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A Noose of Barbed Wire

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His horse’s gait had slowed to nothing more than a rattletrap amble, scarcely able to drag its hooves over the dusty gravel. Here they walked side by side, surrounded by a barren landscape lit only by muted daylight. What little dying light there was seemed to be absorbed by equally moribund shrubbery. Naked trees unable to conceal themselves, let alone him, from the wind that howled and cut into his very bones. He placed the barrel of his six-shooter to the creature’s temple. Its glassy eyes gave no indication of anything amiss, even as he cocked the hammer. A noble beast to be sure, going with a silence more pure than the garish blast of the gun. Quieter than most he’d felled, though perhaps he was temporarily deafened himself, only seeing the fine red mist lingering in the breeze. Soon it, too, would be brown and rusted like the spurs on his tired feet. Not even the crows cawed here.

 

Ride until you can’t ride no more. Then take to walkin’ and when your own two feet give out, you’ll be close. If you’re lucky, the desert will kill you ‘fore it finds you.

 

Ben wasn’t scared of dying. There were things worse than the gaping chasm of nothingness that waited patiently on the other side. At least that’s what he thought - even in spite of the grisly shit he had seen. The dark anomalies created by the unholy cosmic energy that took the form of monsters, mere things that go bump in the night, were child’s play. Things regular folk couldn’t fathom were his only reason for existence. The same shadows they sauntered and slithered in were his sacred hunting grounds. His by the right of the Sky blood in his veins, passed down through the men and women of his family. Safer to go by Kylo Ren instead of Solo - a lone rider like his father before him.

 

What Ben Solo truly feared was her . He was afraid she might be real...maybe more afraid that she might not be. Her essence pulled at him stronger than the earth itself, leaving fire in his veins every time he dreamed of their meeting. To hunt her was his destiny, to crave her was his bane. A vampire to the common folk, but to him she was something far worse. One of the strongest anomalies he’d ever sensed, bound to him by their mutual fate. Two reapers on opposite sides of the universal balance. Kill or be killed. Feed or be fed on. Hers would be the kiss of death, piercing his neck like a noose of barbed wire. He’d be foolish to believe she wasn’t haunted by him too...he didn’t even know her name.

 

In this land, rich men were laying tracks straight into Hell and calling it industry. His last stop before the long ride was the furthest place from any imagined future. Here, there was no escaping the unforgiving frontier, especially not in the pieced-together slats that made up the scattered buildings of Niima Outpost. A tumbleweed would offer more shelter. The entire economy subsisted of murky liquids being poured into men with even murkier souls. Men only drinking and fucking in flickering light to hide their sins. 

 

Not that Ben was a good man. He had needs as base as anyone else and alcohol on his breath as he thrust into the barmaid in her dark and poorly insulated room. She knew why he’d come and why he didn’t plan to stay. Only on the blood trail of the recent killings: livestock and a couple of drunks who thought they could stop a demon’s feast. She had clung tightly to him when she tried to describe the carnage, the inability to tell the torn flesh of the bodies apart. The smell of exposed entrails baking at high noon. He didn’t tell her he’d examined them already and experienced the assault on his senses for himself. The cost of arriving a day late.

 

Ben listened and fucked the barmaid again to help her forget. He didn’t even feel bad that he’d imagined her the whole time. The closer he got to his nightmare, the more she intoxicated his every thought. There wasn’t enough whiskey in the world to drown out the simple fact that he wanted her in ways he shouldn’t. Especially knowing he’d have to ram the stake through her heart before she could sink her talons into him. The line between duty and desire was not one that could be crossed. 

 

He’d slipped out of bed before dawn and snuck down to the saloon for one last drink. Needing no directions, the voice from his dreams rang clearly between his ears. Not that it prevented the old man at the stables from repeating them anyways. At least he’d left enough money for the fresh mount now rotting on his unmarked trail. That felt so long ago now, days at least. Ben’s footsteps were blown away in the wind of the rising storm. His water skin and ration pouch were long empty and he didn’t even have enough energy for thoughts to clatter around in his head. He knew there was a river close now, but he moved only for the anomaly, pulled as if by a magnetic force. It tugged at him even as he fell in the shadow of the canyon, his own mortal exhaustion winning out over preternatural obligation.

 

When he awoke, Ben found his arms were leaden and his head heavy as raindrops pelted his face. A mist had crawled into the canyon with him, heralding something that surely felt like doom. The chill had set in to his very soul. The vampire was close. She was close. When he tried to stand, his boots squelched in the mud. He felt into his coat; the reassuring presence of the crude stake calmed him. Anointed in his own Sky blood, it would do far more damage to the creature than the bullets in his gun. The mud was far too soft now and there was not enough light to see by in the canyon, the pale crescent of the moon obscured by the mist from below and the black clouds above. Maybe he was already dead.

 

In the distance, a roar began to build. He was too low in the canyon. Ben began to run, or as close to it as he could manage, his legs caked up to the knee with wet earth. The river had broken suddenly through whatever dam the relentless rain had weakened and when the current slammed into him, he fell backwards flailing for something to hold on to. The walls of the canyon were worn far too smooth by this exact form of violence. Something hard struck the back of his head and he gasped involuntarily, taking in silty water until everything went darker than the blackness that had surrounded him. And to think he’d been so thirsty.

