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Rui hated his life. University was supposed to be this great chance to really prove himself to be just as good as anyone. Instead, he was the constant butt of jokes, talked down to by professors and fellow students alike just because he was an omega. He couldn't even stay in the freshman dorms any longer; he was almost positive it was his own roommate who had vandalized his things, and yet the administration's only suggestion was that he move out of campus housing. It wasn't fair, to have come all this way and then still be treated like this!

“Bad day?”

Rui quickly swiped at his face, though of course it was impossible to hide that he had just been crying. At least the person asking was another omega, dark blond or maybe very light brown hair haphazardly tucked under a soft grey fedora and a genuine smile in kind eyes. He looked a few years older, maybe a graduate student, if those artistically distressed jeans were any indicator, even if, at the moment, Rui was having a hard time imagining how any omega could have lasted so long at this university.

“Um....”

“Yumehito,” the other omega said, still smiling. “Shall we get some coffee? Or do you just want to pretend this never happened? Are you a student here?”

“Trying to be,” he mumbled, rubbing at his face again. “I think the school's trying to wash me out.”

“Oh probably,” the other omega agreed with a sad sigh. “Especially if you're not in a nursing or child education degree program.”

“Physics,” Rui said, wary of being mocked yet again.

“Cool. I'm in civil engineering myself,” Yumehito said with another smile. “So ... coffee?”

“... why do you even care?” Rui blurted out, his hands flying up to his mouth as soon as the words hit his ears. Gods, what could have possessed him to say something so insulting?? But instead of getting angry, Yumehito actually laughed.

“Because my first term I almost let the school wash me out, too. If not for Aki-senpai, it probably would have even worked,” the brunet said, shrugging. “No one else is going to do it, so us omegas have to look out for each other. Having problems?”

“I ... yeah, kinda, but, um, how...?”

“You're sitting in front of Student Services, crying. If you want to talk about it, maybe I can help? Since I'm guessing they won't,” the older omega said with a jerk of the head to indicate the services building.

“My own roommate got cat urine from I don't even know where and poured it all over my bed,” Rui mumbled, wringing his hands. “They say there's nothing they can do, I should either shut up or move out of student housing.”

“WHAT?! Are you fucking kidding me?!” Yumehito exclaimed, Rui flinching away from the unexpected outburst. “Oh fuck that! Come on, we're getting this taken care of right now.”

“I ... what ... I don't....”

Yumehito was already waving off his protests, a phone to his ear.

“Senpai? I need a favor. And a moving team to the Todai freshman dorms.”

Rui still felt like he should have been protesting, but he could read Yumehito's outrage and determination in his scent. He didn't understand it at all, but if it meant not having to stay in the dorms with the same asshole who had vandalized his stuff, he wasn't going to stop it, either.

~*~*~

Rui was starting to second guess himself when a crew in hazmat suits showed up, following him up to his dorm room. It was awkward enough when the team was standing in the hall behind him, but the way they were dismantling his bed and making a scene with how they were handling the mattress ... this was exactly the sort of attention he hadn't wanted. At this rate, the whole building was going to know about this, and yet Rui felt powerless to do anything but let it happen.

“Senpai's doing it like this to make a point, but I'm sorry it's making you uncomfortable,” Yumehito murmured. “I've got some boxes, we can pack up the rest of your stuff while they deal with that. Do you want them to try recovering your bedding or not?”

“The quilt, if it's possible. I really ... I don't want to have to tell Gramma what happened if I can avoid it.”

Yumehito nodded, passing him a flat-pack of boxes before stepping out to talk to the hazmat team. At least Rui could take some solace in the knowledge that his roommate had classes until 7pm. And that he didn't have a whole lot to pack, other than clothes. That, to his mounting horror, he was finding had also been defiled with something. Rage welled up in Rui's chest, he screamed as he threw ruined clothes across the room.

“Whoa, whoa ... okay, lemme get them back up here. Gods, sweetie, I'm so sorry,” Yumehito said, pulling Rui into a tight hug. “You know what, forget it, come on, we'll let the team handle all of this, okay? I'm taking you for coffee, right now, my treat.”

“But....”

“All your stuff is on that side of the room, right? If they already went that far, who knows what else these bastards have done, so come on. Coffee. I insist.”

Rui swallowed hard against the lump in his throat and silently nodded, letting Yumehito draw him away from his dorm room before he could do something they would all regret. Barely even three weeks into the term, how could anyone hate him this much? Why would anyone hate him this much?

“Hey now, it's okay to be pissed, yeah? But it's going to be okay, sweetie, we'll take care of his.”

“But ... you don't even know me?”

“Matsumoto or Saito?” the older omega asked as he steered Rui out of the room.

“Matsumoto, but how did you even...?” Rui asked, feeling more than a little ashamed to realize he hadn't even introduced himself to his rescuer yet.

“Door sign said Saito Naotake and Matsumoto Rui,” Yumehito explained with a shrug and another soft smile. “It's fine, you've been a bit distraught, ne? Ah, just a moment. Okayama-san!”

Rui felt himself shrink a little as a stunning blond alpha turned towards them, still mostly in his hazmat suit. He wasn't sure which was more shocking, the fact that an alpha had been helping with the clean up or the way said alpha calmly listened as Yumehito explained that the team needed to remove the rest of Rui's things because the hazing had gone further than just the bed. At the dark scowl that settled onto narrow features, Rui felt himself wanting to disappear even more. But before he could summon the words to apologize for being such a burden, the alpha snorted a comment about “fucking piss-ant betas” and put his helmet back on.

“All right then,” Yumehito said, taking Rui's arm again. “Coffee. And I know just the place to get your mind off all this mess.”

Rui doubted any coffee in the world would be capable of doing that, but he didn't really feel like he could just say that. Still, if his senpai was buying the coffee, maybe he could splurge and allow himself a slice of cake? On the other hand, moving out of the dorms like this, money for food was going to be a problem. Money for anything, really, was going to be a problem. Not that he could have stayed in that dorm, obviously, but where was he going to go now?

“I can tell you're winding yourself up over something,” the older omega murmured as they walked. “You don't really think we're going to help you get moved out and then leave you on some street corner, do you? Senpai would kick my ass!”

Rui could feel his cheeks heating at those words. Yumehito's gentle laugh didn't help one bit.

“Like I said, we look out for each other. Senpai took care of me. I'm helping you. When it's your turn, you'll help someone else. It's fine, you'll see.”

Rui tried to put on a brave face, but he doubted he actually managed it. And yet Yumehito only grinned, steering him around a corner. Could be worse, he supposed. For now, at least, he was just going to have to trust these people.

~*~*~

The chill of a slow starting spring made Rui that much more grateful when Yumehito finally pulled him into a restaurant. Until he realized where they were. A bara café. Yumehito had brought him to a bara café. Rui didn't know where to settle his eyes, muscled alphas in tight tank tops and biker shorts providing cheerful service to the handful of customers.

