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Chapter One – Coercion

co·er·cion | \ kō-ˈər-zhən, -shən\

Definition of coercion

: the act, process, or power of coercing; They used coercion to obtain the confession.

 

co·erce | \ kō-ˈərs  \

coerced; coercing

Definition of coerce

transitive verb

1: to compel to an act or choice; was coerced into agreeing; abusers who coerce their victims into silence

2: to achieve by force or threat; coerce compliance; coerce obedience

3: to restrain or dominate by force; religion in the past has tried to coerce the irreligious— W. R. Inge

 


 

It hurts to think. It hurts to breathe.

The bite of his fingers haunts my jaw. Ghostlike pains stab my chest as I breathe, each inhalation pulled cautiously through my teeth in case he’s lingering nearby. I must be careful. I don’t want to draw attention to myself.

Wish I could disappear.

My entire existence twists down into one place, deep inside, into the part he hasn’t killed yet, where I might set aside the aches gnawing into my bones and try to think.

Wish I had some water.

If I could look in a mirror, I would see the bruises.

I can’t do that, though, look in a mirror. I can’t move or see much of anything.

I try to focus. He is not here.

The stifling darkness obscures my prison, although I can see it in my mind’s eye. My arms stretch overhead, one cold metal cuff tightly clasps each wrist.

I can’t see much, but I can think, despite the grinding pain, always at the edge of my mind. I use my other senses – smell, touch, hearing, taste – to take stock of my surroundings in the brief hiatus before he returns.

In addition to a cracked rib and a bruised face, an aching tenderness throbs between my legs. A sharper sting where my lip has split reminds me I will feel numb soon enough.

When he comes back.

My tongue sneaks out to test the extent of my newest injury. I run the tip along raised, cut flesh, still pulsing and tender.

Not too bad this time. Good.

My lip is okay, just sore and cracked from being so dry. Everything is sore and dry.

I’m dehydrated and who knew it would be such a painful experience, not having enough water?

The headache grows worse every day, nearly unbearable, a constant, sinister pounding behind my eyes.

Reminding me I am mortal.

I am going to die. Soon, I think.

Nine days have passed, based on the tiny dents I’ve been able to scratch into the headboard next to my head. Although he keeps me in near pitch-darkness, I can feel the small ridges I’ve dug into the wood with my fingernails. I count nine, which means I’ve woken up nine times.

I really don’t know if actual days have passed or if my sleep schedule is just off. Maybe only hours lapse between stretches of unconsciousness. That idea is too horrible, though, the thought that time crawls by so slowly. It would mean I am only extending my misery into eternity.

I don’t know what’s worse: The thought of time passing more slowly than I realize, dragging my precious minutes into infinite desolation, or that it speeds by far too quickly, hustling my hours and days to a nightmarish end.

I don’t want to die. I don’t my last breaths of life to terminate in this hell.

I want water.

I am dreadfully thirsty. I haven’t been given nearly enough to drink.

Not since he took me.

I was in my shop the day my life changed forever. An off-the-beaten-path little hole-in-the-wall place in old town, a part of the city everyone with money long abandoned, while those of us without it stayed and tried to scavenge an existence. An old consignment shop turned fortune-teller’s, once my partner and I realized lies are easier to sell than the discarded possessions of strangers.

A faint mustiness always clung, but that was easily concealed with plenty of incense, which coincidentally lent a not-unwelcome, obscure mystery to the atmosphere.

Scarves and beads and oddly assorted bric-a-brac completed the illusion I was an enigmatic woman of knowledge, of foresight.

Foresight.

I would laugh but I can’t find humor in my current situation. Only a nauseating sort of irony.

Had I truly owned the foresight so boldly proclaimed by the flashy reader board outside my shop, I would not find myself here, in Hell itself.

 

Fortune Teller

~ INSIDE ~

potions sold and dreams foretold

CASH ONLY

Walk-ins Welcome

ask for Madam Sunshine

 

I want to feel the sun on my face one last time.

My fingernails grow more ragged than usual from my attempts to escape, but so far they have proven no match for a solid oak headboard and hard metal handcuffs. And, as much as I long to sink my claws into the flesh of my captor, my current predicament provides no such opportunity. Yet.

No such opportunity yet, I tell myself.

However, I can wait. I can be patient. So long as I hold on to hope.

He’s not here, but…soon, I think.

I drift.

I wake every time, just before he returns, and I’m reduced to an animal-like reality, near-quivering with terror and eagerness in similar amounts. He hurts me, but he is my sole source of water and food and light.

I need water. I need it soon.

I might not know just how much time passes, but I sense he’s on a pretty regular schedule.

My eyes snap open when I recognize keys rattling at the front door, the creak of it opening, the soft click of latches falling back into place, the tread of booted feet moving through the house.

I am never filled with such perfect apprehension as I am at the sound of those measured thumps. I know what they mean. I know what time it is.

I try desperately to gather some spit into my mouth so I can swallow the lump of fear expanding at the back of my throat as I listen intently to those steps. They grow softer – he’s out there – then louder, until they pause, right outside the door to my room.

The door opens softly, and a gentle golden light spills around the edges to silhouette my own personal devil. It’s him, of course.

It’s always him.

Hey, baby girl.”

He says the same thing every day. I take a breath and wonder how long I can fight today before he wins and forces me to drink my potion. That is what he calls the drugged water he gives me, potion. I think he believes the reference to be as ironically amusing as my fortune-telling sign.

My belly swoops with fear.

“You must be so thirsty, honey. Look, I brought you something to drink.”

I want it and I don’t. This is part of the dance, the ritual, the ever-expanding illusion I cling to.

“Not thirsty.” The lie, same as always, escapes my dry throat and cracked lips.

I am so fucking thirsty I want to cry.

I am parched, and I know he’s doing this on purpose, keeping me like this. On the edge of survival.

“Don’t. Lie.” His voice is whiskey shot with honey, raspy-low, and scratchy-sweet, never quite hiding the menace behind the sugar.

The first time I heard it, I thought it was beautiful, thought he was beautiful, all tall and dark-haired and amber-eyed.

I thought he was a nice guy.

“Don’t want that,” I mumble, warily eying the plastic water bottle he carries. But my reply is fumbled, clumsy and thick-tongued from the dryness in my mouth, and it holds no authority in tone or delivery. If I had anything in my stomach I would vomit.

He shakes the bottle in three harsh pumps, and I wince at the startling, sloshing noise. It’s loud and my head hurts.

I glare at him.

If he will not let me go, I wish he would at least leave me the hell alone.

He doesn’t, of course. He comes closer.

I monitor his approach, his shadow dark in contrast to the golden light flowing in from the open door behind him. I watch his long, dexterous fingers unscrew the bottle’s cap.

He sounds annoyed and my pulse skips wildly at the silken warning in his voice. “Don’t lie, baby girl, I know you’re thirsty.”

I am. I’m so thirsty I hurt from it.

He presses the edge of the bottle to my mouth, the plastic spiral pushing hard against my lips.

The cut on my bottom lip throbs angrily, a reminder of the inevitable if I fight too hard. A little resistance is okay, but too much leads to punishment.

I wonder if I will ever not be bruised and suffering again. If I will ever be…whole…again.

I’m dehydrated and cannot cry but if I could produce tears, they would be frustrated and powerless and copious.

I turn away, but he quickly grasps my face, strong impatient fingers biting into my jaw over old bruises that will never fade if he keeps doing that. He does it every time. Another part of our dance.

He holds me still and tilts the bottle. A wet trickle slides across my cheek.

I don’t want it, but I’m so thirsty. My dying body clamors anxiously, demanding me to drink, drink the water, who cares if it’s drugged?  Just drink.

“Please don’t have a bad day, honey.”

A slight emphasis on the words bad day implies I have a choice in the outcome of all this. As if all my days aren’t bad, haven’t been unimaginably bad since he brought me here.

If I cannot find a way out, the rest of my days will be much worse.

“You know I don’t like it when we fight.” His voice grows chill, all coaxing tones evaporating like mist.

You’re dying, Rey. You need to drink.

I finally convince myself to yield to the quenching promise trickling away and soaking my cheek and the pillow beneath me. I turn and gulp the tainted water as it pours against my mouth and trickles in cold rivulets down my chin, trailing over my neck and into my hair or alternately down my chest.

Drink it.

I swallow mechanically as my eyes adjust to the softly-spilling light.

I look at him.

He smiles, so handsome my toes want to curl.

He’s tall, tall and dark, with thickly-waving, raven hair trimmed neatly and worn just long enough to cover his protuberant ears. His eyes are butterscotch, spiked with shades of amber and gold, framed by elegantly-winged brows and lovely black lashes. He occasionally wears glasses and they shouldn’t add to his allure, but they do. He wears them now, and they glint softly in the hazy light, riding low on his long nose.

His nose is rather large, but it suits him. A smaller nose would be strange in combination with his unusual facial traits – face too long, cheekbones too high, jaw too narrow, forehead too prominent, crooked teeth, and pale skin dotted with moles – slightly asymmetrical features, which on their own might not be terribly appealing, but collectively are somehow very attractive.

His mouth is the only truly perfect feature he owns. That mouth with its full, red lips, lushly endowed with a pillow-soft plushness, would make any vain teenager envious.

Yes. Pretty hair and eyes, and luscious, luxurious lips. And the rest of him a hodge-podge of extremes that work quite well together.

And he’s big. Well over six feet tall and burly, not stocky. No, he's built with heavy slabs of muscle carved like marble, pecs and abs and thighs muscled in the way of a predator. He’s not some overly-inflated, puffed-up gym-rat. He is catlike, all sleekly-rippling strength under tautly pulled skin, dangerous at rest, unstoppable in motion, every movement a graceful symphony on his large-boned, handsomely built frame.

A beautiful animal. And a deadly one.

He moves like water. Smooth and powerful and devastating in a storm.

Water. Drink.

His large hands cup my skull and push my mouth firmly against the bottle at my lips.

I finish gulping the water, having succumbed to the inevitable, and I glare at him when I finish. I want more, but my belly is full and aches from what I’ve already had.

My head falls back onto the pillow, wet from my brief and pathetic resistance just now, and I feel a familiar wave of dull giddiness.

“There now, baby girl. Doesn’t that feel better?” His throaty growl brushes over me, warm and velvet-smooth, satisfied now that I’ve done his bidding, however reluctantly.

A familiar buzz from whatever he’s added to my water rapidly infuses me with false bravery. He stares down his long, beautiful nose and I feel reckless.

I want these handcuffs off. I want to go home.

The edges of the room blur and I ask, “Won’t you please let me out of here? I promise I’ll be good. I promise.”

His face darkens into a scowl and I belatedly realize my mistake.

Shit. Shit, fuck –

His hand flies out of nowhere and connects with my mouth hard enough to rattle my teeth together. The cut on my lip splits open again and I yelp at the sharp pain. The copper tang of blood hits my tongue and I try not to gag.

If I throw up my water, he will give me more drugs and then I might die.

I blink up at him in fear, frozen.

“Ungrateful fucking bitch.” He bares his teeth, and his voice crackles with rage. He runs a hand through his hair, visibly agitated. “You think I enjoy this? Keeping you like this? Like a goddamned animal? Fuck. If I thought I could trust you not to run off, you think I wouldn’t let you go?” He raises his hand again and I hate myself for cringing away.

I still can’t cry, despite the water he just gave me. But I want to. I really do.

My cowering seems to pacify him, and I’m not sure if I should try to apologize just to be sure. I’m feeling more of a buzz now, as the drugs he fed me begin to take over.

“Maybe I need to show you again? How much you mean to me?” he whispers softly. “Is that what you want? It is, isn’t it?”

No. No.

“Is that why you provoke me like this? Because you like it?”

I shake my head, too afraid of another slap to speak the words out loud, too afraid to change the steps to this part of our dance.

Besides, it’s pointless.

My mouth stings and my head spins. He unbuckles his belt and I turn my head away, wondering if I am ever going to feel the sun on my face again.

“Ah, you do. You like it…” he mutters. He hovers an inch away before dragging his tongue over the re-opened cut on my lip.

He kisses me softly. Slowly. Like he’s sorry. It’s just another part of the dance we do. Our ritual.

My hell.

His illusion.

As if we are in some kind of real goddamn relationship, not this nightmare replica of one.

“Just because we had a fight doesn’t mean we can’t make up. Right, honey?”

 

After fourteen more marks scratched into the headboard, I’ve grown terribly weak. I need his help to use the bathroom, to sit up. I can barely move on my own. Apathy drips incessantly into my thoughts to erode my grip on hope.

All I can think about, all I care about is water. When it is coming, and how can I get more?

Twice a day he uncuffs me, and twice a day he patiently guides me to the bathroom. We’ve become more marionette and puppet master than dance partners at this point.

My pee smells strongly of ammonia now, toxic and undiluted and it is dark yellow from dehydration. I wonder vaguely if my kidneys might fail soon. I wonder how much longer I might last like this.

Once a day he helps me shower, seating me on a plastic bench – the kind used by elderly or disabled people who can’t stand up on their own for long – and he scrubs me down like a dog, while I furtively lap at the spray like a beast. I try to get as much moisture as I can without being too obvious about it.

He doesn’t like it when I do that. I try not to let him catch me at it.

But, I’m so thirsty. I am preoccupied with water, obsessing over it as I’ve never fixated on anything before.

He has not hit me again. I haven’t asked him to let me go since Day Nine.

I think it would be pointless to ask, anyhow.

I’m weak and thirsty, and I’m not going anywhere.

Today, he seems to realize this, and after scrubbing me down, he carries me to the barren living room. He tucks me into his plaid sofa with a comforter and uses a remote control to turn on the television.

“You’ve been so good, baby girl. You can watch some TV as a treat, okay? Doesn’t that sound nice?”

I stare unseeing at whatever is on the screen. It could be a horror flick or Maury Povich for all I know or care. I cannot move, my muscles cramp and burn from the exertion of showering and being carried and sitting upright.

He seems satisfied I’m not going to jump up and run and leaves me huddled on the couch. I hear rustling from the front bedroom where he keeps me. After a few minutes, he reappears with a bundle of dirty sheets in his arms. He watches me for a few seconds, but I haven’t moved, so he leaves again.

Those sheets definitely need a wash.

I cannot muster more than mild disgust. I consider trying to run for it, but I'd never manage the complicated series of locks on the front door before he catches me. Besides, my legs are so weak I cannot stand. Not without his help.

I am weak from the drugs, and I don’t think I should have much more of whatever he’s been giving me.

Or I really am going to die.

Although maybe that won't be so bad. Maybe if I have a little more potion, I will finally escape this bad dream forever.

Except he didn’t give me any today.

Today he says I’ve been good. I wonder what he means when he says that. Maybe I will get some water soon. I’m so thirsty, maybe I should ask for water.

He might hit me if I ask.

I think if he hits me again, it might cause some permanent damage. Maybe even kill me.

I wonder if I should tempt him into it. Killing me.

But I don’t really want to die today. Not really. Not yet.

I’ve been chained to a bed for weeks. This brief change of scenery, of position, makes my head whirl. The light, even dim as it is, hurts my eyes, but I do not close them. I sink into the couch cushions and force myself to stay awake, to observe my surroundings. This is an opportunity.

I should try to find some hope. I can’t.

It’s dark outside, after sunset, I think I can tell through the tightly closed blinds. I do my best to ignore him moving through the house. I pretend maybe I’m back home, watching my own TV after a long day of work at the shop.

I try to imagine I’m burrowed under my favorite blanket, a cup of tea within arm’s reach, or even better, a glass of ice-cold water, and I can have as much as I want. I try to imagine I am strong enough to stand and walk around without cruel fingers digging into my arms or ribs or hips as he helps me. I try to remember what the touch of sunshine feels like, what fresh air smells like.

I dream of the taste of water.

I doze, drifting in and out of dreamy wakefulness to the vapid low tones on the television and muted clattering from the kitchen. He’s cooking dinner by the sound of it.

I’m not hungry.

I haven’t been hungry since he took me, although I know he’s fed me enough to keep me alive.

Mostly I’m just thirsty.

I want water so fucking bad.

Don’t think about it. You’ll go crazy if you keep this up. Think about something else.

I recall the first time I saw him, and, for the millionth time, I rehash my mistakes, the obvious cues I ignored, the indicators I can only see now with perfect hindsight.

 

The bell over the shop door tinkled softly, alerting me to a customer. As usual, I wore sweatpants and a t-shirt and was hanging out in the back of the converted shop I used to share with Rose Tico.

Before she eloped, Rose was my best friend, or so I thought. But she took off almost a year ago, and I’d been managing the business alone since she left.

Before she ran off with a boyfriend I never knew existed, Rose made a better fortune teller than I ever did. She had a good intuition about people, she used to joke. But she left, and so I became Madam Sunshine, heiress to ancient wisdom and dubious supernatural abilities.

My sign said “potions sold” but that was mostly because it rhymed with “dreams foretold” and had a nice ring to it. Occasionally a curious teenager would come in thinking “potions sold” meant I sold drugs, and I would set the record straight in no uncertain terms.

I wondered who was here now and if they really wanted a fortune.

I threw on my turban and fringed shawl. Stereotypical, I know, so sue me. But the costume helped me look the part and it was easy enough to revert back into a shop owner after fortune-telling.

He came into the shop with slow purpose, closing the door conscientiously behind him, and my nerve endings sort of…tingled with adrenaline.

I assumed he was there for a palm reading or horoscope or maybe he just wanted someone to tell him he would get everything he’d ever dreamed of. Because that was what I did: Sold dreams and peddled hope to the sad and lonely and desperate.

Anyhow, the first thing I noticed about him was the cop uniform, complete with badge and gun.

He crammed himself into my veil-swathed booth and flashed me a wolfish smile, folding his impossibly long-legged, broad-shouldered frame into the guest chair across from me.

Every instinct I owned told me to run, right then and there. I chalked it up to his overpowering size and my natural distrust for law enforcement of any kind, especially considering my business wasn’t exactly on the up-and-up.

But I hid my nervousness well and simply asked how I could help him.

He very politely asked for a fortune as advertised on the sandwich board outside. His smile broadened, and my heart skipped a beat, my initial trepidation falling away.

Because, shit, he was sexy.

I took a deep breath, pretending to gather the forces of destiny around me, when really I was trying to collect my flustered thoughts into a semblance of order.

He waited patiently until I deemed an appropriate amount of time had passed. I hunched over my plywood table covered in a paisley swath of fabric scavenged from an estate sale. The fabric was hideous, but in the ethereal, veil-draped concave I’d created, it really worked, really looked authentic, you know?

After a quick once-over, I noticed he did not wear a wedding ring, nor was there a sign of one being recently worn on his ring finger. A tiny white streak at the corner of his mouth told me he had brushed his teeth that morning but missed rinsing all the toothpaste away.

He’s single. Lives alone. An educated guess.

Since he had asked for a fortune, I peered into my “crystal ball” – a glittery garden globe I’d picked up from Home Depot a while back – and made up some shit about him finding true happiness, the love of his dreams, yada-yada-yada.

“When?” he murmured.

Uh. I had no fucking idea when. I was thrown off. People didn’t usually interrupt me.

“Soon,” I assured him with an encouraging nod.

He watched me so closely the whole time, I grew increasingly uncomfortable as I went on. I felt him…collecting my every move, I don’t know how else to describe it. He watched me like he was trying to memorize a textbook. Intently and with full concentration.

I felt like a mouse being sighted by a hawk.

Eventually, my sub-par fortune ebbed, falling away from my lips as everything became a standstill, a standoff, almost. I couldn’t read a damn thing from him. I sincerely hoped he liked his fortune, but for all I knew he was here as a joke.

I didn’t get the impression he was taking any of this too seriously.

No. Rather…he was taking an interest in me, the girl under the turban. He watched me like he was trying to strip it away. And the shawl. It took me a minute to figure it out.

He was undressing me with his eyes.

I felt a flutter of something in my belly. Oh!

I tried to stop my cheeks from turning pink at the unwelcome discovery, but it was futile. Keeping a blush off my face has always been impossible and I hate that about myself.

I trailed off, and we sat in silence for a few heartbeats. Finally, he murmured, “Thank you, Madam…?” A tiny hint of sarcasm touched his voice.

“Madam Sunshine,” I blurted stupidly, still basking in the flattering glow of his obvious interest and thoroughly disarming gaze.

His smile broke the tension like a pebble gently breaking the surface of still water. Ripples of anticipation fluttered into me as I realized I was attracted to this customer. Sexually.

He licked his lips and blinked slowly at me, giving me time to get over it. A hint of his cologne or aftershave or deodorant or whatever hit my nose and I blushed harder. He smelled incredible and I kind of wanted to lick my thumb and stroke it over the dried bit of toothpaste at the corner of his fabulous mouth and press my nose into his neck and breathe in his scent…

He slid twenty bucks across the hideous paisley fabric of my cheap table with a soft “Thank you for such a…magnificent demonstration of foresight, sunshine.”

“Um. You’re welcome, Officer –” I glanced at his badge “– Solo.”

He chuckled and my pussy clenched hard in response.

“Call me Ben,” he murmured. He was still staring at my mouth, and I was going to go up in flames. I didn’t need supernatural abilities to recognize that look. He felt it, too, I was sure. Hot desire writhed through me and throbbed insistently between my legs.

I was rendered nearly speechless as his gaze lingered for just a second longer than it should have. Definitely inappropriate. And then he stood abruptly and exited my ridiculous booth and I felt…kind of empty and sad.

I didn’t know why he left so quickly or if I’d ever see him again, and it put me off for the rest of the day. I closed up shop early and went home in a bit of a mood.

 

I don’t know if twenty minutes or two hours have passed when the warm weight of him settles next to me on the couch, waking me from my doze.

He’s holding a plate of food and watching me like a raptor. His own plate sits on the coffee table next to a large glass of ice water. The glass drips with condensation, and I have never lusted for anything in my life as I do for that water.

“You hungry?” he asks. I’m not, but he holds a bite of mashed potato on a fork and I open my mouth in robotic obedience, learned the hardest of ways. Fighting him at feeding time ends very badly, every time I’ve tried it. I don’t have it in me to fight right now. Plus, if I’m good he might give me some of that water.

He blows on the bite first, cooling away a faint wisp of steam, then carefully feeds me one forkful after another.

It’s good. Really good. I open my mouth automatically for more and he feeds me, the light in his eyes changing from wary to satisfied as the food disappears from my plate.

He likes this. Me needing him.

The food makes me tired, but my mind grows more alert by the minute. He hasn’t drugged me yet, and I’m so very thirsty…

“Please,” I murmur, finally unable to help myself. “Can I please have some water? Please?”

He pauses, fork halfway to my mouth. I have introduced something new to the dance, but so has he. If he kills me over it, at least I can say I died trying.

“Sure, baby girl. Since you asked so good…”

I am near-trembling with relief as I realize he is not going to kill me, and I’ve never asked him for water before. I’ve only ever begged for him to let me go.

He holds his glass to my lips and I know immediately it is not drugged.

I slurp the water, cold and fresh, and it’s so lovely, so soothing, such a goddamn fucking miracle. I gulp down as much as he will let me have. I can feel it sliding along my tongue, a cool trickle against my throat and down my esophagus. I can feel it hitting my stomach, mixing with the food he’s given me, churning happily into my cells, absorbing into my body.

I drain the whole glass, eagerly sucking at the droplets as the ice cubes bump against my lips. It’s so fucking good, so delicious and wet and cold, and I want to cry when he finally pulls the nearly-empty glass away, ice-cubes clinking gently to remind me there’s more water in that ice, or will be when it melts, and maybe I can have it in a little while.

I keep my eyes lowered, trying to stay calm. My mind hurtles into overdrive, though. My heart pounds a crazy, desperate cadence.

I feel like I’ve found a missing puzzle piece and locked it in place, the piece that can show me the whole picture, now.

And now I know what to do. I just need to think for a minute.

I can ask for water, and if I’m good he will give me some. I cannot mention wanting to leave. I cannot mention being let go. Ever.

Every time I do it, he grows wild with rage and it always ends in me getting slapped and worse.

I realize he’s watching me, and so I softly tell him, “Thank you.”

He tells me I am welcome and feeds me the rest of my dinner. I’m exhausted by now, and I lean into the couch, watching idly as he picks up his own plate.

When he’s finished eating, he carries me back to my room and cuffs me to the headboard. I’m full, and I’ve had water. And no drugs. I’m more alert than I’ve been for a while. I haven’t worn clothes for weeks, and I feel chilly. He neatly folds the blanket that covered me and sets it at the foot of the bed.

As he does every night, he strips out of his clothes and climbs on top of me.

I lie still and let him do whatever he wants, too happy to have finally had enough water to make an ordeal over what always follows dinner.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Two – Delusion

de·lu·sion | \ di-ˈlü-zhən, dē-\

Definition of delusion

1a: something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagated under the delusion that they will finish on schedule; delusions of grandeur

  1. psychology: a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary; the delusion that someone was out to hurt him; also: the abnormal state marked by such beliefs

2: the act of tricking or deceiving someone: the state of being deluded… accused the Bohemian of having practised the most abominable arts of delusion among the younger brethren.— Walter Scott

 


 

The day he took me I was in the backroom, fucking around on the old laptop set up on a beat-up metal desk and half-listening to the radio.

When the jingle of the bell on the door alerted me to a customer, I threw on the turban and fringed shawl and hurried into the shop.

I entered the fortune-teller’s booth, eager to make some money. It had been a few days since anyone stopped by.

God, I had been so fucking oblivious. If had known then what I know now, I would have run out the back door as fast and hard as my feet could carry me.

But I didn’t know a goddamned thing, so I ducked under the purple veil draped across the entryway to welcome my newest customer.

At the time, I didn’t realize it would be the last time I would ever do that.

When I saw who it was, my breath caught in a quick rush of air I was unable to hide.

He stood there, Officer Solo from last week, and he looked handsome as ever, wearing glasses this time. His uniform stretched tautly across the expanse of his chest, badge glinting with quiet authority in the soft lighting of my booth. Even the sight of his nightstick and sidearm hanging from the duty belt at his hips did not diminish my glad excitement, the warm writhing anticipation I felt.

His appearance did not alarm me as it initially did last time I saw him.

He smiled, and I grinned naïvely in return. He was back, and I knew it was because of me. He was interested, and I was thrilled. Because he was definitely interesting to me, too.

I discarded my turban on the table next to my garden globe. For some reason, I wanted him to see my hair, pulled into three cute buns in a row down the back of my head. Kind of like a mohawk, but more, I don’t know, feminine. I wanted him to see me as a woman.

“Back for another fortune, officer?” I asked, tongue-in-cheek. We both knew damn well the last fortune I told him was total bullshit.

“Not exactly,” he replied, giving me a scrupulous once-over from behind his glasses. His dark eyes crawled over me, noting my obvious and careless attempt to cover my jeans and t-shirt with the worse-for-wear shawl, a garment I hoped looked like it might belong to a woman of mystic talents.

I giggled awkwardly under his thorough inspection. I’d just turned twenty and was a virgin, to boot. And he was giving me a man’s perusal.

Boys my own age tend to have this overly-contrived affectation when they try to convey an appreciative gaze. It will always feel too forced, not natural as his was. And Solo had the smolder perfected to an art form.

His mouth quirked into a slight leer, confirming my initial instinct he was not here for my unimpressive services as Madam Sunshine. He licked his lips and I had to force the low flutters in my belly to calm before I spoke again. Those lips. Fuck, that mouth was hot.

I felt my cheeks turn warm at the thought, unwelcome only because I was going to embarrass myself and reveal too much interest too soon. I wanted to remain a little mysterious. Maybe a little elusive. He was older than me by close to a decade, if I had to guess. He was not a boy, not a person who would be interested in a juvenile fling. With him, it would be an intense…affair.

“Can I help you?” I breathed, my mind far away, fixed on vague musings of a burgeoning sexual awareness. He would know what to do in bed. He would know how to have sex. I could tell.

“Rey Johnson?” he asked, pulling my thoughts back to the moment. He knew my name, which was kind of weird. It wouldn’t be all that hard for him to figure it out, I reasoned, not with his police resources, but his use of it now sent a quiver of unease into my wildly fluttering belly.

“Yes?” I replied cautiously.

He crooked his finger at me and like a fool, I obeyed. I moved closer, not once considering the lasting consequences of trusting him. Without even thinking to try for the foreknowledge I had so colorfully bragged of owning.

I stood before him, unquestioning, wrapped in my stupid shawl. He brushed it almost reverently from my shoulders, sending it to fall, already forgotten, to the old rug covering the dirty tile floor.

Oh, shit, my heart was pounding so hard. Was he going to kiss me? He was looking at me like he wanted to. Like he wanted to eat me alive.

I swallowed, unable to tear my gaze from his.

It happened so fast, I didn’t fight. I didn’t even think to.

He spun me quickly, efficiently taking over my body with a few carefully placed moves they must teach all cops, wrenching my arms behind my back and cuffing my wrists with practiced ease.

“You are under arrest.” He spoke casually. As if I should have known what was coming.

Arrest? Wait. What?

What did I do?

“What?”

He exhaled. “You heard me. I’m arresting you.” The words made no sense slithering into my ear, and he sounded disturbingly excited.

Oh. Maybe this was some kind of a joke?

My hands were cuffed behind me, and he hovered behind. I could feel the heat of him, the light press of his hips against my butt.

Oh.

Okay. Maybe this was his idea of being kinky? I quickly revised my feelings of attraction to him. He was still sexy as hell. But this was not okay.

“Ha, ha,” I griped sarcastically. “Funny. Let me go.”

He used my arms to steer me to the door. “Nope,” was all he said before very efficiently guiding me through the front door of my shop to the car parked outside. 

His legs are miles long and he moved briskly. I shuffled along in front of him as best I could, off-kilter, out-of-sorts, trying not to stumble over my own feet.

This was happening too fast. Wait.

I was growing angry. I had rights. This was definitely not okay.

“What are you arresting me for?” My voice cracked with panic as he opened the back door to his car. I planted my feet. I’d never been in the back of a cop car before, and I knew if I ended up in this one, bad things were going to happen.

Real fear started bubbling up around the edges of my mind.

Something was fucking wrong.

Stop. Stop!

Like a cornered animal, I thrashed in panic, looking for aid. Nobody was around, but I opened my mouth to scream for help.

“Fight me now or make a sound, and I’ll break your fucking arm,” he muttered coolly, wrenching my arm in a way I knew instinctively would indeed cause it to break.

I felt hot breath on the side of my neck, then a brutally whispered promise hissed into my ear. “You can resist all you want later. I expect you’ll be quite a little fighter.”

This can’t be real, I thought, as he shoved my head down and roughly forced me onto the back seat.

This can’t really be happening.

But I was wrong. It was real. All of it.

 

Once I figure out not to fight him, ever, things get easier. Once I realize I shouldn’t ask to leave, to be let go, he becomes almost…solicitous.

I try to build my strength incrementally. He’s far too smart and would notice immediately if I were to change my behavior too quickly. I tried in the very beginning and it pissed him off beyond belief.

But. He hasn’t drugged my water for days now, and I can feel my mind rousing. I can feel hope awakening in me again, fragile, yes, but there. Like a flower before it blooms.

I’m terrified he’ll figure it out and take it away again, that intoxicating sense of optimism, of possibility.

I’m still horribly weak, but I try to let him believe I am even weaker. With the drugs out of my system, I can walk on my own, sit up on my own, but I allow him to lift me and carry me and move me between the bedroom and living room.

It’s working, and I grow more confident with each passing day. He's trusting me. He tells me I'm a good girl. 

I can be good. I just have to do whatever he says. I just have to be patient. I'm good at waiting.

After another week of compliance, I am granted the best reward yet.

I rarely talk, still afraid of drawing a random slap or punch, because he grows suspicious whenever I speak without prompting. So, when I casually mention I am cold, keeping my voice as neutral as possible, he narrows his eyes, and I can feel him calculating.

But he simply stands and walks into his bedroom, the one I’ve never seen. I assume it is where he keeps his clothes and uniform and things, where he sleeps when he isn’t dozing after he’s just finished raping me.

After a few minutes, he returns with a button-down pajama top. It will be enormous on me, but it looks warm, flannel and long-sleeved.

He pulls my arms into the sleeves and buttons it around me with a solemn stare, rolling the cuffs until my hands stick out, then tucking me back against him.

Clothes. Oh, God, when was the last time I wore clothes?

“Thank you,” I whisper, and think I can feel his distrust, his disbelief in my sincerity. I could say something sarcastic, I think, irritated. A tinge of the old me pushes to the surface and I tamp it down.

There is no fucking way I am going to risk going without water again just to make some lippy remark about finally getting something to wear.

After dinner that night, he carries me to my bedroom at the front of the house and cuffs me to the headboard as always, cold metal biting ruthlessly into my wrists.

But under the warm flannel pajama top, I feel a little more human. A little less animal.

I can’t stop thinking about it, the way the fabric covers me, the sensation of warmth, the illusion of protection, of shelter.

I can’t help a tear of gratitude from sliding down my cheek. I still hate him, don’t get me wrong. But to wear clothes again is…

He leaves his shirt on me that night, even as he unbuckles his belt and climbs on top of me with a soft groan, pushing his fingers into my hair and kissing me as if we are in love.

As if he is making love to me.

I try very hard to lie still and be good, so he won’t take away my new clothes.

 

I have not spoken much since he gave me the shirt, other than to politely ask for water every morning at breakfast and every evening at dinner, always demurely thanking him after.

So, when he informs me I will no longer be handcuffed through the night, my heart skips a few beats and I am so shaken, so disoriented, I almost willingly accept the ankle bracelet.

We are watching TV after dinner, him relaxing on the sofa, arms spanning the width of it, long legs outstretched before him, feet propped on the coffee table, while I lie on my side with my head resting in his lap.

We are watching reruns of Full House, which seems to thoroughly amuse him.

He occasionally glances down whenever the canned laughter echoes loudly from the television, and I manage to throw him a sickly smile every now and then, the best I can do under the circumstances.

I’m hoping if I am sufficiently entertained by the corny jokes it will prolong the moment when he will inevitably put me to bed for the night. I’ve been trying to time my laughter just right.

Nothing about any of this is remotely amusing, but I’ve become decent at pretending.

“I’m not going to handcuff you anymore,” he murmurs conversationally during a commercial break.

My eyes flash to his in confusion.

This is a new addition to our dance, and I’ve grown accustomed to those handcuffs. Why is he changing our routine?

For some reason, I’m terrified. Does this mean he is going to kill me now?

He reaches to the table next to the sofa, out of my line of sight. I tense, not sure what he’s reaching for, but relax slightly when he presents an object that looks like a large plastic ring.

He lifts my head and jostles off the couch to kneel in a horrible parody of proposing. He holds up the ring, so I can look at it before he slides it around my ankle.

“This is an ankle-bracelet, usually reserved to monitor criminals under house arrest,” he informs me casually, still kneeling in front of me after fixing the bracelet in place with a special key. “I got in on e-Bay.”

I just sit there while he explains if I try to leave, he will know immediately. He goes on and on about geofencing and boundaries and GPS and technology stuff I don’t understand. All I know is the thing can supposedly track my movements down to a one-foot radius.

The weight of it feels strange.

“I…don’t understand,” I finally whisper lamely, heart thundering under my ribs in renewed fear.

His eyes blaze into mine, accusing.

“I don’t want to have to treat you like a goddamned animal, Rey,” he tells me. He sounds so sincere, I can almost believe he means it. “I hope you won’t disappoint me and prove me wrong about my decision to give you more freedom…”

I have a strong suspicion this is a test. I have no doubt in my mind if I try to mess with the ankle bracelet and escape, if he ever does catch me…the punishment will be…beyond a nightmare.

He’s not planning on killing me yet, though.

Good.

Because I am still going to try like hell to get the fuck out of here. The very first chance I get.

I resume my position, my head resting on his lap again as the commercial break ends. We watch for a few minutes and then he speaks again, and I realize he’s been leading up to something.

“Maybe we should have a couple of kids…what do you think?” The remark is casually made, but I can hear something deeper in his voice, a weird, serious eagerness.

He means it. My insides curdle at the thought.

I thank my lucky stars I used to have the most awful periods and got my Depo shot renewed right before he took me. My mind begins to frantically calculate how much longer I have. It wears off in less than twelve weeks.

I need to get away before then, I realize in a panic.

I have to get out of here. I have to fucking escape.

I lie still and try not to freak out at the idea of having a baby with this monster. If I panic, he will sense it.

And he won’t like it. Not at all.

Plus, I am getting him to trust me. I need to keep being patient. For a little while longer.

Besides, things aren't so bad now.

I don’t fight anymore. Fighting him is futile and it hurts.

He’d been right, the day he arrested me. I was quite the fighter. I fought so hard. For hours. Days.

It hadn’t been enough. Fighting was so fucking pointless.

 

He shoved me into the back of his car without any discernible effort on his part. It was far too easy, and I just let him.

I should have fought harder and tried to scream for help. I should have taken the broken arm and escaped and counted myself lucky.

But before I could rethink my cooperative behavior, he'd already started the engine and shifted the car into gear and pulled away from where he'd parked in front of my shop.

From the back seat, I did beg him to stop, to pull over and let me go, until his dark, pretty eyes drilled into mine in the rearview mirror. Even in the mirror, I could feel the weight of his wrath, his desire to choke me into silence.

I stopped begging and tried to figure a way out. I thought about trying to kick out the window since there were no door handles in the back, but then what? It wasn't like I could do much with my hands cuffed.

He drove me to a nice suburb on the outskirts of town. I’ve never been outside the city before, but I figured I would have recognized the stench of suburbia anywhere.

We pulled into a small detached garage with charming little exes on the door – one of those details that run rampant in these refined “family” neighborhoods. Next to the garage was a cute little house, a Craftsman-style, I think they are called, painted blue with white trim and surrounded by well-manicured shrubs.

The whole neighborhood looked like something out of a sitcom, you know?

You know the kind. Where the mothers stay home all day to keep house and wait on their husbands and children hand and foot. Where the husbands work their nine-to-five day jobs, before coming home expecting to be waited on by the woman they promised eternal devotion to. While the woman in question is probably fucking the mailman and the meter reader and the teenage neighbor kid on her son’s baseball team. And the kids are just as fucked up as the parents, at least from what I hear. Heard.

Rose used to talk about it. Suburbia.

He got out and pulled the garage door shut, and I belatedly started calling for help. He hustled around and yanked me out of the car, throwing me against it hard enough to knock the wind out of me.

“You can scream all you want. Nobody will hear. My neighbors on either side are old as dirt and deaf as fence posts and always have their televisions turned up so loud…”

He chuckled, and it sent shivers spilling through me.

He hauled on my arm until I felt a painful tug at my shoulder as the tendons strained at the unnatural angle.

“Go ahead. Scream,” he prompted. “You’ll just wear yourself out, honey. All the better for me.”

He wants me to scream, I thought. So, I won’t. Fuck this asshole.

His handcuffs dug into my wrists, and his hands shackled my upper arms as he shuffled me out onto a little brick walkway next to the garage along the back of the house.

“Why are you doing this?” I begged desperately, trying to reason with a madman.

“I knew it was you. When you told me my fortune? I knew it was you.”

He sounded so sure. So…reasonable.

“I just made that shit up –”

He shook his head, gripping me harder. “You said.”

“You’re crazy!” I spat, as he opened the back door and shoved me into a quaint little kitchen.

He grunted and smiled fondly at me like I was the crazy one. I glanced around, searching for an escape that wasn’t through him. I kicked over a chair next to the kitchen table in a futile attempt to block his advance as I backed away.

That only seemed to spur him on, and pure darkness slid over his face as I panted, “Fuck you!”

He lunged and grabbed a handful of my hair, propelling me through the house to a bedroom at the front. The windows had boards nailed over them, but the light was switched on, as if waiting for us. The room was empty but for a bed and a cheap nightstand.

I turned and tried one last time to muscle my way around him. I did not want to go in there. I didn’t want–

I got a heavy-handed slap for my efforts, hard enough to momentarily stun me. My jaw throbbed, and I tasted blood. My head spun wildly.

True panic set in when he flung me face-down onto the bed.

Part of me couldn’t believe it was happening, part of me could not grasp this was real. The rest submitted to visceral instinct as I kicked and screamed and thrashed against the huge hands ripping at my clothes, pulling at my hair until my scalp burned.

