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She Who Would be Queen

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After months without any letters at all, Rey receives a gilded note from the Republic the day after her 18th birthday. There are no pleasantries, no enquiries into her health, merely a missive informing her that she will be married as soon as her betrothal is finalized. The news comes as little surprise. To marry and to marry well is her only purpose, the only future where a girl from a disappearing family tree has any significance, but that doesn't make the news any less disheartening.

She will no longer be Rey, but someone's prized chattel, doomed to forever accept that her life will never truly be her own.

Though it's not as if she was in charge of her fate in the first place. Were that the case, she wouldn't have been forced to wait for her inevitable betrothal at a decrepit Jakku manor, wasting away in the unyielding heat as the rusted foundations slowly sink into the sand with each passing year.

Fleets of chattering servants flit about the halls after the news arrives, but none are bold enough to include her in their gossip about who her husband is to be. During the famines, their own hunger was too great to pay attention to the "little princess" the Republic's nobility had foisted upon them, but they seem no more eager to include her during this apparent celebration.

Even as she thinks it, Rey immediately regrets her sour attitude towards her lodging. She's been kept healthy enough and free from any abuse or scandal. There have been lean times but that's nobody's fault. Jakku is a lean place.

Nobody seeks her out for company but that also means she's left to do as she pleases. In her loneliness, she's devoured any book she could get her hands on and spent more time on a horse than most noble ladies do in their entire lives. She likes the horses kept in the manor’s stables, they don’t speak but they serve as a calming presence as she rides out under the glare of a bright red sun.

The manor's corpulent master, a foul man named Unkar Plutt, chastises her for any time spent outdoors, saying that no self-respecting man will find her beautiful with freckles, but any beauty she might possess doesn't really matter so she pays him no mind. Even if she were more vain, she probably wouldn't care. Her body doesn’t exist for his benefit.

Even if she had five arms and a face covered in green spots, Rey knew she’d be married off. Her bloodline is too important. There's no shortage of nobility who would eagerly wed and bed a Skywalker bride, even if her accounts are near penniless and the bodies of her parents long cold in the ground.

Rey is given only one day’s notice before she is to be relocated and it is more than enough. She fills a battered chest with the few properly fitting gowns she owns, simple dresses in cream and tan, before placing her prized items near the bottom of her trunk.

She's stolen her favorite books from the estate's library, the sensational romances that were gathering dust before she came along and a genealogy that traces the histories of every noble family for when she feels lonely. Though most of the characters are long dead, it is still comforting to trace the well-worn pages and find some small connection to the past. She adds the trousers she wears when Plutt and his cronies are out of sight at the bottom of the chest before delicately wrapping what little she has of her father's belongings in the mended fabric.

His hat, once part of his military uniform and a proud ivory, is now more dust than anything else. She can remember him placing it on her head when she was a girl,the way he'd crown her the General of Sleep before tucking her in, curing her of her feeble attempts to stall bedtime. His sword is tucked even more delicately inside the cloth, so not even a hint of the sapphires on the blade can be seen.

She has just closed the chest when she hears a delicate knock against the wall. She turns to see an old woman standing in the doorway, her dark eyes made wide by almost comical spectacles.

"Lady Rey," the woman says gently, her voice surprisingly clear for someone so impossibly old and impossibly small. "I'm Maz Kanata, I'll be journeying with you to D'Qar."

"Is my intended there?" Rey asks, hoping to sate her own curiosity as to who will be sharing her bed.

"He isn't," Maz tells her, not unkindly. "You won't be meeting your betrothed just yet, not until everything is finalized with the Imperial delegation. You'll be staying with your aunt while preparations are being made."

It's both a relief and an annoyance that she won't have the chance to meet her future husband but a rush of excitement floods through her at any mention of family.

"My aunt?" Rey asks tentatively, as if any hint of jubilation was enough to cancel any pending meeting. She can remember her aunt from when she was a little girl, her thick brown hair and kind eyes still present in her memory.

Maz smiles, a strip of white on her wizened dark face. "Of course, my dear," she says, motioning for Rey to follow her out to the coach.

"You there," she barks, her head gestures towards Plutt who'd been eavesdropping by the door. "Grab your lady's belongings, do you want to keep the princess waiting?"

Plutt mumbles something snide under his breath but does as he's bid, following the women as they make their descent into the courtyard to meet their coachman.

Unkar Plutt hoists the chest on top of the carriage that waits at the gate. He gives her a curt nod, only a basic show of deference, before hastily making his way back into his languishing estate. It's not a fond farewell but Rey wasn't expecting any sobs or promises of lasting friendship. The man, however loathsome he was, had kept her safe and fed. His services were no longer necessary.

Rey can make out the silhouette of their coachman coming closer towards them, his hand waving amiably as a small dog nips at his heels. The journey feels real now. There will be no turning back.

"We'll be out of here soon," Maz tells Rey, patting her arm kindly. "Say goodbye to your wasteland, darling."

"It's not my land," she says, taking in the arid desert for the last time. "It never was."

The rolling sands used to seem romantic when she was younger, like she was Scheherazade waiting for her husband's nightly embrace. They just seem barren now.

Even if her husband is to be an utter tyrant, he's the reason she's freed from her virtual exile. For that, Rey supposes, she will be eternally grateful.

Chapter Text

The coachman, Captain Poe Dameron, looks like one of the swashbuckling pirates that star in the novels hidden at the bottom of her trunk, complete with rakish smile and a tan leather coat worn above his bright orange uniform. He looks every bit the dashing hero but seems to have the gentleness of a lamb if the way he dotes on his canine companion is any indication.

“Her name is BB-8,” he tells Rey, bending down to scratch the dog between her large pointed ears. BB-8 nudges her head against her master’s hand before letting out a small, friendly bark, her tongue lolling outside of her mouth. “The smallest one in a litter of eight puppies, but she can do anything. Smartest dog in the entire Republic.”

The Republic’s smartest dog spends most of the journey’s first leg asleep with her head in Rey’s lap, a puddle of drool staining the white fabric of her skirt. Captain Dameron apologized sheepishly for the mess as soon as he notices , insisting that the dog could ride up front with him, but Rey doesn’t mind. She likes dogs, especially this one who was so eager to cuddle up beside her once she sat down in the carriage. The steady pace of BB-8’s breathing forces her to mind her own, to keep from worrying too much about any possible threats as they make their way to D’Qar, the landscape growing less desolate with each passing mile. 

A few hours into their journey and Rey can’t ever remember the world being so colorful as they enter the outskirts of Republic lands. The rich green of trees, the first she’s seen in years, stand proudly against the pink of the setting sun and the air smells so crisp that her heart is close to bursting from the wonder of it. She can only hope her future home is anywhere near this beautiful.

They settle down at an inn later that night, the two women sharing a room while Captain Dameron rests in the stables with the carriage and horses. Robberies aren’t as common as they once were, at least according to the captain, but he still volunteers to keep watch, claiming that he’s always liked horses more than people anyway.

The innkeeper seems incredibly flattered by their presence, bowing too much and nearly fainting when Rey tells him how grateful she is for his hospitality.

It seems he’s not the only one excited by her stay. Rey can hear the hushed whispers as she makes her way into the dining room with Maz at her arm and Captain Dameron following behind them. Most patrons attempt to seem nonchalant, but she can feel their eyes against her back as she breaks off a crust of bread from a shared platter.

The prodigal daughter has returned. The common people are understandably intrigued.

---

“Do you have a family, Captain Dameron?” Rey asks as they sit down for a late dinner. The soup the innkeeper’s served them has seen better days but it’s filling and was probably very delicious when it was prepared a week ago. 

“I’m afraid it’s the life of a bachelor for me,” he tells her as he grabs Maz’s wrinkled hand from across the table and presses it to his mouth, kissing it with a loud smack of his lips. “Maz is the only woman I could ever marry yet she refuses all of my advances.”

“You’re a silly boy,” Maz says, snatching her hand back from his clutches but Rey catches a small smile from the older woman in the captain’s direction. “I’m old enough to be your grandmother.”

“Age is only a number, my turtledove,” Captain Dameron says with an almost theatrical hopefulness. “I’ll try again another day when you have tired of the glamorous life and are willing to settle for a humble soldier.” He holds a hand up to his forehead as if he were going to faint but just winks at Rey instead who only laughs in response.

 “Be careful of this one, my lady,” Maz says. “He’s a trickster. If your aunt had any sense, she’d have sent him packing long again.”

“The princess finds me very charming,” Captain Dameron says as he foists BB-8 from under the table and onto his lap now that the innkeeper has ceased his pestering. She sniffs excitedly at a roll close to the table’s edge but seems more contented by her higher perch than she does by her proximity to food.

“As does her niece,” he adds, nodding across the table at Rey and waggling his eyebrows theatrically. Another laugh escapes Rey’s throat and Maz hums a note in feigned disapproval.

“Oh really,” Maz drawls, her eyebrows raised. “I’m sure Lady Rey is just too polite to say otherwise. She’s a good girl.” Rey’s rewarded with a pat on the hand for her civility, a gesture that fills her with a rush of affection for the older woman. “And almost a married woman. She doesn’t need you getting her into trouble.”

 “I have no designs to snatch our fair lady from her pining beau,” he tells them both as he feeds the dog half of his remaining bread. “I’ll content myself with BB-8’s company and tell my future children all about how I had the honor of guarding the empress before her marriage.”

Rey’s guess as to her future husband’s identity was correct, but it was some small comfort now. “So it’s true then,” she says, her smile fading quickly. “I’m to marry my cousin. I’m to marry Kylo Ren.” 

A silence hangs between the three of them, the tension of it so sharp that Rey could cut it with her butter knife.

“It is,” Maz says after a pause, gently squeezing Rey’s hand. “From what your aunt has told me, Emperor Snoke was very eager for you to wed his heir, practically begged the Senate for your hand. You’ll be the most guarded woman in the world with the amount of land he had to give up for you.”

“Besides,” Captain Dameron says gravely, his face suddenly stony. “I’ll be going with you to Coruscant as head of your guard. If anyone tries to hurt you, they’ll have to kill me first.”

The reassurances are nice to hear, but don’t silence the lingering fear Rey has held inside since she was informed of her pending marriage. It doesn’t change the fact that her parents died as a result’s of Snoke’s wars with the Republic, her father at the end of a sword and her mother from grief only weeks later. It doesn’t change the fact that she’ll be made to bear a child that will one day rule the kingdom that destroyed her entire family, that she herself will stand at the side of the next man to rule it.

 It becomes apparent that the hearty conversation of earlier can’t be salvaged, leaving them with no choice but to make their respective goodbyes before retiring. BB-8 lets out a pitiful whine, a woeful expression filling her small face. Rey offers to let the dog spend the evening with her and the captain only gives a token protestation before acquiescing.

---

Maz falls asleep almost instantly, her snores filling up the small room they share, but Rey couldn’t sleep even if the room were completely silent. She absent-mindedly pets the dog curled up against her leg, her mind racing as she looks out the window out onto a sky full of stars.

She hasn’t seen her cousin since they were children, not since before her parents died and holidays were spent running about the halls of her aunt’s estate. They’d terrorize the cooks and steal whatever cakes they could from the kitchens while his father’s guard, a tall burly man, pretended not to notice their mischief. Rey can remember the year she forced everyone to watch her terrible theatrical endeavors after dinner, the way Kylo had magnanimously agreed to be the dastardly villain so she could be the hero, just like her father.

But he wasn’t Kylo then. He was Ben before Snoke claimed him as his heir, back before their families were ripped apart as part of some grand Imperial design. Kylo Ren would be born much later, a final sign to the Republic that their favorite son was destined to abandon them for more opulent pastures.

Ben had been kind, but Ben had also been a child. Even in Jakku, Rey’s heard tales of Snoke’s cruelty, the rumors that surround his seemingly invincible army led by a bloodthirsty command. A boy like Ben, one who’d been gentle and patient, couldn’t survive Snoke’s court.; but a man like the feared Kylo Ren must have thrived if the gossip was to be believed.

At some point, closer to dawn than dusk, Rey finally succumbs to sleep’s unwelcome embrace. She had feared nightmares, the screams of her mother running through her head as her father’s body was brought home, but instead finds herself running once more through her aunt’s home.

 She’s small again and following a gawky boy down the stairs, running as fast as she can to catch up to his long stride. He never tells her where they are going and she never asks, just follows and hopes he’ll lead her home.

Chapter Text

The rest of their journey to D’Qar proceeds without incident. Each day, the captain aims to cover as much ground as possible while Maz slowly reads one of the novels she has borrowed from her young charge. It’s called The Lady and the Scoundrel and while Rey is terribly embarrassed to even hold such a salacious book in her possession, the amusement she gets from Maz’s enthusiasm makes the gift more than worth it. Even BB-8 maintains a strict schedule as Rey’s lap pillow, her soft snores filling up the carriage each afternoon as the sun lulls her lazily into a nap.

Rey tries to read, tries to sleep, but her mind is still restless. None in their party have discussed her pending marriage since that first night in the inn, but it seems she cannot escape her wedding no matter where they go. The news of the betrothal has spread to the common people and the common people are more than happy to voice their congratulations to the daughter of the man that had been their champion.

Innkeepers and patrons alike offer prayers for her health and happiness, for the health and happiness of her children, and it’s all she can do to nod graciously and thank them for their kind words. When a serving girl tells her, her voice ripe with jealousy and awe, how lucky she is to become such a great lady to such a brave prince, she almost vomits right onto her plate.

Despite her own trepidation, Rey cannot fault the common people for their excitement. A wedding is a time for celebration, especially one as decadent and obnoxious as this one promises to be. If the people wish to drink to the promise of a peaceful tomorrow, one where the Empire and Republic are united through a new dynasty , then she will not be the one to take that away from them. They are not the ones who decide to fight over the world; they are merely the people who have to die for their own little corner.

--

After eight days on the road, Rey can see a familiar building pull into view. Even after all of these years, Naberrie is the same as it always was, a beautiful relic hidden from time amongst the trees.

The house had been her grandmother’s and Rey can almost picture her standing on the steps, just as beautiful and serene as she was in the portrait that hung in the dining room, her chestnut hair gleaming in the sun as she welcomed the crowds into her halls. 

It is her Aunt Leia that greets them today and Rey’s heart leaps in her chest to once again be in the presence of family. Her family. Maz lets out a laugh as Rey jumps out of the carriage to greet her aunt, but she is too excited to be properly mortified. From the tight embrace she’s met with as soon as she runs up the steps, it seems the excitement is more than mutual.

Naberrie might be constant but the sands of time have availed themselves to her aunt. Her hair, once a rich brown, is threaded with silver and lines have found their way onto a once smooth face. Leia had never been a tall woman but she seems even smaller than before as if taking up too much space would be unforgivable.

Her cousin has been Snoke’s ward for years, the terms of his future rule forbidding him from returning to the Republic. Her uncle, a restless former privateer named Han, was never the type to stay in one place long. Though Rey was the one languishing in exile, it seems she was not the only one condemned to be alone.

Rey hugs her aunt tighter, tears threatening to spill onto her cheeks. “I missed you,” she says quietly, drinking in the faint floral perfume her aunt has always worn.

“I missed you too,” Leia replies, her voice just as gentle as Rey had remembered. She pulls back from the embrace, her dark eyes shining. “You’re a proper lady now. I can’t believed I miss you growing up.”

“I’m not a proper lady, Aunt Leia,” Rey says, shaking her head in protest. “You really haven’t missed much of anything. I promise.”

Her aunt laughs, the sound rich in the air. It is good to be home.

--

Naberrie’s household has shrunk considerably since Rey’s last visit.

“It didn’t seem right to have so many servants, not when it’s just me.” Leia says, leading her into the dining room. “Besides,” she adds as an immaculately dressed man makes his way into the room. “We all know C-3PO could run the place in his sleep. I’ve had royalty from all over trying to steal him from me.”

“You’re too kind, Princess,” the butler says primly, bowing to them both. “But you know I’d never leave your service. There’s nobody in all the world half as impressive as you are, Your Highness.”

His once golden hair is now silver, but it seems C-3PO is the same man who’d tutted disapprovingly as she ran about the halls, dragging mud and chaos in her wake . He had never been cruel, merely someone who relished having everything in his place, even if that meant following the children he doted on with a towel at the ready. 

“Still quite the charmer,” Aunt Leia says, another laugh catching her throat. “Let the cook know we’re ready to eat. I have some catching up to do.”

Dinner takes place in the grand dining room, a hall festooned with portraits of Skywalker ancestors dating back five hundred years, but Rey feels more comfortable than she ever felt in any tavern. It feels right to be in D’Qar, to sit at a table across from her aunt with a wayward BB-8 resting under her feet and simply bask in the glow of the familiar.

Captain Dameron dominates the conversation, describing feats of gallantry performed in her aunt’s service and occasionally sneaking in a dirty joke past the no nonsense ears of C-3PO who keeps his vigil behind her aunt’s chair. They all laugh uproariously and Rey can hardly breathe by the time she’s finished her meal.

Once the table is cleared, her aunt disappears temporarily into the kitchens only to present her with a cake, decorated beautifully in blues and purples.

“I hope you still love chocolate,” she says, squeezing Rey’s shoulder gently. “You nearly emptied our stores the last time you were here and I wanted you to have something in honor of your birthday.”

She hasn’t had chocolate in years and her mouth nearly waters. “I do,” Rey says. “I like it very much. Thank you.”

At the behest of everyone else at the table, she takes a bite. Her mouth fills with the rich flavor, a sweetness that she’s almost forgotten coupled with the creaminess of the frosting. Her mother had made her a cake like this once when her father had gone away for the last time. When he’d rode off to defend the Republic. 

She can feel tears well up in her eyes as she eats the second bite and everyone very graciously believes her claim that she’s merely catching a cold.

 --

Rey only gets a week’s time with her aunt and it’s not nearly enough. She is summoned to Takodana, a neutral territory dividing the Republic and Empire, nearly as soon as she’s arrived in D’Qar. Per the terms of her betrothal, she will meet the Imperial delegation there before journeying back to Coruscant as a married woman.

It's some small mercy that her aunt may accompany her on the road though she is not allowed past Takodana’s borders. They say little to each other as Captain Dameron steadily moves their party closer and closer to the fate that looms ahead, but there is no real need.

The journey is a short one. She doesn’t want her aunt’s last memories of her to be filled with tears and cries for home.

--

The sky is nearly red when Captain Dameron opens the door to the carriage, a somber look on his face as he informs them they had reached the edge of Takodana lands. Rey can make out two dark figures in the distance, drawing closer and closer to them. It seemed the Empire was wasting no time in procuring their war bride.

She hugs her aunt with all of the strength in her body, her heartbeat drumming in her ears. Rey can feel a kiss, almost maternal, placed on the top of her head before her aunt pulls away one final time.

“Ben was a wonderful boy,” Aunt Leia says, her voice oddly serene. “If he is still my son, he will care for you just as I do.”

“And if he’s not?” Rey asks before she can stop herself, the images of slaughtered villages and starving common people vivid in her mind. Her intended has a reputation for barbarity, her aunt was too wonderful to have brought about this menace.

“You are strong, my darling,” Leia says, giving her one final embrace. “You will survive it.

Chapter Text

Rey is both relieved and disappointed that her intended isn’t among the duo sent to fetch them, but isn’t surprised in the least. The Empire prides itself on spectacle; nothing so important as the first official meeting between a prince and his intended would ever be relegated to a moment’s greeting at the edge of a forest.

The taller of the men, clad in a black military uniform and matching hat, has an incredibly sour expression on his face. He ends his march, leaving a small distance between himself and where she, Captain Dameron, and BB-8 are waiting. The shock of bright red hair Rey can see peeking out under his hat seems out of place on such a rigid face as if someone more carefree had simply misplaced it on a wayward search for levity. The other man, an Imperial guard, is dressed in all white, his plainer outfit bright against the darkening landscape. His jaw is square but his eyes seem kind. Although his hand clings tightly to his pistol, he is obviously the least menacing of the two. 

“I’m General Hux, my lady,” the taller one says, bowing stiffly towards her before turning toward Captain Dameron. “Your job is done, coachman. Your lady is in more than capable hands.” 

“Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not a coachman,” Captain Dameron says, his handsome face stony. He holds out a hand for the general to shake, but it seems General Hux is the type of man who reacts to pleasantries with utter disdain.

“I’m Captain Poe Dameron and per the terms of the agreement, your future empress is entitled to a Republic Captain of the Guard. You’re a general, I’d have hoped you knew how to read official state documents.” 

The air fills with a tense silence and Rey fears that the general will cut Captain Dameron right where he stands, his pale hand already clenching the ornate hilt of his sword. Captain Dameron’s hand is quick to find his own sword, his eyes firmly locked on the odious man standing opposite him. 

In lieu of drawing swords, they begin to yell at each other, a stream of curses unlike anything Rey has ever heard filling the air. The racket is almost deafening, the noise just as loud as if an entire regiment were running into battle. In the din, she can pick out a few choice phrases being hurled about from Captain Dameron's direction and while she would never have thought to call the general an "Imperial Rat Bastard," she can't deny the term's accuracy.   

In the meantime, BB-8 quietly abandons her post at her master’s side to waddle over toward the other man a few paces behind the general. The guard anxiously looks toward his commanding officer, verifying that the stalemate will last, before bending down to pet the dog. His hands find BB-8’s favorite spot in the middle of her ears and he looks up at Rey with a joyous smile on his face. She smiles back, almost letting out a laugh before deciding otherwise in hopes of avoiding the possibility of detection.

If BB-8 likes him, the guard must have some good in him. She is not one to put goodness to waste.

The dog lets out a happy bark and the captain and general fall eerily silent.

“Are you a child?” General Hux barks, sharply turning his back away from Captain Dameron and toward his guard. “Do you have so little regard for your position that a filthy mutt is enough to distract you from the Emperor’s orders?” 

“No, sir,” the guard stammers out with a panicked look on his face. “Just determining whether the animal is aggressive. I wouldn’t want to endanger the Imperial family, sir.”

General Hux regards this coolly and Rey wonders whether he’ll harm BB-8 just to prove a point. She has no doubt Captain Dameron would avenge his canine companion but it seems no vengeance will be necessary 

“Since you’re so keen on keeping the Imperial family out of harm’s way,” General Hux says. “You’ll be assisting Captain Dameron as part of Lady Rey’s guard.” This is clearly meant to be a punishment, but he doesn’t dwell on the matter and merely continues his attempt at a polite introduction now that the threat of a dog has been pacified.

“Your new guard can fetch your trunk. We’ll begin our progress to Andui as soon as possible. Preparations have already begun for your wedding and your sojourn in D’Qar has already delayed proceedings.”

“Am I to meet the prince before our wedding? Or is he only to be revealed when I have no chance of escape?” The words fall out of Rey’s mouth before she can stop them. General Hux turns an even deeper scarlet than his hair and Rey is momentarily thankful that the obsession with her appearance and the notoriety of her betrothed will keep him from striking her.

“His Imperial Highness is currently waiting in his carriage and will be traveling with us to Andui on his request,” the general says, every word measured. “He tolerates insolence even less than myself so I would refrain from the histrionics in his presence.”

The general turns back towards the thick of trees containing the Imperial traveling party and it seems she has no choice but to follow.

--

They make their way through the Imperial camp, a seemingly unending sea of black and white. In a pale orange gown, she is a comet in a vast field of unblinking stars, lonelier and brighter than ever. Rey can feel dozens of eyes locked on her, can hear the muffled gasps as they journey closer and closer to the magnificent black carriage that could only belong to a member of the royal family.

Captain Dameron is with her but his focus has shifted to the newest member of her guard, his pace slowing so he can better speak with the young man. The man seems harmless enough, perhaps even friendly, but she doesn’t fault the captain for his curiosity. He’s abandoned everything he’s ever known for her sake- he deserves only the very best at his side.

The opulent carriage is nearly within an arm’s reach and it is only then that the general halts their progress. He opens the door to the carriage with a flourish before standing at the side, his posture rigid and smugness palpable.

A figure exits the carriage only to loom menacingly in front of her.

“My lady,” General Hux says imperiously. “May I present His Imperial Highness, Kylo Ren.” 

It seems that her betrothed has finally deigned to meet her. He bows, his face impossibly blank as he does so. It is apparent that he is no longer the gawky boy he was in her memories and her private hopes of an unassuming husband-to-be are utterly shattered. He’s almost staggeringly tall, even taller than her uncle was at his prime and the years of marauding and military training have broadened his shoulders and filled out a formerly lanky frame. 

His hair is much longer and his skin much paler than they ever were during their shared childhood; but his eyes, Ben’s eyes, have mercifully remained the same.

She can hear a small nudging cough coming from General Hux and she curtseys, her hands on the edges of her skirt as she continues to absorb every detail of the man who she will marry. The only man whose touch she will ever know.

“You two will be on horseback,” General Hux says, nodding his head at Captain Dameron and the guard. “It would be a dishonor to have you in the Emperor’s private carriage. 

“What about my dog?” Captain Dameron asks. BB-8 is nestled against his leg, her small face somber as her fate is being decided.

“Shoot it for all I care,” Hux says matter-of-factly. “It is none of my concern what a coachman does with his mutt.”

“She can ride with me,” Rey says, suddenly finding her voice. “It won’t be any trouble at all. She’s very well-mannered.” She looks pleadingly up at her betrothed, eyes fixed on his. 

“It is not your place to decide what is allowed in His Highness’ carriage,” Hux snaps but he is silenced as her intended holds up a gloved hand.

“The dog will ride with my lady,” Kylo Ren commands without even a passing glance towards the other man.

Her aunt had a dog when they were children, a squat creature whose tongue lolled out of its mouth, but a sweet dog nonetheless. It had followed the two of them any time they ventured into the kitchen, wheezing loudly until they bribed him with crusts of bread or bits of meat. Ben had liked dogs. It is some small comfort that the heir to the Empire likes them too.

“As you wish, Your Imperial Highness,” General Hux replies, taking a moment to glare at the captain and his canine companion before ushering his royal charges into the carriage.

As she sits down opposite her fiancé, Captain Dameron hoists BB-8 up onto the carriage floor and nods at Rey. He mouths the words Be Safe but swiftly makes his way to the black horse the Empire has provided him.

It seems General Hux is worthy enough of passage in the royal caravan. He makes a spectacle of himself sitting down next to her fiancé, but he’s more silent of a travel companion than Rey would have expected. The lull of the road lures him easily to sleep almost as soon as they begin their trek to Andui and were it not for the occasional snores filling the air, Rey would have forgot his presence entirely.

She says nothing to her betrothed, simply takes in his face as she runs a hand over BB-8’s soft fur, but she can feel his eyes locked on her as if he’s lying in wait.

--

They are truly alone and she’s never been more terrified. 

Chapter Text

After what seems like an age, her betrothed speaks.

--

“Is the quiet a side-effect of traveling or am I to expect our union to be a silent one?” 

He looks at her expectantly, his back propped against the plush velvet of the carriage’s seat. It is some small mercy that the weight of BB-8 is holding her back because she’s never been filled with such a strong urge to slap anyone in her entire life.

“What did you want to talk about, Your Imperial Highness?” Rey asks quietly, doing her best to avoid his gaze. He looks at her smugly like his presence is a gift, like he’s the sacrament himself and she should just be dying to take communion.

“You may call me Kylo when we are alone,” he says. “You’ll be an Imperial Highness soon enough. It would be terribly confusing if we went by the same name.”

“Fine then, Kylo,” she replies, finally daring to look into his eyes. The name is like poison in her mouth and she feels dirty for saying it, for pretending that it’s real. “Your mother misses you terribly. We can talk about that.”

He stares at her blankly, his long face unchanged.

“Does that not mean anything to you?” She can hear the anger in her voice and she hates herself for it, hates herself for wanting him to care about the kindhearted mother he left behind.

He lets out a humorless hint of a laugh, crossing his long arms in front of his chest. “Would it change anything if I cared?” He asks, raising his eyebrows. “Do you think missing her or anyone would bring me any closer to seeing them?”

“No,” Rey begins, “but she is your mother. You abandoned her and you don’t even care.”

“She knew what she was doing when she sent me here. I was a boy. I did what I was told,” he tells her, clearly exasperated. “I didn’t abandon her, Rey.”

“It’s My Lady,” Rey snaps at him, the harsh tone of her voice startling the unsuspecting dog on her lap. “Don’t allow yourself familiarities you aren’t entitled to.”

“Fine then, my darling betrothed,” Kylo (not Ben, never Ben) says this like the foulest curse Rey could ever imagine. “But you need to stop playing the martyr. Just because you were stranded in the middle of nowhere and I’m heir to half the world doesn’t mean you’re better than I am. I didn’t have any more of a say than you did.”

“At least I know who I am,” she spits defiantly. “I’m not wearing all black like some mindless crony.”

 “I know who I am, Rey,” he says plainly, leaning forward in his seat. His face is only inches from hers and in the dim light of the carriage, she can make out every mole that dots his skin. “But you tell yourself whatever you need to keep hating me.”

There’s not much Rey can to say to that. She doesn’t hate him, not truly. Ben still lives in his body, she can see it in his eyes. Ben was kind and good just like his mother was, just like her father had been and she could never hate the boy who had cared for her so much.

“I don’t hate you,” she mumbles, the sound of her words barely audible over the cadence of the general’s snores.

“That’s comforting,” he says, finally leaning back against the wall of the carriage. “Contrary to what you may believe, I’m not deliberately trying to antagonize you.”

 “That seems doubtful,” she says, moving a now sleeping BB-8 onto the bench beside her. The dog is unperturbed and Rey can’t help but feel envious. She hasn’t slept well since the first night at the inn and she suspects it is starting to show.

“I’m not lying,” he tells her almost angrily. “I wouldn’t lie to you. It’s demeaning to us both.”

“Tell me then,” she demands. “How long have you known?” 

“About what?” 

“Our wedding,” Rey says simply. “About my becoming your wife.”

“A month or so,” he says almost immediately. “But there were never any other viable candidates. I had thought you would have made the same assumption given the lack of other prospects.”

She says nothing and refuses to acknowledge their shared truth. He takes it as an invitation to continue.

“I thought you’d be happier to see me,” Kylo says, his voice lighter and his great angular body somehow less stiff. “We were friends once.” 

“I know we were,” Rey says, the fire in her voice slightly subdued.

“I’d have thought you’d be glad to marry a friend,” he tells her and she can see the sincerity behind every word. “And even if you didn’t want to marry me, you could at least be happy to be someone important. You’ll be respected here, probably loved if you have your father’s predilection for championing the peasants. Your son would have the blood of conquerors and the support of the largest empire the world has ever seen. This isn’t Jakku- you would matter here.”

“Tell me,” he nearly commands but there's no menace in his tone. “Is that really so horrid a life?”

She lets out a sigh before looking up at him, their faces nearly level. “It is not the life I would have wanted.”

He smiles but there’s no mirth in it. “Nobody gets to live the life they want,” he says plainly. “Not even princes.”

“Let me guess, you’ve got a beautiful mistress that you have to give up now that you’re getting married” Rey drawls. “Don’t worry, I’m sure the Emperor will let you bring her back to court once we've provided him with a son or two.”

As much as it pains her to admit it, her intended is not entirely loathsome. His face is too long and too angular to ever be classically handsome, but there’s a strength in his features that she respects. It would not be hard for him to find a wayward young lady to lure into his bed should her own embrace prove insufficient.

“There was no mistress to give up,” Kylo says, letting out a faint snort. “We were to marry and provide the empire with a new ruler- it seemed imprudent to focus my attentions elsewhere.”

“Plenty of married men have mistresses,” she says matter-of-factly, crossing her arms in front of her bodice.

Her father hadn’t had a mistress or if he had, he had kept the woman out of sight and out of mind whenever he returned home. The Emperor has one if the rumors were to be believed, a fearsome woman who did what she pleased in the absence of an empress, but rumors had never mentioned a lady waiting in the wings for Kylo Ren. 

