pleats.

When the transaction was complete and Akashi had taken possession of the parcel, Murasakibara looked at Akashi curiously.

“I didn’t think you had many close friends that weren’t one of us.”

Akashi’s lips twitched. The Generation of Miracles. He and his friends had all been prodigies in one way or another, with only a few years separating them so that the local gossip mills had stuck the moniker on them.

He shook his head. “Kuroko-kun attends university with me.”

Murasakibara nodded, feeling better with that explanation.

“I hope your friend feels better. Bring them by sometime.”

Soon enough Kise and Momoi caught up with Akashi, both of them pouting they didn’t see what Akashi had picked.

Murasakibara refused to disclose the purchase details, much to Akashi’s satisfaction.

Akashi checked his phone, noting the time. Looking at both Kise and Momoi, he inclined his head slightly.

“Thank you for meeting me and your suggestions. I’m heading back now.”

Momoi could have stamped her foot. “Akashi-kun surely you’re not so mean-spirited! We didn’t get to ask you more about Kuroko-kun!”

Kise was feeling similarly frustrated. It was rare for Akashi to mention anything personal, the fact he’d unbent a little in response to someone they didn’t even know was a bit of a sore spot.

Akashi gave a half-shrug. “Perhaps he’ll agree to meet all of you.” A wicked light shone in his eyes for a moment. “Of course, Midorima-kun already has. You could try asking him for his opinion.”

With a silent but not entirely sincere mental apology to Midorima, Akashi headed back to Kuroko’s apartment.

 Akashi was in a surprisingly good mood on his return. He had not seen any of his friends in a while and today he’d managed to see everyone except Aomine. There was a lesson in that somewhere.

He entered quietly, unsure if Kuroko would be taking a nap or not. Sensing stillness in the dwelling, he moved with care.

The sound of the shower caught his attention as he moved through the apartment. Not wanting to surprise Kuroko as he exited the bathroom, Akashi called out his presence.

There was no response.

It didn’t initially alarm Akashi as he knew the water would most likely muffle his greeting.

But then the minutes ticked on. He could not hear any movement from the bathroom.

And Akashi grew worried.

Steeling himself for another awkward moment, Akashi knocked on the door, firmly and obviously intending to gain the occupant’s attention.

After a moment, Akashi called out, “Kuroko-kun? Are you alright?”

When he didn’t get a response this time, Akashi tried the door. It was locked.

With a muttered apology to Kuroko’s parents for the damage he was about to cause, Akashi judiciously applied forced to the door and it gave way when faced with his strength.

It took but a moment to cross the space and see Kuroko’s prone form.

Grabbing a towel, Akashi turned off the water, and carefully gathered Kuroko up to cradle him against his chest. He winced, the hot water reserve had run out. Kuroko had been pummeled by cold water for who knew how long.

Kuroko’s lips had the faintest blue tinge, his skin was somehow both icy cold and burning up and he did not open his eyes. Akashi could tell his breathing was shallow and his pulse seemed unsteady.

Not allowing himself the luxury of panic, Akashi rose and took Kuroko to the family room, depositing him on the couch. He bundled Kuroko under a blanket he seized from Kuroko’s bedroom and he was on the phone moments later.

Midorima answered quickly with an irritated, “Akashi you better have a good reason for turning Momoi and Kise on me - ”

Akashi cut off Midorima mid-complaint. “Kuroko’s sick. I need to know what to do.”

Whatever irritation Midorima felt was put on hold in favor of his medical training.

Akashi described the situation he’d encountered upon his arrival and Kuroko’s current state.

Midorima wasted no time. “Get him here immediately. I was going to ask him to come back anyway due to his bloodwork results. We’ll handle it.”

Akashi needed no further urging. His chauffer was called and waiting outside by the time Akashi managed to pack a quick bag with clothes and bundle Kuroko’s blanket around him more securely.

He kept Kuroko pressed against him, ostensibly to share body heat, but in reality, unable to accept Kuroko was in danger.

When they arrived, Midorima was waiting outside with a staff member Akashi didn’t know. He released Kuroko to their care only after Midorima’s quiet, “Akashi, please, we need to treat him.”

It was an unexpectedly difficult task, to let Kuroko go, and Akashi felt somewhat deflated when he could no longer directly involve himself in the matter.

Midorima firmly directed Akashi to stay put out of his way – with the reminder the clinic had state of the art treatment options, thanks in large part to Akashi’s funding.

With little recourse left but to do as instructed, Akashi sank down into one of the chairs in the waiting room.

After a while he called Aomine, feeling there was something notable there when he’d just been thinking of the other man.

When Aomine answered, Akashi got to the point.

“I need you to find someone name Kagami Taiga. He’s a firefighter, but that’s all I know about him.”

Aomine was a police officer, he wouldn’t have to work too hard to track Akashi’s target down, especially since Kagami was a firefighter.

“Sure, but why? Is this a criminal investigation?”

“It can stay out of official channels. We just have a mutual friend who is sick. His family is out of town right now but I thought he might want to see someone else that is familiar to him when he’s out of treatment. I just need to pass on a message that Kuroko-kun is ill and at Midorima’s clinic.”

Aomine paused in the middle of taking down the message. He knew what type of clinic Midorima ran and so the assumption that Kuroko would be an alpha or omega was fair, with smart money going to the latter option.

“I’ll find him for you.”

Akashi gave his thanks and hung up.

All that was left was to wait, silent and still, for any news to come.

Chapter Text


 

Kagami Taiga was in the middle of playing basketball on a neighborhood court when he caught sight of a uniformed police officer sauntering up to the fence. When the tall man stopped and appeared to be waiting for something, Kagami had an uncanny feeling he was the reason the man was there.

Not letting it distract him for more than a moment, he easily sank the ball into the net. Laughing and receiving congratulations from his impromptu team, he then excused himself to go over to the newcomer.

Aomine nodded at him. This person fit the description he’d been given. How many streetballers with split eyebrows could there be at one court?

“Nice dunk. Are you Kagami Taiga?”

“Ah, thanks. Yes, I am.  Am I needed at the station?”

Shaking his head, Aomine glanced over at the court.

“Do you know someone named Kuroko?”

Kagami instantly felt concerned. Why would Kuroko have come to the policeman’s attention?

“Yes. What’s happened?”

Aomine shrugged. “I don’t know the full details. Akashi asked me to tell you Kuroko’s at the clinic Midorima runs. Kuroko’s family is away, Akashi thought you might want to know.”

Kagami knew who Akashi was, Kuroko had mentioned his classmate before. He also knew of the clinic. He didn’t like where this was going.

“Thanks for coming out here to find me.  I didn’t catch your name?”

Aomine husked a laugh.

“Aomine Daiki. No problem. I heard from your captain this is usually where you spend your days off. You can return the favor by playing me sometime.” He nodded his head toward the court to clarify.

Kagami’s brows shot up. Aomine’s name was damn near infamous in street basketball circles. He’d never heard it mentioned the man was also in law enforcement.

Kagami nodded, a little speechless, and Aomine grinned – every bit of it a challenge.

“Later then. I hope your friend gets well soon.” And before Kagami had the chance to say anything else, Aomine had turned away and his long legs were eating up the pavement as he walked.

Turning back to his teammates, Kagami excused himself from the game.

He rushed home, quickly showering and changing clothes. In less than twenty minutes he was headed toward the clinic and trying to tamp down his concern.

Kagami noted the expensive furnishings and tasteful décor as he entered and approached reception. This was not a charity walk-in clinic, everything about it screamed exclusivity. Why had Kuroko been brought here?

The woman at the desk smiled at him. “Welcome, sir. How may I help you?”

“I’m here to check on my friend, Kuroko Tetsuya? I was given a message he’s here.”

Her expression remained pleasant but uninformative. “I’m sorry, sir. I’m unable to release information about a patient if you’re not family.”

Kagami was taken aback, he’d been summoned to be here, hadn’t he?

A voice from behind caught him off guard.

“It’s alright. Kagami-kun is cleared to be here.”

Turning, Kagami was confronted with a person that radiated intensity for all that he was easily shorter than Kagami and his expression was eerily calm.

Catching Kagami’s gaze, Akashi introduced himself.

“I’m Akashi Seijūrō. I brought Kuroko-kun here and asked Aomine-kun to find you.”

Kagami’s entire being recognized the aura that Akashi projected – he was an alpha in every sense of the word.

Nodding, Kagami replied, “Thanks for thinking of it. What happened?”

Akashi glanced around the room. There were few other patients waiting but he wanted more privacy.

Looking back at the receptionist, he made his request with a polite charm that had worked in far stickier circumstances that this.

“May we use an empty consultation room if one is available?”

She nodded, as if she could honestly deny such a simple request from the clinic’s generous benefactor.

Kagami was impressed despite himself as they were taken to a room that looked like a researcher’s dream library.

They each took a seat across a small conference table before Akashi spoke again.

“Kuroko’s suppressants failed him while he was at school. I got him home and I am staying with him, but I stepped out for a while this afternoon. During that time, his condition worsened and he collapsed in the shower. I found him but he was unresponsive, and so I brought him here. Midorima is treating him.”

Kagami was surprised, he hadn’t thought Midorima himself would be seeing Kuroko. This clinic had many talented doctors, Kagami hadn’t realized the head of staff actually saw patients.

“His family’s away again?”

Nodding affirmatively, Akashi was surveying Kagami and getting a read on Kuroko’s friend.

“I’m glad you found him and could get him help. I’m surprised you’re here though. Kuroko’s mentioned you before but I didn’t think the two of you were close.”

Akashi stared impassively at Kagami for a moment. When he spoke it was evenly, though a bit cold.

“I didn’t go to the trouble of sending Aomine-kun after you so that I could leave. My relationship with Kuroko-kun is…evolving. The past few days have been unsettling for him. I see you as a contingency plan, not my replacement.”

“Wait a minute! Evolving how? And what do you mean a contingency plan?” Kagami had too much to process all at once.

“The first issue is not quite your concern yet. The later will reveal itself in due course. For now, I would request you simply keep yourself nearby in case he would like to see you when he’s awake.” It did not sound like a request.

Kagami couldn’t believe Akashi’s nerve. Kuroko was his friend, of course he’d stay. Kagami didn’t need to be ordered around like this.

Before Kagami had a chance to protest, Akashi rose from his seat and stared indifferently down at him. It was almost as if Akashi had already relegated Kagami to someone he didn’t have to bother with any further.

He cemented that impression with a careless, “I’m returning to the lobby. Feel free to stay here. I’ll have one of the staff keep you apprised as needed.”

It was rare that Kagami’s hackles were raised by a stranger, but Akashi seemed to do it effortlessly. Kagami stood hastily, accidentally scraping the chair across the floor with his motion.

His, “I’m going too!” was met with a shrug.

“If you must.”  Akashi sounded like he was dealing with an unreasonable toddler and it brought a flush to Kagami’s face.

Akashi didn’t wait for Kagami, merely did as he’d intended and made his way back to the lobby.

He knew he’d been rude. He didn’t quite care. Kuroko had not mentioned his friend was an alpha and it irritated Akashi to think he had brought another alpha onto the scene at a delicate time.

Kagami meanwhile was questioning what Kuroko had possibly found admirable in the other man.

He remembered Kuroko saying Akashi was very smart and talented, but Kagami didn’t recall Kuroko mentioning what an utter jerk Akashi could be.

Shortly after they claimed areas on opposite sides of the waiting room, Midorima came out to get Akashi.

Kagami hopped up and made his way over.

Akashi sighed and introduced Kagami to Midorima, who nodded his understanding.

Pushing his glasses up, Midorima invited them to his office. Both men followed.

Midorima started with the immediate news.

“He’s resting right now, we got his body temperature to an acceptable range and we’re keeping him hydrated. As I told you earlier, I was planning to ask Kuroko to return anyway. I didn’t anticipate it would escalate quite this quickly though.”

Midorima looked speculatively at them both.

Akashi’s expression seemed impassive. You’d have to know him at least as well as Midorima did to see that stillness held a faint tinge of worry.

Kagami was more volatile. He seemed ready to burst from the room and find Kuroko himself if Midorima didn’t speak quickly.

“The technical issue is that Kuroko’s kidneys are overworked from years of prolonged suppressant use. As you suspected, Akashi, his doctor prescribed too many for sustained use. It has caused other organs to work harder as a result, weakening his overall system. Combined with a rise in his stress levels – and that’s likely both from his omega biology and his student lifestyle – this heat hit him harder and made much stronger demands on his body.”

“Is the damage permanent?” Kagami couldn’t stop himself from interrupting.

Midorima frowned briefly.

“Yes and no. His kidneys can return to normal functioning, but they are now very susceptible to damage. He absolutely cannot continue his current medicinal regimen. After his body has time to calm down, he might be a candidate for the serum I developed, but for now, he should go without. He also has some nutrient deficiency, he’ll need to pay much more attention to his diet.”

Shooting a pointed look at Akashi he continued.

“Of interest for you, his pheromones will fluctuate much more now. His endocrine system is going to take a while to even out. If you intend to stay with him for any length of time, you need to consider whether you want to take nullification medicine yourself.”

Omegas took suppressants to manage their heats. The counterpart for Alphas was a nullification injection that took the edge off their response to an Omega’s heat.

 It was rarely used since the expectation was for Omegas to regulate any heat-related inconvenience. Or more naturally, that an Alpha would satisfy themselves with an Omega.

“I’ll take the injection. I trust you have it here?”

Midorima was truly shocked but he nodded in the affirmative. He’d expected Akashi to refuse for any number of reasons, not least of which was that it was a notoriously painful shot and Alphas that did take it typically had terrible side effects for the duration it remained in their systems.

Kagami was similarly floored and his jaw dropped briefly before he caught himself.

It wasn’t difficult to sense their surprise. As much as Akashi hated explaining himself, he offered a small comment.

“It's no worse than what he has to deal with. I promised Kuroko my protection, this seems to be the way I deliver on that."

The utter confidence of Akashi's statement somehow prevented Midorima from questioning it.

Though Kagami did try.

"I'm Kuroko's best friend, it makes more sense for me to stay with him. I can take the injection."

