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“I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do.”

Rey stared disbelieving at the small old woman seated behind the desk. “I’m eighteen, nearly nineteen, Ms. Kanata. I don’t understand why—”

“Those below legal independent age require a signature of a parent, legal guardian, or mate in order to stay in on campus housing.” Kanata sighed, pushing her overly large glasses up her nose asher magnified brown eyes tinged with pity. “I believe you knew this already, Miss Johnson?”

“I’m eighteen!” Her fists clenched together. This was ridiculous. If she was anyone else, she wouldn’t need a guardian’s signature. If she was anyone else she wouldn’t be beholden to Plutt till she was twenty one— she would have been “of legal independent age” on her last birthday.

“This isn’t even campus policy, Miss Johnson. It’s the law, whether we like it or not the university is still beholden to state and federal laws and regulations.” Kanata glanced down at the papers before knitting her small brown hands together. “Rey—May I call you Rey?”

She sputtered, not bothering to respond to the woman’s question.“This is… this is…” Her mind failed to provide an adequate word. Ridiculous? Insane? Asinine? Fucking discrimination ?

“Bullshit,” Kanata provided, matter-of-factly, hands still folded together in front of her. Rey blinked at her in surprise, trying to rectify the word she had just heard come from the prim, little old lady Kanata’s mouth. Maz Kanata looked like the type of Beta who would get faint and pass out at foul language.

Kanata gave Rey a grim, slightly sad smile. “The word I think you were looking for, Rey, is ‘bullshit.’ This is bullshit.”

Her eyes were probably as wide as Kanata’s were magnified now. “I, um… yeah. It, well, it is, Ms. Kana—“

“Maz. Call me Maz.” Kanata—Maz—took her glasses off and sighed. “I understand, Rey, I do.”

“Oh, do you?” She crossed her arms across her chest, sinking down in her chair and staring at the edge of the desk.

Maz raised her eyebrows, not saying anything. Rey blinked and then flushed, embarrassed. Had she just implied a black woman, one in at least her seventies, didn’t understand discrimination?

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I mean, I’m sure you can relate, in a way at least…”

“I’m no Omega, but I’m eighty seven years old, my dear. I protested for equal pay for women. I marched with Dr. King. And I’m old enough to remember before the start of the first designation rights movement, when my uncle was imprisoned for having children with another beta.”

Rey blinked, startled. Beta rights had been in place so long that it was easy to forget that there were still people alive who might remember the days when only male Alphas could be people in positions of authority and power and Betas could only marry other Betas if they agreed to sterilization. And Omegas were practically forced into marriages with Alphas, never allowed any independence, but always under the control over a guardian or a mate.

She groaned and leaned onto the desk, burying her face in her hands. The “legal” age when an Omega could live independent of a caretaker was twenty one, as opposed to eighteen for an Alpha or a Beta, so it was the residual laws and prejudices related to such that were ruining her chance to get away from her asshole of a stepfather.

“I assume you don’t expect your legal guardian would agree to allow you to live on campus?”

“Plutt?” Rey laughed bitterly. “Give up free labor, his nice tax credit for having a dependent Omega, and my grant money? Not going to happen.”

Maz’s magnified eyes narrowed. “He’s misusing your education funding?”

“The stipend after tuition.” She leaned back and blinked, eyes stinging. “I don’t know how I’m going to buy my textbooks.”

“Hrmph.” Maz picked up a pen and tapped it on her desk. “I’ll have to see whether I can do anything about that. In the meantime… You’re taking Overview of Designation, I assume?”

She winced. Designation Studies were the last thing she was interested in, and the last thing she wanted was to be instructed on the fucking biology that was currently fucking over her life. “Yeah, it’s required.” Rey glanced down at her watch and winced; she was also late for that class.

Maz chuckled. “You seem less than thrilled. I suggest you keep an open mind, you might be surprised. But I suggest you talk to your professor for that class, Dr. Effan Finnigan. Tell him Maz sent you and explain your situation. He’ll give you options, depending on how far you want to take it.”

