Ever since her capture, Rey’s life has centred around little rituals.
Training is one. There is sparring with the Knights, each of them bigger and stronger than she is, with Kylo watching on impassively. She holds her own, but only barely, and he only intervenes if there is genuine risk to her life. After those sessions, she still cannot rest- next, there is the additional work that she does with Kylo one-on-one, their training sabres whirling as he barks out instructions and corrections. He is brutal and she ends every session aching and bruised, usually flat on the mat with the point of his sabre levelled at her neck. But as much as she hates it, she has to admit that she is improving fast.
She thinks he might be prouder than she is when she first properly disarms him.
There is reading and study as well, from histories and strategies to the more arcane texts on secrets of the force. His taste is eclectic and her thirst for knowledge is vast. For a man who has a temper as fragile as glass, he is a remarkably patient tutor, willing to sit and answer her questions for hours when she does not understand a topic.
Then there is dinner.
Every night, at exactly the same hour, he arrives at her spartan quarters bearing a tray. He briskly unloads the food onto the small table that sits in the middle of her room. The meals are utilitarian, nutritionally balanced for gaining muscle, but to Rey it feels like feasting every night. They speak very little over the meal, though he easily answers her questions if she still isn't certain about something from her reading. One evening, she can’t help but moan when her dish has a side of fruit that is totally foreign to her— the sweetness of the juice exploding in her mouth a completely new and incredible sensation, the soft texture like something out of a dream.
She notes that after that experience, he brings a little dish that he carefully places next to her food when he lays out the table. It always carries something sweet and small, a dessert to follow her meal.
When dinner is over, she asks after her friends.
“The prisoners are the same,” he replies every time, calm and measured.
“I want to see them.”
With a few taps, he brings them up on his datapad, a somewhat grainy security image that nonetheless demonstrates that they are safe and unharmed. She tracks them desperately with her eyes— among the dozen or so people, she always looks for the mop of hair that is Poe, short and slight Rose, and Finn who is somehow always cocooned between them.
He only ever lets the feed stay on for about five minutes. Once it disconnects, he stands to leave.
Even though she knows the answer, she still always asks. “When will they be released?”
He never fails to look irritated at this question, as if he can’t work out why she cares. “When the terms of the swap are agreed.”
After he leaves, she does her own ritual. With the sharp edge of a whittled fork, she scratches another line into the wall behind her bed.
And then she sleeps.
One day, out of the blue, the routine changes. She knows that something important has happened because he arrives hours before their meal; she even quickly checks the chrono to confirm that it's far too early for them to eat.
“The prisoner exchange has been negotiated,” he says calmly, releasing the latches on his helmet and calmly setting it on the table. He looks slightly more tired than usual, the circles under his eyes a shade darker than she is used to seeing. “A neutral location has been decided for the trade. They will be released tomorrow.”
Rey can’t stop herself from smiling broadly as she stands, her face nearly straining at the now-unfamiliar motion. “All of them?”
“All but one.”
Her smile slides off her face. “What?”
Even before he speaks, she knows it’s bad news. The way that Kylo won’t meet her eyes— it’s a rare thing that makes him ashamed. “FN-2187 will be taken for public execution.”
An icy cold knot forms in her chest. “What?”
“As a former stormtrooper—“
“That’s not what we agreed!”
“We agreed that the members of the Resistance would be returned. FN-2187 was a stormtrooper first.”
“No, we agreed that my friends would go free, and in exchange I would train with you!”
She can see his throat working. “I did try to secure a release for all of them. But it was not a point of flexibility. Either he remained or they all remained- I thought you would prefer this to a mass execution.”
Rey wants to scream at him for thinking that this would be adequate. The squadron that she exchanged her freedom for was barely a dozen people— she could not lose even one of them, and especially not Finn. “You can’t let them. You can’t. I—“ she stammers, mind racing. “I’ll leave. I'll escape.”
Kylo’s eyes narrow and he hisses through his teeth. “You won’t. I can always find you— and next time, I'll kill all of them, and not just your precious traitor.”
His words ring with a horrifying certainty, and she has no way to stop him. Skywalker wouldn’t help, he had made that clear when he turned her away on Ach-To. She was the Resistance’s only force user, but she didn’t know how to use her power and it somehow drew Kylo like a beacon. It would always draw him to her no matter where she ran- she understood that much now.
Her voice is hoarse when she speaks again. “I’ll kill you.”
This almost seems to amuse him. “You can try.”
