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Storm King

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Kylo wasn’t mad about losing. He could deal with that. It was the bitter atmosphere in the van that made him seethe. He’d pushed those negative emotions out of his head in between this trip and the last; there had been so much that had happened in between and now it meant nothing. He’d lost and everyone was disappointed in him. The season was over and he’d been dominated, getting bad draw after bad draw, hardly scoring points and getting pinned because he wasn’t focused. Getting to the hotel, he didn’t even wait for the others. Storming off, he kicked hard at a crushed coke can across the parking lot. He was lucky even to be allowed on the trip after what happened at school, but he might as well hadn’t gone at all.

Taking angry and deep breaths, he looked up at the sky and swore under his breath. The others were watching him but he didn’t care. They were the problem for never listening to him.

He heard shuffling feet and turned to see Poe, holding both of their bags. He could go from looking cocky to pouting in an instant. During the last few weeks, his first impressions had been inverted, but they still remained in the back of his mind like a reminder of how people treated him in the beginning. He probably cared too much. In his heated anger, he thought that he should just stop caring about him once and for all. To stop coming by his house and being around him, since he was such a loser who couldn’t do anything that made him into a real person. He caught a glimpse of the rest of the team glaring at him in the distance and snorted.

“You can go for a walk. Coach says it’s okay.” His expression showed concern and he knew that his friend was worried about him. Still, he wouldn’t say it when others—especially the team—could hear it. “We’re in room 204.”

Poe looked at him for long enough to make him take a warning step forward. Finally turning towards the hotel, Kylo waiting until he was inside before sitting down on the low concrete traffic barrier. The chill of the late April evening started to settle against his bare arms and he shuttered. Normally, being alone was enough to calm him down. He would be able to think clearly, going over why everyone was wrong. Most often, he’d call Rey. He checked his phone and his annoyance spiked at the time. Leia wouldn’t let her talk this late. There was always someone in his way. Even if she didn’t have school the next day, there would be some dumb thing they were forcing her to do. They were still trying to get her to decide whether she liked gymnastics or dancing. She liked both and didn’t see why she couldn’t do both. His parents didn’t understand that Rey wanted to do everything.

He heard the gravel rustle and quickly looked up. It was just a man standing outside the hotel, smoking.

Poe had worn him down. He actually missed him and his never-ending chatter. Poe, being over excited over an easy win. Poe, trying to cheer him up when he wanted to feel empty. Poe, who wouldn’t bug him to eat, but would instead steal his food until he was forced to do something about it.

Stamping his foot in the dirt, he forced himself to stand.

God damn him.

He had to knock on the door and was forced to wait five minutes before Poe answered. He had a towel on his head.

“I’m sorry, I was in the shower. Do you have my room service?”

“Shut the fuck up,” he countered, pushing by him. He sat down heavily on his bed, taking off his shoes and tossing them into the corner. Poe was busy rehanging the towel, still chucking to himself about his joke.

“It wasn’t your fault, you know. You got a bad draw, a couple of them,” Poe said, scratching his head. “And it’s also not your fault that our school sucks so hard.”

“I don’t hate school. I hate the people there.” He settled against the headboard of the hard hotel bed. It wasn’t anything that he hadn’t heard before. Poe sat next to him and pursed his lips and then nodded a little. The television looked dusty, showing their distorted reflection back at him.

He was starting to regret coming back at all if Poe was just going to try to cheer him up the entire time. Instead, his companion fell quiet. It was easier to accept how close he was sitting if he was silent. There was no quick quip or annoying response. He let him have his silence.

And he wasn’t alone in it.

They’d had these moments before. He shouldn’t be surprised by them anymore, but his mind was too full to find familiarity in its clear form. But this was the last road trip of the season with state now out of sight. They were friends now, but Kylo was expecting the trust that he’d put in him to evaporate with the season over. Promises could be broken and they probably would.

Rey was right. This had why he had been thrown into rage. This was probably going to end tonight and it had been building in his mind since then.

Exhaling, Poe pulled his legs up and settled his chin on his knees. He was shorter and always tried to make up for it by taking on larger kids. That explained the fight with Bryce. Kylo was embracing being taller than most of the other boys at school, even the seniors. It was just aggravating not being stronger than most of them.

“I wish we were in more of the same classes. But hey, things got better after you beat the shit out of that guy.” He grinned and then it faded away. “It still sucks that you got detention and he got nothing.”

