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Rey knew immediately that something was wrong. When she woke, she could sense the light behind her eyelids. She never left the light on. She opened her eyes, then hissed at the brightness. She knew it was coming, but it still made pain explode in her head. How drunk am I? she thought wearily.

 

She rubbed at her eyes, which were heavy and felt gummed together somehow. Her head pounded like she had the worst hangover known to man. Spots danced in front of her eyes as she shifting her weight to sit up. She hadn't broken any ribs- thanks to Plutt she knew what that felt like- but this was, by far, the worst hangover she'd had in her life. But I didn't drink yesterday.

 

The thought appeared in Rey's mind and seemed to drag her back to earth in the worst possible way. She'd been at a bar, yes, but she'd wanted to drive so she hadn't had any alcohol. Finn and Poe were supposed to meet her, but they hadn't shown up, so she'd splurged on some fruity virgin drink before she went home and then...

 

and then...

 

and then her memory blacked out.

Your drink got spiked, idiot! Rey thought fiercely. She wanted to kick herself. She wanted to scream. She'd been roofied, somehow, even though she was usually so careful to watch her drinks. Rey picked at the shirt. I've probably been date-raped. Rey though dully. The thought didn't hurt as much as she expected it should. She knew she should feel horrified and violated, but she mostly felt annoyed, like a violation of her autonomy and humanity were mere inconveniences. Rey closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. She went back to the breathing exercise the counselor at University had taught her, taking stock of her physical body. Her head hurt still, but now that she truly paid attention, the rest of her body felt different. It was like her mind was far away from the situation. Okay, Rey thought, nodding to herself, that means you're trying to separate yourself from what's happening. That's fine for right now, but I'll have to deal with what happened eventually. I'll tell Finn when I get home. And- and we'll go from there. She decided. She opened her eyes and turned around to look at her clothes. It was only then that she saw him.

 

A tall man with dark hair stood with his back against the wall. He had crossed his arms and was looking at her through his dark bangs. Rey swallowed, still massaging her wrists. She couldn't think of what to say to him. His dark eyes seemed to cut through her. It wasn't hungry or lewd like she was used to seeing at bars.

 

"W-Where am I?" She asked. Her voice was thick and croaked, but she didn't care.

 

"You're our guest," The tall man said. His voice was softer and gentler than she had imagined that it would be.

 

"Did you bring me here?" She asked.

 

The man looked into her eyes, then glanced away and looked down at the carpet. He rubbed at the side of his nose for a moment, then drew in a deep breath. Before he could say anything, another tall man stepped into the room. Where the first man was young, strong, and healthy, this man had an emaciated look to him. His bald head was so pale it looked almost polished and his dark eyes seemed to pick Rey apart. It was like being butchered in real time. The thinness, however, didn't take the threatening quality out of the old man's gait. This guy may look weak, Rey told herself, but he probably can and will eventually kill you. This guy is the brains of this operation, I'd be willing to bet on it.

 

Rey shrank down as a tall, thin man stepped toward the bed and looked down at her. She pulled the sheets closer to her, wishing she had more than just a too-large dress shirt for coverage. This older man made her feel like an object more than anyone had her entire life. He looked her up and down one more time, then looked over his shoulder at the younger man.

 

"Well, Kylo, what do you think of your bride?"

 

Rey curled her first into the blanket, pulling it closed more around her. The younger man- Kylo, she thought- looked from the old man to Rey and back again. Rey felt as though his dark eyes were cutting through her, picking her apart, too. Bride? Rey thought weakly. Finally, Kylo shrugged.

 

The tall man crouched down and looked Rey in the eye, "She's beautiful, at least, Kylo."

 

Rey looked at the younger man. She was honestly not sure what she wanted him to say. Had he been the one to spike her drink? Was this Kylo's shirt? Had they both had sex with her and she hadn't known it? Was this some weird "family affair" or was it a case of a perpetrator and an enabler?

 

"Well, son?" The old man asked. His voice was still light, but Kylo turned his head to at the old man finally, "Yes, Father, she is."

 

Rey shuddered, pressing her lips together. This was going to be horrible. Whatever happened, it would be hell, and then she would likely die.

 

"Let me see your hands, my dear." The old man said, holding out one bony hand. Rey hesitated, then blinking pain exploded across her left cheek. She shrieked and jerked away, burying her face in the sheet. There was a long silence, then the old man finally said, "Let me see your hands, my dear."

 

Rey put out both her hands, wrists up. She closed her eyes when she saw that they were trembling. His skin wasn't as clammy as she'd expected, which was almost worse. It was like having soft ice run across her skin. He rolled her hands over, inspecting her wrists, then let out a quiet "tut".

 

"What?" Kylo asked, shifting his weight in a way that was supposed to be nonchalant but wasn't.

 

"We'll have to wait another day, maybe two." The old man said, straightening up with a low groan, "This way, she'll be pretty for pictures and unblemished for you."

 

"What do we do in the meantime?" Kylo asked, frowning.

 

"Leave her." The old man said, walking to the door and looking over his shoulder at his son.

"What about eating?" Kylo asked with a note of genuine concern in his voice.

"Phasma will ensure she doesn't starve," The older man said.

"No!" Rey squeaked, horrified. The two men paused at the door. Rey shrank down as the older man turned his pale blue eyes on her. His face twisted and he walked closer to her, one hand raised.

"Father!"

Rey flinched and cowered, but no blow came. She let two frantic breaths pass before she opened her eyes. She immediately saw a pair of jean-clad legs at the edge of her bed. When she followed them up, she saw a broad back in a black t-shirt. She held her breath, watching the older man look from her into the face of his son.

"You dare defy me?" The old man said quietly. His tone was so dangerous that it made Rey's breath this through her teeth.

"If she's my bride, I get to take care of her," Kylo said, his voice low and determined, "in all ways. She's mine."

The old man looked from Rey to Kylo and back. He lowered his hand, drawing in a deep breath, "Manage her, then. She is yours to watch."

"What about Phasma?" Kylo asked, his voice flat and expressionless.

"Don't burden my wife with this," The old man said, waving a hand at Rey. He wrinkled his nose at Rey, then turned and stomped away. The door slammed and Rey flinched at the sound. She kept her eyes closed, lifting a hand to cover her mouth. She smothered a sob with difficulty, looking up at Kylo. He was staring down at her with those powerful dark eyes. He squatted down and looked her in the face. He took a deep breath, then reached out to touch her. Rey flinched, letting out a whimper. Don't touch me don't touch me don't touch me, Rey thought desperately. She didn't feel his fingers on her, though. She felt the collar of her shirt shift against her neck. She opened her eyes and looked down sharply. Kylo was delicately buttoning up the collar of her shirt. She released her breath shakily, then looked up into his face, "Why are you doing this?" She whispered.

"Tage put you in this shirt, I think," Kylo said, his voice low, "and my brother is a piece of crap."

"I-I meant..." Rey trailed off, unsure how to phrase this.

"I didn't pick you if that's what you mean," Kylo said quietly, "Father did. Father... Father is wise. He's just doing what's best for all of us."

"This is what's best?" Rey squeaked.

"Father told me that you don't have any family," Kylo said, releasing her and sitting back to look into her face. He was handsome, in the way a dark prince was from a storybook. His dark eyes drew her gaze, but she found herself looking at his full mouth and long nose as well. He was a juxtaposition of hard angles, a soft mouth, and sensitive eyes. She swallowed, looking down at her hands, "I still don't deserve to be taken here against my will." She said slowly. She didn't want to get slapped, but she couldn't just sit here and pretend this wasn't horrible and wrong.

"Father takes care of our family," Kylo said, "He thinks it's time for me to marry. I'll take care of you and our family, eventually."

"Our family?" Rey asked, recoiling and looking up at him.

"Yes," Kylo said, nodding, "you, me, my siblings and their spouses, the farm."

"Are you going to make me have children?" Rey asked, her bottom lip trembling.

"I don't have a say in whether you have babies." Kylo said, looking away, "I'm not God."

"Oh God," Rey said, unable to stop the tears welling in her eyes, "Did you...? While I was asleep, did you-?"

"No," Kylo said sharply, looking up into her face, "I wouldn't do that. I- Tage changed your clothing, but that's all. Your drink spilled on your dress."

"The drink your father spiked?" Rey asked, raising an eyebrow.

Kylo frowned slightly, "I- Father found you, with Tage. They handled it all. I had to stay back and guard the farm."

Rey sat back slowly. She pulled her legs to her chest, wrapping the sheets around her legs. She rested her chin on her knees, a tear running down her face. She wiped at her eye, unwilling to cry in front of him.

"It was hard for me when we first moved here, too," Kylo said gently, "but don't worry. You won't be alone after another day or two."

"No, I'll be married to you," Rey snapped.

"Yes, you will," Kylo said. He watched her steadily, then stood slowly, "I won't hurt you, I promise. Father is..." He trailed off, unable to finish, "He and I are different." He brushed a few strands of her hair out of her face. She blinked rapidly, drawing back. Kylo didn't get angry, however. He just watched her calmly for a moment, then walked to the door. He opened it, then paused, "It's locked, but I'll be back later." He closed it behind him and the click of the lock echoed in the silence. Rey wrapped her sheets around her, laying on her side. She drew ragged breaths. She closed her eyes tightly, one hand over her mouth.

Now, now she cried.

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Rey stretched her tense muscles, rolling onto her back and staring up at the white ceiling. She closed her eyes, putting her arms out on the bed on either side of her. She took a deep, slow breath. Her legs and back ached from the stiffness of laying in this bed for hours. She sat up slowly, wrapping the sheet absently around her body. She sighed, mentally running through a list of asanas that would help her stretch and ease the stiffness in her back and legs. She'd been laying on the mattress on the floor for hours, judging by how tense her calves felt. She glanced at the door and bit her lip. She didn't want him to walk in and see her bent over or curled up. She knew that there was no chance that her shirt would cover anything. She didn't want this unknown quantity, this man, being given anything that could be seen as an invitation. I can't give him any ideas, Rey thought, pointing her toes in a vain attempt to stretch her legs further, He probably has plans anyway- him or "Father"- but I can't do anything that might bring sex up more.

Rey threw off her sheet, then leaned forward to grab her feet. As she sighed, she fell into the stretch a little. After the next breath out of her mouth, she sat straight again. She looked around the empty space; There was a mattress and a door into a bathroom in there. There was another door, different from the exit, on the same wall as the bathroom. She stood, wrapping her sheet around her. She walked over to the door and tried the handle, but it was locked. She closed her eyes, then leaned her forehead against the door. It was probably just a closet anyway, but the disappointment of the handle catching still seemed to cut into her heart. She turned her head to look at the bathroom doorway. She balled up the sheet and tossed it back onto the bed, letting herself have a little more movement. She could not afford to let that sheet get wet, in any case.

Rey crept into the bathroom, giving up on trying to pull her shirt down her legs. She looked around the doorway, then frowned. There was no door.

You perverted, twisted, sneaking sons of- Rey jumped and screamed when she saw the man staring at her from her left. She grabbed the doorframe and then realized it was a framed photograph of an old man, the one called “Father,” where a mirror should be. Rey shuddered, then saw, in golden lettering on the fame, ‘Supreme Leader Snoke.’

Rey held her breath the entire time she was on the toilet, terrified Kylo or Snoke would walk in. She washed her hands hurriedly, then glanced at the shower. There was no curtain. Instead, it was a clear glass door. She closed her eye for a moment, dreading her first shower. A click echoed from the door. She rushed forward to dive under her sheet again. She’d barely pulled it around her as Kylo opened the door.

She’d barely pulled it around her as Kylo opened the door. He paused, glancing from the doorway of the bathroom, then to her. She pulled her knees to her chest, making herself as small as possible and keeping herself under the sheet as much as possible. She met Kylo's dark eyes but forced herself not to recoil under his stare. He didn't comment but turned back to the hallway. He pulled in a little cart. Kylo wheeled the little cart in. He had a steaming bowl of something, a glass of juice, and some fruit in a little bowl, by the look of it.

“I brought your food,” Kylo said. He put the tray from the cart down in front of her. Rey looked from Kylo to the bowl of soup and back again. She took a deep breath, then reached out for the spoon. Rey ate silently, keeping her eyes on the floor. She heard a quiet shuffling sound and glanced up to see that Kylo had sat down across from her. He didn’t say anything but just watched her eat her soup. Rey looked at him, then glanced down again. Watching her eat was unbelievably creepy, but she didn’t want to do anything that would get her struck. Rey closed her eyes while eating so that she could pretend he wasn’t there. She was just eating her soup, in her flat, by herself. She opened her eyes when she finished the soup and set it cautiously on the tray before reaching for the fruit bowl. Rey froze when she sat the flower laying on the top of the dish. She looked at Kylo but didn’t speak or touch it.

Kylo picked up the cut rose and passed it to her. She took it after only a second’s hesitation. She let it rest on her lap, then looked down at it.

“I thought you might like that,” Kylo Ren said quietly.

Rey nodded, her throat tight. Kylo’s dark eyes cut through her. She took a deep breath, gently rubbing her thumb along the green stem of the flower. He’d stripped the flower of all of its thorns. She opened her mouth and finally said, “Thank you.”

Rey didn’t want to make him angry, but the idea of her kidnapper giving her a flower was terrifying. She didn’t know what to do, but she knew that people that abduct others could have very erratic behavior. She’d watched enough Criminal Minds to know that, as calm as he is right now, one wrong word could make him snap.

“I grow them,” Kylo said. “I do farm work for Father, but Tage spends more time with the animals that I do. The vegetable garden is my father’s wife’s. I- uh- I can’t get in there,” He laughed nervously, and Rey lifted the corners of her mouth so that she seemed agreeable to him. He stammered again, then settled on, “The flowers, though, are mine.”

“What kind of flowers?” Rey asked cautiously.

“Roses, mostly,” Kylo said, “I also deal with the forest more than Tage. I check on our trees and such.”

Rey nodded.

“Do you like flowers? Plants?” Kylo asked slowly. He picked up her little bowl of fruit, which was full of watermelon, and held it out to her. She took it from him, then nodded,

“I have a cactus.” She said.

“You prefer low maintenance plants?” Kylo asked, his face opening up into an expression about which Rey couldn’t make up her mind. It was open and interested, like a child when you asked them about their favorite television show. The guarded wariness that she had seen the day before had slipped.

“I grew up in the desert,” Rey said, “It reminds me of that.”

Kylo nodded, smiling in earnest now, “I don’t have any cacti or succulents, I’m afraid. They can’t survive outdoors here, and I prefer outdoor plants.”

Rey nodded. She found herself smiling genuinely now. He was a human. She couldn’t deny that.

Whatever happens, no matter what he and Father do, they are humans.

"Is the picture in the bathroom of your Father?" Rey asked. Her mouth was dry, even as she chewed on the last piece of watermelon.

"Yes," Kylo said, "Father is a great man. He doesn't want us to become distracted by our appearances, but to remind ourselves of his wisdom and the words of God."

"The words of God?" Rey asked quietly.

"Yes," Kylo said, "Father speaks the word of God. He guides us all in the ways of righteousness."

Rey took a deep breath, "Who is 'us'?" Her voice was small, but she didn't care at the moment. The answer to that question would impact her life significantly.

"Me and my siblings. Tage and I are a lot older, but my stepmother has three children who are still young. There are other families in the Order, too. Father guides them all, too."

Rey curled her fingers in her sheet. Holy shit, She thought, her chest tight, I have been kidnapped by a cult. I am a prisoner of an actual cult.

"You will be my wife the day after tomorrow," Kylo said, "Father said that you and I are to be married at sunset on Saturday."

Rey set down the rose on the tray, then looked into his face, "Why aren't you marrying a woman from the other families? From the Order? Your father's the leader..."

"Father said," Kylo said. His dark eyes had grown cold again. She clenched her jaw, bracing for him to strike her. He didn't. Instead, he grabbed the tray and stood slowly. When he did so, Rey reached out and grabbed the flower from the tray. Kylo didn't comment on it, but his eyebrows lifted slightly. He crossed to the door, "I won't be able to see you on Saturday, because it's the day of the wedding. I'll do what I can to convince my stepmother to come in and feed you." He said, "I'll also try and take you outside after the wedding. Show you the roses. Would you like that?"

Rey wanted to scream at him. She wanted to scream, No, seeing some roses isn't what I would like! What I would like it to leave! But she saw his expression. He was standing there, pushing the cart out of the doorway and looking at her with genuine interest. He wanted to take her, the woman who was going to be his wife, according to him, out to see his garden. Unable to pass on the opportunity to stretch her legs and go outside, she nodded.

"I'll bring you a long dress, a proper one, after work," Kylo said.

"Thank you," Rey whispered. She rubbed absently at the rose's smooth stem.

Kylo glanced over his shoulder and smiled earnestly at her, then walked out of the door.

Rey lay on the bed again, listening to the silence for a moment. When she was certain that Kylo was gone, she stood and set the rose down on the floor where the bed met the wall, then turned back towards the open space in the middle of the room. Taking a deep breath, she crouched down and leaned forward, stretching her hands out into the most welcomed child's pose she'd ever done. Now that she knew she had a few hours privacy, she was going to stretch and move. Stiffness was not going to prevent her from taking every chance to escape.

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Rey curled on her side as she heard someone walk into her room. She resisted the urge to sit upright and stare at the stranger. She'd gotten used to the sound of Kylo's footsteps, with his heavy steps and rushing gait, whenever he came to deliver her meals or walked past the room. These footsteps were clipped and controlled, almost military.

"So, you're still here?" A nasal voice drawled from the doorway. Rey finally allowed herself to look over her shoulder at him. The man was tall and stiff with a shock of red hair. While Kylo was broad and brooding, this man was clean cut, like he'd been starched somehow. He watched Rey with eyes that were liked sculpted ice. She looked down at the rose that Kylo had set on her tray. He'd put a different one with her food at every meal. She'd kept them all, laid out side by side at the head of her bed. When she let herself lay down and do nothing, she often ran her fingers over the petals on the outside, careful not to do anything to disturb the delicate ones. The single thorn caught her attention. Kylo had stripped all of them yesterday and the day before, but today, he had left one. What did that mean?

Be careful.

The words suddenly appeared in her mind. Rey swallowed a dry throat, looking back into Tage's face. This man, of course, must be Tage. He and Kylo didn't look alike, but there was something about him that matched the image in her head.

Rey kept her eyes on her food as she ate. She could feel Tage staring at her. It was like being under a microscope, almost. She glanced up at him and the corner of his mouth lifted. It wasn't like when Kylo watched her. Kylo always looked at her like she was an exotic bird from some foreign place. He never asked her about her past- he didn't say much of anything- but she could tell that he wanted to. Tage, however, looked at her like she was some small prey animal pinned without an escape route. Rey ate faster and refused to look at Tage again. She set the bowl back down and leaned back from the edge of the mattress. She ran a thumb over the rose's stem, right under the thorn. He didn't take the tray, which made her look at him again. He stepped forward to look down at her, then bent forward. His fingers were like ice against her skin, and it took every ounce of self-control she had not to shudder, "You'll give Kylo so pretty babies, I expect," Tage crooned.

Rey wasn't sure what she wanted more: to vomit or simply to die.

"You might be a wildling, but you do have that glimmer, like glass. You're feral now, but you can be broken," Tage said, "Maybe he'll even break you tonight. You're going to be married in, what, three hours? My bother is a lot of things, but he is not a small man." At his joke, the play on words that Rey immediately and horrifically understood, he grinned.

When he smiled, he reminded Rey of a coyote she'd once seen on the edge of Plutt's property. It had skittered just outside of the wire fence, yipping, and whining. Coyotes were perceptive and generally skittish around humans, but it had only glanced at her before going about its business, like she was the intruder.
Maybe she had been.

Maybe she still was, now.

The gleam in the coyote's eye when it had decided for some bizarre reason that she wasn't a threat was reflected in the blue of Tage's eyes and the quirk of his mouth. Now, though, she wasn't safe from a feral creature. There was no fence between them.

The door opened without a knock and without any warning of approaching footsteps. Tage stood up straight immediately, looking over his shoulder. In the doorway stood a tall and imposing woman with pale blonde hair pulled into a tight bun. This as one of the most intimidating figures she had ever met. Hr pale blonde hair was pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head, "I am Phasma," She said, speaking to Rey and ignoring Tage. They barely seemed more than five years apart in age. In fact, when Rey looked between them, she could not decide who was older.

Rey focused back on Phasma, who was smoothing her long blue skirts and waiting patiently for Rey to look at her again, "My husband is the Supreme Leader. I'm here to prepare you for your wedding to my stepson, Kylo." She looked Rey up and down, then relaxed a little before walking over to hold out a hand and pull Rey to her feet. Whatever she'd seen, Phasma seemed to decide Rey was worthy, or at least acceptable, for Kylo. Phasma turned to look at Tage. She nodded stiffly, then dismissed him.

Tage walked over and picked up the tray, then walked out the door. Phasma looked over her shoulder, then clicked her tongue when Tage left it open. She rolled her eyes and crossed the room to close the door. She leaned against it and smiled gently at Rey, "I'm going to help you get into your wedding dress. Ideally, your mother should help you, but you're a wildling."

Rey nodded. She rubbed her hands together nervously, looking around the room anxiously. There was nothing here for her to get ready with. "I- um..." She trailed off, unable to think of how to articulate the question correctly. She didn't want to get slapped again. She'd grown up under the constant threat of Plutt's violence. Phasma pulled a key from under her collar, then crossed to the locked closet. Inside was a dress on a hanger, a hat box, and several small pieces of furniture, like a chair. Phasma pulled the chair out, which was small and old-fashioned with chipping white paint on the curling metal back of the chair.

Rey hesitated by the chair and looked down at her own hands.

"How do you feel?" Phasma asked.

"Fine," Rey whispered.

"Why the sad face, then?" Phasma asked, leaning over to look into Rey's face.

"I- I don't remember how I got here. I'm not supposed to be here."

Phasma's smile was small, but understanding, "You are supposed to be here, Kira."

"My name isn't Kira," Rey said.

"It is now," Phasma said back.

"I-"

"It's alright. Father will take good care of you." Phasma said empathetically, "And Kylo will be a good husband."

"Husband," Rey whispered.

"Yes." Phasma said, smiling more now, "Come on, sit down and I'll do your hair."

Rey gritted her teeth as she sat on the chair and Phasma moved to stand behind her, I will not cry. Not here. Not yet.

Rey closed her eyes as Phasma slowly ran a brush through her hair, starting from the tips and making her way up to the crown of Rey's head. Her hair was oily and dirty from days without a good shower. She'd made a point to rinse off her face and body, but she didn't have any soap or towels, so a good shower wasn't an option. Despite the filth, Phasma's brushing felt good. She hadn't realized how tangled her hair had become in the past few days. When Phasma finished, she stepped away and pulled some other things down from the closet, "Here, go wash with this. Wash your body and your hair. It is blessed." Rey looked over her shoulder, then took a small bar of handmade soap. It was a soft, odd-white color, with flecks or some herb or dried flower petals suspended in the bar. Phasma passed Rey a towel as well. Rey walked, colt-legged out of sheer disorientation, into the bathroom.

Rey turned on the faucet and stepped under the warm spray. Tilting her head up, she sighed as the water hit the top of her hairline. Rey drew in a deep breath, closing her eyes and pretending, for a moment, that she was back in her apartment. She wasn't inside this horrific situation, but was inside her too small apartment, listening to her favorite song feeding through the tinny speaker of her battered phone. She would have a long day of class and yoga classes tomorrow, but she would be free to go to each place. Poe and Finn would be coming over that night. They'd curl up on the couch and whine about professors and jobs and money and rent and the President and the quality of Rey's cheap beer, but they'd curl up on the couch and watch one of the movies that Rey had missed growing up. Poe would explain, again, how surprised he was that Rey hadn't seen this film. Finn would laugh, put an arm around Poe's shoulders, and pull him in to kiss his cheek.

Tears ran down Rey's face. She swiped at them, dawn out of her wonderful scape. Phasma was moving around outside. The ambient noise of another person through the open doorway was the most undeniable reminder that Rey wasn't free. She was here, trapped, under the spray because she had to wash before she found out what being Kylo's bride entailed. Lathering up the herbal smelling soap on her arm, she resigned herself o her reality. She could probably found a way to kill herself if she wanted. Between the doorway or the closet and the sheet, she could find a way. However, she had lived her entire life struggling to survive. A couple of twisted people with some jacked up religious views weren't going to steal that away. She could protect herself for however long this lasted. She got gree from Plutt. She got free from the ever-tightening grip of poverty. She rubbed the soap into the ends of her hair, working up to her scalp. Rey gritted her teeth, reminding herself that she would get out of this.

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Rey looked down at the garter around her left leg. She rubbed her thumb over the faded red material until Phasma gently reached over and lifted Rey's chin up again.

"I've almost got your crown into place," Phasma said.

"Why is it red?" Rey asked quietly. She'd become increasingly confident around Phasma, but didn't want to press her luck by speaking with any confidence around her.

"They're all- oh, right, you're a wildling. I forgot. Father told me they do things differently out there," Phasma said, "It's symbolism. It's part of the symbolic side of the first night of your marriage."

"Oh," Rey whispered. She swallowed, realizing that she was going to have to. She was going to be raped in a few hours. She might even be watched the whole time. She took a deep breath as tears welled in her eyes. She felt a few pieces of her hair being pulled tight and woven into the flower crown. All women in The First Order wore flower crowns at their weddings. Rey closed her eyes. Phasma was too busy focusing on her head to notice the tear that ran down her cheek.

"Okay, you're done," Phasma said. She patted Rey on the shoulder as Rey stood up. Rey let her white skirt drop over her legs and stood up. She swiped hurriedly at her eye, then turned to look at Phasma, who smiled warmly at her.

"You look beautiful," Phasma said, smiling warmly. She turned her head as someone knocked on the door, "Come in!" She called.

The door opened, and a woman wearing a soft blue scarf tied around her head peeked in, "Is she ready?" She asked.

"Bazine!" Phasma said. She walked over and hugged the other woman, smiling. She turned to Rey, putting an arm around Bazine's shoulders, "Kira, this is Bazine. She's married to one of Father's friends." She turned to Bazine and smiled, "Ready to finally see my stepson settled down?"

"Yes," Bazine said, smiling back. Rey resisted the urge to shudder. The smile seemed genuine, but there was something almost carnivorous about this woman. She was like Tage, full of some strange darkness that had twisted itself around her. She smiled stiffly at Bazine, who looked up and down at her, "You look lovely," Bazine said.

"Thank you," Rey said. She looked at Phasma, who led the way to the door, "Let's go, ladies," she said.

Rey squared her shoulders and walked to the door. Bazine fell into step behind her. Rey looked out of the corner of her eye at Bazine, but she stood perfectly behind her, out of her line of sight. Outside the door, the hallway was as plain as the room Rey had been imprisoned in for days. It was windowless and had the cool, low-ceilinged feel of an underground cellar or basement. Rey glanced over her shoulder, and her heart tightened. Her room wasn't the only one down this hallway. Four identical plain white doors all stood down this hallway. Rey jerked her head forward, glad she fit the white flats that Phasma had given her. She didn't want to make any noise on the dark green rug leading up the hallway. It was the only real color in this place. White walls, white doors, dark gray flooring that looked like poured concrete that had been finished. Rey kept her eyes forward and trained on the back of Phasma's head and tried to imagine that the green carpet was grass.

Maybe she could escape the real and potential horrors of this place.

She could be outside, away from it all.

The thoughts never coalesced, however. She was forced to remain in her present agony. Rey paused at the bottom of the stairs and looked up. The stairs were wooden a and had a homemade look about them. The wood wasn't finished or painted but looked like they'd either been built or replaced in recent years. The detail that caught her attention, though, was the soft blue of the light that fed into the basement from the open door. The hallway wasn't dark, but the lights were distinctly yellowish. The light upstairs, however, was bright blue, likely from lamps or ceiling lights hitting the blue paint. Rey hadn't seen anything but white tile and white clothing and white sheets for days.

The idea of seeing color was heady. Bazine nudged her with a foot, and Rey lurched up the steps. Her cheeked burned as she climbed. She shouldn't be embarrassed at delaying something horrific, but she'd never liked being caught daydreaming or not being focused on the task at hand. Even though she was likely a brainwashed woman with fundamental lack of understanding about freedom, feminism, or even good french fries, part of Rey still wanted to impress Bazine. Her Mammal brain wanted to be a loved and protected part of the pack.

She had never been before, but she'd craved it for as long as she could remember. Perhaps she always would. Maybe it was just natural.

"There she is!" A high voice said when Rey reached the top of the stairs. Rey grabbed the doorframe for support as she was suddenly swept up in a barrage of swishing skirts and twittering voices. A thin woman with dark skin and natural black hair pulled into a tight knot rushed over and stood in front of Rey, "You are so lucky, Kira!" The woman said, "Kylo is a great man!"

Rey opened her mouth, utterly dumbfounded. They were in a neat kitchen in what looked like a comfortable farmhouse. The normalcy of the building didn't shock her half as much as the number of women there. There had to be a dozen women and girls, ranging from a gray-haired woman in a pale green dress and shawl to a pair of identical Asian kindergarteners in matching yellow dresses.

Rey drew in a breath, closing her eyes for a split-second, to try and pull herself together. Everyone around her seemed happy and engaged with what was happening. She looked between them all. There were multiple races and ethnicities represented, which unnerved her a little bit. In her head, she'd always thought of cult members as a bunch of white women in frumpy dresses with giant curled bangs. Instead, they were just a diverse collection of women in long skirts. Everyone's hair was long, from what she could see, but they were styled in different ways. Their dresses were simple and modest, but they were different. It made her feel a little less afraid of what was coming.

Tage appeared in the doorway, and several heads turned to look at him. One expression caught her off-guard: a tall woman with a long dark braid looked at Tage with admiration verging on longing. Rey turned to look at Tage, too. He looked at her or a moment, then nodded slowly. Rey looked at Phasma for confirmation. It took everything she had to keep her alarm out of her expression.

"We're ready for you," Tage said, his blue eyes focusing on Phasma.

Phasma nodded, "Alright," She turned to the women, who all watched her expectantly, "Go to your husbands. I'll see you in a little while." She said.

The women cleared out, chatting among themselves. Rey clasped her hand together. She looked at Phasma, who waited patiently with her. It was ironic to be standing here, listening to Phasma for reassurance and guidance. Phasma was complicit in her imprisonment. However, Phasma was the only familiar face, besides Kylo, which didn't remind her of the Stepford Wives. She squared her shoulders right before she stepped into the hallway. She looked to her right and saw a front door. It was beautiful, with a dark wood surface around a frosted glass image of flowers. She might be able to make it if she ran.

"Your new family, the whole First Order, is out there, Kira," Phasma said, putting a hand on her arm. She led the way down the hallway toward a living room. Rey took a deep breath as caught sight of Kylo. He wore dark dress pants and a button-down shirt of a pale blue color. His dark hair was swept out of his face, and his dark eyes were focused on her face. His lips were parted as his gaze roamed over her.

"You look beautiful, Kira," Snoke said, stepping forward. He wore long golden robes that reminded her of what she'd seen the one time she'd gone to Christmas Mass with Poe, except there was something different about them. At the church, the robes had been elegant, but the man inside had been genuine and humble. Here, however, the robes were more unadorned, but the man inside them carried himself like he was some ultimate authority. Rey let him take her hands and lift them to his dry lips. He brushed a kiss over her knuckles, then looked over her shoulder. Rey turned her head to see Tage waiting by the door.

"Let them in, son," Snoke said.

Tage nodded, then walked stiffly down the hallway.

"You will stand by Phasma and me, Kira, on our left. After this day, however, you will always stand on Kylo's left." Snoke said. He tapped the tip of her nose gently like she was part of some good-natured joke and she forced herself not to shudder as he turned away from her and walked to stand in front of the fireplace.

"The children are all settled in upstairs, Mother," A young woman said, peeking her way in from the kitchen.

"Thank you, Amia," Phasma said, "and thank you for being willing to watch them during the ceremony."

Amia nodded, then slipped back into the kitchen.

"Children?" Rey whispered, unable to keep the words from slipping past her lips.

"Yes," Phasma said, "Weddings and other religious ceremonies are for adults. All of the children stay upstairs when everyone comes together. My three are a little older, so they help mind the others."

"You have three children?" Rey asked, turning to look at Phasma. It shouldn't have been too surprising since Phasma must have been at least thirty, but the idea of children being raised here, in this situation, horrified her.

"Yes," Phasma whispered as voices began to echo in from the hall, "Father and I have two daughters and a son. My girls are fourteen and eleven, and my son is nine."

My girls are fourteen and eleven. The words rolled over Rey and made her want to retch. Snoke must have been in his sixties at least, which meant that Phasma had been sixteen or seventeen when she'd had her first child with a man who was likely in his late forties or early fifties. He's a kidnapper, Rey thought dully, Why shouldn't he be a statutory rapist?

Rey looked at Phasma's strong profile, even as people began to approach them. She had the vivid image of a teenage Phasma, dressed in white with a crown of flowers on her head and a red garter at her thigh, waiting to marry a man who had a collection of people totally under his control. The age difference horrified Rey, but the gap in power, the way that Phasma probably could not have refused Snoke, even if he wanted to, made it all so much more painful. Phasma had lived at least fourteen years like that if Rey was right.

As she looked beyond Phasma to Kylo, a tiny voice spoke in her mind and whispered, You're next.

The visitors, as it transpired, seemed to follow a protocol on who to greet. The family had organized itself into a line, with Tage at Kylo's right, then Snoke standing to Kylo's left, right by the fireplace, and Phasma between Snoke and Rey on Snoke's left side. All of the men clasped hands with Tage and Kylo, greeting them in quiet voices. While they shook hands with Tage, all of the men bowed over Kylo and Snoke's hands. There was something reverent in the way they acted around those two that made Rey's stomach twist.

“Greetings, Brother Kylo,” And older man said. Kylo inclined his head as the older man bowed over his hand. Rey looked from the man to Kylo, then at those waiting to greet Kylo and Snoke. Kylo had acted polite, but unaffected when interacting with the first few people. Now, though, those first few people were making their way down the line towards her!

Rey held her breath as the old man approached her. She recoiled slightly, looking to Phasma for guidance. Phasma kept her back straight but inclined her head when the man came close. The man bowed slightly in front of her but didn’t touch her. Rey lowered her gaze and tilted her head, too. Mercifully, the man passed. It was the same for every man she greeted. The women didn't touch Tage or Kylo but still bowed over Snoke's hands, each whispering a quiet phrase that Rey couldn't hear. They did hug Phasma and Rey, however, hissing words of congratulations and encouragement into Rey's ear as they did so. The room was jammed with what felt like sixty or seventy people. Every couch was full, and all of the young men and women were clustered at the rear of the living room and into the kitchen.

"My children," Snoke finally said when the last of them were settled into place, "We have all gathered together today to celebrate as a unified Order. Today, my son takes his place in the realm of spiritual leaders. With his marriage to Kira, we will solidify the next generation of leaders, the next generation to hear the true words of God."
Phasma stepped out of the way as Snoke beckoned Rey over to stand in front of Kylo. She knew what was happening. She'd known it from her first day, but now that it was here, she whimpered. Kylo kept his hands at his side, although she saw that his left one was twitching somewhat.

"Many groups like ours have been foiled, due to their desires to be close to one another and live together," Snoke continued, "We, however, we might wish to live among each other, have chosen a wiser path that allows us to escape the notice and persecution of the outside forces that would seek to destroy us!"

Hisses and mutters echoed through the crowd.

"However, we must always come together to celebrate our joys," Snoke said, looking from Kylo to Rey.

This is not a joy, Rey thought savagely. What she said, however, was nothing. At best, speaking out now would get her a hard strike to the face. At worst, Kylo or Snoke or Tage might just strangle here in front of all of these people. They'd probably find some religious reason why she deserved it.

No, to survive, she had to bide her time. She would survive, she would escape, and then she would make sure this entire Order was obliterated.

Rey had no idea how long he spoke. The mix of exhaustion and fear and the disorienting effects of being kidnapped made it impossible to focus. Snoke’s words seemed to wash over her without sinking in. Individual words like “children” and “obedience” and “rule” caught her attention, but she found she didn’t care about his words. Whatever he said, she knew the truth: she was a prisoner.

The words "You may now kiss the bride," broke through her haze like the tolling of a bell. She looked down as Kylo stepped closer to her. She didn't move but tipped her head up to look at him. His expression was unreadable as he reached up to touch her cheek with one of his hands.

Kylo leaned forward. The corner of his mouth lifted into a small smile just before he kissed her. Rey closed her eyes as he did so. She resisted the urge to clench her jaw visibly, but let her tongue press against the roof of her mouth, barely escaping a bite to her tongue. She expected him to deepen the kiss- to try and force his tongue into his mouth. He didn’t. Instead, he contented himself with the touch of her cheek and pulled his lips away from hers. He kept his face close to hers for a moment looking into her eyes. His dark eyes seemed to reach into her. It wasn’t like Phasma, with her searching and cataloging gaze or Tage’s hungry and consuming eyes. Instead, he seemed to look into her and try desperately to draw her out. She didn’t go; Rey couldn’t let her new, strange husband tempt her away from the safety of her mind. Whatever was going to come from these zealots, she had to create a stronghold within her mind and heart.

Chapter Text

When Rey and Kylo broke apart, loud cheers and applause assaulted her senses. She looked around the room to see earnest smiles on everyone's faces. Since everyone was looking at her, Rey forced herself to smile or to at least lift to corners of her mouth. She looked over at Kylo, whose dark eyes were trained on her face. She looked down at her right hand, which was still clasped in Kylo's. Kylo raised her hand to his mouth and kissed her knuckles before letting her go.

Kylo grinned as the other young men clapped him on the back. Rey watched the way all of them joke and laughed with each other. It was surreal to see something so ordinary. She smiled to herself, but it faded when she saw Tage’s blue eyes on her. He didn’t say anything, but the corner of his mouth lifted as he looked her up and down. She shivered, looking around for anyone to distract her from Tage. Phasma answered her prayer, walking over to her, smiling warmly.

"Congratulations, my daughter," Phasma said. She reached up and touched the flower crown on Rey's head. It the flowers reminded Rey of baby's breath, although she thought her flowers might be slightly larger. It was probably supposed to symbolize her status as a pure and virginal bride.

As though anything about this situation is pure, Rey thought bitterly

Everyone began making their way outside, chatting and congratulating Kylo, Snoke, Phasma, and Rey. Kylo crossed over to her and offered her his arm. Rey, disoriented from all of this movement and colors after days of silence and stillness, took it. Kylo led her to the back door, and Rey's heart leaped. This was her first real shot at the outdoors since she'd arrived. She knew it would be useless, and likely suicidal, to try and run now. There had to be almost a hundred people milling around out there, and it would be impossible to outrun them all, especially considering how little physical activity she'd been able to do the past few days. She'd used the hours of solitude to do yoga and make sure her practice would keep her from becoming stiff and weak, but she was off her game, and she knew it. Rey reached the backdoor at the same time a series of loud thumping noises echoed overhead.

"Watch out!" Kylo said. He put his other arm around Rey's waist and pulled her closer to him as a gaggle of squealing children raced past them, all of them bent on getting outside as fast as possible.

 

"What is out there?" Rey asked.

"Food," Kylo said, smiling after the kids, "There's a buffet outside."

Rey nodded. She looked outside, and her heart fell. The large backyard was fenced with raw wooden pickets, but beyond that were only fields and forestland as far as Rey could see. Rey had always assumed that she had bn trapped in a basement in a residential area. Her escape plans had always revolved around suburban staples like streetlights and crosswalks and public places with people she could turn to for help. Rey had been formulating a plan to run through the driveways behind houses until she reached a gas station or something else. This kind of escape would be impossible now. When she looked out through the woods, she couldn't see anything. There were no buildings, no lights, and no signs of life. If she ran, she would have to survive alone for hours, possibly days. I'd need supplies and a sense of where to go, She thought.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" A voice said from behind her. Rey turned to look over her shoulder. Snoke walked closer to stand next to her, looking out over the landscape, "The fields and grounds are ours. Most of the land beyond is unused. No one is ever there, so we let God decide how it grows. We farm to sustain ourselves and Kylo grow trees and plants for his own amusement, but Kylo's garden in that way," He pointed around the side of the farmhouse which, now that she was outside it, was much larger than she'd initially thought.

"What about supplies?" Rey asked. She felt Snoke stiffen next to her, but the blow that she anticipated didn't come.

"There's a town a few hours away, but we go there rarely. Our animals compete, and we use that money to support The First Order." Snoke looked her in the eye now, "We keep ourselves away from the wickedness outside, Kira. No one comes to us unless they are with our cause."

Rey looked at him, then nodded. She understood. He wasn't making an outright threat, but it lurked in his eyes. She looked out over the vast wilderness beyond the fence, "I see," She whispered. She felt a hand on her elbow and jumped. She was expecting Tage or Phasma, but it was Kylo.

"Do you want to eat?" Kylo asked, waving at a table of food. Rey looked at Snoke, then at Kylo, and nodded. She followed Kylo to the table and let him make her a plate. They sat at a table together while everyone milled around. The food felt dry and tasteless in her mouth. She chewed mechanically, sitting next to Kylo in their places at the largest table. When she looked around the yard, Rey was struck by how much this all reminded her of old black and white photographs of harvest dances and barn raisings and pioneer weddings. There was no dance or even a place for a dancefloor, but otherwise, the feeling was the same.
The people were all so eager to see each other. A gang of conservatively-dressed men around Rey’s age continually hailed Tage and Kylo. One of two smoked pipes and they all wore old-fashioned hats, but otherwise, they looked to Rey like any other group of young men. They laughed loudly, but told jokes in lowered voices, and nudged each other with their elbows. There was a playfulness to the group that Rey didn’t know how to process. These men looked happy and sane, if a little stiff, but one of their number would be expected to rape her, and soon. How many of the others were or would soon be rapists? How many of these happy and friendly faces were tainted with horrible crimes?

Two older men hailed kylo with neatly trimmed beards. He stood and crossed to them, shaking their hands and talking with them. Rey stared after him, then back at her plate. She was surprised to see that it was empty. How had that happened? She looked up from her plate as a young woman came over to light the candle at the center of the table. The woman smiled at her, "Hello, Kira, I'm Angela" She set her lighter on the table and hugged Rey. Rey stiffened.

Angela was a beautiful dark haired woman only a year or two older than Rey. Rey parted her lips, unsure what to do or say. She looked into the girl’s face and felt her heart tighten. Christ, you look like Jessika.

Rey hadn’t thought about Jessika in weeks. Before she’d been kidnapped, she’d been focusing on getting over the most upsetting breakup of her life. Now, the splitting image of her ex-girlfriend was looking her in the eye. Angela tilted her head slightly, smiling pleasantly at Rey, "How do you feel?"

"I- I-"

"Nervous?" Angela offered. She smiled sympathetically, brushing her hair behind her ear.

"Yes," Rey whispered. She opened her mouth, trying to form a sentence. Before she could do anything, she felt a hand on her shoulder and jumped. She looked up to see Phasma standing behind her.

"Time to go, Rey," Phasma said.

Rey took a deep breath, then nodded stiffly and stood. Phasma took Rey's arm, walking her back inside the house. Rey looked over her shoulder at Angela, who gave her a 'thumbs up' and then turned back to lighting candles. Rey's eyes caught Kylo's before she turned away. She took a short breath. His dark eyes seemed to catch her again. Her throat tightened. He wasn't smiling, but he focused on her face with his sad eyes. Phasma tightened her grip on Rey's arm, and Rey turned back to face the house again.

"He'll follow, don't worry," Phasma said warmly, "You get a chance to settle in and see your new room before he gets there."

Rey looked up at the dark sky. One of the stars winked at her right before she steps through the doorway. A single tear ran down her face. The wind caught it and swept it up towards the sky.

At least one piece of her was free.

Phasma led her into the house and up a large grand wooden staircase. It reminded her of something out of a novel set in the 1800s, with its dark polish and the rich carpet going all the way up. The thick blue rugs hushed her footsteps as she climbed up to the second floor. She hesitated on the landing for only a moment before following Phasma into one of the bedrooms.

It was larger than she'd expected it would be. It had a king-sized mattress, which Rey figured would be the only one large enough to fit a man like Kylo, on a large wooden bed frame. She looked at the headboard, which was stained a dark color that reminded her of the stairs. The fabric of the bedspread wasn't blue but black. She hesitated in the doorway, looking from the black comforter to the black curtains to a dark gray rug on the wooden floors. There was minimal color in the room at all. The walls were, and even the lamp on the desk was of dull metal. Rey felt the corners of her eyes tighten with anxiety at the sight of this space, this new place of torture.

"You may come inside," Phasma said gently, beckoning her forward into the room. Rey took a stiff step into the room, fidgeting with her skirt. Phasma's contrasted sharply with hers, and Rey found that to be so grating that it was almost obnoxious. Here she was, terrified, and Phasma was comfortably strolling around the bedroom like it was just another place in her house.

God, I hate these people, Rey thought savagely. Nevermind the happiness and community she'd seen outside. Nevermind the distinctly human looks that Kylo kept giving her.

No, she had to hate them all.

Rey absently touched the flowers on her crowns as the looked around Kylo’s room. This was her new prison. She might die here, or this room could become the place where she could be safe from danger; she has no idea which was the case.

Rey opened the closet and looked inside. Phasma waited by the one window, but while she was painfully aware of her presence and expectations, she was grateful for the small delay. Phasma was a true believer, but having a few moments away from the men was a relief.

Rey ran her finger along the seam of one of Kylo’s jeans, which hung on cheap plastic hangers, which contrasted with the homespun nature of the rest of the house. She heard quiet footsteps and looked over her shoulder to see Phasma looking at her from where she sat on the bed. She looked at her hand for another moment, then turned to face her.

Rey looked at her hand for another moment, then turned to face her, “Is it time?”

Phasma shook her head, “Father and Kylo are going to come in a moment. They will be talking to the other men,” She said quietly.

Oh shit, Rey thought, This is really happening. This has gotten worse. She nodded stiffly, then asked, "Why do they need to meet before they come here?"

"The other men will pray over Kylo and Father will bless him," Phasma said, "And then Kylo and Father will come here."

Rey pressed her lips together, looking back at the closet. She pressed her lips together, feeling tears well in her eyes. She drew in a deep breath and bit the inside of her cheek. Fear and fury pounded within her as she thought of not only her situation but of the four rooms downstairs. How many others waited down there? Did Tage's future "wife" wait, afraid and alone, in one of those rooms. God, what if I have to walk another woman through this, too?

Suddenly, the image of a young girl appeared in her mind, some fifteen-year-old girl who didn't know anything about what was coming. Rey suddenly felt a rush of gratitude for Chris Taylor. He'd been inept, but he'd been her first. She'd been sixteen years old and hadn't spoken to him after graduation, but it had all been hers. It had been her awkward boyfriend and her bedroom and her condoms, even, but most importantly, it had been her choice.

There was a click at the door to Kylo's room opened behind her. Rey stiffened, then turned to look at Phasma. Phasma smiled gently at her, then stood up and crossed over to take Rey's face in her hands. It was only then that Rey fully understood how imposing a person Phasma truly was. She was taller even than Tage, with muscular arms and bright blue eyes. Her long skirts and beautiful face could distract from her strength, but now that Rey was so close, she could see the strength and determination in the tall woman's face.

"Bless you, my daughter," Phasma whispered, kissing Rey's forehead. A nervous laugh bubbled in Rey's chest. This was the most maternal anyone had been with her, and it was Phasma.

Phasma let her go and looked away, then stepped away to look at her husband and stepson. Rey turned her head and looked at the two men who stepped into the room. Immediately, Kylo’s eyes caught hers. He looked rumpled. The collar of his undershirt was stretched, probably from where his friends were grabbing it in their congratulatory excitement. Rey glanced at Phasma and saw that her calm smile had slipped slightly. Rey looked at Snoke again and saw that his expression had been very dark for a moment, but when he saw that she was looking at him, he put up a mask again.

Please don't be here to kill me, Rey thought. For one wild second, she considered saying it aloud. She was saved by Kylo, who stepped forward and crossed the room towards her. She let out a small breath as he reached up and lightly touched her face, "How are you, wife?" He whispered.

"Fine," Rey lied. His hands were warm as he skimmed the tips of his fingers across the bones of her cheek. Again, Kylo had that desperate look in his eye, the one that seemed to call to her. These people and their ideas were terrifying, but there was something about Kylo, about the way he looked at her, that made her less and less afraid of him.

"We'll leave you two alone, soon," Snoke said, "we just need to oversee Kylo's first rights."

When Snoke spoke, Kylo let his hand drop from Rey's face to her arm. Rey looked over her shoulder to meet the old man's eyes with a strong expression. She would not let him see how intimidated she was. God, that sounds so patriarchal, She thought bitterly. She looked at Phasma, who lowered her chin just enough for Rey to understand that she was nodding.

Taking a deep breath and stepping away from Kylo, Rey sat on the bed. Curling her hands into the sheets as Kylo kneeled down in front of her. He reached up to pull the crown from her hair, which he handed to Father- to Snoke. Rey held her breath as Kylo turned back to her and slowly reached under her skirts. His fingers brushed lightly against her thigh as he pulled the garter belt from her leg. Rey looked at Kylo’s face. His dark eyes, again, seemed to plead with her. See me. Connect with me. She didn’t let her eyes say anything back, either for or against him.

Kylo stood and passed her garter- no, the garter- to Snoke. Snoke smiled and panic flooded through her. Are they going to stay? She thought. Kylo stood, and Snoke stepped forward to kiss Kylo’s forehead in an oddly tender way.

“Congratulations, my son.” He held out a hand to Phasma, who took it and walked to the door. Rey shuddered as the door closed. Kylo watched his parents until they left, then turned slowly back to meet her gaze.

“I don't know how long you were in here, but you can look around now if you want or you can do it later. This is my room,” Kylo said awkwardly, "Well, it’s ours now.”

Rey ran a hand over the dark comforter so she didn’t have to look at him, "Phasma let me look around." She said, her eyes on her too long fingernails against the dark blankets. She'd grown up biting them and had gotten into the habit of filing them down, but they'd grown out while she'd been here. So much energy went into staying sane that it wasn't a temptation now.

Kylo sat on the bed next to her and put his hand over hers. Rey looked up into his face, unable to stop a single tear from running down her face, "Please." The word slipped out before she could stop it.

Kylo looked into her face and the corner of his mouth lifted, but he just said, "I don't know what I'm- I- I mean..." He stammered, then trailed off, "I won't be harsh, I promise." He said. He reached up and gently touched her cheek. He leaned forward to kiss her cheek, then to her forehead, and finally her mouth. When Kylo's lips made contact with hers, Rey closed her eyes and let another tear slide down her face.

Poe had told her once that Queen Victoria’s advice to her daughter had been to “close her eyes and think of England.” Rey had no idea if it was true, but thinking of her few trips to the countryside as a small child let her step out of this. Kylo surprised her, in more ways than one. He was far more hesitant than she'd expected and obviously had no experience relating to sex. He behaved not like an impotent or celibate madman who was finally being given the freedom and latitude to take what he wanted, but like an unsure virgin. His hands were warm as he undid the zipper off her dress and pulled it off of her. She didn't help him, although she did pull the pins out of her hair and toss them aside. She said nothing the entire time. There was no saying "no" to this. If she helped, when she finally got free, someone might say that she wasn't a victim. If she fought him, he might kill her.

He might kill her anyway.

He didn't, though, he was gentle with her, but he didn't try to kiss her. She hated him, but part of her was grateful for both his gentleness and his distance. Her torture didn't last long and, when he rolled off of her, she crawled under the covers. She brushed the last strands of her braided her free, laying on her side as she heard Kylo catch his breath. A sick sense of horror rose in her throat as the actual realization of what had just happened washed over her. She pressed a hand over her mouth, silencing her sobs. She didn't try to prevent her tears, not even when she heard Kylo get up and creep into the on suite bathroom. She buried her face in the blanket when the light flicked on, but relaxed when she heard the water running. After a minute, Kylo returned, walked to her side of the bed, and offered her a damp towel. Rey accepted it without a word, using it to wipe herself clean. He climbed under the covers but kept his back to her. When Rey finished, she tossed the towel onto her wedding dress. She rested her head back on the pillow and stared blankly at the wall.

Into the darkness, Kylo whispered two words: "I'm sorry."

Rey didn't have the compassion to ask him what he meant. No matter what he was sorry for, she wouldn't absolve him.

Chapter Text

A warm hand rubbed Rey's shoulder. She pushed herself up on her forearms and looked over her shoulder. Kylo was leaning over her, his dark eyes glittering in the light filtering in from the open bathroom doorway. She'd gotten up in the middle of the night and saw that Kylo's bathroom didn't have a door either. Mercifully, she'd been unconscious when he'd gone to the toilet if he'd gone overnight. Rey knew she wouldn't be that lucky every night.

Kylo was looking at her expectantly, and her heart leaped into her throat.

Please please don’t sit here and tell me you want to go again.. She thought.

“Come on, get dressed. I want to take you somewhere.” Kylo said. He was already fully dressed, although not in a button-down shirt like he was yesterday. He leaned over her, dressed in jeans and a dark t-shirt.

Great, he’s going to kill me. Rey thought, standing slowly and slipping out of the blankets. She knew she should cover up, but what was the point? He could make her dress or strip whenever he wanted. Even if she went to the bathroom or took a shower, he could watch her. Why pretend to have any privacy or agency?

Kylo glanced away from her, refusing to meet her eyes, then said, "There are clothes for you in the dresser. I didn't know what you liked to hang up or fold, so I just left them there."

"Thank you," Rey murmured. The words felt like shards of ice in her mouth. She was thanking a man who had raped her less than eight hours ago because he wanted to make sure she got to choose whether her clothes were folded or hung up. She crossed to the dresser and grabbed a pale pink nightgown from the top. She pulled it over her head, then looked down at herself. The nightgown looked like something out of a Little House on the Prarie. It fit her at the shoulders but didn't touch the rest of her body. A week ago, she would have found it frumpy, but now she relished the opportunity to hide the shape of her body from Kylo's eyes. She turned to Kylo, "Do I have any shoes?" She asked.

"Phasma brought you a pair of flat shoes or and some boots. I hope they fit," Kylo said, pulling shoes from the bottom of the closet. Rey sat on the bed and pulled the flats on without looking at Kylo. She stood up, and he handed her a throw blanket from the trunk at the end of his bed. She furrowed her eyebrows but didn't comment. She remembered the sharp slap she'd received for not obeying Snoke immediately. She didn't feel like getting slapped like that again.

Is this to wrap my body up afterward? Rey thought, Or is this going to be one of those things where he feels remorse, so he puts a soft blanket over my face? She'd heard about serial killers doing that. It had never made sense to her, but maybe the quilt would buy her some time and give Finn and Poe the chance to have an open casket funeral.

Rey wrapped the blanket around herself, then walked behind him as he led her from the room. She crept down the stairs behind Kylo, making extra sure that she kept her footsteps quiet. He let her out to the backyard, opening the door slowly and carefully. She followed behind him, trying her best to do what he did. She didn't care about being quiet, but she didn't want to anger him.

As soon as she stepped outside, Rey sighed in relief. She hesitated by the door, and he paused to look over his shoulder at her, "Come on," He said. Rey walked behind him, and he led the way along to patio, but not towards the open space where they had eaten after the wedding, but to his garden. As she walked, Rey took a deep breath, raising her chin and letting the cold night breeze sweep over her.

At the edge of the patio, Kylo paused and looked at her, "This is my garden," He said, "You can look around if you want."

Rey carefully stepped out of her shoes. The soft grass felt like velvet under her feet. Kylo stood by the patio, watching her without concern or hurry. Not caring about her skirts or the grass stains she’d have to deal with, Rey sprawled onto the grass. She sighed and smiled at the softness of the material under her. She sat down for a long time.

Kylo stood cautiously at the edge of the grass. The moonlight caught his skin, making it shine. The glow contrasted sharply with the dark of his hair and clothes. She'd seen a painting of Hades and Persephone once, which featured a darkly-heled Hades staring down Persephone dressed in pale clothing. Rey was vividly reminded of the picture now that she stared at her strange husband. She'd never understood the haunted way that people always portrayed in art. Now that Rey met Kylo's dark eyes, she understood. There was a desperate longing in his eyes and a sad wrong-ness to the whole situation, but there was something in him that she couldn't deny.

Kylo stepped onto the grass and walked over to her. It wasn't a prowl, but she tensed anyway. If her husband- she hated the word, but it snuck into her traitorous mind anyway- saw this, he didn't say anything. When he finally reached her, he paused, his eyes on the sky for a moment before he turned them back to her.

"Is this what you wanted?" Rey whispered, looking up at him.

"No," Kylo murmured. He sat down next to her, his hip level with her thigh. He leaned back on his palms, stretching his legs out past her.
Rey turned her head and watched Kylo for a moment, "Why me?" She whispered.

"I don't know," Kylo admitted, grimacing, "I haven't left the farm in six months."

Rey took a deep breath, "Did you know I was coming?'

"Yes," Kylo said.

"They kidnapped me, Kylo," Rey whispered. The corner of Kylo's right eye twitched, but he was only looking at his shoes.

"Kylo,"

"Kira-"

"Rey," She said firmly, "My name is Rey."

"Not anymore," Kylo said, resigned. Rey closed her eyes, then lowered herself slowly back on her elbows, then rested her head on the grass. They sat in silence for a long time. Distantly, Rey heard quiet shuffling in the grass, probably a small rodent looking for food. Otherwise, though, it was quiet. Rey had grown up in the desert, where the night was a time of activity, as animals and people could crawl from their various hiding places and enjoy time apart from the sun's oppressive heat. She'd gone to college after that and the campus never truly fell asleep. There was always a light on somewhere, even if it was mostly quiet. She'd been lucky to escape the usual roommate or thin wall horrors that Finn and Rose had suffered.

Rey had known quiet, but not this quiet.

Plutt had reduced her to a clenched fist kind of quiet, where she had to listen to make entirely sure that he was asleep before she could get up and make any noise. She'd loved the night for the chances to steal a little more food and finish her homework.

With Jessika, she'd experienced that post-coital quiet. The one where neither of them talked, but they both spoke volumes. Even now, Rey could also remember that heartbreaking silence, where Jessika asked, "Why should I even stay?" and Rey hadn't had an answer.

Here with Kylo, though, she felt an alive quiet. She couldn't quite hear the creatures moving around in the darkness or see the way the trees swayed in the moonlight, but she felt it. This place was alive and comfortable, even as rodents snatched up insects and owls swooped silently down on small prey. There was life and death, side by side, in this place and she was a part of it. As she turned her head to look at Kylo, she found the dichotomy in their situation, too.

Power and powerlessness.

Remorseful violence and merciless hatred.

Perpetrator and victim.

Consumer and consumed.

Hades and Persephone.

"Can I ask you something, even if it's... inappropriate?" Rey asked, finally intruding on the quiet. She kept her eyes on the stars. Christ, I've never seen so many stars.

"Anything," Kylo said, "You're my wife. I want you to know about me."

“Had you ever had sex before?” Rey asked, looking at Kylo.
Kylo shook his head, “No, nothing like that.” He turned his head to meet her eyes. His dark eyes drilled into her, even though he also seemed to plead with her. It was something she’d never seen on anyone else.

“You have, though,” Kylo said.

Rey tensed. She knew that a lot of religions stressed abstinence before marriage and punished women who weren't virgins. He must have expected her to be in more pain or something. He already knew and hadn't killed her for it, at least not yet. If she lied, he might not believe her and would kill her for lying. Or maybe he'd punish her, the way he'd stopped Father- Snoke- from doing. After a second, Rey nodded.

"Who was he?" Kylo asked.

The corner of Rey's mouth lifted slightly. She'd slept with a few men over her twenty-three years of life, but had ended up dating more women and girls, especially in college.

Again, Jessika's tear-streaked face appeared in Rey's mind, and she almost winced with the pain of it all.

"He was a student," Rey said, putting her arms under her head, "we went to school together. We'd been seeing each other a few months and just... decided."

"Just like that," Kylo said. He didn't sound like he was judging her, which surprised Rey.

"Just like that," Rey echoed.

"God says sex is sacred, only between spouses. Otherwise, you taint yourself with sin, both yours and theirs," Kylo said. He sounded flat when he spoke as if he was reading off a prepared statement. He'd probably heard these words a million times, now that Rey thought about it.

"Do you think I'm tainted?" Rey asked.

Kylo watched the moon, then met her eyes. He didn't nod or shake his head, but said, "Even if you were, I'd still want you."

God, he thinks he can save me, Rey thought, feeling something sour rise in her throat and her heart, like he's got some kind of magic holy dick or something. She turned her head away from him now, looking back at the too-big house full of horrors. It looked beautiful from the outside, like something that had been built a few hundred years ago and had been restored recently. In a kind world, it probably would have been an inn, a place to safely get away from the world.

But this world wasn't kind, so it was a hell pit with a beautiful finish.

Kylo spoke from behind her: "My first few weeks here were hard. It was summer, so I would come out here to find peace."

Rey said nothing, instead focusing on the details of the back porch and the carvings on the house itself.

"We can come out here often, every night if you want," Kylo said. He was prodding her, so she decided her best bet was to respond, at least somehow.

Rey nodded.

"Come on; it's late. We should go in," Kylo said. He stood, then turned as Rey finally sat up. He held out a hand and, once she accepted, pulled Rey to her feet.

The words suddenly burst from Rey: "Promise me something?" she whispered, looking up into Kylo's face. Their hands were still connected.

"Yes," Kylo whispered, "anything."

"This place is off-limits. No sex, no kisses. We talk here and have peace here."

"Agreed," Kylo said. He didn't let go of her hand as they walked back to the house and Rey, knowing what was good for her, didn't make him.

Chapter Text

 

Rey was woken by a quiet rapping on the door. She pushed up on her elbows and looked over her shoulder to see that Kylo was slowly peeking open the door to look at her. He swept his hair out of his face, fidgeting nervously.

"Good morning," Kylo said, "I know you're probably tired, but you need to wake up."

"Okay," Rey said. She stood up, brushing her hair out of her face.

Kylo nodded. He observed her for a moment, then closed the door behind him. The presence of bedroom doors baffled her. She couldn't pee or shower in private, but they had a bedroom door. Why?

Rey huffed, then stood. She put on a dull light brown dress and a pair of worn trainers that someone had left in her closet. She walked over to the bathroom and washed her face quickly. She rubbed her cheek, taking a deep breath. She felt dulled like someone had used her to pieces. She'd always been described as "bright-eyed," but now she imagined that she looked flat and pale. She pulled her hair into a bun and wished she had a hair tie or ribbon. She let her hair go, and it dropped to her shoulders again.

 

Rey walked downstairs slowly, looking around warily. She peered down the hallway towards the kitchen where she heard voices. Rey stiffened when she saw a tall, dark-haired figure poke their head around the entryway of the kitchen. Kylo smiled when he saw her. Rey took a deep breath, clasping her hands together. She didn’t know what to do or what to say now. The rules had changed now, and she knew it.

Not only had they officially been married, but they'd been able to sit and talk late last night. Kylo shifted nervously on his feet as he looked down at Rey, “You look beautiful,” He said.

“I- okay,” Rey said, unsure how to respond. It was so random to greet her that way, but she wasn’t going to argue with her abductor. She walked into the kitchen and was greeted by the sight of Phasma and three young people sitting around the kitchen table, eating breakfast.

"We decided to let you sleep in," Phasma said, smiling.

“What time is it?” Rey asked.

“Ten. Normally, we’re up early,” Phasma said, “but Father thought we all deserved to sleep in after the excitement of yesterday. Most days, the men are awake and at work early, by eight, but Father and Tage have only just gone out to work. Kylo was just about to wake you. He wanted to wish his new wife a good morning before he went to work.”
Rey glanced at Kylo, who was still waiting at her side. He smiled at her sheepishly and the corner of her mouth lifted.

"Thank you," Rey said weakly. She looked around the table at the three children, who all greeted her politely, even though they didn't stop eating.

"This is my son, Isaac," Phasma said, gesturing to a blond boy with the same narrow mouth and pointed chin as Snoke. It unnerved Rey to see the features of a twisted monster like Snoke on the face of a child. Susanna took after her mother, with her long nose and prominent bone structure. When she grew up, she would become a lovely woman. Joanna was the decidedly more awkward of the two girls. She had narrow blue eyes and a pinched look to her face.

"Come on, sit down," Phasma said, smiling slightly. She waved at one of the empty chairs around the kitchen table. Rey practically jumped trying to reach her chair before Phasma became angry, but Kylo beat her to it. He pulled her chair out, and she sat down, looking at him.

"Most says, you and I will be up early. Father doesn't want us becoming idle people," Kylo said, crouching down to look up at her.

"Idle people are easy prey for the Devil," Isaac explained when Rey couldn't stop a confused look from crossing her face. She nodded, then looked at Kylo. He watched her face, the corner of his mouth lifting, "We break for lunch and eat together," Kylo said. He straightened, then leaned down to kiss her head. Rey closed her eyes. She remembered the way that Poe had always kissed Finn’s forehead as a greeting. She and Finn hadn’t been very tactile growing up. Being raised in group homes made you wary of physical contact. After they’d started dating, however, Poe had begun pressing light kisses to the top of Finn’s head. Over time, Rey had seen Finn not only accept the affection, but expect it. She had been so proud the first time she’d seen Finn tilt his head up and hum pleasantly when Poe leaned down to kiss him.

Now, Rey pretended she was Finn. Kylo wasn’t Kylo. He was Poe. She was Finn, and she was happy. She smiled slightly as Kylo stepped away and moved towards the door, “Have a good day, wife,” He murmured into her hair before turning and walking towards the yard. Rey didn’t take her eyes off of Kylo as he jogged off towards the barn. Rey watched him go, chewing her lip thoughtfully. He was a strange man, her new husband. He had a strange steadiness to his gaze, to the way he looked at her. However, underneath that, she could feel an ever-present tension within him. It scared her.

For now, that tension was centered around keeping her attention. Kylo wanted Rey to like him. What happened if he decided to punish her instead?
“Here, eat. You’ve got a long day ahead of you,” Phasma’s voice brought her out of her reverie and Rey jumped. She turned back to the room. Joanna was doodling in a little book, Susanna was clearing her plate, and Phasma was smirking good-naturedly at Rey.

“We spend most of the day cleaning or working, even the children. Work builds character. It draws us closer to God. This house and farm take a lot of work to keep up. Luckily, the children are out of the school for the summer and can help,” Phasma said, drying her hands on the towel thrown over her shoulder. She put a stack of pancakes in front of Rey.

Rey blinked at the stacks. She didn’t know that people actually made pancakes for breakfast.

Normal people make pancakes? Rey thought,Well, not normal,

“Do you want coffee?” Phasma asked.

“Yes,” Rey said quietly. She glanced up as Phasma swatted playfully at the children, shooing them off to do chores. Rey met Susanna’s blue eyes. She glanced at Joanna, who blushed when she did. Joanna and Susanna scurried off. Isaac hugged his mother, then rushed upstairs after his sisters.

“They’re going to do their chores,” Phasma explained, pouring Rey a mug of coffee and setting a little bowl of sugar in front of her, “The girls are old enough to do real chores, but Isaac has just finished learning how to manage his own laundry and toys and such. They have their own chores first, then they’ll help the adults in the afternoon.”
Rey nodded blankly, sipping her coffee and looking at Phasma, who had turned back to the kitchen, "The children are too young to be divided, yet, although Susanna will probably join us by next year."

"Are men and women always split up?" Rey asked, "I saw that they were at the wedding when we got ready."

"Men and women should work separately, as much as possible," Phasma said, "Not because they can't work together, but because a woman's place is in the home and men should earn wages elsewhere," Phasma waved towards the barn out the window, "This is our men's place. I sew things to sell occasionally or to enter in fairs, but only Father and I go to collect any prize money."

Rey nodded. A county fair, Rey thought, would be an excellent place to escape.

"I've never had to sew before," Rey admitted, "not well, at least. No one ever taught me."

"I know," Phasma said, sighing and shaking her head, "Almost no wildlings come in knowing necessary skills. Another woman lived with Father and me for a year before I was a fit wife to be left alone," She chuckled, "and then I was pregnant, so she stayed for a while longer to help me with the baby."

“Now, I know that you’re a young wife and this is an exciting time,” Phasma said, pointing at Rey with one finger, “I have seen many women tear a house apart for weeks or months, fighting for dominance. You are a beautiful woman and, yes, one-day Kylo will be in charge of the First Order, but for now, I am married to Father. Managing this household is my responsibility. There’s enough work to be going on with without us fighting. I don’t intend to be one of those women who fight or punishes or disciplines her daughter-in-law. You’re a wildling, but you’re a grown woman. I’ll help you be a proper head of your house, though, I promise.”

Rey nodded stiffly, “Thank you. I’ll do my best,”

Phasma nodded. She turned back to the kitchen and Rey ate woodenly, but quickly. She had grown up in places where people competed for food regularly. There wasn't any evidence of that here, but years of foster care and group homes had left Rey paranoid. She heard a quiet noise of something being set on the table. She looked up to see that Phasma had set a rag and dusting spray in front of her.

“This is an easy job. It takes a lot of work and walking, but it’s straightforward,” Phasma said, gesturing at the rag and dusting spray, “Do all of the wood in the house. There’s only one room that’s locked in the house. That is Father’s office. He cleans it, and no one goes in. It’s where he talks to God. It’s not safe for normal people like us,” Phasma said. She leaned across the table and cupped Rey’s chin. Blue eyes drilled into hazel, but Rey didn’t look away. She would not, not even Phasma.

“Kira, do not go into Father’s office for any reason,” Phasma said, “There will be no reason for you to go in there. Do you hear me?”

Rey was so shocked, so focused on meeting Phasma’s gaze that she didn’t respond. The open-hand slap struck her face like lightning. She put a hand out to catch herself on the wooden chairs next to her.

“Kira, do you understand me?” Phasma said again. She didn’t sound angry. Her face was a calm mask like she was disciplining an unruly child.

“Yes,” Rey whispered. Tears blurred her vision, which made her more furious. She didn’t want to cry, but a slap like that caused involuntary reactions. Rey nodded. She straightened, eating robotically.

“Good,” Phasma said, turning back to the kitchen. Rey said nothing but just ate faster. When she was done, Phasma took her plate without a word. Murmuring thanks, Rey grabbed the spray and rag and turned to the living room. The floors were wood, but that would be swept on its own. Instead, she started with the grandfather clock near the fireplace. It was intricately carved and very old. She took a vague swipe at the glass face as well, which made the dustless surface look cleaner. From there, she moved to the various wood end tables, shelves, and the mantle.

The work was hard but mindless. When she finished with the main room, Rey took her rag and spray up to the bedrooms upstairs. Tage’s bedroom was even plainer than Kylo’s. His furniture was stiff and wooden, which meant more work for her. The only thing she did in Kylo’s room- she refused to think of it as hers- was the dresser and the bed frame. She ran a hand over carvings of birds on the upper edge of his chest. They had been made with such exquisite detail that it almost looked like they were in mid-flight. Rey ran the cloth around every crevice in the wood, wishing she had a Q-Tip or something else small to clean the details better. Rey bit her lip, using her fingernail to remove a particularly stubborn patch of dust. She stepped back, satisfied, and looked around the room.

There were no bookshelves, she realized. She absently rubbed at a pair of doves on the corner of the dresser, inspecting Kylo's room again. She thought about Tage's room down the hall and the living room downstairs. There weren't any bookshelves there, either.

They all must be in Snoke's study, Rey thought. She took a deep breath, unsure what to do with this realization. She put her head down and left the room, focusing on the task at hand. There were far more wood fixtures in Snoke's room. There were shelves as well as a dresser and a four-poster bed frame in there. She let her thoughts slide away as she got to work. It was like when she did her yoga practice or worked on a particularly difficult piece of repair work. Hours passed as she worked, but she didn't mind. She'd spent the past few days alone with her thoughts. The work, at least, prevented her from getting bored.

The detail on Snoke's bed, like Kylo's dresser was terrific. The more she worked, the more she was convinced that the delicate vines, flowers, and leaves were carved by hand. She worked on her hands and knees, making sure to get all of the dust out of the various tiny places in the carvings. She wished there was paper somewhere in the house. It would definitely help force dust out of the cracks.

"Kira."

Rey looked up as someone spoke up from the doorway. She sat up, letting the cloth rest on her knees and looking over to see Isaac standing at the door, "Do you need something?" Rey asked.

"Mother says that lunch is ready," Isaac said. He shuffled his feet nervously, and Rey smiled warmly. She stood and walked over to the door. Rey walked downstairs, leaving the rag and spray behind where she'd been using them. When she got downstairs, Phasma was waiting for her.

"Come over here," Phasma said, leading her over to a large pan of chicken and rice. Rey raised her eyebrows when she saw the presence of actual seasoning in the food. She had earnestly expected to be eating British-quality food, something boiled and flavorless. She looked up at Phasma, who said, "We're going to serve bowls to the men when they come in."

"Okay," Rey said. She looked over her shoulder to see the men walking up to the house. Snoke was in front, wearing a cowboy hat and a long-sleeve shirt. Behind him, Tage and Kylo were having an animated discussion as they walked side-by-side a two steps behind their father. Rey heard a snort behind her. She turned to see Phasma shaking her head and rolling her eyes, "Those two boys will argue about anything and everything." she said.

Rey nodded. She stepped out of the way as Susanna, Joanna, and Isaac darted past her to wash their hands in the sink.

"Set the table when you're done!" Phasma called.

Rey crossed to the sink and washed her hands as the back door opened. The men trudged back inside the house, muttering among themselves about something they'd been working on outside. Rey watched them take off their boots and dust their pants off. Rey felt a pang at the sight of something so domestic. Even here, in this horrible place, there were reminders of the would-be family she might have had growing up.

Snoke greeted Phasma with a kiss on the lips and a predatory curl of his fingers at her waist. Kylo pecked Rey fondly on her temple as he passed. It was odd, Rey decided. Kylo was more open than Tage or Snoke, but that wasn't what she was the most thankful for in her husband. He didn't tower over her like Snoke did with Phasma. He watched her, but it was always with a boyish interest. Even now, that he passed her to go to the kitchen sink and wash his hands, he made eye contact with her and smiled that small, shy smile she'd grown to expect from him.

I wonder if he knows that he's doing it, Rey thought, remembering the flat expression he'd had when he'd first met her. He smiled now, touched her gently now. Which is real? The smiles now or the disinterest then?

The men walked straight into the dining room and sat down, still talking. Phasma nudged Rey with her elbow, "Go see what they want to drink. I'll serve the bowls," She said.

Rey nodded and hurried into the dining room. The men sat around the dining room table, still discussing work. The children settled at the table as well. When Susana sat next to Kylo, to the right of Snoke, skipping one chair, Kylo nudged her with his elbow. Rey saw the smirk Susana shot Kylo, and it unnerved her. Kylo was at least a few years older than Rey herself, perhaps he was even thirty. However, despite the decade-wide age gap, Susanna and Kylo were, in fact, acting like siblings.

"I- Do you- What-" Rey stammered. She was afraid of asking the question incorrectly and getting punished.

"Water," Tage said, holding out his glass. His pale eyes were focused on her face, but she felt like he was stripping her naked.

"My wife will bring me coffee," Snoke said, waving a hand.

"Will you bring me an iced tea, wife?" Kylo asked, smiling encouragingly at her. Rey took the glasses from Tage and Kylo before she rushed back to the kitchen. She did this twice more, getting Isaac half a glass of apple juice and Joanna her water. She doubled back for Susanna's tea, and Phasma put a cup of coffee in her hand for Snoke.

It had been more than a year since Rey had waited tables, but she fell into the routine mindset easily. She put all her emotions, all of her fears and worries, away inside and focused on serving the plates.

When Rey finished with the drinks, Phasma set her to carrying plates in, "Kira, we always feed the men first, then our children, and then we eat. It's how we take care of our family."

Rey nodded, then brought Snoke and Tage their food. Tage watched Rey as she walked into the dining room, carrying plates of food for the men. Rey pointedly kept her eyes on the table and the work at hand. After the men and children were served, Phasma and Rey took their plates and sat down to the right of their respective husbands. Kylo took her hand and squeezed it before Snoke prayed.

Rey closed her eyes as she inclined her head. This is my life, now, Rey thought, for now. Only until I can get free.

Chapter Text

 

Daily life with the First Order became more normal to her as the days went on. It wasn't that she forgot where she was or how she had arrived there, but more that her life took on a sense of routine. She got up, ate with the rest of the adults before Phasma stepped away to rouse the children, and cleaned the dishes from breakfast as the men filed out to go work outside.

Some days, Kylo or Tage came in to do repair work or helped with the moving of furniture so that Rey and Phasma could clean the floors. Apparently, mopping under and around all the couches and table tops was a three-person job. Susannah wasn't strong enough yet to help with the lifting, so Kylo often volunteered. When he was inside, he struck up casual conversations with Rey about her life in the Order. He never once asked her anything that could lead to information about the outside or about her childhood. Instead, he contented himself with questions about her work around the house and the new skills she was picking up and the food Phasma was teaching her how to make. One time, Rey had mentioned a cupcake shop outside of where she had gone to college. For one long, agonizing second, Kylo stared blankly at her. Then, he seemed to decide to say nothing and changed the subject. Rey let him go, grateful to him for not turning on her.

Rey had nearly slipped up, once or twice. She knew, desperately, that she needed to make sure that everyone thought she was settling into life in the First Order as a fully committed and submissive member. Anything less would make escape impossible. In order to survive the trek back to civilization, she was going to need supplies. In order to get supplies, perhaps even a form of transportation, she was going to have to earn these peoples’ trust. Otherwise, they would never stop watching her.

Between the agonizing performance art and the hard work cleaning or cooking, she was utterly exhausted. Still, she found the energy to get up late at night and go outside with Kylo. She often stretched out on her back, taking deep breaths and letting the stress of the day slip away. After several weeks, Kylo stopped hesitating on the concrete patio. Instead, he would walk next to her, kick off his shoes, and sit or lie on the grass wherever she picked. They talked about anything and everything- as long as it didn't conflict with the lies crafted by the First Order. One night, however, he surprised her.

Kylo lay on his side, propping his head on his hand and meeting her eyes, “You’re very beautiful,” he said, “I didn’t tell you before the wedding.”

Rey rolled onto her side and looked up at him, "Thank you," she said quietly. The corner of her mouth lifted, "although I think you're related to most of the women you spend most of your time around, so..." She trailed off, smiling.

Kylo chuckled and shook his head. For a moment, Rey's heart had gone cold out of fear. But at the sight of his smile, she smiled, too. Her strange husband really was beautiful when he smiled. When she'd first met him, he'd reminded her of a dark and brooding prince in a storybook. The image had faded from her mind; replaced by her daily and nightly interactions with him. Although, after seeing the first earnest smile she’d ever seen on him, she now saw that prince again.

Don't do that! Rey snapped at herself, You'll end up with Stockholm's syndrome and then you'll never leave because you'll be the one keeping yourself here!

Her smile faded away as she stood up. When she got up, she glanced at Kylo for only a moment. His dark eyes were wide and fixed on her face. She could feel the frustration rolling off of him in waves. He was furious, but some idiotic, rebellious part of her refused to apologize or bend. Without a word, she wrapped herself in the quilt he always brought for her, grabbed her slippers, and walked inside. With every step, she anticipated a shout or a blow to the head, but nothing ever came. When she made it inside, she forced herself not to glance over her shoulder and see if Kylo what stalking her. She didn’t have to worry; Kylo didn't come after her. Instead, he let her walk, barefoot, through the house to his bedroom. Rey dropped her slippers on the hardwood with a soft smack and let her dressing gown puddle on the floor. She flopped onto the bed, pulling the quilt around her. She had other quilts; the ones that lived on the bed full time, but she just curled up into a ball, burying her face in the quilt. It smelled like soil and grass and the night air. She closed her eyes, screwing up her face. She refused to cry, even as she remembered her life before The First Order. She'd been a normal person; now she was married and she had a husband, one who thought she was beautiful, one who thought he could walk in here, force her legs apart, and take whatever he wanted. She had no choices.

Rey fell asleep thinking about Kylo's sad eyes in the moonlight, a particularly special evening sitting with a beer in her hand with Finn and her other friends, and of the grass that she would have to get out of the sheets tomorrow.

 

Rey and Kylo didn't go outside at night for several weeks. When she'd fallen asleep in the lonely darkness that night, a tiny part of her hadn't expected to wake up. She'd openly rejected Kylo; it would have been easy for him to walk upstairs and murder her for it. He hadn't. Instead, he had let her have her space. He hadn't woken her up, like he had done or two nights in previous weeks, and taken her out to their cool and dark privacy. While part of Rey missed the comfortable and quiet conversations with Kylo surrounded by flowers, she did treasure the extra sleep. During the days, Kylo didn’t avoid her. His dark eyes were wary and hurt around her, but was startled her was the lack of anger in his eyes.

Rey slept soundly at night and spent her days doing a variety of chores. While the family had access to some modern amenities like a washing machine and a dishwasher, doing all of the housework for a group of eight people in such a large house was a full-time job. Outside of moving furniture, the men didn't help at all with the household work. Neither Kylo nor Tage made their beds or did more in their rooms besides tossing their dirty clothes in the hamper. At least they aimed well.

When she and Finn had been roommates, they had been strict about dividing the chores. Rey hadn't wanted to be stuck with things like dishes just because "she was the girl". Now, Rey found a certain peace in the man-free work. She’d had no cooking skills or training, but she was learning quickly. Phasma was a firm but patient teacher and it was always hands-on lessons, which Rey always learned from best. Everything except the coffee was made from scratch, it seemed. Everything from oatmeal to casseroles to pies was made by hand. The work, both the cooking and the cleaning, was a little mindless, but Rey liked the peace of it.

Her life took on a sense of routine. Even the nights Kylo made her have sex took on a new feeling. It wasn’t pleasant, but the robotic nature of it all made it more bearable in its own way. Rey couldn’t figure out if the rapes were Snoke’s idea, Kylo’s idea, or simply the result of cult doctrine. Kylo seemed to hate it as much as she did. He didn’t apologize again, but Rey could tell. He also didn’t try to kiss her again, even if he stripped her bare and came inside her. Rey had never understood why kisses bothered people. She’d heard the old stereotype of prostitutes refusing to kiss Johns to save kisses for their own significant others. She’d never believed or understood. Why would kisses matter? Now, though, she understood. Even if Kylo was inside of her, his dark eyes burning into her and begging for anything from her, she had some kind of affection for herself.

Six or seven weeks after Rey arrived in the First Order, the bizarre serenity snapped. The family and Rey were all sitting around the table, eating lunch as they chatted about anything and everything. Joanna and Isaac were arguing about whether or not they should name the new litter of kittens after members of the First Order that they knew or types of wild cats they'd read about in the nature book that Father had given to them. Rey hadn't seen any books for her entire first week until she opened a little cabinet under the stairs that contained a bookshelf. It was full of nothing but atlases and books on topics such as nature, local fauna, and similar subjects. It appeared that Father didn't want his family knowing about people outside of the First Order, but the planet seemed to be a safe topic. Joanna, in particular, was obsessed with them and had one kitten in particular who she believed was destined to be named "Panther," while Isaac thought it should be named "Kylo".

"Are you listening to me, wife?"

Rey jumped, looking away from Joanna and Isaac to look into Kylo's amused dark eyes. She tensed slightly, but when she saw Kylo grinning at her, she relaxed. He always enjoyed seeing her with his siblings. She knew it made Kylo look forward to their own children.

“How was your day?” Kylo asked, looking at her over his coffee mug.

"Fine, we're going to polish the silver this aftern-" Rey broke off when Snoke's voice broke through the conversations. It was so cold it chilled Rey to the bone. She would have brushed it off, but her eyes met Kylo's and she watched the blood drain from his face as Snoke asked, his voice controlled and deadly in its casualness, “What do you call this, my dear?”, gesturing to his mug.

“Coffee, Father,” Phasma said warily. A strand of her blonde hair fell into her face, but she left it there, her eyes fixed on Snoke. Rey could see the intense control she was exhibiting to keep her voice level.

“Well, obviously, you must have been meditating on your sins or else committing one, to brew the coffee this incorrectly,” his voice was hard and frigid. Rey saw Kylo’s hand curl into a fist on his thigh. Little Isaac looked from his father to his mother to Rey and back. When Rey’s eyes landed on Susanna, she saw the girl wore a stiff expression. Rey could see the fear hidden away behind the young girl’s eyes, even if the rest of her expression was controlled.

Snoke's knuckles whitened on the mug. Suddenly, a green blur flashed through the air. It was only a heartbeat later that Rey heard a shattering sound and a high pitched noise that Rey realized that Snoke had thrown the mug past Phasma's head. It took two more heartbeats before Rey realized that the high-pitched noise was Phasma shrieking. It seemed unnatural for a strong and muscular woman like Phasma to make that noise, but Rey didn't blame her. She wouldn't have done much better.

A hand suddenly grabbed her left wrist and Rey looked down. Kylo's hand had her wrist in a tight grip, but his liquid brown eyes were fixed on hers. Rey looked into Kylo's eyes and could almost hear his voice in her head, "Don't do anything. You won't help anything. I can't protect you if you stand up,". Rey closed her eyes, unable to look at Phasma as she cautiously moved to brew the coffee again. It was only when she felt Kylo's warm fingertip on her cheek did that she realized he was wiping away a stray tear. She didn't move, but pressed her lips together wordlessly and tried not to hate herself for her cowardice.

 

Rey looked up into Jessika’s smiling black eyes. Jessika’s gorgeous black hair fell in a long curtain over one shoulder. Rey reached up and ran her fingers through Jessika’s hair as she leaned forward and buried her face in the crook of Rey’s neck. Rey hummed happily, running a hand over Jessika’s smooth, bare, back. “I’ve missed you,” Rey said, smiling as Jessika’s free hand crept down her waist towards her hip,

“I’ve missed you, too,” Jessika breathed, leaning up to kiss Rey’s lips. Jessika ran a hand up Rey’s thigh. Rey tipped her head back, biting her lip, as her toes curled. She felt elastic snap against her thigh and sat up, frowning.