“I take my duties seriously,” he says. “I will not dishonor my wife like that. It would make us both look weak.” 

Another silence fills the carriage but one that is more easily broken.

“I suppose I should thank you then,” Rey states plainly. It isn’t a question yet he answers her anyway.

“That would be the polite thing to do,” he says, the hint of amusement in his voice almost palpable. “Politeness seems to be a stepping stone toward an amicable marriage.”

He’s trying so hard to be civil and it infuriates her. She hates the way he’s so annoyingly unaffected by the chaos of their lives. He doesn’t get to be contented when her entire world is disappearing just as soon as it came into view. He doesn’t get to decide if she’s happy.

“What if I don’t want to be amicable?” She asks, eyebrows raised. It’s a challenge and it’s more than a little amusing to see him take the bait. He can’t hurt her yet, not when his future is so dependent on her cooperation, but she can make him squirm, make him regret even trying to engage her in conversation.

She has to marry him. She doesn’t have to like him.

“I didn’t realize I was marrying a child,” he retorts, a small chuckle escaping his lips. “By all accounts, you’re supposed to be quite clever.”

He moves forward in his seat and his face once again just inches from hers. He opens his mouth once more to speak and she leans in closer without even meaning to do so, unwillingly made part of his orbit.

“I could put you over my knee and make you be amicable,” he says, the gravel of his voice slow and deliberate. “Will I need to do that, Rey?”

A stolen image of his hand cupping caressing her body runs through her mind and Rey can feel a breath catch in her throat. Her cheeks are flooding with an unfamiliar heat and she feels his stare even more intensely as if he’s prying into her thoughts and deliberately sifting through them.

 His own breath is heavy and he’s so close that she can feel it, the heat of it radiating her skin. He is close, unbearably close, and it’s maddening and terrifying and wonderful all at once.

She could touch him now if she wanted, could easily slap the constellation of moles clean off his face. She could just feel his skin, run a finger over the full lips that rest so close to her own. She could do so much and she suspects he would let her, would keep still and silent just long enough to watch her test her limits, to see just what she would do to him.

Before Rey can even lift a finger, their carriage hits a bump in the road. They are pressed flat against the walls of the carriage as General Hux promptly sits upright at his post, attempting to surreptitiously wipe the drool that’s collected near  one of his epaulets.

 “Nearly to Andui, Your Imperial Highness,” the general tells them both, his voice insufferable and pompous. He looks at her fleetingly before focusing intently on her betrothed. General Hux is a dog waiting for his master to throw him a bone and it’s with some small satisfaction that Kylo ignores the ginger man entirely and stares out the window.

--

The moment has vanished and were it not for the lingering flutter of her heart beating in her chest, Rey would have sworn she had made it up entirely.

Chapter Text

The knot in Rey’s stomach tangles at a rapid pace as they draw closer and closer to Andui. Her traveling companions do little to ease the tension.

General Hux, well-rested and oddly chipper, drones on and on about the history of the “glorious Empire” and the “historic monarch who will lead them all into prosperity.” Under different circumstances, it would be enough to lull her into the deepest of sleeps. Instead, she nods at the appropriate intervals and smiles uneasily when it becomes apparent that she is supposed to be an eager disciple of Imperial policy.

Meanwhile, BB-8 has abandoned her post to laze happily beside the feet of Kylo Ren.Her betrothed pretends to ignore the dog’s affections, his gaze fixed on the changing landscape, but Rey catches him absentmindedly scratching BB-8 between the ears when he thinks none of them are watching.

 The dog basks in the attention and Rey can’t help but feel a little betrayed.

“The Emperor is very eager to meet you, My Lady.” General Hux tells her this like its some great conspiracy. “He told me personally how happy he is to see you marry into the Imperial family. Wouldn’t you agree, Your Imperial Highness?”

“If the Emperor told you, then it must be true,” Kylo says, the annoyance in his voice palpable. “We all know what a credit your service is to the Empire, Hux.” It is a thinly veiled insult but it does little to deter the general. 

“It is a privilege to serve,” General Hux says, taking the insult in stride as the carriage starts to slow. For a brief glimmering instant, Rey hopes that they’ve lost a wheel but the thought is extinguished almost as soon as it arises.

The general’s posture stiffens as soon as the coach comes to a stop. “The Emperor would prefer to see you both as soon as we’ve arrived and in light of the delays we’ve already experienced, I’m inclined to agree.”

Rey swallows the lump forming in her throat. “Of course, General,” she replies, forcing a calmness that she doesn’t feel.

“After all,” he adds, straightening the fabric of his uniform. “There’s no time like the present.”

--

Captain Dameron opens the door to their carriage and Kylo Ren leaps out of his seat with an alarming speed. He storms out with General Hux close behind and it’s all Rey can do to keep herself from letting out a sigh of relief.

The captain offers a gloved hand to her, a look of pure understanding on his face as BB-8 jumps out of the carriage and onto the ground below. Rey takes it, exiting the coach with as much grace as she can muster and together they begin the trek toward the inevitable.

“Are you alright, My Lady?” He asks quietly, his hand moving to his sword hilt. “Just say the word and I’ll get rid of the ginger for you.”

“It was pleasant as could be expected,” she replies magnanimously as the latest member of her guard appears at her other side, his posture rigid. Despite the solemnity, he looks as terrified as she feels.

 “I’ll have your things brought to your apartments, My Lady,” he says, lowering his head in a ghost of the bow. “Let me know if you require anything else.” 

“That’s very kind of you,” Rey says. “But you must forgive my rudeness, I’m not sure who I should be thanking.”

 “My name is Finn, My Lady,” he says, bowing his head more deeply than before. “And if what Captain Dameron has told me is true, then it will be an honor to be part of your guard. You seem much more pleasant than General Hux.”

There’s a startled sort of expression on his face as he realizes what he’s said and she can’t help but let out a laugh. 

“Having met the general, I can only assume all people are more pleasant than he is,” Rey replies. Captain Dameron lets out a snort and she can see the tension in Finn shoulders start to ease. “But thank you for the compliment. I hope Captain Dameron has been as kind to you as you are being to me.”

“He’s been very gracious, My Lady,” Finn says almost immediately. “It is an honor to serve alongside him.”

“No need to compliment me, Finn,” the captain says brightly. “All the flattery will go to my head and I’ll become just as insufferable as your former commanding officer.” 

The younger man laughs but the sound nearly disappears as soon as it emerges.

 Rey cannot fault him for the sudden change in demeanor. Per the terms of the Republic’s cease-fire, Takodana is supposed to be a neutral state, a friend to nobody, but the Empire’s embrace is strong.

A line of Imperial guards stand on either side of them as they make their way into the manor’s entryway, their faces unmoving and unyielding. Her intended and General Hux are waiting, the second man’s face conveying an impatience that seems to be permanent. It is then that a pompous looking guard beseeches Captain Dameron and Finn to follow him, leaving Rey to the mercy of the Imperial delegation’s emissary.

 --

“This is to be your formal introduction, My Lady,” General Hux says as they enter a looming hallway. It is almost a struggle to keep up with his brisk pace but it clearly does not phase Kylo Ren who keeps to her side. “Anybody who is anybody at court will be in attendance. It will be terribly exciting.”

There are suits of armor from centuries past standing guard in the hall alongside their familial blades. Rey can’t help but wonder if anybody would mind terribly were she to run herself through with one right now.

“Stop looking so sorry for yourself,” her betrothed says under his breath. “Just be kind to the Captain and he’ll have no reason to hate you.”

 “The Captain?” She asks just as quietly.

 “His mistress,” he replies in a hushed tone. “You’ll know exactly who she is when you meet her.”

 The hall leads to the masses of courtiers eagerly awaiting her arrival, the buzz of excited chatter filling her ears until they notice their approach. Without a pause, the crowd divides, a sea of black and red parting to allow clear passage. General Hux continues leading his miniature procession and she can feel all eyes on her, their stares heavy against her skin as they edge closer and closer to where the Emperor is perched. They stop a few paces in front of the man and it is not nearly enough distance.

--

The Emperor is ancient, shriveled and wrinkled like a rotten apple, and Rey is amazed that he can sit upright with the truly garish amount of rubies he has on his doublet and the thick gold chains around his neck. 

There’s a woman standing next to him and Rey can only assume that this is the infamous “Captain” Phasma central to most of the international gossip surrounding the Imperial family. The woman is not the creature she had imagined as the Emperor’s mistress. In lieu of a heaving bosom and rouged cheeks, she stands proud and tall by the Emperor’s throne with a bare face but striking features.

While the other women are either in red or black gowns, their waists narrow and skirts wide; she stands proudly in a gray and purple velvet version of General Hux’s uniform that reveals the strength and shapeliness of her legs and shows off her imposing build to its best advantage. This is a woman who has clearly earned her fearsome reputation and Rey already knows not to cross her.

--

 “Let me get a good look at you,” Emperor Snoke says in a deep voice, a gnarled hand beckoning her closer to where he rests on his throne. “I want to see what I’ve sold half the world for.”

She steps forward, sinking to the ground in a curtsy with her head bowed low in hopes she is not forced to meet his gaze.

“Very nice,” he drawls, the tone of his voice sending a shiver down her spine. “Very nice indeed. Don’t you think so, my pet?”

“She will make a fine wife for his Imperial Highness, Your Majesty,” the tall woman says in a neutral tone as if the evening’s proceedings were far beneath her.

“More than a fine wife, I think,” the old man adds. “A body like that is just aching to be bred- the sooner, the better.” He makes a pleased sort of hum low in his throat and she keeps her gaze locked to the floor lest any accidental eye contact be misconstrued as an invitation.

“What do you think, Kylo?” The Emperor asks, finally diverting his attentions to his adopted son. “Are you pleased with my choice of bride?”

"Of course, Your Majesty,” her betrothed replies. “You have chosen wisely as always.”

“Such modesty,” the Emperor says with a chuckle. “Most men would be falling to their feet at the chance to marry such a lovely little thing.”

Kylo Ren says nothing and it’s clear no real response is expected.

 “Very well,” the older man says dismissively. “You both may go. I expect I’ll have plenty of time to get to know your future wife.”

 He says this as a promise but it feels more like a threat. It is all she can do to stand as quickly as possible and follow Kylo Ren back into the hall while General Hux leaves his report with the Emperor.

--

 “What did you think of him?” Her betrothed asks this just as they have left the cruel prison of the throne room. “Did he live up to your expectations?” His voice is light and he looks at her as if nothing has happened, as if the Emperor had invited them to tea and a friendly game of cards.

“He’s disgusting,” Rey says under her breath, refusing to meet her betrothed’s gaze. “I’m not a cow that’s ready to go to market. He had no right….”

“You know just as well as I do that he can do whatever he wants,” Kylo says gruffly. “He clearly thought you were fetching. Be glad he showed restraint, he could have just lifted your skirts right there and made an heir himself.”

“Don’t be vile.” Her stomach churns and she wonders how large of a misstep it would be to vomit right there.

“My apologies, my dearest betrothed,” he says with a flourish. “Should I have challenged him to a duel for your honor?”

“You could have done something, ” Rey very nearly shouts, stepping back from him. “You just stood there. I’m to be your wife. You could at least ensure that men don’t talk to me like I’m in a brothel.”

“The Emperor is not a man, but appointed by God himself,” he says, an urgency in his tone. “If you are to be my wife, it would be good for you to remember what you’re marrying into.”

“If you are to be my husband,” she retorts. “It would be good for you to remember that my blood is just as important as yours. I’m Luke Skywalker’s daughter. I deserve the Emperor’s respect and yours.” 

He opens his mouth to reply but says nothing, choosing instead to merely let out an aggravated sigh and storm loudly down the hall. She is left alone for the first time in weeks, uneasily anticipating the newest exercise in self-control.

Chapter Text

The rest of the evening passes in a whirlwind. Rey is only granted a slight reprieve before she’s whisked away to her rooms, the group of flighty young women who are to be her ladies-in-waiting following eagerly behind her every step. They are all extraordinarily pretty and seem more insipid than cruel, but she holds no delusions of a blossoming friendship.

They are the sisters and daughters of the Imperial elite. There is no doubt in Rey’s mind that any one of them would betray her confidence for an opportunity to enhance her own power or lay claim to her betrothed’s heart and bed.

Her bed, the one so generously bestowed on her by the Emperor, is more than impressive. The rooms themselves are the most opulent she has ever seen, fit for someone much grander than herself. There are enough jewels to buy all of Jakku and enough perfume to transform its deserts into rose-scented seas. It is comforting to know that her cage will be a gilded one.

The ladies set about exploring every nook and cranny of her apartments, ignoring their royal companion in their quest to uncover every luxury, but Rey doesn’t mind. She sets herself down on the plush burgundy settee placed near her vanity and watches the cheerful chaos, all the while thinking woefully about how she once loathed her loneliness.

As the girls fawn over the massive armoire, she spies a piece of lavender paper on the vanity with “Her Future Imperial Highness” written on one side. She grabs it delicately and finds a missive that can only come from the pen of one person.

--

Your Ladyship,

While I’m sure the ladies that His Imperial Majesty provided you are the epitome of politeness and courtly virtue, I suspect that you will still require a feminine guide in matters other than embroidery or floral arranging. It is in these matters that I humbly offer my own services. 

I would greatly appreciate it if we could discuss the matter over tea tomorrow before the preparations for your wedding supersede any desire for feminine companionship.

I know it is the Emperor’s most ardent desire that we become the closest of friends.                                                                                  

                                                                                     Yours,

                                                                                     Phasma

 

The last line lingers like a threat and as she crumples the note into a ball, Rey can’t help but feel like she’ll never have a moment’s peace ever again.

--

Rey barely sleeps through the night and when the ladies flood into her room just as soon as the sun rises, she is sorely tempted to start throwing pillows at them. Sleep is apparently not a necessity to Imperial women and their gossip fills the air as they help the servants dress her for the day’s course of events.

It feels too intimate to be so unclothed before so many but she seems to have no choice in the matter. A showy crimson gown is foisted upon her and her hair is twisted into an elaborately braided bun, but that’s not what she notices when they usher her in front of the mirror.

There are dark circles underneath her eyes and she looks too drawn, too pale to be considered even remotely pretty. Rey had never considered herself vain before but it is some small disappointment to see herself reflected in such a haggard fashion. She looks as tired as she feels and if the worried look on Captain Dameron’s face is any indication, she’s not the only one who notices.

“Are you alright, My Lady?” He asks quietly as they make their way to Phasma’s apartments. The newest member of her guard accompanies them as well, clad in the bright orange uniform that Captain Dameron also wears. “I can make your excuses should you want to rest...” 

“I would advise against that, My Lady,” Finn interrupts, shaking his head. “ The Captain doesn’t take kindly to any insults, real or otherwise. More soldiers have died on her orders than on the battlefield.”

 “I appreciate your counsel, Finn,” Rey says, a vision of her own execution flitting through her mind. “If I should happen to vomit in her presence, be sure to steal me out of the palace as soon as possible.”

“We’ll have you in D’Qar the second the mess hits the floor,” Captain Dameron says, attempting to add a much-needed bit of levity to the conversation. “I promise, My Lady.”

 They both look concerned and Rey wishes more than anything that she could embrace them both.

 --

A timid servant ushers her into Phasma’s apartments, leading her to a small table where her hostess already sits, calmly sipping from an ornate teacup.

The Captain does not stand up and as the servant scurries off, Rey can’t help but feel a little confused.

“You may sit if you like,” the older woman says, setting her cup down. “I’d apologize for the lack of formal pleasantries but I’m sure you must be quite sick of them by now. I would be if every person in the Empire felt the need to curtsey to me.”

Rey says nothing even though the observation is not entirely incorrect. Amongst the feast that has been laid out for them, she can spot petit fours iced in the same purple that had adorned her invitation. She can feel her stomach rumble and it becomes very clear that her companion has heard it too.

“Eat,” Phasma entreats her with an almost maternal tone. “You’ll want your strength for the wedding and especially what comes after it.” She passes the plate of petit fours and looks at her young charge expectantly.

 “Thank you,” Rey says, taking one from the edge and quickly popping it into her mouth. It might possibly be the best thing she’s ever tasted. “ You’re very kind.”

 “I’m doing my duty to the Empire,” Phasma tells her matter-of-factly. “Somebody has to tell you what to expect of the marriage bed.”

Rey nearly chokes on the petit four still in her mouth. She spits the rogue morsel into a napkin and can already feel a blush starting to form. “I know what’s expected of me,” she insists. “What I’ll need to do to produce a child and be a dutiful wife to my husband.”

Phasma lets out a snort and takes another sip from her tea. “A dutiful wife,” she says dismissively. “Most wives are dutiful. Some would say their duty is their greatest virtue.”

 “Should I not be dutiful to my husband?” Rey asks, feeling impossibly naïve."

“It is not a bad thing to be dutiful,” Phasma, replies, the shock of Rey’s answer wearing off. “The Emperor’s wife was very dutiful, the very picture of respectability. His Imperial Majesty still thinks very highly of her.”

Phasma takes another sip of tea, delicately setting the cup down. “Did you know these were her apartments?” She asks, a faint smile appearing on her striking face. "They took three years to build. Some say they almost bankrupted the treasury." 

“Then how did you get them?” Rey retorts, the words spilling out of her mouth without a moment’s thought. Phasma’s smile only grows.

“Natural ability,” she says with a smirk. “I provide a very vital service to the Emperor and he rewards me very generously for my efforts. I had no prospects when I was your age and now I have more jewels than the rest of the court put together.”

"I'm to be a wife, not a mistress," Rey says sharply. "I beg your pardon but I'm not sure why a sermon on the merits of your position will do me any good."

"It will do all the good in the world," Phasma tells her calmly. "I merely hope to guide you, to ensure that you will never lose any influence over darling little Kylo."

 "Why do you care?" Rey asks. The display of civility, possibly genuine concern is puzzling. She doesn't know this woman by anything other than her reputation and yet there they sit, sharing tea like old friends.

"While our dear Emperor claims to be immortal," Phasma says with a sigh. "We both know it's not true. One day, he will no longer be of this world and my way of life will be in jeopardy. I rather like court life and as you'll one day decide my fate, your friendship is a worthy one."

"My husband will be the Emperor. Won't he be the one to send you into exile?"

Phasma laughs, her voice rich and clear. "From what I've heard, he dotes on you already. That little lover's quarrel in the hallway would not have happened if you weren't such a charming vexation. If you encourage his affections, I'm sure you'll be granted any number of favors that might benefit your dear friends."

The Captain could very well be lying-a woman like that would not be unskilled in intrigue- but Rey has a sneaking suspicion that she speaks the truth. She can feel the blush on her face growing and feels utterly foolish upon realizing the news is not entirely unwelcome. 

Phasma adopts a more maternal expression, the warmth of it almost alien on her strong face. "You have no mother and there are certain things only a woman can tell you about the full extent of your role. Too many girls go off to their beds knowing too little and suffer all the more for it."

"I thought it was supposed to hurt the first time," she interjects, remembering the pained lecture she had received from an old governess upon the first appearance of blood on her sheets. "That's what I'd always been told."

"It might," Phasma says lightly. "Young men are often careless but are so very willing to prove their worth. Guide him in the right direction and I’m sure you’ll have a proper bedfellow in no time.”

“Guide him?”

Gently guide him. Moan at the things that feel good,” the older woman instructs, helping herself to the last of the petit fours. “Louder than is necessary. Men love theatrics especially when they are the cause of the drama. It feeds their egos.”

“And what if none of it feels good?” Rey asks almost timidly. She can remember eavesdropping on the conversations held by some of the female servants in Unkar Plutt’s desolate household, the bored tones they adopted when discussing their married patrons and the lengths they went to secure extra pocket money.

 It pains her to admit it, but Rey does want it to be good. She sees pride and arrogance when she envisions Kylo Ren, but she also can picture the strength of his hands. The deep timbre of his voice as he leaned so close to her in the carriage. How it could have felt to have him kiss her before they were interrupted. 

“If that is the case, I recommend having a child as soon as possible. If you have a son or two, you will have the liberty of remaining chaste.” Phasma says, taking Rey out of her head.

She drains the last of her tea and Rey is compelled to bring her cup to her lips, savoring the tang of the bergamot as it warms her throat

“But I sincerely hope you do enjoy your marital duties,” Phasma tells her, winking conspiratorially. “Life is a lot nicer when you’re fucked well.”

Rey spits out her tea and a servant comes running to clean up the mess. In the chaos, Captain Phasma laughs uproariously. 

Chapter Text

Rey sees surprisingly little of her intended in the days that follow. In retrospect, it isn’t terribly shocking considering the decidedly feminine nature of her allowed pursuits. Hours are spent as part of sewing circles or strolling through Andui’s copious gardens, hobbies that are not mandatory so much as strongly encouraged by the most senior of her attendants.

Needlework is tedious but it serves as an adequate distraction. There’s something soothing about the pull of thread that serves as a salve to her growing nerves as the wedding date rolls closer. Even the garden walks are almost relaxing at times. She can forget where she is and just pretend she’s in a faraway place where nobody gets married and tall arrogant bastards aren’t allowed. The illusion is disrupted whenever one of the ladies opens her mouth, but it is a nice respite nonetheless.

 Rey had never been one to catch onto courtly intrigue, but it is almost painfully obvious that a good deal of her ladies seem to fancy Captain Dameron. Their infatuations are unsurprising, and from the looks of it, are entirely unreciprocated. He keeps his vigil over their sewing circle and Rey barely conceals a laugh every time she catches one of the more flirtatious girls batting their eyelashes.

 --

“My dear Captain,” one of the girls says, her ample bosom heaving precariously against the sparse fabric of her chartreuse bodice. “I’ve noticed your handkerchief looks positively rundown. I hope you don’t mind but I made you a replacement.” She holds up a bright green cloth embroidered with a bright orange thread. The shade of the fabric is the same shade as her dress while the orange matches the color of his uniform. The effect is garish and deliberate.

“That’s very kind of you,” the Captain says in a neutral tone. “Although I’m afraid I can’t accept your very generous gift, My Lady.”

“You call me Oola,” she replies with a wink. From the corner of her eye, Rey can see Finn trying and failing to hide his amusement. This is the third romantic overture they’ve been witness to just this week and this is truly the most spectacular display. “And I insist you take it. You’ve done such a wonderful job keeping us all secure. I know I’m very grateful to have a strong man like you protecting us.”

“Unfortunately,” he says not unkindly, “As part of Lady Rey’s guard, I can only wear her favor. I would hate to disrespect your future empress so.”

“I’m sure she wouldn’t mind, Captain,” Oola says, rising from her seat. “Would you, Your Highness?”

“Not at all,” Rey says graciously, turning her head toward where Captain Dameron is standing. “Captain Dameron may do what he wishes. He is a loyal friend to us all.” She smiles winningly at her fellow Republican countryman and is rewarded a terse smile and raised eyebrows.

The girl, Oola, looks positively ecstatic as she hands the handkerchief to Captain Dameron who accepts it with a resigned nod and crams it into his trouser pocket.

The tide of the room’s conversation mercifully shifts from potential conquest to potential outfits and Rey can swear she’s never seen the Captain look so relieved.

 --

“You shouldn’t encourage them, My Lady,” Captain Dameron says as he and Finn escort her down the hall to Phasma’s apartments.

 “I absolutely agree, my dear Captain,” Finn says, his voice a fairly accurate imitation of Oola’s simpering tone. Rey laughs but it seems Captain Dameron is not amused.

 “I mean it” the Captain replies. “I don’t need a jealous suitor challenging me to a duel over a paramour that I have no desire for. I have no interest in being some Imperial woman’s trophy.” His easygoing disposition has faded and his earnestness is palpable.

 “I’ll attempt to hold them back, Captain,” Rey says sincerely. “But I can’t fault them for their admiration. You’re the first Republic man they’ve ever seen, they’re probably shocked to see that men can be handsome.”

 A smile unfurls on his face and the company easily falls back into the now-standard routine. Finn and Captain Dameron jest at each other’s expense, sometimes sneaking in a few pointed barbs about General Hux and the rest of his cronies, while she attempts to get a word in edgewise.

 Rey is in the midst of her own shoddy Oola impression but she falls silent as Kylo Ren comes into view. The heavy step of his gait gives him away as he rounds the corner and she can feel her heart throbbing in her chest as she catches his eye.

 Both Finn and Captain Dameron bring their chatter to a quick stop, their postures straightening as the silence echoes around them. Her intended is closer now, barely a few paces away and she’s not entirely sure what is expected of her. Oddly enough, Phasma’s lessons on how to captivate man seemed to assume that she knew how to talk to one. It isn’t much to require of a pupil and yet she there she stands, bewildered and tongue tied.

 Kylo Ren stops in front of them, stiffly inclining his head towards her. His face is grim but that’s unsurprising. He’s clad in an all black ensemble, the cut of the fabric only slightly more formal than his travelling garments- it seems gloominess is all he knows.

 She greets him with a small curtsey; her cheeks suddenly warm even in the chill of the great stony hall.  

“Lady Rey,” he says, his deep voice solemn and unaffected. He ignores the two men at her side as though their bright uniforms and tense expressions were hidden away under a cloak. “Might I have the pleasure of your company this afternoon?” It’s a question but there’s little doubt in his tone.      

“I was on my way to meet Captain Phasma, Your Imperial Highness,” she says, the sturdy door of her ally just visible down the hall. “It would be unforgivably rude if I were to abandon her when she has so graciously offered me an invitation to join her this afternoon.”

 “I’m sure she will forgive you. I’m sure her appointments with His Imperial Majesty have often waylaid a previous engagement,” he replies, his tone unwavering. “You’ll join me then?”

 “If Your Imperial Highness wishes me to do so,” she says, the courtesies hiding her own trepidation as she nods her head to dismiss Captain Dameron and Finn. They linger for a moment but there’s she little she can do to assuage their concerns.

 --

There should be no harm in letting them have a few hours reprieve, nobody in all of Andui would dare to strike their future Emperor’s consort especially in their future Emperor’s presence but the hordes at court aren’t what worry her.

The future Emperor is.

 

 

Chapter Text

The two of them walk in silence for what seems like an eternity but what is sure to be only a quarter of an hour. She’s weighed down by the heavy fabric of her velvet gown, one of the ‘gifts’ that had been left in her armoire, and Rey can tell Kylo Ren's strides are slowed to match her less than brisk pace. It’s a tad patronizing but she’s too grateful to chide him. 

They’re in a part of the palace that she’s never been before, the halls drafty and ominously quiet compared to the normal din that fills her days. The air is as still as it ever was in Jakku and it’s almost enough to make her miss the ladies, flirtatious shrieking and all. Rey might not appreciate their constant gossip but she can only assume their chatter would greatly annoy her betrothed if it reached even a fraction of the enthusiasm that greeted Captain Dameron when he entered a room. Unfortunately, they are elsewhere and it seems the task of antagonizing Kylo Ren must fall solely with her.

“You know Phasma will be terribly upset with you for delaying me,” she says, clearing the air. “She prides herself on being punctual for any meeting involving sherry.” 

“Then punctuality must be her solitary virtue. I’ve seen little evidence that others would exist.” He snorts dismissively and Rey is sure Phasma’s heart would swell with pride to hear it.

 “Besides,” he adds. “I’m here at her request. She was under the impression that you were desperate for my company.” His voice is all civility but she can detect a hint of amusement, a smug sense of satisfaction on knowing that his presence would be craved.

 “I’m afraid that the Captain is mistaken,” Rey tells him, adopting the same obscenely gentile tone. “I’ve been so busy ever since I’ve arrived at Andui that I’ve scarcely given you any thought at all.” She smiles demurely and wonders whether he can tell she’s lying. Whether his dreams are consumed by stolen moments in the imperial carriage or if he even cares at all.

 “Of course, embroidery and gossip must be incredibly taxing,” he replies. The entire empire will be so grateful that they never have to endure a handkerchief shortage thanks to your skilled efforts.” He wears a look of the deepest concern on his face but the condescension in his deep voice is palpable.

“Your Imperial Highness is so kind to be thinking of his people,” she says, inclining her head to him. “Always so thoughtful even when he’s being a complete and utter prat.”

“I told you not to call me that.” Kylo Ren halts almost immediately, just a few paces before a gloomily lit staircase. Any pretense of gentility is gone and there's a bite in his voice that nearly frightens her.

“I’ve never called you a prat before,” she says, a fire rushing to her cheeks. How dare he tell her to do anything when he can’t be bothered to see her of his own accord. “At least not to your face. My father raised me to be more polite than that. People in the Republic have manners."

“I meant my title, Rey,” he says, letting out an exasperated sigh. “There’s no need to foster a sense of formality alongside your own prejudices.”

“My apologies, Your Highness,” she says, dropping into the lowest curtsey she can, her voice an angry drawl as she tilts her head toward his. “But as we’ve only had one meeting in the past ten years, I assumed you were intent on maintaining a healthy separation from the woman who is to be your wife.”

---

Kylo Ren says nothing for a moment and just when she’s expecting the most contrite of apologies, he has the gall to laugh, the smugness of it all making her scowl.

“You did want to see me then,” he says, looking just as prideful as BB-8 when she retrieves one of Rey’s slippers from underneath a table. “Were you counting down the hours until you could catch my eye and put Phasma’s little tricks into use? Did you sit by your window and pine for me?"

 “I have never pined in my entire life,” she snaps, her heartbeat pounding in her ears as she storms down the staircase as quickly as the weight of her gown will allow.

She can hear the thud of his steps behind her as they both make their way to the lowest reaches of the palace and wishes desperately that she could run even further.

“Rey, stop this,” he nearly whines. “You don’t even know where you’re going.”

“Doesn’t matter,” she yells back, not even bothering to turn her head as she reaches the last of the stairs. “I’m used to it.”

The corridor she’s just retreated into is incredibly dim. With only the light of a few scattered candles, she can just barely make out the air in front of her let alone a path that will her any passage other than the one she just followed. He’s caught up to her now and the darkness is the only thing protecting him from her outrage.

“Would you like to know where I was trying to take you?” Kylo Ren asks as if she were a toddler too excited to sleep. “We’re almost there. I promise it will be something you enjoy provided you don’t trip over your skirts.” 

He holds a hand out to her in the darkness and she can’t help but protest.

 “I don’t need you to hold my hand,” she protests but he doesn’t move a muscle, merely proffers his hand in silent expectation. With silent resignation, she accepts. The sooner she does, the sooner she can find Finn and Captain Dameron.

His hands are rougher than she had anticipated. It’s not as if she were expecting the dainty hands of a foppish dandy, but his hands have the strength of someone who worked to earn their keep. Rey can feel a flutter in her stomach but has little time to dwell on it as he guides her slowly down the hall to the remains of a faded portrait.

 Before she can say anything, he grabs the nearest candle from its perch on the wall and illuminates the faded image.

---

 She recognizes the woman almost immediately as the same presence that graces the halls in the D’Qar. Her grandmother, the beloved Padme Amidala, is almost ethereally beautiful in a white lace gown but that isn’t what gives her pause. She’s more taken aback by the figure beside her.

Her father had taught her very little about his own, ignoring her questions and instead regaling her with tales of his grandfather’s trusted advisor, General Kenobi. Aunt Leia had said even less, only acknowledging her father’s conquering past when it enabled her to benefit the Republic. Rey had been expecting a monster but there stands only a man.

Anakin Skywalker doesn’t look like the “Father of the Empire” in the portrait but instead a young man barely grown and clearly enamored with the woman by his side. He’s a besotted groom on his wedding day, not the tyrant that nearly destroyed his former homeland. Blue eyes stare back at her from where they rest on the wall and she can see a glimpse of her father, the son who’d risked everything to restore the peace a mad man created.

