One: This ain’t Hogwarts. Waiting for a coven to offer her a place in their ranks was an unpredictable, terrifying waiting game. With a witch for a mother (and a human father who’d learned over the years simply not to ask questions), Rey had at least known of the covens’ secret existence. Some disguised themselves as universities, theatre groups, art collectives in cities; others lived more freely out in the Midwest. But sworn to the most extreme secrecy to keep themselves cloaked from human knowledge – with plenty of secret-keeping spells in place for good measure – Rey had no way of knowing how many there were or how one might find her. Her mother had passed word of Rey’s birth into the shadow world, but after leaving her own coven for a mortal life, she no longer had a voice to solicit a place for her daughter. Instead, Rey had to wait, hoping and praying a coven would claim her; give her proper training and purpose for the power becoming increasingly more difficult to control. Finally, on the day of her eighteenth birthday, Rey came home to words burned into her bedroom floor:
You are chosen.
The New York Coven.
Two: Rey is considerably more powerful than others of her age. She and the seven other children (though a range of ages from 18 to 20, the elders call all new initiates “children” until their training is complete and they’ve proven themselves worthy of joining the coven for life) shared lessons and trainings since their arrival in the aged brick buildings of Columbia University, secretly overtaken by the New York Coven. Rey often finds she somehow instinctively knows how to spark the fire, levitate herself inches off the ground, or charm a classmate into infatuation before the instructor even finishes their demonstration. Rey had never imagined she would possess any special talents within the shadow world. She simply wanted to belong. She wanted kin she would never have to hide her powers or any aspect of herself from. After a childhood cut off from others of her kind, Rey is fiercely determined to carve out her place in the coven that offered her family. Rey doesn’t mean to draw attention, but she can’t deny the warmth of fulfillment when the instructor claps and beams at her, or when her peers crowd around her in wonder.
Three: Ben Solo is both the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her. The day she met him –
Oh – hi, you’re in the room next door.
Um, I think so, yes. I just got here.
Me too. I met Poe, who’s in the room just there, but no one else yet. Well, no one but you.
You’re my first – the first I’m meeting. I’m Rey. Hi.
Ben. Glad to be your first.
– she’d sunk into a panic of ‘oh my, are all male witches like this? How could I have gone my whole life being unjustly deprived of boys of my kind? Oh no, how will I ever adapt to living with the coven if every man is this beautiful?’ By the end of the day, Rey had met Poe and Finn as well as some of the coven leaders and quickly learned with some measure of relief that ‘okay, it’s just Ben.’ Throughout the first week, her relief was overtaken by a helpless, crystallized fixation.
It’s Ben’s deep, expressive eyes. Ben’s lush, pink lips. Ben’s height and massive hands. Ben’s deep, rich voice. Ben’s thick hair, blacker than night. Ben’s way of leaning down towards her like the gentle bow of a weeping willow branch when they talk.
But then came the lesson about the channeling and centering of one’s power through the coupling. The elder giving the lesson explained with serene sincerity that the coven live joyous and powerful lives through open and frequent intercourse. Members of the coven have shared their beds with practically all other members at some point or another. (Rey had to work very, very hard not to let her gaze wander to where Ben sat just behind her.) Most take many partners, but occasionally two members will mate exclusively for life. Rituals and spells involving intercourse are frequently undertaken. Some are performed in the presence of the coven; some include many of the coven’s participation. At this point, Rey had had to fight down a tremble of thrill and heat. Assuming they both passed through training, sharing a coven with Ben would likely mean that sooner or later…
Returning to her room in one of the dorm buildings that night, Rey found herself wondering perhaps how soon ‘soon’ could be. If intercourse is common – encouraged even – to reinvigorate one’s powers, perhaps Ben might want to start living the way of the coven already…
But moving towards her door – across a shared living space from Ben and Poe’s bedrooms – a noise froze Rey in place. A soft, breathy noise. Then a louder, sharper one. It didn’t take Rey long to realize that two of her brethren had already had the same idea. Looking around the four-bedroom apartment, Jessika’s room was dark and empty, door open. Poe’s light was on, the door ajar as if he’d just left it… A distinctively male grunt from behind Ben’s closed door – certainly not Ben’s velvety voice – confirmed Rey’s suspicions. She flushed hot and cold all at once.
