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Patience, he'd said, would be rewarded well.

Byou didn't even know how long ago Aki had said that, but he was beginning to hate that word with a fiery passion. While the promised reward had always been worth it, the frustration was sure to drive him to distraction. He was currently blindfolded and suspended face up about a foot and a half above the bed, his legs spread and his arms and knees raised and cuffed to the lengths of chain holding him up, and his head supported by another strap. The contraption was comfortable due to the padded leather straps beneath his shoulders and hips, but he'd be far more comfortable, and reassured, by the touch of his alpha. The alpha who was currently elsewhere and not here with him.

Damn him.

Byou was beginning to feel a bit neglected. His urge to complain and demand warred with a nagging sense of anxiety that Aki had left him there all alone. He heard faint sounds of movement every now and then from elsewhere in the suite, but he couldn't be sure if it was just his imagination playing tricks on him. And naturally, Aki had once again made his silence a condition of the promised reward for the waiting game. While it had been fun to test out the suspension swing, Byou wouldn't have been quite so enthusiastic about it if he'd known he'd have to wait for anything else to happen.

He hated waiting.

At least this time he didn't have to stay still, but it was nonetheless torturous to feel the slight breeze of moving air over his sensitized skin and be unable to do anything to alleviate his growing arousal. Not like he could move much anyway, and any movement just made the sensations worse as the swing gently rocked with a creak of leather and clinking of the chains. Or maybe it just seemed to get worse because he'd long since lost track of time, and his heat was growing steadily just from anticipation. Which was the point, he supposed.

Byou gritted his teeth and tried to focus on getting payback for the damned waiting, or maybe even figure out some way to bribe a promise out of Aki to quit it with the waiting games. After all, to Byou it counted as punitive punishment, which was something Aki had said he wouldn't do except as a last resort, which this hardly qualified for. Besides, what the hell could the alpha be doing in the meantime? What could possibly be more important than attending to his omega's needs? Needs which were getting close to the point of not giving a damn about being quiet anymore.

Just when Byou was moments away from snapping, he heard soft footsteps approach and he froze, hardly daring to breathe as he turned his head slightly and strained to listen. The touch, when it came, was feather-light across his stomach and yet it startled him, and he jumped a bit and let out his breath loudly in a sound of frustration mixed with need. It took him a few moments to identify the touch as a hand, and he bit back a whine as he took a deep breath, letting Aki's scent overwhelm his senses and provide the reassurance he craved.

"Sorry for taking so long, my pet," Aki murmured, sounding sincere.

"About damn time you paid attention to me," Byou gritted out, unable to help the pout. He growled out another curse at Aki's chuckle and tried to arch into the maddeningly light touches and caresses with only marginal success. "Get in me, you fucking cockteasing asshole."

"It was only fifteen minutes, pet," Aki said softly, placing a chaste kiss to Byou's sweat-slick temple.

"I don't fucking care, just fuck me, rut me, please," Byou whined, squirming ineffectually in the swing.

Aki wasted no time climbing onto the bed, as if realizing that any further teasing would be unnecessarily cruel. Byou nearly wept as he finally felt the alpha's cock ease into him, though his relief was only marginal. He didn't even need to try to move into the thrust, as Aki gripped his hips and pulled him close and then leaned over.

"You're mine, say it," Aki growled, his breath and scent overwhelming Byou's senses.

"I'm yours, all yours, please just fucking rut me," Byou whimpered, his need barely lessened by Aki's cock inside him.

Thankfully, Aki needed no further urging and began a hard rhythm, pulling Byou into each thrust with a grip on the omega's hips that was sure to leave bruises. It took only a few hard thrusts to send Byou over the edge, and he vaguely registered Aki's husky whisper in his ear promising more.

Time seemed to slow after that, and Byou floated in a daze of sensation heightened by his inability to see. He could feel the sweat on his back where the leather straps held him up, the cool air caressing him as the swing moved with every push and pull and thrust. He heard the way their breaths panted out of sync and the needy whines he made that were answered by Aki's sounds of pleasure. The friction of Aki sliding in and out of him in a hard rhythm interspersed with lingering for just a few moments longer deep inside, and then pulling out and making him wait a precious few moments before filling him again.