Rey looked down to see Jessika rolling a faded red garter between her fingers, “When did you get this, Rey?”

Rey frowned, looking down at the garter neither she nor Jessika had bought, “I- I don’t-” Rey looked up into Jessika’s face and found herself looking into Tage’s blue eyes. She felt Tage’s pale hand tighten on her thigh and screamed.

 

Terror flooded through her as she sat bolt upright. Hands, hot and strong, gripped at her arms and she screamed louder, slamming her palms against anything they could reach. It felt like she was hitting a solid stone wall. Her fingers hurt and she wasn't even sure she could scream anymore. She was crying too hard to form any noise beyond a sob. Tage's hands on her arms were a vice and she couldn't get free and she needed to or he would-

"Kira!"

Kylo's voice seemed to cut through her terror and pain. Rey looked up and met Kylo's wide eyes. She recoiled and this time, he let her. She slumped back against her pillow, her gaze unfocused. Everything was so confusing suddenly. It was as if Kylo and Jessika and Tage and flakes of green ceramic paint and coffee stains and her own tears and the red garter had all fused in her waking mind. As she took deep gulps of air, she was able to parse out facts:

1. She was still with the First Order.

2. While she was still a prisoner, she was "married" to Kylo, not Tage.

3. Rey and Jessika had broken up six weeks before she had come here. God, that must have been- what?- four months ago now? Rey thought. It both seemed like a few days and a few decades.

4. Tage could not touch her. Kylo would protect her.

She hoped.

Rey felt Kylo’s warm hand on her arm and turned to look into his eyes. He looked rumpled, with creases in his shirt and a line on his face from where the fabric of his pillowcase had left a mark. His black hair was sticking up wildly, both from sleep and from where she’d blindly grabbed at it. He didn’t seem angry about that, but was focused entirely on her.

“Are you okay?” Kylo asked. His voice was soft and welcoming and Rey hated him for it. She wanted to scream and slap him for being so human when she was so afraid, but she didn't. Instead, Rey screwed up her face, tears welling in her eyes. She pressed a hand over her mouth, curling up. She missed Jessika. She missed her freedom. She missed Poe, Finn, and everyone at Maz’s bar. She felt Kylo’s arms around her. He said nothing but rubbed her back.

Rey pushed against Kylo’s chest, but he only held her tighter. Hot fury welled up inside of her and she punched him in the chest. Kylo gripped her upper arms as Rey pounded on his chest, sobbing. She looked into his face and saw his dark eyes were focused on his face. Rey stopped hitting him. All of the fight left her. She let her fists fall onto his chest, then leaned forward to rest her forehead on her fists. Kylo put a hand on her back. He was warm and solid under her. He smelled like hay and the soap that Father made them use. It was always full of various flowers. The first one had been full of small white flowers, but the ones they used every day had different flowers. Kylo was partial to lavender, it seemed. She was starting to associate the smell with him. Tage’s clothing always smelled more herbal, but whenever she did Kylo’s laundry, she could smell the traces of lavender.

Rey didn’t fight him this time. Instead, she just leaned into his shirt, breathing in the now-comforting scent of lavender and hay and the strange other smell she’d learned to associate with men. She didn’t fight, but just cried.

Chapter Text

Rey rested her head on her pillow with a slight groan. Her back, knees, and elbows ached after a hard day of work. She sighed and closed her eyes, not even bothering to get up to shower.

“You alright?” Kylo asked. He sat on the end of the bed, unbuttoning his shirt. He’d left his hat and boots downstairs, which Rey was grateful for. His clothing always had dust and other things on it.

“Tired,” Rey admitted.

"You’ll get used to it after a few more weeks,” he promised.

“If you get manure on the sheets, I’ll use them to strangle you,” Rey mumbled into the pillow.

Chuckling, Kylo leaned over as he tossed his shirt into the laundry. He pressed a kiss below Rey’s right ear and it took everything she had not to tense. She waited for Kylo to begin to grope her, but he didn’t. Instead, he got up and walked to the shower. Rey huffed, kicking off her shoes and curling her arms under the pillow. Distantly, she heard the sound of water running.

Not wanting to get flashed by her “husband,” Rey crawled across the bed, stripping off her dress. She’d realized over the past few weeks why her bathroom had no door: control. Kylo did his best to give her privacy, but if he wanted, he could sit and watch her shower and use the toilet every time. It was unnerving (sometimes) hearing him come back in for a forgotten handkerchief or something while she was in the shower. Every time, she’d freeze, waiting for him to come and leer at her, but he hadn’t yet.

Moments like that made her grateful she’d been given to him, rather than Tage. Tage probably would have leaned against the sink and watched her for no other reason than because he could. Kylo didn’t even take off all her clothes during sex. He usually contented himself with lifting up her skirt or dress. It didn’t make it less wrong and horrific, but it made Rey feel more dignified, later.

Rey wrapped herself in a towel as she heard the squeak of the water being turned off. Like every other day, Kylo came around the corner with a towel around his waist. Rey slipped past him, keeping her eyes on the tile in front of her. She pressed her lips together as she smelled the familiar scent of lavender that wafted off of Kylo’s still-damp skin and hair. Clutching her nightgown and underwear to her chest with her free hand, Rey turned the water back on before dropping the clothes onto a dry part of the floor.

Stepping under the tap, Rey sighed. The warm water felt delightful on her sore muscles. Today had been a long day of hard scrubbing and she felt it.

Rey looked down at herself. She let the water run over her arms, shoulders, and chest. She pressed absently at a dark area near her collarbone. It wasn’t a bruise, though. Over the past few weeks, she’d noticed that, along with the lack of kisses, she’d never found a single hickey. Now, she wasn’t one of those people who bruised easily, per say, but he could have marked her if he wanted. She sighed, closing her eyes and trying to set it all aside for a single moment.

What day is it? Rey thought suddenly. She’d stolen a scrap of paper from a package and found one of Joanna’s pens her second week here and had been using it to mark down how many days she’d been there. She wedged the paper into a crack in the back of Kylo’s dresser and took it out every day to mark another day of her survival here. In recent weeks, she’d started to mark her period, too.

She’d made her seventy-eighth mark today.

Seventy-eight days of captivity.

Seventy-eight days of survival.

Rey had always been someone who had tracked through counting. She’d counted the number of children in her foster homes, the number of New Jersey license plates she’d ever seen in Nevada where she’d grown up, the number of Cs she’d ever earned (only two), the number of times Poe had commented on the lack of seasoning on a meal in a single night (thirty-two, although he never believed her), and the days she’d spent living in any particular place.

At first, it had been some bitter game, to count how long she lasted in any particular home. The longest, when she’d been a kid, had been with Plutt: two thousand, one hundred and ninety-seven days. That last day- May 20, 2007- she’d loaded her meager belongings into her crappy car that she’d spent the last five hundred and fifty days repairing and drove away.

She’d given Plutt the Finger as she drove away.

Finn had promised her that they’d celebrate the day when she’d officially spent more time in Colorado than with Plutt. When Snoke had kidnapped her, she’d been seventy-two days away from that milestone.

Fuck you, Snoke, Rey thought furiously, lathering her hair almost violently. It was only when her throat constricted with the effort of choking back sobs did she realize that she was crying, Fuck you, Plutt!

Moreover, Rey wasn’t usually one to swear, but it felt good this time. As she washed her body, she cursed out so many people, from the parents who had abandoned her to the inept child care officers who had let her spend six long years with Plutt to little Isaac, asleep down the hall.

She should have cursed out Kylo most of all.

And yet, she didn’t. For some reason, she couldn’t be angry with him, not after the way he’d comforted her after that nightmare a few weeks ago. Kylo was still a rapist. Moreover, was still helping to hold her against her will, but there was something in his eyes that made her decide to believe that he didn’t want to hurt her.

Kicking herself for her sentimentality, Rey rinsed off the last of the soap and turned off the tap. She dried off and pulled on clean clothing before crawling into bed next to Kylo. He was awake, reading through some almanac or another. Books or magazines related to farming were one of the few things that Snoke allowed and both Kylo and Joanna tore through them voraciously. When she got into bed, though, Kylo closed the book. He turned to look at her and Rey tensed, unsure if she’d done something wrong. Had he heard her crying? She hadn’t thought she’d made any noise.

“I’m going out of town for a few days,” Kylo said.

Rey turned her head to look at him and whispered, “Can I know why?”

“No,” Kylo said.

“Okay,” Rey said, “when do you leave?”

“Day after tomorrow,” Kylo replied, turning off the lamp and laying down next to her in the darkness.

“When will you be back?”

“That’s up to God,” Kylo replied, “but it will likely be at least a week.”

“Okay,” Rey murmured. She rolled onto her other side and rested her head on her pillow, keeping her back to Kylo, as she always did. She heard Kylo sigh, but he said nothing to her. Rey closed her eyes, letting herself drift off to sleep. Distantly, she felt a soft touch on her hair but did nothing.

Kylo left three days later.

He and Snoke left overnight, so Rey woke to a silent room. Rey had grown used to the incidental sounds of Kylo getting ready in the morning. Now, though, it was dead quiet. She opened her eyes and stared up at the ceiling for a moment, glad that she’d remembered to set the old-style alarm clock. Kylo, it seemed, woke on a rigid schedule naturally and he was usually the one to wake her if she didn’t automatically wake up on time. Without him, though, she’d had to rely on the clock.

She preferred Kylo to the loud metallic ringing.

Groaning, Rey rolled over to an empty pillow. She frowned, blinking in surprise when she noticed that her pillow was not empty. Rey sat up sleepily, then reached out to pick up the spot of pink on Kylo’s pillow. It wasn’t a rose or any other flower that she recognized (although she could only guess about seven on sight). Settling herself, she inspected the flower more closely. It was a soft pink color, with an almost teardrop shape to the innermost petal. It reminded her most of the edge of some old, frilly handkerchief that had been brought to life. It was beautiful and delicate and it made her smile.

Kylo was trying to woo her. Her strange, sad, and introspective husband was trying to woo her. She sniffed the flower, the corner of her mouth lifting at the gesture. She didn’t really smell much, but the petals were wonderfully soft against the tip of her nose. Rey wondered if she would find other little gifts throughout his absence. Before their farce of a wedding ceremony, he’d brought her a flower each day. She’d left them in the room and hadn’t gone back since. They’d probably rotted or dried fully in the darkness. Part of her hoped that, if she went down there now, she’d be able to find them and put them somewhere safe to keep.

Rey glanced down at the flower, suddenly remembering something. On the day of her wedding, when Tage had brought her breakfast instead of Kylo, she'd found a single thorn left on the stem. While she'd never asked Kylo about it, she was certain it was a warning. During her weeks at the house, Rey had noticed something strange about Tage. She could never identify what it was exactly, but there was a darkness- a danger of some kind- to him. There was no message on this flower that she could identify, but she still held onto the old warning. Tage was dangerous. All of them were, probably, even Kylo, but Tage and Snoke were particularly dangerous. Kylo had never laid a hand on her and Phasma had only smacked her once, when discussing Snoke’s office. Tage had never touched her, but he watched her with those cold, hungry eyes.

Kylo wasn’t here to protect her. Perhaps leaving a flower, even one that wasn’t a rose, was his way of reminding her of his initial worries about Tage. Biting her lip, Rey looked at the door. There was no way to know, one way or the other, but she knew that she couldn’t sit in her room forever. Eventually, someone would be sent to come to look for her, even if it was just Isaac or Joanna. Climbing out the of bed, Rey braced herself for another day of long work.

The first few days without Kylo passed without any event of note. Part of Rey had expected to be overjoyed at the absence of Kylo and the few days that she could expect to have her body to herself, but she didn't. Yes, it was nice to be able to spread out on her bed like a starfish or to sleep knowing that she didn't have to grit her teeth and spread her legs for Kylo. However, after a few days, she realized that she missed having someone that she ENJOYED talking to. She had Phasma for conversations while they worked during the day and they talked about many things, but she had to be guarded about what she said. Whenever she brought up the outside world, particularly in a favorable light, she’d received a smack to the face or to the back of her hand. Phasma, it seemed, was a full believer in Snoke's stance that the outside world was totally bad and dangerous. Now, Rey could complain about taxes or traffic, but if she mentioned details about the outside world or about her life, then she was in trouble. The second morning after Kylo and Snoke left, she referenced her real name and received a full-armed slap across the face from Phasma, who simply said, "We tell the truth in this house, Kira, remember that."

It seemed that, without Kylo, Rey received more punishment, not less. Not a day went by that she wasn't struck or thoroughly dressed down by Phasma on everything from the quality of her chores to her cooking to the things that she said. By the third morning, Rey half expected Phasma to pull out a belt or a switch and lay into her. She didn't but seemed to content herself with a slap to the face. Rey knew that Tage was supposed to be in charge, but Phasma had stepped into her position as the spiritual leader of the household, it seemed. Rey wasn't sure what scared her more: this more militant Phasma, or what might happen if Snoke came home to find that his standards weren't met. During his absence, the entire family worked around the clock, it felt like. They completed their normal chores, but also performed a deep cleaning of the house. Massive carpets were rolled down and brought outside to be beaten clean, they all spend an entire day, working late into the night, to organize the various feed bags and such in the barn. That was her favorite day, by far. She had lived there for almost two months, but had yet to see a horse. Not only did she get to see the three beautiful creatures, but she actually got to feed one of them a sugar cube, which made her feel giddy.

"This is Father's horse, Supremacy," Isaac said, patting a massive animal with an iron-gray coat. It snorted, looking at her warily.

"Supremacy doesn't like girls," Joanna said, her voice sounding almost pouty as she rubbed the neck of a beautiful white horse that sniffed her blonde hair, "Starkiller isn't like that, though."

"Who does Starkiller belong to?" Rey asked, stepping a little deeper into the barn. She knew there were two cows and a pigpen, but there was another stall that she couldn't account for.

"Tage owns Starkiller," Joanna said, pressing kisses to the mare's nose. Rey turned and peeked into the last stall right as she heard Susannah shout, "Wait, Rey don't! That's F-"

A massive black shape suddenly rushed towards Rey so quickly that she almost threw herself onto the dusty floor of the barn in order to escape it. She caught onto the door of the pen to stop herself from hitting the ground and looked into a fierce pair of black eyes. The black stallion panted into her face, but she found herself meeting his gaze steadily. This was Kylo's horse, she assumed, although she had missed what his name was. Slowly straightening, she let go of the door, not taking her eyes from the black iris of the horse's right eye.

"Hello," Rey murmured, "I'm sorry if I invaded your space. I just wanted to see who was in here. I'm going to leave you alone, now."

The horse responded with a whinny before turning its head to inspect her better. She put her hands up instinctively in a gesture of peace. The bad-tempered stallion responded by shoving his velvety nose into her nearest palm.

"Woah," Issac murmured behind her.

"What?" Rey hissed back, turning her palm to let the horse nuzzle into her touch further.

"That's Finalizer. He doesn't let anyone but Kylo touch him," Joanna said, her voice tinged with awe.

Finalizer snorted again but nuzzled at Rey's hand. When she stepped closer, reaching up to pat his neck, he sniffed at the crook of her neck, puffing contentedly. She smiled, pressing a kiss to his nose, "Aren't you beautiful?" She crooned. Of course, you belong to Kylo,. Black coat and mane? Dark and expressive eyes? This horse had been made with Kylo in mind.

The downside of her newfound relationship with Finalizer was that she was now tasked with caring for him. Apparently, Tage was forced to clean Finalizer’s stall last. When he did, he opened the door before jumping into Starkiller’s stall while Finalizer rushed out to the outside pen. Tage then had to jog over to the barn door and shut the stallion outside while he cleaned the stall. Rey didn’t have to go through all those steps. It was hot and annoying work, particularly since summer was coming in earnest now. The first day, caring for Finalizer had been utterly overwhelming after a day spent hauling rugs and dusting the inside of every dresser, closet, and crevice in the house, but by the second night, the fifth day of Kylo’s absence, it was relaxing. Finalizer had taken to her like no one else had and seemed to enjoy her presence, so she sat and brushed him down the way that Tage had told her to. Finalizer always whined when she left, so she ended up staying up later and later to spend more time with him.

The loneliness didn’t set in until the sixth day. Phasma became more and more strict and talked little as the days went on. After Rey made the mistake of mentioning her schooling outside, she was constantly being assigned to areas of the house away from the children, particularly the girls. Isaac was energetic but oblivious to almost everything that wasn’t an animal or his brothers, so he became her assistant when she did jobs like cleaning out the attic and similar tasks. Isaac talked constantly, but Rey went days without any conversation.

Late the second night, she broke into tears. She missed Kylo’s warmth in her bed. She missed the light jokes, quiet conversations late at night, and even the sounds of Kylo showering or just moving around every day. Staring at the dry pink petals of the flower that Kylo had left her, she reached out and touched the flower gently with her fingertips. She gently moved it to her bedside table and rested her cheek on Kylo’s pillow. When she did, she caught a familiar smell. Rey pressed her nose to Kylo’s pillow, inhaling the sweet smell of lavender. She smiled, even though she didn’t know how it had retained the smell so perfectly. Rubbing a hand over the surface, she looked for any additional flowers, perhaps hidden underneath. The one that he’d left her hadn’t been lavender- she knew enough to know that- but there wasn’t any. Contenting herself with stealing his pillow, she settled back on her side of the bed. It was only then that she heard the soft crackle in her ear.

Rey sat bolt upright, then pulled the pillowcase away from the pillow, looking down the opening. A flash of purple caught her eye. Without thinking, she shoved her hand down to the bottom, then pulled out a few dried, strong-smelling purple petals. Rey stared at them for a moment, swallowing. She’d done their laundry since she’d arrived and knew this wasn’t normal. Kylo had put lavender in his pillow on purpose, just so she could have a familiar smell. A rush of affection flooded through her and tears welled in her eyes. Whatever terrible things happened, this was something real and valuable. He knew she loved the smell of lavender. Rey wiped her eyes and wrapped her arms around her husband’s pillow. She didn’t know how many more days of loneliness she would have to endure, but she wanted him back.

Chapter Text

 

If Rey thought that her sense of worry and isolation couldn't get worse, she was wrong. Starting the day after she met Finalizer, Phasma began to isolate her from all of the children, even Isaac. This would have been bad enough, but when Rey finally learned why, she wanted to throw up and strangle Phasma at the same time.

Rey down came early to breakfast on the third day to the sound of high-pitched, repressed cries and the sick slap of wood on flesh. Her heart leaped into her throat, but she forced herself not to make a sound.

"Now, Susannah, what do you have to say for yourself?" Phasma's voice was horrible, not because it was angry, but because it sounded so calm and matter-of-fact.

"I will not repeat falsehoods," Susannah croaked in a voice thick with tears.

"That's right, child," Phasma said. Rey heard the soft sound of something being set down on a hard surface and prayed it was the spoon or whatever Phasma had been using on Susannah. Phasma's voice had changed slightly, shifting from the calm, controlling, and unphased tones that Rey associated with religious foster mothers, nuns, and the directors of group homes to a more gentle and affectionate tone. "Now, repeat the truth that you will hold onto from now on."

"My brother Kylo's wife is named Kira. I lied when I called her by another name," Susannah's voice was tight, but didn't shake as much now. Rey, however, wanted to scream. She had done this. By speaking her name aloud to Susannah, even just once, she'd given Susannah information that she wasn't allowed to have, much less use. Rey couldn't even remember a time when Susannah had called her Rey, but she must have, at least once, to earn this punishment.

"And, you are being punished like this for speaking a falsehood because...?" Phasma asked, with the air of someone who was repeating the beginning of a rote phrase.

"Because Kira is a wildling and doesn't always know better, but I do," Susannah answered. Her voice became firmer as she spoke. Rey had to lean against the wall for support. She closed her eyes tightly, pressing one hand to her mouth. She let her head rest on the wall, taking a deep and slow breath to force herself to remain silent. She had grown up in enough houses where absolute silence was sometimes necessary to know how to keep herself from making a sound. She couldn't draw attention to herself, not right now.

"Good, my love, now go back and wake up Joanna and Isaac," Phasma said, clucking her tongue. Susannah hurried out of the kitchen. Rey waited ten long counts before straightening herself up and walking into the kitchen.

"Good morning," Rey said, smiling at Phasma.

"Good morning, Kira," Phasma replied warmly. She was already working on eggs for breakfast, "Could you start the coffee and give me the pepper?"

"Sure." Rey turned to the spice cabinet, where both the pepper and the coffee were stored.

 

The day passed in easy, dull silence. She was tasked with cleaning the kitchen while Phasma and the children worked on the front of the house and tended to Kylo's garden. It was on the cusp of summer, where May and June seemed unable to decide whether the weather should be pleasantly warm or just plain hot. If her count was right, it was actually June 1. Kylo had been gone for a whole week.

Please, come back soon, Kylo, Rey thought desperately, scrubbing at the backsplash. She missed having company, any company. At least she had Finalizer, but he wasn't a person. He was a horse, albeit a beautiful one that liked to sniff under her chin.

Rey cooked lunch for everyone, but they ate in silence. Susannah held her knife and fork gingerly, but no one commented. Isaac kept glancing from Rey to Susannah, his large eyes sad. Guilt flooded through Rey's heart, but she didn't say anything, either. She had done this. Her lack of compliance had hurt Susannah. She stared down at her spaghetti, which tasted like sawdust and yarn suddenly. Despite this, she finished first. Wordlessly, she began to gather dishes and the family moved away one by one. Rey held her breath as she glanced up and happened to make eye contact with Tage. His blue eyes seemed to cut through her and it took everything in Rey's power not to flinch or gasp. When she got to the kitchen, she let herself breathe again. He always looked like he wanted to stab her or eat her and it terrified her. Nothing good would come out of spending a second longer near Tage than she absolutely had to. Rey dallied in the kitchen, putting the dishes in the sink carefully and filling up one side with hot and soapy water. Thankfully, by the time she got back, the dining room was empty. She picked up the last of the dishes, feeling a stab of guilt as she realized that Susannah had only eaten half of her food, and went back into the kitchen to clean them.

The peace only lasted for a few minutes.

The only warning she had of someone approaching was the quiet squeak of a floorboard. She looked up to see someone coming around the bar from the main room and into the kitchen. Rey's fists curled around the cup she was washing as she met Tage's eye. He looked at her steadily, but she glanced away after a moment.

"Hello sister," Tage said, stepping into the kitchen. Rey swallowed, not removing her hands from the soapy water.

"Hello, brother," She replied quietly, deciding it was the best form of address, all things considered. He stepped closer, looking at her up and down. Rey’s heart stopped as Tage reached out lazily as he spoke, using one finger to brush a strand of hair back behind her ear.

"How are you?" Tage asked. He picked up a peach from the bowl on the counter. He leaned casually against the countertop. Rey glanced at him only for a moment. He wasn't leering at her, but there was something behind his eyes.

"If you live long enough, you see the same eyes in different faces," Maz had once told her. She looked up at Tage, trying to see if she recognized Tage's eyes anywhere. She did. They were a different color and shape, but she'd seen that same gaze, that same twisted heat, in a young college student at the diner. The student had been listening to his friends go on about their various internships, while he had to work a fast food job.

"Those are the eyes of an envious man," Maz's voice supplied, "Not a jealous man, but an envious one. He wants what someone else has, but he doesn't want to take it from them. He wants his own."

Tage might’ve been younger than Kylo, but it was obviously a narrow gap. If Kylo had been married for more than two months, perhaps Tage had decided he should be married too. Even if Tage didn't want her in particular, he was still dangerous. Rey could practically hear Kylo's warning echo inside her skull as Tage leaned arrogantly against the counter. Drops of peach juice splashed onto the surface and Rey wanted to growl at him; she would have to wipe that area down again.

"How do you feel, little sister?" Tage asked, looking her up and down.

"I am well, thank you," Rey said warily.

"Not feeling... sick?" Tage asked, raising one eyebrow.

"I- I- no," Rey said, frowning.

Tage smiled, the corner of his mouth lifting almost amusedly, "Are you sure, little sister? My dear brother would be overjoyed," he said, grinning darkly. He said dear brother with a sort of cruel amusement that made her want to shudder.

It took Rey only two more heartbeats before she understood his insinuation. No, she was not pregnant. She'd nearly cried with joy when her period came (a day late) and Kylo had been too busy or too tired to rape her after that. Or perhaps Kylo avoided it as much as he thought that he could.

It's still rape, even if he's guilty, Rey told herself fiercely, coercion doesn't stop being coercion because you're guilty or you care about that person. It's probably worse, then.

"I am fine," Rey said, her voice soft and wooden. Belatedly, she added, "Thank you."

Tage's hand darted out and caught her chin. Unable to stop herself, Rey jerked out of his grasp. Immediately, he backhanded her across the face. Tears blurred her vision, but she forced herself to stay quiet.

"Don't pull away like you're better than me, you lost little wildling. Just because Kylo's forgotten to train you properly doesn't mean that you can disrespect me like that!"

Before Rey could even think of what to do next, she heard a soft squeak and turned her head. Susannah was frozen with a cup in her hand, looking from Tage to Rey and back again.

Rey looked into Susannah's wide eyes. She absently brushed at her still-stinging cheek. A few spots of red smeared onto her hand. Rey looked at Tage, but his eyes were on Susannah. She could see the shame tinge his gaze and understood: no older sibling wanted to do anything to jeopardize the hero-worship they enjoyed.

"I am fine, Susannah," Rey whispered. Susannah nodded, but she didn't relax. Rey smiled stiffly, forcing herself not to run or beg for help.

She was saved by a cold and collected voice behind her: "Armitage Ren, please go about your chores. Father will be displeased if chores slack simply because he is not here."

It was only when Tage looked into Phasma's eyes that he looked truly abashed. Rey had no idea what to make of it all, but she turned her attention back to the dishes as Tage slunk off. Susannah crept around to put the cup gently into the soapy water and Rey looked up at her. Blue eyes met hazel and, although neither said a word, Rey could feel the idea resonate in the space between them: I'm sorry that I can't help you. I'm sorry that I'm powerless.

It took a lot of self-control not to run to the stables late in the afternoon. She hurried to Finalizer’s stall, moving so quickly that Supremacy stomped his foot angrily. Rey leaned over the door to his stall, standing on her toes.

“Hello, Finalizer,” Rey crooned. Tears burned her eyes as Finalizer walked over to her. He leaned over the door and Rey opened her arms, leaning her head against Finalizer’s nose as the horse breathed against her shoulder. Her right cheek still ached a little from the slap, but she didn’t care. Pain laced through her face at the pressure from Finalizer’s head, but she didn’t care. The comfort was worth the pain. Rey rubbed Finalizer’s neck, her mouth twisting as all of the fear and shame of the day rolled over her again. As if he understood her pain, Finalizer leaned his head up and snuffled against her face, like whiskery kisses. Rey laughed, wrinkling her nose at the horse’s attention.

“Okay,” Rey said, stepping back and moving to unlock his stall, “Okay, I’ll let you walk around while I clean your stall.” She looked around surreptitiously, then hiked her skirt up to her thigh and tied them into a knot. She needed to keep her skirts out of the way of the muck and straw. The upside of her isolation is that she didn’t have to care about anyone seeing her and taking issue with the state of her dress. Finalizer trotted out to the breezeway, keeping his head up high as he walked past Starkiller and Supremacy. The other horses knickered in annoyance at the sight of Finalizer being allowed to walk out without them. Rey smirked, bringing a wheelbarrow over to Finalizer’s stall.

“Your stalls were cleaned earlier and I know you got your walk and a brushing, especially you, Starkiller,” Rey called.

She couldn’t see it, but she was fairly certain that Starkiller neighed at her in argument. Rey smirked but focused on the task at hand. After a long while, Finalizer came back. When she started putting fresh straw out, he began stomping a foot impatiently. He sniffed at the wheelbarrow of dung and huffed.

“Look, if I hurry, it’s going to be a bad job and then you’ll be really mad!” Rey exclaimed, looking into Finalizer’s face.

Finalizer snorted and hurried into his stall as she moved aside. Rey snorted back, then rolled the wheelbarrow away. “You’ll just have to wait. I’ll brush you in a moment,” she called over her shoulder. She rinsed her hands in the little bucket used for this purpose, then grabbed the brush. Rey turned and looked out toward the breezeway. The sky was starting to darken and she could see the beginnings of a sunset. She smiled at the sight of the gold that began to tinge the blue of the sky.

There were many horrible things about this place, but she had to admit that the sunsets were beautiful. She rubbed the side of the brush with her thumb, then turned back to Finalizer. She let her skirt down, then began to brush Finalizer's dark coat. He stayed still for her, listening to her croon quietly to him.

"You have to be the best-looking male on this whole farm, Finalizer," Rey said, smiling and running the brush along his neck. The stallion shook his head and Rey smirked, "No? Are you sure? Who's better looking, not Supremacy?"

Finalizer snorted, almost indignantly and Rey laughed, "Okay, not Supremacy. How about Tage?"

Finalizer stomped his foot, jostling her hand off of his shoulder. When she suggested Snoke, Finalizer actually turned around and looked at her. He reminded her of when a character on The Office stared into the camera. Rey began laughing so hard that she actually had to step away and lean against his stall. Finalizer indignantly whinnied and lifted himself onto his back legs slightly. Rey sighed, wrapping her arms around his middle. Taking deep, steadying breaths, she started to brush Finalizer again.

Rey looked up at the sound of pounding footsteps. Kylo’s pale, sweaty face appeared suddenly, skidding to a stop in front of Finalizer’s stall.

“I- my dear- Finalizer?” He looked wildly from Finalizer to Rey and back again. Rey smiled as Finalizer knickered happily at the sight of his master. Rey stopped brushing Finalizer, expecting him to greek Kylo. Finalizer, however, snorted and nudged her shoulder, demanding more attention. Rey laughed, stroking the stallion’s nose. She looked at Kylo, who shook his head in disbelief.

“Why so serious, Kylo?” Rey asked, smiling.

Kylo shook his head again, but laughed this time, “No one has been able to get close to him, except me.” He crossed over to Finalizer’s stall, opening the gate and stepping inside.

“Do you want to brush him?” Rey asked as Finalizer stepped forward to sniff at Kylo’s hands.

“I don’t have anything, sorry,” Kylo murmured to Finalizer, rubbing the horse’s nose. He turned his head to look Rey in the face, “What? I’m sorry, I missed that.”

“Do you want to brush him?” Rey asked, holding the brush out for him, “I’m probably doing a very poor job by comparison.”

“By the look of it, he’s so smitten that you can do no wrong,” Kylo said, smiling. He had a wonderful smile when it was real. It reminded Rey of sunshine that broke through the clouds on an overcast day. “I’ll stay here with you, though, if that’s okay.”

“He seems to love me but hates your brother. Tage demanded that I take care of him since I don’t have to jump over the fencing,” Rey said, smirking at the mental image of Tage’s pale face reddened with exertion and fury after having to haul himself out of Finalizer’s way.

“Finalizer has good taste,” Kylo muttered.

Rey snorted, which made Kylo stare at her. She hesitated, looking into his shocked face. Her hand stilled and her chest tightened. His dark eyes were fixed on her face. Rey looked down at her hand, still clutching the brush. It wasn’t until she’d seen his reaction that she realized that he hadn’t heard her laugh genuinely before. Sure, she’d laughed a little here or there, but in an obviously forced way.

“That was funny,” Rey finally mumbled.

To her shock, Kylo let out a guffaw that made both her and Finalizer stare at him. Before Rey could think of what to say, she began to giggle at his wide grin. It was unlike anything she’d ever seen from him. Yes, she may have been more restrained around him, but so had he. She decided that she loved his laugh, even more than the sunsets here on the farm.

When her giggling led to a bizarre hiccupping noise, they both cracked up again, this time at the noise. Eventually, Finalizer grew impatient and stomped his foot. Apparently, his stall was not a place for idle laughter, but for people to focus on him. Sighing and wiping at his eyes, Kylo straightened up.

“I’ve missed you, wife,” He said, his voice gentle and warm.

“I’ve missed you, too,” Rey admitted in a whisper.

She expected shock or a kiss or anything else. Instead, Kylo just grinned and walked over to her, “Here, he prefers his mane on the other side. And he likes you to move up his neck towards his head.” He put his hand over hers, guiding her strokes. Kylo’s dark eyes remained focused on Finalizer, but Rey couldn’t help but glance at him every few minutes. He really was beautiful. Standing here, she felt like something out of a twisted story tale, with her morose prince who taught her how to care for his horse. His face was so beautiful, especially in this light, away from Snoke and Tage and the pressures of the First Order. Rey sighed, leaning against him a little and feeling peace.

Chapter Text

Rey sat on the bed as soon as she got back to their room. Dinner had been a painstaking affair that made her want to crawl into a hole somewhere for the next twenty years. Despite their days of deep cleaning, Snoke had casually mentioned his displeasure at the state of the front bushes, which put the entire family on edge. Rey had never wanted to physically slap someone so much in her entire adult life. That had shocked her more than anything. She had once been a yoga instructor and dealing with juice-cleansing soccer moms had been her Tuesdays and Thursdays for three years. It had been Joanna's face and Snoke's cold dismissal of all of their hard work that really hurt her. Joanna had been responsible for the front areas and the failure reflected on her. Snoke tossed out a few ideas of potential punishments or other penalties since they had obviously been "overcome by laziness" while he was away. It was only when Isaac had burst into tears that Snoke relented and said that their "guilty consciousness" were enough punishment.

Susanna still winced whenever she handled a hot plate, which only made Rey want to scream even more. If Snoke had noticed her bruised palms, he had said nothing about it. Rey hadn't decided if that was a good thing or a bad thing. If Phasma had overstepped her bounds, that would have left Phasma cowering from a beating and Susannah feeling guilty. If Phasma hadn't done enough, then Susannah would be punished again. If Snoke hadn't noticed, then hopefully Susanna would be allowed to heal somewhat.

This is what you get for trying to fight. For trying to help the kids fight. a tiny, bitter voice in her head said.

I didn't do this! Rey shouted back, closing her fists in her lap. She sighed and laid back on the bed, flinging her arms out above her head.

"I saw the work you all did, especially in the outdoor areas," Kylo said. He stood net to Rey and gently rubbed her leg down by the side of her knee. She turned her head to look at him, wondering if complimenting her work and rubbing her leg in probably the least erotic place short of her foot was some weird, cult-ish form of seduction. His eyes, however, held no idea. Instead, he seemed to be apologetic and thoughtful. He as trying to comfort her, which was almost more bizarre than the feeling of his fingertips against the fabric of her skirt.

"How was your trip?" Rey said, forcing herself to remain casual.

Kylo looked at her flatly and Rey rolled her eyes, "I know that Snoke said that-"

"Father," Kylo said across her.

"You went to Father...?"

"No," Kylo said grimly, "you shouldn't call Father by his name. He's just "Father"." Rey looked into the pale face of her husband, then nodded slowly. If a man as tall and powerful as Kylo was being goaded or led by a man like Snoke, than she wasn't going to argue with either one of them.

"I know that Father said you couldn't tell me what you were doing, but how were the travels themselves?"

Kylo pulled his shirt over his head, "Long. We slept in the truck mostly, although we got a motel one night, which was nice." He rubbed his face, then turned his head to look at her, "I missed the bed. Perhaps more than anything."

"Or anyone?"

"Well... perhaps Finalizer," Kylo teased. Rey grinned, rolling her eyes and shaking her head. She stood finally, deciding it was probably time for her to hose off and change into a nightgown.

"Do you want to shower first or should I?" Rey asked.

"You can," Kylo said, "I have to unpack."

Rey nodded, grabbing a nightgown, and stepped into the bathroom. She turned on the water and pulled her dress off. She kicked her underwear off and practically leaped under the spray. The only thing that she could not complain about in this god-awful place was the water pressure. She turned around, letting her chin fall to her chest and groaning quietly as the hot water hit the sore places between her shoulders. Days and days of slaving over the house and that horrible man had to come in and shut them down. It was on purpose too! Rey had seen the slight tightening of Kylo's mouth that had given it all away. Snoke- she would not call him Father, dang it!- had done it on purpose, just to hurt. He had done it just to be cruel.

What else did you expect? Rey thought bitterly, Things like that are probably in chapter six of ‘Leading a Creepy Cult for Dummies’. Rey ground her teeth as she furiously rubbed the shampoo bar into her hair. It had taken her two terrible weeks to figure out that there were two bars of soap that she was supposed to use. One was for her hair and the other for her body. Apparently, Phasma had learned how to make soap that was softer on the hair and Father allowed its use- probably because he didn’t want the girls shedding dry and broken hair all over the place.

Rey bit her lip as her hair tangled in her fingers. God, I miss conditioner, she thought bitterly. She desperately wished that she’d listened to Jessika and actually gotten a Pinterest account when everyone else jumped on the bandwagon last year. Jessika had become obsessed with all these different “natural” remedies, beauty products, and cleaning supplies.

Rey grabbed the body soap, racking her brain for the hundredth time to try and remember what oil it was that Jessika had become so obsessed with in the last few weeks of their relationship. They’d been arguing so much and Rey had been so busy that she hadn’t actually sat down and listened about it.

This is payback for being such a crappy girlfriend, Rey thought, glancing down at her unshaven legs. She wasn’t sure why she and Phasma weren’t allowed to shave, but she hadn’t asked. Some modern conveniences, like tampons and a washing machine, were allowed. Others, like women’s razors, pants, and freedom of speech, were not.

Rey had only realized that it was a Snoke thing, not a “you’re a prisoner and we don’t trust you” thing when she’d been working with Phasma and the other woman had hitched her skirts up to her knees. Rey had seen blonde leg hair that had obviously been allowed to grow out for years, to the point where it had lost any stubbly quality and had gone soft again.

At least it won’t be prickly again, Rey thought dully, rinsing off. She rubbed her hair with a towel, wincing at the faint squeak of her oil-less hair rubbing against the towel. God, please, I won’t even ask for my freedom again. Just send me some conditioner.

Rey pulled her nightgown on, winding her towel around her hair. She walked into the bedroom to the sight of Kylo sitting awkwardly at the end of the bed with a towel around his waist. Rey stifled a laugh; he looked like he was waiting for a bus. Kylo’s ears went scarlet, one hand automatically landing on his collarbone to cover his chest.

“No no no no,” Rey said, instinctively stepping forward to touch his hand, just like she did with Poe or Finn when they got insecure. He stiffened under her touch, which made her freeze. She’d never touched him like that before. Their contact was always incidental or sexual. Rey withdrew her fingers, but Kylo lowered his hand, his dark eyes fixed on her. She found herself blabbering, “you don’t have to cover up. I mean, you can if you want to. I was just laughing because you looked- wait, I wasn’t laughing at what you looked like it was just that your- the way you were sitting, it looked like you were waiting for a bus, but you were in a towel, so it was just… funny,” she finished lamely.

Kylo smiled up at her anyway, nodding. He looked at her for another moment, then picked her hand up and pressed a light kiss to the inside of her wrist. Before Rey could do anything but blink, he had released her and stood up. Rey took a step back to let him past. She could feel her cheeks going pink, but kept quiet so that she didn’t embarrass herself any further.

A part of her said that it was ridiculous to care what he thought, but he was the only adult who didn’t slap her when she made a mistake. She shook her head, crossing to her bedside table and pulling out her comb. Next to the comb was the flower he’d left on her pillow the night he had left. It had dried up inside the drawer, but was still beautiful.

The dark and the cool had preserved the color fairly well and, since she hadn’t disturbed it except to get the comb, the petals had shrivelled, but hadn’t broken.
Rey was still inspecting the flower, turning it over and over in her fingers, when Kylo got out of the shower.

“Oh, you did find it. I wondered about that,” Kylo said.

"What is it?" Rey asked, gently twirling the dried flower between two of her fingers.

"It's a sweet pea," Kylo said, shrugging.

"Not a rose?" Rey asked, looking up into his face.

"No," Kylo said, "sweet peas mean "goodbye"," Kylo explained. Rey looked from the flower to Kylo.

"I didn't know flowers had meanings."

"They do," Kylo said, his ears reddening.

"What does lavender mean?" Rey murmured.

"I- um- lavender?"

"Yeah, I found it in your pillowcase," Rey murmured.

"Oh, um, I did that so you might smell it. It's soothing."

"You wear the lavender soap every day. Is that why?"

"Partly, yea. It means calm and peace, by the way."

"Is that why you like it?" Rey asked, sitting the sweet pea down and looking up into Kyo's face, "for the meaning?"

"Yeah, and the smell is really soothing," Kylo admitted.

"I like it too," Rey said, smiling. Kylo stood awkwardly by the door, his dark eyes fixed on her face. Rey set the sweet pea back in the drawer and closed it. She leaned back on her hands, watching Kylo as he nervously fiddled with his t-shirt, “is everything okay?”

“You didn’t sleep on the other side,” Kylo finally said. There as an unspoken: ”and I don’t know how to feel about that”.

Rey sighed, unable to stop a small smile from creeping up from the corner of her mouth, “that’s your side,” she murmured. Kylo looked at her, with an agonized expression. Rey straightened up, opening her arms. Kylo crossed to her, leaning down and hugging her. Rey closed her eyes and buried her face into the crook of his neck, breathing deeply and inhaling the familiar scent of hay and lavender. She’d missed him.

“How are you, really?” Kylo murmured into her hair, his muscular arms still wrapped around her.

“Good, really,” Rey said. She thought about the past ten days, about the lavender springs and the pillow he’d found her using and Tage’s behavior. Rey leaned back and tipped her chin up to look into Kylo’s face.

“I missed you, my wife,” Kylo murmured. He reached up and delicately smoothed strands of her hair out of her face, looking down at her with fond eyes.

“Me too,” Rey murmured. The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them, but Kylo didn’t move. He just stared at her, then smiled an earnest, boyish smile. Rey couldn’t help but smile back.

Winding one hand into his black hair, Rey arched her back and kissed him. He kissed back with all of the clumsiness she would have expected. Regardless, it was endearing. His hands were pressed against her back, trembling slightly. He finally pulled away grinned sheepishly. “Was that as good as him?” he asked.

It took Rey several moments to realize who “him” was; Kylo was thinking about the boy she’d slept with at sixteen. He didn't understand that she'd slept with other people, but she wasn't going to explain that.

Instead, she pulled him down into another kiss, whispering, “don’t worry about him. Worry about you.”

“Okay,” Kylo murmured against her mouth. He pressed light kisses to her jaw and Rey tightened her grip on his hair. She’d missed this. It had been weeks since Rey had experienced any kind of physical affection and it was dizzying. She felt like an exposed nerve, fully aware of his hands, one at her back and the other sliding up and down her waist. Kylo’s hands trembled as he touched her, but his entire attention seemed to be focused on kissing his way along to her neck and down towards her chest. Rey let go of his hair before she started pulling it out, and instead turned her attention to his shirt.

It was both different and the same, that time. She didn't really want to- not in the way she’d wanted to with her exes, but it was also her idea that night, in that moment. Rey laid back against the pillows and heard the soft rustle of lavender leaves inside Kylo’s pillowcase. She smiled, pausing long enough to turn her head and inhale the now-familiar scent. Lavender meant Kylo and safety and care and protection. She could push away everything else, especially since Kylo was kissing her again and doing very well.
When Kylo pushed her nightgown up to her waist, she put her arms above her head and arched her back, encouraging him to take it all off. When he did, he stared at her, the nightgown clutched in his hand. He looked awestruck at the sight of her. She was tired and pale from so many days spent mostly indoors, and she hadn’t shaved anything in months. And yet, he looked at her like she was a work of art.

It made her want to cry. It made her wish she'd met him on the outside, away from the First Order. Mostly, though, it made her want to kiss him again.

Rey learned several things that night:

Kylo Ren was a fast learner and quick on his feet, so to speak. If his kisses were awkward at the beginning of the night then as soon as she started kissing him back, he adapted to her and was rather effective by the end.

Kylo Ren was an attentive and generous man. What he lacked in experience, he made up for in earnest care

Kylo Ren was covered in what felt like an endless expanse of smooth, warm, pale skin. Rey could have spent hours running her hands over his back, his arms- anywhere he would let her.

He never once called her “Kira”.

Chapter Text

 

Rey didn't want to wake up, but she felt stiff and was shivering. She curled up, trying to warm herself without having to open her eyes or wake up fully. However, curling up somehow made it worse. There was a source of warmth behind her, but she didn't know what it was. Groaning, she turned over and reached out towards whatever was radiating the warmth. Distantly, she wondered if she had left the blinds open and was seeking out a sunny spot. Still more asleep than awake, she just decided to move closer. If she woke, she'd have to be an adult and think about work and school and bills and everything else. Instead, she wanted to stay asleep until her phone went off. She set her alarm every morning at 7:15 without fail, so she knew it would wake her up on time. Burying her face in her pillow and taking a deep breath, she burrowed deeper into the blankets. They were soft against her bare skin and she wished that she could stay there forever. Distantly, she realized that her bed was warmer to her right side. Rey curled up smaller. She shivered, rolling on her side and snuggling closer to the source of warmth.

“Good morning, wife,” Kylo murmured. She shot upright and instantly regretted it as the cold air hit her bare chest. Hissing, she pulled the blanket up to her chin. Her back was still exposed to the cold air, but at least she wasn't totally naked.

Except, she was totally naked.

Christ, I'm naked. Why am I naked?

When Rey had sat up, her hair had flipped into her face. She brushed her hair out of her face, clutching the sheet to her chest.

How the fuck am I naked? Rey thought. She glanced at Kylo, who was smiling warmly at her. His bare chest drew her eyes.

Was he naked, too?

Oh God, he is, Rey thought.

Suddenly, her memories from last night suddenly resurfaced. She looked into Kylo’s face, which was still creased from sleep. Taking a slow and careful breath, his smile disappearing, he tried to gauge her reaction. This was Kylo, the man who had pulled up her skirts and come inside her multiple times. He'd seen her, that first day, a prisoner kept in a white dress shirt, and had decided to keep her. He'd never hurt her, but it had been selfish. Kylo sat up on one elbow to look into her eyes. He shook his hair out of his face.

“We have three more hours of sleep,” Kylo said, reaching out and checking the clock. Rey nodded, then turned her attention to the door. Gooseflesh crept along her spine as she considered what she’d done. Part of her felt guilty like she’d failed. Was she becoming brainwashed? A warm hand touched her back, soothing away the goosebumps. Rey looked over her shoulder at him.

“Are you okay?”

Rey looked into his dark eyes and nodded slowly. She lay back down, resting her head on her arm. Kylo reached out and brushed a few strands of her hair off of her arm.

"Did he hurt you?" Kylo asked quietly.

"Who? The other man, Chris?" Rey asked.

"No," Kylo said. He swallowed, then said, "Tage. Did Tage hurt you or- or touch you or-"

"No," Rey said, "he just... he didn't do anything, but he seemed really hung up on whether I was pregnant or not."

Kylo sighed, nodding and resting his head back on the pillows in exasperation, "I think Tage thinks that if you get pregnant, Father will let him marry sooner."

"Do you think me being pregnant will affect Tage's marital status?" Rey asked, watching Kylo's expression.

Kylo took a deep breath, chewing on his cheek, "I don't know, to be honest. I know Father will expect you to be pregnant, soon. It's been more than three months."

“He’s not going to stop until I get pregnant, is he?” Rey asked, sitting up on one elbow to look down into his face.

“No, he will not,” Kylo said, smiling sadly at her, “Father wants grandchildren.”

Rey nodded, “and do you?”

Kylo’s knuckles tightened infinitesimally, “you don’t,” he countered, displaying rare openness and an open acknowledgment of objective reality.

“I don’t want to have babies out of rape,” Rey insisted. She looked into his face, but he looked away.

“We’re married,” Kylo replied, his voice flat and dismissive. Rey wanted to strangle him, but now was not the time to try and win the “marital rape” argument, not with a man born in a kidnap-happy cult. She flopped down onto the bed in a huff.

They lay in a cold silence for a while. Frustration boiled inside of her. She had spent three months here. Three months! She took a deep breath, clenching her jaw. She felt trapped like something was pacing within her chest. She'd gone to the zoo with her schools over the years and she had always been drawn to the big cats. They had always seemed warm and content, stretched down on their rocks and their grass. Rey had gone to the circus when she was 20 and it had nearly broken her heart. The tigers had been pacing back and forth in a cage, snuffling, and stomping. Rey felt like that now. She understood on a visceral level how they felt.

"What were you doing?" Rey asked suddenly. She wouldn't fight him. She wouldn't run, not yet, but she was going to control a conversation every once in a while, goddamit.
"Kira," Kylo said warningly.

Rey looked into his face, “Kylo, what were you doing?” She murmured.

Kylo looked down and Rey suddenly reached out. She cupped his cheek, forcing his dark eyes to meet hers. She wasn’t sure exactly when it had happened, but her fear of him had faded. Perhaps it was seeing Phasma and her cooly cruel discipline and realizing Kylo’s warmth and tenderness by comparison.

“I’m your wife,” Rey said. A hundred expressions seemed to cross Kylo’s face all at once, but she couldn’t place any of them.

“We were scouting. I’m not allowed to say anything more.”

Rey's heart tightened. She leaned forward, resting her forehead against Kylo’s chest and pressing a hand over her mouth. She had JUST convinced herself that there were no other captives in this house. Now she knew there would be another one. Disgust rose in her throat and she shoved Kylo away. He didn’t protest and she looked into his face. He was crying.

Why are you crying? Rey thought, reaching up and wiping his tears away. She wasn’t going to absolve him of his part in this, but she was going to recognize his sorrow over it. She didn’t know what it meant, but she was going to remember it. After a while, he wrapped his arms around her. Rey pressed her forehead to his chest. Tears welled in her own eyes. She let herself cry again, earnestly this time. Kylo shuddered against her, smoothing her hair and crying.

Rey didn’t say a word until she finally fell asleep against his chest.

 

"Kira, wake up."

Rey lifted her head from Kylo's chest, feeling him shift beneath her. She wiped the dried tears from her face as she sat up, "is it time to get to work?"
"Not yet," Kylo said. He shifted beneath her, slowly moving from underneath her. Rey rested her head on the mattress itself, closing her eyes. She wanted to go back to sleep, but Kylo gently rubbed her back, "Kira, please wake up. I want to show you something."

Rey groaned, wrapping herself in her sheet and walking over to the closet. She reached for a dress, but Kylo caught her hand, "hang on love. You're going to wear some of my clothes."

Rey froze and looked at him, still clutching the sheet to her chest, "am I allowed to do that?"

"You are if your husband tells you to," Kylo said, smirking.

Rey raised her eyebrows, then nodded. She accepted the clothes that he offered her. She bit her lip, unsure how cold it was going to be. Kylo passed her a sweater and the corner of her mouth lifted involuntarily. She pulled it over her head, unable to stop herself from breathing in the familiar scent of lavender and hay and another moist smell that she’d decided was probably soil. There was something comforting and honest about him being a gardener.

Kylo pulled on his boots as Rey pulled her hair into a ponytail. They walked through the cold silence of the still-sleeping house.

The world outside was even stranger that it was at night. The darkness itself was different. The entire world seemed to be cast in a strange filter that was somehow gray and blue and gold. Frost crunched under her feet as she and Kylo made their way to the barn. Kylo flicked on the light and the horses all made noises of protest as they woke. Finalizer was on his feet first, tail thrashing.

"Morning to you, too," Kylo said. He rubbed Finalizer's nose gently. He reached down and kissed Finalizer between the eyes.

Finalizer knickered as he noticed Rey. Rey smiled, "hello, handsome." She said. She looked over to see that Starkiller was blinking blearily at her, “What time is it?”

“6:30,” Kylo said, “everyone is probably still asleep. Finalizer won’t be happy, but he’ll get over it.

Rey raised her eyebrows, “you can’t wait to brush Finalizer until it’s daylight?”

Kylo pointed at the wall of saddles and reins and over things Rey didn’t recognize, “We’re not brushing him. We’re riding him.

“Why can’t we do this later?” Rey asked, looking from Finalizer to the other sleeping horses.

“Because it’s not allowed,” Kylo stepped away to get the saddle as she stepped forward to pet him. Rey continued to rub Finalizer's face as Kylo saddled his horse. She kept her face close to Finalizer's, but her eyes followed Kylo as she kept a close watch on Kylo as he threw the saddle over the stall door. He brushed Finalizer's back, then brushed a pad before placing it over Finalizer's back. The saddle went on next. Finalizer looked almost exasperatedly at her as Kylo tightened the straps on the saddle. Last, he put something into Finalizer’s mouth before sliding the various straps over his head, a bridle, Rey guessed. Besides it and the saddle, she recognized one of the other horse supplies. Kylo clicked his tongue and gently led him by the reins out of his stall and out of the barn. Kylo climbed onto the back of the horse. Rey looked up at him warily. Kylo smiled.

Rey took a sharp breath as Kylo lifted her up on the horse.

Christ, he’s strong Rey thought, tightening her grip on the weird handle on the saddle.

Kylo’s chest was warm and solid against her back as he put his arms around her to take hold of the reins. Rey held onto the handle for dear life. In movies, riding horses always seemed to be so cool. In reality, it was awkward and she felt like she would fall off every time that Finalizer took a step.

oh my god She thought. She must have said it out loud because Kylo laughed.

“You’ve never done this before?” Kylo asked. It was surreal to hear his voice rumble in his chest that way.

“No, never,” Rey said. She let out a squeak as Kylo picked up the pace, walking them quickly into the misty trees. Kylo laughed again, taking one hand from the reins to press her closer to his chest.

“That doesn’t help any, but thanks,” Rey said, laughing uncertainly.

“You’ll be fine. I’ve been riding for years and Finalizer is steady, if picky.”

“Picky?”

“Yes, Finalizer doesn’t like anyone but me.”

“And me, apparently,” Rey said. She looked around at the forest, taking in the sight of trees, brambles, and ivy all shrouded by the mist that seemed to shroud everything in the hours before dawn. It was beautiful. It was like someone had turned the saturation up on the entire world, throwing a blue filter that made everything look like something out of a movie.

“It’s beautiful,” Rey murmured, looking around more intently.

“It is. I love taking the kids out on rides. Usually, Tage or I go out with them. Sometimes Father comes along, but not as often now that Susannah’s older. Tage usually takes Supremacy and puts Susannah on Starkiller.”

“Why doesn’t Phasma have a horse?” Rey asked.

“It’s not allowed,” Kylo said.

“Phasma isn’t allowed to own a horse?”

“Phasma isn’t allowed to ride a horse. None of the married women are.”

“Father doesn’t let married women ride horses?” Rey asked.

“No, if they fall while pregnant, even if they don’t know, they could miscarry.”

Rey nodded, “Why are you taking me, then?”

“Even if you are pregnant, it’d be so tiny your body would absorb the shock,” Kylo said casually, “it’d be, what, smaller than a grain of salt?”

“Yeah,” Rey said, tightening her grip on the handle. After a while, her head began to adjust to the motion of the horse’s gait, but her tailbone did not. Even with the saddle and the padding underneath, she could feel a dull ache growing at the base of her spine. Finalizer jumped over a rotten log and the landing sent a jolt of pain up Rey’s back. She bit back a curse with difficulty.

“We’re almost there,” Kylo promised, “riding takes some getting used to.”

“Mmmhmm,” Rey said, her jaw tight with the effort to not use any of the “crude words” that had gotten her mouth popped by Phasma more than once. She didn’t think that Kylo would do anything, but she didn’t feel like getting boxed in the ear over something like that, especially on a beautiful morning like today.

Rey knew what “there” was as soon as she saw it. Within the woods, not even a fifteen-minute ride from the barn was a giant field of wildflowers. The trees, massive pines that seemed to stretch endlessly overhead, didn’t fully disappear but looked like they’d been thinned and hauled away. The space that was left had been filled with grass and thousands of speckles of colors. Kylo chuckled at the way she’d gasped at the sight of it all.

“This is my favorite spot. It’s actually where Joanna took her first steps,” Kylo said. Rey nodded dully, unable to process how open it all was. She’d grown used to the boundaries of the house and the farm and the oppressive and mysterious forest beyond. Beyond all of that was almost half a football field’s worth of open space. There was no roof, no Phasma, no chores, and no walls. It was just her and Kylo and the horse and the open sky that was streaked with gold in earnest now.

“Do you like it?” Kylo asked, stopping Finalizer and stepping down.

“It’s beautiful,” Rey said. She put her hands on his shoulders as he lifted her up around the waist and set her on the ground. The ankle-high grass smeared dew onto her ankles, but she didn’t mind in the slightest.

“We haven’t gone out in a while,” Kylo said, pulling a blanket from the saddle back that she hadn’t noticed before, “I thought you might like this place.”

“Kylo, I love it,” Rey said, slowly turning on her heel to stare at the scenery around her.

“We used to go here every day in the summer,” Kylo said, throwing open the blanket and stretching it over the grass. He grabbed the next blanket and stretched it out beside the first one before turning to Finalizer. He unlatched the bridle and tied it to the saddle somehow before letting the horse graze. Kylo watched his horse for a moment, then lay down on the larger blanket. He sighed, stretching his arms over his head. Rey smiled, stretching out on the other blanket and looking up at the sky.
“Why did you stop coming here?” Rey asked.

Kylo hesitated, then rolled onto his back, “Phasma had a miscarriage one summer. It really hit everyone hard, especially Father. He was just… inconsolable for an entire six months. Going out and doing fun things felt awkward, especially in the weeks right afterward. After that, the kids started getting older and the farm expanded a bit, so it became harder to get everyone out here.”

“I’m sorry,” Rey whispered, “I didn’t know about that.”

“Phasma probably wouldn’t bring it up unless you had one, to be honest. She doesn’t talk about it,” Kylo admitted.

A miscarriage, Rey thought. The word brought up a tangle of emotions in her chest. If she was pregnant, a miscarriage meant she didn’t have to have Kylo’s baby. She didn’t have to raise a child in The First Order. However, it also meant that a part of her- the only person she knew who was genetically related to her- would have stopped existing.

Don’t let me be pregnant, Rey willed the Universe, closing her eyes and trying to open her heart as if that would make anyone out there listen to her, don’t let me have to deal with these thoughts.

“I’m sorry,” Kylo murmured, touching her cheek. Rey opened her eyes at his touch, “I know that’s a scary thought.”

“At this point, if I was pregnant and I lost it, I wouldn’t know,” Rey said. The words left her mouth before she could stop them and she tensed slightly. An idea like that might not sit well with the First Order.

“I feel like you would know, though,” Kylo said, frowning slightly, “like, mothers always know things like that.”

“Not this early,” Rey said, unable to stop herself from smiling at him. He reminded her of a child, at that moment. It wasn’t just the innocence of the idea, but that matter-of-fact way he said it, “if I were, everything would be too small for my conscious self to notice any changes. My body would be constantly checking, making sure it was worth keeping,” Rey said, flashing back to her advanced biology class.

“Worth keeping?” Kylo asked, frowning.

“Yeah. Your body is made up of cells that were made by your DNA, but all of that came from your parents. A mistake- a copy error- when you’re only a single cell can make survival impossible. At that point, my body detaches it or it falls off.”

“And then?”

“And then my body tries again next month.”

Kylo nodded, putting his arms behind his head, “it’s an odd thought,” he finally said, looking up at the blue-gray sky above.

“Conception?”

“Parenthood.”

“Hmmm,” Rey agreed, nodding. She rolled onto her back, “thank you for bringing me here.”

“You’re welcome,” Kylo said.

“And thank you for not just bringing me here to try and have sex on the blankets.”

“That would be a dick move,” Kylo said flatly. Rey sat up and stared at him, her mouth agape. He screwed up his face, blushing into the roots of his hair, “I know I know,” he muttered. He braced himself and she realized, with an incredulous laugh, that he was expecting her to slap him or something.

“Where did you learn that word?” Rey asked, leaning forward on her elbows to look into his face.

“Tage,” Kylo said, “no idea where he learned it.”

“It’s a good word, for special occasions,” Rey said, smiling in order to put Kylo at ease. She needed him to trust her, for her safety and for her chance at escape.

“Special occasions?” Kylo asked, looking at her.

“Yes, special occasions. Like when you bring your wife out to a meadow to not try and seduce her-” Kylo’s lips twitched at that, “or when Issac does that thing where he belittles Joanna or Susannah to look smarter-” Kylo rolled his eyes in amusement and nodded “or when Tage does anything at all,” Kylo laughed in earnest now. He suddenly put an arm around her waist and pulled her down, pressing a kiss to her mouth.

Rey stiffened, her hands flying to Kylo’s chest. He’d never kissed her outside of his bedroom, not really. In the evenings, she’d declared it “off-limits” and he had respected her for that. She wasn’t sure if it should apply here as well. After a heartbeat, he pulled away, his eyes wide. Apparently, he’d realized the same problem as well, “Kira, I’m sorry, I know you said-”

“It’s okay!” Rey blurted, looking down into his dark eyes, strong cheekbones, and pouting mouth that she’d grown so used to these past few months. In many ways, Kylo was her only source of safety. He never struck her, never hit her, never berated her for minor imperfections, and seemed genuinely concerned about how she felt when he broke a boundary that she’d set.

“I do need to do something,” Kylo said, after she’d stared at him for several long minutes and it became clear that she wasn’t going to yell at him.

“What?” Rey asked warily.

“Roll over onto the grass,” Kylo said, sitting up.

Rey nodded, slowly leaning back onto her elbows and looking up into his face, “what are you doing?”

Grass rustled under her head. Kylo leaned down carefully, pressing his lips to her neck, hovering them over her skin for a moment. Finally, he kissed her neck, then bit down, just enough to leave a mark. Rey gasped, her hands flying to his head. He was already pulling away.

“What was that?” Rey asked, her eyes wide as she rubbed at the mark.

“Alibi,” Kylo said, grinning.

Chapter Text

 

When Rey walked inside, Phasma noticed the mark on her neck right away. She seemed to be the only one who was awake. When her blue eyes fell on Rey, she lifted her eyebrows. Rey felt herself flush and ran a hand through her hair. When she did so, she pulled away a few sprigs of grass.

"Father will be down soon," Phasma said, the corner of her mouth lifting as she looked at Kylo, "I suggest you two get ready for the day."

"We will," Kylo said. He put his hand against Rey's back, guiding her upstairs. Rey glanced over her shoulder at Phasma to see her lean one hip against the counter and looked out the back door, smiling to herself.

Who'd have thought Phasma would have a romantic streak? Rey thought dully. She stepped closer to Kylo as they went upstairs, afraid that Tage or Snoke would see her wearing pants. Phasma may have been distracted, but she would bet money that the men wouldn’t be.

That entire day, Rey sat and worried that, somehow, someone knew what she and Kylo had been up to that morning. Luckily, Snoke and Tage were distracted when she woke up. Apparently, they'd gotten some concerning message from someone else in the First Order very early that morning. Rey had no idea what the message was or why it was concerning, but she would accept the distraction from her disappearance that morning. When Kylo found out what it was, he went white as a sheet and he stared at Tage with raised eyebrows for a silent sixty seconds before nodding slowly and stepping away.

The tension didn't ease until lunch. It seemed to hang over the house, smothering everything and everyone, even the children who were unaware of the paper. When Snoke led Kylo and Tage into the house before lunch, Rey had expected him to be distracted. Instead, he seemed to be even more focused. Rey waited until Snoke sat down before she asked him what he wanted to drink, just like she did every day. For her first three weeks there, Phasma had told her to ask what the men wanted. Every day, without fail, Snoke refused her and said his wife would bring his drink.

Prepping for meals had become so routine that Rey hardly even noticed the steps anymore. It was just a routine process of trips back and forth between the kitchen and dining room without any real thanks or any offers of help. Finally, she got to sit down next to Kylo, who pressed a light kiss to the top of her head in greeting. That made her smile as they sat through prayer and whatever drivel Snoke announced to the family every day.

Today, however, was particularly long.

Christ, that man can talk, Rey thought. It was only when she started listening that she realized how horrible it really was.

“-new family member soon,” Snoke said. Rey couldn’t help but feel a sick tightening in her gut, even as she saw the children’s overjoyed reactions. Isaac looked at his mother, beaming, but she just shook her head. Joanna was looking at Snoke eagerly and Rey glanced away long enough to notice that Susannah was staring at her.

Oh, does she think I’m pregnant?

The confusing thing was, Susannah didn’t look happy. Joanna and Isaac were practically bouncing up and down, but Susannah’s face was blank. Rey’s heart fell even further, How much do you know? How much can you see?

Rey looked over at Kylo. The corner of his mouth lifted and he reached across to touch her hand.

“Have you found Tage’s wife?” Isaac asked, “do you know who she is?”

“Almost,” Snoke said, nodding and smiling. It was almost more horrifying than seeing him angry. His smile was a cold, twisted thing. It wasn’t what a human smile should look like, Rey decided.

“I don’t care who she is, just give me a wife more beautiful thank Kylo’s,” Tage said, grinning.

Kylo snorted, but before Rey could take her eyes off of Kylo’s face again, everything changed. There was the sound of scraping wood and Tage suddenly let out a cry. Rey turned her head to see Tage clap a hand to his nose as Snoke drew his knife away from his son’s face. All the air was sucked out of the room.

“What?” Kylo blurted, looking between them. He leapt to his feet, leaning over Tage to look closely at his face.

“What is wrong with you!?” Rey burst out, looking at Snoke, whose face was expressionless. He drew his arm back and Rey grabbed his other wrist. Snoke’s arm was thin, but hard as steel under her hand. Snoke turned his snake-like, pale eyes on her and it froze her breath in her chest.

Rey stuttered out, “He was just-”

“Silence!”

Rey expected it to be Snoke who shouted at her, but it was Kylo. Rey looked between them, from Snoke’s flat expression to Kylo’s pale, wide eyed face. She had never seen him so afraid. She finally settled on looking at Kylo. She let her hand drop to the surface of the table, leaning against it. Snoke was going to kill her, right here at this table, or slash across her nose, like he had Tage’s. If she died, she wanted to look into Kylo’s eyes, full of genuine concern and the closest thing to love she’d found in this godforsaken place.

Instead of killing her, Snoke did something even worse.

Snoke turned sharply and Rey saw a flash of silver a split-second before Kylo dropped to his knees with a scream. Rey fell to the floor, pressing a hand to her mouth. Snoke kicked Kylo in the stomach. He groaned, curling over. Rey lurched forward, trying to get a look at Kylo’s face. It was ruined with blood. Had Snoke taken his eye? Rey kneeled over Kylo, throwing her arms over his head as Snoke kicked at them both repeatedly. She let out a choked noise as Snoke’s boot connected with her ribs.

“Baby,” Kylo suddenly croaked, tightening his arm around her waist. With her front pressed flushed to his side, her back took most of the force, but her vital organs were safe. Pain exploded in her side, her hip, her legs over and over as Snoke kicked her and Kylo repeatedly. After what felt like an agonizing hour, he stepped away. Snoke stomped out of the room.

There was a single second of silence that was finally broken by a sob.

Rey wasn’t sure which of the children it was, but she was grateful for it. It finally broke the tension enough for people to start moving. She felt hands on her, rolling her over off of Kylo and cradling her head. Pain exploded in her side as she landed on her back. Phasma and Susannah murmured over her head, but she couldn’t hear what they were saying clearly at all. Her eyes were open, but she couldn’t see anything. The shock of it all seemed to have cast a haze over her senses.
“I’m so sorry,” Rey whispered.

“I know,” Phasma said, her voice echoing clearly next to her head, “just do not forget the lessons that you’ve learned today.”

“I won’t,” Rey whispered before the darkness swallowed her.

The last thing she felt were slick fingers brushing against her. She knew by the caulouses and chewed nails that they belonged to her husband.

 

Rey woke up and immediately gagged. The room she was in wasn’t her own. Her room was usually kept rather dark and quiet and smelled like lavender. This room was full of sunlight and smelled so strongly of lemongrass that she wanted to choke.

“Are you alright?” Isaac asked tentatively.

“Yeah,” Rey sat up. She looked over at Isaac, who was perched awkwardly in a chair, watching her with wide eyes. She smiled, trying to be reassuring, “I am, I promise.” She sat up, then looked around the room. It was small and neat, with two twin beds in the middle of the room. At first, she thought it must be very bright, but then she realized that the paint was a soft shade of yellow that brightened the entire space.

“This is Susannah and Joanna’s room. I have my own room, for now,” Isaac said, clearly trying to talk about anything that wasn’t what had just happened.

“For now?” Rey asked.

“If my mom has another baby- or if you do, I guess, then I might share with my sisters or the baby or something,” Isaac said, “that’s what my mom said when she was pregnant last time, but I don’t know if it’ll really happen that way because…”

At that point, Rey stopped listening.

Or if you do, I guess

Rey needed to get to her bedroom and fast. More than that, though, she needed to get away from whatever was causing that lemongrass smell before she actually threw up. It was so pungent that it felt like she was being physically assaulted again in the span of less than a day She sat up carefully, then stood. To her relief, she felt a strong ache in her thigh, hip, and back, but there wasn’t any sharp pain. She knew from growing up under Unkar Plutt’s meaty thumb, what a broken rib felt like. She’d definitely be purple and sore for the next little while, but there was no outright damage she had to worry about.

“Shouldn’t you be resting?” Susannah’s voice was a strange mix of concern and admonition. Rey looked up to see the teenager standing in the doorway, holding a glass of water.

“I’m fine,” Rey said, looking into Susannah’s wide eyes. They were full of a strange mix of frustration and fear. Rey couldn’t imagine what it was like to grow up here. Susannah saw the wrongness of it all and maybe even saw that Rey wasn’t as convinced as the adults, but she couldn’t do anything about it. “I want to go see Kylo.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea…” Susannah said hesitantly. She looked away from Rey to set her cup down on the desk by the door. Panic flared inside Rey because of the nervous way Susannah fidgeted. Rey remembered the blood on Kylo’s face and the number of blows that he’d taken from Snoke.

“I need to see my husband,” Rey repeated firmly. The words were out of her mouth before she could consider them and what they would mean to Susannah. The teenager looked into Rey’s face and a little something- hope, maybe?- seemed to flicker away within them. She nodded without a word and led Rey back to their rooms. Her face was blank, but she did pause to look over her shoulder and make sure Rey could move without assistance. Rey appreciated the gesture and promised herself that she’d find a way to talk to Susannah or to communicate with her later. Susannah could not give up hope or they’d never get out of here.

Phasma was leaving her room when they arrived. She had a first aid kit under her arm but her expression wasn’t too dark.

“Will he be okay?” Rey asked. Her voice was frail, but she was too focused on Kylo to be embarrassed by it.

“Yes,” Phasma said, “but he will have a scar.” Her pale eyes had lost the warmth from that morning.

Pain exploded across her cheek with such force that Rey had to put her hand out in order to steady herself. She looked over at Phasma, who was standing in the same place. Her face was so cold and still that Rey almost couldn’t believe that the other woman had just slapped her. Working her jaw as she straightened, Rey looked into the older woman’s face. She didn’t bend, but she made her voice soft, “can I see my husband?”

“Yes,” Phasma said, stepping aside.

Rey nodded and stepped through the doorway. The room was dark, with only a single candle on the bedside table providing any light. The comforting scent of lavender seemed to wash over her. She closed the door behind her, then crossed tentatively over to Kylo.

They’ve put him on the wrong side of the bed, Rey thought.

Rey looked down at his sleeping face. Phasma had bandaged what looked like his entire face. When she traced the bandage with her eyes, she saw that Snoke had cut Kylo’s face from the middle of his forehead (mercifully missing his eye) to across his right cheek.

“Thank God,” Rey murmured. Judging by her own meager experience with facial injuries, Kylo would probably be okay. As long as he didn’t develop an infection, he wouldn’t lose his eye or be in too much danger. Rey had only ever had one visible injury from Plutt before, but it hadn’t scarred. Luckily for her, one of his cronies had taken pity on her and given her a pair of butterfly bandages so it healed well.

Kylo had no hope of escaping this unscathed. He would bear the mark of her mistake forever.

“I am so so sorry,” Rey whispered. He didn’t respond, but Rey wasn’t going to wake him. Not only did he need the sleep, but she needed to be able to move without an audience. She walked over to the chest of drawers, reaching behind it. A few weeks after her arrival, Rey had started ticking off the days on a stolen paper from the book room and taped it to the back of the dresser. Every day that Kylo forced her to have sex, she marked with an ‘x’. She’d marked her period with an asterisk and a silent prayer of thanks. These past few days, between Kylo’s absence and sneaking out to ride Finalizer, she hadn’t paid close enough attention to the days.

It wasn’t until Isaac had mentioned it that she realized that she couldn’t remember exactly where she was on her tiny calendar. Now, she ran a finger along the dots. There were thirty-three days between today and the last asterisk. She brushed her fingers over the five little dots between today and the day her period should have ended.
Rey stared at the paper.

There goes my chance to escape, Rey thought. She had a clock now. She counted backwards, six weeks. I am six weeks pregnant.

She knew pregnancies lasted about- what?- forty weeks? She had thirty-four weeks. Thirty-four weeks to escape or her baby would be born in this horrible place. Rey closed her eyes, bending forward to press her forehead to the scrap of paper. She wanted to shred it, to scream. Rey ran her thumb over the little dots. Those lost days.

But I haven’t been sick!? Rey thought desperately, but then she remembered the lemongrass. She’d always had an incredibly strong stomach, but it had taken all she had to not to be sick at the smell of all that lemongrass in Susannah and Joanna’s room.

Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit. Rey thought. She finally drew in a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down. Panicking wouldn’t help her at all.

Behind her, Kylo let out a low groan. Rey hurriedly stood up and put her paper back behind the dresser, then crossed over to Kylo.

“Hello,” Rey whispered.

“Are you okay?” Kylo asked, “I blacked out, I think. I don’t-”

“I’m fine,” Rey croaked. She sat on the edge of the bed, taking one of his hands between two of hers. She had to get away and escape both him and his family, but he’d taken a knife for her. He had been punished because of her, “how are you?” Rey asked. She let the tips of her fingers brush his cheek, just under the bandage.

“I hurt,” Kylo murmured.

Rey nodded, swallowing.

“You shouldn’t have gotten between us,” Kylo said, rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb, “that could have been very dangerous.”

“You’re my husband,” Rey said. She couldn’t say “I love you”. That would be a lie. She didn’t love him. She didn’t know him, not really. There couldn’t be any love in a place like this, not between them. Kylo didn’t like his duties as a man in the First Order, but he did them. If she had a son without escaping, he would be like Kylo.

Rey couldn’t let that happen.

“I’m so tired,” Kylo mumbled.

“I bet,” Rey said, smiling tightly. She glanced at the clock. It was already 10 pm. She couldn’t leave tonight. Instead, she’d leave at sundown tomorrow, “sleep.”

“I’m on your side of the bed,” Kylo muttered weakly.

“It’s alright. We’ll trade for the night,” Rey said. She stood up and changed into a nightgown before crawling into bed beside him. She took his other hand and kissed the back of his hand.

You’re having a baby with your rapist, a fierce voice in her head snarled suddenly, and you’re sad to leave him.

I am, Rey said back. She wouldn’t feel guilty for it. She would survive, dammit, and she’d take what she could along the way. She would take Kylo’s affection and kindness and the sadness in his eyes. He didn’t want to be with The First Order. Perhaps Phasma or someone else had told him about the outside world. Rey had grown up trapped in Plutt’s house, looking at the happy, whole families she would never be a part of. Kylo understood that.

Rey wouldn’t punish herself from missing his compassion, especially when that compassion had cost him.

Chapter Text

 

 

It wasn’t until Rey slipped out of the back door that she realized she didn’t know where to go. The sun set in the west- that she knew but that still didn’t solve which direction she should take. This was dangerous. In the back of her mind, she knew this. However, Kylo’s injury left him exhausted and she needed the advantage. This was her only chance

Pressing her lips together, Rey looked around, resting her back against the house. Which way? You've got to pick one.

Rey decided that South was her best bet. If she hit mountains, she'd figure out what to do from there. She tightened her grip on the flashlight she'd stolen from the little drawer of random household tools that Phasma kept in the kitchen. She'd thought about stealing a knife, but figured that she had a greater chance of falling and hurting herself than being able to use it effectively.

What will Kylo thinks when he wakes up and finds out I've left? Rey thought suddenly as the house finally faded from view.

Well, he's a rapist, so you shouldn't really give a fuck what he'll think! Rey told herself fiercely. She shoved thoughts of anything but where to go out of her mind and focused on trying to follow the path in the rapidly-falling darkness. The trees, which she'd found so beautiful on her ride with Kylo, now felt tall and menacing. She couldn't see the light of the sun and would be blind for at least another six or eight hours. She was in the dark and behind enemy lines in a horrifically literal way. Her only salvation would be hitting a paved road where she could start running. If she could do that, she might be able to encounter someone else before Snoke and his family found her.

Rey had thought about trying to steal one of the vehicles or at least to puncture the wheels, but she didn't know where the cars or the keys were kept and searching would waste precious minutes. She still couldn't answer why she hadn't stolen Finalizer outside of the obvious, I don't know how to ride. For one brief and horrible moment, she'd considered killing the horses in order to prevent the men from using them to find her. The paths in the forests would be too narrow for a car to travel through.

Rey had dismissed that thought, too. She had lived in a house with monsters long enough. She didn't want to see herself become one.

Your baby's father is a monster, A small voice inside her said.

If I decide to have it, Rey thought back at it, even though her throat tightened at the thought of an abortion. She'd been abandoned by parents who probably should have aborted her, left at the hospital weak and trembling from drug exposure. Still, even after years as a survivor she couldn't bring herself to reject a blood connection, especially one where the other party was innocent.

"It's not the baby's fault," Rey whispered, "it's not my fault." She spoke the words aloud like a prayer, like she could absolve herself of what she'd had to do to survive her childhood and like she could be forgiven for her connection to Kylo.

Rey wanted to cry, but she didn’t. Her tears would only blur her vision. This kind of emotion would only serve as a distraction. She had to stay focused or she’d lose the advantage of several hours without anyone else tracking her. The ground began to slope slightly and Rey slowed her pace, making sure that she didn't trip over anything or lose her footing on some loose ground. She had a flashlight, but she wanted to lose every last bit of light she could. It still felt like she was too close to the house. There were no lights on there, due to the late hour, so she had no idea if her flashlight would be visible from a window if someone happened to pass by one on the way to a bathroom.

Time seemed to slide away from her and into true darkness. When she stumbled and nearly landed on a thornbush, Rey finally succumbed to the inevitable and turned on her flashlight. The brightness made her shut her eyes and curse. When the stars finally cleared from in front of her eyes, she looked around.

Rey had no idea where she was. She'd been following the path, which had moved in a mostly-straight line, but she didn't know if that was a good thing. If the curve was gradual enough, she could be on an eight-hour circular trip without realizing it.

Will Snoke kill Kylo when they don't find me? The thought appears in her mind and makes her stomach roll over with horror.

It doesn't matter! Rey thinks back, clenching her teeth as she steps over a fallen log.

It does, Rey thinks back again. If she's going to risk her life and Kylo's, she might as well be honest about it. Kylo is the closest thing I have to a friend here.

Rey was saved from having to resolve that internal disagreement because she fell forward suddenly, landing hard on her hands. The flashlight dropped from her fingers, which was probably for the best because it would likely have broken her wrist otherwise.

"Fuck," Rey groaned, standing slowly. She looked around for the flashlight and then froze.

The beam was illuminating a pair of black boots. Rey lifted up the flashlight, her fingers trembling, and looked into the face of the owner of those black boots.

Kylo wasn’t angry, but still very much there. He had dark circles under the eye that she could see clearly and his face was pale. A million questions ran through Rey's mind.

Why haven't you killed me yet?

Does your father know where we are?

Will you do the decent fucking thing for once and help me escape?

Instead, she only managed two words: "how long?"

Kylo’s bandages caught the light, although the contrast only served to make his skin look a little greener by comparison. Kylo didn't answer the question, but instead said, “Kira, you will never make it out there." His voice was low and gentle like she was a child who needed to be told why she couldn't stay out and play all night. It made Rey want to punch him.

"Don't call me that!" Rey snarled, tightening her grip on the flashlight. A stupid, savage part of her wanted to just beat him with it. If she lunged at his injured eye, it was likely that the pain would give her enough of an advantage to-

to what, Rey? she asked herself, You'll have to kill him in order for that plan to work and you know you can't do it, not after you've caused such an injury with your own stupidity.

“Don’t do this,” Kylo pleaded, “just come back inside. We can say we went on a walk. Nothing bad has to happen.”

“Will you try to stop me?” Rey burst out. She was shaking, holding nothing but a flashlight, a water bottle, and a granola bar.

“You won’t get anywhere,” Kylo said, “Father will find you before anyone else does.”

The tears that Rey had been holding back finally burst forth. She swiped at her eyes angrily, trying to decide what to do.

"You were doing so well," Kylo murmured, his dark eyes sad, "you were fitting in, you were learning-"

"Learning how to land you that scar?" Rey snarled. She let the water bottle and granola bar drop to the ground. In some tiny corner of her mind, she said it was in case she decided to fight him. The honest part of her knew it was because holding onto any part of her useless, half-baked escape plan hurt.

"Is that what this is about?" Kylo asked, taking a step forward. He looked so concerned that it only made Rey cry harder. He was wonderful and horrible, kind and monstrous, and he held her life in his hands right now.

"My wife..." Kylo whispered, looking down at her.

"Don't!" Rey pleaded. She wasn't sure what she was asking him to not do. Don't touch her? Don't kill her? Don't talk to her in that soft way, like he actually cared for her?

“What is wrong?” Kylo asked, “are you okay?”

Rey closed her eyes, putting her hands over her ears. She screwed up her face. Tears welled in her eyes. She pressed a hand to her mouth.

“Love?” Kylo said. He grabbed her arms and looked into her face. When he did, she opened her eyes. One of his dark eyes was covered by a bandage, but the other one was fixed on her face and full of concern. She didn't want to tell him, but she suddenly needed to explain. He thought she was guilty, but she wasn't. She was doing what had to be done. When it was just her, she could suffer through and hope to take her best chance, but she couldn't wait that long. Within a few months, she'd be so heavy that this trek would be impossible. After that, she'd have to deal with running away with a crying baby.

“I’m pregnant!” Rey blurted.

Kylo froze. He took a deep breath, then opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He looked from her face to her flat stomach. Rey held her breath for a long moment, unsure how he’d react. When he smiled, she relaxed. It wasn't his happiness that she really cared about, but that smile meant that he wasn't about to strangle her right here on this forest path.

Kylo looked so happy, like any “normal” husband hearing for the first time of their impending fatherhood. But, Kylo wasn’t a regular husband; he was the heir to the position of cult leader. He stood in the woods in the middle of the night with the woman he claimed as “wife” who he has also he had been raping for months. The thought of it, the sick and twisted nature of it all made her want to scream. She only realized that her hands were shaking when she saw that the beam of light that was trained on Kylo was trembling

"Aren't you happy?" Kylo asked, his smile fading as he looked intently into her face.

"No!" Rey burst out. The words were so sudden and harsh that they almost physically hurt her throat.

Kylo stepped away from her, his eyes wide and confused.

"No, I'm not happy! I didn't want this! I didn't want to be here and I didn't want to be pregnant and I didn't want to be raped!" Rey said, waving her arms. He would probably kill her now or else remove his protection from her until the baby was born and then kill her, but at that moment, she couldn't have cared less.

"I didn't-"

"Don't say you didn't rape me!" Rey shrieked, whirling on him and pointing at him with the flashlight. He recoiled from the glare, but Rey didn't move it away, "you did and us being married doesn't have anything to do with it and you kn-"

“I don’t know what that is!” Kylo said, cutting across her.

Rey froze, then slowly lowered the flashlight to her side again. Kylo stood very still, his fists clenched at his sides. Of all of the things she could have expected him to say, that was the most unexpected. Finally, she found her voice and murmured, “you don’t know what “rape” means?”

Kylo ground his teeth, then nodded stiffly, not meeting her eyes. Rey took a deep breath, unable to truly process what she’d just heard. She looked away from him, her eyes on the dark grass just beyond the flashlight's field of light.

"You've said it more than once now and it upset you each time. I thought it had something to do with having sex or having a baby outside of marriage or something like that," Kylo said. He sounded so young suddenly, less like a grown man and more like a teenager who was uncomfortable at being forced to admit he didn't know all there was to know about sex.

"It's not," Rey whispered. Of course Snoke wouldn't have told Kylo about rape or consent. Of course he would have kept his children as ignorant of these things as he could get away with.

Fuck you, Snoke, Rey thought, Fuck you with one of Finalizer's spurs.

"Rape," Rey began, her voice low and slow, "is when you have sex with someone who doesn't want to."

Rey glanced at Kylo, but he was staring up at the heavens. He didn't seem angry, so she kept going, still cautious, "It's not as simple as just forcing yourself on someone who is fighting against you, but having sex with someone who can't tell you "no" or can't say they don't want to or isn't in a place to make that call."

"Who wouldn't be in a place to make that call?" Kylo asked, his eyes snapping to meet hers.

"A child, for example," Rey said, "someone who is drunk or asleep."

"Who would... with a child?" Kylo looked horrified, shaking his head slowly in disbelief.

At least I'm not in one of those cults. Small comfort, but I'll take it.

"It's an issue on the outside," Rey said, gesturing vaguely to the path she'd been trying to take away from the farmhouse.

"Why do you say I r- I did that to you?" Kylo asked. His voice was cautious and uncertain.

"If I had said "no" on our wedding night or any night since, would you have stopped?" Rey asked, using every ounce of her will not to sound accusatory. She forced herself to use a neutral tone. She took a deep breath, then added, "if I had cried or begged or fought, would you have let me go?"

A hundred different expressions crossed Kylo's face in the space of a heartbeat, but finally, he looked at the ground and whispered, "no". At that word, all the anger faded away. Three months of this fight and of this constant pressure suddenly weighed in on her. She was too exhausted to run from him and too aware of her pregnancy to force him to kill her.