Rey shoved herself into her own room and closed the door behind her. Dropping her bag, and then herself, down to her bed, she laid for a few minutes awash in chaotic, conflicting feelings. There was a grey, mournful disappointment swelling in her chest, making everything seem heavy. But there was also a strange, erratic pulse through her whole body, knowing what Ben was currently doing only two rooms away. Rey couldn’t hear anything, but she found she could picture it with alarming clarity. The details didn’t quite matter – whether it was Ben spread beneath or thrusting from above – but him she could imagine perfectly. His red, kiss-blushed lips. The rippling muscles along his back and shoulders as he either filled or was filled. His big hands circling thighs or wrists. How his hips moved, giving or receiving.
Rey’s hand worked its way into her jeans before she had the conscious thought. It didn’t take long, once she imagined it was Ben’s tongue against her. She came with her free hand pressed over her mouth.
Later, she heard Poe leaving Ben’s room. Heard them bantering with casual laughter.
No one mentioned it the next day. When Ben knocked on Rey’s door and asked if she wanted to walk to class together, she opened the door to find the same soft smile he usually reserved for her – the one that crinkled his cheeks and made Rey feel light enough to float without any witchcraft at all. They walked together, close at each other’s sides, Ben still a willow tree bending towards her. On their first day, the children had learned the willow's sacred importance to the coven and the magical properties it imbues. Rey had never been able to untangle that from Ben in her head – sinewy, graceful, otherworldly. Rey smiled up at him, tried to say something clever enough to coax out one of the rare laughs that lit up his eyes in the way that made her heart stutter, and she simply couldn’t get the questions out.
So, do you ever want women? Do you ever want me?
“But would you think it’s unethical? Is it wrong, if the subject doesn’t know?”
Across the couch, Poe throws up his hands. “This is all a moot point. The exchange of consciousness spell is one of the hardest in all of witchcraft. None of us will probably ever even get close to the possibility of casting it.”
His tall frame and long legs spilling from an armchair, Ben’s gaze levels at Rey.
“I wouldn’t be so quick to say that. Rey probably could.”
Rey can hold Ben’s gaze for only a moment before she has to flee to the sight of her hands in her lap instead. Why do his eyes always have to be so gentle when he looks at her? She’s frustrated by the rush of heat that blooms everywhere at his words.
She quickly channels it back into the debate.
“My question isn’t ‘would you cast it?’ My question is ‘would you call it wrong?’”
Poe looks thoughtful, Rey’s question lingering in the air until Ben speaks up.
“I think the ‘ethics’ of it are immaterial. If one of us ever mastered the power to perform the exchange of consciousness spell, I would say they’ve earned the right to use it. We’re born with these powers. Why should we be expected to second-guess our natural gifts against some shifting, subjective idea of what’s moral or immoral? Most of those concepts belong to humans, anyway.”
Ben shrugs, lifting his arms to drape them across the back of the chair. Rey does her utmost to ignore how his wide shoulders strain beneath his black t shirt.
“Besides, I don’t see any big difference between this and something like a simple charm spell. The subject would probably never realize it happened. It’s not our problem nor our responsibility that we’re more powerful than humans, so we shouldn’t feel guilty for it.”
Poe leans forward, drawn in now. “What if the subject were one of us?”
Ben blinks. “Another witch? Is that even possible?”
Poe lifts one shoulder. “I don’t see why not. Our physiology and basic brain chemistry is the same. It might be harder to dupe a fellow witch into drinking the potion for the spell, but in theory? Sure.”
One side of Ben’s mouth slowly curls. “Now that would be an interesting experiment.”
“I’m sure someone’s tried it before,” Rey interjects. “We’re having the second lecture on it tomorrow. I’ll ask.”
“I wonder if your power would feel different,” Poe muses. “If you would feel different.”
“I imagine it’d be worlds different,” Rey responds immediately. “I’ve sensed my powers for as long as I can remember. They’re a very distinctive presence inside me. It used to terrify me as a kid, when I could sense something was awake and I didn’t know what it was or what to do with it. But now, I don’t know what I’d do if it ever stopped… humming the way it does.”
Rey looks at Ben, finds him watching her with open interest.
“Mm. Yeah, that’s the best way I can describe it.”
“That’s probably why you’re so good with your powers. You were aware of them so early. I only felt mine for the first time around 13. But I wouldn’t describe them as ‘humming.’ Not at all. They’re more…” He takes his arms from the back of the chair, swirls his hands in a chaotic, tumbling motion. “A mini storm that never eases.”
“That sounds… tiring.” Without realizing it, Rey’s leaning forward in intrigue. They’re all here to learn how to channel, control, and cultivate their powers in the same way, so she finds it fascinating to think they each feel the life of their powers in such disparate ways. “Like you have to wrangle it under control before you can tap into it.”
Ben smiles wryly. His gaze lowers from Rey as his hand moves to finger a tiny rip in his jeans.