 

**

 

Rey stared down at the body of the fool caught in the flash flood. He was soaked to the bone and very likely dead. It was too dark to tell if he was even breathing. Anyone without such sense deserved to die, failing to read the signs on the ground, falling right into the desert’s trap. A shame. Not many souls ventured out this way anymore. She pressed a boot to his shoulder and rolled him onto his back, using the barrel of her shotgun to move his duster aside. She removed the revolver from his belt and the sharpened stake from where it was attached to the inner lining. This was no ordinary man and he certainly was a liability she could not afford on this night. Not when something else hunted the prey that was meant for her.

 

Hunger violently seized her stomach as Rey looped a rope around the man’s ankles and tied the other end to her saddle. It was a short ride back to the cabin, but she hoped he had no wounds that would leave a blood trail. Leaving a body was just as dangerous and sure to attract that which lurked in the darkness. Her hackles were already raised as she spurred her horse into action, pulling the bandana over her nose and mouth for protection against the elements that still raged around her.

 

By the time she dismounted, her fingers were numb and clumsy on the knots. She’d blame the unseasonable cold air and not fear. Never that. Fear was the quickest way to an early grave. Rey swore she heard a breath on the wind; maybe it was the trees that surrounded her tiny shack of a home in the low hills. She tried to work faster, her heart hammering against her ribs. The man at the other end of the rope stirred and coughed. The bastard had survived after all. She thought about leaving him for the shadows. It would be easier to make the handful of paces into the house by leaving his dead weight behind - a peace offering to the golden eyes rimmed in red that peered out of the woods whenever the sun went down. She cursed herself for being out so late in the first place, and then cursed herself again as her conscience won out.

 

Rey fisted the length of rope, coiling it around her elbow until she could heft him with her own body weight. Only a few steps. The breathing was more than just the wind now - more than just her own frantic panting. A voice whispered to her, too close.

 

Turn around . Let me taste your fear.

 

She ignored the seductive caress of the words at the nape of her neck, crossing the threshold with the stranger’s inert form and slamming the door shut behind them. In the whipping winds that slapped at the walls of her cabin, she heard the wild neighing and whimpering of her horse as the creature closed in on it instead. Rey spared no tears for her mount, knowing there was nothing to be done. It’s why she never named any of them. Better the horse than her. If this stranger tried to cross her, she’d make sure he was taken too. She’d already done more than enough for him. 

 

No more sounds came from the stall after a few excruciating minutes. The world outside seemed to go still except for remnants of the passing storm. A slight breeze whistled through the cracks in the walls and lingering raindrops pattered softly on the tin roof. Rey lit a single lantern with shaking hands and placed a few logs into the stove before peeling off layers of damp clothing to dry near the hearth. After finally getting the stove lit, she was about to turn and take stock of the man when she felt the cold, hard barrel of a gun pressing to the back of her skull. Shit , she’d left the weapons out on the table in her haste.

 

“Turn around slowly and keep your hands where I can see them.” His deep voice was hoarse and gravelly.

 

“You’ve got bigger problems than me, hunter,” she replied.

 

“I’ll be the judge of that.” He prodded her again when she failed to oblige.

 

“I just saved your life.” Rey turned around and looked up into his face defiantly. Something akin to shock crossed his face before he quickly concealed it. His weapon remained raised.

 

“You…” he breathed, eyes wide. His hand trembled slightly, finger poised dangerously close to the trigger.

 

“What about me?” She narrowed her eyes at him and when he didn’t fire straight between her eyes, she stepped to the side of the barrel. He reacted quickly and placed the stake to her throat with his free hand. In the dim light, she could see the wood tinted with remnants of dried blood. “I would’ve left you to the vampire had I known this is the thanks I’d receive,” she spat.

 

**

 

“What do you know of vampires?” Ben finally lowered his weapons, still in shock that the monster who had haunted his every night for years stood before him as a mere woman. Her fierce eyes were brown above the dusting of freckles he knew too well. Brown eyes, not red as he’d seen. He could still feel the anomaly closer than ever…but it wasn’t her. Not that she didn’t seem to have a pull all her own. His senses were afire with memories of those fevered dreams...if that’s all they were.

 

“More than I want to.” Her voice broke his transfixion as her eyes darted to the door behind him before settling back on his face. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she said, appearing satisfied that he no longer meant to harm her.

 

“I might have,” he said, barely a whisper. She handed him a water skin which he drained quickly. “Have anything stronger?”

 

She pulled a bottle of brown liquid and two cups from the dusty shelf of a cupboard and leaned her shotgun on the table beside her. “I’m Rey.”

 

“Kylo Ren,” he returned.

 

“Well, that’s a fake name if I’ve ever heard one. I’m gonna have to check you for marks before I let my eyes off you again, Mister Ren.” She poured them each a drink. “Might as well get better acquainted.”

 

“It would only be polite,” Ben said before swallowing his down, “since I’ll have to do the same to you.”

 

“Save your politeness for the ladies of society,” she snorted. “Out here we all die the same no matter what’s between our legs.”

 

Ben raised his refilled cup again in salute to her words. “May I ask why you are out here alone?”

 

She told him about the family she had waited for on her ranch. A mother and father who went out one night to look for whatever was killing their cows. A mother and father that did eventually come back, gaping jaws slick with blood and the pulp of an unknown meat on the fangs that used to be their teeth. A hunter had saved her then, which was the only reason she’d been compelled to return the favor for him this time. 