The look that Akashi sent Kagami was somewhere between amusement and derision.

"Are fires in the habit of being so considerate as to allow you such freedom, Kagami-kun? I have far greater flexibility in my schedule. Do not be ridiculous, of course I will stay with him."

Kagami jumped up from his seat and was about to argue when he felt a wave of disorientation swoop through him after meeting Akashi's gaze. It was not in Kagami's nature to stand down, but he was ill-prepared for the sudden unbalance and sat before he fell.

Midorima didn't interfere in the stand-off, but privately he thought Akashi's view of his schedule was too generous. Akashi juggled many commitments between his father's company and his own role as a student.

To try to mediate he offered a compromise.

“Ah, well, I suppose if Kagami wants the injection too then it would ensure someone could be with Kuroko at all times. Akashi, if you need to attend to business elsewhere, Kagami could step in temporarily assuming he’s not called away.”

Kagami nodded, feeling vindicated.

Akashi didn’t bother looking at Kagami again. Kagami was welcome to get the injection, but Akashi didn’t plan to call him.

Midorima tapped his glasses again.

“In that case, I’ll prepare two doses of it. It’s better if we go ahead and get it started in your systems as it usually takes around twelve hours to be effective. I’m keeping Kuroko here overnight. He can go home tomorrow morning and your bodies should already start acclimating by then. You’ll probably feel a little groggy since it will dull your senses though.  Get as much sleep tonight as you can, this is going to play hell with your energy levels for the next few days.”

Neither Akashi or Kagami protested so he went to prepare the medicine. He did them the courtesy of seeing them separately to administer the shot.  

Midorima didn’t know exactly why Akashi was being so difficult around Kagami, but something about the other man set Akashi off and Midorima didn’t need either of them to bluff their way through the process. They would both have bruises on their abdomens from the injection but it couldn’t be helped.

“Midorima.”

Midorima looked over at Akashi at the sound of his name. He was disposing of the used syringe and swab after Akashi’s turn.

Seeing he had the doctor’s attention, Akashi nodded. “You will call me if anything changes overnight.”

It was phrased like an order. It sounded like the closest to a request Akashi could manage. Midorima understood.

“Of course.”

Akashi smiled, a little tightly, but it was there all the same.

He left soon afterwards, barely nodding to Kagami on his way out.

It wasn’t until Kagami watched Akashi leave that he realized something.

He hadn’t given Akashi his phone number. Akashi had no intention of calling him to help with Kuroko.

“That bastard.” It was muttered but not unnoticed.

Midorima coughed slightly.

“Sorry.” It wasn’t sincere.

Midorima shrugged lightly.

“You’re not seeing him at his best. Don’t worry about it, he’ll warm up.”

“What makes you say so?” Kagami was legitimately curious.

Midorima pursed his lips thoughtfully for a moment.

“Akashi’s a Sagittarius.”

Realizing that was all Midorima was going to say, Kagami blinked in disbelief.

“Ah, okay. Well…thanks, for taking care of Kuroko I mean. I guess I’ll be seeing you around.”

Midorima nodded and Kagami was soon on his way, still unsure how he felt about the whole encounter.

Midorima watched him go. It was interesting to consider the two alphas. He knew they were going to have further confrontations, the fact they were both attached to Kuroko nearly guaranteed it. He almost hoped he could see some of it.

For now, he had a patient to return to. Midorima had every expectation that this would be a rough night for everyone.  He, at least, could look forward to it being mostly over in the morning. For the others…well, it was just the beginning.

Chapter Text

Excerpt from Article 6 of the Alpha-Omega Code: …Any Omega that becomes pregnant while unpaired must be offered a commitment ceremony by the child’s father. To prevent exploitation, the Omega retains the right, per Article 5, to refuse any unwanted offer. By default, the Omega retains custody of the child if they so desire. An Alpha may file an Appeal for Custody with the Bureau of Alpha-Omega Affairs for consideration. If the father is unknown or already paired, the Omega is required to grant a DNA sample so the father may be identified and officially recorded. This is to ensure proper funding, care, and support are provided to the Omega and child by either the biological father or a representative thereof…


 

Midorima felt a headache coming on. He stared at Kuroko with the wish that Akashi had not signed up for same Japanese Literature class this term.

“I’m sorry. I believe I misheard you.”

Kuroko drew in a steadying breath, determined to get this out as quickly as possible.

“Does birth control for Omegas exist, Midorima-san?”

Midorima blanched. He had not misheard.

“It exists, yes. But…” Midorima frowned as he gathered his thoughts.

Birth control was rarely prescribed for Omegas. It wasn’t illegal, but the governmental office that oversaw Alpha, Beta, and Omega affairs had not allowed the medicine’s existence to become widely known.  An Omega really had to know to ask for it before they could receive it.

“You don’t want me to have it?”

Kuroko’s question interrupted his thought.

“My concern is how it may damage your kidneys. You really shouldn’t take any medicine for several weeks to give your body a chance to recuperate. After that…who knows.” he paused and took his glasses off for a moment, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Replacing the spectacles and pushing them up, Midorima sighed. “As Akashi’s friend though, it is also my hope you would discuss the issue with him first. I assume your concern is about having his child.”

Kuroko averted his eyes.

“It is not that I object to Akashi-kun. I just need to know what options there are. If he is still intending to stay for the remainder of my heat, it seems best to be prepared. I do not want to trap him. I’m also not ready for children.”

“How would you trap him? If it came to it, you only have to refuse his pairing offer.”

“Article 6 says I have that right, yes. But I do not know if I could enforce it. Akashi-kun is…Akashi-kun.” Kuroko trailed off lamely.

 Midorima understood perfectly. Even if Akashi accepted Kuroko’s answer, he would still want to be in his child’s life. It would change things no matter what.

Midorima was conflicted. Should he tell Kuroko about the nullification injection? Akashi was his patient, too, and protected by the same confidentiality agreement that Kuroko was. But this was an issue that also concerned Kuroko.

Midorima glanced tiredly at the wall clock. 3 a.m. was not the time to be having this discussion. Yet here they were.

He’d woken to do a round of checks, there were only a few patients staying overnight. Midorima had saved Kuroko for last.

Kuroko had been awake, surprisingly. And it seemed he’d been waiting for Midorima.

Midorima had not been prepared for the earnestness in Kuroko’s eyes as he’d asked if Midorima could stay a few moments.

He supposed he shouldn’t be too shocked. Kuroko knew Akashi would be there in the morning, it was likely Kuroko had seized on this opportunity to ensure privacy for his question.

“I can’t, in good conscience, prescribe you the birth control for this cycle. It wouldn’t be effective anyway and you would likely end up right back here if you took it so soon. You may be a candidate for it next time. Please make an appointment to return in a few weeks. We’ll do more bloodwork to see if your levels look normal. I would also strongly urge you to talk to Akashi about your feelings on this matter.”

Kuroko nodded his understanding but his expression was glum.

Midorima’s gaze sharpened and he added some clarification.

“Kuroko, I mean it. Your body probably can’t handle birth control right now. Please do not ask your regular doctor to prescribe it for you.”

“I won’t. I will wait until you clear me.”

Satisfied, Midorima offered a small approving smile.

“On the other hand, I can suggest something else.”

Perking up, Kuroko looked at him curiously.

“Condoms.” It came out bluntly and Kuroko’s face reddened.

Midorima shrugged, it couldn’t be helped. “I know you said you had not been with an Alpha before so I did not know if you were aware. Common gossip has it that Alphas can’t wear condoms. They can, it just must be a type specially made for them. This is another reason to talk to Akashi.”

Kuroko almost wished he hadn’t brought this up. How could he possibly look Akashi in the eye and have that discussion?

Midorima tapped Kuroko’s chart for emphasis, returning Kuroko’s attention to him.

“You were brave enough to ask me about your options. I trust you did that because you understand there’s a risk that you and Akashi may succumb to the mating instinct this time. As I see it, you have three choices right now. First, you can ignore my advice and have another doctor prescribe you birth control, risking your overall health. Second, you can talk about all of this with Akashi and most likely mutually agree that a condom is fine should the occasion warrant it. Or third, you can risk pregnancy.”

He paused. “Or let me add a fourth option. You can wait out your heat here and remove the temptation.”

Kuroko appreciated Midorima’s offer but it made a cold pang go through his chest. Akashi would accept his decision, yet Kuroko could not help but fear it would put an incredible distance between them.

Kuroko wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Akashi. He knew Akashi wasn’t his to keep. Even so, Kuroko didn’t want this interlude to be over just yet.

“I’ll talk to him.”

Midorima was glad. Whatever was going on between Akashi and Kuroko was complicated but it was just beginning. They needed to figure things out for both their sakes.

Pulling out his phone, Midorima clicked the Oha Asa horoscope alert. Scrolling to the section he wanted, he looked up.

“Your lucky item for today is a shirt and your lucky color is red. Perhaps fate is already approving your path.”

Before Kuroko could respond, Midorima stood up.

“Even so, you need to get some more sleep if you can. Today will be tiring.”

Kuroko didn’t feel the least bit sleepy but he nodded anyway.

It was a long time before Kuroko managed to doze off and when he did, it was an uneasy, nervous slumber.

The morning was filled with a series of last minute checks before Midorima allowed him to leave, entrusting him to Akashi’s care.

Akashi was first whisked away for a brief exam of his own, though it was more of a conversation.

“Any noticeable side effects so far?”

Akashi shook his head. He was tired and the injection site ached but otherwise he felt fine.

“Nothing unexpected. Anything I need to be on the lookout for with Kuroko?”

Midorima started to say something but restrained himself.

Akashi, however, noticed. He waited, unblinking and patient, for Midorima to continue.

Giving in to the silent demand, Midorima crossed to a supply cabinet, withdrew a small dispensary bag and filled it with something before returning to hand it to Akashi.

“I can’t say much more than this, but please know he’s trying very hard to be considerate.”

Looking in the bag, Akashi understood immediately. Akashi slid the parcel into his coat pocket, knowing Kuroko would ask him about it otherwise.

“I see. You didn’t tell him about the injection then?”

“No. If all goes well he doesn’t need to know. If it doesn’t, you have a backup right there.”

“I agree. Thank you. I am sure that was not an easy conversation for either of you.”

Midorima shot him a pained look and Akashi raised a hand in acknowledgement.

“If that’s all?”

Akashi was waved off with Midorima grumbling about returning to his own work.

Kuroko was waiting in a recessed nook near the reception desk. He had a thick packet of instructions and information from Midorima, including a nutrition pamphlet. He resented that one a little.

Kuroko hadn’t gone through all the documents yet. He’d just nodded obediently when Midorima told him to make sure he did eventually.

Akashi came to collect him with an appraising look in place.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, just tired.” He might have stopped there, but felt a compulsion to add, “I apologize for causing you trouble.”

Kuroko followed that with a bow, suddenly made aware of how much time Akashi had given him, and how poorly he’d repaid that kindness.

Akashi’s “Let’s go back now. You need rest,” wasn’t meant to withhold forgiveness. He simply didn’t consider it necessary, Kuroko hadn’t meant to cause trouble after all.

Unfortunately, Kuroko didn’t know that. He sat silent and increasingly miserable on the way back.

When they entered the apartment, Kuroko was immediately hit by the smell of fresh paint and new wood.

Noticing Kuroko’s startled look and guessing the source, Akashi explained.

“You were unconscious. I damaged the bathroom door to get to you and had it repaired last night. Nevertheless, I will apologize to your parents when they return.”

Kuroko’s sense of shame rose higher. He could feel a leaden weight forming in his stomach.

“Thank you, Akashi-kun, but I am sure an apology is not necessary in the circumstances.”

Akashi brushed it aside with a nod.

“I insist. Besides, how else will I get you to let me meet them?”

He said this sincerely but it caught Kuroko the wrong way.

A rare flash of sullenness ran through him. “Why do you want to meet my parents?”

Sensing Kuroko’s bad mood, Akashi stilled.

“Why are you upset with me?”

Kuroko tensed at the perfect calm of Akashi's question. Akashi was prepared to handle Kuroko's temper like he had everything else and for some reason, it was upsetting.

Knowing he was in the wrong, Kuroko turned away from his temporary roommate to head to the kitchen to change the subject.

"Would you like some tea?”

Akashi was not thirsty. However, he accepted the offer to keep peace.

Kuroko busied himself with the familiar ritual of heating the water, steeping the leaves, gathering cups, and preparing a tray.  By the time he rejoined Akashi bearing tea and a light snack, Kuroko felt better.

The warmth of his tea cup in his hands was soothing and Kuroko felt the knot in his stomach relax.

“I don’t think you got to see him yesterday, but Kagami-kun did try to visit.”

Kuroko blinked.

“How did he know to visit?”

Shrugging briefly, Akashi answered. “I told him.”

Akashi paused before amending that. “I had someone tell him.”

Kuroko’s struggle between gratitude and anger was quick but real. He ended up resigned.

“I am sorry the two of you were troubled by my episode. I will contact Kagami-kun.”

Akashi eyed him, sensing Kuroko was upset and unsure why.

“If you will excuse me then, I have some business to attend to. Be sure to mention that to Kagami-kun in case you would like to have him visit for a while.”

Kuroko nodded, though Akashi’s words made him feel like Akashi was granting him permission to have a guest in his own home.

Akashi was on his way soon after. He’d ignored his father’s phone calls this morning. He knew he had to respond now.

His chauffeur knew without asking to take him to headquarters. Apparently, Akashi’s father had been in touch with him too.

Strolling into his father’s office, Akashi was unprepared to see Nash there as well.

Masaomi’s expression was cold.

“Seijūrō, you are late.”

“It would seem so. My apologies, father. Somehow I must have missed your note that there was a meeting scheduled.” There was little in the way of apology there.

Nash had to admit he was impressed. The elder Akashi did not seem like one that tolerated defiance. Then again, the son was no different.

Even though Seijūrō had not anticipated this meeting, he was not that off guard having studied the particulars of this deal in depth. He waited for the discussions to open.

This business deal was one of hundreds they conducted every year with various companies worldwide. Their corporation had dealings in everything from medicine to security with philanthropy, travel, government advising, and more thrown in.

