Everyone knows that life is tough for an omega. Even for those whose families are financially well-off and able to afford protection for their young omegas. As they grow up they get married off as soon as they’re ready to be bred (no matter what the law of the country says), they still struggle with unwanted attention from strangers, dismissive or disgusted faces at job interviews, and tall medical bills. It’s as though omegas were put on this earth to be miserable. At least, that’s what Yuuri thinks. Because he is miserable.
His eyes dropped to the latest invoice from his doctor’s office regarding his treatments. His suppressants were getting harder and harder to come by lately since he was on a prescription for the newest, strongest medication on the market. His last pills hadn’t worked and his heat had been brought on anyway, despite his doctor’s reassurances. It had been, well, embarrassing, to say the least.
Luckily, Yuuri lived with another omega called Phicit who understood exactly what an omega’s heat was like and how to help Yuuri get through it without being claimed by an alpha. If Phicit hadn’t have been there then Yuuri would have probably been crawling the streets looking for someone, anyone, to knot him and make the aching, crawling desire inside him go away. The thought made him shudder now and he continued to scan the letter in his hands.
$2374.20. How? How can I possibly come up with this kind of money again?
He screwed up the paper in his hands and threw it half-heartedly to one side before standing up and grabbing his laptop off the desk. He brought it back to his bed and fell down onto the hard mattress of the cheap bed. He checked the time - 16:58. The results of his latest college exam were supposed to go live in less than two minutes.
With trembling hands, Yuuri typed in the website for Wayne State University and logged in using his student ID. The website was struggling to load and Yuuri could imagine why. Everyone in his Biology class would be logging on now to check the results too, plus there were bound to be other classes whose results were being released now. His fingers tapped the plastic of his laptop’s outer case a few times before the home page loaded, but the results weren’t there yet.
“Damn it,” Yuuri cussed under his breath as he saw that the clock still read 16:59.
He refreshed the browser and again there were no results. Yuuri lifted his shaking hands to his chest and tried to concentrate on taking deep breaths. His hand acted as a source of grounding and if he could feel the way his heart pounded against it Yuuri found it easier to visualize slowing it down and encouraging his panic attack to subside. It did after a few more deep breaths and Yuuri exhaled long and slow as he raised a hand to tap the touchpad to move the mouse on his screen. He dragged his finger up to tap at the refresh button again just as the clock turned 17:00.
This was it. The page slowly loaded and the black text became visible on the screen. Yuuri’s eyes scanned the words, barely taking them in at this point. That was when he finally found the result printed on his screen.
His heart began to race again. Every possible worry he’d had when getting his scholarship and moving to America had just been confirmed. Yuuri wasn’t good enough to do this. He wasn’t good enough to do anything. He was a failure in every sense of the word. This had been the biggest test at the end of the year and he’d not only done badly - he’d failed it.
Tears welled in his eyes as he stared unblinkingly at the screen. What would his parents say if they saw this? What would the dean think? Would they still award him his scholarship for his second-year here? Surely, not now. Not when he’d have to re-sit the most important exam during the summer. That meant he’d need to find a way to pay his tuition once September started. The tuition which cost a fortune - a fortune Yuuri didn’t have. His parents couldn’t supply him with any money either.
Yuuri’s breathing quickened and he felt sweat pooling on his brow and the back of his neck. His hands were shaking rapidly now and his throat began to swell. I can’t breathe, he thought as he gasped for his next breath. The tears fell silently down his cheek as Yuuri slammed his laptop shut and pushed it off the edge of his bed where it fell to the floor with a thud. He pulled his knees up to his chest and began to rock back and forth. He tried to tell himself that it would be okay. That he would figure something out. He’d survived so far. He’d survived his omega heats, mental breakdowns, and moving across the world. He could survive one failed exam. Right? Right?!
It wasn’t working though and Yuuri’s breaths were coming sharp, shallow, and harsh. He scrambled to night-stand and yanked open the drawer. His hands frantically pushed aside condoms, lube, and various sleeping masks to find what he was looking for discarded at the back. Yuuri brought the pill bottle out and tried to open the twist top. It had a child lock on and Yuuri was struggling to coordinate any motions today, so with a cry of frustration after three failed attempts, he threw the bottle to the floor where the lid snapped open and two, tiny white pills spilt out onto the thin, threadbare carpet.