 

“Lost my appetite to be around other folks knowing we’re all just lambs for the slaughter to those things.” She gestured to the door and downed her drink before pouring another. “Besides, I vowed I’d find the one that turned my parents. Tonight I think it almost found me.”

 

He didn’t bother telling her the details of his own story, certainly not the dreams. Knowing he was a hunter on the trail of a vampire was enough. Knowing he had Sky blood in his veins would only make her more wary of him. It was knowledge to many that his own grandfather had become as deadly as the anomalies he’d hunted, corrupted by an even more dangerous thirst for power, forgetting about the balance he was meant to maintain. This woman didn’t need the burden of that information. 

 

When he finished, she stood unceremoniously and gripped her shotgun. “If you’d be so kind. I found you half drowned, but creatures of the night aint picky. Especially an easy target as you made yourself in the canyon.”

 

“I won’t fight you.” Ben stood and slowly began to remove the wet clothes from his body while she watched. To her credit, her cheeks didn’t redden, even when he stood before her entirely bare. There was no place for modesty here. She began at his face and neck, her eyes working their way down just beyond an arms length away in case he meant to grab her like an anomaly would. Not that he didn’t want to sample her flesh in other ways. He looked at the ground to avoid wondering how her mouth tasted along with the whiskey they’d consumed.

 

**

 

Rey did her best to keep her face impassive as her eyes roamed over the hunter’s body. She kept her thoughts on what the horrific result would be if she let her guard down. Luckily, his skin was almost deathly pale where it hadn’t been exposed to the hard sun and grit of the southwest. It would be easy to spot the raised red marks of a vampire’s bite, though there were other angry scars aplenty. His dark eyes weren’t rimmed with anything other than deep circles of fatigue. He was almost a full head taller than her and more muscular than she had anticipated underneath those layers of wet clothing. Her eyes also wanted to linger on the member that hung between his legs as he turned them to show her his inner thighs.

 

It had been many months since she’d lain with a man and she’d be a liar if she denied that the presence of this one put more heat in her belly than the whiskey had. She leaned her gun against the table again once she completed her search, satisfied he hadn’t been marked. Still nude, he moved his clothing to hang by the stove with her articles that were already there. He made no move to wrap himself with a blanket or anything else of the kind. She thought about asking him to, but she didn’t want to undermine her own resolve she’d already shown. 

 

Slamming another drink, Rey looked him in the eye as she began to unbutton her shirt. Perhaps she should turn around, but it wouldn’t matter. He was a hunter and had just as much a reason to not trust her. Even in a world ruled by men, no one was safe from the monsters. He held her direct gaze as she removed every item, regarding her as one predator would another, rather than as if she were prey. She didn’t stop at her small clothes, afraid to arrest the momentum she’d started. Her nipples were already tightened, mostly from the chill in the cabin. Her arms were beginning to turn to gooseflesh, but she made no move to rub them. A chill was certainly nothing to get shot over and she could see him clench his jaw and swallow hard as his own eyes began to make quick work over her slight frame. She knew there wasn’t much to see. She’d lived a hard life after abandoning the ranch and taking up the hunt, but she certainly had nothing to prove and she’d never met a man who’s own needs weren’t carnal enough to deny her. The desert was a lonely place and most took any opportunity they could outside the confines of the so-called civilized society of the cities. 

 

Rey realized after a time that neither of them had spoken as he examined her. Only the juxtaposition of the floorboards creaking under their shifted weight and the continued rustle of the trees outside hinted at the relative safety of the indoors. Disquiet could come in so many forms. Refusing to look away, she followed his eyes as they traced her. She couldn’t be certain with the adrenaline and drink coursing through her, but he had something about him that made her feel more vulnerable than she had with other men. He was the stranger here after all, but she also felt safer now that she knew he wouldn’t rip her throat out. In fact, she ached to feel the slopes and valleys of his scars, to be enveloped within his heat in these frigid temperatures. She’d spend all night tracing them if she had to, but she didn’t know why she felt so compelled.

 

An eternity might have passed before he was done glancing her over. Not long enough. Not tonight when death had breathed down her neck just so she could save his. Maybe part of her wanted him to remain powerless in her domain.

 

When she turned around, she could see he still grit his teeth with the same wanton needs. Knowing what might come next, yet not at the same time, she went to the small bed and pulled the top quilt from it. She had begun to wrap it around under her arms when the low tones of his voice shattered the silence.

 

“Don’t.” His eyes darted to the whiskey bottle, unable to meet hers. There was a story there, a fear like the the one that crawled up her spine every time she set foot outside before the sun was at its zenith.

 

“Don’t what?” she replied, more out of genuine curiosity than a challenge...though there was a bit of that, too.

 

He didn’t reply and the blanket hovered between them for another handful of heartbeats before he placed his hot palms over her clenched fists. His face looked tormented as though part of him wanted to look on her and the other half looked as though it would rather face the vampire lurking beyond the property line. Rey remembered suddenly that this small hovel belonged to her and her alone. This ‘Kylo Ren’ as he called himself was still the guest she had allowed to cross her threshold.

 

Seeing the desperation in his eyes, Rey’s fingers relaxed and the blanket dropped to the floor, her eyes following it as it piled into a heap. His fingers still remained, firmly gripping the indents between her knuckles, among the few soft places that remained on her body. Unfurling her fingers, she brought them up slightly to lace with his in near-perfect symmetry.