Rey feels a small sob building in her throat and she swallows it down, buries it away lest the nostalgia for two people she has never met overwhelm her. She can hear her breaths, heavy in the air, and wonders if Kylo Ren can tell.

"Our grandfather loved her very much,” her intended says gently, nodding his head towards the pair in front of them. He squeezes her hand and calm floods through her. She hadn’t even realized she was still holding on. “Everything he did to build the Empire. Every battle he won. Every country he conquered. All of it was for her.”

“She didn’t see any of it,” Rey replies softly, staring adamantly at the serene face of her grandmother. “She gave him his heirs and died alone, waiting for him to return from the battlefield.”

“He never forgot her,” Kylo Ren insists, placing the candle back in its sconce and tugging her hand until she looks back at him.

“The Coruscant gardens were forged in her memory. He never took another wife or fathered more children. Her sacrifice changed the world.” There’s an earnestness of his face, something so sincere in his devotions toward their grandfather that she almost wants to believe him, wants to match his admiration for the man that conquered half the world.

“I’m sure she would have rather lived,” Rey says quietly. “She could have raised her children, could have been more than just a martyr for a cause she didn’t believe in.”

“She believed in him. That’s what mattered,” her betrothed tells her, his eyes meeting hers. There’s a fire in them and she can feel a familiar heat flooding her cheeks, an aching nervousness fill her stomach. “It’s what a good queen does. She makes her Emperor better.”

Rey is about to insist that she’ll only make things worse when he angles his face closer to hers, so close that she can feel his breath.

“I need you to believe in me, Rey,” he says softly, the rumble of his voice deeper than before. “To believe in us and all we could do.”

Rey can feel her breath grow shallow and it is only then that he presses his lips against hers, the restraint palpable in the gentle feel of the embrace. He pulls back, eyes anxiously tracing over every detail in her face. He looks as though he’s expecting her to slap him and if she’s being perfectly honest, she’s not quite sure if she should.

She chooses instead to pull him closer, wrapping a hand in his hair as his hands find their way to her waist. There’s urgency behind their every move, a hunger that only increases when he lets out a lingering moan as she hungrily kisses him back. She could kiss him for hours, feasting only on the press of his mouth against hers and never once begging for reprieve.

 ---

It might very well go on for hours. The candle blows out long before they stop for air.

Chapter Text

Rey doesn’t say a word about what transpired when she finally makes her way back to her chambers nor do Captain Dameron and Finn ask where she has been.

That isn’t to say that they don’t know. Finn not so subtly asks how she’s feeling, a little bit of fear hidden in the kindness of his eyes, and Captain Dameron lets it slip that he has no problems committing regicide, but they all adamantly refuse to identify the elephant in the room.

The same subtlety is not found the when she accepts the Captain’s invitation for tea. She makes her way to Phasma’s apartments right after breakfast, armed with a bottle of absinthe that Captain Dameron bought from one of the Imperial Guards, and makes her apologies.

“I was suffering from women’s troubles,” Rey says, bravely attempting to keep the charade of her dignity alive. She bites into a chocolate teacake with as much gusto as she could muster and naively hopes the conversation will end there. 

“More like men’s troubles,” Phasma chides, but there is no real malice in her voice. She’s beaming like a proud mother and Rey can’t help but feel a rush of affection for the woman. “But I’m not going to spoil your good mood just yet. You should enjoy the privacy while it lasts. I sincerely hope you use it your full advantage.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Rey says primly, a smile cracking on her face when Phasma winks back at her.            

“You will,” Phasma tells her, a knowing tone in her voice. “Once it gets out that you have the heir to the throne’s favor, everyone at court will be falling over themselves to get yours.”

--

At first, Rey doesn’t believe her. Without the glaring eye of the court focused intently on her, it’s easy enough for her to slip away from her delegation and make her way to one of the seldom-used libraries found in the palace. Beneath the heavy tomes extolling the virtues of her Imperial predecessors, she’s found copies of the Republic fairytales that her mother had read every night before bed, their binding nearly worn. If her intended just happens to also be ensconced amongst the dusty shelves, then it is merely a happy accident, definitely not a deliberate calculation on either of their parts. After all, Kylo Ren might not be much of a reader but he’s clearly very keen on becoming one.

She takes the books back to her apartment, reading them by candlelight with kiss-swollen lips, each word comfortingly familiar. It is nice to bask in the secret, to relive the stolen moments in a place where only she can see them.

However, any overtures conducted by her intended are far from subtle. Books with gilded pages begin appearing in her chambers each morning, the ostentatious histories of Imperial conquerors beaming proudly where any one of her attendants can see them. The books themselves are too grandiose, too overly complementary to be deemed accurate, but Rey enjoys them nonetheless if only for the hastily scrawled notes left between random pages. The notes are a tad distant, the afterthoughts of an eminently practical man but she finds herself smiling when a particularly effusive one tells her that he finds her more agreeable than any other woman he’s ever met.

--

He is trying and that speaks volumes.

--

Sometimes Rey finds that he tries a little too hard. He makes excuses to join her on her daily strolls through the Imperial rose gardens. At first, the ladies all bow lowly when they see him, awestruck that their future monarch would deign to spend his time in the company of women, but the amazement soon disappears and their voices soon return. By the fifth visit, they all giggle as soon as they see him and whisper as if Rey can’t hear them when they round the corner.

However, it is only when Rey comes back from an “etiquette lesson” with two purpling bruises on the side of her neck that all hell breaks loose. The ladies use their copious conversational skills to the fullest and soon everyone in court knows that the future emperor is besotted.

Coincidentally, everyone at court has decided now is the time to try and buy Rey’s favor. Her sitting rooms are filled with all manner of gifts, ranging from the ridiculous to the truly unbelievable. There are gowns and shoes in all colors and fabrics, but there are also enough jewels to fill a mine and enough gold to fund a small country. One particularly ambitious count sends her an albino peacock that is quickly relegated to a vigil outside lest BB-8 attempt to jostle his imperious feathers.

But the gifts are only part of the problem. Her pack of attendants swells in size with every highly ranked young woman attempting to enter her good graces. What was once a pack is now a parade and even a journey down the hall becomes a full-fledged production. She’s scarcely seen Kylo Ren now that the gossip has spread and it is all simply too much for her to bear.

--

Just as the sun rises two days before the wedding, Rey rummages through the lone trunk that had journeyed with her from Jakku and pulls out the linen trousers and cream-colored blouse lying abandoned at the bottom. It is a relief to dress without an audience and an even greater one to slip on work boots instead of delicate slippers.

She sneaks quietly out of her apartments, taking care not to disturb the sleeping Captain Dameron perched at her chamber door with an equally tired BB-8, when she runs into the only other conscious member of her party

"Nice trousers, My Lady,” Finn says, a bright expression on his face as he inclines his head. He is incredibly chipper for someone who has been awake all night, a welcome change from the slugabeds who have been assigned her.

"Thank you Finn,” Rey replies, already taking note of the eerily silent hall ahead of them. “They're perfect for riding."

"They seem more manageable than your typical gown,” he says lightly. “Although I’ve never worn a ball gown. They don’t flatter my figure.” Finn lets out a small chuckle and if she weren’t so keen on getting out of the palace, Rey would probably have laughed herself silly.

"I'm going riding now, Finn,” she says simply, with all of the regal bearing she can muster. She nods her head and begins the walk down the hall to where she knows hides a tunnel to the grounds

"Of course, My Lady,” Finn calls after her before letting out an alarmed sort of noise. He runs to catch up with her. “Wait, My Lady. I’m not allowed to let you wander by yourself.”

"I'll be fine,” she insists, not breaking her stride. “When I lived in Jakku, I spent all day on horseback and nobody said a word. I know how to take care of myself.”

"I have no doubt about that, My Lady,” he says, a hint of panic in his voice. “But if His Imperial Highness finds out I let you go out without a guard, I can't bat my eyelashes and make him forgive me. That might actually make it worse.” It’s the most frantic Rey has ever seen him and she can’t help but feel the need to offer a compromise.

"Then it's settled,” she tells him with a hint of finality in her voice. “You’ll come with me.”

She speeds up and he lets out a sigh before catching up to her. It seems adherence to schedule is no longer worth the fight.

--

Like anything else in Andui, the stables are beautiful if a little ostentatious. A row of gleaming black stallions are in the midst of their morning feed and Rey has the strongest urge to run her hand over their brilliant coats.

“You’re quite the athlete, My Lady ” Finn says, struggling to catch his breath. He grabs a handkerchief from his pocket and begins to wipe his brow, the green silk and orange lace of the fabric quickly growing matted with sweat.

“I’m nothing special,” Rey insists with a smile, her lungs filling with the crisp air of the near silent dawn. “I used to footrace with other children when we would stay in D’Qar. Guess I just never lost practice.”

“Captain Dameron has told me about D’Qar,” he says, leaning against one of the wooden posts. “He says it’s the most wonderful place in the world.”

“It’s very beautiful,” Rey says, thinking of the lush greenery that filled the woods outside Naberrie. “But that’s his home so I’m sure he must be biased. Don’t you think your home is the most beautiful place in the world?”

“I don’t remember my home, My Lady,” Finn says simply, merely shrugging his shoulders. “My parents died when I was small, killed in a raid towards the end of the war. The Imperial Army has been my home ever since.”

“I’m so sorry, Finn,” Rey says softly. “I didn’t know.”

“You had no reason to know, My Lady,” he replies, a sad sort of smile on his face. “You have more important things to do than worry about your servants.”

“You’re not a servant, you’re a friend,” she insists, filled with the strongest urge to hug him. “I’m very lucky to have you as part of my guard."

He smiles, his teeth brilliantly white, until a crestfallen, almost timid expression fills his face. Rey turns warily, only to find her intended looming behind them with a sour expression on his face.

“Your Imperial Highness,” Finn says, bowing as low as he can. “I’m so sorry. I was just following My Lady’s orders…”

“I don’t care for your excuses,” Kylo Ren barks, lifting a hand as to halt Finn’s apologies. “The only thing keeping you alive is the presence of your future Empress.”

Finn bows again with a frightened look on his face before running as fast as he can to the palace. The garish handkerchief falls from his pocket and Rey makes a mental note to return it to him along with all of the apologies she can muster.

"There was no need to threaten him," Rey snaps, her eyes narrowed as she scowls at her intended . "He's doing his job and I'm grateful for the company. There's no reason to upset with my guard for honoring my request.

"You shouldn't be wandering alone with only a young man for company," Kylo Ren scolds. He looks taken aback as if he was only expecting adoring adulation from his soon-to-be wife for the courageous act of scaring a young man. “People could find out. It could compromise your virtue.”

"Do you want me to stop meeting with you then?" She asks with anger in her voice that she hasn’t felt in weeks. His face flushes the most delightful shade of white and she only wishes that she were tall enough to make the full force of her bitterness known. "As far as I could tell, you're the only one actively trying to compromise it.”

"That's different,” Kylo Ren insists petulantly, the fire in his own voice just as palpable. “You're going to be my wife. I have a right to know where you are."

"I'm sorry my foray into actual enjoyment meant you had to wait ten minutes for access to my breasts,” Rey yells. “My choice of hobby is rather limited. I know every flower in the gardens and can give you a sermon on the merits of brocade versus velvet dinner frocks. Heaven forbid, I spend a morning doing something I like.”

There’s a conversation’s worth of silence that passes between with them before Kylo Ren speaks.

“I had assumed you enjoyed my company,” he says, tone too light to be truly contrite. “Or was I reading too much into you climbing astride me when we were last in the library? Is that simply the custom in Jakku?"

His usual smugness starts to return and she has no doubt he remembers how wantonly she had acted just only a few days prior. There’s even a hint of smirk on his face as he continues his ramble.

"Tomorrow night, his imperial majesty will be holding a dinner in our honor,” her intended tells her as if she could ever forget the looming threat of Emperor Snoke’s presence. “Provided you don't say anything to make your disgust towards His Imperial Majesty apparent, I'll ensure that the rigors of your schedules are greatly reduced after the wedding."

"And I'm I to believe there's no ulterior motive to that?” She asks, an eyebrow raised. “You are doing this out purely out of regard for me?”

"In exchange, I want you to learn how to handle a sword,” Kylo Ren tells her matter-of-factly.

"Phasma already teaching me that,” she blurts out to his seeming shock. “I can show you after the wedding.” There’s a hint of a blush on his face and Rey can’t help but feel a little wicked.

"An actual blade,” he insists, face still a little frazzled. “If you insist on wandering about the palace with only the greenest of your guards, I want to know that you'll have a chance of surviving an attack. The pilgrimage to Coruscant is a dangerous one, especially for a woman."

There’s a pause and Rey thinks of the blade hidden away in her trunk, the part of her father she had kept stowed away upon learning of her betrothal. She has no idea whether her father would approve of her master-of-arms, whether he would be proud that the former Ben was so keen on having her enter the fray.

"I'll see you tomorrow,” he says stiffly, bowing his head and clearing his throat. He looks at her expectantly and she merely raises her eyebrows. “You look beautiful.”

Kylo Ren leans forward, clearly expecting his generosity to be rewarded with a passionate embrace. She does not rush toward him but she makes no attempt to retreat, a move that she feels is more than enough of a compromise given his more recent behavior.

In turn, he simply presses his lips gently against her forehead before making his way back to the palace. He turns to look at her one last time, a wistful expression on his face as he leaves her to the blissful solitude of the stables.

--

He is trying and that speaks volumes.

Chapter Text

In less than a day's time, Rey will be a married woman. Not just a married woman but Her Imperial Highness, consort to the future Emperor and Princess of all Imperial lands and territories.

Provided, of course, that she can survive dinner. 

It's supposedly a great honor to dine in His Imperial Majesty's private quarters, to see one of the gods in repose far away from prying eyes. But no other gods stare at her like she's the one on the plate, like she has an apple in her mouth just in time for the feast.

She supposes she's been quite lucky. Encounters with Emperor Snoke have been nearly non-existent. She's not sure what god to thank for that but has a distinct suspicion it's one who demands naughty limericks and fine spirits as sacrifice.

Rey likes to think her intended- it will be her husband soon, it feels so strange to say that- would intercede on her behalf if Emperor Snoke overstepped. But there's a large difference between threatening a guard in your own employ  and "a man appointed by God himself."

In more ancient times, noblemen could lay claim to a woman's first night as a wife. The Empire isn't as barbaric as she had believed. There aren’t floggings at every meal and the only tears she’s seen from Imperial women were due to a shortage of imported silks. But she’s sure Emperor Snoke would be more than willing to bring back the old customs if it allowed him to get his way.

A shudder passes through her and Rey attempts to hide it away. There’s more than enough to worry about without dwelling on a nightmare that will hopefully never arise. Regardless of what she’s wearing.

The latest addition to her armoire is the most revealing item of clothing she’s ever worn. The fabric, a rich black silk, fans out into a wide skirt but the skirt is hardly the objectionable part. Her corset is laced as tight as she’s allowed and that combined with the low square neckline of the gown reveal a truly monumental amount of her breasts. A seamstress has embroidered beautiful crimson flowers onto her stomacher but given her state of underdress, it’s doubtful that anyone will notice.

The weight she had lost on the trek from Jakku to Andui has reappeared and a steady supply of teacakes has made her features softer than she can ever remember them being. The lines of her body are less harsh and the color has returned to her face. She is almost beautiful.

--

It becomes clear that their dinner party is to be a small one. The Emperor is seated at the head of the table, a heavy fur cape draped over his frail shoulders. To his left is General Hux, his uniform shining with gleaming medals and smugness radiating from every pore. Much to her relief, Phasma is seated at his right, a resplendent Valkyrie clad in bright red military grab.

Kylo Ren is clad in the same black uniform of his Imperial countryman and while his broad chest has a decided lack of medals, Rey finds that she doesn’t really mind. He’s seated across from her, just to the left of General Hux, and it feels rather unfair to have him so close when she’s being forced to behave.

Emperor Snoke is apparently not required to adhere to the same decorum.

“How scrumptious,” he says, a leer barely concealed in his old, foggy eyes. “You make an old man very happy, my little princess.” His gaze is fixed on the tops of her breasts and she swallows her pride before acknowledging the comment with a stilted smile.

There’s more than enough food to feed an entire village but the display is almost expected after weeks of opulence and excess. Her hunger hides itself away, the looming presence of Emperor Snoke and General Hux more than enough to make it vanish completely, so she nurses her wine and prays for the night to be over.

“Your countrymen aren’t contented with the peace we have so graciously offered, my dear,” Emperor Snoke says as he lets his knife fall with a clank onto his plate. “There are rumblings that even reach my ears.”

“The ramblings of peasants, Your Imperial Majesty,” Hux interjects, an insistent supplication in his tone. “The rabble don't know any better.”

“The rabble, General Hux, have so little that it is not a hard thing to convince them to die for some misguided dream,” Emperor Snoke drawls. “You think they would have learned from the last time.” His eyes are boring into the side of her head and she feels so disgusting for breaking this man’s bread, for drinking his wine, and sharing his table.

“People in the Republic are very tenacious,” Rey says, barely concealing the storm she can feel brewing inside of her. “We tend to fight when our cause is just.”

A silence cold enough to freeze Jakku falls over them. She can feel Hux’s stare, cruel and unfeeling, attacking her in full force. She can almost hear the Emperor call for her to be personally whipped before Phasma chimes in, an arm wrapped consolingly around Rey’s shoulder.

“My darling,” she says, voice laden with thinly veiled guile. “I do believe Lady Rey has had more than her fair share of drink. Wedding jitters make girls say such silly things. I’m sure I would have been absolutely inconsolable if I had ever been forced to have one.”

Emperor Snoke chuckles and it seems the execution is stayed. “Our fine lady of the Republic will learn to accept her duties soon enough,” he says, a smirk on his gnarled face as he turns to his heir. “It’s Kylo Ren’s duty to subdue any rebellions before they start. He can start with subduing with his bride. Isn’t that right, Kylo?”

“If your Imperial Majesty commands it,” Kylo Ren says, his voice clear and his angular face blank. He is the same impassive figure he was on their first meeting and her heart falls with a thud into her stomach as the man she’s come to know fades further and further from sight.

“I most definitely command it,” Emperor Snoke says pompously. “We can’t have a perfectly good bloodline go to waste, now can we?” He drains the rest of his goblet and mercifully gives them their leave.

--

On another night, she would have accepted Phasma’s invitation for a nightcap and gleamed any last crumb of information regarding the true extent of her duties. Instead she waits for Captain Dameron to escort her and for what she hopes is some sort of explanation.

They are nearly halfway to her chambers when she finally dares to speak.

"Is what the Emperor said true?" Her nails are digging into Captain Dameron’s arm. It might be enough to draw blood- she's not particularly concerned at the moment. “Is there really going to be a rebellion?”

"It's not untrue," Captain Dameron says, wincing. "The Princess is a very smart woman. She's not going to act until the Republic is justified in its defense. There are sympathizers even here. I’ve met more than my fair share among the Imperial Guards.”

"Captain Poe Dameron, spy master extraordinaire.” There are tears, hot and angry, welling in her eyes and she wants to run, not to her apartments, not to D'Qar, but to somewhere far away. Where she is just Rey and nothing more.

“Were you ever going to tell me? Or am I just some stupid girl whose life didn't matter. Did I play my part well enough for my aunt’s benefit? "

Captain Dameron tugs her into the nearest alcove and moves a hand to her arm, taking care to avoid the exposed skin on her shoulder. She jerks her arm away, positioning herself as far away from him as the narrow space will allow. 

"My Lady," he says softly. "Rey, you always matter. Any man in the Republic would die to see you safe, to see your family in their rightful place. People need leaders, not tyrants and you know that more than anyone. Your aunt understands that these transitions aren’t always easy.”

"She's going to war against her own son,” Rey says in a hushed angry tone. “I wouldn’t call that an easy transition.”

"Kylo Ren is not Princess Leia's son anymore than I am and you know it.”

She opens her mouth to reply, to raise some meager defense on behalf of the man who is to be her husband but it seems she doesn’t have the chance.

"I know he's smitten with you and that you share in his affections,” Captain Dameron says, letting out a sigh. “There's nothing wrong with that, I'm glad that you have found some small happiness here but I've seen what Kylo Ren can do. He kills as easy as some men breathe. If there was any Republic in him, it’s all gone now.”

Without any prior permission, the tears begin to flow freely against her cheeks and she storms out of the alcove and into the hall. Captain Dameron has the good sense not to follow.

Rey cannot fault Captain Dameron and her aunt for not sharing state secrets with a girl of eighteen. She has been in the belly of the beast for weeks and while most Imperial courtiers are willing to ignore any defects in her character in their search for a more profitable position, there is no telling what dangers might have befallen her if she were part of the Republic’s plot. Her ignorance might very well have saved her, but that doesn’t keep the hurt from coming.

Captain Dameron has kept her safe. He’s made her laugh and proven to be among the best of companions. Captain Dameron has been a good man but it is not a good man who she needs.

--

"You're crying.”

The tears spill even harder now that she’s found him hidden among the shelves and she’s suddenly a child again, stricken by the guilt of a scraped knee. She presses her forehead against his chest and doesn’t speak, can’t speak for the words won’t leave her mouth.

Her intended gingerly wraps his arms around her, tugging her closer as tears stain the fabric of his coat. He doesn’t ask why she’s upset, he doesn’t need to for they both already know.

Tomorrow there will be a wedding. There will be feasts and pageantry but it isn’t tomorrow that scares her. It is the days and weeks that follow. When bloodshed tears the world apart and her lost boy goes to war.

Chapter Text

Her wedding is a beautiful one. At least, that is what she is told.

Weddings, even Imperial ones, are intended to be joyous occasions but it’s not as if the previous evening’s revelation has just faded away. It hangs over in a fog and it is in this state that she is prepared for the ceremony. It is in this state that she is to become someone’s wife.

She is told that she is beautiful, but in all fairness, it would be impossible for anyone to look otherwise in the outfit that has been commissioned for her. Her gown is a marvel, a concoction of delicate lace, which falls over her body in an ivory wave before pooling at the ground. The train, ornately embroidered and all-together much too long, trails behind her like an exquisite comet as she walks down the length of the aisle.

Rey can feel the eyes of the entire kingdom as she makes her way to the man who will be her husband and wishes desperately that she was not making her way alone. Her father should have been there, to beam with pride as she held onto his arm and stifle a few tears at her expense. She didn’t have any brothers to replace him at her side and the closest thing she had to a male guardian was Emperor Snoke, who sat on a gilded throne overlooking the proceedings with a disdainful look on his withered face. At least if he’d been accompanying her, she could pretend the stares were for him.

The words are the same ones she would have spoken as a Republic bride but there’s a solemnity that she has never encountered. Rey promises to uphold the traditions of her husband’s country and family, to abandon all former allegiances in service to the Empire. She looks at the man standing next to her, swearing to be a devoted wife, and wonders if he knows that at least those vows are sincere.

In a navy dress uniform festooned with the same medals she had seen on General Hux the night before, Kylo Ren makes quite the gallant. It is easy to believe that he will uphold his portion of the vows. That he will keep her safe from harm and under his protection.

There is a kiss, mild and dispassionate, but Rey is grateful for the restrained display of their union. It is not a burden to embrace her husband, to match his ardor in the only way she knows how, but it is a pleasure that she wants to remain private.

She is their princess now. These people, even if they are her people, shouldn’t see her be so vulnerable.

---

There is a feast that she eats very little of but is reported to be delicious and a series of toasts in which a series of increasingly drunken diplomats promise to cut the throats of every man, woman, or child who dares to speak out against the Empire and the Imperial family. The crowd cheers and Rey tries to hide the unsettling feeling in her stomach as they drink to the battles that lie before them.

It is her wedding after all. The war can wait.

Passels of admirers approach their table all throughout the dinner under the pretense of congratulating them on their marriage but the smiles are too forced, the compliments too effusive to be genuine. But the wine flows freely and each passing glass makes it all slightly easier to bear.

One of her ladies, the brassy one who had tried to seduce Captain Dameron, makes eyes at Kylo Ren while her father feigns interest in the state of affairs in Jakku. Rey is tempted to remind the girl that she now has the power to call for executions but is not overly concerned given the precarious location of Kylo Ren’s hand on her thigh.

Among the crowd of fawning sycophants, one older man stands out. His hair and mustache are an unnatural shade of black, freshly dyed for the occasion. The riding jacket he wears is old and out of fashion, but kept in remarkable condition for being so ancient. Speaking with a thick accent that she can’t really attribute to a particular county, he quietly asks for the opportunity to dance with “one of the most beautiful princesses he has ever seen.”

Rey acquiesces to the man’s request. Her husband is embroiled in a tedious conversation with the Imperial minister of finance wearing a stoic look that she knows is masking his boredom. He will surely not notice a few minute’s absence.

The man offers a hand and they make their way to center of the gilded ballroom where dozens of couples are waltzing about. She doesn’t know the song that echoes throughout the ballroom, she never had a keen ear for things like that, but it’s a pleasing one nonetheless.

The man is not a good dancer and the years of her forced instruction give her just enough skill to guide the pair of them as the song plays on.

---

“You can drop the accent now," Rey says as he looks at her with a familiar if long unaccustomed expression. "You're not fooling me even with that silly mustache.”

"I'm not trying to fool you," the man tells her, a knowing look in his sharp, blue eyes. "I just need to fool everybody else. A handsome face like mine is recognized everywhere.”

"Does my aunt know you're here?” She asks, a tinge of unease flickering onto his weathered face. “Or is this a privately funded expedition?"

"All of my expeditions are private," he says gruffly. "That's the best part about being a pirate. Privacy."

"Privateer," she corrects, barely concealing a smile. "Aunt Leia made it very clear that the only reason you weren't hanged was because she gave you a letter of marquis."

"Your aunt likes to think she's all the reasons I've never been killed," he says, a gentle nostalgia seeping into his voice. "She's probably right but I don't need my favorite niece telling her that."

"I'm your only niece, Uncle Han," she says, rolling her eyes even if she can’t the grin from unfurling on her face.

"So you're also my least favorite," he says without even a moment’s pause, a twin smile greeting hers.

By the same logic that makes her his least favorite niece, Han Solo is her least favorite uncle. But he was also the keeper of stories that had inspired her childhood theatrical ambitions, tales that took place in the jail cells of beastly slave traders and in cities that were as tall as the clouds. He was the teacher of card tricks and the sneaker of sweets when her mother’s back was turned, the dashing swashbuckler who wasn’t afraid to bend the rules. After all, most rules were just guidelines especially when it came to instilling his particular brand of values in the next generation.

Uncle Han had made her father laugh and her aunt blush but she can almost count the visits in her uncle’s presence on her fingers. He was a traveller, plain and simple, not long for any place.

"I wanted to be here tonight, Rey,” her uncle tells her as they whirl about on the floor. “Your father would have wanted to know you're safe. I owe him that much.”

"He'd want you to ask the same of your own son,” she says in a low voice, her eyes flickering to the head table. It is conspicuously vacant.

"Ben is better off not knowing I'm here,” Uncle Han replies, a flicker of doubt on his face. “And frankly that’s for the best. I have a real laissez-faire approach to parenting, you know. All you really have to do is let the scum of the Earth kidnap your son and, lo and behold, he becomes the next Emperor. He seems happy enough.”

He looks sad, almost lost in thought. They dance in silence, his hand loosely holding hers as they turn their way about the floor.

"But don't listen to me whine, “ Uncle Han says, the familiar teasing lilt back in his voice as if the brief foray into regret didn’t even happen. “You're supposed to be happy and command us all to eat cake. I've only seen you do one of those things."

"I’m as happy as I can be,” Rey says softly. “Ben wants me to be happy.”

"Good,” he answers, curtly nodding his head with as much conviction as he can muster. “That’s good. I liked making your aunt happy.”

The music stops and she can hear a polite smattering of applause. There’s a familiar hush that starts to fall over the crowd and without even turning her head, it becomes apparent the family reunion has been cut short.

"I should get going,” he tells her, gently squeezing her shoulder.

"Don’t you want to see him?” Rey asks, her husband’s approach palpably close.

"I want to live,” Uncle Han says matter-of-factly, his eyes scanning for the nearest corridor to sneak out of. “I've had over sixty years of practice and I'd like to perfect the art.”

He leaves her with one last smile and slips away as quietly as he can, the faded cloth of his coat just barely blending in with their party.

---

In the meantime, her husband has taken Han Solo’s place as her dancing partner. He’s a much better dancer than his father but that is to be expected. Emperor Snoke expects perfection in all things, even waltzing.

“Han is an idiot to show his face here,” Kylo Ren mutters, just barely audible amongst the dull roar of the crowd. He looks right through her, his posture unnerving in its rigidity.

“He wanted to see you,” Rey says in a placating tone. “To see the both of us. It’s been ten years. You can hardly blame the man for missing you.”

“My father never particularly wanted anything to do with me when I was a boy,” her husband says in a clipped tone. “I imagine a royal wedding leaves plenty of opportunity to make good coin. He was always a practical sort.”

Rey could tell him that he is wrong and the infamous Han Solo only had the purest motives for his trespassing, that love for his son was enough to overcome any outstanding warrants for his arrest. She could say all manner of things in the man’s defense but there’s no guarantee that her husband would even listen. Worst of all, there’s no guarantee her excuses were even true.

“Are you going to tell Hux he was here?” She asks, nodding graciously at an older couple seeking her attention. “I’m sure he’d weep from happiness at the chance to capture a pirate.”

“I don’t want to give him the satisfaction,” Kylo Ren says, inclining his head to where General Hux maintains his vigil at the Emperor’s side. “If he’s too inept to notice a criminal, that’s his wrongdoing and not mine.”

“Of course, husband,” Rey says in a measured voice. She’s not sure what she expected. She supposes the romantic in her was anticipating a heartfelt if brief reunion but non-intervention is better than the more draconian alternative. Either way, it becomes apparent that the matter is settled.

His demeanor alters almost imperceptibly, the harshness of his body turning into something else entirely. Something a tad more familiar and not entirely unwelcome.

“I also happen to have very selfish reasons for wanting the evening’s festivities to end.” The veneer of decorum has disappeared and his voice is laden with a sort of hunger, something primal that makes her heart race and stomach turn in knots.

“I thought princes weren’t supposed to be selfish. They’re supposed to be virtuous and think only of their people,” she teases but he doesn’t find her jest nearly as amusing as she does. His pupils are dilated and he’s staring so intently at her that she might as well be undressed in front of the entire court.

“Fuck virtue,” he says simply, his face angled towards hers. “I want you.”

Without even meaning to do so, they have once again become the evening’s main attraction. She can hear snickers coming from a party of drunken dandies, can feel the judgmental stares from the matrons sitting in the corner, but that doesn’t stop her from eagerly welcoming the heat of her husband’s mouth as their feet still.

There’s a hint of claret on his breath and the room begins to spin from something more than just champagne.

The night can’t come quickly enough.

Chapter Text

Night has fallen and Rey is this close to throwing a pillow at the gaggle of attendants who have been selected for this particular evening’s honor. If simply being part of her retinue is an accomplishment, then it must be the grandest achievement of all to tear at the clothing of the future empress.

They undo the intricate knots of her hair and fight amongst themselves to personally remove her gown. The relief of having her corset removed only slightly outweighs her annoyance at the barely concealed giggles, but at this point in the evening, it is too be expected.

Most of them already think she shares Kylo Ren’s bed and tonight’s drunken festivities are doing very little to dissuade them.

The girls all chatter amongst themselves, bragging about who wore the most exquisite gown and their own attempted dalliances, and Rey wishes desperately that the Captain were there to alleviate the tension.

Phasma had told her it would be a breach of protocol to have a “woman of ill repute” as part of her retinue, especially when her virtue is of the utmost importance. But Rey is less concerned with virtue and more concerned with the anxiousness pooling in her stomach.