“You could certainly say it’s been hard. My dad would agree.” Ben falls silent, though it seems apparent from the crease between his brows and the focused retrospection on his face that he’s at the precipice of divulging more. Rey and Poe both wait, immobile. “Things got out of control once, when I was 16 and angry about something. I almost killed him.”
“Shit,” Poe breathes. “I’m so sorry.”
Rey can’t say anything at all. Breathing suddenly seems difficult – through the almost overwhelming urge to cross the space to Ben. To thread her fingers between his so he stops nervously opening the hole in his jeans wider. To cradle his sullen face between her hands, stroke her fingers through his hair, and whisper how strong and beautiful he is. That his powers are only an extension of all he is, and it will get easier every day.
Finally, Rey manages in a whisper. “But you’ve been fine in lessons. You seem to be in perfect control.”
Ben stops picking at the tear in his jeans. Instead, he starts running his fingers idly up and down the seam along the inner thigh of his jeans. Rey knows he isn’t doing it on purpose, but it’s driving her insane.
“The spikes are kind of unpredictable, but I can usually keep them stifled now. But after so much of that, sometimes it’s hard to tap into it at all. These couple months of training definitely haven’t been easy.”
Ben shifts in the chair, seemingly eager to escape the attention.
“What about you, Poe?”
“What does your power feel like? Rey’s hums, mine has temper tantrums, and yours?”
Poe leans back on his side of the couch. Managing a suave smirk at both of them at the same time, he folds his hands together behind his head.
“Like a starship cruising smooth.”
The other two burst into laughter. Rey tosses a pillow at Poe’s face while Ben mutters, “You’re such a sleaze.”
“But what do your powers feel like?” Rey asks Finn and Rose later that night as she sits outside with them both, sharing a Very Grown Up thank-you-very-much picnic dinner of crackers, salami, and cheese.
Rose ‘hmmmm’s around a bite of cheese before deciding, “Rain after a hot summer’s day. Letting them out always feels so cleansing.”
Finn takes a bit longer, but finally decides on, “An extra heartbeat.”
To much laughter, Rey retells Poe’s answer to the same question.
“How has it been with them, by the way?” Finn asks around a cracker. “After Jessika dropped out, you doing alright rooming on your own with two guys?”
“Oh, it’s been fine. They’re both great.”
Rey catches Rose squinting at her, and realizes she might have answered too quickly. She sighs and leans back on the blanket, willing her face not to flush as her thoughts stray towards both her roommates together. “Really. I love them both.”
Finn pokes her side. “Especially Ben.”
Rey levels him a vicious glare. Finn laughs and holds his hands up in mock innocence. “Sorry, sorry, I know I promised I’d stop teasing you.”
“I really don’t blame you, Rey,” Rose says in a voice that’s a little airy. “He is very pretty. And very tall.”
“Hey, I’m right here!”
Rose leans over to give Finn a conciliatory kiss on the cheek.
Rey rolls her eyes fondly, but her stomach does a bit of an uncomfortable lurch. It seems the seven “children” are all pairing up. Rey knows very well, thanks to Rose’s lack of filter, that she and Finn started experimenting with coupling rituals weeks ago (after she told Rey every detail of their first time with stars in her eyes, while Rey was torn being touched and mortified). Rose had also shared her conviction that Hux and Gwen were hooking up, which left everyone accounted for except...
“Guys, I think I’m going to turn in.”
“What! But there’s a whole half of this cheese block left!” Rose protests, indignant.
“Sorry, I’ve hit my cheese quota.”
“There’s no such thing as a cheese quota,” Rose mumbles, sulking as she shovels an extra large chunk into her mouth as if to soothe the cheese’s feelings.
“See you tomorrow, peanut,” Finn waves as Rey stands up.
Rey smiles at them both before setting off back towards the dorm.
Really, she knows she doesn’t need to worry. Even if all her peers double in strength thanks to all the sex that seems to be happening, Rey knows she could still keep up. Her permanent place in the coven is all but certain. She’s developing good relationships with the elders, and she knows she’s all the instructors’ favorite. And besides, once she completes training in two years, she’ll be introduced to the whole coven and surely then there will be plenty of people to meet and experiment with. Maybe she might even find a mate, like she knows some deep part of her yearns for. A kind of belonging that’s unquestionable.