Nash’s company represented a networking opportunity with America, especially in the entertainment industry. For whatever reason, Masaomi had decided they needed to diversify even more.

Their deliberations were fast-paced yet lengthy. It took most of the morning.

Seijūrō was relieved when his father finally seemed content. Nash had proved surprisingly unproblematic.

They were not completely done. Nash left shortly before noon with an off-hand comment that there were a few outstanding details to arrange. Masaomi agreed and the two Akashis saw him off with little fuss.

The only mildly disturbing part was Nashi's quiet, "Convey my greetings to the kitten, yes?" on his way out. Akashi kept his expression blank but he knew he would be dealing with Nash again.

As soon as the door closed, his father turned to him.

“What have you done?”

Seijūrō remained stoic. He did not know what his father referred to.

“Has something happened?”

Masaomi’s expression was furious.

“You don’t smell like an alpha. What has caused this travesty? Has that omega managed to sap you this much?”

Ah. So that was it.

“It is temporary, if that’s your concern.”

Masaomi stared hard at him.

“Tell me you didn’t.”

Seijūrō lifted one shoulder.

“I could ask what you mean. To not waste time though, yes. I received the injection.”

There was no need to clarify. There was only one injection that could produce this result.

Masaomi was rendered speechless. To think his son would stoop so low. And why? For that omega that should never have met Seijūrō in the first place?

“You will stop this foolishness, Seijūrō. Come home at once. You are forbidden from seeing him again.”

It was a strange moment. Seijūrō did not know how to react at first.

“Why?”

That single reply was infuriating for Masaomi.

“How can you ask that? He’s an Omega! Omegas serve only one purpose and even that is largely unnecessary. If you want a child you can have one with a woman. I don’t care if you keep a bit on the side, but you will not reach so low. He’s clearly a bad influence and you’ve lost all reason if you’re going to such steps for him. His temerity to ask such a thing shows he’s got notions above his station!”

“Kuroko-kun did not ask anything of me. I don’t know where you’ve gotten this idea but please allow me to correct it. I volunteered as a means of expediency. There is nothing for you to worry about.”

Narrowing his eyes, Masomi’s retort was immediate.

“Then there’s no reason you can’t give me your word not to see him again, is there?”

Seijūrō rose and offered his father a bow.

“You have nothing to worry about. I will be going now.”

They were not the words Masaomi wanted but it was all Seijūrō could allow for.

He left his father fuming and knew that Masaomi would continue to monitor his movements now.

On the way back to Kuroko’s, Akashi reviewed the day. He’d been surprised by his father’s comments. He hadn’t realized Masaomi disapproved of Omegas in general. Masaomi had never spoken against them in public, but Seijūrō realized his father had not endorsed the same level of equality his grandfather had tried to achieve.

Lost in thought, he was unprepared to see Kuroko’s stricken look and Kagami’s guilty expression when he entered the apartment. They were sitting on the couch and the remnants of takeaway bearing a logo that said Maji Burger was clearly visible on the table beyond them. Akashi suppressed a flare of irritation, hadn’t Kuroko just been warned about his diet?

Kagami’s hasty “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you weren’t telling him” as he rose when Akashi came in let the pieces click. The injection had been disclosed. This again. It seemed everyone was taking his decision poorly.

Had he really been so careless to not tell Kagami to keep it quiet?

Akashi reconsidered. He’d assumed Kagami would have some level of sense and know not to mention it.

He was wrong. Astonishing really.

Keeping his expression calm, Akashi spoke.

“I saw no need to. But seeing as that you felt differently, shall we consider the issue settled now and move on?”

“Akashi-kun…”

Turning at the sound of his name, Akashi was unprepared to see the pain in Kuroko’s eyes and only restrained his flinch from years of discipline.

Cursing inwardly, he sent a stern look Kagami’s way.

Catching the hint, Kagami muttered a quick, “I’ll, uh…be in the hall.” He stepped out to give them privacy.

Kuroko’s fists were balled up and it was difficult to say what emotion was on his face.

Akashi waited, unsure what was coming.

“Please…please stop. Stop this.”

“What do you mean? I haven’t done anything.”

“Akashi-kun, please. Please don’t stay with me any longer. I can’t handle much more of this.”

It struck Akashi like a blow to the stomach. It was one thing for his father to say he couldn’t stay; Akashi could ignore that. He couldn’t do the same when it was Kuroko asking.

“Is what I did really so awful?”

Akashi’s voice was distant, infused with the isolated cultured tones he might use with a stranger.

“No…not at all. It was amazing, really. But you can’t do things like that without talking it over first. You keep insisting I can have choices and options and then you will pull the rug out from under me with a move like that.”

In an abstract way, Akashi understood Kuroko’s point.

However, it was not the intellectual part of him that responded.

“And you? Didn’t you put yourself in harm’s way yesterday because you couldn’t ask me for something? Didn’t you attempt to obtain birth control just this morning without asking me? Am I the only one that needs permission? My effort only allows me to control my reaction to you. I was not making a choice for both of us.” His voice got colder with each word he spoke.

Kuroko didn’t answer, merely stiffened his spine and refused to look away.

Akashi flattened his lips for a moment. There was none of the usual charm in his eyes when he spoke next.

“I apologize. For whatever injury I have done, I apologize. However, I am not abandoning you. I gave my word and I intend to stick to it.  I will leave for now but I will be back in time for dinner. If you truly cannot handle my presence here then take me off the register while I’m gone. Otherwise, I will return.”

Akashi left in a wave of roiling emotions that were unfamiliar to him – confusion, disappointment, and a stinging pang he had no real word for.

As he started to pass Kagami in the hallway he changed his mind and stopped in front of him.

It took everything Kagami had not to recoil from the aura Akashi emitted. That it was this strong after the nullification was in him told Kagami the shorter redhead was furious.

“Do. Not. Leave. Him. Alone. Understand?”

Kagami nodded repeatedly, trying to quash the level of fear that rose in him.

Akashi continued, “Even if he asks you to leave, you stay right outside this door. I will be back later today.”

Giving a disgusted sigh as he realized what he had to do, Akashi pulled out his phone and rapped out a quick text before tucking his phone back in his pocket.

“If something happens, call me immediately. I just sent you a message so you have my number now.”

“How did you -”

Akashi cut off his question. “I have a file on you of course. Aomine-kun is a very good detective. I’ve memorized your number. Now you have mine.”

Akashi left without waiting for Kagami to finish stuttering his surprise. Honestly, what did Kuroko see in that idiot? Akashi wasn’t sure he would live long enough to find a redeeming quality in the other alpha.

Chapter Text

Excerpt from Article 1 of the Alpha-Omega Code: … Non-presenting humans are exempt from the rules we codify here, except in certain situations outlined as necessary in later sections. Article 1 shall detail the social position of Alphas. As suggested by their name, Alphas are the highest-ranking of humans with modified genes. Betas and Omegas should, in most circumstances, defer to the will of Alphas, with Betas in turn having seniority over Omegas. Exceptions include career hierarchies and situations where the Beta and/or Omega has specialized knowledge, skills, or talent that supersedes the Alpha’s natural rank…  


 

Kagami watched Akashi leave and couldn’t quite believe Kuroko had survived being in his company even for a few days.

He went back inside, with something occurring to him as he did. Akashi had just walked right in before without pressing the buzzer, either.

“You’d added him to the registry?”

It was a step reserved usually just for family. Kagami had been shocked when Kuroko’s door first recognized him and he knew it was a big step for Kuroko.

Kuroko nodded.

“I know Akashi-kun is very busy and would need to attend to other things. It was easier to ensure he could get back in on his own. But now…”

Kagami understood. “You’re thinking about removing it.” Not a question.

Kuroko shrugged, he wasn’t certain yet.

“Akashi-kun has been very kind...”

That was difficult for Kagami to truly imagine. He knew that Akashi hadn’t taken advantage of the situation. But kindness was not a word he’d tag Akashi with.

“Kuroko? What’s the problem then?”

Kuroko sat back down, waving an invitation for Kagami to as well.

“I don’t want to get attached to him, Kagami-kun.”

Kagami’s mind flashed back to their visit prior to Akashi’s arrival.

He’d been surprised Kuroko called him so early, thinking Kuroko would need more rest.

However, he’d understood Kuroko’s inadvertent message when he relayed that Akashi was going to be out.

“I’ll be there soon. Want your usual from Maji Burger?”

Kuroko’s soft yes might not have sounded overly enthused to anyone else, but Kagami had several years’ experience and knew Kuroko was anticipating his vanilla milkshake.

Happily, most of their conversation had avoided Akashi.

They’d forgone conversation altogether for a bit as they watched a recording of an international basketball championship. They had played on their high school team together and it remained a shared interest even though they were no longer on formal teams.

It wasn’t until Kagami had stood and winced a little as the injection site protested the movement that things went sidewise.

“Kagami-kun? Are you ill?”

Thinking nothing of it, Kagami had replied easily.

“Oh, no. Just sore from the shot yesterday. I’m sure Akashi’s feeling it too, even if he didn’t admit it. He’s really something else, you know?”

Kuroko had kept his expression blank.

“What shot would both you and Akashi-kun have received yesterday?”

“The nulli-…he didn’t mention anything?” Kagami caught himself, but it was too late.

Narrowing his eyes, Kuroko reached his own conclusion.

“You took the nullification injection, Kagami-kun?”

It was a mistake to assume Kuroko’s usually quiet demeanor was harmless.

“Ah…well, yes. I thought you knew! That’s why you felt comfortable inviting me over while you’re still in heat, right?”

It wasn’t that Kuroko normally considered himself irresistible by any stretch of the imagination. But a mating heat changed things. Even though Kagami was his best friend, it should have been difficult for the alpha to be in the same room as Kuroko for any length of time while Kuroko was in heat.

Kuroko honestly hadn’t thought it through. Akashi had maintained such control from the start of Kuroko’s heat and Midorima had said he could go home. Akashi had even expressly said Kagami was welcome to visit. In hindsight, it was obvious.

What he had mistaken for a lingering result of Midorima’s treatment was in fact a new factor for the alphas.

“No, I hadn’t realized.”

And it made Kuroko feel terribly guilty that he had been the cause for two people to undergo the legendarily unpleasant treatment.

Akashi had chosen that precise moment to return. And then, well. He hadn’t stayed long.

Blinking and coming back to the present moment, Kagami saw Kuroko wasn’t waiting for him to reply.

He’d moved to start clearing away the small mess of wrappers and bags from Maji Burger. Kagami saw Kuroko was lost in his own thoughts.

And then Kuroko saw a small parcel on the counter.

“Kagami-kun? Did you leave this here?” He held it up in question.

Focusing his attention, Kagami saw what Kuroko meant.

“No that’s not mine.”

Kuroko glanced down again and saw a small tag with his name. It was his?

Curious, Kuroko carefully undid the skillfully folded pleats. He supposed it was from Akashi.

When he saw it unwrapped, Kuroko couldn’t help but pick up the beautifully crafted glass to admire it.

It was a window ornament, Kuroko thought they were called sun-catchers. The design was abstract and spilled out in waves of gradient blues, rays of yellow and red, and small patches of clear glass to accent the vibrancy of the whole thing. The whole object fit within his palm yet Kuroko didn’t doubt it would be high impact hanging in his window.

“What is it?” Kagami was curious, Kuroko’s expression was always hard to read but it had a trace of something Kagami didn’t remember seeing before.

“More evidence that Akashi-kun is dangerous.” His reply was soft.

Kuroko put the object back in the cloth, folding it over loosely and then putting the gift into his pocket. He didn’t want to risk breaking the delicate glass as he went over to show his friend.

From there, he didn’t know exactly what happened.  They were facing away from the apartment’s entry and heard nothing. His first hint of a problem was Kagami.

Kuroko saw Kagami’s eyes widen briefly before he slowly slumped to the ground, eyes closing as he fell forward. Before he could even protest, Kuroko felt a sharp pain in his neck and then his hands were forced behind his back. Bright lights flashed through his eyes before they faded to blooming shadows.

Kuroko lost consciousness just as he heard a cold voice say, “Leave the spare.”

When he woke he was alone and had no idea how much time has passed. Kuroko’s head was throbbing and he felt sickly.

Light came from an overhead fixture, neither too bright nor too dim, it told him nothing. There were no windows in this room, just the cot he was sprawled on, a sink, and a toilet.

He couldn’t even tell which wall was the door, they all looked seamless. Logically, Kuroko knew that was impossible. He even knew what this type of room was, although he’d never been in one before.

It was an omega containment chamber – used to isolate omegas in heat so alphas couldn’t reach them. In theory there should be a communication panel but Kuroko wasn’t optimistic enough to believe this particular unit was equipped with that feature.

His wrists were free now but the bright red marks and bruises that were already forming around them showed he’d been restrained without much attention to comfort. Kuroko frowned, they’d taken his ID bracelet. Some omegas had tracking chips in theirs, it was possible his kidnapper feared his was like that.

A wave of dizziness washed over him when he managed to pull himself upright. Kuroko closed his eyes, trying to both push it down and ignore the flare of pain from his wrists when they took his weight briefly.

Although the room was small, the distance to the sink seemed to be growing even as Kuroko stared at it. Realizing he had little choice since he was thirsty, Kuroko staggered from the cot and used the wall to balance himself as he made his way over.

The water that ran from the spout was gloriously cool and Kuroko cupped his hands together several times under the stream to quench his thirst. The pain in his head lessened slightly.

Sighing, Kuroko leaned against the wall and looked around again.

He was trapped, there was no doubt of it. He had to wait until whoever held him captive gave him an opportunity to escape.

Kuroko wondered if Kagami was alright. He remembered the order to leave his friend, so that at least meant Kagami might be able to call the police when he woke up. He didn’t know how long he’d been there, but Kuroko knew Akashi was planning to return to the apartment by dinner. If nothing had changed by then, Akashi would find Kagami and they could get help.

It took effort, but Kuroko returned to the cot to rest. He felt incredibly weak and his body was trying to tell him something he couldn’t quite process just yet.

