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here at the end of all things

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Ben likes to think he’s a good person. He tries to be a good person, whether it’s by volunteering or staying late at work or engaging in activism. He does his part to help urge society on toward inclusivity for demi-humans, and he doesn’t resent the Betas.

 “I’m telling you—the best ones come from the States.”

He sits with his two friends at lunch, intently discussing human trafficking, and wonders if he might be a piece of shit, too.

Ben leans back in his chair, eyebrows raised. It’s a nice afternoon in Paris and they were supposed to have a nice lunch that didn’t involve… this. But he supposes all the Alphas are starting to feel the sting of the absent Omegas, suppressants or not.

 “Why are they the best?” Ben asks.

 “Well they’re all feral there since the government collapsed.” Poe sips his tea, all lawyerly, not a hair out of place. “You know that, Solo.”

Hux, another lawyer, is more keen on the idea than Ben is. He clicks his tongue and squints at the Eiffel Tower off in the distance, probably crunching the numbers. Buying an Omega is costly: the woman herself will run €250,000, and that doesn’t include finders and shipping fees.

Ben is lonely and wealthy, but he has no interest in spending that kind of money on a woman who doesn’t want him. A Beta will suffice.

Hux taps a finger on the table. “Is it sight unseen?”

 “No, they bring some over for auctions, but if you wanted something else and pay the right price…”

 “All male?” Hux presses. “Female?”

 “Pretty much all female. They’re Omegas, after all.” Poe reaches in his breast pocket and casts a glance around before offering Hux a business card. “Give Snoke a call. He runs the auctions.”

 “This is inappropriate,” Ben interjects, miffed. He’s drumming his fingers next to his tea cup. “You can’t buy people like slaves.”

Poe launches into a lengthy defense of his actions. They’re feral. They need us as much as we need them.

It’s not civil discussion. Ben politely excuses himself, pays his bill to the nice waiter, and leaves.

—•—

The picturesque Omega, obedient and quiet, gentle and soft, nesting and happily spreading her legs—no longer exists.

Times have changed, and they didn’t change for the better overseas. Where their society collapsed, Europe thrived, and Omegas were set free of their bonds to create their own destiny.

It’s a good thing. People deserve the right to choose; the right to freedom. Living under the thumb of Alphas and the derision of Betas led to insurrections and uprisings until Omegas gained their freedom.

It cost Alphas the ease of finding a mate. Many turned to suppressants to curb their urges but some refused, and crime worsened: forced mating at a higher rate than ever before; pregnant fourteen year olds mated to their fathers. Ben saw quite a bit of it in the courts.

But it’s settled. Nowadays he practices environmental law with Hux and Dameron and stays far away from the grief and misery of demi-human protection.

Ben arrives at the office around mid-afternoon and finds their paralegal, Rose, already typing away on a new case. He smiles and she smiles. It’s thin, tight. She’s an Omega and he’s an Alpha, and no amount of law or social change will undo that fact.

 “How was lunch?” she asks.

 “Nothing to write home about. Poe and Armitage will be along shortly, but I’m going home for the day.”

They exchange more pleasantries before Ben slips out into the warm, sunny afternoon.

His black shoes click on the cobblestone as he makes his way toward the metro, coat draped over his arm. He’s one of the Alphas who refuses to take suppressants, and while he can’t smell Rose through her medication, the temptation is still there.

Ben clenches his jaw, brushing past others on their afternoon commute in his rush to get home. He’s tried and failed to find a mate, even with his relative wealth, and she won’t be what he wants her to be, anyway. She’ll work. She’ll be like Rose.

All the traditional Omegas have their pick and they pick even higher than Ben’s social status.

The train lurches. Ben lifts his head and sees a very pregnant woman stepping onboard, one hand at the small of her back and a wince across her face. He and several others pick up on the soft scent of Omega all at once, but Ben stands first to offer his seat.

 “Thank you so much,” she sighs.

 “No problem.” He supports her arm while she sits and slips away. Her hair is drawn back, nape bitten. Her Alpha won’t be happy if he picks up Ben’s scent. “When are you due?”

She laughs a little as he takes hold of a bar. His mouth waters and he stares at the swell of her stomach under her shirt. Fuck. They’re not even his pu—children. He shouldn’t be staring.

 “Four more weeks,” she says. A small hand rolls over her belly. Her engagement ring is bright and big enough to have its own orbit. “Two boys.”

 “Uh oh.”

They laugh. She tells him she has two other boys as well and as expected, her mate is a Vice President at a pharmaceutical company. They’re well off.

Ben gets off at his stop and pauses for a long minute, hand in his pocket.

He takes out his phone in one sweep. His shoes click while he walks up the steps and clings to the feeling of emptiness that’s been left behind by the Omega. That’s what he wants. Now.

 “Calling to chastise me again, Ben?” Poe drawls.

 “Send me the contact.” Ben emerges into the sunlight again, heart racing. “I want to go to the next auction.”

 “…Seriously?”

 “Yes. Send me in the info.”

He hangs up and casts a guilty glance around. No one is looking at him, but it still feels like all of them are.

—•—

Two weeks pass before Ben is privy to the location of the auction. Hux agrees to visit on the same Friday night and they’re told to bring cash for an entrance fee of five thousand euros. Ben also brings a blanket with his scent.

It’s an old building in Bondy, not too far from where Ben lives in Garches. He’s cleaned out half his savings and flushed the rest of his suppressants down the toilet, fully committing to the evil thing he’s decided to do.

Buying a person. But is she really? She’s an Omega gone feral from her time scavenging the remnants of what was once the United States. She would starve without him—die, maybe. Ben can give her a warm home and plenty of food and drink. She’ll never go without.