“He got a broken nose,” he said. “And I’ll break it again.”

Thinking again about taking on the older boy, Kylo felt a spike of dark pride. He was careful to pick his battles and that had been one that he had taken on fully, accepting the consequences. The truth was still making his neck itch. After the constant fights and scuffles when he started school again almost two years ago, most of them caused by his misunderstanding something or the need to quell his constant craving for aggression, the school finally comprehended that he didn’t react to having privileges taken away. Holdo instead had made him write out and describe the events, rewriting them until he could fully explain the emotions behind them. He’d sit in her office, going over the texts until he felt calm. Since then, instead of starting a fight, he mostly stuck to writing out elaborate scenarios from both his perspective, and whoever had angered him. The wrestling team helped even more.

He only made a few exceptions. That asshole had been one of them. Poe had gotten himself into that mess but there was no way, as long as he was breathing, that one of his friends was going to be hurt. Rey understood that and her caring had made it easier to wait to get his car and freedom again. And then he screwed it all up by not being able to deal with his apprehensive fear. Taking a quick glance, he caught Poe’s eyes. There had been so much writing and it was only when he stopped that the thoughts got stuck in his head.

He didn’t tell Poe that he had also started a new notebook. About him.

“Everyone says that you’re hard to talk to, but they’re totally wrong. I mean, at first, I didn’t think I’d get you to talk to me, but now I’m glad I did. You talk when you need to. You don’t just talk to hear yourself speak.” Poe was looking at him intently, like he was disclosing something that he didn’t already know.

“You mean I’m not like you,” he answered flatly, before smirking.

“You’re an asshole, fuck you.” Poe shoved him, grinning wildly. “Are you…are you going to go to that spring dance thing? We can hang out instead if you’re not going.”

He rolled his eyes. Poe was just like him, asking questions that he already knew the answers to. Still, he gave into it. “Liza keeps asking me. I told her that I’d go only if I could go with Paige and she went with someone else. You take Liza if you want. Hux would hate it.”

Just saying his former friend’s name made him shudder as he tried to block the pang of emotion from fully coming through.

“But you wouldn’t care?” Poe answered. “I mean, she’s cute. Not my type, but cute. Still a total bitch to you and me, so she’ll just say no and do that nose thing she does. The pig nose.”

He almost laughed at the impression. But he kept his face neutral, only briefly closing his eyes.

“You’re around her enough. She keeps trying to touch me even though she knows I hate it.” He lifted his shoulders. “She wants to be my girlfriend. She doesn’t ask about it anymore, but she talks to Paige about it. Paige feels bad and tells me. I try not to think about it.”

“You don’t like her?”

They’d had this conversation before. The one that made him shut down. He wanted to keep talking this time, to not hold back. The last week had been climbing over humps in his head, to understand when he should and shouldn’t give into other people’s concerns. Rey was right.

“She’s an okay friend, I guess. A half friend. She…sometimes she talks too much but when she actually listens, it’s something I like. She’s always happy in the morning, happy to see me. Since Hux ditched me, she’s usually the first person to meet me at school. Well, before I started hanging out with you. But I know what she’s doing. So it’s easier to keep saying I don’t want a girlfriend. I’d rather be alone, but my parents and Rey would be worried. Rey is friends with Paige’s sister. We hang out more with them and Liza is just…there. It’s gotten easier to avoid her since we became friends.”

Poe put his head down for a moment, then stretched out his legs. There was another hole in one of his socks. Poe caught him looking and quickly pulled off the offending articles of clothing and tossed them aside. He wiggled his toes for a moment, taunting him. His smile slowly faded, however, and he looked at him quickly before turning away.

“Why would you stay friends with her if she kissed you without asking? Without giving you the chance to say no, back off. This has been bothering me for a while,” Poe’s voice turned bitter, his eyes fixed on the opposite wall. “I would have ditched her after that. So hard. I might have even spread nasty rumours about her too and then felt bad about doing it. She stole something from you and wanted to get into your pants and wouldn’t even let you say no.”

“I don’t know.” He shook his head. “It was just something that happened. I’m not as mad anymore.”

“But you’re still mad?”

He let his head drop. “You saw me tonight. You know what happened last week. I’m mad about everything.”