But the harder I fought, the rougher he became, until he straddled me and rammed my face into the mattress so I couldn’t move.

He had me pinned down, and he lay on top of me, panting a little. He was heavy, crushing the breath out of me. I could feel the hard metal of his badge digging into my shoulder blade.

I will never forget that moment.

“You’ll come around,” he said. He sounded quite confident. “You just need to get used to the idea.”

Hatred burned like acid inside me, and I lashed out. “Fuck you! You motherfucking animal piece of shit–”

One of his huge hands wrapped around my throat and squeezed so hard I choked on a horrible wave of dizziness.

“I’d prefer you awake for this. Our first time…it should be special, don’t you think?” He hissed it right into my ear and then he bit me. He bit my neck and it hurt and it was scary.

I screamed and thrashed and tried to head-butt him. He grabbed my hair again and held my head down while I tried to buck him off.

My shoulders ached from my hands being cuffed behind me, and my stomach clenched again. I was running out of steam, and I realized he was just letting me tire myself out.

Tears of helpless frustration formed behind my eyes, and my neck throbbed in agony from where he bit me. I tried to hold still and catch my breath.

“What’s wrong? Done already?” His breath fanned hot on the back of my neck. “Don’t worry, baby girl, I’ve got what you need right here.”

I felt him fumbling behind me and realized he was undoing his belt, undoing his pants. He was going to –

No no no no.

“Please don’t! Please,” I begged. “Please don’t!”

“Shut up,” he barked. I felt him lift off me and I kicked out wildly, as hard as I could. My foot connected with his thigh, and I caught a brutal slap on my butt that stung so bad instant tears sprang into my eyes.

“Kick me again, and I’ll fucking kill you,” he said almost casually. His voice was silky steel and I knew he meant it. I heard a lethal-sounding click and felt cold metal press against my neck.

Oh, no, that’s his gun.

I froze, except for the deep racking breaths I was frantically pulling into my lungs. Tears poured down my face.

I don’t want to die.

“Please don’t,” I whispered, unable to help myself, even though I was wasting my breath. “Please don’t hurt me.”

“That’s up to you, baby girl.” I could feel him groping under me, fumbling with the button and zipper of my jeans, one-handed. I think he still held the gun on me, even though I couldn’t feel it against my skin anymore.

He yanked my pants down and I cried, bucking my hips in panic. This couldn’t be real. This couldn’t be really happening.

Something heavy landed next to my head. The gun. I couldn’t reach for it, because my hands were cuffed. I didn’t know how to use it, really, but I wanted it.

I felt a thick-fingered probing between my legs and tried to clamp my thighs together to push him away, but he was ruthless.

He stopped after a minute and I thought maybe he’d changed his mind, maybe he was done. I thought maybe he’d just been trying to scare me, and this wasn’t really real.

I heard heavy footsteps moving away and I scrambled off the bed, my hands still shackled behind me. Adrenaline sizzled under my skin.

get out get out getthefuckoutofhere

My legs shook as I shuffled around my shoes and pants, which had fallen around my ankles. I prodded the door open with my foot and limped out of the room.

Hurry. Get out.

I almost made it down the hall, vaguely trying to head for the front door, but he was back too quickly holding a small bottle of something.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” he snarled.

I tried to duck around him, but he snagged a handful of hair and wrenched me around like a rag doll.

Despite his earlier warning, I tried to kick and swing and bite.

Fuck it, I decided. I’d rather die than let him do whatever he was planning.

But he just hurled me back into that horrible room with the boarded-up windows. I landed on the floor, hard, skidding into the bed and getting rug burn on my ass. My scalp smarted and tingled from him yanking on my hair.

I glared at him. He’s tall, so I had to crane my neck.

He had the deadliest look on his face, those fabulous lips of his pulled into the most threatening frown I’ve ever seen, his heavy brow drawn into a deep scowl.

Under the menace in that relentless black gaze, I was paralyzed.

Frozen like prey.

He slammed the little bottle onto the nightstand and flipped me around, so I was face-down on the floor. He bent to rip off my shoes and pants. Somehow, he managed to avoid my kicks and twisting attempts to evade him.

He flipped me over again, and I felt like a turtle on its back, only distinctly more vulnerable, as I scowled up at him. He glared back, undaunted and furious.  

“Here’s the deal, sunshine…you crawl onto that bed and open wide for Daddy, or I’m going to make sure this one hurts.”

He kicked off his shoes and stripped away his belt and pants.

I swallowed, defiance sparking inside me, but I couldn’t say anything. But I just couldn’t crawl onto that bed, either.

I don’t know why I couldn’t.

But I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t, okay?

There was nothing I could fucking do.

I huddled there on the floor and looked at him and he looked at me and we just sort of communicated and it was weird and scary and wrong, surreal like a bad dream that feels more real than when you’re awake.

In that flash of time, I could almost believe he was kinda sorry and I knew down to the marrow of my bones I couldn’t stop what was coming and I should just…

Just let him.

For all I knew, maybe he was kinda sorry when he grabbed me under one arm and flung me back onto the bed.

Maybe I couldn’t fight when he flipped me onto my stomach and shoved my face down and growled at me to hold the fuck still, and we were both naked down there, and I’ve never done this before and it hurts.

And I’m crying and he’s damaging me, leaving the kind of bruises that will dwell under my skin for ages, and maybe he’s kinda sorry while he’s smearing lube on my thighs and between my legs, which, I don’t know, doesn’t do jack fuckin’ shit to ease the tearing ripping burn of thick, blunt fingers digging into me, a thousand times harder than I’ve ever done to myself, then something else is pushing in, foreign and hot and big.

I scream when I realize what he’s doing.

Of what he’s done.

Something inside me stings and pinches and breaks and I know it’s him, taking my virginity.

And then it’s gone.

Just like that.

It’s gone and he’s really hurting me now, pushing all the way in, too far, too hard, until there’s no more room in me for this and I can feel his body quivering roughly over mine. Something is broken inside and I am going to die.

He grabs a handful of my hair and jerks my head to the side, and his hot triumphant breath in my ear sends fresh shivers down my spine. “I’m your very first, huh? I can promise I’ll be your last, too, baby girl. I can promise you that.”

He sinks his teeth hard into my shoulder, breaking the skin, and my whole body clenches and tenses at the sharp, stinging pain. He groans, long and loud.

I scream. I can’t not scream as he starts pounding into me. Hard.

I cry and beg for him to stop it. But he doesn’t stop for a long time. And when he does. That’s the worst part.

My voice is shredded, my throat raw from crying, so all I can manage is breathless gasping as I try to thrash away. He jerks and heaves into me and I feel a disgusting hot wetness between my legs.

He stops, and he’s sweating, and my face is soaked with tears and snot and I can smell my blood and him and sex and I wish I had a sensitive stomach because I would fucking throw up all over. But I don’t throw up.

I can’t.

I just choke and gasp and try to catch my breath under the horrible heavy weight of him.

He finally grunts, low-voiced and ominous. “Oh, I am going to have so much fun with you, honey. I can already tell you’re going to last so much longer than the last one.”

And for a little while, I wish I was dead after all.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Three – Corruption

Corruption: cor·rup·tion | \ kə-ˈrəp-shən \

Definition of corruption

1a: dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers): DEPRAVITY

b: inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (such as bribery); the corruption of government officials

c: a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct; the corruption of a text; the corruption of computer files

d: DECAY, DECOMPOSITION: the corruption of a carcass

 


 

Time passes so quickly, I can almost hear it trickling away, evaporating like mist as my birth control wears off and my sense of doom expands to overtake every thought in my head.

It’s constant, now.

I grow much stronger, and the more compliant I am, the gentler he becomes.

I’ve been granted two black t-shirts along with the flannel pajama top, as well as a pair of red leggings that I’m sure he had to pick up at the local Wal-Mart.

I’m still fucking terrified of him, and every once in a while, I catch him staring at me with the flat, cold-blooded gaze of a shark. Like he's waiting for me to run, so he can chase me. Like it's only a matter of time. 

I’ve stopped counting the notches on the headboard. I’ve stopped marking time.

I stopped when he told me we should try to have kids.

Because instead of counting the passing days, I am obsessed with figuring out a way to leave.

I need to get the fuck out of here.

The weather is growing cooler, and I think it might be winter soon.

My days are spent in my room and I sleep through them, usually. Dim light filters around the cracks between the boards nailed over the windows.

I have mentally cataloged everything in the room, the shape of the recessed light fixture overhead, the old-fashioned doorknob, the patterns of texture on the walls, everything.

The little bottle of lube he brought in that first night is the only thing decorating the nightstand, and I’ve memorized the exact size and shape of it, memorized all the words on it, the ingredients listed, everything. Sometimes, when I get tired of looking at it, I wonder if he is going to have to buy more soon and if he will try a different brand or get the same thing again. I wonder sometimes about whoever designed the label on the bottle. Whoever said it’s both safe and fun.

Every day, I try to pry at the boards, but they have been screwed down so tightly, I can’t get my fingers under to loosen them.

The doorknob is another conundrum I always test, but it remains frustratingly secure.

I considered dismantling the headboard, but it and the nightstand have been securely bolted into place.

I am quite conscious of the way he inspects my fingernails every night, looking for signs I am trying to claw my way out of his little cage. I have to be careful.

I have to remember he can probably tell where I spend most of the time in my room, if what he told me about the ankle bracelet is true. I try not to hang out for too long around the windows or the door, just in case.

He returns home at the same time every day, and every day I wake just before the front door creaks open, listening for the thud of booted feet to travel through the house as he drops his keys on the side table and removes his duty belt and gun and badge before bringing me a large glass of water.

I don’t have to ask anymore.

He’s stopped drugging it, I’m positive. My mind remains clear.

I’m able to get up on my own and follow him to the living room where I watch TV while he cooks dinner.

He’s a good cook. Dinner is my favorite time of day.

He's much nicer after dinner, too, although his constant mention of us having kids is enough to make me squeamish. It's hard to be patient sometimes.

Despite that, I'm being good.

The ankle bracelet is no trouble, none at all compared to the handcuffs. I sleep so much better now.

When I sleep, I can almost dream of being free.

This is so much better than before, I almost feel free.

If I use my imagination just a little…I am free.

 

I wake up and the ankle bracelet he gave me reminds me I am more pet than a prisoner, now.

I lie in the dark quiet of my boarded-up room and think about what it might be like if I go outside. What the air might taste like, smell like.

My mind is going crazy with the boredom and monotony, the hyper-fixation of making sure I behave just so, of being a perfect little pet, just for him.

He’s getting to trust me, I’m sure of it.

He’ll be here any minute, now.

I sit up and wait.

Sure enough, after a few minutes, the front door creaks and his footsteps echo through the house, and I hear him in the kitchen, the whisper of a faucet running, more footsteps, and the door to my room opens.

My heart pounds with traitorous eagerness.

Hey, baby girl.” He flips the light switch in the hallway with his elbow and I blink at the sudden brightness.

He’s holding something in the palm of one hand, a glass of water in the other.

It’s a pill.

My eyes fly up to meet his, and I feel…betrayed, somehow.

“What?” My voice cracks.

What did I do? Why is he doing this? I don’t want to be drugged again. I can’t go back to that place.

He catches my suspicion and meets my gaze unflinchingly.

“It’s just a prenatal vitamin,” he mutters. “I read about it online. It’s good for you.”

He sounds sincere and defensive, and I have to trust it is what he says because if I fight him now it will undo months of work. Months of scavenging trust and earning little privileges. Little treats.

I have to swallow it no matter what because if I don’t…

I open my mouth and he cups his palm against my face, popping the pill onto my tongue and holding the glass of water for me while I gulp down as much as I can.

I’ll never turn down a glass of water again in my life.

His thumb prods at my lips and he stares haughtily down at me. “Open up. Let me see.”

God, I swallowed the fucking thing, I think spitefully, keeping all emotion off my face.

I open my mouth and lift my tongue, showing him.

He watches me, still, looking down his long, handsome nose with a touch of scorn.

Every single hair on my body stands on end as I sense that same excitement from the day he took me. It’s rolling off him in waves, that identical exhilaration he couldn’t quite hide when he handcuffed me and told me I was under arrest.

It’s here with us in this room, right now, and dread sinks into me.

“Wanna know what else I read?” he purrs.

I don’t want to know, but I don’t want to piss him off, either. The vibe he’s transmitting reminds me of mercury. Unpredictable and slippery and deadly.

I cautiously meet his slight scowl with as blank of an expression as I can manage.

He’s unbuttoning his shirt, and I am momentarily bummed he isn’t going to start dinner soon.

I’m hungry and I don't like it when he changes the routine.

He unfastens the cuffs on his shirt’s long sleeves, peeling it away after setting his glasses on the nightstand.

“I read,” he informs me, as he kicks off his shoes, “that we are going to have a higher chance of conception if you orgasm when I come in you.”

Terrible realization crawls over me.

I don’t want to do that. No fucking way.

I shake my head, but he pushes me back onto the bed.

We are trying to get pregnant. So, I want you to try to come. For me.”

I swallow the bile rising at the back of my throat.

I can’t help it. I shake my head in defiance.

But instead of slapping me, as I suspect he might want to, he strips off his t-shirt.

He unbuckles his belt and pulls down the zipper on his pants.

He smiles, and it’s so pretty, the way his eyes crinkle at the edges, the way his gorgeous, perfect mouth turns down at the corners, I almost forget he’s a monster.

But he is.

I whimper. “I can’t.”

“It’s okay. You just need a teacher,” he whispers, stroking the back of his finger down my cheek. It takes all my willpower not to flinch away.

He’s slow and gentle, as he has been since before the ankle bracelet, huge hands lighting on me as delicately as butterflies, stroking me for long minutes until my shallow breathing regulates, until the tension I hold in every muscle of my body lessens. Until I lie quiet and still beneath his hot, heavy weight.

He does his very best to make sure I am relaxed, touching me so careful and soft, but I can’t quite calm down after what he just told me and the way he said it. I am sure this is a trick, that any minute he’s going to rip at my hair or bite me again or force himself on me until I’m chafed and bleeding like I was when he first brought me here.

His excitement is a tangible thing in the room, and I’m scared.

His fingers tighten against my scalp, lightly tugging at my hair as he kisses me, slowly rolling his hips into mine. An errant memory creeps into my head.

He would know what to do in bed. He would know how to have sex.

I thought so when he was in my shop. Back before I knew he was a monster. Before he took my virginity and murdered a piece of me I never knew existed until it was gone.

His luscious lips plunder mine and the slightest groan pushes through, vibrating into me so faintly I am momentarily unsure it actually happened. He pulls back and looks at me.

"What's wrong, honey? Don't you want to have my baby? Hmmm?" 

He slides a hand under my shirt, cupping my breast as he deepens his kiss.

I need to make him trust me.

I need to make him believe I won’t run.

And for the first time, I kiss him back.

It isn’t horrible.

He inhales sharply, drawing back to look at me. Dark suspicion clouds his eyes.

Every nerve ending in my body fires with alarm as I steel myself to lie there and meet his stare. To let him look at me. He bends forward, eyes still open, and I let mine flutter closed.

He’s either going to kiss me again or I don’t know –

His lips land on mine, more firmly this time, and his kiss is darker, laced with wary disbelief.

He doesn’t quite trust me. Yet.

I carefully cup my hand over his pec, mirroring the way he palms my nipple.

I have never voluntarily touched him before. Not since the early days when I tried to fight, when any contact was decidedly more aggressive and firmly in the realm of trying to fight him off.

He kisses me again before moving to my neck, and his breath fans over me like a warm breeze. I pretend I am dreaming, and it is easier to submit to the tickling heat of his tongue as he traces over the shell of my ear.

My other hand sneaks between us, but instead of pushing him away, I test the firm, solid muscle under my fingertips, lightly scraping his nipple with my fingernails.

He sighs softly and sucks on my neck, hot and wet over my thumping pulse. His five o’clock shadow scuffs against my sensitive skin. Low flutters quiver through my belly.

It feels good, what he’s doing.

Part of me is still panicking, but another part releases a sigh of relief. Because if I can feel something other than apathy or alarm with him, then maybe…maybe I’m not all the way broken. Maybe I’m still a little bit okay.

I’m still alive. After everything, I’m still alive.

It’s hope. I might yet find a way to get out of here.

Keep going.

I slide my hands over the elegant dips of his collarbone and strong column of his neck to comb into his hair, close to the scalp.

His hair is feather-soft, thick and wavy, and the texture is the softest, nicest thing I’ve felt in a very long time. It’s rather shocking.

It reminds me of a time before Rose and I started fortune-telling, when the shop was still a second-hand store.

One day an old woman came in with some stuff for consignment.

She had this fur coat, a relic of her youth that would now be considered socially unacceptable to wear or own. I didn’t have the heart to tell the woman we didn’t take items like that; we couldn’t sell them because most people have a moral aversion to fur…but this coat…it was sooo soft.

I don’t know what type of animal it was made of, but I’d never felt anything like it before.

I’d stroked it, wondering about the creatures that died to make such an extravagant, forbidden thing, wondering at the terror they must have felt in the final moments before succumbing to bloody death.

Were they trapped or snared or shot?

Theoretically, fur had always seemed like too much horror, too high a price to pay for someone’s frivolous, worldly indulgence. But in reality, it was so luxurious, so sensually gratifying to touch.

I had wondered at my own guilty pleasure, unable to stop stroking the fur, even though I knew it was fundamentally wrong to like it. Immoral, even.

It was the softest thing I ever touched until I push my fingers into his hair. It reminds me of that coat.

“Rey…?” He pulls up, still suspicious. He very rarely calls me by my name, and I hate the way he says it.

I cannot speak, afraid I will accidentally ignite his temper. So I lie there, returning his regard as calmly as I can. I hope my act is convincing enough.

I need him to trust me. I need him to buy the biggest lie I’ll ever sell.

I will ignore the flutters of want in my belly, insistently licking at my insides like traitorous little flames.

He stares and eventually his mouth quirks into an arrogant half-smile. "I'll make you come. Don't worry."

He traces his fingertip over my lips, light and delicate and soft as a feather. 

Finally, I ask to break the tension, “What if I can’t?”

He considers me, hawk-like for a few seconds before smirking, “We’ll see.”

And I can’t help myself from smiling back, just a bit. Because I know it’s working.

He's buying it. Good

I throw away my inhibitions and doubts and pull him close for another kiss, deciding to jump into the maelstrom, if that’s what it will take.

I hope like crazy I won’t get pregnant before I can escape. I know this is the way…I need to let him…

Just let him.

His tongue prods at my mouth and strokes languorously against mine when I open and let him in. His large fingers fumble to slide under my t-shirt and he pauses his kiss to pull it over my head.

His naked chest against me is hot and smooth, and his hips resume their tempting roll against mine. The flames in my belly coalesce into something hotter, an amalgamation of forbidden pleasure and danger mixing inside me with reckless ease.

Maybe I’m broken, after all. How can I be liking this?

I push those thoughts aside and lift my hips to meet his. I can feel his arousal straining through his unbuckled pants and my thin leggings.

He grunts and licks a hot path down my neck to capture my nipple in his mouth. When he wraps his lips around me and sucks, I gasp involuntarily at the surprising decadence of it.

Shit. I need to maintain some control, but –

“You like that?” he murmurs against my skin. He does it again and a spike of something naughty, some hot illicit ecstasy, spears into me. “Don’t you?”

His harsh tone demands an answer.

“Yessss,” I breathe. I hate myself for wanting more.

He scuffs his chin against the sensitive peak and I press up to meet him with a ragged gasp. Shit.

He does it again and flicks his tongue against me until I whimper. Unwillingly, yes, but I cannot help myself.

I feel a strange hot wetness between my legs.

He does the same to my other breast, a smile playing around his lips. My gasp of pleasure echoes through the room and he sucks and laves at me with such intense focus he’s frowning now. But I’m not afraid.

I’m something else.

He lifts his mouth away and I whimper in disappointment. He could have kept doing what he was doing for at least another twenty minutes and I would not have minded in the least…

His hands skate along my sides to snag my leggings and drag them down, and a talon of fear tries to sink into me. But he doesn’t give it a chance to find purchase, because he’s taken my nipple captive again, opening so wide he’s going to swallow my whole breast – I’m not very big – and his mouth is so hot and wet and fuck

I feel the slightest scrape of teeth and I realize my hands are still clutching at his hair, clasping in rhythm to the sucking pull of soft lips and sharp teeth.

He moans, looking up to hypnotize me with dark, knowing eyes, cheeks hollowing lewdly, and another wet throb of hunger pulses between my legs.

He grinds against me, harder now, and I can’t stop matching his pushes with a steady lift of my hips, seeking some kind of friction to match what his mouth is doing to my nipple. He pulls his head up, releasing me with a soft pop!, and I whimper again.

“Slide my pants off, honey,” he orders, moving back up to kiss me again.

I run my hands down the front of him, over rippling pecs and taut abs, fascinated by the play of silky-smooth skin over hard muscle, until I reach his waist and slide his pants down. He reaches down to help, and together we get them partway down his legs. He kicks them off the rest of the way and I find myself disconcertedly eager.

He lies on top of me again, spreading my thighs with a side-to-side roll. I can feel the hot length of his erection pressing against my belly and I suck in a frightened breath.

“I won’t hurt you,” he promises, and I don’t believe the honeyed lie, but I will not fight him.

I glance over to the bottle of lube on the nightstand. “Not tonight,” he mutters.

I mentally brace myself for a bit of discomfort, but instead of doing the thing I expect, instead of pushing into me like he would have done before, he moves down, kissing my sternum, then dipping his tongue into the indentation of my belly button. His dark eyes sear into mine from under a thick lock of hair curling over his forehead, his brow drawn into a slight scowl of concentration.

I squirm a little as he slips his mouth over my hips, one at a time, scraping his scruffy chin over the soft skin in between…and then he, then he –

He kisses me there, pushing my legs open to swipe his tongue over the lips of my sex, moaning so ardently, and nobody has ever, ever done such a thing to me and a small scream escapes my mouth because it feels so fucking amazing

He does it again and it rips the air out of my lungs.

His hands are firm but gentle as they stroke my thighs to open wider, until I sprawl before him, boneless and exposed to his hot mouth and wicked tongue and he licks at me again and again and groans as if he likes the taste.

I try to swallow my embarrassment and remember I am letting him do this so I can win his trust and –

He’s lapping and drawing at my clit with hungry growls, sliding a long finger between my legs and I grip his hair again, hoping he won’t stop…something is happening and the flames in my belly grow hotter, spreading a pulsating warmth from my womb to my thighs, burning into the place where his mouth meets my body.

I should not be liking this, but fuck.

He’s watching me, eyes glinting with awareness. He knows what he’s doing, making me feel this way, and suddenly I don’t fucking care, I don’t care about anything but chasing that feeling, that exquisite, filthy sensation building inside and I’m so closedon’t stop, don’t stop.

“Don’t stop,” I beg.

He doesn’t. He hums against me, acknowledging my plea and I can feel the sound and touch and pressure singing into me, a coiling, aching tension unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, and I’m sobbing and gasping now, so close.

He pushes another finger inside and curls them up into some hidden place and his mouth sucks and pulls in time to those fingers and I find it, that thing I’ve been chasing and I’m grasping it and coming, I’m coming so fucking hard, oh fuck, it feels so good…

I gasp and shudder against his mouth and fingers and shamelessly rub my pussy against his face until those pulses of pleasure fade.

He lifts his head and I can see his lips glistening with slick wetness. Slowly, deliberately, he wipes his mouth, then rubs his wet hand over the sheets beside me.

His eyes glitter with victory and he mutters, “Well. I guess you can.”

My thighs are still parted obscenely and I’m staring up at him, breathing heavily.

I can see in his eyes we’re not done, yet. He crawls up to hover over me until his broad shoulders block out the light.

“You ready, baby?” he grunts as he ruthlessly teases the head of his dick over the sensitive flesh between my legs.

He pushes in on a smooth glide, and I arch my back to meet him.

I can’t scream because he’s kissing me, sweeping his tongue into my mouth, feeding me the taste of my own cum back to me while he thrusts into me, all the way to the hilt. 

"Open your eyes and fucking look at me."

I do.

He does it again and I gasp and his eyes light up like hellfire, blazing into mine. 

He shifts my hips for a better angle and grinds his pubic bone down, grazing my clit and driving in to fill me with that same wild rhythm as before, and I’m lost, unmoored. My only anchor is him, sweat-damp and dark and hard and hot, forcing my body back into that place once again.

It’s too much, too much sensation, as I feel him butt against my cervix with the blunt head of his cock, and it doesn’t hurt, but it’s pressure, a hard reminder that he’s there, in me.

“Come,” he bites out, unrelenting.

I don’t know if I can do it again. I suck in a lungful of air and try to clamp my thighs together.

He growls and pins my hands to either side of my head, glaring down at me with such devastating command, I can’t look away.

“Come,” he utters again.

He redoubles his pace until my breasts bounce and sweat beads on his forehead. “Gonna come in you, baby girl, isn't that what you want? …you know you like it…”

He grips my chin and the slightest pressure on my throat tells me not to turn away.

“You like this, getting fucked by me…” he hisses in my face as he rolls his hips hard into mine.

I grunt, trying to argue, but I can’t fight the steady drag of him in me, the wet slap of our bodies sliding together, the firm push of his cock digging in.

He bends forward and whispers more filth in my ear, until I groan and feel my body grasping at him eagerly.

I feel it again, that clutching pull to the darkness.

“…you like it, don’t you? You…filthy…slut…”

I am a filthy slut. I should not be liking this. I shouldn’t.

He grunts again. “Come! Come on this cock, you little fucking whore.”

He releases my face so he can rub at my clit and he’s leering at me, and it’s only a matter of time, of seconds, before I let go and succumb to the dirty-hot spasms while he fucks me with increasing enthusiasm.

I wrap my legs around his, pulling my hips against his cock as he strokes me, solid and steady.

“You love this, don’t you, whore? Show me, show me how much you love it.”

I vaguely hear the sobbing gasps torn from my throat, and somewhere at the back of mind, I know this is insane and exactly what he’s been angling for all along. If I give him what he wants –

He rears back and pumps into me, holding my legs open wide as I thrash and fall apart against him, fierce bliss pounding into me like ocean waves.

Hot pleasure rips through me so hard, I clamp down on him with everything I have, making us both groan loudly.

Triumph lights his eyes and he lets go with a shout and a heavy pulse of his hips bucking against mine.

He trembles over me, his head falling into the crook of my neck. “…mmmnnnnhhh, fuck! Fuck yesfuuuck…”

And I just lie there panting and let him, too stunned to do anything but let it happen.

 

After we come down, he rolls off the bed and walks out of the room. He leaves the door open, but I am not sure if I am supposed to follow or wait for him to give me permission. I decide to wait and try to collect myself.

A few minutes pass before he returns, still shirtless, but wearing a pair of sweatpants. He carries me to the living room, settles me on the couch with a blanket and the remote, and goes into the kitchen to make dinner.

After a while, he comes back with a bowl of pasta something for each of us. He passes me one before settling next to me unceremoniously and taking a large bite.

“I don’t think you’re a whore,” he finally says.

I take a bite, so I don’t have to respond.

He’s watching me from the corner of his eye. I don’t know what he wants from me, so I mumble, “Thank you.”

He nods and takes another bite.

We chew in silence and watch Wheel of Fortune.

The commercial break comes on and he blurts out, “I think you should move into my room. Just for sleeping.”

My heart begins to pound.

Moving into his room…that means windows and more freedom than he’s ever allowed me to have.

I look at him. He’s watching me like he always does, somewhat predatorily. Like a wolf with a trapped animal at its mercy, deciding how to best tear into it, how to get to the tender parts inside with the least amount of resistance…

He’s a monster. I can’t ever, ever forget it, despite what just happened, what we just did.

I nod agreeably. “Whatever you think is best, Ben,” I murmur before taking another bite of pasta.

He really is a good cook.

I’ll miss it when I’m gone.

But I need to get the fuck out of here. I really, really do.

 


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Four – Deception

de·cep·tion | \ di-ˈsep-shən \

Definition of deception

1a: the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid: the act of deceiving; resorting to falsehood and deception; used deception to leak the classified information

b: the fact or condition of being deceived; the deception of his audience

2: something that deceives: TRICK; fooled by a scam artist's clever deception

 


 

I quickly find out “moving into his room” means I get to sleep there after dinner, and I can use the bathroom anytime I want when he’s home. I can move freely between the living room and the bathroom and the front bedroom with boarded-up windows.

The only exception is the kitchen. I’m not allowed in there. Ever.

He still feeds me a prenatal vitamin every day, and every night we have sex and he talks about it almost obsessively, me getting pregnant. He hasn’t been drugging my water.

I think he worries if I get pregnant any drugs he gives me will fuck up the baby.

Which is a whole other horrible thing to be worried about. I can't. I can't live like this and try to survive and deal with another, helpless human being, too. 

It's so hard to be good all the time. My patience is starting to wear thin.

So, the first time I get my period, I am so relieved, I have trouble hiding the relief from him. 

We are sleeping, and I am dreaming.

It’s always the same. I hear a friendly voice, and it’s Rose and we are back in the shop, in the old days.

A little old lady brings in a fur coat for consignment and Rose pulls out a bear trap from behind the counter. It’s huge and unwieldy and I tell her to be careful. Bear traps are dangerous, even though it would take three people to set this one, which is bigger than she is.

Rose hefts the bear trap onto the counter and the old lady puts her coat into the jagged teeth of it and I tell her I’m sorry, but we can’t take her coat and she watches me with this piercing gaze and says, “I see the same eyes in different people…we are all just little animals, trying to survive.”

I am heavily pregnant, and I rub my hands over my swollen belly and nod at the woman’s sage words.

Suddenly my ankle is vibrating because I am standing at home - my new home - before a door I've never seen and it leads to a downstairs basement. There is another door. And another. They are all locked. My ankle vibrates again, insistently.

Will I be trapped or snared or shot?

I am in so much trouble. My heart pounds violently. 

I reach out to try the next door, but I can’t because it’s locked, as always. And then I hear it. The wolf is snarling and growling behind me and right as it pounces on me and rips at my belly with razor-sharp teeth, I seize up. I can’t cry out or it will wake him.

Don't get caught. 

I wake up and my belly seizes with pain and I can hear something snarling and growling and I can’t breathe.

It’s him snoring, gripping me tightly as he sleeps.

I am disoriented, wrapped in his arms, smothered between him and the mattress, as usual.

I can smell blood and everything below my waist throbs with pain. It takes me a few seconds to realize I wasn’t actually attacked by a wolf.

It’s my period.

It’s pitch dark, but I can tell I’ve bled through the sheets. My stomach cramps painfully, and it’s gross and sticky and it hurts more than it should.

But I’m not pregnant, and I’m glad.

“Ben,” I whisper. He snuffles against my hair.

“What’s wrong, honey?” he mutters quietly.

“Um…” A tear slides down my cheek as a cramp chews through my guts.

I moan a little at the pain and he loosens his hold on me to roll over and flip on the light next to the bed.

I’m wearing one of my t-shirts and nothing else. I pull back the blankets to look. Blood smears over my thighs and the bedding under me, confirming it is indeed my period.

He stares sullenly at the sheets.

And then my stomach sinks into a pool of dread.

He’s upset.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, terrified he’s going to punish me.

It’s been ages since I started sleeping in this room. He still talks about wanting kids. My birth control has long since worn off and my hormones are resetting themselves and what would he know about any of it?

His eyes flash sharply to mine, but he simply tells me to go take a shower and he will take care of the sheets.

When I get out of the shower, there’s a partially full box of tampons on the bathroom counter waiting for me, and I wonder not for the first time who the last one was.

He’d only mentioned it once before, the night he took me.

He told me I was going to last so much longer than the last one.

I couldn’t think about it for a long time. But lately, I’ve been wondering.

When he leaves for work the next day, I go willingly into the front bedroom to wait, as I do every day. But I become a bit bolder in my explorations.

For the millionth time, I wonder just how tight a fence is on my bracelet. He said if I step out of line, the bracelet will buzz and he will know instantly, but I am sorely tempted to try to run for it. 

But he also mentioned GPS tracking, and I know if I can’t get the damn bracelet off, it will lead him right to me. He’ll just hunt me down. I don’t want to think about what happens after that.

I have thoroughly examined the ankle bracelet and there is no discernible way to get it open or disable it. Not without the special key I’ve seen him use. I am afraid to tamper with it too much, or he will know.

And there is nothing useful in the areas of the house I’ve inhabited. Not even a Bic pen, not that I am any kind of MacGyver...

I know a few basic lock-picking techniques, but there’s nothing around for me to try it with. I’ve looked.

The guts of the toilet are too thick and made of plastic. Even the bar that holds the toilet paper in the bathroom is long gone, so we just set the toilet paper on the vanity next to the toilet. The mini-blinds are useless, and there is literally nothing in the living room except the TV, the remote, and the furniture. Not a picture on the wall where I might break the glass. Even the light fixtures in the ceiling are recessed.

He’s quite thorough and so far I haven’t found any weapons, not so much as a loose screw or hairpin. I could try to dismantle some of the furniture, but he’s always around, always watching. He notices everything, always scanning thoroughly before entering the room.

I try to test my limits when he briefly leaves me alone to do chores like take out the garbage or do laundry in the shed outside, behind the garage.

If I get within ten feet of the back door or within feet of the front door, my ankle bracelet vibrates a warning. I cannot see any knives or cooking utensils in the kitchen and I debate running in to grab something to attack him with. But I think he keeps everything locked away.

And even if I did manage to find a weapon and take him by surprise, I know better than to bring a knife to a gunfight when he already has a gun. He’s pulled it on me before. Besides, I’m too scared to try to fight him. I know deep down if I ever have to go up against him physically, I’ll lose.

Still, I hover at the edges of my invisible fence and look for ways I might leave. My bracelet vibrates every now and then, and I always jump and hustle back to safety, too terrified to push my luck.

He’s getting much more comfortable with leaving me out of his sight, at least when he’s home. But I am sure if I ever step fully out of bounds, the bracelet will send a signal or a message of some kind alerting him what I’ve done.

My birth control has definitely worn off by now, and after my period ended we are back to having sex every night…and now that I’ve moved into his room...well. Let's just say we haven't had to use the lube for a long time. 

Ever since I moved into his room, he’s grown almost…sweet. It’s easier to pretend we are in love. It’s easier to exist when I am not living under the constant fear he’s going to hurt me.

Now when we watch TV, he holds me gently and pets my hair and tells me how good things are, how he knew I would come around, how happy he is.

How wonderful things will be once we have a family.

I need to find a way out. It's all I can think about.

 

The first time I take a chance to really test my limits, I feel like I already have a solid plan figured out.

And now I know just how much time I have to escape if I ever get another opportunity.

It isn’t much time at all.

I’ve been dwelling on it for weeks, how tight my boundaries are, while going farther than I’ve ever gone while he’s home and I’m relatively free to move around. The bracelet doesn’t buzz when I am anywhere in the bedrooms or bathroom.

It buzzes when I get within feet of the front door or anywhere near the living room windows. I try to imagine scenarios where I can work through the many deadbolts and chains and locks on the front door before he can get me, but even if I succeed, then where would I go?

I have no shoes, no coat, and nowhere to hide, even if I do make it out the door.

I need tools, something I can use to get the bracelet off my ankle or disable it, at least. Which means going out the back door through the kitchen and into the garage for a crowbar or screwdriver or hammer is going to be something of a better plan.

I think about it obsessively, almost as much as I used to think about water.

Once, when he is in the bathroom, I try creeping toward the back door on the far side of the kitchen. When my ankle bracelet buzzes three times in a row, short and threatening, I watch it for a minute, both fascinated and paralyzed with fear.

Hurry. Hurry hurry. He’s coming, he’ll be out any second.

I look around the kitchen and there is nothing in sight, not a pot or a pan or a knife, nothing. I count how many floor tiles I crossed before the bracelet buzzed.

Five. Five tiles and it buzzed three times.

I quickly scuttle back to the living room at the sound of the toilet flush and water running.

Days later he leaves me locked in the front bedroom as he heads to work, just like always.

Lately, he’s added a new element to our daily dance; he kisses me and tells me to have a good day.

Today he tells me he’ll be home later than usual.

Sometimes he comes home a little late because he needs to do things like grocery shopping and errands.

I nod understandingly, knowing it will give me more time to prod at the window boards in my room.

One of them is getting loose, I think.

I doze for a couple of hours before starting my usual round of testing the boards at the windows and the doorknob, more from habit than actual expectation anything will be different today.

So. When the doorknob moves, I pause. It’s never budged before. My heart pounds.

It’s unlocked.

The immediate adrenaline coursing through my body makes my fingertips tingle.

I slowly open the door and stand there, just inside the threshold, thinking hard. For a full minute.

Am I really doing this?

I’ve thought about escaping for so long, and now…now is my chance.

I stand stock-still for ages, considering.

What will happen if I make it to the garage, find a tool, get the ankle bracelet off, and run?

Where will I run to?

Would anyone help me?

What if he ever finds me again?

My heart flutters wildly in my chest.

What if he catches me?

He’s been so easy, so gentle lately, and at night, in bed…it’s been so much better.

Those first horrible weeks are a distant memory. Now I have clothes and food and water and...Ben trusts me, and he's been so happy, lately. 

Would it be so horrible if I just stayed here? As long as I'm good, he'll take care of me.

And if I run...

What if he catches me and I lose all this ground I’ve gained?

I step into the hallway.

The ankle bracelet remains quiet. Of course it does. 

I am allowed to be in the hall, the bedrooms, the bathroom, and most of the living room.

I make my way down the hall to “our” room. I test the door. It’s locked. I turn to the kitchen and step slowly across the floor, my bare feet slightly chilled by the cool tiles.

I can see out the window over the kitchen sink. I glimpse the neighbor’s house and notice snow on the roof.

Snow. It’s winter.

I haven’t been able to see much of outside for a really long time. He keeps the blinds down in all the rooms I occupy, and the window in the bathroom is too high for me to see out of and tiny, to boot.

My bare feet remind me how vulnerable I am.

I step cautiously to the fifth tile and my bracelet buzzes, three sharp warnings. I expected that. I swallow my fear and take a few more steps to the back door, and I’m so close when it starts vibrating non-stop…and I just don’t have the nerve to keep going.

Like a trapped animal, I stand there and stare at my bracelet. I'm losing my nerve, I'm a coward and I hate myself for stopping.

I think, really think about what he will do if I actually escape and he catches me. 

But I'm so close.

I need to escape. Now. Fuck it. I move another step closer to the exit, and I can almost taste freedom.

The bang of a car door just outside jolts me. 

Oh, fuck. Oh, no, no, he’s home.

Shit. Now what?

He will already know I’ve been out of my room. I try to think frantically what might look more innocent, more trustworthy, so I run for the living room and try to appear as if I’ve been sitting quietly on the sofa.

I use the remote to flip on the TV at the last second and try to put a welcoming smile on my face. 

He came back way too early. I hope it is a coincidence, but I have a feeling it isn’t.

He slams the back door shut, hollering, “Daddy’s home, baby girl! Where are you? In here?”

He stalks into the room on a black cloud of temper. My heartbeat slams to a full stop as he moves into my line of sight.

“Ah. Here you are. You having a good day?” he asks quietly. Too quiet. Shit.

Oh, no, no no. 

I reply as neutrally as I can, but my voice shakes, and I know I sound guilty as hell. “Um, yeah.”

I don’t know how much specific information the ankle bracelet transmitted. But I am pretty sure he can tell I stepped past the boundary he’d set. Based on the pure hostility radiating from him. 

And I should be in my room right now. Not here. I should not be here.

That unlocked door was a test, and I am quickly realizing I've failed. 

I pull in a trembling breath. It's just so fucking unfair.

Please don't kill me. I can be good again. 

I can be - 

His mouth works into a pout and he glowers down at me. “A little bird told me you've been a naughty girl…that true?” He looks pointedly around the room and kicks the edge of the coffee table, knocking it out of place and making me jump in alarm. He steps closer, as always, prowling like a sleek jungle cat, dark and lethal.

I can’t quite erase the naked fear on my face. I know he can see it.

He looms in front of me, and I am acutely conscious of his gun and badge, his hands planted on his hips.

Canned laughter from the television interrupts my fumbling reply.

He swipes the remote from the arm of the couch and angrily punches at it until the TV turns off.

