Volume 2 of the Something in the Water series arrives Tuesday, January 30!

Twelve Days of Heat: Day Five

Twelve Days of Heat: Day Five

Reese doesn’t want to open his eyes, but the alarm is shrieking from the other side of the room, where he pitched his phone after getting pissed at Gabriel. He crawls out of bed, fishes for the device, and finally, finally shuts it up.

He rubs his eyes and blearily makes note of the time. He contemplates going back to bed, but knows he can’t.

He aches everywhere, and he knows the importance of getting into an ice bath, onto the massage table before he even thinks about warming up this morning.

Gabriel hasn’t sent him any more messages. He contemplates the phone a moment longer, then pitches it onto the nightstand and sets about dressing himself. He tugs on shorts and a tee, stifling a yawn as he settles the hem about his hips.

Fuckin’ Flossy. What a douche. He looks at his phone again, annoyed that he feels that strange mixture of disappointment and frustration that there’s still no new messages.

Like, fuck, he could’ve come up. Reese drags his hands down his face.

But enough. He has a job to do. He heads downstairs, rides the elevator down to the fourth floor. He tries to look as nonchalant as possible when his teammates crowd into the car with him, still rubbing sleep from their eyes. He glances at Gabriel; there’s a flash of recognition, and that’s it.

Okay, so they’re gonna pretend last night didn’t happen too. Right, okay. He’s starting to see a pattern.

He forces himself to eat something at breakfast, even if it’s just an overly large bowl of cereal. He still has no appetite at all.

There’s only one thing he wants, and he’s fixated on it now, stares at Gabriel from across the table. He wonders what it’ll take to make the younger man make good on his words.

He hadn’t even thought about it before Gabriel said it. But now that he has, he wants it. He wants Gabriel’s face between his legs, licking his hole. He’s all but aching for it.

And Gabriel wants to play coy, wants to pretend nothing happened. The douche. Reese ponders crawling into his lap, thinks about crawling under the table and tugging his shorts down. He thinks about grabbing him by the collar and laying him out across the table, having something a bit different for breakfast this morning.

Gabriel glances at him a couple of times, but won’t hold his gaze. Reese turns his attention to his coffee instead. If that’s the way he wants to play …

Today is the last day of competition, thank God. Reese isn’t sure he’d last another day. Today will be the worst of it, but he’s sore and tired and he’s sick of feeling strange.

Maybe he can get home and focus on feeling … less weird, at least. He’s not sure, but maybe he should see a doctor. It’s been going on long enough now that it’s starting to worry him a bit.

He allows it to evaporate when he returns to the pool deck. The familiar scent of chlorine will make him high soon enough; the sounds of bare feet on wet tiles fill his ears and his anxieties melt away, replaced by new concerns. Can he swim fast enough? He aches already …

Will he make it through the morning heats? Will he drag everyone down in the relay? Will he have enough for the finals, or has he spent too much energy already?

He tries to tamp down on it, tries to swallow it down. There’s no use in worrying about it. Only time will tell.

But it’s so hard to be distracted, especially before his morning gets rolling.

Lucky for him, the first event of the day is the 200M backstroke. That’s his specialty, and he knows that if he can’t make that, the rest of his day is likely shot anyway.

First, there’s a soak in ice, then a quick massage—he ponders a rub-and-tug, wonders if the masseuse would say no. (Probably. Very probably.)

Then it’s into the pool, warming up. The ache doesn’t subside, but it doesn’t get worse. He can push through it.

Ready room. Blocks. It’s backstroke, so they all hop down into the water. He clings to the side. His heart pounds; the noise echoes in his ears and he’s certain he’s going to miss the starter.

He doesn’t.

He drags his thoughts in to himself, focuses solely on the feeling of propelling himself backward through the water. He doesn’t think about the ache, doesn’t think about Gabriel or being mad at him, doesn’t dare think about winning.

He thinks about the next stroke. And the next one. And the one after that.

Two hundred meters is eight lengths of the pool. And for those eight lengths, he dumps everything out of his head, lets the water rinse it away. There are only two things to think about: this stroke and the next.

One stroke. Then the next.

That’s all there is to it.

He’s almost dizzy by the time he touches the wall for the last time, and he hauls himself up, over the edge of the pool, looks up at the leaderboard.

Relief floods through him, warm and relaxing. He pants a little, but he’s breathing easy.

He won it. He even finished ahead of Gabriel, and that doesn’t happen very often. Gabriel’s, quite simply, in a class by himself most of the time.

Gabriel pats him on the head, almost dunks him under. He grins at his captain, and then they slither out of the water together.

Brody swats him on the ass on his way into the locker room. He grins at his teammate, then heads through to the warm-up pool. He won’t have to wait long for the butterfly.

In the meantime, it’s the usual ice-massage-fuel regimen. Then back into the pool for warm-ups. Then he’ll be back on the blocks.

He and Gabriel don’t talk, which is probably for the best.