Byou lost track of time again as his pleasure grew and crested several times, Aki's rhythm remaining deliciously rough throughout. Each time he came it took a little more of the edge off, allowing a fraction more clarity as he absorbed the sensations. By the time Aki had fully knotted they were both out of breath and sweating, and Byou's stomach was slick with his release. He was sore, but wonderfully sated, and he smiled slightly as he savored the marks he was sure to have for the next few days.

"Fourteen, much better," Aki murmured with a satisfied grin, still catching his breath as he nuzzled Byou. He slipped off Byou's blindfold and gave the omega a chaste kiss on the lips.

Byou gave Aki a dazed blink and then made a disbelieving sound of amusement as it clicked. "You keep count. How do you keep count?" he asked, his breaths still short as his heart gradually slowed.

"Is that a rhetorical question?" Aki said with a teasing grin as he unlocked first one wrist cuff and then the other.

"Maybe?" Byou muttered, still trying to regain most of his cognitive functions. He watched as Aki unbuckled the knee straps and then reached up to grip the alpha's shoulders as he was lifted off the swing. Rather than lie back, however, he shifted to snuggle against Aki and grimaced as he touched the stiff collar.

Taking the hint, Aki sat back on his heels and reached to unfasten the collar and then set it aside. "Better?" he asked softly.

Byou nodded and curled around Aki contentedly, resting his head on the alpha's shoulder with a soft sigh.

"So, was the swing worth it?" Aki murmured, nuzzling Byou's hair and breathing in the omega's scent.

Byou made another contented murmur and nodded. "Not the waiting, though, it's cruel."

"Needy little slut, aren't you?" Aki teased, and his arms tightened possessively around Byou. "I'm guessing you mean the fifteen minutes, not waiting to see the swing I'd dropped near the bed earlier."

Byou raised his head and gave Aki a mock sour look. "What a genius you are," he muttered sarcastically, pouting.

Aki chuckled and kissed Byou's pout. "It's not meant to be punitive, but I'll stop if it really bothers you."

"It does bother me, and I'd appreciate a cease and desist on making me wait for you," Byou said, his glower lessening slightly. "What the hell were you doing, anyway?"

"Eating, checking my messages, getting things ready," Aki replied as he stroked his hands up and down Byou's back.

"Oh, so leaving aside that those things shouldn't be as high a priority as me, you somehow lost track of time doing all that?" Byou said with a huff, clearly still irritated.

Aki studied Byou for a moment and reached up to trace his thumb over the omega's pouting lips. "I won't neglect you anymore, okay? You are my most important priority, and I'll prove it to you."

"You had better," Byou muttered, shifting on Aki's lap. "No more fucking waiting games, I mean it."

"I'm sorry, pet," Aki murmured, giving Byou an affectionate kiss on the lips. "How can I make it up to you?"

"You can start by giving me a bath, I guess, and I'll think about more and let you know," Byou said with a passable attempt at a straight face that lasted all of five seconds. He wanted to stay annoyed, but for whatever reason he just couldn't.

"As you wish, my pet," Aki said dryly before giving Byou another kiss. He scooped the omega up and moved off the bed, and with a bit of maneuvering managed to walk to the bathroom a little awkwardly, as his knot hadn't shrunk enough to withdraw yet. Fortunately, the large bathtub was already filled with water and automated, and all Aki needed to do was press a few buttons on the settings panel before climbing in and sitting on the ledge with Byou in his lap.

"So, are you employed here?" Byou asked after a few moments. He settled comfortably draped over the alpha's lap, enjoying the jets and hot water of the luxurious bath.

"Not exactly, no, but I'm a regular customer so to speak, and I sometimes help them out," Aki answered as he stroked his fingers up and down Byou's spine. "Isn't it a bit late to ask that question?"

Byou made a face at Aki's grin. "Better late than never. Your profile was different than the employed alphas, but it's not like I have much experience with omega resorts." He shrugged. "How did you know I wouldn't like the alphas here?"

"From what code you used, I know you were seeking more than the alphas here could give you. Pandora's still bound by the Hub's laws, whereas I'm not, at least technically." At Byou's raised eyebrow he elaborated. "Our Traditionalist settlement is autonomous for all intents and purposes, since Central can't be bothered to exert authority on all the Rim settlements. As long as we're peaceful about it they don't seem to care too much what we do, but they still keep an eye on us."