“You had fun snooping around the house?” His voice takes on that old terrifying velvety growl that tells me I am in deep shit. I begin to shiver uncontrollably and I vaguely realize my body is preparing for a last fight, a last-ditch effort to stay alive.

This. This is what those little fur coat animals felt.

He reaches down to grab my arms, hauling me up until he can scowl directly into my eyes. My feet dangle helplessly, and I try to think of an answer that won’t infuriate him. I can't think.

“I…my door was unlocked. I was watching TV and I got hungry, so I went into the kitchen. Then my ankle bracelet buzzed,” I lie, babbling and utterly unconvincing. “Are you home early today?”

His eyes shutter, and he flings me back into the sofa. I resist the impulse to rub the sting out of my arms from his vise-like grip.

“Stay!” he barks, jabbing a finger at me. I can feel the blood drain from my face, and I become quite aware of how full my bladder is.

Tears well behind my eyes.

“Ben…”

He glares down at me for half a minute before he stomps into the kitchen.

I hear the slam of a drawer and he storms back out before I think to run for it or try to hide. Ah. When fight or flight kicks in, I guess I have to stick with fight.

You're quite the little fighter.

He carries a small blow torch, the kind they use on Iron Chef to make crème brulee and seared ahi, and the menace in his eyes is enough to make me want to piss myself.

“…no, no, please…Ben…” I beg, scrambling back to press myself against the sofa. Away from that torch.

He ignores my pleading and straddles me, crushing my legs under his weight, the hard objects hanging from his duty belt pressing into my thighs. I cringe away.

No. If I fight him now, he'll kill me. I know it. 

“You wanna leave?” he snarls. “Go ahead. The door’s right there.” He jerks his head to the front door, and I shake my head.

Fuck, I am so scared.

“You wanna go? Say the word, honey,” he snaps, flipping the switch to activate the torch. My blood freezes at the sinister hiss of gas flaring to life.

“No!” I whimper. “I don’t –”

He isn’t having it, though, I can tell. He grabs my hair, yanking it until my head falls back and my neck is exposed. By now I can’t speak, just grunt and whine like a caged animal as he brings the torch closer. My eyes are glued to it, that torch. I can feel its evil heat, not quite close enough to burn but damned well close enough to threaten.

Tears of fear and terror pour down my cheeks as my eyes dart between the torch and him.

“…p-p-please…”

He bares his teeth like a rabid dog. “Say it.”

My whole body shakes violently, but I get the words out in one long ramble, “I don’t want to go anywhere, I was just hungry, I swear. I swear!”

He flings my hair away, disgusted, wrapping my wrist in his massive fist and dragging my arm between us.

Malevolent rage practically sizzles from his skin. “Good,” he says with such deliberate precision I flinch. "This is to help you remember." He bites his lip in concentration and glares at me furiously. "I cannot fucking believe you're making me do this, Rey."

He holds the torch to my arm, just under my shoulder, drawing a searing line of fire that makes me shriek and arch away in an attempt to dislodge him. 

Real pain slams into me a few seconds late, after he’s turned off the torch and clambered off me with an angry huff.

The burn is bright red and angry, already welling with blisters in a long stripe across my upper arm. 

I can't catch my breath, but it hurts beyond belief. 

He stomps into the kitchen and hollers, “I better not hear one fucking peep out of you, Rey! Not a sound!”

My arm, my arm hurts so bad. So much more than a cracked rib. It hurts more than anything. But I can’t make any noise other than a horrible rasping wheeze as I suck air into my lungs, half in shock.

I press my lips together despite the waves of searing agony traveling up my arm into every nerve ending of my body. Cold sweat breaks out over my upper lip. 

“Unless you want to thank me for not doing worse?” He rages back out of the kitchen to once again loom over me, while I writhe in a ball of silent agony on the couch, clutching at my arm just under the burn, afraid to touch the damaged skin.

He whips a long finger into the air so venomously I flinch again. “Next time that bracelet moves out of line, I’ll take that torch to your fucking face.”

He kicks the sofa, clearly demanding an answer.

All I can do is nod and sob a wordless agreement.

He yanks my arm and I squeal at the pain of movement, afraid he will touch the burned skin or do more damage. But he simply inspects the injury with a clinical eye and tells me I’ll live, before hurling my hand away in disgust.

His nostrils flare, and I can’t meet his eyes.

“What do you want for dinner?” he snaps. “Something hot?”

I choke back a sob, but I can’t look at him. I am too afraid he will see my intentions and kill me then and there.

I am too afraid he will see the feral desperation of a wounded animal, a creature with nothing left to lose and everything to gain if only it can find a way out of the hunter’s trap.

I squeeze my eyes shut so he can't see.

“God, you’re acting just like a whipped fucking dog. I haven’t even touched you yet and you’re already cringing like a little bitch.”

He pulls my hair until my scalp burns and my head is bent at an awkward angle. I try not to whimper but I can almost hear the whisper of the blow torch again. Something hot breathes against my neck.

No, no, it's not the torch. He put it back. He put the torch back. 

It’s just his breath. “I had a dog once,” he hisses. “Named it after my mother. Little Princess. Couldn’t be trusted. You remind me of her. A spoiled little bitch.”

I can’t tell if he’s referring to the dog or his mother, but it’s so fucking creepy the way he’s talking, goosebumps break over my skin. Sweet, gentle Ben has all but vanished and it's all my fault.

I sniff and my eyes flutter open. 

“Take off your pants,” he orders and my entire being shrinks at the icy command.

“Ben. Please,” I gasp. I can’t move, my arm hurts so bad.

He doesn’t wait for me to continue, he just flips me over, bending me to kneel over the couch, and jerks my leggings down. I try to hold still, but I can’t stop the tears from streaming down my face. I can hear him unbuckling and the sound of his leather belt sliding from the loops of his pants sends wicked terror slithering through me.

He roughly pushes a finger against my pussy, and it burns because I’m not ready for it.

“Dry as a fuckin’ bone. As always,” he criticizes. It's not true, not really because lately - for weeks, now - we haven't even needed the lube bottle and this is so fucking unfair. “You’d think you would at least try, baby…you can’t even give me that much, huh?”

I hear him spit and wince as he rubs his wet fingers between my legs. His cupped palm appears next to my face.

“You, too, honey. Spit.”

I try to collect enough saliva for him, knowing if I don’t then what comes next is going to hurt like a sonofabitch.

Saliva drips from my lips to pool in little white bubbles into the cup of his hand, and I take a deep, shuddering breath as I feel him once again slide his wet hand over me.

"Ben, please..." My plea is muffled by the couch cushions.

"Please what? You think you don't deserve your punishment? Really?" 

He pushes his fingers inside and I wince at the sting. His voice takes on that sickening gravelly purr that sends slithers down my spine. "How will you ever learn? Hmmm? If I don't keep you on a tight leash?" 

He's a monster. I shouldn't have forgotten. 

The familiar heat of him prods between my legs and I grunt involuntarily as he roughly slams into me from behind. Tears drip down my cheeks and I keep my mouth fucking shut. 

I need to figure out a way to make him trust me again.

I need to think, but it hurts to think.

It hurts to breathe.

I try to relax, but he’s gripping me hard and my burned arm throbs in pain.

He slides into me and draws a finger over the burn, and I rear back and squeal in protest. 

Stop it! Just stoppleasefuckingstop.

“Oooh, now that’s something, baby,” he grunts, squeezing my arm again, forcing me to seize up and clench around him. “Fuck. A little pain makes you so fuckin’ tight. Feels good.”

He cups his hand around my mouth as I scream again, this time when his belt snaps hard, streaking a line of fire across the side of my upper thigh. He does it again in the same spot, with a vicious grunt and a hard thrust. I try to protect the tender spot with my hands, but he just laughs and pins them down with one of his, leaning into me until I can’t breathe.

“Ahhh, I forgot what a little fighter you are…” he whispers into my hair. “This is what you like? That why you tried to run today? So I’d have to punish your sweet little ass?”

I try to choke out an answer, but he whips me with his belt again, and I burrow into the couch cushions, trying to escape his relentless barrage.

A few more smacks and several hard pumps of his hips into mine and he’s done. I can feel a hot wet spurt down the back of my thigh, and I sputter and heave in relief, acutely aware of his naked lower body, wet with cum, pressed against my butt.

Thankfully that was quick -

Then his fingers smear up the crack of my ass and I clench down all over again. He’s trying to work his finger inside, but he can’t, and I’m going to fight this one with everything I have in me. He strokes his finger over my asshole again, almost enticingly, before he moves away, letting it go for now, so he can push my face into the couch cushions, holding me there.

“I cannot fucking understand why you tried to leave. After everything I’ve done for you.” His fury hasn’t abated as I’d hoped it might if he finished. 

I decide I am going to have to kill him. Or I am going to die here in Suburbia, in this cute little Craftsman bungalow amongst the ignorant middle-class robots going about their daily lives.

Who have absolutely no idea of the beast living right next door.

My arm hurts so bad I can barely think straight.

“Haven’t I taken good care of you?”

I try to nod, but my head is locked in place. “…mmhhmmm…” I groan instead.

“Haven’t I given you a home? A place to sleep? My own fucking bed? Clothes? Food?” I mumble again and hope he takes it for agreement.

“Isn’t that what you always wanted? Someone to take good care of you? A family? She told me that was what you dreamed of,” he growls, voice dangerously low. Fear prickles under my skin.

Something isn’t right. Why is he talking like this?

She told me. Who the hell is he talking about?

“What?” I rasp, my voice thrashed from screaming.

“What you need,” he finally mutters, “is a good, hard dicking down so you remember who’s the boss and who is the bitch.”

I shake my head and moan, “…no, please…no, Ben, please…”

He pauses and I grow very still. Behind me, I can feel the darkness pouring off him like radiation. 

When he speaks again, I can't process his words at first. 

“That’s not my name, baby girl."

What does he mean?

He backs away and pulls my leggings over my hips, slapping me hard over the spot where he whipped me with his belt and sending fresh tears into my eyes. I stay put, keeping my face buried in the couch cushions.

"You need to learn your lesson the hard way. I invited some friends over for game night later. Doesn't that sound like fun?"

I shake my head. No. Wait. What?

"And when they get here, you better call me Kylo." 

My heart seizes at what I just heard. Kylo. No. That can’t be right.

It…can’t be possible. 

Rose.

“Kylo Ren?” I blurt out wildly, even my pain temporarily forgotten considering this revelation. Rose eloped with someone named Kylo Ren. "Wait. You're...Rose's fiancé?"

I turn to look at him from the corner of my eye as my pulse careens wildly in my chest. 

"Say the name Ben Solo in front of my friends? And you will die. Slow and hard.”

"You're Kylo Ren?" I ask again. 

He flips me around and stares down with such a menacing combination of contempt and smug satisfaction, I shrivel.

“Yeah, I’m Kylo Ren. You never saw that coming in your little magic ball.”

“What did you do to Rose?” I whisper. 

You're going to last so much longer than the last one.

He smiles and the blood curdles in my veins.

“Where is she?” I ask again.  

He clucks his tongue, and I wonder how insane he really is.

A monster. He's a monster. 

“Please tell me she’s okay,” I beg.

“She’s just fine,” he assures me. I sigh. 

“She’s sleeping six feet under the hydrangeas out back, even now. Right next to my other dead little pets.”

He yanks me up until I stand before him. He grins, that beautiful, lopsided smile that once sent my heart pattering against my ribs.

“Come on. We need to get you ready for company. I’ll bet my friends are going to absolutely love you.”

 


 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Five – Obsession

Obsession: ob·ses·sion | \ äb-ˈse-shən, əb-\

Definition of obsession

1: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling broadlycompelling motivation; an obsession with profits; has an obsession with gambling

2: something that causes an obsession; Losing weight can be an obsession that results in the avoidance of certain foods.

 


 

His friends? Pure terror drips into my heart.

“When they get here…?” I mutter. 

my friends are absolutely going to love you…

“You want to what? Share me with them?” I breathe. I can’t believe this. No way. No.

He’s watching me, raptor-like, his gaze holding mine hypnotized, cold as black ice and just as forgiving.

His jaw works and I know he’s thinking. This is when he’s most dangerous, like a cobra right before it strikes.

“Isn’t that what you want?” he replies, deceptively calm, and uneasiness scours at my nerve endings.

Careful, Rey.

“Isn’t that why you want to escape so bad?” he asks silkily. “So you can fuck around on me? Have fun with someone else? We might as well just do it here at home. Since that’s what you want.”

His plush mouth curves into a half-smile, but there’s no humor here. Not a drop. Something deadly hovers in the air between us, and I try to figure out what to say so I don’t get myself killed. Or gang-raped, then killed.

I can only stare at him, feeling like nothing but a cornered creature staring into the slathering, snarling, razor-sharp fangs of Death itself.

“You think I haven’t noticed you pushing it for weeks, now? Testing your boundaries? Trying to find a way out? You think it was a fucking accident I left your door unlocked today?”

“What?” I shake my head. I don’t know the steps to this dance.

“Don’t you want to fuck my friends? You do, don’t you?”

This has become so twisted, so convoluted, and I’m still trying to process what happened to Rose and my arm is killing me.

“Answer me, whore,” he snarls, slapping me so hard my head snaps back and I bite my tongue.

“No!” I choke around the blood pooling in my mouth, as I finally grasp what he’s talking about. No, I don’t want to fuck his friends.

He’s pacing back and forth, and all I can think is he’s insane and this is crazy.

He turns, sighting in on me cringing on the sofa. He jerks me up by the arms until I’m dangling against him again, and he’s glaring into my eyes like he’s going to excavate every thought I’ve ever had straight out of my head. Right before he rips it off with his bare hands.

“No,” I gasp again. “Please.”

This is it. My last words. My last words are going to be me begging him not to kill me.

He shakes me hard enough to rattle my teeth, and I whimper, “I don’t want anybody but you. Please.”

“We’ll see about that,” he hisses.

He pushes me ahead of him, and he’s guiding me into the kitchen, and I panic. This is another trick or a trap or test of some kind. It has to be.

The kitchen is out of bounds, and that’s where he keeps the blow torch and my arm is fucking screaming in agony, and I try to brace myself against the threshold.

I’m not supposed to go in there, ever, and he’s shoving me and suddenly I’m fighting to stay behind the invisible line, grunting and clawing at the doorway with a pathetic muffled, “nononono, I’ll be good, no wait no wait no…”

He pushes me through with an aggravated sigh. Right past the fifth tile on the floor.

My ankle bracelet buzzes three times and I drop to the floor. I land on my burned arm and cry out.

I can’t go any farther. He’ll kill me. He said.

He hefts me by the armpits and flings me at a chair next to the kitchen table. “Sit!”

I sit.

“Stay!”

My ankle bracelet vibrates non-stop, and he pulls the special key from his pocket and unlocks it, and I am sure he is going to kill me now.

This whole thing is fucking surreal.

I watch warily as he moves to open a cupboard across from me and pulls out the blow torch again.

If you’ve ever been burned, really burned, then you already know the absolute and utter dread of being burned again.

My mouth goes dry and my entire body starts to tremble with involuntary spasms of sheer anxiety. I can’t stop shaking and seizing up at the sight of that torch.

I look at his eyes, but he’s lost in thought, methodical and calm as he opens a drawer and pulls out a tea spoon. My heart hammers inside me and I can’t stop shivering.

His mood swings are too much. I just want it to stop. I don’t think I can take much more.

And then I think of Rose.

She’s sleeping six feet under the hydrangeas out back, even now. Right next to my other dead little pets.

More than one. He’s a monster. I need to make sure he knows this if he’s going to kill me or burn me with the blow torch again. If he does, I think I might die from the pain alone.

So, I need to tell him what he needs to know while I still have a chance.

I refuse to go out begging. Fuck that.

I straighten my spine and sniff hard, clearing the snot from my nose.

He cocks a brow and stares at me as if I’m a mildly interesting thing he’s never seen before.

I will not look away. If these are my final moments I will not go down like some whipped dog.

I will not.

A bloodless sneer crosses his face, and I waver.

Nevertheless, I whisper, “You’re a monster."

“Yes, I am,” he agrees. “And you need to get that through your thick head. Or you’re gonna end up in the ground next to your friend out there.”

He tilts his head in the direction of the back yard, and I feel the blood drain from my face. “I’ll bet she’s fulla worms by now. What do you think?”

I think I’m going to throw up.

He sets the torch on the table, right under my nose, and places the spoon next to it, like he’s setting the table for tea. He goes to his jacket, hanging on a peg by the back door, and takes something from the pocket.

My heartbeat kicks into double-time. What is this? What is he doing? Some elaborate serial killer ritual?

He answers my question like he’s reading my mind. “I’m not going to kill you.”

He places a baggie of whitish powder next to the spoon, along with a capped syringe.

Drugs. What the fuck?

I glance up at him, confused. He doesn’t act like a user, and I’ve known more than a few. But he can’t be using, because he’s way too consistent and healthy and I haven’t noticed track marks…

“It’s not for me,” he says, again reading my thoughts.

My stomach clenches in dread. Oh, no. My eyes break from his and lock on the baggie. My watered-down potion was bad enough, but this? I can’t.

“No.”

He seats himself across from me and cracks his neck, and I try not to flinch at the awful crunching sound. “I don’t need to kill you," he says. "Not if I can just own you, instead.”

“…Ben…Kylo…I don’t want that…”

“Oh, yes you do. You just don’t know it yet. You, baby girl, are about to be converted to the Church of H. Consider me your new priest. I’m about to anoint you with the holiest of holies. And then you are going to bow down and fucking worship me. Every. Fucking. Night.”

He loosens his gun from the holster at his side and sets it on the table next to the blow torch. Deliberately.

I stare at the gun for a full minute, wondering if I am quick enough, desperate enough to make a grab for it. But I know fuck-all about guns. Is the safety on or is it even loaded? I have no idea.

And he knows it, too.

He’s toying with me, and severe regret washes over me as I realize I could have prevented all this by simply staying in my room this morning.

He sees it on my face and his sneer softens to a scowl. “I do have company coming tonight and I can’t afford to have you fuck it up, baby girl. I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but you’ve left me no choice…”

He sounds almost sorry, as he opens the baggie and scoops out some powder with the spoon.

Maybe he is. Sorry, I mean.

“Where did you get that?” He’s a cop, and cops aren’t supposed to be carrying around drugs and paraphernalia, are they?

He looks at me with this are you fucking serious? expression and I squirm, uncomfortably aware of how incredibly stupid and naïve that question is.

He’s obviously a dirty cop.

“What if…what if I’m pregnant, Ben?” I’m reaching, trying to appeal to a side of him I’m not sure exists.

I’ve touched a nerve. His eyes flash to mine in warning and I grope for something else. Anything to change his mind.

“Why is company coming?” I ask, excruciatingly aware of his minutes-ago accusation that I might want to fuck his friends. I try to keep any trace of hope from leaking through my voice because any friend of his would most likely not be interested in helping me.

The thought does briefly cross my mind, though.

“Well, I have a little business on the side, and I can’t afford to screw it up. They don’t know I’m a cop – they only know me as Kylo,” he explains as he lights the blow torch. I flinch as the gas flares to life and my arm starts throbbing in phantom alarm and the exquisitely precise memory of what that scorching heat feels like when it sears the tender meat of my flesh.

But he doesn’t point the flame in my direction.

No, instead he sets it on the table and holds the spoon over it.

“…you want me to meet your friends? They’re coming over later?” I prompt, trying to find a way I can work this, gain some possible advantage. But most of my attention is riveted on the spoon and the torch.

“You’re not meeting anyone,” he barks. “Now shut the fuck up. I’ll make sure you sleep right through it. Can’t have you talking when they get here and check the house.” He says this last quietly, as if to himself.

I want to ask what he means, but I can’t look away from the powder as it melts and bubbles in the spoon.

Once it has liquefied, he uncaps the syringe and draws the stuff in.

He licks his lips and murmurs, “Gonna knock you out cold, so you don’t get us both killed.”

His eyes glitter into mine as he holds up that loaded syringe and fresh panic floods me.

Drugs are bad, so dangerous. I could overdose, I could get hooked. I’ve seen many a person become enslaved, transformed into mindless zombies who could give a shit about anything but their next fix.

I don’t want that to be me.

A tear slides down my cheek, and I whisper, “Please. I don’t want that. I’ll be good. I don’t want anyone else. I don’t want to leave. I promise.”

“Put your arm on the goddamn table.”

Another tear follows, and he glares at me without pity or remorse.

“Put your fucking arm out, Rey. You don’t have a choice.” His gaze flickers to the gun and back to mine, so I lay my out my arm, the one that isn’t throbbing in pain from being burned by his damned blow torch.

I’ve never felt so vulnerable, exposing the inside of my arm to him.

He grips my wrist in one hand and pulls my arm straight, sighting in on a line of blue tracing just inside the tender crease of my elbow.

“Please don’t,” I whimper.

But he merely shushes me and frowns in concentration, pushing at a spot with his thumb.

I can’t take my eyes off the needle as he presses it to the blue of my vein and mutters, “You’re gonna be feeling all kinds of good in about five seconds, don’t worry.”

He stabs the needle in, calculated, precise, and my arm jerks involuntarily against his firm grip. And as he plunges that poison into my bloodstream, I hiss through my teeth at the burning sting.

He’s done this before, apparently. Because I think he’s a fucking serial killer.

No. I’m sure of it. He’s a fucking serial killer. He said Rose was with his other dead pets. More than one. A series. As in serial. 

I’ve been kidnapped and held captive by a serial killer and I think he’s also a drug dealer and now I am going to get hooked on heroin and die.

A year ago, I couldn’t have predicted any of this, not in any scenario, not in any alternate universe.

This is just so not how I thought my life was going to go.

I’ll bet that’s what every single victim of a serial killer thinks right before they die.

And the irony hits me. Madam Sunshine…couldn’t see her way out of a paper bag…

Madam Sunshine was a rather shitty fortune teller.

Laughter bubbles up and I can’t hold it in. Oh, how fucking ironic. This. Is. Hysterical.

He’s watching me, amusement dancing in his eyes. Something awakens inside me and I reach for it with both hands.

Oh, hahahahahahaha…oh. Shit. Shit.

My eyes fly to his in shock. Does he know? What’s happening inside me right now? Holy fuck. Oh, wow.

A prolonged “Ohhhh” escapes my lips and he was right. I have found my new religion, temple, and scripture. This. This is the altar on which I will lay down my life.

Baptized right here at this kitchen table next to a blackened spoon and a used syringe and this feeling.

I was made for this, born to feel this way.

I want to die like this, feeling this way.

I don’t care about the sun or fresh air and I don’t need it because I’m never fucking leaving this place because I’m free right here and now, fucking flying – I have everything I need.

A small chuckle escapes him and suddenly I’m laughing back into those pretty amber eyes sparkling at me with dark humor. I can’t describe the rush, but I get it now, I so fucking get it. I understand.

“You must feel like a million bucks,” he grins, and I think I love him.

Maybe I do. No. I love this feeling. This is better than money, definitely better than sex. He has blessed me in the way and the truth and the light and I’m fucking born again and it’s coursing through my veins like holy water, and I am in heaven on earth.

“What’s my name? My real one. You remember?”

Kylo. “Ky-lo.” My tongue is full and heavy, and I can hear my heartbeat thrumming in my ears, but he’s watching me with hooded eyes, and I’m locked in, locked and loaded, can’t move can’t blink can’t stop flying.

He scoots closer, his chair scraping harshly against the kitchen tiles, but I’m slouching in my seat, riding waves of pure bliss, enlightened, free as a goddamn bird, gonna fly away.

My eyelids fall to nearly closed, and they are heavy, it’s hard to keep them open, except I think Kylo wants me to stay awake. A lazy smile slides over my face. I’m trying to ask a question, but I can’t.

“Wha – wha – wh…?” I pant.

What is this?

“You like it?”

I love it. Looooooove it. And I love him for giving it to me.

“…love you…” I slur. I’m starting to weave back and forth in my seat, my spine feels like stacked Jello, and the waves are hitting me in hard beautiful surges of pure, unadulterated bliss, making my body shudder from head to toe.

He moves slowly but deliberately, like a predator who doesn't want to startle its prey, his voice velvety soft and enticing. “I’ll bet I could do just about anything I want to you right now, and you wouldn’t give two fucks about it.”

He’s absolutely right, but all I can do is watch and smile as he stands and pulls me gently to my feet. I can’t hold myself up. Another wave of euphoria hits me good and hard, so I lean against him because he’s warm and solid and he smells really good, like he’s been outside in the fresh air all morning.

I glance down at the table, looking at the needle to see if there’s any stuff left in it, but he tracks my gaze and picks up his gun, instead. My neck bends and weaves, trying to keep my head from lolling back as I look back up at him.

He strokes the barrel of his gun down my cheek and presses the cold metal lightly against my jaw.

“Yeah. Thought so,” he croons, and he looks so engrossed, so fascinated to be holding his gun there, against my bruised face. “I could spray your brains all over this kitchen. How about that? Then you could leave me forever…is that what you want?”

I laugh. Leave? Why the hell would I want to leave?

My hand snakes up his chest then moves to his, holding it and the gun steady as I slide the barrel up to my temple and he can pull the trigger if he wants to, go ahead Ky-lo, because I don’t fucking care and it would be hilarious for you to have to clean up my brains and if you make a mess you clean it up

“Boom!” I blurt out, and it startles him into moving the gun away.  

His eyes narrow, and he pulls that luscious bottom lip of his between his teeth and shakes his pretty head.

“Huh. Not so scared of me anymore?”

I shake my head no and wrap my arms around his neck, digging my fingers into his hair. So soft.

“I’m not,” I sing. Well. It’s true. Even if he is a drug-dealing, serial killer-rapist piece of shit.

“Hmmm. About that dicking down I mentioned…” Something enters his voice, a sly canniness. He’s still testing me. “You sure you only want me? Like you said earlier?”

Oooooh, puh-leaze. Let’s just get it over with so I can lie down and let this rapture flow through me.

My hand falls to his chest and I slide it rather sloppily down the front of his uniform, right over his pants, zipped, but not belted – where’s his belt no belt that’s right he used it already – to cup the growing bulge at his crotch.

“Turn around,” he growls softly.

I try but I’m going to fall. He shoves me and I end up face down ass up on the kitchen table. The blow torch and spoon are pushed away, and I hear them clatter to the floor. My cheek is smashed into the wood and I decide now is probably a good time to lay down and rest my eyes.

I am sleepy.

My eyelids flutter closed, and I feel him fumbling behind me, my leggings yanked down around my knees and a loud rip of fabric. My arms aren’t working.

My arm was burned. Blow torched.

Does it hurt? I dunno.

I feel a line of drool escape my open mouth and I want to move my head, but something is behind me.

Ben. No. Kylo.

He grabs a handful of my ass and squeezes hard enough for it to jar through my high, and I yelp, “Ouch!”

“Oh, good. Still awake. Listen up, baby. This is important.”

I try to listen, but the edge of the table is cutting into the tops of my thighs. I try to arch my back and my face is instantly smashed back down into the hard wood of the table. Stay down.

My cheekbone digs in to the unforgiving surface and the cold press of metal on my neck tells me he’s holding his gun on me again.

“Don’t you fucking pass out, yet. If you go to sleep right now, I don’t know if you’ll wake up.”

Who fucking cares if I wake up? I fucking don’t.

“Stay awake Rey. I really want you to feel this…” The gun slides down my spine and into the crack of my ass and it’s cold.

“…mmmph…” I try to protest, but I’m also trying to remember how to breathe through the dense fucking air. “…feel whah?”

I sense he’s stepped away and I hear a cupboard door slam. Things are getting very slow. Like the whole world is thick and heavy and instead of air, I’m moving through water.

I feel a cold trickle down the crack of my ass. It’s wet and slippery. Like oil.

Oil? Olive oil? We put that shit on our fucking salads, Kylo. Eew.

“…the fuck?” I barely register a dark chuckle behind me, and two large hands spread me wide open. “Whaddid you jus’ puddon me?” 

“Shut up.”

I feel him prodding at my butt. “Wrong hole,” I mumble sarcastically.

“I don’t think so,” he grunts.

I feel a slight burning stretch as he pushes a finger inside. Nope. That’s not his finger – oh!

He’s breathing rather raggedly and I might have dozed off for a sec because now I’m bouncing against the table and the chair across from me is bouncing too and I realize he’s fucking me in the ass and I’m just lying here face down in a puddle of drool on the kitchen table, high out of my goddamn mind. I should probably just let him finish.

Just let him.

Except.

Shouldn’t be doing this in the kitchen. You make our food in here. We’re not animals, Kylo.

“Dirty,” I mutter.

No, this is beyond dirty, it’s gross, it really is. I try to rear back so I can get off the stupid table, but he smashes my head back down and just goes harder and now it’s kinda hurting and he’s breathing rough and grunting…

It’s gross it’s gross it’s gross.

“Gross!” I twist my hips away. Stop it.

He slams into me hard and I shriek at the shock of pain. “You. Said. You…wanted me, bitch. Were you lying?”

Ow, ow, ow, this hurts. “Get off me, you dirty pig!”

“No. More. Talking.”

No talking?

Fucking asshole.

“Fuck you!” I bellow, trying to thrash away.

He pulls out and hauls me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Did he come already? I can’t tell, but I don't think he did.

The room spins and I hold on.

“Don’t drop me,” I groan.

He smacks me hard on the ass and carries me to his room.

Oh, good I need a nap. He tosses me on the bed and a sliver of unease slides into my perfect beautiful high. My head falls back, and I close my eyes. Maybe now he’ll leave me alone…

“Oh, no. No sleep for you. We’re not done yet.”


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Six – Dissension

Dissension: dis·sen·sion | \ di-ˈsen(t)-shən \

variants: or less commonly dissention

Definition of dissension

DISAGREEMENT especially: partisan and contentious quarreling; causing dissension within the police department; a colony threatened by religious dissension


 

I wake up and it’s dark. I’m not sure how long I’ve been out, but my high has faded, and my body feels like a used punching bag.

No. Worse.

I feel like I have been repeatedly run over by a fully loaded Mack truck.

Let’s start at the top.

My hair hurts.

My face and neck are sore, one spot on my neck is pulsing with agony. Damn. Ouch. Did he bite me again? Ow, yes, I think he did.

What happened to him as a child that made him a goddamn biter of all things?

My tongue still aches, too, from when I bit it when he slapped me earlier.

And my burned arm. Oh, fuck, now that really hurts, especially now that I’m thinking about it. And on the opposite arm, the inside of my elbow stings. I know if I look, I will see a tiny little hole there.

Speaking of holes. My butt hurts. Like, unbelievably bad. I do vaguely recall him promising at one point he was going to rearrange my guts for me, and I think he just might have succeeded.

Every joint in my body feels like it’s been wrenched out of place and shoved back into place just a little bit off, like a jigsaw piece that’s been forced into a puzzle that almost works, but not quite.

My thighs and ass feel like raw, pulverized meat.

What’s my name? Say it.

Kylo…game night…company’s coming…

…you sure you don’t wanna fuck my friends?

Shit. I can’t clear my head.

You better fucking remember.

I am supposed to remember something. I wish I could remember what it is. But I can’t.

My face hurts. I am going to be black and blue tomorrow. If I live that long.

My eyes adjust to the dim light filtering in through the blinds. I’m lying face down on the bed in his room.

A plastic bag from Wal-Mart sits at the foot of the bed and it occurs to me I’m naked. Did he leave me here to go to the store? Or has he had this the whole time?

My ankle bracelet is gone, and I stare at my bare ankle for a few minutes, trying to figure out what happened. Oh, right. He took the bracelet off in the kitchen. My leg feels extra light without the slight weight of it reminding me I am a prisoner.

How strange.

I grope around, but I can’t find my t-shirt. I remember him shredding my leggings, and I feel kind of sad. More than sad. Tears well up at the thought of my clothes, the only real possessions I’ve been allowed to have since I came here, destroyed and cast away, no longer mine. No longer functional.

Like me.

I’m an animal. Naked and defenseless and trapped in a cage.

There’s a murky bottle of water next to me. I don’t care if it’s drugged, I’m suddenly so thirsty I uncap it and gulp it down eagerly.

Ah. Yes, it’s familiar. My potion. What is this stuff? I wonder.

After a minute, the pain I’m feeling blurs, and I feel a little better, if not still rather disoriented.

I poke inside the Wal-Mart bag and find a sundress. I know the dress is for me so I try to figure out how to put it on in the filtered moonlight before realizing I can just flip on the light switch. Unlike the front bedroom, the light switch is inside this room; these older homes have some weird quirks in the wiring. The switch for the other bedroom is in the hallway, right next to the door.

But in this room, it is inside. I lurch out of bed, crashing into the bedroom door, and I turn on the lights. Shit. My body isn’t working right.

It’s almost too bright now, but I need to see.

I look more closely at the dress. It’s yellow and green, pretty, with a tag on it that tells me someone found it on clearance for $7.98.

I peel off the red clearance tag, and I find another underneath. It is yellow and says the dress used to cost $11.97.

I pick at the corners of the yellow. I am very, very careful as I peel it off to see the original price. $18.96. Not bad.

He got a good deal. More than fifty percent off. Smart shopper.

I fumble with the dress and pull off the tag, briefly considering if I might use the thin piece of plastic attached to it as some kind of tool. I could try sticking it into the keyhole of my ankle bracelet if he puts it back on me.

Why did he take it off?

I wander to the bedroom window and pull back the curtain, my movements jerky and ungraceful. The window has been nailed shut, of course. I’m not even surprised.

I eye the plastic bag and consider suffocating myself. I actually go as far as pulling the bag over my head, but loosely. My breath steams up the inside almost instantly. All I would have to do is tie a knot and let the plastic do the rest…except I just can’t quite bring myself to do it.

I don’t want to die. Not today.

I pull the bag off my head and look at his dresser, the only other furniture in the room besides the bed and a nightstand. My ankle bracelet sits on top. I open the drawers, looking for a weapon, but there are just clothes in there. I slam the drawers closed rather hard, growing annoyed.

I hear strange voices in the living room. Company’s here. Game Night, he called it. That’s code for some shady deal, I’m sure.

Don’t you want to fuck my friends? You do, don’t you?

No. I don’t want to fuck your friends, you sick fuck.

“Rey? That you, honey?” That’s him, speak of the Devil.

Shit. He sounds upset.

“Rey?” he calls again.

“…be right out…” I mumble, stopping myself from calling him Ben in the nick of time.

I almost called him Ben and my heart pounds under my ribs. Say the name Ben Solo in front of my friends? And you will die. Slow and hard.

I wish I could remember what else he’d told me before I blacked out. I have a feeling it was important.

I’m still thirsty. If I’m good, maybe he’ll give me some more water.

Maybe he’ll give you another taste of that other stuff…

I make sure my sundress covers me to the knees and walk on wobbly legs out to the living room.

 

Five men wearing rather rough-around-the-edges street clothes stand around the coffee table, along with Kylo. Kylo isn’t wearing his police officer uniform – of course not, they don’t know he’s a cop, and I cannot forget that little tidbit or he'll kill me. He’s wearing black jeans and a black, long-sleeved t-shirt, and he looks dangerous and handsome and furious.

They all turn in unison as I approach.

I can feel his friends’ eyes crawling all over me. I am immediately and one-hundred percent sure I will not be seeking help from any of these people. I lick my lips. Other than Kylo, I haven’t seen another human being for months and months. I’m not sure what to do, so I stand there, unsure.

One of his “friends” is glaring at me like I’m a plague rat and I decide that will be my nickname for him. The others display varying degrees of suspicion as they eye me warily. Yep. These are criminals.

But the warm buzz of my potion sinks in, infusing me as always with a sense of recklessness, a loss of inhibition.

“Why does she look all beat up, Ren?” asks a skinny one with a thick Mexican accent. Slim.

“Rough sex,” Kylo bites out before I have time to get offended. “She likes it. Dontcha, baby girl?”

Be good. Stay calm. “Yes,” I whisper, instead of spitting on him like I want to.

“Thought you said she’d be down for the rest of the night. She ain’t another one of your little junkie sluts who's gonna cause trouble, is she?” another one asks. He’s wearing a leather jacket with spikes on the shoulders.

“Nuh-uh,” Kylo replies coolly, shooting a quelling glare at Spikes.

“Prove it.”

“Show ‘em your arms, baby. It’s okay.” Kylo lifts his chin and I obediently hold out my arms, aware of one conspicuous little hole among the various bruises and a very painful burn.

One of the criminals zeroes right in on where Kylo shot me up with heroin earlier. “What’s that?”

I’m running out of creative nicknames for these douchebags. He can be Asky.

Kylo opens his mouth to reply, but Asky snaps, “I asked her, not you.”

“…bloodwork,” I lie without missing a beat. “HIV screening.”

My inquisitor nods and rakes me with an evaluative stare. I refuse to cringe and instead glare back at him rebelliously.

“She looks clean,” he says, narrowing his eyes in threat.

Spikes is watching us and scowling, and I think he's trying to look intimidating. I want to laugh in his face. Does this guy think he’s scary? Not even close.

I look to Kylo, easily the most frightening person in the room. His eyes smolder like twin coals and he bends his finger. Come here.

I go to him because I know for an absolute fact if I disobey, these so-called friends of his will tear me to pieces without hesitation.

Kylo will tear me to pieces later. But, better I stick with the devil I know. For now.

I slip under Kylo’s outstretched arm and allow him to pull me into his side, casually, as if my interruption was of no significance.

“You think you’re being cute? Is that what you fucking think?” he hisses into my ear.

“Cute?” I parrot back lamely. His hand tightens painfully at my hip and I suck in a deep breath as I finally remember what he told me earlier.

If you wake up, do not, under any circumstances, leave this room tonight, Rey. I mean it. Not for any reason. Not even if I call for you or the house is burning down. You stay in here. If someone comes in to check on you, pretend you’re asleep. But stay in here.

Shit fuck shit. I overhear one of the other guys mutter, “That little puta is in for a rough night only she don’t seem to know it yet…”

You stay in this room no matter what, you understand?

“We all square on the plan?” Kylo asks the room at large, giving me another squeeze, hard enough to bruise. I press my lips between my teeth.

“Yeah, boss. We’re good.” Something is going on here, some undercurrent of danger is making its presence known.

“Good. Baby, go back to bed and wait for me okay?” He murmurs against my neck, nuzzling the spot where he bit me earlier. A warning. I am in deep fucking shit.

“Okay,” I reply quietly.

“El baño?” Plague Rat asks.

Kylo nods in the direction of the hallway. Plague Rat heads for the bathroom, and I follow a few steps behind so I can slip into the bedroom as Kylo told me to. But when I reach the door a strange, clammy hand clamps over my mouth and I feel a wet hiss in my ear. I freeze.

“You think I can’t tell you’re high as a kite, puta? I got my eye on you. I think el jefe might be a little blinded by love. Eh?”

I doubt it. He’s a jealous psychopath, you moron. Oh, and he’s a fucking serial killer.

Which reminds me. I need to get the hell away from here at some point.

But I also need to play the hand I’ve been dealt and right now, it occurs to me I have an opportunity to bank some of the lost trust from my earlier, poorly-executed escape attempt and possibly to mitigate some of Kylo’s fury for me disobeying him just now...  

I jerk my head and the hand unclamps from my mouth.

I turn so I can look Plague Rat right in the eye. He’s not nearly as tall as Kylo.

“He’s gonna kill you for touching me,” I murmur, glaring at him wrathfully.

“I doubt it,” he scoffs quietly.

“Bathroom’s over there,” I say louder, hoping it will be loud enough for the others to hear.

He sneers and, like me, says loudly enough to carry his words out to the other room, “My mistake, miss.”

He disappears into the bathroom and I take a deep breath. I wait a few seconds and make a decision, bolstered in no small part by my recent ingestion of potion, which always dulls my usually acute sense of self-preservation.

Instead of going to bed, I return to the living room.

Slim and Asky sit on the sofa, waiting for their fellow criminal to use the bathroom, and Spikes and the other one stand by the TV, deep in conversation with Kylo.

Kylo’s eyes blaze with ill-disguised temper when he sees me; I’m disobeying him in front of company now, and he’s not happy about it. He’s livid.

That little puta is in for a rough night only she don’t seem to know it yet…

A chill snakes down my spine.

But I steel myself and walk up to him, wrapping my arm around his neck. I let a quiver of fear tremble through me, knowing he can feel it, and I whisper shakily, “Kylo, that man said something bad to me.”