Rey frowned, not sure of what that meant. Glancing at her watch again, she got to her feet and sighed. “Okay, thanks, I guess. I need to get to class.”

 


 

DS-101 was in a huge lecture hall across campus, and even practically running, it took her ten more minutes to get there. That meant she was twenty minutes late when she attempted to open the door a crack and slip in quietly. The door refused to cooperate with her plan, squealing loudly and causing the entire room to fall silent as every head turned to look at her. A hundred eyes seemed to be crawling over her sweaty skin, judging her.

“They have got to get that door oiled or fixed,” an amused voice echoed up from the front, breaking the tension enough to get a chuckle from the entire class. She looked down towards the voice and found it belonged to a surprisingly young black man, couldn’t be more than his mid-twenties. He smiled at her and waved toward the packed rows of seats. “Take a seat, and come see me after class to get the syllabus.”

That was Dr. Finnigan? She’d just assumed in her head that a professor with a doctorate was going to be an old frumpy dude. Nodding, she headed towards the back row of seats that were mostly empty, save for a small pack of guys sprawled out in the middle, laughing with each other. Down in front, the professor had gone back to talking.

Before she even reached the end seat, the smell hit her and caused her to practically gag at the body odor and heavy alpha scent. Her head snapped up to look at the guys, who clearly had more interest in laughing and talking than listening to the professor. Good god, hadn’t any of them heard of anti-perspirant, deodorant, and anti-pheromone? Hell, had they heard of showers and basic fucking hygiene?

She dropped into the end seat, trying not to breath through her nose. Despite science saying an Omega like her should love Alpha scent, she personally had always found the heavy and musky smell revolting.

It had to be intentional, had to be trying to be as overpowering with their scent as possible to rub their Alpha-ness in everyone’s noses. They were casting glances in her general direction, eyeing her down and smirking.One leaned towards her, greasy brown hair hanging in his face with flared nostrils as he scented her. His eyes immediately dilated.

Rey turned away. The anti-pheromone and scent-neutralizing deodorizers coupled with the suppressants she took to prevent heats should have kept her scent neutral unless someone was practically sniffing one of her scent glands, but her sweatiness from her run across campus must have raised her scent, now she had a group of horny Alpha boys leering at her.

Great.

On the plus side, they’d at least mostly shut up now, murmuring quietly to each other, of what could only be about her. But at least she could hear the professor.

“—over the course of this class we will touch on everything from the biology and science to the real history of designation casting and the sociological implications of designation in both archaic and modern society to the philosophical and existential pondering of the meaning and purpose of designation.”

Someone in the Alpha pack snorted, muttering something that sent all of them into an obnoxious burst of laughter. She shot a glare at them and caught one of their eyes, who shot a cocky, amused smirk and a wink at her irritation. She huffed and turned away.

“—we won’t shy from the ‘taboo’ subjects here. Expect to delve into subjects such as how Christianity reshaped the concept of an ideal pairings and designation rights, to transdesignation and how modern technology is redefining the role designation plays in society.”

“Overall, our goal is to try answer one overarching question.” Finnigan clicked to a new slide with just a single question written on a white background.

What does designation mean?

“What does designation mean? What purpose does it truly serve?”

The Alphas burst into laughter again, one of them suddenly shouting, “Like what the fuck is purpose of a male omega?”

Heads turned, people murmuring in surprise and shock. Male Omegas were rare and had long been sidelined as a useless designation, a side effect of the view that Omegas were meant to pump out babies and a man couldn’t do that. Female alphas, which weren't exactly common either, had similar, though less extreme, prejudices against them. Even so, it still was unexpected to hear someone give voice to such things in a crowded room.

Finnigan stopped, squinting up and folding his arms. “Purpose of a male omega?” he asked, voice musing. “One could ask what the purpose of any designation is. What’s the purpose of an Alpha?”