“S-senpai,” he stammered, tugging at the man's sleeve.

“Welcome!”

Rui flinched in spite of himself as one of the “maids” came over to greet them. Between his alpha-ness and his obvious muscles, Rui couldn't help a quiver of apprehension. And yet the “maid” just smiled and bowed.

“I'm Shohei, I'll be your server this afternoon. This way, please. Just two?”

“For the moment, might be three a little later,” Yumehito said with a little nod. Rui was more than a little hesitant to be surrounded by so many alphas, especially when he didn't know anyone here. And yet what else could he do? He didn't even know where Yumehito's friends were taking his things.

“Here you go,” Shohei said, gesturing to a booth a little away from the occupied tables. “Just let me know when you're ready to order, unless there's something I can get you now?”

“Small coffee, Americano, for me. Matsumoto-kun?”

“Ah, um, mocha, extra whip please,” he said, hoping that was all right. Shohei smiled as he bowed again and then left. A beat and Rui felt himself finally exhaling, though it didn't really help.

“First time in a place like this?” Yumehito asked, taking off his hat and running a hand through messy blondish-brown hair.

“That obvious?” he asked, rubbing his sweaty palms on his thighs, grateful for the cover the table afforded him.

“It's okay, no one here is going to make you do anything, least of all me. And they're pretty strict about the no touching rule, in both directions, so you're fine. Just don't order the Wall of Meat. Although, Shohei-kun's probably already guessed you aren't interested in that, putting us over here.”

“W-wall of m-meat?” Rui stammered before shaking his head. “On second thought, I don't think I really want to know.”

“Maybe someone else will order it while we're here. Order whatever you like, ne?” Yumehito said, gesturing to the menu Shohei had left for him. Rui glanced down at it, not sure if food was really such a good idea with how he was feeling. After the scene in his dorm room, he wasn't sure the mocha had been such a good choice, either, but he had needed to order something to drink, right? And mocha was about the only way he could take his coffee.

It took him a moment to realize it, but his heart rate was actually calming. Pulling out his phone, he used the table to cover pressing his fingers to his wrist to check his pulse. Not just his imagination. He had no idea why, but being here was having a calming effect.

“Told you I knew just the place,” Yumehito said, glancing up from his own phone to grin at him. “The atmosphere here always helps me relax. Probably the pheromones, but ask me if I care. Hot alphas and better than average food? I'll take it.”

Rui took a deep breath without even thinking about it, but once he did....

“They're all unmated?”

“Mmhmm. Shohei-kun says it's a condition of working here,” Yumehito replied with a nod. “Unmated alphas only, even in the kitchen. Well, some of the other staff are betas, but all the waiters are male alphas.”

“Do ... do you come here a lot, then?” he asked, glancing out at the rest of the café briefly.

“A couple of times a month,” the older omega said with a wry grin and another nod. “Shohei-kun is also the cousin of one of my classmates.

“O-oh,” he stammered, stealing another glance at the servers. Some of them were so muscled up it was a little scary, even knowing there were rules meant to protect customers from harm.

Shohei brought their drinks before Rui had even properly looked at the menu, smiling at them but not pressuring in the least when he asked if they were ready to order yet. Rui felt something in him relaxing in spite of himself. Probably pheromones, like Yumehito had suggested.

“Um, not really hungry,” he mumbled after a moment. “Senpai?”

“We'll see if Aki-senpai actually makes it here or not first,” Yumehito said. Another bow and Shohei left them alone again. Rui fiddled with his napkin, already at a loss for what to say to make conversation with this man he didn't even know. After all, he couldn't just ask why again, that might annoy the man and then where would he be? On the hook for a mocha more expensive than he usually allowed himself, at the very least.

A wild cheer went up across the small café, Rui watched with wide-eyed amazement as a bunch of the “maids” surrounded one of the tables and started puffing up their chests. They reminded him of preening peacocks as they circled the small table and the two beta women sitting there, giggling into their hands.

“... the wall of meat?” he asked after a beat.

“The wall of meat,” Yumehito agreed, obviously trying not to laugh.

“And women actually like that sort of thing??”

“Who knows?” Yumehito said, giving up and snickering into his coffee. “I'd find it more awkward than anything, I think, but different people like different things, ne?”

“Aa, that's true,” he agreed, shaking his head a little at the dancing still going on at the other table.

“If this place isn't really your thing ... now that you've calmed down a bit, I can always text senpai and have him meet us somewhere else. After you've finished your coffee, of course.”

“It's not ... I mean, I don't want to be any more trouble,” he said, shaking his head again.

“Trust me, it's no trouble. I mean it, Matsumoto-kun. If you want to go somewhere else for dinner, that's completely fine.”

“I, uh, I don't know that I really want to eat anything right now,” he confessed. “I don't even know where I'm going to be sleeping tonight, so, um....”

“We can do dinner in, too, no problem. What sounds good to you?”

“W-what?” he stammered, afraid to even try guessing what his senpai meant.

“I'll text senpai, you just finish your coffee, yeah?” Yumehito suggested, grinning again. “And relax, ne? I promise, everything is going to be fine.

Rui forced himself to take a deep breath and nod. He wasn't sure he could really believe that, not just yet anyway, but he had to try, right?

~*~*~

Rui glanced around his room, still feeling a bit in shock. His room, no roommate, just him. It was smaller than his bedroom in his parents' house, though not by much, and he had to share a bathroom with three other guys, but it was still better than the dorm. He had a mini-fridge and coffee pot, plus access to the communal kitchen downstairs, as long as he labelled his food. Not that he had money for food at the moment. Or for rent, for that matter, though Aki had insisted he didn't have to worry about that.

To be honest, he felt a little lost. Yumehito and Aki both insisted that he didn't need to worry, that they were more than happy to help him, but everything had happened so quickly, he was feeling a little overwhelmed. He had homework he ought to have been doing, and yet he couldn't focus on it at all. New surroundings, new people, new life ... Rui didn't know where to start.

The knock on his door at least gave him a direction. Getting up, he wasn't quite sure how to greet the blond on the other side.

“Um ... hi?” he ventured, tucking a lock of his own blond hair behind his ear.

“Laundry,” the omega said, hoisting up the large basket of clothes in his hands. Rui's clothes, he realized with a start. “Ordinarily, you have to do your own, but since Okayama-senpai brought this in and with you getting here so late in the day, kinda figured no one'd shown you the laundry room yet or even told you your stuff was down there.”

“Oh, um....”

“Subaru,” the omega said with a cheerful smile. “Can I?”

“Oh! Right, of course, sorry,” Rui babbled, stepping back and blushing heavily. “Sorry, today has just been....”