“Who? Teedo?” Kylo nods in the direction of the bathroom and I breathe, “Yeah.”

“What did he say, baby?” he purrs, even as his eyes flash into mine stormy with rage. He’s pissed off for sure, but he’s waiting patiently for me to answer him.

Shit, this gamble better work.

“Something about fucking my little panocha bloody over my dead Papi's corpse,” I lie. “I think he meant you. What’s a panocha?” I widen my eyes innocently. 

I’ve never played so hard, but this is too good an opportunity to pass up, and if I know Kylo or Ben or whatever the heck he wants to call himself, then I am betting this might flip him into Monster Mode.

As I’m hoping, Kylo’s nostrils flare and he snaps, “What?”

I nod and cling to him. “…and then he grabbed my ass, even though I told him no and I said you’d kill him for touching me…and he just laughed and said you were blind.”

“Is that so?” Kylo bites out each word and my hair stands on end.

I’m betting everything I have on a shit hand, but if I can pull this off… It’s never been so easy to let a tear slip free. Kylo watches it trail down my cheek and sighs.

The others shift nervously, but none of them stick up for their friend, so I assume the guy is a regular jackass.

I hear the toilet flush and a conspicuous lack of water running afterward. Eew. Teedo isn’t a hand-washer and he put his hand over my mouth. Gross.

He comes out of the bathroom, and Kylo gently disentangles me, spinning me to stand just in front of him, facing the room, keeping one heavy hand on my shoulder. I realize he either intends to use me as a human shield or to disguise the fact he’s pulling his gun and I hope to God it’s the second one.

Teedo’s eyes widen in shock when he sees me and puts two and two together.

“You touched her?” Kylo snarls from behind me.

“No! No way, boss. Whatever she told you is a lie – I swear!”

“Everyone else get the fuck out. Except you. You stay.”

Everyone shuffles out.

I hear movement and another voice on the front porch. There must be someone else out there, keeping watch. I file that away. There are six of them, plus Kylo.

Seven.

Teedo is looking a little green around the gills, glancing frantically at the front door as it closes, leaving him alone with me and Kylo.

“You said I’m blind?” Kylo growls.

Teedo looks guilty and scrambles for a defense, but I know Kylo. He’s ruthless and doesn’t own a drop of mercy in his twisted soul.

Teedo seems to realize this as he whispers, “Who are you gonna believe? Me? Or some strung-out junkie?”

I glance back over my shoulder and Kylo’s eyes glow with black fire, now. I’m finally getting more than a little bit of a murderous vibe off him. Even not directed at me, it’s rather chilling.

Actually, it’s fucking terrifying.

“She has no reason to lie,” he mutters coldly.

Before I can register it, a very loud explosion rips through the air right next to my ear and Teedo’s brains are painted all over the living room wall. There’s a smoking hole in the plaster and blood and chunks of brain and skull are dripping down from everywhere, even the ceiling.

It’s unbelievable, that Teedo even had that much blood in him. The top of his head and half his face is gone, obliterated into pinkish-gray chunks and white bone shards and red, red blood. Half the room suddenly looks like a goddamn Quentin Tarantino movie. The reek of iron and filth overpowers my senses and a wave of nausea crashes into me.

Shit.

All I can say is “Oh my God.” My ears are ringing from the gunshot.

I gasp and turn to look at Kylo.

Kylo glowers at me, tucking his gun into the back of his jeans.

Now there are six.

My legs are rubbery, and I sit on the sofa, wide-eyed. I can’t take my eyes off Teedo splattered all over the living room.

“Oh my God,” I say again. I think I’m going into shock. Which is in itself a shock, considering this is exactly the result I’d been hoping to orchestrate.

“Calm the fuck down. You’re acting like you’ve never seen a dead person before.”

Uh, I haven’t.

And I’ve definitely never witnessed someone get blown away two feet away from me.

Dude’s brains are all over the place. My ears are still ringing.

“I’m sorry I came out of the bedroom. I forgot what you told me earlier…to stay in there? I didn’t remember until I was already out here.”

Kylo is just standing there, staring at the body and the unbelievable mess.

“It’s okay,” he finally grunts. “I never did trust that little fucker. Better I find out sooner than later where his loyalties were. You helped flush him out for me.” Kylo runs his gaze over me.

“Um. Thanks for the dress,” I mumble into the awkward silence. I’m pushing my luck. Kylo isn’t used to me talking this much, and I’m not totally sure he won’t turn on me. He’s unpredictable. A self-acknowledged monster, I remind myself.

But he’s calming down. “I ripped your leggings earlier, so I got you that.” It is an almost-apology, and I’m not sure what to say.

He turns back to survey the half-headless body on the floor. “Fuck.”

“You made the mess, you clean it up,” I whisper before I can stop myself. I don’t know why it’s so funny, but it is. I giggle.

He cocks his head and looks over the carnage. “This really is a fuckin’ mess, yeah?”

His chest is shaking, and it takes me a minute to realize he’s laughing, too.

I’m doubled over, laughing so hard I can barely stand up and he’s chuckling and shaking his head at the gore all over the place. And it dawns on me that everything is going to be okay.

“It’s g-g-good – good you didn’t – good you didn’t shoot me earlier, or y-y-you’d really be fucked!” I wheeze, suddenly hysterical and moving very quickly into the realm of I-don’t-fucking-care-anymore. “You’d have to just burn the house down and start over.”

He grins. I probably shouldn’t be giving him any ideas, but yeah. At this point, if I die there’s not a goddamn thing I can do about it. Besides, my potion has kicked in, and although it’s nothing like the delicious shit Kylo shot me up with earlier, I feel pretty good, relatively speaking.

I know the crash is coming, but not for a little while longer.

He snorts and walks into the kitchen. The back door slams and I realize I could walk out the front door right now. Except I would have to maneuver around some drug dealer’s blood and brains, I have no shoes or coat, and he'd just hunt me down and murder me anyway, so I might as well make it easy on myself and stick around.

He returns a few minutes later with a large blue tarp, and he’s eyeing me almost appreciatively. Like he’s pleasantly surprised I’m still here.

“Not as dumb as I thought you were. That’s good, baby girl,” he grunts, bending to lay the tarp out next to the body on the floor and roll Teedo inside like a giant human burrito.

It’s funny. Teedo-burrito. It rhymes.

I snort with laughter and I cannot catch my breath.

It’s too much. Too fucking much.

Kylo groans a bit as he hefts Teedo the dead burrito over his shoulder and carries him outside to the back.

Right before the back door slams shut, I have a thought. “Wait! Ben! Kylo!” I shout.

“Whut?” he hollers from the back door.

“Don’t put him with Rose. Please.”

A heavy sigh.

“Fine. Go grab a blanket and your ankle bracelet off my dresser and get your ass out here. Pronto.”

I run to his bedroom and yank the comforter off the bed, running to the back door before remembering to get my ankle bracelet too.

I’m suddenly very very tired.

Halfway through the kitchen, I meet his eyes and skid to a stop, acutely conscious that I am about to cross the boundary.

“Come on. I won’t hurt you. Just need you to come with me while we get rid of this.”

He lurches and the Teedo burrito hits the pavers of the walkway with a horrible wet thud.

“Come here,” he growls.

I obey because I don’t have a choice. Plus, I’m going for a ride and I’ve been indoors for a really long time.

It’s freezing out here and I’m instantly shivering, teeth chattering as I wrap the comforter around my shoulders.

He kneels in front of me, and for the second time since we met, Kylo reminds me of a lover about to propose marriage.

Until death do us part.

I giggle and he looks up from locking my bracelet into place.

“What’s so funny?” he asks grumpily. “We’re going to have to drive for hours to ditch this guy in the woods somewhere. You have no idea what a pain in the ass that is going to be.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll help you,” I soothe as he glares up at me.

His face softens into something closer to affection and he grunts, "You will, will you?"

And I realize I am going to survive. Because I’ve found a way, figured it out.

I’m going to be so, so good. I am going to help him. Whatever it takes.

And then I’m going to kill this bastard when he least expects it.

Because if I don’t? He will never let me go.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven – Compulsion

com·pul·sion | \ kəm-ˈpəl-shən \

Definition of compulsion

1a: an act of compelling; tried to get them to cooperate without using compulsionthe state of being compelled; He was acting under compulsion.

b: a force that compels

2: an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act (such as excessive hand washing); her compulsion to repeatedly check and recheck the stove to be certain that it is turned off alsothe act itself; Gambling is a compulsion with him.


 

The trunk slams shut, and I shift in my seat, looking around. Other than the day he brought me here, I’ve never been inside a cop car before. I’m sitting in the front seat this time, and it is very different up here. I almost would rather be in the back, although I can’t explain why.

Maybe because it’s safer back there, with a screen of metal between me and him.

No. Safety isn’t real. It’s all an illusion.

My feet are tucked under me, and the comforter from the bed is huge and bulky but warm.

Kylo climbs into the driver’s seat with a long sigh and starts the engine. He pulls on his seat belt and adjusts the rearview mirror just slightly while I watch.

He glances over to me and asks if I’ve buckled my seat belt.

Is he fucking serious? He wants me buckling up for safety?

I shake my head. My teeth are still chattering.

“This car doesn’t budge until that seat belt is on,” he tells me sternly. “I’ve seen some shit on the job. Shit that would turn your stomach from people not wearing their seat belts.”

There’s a dead fucking body wrapped in a tarp in the fucking trunk, and I’m coming down from my very first ever high on fucking heroin and he’s worried about seat belts?

Yeah. Let that sink in for a minute.

Still, I won’t argue with him, not after he killed the guy for me. He cranks up the heat and I shuffle out of the blanket and buckle up.

“Good girl,” he murmurs, before backing out of the garage.

He eyes my bare feet as he drives. My toes curl and stretch under the delicious warmth of hot air blowing over my feet.

“We should get you some shoes.”

I haven’t worn shoes since the day he took me and ripped mine off right before he…right before…

I have no idea what happened to my old clothes, I realize.

I wonder what happened to my old life. My shop. My little apartment. I used to have things. Not a ton of things, but things that made me Rey. A few pictures, a few odd homey things. A throw pillow Rose gave me as an apology gift right before she told me she had big news and was eloping.

I feel strangely numb as I think about those things.

Rose left me and I was annoyed about it. Disappointed. But she didn’t have a very happy ending, so maybe I should let it go.

That old life doesn’t belong to me anymore. I don’t think it ever will again.

A loud sob bubbles up from nowhere, then another.

“What’s wrong, honey?” Kylo looks worried, which can’t be right since the guy’s a psychopathic monster.

I can’t tell him. Can I?

How do I explain I’m pissed off and sad? He stole my life and traded it for something so…horribly different than what I’d planned for myself? How do I even start to explain that?

I can’t stop the hot tears from streaming down my face. I’m bawling and I can’t stop, not even if Kylo threatens to put me in the ground next to Rose, even though he doesn’t, and that thought just makes me cry harder.

He’s driving and giving me the side-eye, and I don’t understand how he can even ask me what is fucking wrong.

“Are you…are you hungry? Is that it? You missed dinner…” he mutters, checking the time on the digital clock on the dashboard.

I missed dinner? Like that was my fault?

I think about why I missed fucking dinner. Because I was passed out cold from getting roughed up and doing drugs I didn’t want to do and being blowtorched on the arm for stepping across the boundary on my ankle monitoring bracelet. And then, after waking up from a pretty rough couple hours of getting the shit beat out of me, I got groped by some non-hygienic asshole named Teedo. And then I had to manipulate Kylo into killing said asshole…and now we are on our way to dispose of the asshole's body while our living room waits for us, covered in blood and brains and little shards of skull.

Oh, that’s going to be a real treat to come home to. I can’t fucking wait.

It’s too much.

I shake my head and tears stream down my face. My chest shudders and I try to collect myself.

But then Kylo takes us through a McDonald’s drive-thru and I really lose my shit. I cannot remember when I last ate something that wasn’t prepared by Kylo himself. I can’t even remember what I ate the day he took me.

I don’t remember what fast food tastes like.

Don’t get me wrong. Kylo is a good cook, and he actually feeds us pretty healthy shit. But sometimes a girl needs a big, greasy hamburger. My jaw tingles as saliva creeps in at the thought of a burger.

“Whaddaya want for dinner, then?” he asks in this long-suffering tone that tells me I’m pushing my luck with the waterworks.

I snivel and look at the menu. I cannot remember the last time I read something that wasn't on Kylo’s television or the lube bottle in the front bedroom on the nightstand.

“Um.” Sniff. “A-a-ah,” I sniff again trying to pull it together. “Double bacon cheeseburger with fries and a chocolate shake? And an order of McNuggets with honey dipping sauce? A ten-piece,” I ramble off.

He lifts a brow but waits while the speaker repeats my order back to us. He adds a Big Mac and Coke to the order and pulls around to the window while I scrub my tears away with the corner of the blanket.

I am so fucking excited for a cheeseburger, it doesn’t even occur to me to ask the lady at the register for help. To try to open the passenger door and make a run for it.

How fucked up is that?

Kylo passes the bags of our food over to me, and I dig out his Big Mac. The scent of fry grease and melted cheese hits my nose and I almost start crying again, but I don’t.

I hand him his burger and put the straws in our drinks and fish out a few French fries from the bag. I’m saving my burger until the last possible second, drawing out the anticipation. I might not ever get another one.

I eat a few crispy, salty fries – they are so delicious – and I notice Kylo eying them with a little interest, and I cannot fucking believe I’m doing it, but he did kill Teedo and he bought me a burger and McNuggets and a shake, too.

“Want some?” I ask.

He nods, keeping his eyes on the road, so I hold a few fries up for him. He's got his Big Mac in one hand and is steering with the other.

"Careful. They're hot." I hold them close enough for him to pull them into his mouth with his lips and teeth while he drives.

He turns on the radio-radio, not the police radio, and again this is something I haven’t done for so long – listen to music – I almost lose it.

Some new song I’ve never heard before comes on and I nibble on a few more fries.

But then Kylo casually mentions around a mouthful of Big Mac that we are going to be driving for a while, so I dig into my burger and take a bite.

And it’s almost better than heroin.

Almost.

The burger disappears surprisingly quickly, and while I’m glad to have the McNuggets, I half wish I had another burger instead.

Still, I finish off all but two of the nuggets, which I offer to Kylo. He shakes his head and mutters something about a chemical shit-storm, so I eat them.

He’s paying more attention to the road, now, as we make our way up into the hills, onto Forest Service roads that lead away from civilization and closer to Teedo’s final resting place. Kylo seems to have somewhere specific in mind.

I’m really full now and getting sleepy. I know I promised I’d help Kylo, but I’m not sure how helpful I’ll be burying a body. I don’t have shoes or a jacket or any real muscle for hard labor.

“You forgot a shovel,” I tell him as it occurs to me.

“Yeah. I don’t think I’ll be able to dig through the hard frost very easily. I’ll just dump him off somewhere,” Kylo replies.

“Where are we going?” I murmur curiously. I’ve only seen trees for the last forty minutes and the dirt road is getting progressively worse with potholes.

Kylo mutters, “Bear country.”

I perk up at that.

“Aren’t they hibernating?” I ask. I’m a city girl, and I don’t know shit about forests or bears, but I’ve seen cartoons. And it is winter.

Kylo shrugs.

“Something will eat him. If not a bear, then there are plenty of other little critters in the woods.”

“What if someone…finds his body?”

“Well, they won’t find much,” Kylo grunts, turning onto an even more rugged, overgrown road on a slight incline. “Not by the time the animals get to him. Nobody comes out this way.”

I don’t ask him how he knows that.

“Plus, we are a couple of counties away from the City, and Teedo won’t have anyone looking for him…so if someone found him, he’d never be identified.”

Somehow that’s more horrible than burying a body in the backyard.

But it’s Teedo, so I don’t feel as bad as I probably should.

It’s hard to doze over the bumps and rough road, but eventually, we seem to reach a point Kylo feels is a good place to leave the body.

He puts the car in park and leaves the engine running, which I am grateful for since the heater stays on and I stay toasty.

Until Kylo comes around to my side of the car and opens the passenger door.

“Come here. We need to give Teedo a proper send-off.”

What? The fuck? Is he fucking serious?

I unbuckle my seat belt, loathe to leave the warm car. I hold the comforter and Kylo picks me up and carries me bridal-style to the back of the car, sitting me on the trunk. I watch him return to the driver’s side and turn off the engine, leaving the headlights on.

He comes back around to me and pulls the edges of the blanket tight around my shoulders.

He has this look on his face, and I’m wondering how me sitting on the lid of the trunk is going to give Teedo a proper send-off. And then it hits me.

My lie.

Kylo’s eyes glitter black like the hard frost covering the tall grasses and shrubs all around. He caresses the crook of his finger along my cheek.

Suddenly every ache and pain I earned that day revives with throbbing alacrity.

“…now, what exactly did that little piece of shit say he was going to do to you?” Kylo breathes, looking just past me, off into the distance, in apparent reverie.

I swallow and try desperately to remember the details of my lie. I whisper, “Um. I think it was…like…fucking my little panocha over my dead Papi's corpse?”

Kylo hums in agreement, standing between my knees, nudging apart my feet propped on the bumper.

A shiver of dread compounds my other shivers from the cold. It’s freezing, and I don’t want to have sex out here in the middle of bear country over a dead body.

I don’t know if I even can have sex right now. My whole lower half received a pretty thorough pounding earlier.

Kylo doesn’t seem to care and I really don’t have it in me to fight him. He leans over me, huge and beastlike in the semi-dark.

He pushes under the blanket and slides my dress up, slowly, almost reverently, then brushes a warm palm along the inside of my thigh. His hair tickles my neck and I feel him kissing my cheek and ear.

“…open up for me, baby,” he mutters against the bite wound on my neck.

I reluctantly part my thighs, and he presses closer. I feel the sweep of a hot, wet tongue over the pulse point at my throat. Kylo is warm and I loosen my grip on the blanket to press my hands over his leather jacket, wondering if I can push them inside and get warmer.

He kisses me so gently I wonder if it’s real. He tastes like Coke and cold night air.

His hand moves further under the skirt of my dress and he deepens his kiss. I try not to gasp as he strokes over a few more tender, bruised spots.

“You asked me what’s a panocha? You remember?” he murmurs quietly. I swallow and nod against him, too nervous to speak and break the weird tension.

I know damn well what it is. I grew up in the hood. I know all the swears and words for genitalia in about seven different languages.

He kisses me again and pulls me a little closer, wrapping the edges of the blanket to either side, placing my hands so I’m holding the corners on his shoulders, creating a little tent just for us.

His mouth moves over mine, tenderly, slowly, and my blood starts humming in my veins. It feels good.

His finger slides against my pussy and I gasp. I’m still sore from earlier, but he’s touching me sooo delicately, so soft, like a butterfly’s wings. A murmur escapes my throat before I can stop it.

I wonder when he’s going to do more, but he just kisses me and touches me, and we sit like this for a few minutes until I lean into him and kiss him back.

This reminds me of the past few weeks. Before I tried to escape this morning.

Because he really does know what to do in bed. He knows how to have sex.

I can feel myself softening, melting, yielding. Forgetting what he did today and remembering what he’s capable of. Recalling the other, very pleasurable things he’s done.

His breath fans over my neck, and he nibbles on my earlobe.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” Kylo asks breathing hotly in my ear. “How it’s going to be your Papi fucking your little panocha over his bloody corpse, instead?”

Well, since I made that part up, I don’t know if the joke is really on Teedo or me, but either way, I really don’t want to think about it. And I am definitely never telling him I lied. I might be dumb, but I’m not stupid.

I scoot closer and kiss him again, instead of answering. He pushes his tongue into my mouth with a soft groan, sweeping his hands up to gently cup over my breasts, rubbing his thumbs over my tightly-peaked nipples.

“You cold, baby girl?” he croons.

“Yes,” I whisper. Maybe we can finish this in the back of the car. Teedo is, like, right under me. It’s creepy.

But Kylo simply shoves me back until I sprawl over the trunk. He pulls my legs open and unzips his pants. I can feel the dewy heat of him prodding against me. I feel his fingers spread the lips of my pussy so he can nudge inside, and it only stings a little.

I’m not as wet as I could be and Kylo seems to realize this as he starts thumbing my clit. I whimper. That feels good.

“Let me in, honey.”

I open my legs wider, and he pushes in further, gripping my hips.

“Good girl.” He takes one of my hands and presses it between us. I can feel him, feel where he’s sliding into me. It’s…oddly sexy. “Touch yourself, baby.”

I try to, try to concentrate, but I’m cold and there's a dead body underneath me with half its head blown off…

“Never mind,” Kylo rumbles, pulling out and bending over me intently. Oh no. What?

Oh, wait. Yes.  

I lift my hips eagerly to meet him and suddenly everything fades away at the exquisite caress of his lips.

His tongue slides against me, and my head falls back onto the rear windshield. He props my calves over each shoulder, holding me in place while he sucks and strokes until I feel a surge of wet desire where his mouth meets my sensitive flesh.

His nose bumps rhythmically at my clit and I groan at the delicious pressure of his mouth and tongue until I’m close to losing my mind, gripping his soft hair and grinding against him as best I can. It doesn't take long at all.

“That’s better,” he grunts, shifting so my legs fall into the crooks of his arms and he's pressing into me again. Much easier now, and I moan. His lips curl into a snarl and he shoves more rudely, jolting my head against the hard glass behind me. I cry out.

His hands cup around my shoulders and he thrusts and pulls me down at the same time, ramming harder until I’m sobbing and moaning and seeking that elusive thing that happens sometimes when he’s fucking me…

He feels it too and bends to kiss me rapaciously, his tongue stroking mine as his hot dick spears between my thighs.

I can taste my pussy on his firm, insistent lips, and it does something to me, and all of a sudden I just want to feel more…

Kylo grins against my mouth and hisses, “Stay with me, baby...keep going...fuck you’re so hot, getting so wet…you sick little bitch, you like this don’t you?”

I groan and pull him closer, I need just a little more, harder…just like that…oh

“…fuckin’ depraved…” he growls, but he sounds happy about it and he’s hitting that spot, that really good spot inside me and my hips twist against him because it’s happening this time, I can tell, I can feel it.

I moan, "Oh, God, oh, fuck!"

Kylo pants harsh and animal-like against me, “Disgusting little pervert, that’s what you are…sick… shameless fuckin’ slut…”

...and that filthy-dirty bliss grips me over and over, a tight fist of ecstasy squeezing me and him and making me come, oh, fuck, yes, I'm coming I'm coming…

"Oh, God, oh!" I tense as my body takes over and spasms in hard contractions, and Kylo jerks roughly against me, pumping at his own rhythm now, harder and faster until he joins me on a ragged groan that sounds like he’s dying.

His huge body quivers against mine for a minute before he pulls out. He tucks himself back into place and zips his pants while I sprawl on his car and try to catch my breath, cum dripping out of me onto the blanket.

His breath puffs in the chilly air as he stares down at me and lifts his chin. “Say bye-bye to Teedo, baby.”

I glance to the trunk, then back to him. “Bye, Teedo.”

 

The comedown wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it still sucks to have to return to reality.

I am drowsing in our bed and he’s lying next to me, naked. He smells good, fresh out of the shower, and I realize it is late.

We didn’t get home until almost sunrise since he stopped at Wal-Mart for cleaning supplies on the way back.

When he went into the store, he put me in the back seat, telling me to get some sleep, and I obeyed. I was exhausted.

Besides, it’s not like I could have escaped. I was locked in the back of a police car and wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet. Who would have believed me if I screamed for help?

Not a soul.

When he came back out to the car, he mentioned he picked up a few things for me. Some shoes, and another pair of leggings, and a sweater. A bright green sweater that I put on right away. I didn't even take the tag off, first. 

I dozed again until we got home, and then…because I was so good and helpful and didn’t give him any trouble at all with Teedo, he let me have a shower and gave me another syringe full of that stuff. This time when he gave it to me, he wasn’t pissed off, so he didn’t need to punish me, and he just let me sleep, and it was amazing.

I wake up feeling like a new woman. It’s the middle of the day. I slept through breakfast. We both slept through, I think. Kylo watches me.

I stretch, gingerly, because my whole body hurts.

My arm throbs from the blow torch burn and the rest of me feels like I’ve been stretched on the rack. My joints ache and my tongue stings and my jaw is sore.

And my mouth is dry as motherfucking cotton.

“Water?” I rasp. My throat hurts, and I can’t figure out why.

Kylo leans back and reaches for a glass of water on the nightstand, sitting me up and helping me drink it so I don’t spill all over the bed. My hands are a bit shaky.

I gulp it down, and I feel much better, but weird, kind of hollow. I realize it’s the lack of heroin in my system making me feel so empty.

Kylo calls in sick from work again. He called in sick yesterday too, so he could wait nearby for me to try to escape. 

But today he needs to take care of the Teedo mess, and he gives me another treat. This time I stretch out my arm eagerly and let him make another little hole with the needle and then I lie on the sofa, which he’d pushed to the other side of the room. I watch him.

He’s only wearing jeans and gloves, no shirt, and I’m struck once again at his physical build, the leashed power in those rippling muscles. 

I spend most of the day sleeping and high while he rips up the living room carpet and finishes cleaning the remainder of Teedo from the walls and floors.

He’s really quite something, all psychopathic tendencies aside.

“Can you believe we've had fucking hardwood floors underneath this carpet all this time?” I hear him mutter in amazement.

I doze.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight – Contention

con·ten·tion | \ kən-ˈten(t)-shən \

Definition of contention

1: a point advanced or maintained in a debate or argument; It is his contention that allowing a casino to be built would not be in the best interests of the city.

2: an act or instance of contending; He has taken himself out of contention for the directorship.

3: RIVALRY, COMPETITION

 


 

Turns out heroin makes a rather fantastic love potion.

And just like every movie or book you’ve ever read, when a love potion is introduced and reality inevitably intrudes, the illusion ends. Rather badly.

Things don’t turn out so great when the supplier of said potion begins to restrict the potion supply and affections begin to wane.

It’s been months, and I greet Kylo enthusiastically every night when he gets home from work. I’m still wearing the stupid ankle monitoring bracelet, but I haven’t stepped out of line once since Game Night.

Getting Kylo to kill Teedo for me marked a real turning point in our relationship.

I mean, obviously, the other thing that happened that day – my rather unconventional initiation into my new religion – plays a large role in my current predicament.

Obviously, yeah.

I think about it all the damn time, actually. And with increasing paranoia.

I think Kylo is starting to pick up on the fact I might be more than a little in love with heroin. I think he’s regretting ever giving it to me in the first place.

I think he’s…jealous of it.

And lately, Kylo’s been mentioning how I should cut back or quit. He keeps bringing up us having kids, and I just can’t think about any of that. Part of me knows I need to stop this insanity eventually, that it’s slowly killing me, but I’m not ready, yet.

I’m having a harder and harder time concealing my desperation for him not to take it away.

So, I’m doing everything I can to maintain normalcy in this bizarre existence, even though all of it is so fucking dysfunctional.

I’m doing more and more to keep him happy, doing whatever he wants and letting him do stuff to me, too. I don’t care. He thinks we are in love, and maybe we are, who am I to know any better?

Rose used to talk about the suburbs, the happy little couples and their happy little fronts, and how what happens behind closed doors is very different from what people present to the world.

Shit, for all I know, every neighbor on this cul-de-sac is a pathetic smackhead being held captive by a murderous psychopath and just doing her best to survive another day.

And while I am almost certain Kylo has absolutely zero ability to feel any kind of real human affection, his own twisted brand of it has been pleasant enough, so long as I continue to be his compliant little fucktoy, so long as I play mommy to his daddy and let him bring home the bacon.

And by bacon, I mean smack.

Right now? Right now, I need him, can’t survive without him. I need him for one thing, the only thing that makes me happy and keeps me calm and helps me deal with the morally dubious reality that I’ve set up house with a dirty cop serial killer who is also a rather powerful and dangerous drug dealer, apparently.

We do have a semblance of a home, now. Although it could be nicer.

If you’ve ever been inside a drug dealer’s house, you might notice a conspicuous lack of homey comforts. Things like furniture and decorations tend to be utilitarian if they exist at all. It’s all about priorities, right?

Most dealers spend their time working the streets, and Kylo is no exception. And in his case, I think the idea of decorating and personalizing the space is a rather foreign concept.

But one of these days I’m going to talk him into redoing the house, maybe getting some nicer stuff, refinishing the gorgeous hardwood floors running through most of the house.

I just don’t have any energy and he’s busy anyway.

When he isn’t doing actual police work, which I still can’t even imagine, to be honest, Kylo spends his days driving around selling drugs.

We’ve settled into a routine that mimics the most banal of sitcoms. Kylo has been on a real Charles in Charge kick lately, which is absurd, but whatever.

I don’t give two wild fucks what we watch, so long as I’m shot up with the best of the best stuff Kylo can get his hands on.

And he can get his hands on some pretty damn good shit.

He assures me it is the highest-grade, top-quality H, the very best available, and I feel somewhat relieved. I know they cut heroin with laundry detergent or powdered milk or rat poison or whatever, but supposedly my stuff is the good stuff.

That other stuff, that low-grade black tar shit, is for desperate little punks who wouldn’t know the difference anyhow.

That’s what Kylo tells me.

I believe him.

But because it’s so pure? It packs a punch. So, when I ask for more because I’ve built up some resistance to the effects, Kylo is stingy as fuck about it.

Kylo wants me to cut back, and logically I know it makes sense, even though he thinks I’m worse off than I really am.

I mean. I’m not really hooked-hooked. I can stop whenever. I just don’t want to right now.

Besides, I wasn’t really expecting this little deviation to interfere with my grand scheme of gaining Kylo’s trust and killing him and escaping. Plans change. And these days my plans constantly evolve, shifting like desert sands, as I consider how to monopolize on what Kylo can do for me before I finish him off.

I mean. I wouldn’t be sad to get rid of him and end up with a shitload of cash at the end of all this. And if I can get my hands on a big enough stash, I can wean myself off the drugs slowly. Preferably on a tropical beach somewhere.

From the way he’s been talking, I feel like Kylo's got money and drugs stashed away somewhere. Not here at the house, that would be idiotic, and Kylo’s no fool. But somewhere. 

And he told me he has a Plan, a big one. If he can pull it off, he says we’ll be set for life.

He's waiting for the right time, so, in the meantime, I spend my days watching TV or sleeping or reading the paperback novels he picks up for me from time-to-time or high and wondering what I’m going to do with my life and how I’m going to kill him or if I even want to anymore.

We haven’t had company since Game Night, so I haven’t had an opportunity to take out another one of his buddies, yet. I figure if Kylo gets crazy-jealous enough, though, he could take on at least three of those guys single-handed. But I can’t risk him getting killed, too, or anyone left alive would murder me on the spot.

I need to think about it. Later.

I look at the puny hit he’s left me for the day, sitting next to a mud-colored prenatal vitamin that I dutifully swallow because it probably doesn’t hurt. I feel like Kylo can tell I’m lying when I say I took my vitamin, but I really didn't.  

Besides, Kylo is so good to me, I think fondly. The now-familiar sting in my arm melts into a floaty-flying sensation of the first rush.

Kylo. He gives me everything. A place to live, food, water, light.

I will even have a job of sorts, so I can help him make money for us.

That’s right. He’s working on something big. Something important.

He tells me when we are done with this Big Thing, we’ll be set. That’s what he says, we’ll be set. We can start over, leave this crummy, boring town and go anywhere we want.

He still wants kids and I don’t really care anymore.

Someday we might have a family, which would be okay, I guess. Rose told him I always wanted one, and she wasn’t wrong. Someday that might be nice.

But, for now, I pretty much live for one purpose.

I stumble out to the living room and flop onto the couch so I can wait like a good girl until he comes home and brings me my next treat.

The walls and door and floors and ceiling spin and flex around me.

I stare at the door until the spinning stops, knowing I can’t ever, ever go outside or leave him, or he says he will find me and make me wish I was dead.

And I don’t want to die. Not when I have something to live for.

 

He was right when he said I’d be converted.

He was right when he promised I would bow down and worship him every night. I will. I do. I would crawl naked on my hands and knees over broken glass and rusty nails to get to him.

To what he brings home every night.

My little treat.

My breaths and thoughts synchronize, and I stare unblinking at the door, waiting.

I need it.

Inhale.

I need it.

Exhale.

I need it so fucking much.

Inhale, exhale. Breathe.

He’ll be home soon.

Just a little while longer. A little longer, a little bit longer, little longer whatifhedoesn’tcomehome?

My breathing is all fucked up and I can’t catch my fucking breath. My leg won’t stop bouncing up and down, agitation and worry vibrating through me as I try not to consider the impossible.

If he doesn’t come home soon, I’m going to lose it.

…I can’t go outside, not ever ever ever. No. I can’t ever, ever leave.

I need it IneeditIneeditneeditneedit

If I don’t get it…I’ll die. Tears spring into my eyes at the thought of dying without having one last taste…

I need it.

I can feel the need.

The need crawls under my skin like cockroaches. I can feel their tiny little legs and wings and antennae brushing against the fine hairs on my arms and where is he?

They’ll start biting soon if I don’t get what I need.

I rub the long sleeves of my shirt over my arms like a person who is cold. I am not cold, but I am shivering and itchy and it hurts to think. It hurts to breathe.

Where is he?

Panic skitters over my arms and I’d claw and scratch if I could, but Kylo doesn’t like it when I do that, and if I upset him or make him mad, he’ll take it away and I can’t –

I try to concentrate. I can hear my heartbeat thumping in my ears and I vaguely wonder if I am going to have a heart attack.

No. I’m fine. I’m okay. Every kid who ever lived through a public-school anti-drug campaign is taught drugs will kill them. But that’s just scare-tactic bullshit spouted by losers who don’t want to expand their minds and become what they are meant to be.

They don’t know. They weren’t talking about my stuff. I only use the best of the best. Kylo wouldn’t give me the stuff that kills. Not that black tar filth.

I’m fine. I’m okay.

I just need Kylo to get here soon.

I look at the plate of food he left for me. I haven’t touched it, don’t want to, not hungry.

He will probably say something about it when he gets home. He says I’m getting too skinny and it isn’t healthy, and I need to eat more.

Kylo tries to make me eat sometimes, but then I get sick and throw it all up.

I stare at the door and wait.

 

“When was the last time you used? First thing this morning? Or did you wait like I told you to?” he grunts, arms around me to help me chop tomatoes.

He finally got home, a half-hour late because he stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up toilet paper and toothpaste and a fucking baby blanket of all things. I’m nearly jumping out of my own skin with excitement and irritation by the time I hear the rattle of keys at the back door.

He noticed right off I didn’t eat today, and he insists we have dinner before I get my thing. So, I'm helping to cook, and maybe speed things along.

“Morning,” I snap rather waspishly. “You didn’t leave me hardly any, either. It was barely enough to feel anything.”

“Baby, we talked about this. You need to cut back.”

He’s still hell-bent on the kid thing, if that goddamned baby blanket is any indication.

We’ve had so much unprotected sex, it’s unbelievable he hasn’t knocked me up yet. I think I might be barren, or maybe it's his fault, although heaven forbid I mention that idea. Even under the influence of hard drugs, I know better than to suggest he might be sterile.

But, God, can you imagine what our poor baby would have to deal with? A junkie for a mother and a monster for a father?

I still get my period, although it’s just been light spotting lately. My period is probably just being weird because of everything my body’s been through.

“I…don’t even know if I can get pregnant,” I remind him. I’m surly. I don’t want to wait for dinner.

He’s grown very still behind me, standing at the kitchen counter. I want to move the conversation along so we can address the only thing I care about. He starts kissing the side of my neck, and I try to focus on chopping tomatoes and not slicing off a finger.

Fuck. He’s always fucking smothering me, and I want to shrug him off. My hands are fucking shaking, not that he fucking cares. I need my shit.

“Where’s my stuff?” I ask, impatient to get on with it.

He pauses again, going very still, and my instincts flare up to full alert. I turn in his arms, leaning back against the counter. His hands rest gently on my shoulders.

He’s looking down his nose at me, and he’s gone all sullen and hard to read. Dammit.

I’m still holding the knife as understanding dawns.

No. Nonono fucking way. Not now. I’m not ready.

“Where is it?” I ask again, an edge of sharp panic tinging my voice.

“Not tonight.” He narrows his eyes and suddenly I am outraged. I’ve been waiting all fucking day.

“What do you mean? Not tonight? Why not?” My voice is getting louder, but I can’t seem to control it.

“Because. I think you’re done, that’s why.”

Done? Like? Just quitting cold turkey? Tonight? Now? No.

Fuck that noise. “No! What?! No. You fucking asshole! You’re not even gonna give me time to…?”

“Watch your fuckin’ mouth.” Something dangerous flashes in his eyes, and I should try to be careful, but I don’t fucking care.

“Ha! Watch yours!” I bellow. I’m pissed. This is not okay. I need my shit, and now what am I supposed to do?

“Watch your fucking sass, Rey, or I’m gonna put your lights out. I mean it,” he snarls.  

My hand lashes out before I can stop myself and he dodges in the nick of time, but not quite quick enough. I watch as a thin line of red appears on his forehead and cheek and I belatedly realize I just attacked him.

Oh, shit. I probably didn’t think that though.  

Have you ever just done something so incredibly stupid you can only stare at the results and gape instead of running for it? It’s like the time I lit a firecracker, and instead of running as soon as the fuse sparked, I just stood there and let it blow up in my face. I'm lucky it didn't kill me, not that it matters now.

His nostrils flare and the grip on my arms goes from gentle to vicious in point-three seconds. And then he head-butts me and everything goes black.

I think only a few minutes pass because when I wake, I am smashed against the kitchen floor and my head feels like it is splitting open. There’s blood all over the place and he’s lying on top of me.

I can see the edge of the knife out of the corner of my eye and my stomach clenches.

“Wake up, baby girl,” he coos, shaking my head by a fistful of hair. “You almost took my eye out, bitch. I’m so going to make you pay for that.”

 

He did make sure I paid for it. And by the time he was done making sure, I was positive I would never, ever lash out at him again.

That was the day I quit using heroin, and I spent the next two weeks handcuffed to the bed in the front bedroom again.

He had to cuff me facedown this time, because of what he’d done to my back. The scars had to heal, and he was real worried about infection for a while.

That pain did nothing to distract from the withdrawals, though.

Anyone who says heroin withdrawals aren’t that bad can fuck right off.

He left me alone for most of it, except to clean up my vomit and make sure I was hydrated and even going so far as to make homemade bone broth from scratch and feed me spoonfuls of it every few hours those first few days, telling me dehydration was the biggest concern with detox.

I begged him to kill me and even tried to taunt him into it, but he would just shake his head and mutter, “Nobody leaves me until I say.”

He didn't kill me, much to my annoyance, but every time I noticed the butterfly bandages over his eyebrow and on his cheek, it made me feel a tiny bit better.

I had a lot of time to think things through.

At one point I realized he’d not been to work for a while, and he told me he’d taken an extended leave of absence.

I asked him if he still had "big plans," and he surprisingly replied with a, “Yeah, honey. Big plans. Just gotta wait until you’re all better, then you can help me. Then we’ll be set.”

I don’t like to think about those days.

But they are in the past, and Kylo told me I should let the past die.

I’m trying to kill it, but it’s hard to do under the weight of hopeless apathy.

I don’t really have anything to live for anymore. 

Funny how all that can change in just a few short hours.

 

I’m home alone for the first time in weeks, my ankle monitoring bracelet in place again.

He has left me the run of the house now, except for the kitchen, per the old rules. I'm fine with it. 

Somehow, we both know I’m not planning on going anywhere.

He’s gone to the store, and I’ve promised for the umpteenth time I’m feeling much better.

I am. I mean. Relatively speaking.

I still kind of want to shoot up all the time, but with the poison finally out of my system, I know with all clarity how bad that would be. Kylo tells me the battle is all mental now and I have to fight myself from snapping at him to shut the fuck up. This is his fault.

I hear his car pull out of the driveway and I go into the bathroom. Maybe I’ll take a shower and kill some time until he gets back.

I strip out of my leggings and t-shirt and turn to view my back in the bathroom mirror. The sight greeting me is not pretty.

Cut into the flesh from shoulder to shoulder are the words that mark me as his.

I swallow an unexpected surge of bile at the sight. The cuts have scabbed over and will leave scars, but they are healing well.

