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Hot rage flows through Kylo Ren, but it does little to keep him warm. The squad of stormtroopers he ordered to come with him give him a wide berth. His fingers twitch next to his lightsaber. He hadn’t slept well the night before and the exhaustion does nothing for his mood. 

 

They need to find her. They will find her.

 

He discovered the stormtrooper meant to guard the girl’s cell dazed and confused outside of the base, sans blaster. It didn’t take much for him to put together what happened. Her grasp of the Force is both strong and intuitive. If only her intuition informed her that she would freeze to death on Starkiller. Despite the multiple layers of heavy robes, cold bites at his face and extremities. He can only imagine how her light desert garb fares.

 

Snow crunches beneath his boots with each step through the forest. She left tracks, too, but the new snowfall covers them up.

 

It must appear to the stormtroopers that he presses on with no rhyme or reason. He ignores the paths from patrols and instead goes in spirals, turns back, and veers away from the trees altogether before returning to the previous route. Anyone else would be lost.

 

In actuality, he follows the Jakku scavenger with as much confidence as if she left a trail of blood in the snow. He senses she must be near with more clarity than his detection of his family or masters. The sensation of being tethered to her aches; strange, but not wholly unpleasant. He almost wishes it was. It would be easier to resent her. Instead he feels… something else.

 

Kylo sighs into his vocoder, producing a bout of static. The stormtrooper closest to him flinches. He reaches out to read her mind and finds it filled with the usual: rumors of his infamous anger swirl through her brain. He could use the Force to soothe her  worries, but part of him wants to stoke her fear.

 

“Lord Ren,” another stormtrooper calls out.

 

His concentration breaks. He turns his head to look at the other ’trooper.

 

“We’ve just received a communique from the base, sir. They detect a heavy storm headed our way. It could be dangerous.”

 

He’s half-frozen as it is, how could it get any worse? Kylo grits his teeth. Still, the prospect of a storm doesn’t upset him as much as the thought of losing her in it.

 

“Afraid of a little snow, ’trooper?” Kylo asks.

 

The stormtrooper pauses, then answers, “It’s a blizzard, sir. A white-out could cause us to lose our way and all communication.”

 

Somehow Kylo doubts that saying the Force will guide them back will provide any sort of reassurance to the fools.

 

The stormtrooper who had given the warning listens to the communicator in his hand for another moment, then says, “He wishes to speak to you, sir.”

 

Kylo accepts the communicator.

 

“Ren.”

 

Only one person in the Order would address him in such a way: “General Hux.”

 

“I refuse to lose any men to this fool’s errand. Return to base at once. That’s an order.”

 

“I don’t take orders from you,” Kylo snarls, “and I’m not just going to give up. That girl—” 

 

“—supposedly knows Skywalker’s location,” Hux interjects. “Yes, I know. As far as I’m concerned, she should be destroyed along with the droid.”

 

Kylo can’t keep his voice from rising, volume amplified by his helmet. “This isn’t the same. She has the Force.”

 

“We’ll collect your girlfriend’s corpse once the blizzard clears up, if it so pleases—”

 

Kylo crushes the communicator with a crunch of the outer casing and a screech of internal machinery. He hands the pieces back to the stormtrooper, who looks down at them in disbelief.

 

“Go back if you wish,” Kylo says to the stormtroopers, turning away. “I will return once I have the girl.”

 

They flee at once, leaving him alone.

 

Kylo walks for a long time. The sky grays, then blackens with storm clouds and the onset of night. As predicted, the snow gets worse and worse. Soon, even just walking proves difficult. He pulls out his saber to light the way. The weapon’s slight heat offers little comfort.

 

Desperation and anger and even the slight pinch of hunger start to overwhelm him. Hours, and still no sign of her.

 

There’s an animal quality to stalking her in the woods. He may not possess the ability to follow his prey’s scent, but the Force works just as well. His pulse jumps in his wrists and ankles the closer he gets to her. For someone unfamiliar with the terrain, she came far. Or maybe they both wandered in circles.

 

He arrives at a grove pressed up to the base of a snow-covered hill. He senses her so strongly, he can almost taste it. But she isn’t here. The fresh snow eliminated any trace of her.