A bitingly sharp pain went through his side when he turned over and he flinched in surprise. Afraid to look, Kuroko reached one hand down to tentatively explore. He understood the moment his hand got to his waist and he could feel the jagged glass poking him.

Akashi’s gift had broken during Kuroko’s capture. It hadn’t punctured his skin, just threatened to do so if he didn’t remove it.

It shouldn’t feel this devastating. He’d only gotten a glimpse of the thing, not nearly time enough to grow attached.

Yet as Kuroko carefully removed the bundle from his pocket, he felt an overwhelming sense of loss.

Kuroko put the cloth and glass on the floor under the cot and then curled to tuck himself against the wall.

There was no telling how long he was left there before a voice filtered through a speaker. It was mechanical, detached, and cold.

“The master will see you soon. Make yourself presentable.”

Startled, Kuroko’s eyes shot to the ceiling to look for the source of the command.

Anger quickly followed as he understood the order. Not only was he not changing his appearance to suit this unknown person, there was nothing he could do even if he wanted.

That thought no sooner cleared his brain than a panel opened on the opposite wall with a box waiting on a ledge. The other side was closed, making it a small pass-through chamber that he had no ability to control.

Unable to deny his curiosity, Kuroko stumbled over to look. He shook his head when he opened the lid. The smell let him know what it was even before his eyes registered the silken material and he slammed the lid closed. The small amount of the fragrance he’d inhaled made his knees buckle and a heat flare to life in his groin.

“No.” It was nearly an inaudible whisper, and maybe the voice above hadn’t actually heard his reply but expected it anyway.

“If you refuse, someone will be in shortly to assist you.” The words would almost be polite if they weren’t so threatening.

These outfits had been banned decades ago. They had been used in less enlightened times to punish omegas in ways that left no visible marks. Students read about them in history books, the tone inevitably lauding Alphas for graciously protecting Omegas by banning them rather than mentioning that only Alphas could buy them in the first place – and had done so for nearly a century since their invention.

The synthetic fibers were exorbitantly expensive and traditionally used to turn an omega into a pleading, desperate mess by elite Alphas who found it amusing. The fabric was designed to keep an omega’s body on edge, it would feel like he was being constantly caressed with every breath he took. To add insult to injury, the garment was doused with a stimulant that he’d be unable to escape inhaling and absorbing in his skin.

It seemed his choice was made and one wall slid open soundlessly before two servants entered. They were wearing gloves and masks – well prepared to deal with the torturous garment – and Kuroko proved unable to fight them off as they removed his clothing and wrestled the robe on.  It was a grossly unfair fact that despite the robe looking delicate and flimsy, it was a material he would not be able to tear off even if he were at his full strength.

The effect was nearly instantaneous and Kuroko had to lean a hand on the wall for support as an undeniable wave of arousal swept through him. Denied even his underwear, his body immediately registered what felt like an all-over but far too soon tease.

He was given no time to adjust, the two servants who had not said a word yet, merely pushed him forward in a silent command to move.

Kuroko had no idea where they went, he moved only partway under his own steam and more by the guidance of the two others with him. All he knew was that every step drew new layers of desire and that his skin was growing increasingly sensitive.

When they arrived at their apparent destination, he was ushered in and dropped into a low chair, more of a stool really, and the two masked guards disappeared without ever having said a word.

Trying to control his breath that was coming out in harsh gasps, Kuroko looked up to evaluate his new surroundings and it took his mind a moment to process the scene in front of him. When he did, the desire clouding his mind faded only because of the cold slice of fear that ran through him.

“Kuroko-kun, was it? I believe it’s time we had a chat.”

 

Chapter Text

Masaomi stared down at Kuroko. He was mystified by what his son could possibly see in this creature – Masaomi had ordered a thorough investigation into the omega’s life and nothing of note came from it. Seeing him in person hardly improved matters.

Noting the boy’s fearful look, Masaomi made an impatient gesture.

“I have no designs on whatever remnants of virtue you claim to still possess and your scent revolts me. You’re an omega in the presence of an alpha, those robes used to be the standard to remind omegas you were ours to deal with as we pleased. It’s a pity they’ve gone out of fashion but in my home, matters are entirely different.”

He'd never met Masaomi before but Kuroko had no trouble recognizing him thanks to the public’s widespread fascination with the wealthy Akashi family.

Kuroko understood the general idea, but the fact Akashi’s father thought it suitable to meet like this didn’t exactly reassure him.  And, not to put too fine a point on it, but he didn’t think people needed to be kidnapped just to reminisce over some horrible archaic practices.

What worried him more was a feeling he now recognized as an amplified heat. Kuroko had no choice but to breathe and each time he did, he inhaled the stimulant from the robe and Masaomi's own scent along with it. Masaomi's alpha pheromones were powerful, but unlike his son, his aura smelled slightly bitter to Kuroko. Seizing on that difference, Kuroko was desperately trying to focus on that to minimize his reactions.

There were challenges to his plan. The robe felt like it was tracing his skin in a constant, delicate caress and he was horrifyingly aware of his body preparing itself for the nearby alpha. The flesh between his legs was hardening even as he could feel the unmistakable sensation of slickness at his rear. It was a mortifying situation and he prayed it was true that Masaomi's chemistry remained incompatible with his. It wasn't an unknown phenomenon, yet Kuroko wasn't willing to rely on his safety by that strength alone.

Although he did not hold out much hope, Kuroko had to try, "Akashi-san, please let me go home. I’m not well."

Masaomi's immediately disdainful look showed his denial.

"I know exactly what you are. And that's why you're here. I am going to give you some options and before you leave, you're going to pick one." It sounded far less peaceful than it should have.

Kuroko nodded his understanding, but he could feel himself start to tremble and it made everything so much worse.

"My son is destined for great things. I made sure of that even before he was born – his mother came from an impeccable lineage. You will not spoil my legacy. Your first choice is to withdraw from the school and tell Seijūrō you don't want to see him again. I will arrange for you to transfer elsewhere.  Your second choice is to go with Nash-san. He believes you two got off on the wrong foot and he seems willing enough to make you his problem. Your third choice would be to refuse to cooperate. In which case you will be expelled anyway, your parents will lose their jobs, and I will toss you into a breeding camp for the rest of your miserable life."

It was not a threat. Masaomi's complete confidence of that outcome made it akin to law.

Fear did strange things to a body. It often distorted reality and magnified senses in a frantic attempt to force an escape. For Kuroko, hearing Masaomi's choices dropped a cold wave of needed clarity. He distanced himself from the painfully persistent arousal he felt and clung to the last vestiges of his willpower.

"Akashi-san," Kuroko paused as he realized there was something odd about the name now, "I am not a threat to you or to Akashi-kun. He feels honor-bound to stay with me for now but there is nothing more to it. We are not paired, we haven't..." He gulped with embarrassment but made himself continue, "We have not entered a physical relationship, there's no possibility of a child. Please, there's no need for anything else."

Masaomi stared at him with all the warmth of a snow topped mountain.

“Kuroko-kun, you seem dangerously close to picking the third option. I suggest you sleep on it just to be sure of your choice. I'm not interested in your excuses or a weak bid to defy me, I intend to ensure you don't cause trouble and you know what is at stake.” Masaomi stood and it was next to a moment later Kuroko was being pulled from his seat and half-dragged, half-walked back to the room he’d been in before.

It was utter hell to have their hands on his arms and their bodies so close to him in this state. They smelled like betas, but it was still alluring enough to keep him on edge. Kuroko was nearly choking from his effort not to beg for them for something – his freedom, more of their touch, to let him touch them – who knew what words would escape his mouth?

When the door closed behind him Kuroko immediately began clawing at the robe to take it off, knowing it would help matters a little.

Tears pricked at his eyelids as his fingers proved unusually clumsy but he was finally able to free himself and he angrily, shakily, packed the garment back into the box to contain the aroma.

Finished with that chore he looked to the cot to get dressed.

His own clothes were gone. A single thin sheet remained.

The implied message was clear – he could wear the robe, use the sheet, or stay naked.

Another snick sound and the panel from before opened, revealing a new box.

Kuroko retrieved it warily, opening it with more trepidation than he'd like to admit.

Blushing furiously, he closed the lid and set it down next to the now-hidden robe. He would not be brought that low.

The same mechanical voice from before broke the silence.

"Akashi-sama will hear your gratitude for his thoughtfulness tomorrow when you make your final choice."

Glaring up at the ceiling despite having no face to put to the voice, Kuroko's reply balanced just on the edge of correct – if you ignored the clear anger of it.

"I know exactly who I owe my current situation to.  I hope to repay this kindness one day."

The voice said nothing else and Kuroko grabbed the sheet from the bed to wrap himself in it.

It felt too abrasive on his skin so soon after the infernal robe, as if teasing feathers were suddenly replaced with sandpaper, and the moan that slipped out could have been anything from pain to relief.

Masaomi had given him what was euphemistically known as a comfort stick. Omegas could use them to relieve the mating urge, or to prepare themselves for an Alpha if the Alpha tended not to bother with the niceties. In the vernacular, the elder Akashi had sent him a dildo that featured a large knot at the base.

Kuroko was grateful in one way. The anger coursing through his system allowed his erection to calm down and he was no longer secreting that horribly revealing liquid. His heat was still buzzing insistently in the background though and Kuroko did not doubt that if he wasn’t so upset right now he’d still be at the point of wanting strangers to touch him and offer the promise of relief.

A hysteria-tinged laugh erupted from him.

He’d received presents from both the father and son in response to his heat. While one would offer his body some release, it was meant shamefully. The other had brought joy but was broken.

What kind of parallel universe had he slipped into? He was not supposed to be on anyone’s radar, let alone people like Nash or the Akashis.

Kuroko wondered what time it was. There was no way to know in the room, no clocks or window to give a hint. His stomach was too tight from stress to let him know if he was hungry and he had no other clues.

Frustrated, he curled up on the cot, cocooned in the sheet and miserably trying to ignore his body.

What was he going to do? He didn’t want to drop out of school or tell Akashi he wouldn’t see him again. He couldn’t refuse entirely, Kuroko didn’t doubt Masaomi would ruin his life and his parents’ lives if it came to it. Kuroko couldn’t pick Nash. He suspected Nash would let him go after a short time, but Kuroko didn’t know what shape he’d be in or if he’d be able to return home.

He was too caught up in his own thoughts to hear the ever-so-slight whisper of the door panel opening, but he had no trouble hearing the voice that spoke next.

“My little kitten is all wrapped up like a gift. How charming.”

He didn’t need to turn over to see Nash to confirm that was who’d entered, but he did so, feeling as if time had slowed down in some gross mockery of his fear.

The voice from above chimed in, emotionless and distant, “Nash-san requested the opportunity to discuss the options with you. Akashi-sama saw fit to indulge him.”

Nash smiled and sniffed the air, closing his eyes as if savoring the scent. When he looked again at Kuroko, it was not kind.

“Now then, it seems you’re still in heat and that Akashi was a good boy and didn’t claim you, just as he promised. But there’s the rub. It looks like his father is less concerned with the niceties. So here we are. Let’s chat a little, shall we?”


 

It was half past two and Akashi had reined in his foul mood enough to acknowledge that Kuroko was right about his tendency to take things over.

That said, he still felt he’d done nothing wrong.

Which didn’t explain why he was in a market picking out items to prepare for dinner. He steadfastly ignored the possibility that Kuroko might actually remove him from the register and instead filled his basket with the focus of a man on a mission.

It was odd to walk back to Kuroko’s apartment this way, carrying the grocery sack as if he regularly had this responsibility. He didn’t dislike the feeling.

It was just a quarter past three when he approached Kuroko’s door, silently vindicated when the door opened without issue.

He took one step inside and recoiled. Akashi smelled Kagami, but there was an acrid overlay – pain, nausea, and a sharp plastic-smell from ties that he quickly saw were keeping the other man restrained. It wasn’t currently necessary as Kagami was unconscious.

Kuroko was not in sight.

Akashi’s phone was in his hand and he was calling Aomine before he even dropped the grocery sack.

He wouldn’t remember exactly what he said to Aomine but the fact Aomine arrived within the half hour lead him to believe he’d communicated it was an emergency.

Ending the call, Akashi searched for scissors and quickly cut through the ties at Kagami’s wrists and ankles. Kagami didn’t stir and Akashi could smell the drug seeping through his skin. Whatever he’d been hit with was no lightweight sedative.

He next called Midorima, summoning aid for Kagami once he awoke.

While he waited for them he sought out the complex’s manager.

She was less than helpful – no disturbances had been reported, there were no security cameras on the property, and she hadn’t noticed anything amiss.

Thanking her anyway, Akashi returned to the apartment and began to think. He’d been gone only a few hours. Kuroko’s scent wasn’t fresh in the apartment anymore, leading him to suspect the abduction had occurred shortly after he left.

Narrowing his eyes, Akashi realized someone must have been keeping tabs on his comings and goings.

He had two potential suspects – Nash and his father. Either could have planted a spy, Kuroko’s apartment complex was hardly in an isolated area.

Aomine arrived just as he started plotting, taking in the apartment curiously. Akashi had deactivated the door for the time being since he was expecting people.

“Not quite your usual style, Akashi.”

Akashi sent a cutting glance. “This is not one of mine. Kuroko-kun lives here. I believe you already met Kagami-kun,” he waved indolently toward Kagami, still prone on the floor.

Aomine chuckled. “Yeah, we met. Pretty cold to just leave him on the floor though.”

Akashi chose not to respond to that, directing the conversation to a new topic.

“I spoke with the manager, she was not helpful. That said, I believe this to be the work of either my father or our potential client, Nash. I am going to my father’s home to investigate, I’d appreciate if you could check Nash’s hotel.”

Aomine nodded. “And just so we’re clear, are you invoking Article 4?”

Akashi’s expression turned cold. Articles 1-3 explained the roles for Alphas, Betas, and Omegas. Article 4, the colloquially termed Mate Defense Act, took into account the extreme possessiveness of mated pairs and their need to defend a mate in trouble, including fatally. Article 5 had been swiftly drawn in response so that Alphas couldn’t just claim Omegas and excuse murdering any competitors through it. Article 6 had then been hastily added in to prevent pregnancy being used to entrap mates for the same reason.