Unbidden, a deeper, infuriating part of her matches Ben’s face to the word. Rey tries to shove the image away as she opens the door to her dorm building, but her brain doesn’t seem to want to listen. Suddenly, it starts supplying her with all kinds of unhelpful fantasies. Rolling over to Ben’s sleeping face beside her in the morning. Ben laughing with her across a table for two. Ben focusing as Rey helps him master a spell. Ben showing her the creased cheeks of his smile. And then – Ben above her. Ben moaning her name, whispering how good she feels…
Rey is only half aware when she unlocks their door and enters the apartment. It’s dark, except for a sliver of light trickling from Poe’s bedroom where the door has been left ajar. Rey takes a step towards her own room, then freezes in place when she hears the noise. An unmistakable noise.
Rey’s body floods with all manner of reactions as the fantasies that had just been spooling through her head suddenly greet her senses. He makes another sound, loud this time and more helpless, and Rey can barely breathe. It glides over her like hands caressing through her clothes.
All sense of caution swept away in an instant, Rey tiptoes just a few feet further into the room. She stops just shy of where the beam of light spills from Poe’s bedroom – just so she can see around the door and to the bed…
It takes Rey a long moment to process exactly what she’s seeing. When it finally makes sense, she presses fingers to her mouth to stop any sound escaping her.
Ben is bent forward, knees under him and wide chest dipped low. His hands are fisted in the blankets, head tossing from side to side as he pants audibly. Poe is sprawled behind him, leaning up on his elbows with his hands raised to hold Ben open. Poe’s face is pressed in tight, and when Rey manages to drag her gaze from the expanse of all of Ben, she focuses in and realizes she can see Poe’s tongue at work. She can see when Poe stops circling and sweeping across; when he tilts his head for better access and his tongue starts pressing inside instead.
The change in approach ripples visibly through Ben’s body. Rey can’t look away from how every inch of him trembles, his hands tightening in the blankets as his noises rise in pitch. Ben’s voice is so deep, and yet Poe’s tongue drags out sounds like mewls. Mindless, keening noises that trickle straight into Rey’s underwear.
Poe keeps working the larger boy open with his tongue, until Ben’s outright whining and trembling so hard Poe has to hold him still at the hips. At that point, Poe pulls back and urges in a low voice, “Roll over for me.”
Ben moves shakily, but obeys. When he drops to his back, Rey can see how flushed his face is. She can see the rosy blush spreading all the way down the pale, creamy skin of his neck and chest. She can see how his thick hair curls against his sweat-gleaming face. She can see the smoothly defined muscles of his chest and how his nipples look all pink and hard.
Then Poe slides his hands into action and when a sharp gasp escapes Ben, she assumes Poe’s fingers have picked up where his tongue left off.
Rey’s gaze travels further – to where Ben is fully hard and already leaking, leaving shiny smears against his stomach. Rey feels something like heat lightning shoot through her when she takes in how big he is. How thick. She really doesn’t think she’d be able to fit him in her hand – not even in two hands.
Through her shorts, Rey cups the pulsing heat between her legs. She’s afraid that if she touches herself, she’ll make noise before she can help it and the boys will know-
“Ready yet?” Ben asks, already sounding breathless.
“Of course I am, but you’re still tight.”
“Just start already,” Ben grits. “Fuck me.”
Rey has to physically press her knuckles into her mouth to keep from groaning aloud at the sound of Ben’s deep, rasping voice around those words.
Poe complies, shifting himself up to kneel between Ben’s legs. Ben spreads and folds his legs for better access, one curling around Poe’s hip and the other lifting all the way to his shoulder. Rey think it looks awkward, at first.
Poe uses a hand to guide himself in, and she hears the distinct hitch of breath from Ben when Poe starts pushing inside. Poe grits his teeth, biting out a swear and then, “You’re so fucking tight. You sure it’s not hurting?”
Ben’s biting his lip hard, eyes closed and chest heaving as Poe’s hips draw closer and closer to bottoming out.
“No more than I want it to. Fuck, keep going.”
Rey watches the space between them grow smaller, until she can’t see Poe’s cock at all anymore. It’s swallowed up completely inside Ben’s body. And then Poe grits his teeth, emits a loud grunt, and with full-body effort he slides halfway free before plunging back in, hard.
Ben makes a noise too loud and desperate to be called a moan. Poe grips Ben’s thighs to hold him there, one leg at Poe’s waist and one at his shoulder, and starts moving in ragged, relentless thrusts that start shallow until they grow longer, Ben quaking and writhing against the bed as they grow deeper.
It’s not anything near awkward anymore. With her knuckles between her teeth and fingertips pressing hard against the inner seam of her shorts, the only thought Rey can process is that she’s never seen anything hotter in her life. Couldn’t even imagine anything hotter than the visceral energy and power of what she’s witnessing. Even in the way Ben’s back arches, how his toes curl over Poe’s shoulder, the breathy noises he makes like Poe’s cock might split him open completely – there’s an indescribable might to it. To the sight of the huge, beautiful boy Rey’s become so infatuated with being pleasured so thoroughly.