Great. Yuuri stood on wobbly legs and bent his knees to scoop up the medicine. His fingers moved along the carpet like a newborn deer as they fumbled to pick them up. Once he had them, Yuuri quickly threw them into his mouth and dry swallowed. He hated the gritty texture of the powdery tablets as they scraped down his throat, but getting a drink meant leaving his room and he wasn’t sure his body was strong enough to make the journey.
Now that he’d taken the pills, Yuuri moved back to the bed and threw his body back so that his head rested against the pillows. He shut his eyes and took a deep breath. It had always been this way for Yuuri, ever since he could remember. The slightest issue or worry could set him off and had him spiralling into a dark, bottomless hole of despair. He’d spent many years at a therapist’s office who tried time and time again to ‘cure’ him of his worries.
‘He’s always been a worrier,’ his mother had always said like this horrendous, mind-bending anxiety was just another part of his personality. Eventually, once Yuuri reached the age of 15, they had given up on him altogether. Money was tight and whatever Yuuri’s problem was, it didn’t seem to be getting any better. They had to prioritise the bills over his mental health. He understood. Most Japanese families didn’t understand all that much about mental health issues or what Yuuri had, which (after much Googling) he assumed to be a generalised anxiety disorder.
That was why Yuuri had come to America in the first place. In Japan, mental health specialists were few and far between, especially ones willing to work with young, unmated omegas. He’d heard how much better the culture was around mental health in Western countries - better but definitely not perfect.
Once he received a science scholarship to Wayne State University it had sealed the deal. He knew he’d have to pay his own way since his parent’s onsen was struggling to cover their own living expenses let alone his. Yuuri thought he could handle it. After all, how hard could it be to make enough money to live on in the US?
Very hard apparently.
Minimum wage was a joke and Yuuri didn’t get many tips at the greasy, cheap diner he worked at. Any money he did get was swallowed up immediately by rent and utilities. He was lucky enough that the college paid his tuition, but they didn’t cover medical expenses and Yuuri had no insurance. Basically, he was screwed. Some months he went without his anxiety medication, but he couldn’t forego his suppressants. Not when he was an unmated, 19-year-old omega living in a packed, busy city.
That was the curse of being an omega. Not only could everyone else smell you for exactly what you are, but when you’re in heat no-one could turn down a horny omega, no matter what embarrassingly lewd things you ask them for.
Now Yuuri had just taken his last two anti-anxiety pills that he was hoping would get him through the next week at least. He already had a bill of over two thousand dollars waiting to be paid for Dr Feinstein. That meant that when he went to work tonight he would really need to put on a show.
“Oh, shit!” he yelped as he sat up. His heart rate had slowed now, his fast-acting medication kicking in. His hands were shaking only a little now as he pulled his phone out of his jeans pocket. It was 17:34 now. He was due to start his warm-ups at the club at 18:00. Isabella wouldn’t be pleased if he showed up late again.
So, Yuuri grabbed his duffel bag from under his bag and threw it onto the bed. He unzipped it and approached his wardrobe. As he pulled the doors open, his eyes surveyed the contents with a raised eyebrow. Tonight was their Dark Horse routine which fortunately Yuuri knew well and meant he didn’t need to spend much time under Minako’s watchful gaze. It also meant he could be forgiven for being a little late, but it still wasn’t great.
For this particular routine, Yuuri was supposed to be in a deep red number while his backup dancers wore black. With this thought in mind, Yuuri pushed his everyday clothes to one side and dug until he found the box that contained his stripping ensembles. As he pulled leather and lace out of the box, Yuuri’s eyes settled on a pair of scarlet leather booty shorts. He pulled them out and then grabbed a tight black halter top and a long-sleeve mesh top to wear over the top. Since Yuuri was planning on wearing his thigh-high boots he didn’t bother with stockings and simply grabbed his iconic shoes from their place in the back of the wardrobe and turned away. He stuffed all the clothes into his bag alongside a bottle of water, his make-up bag, and his body lotion.