“It does not apply. Kuroko-kun and I are not mated.”

Aomine pressed his lips together.

“Akashi, let me ask that another way. Would you be invoking Article 4 if it did apply?”

Akashi smiled. “Aomine, don’t ask questions you don’t want real answers to. I can reassure you that I sincerely doubt you will have to arrest me for murder.”

Aomine was not reassured. Not in the least.

Still, Midorima arrived then and they could leave to their respective destinations, leaving Kagami to his care.

Akashi’s family home was further away than Nash’s hotel. He was just entering the front door when Aomine’s text came through.

“Not here. Staff said he stepped out earlier but is still checked in. Reviewing surveillance video just in case.”

Akashi nodded, unsurprised. Internally he was fighting with himself, or rather, his other self. An insistent voice in his head argued over and over various versions of: “He’s ours. Let me out. I will get him back for us.

It had been a long time since his other half had bothered to express interest in anything. Even so, Akashi couldn’t let him out. He was colder, more calculating, and far less forgiving when his brother took over, rare though it was. And his less-civilized half was fighting him this time, whereas normally he yielded if Akashi said he could handle it.

Akashi was worried. He had never had this much trouble, or at least not since he was a child.

You promised him you’d protect him. Currently I am more you than you are, let me be us for now.”

No, I can handle this. I will get him back.”

His other self didn’t reply, but Akashi knew the silence held skepticism.

Akashi could never quite decide how the two of them managed to communicate, it didn’t happen often enough to get a grasp on it.

What he understood from their exchange, though, was why the barrier had weakened.

The injection had lowered his alpha aura to control a potential rut, allowing the other alpha within him to rise. His nature would not accept the perceived weakness and was compensating by drawing on a resource close to hand – himself, in fact.

As he moved through the manor, he noticed it was eerily calm. He saw an occasional servant but not as many as there should be.

It took him only moments to find his father, who sat in his study busy with some document or another. Light filtered in softly from the afternoon sun and a view of the garden waited from the window.

“Seijūrō, this is a surprise. I expected you to be otherwise occupied. What can I do for you?”

Akashi stared at his father silently for a moment. Masaomi’s face gave nothing away, his voice was as it always was. So why did he know that Kuroko was there upon seeing his father?

“I came to make sure we were on the same page about certain things. To that end, I’d like to ask you to clarify something.”

His father waited politely, as if he expected Seijūrō to nitpick a line item from their budget or protest a manager’s promotion.

“Did you hate omegas even before grandfather tried to marry one or did it only start once you saw a threat to your mother’s memory?”

Whatever Masaomi had expected from his son’s mouth, it certainly wasn’t that.

Masaomi’s mother, like Seijūrō’s, had been a non-presenting woman, chosen for status rather than affection. She’d died young, when her son was around eight, and Masaomi’s father had tried to marry for love the second time around. Unable to, he’d never formed another romantic attachment.

“I don’t know where this is coming from Seijūrō. You know our family has worked hard to promote conditions for everyone.”

It was nearly innocent. Nearly believable.

But Seijūrō saw a tiny flicker of acknowledgment. So that was it.

He turned and left the room, ignoring his father’s impatient command for him to wait.

He knew this manor like the back of his hand. It was large, but once he got close to Kuroko, he would know. Besides, as his father was hardly likely to have stashed Kuroko in a guest room, he would first search the less trafficked parts of the building.

A servant waited in the hall ahead, head bowed and hands folded at his waist.

Akashi stopped, understanding this to be unusual.

Without looking up, the man murmured, “You might find what you seek in the containment hall.”

Akashi felt that like a slap in the face. The containment hall was the polite name for the part of their home that had historically served to imprison disobedient omegas. It was an embarrassment for homes to have such areas now – and their family had publicly declared it closed off and to be repurposed for other needs. It would seem that wasn’t quite the case.

His pace quickened before he knew it, heading to an area he’d avoided most of his life.

As he got closer, he knew instinctively the servant had told him correctly. Only one of the doors had a lock engaged and his eyes narrowed to see it.

The panel recognized him as having access and obediently opened as he approached.

He saw skin, far too much.

He smelled fear, arousal, sweat, blood, anger – he smelled threats and malice and the potent, lingering traces of a stimulant he recognized from his youth before his father put it away and dismissed his question about it. They were all pieces, fragments of evidence for how poorly he’d protected Kuroko. His vision blurred for a moment and in just that brief blip his other self had taken over.

You failed.”  Blunt, accusing, and worst of all – true. Akashi could not protest and felt his consciousness recede into something like a distant echo.

Kuroko was shaking – from adrenaline, fear, even relief -  and carefully picked up the sheet to wrap around himself again even though it had splashes of red on it now.

“I knew you’d find me.” He faltered as he looked up at Akashi.. “…Akashi-kun? Is…that you?”

“What a strange question. Did they hit your head, Tetsuya? Of course it’s me. We’re leaving now. I’ll have Daiki attend to this mess and Shintaro will examine you.” He paused and looked at Nash’s prone, dazed form with a heavily bleeding gash on his face. “Impressively done. I’m looking forward to hearing your story when you’re ready.”

Kuroko didn’t understand what was happening. His stress levels were unimaginably high and everything felt like it was going at twice the usual speed.

He didn’t entirely recognize the person in front of him. It was Akashi, but also wasn’t.

Akashi did not call him by his first name. This man did.

Akashi’s aura should not feel like this right now. This aura was that of a full-fledged alpha.

Akashi’s eyes were both red. This man’s eyes were mismatched, with one red and one yellow.

Who was this person? Could he trust them?

The maybe-Akashi figure turned, seeing Kuroko still standing motionless in the cell.

“Of course. You’re in shock.” He went back and without asking, without warning, he’d scooped Kuroko, wrapped in his blanket, up into his arms.

Kuroko flinched, it was too sudden and too drastic given the events of the day.

Akashi looked down at him, his expression reserved. “You surely don’t want to stay here, do you?”

Kuroko shook his head, and found himself burrowing against Akashi’s chest, unable to meet those stranger’s eyes and just wanting to go home.

Akashi’s smile was more of a smirk but the triumphant edge was unmistakable.

His father was waiting at the top of the stairs and his look of disgust needed no interpretation.

“Seijūrō! What have you done? Is that Nash-san’s blood? Is he alive? You’ve ruined everything!”

Akashi paused his steps and even his father recognized a difference in him as Masaomi stopped his tirade immediately.

“The only reason Nash is alive is that Tetsuya stopped him before I arrived. You owe Nash’s continued existence to Tetsuya, not me. And I would not worry about my having ruined anything just yet. Your ruination is only just starting.”

Masaomi frowned and sent a vicious look at Kuroko huddled in Seijūrō’s arms.

Seijūrō saw it and offered the only warning he would give. “You are the one that brought us to this point. Don’t try to place the blame where it isn’t warranted. Now that we are here, I will say only this. Tetsuya is mine and I will not tolerate any further interference.”

He kept walking, ignoring the protests his father hurled on the way.

Kuroko hadn't uttered a word, too frozen by the tension and disconcerting events to say anything.

He remained silent as Akashi bundled him into the car and he stared vacantly out of the window, not noticing as the scenery changed.

It wasn’t until the car stopped, smoothly and precisely, in front of an elegant building that most certainly was not Kuroko’s apartment building that he shook himself back into the present.

He found himself grabbing hold of Akashi almost by accident as he was picked up again, using one hand to keep the sheet in place.

“Akashi-kun? Where are we? I want to go home.” He allowed himself the plaintive note, it had been an extremely upsetting day.

Akashi flickered an inscrutable look his way. “Your apartment is currently a crime scene. You can’t stay there for a while. This is my home. You’ll stay here.”

 

Chapter Text

Akashi had carried him from the car, not even breaking a sweat. Kuroko had known, in an abstract way, that alphas were naturally stronger but it had not been made so apparently clear as when Akashi simply scooped him up and kept going.

Past the lobby where the impeccably-trained staff did not even bat an eyelash to see Akashi carrying someone wrapped in a blanket through the elegant space that looked like you needed a pedigree just to breathe the air.

To the elevator where each soft chime announcing a new floor seemed to beat into Kuroko’s brain and he couldn’t help the deep breaths he took to inhale Akashi’s scent.

Until they arrived at the penthouse suite. Naturally.

Akashi had set Kuroko down on a low bench near the entry as he removed his shoes. Then Akashi had lightly touched Kuroko’s face, tilting it to one side and then the other, staring at him with those unfamiliar eyes as he seemed to evaluate something.

Still silent, Akashi had straightened and offered Kuroko a hand, which Kuroko took more out of reaction than intent and allowed himself to be pulled up.

Akashi guided him to a room with a couch, tv, and several display cases featuring artefacts from around the world. It didn’t have a very lived-in feel.

Moments later, Kuroko was cuddled against Akashi as he sat at one end of the couch and drew Kuroko against his chest.

Speaking over Kuroko’s head, as if to the room at large, Akashi’s voice sounded different, too.

“Shintaro and Daiki will both need to see you. I can smell you are injured and upset so my preference would be for Shintaro to treat you first. However, I know they need to see you together to best document the process and allow you the most options. They’ll be here soon. I didn’t want them showing up to be a surprise.”

Kuroko nodded, more times than he needed to really, and felt a tremor go through him. He didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t want anyone else to look at him, touch him, or be around him. He was barely handling it with Akashi.

A wave of nausea hit him and he scrambled to get away. Akashi released him, sensing Kuroko’s unease.

Kuroko’s question came out thin and reedy, “Bathroom?”

“Down the hall, third door on the left.”

Kuroko took off, only just managing to keep the sheet around him as he hurried to win the race against his stomach.

Akashi followed at a slower pace, stopping first to get a glass of water for Tetsuya. He thought for a moment and called Daiki to ask him something.

“Is it alright for Tetsuya to bathe?”

Aomine noted the use of Kuroko's first name. He tried to be diplomatic, realizing the other Akashi had returned and was not always as understanding.

“Was he…ah…do we need to collect semen samples?”

“No.” Akashi’s single word reply was cold and the warning to tread carefully was completely transparent.

“Then ah…yeah, no problem. But don’t wash his clothes, we may need them as evidence.”

“His clothes are somewhere at the manor. Your colleagues should be able to find them. Along with his ID bracelet, my father took it from him.”

Aomine whistled, short and low. There were many possible reasons why someone would remove an omega’s ID bracelet, but most of them ultimately meant the same thing: you didn’t want the omega to be recognized. It wasn’t a good sign.

“Okay. I’ll work on finishing up here, we’ve already arrested your father and Nash, for all the good it'll do. Their lawyers will probably be at the station before they are. I’ll be there soon to get Kuroko’s statement and collect Midorima on the way.”

Disconnecting, Akashi collected the water and proceeded down the hall.

He could hear Tetsuya retching from outside the door and wasn’t surprised when Tetsuya did not answer his brief knock.

Entering anyway, he saw Tetsuya had discarded the sheet and was kneeling wretchedly next to the toilet.

Akashi had a chance to see more of the damage Tetsuya had taken. He was grateful it wasn’t worse, but Akashi mentally promised revenge on Tetsuya’s behalf anyway.

Tetsuya’s wrists were showing red, purple, and blue splotches and he looked almost fragile with his shock-driven expression and glassy eyes. His skin was delicately pale and the bruises, scrapes, and small cuts showed up with nearly-obscene vividness.

Tetsuya was too miserable to really process he was naked in front of Akashi. He just knew there was nothing left in his stomach and each new wave was bringing up only bile until finally, mercifully, he could stop.

The water in the glass Akashi handed him was cool and he could almost feel his body rejuvenating as he sipped, going slowly just in case. Wrinkling his nose he realized he needed to rinse and took a small sip to swirl around his mouth and spit into the toilet. If he’d had more composure, he might even have been embarrassed about it, but Kuroko wasn’t processing things normally right then.

Without a word Akashi turned and adjusted temperature dials and began running the shower.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think you have time for a full soaking bath, but you might feel better after a shower anyway.” He turned back to look at Tetsuya, who didn’t seem to have heard him.

“Tetsuya?”

Kuroko heard his name, he did, but it seemed to belong to someone else and was of no concern to him so he didn’t answer.

Lips quirking briefly, Akashi realized there was really only one solution. He didn’t want Tetsuya to smell like Nash anymore, Tetsuya’s body temperature needed to rise, and a shower would address both.

He stripped off his shirt but left on his pants, and went to take the glass from Tetsuya’s listless grip, setting it on the small counter. It was the work of a moment to get Tetsuya into the shower stall, closing the door behind them.

Kuroko closed his eyes automatically when water ran down his face but opened them again as he realized why he was wet. And his eyes finally conveyed the information to his brain that Akashi was right in front of him. He didn’t know how he felt about that. But it wasn’t bothersome enough to complain about so he simply stood there.

The water ran down both of their bodies, and it was gradually weighing down Akashi’s trousers, causing them to flatten and form to his skin as if they were merely another layer of it. He ignored the sensation.

Akashi reached and took hold of his shampoo, dispensing some into his hand before applying it to Kuroko’s hair, working it into a lather with gentle but efficient movements.

Despite his care, Kuroko still gave a pained moan when Akashi’s fingers reached where he’d hit his head.

Akashi paused, continuing gingerly and noted the lump that formed.

Rinsing didn’t go perfectly for the same reason, but they managed.

Kuroko’s eyes closed again briefly, concentrating on the moment and it brought to him the humidity of the shower and the air laden with Akashi’s scent, with his own, and the crackling-awareness along his skin that he’d been in real danger today.

It took only a step to walk forward to Akashi and Kuroko honestly didn’t know what to expect, but Akashi received him, drawing him close and letting Kuroko stay there.

They both pretended not to notice Kuroko’s tears and the way his body trembled.

It took several minutes before Kuroko could calm down and when he did, it felt like he’d been run over with a truck. He was exhausted and felt bruised in every way imaginable. But he could breathe again.

Sensing Tetsuya was a little better, Akashi retrieved a small washing towel and began applying his body wash in smooth, careful passes over Tetsuya.