“To lead and protect,” the same Alpha called back, cockily. He cast a sideways glance at Rey and smirked. “And to impregnate omegas.”

She rolled her eyes. Asshole Alphas.

“Uh-huh. Female alphas might have trouble with that last part,” Dr. Finnigan seemed nonplussed, looking up at the Alpha thoughtfully.

“Aberrations, just like male omegas,” the alpha sneered. “Alpha males are meant to be mated to Omega females who will bear and nurture young, Betas are meant to serve and tend to the Alpha’s needs.”

The majority of the room had now turned to glare up at the alpha prick, though his eyes were locked on the professor in a challenging stare. Finnigan raised his eyebrows before turning and walking up the stairs towards them, eyes locked on the Alpha the whole way up. He stopped at their row, leaning on the wall across from her, now looking down at the Alpha.

It was a look that was clearly meant to be a challenge, which surprised her a bit. She took a deep breath, curious, but couldn’t pick up Finnigan’s scent, which just meant he probably used a decent anti-pheromone like most civilized people did.

“The idea of ‘correct’ designation roles loses creedence once you come to understand that such views varied across different civilizations and different times in history. The Romans very much idealized Alpha-Alpha pairings as a way to produce more Alphas.” Dr. Finnigan shrugged. “Of course, they also didn’t know how the genetics worked or understand sterility. Some people think the population decline before the Roman empire fell was due to the high number of Alpha-Alpha pairs and the one in four chance of producing a homozygous sterile Alpha.” The Alpha boy raised his lip in distaste as Finnigan continued. “Now, in contrast, the Mayans completely revered omegas. A male Omega almost always ended up mated with a female Omega. The high probability of producing Omegas apparently overrode made the occasional homozygous omegas produced which were either lost in utero or born too malformed to survive acceptable to them.”

“Now if we look at examples in history”—Dr. Finnigan spread his hands—“we see the modern western ideal of male Alpha-mega female is not as consistent as ‘common wisdom’ suggests. Queen Isabella II and King-Consort Francis of Spain are one of the more famous instances of a powerful female Alpha and male Omega pairing. The two also had at least a dozen Betas, male and female, who took oaths of fidelity and loyalty… essentially creating a polygamous marriage of Alpha-Omega plus Betas under the guise of Beta servants. And I say guise cause they were without a doubt all fucking one another.”

The class murmured, seemingly as surprised as Rey was to hear a teacher drop an f-bomb in class. Finnigan ignored it and continued. “In fact, the children of those betas were all adopted by Isabella and Francis to give them royal rights. Essentially they revived the type of extended pack family of Alpha-Omega-Betas that had been extremely common before the spread of Christianity.”

Finnigan waited a moment before continuing, “And then there are Omegas like Catherine the Great, who helped orchestrate the coup that overthrew her Alpha husband and took over ruling Russia after he was deposed. She refused to marry again, Alpha or otherwise, ruling alone and mating with a variety of Alphas and Betas during her heats.”

“There’ve been freaks in history, so-fucking-what? Doesn’t change what’s normal,” the alpha growled, jaw set.

“’So-fucking-what’”—Finnigan took a step forward, eyes still locked on the alpha boy, challenging—“is that your concept of normal is a lie. That’s what the science, history, and facts tell us. Your narrow-minded and limited point of view that has been dictated by our social norms is one that’s a fairly recent development in history and complete and utter bullshit.” Dr. Finnigan smiled. “Given this conversation exposed your very obvious lack of knowledge on the subject, I think some research is in order.” He broke his eye contact with the Alpha to glance around the room. “Five pages, due next Monday.” The room groaned, everyone casting annoyed looks at the Alpha who’d triggered all this. Even his Alpha buddies were muttering and giving him dirty looks. “Non-standard pairings or mating groups as they’ve occurred historically, or on individuals who did not conform to the expected social roles of their designation.”