“You’re not…I mean, yeah I guess you are. But it’s not your fault. I don’t want to repeat myself, but I’m so right about this. What happened to you was fucked up, especially if you can’t really talk to anyone about it. And Hux’s dad is wrong. It was that crazy fucker who was a psycho. You’re just…I don’t know. It’s like you were spit out of a volcano and are still cooling off.” Poe’s eyes were darting around as he spoke, but finally fixed on his bare feet. “My dad just thinks you’re weird.”

“My dad…I finally made him happy when he taught me how to drive. Getting my license was the first real thing we could do together. I could have got a better car, if I had wanted one.” He sighed, remembering the look on Han’s face every time they were out in the car. He wasn’t really teaching him. He was just desperate to spend time with him. “Driving with him was…nice. And I didn’t even thank him.”

“Maybe your dad can teach me. My old man isn’t doing shit to help me.” Poe was still staring at his feet, his head lowered. “My mom keeps threatening to divorce him, every time he unloads on her or me. She packs a bag and leaves for a week, but always comes back. And I have to go to school with a busted lip and act like it never happened. No matter what I do, I’m a fuck up in his eyes.”

Wincing, Kylo nodded. “Is that why he made you change schools?”

Poe shrugged, but then finally shook his head in agreement. “He didn’t like the people I was hanging out with. That and rent was ‘too fucking expensive’ at our old place. Now we just live in a cheaper, shittier dump. He never throws anything out. I think we have like fourteen broken vacuum cleaners in the garage. Why did he fucking bring those? I had to throw out a bunch of my shit and he brought the fucking vacuum cleaners.”

Poe was trying to make a joke, but he couldn’t let the moment escape him. His eyes had been too quick in the shower earlier and he couldn’t forget the pain that was clearly inflicted on his friend from someone older and stronger.

“I’ve seen the bruises,” Kylo said, killing the long pause that had filled the room. The lingering mark under Poe’s eye had made him nervous the entire time they’d been together. “Was that him?”

A rising anger had taken hold of him then, remembering the how Poe had moved gingerly and at half-speed during practice weeks ago, then stepped off the mat entirely. He claimed he hurt his ankle. But he’d been hurt again. Taking the bus to his house and forgetting his things just made the thoughts lock into place.

“He got pissed when your mom called a while ago and he realized that he’d have to stop wailing on my face. Still doesn’t stop him, and he forgets when he’s drunk. When he’s not, well…Stupid fucker doesn’t think that anyone will see me without my shirt off.” Poe suddenly laughed, then let his head sag back against the headboard. “Did you…see anything else?”

He raised an eyebrow in response. But his eyes had caught it, even if his mind hadn’t.

Slowly, the other boy lifted his shirt. The newer bruises had faded to a sickly green, but they were still there. Kylo had to lean forward to see what Poe was pointing at, but then he saw them. Fine and neat white lines traced along the side of his chest, along his ribs.

With a grim look on his face, Poe dropped his shirt. “I thought no one would notice them if I did it there. It sucks at the beach, but I just tell anyone that asks that it was a cat. I don’t even have a cat. Yeah, um…” There was a long pause as Poe fiddled with the hem of his shirt. There was a pain there that Kylo had only caught glimpses of before. If he hadn’t been so focused on his own docked agony, he might have been more aware. “Things got…bad for a while.”

Tracing the leather bracelet on his left hand, Kylo nodded. It was the one he’d received for his birthday, the one from Poe. Silently, he undid the clasp. His hands were trembling as he lifted his wrist. The newest cut was still scabbing over, but it matched the other dozen scars that stained his skin. This one had been deeper though, less diagonal and more…proper.

He’d promised himself never to do it at home, and he’d breached that perimeter with too much ease. It was something he could do again. Something that he wanted to do again, desperately. Now, stuck in this room, he wanted to flee into his misery, pressed on by revealing something he didn’t want to tell anyone, but still did.

He let his hand drop and moved to return his wrist to the comfort of the band. Poe’s hand stopped him.

“I want…I mean…maybe we can be the type of friends that talk about this stuff more often. We already do, but maybe more? I never told you before but I…I’m afraid too, about how I think.” His hand was warm, even though it was only a light touch.

Managing a nod, Kylo bit his lip. He could talk to Rey, she understood. But he was realizing that everything that was happening in his head was too much for her. He never wanted her to stop talking to him. He didn’t want to scare her either. He would always tell Hux the essence of his feelings and memories; but towards the end of their friendship, he pulled back even more. His other friends liked to pretend that nothing happened so they wouldn’t have to deal with it. Paige tried her best, but her strategy was to try to tell him what normal thoughts should be and how to get there. The therapists would try to get him to open up, but he was exhausted from the constant tricks.