 

Ren took in a sharp breath when she stepped into him, nose level with the hollow of his throat. His musk reminded her of a forest she had seen only in dreams, dark and endless, yet welcoming. She dared to close her eyes to inhale deeper, fingers trailing the hard lines of his body as his hands did to hers. Strangers taking advantage of the forced intimacy, though some part of her felt perhaps they were never truly strangers. Words weren’t necessary in expressing their shared need, the tension already igniting into an inferno as he backed her up forcefully against the same wall where he’d raised a stake to her throat a mere hour before.

 

His long fingers laced through her hair as though he’d done it a thousand times before, pulling her mouth to his quick and rough. No room for tenderness when they were both wild as the dust storms that screamed across the plains. Rey molded her body into his, feeling his cock press firm and needy against the low side of her belly. She let her hands drop down, her own fingers wrapping along the shaft, tugging lightly before following it back to the hilt several times. He hissed in another breath and ran his hands down around the curve of her ass, stopping for a firm squeeze that crushed her further against him. A moan escaped her throat and she wasted no more time, shoving him back onto the small bed. 

 

Climbing atop him, Rey straddled his hips in such a way that allowed her to grind her clit against the solid length of him, taking her own pleasure - not that he seemed to mind. Ren threw his head back against the mattress, taking ragged breaths until his torso and hips began to writhe and buck upwards against her. Not to be outdone, the hunter looped a leg around her and rolled her onto her back. He kissed her so intensely then that their teeth scraped together before he sucked her lower lip, biting just hard enough to illicit another moan. 

 

Ren let his weight fully settle on her as he burned a steaming trail along her jaw to the hollow of her neck. For a moment she wondered if he’d bite her there as a vampire would, puncturing her to the vein to feed from her life force. Fear mingled with lust, creating another potent surge of adrenaline that sent her blood boiling. Her arms flexed against him briefly before the yearning of her flesh won out and she could briefly forget the mortal danger that existed on the other side of the too-thin walls.

 

“Don’t stop,” Rey groaned into his hair as he kissed and tasted his way down her stomach. He didn’t reply right away, too absorbed in nibbling the rest of the way to the valley between her thighs. She opened for him and carded her hands through the waves of his hair, hips twitching in response to what was coming. The hunter did not disappoint, closing his mouth over her throbbing core, already wet from their friction. His tongue slipped between her folds as though he already knew exactly where to set his focus, circling and nudging around her clit with the tip until she was nearly undone. His kneaded his fingers sharply into her thighs, spreading her even wider so they could roam inwards to join his mouth in sending her further towards the edge.

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” The lantern reflected in the whites of his eyes as he gazed up at her, almost challenging, as he increased the pressure and pace. If his words held some double meaning, it was lost on her as the all the air left her body.

 

“Christ,” Rey exhaled as her thighs went rigid against his shoulders and her eyes rolled backwards. His breathing was growing as frantic as hers when she cried out again, pleasure breaking through a dam within her like the angry river that had brought him to her in the canyon.

 

He rose back above her so their faces were aligned and she could still see the hunger in his eyes. They weren’t finished yet. Rey gripped a fistful of his hair and pulled his mouth onto hers eagerly again, tasting herself on him. Pulling back, he placed a calloused hand around the modest curve of her breast, circling the pert nipple with his thumb before sucking it into his mouth. His other hand closed around his shaft guiding it up to her entrance. He moved it slowly up and down along her slit, tormenting her as his mouth and hand moved to her other nipple, already hard and aching to be touched. 

 

He continued his agonizing ministrations, savoring the lecherous sounds coming unbidden from her throat. She clawed at his back, nearly begging for another release when he finally slid himself into her with a shuddering breath. Rey bit into her lower lip, opening to him as he filled and stretched her much further than she was used to. He lifted one of her legs so he could push in to the hilt, rocking their hips together in a steady rhythm before lowering his lips and teeth to her neck again. Ren grunted and her name came from his lips almost as a whine when she dug her nails into the soft flesh of his ass as though she could pull him deeper. It wasn’t gentle, but neither were they.

 

Rey could feel her inner walls clenching around him, tumbling into another climax as his hips began to stutter and his breathing hitched. With one final push, he quivered atop her as he filled her with his seed. His eyes seemed to stare straight through her soul before he lay spent beside her. They stared at each other, breathless for a time before he uttered a single word.

 

“Solo.” He moved a damp lock of hair from her cheek, “My name is Ben Solo.”

 

**

 

Ben watched as Rey sat up suddenly and made for the blanket on the floor. She stood facing away from him for several seconds as she wrapped it around herself. This is exactly what he was afraid of. Why he had been compelled to give her his true name, he didn’t know. Maybe it was the dreams that made him feel like he already knew her. 

 

“I’m sorry I lied to you.” It was all he could think to say, but perhaps it was too little, too late.

 

“Is your father’s name Han?” She turned, finally succeeding in covering herself. Her brow furrowed and her eyes cast downward so he couldn’t read her expression fully.

 

“Was,” he said through gritted teeth, not wanting to remember their last meeting. Not wanting to know why his father’s name was on her lips. “He’s dead now.”

 

“H-he was the hunter that saved me from my parents.” Her voice shook, “Taught me about the hunt.” She finally looked back at him again. “What happened to him?”

 

“I think that’s a story better left for the morning.” Ben rose to clean himself off and busied his hands by checking his gun. He didn’t want to remember the way it felt to pull the trigger against his own father. Especially not when it had been a foolish duel. A duel over the woman he now knew as Rey.