“I can only imagine,” Subaru said, carrying the basket of neatly folded clothes over to Rui's desk. “Not that anyone's said anything specific, mind you! Okayama-senpai was fuming the whole time he was here and between this and the other basket, kinda looks like half a wardrobe, so ... figure it had to be something bad.”

“Other basket?” he asked, trying not to get distracted by Subaru's silver ball labret.

“Oh yeah, two of them, actually. Come on, I'll show you,” Subaru said, setting the basket down before grabbing Rui's hand. He was too startled to protest and Subaru was too sweet, offering helpful running commentary even though half of it was stuff Yumehito had already explained.

“The baskets belong to the house, so when you get your clothes put away, just bring them back down here,” Subaru explained. “Machines are first come, first serve. You're really not supposed to touch anyone else's laundry, but sometimes someone will start a load, then get distracted or run out for something that takes longer than expected. If you really need a machine that's been abandoned or forgotten, you can shift loads to the next stage as long as you leave a note. Not that it happens too often, since there's only seven of us in the house right now. Well, eight now.”

“All omegas?” Rui asked, picking up a basket full of his own clothes. Also folded. He was definitely getting the royal treatment, he just wished he knew why.

“Yup. Five guys, two gals, all single and attending college here in Tokyo. Botany, archaeology, two aspiring novelists, a nursing student, even a cellist. What about you?”

“Physics with a focus in astronomy,” Rui said. “So, uh, which are you?”

“Archaeology. I haven't picked a field of focus yet, my advisor is ready to kick my ass, but it's so hard! There's so much history to study, a part of me just wants to learn it all, you know? Which is completely unreasonable, I know, but how am I supposed to pick between dinosaurs and ancient humans? So much has been lost but so much is also just waiting to be found!”

Rui couldn't help a little laugh at that.

“That's ... kinda how I feel about astronomy,” he admitted as he walked with the other omega back to his room. “We've learned so much in the last four hundred years, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to what we don't understand yet, you know?”

“Dark matter and the missing substance of the universe, right?” Subaru asked, nodding a little. “Takeshita-san, one of the other alphas who helps out around here now and then, he's doing a Masters in Astronomy, I'll point him out to you the next time he comes by the house.”

“Oh you don't have to do that....”

“Sure I do! Relax, he's one of the good ones, you'll see.”

Rui tried to smile, for Subaru's sake, but he could tell it hadn't actually worked.

“... if you want to talk about it,” the older blond murmured. “I mean about why you're here. No one's going to ask, we all know we're here because no one else would support our desires to be more than just breeders, but.... I've never seen Okayama-senpai that mad and I've been here three years now, so. But it's up to you, please don't think I'm trying to pressure you or anything!”

Rui hesitated a long moment, then set his basket on the floor before taking a seat on his bed.

“It's .. It's hard enough, tring to adjust to a new city, a new environment, you know? I didn't think I had done anything wrong, no one ever said anything like that to me, anyway. But I guess you can't really trust people, can you?” he said, sighing heavily. “It's only been three weeks, how could anyone hate me so much that they'd ... I don't even know what all was done, besides the cat pee all over my bed. And the university wasn't even willing to do anything about it, said I needed to have concrete proof of who had done if before they could act.”

“That ... that is so fucked up, my god. I'm so sorry,” the blond said, suddenly sitting beside Rui and tucking an arm around his shoulders. “So then this is everything? Everything they could salvage, I mean?”

“Apparently,” he mumbled, glancing around his room again. It wasn't like he'd had a whole lot in the dorm, but looking around it really hit him. None of this furniture was his. The desk lamp, a handful of figurines, but his gaming chair and consoles were missing, along with most of his games. These baskets held less than half his clothes, as far as he could tell. He didn't see his grandmother's quilt in the baskets and it wasn't on his bed. In fact he didn't recognize the bedding at all. He was beginning to think the only reason he still had his laptop was because he took it with him everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of yen, carefully saved from birthdays and new years and the few odd jobs he had been allowed to work, lost, ruined by hateful hands. The size of it hit him all at once, choking sobs catching in his throat. A gentle squeeze from Subaru's arm and he felt himself collapsing sideways against the older omega. It wasn't fair, it wasn't fair at all. What was wrong with people, that anyone could be so hateful?

Subaru tugged him in a little closer, then started rubbing his back while murmuring soft comfort. Rui felt so lost and alone, maybe that's why it happened. He didn't know, he didn't even know who had started it, just that one minute he had been feeling pathetic and unlovable, and the next thing he knew he had climbed into the blond's lap and was kissing him for all he was worth. Subaru wasn't holding back, either, fingers already tugging at Rui's shirt, slipping beneath it to feel warm skin. Rui whimpered and slid closer. He didn't even care that they were both omegas, Subaru was hot and willing and right there.

“Wait, wait,” Subaru mumbled suddenly, catching Rui's wrist. His heart trembled in his chest, he couldn't take another rejection right now, he really couldn't.

“Okay, first, no, you are gorgeous and if you're sure you don't mind sleeping with someone you've literally known less than half an hour, then yes, we can do that, but at least let me get something we're going to need,” Subaru said, squeezing his wrist a moment.

“Need?” he echoed, a little confused.

“Faster for me to just go get it. Five minutes. If you're sure.”

Was he sure? Not at all, but Rui wasn't going to say that, not now.

“Okay, five minutes,” he said, sliding off Subaru's lap. The other blond grinned.

“If you're sure ... be naked when I get back?” Subaru suggested as he stood up, pecking a quick kiss to Rui's lips. That ... yes, he could do that, he could definitely do that. Closing the blinds on his window, he then stripped down to nothing before sliding into the bedding, feeling even more sinful for the fact that it wasn't his, not really.

He wasn't sure if it had been five minutes or not when someone knocked on his door. He couldn't very well answer the door naked, but he also wasn't sure if he should say anything or not. What if it was someone else coming to check on him? That would be completely embarrassing.

Fortunately, the door opened almost immediately after, Subaru letting himself in and then locking the door behind him. Rui felt like his stomach was doing flips as he watched the blond cross the room. Subaru had changed into a light green yukata and brought a bag with him, setting it on the floor beside the bed. Rui had no idea what to think of the fat pale green pillar candle Subaru pulled out of it or why he then set it on a plate well away from any combustibles, using a lighter on the three wicks.

“Scent neutralizer,” Subaru explained as he walked back over to Rui's bed, untying his yukata as he did. “There's no rule against it, but didn't figure you'd want the whole house knowing either.”

Rui could feel a light blush dusting his cheeks as he watched Subaru climb into bed with him. That made a lot of sense. He still wasn't sure if this was smart, but whatever happened, he definitely didn't want to get a reputation for being a slut already.