 

He circles the area twice. He looks up at the trees to see if she climbed them. Nothing. The ever-intensifying snow buffets his visor and clings to his robes.

 

Oceans of blood slosh in his throat and temples.

 

“Rey,” he calls out.

 

He pulled the name from her head when he interrogated her and found it at once simple and elegant.

 

“I can sense your cold and discomfort. Come with me.” Anger seeps into his voice when she doesn’t respond. “I know you’re here. Stop hiding.”

 

The frustration continues to build. He knows he must be red in the face beneath his helmet.

 

“Your powers are impressive, but not fully within your control. I could help you. Teach you.”

 

Nothing.

 

His grip tightens on the hilt of his lightsaber. With a bellow, he slashes the tip across a nearby snowbank. The lightsaber slices through it with far more ease than he anticipated, so much that he almost pitches forward into it. He regains his balance, then looks at the smoldering gash, head tilted. He cuts through it again, and more snow sloughs off of the snowbank, revealing the space behind it.

 

“So that’s where you are.”

 

Like a skittermouse in its hole. The cave does not seem like a natural part of the landscape but instead an abandoned burrow carved out by one of the non-sentient inhabitants of the planet. He notes this as he enters, but the sight of the scavenger girl demands his attention.

 

Rey fires off two shots at him with the stormtrooper’s blaster the moment he steps foot in her hiding place. He parries with ease, and the bolts ricochet off the cave walls. He sees her mouth set in a snarl, the light of the blasterfire a red sheen on her teeth. One of the bolts that he parries comes close to grazing her ear. His heart drops. He doesn’t try to deflect when she shoots at him again, simply dodges and lets the shot go through what remains of the snowbank behind him. He moves towards her with the same casual air he had on Takodana, self-assured that he would have her. Even so, doubt prickles deep in his mind. She managed to overpower him in the interrogation chamber. He could not let that happen again.

 

The shakiness in her hands throws her shots wide. Her anger is palpable, mounting the closer he gets.

 

She takes one hand off of the blaster and shoves it towards him. The Force throws Kylo back. He stumbles but doesn’t fall. She pushes him again, but this time he readies himself for it and responds in kind. The cave itself shudders with the power of the Force. 

 

Their battle of wills comes to an abrupt end when the rock above them, which had seemed so hard and permanent, starts to collapse.

 

“Move,” Kylo calls out, the warping effect of his vocoder not enough to disguise the real panic in his voice.

 

For once, Rey listens to him and scrambles back. He follows her in, shutting off his lightsaber to prevent himself from accidentally cutting himself in his haste. The sound of the entrance’s collapse carries enough power to drown out the sound of the blizzard.

 

Once the dust settles, so to speak, he glances over his shoulder. What had once been the entrance is now a wall of snow and rock with only enough space in between to let in puffs of gray light. The few meters of cave descend into darkness after that. They aren’t trapped, not really. He could clear the entrance with the very same power that brought the rocks crumbling down in the first place. 

 

He turns back to Rey to find himself staring down the barrel of the blaster. 

 

“I should blast your head off,” she says.

 

“Maybe,” he says, voice level. “But you won’t.”

 

She presses the barrel closer until it hits the metal of his helmet with a click. Her hand continues to shake, and so too does the blaster. It rattles against his mask. Her breath steams out of her panting mouth and clouds his visor.

 

Rey cries out, then pulls the blaster aside. She turns her back on him, goes to the rear of the shallow cave, and sits down. 

 

Kylo exhales hard. His helmet rumbles feedback. He sinks down to the floor, too, unsure whether it would be safe to approach her. Cold seeps into his tailbone through his clothes.

 

Rey sets the blaster down beside her and wraps her skinny arms around herself. She shakes her head, causing the three buns on the back of her head to bounce.

 

“Well, you found me,” she bites out. “What now?”

 

“You’ll give me the map to Skywalker,” he replies, automatic.

 

“And then what?”

 

What, indeed? “We’ll see.”

 

She scoffs.

 

“We should stay in here,” he continues, “until the storm clears up. We’ll be safer sheltered from the storm until we can return to base.”

 

“‘We,’” Rey repeats, scornful. “I’m not going back there.”

 

Kylo doesn’t reply to that. It will probably just make her blast at him again if he points out he could put her under with the Force and carry her again. Still, not having even a scrap of her trust bothers him. There only seems to be one reliable way to attempt to earn it.