"I was born and raised in Central, so the Rim settlements are kind of almost fairytales to me," Byou murmured, idly tracing a pattern around Aki's pierced nipple. "I guess Pandora and wherever your settlement is are far enough out on the Rim that the Hub seems the same way to you."

"I've been to the Hub once, when I was young." Aki shrugged and smiled slightly. "As first impressions go, it didn't inspire me to visit again. Too crowded and noisy, and too many ridiculous rules that I didn't understand at the time."

"Yeah, the main cities are definitely crowded." Byou pursed his lips thoughtfully and tilted his head. "I didn't really notice all the rules until around my first heat, and I started getting scrutinized for having 'unnatural urges' before I learned how to keep my mouth shut," he said with a trace of rueful bitterness. "You'd think they'd understand that it's not unnatural at all, but betas just don't get it."

"Hard to understand things you've never experienced," Aki agreed with a faint smile. "I've met a few betas who like kinky sex, but it's not really the same as heat by any stretch."

"Definitely not," Byou said with a snort and shook his head. "It's not just kink when the only thing that really satisfies my heat is submission to an alpha. And if it were just kinky games, omegas wouldn't need alphas. We hardly need betas to meddle and decide for us that we should live the way they do."

"Some day perhaps things will change again, maybe shifting back a little closer to how things were before the betas took over Central and the Hub," Aki mused, gesturing vaguely around and indicating the suite in general. "Pandora's not the only omega resort on the Rim to have a facade to keep the betas from Central happy."

"I'm not sure how anything could change now, what with the dwindling numbers of alphas and omegas in the Hub thanks to beta meddling, but I guess most probably migrate to the Rim." Byou pursed his lips and idly played with his hair.

"Yeah, many do. I know of several settlements on Rim worlds with barely any betas, and Pandora only employs the type who can keep their noses out of our business anyway." Aki smirked and reached up to run his fingers through Byou's hair. "Maybe once your heat's over I can give you a thorough history lesson, since I know Central was making all sorts of shit up the last time I was there, and I bet it's only gotten worse since."

"Yeah, I noticed when I tried finding information," Byou murmured with a slight smile. "The betas really didn't like me snooping."

"I'll bet. With all the censoring they do, it's not so surprising they'd rewrite history too," Aki said, playing idly with a lock of Byou's auburn brown hair. "Do you have anything tying you to Central?"

Byou paused to consider the question and then shrugged. "Not really, no. Nothing I'd miss terribly aside from maybe some friends." He tilted his head and grinned at Aki. "Is your next question gonna be whether I'd like to move out here?"

"Most do once they've gotten a taste of Pandora," Aki replied, a small smile on his lips. "This place naturally attracts the alphas and omegas looking for more than the Hub offers."

"So you're a recruiter then?" Byou asked, unsure if he should feel the twinge of jealousy he had at the thought of Aki convincing other omegas to move.

Aki chuckled softly and shrugged. "In a way, I guess. My job here, even if I'm not employed with Pandora as far as paperwork goes, is to help match omegas with alphas."

Byou raised an eyebrow as he leaned back. "How many do you take for yourself?" he asked, trying not to pout.

"You're the first, actually," Aki answered mildly as he ran his hands up and down Byou's thighs. "Most omegas I've matched just wanted a temporary arrangement."

"You didn't rig my alpha matches or anything, did you?" Byou asked, still slightly suspicious.

Aki restrained a chuckle as he shook his head. "No, I was just browsing the new arrivals and one of the betas here flagged your profile for me."

"So it's a conspiracy, I see," Byou said with mock annoyance, though he settled back down.

"Yes, clearly, just to ensure you're well satisfied," Aki responded with a grin and reached up to embrace Byou, drawing the omega closer. "As I said before, you're a diva."

"As if you're not picky yourself," Byou retorted with a huff. "But surely you get laid or you wouldn't be unofficially employed here."

"Oh? Do all alphas need an ulterior motive to advise omega matches at a beta-run resort?" Aki asked mildly, a smile twitching his lips as he gave Byou a chaste kiss on the lips.