Akashi’s intentions had been pure, they honestly had. It’s why he’d left on his pants after all. But Akashi did not fail to notice when Tetsuya started to get hard. Whether it was stress, his heat, lingering effects from his experience that day, or any combination thereof, Kuroko’s flesh responded as Akashi touched him and it was impossible to miss.

Kuroko blushed and started to apologize but Akashi cut him off before he’d gotten further than “sorry.”

“You haven’t done anything wrong. But I will leave now, though god knows I don’t want to. Take your time.” He allowed himself a chaste kiss on Tetsuya’s forehead before he moved away.

Kuroko understood why Akashi was leaving. Even this not-quite-the-same Akashi was still honorable, though he exuded a less civilized air. Kuroko’s omega nature had noticed it and wasn’t put off in the least. “…though god knows I don’t want to…” Akashi wanted to stay with him… that phrase kept echoing in Kuroko’s brain and he didn’t know what to do with it.

Still, he felt more panicked after Akashi left than he had with Akashi knowing he was getting turned on. He didn’t want to touch himself. He just wanted it to go away. So instead he adjusted the water to a cooler setting and focused on the upcoming interview he’d have to endure. His body calmed down quite quickly and soon enough he finished washing and turned off the water.

Akashi had left him a set of pyjamas. And a toothbrush. The sheet was gone.

The toothbrush was new. The pyjamas were not.

When Kuroko dried himself and put them on, they smelled freshly laundered but as with most clothing, still had their owner’s underlying smell embedded into the fabric.

They were ever-so-slightly too large for him and it was like being wrapped in a cozy blanket full of Akashi’s scent. The generous cut meant the fabric didn’t constantly abrade his skin and he was grateful for it. Kuroko felt better prepared to leave the bathroom after brushing his teeth and usurping a comb he found in a drawer.

With a bracing sigh, he left and retraced his steps.

Akashi was in the room from before, still alone, seated on the couch. He'd changed clothes himself and simply waited to see what Kuroko would do.

Feeling unsure of the situation, Kuroko went to sit on the couch too, but he left some space between them. He couldn’t quite look at Akashi when he spoke, but he had to say something.

“Thank you, Akashi-kun. For all of your help. I don’t know how I can repay you.”

Akashi was silent long enough that Kuroko had to look at him.

As if that was what he’d waited for, Akashi replied.

“I’m not sure that is the appropriate sentiment. Though accidental, most of the things you feel indebted for were done because of circumstances I put you in, yes?”

Akashi’s comment was cool, even distant, and it made Kuroko feel worse.

He was still trying to think of a way to answer when Akashi’s phone politely indicated his attention was requested.

Akashi glanced at it and typed in a code of some kind. Footsteps and slight bickering could be heard approaching and Kuroko couldn’t stop his automatic tension.

“It’s only Shintaro and Daiki. No need for alarm.”

Nodding, Kuroko just managed to relax as the two men entered.

His brain immediately went on high alert. Three alphas were now in the room with him.

His fight or flight reflex engaged and he was preparing to launch out of his seat when Akashi reached over and placed a hand on his arm in a silent bid to stay.

His memory offered him something to cling to in the vaguest way. Midorima worked with omegas all the time, he regularly took the nullification injection so he could treat them without issue.

Aomine was a police officer. He wouldn’t take the injection necessarily, but he’d probably taken a dose of the scent-inhibitor spray that was common in many kits issues to public servants since they encountered all classes of people.

Certainly, neither man looked like they were about to pounce on him, but it was a small reassurance.  He found his trust reservoir was running a little low.

Then again....he glanced cautiously at Akashi. Kuroko knew Akashi wouldn't tolerate anything happening to him there. Sighing quietly, he tried to relax.

What followed was one of the most awkward hours of his life as he was poked and prodded, asked questions, and generally put on the spot by both Midorima and Aomine. It was embarrassing and he hated it. The only reason he didn’t snap was due to his desire to not repeat any of this later. He bore it as best he could.

Still, Kuroko could feel himself wearing down and it was getting more difficult to focus on them.

Akashi called a halt to the interview when he saw Kuroko sway and shake a little.

Aomine started to protest, saying he needed to go over the details again.

The calm look Akashi sent him clearly denied the request before it could be completed.

Aomine shut up. He remembered this version of Akashi from when they were children.

“Getting awfully protective, Akashi. Should we be expecting a pairing announcement soon?” Aomine meant it teasingly and was already standing to leave.

Akashi’s reply was implacable. “Yes, early next week should do it.”

The silence was immediate, overwhelming, and heavy.

Midorima pushed his glasses up, he’d noticed Kuroko’s shocked expression. This was news to him as well, apparently.

“Felicitations. It seems we should be on our way even more then. Call me if there’s anything medically relevant.”

“Wait, are you serious Akashi?” Aomine was astonished. He had nothing against Kuroko, but he’d always imagined Akashi would at least use a matchmaker.

Feeling no need to comment on that, Akashi murmured only, “Thank you both for coming but Tetsuya is tired now. We will continue this conversation another time.”

The subtext was clear and both visitors picked up on it – leave, now. They complied, leaving Akashi and Kuroko alone again.

It took a moment before Kuroko could speak. When he did, he was sure he would be let in on some inside plan Akashi had concocted to tease his friends.

“…Akashi-kun? Why would you say that? It’s not a funny joke.”

Akashi didn’t look like he was joking.

“It wasn’t meant as one. I would have waited until tomorrow to mention it but tonight works just as well. You mentioned you didn’t know how to repay me earlier. If you must think of it in those terms, then you can agree to marry me.”

 

Chapter Text


 

After Akashi had made his outrageous proposal, he’d shrugged with an indolent grace that conveyed his assurance of the outcome.

"I think your heat will end tomorrow. We can't file the paperwork until then.  The announcement will hit public records shortly afterwards and we can have the ceremony once you’ve had some time to rest. Although I suppose you should take your exams first. I intend to monopolize your attention for the honeymoon.”

It was a bold announcement and Kuroko knew his face turned red.

He tried to ignore Akashi’s implications and kept his protest simple. “Akashi-kun…we can’t get married.”

Akashi had smiled, slow and with a degree of cunning that sharpened his expression.

“I don’t see why. In the end, it’s only a few signatures in the right places. Nothing so terribly insurmountable there. Everything else is just decoration and we will have staff to handle it for us.”

Kuroko blinked. Was Akashi being deliberately obtuse? Or was his life one that so rarely presented him with challenges he genuinely couldn’t see the problem? Or was this some unfathomable prank after all, a hint of perversity he’d been unaware of? Kuroko wasn’t sure, but there was something amiss here.

“Akashi-kun, that may be true but there are other things to consider. Neither Midorima-san or Aomine-san mentioned it but they seemed to recognize you had changed, too. Is this unexpected intent to marry some sort of side effect?”

Akashi tilted his head as if thinking. When he answered, it wasn’t what Kuroko had anticipated.

“Not changed; switched is perhaps a better way to put it. I am and always have been Akashi Seijūrō; it’s simply that there are two of me. He met you first, but I was aware. The we or I of it does not matter, it is a common goal between us.”

Kuroko hadn’t expected Akashi to admit he’d changed. That he was so casual about it gave Kuroko pause; was this a common occurrence? What did it mean for the way Akashi interacted with him? As Kuroko stood there trying to think of a response, Akashi’s eyes had taken on a deeper gleam as if anticipating his next words before Kuroko could even say them.

Although the embarrassment he felt nearly prevented it, Kuroko offered another objection.

“Akashi-kun, you are being unexpectedly old-fashioned. Just because people…ah...are attracted to each other it doesn’t mean they must get married. You can’t marry someone like me. Even Aomine-san recognized the mismatch between us.”

Akashi lowered his eyelids for a moment before he pulled Kuroko closer, his hold gentle in deference to Kuroko’s bruises but the power in his body was undeniable. He stared directly into Kuroko’s eyes, steady and with all the confidence bred into his bones as both an alpha and an Akashi.

“Old-fashioned? Perhaps. Even so, it doesn’t change anything. My father has lost any right to select a spouse for me. I want you. Daiki was merely surprised, but it’s of no consequence. Your refusal is the only thing to prevent it. Am I such a bad catch, then?”

It was difficult to determine the emotion in Akashi’s voice. His tone was pleasant but there was something smoldering underneath that set Kuroko’s senses on alert. There was danger here.

Kuroko shook his head, determined to make his point despite the new tension.

“You know perfectly well that you aren’t. Even so, we barely know each other. We can’t just rush into something like marriage simply because the past few days threw us together.” Kuroko heard the tremor in his voice and tried to work past it. “Please understand…I don’t want you to hate me later when you realize what this is. You just feel responsible for what happened and trying to make amends. But –”

Akashi cut him off with a finger placed over Kuroko’s lips to silence him. When Akashi spoke again it was in a whisper that would have been tender if it hadn’t been so fierce. Akashi’s eyes seemed almost glowing and his aura radiated the intensity of his resolve.

“No. That’s not it at all. Neither responsibility nor remorse explains my desire to take you to bed and ensure you can’t remember your own name by the time I let you back out. The only reason I’m not doing that is because I know you well enough to understand you would blame it on your heat and try to push me away. Which, incidentally, would be unpleasant for both of us.” He closed his eyes briefly and carefully inhaled the all-too-tempting scent Tetsuya emanated.

Hearing Tetsuya’s heartrate increase, Akashi felt a fierce wave of triumph and continued. “So, instead we’re waiting for that issue to disappear and for you come to me fully understanding what it means. The first time I have you, you’re going to be excruciatingly aware of how I make you feel, not your heat.”

Lifting his finger and bending closer, Akashi continued speaking close to Kuroko’s ear, the weight of his words and heat of his body infusing Kuroko as if all his blood had been replaced with Akashi’s intent.

“I need you to understand something Tetsuya, so please pay close attention: as far as I’m concerned, you’re already mine. If that’s truly not something you want, tell me now. I am not like my father or Nash, I will not keep you here against your will. But I am not letting you go only out of some misbegotten idea you have that I don’t want you.”

Kuroko was stunned and he didn’t even know how to begin to process his response. He didn’t have long to worry over it because Akashi chose to kiss him then.

It was everything he’d feared – overwhelming, intense, electric – and nothing he’d expected –drugging, hungry, and curious. It was their first kiss and Akashi was exploring even as he was claiming. Kuroko felt his body tighten with awareness. The dual nature of his heat and his attachment to Akashi urging him to melt against the alpha in a way that was totally opposite his reaction to Nash.

It changed; Akashi moving to wind his fingers through Kuroko’s hair, holding him steady and deepening the pressure. Kuroko’s mouth had obeyed the implicit order and parted, and there was too much to focus on in the spiral of heat and desire that Akashi fed him.

They could have stayed that way for minutes or hours, it was nearly impossible to understand how time seemed to have collapsed. When Akashi released him, Kuroko’s only consolation was that they were both breathing hard.

“We will revisit this discussion tomorrow.” Tomorrow, when presumably everyone would be in their right mind. When they would have the sensible rays of the sun to guide them instead of this moonstruck madness. Akashi looked at him with such intensity that Kuroko was nearly surprised the clock didn’t comply with Akashi’s silent wish for time to advance more quickly.

Kuroko had too much he wanted to say and none of the words he needed to express it. Frustrated with his own inadequacy, Kuroko settled for a quiet, “Good night, Akashi-kun.”

Understanding that it would be unwise to press Kuroko further, Akashi returned the sentiment.

“My room is at the end of the hall if you need anything. A guest room is ready for you, it’s the second door on the right.”

Kuroko nodded and left ahead of Akashi, needing to be alone more than he could bear. He pulled the blankets over his head to make a cocoon for himself, aware he was letting his instincts take over and not caring enough to stop it. He did not have to wait long for sleep to claim him, it had been an exhausting day. 

It was sometime later that Kuroko knew he was dreaming but he was unable to pull himself out of it and he watched the events of that day unfold with a helpless tension even in his sleep.

Nash had entered his cell with the swaggering confidence of someone holding all the cards.

Kuroko had been on edge already, having Nash’s overpowering scent in the close quarters hadn’t helped.

Although Nash stayed near the door at first, the laughter in his eyes wasn’t kind.

Nash was happy to explain how things had turned out like this. Akashi’s father had arranged with Nash to abduct Kuroko. It was easy enough to keep tabs on the chauffeur and Kuroko’s apartment; and what was it to either of them to pay for a paramilitary group’s services to grab him from a low security building? Nash wanted to take Kuroko out of the country and feature him in a new line of adult videos his company was producing. Nash explained he was perfect for the role and that Kuroko would come to love it.

Kuroko didn’t know if Nash assumed he was stupid or if Nash really had that low of an opinion of omegas in general.

Either way Kuroko had wanted no part of it.

“I refuse.”

Nash had shrugged, not seeming to be especially upset.

"I'm sure I can change your mind." He laughed a little. "Although I think the choice is obvious. It's me or a breeding camp in the end. You'll at least get paid for your work with me and you'll end up loving it, all the omegas do."

Kuroko had gripped the edge of the sheet tightly in denial. Neither choice was viable.

"I could transfer schools." Even as he said it, Kuroko realized the absurdity of his protest.

Nash had shaken his head with mock pity at Kuroko's naivety.

"You don't really think Masaomi will let you stay free, do you? He knows his son would track you down if that was your excuse. He gave you three options, but honestly, there are only two. It really just depends whether you take your parents down with you or not."

Kuroko felt his breath come up short and a sharp wave of panic and denial washed over him, he felt helpless and lost and it was terrifying.

"Mmm, that's a nice expression, kitten. I hope you can recreate that for the camera, it'll be a big hit with our customers."

Kuroko's skin was crawling – the stimulation from the Alpha's pheromones mixed with his fear – and he wanted out, now. He lost himself for a moment, hurtling toward the door and pounding his fists against the wall trying to get it to open.

Nash's chuckle was low and pleased as he caught Kuroko up in a tangling whirl of Kuroko's flailing limbs and frantic scratches. Kuroko had lost the sheet in his fruitless bid for freedom and Nash easily contained his movements before returning him to the bed and dumping him down on it.