 

Slowly, he lifts his hands to his mask. His fingers hover, flutter, over the catches. Despite her attempt to hide it, he sees her look back. She sucks her lower lip between her teeth for just a second. He takes it off.

 

She appears to curl in on herself even more.

 

“You’d probably be warmer.” She gestures at the helmet with one finger. “With that on.”

 

Like hell. It doesn’t have any sort of thermal regulation. He opens his mouth to say so, then thinks better of it.

 

He places the mask on the ground and pulls his cowl up over his head. The knit is thick and warm, a leftover scrap from his last tunic he hadn’t been willing to part with when it was  remade. Sentimental, in a small way. He should probably burn it.

 

With his mask off, he can smell her. In a way her scent is even starker in the small, wet cave than it had been in the sterile interrogation room. Dust, both of the sand and space variety. The salt of fear. And below that, he fancies he detects something sweet.

 

The girl watches him, fingers half-curled where they rest against her sides. He preoccupies himself with looking at the little scars on her arms and knuckles to avoid her eyes. He realizes as his vision adjusts to the darkness just how waxy pale her tanned skin looks. She continues to shake, worse than before.

 

A sudden, overpowering desire to help her seizes him. 

 

Despite knowing that he should keep the heat trapped around his head, or so his father always told him, he takes off his cowl. Wouldn’t be the first bit of parental advice he ignored. He crawls the distance across the cave to get to Rey, breaking some invisible wall between them. She turns to face him and puts one hand on the blaster. The other stays clutched around herself in a tight hug.

 

He holds out the cowl. “Here.”

 

She glares at the offending article.

 

He shakes it in midair. “Go on, take it.” 

 

“No,” she says. “It stinks.”

 

Baffled, he can only stare at her.

 

“It smells like you,” she says, and he imagines he sees a slight flush in her pale cheeks.

 

“You’ll have to excuse my foul stench.”

 

Ignoring her hissed protests, he slings it over her front. When he moves back to his side of the cave, he sees her adjust the cloak to wrap it more thoroughly around herself out of the corner of his eye.

 

Once he reaches his spot beside his helmet, Kylo mimics her position and tucks his hands into his armpits. They sit like that for a long while, just staring at each other, shivering. He suffers at once from the loss of his cloak, but seeing Rey in a piece of his clothing proves satisfying.

 

“Once, when I was little,” Rey says suddenly, “I was stranded in the desert at night.”

 

Her chattering teeth make it difficult to understand. Kylo listens closely.

 

“It wasn’t like this, nothing like this, but at the time it seemed like the coldest place in the galaxy. I got into a fight over some scrap with Teedo and before we knew it the sun was down and we tore the scrap to bits. Neither of us knew what to do. We’d never let it happen before. So…”

 

“So?” Kylo prompts when there’s too long a lapse.

 

Rey exhales a cloud of vapor. 

 

“We held each other. For warmth. To survive the night. It was at the bottom of a Resurgent-class destroyer.” She grimaces. “This is far colder than Jakku, and I’m not ready to die yet.”

 

“If you wanted me to hold you, you could have just said so.”

 

She says something in an alien tongue he doesn’t recognize, but it’s safe to assume that it’s an insult.

 

“I can’t think of why else you would tell that little story,” he says.

 

“I just wanted to pass the time.”

 

“Sure you did.”

 

The bit of grayish light showing through the snow at the entrance fades away. The storm clouds must have swamped what little remained of the moon. 

 

Rey takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. He can barely make her out with his eyes, but the Force informs him as she gets closer and closer to him. He doesn’t dare move. She trips on one of his feet and falls on top of him. His arms shoot out in surprise and he catches her. He keeps his grip loose enough that she can scramble to face him. He doesn’t remove his arms from around her and she doesn’t protest.

 

“You didn’t bring the blaster with you,” he notes.

 

“I’ll go get it if you try anything.”

 

He repositions his legs so that she can sit more comfortably. Rey readjusts her position, too, tucking herself up against and around his torso along with the cloak he’d given her. Their cheeks brush by accident in the dark and he’s startled to discover her skin is like ice. She recoils, then burrows her face against his ribbed neck seal. He can feel the sharp jut of her little nose, frigid against a bit of bare skin above his collar.