They stand like this, facing off, for a long unbroken moment. Even if she attacks him now, she’s unlikely to defeat him. He no doubt has his sabre, and she does not. On the off-chance that she can overpower him, she still has to make it through an entire ship, and she has no idea where her friends are being held. Then they would somehow have to find a ship, steal it, and fly away without being shot out of the sky. “I— I’ll do anything,” Rey blurts, feeling desperation take over belligerence. “Don’t let him die.”
“There’s nothing you can offer,” Kylo says, face softening into something that looks almost like pity. Rey thinks she likes that even less than his anger.
Technically, he’s right. She’s already agreed to stay on this Destroyer, to be taught, to work under his tutelage. But this is Finn. Her first friend. The one who came back for her when no one else had.
And Rey has noticed the way that Kylo watches her sometimes, when he thinks that she doesn't see. The way that he blatantly won't look at her when she's recently out of the 'fresher, or the way that he scrambled to cover her with his cloak when her shirt was once torn during a training exercise. “That’s not true,” she says, hands starting to shake. She still has one final card to play.
His brow furrows. “What do you—“
Before she can lose her nerve, she grips the hem of her shirt and yanks it over her head in jerking movements. The breastband follows, her fumbling hands moving as quickly as she can. Defiant, she stands bared to the waist before him, the cool recycled air making goosebumps stand along her skin. This is madness, but these are mad times, and she looks him square in the eye. “Free him, and you can have me. All of me.”
His mouth falls slack, opening into a stupid gape. For the first time since the lightsabre responded to her hand instead of his, she thinks that she sees him truly stunned.
But when she steps to move towards him, he collects himself and clenches his fists with a hiss. “You would make yourself a whore?” If he was angry before, he’s furious now, muscles coiled and bunched, nearly spitting at her. “For him? What, you think yourself so tempting that you just have to get naked and I’ll—”
If he meant to insist that it had no effect on him, he’s betrayed by his own reaction when she finally reaches him and takes his hand, lifting it to her breast. His abruptly falls silent as he stares, both of them looking down at where the small mound is almost entirely engulfed by his palm. The leather feels cool and strange against her skin, and as she lets her fingers drift to his wrist, she feels a tentative squeeze against soft flesh.
Rey is almost surprised when she sighs, a little puff of air that slips out because it feels… Nice. Even with her adrenaline pumping, even though she’s essentially trading herself for a price like a skin girl, there’s a jolt of heat to her hips when his thumb grazes her nipple, gently repeating the motion until she feels the heat start to coil low in her belly. When it changes to a slow firm pinch, a kneading motion that tugs against her skin, she starts to squirm. It feels like there’s a tingling thread that drags from his fingers straight to between her legs, and as she puts her chin to her collarbone to watch his massaging fingers, she can’t help but rub her thighs together and whimper.
The sound hasn’t even finished leaving her mouth when he’s crushing her into a kiss.
It’s ravenous. And angry, somehow, but that shouldn’t be a surprise as almost everything about him is angry. She is taken aback by the way that it ignites a hunger of her own, the way that she wants to rip his clothes from his body and mark his pale skin, to bite and scratch and devour him whole. She’s been fighting this feeling for weeks, refusing to admit her interest whenever his layers came off as they trained, whenever the sweat outlined the slope of his muscles through the fabric. Refusing to notice the way that his lips are slick after he drinks, the way that his tongue flits out between them, pink and quick.
She’s been aware of his desire. Perhaps she should have been more aware of her own.
He breaks the kiss and moves to the curve of her neck, biting down with a viciousness that makes her keen into the silence. When his hands move to her hips, she realises that she’s been grinding against him shamelessly, trying to get some proper friction through her tights. Thumbs hook under her waistband and her heart feels like it’s going to burst from her chest, it’s frightening but she wants to know, wants to find out what it feels like—
But no, no, not yet. She has to make sure that he agrees. “You have to promise,” she insists, grabbing his wrists and talking breathily into the air over his shoulder. “First you have to promise that you’ll let Finn go.”
She shouldn’t have used that name. Even as the words leave her mouth, she knows it was a mistake.
Sure enough, Kylo jerks away from her, taking half-staggered step back like she slapped him. His breath is heaving as though they’ve been training for an hour, fists clenching and unclenching over and over. “Is he the one who taught you how to do this?” The colour is bright against his pale skin now, his cheek twitching. “Because I have no interest in the traitor’s leavings,” he spits out, that terrible dark fury back in force. Before she can stop him, he’s reached over and snatched his helmet from the table, shoving it back on his head. The distorted voice can’t mask his snarl. “He dies tomorrow. There will be a public execution and it will be streamed on the holonet. That is final.”