Byou looked at Aki with mock sourness. "Oh, right, alphas don't have heats," he deadpanned. "So really, what's in it for you?"

"I don't know, maybe someone like you?" Aki pretended innocence for all of three seconds at Byou's skeptical yet amused look. "Seriously though, I admit I was waiting and hoping to find an omega who'd want to be my mate, but I don't want to pressure or influence you."

"Well, I hardly came here to find a mate, but the Hub sure does look even more boring now," Byou said as he considered things with a thoughtful look. "Even with my fetish modeling job and all, since it's already a pain in the ass to follow all the ridiculous regulations."

"You won't miss your friends or job too much if you move?" Aki asked as he shifted Byou's hips a bit. "You being a model, let alone a fetish model, sure explains a lot."

"I'm sure it does," Byou said with a snort and shook his head. "It's probably a matter of time before my friends relocate, and my job, such as it is, is one of the few that accommodate omegas with compensated vacation time for heats. Most other jobs that pay a living wage expect us to be on heat suppressants." He pulled a face and shuddered a bit. "And with the way the new laws are requiring heat suppressants and limiting omega employment in other ways, my job might not be around much longer."

Aki hummed in agreement and nodded. "I can't imagine the Hub's beta government allowing omega fetish modeling to last too much longer."

"Yeah, it apparently 'encourages deviance' or some bullshit," Byou murmured, rolling his eyes. "It pays well enough, but it's probably not gonna be legal sooner rather than later. As it is, I have to take risks just to make enough to live on thanks to all the regulations, and especially doing that sort of work under the table is illegal."

"You mean porn work?" Aki asked, careful to not let his flicker of jealousy show, though his hold on Byou tightened a fraction.

"Yeah, some of it," Byou said with a faint smile. "It's rather convenient for my heats to have kinky partners, but none of them wanted to commit to more than heat partners regularly."

"Can't say that their lack of commitment doesn't work in my favor." Aki smirked and nuzzled Byou. "Won't your fans be disappointed if you move?"

"I might be hard up for creds enough to do illegal shit, but I'm not stupid enough to show my face in it," Byou said with a snort. "As for my modeling fans, I'm sure some have connected me to the vids, but I haven't been arrested yet, so..." He shrugged and gestured around the bathroom with a growing smirk. "Speaking of which, sort of, there's things I haven't tried here, and you still have to make good on your promise."

"I suppose I do," Aki responded blandly, though he grinned. "I'll have to look up your photoshoots later, for ideas."

"You've already seen some on my profile," Byou murmured, licking his lips.

"I did wonder why your photos looked so professional," Aki mused with a small smile.

"Yeah, I used the pictures that didn't make the final cut but still came out decently." Byou tilted his head as something occurred to him. "So wait, you grew up in the Traditionalist settlement?"

Aki nodded slowly. "Most of those in my age group in our settlement were born and raised there, including me. Ours was one of the first Rim settlements just for alphas and omegas. Now there are a few betas, but they're kept separate."


Aki paused before answering, choosing his words carefully. "There's a reason Pandora screens its beta employees thoroughly, and it's tied to why us Traditionalists don't tend to advertise ourselves. Betas can't be trusted, especially if they're from Central."

"Oh, right, because they're always meddling and trying to inconvenience us one way or another," Byou said slowly, a hint of uncertainty in his tone.

"Yes, and the laws that keep them from making any overt moves are eroding, and they're hardly above covert attempts to ensure we're watched, or worse." Aki frowned and shrugged. "It's mostly just dirty politics, but because Pandora is bending the laws if not breaking them in some cases, it's vital to remain on guard."

"You're talking about a conspiracy or something?"

"It didn't occur to you to put two and two together to realize why alpha and omega numbers are dwindling so significantly in the Hub?" Aki asked gently, his gaze steady on Byou. "Outlawing the mating tradition was just the start, and it's been getting worse since. The laws being passed against our very natures aren't simply to deny us our ways of life, since the effects reach further than that. The beta government hasn't tried to stop the Rim settlements or prevent our migration to them, but it's a matter of time until they do."

"But you said your settlement and others are mostly autonomous."

"Right, so far we are, since we haven't done any law-breaking serious enough to prompt retaliation, but that's mostly only because they can't afford the expense of enforcing all their laws way out on the Rim."

