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Yuri stared at the calendar and sighed. He was supposed to be gaming online with friends from the US, but had left the group early. He had too much on his mind to focus on entertainment.

He turned back to face his computer and clicked several times. He reviewed the information in a number of open browser tabs, each detailing room rates and amenities.

A part of him wished that he’d held the discussion with Victor before heading to China; before they’d become a couple. Their relationship was too new, and he was about to have to hurt the man he loved.

Yuri sighed and stood. He put his laptop to sleep and padded softly to Victor’s room.

They hadn’t spent a night apart since they kissed. It wasn’t something they announced, but not something they’d necessarily tried to hide from those close to them. They’d only been back in Japan for three days, and both his mother and sister had already learned to go to Victor’s room if they needed him in the morning.

Victor was sitting on his bed, sitting against the headboard, laptop propped on his knees.Yuri just stared for a moment. It was such a normal thing, no ice, no lights, no glittering costume. He was seeing Victor in a way he’d only been able to dream of a year ago, and he was as captivated as any audience waiting for a program to begin.

Victor looked up and smiled softly, breaking the spell. Yuri stepped into the room and climbed onto the bed beside him, curling up against his side without saying a word.

He smells so good. I hope I can still hold him after this.

“I thought you were gaming,” Victor said after a moment.

Yuri looked up and met his eyes. He smiled, “This is a better way to unwind.”

Victor returned the smile, kissed the top of his head and resumed his work on the computer. Yuri watched as cyrillic letters filled the screen, Victor responding to a number of emails.

In a way he was glad that the language barrier existed. He could watch what Victor was doing without being overly nosy, just sharing the moment.

Victor cleared out the last unread message, and Yuri shifted enough to let him put the laptop to the side. When he sat back up he pulled Yuri into his arms and they sat cuddled against each other in silence for several minutes, exchanging soft kisses.

“You’re tense Yuri,” Victor murmured after the kisses had dwindled to just cuddles again. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“In a few minutes,” Yuri responded, nuzzling the older man’s shoulder. “I just want to stay like this for a while.”

Victor turned and kissed his forehead. “Ok.”

I don’t want to do this, but I have to. I can’t put it off any longer. I just hope that he’ll forgive me.

Yuri squeezed his eyes closed and gathered his courage. His arms tightened around Victor.

Don’t hate me.

“Victor?” Yuri began with a shaky voice, releasing the Russian and sitting up slightly. He forced himself to look at Victor’s face.

“Yes Yuri?”

“We need to talk about your heat. It’s coming up soon, isn’t it?”

Victor stiffened noticeably, and backed away as if Yuri was threatening to throw boiling water on him. An unhealthy pallor immediately replaced the normal warmth of his face, and his breathing shallowed.

Yuri’s lip quivered. “I’m sorry. I know it’s hard, but we have to talk about it. Time’s running out and there are preparations that have to be made.”

Victor scooted from the bed and stood, staring at Yuri as if he were a venomous animal about to strike.

Yuri scrambled and managed to grab Victor’s hand. He felt the tug but refused to let go.

“Victor, please. Look… I know you’d probably prefer to have it here where you’re comfortable. But it’s not safe. This is a traditional building. We have to find and reserve a room for you in either a heat house or a hotel.”

Victor was frozen, staring at him. It was an improvement from trying to escape. Yuri took a second to pull on the Russian’s hand and kiss it.

“I’m sorry, Victor,” Yuri murmured against his fingers. “I know you’d rather not think about it, but I want you in a safe place. If you want me nearby to scent you there are hotels that can accommodate that with extra rooms. We’ll work around what you need, but I won’t be comfortable unless I know you’re safe, and that means finding you a better place than here.”

Victor’s shallow breaths continued, and his eyes shook slightly. Yuri held his breath, waiting for a response.

Victor swallowed, breathing starting to return to normal. He swallowed again and licked his lips. “You’re talking about… location?” he whispered, a tone that indicated he didn’t trust his own ears.

Yuri nodded and dared to stand to put his hands on the Russian’s waist. One immediately traveled up to brush against his jaw.

“I want you to be comfortable Victor. I really do. I know home is the best place for comfort, but traditional building in Japan means paper walls and sliding doors. There are no locks, and only the thinnest of barriers. This hallway is probably the safest place in the inn, but there are so many customers daily in the springs, the restaurant and the inn itself. A stray waft of air could carry your scent to the main rooms, and to the noses of who knows how many alphas. I’ll gladly scent you again, if you want, but not here. There are hotels that have rooms for non-participant alphas. Or you could go to a heat house, they’re safe.”

Victor stared at him. “Location…” he whispered as if he was still processing the reality of the situation.

Yuri nodded and pulled Victor into a hug. He rubbed the Russian’s back until Victor relaxed slightly. As soon as he felt the tension leave his muscles he maneuvered the taller man to sit on the bed, then held his face in his hands and caressed alabaster cheeks with his thumbs.

“We need to find a place for you in the next several days,” Yuri continued as ocean-blue eyes met his chocolate ones. “I’ve already talked to Yuko, and she’s going to take you to several nearby heat houses tomorrow afternoon to see if any are acceptable. They fill up first so if you want one you’ll need to reserve your room fast.”