I turn around and take a hard look at myself. My dark brown hair hangs in lank tangles past my shoulders. When he took me, it was a chin-length bob, just long enough to pull into three buns in a row down the back of my head. It’s much longer, now.

I pull my hair away and notice the faint bite marks marring the side of my neck beneath the marks from his belt, also faint, but there.

He choked me with it. I swallow as I remember.

It was after I’d sliced open his face in the kitchen. I don’t want to think about that.

My eyes drift to my collarbone and ribs and without the clouding influence of heroin, I can see what he means about me being too skinny.

In fact, except for the strange swelling under my belly button, I’m downright waifish. I press my hand against the lump, wondering why I’m so bloated.

Maybe I’m due for a really bad period. I haven’t had one for…since…I can’t remember.

Maybe it’s cancer or something.

My hipbones poke out and I catch a glimpse of the track marks disfiguring the insides of each arm. There are more on the left arm since I am right-handed. I run a longing finger over the obscene little bumps before returning my attention to the mirror.

My eyes are hollow pits, with deep circles of purple shadowing them. My lips are pale, my cheeks sunken, skin waxy and sallow.

I’m not very cute right now, and I wonder why Kylo still likes to fuck me. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he is just waiting for me to die so he can get a new pet.

Someone not all fucked up like me.

That thought doesn’t make me feel very good, and I don’t want to dwell on it.

I hear the back door slam and I jump in surprise. Kylo’s back already? Did he forget his wallet?

I listen and realize I’m hearing more than one set of footsteps thumping through the house.

My pulse kicks up a notch.

Kylo didn’t say anything about visitors.

Before I can reach for a towel to cover myself and run for the safety of our bedroom, the bathroom door opens. A handsome red-headed man stares me up and down with a surprised, supercilious lift of his brow.

“Well, well, well…what have we here?” he drawls. The modulated crispness of his accent and meticulous grooming of his hair and clothing contrast rather frighteningly with the manic fanaticism glowing in his cold blue eyes.

He’s dangerous, Rey, and not in the way Kylo is.

If Kylo is violent and unpredictable, then this man with the slicked-back red hair is methodically cruel, his absolute control held ruthlessly in check by an icy calm that transcends anything I’ve ever encountered.

It’s terrifying.

Adrenaline starts pumping through me like diesel, a slow, steady stream of shaky, fiery panic. 

Not safe. Not safe. Get the fuck out of here.

He’s blocking the exit, and his upper lip curls back. He knows I want to run, and I can’t.

I can’t run. I need to make a stand.

“Who the fuck are you?” I snap, glancing down at my clothes on the floor. I want to cover myself, but I know if I try to do it now, it will only draw attention to my nudity, my vulnerability.

He advances into the small room, his smirk transforming into a malevolent sneer. He mutters confidentially, “I’m here to make sure your boyfriend knows not to let his personal…interests…interfere with orders from his boss…Mr. Snoke.”

He’s telling me way too much, part of me realizes. That means he doesn’t intend for me to make it out of this alive.

“Who the fuck are you?” he rejoins crisply. I clench my teeth together.

The man holds his arctic gaze on me as he barks over his shoulder to the others, “Make sure you boys destroy all Ren’s things so Snoke’s message gets across loud and clear.”

I try to muster some scrappy insolence, spitting, “Good thing Kylo doesn’t have much to destroy.”

He advances to stand behind me, and his eyes land on Kylo’s marks on my back. I cringe slightly as he sweeps my hair aside for a better look. Other than Kylo and Teedo’s very brief accost ages ago, I haven’t been touched by another human being for a very, very long time.

My stomach drops to my feet when the man with red hair whoops with laughter as he reads Kylo’s words, carved into me with all the rabid possessiveness of a furious child.

The man’s eyes meet mine in the mirror and he murmurs, “Oh? It seems Kylo might have something of value, after all. How fortunate am I? To have stumbled across his very favorite toy…”

 

By the time he comes home, I’m not sure I'm going to make it.

I’ve been lying semi-conscious on the floor for I don’t know how long. Time gets weird when you're being tortured. Every minute drags out and can feel like hours, even though logically I know they weren't here very long at all.

My left eye has nearly swollen shut, but I’m on my right side, so I can only see through the narrow slit.

I hear him come through the back door, the measured steps of his booted feet moving through the house.

My lips are both split and blood is crusting around my nose and pooling under my cheek. My throat is ruined from screaming. I’ve lost my voice. There’s no power behind it as I try to call out.

“Ben!” No sound comes forth, just bloody bubbles gurgling from my mouth.

I hear his long strides through the living room and down the hall. They halt abruptly, and I know he's found me huddled on the floor.

“…help,” I rasp. He’s not moving. I don’t know why, but I’m sure I look pretty bad.

Maybe not salvageable.

But I need him.

I watch the cautious approach of his boots and sense more than see him crouch next to me.

A large hand cups my face and turns my head.

“You alive, honey?”

I can’t see all that well, and I think I have less than minutes to warn him. It occurs to me this is the most important thing I will ever do. The most important words I will ever speak.

I can do this.

I can do this.

“Don’t leave me.”

He sighs, strangely calm. "Was it Hux?"

“Red hair…and…company…from…g-g-game…night…” I wheeze. I hope he understands what I mean, who I’m talking about. I think my rib is cracked. Maybe a couple. “...they…thought…I’d be…dead...want you to...try...”

I feel a sharp sting as he pulls the needle from my arm and I break into uncontrollable, bone-wracking shivers of relief and simultaneous want.

With the needle away, I’m stronger, but fading fast. I gasp, “Snoke…message…”

I need him to listen. I really really don’t want to die, and I think I’m close. If he gives up on me and goes off on some vengeance spree now, they'll be waiting for him and I'll die here.

“Help me...”

He’s very quiet. Very still.

A sudden, violent cramp unlike anything I’ve ever felt before lurches up and out of me and I vomit all over the floor, retching up an endless string of thick mucus, slimy with bile and other filth, a disgusting remnant of what they did.

Another surge hits harder, and this time daggers of pain rip through my belly.

I wonder briefly if Ben pulled a knife and is gutting me, expediting my death. Maybe he’s decided it will be easier to let me go and start anew.

But no, he’s holding me, gently turning me to the side so I can finish being sick.

I scream in silent agony as he inadvertently touches my back, beneath the half-healed cuts he’d made weeks ago.

He pulls his hand away, slippery with blood, and rolls me more, so he can view the new cuts made by the red-haired man.

I hear him whisper, “Hux was here,” and a shockwave trembles through him and into me.

Another blade of agony tears into my abdomen, and a hot, sticky gush floods between my legs.

“What…is happening?” I gasp helplessly, groping at him.

“Fuck.” Ben spits the word and shifts from a crouch to a kneel.

“Ben…what?” Waves of dizziness flow over me, and I’m losing the fight to stay awake.

What is happening to me?

He lifts me into his arms, and I can feel my consciousness fade. But not before I hear it. 

Something crunches under his boot, and I know what it is. The sound of finality, a breaking point.

A syringe loaded with enough horse to put me in the ground for good. Hux left it there, stuck in my arm. All I had to do was push the plunger down.

But I didn’t.

And now, there’s no turning back.

My last thought before blacking out on a searing wave of pain is maybe I should have taken up Hux on his final offer after all.


 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine – Collusion

col·lu·sion | \ kə-ˈlü-zhən \

Definition of collusion

secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose; acting in collusion with the enemy


 

I understand, now. I understand why people go dark and do things that seem crazy and unjustified and irrational to normal citizens.

I remember pain, but it is a vague and hazy thing compared to what I know now.

I didn’t know I was pregnant. That hurt. Losing something I didn’t know I had, something precious and eternal.

But it hurt more to wait to die, knowing that vile piece of shit Hux had carved his name into me. I don’t belong to him.

I belong to one person, and that’s it. I’ve decided. And he belongs to me, too.

I asked Ben to burn the scars away, told him to take the blow torch to me again. He shook his head no and told me to rest, said I needed to sleep and heal and then, when I was better, I could most definitely help him annihilate those animals who attacked me.

I wonder if the irony is lost on him, but I don’t really care. He has promised not to leave me, sworn he won’t go after them until I’m all better.

I believe him.

I sleep, but not peacefully.

When I sleep, I dream.

I remember the red-haired man the most. Hux.

He was the worst of them. By far.

I did try to fight him off. But if Kylo taught me anything, it is one thing. It is pointless to fight.

Hux doesn't give a shit that he is trespassing, that he will surely set into motion an unstoppable beast by violating something of Kylo’s. He simply grabs me by the hair and drags me to the front bedroom.

Adrenaline belatedly kicks in and I try to kick him in the balls. But I am so weak and pathetically easy to subdue.

He catches my foot and runs an appraising eye over me, landing significantly on my belly.

“You can fight. But if you do, I’ll cut that spawn out of you myself.”

What?

I stare at him blankly for a minute and don’t have time to process what he means because he’s pulling a wicked-looking knife and promising to give me set of scars to match Kylo’s.

I am standing in front of a door, and I’m wearing a fur coat.

The fur coat from the shop.

I rather miss my musty little shop and I wonder what happened to my crystal ball and the fringed shawl and the fur coat.

No wait.

I never had a fur coat. Did I?

Did you know they make fur coats out of little baby animals?

But Kylo’s talking, telling me not to worry about it, and his hand dips under my t-shirt and he tells me to get on my knees and maybe he’ll give me a little extra something tonight.

I don’t waste an instant waiting.

 

I fade in and out of wakefulness as large gentle hands prod at me or sponge me down or coax me to drink from a straw, always with the promise of just a little more and then I can rest again.

Hux was here.

He’d carved it into me after raping me quite brutally, not bothering to lube up as Kylo usually did, even though the lube bottle was right fucking there.

Then he’d invited his accomplices to use me as their own personal cum dumpster, forcing my mouth open and squeezing my nose and when I still refused to open, pinching my breasts until I screamed so they could all take turns.

I’d blacked out for a lot of it, but I could tell by the lingering aches in some very conspicuous places they’d done a very thorough job of using me.

The rest of the house was meticulously and methodically thrashed, as well. They smashed holes in the walls, ripped cupboard doors from hinges, shredded blinds and defiled every stick of furniture, even pissing and shitting everywhere. Animals. 

But Hux’s parting gift will be his ultimate downfall.

His pride will be the thing that ends him, his utter surety I wouldn’t be able to resist temptation.

He left me a loaded syringe and full use of my hands.

All I'd had to do was shoot it up and I’d be dead.

That’s what he’d been hoping for. That’s what he’d been counting on.

As it happens, that needle was the one sign Ben needed, the sole proof, the singular evidence to show him what he needed to see. He trusts me now.

I’d turned. And I needed him.

He likes this, me needing him.

And I will stand with him. I am stronger than I knew, even if I didn’t understand at the time.

 

I can’t remember what happened after Ben picked me up and tried to put me to bed in our room, other than he couldn’t put me in there because someone had pissed and shit all over it.

And the other bed had been covered in blood and filth from…everything else. And they’d destroyed the couch.

I ask him about it, a few days later. It still hurts to talk, but I am curious.

“Where are we?”

“Old lady Holdo’s until I get the house cleaned up. ‘Cross the street. She’s on vacation until the week after next, remember?”

I sort of recall him mentioning he was watering her plants or doing some neighborly favor.

He’s uncharacteristically sober, and I'm feeling more alert than I have for a while. We haven't spoken much about...everything, but he’s a cop. I am sure he was pretty well able to ascertain what had happened.

He says he doesn’t blame me, but he’s watching me with this dark expression, and I’m scared. He’s looking at me like I still might die.

“Ben? Will you tell me what happened? After you found me?” I am not scared to talk, now. He won’t kill me, not after putting in so much effort to keep me alive.

And I need to know.

“I came in through the back, had an armful of groceries. The table was smashed, and it smelled bad, like shit. At first, I wondered if you’d done it, but I didn’t get an alert from the ankle monitor. I figured the only people who it could have been would have been Hux and his thugs – the guys who came over that night? You told me it was 'company' and I knew. They’re just lackeys for Snoke, but not loyal. Helped me with my side dealing. But, somebody must have talked, turned the lot of them against me…Anyhow, when I found you on the floor you looked dead. There was a needle hangin’ out of your arm, and I didn’t realize you hadn’t…I thought you’d died, and then you tried to warn me.”

I’d called him Ben. Not Kylo.

“Ben is your real name,” I say softly. But he's lost in that day's memories, still talking. 

“You were still alive, and I couldn’t understand how that was possible. I noticed the needle was still loaded. I didn’t know what would keep you from doing it. Why you wouldn’t have done it. When just weeks before you were begging me to kill you. Why you wanted to live all of a sudden.”

“Well. The heroin withdrawals were pretty bad. I kinda did want to die. Then,” I remind him. It's true.

“You were just sort of like a robot after kicking the horse, and I kept waiting for you to finally tell me the good news, about the baby. Kind of hoping you would notice…”

I suddenly realize I’m not wearing the ankle monitor. I mention it. How it makes me feel...strangely alone.

"You're not alone," he tells me gruffly.

I am in a very weird headspace right now, wanting to reassure him. Nevertheless, I lift my hand to him. He takes it and I tell him sincerely, "Neither are you."

He nods, accepting my hand with a squeeze. We sit for a few minutes. 

“You don’t need that ankle bracelet anymore, honey. You and me, we gotta stick together, now. See this through. I know you won’t run off.”

I won’t. I need him to help me, and he needs…he just needs me, I think.

Maybe it’s weird and twisted and sick. But I’m starting to wonder if maybe he just needs someone to tell him what to do.

Maybe it makes me one of the bad guys. But. I think there's good in him, still. 

“I need to learn how to use a gun.”

He hums, deep in thought.

“Will you teach me?”

“Sure, honey. I’ll teach you everything I know.” A smile breaks over his face, and I forget he's a monster. Just for a minute.

 

It’s been another week, and I’m more conscious now. He’s moved me from Holdo’s spare bedroom back to the small bedroom at home.

“Why didn’t you do it?” he asks quietly, staring at the spot on my arm where Hux’s needle was.

I take another shaky bite of soup, still not totally able to feed myself very well, but willing to push it. I need to get better. Stronger.

“You said nobody leaves you until you say.” I don’t know what kind of an answer that is, not really. It doesn’t do a thing to convey how close I came to doing it, to ending everything.

But somehow, Kylo’s lesson was stronger than my will to die.

Nobody leaves me until I say.

He nods.

We stare at each other for a moment, and it is another one of those surreal connections, like we can both see into each other’s heads for the briefest of eternities.

It reminds me very strongly of the day he took me, right before he actually took me. Right in this very room.

The boards have been taken down off the windows, and sunlight streams in through the blinds. I’m lying on a different bed, a small one. Twin size, he calls it. The other bed and the nightstand and even the little bottle of lube are all in the past, destroyed.

“Why did you beg me not to leave you?” he asks. Something…human flickers behind his eyes.

“I didn’t want to die.” I tell him the honest truth, but not all of it.

“You chose to stay. With me. You didn’t have to.”

I nod. It’s true.

Before I can explore that line of thinking too far, I ask, “I heard another person’s voice. After…”

He nods. “My uncle. Luke.”

“…why?”

Ben’s mouth works into a pursing of lips and a puff of air. “He was a doctor, a long time ago. And later, a priest. I figured if he couldn’t help you, he could give you last rites. And…”

“And?” I prompt. He’s never spoken of religion before, other than in metaphorical context. It occurs to me the thing I am seeing in his eyes is grief. Pain.

How strange.

He clears his throat and takes my spoon in hand to feed me while the soup is still warm. “You didn’t know, did you?”

“Know what?”

“You were pregnant.”

“I didn’t,” I whisper. I want to apologize, I feel horribly guilty for some reason. Shame washes through me as I wonder. If I had fought harder…if…

My hand snaps to my belly. The hard lump under my belly button is gone, the flesh beneath soft. Empty.

I look at him.

“I thought…you would figure it out…months ago,” he mutters. “Why I wanted to get you off the horse…”

Ah. That explains the baby blanket and the constant nagging about my little habit.

I shake my head. “I didn’t know.”

“I know you’re not lying,” he assures me. “You were too surprised when it…when it happened.”

“I was getting my period for ages,” I remind him, trying to allay my guilt with justification.

“Yeah. Spotting. Common in the first trimester. I read about it online.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” I finally ask.

“I thought…you’d figure it out on your own…I thought…I tried to hint.” He sounds guilty now, and this is another new thing to see on his face.

“How…far along? Do you think I was?”

His hollow eyes bore into mine. “Around five months, Luke thought.”

Oh. Five. That's...oh.

I don’t know what to think about that.

“Could you tell…if it was a boy or a girl?” I ask hesitantly.

His mouth moves around like he’s rolling the answer on the flat of his tongue before telling me.

Finally, he murmurs, “…a girl…”

“Are you sure?” I ask. I need to know.

He nods. He watches me. “I, um, tried to baptize her before Luke got here. Tried to remember how…from…church…”

I shake my head. I don’t know much about religion, but the thought of him trying to baptize our dead baby is enough to send a hot rush of anguish prickling behind my eyes.

“Why?” My voice is getting all shaky and scratchy. I’m not hungry anymore, but I take a bite of the soup he holds for me. I need to get better.

“Uh, so she doesn’t go to Limbo…” he mutters.

“What’s Limbo?” I ask, confused.

“It’s, um, like, the edge of Hell. Where unbaptized babies go. It’s…a Catholic thing…some Catholics believe…” I’ve never seen him fumble for an answer before.

“Where is she?” Hot tears are streaming down my face and I have no idea why or how to make it stop. "Where did you...put her?"

“With Rose. I thought…thought you’d be okay with that.”

I nod.

Good.

And then it hits me all at once.

I had a daughter.

And now I don’t have anything.

No.

That’s not true.

A coal of burning rage ignites in the pit of my gut, a need for vengeance so overpowering, so deep, I am once again reminded why I fought so hard to survive.

I do have something. I have rage. Pure and holy wrath.

I look at Ben.

I realize I also have him, a real, live monster, if only I can figure out how to get him to heel… and maybe teach him how to attack on demand.

 

I spend most of the next month in the front bedroom, getting better. Except at night. Ben carries me to his new, big bed every night and holds me when the nightmares come.

I can finally get up on my own to use the bathroom, and thankfully I’ve finally stopped bleeding.

We talked about me being on birth control, and Ben brought me birth control pills, agreeing that until we settle things with Snoke we should not try to have kids.

Is this insane? Am I crazy for making long-term plans like this? With Ben Solo? The horrible monster?

Maybe.

Or maybe he was right all along. Maybe I just needed to come around to his way of thinking, get used to the idea.

Although some days, believe me, I still want to kill him. But more in the way of, “Oh! Ben bought milk instead of half-and-half again, and I could just murder him.”

He’s gone back to work part-time, which he says is part of his Plan.

When he isn’t working, he spends his spare time refinishing the floors and repairing fixtures and plastering and painting. The kitchen is getting a full remodel, and he brings home take out and magazines about remodeling and we sit together and pore over them like excited kids.

He also returned to work for Snoke, of all things.

When he told me he was doing it, I was shocked at first. Pissed off. But then he explained why, and I knew it was the right thing to do.

Snoke will never see us coming.

He finally told me why they’d come after him, and I discovered my earlier suspicions were right. He’s been skimming, skimming a lot, and upping prices and pocketing the difference, not to mention all the H he stole to feed my habit.

He’s got almost three-quarters of a million in cash stashed somewhere safe. And a full pound of pure, uncut Hosnian Prime, the very best, most sought-after H on the market.

I vacillate between thinking about the cash and the heroin in equal amounts, but I really should try to stop thinking about that heroin. I can’t do withdrawals again. And Ben’s plan is solid. If he can cut it and deal it on the side, or find a buyer who can take the whole brick off our hands, we will add a good-sized chunk of change to our stockpile of cash.

Everything is ours, now. He refers to the house, the money, the Plan, all ours.

I’ve never had anything to share with anyone, and I asked him once what I’m bringing to the table. He just shook his head and told me not to be an idiot.

I just smiled back and told him thank you.

 

Sex for the first time after…does not go the way I thought it would.

It's been over a month since I've been able to get up and move around, taking more of a hand in housework and decorating. 

So far we have had this sort of unspoken agreement that I need to heal. There's no point in him breaking his toy all over again, not after all this trouble we went through to fix it. I'm struck with surprise at his patience, though. I know he can take whatever he wants and he is a horny guy who, up until I was attacked, was used to having sex on a regular basis.

So, this throws me off.

I don’t know how to handle it when he’s not on the constant verge of unleashing his temper on me. I'm getting used to it, but I still don’t mention he’s a serial killer or rapist because I don’t think he’d find that funny.

And I don’t think he sees himself that way.

Of course, I never thought of myself as the kind of girl who would get off less than twelve inches from a dead body, so…what do I know?

With the threat of me leaving him out of the way, his hostile possessiveness has all but vanished. He’s back to being the sweet, gentle person I’d glimpsed in the weeks before that day he blowtorched my arm. And got me hooked on H. And started me down the path of insanity that would bring us to where we are now.

But, insanity aside, he saved my life, did his best to do right by me and the baby as far as spiritual afterlife shit, and is spending an unbelievable amount of time and money to fix up the house so it doesn’t look like a drug lord bachelor lives here.

Half the kitchen is torn up, but the sink is in, and it’s gorgeous, a big farmhouse sink with an extra spout for boiling-hot water, and I adore it.

I can go in there anytime I want and have as much water as I want. And Ben brings home fancy tea for me to try, and I can have as much of that as I want, too.

We have a new dresser, and I have clothes. Cute clothes that aren't all from the clearance rack at Wal-Mart. 

I still prefer to hang out in our room when he’s at work, sleeping or reading or daydreaming. Going outside makes me nervous, although Ben assures me he trusts me.

Anyhow, I’m washing up a few random dishes from breakfast and lunch, since we’ve been living out of boxes until the cupboards are installed, when I hear Ben’s car in the driveway, way earlier than I’d been expecting.

Part of me jumps in panic. What if it isn’t him?

But then I remember what to do.

I hustle for the bedroom, for the gun in the top drawer. Ben showed me how to use it, although I’ve never shot it before.

I grab it and check it and turn off the safety, and then I hear him calling for me, and I realize it’s fine.

I put the gun away and run out the back door. To my startled and initial unpleasant surprise, Ben has a bound and gagged person cowering in front of him. A familiar set of eyes glares at me. 

Spikes.

“Hey, baby,” Ben says, kicking Spikes in the back of the knee so he drops like a rock. Spikes' kneecaps hitting the pavers of the walkway make a rather satisfying crunch. Ben grips his hair viciously, jerking his head so hard I hear his neck crack. “Is this one of the pieces of shit who attacked you?”

It is, as a matter of fact.

I see the panic in his eyes as he recognizes me. I probably look different now, nicer than I did the last couple times we met.

Spikes is trying to talk around the gag, and I don’t feel too sorry about marching up to punch him in the face. My knuckles sting, but I think I broke his nose.

“Yep. Thought so.” Ben takes that as confirmation and he twists the man’s arms into an unnatural contortion while his prisoner yowls in agony. “Baby, go get the keys to my toolshed and unlock it for me.”

I blink for one whole second before sprinting for Ben’s keys, hanging on a lanyard by the back door.

I was starting to think I’d never see this side of him again. But apparently Monster Ben is alive and well, just not pissed off at me for a change. It's kind of nice. 

I run back outside, and Ben is dragging Spikes to the back toolshed by his hair. Spikes has been rather efficiently zip-tied but is doing his very best to fight. I am having a really hard time mustering any sympathetic feelings for his predicament.

Having been on the receiving end of Ben’s particular brand of punishment, I have a feeling Spikes is about to enter a whole new world of agony.

I unlock the toolshed, speechless and rather stunned.

Ben hauls the man inside, casually slamming his head against the edge of the workbench hard enough to knock him out.

Spikes flops to the ground, out cold, and Ben flashes me a smile. “It’s our anniversary. So, I brought you a present.”

My mouth gapes open and closed. Ben reminds me of nothing so much as a proud little boy bringing home a garden snake to show his mother.

Part of me is in a bit of shock. Our anniversary? Like…really?

Another part of me is fighting a bit of terror at the sight of one of my attackers. I am not sure I was ready to see him so soon. 

My eyes fly from Spikes, motionless on the ground, to Ben’s snapping black gaze.

He’s watching me. Waiting. He prompts, “I…can kill him for you…if you want?” 

I take a deep breath. I nod. I do want.

“Yeah. I think you should kill him,” I agree. 

His beautifully-sculpted lips curl into a panty-dropping smile. “Okay, then.”

Spikes is starting to stir, and I figure I should leave Ben to it.

I’m not sure I want to stick around and watch what happens next…because that would be weird, right? 

Yeah. That would be weird. Ben is the psychopath, not me.

“Ben, I didn’t realize it was our anniversary…I’m going to go in and make dinner…while you…take care of this. What sounds good?”

He ponders for a minute. “Ummm. Bruschetta? And a salad?”

I was rather hoping for a big, fat, greasy lasagna from the freezer, but he did just bring me a present.

"Okay. Sounds good."

“Oh! And I brought a bottle of wine. It’s in the car,” Ben tells me.

Wine? Oh! Yes!

I haven't had wine in forever, and I fucking love wine.

Not like how I love heroin. But a lot.

On impulse I run forward and jump into his arms, planting a wet kiss on his cheek. He catches me and spins in a circle with a surprised chuckle.

Ben hums and kisses my mouth with increasing enthusiasm, as I realize we haven’t…done it…for a really long time…

“Ben…?”

“Hmmm?” he growls.

“Don’t be too long…”

Still holding me, he turns, and we stare down at Spikes for a few seconds.

Spikes is blinking awake, looking like a terrified little animal, and Ben mutters coldly, “Say bye-bye to D.J., baby.”

“Bye, D.J.”

Ben sets me down and I turn around, heading for the car to grab the wine before starting on dinner. But as I skip away, I overhear him say, “That little smack on the nose my girl gave ya is gonna be about the best thing you feel for the rest of the day...”

And later, when I hear the faint whine and squeal of Ben’s skill saw coming from the toolshed and a strangled scream abruptly cut off, I can only think of one thing.

Now there are five.

 

He finishes up after a couple of hours, and thankfully bruschetta is one of those things you can prep ahead of time and then throw together at the last minute.

I’m on our new sofa, this one not hideous and plaid, and I’m reading an article about cabinet hardware and munching on an apple when I hear the back door of the toolshed slam shut.

I grab the bath towel I have waiting and jump up and run outside before Ben comes in.

Because just like I knew he would be, he’s covered in blood. Head to toe. His face and hair are shiny with it.

I shake my head. “You can’t go inside like that.”

He stretches out his arms. “Like what? How am I supposed to clean up?”

“You look like you went to a Steven King prom…” I chide. “Strip down. I’ll hose you off first.”

He rolls his eyes but obediently bends to unlace his boots and shucks out of his blood-soaked t-shirt and jeans while I get the garden hose.

I feel a strange warmth at the sight of him in his boxers. I haven’t seen him this naked for a while.

His teeth are chattering by the time I’m done spraying him down, and I realize it’s getting chilly. But there is no fucking way he’s coming inside dripping blood all over the refinished antique hardwood floors. Nope. Not on my watch.

“Fuck, hurry up. I’m starving,” he grunts.

I give him one last spritz, just to be petty, although I am pretty sure I got the worst of the blood off him. He shakes like a big, scruffy hound dog, his gorgeous hair slicked back to showcase his heavy brow and sculpted cheekbones. His ears stick out rather noticeably with his hair wet like this, and for some reason, it’s fucking sexy as hell.

“Shower before food,” I tell him, tossing a towel at his head.

His eyes spark with heat and he mutters, “Only if you come in with me.”

And there it is. Just like that.

I want him.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten – Exploitation

 

ex·ploi·ta·tion | \ ˌek-ˌsplȯi-ˈtā-shən \

Definition of exploitation

an act or instance of exploiting; exploitation of natural resources; exploitation of immigrant laborers; clever exploitation of the system


exploit

verb

ex·ploit | \ ik-ˈsplȯit, ˈek-ˌsplȯit  \

exploitedexploitingexploits

Definition of exploit (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1: to make productive use of: UTILIZE; exploiting your talents; exploit your opponent's weakness

2: to make use of meanly or unfairly for one's own advantage


 

I’m nervous. Nervous as hell and having second thoughts.

Ben follows me into the house, prowling behind me like a bloodthirsty jaguar, primal hunger emanating from every pore in his skin. It’s making me jumpy, but I make my way through the house to the bathroom.

I still don’t like being naked in there, although maybe it won’t be so bad with Ben in here with me.

He’s just so big, he can take up all the space and maybe there will be no room to be afraid.

He follows me inside, and suddenly I’m not sure I want to go through with this.

I’m very sure he wants to when he strips off his wet boxers and I get a good look at his dick.

Fuck. He really has a nice one.

He catches me peeking and grits out, “Get over here.”

Pink water trickles from his hair and down his chest.

He turns on the shower, and I let him help me strip out of my clothes. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

He told me right after, when I was getting better…he said it’s a good thing I have small tits so I don’t need a bra, because that would be a real hassle around my scars. I’ve filled out a bit since then. The bruises are gone, and my ribs no longer feel like they are stabbing me with every breath.

He runs his gaze over me and licks his chops, sweeping a possessive hand over the sensitive tip of my breast.

“Let’s have a look,” he orders brusquely, spinning me around. I can see him in the mirror, inspecting me.

I feel a damp finger trace the words between my shoulders. His words.

“I marked you up real good, didn’t I?” he mutters. The heat of his hand moves lower, hovering just over those other marks. I still haven’t been able to talk him into burning them off me, but I think he will, eventually. If I pester him enough over it.

But I don’t want to think about that right now, so I turn and scoff, “Well. I marked you up, first.” I trace a finger over the pink scar over his eyebrow and his cheek, and his eyelids close at my touch.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him with his eyes closed…have I? I’m still wondering when he opens his eyes and glowers at me.

A thrill of fear races down my spine as I realize he’s still furious about it, me slicing his face open with a kitchen knife.

I’d briefly forgotten he’s a monster, and he's told me time and again he doesn’t like sass.

But he’s letting it slide, apparently, and now his hands are cupping around my rear, kneading my butt as he presses close, hungry in a way I’ve never seen him.

His tongue snakes into my mouth, sweeping along mine and I can taste a hint of metal.

No. Not metal. Blood.

I open more and let him invade, plunging my hands into his wet hair and squeezing, wringing a few watery-pink lines of blood-tainted water to trickle down my arms.

He lifts away from our kiss, and before I can stop him, he turns his head and licks the tinted water away.

“That’s disgusting,” I hiss, even as shivers tingle through me, all the way to the bottoms of my feet, at the hot, wet pressure of his tongue swiping over my skin.

I stand on tiptoe to kiss him again.

His teeth are sharp, almost painful, his kiss violent and messy.

He’s either out of practice kissing me or too horny to give a shit. I taste blood and water on his lips and make a tentative pass with my tongue, seeking more. He tastes…raw and wild, and suddenly that’s all I want.

He growls, low in the back of his throat, “…you like it, you twisted little bitch…”

I grab a handful of his hair and yank on it. “You’re the twisted one.”

“…maybe…but you and me…we’re the same, deep down…” Arrogant amusement tints his words, and I find myself offended. I don’t want to consider what it means if he’s right.

I gasp as he sucks a bruise into my neck. I wonder if he’s going to bite me again.

He’d better not. I don’t like it when he does that.

I warn him. “If you bite me, I swear to God I’ll claw your eyes out.” I’ve never been this bold with him. But I stand my ground.

His eyes narrow and he mocks, “Oooooh. Now that I’d like to see.”

He attacks my neck again, this time scraping his teeth rather roughly over my pulse as if to caution me. I’m pushing it, but I don’t care. He won’t kill me. I know it.

“You won’t be able to see,” I sing into the damp side of his neck. “Not if I take your fucking eyes.”

He chuckles, a sound of wicked menace, and I dig my fingernails into the meat of his shoulders, answering his threat with my own.

“I’m just gonna have to eat you up, then,” he murmurs, spinning me in his arms, so I can watch in the bathroom mirror.

His hands smooth over my hips, his thumbs pressing against my lower back. I know he’s testing the flesh there, evaluating. I’m rounding out again, maybe not all the way back to where I was when he found me, but I’ve put on a few pounds and I’m not quite so scrawny anymore.

Still, he can nearly span my waist with those large, brutal hands, and a tremor of fear quakes through me. He could rip me to pieces if he wants. I wouldn't be strong enough to stop him. Just like I wasn't strong enough to stop -

He looms behind me, all wet and dark and monstrous, and he looks quite capable of gobbling me up. Trickles of bloody water stream from his hair, along his face and neck, over the indentations of muscle and bone that so magnificently display his physical prowess, his power.

His eyes glint black with want as he cups a hand around my throat and sweeps the other over my belly and down, pressing me back against him, enforcing his claim. 

Vague terror competes with restless desire. He lightly strokes me, and I don’t think I should be watching this. It feels like I’m looking at a dirty movie or something. My eyelids flutter closed, and my head falls back against the heavy muscle of his pecs.

He touches me for a minute, kissing the side of my neck, tonguing at my wild pulse. 

And then he does the exact same thing Hux did. He sweeps my hair from my shoulders so he can read his words, carved into me for all eternity. I know he literally just looked at them two minutes ago, but I bite out, “Don’t!”

He pauses. I feel a light kiss over the promise he’d so inelegantly cut into me, his warm breath fanning the words to flame.

“Shhh, baby. It’s just me. It’s just us, now.”

Just us, and I’m his.

He kisses the tops of my shoulders, one after the other, sweeping his hands around to cover my breasts. Despite the shower steam accumulating all around us, chills shiver up and down my spine. I try to relax.

He took me, marked me as his, and now I belong to him.

I can rationalize what Ben did to me because maybe I deserved it for cutting him. I can justify his actions so much easier than...

Hux was here.

I open my eyes and hate the naked fear reflecting back.

For that, I hate him, too. All of them. Animals. Beasts.

Sudden anger hurtles through me, a tempest of fury and pain I can’t restrain any longer. Wet animosity streams down my cheeks and I don’t even try to suppress my unmitigated reproach.

My voice shakes with accusation and I speak through gritted teeth. “It’s your fault. That it happened. That I…lost...her…that I’m…I’m…that he mutilated me...”

Your fault I’m broken.

His jaw clenches. He glances down, and I know he’s reading the other words, the ones that aren’t his.

“You think I don’t fucking know it’s my fault?” he mutters so quietly I wouldn’t have believed he ever said it.

I shake my head to disagree. No. I don’t think he really knows.

He’s running a hand down the front of me again, pressing a finger between my legs and curving up into me and it is tender there…I draw in a sharp breath at the strangeness of it after months of abstinence.

“We’ll get ‘em all, baby. Promise.”

If I pull away, it will infuriate him, I know. And if I touch him? If I touch him, I will infuriate myself for wanting more.

My arms are shaking, and I compromise, leaning slightly to brace my hands on the vanity, a temporary truce between my warring emotions. But it doesn’t stop the tears.

“How am I supposed to believe in you? After everything?”

“You’ll just have to find a way to forgive me.” He bites his lip and kisses the side of my neck, watching the mirror from the corner of his eye, as if he can’t stop himself.

I shake my head again and catch my breath. It’s pointless to argue, to fight. My first hard lesson learned. And oh, how I learned.

He crowds close, inspecting my reflection with x-ray eyes. He can see everything, all of it. All of my grief. My overwhelming anxiety. And a simmering, bitter rage pushing in between us, inescapable and tangible.

“What did I just say?” He strokes me again, not hard, but firm.

“You said we’ll get them all,” I whisper accusingly.

But does he even know he’s one of them? The worst of the lot? That he’s no better than Teedo or D.J. or…even Hux…?

He’s riveted, watching the mirror as he pushes his fingers deeper inside me. I try not to wince, even as I shift to give him better access. 

“I heard the skill saw…in your shed,” I hint, scrambling for more time, for a reprieve against the inevitable. I don’t think I really want to know what he did to D.J., but I can’t stop myself from prying. It’s like a scab I want to pick. And an excellent distraction to keep these other, more tumultuous feelings at bay for just a few seconds longer.

He kisses my neck again and strokes up, hitting my clit so perfectly I gasp.

I try to draw out the time for just another minute, asking, “Did you make him beg for mercy?”

“Hell, yeah, I did.”

“Did you make him sorry?”

“Baby, I don’t think you need the details, but let’s just say he didn’t die happy. He was very sorry.”

He withdraws his hand and lifts his fingers to his nose, sniffing lewdly and humming in apparent pleasure at the scent of me. As if to confirm it, he grunts, “God, I love the smell of your cunt.”

I feel my cheeks heat at his vulgar proclamation.

He spins me to face him and lifts me so my legs wrap around his waist. I can feel the hard heat of him riding between my thighs and I know he wants to do more…and I think I do, but…

“Just…wait a second…” I tell him, breathless.

But Ben just ignores me and steps into the tub, still holding me and standing moodily under the spray of steamy water from the shower.

“Not sure I can wait much longer, baby girl,” he bites out, staring at my mouth before meeting my eyes again. “…I do know…it’s all my fault…”

It was. It is.

He kisses my cheeks, still wet with tears, and his lips cling to mine…as if he’s sorry.

Maybe he is.

He tastes like salt and blood and water and lust and I hate him. But I need him.

I kiss him some more, so he knows I want to…but.

“I’m just scared.” My words sound small, pathetic. But my admission takes more than I thought it would.

His eyes glitter into mine. He knows. “You remember what I said that first time? Our first time?”

I sniff. “That I was going to last so much longer than the last one?” Rose.

He cocks his head at the waver in my voice. “The other thing.”

Probably not a good idea for him to bring up the first time he raped me on top of the fact he murdered my best friend, but I shake my head no instead of slapping him.

He goes on, relentless, “I said…I was your first…and I promised I’d be your last…remember?”

That’s right. I remember. I glare into his eyes. “So what?” More tears stream down. Why is he even talking about that awful day?

“…so…” he backs me against the tile wall lifting my legs into an obscene sprawl. I feel him pressing in, and I look down. I tense at the thick heaviness of his arousal pushing against me, red and veined and dripping and huge. Shit, I forgot how big he is.

I grip his shoulders so I don’t fall, and he takes himself in hand, rubbing the head of his dick against me, lubricating us both. I’m shaking, but I won’t fight him. He angles us so he can slide into me.

…and that first hot press, that initial intrusion of him, sends my breath into shallow panting that mixes with his throaty grunts as he works his way inside inch by inch.

“Everything else…in between…doesn’t mean a damn thing…” he breathes. “Except this.”

He takes hold of my hips and forces me down the rest of the way and I groan, low and hard.

He pulls out and pushes in again, more insistently. Maybe I want to disagree, but I can’t because he’s kissing me, taking me over, invading my mouth and sending ripples of pleasure skipping along my nerve endings.

“You’re mine,” he murmurs with a rough bounce of his hips. “Let the past die. I’ll help you kill it if I have to. Nothing else matters.”

I nod. Good. This is good. We've talked about killing the past, in those first few days after...and before...

His tongue sweeps out to moisten his plush bottom lip, and I tentatively flex against him, seeking something…more…readily meeting the sinuous roll of his hips and press of flesh to flesh.

And it’s like striking a match to dry tinder.

He bounces me again and growls, glaring into my eyes with all the blistering heat of a conflagration.

He glances down again to watch himself impale me, and I watch too as he splits me open, hammering in with ruthless possession, quite literally driving home his point.

A low moan climbs up out of my throat, and he mutters so gently, so coaxingly, “Look. Look at you, taking my cock. Like you were made just for me…made for this…to be mine…”

I rest my forehead on his chest and watch, fascinated as he moves rhythmically, in and out, his breath huffing in my ear, his hands flexing on me.

His fingers claw into my hips, hard enough to bruise, but I don’t fucking care because I’m his and he can mark me up however he wants.

Nothing else matters. He said.

“Who’s here now?” he snarls. “Fucking you?”

“You are…” I whimper eagerly, shifting against him to get more friction.

“Anyone else?”

“…no, just you…”

I glance up to meet his gaze boring into mine as he’s drilling into me below.

“Mine.” His lips peel back, baring his teeth.

Bloody water or sweat or I don’t fucking know what dampens his forehead, and he’s glaring at me so ferociously I’m trembling.