The butterfly feels like déjà vu. He’s in one of the slower groups; he sits on the bubble for a long time, then is finally confirmed for the final. Then it’s on to the relay. He’s swimming the backstroke leg; Gabriel’s obviously their fly guy (heh. Fly.). Caleb’s their strongest for freestyle after that, and Corey is their breaststroker. Out of all the guys on the team, he’s the best at it.

They have to wait around for a while; there are other heats for other races before the medley. If they make it in, it’ll be similar tonight—the medley relay will close out the competition.

Once they’re in the water, the race flies by; it’s 100 meters for each of them, or four lengths of the pool. Reese has to start; backstroke is always swum first. He tries, again, to narrow his focus, to think only of this stroke, the next stroke, this stroke, and then the next. It’s simple. Easy.

He touches the wall, turns. Left, right, left, right. One stroke, and then the next. Another turn. He’s almost done the morning session. He counts out the meters in his head again, stares at the ceiling.

‘wanna make u cum’

The words invade, a screenshot of their conversation seared across his vision. He blinks, almost falters. He nearly sits up with a start. Instead, he grits his teeth and churns his arms faster. He can’t fuck this up—he’s not going to be the reason they don’t even make the goddamn final.

He touches the wall, hauls himself in close to clear the way as Corey plunges into the water. Caleb helps him up, out of the water. He glances over his shoulder; Corey’s away. They’re in the lead.

“Good swim,” Gabriel says, but his expression is stony—he’s just being Captain. Reese leans over his thighs, pants, then strips off his cap and goggles. He feels like he might puke.

Gabriel readies himself on the blocks. Reese helps Corey up out of the water when he touches the wall on his final pass; Gabriel launches into the water and is off. Their lead is growing, and Reese swallows bile.

They’re definitely swimming the final tonight. Maybe he will medal after all.

He’s not sure what happens if they win the relay. Do they both get a prize?

It’s a very serious question, and one that they’ll clearly need to resolve. Caleb finishes strong; he touches the wall, and they’re all looking at the times.

They’re fastest of all, and they’re touching on world record. Reese looks at Corey and drags him into a hug. Caleb’s clapping them on the back; Gabriel tousles Caleb’s hair.

That’s it for the morning session. Ted herds them through their post-session regimen—ice (ugh, Reese is sick of ice baths), fuel, naps, massages, whatever else they need.

Reese keeps hoping against hope that Gabriel will talk to him, drag him aside, maybe during lunch, or maybe before they get up to their rooms, but he doesn’t. He says nothing. He won’t even look at Reese.

Goddamn prick.

He does nap for a good, long while—apparently, physical exertion was exactly what he needed. He falls into a dreamless sleep the second his head hits the pillow, and his member can’t be bothered to wake up with him in the late shadows of the afternoon either.

He feels relatively normal for the first time in days. Maybe it was stress. Maybe it was the looming threat of competition hanging over his head.

Even his appetite is back, and he has to hold back from stuffing himself at dinner; he’ll need the fuel, he hasn’t really eaten properly in two days now, and he’s famished (understandably; swimming like that burns a fuck-ton of calories), but he still has four races to run in just under two hours.

He medals in backstroke. It’s only silver—not gold, not like Gabriel’s medals—but it’s a medal, his first of the competition, and he feels justified, validated. He belongs there, on that podium.

It’s not a win though, and he asked what happens if he wins.

The medley becomes a bit of an experiment. He allows himself to think about what happens if he wins—if he brings home gold. Gabriel promised to make him come. Gabriel wants to lick his ass.

And he wants that. Wants it bad. The very thought of it takes his breath away, makes him want to curl his toes.

He latches onto that desire, pushes it through his fingertips. He wants it. He wants it, he wants it so bad he’ll do anything for it …

It backfires, and he finishes fourth, behind Gabriel. The younger swimmer gives him a kind of knowing look, that smug smirk, and Reese grits his teeth.

It’s only silver. If Gabriel’s not gonna lick him, he’s not sucking cock.

He knows he has no chance of winning the butterfly. He doesn’t usually; unless Gabriel’s having an off night, he won’t be able to beat him. And the brown-eyed swimmer has already proved he’s not having an off night.

Reese finishes third, though, which is respectable enough. That’s two medals, and he’s pleased with that. He needed it. He needed to at least place in something.

That leaves the relay, and the question lingers—what do they get if they win, if they both have gold medals, if they help each other win?

Reese isn’t sure if he’s more nervous about the race or about what might come after. What they might do.

He’s pretty sure he swims faster, a sick mix of nervousness and curiosity driving him forward.

He wants to know what they’re gonna do. He meets Gabriel’s eyes when he gets out of the water, and for one electric second, he knows they’re both thinking the same thing.

He almost passes out. Caleb catches him, rights him. He’s clapping him on the shoulder, all breathy in his ear, “Good swim, good job, Pieces, you did so good,” and he barely inhales.

Let Caleb think he nearly passed out because of the race. It’s better if he doesn’t know the truth.

Gabriel’s in the water, and Corey’s right with them, red-faced and breathing hard, but beaming. He pants at Reese for a moment, but they’re sure. So sure.