There was space for him here.

“I think I’d like that.” He wasn’t sure he said the words, but they came out anyway.

“Really?” Poe quirked his mouth into a grin. “That’s greatness.”

“Not really. Not for you.” He managed to half smile in return, stealing some of Poe’s energy for his own. “You’ve heard my nightmares.”

“Yeah, I think you kicked me once,” Poe teased.

Kylo looked at him flatly. “You were on the other bed. I can’t kick that far.”

“You have really long legs! I swear. Or maybe I was walking by the bed. When I go for my night walks. The ones where I walk around the room and watch you sleeping.” Poe was smiling at him, the pain pushed away for now.

Shoving his friend, Kylo finally laughed. “If you were watching me sleep, you deserved to get kicked.”

Poe sat up on his knees to face him and pushed him back. “I have to watch you sleep so I can avoid getting kicked.”

Despite how annoying the joke was, Kylo returned Poe’s grin with one of his own. He would have been totally exhausted if the quiet moments of the evening hadn’t snuck up on them. There would always be the fear of rejection and hurt keeping him from fully giving away his soul, but he could start here now, truly. The silence stretched on and he closed his eyes, finally glad that the screams now only haunted his dreams.

He felt Poe rest his hand on his shoulders and he opened his eyes, giving him a look of irritation. Poe licked his lips and flicked his eyes from his hand to his lips, then finally his eyes. He slowly pulled his hand away and sat up, but was still inching closer.

There was a nervous energy in his gaze that made him uneasy, but still curious. His friend’s brown eyes were warm but were also searching for a reaction. He leaned forward, putting a warm hand on his leg. Kylo couldn’t feel his own heartbeat; the steady thudding in his chest came directly from the palm resting on his thigh. The encounter with Liza flashed in his mind, keeping him locked in place as Poe gradually leaned forward. With his face only a breath away, he paused, waiting for him to pull away or hit him.

He didn’t.

“Can I….okay.” Poe whispered, then closed the gap between them to press their lips together.

It was a light kiss and he hardly felt the pressure. There was just the delicate and warm sensation of lips and the lingering scent of Poe’s cologne. His lips were still soft and a curl of hair brushed his forehead. Kylo felt Poe’s hand tighten against his leg, making him sit up and inhale through his nose. The noise made Poe lean back, instantly taking on a mask of anxiety.

“Was that…weird?”

It was a stupid question. But instead of saying anything, he reached out and pulled Poe back towards him, kissing him again. Kylo pressed hard, mashing their mouths together and yanking Poe closer to grip his back. But the warmth of the awkward kisses cracked memories that he had wanted to keep locked away. The physical contact made him actually react. He’d never thought that much about sex for a reason that he wanted to keep from his waking mind; it was an annoying background noise that the other boys were obsessed with. Them and Liza. But now, kissing Poe, his body was lifted into something akin to joy. He felt the other boy’s mouth open and he dipped his tongue inside. The sensation hit him instantly and he groaned, letting a need that he’d never felt before grip him.

Poe jerked back. “Is this…okay?”

The feeling was fleeting, broken by the question.

“Shut up,” he snapped, before shoving the other boy away. He put his head in his hands and pressed on his eyes, trying to will the warmth spreading up his body to stop. Poe scrambled away to the other side of the room. When Kylo looked up, he saw tears shining in the other boy’s expressive eyes.

“I didn’t mean…shit…I thought…” he rambled, glancing quickly at the door, knowing that he needed to run. “I’m so fucking sorry.”

Kylo moved off the bed and Poe tensed, backing into a corner. His hands were up defensively as Kylo moved closer.

He knew he looked angry because the feeling was the easiest thing to latch on to. Anger and fear. Anything that felt that good could never end the way that he wanted. He’d miss something or misunderstand something. He should hit Poe. He should scream at him never to come close to him again. To fuck off and die. He wanted to admonish him for opening the locked box of feelings he’d kept hidden away in the back of his mind. Sex was only punishment and it shouldn’t bring out any positive reactions. This was just the way that it had to be.

But the dejected look that rolled over Poe’s face made him lower his raised fist.

Maybe there was another way.

“Can I…” The question trailed off from Kylo’s weak mouth and he bit his lip, hard. As gently as he could, he reached out to brush his hand against Poe’s.