She can’t let this happen. She can’t. Her breath feels strangled in her chest and she simultaneously wants to drag Kylo back into another kiss and scratch his eyes out. She hasn’t felt panic like this in a long time— because for most of her life, she didn’t have other people to worry over. She only ever had to focus on her own survival. This new situation somehow makes her feel more powerless, and the feeling grows as Kylo stomps towards the door of her quarters.
She has seconds to turn this around. What does he want? She knows he wants her, knows that his hunger is deep-seated and gnaws away at his bones. But that’s not all. It’s more than just wanting to have a piece of her soul. He wants everything.
It clicks into place with blinding clarity, so obvious that she doesn't know how she missed it. He’s not angry about Finn. He’s angry at the idea that he has to share.
Even as the door slides open, she desperately latches onto this idea. “I don’t— I’ve never— haven’t…” Balling her hands into fists, she crosses her arms over her bare chest. “I’ve never done this. I’ve only ever thought about it." In a last ditch effort, she even embellishes a little. "Thought about... About doing things with you.”
It works. He stops, pausing for a long moment before he finally steps back into the room, still refusing to look at her, the door hissing shut again in the silence. “With me?”
Highlighting her inexperience makes her pride sting the way bacta does over a fresh wound. But she thinks of Finn, determined, resourceful Finn, who deserves to go back with Poe and Rose and doesn’t deserve a humiliating execution in front of a screaming crowd. “You would be the first.”
He doesn’t say anything, his mask infuriatingly impassive, but she’s been in his company for long enough that she can read his body language regardless. The anger has retreated, clearly curling in on itself, replaced by that raw need that has been slithering beneath the surface since they first met. She can feel how much he is hypnotised by the idea of being where no one else has been— driven, no doubt, by some base need to claim, to leave an invisible imprint on her skin.
She digs her nails into her palms so tightly that she thinks they might bleed, breathing shallowly through her nose. “This is your only chance, Kylo Ren. If you kill him, you can force me to stay— you can train me, and teach me, but you will never, ever, have me.” She knows with certainty that she can deny him until she dies, and she knows he can feel her sincerity in the force. The floor feels cold beneath her feet and she looks away towards the wall, determined not to lose her nerve. “Release my friend, and you can.”
His booted footsteps are heavy as they move towards her. Gloved fingers touch her chin and force her head upwards, until she is looking directly into the face of his mask. Even though she can’t see his eyes, she can still imagine the instability there, the jumping manic energy that he only ever barely keeps in check. “If I agree to this…” He takes a deep breath and the static crackles. “It will not be once.”
She’s not so much a fool as to think that he would do anything halfway. “I know.”
“You will move into my quarters.”
“You will answer only to me.”
"I'm not a gentle man," he warns and she almost wants to laugh at the implication that she isn't thoroughly aware of this already. "If I ask for something, I expect to be obeyed."
The thought sends a little frisson of excitement through her that she can't quite explain. "I know."
“And," he adds with a tone of finality, "there will be no one else. There can never be anyone else.”
There it is again, that slightly unstable and feral need, the obsession that lurks just below the surface. “Yes.”
His grip tightens against her chin until it starts to slightly ache. “Say it.”
Rey thinks the words would feel like ash in her mouth, but strangely, the thought of it also makes that rolling, burning feeling between her hips intensify. “My friends go free first.”
For several heartbeats, she thinks that he is going to deny her. That she’s going to be left here not only with the knowledge that her friend is going to die, but also that this terrible need will have to go unsated. That she’ll have to resist it forever, disgusted by herself and by her desires, because she can’t go back on her word.
Instead, he turns on his heel and stalks towards the door again. Before he leaves, he punches the wall so hard that it leaves a little dent, the muscles of his back flexing. “The traitor will be returned to the Resistance,” Kylo snarls, moments before he leaves the room with rage-filled steps.
The door hisses shut behind him and it’s all Rey can do not to fall to her knees in relief.
Instead, she goes to her bed on wobbly legs. She finds a big shirt and tugs it on, trying to ignore the way that even the soft fabric makes her shiver when it brushes against her sensitive skin. Reaching for her makeshift knife, she scratches another notch in the wall before she crawls under the covers.
Her eyes are dry. She doesn’t believe in regret.
Sleep, sleep, beauty bright,
Dreaming in the joys of night;
Sleep, sleep; in thy sleep
Little sorrows sit and weep.
- Excerpt from "Cradle Song", by William Blake