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“Well, girl?” The Overseer’s smile was thin and unpleasant and failed to reach her eyes. “Have you changed your mind?”

“N-no.” Kara hated how easily the woman could unnerve her. “ No .” This time she managed to put some force behind the word.

“Then undress. Quickly now.” Without waiting for a reply, the Overseer reached for the front of her shirt and ripped it open, buttons raining all over the floor. “I don’t have all night.”

The woman let her go and pushed her toward the door that lead to the auction block before approaching the next omega in line. Kara glared after her but, as much as it irked her to admit it, the Overseer was right. She’d come this far, she may as well see her plan through.

Not that I have any other choice.

The Overseer’s question had been rhetorical anyhow: Kara had stipulated a contract and, in so doing, signed herself over to the auction house. She was what they called a House omega now - at least until they found her a buyer.  

In the semi-darkness, she counted another dozen omegas or so. A few of them had already disrobed, acting as if auctioning themselves off to the highest bidder was an everyday occurrence. Others milled around, as nervous as she felt, and shot uncertain glances to the door leading upstage. None of them could really see what went on up ahead, a heavy curtain cutting them off from the reception hall, but the fabric wasn’t thick enough to stop the pervasive stink of alpha pheromones from reaching them.

The musky smell mixed with that of sour sweat and omega fear, making air that was already stale almost unbreathable. It weighted across Kara’s shoulders like a sodden blanket and, when she tugged at her shirt to remove it, she was not surprised to find the fabric sticking to the small of her back.

They could hear the crowd too: hooting and screaming obscenities whenever an omega stepped into the light. Some of the things they yelled made her stomach lurch.

She removed the rest of her clothes quickly, letting them fall into a careless pile at her feet. Behind her, everyone had finished undressing as well, and even the ones who pretended to be unaffected appeared vulnerable. Kara didn’t know what had led the others here - whether it was desperation or greed - but she could not allow herself to care. If she were lucky she would be bought by the end of the night, and if she weren’t… some omegas spent months inside auction houses and she had heard plenty of stories. The sources had been different but each story included backstabbing, and drama worthy of a royal court. Some would do anything for money. Including me.

Kara’s plan was simple: find a patron and make enough money to pay for Alex’s surgery, no matter the personal cost. The doctors had been clear: without care, her sister had a few months left at most, and Kara didn't have the time to get tangled in omega politics

Of course, her plan hinged on rousing enough interest among the attending alphas that they’d compete to win her, and while she was sure that very few of the omegas present could offer what she did, now that her turn had come Kara’s confidence faltered.

She was almost glad that the Overseer had moved back up the line and rejoined her side.

“Stand straight!” The woman barked, her hand shooting out to cruelly squeeze one of Kara’s breasts, nails digging into her flesh until she obeyed. “We sell bodies here, not sacks of potatoes.”

Kara swallowed back a hiss of pain: when the woman let her go she found that her hold had left reddish finger-bruises on her skin. She had to resist the urge to rub at her chest to try and soothe the pain: the Overseer looked as if she were waiting for her to do just that. If she gave in, Kara knew she would be punished.

“Better.” The woman grumbled, taking a step back to give her a last once over. “Not perfect, but passable. Not that they’ll care how straight you stand once I tell them about your… qualities .”

Kara said nothing.

Instead, she dropped her hands to her sides, clenching them into impotent fists, and focused her gaze on the curtain ahead. If she concentrated hard enough she could shut the obnoxious woman out and pretend she wasn’t there. Pretend that everything was fine, and this was a bad dream she’d be able laugh away come morning. Yeah. Right. Her eyes stung with tears that she refused to shed.

But the Overseer was not so easily dismissed. She curled iron-like fingers around her forearm and tugged her closer, so roughly that Kara stumbled against her.

“Once we go out there you will not speak unless spoken to,” the woman snarled into her ear, her tone promising nasty retribution should Kara break the rules, “you will keep your eyes averted, and should one of the patrons have pity and buy your wretched, little hide you will show proper gratitude.”

She pulled Kara even closer, so that they were almost nose to nose. Kara had to crane her neck to meet the woman’s eye: the Overseer was several inches taller than her. The raised scar of a mating bite adorned the woman’s throat and Kara’s lip quivered, wanting to curl back in disgust. The Overseer should sympathize with her charges but instead used what power she had been invested with to terrorize them.

“Are we understood?”

“Yes, Overseer.” Bitch.

“Then come. We’ve kept them waiting long enough.”

Kara had time to draw one steadying breath before she was thrust through the curtain and into the light beyond.

This was a bad idea.