Dr. Finnigan met the Alpha’s eyes again and smirked before turning and heading back down to the front as the entire lecture hall grumbled.

“With that out of the way…” He clicked his remote and changed the slide, this one displaying the four designation chromosomes. “On a base genetic level, this is what designation comes down to. Dominant Beta, Recessive Beta, Alpha, and Omega. A combination of two of these chromosomes define whether you’ll be a Beta, Omega, or an Alpha.”

Rey sighed, opened her notebook, and began to take some notes.

 


 

When the class was over, Rey headed down to the front, where Dr. Finnigan was now sitting at a desk, writing in his notebook. He didn’t look up as she approached, but she was certain she saw him draw in a deep breath through his nose.

“You must be Miss Johnson, then?” Dr. Finnigan asked as he slid the syllabus across the desk to her.

Rey blinked, surprised that he knew who she was. “I, um, yes, how did you—”

Dr. Finnigan looked up, the left side of his lips curling up. “There are three omegas in this class, and the other two were accounted for when I took attendance.”

“Oh,” Rey answered stupidly, as she leaned down to grab the syllabus. As she did she caught a faint trace of Dr. Finnigan’s scent.

To her surprise, it wasn’t the normal, bland scent of a Beta. It was… it… Oh. Oh.

Finnigan cocked his head and smiled, “Ah, man. Mitchem forty-eight hour anti-pheromone and deodorizing protection my ass.”

That got a laugh out of her, “Really I just barely picked you up at all. You’re a—”

“Yes, I’m an Omega.” He smiled. “And trust me, that little Alpha prick was aware.It’s right on my staff biography page on the college website. Public knowledge.”

“What a douche,” she muttered.

Finnigan laughed. “Unfortunately, alphas that age tend to be. Sorry about the paper, but pricks like him need to be shunted into their place carefully.” He looked back down at his notebook.

She shifted her weight, “Um… so… Ms. Kanata said you might be able to help me?”

His brown eyes darted up, eyebrows raised.

“I was trying to apply for campus housing, but I can’t without my guardian’s signature…” Her voice trailed off, cheeks heating in a combination of embarrassment and anger.

Resting his elbow on the desk and propping his chin against his hand, Dr. Finnigan studied her. “Because you’re not twenty one. How old are you, Miss Johnson?”

“Eighteen.”

“Legal age for everyone but an Omega,” he supplied, dryly. “Let me cut to the chase with my assumption that part of why you want to get campus housing is to get away from your guardian.”

Rey bit her lip. “Yes.”

Finnigan nodded slowly, “Is this a parent or—?”

“I… He puts stepfather down on paperwork, but I don’t think he ever was married to anyone related to me. I was young when I was left with him.”

Left with him.” Dr. Finnigan grimaced. “Okay, please tell me he’s not an alpha.”

She blinked, then her eyes widened, “No, no, Plutt’s a beta. A seedly, slimy, mean-tempered Beta. He’s never…” After stumbling over her words for a moment, Rey took a breath,.“I mean, not that way, Dr. Finnigan.”

Finnigan let out a relieved sigh. “Okay. So two things. First, call me Finn. Second.” He paused. “I need you to tell me about your home life with this Plutt guy and then tell me everything you know about him, everything you know about how you ended up with him. Even if there are things you’re not comfortable sharing, you need to tell me. Can you do that?”

Rey closed her eyes and nodded once.

“Good,” Finn said and stood up, gathering his papers. “You and I best move to my office because I’m pretty sure there’s another class in this room soon.”

 


 

Finn didn’t say much as she just sat and talked, just taking notes and occasionally asking for her to expand on something she said. When Rey finally felt like she had spewed out her whole biography she fell silent, looking across his desk at him as he skimmed his notes, waiting.

“I’d love to tell you there was a magic loophole for you,” Finn said, finally, as he looked up, “but there really isn’t. The laws suck, and, unfortunately, the system is still prejudiced against Omegas. This makes a lot of the legal routes risky, because there’s a good chance someone will make a very shitty decision on your behalf, because they think they know better what’s best for a young Omega girl.”