But a race ain’t over til it’s over, so they wait with baited breath for Gabriel to finish his leg, for Caleb to dive in for the final leg of the race. Gabriel strips off his cap and goggles, hops out of the pool. He’s dripping water, and none of them say anything, just look at each other.

Caleb swims the fastest leg, touches the wall first. Gold. They’ve got gold, and Reese looks pointedly at Gabriel, who doesn’t grin, doesn’t blink, just holds his gaze steady.

Defiant, and Reese looks away, because fucking hell. He wishes the other swimmer would just make up his fucking mind about this.

But he’s not going to. That much is obvious to Reese. So, as they exit the natatorium, he says, “We should go out.”

“It’s Sunday,” Gabriel replies. Their flight back to the States is booked for tomorrow.

“So?” Reese asks. “I mean, that was our last race, and I am so fucking done with it, I am ready to just go have fun–”

“We have to fly tomorrow,” Gabriel reminds him, like he didn’t know already.

“Pffft, whatever, do you wanna party or what?” He leers at Gabriel in a way that he hopes stresses the fact he’s not taking no for an answer. If Gabriel’s not going to follow through on his promise, then Reese is going to celebrate the end of competition by getting shitfaced.

The club is jam-packed, and Reese spots more than a few familiar faces. Apparently other athletes think like he does. He’s also fairly certain most of the girls he’s seeing in the club wear more clothes at swim meets, despite the fact the temperature has dipped down toward 5 degrees Celsius. It’s not Baltimore, there’s no snow, but it’s still December in the city.

They run into Mel, Kat, and Abby, because of course. Abby looks like she’s heading to a beach party, a tiny crop top barely covering her. Mel is wearing a body-hugging bandage dress with strategic cut-outs, highlighting her muscular frame. Kat’s in jeans and a tee, and she looks terribly underdressed. Reese wonders if she didn’t bank on going out—she doesn’t really seem like the partying type, despite her appearances at sorority functions and his own parties at home.

“I am so glad competition over!” Abby cries over the music, raising her glass, and Mel and Reese toast her, laughing.

“Your 100 meter fly was brutal!” Mel offers.

“Not nearly as shit as Pieces’s 200 meter medley,” Abby retorts.

“Ugh, tell me about it,” Reese replies, takes another swig of his drink. His cheeks feel too warm, even warmer when Abby lands a hand on his arm, smiling too broadly at him.

Reese orders them another round of shots, and Abby says, “Let’s dance,” drags him onto the floor. Reese lifts his brows, grins at Gabriel as she leads him off.

They undulate to the booming bass; he wends his arms around her, and she grinds up on him, and fuck, why did he not think about going after one of the girls earlier? Why didn’t he think about coming out to the club and picking up? He could have. He’s had his own room to himself all week …

No matter. He sways and bumps and grinds and bounces with Abby in almost perfect unison, almost like he’s fucking her already, and he smirks when Gabriel turns his head, tries to engage Mel in stilted, awkward conversation.

He catches the other swimmer’s eye and winks at him, dry-humps Abby a little more frenetically, and Gabriel growls low in his throat, which causes Mel to stop, twisting to look up at him.

Reese’s grin almost splits his face in half.

They bump into Brody the next time they’re at the bar, and Brody claps Gabriel on the back, winks in Mel’s direction, nods and grins. Gabriel gawps at him, unable to formulate a response. Reese laughs for too long, too hard. He spills his drink everywhere, wonders if he’s a little too tipsy already.

His cheeks are even warmer and he’s breathing hard, but he tosses back the remainder of his drink, grins at Gabriel, and they head back out onto the floor.

Abby clings to him a little harder, and she’s drunk, but there’s something in her eyes, something that sits ill in his stomach. She’s got designs on him, and she presses up against him a little harder.

All right, that’s enough of that, he thinks. He’s into it, yes, but …

The way Gabriel’s looking at him, there’s still a chance he might get what he actually wants. That means he has to ditch Abby.

He taps her on the shoulder, motions to the bathroom. She frowns, then nods. He takes her by the wrist and leads her through the crowd, winding their way across the dance floor, avoiding sinuously twisting bodies. They make it to the restrooms, and he points. She nods, then dives to follow him. He shoves her back, shakes his head.

She seems a bit confused, cocks her head to the side, but he pushes her back. Then she nods, and he disappears into the bathroom.

It’s dank and filthy as fuck; the stench is so bad he’s not sure he’ll be able to stand it long enough. He needs her to get bored and wander off. She’s likely drunk enough.

The stench is so bad he thinks he might pass out, but he finally peers out of the room, and Abby is gone.

He steps out of the bathroom, checking his surroundings—girls are sometimes sneaky, and he knows Abby can definitely be ninja-like if she wants to be.

He’s so busy looking for her that he walks smack into a solid wall of man. He peers up at the guy, who towers over him. He’s built like a linebacker, and there’s something angry in his bright blue eyes. His bleach-blond hair screams punk, a guy itching for a fight.

“You spilled my drink!” he barks at Reese, and Reese actually cowers a little.