No matter how much incense the House staff burned to cover up the stink, the reek of alpha pheromones was ten times stronger here. The heady mix caught in the back of her throat, and Kara bit the inside of her cheek, her shoulders shaking as she swallowed back a cough. The light - far too bright after the dimness of the corridor - hid the sea of faces staring up in hunger behind a veil of tears. Disoriented and afraid, Kara tottered forward until the Overseer squeezed her arm again to signal she should stop.

“Stand here,” The woman hissed into her ear before backing away, “let them get a good look.”

She could feel their gazes swarm like ants over her nakedness. It made Kara’s skin itch, especially the puncture wound on the inside of her wrist, but she couldn’t give in and scratch herself. Even though she’d used the smallest needle she could find - the little mark practically invisible unless one knew where to look - Kara couldn’t risk drawing attention to that spot. Unless the dealer lied, they’ll find out soon enough anyhow.

She wondered whether her end justified the means, then decided she’d rather not know the answer.

“Lot number 35 of the night is one Kara Danvers.” Kara startled. Oh God, this is real. I’m really doing this. There was no way she could pretend this was just a nightmare anymore.

“Female, blonde, blue-eyed. 24 years of age.” The Overseer paused, and a heavy sort of silence wrapped around them. Seats creaked as every last alpha in the room leaned forward, the weight of their attention like a hot blade piercing Kara’s chest. “In addition to the usual, the girl sells her virginity.” The announcement was followed by a collective exhale and Kara was glad her eyes still hadn’t completely adjusted. The ordeal was easier to bear without witnessing its details.

“And-” A note of disbelief had entered the Overseer’s steel-like voice, and she closed in on Kara’s side, making a show of sniffing at her throat. “It appears she’s entering her heat.” The woman’s breath skated across her cheek, hot and unpleasant.

Disbelief quickly turned to satisfaction: while her virginity was an added bonus, the fact that Kara was in heat would raise her price substantially. Most of the alphas in the room would be inclined to bid for her now - even the ones who may have not been all that interested before - the chance she’d take their knot and bear them offspring too good to pass up.

A rumble had started among the alphas, and it quickly spread to the entirety of the audience.

“Bend her over!” Someone shouted from the back. “Show us her cunt!” Another added, howls of approval filling the room.

Kara wished she could cover herself up or perhaps run, but she did neither. It was as if the Overseer’s words had activated the chemicals she had injected into her bloodstream. Heats normally started slow, with nausea and cramps, followed by a few hours of shivers, but hers would swamp her before she could truly understand what was going on - or so the drug dealer had said. The language he’d used had actually been coarser.

“It’ll knock you flat on your back, girl.” Under the lurid light of a streetlamp, his smile was thin-lipped and lewd. “And once it starts, all you’ll want will be some alpha cock inside you.”   

To her horror, the words rang true. Her body was already reacting, the obscene suggestions that had made her want to flee when she first heard them, now sending pleasant shivers down her back. Kara had figured that being in heat would make things easier overall: with her body consumed by need she wouldn’t care whose bed she’d end up warming.

It'd be the coupling of one night and, should seed take hold, she’d be paid a stipend until the time came for her to give birth. Kara had not allowed herself to think too much about pups - what it'd mean to give them up - and had found solace in the fact they'd be well cared for. The kind of people who attended omega auctions belonged to the elite who could afford to provide for a child born out of wedlock.

But I was wrong. Slick dripped down her thighs, and her walls clenched around nothing. At the same time her heart ached as if some untamed animal was clawing it to bits. So very wrong.  

The room had descended into chaos. Some of the alphas at the back were moving forward to get a better look and, now that her vision had cleared, Kara realized she was surrounded by a wall of writhing flesh and primal hunger. The stage was high enough that nobody could get to the omegas before the auction was concluded and ushers garbed in the House’s colors lined the walls, but the spectacle was nonetheless a frightening one.

“Please, ladies and gentlemen, please !” The Overseer’s voice cracked like a whip above the alphas’ heads and - gradually - they settled down. “The House and the omega are most grateful for your eagerness,” she smacked Kara across the ass - hard - and the audience laughed, “so let us proceed, yes? Just a reminder that absentee bidding is not permitted during tonight’s auction!”

It’ll be over soon. Kara told herself. And then you’ll have enough money to pay for Alex’s surgery. Her plan had to work. It had to.

Now that she had the crowd’s undivided attention, the Overseer crossed to a wooden lectern and, reaching for the mallet chained to her waist, she brought it down atop its surface.

“The base price is…” She paused again and made a show of checking her paperwork. “Thirty thousand dollars.”

Kara blinked. Blood rushed to her head so fast she tasted her own heartbeat. It was so loud inside her ears everyone else must be hearing it as well.