Once everything was ready, Yuuri tossed the bag over his shoulder and took one last glance around his bedroom. With a sigh, he opened the door only to be greeted by his roommate who was sitting on the couch watching a Stargate SG-1 marathon.
“Hey, Yuuri,” Phicit called as he pushed another handful of popcorn into his mouth. “You bartending tonight?”
“Yep,” Yuuri answered with a nod. “I’m gonna be late so I gotta go.”
“That’s fine, bud,” Phicit replied, never taking his eyes off of the television set. “We can go out for lunch tomorrow though if you want?”
Yuuri hesitated. His thoughts went to the unpaid bill on his bedroom floor and the potential loss of his scholarship. It had been days since he and Phicit had managed to have a conversation, however. “Maybe,” he finally said, “I’ll have to see how tired I feel. They need me late tonight.”
“Okay,” Phicit said with a shrug. “Just let me know.”
Feeling a little guilty, Yuuri walked past his best friend and exited the apartment.
Upon arrival at the club where he worked, The Kiss and Cry, Yuuri was accosted by Minako straight away. The energetic and overbearing woman came running at him as soon as he entered the main club room after entering the building through the back door, her brown hair bouncing with the movement.
“Yuuri! You’re late—again! Where have you been?”
“I’m sorry,” Yuuri muttered to her. “I do have other things to do.”
“Well, unless they pay as good as this place I don’t think you’d be wise to keep going this way. It’s your third late arrival in a week, Yuuri. Are you trying to give Isabella a reason to fire you?”
He sighed. “No, of course not.”
“Well, you’re lucky she’s been tied up in the back office on the phone with her boss,” Minako began as she patted Yuuri on the back. “She wasn’t present at the start of the rehearsal, so she’ll never know the difference. Just go dump your stuff in the dressing room and meet me back here.”
Yuuri nodded and turned on his heels to go back the way he came. The hallway in the back of the seedy club was painted black, but it was peeling with age. The lights here were cheap, fluorescent and dim. Since no customers ever came this way, Isabella was loath to spend any money or effort on it. So, Yuuri walked down the short corridor and took the left door which led to the dancer’s dressing room and not the right door which led to Isabella’s office.
Once inside, Yuuri dumped his duffle bag on the chair he usually occupied and shrugged off his light grey hoodie before tossing it on the back of the chair. He took a quick glance in the mirror at himself. He was wearing his typical white tank top and black leggings which he used during practice, alongside a comfortable pair of sneakers. His face was still a little pallid and dull, but he’d fix that with some good foundation before the actual show started. For now, he’d just head to rehearsal and try to focus on his dance - something he really enjoyed - rather than the mess that was his life.
When he emerged, Yuuri almost ran completely into his dark-haired, slim boss. She let out a gasp, startled by his sudden appearance. Once she glanced up and realised it was Yuuri, she let out a sigh of relief and pushed a black lock of her hair behind her ear.
“What are you doing back here, Yuuri?” she asked in a stern voice. “Shouldn’t you be rehearsing with Minako and Chris right now?”
“Yes,” Yuuri answered with a nod and pushed his glasses up his nose. “I was just grabbing something for Minako from the dressing room.”
“Hmm, well, see to it that you put your contact lenses in before your performance tonight. You’re not making nearly as much money as you should be for what an exotic treat you are,” she commanded. “I’m not happy which means my boss isn’t happy, you understand?”
Yuuri nodded and shot her a tight-lipped smile. “I am trying, Isabella. I do really appreciate being here and I—”
“And for God sakes put some make-up on, you look like you haven’t slept in three days,” she chided and then tutted as she looked him up and down. “You need to get it together, Katsuki, or you’re out of here. I’ll tell you what…” she trailed off and took a step closer to him. Her little kitten heels clicked on the tiled floor. “You prove to me tonight that you can still pull in the big bucks and I won’t dock your pay an extra 5% for your piss-poor attitude, okay?”
“What?” Yuuri whispered in a hiss. “You can’t be serious!”