 

“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather know now.” She pulled on a long woolen tunic and handed the blanket to Ben. This time he took it, grateful to no longer feel exposed under her mistrustful stare. His first instinct was to lie again, but something told him this woman would see right through him.

 

“I killed him in a duel,” Ben stared her in the eye as he said it, “and it brought me no joy.”

 

“Why?” Rey whispered, barely in control of her own emotions. He could feel her judging him for something she clearly knew nothing about. Han hadn’t told her about the dreams either, then. Would he even have known she was the same woman Ben sought?

 

“That business is still my own,” he snapped without meaning to, a sudden surge of anger burning in his chest. He could tell by the sadness in her eyes that Han had already been more of a father and mentor to her than he’d ever been to Ben. The stubborn old fool had coaxed the story from him after sensing his son’s tormented dreams. He didn’t even have Sky blood in his veins. 

 

Han had insisted that Ben leave her alone, let another hunter go after her - a hunter unclouded by their emotions. Han had volunteered of course, but Ben could not allow that to happen. It became an argument - nothing new among the Solo men - but something in Ben had been triggered. When he called for a duel, his father hadn’t backed down, either. Han would have suffered a fate worse than death at her hands, especially now that Ben knew Han was the one who trained her in their own deadly art. Perhaps Ben had done him a small mercy after all. 

 

Regardless, the stab of guilt split him to the bone. Ben had no more reason to stop following her trail. He’d meant to repay his father’s life with hers. Somehow it was the only thing that seemed fair.

 

“Fine,” Rey spat. She glared at him through narrow eyes and made her way back to the bed to deal with her own turmoil he could see he’d put her through. The scales would have to remain unbalanced. She wasn’t the monster he’d come for this time, but he may have made an enemy after all. 

 

Ben extinguished the lantern and lay on the floor beside the bed, knowing he wasn’t welcome in it. He listened to Rey’s quiet sobs for a time and when it was clear neither of them could sleep, he rose and crawled in beside her, pulling the extra blanket over them both. To his surprise, she didn’t push him away. He wrapped an arm around her when she nestled into the curve of his body, his hand settling over hers to quiet the tremors of grief. When at last her breathing slowed into the telltale cadence of sleep, he was able to release a sigh he didn’t know he’d been holding for weeks.

_________



Ben’s dreams were haunted once more by the chilling vision of Rey, her eyes dead and red as rust.

 

Her hunger for him vibrated into his bones and his knuckles popped with how hard he gripped the stake in his sweaty palm. He could not fight or flee, so he let her mouth close over the pulsing vein jutting from his neck like a beacon. Fear twisted in his gut with a heady dose of regret. He failed just where his grandfather had, allowing the darkness to swallow him body and soul, never to finish what had been started.

 

He awoke with a start, her name rolling off his tongue. It was still pitch dark, though he could sense her eyes on him. He realized he was gripping her wrist tightly enough to bruise and let go quickly. She let out a carefully controlled breath.

 

“What were you dreaming of?” she whispered into the blackness they both occupied.

 

“A devil.” He didn’t lie and Rey shivered beside him.

 

“You said my name.”

 

“It was only a dream.” He hoped that was true too, but his gut knew better. Ben could feel her arms retreating from him. 

 

“If you say so, Solo.” Had Han told her of the unnatural abilities of those with Sky blood? Abilities his own wife, Ben’s mother, had possessed? Differences that had driven them apart as a family. Would it drive Rey away too?

 

Ben reached for her again, his thumb finding her cheek in the darkness and following the curves of her midnight silhouette his mind knew so well. Her breathing changed when his fingers traced the hem of her tunic and slid underneath. She remained still when his fingers found the heat of her opening again. They both held their breath for a moment and he couldn’t see her face to read her expression. He began to pull his hand away when she gripped it hard with her own and held it in place. 

 

She didn’t let go until his fingers found their way back to the thatch of hair that marked her entrance. Ben slid a single digit between the outer lips, slowly circling the pad over the folds before dipping further into the source of her moisture. She said nothing and neither did he, but he could feel the muscles of her thighs and abdomen contracting in response to the motions of his finger, especially when he moved it away from her clit. He repeated the motion, pushing his finger to gather wetness from the well of her quim and dragging it back through the folds until she was entirely coated in her own juices and shaking with need.

 

Rey sucked in a sharp breath when Ben added his middle finger to the motion. He inserted them both slowly, fully savoring the sensation and the satisfying reaction he received in response. She whimpered into the hollow of his neck as he flexed his fingers, bending them slightly to drag at the roof of her while his thumb continued to press and tease the soft hood around her clit. Her thighs clenched around his hand and her hips began to thrust against him as he picked up speed. She continued to moan and he knew she was biting her plump, red lower lip. The image alone only made his cock grow even harder. He held himself steady as it twitched in response to her cry of release when she came grinding against his palm.

 

Ben pulled his hand from her and rolled onto his back, wrapping slick fingers around the base of his shaft. Rey continued to breathe hard against his shoulder as he stroked himself, knowing it wouldn’t be long until he’d have a release of his own. He felt her shift and rise over him, her hand moving down his stomach until it met with his own wrapped around his length. He let go as she took over with deft fingers. She moved again, her still-quivering legs straddling his just below the knee. A groan escaped through his clenched teeth when she took the tip into her mouth. He had to stop his hips from bucking upwards as her tongue swirled around the head before she bent to take in more of him.