“Sorry,” he says, and the guy leans in close—real close—and Reese is almost bowled over by the scent of beer, and something more … sinister underneath.

Something earthy, something dangerous. He looks up at the guy again. He’s looking at him, studying him, those unnerving eyes darting back and forth.

“I guess it’s okay,” he murmurs, and Reese realizes he’s backed up against the wall, the guy looming over him. “You’re kinda cute … you wanna make it up to me?”

“Sure,” Reese says, offering up a smile as best he can.

The guy grabs him by the chin, tilts his head up, and oh. Reese’s eyes widen a little bit. The guy slants his mouth over his, kisses him hard, and Reese parts his lips, allows him to slip inside. He takes full advantage of it, tangles his tongue with Reese’s, and Reese lets his eyes slip shut, tries not to think about the fact he’s macking on a random in a club in Istanbul, so horny all week he could just burst, and really wanting Gabriel, despite the fact …

The guy pulls back, whispers rough in his ear, “Slutty little omega, you wanna come home with me tonight? I’ll treat you real nice, keep you real safe–”

Reese’s eyes widen. How did …

He is omega, but no one should be able to tell. He’s taking suppressants, which should disguise his scent. Nobody in this room should know he’s omega.

Something’s wrong. He looks up into the guy’s eyes again, and he sees it there—something is entirely off about this whole situation.

He needs to get out. Now.

“Oh look,” he says, ducking under the dude’s arm, “my boyfriend!”

“Huh?” the blond says, but Reese is gone. He books it into the crowd, hopes he can lose him. He knows his red hair makes him stand out like a sore thumb, but it’s dark in here, so maybe …

He spies Gabriel over by the bar, so he makes his way to his side. He knows he looks wrecked—he’s panting, his hair stuck to his forehead, his cheeks are too warm, and he can feel fear tightening his face—but Gabriel doesn’t need to look so goddamn shocked about it.

He whines, “I don’t feel good, Gabby.” He doesn’t. He’s sick and scared. That guy knew he was an omega, somehow, someway, and Reese is losing it. Nobody should be able to tell. Nobody should know.

“Okay,” Gabriel says, puts his half-finished drink on the bar. He grabs Reese’s wrist, drags him toward coat-check, his fingers sliding across Reese’s sweat-slick skin. He digs for his wallet for the tickets as they wait in line. It’s barely one.

“Feel so weird,” Reese pants in his ear, and curls in toward him, brushing their hands together. He glances around the room, hoping the blond doesn’t come after him, doesn’t spot him.

Has anyone else realized he’s omega? He needs to get out of here and figure out what’s wrong.

Gabriel hands over their crumpled tickets.

Reese all but whimpers; his hands catch on Gabriel’s shirt. His coat arrives first, and Gabriel holds it for him, then wrestles him into it when he shakes his head, refuses, complaining, “It’s too warm, too warm–”

It is too warm. Way too warm.

Once Gabriel has his coat, he leads Reese out into the crisp evening air. The night is clear, and the stars are above them, nearly blotted out by the twinkling lights of the city.

Reese inhales deep, catches that vague hint of flowers on the air again. He alternates between whimpering and panting. Gabriel’s grip on his wrist is strong as he all but drags him along. “It’s okay,” Gabriel assures him, “you’ll be fine. Someone probably slipped you something—maybe some E. But we’ll go back to the hotel, you can sleep it off.”

Reese groans low.

The walk is interminably long, and Reese alternates between shivering and sweating. He’s so … scared. He wonders why Gabriel didn’t call a cab. Every shadow could be someone else who knows Reese is an omega …

They reach the hotel at last. He plasters himself against the wall of the elevator, eyes closed, breathing hard. “Fuck,” he groans, “Gabby, what’s–”

“Shh,” Gabriel says, “we’ll get you to bed, okay?”

“Okay,” Reese pants, “okay.”

He’s no better in the morning light; he’s still flushed, still short of breath. But they go to the pool anyway, because Gord wants to debrief them, which they know means “do some laps,” in all actual fact. Reese squirms for pretty much the entirety of the ride over.

Gabriel keeps sneaking covert glances at his roommate when they’re changing to do those laps; Gord is nothing if not predictable. Even if competition is over, there’s the next one to start training for.

Reese knows he’s flushed down to the tips of his toes. His entire body seems to be at attention, but it’s cold in the change room and the shower isn’t much warmer, so maybe it’s nothing more than that.

He might have been better to stay at home and sleep off the obvious hangover. There’s a few points where it seems inevitable that he’s going to puke. He just keeps stopping, grabbing onto the lane lines and hanging there, heaving; he might actually drown in the pool.

“For fuck’s sake, Pieces, get out of the pool,” Gord huffs. “I’m not fishing you out if you drown—and I think your teammates are considering it, you’re slowing everyone down.”

“Hnnnggg,” Reese replies, then hauls himself up, out of the pool. He scrapes against the wall as he does so, manages to roll down the top of his suit a bit. He pauses, glances down at himself.

Everyone can see the enormous bruises gracing his hipbones.