 

Loud, unguarded thoughts inform him that she thinks of her friend, the traitor to the First Order, and hopes that he rests somewhere safe. 

 

Kylo clenches his hands. To keep them warm. That’s all.

 

“Any warmer?” he asks.

 

“Sort of. Not really,” she says. “Are you?”

 

Holding her is a bit like holding an ice sculpture. “No.”

 

He tugs up a piece of his tunic out from under her and wraps her bare hands in it. She doesn’t say thank you, but she doesn’t protest, either.

 

“There’s more to that story, isn’t there? I can sense it.” He probes at her brain again, trying to cut deeper. “Did you kill that creature after you were done with it?”

 

“No, of course not,” Rey says. “I’m not like you.”

 

She says it with the indignance of a pacifist, but the lie doesn’t convince either of them. The faces of humans and aliens she’d killed on Jakku float in gauzy wisps in her mind’s eye. He plucks at the memories and she yanks them back.

 

“What’s the rest of the story?” Kylo asks.

 

Rey shakes her head hard. “There isn’t any more. We went our separate ways the moment the sun came up. I never saw that Teedo again, or at least I didn’t recognize it if I did.”

 

In her anger, she lets her guard drop, and he sees the truth.

 

“Ah,” he says. “You took off your outer layers when you held each other. Both of you. To conserve heat.”

 

Rey goes even more rigid in his arms.

 

“You didn’t see fit to mention that part,” he says.

 

“It’s bad enough to touch you with clothes on.”

 

He disentangles himself from around her enough to unbuckle his belt. Dimly he remembers his parents telling him about the lengths that people will go to in survival situations. He has no concern for himself, but Rey’s lithe body and her desert garb aren’t doing her any favors. Even in the shelter of the cave, she’s in danger of freezing.

 

He peels off the various layers of his clothes. She pulls away, hugging herself and watching with an intensity that almost makes him blush.

 

“Stay out of my head,” she snaps suddenly.

 

Genuine surprise colors his voice as he responds, “I’m not in it.”

 

“But—you—” 

 

He wonders what intrusive thought had caused her to say such a thing. “You’re far too spirited for me to compel you to think anything you don’t want to, if that’s your worry.”

 

Rey makes a noise of disbelief. He keeps his clothes nestled around him as he removes each article. His skin prickles at the sudden loss, but he knows it will be worth it in the long run. After quite some time, he hears her clothes rustling, too.

 

“If you tell anyone about this, I’ll kill you,” she says.

 

She couldn’t stand to kill him before, what made her think she would in the future? 

 

Still, all he says is, “Of course.”

 

“We’re only doing this to survive,” she reminds him.

 

He doesn’t feel like pointing out that it’s her survival at stake more than his. “Mm.”

 

She climbs back into his lap. He kept his underthings on with the distinct sense that she would refuse to have his genitals anywhere near hers. To his shock, however, it feels to him like she stripped totally bare. He doesn’t dare push the cloak aside to confirm his suspicions. He swallows, harsh and dry, sure she can hear it along with the thud of his heart.

 

The blizzard screams, unaware of the strange truce that had been reached because of it.

 

They bundle their clothes around each other, a blend of a knight’s blacks and a scavenger’s beiges, and huddle close. He can’t remember ever holding another human being like this. She tucks her head against his chest. Her breasts crush against his firm belly like overripe fruit. A nipple grazes scar tissue on an old wound.

 

Her body is thin, too thin, with rangy muscle that probably makes him look even bulkier by comparison. He can feel the hardships of Jakku in the jut of her ribs against his arm. Still, pressing his body to hers shares warmth, as intended. The chill that had seeped into her isn’t as strong. She holds him tighter and tighter as if she wants to melt into him. 

 

“Why did you take me?” Rey asks, tilting her head up so that her mouth brushes his collarbone. “From Takodana?”

 

“You have the information I seek,” he says at once.

 

“No. Why did you really?”

 

He drags his hand down her back, feeling the ridges of her spine, and stops at the small of it. “I wanted you.”

 

She shakes her head, tickling him with loose strands of her hair. “I’m not a thing to be had.”

 

“No, you’re not. You’ve more than proven that with how difficult it was to track you down.”