“What? Beat the shit out of me for being a queer?” Poe was frozen, turning to words to try to defend himself. He looked down at Kylo’s hand and then met his eyes again, bewilderment overtaking dread.

“No.” This time he took Poe’s hand and squeezed it lightly. It was a different feeling than training. There was a softness there now, one that took away his focus. He leaned closer, breathing in to try to get back to his thoughts.

“What’s…what are you doing?” Poe’s voice was confused and there were still edges of hurt and fear there.

He had only rotten instinct at that point. He so rarely trusted his body in situations that he didn’t control. His arms he could trust, his legs he could depend on; but the rest was a space in between. His body was the thing that could be broken, but would heal in all the wrong places. Snoke had taught him that. His mind was the thing that could never be beaten, but it couldn’t be trusted either. But the ultimate betrayer right now was his body.

Taking Poe’s hand, he set it on his hip. He kept his unsteady hand there and with both terror and want, he stepped closer.

Poe lifted his other hand. It was also shaking, but firmed as he rested it on his cheek. Kylo leaned into the touch, too afraid to turn away but also not knowing what to do next.

“I don’t know what’s happening,” he finally said. He was looking into Poe’s eyes and saw the same hint of hazel that swept through Rey’s.

He didn’t know which was more wrong, but he leaned down to press his lips against his friend’s and pulled him closer, suddenly aching for the contact that part of him also wanted to flee. He tried to deepen the kiss again, searching for the same sensation as before. It didn’t take him long to find it, elevated by the connection. Poe ran his hands through his hair. His short nails grazed against his scalp. He’d never realized that touches could mean more than just care or hate. The third emotion was making him hard, a feeling that normally caused him dread, but Poe’s tongue was in his mouth and he felt a hand caress the front of his jeans.

That made him pull back, sucking in a dull gasp.

“Shit, sorry,” Poe’s shaky hand again settled on his waist. “Tell me what to do. Just…tell me. Tell me what I did wrong so I can make it better.”

Kylo could only shake his head and motion towards the bed.

Licking his lips, his friend nodded, his eyes darting back and forth. “Yeah, yeah, okay.”

Poe guided him towards the bed, even though his legs felt too stubborn to move. He let himself be dumbly dragged to his bed. He sat on the edge and Poe, also not wanting to give up the contact, clasped his hand.

“Look, Ky, I really like you. I should have told you that before I did anything. I’m sorry, I fucked that up. I know you and I know…just shit. I’m so sorry. You don’t know how much I like you. I don’t have words for it. They just come out all jumbled. And I just kissed you and…” Poe took a deep breath when Kylo squeezed his hand, trying to tell him to calm down. “Do you like me back?”

He didn’t want the pause to drag on too long, but his thoughts weren’t coming into place. The room was louder now and he could hear Poe’s breathing over his own. The light was buzzing. Someone opened a door in the hallway and then slammed it shut. He couldn’t think over the noise. Still, in his confusion, his body was still humming. Torn between his two halves, he just put his head on Poe’s shoulder.

“Sorry, I was selfish. Are you okay?” Poe said as he rested his head against his in return. He dropped his voice into a whisper. They were alone, but the gentle tone of the other voice made him relax. It was only a fraction of his anxiety, but it was enough to get words out of his mouth.

“Why would you like me?” He sounded pathetic. He sounded needy, like Rey when she was tired and upset with him. Poe had delicate curls and a sweet smile. Meanwhile, he had awkward ears and a mop of hair, moles and scars. He was pale to the other boy’s natural toned skin. Poe was handsome. He was just tall and awkward, but most of all damaged. There was nothing perfect about him. But holding Poe’s hand and feeling of his leg against his made him feel an inch above nothing. Poe wasn’t fragile like Rey. He didn’t have to worry about hurting him. He tried to tell himself that as the other boy started to speak.

“It’s actually easy. You’re smart, you’re funny. When you smile, I mean, I can count how many times you’ve really smiled the last month on two hands, but when you do…I can’t stop thinking about you. The rest of the day, I’m lost. Cold-shower lost.” Poe paused, prying their hands apart, only to reach around to drape his arm around his back. He pulled him closer before pressing a light kiss on his forehead. This must be how Rey felt every night. There was someone who cared for him, holding and caring for him.

He pushed down his rising anger at himself and shook his head. “How can you feel that way? About me?”

“I just do, Ky.” Poe hugged him closer. “I just do.”

Poe had to know. The locked box had been opened and he couldn’t close it again without releasing some of the toxic memories inside.