She scowled at that, and Finn nodded. “Or you can end up with a good old boy who thinks Omegas shouldn’t be going to college because you should be mated off and be pumping out babies.” That drew a snarl out of her and Finn raised his hands, palms out “I know, it’s all bullshit, but it’s the reality of the legal system. It sucks. Trust me.”

“So I’m better off doing nothing?”

“I didn’t say that.” Finn leaned back, folding his hands together. “So you have a couple things going for you if you want to try to play within the system. Your guardian isn’t a blood relative—if you were with your parents you would be completely screwed. Judges rarely remove Omegas from their parents, even in cases of obvious abuse.

“Two, this Plutt guy seems shady as fuck. At the very least he’s misusing government grants that were provided for your education expenses. Which probably means he could be declared inadequate and you’d be assigned to a foster guardian. A lot of times these fosters are very hands off if you’re over eighteen. So there’s a chance you’d get somebody who’d just sign the paperwork for you so you can live on campus. Mostly in those cases you just need to check in every few weeks. It’s annoying, but you’d get some independence.”

Rey frowned. “Isn’t there also a risk I’d end up with someone worse than Plutt?”

“Yes.” Finn shrugged. “Depends on the judge, depends on the foster assignment. You have a case to be made, but you could end up fucked over by the system as likely as being saved by it.”

Staring down at her lap, Rey shook her head. “You said if I wanted to play within the system? What did you mean by that?”

Finn gave a small smile. “There are three options. One is try to manipulate the system to get things better for you. Two would be to fight the system. In this case, you sue for your independence and equal rights, keep appealing up to the Supreme Court, and hope they think it’s time to start throwing these archaic laws out the window. This isn’t for the faint of heart, though. It’ll be a media shitstorm and you’ll probably become a household name.”

She flinched. Fighting for her rights sounded good, it was probably what she should do. But that sort of attention sounded… She shuddered.

“Don't feel like you have to be the one to fight that fight. I can tell you from personal experience that it's hell, and my case was more low key since it was against colleges and not the government.”

“Your case?” She blinked.

“I had two, actually. First against the discriminatory acceptance policies towards male Omegas. I had high test scores, excellent grades, and was rejected by nearly every college I applied for.”

“Why? I mean, they get bonus funding for taking Omegas, don’t they?” She’d actually been approached by multiple college recruiters her senior year of high school. All eager to get her to attend their school so they could get the extra cash the government doled out to help “encourage omegas to get higher education.” That wording always pissed her off. More like encouraging colleges to quit refusing to educate omegas.

Finn gave a wry smile. “Up to a quota, yes, though the Department of Education and Department of Designation Affairs, which are the two that pass out the different grants, tended to be a bit, ah... stingier... when it came to male omegas. That was nearly my third lawsuit, but thankfully the DoE and DoDA agreed to clean up their acts without a court case.” He shrugged, “But back before that, moneywise it made more sense for universities to try for female Omegas. Couple it with ingrained prejudices and disdain of male Omegas and you pretty much had the same situation for male O’s as it had been for all of us omegas back before Equal Education act—nearly impossible to get an education beyond high school.”

She just shook her head. It wasn't right or fair.

“I wasn't keen on that, obviously, and my guidance counselors all just told me this was the way it was and I should quit trying. I said fuck that, went to the ACLU. They were on a roll with designation rights cases, so they took one look at my high school transcripts and test scores and took up the case.”

Rey had a sudden recollection of working dragging heavy crates around Plutt’s garage while the news played on the TV, talking about a male Omega that was suing universities. She had been maybe eleven… Plutt had scoffed to a few of his cronies about what the world was coming to, leering out at her scornfully before saying “Brooders are starting to think too much of themselves. My little gilt is constantly forgetting her place.”

She’d glowered at him and kept working. If she didn’t finish her chores or if she talked back, she wouldn’t get to eat for at least a day or two.