This was not the base price the Overseer had written down on her contract - in fact, the woman was asking about ten thousand dollars more than what they had discussed - but a cynical voice inside her head told Kara not to be surprised.

She risked a glance to where the Overseer was standing and found greed written all over her face. The woman’s deep-set eyes shone with it, and even though she tried to keep her expression carefully neutral, the eagerness with which she leaned toward the audience was telling, at least to Kara.

She’s cashing in on my heat. The realization left a bitter taste inside her mouth, but it made sense: the House would take a sizeable chunk of whatever sum she was bought for and, should the auction go better than expected, the Overseer would be handsomely rewarded.

Because of the woman’s cruelty, it was easy to forget that she was property just as much as Kara and perhaps even more so - Overseers were bound to their respective Auction Houses for life. However, the sting of the woman’s hand was too recent on Kara's flesh for her to feel any real sympathy.   

“Thirty thousand!” The Overseer repeated. “Who offers more?”

Hands went up among the alphas, too many and too quick for her to count. Kara’s stomach plummeted.

****************

“I don’t like this,” Lena muttered for what felt like the hundredth time that night. “I don’t like this at all.”

She shifted in her seat and smoothed out imaginary wrinkles on her pencil skirt. No matter how plush her chair was, Lena would not get comfortable. She couldn’t. Not tonight. Not here.

“I know Miss Lena but-” Her secretary stopped short, and offered an apologetic smile: both of them knew what she’d been about to say.

Lena wanted to kick herself, her frustration paling if compared to what Jess must be feeling. She had wanted to leave the woman back at L-Corp, or drop her home on the way here but - her stubbornness rivaling Lena’s own - Jess had insisted on coming along. At times it felt like her secretary considered herself a bodyguard as well which - if one regarded how efficiency she kept even the most rabid journalists from Lena’s door - was not far from the truth.

To her credit, despite the quiver of disgust that threatened to twist her mouth, Jess’s countenance had been impeccable throughout the night. At least she’s mated. Lena would definitely not have brought her otherwise, no matter how adamant her protests. Still, she’s getting a raise. She’s due one anyhow.

“But my mother.” Lena finished the sentence and had to bite back a chuckle at Jess’s shocked gasp. Her presence at the Auction House was a direct consequence of Lillian’s actions, just like so many other things in Lena’s life. So far, she and her secretary had studiously avoided saying the words out loud and circumvented the sore spot, but Lena was tired of dissembling.     

Her mother’s prodding had started about a year before. She hadn’t outright told Lena she should sire a child, but the hints had become progressively harder to ignore. Then, a seemingly endless parade of suitable omega prospects began.  

Men and women hailing from National City’s oldest, most powerful families waited for her whenever Lena could bring herself to visit, and no amount of frivolous excuses could convince her it was purely happenstance. Her mother presided over the encounters like the perfect host but small talk wasn’t enough to conceal the expectant glint of her eyes.

Lillian seemed confident that sooner or later she could wear Lena’s resistance down and at times she had been tempted to cave – if only to spare herself more of that charade.  And her mother’s picks seemed so eager anyhow that finding a willing one wouldn’t be a problem. Yet, it was way more fun to politely decline each and every one, and watch  Lillian’s frustration grow with each refusal. They played the game for months – Lillian abandoning all pretense at subterfuge as time went by – until one night she’d crossed one too many lines.

It happened on a night in which she was forced to sleep in her old room, a violent storm turning the roads that led into the city to rivers it was too risky to navigate. Lena didn’t mind too much: she came from a week of grueling meetings and, for the first time in months, it had just been her and Lillian at the dinner table.

In retrospect, she should have guessed her mother would try a different approach, but that night she was so drained that even bringing food to her mouth required her effort. What Luthor Manor’s kitchens had provided them was as delectable as always: stuffed pheasant and sautéed vegetables, and Lena’s favorite red.

Rich flavors that had turned to ash on her tongue when she’d discovered the woman waiting in her bed.

She was already naked – Lena could easily tell from the clothes strewn across the polished floor – and well on her way to a first climax. The salty-sweet smell of her arousal saturated Lena’s every breath, but even as her groin stiffened she was sickened. Her stomach rolled with an unpleasant wave of nausea, as if she’d had one too many spoonfuls of a chocolate dessert.

A slow smile stretched across the omega’s lips upon her entrance. It was falsely apologetic and made the woman look like a cat who’d been caught with its paws inside a jar of cream. Lena said nothing, her breath coming out in short, angry bursts and, under her stone-like stare, the smile wilted away.

“Lena…” The omega licked her lips, her gaze darting around in search of a way out. “I mean- miss Luthor, I-”

“Quiet.” Lena rasped, the word scratchy against the sides of her throat.