“Whoooaaaaa,” Caleb cries, and Reese covers up as quick as he can.

Gabriel sinks a little lower in the water, pulls his goggles down, obscuring his eyes. Reese scuttles off the deck, into the change room. He squirms out of his jammers, rinses off as quick as he can. He changes more slowly, towels his hair instead of using the dryer. Then he perches on one of the benches and waits instead of heading for the bus.

It’s probably a bad idea, as his teammates make abundantly clear when they arrive.

“Whoa, Reese, dude, didja let her beat you up?”

“Must’ve been some helluva a gal, what, professional weight lifter or something?”

He laughs, says, “Yeah, I was scared she was gonna break me in half!”

Gabriel grinds his teeth. Reese tips his head curiously, then turns to his backpack, fishes out the essay he’s working on. He waves the papers in Gabriel’s face. “Hey, Flossy, can you help me with this?”

Gabriel sighs. “Is that why you’re still here?” he asks.

“Mm, yeah!” He nods enthusiastically. “’cause, y’know, ‘m not really good with this kind of stuff, and this paper is due, like, as soon as we get back, an’ I wanna–”

Gabriel looks tired, exhausted from competition. Reese almost feels sorry for him, leans in a little closer. He tends to get into Gabriel’s personal space precisely because he knows it bugs him. But all he can think about is that goddamn sext, that promise—

He inhales, scents those damn flowers again, which makes him frown.

He’s almost nose to nose with Gabriel, those dark eyes—and Gabriel rears back. “Fine,” he says, grabbing the papers. “But not here—the paper’ll get wet.”

“Ohhhh,” Reese says, “maybe that’s why my profs say they can’t read my papers, I always write them on the pool deck.” He rolls his eyes.

Gabriel glares at him, shoves his shit into a bag. He crumples the paper in there with his wet swim gear, and Reese bites his tongue, follows him out of the room.

The hotel lobby is deserted. Gabriel glances around like they’re escaped convicts or something, then shoves Reese into one of the conference rooms. Reese stumbles into one of the tables as the door slams shut. He whirls about, lands his hands on the table, grins as he meets Gabriel’s gaze. “What’s this?” he asks, unable to help the lilt in his voice. “Do I get a private tutoring session?”

Gabriel inhales deeply; Reese can see his nostrils flare, hears the inhalation. “You reek,” the younger man spits after a moment, and Reese pauses, then lifts his arms and sniffs at his pits, says, “Funny, I put on deo–”

“No,” Gabriel snaps.

He meets Gabriel’s gaze again, the intensity in those mocha orbs. Oh fuck. That means Gabriel can scent him, much like the guy in the club last night. “Dude, I’m on suppressants,” he spits after a moment, unable to offer anything else in his defense.

He is. There’s no reason anyone should be able to smell him.

“You’re omega?” Gabriel’s voice drops low, and it sounds like an accusation.

Reese waves a hand dismissively, fighting down the flush. “Dude, it’s fine, I’ve known since I was like twelve, taken suppressants every single day since the test came back.”

He sobers a little. “’cause, if I didn’t, Dad said I couldn’t swim anymore. So.”

Gabriel stares at him. “You know that is fucking unhealthy as shit, right?”

Reese shrugs. “I am what I am, and I wanted to keep swimming.”

Gabriel shakes his head. “You—you’re supposed to take breaks, Reese, you can’t just … keep taking it forever and ever. It’ll stop working eventually.”

“Seems to be working so far,” Reese says, and Gabriel shakes his head again.

“No,” he says, “it’s not. Reese, I can smell you.”

Shit. Shit. “Oh,” he says, hoping it’s light enough, like he hadn’t realized that last night after the club. “Oh.”

“You’re probably breaking through,” Gabriel surmises. “You’re not supposed to take suppressants for years on end. You’ve seriously never taken a break?”

“Nope,” Reese says because it’s the truth. He looks down at his hands in his lap, fidgets a little. He’s also never gone into heat before.

Things are starting to add up now. He wonders why he didn’t even think of it before. Like, much as he’s never gone, it’s always been a distinct possibility, a threat hanging over him.

But he’s never felt it before. He wouldn’t recognize the signs, he didn’t see them, even if he should have. Even if he should have suspected it a little more.

He inhales deeply through his nose, rolls his tongue up to the roof of his mouth.

Flowers. That weird fucking floral scent that’s been following him around all week, the scent he can’t place. His eyes widen.

Oh shit.

Gabriel smashes his hand into the back of his head, knocking him forward. “Ow, what?!”

“Don’t fucking scent me, asshole.”

Reese glares at him, clutches his head. Fuck, that hurt. “You scented me, you jerkwad,” he fires back, and oh fuck, he’s been scenting Gabriel this whole time. That floral scent is him—Gabriel’s alpha of all things.

It’s flowery and maybe a little girly, sure, but there’s no mistaking it. Reese swallows down a whimper, cowers a little, fidgets a little more when Gabriel growls low in his throat; it goes straight to his cock and Reese isn’t sure what the hell he’s gonna do.

This is bad. Real bad.