"That's why you're a rapist," Rey said, "but I'll go back with you so you don't have to become a murderer."

"I would never-"

"Don't say you "would never,"" Rey said, "after what you've done, you can't tell anyone what you "never would"."

"I-"

“It’s wrong!” Rey said, turning to look at him. Kylo’s eyes were wide, but he didn’t speak or try to move away, “it hurts people!”

“I didn’t-”

“Not just physically, Kylo,” Rey said, her voice lowering. She took a deep breath, “mentally and emotionally. Being forced to have someone inside of you… could you imagine?” She finally croaked.

Kylo nodded slowly. Rey took a shuddering breath, "causing that kind of pain changes you, too. You can't undo it. You can only go forward."

Kylo walked over to her, then touched her cheek. Rey closed her eyes at his touch. She should have shuddered or be repulsed, but she couldn't be. He was so tender and so himself. He was her only source of comfort and happiness in this whole place.

Rey wiped her eyes. She felt Kylo’s hands on her arms. She stepped forward, pressing her forehead to his chest. Kylo wrapped his arms around her. Kylo finally whispered, “I’m sorry. I- I didn’t understand, but I should have.”

At his words, she burst into tears.

Chapter Text

"Kira!"

Rey sat up sharply, taking a sharp breath through her nose as she lifted her head off of the arm of the couch. She looked around, then stopped when she saw Phasma, who was standing over her disapprovingly.

"I'm so sorry, Phasma," Rey said, wiping her eyes, "I was waiting for the dryer to finish and I sat down and- what time is it?" She winced, expecting a stern reprimand or a slap.

"It's lunch," Phasma said. She frowned down at Rey, her hands resting on her hips. Phasma always looked a little sun-bleached, due to the paleness of her skin, hair, and eyes, but today she was wearing a white dress under her apron as well, which only added to the effect. Between that, the severe bun her long hair was pulled into, and her strong, hard expression, she looked like a white queen on a chessboard that had been dropped into a vintage dollhouse. Rey met her eyes and wondered who Phasma would have been if she'd been born outside The First Order. Intellectually, Rey knew she could have become a chef or a kindergarten teacher or something, but when Rey imagined Outside-Phasma, she was a high powered lawyer who wore pantsuits and high heels and towered over everyone like a litigating amazon.

Rey stood up, looking into Phasma's face, "I'm sorry," she said again.

"Has Kylo been keeping you up late at night or something?" Phasma asked.

"Or something," Rey murmured. She brushed some of her bangs behind her ear but didn't meet Phasma's eyes. Rey closed her eyes and straightened her skirts. Exhaustion rolled over her, but Rey forced it aside. For the past ten days she'd been keeping her pregnancy a secret. She'd been lucky enough to escape the stereotypical capital “M” Movie Morning Sickness, but she was so tired all the time. She turned to walk into the laundry room, but Phasma said, "leave it, we'll get it after lunch."

"Alright," Rey said, turning back towards the main room. She was just glad she didn't have to hunch over to get into the washer and dryer.

"We might have another woman to help us out soon, especially with fall coming," Phasma explained, leading the way to the kitchen.

"Really?" Rey said. She kept her voice casual, even though it made her want to vomit. She glanced at Phasma, who was watching her and frowning, "I think I'm getting sick or something," Rey said, rubbing her chin.

Phasma nodded slowly, then said, "there are several unmarried children throughout the families of the First Order. Father thought it would be nice for them to see different states and be in different environments while also being in the safety of the order."

"Not everyone lives on a farm?" Rey asked, blinking in surprise.

Phasma shook her head, "No. Many don't. We do and another few families do, but many of them do other things."

Rey walked into the kitchen, took a single breath, then turned on her heel and ran. Phasma was baking a lemon pie or something and the smell of all the lemon peels smacked her in the face.

"Kira?" Rey rushed past Susannah, not caring if the teenager saw her empty her stomach into the toilet. She flushed, then leaned back and wiped her mouth with the back of her hands. She looked over at the doorway, where Phasma was standing.

"I'm really not feeling well," Rey said.

Phasma leaned over and pressed a hand to Rey's forehead, then nodded, "You seem warm," she said, "Susannah and I will handle lunch, but if you're sick, I don't want you handling food."

Rey nodded, then walked upstairs without another word. She opened her door and lay down without turning on the light or taking off her shoes. Burying her face in the blanket, she toed her shoes off before crawling under the covers. Thoughtlessly, she grabbed Kylo's pillow and hugged it close. Rey lay on her side, enjoying the silence and the smell of Kylo's pillow.

Is this all she would have to look forward to from now on? Days when failure didn't result in punishment? Was the best part of her day always going to be the smell of hay and lavender and fresh soil?

There was no way in hell she could live like this long term.

It's already been more than three months, a small voice in her head said.

Three months isn't long term! Rey shot back.

How long is 'long-term', then? Six months? Nine months? the voice said.

Rey didn't respond. She closed her eyes, thinking about the night she'd tried to run away ten days ago. Kylo had let her cry herself out, then walked with her back towards the house. They'd said almost nothing the entire way back, but finally Kylo had whispered, "you said you- you'd been with someone before..."

"Yes?" Rey asked slowly.

"Were you ever pregnant before?" Kylo asked.

"I've never had a baby before, no," Rey said quietly. She had taken care to watch her step over a root, mostly so that she could keep her face hidden from Kylo. There was no way she was going to tell a member of the First Order that she'd had an abortion. That probably would get her killed. Kylo had laid down on his side of the bed without another word but had given her space. For the first time in months, Rey had turned her back on Kylo without worrying that he would touch her.

Ten days of distance was starting to eat at her. She didn't know what her life with Kylo was going to be like, going forward. Was he going to avoid her until the baby was born? Was he going to kill her as soon as she had her baby? Was Snoke just going to snap and kill her?

Rey's hand drifted to her abdomen, "please survive this," she whispered, "and please forgive me."

 

 

 

Rey looked up at the lights overhead, grinning as the pink and blue hues caught the glitter on her nail polish, which Jessika had insisted on. She could barely hear anything over the music, but she heard the rumble of Finn's familiar voice as he shouted along to the music. Rey shook her hair out, tilting her chin up and closing her eyes as she let the beat sweep her away.
"Happy twenty-first birthday, Rey!" Poe said, waving her, Jessika, and Finn off of the dance floor and towards the drinks he'd gotten for her.
"Mommy."
The noise suddenly disappeared around her. Rey turned to look behind her at what had happened to the DJ and was confronted with an entirely empty room. She looked around, slowly turning on one too-high heel that Jessika had loaned her. Even the upper seating areas were empty and dark like the club had closed in the space of a heartbeat.
"Mom," the voice said again.
Rey looked at the center of the dance floor and saw a small, mousy-haired little girl standing under a spotlight.
"Who are you?" Rey asked, walking closer.
"You destroyed me," the little girl said. She couldn't have been any older than five, with a teddy bear held in one of her hands.
"I what?" Rey asked, kneeling forward to look the girl into the eye. It was only when she saw the hazel eyes that she realized how much this girl looked like her.
"You got rid of me, just like they got rid of you," the little girl whispered.
"No," Rey whispered, kneeling down and cupping her daughter's face in her hands, "no, please, you have to understand. I knew I wasn't ready and I couldn't be like them. I couldn't risk it."
"You're just like them."
"No, no, please. I was sixteen. I was still in Plutt's house. I couldn't be a mother. I didn't want you to suffer," Rey begged. Tears ran down her face, but she didn't wipe her eyes. Instead, she kept brushing her daughter's hair back.
"That's why you're there," the little girl said, finally meeting Rey's eyes instead of just looking blankly ahead.
"That's why I'm where?" Rey sobbed.
"The First Order," her daughter said, "no good people are in the First Order. That's why he picked you. He knew you'd done something terrible to deserve being there."
Rey screamed as her daughter disappeared from her hands.

Rey sat up wildly, looking into Kylo's wide-eyed face. He was smoothing her hair out of her face, which reminded her of what she'd just been doing to her own daughter.
"Hey hey hey hey," Kylo said soothingly, holding her face in his hands. Rey looked around wildly, unable to process the sudden change of scenery. Where was her daughter? She had to find her little girl, make her understand, beg her forgiveness. A million miles away, Kylo was still talking, "it was just a dream. It was just a dream."
"Are you alright, my wife?" Kylo murmured.
Rey nodded, then shook her head, and then burst into tears. Kylo opened his arms, letting her lean against him. Rey cried until the tears stopped.
Rey looked at Kylo. She couldn't stop crying and it was infuriating. Kylo put an arm around her, pulling her to his chest as she cried herself out. His voice rumbled in her ear as he said, "It's alright, Isaac. She's okay."
"Is she in trouble?" Isaac asked hesitantly.
"No," Kylo said. He rubbed up and down Rey's back, then said, "sometimes when bad things happen to people, they still have bad dreams about them later."
"Did bad things happen to Kira?"
"Yeah," Kylo murmured, "yeah, they did. Why don't you go back downstairs, okay kid? I'm going to sit with Kira for a while." Rey closed her eyes, holding on tightly to him. Part of her, a stupid part of her, wanted to continue looking for her daughter. That part of her was convinced that this beautiful hazel-eyed girl had to be just out of reach.
But her daughter wasn't there because Rey had gotten rid of her years ago. She'd done it for her own survival. It had been the right decision then and it still was, but it tore at her.
“My dear," Kylo said quietly.
"What?" Rey croaked.
"Is this alright?” Kylo asked. He leaned back, looking down at the way he was holding her. Rey looked down at the strong arm wrapped comfortingly, not possessively, around her, “Yes,” she whispered.
"How are you feeling?" Kylo asked.
"Tired," Rey whispered. Rey looked up into Kylo's face.
"Do you want some water?" Kylo asked quietly.
Rey nodded. Kylo walked to the doorway, then Rey called, "could you bring me some crackers or something? I know I have to eat something, but..." Rey shuddered at the thought of eating lunch or facing the others.
"Of course," Kylo said.
"Hold still," Rey said, leaning over to look into Kylo's face, "I’m going to change the bandage now,” She slowly removed the gauze from his face. Kylo winced and Rey grit her teeth and steeled herself. It was going to hurt, but she had to keep an eye on this wound if he was going to make it through this with both of his eyes. Kylo hissed wordlessly as Rey peeled the bandage away from the cut. The wound had scabbed and the color was good, which made Rey release a sigh of relief.
Grabbing some alcohol and a cotton swab, she slowly cleaned the cut, careful not to disrupt the healing process. Kylo groaned, clenching his fists at his side, but forcing himself to keep his face relaxed.
"You have nerves of steel, Kylo," Rey said sweeping a few strands of his hair out of the way as she reached the end of the wound. She was careful not to rub at his face when she applied the antibiotic ointment to his cut and kept everything as sterile as possible. She slowly bandaged his face with fresh gauze, then said, "Okay, you're free."
Kylo let out a louder groan as he relaxed his tense shoulders and arms. Rey couldn't imagine how excruciating it was for him to have that wound cleaned daily, but she could appreciate his self-control.
Phasma had removed the stitches that morning, so the wound had closed completely. It would always be visible, but at least the worst of the danger had passed.
I put that scar there, she thought. The idea felt like acid, cutting through her, but it also felt true.
Well, he raped me, so we're even, Rey thought after a moment. The thought was satisfying for the space of a heartbeat, but it was only replaced with more sadness. An eye for an eye wasn't going to fix this, especially considering Kylo's ignorance. What he'd done was wrong, but she had known better. He'd been so tender and caring that afternoon when she'd woken up crying. Whatever his faults, he tried to be decent towards the people on this farm.
"Do you think you can go to sleep now?" Rey asked tentatively.
"Yes, although I may have to ask you to smother me rather than force me to have to go through that again," Kylo said, sighing dramatically.
"You'll be fine," Rey said, kissing his forehead above the bandage. She leaned over and flicked off the lamp before resting on her pillow.
"Kira?" Kylo said into the darkness.
"Yes?"
“I have to tell Father tomorrow,” Kylo said, reaching out to brush her hair out of her face.
“So soon?” Rey asked weakly. She didn't pull away, but she couldn't stop the pleading note in her voice.
“Yes,” Kylo said sadly.
"It's so soon," Rey whispered.
"He needs to know," Kylo said.
"Need to" or "demands"? Rey wanted to snarl.
"Kylo, what happened to Phasma when she lost her baby?"
"I- what do you mean?" Kylo asked.
"How did Father react? Was he angry?"
Was she punished? The question hung in the air, silent and menacing.
"He cried," Kylo said, "he cried and went out to brush Supremacy until he has some composure."
"He left her alone?"
"Not alone. Bazine and her husband were visiting and so Bazine was with her. It all happened really fast, I think."
"you weren't there?"
"No, I wasn't. Tage took the kids out of the way. I did chores until Father came into the barn, then I went to go help Tage with the kids." Kylo's voice was earnest and grieved, "We spent hours in the fields, wearing the kids out. They went inside for dinner, ate soup, and went straight to bed."
"The house must have been so quiet," Rey whispered, thinking about the quiet activities that usually filled their evening hours. All three of the children were learning basic horse, repair, and survival skills, but the usually spent the evenings doing creative work. Joanna and Susannah sewed, although Joanna was much better at it, and Isaac usually drew.
"It was unbearable," Kylo said, "there were five children in the house and it was perfectly silent. Tage, Rodinon, and I just sat there, not talking,"
"Rodinon?" Rey asked.
"Bazine's husband," Kylo said.
"That sounds horrible," Rey said.
"It was," Kylo said. He rubbed Rey's arm, "We'll be okay."
"It's so early," Rey whispered, "What if I lose it?"
"We'll cry. We'll mourn. We'll get through it. We're a family," Kylo said.
"A family," Rey murmured.
A family.

Chapter Text

Rey walked downstairs, wrapping her sweater more tightly around her body. She swept her hair out of her face, listening to the quiet voices of Kylo, Tage, and Snoke as they drank coffee and discussed the working day. The cold floor made her wince. She had shoes upstairs to prevent this, but her feet were too swollen for her to wear them comfortably.

God, pregnancy sucks, Rey thought for the tenth time that morning. She was due, judging by her and Phasma's rough math, within ten days. So, at least the swollen-feet-kicking-baby-giant-belly portion of parenthood would end to be replaced by... the rest of it.

"Good morning, my love," Kylo said, looking up and smiling at her as she waddled into the kitchen for water. He stood, placing his cup on the sink before kissing her head, "how do you feel?"

"Ugh," Rey mumbled, leaning against his chest.

"That well, hmmm?" Snoke said, smiling at her. Rey met his eyes and nodded, forcing the corners of her mouth up so that she wouldn't look as angry as she felt. When she looked at his face, even after nine or ten months, she still wanted to hurt him.

“You’re practically glowing my dear,” Snoke said, smiling and standing up. He crossed over to her and touched her cheek with one of his cold, dry hands.

Rey used every ounce of her experience with customer service to keep herself from shrieking and cursing him out as she responded, “thank you Father, but I think it may just be sweat.”

“Nonsense,” Snoke said, tweaking her nose like she was an adorable pet.

Which she was, in a way- Snoke was a farmer and a rancher and she was breeding stock.

“How do you feel?” Kylo asked, looking down at her.

“Your baby woke me up twice last night,” Rey grumbled, pouring herself some water as Tage passed Kylo his empty coffee mug.

“My baby?” Kylo asked, raising his eyebrows. Rey could see, out of the corner of her eye, the furtive glance that Tage shot Snoke and the sudden stiffness in the old man’s smile.

“Yes,” Rey said, sipping her water and keeping her eyes on Kylo, “when it annoys me, it’s your baby.”

Kylo chuckled while Snoke and Tage relaxed.

Don’t worry, gentlemen, Rey thought bitterly, I’m still compliant, at least on the surface.

Rey sighed, closing her eyes as Kylo rubbed her back, then stepped back. She looked up into his face, smiling, “have a good day,” she said.

Kylo nodded, then leaned forward and kissed her head again before turning to join his father and brother outside. Rey leaned back against the counter, rubbing absently at her belly again. She could feel the slight movement of her baby waking up and rolling over. Rey hummed, “good morning, baby,” she said quietly.

“You’ve got yourself an early riser, it seems,” Phasma said, walking over and passing Rey a sleeve of saltines. Rey’s morning sickness had passed quickly, but she woke up hungry every morning.

“Yes,” Rey grumbled, looking out at the barn, “I blame Kylo for that.”

“You should,” Phasma said, turning on the stove and getting eggs from the fridge, “he’s been an early riser as long as I’ve known him.”

“What was he like then?” Rey asked, ripping the sleeve of saltines open wider, “was he always so tall?”

“We didn’t meet until we were teenagers,” Phasma said, her eyes focused on the stove.

“Oh,” Rey murmured, looking up from her crackers and blushing, “the way you spoke, I thought-”

“I didn’t know him before I married Father,” Phasma explained. Rey saw her eyelashes flicker as she spoke. There was new tension in her expression, even though she was clearly trying to keep her face smooth.

“Oh,” Rey said, nodding. She shook her hair out of her face, “I’m going to go change. I just needed water.”

Phasma nodded, her face stiff. Rey waddled away as quickly as she could, climbing the steps heavily. She’d escaped corporal punishment since she told the family that she was pregnant, but she didn’t want to push it. Kylo had told them over dinner, to cheers from Isaac and Joanna.

Joanna in particular, who was closest to Kylo, had leapt up and hugged Rey. Rey remembered the dozens of questions Isaac had asked to anyone and everyone who would listen. Snoke had leaned back in his chair, then looked at Kylo and said, “well done, my son.”

Rey would never forget that shining expression on Kylo’s face. She couldn’t help but feel so sad for him. This was the first time that she’d seen Snoke show approval for his children and it was for getting her pregnant.

Kylo had been praised for months of rape.

Rey gribbed the rail tightly, dragging herself back into the present. Even seven months later, that still filled her with grief and fear. Would that be her baby’s fate? Twenty-five years from now, would she be sitting at that kitchen table, praising her children for rape?

“Morning, Kira,” Joanna said brightly.

“Morning,” Rey said. She sighed, catching her breath at the top of the stairs before she went to pee and change.

And probably pee again, if she was honest.

You are probably using my bladder as a pillow, aren’t you? Rey thought at her baby.

“Is Mother downstairs?” Joanna asked.

“Yeah,” Rey said, “the men went out already, but she’s cooking breakfast.”

“Are you alright?” Joanna asked, frowning.

“Tired,” Rey said, smiling, “the baby kept waking me up.”

Joanna nodded, her eyes wide, “is it weird having a person moving inside of you? Like, all the time?”

“Yeah,” Rey said, “it’s unlike anything else. Well, actually, it is kind of like when you have gas, but once you know it’s your baby then it’s special.”

Joanna nodded.

“Susannah! Joanna!” Phasma called from downstairs, “get dressed and go shovel the driveway!”

Joanna huffed, then turned and darted back into her bedroom.

Why on Earth- the mail! Rey realized. She knew that Snoke was waiting on a letter that was supposed to have arrived two days ago, before the snow came in. He’d been agitated when the first flakes fell, but it had taken her hours to figure out exactly why.

Rey dressed in Phasma’s old maternity dress and pulled on a sweater, praying that when the letter came, it wouldn’t come with word of a bride for Tage.

That’s just what this house needs: another victim, Rey thought, another teenage girl who she and Phasma would have to brainwash and train, just like Rey and Phasma had been bef-

Another woman lived with Father and me for a year before I was a fit wife to be left alone… Phasma’s words, spoken almost a year ago, suddenly came back to her.

Rey sat heavily on the bed, one arm wrapped around her belly and her eyes fixed, unseeingly, at the wall. Susannah and Joanna knew all sorts of households skills, from sewing to knitting to how to care for horses. Phasma had told her that another woman in the First Order had lived with them and taught her how to run a house.

Why would a girl raised in the First Order need help knowing how to run a household? Rey thought. Her heart tightened as she realized what this probably meant: Phasma was a wildling.

And if Phasma was a wildling, then she’d been kidnapped too.

Susannah was born when she was sixteen or seventeen, Rey thought, tears welling in her eyes. Her stomach rolled at the idea of a young Phasma, taken from her family and put into the First Order. That made two wives from this family taken from the outside.

Is that how all wives in the First Order are taken?

Rey leaned forward, sobbing uncontrollably. Her pregnancy had left her emotionally raw and prone to crying, so no one would question her if they found her.

Slow footsteps worked closer to the door. Rey looked up to see Kylo opening it and peering into the room. Her eyes met his and the words suddenly fell from her mouth before she could stop the, “was Phasma kidnapped, too?”

Kylo’s shoulders fell. He walked over to Rey and cupped her cheek, “you know you can’t say things like that, even to me.” he murmured.

“Did you come back in for breakfast?” Rey asked, looking at the open door behind him.

Kylo nodded, his dark eyes searching her face. He stood, “come to breakfast. I’ll tell you tonight.”

Rey wiped her eyes, taking deep breaths and getting to her feet. She looked down, then sighed, “I’m not wearing shoes today.”

Kylo smiled. He leaned forward and kissed her lightly, “I think you’ll be fine.”

 

Rey had learned that one of the perks of being eight months pregnant was that she did fewer chores than anyone else. When Kylo had taken her down to breakfast, Phasma had noticed her red eyes and put her on “folding laundry and knitting socks” detail. Even after an easy day, Rey was exhausted. Between her realization about Phasma and being the size of a small elephant, she struggled to get through the day.

By the end of day, Rey was dozing on and off as she patched some of Isaac’s old baby clothes. Susannah had been sent to bring her to dinner, which was its own annoyance since she still had to cart plates and drinks in from the kitchen. She put on a good face because Kylo always got a pained look in his eyes whenever he saw her struggling to do things, but by the end of the night, she was utterly spent.

Rey stared up at the ceiling, “I can’t wait for the baby to get here,” she said, throwing an arm over her eyes as Kylo sat on the bed next to her.

“Me, too,” Kylo said, smiling.

“Yeah, but you’re excited to see the baby,” Rey said, smiling despite herself and enjoying the lack of visual input, “I’m just looking forward to the chance to make someone else carry them for a little a bit.”

Kylo chuckled, nodding, “I look forward to the opportunity.”

Rey lowered her arm, then lifted her shirt and traced the small raised patch on her belly that she supposed was a foot. She smiled as the baby shifted, hopefully getting comfortable for a while; being pregnant was a lot easier when her passenger was asleep. Rey watched the subtle movement, running one finger from the top of her skirt up to her bra.

“I wonder how big he is now,” Kylo said.

“How do you know it’s a boy?” Rey said. She smiled to herself, even though their conversation from this morning still hung over them.

“Is he settled yet?” Kylo asked.

“Almost,” Rey said. She took Kylo’s hand, pressing it to where the baby’s foot appeared to have landed. Kylo gently ran his calloused hand over her skin, his eyes focused on her.

“What is that, do you think?” Kylo murmured.

“A hand, maybe. Probably a foot,” Rey said. The idea had been mind-blowing when Phasma had explained it a month ago, but now it seemed normal. She had a tiny person pressing against her all of the time.

“That is bizarre. I mean, that’s our baby moving in there.

“My baby,” Rey muttered.

“Oh, he’s your baby again?” Kylo said, lifting his hand away and looking up at her.

“Well, she just got comfortable and is behaving well, so yes. She’s my baby again.”

“Is this how it’s always going to be? My children are mine when they annoy you and they’re yours the rest of the time?” Kylo rested his head on his hand and looked at her, grinning.

“Yes,” Rey said, smirking.

Kylo laughed. It was one of his rare, genuine, full laughs. His voice got higher when he did that, but Rey had long decided it was her favorite sound in this entire place. While he’d been born into this horrible place, he could still laugh like that. It gave her hope for her own child.

Rey turned her head to look at Kylo, “we need to talk,” she whispered.

Kylo sighed, his shoulders falling. He turned his head to stare at the crib, which was pulled from storage and kept in their room. It always filled Rey with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. That crib was going to be occupied soon, but it also belonged to a horrible family and a horrible cult.

You’ll have a family, Rey. Remember that, Rey thought. She kept her eyes on Kylo’s face, knowing the pressure would make him cave.

“I was supposed to be married before,” Kylo said.

Rey sat up, throwing her braid over one shoulder. “What?” she asked quietly.

“A few months before you came here, I was going to be married to someone else,” Kylo said, staring up at the ceiling.

“What happened to her?” Rey whispered.

“She was terrified,” Kylo said, taking a deep breath, “Father left us alone and she begged me to let her leave. So, when Father came back, I- I made up some excuse. I said I wasn’t pleased with her. Father asked if I was sure. I looked at her, she nodded, and I said “yes”.” He closed his eyes, his voice cracking.

“What happened next, Kylo?” Rey asked. She looked at him, then touched his face lightly, turning him to meet her eyes.

“Father took off his belt and wrapped it around her neck,” Kylo said, opening his eyes and looking into her face. He blinked rapidly, a tear rolling down his face, “I didn’t do anything. I froze.”

“He killed her,” Rey said. She pulled her hand away, looking down at her lap.

“Yes,” Kylo said. He cleared his throat, “Kira, you can’t ask questions like that. Father knows and sees everything. He hears from God and he has to do whatever it takes to protect the First Order.”

“What was her name?” Rey asked.

“I don’t know,” Kylo said. Rey looked into his face. Kylo sat up and wiped his eyes, “I killed her. I killed her as much as if I’d done it myself,” he croaked.

“So, if you had rejected me, if you didn’t have sex with me, then he’d kill me?” Rey asked.

Kylo nodded, “He has to protect the Order,” he whispered.

Rey took a deep breath, rubbing her belly. She had to keep quiet, then. She’d always known that Snoke was dangerous, but here was her proof. She pressed her lips together, “how many women have come here?” She said.

“You, Phasma, and her,” Kylo said.

“Why us?” Rey said.

“Father listens to God and God chooses them,” Kylo explained, shrugging.

Rey nodded. She turned and looked at him, “that’s why you said you’d still have raped me, even if I said no,” she said.

Kylo shuddered, then nodded. Rey hadn’t said “rape” aloud in seven months, since her escape attempt. They’d had a pleasant seven months, even with her aching back, swollen feet, tender breasts, morning sickness, and emotional fragility. Now, though, the deep sadness that permeated everything here had raised its head and made her remember where she was. Kylo was a victim of a horrified system, sure, but he was also complicit in the suffering of so many.

“Kylo, the baby is due in less than two weeks,” Rey said, “it could come now, even. We can’t be selfish. We have to be better.”

“The Supreme Leader is wise,” Kylo said, repeating the mantra of the First Order, “Father hears the voice of God.”

“If we have a son, I hope he can have a life that doesn’t involve the killing of others,” Rey said. The next words were dragged from between her teeth, but she didn’t hesitate, “I hope God will send us what we need from within The Order.”

Kylo turned his head to look at her. When his dark eyes met hers, she could see the understanding there. He sat up, cupped the back of her head and kissed her solidly on the mouth. Rey kissed him back, glad for a reprieve from the horror and pain of this place. It was wonderful to push aside her fear and pain and how badly she missed Poe and Finn and her worry about being a parent. The only thing that existed was Kylo. The only real things were his lips and tongue and the soft hair that curled around her fingers.

Kylo broke away to press his forehead to hers. Rey let him, closing her eyes and breathing in the smell of hay and lavender and the damp smell that she now associated with spending all day doing chores in the snow.

“I am glad you’re my wife,” Kylo said softly.

Rey opened her eyes and leaned away. She reached up and cupped his left cheek, letting her thumb trace lightly over the small white line that bisected his face. She watched the corner of that familiar, soft mouth lift in a tight smile, then kissed him again.

Part of her, a raging and feral part of her, wanted to strangle him, then walk to Tage’s room and kill him, and then kill Phasma and Snoke in their sleep. She’d do that, load the kids into the car, and drive until she reached civilization.

Another part of wished treacherously that she’d met Kylo on the outside. Then, he could he hers in a real way.

But, Rey kept these parts to herself and focused on kissing him.

Chapter Text

Rey sat down at the table, rubbing her heavily pregnant belly, as Phasma placed the last dinner plates down. She couldn’t withhold a sigh as she stretched her legs out in front of them, holding them up under the table with difficulty. Her feet ached with both the residual chill of the spring evening and from the fact that she was essentially a human zeppelin. She hadn’t struggled with intense cravings, thank God, but she had definitely felt both the typical mood swings and the foot pain. If she’d had cravings, she would have been stuck. Whenever she’d had period cravings, it had always been things like ice cream or chocolate bars, both of which she had been without for the year that she’d been here.

Knowing her, she would have wanted McDonald’s fries and a Frosty and poor Kylo would have been torn between trying to appease his wife and avoiding contact with the outside world. She tried to sit herself more comfortably in her chair, but that was impossible, for the most part.
Phasma smiled at her understandingly, throwing her waist-length braid behind her shoulder. Rey stared expectantly at her plate, desperately hungry after a long day of housework and human-growing.

Trying not to show her impatience, Rey pulled her braid to her front and let the tail of it brush across her other palm. When she'd first gotten here, she'd left her hair loose or thrown it into a bun, but it had grown out a lot, especially since she'd been pregnant. Now, Susannah took time every day to braid her hair out of her face. Kylo had tried one morning when Rey had officially told him that she wasn't going to be lifting her arms over her head ever again.

Twenty minutes later, he'd sulked off to get help from Phasma after somehow getting one of the rubber bands caught in the shorter hairs behind Rey's left ear. After that, Kylo had been banned from trying to help Rey manage her hair.

“You alright, love?” Kylo asked, leaning over and murmuring into her ear.

“I’m good, just a bit tired. My feet hurt,” Rey grimaced.

“Is that why you aren’t wearing shoes?” Kylo asked, smirking at her.

“Yes,” Rey said, wiggling her toes, “my feet are cold, though. It seems like I have to choose between sore feet or cold toes.”

Kylo rubbed her shoulder, looking up at Phasma and Susannah who were carrying in plates, “I’ll rub your feet tonight.”

“Can’t,” Rey leaned over to rest her head on his shoulder, “there are pressure points on the feet that can trigger early labor.”

“How do you know that?” Isaac asked from the far end of the table.

Rey chewed on her lip for a moment, unsure of how to phrase this in a way that wouldn’t get her or Isaac in trouble. Finally, she said, “on the outside, there are people who are paid to rub other people’s feet and stuff.”

Snoke slowly set down his coffee mug, his eyes dark.

“That sounds gross!” Isaac said, “what if their feet stink?”

“That’s why they’re paid,” Rey said, laughing tightly and forcing herself to ignore Kylo’s tension and the way she could feel Snoke’s eyes boring into her, “anyway, if you are a woman, they often ask if you’re pregnant and, if you’re too pregnant, they won’t touch your feet because it might trigger labor too early.”

“How do you know that?” Joanna asked, in awe.

“I went there with a woman who was pregnant, once,” Rey said, smiling, “they painted my toes pink.”

Both Isaac and Joanna looked horrified and Rey just shrugged, saying, “life outside is weird.”

“Yeah, I don’t like it,” Joanna said, shaking her head.

Rey laughed lightly, nodding. Next to her, she could feel Kylo relax. At the same time, Phasma rested the last of the plates in front of them, which distracted the others. As the conversation began to break out, Rey glanced at Kylo. He was stone-faced, but not angry. She could see the barely-held control, but she figured that she would know how to soften him. Waiting until she felt the baby shift a little, she gently picked up one of his fists from his leg, then rested it where she was pretty sure her baby’s foot would be when they invariably kicked out.

At the light contact, Kylo’s face softened.

“Are you listening, my son?” Snoke asked.

Kylo looked over at his father sharply, “I’m sorry, Father, I was distracted.”

Snoke nodded, his pale eyes focused on Rey, “yes, I can understand why your baby would serve as a distraction. Is all well, Kira?”

“More than well,” Rey said, putting on a false brightness, “the baby likes to kick where Kylo’s hand is. It’s like they know.”

“That is so cute!” Joanna whispered at the same time Isaac hissed, “that is so weird!”

Phasma chuckled good-naturedly, then put a hand on Snoke’s arm, “it’s nice to see you aren’t the only one smitten with his children.”

Snoke put his hand over Phasma’s. In another couple, it would be sweet but there was an overtly possessive edge to it, “you are right, my dear.”

Rey turned to her plate and let the family’s conversation start up around her again. She had escaped disaster, even narrowly. Judging by Phasma’s expression, neither Joanna or Isaac would face any punishment for her mentioning the outside world. In fact, their disgust at the idea of a pedicure might work in her favor- overt rejection of anything outside the First Order was always rewarded.

As always, Rey ate a lot and quickly. She participated in conversations only on the surface, occasionally answering a few questions about her pregnancy here and there. Mostly, however, she focused on her food.

When they finally finished, Rey prepared to stand up and help with the dishes, but Snoke stopped her, adding, “one moment, Kira.”

Rey settled in her chair, clutching her hands together under the table, but kept her face blank.

“Angela and Dopheld are to be married in three days,” Snoke said, smiling and pulling a letter from his chest pocket.

“Really!?” Susannah and Joanna asked together.

“Yes,” Snoke said, smiling that strange and chilling smile, “we will be traveling to the Mitaka property for the wedding. It’ll be a day’s journey, more or less, but we’ll be there.”

Travelling? Us, leaving the farm? Rey’s heart leaped at the idea. If they stopped at a gas station she might be able to run to freedom. This could be her chance.

You’re also about to pop, a voice in her head added, you could end up giving birth on the side of the road with only Phasma and a maniac for help.

“Father, Kira is due any day,” Kylo said. His expression blanked, taking on the stiff quality she’d begun to associate with anger or frustration. Somedays, Kylo would come to bed, stiff as a wood carving. It was like he’d been carved from wood, wound up, and made to march into her arms. She opened them every time, though, and partly because of moments like this, when his anger rose up for her.

Tage was cold and calculated with veins full of ice. If Snoke ever did anything he disapproved of, she never saw it. Nothing in him changed, chilled, stiffened, or rose in anger. He seemed unphased by it all. He belonged in the First Order and passed through it like a fish to water. Snoke was just a snake. He would rest in place, then, if someone got too close, he’d lunge out and strike out at them. The problem was that no one knew what would trigger him.

Kylo wasn’t like either of them. He was a pressure cooker. In another life, Kylo would have been an expressive and energetic man. Instead, he was kept under glass here and then poked and prodded all day long. If he hadn’t been born and raised here, she couldn’t imagine how he would have stayed sane.

Or stayed alive.

Phasma was the most reactive of the adults, but that was also because Snoke was harshest to her. She was the one who Snoke would throw things at the most. She was the one who was screamed at if anything in the house was even slightly out of place, even if it wasn’t her fault directly. When Rey had first arrived, she’d thought Phasma was just some power-hungry mother-in-law, but then she’d realized that the anger and frustration she’d always sensed was really tension and fear.

Phasma had slapped Rey on her first real day out in the house, when Rey hadn’t been quick enough to say she wouldn’t go into Snoke’s office. It was only after Snoke had attacked her and Kylo that she’d realized how much restraint Phasma showed in her discipline.

Was slapping people right? No.

Was slapping people to keep them from being beaten be a deranged maniac of a cult leader? Probably.

Snoke was unphased by Kylo’s protests. He wasn’t upset at Kylo for questioning his wisdom. Both Kylo and Rey got away with a lot more, especially since she was due any day. When Rey had asked why everyone was so understanding, Kylo said, “the Supreme Leader is wise. He knows there’s no wisdom in the last month of pregnancy”.

Rey still couldn’t decide if she found that patronizing or a relief.

“Well, she’ll be in good hands either way,” Snoke said, lifting his mug as Phasma stood, “if she gives birth before, she, Phasma, and Isaac will stay behind with the newborn. If she gives birth at the wedding, well, she’ll be in excellent hands, won’t she?”

Rey reached out and took Kylo’s hand under the table, but said nothing. Instead, Rey watched Phasma’s expression. When Snoke insisted they would all go, Phasma closed her eyes and exhaled slowly.

“It’ll be alright,” Rey murmured, rubbing her belly, as much to soothe herself as the baby. Under her palm, she felt her baby kick out at her. She closed her eyes, rubbing against spot, please baby, stay put until we’re home safe.

Home safe? a little voice said in the back of her mind, since when do you call this place “home?”

If Kylo is here, then it is my home as long as I’m under Snoke’s thumb, Rey said back.

 

The idea of traveling while pregnant kept Rey up that night. Well, not just that. Rey had heard the phrase “bun in the oven” for years but hadn’t realized that she’d turn into a literal oven during the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Kylo hadn’t put up too much of a fight when she’d first ordered him to stay on his side of the bed, particularly when she’d rejected her half of the blanket.

Withholding a groan, Rey turned her head to look at Kylo, who was wrapped up in a blanket like a burrito. A small but vicious part of her was filled with hate for him, but not because of anything he had done. No, her pregnant brain was just angry that he could sleep so soundly.

Rey finally decided that a cup of water might help. Hydration was probably important, even if it would have her up to pee in a few hours. She crept downstairs, trying not to disturb anyone in the house. The last thing she needed was Tage or Snoke mad at her. As a woman who was potentially pregnant with a son, who would be second in line for position of Supreme Leader, she was given a lot of leeway but she wasn’t going to push her luck.

Rey looked up sharply as she heard Tage and Phasma’s voices. She leaned against the wall outside of the kitchen. She rubbed her belly unconsciously as Phasma spoke, “what do you want me to say, Ar?”

Ar? Rey thought. She knew Tage’s full name was “Armitage,” but everyone called him “Tage,” even Snoke. There was a quiet clink like someone had put something glass in the sink.

“This isn’t something I want,” Tage said, his voice quiet.

“No one ever wants this,” Phasma said. Her voice was low and resigned, but there was something else there that Rey couldn’t place. She’d heard Phasma coldly resigned, tired, happy, shocked, and even angry, but never… sad.

Rey didn’t know what she was going to do. She put her hand over her mouth, unable to process this interaction. She knew Armitage was more gentle with the other women in the house, but she hadn’t seen him sound so soft and uncomfortable. He sounded grieved, but she couldn’t figure out why.

Maybe this is about his place in the line of succession, Rey thought. Had her conversation topic condemned her and Kylo to death? Was Snoke going to make Tage kill her or Kylo or both of them?

“What are you going to do?” Phasma asked. Rey turned her attention back to the pair. She forced herself to keep quiet, even holding her breath.

“The same thing that I always do: nothing.”

“You’ve been on borrowed time from the moment Father started searching for a wife for Kylo,” Phasma said seriously.

“You think I don’t know that?” Tage hissed, “you think I don’t know the stake? I buried the first girl, Phas.”

Phasma sighed, “I just want to make sure that you know what’s coming.”

“I know. I’ve been on borrowed time for years. So have you.”

Rey frowned borrowed time? How are they on borrowed time?

Rey finally let herself breathe. She didn’t sigh, but relief flooded through her. Whatever this conversation was about, this wasn’t something she wanted to get caught overhearing. She slowly made her way upstairs, deciding the water wasn’t worth it.

Rey took the stairs slowly, careful to avoid the creaky places and cursing her Pregnancy Brain. She couldn’t figure out why Snoke’s wife and his most compliant son would be on “borrowed time”. Rey crawled into bed next to Kylo, who was asleep. The bed creaked slowly under her weight and she withheld the urge to roll her eyes. She wasn’t that heavy, thank you.

“Everything okay?” Kylo mumbled, opening his eyes as soon as she laid down. His dark eyes were unfocused and he’d clearly just woken up when she got back into bed. Whatever his faults, he legitimately tried to be a half-decent husband.

“I’m fine,” Rey said, forcing a smile onto her face, “bathroom.”

“Mmmmmhmmmm,” Kylo said, nodding as he closed his eyes.

Rey smiled, genuinely this time. This poor man was going to kill himself trying to keep up with the farm chores and trying to support her through her pregnancy. Finally, as she settled on her back and put her head on the pillow, sleep began to creep over her. Whatever she’d just witnessed, she was safe here. Kylo was a bizarre, brainwashed, guilty man who had been born and raised in a murderous and criminal cult, but he would protect her from anyone, especially his brother.

If Kylo was willing to risk calling him a “dick,”he’d be willing to fight him off of Rey.

Chapter Text

"Armitage! Isaac, let's go!" Phasma said, standing at the bottom of the stairs and shouting up at them.
Rey leaned against the railing as the sound of Isaac's thudding footsteps echoed upstairs. She held still, waiting for the nine-year-old to race past her.

"Where's Tage?" Phasma asked Isaac, catching his arm before he could race out and put his bag into the car. Isaac stopped on look up into his mother’s face, but Rey couldn’t stop herself from watching Phasma’s expression carefully. If there was anything significant about her asking after Tage, she gave nothing away.

Of course she won’t, Rey thought, she’s spent fifteen years here. You don’t survive with any kind of independence unless you learn how to hide how you feel about everything. Especially when you have to climb into bed with Snoke every night.

"He's coming," Isaac said, "he forgot something."

"Of course he did," Phasma said, rolling her eyes and walking up the stairs. Rey stiffened slightly, but tried to keep herself from freezing. Phasma hadn’t seen her staring, so she didn’t need to worry. When Phasma passed Rey, she turned her head, "go to the bathroom again before we leave." She said,

"Oh, I'm on my way," Rey said, rubbing the side of her belly. She was due any day and this trip was the exact opposite of what she needed right now. She walked downstairs, glancing over her shoulder as Tage hurried downstairs with an overnight bag on his shoulder. Phasma was three steps behind him. She raised her eyebrows, pointing to Rey and then the downstairs bathroom door. Rey nodded, hurrying inside. She leaned against the door, taking a deep breath to calm herself. The last time she’d been in a car, she’d been taken here. She’d been unconscious, true, but that thought lodged in her mind, even as she went to the bathroom, washed her hands, and walked to the cars, which were parked out front.
Rey stared at the vehicles, her mind blank.

“Are you alright, love?” Kylo asked, standing at her side and looking down at her.

“Yeah,” Rey whispered.

Kylo leaned down and kissed the top of her head, “you’re going to ride with me, Father, and Tage in the van.”

“Okay,” Rey said. He took her hand and walked her to the car. The van was normal, with two separated seats in the middle and then a single, three-man backseat. The sight of a truly normal minivan being driven by Snoke was horrifying. It was like seeing something venomous and twisted crawling out of a tulip.

“Do you need help getting in?” Kylo asked her.

Rey shook her head, climbing into the backseat and settling down into one of the chairs. Joanna and Isaac were already in the back, chatting away. She frowned, realizing there was no way they’d all fit, “where are Susannah and Phasma going to sit?” She asked.

“They’re in the truck,” Kylo said, somehow managing to fold his enormous frame into the seat next to hers. He groaned with relief as he slid his seat all the way back.

“Hey! My leg room!” Isaac whined.

“Your legs can’t even touch the seat,” Kylo pointed out.

“Yes they can!” Isaac said.

“If you can kick Kylo’s seat, Isaac,” Tage said, looking over his shoulder as Snoke consulted Phasma through the driver’s window of her truth, “I’ll give you my desert for a week.”

Isaac grunted, but Kylo and Tage just laughed. After thirty more seconds of Isaac’s frantic grunting and effort, but didn’t seem to make it work. Rey turned over her shoulder to see him, pinned in his booster seat, trying his best to kick his brother’s seat.

“No luck, man,” Tage said, laughing. Rey saw his face in the rearview mirror, which he’d adjusted so he could see Isaac’s struggled better. His smile was genuine and it made his blue eyes crinkle pleasantly at the corners. It was a strange break from his usual tense, controlled, and cold expression.

Snoke climbed into the car, then looked up into the rearview mirror. He blinked in surprise and confusion, but adjusted the mirror without comment as they began driving. They drove without stopping for hours. After a while, Rey rested her head on the window. She traced her finger along the glass as they drove. The land was beautiful. She looked at Kylo, who was sitting with his head on the headrest. His eyes were closed, as if he was asleep, but his face wasn’t as relaxed as it usually was when he slept. Phasma and Susanna were in the truch ahead of them, but she realized that Snoke was clearly in the leave. Whenever he put on his turn signal, Phasma would change lanes. Rey had never driven in a group like this, so she wasn’t sure if this was just Snoke’s control-freak behavior or normal practice. After several hours, Rey looked over her shoulder to see that Isaac was sound asleep. Joanna was awake, but staring blankly out the window in a trance.

Rey looked out the window in time to see a large sign pass on her right.

‘Now entering Idaho!’ the sign read.

Rey turned around to see a welcome sign for the state of Montana on the back of the Idaho sign.

Montana, Rey thought, horror rising in her throat. She’d been living in Montana for more than a year. She’d graduated with a degree in Computer Science a year ago from UC Boulder! That was three states away! Rey closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the headrest. The cops who were looking for her would be looking hundreds of miles away from where she was.

Rey took a shuddering breath, tears welling in her eyes. She let out a choking sob, trying to cover her mouth with her hand. Kylo opened his eyes and looked over at her.

“Are you alright, my wife?” He murmured.

Rey nodded, “I- I’m just- it’s like how I keep crying every time Finalizer gets excited to see me,” she said, taking a deep breath and trying to calm herself.

“Are you sure?” Kylo asked, looking intently at her.

“Can- can we stop soon?” Rey asked.

Kylo glanced at her, then to Snoke, “Father, can we stop? Kira needs a break,”

Snoke looked at Rey in the rearview mirror. She blushed through her tears, but met his gaze without blinking. She wiped her eyes, taking a deep breath. Snoke’s blue eyes turned to look at Kylo, whose face was pleading.

Snoke sighed, “I’m just glad we didn’t have to go to any weddings when Phasma was pregnant with Joanna,” he muttered, turning his turn signal on.

Kylo chuckled. Joanna and Rey were both focused on him, but it was Issac who spoke first, “why?”

“Phasma had a tough time when she was pregnant with Joanna,” Kylo explained, “she was sick a lot longer than with Joanna and she was also very… emotional the entire time.”

“She cried whenever Susannah hugged her,” Snoke said, nodding.

“Or Starkiller did anything,” Kylo said, laughing.

“Remember when the barn kittens started playing and she broke into tears?” Tage asked.

“I’d forgotten about that one!” Kylo said, laughing in earnest.

Snoke chuckled, parking in front of an old gas station. Rey tried to get up, but immediately sat back down. Her center of gravity was thrown off by pregnancy and there was no easy way for her to get out of the car. Luckily, Kylo appeared at the doorway and helped her to her feet and out of the door.

“Same rules as always,” Snoke said, “no exceptions.”

“‘Rules’?” Rey asked, looking up into Kylo’s face.

“Father gets any and all snacks. We all go straight to the bathroom, then back out to wait in the cars. One of the little ones might help Father with the snacks. It’s a treat to help pick out their candies, so it keeps the bickering to a minimum,” Kylo said. He opened the door to the gas station, his arm still around her, and steered her toward the back. His bulk hid her from all of the cameras, but she thought that might be unintentional.

The shock of entering any place that didn’t belong to Snoke was enough that her tears disappeared. Instead, she was forced to confront how badly she needed to use the bathroom. When she got out of the dingy, cramped, dirty, and utterly gorgeous bathroom, she was faced with Phasma, who had one hand on Isaac’s shoulder, “can you take him back out? He is going to get lost in the candies again,” she asked. Rey nodded, taking Isaac’s hand from Phasma, she walked him back towards the car. The clerk behind the counter was busy checking a woman out, scanning her chips and canned soda. Rey almost turned down the candy aisle, which would bring her right in front of either the counter or the cameras. If she could get herself on a camera, she’d at least be able to prove that she was alive and in a state that wasn’t Colorado. That would help any police trying to find her.

Rey opened the door to the van, sheepherding Isaac into the backseat as she climbed heavily into her seat. Rey leaned back with a sigh, resting her head back on the headrest. She looked up sharply when Kylo’s door slid open. Joanna climbed in, a plastic bag full of candy and drinks on her arm. Kylo was a step behind her. He looked over at her, smiling warmly.

“How are you?” Kylo asked, “Are you feeling better?”
“Yeah,” Rey said quietly. She smiled when he touched her cheek and passed her a water bottle and a Hershey’s bar. She opened it and took a sip, but decided not to press her luck with the fluids just yet. Snoke got into the passenger seat and Tage took the wheel, this time, which surprised her, but shouldn’t have. If Snoke led the First Order and he allowed cars, then why wouldn’t he let people drive them? Besides, if Phasma, his kidnapped and brainwashed wife was allowed to drive, then he’d obviously let his sons, born and raised in the First Order, drive. Snoke, Tage, and Kylo took turns driving. Rey was lucky enough to get her own seat in the middle row. The three children sat in the back, playing with toys, bickering among themselves, or sleeping. Phasma drove behind them in the truck.

 

*****

 

Angela’s house was so normal it was actually unnerving. The family didn’t live in a massive farmhouse as Snoke did. Instead, they lived on a relatively typical residential street. The yards were a bit larger than some of the ones Rey had seen in Colorado, but otherwise, they were about the same. Rey stared at the houses nearby. If she wasn’t so pregnant, she could run and take her chances with the neighbors. The truth was, however, that she was too exhausted. They wouldn't catch her, drag her back, and punish her. She’d been lucky the first time, but Kylo couldn’t cover for her if she ran openly.

“Come on in,” Kylo said, leaning close to speak into Rey’s ear, “Angela will be very excited to see you. Our wedding was the first in a long time, so Angela is going to be the first one to get married and have Father travel to their wedding,”

Rey nodded, smiling stiffly. She wanted to see Angela. The woman had been bright and hopeful, which attracted Rey to her. It also didn’t hurt that she bore a shocking resemblance to Rey’s ex-girlfriend, Jessika. As Rey walked into the house with Kylo’s arm still around her, she found herself reminded of Jessika suddenly. Jessika had been a physics major who lived in the dorm across the hall from hers. Rey’s roommate started dating one of the basketball players and they spent a lot of time together in Rey’s dorm, so Rey had been forced to find other places to study or shower or sleep. She’d basically been nocturnal her first semester since her room had basically been reduced to a crime screen. Jessika had been her refuge. Rey had met Finn first, technically, but she’d knocked on Jessika’s door, begging to sleep on her floor for some peace. Jessika and her roommate had been more than obliging.

And Rey had been friends with her ever since.

The Christmas of their junior year, that friendship had blossomed into something more. Jessika had been her friends real, long-term, girlfriend. Heck, she’d been her first, long-term anything. She’d dated and hooked up with people during those first two years of college, but Jessika had been her girlfriend. Rey had loved it.

And then they graduated.

And a one month anniversary became a one year anniversary which became an eighteen month anniversary.

And the cracks started to form.

Rey remembered the good times. She still thought about golden mid-mornings spent in bed, late nights spent trying mud masks and weird hair treatments while they watched Hallmark movies, and beautiful nights spent at museums or art galleries or gardens or any of the other events she heard about through her internship at the art gallery. Now, Rey lived in the 1800s, with an arranged husband and no chance of real freedom.

When Rey got into the house, it was already abuzz with people. The men and women were mingling more here than at her own wedding, but when Snoke walked through the door, they stopped. They greeted him with cheers, rushing forward to speak to Snoke, Kylo, and Tage. Some of the women went up to Phasma, but the men focused on Snoke and his sons.

“Angela’s upstairs,” Phasma said after a moment, leaning over to speak in Rey’s ear, “let’s go and meet her.”

Rey nodded and walked upstairs with Phasma. She sighed, feeling a dull ache in her back. She’d thought that all period-like symptoms would stop while she was pregnant. That was the deal, right!? Rey thought angrily. She went into the room where Angela was getting ready, trying not to let her discomfort and annoyance show.

“Kira, you’re glowing,” Angela said, walking over and taking both of Rey’s hands in her own, “my father told me you were so pregnant, I was afraid you wouldn’t make it, but now was can be at each other’s wedding.” Her dark eyes were bright. She looked like an eager bride like she was any normal woman about to get married.

What kind of life have you had that you are so happy right now? Rey thought. She squeezed Angela’s hands, smiling.

"How do I look?" Angela said, letting go of Rey and opening her arms so Rey could see her dress. She looked beautiful, with her dark wavy hair pulled up into a flower crown, just like Rey's had been. Her dark hair was braided around her head, but the flowers on her crown were larger than Rey’s had been. They framed her face well and her dark eyes sparkled. She was still as fresh-faced as any of the other First Order woman, but her excitement had given her a flush to her cheeks.

"You look so beautiful," Rey said, smiling. It physically hurt to smile like this wasn't a nightmare.

"It's time!" someone hissed behind them.

Rey turned to see a woman with dark brown hair and Angela's dark eyes came into the doorway. She walked forward and kissed Angela's forehead, tears in her eyes, "you're ready, my love," the woman said. Rey knew that this had to be Angela's mother. At this exchange, an idea caught in her throat and seemed to punch her in the stomach: in twenty years, she could be in the same position.

You are going to be free, I promise, Rey thought, rubbing at her belly.

Chapter Text

During the ceremony, Rey was one of only four who were allowed to sit down. An older couple were on the far couches and another pregnant woman was with them. Kylo walked over to stand beside her and watch the ceremony at her side, rather than standing beside his father. Phasma was next to Snoke, but she smiled at Rey. Rey sighed, rubbing the side of her belly. Christ, my back hurts, she thought.

As Snoke called the room to order, a cramp laced through her back. She had felt this before, but it had been a false alarm. Rey sighed, closing her eyes, breathing in deeply through her nose. She was NOT going to get into trouble over some- what did Phasma call them?- Braxton-Hicks contractions!

Rey leaned against Kylo, who put his hand on her head. The corner of his mouth lifted at her touch. She didn’t pay attention to Snoke’s speech, any more than she had during her own ceremony. It wasn’t hard to guess what he was saying: Blah blah hypocrisy… blah blah misogyny… blah blah blah all hair the Supreme Leader, The All-Knowing King of All Dicks of Montana, Rey thought. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Instead, Rey focused on her aching back and her husband’s soothing touch on her cheek and ear

Rey opened her eyes again and focused on Angela. Angela’s dress reminded Rey of a 1940s war bridge, with more rounded sleeves and a lower neckline. Rey’s had been a dress that would have made Queen Victoria proud. Angela looked like a tart by comparison.

When Snoke pronounced them married, Dopheld shyly turned to Angela, then leaned forward to kiss her. When he did so, Rey clapped along woodenly with everyone else. Behind her, a young man cheered. Rey, however, couldn’t really hear them. Tears welled in her eyes as the young pair broke apart. Angela beamed at her new husband and Rey wiped her eyes.

This wedding was so perverted. The decorations were delicate and austere, but everyone seemed so genuinely happy. Angela and Dopheld had grown up in this sheltered and controlled lifestyle. They were prisoners and didn’t even know it. People immediately started getting up. They milled around, making their way to the backyard for cake and punch and congratulating the new married couple.

Kylo looked down at Rey and smiled. Rey smiled back tightly, then brushed some strands of her hair behind her ear.

"This is so strange," Kylo said, looking down at her, "we got married about a year ago. Now we're here, about to have a baby and at another wedding. We've really come full circle."

"We really have," Rey said. She managed to keep the sadness out of her voice. As people began to walk out in earnest, Rey stood heavily, groaning.

“Are you okay?” Kylo asked.

"I’m fine,” Rey said, reaching up to touch his cheek, “go see your friends.”

Kylo smiled, then leaned forward to kiss her cheek. Rey closed her eyes at his skin and smiled, despite herself. She hurt, everything was terrible, but she had Kylo.

“You know, Khalem might let you go lay down upstairs,” Kylo said softly, "I know there are two or three people who are staying here, but I bet he'd be willing to find a place for you to nap. I mean, he's in an excellent mood- his daughter just got married."

“I’m okay,” Rey said, waving one hand, “your baby is just being uncooperative.”

“Just let me know if you need anything,” Kylo said. He rubbed her arm, then pecked her forehead before he walked over to greet his friends.

Bowing to the inevitable, Rey walked out of the house. Around her, children were running around and playing tag. Ignoring the noise around her, Rey fiddled with her dress. The dull aching in her back was more insistent. Rey walked straight into the tables and sat down. She took a deep breath, rubbing her belly to try and soothe her baby, please, please, settle down,

People around her were starting to get food, laughing and celebrating. Lost in her cramps, Rey found it to be absolutely grating. Out of patience, Rey stood and walked away from where everyone was. The side yard was framed by tall bushed, which hid them from the neighbors.

Rey put a hand against the side of the house. She groaned and realized that this wasn't Braxton-Hicks contractions. This was real labor. Rey kneeled down, leaning against the wall.

Taking deep breaths, Rey closed her eyes and tried to think through her pain. She needed help. She needed someone to see her. She needed to get up but that felt impossible.

If she screamed, she might draw enough attention to herself, but it would also mean the neighbors would ask questions. If Snoke thought she was a threat, he’d kill her and her baby would be utterly defenseless. She had to be alright.

Rey groaned, leaning her head back against the walls.

“I- Kira?”

Rey whimpered, leaning forward and wrapping an arm around her belly as another contraction rolled over her. The voice seemed to be a million miles away.

“Kira, are you okay?”

It was Tage.

“Look at me,” Tage said. His voice was much closer now. He touched her arm, “Kira, look at me.” Rey groaned, tears in her eyes.

Tage’s blue eyes were wide. When he saw her face, he let out a tiny squeak and leaned back, “Stay here, little sister. I’m going to go get Phasma. I’ll be right back.”

“No no nonono!” Rey said. She looked up as Tage broke into a run, “don’t leave me!” She leaned her head back against the house, taking a deep breath as the pain faded. She took deep breaths, wiping her eyes with shaking hands.

“Kira!” a woman’s voice said from her left. Rey turned her head to see Phasma at the front of a group of worried-looking women.

Six or seven women descended on Rey all at once. Phasma kneeled in front of Rey, cupping her face, “You’re all right, Kira,”

“I don’t feel alright,” Rey moaned.

“Have you been feeling cramps?” Phasma asked, leaning forward to speak clearly into Rey’s face.

Rey nodded and Phasma smiled, “that, my daughter, was labor- is labor. This baby is coming today,” Phasma said, beaming.

“I’m scared, “ Rey said. the words were out of her mouth before she even realized it, but they were true.

“Your baby’s coming, my dear. Focus on that and your body will handle the rest.” Phasma said gently.

 

“The rest” turned out to be hours of pain and misery. Rey could have sworn she had never been out of pain and that these contractions had always existed and would never stop. Phasma, who crouched by her side, held her hand and told her it would be over soon, but when she looked at that damned clock, “soon” seemed to pass over and over again.

After two frickin’ hours of hell, the midwife decided that Rey should go walk. When she first suggested it, it took all of Rey’s self-control not to curse her out.

What kind of bitch would want her to get up and walk at a time like this?

She explained that the movement would help move the baby along, Rey finally agreed. As she hobbled around the room, Phasma held her hand and stayed close by, murmuring encouragement into her ear. But she didn’t want Phasma. She had spent months trying to be good enough for this woman and she wasn't going to be able to find any real comfort from her. She’d been slapped too many times for that.

“Where is Kylo?” Rey asked.

“Downstairs waiting with the men,” Phasma said.

“I want him here!” Rey said.

“Kira, this is a woman’s only place. The men don’t come here,” Phasma said, her voice very near Rey’s head. She smoothed Rey’s hair out of her face, but Rey found no comfort in it. She didn’t know or trust any of these women. The only person who had tried to help her, to look out for her, was Kylo. He’d broken the rules to take her out on Finalizer. He hadn’t told Snoke that she’d tried to run away. Yes, he’d made mistakes, but being born into the First Order had put him at a disadvantage in the Humanity Department.

If she couldn’t have Jessika or Finn or Poe or anyone else from her own life, she had to have Kylo.

“I want him here!” Rey said, not caring how desperate she must sound, “Kylo!” She shouted, “Kylo! Please! I need you!” She turned to look at Phasma, “I need my husband, Phasma.”

“Go,” Phasma said. She took Rey’s hand, but didn’t say anything else as she perched on the side of the bed. Rey closed her eyes tightly as another contraction slammed into her. A door opened and closed in the distance or, at least, it felt distant. Heavy footsteps thudded past her, but she was too lost to process it. Across the ocean of her own fear, emotion, and pain, she heard Kylo’s voice, “She asked?” and “No, I want to…”

Then his voice was suddenly close to her, practically in her ear, “I’m here, my wife.” His arms were around her shoulders a moment later.

“Kylo?” Rey asked.

“I’m here,” Kylo murmured. She felt a soft kiss pressed to the side of her head. His voice, the smell of his lavender soap, and the touch of his hand on her shoulder, were the most wonderful things she had ever encountered.

“It hurts,” Rey said.

“I know, my love, but Bazine says you’re almost done. You’ll probably want to push very soon,” Kylo said, lifting her hand to kiss the back of it.

‘Very soon’ seemed to take an age to arrive, but when it did, Kylo, Phasma, and the other women helped put Rey into a chair of some kind. It had an unusual design because Rey could tell at least some or all of the bottom had been cut out. She was, however, a bit busy. Kylo immediately took his place behind her, taking her hand and letting her lean against the back of the chair and against him.

“You’re doing so well,” Kylo said.

Rey couldn’t speak, but she nodded frantically and pushed when the woman between her knees- was it Bazine? Phasma?- said, “push”.

After eight more agonizing pushes, Rey had finally reached her limit. The pain was unendurable. She was lost in her fear and worry. Why hadn’t her baby come yet?

“I can’t do this!” Rey sobbed. She turned her head to look into Kylo’s face.

“You can, sweetheart,” Kylo said.

“I can’t!” Rey sobbed again. Kylo let her grip his hand without complaint. He leaned his head against hers. He didn’t say anything for a moment, but kissed her sweaty temple.

“Rey, you can do this. You are doing this.” Kylo murmured against her hair.

Someone which wasn’t Kylo said something, but Rey couldn’t understand it.

“Almost there. They can see the head. Our baby is almost here. Rey, listen to me,” Kylo murmured, still so close that only she could hear him, “Your baby is almost here. You just have to listen to Bazine. One more push and it’s all over, Rey.”

“You promise?” Rey whispered.

“I promise,” Kylo said. He kissed the side of her head.

“Alright, Kira, push!” Bazine said, her voice loud and clear for the first time in ages.

And Rey pushed.

And Rey screamed.

And Rey cried and crushed Kylo’s hands and silently begged God for mercy because she needed it to get through this.

And then it was over and there was a sound the likes of which Rey had never heard. It was beautiful, like music, and it was echoed by the happy voices of the women around her and, most importantly, by Kylo’s overjoyed laughter.

“It is a boy,” Kylo said in her ear, “he’s here.”

“He’s here,” Rey said, leaning against Kylo and letting him hold her. Rey held her baby to her chest. Her son wailed against her skin, but she just rubbed his back gently.

“Look at him,” Kylo’s voice was too high from tears, but Rey only laughed happily.

 

Rey closed her eyes, unable to stop the tears. Her son had been born around an hour ago and had settled down. His hand splayed across her bare collarbone and her baby began to cry again. He’d stopped crying after the women had wiped him off and wrapped him up, but he soon began to cry again, wiggling his head. When he did, her breast began to leak. She sat up straighter, pulled down her shirt, and offered her son a chance to nurse. When he began to nurse, tears welled in her eyes.

“He’s so beautiful,” Rey said. She leaned forward, beaming. Kylo rubbed his thumb along the edge of the little hat that Phasma or someone else had put on his head. The baby looked bizarre. He was also beautiful. She gently ran a finger down the line of his nose. At her touch, his eyes opened, “Hello, love,” Rey whispered, “You’re finally here. I’ve been waiting a while for you.”

“How does he look?” Kylo asked nervously.

“Beautiful,” Rey said, “healthy.”

“What’s his name?” Bazine asked. Rey looked up at Kylo. They hadn’t discussed many names, but Jesse was the only boy’s name that they’d both liked, so that was obvious.

“Jesse,” Kylo said, meeting her eyes. Rey smiled. She looked back down at her son. His left hand rests on top of her breast, his fingers curling and uncurling randomly. Kylo reached out, rubbing Jesse’s hand. His hand curled around Kylo’s finger and Kylo lets out a gasp.

“Hello, Jesse,” Rey whispered.

Bazine smiled, “that’s a good name.”

Chapter Text

Rey hadn’t expected them to leave her alone after Jesse was born. She was utterly exhausted and nursing was way more surreal than she had anticipated, but she didn’t need the help continuously, so she couldn’t necessarily be angry at anyone. Honestly, it was nice to have a moment with her son away from the constant performance of being Kylo’s Wife and a Good Daughter of the First Order. While Phasma and the other women took linens away for cleaning and Kylo went to get her food, she could just be Rey.

When the mask came down, the tears did flow, but no one would expect anything different, she hoped. She’d just forced a human being through her vagina. Anyone should be allowed to cry whenever, no questions asked, for the rest of their natural life after that experience.

Rey leaned down and kissed Jesse’s forehead again, then rested her nose against his head and breathed in. There was an intoxicating, soothing, strange scent that seemed to cling to him. She hummed, breathing in the scent that was unique to her son.

“You and I are going to have a tough go of it,” Rey murmured, “but I am going to protect you from this place. There’s going to be a day when you’ll be able to read, to walk down the street, to ride a bike, to go to school, to- I don’t know- to watch the Kardashians, even. We’ll do it all, baby. I’ll show you the whole world and you’ll never have to live in fear of Snoke or anyone else.”
Jesse let out a tiny croaking noise, stretching within her arms before he fell immediately back to sleep. Part of her wanted to put him down and sleep, but part of her knew that the minute she did, the spell would be broken. Once her son left her arms, the magic of her words would fade. She’d have to rely on prayer and hope and her own strength alone and she wasn’t sure that would be enough.

It wasn’t like she had too much of a choice about whether or not to sit him down. Jesse was in her arms since she didn't have a crib yet, but Phasma had promised to track one down as soon as she could. Rey gently reached up to rub Jesse's forehead under his little hat.

Who even brought this hat? Rey thought. It was probably Phasma or Bazine or someone else. It was so strange that the women that had helped her deliver Jesse were also the ones who had dressed her up for her wedding to Kylo. Jesse’s little had was inextricably linked to the flower crown that Phasma had pinned to her hair a year ago. It was as if every part of this place was meant to lace compassion and cruelty together so tightly that they were impossible to separate.

I am never going to be complicit in the suffering of other women, Rey thought fiercely, looking down at Jesse and thinking of the woman that Snoke might procure for him one day.
Or Kylo.

You’re already complicit, that same accusatory voice said, Susannah was punished for uttering your name and what did you do?

...Nothing…

That makes you complicit.

Rey closed her eyes tightly and pressed her lips to Jesse’s cheek, “I will protect you if it kills me,” she said, shoving that voice aside before it killed her.

Rey looked up sharply as someone opened up the door. She smiled at the sight of Kylo's familiar face. He was holding a cup of water and a plate from downstairs. Rey sighed in relief, so glad for the chance to drink and eat.

“Are you alright?” Kylo asked, straightening to his full height and looking at her face.

“Yeah, why?” Rey asked.

“You’re crying,” Kylo said, setting the plate and cup on her bedside table and swooping down to wipe her tears away.

“I’m alright,” Rey lied, “it’s been an emotional day.”

Kylo’s dark eyes roamed over her face, but he only said, “alright. Do you want to eat while I hold him?” he asked.

Rey hesitated for a heartbeat but finally nodded. Kylo was the only person she felt like she could trust with Jesse. Yes, Kylo was as guilty of them, but he had said her name. He’d remembered her name all these months and said it. In the midst of a room full of First Order supporters, he’d been willing to break a cardinal rule and defy his father for her.

She could put her son in the arms of a man like that.

“Kylo,” Rey said, letting him pick Jesse up and settle at the foot of her bed, “we need to talk.”

Kylo looked up from Jesse’s sleeping form, meeting her gaze. His eyes were powerful and intense. Again, for the first time in months, he reminded her of a prince from an old storybook. Rey knew from the faint light of fear and the tension at the corner of his mouth that he knew what she was going to talk about. He didn’t want her to. This could get them both in trouble and she knew it, but she had to know.

Why did you do that? Rey asked silently in the space between them, sipping her water and giving herself a chance to build the courage she was going to need.
You know why her dark prince said back.

Was this how Hades looked at Persephone in all the old stories? Were eyes like those, haunting and beautiful and lonely, why Persephone had eaten those pomegranate seeds? Their pomegranate lay in Kylo’s arms now. No matter how far she and Jesse got from Snoke and the First Order, Kylo’s DNA would live on in Jesse. If Snoke walked in her right now and killed Rey, her son would still survive.

Just like Persephone always had to spend the winter in the Underworld, part of Rey would remain in the First Order, even if she didn’t get the chance to take her son to freedom.

What if Persephone knew what those seeds would do? a tiny voice asked as a yawn from Jesse took Kylo’s attention off of her. He smiled, holding Jesse in one arm and offering one of his fingers for Jesse to grab. When Jesse gripped his little fist around Kylo’s finger, the man’s face broke into one of the radiant grins that Rey treasured like her aspirations of freedom.

What if Persephone’s choice wasn’t to eat the seeds? What if Persephone’s choice was to stay?

The thought chilled Rey so much that she looked away from Kylo and picked up her plate. Unable to think of anything to say, Rey settled for leaning back against the pillows. Kylo kept his eyes on Jesse, but seemed to want to speak before she could get the chance to broach dangerous subjects again, “Father told Angela and Dopheld that this is a good omen.”

“Does it mean they’ll have sons or something?” Rey asked.

“No,” Kylo said, “men are breadwinners, sure, but girls are as much a blessing as boys are.”

“Really?” Rey said, unable to keep the sarcasm out of her voice.

Kylo exhaled slowly through his nose, “when girls are born inside The First Order, it means that their children will be raised by parents who know the First Order better than anything else. Girls mean better mothers in 20 years. Father loves his sons, but he is very grateful for his daughters.”

Rey withheld the urge to laugh, but it was so ludicrous and hypocritical that she couldn’t find it too funny. Snoke grateful for women? If he was so grateful, then why did he keep kidnapping and raping them? Unless that’s why he was so grateful.

One First Order girl born today meant one less week spent hunting down and kidnapping a girl in 20 years.

“Kylo, I-” Rey began, but broke off as the door opened. She looked up at the man leading the crowd of people who all filed into the room and forced herself not to reach for Jesse. Snoke looked so happy that it made her want to curl up and hide.

“I am so proud of you both,” Snoke said, stepping forward to look down over Kylo’s shoulder at Jesse. His face broke into a genuine smile as Jesse’s head moved slightly. Rey was certain that her precious, innocent, ignorance baby boy had no idea he was looking into the face of a monster. He may not even know he was seeing anything but light and shadow, but Snoke would claim anything the boy did as affection, “a very handsome baby, my son.” Snoke said, patting Kylo’s shoulder. He crossed over to Rey and leaned close to her.

It took every ounce of the considerable self-control that Rey had built up over the years to remain still as Snoke pressed a dry kiss to her head. She felt a lance of hot, sour fury as he kissed her head, but it was equal parts anger that Snoke would kiss her where Kylo always did and disgust that such a monster would touch her at all.

“You did well, my dear,” Snoke said, smiling at her in a way that Rey knew many First Order daughters would kill for, “healthy children are a blessing and very much the product of their mothers. God has smiled on you today.”

What Rey thought was: if God smiles on me, it will be because I kept my sanity in this place.

What Rey said was: “thank you, Father.”

Jesse cried sleepily and Rey sighed, “I think he’s hungry,” she said.

Kylo sighed as well, his shoulders slouching at the prospect of having to let him go.

“Don’t worry, my boy,” Snoke said, chuckling and patting the top of Kylo’s head as people around the room laughed, too, “you’ll have plenty of time to hold that child.”

“More than enough,” one of the men from the back grumbled good-naturedly.

Rey set her plate down and took Jesse back, trying to ignore how shockingly normal all of this banter was. She’d lived among these people for a year, but she couldn’t help but be caught off-guard when they displayed such normal behavior. They weren’t the demure, controlled, repressed people that she continually expect. The problem with the First Order was it’s normalcy. If they’d been obvious and overtly bizarre, then perhaps they’d attract attention from some law-enforcement agency. As it was now, they just seemed like various families that help large gatherings every once in a while.

No one would think to look for her here.

“I should probably feed him,” Rey said weakly, glancing at Phasma. She expected for everyone- or at least the men- to leave, but no one but Phasma moved. She only turned to get a fresh cloth of some kind to throw over her shoulder with an understanding smile, as if that was what Rey had wanted all along.

“You can feed him while we speak,” Snoke said, inclining his head with a magnanimous smile, “I understand that newborns hear no one but God. I don’t presume to tell them their needs.”

“Thank you, Father,” Rey said, trying to keep her smile from looking stiff as she put the cloth over one shoulder and lowered the side of her top. The smock they’d given her to put on after giving birth was wonderful, actually. She wanted to shake the hand of whichever woman had designed it. It was a giant, dark gray gown of the softed material she’d ever encountered and was built so she could lower one shoulder or the other and feed Jesse without going totally naked.

It was also the most low-cut thing she’d worn in a year because the neckline had to leave enough room for her to get her arm out. She knew it wasn’t seen as a form of rebellion, but having a little breastbone on display felt like a quiet middle finger.

“Now, for a name,” Snoke said, clapping his hands together and smiling around at everyone in the room. It wasn’t until he did so that Rey realized that there wasn’t anyone here under the age of forty except her, Kylo, and Phasma. Angela and Dopheld were absent as were Tage and Snoke’s other children. The old couple from the ceremony downstairs were sitting in chairs against the wall, but the six other couples had spread out into the room. None of them moved toward Rey or Jesse, but looked at Snoke expectantly. This was a kind of pronouncement or ceremony otherwise there would almost certainly be children in here.

There were always children underfoot at any kind First Order gathering unless they purposefully kept away.

“I have thought long and hard over the right name to give this child, my first grandchild and the next in line to speak the words of God,” Snoke said.

Rey looked at Kylo, focusing on him and on Jesse, who was still nursing contentedly without any awareness of what was happening around him. Had he known Snoke would name Jesse? If he had, why would he have even bothered discussing names with her?

Kylo’s eye twitched as he met her gaze, then turned his attention back to his father.

He hadn’t known.

And he was pissed.

“We’ll name him Roland,” Snoke said, smiling down at the boy, “after my father.”

“But,” Rey began weakly. Snoke simply turned his pale eyes on her and she fell silent, contenting herself with rubbing Jesse’s head soothingly as he finished nursing.

Snoke couldn’t even let her name her son, the bastard.

Rey looked down at Jesse’s face, peeking under the cloth to gauge his reaction better. He was definitely done, but was just mouthing at her sleepily. She smiled fondly at him and fixed her dress before moving to burp him gently on her shoulder. She focused on Jesse- she would never call him Roland- and let Snoke’s longer speech roll off her. She glanced up occasionally to make sure he wasn’t asking her a question, but otherwise focused on Jesse’s face as he began to doze off again.

Rey had a feeling that she should treasure these days when Jesse slept so much because she knew they weren’t going to last. The most she knew about babies was that they didn’t sleep through the night early on. She should probably rest or sleep or at least let Kylo hold Jesse, but now she didn’t want to let him go.

How can I protect you if I can’t even name you? Rey thought, tears welling in her eyes.

“Father,” Phasma said, putting a hand on Snoke’s arm and gesturing to Rey.

Snoke looked at Rey and nodded, “you have the bed, my wife?” he asked, turning to Phasma.

“I do, Father.” Phasma said, bringing a little bassinet-looking thing in from the hallway and setting it down next to the bed.

Rey looked longingly from the bed to her plate to Jesse and Phasma murmured, “let yourself rest, Kira.”

Rey nodded and laid Jesse down. She was immediately rewarded with her plate. As soon as she touched it, she began eating. She was pretty sure she was going to need these calories. She wasn’t going to be escaping in the next few weeks, not with the state of whatever was happening below her waist. Rey took a drink from her water, forcing her thoughts onto anything else.

“How are you?” Kylo asked, his voice suddenly so close that she jumped and immediately winced at the sudden movement. Kylo touched her arm, hissing, “sorry sorry sorry.”

The entire room had emptied and she hadn’t even noticed. Now she and Kylo were alone with Jesse, who was snoozing happily. Rey turned and looked into Kylo’s face, “I’m tired,” she admitted.

“Finish eating and go sleep. You’ve done a lot of work today,” Kylo said. He put an arm around her and let her lean against him while she finished her food. He’d done a decent job of getting her good pieces of brisket and some kind of pasta salad. The real winner, though, was the cake.

“Did we have brisket on our wedding day?” Rey asked suddenly.

“You don’t remember?” Kylo asked, eyebrows raised.

“That entire day is a blur,” Rey said, shrugging, “I feel like today is going to be, too. In twenty years, I won’t be able to remember today at all.”

“Probably,” Kylo said. He looked up as Phasma came back in, trailed by Angela. Rey beamed at Angela, who brushed her hair behind her ear. Her crown was gone and her hair was loose. Even though this was a farce of a wedding, she felt guilty for ruining her day.

“Hey,” Rey said, smiling.

“Hi,” Angela said, stepping up to look down at Jesse’s sleeping face, “how are you?”

“Good,” Rey said.

“How’s baby? He looks good, but I don’t know, you know?” Angela said nervously, looking into Rey’s face.

“He’s doing great,” Phasma said, “I’ve had three and he’s perfect.”

Rey felt a knot of worry loosen in her chest. She hadn’t realized that she’d been anxious about Jesse’s size and health until Phasma said something. How could she be sure if there were no doctors or nurses? The women had done a good job, but how could anyone be sure that he was alright?

“I’m sorry we stole your moment, Angela” Rey said, laughing lightly.

“Are you kidding me? This is so wonderful. Father said this is a good omen,”

Angela smiled, tossing her loose hair over her shoulder and stepping forward to sit on the bed and look into Rey’s face, “I was born into the Order. These are the kinds of signs that we hope for our entire lives! Today is a perfect day.”

Kylo squeezed Rey’s shoulder but said nothing.

“He’s so beautiful,” Angela said, looking down at Jesse again.

“He is,” Rey said, smiling.

“You should probably go see your mother, Angela,” Phasma said, “she’s going to want every moment with you she can have, since you leave in two days.” She didn’t sound angry or even annoyed. Instead, her voice had a soft and motherly quality to it. She was just trying to keep Angela from getting distracted by Jesse or Rey. Was Rey going to be like this in a few years? Always trying to balance a desire to nurture and the need to protect people from someone else’s wrath?

“You’re right. Thank you, Mother,” Angela said, hurrying away.

As soon as the door closed, Rey leaned back against Kylo, closing her eyes, “I’m sorry. I’m so tired.”

“You are quite alright, Kira,” Phasma said, patting her knee understandingly.

“I hope I haven’t done anything bad today,” Rey said, “like, did I scream at anyone?”

“A bit,” Phasma said, smiling, “you were also giving birth at the time, so it’s alright.”

“Did I scream that Kylo had to be there?” Rey asked.

“Yes, you did,” Phasma said, nodding, “it’s alright. You’re not the first woman to take a very specific interest in where her husband is exactly.”

“I’m glad I was there,” Kylo said, kissing her head. Rey smiled and leaned against him again. Of all of the men in this entire, horrible place, she was glad that he was with her, “sleep, love,” he said.

Rey nodded, resting her head on the pillow and closing her eyes. She was worried that she’d have a difficult time falling asleep after the stress of the day, but she was asleep before she could even get comfortable. Kylo didn’t move, but sat next to her, like he was standing guard of her.

Chapter Text

 

 

Jesse was screaming again.

Rey sat up, throwing back the covers as she stumbled sleepily over to her son’s crib and picked him up. It was obvious what he wanted, but that seemed to make it worse. It was the middle of the night, so he’d want to eat, then go back to sleep. If there was any question, then she might be able to get Kylo to get up, but they both knew that Jesse wanted food.

Except they didn’t both know what Jesse wanted.

They both knew what Roland wanted.

If Rey hadn’t been holding her son, her hands might have shaken from the pure rage that thrummed within her over the acceptance of the name that Snoke had given her son. She’d carried him, she’d given birth to him- hell, Kylo had at least had a hand in his conception!- but Snoke named him. Snoke named him and everyone acted like there had never even been a mention of any name besides that one.

“Your name is Jesse,” Rey whispered, kissing the top of his head before sitting down to let him nurse. She hated being up at all hours, especially when Kylo slept through much of the feedings, but she was also grateful. The past eight weeks had been absolutely magical, even in the midst of exhaustion that drove her to the point of near-delirium. Jesse was a bright, healthy, and joyful baby with a patch of wavy black hair and the most beautiful smile she had ever beheld. Rey had expected her chores to change, just as they had when she had gotten pregnant, but she hadn’t expected for the dynamic in the entire house to change. She was Jesse’s primary caretaker, but everyone in the house seemed happier with a new member of the family around. Phasma was always willing to hold him so Rey could get minor tasks done and was full of useful baby knowledge that Rey hadn’t ever considered before. Two days after Jesse was born, once they had gotten him back to the farmhouse, Phasma had provided Rey with a wonderful bra-non-bra contraption that she could fill with chilled padding after she was done breastfeeding. It wasn’t like any bra Rey had ever seen and reminded her more of a cross between a halter bikini top and a sports bra, but she had been so relieved that she hadn’t asked any more questions. In fact, Rey had nearly kissed Phasma when she’d explained how it worked.

Right now, though, Rey was in just a thin nightgown that she’d dropped to her waist. The only person who was going to see her was Jesse, or perhaps Kylo if he woke up, and she didn’t much care if they saw her.

Kylo groaned and rolled over, reaching out to touch her side of the bed. He opened his eyes blearily, looking over his shoulder for her. Kylo sat up, running a hand through his hair as Rey waved at him casually as if she wasn’t feeding his son and was just awake at two in the morning for her own amusement.

“How long has he been at it?” Kylo asked, looking at the clock.

“Twenty minutes, give or take,” Rey said.

Kylo groaned, “I wish you’d woken me up.”

“What would you have done?” Rey asked, laughing.

“Been supportive?” Kylo offered lamely, “fine, I’ll change him. I can do that.”

“If you hadn’t offered, I was going to make you,” Rey said, smiling. She sighed in relief as Jesse eased up, “he finished fast this time.” she said, looking down at him.

“Well, he looks great,” Kylo said, “he’s getting so big already.”

“I know. It seems like he was born a few days ago, but it’s been two months,” Rey said, shaking her head.

“Eight weeks yesterday,” Kylo said.

Rey frowned, then looked up at him, “are you counting exactly how many weeks old he is? I can barely keep track of what day of the week it is.”

“Father said we can have sex again,” Kylo looked down at his hands and not at her as she continued, “he told me yesterday. That’s how I know.”

“Oh,” Rey was too tired to think of anything else to say and unable to think up a lie that would make her sound anything but angry. Snoke couldn’t ease up for a moment could he?

“Did Phasma get pregnant right away after Susannah?” Rey asked. It was Kylo’s turn to frown and stare at her, so Rey continued, “if they only waited two months between babies to try for more, did Phasma get pregnant right away or did it take longer?”

“I- I don’t know, to be honest,” Kylo said, shrugging and wiping his eyes, “Joanna was born when Susannah was three, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Rey struggled through the math as Jesse finished eating and Kylo got out of bed to take over. As Kylo burped Jesse and sat down in the chair, Rey fixed her nightgown and crawled into bed.

Thirty-six months old, let’s say, Rey thought, laying on her side and watching Kylo, Thirty-six minus nine is twenty-seven, which is like two years old-ish, so she didn’t get pregnant right away. Hopefully, I’ll take after her. On nights like this, Rey wished that she had attended a school with a half-decent health class curriculum, but she knew almost nothing about children or reproduction, outside of the basic mechanics. Most of what she’d learned about sex and health had come from a Tumblr blog run by a polyamorous triad of bisexuals who’d decided to “educate the young’uns about all things Adultness, actual health, and trans-inclusive safe ugly-bumpin’” if she remembered their blog description correctly.

I hope their still together, Rey thought. She didn’t have enough rest to wish for escape or safety. Mostly, knowing that people in the real world could be helpful, caring, and in love was enough.

“Father said we’re going on a trip the day after tomorrow,” Kylo said quietly.

“The entire family? Again? Is someone else getting married?” Rey asked, stretching and rolling onto her back to stare at the ceiling.

“Wife,” Kylo said, his voice serious.

Rey turned her head to look at him. His dark eyes were fixed on her face and utterly serious.

“There is going to be a wedding, but it will only be the family there. Tage is getting married,” Kylo said.

“Tage is- you’re going to kidnap the woman from last year?” Rey whispered, sitting up fully and crossing over to his side of the bed to sit down.

“We’re going to get my brother’s new wife,” Kylo said, standing slowly. It was absolutely insane to see him look at Jesse with such tenderness while he was discussing the kidnapping and eventual rape of an innocent woman. How long until this place wore her down that far? Phasma was probably excited for her stepson and she’d been here fifteen years. It was both such a long time and no time at all.

How long will you last? Rey thought, feeling her chest grow tight.

“Tage found my wife. It’s only fair,” Kylo murmured, laying the now-sleeping baby in his crib.

“Don’t call this “fair”!” Rey snarled, tears welling in her eyes, “don’t pretend.”

Kylo’s shoulders tensed and he gripped the side of Jesse’s crib, but all he said, “I’m not pretending.”

“You called me by my name while I was in labor,” Rey said, standing and walking over to him. She poked him in the back, “I know you know that this is all wrong. I don’t care if you’re his son. I don’t care if you were born into this. You know now.”

Kylo whirled on her so fast that Rey flinched. She’d spent years in foster care and more than five years in a house with Unkar Plutt. If a man turned on you with that much anger and speed, he was dangerous. His hands landed on her biceps, however, instead of her face or throat, “be quiet!” He snarled, his dark eyes blazing. She had never seen him so overtly angry before. Normally, he was cold or controlled or merely tense. This kind of real and physical rage was terrifying.

He was going to kill her. He’d gotten the son he wanted and now she’d pushed too far and he was going to murder her.

If he was a killer, why did he cry about the first girl? Rey reminded herself.

Every killer had a first kill somewhere…

Rey’s blood pounded in her ears, but she didn’t scream. If she screamed, the only people who would save her would be the children. It was better that they think she disappeared rather than being forced to help bury a body.