A breath hissed through her entire body, and she curled her nails into her palms, hoping the sharp pain would stop the fury that boiled inside her veins. It didn’t help, and neither did turning her back on the intruder. The omega’s stare burned like a firebrand between Lena’s shoulder blades, and the air was now sour with the stench of her fear.

It was her mother she was mad at, her mother she wanted to strangle. But Lena could only watch herself rip the sheets away, a low, threatening snarl curling her upper lip.

The omega screamed.

Her name was on the tip of Lena’s tongue, but her rage was too consuming for her to recall it. Frankly, she wouldn’t care to remember it, had she been able to.  

“Out.” Eyes narrowed to hate-filled slits, Lena pointed a trembling finger at the door. “ Now.

The woman slid out of the bed far faster than she’d entered it – of that much she was sure. She was running by the time she reached the heavy door and yanked it open with a grunt, not bothering to collect her clothes as she spilled into the corridor beyond.

Good.

Even with its source gone, however, Lena’s rage would not abate. Everywhere she looked, she saw in shades of red. Bronze like the glint of the flames licking at the clothes she stuffed into the fireplace. Russet like the curtains she tore from their hooks and abandoned on the floor, similar to pools of half-congealed blood. Crimson like the droplets raining from her knuckles as she smashed her reflection in the mirror. She had caught a glimpse of it during her frenzied attempt to rid the room of the omega’s presence, and the cold fury that blazed inside her irises made her look too much like Lillian.

Lena couldn’t stand it.

A distressed whimper jerked her back to the present. Lena blinked and the Auction House seemed to crash down around her ears.

“Miss Lena?” Jess’s fingers hovered a hair away from the back of her hand. Her secretary leant closer and peered into her face, clearly unsettled. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.” Lena soothed. “I was...” Somewhere else . “…thinking.”

Onstage, a young man was quietly crying. His tear-streaked face had crumbled as if he'd just received a winding blow and, while no further sound emerged from him, his mouth hung open in a silent scream. That was worse, somehow.

Lena's heart ached for the omega: he was old enough to be here - everyone involved in an auction must be of age - but in his desperation, he appeared too young and out of place for such a crowd.

“Poor boy. He fell short of the price he hoped for. Very short.” The cold, clipped tone belied the kindness of the words. Lena spared a glance for the alpha who had spoken, and was forced to gulp down a grimace. He sneered, lips pulled back to reveal teeth yellowed by nicotine and his eyes narrowed in challenge.

If she had not known it was impossible, Lena could have sworn he was reading into her thoughts.

In any other setting, his face would have been one among a thousand like it, yet here she found him especially revolting. Lena met his gaze with a level stare of her own and, after she had schooled her face to stillness, she tilted her chin up the same way she had seen her mother do with those she considered beneath her.

His eyes were velvet black, and Lena would have called them pretty if they'd held something other than malice.

The man's face drained of all color and he pulled back as if Lena had slapped him. You would be proud, Mother. Watching him tilt his head and bare his throat, however, brought her no joy.

Disgusted with herself for having given into her instincts, Lena acknowledged his submission with a tiny nod. She had come to find an omega to mate before her mother slipped more strangers into her bed, not to dally on power games.

“Lot number 35 of the night is one Kara Danvers.” The announcement drew their attention back to the stage, and they turned their heads in unison like moths drawn to a flame.

A new omega had walked out after the Overseer, and Lena’s breath was sucked out of her lungs. Oh God, she’s beautiful. Eyes wide, she drank the girl in, keenly aware that the rest of the crowd was doing the same.

This… Kara, her name is Kara - she looked young and vulnerable as well, but somehow different from the man auctioned before her. Her eyes were of a striking blue and  glistened, bright with unshed tears, but the glint behind them was steel.

It was a common misconception among alphas that those who chose to sell their flesh did it solely for greed. Lena knew better: most of the omegas who had stripped for the crowd’s pleasure had no other choice. Of course someone could argue that they'd chosen to come here - if being left without alternatives could be considered freedom.

“Kara.” Lena's lips moved soundlessly and her tongue curled, tasting each letter. This omega’s name she wanted scrimshawed into her thoughts, unlike that of the one who'd sneaked her way into her room what felt like a century ago.

After a moment in which it looked like the girl would turn tail and bolt, she straightened her shoulders and set her jaw. She seems determined to see this through. Admiration sparked glowing warmth in Lena’s chest.

Dazzled by the stage lights, the omega seemed unaware that the crowd was completely in her thrall, but Lena didn’t miss the silence that had spread throughout the alphas. Some of those in the back rows had stood, and were shuffling their way forward to get a better look.