“Do you have anything with you?” Gabriel asks. He slides his hand under Reese’s chin, tilts his head up. Reese drops his head, refusing. He can’t look at Gabriel. He can’t. The incredulous smirk pulls his lips taught and laughter bubbles up out of him, unbidden, inappropriate.

“Like what?” he gasps at last, when he thinks he has a handle on his voice again.

“Like, Back-up or Icein or–”

He shakes his head. He doesn’t think he’s ever heard those words before. They sound … English, but. “No, what are those? No—never heard of them,” he mumbles. His lips are numb. He presses them together, tries to get the blood flowing. Tries to feel something. Anything.

“They’re stronger suppressants. For like, if you miss doses or something.”

“Mm, no,” Reese drawls, “never needed anything but what ‘m on.”

There’s a pause, and then Gabriel says, “We can ask Gord. He’ll know what to do.”

“No,” Reese snaps, then squirms. “Fuck, is it me, or is it hot in here? Do they have the heat cranked up?” He’s sweating. It’s too warm. He tugs on the hem of his shirt.

Gabriel grabs his wrists, and Reese swallows down a yelp at the cool of his touch. “Put your shirt back on,” the younger swimmer growls.

“It’s just—so warm–”

“It’s not warm, it’s you. We’ll talk to Gord, we can go to a drugstore, get you some Icein or something–”

“I can’t,” Reese whimpers, then leans back on the desk he’s sitting on, spreads his legs a little. The world is hazy, spinning a bit. He keeps scenting Gabriel, whiffs of that floral aroma bursting into his senses until he can only think about that scent and how it’s driving him mad.

“Why not?” Gabriel snaps.

“’cause,” Reese pants, then chews on his lip again, “’’cause Gord doesn’t know, ‘cause omegas can’t—compete, and fuck, if they find out …”

“Then call your doctor. Now. Get him to send you a ‘script—immediately.”

Reese bites his lip harder, feels the blood under it, ready to burst.

Gabriel stares at him. “Get your phone out,” he orders.

“I can’t,” Reese titters, “can—you get it for me?” He’s not sure why this is so fucking funny.

Gabriel sighs heavily, but tries to fish the device out of Reese’s pocket. Reese grins coquettishly, shifts under the other swimmer’s touch, and yes, yes—

Gabriel’s hands brush across the crotch of Reese’s jeans, and Reese tries to thrust up, because fuck, he’s hard, he needs it, it’s the least Gabriel could do for him–

“Stop it,” Gabriel spits at last, “Jesus fuck, Reese. Do you want to go into heat?”

That sobers him a bit. “No,” he says, fishes out his phone right quick. He scrolls through his contacts, calls his doctor. He glances at Gabriel as he presses the phone to his ear.

Click. Static, then “Hello, doctor’s office.”

“Uhhh, hi,” Reese drawls, “um. I uh—Reese Lockwood, ‘m a patient. Uh … I’m having a … bit of trouble, I’m in Istanbul right now.”

“What seems to be the problem?”

“I uh, dunno. I just … don’t feel right. ‘m on suppressants, and–”

“Are you taking them?”

“I—um … yeah, I’ve been taking ‘em. I’m just … I feel pretty weird right now, I’m not sure. I have a friend here, he thinks …I’m goin’ …”

He glances at Gabriel. “He says, um, like Icein? Or something? Is there something that’s okay—for me to take? Like—“

“Do you have a prescription for them?”

“Well, no.”

“You’re an athlete? The doctor says if you’re in competition, you can’t take any of the double-dose suppressants. He says it sounds like a break-through episode, and he can’t prescribe anything without seeing you. If you’re unable to make an appointment, you’ll likely just have to go through heat.”

“But I can’t!” Reese blurts. “I got practice, I have exams, I gotta get on a flight in a few hours, but I …”

“I’m very sorry, but that’s the doctor’s orders. He says it’s really impossible for him to prescribe something without seeing you—anything else might make it worse.”

He deflates a little. “Okay,” he says. “Okay. I … get it. Okay.”

“If you start bleeding after the heat episode, let the office know immediately.”

“What,” he splutters, his eyes widening. Bleeding?!

Click.

He pulls the phone away from his ear, looks at Gabriel. “I, um. He says he doesn’t know what’s gonna work for me now, so … so.”

He pauses, then shakes his head. “He says I gotta go through it, he can’t prescribe anything til—til after, til I can tell him how bad it is, but this—stuff ain’t working anymore, so we’re gonna have to try … something new, but it may not work.”

Gabriel purses his lips. “So,” he says, “the meds—they’ve stopped working, and you’re gonna have to figure out a new hormone combo, new dosage—it might be a new med?”

“Y-yeah,” Reese says. He stares at the wall. He’s going to go into heat. He’s never in his life done that. And now the doctor’s saying he has to, there’s no way around it …

“Okay,” Gabriel says.

“And—he says he can’t prescribe anything right yet. Has to wait, wait it out.” He bites at his lip, then tosses a desperate look at Gabriel. “I’ve never …”

“Never?” he asks. The exasperation is clear in his tone.