A short woman, Fay, leads them through a myriad of heavy doors toward the steady scent of Omega. It smells like fear pheromones; like they’re crying out for help, and Ben realizes a bit too late that he won’t be able to leave without one, even if he wants to. Blood and guts and millions of years of evolution have been turned back on him. Snoke will get his money.

 “We have a dozen right now,” Fay calls over her shoulder, leading them down a dark hallway. “None are on hold so you can purchase whichever one you prefer.”

 “Well that takes all the fun out of the auction,” Hux muses. He nudges Ben in the ribs. “Don’t you think?”

Ben shrugs and nods. He’s gritting his teeth, hands shaking in his pockets. It reeks of anxious Omega and he wishes he had taken a suppressant before coming. He’s getting angry.

They turn down another hallway and Fay opens a door. She ushers Hux and Ben inside, and a light flickers on overhead.

Through a sheet of glass Ben sees a dozen women huddled together in various states of undress and disarray. His stomach turns as he’s offered a chair and sits to observe them, but Hux is against the glass, green eyes hungry. Ben knits his fingers in his laps and breathes hard through his nose. He can’t look.

 “Shit,” Hux breathes. He glances at Ben over his shoulder, smiling, every bit a normal man in his blue sweater. “They’re lovely. Come see.”

 “In a minute,” he rasps. His throat is dry; tight. “Give me a minute.”

Fay seems pleased by their reactions. She lurks around Hux and points out different attributes of the girls: that one likes to cook, and this one is a natural nester. Her blonde hair bobs every time she laughs and nods along with Hux, some Beta bitch looking for her percentage of the profit.

This place is dank and dark and full of frightened Omegas who want nothing to do with Ben. He rubs his face and shudders.

 “Ah, yes. Rey is a bit thin, and she’s a mute as far as we can tell.” Fay leans over to whisper to Hux. “We dispose of the ones that won’t sell well. Dropping the price damages the market, you know?”

Dispose of.

Ben rises from his chair and joins them at the window, wedging himself between Hux and the woman. His gaze drifts across the women and he resists the violent urge to punch through the glass.

 “Which one?” he snaps. “Which one is Rey?”

 “Over there, in the dress.” She calls to Ben as he walks along the window: “Like I said, we can’t give you a discount. She’s still a hundred thousand euros.”

Beyond the huddle of women is one curled in the corner, hazel eyes wide and staring. Her soft growl carries through the glass when she catches Ben studying her, and she wedges herself deeper into the corner, scowling. Her brown dress is torn up on the side and she’s covered in a colorful palette of bruises—and thin. Her bones protrude and it makes his chest hurt.

Maybe she won’t be an ideal mate. His gaze travels down her long limbs to the slight swell of her breasts, right back to her irritated snarl. But she needs him, and more than anything else, Ben wants to be needed.

 “She doesn’t speak.”

He glances down at Fay and grunts. “Fine. I want her.”

 “Would you like to collect her or would you like her delivered? We offer a service to clean them up before—”

 “Give her to me. Now.”

Fay puts up her hands and motions for Ben to follow.

They walk through the maze-like structure to a bigger, heavier door with retina-reading biometric security. Ben’s skin prickles with anticipation as Fay opens the door and escorts him inside, then through another door that leads into the holding chamber.

The smell is overwhelming. None of the Omegas come toward him but shrink away as he strides past toward Rey, wincing under the bright lights, pained by the reek of fear. His shoes click across the linoleum like the hands of a clock counting down to some cataclysm.

Rey stiffens and her eyes widen. She hisses but doesn’t run, yowling, kicking her feet as Ben approaches. If she had ears, they’d be flat to her skull.

 “I know, little one,” he coos. He reaches out and she slaps his hand away, but he seizes her wrist. “Shh, shh. I know.”

It strikes Ben, as he wrestles with his new purchase while Fay counts his money, that she may not be an adult woman. Rey shrieks and snaps at his hands and he pins her to the floor a handful of feet from the other Omegas. Her face is round. Young. He peers down at her and her lower lip quivers.

 “How old is she?” he calls.

 “Mm…” Fay shrugs, leafing through the bills. “Sixteen? Nineteen? A teenager for sure.”

Fuck. A fucking teenager.

Rey’s trembling lip gives way to soft, miserable sobs, then longer mournful wails. Ben purrs as he gathers her in his arms and his blanket, scenting her with his wrists and his chin, murmuring in her ear as he carries her to the door. Her thighs quiver around his hips and she whimpers into his neck. It shouldn’t please him, but it does. He rubs her bony back, tracing her spine.

 “Everything looks good,” Fay says. She smiles as she leads Ben from the holding cell. “That one has never been bred, either.”

Ben grunts.

He leaves Hux behind to continue drooling over the remaining girls, eager to bring Rey home and get her washed up and fed. Fay reminds him to never come back unless he has money before she shuts the main door.

And there he is, standing in broad daylight with a shivering Omega he bought from overseas. Ben swallows, cupping the back of her head to keep her face hidden in the crook of his neck. No one will know. Rey will be well-loved and no one will know the difference between her and a typical mate.

He purrs and purrs, and Rey dozes off by the time they reach the metro. She’s swaddled in the blanket and breathing gently on his throat, and Ben loses himself in the quiet calm, purring, eyes hooded while he smells her hair. She needs a bath but he’s picking out the Omega scent, anyway; half-drunk on it and unsure of how he’s going to pry himself away.

He forgets their stop and they go around again, and he thinks he wouldn’t mind going around forever.