And, judging by the way she gripped the sides of her lectern, the Overseer had also noticed their reaction. The woman’s nose flared and her eyes glittered, as sharp as those of an hawk ready to strike.

Lena paid only partial attention to the list of Kara’s qualities and, although desire coiled inside her lower belly at the mention of the girl’s heat, she realized she had made up her mind the moment green eyes had met blue.

Next to her, Jess reached for Lena’s purse and discreetly withdrew her pen and checkbook. When she raised a testy brow at her, the secretary returned a knowing, almost daring look. She can read me like an open book. Lena sighed and accepted the items, silently admitting her interest.   

“Thirty thousand dollars!” The base price set the audience buzzing. The amount was a drop compared to Lena’s wealth, but some of the alphas around her weren’t grinning anymore. It was clear that the auction would involve just a fraction of the crowd, but the number didn’t matter. Lena intended to outbid them anyhow.

“Thirty thousand!” The Overseer repeated, and next to her Kara shuddered and shut her eyes. “Who offers more?”

“Forty!” The alpha who had failed to challenge her had his hand raised. He dropped it as soon as the Overseer accepted the bid and grinned at Lena over steepled fingers. Throwing a hungry look at Kara, he wet his lips. “Forty thousand dollars.”

The words were a growl intended for Lena’s ears.

Before Lena could raise him, a blonde alpha seated in the second row lifted her arm. Her voice was sultry, and filled with enough arrogant distaste to make the rest of them feel like mud-footed peasants.

“Fifty thousand.”

The woman was Cat Grant.

Lena groaned.

 

Chapter Text

“Fifty thousand dollars.”

The amount was more than Kara could have ever hoped for, enough to make her head spin.

Giddiness filled her for a moment, her body made so light by it that she could have sworn she’d gained the ability to fly.

In a cruel juxtaposition, crashing back to reality hurt her all the more.

Her vision, which had softened in the wave of her euphoria, sharpened again, and her gaze came to rest on the woman who had spoken. The woman was Cat Grant - her boss at CatCo Media and her mentor.

There goes my day job. The sickly feeling she had kept at bay so far threatened to swallow her whole and Kara closed her eyes. She was hyper-aware of the sea of gazes focused on her - they prickled and burned well beyond her skin. Her throat flexed as she gulped back the sobs threatening to leave her mouth and - despite the suffocating heat of the reception hall - chills of shock raced down along her spine.

Anything for Alex. Kara clung to the words as if they were a prayer. We’ll have enough money for surgery and treatment, and afterward, she will be fine. The breath she drew was more similar to a hiccup. I can get a thousand other jobs. But not another sister.

Still, there was no way she would be able to show her face at CatCo now, and it stung. The job sometimes sucked - well, a lot of the time - and it didn’t pay as much as she would have liked, considered the long hours. Yet Kara had learned so much between a coffee run and the next, things she would not have been able to learn anywhere else. Things that, for the most part, she’d been indirectly taught by the woman now bidding on her flesh.

Anger and confusion warred inside her. Cat was the last person Kara would expect to find someplace like this. The company she owned had been one of the first in the city to offer leaves to its employees during ruts and heats, plus a wealth of other benefits. Cat was too worldly, too experienced not to know what happened within Auction Houses and the fact that she had come to one anyhow was… How can she? How can she sit there and… and…. She had memorized the alpha’s coffee order, could list what Cat would eat depending on the restaurant Kara booked for her without a moment’s hesitation, and it all amounted for nothing. The woman that she thought she knew was a papier-mache façade, and the real one who sat mere feet away from her, a total stranger.

The realization was a hard blow to her chest and, had there been nobody watching, Kara would have crumpled inward.

Instead, she dropped her gaze to the floor beneath her bare feet, shutting out the alpha’s attempts to catch her eye. Her nails curled into her palms and left bloody half-moons on her skin. The sharp pain fueled her anger further.

“Seventy.”

If the room had grown quiet when the auction started, now it was absolutely silent, like the inside of a church.

“Seventy thousand dollars.”

Kara’s head unwittingly jerked up and she squinted at the crowd, trying to identify the owner of the voice.

It slid silk-smooth across her sweaty skin, absolutely feminine, and carried to the stage with ease even though the speaker was sitting several rows away. Far enough that Kara had to lean forward a little to get a decent look at her.

The impression she got was a fleeting one – she did not dare to stare too openly – but of ethereal, aristocratic beauty. Pale skin and hair as black as a raven’s wing, styled into an austere ponytail, eyes that sparkled the deep, secluded green of a faraway forest under the reception hall half-lights. When they met hers – unerringly, like the alpha had known all along that she was staring – Kara tried to turn her face away.

She was unable to, her eyes lost in the grip of that gaze.