He presses in for a savage kiss, pinning me to the tiles until I can’t move, thrusting so fiercely, so perfectly

“Say it…” he growls.

“…I’m yours…”

My thighs quiver, my heels dig into the small of his back, and I can feel my breasts bouncing against his hot skin as I ride him…

“You’re mine…” he repeats with every thrust until I’m sobbing recklessly.

Yes.

He arches my spine, so he can bow his head to suck and bite at my nipples, and it’s too much. The hot pressure of his mouth and teeth combine with the scorching length of him pounding between my legs, and luscious tendrils of lightning whip through my veins.

“Fuck!” I squeal when he changes the angle again and rocks into me hard enough to pitch me over the edge of sanity, driving in with all the finality of a coffin nail.

This insanity is where I want to live forever, it feels so fucking good. His pubic bone grinds against my clit and I’m so full of him, I can’t stop coming.

"...so good...mine..." he groans and quakes against me.

His harsh cry of release vibrates right into my bones, and I answer with a gasping sob as a fresh shockwave of mind-bending pleasure clutches low in my belly, clamping down and pulling him in until I can’t tell where he ends and I begin.

He’s shaking, his muscles trembling under my fingertips. His mouth slams down onto mine, tasting of blood and water. He holds me there, pinned between him and the wall until our breathing slows, until our racing heartbeats settle.

My head is spinning, and I feel high. Maybe this is even better than drugs because he's with me. I know he feels it, too.

He feels something.

And I can work with that.

 

After we soap each other down and finish washing up, we throw on pajamas and eat our bruschetta and salad and share the bottle of wine.

Pleasantly buzzed, I ask him what he is going to do about D.J.’s body growing cold in the toolshed.

He promises he will take care of it later and says I can ride along if I want or stay home and sleep. Part of me wants to go, but the other part wants to let him do his thing.

Besides, I already said goodbye to D.J.

So, we go to bed early, and he pulls off my pajamas and strips out of his own and climbs on top of me with a soft groan, pushing his fingers into my hair and kissing me as if we are in love.

As if he is making love to me. As if we are in some kind of real goddamn relationship.

Just let him.

And I do. I let him, even though it reminds me of the old days.

I want to forget he is a monster. Just for a little while.

He kisses my hair before he rolls out of bed in the dead of night, and I pretend to sleep while I listen to him get dressed in the shadowy darkness. He curses when he bumps into the end of the bed, and I almost giggle, but I keep my breathing even as he creeps out of the room.

After an hour or so, I hear the muted slam of the trunk of his car, the turn of the engine, the fading crunch of tires pulling out of the driveway. I figure he is probably taking the body out to bear country. Hopefully not too close to Teedo, or someday someone might notice a pattern.

I wonder how many other bodies might be up in those woods, and my mind turns to Rose. And the baby.

I didn’t even ask him what he’d named her, and it obviously never occurred to him to tell me.

I slip on my pajamas again and his bathrobe, a new one from Wal-Mart. It is enormous but much warmer than the silky one we picked out for me.

We had to go there and buy all new clothes and towels and sheets, after…

Ben assured me it was fine, that we could afford it, and I am secretly a little bit glad to have a fresh start, so to speak.

I pad barefoot through the house, pausing just briefly over the fifth tile in the kitchen, barely even hesitating, before stepping out into the cold night air.

The grass is cool and tickles my toes as I make my way past the toolshed. Curiously, I peek through the window, but everything looks perfectly normal, although it’s too dark to tell for sure.

But, Ben is a cop, so hopefully he will know how to cover up a crime scene. We seem to be going through tarps at an alarming rate, what with all the murder and remodeling, though. I will remind him to grab some more on our next trip to Wal-Mart.

But I don’t stop to inspect the interior of the shed too closely. My feet carry me around back, to the hydrangeas.

The sky overhead is partially overcast, the moon is not yet full. Faint light shines through the clouds to light the pale blue and purple flowers, delicate and ghostlike.

A small depression in the grass indicates the likely place where the soil settled around a very small grave. He must have cut the sod, then dug the hole to get the grass to match so well with the rest.

I sit next to it, lightly running my fingers over the soft blades of grass. Moonlight filters down, tranquil and sad.

Life is so very strange.

“He said he’d take me shooting tomorrow…today, actually,” I tell her. “I’m going to learn to shoot, and then I’m going to help him…”

We’ll get ‘em all, baby. Promise.

“I’ll probably need to learn to drive, too. I never…never learned how to do that…”

It’s weird to talk to nothing. I don’t think she can hear me.

I’ll be she’s fulla worms by now. What do you think?

I push that thought away. I don’t want to think about it. Don’t want to imagine –

A hot fist of grief clamps over my heart.

“I’m sorry,” I blurt out, my words misting the chill air in ghastly puffs. “I…didn’t know…I’ve never…had to take care of anyone before…didn’t do a very good job of…taking care of you…”

Burning sobs gurgle up and I let the tears roll down my face to sprinkle over the ground where she lies.

His fault. This is all his fault.

“It’s my fault, too,” I whisper, curling into a ball next to that little patch of grass. “But we are going to get them all.”

Daddy promised.

 

I wake, disoriented. I am floating, being lifted into the air, held securely in warm, hard arms. I’m drifting across the yard, and it takes a split second to realize I’m being carried.

“I’m sorry…” I murmur huskily. My throat hurts. “Fell asleep.”

I bury my face in the scratchy flannel he’s wearing. He smells like the forest and just faintly of oiled leather. It’s masculine and delicious.

“What were you doing out there, baby?” he croons. “Weren’t you cold?”

Maybe. It doesn’t matter. I hug him and feel an answering squeeze.

Nothing matters except this.

He carries me back into the house, to bed, and tucks me in, still wearing his robe.

I fall asleep with the memory of blood and water on my tongue, dreaming of guns and bullets and making them pay for what they did.

I wonder if – when I shoot him – if Hux’s head will explode in a bloody pulp the same way Teedo’s did.

I wonder if he’ll feel sorry.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven – Subversion 

 

sub·ver·sion | \ səb-ˈvər-zhən  , -shən\

Definition of subversion

1: the act of subverting: the state of being subverted especially: a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working secretly from within

2 obsolete: a cause of overthrow or destruction

 

subvert

verb

sub·vert | \ səb-ˈvərt \

subverted; subverting; subverts

Definition of subvert

transitive verb

1: to overturn or overthrow from the foundation: RUIN

2: to pervert or corrupt by an undermining of morals, allegiance, or faith


 

When I wake again, Ben is lying in bed with me, curled around me as always, so I can’t see his face as he sleeps.

I’m boiling hot and soaked in sweat and I realize I fell asleep wrapped in his bathrobe and the blankets and him. I try to lift his arm away so I can get up to pee and make coffee.

Mmmm,” he grunts, kissing the top of my head before rolling away so I can move.

“Everything go okay last night?” I ask curiously, slipping out of his bathrobe and hanging it on a hook on our new bedroom door.

“Yeah.”

He’s taking a rare day off from both of his jobs so he can take me to the shooting range and start teaching me everything he knows.

As I glance at him lying there, part of me wants to crawl back in and kiss the sleepy look off his face. But I flash him a smile instead and saunter down the hall, leaving the door open so he can see the exaggerated wiggle of my hips.

Before I go into the bathroom, I turn around and catch him watching. The heat in his eyes is enough to send molten desire shooting straight to my belly.

I blow him a kiss and shriek and run for cover when he jumps off the bed and bolts for me with a breathless laugh before I can turn the lock on the bathroom door.

 

We are the only ones at the range, and he tells me it’s owned by a family friend so we can come during the off hours. Gun club members will show up later, but for now, we have the place to ourselves.

He takes his time showing me how to stand, letting me hold the gun, getting me used to the weight of it. Today I’m shooting a .22 pistol, and Ben explains the differences between pistols and revolvers and the pros and cons of each.

Before we start shooting, he insists I don both earplugs and hearing muffs, which he tucks carefully around my head, before tugging playfully on my ponytail. I smile up at him, admiring how sexy he looks with his hair slicked back, still damp from our shower this morning.

He stands behind me and the warm press of his body against mine is terribly distracting.

We take a few practice shots, him nudging my feet with his, shifting my hips just slightly, large hands pressing over mine to adjust my grip. Every adjustment he makes feels better, natural, and I am finally able to hit the target after a few rounds, which he says is pretty impressive, considering I’ve never done it before.

He intersperses the shooting with safety tips and proper technique. I’m struck by the irony of him teaching me so much, how he's so willingly handing me such deadly tools and trusting me.

I mean, let's face it. I have a few reasons to blow his pretty head off.

Although, according to him, the .22 isn’t a large enough caliber to ensure immediate destruction and chaos. I should wait until I have a bigger gun, right?

He assures me the .22 is a good starter gun and can still inflict plenty of damage.

After a while, I take a break. My arms are surprisingly weak, although Ben assures me I’ll get stronger. I watch as he unloads a few rounds from his own gun into the target. His arms barely twitch at the recoil, and I know his larger caliber weapon packs a wallop in comparison to my .22. 

At first, I think he only hit dead center just once and the rest of the shots didn’t even hit the paper…until he pulls it forward by an electronic dolly and I see he just hit the same hole over and over again.

“Holy shit!” I cry, impressed.

“Yeah. I’m not as accurate in a real-world situation though. You trade accuracy for speed. So, you make up for that by proximity.”

Ah. That explains why only half of Teedo’s head came off. He was off-center, but close enough it didn’t matter. When I mention it Ben nods.

“That’s right, baby. You have to factor in all kinds of things, not the least of which is adrenaline. And it’s harder to hit a moving target than a static one. So, when you aim at the bad guys, don’t try to be cute and shoot out their kneecaps, because you’ll miss and then they’ll take your gun away and kill you with it. Aim for the largest target, the torso. Statistically, you’ll have a higher chance of hitting something.”

This makes sense, and I let him teach me how to aim. He’s a good teacher, and I have utterly forgotten he’s a monster.

“See, Hollywood is all bullshit. All for show. They always show the cops entering a room with the gun next to their faces, pointed at the ceiling, which is the stupidest fucking thing in the world. You’re far more accurate and faster aiming the gun from a lowered position. Fewer micro adjustments needed when you raise the gun.”

He has me try it, to aim by bringing the gun down from above, versus bringing it up from being pointed at the ground.

He’s right. It’s amazing and fascinating.

“It might look pretty on screen, but it isn’t realistic. And half a second of adjusting your aim might cost your life, so always take the sure shot.”

He proceeds to give me a bit of a math and ballistics lesson and I’m riveted by it. We shoot some more, and I’ve already grown proficient at hitting the paper most of the time.

After a few hours, my ears are ringing, and I need another break, this time from the relentless noise.

“Yeah, that’s more TV lies. Guns are a lot louder in real life. All those shows where people are shooting guns and having normal conversations between rounds or after? That’s bullshit unless they’re wearing hearing protection. Nobody’s eardrums can take that kind of punishment.”

I believe him. I remember how my ears rang for hours after he shot Teedo, and that was just from one shot.

I had no idea he knew so much. I’m rather floored by it. But mostly I’m having fun watching him.

No. I’m just having fun, I realize.

I can’t remember the last time I actually…did something fun.

And…shooting is a blast.

He takes me home after driving me through McDonald’s for a cheeseburger that I barely even had to beg for, and then he shows me how to take apart and clean not only my .22 and the .38, but his .44 magnum Desert Eagle, too.

Now that is a big, sexy gun. He tells me when I am good with the .38 and a .22 and maybe a shotgun, he’ll let me shoot the .44. He has a .357, too, but we didn’t bring that one today.

He has guns all over the house, now. Now that I’m being good, and he knows I’m trustworthy.

I mention I’m glad he didn’t have any in the house the day I was attacked. He shrugs, sighting his .44 down his arm, looking for microscopic bits of lint or I don’t know what.

“They probably would have just killed ya, and then where would we be?”

I agree.

 

Ben takes me to the range as often as he can, and I’m getting really good. He tells me he’s proud of me, and every day he promises when the time is right, we are going to hunt down the rest of those fuckers who hurt me. He can't bring me any more presents, partly because most of them have gone to ground. Plus, we can't draw too much attention, yet. Timing is important.

Sometimes Ben drops me off to hang out with his “Uncle” Lando at the range. Lando owns the place and is apparently a longtime friend of Ben’s parents. He’s older, with a dark complexion and a full head of curly salt and pepper hair.  

The first time we meet, I am utterly floored that Ben trusts me in the care of someone else while he goes to work. He is so nonchalant about it, I just stand there and let him kiss me on the cheek. I watch, amazed, as he strolls out to his car while Lando gives me a friendly, one-sided hug and welcomes me to the family. He’s wearing a bright yellow button-down shirt, and clearly considers himself a man of fashion, if the sharp creases in his slacks and highly-polished shine on his shoes is any indication. 

I am so discombobulated by it, I let Lando do most of the talking as he leads me back to the outdoor range.

“Still can’t get over how much Ben looks like his old man, God rest his soul,” Lando mutters with a rueful shake of his head, as he passes me some earmuffs and a shotgun.  

I’ve only shot the shotgun a few times, but Lando invites me to take a few practice shots before starting our lesson. I take my stance, aim, and squeeze the trigger as Ben taught me, hitting the target close to the center.

Lando exclaims, “Hey! You’re a natural!” and while his fervent enthusiasm feels vaguely condescending, maybe even misogynistic, I am willing to excuse it based on his age and lavish charm.

I take aim again and this time hit dead center, unable to keep from grinning at Lando’s impressed whoop.

Over the course of the day, we keep our conversation on neutral topics. I have a strong intuition if I pry too deeply into Ben’s past and Ben finds out, I won’t be coming back here again.

Still, Lando does make an offhand comment about his “Skywalker blood”, and I file it away. Something to think about later.

Ben’s uncle is a priest, his father is dead, and…the name Skywalker prickles uncomfortably at the back of my mind.

I know I’ve heard it before, but I can’t for the life of me remember when or why.

I decide to keep my eyes and ears open around Lando and see if I can’t glean some more tidbits about his “nephew” without being too terribly obvious.

 

I spend my days on chores and reading and watching our new TV, doing Pilates in the living room, and venturing outside only to check the mail or sweep the front porch or occasionally pull weeds out of the flowerbeds so the house doesn’t look run-down.

Keeping up with the Jones’s in the suburbs is no joke. Naturally, I eventually meet my neighbors and I introduce myself as Ben’s girlfriend.

A couple of months after D.J., Ben comes home from work and I tell him about it.

“Is that okay? If I tell people I’m your girlfriend?” I ask. I'm unpacking the groceries he brought home, setting a bottle of wine aside. He only buys red, which is fine with me.

He laughs. “Yeah. What else would you tell ‘em? You’re my sister? And I fuck you to sleep every night?” He’s unloading canned stuff into the cupboards and I’m putting away the fridge stuff.

I shrug. This whole conversation is weird.

I keep unpacking groceries until I realize the air in the room has grown very, very still.

“We could always say you’re my wife…if you want…?”

I whirl around and gape at him. “Did you just propose marriage to me?”

He’s cocked a hip against the counter, arms crossed. He’s not wearing his uniform since today was a Snoke day, or at least that's what I call it. He tilts his head.

“If I did, would you say yes?” He pulls his bottom lip between his teeth and raises an eyebrow.

He’s really asking, I think.

I swallow, trying to rapidly formulate an answer that won’t piss him off or set him into one of his rage spirals. I haven’t seen one for ages, and I’ve been walking on eggshells wondering what might trigger his next one.

Still. Marrying him isn’t a horrible idea if I can leverage it, somehow. Get something out of him.

I sidle over and drape my arms around his neck, lifting my face to his so he can kiss me.

“…if I say yes, would you do something for me, first?” I murmur against his ridiculously soft lips.

“…hmmm?”

“Burn Hux’s shit off my back. And I’ll marry you.”

His jaw clenches and he breathes hard, a short, angry puff of air against my face.

He shakes his head. “I thought I told you no,” he mutters slowly, eyes flashing dangerously.

I bat my eyelashes and twist a silky lock of his hair around my finger.

I press my hips against him and can’t think of anything to say. So I rub against his crotch until he bites out, “You scheming little bitch. I’m not falling for it. I already told you it’s too risky.”

Every time I bring it up, he tells me he doesn’t want to damage my spine or nerves and the cuts are too close to risk it.

“I’ll be okay,” I whisper, grinding harder and tracing my fingertips over the back of his neck. “We both know I’ve been through worse.”

“I said no.” He’s scowling and he’s gone all flat and harsh, and my heartbeat kicks up a couple of notches. Shit. “And if you think I don’t know exactly what you’re doing, then, oooh, baby girl, you better check yourself. Right fucking now.”

I take a deep breath and try again, more serious this time. If he won’t do what I want one way, then maybe I can get him to do it another way. “Ben. I just want those scars gone. How can you fuck me knowing another man’s name is on me?”

His grip tightens into a bruising vise and his eyes glitter black with warning.

Oh fuck, that was the wrong thing to say.

He leans forward so his mouth hovers next to my ear. “It’s been a while since I taught you a lesson…that why you’re acting like this? Hmmm?” His voice turns soft, almost song-like. “You miss being my little fucktoy? Want me to get my handcuffs and have some real fun? Like old times?”

No.

His grip is painful on my hips. I lean back. Sudden frustration wells out of my chest in hot, shuddering waves. My hands lower to clutch at his arms.

“You don’t know what it feels like!” My voice raises, and I can’t lower it. “Living like this? Every time I look in the mirror –”

“Then don’t fucking look at it!” he snarls, and he’s so close I can’t see his face.

Adrenaline kicks in and my fingertips tingle with energy.

I try to shove off of his chest, but he’s solid as a brick wall and holding me too tight. I can’t step away.

I hate the tears suddenly there because I want to be angry, not all sad and devastated and pathetic.

“You don’t fucking know what it’s like,” I hiss this time, furious at the catch in my throat.

Fury washes over his face and he lifts a brow, and he’s going all cold and murderous like he does right before he snaps.

“Guess what, honey? There’s plenty you don’t know,” he grinds out, nostrils flaring with hostility.

He snares my wrists in his massive hands, shackling me as surely as if he’s cuffed me. I try to pull away, but he just follows, herding me backward out of the kitchen.

“I don’t know what?” I shriek, growing hysterical.

“Know what it feels like to come home and find the only thing in your life you give half a shit about covered in blood and filth and thinking she’s dead?”

I growl. It’s the only sound I can make, I’m so pissed off. How dare he try to compare his trauma to mine? How fucking dare he?

He keeps going, relentless, “You don’t know what it’s like to clean up blood and puke and piss and cum and shit from six fucking animals while your girlfriend is fucking dying in the neighbor’s house across the street.”

I try to jerk my hands away so I can claw his eyes out, but he keeps backing me down the hall, all the way to our room. The door is cracked open and he pushes me into it. It bounces off my hip and swings open to crash into the wall.

“You were half-fucking-gone when I had to clean our dead baby girl’s blood off the floor. So, don’t tell me what I don’t fucking know,” he bites so furiously, I freeze.

I can’t breathe.

He chokes as if to stop, but his eyes are positively glowing with hellfire now. “You don’t fucking know…”

“What?” I snap.

He shakes me hard, thumbs digging into my arms until I whimper in pain. He spits out in a voice straight from the pit of Hell, “I didn’t have anything to bury her in.”

What?

He shoves me to sit on the bed, hard enough to snap my head back. He’s staring down at me, almost meditatively. “They ruined her blanket…it wasn’t fit to wrap her in.”

I shake my head. Stop. Stop it.

“I tried…couldn’t find anything in the house that hadn’t been...defiled…so I…”

“Stop! Pleeease.” The words scrape out of me on a long wail of anguish.

“I used my t-shirt. It was the only clean bit of fabric I could get my hands on in a hurry.”

“Ben. Please…” Stop. This is torment beyond what I can take.

“Couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t…wrap my head around it, how tiny…”

Tears and snot are streaming down my face and all I can do is moan and strangle on my own agony.

“I tried to hurry…so she wouldn’t…tried to baptize her in the back yard, with the garden hose. Couldn’t use the kitchen sink, they ripped the faucet out. And the bathroom was…it was too…”

Hot tears flow down my face and I can’t hear anything. I can’t see anything. This is a pain I can’t endure.

He rasps out, “…then I had to dig the grave and hope to God she made it…”

I just need him to stop this torture.

He does. He stares down at me for a long time. I can feel it, even if I can’t meet his eyes.

“Don’t fucking tell me what I don’t fucking know,” he finally mutters hoarsely. “And don’t try to manipulate me again. Not with…not with that.”

“I’m sorry!” I sob belatedly, burying my face in my hands.

He turns and stomps out of the room, calling over his shoulder, “If you want me to burn your fucking scars off, I’ll do it. But I don’t wanna hear any bellyachin’ about how much it hurts.”

I flop onto my side and bawl into the pillow for an hour before making my way out to the kitchen to help with dinner.

Ben’s quiet but good-natured enough as we settle on the sofa to eat and watch TV. I have no idea what’s on. I zone out, wishing I had one last hit and recalling my last high and how I should have appreciated it more. If I had known then it would be my last time, I would have…I don’t know, tried to enjoy it more.

Ben chuckles along with the canned laughter on the television and offers to grab me a glass of wine when he takes our empty plates into the kitchen during a commercial break.

I mumble yes and wonder if he still wants to marry me.

 


 

It’s been months, and I’m on edge.

We are in the City, parked in a neighborhood that reminds me rather strongly of where I grew up, if not by location then by the desolate sense of hopelessness lingering everywhere. It’s ten in the morning and overcast, but I’m sweating with nerves.

He’s calm as can be, although I know inside, he’s boiling with the same rage that’s been building alongside mine over the past few months as he did exactly as promised and taught me how to handle a gun and drive a car.

We just…we both need an outlet other than each other.

Let’s just say things have been…interesting at home.

“How do you know he’ll come and talk to you?” I ask, unable to sit still.

“Just watch, you’ll see.”

Sure enough, after a minute, a twelve-year-old kid with the hardened eyes of a forty-five-year-old bookie trots up to our car. Ben rolls down his window.

“Hey, Kylo! Got any addy?”

“Nah, kid, I only sling Hoz. And only then if you can afford to be a return customer. Whatcha smokin’?”

The kid reluctantly pulls the joint from behind his ear and hands it over. Ben holds out a hand for a lighter, too, and the kid slaps a Bic into Ben’s palm with even more reluctance.

Ben lights up and takes a drag, much to my surprise. Ben has never so much as taken an aspirin that I know of. A dank cloud of pot smoke fills the cab of the car before dissipating.

“This isn’t Snoke’s shit…where’d ya get it?” 

The kid shuffles his feet, hesitant. The vibe pumping out of Ben goes from congenial low-life businessman to fuckin’ scary in point-five seconds. He doesn’t even need to speak to get the kid talking. Hell, even I have goosebumps.

“Yo, that’s some Kanja-ganja shit, man…”

“Thought Leech blew town. You sayin’ he’s flippin dope now?”

The kid swallows and looks nervously at me for the first time.

“Who’s the narc?” The kid scans me suspiciously, attempting to change the subject. As previously discussed, I answer with my scripted line.

“I’m Kylo’s...girlfriend. Um. I mean wife. I'm Rey.” I plant a fake smile on my face.

The kid arches a brow and looks back at Ben, wariness blooming into full-blown suspicion. Ben glares bullets at me and I shrink into the passenger seat.

“Sounds like you're not sure, lady,” the kid accuses, looking sharply between me and Ben. His eyes land on Ben’s scar and he sniffs, rubbing a half-curled, dirty fist under his nose.

Ben interjects before I can answer. “Yeah, she’s not very smart. It’s what happens when you’re a smackhead.” He glowers at me and mutters under his breath, just loud enough for the kid to hear, “I oughtta slap the shit outta you.”

The kid lifts both eyebrows, watching us avidly, taking in every detail.

I roll my eyes and move my arms to draw attention to the track marks scarring them.

The kid notices, and I glare at Ben.

He shakes his head and mumbles to the kid, “Tell your dad he still owes me for that dime-bag I floated him last month.” The kid nods. “And stay off the hard stuff or you’ll end up retarded like her.”

I gasp in outrage. “You can’t say that!”

“What?”

“You can’t say retarded,” I stammer. That’s so messed up.

“Well, you can’t even remember we're married. So, you must be retarded.”

“That’s so, that’s so…” I sputter.

“What? You serious right now?” He barks a short laugh, harsh and complete with a dramatic eye roll of his own.

“Yo, Kylo, that bitch is right tho. You shouldn’t say that word.” The kid shakes his head in mild disgust at the both of us and runs off. 

I glare at Ben for his unscripted contribution to the show.  “If we are going to have kids someday, you can’t talk like that,” I scold. Even the little stoner kid knows better.

Ben is just smirking at me and licking his lips.

“God, you’re a piece of work. All right. Tell you what. You can prove how smart you are right now. Wanna make a delivery for me?”

A delivery? What?

“Really?”

“Yeah. I just dropped the bait, and I need you to set the hook.”

I have no idea what the fuck he’s talking about, but I think it’s something to do with fishing.

Wait.

“I’m not the bait, am I?”

“Nah. I’m the bait. You’re the decoy.”

He pulls out his gun and opens the chamber with a flick of his wrist, so I can see it’s loaded.

“Don’t put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot,” he warns, waving me to sit forward.

“I know!” After all the time I’ve spent at the range, I should be less anxious, but this is his .357 and I’ve never held it before. It’s almost bigger than I am. It’s way heavier than I thought it would be.

“Remember what I said about kick?”

“Yeah. But. Will I need to shoot?” I whisper, unconsciously wanting to give it back to him. 

“Only if you’re in trouble. This piece’ll blow a hole the size of a cantaloupe in someone, so be fuckin’ careful, all right?”

“What about you? Don’t you need a gun?” Something flickers behind his eyes at the question. Something odd.

“You care?”

“Well. Yeah.”

“Baby, I have another gun,” he tells me with a wink and a smirk. Cocky bastard.

He reaches under his seat and pulls out a plastic sack. He shows me what’s inside, and I…

I start to salivate.

Many, many baggies of H, measured into equal portions, are sitting right fucking there, ready to go.

Unexpected, rampant want claws into me at the sight. Oh, shit. There are a lot of sweet, sweet dreams in that Wal-Mart bag.

I want it so bad. I want it. I want to shoot it all up right now, every last bit until I can’t see straight.

He watches me while I get a grip.

I can’t I can’t I can’t.

“You’ve got this. You’re stronger than you know,” he murmurs, that odd glint still in his eyes. “All you have to do is walk down the block, take a left. There will be an out-of-business convenience store across the street and an old man on the bench out front. Sit down and set the bag on the bench next to you. He will take it and get up and leave. He’ll leave a bag of money behind. Wait two minutes, take the bag, come back. That’s it.”

He motions me forward, and I scoot up so he can tuck the gun into the waistband of my jeans, pulling my sweater into place over it. I’m sure it makes a rather conspicuous lump.

“I’m gonna stand right over there and wait for you,” he tells me, indicating a dumpster in the alley across the way. He grips my jaw and forces me to meet his gaze. “I don’t need to tell you what happens if you try to run off with that horse, baby. I know you want to.”

I jerk my chin out of his hand, offended. “I won’t.”

“Good girl.”

My heart is already pounding, my legs shaking like I just shot up. I step out of the car and head down the block, the weight of Ben's gun pressing uncomfortably into my still-tender burn.

While I walk, I think.

I try to think about anything but the fact that I have enough heroin on me to last a solid fucking year.

And then I try not to think at all.

It hurts to think.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve – Sedition

 

se·di·tion | \ si-ˈdi-shən \

Definition of sedition

: incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority


 

If I don’t think about anything, then it is easy to walk down the block, my footsteps whispering quietly over the dirty sidewalk. This neighborhood is not nice, and I’m not just referring to the general garbage-smell, graffiti, or the abandoned, hopeless air seeping from the buildings. Not as bad as some of the places I’ve been, but I’ve been living in sterile suburbia for so long, I’ve grown rather acclimated to my new life. This place contrasts rather strongly.

There’s an air of quiet watchfulness coming from the windows. Although it’s mid-morning, there’s not a soul in sight. I feel unfriendly eyes on me, and I wonder what Ben’s plan involves.

I keep my eyes open, reminding myself how to walk without drawing attention while simultaneously projecting a don’t-fuck-with-me vibe. The metal of Ben’s gun rides consolingly against my spine, and I decide I will have no trouble whatsoever using it, if the situation calls for it.

As Ben instructed, I head to the end of the street, take a left and find the out-of-business store. I see a flimsy-looking bench and look around. Other than a few people walking briskly down the street, nobody else is in sight.

No. Wait.

Another older person is approaching the bench. He has a rickety walker and a plastic bag dangling from it. He looks like a bum, only without the usual accompaniment of his every worldly possession in a broken-down shopping cart.

Something is…off about him, but I’m not afraid. I watch him sit on the bench with a dramatic huff, and I can’t tell if his sigh is feigned or real.

For the very briefest moment in time, I wonder how much cash is on him and I know I could probably take it, keep my bag of H, keep the .357 and fucking run for it.

I could do it.

I could take everything and run far, far away, maybe Alaska or the Midwest. Somewhere Ben would never, ever find me.

I could ration that heroin for a long-ass time, make it last.

Escape.

But Ben is waiting for me back in that alley. And he stayed with me, after Hux. He took care of me, taught me. Held me through the endless nightmares...Married me.

It was a tiny, quick-and-dirty courthouse ceremony, but it’s legal enough.

I used my brand-new driver’s license to identify myself and Ben commented ruefully that I’d just have to turn around and get a new one with my new name on it.

When the judge pronounced us husband and wife, Ben grinned and murmured affectionately, “…more like ball and chain…” right before his lips met mine almost chastely.

And later…he took me home, and there was nothing chaste about that at all.

I remind myself why we’re here, how far I’ve come. I think about the real purpose behind all this and shove thoughts of running out of my mind. Those thoughts belong to the old Rey.

That Rey is dead, and I don’t think I’m even that sad about it.

Which is why, instead of doing something stupid, I do exactly as Ben told me. I approach the man on the bench, unsure if I am supposed to make eye contact.

I sit, setting the bag on the bench next to me.

The old man grunts. Maybe he isn’t as old as I first thought. He’s bigger than I thought, too. I wonder how much of his hunched-over perambulation was real.

I wonder if I try to snatch the money and run for it if he couldn’t quite easily chase me down and kill me.

“How’re you doin’ pretty girl?” he rasps in a voice of gravel.

I shrug and ignore him, trusting my gut. No eye contact. Do what Ben said and that’s it. Ben never said to talk to anyone. The man chuckles and the back of my neck tingles.

It occurs to me this is extremely fucking dangerous. I’m a little peeved at Ben for just throwing me into the deep end like this.

I’m rather grateful for the lethal weight of the .357 pressing against my burned spine.

“Not very chatty, are you?” the man says, standing up, hooking my Wal-Mart bag over the handle of his walker and standing up carefully. His hands tremble a bit, and he’s hunched over again. But I’m watching his legs.

Steady. Rock steady.

He leaves his bag next to me on the bench.

I could still leave.

There’s plenty of cash in that bag, I’m sure. I peek inside and see several stacks, sealed in air-tight food storage bags.

But Ben is waiting.

I wait two minutes, and the old man disappears around the corner surprisingly quickly.

My heart starts thumping as I take the man’s bag and head back to Ben.

I get all the way to the car before I realize he isn’t in it. I glance over to the dumpster. I don’t see anyone.

Shit.

Ben said he’d be there. I look around. Not a soul in sight.

Just then, I hear a muffled choke from a nearby doorway. Without thinking, I pull the .357 and run to the sound. Against a wall, blocked from view of the street, I find Asky with Ben in a chokehold.

Ben’s face is bright red and Asky has him in a full nelson.

“Let him go!” I shout, raising the gun, just as Ben taught me.

Asky’s eyes widen in surprise and he drops Ben to reach for his own gun and I hear Ben’s voice, almost in slow motion, not out loud, no, he’s choking for air, doubled over, trying to catch his breath. I hear him in my mind.

Aim for the torso. Always take the sure shot.

“Bye.”

I squeeze the trigger and half of Asky’s chest caves in as the gun kicks so hard it nearly clips me in the jaw.

Asky’s face is still frozen in shock as his body crumples to the ground. The wall behind him looks like someone splashed a bucket of red paint on it.

Ben finally gasps, “FUCK. What took ya so fuckin’ long? You stop for coffee on the way?”

I open my mouth to say something snappy and rude, and I lean over and throw up instead. My hands are shaking, and I’ve dropped the gun.

I just killed a guy. I just blew Asky’s chest open and saved Ben’s worthless fucking life.

Now there are four.

I could have taken the money, let Ben die, and run off to do anything I wanted…

I could have gone back home and fucking lived there. Probably pretty comfortably off of some police officer widow’s pension, if I played my cards right. We’re married, and half that house is legally mine.

Except I think about what’s buried in Ben’s t-shirt under the hydrangeas, and I sort of…stop worrying about it.

We’re still tied to each other, as if by an invisible string. Now even more so.

Both of us are murderers, now. Killers.

He’s looking at me, incredulous and a bit worried.

“Shit. You okay?”

I’m gagging and gasping and cold and sweaty. I just murdered someone.

That gunshot was loud.

People are probably coming.

Ben’s scrambling around, picking through Asky’s pockets, looking for something.

“Grab the gun and the money, and let’s go.”

My hands shake as I bend to pick up the gun and the plastic bag of cash. I don’t remember dropping it. I’m dizzy.

I watch Ben scan the area. He looks at the blood-spattered wall and shuffles forward to peer at the hole in the bricks.

He uses a multi-tool from his belt to pry out the bullet, whistling, long and low, the kind of sound people make when they are impressed.

“Golden shot, right there, baby girl. Bala-Tik never had a chance. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

I can’t help but notice there is indeed a cantaloupe-sized hole in Asky's chest.

Ben grabs my hand and drags me quickly to the car, shuttling me inside and driving away before anyone even pops their head out of a doorway.

“Don’t forget to buckle up,” he mutters, scanning his mirrors and making a hasty turn that jars me a little.

“Do you think anyone saw us?” I gasp, shakily securing my seat belt.

“Oh, that’s what I’m counting on, baby. That’s what I’m counting on.”

We’re halfway home before I realize I’ve just committed a couple of pretty serious felonies. I mean. I’ve broken the law before but…this just feels really bad. I’m bad.

Ben grins when I tell him.

“Ah, you are, baby girl. Leech won’t know what the fuck to do now…”

“What?”

When he tells me, I am very, very grateful I didn’t try to abscond with that Wal-Mart bag.

It was all a lie. A trick.

That wasn’t even real heroin. It was fucking baking soda. Can you imagine what the fuck would have happened to me if I’d tried to shoot up goddamn baking soda?

Why? Why would he do that?

I ask him and he explains. If it looked like he was dealing on Leech’s turf, he knew it would draw out Leech’s heavies.

That kid? Yeah. Ben wanted to make sure the kid was just pissed off enough to tell someone Kylo Ren was dealing in the area. I was the decoy all right.

I asked him who the “old man” was, and Ben laughed.

“Ah, that was Bobbajo. He’s gonna be fuckin’ pissed about those drugs being fake…Leech’ll take the heat for it, but there's nothing he can do about it."

Ben glances at the bag of cash. "That's way more than Leech can afford to lose. He's fucked. He’s too smart to fuck with Snoke.”

“Won’t Snoke hear about it?” I ask nervously.

“It was Snoke’s idea,” he tells me evenly.

“Snoke was the fucking one who ordered Hux to attack me!” I cry, betrayed and infuriated that Ben is so easily able to compartmentalize all of this.

“I know. He wants me to flush out those traitors,” Ben replies as if it should be obvious.

“Why doesn’t he think you’re a traitor, too? You were dealing on the side right alongside the rest of them.”

“I swore I learned my lesson and I’d play nice.” Ben’s getting irritated.

“Even with Hux?”

He turns his head and for just a minute I feel like the Devil himself is looking back at me.

“If you don’t like my methods, honey, you’re welcome to try your own way…” I know damned well he doesn’t mean that. It’s his way or the highway. Every time.

I sigh with relief that I wasn’t stupid enough to run off.

“How did that Bala-guy get you in a chokehold?” I ask instead, knowing the question will annoy him. I’m still not over my urge to needle him a bit.

Ben’s mouth works into a pout. Ooooh, that touched a nerve.

“I wasn’t expecting two of ‘em at once... I’d just wrangled Nines into the trunk and Tick got the jump on me.”

In one of his ever-mercurial mood changes, his jaw works and he cocks his head at me, shooting me a wicked grin.

Just then I hear Nines thumping repeatedly from the trunk of the car, and I sigh. “Can I get something to eat before we deal with him?”

Ben's grin widens. “Sure, baby. He isn’t going anywhere. Hang on while I shut him up.”

Ben pulls over and strolls around to the trunk, popping it open casual as fuck. I watch through the rear windshield as his arm goes up and smashes down, presumably into Nines' face.

After that, the thumping stops and Ben takes me through the drive-thru, although my stomach is still roiling wildly from the adrenaline and…everything else.

We get home and the thumping in the trunk resumes as we pull into the garage.

“Toolshed again?” I ask.

“Thank you, baby,” Ben grunts.

I hop out and get the lanyard with the key while Ben drags a very ticked-off Slim to the toolshed.

And here’s where it gets weird.

I feel fucking numb. I can’t explain it.

I can see his face, the face of one of the men who hurt me, and he was one of the more horrible ones if that’s possible. He didn’t necessarily do anything worse than any of the other ones…I just…I just remember how he held me down for the others, his vise-like grip on my ankles and thighs and arms and face. He was so quiet about it, so serious. Like he was really doing something important, really concentrating on the task at hand.

Except for my general hate for him...I’m numb.

I honestly don’t fucking care what happens to him, one way or the other.

Because this isn’t about Slim or Nines or whatever the fuck his real name is. No. It's Ben...

Ben needs this as much as I do, I realize on a brief whim of insight.

Maybe his trauma wasn’t the same as mine, but I’m stronger than him. Not physically, no. But stronger in a way he could never be. 

Yes, I need him to be my big scary monster on a chain...but I think he needs me to be strong, too.

I think that’s what he was saying earlier. I think that’s what he meant. And he needs this…

I am vaguely aware of Ben draping a blue tarp over the floor next to his workbench and flipping Nines onto it. I watch as he pulls a deadly-looking knife, the kind they sell for big-game hunting with the serrated edge. He jerks up Nines’ shirt and before Nines can even try to swat him away, Ben saws a ragged red line into Nines’ abdomen.

Nines lets out a shriek of shock and pain, clutching both hands to the gash in his belly. He’s turned deathly pale, his breathing all harsh and hard, staring at Ben in horror. His eyes start to roll back, but Ben grabs him by the hair and shakes his head.

“…oh, no, no, you better not pass out,” Ben says, “…you need to stay awake and hold your guts in…”

Ben places one of the man’s hands over his belly wound and presses a little. It makes this odd little squelching sound.

I can’t take my eyes away.

He yanks Slim’s – Nines’ – other arm straight up and Nines yowls in pain. I hear a horrible, hollow popping sound and I know the arm has been dislocated.

I’ve heard that’s quite painful. Probably almost as painful as the gut injury.

But Ben isn’t done yet.

Ben wrenches the dislocated arm backward and shoves the man’s hand into the vise bolted to the edge of the workbench, whipping the handle around until I hear a crunch of bone. Nines makes an inhuman squawk.

And as fascinating as all of this is, I’m not really watching it, not really.

Because I’m looking at Ben, and he’s fucking magnificent, all coiled rage and lethal predator. It’s like…

It’s like he was made for this, to be a killer, a true butcher.

If you’ve ever watched National Geographic and the tiger takes down a gazelle or whatever, you know what I'm talking about. It’s beautiful and sexy and brutal and…

“Ben.”

His dark hair falls over his brow as he glares at me, giving the vise one final crank, and I swear to God we have a moment, one of those mind-melds where he can see straight into my head and I can see into his…

As if catching my scent on the wind, he cocks his head and growls, “Get ready.”

My heart kicks into overdrive, and I run for the house, but not before I hear him mutter to Nines.

“You stay right there. I’ll be back in a bit.”

 

I run for the bathroom because I want to at least rinse the morning’s vomit from my mouth before Ben comes in and fucks the living shit out of me.

I turn on the tap and let the water run as I brush my teeth and avoid my own reflection.