Jesse, I’m so sorry, baby, Rey thought, tears in her eyes.

“The Supreme Leader is wise, Kira,” Kylo said, still holding onto her arms, “I need you to say that.” His voice softened, but his words infuriated her. She had to live in this Purgatory and now she had to reinforce the crappy beliefs?

She couldn’t protect Jesse if she was dead, so she whispered, “the Supreme Leader is wise.”

“Good,” Kylo whispered, loosening his grip on her arms.

Rey recoiled, tears welling in her eyes. She stayed still, unsure where to move. If she guessed wrong, she could reignite that same fire she’d seen a moment ago. Instead, she kept her eyes on her shoes until Kylo walked past her and climbed into bed silently.

Rey curled under the blankets and stared at the wall for a long time, forcing herself to keep her tears silent. Behind her, Kylo was perfectly silent.

Which was odd, because his allergies meant that he usually snored in the summers.

 

Tage’s new wife, it transpired, was Asian.

She was absolutely beautiful, with delicate features that made her think of something elfin. Even in sleep, though, Rey could see the fierceness underneath. Someone else, someone who undervalued people around them and women, in particular, might miss it, but Rey saw it. This woman could get herself killed if Rey didn’t warn her. Whoever she was, she might have the strength to escape and rescue her and the children, but she needed to know the stakes or she might move too soon.

It was unnerving how quickly Snoke and Kylo had found her. They’d left the day before yesterday and had come back very late last night. It only took two days to ruin someone’s life, apparently. She’d been wearing a sensible dress, which suggested that she was a professional of some kind. She’d probably just gone out for drinks after work and paid for it with her freedom.

You should have been safe, Rey thought, turning away from the sleeping woman to look at the door. Kylo had been waiting for her when she’d first woken up, but right now she was alone.

It didn’t make sense why Kylo would leave her alone with the new captive, especially considering what she’d said before he had left, but Rey wasn’t going to worry about it too long. If Kylo had forgotten about it or had thought her intimidated, that was fine by her.

Rey hadn’t looked at Kylo if she could avoid it for the two days before his trip and barely said ‘goodbye’ to him before he left. Christ, this nearly broke her heart. She spent a lot of her free time with Finalizer, who had taken to Jesse with as much overt affection as she had expected. It had been a bit nerve-wracking to take her newborn into the paddock that first day, especially since she knew Kylo was anxious and his horse would pick up on it. There had never been anything to be worried about. Finalizer had sniffed at the baby's face without hesitation.

Snoke’s truck pulled up to the house in the early hours of the morning while Rey sat up with Jesse. At the sight of Kylo’s familiar figure, Rey’s heart had involuntarily leapt into her throat. A second later, however, it had plunged down to her stomach as Kylo stopped and grabbed a rolled-up tarp from the bed of the truck.

Please don’t let her be dead, Rey had thought, one hand to her glass window.

The woman opened her eyes and Rey let out a sigh of relief. She hurried forward, landing on her knees in front of her, "don't say anything," she hissed, "don't scream, please." The woman's eyes were wide, but she kept quiet.

"You've been kidnapped. This isn't a joke. This is real. My name is Rey, what is your name?"

"Paige," the woman said. Her hair had been put into waves and she'd probably been taken at a bar. Her eyeliner had a long wing but had been smudged on one side. Her earrings had tangled into her hair and made her look so much more vulnerable. Rey reached out, untangling her earrings and looked over her shoulder again. She could hear Phasma vacuuming upstairs, so she had a little more time, "don’t fight him, it won’t help,” Rey said. The vacuum cut off overhead and Rey's heart fell. She only had seconds, “the old man is in charge. Everyone else is in on it. The kids can’t help you.”

“What about you?” Paige asked.

“I can and I will, but my son is only two months old. He’s so small that he’d give us away.”

Paige nodded.

"They're going to take all of your things. They changed my clothes before I even got here. Is there anything you want me to keep for you?" Rey asked.

"My necklace," Paige said immediately, unlocking her clasp and passing it to her. Rey put it in her pocket and looked at the door. She could hear Phasma on the stairs, “don’t try to do anything on your own right away. It’s all wilderness. There is nothing. You won’t make it on foot.”

Paige looked at Rey with focused, intelligent dark eyes as Phasma opened the door to the little room.

"Hello, my daughter," Phasma said, smiling down at Paige, "this is Kira, your future sister-in-law. I'm Phasma, Father's wife."

"Father?" Paige asked, frowning and looking between Phasma and Rey. She sat up straighter, then glanced at the doorway.

“Father is married to Phasma,” Rey explained quickly, “God talks to him.”

“Is he your father?” Paige asked slowly, her eyes fixed on Rey even though she kept glancing at Phasma out of the corner of her eyes.

“Everyone calls him Father,” Rey said, “because he guides us and looks out for us, but my husband is technically his son. He has four other children, but Kylo is the oldest.”

Paige nodded, her dark eyes wide. They weren’t wild like those of a cornered animal. Instead, it reminded Rey of whenever someone was in an exam in college and facing a question they didn’t know the answer to and couldn’t think of an answer to. Her eyes were distant, fixed on a point beyond Rey that held some kind of answers.

Rey empathized, but there were no answers. There were never any good answers. Paige was going to be married to Tage. She was going to be raped. And Rey was going to have to keep up this facade. Gushing about Snoke and the system had left her pregnant through rape felt like drinking vinegar. She had to maintain the appearance of any content, if exhausted new mother, otherwise she would never escape. Now that she had Paige, she could get away from those people who wouldn’t leave on their own. Tage and Kylo had been born into this place. They would never betray their father, especially not for a pair of wildling women that they had been tasked with converting. Phasma was a victim, too, but after fifteen years, Rey couldn’t count on her to help. She might give them away out of fear of failure or out of commitment to Snoke.

God, forgive me for all of this shit I’ve had to do to survive, Rey thought.

“Where are the others?” Paige asked, looking around.

“They’re upstairs. Father thought you might prefer to meet me and Kira first,” Phasma said. She held out her hands and slowly pulled Paige to her feet, looking her over. At the sight of Paige’s dress, which came above her knees. Rey thought it was absolutely beautiful, with a green lining under matching green lace. Complete with the black strappy heels that had been dropped next to Paige’s mattress, she would have looked absolutely stunning when she walked into the club.

Now, though, she was here.

“Well, my daughter, we’re going to have to get you out of these, um, garments, and into something more befitting a daughter of the Supreme Leader of the First Order,” Phasma said. She looked Paige up and down, “you’re even smaller than Kira, so you’ll probably wear some of Susannah or Joanna’s clothing, depending on how it fits overall.”

“Are Susannah or Joanna your sisters, too?” Paige asked, looking at Rey.

Rey pressed her lips together, anxious at all of the questions Paige was asking. It was so risky. One misstep and she could end up struck or even dead.

Apparently, though, Paige was not only braver than she was, but she was more adept at putting people at ease, because Phasma only smiled and said, “Susannah and Joanna are my daughters. They’re fifteen and twelve. I also have a ten-year-old named Isaac. You’re going to be married to Father’s second son, Armitage. He’s about your age, perhaps a little older.”

Paige nodded, “when?” she whispered, her voice finally failing slightly.

“Tomorrow morning,” Phasma said, “your wedding will be smaller than mine or Kira’s, but we had a big wedding right around the time little Roland was born, so we can’t have another one for another few months.”

Paige frowned but kept her question to herself. She turned her head to the door suddenly with a small intake of breath. At first, Rey couldn’t understand why, but then she looked at the door in time to see it open. Kylo, Snoke, and Tage all filed in.

“Here you are, my son,” Snoke said, waving at Paige, who still stood there nervously in her bare feet and her beautiful dress, “what do you think?”

Tage looked her over thoughtfully but said nothing for a long moment. Rey’s heart tightened. If Tage rejected her, would she be killed, just like that? All Tage had to do was make some snide comment and all of this girl’s hopes of escape or a real life were gone. Finally, after the longest thirty seconds or five hours of Rey’s life, Tage said, “she’s perfect, Father.”

Rey glanced at Kylo out of the corner of her eyes to see that his face was utterly blank and still. Clearly, he had been worried about that, even if he would never admit it. Rey withheld a sigh with difficulty. Instead, she just focused on Paige, who was looking at Tage with feigned shyness.

They’ve brought a tiger into this house, Rey thought, watching the way Paige’s dark eyes seemed to drill holes into Tage, and I am so fuckin’ excited.

 

Paige’s new First Order name was Ruth, which confused Rey to no end. How on earth did Snoke name two of his children Kylo and Armitage, marry a woman name Phasma, and then do a complete one-eighty and start using names like “Ruth” and “Joanna.” “Kira” wasn’t a great name, but standing next to “Phasma” it was downright typical.

Not that Rey was or would ever be in a position to ask these questions. She was just grateful her son wasn’t running around being called something ridiculous like “Dorn” or “Tephan”.

Rey carefully pinned Paige’s hair around her crown, listening to Phasma talking Paige through her wedding and her marriage. Well, honestly she mostly ignored the discussion. Instead, her attention was torn between making sure Paige’s crown was pinned into her hair and making sure Jesse was comfortable from his place on the wrap on her chest. Phasma had shown her how to use a long bolt of cloth to hold Jesse to her chest while leaving her hands free.

Jesse snoozed comfortably, his cheek resting on her chest. Rey hummed, which always seemed to soothe Jesse when she was holding him and even more when he was wrapped up.

“You look so beautiful, my dear,” Phasma said, smiling and stepping back from Ruth as Rey put the last pin in place.

Paige’s flower crown was made of tropical-looking flowers. Kylo had grown the jasmine flowers himself. He’d woken up early to sit and wave it by hand. It had made her wonder if Kylo had made her crown himself. Under the crown, Rey had kept Paige’s hair loose. Between the tropical flowers, the mostly-loose hair, and the long white dress, Paige looked the freest of any First Order bride that Rey had seen. Rey had felt like the girl out of Tuck Everlasting and Angela looked like a war bride from the 1940s, but Paige belonged on the beach in Hawaii.

But she was here, in Montana.

In Hell.

“Oh, wow,” Kylo said, stepping into the room and stopping to kiss the top of Rey’s head, “you look beautiful, Ruth.”

“Thank you,” Paige said, smiling tightly. She looked into Rey’s face. In her eyes, Rey could see the fear and grief in them.

I’m so sorry, Rey wanted to say back, looking Paige in the eye, I will do whatever I can to help you. Just be strong. Just hang on.

Jesse stirred against Rey’s chest, stretching under the fabric and sighing. Kylo chuckled and leaned forward to brush his fingers over the top of Jesse’s head. Rey looked up at Kylo and saw the warmth in Kylo’s eyes as he looked down at Jesse, who was blinking sleepily at his father. Rey hummed low in her chest, which made Kylo’s smile widen.

“He really is precious,” Paige said, looking at Jesse.

“He is,” Phasma said. She looked up at Kylo, “is it time?”

“Yeah,” Kylo said, his eyes still on Jesse. After another moment, he managed to tear her eyes away from Jesse and looked at Rey, “M'lady,” he said, holding out his arm.

Rey took his arm and let him walk her up the stairs. It reminded her of prom, although she hadn’t been pregnant at prom, so she hadn’t had the extra twenty-five pounds of baby and baby weight on her front. She’d worn heels to senior prom, though, so she was about as graceful then as she was now.

“You look beautiful, too,” Kylo said, leaning down to speak into her ear.

“Me?” Rey asked, eyes wide. She glanced down at her baggy blue nursing-friendly dress, complete with black wrappings to carry Jesse. She looked up at Kylo, who grinned down at her.

“Yes, you,” he said, “you are beautiful.”

Rey blushed and shook her head, which made Kylo chuckle, “don’t deny it. I decide what I find beautiful.”

“Thank you,” Rey said. She heard Jesse make a tiny noise and was about coo about it when he wiggled slightly and suddenly felt something hot under the fabric she was touching on Jesse’s back.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Rey said.

“What?” Kylo asked, frowning.

“He totally dropped a bomb,” Rey said, “he might have even gotten stuff on my dress.”

“I’ll take him,” Kylo said, “I’ll change him and you get cleaned up if you need to.”

“Are you sure? They’re about to start.. .” Rey said.

“Of course,” Kylo said, “come upstairs and we can unwrap him.”

“Thank you,” Rey said, hurrying up the stairs as Jesse began to fuss in earnest.

Look, kid, she thought, resisting the urge to say this directly, if you had waited until after the ceremony, you literally wouldn’t be in this mess.

“He’s my son,” Kylo said, a half-step behind her on the stairs. When Rey reached their room, she turned around and caught him by the shirtfront. Kylo started, but Rey pulled him down and kissed him. She was angry at him, yes. She was frustrated at this entire situation, yes. However, she was suddenly so grateful to have a partner who wanted to be an engaged father.

Kylo chuckled and kissed her back, one hand coming up to the back of her head. He stepped away after a moment, then opened the door to their room. Rey sat on the bed and started unwinding Jesse from her chest. Kylo picked Jesse up under the armpits and slowly lifted him off of Rey, his expression uncertain. Rey looked down as Kylo laid the baby on Jesse’s change table.

“I’m clean!” She said, which made Kylo laugh in earnest.

Thank God for the little spots of joy in this place.

Chapter Text

Paige was pale and distant the morning after her so-called wedding. Rey watched her as carefully as she could during breakfast, even though Jesse was particularly fussy, constantly whining or crying. More than once, Rey had to step away from the table. Paige picked at her food throughout the meal, but otherwise kept herself in control.

When the family broke for chores, Rey offered to teach Paige how to dust properly, which Phasma agreed to without any hesitation. That, even more than the twisted wedding from the day before, caught Rey off-guard-she was now officially trusted by the First Order. Rey carried the dusting supplies upstairs and let Paige carry Jesse. They laid the drowsy infant in the bed, then turned their attention to Kylo’s dresser.

“Do you know how to dust?” Rey asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Paige said, “my mom was super strict about cleaning and stuff.”

“Good,” Rey said. She glanced at the doorway, “we’ll have to work, but I wanted to talk to you. How are you? Are you alright?”

“I’ll be okay,” Paige said quietly, keeping her eyes on the wood.

Rey chewed on her lip, “how was it, last night?”

“Horrible,” Paige murmured, “but not violent. I- I didn’t fight, so he didn’t have to hold me down or be really rough. Thank you for the warning.”

Rey nodded. She remembered her first night with Kylo. It hadn’t been harsh or painful in a physical sense, but she would remember the horror and heartbreak for the rest of her life, “it’s hard, yeah. It was the same with Kylo. He tried his best, but… rape is rape.”

They worked in silence for a long time, first from Kylo’s room to Tage’s. Paige hesitated for the space of a heartbeat at Tage’s doorway, but squared her shoulders and stepped inside. Rey had been in Tage’s room hundreds of times, but it suddenly felt like a new and sinister place. She felt like she was trespassing on a place that she shouldn't. It was like when she was a teenager and she would go searching cemeteries and library archives for anyone with the last name Niima. It wasn't until she'd met a very kind archivist that she learned that Niima was the name of a tiny town in West Texas where she'd been found.

Rey had driven to Niima before her freshman year of college, but the only record of her or her parents had been a newspaper clipping of the nurse who had found her wandering the park. She had met the nurse who found her and checked her out but hadn't found anything real.

"Are you okay?" Rey murmured, looking at Paige.

"Yeah," Paige said, moving to dust the frame of Tage's bed.

"The dusting is pretty easy, but also take a look at the skirts of the beds to make sure they don’t need to be removed and washed," Rey said. She really hoped that the skirts didn't need to be taken today. It was always a pain to have to move the mattresses and pull the bed skirts from underneath.

"Is this all we do?" Paige asked, wrinkling her nose.

Rey nodded, "that and be pregnant."

Paige groaned, resting her temple against the bedpost, "sounds like hell," she murmured.

"It is," Rey said.

"How long did it take you to get pregnant?" Paige questioned quietly, looking at the door.

Rey started to work on the dresser and took a deep breath, "I found out in June, but I was taken in March."

"Christ," Paige hissed.

Rey watched the doorway and listened for anyone who might be coming up the stairs. The kids were probably doing outdoor chores since it was a nice day and they'd all been cooped up indoors for months. She whispered to Paige, "were you on the pill? There's no birth control here, so the side effects could be rough."

"I got my shot on Monday- last Monday. Technically today is Monday," Paige said. It was simply in passing, but it struck her suddenly. She hadn't dealt with a calendar in months. Such a casual mention of dates from anyone but Snoke, who probably had access to a calendar in his office, unnerved her almost.

"What was the date? I've tried to keep track, but I don't know for sure," Rey asked, trying to take a calming breath and remain casual.

"I was taken on May 10, 2013," Paige said, which was closer to the real question that Rey was asking. The real thing that she wanted was what day is it today?

"Oh my god..." Rey said, blinking rapidly at the coincidence. May 10 was Paige's last day of freedom. March 10 had been hers.

"What?" Paige asked, stopping suddenly.

"It's just... I was taken March 10 of 2012."

"Shit, that sucks," Paige hissed.

"You have to watch your language here," Rey blurted suddenly. All of the rules, things that she'd taken for granted after months here, were rushing back, "Phasma will slap you for it. Tage will, too. Kylo might, I don't know. You can't curse or try to run or argue about a chore. Don't mention the outside world."

"Anything else?" Paige asked warily. Rey could hear her nail clicking lightly on the wood of the bed frame as she fidgeted anxiously.

"You're going to get them a lot," Rey warned, "they just do that a lot here, especially Phasma. The kids won't slap you, but they've grown up around this. It's normal to them. And don't let them know what your real name is."

"Why not?" Paige asked.

Rey's throat tightened at the memory of Susannah's choked-off sobs as Phasma rapped her knuckles, "if they slip and use the wrong one, they'll be punished."

"Bastards," Paige hissed.

"I mean it about the language," Rey said, "Tage is really straight-laced, I think. I don't hang around him because-"

"He's creepy?" Paige muttered.

"Yes," Rey said, "I don't want you getting hurt. If you can stay safe and build their trust, we'll be able to do things. We'll have to be careful, but we can make plans and go from there." She looked over her shoulder to look at Paige, who met her eyes with determined dark eyes.

A tiger, Rey thought again, you're asking a tiger to wait and bide her time.

Distantly, she heard Jesse stir and begin to fuss and whine in the other room. She groaned and turned to go tend to him, leaving Paige to finish wiping down bed frame and dresser. She picked up Jesse and rubbed his back, tears welling in her eyes. Paige was having to clean the bed she was raped in. Her stomach turned as she changed Jesse's diaper, wondering how she could plan her escape, protect Paige, maintain her appearance and supposed compliance, and take care of Jesse. Jesse squirmed and Rey clicked her tongue at him. After months of not cursing and being unable to call her son by his name, she’d found herself resorting to nonverbal communication.

When her son was clean, Rey picked him up and held him in one of the little wraps and went downstairs to help with the laundry. Since she was carrying Jesse around, no one made her deal with chemicals. Her job, for the most part, was to fold clothes and feed her son.

“Kira, can you help me?” Susannah called from the back door.

Rey left the basket of unfolded clothing, “what’s up?” she asked.

Behind her, Rey heard someone coming down the stairs and glanced over her shoulder to see Paige coming down the stairs, but focused on Susannah, who looked sweaty and exasperated.

“Finalizer is being dramatic,” Susannah said, “Father and the others are clearing brush with the truck, so we were supposed to feed the horses, but Finalizer keeps riling up the others. Can you get him to hold still?”

“If Joanna can watch the baby, sure,” Rey said, shrugging. Finalizer hadn’t been aggressive with Jesse before, but if he was so difficult that the girls were coming to her for help, she didn’t want to bring a baby into the mix, “come on, Ruth,” Rey said, nodding towards the barn, “let’s meet the horses.”

“Do you all raise horses for racing?” Paige asked.

“For work and for riding,” Rey said casually, “they don’t race or anything.”

Paige nodded. She sighed when she got to the barn and saw the horses in their stalls.

“This is Supremacy,” Rey said, gesturing to the proud creature, “he’s Father’s horse. Starkiller belongs to Armitage. And Finalizer- ” the stallion snorred and whinnied loudly as Rey got close, which made her snicker, “is Kylo’s.”

“Oh I always loved horses,” Paige whispered. She stepped forward to get a better look at Finalizer, which made the horse huff loudly.

“Finalizer, be nice. She’s a friend,” Rey said.

Finalizer stepped forward and rested his head on her shoulder. He sighed dramatically. He wasn’t happy, but he wasn’t going to destroy Paige for getting too close.

“How about you let her pet your nose and then we’ll see?” Rey offered, cupping his nose and looking at him.

Finalizer sighed again, but lifted his nose up to sniff at Paige. He looked at Rey in the corner of his eye, clearly unimpressed with the new family member.

Paige gently rubbed Finalizer’s nose, “he is so beautiful,” she said, stepping back after a moment.

Finalizer knickered at her. Apparently, Paige had gotten the Finalizer seal of approval.

Rey kissed Finalizer between the eyes, “I know you know something is wrong here. She’s just as trapped as I am.”

“How come she gets to pet Finalizer!?” Isaac said indignantly.

Rey smiled, “Finalizer isn’t mean. He’s just picky. Maybe he’ll let you all come closer when you’re a little older.”

“Are they all stallions?” Paige asked, looking around.

“Yeah,” Rey said.

“Can we ride them later?” Paige whispered. She was lucky that Isaac was distracted by trying to calmly approach Finalizer, who snorted and lifted his head out of Isaac’s reach.

“Married women can’t ride horses here,” Rey whispered.

Paige shook her head in exasperation, “I used to, when I was a kid. My dad worked with the stock market, so my sister and I got to go to camps in the summer. I haven’t ridden in a long time,” she turned away from Finalizer and watched Supremacy sniff and explore his stall, “every time I think something might be bearable here, I get shut down.”

“You’ve got me,” Rey offered, elbowing Paige playfully and smiling. It hurt, yes, but if Paige wallowed in the horrific nature of it all, they’d be lost. Paige looked at her and smiled, shaking her head in amusement.

“Kira, could you try to clean Finalizer’s stall for us?” Susannah asked suddenly. There was a strange note in her voice that Rey didn’t know how to place. She didn’t sound angry, exactly, but there was probably a long list of chores tucked into her apron pocket and Rey was socializing.

Susannah was aware of a lot about this place, Rey had long decided, but some things were universal, like a teenager with a list of tasks they didn’t want to do.

“Of course,” Rey said.

“I’ll take Ruth up to the house,” Susannah offered, “in case Mother needs her.”

Paige watched Supremacy for another moment, then nodded, “yeah, let’s see if we can help with lunch or any other chores.”

 

The worst part of being a human being was how easy it was to normalize anything. She knew that two weeks ago, Paige had been a free woman with her own career and dreams. Now, she spent her days cleaning and doing chores and her nights laying next to a cold and distant rapist.

Now, Tage was officially a rapist, too.

Just like Kylo.

Rey tried not to linger on things like that late at night, but it was something she couldn’t ignore. Snoke was like something toxic that had slipped into the water supply and poisoned everything about this place. The children were the most innocent, sure, but his oldest sons had been that way once, too. A baby wasn’t tainted because of the First Order, but the First Order would eventually twist them, too.

Just like it had twisted Phasma and probably Rey, too.

“Wife.”

Kylo’s low voice took her out of her thoughts. Rey focused on his face to see him lying on his side, dressed in sleep pants but no shirt.

Well, Jesse’s almost three months old, so the sex would probably start up again, soon, Rey thought bitterly.

Right now, she was still full of the events of the previous afternoon. Paige had messed up Snoke’s coffee and earned herself a sound smack across the face from Phasma as well as several minutes spent on her knees making sure the brown liquid hadn’t stained the white linoleum.

Susannah didn’t seem to like Paige much, either, so she gave the new arrival a bit of a cold shoulder throughout the day.

That surprised Rey a bit, but not too much. If Joanna and Kylo were closest of the siblings, Tage and Susannah weren’t far behind them. Susannah was dreamier than Tage, but otherwise, they were similar. After spending her entire life with a much-older brother who had always had time with her, sharing his attention must have been difficult. It didn’t help that the last sister-in-law. Susannah had bonded with had gotten her in trouble repeatedly. The poor girl was probably hesitant to through her lot in with wildings who were going to drag her down with them.

“Where are you going?” Kylo murmured, letting his fingertips brush over Rey’s cheek.

“Thinking about the day,” Rey whispered.

“I can distract you,” Kylo offered. His tone was light, but there was clearly a seriousness to the offer.

Rey sighed and closed her eyes. Kylo brushed a few strands of hair out of her face, but didn’t move to kiss her.

Unable to stop the request from forcing its way from between her clenched teeth, Rey closed her eyes tighter and whispered, “please not tonight.”

“Alright,” Kylo whispered back. He brushed his lips lightly over her forehead and rolled over to face the normal way. Rey withheld a sigh with difficulty; she didn’t want to anger him.

Somewhere in the house, someone screamed.

Rey gasped and Kylo sat up immediately, his eyes wide. At first, Rey thought it was Paige, screaming in pain, but Kylo’s murmured, “Joanna,” made Rey’s heart drop.

Kylo scrambled to his feet, throwing himself out of the door and looking around wildly. Rey paused only long enough to scoop Jesse up, not caring when he whined. She rushed over to Kylo and reached him at the same time Tage did. The red haired man stood there in dark pants and a white shirt, which made him look even more pale than usual. Down the hall, Isaac’s door opened and Susannah’s light turned on.

“Father!” Joanna screamed again. Rey turned her head as Kylo rushed downstairs, following Joanna’s voice.

Susannah and Isaac, both pale and sleepyheaded, came over, taking Tage’s place as their older brother ran downstairs after Kylo. Downstairs, Phasma and Snoke were awake and talking.

Rey looked around, frowning. Everyone was accounted for, except for Paige. Had she been raped so badly that she couldn’t get up right away?

“Someone’s trying to break in!” Joanna sobbed.

Break in? Rey thought, her heart jumping into her throat, or break out?

Chapter Text

I am so blown away by the response to this fic. I am so honored by how you all have responded to me and my idea and my interpretation of these characters.

To celebrate 600 comments (600!) I'm going to do a 6-part prompt series based on responses from this chapter.

So:
1) if you have prompt, comment in this fic
2) for right now, do 1 prompt at a time to give people a chance to respond.
3) after 3 days, you can post a second prompt
4) I'm going to do the first 6 prompts
5) these are prompts in or out of the Fossorial universe, the canon, or another au. They need to have Kylo, Rey, or Reylo

Chapter Text

Rey rushed out of the back door to see Snoke running towards the barn. Someone turned the inside light on while she walked. Her heart tightened as Snoke and Tage ran across the stream of light that cut across the grass.

Rey heard a low creaking noise, but didn’t know what it was.

“Wait!” Kylo shouted suddenly. Tage hesitated, but Snoke didn’t.

Suddenly, a massive shape rushed out of the open doorway with a scream. The shape filled the barn doorway, far taller than Snoke, than any human could be alone. It took Rey a moment to realize that it was Paige sitting on Supremacy’s back.

She grew up riding horses. She could make it, Rey thought. Even in the middle of the night, Paige had a real chance at freedom. She drove the animal forward, straight for Snoke. It was only at the last second, when Supremacy seemed to recognize his master, that they moved to the side. Inside the barn, Rey heard the screams and crashes of Finalizer and Starkiller, who both recognized that something, somehow, was wrong.

Paige looked at the people standing in front of the house. The light streaming out from several upstairs windows created eerie patches of almost-daylight. Rey glanced to her side and saw that she was the furthest back of the group. That meant she couldn’t run and try to get on Supremacy’s back, not without Kylo or Tage or someone else restraining her.

It also meant that no one saw her raise her right arm and point down towards the path that she had run down so many months ago.

“RUTH!” Snoke bellowed, picking himself up from the grass.

“Ruth, don’t be foolish!” Phasma said, moving forward. Her blonde hair had come loose from its braid and waved in the wind. She looked like an angel or a princess, which didn’t make sense, deep down. This woman was meant to be a warrior, not a damsel.

“No!” Paige said. She caught sight of Rey’s arm and nodded. The light caught her face and Rey met her gaze and nodded. Paige wheeled the horse around, but she was too slow; Tage stood in front of the space, pointing a gun at her.

Rey’s heart stopped. She inhaled sharply, holding tightly to Jesse. She stepped behind Kylo, whose hand drifted to his side, creating a slightly wider shield for her and Jesse.

“Get off the horse, Ruth,” Tage said.

“No!,” Paige snarled. She wheeled around and Tage raised the weapon, but Snoke bellowed:

“Watch the horse!”

Paige laughed, a hard noise that was both bitter and exhilarated. She rushed the other way, but Snoke drew his own gun, pointing very directly at her. Paige raced past Rey again, holding tight to Supremacy’s reigns. A shot rang out and Paige was flattened forward with a scream. Rey gasped and someone to her left began to sob, but she just watched, pleading silently, please, God, let her live. Please let her escape. Let her be alive and okay..

Paige sat up slowly with a scream of pain. There was scarlet on the sleeve of her shirt, but the injury seemed to be superficial. It was only then that Rey realized that Paige hadn’t only stolen a horse- she’d taken men’s clothing from somewhere inside the house, which gave Rey real hope. Even if she lost the horse, she had a real chance of being able to run on foot. All the men were barefoot, but Paige had a pair of sturdy boots.

There’s my tiger, Rey thought, beaming, make him regret he was ever born.

“Ruth, bring my horse back here!” Snoke shouted, managing to get between her and the other way into the forest. Paige paced around, moving too fast for either Tage or Snoke to get a firm sight on her. She trampled over half of the garden and danced so close to the rest of the family that Joanna screamed.

“You’re never going to get away!” Snoke said, “you are with the First Order forever, Ruth, one way or another.”

Paige stopped on a dime, turning in Supremacy’s saddle to look at Snoke.

“That’s it,” Snoke said, nodding and grinning cruelly, “it’s so hard, to go from thinking you have freedom “out there” and then to experience the true way. I am merciful, Ruth. I won’t punish you too severely for this. Just get off the horse and we can go back inside and go back to life as normal.”

Paige stood stock still as Tage slowly lowered his shotgun and Snoke came closer, his pistol still drawn at his side. Tears welled in her eyes and Rey’s heart broke for her. Yes, Snoke might not kill her, but those tears were a sign of a broken spirit.

“It’s alright, my dear. Father is here,” Snoke said, reaching out a hand to pat Paige’s leg. Instead, Paige jerked Supremacy’s reigns, turning the horse sharply out of range of Snoke’s hand. Her shoulders suddenly lifted from their slump and she lifted her chin off of her chest. In fact, she lifted it almost in the air and she spat into Snoke’s.

Everyone, even Rey, gasped. Without meeting a beat, Paige wheeled around. She drove Supremacy not towards Tage and freedom, but towards a building off the side of the house. She drew something from her saddle bags. She opened a dark bottle and half poured-half smashed it onto the ceiling of the garage. Tage and Snoke stood, frozen and dumbfounded with everyone else until Paige grabbed for a second item and they seemed to decide she was up to no good. Whatever she had gotten flashed in her hand as she raised it over her head. She dropped it onto the roof of the garage. For a heartbeat, nothing happened, but before Rey could do more than blink, the garage burst into flames. Rey screamed and backed up. Kylo grabbed her close, but could only watch in horror as orange flames began to flow over the ceiling tiles. Rey held Jesse tightly to her chest, staring at Paige in equal parts horror and awe. Paige galloped past and looked at Rey, wearing an expression of hard determination and contentment, as if she had never planned for anything but this, like she didn’t want to escape, but just destroy. She smiled at Rey, then raised a hand, giving Snoke the most beautiful middle finger Rey had ever seen.

Another shot rang out, cutting through Rey’s exhilaration. Paige didn’t scream this time, but her body jerked backwards. When she did, her hands jerked the reins, dragging Supremacy down with her. Before the sound of the shot finished echoing, Rey heard a sickening snap.

The horse began screaming and Kylo groaned. Tears welled in Rey’s eyes, realizing what had happened. Christ, she was so grieved to see Paige die, but at least Paige had known what was coming. The horse was innocent in everything.

One day, Snoke, I am going to kill you, Rey thought, crying in earnest.

Snoke screamed furiously, stomping his feet. He crossed over to his horse, raised his gun, and shot the animal in the head. Rey stared at him, trembling with fury and fear. He had hurt so many people. He had ruined everything. Her son was less than a hundred feet from a murdered woman because he was a monster.

Snoke emptied his gun into Paige’s body, making Susannah shriek. Rey turned her head sharply to see that Phasma was standing with her arms around her three children, shielding Joanna and Issac’s faces as Susannah buried her face in her mother’s chest.

They would never escape this. Those three children would always be witnesses to a murder.

Snoke whirled around, stalking over to Tage, who seemed frozen in place. He was still holding the shotgun, but it was pointed uselessly at the grass. Kylo stepped closer to his brother without a word, but Snoke drew back his hand, still holding the empty gun, and brought it hard across his son’s face.

Kylo groaned again, his shoulders slumping as Tage hit the grass. Tage laid on his stomach, hands over his bloody face, but Snoke turned away from him without doing anything further. The old man stalked towards the house, his face twisted in cold fury.

It was only in the dead silence that Rey suddenly heard a light cracking sound and realized she smelled smoke.

“The garage is still on fire!” Rey shouted, turning to look at structure.

Snoke spun on his heel, his anger vanishing as it was replaced by fear. The roof of the garage was on fire, but Rey didn’t know if the flames would spread to the house.

“Phasma, get the hose from the barn!” Snoke said, “and get that useless son of mine off the grass. If he can’t be a husband, he might as well clean up his mess.”

“We need to get the children out of here,” Kylo said.

“The meadow,” Phasma said, “they can wait at the meadow.”

“Kira, take the children and wait there,” Snoke said, looking at her. His pale eyes were flat and menacing. He knew, deep down, that an escape attempt had crossed Rey’s mind, but his expression said, if you try, your death will be worse

A piece of the roof fell in, breaking Snoke’s concentration, “everyone move! Now!” Snoke bellowed.

“I need to help,” Rey said immediately, grabbing Kylo’s arm as Phasma ran to the barn and Snoke jogged over to the garage.

“No, go to the meadow and wait for me!” Kylo said.

“I-”

“Rey! Take Jesse to the meadow,” Kylo said, holding her chin and making her look into his face, “this smoke will be bad for his lungs. Take him and wait for me.”

Rey stared at him and her voice failed. Her own name echoed in her ears and it sounded so beautiful, even amidst the chaos.

“Take the children. Be safe. I-” Kylo broke off, “I am so sorry.”

Tears ran down Rey’s face as she felt someone pulling at her arm. She looked down to see Susannah pulling her into the dark forest, away from the fire. Rey turned her head to look back at Kylo, who was a massive silhouette against the orange of the fiery garage. When she did, she was blinded by the light of a flashlight that Joanna had had the thought to grab.

“Joanna, get in front,” Rey said thickly, “lead the way.”

Their little group walked in perfect silence. None of the children cried, not even Jesse. Instead, it was Rey who wanted to sit and cry. She managed to keep herself moving forward, even as Kylo’s words echoed in her head.

Rey, take Jesse to the meadow

Rey took a deep breath, blinking rapidly to keep her eyes clear.

I am so sorry,

Rey turned his words over and over. She thought about how he’d whispered in her ear while she’d been giving birth. He’d put himself at risk to support her, both today and the day Jesse had been born.

Kylo’s dark eyes were fixed in her mind.

Rey had grown up around deserts and fire. She knew they could eat through forests and people easily. What if Kylo got hurt?

“We’re here,” Susannah said softly. Rey looked up, pulling herself out of her thoughts. She looked over her shoulder, looking for any sign of smoke or flames over her shoulder. There were a few lights in the distance, but there was no sign of real smoke. She breathed a sigh of relief.

“I’ll take him,” Joanna said, opening her arms to hold Jesse. Rey merely shook her head, sitting down on the grass and leaning her back against a tree. She needed Kylo to be alright. Part of her hated him. Part of her pitied him.

But she needed him to be alright.

Rey rested her head back against the tree trunk, closing her eyes and trying to remember the time Kylo had brought her here alone. It had been so beautiful, full of mist and soft sunlight. She hadn’t known that she was pregnant yet. She’d been able to lay in comfort, surrounded by flowers and open sky and Kylo.

Rey knew what “there” was as soon as she saw it. Within the woods, not even a fifteen-minute ride from the barn was a giant field of wildflowers. The trees, massive pines that seemed to stretch endlessly overhead, didn’t fully disappear but looked like they’d been thinned and hauled away. The space that was left had been filled with grass and thousands of speckles of colors. Kylo chuckled at the way she’d gasped at the sight of it all.

“This is my favorite spot. It’s actually where Joanna took her first steps,” Kylo said. Rey nodded dully, unable to process how open it all was. She’d grown used to the boundaries of the house and the farm and the oppressive and mysterious forest beyond. Beyond all of that was almost half a football field’s worth of open space. There was no roof, no Phasma, no chores, and no walls. It was just her and Kylo and the horse and the open sky that was streaked with gold in earnest now.

Rey wondered distantly if Kylo knew that she’d needed to escape the house, somewhere or somehow. He’d been concerned about her emotional welfare, too. Rey thought about Paige’s body, already going cold in the dust next to the garden that Kylo worked so hard to cultivate. His mistake had gotten that first mystery girl strangled, in front of his very eyes. Now, the woman that he had collected and brought to this place was dead, too. Kylo, who had been horrified at the idea at pedophelia in the First Order, who she’d had to explain rape to, who had cried when he’d known that he’d have to kidnap another woman, who was always so kind to his son.

“Do you like it?” Kylo asked, stopping Finalizer and stepping down.

“It’s beautiful,” Rey said. She put her hands on his shoulders as he lifted her up around the waist and set her on the ground. The ankle-high grass smeared dew onto her ankles, but she didn’t mind in the slightest.

Kylo always smelled like hay, lavender, and a strange other scent that Rey just knew as Kylo. He’d been so close to her the last time that she’d been here that she could almost smell him again. Would she ever have a moment of closeness with him again?

“We haven’t gone out in a while,” Kylo said, pulling a blanket from the saddle back that she hadn’t noticed before, “I thought you might like this place."

“Kylo, I love it,” Rey said, slowly turning on her heel to stare at the scenery around her.

He’d known that she’d love it.

He’d brought her to this place just because he thought that she would find it beautiful.

You’re in love with him, that same small, bitter voice said inside her head.

No, Rey shot back, rubbing Jesse’s back. he’s just the kindest person here.

A lone tear ran, hot and fast, down her face. Rey didn’t even bother wiping it away, letting the cold night hair lift it away and chill the track that it had left behind.

“Baby,” Kylo suddenly croaked, tightening his arm around her waist. With her front pressed flushed to his side, her back took most of the force, but her vital organs were safe. Pain exploded in her side, her hip, her legs over and over as Snoke kicked her and Kylo repeatedly. After what felt like an agonizing hour, he stepped away. Snoke stomped out of the room.

Had he known that she was pregnant then? Was he concerned about keeping the potential baby safe? She had been pregnant with Jesse at the time, so his instincts had been right and might have saved Jesse’s life.

Or had he been calling her baby?

When she’d told him that she was pregnant, he’d been so overjoyed and surprised that she couldn’t be certain that he’d known beforehand. Whether or not he had, he’d protected her. He’d been forced into an impossible situation by his own father and made horrible choices over and over. Still, he had tried to choose the most gentle path. Kylo was a loving father to Jesse. He had given her freedom and choice as much as possible and had kept her from risking her life the way Paige had.

Paige chose her freedom, Rey reminded herself, I am never going to forget her. I will survive this. I will get free.

Rey’s heart tightened at the thought that her freedom could mean Kylo’s death or imprisonment. Being raised in an abusive environment with a deranged maniac wasn’t going to prevent him from prosecution.

Would you kill him to save yourself and Jesse?

Rey’s throat tightened. She didn’t know. She couldn’t answer that question.

“Wife.”

Kylo’s voice was suddenly very close to her, making her jump. Rey looked over to see his face. His hair was messy and plastered to his face with sweat, but he was alright. Rey saw him and immediately burst into tears.

Kylo put his arms around her lightly, pressing a kiss to her forehead. He hummed gently as Jesse stirred, hiccupping himself awake.

“I’ll take him,” Kylo said, gently lifting him from Rey’s arms. Rey nodded, looking around to see that Phasma was checking over her own children. She sighed in relief, even when she saw Tage helping Susannah to her feet. He hugged her, letting her cry into his chest.

A knot of tension loosened in her chest at the sight of such tenderness between the siblings. She was relieved to see some decency here. Kylo took her hand and helped her to her feet, “let’s go home, love.”

Rey nodded, unable to think or formulate words. She held Kylo’s hand as they walked in darkness back to the house.

He took Paige, that bitter voice said in her head as they got to the light of the house. Rey looked over her shoulder to see that Phasma, Tage, and the kids were trailing after them. Rey tried to focus on her relief that the house was standing, unburned, but that bitter voice seemed to wind tighter within her mind, he is the reason that she’s dead.

Rey looked at the garage, which had collapsed on itself. The cars looked ruined, too, but she didn’t care about it.

Snoke and his cars could go fuck themselves.

When Rey reached the door, she realized two things:

First, Paige and Supremacy’s bodies were gone. They’d been taken away and buried already.

Two, a lot more time had passed than she realized. The sky had started to lighten, meaning that she’d been in the meadow for hours and hadn’t realized it.

“Where is Father?” Joanna asked quietly.

“Inside already,” Phasma said, “go inside and go to bed.”

“Yes, Mama,” Joanna said. The children went directly upstairs, jogging past Kylo and going straight to their rooms. Those three kids had just witnessed a murder and a fire and didn’t deserve to. She walked upstairs behind Kylo, feeling all of the pent-up rage and pain of a year rising in her throat again. She liked Kylo. She really, earnestly, did liked Kylo. But he was complicit in all of this pain and death. Rey watched Kylo lay Jesse down in his crib. She walked over to the crib, looking down at her sleeping son, who was totally innocent in everything.

Rey gripped Jesse’s crib. She trembled with rage and grief. Paige hadn’t deserved this. She didn’t deserve this.

“Wife,” Kylo murmured.

“What, husband,” Rey growled, closing her eyes.

“Why did you spit that at me?” Kylo asked.

“What, you call me ‘wife’?” Rey shot back. She turned to look at him, her hands at her hips. She tossed her braid over her shoulder, not caring what he would do to her. Kylo’s expression darkened.

“I call you ‘wife’ because I am grateful for you,” Kylo said, leaning forward. His dark eyes seemed to burn. He stepped closer, then poked her in the chest.

“I have a name,” Rey snapped back, “I have a real name and you know it! I have friends out there, friends who are looking for me and you know all of that!”

“Kira, no one is looking for you!” Kylo snarled, his face an inch from hers.

Rey recoiled slightly, looking into Kylo’s dark eyes. She said nothing. Her lips parted as hot and furious tears welled in her eyes.

“They- They wouldn’t do that,” Rey hissed, “they wouldn’t just forget about me.”

Kylo laughed and shook his head, “Father doesn’t seek out people who are tied into the world. No one looks for us.”

“Someone is looking for Paige,” Rey said, “she told me. I know people are looking for her.”

“They won’t find her,” Kylo said, “just like they haven’t found you or Phasma or anyone else. No rescue is coming, so you have to stop this.”

“Stop what?” Rey said, “being a person!? Exercising my own will!?”

“Stop saying these things,” Kylo hissed.

“No!” Fury rose within her, choking her. She actually shook with all of the pent up anger and grief. She had spent more than a year here, trapped and hurt so many times. She rushed at him, pounding on his chest with her fists, tears running down her face, “no, I won’t stay silent!”

“Please-- ”

“I am a person!” Rey said, “she was a person! She was real! Her name was Paige, Kylo! Say it!”

“You have to stop,” Kylo said.

“No! I won’t!” Rey said, “say her name.”

“Rey, you have to stop. You have to be quiet,” Kylo pleaded.

“I--” Kylo reached forward, covering her mouth with his hand.

“Her name was Paige,” Kylo said quietly.

Rey relaxed, looking into his face.

“Rey, listen to me. Her name was Paige. She’d from Dallas, Texas. I scouted her out. I poisoned her drink. I- I am complicit in her death. You can hate me, but if you can’t quiet down, we will both end up dead and Jesse will be alone.”

He slowly removed his hand from her mouth, tears welling in her eyes, “I- I don’t. You called me ‘Rey’.”

“Her name is Paige. Your name is Rey. Our son’s name is Jesse. My name is Ben.” Kylo blinked rapidly, looking down at his feet.

“You- Your name is Ben?” Rey whispered.

Kyl- Ben nodded. He took a deep breath, “my name is Ben Solo. I was picked up by Father on August 18, 1996.”

1996?” Rey whispered, a hand flying to cover her mouth. He had spent seventeen years here, captive, and without any help.

“I wanted you to fit in, to belong, so you’d be safe,” Ben whispered, “I-” he broke off, then took her hand and led her into the bathroom. He turned on the shower, then turned back to face her and looked at her, “I ran away fourteen times my first year. Every time I did, he would tie me up and leave me to wait. It got worse and worse, the beatings and the starvation. Tage didn’t run away when he was brought in. He-”

Tage was kidnapped, too?” Rey asked, horrified.

“Yes,” Kylo said, “I think Snoke had sons that died because he chose those names right away. Armitage was quick to submit. He seemed to take to life on the farm and in the First Order really quickly.”

Rey nodded. She leaned against the sink, unable to process what he was saying. Her entire world had turned upside down again, “what happened? How did you get here?”

“I got into a fight with my dad and I ran to the park in the middle of the night. Father found me. Next thing I knew, I was unconscious. I woke up in a windowless room on a farm in Kansas. And I never got to leave,” Kylo said.

“Kansas?” Rey asked.

“We moved right before Father took Phasma,” Ben said.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Rey asked.

“Because it hurts,” Ben said helplessly, “It hurts to sit here and know the truth.”

“You didn’t have to suffer alone,” Rey said.

Ben looked down at his hands, “her blood is on my hands, Rey. I raped you over and over. I deserve to suffer alone.”

“No,” Rey said, “Snoke is not going to hurt us and isolate us anymore.” She took his hands in her own, not caring that Paige’s half-dried blood smeared onto her fingers. This was the price of this place, “how have you stayed sane?” she asked.

“I haven’t,” Ben said, tears running down his face.

“How have you held onto your identity?” Rey offered.

“The door,” Ben murmured.

Rey blinked, “the door?”

“My mom kept the mezuzah on the door of our house,” Ben said, “I had to make a modification, but I wanted to hold onto that.”

“Show me,” Rey said. Been led her to the doorframe of the room and pointed to the latch of the door. Rey peered into the latch of the door and had to put a hand over her mouth to physically stifle a gasp. There, carved into the wood where the latch caught, was the Star of David.

“Your Jewish,” Rey said, looking up at Ben.

Ben nodded, “I have to remember who I am.”

“Jesse is Jewish?” Rey asked thoughtfully, standing up and closing the door behind her.

“Technically, no. If you were Jewish, he would be. It’s passed from mother to child,” Ben said.

“Oh,” Rey whispered.

“Yeah,” Ben whispered. He looked down at his hands again. When Rey looked at him, she realized that there was soot and dirt on his neck and shirt. She took his hand, leading him back into the bathroom.

“Take off your shoes,” Rey said gently.

Ben looked up at her, his brows furrowed. He met her eyes, then nodded and pulled off his shoes. Rey stepped out of her boots, then stepped under the spray, fully dressed. It plastered her dress to her skin, but rinsed some of the sweat and dirt off of her skin.

Ben took a deep, shuddering breath, watching her without moving. Rey held out her hand, “Ben,” she whispered. Ben took her hand and let her pull him under the spray. Rey took his hands in hers, slowly rinsing the blood from him. When she did, Ben burst into tears. Rey lifted his hands up and kissed his knuckles, forgiving him for all of the pain he’d caused her.

“Ben,” Rey murmured.

“Say it again, please,” he whispered.

“Ben,” Rey said, putting her hand up and cupping his face, “your name is Ben.”

Ben leaned forward, pressing his forehead to hers. Water dripped down their faces, washing away the pain and fear of the past year and a half. Rey reached up, slowly running her fingers through his hair. She shivered as Ben slowly brushed her hair out of her face. He didn’t kiss her, but for the first time, Rey didn’t hate herself for wanting it.

Chapter Text

“I fucking hate winter,” Finn mumbled under his breath, putting a cigarette in his mouth and leaning against one of the stone walls of the church where his support group met. He knew that he shouldn’t smoke. He knew it was a bad idea and Poe had sat there for weeks in college trying to get him to quit. It had succeeded for two years, but then Rey went missing.

So now Finn was a smoker again.

“Is this where the group meets?” a quiet voice said next to him. Finn turned his head to see a nervous-looking Asian girl standing there, her face half-hidden by a wide gray scarf. She was definitely here for the same meeting that he was. She had the same dark under-eye circles, pale face, and sickly expression that everyone had on their first day. Judging by the anxious way she was fidgeting with the end of her scarf and the distracted look in her eyes, she was part of those with a missing loved one.

Finn dropped his cigarette and stepped on it, grinding it out, “are you here for the Missing Loved One's Grief thing?”

The girl nodded, taking a deep breath. She blinked rapidly, working her jaw a little. It was obviously early for her- past the point of real hope and desperation before the grief had a real chance to settle and heal.

“Me too. I’ll walk with you,” Finn said. He picked his burnt out cigarette up and tossed it into the little ashtray over the trash can. He never used to do that, back in college when he smoked, but Rey had always been so concerned about the environment and litter; it was the least he could do to pick up his cigarettes.

Finn tugged absently at his sleeve, pulling it straight again as he led the way back into the church. It was old but nicer than the one that they had been meeting six months ago. That place had decided to redo its basement, finally, but that had meant finding another place to meet. Luckily, Catholic churches were good about trying to help people from random groups get help. A couple of “Anonymous” meetings met at St. Reinold’s already.

“Who is St. Reinold?” Rose asked, frowning thoughtfully up at the arch in front of the main courtyard that led into the church, “I meant to Google it earlier and I didn’t.”

“No idea,” Finn admitted, “I’m not Catholic.”

“Me neither,” Rose admitted, “my parents were Buddhist, but not really good Buddhists, you know? Drove my aunts crazy. They are good Buddhists.”

“How can you be bad at being Buddhist?” Finn asked, frowning, “I mean, with Christianity, you can be gay and that’s pretty straightforward, but with Buddhism…” he trailed off, opening the door to the church.

“My parents were more materialistic than my aunts thought they should be. We would go to ranches in the summer, we attended private schools, we always had nice stuff, things like that. My dad worked on Wall Street and my mom did all sorts of things, mostly in management and HR, so we had money. That didn’t bother my aunts too much, but I think it was the spending.”

“Must be nice,” Finn whispered.

“What?” Rose asked, looking up into his face.

He sighed, “not trying to judge you or your parents, like, I get it, but I grew up in foster care. Having enough money to do anythingmuch less annoy your relatives, must have been nice.”

“It is,” Rose admitted, “it’s let me do a lot more environmental projects that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.”

Finn nodded, leading the way down the loud tiled hallway to the small meeting room where they all met for their group.

“This place is so much bigger than I thought it would be,” Rose said, “like, from the outside, I thought it would be two-storied, but not so big.”

“Yeah,” Finn said, grinning. Everyone was always caught off-guard by the size of the parish. It was one of the most open churches that he knew of, which also meant it actually had people that attended regularly. The priest or whatever he was called, Father Green, was a lot younger than Finn had expected him to be, and was quick to let people spend the afternoon in the church, as long as they didn’t cause trouble. Plenty of non-Catholic people, particularly those who were a part of the various groups, would go there on bad days. Finn came here once a week for meetings and had finally stopped needing to visit on other days.

“This is us,” Finn said, gesturing to the open doorway of the room where they always met. Hannah and Frank were already there, setting up chairs and putting out the fruit trays. In the movies, there was always coffee and donuts at meetings like this, but Hannah said that while addicts might benefit from the sugar, people in grief groups should avoid eating their feelings, especially at emotional times like group.

“Is that pineapple?” Rose asked, brightening immediately.

“Always is,” Hannah said, “we make the tray at home, so we don’t mess around with that honeydew nonsense.”

Finn grinned. Hannah was a beautiful woman with blonde hair that had recently finished going gray. She always wore it in a ponytail that reminded him of Ariana Grande, which made Hannah laugh the first time he’d said that to her. Her husband, Frank, ran the group. They’d lost their son more than thirty years ago and had somehow managed to stay both sane and married, which gave Finn and everyone else in the group some hope. That was probably why their grief group was the biggest in the area.

If Finn had to go thirty years without getting any answers about Rey, he wouldn’t be so happy and giving.

“Everyone will be here in a few minutes,” Hannah said, “so feel free to take a seat and get comfortable.”

Finn stepped away from Rose, letting the uneasy silence of first group jitters sweep over her. He could tell that she didn’t really want to be here, but that she wasn’t going to be mean to those in the group about it. She had the look of those who were still working through the first twinges of real hopelessness when grief turned to anger. Finn took his usual seat, putting his back to the door. There were a few people who always had to be able to see it, but he wasn’t one of them, so he tended to take that seat and leave the other ones open. Rose chatted idly with people as they came in, but mostly kept to herself and picked at her fruit tray. Finn sighed, leaning his head back against the chair and taking deep breaths. After a long day of work, he really just wanted to sleep, but he needed to be here. He needed to connect with people and stay open. He centered all of his attention on the bottom of his feet, letting any other thoughts drift past. He let questions about Rose and everyone else in the group and his thoughts on his work project slide through his mind, but kept returning his focus to his feet.

Time faded from his thoughts until he felt a pair of fingers tap him lightly on his shoulder, pulling him away from his feet. Opening his eyes, he looked up at Hannah, who was smiling at him, “we’re starting.”

“Thanks,” Finn said, stretching his legs out before he turned his attention to the group. All of the chairs were filled and people were finishing up their greetings to turn their attention to the group.

“Hello, everyone,” Hannah began, “I’m Hannah and welcome to our group. I see we have a new face today and, if you want, you can introduce yourself before the rest of us share. You don’t have to, but I wanted to get that out of the way up front.”

Finn looked up as the new girl stood and rubbed her hands together anxiously, “my name is Rose Tico. It’s been seven months, as of tomorrow, since my sister Paige went missing. There are no new leads or anything, but the cops said I should join a support group. I kind of lost it when the last lead fell through,” she said.

“Hi, Rose,” the group echoed. Rose sat, playing with a necklace that Finn hadn’t noticed before. Finn sighed, remembering his first time in the group. It had been difficult to stand there and talk about Rey. Later on, though, Hannah and Frank had let him just sit and tell the group about Rey. He’d shown them his favorite picture of her and told them everything he could think of. It had made her birthday difficult, but bearable in a new way.

The rest of the session passed without any real incident. Patricia was struggling with the fact that her twentieth anniversary was coming up, but her husband was still missing. She hadn’t remarried or even dated since he’d disappeared and her youngest child would be going to college in the spring. Finn didn’t look forward to having to watch her navigate her feelings in May. She was such a sweet woman and someone who didn’t deserve any of this.

But did any of them deserve this?

Maybe Stephanie.

Finn didn’t blame Stephanie exactly, but she had been having an affair when her husband had gone missing.

If she deserved to be here, he definitely did.

He and Poe had stood Rey up the night that she had been kidnapped and likely murdered.

When it was his turn, he didn’t say any of this, especially since Stephanie was sitting next to him. Instead, he talked about how his job and how he was falling back on old sleep schedules from college to make sure his project was finished, which made him think of Rey. She’d had a relentless determination that made it possible to do a hundred things for days on end with only enough sleep to keep her heart pumping.

He missed having her around to make sure he drank water and passed his classes and ate a vegetable. He missed her, period.

When the group broke up, a few of them lagged behind to pray together, but Finn wasn’t one of them. He’d never been particularly religious, even if he had grown up in The System, which tended to make believers of many people. That had only been made aggravated when he came out as bisexual and started dating in college. His first roommate was the only reason that he didn’t absolutely hate Christianity as a whole; the guy had converted in October of their freshman year, but where that made many people intolerant, it just made him kind. After losing Rey, Finn decided that it was better if God didn’t exist. The alternative was too sad for him to linger on.

“Do we have to do that?” Rose whispered, stepping close to Finn and watching the four or five people join hands and bow their heads.

“Nah,” Finn said, “they all pray together, but a bunch of us aren’t church going and don’t join in. I know that Michael does, even though he’s an athiest, but that’s more to show his support for everyone in the group.”

“So, we can go?” Rose asked.

“Yeah,” Finn said, “did you park out front? If you did, I can walk with you. I think it’s going to be pretty dark.”

“That’s really nice of you, but it’s okay,” Rose said, chewing her lip, “I didn’t know where this place was, so I actually parked down the street.”

“I’ll drive you to your car if you want,” Finn offered. He saw the wary look on her face and knew what she was thinking. Hypervigilance was something that grew up here as heartily as an appreciation for interesting tropical fruit.

“Everyone here knows me and Hannah even knows my full name and address,” Finn said, making sure that he kept any hint of impatience or resignation out of his voice. Her worries were very reasonable, especially for someone who had been caught up in tragedy.

“Okay,” Rose said, nodding.

“Let’s go, then,” Finn said, smiling. He pulled on his gloves and coat and led the way back outside. Rose puffed indignantly when the wind cut through them. Finn sighed, glad that he chose to open the door with his gloves already on. He knew that the handle would be absolutely brutal without them. They half-jogged, half-walked to his car and sat in stuffy, frozen silence as Finn waited for the heater to start.

“I wish I’d thought to heat it up before bringing you out here,” Finn said.

“Me, too,” Rose mumbled into her scarf.

They sat in silence for another few seconds before Finn decided to break and ask the real questions, “so, where are you in your ‘personal detective’ journey?”

“My what?” Rose asked, frowning.

“You know,” Finn said, “like, are you sacrificing your entire life to try and solve the case single-handedly?”

“No,” Rose said, her voice lowering, “I should, though. Paige would if she were me.”

“You’re doing the right thing,” Finn said, shaking his head, “plenty of people drive themselves insane trying to find answers. They ruin their marriage, their finances, and their lives. The best you can do is keep attention on her case. That seems to do more than trying to do it yourself.”

“How do you know?” Rose shot back indignantly.

“I’ve seen it, both here and in Boulder,” Finn admitted, “my ex still lives in the same apartment, just in case Rey tries to find him.”

“Really?” Rose asked.

“Yeah,” Finn said, “we drove each other crazy that first six months or so.”

“I’m sorry,” Rose said.

“It happens to most people,” Finn said, “Frank and Hannah are an anomaly.”

“That’s so sad,” Rose rubbed her gloved hands together and sighed in relief as Finn’s heater finally kicked in. Finn groaned happily, putting his hands over two of the heaters before he finished buckling his seatbelt and driving her to the free parking lot where she’d parked.

“If you’re not trying to solve it, are you keeping things and tracking people?” Finn asked.

“Yeah,” Rose said, “but it’s hard. I work full-time.”

“When do you go to sleep at night, on average?” Finn asked turning left when she pointed down the little side street next to the church.

“I don’t know,” Rose admitted.

“How many boxes of case files do you have?” Finn asked.

“Just one, for now. The police have everything else. They say it’s an open investigation that they’re still working on,” Rose said, “my car is the little silver one.”

“Okay, cool,” Finn said, “they probably are working on it, but make sure to keep calling. They can get distracted, especially when they’re facing budget cuts.”

“Okay,” Rose said, nodding. When Finn parked next to her car, she didn’t immediately jump out. Instead, she fidgeted with her seatbelt buckle.

“How did you like your first Group?” Finn asked.

“It was awful,” Rose said, “but also really good. Like, I don’t want to be there or have anyone have to be there, but I love how everyone is coming together to try and care for each other.”

“It really does help a lot,” Finn said, nodding.

“I am so angry, all the time,” Rose said, taking a deep breath, “how could this happen? She was in a safe neighborhood, with coworkers. And she’s just gone.” Her voice was tight and choked off, but she merely cleared her throat, taking deep breaths. Finn understood. There was this absolute rage that came with this specific kind of helplessness. Most people thought the world was basically just and made sense, but things like Paige’s kidnapping and Rey’s disappearance ruined that.

Hannah called it “If I Had Been There” syndrome.

Finn had it even more than survivor’s guilt. He actually should have been there.

“Does it get better?” Rose asked, closing her eyes and leaning her head back on the headrest.

“No,” Finn said, “it just becomes different. It grows smaller, but it hardens. It’s like the difference between lava and stone. In the beginning, it’s hot and bright and covers everything. There’s no way to not pay attention to it. Over time, it becomes denser and colder, but it’s still there. It’s something you carry around, but you can do other things around it, too.”

“Okay,” Rose said, “I-- I think I can do that.”

Finn nodded, “it’ll be different and, as you have seen, going to groups and having a support system makes it a lot better.”

“Thank you,” Rose whispered, nodding and touching her necklace again.

“I’ll see you next week,” Finn said. He didn’t chase her out, but just let her sit there and enjoy the company of someone who didn’t have expectations of her. He’d been in that place before and that kind of generosity made things easier. Rose was the first person that he had connected with in that way, from a place of more experience. It was nice to be a supporter, for once, rather than the supported.

They sat quietly, slowly listening to the sound of Rose’s grief beginning cool. Finn knew it would heat up and burst forth again during the days around the first anniversary, but for now, she would have a little room to breathe without being scalded by her own pain.

Chapter Text

Rose held her cup firmly. Finn knew she probably thought she was safe, considering everyone there was a friend of his. He could tell that she was nervous, but Finn knew she trusted him. That made him more nervous than her being at the party. Rey had trusted him and he had utterly failed her. He would not let the same thing happen to Rose.

“Are you having fun?” Finn asked in Rose’s ear.

“Not really,” Rose admitted. She looked down at her phone, then back up at him. They’d made it to 1:00 am, which was more than she’d originally thought.

“We can leave,” Finn offered, smiling understandingly as she turned her dark eyes on his. He could see the relief on her face. Someone else might not have seen it, but after six months of being her friend, he’d learned how to detect her more subtle expressions. He wondered often whether this was because they went to a grief group together or whether he knew her better than anyone else. He had coworkers he saw every day, but there was something about knowing the greatest sadness in someone’s life that made everything different.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Rose said, chewing on her lip.

“Let me call an Uber and we’ll go.”

Rose nodded, absently chewing at the rim of her solo cup as she glanced to her left. She was watching Joe, a coworker of Finn’s carefully.

“You okay?” Finn asked, frowning.

“Yeah!” Rose blurted.

“He did nothing creepy or anything?” Finn asked cautiously. He knew Joe even if they didn’t work in the same department. However, people who had lost loved ones to strangers at the
bar or a party was more vigilant than other people.

“No, not at all!” Rose said hastily. Her cheeks flushed, and she hurriedly brushed her bangs straight again, trying to keep herself from looking as awkward as she felt.

“What happened, then?” Finn asked curiously, “why are you watching him like that?”

“I don’t know,” Rose said, blushing more.

Finn frowned, but then felt something click inside his head. “Oh.” she looking at Joe again.

It made sense she might find him attractive. He was too frat-boy looking for Finn, but he was attractive. Finn always had a hard time with people (especially men) who looked like they’d grown up with a little more money than they needed. He couldn’t tell what it was, but it was almost like private schools could tinge people, just a little, particularly white men.

“You should go talk to him,” Finn said. As soon as the words left his mouth, he felt a hot spike of frustration lance through him. Rose should NOT talk to Joe. Rose shouldn’t even look at him. He would never make Rose happy, not with the entitled upbringing he’d had and the gentle condescension he often approached the world with. Rose had grown up with some amount of economic privilege, but she was an intersectional feminism which she had explained to Finn in great detail. Finn had made her promise to make sure there was always plenty of alcohol around the next time she had this conversation. It had made his head spin while he was stone cold sober.

It had made him wish that Rose and Rey had known each other. Rey would have loved being friends with Rose. Their personalities were similar enough─ they would have had much to talk about, particularly about broader social issues. Rey had been born white, but poverty had given her a clear picture of so many of these inequalities from the inside out.

“I don’t want to,” Rose said, “I want to go home.”

“Okay, sure,” Finn said, pulling out his phone and calling an Uber. He blinked, seeing a text from Hannah on his phone. He checked it as he and Rose walked down the stairs to the
street.

“How long until it gets here?” Rose asked.

Finn scrolled through Hannah’s messages, frowning.

 

From: Hannah P arrived at 12:29 am
-They got Rachel’s Guy. They arrested him this afternoon. Rachel got the call 15 minutes ago.

 

From: Hannah Parrived at 12:31 am
- We’re having an emergency meeting tomorrow at 6pm if you want to come. I don’t have Rose’s number, but I know you talk.

 

To: Hannah P sent at 1:22 am
I’ll be there. Tell Rachel I said congrats

 

“Finn?”

Finn jumped, looking down at Rose, “huh?”

“How long until the Uber gets here?” Rose asked.

“Oh, two minutes,” Finn said, “Hannah just texted me. They got Rachel’s guy.”

“They got who?” Rose asked, frowning.

“Her guy,” Finn said.

“What guy?” Rose asked, frowning.

“The guy who murdered her sister. Everyone has a Capital-G guy,” Finn said, “technically, some people’s guy is a woman, but it’s the person who put you in this group. Everyone but Kathy has some unknown guy. Well, now Rachel has a name and a face.”

“Does it help?” Rose asked, “knowing who your guy is?”

Finn shrugged, “I tell you when I know who my guy is.”

“Thank you for inviting me out,” Rose said, looking up at him, “I have done nothing fun since Paige went missing.”

“It’s important to make sure you still engage with life,” Finn said, looking down at his phone. Miguel, whoever he was, was pulling up, apparently. Just then, a little four-door red car pulled in front of them and a short-haired Hispanic guy leaned over to look out the passenger window, “Finn?” he asked.

“Hey,” Finn said, nodding and climbing into the backseat next to Rose. As soon as they sat down, Rose rested her head on Finn’s shoulder. She was exhausted, he knew, but he also knew it was also the social weight that came with survivor’s guilt. Having any fun could make you feel guilty, especially when you were the one who had failed your loved one.

You like her, Finn thought to himself. He exhaled slowly, feeling his hackles rise at his own selfishness, Do you even have a right to fall for someone when Rey is probably dead? Rey will never fall in love again and here you are, in the back of an Uber with a girl from the grief group you joined to deal with Rey’s disappearance

“You alright?” Rose whispered.

“Hmm?” Finn asked.

“Are you alright?” Rose asked, “you’re making a fist.” She gestured to Finn’s hand, which had curled up on his knee.

Blushing, Finn relaxed his hand, “sort of. Just thinking about Rey.”

“Feeling guilty for doing anything or enjoying anything?” Rose asked.

“Yeah,” Finn mumbled.

“Finn, forgive yourself,” Rose said, “you didn’t do this.”

“I was supposed to be with her that night,” Finn said. He blinked rapidly, tears welling in his eyes, “we stood her up and─ and then she was gone.”

“Oh, Finn, I’m sorry,” Rose said, looking into his face with wide eyes.

“You weren’t even in the state, but I was a few miles away and I was supposed to be there. I told her I would be there,” Finn choked out.

Rose moved her hand off of his, then turned and wrapped her arms around his waist, burying her face in his shirt. Finn shuddered, wrapping his arms around her. There was something powerfully cathartic about holding her, about honestly voicing his greatest shame, and having her accept him. The orange-white lights of the streetlights cast strange shadows across Rose’s face as she turned her head slightly, but she didn’t let go of him. Finn didn’t let go of her either. He wanted to be close to her─ needed to be close. When he’d first gotten to know Rose, he’d told himself that he needed to make a real friend at the grief group, but then he began to really talk to her and understand her and he saw that it wasn’t any trait of her, but that get was drawn to her as an individual.

When amongst her hurt and her own complex feelings, she still was willing to go places with him? She was still someone who could forgive him for his selfishness and
foolishness, over two years ago, that likely cost Rey her life.

When they climbed out of the Uber, Rose hesitated.

Finn turned to look at her. She didn’t meet his gaze but stared after the Uber for a long moment. Rose finally looked over at Finn. Her face was controlled, but Finn could see the uncertainty and sadness in her face. Even after only six months,he knew her face.

“Rose, are you alright?” Finn asked warily. He could see the distracted look in her eyes. She needed to sleep. She needed to get home. There was an intensity in her gaze that Finn didn’t know what to do with. I should call her an Uber to get her home. I should have thought about this, She was probably not going to sleep on his couch or spend time with him in the morning. She would probably avoid him and his creepy questions about her attraction towards his coworkers.

“My name is Loan. Rose is my American name. Paige’s Vietnamese name is Thanh Van,” Rose said.

“Do you want me to call you Loan instead of Rose?” Finn asked warily.

“No, but I wanted you to know,” Rose said, turning her head to look down at her feet. She stared blankly ahead at the nearly empty road. No one came or went, but there were a few parked cars across the street.

Rose chewed on her lip. She didn’t wear much makeup, but tonight she’d lined her eyes in black. It made her eyes look more dramatic, especially with her long eyelashes. She was so beautiful. Finn had grown up seeing the beauty in both men and women. It was part of what had made him and Rey connect so much when they’d first met. Rey, another bisexual kid from the foster care system, was the closest thing to a soulmate Finn could ever believe in.

Nowadays, he spent most of his time around coworkers who were nice, some of whom were nice looking, but they were distant from him. Ever since he and Poe broke up, he’d felt a little disconnected from the rest of the world. He hadn’t known how to reach out to people when Rey first went missing. Growing up in the System, he was used to dealing with loss and separation. Nothing was permanent when you were a foster kid. However, he’d built a new family with Poe, Jess, and Rey.

And then he got Rey killed.

And Jess finally left their little “family” behind, needing to get over her own grief alone.

And then he and Poe, after months of guilt and pain, had broken apart.

And now he had a new beginning in front of him, wearing a soft gray jacket over a burgundy top. When he’d first met her, she’d been wearing a heavy tan coat, like the ones that all Coloradans hid under for a good six months annually. It was strange how small she really was when her layers were finally shed. Rose Tico was a beautiful, determined, and thoughtful person. She could analyze and plan through a diversity of challenges and situations with speeds that made his head spin.

Finn would never deserve her.

Rose gritted her teeth and looked up into his eyes, “why did you tell me to talk to Joe?” she asked suddenly, crossing her arms.

“I─ what?” Finn asked, his ears’ hot. His heart fell out of his chest and into his stomach before curling into the fetal position. He had thought that he was fairly subtle. He didn’t want to make her uncomfortable or put her in a position where she was in a relationship with someone who was only a half-step further along in their grief journey.

It was a recipe for disaster.

“Why did you try to set me up with Joe? I know you like me,” Rose said. Her eyes flashed when Finn opened his mouth, but couldn’t find the words to defend himself. He sighed, but rubbed the top of his head, and said nothing. He couldn’t think. He was too tired and had drunk too much alcohol to lie. “You should go out with him. He seems nice an─ and─” he broke off, “I don’t know, Rose. I want you to be happy.”

Rose blinked, her cheeks reddening. She opened her mouth about to tell him it wasn’t his place to decide her romantic fate, but Finn cut across her, “Rose, this isn’t a good idea,” he murmured.

“Why not?” Rose asked, “is it because of Paige? I’m not allowed to be happy because Paige is gone?”

“It’s because you’re grieving! It’s only been a year!” Finn said, his voice rising before he could stop it.

“Yes! Yes, I’m grieving!” Rose said, poking him in the chest, “I will always be grieving. She was my sister! She was my family. My parents are gone. We were all we had and Paige is gone! I can’t help it. I will never be okay.”

Finn put his hands over his eyes. His chest contracted and he couldn’t take a deep enough breath to clear his head. He suddenly felt a hand on his chest and looked down to see Rose pressing her palm to his chest. He took a deep breath, lowering his arms.

“Finn, this isn’t some emotional thing. I’m not doing this because of Paige. I’m doing this because of me.”

Finn rubbed the back of his neck, “I─”

“I didn’t come out tonight because I needed to. I came out to spend time with you,” Rose said, cutting over him.

“I─ What?” Finn asked.

“I like you, too,” Rose said.

“Oh,” Finn said. He felt an incredible tension leave the area between his shoulder blades.

“Oh?” Rose asked, eyebrows lifting. Finn stepped forward and touched her cheek, looking down at her.

“Yeah,” Finn murmured, “I was afraid.”

“Don’t,” Rose said, “don’t be afraid.” She stood on her toes and kissed him lightly. A soft breeze rolled over both of them. It wasn’t cold enough to chill him, but it felt like an actual breath of fresh air. The guilt and shame that had come from his failure towards Rey eased slightly. Here was a real living person who had hope and a future. Rose would be here in the morning. He could be better than he had been. He knew more.

He’d lost more.

Rose’s hand caressed his cheek, pulling him out of his thoughts.

“Finn, don’t worry,” Rose whispered, “this doesn’t have to be scary. Let’s just go upstairs, put on a movie, and save the hard questions for tomorrow.”

Finn nodded weakly. He slowly took her hand and smiled when she laced her fingers through his. He walked next to her, leading her up to his apartment. His heart skipped a beat as they reached his doorway. Rose had been to his apartment before, but it felt like more, suddenly.

“It’s okay, Finn,” Rose whispered, “no pressure.”

Finn laughed lightly. He wasn’t some blushing virgin, nervous about his first one-night stand, yet her words comforted him. The two of them went inside. Rose leaned against the door when it closed and looked up at him.

Finn leaned down and kissed her again. It was unhurried, without the usual desperation he expected on nights like this. She didn’t reach for his clothes but wrapped her arms around his waist while he slowly touched her face. In the back of his mind, he knew they would not have sex tonight.

Part of him was glad.

When he slept with Rose, he wanted to be sober. He wanted it to be planned.

Rose pulled away after a while, “can I borrow clothes?” she whispered into his shirt. Finn nodded, letting go of her reluctantly and walking into his room to grab a change of clothes. Rose was standing a little nervously next to his bathroom. When she saw him, she smiled shyly.

Unable to stop himself, Finn kissed her again and passed her his clothes.

Rose accepted Finn’s t-shirt and basketball short. She smiled shyly at him and stepped into the bathroom to change. Finn smiled, rubbing his cheek. Rose was HERE and she LIKED him and she’d KISSED him. Finn walked to his room to change into his own pajamas.

When he came back, his arms full of blankets, Rose was sitting on his couch, an open can of Pringles in her hand. Finn grinned, letting her settle on the couch the way she wanted. Rose pulled a blanket around her and smiled at him. She moved to lay next to him. Rose rested her head on his shoulder. Finn put an arm around her.

“I don’t feel like I should be happy,” Finn admitted.

“Finn…” Rose said weakly.

“I know that sounds crazy, but I can’t help it,” Finn said. Rose sighed and rubbed his arm.

“Finn, remember what Hannah always talks about? We can’t stop living.”

Finn nodded again. He put both his arms around her. Robert Downey Jr. appeared on the screen, but he couldn’t pay attention to his celebrity crush. He couldn’t, not with Rose’s warm body against his chest and a soft and comforting smile on her face.

Chapter Text

Finn pulled at his tie, taking a real, deep breath for what felt like the first time in hours. He knew that his tie wasn’t really that tight, but it still felt uncomfortable after a few hours. It was probably the same thing that made Rose sigh whenever she took her hair down from a ponytail.

Finn opened his door and was greeted by a dark apartment. He froze, immediately worried that he had forgotten to pay the electric bill. If his power had been cut, he was sure that it would be a lot hotter, since it was July, but he now had doubts.

Oh, wait, Rose had me put it on auto pay, Finn thought. He stepped inside slowly, looking around. His heart hammered in his ears, deafening him with his own terror. Finn slowly peeked from the entryway into the living room. Rose always left before him and got home after him, but he always left a lamp on so the apartment didn’t look completely empty. There was absolutely not a light on in the house today.

So, who turned it off?

When Finn turned his head, he saw the television was on, but he couldn’t see Rose. He hurried over to the couch and looked down to see Rose, who was curled up on the couch, still dressed in her work clothes.

“Rose, you’re home?” Finn asked, frowning. It was only when she rolled onto her back to look up at him that he realized she’d taken off her pants and was just in her blouse and work socks.

“My boss sent me home,” Rose whispered. She had red marks on her face from one of the bed pillows that she’d brought out into the living room. Her eye makeup had smeared and been rubbed off for the most part, but it didn’t look clean and intentional like usual.

“What happened? Are you sick? “Finn asked, leaning forward to inspect her more closely. She didn’t look feverish or green, but he wasn’t sure. She never missed work if she could help it. He was surprised that she let her boss let her go early without needing an ambulance to carry her away.

“Today is Paige’s birthday,” Rose whispered, “she would be thirty.”

“Oh…” Finn whispered, gently brushing her hair out of her face, “did anything happen?” It wasn’t uncommon for anniversaries to be major triggers for outbursts or even suicides.

“I started yelling at one of the people working on my project in the middle of a meeting,” Rose said, “but my boss said no one was going to write me up. She asked if something was going on and- and I told her and she just told me to go home.”

Finn dropped his bag and stepped around the couch. He muted the movie she was watching, letting the multicolored lights from the screen cast shapes over them both. He kneeled down next to his girlfriend and looked down at her, “do you want to see if there’s a meeting somewhere tonight?” he asked.

Their normal meeting wasn’t until the day after tomorrow, but he was sure there was some place they could go.

“No,” Rose murmured, “it’s alright. I just want to stay in.”

“Okay,” Finn said, “you want to get takeout? Or I could cook? We can get ice cream?”

Rose shrugged, looking away from him and towards the back of the couch, “I don’t know…”

She was lying. After more than a year of dating and three months of living together, Finn knew when she was trying to hide her feelings from him.

“What do you want to do?” Finn asked, “you can tell me. I won’t judge you or anything.”

Grief was a strange creature and he knew that.

“I want to go through Paige’s case file,” Rose murmured, “I want to eat leftovers and look through the evidence with you.”

Finn nodded slowly. He’d never seen Paige’s file before. Even after knowing her for eighteen months, she’d kept Paige’s casefile private. Today, though, he would be able to see the evidence around her sister’s disappearance. This was the one last part of her that she’d kept from him. Finn leaned forward and kissed her, then stood up and went to put his bag away. Rose was an incredibly neat and organized person and did not appreciate him leaving his stuff anywhere. Leaving his work stuff lying around tonight would not set either of them up for success.

Finn put his satchel under the little table that held the bowl for their keys. He heard the quiet rustle of fabric that meant Rose was getting up. Finn looked over his shoulder to see her pad into their bedroom. It was strange to see this solid and present woman looking so vulnerable and frail. If this were a movie, her hair would be down, and she’d be dressed in one of his white dress shirts, and he would be played by Anthony Mackie. Instead, Rose’s hair was in a frizzy, uneven, and smushed ponytail, and she was dressed in one of her favorite blue blouses, which she said was too nice to be called a “shirt.” with light gray cotton panties. Her jacket had been half-heartedly hung over the back of a chair and she had kicked her flats underneath it.

Finn loved this version so much more than the movie version.

Now, if he could have Anthony Mackie walking around in his white dress shirt…

He’d probably have to think about it.

Finn picked Rose’s jacket off of the chair and hung it up on the little rack over their washer in the pantry. Technically, it was supposed to go in the closet, but he wanted her to have the chance to get Paige’s case file by herself. This wouldn’t be easy, and he was alright with waiting for her to have the time to do this in the most comfortable way possible.

“Here,” Rose said behind him. She was setting a bank box on their little kitchen table. Finn slowly walked over to her, full of pride at her willingness to let him into the most painful part of her life. Finn slowly walked over to her. He opened his arms and let her step forward and hug him. He rubbed her back, glad she had decided to change into a comfortable t-shirt and sweatpants.

“You ready?” Finn asked gently. He stood up a little taller and rested his chin on top of her head.

Rose buried her face in his shirt, then said, “I really want some bourbon first, but I know Hannah would flip her shit if she found out we were drinking around case file stuff,” she snickered, her cheek still pressed to his chest.

“She’s like the mother I never had,” Finn said. His tone was flat and sarcastic, but he did appreciate it. Hannah tried, as much as possible, to keep them from building bad habits around the traumatic experience of losing a loved one. Her tireless crusade was against alcohol or drugs, especially when people were trying to do their own investigations. She’d seen too many friends end up overdosing or dying from those kinds of coping mechanisms over the past three decades.

Rose exhaled quickly through her nose. It wasn’t a genuine laugh, but he’d take it.

“Come on,” Rose finally said, stepping away and reaching for the box, “let’s do this.”

Her box was fuller than he’d expected. After only two years, most people just had a copy of the initial police report and maybe some other details from their loved one’s final movements. Rose, instead, had a ton of information. He could see printed maps with her cramped, neat handwriting scrawled everywhere, mainly centered on a couple of locations that were highlighted in neon yellow.

On top of that, he saw a stack of phone records, screenshots of messaging, and heaps of printed out photos of an office building and a bar. Underneath the other papers, he saw a pair of thumb drives which he knew had more original copies.

“Rose, this is incredible,” Finn said.

“Really?” Rose asked, looking up at him, “I know Hannah and Rachel had-”

“Hannah and Rachel have been collecting information for a few decades each,” Finn said, slowly looking through her notes on the phone logs, “considering this is only two years old, it’s incredibly detailed.”

“Oh,” Rose said, sitting up a little straighter.

“Hannah has been trekking all over the country and looking at other cases and including it in her work with her son, in case her guy is a serial offender,” Finn said.

“Oh, shit, I hadn’t thought of that,” Rose mumbled.

“No one does,” Finn said, “she’s been around for a long time.”

They slowly pulled out the pieces of the case file, which Rose explained in turn. Finn listened to the movements of Paige’s last known 24 hours. She had got up and gone through her usual routine: the gym, meetings, sorting through casework, lunch out with a client, and coordinating a few court meetings. Paige had been a lawyer, working for a smaller firm that dealt mostly in property law, which was apparently a big deal in Texas. Finn had never been to Texas, but Rose said people were very attached to their property there, which meant Paige had seen some very ugly conflicts over tracks of land that no one else would find valuable.

“This call was an ugly one,” Rose said, pointing to a highlighted phone call, “she was dealing with some estate issues surrounding oil rights or something, and the case was not going her way. Her client was pissed.”

“Pissed enough to do something?” Finn asked.

“See, I don’t know,” Rose said, chewing on her thumb, “because the police did talk to this guy, apparently, and cleared him, but I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it was an alibi or maybe something else, but they wouldn’t tell me. I do know that one of the people who took over the case when she went missing said that the client was “a real piece of work.” They lost the case, and the client keyed the arguing lawyer’s car, which makes me wonder if he might have done something to Paige if he was angry enough.”

“Tell me he got arrested for the car thing at least,” Finn muttered.

“No!” Rose said, quietly outraged, too, “they didn’t have enough proof to get him.”

“Figures,” Finn said, rolling his eyes.

“I do have some footage from the bar,” Rose said, gesturing to the thumb drive, “but it’s so grainy that you can’t see much. You see that she was there and you see the moment that her coworkers decide to go to the next bar, but that’s it, for the most part.”

Finn sighed. Paige’s case was another one with some significant “if onlys.” Paige had gone out with friends from work, but when they’d decided to stay out later, she had stayed behind to finish her drink and go home.

Finn knew that everyone familiar with Paige’s case wondered what would have happened if she’d decided to go to the club.

During group, Rose once recounted that one of Paige’s coworkers had called her, in tears, to apologize for not staying with Paige. It had been a heartbreaking conversation for Rose to share, but it also helped her come to terms with the anger she had carried around towards Paige’s friends.

When it came down to it, though, only one person was responsible for Paige’s disappearance.

 

Sorting through the evidence took hours, but it did help Rose to finally go over all of the evidence at once. She had accumulated some things early but had been so focused on putting out missing persons reports and calling hospitals and police stations that she hadn’t been able to look at anything all at once. Months of acquiring new information and processing it had left her with a limited view of aspects of Paige’s case, rather than a broader picture.

Walking Finn through everything she knew created a clearer picture.

It also broke Finn’s heart.

He had heard a lot about Paige, just as Rose had heard a lot about Rey. However, he could see the strength and kindness in Paige that made him keenly feel the world’s loss. If he was honest with himself, Rey and Paige were probably in unmarked graves somewhere, probably a hundred yards from a dirt path, killed by either an anonymous monster or an accident. Distantly, Finn hoped that Rey was in a forest somewhere. She would go hiking whenever she could, eat outdoors at any restaurant with a patio, and stop to look at every flower or tree that caught her eye.

God, let her be somewhere green Finn thought.

After more than three years, he had given up hope of her being alive. The cops had told him how crucial the first 48 hours were. After two days became a week and a week became a year, he had slowly come to peace with her likely fate. He knew there was a distant possibility that she was alive, but he couldn’t think of why she wouldn’t have run away from him. They were a family. The police had suggested that she might want a fresh start or that her former foster father had spooked her, but Finn knew her. She wouldn’t leave him.

If Rey wasn’t talking to Finn, it was because she couldn’t.

Finn took a break to heat up the leftover broth in a small saucepan. One of the perks of having a Vietnamese girlfriend was that he was learning how to cook food that was different and flavorful. She had grown up making traditional Vietnamese food and was teaching him.

His lessons mostly consisted of him ruining the food and her laughing at him.

Finn poured the broth over the bowls filled with the leftover veggies and cuts of meat from the night before. He carried them over with the bottle of sriracha.

“Here’s yours,” Finn said, setting her bowl in front of her. He put the sriracha near her since she loved it a lot more than he did.

“Thanks,” Rose said, staring intently at her laptop screen. Judging by her frown, she was looking at the photos from the bar. Finn knew her well enough to know when she was looking at a puzzle. He looked over her shoulder and whistled low.

“These photos are the worst,” Finn said, eyebrows raised. He had never seen photos this grainy in his life! He shook his head, trying to make Paige out more clearly. He finally settled on a petite, dark-haired woman in a dark dress. He couldn’t even make out her race clearly, but her skin was lighter than two of the darker people further down the bar, so he guessed that they were black and she was fairer. It was all black and white footage, but it was incredibly poorly lit and poor quality footage.