“I said,” the woman repeated, a note of impatience coloring her words, “seventy thousand dollars.”

Sound returned to her ears so suddenly Kara wondered whether the crowd had been buzzing all along, her attention too focused on this new bidder to notice. But no: one glance at the Overseer revealed the woman blinking stupidly, mallet-wielding hand frozen in mid-air.

“That’s Lena Luthor, isn’t it?”

Wait, that Lena Luthor?

“Who’d have thought-“

Some of the alphas sitting upfront had twisted around, scanning the crowd for the woman. Their eyes were dark, fury-filled slits. Kara’s throat flexed and, while everyone’s attention was diverted, shuffled a step back. The air inside the room had changed: it was still heavy, but the quickness with which the lust had turned into anger scared her. This was a horrible idea. She swallowed hard, but the lump of ice that had formed in her throat would not melt. Do it for Alex.

“-as good as won, I tell you-“

“-even bother bidding now-“

“Seventy thousand and one!”

The mallet struck wood, louder than thunder.

“Who offers more?”

The Overseer had regained her composure it seemed, and her voice cut through the crowd’s mounting roar like a hot knife would slice butter.

Contrary to the words that had risen from the audience, her tone was flat and businesslike, full of nothing else but greed.

“Eighty thousand!” Someone hollered from the back.

“Ninety!”

The offers were coming fast enough now that the Overseer had trouble keeping up.  She’d bring her mallet down every few seconds, and no longer bothered hiding the rapacious way she looked at the bidders and Kara both. Like the rest of the crowd, she was too caught up in the moment, intent on squeezing every last dollar from what was rapidly becoming the most inflamed bidding war of the night.

“Three hundred thousand.”

All noise abruptly ceased as if someone, somewhere, had cut off a wire.

Kara felt her knees grow weak, but there was nothing she could hang on to for support. She should have been happy: even after the fees to the House were paid, she’d have more than enough for Alex’s treatment and a bit of cushion while she searched for a new job.

Except that this new bidder tied her stomach into knots, and not in a good way.

The woman wore a dress as red as murder, and winged eyeliner sharp enough to cut. Her aggressive style did very little to disguise the cruel cast of her face and, when Kara tried to peer into her eyes – struggling not to appear obvious – she was met by an impenetrable wall.

The alpha smiled a thin line that barely moved her mouth and licked her lips.  

She saw hunger there, but darkness too and the feminist side of Kara hated the way her body quickened under the woman’s study.  She’d thought, naively, that she wouldn’t care which alpha she ended up with - wrong, wrong, wrong - but, as the woman’s gaze stripped her soul bare, she found she cared very, very much. This alpha who wore a quiver of hissing snakes inked on her skin, bold-as-you-please, could uncover all her fears with one mere look – Kara wanted nothing else to do with her.  

“For God’s sake, let’s put an end to this.”

Surprising everybody, Lena stood and made her way to the front of the hall, another, demure-looking woman trailing after her. That must be her secretary or something. The thought flitted through Kara’s mind as if it weren’t really hers, and she blinked around it. The tick, tick, tick of Lena’s expensive heels against the hardwood was a brisk staccato to the beat of Kara’s heart.

“One million.” Behind her, the room drew a collective breath. “If I can mate the girl.”

***

“Three hundred thousand dollars.”

Lena clenched the fountain pen Jess had given her hard enough it left an indent on her skin. The amount was not what worried her - it was a drop of water against the ocean of her wealth - but the woman who had made the offer certainly did.

Veronica Sinclair may have changed over the years, but she would recognize her anywhere. Somehow she had secured herself a seat in the front row - Lena had no idea how since the waiting list for those was utterly ridiculous - and now turned around to stare triumphantly at Lena.

They locked stares and the rivalry that had pitted them against each other during boarding school was rekindled with surprising ease. Lena almost expected the air between them to catch fire and, while she was too far to smell the challenge rolling off of her old foe, it was clearly written all over Veronica’s face.

The alpha’s eyes looked like black pools that swallowed light, and Lena’s upper lip quivered, wanting to bare her teeth into a snarl. She hadn’t wanted to waste time with the foolish man now sulking next to her, but for Veronica… well, I’ll make an exception for her .

She must have let loose a snarl without noticing because the alphas closest to her shuffled further away with worried looks to one another.

Boarding school had been awful to begin with, and Veronica had made it worse. Everyone’s bets had been they would go along just fine - after all, two scions of rich, old families must have a lot in common - but, God, they could not have been more wrong.

All Lena wanted was to slip through school as discreetly as a church mouse: she hadn’t wanted to go to the same one Lex had studied at, knowing that comparisons would be inevitable, but Lillian was irremovable. Her brother had gone there and before him, their father and grandfather. It was a Luthor tradition and Lillian absolutely loved those.