One of Poe’s hands moves to grip the base of Ben’s cock, offering the dark-flushed length some relief from where it had been slapping Ben’s stomach with the force of Poe’s thrusts. Ben groans deep, deep in his chest, fingers scrabbling in the blankets as his head tips back.
“Such a gorgeous cock,” Poe croons as he starts to pump Ben in time with each drive into his body. “So thick and full. Hard to believe, but you’re just as good inside. So deep for fucking.”
Ben pants roughly, body rocking between the hand working him and the cock still fucking deeper into him.
“So wet,” Poe murmurs, his thumb sliding up to smear around all the precum trickling from the head of Ben’s cock. Rey sees Poe look up towards Ben’s face with devious purpose when he murmurs, barely audible, “You could give someone a hell of a fuck.”
Poe’s voice drops lower into a whisper as he leans down closer. His hips take on a new angle as he whispers words to Ben that Rey can’t make out. Whatever they are, they rip a desperate moan from Ben like nothing she’s heard before. Ben swears loud, and then every inch of his giant frame starts shaking. He cries out once more, and then Rey sees his release surging over Poe’s hand and splattering both their chests. Poe makes a few last hurried thrusts, before pulling out from Ben and maneuvering up so his own cum joins Ben’s between them.
Both boys gasping for breath, Poe drops down to his back beside Ben. Neither of them look capable of moving any time soon, but through the haze of overwhelming arousal that seems to be blocking all her senses, Rey retains just enough instinct of self-preservation to realize she needs to move. Before one of them looks up and sees her…
While their breathing is still loud, Rey silently backs up towards her own room. She takes a long, torturous minute making sure the closing of her door makes absolutely no sound.
The second she’s alone, Rey rips her shorts open and shoves her hand into her underwear. She bites down on her knuckles again as she pushes two fingers in all the way, pumping them fast and urgent as her thumb circles her clit.
Fuck. The sight of Ben being thoroughly fucked like that. The sounds he made.
Rey’s never known anyone like him. Every single thing he does without clothes, no matter whether with her or not, drives her near out of her mind. She’s never felt attraction like this. Where all she wants is to feel and experience and consume him in whatever way possible – every way possible…
Rey comes hard against her own fingers. They’re Ben’s fingers of course, in her mind. But at the same time, she’s imagining his face contorted in pleasure. Pleasure that she gave him; pleasure that she shared with him.
“I know you can do it, Ben. Your powers are just there beneath the surface. Don’t be afraid to let them through.”
Rey can’t help looking towards where Coven Elder Holdo has stopped to provide Ben encouragement.
He’s been sitting in place for the duration of the lesson, focusing on the flower bud set before him that he’s meant to be coaxing into a fully-grown plant.
At her own seat, Rey fidgets as if trying to hide the sight of the flowering rosebush on her own table.
She hears Ben give a huff of frustration.
“I’m sorry, Elder. I don’t know why I struggle so much.”
“There’s nothing to apologize for. Each of our powers come to us in different ways and at different times.”
“I just wish mine would come at the times I actually want it to. It’s mine, so shouldn’t it listen to me?”
“Perhaps you’re just calling it the wrong way. You need to learn its language. Do not simply make demands of your power – learn what it wants, too.”
Holdo moves on, and Ben continues frowning thunderously at the single flower sitting before him.
When Holdo ends the lesson twenty minutes later, Ben doesn’t move. The only change in his flower is a slightly wilted look.
While the other children make for the door, Rey approaches where Poe leans against Ben’s desk.
“Come on, we were gonna go for burgers.”
“Go on your own, Poe. I really just want to get this and I will if you leave me alone.”
Poe holds his hands up, looking affronted. Rey steps forward and clears her throat. Poe turns and his face lights up.
“Rey! You wanna get burgers with me?”
Rey doesn’t look at Poe – just at Ben, where he’s still sitting hunched over the wilted flower.
“Um. I was actually going to offer… Ben, I’ll stay and help you, if you want.”
Ben looks up, his gaze finding Rey slowly. His expression is tentative, almost disbelieving.
“You don’t have to,” he says softly, but not with much conviction.
“I don’t mind, really. I want to help.” With effort, Rey looks up at Poe. She finds him looking between her and Ben with a strange twinkle in his eye and a sly smile spreading across his face. “Sorry, Poe. Looks like you’re on your own for burgers.”