Maybe I’m feeling a bit guilty about having a guy in the toolshed who just kinda got tortured and most definitely needs some serious medical attention.

But I know deep down the bloom of color in my cheeks is not from guilt.

Every pore in my body is alive, pulsing with adrenaline or whatever it is that makes my skin tingle and my nerves flutter and my pussy clench like I’m fucking high.

I hear the roll of the garage door coming down, the slam of the trunk of the car.

He’s coming, he’ll be in any second.

Get ready.

I spit and rinse and run for the bedroom, stripping out of my shoes and socks on my way down the hall. I’m leaned over pulling off a sock when Ben comes crashing into the house.

My pulse kicks wildly and I wonder if I should run for it, but too late, he’s here. He takes one look and hauls me by the waist straight to our room.

He throws me onto the bed, and I can feel the wildness rolling off him to smash into me. He’s unbuckling his belt and shucking out of his jeans, and I shuffle to strip off my shirt.

I’m not wearing a bra because bras bother my scar. Ben’s eyes turn black as night at the sight of my naked chest, and delicious, visceral fear pulses through my belly.

He tears off his shirt, pulling it over his head almost slowly, so I have time to appreciate the play of muscle on display.

“Strip.”

My hands are shaking as I undo my pants, but he’s impatient, already ripping them down my legs in three rough tugs.

He shoves me back and my thighs fall open. I want him.

Without preamble, he pushes a finger between my legs and an animal growl comes out of him when he finds me sopping wet.

“Well. Aren’t you Daddy’s depraved little slut?” He’s shaking his head, mocking, as if I should be ashamed of myself. “…you fucking liked watching me fuck up that piece of shit, didn’t you?”

He strokes me again and climbs between my sprawled legs, his erection thick and heavy as he lays on top of me. His hot breath pushes into my mouth, swapping with my own air while he kisses me senseless.

I stroke my palms over hard muscle, up into his silky hair, over his shoulders. I pull my hands across his heated skin and try to tempt him closer by arching my back, pushing my breasts against him until my nipples are hard and he’s practically drooling from it.

But he leans up and hooks an ankle over his shoulder until I’m splayed wide open.

“Ben,” I whimper. I want him. Now.

“Why that one? Hmmm?” Ben’s eyes gleam with malice and I know to answer him immediately.

But I can’t. I shake my head.

“What did he do?”

Ben hovers over me and I try to catch my other heel around his hips, so he’ll shut up and fuck me.

“What did he do to you, baby girl?” Ben murmurs, stroking the head of his dick against me until a tear slips down my cheek.

“…he just…held me down…and I…” I shake my head again.

Ben licks his lips and he slides into me, hot and hard, in one solid stroke. We gasp together.

“Goddamn, you’re so wet. You must really hate that fucker.”

I’d tell him how much, but Ben’s pulling out and thrusting in again, blurring everything except the sensation of him taking me, his hot skin gliding against mine, his mouth wet and eager against my leg, locked in place on his shoulder while he fucks me.

“I’ll make him pay…” Ben promises, dropping my leg and rolling his hips into me with all the force of a tidal wave. I sink my fingernails into his arms and grunt like an animal as he starts fucking me hard.

Fuck. Can something hurt and feel incredible at the same time?

“Gonna wreck this little cunt first,” he gasps. “Then I’m gonna go back out and give him a real bad day, baby.”

“…good…” I pant, digging my nails in harder, this time into the firm meat of his backside. Ben’s mouth lands on mine and he’s practically biting me, his tongue shoved rudely down my throat as his hips work into mine, harder, faster.

He’s working up a sweat, now, and so am I and we’re wet with it, slippery and hot. He rears back and drags my ankles onto his shoulders and levers into me like a jackhammer until I can’t think or breathe or move.

I whimper when he pulls out and flips me over, straddling my legs and slipping in from behind on a strangled groan. This angle feels unreal and we both are fighting to breathe, racing to the end before we suffocate under the pressure of mind-bending, primal lust.

His arm locks around my neck and I feel his hand reach around to stroke my clit until I’m gasping and squealing. “Gonna stuff you full of cock…make you come…then I’m gonna make a filthy mess in your ass…how’s that sound?”

That sounds fucking perfect. I try to nod, but he’s got me pretty well pinned down, so I gasp a “…yeah…”

“Yeah?” His balls slapping against me makes the most obscene sound I’ve ever heard.

I grunt, “…yeah…” I can feel that perfect, indecent tension building, tightening.

…we’re the same…

“…dirty girl…” he grinds out, biting at my earlobe and sending shivers up and down my thighs.

My orgasm hits me like a shot to the gut, hard and messy and endless, he’s growling and grunting over me, rubbing at my clit, and I bury my face in the mattress and scream until the wild pulses of pleasure fade.

Ben’s close and I got us so wet I barely feel the burn as he slides up and buries his dick in my ass, groping at my breasts so hard I know he’s going to leave bruises.

“…you…nasty bitch…” he chokes out. "...you...fucking love this, don't you?"

I keen, "Yes!" and I feel sharp teeth scraping at my neck and he’s dripping sweat and I don’t fucking care because he needs this, needs something to own, something just his, nobody else’s.

He shudders and heaves and sinks his teeth ever-so-gently into my shoulder as he orgasms and I’ve never felt so perfectly used. I lie beneath his hot, heavy weight, drenched in sweat and cum and sore as hell, and when I feel Ben slide out of me and flop to the side, pulling me against him back to chest, I smile as I recall his words.

I’ll make him pay.

I know. I know he will. Ben is good at making people pay.

Only I’m not thinking about Nines.

Nines is as good as dead. There’s no coming back from a gut wound like that.

Now there are three.

We doze off and I can’t remember the last time we took a nap together. But my whole body feels deliciously sated and safe in the heavy cage of his arms.

As the afternoon sun heats our room through the blinds, I dream.

 

You almost took my eye out, bitch. I’m so going to make you pay for that.

I try to lurch up, but my arms are stuck behind me.

He’s handcuffed me, and he’s straddling me, pinning me into the tiles, pushing his hand into my face until all I have is a mouthful of blood and bitter hate, crushed beneath him on the bloody kitchen floor.

“You think you can bite the hand that feeds?” Something drips down the side of my face and I think it’s bloody drool, but I can’t be sure.

The knife moves out of my line of sight, and I feel the back of my dress being cut and ripped away. Goosebumps prickle over my skin as I wonder what the fuck he’s going to do.

It takes everything I have not to squirm with panic at the sensation of his leather belt sliding around my neck.

More bloody drool slides over my cheek.

“Think you can cut me and not get a taste of your own medicine?”

He’s so enraged, he’s actually salivating, foaming at the mouth like an angry dog.

I can feel the belt tighten just enough to partially restrict my breathing. He’s sitting on my butt, his muscled thighs trapping me, holding me still.

“I wouldn’t try to move those hands too much if I were you…”

The blow torch was bad, yeah. And getting smacked around is no picnic, either. But nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to the feeling of a knife carving into your back. And he has to go really slow, take his time, you know? Because he isn’t just making random cuts.

Oh, no. Not Kylo.

No, he is making sure I know exactly who owns me.

My back is on fire, literal fire, and I can feel hot, sticky blood trickling out of me like water and all I can think is my sundress is ruined and I’m never getting any more treats, and this is all my fucking fault.

I’m so stupid. I’m so fucking dumb. I can’t stop bawling.

“I’m sorry,” I mumble over and over again, hot tears slipping down my cheeks. I know it’s useless.

Kylo isn’t in a forgiving mood today. He never is.

He sighs again and grabs a fistful of hair, and he’s dragging me to the bedroom, and I’m kicking and scratching and these pitiful little mewling noises are bubbling up out of me, animal-like.

“You just need to learn. I fucking own you. And I can take whatever I want, whenever I want.”

 

I jerk awake and I’m practically choking on the phantom pain until I remember, everything is fine. Ben is half on top of me, passed out.

I rarely see him with his eyes closed, and I watch him for a few minutes. His brow is pulled into a slight frown, as if, even in sleep, he’s tested by the weight of the world.

Maybe he is.

I tuck myself back into the crook of his arm and doze off again. 

I wonder how long someone can stay awake, holding his own guts in place while he waits for Ben to go back out and finish him. 

 


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen – Ignition

 

ig·ni·tion | \ ig-ˈni-shən \

Definition of ignition

1: the act or action of igniting: such as

a: the starting of a fire

b: the heating of a plasma to a temperature high enough to sustain nuclear fusion

2a: the process or means (such as an electric spark) of igniting a fuel mixture

b: a device that activates an ignition system (as in an automobile); put the key in the ignition

 


 

If you’ve ever been burned, really burned, then you already know the absolute and utter dread of being burned again.

I made an exception for Hux.

I looked forward to it, and after Ben promised he’d do it for me, I became even more obsessed with the idea.

The whole week after he brought up me marrying him? Well, it was awkward. But he’d also promised to burn Hux off me, and that I would hold him to, regardless of other...uncomfortable reminders.

Ben stayed quiet and friendly enough but there was still plenty unresolved stuff simmering between us. About my attack. His feelings. My feelings. And mixed in with all of it, an almost intolerable suspense burrowing into my mind like a sliver I could only pick at but couldn’t dig out.  

After D.J. everything had changed. Despite that, it was easy to slip into our familiar roles. But I couldn’t be that old Rey anymore, not really. I could feel myself slipping farther away from her and more into…

I don’t know.

After the night he brought up marriage and told me his side of the story, I had to do a lot of soul-searching. Maybe he’d been doing it, too.

But we only talked about the burn and how and when it would happen.

He stocked up on antibiotics and silver sulfadiazine cream. We figured I’d be out of commission for a couple of weeks while it healed, although I expected to be sore for longer.

He tried to talk me out of it.

“You could go into shock and die.”

“You could get an infection. It could kill you.”

But I held him to his angrily-flung promise and insisted I wanted that bastard’s name off me.

Things were okay after, but...different. Even more different than after D.J.

Our unspoken truce felt shaky, like a dance we were both learning but not very enthusiastically.

But when I look back at that time? Well. I think we just needed to work through a whole lot of buried feelings.

And then we went to make Tasu Leech's life a bit of a mess and ended up taking out two more in the same day. Things were progressing, finally, but it wasn't enough. 

After I killed a guy and saved Ben's life, and later, after he went back and finished off Nines in the toolshed, it occurred to me...

This would be right around the time our daughter would have been born.

If.

Ben's already dumped Nines’ body somewhere and we have an early dinner. I’m in a weird fucking mood and I think he is, too. I don't know what he's thinking, and I don't want to ask.

Instead of talking, we avoid conversation. We haven’t discussed the baby or how I killed someone today or anything.

He is in one of his mercurial moods tonight, I can tell. Where he can flip from sweet teddy bear to murderous asshole faster than it takes to strike a match.

It is an absolutely perfect recipe for disaster.

We finish washing dishes, planning to have an early night because Ben has to get up early for work.

“When are we going to finish the rest of the Plan?” I ask, deliberately nonchalant. I’m trying to keep my voice from descending into outright nagging.

He hums noncommittally and sets the last plate in the cupboard. 

I don't push the subject since I don’t feel like getting smacked upside the head for being mouthy, even though I can feel my own emotional turmoil fluxing beneath the surface, tangible and sharp.

I finish rinsing the sink and wipe my hands on the kitchen towel he offers, planting a somewhat fake smile on my face. I run my eyes up and down his frame, hoping for a hint of suggestiveness to come through in my gaze. I wonder if I can turn his eventual capitulation into immediate compliance with a little bit of sex.

His lips quirk in that way he has that tells me he knows exactly what I’m up to and he is going to let me do my worst to try to weasel something out of him anyway.

I am volatile and out of sorts and this afternoon’s sex didn’t do much to alleviate my frustration with the agonizingly slow pace at which we are executing Ben’s Plan.

I want Hux dead.

I hate that that red-haired piece of shit is still walking around, breathing.

Plus, it was Ben’s fault I was attacked, his fault Hux’s name was ever on me in the first place. So, I want to punish Ben, force him to acknowledge it. To make him look, really see what that beast did to me.

And despite everything he’d done after…I haven’t yet found a way to forgive him. Not truly.

Still, Ben smirks at my ill-executed attempt to seduce him, swooping me into his arms and carrying me out to the living room sofa. He settles me into his lap with a hot kiss that admittedly steals my breath away.

“What’s going on with you tonight?” he murmurs.  

I gasp against his luscious mouth. He tastes good, like the wine we had with dinner. “I don’t know. But…mmmmhhh, Ben!” He slips his hands under my t-shirt to play with my nipples until I grow rather horny and distracted under his calloused fingertips.

I twist my fingers into his hair, stroking the warm back of his neck until his eyes fall to half-mast, sleepy and content.

But I’m not content. I’m restless. “Maybe I can be in charge tonight?” I hint, knowing he’ll never let that happen.

He shakes his head and chuckles arrogantly, “Hah. I don’t think so.”

For whatever reason, his conceit annoys me.

I comb my fingers into his thick, silky hair and tug on it, just hard enough to get his attention. I feel the temperature between us rise, instantly heating by a few degrees. I push my tongue into his mouth and try for an assertive kiss, but he has a handful of my hair, too, and he's kissing me back just as aggressively.

I squirm against him and stroke my tongue over his, growling a little until he sits up, meeting me stroke for stroke. The more I try to be demanding and forceful, the more he matches my every move. We are edging closer to a cliff, playing a game of dare, and neither one of us is backing down.

Until he pulls back and gives me this sappy grin. For some reason, it’s even more annoying than his arrogance. “You really wanna be in charge, baby? Hmmm?”

He slides my t-shirt up and over my head, and I tug at his, wanting to feel his hot skin against mine.

“Maybe you can teach me how, daddy,” I whisper into his mouth, and this time the air between us snaps and sizzles with tension.

Ohhh. He likes that.

Other than earlier today, he’s only said it a couple of times before, always in the heat of the moment, once on the day he took me and again the day he burned my arm with the blowtorch. I’ll never forget either of those occasions.

But I’ve never called him daddy voluntarily. Especially after everything we’ve been through, that word carries so much meaning. More than I’d realized. I should have thought it through. Especially today.

He trembles a little, pulling back to glare skeptically into my eyes. 

A shiver runs through me at his x-ray stare.

To distract him, I pull at his t-shirt again, helping him drag it up and over his head before leaning in for another searing-hot kiss. Neither one of us bothers to close our eyes. It is as if…as if closing our eyes will break the spell.

His hot breath comes out in excited little huffs as I writhe against him.

His eyes narrow just a bit, and my blood pounds. I can tell he is thinking. So, I lightly scrape my nails down his pecs and abs, pushing the flat of my palm down the silky trail of hair running from his navel to his groin, until I reach the waistband of his jeans.

“…what are you after, Rey?” he coos softly, capturing my wrist in an iron grip before I can slide my hand into his pants. My pulse skips into double-time. This feels dangerous.

How does he always know?

“…nothing…” I lie. I can’t even really articulate what I want, so maybe it isn’t such a lie after all. I slide my other hand around his neck and his grip tightens painfully on my wrist.

Slowly, agonizingly, almost, he cranks my arm behind me…and terror starts seeping under my skin. That roiling fury, ever just below the surface is bubbling up out of him like lava.

“I –” I want to say something, but I am stuck. Lightning-fast, he snags my other wrist and wrenches it behind me with a silent snarl.

Like a moron, I figure honesty might be the best policy.

“Where is the money? Why won’t you just tell me the rest of your Plan?”

His face falls and then freezes over into that horrible mask he wears when he’s utterly furious.

I should reiterate: He hates it, hates it when I try to use sex to get what I want, if it's something he doesn't want to give me.

Nothing pisses him off faster or hotter than that.

He shakes his head and he murmurs sleekly, “This is all my fault. I’ve been taking it too easy on you. Letting you get away with being a spoiled fucking brat for way too long.”

I shake my head no, but his fingers bite into my wrists and his black gaze lances into mine, diffusing dread through my bloodstream like poison. My arms jerk in his grip as I panic.

Dammit, fuck, I flipped the wrong switch.

His voice goes all velvety and the heat rolling off him turns fucking scary-hot. “All right. I’ll teach you.”

Tears prick behind my eyes and I try to stop what’s coming, even though I know it is impossible. “Ben…wait…that isn’t what I meant…I just want to know the Plan…what's...”

He rakes me with his fathomless stare and a sinister “…shhhhh…”

I shut my mouth.

“See, the first thing we need to do is make sure you understand what happens when you push it. Daddy doesn’t like it when you do that.”

I am shaking at the lethal promise in his voice, at the slightest emphasis on the word daddy.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper like an idiot. He just told me to shush. I’m terrible at obeying.

I feel his fingers digging in so hard I know I’ll have black bruises circling my wrists in the morning.

“Open your mouth again and see what happens." His voice is soft with silken warning.

I bite my lips together. I can’t talk but I can plead with my eyes. A tear or two streaks down my cheek.

“Aww, baby girl, that’s not going to work. Not even a little,” he tuts, warm breath fanning against my face.

I’d forgotten this side of him. It’s my own damned fault.

It’s like those people you hear about on the news who keep boa constrictors as pets and forget how snakes are hardwired to not give a shit about anything but their next meal. And then everyone’s always so fucking shocked when the cold-blooded reptile eats the family dog. Oh, yeah, Jim had that thing forever, called it his baby, but when Fluffy went missing, well, what did he expect?

I suck back my tears in one long shudder and refuse to break eye contact.

He cocks his head, not angry, no. “You wanna play, baby? Is that it?”

The gentlest of invitations. But the barest trace of hope lies beneath.

Sharp relief floods me, as I finally, finally understand.

He is and will always be a monster. I can’t change his true nature, but maybe I can…I don’t know, channel it somehow…

If I can wrangle all that power into my hands, I’ll have…it will be mine to control.

Does that even make sense? Like…if I can discover a way to harness all his brute strength and cunning, that wild rage always boiling in him, if I can direct it, I’ll have a real weapon, a real, dangerous thing at my fingertips.

Like a trained attack dog.

I vaguely knew this even ages and ages ago, with Teedo...and in those days after Hux...

But now? I can see it so clearly. We are both bored out of our minds and have been dancing around each other so carefully for so long.

If Ben is going to be my very own pet monster, then he needs a continuous source of release. He needs to play hard and dirty and rough. It’s probably why none of his other so-called pets lasted very long.

And with me, after everything we’ve been through, he’s been holding it back for months and months.

Anyone who’s ever owned a dog knows what I’m talking about. Most dogs get dangerous when they’re bored. They need regular exercise and a constant outlet for their natural instincts to bite and chew and devour.

He needs a toy he can’t break.

And I know for a fact he could never break me. Not now.

He's watching me, considering. That same look he has sometimes, like he's trying to memorize me like a textbook. 

I harden my eyes.

Enough of this begging, pleading bullshit. It has never, ever worked, not since the day we met.

You're quite the little fighter.

I should have remembered. I should have known. He wants me to scream. He wants me to fight him.

You can scream all you want.

“Yes," I hiss, "Let’s play.” His entire body tenses at my outright disobedience. “You should teach me a lesson I’ll never forget. Make sure it really sticks this time.”

“What did you just say to me?” he whispers, and I can tell I shocked him.

I let my own not-unformidable rage pour through me until it blazes hot and furious, fueling my own sure knowledge of what to do.

Short of killing me, there is nothing he can do to me that hasn’t already been done. And he’ll never kill me. He needs me too much.

That thought burns my fear away as surely as if I’ve sprayed it with gasoline.

“You haven’t been hard enough on me, daddy.” I yank my hands out of his grip, and he is so surprised, he lets me go. Before he can stop me, I slap him, hard, raking my nails across his face viciously enough to draw blood.

He catches me before I can claw him again, growling, “Oh, baby girl, I don’t think you know what you just did.”

No. I know exactly what I’ve done.

He flips me up and out of his lap so fast, I stumble. He uses my own impetus to tip me head down and over his shoulder. At this very precarious angle, I know if he drops me, I’ll land on my head and break my neck, but I feel reckless, so I kick my leg out.

Kick me again and I’ll fucking kill you.

He swats me hard on the ass but doesn’t say a word. But I feel his entire body quivering with excitement, that indefinable electric energy seething forth.

Yes.

He carries me to the kitchen, digs his handcuffs from his duty belt hanging by the back door and snaps, “All right.” He sounds so polite it sounds like a joke. “I’m game if you are.”

I hear the metal clink of his handcuffs and I kick again trying to squirm out of his grip.

He drops me and presses his knee into my back until I sprawl on all fours.

My knees are going to be sore for weeks from slamming into the kitchen tiles.

His dark chuckle sends a spike of fear through me, but I try to stand up anyway. He shoves me down again.

Ooooh, this’ll be fun,” he purrs. “Do I need my leather belt, too?”

He sounds so…stimulated and heat flares in my belly. “Maybe,” I choke, still trying to catch my breath. I fucking hate that belt.

I feel his hand wrap around my hair and jerk my head back so he can look down that long nose of his and scowl at me. “I’m gonna fuck you up, little girl.”

I choke down my fear and smile as sweetly as I can manage it. “You can try.”

And there it is, snapping between us like electricity, like a live wire buzzing with lethal voltage.

We understand each other. Perfectly.

He smiles at my words. That gorgeous, lopsided grin that belongs on the face of a fallen angel. But he doesn’t speak again. He just hauls me to our room, fucking whistling and stooped slightly so he can maintain his grip as I scramble still half on my hands and knees next to him.

We get to our room, and he flings me in the general direction of the bed, but I am strong now, and more coordinated. I’ve been doing Pilates for ages, and I am well-fed, well-rested, and off drugs. I am probably healthier than I’ve ever been in my life.

For the briefest moment, I am glad I’m not using heroin. Because I am going to put up one helluva fight. And even though he will eventually overpower me with his sheer animal strength, if nothing else, I know I can probably get a few good licks in before he inevitably knocks the crap out of me.

Instead of falling meekly onto the bed, I use my own momentum to bounce back and aim for his legs, knocking him off balance. He sidesteps the worst of it, tripping over the laundry basket, and he laughs, actually laughs as he lunges at me.

I roll and run for the dresser, for what I know is in the top drawer. Maybe we need to slow things down just a tad…

I pull the drawer open when his python-like arms wrap around me, yanking me back with pure brute force. Instead of trying to pry him away, I do something unbelievably stupid and effective. I turn my head and bite down as hard as I can.

“Goddamn it!” he roars, letting me go just long enough for me to snatch the revolver from the drawer and cock it. I am fast now, thanks to Uncle Lando drilling me every time Ben leaves me at the range.

The unmistakable click resounds through the room and echoes between us.

His chest heaves and he observes the bite on his arm. He cocks his jaw as if he can’t believe my audacity, shooting me this diabolical sneer. “Honey, that fuckin’ hurt. I hope you think it was worth it.”

He glances again at his arm, where blood oozes from the bite wound.

I taste blood on my tongue and hope I took a good-sized chunk out of his arm.

His eyes glow like he is fucking possessed, and I debate shooting him here and now and saving myself what is sure to be a very painful night. But we need to get this out of our systems.

“Now we’re even, daddy,” I snarl, tilting my head so he can see the very faintest scar from where he bit me. I am unbelievably turned on by the fact I’ve actually managed to draw his blood.

“Oh, no. No. We’re just getting started, baby,” he replies, so quiet and deadly my heart skips a beat. "You're not gonna be able to walk for days after this...Promise."

I brace myself. I can handle whatever he dishes out. And then he does the one thing I was hoping he wouldn’t do. He brings Hux into this.

“You fight this hard when Hux came over?” he rumbles so quietly I almost can’t hear. It takes a half-second for his words to register.

Oh, fuck, no, he did not just say that.

I am ready to blast his head off, and he is close enough I might have done it without too much thinking about bullet trajectory and all that shit, but I hesitate, and he grabs the gun so fast I don’t even know what happened.

I kinda forgot they probably teach cops how to disarm people and well, shit

He turns the gun on me, and it takes a few seconds for my brain to catch up.

“I fought,” I tell him, backing away, even though I have nowhere to go.

He shakes his head in disbelief and cranks his neck from side to side until I hear it pop.

He opens the chamber and empties the bullets onto the floor before he flings the gun away. I frantically try to recall if we have another one stashed away somewhere in this room…

He narrows his eyes and shakes his head again, like he doesn’t believe me, taunting. But I am not having it.

“Fuck you!” I screech, momentarily forgetting myself in the heat of wild rage. “I fucking fought!” I don’t think my voice sounds human. I am so, so angry.

“You think you could have fought off all six of 'em?” he goes on, caging me in and gripping my arms. He gives me a shake that should be rougher than it is. “You can’t even fight me off…why are you…?”

“…and where the fuck were you?” I scream. “You should have…”

“Should have what? Been here?” He is standing so close I can smell his sweat and the faintest tang of blood.

He isn’t even denying it. I am floored.

Because yes. Deep down I blame him for letting it happen in the first place and doubly so because he wasn’t there to protect me. Comprehension dawns and I fucking hate myself for wanting to cry. 

He's right. I couldn't fight them off then and I can't fight him off now.

He shifts his grip on my arms, but I turn into a flurry of punching and kicking, and I’m pretty sure I land a few solid blows before my hands are inevitably wrenched behind my back and cuffed together.

He tosses me face down onto the bed and a very distinct memory flashes through my brain. Of the very first time he had me like this.

“So, what? You just laid there like this and didn’t even put up any resistance?” he snaps.

I feel his hands on me, yanking my jeans down my legs. He’s done this to me so many times, I just let him. But he is way too calm. And I'm not. 

“Maybe I did,” I taunt. “Maybe I was bored and wanted to know what a real man felt like…”

He laughs again, a short bark of mirth, followed by the wicked snap of his belt.

I wasn’t expecting the first lash and it hurt. I think I am getting him good and royally pissed off. Good.

If I'm furious, then he should be too.

“I’m not too worried about it,” he returns, mirroring my mocking tones. “We both know how much fun you had that day, barfing up cum and getting stitched up from your cunt to your asshole…is that what you like, baby? I knew you were a sick little bitch, but that’s a bit extreme, even for you, isn’t it?”

I yelp more from surprise than pain at the next lash. But the third strike is enough to make me squeal and gasp.

Like a fool, I roll over, pinning my arms behind me and immediately hating myself when his belt slaps down hard across the tops of my thighs.

“OW!” I holler, glaring at him.

“Yeah, I’ll bet that one fuckin’ stings,” he agrees, pacing back and forth at the end of the bed. “Should I keep going?”

“I don’t know!” I snipe. “Am I still able to walk?”

His eyes sweep up and down my frame and turn pitch black and dark want writhes through me. He drags my feet over the edge of the bed and shoves a finger rudely between my legs.

“…fuckin’ slut…” he huffs when he pulls his finger away, slick with the evidence of my desire.

I look at the bite on his arm and lift a brow. “Glad you married me?”

“Baby, by the time I’m done with you, you’ll be lucky if you can remember your name, let alone whether we’re married.”

“You talk a big game, daddy,” I goad. “Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is?”

He tosses his belt to the floor and unzips his jeans, crawling over me until he is nice and close. My arms are going numb, but he is close enough I get a lucky shot when I smash my forehead into his face.

It hurts like hell, but when he reels back, I see the flesh under his eye already swelling and turning red. “Ooooh, that’s gonna leave a mark, Kylo.”

For some reason, this incenses him, but I’m not planning on stopping until I either come or he knocks me the fuck out.

He flips me over and growls, “You’re lucky I like your pretty face, bitch, or I’d return the favor. Still…”

I wiggle my butt, drawing attention to the scars on my back. “…how’s the view from back there, daddy?”

He grunts.

So, I speak possibly the stupidest words ever spoken. “…Hux was there…did you know?”

“Shut the fuck up, Rey.” Oooh. That one hurt.

His hand wraps around my throat, and I keep going. I feel the hot slide of his dick pushing into me and squirm at the unexpected pleasure.

“Wait-!” I cry, but too late. He is already pumping into me, pressing down on my windpipe. “…m-m-fffuuu-hhhhh…”

“You say something, baby girl?” His hips slam into mine and his grip tightens.

I can feel the blood filling my face, trapped on its way back to my heart.

“…yhhhh…”

“What? I can’t hear you, baby.” He groans and I feel my body seizing up around him.

White lights spear behind my eyes as he reaches around and plays with my clit until I can’t fucking think straight. I’ve utterly forgotten everything, everything except the delicious slide of his dick in my cunt, his sweaty body slamming into mine, his animal grunts echoing in my ears, and filthy-hot contractions that rip through me like a blade and I can’t stop it because I can’t fucking think or breathe –

He loosens his grip on my throat, and I pant and choke with a combination of relief and mind-bending pleasure.

“I said…” I cough, “…I forgive you…for not being there…”

“Really?” He fucks into me harder, hard enough to snap my head down into the pillows as I lay beneath him, limp and winded. “Why?”

“Because,” I gasp, “I love you.”

“Fuckin’ lyin’ whore!” he bellows, enraged. His hand is back squeezing my neck and I surrender to the darkness this time. But before I black out, I feel a smile curling at my lips.

Because that did the trick. Just like I knew it would.

 

I wake in the middle of the night as he slides my nightgown over my hips. I am thoroughly sore and exhausted and still tied down with strips of t-shirt he’d shredded quite methodically hours ago, having made the executive decision his handcuffs wouldn’t work with our new headboard.

Apparently, he isn’t quite done, yet. Damn.

I need to build my stamina.

“Wake up, baby girl,” he kisses against my ear. His breath is warm, and I press back against him, still in that murky place between waking and dreaming, and hoping he’ll hurry up and fuck me to sleep again. Except.

I’d actually been dreaming just now.

Hux was here.

Hux was here and I can’t get him out of my mind for some reason.

I freeze up and Ben senses it.

“What’s wrong?” he whispers softly. “You don’t wanna play with me anymore?” His grip on my waist tightens, ominous, threatening.

He senses my hesitation, and naturally, him being the overly-sensitive bastard he is, takes it the wrong way, rolling on top of me so quickly, my nightgown tangles, and I am pinned down by the fabric and him.

I can’t twist free and now he is gripping my throat, his hand big enough to compress the oxygen from my lungs in one squeeze.

The room is dark, and I feel his eyes on me more than see them.

“What’s wrong, honey? Not in the mood anymore?” he asks again, this time squeezing hard enough to choke me. “That’s okay, you just lie back and let me do all the work.” I reach up to clutch at his wrist, trying to swat him away. I can’t breathe.

I feel myself losing consciousness as he uses his other hand to roughly yank up my nightgown. He eases up on my neck and I suck in as much air as possible while he pries my legs apart.

He prods inside with a husky, “Good idea. Better breathe while you still can…”

“…love you…” I whisper, pulling as much oxygen into my lungs as I can.

His mouth crashes down onto mine, and I can taste the blood from where I split his lip by headbutting him after he took the handcuffs off.

I wonder if he’ll knock me out again for saying it.

But if I do wake up…I know exactly how to get what I need. Finally.

It’s only a matter of time. Ben is going to tell me where that cash is.

And that brick of Hosnian Prime, too.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen – Delusion, Part 2

de·lu·sion

/dəˈlo͞oZHən/

noun

  • an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder.

"the delusion of being watched"

synonyms:

misapprehension, mistaken impression, false impression, mistaken belief, misconception, misunderstanding, mistake, error, misinterpretation, misconstruction, misbelief; More

 

  • the action of deluding or the state of being deluded.

"what a capacity television has for delusion"

synonyms:

deception, misleading, deluding, fooling, tricking, trickery, duping

"a web of delusion"


 

When he burned my scars off, it hurt unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, ever.

Right before he did it, we talked about painkillers, but with my little heroin addiction, Ben was hesitant to introduce anything too strong, fearing I’d be more likely to relapse.

I knew he was probably right, even though it annoyed the hell out of me. I’d kind of been hoping he’d make an exception and let me have some heroin to help with the inevitable pain.

When he did it, I passed out halfway through. I fainted from the pain, and I remember my last thought was that I smelled like actual meat cooking, like a seared pork chop or something, and wasn’t it weird how we eat animals and keep other animals as pets when we are animals ourselves?

I woke to searing agony across my back. I wanted to scream and wail at the relentless pain, but I remembered Ben’s warning about not wanting to hear any “bellyaching” about it. So I let the tears fall but held my groans and moans to a minimum.

While I healed up, I spent most of the next two weeks on the sofa lying on my stomach, head turned to the side. I watched all kinds of TV and read my paperback novels and waited for Ben to come home from work and change my bandages and put the silver cream on my burn.

He left plenty of food and water within reach, but he’d missed so much work over the past months, he had to go, and I was actually fine with it. I didn’t mind being home alone, so long as the .38 was tucked within reach under the sofa and I had the remote control to the television handy.

Ben came home every night and cooked us dinner and told me stories about work, either police work, which turned out to be rather boring as it was mostly paperwork, or his other work, which I was rabidly curious about, although I’d have preferred to avoid the occasional shock when he’d mention names I’d grown to loathe.

Snoke. Hux. And the two others to be checked off my list.

I knew their names, now, too, thanks to Ben.

I napped a lot and dreamed about heroin and Ben’s stash of money, wondering where he kept it. It occurred to me one of the reasons Snoke’s guys tore up the house so thoroughly was because they might have been looking for it, or at least signs of further treachery from Kylo Ren.

I asked Ben if Snoke suspected how much he’d stashed away or if Snoke had any idea Ben had all that heroin. Ben told me if Snoke had even suspected we had as much cash or horse as we did, we’d both be dead.

Snoke’s little message had only been a warning. Kylo had stepped out of line, using Snoke’s guys to deal on the side and killing Teedo. One of them had ratted out Kylo to Snoke, necessitating the message in the first place.

And Ben killed Teedo because of me. If I hadn’t tricked him into doing it, things might have turned out very differently.

Maybe that was another reason I wanted Hux’s name burned off. Because it reminds me.

Maybe that day had been all my fault.

That gave me a lot to think about for a while.

I waited and thought and thought and waited, knowing the pain would fade eventually.

I am good at waiting.

 

After the first time he choked me out, I came to weakly. He’d been hovering over me, watching in the semi-darkness of our room. When I blinked awake, I couldn’t help it. I started crying, unsure if I was happy or sad to still be alive. He let me cry and silently helped me put on my nightgown.

I’d been disoriented and weak, and I was furious with myself for showing such fragility in front of him, even momentarily. He walked out of the room buck naked, leaving me half-conscious and propped up on the pillows. He was whistling again. I could hear him from the kitchen.

After a minute, he brought me a tall glass of water and an ice pack. He had one for himself, too, I noticed, and it sent a spiteful thrill down my spine.

I was feeling quite happy he looked almost as beat up as I felt. Aside from the scar I’d given him ages ago, he had scratches on his face, a developing black eye, and an ugly-looking bite wound on his arm.

I hoped he was up-to-date with a tetanus shot.

He flipped the comforter over me and glanced at the handcuffs on the nightstand before meeting my eyes with his hooded gaze.

And I could read his fucking mind.

We’re not done, yet.

I decided it was time for round two. He sat next to me on the bed and swooped in for a kiss, and that’s when I headbutted him.

He reared back, shocked. “Bitch, what the hell?” he thundered, flicking his tongue over his bloody lip with an angry scowl.

Inwardly I grinned. I’d split that pretty bottom lip of his wide open.

Which was awesome.

Well. He didn’t think so, but I sure as hell did.

Instead of answering his question, I lifted a brow and mocked, “I still remember my name…I thought you were going to really teach me a lesson, daddy.”

His eyes turned black as the pit of Hell, and I could feel darkness oozing from his pores to sink into me like clawed talons.

He told me I was the stupidest fucking cunt he’d ever met. But he was half-smiling. I think he was having fun, the sick bastard. 

Maybe I was, too. I don't know.

He picked up the handcuffs, and I held still, not wanting to exert too much energy until I had to. I could see him debating how to best apply them, but our new headboard wasn’t going to work.

Instead, he shredded a t-shirt and straddled me. He had to try hard because I was gonna make him work for it. I flailed and kicked and even got a few good slaps in before he got my hands tied down.

But, eventually, he wrenched my ankles apart and tied me spread-eagled with surprising efficiency, although he was out of breath, too, panting good and hard.

Good boy. Wear yourself out properly, now.

He didn’t bother to strip me out of my nightgown before he climbed back on and fucked me senseless.

Right before his burly forearm smashed down onto my windpipe, I gritted out, “…I…stopped…taking my birth control…”

“Why?” he barked, his eyes scanning my face with unflappable calculation and the barest hint of confusion.

“…wanna have your baby…”

“Don’t. Lie.” But even as he growled the words, he could see the truth in my eyes.

“…love you…”

He threaded his hands through my hair and kissed me so cruelly it felt like punishment, but he didn’t last much longer after that, collapsing half on top of me with a gratified huff and falling asleep almost immediately.

I dozed, too, and that was when he’d woken me again while Hux still lingered in my uneasy dreams.

I’d been disoriented, but conscious enough to figure out what I’d needed to do right before he’d choked me out again.

 

When I wake an hour later, untied this time, he is out cold. Exhausted, poor thing. 

I am out of tears and exhausted, too.

It is that hour of dark right before dawn lightens the sky, when everything is still and shadowed and suburbia sleeps quietly. The little sheep have no idea a wolf lives in their midst, nor will they, so long as they cling to the illusions of safety they have created for themselves.

I observe him, my beast, sleeping peacefully at my side. A handsome monster and I have him. Almost.

I very rarely catch him in sleep when I am awake. He looks younger, boyish even. I let him sleep until the light in the room changes just barely, hinting at a new day. 

I am already a disaster zone of bruises and welts on my legs and sore everywhere.

But. I can do a little more.

I wake him with the softest brush of curved fingers over his raspy cheek, lightly stubbled with morning whiskers.

I run my tongue along the cut on his lip, kissing him softly as if we are in love.

As if I love him.

Maybe at this moment, I do.

His eyes flutter open and he pulls me close, deepening our kiss into something hotter. Darker. I can’t help the faintest breath of pain from falling against his mouth as I whisper, “I do want your baby. Make me pregnant.”

He rolls me beneath him with a quiet groan, kissing me as cautiously as before because his bottom lip probably stings like the devil.

His large, warm hands carefully tug at the hem of my nightgown, nudging my legs apart. I hiss as I feel him pushing inside.

The light in the room grows faintly, and I can see outlines and shapes rather than just shadows. He watches my face as he fucks me, slowly, methodically. I cling to his shoulders and whimper against him. Not because it feels good, but because every slide and push of him stings and burns and reminds me this is necessary.

Just let him.

I am chaffed to hell and back and will probably be walking funny for days after all this.

But I let him do what he needs to do and moan encouragingly as he picks up the pace, his large hot body covering mine as we sweat and surge together in passionate effort.

And this time, as the pale light of morning enters our room, when he trembles against me and loses control, I whisper the words that will enslave him to me.

And he breathes them back against my lips. Hesitant. Vulnerable. But solid and clear.

“…I love you, too…”

Mine.

 

I wake up and Ben isn’t here.

It hurts to breathe.

Dreams of heroin still flit tauntingly through my mind and like I do every morning, I pretend. I let myself imagine for just a few minutes Ben has left me a hit, waiting for me right next to my daily vitamin.

I wish I had just a little bit…

I miss it. And it would certainly help kill some of the aching discomfort slowly making itself known as I rouse myself from the void of sleep.

I’m sore, but I’ve been worse, with the possible exception of my throat, which is fucking killing me.

That goddamn sonofabitch I married had his massive hands wrapped around my neck for half the night.

Still, I feel better than I’ve felt for a long time.

A quiet stillness lingers through the house like nobody else is home. I can hear the soft hum of the dishwasher running in the kitchen and birds’ raucous chirping outside.

Wish I had some water.

I sit up. I’m so, so thirsty.

I try to focus. He is not here.

I wonder how Ben’s feeling. He’s probably already left for work. I wonder how he’s going to explain the claw marks on his face. And the split lip and black eye. And the bite on his arm.

One of my finer moments, I’m sure.

I roll to my side and perch carefully on the edge of the bed looking for the glass of water he’d brought in last night. It’s not there, so he must have taken it back to the kitchen already.

The morning sun pours through the bedroom blinds, blindingly bright. He opened them before he left, so I wake in sunshine.

I yawn, and my arms stretch overhead, black bruises encircling each wrist.

My aches and pains remind me I am mortal.

And so is he.

My nightgown falls around my knees as I stand on shaky legs.

