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Certainly Yuuri had heard of him. The infamous demimondaine Viktor Nikiforov, the Russian master alpha, they called him. Or at least, so did some of the lurid yellow-backed paperbacks which Yuuri had slipped into a back alley of the Quartier Latin to purchase. A courtesan so famous they wrote books about him. Dirty books, naturally. A courtesan and alpha. A paid heat companion. Such a person was unheard of in his native Japan, but here in Paris, all the omegas who could afford it paid for an alpha with whom to pass their heat. The very richest paid Viktor Nikiforov.

And now he was here, waiting backstage, waiting for Yuuri to give the signal that he could be admitted to his dressing room. Yuuri was always wary of these visits by the powerful and rich, those who saw him dance, heard the whispers about his omega nature and wanted to see him up close. If he were lucky, that was all they desired, but so many convinced themselves that they deserved more than that. That it was they who would win his heart. And more to the point his body, he imagined.

But his feelings when Minako had told him who awaited him tonight were far different. He’d read the novels, after all. Sought them out. Been moved by them to elaborate imaginings of what it would be like to be taken by an alpha. By the alpha.

There was absolutely no possibility that he could face him without embarrassing himself. But when he tried to beg off the visit, when he offered Minako false excuses, she’d narrowed her eyes at him and lifted a single brow.

So Viktor Nikiforov was ushered into the small room. He carried a large arrangement of flowers, not traditional roses, but quite exotic blooms, most of which Yuuri had never seen, in a wild profusion of colours. A stagehand bustled behind him bearing a bucket of chilled champagne. Yuuri always wondered how much Henri overcharged the beaux for this service. He hoped it was an absurd amount.

He extended a hand to the alpha and pretended he was on stage: his face a perfect mask of chilly beauty. But as Nikiforov bowed over his hand, lowering his lips almost to the point of contact with his skin, he looked up at him and Yuuri had to suppress a gasp. Those eyes! Startling, shimmering blue, dancing with amusement or pleasure. He stayed bent over for a moment longer than custom dictated, his nostrils flaring in an obvious inhale of Yuuri’s scent. It was only then Yuuri realised that what he had taken to be the scent of one of the unknown flowers was actually coming from the man before him . It was heavy, sweet, and somewhat fruity. Once he’d identified its source, he felt as if the scent enveloped him, coating the insides of his nasal passages, the back of his throat.

Nikiforov saw his reaction. An expression of satisfaction crossed his face, a knowing cast coming into his eyes. The look stopped short of being predatory or leering, to Yuuri’s relief. Nevertheless, he was grateful for the presence of Minoko in the corner, providing an appropriate chaperone. He reclaimed his hand from the alphas grip and sat gracefully on the stool in front of the mirror. The silk kimono he wore fluttered around the seat, revealing flashes of his tight-clad legs, but maintaining propriety. This was part of the post-performance show. What the rich men paid for.

A smile quirked the corner of his mouth. He supposed Nikiforov knew all about what rich men paid for, come to think of it. The thought comforted him somewhat. This wasn’t another bored noble son. This was someone who had made whatever fortune he had in service to rich men and women. Another performer, after all. The thought inspired a near-genuine smile to cross Yuuri’s face and he turned it towards the alpha.

“Monsieur Katsuki,” began Nikiforov, leaning forward eagerly. “I had heard rumours of the incredible beauty taking the role of the Swan in my countryman’s ballet, but was not at all prepared for the sublime performance I witnessed this night.” Yuuri made the appropriate responses of gratitude for the praise and listened to more fawning words with half an ear. Other than his incredible scent and personal attractions, this infamous alpha had done nothing to set himself apart from the pack of admirers that always flocked backstage. Yuuri found himself feeling disappointed. He’d expected more. The stories of this man’s romantic prowess had led him to expect something extraordinary from this interview.

“I’ve seen the ballet before, you realise. Years ago, in its debut season in St. Petersburg. You far outstripped the omega in the role originally. And not only due to your…personal beauty, but…the emotion you put into every movement. I’m not ashamed to say that I wept, mon cher.” Clearly the alpha was used to flattering his clientele. Yet, Yuuri found himself believing him sincere in his praise. Perhaps it was only what he wished to believe.

“Thank you,” he said with an incline of his head.

“I wanted…well, I wanted to tell you as much, of course, but also…to offer you my services.” Here Nikiforov leaned even farther forward, in an effort to hold Yuuri’s gaze. “I would consider it an honour, and a great pleasure, to see you through a heat.” The alpha’s voice rang with sincerity, and his scent was heavy in Yuuri’s nostrils. But his own face must have shown some reaction for Nikiforov spoke quickly. “Not that I know your situation, or what arrangements you may have made. I’m aware it’s terribly forward to mention such a thing. Normally, you must know, I’d never solicit anyone in this manner.” Was that a blush on the Russian’s fair cheeks? “Only I felt I couldn’t leave without speaking to you. And making my…admiration known.”