Subaru pulled him in close, kissing him eagerly. Rui shoved his doubts away as he scooted himself even closer, running a hand over the blond's bared chest. It was funny, Rui didn't usually think of himself as being attracted to other omegas, but there was something about Subaru, something that felt right. Maybe it was stupid, maybe he was just desperate for any affection he could get. Maybe this was the completely wrong time to be thinking about it.

A warm hand slid down Rui's arm, settling on his hip as their kisses grew more intense. Rui moaned as he pushed Subaru over onto his back. He knew exactly what he wanted to feel tonight, climbing on top of the blond with a little smirk.

“Anything you want,” Subaru murmured, almost as if he was reading Rui's mind. He bent down for another hungry kiss, slowly rolling his hips and rubbing his ass against the blond's hardening cock.

“I want to ride you until you can't take it another second,” he said in a low purr. “And then I want you to fuck me so hard I forget my own name. Think you can do that?”

“Dunno, let's find out,” Subaru replied with a devilish grin. Rui leaned in for another hungry kiss. This was going to be a good night.

~*~*~

Rui was a little surprised to wake up with Subaru still in his bed, the blond's arms still tucked around him. He had been sort of expecting the older omega to cut and run while he was asleep so they wouldn't have to have the awkward morning after conversation. Maybe it was just that Rui had woken first?

“Morning, beautiful,” Subaru murmured, brushing a kiss to Rui's forehead. So much for that thought.

“So ... we need to talk about last night,” the older blond said, still holding him close.

“... okay?” he mumbled, not at all sure where this was headed.

“Stop me if I'm wrong, but I'm assuming last night was about trying to reclaim some power after a particularly shitty day and nothing to do with me, other than I was willing,” Subaru said. Despite his words, his scent was completely calm; Rui felt like he was out of his depth.

“I mean, we did tumble into bed awfully fast, even for me,” the older omega added, chuckling and brushing another kiss to Rui's forehead.

“I, um, I was kind of expecting you to sneak out while I was asleep,” Rui confessed, blushing again.

“Well, we are going to be living together for the rest of the school year, so I figured we should probably, you know, talk a bit about it.”

“I guess,” Rui agreed, humming a little bit not sure what else to say. He hadn't thought this out enough, sleeping together could have been a huge mistake.

“I don't regret anything we did last night, Rui-kun,” Subaru said, turning his chin towards him. “Do you?”

Rui chewed on his bottom lip and averted his eyes. Did he?

“I don't know,” he confessed. “I mean, I did just wake up. But ... I don't think so? It ... it was probably a pretty stupid thing to do when I don't even know you at all, but... you seemed kind and, well, um, you were really good.”

He was blushing again, he was sure of it, but it wasn't like he could stop that. Subaru laughed, but it was a warm, inclusive scent rather than mocking.

“Well thank you, you were really good yourself. So I guess the next question is ... do you want this to be a regular thing?”

“... I don't know. What if it turns out we don't actually like each other?” Rui mumbled, though he felt a bit ridiculous saying such a thing. Okay, yes, he didn't know Subaru properly yet, but his impression from the time they had spent together before crawling into his bed was of a warm, gentle soul who got along with pretty much anyone and everyone. Still, Rui knew he could be a difficult person to handle. More than once he had been accused of being a spoiled princess and he couldn't image that was really Subaru's type.

“Not sure how likely that is, but I suppose it's valid,” the older omega conceded, smiling gently as he brushed a lock of fringe away from Rui's eyes. “So ... just friends? If something more develops, then fine. And if it doesn't, then also fine?”

Rui rolled the options around in his head. Friends would be good, he could use a real friend, since it was pretty clear to him that no one in his old dorm could actually be trusted at this point.

“Friends as in you help with my homework or friends who talk about the best sex toys on the market or...?”

“We can be just casual friends if that's what you'd feel most comfortable with,” Subaru said with a half shrug. “Or we can try being friends who fuck, although I get the feeling you don't usually go for omegas.”

“... you're my first,” he admitted with another blush, glancing away. He wasn't even sure why he felt so embarrassed about that.

“You're really cute when you're blushing, you know that?” Subaru said, chuckling softly. “But it's up to you, Rui-kun. If all we do going forward is share meals and cuddles, I'm fine with that. No pressure, okay?”

What was the right answer? Rui didn't even know anymore.

“I ... give me some time to think about it?”

“Of course,” Subaru said, leaning in for a quick kiss. “I don't know what your class schedule is like, but there's always rice in the kitchen, help yourself. And try to get the laundry baskets back downstairs before you leave this morning. No one's said details, but with you being rushed in, we all get it that it was something traumatic that brought you here, so you can take your time getting used to how we do things, it's fine.”

“O-okay,” Rui stammered, not sure how to respond to any of that. Maybe it was better if he didn't try? He should probably message Yumehito again later, see if his senpai couldn't do a better job explaining himself.

~*~*~

Rui was once again feeling a little awkward, this time sitting in Starbucks, alone, with two drinks on the table in front of him. It was a silly thing for him to feel awkward about, and yet there he was. Not like he was in control of his own mind at this point, sadly.

“Hope I didn't keep you waiting too long,” Yumehito said, sliding into a chair opposite him. “You didn't have to do this, you know,” he added, gesturing to the two drinks.

“Seemed like the least I could do, after everything you did for me yesterday,” Rui said with a shrug, nervously tucking a lock of hair behind his ear. He wasn't sure he could actually afford this, long term so to speak, but since tables were for customers, he had needed to buy something. Drinks seemed like the safest option.

“You don't owe me anything, Rui-kun,” the other omega said, shaking his head before accepting the drink. “Is that why you wanted to meet?”

“Not ... that is, we, ah, kinda rushed things yesterday,” he said, toying with his cup. “I, um, I don't really understand the situation. What, um, what is my responsibility to the, uh, the house? Like what kind of debt am I accruing and how am I expected to pay it back? And when?”

“You aren't,” the older man said, sipping his coffee. “Until you have a real job, you are absolutely not accruing any debts and Hyde-sama would tear a strip off anyone who tried to say different.”

“What?? No! I ... that's not right!” he protested.

“You're welcome to try arguing it with Hyde-sama, but I wouldn't expect him to change his mind,” Yumehito replied with an amused grin. “Once he decides something, that's pretty much the end of it. You know what alphas are like, ne?”

“But....”

“If you really want to try arguing with him, he'll probably come by either tonight or tomorrow with Aki-senpai, but he's seriously the most stubborn alpha I have ever met, you're better off saving your breath. As far as responsibilities around the house ... keep common areas tidy as much as possible. If you use something, wash it. Quiet hours are 10pm to 7am, but try not to get too rowdy before 9am. You're responsible for washing your own laundry going forward, don't abandon a load in a machine all day if you can help it. If you're having trouble with another resident that you aren't able to resolve peaceably yourself, bring it to me or Aki-senpai.”