It’s not that Rey doesn’t want her husband. She does. She’s spent hours discovering the press of Kylo Ren’s mouth, running her hands over the broad, muscular planes of his back at every opportunity. There is so much more of his body to explore and it is hers, only hers and nobody else’s.

Rey knows he wants her too. It’s harder for men to disguise their own want and she can remember the bulge in his trousers as she sat on his lap one languid afternoon, the hard press of his cock rubbing tantalizingly against her. There’s no doubt that he would have happily complied if she had begged for even more of his touch.

But when she looks in the mirror, she doesn’t see a princess. She sees the little girl who was sent to Jakku at Emperor Snoke’s orders. It’s been years since she’s worn her hair down and she feels so vulnerable standing there in her shift, the flush in her cheeks making her look like a porcelain doll on the verge of cracking.

It would be easier if she could be alone to regroup, to catch her breath and calm down after hours of pageantry, but solitude is woefully out of reach. Moments, even ones as private as these, are in public view. The consummation of her marriage is to be a business transaction with a bloodied sheet as the proof of payment. It is only fitting that the court wants to watch.

The horde guides her to her husband’s chambers and it’s some small comfort that the court is no longer welcome during the wedding night.

--

The chambers of his Imperial Highness Kylo Ren are empty of almost all of the luxuries that decorate her own. The walls are free of any decoration and the only indulgences she can find are the blood red candles staggered over the room to breech the darkness. It is a blank slate, lacking any essence of the man seated at the edge of the bed

If the lack of any masculine chortles on the other side of the door are any indication, Kylo Ren seems to have escaped the bedding spectacle that has been hoisted on her. He waits for her clad only in tight linen drawers, his countenance calm as if they did this every night. Like they were merely going to sleep, not to bed.

She can make out the muscular ridges of his chest, the hard lines of his stomach. Part of her, the wanton part that only appears in his presence, savors the sight while the lost little girl from Jakku can’t help but mourn the loss of the courage the wine had bestowed on her. The confidence that came when she was fully dressed.

Rey takes her place at his side, her heart throbbing in her chest and her mind racing with what to do next. After all, the both of them were never that good at talking.

--

"You're a virgin," Kylo Ren says plainly. It isn't a question, merely him emphasizing a painfully obvious fact. 

"Yes," Rey replies, her voice surprisingly steady. There’s a chill that can’t just be from the air and she crosses her arms in front of her, the thin fabric of her shift barely serving its purpose. "Are you?"

A small sort of half smile flutters onto his face as he angles his body towards hers. He didn’t laugh at her. That seems promising.

"No," he tells her, not unkindly. "My fifteenth birthday was spent ensuring that the Emperor hadn’t wasted his efforts on an heir who couldn’t further the line." There's a note of bitterness in his voice, one that both worries and comforts her. He faces her, his dark eyes staring intently. "The woman was compensated more than fairly for her services but it was insignificant.”

"From what Phasma has told me about men," she says, uncrossing her arms from her chest as she angles her body towards his, her chin tilted up to meet his gaze. “Sex is never insignificant."

He lets out a small laugh, his rich voice barely audible as he reaches a hand out to smooth a strand of hair from her forehead. His touch feels warm and she feels so warm as if the flames flickering around the chamber were setting her alight. "You are my wife," he says softly. "You are and will always be the only one that matters."

He presses against her, the heat of his torso flush against her chest. Her heart is still racing, but the nerves from earlier have been replaced by something else. It's a heat that floods through her bone of her body, a coil of arousal greater than any she has ever felt.

"You are mine, Rey," he says in almost a whisper as his face moves inches from hers. "Say it," he adds, voice almost a command as he traces a finger over her lip. "Please."

"I'm yours," she says hurriedly, angling her mouth towards his in silent supplication. "I will always be yours."

It is only then that he kisses her, his lips utterly consuming her. It is a far different kiss than the one they shared upon their marriage only hours earlier. That one had been delicate, a sign of amity between two pawns in an imperial chest match. This kiss is more primal, a promise of a hunger that has been building for weeks and weeks.

She had thought she had learned every line of his jaw, the significance of every press of his lips against hers, but it seems her husband’s restraint kept this side of him from her. In their earlier meetings, his movements had been almost tentative, only growing in their fervor when she had encouraged his affections and demanded more.

But the man mouthing at her neck does share the same hesitations. He is the reckless young prince who helped conquer a continent, the man she had once feared. Every movement is an act of aggression-a sign of an unshakable need to control-and she can’t help but fight back.  

His hands have moved to cup her breasts through her shift, his fingers deftly running over her hardened nipples as he nips at her collarbone.

He isn't alone in his greed. She runs her hands over every part of him she can reach, her nails just barely digging into the expanse of his back. Kylo Ren lets out a moan against her skin and she feels indestructible and impossibly fragile all at once as she tugs away from his embrace. She kneels on the middle of the bed to yank the shift over her head and waits. 

Rey has no delusions about her own beauty-her breasts are too small, her hips too straight to be truly magnificent- but the heat of his eyes makes her feel like Venus herself, come down from the heavens to succumb to his desires.

In a swift movement, he moves toward her, the length of his body trapping hers against the bed as he begins to kiss a trail down her body. Each press of his lips feels like a benediction and it’s all she can do to keep from screaming his name.

His lips linger dangerously close to the thatch of brown curls between her legs and he looks up at her imploringly. “I want to taste you,” he nearly begs.

“Yes,” she commands, spreading her legs and arching her hips towards his mouth. "Please."

Kylo Ren sneaks a few bites onto the skin of her thighs before beginning to devour her. He laps hungrily and she can’t help but moan as she grips the blankets tight in her fists. Her husband has slipped a finger into her cunt. It is clearly not the time for modesty

Rey can feel him snicker, his smug laughter vibrating against her skin, but there’s nowhere left in her to be embarrassed or ashamed.

Instead she grabs his hair, perhaps a little too tightly, and basks in the sensation. The broad stripe of his tongue and the suckle of his lips hover around the bundle of nerves she has only recently become acquainted with and every part of her body sings.

He has two fingers curled upward in her now- it feels so good, so perfect-but it’s not enough.

“I want you inside me.”

He stops his movements almost immediately. 

“Are you sure?” He looks up at her, lips swollen and pupils full-blown. She’s never been so sure in her life.

“I’ll hit you if you don’t do it,” she says, tugging him upward so she can kiss the mouth that has brought her so much pleasure.

His mouth tastes like her but she doesn’t mind. She doesn’t mind at all.

He strips off his drawers and she sees all of her husband for the first time.

It’s both exhilarating and terrifying to see his cock jutting toward her. She has no real basis of comparison but part of her, the scared naïve little girl that never fully went away, worries that he might hurt her without even trying. That the consummation of her marriage will be the bloodbath her governesses had promised.

But her husband is gentle now, his touch calm and his mouth sweet. He presses a reassuring kiss to her forehead before positioning himself at her entrance.

--

Rey is more than wet enough but she still yelps at the first slow intrusion of him inside of her.

He ceases his movements and looks at her with obvious concern.

“Do I need to stop?”

“No,” she says, willing her body to yield ever further toward him. “Keep going.”

Her husband takes her at her word, entering her further and further with each shallow stroke. After a few moments, he fills her entirely, his hips still as she adjusts to the feel of him.

The pain has nearly faded and is now something else entirely. Rey can feel herself stretched around his cock and suddenly wants more. Needs more.

She tugs him closer, her hips raised as she thrusts herself onto his cock. She can hear his moan against the side of her neck and any trepidation has been replaced with a desire to make him moan even more, to make herself feel as bewildered as he does in this moment.

He starts almost gingerly but soon begins to fuck her at a steady pace, each downturn of his hips matched by an eager movement of hers. His breath is hot against her cheek and she can feel it catch in his throat when a mewl escapes her.

She sounds so desperate, so wanton, but she couldn’t help it even if she tried.

“I’m not going to last.” His words echoed by a deep thrust inside of her. She can hear it with how slick she is and another wave of desire washes over her.

“It’s alright,” Rey says, sloppily pressing her lips against the shell of his ear. “I want you to.”

Kylo Ren lets out a strangled moan, moving in her one final stroke before withdrawing entirely. Her arms are still wrapped around him as he spills on her stomach.

He lies pressed against her, his face nuzzled against the curve of her neck and his breath hot and heavy against her skin.

It is the most peaceful he has ever been in her presence, every muscle in his body relaxed. She envies him as she holds him close, her mind still whirling as if it will never be shut off.

After a few moment’s, he rolls himself to her side, his gaze tracing over their handiwork. During the course of her own inspection, she can see a spattering of dried blood on the base of his cock, but that doesn’t account entirely for the damp patch of blankets underneath her.

Her husband leans in to kiss her cheek before rising up entirely from the bed.

“Why are you going?” Rey asks, stretching her arms over her head. “You must be tired.”

“I’ll come back,” he insists almost curtly before disappearing into the adjoining bath chamber.

Phasma had said that men were never keen to linger once the act was completed, but Rey had assumed Kylo Ren would be different. At least the Kylo Ren who sent stilted love notes and clamored for stolen kisses was.

The only consolation is getting to stare unabashedly at the strong flesh of his ass as he leaves.

--

Her worries end up being a tad misplaced.

When he returns, he runs a wet cloth gently over her stomach, leaving her pink and clean. The gesture is comforting, almost protective, but she can’t help but feel like something is missing. “You didn’t spill inside of me.”

“I did not,” he replies, moving the cloth to clean the stickiness between her thighs. “We’ll start our progress to Coruscant within the week. After that, it’s only a matter of time before I’m called away. I don’t intend on leaving you alone with an unwanted child.”

He says this dispassionately, but his eyes are fixed anywhere but on her face.

“Why would a child be unwanted?” She asks, propping herself against the headboard and the flattened pillows lying against it. “I thought that was our duty. Or has the Emperor finally realized that our child might end up like me?”

 “It wouldn’t be just our child, Rey,” Kylo Ren says, resting his head against her breasts. His dark hair is damp from sweat but she can’t find it in herself to care. “I might not be a great reader like you but I’m not an idiot. If you think for a second that the Emperor would risk having his legacy altered by our influence, then you’re too optimistic for your own good.”

She runs a hand through his dark locks. She can feel him lean into her touch and she feels oddly maternal as thoughts of their future progeny can’t help but run through her head.

“I barely know the woman who birthed me,” he tells her, his features almost soft. “I know even less about Han and I have no doubt he tried to turn and run the moment he found out my conception was going to permanently tether him to my mother. “

He lets out a sigh and all of a sudden, he is only Ben Solo, a boy just as scared as she is. “I’ve already lived it and it is a harder life than our child deserves. “

She isn’t sure of how to express her regard for husband. She isn’t even sure the comfort she takes in his presence can be deemed love, but she already loves any child she might bear for him, any part of himself that he would be willing to give to her.

Rey had never played with dolls with a child, had never been the first one demanding to hold a baby on the few occasions she was in one’s presence, but she has no doubt that her husband would be a doting father. Beneath his carefully constructed rigidity is a tenderness that still surprises her, that makes her long to give him some small connection to family they barely know. To replace the ones they’ve lost.

"There are far worse things than a child," Rey says, her voice low and soothing as her hand dips to trade the hard ridges of his shoulder. 

Rey bows her head to kiss him gently, the press of her mouth hopefully conveying what she cannot say. That she will be his until he no longer asks her to stay. 

He complies, his mouth warm and pliant, as she rolls his body back against the tousled sheets with him wedged between her thighs. His cock stands proudly at attention and her desire only grows

Rey eases herself down onto his cock, still just as wet and just as hungry as before. But there's something so pure and so beautiful in his face that compels her to take her time, to savor the feel of him deep within her.

She moves slowly, each rise and fall of her hips accompanied by a languid press of her mouth on his. He swallows her moan as she clenches all around him, finally daring to meet her thrust for thrust. 

Her legs still quaking, she can't help but collapse onto his chest, the steady movements of his body almost a balm as he moves in her.

He whispers, the words almost silent, as a low moan escapes her. 

I need you. I want you. I need to spill inside you.

She claims his mouth with hers, her whole body aflame as she feels the throbbing of his cock and the tense of his hips. 

It's nearly enough to make her peak again and she can't help but feel cheated that her husband would have deprived her of this, the feel of him filling her completely.

He presses a kiss to the top of her head and she can do little else but sigh in contentment as he runs a hand over the arch of her back. 

Rey thinks he might have said "I love you."

Only in her thoughts does she even begin to respond in kind.

 

Chapter Text

There are some benefits to being someone’s wife.

In the days following the wedding, she develops a newfound appreciation for the Imperial lie in. There are mornings when only she and the sun are awake and it’s in those quiet moments that she studies her husband’s sleeping form. She memorizes the freckles on his face, the sprawl of his limbs, and the small puddle of drool staining his pillow. His Imperial Highness, Kylo Ren, is not a dignified sleeper but it hardly matters. She relishes the warmth of his arms when he tugs her close, the sleepy murmurs that hardly make any sense at all.

Then there are the days that start with her lips trailing down the toned flesh of his stomach and end with the two of them lying sated and sweaty amongst the sheets. Rey quickly learns that there are very few ways to rouse her husband from sleep but none of them are more effective than reaching a hand into his drawers.

On one particularly daring morning, she takes his cock into her mouth, devouring him the same way he had tasted her on their wedding night. She minds her teeth as Phasma had instructed, swallowing as much of him down her throat as she can. It is an exhausting enterprise and her jaw feels numb soon after, but she has never heard such an arousing sound as Kylo Ren asking her for more, begging for whatever she can give him. The power nearly goes to her head and she understands immediately why women like Phasma, the women who share the beds of the world’s most powerful men, are so feared.

They not only see but also are the reason great men can be made vulnerable. It’s no wonder Phasma gets to do as she pleases.

---

But while there are lazy mornings hidden away and plenty of opportunities to make use of their marital bed, she knows that they soon will end. 

When Rey sits down with her retinue for a late lunch two days after the wedding, Captain Dameron hands her a letter from her aunt, the familiar loopy script filled with hopes for a peaceful union and safe journey to Coruscant. The tone is warm, if a little stiff, and her aunt’s self-censorship seems glaringly obvious. There are no familial concerns or even questions about her son. It is clearly a letter that is meant to be read by any and all audiences, a letter meant for those who can’t be trusted.

Despite his protestations to the contrary, Captain Dameron also seems to be keeping things from her. He had promised not to lie to her going forward, said he admired her and her family too much to disrespect her in such a manner. But more often than not, she catches him speaking in hushed tones to Finn when he thinks she isn’t looking, his grin just a little too bright and his excuses just a little too ready when she asks the topic of conversation.

Much to his credit, Finn seems entirely uncomfortable with any attempts at duplicity. Instead, he directs any and all conversations to only the most innocent of topics, including but not limited to BB-8’s newfound ability to play dead on command.

But there's a fear in his kind eyes that she can never quite escape. Finn has been a part of the Empire's care since childhood, he knows better than any of them what tomorrow will bring. He knows the bloodshed and slaughter that are the Republic's nightmares and the Empire's reality. He has helped to forge it himself.

And he knows Kylo Ren as the world sees him, the conqueror and the tyrant whom she only knows through stories. Her husband's shadow looms behind her and its in his darkness that her friend's words falter and his sighs grow heavy.

Captain Dameron would die for a cause he believes in. He's an idealist raised on her father's victories and a man too determined to compromise with the monster that hid under every Republic child's bed.

Finn, her tender hearted Finn, is pragmatic and cautious. He knows just as well as she does what it is like to lose. 

--

As the days go by and the mornings grow shorter, her husband puts on the mask of Kylo Ren more often than not. General Hux sends missives to their chambers at all hours, demanding the prince's presence at council meetings in notes that would politely be described as insistent and more accurately deemed to be incredibly annoying.

When those missives are ignored, and they all too often are, the general finally barges into their foyer unannounced, armed with the Emperor's instructions as if they were the scriptures themselves.

And Kylo Ren always comes when Emperor Snoke calls. 

--

Rey does her best to soothe him when he returns from that first meeting. It proves to be a poor decision on her part.

--

She can hear him before she sees him, the thud of his boots and the slamming of doors.

"Are you alright?” She says this with a yawn that cheapens her concern. It has been hours since he had left and it only took one for sleep to overcome her. “How are the preparations going?”

“They are none of your concern,” Kylo Ren says stiffly. He has poured himself a nearly overflowing glass of wine and seems well on his way to finishing the bottle. Her husband is not really one for excessive spirits but apparently imperial duty merits certain exceptions.

“That’s odd.” She is suddenly wide-awake. “Considering my husband will be launching a campaign against my people, I feel as though I have every right in the world to be concerned.”

“They aren’t your people anymore,” he says, a patronizing tone in his voice. He is technically correct, but that means very little. “Our people will be fighting against a government that would destroy their way of life. If the Republic refuses to compromise, it is not my fault for doing what our Emperor feels is just.”

“Slaughtering innocent people is hardly just,” she replies, suddenly feeling so cold. She tugs on her nearly threadbare beige dressing gown from where it was abandoned on the rug, the same one that had survived the trek from Jakku much to her husband’s annoyance. 

There’s a silence and then a scoff. It feels like he’s slapped her.

“I sometimes forget how little you know of the world,” Kylo Ren tells her, his voice measured with every word.

“I’m not an idiot,” Rey retorts. She can’t possibly stay on their bed, his bed, for another moment. “You need to stop before you say anything else you’re going to regret.”

Unsurprisingly, he does not listen.

“You know only what your father told you,” her husband says, barely paying her a moment’s notice as she stands. “And I’m sure the great Luke Skywalker never once told his daughter any stories that made him seem anything less than the messiah.”

“My father spent his life trying to save the world from tyrants…”

Your father was responsible for the deaths of thousands,” he snaps.“Imperial men, women, and children died because of the Republic’s orders but I’m sure that’s just fine to you. Slaughter is alright when you don’t care about the dead.”

He finishes what is left of the claret and the stain that remains on his mouth looks like blood. There are hours, even days, where she has been able to forget who they are, to care for him as any young bride can for her husband.

This evening is not one of those times.

“You’re disgusting,” she says with a venom in her voice that she hardly recognizes. It might not be the most apt word but it conveys her anger well enough. He is the man she had feared would become her husband, the god Emperor made Republic flesh.

"You keep claiming I am.” His hand is gripping the back of the chaise lounge and there’s an insufferable smirk in his voice that can’t just be from the wine. “But just hours ago, you were riding me right here. I’m either some exercise in self-flagellation or you’re disappointed that your cunt hasn’t turned me into the man you wanted.”

Rey wants to yell, wants to anything to make him hurt like she does. Instead she does what she should have in the first place.

“I'm leaving,” she says simply. She tugs on a pair of embroidered ivory slippers and storms toward the door.

“It's the middle of the night,” he says as if she didn’t already know. “People will talk.”

“I don't care,” she snaps, not even bothering to look back at him. “Everyone at court already knew you were a brute. I doubt this one little thing is going to shock them."

It’s been days since she’s seen her own chambers but they’ve never felt more like home.

"Fine. Go run off to your Captain Dameron, ” he says simply, cockiness pervading every word. “I'm sure he'll whisper sweet nothings into your ear when he makes love to you."

“What did you say?” She turns her head so sharply that it’s a wonder it doesn’t snap clean off of her neck.

“Just try and think of me when he’s inside you,” he says, all mock concern and stupid, foolish bravado. “It is your duty after all.”

Without even thinking and seeing nothing but red, she grabs the nearest item in her reach, a porcelain figurine, and throws it just to the left of her husband with all of the rage she can muster. It smashes with a clang against the wall and he looks at her aghast.

“I won’t miss next time,” she says before slamming the door shut behind her.

--

She lies awake the entire night, loathing how empty the bed feels. 

They go two days without any interaction at all much to the amusement and horror of a captive court audience. She avoids the libraries, the stables, anywhere where he would be waiting for an attempt at reconciliation. It is surprisingly easy even if she can see firsthand the machinations of silly girls already eager to take her place as Imperial bedwarmer.

Rey is the shrew, the nagging wife, finally living up to their expectations. All too often, she snaps at Captain Dameron when he attempts to lighten the tense atmosphere of her salon, his jests lighthearted and his face full of understanding. It is not his fault Kylo Ren is a prat yet he is the one to bear the brunt of her anger. 

She talks very little, and when she does, it is primarily to Finn who seems to have been expecting this sort of disposition ever since becoming part of her guard. 

At night, she curls up with a blissfully unaware BB-8 who is thrilled to sprawl in the rich fabric of a royal bed. It dawns on her that when she yells, she sounds eerily like her husband.

--

On the third day, one of Phasma's footmen hands her a note written on lavender stationary with an utterly humorless look on his face. 

The script is her husband's but she detects a hint of Phasma's influence in the more eloquent turns of phrase. Kylo Ren is not one for metaphor, he would never claim "she is more beautiful than the stars themselves," but the contrite almost bashful nature of the letter is all his. 

He is sorry. He will never do it, whatever it was he did, again.

On the fourth day, her sitting rooms are full of the same blooms that fill the gardens at Naberrie, fragrant stems of blue and yellow that make her heart ache for more fruitful plains. There is another note, more grandiose, repeating his apologies.

He is still sorry. He will never do it, whatever it was he did, again.

On the fifth day, she finds a note written on plain parchment slid under her door. The words are few and yet she feels her anger ebb away.

I’m an ass. Forgive me.

That night, she finally returns to his chambers, their chambers. Within minutes of her return, they both lie sweaty and naked on the plush rug nearest the fireplace. When she checks in the morning, she will find nail marks in his back.

They decide without discussing the matter that they will do their best to avoid discussions of his council meetings. 

--

And just like that, they try to carry on just as they did before.

There are afternoons, no longer as frequent, spent stolen away. There are mornings that begin and end with the press of his lips on her mouth. Or between her legs.

But his meetings with the Emperor and General Hux are more frequent. In their bedchamber, they pretend as though they never happened, but it is not as though Rey forgets. His touch is always rougher in the hours that follow any gatherings of the Imperial council, and when they do make love, his hands are bruising and his mouth is quick to sneak bites onto her breasts and neck.

In the morning light, he kisses each and every purpling mark with a gentleness that makes her heart break. But it doesn’t keep the hurt from going away entirely.

--

He trains her in arms whenever he has a spare moment just as he promised, lending her an old training sword he hasn't used since his fourteenth birthday. The blade feels unwieldy in her hand and her movements are hardly elegant but she quickly looks forward to any opportunity to prove her merits against his years of combat practice.

Her husband attempts to relay the years of his Imperial tutelage, the grand flourishes and precise movements that all guards have mastered, but her own plan of attack seems to suit the limits of her physicality. She jabs where she can, lunging for his broad frame with a gusto that isn’t quite healthy when he refrains from deflecting her blows.

She asks him once if he will allow her the opportunity to practice against the full range of his abilities. He promises nothing, merely expresses a wish that she will never have to use her own recently gained tactics.

--

It is barely any time at all before the court begins its progress to Coruscant, partly for the swell of the social season and partly as a preliminary retreat from what is to be an Imperial battlefield.

Through some small act of divine mercy, Emperor Snoke will be travelling with General Hux and his beloved Phasma in a separate carriage, claiming that newlyweds who have yet to prove fruitful should be left alone. His concerns regarding their fertility are intrusive but it is the first time Rey can genuinely find herself grateful for one of his decisions.

On a cloudy morning, Kylo Ren leads her by the hand into the Emperor’s second-best carriage, the opulence of the finest one looming in view. It is then they begin their first journey as man and wife. It is then they go even further from home.

Chapter Text

The world grows less green on the journey to Coruscant. For every cluster of vine-covered trees; there’s an equal number of barren fields, filled only with the ghosts of those who once stomped through an ample crop to lay waste to ancient foes. It has been ten years since the world was last at war and yet nothing seems to grow.

The hours in the carriage are long but there is no shortage of country lords to host them as they end each day’s progress. They fall over themselves to beckon the Emperor and his party to their halls, boasting of the treasures only found at their table and the delights found only in their gambling halls.

Rey can’t help but think of the poorly thatched roofs she had seen in the villages poised by the roadside, the empty squares where children should have been playing. But she keeps those worries to herself. There are no famines in the Emperor’s lands. After all, he is descended from the gods themselves.

She says very little at each of the welcoming feasts but most everyone present had no desire to hear her speak in the first place so her silence is accepted with gentle good humor. Wives don’t need to be eloquent, they just need to be fertile.

Rey is asked almost daily and with great enthusiasm on the status of the Imperial family’s expansion. Men and women alike barely conceal their stares as they study the possible swell of her stomach and breasts. By the third evening, she is tempted to provide regular updates detailing just how often she fucks their prince in hopes that they will be satisfied enough to leave her alone. Much to her credit, she is able to abstain.

Her husband is never asked about the developments of any future progeny and even in her annoyance, she recognizes that this is probably for the best. She and Kylo Ren have not discussed the matter since their wedding night and while they are not actively trying to prevent a pregnancy, Rey is not sure either of them is fully ready for a child just yet.

A baby is a complication, a welcome one but a complication nonetheless, and they are still learning to navigate their way with one another.

--

In their carriage, they talk primarily of the past. It is almost easy to forget the future.

“You always used to make us put on silly little plays after dinner,” her husband says, stretching his arms out like some great jungle cat as the light of the afternoon sun fills the carriage. “I can’t tell you how relieved I was that you seemed to have outgrown that particular hobby.”

“I can make it the fashion at Coruscant if you’re going to tease me,” Rey tells him, a half-smile fluttering on her face. “I’m sure everyone at court would be thrilled to see you perform. We could become a touring company and make a fortune.”

“You’ve already married into the largest fortune in the world. There’s no need for you to turn to the stage in search of easy money,” he tells her, his eyes darting to her cleavage, the resting place of the ruby pendant he had given her on their last night in Andui. It is too extravagant for daily use but he is always happier when she is clad in Imperial colors so she makes a point of wearing it in his presence, even if sometimes it is the only thing she wears at all.

“If I wanted easy money, I’d just rob you,” she says, smirking as he raises his eyebrows at her.

“Is that so?” He asks bemusedly. “You think you’d get away with stealing from the Imperial family?”

“Of course,” Rey replies immediately. “I’m just a simple girl from the Republic. Nobody would ever believe I’d ever be capable of such atrocities." She makes a show of batting her eyelashes as exaggeratedly as possible and he rewards her with a laugh.

Rey likes it when her husband laughs. He does it all too rarely.

--

On the nights where Kylo Ren is called to the Emperor’s table, she seeks out Phasma’s company. In the aftermath of her wedding and subsequent bedding, she no longer feels quite as childlike in the Captain’s presence. They are both women of the world now, Rey can finally be treated as such.

--

“I’m glad the two of you are getting along. Back when you were throwing your little fit, little lord Kylo was insistent I make myself useful.” Phasma rolls her eyes and takes another drag from her glass. “You think after all of these years he would realize I utterly loathe having to do much of anything.”

“We are doing well enough,” Rey says graciously, closing her book and setting it on her lap. The pages are still crisp and she is probably the first to have even opened it. “Although the next time he comes to you, tell him there’s no need to provide me with an entire garden as penance.”

Phasma lets out a chuckle. “I mostly just wanted to see if he’d do it,” she says. “Next time, I’ll say the only thing that would ever restore your affections was providing your beloved bosom friend with a monthly allowance.”

“And that bosom friend just happens to be you. How very clever.” Rey states this as drolly as possible, her unaffected voice sounding just like any Imperial lady that has come across her path in recent weeks.

“I can be on occasion,” Phasma says, crossing her legs. She’s clad in a resplendent pair of teal breeches and Rey can’t help but envy her mobility. “But I’m mostly relieved to see my advice is working. The two of you are both so much more amiable now that you’ve consummated your little affair.”

The light of the fire is only so bright and Rey desperately hopes her blush isn’t as visible as it feels. She says nothing despite her newly minted worldliness and Phasma takes it as an invitation to continue.

"I'm glad to hear he's rising to the occasion, so to speak, “Phasma continues, waggling a raised eyebrow. “When I had him, he was utterly forgettable."

"What do you mean when you had him?” She can feel her heart fall into the pit of her stomach but the curious look on her companion’s face seems to indicate that this was not intended to be a devastating revelation.

"I was his birthday present back when his voice still creaked. Somebody needed to test the waters, so to speak. I was the ideal candidate given my close ties to the family and my years of experience.” Phasma sets down her now empty goblet and looks at her with the utmost concern. “My darling, didn’t he tell you?”

“Not really,” she replies, her voice strained. She stands so suddenly that the book falls to the floor. “If you’ll excuse me.”

Several hours have passed. If her timing is right, her husband will be done with his meeting and ready for her particular variety of council.

-- 

Her husband is in the guest chambers they have been provided, sitting at the oaken table and reading letters penned in General Hux’s precise, rigid hand. He barely looks at her when she comes in and stands next to his chair, his dark eyes focused on the task at hand. 

That is a matter that must be resolved immediately.

“You need to strip,” she commands in a harsh voice that sounds almost alien. He turns immediately to look at her, a surprised look on his face. “Now.”

--

Without saying a word, Kylo Ren sets down the papers and bends to tug off his boots. He steps away from the desk and removes his black waistcoat before making quick work of the rest of his clothing under the heat of her predatory gaze.

Her husband is often naked in her presence just as she is in his, but this feels like the first time it has been him on display. Rey can stare at him as much she likes now and she does, her eyes drinking in the muscles of his legs and the swell of his hardening cock.

“Is there anything else you require of me?” Kylo Ren says this sincerely, without the smugness she didn’t even realize she was expecting, and she finds herself growing wetter already. 

“Lie on the bed,” Rey tells him, pointing to the immaculate bedding their host has so graciously offered. He gives her a deferential nod but her face remains unchanged.

He complies and she climbs astride him before his head can even rest against the pillows. Her husband looks up at her with pure want and yet she can’t help but draw out his torment. He has not earned the right to be inside her. Not yet.

“I could just take my pleasure from you,” Rey says, grinding herself against the hard press of his cock. He’s hitting her in just the right spot, the one that makes her legs quake, but she contains her enthusiasm for the time being. He lets out a moan and she can’t help but smile wickedly down at him. “Use your cock and take my leave once I’ve ridden you to my satisfaction. Would you like that?” 

“Yes,” he breathes, his hips bucking up against her as she scrapes her nails across his chest. “Please.”

“Please, what?” She taunts, letting him feel just how wet his pleas are making her.

“Use me,” he begs. He tries to meet her lips with his but she refuses to meet his embrace. Instead, her teeth meet the crook of his neck with a bit more force than is entirely necessary. She can hear him swear under his breath and she bites down even harder. “Whatever you want. Whatever you need.”

Rey reaches a hand beneath her skirts to grab his cock, giving it a quick stroke. He’s already leaking and when she finally lowers her hips, he slides in so easily that it feels as though he was made only for this purpose. They both let out a moan and she begins to move at a heady pace.

Her other hand has wrapped itself around his neck, gripping just enough to make it hurt. He gasps but then looks up at her with utter reverence, like she holds his life in his hands.

“You’ll never leave me,” she says, punctuating her words with a sharp slam of her hips. “Say it.”

She needs to hear it, needs to know he wants to stay.

“I’ll never leave,” he tells her, his hands finally daring to grab her hips and tug her even closer. “I’m yours. I love you, Rey.” 

Rey loosens the grip on his neck entirely, drawing his mouth to meet hers. He’s fucking steadily into her now and can feel herself clenching as she kisses him so gently, so tenderly that he seems almost surprised.

She kisses his lips as every ounce of tension is relieved from her body. She presses her lips to his jaw and neck as he says her name like a prayer under his breath and she lets her mouth fall to the shell of his ear as she feels him empty inside of her.

He is hers.

--

When the seed on her thighs has dried, she removes the now wrinkled gown and dresses for bed. When she returns clad only in a silken robe, her husband is lying in almost exactly the same position she had left him in. She sits on the edge of the bed and begins to braid her hair into a loose plait, occasionally placing a reassuring hand on his arm.

