Time was sometimes that Kylo felt in hours or days. But it could also pull him along through weeks or months. He would spend an afternoon helping Rey learn to read and time would finally stop when she would put the right sounds and syllables together. There could be slowness in those moments of shared smiles and the hint of change towards something brighter.
He was being dragged along by time but Rey lived in every moment, even the ones that were spent in tears after a nightmare or in frustration and not knowing a word or idea. But her friends, Paige’s sister among them, didn’t care and taught her made-up words. His jaw ached from how hard he had held his mouth shut to give her those silly little moments.
Hours, days, weeks.
The first summer crawled by, peppered with different forms of touches and space: his father, resting his hand on his shoulder, when they’d practice driving; his mother, wiping something off of his cheek without seeing the alarm in his eyes. When the calendar told them it was time to make the journey to meet with Maz, he refused to go. It took three days of talking to Agent Jinn to convince him that it was the right thing to do, for Rey. She could never feel afraid of talking to anyone. And she missed Maz. He could see the confusion turning into clumsy resolve as his stubbornness starting sewing seeds, which he couldn’t let sprout.
It would have to be enough.
Time both moved faster and slower with everything finally being married to that fucking calendar.
But there were a few things he could do to stop being carried along the stream. He wouldn’t back down from being in the correct grade for his age. Snoke wouldn’t take that from him. Studying meant pushing down his impulsiveness and rediscovering the patience that Snoke’s hell had taught him. He would lock himself in his closet, daring his body to feel panic. It was easy to slip into the state that made him focus on details and remembering. How to learn patterns and how they fit in places. Hux’s notes were useless and he had almost said that to him out of anger at how his friend couldn’t see that himself.
Punishing himself, he was good at that too.
So he studied. He hated using the computer at first, but made himself to get used to the white screen and fragile keyboard. His hands worked best filling up notebooks with a real pen. He’d sketch or write with Rey and then scribble black ink onto pure pages until his looping handwriting sealed his ideas into permanence.
He’d write letters to Agent Jinn, telling him what he was learning and asking him what he should focus on for the future. Texting and calling were almost too temporary. Sending and receiving letters sent pieces of himself across the country.
And then school started.
The reporters were gone and he could leave the front door of his house.
And then it was Halloween, then Thanksgiving and Christmas.
And he got to celebrate all of them, despite having been in constant fights and arguments at school. But he kept studying and trying to ignore anyone who called him a murderer.
They weren’t lying.
He’d float in a bubble as time blew him along, sending him drifting at times into nothing.
Their birthdays were in the spring. He knew that his parents had Rey’s real information somewhere in the house, but they thought it was best if they celebrated on the same day.
They were so lazy.
Rey’s preschool friends filled the house. He and Hux snuck a beer in the backyard and both decided that they didn’t like it. Kylo had let his friend do something he thought was rebellious, even though his parents knew what they were doing. Any punishments were cautious and explained to them with words rather than actions. He had smiled at Hux and accepted a gift of a new wallet as the children screamed and played in the background. His head had been on the other side of those sounds when they walked to Paige’s. He'd sat with the others until he couldn’t see the reality of the basement anymore.
Liza gave him a notebook and he threw it away when he got home.
Memories were both solid in their tastes, smells and touches, but also empty of real feelings.
The teasing had faded away into background noise. His body didn’t ache anymore and he would have to find other ways to feel pain.
He missed it.
On the first anniversary of their escape, he spent three hours on the phone with Agent Jinn, a rope around his neck in the woods, far away from his family and Rey. He wept and wanted to chase the darkness and let it carry him instead of time.
If he hadn’t cared so much about Rey and her future, he would already been bones. No one believed him when he told everyone that he was already dead, but just hadn’t died yet.
He didn’t say anything about it when he came home.
And then everything started again.
Hours, days, and weeks.
In late July, he had to tell Rey why she should be sad when his grandfather died. Bail’s cancer had come hard and fast, or at least that’s what his mother had said. It was the first time that they saw a dead body in a casket. Rey’s eyes were wide and only cried when Leia did. She didn’t know how to be sad about this, even though they were the two people in the church that knew what sadness really was. It wasn’t a sudden or temporary feeling. It was a lingering fog that was always there, but only appeared to others when the warmth descended into cold. They only saw it when it was tangible to them, when they decided to feel it.
But they knew it was always there, waiting for them.
The book about them, by some useless journalist, came out the week after.
And the week before school started, after a month of unanswered texts and cancelled or abrupt and awkward encounters, Hux said he didn’t want to be his friend anymore and went to live with his dad.
Time punished him more than Snoke ever could.