“... and it's really okay for me to just eat whatever's in the kitchen?”

“As long as it doesn't have someone else's name on it, though a lot of us keep anything we really don't want to share in our own rooms,” Yumehito said with another nod.

“But I ... I don't have any way to pay for anything,” Rui mumbled.

“And you aren't expected to,” the other omega insisted softly, reaching across the table to briefly squeeze Rui's hand. “Rui-kun, that wasn't just a little hazing, that was a vicious, pre-meditated attack. Senpai is probably already going to the police with Okayama-san's report and whatever evidence the team held back for that purpose. You already paid out for room and board and while Hyde-sama will probably be able to get the university to refund your fees eventually, until then you are absolutely not expected to have the money to pay for things. And no one is going to leave you to starve, sweetheart.”

He felt stupid, tearing up like he was, especially since Yumehito had said something similar last time. And even stupider when the older omega rounded the table to take the chair next to him and tuck an arm around his shoulders.

“Shh, hey now, it's okay, sweetie. Looking after others, it's what omegas do, ne? We'll take care of you until you can take of yourself, it's not a problem. Might even be able to help you find a part-time job, if you want the help, that is.”

Rui sniffled and tried to rub away the evidence of his tears, but he was half afraid he was just making things worse. At least no one seemed to be giving them a second look, though he wasn't sure what that said about the local community that a crying omega wasn't seen as particularly notable.

“Drink your coffee, sweetheart,” Yumehito murmured, brushing a kiss to his temple. “And then we're going shopping, you and me.”

“Wh-what?”

“I read the repot, I know how much was ruined beyond recovery. Your grandmother's quilt is getting special treatment, you should get that back later tonight, by the way.”

“Oh thank the gods,” he breathed, shivering with the strength of his relief. “But I don't....”

“You need more than two pairs of jeans, Rui-kun,” Yumehito said with a small smile. “Senpai does his weekly shopping on Mondays, but if there's something you need or want before then, now is the perfect time, ne?”

“S-senpai,” he stammered, “I ... I can't....”

“Sure you can,” Yumehito said, chuckling softly as he sat back. “I insist. And even if you don't, senpai and Hyde-sama will insist later. Unless you have some big homework project you absolutely need to be doing right now instead, of course....”

It was the perfect opening, but he already knew there was no way he could lie well enough to actually use it. Sniffling again, he shook his head. This was like a minor version of hell. He couldn't just take advantage of his senpai like this, but at the same time he couldn't seem to get out of it, either. Almost too bad he wasn't the spoiled princess others tried to claim. It might have made things easier.

~*~*~

Rui sucked in a heavy breath and tried not to glare at the bags on his bed. At least he had managed to talk Yumehito down to just a stop at Parco and another at Daiso. A few wardrobe staples, another pair of gym shoes, and more school supplies than he really needed, but still less than he had originally feared. Yumehito insisted he didn't owe him anything, but as wrong as it felt, Rui could at least admit to himself that it was useless to keep arguing with the man. One way or another, though, he was going to find a way to pay him back for every yen.

“Knock knock.”

Rui jumped to his feet as his door opened, Aki's head appearing in the space.

“Hey, mind if we come in?”

“We?” he echoed. The door opened a little wider to show Aki wasn't alone. An alpha, shorter than Aki and yet with a powerful aura and oh god, this had to be Aki's mate. Rui hurriedly gathered the shopping bags into a small corner of his bed so the two could have somewhere to sit.

“Sorry to just burst in on you like this,” Aki said with a small smile. “Rui-kun, this is my mate, Hyde. He wanted to meet you for himself.”

“That and I had a feeling that you'd try to tell Akkun 'no' if I didn't come myself.”

“P-pardon?” he stammered, eyes darting between the mated couple. Hyde pulled out his wallet, handing over a large sum of money.

“I ... I can't,” he started, but Hyde was insisting.

“Think of it as an advance on your university housing fees refund,” Hyde said with a slight frown that suggested Rui was on the verge of insulting the man. “Akkun and I have been running this house for almost a decade, every last omega to end up here has had the pride of any alpha, but you have needs. I can already tell how unwilling you are to let anyone help you.”

Rui blushed hotly at that, mumbling something about being all right on his own.

“Yup, just as bad as the rest,” Hyde said with a nod. “Police are looking into your case, by the way, you'll hear more in a couple of days. And if you don't, I want to know about it, okay?

“Oh, and we don't pay back around here, we pay it forward. You don't owe me or Akkun or Yume-kun anything except that you'll do your part to help someone when you're able.

“O-okay,” he stammered, feeling something tingling down his spine.

“If you need help with anything, ask,” Hyde said with a firm look. “Whether it's a new laptop or the yen to go buy it yourself, we'll work it out, all right?”

Rui nodded again, too nervous now to even speak.

“All right, well, it was nice meeting you, Rui-san,” the alpha said, nodding again and letting himself out. Rui blinked again, glancing sidelong at Aki. Now what?

“Are you sure you got enough? Is there anything else we can do to help?”

“I ... I'm fine, honest. Senpai didn't really need to get even this much.”

“Okay, well, any food allergies then?”

“Not, um, not as far as I know?”

“All right then,” Aki said, getting up as well. “But if you change your mind, if you think of anything you need, just say something, okay?”

Aki hugged him close and kissed his cheek, then he, too was leaving. Rui shivered, sitting down heavily on the edge of his bed. He ... really was not used to being around people who cared so easily. Aki and Hyde didn't even know him. Yumehito barely knew him. And Subaru.... He blushed a little, thinking about the other omega. Maybe.... Stuffing half his new-found wealth somewhere he hoped it would be safe, he then grabbed his jacket. If he wasn't allowed to turn around and give this money to Yumehito to pay for this afternoon, then he had something else he wanted to do with it. He just hoped Subaru would like it.

~*~*~

Rui might have been showered and dressed, but he wasn't all that awake as he made his way to the kitchen, silently praying someone else had already made coffee. With his eyes mostly closed, he didn't realize there was someone else even in the kitchen until he was literally stumbling into the man. A split second and his nose registered alpha the same time as strong hands caught his shoulders.

“Hey there, be careful, yeah?”

Rui blinked a few times, rubbing at his eyes with a fist. Long black hair, half caught in a messy tail with a few strands hanging loose around his narrow face. A sharp nose, high cheekbones, piercing brown eyes, and a scent that was nearly no scent at all. No wonder he hadn't realized the alpha was there. Rui blinked again, trying to make his tired brain do more than just stare at the alpha in their kitchen. He was so tall, too. Who was this guy?

“You must be the new resident, Matsumoto-san, right?”

“Y-yeah,” he managed after what felt like entirely too long. And yet the alpha was smiling instead of getting irritated with him, so maybe it hadn't been as bad as he thought?