Before Kuroko could move, Nash had caged him against the mattress with his body and was smiling as if his birthday had come early.

"That one, too. You'll be fun for our Alphas to tame, but I think I should get first crack at it."

He grabbed Kuroko's hair and roughly pulled his head to the side. When Nash dipped his head and licked along Kuroko's neck, inhaling his scent as he went, it was made even worse by Kuroko's involuntary whimper.

Kuroko had never imagined himself in such a situation – naked, in heat, with an alpha that didn't care about him, and no sense of how to escape.

Nash was sliding his thigh between Kuroko’s legs, pressing against the sensitive skin there with a deliberateness that had nothing to do with Kuroko’s pleasure and everything with his own amusement.

Kuroko's shame at his reaction hit him hard, the way his body wanted to welcome this person despite Nash’s cruelty. This was a fear nearly universal to omegas. They had such little control over their responses to alphas when in heat and it was criminally easy to take advantage.

Kuroko closed his eyes as Nash used a faint pressure with his teeth along Kuroko's neck. The warning was clear. The law might theoretically protect Kuroko from this, but Nash wasn't worried about retribution and he would claim Kuroko if he felt like it.

It was that thought that shook him back to himself. Although it made his stomach roll, Kuroko pretended to relax as Nash moved to kiss him. Nash's mouth was insistent, sure of Kuroko's surrender, and despite his fear, it made an aching pang of need go through Kuroko when he tasted Nash directly.

The moan he offered was not feigned, and it helped distract Nash for a moment. Kuroko squirmed, trying to get leverage, and Nash mistook the movement for having other motives.

Releasing Kuroko's mouth, Nash smirked down at him.

"Well then, that's more like it."   

Nash's grip on him eased and he seemed sure of Kuroko's cooperation now. It was difficult for Kuroko to process the shift in Nash’s temper since Nash's touches could not be termed gentle. They simply backed off the edge of immediate violence as if Nash were interested in toying with him first.

Kuroko kept his eyes closed as Nash started exploring his body, concentrating on remembering the fact he did not want this person to touch or claim him. He knew his window to maintain his reason was small and he held onto it with all he could.

His chance arrived when Nash slid back to hover over his abdomen, he wasn’t as stable this way. Kuroko raised a leg to brace against Nash and slid his fingers into Nash's hair to prepare for his move. He used as much strength as he could to push Nash – not down, but over, turning his own body weight into the roll so that he pushed Nash off the cot and onto the floor.

It wasn't much of a head start, but it let him get to a standing position and start to assess options.

Not enough time to act on any of them though.

Nash rose in a fury and the strength of his grip as he caught Kuroko’s shoulder and flung him to the wall would leave a deep, angry bruise. The roughness of the wall caught his naked skin in hundreds of small scrapes, none of them too painful on their own but together feeling like one giant welt and the promise of aching bruises yet to form.

Kuroko felt the wind rush out of him as he went flying and he banged his head against something, it was a sharp, throbbing pain that made his vision blur for a moment.

He didn’t have time to do much more than gasp before Nash approached again and the anger on Nash’s face promised Kuroko was in dire straits indeed.

“Oh, kitten. It is a thousand years too early for you to try to show your claws to someone like me. But if you want to play rough, I won’t deny you. I have a very special line of videos you’ll be starring in for that move.”

Kuroko didn’t need more details to know Nash was planning awful things for him, that had always been the outcome no matter what.

He scrambled, trying to reposition and caught a glimpse of something. Hope bloomed, though he knew it was sketchy at best.

As Nash knelt back down, his expression coldly furious, Kuroko managed to grab the small bundle he’d stashed under the cot. Although he was going mainly on instinct, his brain was screaming at him to hurry, hurry, hurry!

The sharpness of the broken glass from Akashi-kun’s gift cut into his palm as he held onto it and he lunged up, aiming for Nash’s face and he slashed through the soft skin of Nash’s cheek with a force born of fear more than intent.

This time when he got up, Nash was angry and in pain, but he wasn’t paying attention to his position. In a blind grab to strike Kuroko, he stumbled over the discarded sheet and Kuroko felt no remorse whatsoever as he rushed forward to give Nash a sharp push.

Nash wasn’t able to catch himself and he landed, dazed after striking his own head against the wall.

Kuroko was breathing fast and furiously, eyes wild as he realized he was still cornered. What could he do next? A hysterical laugh threatened to burst from him as he imagined trying to clobber Nash with the comfort stick. Was he really going to be trapped in the end?

The door opening wrought dual emotions of fear and relief, settling on the latter when he recognized Akashi-kun.

Kuroko woke and sat up with that memory – the utter sense of rightness at seeing Akashi there. Akashi had promised he would protect Kuroko and Akashi had come to get him. It helped settle Kuroko’s jagged breathing as he looked around with frantic eyes, not immediately recognizing where he was.

Oh. Right.

Akashi had brought him here. This was Akashi’s home.

Still, he realized he was shaking. Akashi-kun's home was not as safe as he'd thought it might be, either. Kisses and marriage proposals shouldn’t be threatening, but that knowledge of what he could have was even more devastating for knowing it wasn't really his to keep.

Akashi was one of the elite and divorce would still be nearly impossible even for him. And what of the other Akashi? Would he come back and be furious that Kuroko had trapped him? And suddenly there was a pressure behind his eyes and he closed them tightly to stymy the threat of tears.

He was tired of crying.

Tomorrow, he would return home. Surely the police were done processing his apartment. If not, he could stay with Kagami-kun. He suspected Akashi was right about his heat ending, it would be safe to go home and begin rebuilding the normalcy of his life without Akashi in it. Because when his heat was over and everything settled, Akashi would realize he'd become estranged from his father because of Kuroko. There would be bad press and unwanted attention from the media. Akashi would not have his normal life either. And Kuroko couldn't hold Akashi to a promise he'd made in these circumstances - it wasn't fair to either of them.

Tomorrow.

He both yearned for and dreaded it.

For now, he would allow himself to cling to the faded scent Akashi had left on his skin.

Tomorrow this madness would end.

Ah, it seemed he was crying anyway.

One more time would be alright, surely.

 

Chapter Text


 

“No.”

“Akashi-kun, please.”

“No.”

“You are being unreasonable. You said I could leave if I wanted to.”

“I said you could leave if you didn’t want to be my mate. That is not the reason you are giving.”

Kuroko closed his eyes briefly, praying for patience. The only reason he wasn’t ignoring Akashi altogether and calling Kagami to come get him was that he didn’t want to cause additional trouble. It would be best if Akashi agreed to the plan and let him leave.

He’d managed to go back to sleep last night but it had not been restful. Kuroko had woken out of sorts and his patience for dealing with Akashi’s slyness was limited.

“As I said before, I do not think that is a decision we should make right now. I just want to go home so I have time to think and process everything. You should want the same.”

Akashi’s gaze sharpened as a shrewd gleam appeared. It did not bode well for Kuroko’s chances.

“I am not opposed to giving you time here. That's not the issue. You want distance from me.”

Kuroko didn’t like it stated quite that bluntly but he nodded.

Akashi's expression turned impassive and Kuroko couldn’t tell how that had been received.

Kuroko exhaled softly and tried again. “Akashi-kun, a week ago we only knew each other to nod to. A lot has happened, we have no need to rush things any further. Surely you can see we need to get to know each better.”

Akashi was thinking there were plenty of reasons to rush. He had no legal claim to Tetsuya without the paperwork in place. He wanted all of it – the paperwork, the ceremonies, the mating bite, he was even impatient to update Tetsuya’s ID bracelet. All of it would display what he already knew – Tetsuya belonged to him.

“And how will we get to know each other better if you insist on leaving?”

“I didn’t say we wouldn’t see each other again. However, if nothing else, I need to prepare for my exams.”

Akashi tilted his head as he appraised Tetsuya. He knew university was important to Tetsuya, he would not be forgiven if he took that possibility away after just restoring it.

His eyes closed briefly as he thought. As proud as Akashi was of Tetsuya’s independence, that same characteristic meant he couldn’t keep Tetsuya all to himself. Still, Tetsuya hadn’t rejected him altogether. Anything else could be worked around.

“Would you consider a compromise?” Akashi offered it mildly but the calculation in his eyes didn’t leave it innocent.

Kuroko felt himself stiffen in surprised suspicion.

“What kind of compromise?”

Akashi shrugged and leaned back against the counter.

“Your family’s apartment is still a crime scene.  And even if it wasn’t, it is not as secure as I would like.  Daiki wasn’t wrong, the family lawyer will have met my father at the station and he is likely to be released pending the trial. Would you consider staying here, or another property I know is safe, if I stay elsewhere for the time being?”

Kuroko didn’t answer immediately. He was turning over the possible pitfalls of this plan in his head. It seemed acceptable.

“Thank you, Akashi-kun.” He offered a hesitant smile. “If it would not be too much trouble, I would like to stay somewhere else please.” He didn’t add that he felt uneasy there. Not for his physical safety, but because he kept reliving last night’s events in his mind and he didn’t want to keep doing that right now.

Akashi nodded. “I’ll call the estate agent and have a list sent over. You can pick something from it.”

Kuroko felt calmer. He would have a break soon. He nodded. “Thank you.”

Akashi viewed it as a partial victory. Tetsuya would be in a safe location. It wasn’t the same as keeping him in direct sight, but Akashi knew he had to tread carefully. His other self had been less cautious and look where that had almost landed them.

“I’ll call her momentarily. In the meantime, are you hungry?”

Kuroko’s stomach rolled at the idea of eating yet but he gave a nod anyway.

Akashi’s expression was amused. “Tetsuya, you’re a terrible liar. It’s fine. Will you sit with me instead? Perhaps house hunting will spark your appetite later.”

Kuroko couldn’t have explained the eased pressure in his shoulders, but he noticed it immediately.

Akashi did, too. He nodded, slow and pleased. He could gain Tetsuya’s trust. And then naturally, he’d have Tetsuya.

He excused himself to step into his study. His phone call was not overly long but the estate agent more than understood her instructions. She promised to take care of it immediately.

Akashi’s family owned any number of properties from commercial to residential to empty lots that they were waiting to develop. He didn’t want any of those. He’d instructed her to pick from the portfolio that was only in his name – properties his father didn’t know of, or at the very least, had no right to.

He’d further prompted her to pick some properties on the market that would be open to a quick sale. Very quick in fact. Akashi had a sneaking suspicion that Tetsuya wasn’t quite comfortable with the lifestyle represented in this penthouse. If keeping Tetsuya happy meant investing in something more modest, he was fine with it.

The listing book was delivered just over an hour later, and Akashi received it from the courier with anticipation. Although the reason was to put space between them, it was still picking out a home together. His Alpha nature was nearly purring with satisfaction at the idea of getting to tuck Tetsuya away in a private little nest. Tetsuya wouldn’t insist on distance forever, he was sure of it. And when Tetsuya had finished his exams, they would have much to celebrate.

“Tetsuya? Shall we begin?”

Kuroko knew of course, on an intellectual level, that Akashi was wealthy. He saw evidence of it all around him and the fact Akashi had called for a listing book in the first place hinted there would be many options. Seeing it however, made him realize on a much more concrete level how different Akashi’s life was from his own.

He was almost afraid to hold the book, turning page after page with a nearly incredulous awe at the options.

Akashi could tell Tetsuya’s enthusiasm for the project dimmed but he did not understand why.

“Is there something wrong?”

Kuroko shook his head, unable to put his unease into words. He was more convinced than ever though that they needed time apart. Akashi would realize his infatuation for what it was soon enough and then Kuroko could exit his life with just a tiny fracture in his heart.

He pointed to a photo at random. “Here?”

Akashi allowed the evasion for the moment as he took the book from Tetsuya to see his choice.

“Are you sure you like this one best?” His skepticism was not the least bit subtle.

Kuroko nodded hurriedly. It didn’t really matter in the end. He wouldn’t be there long.

“You picked the estate agent’s office.  This page is an advertisement for her company.”

Kuroko blinked and could feel his face redden.

“Ah, I meant the one on the opposite page of course.” It came out unconvincingly.

Akashi closed the book and set it down. Akashi stared meditatively at him for a moment and while Kuroko could feel Akashi’s gaze, he didn’t meet it.

“Are you afraid of me after all?”

Taken off guard, Kuroko shot wide eyes his way. “What?”

Akashi kept his expression neutral.

“Breakfast and the house…twice already today you have tried to override your real feelings and tell me what I can only imagine you think I want to hear.  There is no reason to do that except that you fear reprisal. Which means you fear me. Am I wrong?”

Kuroko couldn’t suppress the wave of guilt that swept over him. He didn’t honestly know if he was afraid. He knew the change in Akashi worried him, but even so, this Akashi wasn’t entirely unfamiliar.  Kuroko did wonder how Akashi was seemingly unconcerned about his father. Surely there should be some resentment toward Kuroko? Or grief? Anything to mark the fact that their relationship was severed?

Akashi sighed and reopened the book. It seemed his earlier confidence in earning Tetsuya’s trust was slightly misplaced. His eyes scanned the pages with a critical swiftness, rejecting one after the other for reasons that he would not voice to Tetsuya. Finally, he narrowed it down to two, took those pages from the binder and handed them over.

“Which of these?”

Still feeling embarrassed from his earlier slip but grateful to have a smaller pool of choices, Kuroko was at least prompted to glance at the two options this time. One was an apartment in a busy part of town. The other was a small stand-alone traditional house set in a quieter residential section.

He saw little similarity between the two and wondered why they’d made the final cut.

“Why do you like these two, Akashi-kun?”

“Daiki lives in the apartment building. I know someone else who lives across the street from the other property.”

Kuroko felt a headache coming on. He sighed quietly.

“So you want to keep tabs on me with these properties.”

Akashi chuckled and shook his head.

“How surprisingly cynical of you. No, in fact. I could do that without disclosing anything to you after all. I meant only that I am personally familiar with their locations because I have visited these areas. Daiki might not seem it, but he takes frequent naps; the building is quiet at all hours. The house is similar. You would not be bothered while you study.”

Kuroko weighed that answer for a moment.

“Who lives across from the house?”