“What brought that on?” He asks, a hint of wonder in his voice. “You’re normally not that vicious.”

“Nothing,” she says sweetly, a saccharine grin on her face as she looks down at him. “I just spent the evening with Phasma and she was telling me all about a birthday present she gave you.”

He sits upright and looks utterly ashamed. All is as it should be.

“It was my duty and meant nothing,” he says, a panicked look on his face. “Don’t be angry.”

“I’m not angry,” she replies lightly. In the still rational part of her mind, she is not angry with him, not truly. She knows that it was essentially a learning experience and nothing more.

Phasma was one woman, a woman who is now her friend. But the reality of one woman means there could have been more., Imperial beauties with heaving bosoms and unending curves or foreign princesses with violet eyes. She hates the idea of these women, hates them with a fervor that shocks even her.

There was no other choice than to reclaim him.

“You seemed angry when you came in,” her husband says, running his palm over the juncture of his neck and shoulder. There is a bite mark that will likely not fade for days. “I can’t remember you ever being that demanding.”

“I can’t remember you ever being that agreeable,” she says much to his amusement. She runs a finger over a choice bruise that she has left on the side of his neck. “You should always be so compliant.”

Kylo Ren presses a kiss to her shoulder and she leans into the feel of it.

“I meant what I said earlier,” he says quietly, reaching for her hand. “I love you.”

“I know,” she replies, squeezing his hand gently. “I know you do.” 

There is such sincerity in his eyes, such gentleness. Rey turns to cup his face in her free hand and she has half a mind to say it back when they hear an uproar in the hall.

--

Among the din, she can hear General Hux’s voice bellowing in the crowd and the yelps of a frantic BB-8.

--

An Imperial traitor has been caught. The Emperor’s justice is due.

Chapter Text

From what little Rey knows about such proceedings, tribunals are not typically held in the wine cellars of bumbling country lords. These circumstances of this particular set of crimes apparently merit an expedited sentencing.

There’s a chill in the air that her sable cloak doesn’t quite prevent but she has no intentions of giving any indication of discomfort. Her husband has allowed her to be present at the night’s proceedings despite the barely concealed glower of General Hux and she would loathe to confirm his misguided assumptions.

He hasn’t said a word to her, but the General’s opinions on her presence are quite clear. Imperial Councils are no place for women.

But it is her man who is subject to the whims of Emperor Snoke. It is her man who might very well die tonight.

--

“Poe Dameron,” General Hux calls out in a booming voice. Even with the solemn mask he wears, there’s a note of glee that disgusts her to the very core. “You have been charged with treason against the Empire. You have been in service to the Republic and Princess Leia while so graciously harbored under His Imperial Majesty’s protection. This is a crime punishable by death.”

Two stony-faced guards hold the prisoner in their grasp and if she didn’t know Captain Dameron so well, Rey would have hardly recognized him. The skin surrounding his right eye is purple, so bruised that it looks almost black, and there’s dried brood covering the entire left side of his face. He looks as though the guards had tried their best to break him but yet he still stands.

“She prefers General Leia now,” Captain Dameron says. "I’d say that made you equals but I’d hate to insult her.” He spits on the cellar floor and Rey thinks she spots blood.

“You have knowingly betrayed the Emperor while in the service of his family,” Hux says with a scowl on his face. “You do not deny your crimes.”

“I do not deny having loyally served my country,” Captain Dameron insists with a fire in his voice that surprises her. “But I would never have done anything to harm Her Imperial Highness. I swear it.” His eyes finds hers and she does not doubt his words. She is about to rise to his defense when Kylo Ren finally joins the interrogation.

“Each of your transgressions has done more than enough to put your Princess in harm’s way.” Her husband speaks and the anger in his voice frightens her. He towers over any of the men and even the Imperial guards seem to fear him. “The Emperor does not tolerate this insubordination and neither do I.”

“Where is he then?” Captain Dameron asks, his voice too lighthearted, too unaffected. He smiles, his face a pale imitation of his normal dashing grin. “I’d like to think I’m worth getting out of bed for.”

Without saying a word, Kylo Ren strides over to where Captain Dameron is being held. The guards scatter and her husband punches the prisoner right in his blackened eye.

Rey gasps, digging her nails into the flesh of her palm to keep from shouting as more of Captain Dameron’s blood splatters onto the floor and her husband continues his assault. The rest of the assembly remains silent and General Hux looks almost as if he’s bored. This is a practice all of them are more than accustomed to.

It takes no time at all for Captain Dameron to collapse with a cough to the cellar floor. Satisfied with his handiwork, Kylo Ren returns to his post at Hux's side. His knuckles are bruised and she can hear the heavy draw of his breath. He barely resembles the man whose bed she shares.

“You’ll die at dawn,” her husband says in a booming voice. “I’ll do it myself.”

He barely looks at the man he has condemned when he storms out of the cellar. She is unsure as to whether she should follow.

--

When they return to their chambers, he turns on her before she has a chance to speak. It seems he has anticipated her protestations.

"Don't waste your time trying to fight me on this,” her husband tells her, the remnants of his fury still present in his stare. “Your captain lost any chance for mercy long ago."

He throws his cloak into a heap onto the floor, stripping the boots he had hastily thrown on when their night was interrupted. It feels almost like a mockery of his earlier submission and she can’t help but mourn the loss of their tranquility.

Rey unfastens her own cloak and sets it gently beside her on the chaise. She cannot share in her husband’s carelessness. Some things are too delicate to simply cast aside.

"The Republic kills its traitors too,” Rey says as rigidly as possible lest any hint of emotion show. “I know some crimes are unforgivable." She watches him pace around the room, his restlessness putting her even more at unease even while she sits.

"And yet you don't understand why I'm angry,” Kylo Ren says. “Why I must be the one to punish his transgressions?" There’s a ferocity in his face that is alien to her, a righteous anger that shakes her to the very core.

"I’m sorry, Your Imperial Highness,” she replies, bowing her head as obsequiously as possible. “I'm sorry I’m too unsophisticated to know why you relish the idea of killing a man for no reason other than your own ego.” Rey hates the snide tone she always seems to adopt when they fight, but it is preferable to the yelling that nearly shakes the entire room.

Her husband looks at her incredulously. "If the Gods err and the Republic comes to Coruscant, do you think they care if you live or die? Soldiers proclaiming their allegiance to the delusion of democracy will happily tear down every man, every woman, and every child they find in the palace walls." He very nearly snarls and she can feel her heart fall into the pit of her stomach.

"They would stop any attacks if we made peace,” she tells him and she wants to believe every word, wants to believe there is still some honesty left in the armies her family has commandeered for generations. “I am my father’s daughter. The Skywalker name still has value even in the Empire.”

"You lost any of their favor on the day of our wedding.” Her husband crouches in front of where she is perched on the chaise, his eyes nearly level with hers. He doesn’t shout this, just says it so matter-of-factly that it would be impossible not to believe just a little bit. No matter how much it hurts.

“You are my wife. You will be the mother of my children.” He lets his gaze wander to her stomach where a more accommodating wife would have already been harboring his progeny. “I'm sure your head would fetch almost as great of a price as mine when the time comes. I'm sure our son will be worth even more."

Her breath feels shaky and she wants to yell, wants to lash out at him for the terrible things that he says. But she doesn’t. She can’t.

"Good men don't slaughter children,” she says simply, unable to meet his gaze for a moment longer.

Her husband grabs her face between his hands and forces her to look at him. His grasp is gentle and yet she feels little comfort. The evening’s events have only reminded her just how easy it would be for him to snap her neck.

"Good men don't exist,” he tells her plainly. “And even if they did, I would kill a thousand of them myself if it meant keeping you out of harm's way.”

He kisses her forehead and she’s surprised the searing press of it doesn’t leave a mark.

"He won't be hanged,” Kylo Ren says, his breath hot on her face. “It'll be quick. It's a better death than he deserves." 

Rey nods her head in agreement and bites her tongue.

--

When her husband drifts off to sleep, she makes her way to the garrison where Captain Dameron is being kept. She had expected resistance from General Hux’s guards but they barely acknowledge her presence.

Their ringleader sees her as a mere distraction. It is only fitting that she is perceived to be insignificant.

There’s scarcely enough light to see but she can still make out the battered contours of his face. She doubts the hordes of adoring ladies would pay him any mind now.

He greets her with the smallest ghost of a smile and she can’t help but launch into a steady stream of apologies, a detailed list that includes every act of kindness that she had taken for granted. Rey can feel her throat grow scratchy and her eyes well up but he allows her to end her diatribe before the tears start.

"The Empire doesn't deserve you,” Captain Dameron says, his voice full of a regard that she doesn’t deserve. “I would have stayed until your aunt had come to bring you back home where you belong. I would have given my life to keep you safe."

"I know you would have,” she replies. His hand is grazing against the bars of his cell and she takes it in hers. It feels bitterly cold. “You have been the best of friends, Captain Dameron.”

"It has been an honor to be your guard, a better honor than I have deserved. But can I beg of one favor?” His face is bruised but there is still a fire in his eyes. The same fire that had fought so hard for her aunt’s cause.

“Of course,” she says. “If it is in my power, I’ll do whatever you ask.”

There’s a sad sort of look on his face that makes her soul ache. “Care for BB-8. She’s grown quite fond of you.” 

"She'll live like a queen,” Rey tells him earnestly.

"Thank you,” Captain Dameron says quietly. “She’ll need a friend.”

--

Her absence has not gone undetected.

“What did he tell you?" Her husband sits upright at his desk and she spots a cluttered mass of papers in front of him. The candles burn bright and she can make out the broken seals that had always adorned any correspondence from Captain Dameron.

"That he would have stayed on as my guard even if the war had come to Coruscant,” Rey says without looking at him. “That he regrets leaving his post under such disgraceful circumstances."

He scoffs and sets down the letter he had been reading when she had walked in. "Pretty words from a pretty man. Did you cry for him?" He looks at her expectantly and she wonders if he wants her to crumble.

"I will mourn any loss of life as I see fit. He is my friend.” She makes her way to the iron wrought vanity and begins to undo her hair. There is nothing left to say about the matter. Her husband has made it clear that he will not be swayed.

"He is a traitor,” he says after a moment, catching her eye in the mirror. “I can only hope you'll weep so prettily for me."

--

Rey does not sleep. But neither does Kylo Ren. They lie awake in silent agitation until she finally gives up on the endeavor entirely to wait in the sitting room. She watches the window as night flees and gives way to daybreak in a cluster of red clouds. It seems that even the sky itself must bleed.

She has her lady's maid dress her in one of her oldest gowns, a white damask that had once been the crown jewel of her collection. She does not wear the lone orange dress in her possession, the last vestige of a Republic girl's wardrobe, but she refuses to wear the Empire's colors on a morning such as this. 

Her skin is drawn and the red of her pendant makes it seem as though her throat has been slit. She is a phantom but it will suffice.

Her husband waits for her in the sitting room, a hand already resting on the hilt of his blade. He does not offer his arm and she does not seek to claim it yet they walk together on their way to the green.

--

The Emperor is already there, a contented look on his face as he spots his heir. 

"My boy," Emperor Snoke calls, waving a hand to beckon her husband to his makeshift throne. Captain Phasma is by his side and they both seem oddly cheerful. "We've been waiting. You owe us a body."

He and Phasma are clad in resplendent gold as if this were a carnival. To them, this is a curiosity and nothing more. 

"It will be an honor to serve Your Imperial Majesty in whatever way he sees fit." Her husband bows his head and makes his way to the block. It is the first time she has seen him wear any of his medals and she hates the way they catch in the light.

"Have you seen a man die before, my little princess?" The Emperor's voice is almost pleasant as if there were nothing else in the world he would prefer to discuss. 

"No, Your Imperial Majesty," she replies with a deferential inclination of her head. 

"Pity. Today will be over before you have a chance to enjoy it,” he says, holding up a pair of opera glasses and openly gawking at the gathered crowd. "Back when I was a lad, traitors were drawn and quartered. None of this halfhearted beheading nonsense."

By some small act of mercy, she is spared the indignity of a reply. The drums begin to pound and she waits with bated breath for the death of her friend.

The crowd begins to grow restless within a few moments and even the Emperor grows bored. It is only after another quarter of an hour's delay that General Hux storms out of the manor house with his face beet red.

"He’s gone.” The general looks as though he might very well begin to tear his hair out. “The traitor has escaped.”

Kylo Ren glowers and the assembly begins to squawk in outrage.

She could nearly faint from relief.

--

“Did you free him?”

Within an instant, General Hux turns on her. It is the first time since her marriage that she has been glad to be so close to Emperor Snoke. There are limits to the General’s fury if he is in the presence of his divine leader and they are clearly being tested

"No. I swear it.” She sounds more offended than his accusation warrants. She would have been honored to let her man go free, honored to have done something good, but it did not come to pass. The general is not pacified.

"She's lying, Your Imperial Majesty. Her Imperial Highness visited the prisoner after the sentencing.” He stares at the Emperor like a cat ready to pounce on its prey. It will only take a word for his accusations to take hold.

"I let a condemned man know he would be in my prayers. Am I not allowed any pity for a man doomed to die?” She looks beseechingly at the Emperor and hopes his lecherous tendencies outweigh his devotion to draconian justice.

Her husband stomps over to where they are gathered and she can feel his anger radiating off of him. However, the full force of his fury is directed at General Hux.

"It was your guards that let the prisoner go free,” he snarls. “It's not the princess’ fault that you can’t control your men.”

“My men were drugged,” General Hux retorts, an indignant look in his eye as he tries to gain the Emperor’s favor. “Had they been in their right mind, they would have never failed Your Imperial Majesty. I swear it."

"If they are foolish enough to get themselves drunk at their post, they are too foolish to prove useful. It is only fitting that they are punished accordingly," Emperor Snoke conveys his bloodthirsty will with an absent-minded wave of his wrinkled hand. "We've been so generously allowed the use of our host's accommodation and it is time enough for all of the men to see what happens to those who disappoint me."

He nods at his heir and her husband returns to his post at the block.

The guards, the same duo that had held Captain Dameron prisoner only hours earlier, are dragged to where Kylo Ren lies in wait. In an instant, the crowd's murmurs nearly become a deafening frenzy. 

There are pleas for mercy and then a terrible silence. 

--

Her husband's blade rings true.  

Chapter Text

When she had first been banished, Rey had kept a record of every day spent trapped in the blistering heat of Jakku. Every night after supper, she would add a new tally mark to the diary, dreading the nights when she was forced to start a new page.

On the rare times when traders would make their way into the square, she would harangue them for any details of the vanishing bloodline that had once been her shelter. Unfortunately, the stories about her aunt and uncle were few and far between. Gossip about aging recluses only had so much clout in a court that was quick to forget its past.

But the merchants were always excited to tell tales about the boy who had once been Ben Solo. She had thought they were utterly ridiculous, the imaginative yarns of men who had grown bored on the road. And yet the stories kept coming, each time filled with the increasingly barbarous acts of an enemy kingdom’s heir. The rumors made it seem as though he could strike a man dead with a single look and make armies fall with only a wave of his hand.

The rumors had been frightening but they had been merely that. No matter how much she had despaired, there was still some corner of her that believed a man such as Kylo Ren was only a figment of a terrified imagination. But still the rumors lingered and they remained with her until her betrothal was announced, clinging until the day she had renewed her husband’s acquaintance.

It had been easy to let her old fears fade in his presence. It had been easy to focus more on the touch of his hand and not the looming threat of the legacy he had been thrust into. And it had been easy to shut out the rest of the world and pretend who they were did not matter.

But the morning on the green is the first time that she believes every story she had ever heard about Kylo Ren. It is when she sees the heads of General Hux’s men fall to the ground that she accepts that they cannot escape the horrors of the days to come.

--

Rey has a bath drawn as soon as the slaughter has ended. She undresses quickly, letting an obviously relieved maid depart for the time being. When she removes her pendant, it feels as though a weight has been lifted from her shoulders.

The water is far too hot but she holds her knees close to her chest and lets it scald her. It is only when the bath has gone cold that she can hear her husband’s return and the thud of his boots against the chamber floor. Rey holds her head under the water and wonders if she’ll ever be clean. 

She declines an Imperial invitation for a late dinner with all of the grace she can muster but even the footman seems to see straight through her excuses. On another night, her husband would have used the opportunity to make his own excuses and join her in their bed. Instead, he readies himself for an evening in the Emperor’s company and avoids her unyielding gaze.

When he returns, she feigns sleep and he slips almost silently beside her. He presses a perfunctory kiss to her neck and falls immediately into a trouble-free sleep. She envies him and adores him all at once.

This is the man who loves her. This is the monster she had feared.

--

She says hardly anything at all while they remain guests of their gracious host and he never questions the length of her silences. There might even be some small part of him that prefers her like this, the very shadow of the perfect consort.

Her husband helps her into the carriage with a proffered hand when it is time to leave and she takes it without even looking. When she gazes out the window, she sees a crow waiting eagerly on the chopping block, already clamoring for his next meal. 

Rey has brought a few volumes into the carriage but they both already know they will remain untouched.

--

"You've been quiet," he tells her as if her reticence is some great revelation. "Are you alright?" He has taken to interpreting any malaise as a sign of possible fertility and he seems almost eager as he inquires. Apparently trepidation is a symptom of a pending familial expansion. 

She lets his concern linger as the stretches of hills pass them by.

"If this is about what Hux said, it shouldn't be," he says after a moment. "Nobody in their right mind would ever believe you would ever endanger your people. Hux just happens to be a jealous little shit who loathes how quickly the Emperor has taken to you."

She hums softly in agreement and picks up the book nearest her on the seat. The words all blend together and she can feel his unease radiate throughout the carriage. 

Good. Let him be uncomfortable. 

"Apparently you lost all powers of speech over the past few days," he drawls and his displeasure is palpable. "I'm not a mind reader. You need to tell me what's wrong." 

"Or you'll do what?" She asks primly, ignoring the sharp stab of his eyes. "Does insolence merit only a warning or will I need to be flogged for displeasing you so?"

He sighs exasperatedly.

"I'm not going to beat you for acting like a child." He yanks the book from her hands and tosses it onto the floor. "I don't know why you're being so unreasonable."

Her eyes are fixed on her lap and even still she can see his stare looming in her thoughts.

"You killed those guards without any sort of trial," she says, every word measured. "They had no opportunities to respond to their allegations and you cut off their heads without a second thought. You made it look so easy."

"Because it was," he says fervently. "The gods had spoken and the Emperor conveyed their will. I am merely an obedient servant as we all should be.” 

He takes her hand in his, gripping it firmly. 

"You are not yet accustomed to the way things must be. I did what was right. You will learn that quickly enough." 

Kylo Ren presses his lips to her hand, kissing it with reverence.  

He has such high hopes for her. It will be a great disappointment when she fails to live up to expectations. 

--

The Emperor uses any and all breaks on the road to reclaim her husband to his side, beckoning him into the fortress of his carriage as easily as she had once summoned him to their bed. The rest of the court spends their reprieves trying to one up each other with extravagant cloaks and sumptuous picnics. She just tries to disappear as much as possible.

Finn, her sweet, funny Finn, has joined her in her melancholy. They cling to the perimeter of the Imperial camp, still close enough to be monitored by any of her husband’s own retinue, but far enough to where they cannot be overheard. BB-8 trots between them, her small legs carrying her as fast she can go as she attempts to investigate the strange terrain.

Her guard has taken to wearing the tan leather coat their wayward Captain Dameron had left behind. He refuses to believe her when she says he looks dashing. After all, charm was their friend’s forte.

--

“General Hux says he’ll crush BB-8 himself the next time she gets underfoot,” Finn tells her as the troublesome canine in question attempts to dig her way back to D’Qar.

“I’m sure Captain Dameron would be proud to know she was annoying the Empire’s most decorated commander on his behalf,” she says. The dog rolls around in the dirt and it’s almost enough to make her smile.

“That he would,” he agrees. They stand in a companionable silence and watch as the smallest member of their party continues her pursuit of simple joys.

“Poe was my first friend,” Finn says to nobody in particular. He crosses his arms around his chest and lets out a defeated sounding sigh. “I never had a friend before and he made me feel as though I knew him all my life.”

Despite the hours spent in Captain Dameron’s company, it is strange to hear his given name.

“He is still your friend,” Rey tells him. “Whatever higher power allowed him to escape ensured that you will meet again.”

Finn lets out a small humorless laugh at the mention of divine intervention and she can feel the hairs on her arms stand upright.

“I’m not sure any higher power was involved, My Lady,” he says. He looks warily around them in search of possible eavesdroppers before drawing his head in closer. “I probably should have told you sooner but I didn’t want to endanger you further and General Hux seemed so keen on trying to link you to the escape…”

“Then don’t say anything at all,” Rey says suddenly. He seems taken aback and it’s all she can do to rest a hand on his arm. “As far as I am concerned, his escape was merely a happy accident. We all know that no good deed goes unpunished.”

Rey can still hear the terrified pleas of Hux’s guards as they were led to the chopping block and the thought of Finn in a similar position is almost more than she can bear. She does not want to lie to her husband if the truth comes out. She’s not sure if she can and perhaps if the truth is never spoken, it will never be brought to light.

She catches his eye and his concern fades into realization.

“Of course, My Lady,” he says, nodding his head. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to put you in a difficult position.”

“Don’t be sorry. You have nothing to be sorry for,” she says in a voice barely above a whisper.

She can hear the rumblings of a court eager to return to the road. They will need to get back soon.

Hopefully he knows how grateful she is. Hopefully he knows how truly brave he has proven himself to be.

--

She knows His Imperial Highness waits eagerly for the day she devotes herself to the Emperor’s cause. She can feel his hope rise every time that she is invited to an evening’s audience in His Imperial Majesty’s presence, when she holds her tongue and tries to keep her blood from boiling. In light of recent events, she is no longer allowed the luxury of a refusal.

It will be the happiest day of Kylo Ren’s life when she abandons her old allegiances entirely but he handles her with kid gloves in the mean time. He talks to her in soothing tones as though his saccharine kindness will make her forget about what she has seen. It is a different sort of mask that he wears and she finds herself growing colder and more desolate everyday.

Despite her better judgment, it is her husband she misses, not this lying beacon of gentility.

--

“Why aren’t you happy?” Her husband asks as they ready for bed. They are a day’s ride from Coruscant and his decency has melted away into an annoyed expression. “We’re almost at the palace. You should be happy.”

“Am I not allowed to have emotions, husband?” She removes her latest bribe, a burgundy silk robe that feels like water on her skin. It is a marvel but she loathes the circumstances under which it was delivered. It is less troublesome to stand only in her nightgown.

“You’re not allowed to sulk for weeks on end,” he says sourly. “I don’t like it.”

The sheer hypocrisy of his complaint makes her laugh out loud. He looks taken aback but it is almost a relief to see genuine feeling on his face.

“And yet you get to stomp around accusing me of being unfaithful. I didn’t realize how truly privileged you were,” she says, an incredulous look on her face. “O to be a prince and get to say whatever I want!" 

Her husband is not amused by her dramatics.

“You need to stop this,” he says, a warning note in his voice. “I’m telling you as your husband to stop this right now or I will make you stop.”

“Are you going to try and keep bribing me into submission?” Rey asks, eyebrows raised. “Is that how you intend on making me into your perfect wife? By dressing me up like some painted doll?”

“I gave you a warning,” Kylo Ren says gruffly. “Do I need to be more direct?”

Please,” she snarls. “It’s hard to understand when you’re being a shit.”

There is a change in him then. She can see it in his eyes. His frustration, his reluctance, his longing. 

“Bend over the bed,” he commands. His eyes are deadly serious and she can’t help but feel compelled to obey for fear what might happen if she doesn’t. “I’m not going to ask you again.”

For the first time in their marriage, she does what she is told no matter how ridiculous it feels, resting on folded elbows. Rey can hear him move behind her and yet it is still a shock when he lifts the white lace clear over her hips.

“I told you when we first met that I would not be afraid to make you more agreeable,” Kylo Ren tells her. He lets his hand wander to the exposed skin and her heart pounds in her ears. “Clearly you needed more proof.”

He smacks her ass, once on each side in rapid succession, and she lets out a gasp.

“You are my wife," he says, his voice almost chipper as he traces his handiwork. “It will be better for us both if you can stop trying to fight me.”

He hits her again, gentler this time, and she can feel herself growing wetter.

“Do you understand?” Her husband lets his fingers dip between between her legs where he will surely feel the evidence of her enjoyment.

“I guess you do,” he murmurs, slipping a finger inside of her and curling it just right. She moans and he chuckles smugly while adding a second. “At least your cunt does. You really do have the most perfect cunt, Rey.”

He kisses the small of her back and she feels like a wanton. He is so close to where she needs his mouth most and she might actually die from needing him.

“But I need to know that all of you understands,” he says and suddenly he halts his ministrations. “So I will ask again. Do you understand me?” He smacks her once more and she nearly whines.

“Yes,” Rey says desperately. “I understand.”

“Good girl,” he says almost reverently, pressing an all-too-brief kiss on her thigh. “You are so beautiful like this, when I can see just how badly you want it. How much you need to be fucked.”

“Then do it, Kylo,” she tells him without even a moment’s hesitation and she can feel just how close he is to tasting her. “I need you to fuck me.”

 Any abandonment she feels at the loss of his mouth or his fingers is quickly replaced by burning want as he yanks down his drawers and rams his cock inside of her.

There is no gentleness now, no delusions or delicate words. There is only want and the rough grasp of his hands on her hips.

 He fucks her relentlessly, savagely, and even still she needs more. Every thrust of his cock makes her cry out and she grips the bed so tightly that she might very well tear the sheets.

Her legs tremble and she collapses against the bed but it does not seem to phase him in the slightest. If anything it spurs him on and she feels his grip on her hips tighten and his groans grow even louder as he claims her once more as his own.

 She will be the worse for wear in the morning but it will have been worth it.

--

Rey has almost drifted off to sleep when Kylo Ren finally interrupts their complacent drowsiness.

“Forgive me,” he says, tracing a finger over her arm. “I should not have been so rough with you.”

“I told you to be,” she mutters sleepily, nestling herself against his body. He is always a furnace and his heat serves as a balm to her aching limbs. “You were just following orders.”

He makes a skeptical sort of chuffing noise before he tugs her closer. “I’m your husband. I should have known better,” he says, his words punctuated by a yawn. “I shouldn’t be so careless with you.”

“I’m your wife,” she reminds him, unable to keep from echoing his yawn. She’s been so tired as of late and it is wonderful to finally be at rest. “Who else would you be careless with?”

They fall asleep still entwined. As her eyes flutter closed, she wonders if all wives feel like this.

--

The first view of the palace makes their lodgings in Andui look positively cozy. Rey had seen drawings, almost encyclopedic sketches that had piqued her curiosity, but they hardly hold a candle to the realities of Coruscant. In an instant, she can understand why her ladies had complained of cramped quarters. They are clearly used to finer things than she.

But she cannot imagine ever being accustomed to a life like this, a life with such sumptuous pleasures in such close reach. In the garden, there are trees bearing fruits that she has never seen and she longs to explore every branch. There are courtiers waiting on the palace steps, clad in the most extravagant clothes that she has ever seen, and she can’t help but a feel little scandalized to see such daring finery only hours after daybreak. But even amidst such beauty, there’s a foulness that makes her feel ill at ease, an almost imperceptible stench that makes her stomach churn and face flush.

Her uneasiness persists as her husband helps her out of the carriage and it only grows as they walk arm in arm to where the Emperor has already been received by an adoring public. He waits for them while gripping Captain Phasma’s arm, the weight of his furs making him lean slightly to the side. It is the first time she has seen him stand for more than a moment’s time and she almost pities him when she notices the faint wobble of his legs. It is the first time he seems like flesh and blood.

“Welcome to your home, Princess,” he bellows in his booming voice as they begin their climb up the steps “I do hope my little palace can live up to your exacting standards. We do know how lovely it is in Jakku.” He starts to laugh and the entire court with the exception of Kylo Ren follows suit, their voices hollow and the noise deafening.

Rey opens her mouth to respond as best she can but the words do not come, only a stream of vomit. It splatters without finesse onto the ground, onto the hem of her traveling cloak, and onto Kylo Ren’s boots among a million other places. In an instant, the court falls immediately and devastatingly silent.

When the retching mercifully stops, she can hardly lift her head for fear of the retribution that awaits her. Yet her husband helps to restore the illusion of her elegance as best he can, his touch gentle as he helps her to stand upright.

When she finally manages, it is a shock to see the Emperor smiling.

Chapter Text

The doctor says it is too early to be absolutely certain but that there is reason to hope.

Despite her very public display of symptoms, he seems wary to verify any detail of her condition but she does not fault him for his caution. If he is wrong, there is no small chance that the Emperor will not be happy. And all those in Coruscant are well aware of the consequences of bringing about the Emperor’s displeasure.

But the evidence is there and it speaks louder than any word of warning spoken by the court physician. She had not been concerned when her bleeding had not come when it was expected, had assumed the stress of their journey had merely delayed the monthly reminder of their failed efforts. She had attributed any soreness to the overeager touch of her husband or the impracticalities of Imperial fashion. It had been easy to ignore the signs but it is no longer an option to do so. 

She is with child, Kylo Ren’s child. She has played her part.

--

The Emperor’s physician had forbade His Imperial Highness from being present during the course of her treatment. It is then no great surprise to find him pacing in the hallway outside as soon as she is allowed to leave the doctor’s care.

“What did he say?” It is as nervous as her husband has ever looked and he is almost like an overgrown boy, eyes wide and anxiety palpable. His boots are still stained with her sick and she’s sure he has bitten his nails down to the quick.

“Later,” she tells him, allowing him to take her by the arm up to their apartments. “Wait until we are in our rooms.”

Only a few paces away are little clusters of scattered courtiers who had waited alongside their prince for news of his wife, not out of any real concern but out of a desire to be in possession of the latest gossip. There is no part of her that wants them to share in their good fortune and she refuses to say anything more on the matter until they are no longer in sight.

--

Their sitting room is a thing of beauty, all fine ebony furnishings and lush crimson couches, but the time to explore the details will come later. She doubts her husband will allow her another moment to keep whatever news she has to herself.

He looks at her with hopeful expectation and it is the easiest thing in the world to confirm his suspicions with a nod.

There is a look of such happiness on his face and he is suddenly the sun itself. She can feel his joy radiating throughout the air and it almost hurts to look at him, so obvious is his excitement.

He falls to his knees in front of her, hugging her close. His cheek is pressed to her stomach and she can no longer keep her own grin from unfurling. For the first time in a long time, she suffers from a joy that is unmarred in its origin, a happiness that nobody would fault her for whether they were of the Republic or the Empire, and her heart is close to bursting.

“Do you know how long it has been?” He asks, gazing up at her with such exuberance. He is only himself and she can no longer see the man who became Kylo Ren. He is a man infatuated and she is sure that she has never cared for him more than she does at that moment.

“The doctor says only a couple of weeks at most,” she tells him, kissing the top of his head “It would have happened while we were on the road.”

Upon the doctor’s tentative confirmation of the news, she had immediately thought of the night Phasma had revealed her husband’s youthful indiscretions. How he had said that he had loved her and how she had taken him as her own. She likes to think that was when their child had been conceived, at a time when they had been so carefree, when he would have been made only of affection and no lingering distrust.

“I will be thankful everyday for this gift,” he whispers, gently kissing her stomach. “I will never stop being grateful. I will never stop until I have made you happy.” He punctuates each promise with another kiss. “I will be yours, both of yours, for as long as I live.”

He is so sincere, so obviously devoted, that her next words come as easy as breathing.

“I love you,” she says, deftly cupping his head in her hands and angling his face upward so that she may kiss any part of him that she can see. Despite herself, she is nervous and yet completely at ease all at once. “We are both yours for as long as you will have us.”