 

“Fuck,” he swore as she moved up and down, mouth and hand finding a perfect rhythm while her other hand cradled his balls. His hands tangled in her hair, fingers kneading into her scalp as he tried not to ram himself further into her eager mouth. This only urged her on and he swore she’d swallow him whole as she continued sucking him faster and deeper. Finally he couldn’t contain himself, thrusting upwards to meet with her strokes.

 

“Rey, I’m co -” He managed to choke out before his load spurted down her throat, which she swallowed down without hesitation. He let his hands drop to his sides as she climbed off of him to grab the water skin. She hadn’t crawled back into the bed before he fell once more into sleep. This time it was dark and dreamless as death.

 

**

 

Rey bathed herself with a rag and water she’d warmed over the stove while the hunter slept. Dawn was close enough and she needed to make ready to go after the vampire. Part of her knew it would be better to have Ben Solo accompany her, but the way he’d gripped her during his nightmare only reaffirmed that he hid more secrets. Perhaps it was the mystery that also drew her to him. More than physical chemistry, she could feel in some way they were bonded and she didn’t like it one bit. Feelings like those were more hazardous than fear. Perhaps it was the anger always lying under their skin, a shared violence. She sure as hell scared herself at times, killing with a ferocity as monstrous as the creatures she hunted. None of it would bring her family back, but sometimes it felt as though it could. She could sense that rage in him too and it made her want to break into a sprint. Of course she’d let herself be drawn to the danger like a moth to the flame. Everytime she bested her fear, she only felt stronger and in control of a world that had taken everything from her.

 

This vampire was her kill to claim - the creature that called itself Sheev. They’d circled each other across the badlands like two twisters, hellbent on taking down anything in their path. Rey had let herself become a sitting target in this cabin, knowing he’d come to slake his thirst for her family’s blood. Last night was too close and today it would end. After slinging her shotgun over her shoulder, Rey took Solo’s stake. If Han had been true about his dalliances with the Sky clan, then Ben Solo’s blood made it a powerful tool indeed. 

 

Closing the door quietly behind her, she made for the horse stall she knew would be empty. She listened to the silence in the trees, no whispers lingering in the shadows of the pre-dawn. Sheev would be deep underground by now. The ground was shrouded in a blanket of white mist obscuring much of the needed evidence. Peering beyond it, she could still make out the unmistakable, inky fluid of puddled blood. Where there weren’t drops to follow, her horse’s corpse left a more visible trail of disturbed dirt and the scattered beds of pine needles leading further into the heart of the woods. Everything around her was eerily quiet as though even the earth itself knew she was headed for something truly terrible. She wanted to remove her shoes so they’d stop crunching so loudly in the undergrowth.

 

The trail was oddly winding and seemed to loop in on itself several times, disorienting her in the morning haze. Of course, the vampire wouldn’t have taken the body in a straight line back to its den. Rey’s blood ran cold when she finally found herself in a small clearing butted up against the jagged face of a cliff. She hadn’t realized how far into the hills she’d traversed and the sudden sight of it looming over her left her far too rattled than she wanted to admit. Night lingered too long here in the shadow of the mountainside and she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up again as her eyes came upon the husk of her former mount. It had been entirely drained of blood and left as a grisly marker just for her. Sheev was toying with her now. 

 

It was already too late to run when she saw the black mass shifting ever so lightly in the cleft of the rock, easily mistaken for a deeper shade of stone to those with untrained eyes. She didn’t need to turn her head to know it watched her with its ravenous yellow eyes. Rey’s heart thudded wildly in her chest and she gripped Solo’s stake in her hand, readying herself for the unnatural breath of wind that heralded the coming dance with a demon.

 

**

 

For the first time in his life, Ben woke slowly to light filtering in through the cabin’s tiny windows. He inhaled deeply, still smelling Rey on the pillow beside him. He reached out instinctively, but the sheets were cold beside him. Had she not returned after they’d last awoken? His eyes sprang open, scanning the corners of the cabin. Her clothes and shotgun were gone. So was his stake.

 

Shit .

 

He dressed quickly and was relieved that she had at least left him with his revolver. Overturning a chair, he snapped a leg off under his boot and ripped it upward to give it a crude wedge point. He pulled open a drawer and found a single cooking knife. Dragging the dulled blade across his palm, he watched the blood bead at the wound before he cupped his hand around the new stake and began to smear. It would be much more dangerous to hunt before it was healed, but he’d have bigger problems if she’d already found the vampire alone.

 

What the hell could she have been thinking?! Ben wanted to kick himself for his body’s own weakness. Had he waited until she was back in his arms before sleeping...that didn’t matter now. He kicked the door open, one hand busy bandaging the other with a strip of the bed sheet. The bloodied stake was tucked under his arm and adding to the stains on his duster. He felt a pit growing in his stomach as he tracked her further into the mountains, not wanting to think about how long she had already been gone. Or that he might be too late.

 

While the sun was higher in the sky, it was still obscured by more ominous clouds and the subdued light barely reached the clearing her trail ended at. The fine mist at his feet was slowly beginning to dissipate. Ben swore under his breath, knowing this place would have been shrouded in darkness up until a mere half an hour ago. He’d been walking for much longer than that and Rey was nowhere in sight. 