“You know, that’s just fine. I’ll get by. You help him out, okay, Rey?”
Rey almost misses the way Ben sharply breathes “Poe” between his teeth. Poe gives Rey a friendly slap on the shoulder, the same to Ben accompanied by a “Good luck, man,” then makes his way to the door.
The door closes with an echo through the old classroom.
Still at his seat, Ben’s gaze slowly lifts back up to Rey’s face.
“You really don’t have to stay…”
“I said I don’t mind.”
Rey drags a chair over from the next table and sits down across from Ben. He straightens up in his seat, no longer hunching over his test subject even as the frown on his face retains a distinctly morose edge.
“You’re the best of our group,” he mutters, the bitterness in his voice directed only at himself. His gaze cuts pointedly towards the rose bush on Rey’s table, where two new pink roses have sprouted on their own. “You’re probably wondering why it’s so fucking hard for me.”
Rey shrugs off the self-deprecating weight to his words. “It’s like Elder Holdo said. Our powers come to us in different ways.”
Ben gives a humorless laugh, shaking his head a little bit. “She also said I need to ‘learn its language.’ What the hell is that even supposed to mean?”
Rey can’t help a slight chuckle. “Really? I have no clue.”
Ben meets her eyes. Across an extended moment, they share a mischievous smile. Rey starts noticing the little constellations of beauty marks across his face and oh no, she thinks she’s blushing… Their gazes flee each other in tandem.
Ben clears his throat and looks back to his sad, single unmoving flower. He nods at it. “Show me how you did yours.”
Rey folds her arms on her side of the desk, considering for a moment.
“I don’t think that will help. Like we were saying the other night – your power feels different for you than mine does for me. It works completely differently. Maybe… we can try to figure out what’s blocking you.”
Ben’s brow furrows. “Blocking me?”
Rey nods, mustering the courage to look at him again. “Something’s dividing you from your power. Like Holdo said – it’s right there beneath the surface, if you just let it through. What might be stopping you from letting it through?”
Ben gives a low, heavy sigh. He leans back in his chair, lifting his hands to push them through his hair. Rey’s chest constricts a bit when the dark mane of his hair tumbles back down around his face. What she would give to run her own hands through those waves of midnight…
Ben’s voice comes out utterly dispirited. “I don’t know. Everything.”
Rey arches an eyebrow. “Everything? We’re going to have to get a bit more specific, don’t you think?”
Ben’s shoulders lift and lower as he sighs again. Rey definitely doesn’t trace with her eyes just how wide they are as they move.
“Don’t get me wrong – I like being here. I was so fucking relieved when I got the fire message that I was chosen, but… I didn’t realize how hard this would all be for me.” He waves a hand indistinctively above the desk. “I guess I had this idea that as soon as I started training with others of my kind, my power would just fall in line. Whatever it is that’s been off inside me my whole life would finally work like it’s supposed to.”
He goes silent, eyes glued absently to the flower bud. Rey can tell he’s not finished, so she waits.
His voice is still softer when it resumes. “I know the Elders are supporting us and training us as best they can, but… I wish they could figure out what’s wrong with me. It doesn’t seem like any of the other children struggle like I do. My powers have always been unwieldy, difficult to control. They make themselves known at only the wrong times. Trying to coax them out during these lessons has been… hell. Instead of things getting easier, I’m just thinking more and more that I’m a hopeless case. That I don’t belong here. Every day I just feel more alone.”
As Ben speaks, Rey wants nothing more in the world than to caress away the sadness from his face. When he finishes, she’s suddenly desperate with something like panic climbing up her throat.
“Ben, we all struggle in our own ways. We’re all trying to make sense of expectations and abilities that are brand new. You’re not alone - not nearly. The coven chose you for training because the Elders saw something extraordinary in you. We all do.”
Ben is silent for a long moment. He looks only at her and she looks back, trying to decipher the expression on his face that might border wistful.
He finally speaks in a hushed tone, “You never struggle, Rey. You’re always so…” He bites his lip, seeming to wrangle for the right words. He finally says in a low voice near a whisper, “Formidable.”
The word combined with that tone in his deep, deep voice sends a hot shudder through Rey. She tries not to show it, but Ben’s eyes follow something down her body, so fast she might have imagined it.
Then, she recovers to absorb what he said. What it’s supposed to mean. And it’s utterly ridiculous.
“Ben, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. I don’t know anything about our world - what our lives might be like if we make it through training and join the coven. Every day, I’m just stumbling through and I don’t have a fucking clue.”
“What are you talking about? You always know exactly what the Elders want. Your powers are… beautiful and potent and they’re happy to listen to you. You’re perfect for the coven.”