“You can’t like me,” he finally said, pulling away, refusing to let the words spill out. He wanted to stand from the bed but Poe held firm, forcing him to sit down. Glaring at him, Kylo only saw acceptance when he sat back down. “You don’t know what happened to me. Most of those things in the book and the documentaries were wrong because they didn’t go far enough. I’m too fucked up. You need to stop liking me. I’m telling you, right now, just stop it.”

“Tell me.” Poe looked at him defiantly. “I’m here. And I want to know. Ky, I won’t judge you. I just want to know what happened. You can’t just keep all of this in your head forever and come out the other side being normal.”

The word made him drop his head. That was all he wanted at this point. But it was something that he could never be.

Carefully, Poe leaned forward to kiss him again. Like the first time, it was warm and enticing. But, most of all, gentle.

Pulling away, Poe gestured towards the bed. Kylo hesitated before crawling up beside him. Resting his head against the younger boy’s chest, Kylo just shook his head. Their legs were mismatched in length when Kylo sought out somewhere else to look. He should have also said how awkward he was and how they didn’t match physically. But then he realized he was just trying to distract himself. There was someone here who wanted to listen, who might be able to understand—someone who wasn’t six years old who he didn’t want to destroy with the darkness inside him.

“I don’t want anyone to know.”

Poe hugged him. It was a gesture that he had avoided for so long, but now accepted. “Well, I’m not just anyone.”

Sucking in a dry breath, Kylo set his head down and started talking in a low voice. “I was seven when he took me. I didn’t know what was happening. It was exciting at first, like running away. It was something I always thought about. You know, just leaving everything that’s annoying you and everyone who’s ignoring you? Then he killed someone right in front of me. I knew what death was, but I didn’t think that it was real. This wasn’t like a movie. The boy who died, he was bleeding and crying and he did it to save me. I didn’t want to be there anymore, locked in that weird house. But I couldn’t get away. I never thought that a room could make you afraid before. I was just a kid and I knew he wanted to kill me. But he wanted something else too.” He was determined to say everything without stopping, and he had to fight through the cracks in his voice. He couldn’t cry. Poe couldn’t see him cry. “There was still a dying body on the floor. It smelled like…like dry leaves. I could feel the other kids watching me. They weren’t crying. I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t afraid too. He had made me stab him. He put the knife in my hand and he was still warm. It was so…soft. Smooth. He was so…warm. His eyes were open. He was watching me stab him.

“Then I remember footsteps. And he closed the door to the upstairs. There were so many doors and all of them were awful, but just not broken enough. The other kids had run away. Snoke…I wasn’t afraid of him until I really looked at him. The other kids hadn’t been crying so I thought still, like a moron, that all of it could have been something fake and not real. But then I looked at him and realized I would never get out of there alive. His teeth were rotten. It was like he didn’t have lips and his skin was melted. I can still see every wrinkle, every line, when I close my eyes. When he looked at me, I couldn’t move. I had the knife and I didn’t do anything. I hate myself for not stabbing him. I hate myself for what I let him do to me. I was still wearing my baseball uniform. I remember the way his hands felt when he touched my arm…”

His own words faded away into the darkness that he had tried to keep buried. Snoke had stroked his arm and he felt the tattered scratch of a hangnail trail down his skin again. The touch quickly turned to a harsh hand, gripping his arm. Under the bruising pressure, he couldn’t pull away. His lungs weren’t working and his legs were frozen. His hand was stiff and the knife clattered to the floor when Snoke tossed him onto the rotten sofa against the wall. The springs squeaked and poked at his body, jabbing him in the back. There was dust hanging in the air, only visible between the gaps in the slats that blocked the windows. He was on the sofa and Snoke pressed his knee down on his chest. You’re a stupid boy. And now you will learn how stupid you really are. The words couldn’t even make him scream. The pressure on his chest stopped him from breathing. Snoke’s hands ripped open his shirt and he could gulp down air when the old man finally stepped off him. He remembered gasping no when he reached for his pants.

He was in the wasteland of his mind when the now, the reality, shook him. Poe was holding him. Poe had kissed him. And now he was resting his face against his friend’s soaking wet t-shirt.

“You can keep going.” Poe’s voice echoed through his memory, lifting him out of the nightmare of Snoke’s hands on his body. “You can also stop. It’s up to you. But I want you to keep going. I care about you so much. I’m listening, really. I’m here.”