I shuffle to the bathroom to pee and it hurts. I think about last night.

It was simple, I realize. I’ve already convinced him to get Hux’s name off me. Now I am letting him mark his territory.

And I am going to be the most loyal bitch he’s ever seen.

He has to trust me, now.

Maybe not completely. Maybe not quite yet. He’s a suspicious motherfucker. Has been since the day we met.

That’s okay. He’ll come around.

I think way back to the old Rey. The fortune teller who looked for clues and exploited the little bits she could scavenge from her customers.

I’ve got a few good guesses about Ben, and I plan to use the hell out of him.

There is a reason he is suspicious and doesn’t trust hardly anyone, not even his own mother.

He’s been told his whole life he’s worthless and bad, I would bet money on it. The only time he ever mentioned his mother to me he called her untrustworthy and spoiled.

That is something I can manipulate.

I would further bet the only reason he trusts “Uncle” Lando is because Lando is the only connection to his past who treats him like a human being.

Either Lando doesn’t know Ben is a monster or he doesn’t care because he is one himself.

But I don’t get bad guy vibes off Lando at all. If anything, Lando reminds me a bit of myself. A bit of a con artist. A survivor.

I’m guessing he doesn’t have a clue what kind of bad shit his “nephew” gets up to.

Which is quite interesting.

And as for Ben’s actual uncle? Luke? I’d asked about him a while ago. I was curious about the person Ben trusted to either usher me into the afterlife or put me back together again, one way or the other.

Ben got really quiet and just told me Luke “owed” him a favor…but I didn’t really get the sense they were close.

A doctor-turned-priest. That’s something.

Skywalker. That name. I’ve heard it before. Lando mentioned it, and I’ve had to resist my increasing curiosity to ask about it every time Ben drops me off at the range.

Something always holds me back.

My thoughts turn back to Ben and his extreme and surprisingly religious response to my attack and losing the baby. Not for himself, but for us. I’ve seen absolutely zero indication of him practicing any kind of religion. So, he must believe in something just not for himself…

It fits with the idea he probably believes he is beyond redemption…

So…he knows exactly how evil he is?

He must. That is definitely something I can exploit.

But until he really digests the little lies I’m going to feed him, I know he will test his boundaries. He’s too smart not to.

He’ll be methodical about it, tactical. Strategically assess the perimeter for weaknesses, flaws, same as I did with the ankle monitoring bracelet.

Still, I am going to have to redirect his energy soon. I don’t have many more nights like last night in me, although I expect tonight won’t be quite so bad.

He’ll need reassurance. And my gut instinct tells me he will find some other way to test me.

So, when I go to the kitchen for a glass of water, I never expect his next test to be so blatant or so soon.

Or so fucking difficult.

Because sitting on the kitchen table?

Yeah.

Several stacks of cash in a neat little pile. It just might be about three-quarters of a million.

Which is enough to immediately send my pulse into a hard thrum.

But what I see on the top of the pile? It knocks the air from my lungs.

I crack my neck and a full shiver runs through my entire body.

Because on top of that small mountain of cold, hard cash is a plastic-wrapped brick about the size of a pound of butter.

And I’d bet my fucking eyesight it’s not baking soda.

 

I don’t know how long I stand there staring at it. But it’s a while.

Eventually, I look over to the hook by the back door. Hanging alongside the lanyard with the toolshed key is another set of keys.

If Ben went to his “real” job today, he would have taken his patrol car.

Leaving our jet-black 1969 Mustang parked in the garage.

He brought it home one day after I got my driver’s license, right before we got married.

I have no fucking idea where it came from, but I am damn sure I love driving it. That car is perfection, one of the most flawless American muscle cars ever designed.

Everything about it, the lines, the weight, the power…is just menacing enough to let you know you should keep your distance because a bad motherfucker owns it, while also inviting the eye to appreciate the utter excellence of line and form.

You might be surprised to know Ben lets me drive it most of the time we go anywhere. He says I need to practice my driving until it feels like second nature, like shooting.

That Mustang is fast, and it has a trunk, just big enough to hold a body.

My eyes cast back and forth between the car keys and the tempting stack of money and drugs on the kitchen table.

Remember when Ben first started leaving me alone in the house and I couldn’t even find a loose wire or a pen?

He’s way too detail-oriented to overlook the car keys hanging right there.

This is without question a test.

I have a moment of doubt.

If I fail this time, he’ll do so much worse than put a blowtorch to my arm.

So, I guess I just can’t fail.

I take a scalding-hot shower, careful of my bruises, pull my hair into a loose ponytail, brush my teeth and get dressed. I put on my shoes and socks and the denim jacket we picked out for me at Wal-Mart.

And then I take what I need from the little pile on the table and grab the car keys from the hook by the back door.

I don’t look back as I walk outside. I don’t need to.

Ben left me a message on a post-it note stuck to the steering wheel.

As I back the Mustang out of the driveway, I think.

It doesn’t hurt to think anymore.

 

I have several errands I want to run today, and if I’m efficient, I can accomplish all of them.

My first stop is to drive past my old shop. I’m feeling nostalgic and curious, and I have this vague need for belated closure.

When I drive past, it takes me a minute to recognize the place. It’s a Chinese restaurant now, and it looks busy. The smell of food wafts to my nose, and I almost go inside to eat a bite and check it out.

But I have too many other things to do, so I decide maybe another time. Besides, that life belongs to the old Rey.

I head a few blocks over and am pleased to find the pet store I remember still in business.

The smell of animals and sawdust and the faintest whiff of ammonia hits my nose as I push the door open. A jingling bell on the door brings a man out from the back room right away.

He shoots me a friendly grin and I try to smile. Little animals scurry in their cages as I approach the counter.

Being out in the world by myself again is much more difficult than I’d imagined.

Without Ben here to do all of the talking, I realize communication is all on me.

“Can I help you, miss?” the clerk prompts kindly.

I swallow and the scarf tied around my neck feels uncomfortably restrictive. Nevertheless, I smile and reply, “Actually, yeah. I’m looking for a collar.”

“Okay! For which kind of animal?”

Human. “Um. A dog.”

“Large breed? Small?”

“Uh. Large.”

“Oh, yeah? I have a Great Dane. What breed do you have?”

Horrible monster. “A…Mastiff.”

“Oh, I hear they are just gentle giants.”

I grin. “Yep.”

“Okay. Well, are you looking for something specific?”

“A shock collar,” I say firmly. “Just until he learns to stop barking at the mailman.”

I wonder if the clerk is secretly judging me, but he seems to take my comment in stride. “Sure do understand about that. Thankfully it usually only takes a few small zaps and they figure it out pretty quick.”

I keep the fake smile planted on my face while he pulls a box from the shelf behind him and proceeds to show me all of the features of the collar.

As he rings it up, we chat about the weather and he ends the transaction with a friendly, “Well! You should be all set and good luck with…oh! I’m sorry I forgot to ask! What’s your dog’s name?”

My teeth might show just a sliver too much and my eyes might be a touch too cold as I answer, “His name? His name is Hux.”

“Hux.” He nods. “Well good luck.”

I take a few free dog treats from the jar next to the cash register and tell him to have a nice day.

My heart is pounding, but the morning air is brisk and invigorating and I feel a renewed sense of purpose as I buckle my seat belt before I pull into traffic.

I go to the library next. I need to research something.

I want to know where I’ve heard the name Skywalker. It’s driving me crazy and I think I will get some answers about Ben if I can figure out why the name has been bothering me.

I head for the bank of computers in the middle of the stacks and nobody else is around. I realize I don’t know what day of the week it is, but it must be a weekday because it’s quiet.

I sit in front of a computer and try to remember when was the last time I typed anything as I poke at the keys and hit “enter”.

I’m surprised at how quickly “Skywalker” pops up on Google.

And my pulse starts thrumming as I glance through the first few headings.

I take a breath and look around, but nobody is watching or gives a shit about what I see. Nobody understands the significance of what I’ve just discovered.

It’s sitting right there, right in front of me in plain black and white, and I briefly consider running for the Mustang and driving far, far away.

But Hux is still out there in the world converting oxygen to carbon dioxide and I just can’t let that fucking go.

I take a few minutes and read, clicking on article after article, and there’s not a ton of new information as I make my way through them because it all happened long ago.

By the time I finish reading, I’m not sure how long I’ve been holding my breath.

Ben’s grandfather, it must have been his grandfather. Anakin Skywalker. Husband and father.

And a real goddamn serial killer.

Sentenced to death by lethal injection for the brutal murders of twenty-seven women.

Actually, they could only link him to the twenty-seven. But he’d been suspected of at least fourteen more.

Holy fucking shit.

My hands are shaking, and I decide I can’t stop now.

I type in the name Benjamin Solo.

Again, the results are surprisingly quick to appear on the screen.

The only relevant links are a local newspaper article and a single, grainy news video clip from about fifteen years ago. Ben would have been around sixteen, I think. Yes, there it is –

I read the article first, and then I click on the video. The sound is muted – speakers are not allowed in the library for obvious reasons, but the closed captioning on the screen and the manic look in the eyes of the woman being interviewed is enough.

Ben’s father, Han Solo, was killed in a hunting accident when Ben was sixteen. It made the local news but was quickly hushed up. But not before –

Ben’s own mother…

Oh, wow. No wonder he hates her.

That woman, I decide, is a real piece of work.

What kind of mother demands her sixteen-year-old son be tried as an adult for murder?

That’s a whole new level of cold-blooded, even if we are talking about someone like Ben.

But then I think about the Skywalker family, the legacy of Ben’s grandfather. I think about what Ben is capable of, the brutal violence and bloodless lack of empathy. 

Maybe not so sick after all.

I’m not able to find much more on Ben other than he was obviously cleared of all charges and the records were sealed because he was a minor.

Nobody seemed to connect sixteen-year-old Ben with his notorious grandfather, either. Interesting.

I type in one last name before my fifteen minutes of computer time expires.

But nothing at all comes up for Luke Skywalker. As far as the internet is concerned, he’s a ghost.

I exit the library, deep in thought. I decide I have plenty of time for a haircut. I haven’t had one since before Ben and I met.

And I need better clothes. Wal-Mart is well and good for some things, but I want some nice things to wear. After everything I’ve been through, I figure I deserve some quality clothes and maybe some shoes that won’t fall apart after a month or two. Maybe some nice boots like Ben’s.

I took a healthy stack of cash from the table this morning. We can afford it.

I’ve never had money in my life, and I want to find out if I love spending it as much as I love driving the Mustang.

Turns out, I do.

 

It’s early evening by the time I head home. Ben’s police car is parked in front of the house so I can pull the Mustang right into the garage.

He’s already home.

I’m nervous about his reaction, but I think I’ve read the situation correctly.

He knows I’ll come back, so long as I have something to come back to. Same as him.

I look again at his post-it message.

Dinner’s at six, and then we’ll talk. -XXX

Sure enough, when I walk through the back door, he hardly bats an eye.

“Sorry I’m late...I had a few errands to run.” I keep it casual, even though my heart is pounding. I set my shopping bags on the now-conspicuously-empty kitchen table.

He’s cleared away the money and drugs, and I’m glad because that heroin would have been distracting as hell.

He still might react very badly to coming home and finding me gone, not to mention missing a small pile of cash and his vintage, cherry, muscle car, worth a small fortune in itself.

But my worries evaporate almost instantly.

He’s in a fantastic mood. He’s making dinner and it smells delicious, but when he catches sight of my new haircut and outfit and makeup, he pauses his stirring and gives me a rather possessive head to toe perusal and a low, long wolf-whistle.

“Well don’t you look pretty?” His voice has gone all husky and sexy.

My heart skips a beat as he saunters over to me and pulls me against him for a slow welcome-home kiss. He smells divine and he tastes like the risotto he’d been stirring. I only tremble with a little bit of fear when I remind myself what he, what his bloodline, is capable of.

I can never, ever forget he’s a dangerous beast.

Mmmm. Thanks,” I murmur a little more breathlessly than I might have expected. My hair is super-short now, but I want a fresh start. Besides, I did ask the stylist to leave enough for him to yank on when we’re fucking, so it should be fine.

His eyes land significantly on the scarf tied around my neck, covering the worst of my bruises. “Anybody say anything about that?”

Yeah. Everyone who looked at me. I could see judgment and concern in people’s eyes, even though the only person to ask out loud about it was the hairdresser as she draped the salon cape over my shoulders right before she cut my hair.

I grin and roll my eyes. “I just told them my husband and I like rough sex,” I murmur, letting him sweep in for another kiss. He’s careful, I’m sure in no part because the cut on his lip still looks swollen and tender.

This time he hums and carefully unties the knotted scarf from my throat. I swallow involuntarily because even the slightest pressure is uncomfortable. I wonder if he’s planning on doing more of the same tonight and hope to God he isn’t.

Lightly, he traces a finger over the marks he made. His eyes darken a bit, but with concern.

He kisses me again, this time so gently and sweetly I just sort of melt against him. 

“Maybe not so rough all the time, baby…” He draws back an inch and his eyes sparkle into mine, more butterscotch than devil-black for a change. He holds me there, leaning into him, bending me back just slightly in his steely embrace.

“You like my hair?” I ask, suddenly shy and self-conscious. “It’s so short, but…”

“You’re beautiful,” he replies, burying his nose against my hair and inhaling deeply. “And you smell good enough to eat.”

Test passed with flying colors.

And now for the real test.

Not his. Mine.

I push my fingers into his hair and kiss him back, then I lean away just slightly and smile. “I bought you a present.”

He cocks his head, an odd gleam in his eyes.

I reach into my pocket and retrieve the thing I found at the pawn shop next to the hairdressers.

His breath catches and I slowly drape it over his head. He’s tall, but he ducks for me so I can reach.

Good boy.

His fingers tremble over the little golden crucifix, and I press it against his chest. The chain is too long, and we will have to resize it.

He picks up the little cross and examines it for a few seconds. 

“Why?” he asks hoarsely.

Because you’re my monster. “Because. I love you.”

Maybe the chain is only symbolic, but it’s me who put it around his neck.

When he flashes me pouty smile, I know I’ve got him right where I want him.

Especially after he replies with the softest of smirks, “I know.”

He’s mine. My monster, my other half. I belong to him and he belongs to me.

And now that I have him on a leash? I am going to make him do terrible things. 


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen – Erosion

e·ro·sion

 

/əˈrōZHən/

noun

  • the process of eroding or being eroded by wind, water, or other natural agents.

 

  • the gradual destruction or diminution of something.

 


 

Dinner is delicious, as always, and I wonder where Ben learned how to cook.

Before we met, the extent of my culinary expertise went about as far as knowing how to boil water for ramen or how to microwave tortilla shells with melted cheese. Vegetables were rare and quality protein was usually chicken nuggets from the drive-thru if I could afford it.

Ben likes to shop at Whole Foods and buy organic. Although we do take out on occasion, he frequently and sagaciously likes to remind me it’s all about balance.

We’re having a peppery arugula salad and risotto and I casually ask him who taught him how to cook.

I’m curious because the crazed woman screaming in the video clip I watched earlier at the library didn’t strike me as the homey-chef type.

Surprisingly, Ben replies his uncle taught him.

“Lando? He doesn’t seem like someone to sweat over a marinara sauce all day,” I chuckle, thinking of Ben making sauce just last week and how it literally took him all day.

“…no not Lando. Uncle Luke.” Ben’s gone quiet, but not scary-quiet. I sense he’s about to reveal something rather profound, so I hold my tongue.

Finally, he says, “I lived with Luke for a while…before my father died.”

“You said Luke used to be a doctor. Before he became a priest?”

I hold out my glass for more wine. He pours, and continues, “He was still practicing medicine when I lived with him. All about healthy eating…keeping the body pure…”

“He’s your mother’s brother?” I ask, not sure how much he will let me pry out of him before he shoots me down.

He nods affirmative and pours more wine for himself.

When he changes the subject, I let it go, because his next words are about the Plan, and I am instantly distracted.

“So. Nobody knows you’re still alive. And we’re going to leverage that,” he tells me nonchalantly.

“What do you mean?” I take a bite of risotto. It’s delicious.

“I mean Snoke and Hux and everyone else assumes you died that day,” he replies matter-of-factly. “And I’ve let them carry on that assumption. Mostly because I think if they knew you were alive, they’d come back here and finish the job. Especially Hux.”

That thought sends a thrill of terror down my spine and the hand holding my wineglass trembles.

“So, I’m thinking before we take out Snoke, we have to get rid of Hux, first,” he tells me around a mouthful of arugula. He’s watching me. Evaluating. “You think you can handle being the bait this time?”

“Bait?”

A wave of darkness rolls off him, and it occurs to me how eagerly he anticipates dispatching Hux to hell.

I smile and my hand magically steadies. Ben won’t let that fucker hurt me. He's mine. 

“I can handle it,” I murmur, taking a sip of wine and locking eyes with his. “What do you need me to do?”

 

We can’t very well just march onto Hux’s turf and demand he comes with us. He’ll be surrounded by his henchmen, and he’s not stupid. He’ll be armed no matter where he goes, same as Kylo usually is.

Which means we need to catch him when he’s not armed.

Which means I have to meet Snoke.

Snoke is a suspicious fucker, worse than Kylo. He won’t let his guys anywhere near him if they’re armed. No guns, no knives, nothing.

The only weapons allowed are the perimeter security guards’ and Snoke’s.

I step out of the bathroom and twirl once for Ben’s perusal.

I’m wearing the skimpy outfit Ben found for me from god-knows-where and way too much makeup.

He scans me critically. My stomach does a flip-flop. He looks dangerous, wearing dark jeans, motorcycle boots, and a beat-up black leather jacket studded with spikes.

It reminds me of…no. Is it?

“Did you take that jacket off of D.J.?” I hiss. I’m not sure if I should be outraged or disgusted. His lip curls into a wicked grin and he crooks his finger.

Come here.

He bites his lip as I stand obediently in front of him. The slap comes out of nowhere, hard enough to send tears stinging my eyes.

“Cry.” His eyes glitter with fathomless command and it’s never been easier to let a few tears roll down my cheeks, ruining my eye makeup. He grips my face and pulls me in for a ravenous kiss, smearing my lipstick and mussing my hair.

Ruthlessly he spins me and bends me over the back of the sofa, growling, “Hold still, baby.”

He yanks my skirt over my hips, and I feel him tuck something into the back of my thong.

He pulls my skirt back into place and gives me a light smack on the butt. “What do you say if anyone asks what that is?”

“It’s mine.” I sniff. My cheek hurts, but I won’t question Ben.

“Good girl. Let’s go.”

 

I’m nervous. We’re headed to meet with Snoke in the back room of some ancient Italian restaurant downtown, and I have to remember Ben is Kylo again, Kylo, Kylo

Say the name Ben Solo in front of my friends? And you will die. Slow and hard.

I glance to the side but Kylo looks straight ahead. I am a doll, decoration, a piece of meat. Another one of Kylo’s junkie girlfriends he couldn’t trust to leave on her own, and he’s pissed about it. Hence the slap.

Apparently, my husband has a type. Oh, I’m definitely asking him about this later, believe me.

But for now? I am not to make eye contact with or speak to anyone but Kylo.

My heart is going to beat right out of my chest, and I’m glad the young man giving me a half-assed pat-down appears enormously intimidated by Kylo’s possessive glower.

The guard doesn’t get too handsy, and my outfit is so tight, I’m obviously not hiding a gun or a knife…

After my pat-down and Kylo’s much more thorough one, Kylo drapes his leather jacket over my shoulders and I fight not to cringe in disgust.

I am going to make him burn this fucking thing when we get home.

We make our way down a stale, dank corridor, and Hux lounges against the wall, apparently waiting for us.

I am not expecting to see Hux so soon. For some reason, I pictured him vaguely in the background, not within feet of me. My stomach threatens to upheave itself and I swallow down my sudden fear. But we are walking and Ben, wait no, Kylo, greets Hux with lukewarm dislike.

Apparently, my presence is not unusual enough to raise eyebrows, as Hux barely notices me. In fact, he doesn’t even recognize me.

While part of me rages that this red-headed piece of shit likely hasn’t given me a moment’s thought since that day and I’ve given him many, many moments of thought, the other part is glad he doesn’t realize who I am.

He will. Soon enough.

I need to focus my attention on Kylo right now.

The carved mahogany doors slant inward at the slight push of Kylo’s hand. Hux strolls just behind him, slightly ahead of me, taking precedence. He’s showing me my place.

I follow meekly behind as they move to stand before Snoke.

I stare at Kylo’s boot, down and to my right, not glancing up when Snoke starts talking.

Snoke’s voice is pleasant and gravelly as he gives instructions to his men. Ben promised these meetings are very short, and he wasn’t wrong.

The only acknowledgment of my presence is a gentle chuckle and a lightly murmured, “Oh, another little dove to add to your collection, Ren? How utterly charming.”

I can feel Snoke’s eyes crawling over me and the sarcasm in his tone, and Kylo mutters something about stupid whores who can’t be left alone.

“And yet you always seem to fall for their charms, Ren. Well. This one looks true to type if nothing else…”

I try desperately to keep my eyes downcast, as if in a drugged stupor or just stupid.

Hatred pours into my gut like acid and I silently remind myself Snoke’s days are numbered.

But Hux first.

And the other two.

I stand quietly while Snoke talks. I let my mind drift, sure that if I listen to that oily voice for much longer I am going to betray myself.

I’m genuinely surprised when the meeting ends and Kylo grabs me by the arm to usher me out in front of him. My heartbeat kicks up.

It’s time.

Hux follows us, and now for the tricky part.

We walk back down the corridor, past security, to the parking lot, where Kylo strategically parked so we will reach our car before Hux’s.

We are walking in a small group, not out of friendliness or necessity but simply on a shared trajectory. Kylo and Hux do not speak. We are almost there, when, as planned, I take off the jacket.

To reveal the words cut into my back.

Property of Kylo Ren.

“What the-?”

I hear rather than see Ben whirl and grapple Hux to the ground, while I pull the loaded syringe from the back of my underwear and uncap it.

The exquisite feel of a needle in my hand again is almost too much, but Ben grunts, “Hurry up,” and I don’t hesitate to plunge whatever’s inside directly into Hux’s neck.

His eyes roll back, obscuring the naked terror there just moments before.

I run to pop the trunk of the Mustang, and Ben stuffs him inside with ridiculous ease.

 

When we get home, Ben leaves Hux in the trunk in favor of jogging around to the passenger side of the car and lifting me out, carrying me like a baby into the house, straight to the bedroom.

He pulls my skimpy dress over my head and sets me cross-legged in the middle of the bed. I am relatively compliant. In shock, I think.

Hux is here.

“Will he wake up and get loose?” I worry. My voice quavers and I hate myself. Ben strips out of his own clothes.

“Not for hours. Not with what we gave him.”

“Oh.” I guess Ben, being a drug dealer, would probably know.

He shakes out his hair and runs a haughty gaze over me. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” My voice is wobbly, but I think I’m okay. It’s just leftover adrenaline.

Hux is here, locked in the trunk of our car, parked in our cute little detached garage with little exes on the doors, just another charming little suburban detail that fits in so well in this pleasant family neighborhood.

“Come here,” Ben murmurs, and I kneel, scooting to the edge of the bed. He leans in and kisses my neck, hot and open-mouthed as he drags my underwear down my thighs. “Now, honey, I’ll let you help me get started on him, but I think you should stay in here for the worst of it, okay?”

“Why?” I don’t necessarily want to watch him kill someone, but I’m curious.

“Baby, I don’t want you having nightmares again.” He looks stern and I nod in agreement.

He’s probably right. It’s enough to know whatever he’s going to do to Hux will be enough to cause nightmares. That means it will be bad. Good.

“Okay,” I whisper.

“And after we finish this, maybe we should have a honeymoon or something. What do you think? Maybe go somewhere warm, get some sun?”

My heart starts pounding under my ribs. If we go somewhere warm and I wear a bathing suit, everyone will see my scars.

But sunshine does sound nice. We can figure it out. “Okay. That sounds really good…”

His large, warm hands sweep over the marred skin on my back to cup around my rear and pull me into him.

His plush mouth settles against my lips, hot and hungry and demanding and I open for him. His wet tongue slides against mine, his breath mixing roughly with my own ragged gasps.

“You did so good, baby girl…”

I smile at the pride in his voice.

“So, did you,” I tell him. My good beast.

I lean in to kiss the little golden cross against his chest and his arms tremble around me as I rub against him, enchanted by the sensation of skin on skin. His muscles flex under my hands and…I want him.

He growls and kisses me again, open-mouthed and ravenous, and it’s like fire, the heat from his body and the smell of him and the taste. I rub my palm over his erection, caressing the wet tip with my thumb until he’s panting against my throat and digging his fingers into my hips.

I drag my fingernails over his pecs and up his neck until he arches into my touch like a big, sleek cat.

“Ben…please…won’t you?”

“…won’t I what?” His voice has gone all raspy and deep and it sends slithers of want right to my womb.

“Please…” I whimper. I’m wet for him and I can feel his hardness prodding against my belly. “…I want…”

He flips me onto my back with an arrogant smirk and pulls my thong the rest of the way down my legs.

I watch as he wraps a hand around his dick and pumps it a few times. “This what you want?”

I nod eagerly.

“What is it about death and torture that makes you such a slut?”

I’m already sprawled on my back, but at his words, I spread my legs and watch his eyes grow heated as he licks his lips and stares at my pussy.

I arch my spine, pushing my chest up and whisper, “Please.

He clambers onto the bed, kneeling and grabbing me beneath each knee to fling my legs farther apart. He falls forward, jostling the mattress to brace one arm next to my head, so he can use his free hand to drag the tip of his dick between my legs. I moan and press closer.

He aligns himself and pushes in, bowing to kiss my breast as he thrusts inside with punishing slowness.

I hook my ankles around his hips to hold him there, but he pins my wrists and he’s fucking into me so slowly and brutally I twitch and jerk against him, heaving for breath and begging for more.

“God, you’re so wet, baby…” His hips roll sinuously into mine, pumping into me in a languid assault. God, he's stroking me just right and it's filthy how good he feels...

“Ben!” I shudder. “Fuck!”

“…mmm, you like that?” he purrs. “Daddy’s cock in your pussy?”

“…yes…”

“Feels good?”

“…feels so good,” I promise. It does feel good.

“…know why?”

I moan.

“…because…we’re...the...same, you and me…” His whispered words sound so certain, so adamant.

I clench down on him and he gasps against my hair. He picks up the pace a bit, until our bodies slam together with rhythmic force. He’s doing these throaty little masculine grunts every time he bottoms out, and I’m going to fucking come just from those noises.

He pulls my hair until my head is locked in place and hisses viciously in my face, “This is my little fuckhole, and I’m gonna fill it up with daddy’s cum. Is that what you want?”

“…yes!” I squeal, meeting his eyes with wild desperation, and he’s pounding into me and I’m gripping him with my thighs and my cunt and my everything because he can’t fucking stop or I’ll die.

“Please please please…please don’t stop…”

“I’m not gonna stop,” he croons, licking and scraping his teeth along the side of my neck.

I can feel my thighs tighten and my pussy flooding with that glorious warm pull and dark, endless ripples of heaven hit me in hard, savage waves. I feel him hot and solid, bearing down on me and I imagine my cunt squeezing him dry, milking his dick until he’s gasping and shaking, sweat-slick and quivering.

“…oh, fuck, I’m gonna come so hard…” he chokes, shuddering against me, crushing me into the mattress as he gives me a few final pumps.

His damp forehead presses against my neck and I whimper.

His mouth is hot and wet against me when he murmurs hoarsely, “I think I just knocked you up.”

I think he might be right.

“Good.” I whisper it against his shoulder, clutching him to me, unwilling to give up the weight of him. Pressing me down and away from reality.

But he moves eventually. I roll to my side and stare at the wall, listening to Ben getting dressed and whistling softly as he goes outside to get Hux and take him to the toolshed.

I doze off and after a little while, I feel him settle next to me and my eyelids flutter lazily open.

“Wake up, baby.” He’s smiling softly down at me and my own lips quirk into a lopsided grin. He strokes a lock of hair from my face. “Wanna help Daddy kill a bad guy?”

Fuck, yes, I do.

 

I’m wearing a t-shirt and shorts when Ben carries me into the toolshed. The familiar smell of oiled rags and tools and WD-40 and something slightly rancid, like rotting meat, hits my nose and I close my eyes and bury my face against his neck.

I’m not sure I’m ready to see what I know is waiting for me.

Ben sets me up high, and I feel scratchy wood beneath my thighs. I’m sitting on the workbench. Ben kisses me gently on the cheek, and whispers, “It’s okay. I’m here.”

You’re not alone.

I open my eyes and I see Ben. He needs a shave, and he has circles under his eyes. I wish he’d sleep more, but he claims he doesn’t need it. But he’s looking back at me and his eyes scrunch at the corners and I realize he’s trying to comfort me. And he looks so open, so earnest and reassuring, I take a shaky breath and shift my gaze to the person sitting beyond.

Hux is tied to a wrought iron chair, gagged with what looks like a dirty rag from Ben’s workbench. He doesn’t look so scary stripped down to his underwear, zip-tied to cold metal. Ben is watching my reaction and pats me on the leg.

I take a breath. Hux is here. But not for long.

Ben starts talking and methodically pulling tools from various shelves and boxes around the workbench.

“I have some things I need to say to you. And I hope you listen. They’ll be among the last words you hear…and when I stop talking, well, I suppose that means you’re about to enter your own worst nightmare, with me as your personal escort.”

He lines up his tools neatly on the workbench as he speaks. A ball-peen hammer. A long screwdriver. Some twine. A hacksaw. A soldering iron.

“You might argue you were acting under Snoke’s orders when you did what you did, and that’s fair enough. But, when you decided to take things as far as you took them, well, I think that showed a real lack of judgment on your part.”

Ben pulls a handful of wood screws from a box under the workbench and sets them next to the hammer.

Hux’s eyes meet mine. His narrow with spite and I smile and mouth, “You’re fucked.”

“See, what you didn’t account for is her. You thought she’d kill herself over you, you, a coward who couldn’t do it yourself…and you made a huge fucking mistake. She might be just another dumb junkie slut to you. But to me? Well…it’s because of her I’m still alive.”

What? Oh. He’s right.

“After your little house call, I was ready to come for all you bastards, guns blazing and fuck the world. And I expect you would have killed me. Eventually. But she wouldn’t let me go. Made me stay, gave me something to live for, same as I did for her.”

I’m riveted at Ben’s sudden loquaciousness.

“’Scuse me, baby,” Ben mutters, reaching past my head to pull a utility knife from the shelf behind me.

Hux grunts something unintelligible, but it could almost have been a “fuck you” or some similar last-ditch effort to inspire Ben’s infamous temper.

Perhaps he’s hoping Ben will lose it and kill him in a moment of impulse. But Hux doesn’t know. He doesn’t know how Ben was made for this. How he’s in his element now, and how nothing, nothing short of a bullet to the head will stop him from his intended trajectory.

Sure enough, Ben just shakes his head and keeps talking.

“There are two types of animals in this world. The ones who will do anything to survive. And the ones who rule them. I’m betting you think you’re in the second group. And that’s where your mistake comes in.”

Ben moves to crouch in front of the monster who killed my baby. They are eye-to-eye like this, cold merciless blue meeting deadly black and gold.

“You pissed off the two people in the world you can’t afford to piss off. One of us? Might have been able to let it go. But the two of us together? Nah. Like she said. You’re fucked.”

Ben glances over to me, and I am hypnotized. I’m floored. Ben’s right, but I never would have credited him for so much insight.

He returns his attention to his quarry and leans in, menacing. A wolf baring its teeth. Hux tries to shift away.

Ben growls, “Killing is in my blood. Generations of it. And they’re in her, now, too.”

I shiver, knowing exactly what he’s referring to, even if he doesn’t know I know.

“You might say killing is my destiny. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an appreciation for human life…I do,” he says whimsically. “I revere it. I love…holding it in the palm of my hands. I…dream about it, think about it all the time…And, well, at one point, I helped make one. A life.”

I suck in a slow breath, not wanting to disturb the air and break the spell.

Ben has his gaze locked on his prey, though. “Now that? That’s power. The power to give life, not just take it away. And you need to understand when you take something that doesn’t belong to you, well, then you have to pay extra hard. And we’re gonna make you pay for it.”

His eyes meet mine and he drawls, “I’m tempted to do to you everything you did to Rey that day…down to the letter.” He pauses for effect and Hux flinches, turning pale under the gag wrapped around his face. “…but since the thought of ripping you a new asshole kinda makes me sick, I’ll just have to be a little more creative…”

A chill sneaks under my skin as I watch Ben pull his lethal-looking hunting knife. He paces around to stand next to me, raking me with his homicidal stare, and rumbles, “I’m a perverted sonofabitch, make no mistake. You can ask my wife, she’ll tell ya…but she’s something else altogether. ‘Bout as depraved as it gets.”

He stabs his knife into the wooden workbench next to my leg, startling me with his sudden ferocity of action. I only jump a little.

He reaches for something on the shelf behind me and he’s holding the shock collar I bought. I realize he knew what it was for without me having to tell him.

Good boy.

I lick my lips and can’t break eye contact. We have a moment of communion.

It’s crystal fucking clear.

Ben says we’re the same.

Maybe we aren’t so different.

I smile, just a hint, and he gives me the briefest flash of acknowledgment before he tears his gaze from mine and turns to Hux, who watches us with increasing alarm.

“Now me? I usually keep it old school. Simple. Cutting, bleeding, screaming, dying. That’s how it usually goes. But with you? Well, see, she–” he nods his head at me and holds up the shock collar with a cocked brow. “–she went to the store all by herself and picked this out just for you. Special. So we gotta let her have her say…since she’s kinda the reason you’re still alive, too.”

Hux looks at me, confused, and Ben chuckles, “Oh. That’s not a good thing.”

He sets the collar on the workbench and lifts a brown paper bag next to it.

“Now I have this leather belt I like to use for choking, but, well it’s kind of special, seeing as I like to use it when my darling girl misbehaves…” He catches my gaze and winks, slow and sexy. “But I did take a page out of her book and stop by the pet store earlier, too. Can you guess what I found there?”

Hux shakes his head no. I notice a bead of sweat drip down his forehead. Ben shakes the bag and it makes a telltale metallic clinking.

“No? Well, lo and behold, they sold me this choke chain for practically nothing…twelve dollars and I got a chain leash to match…I think I got a pretty good deal, even if it is only going to be a one-time use…”

Ben puts a hand into the bag and dangles a silver slip chain by one finger. This one has prongs hooked inward from the links of chain, which will create a clawed effect when it tightens around Hux’s throat. I expect Ben’s leather belt would feel like a gentle caress in comparison.

Ben sends me a half-smile as if he’s reading my mind. He moves to hover over Hux’s shoulder and leans in to whisper confidentially, “I can’t use a brutal thing like this on Rey…she’ll either kill me for doing it or die trying…and well, I kinda like having her around…”

He shakes his head and he’s looking at me, fondly, as if he’s really paying me a compliment. He’s right though. I smile and blow him a kiss.

Ben shifts his raptor gaze to his mark, who is definitely starting to look a little sweaty, a bit…unmanicured… “…you, on the other hand?”

I feel my smile turn vulpine as I meet Hux’s eyes.

“I’m sure you’ll appreciate the magnitude of my imagination once we get started…”

Ben’s casual backhanded slap is enough to make me jump and Hux groans in pain. Some vague part of me realizes Ben has always held back a bit with me. If he ever hit me that hard, he’d have killed me.

Hux looks a bit rummy. My insides squirm with joy. It’s sick, but I don’t fucking care. That animal took something from me.

And now my very good monster is going to fuck him up for it.

“I expect by the time I’m finished, you’ll have an entirely new appreciation for lots of things. Like your eyes…your teeth…your nose…” Ben’s ticking things off his fingers, counting all the pieces he’s going to take and a horrible something writhes inside me. Maybe it’s glee at the dawning terror in Hux’s eyes. Maybe it’s genuine horror for what’s about to happen. “…your fingers…your balls…your skin…” This last he says in a demon’s voice, dark and pitiless.

But he returns his attention to the shock collar.

Do not use when wet or with water,” he recites, turning it in his hand. He arches an informed brow at Hux. “I’ve seen big dogs shit uncontrollably after a zap from one of these…”

He flips the collar around and examines it carefully, casually, building the anticipation so beautifully I grow even more chilled. Ben licks his lips and waits for Hux to look at him. “You are really going to have to try and not shit yourself, my friend. Shit draws flies…and…well…you’re not going to want to have flies swarming around once I start peeling your skin off…I hear the flies are almost worse than the skinning. Could drive a person insane...”

Ben steps over to me, setting the chain and the shock collar on the workbench before ripping his knife out of the bench so effortlessly one would never have guessed how solidly he’d implanted it in the first place.

“I might do a half-ass job of cauterizing to keep you alive a little longer…I’m almost as good with a blowtorch as I am with a knife. Aren’t I, baby?”

I nod. It’s true.

He’s toying with Hux now, circling around like a rabid dog, picking his fingernails with the tip of his knife and throwing out little ideas about where he might start with the skinning.

“Now, I might not be traditional and go for your dick right away…Nah, I’m gonna let you worry about that for a while. I want you to really think about it, though, because I think when I finally do take it you’re going to begin to appreciate a few things about me. Like how I can go for days without sleeping. Did you know that? Don’t believe me? Ask Rey.”

Hux tries to shake his head but he looks over at me, and I nod and murmur, “It’s true. I’ve hardly ever seen him asleep. I don’t know how he does it.”

Ben hums and keeps circling, “And I’m good with a knife, really good. Now, I know you have some skill yourself, as testified by the fancy artwork you did on my wife a while back…but me? Well, I might just have you beat there…I s’pose we’ll find out soon enough…”

Hux’s jaw clenches and he glares at me furiously. Ben catches it, looking back and forth between our hostile stare-down before leaning in close to Hux.

The vibe coming off Ben is enough to send terror rocketing up and down my spine, so I can’t imagine what Hux must be thinking.

Ben hisses, close enough to Hux to move the man’s red hair with his breath, “That’s why…when I start peeling your pasty hide away, I think I’ll start somewhere interesting. Maybe here?” He drags the blunt edge of his blade under Hux’s arm and Hux flinches.

“Or here?” A thin red line appears on Hux’s pale inner thigh in the wake of Ben’s blade. It must be razor-sharp to make such a fine cut.

“Maybe here?” Ben’s arm jabs down and jerks against the back of Hux’s knobby knee. I see red dripping down in shocking contrast to Hux’s pale skin.

Hux squeals from behind the gag.

“Now, that felt like a tendon or something important you need for walking…good thing you won’t be needing that again…”

Little warbles of pain or terror come out from behind the gag while Ben carefully puts the shock collar around Hux’s neck and ensures it is in place.

“You just sit here and think about where I should start. Maybe I’ll let you help me decide after I come back.”

Then he dumps a bucket of rancid water over Hux’s head. That must have been where the rotting smell was coming from. Trust Ben to plan ahead and have something like that ready...

“Fuck, that stinks. Shit. Looks like we’re gonna draw some flies, after all…”

Ben passes the collar’s remote to me and I hop down from the workbench.

“…now every time you feel a zap, I want you to remember how much my girl here hates your guts…she’s got a real mean streak in her, so I expect you’ll-”

I can’t wait for Ben’s speech, so I give the remote a tap and watch Hux’s eyes bulge as he grunts around the gag. Water leaks from the edges of his underwear and dribbles onto the floor below.

Ben grins. “That’s not even turned up all the way…oooh, you’re gonna have a crappy night…”

He glances at his watch and turns to me. “Dinner’s almost done, honey. Anything you need to say?”

Hux’s cold blue eyes burn into mine, and I know this will be the last time he uses them because Ben said he was going to take them for me. Ben doesn’t lie about things like skinning and blinding.

I finger the remote as if debating on giving him another zap, but the fear in those eyes is enough. For now. I shake my head and mutter, “No. I think he’s going to be very sorry.”

We leave the shed and I don’t look back. Ben tucks his hands into my front pockets, walking behind me in lock-step, like kids playing. We walk straight-legged, in stride together to the back door. I take slightly larger steps as he buries his face against my neck and mutters, “We should wash up first, yeah?”

I press my finger on the remote and hear a satisfying muffled squawk from the toolshed.

“Sounds good, babe.”

Bye-bye, Hux.