“I have a package for you. Sorry I couldn't get it to you last night, the work took longer than expected.”

“Gramma's quilt?”

“Mm, cleaned and completely restored,” the alpha said with a small smile, letting go of Rui's shoulder with a gentle squeeze. “Coffee?”

“Gods, yes please,” he mumbled, his embarrassment getting even sharper. The alpha laughed, nudging him over towards the next room, where breakfast was usually served. Before Rui could do anything about it, the older man poured him a mug of coffee.

“How do you take it?” the alpha asked.

“I ... I can do that,” he mumbled, feeling his cheeks heat again as he moved closer, not quite daring to try to take the mug out of the alpha's hands.

“I don't mind,” the man said with another gentle smile. “Seriously. Sit, before you keel over. Did you even sleep at all last night?”

Rui was blushing again and he hated it. Especially around this guy whose name he didn't even know. Why was some alpha even in their kitchen in the first place? As far as Rui knew, this was an omegas-only residence, so who was this guy and what was he doing??

“Ah, good morning, Kato-san! Oh, Rui-kun, are you sure you're feeling well, sweetie?”

Rui felt like an idiot, still standing there just blinking as Yumehito walked right up to the alpha, giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. And yet the alpha, Kato, didn't object, returning the embrace a moment before grabbing a third coffee mug.

“Cream and sugar, Ohno-kun?”

“Please and thank you. Ah, you have two met properly? Kato-san, this is Matsumoto Rui-kun, our newest resident. Rui-kun, this is Kato Tetsuya, an associate of Hyde-sama. His company specializes in vintage textiles, especially restorations of damaged items.”

“I was just asking him how he likes his coffee,” Kato said with another nod and smile. “Bit shy though, ne?”

“Well, if you're here, Kato-san, I assume you saw the quilt,” Yumehito said, tilting his head slightly as if examining Rui again. “So perhaps not so much shy as ... stressed?”

“Ah, in that case....”

Rui was still rooted in place, watching as Kato finished his coffee and then stepped out of the kitchen. Only a moment and then he was coming back with a carefully wrapped package. Rui was torn between wanting to rip into it right away, see for himself the quilt was fine, and wanting to hug the alpha in gratitude for saving it.

“Good as new,” the tall alpha murmured as he handed it over. Rui could feel tears threatening to spill down his cheeks; he hugged the package close to his chest to keep from doing something inappropriate.

“Always a pleasure, Ohno-kun. And perhaps the next time we meet, it can be under less traumatic circumstances, ne, Matsumoto-kun?”

He couldn't make his tongue produce words at all, bowing with his quilt still clutched tight to his chest. He didn't know what he would have done if he had lost this.

“Go ahead and take that back up to your room, dear. I should have breakfast ready by the time you come back down,” Yumehito insisted, making little shooing motions. Rui bit back a giggle, worried it would come out sounding crazed. He just hoped this was a sign of better days ahead.

~*~*~

“Okay, what's wrong?”

Rui twitched and jerked upright at the feel of a hand on his back. And then winced again as he realized it was just Subaru, worrying about him for ... some reason.

“You have got to stop jumping every time someone tries to talk to you, babe,” the blond omega murmured just barely loud enough for Rui to hear him. Rui's shoulders fell inwards at that; he knew Subaru was right, but it wasn't so easy to relax, even here. Subaru's hand rubbed along his spine and the older omega claimed the seat next to him.

“It's not ... just having a hard time getting this,” he said with a little huff, gesturing to his calculus text. He hadn't even had trouble with mathematics before this, but now....

“Calculus, right? You're taking the hard track calculus, too, I'm sure, so not sure if any of us could help, but maybe? Ne, ne, Kondo-san, how are you at calculus?”

“I think I forgot most of it,” the omega woman admitted with a light laugh, coming over to the table to peer at the book Rui had pushed away in his annoyance with himself. “Oh, derivatives. I was always better with integrals, go figure. You know, Takeshita-san might be able to tutor you. He did his undergrad in physics, like you, probably even took this same course with the same professor. Ohno-senpai ought to have his number.”

“I'm already asking him if he's busy,” Subaru said, waving his phone for a second.

“What, um, what are you studying, Kondo-senpai?”

“Botany, with a minor in ecology,” the woman said with a bright smile. “I've always loved plants, this is just a natural extension of that, ne? My dream job would be managing the Imperial Botanical Gardens, but that's probably completely out of reach. But I can't get into any administrative work at any botanical garden without at least Bachelors, being an omega and all, so here I am!”

Rui nodded a little as he listened, a brief feeling of relief as he filed away another name with a face and a major. It wasn't much, but if he was ever going to stop flinching all the time, he needed to get to know his housemates at least that much.

“Okay, Takeshita-san says he can only give you twenty minutes tonight, but if you really need the ongoing help, he can make arrangements with you while he's here?”

For a second, Rui just gaped at the older omega. He had been struggling for weeks to try to get a tutor from Student Services and that quickly now he had one?

“Face like he's been hit with a brick? Let me guess, Student Services was no use at helping you find a tutor?” Kondo asked, giggling behind her hand.

“They said they had a waiting list, that it could be weeks before they could match me with someone.”

“Only because they don't bother even trying to match omegas with tutors until the third month of the term,” the woman said with a snort and a roll of her eyes. “Student Services at Todai is completely complicit in the oppression of omega students, it's a disgrace. Worse, unless you manage to make a personal connection somehow, they completely block any information about outside services, so new students think they had no choice but to wait for Student Services to help them. It's an outrage!”

“Oh man, who set Kondo-san off this time?”

Rui twisted around in his chair, curious about the two omegas coming into the multipurpose room together. He hesitated to guess which two these were; between the one with long pink micro-braids and the one with wavy black hair past his shoulders, and both of them with lip piercings, neither looked like his idea of novelists, nurses, or cellists. Not that there was anything wrong with their styles, but he dared not make a wrong guess and risk insulting his housemates.

“Matsumoto, right?” the pink-haired omega asked with a bright grin. “Niiyama Koichi, microbiology, nice to finally meet you properly, yeah?”

“Micro--”

“Suzuki Kei, Classics and Poetry,” the other said with a polite bow.

“Poetry,” Rui echoed, turning a confused frown on Subaru. Had his senpai-slash-lover been punking him this whole time?

“What? I said they were aspiring novelists, I didn't say either of them were creative writing majors!” the blond protested, laughing.

“Aww, senpai, you were talking about us with the new guy? You do like us! I knew it!” Koichi said, wiping away a non-existent tear.

“So do you ... write together?” Rui asked, glancing between the two men. They did feel like they were close, but maybe that was just his imagination?

“Absolutely not,” Kei said with a disdainful snort. So much for his ability to read people.

“He thinks what I write is trash,” Koichi said in a blatant stage whisper, rolling his eyes.