Yuuri’s head spun. He wasn’t sure if it was fatigue, the champagne he sipped, or the musk that seemed to permeate a little farther through his body with every minute. He didn’t know if he felt the alpha’s arousal or his own, but he did feel it. Was this what made Nikiforov so popular? Was he this disarming to all his omegas? So sincere in his flattery and self-effacing in his propositions? Yuuri searched his face for an answer, but was left with no further clues. A cleared throat from the back of the room shook him from his frowning contemplation. He’d almost forgotten Minako’s presence entirely. Perhaps she thought he was falling under the alpha’s sway.

“Well,” he began, leaning away, trying to clear his head. “I…uh…appreciate your…compliments, sir.” It was awkward, but the usual practised phrases wouldn’t come to his tongue.

“Yes,” said Nikiforov, springing to his feet. “Of course, I won’t keep you. I only hope…to hear from you…if I can be of any service.” He bowed once again over Yuuri’s hand and swept away with one last smile over his shoulder.

“Well,” said Minako in amusement after he’d gone. Yuuri ignored her and heaved a sigh while turning to change into street clothing. “He was certainly decorative, wasn’t he?” Yuuri smiled to himself but didn’t turn to let her see. Minako had a keen eye for younger men, and her alpha’s aura won her a fair share of their hearts.

“Would you like him?” he said flippantly over his shoulder.

“Oh, Yuuri,” she laughed. “He’s clearly already chosen his prey. Besides, you know I don’t like other alphas.”

Yuuri sighed. “I know. I just don’t know what he expects from me.”

“I thought that was quite clear, dear.” Her tone left no doubt what she meant. “He’s supposed to be the best, after all. Might be worthwhile.”

“You are a terrible chaperone.”

The second time Yuuri encountered Viktor Nikiforov was at a salon hosted by one of the city’s most fashionable hostesses. The room was a sea of silk gowns and expensive suits, worn by only the most stylish of artists, writers, performers, and the idle rich who patronised them. Yuuri was wearing his signature ensemble of a pure white evening suit. He thought it rather over-the-top, but the ballet insisted, as it tied into his role as the White Swan. The perfect omega: beautiful and desired, but cursed and doomed to a tragic end. The love story was considered a classic alpha and omega tale: soul mates upon first sight, but doomed by the uncontrollable desires of the alpha Prince Siegfried. Yuuri was the first male omega to take on the role, making this Parisian production all the more controversial. Not the least due to the much more revealing costumes allowed for male danseurs.

He was shaken out of his reverie by a familiar scent. He knew Nikiforov was present before the man even appeared in the room, and to his consternation the alpha’s eyes immediately locked onto his own as he entered. Yuuri looked away, cursing his body’s uncontrollable physical response. He was not at all surprised when the alpha himself appeared before him, sitting next to him on the chaise without even asking permission.

“Mon cher, I am delighted beyond words to see you again,” he began. The glance Yuuri risked at his face revealed that his spectacular blue eyes were sparkling once more. Nikiforov was undeniably a beautiful man, a perfect alpha specimen, body trim and yet strong. Shoulders broad and waist slender. Shining silver hair highlighting his perfect face. Yuuri had never met a man he thought quite as attractive, and that was terribly inconvenient. When added to the man’s personal charisma, which seemed to work on betas as well as omegas, from what he could see, and that incredible scent that spoke to a more primitive part of himself...well.

“Monsieur Nikiforov.” He inclined his head, but held his hand tight to his side. He couldn’t keep out of his mind the image of the way the man had scented his wrist the first time he’d given him his hand. The alpha’s eyes raked over him in a way that was nearly offensive, but sparked a heat in his core.

“You look exquisitely beautiful, as ever,” the man purred. Yuuri blinked in an unimpressed manner.

“It’s the business of several individuals to make me so.” That won him a raised brow.

“Their jobs must be incredibly easy, then,” he returned. “When given such a work of art as their starting point.” Yuuri kept himself from rolling his eyes, but only just. There was pause in which he sipped at his champagne and made no attempt at conversation.

After a time Nikiforov finally spoke. “You have no intention of contacting me for my professional services, do you?” he asked, some of the flirtatious manner dropping from him. Yuuri met his eyes once more, briefly.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said, though his pulse quickened in his ears. He’d spent several nights in his bed imagining what it would be like to do just that.

“I don’t believe you have contracted with any of my competitors either.”