He blinked hard, willing the hotel room to come into his vision. He never wanted to return to that couch. But Poe had taken him there and then brought him back.

“He raped me. He wanted me to scream and cry, to hold me down as he shoved his fingers inside me. I was bleeding, I felt it. There was blood all over my legs and he didn’t stop. Every time he moved, he’d hiss and drool, dragging his hands all over my body. Every finger felt different and I could count every new scratch. I didn’t even fight him. I let it happen. I could have bit him. I could have kicked him. But I didn’t do anything. He made me look at him. My blood was on his hands and shoved his fingers in my mouth until I gagged and fucking looked at him. He was hard and I had no idea what that even looked like then. It looked like a monster coming out of his body. And he…held me down. And raped me and I never thought it would stop. The way it kept going made it slow down time and I was trapped there, only living in that place forever. There was nothing that happened before and nothing would ever happen but that. He was holding my throat and was inside me. Nothing ever hurt like that before. It burnt. My legs wouldn’t work. It felt like my guts were falling out as he was fucking me. I could smell his breath and his…come…when he bit my mouth. I was just seven. That’s not supposed to happen.” He sobbed, his stubbornness finally broken from only shedding silent tears. “And when I looked away, I could only see a boy who had died for me.”

He was waiting for Poe to push him away, to scream at him for being dirty and weak, but instead he pulled him closer. The tears came warm and heavy then and he wept, feeling Poe’s sobs join his own.

“That’s why you can’t like me,” he mumbled. “I’m useless and disgusting. There’s nothing good in me because no matter what I do, I let him fuck me.”

“Kylo, no. Fucking no.” Poe’s hand was soft as it rested against his cheek. He forced him to meet his eyes. “You said it yourself. You were seven. You had just watched him kill someone, killed a kid. You didn’t let him do anything. He hurt you. He hurt you in the worst way. None of that was your fault.”

“But I still didn’t fight back.” His voice was hardly a whisper. “I couldn’t fight back for seven years.”

“It doesn’t matter how long it takes. You still killed him. You didn’t let him kill you or Rey. You got her out. You got yourself out. You survived.” Poe took his hand and brought it to his lips, pressing a light kiss on the tips of his fingers. “And now you’ve told me. I can be there to help you. I know people you can talk to. They’re not doctors, but you can talk to them. You’re not alone anymore. I really promise, Kylo, I still like you.”

Kylo had closed his eyes, still being drawn back into his mind. At the final words, he looked at Poe again. “Why.”

“A person doesn’t have to be perfect for you to like them,” Poe answered in an instant. “And I’m not trying to fix you or trick you or whatever you’re thinking right now. I just want to get you a couple of notches closer to normal. You know, like you want.”

Rey’s arms weren’t as strong as Poe’s, but her hugs were sweeter. Still, he leaned into the other boy’s embrace and felt safe. Letting out a long sigh, one that came from his toes and left his mouth, he wanted to shake his head. Instead, he leaned closer and kissed him. The salt from their tears tainted the kiss. He tried to push it away, reaching again for the warmth of intimacy to overtake the emptiness that had swept over him at his confession.

After returning the kiss, Poe pulled away, resting his forehead against his. “You believe me?”

“I want to.” Kylo’s voice felt hollow, but he meant it.

The room was quiet again and Poe smiled at him. “Let’s go to bed, okay? We can talk tomorrow after we get home. I think you’re done talking right now, right?”

He nodded and felt his companion give him a parting kiss before leaving the bed. Not wanting to move, he curled up against a pillow and studied the wall. The wallpaper was peeling in the corner. The pattern was faded and didn’t line up. He finally found a seam along the wall and watched it start to grow before his eyes, spreading out to swallow the room. Longing to dive into the abyss, his trance was only broken when he felt a toothbrush shoved into his hand.

Poe made him get up. He felt like Rey when she was having an empty day. He was guided in his motions to finish the night. Brushing his teeth, washing his face. Poe even ran a comb roughly through his tousled hair. He wouldn’t even let his mother do this for him. Managing to smile at him, he avoided the mirror as he wandered back into their room.

He looked dumbly at the two beds. His spirit was lifted when Poe, only in a pair of pyjama pants, turned down the covers on his bed. The other bed sat untouched.

He silently stripped down to his boxers and turned out the light.

Climbing into bed beside a warm body that was much closer to his own size, but still small enough to make him feel secure, he hoped that sleep would come easily that night.