Her husband kisses her soundly on the lips before he rises. In no time at all, he lifts her straight off of her feet and carries her to their bed as if any further delay would cause only the most grievous injury.

There is no part of her body that his lips do not explore, no part of him that she does not cleave to as he makes love to her. They take their time, moving slowly until they can no longer bear it, and it is still not long enough.

He falls asleep with a hand resting protectively on her stomach and even then she wonders how long their happiness will last.

--

If it were up to Rey, neither of them would admit to a pregnancy until the very day their child burst forth into the world. Unfortunately, it is not up to her.

The physician has confirmed his suspicions with His Imperial Majesty and despite her reluctance to share any part of the matter, she cannot fault him for it. It always feels easier to give in as far as Emperor Snoke’s demands are concerned, especially on the rare occasions that one has joyful news to share.

--

There is a feast held the next evening in their honor and General Hux has been called to give a toast. After all, it would be gauche for the Emperor to boast proudly of his own good fortune.

“To the bounty of Their Imperial Highnesses” he says, pointedly avoiding either her or her husband’s eyes. His toast is made through gritted teeth and it is so satisfying to watch him force his way through his benediction, to watch him struggle so. “And to the Emperor. Long may he reign.”

The General drinks deeply from his glass and the rest of the court follows suit, repeating the toast like the holiest of prayers. She holds the glass up to her mouth, letting the wine barely touch her lips. The odor overwhelms her nostrils and she can feel her stomach turn. 

Every man present makes it a point to congratulate her husband on his spectacular achievement, a knowing look in their eyes when they acknowledge her contribution to the endeavor. The younger ladies merely strengthen their attempts to charm him, their well wishes given with easy smiles and heaving bosoms. They have little regard for her presence and she can easily say that the feeling is mutual.

However, the matrons are kinder than they have ever been during the course of her time with the Imperial court. They are almost overwhelmingly gracious and for the first time since her marriage, it feels as though she has been welcomed into their ranks.

She is one of them now. She will endure just as they have.

--

Part of her, the selfish jealous part that leaves bruises and bares her teeth, had hoped that a child would keep Kylo Ren at her side, that he would forsake his countrymen and keep away from the fray. Unfortunately, the news seems to have the opposite effect.

Her husband’s pending fatherhood reinvigorates his faith in the Emperor’s cause. He spends what seems like every waking moment preparing for the days to come, barking orders at the troops gathered in the yard as they ready to slaughter enemies by the thousands.

Rey can hear his shouts anytime she passes by an open window but it is only when they come to a screeching halt that she recoils. Kylo Ren is much more frightening when he has been moved to silence. Silences can only mean the worst.

Her husband leaves their chambers as soon as dawn breaks and only returns well after night has set, recounting the progress of his efforts with a weary satisfaction.

He says the gods have already blessed them once. He will do all he can to ensure they are deserving of notice a second time.

--

“The men need to try harder. I might as well send you out there to captain the regiment.” He has taken to laying with his head in her lap in the hours before bed and she can feel the rumble of his voice move through him.

“I thought I was a good student,” she says, running her fingers through his hair. He leans into her touch with an almost feline grace. “Or were you merely trying to flatter me?”

“You were… adequate,” he admits matter-of-factly and she grins. “If you had an appropriate blade, you might even be feared.”

“High praise from such a decorated commander,” she says in what she hopes is an adequate imitation of Hux’s simpering voice. He snorts and she can’t help but laugh. “That is clearly why you stopped our lessons since I’m such a prodigy.” 

“Even practice can be dangerous and I have no desire to risk your good health,” he says. “You will have the Emperor’s men to protect you in my absence. His Imperial Majesty will not trust your care to incompetent guards given your condition.”

In a development that does not surprise her in the slightest, her husband has quickly become the terror of the court physician. He harangues the man on a near-daily basis with any updates on her condition and demands answers to any of the thousands of questions that run through his mind.

With the exception of slightly swollen breasts, she has not yet begun to show but that is of little concern to Kylo Ren. If it were up to him, she would not exert any more effort than that which was required to host a luncheon or turn the pages of a book. If it were up to him, she would be in his sight at all times.

“How is he?” Kylo Ren asks after a moment. “Any changes?”

Her husband presses a quick kiss to her stomach before rising from the bed entirely. There is only an undershirt covering his chest and when he stretches, she can see a sliver of his stomach. Despite the intimacies of their marriage, it is still a pleasing sight.

“The baby is just the same as it was this morning,” Rey says. He hadn’t seemed anxious before and yet she can see his shoulders sag with relief. “You know I’ve had to start keeping buckets in every room rather than try and find a discrete place to vomit. Phasma has told me that she has rescinded any invitations to her apartments until she’s certain I won’t ruin any of her china.”

“It’s because he’s strong,” her husband tells her with a note of pride in his voice. “He will be a great fighter one day.” 

“He’s already fighting me.” She presses a hand to her stomach where she imagines their child to rest. “If you’re going to fret, you should spare your wife some of your worry.”

She says this jokingly but he seems unamused to say the least.

“I will always worry about you. You are my wife.” There is an almost offended look on his face at the gall of her playful accusation. He turns from her under the pretense of removing his undershirt and she sees the strong muscles of his back.

Rey lets out a sigh and stands up from her perch on their bed. She wraps her arms around his waist, her cheek pressed against his pale skin.

“We have plenty of time for you to worry even more,” she tells him soothingly. “We will always have time.”

She makes a fuss about needing to hold him as they sleep and he only makes a token protestation before acquiescing. 

--

A war might be brewing but Rey never would have suspected it with the way most of the court carried on. There are parties that last until dawn and feasts that start being readied just as soon the revels have ended. Courtiers walk the halls in gilded shoes and their noses upturned as they pretend so desperately not to care who is looking. They are greedy, they are unaffected, and they are ridiculously beautiful.

When she readies for the latest night’s drudgery, she realizes the fashions of Coruscant have slithered their way into her wardrobe and it is not an unwelcome change. It is almost an honor to wear the latest addition, a wine-colored gown that takes full advantage of what few feminine graces are in her possession. Her pendant is on full display and a perfectly curled ringlet has been freed from the intricate knots of her hair.

Her husband says that she is glowing. She tries her best to believe him.

--

As of late, the Emperor has been nothing but jubilant in her presence. She is his little champion now that she has kept up her end of the marriage bargain and it is even more unsettling than being an afterthought. He motions her to sit at his left hand and she adopts the same forced grin she always wears in his presence.

“Motherhood agrees with you, my dear,” he says proudly, holding her hand to his lips. She already awaits the opportunity to scrub it clean. “It has been said that a woman becomes a mother the moment a child is conceived. It is every women’s calling and you have taken to it splendidly.”

“And what about fathers, darling?” Phasma asks. She winks at Kylo Ren from across the table and Rey can see his glower from the corner of her eye. “I know so little of children and would greatly benefit from Your Imperial Majesty’s wisdom.”

“Men become fathers when the children are useful, “ the Emperor tells them, his beaming unaffected. “No use in wasting valuable time on a brat who can’t even hold a sword. Not that my future heir will be anything less than extraordinary…” He kisses her hand again and Rey feels her skin grow cold.

“The child will be my heir, Your Imperial Majesty.” It is the first time that Kylo Ren has acted anything less than deferential in the Emperor’s presence and they all must look as astonished as Rey feels. “If the unfortunate day comes when we are deprived of your counsel, I will rule the Empire just as you have taught me. The same way I will teach my son when he comes of age if you are not there to guide him.”

“You make it seem like you’re just waiting for me to die. Should I be sleeping with a knife under my pillow?” The Emperor’s voice is light yet full of venom and he looks at her husband with narrowed eyes as he takes a long sip of his wine.

“I meant no offense, Your Imperial Majesty.” He bows his head submissively and it seems that their uneasy equilibrium has been restored. “I merely wish to serve you and the Empire.” 

“If that is the case, then you will be glad to hear the Republic’s troops are on the move. The chance to prove your devotion is coming even quicker than I had anticipated.”

He calls for a toast to the Empire’s future victories and Rey can’t help but wonder if he is hoping for her husband to be lost in the fray.

--

“How long before you think you are called to leave?”

They lie naked, sprawled on the bed amid the haphazard blankets. She rests her head against his chest and listens to the steady pulse of his heartbeat.

“A week at most,” he says, running his fingers through her hair. One catches on a tangle and she winces. “The Emperor wants any rebellions quashed before they spread. He will need me there as his emissary while he gets to poison our son against me.”

“You will be back long before the child is born,” she says, hugging him even closer to her. “He will have no father but you.”

“I’m sure my mother said the same thing to Han when I left D’Qar.” He smirks humorlessly and she is suddenly crestfallen. “It is a fool’s dream and nothing more. His Imperial Majesty will get what he wants just as the gods have always allowed him to do.” 

“I will not let our child be stolen away.” Rey snaps, lifting her head up to look at him straight on. There is a fire in her that has long since been quenched and she sees only red. “I will kill anybody who is fool enough to try.”

“You would do well to keep such thoughts to yourself,” Kylo Ren says, a warning note in his voice. “What you talk about is treason.”

“I talk of motherhood,” she tells him fiercely. “It is my calling after all.”

He moves a wayward strand of hair from where it falls upon her cheek before letting his lips meet hers.

--

That night, she dreams only of gnarled hands and her husband’s head served to her on a silver platter.

She wakes up in a cold sweat and refuses to explain why.

 

Chapter Text

Coruscant grows restless as the gathering storm approaches. Debauchery spreads in an almost drunken haze and Rey can barely walk without seeing young men clamoring for the touch of the doe-eyed courtesans who only haunt the halls when all respectable women have feigned sleep. The air is perfumed with the lingering spoils of overflowing goblets and the finest of foreign delicacies but there is a hunger that still lingers. A thirst for blood and flesh and bone that chills something deep within her.

Even hidden in their bedchambers, the Prince and Princess do not escape the agitation that plagues the court. The pair of them have scarcely slept since the Emperor had revealed the rapid approach of the Republic’s men and though she is exhausted, Rey cannot find it within herself to give in to sleep’s enticing embrace. She only falls asleep when her husband implores her and even when she wakes in his arms, Rey still feels disappointed with her lack of resolve.

She had wasted so long trying to hate Kylo Ren. She will not waste what little time they might have left.

--

There will be a ball to celebrate the army’s departure and the Emperor’s pending glory, a last glorious night of revelry that honors the old ways from when the Empire was helmed by the unyielding conqueror she might have once called grandfather. Emperor Snoke calls for masks to be worn and the courtiers leap at the opportunity to conceal even more of their imperfections. The masquerade will conceal what truth is left in Coruscant and leave only the poisoned beauty of a court eager to give in to its basest desires.

She has been hiding in plain sight for so long, smiling at compliments that make her feel like breeding stock and biting her tongue to the point where she draws blood, and will be so easy to continue the deception further with the addition of another layer.

--

Rey is not sure whether it is spite or nostalgia that serves as the motivation for the disguise she wears, but the skeptical look that seems to cross the Imperial dressmaker’s face when her services are declined is more than enough justification.

Before her marriage, it had taken her nearly two years to save enough money for a gown made just for her. Any allowance she had been bestowed during her time in Jakku had to be stretched almost impossibly thin just to survive with food in her belly and candles for her chambers. The Republic didn’t have it in its coffers to fund the lifestyle of its forgotten daughter so it was up to her to cater to her own indulgences.

Her Imperial Highness has unbridled access to the world’s finest styles but the sky blue gown she wears, the same one she had commissioned in secret lest Unkar Plutt criticize her one foray into vanity, will do quite nicely for the evening’s forced entertainments

She had once saved such a gown for the day she would be hurried home. It seems fitting to wear a dress in her father’s colors, the same hopeful shade as the jewels on his sword hilt, on the night before such a long-awaited event will be kept from her forever. With the future Emperor’s child growing each day in her womb and war only hours away, she has no delusions of ever being able to return

Even with the recent swell of her breasts, the neckline is still higher than the current Coruscant fashion and she has no doubt that the young girls will gossip about how terribly common she looks with scarcely an embellishment on her, but it is a relief to look so wonderfully unaltered.

All other nights, she is whoever they want her to be. Tonight, she will be Rey.

--

As she readies, Rey sits in front of the finely wrought vanity as the night begins and dabs perfume on the inside of her wrists. Her husband watches the completion of the toilette with utter fascination and she smiles inwardly when she thinks of the fragrance she had already applied underneath her pendant in his absence. He will have ample opportunity to discover it later.

“Will you put on my mask?” She calls to him over her shoulder. He wears the same navy dress uniform he had worn on their wedding and she is filled with the greatest desire to abandon the night’s festivities all together.

Her husband grabs the fine silver mask from where it rests beside her hairbrush and places it over her eyes. He ties the ribbons on either side together, just tight enough to dig into the coils of hair she had arranged herself. His fingers skim the nape of her neck and she lets out a tremulous sigh.

Kylo Ren stands behind her, already sporting his own black leather mask, and together they gawk at the strangers in the mirror.

--

The Emperor peers over them all from his elevated throne, his cruel face unfortunately still in plain sight. His companion, the ever-ostentatious Phasma, is a shimmering peacock in violent indigos and vibrant purples. Her silken jacket descends into a train that requires two attendants to hold it and Rey almost smiles at her friend’s audacity. It must be freeing to be so bold.

Almost as soon as the revels start, Rey longs to leave, craving the quiet solace of their bedchambers. Yet she cannot find it within herself to turn down a single invitation to dance.

Old men with snowy beards tell her about the first time they saw the battlefield, their clouded eyes fogged with fond memories of their first conquest for their Emperor. Proud boys, scarcely older than her, act as though it is the greatest award they could ever earn to have the pleasure of her company. They boast that she will inspire them as they cut down the Emperor’s enemies and how they will be the ones to make the Imperial family so very proud. 

She allows each and every one of them to kiss her hand and lets them know they will be in her prayers. They seem exhilarated and she wonders whether their paths will ever again meet.

A man with stiff shoulders and familiar harsh lines begs a dance from his Princess. It is with a resigned sort of dignity that she agrees.

--

"Your Imperial Highness honors me," the man says in a piteously rigid voice. He wears the great avian mask of a more impressive figure and she can barely keep from rolling her eyes.

"I've never seen you dance, General," Rey says all grace and charm as she allows Hux to take the lead. His movements are so deliberate that she barely has to pay attention. "Truly I'm the one who is honored."

"You recognize me, Princess?" He seems surprised and even under the beaked mask he has donned for the evening's festivities, she can see the annoyed look he always wears in her presence. 

"I would have recognized you anywhere, General."

"Your Imperial Highness pays me a great compliment." He talks in the same obsequious he uses while the Emperor holds him at bay and it is almost enough to make her skin crawl.

"Forgive me," she says, smiling without showing her teeth. "You seem to have mistaken my intention."

Hux stiffens and all amity is forgotten.

“You are just like Ren,” he tells her with a sneer and she feels an irrational sense of pride at the comparison.

“His Imperial Highness is my husband,” she reminds him, her voice catching on the title that she is loathe to use at any other opportunity. “It is understandable that I would have yielded to his influence.”

“The same might said about your influence on him. You have made him weak." He scoffs and she wonders how much longer they will keep up the illusion of civility.

“I believe you are mistaken, Hux. It is he who has made me cruel.” She grins with her fangs bared and the same bloodlust that has permeated the court has found her at last. “If you’re so keen on filling people’s heads with silly accusations, I could cut out your tongue myself. It is the Imperial way, after all.”

“I will attribute any misstatements on your part to the rigors of your condition. Otherwise you would not dare speak to me like you have earned the right to be so insolent,” he says through gritted teeth. “But it seems that you no longer know your place.

“On the contrary, it is you who does not understand yours. The Emperor respects your years of service, but I unfortunately do not.” Rey hears a smattering of applause as the music dies and she glares at the General with all of the fury she can muster. “You are a stupid little worm and I look forward to the day when you falter and my husband cuts you where you stand.”

“It is your husband, Princess, that will doom us all if he continues acting as he has.” He says with barely concealed venom. “Hopefully some time without the stain of your company will bring him back to reason.”

Hux bows to her with a straightened back and she returns the barest hint of a nod. He disappears into the crowd and she prays for the ground to swallow him whole.

--

She slips into the hallway for a breath of untainted air only to find her husband has had the same idea. Kylo Ren stares out of the window and she makes her way to stand beside him.

“Hux told me you insulted him.” Even in profile, his face is steadfast and impassive. “He suggests the rod to weed out your spiteful tendencies.”

Rey is surprised her eyes don’t roll out of her head. “How perverted of him.” Her voice is light and his veneer of decorum cracks completely. He laughs and her heart swells with affection.

“He recommends punishing you immediately,” he tells her matter-of-factly. “I’m inclined to agree.”

Kylo Ren takes her hand and they leave without making their excuses. She does not care if they will be missed.

--

The library at Coruscant is a marvel of the world and just as wonderfully empty as the one they had spent so much time in during the court’s time at Andui.

It is easy enough to hide amongst the collection of priceless first editions and soon they set about the urgent business of devouring each other. He traps her against a bookshelf, kissing a hungry trail down her neck. Her skirts are quickly bunched about her thighs and she can only moan as he mouths greedily at the exposed tops of her breasts.

They are still in their masks and though it is still his touch that drives her mad, it is almost as if the two of them are strangers caught in the night. A giddy thrill runs through her and she bucks against the welcome bulge of his cock.

Rey grips him as tight as she can and lets her mouth hover hot against his ear. “I thought you were supposed to punish me,” she says in a coquettish voice that she hardly recognizes and he smirks against her skin.

“I am your Prince.” Kylo Ren sinks to the ground and grabs her by the hips. He looks imperiously up at her and her hands reflexively grip his hair. “In my infinite mercy, it seems only more appropriate to reward you.” His Imperial Highness bows his head and tugs her skirts even higher. He licks her open and the noise of pleasure that escapes her is almost inhuman.

Rey holds his face tight between her legs, arching herself against his unyielding tongue. He spreads her thighs apart and he attacks every part of her that his mouth can reach. Her head tilts back of its own accord and his name is on her lips like a prayer as he worships at her altar.

She is drenched and as he suckles, Rey is overcome with a need to taste him. She tugs on his head and he emerges with chin dripping from underneath her skirts.

“Your Imperial Highness is too kind,” she purrs, reaching into his trousers. Kylo Ren lets out a shaky breath and she smiles wickedly at him. The woman in the mask is bolder than she is and wastes no time tugging the fabric down to expose his cock. “Your devotion to your subjects is truly inspiring. I suddenly feel compelled to show my appreciation.”

Rey kneels in front of him and licks an agonizingly slow stripe up his length. He shudders and she presses a kiss to his already leaking tip before beginning to swallow him down. He cups her head so gently and every word that falls out of his bewildered mouth sings her praises.

“You’re so perfect,” he says, voice nearly a moan as she moves her mouth slowly up and down his cock. He squirms even harder when she finally speeds up the pace. “Fuck, Rey. I need your mouth, your perfect mouth.”

Her husband cants his hips and she moans around his length in her throat. She can feel his cock throb and it is no time at all before she swallows him down. Rey licks him clean and knows there is no finer sound than Kylo Ren begging her for mercy.

He helps her stand, kissing her thoroughly as soon as their faces are once more aligned. His lips are still on hers when they hear the door slam and the telltale giggle of a wayward young couple attempting to use the library for a similar purpose.

It is decided then that it is time for bed.

--

The masks and costumes are hidden away and they are once again trapped in reality.

"I could become a camp follower," Rey says absent-mindedly, tracing a patchwork of designs into the canvas of his skin as they lie together, her head pressed against his chest. "You could hide me in your rooms away from the rest of the men. Let me warm your bed for you."

"It would be hard to keep you hidden. You're not exactly quiet." He kisses the top of her head and she lets out a snort of disbelief. 

"I didn't think you minded," Rey mutters under her breath and she can feel his grin against her skin. 

"Anytime I hear you beg for me, it is my undoing," he tells her and she can feel already how she aches for him once more. "But the men will be restless enough as it is without hearing firsthand how lovely you sound when you ride me. I don't want to have to cut off their ears for trying to listen to their princess reach completion."

"That was almost romantic. You only mentioned maiming once." She draws the shell of an ear onto his chest and he laughs once he recognizes the path of her fingertip.

"You make me want to be romantic." He takes her errant hand in his and kisses her fingers. "You make me want to be a man who deserves you."

"It is not important whether we deserve one another," she tells him, lifting her head to look at him. "I love you, Kylo. That is all that matters."

His eyes had once seemed so empty and she wonders how she had ever thought them so cold. When she looks now, they are the forests of D’Qar bathed in summer light. They are the gardens of Naberrie where they had chased one another as children and they are the expanse of the entire world and the shelter of their bed all at once.

When she looks now, they are home. 

Kylo Ren kisses her then, his lips so insistent, so full of longing that she already knows the thoughts running through his head. He will pretend just as she does that what she is said is true. He will pretend that just loving her is enough.

--

They make love twice during the night, consuming each other in all of the old ways that make her knees go weak and exploring all of the new ways they might never have an another opportunity to try.

They huddle together underneath a tangled sheet as the night wears thin and talk of everything and nothing. The moon shines over them and she frantically tries to memorize every freckle on her husband’s skin and the full pout of his lips. She wills herself to absorb every detail. She wills herself not to forget.

At some point, Rey’s walls crack and the strength that she has feigned vanishes away. Tears fall in a silent stream down her face and they only fall harder as Kylo Ren tries to kiss them away. He holds her close and she never wants to leave.

Sunlight streams in through the windows and she curses the dawn.

--

Her husband whispers his final goodbyes to their child in a whisper so soft that she can barely understand it. His lips are pressed close to her stomach and after he has given it one last kiss, she can’t help but ask for the details of their one-sided conversation. He demurs in an almost sheepish voice and despite her curiosity, she lets the matter rest. All children have secrets. She suspects theirs will be no different.

Kylo Ren stands before her now in full Imperial regalia and even then, he is so beautiful that her heart aches. She does not know what to say and it seems that neither does he.

She moves her hands to cup his pale face and draws it as close as she can. Suddenly, they are in each other’s orbit and their lips are drawn helplessly towards one another. He holds her like she might break while her grip only tightens. They kiss for seconds. They kiss for hours.

Either way, it is not enough.

Their foreheads are pressed together and it is a relief to feel his every breath. “If you don’t return to me, I’ll kill you.” She can hear her voice waver, the telltale sign of pending tears that she is so desperate to suppress.

“I would expect nothing less.” He smiles weakly and lets their lips meet once more in the briefest of moments.

She lets him pull away before she cannot be persuaded to do otherwise.

--

Both clad in black, they make their way to where the horde is waiting. His Imperial Highness makes his way to the vanguard where General Hux and the Imperial command wait. She finds her place just behind the Emperor on the palace steps, her face impassive as she gazes down on a sea of white and black.

The General makes a booming speech about the death of the Republic, a new dawn when only the Emperor’s will shall govern the world. Her blood boils as he continues his tirade but her eyes remain focused solely on the sullen prince at his side. There is a thunderous roar of bloodthirsty jubilation, one that grows even louder when the Emperor rises to wave them off, and it seems that inevitable has finally arrived.

Kylo Ren catches her eye as he mounts his horse and a thousand words pass through that single, fleeting glance. She keeps her head held up high and swallows her tears, staring back until he is only a dark figure on the horizon.

--

The Empire will expect her to weep. She will not give them the satisfaction.

Chapter Text

The world turns gray and Rey realizes now how easy it was for her mother to succumb into nothingness when her father never made his way back home. She waits with bated breath for updates from the front, but the news never seems to come. She both fears and longs for the day when it does. 

It is a blessing and a curse that her husband has left her with a babe in her belly. Their child gives her a reason to return to the living, to struggle down food, and to force sleep even when such an endeavor seems nearly impossible. She will survive even if it is someone else's well-being that forces her to do so.

Rey had made it through the lonely years in exile with the unyielding hope that she would one day have a place in the same world that had watched idly by as her family was destroyed. Her marriage, however ill fated the circumstances and how short lived it might prove to be, had provided her the opportunity to forge her purpose. She is now someone’s wife, soon to be a mother. She had been loved and she had loved fiercely in return. For a brief shimmering instant, she had mattered but that is all gone now.

She clings to the idea that her husband will keep his promise and return to her. The naïve little girl from Jakku still tries to believe.

-- 

The Emperor sends guards to her door every evening with an invitation for dinner, and every evening, she has no other choice but to accept. The guards walk only steps behind her as if they are waiting for her to run. She wonders if they would kill her if she tried.

His Imperial Majesty watches her eat while drinking deeply from his goblet, refusing to let her return to her chambers until her plate is bare. All too often, it is only her that joins him at her table and she feels hear heart racing in her chest and body grow cold with every hour she is kept in his company. Her child is his prized possession and he keeps her trapped in conversation until such a time that he is satisfied with her own lacking care. The Emperor says nothing of Kylo Ren and she is too afraid to ask lest the reminder send him into a fury. 

He finds any and all excuses to touch her in her husband’s absence. Passing grazes become haunting touches and she can see his pleasure as he brushes against her thickening waist. His clammy lips find her knuckles and she returns to her chambers, feeling disgusted with her own trepidation.

Her husband had once warned her to hold her tongue in the Emperor’s presence. She hides her father’s sword under his pillow and wonders if he would still agree with that advice.

-- 

Were it not for Finn, she would not have anyone at all and she thinks gratefully every day of the circumstances that had brought them together in such a cruel, uninviting place.

He is worried about her, she can see it in his eyes, but he does what little he can in the meantime to brighten her spirits. They go to the stables and while she has been forbidden to ride by Emperor Snoke, it is still pleasure enough to simply be surrounded by the calming presence of the Empire’s finest horses.

She teaches him chess at his request and in all no time at all, it becomes their pastime. They while away hours in front of the fireplace with a drowsy BB-8 huddled on their feet and the war stops if only for a moment.

Finn takes to the game even quicker than she had and he smiles brightly the first time he takes her king . Rey thinks of her aunt’s evening lessons during holidays spent in D’Qar, how happy she was when she finally took down the reigning family champion, and she realizes just exactly where Finn managed to find such an exquisite set at such short notice.

Ben was just as eager of disciple of the art of chess as she was. It makes sense that even in his banishment, he would adhere to some of his mother’s teachings. 

-- 

On a morning where the wind howls and the rain falls in thick sheets, her hands finds her stomach and she gasps. A bump, a small one but a bump nonetheless, has appeared seemingly overnight and her future is suddenly more real than she could have ever imagined.

It is after that joyous, terrifying moment that Rey begins talking to the child the same indulgent way her husband had liked to do in the lazy hours before bed. She walks in the gardens and describes all of the plants and growing things, her voice soft and gentle just like a mother’s should be. She reads the fairytales that had made the lonely days in Jakku a little less bleak, preferring the ones with happy endings just as her father had.

When the world grows dark, she tells the baby all about the man that loves them both so very much. She runs a hand over her rounded belly and talks longingly of the night when they had learned their family would grow. Rey pictures her husband’s beaming face and there is a pain in her chest when she thinks of all the moments like this that will only belong to her.

--

Weeks begin to turn into months and she withdraws from the court even further. If there is news other than the Emperor’s glittering form of propaganda, she has yet to hear it and her only comfort is the knowledge that the Emperor would be unable to contain his unbridled enthusiasm should Kylo Ren fall while securing his kingdom.

--

The chill of the air reaches inside the palace and Rey stares out of her sitting room window until such a time that her brooding is forcibly delayed.

Phasma storms in much to Finn’s very vocal chagrin but his protests fall upon deaf ears. She is armed with a passel of footmen and one of them carries a white lace tablecloth. An afternoon tea has gone from amusement to forced diversion.

“Why are you here?” Rey rises from the overstuffed couch with as much grace as she could muster given the unexpected intrusion and Phasma doesn’t even have the good graces to look ashamed. “You’ve never deigned yourself to visit our rooms before.”

“You’ve declined all of my invitations for weeks,” Phasma chides, waving her fleet of servants to the table. In no time at all, a full picnic has been arranged and she waves them away once more. It is almost as though they were never there. “Drastic measures needed to be taken.” She sits down without waiting for an invitation and Rey is left with no other option but to follow suit.

“Did you ever think I might have a reason for wanting to be alone?” Her eyes find the teacakes that have become Phasma’s signature and the roar of her stomach belies her craving. Her friend smiles at her own cunning and quickly passes over the entire gilded plate.

“The thought had crossed my mind but I have never been one to give into anyone else’s demands but my own.” Phasma reaches for a candied violet and pops it into her mouth. “I decided to see you and now I am here. It was as simple as that."

They eat in a calm silence and she can feel the Captain’s eyes on her while she devours every last petit four. It is not the invasive glare of His Imperial Majesty but rather the concerned look of a friend. She has seen the same look in Finn’s eyes and her world grows less quiet.

“I know it is bad luck to name the child before it is born,” Phasma says and Rey holds a hand to her stomach. It is a habit at this point. “But I do have some suggestions. After all, Phasma has a certain elegance regardless of gender.” She winks and for the first time in what feels like days, Rey smiles.

“I’m sure Kylo Ren will be thrilled,” she says with palpable sarcasm and Phasma cackles. “If I knew how to pass along that information, I’d be sure to let him know of your splendid idea.” There is a bitterness in her voice that makes her sound impossibly ancient and the other woman’s laugh disappears just as soon as it starts.

“You haven’t heard from our little lord Kylo?” Phasma raises an eyebrow and it is clear that she already knows the answer to her own question.                                                                                                                   

“Not a word,” she admits quietly, a lump catching in her throat. “I check every day and there is nothing.”

“Well that’s odd, because I have.” Phasma reaches a hand into the pocket of her waistcoat. She pulls out a slightly crumpled envelope with a familiar seal. “You might read it if you like. I’m not sure it is meant for me.”

She passes over the letter and Rey takes it in disbelief. It bears the Captain’s name but the hand is unquestionably that of her husband.

“Your name is on the envelope.” Rey stares at the letter with such an intensity that it is almost surprising that she does not bore holes straight through the page. This is a trick, a cruel joke and nothing more.

When she finally looks back at her friend, she sees a self-congratulatory expression.  

“I have many enemies, my darling.” Phasma tells her this and her voice oozes smugness. “Any correspondence directed to me does not pass through the same channels used by the rest of the court. Too many silly little shits have tried to displace me and it is simply easier to avoid trusting anyone altogether.” She takes a sip of tea and raises her eyebrows. “I might have shared such a revelation with your husband before he fled to serve Emperor Snoke and our blessed empire."

“I wouldn’t have thought you the paranoid type,” Rey retorts and Phasma smirks.

“Contrary to popular opinion, I am not paranoid. I merely value my privacy.” There is nobody in the room but the two of them and yet her voice lowers conspiratorially nonetheless. “The Emperor himself does not know how I’ve managed to keep certain things hidden from him after all these years and I have no desire to tell him. His Imperial Majesty reads every letter from the front after the little stunt your guard pulled and I would like to still keep my secrets hidden away from prying eyes.”

“You can understand why your husband might have need of such a resource in light of recent events. I have no doubts that the Emperor would want any contact between the two of you heavily regulated.” Phasma points a finger to the still unopened ebony seal bearing Kylo Ren’s crest and looks at Rey knowingly. “I will help you two keep your secrets if you continue to keep mine.”

“Why are you doing this?” Rey blurts out without a moment’s hesitation and the older woman’s face fills with a gentle sort of worry. “Why would you risk yourself for this?”

“Perhaps it is because you will both owe me a debt,” Phasma states plainly. “Perhaps I just feel like doing something charitable. Perhaps it is because you are my friend. All that matters is that it is being done.”

She straightens the napkin on her lap and her face returns to its normal stony confidence.

“I’ll leave you alone to read it in a bit,” Phasma says, reaching once more for her cup and saucer. “I’d like to finish our tea.”