Rey’s mind circles deliriously around the words ‘beautiful’ and ‘perfect’ for a moment, before she gets a grip. She looks down, away from Ben’s molten gaze. She folds her hands on the desk, shrinking into herself a little bit.
“I never knew a single witch before I came here. My mom was one, but she renounced her coven and drew away from her power. This world was an impenetrable mystery to me. I was… terrified every day. Terrified that no coven would want some girl raised in the human world without a clue. But I could never figure out how to live in the human world because I knew I didn’t belong there. I didn’t belong anywhere.
“I’ve always felt alone. I had no fucking idea how to act when I got here. All I know is that every day I hope and pray I don’t do something wrong - something that will get me kicked out of the one place where I don’t have to hide who I am.”
Rey slowly looks up, and the way Ben’s looking at her… It’s like his gaze is vibrating, he’s watching her so closely and intensely. She can see the disbelief in his expression - the words on his tongue that would try to tell her her fears are ridiculous.
He doesn’t speak them. She’s glad.
He simply absorbs and respects the honesty of her confession; then gives her his own.
“I’ve always been afraid of my power.”
He leans in now. His voice is a feathery whisper, taking flight to circle around only the two of them. She finds herself leaning in too, drawn in, her hands resting closer to his on the tabletop.
“Because of… what happened with your dad?”
The wince that passes over Ben’s features is fleeting, but unmistakable. A flash of terror that darkens his eyes.
“Yes,” Ben whispers, his fingers sliding closer to Rey’s on the table. Rey has to lean in farther still, Ben’s voice is so faint. “I don’t want anyone else to know. I’m sure the Elders already do, but I don’t want you or anyone else to think I’m dangerous.”
“I would never think that. I can’t imagine…”
“It was three years ago. I was 16 and blowing off school. I was so tired of pretending to be human, sick of pretending that high school mattered at all. My parents are both witches and knew I was just waiting to join the shadow world permanently, but they kept telling me I needed to commit to school until I came of age. Dad started yelling one day, making threats about kicking me out if I didn’t stop cutting classes. I just… exploded.
“I’d been repressing my powers at school to keep them hidden, repressing them at home because I was scared what would happen when I stopped… and in that one second, months worth of suppression unraveled all at once.”
Rey watches the column of Ben’s throat as he swallows with difficulty. They’re so close now, leaned across their respective sides of the table, she can almost feel his breath brush her face. She’s just a little afraid of what will follow, but she can’t imagine moving away.
“He got three broken bones and minor burns.”
Rey exhales slow, reeling. “Ben, it wasn’t your fault.”
“He said the same thing. So did Mom. But… it was. Of course it was. We all know it.”
In her determination, Rey’s hand skips over the final inches of space to finally cover one of Ben’s - or the half of it her much-smaller hand can span across.
“You never meant for that to happen. You would never want to hurt anyone, least of all your own father.”
Ben’s hand is trembling just the slightest bit beneath Rey’s.
“I was so angry, Rey. It came out of nowhere. For the briefest second, I’m afraid that I did want to hurt him. Maybe it was my power just screaming to be used after being silenced for so long, and what if it tries again some day? If I can’t learn how to let it out properly – if I can’t channel it safely… What if I’m just a time bomb?”
Rey shakes her head firmly. “I won’t let you talk about yourself that way.” She takes his hand in hers with purpose. He watches with a slightly stunned expression as Rey brings his hand to cup the forgotten flower bud, her own shifting to cup the back of his hand in turn.
“You’re not dangerous. You are powerful. Formidable. And you’re going to make this flower bloom.”
For the space of what seems an eternity, Ben’s gaze is riveted on her face. Rey looks up and meets it, soft heat crackling between them until Ben lets out a long breath, squaring his shoulders as he focuses on the flower bud. Focuses on his hand still clasped in Rey’s.
Ben lifts his other hand and cups the single flower between them. Rey watches as his expression smooths into leveled focus. He’s staring at the flower with narrowed eyes, his hands tense beneath hers. Rey circles her fingers against the back of his hand.
“Don’t try to overpower it,” she murmurs gently. “Let it overpower you.”
Ben blinks at that, but his attention endures. She feels his hands relax, watches them cup the flower more gently. Her fingers slide into the grooves along his knuckles.
Ben takes a deep breath and closes his eyes.
They fly open again when Rey bursts out with the exclamation: “You’re doing it, Ben!”
Blooming white flowers are spilling out from Rey and Ben’s cupped hands, the flower stems weaving through and around their fingers as they grow.