Yuuri huffed a small laugh. “No, you’re correct.”

“Ah,” said the alpha with a slight air of disappointment. “Then you have a lover.” Yuuri’s eyes widened and he shook his head in surprised denial before he had even thought. “It’s fine,” said Nikiforov reassuringly. “If it’s a secret, I won’t speak a word to anyone.”

Yuuri bit his lip, but decided he had to tell this man the truth to avoid misunderstanding. “No, truly, there isn’t anyone. I don’t have a heat partner.”

“Then…?” At this confusion Yuuri really did quirk a small smile.

“I know it’s terribly strange for Paris, but where I come from it’s usual for omegas to spend all their heats alone until they are bonded.” This produced true astonishment from the alpha.

“Really?” he asked, almost in horror. Yuuri nodded. “Then you’ve never...” His eyes were wide.

“No. Never.”

“My god. What a waste!” Yuuri looked away, feeling his face heat. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard such an opinion since coming to this country. Affections were much freer here, and no one would expect an omega to be pure on their wedding day.

Nikiforov had evidently fallen into a spell of silent consideration. At length he looked back at Yuuri, his voice low and confidential. “Do they lock you away? Forcibly, I mean?”

Yuuri felt his entire face flush. “Certainly not,” he said. Though, naturally there was a certain amount of locked doors between him and the wide world during a heat. For his own safety.

“If you so desired, then, you could take a partner? Here, at least?” Yuuri couldn’t meet his eyes. It was a question he’d asked himself several times. He’d even considered, idly, before they’d met, whether he could even hire the famous Nikiforov’s services. But he never would have had the nerve to go through with it. For so many reasons.

“Yuuri.” The alpha’s voice had dropped very low, become quite serious. His hand extended and very lightly touched Yuuri’s knee. “I...I would offer you my services--” He held up a hand to cut off Yuuri’s automatic interruption. “I know I already did so, but I don’t mean...well, not professionally perhaps. Not paid, at any rate. I’m sure it’s clear how attracted I am to you, and...from what I understand spending a heat alone is downright painful. I’m very good at what I do. I can make it so good for you, my dear. You deserve all the care and pleasure a skilled alpha can give.” He spoke quickly to cut off another attempt to speak from Yuuri. “And I could be discreet. No one would have to know...other than anyone you chose, of course. I wouldn’t damage your reputation, or...however it works for you at home.”

Yuuri took a long, shaky breath. He looked from the hand very delicately resting against his knee up to the earnest face of the alpha across from him. He believed the man. Moreover, he could scent his truthfulness, the sincerity rolling off of him. Something clenched in his chest, the offer touching his emotions in a strange way. Part of him wanted to accept, of course. Well, actually, part of him wanted to tip his head to the side in submission and beg the alpha to carry him off right now. He’d been taught not to trust those instincts. Been taught that they would ruin him: make him unfit for bonding to a quality alpha, leave him pregnant with his career destroyed. Certainly that wasn’t a risk he could take.

“Sir,” he began.

“Viktor,” the alpha interrupted. “Please, I already took the liberty with you.” Yuuri nodded to this.

“Viktor, then. I...appreciate your offer. Truly, I do. It’s...tempting.” He knew his cheeks were pink as he admitted this. So very tempting. “But I’m afraid I simply...couldn’t.” He looked up and met Nikiforov’s eyes. They were full of some emotion, almost a pleading and he felt as if he fell into them, trapped by their heretofore unseen depths. He caught himself after a moment, and realised he had actually swayed forward, towards the alpha, swept up in his eyes and his scent and his own desire. He looked down, to the brocade fabric of the chaise, where the alpha’s hand rested. That hand moved, lifted and reached to catch his own. Yuuri let it, let his hand be turned over and his wrist exposed.

“I can feel your desire,” said Viktor in what was nearly a whisper. His thumb brushed Yuuri’s exposed wrist and the scent glands there. Slowly, Yuuri watched as Nikiforov lifted that thumb to his lips, then opened his mouth to take it between them. He could just see the man’s tongue dart out and taste his scent from his own skin. The alpha’s eyes fluttered shut and he let out a breath. Then his eyes shot open, surprising Yuuri and catching him looking. “I can’t remember the last time I wanted someone as badly as I want you,” he said.

Yuuri shouldn’t find that as appealing as he did. He’d heard such declarations many times, but this time, he believed it. Not only that, he was starting to think there was far more to this man than the face he presented to society. What would it hurt, really? said a small voice in his head.

“I—I’m sorry,” he said, standing in a sudden panic. “I must go.” He didn’t look back at Nikiforov or pay any attention to the titters around him as he fled the party. There would be gossip about that, he knew. But he couldn’t find it in him to care.