“Of course,” Rey replies, setting the letter beside her. It beckons to be read and it feels almost painful to temporarily abandon it. She finds Phasma’s eyes and hopes her own convey the true magnitude of her appreciation. “Anything for a friend.”

The Captain smiles and it seems her abandonment has been forgiven. 

--

Within seconds of Phasma’s departure, Rey breaks the seal on her husband’s letter and her heart pounds in her chest. 

-- 

My Beloved Wife,

 

I trust that this letter finds you well. Phasma had reassured me that she would be minding you during my absence and I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of her promises. I will not claim friendship with the Captain, she is a tiresome woman but she is clearly fond of you. We both are.

 

I am relieved you did not make good on your threat to join the Imperial camp. The Republic’s forces are quicker and cleverer than any of the command might have anticipated and it is nearly impossible to have fresh supplies brought to reinforce our current supply. They intended to starve us into submission and the men grow more haggard each day. On the days when we are able to respond in full force, their spirits lift and it is easy to imagine that we will soon quell the rebellion before it infects the masses. But even on the more tranquil days, you can hear the howls of the dying and it is not a pleasant sound. It has only confirmed what I already knew. Killing men is much easier than watching them die.

 

For more selfish reasons, I miss your presence in my bed. Nights are colder here and I find myself waking up each day surprised not to find you there curled up next to me.

 

If the gods are good, the war will be over scarcely before it has started and I will return to you and our child. It is my greatest desire to there the moment he enters the world. Given the present circumstances, I will content myself by imagining how you must look with each passing day. I think of how much you must have grown and how you must glow in the light. I envy every man who gets to look at you.

 

I will write as often as I can. Be safe.

 

Your Devoted Servant,

 

Kylo Ren

--

Rey reads his letter over and over until the page threatens to crumble in her hands and then she reads it once more aloud so their child can hear their father’s words. She hides the folded letter under her husband’s pillow and when she rests her head beside it, it is almost as if he is there.

He is alive and he is hers. The rest will be fretted over in the morning but in the quiet of their lonely bedroom, she will rejoice.

--

It has been so long since she has dreamed of anything but blood and shadow if she even dreams at all. But when she closes her eyes that night, she feels only light and warmth.

They are together on an island in the middle of some forgotten summer sea and her heart swells like a wave when she finally sees him running towards her on the sands. Their skin is tanned and they feast on strange fruit and drink only from crystal streams while they explore the rugged terrain.

They live an entire lifetime in those few hours and when Rey wakes, she swears she can still feel his lips on hers.

-- 

It is a small mercy but it is not enough.

Chapter Text

She drafts her reply to Kylo Ren almost as soon as she wakes. There are so many things she wants to say and she does not know the words to say them all.

But still she tries.

--

My Dearest Husband,

It is the greatest relief in the world to hear from you.

Phasma has indeed been inquiring after me in your absence with or without my explicit consent and her visits make the time pass a little easier. In light of her generosity, she requests that our child be named in her honor. I informed her that such a monumental decision would be yours to make in lieu of declining her offer outright. She seemed to think this was riotously funny.

The Emperor tells the court that his armies will soon claim victory and nobody dares question his reports. He makes no mention of the starving or the wounded and I can’t be sure whether it is from his ignorance of the truth or merely his lack of compassion for those who fight in his name. I worry for you just as you worry for me and pray each day for the fighting to stop. I pray for your safe return for both the child’s and my sake.

The baby knows you already and he grows stronger each day. I feel him move, sometimes so subtly that I feel I must be imagining it, but there is no denying his presence when I talk of you. He is particularly restless at night and I should be cross for the lack of rest, but he seems so alive that I can’t be upset. He will be strong like you. He will love you just as I do. I am sure of it.

But I will freely admit that I miss every part of you for absolutely selfish reasons. I had not realized how much I needed your touch until it was taken from me entirely. Our bed is just as cold as you report yours to be, perhaps even colder, and all too large without you in it. There are many nights where I am restless and am forced to attend to my own pleasure but it is a poor substitute for what I had so quickly become accustomed to. Do you think anyone at court would ever guess their princess touches herself at the thought of their prince inside of her? Do you touch yourself when you think of me?

I need you. Come back to me.

 

Your Pining Wife,

Rey

--

Rey makes the journey to Phasma’s apartments just before noon, the letter burning a hole in her sleeve. The Captain accepts it without a word and they set about the quiet business of duplicity.

--

Letters from other wayward sweethearts find their way back to Coruscant and the court fills with nervous excitement each passing day. Even the Emperor can’t stop the tide of palace-wide gossip and it is soon common knowledge that the Imperial Army draws closer and closer to the edges of Republic lands. There are rumors of a pending attack in the Hosnians and Rey wonders if her aunt will be among those trapped in the Republic capital if the Empire’s forces come calling.

It is almost easier not to think at all.

--

But just as easily as the news spreads when it arrives to court, it stops just as readily. Even Phasma’s resources are limited when it comes to espionage and Rey is once again left blindly in the dark.

The days blend into one another and were it not for the obvious swell of her body and the increased intensity of the child’s kicks and flutters, she would swear the hours didn’t pass at all.

--

The rain falls so hard it is nearly hail and Finn magnanimously agrees to move their evening’s chess game closer to the roaring heat of the fire. Her mind whirls and as he meticulously ponders over every potential move, she wonders whether he is plagued by the same nightmares that terrorize her dreams, the ones all victims of the Empire’s cruelty are forced to relive each night.

The Empire had destroyed all he held dear. He will know better than anyone how hard it is to forget especially when the destruction has come to light once more.

"Were you ever able to forgive the Imperial Army for what they did to your home?" She quickly makes her move and Finn’s head snaps up in shock. His pawn falls with a clack onto the board and their easy silence suddenly becomes grim.

"The Empire is my home, My Lady." Finn picks up his piece and makes his move. He refuses to meet her gaze. “There is nothing to forgive.”

"It wasn't always. You told me how you came to become part of the Imperial regiment. You said your family was killed in a raid," Rey says. She pictures a young boy standing alone in a burning field, a boy with scared eyes just like hers used to be. "How could you ever forgive the Empire for destroying all you knew?" She shouts without intending to and it seems to shock them both.

She moves her rook and he takes it with his knight. He lets out an uneasy sigh and when she looks, Rey sees such loss.

“I didn’t meet a single soldier from the Emperor’s army until after the raid. One of the younger men found me and I was given a place in the camp until I was old enough to train.” His voice is unsteady as though he is forcing himself to remember every detail and she regrets the harshness of her tone almost immediately. “But I first saw the Republic’s troops in their last stand against the Empire. You could see them coming for miles.”

“It took only minutes for them to set the whole keep ablaze,” Finn says and her heart collapses. “I can’t even remember what my mother looked like but I’ll always remember the flames. I think I’ll always know them.” He is so far from her now and she feels nothing but the purest guilt. She does not know what to say to make things right, she doubts she ever could say anything to make it better, but it seems she doesn’t need to.

"I've forgiven the men who've done it," Finn says quietly and there must be an incredulous look on her face because he lets the revelation fester before speaking again. His eyes are strong now and she envies his fortitude. "I'm sure they are either long dead or don't care but there is no sense in dwelling on what has already happened. It’s not as though spite would bring it all back.”

He moves the chess set to the side and a drowsy BB-8 lazily lifts her head to verify the source of the noise.

"The Republic is not the terrible place I once thought it must have been. After all, Captain Dameron is from the Republic and he was the finest man I’ve ever met.” Finn speaks and the tawny leather of their former companion's jacket seems to glow in the firelight. "You are from the Republic and you've shown me nothing but kindness and friendship. Good things come out of every place and I will not let the past ruin the good of my future."

Rey watches as BB-8 puts her front paws on Finn's lap and demands the attention she is apparently due. He easily scoops her up and there is a look of smug contentment as she is moved to sit beside him on the couch. The dog yawns lazily and Rey envies the simplicity with which she is made so happy. 

He stands to restore the chess set to its vigil on the shelves and he seems almost as untroubled as he was before she had goaded him into his revelation.

“You are a good man, Finn,” she says without even thinking and a curious look falls on his face. He seems almost taken aback, and for a moment, Rey wonders if she misspoke.

"I doubt that, My Lady," he says, shaking his head incredulously. "But I won't deny it is nice to hear." He smiles at her, not his usual lighthearted beam, but a small sad sort of expression filled with infinite understanding.

He is too good by far and she does not deserve such compassion when she doubts she will ever be as kind. She has half a mind to hug him when she hears a booming knock on her chamber door.

The Emperor’s men have come to collect her. There is no sense in dawdling.

--

Finn leaves her at the door and they exchange a knowing glance as Emperor Snoke’s guards escort her to his private dining room. His Imperial Majesty’s chambers are a labyrinth, darkly lit and deliberately confusing, and she wonders just how far deep into the abyss she goes. She wonders if Finn could hear her scream.

The Emperor waits perched on his ornate armchair and beckons her to his side. There are only two places set and it is clear without even a word how desperately Emperor Snoke does not want the two of them to be interrupted.

Rey sets about the business of devouring the mountain of food heaped upon her plate. The sooner she eats, the sooner she can feign exhaustion and the sooner she can harangue Phasma for news. It is just the prospect of even seeing her husband’s hand that keeps her from stabbing her fork into the Emperor’s noxious fingers and she will not deprive herself of one of the few joys she has left.

--

The Emperor drones on about the bloody business of war and it is a relief to be monosyllabic in his presence. It is hard enough to be captive audience for the man. She is not sure she has it in her to be an enthusiastic confidante.

He talks almost eagerly of how easy it is for men to fall on the battlefield, even men who fight for a righteous cause and bear the weight of the Empire on their shoulders. There is a giddy thrill in his voice and she barely represses her longing to cut his throat as he waxes poetically about her husband’s potential doom.

"You and your child will always have a place here, Princess." The Emperor says this in what he must imagine to be a kind voice. He cuts into his meat and she can see in his hand the faint tremor this exertion brings on. The plate bleeds pink and she struggles down her last bite of bread. “No matter what happens to Kylo Ren.”

"Your Imperial Majesty is too kind," Rey says without even looking at him. She can see the fine detail of the china and the scrape of her fork against the plate is a song. It will soon be time to leave and the very idea is a thrill. “I am truly honored by your incredibly generosity.”

"You are too polite, my dear, much to your credit." The Emperor reaches for her face and takes it in his gnarled hand. His grip is strong and she is forced to look into his cruel, colorless eyes.

"But I'd prefer it if you called me father,” he commands in a cloyingly sweet voice. “After all, we are family now.”

He pats her cheek in a mockery of a loving embrace before inclining his head to the largest of his guards. The guard pulls out her chair and the Emperor sends her to bed with a final pat to her stomach.

After all, his heir needs plenty of rest.

--

Rey is in a rage when she is finally escorted back to her chambers and yet it fades away as soon as Finn hands her a crumpled letter from his post at her door.

He tells her it is from Phasma with a suspicious look on his face. She suspects he has figured out the truth.

--

My Radiant Wife,

I am glad to hear the Captain is making herself useful. As far as her request goes, you were absolutely correct in assuming my opposition to the matter. In light of your friendship with Phasma and her importance to the Emperor, I have long since resigned myself to her becoming our child’s godmother. I will not allow her the satisfaction of a namesake.

The further west we go, the more optimistic I allow myself to be. The Republic is woefully unprepared for any onslaught beyond some haphazard attacks and matters are no longer as bleak as they once were. It is entirely possible that this hope stems from the fact that Hux leads his portion of the men from a location of his own choosing that is leagues away. The camp is nearly cheerful without him and it is my sincerest wish that he will continue to command from afar for the rest of his days.

I think constantly of both you and the child and I am relieved to hear how he thrives even in my absence. It seems he will be just as resilient and bold as his mother. He already makes me proud.

In regards to your less subtle inquiries, I would scold you for your lack of tact if the thought of you writhing in our bed weren’t such an intoxicating one. I imagine everyday of what exactly I will do to you when I return. I am going to take you to bed and keep you there for a week at least. I think of you wet and begging for me. I think of you moaning as you take my cock inside of you. I think of how I want to have you anyway I can and how beautiful you will look when I make you scream.

I want you always. I will always think of you.

 

Yours,

Kylo Ren

--

Rey devours the letter just as readily as she had its predecessor and she doubts it will ever be anything less than stupendous to have some small part of her husband there with her in Coruscant. She can feel the baby moving about inside of her with a fierce vitality and she can't help but smile. For a brief moment, they are all together.

She rereads the letter until her vision grows blurry and the candles nearly blow out before she finally tucks it besides its twin under her husband’s pillow. It is a struggle to find a comfortable position but when she does, she fully expects to be rewarded with another vision of what might have been had he not been called to fight, if they were allowed only to be themselves.

Instead, Rey wakes with a start in the middle of the night with the hairs on her arms standing straight on end. She sits up with a jolt and lets out an agonizing scream.

--

There is a hooded figure only inches from where she was resting only moments before.

In his hand, she sees a knife.

Chapter Text

The man freezes, taken aback that she would have the gall to scream before her slaughter, and time passes in a blur.

Finn charges in through the door, his sword unsheathed, and lunges for the hooded figure. His blade scrapes the cloaked man’s shoulder and she has never seen such anger from such a good man. 

The man is eager to respond and she recognizes the grand flourishes of Imperial weapons training in his movements when his shock has subsided. He is a hulking brute, and while her man is quicker, it becomes apparent that the man is guided by a singular purpose. He is there to harm her and the child. It does not matter who gets in his way.

Finn does his best to dodge the man’s jagged assault but a particularly forceful blow sends him clean to the floor and she screams again when the man casts her friend’s blade aside. Finn bites the man’s arm but it isn’t enough. 

Without even thinking, her hands find the hilt of the sword that rests under her pillow each night. She has never had cause to use her father’s blade, had barely even touched it during her years of solitude lest her grubby fingers tarnish his memory, and yet she holds it now.

She clamors out of bed and the man scarcely turns his head, so focused he is on Finn’s defiant face. He has a hand wrapped around her guard’s throat and she can hear her heart pound in her ears.

“It’s a pity I have to kill you now,” he tells Finn and his foul voice is low and rough. It is as if she isn’t there at all, the helpless spectator, and she has never been so glad for the burdens of her sex. “You won’t even get to see what I do to Kylo Ren’s whore.”

Without thinking, Rey jabs the blade into the man’s back with as much as force as she can muster and it cuts through him like a serving knife through butter. She stabs him over and over until she is past the point of adequate retribution. It is not justice that spurs her to action, but rage and she will not rest until the man no longer can bring any harm to them. To her friend, to herself, and to her child.

It is only when he draws his final breath that she feels anything other than anger and it is only then she notices the blood begin to flow. She vomits and the bile stings her throat.

Her husband had been right. It is much easier to kill men than to watch men die.

--

Finn scrambles out from underneath the fallen corpse, his movements shaky and his breath coming out in pants. His coat, Captain Dameron’s coat, is drenched in blood and he is not the only one to look a dreadful sight. The front of her nightgown is covered in sick and the dead man’s blood stains her hands. His movements are uneasy as he pulls the blade out of the man’s back and the silver gleams scarlet.

“Hide the blade,” Rey hisses when he holds it out to her. “The Emperor will take it if you don’t.” The sword of Luke Skywalker would the crowning jewel in His Imperial Majesty’s collection and the thought of his gnarled hands caressing the steel that had protected her family for generations makes her nearly nauseous enough to fall ill once more.

Finn complies, sliding her father’s blade into his scabbard with a look of utmost concern on his face. The gems on the hilt are nearly rubies. “I don’t know how he could have broken in. I was at the door all night,” he says and he sounds just as panicked as she feels. “How could this have happened? 

“I don’t know.” She finds her robe from where it drapes off of the chaise. It is a shock of cold against her skin when she wraps it around herself but there is the smallest chance that she no longer looks quite as savage. “But it is over now. It will not happen again.”

Rey will not waste any time screaming should anyone prove fool enough to harm her child a second time. It will be the easiest thing in the world to claw their throats out and the force of her anger terrifies her.

The hood has fallen off of their attacker’s face to reveal the cruel, untroubled face of an unknown man. She does not recognize him and so much is the pity. It would be much sweeter to know who had sent him, to know the identity of the man whose orders he follows.

--

She can hear the Emperor’s guards storm into her chambers and under the circumstances, she does not fault them for not awaiting an invitation. Finn offers her his arm and she takes it gratefully, suddenly aware of how weak her legs are.

The sitting room is full of men with swords drawn and even the Emperor himself has deigned to come to her aid. He brightens when she enters and his stare is locked onto the precious cargo she carries. His treasure is safe. She will not be punished. 

The bookcase, the one that holds her husband’s chest set and her silly romances, has been parted like the seas. There is a corridor hidden beneath the shelves and in her anger, she wonders how long the Emperor has known about these passageways. Had he told Kylo Ren of their presence or was it news only fit for those who would always be of service to the Empire?

“Is the child safe?” The Emperor asks. Even at this late hour, his head bears the most ornate of his crowns and he is unaffected by the chaos.

We are both fine, Your Imperial Majesty,” Rey says, refusing to address him by the new title he has requested. “My guard slew the man before he could take action. He is very brave.”

She can feel Finn’s curious stare boring holes into the side of her head but she will address the matter later. Were it not for Finn, she would have been dead before the screams left her throat. Were it not for him, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to become a killer just like the man whose absence haunts her even now.

“We will find the traitors responsible for this attack. None of my men will rest until the Imperial family is secure.“ The Emperor speaks in a booming voice to the gathered crowd and there is a fury in his voice that she has never yet been witness to. They seem mollified and it is only when they begin to disperse that his gaze returns to her. “We will keep you safe, my dear.”

The hand that does not cling tightly to his gilded cane grabs hers and presses it to his clammy lips. She manages a feeble curtsey and wonders if he can feel her tremble.

He offers up the sanctuary of the former Empress’ chambers while his men comb through the last remaining sanctuary she has left. She is taken to her new apartments; so close to the Emperor’s own quarters, and it is all she can do to lay wide awake in the overstuffed bed she has been provided by her royal jailer.

--

Rey is trapped in the finest prison she has ever laid eyes on a cage made of exquisite wealth and feigned concern for her wellbeing. She holds a hand to her stomach and the movements of her child in the hours that follow provides the only calm she is capable of feeling. Each kick is a blessing and yet another grim reminder of all that could have been lost in only moments. 

She thinks longingly of her husband, most likely still asleep and blissfully unaware of all that has passed in his absence. Her visions of him had once been so clear and yet tonight he is in a haze, almost unrecognizable and so far out of reach.

Her mind is betraying her. She does not want to forget.

--

There is no formal declaration of his intentions, but the Emperor makes it very clear she is not to be out of sight. There are never less than two of his men aiding Finn in his duties, silent and steadfast with piercing stares and emotionless faces. They are attentive, they are fearsome, and they are strangers. She never hears them speak, doesn’t even know their names, and yet she can see how attentively they listen in when she attempts to carry on conversations as normal. She has no doubt that every word that leaves her lips will soon fill the Emperor’s ears and so her time grows more and more silent each day.

Rey has been forbidden from leaving the Imperial family’s chambers without Emperor Snoke’s explicit permission and there is no part of her that doesn’t ache when she remembers the crisp feel of the air on her skin. She misses the crunch of the leaves underneath her feet and the smell of rain filling the air. It feels like it has been ages since she has felt the sun and it will only be a matter of time before she is even paler than His Imperial Majesty.

Finn is hailed as a hero and the Emperor personally pins his favor on her guard’s uniform for all at court to see. Every clamoring sycophant sings his praises, the story of the guard who saved their princess, and yet she feels almost afraid to rekindle their daily chess games as the fervor dies down. He is almost as watched as she is and they no longer have the luxury of privacy even in her rooms. The Emperor would frown on such intimacies if he were aware of them and Rey does not dare endanger her friend when he has already done so much.

--

Five days after the attack, the Captain comes calling. She bears a bottle of wine that will never pass Rey’s lips and wastes no time in pouring herself a glass. She nearly sprawls on the overstuffed cushions and takes in the grand view of Rey’s gilded cage.

“Your new apartments are even nicer than mine.” Phasma’s voice echoes off each one of the handcrafting moldings and velvet couches. The Empress was a woman of luxurious tastes and even Phasma in her pale mint livery looks woefully out of place. “Perhaps you’ll never want to leave.”

“They are beautiful,” Rey says absent-mindedly, unable to meet the other woman’s eye. “His Imperial Majesty is very generous.” They are both perfectly aware that a decision to leave will never be hers to make.

On the wall behind the Captain, hangs an oil painting that is likely worth more than her entire life. The subject is a fearsome looking man in the prime of his life and were it not for the soulless look in his eyes, Rey would hardly know it was her Imperial benefactor. He stares at her now and her skin crawls as if he were standing beside her.

Phasma does her best to engage her in conversation, even tries her hardest to force a smile on Rey’s face by describing the most recent antics of some of the more flighty attendants, but her efforts prove to be worthless.

She responds only with nods and after nearly half an hour of this futility, a curious look overtakes Phasma’s face when even questions about the child are met with the same timid apathy. With a swift movement, the Captain knocks over her wine from where it rests precariously on the edge of the ivory table.

Within seconds, Rey’s lap is soaked and the cloth of her gown is stained a deep purple. The sudden shock of cold is startling but her surprise comes mostly from the overly dramatic look on Phasma’s face. Her friend is an actress failing to master her craft and it is hard to believe that such a faux pas was anything less than deliberate. 

“I am so dreadfully sorry, Your Imperial Highness.” Phasma stands and immediately begins dabbing at her lap with the lavender napkin that is clearly meant for more decorative purposes. It takes very little for it to become entirely soaked through.

“You will absolutely need to change. I would hate for you to fall ill because of my ineptitude.” She sounds almost nauseatingly obsequious but Rey catches a wink when the Emperor’s guards aren’t looking quite as intently. 

Phasma snaps and the Emperor’s men stand at attention. “You’ll need to give us a moment,” the Captain barks, waving her hand towards the door. “Her Imperial Highness requires some privacy.” 

“We are not to abandon Her Imperial Highness for any reason,” the bolder of the two says. It might very well be the first time Rey has heard him speak. “The Emperor has made it clear that he wants her protected at all times.

“And I’m sure the Emperor is very grateful for your service.” Phasma ceases her feeble attempts to tidy and stands at her full height. “But a woman’s modesty is of the utmost importance. I would hate to tell His Imperial Majesty that you were trying to dishonor your Princess when she has already suffered so much.” Her smile is poisonous and Rey watches her in amazement as the guards begin to shrink.

She waves them off once more and they comply once they are confident that Finn, the hero of the hour, will remain in the sitting room in their absence.

--

Phasma helps her out of her drenched clothing and Rey is amazed at the speed with which she is being outfitted in one of the few gowns that still fits her swollen body. She has never seen the Captain in a gown and when she asks about the source of her expertise, Phasma briefly describes her first years at court, when she was in service to the now elder stateswomen of Coruscant. 

Rey cannot imagine Phasma subservient to anyone, not even the Emperor, but soon the burden of disclosure is hurled onto her. 

“My man will be riding off to the Hosnians tomorrow. If all goes as planned, he should reach Kylo Ren in a fortnight. Phasma carefully adjusts the draping of her emerald robe volante with an almost gentle touch. “I’m only sorry we can’t get the news there sooner.”

“You do not need to delay your post for me,” Rey responds. Her voice is blank and she couldn’t feel even if she wanted to. “There is no news to tell.”

“I am never one to advocate spousal subjugation but Kylo is your husband.” Phasma stills and Rey feels the judgment of her gaze radiating against her palpable anguish. “He has a right to know about any dangers that could harm you or the child. He will want to know…”

“And what will he do when he does know?” Rey says bitterly and her eyes sting “He is weeks away, there is nothing he can do. It is better not to say anything at all.”

“You are being selfish.” Phasma’s voice is filled with disappointment and Rey has never felt the true weight of their bond more.

“I don’t care,” Rey snarls and she must look quite a sight with her belly heaving and her eyes narrowed. She is a beast, not a woman, and her teeth are bared. “It is my decision, not yours, and I will make it without any of your guidance. You wanted a place at court when Kylo Ren became Emperor and should he live long enough to inherit, I’m sure he’ll grant you your request. You don’t need me anymore.” Her voice quavers and her face runs hot. “I will not be responsible for my husband’s desertion. I will not condemn him when there is nothing to be done.”

Rey had not cried when she took a man’s life and yet she weeps now. Her entire body is wracked with sobs and she is hunched over with the weight of a lifetime’s worth of sorrow. She is not strong enough to bear the burden any longer and she doubts she ever will be again.

A pair of arms wraps around her and she would laugh at Phasma’s obvious trepidation if it weren’t such a relief to feel her almost maternal embrace. It is the first time she has felt any comfort in months and she lets the tears soak the fine fabric of her friend’s jacket.

Much to her credit, Phasma does not move until her cries fade into oblivion. When they stop entirely, Rey wonders if she might collapse.

She dries her face with Phasma’s handkerchief and they carry on as if nothing had happened. They make their way back into the Empress’ sitting room and Finn is reluctantly called to summon the Emperor’s guards once more.

If he notices the red rimmed around her eyes, he is too polite to mention it.

--

Phasma makes it a point to visit for as much time as she can manage each day. She even goes so far as to learn Finn’s name now that he is her ally in keeping Rey from the edge of the abyss. Their discussions are minimal but there is a tentative respect there that unites them on the days when she can scarcely breathe.

Each day, the sitting room is filled with an ever-increasing amount of gifts for the child whose birth is now only weeks away. There are clothes finer than her own, intricate and impractical in crisp white and vibrant red. There are wooden horses and regiments of toy soldiers clad in the same garb the Imperial army wears and it is the finest amusement to see Finn command the troops in his perfect imitation of Hux’s shrill bark when the Emperor’s guards aren’t paying attention.

The gifts will soon go to a nursery that she has not been allowed to decorate and while her child will want for nothing, Rey is suddenly compelled to utilize her own lacking skills with the needle.

She uses greens and yellows in her work, the colors of growing things, and though her craftsmanship is lacking, she is proud beyond measure when she finally finishes an impossibly small shirt. Phasma pretends to find it delightful but Finn’s enthusiasm at seeing her fleeting happiness feels genuine and warm.

--

Rey writes letter after letter to Kylo Ren, each sheet of parchment filled to the brim, before throwing the correspondence into the roaring fire. She does not know what to say to him. She doesn’t dare hope that her worries will bring him home.

On the nights where her mind is not plagued by visions of daggers and the cruel men who wield them, she dreams of him.

She sees her husband as he was. She relives the first time he had kissed her, the first time he had held her hand and she had fought him every step of the way. 

She sees him as she imagines him to be. He is in a tent in the midst of the Imperial army’s camp, dressed only in black with a face covered in grime. There are times in these dreams where he is bathed in blood and these are the ones that make her wake with a start.

 But the dreams that both haunt and delight her are the ones from a future that may never come to pass. She sees him holding a child close to his chest, his voice low as he sings old lullabies under his breath. She sees him help their son onto his first horse, speaking gently the way he does when he feels nobody sees.

--

Rey is in the midst of one of these dreams, one where her husband’s raven hair is threaded with silver, when her sleep is so rudely interrupted by the disgruntled shouts of the Emperor’s men. The sunlight barely streams through her window and it is much too early to be doing much of anything. 

She does not hear the sound of blades being drawn, only muffled shouts, and it is with a sigh that she rises to investigate the fray. Her robe barely wraps around her and she is much too ungainly to greet the dawn with any sort of grace. She does not walk, but rather waddles, into the sitting room and wonders what sort of fresh havoc the day will bring.

--

Almost immediately, she sees the source of the men’s anger and her heart stops.

--

His Imperial Highness is back in Coruscant.

Kylo Ren has returned.

Chapter Text

The months away have changed him. He sports a beard now and the crown of his hair is longer than she has ever seen it, untamed and unkempt. The lines of his face are sharper than ever and the hollows of his cheeks serve as a piercing reminder for the suffering she has only ever imagined. But he looks at her like he is a man dying of thirst and she an oasis. His eyes are the same. He is still hers.

She is frozen in place and it seems even he is incapable of speech. They stare at each other and it as if no other person matters. It is only them two that have ever existed.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

--

“The Emperor will need to see you immediately,” the taller of the guards barks at her husband. He and his companion stand between her and Kylo Ren and she can see the gloved hands that holds tight to their blades. “His Imperial Majesty will need to know why you deserted your post.”

“Then go and get him,” Kylo Ren challenges with gritted teeth. “I can assure you I will not be going anywhere in the meantime.”

“You will need to come with us,” the other guard says although the hesitation in his tone is easily felt. “As soon as possible, Your Imperial Highness.” The addition of Kylo Ren’s title is clearly an afterthought.

“I already said I would not be leaving.” Kylo Ren shouts and he is the great conqueror once more, all rage and defiance. He draws his sword and any defiance from his opposition evaporates in an instant. Her husband’s reach is long, it will only take the smallest of movements for his blade to cut into their stomachs. “If you insist on fighting me, I can assure you the Emperor will have already found your replacements by the time you hit the floor.”

The men hurry out with their tails between their legs and Rey has never been so glad for her husband’s fearsome reputation. The great door shuts behind them and she has doubt of their destination. His Imperial Majesty will still be sleeping. They will some time yet.

--

Her husband lets his blade fall to the ground before crossing the impossible distance from across the room and yet he does not touch her.

His gaze consumes every inch of her body, taking in all of the changes that she has had months to grow accustomed to. He feasts on her swollen belly, her full breasts, and she hungers for more.

“You returned,” Rey says in barely a whisper. She is almost amazed at the calm in her voice when her heart pounds in her chest.

“I was awaiting word from you when Phasma’s letter arrived. She said you had been attacked in the night and that you thought it best not to inform me.” There is hurt in his eyes and her guilt is immeasurable. “I should be angry with you.”

“Are you?” Her breath comes in uneven gasps and there is a lump in her throat that she can’t explain. Rey thinks of all the nights she had hated him for leaving and knows exactly the pain he feels. “Are you angry with me?”

“I wanted to be,” he admits and he is so close now. “But I needed you more.”

She can feel him pressed against her stomach, can see every freckle that dots the pale canvas of his skin. Rey looks up at him and wants to steal the anguish that haunts his eyes, wants to heal him with every fiber of her body.

His eyes are fixed on her parted lips, her head tilted to absorb every detail.

“I’m going to kiss you now,” he says matter-of-factly. He takes her face between his toughened hands and does just that.

--

Her husband is so gentle, so tender and something deep within her bursts. It only takes a moment to relearn the shape of his mouth, the intoxicating feel of his lips, and she wonders how she had ever lived without it. She wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him tight against her as she responds in kind, and the soft press of their mouths becomes something else entirely.

Kylo Ren consumes her, licking his way into her willing mouth, and she will let him feast on her for as long as she lives. Rey moans, how could she not when she has endured months without his touch, and already she can feel the wetness grow between her legs as they lose themselves in one another.

It is not only her who is made joyful by his return. The baby stirs inside of her, so bright and lively, and her husband stills just as their child makes his presence known with a particularly powerful flurry of movement.

“I could feel him move.” His forehead is pressed against hers and she can feel the excitement in his voice protect her like a well-worn blanket. “The child. I could feel him.”

“He missed you,” she tells him, her eyes closed in contented bliss. “We both did.”

Rey lets her hand wander to his cheek and even with his heat radiating against her, she still cannot believe he is real. Any minute now, she will wake up alone in an unfamiliar bed and mourn the dream in which she has currently found salvation. Any minute now, she will be forced to open her eyes.

She dares to look at him once more and he is still wonderfully, beautifully real. He presses a kiss to her palm and she thinks greedily of the promise he had made in his last letter.

He had promised to keep her in bed for a week. If they are lucky, they might be able to manage a fortnight.