“Is that her?” Finn asked, pointing to the woman she thought was Paige.

“Yeah, we think so,” Rose said, “I can’t think of anyone else it could be.”

Finn nodded. He tried to make out any figures that could be identified, but it was nearly impossible, “how could they even rule out anyone here? I can’t recognize anyone.”

“They really couldn’t,” Rose said, “they mostly relied on regulars and the bartenders.”

What?” Finn asked, eyes wide.

“Yeah,” Rose said, “but there were social media posts and stuff that I’ve used to track things a bit. There’s this one girl who was celebrating her birthday so I can see some people in the background.” She pulled out some photos downloaded from Instagram, printed out, and blown up. Finn inspected them, trying to look between the pictures and the footage. It was possible, but not easy at all.

“We need to clean up this footage,” Finn said.

“I wish I could, but I can’t,” Rose said sadly, “the police might have, but I don’t know anyone with this kind of photoshop experience.”

“I do,” Finn said, inspecting the footage again, “he was obsessed with it three years ago and, if I know him, he’ll be a master by now.”

“Do you still have his number?” Rose asked tentatively. She was trying to keep from getting too excited, but she needed to see this footage cleaned up as soon as possible.

“Yeah,” Finn said, sighing. He reached for his phone. It was midnight, but it didn’t matter. He also knew that even three years of silence didn’t mean anything. The apartment was the same, he was sure. The number would undoubtedly be the same.

“What’s his name?” Rose asked, trying to keep her voice casual.

“Poe Dameron,” Finn said, pressing the call button.

Poe picked up after two rings.

“Finn?”

“Hey, Poe,” Finn said. He tried to keep his voice casual and friendly. How was someone supposed to greet a person that they had last spoken to in three years, especially when the last time that they met, they had fought?

To be honest, “fought” was too kind a word. It was a screaming, blistering fight, full of tears and words that no one could recover from. Finn had moved out the next day and had left for Denver a week later.

“Is everything alright?” Poe asked. His tone was fast and urgent immediately. Finn’s heart tightened, realizing that Poe probably thought that he had news about Rey.

Both Finn and Poe were to blame for Rey’s disappearance, but they’d reacted differently when the case had gone cold. While Finn had wanted to start trying to go to therapy and participate in life more. Poe, on the other hand, had devoted himself to Rey’s case obsessively. He’d only gone to work enough to keep his job and pay rent on that exact same apartment. Poe had refused to move with Finn when he’d been offered the better job in Denver. Poe had learned everything he could about missing person cases, cold cases, DNA, forensic evidence, and places where Rey might have been hidden.

Before Rey had disappeared, Poe had been learning how to photoshop. Afterward, he’d taken to learning how to clean up grainy surveillance footage or old photos.

If he was honest, Finn still poked around cold case groups online and saw Poe. He was known as The Vintage Photo Guy or the best footage cleanup man. Even though it was awkward, he owed it to Rose to try and get the best person he could to help her.

“Hey, so, I have a case that needs your help with cleaning up footage,” Finn said, rubbing at the back of his neck.

“You need my help with a case?” Poe asked, sounding incredulous, “while Rey is still missing.”

“My girlfriend’s sister went missing about a year after Rey,” Finn explained, “their surveillance footage is super shitty Poe. You can barely see Paige in it, much less anyone else.”

“Wait, so you’re taking on someone else’s case, but you won’t work on Rey’s?” Poe shot back. Finn knew- he could see that Poe was on his feet, probably pacing back and forth in front of his desk. He’d be running his hands through his hair, like he always did when he was frustrated. Finn remembered how ridiculous Poe’s hair had looked after a four-hour wait with Time Warner Cable. Poe wasn’t a mean person, but he had an impatient streak.

Falling back on old tactics from back when they’d been together, Finn forced himself to mellow. If he got angry, it would all fall apart. Finn exhaled slowly through his nose, trying to remember why he was trying to talk to Poe in the first place.

I will not fight with my ex while trying to help my girlfriend. I will not fight with my ex while trying to help my girlfriend. I will not fight with my ex while trying to help my girlfriend. I will not fight with my ex while trying to help my girlfriend. Finn thought dully. He knew that Poe’s grief had manifested differently. Poe’s obsession had stunted his ability to process things, especially things that were related to Rey’s case.

“Poe, Rose can barely see where her sister is in the room. What I’m doing with Rey’s case is my business. Can you help her?” Finn asked. He kept his voice low, trying to keep things calm.

There was a long, thoughtful pause from the other line, before he heard a sigh and, “alright. Mail me the footage on a thumb drive. As close to the original as you can.”

“Thanks, Poe,” Finn said, his shoulders finally relaxing.

“Yeah, sure,” Poe muttered. He hung up without another word.

Finn turned to face Rose, who was chewing on her thumbnail. She looked up at Finn, then smiled at his expression. Rushing forward, she hugged him tightly, “thank you, babe.”

“You’re welcome,” Finn said.

“I love you,” Rose said.

“I love you, too,” Finn said, grinning.

Chapter Text

“This election is so ugly,” Rose said. She rubbed her face, tired.

“I’m so glad we didn’t go to Joe and Becca’s election party,” Finn said, turning off the television.

“Ugh, I’m getting a beer,” Rose said, climbing down from the table and walking to the fridge.

“Don’t tell Hannah,” Finn said, chuckling. He scrolled carefully through the footage that Poe had cleaned up. He had done significant edits more than once, which had made things so much clearer.

“Do you want a Sasquash or an Old Redwood?” Rose asked, leaning back to look at him.

“Just get a Sam Adams,” Finn said, waving a hand and zooming in on a dark-haired man in the footage, “tonight isn’t a night for craft beer.”

“No,” Rose said, scanning through her texts as she set Finn’s beer in front of him, “honestly, we should probably just do shots until we’re unconscious.”

“You know, if I didn’t think that it’s just going to be like The Purge out there, I’d go,” Finn said, chuckling. He looked down at one of the print outs that they’d gotten a few days ago. He circled the dark-haired man in all of the stills that he was in.

“Right?” Rose offered, laughing bitterly, throwing her hair into a bun. She sat down at the coffee table to begin sorting through the phone book information for potential witnesses.

Finn scratched at his arm and sighed, “God, I hate Nicorette patches,” he mumbled.

“You’ll be able to make it through,” Rose said, not looking up from her laptop, which was where she kept a list of all the people that she had managed to track down a bit. “Just think, if you can quit, you might be able to make it through your 60s without getting cancer.”

“Ha ha,” Finn said flatly. He looked up at her, meeting her eyes over the screens of their laptop, and smiled. She winked at him, then turned her attention back to her laptop. She chewed on her lip, then took a sip from her beer while she typed out another, ‘please help me’ message to someone’s social media profile.

Finn turned his attention back to the dark-haired man in the photographs. He paused after he saw the dark-haired man lean against the bar next to Paige, his attention on the bartender. Finn frowned, watching the young man’s hands. If he could see the man touching Paige’s drink, they might have their Guy.

No luck.

The dark-haired man turned away after grabbing a beer without even looking at Paige.

Cursing, Finn leaned back, “do we have anything on-” he broke off and checked their reference list, “White Guy #7?”

Rose clicked around for a minute, then shook her head, “Nah. There’s nothing. I don’t think he was with a group, so I haven’t been able to put him in a tree with the other ones.”

Finn nodded, then turned his attention back to the photos, watching the young man leave the bar, “I think we can rule out White Guy #7.”

“He leaves too early?” Rose asked.

“Yep,” Finn said, “he gets a beer, finishes it, and leaves before Paige’s group splits up. I mean, technically he could have snatched her outside, but-”

“We think she was taken inside the bar,” Rose said, speaking at the same time as him. They’d had this discussion over and over, to the point where it became almost rote.
“Some days, I want to just track down everyone at the bar and make them tell me everything that they have ever done,” Rose said, groaning and stretching out on her back on the floor.

“I’m so sorry,” Finn said. He closed his eyes and rubbed his hands over his face, “I can’t imagine how this must feel.”

“It’s just-” Rose broke off with an exasperated sigh, then shook her head. Her shoulders fell, but didn’t say anything else. Instead, she went back to work.

They worked in silence for almost an hour until Rose’s phone rang. They both jumped, but Rose immediately answered with a, “Hello! Rose Tico here!”

Finn watched her for a moment as she plugged in her headphones and started clicking around her laptop. They’d had almost twenty of these calls, all from people who had been inside the bar. Most of their nights for the past two months had been spent tracking down and talking to people who had been there. After two years, people would begin to forget anything in earnest.

“Thank you so much for calling back so quickly, ah, Chris,” Rose said, moving over to the couch so she could take notes. Finn turned his attention back to the photos, tracking the movements of anyone who looked big enough to have taken Paige.

Finn started tracking a middle-aged man with a shaved head around the room, half-listening to Rose’s conversation.

“A young Asian woman-”

Finn took a swig from his beer and focused on the man. He closed his eyes and took a slow breath. Finn drew himself back together and watched the moment when he saw Paige start to behave unstably. He ran a finger over the little image of Paige, his heart tightening. He had never met her, but after more than three years of seeing her image over and over, it felt like she was part of his family, too. He knew her through Rose’s eyes.

“-and you last saw her at around midnight?”

Paige was ambitious and brave. She had been a dedicated student and, later, a driven lawyer. She’d always been someone to fight against oppression and inequality, even when she focused on property law.

She’s always been a huge fan of the color green.

Her favorite book is Life of Pi.

Whenever he thought of Paige, Finn tried to use the present tense. He couldn’t manage to do it for Rey, but he could do it for Paige.

“-and how many people were in your group?” Rose asked this Chris person on the phone.

To be honest, he was doing it for Rose. She needed to think of Paige as alive and somewhere out there.

Finn stretched, going to get a cup of water from the kitchen. He walked past the bar, where there were two framed photos of their missing loved ones among the photos of him and Rose. The one on the left was Rose and Paige at Paige’s law school graduation, smiling and squinting in the bright May sunlight.

The one on the right was less typically photogenic but always made Finn smile. Rey was smiling, biting her thumb and leaning back against the rotting interior of the Volkswagen Beetle she had been working on. Finn reached out and gently touched the picture. God, he missed that smile. He grabbed his water, then went back to his seat at the table.

“Thank you, please pass my number around,” Rose said, smiling gratefully, “this was super helpful.”

“Good?” Finn asked, watching Rose’s facial expression as she pulled off her headphones.

“A bit,” Rose said, “that was Chris Brown an-”

“His name is Chris Brown?” Finn asked, smiling despite himself.

“Yes, haha,” Rose said sarcastically, rolling her eyes, “anyway, he was able to explain where two people disappeared off to. He saw Black Guy #3 and Black Girl #2 sneaking off to make out near the bathroom, which is why they disappeared from the cameras.”

“Got it,” Finn said, tracking the two figures across his footage. Over Black Girl #2’s shoulder, he saw a pale face that made him freeze. Half-hidden in the shadows was someone that he hadn’t noticed before. Grabbing the list, he looked down the names and faces that they’d written out.

“Rose?” Finn asked, reaching the bottom of the list without seeing this face listed.

“Yeah?”

“How many White Guys do we have listed?” Finn asked. On a hunch, he grabbed a pen and a ruler, tracing a line across the paper.

“Fifteen,” Rose said.

“Then who is this?” Finn asked, putting the photo on the other side of the table and looking for the old man in other photos.

“Who?” Rose asked.

“This old guy in the shadows,” Finn said, pointing to a tall, thin man who was reading a newspaper and sipping his drink.

“I don’t know,” Rose said, frowning.

“Who reads a newspaper at a bar on a Friday night?” Finn asked.

“I- well, he is old,” Rose said.

“Then why is he staring at Paige?” Finn said, pointing at the photo that he’d drawn on. There was a direct red line from the man’s eyes to Paige.

“I don’t know,” Rose said quietly. She inspected the photo carefully as Finn started tracing photo after photo.

“Rose,” Finn whispered, “this guy was there the whole time, watching her.”

“How did we just see him?” Rose asked incredulously.

“He’s lurking in the shadows,” Finn said, “I only noticed this over Black Girl #2’s shoulder.”

Rose stared at the photo and sat down at the table, chewing on her lip. Finn frowned, something itching at the back of his mind. He leaned back, closed his eyes, trying to think through the details rising in his mind. He knew that face.

That figure in the shadows was familiar.

Finn sat bolt upright, moving so fast that he made Rose jump. He grabbed his phone and dialed Poe’s number without a word. Rose stared at him, her mouth open.

“Poe, I need you to bring everything you have on Rey’s case,” Finn said as soon as he heard the click of Poe picking up, “I think there’s a connection.”

 

Finn and Rose curled up under the covers, not sleeping, while they waited for Poe to arrive. It would take about three hours for him to get his stuff and get to them, so they’d decided to try and sleep for a few hours. Finn knew that they had a sleepless night in front of them.

“Are you asleep?” Rose whispered.

“No,” Finn moved over closer to her, wrapping an arm around her to pull her against him.

“I love you,” Rose said softly.

“I love you, too, After a long silence, he added, “God, I hope we can find some answers.”

“We might find all the answers,” Rose said, leaning back against him.

Finn never could decide if he actually slept at all, or if he just spent that time in a distant half-dream, but either way, he was called back to reality by his cell phone ringing.

 

Poe’s hair had gotten so much grayer than it had been four years ago. When Rey had gone missing, Poe’s hair had been black with a few spots of gray around his temples. Now, though, his hair was earnestly salted with gray and white. He looked exhausted but wide awake. He had two file boxes stacked on top of each other in his arms and Finn grabbed the top box.

“Careful,” Poe warned.

“Not my first file box, Poe,” Finn said, raising an eyebrow.

“Sorry,” Poe said, his cheeks darkening, “I’m used to well-meaning, but inexperienced friends helping me out.”

Finn nodded, “Welcome to our humble abode.” He stepped back, walking back into his living room. The kitchen table was still covered in papers from earlier that night.

“They called the election for Trump,” Poe said, “I heard it on the radio twenty minutes ago.”

“Oh my god,” Rose said, one hand over her mouth, “that is... that is horrifying.”

“We’ll look into Canadian immigration policies as soon as we see if this guy is who I think he is,” Finn said, nodding.

“If he is, we call Detective Anderson, leave a message, and then drink as much as we can without dying,” Poe said.

“Now that sounds like a plan,” Rose muttered. She pulled a hoodie on over her t-shirt and sweatpants, then held out her hand to Poe, “I’m Rose.”

“Poe Dameron, nice to meet you,” Poe said, shaking her hand, “so you’re looking for your sister?”

“Yeah,” Rose said, gesturing to their printed photographs and list of potential suspects or witnesses, “we really think that we’ve found our Guy, but Finn thinks he might be even more our’s than we thought.”

Poe nodded, peering down at the circled image of the unknown old man. He frowned, then looked up to nod at Finn, “he’s on my Unnamed list, but I don’t seriously think he’s it. He’s too old to take on someone like Rey.”

“What if Rey was drugged or tricked?” Rose asked.

“Tricked?” Finn asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You know, like in Silence of the Lambs, where he gets her into his van by getting her to load a couch in or something- I’m not saying that would work on her-” Rose added, seeing Finn’s and Poe’s expression, “but if she had been drinking or drugged, she may not have been thinking as clearly.”

“Anyone is easier to kidnap if they’re drunk,” Poe agreed.

“Except Al,” Finn added, remembering his and Poe’s old neighbor. He was a massive person, a 300 pound muscular behemoth of a man. Finn had never seen him truly drunk, but Al could just fall and kill anyone who tried anything.

The corner of Rose’s mouth twitched, but she just sighed tiredly, “let’s just look through Rey’s stuff.”

Poe nodded, turning to the file boxes, but Finn walked over to Rose. He put an arm around her and kissed her forehead. Rose leaned against him, closing her eyes for a moment.

“We’ll find her,” Finn promised, rubbing her back.

“We’ll find her, too,” Rose returned. That was always their promise to each other. Some people had grand declarations of love or kisses in the rain, but Finn had a gentle promise to make sure they got justice.

“I found it,” Poe said behind them, making them both stop and turn slowly. Poe held up a single folder, so slim it made Finn nervous.

“That’s all you have on the Unnamed people?” Finn asked. Poe had become an extensive researcher, digging into people’s lives with a skill that would have made him an excellent P.I. in another life.

“This is all I have on that unnamed man,” Poe said. Poe handed Finn the file folder, holding his gaze with equal parts warning and hope.

“Did you go looking through the photos before you left?” Finn asked, tapping on the side of the file without opening it.

“No, not yet,” Poe said.

Finn nodded stiffly, “then let’s go.”

Tension hung over the entire apartment, permeating all of the people in it. Rose fidgeted as Finn walked Rey’s file back to the kitchen table, but kept quiet. Poe paced, slowly, but it was clearly taking all of his self control not to jump in the middle or hover over Finn’s shoulder. Finn knew that Poe Dameron was a control freak, through and through,despite many efforts to restrain it.

Finn wondered, distantly, if that’s why Poe had lost it so badly when Rey had gone missing. Losing her had been the most utter loss of control any of them had ever experienced.

Finn sat down at the table, looking through the photographs from Paige’s crime scene. He took a deep breath, then opened the file from Rey’s case box. Inside, the skull-faced man was there, lurking, in the background of other images. The image was grainy and unfocused, but Finn knew it was the same man. He kept his face blank and looked from the pale man to Rey. His heart constricted at the sight of Rey half-hunched over the bar, nursing a drink. She looked so down and exhausted that guilt bore down on his shoulders and his heart. Rey had been waiting for him and he hadn’t shown up.

Finn traced a finger over Rey’s face, wishing for the millionth time over the past four years, seven months, four weeks, and two days, that he had been a better friend. He looked over at Poe and Rose, unable to find the words to tell them anything. He swallowed tightly, then stood up and turned away from the table. Leaning against the bar, he looked at his photo of Rey, the one where she was in her beloved Beetle. Tears blurred his vision and years of fruitless searches seemed to roll off of him finally.

“Holy shit,” Poe said from behind him, “here he is.”

Finn turned around and looked over Poe’s shoulder to look again at the pale, skull-like figure lurking in the shadows.

“How do we know it’s the same guy?” Rose asked.

Finn handed her a photo from Rey’s file and one from Paige’s stack. Reaching across her, Finn picked up another pair of photos and put them side by side. As soon as he put them down, he knew it was the same person.

“It’s him,” Poe said, leaning forward to press his lips to his steepled fingers.

“What are the odds that this same old guy is at two bars for a bunch of Millenials on the nights of two different disappearances?” Rose asked.

“Real fucking slim,” Poe said.

“Call Anderson,” Finn said, wiping his eyes, “we have to find this guy.”

Chapter Text

 

 

Rey slowly closed the door behind her while holding her breath. She listened to the lock quietly latched behind her. After three heartbeats of silence, she slowly let her breath out and tiptoed down the hallway, praying silently that the old house wouldn’t make any noise.

If she was going to have any chance of escape, she couldn’t make any noise. Pulling her braid forward over her shoulder, she crept down the hall. When she reached her destination she slowly opened the door. 

Ben sat on their bed rubbing his hair dry with a towel. He looked up cautiously. 

Rey leaned against the door and nodded. “Okay, they’re asleep.”

“Good,” Ben said, standing up and grinning. He caught her hand and pulled her forward, “I’ve been looking forward to this all day.” 

Rey beamed, letting Ben bowl her onto the bed. She landed on her back, kicking off her slippers. Ben landed next to her and propped himself on one elbow, “okay, so, Sarah Palin is made John McCain’s vice presidential nominee, then what?”

“So, basically, she’s terrible and then everyone makes fun of her for months,” Rey said.

“How terrible?” Ben asked.

“Like, she just doesn’t know anything about the government or American history in general. She was all “small government” and stuff. It was a lot. SNL tore into her, which is the only way I really know about any of this.”

“I was about to say, weren’t you barely 18 when this was happening? Are you sure you were paying attention?” Ben suggested, smirking at her.

“Well, I’m not really a US Citizen, so I can’t vote, but I definitely wanted to pay attention, especially since there was a woman and a black man up for the Presidency,” Rey said. She sat up and grabbed her hairbrush and unwound her braid. She slowly started brushing the ends of her hair, working her way up her hair.

“Wait, there was a black man up for the nomination?” Ben asked, sitting up on his elbows and grinning at her

“Ben, a black man won!” Rey said, her eyes open wide.

“Wait, what!?” Ben said, sitting all the way up.

“Yeah!” Rey said, “he was even doing pretty well on his reelection when I was taken.”

“Oh I bet my mother lost her mind,” Ben said, grinning.

“Really?” Rey said. She knew almost nothing about Ben’s parents, outside of the fact that his mother was Jewish.

“Oh, yeah,” Ben said, looking off into space and smiling, “she is this really fierce politician. She’s a die hard democrat and a Senator. She’s been a lawyer and an activist and a politician since before I was born.” His smile slowly faded.

“What?” Rey asked.

“Nothing,” Ben said, shrugging, “it’s just… I wonder what she’s doing now. If she didn’t run for President, then she’s probably still in the Senate.”

“Is that bad?” Rey asked warily.

Ben looked down at his hands, “I just hoped that she had gotten the Presidency like she wanted. It would have made things worth it, you know?”

“What ‘things’?” Rey’s heart tightened uneasily.

“Her being gone,” Ben admitted, “she was gone for my entire childhood, it felt like. She always had her eye on the top job and I wanted it to be worth it.”

Rey’s heart loosened and then tumbled down into her stomach, “Ben… Ben if you’ve been missing for twenty years, she won’t think of anything as worth it. She’s spent more time away from you than with you. Think of the boys. If they were taken from you, would you think of anything as worth it?”

“No,” Ben said immediately.

Rey grimaced, raising her eyebrows. A silent ‘see?’ hung in the air between them.

Until it was broken by a quiet noise on the ancient baby monitor that the family shared.

“He’s up,” Rey groaned, leaning her head back on the pillows.

“Okay, he’s moving back in,” Ben said, shaking his head, “it’s official. He isn’t up for it.”

“I know!” Rey said, rolling over to bury her face in the pillow, “can you get him?” She whined into the fabric.

“Yeah,” Ben said. He leaned over and kissed the back of her head.

“If he’s hungry, tough luck,” Rey shot over her shoulder as Ben walked to the door, which just made him snicker. She knew that it was no use, though. While Jesse had taken to a schedule well and weaned without problem, her younger son hadn’t taken to his own room well. Poor Isaac and Jesse were also wrapped up in the transition, too.

“Here we are,” Ben said, holding the still-sniffling baby.

“Hi baby,” Rey said, opening her arms and taking Noah from Ben.

Noah babbled sleepily, grabbing at Rey’s shirt. Rey sighed and shook her head, “I knew he didn’t eat enough earlier.” She balanced her son on her thigh and unbuttoned her nightgown.

“I’d hoped we’d get a little time to ourselves,” Ben admitted, laying down.

“At least we didn’t just get back to sleep and then get woken up,” Rey said. Noah mouthed at the skin of her chest, curling his little fist.. Rey jumped a little when his tiny nails scraped her nipple.

“You okay?” Ben asked, looking over at her.

“Yeah,” Rey said. She laughed, kissing Noah first and letting him settle in to eat. Ben turned his head to watch for a moment. He leaned over, gently rubbing Noah’s back gently.

“Do you think you would have had kids by now, on the outside?” Ben asked, looking up at the ceiling again.

“I’m twenty-seven, so I’d probably be considering it, if I was married or something,” Rey said thoughtfully. She leaned back on the pillows, “I’d have only been in the workforce for four years, so I don’t know. I don’t think I’d be trying for kids, but I wouldn’t be freaked out if I got pregnant, you know?”

“At thirty-two, I don’t know,” Ben said, thoughtful, “I don’t know what I’d be doing, you know?”

“What did you want to do?” Rey asked, turning to watch his reaction. They spent most of their time discussing the kids or the farm, so she enjoyed any information she could glean about him.

“At the time, I just wanted to be good enough, to be honest,” Ben admitted, “My mom was a famous activist. My dad was a master pilot. My uncle was a rabbi, but I know he did something before that, but my mom wouldn’t ever tell me.”

“That sounds like a lot of pressure,” Rey said softly. She’d never grown up with a family that had done anything worth being proud of, but she had seen more than one student driven to crisis by the sheer pressure of coming from a successful family. One of the boys in her Intro to Rhetoric class had broken down after getting a failing grade on one of his essays because of it. Rey had never had anyone who cared about her grades or her future. Ben, on the other hand, had grown up with the weight of the world on his shoulders. And yet, they both ended up here.

Rey closed her eyes as she continued to nurse Noah. Why on earth her son wouldn’t take to a schedule she didn’t know. It was exhausting to have to be awake and ready to go at bizarre hours. With Jesse, the first two months had been exhausting, but he’d taken to sleeping at night very well. Noah was five months old and seemed to enjoy nursing right after the house had gone to bed.

Noah eventually started to doze, sucking a little and mostly just laying there with his eyes closed.

“Looks like someone’s finally ready to go to bed,” Ben said. He leaned forward, “I’ll take him.”

“Thank you,” Rey said, relieved. She buttoned her nightgown again as Ben sat, cross-legged, on the bed and let Noah rest on his chest and shoulder. Ben patted Noah’s back, trying to make sure he burped before they tried to put him down. He wasn’t as gassy as Jesse had been, but he had no tolerance for it.

After the smallest burp Rey had ever heard, Ben chuckled and settled for just holding Noah for a few minutes. Noah mouthed sleepily at his father’s neck, but Ben just smiled and rubbed his back soothingly, “sorry kid, but I think the kitchen’s closed for the night.”

“Oh, yeah,” Rey huffed, “he’ll just have to tough it out until morning.”

Ben laughed, one of those rare, higher-pitched laughs that made Rey’s heart flutter a little. He smiled a lot, especially around the boys, but that laugh was something Rey always treasured. 

“They both look so much like you,” Rey said, watching as Noah finally drifted all the way off to sleep.

“They do,” Ben whispered, his voice a little awed.  

Ben stood up slowly, walking Noah back to the room he shared with Isaac and Jesse. Rey knew it was going to be a pain to get Noah’s crib back into their room, but it would mean that Jesse and Isaac would sleep better. Noah would bring the whole household down, given enough time.

My little agent of chaos, Rey thought fondly. She laid down on her side. She wanted to stay up and talk to Ben more, but before Ben even opened their door she was asleep.

 

 

 

“Okay, go ahead and add the lavender oil,” Rey said. She slowly stirred the melted soap mixture. One of the other wives in the First Order had started experimenting with little glass jars of oil the previous summer and had done so well that her husband had written to Snoke about it. The woman, Mary, had been honored by Snoke in a handwritten letter that was sent out to all of the families in the First Order, although Rey still wasn’t sure how many people that included.

From what Ben had told her, several new families had been brought in from some kind of tiny doomsday church, but Rey hadn’t seen them yet.

Susannah leaned over and slowly added a few drops of the oil into the thick substance. Her gloves squeaked a little and Rey knew she was holding her breath. Even though Susannah had never had to work with lye herself, it still made her wary, to the point that she’d avoid breathing it in even after it had been added to the other oiled ingredients.

“You’re okay,” Rey said gently. She kept her voice low, trying to reassure the young girl. Susannah was as tall as she was now but still had this intense and anxious energy. <em>God, seventeen years here without any knowledge of the outside world has worn you thin.</em> Rey thought, watching Susannah’s expression as she added the oil and handfuls of dried lavender sprigs.

“Okay,” Susannah whispered. Her expression was restrained and wary, but she let her shoulders relax a bit.

“Who do you think is going to come and live with us?” Susannah asked quietly. She prepped the pans for the soap as Rey finished stirring in the oils and additives. Three weeks ago, Snoke had told them that other members of the First Order would be moving into the house in a few days, but that it was a surprise about who.

“I don’t know,” Rey said. She knew very few people in the First Order personally but didn’t think that really anyone did. At first, she’d thought she wasn’t allowed to send mail because she was a flight risk, but she’d realized that the women were allowed to write to each other through their husbands. Only men sent mail to each other, often to check in and talk to their friends, but all of it came here.

Rey didn’t know how she’d missed it, but it had taken until after Ben had started to explain his upbringing in the First Order that she’d learned that Snoke’s office was the First Order’s mail center. He was the only person who knew the addresses for everyone in the organization, which meant anything that anyone wanted to say was read by him.

Ben hadn’t told her about sending mail until after Paige’s death, mostly because he’d been afraid that she would try to do something risky, get caught, or die. Whether she liked it or not, Ben was probably right about that.

“Do you think it’ll be a family with a young guy?” Susannah asked. She sounded uncertain, rather than overly excited. Rey looked away from the thick white soap to look at Susannah’s expression. Over the past three years she and Susannah had bonded a lot, especially since Phasma was training both of them to be good First Order wives. At seventeen, Susannah was the same age that Phasma had been when she was brought into the First Order. Rey had never had the heart to ask how old most women were when they got married here, but since she, Paige, and Angela had all been in their twenties, she’d held out hope that Susannah would escape her mother’s fate.

“I don’t know,” Rey said again honestly. She pressed her lips together and slowly reached out to start pouring soup into the various pans, “is there someone that you hope it is?” she finally asked. She’d settled into her place as a strange cross between an aunt and an older sister but sometimes she still felt lost. Taking care of the emotional needs of people much younger than her wasn’t something she had experience with.

“Well, I hope it’s Angela,” Susannah admitted, “and Dopheld and his brother and sister. They’re all really nice and Angela’s mother is close to my mother, so I definitely know them the best of all.”

“How old are Dopheld’s brother and sister?” Rey asked.

“Lyra, his little sister, is nineteen, and Antony is eighteen. Lyra is about to turn twenty, so she and Antony aren’t TOO close in age, actually.” Susannah started covering the pans of soap so they could cool and harden away from the food that would be made later that evening.

“Do you think you’d mind having Anthony around?” Rey asked.

“Antony,” Susannah corrected quietly, “his name is Antony with a “t”, not with a “th.””

The corner of Rey’s mouth lifted, even as Susannah’s ears went a little pink. She didn’t want to guess whether or not Susannah had a crush on Antony, but she was mostly glad that Susannah was showing such care about anyone’s identity. Things like tenderness were railroaded in the First Order, especially in this house. From what Rey could tell, the other households in the First Order, the one where everyone was a convert or a child of converts, there wasn’t as much emphasis on perfection of every little thing. People were able to be more comfortable and supportive of each other. They enjoyed each other’s company and enjoyed being all together at the few weddings or other celebrations when they were allowed to congregate.

In Snoke’s house, however, any weakness was exploited. He constantly kept the occupants of this house on their toes, even Jesse. He was only three and a half years old, but he knew what “Father’s mood” meant.

It made her heart ache to see her son call Snoke “father” and to only know his name as “Roland.” Even though Rey had whispered his true name and her story and her name into his hair when he was small, by the time he’d gotten old enough to remember things and repeat them, she’d long ago resigned herself to the fact that, while she lived here, she would have to perpetuate lie after lie, just to stay safe.

“Joanna and Isaac both think that it’s going to be one of the new families,” Susannah said, helping Rey clear off the counters and put the soap-making supplies away.

“That’s a good guess,” Rey said, carefully making sure to keep the soap supplies away from anything that would be used for food later, “I can see why they’d want to be near him and our family.”

“Yeah,” Susannah said, “but I don’t know what they’re like. I think Joanna only thinks it’ll be them because she WANTS it to be them.”

“Why does she want it to be them?” Rey asked, looking over her shoulder at Susannah, who was fiddling with the long end of her ponytail rather than working, staring off into space.

“Because she heard Mother say that one of the families has two daughters about her age and Dopheld’s family is all older than she is, so she’ll be younger, like Isaac.”

“That’s not unreasonable,” Rey admitted. She hauled the soap materials aside, hosing any excess material off with the water sprayer that was attached to the sink.

“Yeah, but I don't know anything about them,” Susannah said, tossing her ponytail back over her shoulder, “I mean, what if they’re boring or lazy or don’t know how to do anything?”

“If they are then we’ll just have to have mercy on them and teach them,” Rey said patiently, drying the dishes with a paper towel and handing a bowl and towel to Susannah. She lifted her eyebrows expectantly. She didn’t actually care if a seventeen-year-old girl wanted to take a minute to discuss her thoughts on their new houseguests, but if anyone walked in and found Susannah not working, she’d be punished.

Susannah sighed and finished drying the dishes off and put them away in the cabinet by the back door, “you hope it’s Angela, don’t you?”

“Angela is the person I know the best outside of this family, yes,” Rey said. She forced herself to smile, “besides, I brought good fortune to her wedding. She owes me!”

Susannah laughed. The worry melted off her face, replaced by earnest laughter.

“And what do we have here?” a voice said from the living room.

Rey looked over her shoulder to see that Tage was standing near the door, holding something small and fluffy in one hand.

“What is that?” Susannah asked, staring at the small animal.

“A kitten,” Tage said, smiling and letting Sussanah walk over and inspect the little creature more closely.

“Where did you find it?” Rey asked.

“Technically, Roland found it,” Tage admitted, ‘but he got distracted by some plant or another in Kylo’s garden, so Father just had me bring it inside.”

“It’s not going into the barn?” Susannah asked, eyes wide.

“No, apparently not,” Tage said, shrugging, “I think Father wants one for pest control and this isn’t one of our barn cats’ kittens, so we can keep it to use indoors.”

“We’ll need to get cat supplies from town,” Rey said warily.

“Father said he’ll handle it. God will make sure they get here,” Tage said.

“Of course he will,” Susannah crooned, scooping the kitten up into her hands. It meowed loudly, sniffing at Susannah’s cheek. “Father always makes sure God gets us what we need.” Even though her voice was soft and baby-ish, since she was talking to the kitten, it made Rey’s heart jump into her throat. Susannah really thought Snoke was capable of providing everything she needed in life.

Rey looked over at Tage, “did Father say when our guests would get here?’ she asked.

“No, not yet,” Tage said, watching as Susannah sat on the couch, holding the kitten close to her chest.

“Where did you get that!?” A voice burst out from the stairs. Isaac tried to run over, but Tage stepped between Susannah and her brother, his eyebrow raised.

Isaac skidded to a halt in front of his brother, his eyes wide, “sorry,” he said, his face going pink.

“Roland found a kitten outside. If you want to search and make sure there’s not another one, you can put on your coat and act like you’re twelve. Otherwise, Kylo and Father will send you right back in,” Tage’s voice had that same slow, measured pacing that it always had whenever he was correcting one of his siblings.

Although, Rey couldn’t call them his “siblings.” She didn’t know what to call Tage, Ben, Susannah, Joanna, and Isaac beside siblings, especially since the younger ones didn’t know anything else.

“Why is everyone sitting around?” Phasma asked, standing at the top of the stairs with her hands on her hips.

“We found a kitten!” Isaac said eagerly.

Phasma walked down the stairs, putting a rag in her apron pocket, “I was afraid something was happening with the horses. That’s just what we need, with winter coming.”

“No, Harbinger and Conqueror are settling in nicely,” Tage said, waving a hand.

“Oh, good,” Phasma said, sighing. She rubbed her forehead, closing her eyes and mentally scrolling through the list of chores to do before their new occupants arrived. Finally, she took a deep breath, pulled the rag out of her pocket and started smacking everyone with it, gently, to get them to move again, “Susannah, go put that kitten in a box upstairs with a blanket. I’ll get you something to feed it. Joanna, I want you to put fresh sheets on the bed in the spare room. Tage, take Isaac and take him outside for a bit,” she turned to look at Rey, her mouth open, but Noah chose that moment to wake up from his nap, so the older woman just smiled and shrugged.

Rey felt a rush of warmth towards Phasma. At least one other person in this house knew what it was to really feel like someone had her by the boobs.

Chapter Text

Fossorial will be on an indefinate hold.

A family friend was just given 30 days to live.

He's 12.

I just got to focus closer to home for a bit.

Chapter Text

 

Rey waited alongside Phasma and Susannah as a dark car pulled into the driveway. She balanced Noah on her hip, watching Jesse, who hurried over to hug Ben’s leg. Ben looked down at Jesse and smiled, then patted the top of his head. Jesse giggled, pressing his cheek to the side of Ben’s pant leg.

“Are you ready to greet our new guests, Roland?” Snoke asked, walking over to look down at Jesse.

Jesse nodded, smiling up at Snoke. Rey’s stomach turned at the utter adoration on Jesse’s face. From the minute Jesse was born, Snoke had doted on him, even more than his own children. When Noah was born, Snoke had taken to him, after naming him “Albert”. Snoke seemed to show genuine affection for his biological children, even when it was interspersed with his insane religious policies. Even though Susannah and Joanna couldn’t go to school, they still both read magazines and books about farming and sewing.

Isaac probably read at an elementary level, even though he was twelve, but he spent time outside, in the open air, around the animals, Tage, and Ben.

Speaking of Tage, the red-haired man fidgeted next to Ben, massaging the center of his palm with one thumb as he waited alongside Isaac and Joanna.

Susannah hurriedly brushed a hand over the top of her head as if to make sure her blonde hair was still smooth. Wow, she must want to impress this Antony kid, Rey thought, a little bemused.

In the back of her mind, she knew it could be anyone who walked through that door, but she desperately wanted it to be Angela and Dopheld. She’d met other women on and off, but Angela seemed the most earnestly warm of the group. It had taken a few years for her to see the subtle cracks in the happy masks that everyone, particularly the women, put on. Phasma’s cool, focused, and Snoke-centered demeanor covered that she was just scared of punishment. Two other women, Judith and Rebekah, always had these fixed, cold smiles on their faces. She had barely noticed them at her wedding, but she’d met them again after Jesse was born and found that they were almost like mannequins. Rey had seen variations of “customer service face” or people hiding difficulties from their family or friends, but those two women felt almost inhuman. Perhaps years of performance had left them with only husks of who they once were, or everyone else had been performing for so long that no one noticed how utterly cold and soulless the two women were, but Rey had noticed. It was a kind of living uncanny valley. She got hugs and warm greetings and deep affection from these people, but there was something wrong about it.

But no one would ever admit it to risk angering God by questioning Snoke, his favorite prophet and the man who had revealed The Way to all of them.

“They’re here!” Isaac hissed, watching several people climb out of the car and walked up to the door.

Rey held her breath; Ben had said several new members had joined from doomsday cults or other right-wing groups. She desperately did not want some strange guy with a beard and only camo outfits, who had only left his security bunker in Oregon, Colorado, or Missouri just so that he could get whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.

Rey knew Snoke would oblige anyone anything if it built up or solidified his power.

Snoke stepped forward to open the door the second that whoever was on the other side knocked. Immediately, Isaac cheered. It took Rey another moment to see past Snoke and to see that Angela and Dopheld had been chosen to live with them. Rey cheered happily, moving forward so quickly that she half-jostled Noah awake. Angela beamed, tossing her black hair out of the way so she could swoop down and look at the baby better.

Behind Dopheld and Angela were a pair of teenagers. They were both darker than Angela or Dopheld but had a warm, orangey, sun-darkened look rather than anything else.

“Antony,” Susannah said, stepping forward and hugging him.

“Yeah, Su,” Antony said, grinning and hugging her back.

The corner of Rey’s mouth lifted. She knew because Snoke and Ben had reminded her, more than once, that she wasn’t allowed to touch men that weren’t her husband. This meant that hugs and physical contact were forbidden among adults, but children had free range to befriend people.

If only this could last, Rey thought sadly, watching Susannah greet both Antony and Lyra, who was shrugging off her coat and looking, a little windswept, but delighted to be there. Rey glanced over her shoulder to look at Phasma, who was watching Antony with a thoughtful interest. Phasma met Rey’s eyes, raising her eyebrows slightly.

Ever since Jesse had been born, Phasma’s attitude towards Rey had radically softened. It wasn’t a matter of, ‘you produced the son you were supposed to’. At first, that’s what Rey had thought it would be, but Phasma was just different since she’d given birth. Apparently, Snoke wasn’t one of those cult leaders with “girls are a waste of time” thought process. Snoke’s attitude towards girl children was so positive it unnerved Rey. Why would a religious fanatic consider girls to be, “a gift of particular beauty, grace, and generation”? It made Rey’s skin crawl.

Finally, Rey had settled on the simple fact she’d become a mother. They attributed small mistakes in chores or her words to exhaustion, pregnancy, or distraction from Jesse, who was a happy baby and an absolute nightmare of a two-year-old.

If Rey was someone else, this would make her bitter or frustrated, but she couldn’t hate Phasma. Phasma had lived more than half of her life living in a house with men complicit in her captivity or children they forced her to bear. Rey, especially after Jesse, provided someone to empathize with.

I wonder what will happen there, Phasma’s raised eyebrows said.

Probably nothing. They’re kids. They think they know what’s going on, but they don’t, Rey’s tilted head and with a half-smile said back.

They’re cute, but they’re about to make my life more complicated Phasma said through her sigh, shaking her head, with a small smile lingering on her face.

In the entryway, Dopheld helped Angela out of her coat. The tall, dark-haired woman shook her curls as she pulled off a hat, “Its extra brisk, isn’t it?” she said.

It is, Rey said thoughtfully, almost like the weather is mad at us, somehow. It probably has something to do with global warming. Jessika always warned me we’d run out of a planet before we were old and sitting in our rocking chairs, The sudden thought of Jessika, of all the plans they’d laid, came rushing back. Remembering how hard she’d cried when Jessika had called it off seemed to rise and crash over Rey. Angela was rushing over to her, her smile wide and her brown eyes full of the same joy as always.

Rey hugged her out of a mix of rote habit and her own need to cover her face to hide the mixed emotions she was feeling. She hadn’t thought about Jessika in a long time.
She’d be out of grad school, even if she took her year off, Rey thought.

Jessika was out there, living a free life and Rey was here. Her disappearance would have caused Jessika, Poe, and Finn so much pain, but they could at least choose where to go, even if they thought it was without her.

“Angela!” Rey said, leaning back to look into Angela’s face.

“Kira! Hi!” Angela said, brushing a few stray curls out of her face, “I can’t believe how long it’s been. I- This is not Roland, is it?” She said, her eyes settling on Noah.

“No,” Rey said, chuckling, “this is my second. Your good luck charm is over there by his dad.”

Angela looked over at Jesse and her mouth fell open, “he’s so big! He looks like a real person!” she turned her head to look back at Rey, “last time I saw him, he could barely stand up!”

“Don’t I know it!” Rey said. Her heart tightened at the idea that, as more and more time passed, her sons were more likely to remember their lives here. She’d broached the subject of escape more than a year ago, but they’d found out she was pregnant two weeks later, which tossed all of their plans out of the window.

“Come on,” Snoke said, “let’s get all of you settled.”

Rey chewed her lip, looking at Ben for help. It had confused her about how they would fit everyone in the house. She figured the boys would all room together, and any girls that came in would room with them. Apparently, poor Tage would be moved out of his room and moved into the room with all the single men.

Instead, Snoke turned towards the kitchen which made Rey frown in confusion. She looked down as Noah whined a little, wriggling in her arms. She looked into Noah’s half-closed eyes and sighed, “I need to go put him down,” she said, looking at Ben.

“I’ll take him,” Ben said easily, scooping Noah into his arms. He kissed Noah’s cheek, which made Noah squeak semi-contentedly. Rey smiled after the two then looked at Jesse, who was fidgeting with something green.

“Hey, baby, come show me that,” Rey said, crouching down.

Jesse walked over to her, holding up a dried leaf from outside he was crunching in his little fingers.

“What are the rules about bringing leaves in the house?” Rey asked quietly.

“Don’t do it,” Jesse mumbled.

Rey held out her hand and Jesse placed the half-destroyed leaf into her palm, “thank you, love.” she said, pecking his forehead. She straightened up to see Dopheld and Tage were picking up bags and following the rest of the group who had followed Snoke into the kitchen. Rey held out her empty hand, which Jesse took automatically. She walked into the kitchen, throwing the leaf away as she went. Once she got there, she realized they were all going down into the basement area where she’d spent her first days in captivity. Rey hesitated, chewing her lip again. They had hardly finished the basement, with four white rooms that were, as far as she knew, empty besides a mattress, a set of sheets, and a bathroom without a door which all the bathrooms had.

When Rey got down the stairs, however, she saw something she had not expected.

Rey looked around, eyes wide. She held onto Jesse’s hand and peered into one of her rooms. A real bed had replaced the mattress on the floor. Along the way, someone, probably Ben, had taken away the dried flowers that had forced Rey to leave behind before her wedding.

Ben was trying to be kind to you months before you knew it, Rey thought.

Rey felt Jesse’s hand move within her and she let him go, still looking around the room. Footsteps on the stairs made her look over her shoulder. Ben watched her, brushing his dark hair out of his face. He pressed his lips together as he reached her. Looking into the room again Rey’s heart tightened, and she touched Ben’s hand on instinct. He looked over at Jesse, who was exploring the rooms at his own place, but leaned closer to Rey and whispered, “you alright?”

“When did this happen?” Rey asked, forcing herself not to move her lips or speak out loud too much.

“Right after Noah was born,” Ben explained.

“You didn’t tell me?” Rey asked.

“I honestly forgot. We had a new baby… when I came in, he was the only thing I could think about,” Ben shrugged weakly.

Rey sighed and rolled her eyes, but said nothing more. Ben Solo could be an absolute pain in the butt sometimes, but he was utterly devoted to his kids, which she couldn’t fault him for.

“That must have been hard to work on,” Rey murmured.

Ben shrugged, grimacing. He glanced up as Jesse rushed into one room. Rey turned and watched him, pressing her lips together, “we should probably go make sure he doesn’t destroy anything.” she said.

Ben kissed the top of her head, then walked into the room. He hesitated in the doorway which made Rey pause and raise her eyebrow at him.

Ben just stood by the door, dark eyes fixed on her face, imploring her to keep going as normal. Rey nodded and turned to watch Jesse clamber up onto the already-made queen-sized bed. Ben would tell her later, but it was something they couldn’t say out loud, especially with Tage, Phasma, and Snoke walking around.

“What do you think, Roland, does this room pass?” Snoke asked from the doorway, smiling at her son with an earnest warmth.

“I like it!” Jesse said, flopping back onto the comforter and grinning.

“Well then, Antony, I think your room is ready for you,” Snoke said, turning to look over at the thin teenager behind him. Antony smiled and walked inside and set his stuff down.

The thing that struck Rey about Snoke was that he could be so tender, especially with the young people. Amid all of his abuse and the fear he hung over the household, he could indulge Jesse’s desire for his attention or compliment Joanna’s embroidery, yet he would demand perfection and bring down his anger on anyone who did not meet his expectations.

Rey knew that some of his outbursts were just meant to unsettle everyone, but even she felt the whiplash of his temper. There was nothing quite like being told that you had angered God because you had failed to clean properly even though you had done your best. Rey could see the way the children all felt inadequate and insecure like they were bad and always having to hope they’d do enough to be considered good for a little while.
It was disgusting.

And Jesse was next. He was just getting to the age where he could contribute to the house and Rey knew Snoke would come for him next. It made her want to scream, seeing her little boy get his spirit crushed by his hero, even if his adoration was misplaced.

“Come on, kid,” Ben called from the doorway, “speaking of beds, it’s probably time for your nap.”

Jesse let out a whining noise as he got down from the bed, but Snoke frowned and said, “now, my boy, you know that’s bad. Whining children are not good children.”

Jesse nodded and looked at his shoes as he walked over to Ben. A muscle in Ben’s temple twitched, but otherwise, he said nothing. They couldn’t do anything to protect him from these ideas, not openly. Rey just prayed they could escape when Noah was a little older, then they’d be able to work on undoing the damage before it hurt their sons too much more.

 

The Mitakas settled in over the next few days. Angela was helpful in the house which meant that they could all in turn focus on other things, like a quilting project that Phasma was trying to get Rey and the girls to do. Phasma had her own project, with took the priority at the one sewing machine they all shared, but she would work on it during the night more often than not so that Rey and the girls could work on quilts or repair work for the kids.

Rey hadn’t realized how much of the clothing she and the others wore came from the other members of the Order. Snoke received packages at least once a month, but she never saw the familiar Amazon smile or a label from any other major brand she knew, so she presumed it was all from people. It was mostly things for the house or fabric that Phasma turned into clothing for all of them.

They will never find him, Rey had realized the first time she’d seen him pull a replacement for their coffee machine out of a box with a handwritten label, he’s a ghost. Anything he buys himself is from farmers or a supply store. No one will realize there’s more than just him and Phasma out here.

Angela’s skills, Rey discovered, lay mostly in embroidery. She could sew just so, but Joanna was much better than she herself could hope to get any time soon, but her embroidery work was beautiful, full of delicate flowers and scenes. It took Rey’s breath away every time she saw it.

Having more adults around the house was an admitted relief. They would send the kids to bed early, let Snoke work in his office, and let the teenagers entertain themselves in the living room while they all enjoyed one last cup of tea.

A week after the group arrived, the grown-ups lingered in the kitchen a little later than normal, even after getting the last of the children off to bed, when Phasma finally turned to Angela:

“Angela, I am glad you’re here, I really am, but I have to ask, Ange: no babies in four years?” her blue eyes were inquisitive, but there wasn’t a hint of judgment in them for once.

Tage coughed into his mug and cleared his throat without serious incident. Ben stiffened next to Rey, his eyebrows raised but said nothing. Rey tilted her head slightly, eyebrows raised, but looked at Dopheld and Angela, rather than Phasma. Dopheld chewed on the inside of his cheek and forced himself to take a sip of his likely cold tea, but said nothing. Leaning against the counter next to him, Angela looked down into her mostly empty mug of tea, “that’s why Father brought us here. He thinks God doesn’t want us to have kids so close to so many damned people.”

Phasma nodded, “Father is wise. Bringing your brother and sister along was wise, too.”

The corners of Angela’s mouth twitched, but she couldn’t muster any more of a smile which made a hot frustration rush through Rey. To cheer her friend up, she added, “whatever the reason, I’m grateful you’re here.”

“Thanks, Kira,” Angela said, smiling now.

“Maybe you’ve got to be close to your good luck charm,” Ben teased, winking at Angela. It had become a running joke throughout the Order that Jesse was “blessed” as the firstborn son of Snoke’s heir and that his “blessed”-ness had rubbed off on Angela and Dopheld. People referred to him jokingly as “the Mitaka’s good luck charm”.
Snoke found this amusing, which annoyed and relieved Rey in equal measure.

Angela looked over her shoulder to make sure the teenagers had all gone to bed, then leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, “besides children, I’m hoping there’s another reason they brought here us.”

Dopheld rolled his eyes but smiled, anyway. He had heard this theory more than once.

“Oh?” Ben asked. Rey glanced up at him and saw earnest bemusement on his face, which made her grin. He was so cute sometimes.

“Yes! I hope God will have Antony and Susannah marry,” Angela said.

Phasma and Rey both laughed, since everyone seemed to think so, but Tage stiffened, and scolded, “you shouldn’t presume to influence God’s will.”

Ben snorted, but Angela turned pink and said, ‘oh, I would never! God and Father know best but I wouldn’t be lying if I said Susannah and Antony would be sweet together.”
Tage pursed his lips and Ben laughed, “careful, Angela, or you’ll find Tage’s protective side. He can’t argue with you on this, but he is not ready to see his little sisters marry.”
Tage muttered under his breath and went to refill his teacup. Rey caught something about “too young”.

Phasma shook her head and pointed at Tage, “Susannah could be as old as you are now and you would still not be ready.”

Tage took a sip from his mug, his pale eyes sharp, then finally said, “depend upon it, Mother, when Susannah and I are the same age, I’ll be ready to see her and Joanna both married off and in another house.”

Everyone burst into laughter but Rey, who had the only unobstructed view of the living room, saw a wide-eyed figure crouching behind a couch. Susannah was there, curled up and hidden from everyone else, with a hand over her mouth. The poor girl looked overwhelmed, which Rey understood: she was seventeen and they were talking about marriage seriously and openly.

Rey’s heart twisted as she turned to the adults, but there was no way she could comfort Susannah without putting her on the spot, so she just watched out of the corner of her eye as the teenager crept around the couch and back upstairs.

Chapter Text

Rey sighed, rolling over onto her other side. For once, Noah hadn’t woken up at one in the morning, but her body had woken up already. She closed her eyes, wishing desperately for sleep, then finally decided to get up and get a snack.

If she was going to be awake, she was not going to be hungry.

Rey pulled on a pair of her socks, then stole one of Ben’s, since the house was impossibly cold at night. Brushing her hair behind her ear, she walked downstairs, trying not to wake anyone else. While she was technically awake to feed Noah, she didn’t want to wake him up. Rey wanted Noah to sleep through the night more than she wanted to deal with the ache that came from skipping a feeding.

At the bottom of the stairs, Rey froze; one of the lights was on in the kitchen. She stepped forward slowly and carefully, unsure whether or not she wanted to meet anyone at this hour.

“Ar, do you actually think it was my idea to bring anyone here?” Phasma’s low voice hissed.

Rey’s eyes widened and she froze. She hadn’t seen Phasma or Tage reacting in any unusual way in the four years since Paige had died, but she still knew enough to know that she did not want to be in the middle of any conversation that inspired such venom in Phasma.

“You should have done something,” Tage shot back, “with Antony here, in this house, how much time do you think we have?”

“Who knows, you got Ruth killed pretty fast. Maybe you can get Antony taken care of before the end of the month,” Phasma snarled.

Rey put a hand over her mouth to withhold her gasp. She hadn’t heard anyone mention Paige since she died, but Phasma was the absolute last person she would have expected to bring up her failed integration into the family unit.

Rey stood, frozen until she heard Tage’s slow exhale. She desperately wished that she could see what the two of them were doing right then. Tage was always the picture of control, so the idea of him struggling to maintain his composure in any way was jarring. Phasma, for her part, osculated between a fixed mask of poise and blinding flashes of cold, impersonal violence. When she slapped someone for their mistakes, she never betrayed any emotions. She didn’t lash out with anger, but with a poised disappointment that Rey found to be scarier.

“She’s almost eighteen, Phas,” Tage said finally. His voice was low and pleading and seemed to hang in the still house, “we knew this day would come eventually.”

“I thought, once he brought Kira in, we were safe,” Phasma said. Her tone was one of dejected exhaustion.

“That was five years ago,” Tage said gently, “did you think that would be the end of it?”

“No, but it was a nice dream,” Phasma said. After a silence in which Rey aged about twenty years, Phasma said, “I can’t do this.”

“We have to,” Tage said, his voice firm.

“What kind of parents are we if we can’t protect her?” Phasma snapped, her voice quiet but so vicious that it nearly knocked Rey off balance.

“Parents who are trying to keep her alive,” Tage growled, “as long as Susannah, Joanna, and Isaac are compliant, they’re safe.”

“And what do you want to do with this next one?” Phasma hissed. Rey could hear the slow scrape of fingernails on the tile and knew that Phasma was on the verge of losing control, “you want to keep it “safe” in a prison it won’t even recognize?”

“Don’t talk to me like this is my fault,” Tage shot back, “you’re the one who came to me.”

“It was a mistake,” Phasma muttered, the venom fading from her voice.

“A ‘mistake’? Just like Susannah? And Joanna? And Isaac? Face it, love, you make a lot of mistakes and have since you got here,” Tage said. He shook his head, “don’t call my children mistakes. They’re the only good thing about this entire fucking place.”

Rey only had a heartbeat’s notice to brace herself before Tage stalked by, walking up the stairs within so much as a backward glance. Rey could hear Phasma’s low growl of frustration and expected to be found any second. Instead, she heard the quiet “click” of the light switch as Phasma walked through the living room to the place where she and Snoke slept.

Don’t call my children mistakes...

Tage’s words echoed in Rey’s head. She stared, unseeing, into the darkness, with one hand over her mouth still.

Tage was the father of every one of Phasma’s children. Rey had always thought of Phasma as compliant, as someone who had surrendered herself to the First Order, but now she realized that Phasma and Tage were pulling off a con that would put Vegas to shame. Their conversation before Paige’s arrival suddenly made more sense. This wasn’t friends discussing a new arrival; this was a pair of lovers coming to terms with someone meant to come between them.

How has Snoke not noticed this? Rey thought, bewildered, How did Ben miss this?

Snoke, at least, had the excuse of believing that kidnapping teenagers would turn them into a happy family unit. It was criminal, yes, but it also demonstrated a sincere disconnection from reality that Rey could at least point to. Ben, on the other hand, had spent almost twenty years in that house, aware of what was going on.
So, it seemed, has Tage and Phasma.

When had their affair begun? How quickly had they thrown caution to the wind in order to be with each other Rey wondered. Susannah was born less than two years after Phasma was first kidnapped, so it was not that long before the pair had found each other.

This did explain Tage’s rigid control and repressed nature. Ben was a scared individual, but Tage and Phasma were people with a family to lose.

The full picture of Snoke’s crimes suddenly appeared in Rey’s head: a sixteen-year-old Ben, worn down from years of abuse and torture, exhausted after extensive failures pitted against Phasma and Tage, a pair of teenage parents with only rape and neglect to comfort them.

When I get out of here, Snoke, Rey thought, a spike of fury she hadn’t felt in years suddenly rising up in her chest, I am going to find the largest knife possible and insert it into your ass.

Unable to eat and desperate not to be discovered by anyone who might ask too many questions, Rey crept upstairs and curled up next to Ben. She stared at the wall, unable to see it, but unable to sleep.

 

Rey walked downstairs early the next the morning, holding a half-awake Noah to her shoulder. While Noah was quick to fall asleep, he definitely benefited from walking around. The sky outside was a beautiful color, one that was somehow both gold and gray. Rey was utterly exhausted, still turning Tage and Phasma’s fight over and over in her mind.
“What kind of parents are we if we can’t protect her?”

Rey’s stomach tightened as she pressed a kiss to Noah’s head. She and Ben hadn’t had this fight, yet, but she turned these words against herself. What was going to happen when she ran out of road and couldn’t protect her sons any longer?

“And what do you want to do with this next one?”

Phasma was pregnant again. Rey hadn’t known and she wondered if Phasma had told anyone else. She was glad that she hadn’t seen Phasma the night before because there was no way she would have been able to keep her poker face up with so many secrets thrown at her all at once.

Turning at the stairs, Rey wandered slowly towards the kitchen but stopped. Outside the back door, she could see a long-haired figure sitting on the back porch, blonde hair blowing lightly in the early morning breeze. Rey sighed, pulling a blanket around her and Noah before stepping outside. Susannah looked up and smiled tightly, “Hi, Kira,” the young woman said quietly.

“Hey,” Rey murmured, sitting down next to Susannah on the paved back step, “why are you up so early?”

“I- I don’t know,” Susannah said, shrugging, “just, I don’t know.”

“You glad to have your friends around?” Rey asked cautiously, “that must be exciting.”

“It is. And having them around is good, but it feels so…”

“Final?” Rey offered.

“Yes!” Susannah said, eyes wide.

“I thought you liked Antony,” Rey said, her voice slow and cautious.

Susannah sighed, “I do- It’s just I don’t know. I don’t feel ready. How did you feel when you got married?”

Rey rubbed Noah’s back, “dazed and scared. It was so… much that I’ve forgotten parts of it like it was too much for my mind to hold.”

Silence hung in the air between them, before Susannah broke it: “Do you think Father is going to have me marry Antony?” Susannah asked, hugging her knees to her chest and putting her chin on her knees.

“I don’t know,” Rey said.

Susannah brushed her hair out of her eyes, then pressed her lips together.

“What do you think about it, if he did?” Rey asked.

“Father is wise,” Susannah said, “God would tell him if it was a bad idea.”

Rey exhaled and nodded, knowing Susannah wouldn’t say anything out loud against this.

“What is marriage like for you?” Susannah asked.

“Marriage is…” Rey trailed off. She vividly remembered images of the early weeks and months of her own marriage. Ben’s pale, scared, and guilt-ridden face on their wedding night hung behind her eyes. Rey would never, as long as she lived, forget the fear shining in Ben’s eyes.

Rey remembered the horror that had nearly choked her when she’d tried to escape and Ben had found her. Rey was often reminded of the lavender Ben had left in his pillow for her, just to help her sleep. The night he’d come back, he’d been as desperate to comfort her as he’d cared for his own comfort or pleasure. Ben’s face was scarred forever. That was her fault.

“Kira?” Susannah asked warily, looking at Rey and chewing on her fingernail.

“Marriage is hard and complicated,” Rey murmured finally. She gently rubbed her fingertips over Noah’s back, listening to his quiet breaths in her ear. He continued to sleep undisturbed, not realizing what was happening around him. Rey knew that Susannah couldn’t possibly understand what a real marriage, what a real relationship was supposed to be like. She was like the child born into an abusive household; girls who saw their mother’s being beaten were more likely to seek out that kind of behavior in their own romantic partners. Rey had seen it a thousand times in the system. She’d watched girl after girl grow up in toxic families, in and out of houses, find a singular scumbag in high school and manage to entwine him into her life permanently, one way or another. She may have hooked up here and there in high school, but Rey had promised herself to never talk to anyone she once dated after she turned eighteen.

Except for Finn. Finn was family.

“Were you ever in love before?” Susannah asked suddenly.

Rey turned her head to look down at Susannah, eyes wide. Of all of the surprising things she’d heard in the past twenty-four hours, that was the one that she could have least predicted. She hadn’t even brought up the outside world in years, since before Jesse was born. She knew Susannah was seventeen and intelligent enough to remember that she’d grown up outside of the First Order, but the rebellion that came with even acknowledging the outside world as anything other than dangerous and polluting shocked Rey.

You still have some fire there, don’t you? You still can see and acknowledge what’s going on here, Rey thought, full of admiration for the young girl. She hesitated before speaking: there was a large leap between accepting a positive relationship in the outside world and wrapping one’s mind around a sapphic relationship.

This poor girl doesn’t know anything about gays or lesbians Rey thought sadly. She thought back to her first Pride when she’d been descended upon by a group who had dubbed themselves as her “Fairy Drag Mothers” who were there to help make sure she was “fully fierce” before pride. Rey hoped Finn still had the bisexual pride flag that Monica Tension and Ms. Rochelle had turned into a wrap dress for her. She’d put the tiara on her dresser and worn it to every pride since then.

I wonder if they’re still out there, Rey thought suddenly, Christ, I hope they’re still out there, helping all the baby gays every pride.

“Kira, if it’s too painful to think about that place, it’s okay,” Susannah said.

“No, it’s alright,” Rey said softly, “I just haven’t thought about it in a long time.”

That was a lie. A day didn’t pass without her thinking of Poe and Finn or Jess or her life outside.

“I was in love once, yeah,” Rey said, carefully, “I thought we might get married or something, one day. I thought we’d be together forever…”

“And then what happened?” Susannah asked.

“We started fighting. Things that were small once became bigger and bigger and then it was like the things that held us together had disappeared and we were only left with habit and the things that were keeping us apart.” Rey said.

“And that’s when you came here?” Susannah asked.

“That’s about the same time, yeah,” Rey said, “and then I met Kylo and… and the rest is history.”

“Do you wish you were still with this other person, outside?” Susannah asked nervously.

Rey sighed and tried not to hate herself too much for a lie, “no. If I was, I wouldn’t be here with Father and my sons and you.”

Susannah looked away, turning to look out at the slowly-lightening sky beyond the edge of the property line.

“Why all the questions?” Rey asked, “you’ve never asked me about my life outside before.”

“I have only ever seen you and Kylo and my parents as a couple,” Susannah said.

No, you haven’t.

The words suddenly appeared in Rey’s mind.

You’ve seen your mother and her rapist, but your parents have never been able to be in love.

“I know there’s a good chance that I’ll end up married to Antony and I just want to know what love is like,” Susannah finished.

“It’s okay to be nervous,” Rey said gently, shifting Noah in her grip as his weight began to make her shoulder ache.

“I just want to be with someone that looks at me the way Kylo looks at you,” Susannah said, looking up at her.

“Susannah, that took a lot of time,” Rey said gently.

“No, it didn’t,” Susannah said, “I saw him on your wedding day. He looked at you like… like you were an angel or something.”

Rey sighed and looked down at Noah to buy her some time. She couldn’t process those words. For the past five years, she had sectioned off the man she had married and separated him from the man she slept beside. Rey could remember his face, thrown into horrifying relief when she’d looked up at him after her escape attempt, but could also remember his arms when he’d come home from that first trip. Her memories of her life when she’d only known of Kylo were too complicated to evaluate. It was easier to separate them.

Ben had left her a rose with a single thorn to warn her about Tage.

Kylo had raped her that first night, clumsy and horrific all at once.

Ben had left lavender in her pillowcase.

Kylo had kidnapped Paige.

Ben had curled around her, shielding her vital organs- and, unwittingly, Jesse- while Snoke had kicked her over and over. Even in the midst of agonizing pain from his own wound, her Ben had protected her.

Kylo had brought her back the night that she’d tried to escape.

Ben had whispered her own name in her ear during labor, reminding her of her identity when pain and grief and loss had threatened to swallow her.

“I should get him back to bed,” Rey said, nodding down at Noah, “I want to see if I can’t get a tiny bit more sleep in before we have to get up and do chores.” She stood up, then looked down at Susannah, “you should try to get a little more sleep, too.”

Susannah nodded but didn’t move. When Rey walked back inside, she still sat, eyes on the sunrise. She looked like a figure carved from marble, but at the same time, Rey felt like she might turn into a bird any second.

She could turn into a bird and fly far, far away from here.

Chapter Text

“How likely is it that Susannah is going to end up married to Antony?” Rey sked, unbraiding her hair and watching Ben wash his face at the sink. His skin looked extra fair, since he’d gotten to shave in the barn that morning. It had taken Rey years to finally realize that Ben’s lack of beard meant that, somewhere, either someone was shaving their faces or he had access to a mirror. The solution, it transpired, was that Snoke shaved both Tage and Ben’s faces for them, which Rey found to be more terrifying than nearly anything else. The idea of Ben, trapped in the barn with Snoke, and forced to let his captor and abuser put a razor against his face and neck chilled Rey to the bone. She would be willing to bet money that it was merely a matter of Snoke’s inability to grow a beard. Snoke seemed exactly like the kind of man who would ban facial hair just because he was insecure about his own.

If she was honest, though, Rey would prefer that the men be forced to shave than that she be married to a man with a Dumbledore beard.

“Oh, it’s done,” Ben said, pressing a towel to his face, “beyond done. He’s just waiting for the right moment to announce it, but it’s done.”

“We have to stop it.”

Ben lowered his towel as Rey spoke. He raised his eyebrows at the certainty in her tone, “how do you suppose we do that?”

“We have to try to make a run for it,” Rey said, “we take the boys, take Susannah, take anyone we can, and we go.”

“With what?” Ben asked, “we only have two horses now and there’s no way we can take Susannah, the boys, and us on Finalizer and Starkiller, much less anyone else. Harbinger and Conqueror are too young to be ridden those kind of distances, especially by inexperienced riders. The car is locked up, but it couldn’t hold all of us even if we could get access to it.”

Rey chewed her lip, brushing at the end of her hair as she stalled for time to think. She hadn’t actually set up any plan in her mind, but her words had come out of some inner certainty and protectiveness. If they didn’t do something, Susannah would be married off and potentially moved and they could lose her forever. Even if they managed to escape Snoke, they only knew the houses of two First Order families and Rey wasn’t convinced that the Mitaka’s used their government names among the First Order.

“If Susannah walks out that door, we could lose her forever,” Rey whispered.

“If we run and we fail, we die,” Ben said, “and probably Susannah and probably the boys.”

“We can’t just sit aside anymore,” Rey hissed, leaning forward. She knew he was right but fuck they had to do something! They had spent years- decades, in Ben’s case- just keeping their heads down and surviving, but Rey knew that if they just waited until Snoke died and Ben was given control of the First Order, they’d risk losing all of the children in the process. Rey knew Snoke didn’t believe that she’d been converted and she had her doubts that he fully trusted anyone.

“We can’t rely on anyone but ourselves and we can’t pull it off, not without risking getting shot,” Ben said, walking over to stand in front of her.
Rey ground her teeth, frustration boiling within her, “how long do we wait, then?”

“I don't know,” Ben said, “we could try when Jesse is a little older. Noah won't be able to keep up, but we'll only have to worry about carrying one, not both.”

“We don't have to do this alone,” Rey finally whispered. She'd turned Tage and Phasma’s conversation over and over in her mind, afraid to say too much or too little.

“What do you mean?” Ben asked warily, “Angela is a true believer. She and her family won't be of any help.”

“I meant Tage and Phasma,” Rey said.

“What?” Ben whispered incredulously.

“Ben, they're in love, I think,” Rey said. She kept her eyes on her hands, unable to truly process what that would mean. Phasma and Tage had been trapped in a house full of secrets and lies for more than eighteen years, having to hide how they felt about each other. The idea of a teenaged Phasma having to look at Tage after climbing out of bed with her rapist. Rey had spent most of her time here trying to avoid the back of Phasma’s hand, as did the children, but she understood the woman’s pain better now.

“Phasma and Tage?” Ben hissed, crouching in front of her and stared at her, “what makes you think that?”

“I heard them,” Rey said, “they were arguing last week. He- Tage is Susannah’s father.”

Ben’s mouth fell open. He stared at her, his dark eyes wide, “no, no way he would risk losing Father’s good graces.”

“If he’s not the father of Phasma’s children, he thinks he is,” Rey said.

Ben squatted down in front of her and leaned forward, “What exactly did they say?”

Rey sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose, “Phasma said that she couldn’t handle Susannah being married off. Tage said that they had to. This was inevitable.”

Ben pressed his hands together and rested his index fingers against his lips. He stared off into space for a moment, then shook his head, “I have never heard Phasma say anything rebellious, ever, much less do something against Snoke.”

“She gets slapped if she sets down a coffee cup wrong. You think she’s dumb enough to say something?” Rey pointed out.

Ben chewed on the inside of his cheek, “no, probably not.”

Rey pressed two fingers to her lips, thinking, “Tage said that as long as Susannah, Joanna, and Isaac obeyed Father, they would be safe.”

Ben pressed his lips together and nodded, “That sounds like Tage. He’d never say it out loud, but I can see him thinking that way. He didn’t run away, not once.”

Rey pressed her lips together, then finally whispered, “Phasma’s pregnant again,”

Ben sat back, landing hard on his tailbone, his eyes wide, “oh my god.”

“Yeah…” Rey said, her voice low, “It’s Tage’s, too. I think they didn’t sleep together for a long time,” she shook her head, remembering the harshness in Phasma’s voice when she’d brought it up.
She and Tage had been so frustrated and angry, but the fierce protectiveness over their children, the new baby included, was something she recognized.

“It was probably the miscarriage. Phasma and Snoke were both torn up by it,” Ben murmured.

“I can’t imagine Snoke being actually hurt by anything,” Rey murmured, looking down her hands. She rubbed at one of the callouses on the side of her thumbs from years of learning to stitch and mend clothes. She’d made many smocks for the kids, since she wasn’t trusted to make anything nice.

Ben sighed, leaning his head back in exasperation, “you’ve seen Snoke with the boys. He does like babies.”

“Babies can’t argue,” Rey growled.

Ben pinched the spot between his eyes, “when the kids were little, he was always patient with them. It made me want to punch something, sometimes…” he trailed off, rubbing his hands together, “seeing how forgiving and indulgent he was with the small ones. Now that I have kids of my own, I’m grateful.”

“How long until Jesse’s luck runs out?” Rey snapped.

“I don’t know, Rey,” Ben growled.

Rey leaned forward, “this is why we have to do something, Ben! Fuck, we’re betting on the mercy of a man who kidnapped us. Do you appreciate how insane that is?”

“Do you appreciate that we don’t have any other choice?” Ben gritted out between clenched teeth.

Rey poked Ben in the chest, “we always have a choice.”

“Rey, we-”

“Don’t,” Rey said, shaking her head, “we always have a choice. We’ve just been making the wrong ones.”

“Have we?” Rey whispered, “Or have we just been rationalizing the things we’ve done and allowed. Snoke has killed two people that we know of and we haven’t done anything.”

Ben clenched his fists on his knees, “We have two boys to think of. I had you to think of.”

Rey looked away, staring at the design on the quilt, “that’s what I thought about when I met Paige, but that isn’t good enough anymore. We need to do this. If we don’t try, we’re no better than he is,” she clenched her fist on the fabric. Her chest tightened with frustration and fear. She stood up, her hands trembling.

“Sit down, Rey,” Ben said.

“No,” Rey whispered.

Ben grabbed Rey’s arm, standing and looked down at her.

“Ben, let go,” Rey growled.

“No, Rey, you need to think about this,” Ben whispered.

“B-” Ben’s hand covered her mouth. Rey grabbed his wrist, panic flooding her. She looked up into Ben’s face, tears welling in her eyes. Ben met her stare, his dark eyes hard and unflinching. He stepped forward, walking her to the bed and keeping his hand over her mouth as he laid her down on it. Something instinctual told Rey to scream, but she knew it wouldn’t do any good. This wasn’t a house where people helped each other. Even if she screamed and begged for help, Ben was allowed to do whatever he wanted.

Because this was Ben, really. There was no Kylo for him to hide behind, for her to blame instead of him. After three years, he’d finally slipped back into the old husband she’d known and hated.

“You need to calm down,” Ben said, reaching over to grab her long socks from the end of the bed where she’d rolled them off. He tied one around her mouth, letting her breathe, but keeping her quiet.

What’s the point in tieing my mouth? Rey thought, struggling fruitlessly against him as he bound her wrists together with the other one, even if I could scream, no one would help.

“I don’t want the boys to hear you,” Ben said, “they’ll worry and we won’t have answers for them. Just- you’re emotional. I get it. I care about Susannah, too, but we have to do what’s best for our sons.” Ben turned away to pull a tie from the closet and used it to tie her to the bed frame.

Rey glared at him, but resisted the urge to kick him. It would only make him angry and she really didn’t feel like getting slapped.

“The boys come before anything else,” Ben said, standing over her and looking at his handiwork, “even you. Sleep on it and you’ll see that I’m right.”

Rey rotated her bound fists slowly, making sure Ben was watching to make sure she couldn’t get free. There was no way she could pull herself free, so she contented herself with raising one finger on her right hand at him, curling the rest inter her upturned left fist.

If Ben was in any doubt what a middle finger meant, Rey was fairly certain the fuck you in her eyes was explicit enough.

 

Rey awoke to an aching neck and wrists that twinged when she tried to move. Before she even opened her eyes, she reached up to touch her face and realized in that moment that the gag had come loose during the night and that her hands were free. Rey opened her eyes, still laying on one side, and saw Ben laying on the other pillow, his bloodshot eyes meeting hers.

“I’m sorry,” Ben whispered. His voice was thick, but not with sleep.

“Did you sleep at all?” Rey whispered back.

“Not a wink,” Ben said, shaking his head.

“Watching me to make sure I didn’t escape?” Rey asked, pursing her lips.

“At first,” Ben admitted, “but then I was just frozen in horror. I couldn’t really wrap my head around what I’d done. I’d always tried to separate myself from the monster that Snoke made me into and the terrible things he’s made me do, but I did that all by myself.”

Rey sighed, “you were half right. There’s no way we could have escaped. It would only have gotten us killed.” His methods were less than permissible, but he had been right. Her mind had been too full of Susannah and Paige, and of Phasma and Tage.

“The fact that I was afraid isn’t a good enough excuse. Tying you up like that was wrong. It’s something Snoke or Kylo would do. I’m not them,” Ben said, sitting up and looking away from her.

Rey sighed. She sat up slowly, winking slightly at the protest from her shoulder. Ben had untied her hands at some point in the night, but she’d spent enough time in an unnatural position that she would still feel it today, “you are Kylo, though.”

Ben hung his head in shame, “I know, I-”

Rey cut across him: “You’re Kylo and I’m Kira. We’re also Ben and Rey. We’re not two different people, one of whom does whatever Snoke wants and the other who acts out in little ways. It’s time to stop pretending there’s a difference between it. If the only time we ever fight back is if we’re in here then it doesn’t do anyone else good.”

Ben turned his head to look at her, “can you ever forgive me for what I’ve done to you?”

Rey sighed, “I don’t know. I don’t think forgiveness can be given in the middle of something, but I don’t hate you. “

Ben nodded, looking back at his hands, “it’s more than I deserve.”

“Sleep,” Rey said, getting up and walking to the door, “I’ll tell everyone your sick.” She turned the light off on her way out, wondering distantly if, when she finally escaped, she would be able to forgive him. Rey wondered, whenever she’d get out of here, if she’d be able to look at herself in the mirror. She walked into Jesse, Noah, and Isaac’s bedroom to wake the boys up and get them dressed. Usually she had at least Ben or one of the girls for help, but she managed to wrangle the boys into some clothes. Balancing Noah on her hip and sending Jesse ahead of her, she went downstairs. She went downstairs to see Angela and Lyra leaning over the kitchen table, working on something that involved large piles of brightly colored fabric. Phasma was in the kitchen, calling orders from the kitchen.

Jesse excitedly ran over to the window, looking out for Hux and Snoke near the barn.

“Kylo isn’t feeling well,” Rey said, kissing Noah’s head and walking into the kitchen, “what are the men doing today?”

“Barn maintenance, I think,” Lyra said, squinting out the window.

“Finalizer!” Jesse said, slapping the window excitedly with his palms as the horse was let out of his stall.

Angela beamed at the little boy.

Phasma glanced at Rey, then looked back at the bread she was working on, “does he need anything?”

“My husband just needs rest,” Rey said, “my boys, however, need breakfast.”

Phasma nodded, “Father and the other men will be in soon. I want to get this bread in the oven. We’re going through it faster with so many people in the house.”

“I’ll start on the eggs and bacon,” Rey said. She put Noah in the little wooden high chair someone had made for the babies. Lyra grabbed a fat quarter of fabric and put it into a little loop to pass it to Noah and distract him with.

“Thank you,” Rey said, turning away to go to the kitchen and work on breakfast. She carefully took over the counter on Phasma’s other side, trying her best not to disrupt Phasma’s bread. She’d been here for more than four years and was still hopeless when it came to breadmaking.

It was the single most difficult thing anyone could cook, Rey had long decided.

Slim arms wrapped around Rey from behind, hugging her warmly and reminding her vividly of slow Sunday mornings spent in her apartment with Jessika. Rey quickly clapped a hand over the hands joined at her belly, “Angela?” she guessed.

“I thought you could use a hug,” Angela said, her chin resting against Rey’s shoulder.

“Thank you,” Rey said warmly. She didn’t move away, enjoying some of the little unselfish affection she got.

“You look like you had an absolutely rotten night’s sleep,” Angela whispered in her ear.

Rey smiled tightly, leaning her head against Angela’s as she started scrambling eggs. She closed her eyes for a moment, breathing in the warmth, “I did, to be honest with you.”

Angela sighed, “well, I have found that there is nothing that coffee, prayer, and a smiling baby cannot fix,” she said warmly.

“Very true,” Rey said. She smiled to herself, reminded of something Jessika had always said:
‘there is nothing on Earth that can’t be made better with wine and a vibrator’.

“Starkiller!” Jesse squealed suddenly, giggling.

“Aw, your boys are so cute. I want seven,” Angela said in Rey’s ear.

Rey chuckled, “we can split mine. We’ll go 8 to 8. I’ll get them from 8 in the morning to 8 at night and you can take the night shift.”

“Now that is not a bad way to handle the babies from here on out. They all share the same mom overnight,” Phasma said, laughing and opening the oven to put the bread in.

Angela snickered, squeezing Rey one last time and stepping away, “Kira, as soon as you figure out a way for me to breastfeed, I won’t hesitate to take over.”

The entire kitchen burst with laughter just as the back door opened. Rey glanced over to see the four men trudge inside, taking their boots off and putting them on the back step. Snoke led the way in and looked down as Jesse excitedly hugged his leg. He chuckled warmly, his face breaking into the indulgent smile that he always used with Jesse and Noah, “good morning, my boy!” He lifted Jesse up into his arms with a grunt. He looked around, walking into the kitchen, “where is my son?”

“Sick,” Rey said, putting the last of the eggs into a bowl to be served out, “he might be down later. I think rest might do the trick.”

Snoke frowned, “we need him in the barn today.”

“We can go get him,” Phasma said quickly.

Jesse leaned forward and suddenly leaned his head against Snoke’s chest. Rey let out a silent prayer of thanks at her son’s wonderful timing.

Snoke sighed, “No, I’ll let him rest. Better he be out of the way than useless and underfoot.”

“Yes, Father. That sounds wise,” Phasma said, her voice warm and demure. In another life, Rey would have given her a fist bump. She could almost hear Phasma fluttering her eyelashes.

Snoke leaned over and pressed a kiss to Phasma’s head, “You look radiant, my wife.”

Phasma smiled, looking up at him, “Thank you, Father.”

As Rey turned to carry food to the dining room as Snoke looked over to the table that Lyra and Angela were working at, “and this quilt looks excellent! You are all such skilled craftswomen. Dopheld, God has truly blessed you with a good wife. Lyra will serve her husband well, too. ”

Dopheld put an arm around Angela, grinning, “Thank you, Father. I truly am blessed.”

Angela beamed, looking up at Dopheld, “I am so grateful to have the family that I do, Father. It’s only with your guidance and God’s goodness that we could have it.”

Rey picked up the bacon she’d cooked earlier, walking it into the dining room as someone else sat and gushed about how wise and amazing Snoke was and how he would guide them forever. She, however, decided to focus on something actually good: the breakfast she had cooked.

Chapter Text

Rey carried a plate upstairs, bringing Ben some breakfast. Susannah had originally been the one ordered to do it, but she didn’t want anyone to see Ben looking just tired.

Rey opened the door slowly, looking at Ben’s sleeping form. She looked down at him, then turned on a lamp. Rey gently touched his arm, sitting on the side of the bed.

“Huh?” Ben asked blearily, raising his head to look around, “wha?”

“You need to eat,” Rey said.

Ben sat up and rubbed his face. He reached blindly for the plate, which Rey put in his lap. He didn’t look into her face but ate hurriedly.

“Are you alright?” Rey whispered.

“How can you ask me that?” Ben said, “how can you be so- I-”

Rey touched his wrist lightly, looking into his face, “I forgive you.”

Ben’s fork clattered on the plate as he turned to look at her, “how can you? How can you forgive all that I’ve done? All I have ever done is cause pain.”

Rey set aside his plate, forcing him to look at her, “Ben, love isn’t easy. It’s not a feeling. Love is a choice, Ben. Love is a promise. It rides out all of these things. Fights and anger- they pass. They’re events. Love is a thread that you can hold onto through it all. When the love goes… then it’s over.”

Ben’s dark eyes widened, “You love me?”

Rey laughed weakly, lowering her hand, “you’re the only person who has looked at me like I was sane this entire time, even after more than a decade here yourself,” she brushed a few strands of hair out of his face.

Ben shook his head, incredulous, “how do you know all this? You’re so young. You’ve told me about Foster care…”

It was Rey’s turn to look down at her hands, “I was in love before.”

“What was his name?” Ben croaked.

“Her name,” Rey clarified. She listened to the long pause, then brought herself to look at him.

“I don’t understand,” Ben said, finally looking up into her face.

“I was in love with a woman before you,” Rey said.

Rey braced herself. She and Ben were prodding at each other for truth, but she was expecting him to snap. Information like this, given to someone like him, might get her killed. Rey took a deep breath then said again, “I was in love with a woman. Her name was Jessika.”

“How does that work?” Ben asked.

“Just like any other relationship except we were both women. There was a lot more makeup and hairpins and dresses, but otherwise just like any other relationship.”

Ben nodded. His eyebrows were furrowed, but he didn’t protest, “I have never heard of that before.” His eyebrows furrowed more, “I- I can’t imagine doing that, but okay.”

“Why are you so calm about this?” Rey asked.

“Honestly? Father has told me hundreds of things since I was a boy, but you’ve proved so much of that wrong. Why would anything he had said before be true?” Ben said. He swallowed, reaching out to take her hand, “you have given me two beautiful boys and the best moments of my life here. You’ve told me about the world. I- I know about Facebook because of you.”

Rey looked over his face carefully, then nodded.

Ben closed his eyes, “I can’t believe I tied you up last night.”

Rey’s heart ached at his expression. He was more willing to be honest when they were alone, but she still rarely saw all of his walls come down. Ben’s mouth tensed and twisted as he spoke. She leaned forward and kissed him. It was something she rarely did, all things considered, but she needed to be still and calm, even for just a second.
Rey kept her voice soft and gentle, “I forgive you. I know this place… this place messes with you. Nothing is right here.”

Ben nodded, resting his forehead against hers. He breathed quietly for a moment, then straightened and nodded determinately, “I don’t know how or when, but we will get out of here. We will find a way to get out of here.”

Ben’s doubts were still there. She could see them flickering behind his eyes and in the slight twitch of his lip, but his commitment was more important. Rey had no fucking clue how they would escape, but the only way they had a chance was together. She touched his cheek, brushing a finger over the still-smooth skin, “I believe you ”

Distantly, Rey heard the sound of Noah screaming for her. She sighed, letting her outside burdens and responsibilities enter into the little bubble she’d had for a second, “duty calls,” she said, letting her hand drop to the blanket. She kissed Ben’s forehead and grabbed his plate to take back downstairs.

“I’ll be down soon,” Ben promised.

“Don’t,” Rey said, looking over her shoulder at him, “take the break. Be in your own little bubble, just for a little bit. It’s okay.”

Rey opened the door and transferred Ben’s empty plate to her other hand, letting her right fingertips brush over the latch, where Ben had carved a Star of David so many years ago. If Rey was more daring, she’d darken it, but she settled for brushing her fingers over the place whenever she could. Ben did, too, often choosing to lean against that section of the doorframe, even when the door itself was closed. It was their way of remembering the world outside and the parts of it they were connected to.

Every time Rey let her fingers trail over its surface, images flashed in her mind- images of what was and what could be.

 

Rey listening to the blaring music at her high school graduation, walking across the stage and hearing her name read aloud. Her principal had beamed at her, making sure to whisper “I am so proud of you” into her ear as she shook Rey’s hand. Finn had been practically jumping up and down in his place in line, both ready to graduate high school and so excited for Rey.