"So you keep up with the news from the Hub because it could affect you even so far out?"

"Yeah, never hurts to be aware of what's going on since it could be a problem for us. Besides which, I stay at Pandora a lot so I'm technically within the Hub's jurisdiction here, even if their reach is limited."

Byou pulled a face and rubbed his eyes. "I knew betas were being ridiculous with forcing us to pretend we're like them one way or another, but I guess I didn't really want to grasp the full implications. Do you really think they'd make Rim settlements for alphas and omegas illegal? And how would they even enforce that?"

"Dirty politics don't have to be legal, and there are numerous methods they could use to destabilize and undermine the Rim settlements without any blatant actions." Aki paused again to collect his thoughts. "One way or another, they want us to not exist, and since their subtler methods aren't working fast enough to satisfy the more extreme sentiments, they may very well try other ways."

Byou frowned as he absorbed all the implications. "So you're saying that the beta meddling started way before either of us were born, and that the freedoms the betas helped omegas gain were driven by an ulterior motive to get rid of us?"

"The traditions that were eventually outlawed one by one destroyed more than just social roles, it caused us to lose the family groups that ensured our numbers stayed constant."

Byou snorted and raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Alphas would see it that way. I might not like the way betas force us to deny our natures, but I rather like not being property," he drawled.

"Alphas 'owning' omegas is really more about semantics, and beta propaganda," Aki said slowly. "In a traditional mating bond, and also the way we currently do it, the alpha and omega have equal say in things relating to their family, because the bond is mutual. Betas might like to pretend that the worst was the norm, but omegas were never owned even if political arrangements may have made them seem little more than property to be traded among alphas."

"But omegas are still expected to have children either way."

"Political arrangements tend to be about heirs, yes, but some mate pairs don't have kids, or wait a while," Aki replied with a shrug. "I'd like a kid someday, but I'm not in any rush."

"But you're looking for a mate," Byou said slowly, contemplating whether he was really ready to settle down, let alone with an alpha he just met. He had to admit though that the thought of something more long-term with Aki was appealing.

"Yeah, but as I said, I'm not going to pressure you into a commitment," Aki said, smiling faintly. "I like you, but it's not even been a full day since we met."

"True, so I guess we can wait and see," Byou said with an answering smile. Taking the initiative for once, Byou leaned in and kissed Aki leisurely as his fingers found the alpha's pierced nipple and tugged gently on the ring. Growing bolder when Aki made an encouraging sound, he nipped at the alpha's lips. Byou was about to get more adventurous when the console dinged with an incoming message. He blinked as he noted the urgent mark on the message, that the sender's information was encrypted, and that it wasn't for him. Though he was a bit annoyed with Aki was getting personal messages in his suite, the alpha's concerned look and hesitation made him frown. "What's wrong?"

"Sorry, guess there's no help for it," Aki murmured reluctantly as he reached over to accept the message. The small console screen changed to a live feed and Byou saw the alpha on the other end blink at him with surprise before looking at Aki.

"Sorry if I'm interrupting, but uh..." the alpha said, giving Aki a hesitant look.

"What is it, Kenzo?" Aki asked, encircling Byou in a possessive embrace.

Taking that as a cue, Kenzo spoke, "We just got word that some betas from Central have arrived to do an inspection of Pandora, and they're on their way right now."

Aki's grip tightened on Byou as he cursed, and he glanced at the omega with an unreadable look. "Anything else?"

"Actually, yeah," Kenzo said, fidgeting with something below the viewscreen. "There's a warrant for your omega."

"What?" Byou exclaimed, his blood running cold.

"Likely the reason for the surprise inspection, then," Aki muttered, his possessive hold tightening again.

"What do they--what's it for?" Byou asked, blinking a few times as he tried to process it.

Kenzo hesitated and glanced to Aki before looking at Byou again. "Our source just said you're wanted for suspicion of illegal activities."

Byou shared a look with Aki and swallowed as he bit his lip. Though the timing was odd, he didn't have to guess what the 'illegal activities' were.

"How much time do we have, Kenzo?"

"About half an hour at most. We have transport ready for you and your omega in the usual spot."