“Because what you write is trash,” Kei replied with another little snort. And yet his scent was full of amusement, not anger or irritation, so maybe Rui wasn't completely off the mark? But then why the supposed hostility, calling Koichi's writing trash?

“It's all liberation fantasies and sex books,” the darker omega added after a moment, actually smiling a little. Rui felt his eyes go wide with sudden understanding. Pulp romance.

“And you?” he asked Kei.

“The next great Japanese epic. That no one is allowed to see until it's finished,” Koichi said in his friend's place. “Which will be never, especially since he keeps stopping to work on other things, like his poetry. It's fine, books are like that, they take the time they take.”

“That makes sense,” Rui said with a little nod.

“Knock knock, anybody home?” someone said. Rui had to bite his lip to keep from giggling at the way all four of his housemates pulled themselves up a little straighter for the alpha who stepped into the room. “Oh, I didn't think this was going to be a group session.”

“It's not,” Subaru said, getting up and giving the other three A Look. “This one here is Matsumoto Rui-kun, by the way. Rui-kun, this is Takeshita Umi, he's the one doing a Masters in Astronomy I told you about. Anyway, the rest of us will be going now.”

Koichi was mumbling something that sounded like a protest, but Kei was already dragging the pink-haired omega out of the room, a snickering Kondo trailing behind them. The alpha hung back by the door, nodding at the departing omegas, and didn't actually approach the table until it was just the two of them. And even then he stopped at only halfway across the room.

“Are you sure you're okay being alone with me?” the alpha asked.

“Some reason I shouldn't?”

“Not at all, but I didn't want to make assumptions. And I definitely don't want to make you uncomfortable. I mean, I'm not going to do anything, but if you would feel more comfortable having a chaperone or something....”

“I'm okay,” he said, even if he wasn't entirely sure how much truth there was in that. Not like he had spent a whole lot of time around alphas outside of the classroom or other big, public places.

“All right then, let's get started, shall we?” Takeshita suggested, coming over to sit down next to him. The older man's scent was surprisingly soothing, even with the strong alpha notes in it, Rui was having a little trouble focusing on the math instead of his tutor.

“Should I assume we're going to have to make a regular habit of this?” the alpha asked after a disappointingly quick twenty minutes.

“I, um, yeah,” Rui mumbled. “I ... don't know if physics is the right choice for me.”

“Hey now, it is way too soon for you to be talking like that,” the alpha scolded with a little frown. “We've barely even started, give yourself a fair chance, yeah? I'll give you my number, if you run into trouble, feel free to ring me up or message me any time.”

“You ... but ... really?”

“Absolutely,” Takeshita said with a warm smile. The sort of smile that made something warm nest in Rui's chest. Now he really was going to have to try his best to learn the material; he definitely didn't want to let his senpai down so casually.

~*~*~

For two hours a week, Rui got to be mostly to entirely alone with his tutor and senpai. The first time he bombed a test, he could feel the panic threatening to choke him. And yet in spite of his fear, when he showed Takeshita the test, the alpha actually apologized to him for not being a better teacher. Rui could only sit there, silently watching in shock as Takeshita started making changes in his own schedule so he could give Rui time every night until the alpha was satisfied Rui was caught up with his classmates. Even after six weeks and seeing the lengths Yumehito and Aki were willing to go to help him, Rui still wasn't used to anyone wanting to help him that much.

But as much as he didn't understand it, he wasn't about to fight it. He needed the help, and not just in calculus. He hadn't even needed to ask for help with his physics class, Takeshita had done that on his own. The first time he went to the alpha to ask if he could help him with his English homework, Rui had been so nervous he had almost choked on the words. When he was finally able to get them out, Takeshita had smiled and agreed learning English was important if Rui was serious about studying the universe.

“He likes you, you know,” Subaru said one night as the two of them lay curled up together in Rui's bed.

“Who does?”

“Takeshita-senpai. Why do you think he spends so much time here?”

“Because I'm an utterly hopeless idiot who needs his help with everything?” Rui ventured, surprised when Subaru laughed.

“Don't ever change, babe,” the blond said, brushing a kiss to his cheek. “Pay attention next time, it's not like he's really hiding it. The way he touches you when you get the answer right, the way he looks at you when he thinks no one is going to notice. He hasn't said anything because three of the last five times he's come over, you've still had my scent all over you. And he's actually a super shy little muffin under that tough alpha male exterior. But he isn't helping you just because he's a good guy. I mean, yeah, he's a good guy, but that's not his only motive.”

Rui wasn't sure hot to react, tucking himself even closer to Subaru's chest. He wasn't sure what to call what he and Subaru were, if they were still just friends or becoming something more, but he knew it was comfortable. He didn't even miss being knotted – they had toys for that. Subaru was safe, welcoming, with him he felt at home. Takeshita ... what if the alpha only wanted him because he was forbidden fruit? What if Rui took a chance on his senpai and things blew up in his face? No, he couldn't do that. Anything else aside, he needed Takeshita's help if he was ever going to survive his major.

“Alphas are always more interested in what they can't or shouldn't have,” he mumbled. “And then when they get it, it bores them.”

“Hey now, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to push you at him or anything,” Subaru said, brushing another kiss into his hair this time. “I'm happy with what we're building here and I'd probably have to cock punch him if you just dropped me for him right now anyway. But I thought you should know, since it's been quite a few weeks now and you're ... kinda oblivious to this sort of thing.”

“... I am?”

“You still ... I told him you were never going to figure it out,” Subaru said, chuckling and pulling Rui closer. “Oh baby, you are the worst. And the best.”

“What are you even talking about?” Rui asked, pushing back so he could frown up at the older omega.

“Sorry baby, but I promised him I wouldn't tell you anything until he gave up,” his lover replied with a little shake of his head. Rui pouted at him even harder. Subaru smiled, pressing a soft kiss to his lips and in spite of himself, Rui gave in with a soft sigh. Subaru did know the best ways to get his mind off of things.

~*~*~

End of term. Rui's grades were all posted online, all he had to do was log into the system to get them, but he was too afraid to look. He got as far as the login screen, then would chicken out.

“Do you need me to do it for you?”

“D-do what?” he stammered, blinking up at Koichi in surprise.

“You've snapped the lid shut like five times,” the pink-haired omega said, rolling his eyes. “Come on, we'll do it together. You can enter your info and I'll click next and tell you what you got. Or do I need to get Baru-kun first?”

“What? I mean, no. No, I ... I'm not even sure they've been posted yet. Nagai-sensei has been super slow with grading all term, so it's probably too soon to think about it.”

“... suit yourself,” the older omega said with a shrug before walking out of the room. Maybe Rui should go somewhere else? Of course anywhere he went was going to be the same problem – wanting to check his grades and being too scared of failure to actually do it. He was being stupid, he needed to just open up his laptop and log into the system. Now, before he could make himself sick by stewing over all the worst possible options.