 

Walking down a busy street with Ben, talking about their normal jobs and the meeting with some asshole from development who was “the worst,” but was mostly just passive-aggressive. Her entire life would be about convenience or inconvenience, not safety or freedom.

 

Dancing with Finn at her senior prom, the beautiful corsage he’d saved up for around her wrist. Her dress was borrowed and had been worn by Nina Hackman’s older sister two years ago and Finn’s tux belonged to Evie Holcomb's older brother, but they had been able to go to one normal thing like normal people. Only Evie and Nina knew where their clothes had come from- well, and their parents- but the look on Ashley Joyner’s face had been worth all the trouble it had taken to find an outfit.

“Let’s never do this again,” Finn had whispered in her ear, letting her rest her head on his shoulder after a night of dancing and fun and pretending they weren’t in foster care.

“Fuck the ten-year reunion,” Rey had whispered back, winking.

 

Her ten-year reunion would be this fall. She would give anything for the ability to go.

 

Dropping Jesse off at school, watching him walk into a building full of information and play and other children, where he could ask questions without fearing pain.

 

Waking up late for one of her finals, feeling like it was the end of the world, and still making a B+ in the class, even after she’d spent hours crying into Jessika’s shoulder about it.

 

Being able to kiss someone without worrying about an audience

 

Being able to get behind the wheel of her own car and go anywhere.

 

Watching a movie on the couch with her boys

 

Showing Ben the entire world that he’d missed. Watching him discover the world every much as the boys would. Seeing his face when he picks up his first smartphone- or cell phone of any kind, even.

 

Being able to decide if she loved Ben because of him or because he was all she had and all she had any concrete hope of having.

 

Being able to wear a tampon that was her size aga-

 

“Are you alright, Kira?” Joanna asked suddenly, cutting through Rey’s thoughts. Rey clutched the plate she’d been holding loosely in one hand as she jumped what must have been several feet into the air.

“I’m fine,” Rey said weakly. She looked over at the table, which was empty accept for Noah, still screeching from his highchair, and Angela, who was spooning applesauce into his mouth.

“Thank you,” Rey said to Angela, who just beamed and waved a hand.

“Are you alright?” Joanna asked again.

“I’m fine,” Rey said, feeling like her mind was still several light years away. Something was nagging at her, like a tiny sliver in her fingernail that would catch on everything until she filed it down. Rey looked down at the plate, “I’m going to do the dishes. I was just thinking through my day and I need something mindless, you know?”

“Of course!” Joanna said, nodding fervently, “I’ll handle the dusting and you can do the kitchen.”

“Sounds excellent,” Rey said distractedly, turning and hurrying into the kitchen to add one last plate to the sink full of soapy water. Rey absently scrubbed her way through an entire stack of glasses, trying to clear her mind enough to remember what the hell she’d been thinking about before Joanna yanked her back to the present.

Okay, you touched the star Rey thought, starting on the plates, and then you started thinking about all the stuff you missed from the outside.

What had that been?

Her high school graduation

Going on normal dates

Prom

Public school

Finals

Being in a real relationship

Driving

Movies

Smartphones

A private love life

Tampons

Tampons!

Tampons.

Why did tampons suddenly nag at her? Why had that brought her up short.

Rey scraped at a particularly stubborn spot of bacon that had dried on the edge of one of the plates, wondering why tampons suddenly bothered her so much. She was able to use tampons, although they were all the same size, bought wholesale or something.

There was no reason for that to bother her, unless her and Ben’s bathroom was running low. How long until she needed more?

Rey mentally checked back through her last period and then trailed off. Her number of period-free days was too high. She straightened, her heart tightening with panic.
Absently rubbing at the silverware under the soapy water to clean them as she mentally counted again.

Her period was almost two weeks late.

Rey shook her head, frowning and running through her math again. Noah was five months old now, but it still felt too soon to be pregnant again.

When had she and Ben even- oh shit, Rey thought suddenly. She remembered some long, deep conversation, one night when Noah had stayed asleep for ages. Christ, the next morning she had regretted not falling asleep immediately and now she regretted it even more!

Rey fidgeted anxiously with the last of the dishes, even as she hurried to finish washing them. She needed to get upstairs. She needed to get to the little calendar that she and Ben kept so well hidden. She’d been too busy with the new arrivals to check it as regularly as she ought to have done, but now she needed to see it. She needed to know.
As soon as the last plate was clean, Rey nearly threw it into the dishwasher before she searched around to make sure no one saw her. She did not need anyone asking questions. She hurried up the stairs, but forced herself to take measured steps. If she ran and someone heard her, it would cause worry. Worry caused attention and attention was the last thing she needed.

When Rey reached her room, she started rummaging through her belongings, looking for the slip of paper she’d been using since Noah was born. She had tucked it into a pair of socks to keep it from being found if someone came into her room for some reason. After the fourth pair of socks, her heart fell into her stomach. She needed that calendar.

Where is it? Rey thought frantically, holding the last pair in her hand. She set it down, looking around the room and trying to remember where or why she’d moved it.

Ben.

She’d hidden it with Ben’s things instead of her own. Ben was trusted and wouldn’t be searched, not after twenty years. She, however, was still new enough that she faced that risk.

Rey turned and rushed over to Ben’s dresser, riffling through his socks.

In her hurry, she moved her hand too quickly and essentially punched the back of the drawer. Behind her, Ben sat up with a grunt, wiping his face and looking around worriedly.

“Where’s my calendar?” Rey blurted, unable to keep the panic out of her voice.

“Your what?” Ben asked.

“My calendar,” Rey said, looking over her shoulder, “I hid it in your stuff so it wouldn’t be safe. I didn’t want him searching my stuff and finding it.”

Ben rubbed his eyes, “Why do you need a calendar in the middle of the day out here? No one cares what the date is.”

Rey snorted, “I don’t care about the date. I care about the number of days since my last period.”

Ben choked, “Y- you what?”

Rey sighed, leaning against the dresser, “I think I’m late”

Ben crawled to the edge of the bed and sat down, frowning, “Late? How could you be late, we haven’t-” He broke off, cupping his hands over his mouth.

“Bingo,” Rey said, pressing her lips together and raising her eyebrows.

“Jesus Christ,” Ben threw himself back onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling.

Rey crossed her arms, “Uh-huh.”

“JESUS CHRIST,” Ben said again.

Rey tipped her chin back, “Saying his name isn’t going to make him show up. Help me find the calendar and we’ll know.” She turned, looking through his shirts instead. She heard two heavy footsteps behind her and suddenly Ben was next to her, helping her sift through his clothing. Suddenly, Rey reached behind the dresser, sliding down the length of the wall until she reached the carpet and her fingertips met paper.

With a gasp of relief, Rey sat up and unfolded the paper. She hurriedly read through the small coded dots. There were far too many period-free days. She hadn’t even marked it for a week and she was late. She grabbed the pen she now remembered was hidden under the dresser and marked five more days, even though she was certain, to make sure her math was correct.

Rey counted through twice more before Ben finally blurted, “Well?”

“Oh, I’m definitely late,” Rey sat flatly.

“How late?” Ben asked weakly.

“Twelve days.”

“And that’s bad?” Ben gritted his teeth.

Rey sighed, remembering that Ben knew nothing about anything, “that’s very unlikely. I never skipped, not once I hit college and started eating well.”

“So you’re pregnant?” Ben whispered.

“Mmmhmm,” Rey nodded.

Ben’s hands flew to his hair. He curled his fists, groaning, “oh my god why.”

Rey leaned back against the dresser, letting her head fall all the way back, “because we didn’t have the good sense to go to bed early?”

Ben paced back and forth, his hands still in his hair, “what are we going to do?”

Rey curled her fists in her lap, letting the paper flutter to the ground. She set her jaw, the same deep determination that she’d felt on her wedding day welling up inside of her, “plan. We’re going to plan. We’re going to see if, between Phasma’s pregnancy and mine we can’t get Susannah’s wedding delayed and we’re going to find a way to get out of here before I’m too big to travel”

“We could-” Ben began.

Rey looked up at him, “Ben. We can’t wait. We can’t start over once this one’s big enough to travel. Susannah will be LOST by then, possibly Joanna too, and Jesse will start to lose himself to this. It has to be now. No one is coming to save us and we are out of options. It’s time to act.”

“Rey, I-” Ben began.

Rey stood up, putting one palm against his chest, “Ben, look at me. We have a chance for this baby to be born free. I- I can’t have another baby in a basement somewhere, without a doctor or anyone but you. It’s time. We’ve waited and prayed for rescue long enough. We can do this, together. We don’t have another choice,” Ben looked down at her palm, then gently rested his hand over hers.

There were many versions of Ben that she’d seen over the past four- almost five years. She’d seen the compliant mask of Kylo when everyone was around. She’d caught glimpses of Ben in the quiet moments of tenderness that she’d had before Jesse was born. There was a brilliant and joyful young father in there, too. He would hold the boys and smile like no other time.

In this moment, though, she saw a determination settle over him.

This was a Ben that she’d never seen before.

“Okay, okay,” Ben said, nodding and steeling himself.

Rey pressed her fingertips to her lips, “I didn’t want this to happen so quickly”

Ben kneeled down next to her, then hugged her. His voice quietly rumbled in her ear, “me neither, but it’ll be okay. You and me are a good team. We’ve gotten through the worst stuff imaginable. We can handle another pregnancy, I promise.”

“I don’t know if I can believe that right now,” Rey whispered.

“Me neither, but someone had to say it,” Ben said, laughing weakly.

Chapter Text

Rey woke to the sensation of a warm hand between her shoulder blades. She sighed, relaxing further into her pillows. She rolled onto her stomach, letting the warm hand press further into the tense muscles of her shoulders and back.

One hand became two as the bed shifted slightly under her, but she paid no attention. The familiar smell of lavender and hay told her that she was safe. She knew that she was safe.

“How do you sleep when you’re this tense?” A low voice said near her ear.

“Hmmm,” Rey mumbled. She stretched after a moment, rolling over to look up at Ben.

“Are you okay? How are you feeling today?” Ben asked, putting an arm over her. He looked down at her, slowly brushing her hair out of her face.

Rey thought for a moment, stretching slowly, “pretty good, actually.”

Rey felt Ben’s large and calloused hand extend over the faint bump on her abdomen. She was only two months pregnant, but her body seemed to know oh, yes, I know where this goes. He rubbed a thumb over her skin, smiling, “how’s Baby?”

“Also good,” Rey said, knowing Ben always got tactile with the babies as soon as she was pregnant, “still too small to really do much of anything, besides grow.”

Ben stretched out next to her, putting an arm around her, “What’s the first thing you want to do when you get out?”

“Hire a babysitter,” Rey said without any hesitation.

Ben chuckled, tracing small designs on her belly. Rey recognized a few hearts in there, “I’d want to take you all to New York. I want to see the boys when they look up at those tall buildings. I want to take them to all the best places: The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island- everything.”
Rey smiled. She sat up, and looked down at him, “I want to see that.” She cupped his cheek and kissed him lightly, “I want to have a life with you and the boys and the new baby on the outside.”

Ben grinned, “we will, I promise.”

Rey leaned down, pressing a light kiss to Ben’s collarbone. He reached up, winding his hands into her hair. He hummed quietly, low in his chest. Rey smiled. She lifted her head to look into his eyes, smiling wider at the warmth in his face.

Rey rarely got to enjoy any time for herself. Her entire life revolved around the boys and chores and trying to keep ahold of her sanity. She and Ben might stay up late and talk about pop culture or history or anything else, but she hardly ever felt like a real person anymore.

She hadn’t been on a date in more than four years.

She hadn’t shaved her legs or kissed a girl or gone to a movie in ages.

All Rey had for any sense of normalcy, of being an adult on Planet Earth, were moments like this with Ben. It was like something out of a movie when two souls quietly came together the night before the final battle without any questions or expectations. All they had was right now.

A few of her and Ben’s “right now”s had led to expectations, of course- dark-haired, boisterous expectations that forced themselves out of her body, but she didn’t think about that now.

“I love it when your hair is down,” Ben murmured, brushing his fingers through her hair again. When he reached the ends, his fingers found the base of her skull again, making her shiver. The third time, though, he curled them slightly and pulled her mouth to his. Rey smiled, kissing him back. For a few moments, she forgot about babies or Snoke or plans or anything but the fact that Ben Solo had learned exactly how to kiss her and had somehow managed to keep his lips soft in the middle of a fucking Montana winter, which was a goddamn miracle.

“Did you somehow manage to smuggle chapstick in here?” Rey asked when they broke apart, unable to stop herself.

Ben laughed the laugh of his that he only reserved for her and the boys. She was quickly becoming convinced that it made flowers grow and kept her feet from swelling and made the sun shine brighter.

“I’m serious,” Rey said, reaching up to brush her thumb over his bottom lip, “how are they soft? You work outside in winter in the snow.”

“Gift from God,” Ben teased, “or perhaps it’s just friction from pulling my gloves off with my teeth a thousand times every day.”

Now it was Rey’s turn to giggle. She rested her head against Ben’s breathing him in. The smell of hay and lavender and masculinity had changed a little, augmented with the smell of baby powder and a strange note that she had realized was her own smell. Over time, their scent had fused together a little. She could no longer really tell his pillow apart from her own, but if she kissed him or buried her face in his hair or got close enough to him somehow, she could untangle their shared life enough to see where she ended and he began.

“Thank you, Rey, for giving me the strength to even dream of a real life,” Ben murmured against the skin under her jaw near her ear.

Rey smiled, feeling her skin grow hot under his mouth.

She was lucky his voice was so quiet that she had to make an effort to listen or she would have missed the small sound of a footfall outside their door. Her tiny inhale was all it took for Ben’s head to snap up and his grip on her to change. Instead of being faint and caressing, it was solid and tense.

Rey heard a “click” a second before Ben shoved her down onto the bed.

“Tage!”

Rey slunk down under Ben’s arm, making sure her entire body was under the covers. Ben was sitting up, still shirtless. He had an arm branched over her protectively.

“What?” Tage asked. He was dressed, his arms crossed over his chest.

“It’s-” Ben turned to look at the clock, “four in the morning. What are you doing in here?”

“Father woke me and sent me to wake you. He wants all the men working on the far end of the property today. I thought you would be asleep, just like I was,” Tage drawled, his eyes trailing over Rey.

Four years later and Rey still felt like a rabbit under his sharp eyes.

“Fine, give me a second,” Ben said, his teeth clenched tightly.

Tage rolled his eyes and turned away, shutting the door behind him.

Ben sighed, relaxing and lowering himself down to the bed in relief. Rey rolled onto her back, opening her arms to brush her fingers over the back of his neck soothingly, “It’s alright. We’re fine,” she whispered.

“I know you said he’s in love with Phasma, but sometimes he looks at you like he wants to eat you,” Ben mumbled into her hair.

“He’s probably envious. We can have time together and they can’t,” Rey said, “he’s a creep, but we’ve got to cut him some slack.”

Ben groaned, which tickled Rey’s neck and made her squirm involuntarily. He chuckled, pecked her lightly on the mouth, and stood to dress for the day.

“Enjoy the chance to sleep in, at least,” Ben offered, “I’ll change diapers before I leave, if need be, so you won’t have to.”

Rey grabbed Ben by the hair at the base of his neck and pulled him down for a thorough kiss. When she broke away, she whispered, “thank you,” against his lips, which made him smirk conspiratorially.

As Rey rolled onto her side and he walked to the dresser to look for clothes, he said over his shoulder, “kiss me every time I make that offer and I’ll be able to truthfully say “any time”.”

 

*****

 

Rey wasn’t sure if her body was more used to pregnancy or if she’d just wound up with a baby that was actually somewhat tame, compared to her two boys. In the month since she’d found out, she’d told no one besides Ben. It was still too early to make it public, but her body was soon going to beat her to it. Her belly was growing by the day, as it had suddenly said, “oh, I know where this goes”. After two pregnancies, she had little trouble knowing how to move, lift things, and keep her food down without real difficulty.

Rey went downstairs carefully, listening to the predawn quiet. If she was honest with herself, it was the middle of the night, but it was so peaceful. She’d kept herself from going to feed Noah in the middle of the night, knowing it was time to start feeding her son solid food, which she was excited for. It meant she’d be able to feed herself and make someone else feed her baby… for six more months before she’d have to do it all over again.

Rey looked up to see a dark-haired figure bent over the kitchen table, hard at work on a quilt. The whole family had been devoting themselves to making quilts for the town’s annual spring festival, which would include several more competitions than normal since it was the hundredth anniversary of the town’s founding. Some of the cash prizes were several thousand dollars and the Snoke family was famous for their work.

“Angela,” Rey said, blinking and frowning at her, “why are you awake?”

“I couldn’t sleep, but I wanted to work instead of keeping Dopheld up with my tossing and turning,” Angela said.

“Is everything okay?” Rey asked warily. She didn’t know why she even asked, to be honest. Angela was First Order, through and through. There was no way she’d give an honest and direct answer about her sleeplessness and risk being thought of as “ungrateful for the honor of living in Father’s house” or whatever bullshit Phasma would say.

How that woman can spew such horseshit and keep sane, I’ll never know, Rey thought to herself.

You do it all the time. the tiny voice in her head that always reminded her that Ben was a rapist spoke up for the first time in months.

Rey shoved it aside, focusing on Angela.

“I just miss my mom,” Angela said, shrugging, “she warned me that this would happen. She said it happened to her when she moved out for the first time.”

“You and Dopheld stayed with your parents, not his?” Rey asked.

“Well, no, but we were very close. My mother and I could visit a lot, but now we’re hours away. It’s alright, though, my mom and I have similar temperaments and she said she got over that after a few months,” Angela said, frowning down at a particularly stubborn piece of fabric dotted with tiny yellow roses.

“Did she have any advice about helping Dopheld sleep?” Rey asked, sitting down. She really wanted Angela to get some rest. Going for months without good sleep was going to make her sick and Rey didn’t want to see how Snoke would handle that.

“None,” Angela said, pursing her lips, “she was living in a dorm of some kind when it happened to her, so she didn’t have anyone sleeping next to her.”

“A dorm?” Rey asked stupidly. She knew she had heard Angela correctly and there weren’t any words that sounded like “dorm” that it could be, but still, the idea of a First Order wife of good standing even knowing the NAME of a college was off-putting. It was like being told that dolphins understood the physics of airplanes.

“Yeah, she was barely an adult then. She wanted to be a teacher, but ended up leaving after a year,” Angela said, “because she realized that she didn’t know what she wanted.”

“Your parents weren’t born into the Order?“ Rey asked incredulously, even though she tried to stamp out the utter shock in her voice.

“No“, Angela said casually, “they joined when they were already grown. They were fresh out of high school and had no sense of direction or purpose. Father brought it to them. He grounded them and gave them a way forward.”

Rey nodded, letting her hands fall into her lap, “how did they even find out about it? I’d never heard of it before I- I came here”

Angela nodded, waving her threaded needle as she talked, “Well, back in those days, the Order had more open meetings. It was the 1970s and alternative religions were more widely accepted. People were joining all kinds of individualized faiths.”

Cults, you mean, Rey thought, resisting the urge to shake her head in exasperation.

“My parents didn't have anyone looking for them or looking out for them, though,“ Angela said, pressing her lips together and looking back down at the quilt.

“Why not?“ Rey asked.

Angela put down her needle and thread and ran a hand through her hair, “They were from small-town Virginia, a Latin girl and a white guy? It just wasn’t appropriate. Their parents didn’t approve, so they left town. It was a huge scandal, apparently. They lived together, mostly aimlessly traveling trying to find work and then they met Father in Chicago where they were working in a restaurant. He helped my dad get training as an electrician and my mom learned useful household skills. Whenever money got tight, my mom could go and clean houses. They got married in the First Order and never left.”

Rey’s mouth fell open, “wow, that’s…intense.”

Angela nodded again, fidgeting with the quilt fabric, “yeah, my mom says she and my dad never would have made it without Father. They weren’t good at being a couple or at being people, but he taught them how to do both.”

“Is everyone's story like that?” Rey whispered.

“More or less. You’re either born into it or you were rescued from your old life. But you remember that, don’t you? You were a wildling…“ Angela said, nodding fervently.

“I was,” Rey whispered.

“And you were alone and hopeless,” Angela said. It was so natural as if it was to be expected, “it’s like that for everyone.”

“I understand,” Rey said softly.

So, those he can’t brainwash, he kidnaps.

“How often does he find people on their own?” Rey asked. She didn’t realize that anyone knew these things. She and Ben had sat and wondered, but never been able to come to any clear conclusions.

“ It averages to about once every five years or so, depending on what year it is,” Angela said, “my family gets to know these people often.”

“How do you know all of this stuff?” Rey blurted, unable to stop herself.

Angela laughed. It was such a bright and beautiful sound, like a Disney princess, “my mom is a lot older than Phasma, but she and my mother exchange letters pretty often. There’s nothing secret from Father’s eye, but my mom and Phasma are close enough that they can understand each other without having to say anything that might be questionable.”

“You’re willing to say that out loud?” Rey looked over her shoulder, desperate to make sure no one heard her say something so blatant.

Angela put out a hand. Rey took it, swallowing and trying to keep her fear down, “well, it’s not bad. It’s just that sometimes, Phasma knows news would worry people, but she needs help with her own worry. That’s where my mother comes in.”

Rey laughed tightly, “Maybe that kind of companionship is what I’m here for.”

Angela shrugged, “My mother is the one that taught Phasma everything she knows about life and how to be a wife, so they have a close, mother-daughter relationship now.”
“That probably took time,” Rey said, trying to come up with anything that made sense and would keep this conversation going. She could learn so much without Angela even realizing it. This woman’s openness could work to her advantage.

“It did,” Angela said, “she spent almost two years away from our house when I was seven years old. It was worth it, though, seeing the household that Phasma has built up under Father’s guidance.”

Rey nodded slowly, “sure,” she said. She was glad that sarcasm wasn’t common among the First Order or Angela might actually hit her. She trailed off again, her mind wandering to weeks of failures when she first arrived here. Everything had been so intense and stressful. She knew what Phasma, Tage, and Snoke’s hands all felt like. When she’d dropped plates, made mistakes with the laundry, or spoken out of turn in any way, she’d received a strike, to her face, hands, or any part of her that was easily accessible. Angela and Dopheld had never hit her, but part of that may have only been due to the fact that they spent so little time together. She was unsure whether it was about her improvement or Angela’s temperament, but it was nice to be in a situation where she didn’t have to fear a dropped stitch or uneven line.

“You should go back to bed,” Angela said gently, calling Rey out of her thoughts. Rey glanced up from her hands to see Angela’s dark eyes were fixed on her and full of concern. She tried to think of something to say, but her mind was still spinning elsewhere.

“I can tell you’re tired. You don’t have to sit with me just because I can’t sleep,” Angela was so earnest that it physically hurt to hear it. Rey’s heart tightened at the sight of those sweet, dark eyes fixed on her face.

That’s not like Jessika, the little voice in Rey’s head said. It almost made her start, the sudden reminder of Jessika. They’d been apart for almost five years and Rey thought of her less and less often, but Angela always made Rey think of all of the hope she’d had in the past.
Those eyes, though, were not the same. Angela’s were sweet, earnest, and innocent. Jessika’s were thoughtful and mischievous. Rey hadn’t understood that at first. They might look alike, but years inside the rigid boundaries of the First Order had shaped Angela like a bonsai tree, made sure she grew in an aesthetically pleasing way, not a strong or natural one.

“I’ll help you,” Rey said, “I’m not as good as you and the others, but feel free to put me to work.”

You are still useless at talking to any woman you find the least bit attractive, Rey thought, knowing she sounded stupid and over-eager.

Angela just smiled, passing her a few pieces and helping talk her through how to line them up properly with the rest of the quilt.

The work came easily after that. At first, she and Angela only spoke to discuss the quilt and reinforce its design. Whenever she had a question, Angela answered it with patience. They talked about the farm and the new three-year-old horses and kids, but eventually, the conversation faded away into a warm and comfortable silence. The work became repetitive but peaceful and they settled into a natural rhythm that was so easy that the hours seemed to slip through their fingers like warm sand.

“How long have you two been down here?” a voice questioned.

Rey and Angela both looked up to see Ben and Tage at the bottom of the stairs, both dressed for work.

“My wife, is this a good idea? When I woke up and you weren’t there, I assumed-” Ben began, walking over to Rey, resting a hand on her back and kissing the top of her head.

“It’s alright,” Rey said, leaning against him as she and Angela continued to work on the quilt. It would be almost done in a little while.

“And what do we have here?” Snoke said, walking past his sons and looking down at the quilt spread over the table, “my daughters, this must have taken all night.”

“It did, yes,” Angela admitted. Her voice was still pleasant and sweet as always. Snoke reached out and cupped Angela’s cheek, leaning forward to kiss her forehead.

“You, my daughters, are both women of righteousness,” Snoke leaned away to touch Rey’s face and kiss her forehead. Even after five years, his touched still reminded her of a snake. It was smooth and dry with a warmth that felt artificial. It was like he’d held his hand under a heat lamp without sweating.

Rey managed to hold back a shudder. She knew how much those hands hurt when they came at her face with speed. He had callouses from years as a farmer, but the skin on his palms wasn’t cracked or broken as she’d expect.

Rey tried not to wonder how he’d accomplished that.

It might sound almost like she’d found something he did well and she was determined never to do that.

Normal life picked up with the arrival of Isaac and the time to wake up her own boys. Rey went upstairs and gathered up her children for breakfast. As she went to go upstairs,
Ben caught her hand. Rey looked over her shoulder, frowning, but he merely leaned forward and said, "we have to go to the far side of the property to deal with some brush and to set a few traps, so you'll have to tend to the horses."

"I'll handle Finalizer," Rey said, smiling. He kissed her mouth lightly, then turned to hurry after the other men.

Rey woke up Jesse and got both him and Noah dressed and back downstairs for one of the more earnestly pleasant breakfasts in a while. Without the men, the kids could talk more excitedly without as much worry about their words. Rey's heart leapt at the sight of Jesse and Isaac pouring over a book full of animal sketches. The two boys were excitedly discussing which animals they had or had not seen. Absently, Rey trailed one finger over the slight lift in her belly. Whether she liked it or not, if she failed, if her baby was born here, then this would be one of the safest and happiest times there.

I promise you, baby, Rey thought desperately, I will get you out of here.

Chapter Text

Rey had never given much thought to what was inside of Snoke’s office.

In her first days of captivity, she had obsessed about it, but after years living in the house for so long, the questions about it had been eclipsed by the more mundane matters of daily life.

Now, though, staring out the back window as heavy snow came out of nowhere, she wondered whether or not Snoke had a radio hidden in his office. She’d spent so much time here that she’d grown used to the way that Snoke would declare his prediction of the weather and would be generally correct. Years living on a farm had taught her some, too. In summer, she could smell rain before it fell. She, Joanna, and Tage could all tell when storms were coming due to that clean, humid smell that Rey associated with the lakes that she had gone to in Colorado. None of the family could smell snow, however, so they always had to rely on “God” warning “Father” about it.

God had apparently neglected to tell Snoke that they were getting a punishing layer of it today.

The men had been gone for just over two hours when the massive, snow-laded clouds had descended over the area. Rey had hoped this would just prove to be another overcast, frosty day in Montana, but then the heavy flakes had started to fall.

Followed by more flakes.

Which became an inch-high and ever-growing blanket of fluffy snow that spread as far as Rey could see.

What Rey could not see was any sign of the five men who had gone out that morning.

Joanna paused next to her, jarring Rey out of her thoughts. Rey turned to look at the teenager, who was clutching a broom in her hand with knuckles that were a shade too white.

“It’s almost four,” Joanna whispered, “they should be back by now, shouldn’t they? How far is the edge of the property?”

“I don’t know,” Rey admitted. She’d never been there. Snoke would never have allowed it. That would be like bringing her to the finish line of a marathon and saying, “Alright, here’s the exact place you need to get to. Once you get here, I lose the overwhelming advantage I have over you, so don’t take advantage of it!”

For all Rey knew, only Snoke knew the exact boundary of their land, even with all of the fencings within it. Some areas had been sectioned off for various reasons and paths that were outlined with cables at eye-level, but that was for ease of access when it came time to harvest they hay that grew just beyond the wooded meadow. The rest of the land was wild forest.

“Father didn’t mention this when they left,” Joanna said, her voice somehow even softer. Rey knew that this kind of honesty, one that suggested even the possibility of her father’s failure, was forbidden, but that it was born out of a kid’s fear and concern for her father. Rey opened her arms and hugged Joanna tightly, resting her chin on top of the girl’s head without a word. Over the years, she had become particularly close to the older girls, who were willing to be more honest with her. If they misspoke, she didn’t slap them. If they dropped something or made a mistake, she gave them a stern word and nothing more. In all honesty, she’d much rather say “it’s okay,” but she knew if she didn’t do something, then it would eventually backfire somehow. A few weeks after Jesse was born, she’d found a suitable balance between herself and the Kira persona that Snoke insisted on perpetuating: she was an understanding, no-nonsense, “fun” sister-in-law. Well, as fun as anyone could be in the First Order.

Angela crossed over to them. She paused and rubbed Joanna’s back soothingly as the teenager buried her face in Rey’s shirt, dropping the broom and dustpan she’d been holding. Rey was glad she hadn’t gone for “super sweet and always patient” because Angela could give Goddam Mother Theresa a run for her money and Rey didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of competing with that.

“Come on,” Rey said gently, nudging Joanna gently, “let’s at least be productive in the meantime.”

Joanna nodded. She picked up the broom and dustpan and carried them to the wooden stairs, which were swept daily. Rey watched her go, then looked at Angela. Angela’s dark eyes were filled with worry, too, even if her earnest face was calm and collected.

“I need to get ny boys,” Rey said. She walked over to the stairs, gently stepping past Joanna, who was carefully sweeping the wooden stairs. She walked into her bedroom to see Noah sitting up sleepily, rubbing his eyes. He smiled at her, reaching out with one chubby fist.

“Hello, Noah,” Rey whispered. She picked him up, absently smelling if he needed to be changed, smiling in earnest when he came back clean, “look at you, Mr. Dry Diaper.”

Noah giggled at her expression, babbling and touching her face.

Rey kissed his palm, then stepped into Jesse and Isaac’s room to gently wake her oldest. He immediately rolled over, his hair rumpled. His bleary expression looked precisely like Ben’s when he was awoken suddenly. Noah squealed with delight at his brother, which made Jesse turn and sit up. He reached out and touched one of Noah’s feet lightly, “hi, Albert.”

Behind Rey, something made a quiet trilling noise from the doorway. Rey turned to see Praetor, the ginger tabby Jesse had found outside a few weeks ago, rubbing his cheek slowly on the doorframe of Jesse’s doorway.

“Praetor,” Jesse said, sticking a hand out off of his mattress for Praetor to sniff. Praetor trilled again, walking over to Jesse and rubbing his whiskered face against Jesse’s fingers.

“Oh, hello,” Rey said pleasantly. She turned back to Jesse, “come on, love, let’s go downstairs. We have chores to do.”

“Is Father home?” Jesse asked.

“Not yet,” Rey said, letting Jesse run ahead of her. She made sure to keep her voice light and unconcerned, but inside, she worried. She didn’t even care that Jesse had asked after Snoke before his own dad; she just wanted to keep her son from seeing the anxiety of the older members of the household.

Rey set Noah down on the floor between the square of the couches. She kissed Noah’s head, smiling at his excited mouthing at the couch cushions.

“My love, can you make sure he doesn’t hit his head?” Rey asked Jesse.

“Yeah!” Jesse said excitedly. Rey stepped away, peering out the back windows over the ever-rise layer of snow. She fidgeted with her collar absently.

“See anything?” Phasma asked, setting a rag down on the table and looking out the window, too.

“No,” Rey said, pressing her lips together, “do you think they’ll sleep outside?”

Phasma said nothing but only made a soft “hmm” sound, her lips tense and her expression tight.

“Are there any dishes left?” Rey asked, looking at Phasma.

Phasma inhaled slowly, then finally turned to look at her, “um, no, Isaac did them all.”

“Okay, that’s-”

Lyra let out a high shriek, and suddenly Noah was crying. Rey turned on her heel immediately and saw Noah lying on the floor by the couches and crying his eyes out. Jesse was sitting on the cushions, his eyes wide.

“Foolish and distracted girl!” Phasma snapped. Rey heard the sound of skin colliding with skin but was too busy searching Noah for any injuries to truly focus on that.

“I swear I said something,” Lyra said, her brown eyes wide, “I thought he heard me and rolled out of the way.”

“Children can’t pay attention that way!” Phasma said incredulously.

“I- I’m sorry, Mother,” Lyra said.

“You’re both right,” Rey said, “you need to nudge children to get their attention, but you didn’t know.”

Rey lifted Noah up, rubbing his back and humming low in her throat to soothe the crying boy. She turned to Jesse, “did he try to move at all?”

Jesse shook his head, “he didn’t react at all. His back was to her, and he didn’t move at all.”

“Albert is seven months old!” Phasma said incredulously, “he can’t even crawl yet!”

“No, but Roland would react to and avoid things at that same age,” Rey said. She looked down at Noah, who had settled down and buried his face in her breast. She chewed her lip, thinking through a dozen explanations of various probabilities.

“Here,” Angela said gently. She touched Rey’s arm, “how about Lyra and me go and clean the bathrooms upstairs?”

“Go,” Phasma said flatly. Rey watched Lyra duck her head and hurry upstairs with Angela trailing behind her.

“Why don’t you go and tend to the horses before it gets dark?” Phasma said, looking at Rey, “get some air. I’ll take Albert.”

“You sure?” Rey asked.

“Yes,” Phasma said smoothly, “I could use some baby time.”

Rey smiled, “sure. I’ll take Joanna or Susannah with me; otherwise, I’ll be out after dark.”

“Of course,” Phasma said. She scooped Noah into her arms, then yelled over her shoulder, “SUSANNAH! Come down here!”

Rey glanced at the top of the stairs to see Susannah hurry to the staircase, “yes, mother?”

“Get your boots. You’re going to help Kira in the barn,” Phasma said.

“Okay,” Susannah said, darting back upstairs.

Rey frowned, not at Phasma or Susannah, but at Noah. He’d been in the arms of a woman who just shouted at a volume that could be heard on another floor, but he had not reacted. How had a seven-month-old not be startled by something like that?

Me and Ben are going to have to figure this out later, Rey said, turning to the back door where her boots waited for her. She pulled on her gloves and coat, looking over her shoulder to see Susannah hurrying down the stairs, pulling on her own hat.

“Let’s go,” Rey said. She glanced at Noah one last time and then stepped out into the punishing cold. Rey bit back a curse, stomping through the snow towards the barn. She knew it was vital for them to muck the stalls, but it was cold as fuck outside. Rey pulled open the door, letting Susannah duck inside under her arms.

“Oh!” Susannah groaned, shaking her hair out and pulling her gloves off and tucking them into her coat pocket.

“Yeah,” Rey said gruffly. She reached for the light switch and turned on the overhead light. There were heat lamps, which kept the horses from getting too cold, but they had other electric lights overhead for days like today when it was getting dark quickly.

Rey heard a familiar neigh and walked over to see Finalizer waiting for her. She smiled, rubbing his nose as he huffed into her face, “hey, handsome,” she said.

Finalizer sniffed at her hand, but Rey just shook her head, “sorry, no treats today.”

“Do you want to let them all go out in the snow while we clean the stalls?” Susannah asked, crossing to the far door and opening the top half of the split barn door to the fenced yard.

Rey chewed on her thoughts for a moment, then said, “yes, let’s do that. We’ll shut the door behind them so we can work without them chewing on our hair or being in the way.”

“I’ll get the yearlings if you want to get Starkiller and Finalizer,” Susannah offered.

“Let’s do that,” Rey said. She looked out the open doorway to see the sun falling in earnest now. There was no sign of the men, still, which made her heart jump into her throat.

Rey reached out and rubbed Finalizer’s nose. Ben would be fine. All the men were together, they couldn’t ALL get disabled at one time. Rey took a deep breath, then leaned forward and pressed a kiss on Finalizer’s forehead. Finalizer exhaled, his breath ruffling the loose hair around her face.

“I swear, if he’d brought you along, they’d all be home by now,” Rey murmured to the stallion, “you have more sense than all the men I’ve met put together.”

Finalizer lifted his eyes as if to say, “yes, I knew that already.”

Rey just shook her head and opened his stall. The sleek black stallion walked past her, heading straight for the door that Susannah had opened and through which she was leading Harbinger, the bay yearling. Rey walked over to Starkiller, letting Susannah focus on the more rambunctious and less well-trained animals. She opened up Starkiller’s stall, grabbing a pitchfork as the white mare jogged past her and out to the pasture. Rey muttered a prayer of thanks as she began mucking the stalls; if she had any kind of morning sickness that she’d had with Jesse, it would be impossible for her to do this.

“How are you feeling?” Susannah asked nervously, peeking into the stall.

“Fine,” Rey said, shrugging the stalls.

"I can clean all of them," Susannah said, "you've been working all day."

“It’s alright,” Rey promised, “just handle the other two. I know Starkiller and Finalizer are bigger, but they’re neater and more polite.”

“True,” Susannah said flatly, grabbing a shovel and turning to her own work. They worked quickly but in silence. Rey finished piling Starkillers dung into the wheelbarrow and rolled it out to the manure pile. When she opened the far door, the cold wind immediately bit at her face, but she paid no mind. She cleaned the soiled straw out of Finalizer’s stall and then shut the door firmly behind her.

“Is it still really cold?” Susannah asked weakly, her own wheelbarrow ready.

“Oh yeah,” Rey said, “have fun,” she left the girl to it and piled a thick layer of clean straw at the bottom, making sure to leave Finalizer one extra-cushy corner. For some reason, he always fussed if one corner of his stall wasn’t significantly more padded than all the others. She and Ben had spent hours theorizing as to why, but in the end, she didn’t particularly care.

Together, they brought the horses inside, brushing off any snowflakes that hadn’t melted before they brushed and dried the animals. Harbinger was the least cooperative during that portion, but a well-timed snort from Finalizer settled the bay quarter horse down almost immediately. Finalizer ambled back to her. He lowered his head, gently nudging at the barely-visible bump on her abdomen.

Rey smiled, rubbing his neck, “yeah, you’re going to have another baby,” she murmured into his neck. Finalizer lifted his head and sniffed at her hands, looking for treats. Rey laughed in earnest. Finalizer looked at her again, but Rey only rubbed his nose again, “come on, handsome, let’s go.”

Finalizer huffed, basically rolling his eyes. He sniffed at the shoulder of Rey’s shirt, loitering at Starkiller’s stall instead of returning to his own. Rey, too, paused by Starkiller’s stall as the mare settled into a comfortable spot. She smiled but rubbed absently at her lower back, which ached from bending over to shovel the stalls.

“Are you okay?” Susannah asked hesitantly. She was shutting the door on Conqueror’s stall, watching Rey warily.

“Yeah, my back just hurts from the bending over,” Rey said. When Susannah looked totally unconvinced, Rey said, “this isn’t the most uncomfortable I’ve been while doing this. Please, don’t worry.”

“How?” Susannah asked, gesturing to the latched barn door.

“I had to help Kylo shoe Finalizer while I was six months pregnant,” Rey said flatly.

Susannah shuddered. She walked over to Rey, peering in to look at Starkiller before she slowly shut and locked the mare’s stall. She leaned against the door and looked up at Rey, “is it harder to do all of this while you’re pregnant?” She asked.

Rey chowed on her lip, “yeah, a bit, but making a human is a lot. It makes doing everything harder.”

“Sounds real… bad…” Susannah said nervously.

“It is, in a way, but it’s worth it. I love my boys. Besides, you can guilt people into letting you get out of doing things,” she winked.

Susannah let out a tight, false laugh. She rubbed her hands together, shuffling her feet back and forth. Rey thought Susannah might just be cold, but her eyes were flicking around the barn, “Susannah, are you okay?”

“I- can I ask you something?” Susannah whispered.

“Yes, anything,” Rey said. She stepped away slowly, her eyes never leaving Susannah’s face as she opened Finalizer’s stall, absently rubbing the stallion’s ear as he passed her.

“Did you always want to be a wife and a mother?” Susannah asked, “even on the outside?”

Holy shit that’s an actual real question, Rey thought, somehow managing to keep her face straight.

Rey sighed, “no, not always. I’d wanted a family always, but not being a wife, no.”

“Did you not have a family?” Susannah asked.

“No, I didn’t. My family abandoned me when I was a baby. I was raised by other people- people who only wanted me around for money.”

“Money?” Susannah asked.

“On the outside, if someone raised children who belong to the government, they get money to help cover costs and expenses.”

“The government owns kids?” Susannah asked, horrified.

“No, not the way you’re thinking. They don’t own them or put them in prison, like what Father talks about with the police. The government is very, very big. There are other people who, when kids don’t have families, are in charge of knowing where they are or how they are doing.”

“Oh,” Susannah whispered, “I- I’m sorry.”

“Yeah,” Rey said, turning away and latching Finalizer’s stall, “it is what it is.”

Rey looked into Finalizer’s face, brushing her fingers over his nose. She smiled when the stallion lifted his head up and sniffed her face intently.

“Kira,” Susannah whispered.

“Yeah?” Rey turned. Susannah sounded so anxious that Rey turned on her heel to find Susannah was looking up at her with wide and fearful eyes. “Susannah, are you okay?” Rey asked.

Susannah stood on her toes and pressed her lips against Rey’s.

Rey had thought she had reached the limits of surprise. After being kidnapped, realizing she was in a state so far away from home that her case might never be solved, and realizing that Ben was a victim of kidnapping, too, Rey thought she could no longer be surprised.

Fuck if she wasn’t wrong.

Susannah, born and raised in the First Order and a very young seventeen was kissing her. Her who was a woman and also Susannah’s sister-in-law. This was impossible. This was so impossible that if Rey saw the FBI running up the hill at that very second, she would find that more easy to believe than that Susannah was leaning into her.

Susannah, who was still seventeen.

Rey meant to break away and gently ask some of the hard questions that needed to be asked: has an adult ever kissed you before? Has your mother or an aunt ever kissed you? What made you reach out that way? She meant to speak in a cold, measured, and non-judgemental tone.

Instead, what she did was this:

“Susannah, what the hell are you doing?” Rey asked, looking down at her. She stepped back so quickly and suddenly that it made a loud crashing noise. Rey looked at the door, but no one came running.

“I love you,” Susannah blurted.

“No, Susannah-”

“I do, I do love you.” Susannah insisted.

“Su-”

“I’ve seen the way you look at Angela. You don’t look at Mother that way!” Susannah hissed. Her blue eyes were wide and desperate and so innocent.

Rey turned away, unable to meet her gaze, “Susannah, it’s not-”

“I know women can’t love women. I know it’s wrong, but I can’t-”

“Stop!” Rey put a hand over Susannah’s mouth, looking into her eyes again. She needed Susannah to understand. She didn’t care if this was a confused love map or the most unfortunate case of lesbianism in the country; she was not going to let Susannah Snoke thing she was a pervert.

“Susannah, this isn’t wrong because you’re a girl. This is wrong because you’re a child,” Rey kept her words slow and measured, cautiously removing her hand from Susannah’s mouth.

“What?” Susannah asked weakly.

“I’m an adult,” Rey pronounced, keeping her voice low, “you’re seventeen. You’re too young to be with anyone so much older, man or woman.”

“So, the problem is that I’m too young? I- girls can like girls, too?”

“Yes, love,” Rey said, touching Susannah’s cheek as tears welled in her eyes, “I like both men and women. I-I’m with Kylo, so I’m not with anyone else, but I’ve been with women before.” The lie about her marriage felt like vinegar, but she knew this was revolutionary enough. If she pushed too far, Susannah might panic.

“I don’t like Antony. I mean- I like him, but I don’t want to marry him. I don’t want any of that with him,” Susannah said shakily. Rey could see the confusion swirling through the young girl. She didn’t need any grand declarations or an explanation of the intricacies of the LGBT community. She was, as Ms. Rochelle would say, “a baby queer who needs a hug and to hear they’re not a monster.”

“That’s okay. And it’s okay to like him without wanting to marry him. It’s okay to be his friend without liking him,” Rey said. She gently rubbed Susannah’s arm, looking into her face carefully.

Tears welled in Susannah’s eyes, and she began sobbing. Rey wrapped her arms around the young girl, letting her cry into the front of her dress. She didn’t ask any more questions. When they went back to the house, she acted like nothing happened. When the men came home twenty minutes after sundown, covered in snow and miserable, Rey hugged Ben like she would any other day. She didn’t avoid the girl in the following days or weeks and made sure to act normally. Thankfully, Susannah followed her lead.

The only thing that changed was that Rey somehow became even more determined to get Susannah out of here. Whenever she saw Susannah, she remembered her first Pride, when her “Fairy Drag Mothers” had given her a pride flag to wear as a dress and a tiara. She’d asked the leader, a six foot three scarlet-haired vision of loveliness that would give Jessica Rabbit a run for her money named Ms. Rochelle, why they were doing this.

Ms. Rochelle had cupped her chin in her hands, complete with long glittery rainbow nails, and leaned down to look into Rey’s eyes and said something Rey had never forgotten: “this is your first Pride, little baby queer. As a group of grown and established queers, it’s our job to protect you and look after you until you can grow into an established queer.”

“How will I know when I’m an established queer?” Rey had asked.

Ms. Rochelle had winked and said, “because you’ll find baby queers that you’d be willing to burn down cities for. If someone gets between you and your baby queers, you magically lose the ability to give even the smallest of fucks.”

You, Snoke, have made a mistake, Rey thought, looking across the able to Snoke’s cold blue eyes, you’ve become a threat to both my children and my baby queer.

And it was a lot easier to burn down one man than a city.

Chapter Text

"I have good news to announce!" Snoke said proudly over dinner two weeks after the freak snowstorm, grinning around at them all, "Phasma is pregnant with our fourth child!"

The tense silence was punctuated by a high-pitched giggle. Snoke's eyes flashed as he looked at her face suddenly, but it was only when Ben grabbed her hand that she realized that she had been the one to giggle.

Earnest murmurs of congratulations echoed around the table, but Snoke's eyes never left Rey.

"You find this funny, my dear? Considering the struggles faced by my wife these six years after our loss?"

"No," Ben blurted. Snoke turned to him, his eyes somehow becoming even more dangerous. Somehow, Ben- incredible, brilliant, Ben- found a way out for them, "I was going to speak to you later today, but Kira is expecting, too."

Snoke suddenly threw back his head and let out a too jovial laugh that seemed to echo hollowly in the dining room.

"It appears that I will welcome my sixth child and third grandchild in the same year," Snoke said, "God truly has blessed me this season."

"It's because he knows your heart for children," Angela said.

"That, He does. And He knows yours, too. He will bless you and Dopheld soon, I promise. I have seen so," Snoke said. He took Angela's hands in his own. She preened under his attention.

Susannah looked at Rey and her mother. Her blue eyes were clouded with a hundred warring emotions. Rey put a hand on Ben's arm, smiling at his face with an expression that she hoped was adoring. It felt fake.

"This is going to be something," Tage mumbled. He rubbed his forehead, clearly imagining the future with two crying newborns for the family to endure every night.

"It is," Rey said, smiling tightly at him.

It was his baby. The one they were all talking about, the one they would see first was his baby. Snoke was sitting here, basking in everyone's congratulations, but Tage was the only who'd fathered that baby. Suddenly, Tage's odd hovering, his cryptic questions and funny looks all made sense. He was a man who'd fathered children out of love and been forced to stand over them as an older brother. Rey wondered how many hours he and Phasma had agonized over whether their behavior was too obvious. If they'd been caught, they'd be killed. If Susannah, Joanna, or Isaac had been born with red hair, they'd be killed. If Snoke had thought them a threat, they'd be killed.

Rey couldn't imagine what that kind of stress would do to someone, particularly someone who was only fifteen. He should have been in high school, going to the movies, and hanging out with friends. The worst things in Tage's life should have been acne, talking to girls, and whether or not he'd pass Algebra II. Instead, he'd been protecting his stitched-together family in a house ruled by a tyrannical maniac.

"The only thing to do after that is to find Tage a good woman," Dopheld said playfully.

Tage laughed in what was supposed to be a self-deprecating way, but Rey could see the pain hidden deep in his eyes. She'd always interpret it as disdain or hunger, but it was just normal fear and longing.

This place makes monsters of us all, Rey though, only because we're convinced that everyone else is a monster.

Rey looked down at her food, her mouth suddenly dry. How had Tage managed to stay san for fifteen years of watching the only person he cared about being abused, raped, and kept apart from him? How had he gone so long without running away? She couldn't understand it, but then, she wondered what she would do if she didn't have Susannah and Joanna to worry about. If she only had her babies to think about, she might find herself willing to remain still and watchful for years on end, just as Phasma and Tage had.

"Are you alright, Kira?" Joanna piped up from across the table, her eyes focused on Rey's face.

"I'm alright," Rey said, quickly schooling her features and waving a hand, "the baby doesn't always like everything I eat. That's all."

"Are you sure?" Ben asked, leaning closer to look into her face.

"It's really okay," Rey said.

"Well, you will at least have a night off, my dear," Snoke said, nodding. The anger that had flashed, so bright and furious, had melted away. It made Rey's stomach turned, seeing how he absolutely reveled in having a large so-called "family." He would stand and gloat after Phasma gave birth, posturing like some kind of prize stud, even though all of the children he gloated over were stolen. Some had been stolen while their parents still lived in the house.

"Thank you, Father," Rey said. She had never been a good actress. Rey had taken a theatre class and had only passed because her teacher had seen the effort that she'd put into it, but she'd only been able to hide her feelings. Putting on a believable mask wasn't something she could do for long periods, at least not before she came here. Now, she could give Meryl Streep a run for her money. Then again, Meryl Streep had never had to remain in-character on pain of death.

"Lyra, you and I will handle the boys and let Kira rest," Angela said, nudging her sister-in-law.

"We will all give both of the expectant mothers the evening off," Snoke said clearly, "Lyra and Angela will handle the small children. Kylo, Dopheld, and Armitage will finish their barn chores, but Susannah, Joanna, Isaac, and Antony will all handle cleaning up in the kitchen. I must retire to my office as some work needs to be done there." He stood up, kissed Phasma's cheek, and walked over to his office and disappeared inside.

Lyra nodded, tucking her straight black hair behind her ear as she walked over and lifted Noah out of the highchair that was parked next to Rey.

"Come along, Albert, let's get you ready to sleep," Lyra said. Rey smiled after the pair, watching Noah wiggle in Lyra's arm before settling for grabbing her nose instead of fighting further. Lyra had a voice that had to be one of the most musical and gentle of any of the ones that Rey had ever heard. It was huskier than many women's voices were, but it reminded Rey of some kind of sultry folk singer. She rarely spoke, preferring to watching and listen and work in silence, but Rey still loved hearing her speak.

"Thank you," Rey said. She opened her arms as Jesse scrambled down from his seat and ran over to her. He had a tendency to fuss about bed ties on occasion, but she hoped this wasn't one of those nights. Noah had been sleeping more and more, to the point where they had moved him out on a trial basis again, just to see if he could get used to sleeping father than six feet away from his parents. Jesse, on the other hand, had started to become a more fussy sleeper. She wasn't sure exactly why, but he'd been less and less inclined to go to bed sometimes.

"What is it, my son?" Rey asked patiently, "do you have something to ask me?"

"I want to stay with you. I don't want to go to bed," Jesse pouted.

Rey smiled, hugging Jesse to her chest and rubbing his back, "why don't you sit with me for a little bit and then your father will take you up to bed?" she offered.

"Okay," Jesse mumbled into her shirt.

Rey looked over at Angela and winked. She mouthed 'thank you for trying.' Jesse was trying his best, but he was still a small child, and they sometimes had odd quirks or requests they couldn't express adequately.

The rest of the table got up except for Phasma, who leaned back in her chair a bit and sighed comfortably. Ben stood and carried her plate into the kitchen. Isaac and Antony cleared the rest of the table, and Rey could hear the distant sounds of dishes being washed and floors being swept. She rubbed Jesse's back and basked in the music of cleaning that she didn't have to do. She yawned and looked over at Phasma, "how far along are you?"

"Somewhere 18 weeks," Phasma said, "you?"

"Around 12," Rey said.

"Heaven help us," Phasma mumbled, "we'll have a pair of newborns a month apart."

Rey snorted, "if we get them on the same schedule, we'll at least have company."

"Could be worse, I suppose," Phasma said, "but you are strictly forbidden to give birth early. I'm going to need that time to be the center of attention."

Rey laughed in earnest that time. Phasma chuckled and sipped her water.

"You know, between the two of us getting the rest we'll need, we'll have Lyra, Susannah, and Joanna ready for married life all in one go," Phasma said.

"I hadn't considered that," Rey said honestly. She tried to stuff the sick sense of horror that rolled over at that moment. Even though she'd been a victim, too, Phasma still thought about those things with anything other than abject horror. Rey couldn't understand it, but Phasma thought like a member of the First Order. She rubbed Jesse's back some more, praying to anyone who might listen that, no matter what happened, she would never become like that.

This place might make monsters of us all, but don't let me become that kind of monster Rey silently pleaded.

 

Ben slipped into the room and slowly shut the door behind him. He crossed over to her, putting his boots in the closet as he passed it. He laid down on the bed, not bothering to change his clothes yet, then looked at Rey, "how are you feeling?"

"Pretty okay," Rey said. She exhaled slowly, "Ben, we need to talk. I meant to tell you sooner, but I just haven't had the chance..."

"What happened?" Ben asked.

"Susannah kissed me," Rey said. She stared up at the ceiling, waiting for his reaction. She wasn't sure if she expected anger or shock or disgust, but she needed to tell him.

"She kissed you? On the mouth?" Ben asked slowly.

"Yeah," Rey said.

"Our Susannah?" Ben asked.

"Yeah," Rey repeated.

"And what did you do?"

"Asked her what the hell she was doing," Rey mumbled, shame welling in her heart. She couldn't believe that she'd lost control that way to a scared and confused child.

"That's it?" Ben asked. Rey turned over to look into his face and saw his absolute confusion.

"I- I mean, I told her it wasn't okay for an adult and a child to be involved with each other, but that interest in women isn't bad as long as they're the same age," Rey added. She couldn't explain why her heart was beating so quickly, especially since she could tell that Ben wasn't angry, but Rey couldn't shake the sudden anxiety that she felt.

"Okay, good," Ben said, nodding, "do you think she'll say anything to anyone?"

"No," Rey said, "she looked terrified."

Ben nodded further, sitting up all the way, "this is going to make things more complicated."

"It is, but it's not the only thing we have to talk about," Rey said. She closed her eyes. Finally forcing herself to say the words out loud was overwhelming. She blinked rapidly, feeling tears prickle at the backs of her eyes. The idea of her baby, the precious baby that she loved so much more than she'd ever thought was possible, not just living with a disability, but living with a disability here made her heart ache.

Ben put a hand on her arm, "Rey," he said quietly.

Rey looked into Ben's face, "I think Noah might be deaf or at least hard of hearing," she said. She felt her eyes water and blinked, trying to clear them.

"What?" Ben asked, his voice cracking.

"I think Noah might be deaf," Rey said.

"I- oh God," Ben said, looking away from her. His eyes roamed the air as he thought through all the strange quirks that Noah had that they'd both taken for granted were actually symptoms. She'd sat and turned all the little signs over and over in her mind and felt like a failure as a parent.

Her shame, though, was supplanted by her fear: how would Snoke react?

"What will he do if he finds out?" Rey asked, "will he think Noah's defective? If he thinks Noah- Noah's broken, what will he do?" She felt hot tears running down her face before she could stop them.

Ben leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her, "how sure are you?"

"Phasma yelled two inches from his ear, and he didn't react," Rey sobbed

Ben took a deep, slow breath, rubbing her back soothingly.

Rey shuddered, "we need to test it ourselves."

"We'll do it tomorrow when he wakes up," Ben promised.

Rey looked up into Ben's face, "we can't wait until spring, I thought we could, but we can't."

Ben took a deep breath, chewing on the inside of his cheek, "I- Rey, it would be so cold."

"Ben, between Susannah, Noah, and the baby, we have to act. We have to do something, anything, but we have to do it now," Rey said firmly.

"Okay, fine," Ben said, "we need to start planning."

"Thank you," Rey said. She leaned away and laid back, looking up at the ceiling, "okay, so, we can escape one of two ways: we get to the police or the police come to us."

"How do we get the police to come to us?" Ben asked. The bed shifted as he settled back as well.

Rey sighed but said nothing. The pair of them sat in silence for a long moment before Rey huffed and said, "I gotta do yoga. I gotta clear my head."

Ben nodded, climbing out of bed and sitting with his back against the door. Outside, there was a quiet wail. He opened the doorway to see Consul, the soft gray sister of Praetor. Ben chuckled, sitting down against the door and letting Consul climb into his lap. Consul settled on Ben's thigh, purring and resting her chin comfortably on Ben's knee. Rey smirked at the kitten, who adored Ben, and started stretching, moving through various poses for both thought and pregnancy. She felt her chest open up, and her breath came more easily as she performed the familiar asanas that she'd known for years. Falling into child's pose, even while pregnant, was as easy as it had ever been. Moving through the chaturanga dandasana that she'd done thousands of times before, she moved back into downward dog. Ben watched her in rapt fascination like always, but Rey just let her mind wander.

"Okay, we can either leave and get help or get help to come to us," Rey repeated.

"Right," Ben confirmed.

"We need to try to do both, as much as possible, I think. Increases our odds," Rey said.

"I agree," Ben admitted, "I've only ever tried to run on my own. I've never been in a position where I could get to people to ask help, not where I wasn't sure that he'd have someone to hurt if I stepped out of line. I was afraid he'd turn on Joanna, Susannah, or Isaac."

"Okay, we have to either get the attention of the cops specifically, the attention of someone we know who can call the cops for us or the ENTIRE world's attention," Rey said, watching her knees as she stood in bridge post "How can we call the cops? We have no phone."

"Right, no phone," Rey said, making sure not to tense up as she stacked her spine.

"How could we get ahold of someone that we know?" Ben asked.

"There's phone calls, texting, social media, mail, and maybe radio," Rey said, "except we don't have any of those things," she added.

Ben huffed in a manner reminiscent of Finalizer that Rey giggled, falling down to downward dog.

"So, how do we get the attention of the world?" Ben asked, running a hand through his hair.

Rey slowly moved through several more asanas, measuring her breathing as she thought, "we need something that can be seen for hundreds of miles or can be found by someone."

"How do we do that?" Ben asked.

Rey pressed her lips together, "well, there are fires. That will burn down and cause a lot of damage, though. Or…" she trailed off.

"Or?" Ben asked.

"A message in a bottle," Rey said, "we could send something down one of the rivers. It'll eventually be picked up by someone."

"We send them a message that says what?" Ben asked, frowning.

"Rey Niima kidnapped. Call FBI. Ben Solo kidnapped by the same person?" Rey offered.

"How would they know it's not just a prank?" Ben asked.

"If they Google my name, it'll come up. Yours, too, probably," Rey said.

"Oh yeah," Ben said, "I forgot about Google."

"God, you're going to love it," Rey promised, "it's amazing."

"How many Rey Niimas are there, though?" Ben asked.

"Hmm..." Rey settled onto her back for corpse pose, "what about Rey Niima kidnapped from Boulder, Colorado? Ben Solo kidnapped from Alexandra, Virginia. Both are being held in Montana. Call FBI?"

"That could work," Ben said, nodding thoughtfully, "we need to drop it in a river at night, but it could work. Right now, it'll travel under the ice, but it will keep moving."

"How are we going to get bottles?" Rey asked.

"Phasma's olive oil comes in glass bottles," Ben said, "but she likes to use them for other things, so they're in one of the closets. There are tons of them. We can probably take two or three, and she'll never notice."

"Got it," Rey said, finally sitting up. An idea suddenly popped in her head, and her eyes widened, "what if we smuggled a letter in the mail?"

Ben turned to look at her so fast that he dislodged Consul, who let out a rebuke over her shoulder and jumped up on the bed to tuck her front paws under her chest, settling into a little loaf. Ben paid no mind and said, "I- what?"

Rey sat down near her pillow, gently rubbing Consul's back with one hand, "what if we added a letter to the stack of letters and bills he sends out?"

"And how on earth are we supposed to mail that without him knowing?" Ben asked incredulously

"We could write it and take the mail with the rest of it to the mailbox. Does he always do it?" Rey asked.

Ben paused, "no, not always, but if we ask…"

Rey thought for a moment, looking down at Consul, who had started purring in earnest. How could they get the mail to the mailbox without anyone noticing? They wouldn't stuff it into his hand or sneak it into his office because he might count the letters before or just notice the difference. They never saw the mailman, since the mailbox was at the end of the drive, so they couldn't be sure when he came. Rey pinched the tip of her tongue between her front teeth, wondering how they could ensure that they took out the mail on any one day.

We only have to get those specific letters to the mailbox, Rey thought.

"Ben," Rey said.

"What?"

"Ben," Rey said excitedly.

"What?" Ben asked, eyes wide.

"We don't have to get him to carry it out. We just need to include the return address and smuggle it out ourselves!" Rey hissed, beaming.

Ben rose up onto his knees, his hands flying to his hair, "Rey, that's amazing, but..." he trailed off, his hands falling to his sides, "we don't know the return address."

"Snoke does," Rey said, her mind already whirling three steps ahead of the conversation.

"He's not going to tell us," Ben said, standing and leaning against the doorframe. He loosely crossed his arms, his face taking on the stormy expression that she associated with deep thought.

"We have to get into Snoke's office," Rey said matter of factly.

"No," Ben said, dropping his arms.

"Ben," Rey said calmly.

"No way," Ben said firmly.

Rey met his eyes steadily, determined, "it's the only way."

Ben looked at her for a second, then his face twisted, and he looked away, knowing he was beaten, "oh my God."

"Does he lock the door?" Rey asked, leaning back on her hands.

"No, he doesn't," Ben mumbled, "I've been here 20 years, and I've never seen him lock or unlock it."

Rey snorted, "confident motherfucker," she nodded, more confident by the second, "and that will be what brings him down."

Ben groaned, resting his head back against the doorframe.

"Now we have to decide what address we'll use?" Rey asked seriously.

"Does it matter?" Ben asked, "even if someone's moved, it will get to SOMEONE."

"What if we write the wrong name and they don't open it?" Rey asked.

Ben sighed, "oh I didn't think of that."

"We can't write names on the outside, just the address," Rey decided.

Ben rubbed his jaw, "hmm, alright. You- you're right."

"Which addresses?" Rey asked.

"Not my parents," Ben said automatically.

"Ben," Rey said reproachfully

Ben shook his head, "No. Not my parents. They'll have moved or something."

"You sound so sure," Rey whispered.

"I am," Ben said bitterly, "can you think of anyone else who would still be in the same place for four years?"

"Yes. Two," Rey said without any hesitation

Ben raised an eyebrow, "who?"

"My friend Poe and Jessika's parents."

"Do you remember the addresses?"

"Yeah," Rey said. She laid down with her back against the pillows and Consul immediately stood up and curled up between her ankles, her chin resting on Rey's knees, "I used to send things t the Pavas a lot. We're also sending something to your childhood home."

Ben sighed, "why?" He asked exasperatedly.

"Upping our odds," Rey said, shrugging.

Ben looked at her, then shook his head. He crossed to his dresser, pulling off his shirt and tossing it into the laundry, "...fine."

"Just so you know, I'm the one who is going in. I'm smaller and faster," Rey said.

"I can't let you do that," Ben said, holding his sleepwear in his hands.

"It's not up for debate. I have to be the one to do this," Rey said. Her voice left absolutely no room for debate.

"You're pregnant!" Ben said exasperatedly. He practically shook his nightshirt at her, eyes wide.

"Which means that he might keep me alive, even if I'm caught," Rey said slowly.

Ben said nothing. He shook his head, his face twisted into an expression that Rey hadn't seen before. He yanked on his clothes, then stood, face his dresser with clenched fists.

"Ben?" Rey asked quietly.

"Rey, I can't lose you," Ben whispered, his voice cracking.

"Oh, Ben," Rey stood up, not caring when Consul yipped at her, and hugged him from behind, "you won't. I'll be fine."

"But what if you're not?" Ben asked. He turned around to face her, tears in his eyes, "I don't want to go back to the world if you're not in it." He whispered, his lips brushing his lips over her forehead.

Rey closed her eyes, "I will be. But if I'm not Ben, promise me you'll take my sons to freedom."

"I will," Ben said. He leaned forward and kissed her, one hand cupping her face. Rey kissed back, standing on her toes to slide her arms around his neck. Ben hummed, wrapping his arms around her and walking her towards the bed. Rey broke away, crawling backward and looking into his face. She traced his scar with her eyes, remembering how her mistake had caused it. Rey would find a way to repay him. She'd get him away from the man who had scarred his face forever.

Ben stretched out to her right side and leaning on his left side to keep his weight off of her as he kissed her. There was a strange mix of desperation and timelessness in those kisses. All the fear of 'I don't want to lose you' with the triumph of a clear plan mingled with breath and lips and teeth and tongue. Unable to breathe, Rey finally broke away, gasping. Ben immediately pressed his lips to her neck before kissing his way down her body over her nightgown. He stopped at the bulge in her abdomen, resting his forehead against it. Rey brushed her fingers through his dark hair, watching the utter adoration in his expression.

Ben smiled, "I promise, baby, you're going to be born free."

Rey smiled. She sat up and kissed him again, "we'll all be free."

Chapter Text

Transcript of Coffee and Crime - Episode 136: Rey Niima 

 

Heather: Alrighty everyone, gather around this is Heather Blue!

 

Jason: And I’m Jason Blue.

 

Heather: And it’s time for Coffee and Crime! How are you today, Jason?

 

Jason: I’m pretty good. How are you? 

 

Heather: I’m good. What are you drinking today?

 

Jason: We’re both drinking Bolivian Dark Roast from a company called Malachite Brewing. 

 

Heather Oh, that’s right. We are drinking the same thing. We never do that. 

 

Jason: Well, that’s because you drink Starbucks.

 

Heather: And you’re a coffee snob! My husband, everyone! 

 

Jason: so you told me this is an odd case 

 

Heather: Yeah, this is a really unusual case for us because this is one of the few cases where Jason will know ANYTHING about it. 

 

Jason: oh seriously?

 

Heather: [laughs] yeah, seriously, I promise when I say who this case is, you’re going to actually get excited. 

 

Jason: Okay, hit me

 

Heather: This is going to be a really interesting episode because this is the first one that we’re doing from the State of Colorado. 

 

Jason: Oh I totally know who you’re talking about now

 

Heather: Yeah, this disappearance is close to my heart and I know that some of the audience that follows other True Crime podcasts and social media and you guys are going to know what case I’m talking about because it has been in the news. If anyone hasn’t heard about it, we’re going to talk about the disappearance of Rey Niima

 

Jason: I knew it! 

 

Heather: Yeah, I knew you’d recognize it right away

 

Jason: This is literally what got you into True Crime 

 

Heather: I know! We spent like, the entire year that we were planning our wedding also trying to solve this case

 

Jason: Yeah, I’m the only man who had to be like, “babe, turn off the news coverage and pick out what invitations we’re going to do”

 

Heather: I know. I’m seriously excited to talk about it. I wanted to save it for a special episode and then MASSIVE news broke RIGHT after our last episode was uploaded, so I’m going to dive right in. 

Heather: Rey Niima disappeared on March 10, 2012, but up until last week, it didn’t get a lot of attention. 

 

Jason: I mean, it got some locally

 

Heather: Yeah, it did. UC Boulder- the University of Colorado Boulder paid a lot of attention to it and the school was putting up bulletins and trying to get people’s attention. And I know that because I was actually there. I was enrolled as an English major at the time, so this case literally happened in our backyard.

 

Jason: Yeah, we never went to that bar, but the bar we met at was down the street, right?

 

Heather: Yeah and that’s part of why I haven’t been able to shake this case and I’ve been keeping an ear to the ground. However, after the first couple of week we didn’t hear anything from anybody and that, I know, was a little frustrating from some people in the True Crime community because there was this sense of the fact that Rey- and we’ll get into this- Rey didn’t come from, you know, family had a lot of influence, power, or-

 

Jason: like family that could prevent this case from being forgotten 

 

Heather: Exactly! I think of the disappearance of Ben Solo. His mother was a senator and people were talking about his case of the national news for a year. And Rey didn’t really get that. 

 

Jason: Oh yeah I forgot about that

 

Heather: Yeah and I don’t blame Senator Organa or the Virginia police for that, but, you know…

 

Jason: Rey fell through the cracks

 

Heather: Yeah, she really did. And now we have this giant and amazing news that just dropped a few days ago, so let’s dig in! 

Heather: So, the first thing that you should know: Rey’s childhood is very complicated and there’s not a lot on that because she was actually raised in foster care, so we know where she lived, but we don’t know exactly- there’s not a lot of childhood photos that we can pull from that we might have for some of these other cases

 

Jason: Do you think that’s why she sort of faded to the background? You know, like, Dateline always has footage of grainy birthday footage and things like that- do you think Rey’s lack of footage played a part?

 

Heather: I mean, I think, yeah, but that also has to do with how difficult her case would turn out to be. 

 

Jason: Yeah, okay

 

Heather: Rey was on her own basically her entire life. Her last name, for example, is actually the name of a town in West Texas- which has a like a grand total of 200 people in it. 

 

Jason: Is that where her family’s from?

 

Heather: No, well- it’s complicated. It might be where her family is from, but we don’t know anything about her parents or extended family. Her last name is Niima is because she was found in a park by a nurse when she was like five or six days old. 

 

Jason: Wait what?

 

Heather: Yeah! So she was actually newsworthy from the getgo- from birth- and literally, she enters the foster care system in the State of Texas. 

 

Jason: How did I never hear about this?

 

Heather: I don’t know! I mean, people knew she was in foster care, but I literally only found the news clip myself when I did research for this episode! 

 

Jason: And she was in the system her entire childhood?

 

Heather: Yeah. She did move around a bit and lived in several different homes. She ended up living with a man named Unkar Plutt, which was where she was for years. 

 

Jason: Okay, why do I know that name?

 

Heather: Because he’s a name that shows up a lot around this case. He’s the owner and operator of a junkyard-slash-tow truck service place in the El Paso-ish area and Rey spent her high school years with him. Now, I know some of you at home are already sharpening your pitchforks for Unkar Plutt but, like-

 

Jason: Wait, why do people hate Unkar Plutt so much?

 

Heather: We’ll get to all of the reasons in a bit, but there is a reason connected to Rey’s disappearance as to why I’m bringing him up. Usually we go into family stuff and don’t spend too much time with people who aren’t close family, but Rey’s case is a little different. 

Heather: Many of you will remember Plutt from the news coverage because he seemed to be- [sigh] okay… Unkar Plutt’s demeanor during the news coverage is such a huge part of why some parts of the True Crime Community think he was involved somehow. I personally don’t think he had a reason to come and get her after four years of no contact, but I don’t know. The police ruled him out and I trust the Colorado PD with that because she was a ward of the state and so they had a file on her in a way that they don’t with other cases. Unkar Plutt may just be kind of, you know, surly and maybe a jerk or trying to become famous off a kid that lived with him- I don’t know. 

 

Jason: So, like, when Rey goes missing the cops talk to Plutt?

 

Heather: Not just the cops, but there’s like a media circus around Outpost, Texas, which is technically the place where Rey went to school, which is significant because that’s where she meets a boy by the name of Finn Storm. And Finn matters to the story because he is her best friend the entire time they’re in high school and they- you know, I’ve seen the footage of him from some of the press releases and it seems like they were super close. They met in high school and, Jason, they are the kind of friends that went to prom together. Me and my best friend went to prom together and it was amazing and I feel really connected to Rey and Finn in that way because- well, because-

 

Jason: I literally cannot imagine what would have happened if Gordy went missing. 

 

Heather: Yeah! Like, you guys remember Gordy and the bonus episodes he did while Jason and I were on our honeymoon but, like, I can’t imagine having someone that I’ve known for that long just. freaking. vanish. 

 

Jason: [audibly shudders]

 

Heather: Yeah, and they end up going to the same college, too. They both attend the University of Colorado Boulder and studying computer science. While they’re freshman, they each meet people who will become super important to them in life. 

 

Jason: Is this Poe?

 

Heather: [laughing] Yes, this is Poe, but it’s also a girl by the name of Jessika Pava. So, Rey and Jessika lived in the same dorm building and they met and became friends like, their first semester of college. Apparently, Rey actually slept in Jessika’s dorm about as much as her own during her first year of college.

 

Jason: Oh so they fell in love fast

 

Heather: No no, actually it was apparently a thing where Rey was trying to escape her roommate and so Jessika and her roommate would like Rey stay over a lot because the proverbial sock was on the door more often than it was off.

 

Jason: Oh, Jesus, now I feel even worse for Rey

 

Heather: Right!? [laughing] But, I doubt she minded in the long term because she and Jessika got together when they were juniors and dated all through their junior and into their senior year of college. Now, Poe and Finn also met when Finn was a freshman, but Poe was a few years older and ended up going to grad school there, too. They dated all four years that Finn was in school. 

 

Jason: Wow, lucky them

 

Heather: Yeah, it’s super romantic to meet at, say, orientation and then date all throughout college. 

 

Jason: It is. Why didn’t we do that? Oh, wait, we did! 

 

Heather: Oh right! 

 

Jason: so, were Rey and Jessika still together when Rey went missing?

 

Heather: No, actually. Apparently, they split up in, like, late January or early February of their senior year.

 

Jason: But, didn’t Rey go missing like, in the spring or summer?

 

Heather: Yeah, so they had an amicable break up about six weeks before Rey went missing. I mean, when Rey disappears, she is going through a lot of transition. She broke up with her long term girlfriend, her friends Finn and Poe are talking about marriage and where they might move because Poe was getting his master’s right as Finn was getting his bachelor’s, and Rey was about to graduate. And I mean literally, about to. She was supposed to graduate the first week of May and two months before graduation on the dot is when she goes missing. 

 

Jason: See, now I know she didn’t run away. No one would just leave it all behind so close to getting that paper.

 

Heather: Yeah. On March 10, 2012, Rey is having a perfectly normal Saturday. She gets up, goes to her job as a yoga instructor at this little place called Serenity Yoga. She does her two morning classes and everythings fine. She had Sunday off and then she had another class on Monday and a private class that was also on Monday. After that, she runs like, really normal errands from what we can tell. We have footage of her doing her grocery shopping- very normal day, no red flags at all. Nothing that makes anyone go, “oh, something bad is going to happen”

 

Jason: And that happens with a lot of these cases

 

Heather: Yeah, I’ve noticed it is either out of the clear blue or you see footage and unambiguously say, “oh, there’s trouble”. After running around town for a while, she texts Finn and asks if he and Poe want to go out for drinks and that is the last text she sends to anyone as far as we know.

 

Jason: Can’t her phone records confirm that?

 

Heather: They can, yeah, but this is also the last contact that Finn has with his best friend until Monday when he reports her missing

 

Jason: Wait, Monday? Didn’t you say she went missing Saturday night?

 

Heather: Yeah, we’ll get to that. Here’s some of the last of what we know 100% for sure: she’s home for a couple of hours and then she goes to a bar called The Gecko where she asked Finn and Poe to meet her. We definitely know she goes to the Gecko because we actually have her on the footage waiting for her friends. (Alright, and before I go any further: anyone who knows this case knows Poe. He’s a huge part of the True Crime Community since all of this happened. Both Jason and I have actually met him face-to-face and he’s really cool. This is not to disparage him. This is what happened he’s fine with people talking about it) but Poe and Finn don’t show up. They decide to stay home and stay in

 

Jason: Oh no 

 

Heather: Yeah

 

Jason: So they just ghost? No text, no nothing?

 

Heather: Nothing. They’re like “oh we’ll say sorry next time we see her. Whatever. It’ll be fine. They don’t realize that they won’t see Rey again because no one is going to see Rey again. 

 

Jason: That choice really ballooned into something bigger than anyone could have expected

 

Heather: Yeah, and you ask Poe about it- and people have- it haunts him. Haunts. Him. 

 

Jason: I bet

 

Heather: Rey hangs out at The Gecko by herself of like another hour or something and then she leaves and that’s it. 

 

Jason: She’s never seen again

 

Heather: Yeah. That’s really it. This is the last time Rey Niima is seen ever. This isn’t a ‘last time seen alive’ kind of case. This is the last time we have one confirmed sign of Rey Niima.

 

Jason: except for whoever took her and perhaps killed her

 

Heather: I personally don’t like to make assumptions I like to let you guys come to your own conclusion. I don’t like to stay what I think about the various theories and let you guys make up your mind. On the footage from the bar that Rey was at we have kind of an image of several young people walking past her throughout the night, but she kind of sticks close to the bar, which she was known to do. She wasn’t the kind of person to use hookup apps, which weren’t as common in 2012 as they as they are now. Like everyone uses Tinder these days.

 

Jason: Not me. 

 

Heather: Thanks babe, I appreciate that. 

 

Jason: I try

 

Heather: But even if she did use Tinder, Rey had just gotten out of a relationship with her girlfriend. She just wanted to go out and drink her sorrows away for a bit and then go home and that didn’t get to happen. On the security footage at The Gecko, we see some of her at the bar itself, but very little of her at one of the tables that she moved to. Their system was really build to keep people from stealing from the bar and it focused more on the bartenders and the patrons. We do see some of her, though, and although she did leave The Gecko on her own, there has been some speculation about how drunk she might have been because she does look hunched over a bit. There are theories that toss around, you know, "was she drugged?" "Was she perhaps more intoxicated than she thought?" "was her drink stronger than she thought?"

 

Jason: Well, what did she have?

 

Heather: We don't know. The bartenders don't remember what she got and she paid cash, so there's no way to really be sure. Her friends have said- and the police have said on the record- that they don't think she was super intoxicated unless something was put in her drink, so any physical symptoms that we see are more likely her emotions. 

 

Jason: I get that. She broke up with her girlfriend and was alone at a bar on a Saturday night, which is not a fun place to be

 

Heather: Yeah, which is probably why she leaves the bar fairly early. After that, there's nothing. They find her car still in The Gecko's parking lot a good, like, three days later. 

 

Jason: Right, so now we're back to "why didn't anyone notice she was missing earlier?"

 

Heather: No one noticed she was missing on Sunday because Sunday was her day that she’d stay home, read, meditate, and catch up on homework so people didn’t think to bother her. She didn’t go to brunch, run errands, or do anything really. That was her day to unplug and it just so happened that that was the day she went missing was a Saturday.

 

Jason: [groaning] so no one looked for her during um during Sunday. 

 

Heather: Yeah. No one thought anything was weird until Monday when she didn’t show up for that private yoga session. That's when people started asking questions. From there, her friends call her and call her and call her and everything is going to voicemail. No one can find her and no one hears from her. At that point, Finn and Poe file a missing person’s report. The police, thank God, respond right away and interview people and look for her at The Gecko. When they get there, they find her Beatle and it’s untouched. 

 

Jason: Like, “there’s no evidence untouched” or “she didn’t even get to her car untouched”.

 

Heather: “She didn’t even make it to her car”. And when she left, it wasn’t super late. There were people coming and going, but no one noticed anything. She doesn’t show up on any security footage from the other cameras in the shopping center where the Gecko was.

 

Jason: How did she not show up on The Gecko’s security cameras?

 

Heather: Well, the bar’s security camera had actually broken a couple of weeks  before 

 

Jason: No way!

 

Heather: and they hadn’t gotten around to replacing them. Things were tight and they didn’t think anyone would notice. They didn’t think it would be a big deal.

 

Jason: Tell me they faced some consequences for that.

 

Heather: Rey’s friends said they actually considered pursuing a case against the bar, but decided against it because they wanted all of the attention to go to finding Rey. After she left the bar, basically all we have confirmed is Rey Niima leaves a bar and somewhere between the bar's front door and the far end of the parking lot, which is only like three rows of parking spaces long. 

 

Jason: And that’s the only thing they found? Her car?

 

Heather: The only things that were left behind were her car and her shoes.

 

Jason: Her shoes?

 

Heather: Yeah she was wearing a pair of wedge heels and either they fall off, were kicked off, or were thrown off-

 

Jason: Or maybe she kicked them off to run-

 

Heather: Or that, but either way, they were in the parking lot when the police got there. One of them actually rolled under the car that belonged to the owner of The Gecko and it was still there three days later because the owner fo the bar actually lived behind it, so the shoe was protected from the elements until the police got there.

 

Jason: That’s a relief. Did they find any evidence on them?

 

Heather: Yes and no. I know they have pulled there was a little bit of blood on the back of the shoe, like on the back of the shoe like where your Achilles tendon touches the shoe, but the police sure where it came from. Was this from when they came off or did she just have the beginnings of a blister? 

 

Jason: Oh I hadn’t thought of that. 

 

Heather: Yeah, but the shoes do say that we can be certain she was taken under duress. Rey didn’t use Uber and there wasn’t a bus she could have taken and there was no way she could have walked anywhere barefoot, so she got into a car of some kind, somehow. Her friends are convinced that, no matter how drunk she may or may not have been, she would never have left her shoes behind. Rey didn’t grow up with a lot and those shoes were the nicest ones that she owned. 

 

Jason: So the police definitely think of this as a crime and not some kind of runaway situation?

 

Heather: Definitely. You know, adults are allowed to walk away from their lives, but with her shoes being left like that, the police are sure that something happened. The question is really: is this a kidnapping or a kidnapping and murder? No one is sure. Besides the shoes and the car, that’s really it. This is the last time Rey Niima is seen ever. This isn’t a ‘last time seen alive’ kind of case. This is the last time we have one confirmed sign of Rey Niima.

 

Jason: except for whoever took her and perhaps killed her.

 

Heather: I personally don’t like to make assumptions I like to let you guys come to your own conclusion. I don’t like to stay what I think about the various theories and let you guys make up your mind. 

 

Jason: Okay, so I know that you said some people think it's Unkar Plutt.

 

Heather: Yeah, some people think it's Plutt. There’s also the Mysterious Red Truck that left the shopping center around the time that Rey went missing, but we don’t know who it is or who was driving it. 

 

Jason: They haven’t been able to track the license plate?

 

Heather: The truck didn’t have any license plates that we could see on the footage. 

 

Jason: Wait, wouldn’t that get you pulled over?

 

Heather: Yeah, that’s what I thought, too, but it got away clear. So either it didn’t have any license plates and no one noticed or it had a way to hide them on the footage. It just kind of disappears onto the highway and is never seen again. So there’s a question of “is this a local who removed their plates and got away with it” or “is this someone who modified their plates somehow”. Either way, we don’t know, even though there’s still a BOLO for that kind of truck

 

Jason: Wait, four years later that BOLO is still active?

 

Heather: Yeah. Rey’s case is still considered an active one and the police are still looking for that truck because either it was involved or you have a vehicle out there that can hide in plain sight, which is what some people think happened.

 

Jason: Okay, wow. So, we have the Unkar Plutt theory, that he came and took her and, I guess killed her? And the mysterious red truck theory… 

 

Heather: There is a new theory- well, not a new theory, but more like a theory seriously put forward by one person on Reddit- that has to do with a serial killer. Now, there’s always a lot of “what if it was a serial killer” online, but there is an unknown serial killer and kidnapper that’s linked to serial deaths or disappearances across the country. The big link is the shoe thing. All of the women were found either without shoes, their shoes were left at the scene, or they were taken while not wearing shoes. 

 

Jason: So people think it’s this Shoe Serial Killer

 

Heather: Well, for a long time, there wasn’t, but that gets back to our Big News. Last week, Detective Anderson from the Boulder Police Department made an announcement that there was a new lead that happened to tie this case with a case that was part of the Shoe Serial Killer list, but it doesn’t actually have anything to do with the killer themselves, we think. Anderson said that there’s been a link made between Rey’s case and the case of Paige Tico. 

Paige Tico was a lawyer from Dallas, Texas, but her sister Rose actually lives in Boulder. That matters because the case was found, not be police, but by Rose and Finn. They met at a support group for friends and family of missing people and ended up getting together. They were comparing notes and noticed a man in his 50s, who people on the internet have nicknames The Creepy Old Guy, in both bars. 

 

Jason: but couldn’t that just be a coincidence?

 

Heather: It could, but these bars are both really meant for young people and he was there on a Friday and Saturday night on the same day that two women went missing and no one knows who he is. He’s not a regular at either place.

 

Jason: Oh…

 

Heather: Yeah. So, there’s been some comments recently of people saying, “why wouldn’t anyone connect these cases”, but it would have been almost impossible to connect them without the Creepy Old Guy. Except for the fact that Rey and Paige are women who were last seen at a bar, there is nothing to connect their cases except for the Creepy Old Guy. Paige was out of school and a lawyer. The bar she went to was for professionals, while The Gecko was really for college kids. On top of that, they were in two different states several hundred miles apart. 

 

Jason: So without Finn and Rose…

 

Heather: If Rose and Finn had not met, I doubt their cases EVER would have been connected. 

 

Jason: So what do we know about Paige?

 

Heather: Paige was born on February 17, 1985, so she was a couple of years older than Rey. She was born to Vietnamese parents, was a practicing Buddhist, and she went to college at Brown and then law school at Texas State. From there, she started working at a law firm in Dallas. She was working there for a couple of years doing property law stuff and then she goes missing in May of 2013. 

 

Jason: So even though their cases weren’t linked until 2016, they went missing a year apart? 

 

Heather: Yeah and it gets weirder. Rey was taken March 10, 2012, and Paige was taken May 10, 2013. We don’t know if the 10 is a coincidence or part of the kidnapper’s M.O., but it is kind of bizarre. 

 

Jason: did they have anything in common besides that?

 

Heather: Not really. Paige was Vietnamese and a professional, while Rey was a white college student. They didn’t even look alike, so it’s not like they match a victim profile, either. I can’t tell you how insane this break is. Detective Anderson admitted that if it hadn’t been for Finn, Rose, and Poe, they likely never would have formally linked the cases just because they were so different. 