 

If he had anything in his stomach, he’d have retched at the smell of death that hung in the air. It was more than the drained horse could have produced on its own. The scent was stronger here than in the fields of barren towns he’d traipsed before. Perhaps it was also the overwhelming aura of the vampire radiating from the cave opening before him. It washed over him and pulled, making him rock on his heels as though it were a wave in the physical realm.

 

He took a step forward, gun loaded in one hand and the stake poised in the other. This is what he’d come to do.

 

The chill of the cavern closed in on him like a coffin, the air growing increasingly stagnant and cloying. He could taste the iron in the air. Blood . Carrion . He didn’t need a torch or a lantern to know he was going the right way. He placed a hand to the wall in the black and it came away slick. He knew it what it was, tacky between his fingers and still warm. He took a shuddering breath as quietly as he could, his own pulse thundering in his throat.

 

A scream tore out of the darkness ahead of him, high and keening. Rey’s. It was enough to nearly bring him to his knees. Ben breathed out through his mouth to avoid the continued assault on his olfactory senses as he tried to move quietly. The echo of her scream reverberated inside his head, punctuated by the sound of something wet and fleshy being ripped and torn apart. Bile rose in his throat as a flickering light appeared on the stone ahead of him.

 

Ben rounded the corner, still quieter than the soft hiss and pop of the fire, and his heart sank at the sight. Rey lay on the opposite side, the flames barely obscuring a gaping wound across her torso where the bone of one of her ribs stood out, too white against the mingling of stained skin and earth. One of her hands lay limp and useless over her exposed organs, fingers splayed in wrong directions. The firelight danced violently in the whites of her eyes, glazed from loss of blood. He couldn’t believe she was still alive. Her mouth seemed to be saying something, opening and closing as though she were a fish out of water. Her neck and chest were enveloped in what appeared to be a black void, hovering above her throat. Then the light sucking noise reached his ears.

 

Run . Run . Run . Run . Run . Ben could finally understand what Rey mouthed.

 

His boot connected suddenly with a small pebble and the vampire snapped it's head up. The face was a pale mask, marred by deep lines of wrinkles. Set within deep red circles were eyes with bright yellow irises. The Devil’s eyes.

 

“Ah, you’ve arrived just in time.” The voice was more frail than Ben was expecting, further denoting the true age of the creature. “I thought I’d keep her warm until you got here. It will entertain me greatly if you get to see the light go out in her eyes.”

 

“I don’t think so,” Ben hissed, taking aim. The creature rose faster than he could draw breath, moving with a speed that would make quick work of an unsuspecting foe. His first shot echoed through the confines of the cave, followed by a sickening laugh that put knots in his gut.

 

“I expected more from an experienced hunter like yourself.” The vampire continued to fade from shadow to shadow, yet it did not attack Ben. It wanted to torment him first, to make him afraid. A fresh wave of adrenaline coursed through him. “Yes, you’ll taste so much better filled with fear. She was quite sweet, indeed.” A wilted hand gestured down to Rey, her good hand sweeping in a slow arc beside her, reaching for the stake that was barely out of reach. “She still has the scent of your rutting on her too.” The voice had an air of distaste about it. “This one’s been after me for a long time. Almost as long as you, young Solo.” Ben watched it sniff at the air and he gripped his weapons tighter. 

 

“I can smell the air in your veins,” the vampire continued. “The Sky clan that walks on my earth. Did you know we were cut from the same cloth? Both anomalies of the same Force that created the universe?”

 

“I don’t need a history lesson from you, demon.” Ben stepped towards Rey and the inky void filled his vision as the creature slipped effortlessly between them.

 

“I prefer to be called Sheev.” Before Ben could react, its ghostly hand shot up and squeezed around his throat. He swiped with the stake, but a casual flick of Sheev’s wrist sent it skittering to the floor. Ben shot from the hip, managing to graze the creature before it twisted away. Ben dropped to the floor, coughing and gagging on the fetid air he gulped into his lungs. 

 

Ben crawled to Rey, placing a palm firmly over the ruined hand that covered her wound. He pressed the stake she hadn’t been able to reach into the other. She nodded gratefully, a single tear cutting a path down the dust on her cheek. He followed it down to the swollen punctures on her neck. He was too late.

 

“It’s going to be alright,” he whispered. Her eyes were half-lidded and she could only let her head loll in his direction.

 

“Still a terrible liar, Solo,” she said slowly, a trickle of blood coloring her lips the deepest shade of crimson he had ever seen. “Don’t you dare let me turn.”

 

Ben didn’t have time to respond as the shade barreled into him, sending him rolling through the fire and into the far wall amongst a heap of unidentifiable carcasses, the source of the putrid odor. He rose to a crouch and raised his gun. This time, he let the Sky blood guide his weapon as it was meant to, pointing not to where the creature was, but where it would be in half a second’s time. When he pulled the trigger again, the aim was true. Sheev staggered beside the flames and cackled, knowing it was not a fatal wound to an anomaly as old and powerful as it had become. 

 

Ben knew it too, but it was just enough. He fired again and the vampire went to its knees. As Sheev opened its mouth to speak, a length of wood burst through its chest and the words died in its throat. The golden and red eyes cast downward in disbelief before the creature crumpled in on itself beside Rey. Her hand still gripped the stake before it too, fell back to the earth again.

 

Rushing to her side, Ben cradled her head in his lap. She tried to place the stake in his hands, but wasn’t able to grip it properly, even with her undamaged fingers. He picked it up from beside her and stared down into her face. He knew what he needed to do, but didn’t know if he truly had the strength to do it.