So, resigned to her fate, she’d been at least determined to do it her own way. She befriended staff that the other rich kids treated as objects: invisible unless needed, and elected the old library as her domain.

Veronica was her polar opposite and, while opposites may attract according to the laws of physics, that had not been true in their specific case.

Sinclair and her cronies would harass the younger girls to the point of tears and, after having interfered with their antics once, Lena became a sort of hero for those students who were too shy or socially anxious to stand up to Veronica on their own.

I wonder if our last showdown is still whispered about after lights out.

“Miss Luthor,” Jess had grasped her arm, firmly enough to draw her attention. Her tone was urgent and her eyes rounded to show the white. She’s afraid, but why?

Lena found her answer by checking what was happening on stage.

Or rather - what wasn’t happening.

Kara stared into the audience, her eyes lifeless and doll-like. The absolute lack of movement on her part, save for the barely perceptible rise and fall of her chest, screamed louder than a cry for help. She was frozen, rooted to the floor as if she had become part of it. Petrified by fear.

It must be sinking into her what her coming here had set in motion. Lena would not pretend she could imagine, by her very nature she could not. Even without her family name and their money people would have deferred to her, whether she merited or not, because of the biological division that society insisted on following. She had thought that personally speaking, she had moved past it but by coming to the auction she had proven herself wrong.

She may not be drooling over the omegas on display as openly as everyone around her, but she could not deny the coil of lust which was tightening inside her stomach - a spring ready to release.

“I-I’m sorry Miss Luthor I forgot myself, I didn’t mean-” Jess stammered a river of apologies but Lena barely listened. The lone, frightened girl on stage had become the focus of her entire existence.

Even from a half room away, the look on Kara’s face was not dissimilar to that of a deer - caught just as it realized its meanderings had brought it to trot in front of an oncoming car. She was pretty even so, in a way that whipped a maelstrom of emotions inside of Lena’s chest - and stirred something less poetic further down, between her legs - but above all, she ached to protect the girl with a fierceness that left her stunned to her last bone.

“Don’t worry.” She patted Jess’ hand distractedly and stood, chair screeching across the parquet floor. “I’m putting a stop to this.”

***

Kara couldn’t believe her ears. A million dollars. It was hard to wrap her head around the concept. If she were asked to write the number down, she’d have to double check on Google to make sure she got it right.

She heard the other part as well – the mating part – but her brain seemed incapable to process what it meant. Everything was happening too fast: a mere hour ago she had signed her name into the House’s books, effectively becoming their property until her services were sold, and now somebody had bought her for a sum she could not even begin to comprehend.

An alpha whose eyes were the same green of yet uncharted waters. The only one in the whole room who – strangely – did not terrify her. And when their eyes had met… Kara had no idea what had happened between them, but everything in her body was instinctually tight. She tried to tell herself it was the heat, but it sounded an awful lot like lying.

She should not like the prospect of being touched, filled by this woman, dammit – my body likes it. I don’t, I’m doing this for Alex – but her nerve endings had caught fire and I’m doing it for Alex was not cutting it anymore.

Think about the money. What you feel is just the heat and your biology.

Think.

Slick was leaking from her and made a sticky mess of her inner thighs.

About.

There was enough alpha musk in the room that Kara felt like she was trying to breathe in a wet blanket. Hopefully, it would overpower the pervasive scent of her own pheromones

The.

Lena had stopped at the foot of the stage, so close that Kara could have leaped into her arms. She hadn’t noticed before, but the alpha had a pen and checkbook at the ready. Doesn’t she expect a challenge?

Judging from her next move, Lena really didn’t. She uncapped the pen – a slim, pretentious-looking, gold-rimmed thing – and, with a flick of the wrist, opened the checkbook. Then, perhaps feeling the weight of Kara’s stare, she froze and lifted her head to meet her eyes.

This close, Kara was able to see the alpha’s irises contract and ripple, their surface disturbed by the lust swimming beneath. To see that level of desire inside the eyes of a stranger was unnerving and arousing all at once: it wrapped, one by one, around her bones, adding to the heat that already was consuming her.

Money.

The last of her fragmented thought clicked home.

Kara didn’t come from a poor family. Growing up, she and Alex had never wanted for things – within reason – and every year they’d take a family vacation. They had even been to Europe a couple of times when the bonuses her parents got from Wayne Pharmaceuticals were big enough.

Things hadn’t really changed with adult life. Sure, she had to make do with a small apartment and could not afford to go to Europe anymore, but her life was not uncomfortable , even if her monthly budget could be tight. The same could be said for Alex, though her paycheck was bullshit for the risks a uniform took daily.