“I’m deadly serious, Yuuri,” Isabella told him and narrowed her eyes in his direction. “I don’t want to get in trouble because you’re getting sloppy. So, I wanna see you interacting with customers tonight, I want to see you put on your best performance yet, and I want to see you in a private room.”
Yuuri bristled. A private room? That was something Yuuri had yet to do in his three months working here. He knew it was a pretty standard thing at The Kiss and Cry for some of the more experienced dancers to take guys to the back rooms for private lap dances and… well… much more than that, if the rumours were to be believed. He gulped before he nodded in response. It wasn’t like he could say no. He needed this job now more than ever.
“Good,” she replied simply. “Now get to rehearsal and make sure you impress me tonight, Yuuri.”
Before the young dancer could say anything else, Isabella had disappeared back into her office. So, Yuuri made his way back to the main room of the club and was greeted by Minako and Chris already swinging around their poles on either side of the triangular shaped stage. Yuuri’s pole remained bare, front and centre.
He watched for a moment as Minako and Chris moved with the music. They were already halfway through the routine, their knees bent as they stood in front of the pole and swung their hips from side to side. They were both older than Yuuri and a lot less flexible, so they tended to spend more time practising their moves than Yuuri did. Still, if he needed to put on a really great show then maybe he should put more effort into his rehearsal...
“Minako?” he called and took a step closer to the stage.
“Yuuri!” she called back breathily as she reached into her pocket and used the remote control to pause the music. “Are you ready to practise your moves with us?”
“Yes, Yuuri!” Chris cried and leaned his face against the cool, metallic pole as he fluttered his lashes in Yuuri’s direction. “We can’t truly practise without the joyau de la couronne of the piece, non?”
“I’m sure you’d both get along just fine without me,” Yuuri shot back dismissively.
“But where’s the fun in ‘fine’, mon chéri?” Chris asked with a wink.
Yuuri shook his head and simply approached the stage to climb onto it and take his place at the front pole. “Let’s get started then.”
After a long, exhilarating rehearsal, Yuuri was cleaning himself up in the shower room provided for the employees. It was small and a little grimy, but Yuuri felt ten times better after he had washed the sweat from his body. It gave him a chance to be alone with his thoughts and mull over how he felt about Isabella’s threat. He knew he had no choice financially but to comply with whatever she wanted. He just didn’t know how he was going to go about it.
Luckily, once Yuuri had dried himself off, returned to the changing room, and tugged on his usual black cotton thong, Chris approached him. “Yuuri, mon cherie, you’re looking a little pale today, is everything alright?”
The young Japanese man grabbed the moisturiser from his duffel and twisted upon the top. “Yeah, same old, same old,” he replied nonchalantly and shrugged. “What about you?”
“Ca va bien,” Chris replied easily, but his eyes narrowed as he watched Yuuri intently. “Though, you really don’t look yourself. Are you sure there isn’t anything you want to talk about?”
It was hard for Yuuri to open up about any of his issues, but Chris was so friendly and approachable that the young omega was tempted. After all, Chris had been working at The Kiss and Cry for years now. Yuuri had seen him go to the back rooms with multiple clients and he was far more open about these things than Yuuri was. He paused rubbing the moisturiser along his abs to look back up at Chris.
“Isabella told me I need to take a client to a private room tonight or she’ll take another 5% off me,” Yuuri confessed in a hushed voice. His eyes darted from side to side, checking to see if anyone had overheard. “I’ve never done it before, can you help me?”
“Oh, Yuuri,” Chris purred and shot him a sly wink. “I would be delighted to help you, darling.” He grabbed a chair and brought it over to Yuuri’s vanity before dropping down onto it. “What would you like to know?”
Yuuri bit his lip and lifted his right foot to plant on his own chair, so he could begin to lather his thighs with the smooth cream. “How do you get someone to want to go back there with you?”
“That will be the least of your worries, little one,” Chris told him with a toothy smile. “Trust me, Yuuri, you’re beautiful, exotic-looking, and you smell delicious even to another omega. I doubt anyone in the audience will say no to a private lap dance.”
Yuuri flushed under the compliments and ducked his head down, focusing on slathering his inner thighs with the lotion. “How do you pick someone out? Or do they usually come to you?”