 

“Finish it, Sky-walker.” Rey smiled a bloody grin at the new name she had made up to spite the vampire. Ben smiled too until she convulsed once beneath him and her eyes no longer looked at him, but into whatever lay beyond this plane. He hoped for her it was something better than the nothingness he imagined.

 

If he didn’t plunge the stake through her, she’d soon rise again as a new anomaly. She wouldn’t be Rey anymore, at least he didn’t think so. He’d never met a vampire who had been someone he knew before. To him, they had always been nothing more than savage beasts. Ben raised his fist, the stake shaking in his hands that were already drenched in her blood. He let the images from his nightmares flood him, the aching he had felt for years now coming to painful fruition in his chest. 

 

The stake clattered to the ground. He had too much of his father’s heart in him, not the mighty Sky-walker blood Rey would have wielded much better than he could. Perhaps in another life they could have truly been together and they could have built that dream together. But this was not that world.

 

The ashen remnants of Sheev dissolved and scattered in the breeze that had wound its way into the cavern, stirring up the noxious air. Ben pulled the now empty cloak over Rey’s body, unable to look at his greatest failure. Maybe if he had been truthful from the start he could have prevented this. Could have saved her. Instead, he was the one responsible for damning her.

 

Don’t you dare let me turn .

 

Her words still sounded in his head. He knew it was wrong to let her become an abomination, to let the nightmare prophecies come true. But Ben was not a good man. Not as good as she would have wanted him to be. He was selfish and wanted to see her open eyes again, to see her rise off the ground whole. Even if that meant she rose as something else.

 

The cloak moved slightly in front of him. Could it have been the wind? No. Her broken hand was uncovered and the fingers were righting themselves. He could hear the joints popping back into place. He didn’t pull back the cloak to watch as the cavity under her breasts closed itself and the organs stitched themselves back together inside of her. Ben thought briefly of running, but that would make him even more of a coward than he already was. Part of him still had to know.

 

Her pale hand now had nails like claws. They curled around the obsidian fabric of the cloak and pulled it from over her face as she sat up. Her skin was impossibly gaunt, the transformation sucking away the parts that made her human. Her irises were still mercifully brown, but rimmed by that awful rusted tint that marked her for the night. Ben couldn’t help but still believe she was beautiful. Perhaps in the way a storm is beautiful even as it maims the world around you.

 

He placed a hand on Rey’s cheek, unafraid that she might strike him. Maybe he wished she would. His father had been right after all.

 

“What have you done?” Her voice was low and vengeful, the fire reflected in her too-large pupils.

 

“I failed you,” he said. 

 

“You’ve cursed me!” Rey screamed, her voice too shrill, as she threw herself atop him. He did not fight her, even as her snarl revealed a set of elongated canine teeth. “Is this what you wanted? For me to have a fate worse than death?” She was hissing into his ear, fangs dangerously close to the rapid rise and fall of his jugular. “You stole it from me.”

 

“I’m sorry.” It was barely a whisper.

 

“Your words aren’t worth anything to me. You haven’t fallen far from your family’s tree after all.” She wrapped her hands around a stake and pressed it into his palm, “Show me what you're made of, Solo. Send me to the hereafter as only a hunter can do.”

 

“So there is something…” He half mused to himself, ignoring the hunk of wood gripped by instinct in his hand. He really did have a death wish.

 

“I’ll bet you would like to know, but you won’t hear it from me.” Rey’s talons dug into the flesh of his shoulder until she broke the skin. Something cold and animalistic washed over her face and she inhaled deeply. When her eyes opened they still held a hint of fear that was all too human. “Kill me before I have to feed.”

 

“So feed then.” He had made his choice. He’d die now at the hands of an anomaly he was responsible for creating. Some kind of twisted poetic justice.

 

“How selfish you are,” Rey growled through a clenched jaw and her eyes blackened again like a shark on the scent of blood. “You want me to do for you what you don’t have the stomach to do for me?” The words were more acrid than the miasma around them.

 

She moved again with preternatural speed, lifting Ben by the throat to slam him against the wall. The cave spun around him and his limbs were useless pinned underneath her newfound vigor. Her nails dug in again, causing him to involuntarily tilt his head and expose his neck. 

 

“I have a better idea,” she whispered. Her tongue flicked along the pinprick holes she had created before her cold lips closed over his pulse. The fangs sunk in, the barbed noose of her embrace completed like the prophecy he didn’t prevent. He felt the release of venom burning into his veins, tainting his Sky blood. “Now you are cursed like me, Solo. If you die, you become a monster....a demon abomination like your grandfather, doomed to walk the earth forever in exile. Perhaps Sky-walker is fitting after all.”

 

Rey dropped him to the ground, the concussion still doubling his vision. She knelt before him and drug a long nail down one side of his face, splitting the skin easily from his forehead to his collarbone. Ben did not flinch or cry out, too focused on comprehending the meaning of her words, the fate they were bound together by. A shared affliction. 

 

“Something to remember me by.” She turned and draped Sheev’s old cloak over herself as Ben wavered on the edge of unconsciousness. Just before everything went black, Rey leaned in close one final time. “When you wake again, I hope you remember the innocent blood that will now be on your hands.”

 

As his head slumped to his chest, Ben Solo no longer wondered what hell waited on the other side. He would continue to live it every day until the sun stopped rising over the wasteland he was forced to wander in her wake.