A disbelieving, joyous laugh flows from him. Rey looks up just in time to catch the sparkling grin brimming from his face.
The flowers continue multiplying, weaving themselves in a garland that spills off the table and nearly reaches the floor before the growth slows and comes to a halt. A moment passes when both of them fall speechless, taking in the burst of life that just flowed from Ben’s hands. Not even Rey’s roses had grown so quickly.
“See?” she says softly, her voice tentative as if keeping from breaking a spell. “Your magic is wonderful. It is good.”
Ben lets out a rush of breath. Before he can say anything, he attempts to move a hand from the nest of flowers and finds that it doesn’t budge. They both immediately realize Ben’s spell has inadvertently woven their hands together.
Rey laughs a little as an attempt to lift her own hand causes both of Ben’s and the entire bundle of flowers to come with it.
“I take it back,” she jokes, smiling at him. “Getting your hands caught in flower garlands is clearly a very dangerous side effect.”
“Clearly,” Ben agrees, voice cracking slightly.
“Hm,” Rey hums after a few seconds of attempted wiggling and shaking of their conjoined hands fail to free them. “Wait, let me try something. Hold still.”
Rey focuses on the flower stems on either side of their hands. She murmurs a severance incantation she learned a few days ago. The stems swiftly unweave from the center to free their hands.
“Amazing,” Ben marvels.
Rey shakes her head, fingering the garland still sprouting tiny buds. “This is what’s amazing.”
“I couldn’t have done it if you didn’t calm me down.”
“No. Ben, you did it on your own.”
When she meets his eyes, he doesn’t quite seem to be listening – some other purpose coming to the fore in his eyes.
He leans in towards her again, his fingers a mere inch from hers on the table.
“You shouldn’t ever feel alone, Rey. I mean it. It doesn’t matter if you were raised entirely in the human world, or if we’re the first real witches you’ve ever met. You’re gifted. Extraordinary. And kind. You’re going to make this coven your own. You already are.”
His gaze flickers down, towards their hands resting so close together. He clears his throat, and Rey’s barely breathing.
“And I… I just hope I’ll get to be part of it with you. I hope I’ll be somewhere near your side.”
Rey’s breathing stops for real. Her heart’s pounding and she has no idea what’s going on but she knows she has to say something – something tender and clever and fuck, why does looking into Ben’s eyes have to make everything inside her fall to shambles like this…
The door to the classroom slams open. Ben and Rey both jump, their proximity dissipated.
“My, you two are early!” chirps Elder Holdo as she reenters the classroom for the afternoon lessons. She comes to a halt as she passes Ben’s desk, a smile spreading on her face. “Wonderful work, Ben. I knew you could do it.”
Ben looks at Rey and they share a secret smile.
“Yeah. I guess I could.”
Rey moves one of her hands behind her back and keeps it there, hiding where one of Ben’s flower stems is still wrapped around her pinkie finger.
In the afternoon lesson, Rey lifts her hand in the air before her thought is even fully formed.
“Yes, Rey? A question about the exchange of consciousness spell?”
“Yes. Could you tell us some examples of when it’s acceptable to use the spell within the coven?”
“Within the coven?”
“Yes, Elder. I was curious whether it’s considered taboo to use the spell on another witch. Is that ever done?”
“Oh, certainly. It has practical purposes amongst us. If someone has a skill for a particular spell, healing perhaps, sometimes bodies will be switched so they can perform the spell for others. Sometimes it is used simply for enjoyment, such as in coupling rituals.”
Rey is very silent for a long moment, processing this. “People will… switch bodies for coupling?”
Holdo nods, unperturbed. “Yes, I can think of a few who practice it regularly – for the variation in experience and benefits to one’s power.”
Rey takes pains in phrasing her next question. “It’s not considered… improper? What if the people involved don’t all know someone had used the spell?”
Holdo just gives a slight shrug, seemingly unaffected by the question. “Unless someone involved is part of a life-mated pair, it’s unlikely for harm to come of it. Most coven members all already have intimate knowledge of each other already. We are a family. It is good to know each other in all ways.”
Rey sits back in her seat while Elder Holdo moves on to the next topic: Rituals of the Solstice.
In the corner of her eye, Rey catches sight of Poe leaning forward and looking towards her with his eyebrows raised and a strange smile that certainly means no good. She sees him tilt his head in what seems to be Ben’s direction. Rey’s eyes automatically shoot towards him, where Ben still appears focused on the lecture.
Unbidden, Rey’s mind starts connecting odd, accidental thoughts together. She doesn’t remember anything else from the lecture, lost to an idea that forms without her intention, but possesses her all the same.