He was still trying to talk himself into actually opening his laptop again when his tutor knocked on the door frame, smiling gently when Rui looked up.

“Hey, so. What's the news?”

“I don't know,” he confessed, shoulders caving inwards. “I haven't been able to make myself look.”

“It's just your first term, not that big a deal, ne? Although, as hard as you've been studying, I'd be surprised if you got any bad grades.”

“Umi-senpai is just being nice,” Rui mumbled as his tutor sat next to him on the couch. Still, having the alpha close was enough to get him to take a deep breath and open his laptop again. The login page had timed out, of course, but it didn't take long to refresh it and re-enter his information. Umi's scent grew stronger as an arm tucked around his shoulders, a warm hand sliding down his arm until it was covering his own, guiding him to actually log in. With no other option, he squeezed his eyes tight shut. He didn't want to see if he had failed.

“Now see? Look at that, a solid 3.0 average. I told you that you'd do fine on your finals.”

Rui wasn't sure which shocked him more, the grades or the brush of lips to his cheek.

“S-senpai,” he stammered, frozen in place.

“You're right, I shouldn't have done that,” Umi said as he moved away. “It wasn't professional or appropriate, I apologize. I'll find you a new tutor.”

“W-what? N-no, no, wait,” Rui said, grabbing the alpha's wrist. “I ... I don't want a different tutor.”

A part of him wanted that to be the end of it, for Umi to drop the whole thing. But there was something about the expression on his senpai's face that made him worry if he didn't explain further, the alpha would try to do the noble thing and Rui wouldn't see him again.

“I ... I know you're only suggesting it because of the kiss and you don't want me to be uncomfortable, but, um, I already knew,” he mumbled, dropping his eyes. Where his laptop was still sitting open to the page with his grades. Huh. He really had done better than he had been expecting. A lot better.

“Already knew ... what?” Umi asked.

“I, uh, I've known for a couple weeks that you were ... you know ... interested,” he mumbled, feeling his whole face going red. “Baru ... Baru told me awhile ago.”

“Baru ... Kusada Subaru?”

Rui swallowed thickly and nodded. Would Umi be one of those alphas who got all weird about two omegas being together? No one around the house gave them any trouble about their relationship, not that they did more than cuddle most of the time when they were in public spaces anyway. A few stolen kisses in the kitchen during late night snack runs, but that was as public as they got. Everything else was kept behind closed doors, so maybe not everyone in the house even knew?

“Boyfriend?” Umi asked softly, pulling his wrist free only to reclaim the spot next to Rui on the couch. Rui didn't know how exactly to answer that question, petrified of getting it wrong and making things worse.

“Yeah, you're right, it's none of my business,” Umi said, chuckling softly. “For what it's worth, I think the two of you make a cute couple.”

“You ... you aren't angry?”

“Angry ... because you already have a boyfriend? Why would – what, because I'm an alpha? I mean, okay, yeah, it stings a little, but apparently the two of you have been together awhile now, so there's no point in getting mad about it,” his tutor said with a shrug. “You don't owe me anything, that's for sure.”

“O-oh,” he said, at a loss for what else he could even say just then.

“... if you're sure you still want me to be your tutor ... we can continue next week like normal?”

“I ... yeah, I'd like that,” he said with a shy nod, finally managing to make himself glance sidelong at the alpha.

“All right then. And congrats, yeah?” the alpha said with a little smile as he got up to leave. “You deserve to be happy, you and Kusada-kun both.”

Rui blushed again, mumbling a thanks. He wasn't sure his whatever it was with Subaru was really something to be congratulating, but ... it was nice to know Umi wasn't going to be all weird about it. Although now that he had his grades, he should probably see if he could find Subaru so they could celebrate together. And maybe talk while they were at it? Yeah, that might be a good idea.

~*~*~

Rui felt a little bit guilty that he and Subaru had ended up in bed together instead of going out to dinner.

“Is this all we are?” he mumbled, purposefully drawing on Subaru's bare chest with his fingers instead of looking him in the eyes.

“The sex?” Subaru asked, carding fingers through Rui's shorter hair. “Are you not happy with things anymore? Does this have anything to do with Takeshita-senpai visiting today?”

“... sort of? He thinks you're my boyfriend,” Rui mumbled, still not meeting Subaru's gaze. “I ... I didn't know what to say to him....”

“... you're so terrible at this, baby,” the other omega murmured, tilting Rui's chin up to brush a kiss to his lips. “Are you trying to say you want me to dump me for him?”

“What?! No! Baru!” he protested, whining a little. “I mean, yeah, he's hot, but when he kissed me –.”

“He kissed you??”

“Say that a little louder, why don't you, I don't think the French heard you,” he muttered. “It was just a quick brush on the cheek, nothing big. But I didn't feel anything. Not like when you kiss me.”

“I don't usually go for the cheek,” Subaru pointed out, chuckling. Rui huffed as he sat up to swat the man's chest, even though he wasn't really mad. And then he sank back down to curl up in the crook of Subaru's arm, pillowing his head on the blond's shoulder.

“I ... I like this. I like how I feel when I'm with you. And I don't just mean the sex,” he mumbled. “I hadn't really thought about it until he was getting all weird and threatening to find me a new tutor and I had to confess that I'd already known he was interested and.... I mean, I didn't tell him you were my boyfriend, he made that leap on his own, but I didn't deny it, either, and I ... I liked the thought. I don't want to deny it.”

“I'm kinda glad you didn't. Cuz I like you, too. A lot,” the older blond said, gently tugging him in closer.

“R-really?”

“Yeah, for awhile,” Subaru confessed. “I just ... wasn't sure how to tell you. Didn't want to scare you off.”

“I'm sorry,” he mumbled, not really sure why.

“For what? Rui... don't say such unnecessary things, yeah?” Subaru murmured, nuzzling his cheek.

“It's just....”

“Just? Rui, I was hesitant because, well, you were kinda traumatized when this whole thing started. What if I was just a rebound, something to make yourself feel better? I didn't want to pressure you if you weren't feeling the same as me.”

“What if I'm still not?” he mumbled, tracing an invisible pattern on Subaru's bare chest.

“Maybe you aren't,” Subaru agreed, kissing the top of his head again. “But I'd still like it if I could call you my boyfriend, at least for awhile.”

“I'd like that, too,” Rui mumbled. Now that he was paying attention, it was like the older omega's scent had changed somewhere along the line. Or maybe just his perception of it, he didn't know. Shifting, he pressed his nose into the crook of Subaru's neck and sighed. Comfort. Subaru's scent was still warm sand and ocean currents, wood fires and the beach, but there was something else there, too. Something he couldn't describe with words other than to say it was comforting. Maybe that was enough.