 

Jason: So, do you think they were taken and murdered by whoever this old guy was?

 

Heather: That is a real possibility, unfortunately. I mean, the early days of an investigation can really make or break someone’s chances of survival. Now, I don’t want to give up hope. People have been found years or decades later. There is Jaycee Dugard, for example, who was found after eighteen years, so there is a chance that Rey and Paige are out there somewhere. We just won’t know for sure until we know for sure. 

 

Jason: Yeah, so, if you to our Instagram @coffeeandcrimepodcast, you can see the pictures of this guy both from the security camera footage and a couple of artist sketches on what he might look like in real life. 

 

Heather: Please check this out, especially you live in Texas, Colorado, or one of the nearby states. Law enforcement theorizes that he has some kind of job that lets him travel, but he probably lives somewhere nearby. If you know of a man in his 50s who matches the descriptions on our Instagram and drove a red truck in 2012, please leave a tip somewhere. You can call the police or contact your local Crime Stoppers, but you can play a part in bringing about justice for Rey and Paige. 

And remember: Sometimes justice is just having answers and that’s okay.  

Keep paying attention. Keep looking. Every break is a step forward. Every time we put a face and a name to these people, we take away some of the power. Whoever took Paige and Rey had the power to hurt people and get away with it. People like that just fade away, but we’ve got them now. When we quantify them, they’re no longer mysterious and untouchable. For some victims, that’s all we can hope for and that’s okay. So I want everyone to keep paying attention. Keep looking and send thoughts and prayers to both Paige and Rey’s friends and family. 

 

Jason: And please call in ANY tip, no matter how crazy it might sound.

 

Heather: Oh, definitely. And lastly, to Rey and Paige: if you’re out there, know that we’re looking for you. We hope that you are safe and will be found, but, know that you haven’t been forgotten. People are looking for you and praying for you and we’ll find you. Stay strong, wherever you are. 

 

Jason: God bless, you guys. And any other victims that we don’t know about. 

 

Heather: Yeah, God bless. We’ll see you next week on Coffee and Crime. 

Chapter Text

 

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Ben asked softly.

"If I am going to risk my life, I want to know what's going on with my son," Rey said, nodding. She looked down at Noah, who was babbling excitedly at his father, who smiled tightly at him.

"How do you want to do this, then?" Ben asked.

"I'll hold him facing me and you can try to make voice where he can't see," Rey said, trying to remember when she'd had her hearing tested with everyone else in her grade when she was ten, "and we'll hope that he reacts. Just make sure to stay behind him and out of his peripheral vision."

"Okay," Ben said. He leaned forward and did something that surprised Rey: he cupped her face and kissed her solidly on the mouth, one hand under her chin. Rey blinked rapidly, the kiss throwing her off-balance, "what?" she asked.

"Whatever we have to figure out, know that I don't blame you, either for this happening or for how long it took us to notice," Ben said, his hand still on her face.

"I-"

"I've seen it in your face since you brought it up," Ben said, still meeting her eyes unflinchingly.

"Okay," Rey whispered.

Ben nodded, leaning back on his knees.

Rey held Noah in her lap, getting his attention by wiggling her fingers in front of her face. Noah smiled, his dark eyes wide. Ben kneeled down and snapped his fingers a foot away from Noah’s ears, first one and then the other. He didn’t even blink. Rey forced herself to continue smiling.

Ben snapped his fingers an inch from Noah’s left ear.

Noah giggled, lifting one hand towards Rey's face. Rey smiled, even as tears welled in her eyes. He didn't even turn towards Ben at all. She leaned over her son, letting her hands slide up Noah's back to his smooth, still-hairless head. She pressed kisses to Noah's head, "I love you, baby," she murmured, humming the words against his skin, making sure he could feel the vibrations of her words hummed against his skin.

Noah giggled, unaware of what she was saying.

Rey heard a quiet choking noise from Ben and leaned back to look up at him.

Ben paced back and forth, a hand over his eyes, taking deep shuddering breaths to calm himself.

"Ben," Rey whispered. Ben wordlessly scooped Noah up into his arms. He pressed his lips to Noah’s head, murmuring into his hair. Rey couldn’t tell whether it was Yiddish or Hebrew, but she knew that he still remembered some of both. He only ever used it with the boys, although she’d woken to him whispering to her in what she thought was Hebrew. If she was a braver woman, she would have asked him what it was. Knowing what she did about religion, albeit Christianity, she’d assumed it was a Psalm. She’d just laid still and silent, letting his words roll over her.

"We act tomorrow," Rey said clearly.

"Yes," Ben said, nodding. He held Noah against his chest and sat on the bed, "you should write. I haven't done basically any since I was 12."

"Okay," Rey said, "did you manage to steal paper?"

"Yeah, it's in the closet," Ben said, nodding towards the door and sitting back on the pillows and rubbing Noah's back. Rey got up and opened the door and found the scraps of paper tucked into the doorframe. She walked over to their bed, kneeled down next to the bedside table, then grabbed the BIC pen that they used to track Rey's periods which was kept tucked, taped, or wedged under her bedside table or Ben's dresser.

"What do you want to say?" Rey asked.

"I don't care," Ben said, looking down at Noah.

"Ben..." Rey said. She stood up and walked over to him. She sat in front of him, touching his arm, "are you alright?"

"I wanted him to be okay," Ben whispered, his face twisting as he rubbed Noah's back.

"He is okay," Rey said, "and when we get him out of here, he'll be more than okay. Even if he's a hundred percent deaf, he'll be okay. You know why?"

"Why?" Ben asked thickly. He blinked rapidly, a stray tear running down his cheek.

Rey took one of Ben's hands in both of her own, "because you're his dad. Whatever happens, he's got you."

"He's asleep," Ben murmured, not responding to her.

"Why don't you go put him down?" Rey whispered.

Ben nodded, then walked to the boys' room. Rey watched him go, then turned to the ten pieces of paper that Ben had somehow managed to steal. She leaned over the papers, writing 'Call FBI. Rey Niima Ben Solo Paige Tico in Montana. Taken by Snoke. Please help. More unknown victims'. She made sure to write the message several more times on each paper, just in case water destroyed part of the message. Several minutes later, she heard the door open and close and looked up to see Ben leaning against the doorframe.

"He asleep?" Rey asked, finishing the last of the messages for the bottles.

"The whole house is asleep," Ben said.

"Good," Rey said, nodding. She turned her attention to the smallest scrap of paper, which she would bring into Snoke's office tomorrow, "So, I'm stealing three envelopes and I'll copy down an address onto this one," she wiggled the smallest piece of paper.

Ben rubbed his palms together, leaning against the doorframe, "yeah, okay."

"Ben?" Rey asked quietly.

"S-so we sneak out tomorrow morning and put the bottles in the river?" Ben asked.

Rey stood up and walked over to him, "Ben, what's wrong?"

Ben swallowed, "I just- what if everyone hates me when I get out? I've done terrible things."

Rey stepped forward and wrapped her arms around his waist, "Ben, you're not a monster. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to get out and find your parents."

"My parents won’t be looking for me," Ben mumbled.

Rey pulled her head back, "Ben, you can't believe that!"

Ben pulled away from her, rubbing the back of his neck, "I was only ever in the way. They were probably glad I was gone. They were never around, never wanted me."
"I-" Rey began, unable to form a coherent thought.

"If there was a legal way for them to get rid of me, they would have. They were practically going to! Ship me off to Uncle Luke and they'd be free. Snoke just beat them to it."

"When were you born?" Rey blurted.

Ben blinked, looking over at her, "what?"

"What year were you born in?" Rey said slowly. She'd immediately regretted asking the question until she remembered how little Ben knew about anything in the world. He probably thought his mother had only kept him because she'd been forced to. How could he think anything else, when he only knew about Phasma and herself? It was like he lived in some half-accurate historical film, where men's and women's worlds were kept separate and secret.

"1984, why?" Ben said, frowning.

"In 1984, women didn’t have to have babies they didn’t want," Rey said.

"What are you talking about?" Ben asked. He looked more confused than she'd seen him in a long time. It was like trying to explain Twitter all over again.
Rey took a deep breath and forced herself to continue. She'd started down this path and she needed to finish it, "there- there’s a procedure you can have that ends a pregnancy. You can- well, a doctor can- induce a miscarriage, basically."

"Who would want that?" Ben asked. Rey nearly flinched at his words, but his tone was so earnestly confused that she knew that it was an honest question.

Rey forced herself to keep her voice gentle and neutral. This wasn't some DudeBro who was willfully ignorant about the nuances of pregnancy and birth. This was Ben, who'd been kept in the dark about even something as basic as consent: "Women who can’t afford to raise a baby. The parents of a fetus that has no chance of living. Addicts who were using before they knew they were pregnant. Rape victims. Anyone that doesn’t want to be pregnant."

Ben sat down on the bed, nodding slowly now, "okay, okay... I hadn't thought about that." He stared off into space, clearly processing the possibilities. She let him, knowing this would be a lot. She'd spent just as much time trying to explain the election of George W. Bush, who'd Ben had apparently met once and couldn't believe was President, much less for two terms. Finally, Ben looked at her, "how do you know all of this?"

"Well..." The question wasn't totally unexpected. Ben seemed to be just as fascinated by learning as he was by knowledge in general, which Rey couldn't blame him for, "I was taught about it in school, but I've also- had- one." The words were wrenched from her, but she felt a vicious need to make him understand.

"You..." Ben trailed off, his eyes fixed on her face.

"Yeah," Rey said. Her voice was suddenly thick, but she cleared her throat and continued, "I was sixteen. I wasn't careful and I couldn't do anything else. My foster dad was horrible. I had to work crazy hours, do lots of physical labor outside in West Texas, and there was never enough food."

"You told me about that before, but you never said you'd been pregnant," Ben said, his eyes wide.

"I don't like to talk about it," Rey said, "I- I don't blame anyone that's had one, but it wasn't an easy decision for me. Well... it was simple, but it wasn't easy."

"Rey, I- I had no idea," Ben said. His shoulders fell, but his face was twisted with a mix of pity and grief, not judgment.

"I wanted my baby, but I knew Plutt might just kill us or throw me out, which would be as good as killing me," Rey said. She hadn't said those words aloud to anyone but Finn before. He'd driven her to the appointment and found an excuse for her to stay at his house. His foster parents had probably known, but they'd also decided not to interfere. They'd probably thought the baby was Finn's and knew Rey wouldn't accept money from them, so sleeping in their guest room was the least they could do.

"I’m sorry, Rey," Ben said. His voice cracked, but he cleared it and said, "I- I’m glad you had a way out."

Rey nodded, smiling despite herself at the way he honestly tried to be understanding. He'd come so far in the past four years. "Your mom did, too, if she wanted it," Rey said gently.

Ben's ears turned scarlet as he looked down at his lap, "I-"

Rey touched his face and made him look at her, "your mom didn’t have to have you. She didn’t have to keep you. She chose to finish law school and start a career the hard way. Why would she do that?."

"Because she never backed down from a-"

"Ben!" Rey said firmly.

"She loved me. She wanted me," Ben said weakly. After a moment, he whispered, "how could she have loved me? I ruined her life."

"Do you resent our sons?" Rey asked.

Ben looked sharply into her eyes.

"You are a blessing. You're a blessing to her as much as our sons are a blessing to us," Rey brushed her fingers through his hair. Ben wrapped his arms around her waist, leaning forward to rest his forehead against her bump. She rubbed his back, letting him find solace in her. Rey closed her eyes and whispered, "you are a blessing." She said again.

 

Rey looked up into Ben's face as he finished pulling on his coat. She leaned against the door, closing her eyes for a second at the sound of the stolen bottles clinking together.

"This is going to be so dangerous," Ben muttered.

"Tell me about it," Rey whispered, "but we're doing this for Susannah and for our kids."

Ben cleared his throat, "and for Paige."

Rey opened her eyes and looked into his face, "yes, and for Paige." She stood on her toes and kissed him lightly, reveling in having a partner. She couldn't imagine what her life would be like if she didn't have someone else keeping her sane and giving her someone to talk to. Would she have even survived this long if she'd been given to Tage instead of Ben?

"Come on," Ben murmured against her mouth, "it's time to go."

Rey passed Ben the bag carefully, looking down the staircase to make sure the coast was clear. She looked over her shoulder and nodded. Ben crept along beside her, touching her arm as he passed her and walked slowly downstairs. Ben held the bag close to his chest, keeping the glasses from clinking against each other. Rey held the door open, looking over her shoulder for the others, but saw no one.

Rey hurried out after Ben and immediately hissed, “oh, fuck, it’s cold.”

Ben snorted, “let’s go.” He pulled his coat closer around him, guarding the bottles tightly and stomped through the frosty grass into the forest.

“When can we turn on the flashlight?” Rey mumbled, hurrying after him. She glanced over her shoulder to look for any lights in the farmhouse but saw none.

“A little while longer,” Ben promised.

Rey muttered under her breath as they walked through the woods.

“It’s a little way on the right, not on the way to the meadow if that makes sense,” Ben said pointing along the path they’d ridden along to get the meadow.

“I still dream about that ride,” Rey admitted. She blinked when Ben suddenly turned on the flashlight.

“I’m glad you loved it,” Ben said, “it was the least I could do.”

Rey climbed up a bit up one of the old embankments along the path, taking the bag as Ben climbed after her. He led the way down the ridge towards something that glinted strangely in the light of the flashlight.

“Here,” Ben said, kneeling down on the frost-covered grass by the river, “put the notes in the bottles when I break the ice.”

Ben drew out one of Phasma’s knife sharpeners and stabbed the ice. He broke up a small hole in the ice. He accepted one of the bottles, dipping it in a bit so that it wouldn’t shatter. Once it was cool, he let it go.

Rey held her breath as Ben put the other three down the river. Rey grabbed Ben’s arm, resting her cheek against Ben’s shirt and closed her eyes. Rey sighed in a mix of relief and worry, her breath misting in front of her.

Ben’s lips moved as they set watching the water rushed under the ice.

“What are you praying for?” Rey whispered.

“A miracle,” Ben admitted.

"What’s the Shema? I've never heard it," Rey admitted.

“'Hear, O’ Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One'." Ben quoted.

"That's it?" Rey asked, making sure not to sound disappointed or judgemental. Ben had managed to hold onto Hebrew, Yiddish, and Judaism for twenty years. She'd been adult with half her shit together when she was taken and she wasn't doing that well.

Ben chuckled, straightening his back and standing up, "no, it’s longer, but that is the part I just said."

"Oh," Rey said, "in the system, they only ever really told me the Lord's prayer."

"What are the words?" Ben asked, holding out his hand and helping her to her feet.

"You don't know it?" Rey asked incredulously.

"In case I haven't mentioned it: I am a Jew," Ben said, gesturing to himself. Rey laughed, shaking her head and picking up the flashlight as they climbed back over the ridge to the path.

"So, does that mean you’re Christian?" Ben asked, keeping his voice low as they walked back toward the house.

"No," Rey said, shaking her head, "but Christianity, especially Catholicism, is all over foster care."

Ben nodded, "Oh. The only thing that I remember is being jealous of Christmas. They had way better gifts that I got for Hannukah."

Rey pressed her lips together, "I always got donated gifts. Like, one thing a year, from the various drives. I'll say this though, If I hadn't been so gay, I probably would have stuck with it. I think if Jesus was alive today I'd like him."

"Really?" Ben asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah. He's a Jewish socialist who literally told men to gouge out their eyes instead of ogling women," Rey said.

Ben's footsteps suddenly skidded next to her. He turned sharply and leaned closer to her, "wait, Jesus was Jewish?"

"Yeah," Rey said, her eyebrows disappearing into her hair, "the Last Supper was Passover."

"I really wish I had any idea what you're talking about," Ben whispered, brushing a hand through his hair. He groaned, "I so wish I had any idea what you're talking about."

Rey turned off the flashlight and took his hand, "we'll Google all of it when we get out."

 

Rey closed the office door and leaned against it, only allowing herself a moment to breathe before she started searching the desk. The men were back, but Snoke had wanted to spend some time with the yearlings, so she knew everyone was either outside or upstairs. She had a few minutes, but only a few. Ben had found some pretext to be in the living room, so she did have a lookout, albeit one that had to be subtle. If she missed his sign, she'd ordered him- fucking forced him to leave her to her fate. She'd either talk her way out, fight her way out, or die, but Ben would be there for her kids whatever happened.

Rey looked around the small room, seeing an L-shaped desk, a filing cabinet, an armoire of some kind and then three walls of floor to ceiling bookshelves. Every last space was filled with a book. Snoke, who forbade any reading unless it was a Farmer's Almanac or a planting guide had a copy of Moby Dick on his shelf. Rey could hate him for so many things, but denying the children an education while he hoarded knowledge and culture in this tiny little hypocrisy shed made her blood boil. Forcing herself not to just find Snoke and beat him to death with a copy of the largest book she could find, Rey rushed to his desk. She pulled open several drawers, revealing stationary, pens, and other office supplies. The filing cabinet in the back was full of folders. Rey grabbed one at random and was confronted by a photo of Paige.

Her heart leaped into her throat at the sight of the woman. This photo, clearly taken while Paige was at a lunch meeting or something, froze her in place. Paige had been stalked. She had lived her life for who knew how long before Snoke had taken her. Had Paige seen Snoke or some other Order member and not known? Had she done something tiny to seal her fate without even realizing it? Was there a file on Rey, too? Was there a file on other people who hadn't been taken yet?

How many people were being spied upon right now?

MOVE! Paige’s voice roared in her head. Rey dropped the file back in its place and found a file labeled “Bills- To Be Paid”. Rey grabbed one of the unopened envelopes.

200 Country Road 14 Rickards, Montana

Rickards, Montana

Rey looked around, shutting the file cabinet and opening the office drawer. She looked around and noticed a stack of envelopes. She grabbed several of them, stuffing it down her shirt.

Rey heard a noise outside, her heart leaping into her throat as she stared, horror-struck, at the door. She dove for the area behind the desk.

“Father!” Jesse’s hurried and clumsy steps gave him away.

“Yes, my boy?” Snoke asked, his hand on the doorway, blocking Jesse’s view.

“Are you going to see the horses or do we have to wait?” Jesse asked timidly.

Rey closed her eyes, her heart thundering in her ears.

If he sees you, kill him, Paige’s voice said, her words echoing inside Rey’s skull for the first time in four years, If you can’t make it out of here alive, you make sure that motherfucker can’t touch your babies again.

But if you go at him, you don’t stop until you see brain, you hear me? “If you come at the king, you best not miss. Paige said clearly.

Rey nodded, suddenly so grateful that she’d had even a few weeks with that fierce tigress. If she hadn’t seen someone give the finger to the person shooting at them, she wouldn’t have understood what true fearlessness was.

Snoke closed the door, lifting Jesse up judging by the soft grunt of effort and said, “ah, yes, that’s right. Come along, Roland.”

Rey pressed a hand to her mouth to hold back a sob of relief. She turned her head and saw something that made her believe in God again.

A laptop.

A fucking laptop.

Rey grabbed it and opened it to find it unlocked. She almost cried with delight as she opened Internet Explorer and selected ‘New Incognito Tab’, thanking Finn for mentioning that trick years ago. She logged into her old email and saw the first unanswered email she recognized

Poe Dameron - poedameron6@gmail.com --- Re: Hey, we need to talk about the…

Rey selected it, hit reply, and hurriedly typed:

Poe. This is Rey. Peanut. Richards Montana. Snoke. Farm. Find me.

Rey heard the door open again as she hit ‘send’ and her head snapped up. She turned off the laptop, even though it was still in her hands. She was still fucked.

Ben stuck his head in through the door, his eyes wide, “go now.”

“Okay,” Rey scrambled to her feet, putting the laptop away and rushing over to him. When she got to him, she heard a noise down the hallway that snapped their head up.

“Oh God,” Ben said, his eyes wide.

Rey looked around and spotted a closet door next to them, “Here,” she said. She dived into the closet, pulling Ben behind her. She wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her cheek against his chest. She sighed relief flooding through her. She trembled as Ben wrapped her arms around her and rubbed her back. Ben sighed, “you found it?”

“Rickards, Montana,” Rey whispered.

The door suddenly opened behind them, making them both jump apart.

“Uh,you okay?” Lyra said something, eyes wide.

“We’re hiding from our kids,” Rey blurted. She was so grateful that she’d been born with a natural ability to bullshit.

“Um, Roland went out with Father, but I can take Albert if he wakes up,” Lyra said slowly.

“You’re amazing,” Rey said, beaming. She blushed as Lyra slowly shut the door on them, smirking a little.

Rey looked up at Ben’s face, which was only lit by one small sliver of light. Ben giggled and leaned forward to kiss her fiercely, cupping her face in his hands, “you are a goddamned fucking genius,” he murmured against her mouth.

“We did it,” Rey murmured.

“We. Did. It,” Ben said.

“We have three letters, four bottles, and one email. Hopefully at least one went through,” Rey said.

“Yeah,” Ben said, nodding.

Chapter Text

Rey resisted the urge to chew her lip as she stood in front of the mirror to look over her appearance one last time before Finn came to get her. Marissa, her makeup artist, had set her lipstick with powder in a way that Rey didn’t understand but appreciated. Her makeup looked perfect, but she still looked like herself. She’d been to other weddings where the brides didn’t seem quite like themselves, but she did.

“You ready?” Hayden, the photographer put his head in the doorway.

“Yeah,” Rey said. She looked over her shoulder at herself one last time. She was going to photograph Finn’s reaction of her in the dress before the ceremony began since he was the closest thing to family that she had.

Rey opened the door, but Hayden wasn’t there. Rey blinked and looked over her shoulder, but the door into the spacious room she’d been getting ready in had vanished. The only thing she saw was dingey white walls that had turned gray with age and wear. Rey looked down and her heart lurched at the sharp contrast between her pristine white dress and the filthy and stained carpet underneath her. She crept forward, trying to make sure she didn’t step on anything or make any noise.

Plutt didn’t usually leave bottles lying on the ground, but just her luck, she’d trip over one. If it broke, there would be glass in the carpet and she’d be living in a minefield. She’d be hurt if she stepped on the glass, but she’d also be hurt if Plutt stepped on the glass. She walked quickly to her bedroom door, trying to get to the room with the lock, the one that was her safe haven.

“GIRL!”

Unkar’s furious voice shook the whole house. Rey broke into a run, but the world slowed. She looked over her shoulder to see how close Unkar was. When she did, she slammed into something. Rey landed on her knees from the force of the collision. She looked up into Finn’s familiar face.

“Finn! Oh my god, you have to help me!” Rey said. She grabbed for Finn’s hand, but he just stared down at her. His face was impassive and cold. Her heart seemed to vanish at his expression. He looked absolutely disgusted.

“Finn, wh-”

“How could you?” Finn said, shaking his head, “you gave up. You surrendered.”

“Finn, no!” Rey blurted. He didn’t understand. He didn’t know what it was like under Snoke’s thumb. The choices she’d had to make were impossible, but she’d done it. She’d survived. Her boys were alive and healthy and safe.

“I can’t even look at you,” Finn said. He turned away just as Plutt’s sweaty hand grabbed ahold of her braid. Rey screamed as Unkar dragged her away from Finn by the hair. Her best friend, the man that she loved and trusted more than anyone else, was suddenly a million miles away, had let Plutt take her.

Rey landed in a chair suddenly. She looked around wildly, looking for Plutt. She didn’t see him. She wasn’t in his house anymore. Instead, she was in the farmhouse that Snoke owned.

“Did you fall asleep, my love?” Ben said behind her.

“Yeah, I must have,” Rey said. She looked over her shoulder and screamed.

Ben looked at her with concern. He stepped forward, his wrinkled hands covering hers, “are you alright, Kira? What’s wrong?”

Over Ben’s shoulder, when Rey finally looked past his wrinkled and gray-haired appearance, she saw a group of people she immediately recognized. Ben seemed to fade away as she drew closer. Susannah’s blonde hair was streaking with gray, as were Joanna and Isaac’s. Their adult children lingered behind them along with their unknown spouses. When Rey tried to focus on them, their faces seemed to fade and shift to the point where she couldn’t make anything out.

“Mama?”

Rey’s head snapped around to see Jesse, a grown man with his own kids, stepped forward and put a hand on her arm.

“Mama, everything’s fine,” another man, one she both didn’t recognize and knew was her unborn third child, stepped close to her with a concerned expression.

“Where’s Noah?” Rey pleaded.

“Who’s Noah?” Jesse asked, frowning.

“Your bro- Albert, your little brother. Where is he?” Rey insisted.

Jesse and his brother exchanged a look, “Mama… you only have two children,” he finally said.

“No,” Rey said, stepping away. She looked around, desperately looking for her baby. Her baby, Noah, needed her. She couldn’t find him, but she had to. He had to be okay.

He had to.

Suddenly, the spouses of her children and Phasma’s children seemed to solidify. Their expressions were all wide-eyed and terrified.

They’d been taken, but not by Snoke.

By Ben.

By her.

 

Cold water blasted Rey into terrified consciousness. She gasped, trembling as she looked around for the source of the water. Gulping back tears, she looked up at the showerhead.

“Thank god,” Ben said from near the sink.

“Wha’appen?” Rey asked blearily.

“You wouldn’t wake up,” Ben said, rubbing his jaw as Rey reached up to turned the water to a warmer temperature.

Rey stood up slowly, looking over at Ben and frowned, “why were you waking me up?”

“You were- you were crying in your sleep. You kept rolling over and crying and you even kind of screamed a little. I tried to shake you awake, but you wouldn’t get up,” Ben said. He walked over to the open side of the shower, looking down at Rey’s face carefully.

“I hope I didn’t hit you,” Rey said softly.

“You didn’t,” Ben promised. He reached over to turn off the water and then pulled her into his arms, “are you alright?” He murmured.

Rey took a deep breath, “it was so horrible.”

“Yeah?” Ben asked softly. He looked down at her, his hands on her shoulders, “come on, let’s get you into some warm and dry clothes and then we can talk about it.”

Rey nodded sleepily. She brushed her wet hair out of her face and grimaced. She usually let it down at night, but the water and being carried had left it tangled and messy. She sighed, shaking her head.

“You okay?” Ben asked, his fingers brushing up and down her arm. This wasn’t the first nightmare she’d had since they’d broken into Snoke’s office. It had been three weeks since they’d reached out for help and still, they’d heard nothing.

“Yeah, I just need to brush out my hair again,” Rey said. It was so long now that, during the day, she often had to pin her braids around her head just to keep from sitting on it. Phasma’s hair was as long as hers, but Rey thought Snoke let her cut it periodically so that she didn’t trip and die.

It didn’t help that it seemed to grow extra long and think whenever she was pregnant.

“I’ll do it,” Ben said gently. He grabbed the comb from their bathroom drawer before she could and sat on his side of the bed.

“No, it takes forever,” Rey said, “you don’t have to do that.”

“Let me,” Ben said, his dark eyes drilling into her. It was like trying to argue with a tree sometimes.

Rey sighed. The corner of her mouth lifted as she grabbed her towel. Squeezing her hair between her hands, rubbing the towel along the entire length. She peeled her nightgown off and tossed it over the bar of the shower curtain to try out. She hurried over to her dresser to pull on a dry nightgown. She pursed her lips, still cold.

“It’s technically spring, right? But I’m still so cold,” Rey muttered.

“Spring starts in like three weeks, if that makes you feel better,” Ben said, smirking at her pout.

“I’m stealing pants from you,” Rey said. She grabbed a pair of drawstring flannel pants and pulled them on. Shivering, Rey crawled under the covers, burrowing into Ben’s pillow.

“You done?” Ben asked, his eyebrows raised.

“It’s cold,” Rey said, “I’m from the desert. I don’t like it.”

“Come here,” Ben said. He slid his legs under the covers so when she sat between his extended legs, she was still under their sheets and quilts. Rey huffed and crawled over to sit in front of Ben and let him comb her hair out.

“How are you holding up?” Ben murmured.

“I’m doing amazing,” Rey said, rolling her eyes. She thought back to the letters that they’d sent out three weeks ago. At the longest, they should have reached their destination by now. Why hadn’t someone called for help? Why were they still here?

Maybe they thought you were a prank, that ever-present negative voice said in her mind.

No, not the letters to Poe or the Pavas Rey thought. She closed her eyes, panic rolling over her before she could stop it. Rey took a deep breath. She had to remain hopeful. If she lost hope, they’d be lost.

“Rey?” Ben whispered, working his way up from the ends of her hair to the middle of her back.

“Yeah?” Rey asked. She blinked rapidly, making sure she didn’t just start crying. This baby was definately making her more emotional than Jesse or Noah had.

“It will be alright,” Ben said gently.

Rey nodded, pressing her lips together. She covered her eyes, curling up to lean into them. She knew that she shouldn’t be crying, but a mountain of worries suddenly pressed down on her.

Stop crying, oh my god, Rey thought. She somehow managed to sob and mentally yell at herself for crying. She was a grown ass woman crying over a nightmare.

“Rey,” Ben said. He suddenly pulled her into his arms. Her head landed on his chest and she focused on the slow rise and fall under her ear. She closed her eyes and rested her palm over his heart.

Rey wrapped her arms around Ben, resting her head on his chest. She closed her eyes, then whispered, “why aren’ t they coming yet?”

“I don’t know,” Ben said.

“They have to come. What are we going to do if they don’t?” Rey asked. She swallowed thickly, tears running down her face still. She wiped her cheeks, “I am so sorry that I can’t stop crying.”

“It’s alright,” Ben said, chuckling, “I mean, it’s kind of funny.”

“How on earth is this funny?” Rey asked, leaning back to look into his face.

Ben looked into her face with an expression of such tenderness that Rey felt her heart stutter to a stop. His dark eyes were so warm as he said, “you’re usually so put together and on top of everything. Even now, I know your head is fine, but it’s… it’s nice to be needed.”

“You’re always needed,” Rey said, sighing. She scooted back to face him better, pulling her knees to her chin. Ben continued to toy with the very ends of her hair, which was now long enough that he could do that.

“There’s a difference between being needed by the boys and being needed by you,” Ben said.

“I still need you, too. Who else is going to get things off the top of the cabinets?” Rey asked.

Ben smiled, too. He shook his head and gestured for her to turn around. Rey settled back into place, closing her eyes. Ben slowly split her hair into three sections and braided it slowly into place. Rey sighed as Ben reached up, rubbing at a knot in her neck. She moaned, tilting her head up to give him better access. Ben leaned forward and pressed a kiss behind her ear as he tied her braid.

“Do you feel better?” Ben asked.

“Yeah,” Rey said. She absently rubbed her belly as Ben settled into his side of the bed. Rey laid on her side and looked into his face, “even if they don’t come, I am so proud of you for being willing to risk what it took to put those letters in the mail.”

Ben nodded, chewing on the inside of his cheek either way.

Rey remembered how agonizing it had been seeing Ben walk out that door. She’d watched Ben pull on his coat and tuck the letters into his inside pocket. His excuse still rang in her head: “I’m going to look over the plants in the front while it’s early. I want to see how they’re waking up of if they’re still hibernating.”

Rey’d had nightmares for a week about various responses that Snoke might have had to it. He’d fallen for the excuse, but Rey’s heart had stopped while waiting for his response.

Snoke had waved a hand as he pulled on his boots, saying, “alright, Kylo, just hurry.”

Her heart finally beating again, Rey had glanced over her shoulder one last time as Ben walked out the front door. To keep herself from breaking down, she’d put all her attention on Noah, smiling down at him. He’d sat in his highchair, giggling at his applesauce. In the agonizing ten minutes that Ben was outside, Rey had hummed against his skin, which made Noah coo and giggle more.

“Thank you for coming through the house,” Rey said.

“Yeah,” Ben mumbled.

“No, Ben, it meant a lot,” Rey said, still remembering the relief she’d felt when Ben stopped back through to say goodbye Jesse one more time before joining Snoke and Tage outside. Knowing that the letters had landed in the mail and now it was out of their hands was equally terrifying and relieving.

“What will you outside? For work?” Ben asked softly.

“I don’t know,” Rey said, thoughtfully, “I’ll probably have to actually get my degree.”

“You don’t have a degree?” Ben asked.

“Technically, no,” Rey said, “I didn’t finish my last classes, so I’m probably like three credits short of my degree.”

“Wow, that really sucks,” Ben said, shaking his head.

Rey snickered, “it really does. I mean, kidnapping also sucks, but two months before getting my last three credits sucks.” She rolled onto her side to look at Ben, “what will you do?”

“Finish the seventh grade,” Ben said, “I don’t know if they allow thirty-two year-olds at St. Teresa of Avila Secondary School.”

“Wait, you went to a Catholic school?” Rey asked, sitting up.

“Yeah,” Ben said, “there were like eight Jewish kids there, so I wasn’t totally alone.”

“Why would a Jewish kid go to a Catholic school?” Rey asked.

Ben shrugged, “I think it was a really good school. There were a lot of kids whose parents were in government, too, which helped. Also, my mom’s other parents were Catholic.”

“Wait wait wait wait,” Rey said, sitting up, “your mom has two sets of parents?”

Ben looked at the clock, “it is three in the morning, can I tell you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, okay,” Rey said. She laid back down, smirking, “so what did you think of Mass?”

“I never listened. Like, I was there for two years and I don’t know anything about Christianity. I think my mom wanted me to learn about the religion she grew up with, but I think it was a lost cause,” Ben said.

“You know, if you could tune that out, it’s probably how you tuned out Snoke’s brainwashing, too,” Rey said.

“I knew being a little snot would pay off,” Ben said. He laughed. Rey smiled, sleep weighing down on her in earnest now. She blinked blearily, hopeful again. Ben had managed to survive Catholic school and twenty years of Snoke.

They could survive a few more weeks.

 

Over breakfast, Snoke suddenly cleared his throat, “I have an announcement,” Snoke said, “the day after tomorrow, Susannah and Antony are going to be married.”

There was a quiet noise of shock from Susannah, but it was quickly outshone by Joanna’s squeal of delight,

“Does that mean we have friends over?” Jesse asked.

“It does, my dear boy,” Snoke said jovially.

Rey grabbed Ben’s hand under the table and forced herself to smile. She held onto him both for grounding and to communicate the thing they both knew:

 

They were out of time.

Chapter Text

Rey’s throat seemed to close when she saw Susannah’s face. The poor girl’s eyes were wide and her lips parted in fear and anguish. Antony looked as surprised as she was, which split the adults attention and kept Susannah out of trouble. The world around Rey was suddenly without sound. It seemed to hum and buzz, but she couldn’t hear anything for several seconds which seemed to stretch out to hours as she watched Susannah’s face switch from shock to disbelief to comprehension to horrified dread.

Even as the world around her seemed to rock off-kilter, Rey looked into Susannah’s eyes and forced herself to smile.

The girl luckily caught on and smiled, too, even though the grief in her eyes was still visible to Rey. She could be sad and scared as much as she wanted, but if she looked openly unhappy or disobedient, it might kill her. Rey let out a small sigh of relief, which she forced into an excited, if surprised, laugh. She tried to remember how she’d felt when Snap had announced he was going to Law school and that he’d been accepted to Harvard: surprised, since she hadn’t known Snap had even wanted to pursue law, but also excited for his success.

Rey looked around the table, trying to channel her inner Meryl Streep and pretending she was back in the Chili’s where Snap had announced his plans. Even as her eyes passed over the other celebrating family members, she didn’t really see them. Her eyes landed on Snoke, however, just as he turned his attention from Phasma to Joanna to Antony and finally her. His face blurred before her eyes and Rey wiped hurriedly at him.

“Are you okay, Mama?” Jesse piped up from his place across from her.

The entire room’s attention snapped to her suddenly. Rey swallowed, wishing she could tell him everything. She earnestly wanted to scream and rage, to take the butter knife sitting in the middle of the table and drive it into Snoke’s skull as many times as it took to break bone. Instead, Rey took a calming breath as she felt Ben smooth his hand over her hair.

“She, um, she’s been crying a lot lately,” Ben said, pulling an excuse out of his ass with the kind of finesse and believability that would make Poe Dameron proud, “for some reason, this baby has made her really emotional.”

Rey nodded hurriedly, sniffing obviously. She had been more prone to crying, yes, but that was more about the mix of stress and fear being helped along slightly by hormones. This, however, was just her own fury.

Everyone nodded and went back to eating, except Jesse. Ben called him over, pulled the boy up onto his lap, and began explaining in a soft, measured voice in a way that Jesse could understand. Rey finally cleared her eyes and went back to eating.

The rest of breakfast passed in a haze for her. A few people tried to communicate with her, but she kept missing it. When Antony asked her to pass the salt twice in a row, Ben had to nudge her to jarr her out of her mental fog. Luckily, she was pregnant and could blame it on “Pregnancy Brain”.

They had to do something. They had to run. They had three days to somehow figure out how to get it done.

Time to burn this bitch to the ground, Rey thought.

If they could get ahold of gasoline- no, oil. It would have to be cooking oil of some kind because the cars were locked away and she didn’t know where the keys were hidden. She hadn’t seen them in Snoke’s office, so he might keep them in his bedroom somewhere.

“Hey,” Ben said in her ear.

“Huh?” Rey asked suddenly, looking around.

Ben put a hand on her arm, “we’re cleaning up.”

“Are you alright, Kira?” Angela asked.

Rey nodded, “yes, I’m sorry. My mind just will not wake up this morning, it seems.”

“Why don’t you and Susannah clear the table together,” Phasma offered, glancing at Susannah, “it will give you a chance to wake up.”

“Thank you,” Rey nodded. She stood up with the others. She lifted Noah up, kissing his face. Noah giggled, leaning into her touch and reaching out over her shoulder for Ben.

“Hello,” Ben said, leaning forward and pressing his forehead to Noah’s before tilting his face up to kiss the baby’s nose. Noah cooed and touched Ben’s face with his chubby fists, which made Ben chuckle. He scooped Noah into his arms as well, blowing against his face and making the baby squeal with delight.

This, Rey thought, this is bliss..

“Mama, we’re going to have friends over!” Jesse said, running over and hugging Rey around her leg.

“Yes, we are,” Rey said. She reached down, brushing her fingers through Jesse’s dark hair. It was getting long again, but Snoke seemed to like it that way. Ben’s was, too. With their haircuts so similar, they were undeniably father and son.

Rey crouched down, then kissed his forehead, “this is going to be a good week.”

“Yeah!” Jesse said, jumping up and down.

“Can you go upstairs with Isaac and make your bed?” Rey asked. Usually, she or one of the girls had to go upstairs with Jesse and help him, but he was more likely to do something on his own if he thought he was being treated like Isaac.

“Yeah!” Jesse said, running up the staircase with Isaac on his heels. Lyra, Angela, and Phasma disappeared into the kitchen, probably to work on quilts and soap, since the local Spring Festival was only two months away. Rey sat at the table for a moment, watching Ben blow raspberries in Noah’s face, which made him giggle and paw at Ben’s mouth and nose. Rey sighed at the rare moment of uncomplicated silliness, which was so rare in this place.

Tage, Snoke, Dopheld, and Anthony all pulled on their boots and went outside, saying little beyond a low discussion about the day’s work. Isaac jogged downstairs and made to head outside after them, but Phasma called him into the kitchen. Isaac groaned, but turned on his heel and took the dusting rags that Phasma offered him without complaint. Jesse bounded down the stairs, exclaiming that he’d made his bed all by himself.

Rey congratulated him, hugging her eldest son and pulling him into her lap for a moment. Over his shoulder, Rey asked Ben: “Are you working in the garden today?”

“Yeah,” Ben said, then nodded to Jesse, “can I steal my son for a little bit? I want to show him how to prune the perennials before it gets warm and they bloom.”

“What do you think?” Rey asked, looking down at Jesse.

Jesse clambered off of her lap and bounced up and down again, “yeah!”

Rey smiled, trading Jesse to Ben for Noah. She put the infant back in his highchair as Ben and Jesse walked out of the dining room, leaving only her and Susannah. She sighed heavily, hands falling to her hips, and then pulled plates together, piling them the way that she used to when she was a waitress. She glanced at Susannah occasionally. The girl had a wide-eyed stare as she slowly put all the silverware into one cup.

“Kira?” Susannah asked. Her voice was so low that, if Rey hadn’t been carefully listening for it, she wouldn’t have heard it.

“Yes?” Rey asked. She crossed over to the same side of the table as Susannah, still stacking plates. She knew whatever Susannah was going to say next was not something anyone needed to overhear.

“I- did you want to marry Kylo? When you first got here, did you want to marry him?” Susannah asked. She kept her eyes on the table, her blonde hair falling forward to block her face.

Rey decided to risk it all: “no, I didn’t.”

Susannah looked up then, her blue eyes wide, “but you’re okay now?”

It’s time, baby queer, Ms. Rochelle’s voice suddenly echoed in Rey’s head.

“No, I’m not,” Rey said. Susannah swallowed and her blue eyes seemed to shine with unshed years, “he’s not either.”

“But-” Susannah turned away, her face flushing. She didn’t know how to handle or voice so much open rebellion. She was seventeen and hadn’t been able to have any contradictory opinions at any point in her life. That kind of control, that kind of thinking, the inability to ask why about anything at any point in her life would do significant damage to anyone. Rey was so proud of Susannah for being able to voice any dissidence in the first place.

“We made do, but when people don’t have any choice, there can’t be any “okay”.” Rey said. She kept her voice level and soothing, but matter-of-fact. This wasn’t up for argument or discussion. If she could finish watering the seed that she’d been planting for weeks and months, then they might be able to get Susannah to run without any convincing.

“How do you cope?” Susannah asked weakly. She looked up into Rey’s face.

Rey nodded, “okay, listen. Say nothing, but we are finding a way to be- okay,” Rey decided ‘free’ was too risky a word, “just listen to me and you’ll get to ‘okay’, too. Does that sound good?” Rey slid her hand into Susannah’s, holding comfortingly. Susannah’s mother would not be able to protect her here, but Rey would do it. Susannah had lived her entire life where, if she made a mistake, she could be struck on her palms with a wooden spoon by her own mother. Rey wanted to draw an unconscious mental parallel, grounding Susannah in the present and in her rebellion. Susannah had probably spent more than a decade associating pain in her hands with any failure, so Rey was going to tie gentle touch to this open rebellion.

One abused kid to another, she knew how to tap into a messed up maternal connection. She usually didn’t try to do that. If felt almost wrong to use something so personal and vulnerable, but she’d apologize later.

After a solid thirty seconds of silence, Susannah finally spoke:

“Yes,”she said shortly. She nodded hurriedly, then picked up the stack of cups and took them to the kitchen.

Rey watched her go, then sighed. She needed to plan, to think. Rey stood in front of the sink, filling the sink with soapy water and starting to scrub the breakfast dishes. While she worked, she tried to plan. In two days, the house would be crawling with First Order members. This meant there would be more cars to take and run with, but it also meant that they'd be followed by seventy people rather than a handful. She could hear various noises in the house as kids ran around and did chores. Rey gritted her teeth as she thought. She needed to get away and get somewhere quiet if she was going to think and plan.

Phasma’s voice suddenly broke through the haze in Rey’s head, “Kira, are you alright?”

Rey looked up sharply, “yes, why?”

“You’ve been drying the same cup for several minutes,” Phasma said, her pale eyebrows raised.

Rey looked down at the glass cup in her hand, then put down in the cupboard, “I’m sorry. I’m just trying to think through if we’ll need anything. I think we’ll have enough soap and shampoo for everyone that’s here,” Rey was babbling now and she knew it, “we made a bunch a while back, but-”

Phasma walked forward, looking earnestly concerned, “Kira?”

Rey looked up, realizing that she had a chance to get what she wanted. Blinking rapidly and swallowing, letting her eyes water, “I’m sorry,” she made a big show of wiping her eyes, “this baby has me crying all the time. Can I- can I take a breather? I just need to get away for a minute.”

“Sure,” Phasma said, frowning, “do you need to go lay down? That used to help me with Joanna.”

Rey shook her head, “I think… I think I want to go to the stables. Just… be away and brush Finalizer for a moment. Is that okay?”

Phasma pressed her lips together, “Fine, go.”

“Thank you,” Rey said. She took a deep breath, walking quickly to the door. Rey tossed her hair over her shoulder and pulled on her boots and coat. She made sure to sniff and wipe her eyes again as she walked to the barn. The frosty grass crunched under her shoes as she walked. When she got to the barn, she stopped the act. Opening the barn door, she stepped inside and leaned against the door.

Rey walked over to Finalizer, who sniffed at her. Rey rubbed along his nose. She wasn’t sure exactly how they could get the horses to safety. She couldn’t be sure, but considering how close Ben and Finalizer were, if they got beyond Snoke’s reach, he might take it out on the animals.

You can’t get on the horse, Rey thought, opening Finalizer’s stall to step inside and brush him out. She needed a break to think and plan. She would love to do yoga, but there were too many people wandering around. If she got caught by anyone but Ben, she’d face consequences. She settled for brushing Finalizer.

Finalizer sniffed at her, nudging her hand. She hummed pleasantly, murmuring an apology for not having a snack for him. Rey set the brush down and let Finalizer lean against her.

Ben or Susannah could take Finalizer and just run, Rey thought, if they do, we need to let out the others, so they can’t use them.

Rey turned and began to brush him in earnest. She took slow, deep breaths. When she’d first arrived, she’d found the stables to be pungent and sour, but years of waking up beside Ben for four years had changed how she felt about it. The smell of hay, horse, wooden walls, and the leather supplies now brought Rey a sense of peace. It wasn’t true relaxation, which was impossible, but she felt insulated from Snoke and the First Order here. In this stall, especially when she and Ben brought the boys to see Finalizer, Rey could easily pretend that she was free and somewhere else.

Now, she just had to get her family there. She was the closest to freedom as she had ever been and possibly would be ever again.

At this point, they had to assume no help was coming. Poe hadn’t seen her email. He, the Pavas, Ben’s parents, or anyone else hadn’t seen their letters. Their bottles hadn’t been found. Rey’s heart twisted at the idea that their pleas may have been found, but were ignored.

If they couldn’t get at Snoke’s cars, maybe Rey could hotwire one of the guest’s cars. At first, Rey had thought that she needed to get Susannah and the kids away before the other members of the First Order arrived, but if Rey could puncture their tires and hot wire one of the cars, then they’d be able to drive away. She didn’t know what anyone else drove, but she’d figure it out. They just had to find a way to do it. Rey sighed, closing her eyes tightly as she tried to think of specific plans. All of them, though, had massive information gaps that left Rey jittery and frustrated. She was a planner, but not knowing who was coming, when they’d arrive, and what they’d be driving left her trying to plan a marathon route in the dark with only a pen flashlight to see by.

“Kira?”

Rey was jolted out of her thoughts by Tage’s voice. She turned to see Tage looking at her from outside of Finalizer’s stall. Finalizer snorted, stomping one of his hooves in annoyance. Even after twenty years, Finalizer didn’t like Tage at all.

Tage raised both his hands in surrender as he stepped back.

“Leave him alone, you big baby,” Rey said adoringly at the stallion, who snorted and let her continue to brush him. He kept his dark eyes on Tage, however, reminding Rey vividly of the warning Ben had left her on her second day there: a rose with one thorn.

There is something downright dangerous about you, Rey thought, casually setting down the brush, and I don’t know what it is.

But, I’m going to need help. I have five children that I need to get out of here, Rey reminded herself.

“Are you alright? How are you? Do I need to get someone?” Tage asked, glancing from her face to Finalizer’s stormy one. He seemed earnestly worried about her, but didn’t want to come any closer for fear of being charged by an ill-tempered stallion. Rey suddenly remembered the anxious and earnest way Tage had spoken to her when he’d found her in labor with Jesse.

“Kira, look at me… stay here, little sister. I’m going to go get Phasma. I’ll be right back, Tage’s words floated back to Rey from the past and something in her gut told her to take a risk that, up until now, she hadn’t even considered.

“I’m alright,” Rey said. She kissed Finalizer between the eyes and walked over to the stall door. Rey drew her braid over her shoulder, letting it hang in front of her. She walked out of Finalizer’s stall, then decided to follow her gut and take a leap of faith: “once she gets married, she’s lost.”

Whatever color was in Tage’s face disappeared.

“We have to help each other or else we’re all lost,” Rey said. She leaned against the door of Finalizer’s stall, crossing her arms. The silence stretched on for entire minutes, but finally Tage met her eyes again, taking a shaky breath and trying to form an appropriate phrase.

“We’re family. We always help each other,” Tage said. His voice was slow and measured.

Political Rey realized. She’d wondered for almost five years what was different about Tage, but she’d suddenly realized what it was: Tage was diplomatic and political, which was both why he behaved so oddly and why she felt so uncomfortable around him. Growing up in foster care taught you to distrust someone when you couldn’t see their internal mechanisms. Rey probably would have preferred someone with a temper than someone who was so controlled and methodical. All tempers were tempers, but if you didn’t know someone’s breaking point, you would only find out after you’d crossed it.

“I know you know what I’m afraid of,” Rey said, her voice soothing but straightforward. She was not going to let Tage dodge or pretend to confuse her meaning. Rey met his eye and added, “every parent would do anything for their kids. This is “anything”.”

Instead of getting paler, Tage simply turned green, “I- Fath- The Supreme Leader is wise.” Rey admired his ability to keep his voice from quivering, even if he stuttered and started over the most “First Order Approved” phrasing.

“Babies have a way of making people reevaluate what they’re willing to do,” Rey said, rubbing the side of her own bump. It wasn’t very obvious, since she was only four months pregnant, but still.

Tage’s pale eyelashes flickered. He glanced from her face to her belly and back again. Rey said nothing, but kept her expression soft and neutral. Tage’s adam’s apple bobbed and he licked his lips.
Rey had done what she’d meant to. It would either work or it wouldn’t, but pressing further would just back him into a corner and possibly make him lash out.

Instead, she turned without another word. Rey pressed her lips together and walked out of the barn, praying this risk paid off. Tage definitely knew that she knew about the baby. He might just try to kill her to make the danger disappear, but if he truly loved Susannah and wanted her to be free, then he would help them.

Chapter Text

It seemed that every single member of the First Order came to the house the next day. It was apparently a Saturday, so most of those who were employed in other industries besides the Cult Maintenance Business were off work. There were apparently a handful of families that had jobs related to construction or other similar industries, so they were coming tomorrow.
Rey was tasked with helping the various couples get settled into their other rooms downstairs in the basement. A handful of young and unmarried men were assigned to sleep on couches in the living room or on the floor of their parents’ rooms. Their entire household was a zoo. Every time a car arrived, several adults and multiple children all piled out, each with their own personality and history and degree of usefulness. Susannah, even as she was tasked with carrying bags and helping people get settled into their rooms, was having to hear congratulations from every adult. Rey was full of such admiration for Susannah’s ability to face this horrifying process with any kind of grace rather than just screaming in people’s faces.
“Did people stay the night at my wedding?” Rey asked as she and Angela made one of the downstairs mattresses up.
“You don’t remember?” Angela asked.
“It was all a blur to be honest,” Rey said.
“I bet,” Angela said, tucking the end of the blankets under the mattress, “your wedding was a one day thing. People drove overnight or stayed at motels overnight. My family had to spend the night at a Motel 6, but I know Dopheld and his parents just got up early.”
“Your wedding was one day, too, right?” Rey said, tossing clean pillows onto the bed, “I mean, except for me and my family.”
“Yes,” Angela said, arranging the pillows, “no one was meant to stay the night, but Roland decided he wanted to have a sleepover, I guess.” she tossed her dark hair over her shoulder, laughing. She’d been so excited ever since Snoe had announced Susannah’s wedding, both because she was excited about anything the First Order did and because it meant she’d get to see her parents again.
Rey watched Angela as they worked, making sure there was no dust on any of the linens that people were supposed to be using and sweeping up bathrooms one last time before families filed in to unpack and freshen up. Part of her considered trying to talk to Angela the way she’d talked to Tage. It made some sense, since Angela also cared deeply for both Susannah and for Antony, but something stopped Rey. Perhaps it was the way Angela seemed to flow any time Snoke said softly remotely positive to her, or the way her eyes had a flat look to them. When Rey looked at Tage and even Phasma on occasion, she saw something alive there, behind their eyes, but Susannah seemed to be missing it. Rey hoped this whatever-it-was would be what pushed Tage, if not Phasma as well into helping them.
Angela, though, might be too committed to the cause to be anything more than an obstacle.
You look like Jessika, Rey thought, but you’re not. You’re just a girl raised by a group that doesn’t know how to be human anymore. Jessika was argumentative, stubborn, and occasionally arrogant, but she was also fiercely independent and had a clear head. I can’t hold my breath for you anymore. If you get saved, it will be because you saved yourself. I can’t save you.
Rey pressed her lips together, watching Angela place various soaps and towels in the bathroom from the little dolley they were bringing from room to room.

In order to keep some cover, Rey said, “it was nice to spend a few days with you and the Mitakas.”

“It was such a blessing to have people around!” Angela said. She shook her long, loose black hair off her shoulders, “it’s hard to be away from the Order, both because I love it, but also because it can be somewhat lonely, away from outsiders.”

“Maybe that’s why you had to come here, too,” Rey said, trying to force her smile to look genuine, “Father wanted to repay the favor.”

“No one needs to repay family,” Angela said weakly, “being in Father’s house is more than enough.”

Rey snickered, “I think we’re more than even. I mean, I definitely got blood on your linens, but still.”

“Mama Mama Mama!” Jesse shouted, running down the hallway down the basement hallway. He ran into the room and hugged her tightly, nearly unbalancing her in his hurry.

“Oof, careful, darling. What is it?” Rey asked, looking down at him.

“Papa said to come get you,” Jesse said, looking up at her. He curled his fist into her skirt, leaning against her.

“What happened?” Rey asked, squatting down to look at him.

“He said to come get you because Finalizer needed you,” Jesse mumbled into her skirt the way he did when he was uncertain.

Rey put a hand on his head and looked at Angela, “is that alright?”

“Of course,” Angela said, frowning.

Rey squatted down and touched Jesse’s chin, meeting his eyes, “go to Susannah. Tell her that Papa told me and then stay with her. If she is busy, go to Lyra and stay there.”

“Look me in the eye and tell me what I just said,” Rey said slowly when Jesse glanced away.

“Go to Susannah. If I can’t find her, go to Lyra,” Jesse mumbled.

“When you find one of them?” Rey asked patiently.

“Stay there,” Jesse said firmly.

Rey pecked his forehead, “you are such a smart boy. I’ll see you later.”

Rey withheld the urge to run with some difficulty. She knew Ben wouldn’t have sent Jesse if something wasn’t seriously wrong, but also knew that it wasn’t life or death, otherwise he would have called for Snoke or any of the other farmers. Ben had been around horses for more than twenty years now, but several of the members of the First Orders had owned horses for longer than both Rey and Ben had been alive.

Rey stepped into the cool April hair and blinked at some of the first real, earnest sunshine she’d seen in months. Rey didn’t pause longer than it took to blink the little floating dots from her forehead and half-jogged over to the barn. When she got there, Ben was alone, standing next to Finalizer’s stall.

“What happened?” Rey asked, grabbing his arm without thought.

Ben touched her face, pulling her closer and whispering an inch from her face, “nothing, he’s fine. I just needed to find you and talk to you right away.”

“What?” Rey asked.

“We need to leave tonight,” Ben said.

Rey stared at him, her mouth falling open. Of all of the things she expected him to say, that was a shock, “why?”

“I think he’s going to send Susannah home with the Mitakas tomorrow, right after the ceremony,” Ben said.

“But what about the consummation?” Rey asked

“I don’t think he’s going to wait,” It wasn’t until Ben started rubbing her arm comfortingly that Rey realized she was shaking.

Rey cleared her throat, then asked, “how did you learn this?”

“He mentioned something when he was shaving everyone today,” Ben said, rubbing absently at a slightly rasorburned patch under his jaw, “he said something about Dopheld going home tomorrow an-and about taking care of Susannah while she was there.”

“Oh my god,” Rey said. She grabbed onto the top of Finalizer’s stall door. She could feel the stallion sniff the top of her hand, but didn’t react to it.

“If we don’t do it tonight, we lose everything,” Ben said, sighing.

Rey clenched her fist when she heard the creak of a door behind them. She took a deep breath, gathering up her emotions, and looked into Ben’s face, “tonight.” she said, clenching her teeth.

“Tonight,” Ben said. He touched her cheek one more time, then let her slip out of the other door and back to the house.

 

Rey didn’t tell Ben about Tage until that night. It wasn’t until later, after dinner had been served and they put the boys to sleep for a while that she finally told him.

“You did what?!”

Rey sat on the bed and looked up at him. She leaned back on her hands and looked up at him, “Tage doesn’t hit me as much as Phasma. I thought it was worth the risk.”

“What if he says something?” Ben hissed. He was so panicked that he was panting. He ran a hand through his hair and clenched his fist. Clumps of his black stood up sharply between his fingers. When his hands dropped to his sides, his hair was still half standing up.

“He knows that I know about the baby. He tells on me, I tell on him,” Rey said matter-of-factly. Ben turned to look at her, his uncertainty still evident, but Rey continued, “besides, I think he really cares about his kids.”

“You’re sure?” Ben asked emphatically.

“You didn’t see his face,” Rey said softly, “besides, we’re leaving tonight, aren’t we?”

Ben ground his teeth, shaking his head. He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted when the bedroom dorm opened suddenly. There was a flash of light green and the door snapped shut. Rey’s heart disappeared out of horror.

It was Tage. He looked between them, his pale lips so tight they’d disappeared.

“Stop yelling!” Tage hissed, looking between them. He pinched the bridge of his nose, then murmured, “I don’t know why I’m doing this.”

“Because you love them,” Rey said softly,

Tage nodded, his face impassive.

“Does that mean that you’re with us?” Ben asked,

Tage looked down at his feet.

“Armitage!” Ben ground out. He stepped forward, putting a hand on Tage’s shoulder.

A giant BANG echoed through the house, making Rey’s heart stop. It was the middle of the night.

The three of them stared at each other, frozen in shock and uncertainty. Then another noise, one that was somehow, impossibly, worse, forced all of them into action. Tage was first to the door. He threw it open desperately, Ben right on his heels.

Someone was screaming.

Rey rush out the door and immediately collided with Ben's back. She grabbed onto his arm, looking around wildly for the sound of the screams. Another bang ran through the house, punctured by another scream of pain. Tage tore down the hallway, but Rey paused when she heard another noise at the bottom of the stairs. Phasma was tearing her way upstairs, her face white and her blonde hair flying. Rey ran down the hallway after Ben and Tage.

When Rey turned her head, she finally heard distinct shouting and could pinpoint exactly where the noises were coming from. She rounded the corner just as Tage threw open the door to Susannah's room. Snoke was standing over Susannah, his belt in his hand.

"How dare you deny me, girl?" Snoke snarled.

"Father, what happened?" Phasma asked, forcing her way passed a stunned Ben and Rey and into the room.

"You spawn dares to defy me! She acts like she's above my will and the will of God," Snoke snarled.

"I don't want to get married tomorrow," Susannah squeaked.

"Hush, child," Phasma snapped, still hovering by the door, "you will do the right thing."

"I'm only seventeen!" Susannah said, pushing herself up on her hands, "I'm too young to get married! It's wrong!"

Snoke's belt cracked like lightning, echoing through the room. Susannah shrieked, hitting the carpet.

"Don't touch her! She's just scared!" Rey said. She almost stepped forward, but Ben grabbed her elbow suddenly, pulling her back against him.

"Silence!" Snoke snarled, "I am the voice of God and you will listen to me."

Rey closed her mouth, but didn't look away. Rey stared at Snoke, pulling gently against Ben's grip. He didn't let her go, but she was focused on meeting Snoke's pale eyes. She finally glanced at Phasma, waiting for her to step in and be a parent. Phasma's face was open and accommodating, but her blue eyes were wide with barely-controlled fear. Rey could practically see a hundred plans and pleas running through Phasma’s mind that were shouted down by one overwhelming impulse: comply comply comply.

"You will do what is right," Snoke said, turning to look at Susannah.

"I am," Susannah whispered. She looked at Rey's face, her blue eyes filled with determination. Snoke raised his arm again, but it never connected. Tage caught Snoke’s arm, standing in front of Susannah, “No!” Snoke’s face twisted in fury. He drew back his fist, punching Tage squarely in the mouth. Tage grunted, his hands flying to his face, but kept his balance, careful not to fall into Susannah. Susannah shrieked.

Ben’s grip disappeared from Rey’s arm disappeared and she pulled her arm free. She took a small step forward as Snoke drew back his first and punched Tage in the face again, but couldn’t think of what to do. Her mind had gone blank with fear and horror. Rey opened her mouth, torn between wanting to vomit of scream or beat him. Tage dropped to one knee in front of Snoke, groaning in pain. Rey heard a clenched noise of pain and turned to see Phasma nearly doubled over, overcome with fear.

“You dare to defy me, too, boy?” Snoke snarled at Tage.

“If you want to get to my daughter, you have to go through me,” Tage growled, his face twisted in fury.

Snoke reached down, snatching Tage by the collar and hoisting him up. He spoke softly into Tage’s face, “I should kill you for such insolence and lies.”

Tage lifted his chin up and spat directly into Snoke’s face. The spray with tinged with red and Rey’s heart tightened at the sight. Snoke drew back his fist again, his attention focused entirely on Tage.

There was a flash of something white and then Snoke was bent over backwards. His hands left Tage and flew to his neck, but Rey wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t until Rey saw Ben’s face over Snoke’s shoulder that she realized what was happening: Ben had taken off his tie and was strangling Snoke with it.

Susannah opened her mouth, but Rey swooped down and covered it with her hand.

No one else moved. No one spoke.

Tage watched as Ben and Snoke both fell to their knees, but his expression never changed. Rey looked over her shoulder to see Phasma standing where she’d been the entire time, her blue eyes wide. She seemed transfixed by the sight of Snoke’s face, which had gone from an angry red color to purple and was now nearly blue. Ben, meanwhile, didn’t waver. Through teeth gritted with effort, he said, “lower him slowly.”

Tage moved without hesitation. He grabbed Snoke’s arms and brought him to the carpet slowly enough that he didn’t make any noise. Ben followed, still holding the tie tightly around Snoke’s throat.

Rey knew that it took several minutes to strangle someone, but it seemed to go on for days. She still held her hand over Susannah’s mouth, but didn’t press. It was more a reminder to not speak than an actual impediment. Silent tears ran down the girl’s face, but Rey didn’t judge her or berate her. Whatever she’d just heard, Snoke had been her dad.

He’d been planning to marry her off against her will, but he was still her dad.

Snoke’s struggles became weaker and weaker until finally, his sputterings stopped and his hands fell to his sides.

Ben made to loosen the tie, but Phasma blurted in a hushed voice, “wait. Make sure. If he wakes up…”

Ben nodded. He looked down at Snoke, his expression flat and thoughtful. After another second, he loosened his grip, but merely turned the tie around in his hands, knotting it as tightly as he could manage before wrapping it around Snoke’s throat again.

“Put him in the bed,” Rey said. She wasn’t sure where the idea came from, but she didn’t question it, “keep his back to the door, so if anyone sees, they’ll think he’s sleeping.”

Ben and Tage hefted Snoke’s body up with the kind of silent coordination that only came from decades of physical labor together. Rey left Susannah to pull back the sheets as they put Snoke down and rolled him onto one side, his back to the door.

“Where is everyone?” Rey asked, looking over at the still-cracked door.

“They’re First Order. They heard him yelling angrily. If he doesn’t yell for help, they’re not going to come running,” Ben said. He looked at Susannah, who was still wrapped in Rey’s arms, leaning against her, “where’s Joanna?”

“Probably hiding in my room,” Tage said.

Phasma sat on the other bed, resting her head in her hands, “that’s good,” she murmured.

“Thank god. That buys us more time,” Rey said, rubbing her hand up and down Susannah’s arm.

“What do we do now?” Phasma asked. She lowered her hand, pressing her fingertips to her mouth.

“Celebrate?” Rey suggested.

“If we’re going to make it, we have to go now,” Tage said, his face tight and controlled.

“There’s eighty people down there,” Phasma hissed, gesturing to the door, “what do we day?”

“Nothing,” Ben said, rubbing his hands together to work the blood back into his palms and fingertips, “we go out the front, you go out the back, and we say nothing. If anyone asks, we keep it vague.”

“We can’t leave on foot,” Tage said, crossing his arms and leaning against the door, “we’ll need horses or cars or both.”

“Cars would be best, since we have two pregnant women,” Ben said.

Rey turned her head to look at Phasma, “do you know where the keys are kept?”

“In a locked drawer in the bedroom,” Phasma said.

Rey nodded, “I can pick locks,” she murmured.

No one heard her, but Ben immediately said, “you slept in the room with the keys for twenty years?”

“It was a locked drawer!” Phasma snapped.

“I can pick locks!” Rey growled. Ben and Phasma turned to look at her, their eyebrows raised, so she continued: “I grew up in foster care. It’s a useful skill.”

Ben swooped down, cupping Rey’s face and kissing her, “it is. You’re amazing.”

Phasma nodded, standing. She rubbed her hands down the length of her braid nervously, then seemed to steel herself. She walked over to Rey and Susannah, whispering, “are you alright?”

Susannah nodded, still leaning against Rey. Rey squeezed Susannah’s shoulders, then gently nudged her to stand up and hug her mother. Susannah hugged Phasma, if a bit stiffly. Ben pulled Rey to her feet and wrapped his arms around her. Rey closed her eyes, leaning against him. For a moment, she felt some of the tension of the past five years ease off her.

“Come on,” Tage said quietly from the doorway, “the downstairs is clear.”

Rey nodded, leading the way downstairs. She crept past the empty living room and down the hallway to Snoke’s bedroom. She looked over her shoulder to see Phasma a few steps behind her, hand-in-hand with a pale-faced Susannah.

Rey walked inside the bedroom. She opened one of the bedside drawers, revealing nothing but a hairbrush. Rounding the bed, she found Snoke’s bedside table. She expected a traditional key lock, which would take her seconds, but she was greeted by a four-piece numerical lock.

“Fuck,” Rey muttered.

“What?” Ben asked.

“It’s not a key lock,” Rey said, “I can’t pick it. I have to crack it.”

“What’s the difference?” Tage asked, his pale face going almost green.

“I have to figure out a combination, rather than just engaging the unlocking mechanism,” Rey explained.

“Start on that,” Phasma said. She turned to look at Susannah and cupped her face, taking a deep breath, “Susannah, I have asked you to be brave and to put aside terrible things for so long, but I need you to do that one more time. Go get your brother and sister and tell them to get dressed.”

“What do I tell them?” Susannah asked.

“The truth,” Phasma said, “they need to get up, put their shoes on, and wait for me.”

“Get my boys ready, too,” Ben said.

Susannah nodded, slipping out of the door. When she did, there was a quiet noise that made all of them freeze, but in turned out to be just Consul, winding her way around the doorframe. Rey sighed in relief and looked at the kitten, who was rubbing her cheek on Tage’s pant leg.

“Do you think they’ll hurt the animals if we leave them behind?” Rey asked suddenly, “to get back at us?”

Ben looked down at Consul, pressing his lips together, “they might. I’ll get Praetor and we’ll bring them along.” He walked out the door after Susannah.

Rey turned her attention back to the lock.

Four options, Rey thought, What’s most likely? A date. Probably a year.

Rey spun the first two slots to 1 and 9, then hesitated. She chewed her lip, then looked at Phasma, “when were you born?”

“1984,” Phasma said raising an eyebrow.

Rey nodded, spinning the third number to a ‘6’. Snoke was a narcissist. If he was going to pick a year, it would probably be the one he was born in. She rotated through 0 and 9 for the last digit, pulling the drawer each time. Nothing happened.
Rey stared at the lock again, then pulled the third digit back to ‘5’. Snoke was at least twenty years older than Phasma, but he could be thirty years older or more. She knew if she was wrong, they’d be going older, not younger.

1-9-5-0

Nothing.

1-9-5-1

Nothing.

1-9-5-2

Someone was moving around outside. Rey could hear noises in the kitchen, which made Tage whine in agitation. Ben opened the door and slipped back inside.

1-9-5-3

Not it.

“Are the kids ready to move?” Phasma confirmed.

1-9-5-4

No.

“Yes,” Ben said, “the other ones have the boys bundled up and ready to do. All we have to do is put on our shoes.”

1-9-5-5

“What if it’s a different type of code?” Tage blurted weakly.

“We’re fucked, probably,” Rey said flatly.

1-9-5-6.

It clicked open.

Rey let out a sigh of relief, standing up and grabbing the keys. She turned to the others, “let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Rey didn’t think often of Unkar Plutt or of her childhood. She tried to avoid lingering on it, on Plutt’s sweaty and grimy face, his dirty house, and the way that a simple two-bedroom house could turn into a minefield of there was enough alcohol in the blood of the right person, or wrong person, if she was being accurate.

Peeking open the door of Snoke’s bedroom to look out into the hallway to see if the coast was clear, though, that brought her right back to her formative years, spent learning the tools of the emotionally abused trade. She knew how to tell when someone was sleeping deeply or shallowly. She knew how to steal food from a box and make sure that that no one could tell the box had been picked up in the first place. She knew how to step on different types of flooring in order to make sure you made no noise and left no trace.

Most of all, she knew how to be absolutely terrified and still keep her breathing level and silent. She knew how to run and scurry and be able to curl up into a silent and perfectly still ball within the same heartbeat; Plutt had never caught Rey when she’d had to flee from his drunken anger.

Now, though, the stakes were so much higher than they had ever been. She had Ben, her children, Tage, Phasma, and their kids to think of. If she fucked up, it wouldn’t be just her who paid the price.

Rey glanced down the hallway again, then murmured, “go get a letter opener or something from his office,” she said, “anything sharp like that.”

Ben nodded, passing his backpack of squrming, chirping cats to Tage, who held them behind the door as much as possible in case Praetor, the whinier of the two cats, began to yowl in earnest.

Rey walked cautiously toward the kitchen and was greeted by a blessedly empty house. She whispered a thanks, then turned and waved to Phasma, Tage, and Ben to hurry through the back door. Looking up to the top of the stairs, she saw a pale-faced Isaac peering over the railing warily. Rey nodded, waving for him to come down. Isaac turned, waving to someone in her doorway. Susannah and Joanna walked down the stairs, holding a sleepy Jesse and Noah, respectively.

Rey pulled on her shoes, which were by the backdoor. She passed shoes to Isaac, who pulled on his own shoes. Joanna and Susannah’s shoes were missing, but Rey assumed that Phasma or Tage took them.

Walking across the cold grass, the two girls hurried past all the cars that were parked on the lawn and driveway. Rey looked over her shoulder one last time as she shut the door behind her, but saw no one.

Rey sighed in relief as she closed the door, then saw that Ben was waiting for her with a pair of letter openers in his hands.

“Focus on the cars that are closest to the road. Take out two tires each, at least,” Rey said, “don’t take more than two minutes.”

“Go it,” Ben said, darting away in the darkness.

Rey hurried over to the barn where the cars were parked. The entire family- for they had suddenly become a real family in the twenty minutes since Tage stepped in front of Snoke’s fist- was huddled against the barn door, waiting for Rey and the keys. She unlocked the heavy padlock, opening the door and looking inside, just in case someone was sleeping in here, too.

It was empty.

“Okay, everyone in,” Rey said, rushing over to unlock the doors of the truck, “Susannah, you sit with the boys in the cab. I want the cats in there, too.”

“Go,” Phasma said, nodding to her eldest, who immediately climbed into the cab. The truck had a bench seat, but could only really fit Susannah, the babies, the cats, and a driver.

“Who is driving?” Rey asked, looking between herself, Phasma, and Tage.

“I don’t know how to drive,” Tage said.

Rey blinked, then looked at Phasma. The other woman was almost six months pregnant and couldn’t fit in the back. Rey, at least, could climb in the tailgate. She handed the keys to Phasma, who she had seen drive in the past.

“Hop up,” Rey said, opening the tailgate and boosting Isaac and Joanna up and into the back. She stepped aside as Tage clambered up, but crept along to the door.

Where was Ben?

Three feet from the crack in the barn door, a voice spoke from the doorway that chilled her to the bone:

“Kira?”

Rey turned and saw Angela standing in the doorway holding a flashlight in her hand. She stepped inside the barn, frowning, “are you okay?”

Rey stared at Angela, her eyes wide. Her mind froze, unable to think of what to say.

“What are you doing? Where is Father? Why are the kids out of bed?” Angela whispered.

“We have to go somewhere, right now,” Rey blurted, “I know it’s sudden and late, but we had to bring the kids, too, and we have to go right now.” She knew she was babbling.

“Where is Father?” Angela asked, taking a step back.

“We’re- He told us that we have to leave,” Rey said, “I can’t tell you why, but you have to have faith,” Rey stepped back asw Angela lifted up her flashlight a bit, blinding Rey slightly.

“All of you?” Angela asked. She was just a silhouette, barely distinguishable from the darkness outside, given a pearly glow and the barest illumination by the flashlight in front of her.

“You can come, too,” Rey offered, stepping forward now. She had to try and reach Angela, who felt like she was somehow a hundred miles away and four inches from her.

“Rather would have told me,” Angela said, shaking her head,

“Sometimes, we have to have faith,” Rey said, “even if we don’t have all the answers.”

“Father would have told me,” Angela said, sounding even more certain, even though Rey saw the slight tremor in her flashlight. Angela was torn between potential disobedience to Snoke, who was dead in an upstairs bedroom and couldn’t hurt her anymore, and her own familiarity with Snoke and his practices.

“Don’t move,” Ben said suddenly.

Angela stiffened. Behind Rey, Isaac let out a small squeak.

“You’d slit my throat really slit the throat of another First Order member?” Angela asked.

“I would if you tried to scream,” Ben said firmly.

“Isaac, go get me some rope,” Rey said. She pulled off her left boot and grabbed the sock that she been wearing. Balling it up, she pinched Angela’s chin in her mouth, hard, and forced her jaw open enough to jam the sock inside. Her friend would probably have lockjaw when this was all over, but Rey had more important things to deal with right now.

When Isaac pressed the bundle of rope into her hand, Rey unrolled the rope and bound Angela’s hands and feet together. Ben hefted her up to his shoulder, then moved her to a modified stall that seemed to be used to hold some equipment. He set her down, then walked back to Rey.

“How did you get a knife?” Rey asked, “did you go back inside?”

“Nah,” Ben said, holding up a letter opener that was as long as his palm, “but I can bluff pretty well, apparently.”

“How loud do you think the engine is?” “ Rey asked, glancing from Angela to the open door to the truck.

“The last one was quiet, but when Paige destroyed the barn, she destroyed the truck and the van. I think he bought this one second hand and it isn’t quiet.” Ben said, tapping the letter opener against his open palm.

“We could put it in neutral and push it to the road,” Rey said, “four adults could probably get it mostly away from the house fairly quickly.”

“As long as no one comes out of the house or looks out their window,” Ben said.

“That’s the risk either way,” Rey reminded him, “that will be a risk until we can get ahold of the police or someone else.”

“You’re right,” Ben said, “let’s push the truck out of the barn at least. We can all hop in the back if it comes to the worst and Phasma can haul ass.”

“I didn’t know you knew the phrase “haul ass”,” Rey said.

“”Haul ass” is the Solo family motto,” Ben muttered, “If my father’s family had a crest, that would be it.”

If it had been any other situation, Rey would have sat there and prodded him for more information. The only thing she knew about Ben’s father was that he wasn’t Jewish and that his name was Han Solo.

“Phas,” Ben said, creeping past Rey to speak into the open driver’s door, “you and the girls stay there. We’re going to put the car in… whatever starts with an “n”. Rey said it and I forgot it. We’re going to push the car as much as possible, so we won’t have the noise of the engine.”

Rey saw Phasma nod and turn on the car on. It stayed mostly quiet, muffled by the sound of the barn. Rey closed the tailgate again, then leaned forward to speak to a wide-eyed Isaac and Joanna, “hey, this might be a bit of a scary night, okay? But I promise, it’s going to be fine. I can’t explain why right now, but from now on, you only obey me, your mother, Tage, and Kylo. I don’t care what anyone else tells you, unless if comes directly out of what Kylo, Phasma, Tage, or me, ignore it. I’ll explain it all when we get there.”

“Will Father be there when we get there?” Isaac sked.

“All I know is that we need to get to a certain place,” Rey lied. For the first time in ages, she felt well and truly guilty. This boy was about to find out that the father who had, for the most part, doted on him was dead.

The biggest upside of the First Order being a faith-based crime against humanity was that she could tell people to have faith and they just would.

That’s probably why Snoke loved it so much, too, a tiny voice in Rey’s head muttered darkly as she moved to the front of the truck. Tage and Ben were both waiting for and Tage blanched at the sight of her getting ready to push the truck.

“Relax, I’m just going to help you with the initial push, then I’ll go deal with the door,” Rey said softly.

“Okay,” Ben said from behind Rey, his palms pressed against the front of the car.

Phasma turned the car over and then put it in neutral. Rey strained alongside Ben and Tage, but together they got the car to roll through the barn, at least a bit. Reyh stepped back, then rounded the truck’s front to go push the barn door open and help Tage, who’d moved to the driver’s side of the tailgate, push it in an arc away from the house.

They hadn’t quite cleared the barn when a sudden light blinded them and Phasma hit the break.

A trio of shadowy figures waited for them. Rey wasn’t sure whether to scream or cry, but she knew Ben wasn’t going to be able to bluff with the letter opener this time.

“Is everything okay?” Dopheld said, blinking as he stepped forward ahead of the others.

“We have to go,” Rey said, “we have to leave right now.”

“Leave?” Dopheld asked, frowning, “but-”

“Doph-” Tage left his place at the front of the truck, “Doph, it’s time for us to go be somewhere else.”

Rey stared at Tage, her mouth falling open. What the actual fuck are you doing? she thought wildly.

“I fell in love with Father’s wife,” Tage said. Lyra nearly dropped her flashlight in her shock, but managed to gather herself.

“I have suffered under him and his abuse for twenty years, but I won’t- I can’t subject my children to this any longer,” Tage said.

“Your children?” Doph asked, his voice trembling.

“Phasma’s children are my children,” Tage said. He stepped forward and grabbed Doph’s forearm, “do you love your wife?”

“Yes,” Doph said. His dark eyes were wide and earnest, shiny black in the ghostly white of his face. He seemed to glow in the flashlights.

Tage swallowed, “imagine if you weren’t allowed to be with her.”

“So you’re going to leave,” Antony whispered.

“Yes,” Ben said for Tage. Rey turned her head to look at Ben. Between the flashlights and the pitch black of night and his dark clothing, Ben seemed to melt out of the shadows themselves. She was suddenly reminded of the image she’d had of Ben the first night after their wedding. He’d reminded her of some reimagined Hades, stealing a wife for himself from the world of the living above. Now, though, Rey wondered if the Greeks had it wrong in the first place: Hades belonged in the world of light, too. It was a crime for him to be trapped underground, but he’d learned how to weaponize the darkness he’d been trapped in.

Not a dark prince anymore, Rey thought, watching Ben, the King of Death.

“Come with us,” Rey pleaded, “you can come, too.”

“What about Angela,” Lyra asked weakly.

Ben shook his head, “she won’t come.”

“How do you know?” Dopheld asked, his grip tightening on his flashlight.

Rey took a deep breath and decided to take one final risk: “she’s in the barn. We tied her up so she wouldn’t make noise.”

Lyra gasped, but Rey added, “it’s okay. She’s fine. We just wanted to hold her until we could leave.”

“Lyra, Dopheld, Antony,” Joanna stood up on the tailgate. She pulled the handle, letting it fall open with a low thud, “come on.”

Dopheld looked at his siblings, but said nothing.

“It’s dangerous out there,” Antony said. It was so immediate and expressionless and Rey knew it was just rote repetition from years of indoctrination.

“Not any more dangerous than here,” Rey promised, “you’ll be able to make your own choices, be free to do things because you want to.”

When Lyra perked up, Rey knew that they had an in. Dopheld looked at her and smiled, “go. I- I have to make sure Angela is okay. She can’t be left outside all night.”

Lyra and Antony clambered into the truck. Joanna pulled both of them in close, hugging them tightly and giving Ben the clearance to shut the tailgate behind them. He turned to face Dopheld, who nodded and turned off his flashlight, turning and silently disappearing into the darkness.

Ben looked at Tage, then nodded, “come on, let’s go.”

Phasma took her foot off the break and they pushed the truck a little further, just around the end of the barn. Rey could see, distantly, a single light at the end of their drive, probably demanded by some city ordinance or put there by Snoke to make it easier to find his way back after kidnapping people.

Either way, it was their beacon out.

Rey thumped the back of the truck bed twice and Phasma put the car in pack and stuck her head out the window to watch as Ben pulled down the tailgate and helped Rey into the back. She sat between Antony and Lyra as Tage hesitated, looking over her shoulder one last time.

“We have to go, now,” Ben said, grabbing Tage’s arm, “the others will keep us here.”

“Not all of them,” Tage said sadly.

“Come on, man,” Ben’s voice took on a pleading quality that Rey didn’t associate with anyone but the boys. He only ever begged them for things and that was mostly “please go to sleep I will give you the moon just go to sleep for a bit”, “Armitage, you’ve been my brother for twenty years and I don’t think we really trusted each other until three hours ago.”

“I-”

The world was suddenly thrown into daylight, making all of them wince. Phasma, blessedly, had the wherewithal to turn the enguine on.

“Get in!” Rey shouted. She knew that whatever had caused all the lights to turn on at once was going to attract the attention of the First Order inside. Blinking away spots, Rey blindly grabbed Ben by the back of his shirt and pulled him onto the bed of the truck.
Tage staggered in after him and closed the tailgate behind them.

“Let’s go!” Rey bellowed again. She blinked more and could finally make out the shapes of armed people running out of the farmhouse in states of half-dress.

A figure rushed out of the barn, stepping in front of the others. At first, Rey thought it was Dopheld trying to make a stupid and hopeless sacrifice to buy them time, but then she saw his arm pointing straight at them.

“There!”

Rey looked over her shoulder just in time to see one of the men in the First Order raise a rifle, pointing it into the back of the truck. She didn’t even have time to scream or push Lyra’s head down before she heard a whirring noise that, combined with the bang of the gun and the metallic sound of the bullet hitting the car, she understood was the bullet itself.

“GODDAMN YOU MITAKA!” Ben bellowed, throwing his arms over the ones closest to him.

Rey shrieked again as they bumped across the grass. She lurched forward and Ben grabbed her around the waist, holding her against him as he steadied himself on the wall of the truck bed.

“Brendol!” Tage suddenly shouted. It took Rey the thirty seconds it took to get them from the lawn to the road to realize that it wasn’t a curse.

“What?” Ben asked, still holding onto Rey. Apparently he had just processed it, too.

“My name is Brendol Hux!” Tage shouted over the noise of the gravel road at the gunshots in the distance behind them, “I was called Bren. I am called Bren.”

“Bren!?” Ben asked, suddenly grinning.

“Yeah, why?”

“I’m Ben!”

Tage- Brendol, for the first time since Rey had met him, let out a real and earnest laugh.

Chapter Text

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Chapter Text

Rey wasn't someone who was sure about whether or not there was a god. She had grown up in Catholic group homes and foster homes of various religious persuasions, but she'd never decided where she fell on the "God exists" debate, much less the "God gives a shit about you" debate.

If there was a god, however, and Heaven and Hell existed, then she was definitely in Hell. Clinging to Ben Solo as they gripped the bed of the truck while Phasma tore through the pitch-black night. She drove like she was in the Dukes of Hazzard, but she managed to keep the old truck on the road as they covered as much ground as possible.

Distantly, Rey heard crashing, the barking of dogs, and other noises that she couldn't place.

Was it the First Order members racing after them?

Was this the sound of another farm trying to figure out why a truck was speeding through the Montana wilderness in the middle of the night?

Was she just imagining it? Was this just her desperation for any help from any source?

Around her, she heard grunts, groans, and choked-off sobs, but no one said anything as they all held on for dear life. The ground and road were mostly flat, but they felt like they hadn't been maintained for the past century.

Distantly, Rey heard the sound of an engine, but couldn't place how close it was. Some of the cars in the First Order were new enough that they were quiet, so she wouldn't hear them until they were right on top of them, but she had noticed a few older and, hopefully, louder, vehicles. If it was close enough that she could hear it over the sounds of the truck she was in, then it was hopefully an older car that was far away or a newer car that belonged to a friendly neighbor. They'd never gotten a good enough look at their surrounding territory to know if they had any neighbors, but if Rey couldn't hold out hope that someone was out there, she wouldn't have the strength to keep going.

They rode for somewhere between thirty minutes and nine hundred years. After a while, Rey's knees and back began to ache in earnest from curling around herself, but she didn't dare lift her head. Just her luck, she'd put her head up just as someone got within firing range and then she and the baby would be dead.

The trees grew thick and dark, but Phasma didn't dare slow down. She took turns at speeds that were barely slow enough to be dangerous, but eventually, Rey saw something that she almost didn't recognize: a streetlight.
It was a rural one, put up on a high and sturdy wooden pole with a single enclosed lantern on it, but it was a streetlamp. They were still on dirt roads, but if there was enough traffic for a city or county to put up a light, then they might be near the edge of the proverbial woods, if not the literal ones.

Suddenly, they slowed to a stop. Rey huddled against Ben as they waited, holding their breath. Had someone caught up to them? Rey couldn't imagine how any of the cars from the First Order could have overtaken them. She was certain that Ben would have targeted the best or newest cars along with the ones that had good access to the roads.

Phasma honked the horn and Rey knew immediately that they'd stopped because Phasma had found them a good hiding place.
Jumping from Ben's arms, Rey immediately pulled herself to her feet and undid the tailgate, "everyone, get out," she hissed.

Ben and Hux clambered down first, followed closely behind by the rest of them.