Akashi made a negligent motion with his hand. “Kise Ryota. Well, to be fair, it is not his only residence. A caretaker looks after it most of the time.”

Kuroko couldn’t stop the shocked look on his face. Why would one of Japan’s most sought-after models live in that area, even on a part-time basis? And why did Akashi know this information?

As if he heard the thoughts in Kuroko’s head, Akashi answered his unspoken questions.

“We met in middle school and have remained in touch. Even Ryota needs a retreat from his fans occasionally. He found one there.” Akashi shrugged as if the whole thing was perfectly normal.

“Shall we go take a look at these two then?”

Kuroko’s shoulders slumped in defeat. It seemed it couldn’t be helped. He was going to be caught up in Akashi’s wake no matter what. For now at least.

Akashi loaned him some clothes again. It felt odd to wear them, but thankfully Akashi wasn’t so much larger that the garments swallowed him.  On the contrary, the grey sweater and soft black slacks seemed to flatter Kuroko, as if he’d deliberately gone for a bohemian style.

Akashi looked at him carefully. He enjoyed seeing Tetsuya in his clothes, it felt like a tacit understanding that Tetsuya was his and hinted at a shared life together.

Still. He would need to make sure Tetsuya’s clothing was gathered and brought to whichever property he picked. It was by sheer luck that Tetsuya hadn’t insisted they do that first.

Akashi couldn’t stop the slight smile that tilted his lips as Tetsuya thanked both the doorman and the chauffeur. His future mate’s politeness was welcomed, they would be moving in the circles of high society after all.

They went to the house first. The estate agent was waiting just outside, her suit was crisp and tidy and her demeanor radiated competent efficiency. Her name was Katou Aoi and she gave every indication she was more than happy to be of help.

After introductions they went inside, leaving their shoes in a neat row by the door. Kuroko was a little impressed despite himself at how Akashi managed to make even such a mundane activity seem elegant.

Kuroko looked around curiously. The home was perfectly nice, Kuroko had no real objections to staying there. It was difficult to imagine Akashi living there though – it seemed far too domestic a place to appeal to the charismatic alpha. The large living space would be easily managed with sliding doors in different configurations. The bathroom had been separated into a shower/bath area and a separate room divided with the toilet and sink. The kitchen held the expected appliances. There was even a washing machine waiting in a small nook.

Its best feature as far as Kuroko could tell was the garden. It wasn’t overly large, but it felt intensely private and he could see there was a small fountain.

Katou gave them privacy as they stood gazing out a window into the green space.

“You don’t like it?”

Kuroko kept his answer vague, unsure of what to say. “It’s a very nice house.”

And it was. It would happily accommodate a family and be the site of many cherished memories. As Kuroko thought about it, he realized that was perhaps what made him resist it. What business did he have living in someone else’s family home when that future wasn’t for him? At least not with the man standing next to him.

Akashi crossed his arms across his chest and stared at Tetsuya for a moment. Tetsuya didn’t meet his gaze, keeping his attention on the garden.

When he spoke, Akashi’s voice was mild and somehow all the more dangerous for it.

“We will go see the apartment then.”

Kuroko nodded and started to turn, but something caught his eye and he shifted his step slightly to investigate something.

Akashi watched as Kuroko depressed a small panel – a door whispered open in what otherwise looked like a solid wall.

Kuroko’s mouth turned down instantly. It was an omega containment room. It had been meticulously cleaned and was certainly designed to be more comfortable than the one he’d been held prisoner in. Even so, there was no disguising what it was.

He leaned against the door frame and before he knew it, he was trembling.

Akashi moved behind him and Kuroko unconsciously took a deeper breath – finding Akashi’s scent familiar and comforting.

Akashi’s hand went to his shoulder, a quiet press that asked a question even as it reassured Kuroko he wasn’t alone.

Kuroko shook his head, trying to regain his composure.  “I’m aware they’re very common.” It came out woodenly.

There was a difference between Kuroko’s usual inconspicuous presence and how he was now. He was not broken, but Kuroko wasn’t unaffected by his experience either. Akashi would have picked up on it even without knowing what happened. As it was, he was perfectly aware of the cause.

He looked over Tetsuya’s head into the room. The containment room here was meant for a loved one, it was a thoughtful room that functioned as a built-in apartment. It was designed as a snug little retreat, complete with a small unit bathroom attached and even had its own storage.

In a neighborhood setting, the value of such a space was clear. There was too high a chance a mate would be away at work or on an errand when an omega went into heat. Suppressants were not commonly used among formally mated and married couples. If there was no place for the omega to seclude themselves, chaos and unimaginable consequences would be the norm.

“This room could easily be changed into something else if you like. Or it can simply be permanently sealed off.”

Kuroko choked on a laugh, he had not expected such a comment.

“That is very kind, but there is no point. It’s a better feature to have when you relist the property later. And…well…if there were to be an emergency, it is not unthinkable I would need it.”

There was something in his answer that made Akashi’s instincts recoil. Perhaps a multitude of things. He settled with an easier reply for now.

“We can discuss it after you see the apartment.”

Akashi didn’t mention it would no longer be his to resale, if things came to that point. Whichever property Tetsuya picked today would be deeded over to him as the sole owner. Akashi was not looking at these options as a temporary place for Tetsuya, but rather a way for his mate to be secure with his own assets just in case. In his mind, it was an unofficial engagement present.

They were on their way soon after. The estate agent picked up on the tension between them and tactfully suggested meeting them at the complex rather than taking them herself, as she would normally have done.

It felt strange to get back in the car with Akashi and head toward such a fashionable area to look at an apartment. Kuroko felt it was decidedly surreal. The building they stopped at was starkly modern, a firm 180 degrees away from the house they’d just left.

“Aomine-kun lives here?” He couldn’t help the note of surprise. His interaction with the policeman had been relatively brief, but Kuroko would not have guessed Aomine would prefer such an aggressively-trendy building.

Akashi looked up at the building with a half-smile, amused at some inner thought. “It wasn’t his first choice. But Momoi Satsuki is a formidable woman when she wishes to be. She didn’t like the police-issued barracks he’d been living in and picked this out for him instead.”

Kuroko nodded. “Momoi-san is his girlfriend, then?”

“No, she’s been his friend since childhood. He can be stubborn, but Momoi-san is not one to be thwarted for long. She was right to insist on it. Daiki is a promising detective, he needed a residence that reflected his status.”

They took the elevator up to the eighth floor. The apartment had a stunning view from one side that featured large windows, Kuroko could see a door leading to a small balcony there as well. The apartment was listed as a 2LDK and Kuroko sighed at the thought of so much space being wasted on a single occupant. Not that the house was any smaller, it just seemed more noticeable here with people surrounding him.

Akashi watched as Tetsuya investigated the space. He couldn’t help but think how cute Tetsuya was being as he peeked into the storage closets.  It was mostly furnished already, but the majority of the items had been kept in the cupboards to avoid dust. The apartment had been unoccupied for over a year and it was a testament to Akashi’s caretakers that it did not smell musty – they had been diligent about its upkeep.

Katou meanwhile was nearly dancing in place at this tantalizing bit of gossip. Could it be that Akashi Seijūrō was arranging for a secret place to rendezvous with a lover? She couldn’t wait for them to make a choice so she could boast about it. Although she was a little surprised by the options Akashi had asked to visit today, surely such a wealthy man would have picked from one of the more exclusive options she’d sent? Or was this a reflection of the partner…he wasn’t familiar to her and had an unobtrusive nature that marked him from outside the same circle as Akashi.

Kuroko rubbed his wrist absently as he considered. The house had a more comfortable feeling on the whole. The apartment was closer to their university and had easy access to bus and train stations. Both were spacious, and he would have privacy.

One thing in the apartment’s favor did not feature a containment room. Realizing that Tetsuya would be on edge expecting for there to be one, Akashi had quietly explained on the way over that these units had been built to be more discreet in addressing those needs. Instead, each individual apartment was equipped with high levels of security, insulation from scent and sound, and reinforced materials in the walls and windows to keep the occupants secure.

Finally, operating on the assumption that rent was less of an investment than purchasing a home, he went over to Akashi, who had been observing him.

In a voice that was quiet to exclude the estate agent from their discussion, Kuroko made his choice.

“I think the apartment might be a better option, Akashi-kun.”

“Indeed? You’re sure?” He waited for Tetsuya to nod again before nodding himself. He wasn’t entirely surprised. The house, while charming, had unintentionally raised too-recently painful memories.

“Katou-san? Would you inform the superintendent this apartment will be occupied soon? We’ll make arrangements for deliveries and other details as well.”

She nodded and as Kuroko went to stand on the balcony for a moment, Akashi drew her to the side. He needed to clarify something and didn’t want Tetsuya to worry over it.

His tone dropped low and was pleasantly calm, but the words were not aligned with their delivery.

“Katou-san, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the non-disclosure agreement you signed. You will not be tempted to share who is living here, will you? Tetsuya’s presence is protected by that agreement, and by my right to protect my mate from harm. You would not like the consequences if I heard you were putting someone important to me in danger.”

Her throat tightened and if Katou didn’t know better, she’d swear Akashi had used magic on her. Instead she shook her head, a tinge of desperation in the movement. Akashi was not standing particularly close to her, but she felt threatened in a way she couldn’t remember. She understood his meaning perfectly well.

The smile he gave her was approving but it did not ease the tension.

It was not until he turned slightly to look at the smaller man who was staring out at the cityscape that the air seemed to relax again. Akashi spoke again, more off-handedly this time.

“Thank you for your assistance today, Katou-san. We’ll stay a while longer. I’ll convey your farewell to Tetsuya.”

Feeling like her heart was racing she understood she was being dismissed. It took her only a moment to make her escape and she didn’t know if she pitied Kuroko or not. She hadn’t seen Akashi in several months but she did not remember him being quite so aggressive.

Akashi watched her go – confident she would keep the secret now. He went to join Tetsuya on the balcony.

“Katou-san had to leave, but she is thrilled you like the apartment.”

Kuroko looked up, surprised. “Oh? I didn’t even hear her go.”

Akashi’s answer was unusually breezy. “She has a lot to take care of I imagine. She is a very busy agent.”

Kuroko’s smile was uncertain but he had no real reason to question Akashi’s statement.

“Will you be happy here?”

Kuroko nodded. “Thank you, Akashi-kun. I know this is not your preference. But I will try not to be an inconvenience for long.”

Akashi sent him a sideways look. He was very aware that Tetsuya assumed that he would lose interest once they weren’t living together. Akashi agreed it should not be an inconvenience for long, but his surety came from the confidence of being able to persuade Tetsuya they belonged together.

Still, he was at least content that Tetsuya would be safe here if he couldn’t keep watch himself. The building featured top notch security and he would arrange for private reinforcements to help.  Discreetly of course. No need to worry Tetsuya over such matters.

Akashi watched as Tetsuya leaned against the balcony rail, looking out at the cityscape. Tetsuya’s face was peaceful, calm, and entirely appealing. He reached over and carefully turned Tetsuya so his back was to the rail. He moved slowly but steadily, giving Tetsuya time to protest.  Tetsuya’s breath hitched slightly but Akashi was pleased he did not otherwise protest.

He placed a hand on either side of Tetsuya’s face, holding him still and leaned in close. A whispered, “Welcome home, Tetsuya,” was his final warning before Akashi lowered his head and began a thorough, insistent dismantling of his composure with a kiss that had no business being so devastating.

Kuroko’s hands went up unconsciously, one curling into the collar of Akashi’s shirt, the other clutching Akashi’s arm. It might have seemed a move to dislodge Akashi’s hold, but the natural way he melted against Akashi had nothing to do with escape.

In his own way, Kuroko was mildly surprised at himself, was he still in shock? Or was he unconsciously adapting to Akashi’s pull as his future mate? He didn’t know. But despite the fact Akashi unnerved him a little, he felt nothing like he did with Nash.

It was their first kiss beyond his heat. As he realized that, Kuroko’s brain very helpfully reminded him of Akashi’s desire to take him to bed in just such a situation. And his stomach tightened even as his heart stopped. It was a curious feeling, desire mixed with fear. Before he had time to fully panic, Akashi broke the kiss. He kept his hold on Tetsuya but was now simply staring at him.

His voice had roughened slightly and his eyes were nearly glowing.

“We need to leave before I forget myself. I know it is too soon.”

Kuroko leaned forward to lay his forehead against Akashi’s chest, unable to maintain eye contact as he felt a quiet wave of affection sweep over him. “I know you would not. You are not him.”

The bloom in Akashi’s chest was something between surprise, pride, and a warmth that spoke of both affection and possessiveness. Tetsuya’s confidence in him was unexpected and had the unfortunate consequence of wanting to mark Tetsuya for his own. He wrapped his arms around Tetsuya and was for the moment content to enjoy Tetsuya’s body tucked against his own.

Still, he couldn’t help his next remark.

“Tetsuya…please study hard and take your exams soon.”

Kuroko laughed a little, surprised by the resigned longing in Akashi’s voice. He raised his head, inexplicably cheered.

“Akashi-kun you are not being subtle.”

A flash of a smile. “Perhaps not. But until you do, I don’t think I will make much headway convincing you to be my mate. So I will wait. And think of the ways to repay this need for patience once you are mine, hmm?”

Suddenly Kuroko didn’t feel quite as safe, but it wasn’t a danger that scared him like Nash had done. It was a danger that spoke to his very being and he felt his nerves thrill with the appreciation of Akashi’s implication. It didn’t hurt to dream, did it? Perhaps he could have Akashi at least once before Akashi realized his mistake…

Pushing aside that thought for now, Kuroko made himself step past Akashi.

“Shall we get lunch, Akashi-kun?”

It was a good distraction and soon enough they were on their way, with the plan to eat and go on some errands for Kuroko’s apartment in place.  Akashi’s protective instincts were pleased with the idea of getting to feed his mate and ensure the new den was both comfortable and safe. He shook his head at himself. He’d never imagined he would embrace such primitive drives, but then again, as he looked over at Tetsuya and realized how much he wanted him, it was easy enough to understand. Tetsuya was his. Nothing else mattered but keeping him.