Recalling that now, Rey realized it had to be Finn’s case. What kind of asshole was she that she wasn’t willing to put up the same sort of fight for her own rights?

“Ah, I see that look. Again, don’t feel obligated to take that path. It’s brutal. During the years right after that case I had hate mail and threats for years, and I still get the occasional death threats.”

It was still hard to not feel like she should .

Finn shook his head. “Honestly, I doubt we’re at the point yet where we’d win either. The court isn’t quite ready to make that ruling yet, unfortunately.”

“So what other options are there? I mean, I either do nothing and keep getting fucked over by Plutt, or take a risk with the system and maybe get fucked over more?” She rubbed her eyes, frustrated. “What else can I do?”

“There is one other option—”

A knock came on the office door and it creaked open, letting in the smell of fast food along with a very mellow, faint Alpha scent. She turned around to see a man with brown hair and brown eyes peering into the office.

“Am I interrupting?” the man asked Finn, raising his eyebrows.

Finn grinned, waving him in. “You got great timing, bae. Get in here. I got someone here you need to meet.”

 


 

The newcomer introduced himself as Poe Dameron. Neither he or Finn explicitly stated they were mates, but the way they casually touched brushed hands as they cleared some space on the desk and the affectionate pet names they called each other, it was pretty obvious.

Dameron spread a bunch of styrofoam takeout containers across the table, and Finn insisted on doling out portions from both his and Poe’s orders for her to eat.

“Okay, so like I said, good timing,” Finn began. “I was just about to get into option three for Rey here.”

Poe rolled his eyes as he took a bite of his sandwich. “You know, one of these days this shit is going to get me in trouble?”

“Come on.” Finn snorted. “I’m not asking you to go beat the shit out of anyone. Just pay people visits and flash that badge while asking questions and be your big, intimidating Alpha self.”

“Yeah, see, some people report that as harassment.”

“Her guardian is sketchy from what Rey’s told me about him. I don’t think you have to worry.”

Badge? Rey blinked at Poe, “Wait, you’re a cop?”

“Detective,” Poe answered through a mouthful of fries.

Finn raised his eyebrows disapprovingly. “Bae.”

Poe rolled his eyes, scent suddenly spiking with irritation. He grabbed a paper napkin and dabbed at his lips with exaggerated daintiness. “There, happy Effan?” Finn leaned back and crossed his arms, lips pursing. His agitation was obvious, though she didn’t catch any change in his scent. Maybe he didn’t give Mitchum anti-pheromone enough credit.

The room fell silent as the two of them glared challengingly at one another. She shifted uncomfortably in the tension filling the air, finally speaking meekly, “Um… so could someone explain to me what option three is?”

After what felt like an eternity, Finn finally broke his gaze from Poe to look at her. As soon as he did, she heard Poe exhale and sink back in his chair.

“Option three, is… um… under the system,” Finn smirked as he grabbed more of Poe’s fries to add to the plate in front of her, ignoring Poe’s annoyed huff.

She stared at them blankly. “I don’t understand.”

“Option three is we make whoever’s giving you trouble rethink if it’s worth giving you trouble,” Poe answered, looking down at his hands and chewing on his cheek. He looked up suddenly at Finn. “Finn, look, I—”

Finn didn’t look at him. “You know I hate being called Effan.”

“Yeah, so I was being an asshole.” Poe huffed. “But you were being an overbearing—”

“Um—” Rey cut Poe off as she saw Finn’s eyes shoot to him, looking seriously pissed off. “Could you explain this a little clearer?”

“Maz is probably already getting started on this, if you told her about him stealing your grant funding. I’m guessing she’s going to go with the grant audit route.” Finn poked her plate. “You should eat more.”