Rey looked at the building that Phasma had stopped in front of. It was some kind of retail building or community center, judging by the front door. Rey heard the clunk of the passenger door behind thrown open as Susannah passed Jesse into Ben's waiting arms. Hux was a step behind him, reaching for Noah so Susannah could climb out. Rey rushed to the door, ready to pick the lock, but when she pulled on the handle, it opened immediately.

If the entire First Order wasn't behind them, she would have wondered if it was a trap. She glanced at the logo on the front and read the words "Friendship Baptist Church Rickards".

Maybe there was a God who was on their side today. Behind her, Rey heard Isaac, Antony, Lyra, and Joanna scramble clumsily out of the back of the truck and toward the open door. Joanna tumbled into the grass with a choked cry, but Antony merely grabbed her by the back of her shirt and lifted her up, hurrying her to the door. Rey counted heads as the others entered without really seeing them: Lyra, Ben holding Jesse, Antony, and Joanna. She opened her arms and let Hux put Noah into them. Both of them turned at the same moment to see Phasma pull the door of the truck shut.

"Mother!" Susannah said, even as Tage pushed her into the door.

"I'll see you soon, I promise!" Phasma called out the open window, pulling out of the little driveway and further down the road.

Rey darted under Hux's outstretched arm, letting him close the door behind them. The room was surprisingly high-ceilinged but was obviously a church. They seemed to have walked directly into the main sanctuary, although Rey could see doorwards on either side of the stage that likely led elsewhere. The place was full of sturdy wooden pews, just like the ones she remembered from all of her trips to Mass and the idea seemed odd to her. She hadn't realized pews were used outside of the Catholic church or the occasional wedding.

"Why did you let her go?" Susannah bellowed as soon as Tage closed the door. He locked it behind them but didn't reach for the light. Instead, they all hurried off to the side. In the back right corner of the sanctuary, there was a little raised booth with a half-wall in front of it, protecting sound equipment and a seating space big enough for four or five people. Rey had never really seen one of these before, but she was grateful for something that blocked them from an exterior window.

"If they saw the truck, they'd know we were in here," Ben said, nudging Susannah over towards the corner where the booth's door- someone had given in a real door?- met the wall. Clearly, he'd had the same ideas as her, "keep moving."

"Joanna?" Antony asked suddenly. Rey looked up at him in confusion. He was standing in front of her, already in front of the small cubby they would hide in, but he was looking past her. Rey turned to follow his gaze and saw Joanna, ashen-faced, still leaning against one of the pews closest to the door. She had one hand pressed to a spot along the bottom of her ribcage and swayed dangerously. When she took her hand away from her dress to steady herself better, it came away scarlet.

"No," Hux choked. He rushed forward and scooped Joanna into her arms. Rey had never considered Hux to be a particularly imposing person, physically, especially how he always stood next to a taller and more muscular Ben, but he seemed to pick Joanna up as if she was nothing. Rey was vividly reminded of a news story that she'd heard about parents lifting cars off of their children. The fourteen-year-old probably weighed nothing to her father.

"Inside," Ben said, still holding Jesse on his hip as he pulled open the door to the booth and shepherded them through it. He placed Jesse under one of the tables, then guided Lyra underneath it next to him. Rey went in ahead of Hux and passed Noah over the steps and into Ben's waiting arms. The booth was actually two levels, not one, with the sound system on a raised platform that put them over the heads of anyone who might come into the audience, and another area that included a few cubbies for storage. It was incredibly cramped, but the two levels, the steps, and the area underneath the tables allowed them to shut the door behind Joanna and Hux. Rey sat on the top step, putting an arm around Isaac immediately as Hux cradled Joanna in his lap on the carpet below. Antony and Susannah huddled around them, Antony watching and blocking the door and Susannah crouched on the bottom step to look over Hux's shoulder at her sister.

"Daddy," Joanna whispered.

"What?" Hux asked, blinking in surprise. He'd claimed Joanna back on the farm, but clearly hadn't expected her to talk to him that way so quickly.

"Can I call you that now? Is that what this means?" Joanna whispered, her eyes roving over the ceiling above them, "I waited a long time."

Hux took a shuddering breath, trying not to choke on his own tears, "how-"

"I overheard you and Mother once when she was pregnant with the other baby, the one she lost. I knew it was a secret, but I never forgot," Joanna's voice was agonizingly slow like the thoughts and words cost her dearly. Her golden eyelashes flickered and a red stain on the tops of a few of them caught the dim light from one of the windows. The sky outside was lightning faintly.

"You can call me whatever you want," Hux said, "I'll show you the whole world once we get out of here. You can call me Daddy or Dad or- or Armitage, still, or-"

"Is your name really Armitage?" Joanna's fingers idly brushed up and down the back of the hand that was holding her cheek.

"No, it's Brendol Hux IV."

Susannah pressed her lips to the back of Hux's jacket, tears running down her face as her own shoulders hook.

"So I'm Joanna Hux?" Joanna asked. Her fingers twitched weakly and Rey wanted to scream. She wanted to turn to the altar, tear the crucifix down and demand that Jesus get off the cross and perform one more goddamned miracle in His house. If He'd been the one who left the door open for them, then why the fuck would he let Joanna, who was always hopeful and kind, be the one to catch that ricocheted bullet?

Joanna's father leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her forehead, "you can be whoever you want to be."

"Did you pick my name out or did he?" Joanna asked, her voice suddenly sharp and clear.

"He did."

"Then I want a new one," her voice was full of an iron-hard resolve that filled Rey with equal parts grief and pride. Joanna had always been a serious girl and more openly obedient than her sister, but she had a will to break swords against and here it was.

"How about Miranda? It- it was my mother's name."

Miranda Hux smiled, lifting her chin up slightly, "I love it. Miranda Anser Hux."

"Why Anser?" Brendol Hux IV lifted a hand to smooth his daughter's sweaty hair off of her forehead.

"The..." Miranda Anser Hux took a slow breath, her voice too high with the effort of talking, "the geese. The geese that would always fly over the farm. They were in the Anser genus. Do you like it?"

"It's perfect," Brendol said, "it's perfect."

Isaac sobbed into Rey's shirt and Susannah held onto her sister's hand tightly. After years of oppression, they'd come so close, only to have the last hope of a whole family ripped from them. It made Rey want to go back and kill Snoke all over again.

"I remember when you were first born," Hux said. His hands shook as Joanna began to blink heavily, "I used to sneak into your room in the middle of the night, just to make sure you were okay. I did it with all of you, but you were born a bit shorter than your sister, so I was absolutely terrified. I used to stay up half the night, just watching you breathe and making sure that you were okay."

"I was always short?" Joanna joked weakly.

"Yes," Hux said, the corners of his mouth lifting shakily.

Noah whined behind Rey, but she heard Ben shush him gently. Rey couldn't imagine what she would do if Noah or Jesse had gotten hurt in their attempt to escape. The thought horrified her. It was beyond what she could process or comprehend.

"Now that's just unfair," Joanna said. She turned her head slightly to look at Susannah, "why did you always have to be better than me?"

Susannah laughed, even through her tears, but Brendol Hux merely shook his head, "not better, just taller. When you were a toddler, you were much nicer than Susannah and much less destructive than Isaac."

"Okay then," Joanna said. She tried to add a note of sarcastic pleasure to her voice, but her exhaustion mostly failed. Her eyes were closing in earnest now.

"You would walk around singing all the time, even if you didn't know the words to any songs. You'd copy birds and make up your own tunes. You were just like my mom, always coming up with music of some kind. It's like you were born with it," Hux said.

Joanna hummed quietly but didn't speak. Brendol Hux brushed a hand over her head, trembling as her grip on him went slack and her eyes closed for the last time. Susannah trembled against her father as Hux looked down at his other daughter, letting his hand drift to rest on her stomach. Rey closed her eyes tightly as tears ran down her face. It took her a moment to realize that he was checking her breathing, watching to see if her chest would rise and fall, just like he'd done when she was a baby.

Chapter Text

Rey couldn't keep track of how much time passed in cold silence. It took what felt like years of the quiet before she realized that the children were all crying, but she couldn't hear it. Rey looked down at Isaac, who was sobbing into her shirt without making a noise. She rubbed his back, realizing that, even in the face of death, years with Snoke had taught the children how to cry silently.

Fury boiled within Rey, but she said nothing. The person that she was angry with was dead. Her fury would only frighten the children more. Noah woke after a while, and Rey automatically opened her arms for him. Ben placed him in her grip without hesitation, and Rey opened her dirty and wrinkled shirt, letting the baby nurse in contented silence as they all waited. Beyond that, it seemed like they stayed perfectly still and silent. They should have kept moving, probably. There was still a chance that this church was related to the First Order somehow or that the other members would find them.

There were no clocks inside the sanctuary, so none of them knew how long Phasma had been gone. As Rey leaned against the wall, cradling Noah, who was again asleep, she couldn't help but wonder what would happen if the First Order found Phasma. Would they kill her outright? Would they spare her under the false impression that she was pregnant with Snoke's baby? Would they try to extract the others' location from her?

There was no situation involving the First Order that wasn't horrible. They couldn't find Phasma or all very well could be lost.

"How long until we move?" Ben whispered. His face was so close to her left ear that she could feel his lips move her hair. She shrugged, unable to muster anything more than that. They would need to move eventually. They weren't safe yet, not until they were somewhere the First Order couldn't possibly get to them. They should have been on their feet, looking for phones or trying to open other doors into the different rooms to see if there was any connection to the First Order. Hell, even checking for mirrors would be a decent start. There could be a phone in the pastor's office or one of the other rooms, a way that they could call for real and official help.

They could have called for the police or an ambulance ages ago before Joanna had even died. Rey knew it wouldn't have done any good, since places like Rickards, Montana were so far removed from civilization that it would have taken them hours to get any help, but they'd at least have people with guns and badges on their side. Instead, though, they sat in terrified and paralyzed silence. It was like, after Joanna had died, all of their pain, a lifetime's worth, had suddenly risen up and drowned all of them. Rey felt strange, hiding in the darkness of the little booth, her softly snoring baby in her arms. Time somehow didn't pass and slid through her fingers like sand. She was both totally disconnected from all of her aches, pains, and fatigue engulfed in minor points of contact. For some reason, a bruise on her left leg felt less real than the sensation of her left elbow making contact with the wall of the church.

The thing that felt most real, however, was the sound of the lock when it clicked open. It was such a small, slight sound, but in the near-perfect silence, it could have been a shotgun blast.

Hux had locked it when they got inside.

The only people who could unlock it were those that had a key.

Rey tightened her grip on Noah, ready to turn and shield him and Isaac. Susannah and Anthony grabbed each other's hands as Ben tense behind Rey, bracing for a fight. All of them readied themselves in tense silence, watching the door, but the shock came from elsewhere.

Whoever had unlocked the door turned on the lights, immediately blinding them. Ben grunted, shielding his face. Jesse whined, and Lyra shushed him gently. Noah began screaming and crying, which made them all jump. Rey tightened her grip on Noah, curling gently around him and rubbing his back. She hummed, letting her throat rest against the side of Noah's head. The vibrations, as they always did, soothed him, but there were now footsteps around the corner of the booth. The door was thrown open, and they all braced for another confrontation, but it was someone that they'd never seen before. He was dressed in jeans, a belt, and the first short-sleeved three-button shirt that Rey had seen in almost six years.

There was no way The First Order would allow any man to wear a bright salmon shirt with short sleeves.

"Aw, hell!" the man said, letting forth a violently southern accent, which nearly knocked Rey off-balance. She wasn't sure exactly what she'd expected him to sound like, but she hadn't expected that. The man turned away, running towards the front door. He shouted out the doorway, judging by how distant his voice was, "Leanne! Leanne! Have Ashley radio the Sherrif! Tell 'im we found 'em!"

In the coming weeks, Rey would try to remember what those first few hours were like. They were moved into another room, given paper cups of water and blankets. When they were moved, Rey glanced over her shoulder to watch the door. The man who unlocked the door was named Dave, the head usher. He stood in the doorway, turning the regular congregants away at the door. When Rey saw that, she sighed in relief. Although she was now fully convinced that these people weren't First Order, Rey didn't need an entire congregation of well-meaning strangers swooping down on her and her children.

In the back classroom where they'd been kept away, they were watched over by Leanne, who had come in with Dave. "you're safe," she said, crouching down and looking at them intently, "the FBI is in the area, down at the sheriff's station."

"The FBI?" Hux asked blearily.

"We called them as soon as we got your messages," Leanne said, patting his arm gently.

"Messages?" Hux's voice cracked at those words.

"We floated messages in bottles a few weeks ago," Ben explained.

Rey swallowed tightly, "and it worked?" She rocked Noah back and forth.

"Hell yeah!" Leanne said, then glanced guiltily at the cross on the wall, "two bottles were found, one by me and one by another member of the congregation."

Rey nodded, tears welling in her eyes. It had WORKED. Ages of terror, planning, and desperation had PAID OFF. Everything had finally come to some kind of resolution.

"The FBI is here," Dave said, sticking his head in the doorway. Behind him was a beat cop, by the look of it.

"What's that?" Isaac asked, looking at Susannah and Hux.

"They're fine people," Dave said, crouching down to look Isaac in the eye, "they're going to take you somewhere safe. It means "Federal Bureau of Investigation," so they look for criminals and rescue people all over. They're safe. They'll take care of you."

"What about Miranda?" Susannah whispered.

"She's going to come with us," the cop said gently, "we can keep her safe from decay or animals or pests."

They all nodded, standing slowly. Out of habit, the children moved to fold the blankets, but Leanne said, "it's alright. I'll put them away. You just go."

It was bedlam when they got to the main sanctuary. There were people in dark blue jackets wielding cameras, treading methodically through the room and taking photos. On television, the CSI crews were always a dozen or more people, all dressed in protective gear and wearing booties. Here, it was just four of them. Another two people were loitering outside the booth, but they were dressed differently than the crime scene techs. One of them was a tall man with a sturdy brown jacket over a tan shirt and bullet-proof vest with 'FBI' written on it in bright yellow letters. The person next to him was a shorter woman with brown hair tied out of her face, dressed in sturdy dark pants and shirt. Her kohl-lined eyes met Rey's, and she nudged her companion in the vest before walking over to her.

Overcome by sudden anxiety, Rey looked at Ben, who held Jesse tightly to his chest, his wrists locked under his son. Rey walked over to him, resting her forehead against his arm, taking slow deep breaths of his familiar smell. Noah buried his nose in her shirt, too, soothing himself with her scent, just like she did with Ben.

"You okay?" Ben whispered.

Rey stared at the floor, trying to think about why she was so afraid.

Ben.

Ben was a rapist. He might get taken down with the First Order members, even if he'd been a prisoner himself. Rey's head snapped up. She stood on her toes, hissing directly into his ear, "whatever happens, you tell them that I knew about everything from the first day. Even if you tell them the truth, I'm going to lie that you told me about Snoke and being Ben and being kidnapped, so you can lie with me, or they'll catch me right away."

"Rey, I-" Ben broke off when the agents came closer.

"My name is Special Agent Andor," the man said, holding out a hand. Rey almost shook it, but couldn't bring herself to. She just held onto Noah, rubbing his back and leaning against Ben. Hux put an arm around Isaac and Susannah, "this is my partner, Special Agent Erso," he added, gesturing to the dark-haired woman next to him. He looked around at them, "two of our agents have found a woman who is called Phasma a few miles away, and they're bringing her here. We'll be moving all of you to a secure location shortly, but we're going to move you all together."

"Thank you," Rey whispered. She jumped when she heard a mechanic pulse, looking around for its source. Ben, Hux, and the kids were looking around wildly, too. Special Agent Andor pulled up a cell phone from his pocket, which made all of the others stare. No one spoke, but they all stared, open-mouthed, as he began talking to someone on the other side.

"No, don't let her inside on her-"

When Rey heard a car door open and shut, she knew what it was, but she wasn't fully prepared to see Phasma rushed inside. The woman's golden braid swung around to her front as she turned her head, searching desperately for her children. When Phasma caught sight of them, she let out a desperate noise of relief, tears welling in her eyes. Phasma ran over to Susannah and Isaac, hugging them tightly. Isaac buried his face in her shirt, gripping her shirt tightly.

Rey closed her eyes, waiting for the inevitable horror of what was coming. Phasma pulled away, cupping their faces in turn, looked into their eyes intently for a moment. Hux touched her cheek, too, drawing her attention upward and into his face.

"Are you okay?" Hux asked, "you and the baby?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Baby's fine," Phasma said, "They didn't catch me at all. The FBI found me and the car and had already cleared the First Order behind me."

"Good," Hux said, running his fingers up and down her cheek and temple, clearly trying to remind himself that she was safe.

"Where's-" Phasma broke off, checking the faces around her. Rey's heart sank, knowing who Phasma was looking for. She couldn't know, but Miranda Anser Hux, her middle child, was lying dead in the first half of the audio-visual booth of the church.

"She's not here," Hux whispered. She shuddered, tears welling in his eyes again, "she- she was hit when they shot at the truck."

"No," Phasma said, grabbing Hux's arm for support, "where is she?"

"Here," Hux said quietly, walking over to the booth.

When Phasma looked into the booth, she fell to her knees. The sound that Phasma made would haunt Rey until the day she died. The blonde woman bowed over the body of her youngest daughter, sobbing and brushing Miranda's hair from her face. The police officers loitered nearby, but let Phasma have her time.

Tears ran down Rey's face. She buried her face in Ben's shirt, trembling. She'd put her babies in the cab of the truck. She'd been the one to put Isaac and Joanna in the back. It was her choice who was put in the cab and who was in the back. It was her fault that Joanna had been in the most danger.

Hearing Phasma whisper to and plead with her daughter, begging her to wake up, made Rey want to curl up and die. She'd waited too long. She should have made Ben and the children leave with her when Noah was born. She should have planned something more. She should have done anything different.

"Phasma, we have to go," Hux finally said, rubbing her back.

"No!" Phasma shrieked, throwing an arm away, Joanna's head in her lap. Hux wrapped his arms around her, speaking in her ear. Phasma shook her head, putting a hand over his forearm and letting him lead her slowly away from Joanna.

Special Agents Andor and Erso led them all slowly towards several unmarked SUVs. Rey looked at Ben, her eyes wide. The idea of getting in a car, of trusting people to take them to a safe location, sent her heart into a tailspin.

Special Agent Erso gestured to the van at the back of the line, "We have car seats for the children in one of the v-"

"No!" Ben said sternly. He tightened his grip on Jesse, "we stay together."

"It's okay," Agent Erso said, "that's alright. We can keep you altogether until we get to the sheriff's station."

Ben nodded. He looked at Hux and a white-faced Phasma. When the two men made eye contact, they nodded.

"We'll go in two cars," Hux said, nodding, "kids with their parents."

Special Agent Andor opened the van door, and Rey looked at it. The interior was dark, and she had no idea where they were going, but this was as much a den of safety as it was a portal to the unknown. She glanced over her shoulder one more time at Ben. Her King of Death, her dark fairytale prince, was here, still. She'd spent five years in the Underworld, trying to get back to the living, but she suddenly wondered if her dark prince and her children could survive on the surface.

Rey met Ben's dark eyes, and he nodded. She trusted him. The van was dark and unknown, but this was his element. It always had been. The night had been their safe place. It's where they'd been able to be people, out in the garden when he'd still been Kylo. Rey found the sweet pea, his first love letter, in her drawer when she went to bed. His pillow had been stuffed with lavender to soothe her and remind her of him while he was away.

The first time they'd had actual sex had been after a night of Snoke's mind games when he'd come back from scouting for Paige. It had been clumsy and awkward, complete with missed kisses, half-formed sentences, and Ben's well-intentioned questions. Her answers had mostly consisted of "no" and "uh-huh," but it was the closest to a real and honest conversation they'd ever had.

The night Paige had died, Rey and Ben had washed away the lies, cloaked in darkness. They'd begun a new life, a real life, in the ashes of the fire that Paige had set. That was the life that Jesse could remember. That was the life that they'd rediscovered the world, as much as they could. Noah had been conceived then, as had their new baby. Those nights had been long and tiring but had made her feel more alive than either of them had in the First Order.

Remembering that, Rey wasn't afraid of the darkness and the uncertainty anymore. That belonged to them, not to Snoke. She tightened her grip on Noah, then climbed into the door. She moved all the way to one side, watching Ben clamber inside after her, still holding onto Jesse. When she saw the middle seat was open, she scooted to the empty space. She sat next to Ben, leaning against him as Special Agent Andor shut the door.

"I can't let you lie for me," Ben whispered.

"Do you love me?" Rey countered.

Ben stiffened in the five years they'd been together, they'd always kept that subject at bay.

"Yes," Ben choked.

"Then let me save you. I need you. The boys need you," Rey said. The front door opened, and Special Agent Erso climbed into the driver's seat.

Special Agent Andor got into the passenger side, looking over his shoulder at them, "everyone okay?"

"Yeah," Rey whispered. The SUV started, and Rey leaned against Ben as they drove on. She closed her eyes, tears running down her face with relief. They were free. They were away from the First Order.

Ben turned and met her face, his eyes wide. Rey smiled, the corner of her mouth lifting. Here was the part of Ben that she loved the most. He was vulnerable, warm, and welcoming. Even in the midst of all of his fear and pain, he could still be gobsmacked that she loved him.

This wasn't romantic, or maybe it was, but they understood each other. Rey and Ben had, at least for a moment, no worries about meanings or the future or being discovered. All they had to do was sit, hold their children, and survive the car ride.

The FBI agents didn't speak or ask them any questions, but Rey didn't expect them to. Ben seemed to watch them with a little trepidation, but he likely had less experience with crime TV shows and Miranda rights and lawyers. Rey knew the agents wouldn't try to talk to them off the record, especially if they were going to have any shot of making a case against members of the First Order. Ben probably didn't spend most of the winter break his freshman year of college watching Criminal Minds, however, so she had a bit of an advantage on him in that regard.

The ride to the sheriff's station seemed to slide past them, and Rey fell into a dreamless, sleepless haze that came with no awareness or real rest. She and Ben leaned against each other, improperly buckled into the car and not giving a damn about it, and let their exhaustion and relief roll over them. Hours or perhaps days later, when they finally arrived, different agents were opening their doors and helping them out. Rey had wondered when she heard Ben's door open a heartbeat before her own if the media would be waiting for them. She'd hoped there wouldn't be since introducing the children to the world with a media frenzy would not be what she would hope for. However, it was peaceful and quiet. No one reached for their children, and the agents merely let Ben and Rey carry their boys up the stairs and inside the building. Their arrival, it seemed, was not met with the kind of circus Rey would expect, at least not yet. There was only one local news crew waiting for them as the sun began to lighten the ground around them in earnest, but they were being kept at bay by a few beat cops.

When a cameraman turned to look at Rey, Ben, and the others who trailed up behind them, Rey ducked her head down and shielded Noah's face. Ben grunted thanks as someone opened the door into the station, but didn't speak further. Instead, he settled himself with looking around at each of the others' faces in turn, clearly checking for injuries or distress.

Besides exhaustion and grief, however, they were all fine.

At least, as fine as they could ever hope to be.

"Where do we go?" Rey asked tentatively as Special agents Erso and Andor followed them.

"We're going to take you back and ask you some questions," Special Agent Andor explained.

"How do we do this?" Rey asked warily.

An administrator, a woman in a pair of dress pants and a blazer, stepped forward, walking between the Special Agents and speaking gently, "we're going to take the children from here if that's alright. We're going to put them in a safe place while you talk to the FBI."

"Where will they go?" Phasma asked. She put an arm around Isaac and Susannah, looking around at the agents and the woman in the suit. Her blonde hair was falling loose, and her face was red and puffy from tears, but her voice was steady.

The woman smiled comfortingly. When she turned her head, the light caught her cheekbones. Her dark skin seemed to shimmer in the light, which Rey found jarring. It didn't look natural, and it threw Rey for a loop. It wasn't until she was halfway through a sentence that Rey realized that it was makeup.

Rey hadn't seen makeup in years. The black woman's face was fully covered in makeup that confused and intoxicated Rey in equal measure. Her black eyeliner was perfect, clean, and artful. Her blush was both bright and warm, complete with bronzer under her cheekbones. The high points of both cheeks were highlighted with some kind of shimmering white powder that Rey had never used before. Seeing so many cosmetics in one place was like seeing a cell phone again.

It was like being let into a new fantasy world that she'd somehow grown up in. She hadn't worn her makeup like that, but she wanted to. Rey's heart tightened as the woman began to mention her babies and dragged her back into reality "...into a room where they can wash their faces and get something to eat while you talk. We already have pillows and blankets in there, and we're trying to find enough cots to let them all nap near each other."

"I-" Phasma looked down at her remaining children, her hands shaking on their shoulders.

"I know you just lost one of your daughters," the administrator said gently, "it's just for a little while, I promise."

Phasma looked at Hux. His expression was tight, and he pursed his lips, blue eyes flicking between the different agents, the administrator, and Phasma. The administrator turned her attention to Rey and Ben, clearly trying to reassure them in the hopes that they'd convince Phasma and Hux.

"We're not taking the children far away," the woman said. Her voice was gentle and slow like Rey was a frightened animal or a child.

"What are you going to do?" Rey asked.

"Get them a change of clothes, something to eat, and a meeting with a social worker," Rey clenched her jaw, then nodded. She opened her arms, letting them pick him up.

"Okay," Rey said, nodding. A cop with a blonde ponytail stepped forward and took Noah from her arms. Rey closed her eyes, hands shaking as tears ran down her face. Another officer stepped forward, and Ben set Jesse down on his feet.

"This is..." Ben trailed off, looking up at the woman in the suit.

"Amanda Laitt," the administrator said. She smiled warmly and squatted down to look Jesse in the eye.

"This is Amanda," Ben said, "you're going to go with her and the other kids. You're going to take a nap, get some snacks, and Mama and I are going to come to get you soon."

"Okay," Jesse said, rubbing his eyes sleepily. He looked at Amanda, who held out his hand and walked with her. Noah and Jesse stayed quiet and calm as they were led away, but Rey wanted to scream. She wanted her babies here, where she could keep them safe. The teenagers looked at them all anxiously, but Phasma nodded, which was enough for them. If Rey was willing to let Noah go with them, it was sufficient for the others.

"What happens now?" Hux asked.

Ben clenched and unclenched his fists as the boys trailed after the social worker.

"Now, we want to ask each of you a few questions, alone, if that's alright," Special Agent Andor said. Rey nodded stiffly. She grabbed Ben's hand, silently pleading with him one last time: let me save you.

Chapter Text

Rey sat in the empty interrogation room, looking down at the flat wooden table. It didn't look like the interrogation rooms in the movies. Those always included metal tables and chairs with a hook for the handcuffs to go through, but instead, it was a small, windowless room with carpeted floors, a wooden table, and an ancient office chair. Rey pulled her feet onto the seat of the chair, bracing her knees against the side of the table.

Rey wasn't sure how much time had passed. There were no clocks in here, which she understood. In an
interrogation room, not having a sense of time could be helpful to disorient people and get them to give up information.

Was that what they were going to do to her?

What would they go after me for? Rey thought.

You allowed Paige to die. You've spent years propping up Snoke. You let Ben strangle Snoke, even if it was self-defense. They may decide that you have done too much to help the First Order, that same bitter voice within her mind said.

Or they'll go after me for lying about Ben, Rey countered. She stared blankly at the floor. There was an old stain of some kind next to the table. She wondered if it was coffee or tea from some angry suspect years ago.

You haven't lied about Ben yet, the voice in her mind said.

Rey took a deep breath, I will, though. I'll protect him. I need him. The boys need him. He doesn't deserve this. She looked down at her hands. They were dirtier than she'd thought. She'd torn a callous on her thumb, and it was bleeding. She'd probably ripped it while they'd been clutching the back of the truck to hang on for dear life.

The door behind her opened and closed. Rey looked over her shoulder to see Special Agent Andor and Special Agent Erso walk in.

"Hello," Special Agent Andor said. He held up a steaming cup of coffee, a water bottle, and a Snicker's bar, "how are you feeling?"

Rey shrugged. She eyed the coffee and the water. She needed to drink water and eat something, especially considering that she was pregnant. Her feet fell to the floor as the agent put the food in front of her.

"My partner and I wanted to sit and talk to you about your recent experiences and how you got here," Special Agent Andor said.

Rey nodded. She tentatively reached out for the water bottle, opening it without difficulty and sipping it. Rey's face twisted automatically as soon as the water hit her lips. The water tasted like plastic and minerals. She glanced down at the label, recognizing the brand: Dasani. It had been her least favorite before she'd spent five years drinking just well water, but now the taste of plastic and processed water was jarring.

"Do you think you could start by telling us your name?" Special Agent Erso asked. Her voice was surprisingly gentle, which made her sound approachable and comforting. Rey knew it was more psychological than anything, but it still made her feel a little more at ease. It didn't help that she had an English accent.

Rey hadn't heard an English accent in such a long time.

"My name is Rey," she said, "Rey Niima." She blinked rapidly, tears welling in her eyes. She knew why she couldn't stop crying. The kind of exhaustion that she was experiencing wasn't abnormal, especially considering she'd spent the past five years in an incredibly traumatic situation, robbed of her identity, raped countless times, and forced to continually live two competing lives at the same time as she tried to keep her mind clear and protected from the constant gaslighting perpetrated by everyone in the First Order.

"Rey Niima," Agent Erso said, nodding slowly. She opened a manilla folder, looking inside carefully before writing something down, "do you know what the date is, Rey?"

"I- I think it's March of 2017..." Rey said cautiously, "I think so because my oldest baby was born in March of 2013 and my next baby was born about three years later, in June or July. It was summer, but I'm pretty sure it was June."

"You don't know for sure?" Agent Andor asked. He didn't sound accusatory, but like he was interested and they were having an interesting conversation about unusual weekend plans.

"No, I don't," Rey said, "I- I kept a calendar, but it only..." Rey trailed off, unsure how to explain about her calender and the way she'd been counting her period to keep track of if she was pregnant or not. She and Ben used it to avoid getting pregnant after Jesse was born and before Noah was conceived. Rey was almost certain that every once in a while, Snoke would try and see if they were having sex, especially around the time he'd started badgering them about another grandchild, so they'd tried to carefully plan sex, making sure that, if

Snoke was listening at the door, he would have something that would satisfy his worries about rebellion.

Noah had been a little bit of an accident, but it would probably have happened eventually. It might have had to happen.

"That's okay," Agent Erso said calmly, leaning back in her chair.

"What is the date?" Rey asked, sipping her water again and wrinkling her nose.

Agent Erso's eyes flickered at Agent Andor, but she didn't say anything to him or let her hesitation show. If Rey hadn't spent years having silent conversations with Ben, she might have missed it, but Rey knew that look. Erso was asking should I do it? and Andor's lack of an excuse as to why they had to move on or couldn't reveal that was enough for her.

"It's March 26, 2017," Agent Erso said.

The floor fell away under Rey's feet. Rey grabbed onto the side of the chair, staring at her still-steaming coffee and the unopened Snicker's bar. Five years. She'd spent more than five years, officially, with the First Order. She'd known that, to a degree, but there was a difference between understanding something to be accurate and knowing it was actually true.

"Rey?" Agent Andor asked.

Rey looked up, taking a deep breath. She felt like she'd suddenly been drawn from a pool that she was drowning in. She looked between their two faces, then nodded, schooling her features, "yes?"

"Can you tell me about the place and the people where you were?" Agent Andor asked.

Rey looked down at her hands. They were shaking. She needed to get herself under control, or they wouldn't be able to get through this and get her back to her life.

If she was honest, however, she didn't have a life anymore. She had a life that belonged to someone else, but it wasn't hers.

Or is the life with Ben the false one? that same hard, dismissive voice said in her head.

Blindly, Rey grabbed the Snicker's bar and unwrapped it. She took a bite, chewed, and immediately regretted it. Her mouth was entirely overwhelmed by the taste of all the American sugar and processed ingredients. Rey retched, then grabbed a trash can, leaning forward to empty her stomach. She trembled, leaning her head against the side of the table, her hands shaking.

"I'm so sorry," Special Agent Andor said, his eyes earnestly wide and horrified.

Rey nodded stiffly, taking a deep breath. She sipped her water again, not grateful for it.

"Is there anything we can do for you?" Erso asked, putting a hand across the table to put her hand over hers, but Rey brushed her hair out of her face and looked away, "can I get something regular like a sandwich please? Can you buy another one, too? The other woman is pregnant, and the candy isn't going to be good for her."

"That's fine," Agent Erso said. She looked over her shoulder at the camera and raised her thumbs up.

Rey sighed in relief, then looked back at the FBI agents, "what else do you want to know?" she whispered.

"Where are you from, Rey?" Agent Erso asked.

Rey hated that question. She'd never had a good answer or a place to call home. When she'd move from foster family to foster family, they'd make introductions and small talk and she'd never been from there. When it came to talking about her birth and her upbringing, she'd had nothing to go on besides a probably made up story about a nurse that she'd never been able to find.

The woman who saved her all those years ago could be dead, now, for all she knew.

"I was at University of Colorado, Boulder," Rey said, "I was at a bar and got pulled into a car, I think."

"You think?" Agent Andor asked. He leaned forward, managing to keep his tone conversational and interrogational.

Rey sighed, "I was. I was a senior, in their engineering undergrad. It was a semester away."

Andor nodded gravely.

"Do you remember anything of how you got to Montana?" Agent Erso asked. Both she and her partner were speaking gently and with understanding, so they weren't taking any kind of "Good Cop/Bad Cop" tactic with her. They probably supposed that after five years of living in the First Order, she would be desperate to talk.

Rey was, but she still wanted to make sure she wasn't getting played somehow. Even if she couldn't control what the others told the authorities, she could control the narrative now, at least a little.

"Not really, no," Rey said, "the last thing I remember was leaving the bar in Colorado. I wasn't feeling great, but I thought that was more emotional and psychosomatic than real. Then I remember darkness and a kind of jerking feeling like I was getting picked up around the waist, and then that was it. The next thing that I knew, I was lying on a cot in a room, without any kind of decoration and all I had on was a men's white dress shirt and my underwear."

"Do you have any of those items in the house somewhere?" Agent Erso asked. She could barely contain the excitement in her voice, but Rey understood. The idea of catching Snoke and delivering any kind of closure was intoxicating. She was sorry to disappoint the agents.

"I- It's all gone. He threw out everything that I came in with, besides my underwear."

"Do you still have that at least?" Agent Erso offered. Clearly, there was something on the clothes that they were looking for. They were trying to find something, something to tie Snoke to the case, probably.

"Can- can you not interrupt?" Rey asked, unable to stop the question from bubbling up within her, "I just- I almost died like four times tonight, and I just want to tell my story in one go. You can ask questions later, but...

"Of course," Agent Andor said, nodding encouragingly

"When I woke up, Ben was there," Rey said "he was standing on one wall, looking absolutely pissed," Rey said, "at first, I was afraid that he'd wanted to kill me and I'd survived somehow and ruined his plans, but no. Snoke came in next. He was immediately abusive, slapping me when I hesitated to follow my orders from him. He forgave me, apparently, months later, but it was still terrifying. He was always like that: abusive, manipulative, and cruel for the sake of being cruel.

"I spent about two days in the empty room before I was let out. They only let me out because they'd decided to "marry me off" to Ben," Rey sighed. Here was the moment of truth. She could lie, pretend that Ben was honest from her with the first day and that he'd willingly told her about his own kidnapping and captivity or she could be honest and hope that Ben being kept prisoner by Snoke for more than twenty years would make a significant difference to a trial jury.

There really was no choice: "and Ben told me everything after they "married us." We were supposed to go upstairs to consummate everything, but instead, he explained about being kidnapped, and that escape would prove almost impossible. I tried anyway, though, just once. Paige Tico, another woman, and lawyer from Dallas tried and she was killed for it. But Snoke kills for any and all reason, so if she did something wrong later on, he might have killed her for that, too."

The Agents didn't say anything, but Rey saw Special Agent Andor's eyebrows raise and Erso blink and stare off into space thoughtfully for a moment. Finally, she nodded, and Rey continued: "I worked my way around a kitchen, the living room, and the upstairs."

"Can you tell me about what Snoke wanted from you? You said he made you get married, can you explain the reason for that? Or perhaps the reason that he gave?" Agent Andor asked.

Rey looked down at her hands. She'd grown so many new calluses in the months and years that she'd been with the First Order. "I think he just wanted more people under control. He binds himself to them by controlling every part of their lives. If someone thinks they can have the slightest amount of control, he takes it back, just to spite them. I didn't have access to a mirror, ever, and he gave my children names that I didn't choose. He was always nice to the babies, however. He only ever stopped being given grace after he was ten or eleven, Isaac, that is."

"And Isaac is..." Erson trailed off.

"Isaac is Phasma's son. The boy that can talk and talk," Rey clarified.

"Alright," Special Agent Erso said, nodding, "so, you and Ben began a sexual relationship from the getgo." Rey and Ben had been plenty comfortable with sex, at least biologically. Emotionally, however, Rey could see the uncertainty in his eyes. The hesitation had been endearing later on, but the first time, she had been furious.

Rey sighed, "Snoke called himself "father," like he was a hero, and the First Order was going to save anyone or something. He wanted me pregnant and fast, especially because he had decided to brainwash Ben twenty years ago, but it failed."

"Wait, Ben?" Agent Erso asked. She looked at Agent Andor, then nodded slowly, "can you tell me more about Ben and his past?"

"His mother is Senator Leia Organa," Rey explained, "he was taken from a park when he was twelve and learned how to keep himself safe from Snoke by complying. He taught me how to do what Snoke wanted and how to stay safe."

Agents Andor and Erso nodded. Agent Erso's leg was shaking, either from excitement or anxiety, she guessed.

"Can I get some real food?" Rey asked suddenly, "I'm really, really hungry."

The two agents looked at each other and nodded. They stood up in tandem, thanked Rey for her information so far, and walked to the door. When they reached it, Agent Erso paused, looking over her shoulder, "do you think you could answer more questions later?"

Rey nodded, "can I see my children, though? They've never had junk food before, not out of a package. I don't want them getting sick."

"We'll tell them about it," Agent Andor promised. Rey pressed her lips together but decided to trust the two specialists. If she didn't, then all she'd have left was fear.

 

After a short while, she was allowed to leave the interrogation room. A social worker or administrator of some kind gave her a blanket and led her to a small break room. Inside, someone had put a loaf of sandwich bread.

"Can I just sit here?" Rey asked the woman. There were so many people around that she had no way of getting everyone's names. People weren't introducing themselves and their badges were all metallic. Reading in general wasn't easy after five years away from any text, but reading on metal was jarring.

"Of course," the woman said.

Rey sat down and looked up at the lady in the suit. This woman, too, was wearing makeup. It was like seeing a bunch of tropical birds after a long winter. Even this woman's muted and natural makeup was bright compared to the plain faces she'd seen for the past five years.

"Can I see my children?" Rey asked.

The woman hesitated, her bottom lip twisting. Rey's heart jumped into her throat. Why was she pausing? Where were her kids?

"I think we should wait on that. They're sleeping now and-"

Rey stood up suddenly, "I just want to see them and see that they're okay," she blurted.

"It'll be okay," the woman said, "you need to calm down."

"No, I want to see them!" Rey said, "they're my children! They're my babies. They need me."

"You'll see them soon, Rey," the woman said. Rey finally read the woman's name tag. Her name was Cheryl Shcapper and she was a social worker.

"Are they safe? Did they eat?" Rey asked, her voice cracking.

Cheryl Shcapper smiled gently, "yes, they are."

"And Ben?" Rey asked, wiping her eyes, "where is he?"

"He's still speaking to Agent Rook and Agent Esso," Schapper said.

Rey stood for another moment, then nodded. She sat down stiffly, staring straight ahead. Her children were safe, although she wasn't allowed to see them. She had to trust the FBI.

This is what trust looked like. She needed to trust that her kids would be okay. The social worker left quietly, shutting the door mostly behind her. Rey looked around the room, taking in the nondescript tables, coffeemaker, and seating that might as well have been in a priceless temple. Opening the bag of bread, Rey nibbled on the heel of the loaf, staring blankly ahead. She wasn't sure how much time had passed when someone knocked on the doorframe. She turned her thoughts and memories over and over. She remembered Jesse's firsts steps, when Noah laughed for the first time, the time that Jesse fell into Finalizer's muck and rolled himself clean in the snow, and the late night moments with Ben and the boys, half-asleep and comfortable.

"Rey?" a mustachioed detective said from the doorway, snapping her out of her thoughts.

Rey looked up. She put down the slice of bread she'd been eating, feeling unsure what to do with her food. She'd been starving when she got in here, but didn't think she'd had a real chance to eat. However, when she glanced at the bag, she realized that she'd somehow eaten through several slices without even realizing it.

"Yeah?" Rey asked.

"There's someone here to see you," the detective said, stepping back. He waved someone behind him forward. Rey stood up, then saw a familiar dark-skinned face and let out a whimper.

"Rey!" Finn rushed forward. He shouldered the cop aside in his haste to get to her. He hugged her tightly, nearly lifting her off her feet. When he leaned back, Poe was at his side. Poe reached out to touch Rey's cheek. Rey blinked rapidly, tears blurring her vision. Her friends were here. She still wanted to know where Jesse and Noah were, but the feeling of Finn's arms around her was absolutely blissful.

"I can't believe you're here," Poe whispered, his voice choked with tears.

"I am," Rey said, beaming. Her face hurt with the force of her smile, but she didn't care. She held onto Finn's arms, her hands shaking. Finn reached up and brushed a hand through her hair, then shook his head slightly and hugged her again. Rey hugged him back, just as tightly, which made him stiffen. He stepped back and looked, not at her face, but her belly, "I..."

Unable to stop herself, Rey blurted, "Finn. Finn, they took away my kids." She needed his eyes on her. She needed to keep Poe from looking at her with the same dawning horror that Finn was, even for a moment. More than that, however, she needed to know where Jesse and Noah were.

Poe, who had missed Finn's reaction after their hug, went pale at her words, "You have kids?" he murmured.

"Two," Rey said. She swallowed, "They separated everyone. They put the kids somewhere else. I want to see them."

"I…" Finn trailed off. He looked down at her belly, "are you pregnant?"

"I am," Rey said.

"Who…" Poe trailed off, unable to finish his sentence. He didn't know how to ask that particular question, not when the potential evidence of rape was right in front of her.

Rey took Poe and Finn's hands, partly to reassure them and partly because she was so excited to be able to touch them again, "they married me to a man named Ben. He- he's done what he can to keep me safe. He's part of the reason that we made it here tonight."

"Ben."

Finn said nothing, but nodded stiffly at the cold tone in Poe's voice.

"He's a good person," Rey said, "he spent twenty years there and managed to stay sane."

Someone screamed down the hallway.

Finn's head snapped up and he tightened his grip on Rey's hand. A cop stuck his head out of a room up the hall, "Mr. Storm," he called, "please come in here. She needs you."

Rey frowned, looking at Finn and then Poe, "who…" she trailed off, unable to process what was happening.

Finn squeezed Rey's hand, then let go of it and jogged down the hallway.

"It's probably Rose, Finn's girlfriend," Poe said quietly.

"His girlfriend? You're not-" Rey turned to look at Poe, who shook his head. Looking into his face, she could suddenly see exactly what had happened. It was like watching a film behind her eyes. She saw the fear, the blame, and the fighting. They'd blamed each other for her disappearance, each turning on each other and themselves because they'd stood her up. Rey knew that she could tell them it wasn't their fault a million times, but they wouldn't listen. In the coming weeks, they'd all have to get used to each other again, but she wanted to heal whatever rift Snoke had put between her two best friends.

Rey Niima was not going to let Snoke take a single goddamn thing from her ever again.

Chapter Text

Ben was the last one let out of questioning. Phasma and Hux were let out within an hour after Rey, but their families hadn't arrived yet. They all sat in silence around the table, eating from the loaf of bread and waiting for news of their family.

By mid-morning, both Phasma and Rey were downright antsy. Rey paced around the empty break room, even as Poe told her to sit down. He didn't try to make small talk with Phasma or Hux, which was probably the best call. Phasma was fidgeting with napkins and shredding them absently. After Hux and Phasma were brought in, a police officer waited outside the door, which did make Rey feel safer. If any members of the First Order were being arrested and brought in, the children had been shut away in a secure room, and the adults had a guard. Rey pressed her hands together, letting her fingers rest against her lips as they continued to wait for Ben. When he finally walked through the door, flanked by Special Agent Andor and Special Agent Erso. Rey dropped her hands to her sides and immediately rushed over to Ben.

Ben opened his arms, pulling Rey tightly against him. He held her for a long moment, breathing her in. He rested his chin on her head, and Rey curled her fingers, clutching the back of his shirt. Ben managed to keep himself calm, but Rey could feel his heart pulsing loudly in his ear.

"Are you okay?" Ben asked, his voice rumbling in her ear, "are the kids okay?"

"Yeah," Rey said, taking a deep breath. She leaned back a little, finally able to get a good look at his face. He had five o'clock shadow in earnest, and the shadows under his eyes were so purple that they were almost black. He'd somehow cut his forehead, but it was just a scratch. Rey reached up, brushing her fingertips under the cut, frowning.

"How are you?" Ben asked, curling his hand around her wrist lightly, "how's the baby?"

"I'm good," Rey said, "the vending machine food didn't agree with me, but the bread went better. Baby's fine."

"Baruch hashem," Ben muttered, nodding. He pressed a hand to her belly anyway, but Rey didn't blame him. He'd been tactile with both of the boys; his need to touch this bump was not out of the ordinary, especially considering what they'd just experienced.

"Is he the baby's dad?" Poe asked. He stood and crossed his arms, a stormy expression settling over his face.

"Yes, I am," Ben said. He rubbed at his jaw, one hand still on Rey's arm, needing to reassure himself that Rey was there and was okay.

Poe walked over to look at Ben more closely. He was a head shorter than Ben and had gray in his hair in earnest, but Rey still shifted from foot to foot, trying to decide the best way to split them up if need be.

"So, you raped her?" Poe asked, "you're the one that they gave her to?"

"You don't know what you're talking about," Ben growled. He drew himself up to his full height, broad shoulders, making him look so much like Finalizer that it unsettled Rey. She understood, more than ever, why the stallion had chosen Ben as his master. They were the same, and she was watching a protective and jealous horse face off with a man who was woefully unprepared to deal with such a conflict.

"Poe, stop it," Rey said, grabbing his elbow tightly. Her old friend winced and jerked his head to look at her. In another life, Rey would feel guilty, but now she was just grateful that she had Poe's undivided attention, "Ben is a victim, too."

"He raped you."

"Yes, but because the alternative sealed my death. He was taken as a kid and tortured. I don't hate him or blame him," Rey said, her voice slow and precise, "He saved me. He's the reason I'm alive and that I'm safe."

Poe glared at Ben for another moment, then shook his head and walked to the door. Rey let him go, knowing that he needed to rant to Finn or one of the agents or anyone who would listen. She didn't blame him, either. Thinking your best friend was kidnapped and murdered had to be life-altering in a way that even being captured might not be.

"Do you want to eat?" Rey asked gently, observing Ben's face. She brushed her fingers up and down his arm, trying to keep his attention on her and not on Poe or the busy, stressful, and technologically-advanced world around him.

"Uh- what? Oh, yeah." Ben said, still nodding. His eyes were distant and distracted, but Rey just held his hand and led him over to the table where Hux and Phasma were still picking at the loaf of bread.

Phasma looked up at Ben, "thank you." she whispered. Her voice was hoarse but clear.

Ben nodded, "thank you, too."

"We did it," Rey said.

"We did," Hux said, nodding. He put an arm around Phasma, kissing the top of her head, "we did it."

Phasma rested her head on Armitage's shoulder. She wrapped an arm around her growing belly, closing her eyes as Ben grabbed the loaf of bread, and blindly began eating.

Rey sat next to Ben, then rested her cheek on his arm. Ben continued tearing into slices of bread, clearly as hungry as the rest of them. Rey closed her eyes, listening to the sound of rustling plastic bags, measured breathing, and other ambient noises. For the first time in years, she heard a soda machine, a refrigerator, and an air conditioning system running all at once. Outside the room, Rey could hear the sounds of police officers, support staff, and other members of the community as they ambled around, going about their business, not aware of who was inside this room.

"Hello, Rey? I'm looking for Rey?" the woman from before, Cheryl Shcapper, said. She smiled warmly at the entire group at the table, even as Rey stood up, rubbing her hands together agitatedly.

"You can come get your kids," Cheryl Schapper said. She glanced over her shoulder at the officer behind her, who said something in a low voice. She nodded, then looked back at the group, "actually, we're going to bring all the children here. This place is big enough for all of you to wait comfortably."

"Okay, thank you, that's great," Rey said, her voice breaking with relief. She put a hand back, and Ben automatically grabbed it. Her heart, which seemed to have curled in on itself and calcified, loosened. She wouldn't breathe clearly until her children were in her arms, but she could at least let some of the tension go as she waited.

A pair of people in suits accompanied the same social worker from their first arrival. The children were looking around, holding onto each other tightly. Lyra carried Noah, her dark eyes wide. She kept getting distracted by video cameras, fluorescent lights, and the computers inside various rooms, but the social workers kept her moving forward.

With a loud scraping noise, Phasma stood up and ran to the door. Cheryl Schapper stepped out of the way as Rey and Phasma swooped down on the children. When Susannah saw her mother, she burst into tears. Phasma held onto her oldest tightly, rubbing her back and shushing her.

Rey took Noah from Lyra, kissing the top of the teenage girl's head. When Rey took a step back to give Lyra and Antony room to get inside, she felt something substantial against her back. She immediately knew it was Ben. He said nothing, but she just knew it was him.

"Tage!" Isaac said, running over to Hux. Brendol Hux opened his arms and crouched down to hug his young son tightly. He didn't even bother to correct the boy, but just held onto him. Isaac buried his face in Hux's shirt.

"Papa!" Jesse said, raising his arms above his head and moving past Rey's legs. Rey smiled, laughing tightly as Ben swooped down and picked up his firstborn. Jesse wrapped his arms around Ben's neck, mumbling against his face and into his shirt. Rey only made out a few words like, "new", "strange", "snacks", "not real fish", and "again".

Rey sat down, kissing Noah's face and head.

"How did it go in there?" Phasma asked, looking between the teenagers.

"It was fine," Lyra said, "the boys went straight to sleep. They had a lady in there, a woman who said it was her job to look after us. She said she was a "social worker," but I don't know what that means. They had some cots and a sofa for us, so we sat there. They brought some food, but it was all wrong..." she trailed off, wrinkling her nose.

"Roland liked the cheese fish," Antony offered, shrugging, "but the water wasn't like any water I've ever had before."

Rey nodded, "they probably gave him goldfish. It's a cracker that's a common snack for small children. the water is bottled and has minerals in it, which you probably have never had."

"Is the food good? Is it safe?" Lyra asked.

Rey nodded, "it's just processed. You haven't had anything that wasn't made from scratch, so it'll take some getting used to. They have some plain bread in here, so you can eat something that will be easier on you."

Lyra nodded, "thank you. It all tasted really weird. I didn't like it." she walked over to the table and sat down, pulling out a slice of bread and eating on it. She sighed, closing her eyes with a low groan. The poor girl hadn't had anything to eat in hours.

"That will probably be good for you in the long run," Rey muttered, nodding. She looked down at Noah, who was cooing at her. He reached out and touched her face, which made her heart twist. He wouldn't have to grow up under Snoke. He wouldn't even remember Snoke. Jesse wouldn't have perfectly safe from Snoke's influence, but Noah and this new baby were beyond the old man's reach. A stray hot tear ran down her face, which made Noah giggle and reach out to touch it, trying to chase it across her skin.

Rey laughed weakly, kissing Noah's palm and thanking God for him. She looked at Ben, who was murmuring to Jesse, leaning his head back to look into his son's face. Rey's heart finally settled but watched the tenderness in Ben's expression towards their son. She loved them both so much.

Someone opened the door behind them. They looked at the door and were greeted by a well-dressed, wealthy-looking older couple. When they walked into the room, Hux stood up.

"Father? Mother?" Hux asked. His voice broke when he made eye contact with his mother.

"Oh, my baby!" the woman said. She was gray-haired and wearing a pantsuit as if she'd come from work. The man was in a suit as well but didn't seem to be concerned about wrinkles as he and his wife hugged their son. Hux trembled as his mother brushed her hands over his face. Rey looked at the trio, smiling.

How had she found Hux to be dangerous and creepy? How many years did they waste with their suspicion and fear?

"Mother, Father," Hux said, clearing his throat. He turned to gesture to Isaac, who was standing anxiously near his mother, "this is my son."

"Your... your son..." the man said, his eyebrows raised, "you have a child?"

"I have three," Hux said, touching Phasma's arm. She had her arms around Susannah still, her face white as she looked between Hux's parents. Rey didn't envy meeting your boyfriend's parents under such circumstances.

"Almost four," Phasma whispered.

"Almost four," Hux murmured, nodding. He swallowed, putting a hand out to Isaac. The boy took it automatically, watching the two strange adults.

"Are these your children, too?" Mrs. Hux asked, looking at Lyra and Antony.

Lyra shook her head, her dark curls bouncing.

"They're friends," Hux said. He looked at his mother for a second, then nodded, squaring his shoulders. He loosened his hand, and Isaac grabbed ahold of the back of Susannah's shirt. Brendol Hux IV walked over to his parents. He spoke slowly and clearly, his tone measured and matter-of-fact, even though Rey knew that saying this must have cost him dearly, "I have four children. My oldest is the girl behind you, hugging her mother. There's the boy and the child that we're expecting, but... we have another daughter. She- Her name was Miranda."

Mrs. Hux gasped, a hand flying to her mouth.

Hux's face twisted, but he managed to keep himself under control, "she was hit with a bullet as we escaped and she didn't make it." he blinked rapidly, his eyelashes flickering like the wings of some kind of red-gold butterfly. One of his tears caught on the edge of his eyelashes.

"I named her after you," Hux explained, looking at his mother.

Miranda Hux stepped forward and hugged her son tightly. He choked back a sob, hugging her back. Brendol Hux III stood stiffly next to them, his face blank and pale. He had the too-straight posture of a military man, and his expression had gotten flatter and more controlled as his son spoke about Miranda Anser, rather than breaking the way his wife's had.

Military man, through and through, Rey thought, nodding, this is going to be a very long few months for them, then.

Susannah tentatively moved from between her mother's arms. When she touched her father's back lightly, he looked over his shoulder at her. Susannah brushed stray pieces of her blonde hair behind her ear, "this is Miranda? The other Miranda?"

"Yes," Hux said softly.

"I'm Susannah... well- I-" Susannah broke off and looked at Hux for help. Rey pressed her lips together as Susannah looked to her father for comfort and direction. Hux took his daughter's uncertainty in stride.

"For now. Her name is Susannah for now."

Brendol Hux III stuck out his hand toward his eldest granddaughter, "pleased to meet you, Susannah For Now."

Susannah stared blankly at her grandfather's hand. Her entire life, she had only met with members of the First Order, all of whom exchanged hugs or bowed over Snoke's hands in reverence. She'd never encountered a handshake.

"Like this," Hux said, taking his father's hand and slowly showing Susannah how to grasp her grandfather's hand and move it up and down.

"Make sure your grip is firm without being painful," Brendol Hux III said, his face breaking into an earnest and comforting smile.

Miranda Hux walked around the trio, walking slowly over to Phasma, who watched the older woman warily, "thank you," Miranda Hux whispered, "I had thought my family would be only one person, but you've brought five people into my family, not just one."

Phasma nodded. She had a strong jaw, but Rey had seen that expression in her eyes before. A deer had gotten caught up in fencing, and she and Ben had freed it. When they first came up to it, it's expression had been the same as Phasma's now.

"What's your name?" Miranda Hux asked.

Phasma took a deep breath. She looked down as Isaac ran over to watch Susannah and the Brendols practice shaking hands. When her son begged for his turn, she smiled for real. Her shoulders relaxed, and she looked at Miranda Hux, "my name is Lauren."

Rey and Ben both gaped. After more than a decade spent knowing this woman as Phasma, finding out they were looking at a girl-next-door was jarring.

"That's a lovely name," Miranda Hux said, smiling and tentatively hugging her.

"It is," Lauren choked out, looking up at the ceiling and blinking away tears.

Rey watched the two of them for another split-second, then turned to look at Ben. He was, however, viewing the door. Rey followed his gaze, and her heart tightened at the sight of Finn and a young Asian woman as they walked over to the door and opened it slowly. The woman's eyes were red and puffy.

All of Rey's organs disappeared as she looked at the face of the woman. She hadn't been sure before, but she was almost certain that she'd seen those eyes on someone else's face.

"This is Rose," Finn said, rubbing her back absently, "she's Paige's sister."

Ben's shoulders fell at Finn's words. He looked at Rey, a look of absolute horror across his face. Rey closed her eyes, looking down at the floor. She'd been dreading this conversation from the moment that they'd gotten free, but now it was here. This was Paige's family. Rey swallowed and stood up to face the young woman that she had assumed was Rose.

Four families had been given their loved ones back, but one hadn't.

"I want the story," Rose said, her voice cracking with the effort of trying to keep it clear and level.

Rey looked at Ben again. His dark eyes were already shiny with tears, chewing the inside of his cheek. Beyond him, Hux was still holding onto his family. He looked down at Isaac, then took a hand off of his shoulder. He stepped away from his son, then walked over to Rose, his head down.

Rey took a deep breath, watching Lauren as she turned away from Miranda Hux to look at Rose. The four of them converged before Rose, heads down. Ben rubbed the back of Jesse's back, then put him down and let the boy run off to hang around Susannah's heels.

"Do you want to do this right now?" Rey asked quietly, "we can discuss this later."

"No," Rose said, shaking her head and looking up to meet Rey's face. The Tico sisters both had the same brown-black eyes that looked like they'd been carved from obsidian. Rey'd seen that same determination in Paige's face in her early days in the First Order.
The worry flowed out of Rey's chest; Rose Tico could handle the story, even if it would break her heart.

"Let's sit down," Rey said, nodding. She pulled back a chair and Ben took Noah from her arms to let her sit down comfortably. Rey stretched her arms, hands, and elbows. She loved Noah, but having empty arms for a moment was better than sitting down with a lap full of baby for hours at a time.

All of the adults sat down around a white plastic table. Finn put an arm around the back of Rose's chair, watching his girlfriend's face. The corner of Rey's mouth lifted as she saw the trust and adoration in Finn's face.

"What do you want to know?" Lauren asked, looking down at her hands. All of the strength, control, and determination had left her. The woman who had run a household for years was gone, but now she looked lost and directionless.

Rose clenched and unclenched her fist, "when?"

"2013," Rey said, "about two weeks after she got there."

Rose nodded, "how?"

"Gunshot," Ben murmured, looking down at Noah, who giggled and reached up from him. He was blissfully unaware of the heartbreaking storm raging around him.

"Why?" Rose whispered.

""Why" what?" Hux asked, looking up at her.

"Why was she killed?" Rose snapped, her eyes stormy now, "why was she taken?

She was minding her own business, so why did he pick her?"

Ben opened his mouth, but Hux cut across him, "what was her name?"

"Paige," Rose croaked, "Paige Tico."

Hux took a deep breath, "Paige was taken so that I could marry her."

"No," Rose whispered. Her hand flew to her mouth, and tears ran from both eyes. She shook her head, the implications of such a statement hitting her from all sides. She was buffeted by such ideas, arising out of the worst places in her subconscious.

Hux nodded, "after... after..." Brendon Hux IV shook his head to clear it, then said, "after the first night, she was never the same. He, Snoke, gave her a new name, so he had to call her Ruth. They didn't even tell me who she was before. She was just THERE."

"So why was she killed?" Rose asked.

"She tried to run," Hux said, "she stole Snoke's horse and set the barn on fire when she realized that she wasn't going to be able to get away.

Rose blinked in earnest surprise. Rey laughed suddenly, which made everyone look at her. Rey looked at Lauren this time, seeing the pain and grief in her blue eyes, so she decided to say what had lifted her mood and see if it helped anyone else: "Remember when she gave Snoke the finger?"

Lauren giggled, too.

"Wait, she what?" Rose asked, leaning forward.

"When she was escaping," Hux said, "she flipped Snoke off while riding his horse and running towards him and after she'd set his barn on fire."

Rose's mouth fell open.

"He was shooting at her, and she came back with, "well, fuck you," Rey said, beaming.

Rose suddenly started laughing, too. Ben chuckled, and Noah burst into a full belly laugh. Finn snorted, watching Rey's son and Hux laughed, too. Noah turned his head and looked into Tage's face, then started a mix of laughter and high squeals that made Rose and Rey start laughing all over again.

Suddenly, the entire room rang with laughter. Paige didn't fade away but seemed to echo across their mirth. For a moment, though, as Noah rocked back and forth, giggling and squealing, they were insulated from the grief and anger they'd felt for so long. Fear couldn't grow here. Instead, they reveled in each other, in Noah, and in the single-minded audacity to say "fuck you" to someone who deserved it.

Chapter Text

Susannah scratched at the heel of her hand as the adults gathered around the two strangers who had just entered the room. She didn't recognize either of them, although the woman reminded her of Ruth, the woman that Fath-

No, not "Father" Susannah thought fiercely, Snoke.

Snoke had murdered Ruth, but the woman who'd just come in with the dark-skinned man had the same narrow eyes and black hair as Ruth. Susannah wasn't sure if they were related or not, but the adults seemed to be talking about Ruth with the kind of familiarity that you would reserve for a family member or close friend.

So Ruth did have a family that loved her on the outside, Susannah thought.

Kira- Rey- had said that the world outside wasn't as scary as she'd been led to believe, but now Susannah got a look at some of the actual proof. Here were strangers laughing together, even over something sad. As Baby Albert rocked back and forth in his father's lap, giggling, the adults looked down on him with utter adoration. Susannah couldn't blame them. Albert had a happy temper and seemed to brighten every room he entered from the moment he was born. Being around a giggling baby, even in the midst of recounting one of the worst days of everyone's lives, had to be a relief.

Susannah looked at Lyra, who was sitting next to Antony with her head on his shoulder. Her eyes were closed, but Susannah didn't think she was asleep. Resting her cheek on the back of her chair, Susannah let her eyes scan the room, looking at all of the different things that she'd never encountered before. She felt a bone-aching weariness and longed for real sleep or rest somewhere where she could actually feel safe, but she wasn't going to complain.

You don't have to marry Antony anymore, Susannah told herself. She thought back to that day, almost a month ago now, when she'd kissed Rey. Her cheeks still burned at the reminder of her foolishness and of the expression that had been waiting for her when they broke apart. Rey had never looked so angry and confused, as far as Susannah could remember. She'd been fourteen when Rey first arrived and had immediately been given to Kylo.

Wait, he probably isn't Kylo Susannah thought. She didn't know his real name, but if Rey, Joanna, the man she'd thought was her brother her entire life who turned out to be her FATHER...

Susannah probably isn't your real name, eithershe thought. She gritted her teeth, trying to imagine how scared her mother must have been to let Snoke rob her of the chance to name her old children.

Susannah closed her eyes tightly, deciding to just shut out the world. The lights that ran throughout this building felt different than any other light Susannah had ever encountered. They were long and rectangular, sure, but they were also harsh and too bright a white to be real. Susannah wondered how they managed to get the light to be so sterile. Everything in this place seemed too clean or too removed from anything real. There was almost no wood, tons of glass, and other materials she rarely saw. She'd grown up in a house on a farm. Everything had been soil and wood and fabric and hay and stone, with glass and metal to close the gaps. Here, they were things that could be tossed into the garbage and not reused. There were things wrapped in materials that made strange crunching or crackling noises when they were torn or moved. It was fascinating, truly.

If Joanna was alive, she'd be dancing up and down the hallways to see everything she could.

But Joanna isn't here Susannah thought, and that's your fault. You should have let her get up in the cab. You should have made her sit with you or traded places.

"Hello," a voice from above Susannah said suddenly, making her jump. Her head snapped up and she saw the same woman, Amanda Priatt, standing in front of her.

Susannah opened her mouth, but no words came out. She really hoped that she hadn't been asked a question because she couldn't remember what Ms Priatt had been saying when she came up.

"I just wanted to ask if you wanted a chance to use the restroom and wash your face," Ms. Priatt said, "I know you changed in the other room, but I wanted to give you the opportunity to do some other things, too."

Susannah walked into the room and stared, unable to understand what in the world she was looking at. There was a trash can, which she recognized, near the door, but it was larger than any that she'd ever seen before. This one could fit a person easily, but was somehow still full of what looked to be a small mountain of paper, perhaps toilet paper? she'd never seen anyone throw toilet paper away rather than flush it, but the real world was strange and getting stranger every minute.

Susannah glanced at a row of sinks, all of which looked bulky and well-worn, but were otherwise clean. Over them, where Snoke's portrait had hung in her old house, was something Susannah had never seen before. Someone had put a long sheet of glass over the sink, about level with a person's head. Susannah turned and stood in front of it, trying to understand what could be on the other side.

Through it, she could see another room, exactly like the one that she was in, with a blonde teenage girl standing on the other side and staring through at her. The girl's face was pale and she sported a yellow and purple bruise near her right temple, but otherwise she seemed alright. Susannah stepped forward, touching the glass, wondering why the police or the FBI had chosen to put this girl on THAT side of the glass, rather than on hers.

Susannah peered around the other room, trying to see more clearly, but couldn't. It was too hard of a surface and every time she angled to see better, the blonde woman just crept closer. It seemed like they both were approaching the glass the same way, which made it impossible to see past each other. Susannah was tempted to point this out, but decided against it. This girl was probably just as scared as she was.

Susannah glanced over her shoulder as she heard the slide of a lock behind her. There were about a dozen tiny little stalls, each complete with a toilet, that had their own individual doors. Susannah stepped into one, then stared at the lock.

She'd never had a lock in her life. The only ones she'd ever seen were used to keep the animals in their pens or to lock the door against intruders or danger. Well, those locks and the ones that had been on Rey's door on her first nights at the farm. She'd skulked in the background, watching as her mother unlocked Rey's room, back when Susannah had only gotten the barest of glimpses at the woman. She, however, could lock the door for herself, if she wanted. She could do a single thing without anyone being able to get at her every second of every day.

Susannah found a tiny trash can, just like the one outside, almost smaller and shaped like a box, to stuff her toilet paper in. It as a relief to avoid having to walk it over to where everyone else did. She couldn't understand why these people had decided their sheriff's station this way or why they had two trashcans like this, but she wasn't going to argue.
These people were nice and well-meaning. If they had customs that were awkward and inconvenient, Susannah wasn't going to judge them.
When Susannah opened the stall door, she was shocked to find that the other blonde girl had done the same. Susannah blinked, then giggled. Ahead of her, Lyra was washing her hands in front of a different pane of glass. Susannah figured out the sink very quickly, although she was most impressed with the soap that foamed up before it even reached your hand.

The other girl was standing right in front of her, eyes focused down on her eyes. Susannah could see them moving in her peripheral vision. She swallowed, then slowly looked up at Ms.Priatt.

"Is everything okay?" Ms. Priatt asked, immediately walking over and standing next to Susannah.

"Why is she copying me?" Susannah asked, pointing at the glass.

"Why is- who?" Ms. Priatt asked, looking between Susannah and the other girl.

"Her, right there," Susannah said, rolling her eyes.

Ms. Priatt looked from Susannah to the other girl and back again, then nodded, "that... that is you."

Susannah stared at her for a long time, waiting for her to say something else, to reveal the joke, but Ms. Priatt just stared blankly at Susannah.

"How is that possible?" Susannah asked, staring at the girl. She leaned forward and reached up to touch her own cheek. The other girl did the same thing at the same time.

"It's reflective, so you see yourself. It's called a "mirror". It's like a picture- or a drawing of you, just one that happens naturally," Ms. Priatt said.

Susannah turned to look at herself in the face. She stared at herself, inspecting her features for the first time in her life. She knew that she resembled her mother because she saw the same blonde hair on herself and her mother, as well as her other siblings. Anything else, though, she couldn't see.

Until now.

Her eyes were close to the color of her mother's, but not the same. Her mother's eyes were a rich blue, a color that she'd only seen in dyed fabrics or blueberries. The eyes staring back at her were much lighter and, the longer she looked, the more she realized that they were actually too warm to be her mother's eyes. They were a green color, albeit such a faded one that she might have lived her entire life without noticing it.

I have the same eyes as my dad, Susannah realized suddenly, that has to be it.

Now, she hadn't exactly spent a lot of time staring intently into the eyes of the man who she'd spent seventeen years believing was her brother, but she did remember that Snoke's eyes were a hard, pale blue. It had always been like looking at ice, when she saw him. if she got these green eyes from anyone, it had to be her real father.

"Are you alright?" Ms. Priatt asked, "is there something you're thinking about in particular?"

"I've never seen my face before," Susannah explained. She touched her own cheek, careful to avoid the bruise. Snoke had put that there. She'd been flat on her back, terrified in the face of her father's fury.

Except he's not your father. Your father saved you. Your dad loves you and stepped between you and danger, Susannah reminded herself.

This was all so confusing.

Susannah shook her head, trying to clear it. She couldn't process too many new things at once. People wore funny things on their faces and talked out of little bricks and ate food that was more salty or sweeter than anything she'd ever had in her life and anyone was allowed to like girls.

"It's okay," Ms. Priatt said gently, "you can look. You're allowed to look at your reflection."

Susannah nodded. She stared at her face, then at Ms. Priat. Her face was pale white and bruised, but Ms. Priat's skin was warm and dark, complete with beautiful colors on her eyes and mouth. Susannah looked at herself in the mirror again, then at Ms. Priatt.
"Am I pretty?" Susannah asked suddenly.

"Why of course!" Ms. Priatt said, walking over and looking at Susannah and herself in the mirror.

Susannah looked back, unsure if she believed the other woman, "I just- I look so different from you."

Ms. Priatt smiled, pulling an arm around her, "that's okay. Different doesn't mean ugly, it means we're both beautiful in different ways."

Susannah nodded, "okay, I believe you."

When she was little, Snoke had praised her for her work, for her quick ability to obey, or for how well she did chores. She wasn't valuable or special on her own, only if she did what he wanted when he wanted. As Ms. Priatt smiled at her through the mirror, contrasting against her skin, her soft features, and her blonde hair, she realized she hadn't served this woman yet. There was no time to earn the love that she noticed in Ms. Priatt's eyes.

Maybe love wasn't supposed to be earned in the first place.

Chapter Text

"Ms. Niima?"

Rey looked up at a police officer who slowly approached the group gathered around the white table. She didn't recognize him, but he seemed friendly enough, "yes, officer? Is everything okay?"

"More than okay," the officer said, "I have a toddler and my wife and I were trying to get rid of some of our old baby things, but when we heard you had him, we figured you could have or borrow whatever you needed while you were here."

"Oh my god, that's so incredibly kind," Rey said, sitting up straighter. Noah stirred in her arms, mumbling against her shirt, but Rey ignored him. The idea of putting him in some kind of carrier to sleep, even for a moment, was a relief.

"My wife is here with the stuff in the car, so I thought we'd bring the bags in here if that's okay. I didn't want to overstep, though," Officer- Crewell Rey read on his nametag- said.

"You didn't overstep at all," Rey insisted as Ben pushed back his chair and stood up, "this is such a gift."

"Can I help with the bags?" Ben asked. He rested a hand on the back of Rey's chair, drumming his fingers on the hard plastic surface.

Officer Crewell looked over his shoulder to the door, which still had guards in front of it, "probably not. We'll bring everything to you, but I wanted to let you know ahead of time."

Rey nodded, "thank you, again."

"No problem," Crewell said, "you guys deserve this and so much more for what you've been through and what you've done." He saluted a little and walked away. When he did so, Rey looked up at Ben, who was already watching her reaction, his brows furrowed.

"'What we've done'?" Rey asked in a whisper, "is he talking about Snoke or-"

"I don't know," Ben said, turning to inspect the door, but saying nothing else. The statement hung in the air between them, tense and heavy. The others seemed to have missed it, all focused on dozing in the most comfortable places they could find or else eating or talking in low voices.

A pair of police officers brought in a duffel bag, a garbage bag, and a fabric-covered bag that Rey couldn't understand. It looked like Crewell was carrying a bag of golf clubs. At her expression, Crewell grinned, "it's the Pack N Play."

Rey raised her eyebrows and looked at Ben for help. She had absolutely no idea what that was. She'd grown up with an English foster mother in her early years who'd been very kind before her death, but there hadn't been any other children in that house, so she had no familiarity with baby things. None of her friends in high school or college had been anywhere near babies, so she had no frame of reference for baby accouterment. She'd had two babies, sure, but whatever a Pack N Play was wasn't First Order approved, apparently, or she would have heard about it.

"What is a Pack N Play?" Ben asked, frowning.

Crewell chuckled, "something that's a lot easier to pack and unpack than a stroller is. Brace yourselves for that one. The strollers are, hands down, the worst thing anyone has ever invented for parents."

Rey looked at Ben, eyes wide. She remembered the months of chapped nipples, cloth diapers, and all the other new baby mess, and couldn't, for the life of her, figure out how a stroller, which didn't cry or poop, was the "worst thing" about parenthood. Ben turned back to Crewell, crouching down to help pull open the golf club bag.

 

A Pack N Play, Rey learned, was a soft pen for babies. It was like having a small, above-ground pen for a child, without the roof. Rey decided that it was probably going to be her new favorite thing about life outside the First Order, besides the ability to shut the bathroom door. They took the opportunity to change Noah's clothing, dressing him in another baby's soft green onesie and put on the first disposable diaper that Rey had ever encountered. Ben looked over her shoulder as she worked, frowning in interest.

Rey felt a sick sense of satisfaction as she threw the old First Order-issued diaper in the trash. It could probably be washed and reused, but there was a very nice "fuck you" feeling about throwing out something that had been given to her in that old house.

Ben picked Noah up the second he was dressed, kissing his cheek lightly. Noah giggled sleepily, touching Ben's face with one chubby hand. Rey smiled up at the two of them as Ben took Noah over to the Pack N Play, setting him down on his back. Noah sighed sleepily, his eyes closing as soon as Ben let go of him. Ben rubbed his knuckles against Noah's belly for a second.

Jesse walked over to the Pack N Play, looking down at Noah. He peeked through the mesh sides, smiling, "my baby," he said, pointing at Noah.

"Yeah, that's your baby," Rey said, smiling. She glanced up at Ben, who was grinning at Jesse, too.

"Ben?" someone said from the doorway.

Ben froze, looking from Jesse to the doorway. He suddenly took Rey's hand, his face white.

"Yes?" Rey asked, lacing her fingers between Ben's.

"Your family is here for you," the officer at the doorway said.

Ben held onto Rey's hands. His parents were a touchy subject at the easiest of times, but the past twenty-four hours had been some of the most traumatic and intense of their lives. Rey reached up and touched his cheek, drawing him out of whatever distant place his mind had gone to. His dark eyes finally met hers and she was reminded vividly of Finalizer the morning after a particularly traumatic thunderstorm.

"Do you want me to come with you?" Rey asked gently, using the same voice that she had used then.

"Yes," Ben said.

Rey looked down at Jesse, "do you want to come along?"

Jesse nodded and giggled. He reached up for Rey's other hand, which she took. Ben looked at the pair of them, but Rey smiled, "it's okay," she mouthed.

Ben nodded. His mouth twitched and Rey saw him rub absently at the stubble over his jaw. This was all so much, so quickly. Two days ago, he'd lived under Snoke's control and had spent his every waking moment trying to protect his inner identity from Snoke's influence, but now that time was over. He was going back to his family, the ones who had known him before all of this.

If Rey had changed after five years, how much would Ben had changed after twenty?

"Let's go," Ben croaked.

They followed the officer from before. He led them into the hallway, which was noticeably more empty than it had been earlier, although Rey wondered if the FBI and the Sherrif had started purposefully keeping people away from the breakroom to give the families their privacy. Ben fidgeted with his shirt collar, trying to straighten it at least a little, but it was a lost cause. Hours curled up in that booth after the flight of their lives had ruined that shirt beyond salvaging.

The cop opened an office door off of the main bullpen.

Rey had seen Senator Leia Organa multiple times on television at various things. She'd gone viral for a speech she gave at the Harvard Graduation the year before Rey was supposed to graduate from college. One of the quotes still stuck out to Rey, all these years later, and leaped to the forefront of her mind now that she looked at Leia's face up close: Have faith in yourself and in those around you. Always fight for what you believe in and never apologize for that. Lastly, and most importantly, accept hope whenever it is offered to you, hold onto it as long as you can, and pass it along whenever possible.

As Rey saw the dark eyes that matched Ben's so perfectly, she understood where that had come from.

Senator Leia Organa looked up into her son's face, tears welling in her eyes, "Ben..." she whispered. Rey couldn't imagine what she could be feeling. She'd lost a boy of twelve years old and had been given a man in his thirties with long black hair, a scarred face, and children. All of the milestones enjoyed by so many other families were long passed.

His bar mitzvah had gone uncelebrated.

His graduation had never come.

There were no school dances or dates or proms.

No driving lessons.

No first girlfriends and their accompanying heartbreaks.

All the curfews were missed.

All the college acceptance letters were unsent and unopened.

No weddings.

No pregnancy announcements.

No baby showers.

No weekends at grandmas.

Hundreds of missed days, celebrations, conversations, cards, birthdays, fights, Hannukahs, prayers, laughs, tears, and dreams seemed to float in the air between Ben Solo and his mother as the woman reached up to brush her fingertips over the scar on Ben's face. At her touch, Ben inclined his head and closed his eyes.

"Oh, my boy," Leia sobbed.

"Hi, mom," Ben said. He stepped forward, bending down to hug his mother tightly. Leia trembled against her son's chest and Ben closed his eyes. He towered over her, with what Rey thought was at least a foot's difference in their height, but Ben just hunched over her like the difference was minimal.

At that moment, it was.

What was a foot after thousands of miles had already been closed?

Rey swallowed back her tears, wishing for the thousandth time that she wasn't so prone to such displays of emotion. At this point, anything made her cry, but now she wanted to be stoic and focused on Ben. Instead, though, tears ran down her face and her shoulders shook. She managed to stay quiet, thank god, and Jesse was too busy looking at his father and the stranger woman to ask why Rey had totally lost it.

"Papa," Jesse said suddenly. He let go of Rey's hand, grabbing onto Ben's pant leg and looking at Leia.

Ben and Leia broke apart and Leia suddenly looked down at Jesse, "and who is this?" she asked. She wiped her eyes, clearing her throat and looking between Jesse and Rey.

Rey resisted the urge to groan as tears continued to run down her face. She used her sleeve to wipe her nose, unable to muster the shits it would require to find another solution.

"Who is this?" Leia asked, looking down at Jesse with raised eyebrows.

"This is Jesse," Ben explained. He put a hand on Jesse's head but didn't push him any further.

Then Leia's eyes found Rey.

“Mom, this is my- this- this is Rey,” Ben said slowly. Rey's heart sank, which she didn't understand. Leia hadn't done anything to make her feel anything yet, so why did she feel so uncertain?

This is the first time he's called you something besides 'his wife', that same bitter voice in her head added.

Rey looked at Jesse, who was hugging Ben's leg and watching her reaction. She smiled, nodding encouragingly as Leia crouched down to look Jesse in the eye better.

"You're Jesse's mother?" Leia asked softly, looking at Rey even as she squatted down.

"Yes," Rey whispered. She squatted down as well, one hand on Jesse's back, and said, "go on, you can say 'hi'. You can hug her if you want. She's nice, just new."

Jesse looked at Leia warily, then took a hesitant step forward and hugged her.

Leia smiled down at her grandson. She touched his back, bowing over him a little. She smiled, whispering something over him. Rey reached out and touched Ben's back. Ben looked over his shoulder at her. His dark eyes were glistening with unshed tears, but he was focused and more centered than she had seen him since they left the First Order. Rey rested her cheek against his shoulder, rubbing the back of his shirt. Jesse looked over his shoulder at them, "she staying?" he asked, gesturing to Leia.

Rey glanced up at Ben, who nodded, "yeah, kid, she's staying."

Leia's head snapped up suddenly at his words, her dark eyes wide, "you call him 'kid'?"

Ben shrugged, "yeah. He- we didn't get to choose their names, so we just tended to avoid calling them anything."

"Them?" Leia asked. She straightened her pencil skirt, then looked between Ben and Rey.

"I'm pregnant," Rey said softly.

Leia nodded. She looked between Rey and Ben, her expression absolutely stricken. Rey grimaced, but let Leia feel what she felt. How must this feel to a mother? Her son was back after twenty years and had a pregnant woman with him. Rey wondered how much the police had told Leia on the way there. Did she know about Snoke's arranged marriages? Did she know that Rey and Ben had been kidnapped and forced into marriage and sex?

Or was she just horrified at the prospect of welcoming a father of three into her home after last seeing him as a prepubescent schoolboy?

"It's mine," Ben said softly. He rubbed absently at the bridge of his nose, tracing the line of his scar with one finger, "so is Jesse and so is Noah, although he's asleep in the other room."

"Three?" Leia Organa asked. Her hands settled on her hips as she looked between them. She looked down at Jesse, who'd settled for hugging Ben's pant leg again. Ben watched his oldest for a moment, then picked Jesse up. The boy wrapped his arms around Ben's neck automatically and some of the tension in Rey's chest eased. At least Jesse was still going to Ben for comfort. She was afraid any separation at the station would have made him anxious or withdrawn, but he seemed alright. The few hours of their interrogation hadn't been too much.

Leia had Ben's deep brown eyes- or, rather, Ben had her deep brown eyes. They leaped from Ben to Rey and settled on Jesse. Rey could see a thousand questions floating around in Leia's mind. It made her want to curl up into a ball. She'd already answered so much from various officers and Rose. She didn't want to have to rehash the last five years of her life or watch Ben have to relive the last twenty. Leia seemed to come to the same conclusion because her posture softened a little and she raised one finger.

"I just have one question," Leia said finally, gesturing between Rey and Ben, "was this your idea or theirs?"

"Theirs," Rey murmured.

Ben clenched his jaw, pressing a kiss to the top of Jesse's head and not looking at his mother.

Leia nodded stiffly, then squared her shoulders, "well, then, you and the kids and Rey's family are all going to come with me and stay at my house while we wait for the FBI to sort this out. I won't take no for an answer. I want you all together and all where I can see you and all away from the media circus. It's going to be bad enough as it is when we tried to get you out of here."

Ben looked at Rey. She met his gaze steadily and tilted her head slightly. She saw glad that, after five years of life under Snoke they'd learn to read each other. Ben sighed, "everyone needs to come with us. We need to stay together. We- We've been through too much and already lost too much."

"Of course," Leia said.

 

It took everything Rey had not to burst into tears when the FBI team brought all of the adults into a room away from the kids to talk privately. Agents Andor and Erso were there, standing behind what she assumed was the sheriff's desk, as well as two other agents. One was a slight middle eastern or south Asian man introduced as Special Agent Bodhi Rook and the other one was a tall and thin black man named Special Agent Esso.

"Right now, we are at a bit of an impasse," Special Agent Erso explained, crossing her arms. Her dark eyeliner had smudged since Rey had seen her at the church, but Rey actually found that comforting. It was nice to know that these people really were human.

"Why an impasse?" Brendol Hux III said sternly from where he leaned against the back wall.

"Well, we took cheek swabs from the children as soon as they arrived, but the lab here has nothing we can do these kinds of tests on and the nearest hospital is a long way away," Agent Erso explained, "at this point, the easiest way to handle the issue of paternity-"

"We know who their parents are!" Hux snapped from his place with his hands gripping the back of Lauren's chair.

"But we don't," Agent Rook clarified in a gentle voice. He gave off a watchful, if nervous energy, but he seemed nice. He was a lot more approachable than the clipped and cold Agent Esso, at the very least, "we can't take something like that on faith. We have to confirm the parentage of every child in the First Order. That's just standard procedure."

"Where will the children be in the meantime?" Senator Organa asked, crossing her arms.

"That's the problem," Agent Andor explained. He scratched at his bearded jaw thoughtfully, "normally, we would put them in foster care or a safe house, but we don't have a set protocol for cases of long-term abduction and children born in captivity."

"How have you not come up with one?" Miranda asked indignantly.

"All of these cases are so unique that we can't have any set protocol because we can't predict what the case will need. If we set specific protocols, we might limit agents in the field. We have specific rules for short-term disappearances, but cases like yours are not the same and require totally different responses," Agent Esso said flatly. Rey looked at him and wasn't sure if she was put off by his totally flat affect, but had to admire his ability to have an answer for this so immediately.

All three of the Hux's nodded stiffly but didn't look at each other.

"Where are we going, then?" Senator Organa asked her hands in her lap.

"We don't have a safe house that everyone, but we'll likely keep you and the children together, even if we have to split individual families apart," Agent Andor explained, "trying to separate the children from their parents would be very traumatic, which we don't want. I mean, while you were being interviewed, Isaac asked after all of you and his cats very frequently, according to Ms. Laitt, the social worker. The cats are with animal control, getting checked out and brought up-to-date on vaccinations, but it made us realize how dependent the children were going to be on each other and on you, especially considering what happened to Jo- Miranda."

Lauren made a tight noise but didn't speak. She leaned forward, pressing her hands over her mouth.

Rey closed her eyes, her head falling into her hands. Split them up? Put Lyra and Antony with strangers and send Hux and Lauren to god-knows-where?

"I have a place," Senator Organa said matter-of-factly.

Agent Erso raised an eyebrow but didn't protest, "where?"

"Upstate New York. It's an old family farm with a lot of room. It can fit everyone comfortably and probably their families. There's a lot of land, so we can keep the media away from the house, and it's in the middle of nowhere, which will make it easier on the kids," Leia Organa said.

Agents Andor and Erso exchanged a look, then Special Agent Andor said, "I need to ask my superiors, but I think that would work. We'll probably put you on an FBI jet within the next three days and have agents waiting for us on the property. Can you write down the address as well so my CO can send people out there now?"

"Of course," Leia said, grabbing a pen and memo from the desk, "it's officially named, as well. It's called Naboo."