Chris shrugged his shoulders. “Both,” he informed Yuuri. “Sometimes a client will approach me with an offer, but other times they might be a little shy or want to indulge in the fantasy that you specifically chose them. It’s difficult to tell sometimes, but it gets easier with practice.”
Yuuri dropped the tub back onto his vanity and then picked up a small tube of silver glitter. He tipped it up in his hand and then sprinkled a little over his legs and arms. “What do you think I should do tonight then?” he asked, his voice weak and timid.
“Honestly, Yuuri, if Isabella is going to take more money from you, I’d say just look for any guy you see handing out more cash than usual, go up to him, flirt a little, and take it from there.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“I know it isn’t,” Chris agreed with a sigh. “Especially your first time, but I’ve seen you on stage, Yuuri. You come alive with a little confidence and an audience.” The older omega turned around to rifle through his own rucksack before he pulled out a flask. “How about a little liquid courage, Yuuri?”
Chris offered Yuuri the silver flask with a big smile and at this point, Yuuri was happy to try anything. So, he gripped the flask tight in his nervous, shaking hand, popped open the cap and then tossed it back until the bitter, amber liquid flooded his mouth. Once he’d taken a long swig, Yuuri recoiled at the taste and passed the drink back to his friend.
“Jesus, what the hell is in there?”
“Whisky,” Chris told him as he stowed the drink away again. “With a touch of omega accelerant.” The older omega winked at him. “It’s only a little, but it’ll help you to lose your inhibitions and let go of that anxiety you seem to always be carrying around. You need to learn to live a little.”
Immediately, Yuuri began to grow nervous at the thought of an unknown substance working away around his body. He’d heard of many omega and alpha drugs that circulated the underground market and he was aware that plenty of people used them at The Kiss and Cry, but it wasn’t something he’d ever considered using before. After a moment or two, the burning sensation in his throat dulled to a pleasant ache and he felt his body grow loose with the mixture of alcohol and drugs.
“I can do this,” he said with a nod at his friend.
“Attaboy, Yuuri,” Chris encouraged with a smile. “Now, how about we get you dressed for your little show, ay?”
The next hour passed in a blur as Yuuri got dressed into his outfit for the evening. He decorated his face with makeup that accentuated the darkness of his eyes, winged black eyeliner and silver eyeshadow were his signature looks. He rubbed a smooth and silky foundation over his skin before applying a dark crimson lipstick which matched his shorts. Chris came over and applied a highlighter to his cheekbones to show them off a little more and then gelled his hair back until the silky, dark locks were spiked and falling fractionally over his forehead.
“You are gorgeous, mon cherie, if someone doesn’t eat you up tonight, I’d be tempted to,” Chris purred and squeezed Yuuri’s ass before walking away to speak to Minako.
Yuuri froze a little at the treatment before he relaxed again. It wasn’t the first time Chris had flirted with him or offered to take him to bed and Yuuri sincerely doubted it’d be the last. Instead, Yuuri focused on his appearance in the mirror, trying desperately to see what Chris saw in him. No matter how hard he looked all he saw was the fragile, weak omega who hadn’t been good enough to be married off to anyone in Japan and was forced to try and make something of himself—moving to America to try to find a better life, to try and lessen the burden he felt he was on his family.
At least, since he’d started working at The Kiss and Cry he’d managed to send money home to them every now and then. He felt like he had actually managed to ease some of the guilt he’d experienced for being such a disappointment to them. If he didn’t perform well tonight and get at least one person to pay for a private lap dance, not only would his medical bills go unpaid, but it would mean another month of hardship for his parents and Yuuri couldn’t stand the thought of it.
With one last look in the mirror, Yuuri ran his fingers through his dark brown hair, wiped away a smudge of red lipstick from his skin and then took off for the door. He was ready for the performance of a lifetime. The mixture Chris had given him had finally sunk in and he felt a little dizzy and light-headed. He couldn’t wipe the smile from his face as he gathered with his two friends backstage, awaiting the announcement of his appearance.
I can do this, he told himself. I have to.