 

They sit in silence for a while. Kylo tries to focus on getting himself into a meditative trance so as not to get too excited about having a naked woman wrapped around him. 

 

“I didn’t mean it,” Rey says.

 

For someone who seems to hate him so much, she seems prone to initiating their conversations.

 

He shifts. “Mean what?”

 

“You don’t smell all bad. The bad part is that you smell like ashes,” she whispers against his chest, “but you also smell like caf.”

 

He drank caf just that morning, a rare indulgence that he partook in because he had slept so badly the night before. Strange that its scent still clings to him after so much time.

 

Rey shifts her hips and he swears he hears the slick, sticky sound of her arousal. If he were to inhale deeply, he could probably smell it the same way she smells the hot drink he’d had hours ago. She seems as unwilling to own up to her reaction to his closeness as he is. Maybe she perceives the stiffness pressing up against her to be his lightsaber.

 

“What’s wrong?” Rey asks.

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Yes, there is,” she says. “I can... sense it.”

 

He feels a sort of kinship with her for the reminder of her Force sensitivity. It’s been a long while since he’s encountered another person aside from his master with that quality.

 

“It’s a strange feeling, isn’t it? Being in tune with the Force. Knowing what others are thinking when you’d prefer you didn’t. People think such sick things.”

 

“Don’t try to change the subject.” She wrinkles her nose. “What is it? You want something, I can feel it. Tell me.”

 

His cock throbs, full and hard. She’s so wet; he can feel her juices on his thigh. The cold is negligible at this point.

 

“I want to kiss you,” he says.

 

It’s not entirely true; more than anything he wants her to kiss him, not the other way around, to show that his affections aren’t entirely one-sided. That isn’t all he wants, either. His dick twitches.

 

Ever practical, Rey asks, “Will that make us any warmer?” 

 

“Only one way to find out.”

 

She shakes her head. “I don’t trust you. I never will.” 

 

“Is that a ‘no?’”

 

She harrumphs, again neither confirming nor denying. He angles his head so that his lips are close to hers but waits for her to close the distance. After a moment’s hesitation, she does. Elation gushes through him at her acceptance. He gets carried away almost at once.

 

Kylo’s first instinct in all things is to exert power over the subject of his desire. Once she kisses him, he holds her more tightly than before. He crushes her to him, wanting so badly to join with her. He contemplates jamming his tongue into her mouth, sweeping desperately over her lips and clenched teeth.

 

He jerks back when he feels a sharp pinch of pain. He licks his upper lip, surprised to discover he isn’t bleeding.

 

“You bit me,” he says.

 

“I won’t have to be so rough if you won’t,” she hisses, hands braced against his shoulders. “Do you always try to asphyxiate people you kiss?”

 

“Sorry.” He can’t remember the last time he apologized to anyone. “I… haven’t had a lot of practice.”

 

‘Any practice’ would be the correct phrase. Pathetic. Kylo bites the inside of his cheek for even hinting at his inexperience.

 

Rey sighs and lifts a hand up to cup the back of his neck. She guides his face close to hers. They kiss again, slower this time.

 

Her nose is cold and the slightest bit wet against his cheek, like an animal’s. It’s kind of gross. He shudders to think how his far more obtrusive nose must feel. If she minds, she doesn’t mention it. Maybe the sensation of their tongues entangling proves a good enough distraction.

 

“You lied,” Rey says when they separate for air.

 

The accusation makes him pull further away from her. He hates liars. A trail of saliva connecting their mouths snaps. 

 

“You don’t just want to kiss me,” Rey says, “Or hold me. You want more.”

 

“Why are you acting like you discovered a secret? Of course I want more.”

 

Her eyes alight with some inner fire. She stares at him for a long time. He wonders what she is looking for.

 

Whatever it is, she must find it, because she presses a kiss to his throat and whispers, “Then take it.”

 

Kylo needs no further prompting. He reaches down between them and slides his underwear halfway off. The tip of his cock brushes up against Rey’s wet core. He slides his dick between her lean thighs, then her labia. Rey trembles.

 

He pauses. “Still cold?”