Aki cursed again. "Thanks for the heads up, we'll get going," he said, and ended the message after Kenzo nodded curtly.

"What--what's gonna happen now?" Byou asked softly, his eyes wide and slightly dazed. "Are they after you too?"

Aki reached up to cup Byou's face gently between his hands. "Do you trust me, Byou?" he asked quietly.

"I guess I have to, but yes," Byou said slowly as he swallowed hard, a hint of confusion in his expression. "I'd rather go wherever you're going than be arrested."

Aki smiled without humor and nodded. "You'll be safe with us," he said, giving Byou a chaste kiss. Thankfully, his knot had shrunk enough by then that he slipped out of Byou without much discomfort, though he noted the omega's restrained flinch.

"At least I can still walk," Byou quipped with a half-smile as he cleaned off and then got out of the tub. Grabbing a towel, he dried off quickly and ignored the low-level ache of his heat as best he could. Now was not a time for that sort of distraction, and he was glad that Kenzo's message had come when it did rather than later when it would have been much harder to stop. As much as he hated the interruption, his heat wasn't in full swing yet even if his judgment was slightly impaired.

While Byou dried off Aki had grabbed a towel and left the bathroom to gather some things, and he returned shortly fully dressed and with some fresh clothes for the omega, and the smaller collar.

Byou raised his eyebrows at the collar and smirked slightly as he dressed. "Getting possessive, are you?"

Aki blinked and looked slightly sheepish for a moment. "My scent's all over you, but..."

Byou chuckled and bent his head to indicate his acceptance of the collar. "I'll indulge you," he said, privately pleased. Even if the collar lacked Aki's symbol it gave him a feeling of security to wear it, especially if they were going to be leaving Pandora. Once Aki had buckled the collar on he followed the alpha to the bedroom and felt a flicker of regret for not getting to try out more things in the suite as he picked up his small bag. He'd traveled lightly since he had little use for clothes during his heat and Pandora provided the other necessities, and he hadn't had a chance to unpack anything yet.

"We'll leave through the service halls since those shouldn't be guarded, and they don't know we were tipped off," Aki said, moving to an almost invisible door half hidden behind a wall hanging. He punched in a code on the panel and the door slid open soundlessly.

"Feels like I'm in a holovid or something, sneaking around like this," Byou murmured as he followed Aki through the door and into a starkly plain off-white corridor. The hall was wider than he'd expected and the air smelled a bit stale, but it was well lit and Aki seemed to know where he was going. "Do you use these halls often?" he asked, keeping his voice quiet even if they were alone.

"Sometimes," Aki said with a distracted glance over his shoulder at Byou. "This isn't the first inspection I've had to avoid."

"But why?" Byou asked, confused.

Aki glanced back again and quirked a half smile before turning left down another identical corridor. "Let's just say I have good reason to not want them to scan my ID chip."

"Great, thanks for telling me I'm running off with an outlaw now," Byou quipped with a disbelieving chuckle. While he wasn't exactly reassured to know Aki was keeping things from him, he wasn't sure he wanted to know too many details.

"Like I said, Traditionalists don't like to advertise," Aki murmured. He paused for a moment at a four-way intersection and then turned right. A few moments later they reached a sliding door and Aki keyed in another code to open it. Peeking out cautiously and glancing around, he hurried over to a service elevator across the hall and the doors opened as he pressed the button.

Byou was glad the elevator was large as he stepped in after Aki, and he did his best to ignore the alpha's scent as they descended. He wanted to ask more questions, but Aki's proximity was making it difficult to think and he hoped he wouldn't become too distracted until they were safely away from Pandora. By the time the elevator dinged softly and the doors slid open his palms were sweating, and he fidgeted with his bag as he followed Aki out.

Another sliding door with a passcode led them outside, and Byou saw a nondescript hovervan waiting that Aki seemed to recognize. The side door of the van opened as they approached and Byou took his cue from Aki and hurried to scramble in. Almost as soon as he sat down the door slid shut and the van began moving, and Byou bit his lip as he shifted closer to Aki, feeling apprehension settle uncomfortably in his gut.

Aki wrapped an arm around Byou's shoulders and drew the omega close. "Relax, pet, and welcome to being an outlaw," he murmured with a slight smirk.