“Audit?” She briefly glanced at her plate and then shoved some fries into her mouth. “You really didn’t need to give me some of your lunches…”

“Yes, I really did. There’s like, nothing to you.” Finn shook his head, then shot Poe a glare as he gave an exasperated sigh. “And, yeah, basically she’ll send him a letter claiming that you’ve been chosen for a random audit where you need to provide proof the funding is being used for your living and education related expenses.”

“Great, we got another asshole pocketing grant money?” Poe muttered.

“Audits like that are a thing?”

“Fuck no, but this Plutt guy won’t know that. The idea is to freak him out and make him rethink doing it again.”

Poe stiffened suddenly and sat straight up. “Wait—”

Finn continued, ignoring Poe. “Which is option three in a nutshell. Maz as a representative of the college administration, me as a staff member, and we get some police influence as well with Poe. We give Plutt a lot of unwanted attention until he’s willing to sign that form and you can at least get away from him by living on campus.”

“Did you say—” Poe tried to cut in.

“That sounds almost crazy,” Rey stammered. “I mean, couldn’t making things up to give Plutt headaches get you guys in trouble?”

“Did you say this guy’s name was—” Poe tried again, but Finn still ignored him.

“It is a little.” Finn shrugged. “But it’s for a good cause, and I think in your case we don’t need to worry much. This guy isn’t going to report us. It would bring even more attention on him.”

Poe’s fist slammed into the table, making the contents, Finn, and Rey jump. “Did you call this guy ‘Plutt?’” She and Finn looked at each other, confused. “Unkar Plutt?”

Rey blinked. “Uh, yeah.”

Running a hand over his face, Poe shook his head, and his scent spiked again in agitation. “You’re telling me your legal guardian is the fucking Blobfish?”

 


 

Snoke’s club, The Supremacy, reeked of alcohol, smoke, and musk.

Kylo wrinkled his nose in distaste as he made his way through the crowd. There was a mix of designations—plenty of people just there for the club to dance and get drunk and high and find someone to fuck—but Snoke’s “staff” of Omegas and special services that could be purchased downstairs meant it did tend to be Alpha-heavy. Little pissants who spread their scent everywhere because they thought stinking made them tough, all while having to pay for an Omega cunt to knot because they couldn’t get a girl on their own.

Fucking soft-knots, all bluster and no bite.

Bass pounded around him as he shouldered his way through sweaty bodies. The Supremacy was one of the largest clubs in town. A converted warehouse that was easy to secure, and the activity of the club masked the more unsavory activities that took place in the maze of backrooms or the services being bought down in the basement.

He was nearly to the edge of the crowd when someone stumbled into him, splashing some kind of cheap liquor onto his suit jacket. His new fucking suit jacket. Grabbing the asshole by the throat, he lifted the man—some drunk ass Beta—off the ground and slammed him into a support pillar.

People around them scattered, some stopping to stare, but most having the sense to fuck off and be somewhere else.

“Maybe”—He glared into the man’s eyes, speaking calmly—“you should learn to watch where the fuck you’re walking.”

The man wheezed, clawing frantically at his throat. Kylo gave a wry smile, tightening his grip. If he wanted to, he could crush the man’s windpipe with ease.

“Mr. Ren?”

Kylo glanced over his shoulder to see Nines and a few of his men walking over, dressed in the signature white suits of First Order security. Nine’s glanced calmly at the man he was still dangling by the throat before smiling, “Is this man bothering you, Mr. Ren?”

The Beta kicked his legs, face starting to turn a little blue. He turned, lifting the man higher in the air before dropping him in a heap at Nines’s feet.

“This man owes me money for a new suit.” Kylo smiled. “Please take him out back, teach him a lesson about respect, and arrange for payment.”

Nines bowed his head as one of his cronies smiled and cracked his knuckles, before reaching down to grab the man by the shirt. “Of course, sir.”

He watched coldly as they were dragged the now blubbering man out towards a back exit, pawing one large hand at the wet spot on his jacket. Fuck. Turning, he walked over to a steel security door, cordoned off with velvet ropes and guarded by Slip, another of Snoke’s security. Slip smiled at him, turning and entering the code to unlock the door, nodding politely, as he opened it. “Mr. Ren.”