 

She shakes her head and rocks herself against him. Their arousal smears together, hot and wet. Rey spreads her legs wider. She humps him again and again, wetting his dick with her juices. He raises his hips to meet her. Their hands trail up and down each others’ bodies, squeezing and rubbing and occasionally scratching. He never realized how nice it could be to have someone tangling their fingers through his hair.

 

At one point, the head of his dick nudges up against Rey’s vulva, slipping partway into her. She stiffens and pulls away like a startled animal. He gathers her close again, keeping his dick pinned between their bodies.

 

“I’m not going to put it inside,” he says, kissing her cheek, then his tone darkens with lust. “Not yet. I’ll wait until you’re begging me for it.”

 

“I hope you like waiting, because that’s never going to happen.”

 

They don’t have anything in the way of protection, so it’s probably for the best. 

 

Even with his lack of experience, he knows that the position is unorthodox. They have to keep their movements tight and coordinated to keep from disheveling all of the clothing that they  cocooned themselves in. Kylo’s hands and feet remain chilled, but his core is hotter than ever. 

 

Despite and partly because of his excitement, he gets tired as time wears on. They keep teasing each other for what feels like days but must be less than an hour. Every time Kylo is on the brink of falling into an exhausted slumber, Rey’s mouth is on his neck, his chest.

 

He never imagined that his position in the Order would allow him to be with a woman like this. His pride never allowed him to settle for a common whore. His looks and personality didn’t afford him many opportunities in more traditional settings.

 

Kylo nuzzles Rey’s shoulder. Others might look down on her, scavenger that she is, but he can see Rey’s spirit and strength. They could be something magnificent together. Having sex with a scavenger girl in a blizzard seems to bring out the romantic in him. Rey smothers Kylo’s sardonic chuckle with another kiss.

 

For someone who wants him to believe she hates him, her sexual appetite is insatiable. Again and again he can feel her reaching what must be completion, tensing around him and crying out so that the whole cave echoes with it. He surprises himself with his own restraint in not following her immediately over the edge. It’s almost certainly his fatigue talking, with the long tramp through the woods and his lack of sleep the night before finally catching up.

 

Eventually, though, he just can’t take it anymore. He orgasms suddenly and without warning, gasping into Rey’s hair. He comes in hot spurts on her thighs and belly. His arms twitch around Rey’s lean frame. 

 

“That felt good,” he says, stupid with pleasure. “You feel good.”

 

She says nothing. It’s just as well. It would probably be a lie if she said anything related to him is good.

 

He kisses her one last time. There isn’t any urgency to the gesture. Her lips are dry and torn up thanks to the desert heat of her home planet. He wonders muzzily how his must feel. 

 

Then he can’t stave off sleep anymore. He gathers her close, the unpleasant texture of their intermingling fluids outweighed by the soft heat, and shuts his eyes. 

 

When he comes back into awareness, his arms are empty. She’s gone, as surely as if she had never been there at all. 

 

She took the warmest pieces of his clothes and left only bits and pieces of her own rags behind. He picks up the length of beige cloth she’d had swathed around her body and lifts it to his face. He inhales through his nose, then sighs out through his mouth. With such poor sleep, he can’t muster the energy to be angry. He even laughs a little imagining Rey walking around in his oversized clothes, dragging the tails of his tunic through the wet snow and mud.

 

He gets up, feeling stiff from his stay on the cave floor, and investigates further. Miraculously, she left his lightsaber behind. It’s possible she simply forgot about it; it was hidden under his discarded belt. She had the mercy to leave his pants, too. He contemplates trying to squeeze into her shirt, then thinks better of it. Her torso is only a third his size. He’ll have to return to the base half-naked. Perhaps he can mind trick anyone who he encounters on the way in into forgetting they saw him. Still, seeing him without his usual heavy shrouds of layered black clothing can’t compare to feeling his naked body. That right is reserved for Rey.

 

Despite the storm clearing up, it’s frigid outside. The sunlight reflects off of the snow in blinding white light.

 

Kylo tucks his mask under his arm, knowing he’ll only look more ridiculous with it on, and begins the long trek back to the base. Its sharp edges press awkwardly against his exposed flank.

 

He smiles and can see his breath in clouds of vapor, hissing from between his teeth. He knows he should be furious. All of his fantasizing about their fate together, melted into slush. But somehow he feels confident that he hasn’t seen the last of her.