Reese shakes his head. “I told ya, been on the drug non-stop since I was twelve. Only way to keep swimming, keep competing. And I’ve never … they’ve always just worked.”

Gabriel studies him for a moment or two—or it might be all eternity, Reese doesn’t know anymore—then says, “We should get you back to your room.”

Reese just shakes his head. He doesn’t understand. Why is this happening? Why now?

“Yeah,” Gabriel says, “you’re already starting—you were probably going last night–”

Reese chokes back a cry, because he’s been going all goddamn week and maybe they could’ve stopped it if they realized sooner, if he’d clued in, if he wasn’t so dumb.

Gabriel hauls him off the table. “C’mon,” he says, “there’s no telling when you’ll go—”

He pauses at the door, and Reese crashes into him, presses up against him, rubs himself against him, because fuck, he needs friction.

Gabriel breathes through his mouth. Reese whimpers against him, grinds harder.

“Stop that,” Gabriel snaps, then pauses, glaring at the door handle.

“Sorry,” Reese pants, then fidgets. “I just—sorry. I don’t know what’s …”

Gabriel puts his hands on his shoulders, spins him around so they’re face to face. “Listen to me,” he says.

Reese drops his head.

“No—look at me. Listen to me—Reese–”

He feels like an idiot, but he giggles helplessly, refuses to look at Gabriel. “I, um–”

“Reese,” he growls, and Reese meets his gaze finally. His focus narrows. “Listen to me. This is serious.”

Reese licks his lips. “I, uhhh.”

“No, don’t talk. Listen. You’re going to go into heat. Do. You. Want. Help?”

Reese tips his head to the side. Help? He already called the doctor, there’s nothing they can do …

“Like,” Gabriel says, his voice edged with desperation, “is there someone I should call? Someone who can … help you?”

Reese shakes his head, rasps, “I don’t understand. Gabby, I–”

“Reese. Concentrate—do you want help?”

“I don’t know,” Reese whines, shakes his head. “What do you mean, help, what–”

“I can call someone,” he says slowly, and Reese grits his teeth, “to help you through this. You’re gonna—look, Reese, heat gets painful for a lot of omegas. But—but you gotta say. You gotta consent now, before–”

“Consent to what?” He has no fucking idea what Gabriel is talking about.

Gabriel sighs. “To being helped.”

“What do you mean, helped?” Reese presses. “I don’t understand—like, what? Help, help me how?”

He breaks off, nearly howling because fuck. Fuck. He’s on fire, he’s cold, he’s aching everywhere, and he needs, needs—

He doesn’t even know what he needs.

Gabriel shakes his arm, so he snaps his gaze forward again. “Do you want someone to fuck you through it?” the alpha spits, embarrassed.

Reese flushes brilliantly. “Wha–”

“If there’s someone you want to help you, tell me. I’ll call them. If there’s something you need—like condoms or lube or whatever, then tell me know, I’ll go to the pharmacy–”

“I don’t know,” Reese pants, “I don’t know. I’ve never–”

“Is there someone I can call?”

Reese shakes his head, mouths ‘no’ over and over, then grits his teeth. His breath hitches with a silent sob.

“Okay,” Gabriel says. “Do you—do you think you need help?”

“I don’t know,” Reese whines again, “Gabby—‘m scared, this has never—never happened–”

He screws his eyes shut, and he grinds out, “Gabby, I promised–”

“Do you want me to help you?”

Reese’s head jerks up, his eyes wide.

“Help . . ?” Reese sounds shocked, even to his own ears.

“Yeah,” Gabriel breathes, tucks a lock of hair behind Reese’s ear, cradles his face. “Some omegas get really bad, can’t handle it by themselves. I know you don’t know—you’ve never done this. But—you seem stressed about it.”

Reese bites his lip, squeezes his legs together. His mouth is dry. Is Gabriel suggesting … ?

“Like—and I don’t wanna just turn you over to like an escort service or whatever, ‘cause those exist, but I don’t think … I don’t think you’re gonna be comfortable with that, so like, maybe—maybe it’s better with someone you know taking care of you, making sure you’re comfortable.”

“You’d do that for me?” Reese breathes.

Gabriel won’t look him in the eye, but bobs his head. “Well—you’re my friend,” he says.

Reese giggles again. He can’t help it. “You’re so good to me,” he titters, his voice rising into a keen, and he hopes that this means what he thinks it means, because now he’s thinking about Gabriel bending him over the desk, and yes, he could really go for that right about now.

“Please,” he breathes, “I’d like that.”

He giggles again, drops his head against Gabriel’s clavicles, his arms loosely around his neck.

“Reese–”

“Please,” he murmurs, digs at Gabriel a little harder, nips his shoulder. He stumbles back against one of the tables. He looks at Gabriel, his eyes hooded, and he reclines against the table, murmurs, “’ve been thinkin’ bout it all morning, since practice, you in your damn Speedo, maybe doin’ me in the showers, up against the wall, just us, everyone left, and it’s quiet, but everythin’s echoin’, and you get me slicked up, an’ then your cock an’–”

He has no idea where that’s coming from. He likes it though; he has thought about it, a bit, idly toyed with the idea of getting screwed in the showers before, and frig.