Victor blinked, still obviously confused at the reality not matching whatever his darker thoughts had expected. “What’s a heat house?”

Yuri smiled softly. “A kind of specialty hotel. They’re safe places for omegas to have their heats. Most are in remote locations and feature stronger, more secure construction. They are Japan’s answer to the traditional building problem.”

Victor stared blankly. “Why Yuko and not you?”

Yuri continued to rub lines on Victor’s cheeks, glad to see color returning to them. “I’m not allowed. Alphas are strictly prohibited. Not even betas are allowed within the main buildings, instead used as security and supplemental staff. They are safe places by and for omegas only.”

Yuri saw an emotion almost like longing flit through Victor’s eyes. “Only omegas?”

Yuri nodded. “Only omegas. They have locking doors, staff that know how to ensure your needs are met, and the best ones are in secretive locations that only omegas know about. Safety and comfort are their priorities. No fears about being found, no forcing yourself to be quiet, no restraining your scent. You can have a safe and healthy heat without worry.”

Victor shuddered and pulled Yuri into an embrace, burying his face against the younger man’s stomach. Yuri ran his fingers through platinum hair. He felt the Russian trembling beneath his hands.

“If none of the heat houses are to your liking, then I’ve made a list of nearby hotels with heat accommodations. I can visit those with you. We’ll find you a safe place where you can be comfortable. I want this to be a good heat for you.”

“Yuri…” Victor said, voice so shaky that the younger man couldn’t be sure that he wasn’t crying.  “Thank you.”


 

After calming Victor down enough to have a somewhat awkward discussion about finding a location for his heat they’d prepared for bed, but the bad choice of Yuri’s timing had another consequence. They’d only been asleep a short while when he was woken by broken whimpers.

Victor was trembling in his sleep, his face contorted. Just the sight of him having a nightmare was enough to rouse Yuri’s protective side. He moved closer and pulled the Russian into his arms, scenting the air in an attempt to calm him.

The shaking soon stopped, but whatever memory had caught Victor was reluctant to release him again. He mumbled, the ghost of a long-forgotten conversation roaring to life. Yuri couldn’t understand anything, the words in Russian.

The thing that was undeniable though was the pain and anguish when Victor choked out a strangled name.

“Petrov!”

Yuri’s embrace tightened, his alpha instincts both insulted and ready to protect. He knew it was ridiculous, but the omega in his arms had obviously just called the name of a prior suitor.

Mine, demanded the part of Yuri that would fight for Victor.

Why is he calling out the name of another like that? his anxiety replied.

Wracked with confusion, Yuri did the only thing he could. He held and tried his best to sooth Victor until the nightmares seemed to pass.


 

Yuri stood at the top of the stairs and watched Victor slide into the passenger seat of the Nishigoris’ car. Yuko waved and a moment later they had turned the corner and were on their way to tour the local heat houses.

Yuri followed Taksehi back inside the rink. He’d agreed to teach Yuko’s intermediate class that afternoon in exchange for her going with Victor.

Yuri took a seat behind the counter and watched as Takeshi made his way through the racks of skates, inspecting each pair for damage to the blades, fraying laces or other problems that could lead to injury.

“Are you sure about this Yuri?” he asked while looking at the third pair.

“Sure about what?”

“Letting Victor go alone to a heat house, or a hotel, or whatever else he decides on.”

“What do you mean? You know the inn isn’t a safe place.”

Yuri absentmindedly took a sip from his bottle of water.

“I mean, wouldn’t you rather spend it with him?”

Yuri was so shocked he spat out the water and nearly choked on what trickled down his throat. “Nishigori!”

Takeshi set the skates back on the rack and turned to face the younger man. “I’m serious Yuri. You two were already so obviously close that everybody could see it, and the kiss on international television was only a surprise to the two of you and the audience. Anybody around you on a daily basis knew it was only a matter of time.

“Besides, you’re an official couple now. So what’s the problem?”

Yuri shuffled nervously under Takeshi’s gaze. “He hasn’t asked.”

“So? Why don’t you ask him?”

Yuri looked up and shook his head. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Did Yuko talk at all about his doctor’s appointment?”

Takeshi thought for a moment. “She said that he asked for suppressants, and didn’t look so good after he was denied them, but that was about it.”

Yuri nodded. “He’s got a bad history with his heats. Just talking about them is hard on him.”

“It can’t be that bad, he’s in a car with Yuko to explore local heat houses.”

Yuri shook his head. “It took a lot of work to get him there.He ran a hand through his hair nervously, unsure how much to say. “Nishigori… he had a panic attack right in front of me last night, just from my bringing up the fact that we needed to talk about a safe location.”

“Shit. Really?”

Yuri nodded. “If alphas were allowed I’d be beside him in a heartbeat today to make sure he was ok.”

“It’s really that bad?”

“Yeah,” Yuri said softly. “If he asks it’s a different story, but… I won’t be the one to bring it up. He’s got to get there on his own.”

“And if he doesn’t get there?”

“Then he doesn’t get there. It’s his choice. I won’t push. He means too much to me and I won’t poke at that pain for my own selfish needs.”

Takeshi stared for a moment, then smiled softly. “You’re a good man Yuri.”