Nodding back, Kylowalked into the long, dimly lit hallway. The music dying to a muffled bass as the door shut behind him, the stench of the nightclub fading along with it. Only members of the First Order syndicate were allowed back here.

At the end of the hall a pair of large double doors stood open, bringing the scent of cigar and cigarette smoke, and the faint musky scent that always permeated a room filled with Alphas, no matter how good their hygiene was. Like most syndicates, the majority of First Order members were alphas, with a few aggressive betas filling the rest of the ranks.

There was a private bar along the back wall and several poker tables. Loosening his black tie, Kylo walked over to a chair and took off his black fedora , setting it on the adjacent table. “Deal me in next hand.”

Rodinon looked up and gave a surly nod, his red, heavily-gelled hair glinting in the light.

“Snoke was looking for you.” Canady looked up from his hand, hat pulled low over his eyes. “Something about wanting you to pay a visit to the Blobfish.” Rodinon raised, and Canady looked at his hand once more before throwing the cards down, glaring over at Rodinon as the man grabbed money in the center. “Go knot a bottle you little fuck.” Canady huffed as he grabbed the cards and started to shuffle.

“Plutt?” Kylo tossed his ante in before pulling out a pack of cigarettes. Unkar Plutt was a low key player, just a garage and chop shop, a little larceny and car theft. Not big enough to be on First Order radar. “When did we start giving a shit about that fat fuck?”

“Talk to Hux, he has the details.” Canady shrugged him off as he dealt the next hand. His nose wrinkled in distaste. “Little bitch went downstairs, so I’m sure he should be back soon.”

“Fucking mock-knot,” Rodinon muttered under his breath.

Kylo snorted. Hux was a Beta with something to prove, always playing like he was an alpha—getting in people’s faces, starting shit, finding or buying Omegas to fuck. None of them could stand the little knotless prick.

“Speak of the devil,” Canady mumbled, nodding towards the door where Hux had just walked in. His tie was loose and collar of his black silk dress shirt was open, red hair barely visible under his black fedora.

Hux’s blue eyes scanned the room before locking onto Kylo. He smirked, walking over with an irritating swagger. “There you are,” he drawled, before collapsing in the chair next to him.

Looking up from his cards, he gave Hux a bored glance. “Here I am.”

“Back already?” Canady asked, not bothering to look up from his own cards. “Ah, well, guess you can’t help your lack of staying power.”

Hux stiffened as his eyes narrowed. “Little needy thing was quite content.”

“Needy?” Rodinon glanced Hux’s way.

“One of the girls is in heat,” Hux smirked. “I gave her a hand.”

He glanced at Hux in distaste. Bad enough to be a Beta fucking Omegas, but to be fucking one while in heat...

“Poor thing needs a good hard knot, not a hand,” Rodinon said.

“She was plenty sated,” Hux said, voice growing icy cold. Rodinon smirked, eyes flashing.

This wasn’t going to end well if it kept escalating. “What did Snoke want you to tell me?” he asked, interrupting the tense staring match between the two redheads.

Glaring a moment longer, Hux turned to look at Kylo. “Snoke wants you to pay a visit to Unkar Plutt.” When Kylo just raised his eyebrows, Hux continued. “Seems the Blobfish’s been making some investments, expanding his business into areas we control. Snoke wants you to make sure he thinks twice about continuing to piss in our territory. And find out where he’s getting this extra money from, see if there might be even more going on that we don’t know about.”

“Hm.” He looked down at his cards as Canady saw and raised Rodinon’s bet. Fucking shit hand, he tossed the cards down, and stood, grabbing his hat, “I’m out.”

“Going so soon?” Rodinon asked, frowning at his cards before seeing Canady’s bet.

“Apparently I got a job to do.” He put his hat on and nodded before heading out the door. “Another time.”