“Fuck,” Gabriel spits.

“Yeah!” Reese says, then giggles. “Yeah. We fuck. You fuck me up against the wall, with that big cock of yours, and–”

“Reese, stop,” Gabriel all but whines. “We have to get out of here. We have to do some stuff first. Okay? I need you to hold it together.”

“Okay,” Reese murmurs. “Okay.”

“We’ll have go to the drugstore first. Then we have to go to the airport, get on that flight home—”

“I’ll blow you, Mile High Club,” Reese blurts, and Gabriel glares at him.

“No,” he says.

“Okay,” Reese agrees. It’s probably a bad idea. A very bad idea, if he thinks about it. Bad enough that he’s thinking about even getting on a plane—that’s fourteen, fifteen hours of travel …

Airplane washrooms are disgusting, tiny, cramped. Mile High Club likely isn’t much fun anyway, Reese thinks.

Gabriel licks his lips. “All right,” he says, “change of plans. You’re bad—”

“So bad,” Reese echoes, exhaling the syllables like a cloud of smoke.

Gabriel grits his teeth. “No, so I’m gonna talk to Gord, I’m gonna talk to the sponsor, extend the hotel stay—”

Reese pants, drops his head. “Gabby—”

“Sh. We have some stuff to sort out first, Pieces,” he growls, and the sound shudders down Reese’s spine. Fuck. He could lose it right then and there.

Gabriel grabs his wrist and leads him cautiously out of the conference room. The air in the hall is lemon-scented, like cleaner and wax. Reese presses his tongue to the roof of his mouth, but the scent of flowers is fading. Is Gabriel not turned on? He glances at him, worries his lip a little. Maybe he’s coming on too strong. Maybe he needs to dial it back.

One of the hotel clerks at the desk raises an eyebrow at them. Reese wonders if they look as conspicuous as he feels. He squirms under scrutiny, panting as they stalk back through the lobby, toward the street. They need to go to the drugstore first.

Of course they run into Caleb and Abby, who are just leaving the hotel restaurant after breakfast. “Hey!” Caleb says, starting, and Reese bites back a whine. He just wants to get upstairs, get to the good stuff …

He doesn’t want to wait. He’s not sure he can.

But Gabriel leads him over to them. “Hey-o,” Caleb says, “what seat did you get on the flight? Are you with us? We’re gonna try and study for the kin final, we could really use your help.”

Shit. Reese forgot almost entirely about exams. He rolls his eyes toward Gabriel, tries to discern the younger man’s reaction to being asked for study help.

Or if he’s still planning to get on the flight. Reese isn’t sure he should. But does that mean he’ll be left behind?

He swallows tightly. He can’t imagine. His first time in heat, and he’ll be left by himself in a foreign country where he doesn’t even know the language. He has no idea what’s normal and what’s not. What if something goes wrong?

He has no idea how long he’ll be in heat even.

“Uhhh,” Gabriel drawls, “I … don’t think we’re coming back with you guys, sorry.”

“What?” Caleb squawks, his eyes wide. “What do you mean, you both have exams, the flight is booked, we’re going to the airport in an hour—“

Gabriel shakes his head. “I don’t have any exams, and I just gotta fly back over here anyway, so I figured I’d stay, and Pieces isn’t feeling so well, and you know how he is on planes—”

Mel fixes Gabriel with a piercing look, one that boldly proclaims she knows exactly what’s going on.

“That’s too bad,” she says slowly, “we could really use your help studying. The lectures are so hard …”

“When are you gonna be back?” Caleb asks.

Gabriel glances sidelong at Reese. Reese, for his part, grins like an idiot, elbows him, says, “Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time between the conference and my dumb paper for the stupid class, it’ll be a breeze for you, you can Skype it—”

Caleb says, “Yeah, what even is marketing anyway, Reese, take some real classes–”

Reese keeps grinning, even as he says, “I’m gonna grab a coffee, want anything?”

“No,” Gabriel huffs.

Reese shrugs, says, “Suit yourself.” His smile doesn’t falter. He waltzes over to the coffee bar and leans on it, batting his lashes at the barista. She seems kind of embarrassed by him, her eyes flitting up to his face, then dropping back down to her work. “I like a little bit of honey,” he says, “so sweet.”

She glances at him again, but says nothing.

He peers over his shoulder, catches Gabriel glaring at him, so he waves a little, lifts his brows, then goes back to his chat. He retrieves his coffee—the girl isn’t taking any of his advances.

He meanders back over to Mel and Gabriel, sipping at the latte. “Yo,” he says, “Flossy.”

“Pieces?”

Reese catches his eye, locks their gazes. “I left my wallet upstairs,” he says, “we’re gonna go get it before we head out for breakfast? That was the last of my change.”

“Fine,” Gabriel sighs.

Gabriel holds up a hand to Mel. Reese makes a beeline for the elevator.


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