But, just as it was for the majority of people, small financial hurdles had a way of snowballing into bigger ones. In the beginning, Alex’s sick leave had not seemed like a big deal but, instead of improving, her sister’s condition had grown worse.

A tornado had swept through their lives: Alex’s collapse during a shift, the frantic race to the hospital and, when the doctors had declared she could not return to work - the dismissal from the force.

Alex showed her the letter from the hospital bed. It killed Kara to see her sister so pale, surrounded by colorful wires and more machines than she could recognize.

“They regret to inform me-” Next to the bed, the heart monitor’s beep-beeping hastened, and Alex took a deep breath. “they regret to inform me they’re laying me off, can you imagine?”  

“Because you’re sick.” Kara frowned. “They’re letting you go for something that isn’t your fault. Can they even do that?”

Her sister snorted and tossed the letter to one side. The paper fluttered towards the nightstand, but missed its mark and fluttered to the floor instead.

“There was already talk of cuts going around. For all the Mayor’s blathering about citizens safety, he and the council are awfully stingy with money.”

“So it’s not about you, specifically?”

That made neither of them feel better, but the more people getting the ax, the more likely it was that the unions would step in and do something.

“No.” Alex sighed and let her head fall back into the pillows. Her voice had lowered, slowed, and her eyelids fluttered as if she was on the edge of sleep. The doctors had warned Kara that could happen. “The oldest, the bad cops and…” She trailed off and remained quiet long enough that Kara believed she’d fallen asleep. “...and people who can’t work anymore. Like me.”

“Alex…”

“I see their point, you know? It sucks, but the doctors aren’t giving me much of a chance either, so why should the department?”

“Alex…” Kara grimaced around the taste of her own tears an sniffled. Crying would not fix things, and Alex had enough on her plate already without needing to console her . Keep it together, idiot. You’ll have all the time to cry later. At home. She needed to be strong for Alex, just like her alpha sister had been for Kara back in school. Kids were especially good at sniffing out weakness, and that had been especially true for high school where the majority of her classmates had spent their time tearing each other down.

Being adopted was like carrying a sign that spelled “bully me”: Kara had endured the spiteful picking in silence until Alex had found out. Enraged, her sister had put a stop to it using her fists.

She would be strong for Alex, just like their parents would have wanted.

“We’ll find a way.” Kara covered one of Alex’s hands with her own, but her sister had really fallen asleep this time. “I’ll think of something.”

Under hers, Alex’s hand was icy, clammy with nightmare-sweat. Worry welled up inside Kara, and she glanced at the monitors, her brows knitted in furious thought. Most of the numbers and the graphs made little sense to her untrained eye, but even she could tell that her sister’s heart was beating much slower than was normal.

Intending to call a nurse, she pulled her hand away and stood. It’s nothing. You’re overreacting. Kara made it halfway to the door when Alex’s body arched so violently she would have fallen off the bed if not for the safety rails.

“Nurse!” Kara’s voice came out as a weak, shocked croak then gathered strength. “She’s seizing! Help, somebody, PLEASE!

“...well?”

Lena’s voice cracked like a whip next to her ear and jolted her back to the present. The tone wasn’t challenging, not really, just the one of a person who was used to being promptly obeyed.  

It did things to Kara she hadn’t thought were possible.

The alpha’s focus - she noticed - had shifted to the Overseer. Her lips were pressed in a thin line and she’d tilted her head so that her chin was slightly raised, a posture that exuded arrogance.

“If you are hard of hearing,” Lena smiled, but her eyes remained a glacial shade of green. “I’ve written the amount down for you.” She had moved right below the Overseer and, raising an arm, waived the check she’d written out under her nose.

The Overseer cleared her throat. Eyes narrowed to hateful slits, she stared at Lena for a hard, long moment then, with a brisk nod, brought the mallet down.”

“One million and one!”

The crowd had stilled: some of the alphas were looking at each other, but nobody made a counteroffer.

“One million and two.”

Something unsaid was going on between Lena and the Overseer, something that Kara couldn’t put a name to but that had the fine hairs of her neck standing on edge. She had no idea what would happen to her after bids were close - well, she did sort of but didn’t want to think about it until she had to - and tension had started to take its toll. She wanted this over and done with, just like Lena had said.

“One million and three!”

The Overseer paused again, and the smirk she directed at Kara was downright nasty. She’s drawing this out on purpose, that-that-! She had never really hated someone’s guts, but she embraced the feeling.

“Sold!” The mallet came down with a crash, and Kara released the breath she did not know she had been holding.

“Lot 35 is sold to Lena Luthor for a million dollars!”