--

The full extent of their reunion will have to wait. The guards make good on their promise to summon the Emperor and His Imperial Majesty storms in the room with as much force as he is capable. He leans on his cane but all Rey sees is unbridled rage. It is all she can do to tear herself from her husband’s embrace lest they stir Emperor Snoke’s anger any further.

He has brought the entirety of his guard and Kylo Ren is snatched from her just as quickly as he came. The guards haul him in front of the Emperor, their grip tight as they make him fall to his knees. Her husband bows his head and he wears a mask of deference once more. One of the guards remains at her side, his body poised to grab her should she interrupt the pending interrogation.

--

The Empire’s prodigal son has returned. His Imperial Majesty cannot entirely remake the world in his own craven image and she fears for what he will do to her husband, what he will do to them both now that his ghoulish hopes have not come to pass.

--

There is silence, cold and cruel, and her eyes never leave her husband as Imperial master stares disdainfully at his pupil. She waits for the blows that never come, the flash of steel that could take everything from her in an instant.

"You are weak," he hisses when words finally find him. Kylo Ren’s head stays bowed and his broad shoulders stiffen. "You abandon your place when I have given you so much. You betray your people for your own selfish desires."

Her husband lifts his head and he dares to stare back. "The Republic capital is burnt to the ground, their ports are all destroyed. It is only a matter of time before they surrender. There is nothing left.” He is all calmness and strength and she does her best to pretend his news is anything less than devastating. She can see the flames even from this great distance and yet her blood runs cold for the lives that have been lost.

But there will be time enough to assess the damage. Her husband continues his impassioned defense and she will listen to every word. “Hux still remains to deal with the stragglers. You have no need of me."

"You are right. I don’t need you.” The Emperor’s voice is a poisonous drawl and the venom stings even her. “You are not fit to lead your people when you're led by your prick.”

His judgmental gaze finds her from across the room and she is the ravaged tart with her hair unbound and lips still swollen from the deserter’s welcoming embrace. His eyes narrow and she is more naked than she has ever been.

There is another silence and then a fatal promise. “I will not make the same mistakes with the child. He will not share your frailty.”

 "And if the child is a girl?” Kylo Ren retorts. There is a defiant look on his face and a tinge of his residual cockiness pervades the air. “What will you do then?”

Ever since the child had become more than just a hopeful dream, she had only imagined bearing Kylo Ren a son. She and her husband had spent months talking fondly of their future child, the boy who will bear the weight of the world on his shoulders, and she had just assumed the future of the royal succession would fall neatly into place just as everything else had.

The Emperor had claimed the bride that had been groomed especially for his heir. If her husband’s words were true, the Republic was on the verge of extinction. It would only be fitting that the sacrifice of their son would come in no time at all.

She had envisioned a boy with his father’s rangy build and her predilection for trouble. It is just as easy to see the same in a daughter, their first child and the first to be cast aside by a tyrant who will never love her as her father does.

It is the first time her husband or anyone at court has acknowledged the possibility that their efforts would result in anything other than the Emperor’s expected protégé. It is the first time she sees the Emperor look afraid even if only for a moment.

--

The Emperor resets his face so quickly Rey might have imagined it. "Then you will do the only thing you seem to be capable of and make me an heir," he snarls through gritted teeth. “Or you will both know how it feels to betray me.”

He waves his free hand and the guards that hold her husband make quick work of his weathered shirt. The pale flesh of his back is revealed and the Emperor nods his head at another one of his men who has been waiting in the wings.

The man steps forward, bearing a cat o’ nine tails in his gloved hands, and a painful scream is torn from her throat. She lunges forward but the guard at her side is too quick for her. He grips her arms tightly and though she stomps down as hard as she can on his feet, it seems he can barely feel her through the leather of his boots.

The Emperor pays her no mind but neither does her husband. He holds his head rigid, his unwavering stare fixed on the Emperor, as the first lash cracks against his back. Another horrified scream fills the air but Kylo Ren stays silent.

She counts thirty lashes in total and her wails die in her throat by the time the fifth one falls against her husband's skin. By the fifteenth, she can see the blood begin to ooze sickeningly from his marred flesh but she refuses to look away.

On the thirtieth, His Imperial Majesty holds up his hand once more and the beating stops just as seamlessly as it had started. The guards release her husband, satisfied in his compliance, and he collapses shakily to the ground. There is a disgusting, triumphant look on the Emperor’s face, a vigor that belies his ancient years.

"The court believes you were summoned at my request,” he bellows, peering down at where Kylo Ren lies. “Your shame will be kept secret for now.”

The Emperor stares intently at her husband and yet his gaze pierces her just as harshly. He pulls himself to his full height and he speaks once more before taking his leave.

“You will not displease me again.”

Rey is only surprised that the Emperor does not order one of his men to break her husband’s hand as he leaves.

--

The dust settles and the two guards who had betrayed her husband’s confidence resume their duties and begin their vigil at their chamber’s outer door. Kylo Ren’s presence means she no longer merits immediate vigilance but she doubts the privacy will last. It is a temporary reprieve, the only “threat” is still hunched over on the floor.

The great door slams and she hurries as quickly as she can to her husband’s side. His breathing is uneven and when she kneels before him, he moves only to rest his head in her lap. She runs a hand through his hair, stroking him gently, and struggles to wait a quarter of an hour before urging him to rise.

--

He allows her to bathe him and the blood on his back tinges the water a dull rusty color.

His legs are entirely too long for the tub, even one as grand as this, but with his knees curled up against his chest, he looks an age younger. She runs a cloth over the inflamed skin and her lost boy winces.

"They will heal," Rey says quietly. "It is done now."

The skin is broken and battered and she can’t be sure whether even she believes her words.

"It will never be done," Kylo Ren states plainly. "Not until I'm dead."

His overlong hair falls in a shroud around his face and he is paler than he has ever been.

"Or he is," Rey replies, her voice in the same measured tone. His shoulders stiffen and the gentle movements of the cloth stop. He looks up at her and there is no betrayal in his eyes, merely defeat. 

"He would will himself to live forever if it means getting what he wants," he says with no malice in his tone. "He will tether himself to the world until the day our son is old enough to call for my head." 

"Then we'll have a daughter." She presses a kiss against his forehead and he stays woefully still. "He cannot steal an heir that is never born."  

"He will hurt you if we do not give him a son,” he tells her. It is not some grand revelation only the looming threat of what is to come.

"And he might kill you if we do,” she says just as easily. “He cannot touch either of us until that day arrives.”

The bleeding stops and his skin looks pink and raw. When the wounds are not so fresh, she will try and summon the Imperial doctor lest they fester and decay.

Kylo Ren looks longingly at her belly, full and nearly bursting out of the thin fabric of her nightgown. There is a melancholy in his eyes and she remembers how excited they both once were to welcome a child into the world. He had never seemed so happy and now there is only the cruel reminder of what would surely come to pass.

--

He lingers in the water before departing the bath entirely and she wraps him in the plush towel a harried looking chambermaid had left near the foot of the tub. Some of the color has returned to his face and perhaps all of it will return in time.

Rey wraps her arms gingerly around him, doing her best to avoid the reminders of the Emperor’s fury. He accepts her touch with no protest, leaning into her as if she were the only thing keeping him upright. A kiss pressed against the top of her head but his arms fall limply at his sides.

“I think I’d like a daughter,” he says softly, almost as an afterthought, as she cleaves to him. His voice is gentle, timidly optimistic, and her heart swells with affection. “I just hope for her sake that she would take after you.”

Their lips meet in a fleeting kiss and Rey can already hear a flurry of footsteps in their outer chamber, the voices of the men who carry out the Emperor’s orders come to collect their charges.

They break apart and slowly begin to do what they have always done. Any trace of his vulnerability will fade away and she will let her coterie of attendants do what they must to make her presentable.

--

They will put on the masks they always wear. They will do what it takes to survive.

Chapter Text

Her husband’s assurances to the Emperor are true. One of Hux’s men, a smug sycophant just like his master, arrives at court later that day with the General’s words in tow. Rey stands with her husband behind their Imperial captor and watches the man bow lowly with a satisfied expression on his smarmy face. She loathes every syllable he utters and can’t help but wonder if Hux only chooses peons who are almost more grating than he is. But despite her revulsion, the words repeat themselves in her mind, an exquisite form of torment she thought she could never endure.

The Republic lies in ashes. Though they have yet to surrender, it will only be a matter of time.

His Imperial Majesty wastes no time in boasting of his great victory. There will be revels that night, forced and crass, and she has never dreaded being in the Emperor’s presence more. The horrors of the war had never made their way to Coruscant and yet there is a sigh of relief breathed by every member of the court.

There will never be cause for any of them to worry about anything more significant than the next day’s pleasures and though her husband spoke of legions of starving and dying men, even the lovers they have left behind will soon forget them.

Life for them all will be unchanged. The gods have been generous indeed.

-- 

Her husband dons the most formal of his uniforms and she can see him wince when the fabric scrapes against his back. For the first time, it feels wrong to see him don Imperial colors with his medals blazing on his impressive frame, and it is then Rey realizes she has seen him in little else.

But tonight, they will both boast the jet black that decorates the Emperor’s chambers. She will wear the silver coronet the Emperor had forced upon her in a fit of generosity, the one that drips with too many gems and weighs heavy on her brow. The brilliance of it nearly outshines the pendant that she hangs between her breasts and it is not hard to assume this was the giver’s intention. Her husband frowns upon viewing the trinket and she wishes for nothing more than to cast it into the fire where it belongs.

He has shaved his face at the Emperor’s behest though his hair remains untouched. If it were not for the pallor on his cheeks, he would look almost as he did on their first meeting, all strong features and terrifying grace.

She loves the man in front of her but she almost pines for the easy confidence he had once worn proudly like a decoration as they travelled together. He was less troubled then, back when the world made sense. They both were.

The pair of them are escorted by three of the Emperor’s men and a wary Finn who even weeks later is still being heralded as a true Imperial patriot. She catches her husband staring at her guard, his expression thoughtful and troubled. Before his departure, he had never seen fit to acknowledge her friend’s presence but she supposes the details of Phasma’s missive would have included the name of her valiant champion, the man who had kept her safe in his absence. Finn seems uneasy and she hopes it is gratitude and not envy that motivates her husband’s fascination.

Finn, just like every other member of the Emperor’s court, has been present for all of the moments her husband has missed. It is only now that Kylo Ren has returned that she sees just how many have passed him by.

They hear the boisterous shouts and thunderous music before even stepping foot in the hall. The guards part to allow their entrance and as they march toward the Emperor, her husband’s hand finds hers and grips it tightly . The path toward His Imperial Majesty is a long one, filled with the thunderous applause of those who do not understand how close they might have come to extinction. It is a comfort to have Kylo Ren at her side.

--

There are some of the crowd who have taken to calling her husband a hero for his service to the Empire and for the way he so gallantly led troops against the loathed Republic. The Emperor’s pride ensures that their praise is not corrected for he would rather die than admit that Kylo Ren acted of his own accord but she can see the stiff way her husband accepts his countrymen’s accolades, how he struggles to suffer through insipid conversations about the name of the expected prince.

He is more ill at ease here in the halls of the palace than he ever would be on the battlefield. Despite the years of His Imperial Majesty’s tutelage, Kylo Ren has never learned what it is like to deceive and his utter lack of guile starts to make itself clear. 

It soon falls to her to navigate the unwieldy waters of pointless chatter and she uses the child that grows within her both as a source of strength and a convenient excuse when questions become too prying or stares linger too long. Nobody would fault Her Imperial Highness for requiring rest. After all, growing heirs is tiresome work.

The two of them make the expected rounds and Rey does not dare to leave before they have been dismissed. She will suffer through a thousand parties and a million empty compliments if there is even the smallest chance of absolving some of the Emperor’s wrath. She will be the little champion he had hoped her to be.

--

The Emperor’s companion, on the other hand, seems delighted to welcome Kylo Ren back into the fold.

“Your Imperial Highness,” Phasma says imperiously, her eyes sparkling from more than just wine as she saunters over to where they have been granted a temporary reprieve. She wears a fine pair of leather boots and with her swollen ankles, Rey can’t help but be envious. “It is so wonderful to see you back amongst us.” She raises her glass and Kylo Ren tilts his head.

“Phasma,” he says curtly, nodding his head in the briefest of acknowledgements. “You look… well.”

“That was nearly a compliment. If I didn’t know you better, I’d say that you had missed me.” She hands her glass to a passing servant and her voice is rich and smooth. “I only wish I could have made my congratulations earlier. I’m sure none of my words could rival that of the Emperor. He had mentioned that he had the pleasure of your company this morning.”

It is clear from the shrewd lilt in her voice that she already knows just how pleasant their meeting was. Perhaps she had even expected it.

“And you look radiant as always, Your Imperial Highness.” She turns her attention to Rey and the compliment is effusive even if not entirely truthful. 

“You are too kind,” Rey replies graciously, allowing the other woman to approach her with a familiarity that belies their meaningless prattle. Her lips find Phasma’s cheek and she can nearly taste the lavender perfume she wears.

“I thought I told you Kylo Ren was not to be notified,” Rey hisses though her words are not quite as venomous as she had intended. “I’m glad to see you listened.”

“I chose to not follow orders. I hope one day that you’ll forgive me” Phasma whispers before kissing her cheek in turn. The Captain straightens herself to her impressive height and there is some smugness in her mystifying smile. 

In truth, there is nothing to forgive. She is truly fortunate to have her husband returned to her yet she will not allows Phasma the satisfaction of being right.

She is grateful, she is angry, and only time will tell whether the writings of a friend will doom them both so Rey merely responds with a rigid smile and the unspoken expectation of further explanation when the stares of the court are not quite so piercing.

Phasma makes her excuses and Rey does not blame her for abandoning her charges. The passel of mercurial well-wishers grows with each minute. She has never been one for enduring them. She has never had the cause.

--

The Emperor calls for a toast in honor of the Imperial campaign’s great success, his booming voice echoing in the chamber as the horde drinks deep. The festivities resume and he beckons her over to his perch just as he always does when the night goes quiet.

Her husband’s presence is not the deterrent she had anticipated. If His Imperial Majesty’s actions are any indication, it only spurs him on.

“You look lovely, my darling,” he nearly croons. He claps his hands almost like a child before snatching her hand with his own. His eyes dart to her breasts before focusing in on the gift she has been compelled to wear. “The Empress’ tiara does suit you so wonderfully. Don’t you agree, Kylo?” 

Her husband is only paces away, the ever present guards that the Emperor always keeps in his company blocking him from joining her at His Imperial Majesty’s side. The Emperor’s serpentine gaze darts to Kylo Ren and she hates the satisfaction on his face, hates the way his mouth lingers on her hand.

“Of course, Your Imperial Majesty,” he states plainly. There is a cold, determined look in his eyes and she wills him with fiber of her body to keep the same malice from his tongue. “Her Imperial Highness makes everything more beautiful.”

“That she does,” the Emperor drawls, squeezing her hand even tighter. His nails are jagged and she wonders how long it will take for him to draw blood. “I’ve had the pleasure of her loveliness in your absence, my boy. Isn’t that right, Princess?”

“You have been very gracious, Your Imperial Majesty,” she responds automatically, deferentially nodding her head. The words are a poison leaving her mouth and she can feel the unyielding stare of Kylo Ren. “I am truly honored you would extend your hospitality to me while His Imperial Highness was fighting so devotedly on your behalf.”

“The pleasure was mine, my dear,” he tells her. He drops her hand to fondle her stomach, gnarled claws caressing her without any care to the lover who gawks at them both. His touch is too intimate and she would almost prefer he bent her over right there rather than attempt to feel the child he is so desperate to possess. “It is never a hardship to accommodate such a willing guest.” His lips find her wrist and they are bitterly cold.

His fingers still burn her skin but there is complacency in his tone as he chides Kylo Ren. “Your wife was more than secure without your interference,” the Emperor scolds. “Take comfort in the fact that I would have kept such a treasure safe even if you hadn’t come when nobody wanted you.”

The Emperor proffers his cheek for an embrace and the feel of his skin is poison on her lips. It is only then that she is allowed to rejoin her husband’s company. It is only then that she has the illusion of being free.

--

The same guards that had escorted them to the evening’s festivities lead them to the rooms that were never theirs. There are two guards already posted at the outer door with two more already positioned by the bed chamber, all ready to lunge at any that might threaten the prize she harbors in her belly. The Emperor is doing his best to deter any excessive fraternization between them but there is no part of her that is undaunted. Clearly, he has underestimated the longing that has taunted her for months.

Her attendants undress her with an expediency that would almost be terrifying and she stares at the bountiful Demeter in the looking glass. Kylo Ren has not yet made love to her when she has been so obviously with child and for a cruel moment, she wonders if the sight of her will repulse him. She is barely comfortable in her own skin now. It is understandable that he might share the same discomforts.

But she returns to find him awaiting her company, his body poised on the edge of the bed in an echo of their first night together.Her husband is already undressed and his want obvious. It is the greatest relief in the world to see that he is the furthest thing from disgusted.

--

She stands before him and he undoes her robe, gently easing the silken fabric to the floor. Within seconds, she is just as exposed as he is and the heat of his eyes nearly causes her to blush.

“I’ve dreamed of this for months,” he tells her and she whimpers so pitifully that she should be ashamed. He presses his lips against her stomach and looks up at her with worshipful, hungry eyes. “You are so beautiful, Rey. Even more beautiful than I could have imagined.”

His mouth makes a slow, heady journey upward and her hands knot in the wilds of his hair.

“Careful,” she warns as he mouths her breasts hungrily. The first press of his lips is enough to make her breath catch in her throat and it is too much and not enough.   “They’re more sensitive than they were.”

“I’ll be good,” he murmurs, eagerly cupping a breast in each hand. He gropes them gently, massaging them with his callused fingertips, before tilting his face upward to kiss her properly.

Rey lets her lips fall on his and there is no restraint in her kiss. There will be time for finesse when her hunger has been sated. For now, she will only tighten her grip on his hair and feast on the groans that escape the exquisite heat in his mouth.

Every one of his moans fills her with a heady pleasure and she lets her hand dart to his cock. Rey can feel him gasp against her lips and she already feels him leaking into her palm. He is harder than she had ever thought possible and each touch seems to send a shiver down his spine.

“I need to be inside you.” Her husband breaks their kiss to beg her favor, his rich voice low in his throat. “Can I make love to you?” His eyes are full of such longing and she has never yearned for him more.

“Yes,” she breathes, punctuating her words with a languid stroke of his cock. He lets out another groan and she kisses it from his lips. “Whatever you want. I’m yours.”

--

With the swell of her belly, it is hard to find a position that will allow him to be as close as she needs him to be. He is normally quite fond of her astride him but the wounds from the morning still linger and she does not want their pleasure mingled with his pain.They decide without speaking to lie on their sides, his massive body curled around her and his hands gently kneading her breasts. She parts her thighs and his lips find the juncture of her neck and shoulder as he slides into her. 

Her breath catches in her throat as he enters her and she nearly peaks right there. In her frantic imaginings, he had taken her in every possible way, but she couldn’t remember him filling her so completely. He moves his cock slowly in and out of her dripping cunt, taking his time, and she can’t help but moan as she arches her back against him.

His clever fingers move to work between her legs and his mouth is hot against the shell of her ear.

 “You’re so tight,” he whispers, thrusting within her. He still moves at the same torturous pace and she might cry from want. “Your tight little cunt will be the death of me, Rey.”

He says her name like the holiest of blessings and she can’t help the desperate pleas that escape her.

“Fuck me, Kylo,” she begs in a breathy voice. “I waited so long. Please just fuck me.”

Her words are a command, not a request, and her husband happily complies. His shallow thrusts grow deeper and the cant of his hips grows to a more rapid pace. It takes only minutes for her to come undone under his fingers, her cunt pulsing around him and his name on her lips. He groans and she can feel his cock begin to swell.

He finds his own release and nothing else in the world matters.

--

“I love you like this,” Kylo Ren murmurs against her neck once they catch their breath. “Feeling you tighten around me after I’ve spilled inside you.” She lets out a contented sigh, basking just as readily in the feel of his cock throbbing within her. He trails his lips down her neck, onto her shoulders and she could remain joined to him forever.

They linger just like that until she can feel him begin to soften. She mourns the loss of him filling her but the gentle way he runs his hands over her stomach and thighs, the delicate way he curls into her as they cling together almost makes up for it.

“Be sure to fill me as many times as you can then,” Rey says, burrowing against him. He is so warm, so alive and she will never stop being delighted by it. “It’ll be different when the child is born. We’ll have to be careful again.”

“We were only careful the first time,” he reminds her. “I would have continued to be careful had you not so thoroughly corrupted me. 

“You wanted to be corrupted,” Rey teases blearily and she can feel his smirk against her skin. “You never once told me to stop.”

“Because I didn’t want you to,” Kylo Ren admits in a low voice. Her back is damp with his sweat and she can feel her thighs already damp with his seed. A giddy thrill runs through her and she can’t help but grin. “I had dreamed about fucking you senseless for weeks. I would have been a fool to not let you have your way with me.”

--

Rey is tempted to force herself upon him once more but her bladder betrays her before she has any time to act. Her husband very graciously helps her rise from the bed, a herculean effort that nearly knocks the very breath out of her and she finds the chamber pot that has been her near constant companion for the past few weeks.

She waddles back to where he now sits on a heap of tousled blankets. There is a melancholy in his eyes and when she finally props herself up beside him, he runs a gentle hand over their child’s resting place.

“I wish we didn’t have to be careful,” Kylo Ren says wistfully, his head resting against her shoulder. “I wish I could give you as many children as the gods allow us. I did not want our child’s life to be a lonely one.” 

Rey had often begged her parents for a younger sibling in the days before the world went dark, someone to play with when their own time was scarce and a ready made foil for her dramatic adventures. She now suspects a younger Ben had done very much the same of her aunt and uncle. He had been just as lonely as she had. He knew how hard it could be to be alone.

She would love nothing more to fill the palace halls with their children, boys with raven hair and girls with their father’s radiant smile. Their children would never know what it was to suffer, what it was to be without love, and the world would only be full of light for the rest of their days. 

But even in the embrace of her husband, she can feel the Emperor’s clammy touch upon her skin, the way he no longer even hides his gawking when she is forced to his rooms. The child that grows within her had been wanted so desperately by nobody more than himself and she cannot allow him another opportunity for his heir should their efforts fail to appease him

She will pray nightly for the daughter that will calm his ardor, for the babe that will keep her husband in his rightful place by her side. Once their child is born, she will not allow His Imperial Majesty another opportunity to snatch their happiness from them.

“The baby will have a whole horde of brothers and sisters one day,” she tells him, her lips finding his crown. “If the gods are good, we will not have to wait very long for that day to come.”

It is the closest she has ever come to wishing for the Emperor’s death outright and though the words might damn her, she does not regret uttering them for a moment.

Her husband says nothing, merely allows his fingers to dance slowly across the wide expanse of her stomach, his touch feather light and impossibly gentle.

--

In another lifetime, Kylo Ren might have turned her over for treason regardless of the babe she harbors in her belly. In another lifetime, he would have been the dutiful heir he had been raised to be.

In this lifetime, the one where the Emperor’s blows against them both have not yet begun to heal, he might very well be praying for the same.

 

 

Chapter Text

The arrival of the child draws nearer with each passing day and the Imperial physician deems it a fitting time to begin her confinement. His Imperial Majesty’s late wife never had cause to use the lying-in chambers and even in the dim light that barely fills the rooms, Rey notices how little must have changed since the chamber’s first and only use. The walls are a tranquil, dark blue and the furnishings are elegant if not a little outdated. Everywhere she looks, Rey sees glimpses of the estate that haunts her more pleasant dreams and it is both calming and terrifying all at once.

Another woman had entered these chambers once, full of the same fears that run constantly through her mind. She will birth Kylo Ren’s child in the room where that woman’s children were born. She will become a mother in the bed where her grandmother died.

--

But even when filled with the ghosts of an unfamiliar past, she would happily spend every night in the apartments her grandfather had commissioned for his long-suffering queen. The rooms of Emperor Snoke’s late wife had been deemed too drafty and the Emperor had not dared to argue against his doctor when the health of his future unborn prince came in to question. Her things had been moved to the birthing suite the next day and there is no part of her that will miss her former cage, no matter how splendid it was.

The Emperor’s guards, though still devoted to her constant surveillance, are more cautious in her presence now that her exile has begun. It takes only a hand placed on her heaving belly or a mention of exhaustion for them to scatter to the door lest they be blamed for any difficulties in the birthing. Finn is the only one of their number who sees through her ploys and the only one who she would never dare to use them against. If he finds her antics childish, he has made no mention of it but a man like him never would. 

Her husband has not been permitted to join her in her confinement. Even when the Emperor’s threats were only implied, Rey had never truly anticipated that he would be allowed to subvert tradition, but he spends as much as time in her presence as he can manage. The Emperor has temporarily ceased his dinner invitations given the precarious nature of her condition and for the first time in months, she dines with her husband in the privacy of her rooms.

Kylo Ren sits by her bedside and she can allow herself to feel joy once more when they talk of their child. The rooms are cozy and she can pretend they are hidden away in a keep of their own choosing. In the light of the roaring fire, she can only see the glow of the man she loves.

He leaves her each night with kisses pressed tenderly against her forehead, belly, and lips before returning to the chambers that he has adopted in her absence. She misses him in her bed but sleeps easier knowing that the Emperor is no longer only steps away from them both.

She has the shelter of her cave and the comfort of her husband. It is almost enough to make her wish to remain pregnant indefinitely.

--

But the child demands to be born as children are wont to do.

A sharp pain rouses her just as the sun rises and the strangled noise that escapes her throat startles the midwives who have been assigned to her keeping. Another jolt follows only minutes later and the spectacle begins.

Her hair is unbound and Rey hears the murmured prayers of the women who do their best to guide her through each and every ache, the same blessings that had been uttered by mothers since the dawn of time. Despite the shocks that make her howl, it is almost peaceful but the tranquility is short-lived. 

In the weeks before her labor, Rey had told Finn to find her husband the moment her pains began. She does not doubt his adherence to her command and she knows it will only be a matter of time before her husband rushes to her side. However, it seems Kylo Ren is not the only one who had requested a summons.

The birth of the future heir is the peak social event of the season and soon the room fills with more than just attendants. A swarm of courtiers, carrying wine and opera glasses, creep to all corners of the suite and soon she cannot see the door through the horde. They pay little attention to the protests of the midwives and begin to climb on the furniture, craning their swanlike necks for the first glimpse of Her Imperial Highness’s cunt. She hears the jingle of coins being passed around, the winnings of bets made on the bounty of her womb, and her blood boils. The already warm room swelters to a painful temperature and it becomes almost impossible to breathe.

Rey loses track of just how many bodies have forced their way into the chambers although the number might very well be in the dozens. It is all she can do to focus only on the pains that come at an almost rapid pace, the steadfast words of the court physician who looks positively unruffled as he sets about the nasty business of birthing.

Her head spins and her vision grows woozy so terrible is the heat. She can almost remember screaming for the mother who has been dead for over a decade, the father that would have offered words of comfort, but the only proof of her anguish is the hoarseness of her voice. Her forehead is beaded with sweat and the world begins to fade away.

The room spins and her eyes flutter closed. Perhaps she will feel better if she rests.

--

Her husband’s beleaguered shouts rise above the chaos to fill her ears and she is suddenly recalled back into the fray. She feebly raises an arm towards him, her throat too raw to even call his name.

The sea of bodies barely parts to allow Kylo Ren passage to her side and it takes an age for him to finally reach her. He finds her outstretched hand, squeezing it once before his fury overtakes him. 

“There are too many fucking people,” her husband snarls in a booming voice. Much to their credit, the midwives do not look the least bit cowed. “Who let them in here?”

“It is tradition, Your Imperial Highness,” the doctor says plainly and with little enthusiasm. “The birth of an heir is great cause for celebration. His Imperial Majesty would not deprive the good people the opportunity to welcome the newest member of his family.”

There are courtiers reclining on sofas, absorbed in their own conversations, and girls rifling through her vanity to find any jewels that her maids had forgotten to keep secure. A gracious welcome is the furthest thing from their minds.

“The child is mine,” Kylo Ren barks, adopting the glower he always does when he feels compelled to defend her honor. “If I say the rabble needs to leave, then they need to leave. If they trample the princess, I’ll kill you all.”

“I just want the baby out.” Rey finds her voice and she mutters through gritted teeth. Her husband bears an expression of the utmost concern and the malice fades into worry. “If you kill the doctor before he does that, I will strangle you myself.” She squeezes his hand as tight as she can and it would not surprise her in the slightest if she drew blood. 

The Emperor’s physician seems placated and her husband is somewhat subdued. The midwives, on the other hand, seem quite amused. 

“At least open the windows,” Kylo Ren demands in a less aggressive tone. The back of his broad hand finds her forehead and it is the first time his touch has ever felt cool. “Surely tradition allows us to keep my wife from developing a fever.”

The doctor sighs but allows one of the midwives to pull back the curtains and welcome in the breeze. Rey lets out a sigh of relief before another cry escapes her. The midwives scurry and the eyes of the court are on her once more.

Her child draws nearer and nearer with every breath. It will not be long before their fates are sealed.

--

The pain rushes through her and Rey does her best to desert her body. She is home, some amalgam of every place she has ever felt love, and her only connection to the horrors of this world rests in her husband’s voice. He is doing his best to reassure her, to make promises neither of them might be able to keep, and she is doing as best as she can to believe him. 

By all accounts, the gods had not allowed her grandfather to witness his bride’s final moments. It already feels like a gift to have Kylo Ren by her side.

--

She struggles for what feels like hours before the endeavor mercifully ends.

Rey can hear the first screams of the child and her heart swells with a rush of love that she had never thought herself capable of feeling. She sees a crown of dark hair and the suffering that had wracked her body fades away.

A hush suddenly falls over the crowd and they await the announcement that might very well condemn their prince. The doctor, his clear voice louder than Rey has ever heard, reveals whether the good people of the Empire will be toasting to the health of a prince or princess with a clinical detachment that she can’t help but admire.

The crowd’s excitement visibly dissipates and triumphant shouts of joy turn into a smattering of polite applause that quickly fades into nothingness.

After all, a daughter is merely a child. Nothing less and certainly nothing more.

--

The mercurial well-wishers disperse in no time flat and soon only her husband remains. He remains at his perch by her bedside, his eyes fixed on the child in her arms. The screams that filled the room are now hushed and little eyes are closed in the sleep of the innocent and untroubled.

“May I hold her?” His voice is almost timid and she can’t help but smile at the bashful nature of his request.

“Of course.” She drinks in impossibly small eyelashes, her husband’s full lips in perfect miniature for one more lingering moment before yielding their child to his gentle embrace. “She is just as much yours as she is mine.”

Kylo Ren has surely been around children even less than she has and yet he holds their daughter close to him like the most adept midwife. His large hand cradles the child’s head and she lazily stirs before returning to a blissful slumber. He looks back at Rey with gleeful astonishment on his face and she has never loved him more.

“She is perfect,” he says in a hushed voice. “Thank you.”

Her husband bends down and his lips find hers in a tender kiss. She can taste his relief, the gratitude that cannot be explained any other way. There is happiness in him that she hasn’t felt in months and the joy lingers with her long after he reverts his attentions back to their daughter. 

There rests a softness in his face that she has never seen and it is the greatest pleasure in the world to merely observe. He sinks gingerly down to the edge of the bed, holding tight to the child who has already so vigorously claimed his affections and speaking as if every word were a blessing.

Their daughter is still so small but Rey will remember every line that passes through his lips. He talks of the great things she will see and do, boasting of adventures that are surely years away even for a little princess. He promises her a world that seems too good to be true and yet Rey can picture it as clear as day.

When the baby starts to fuss, Kylo Ren reluctantly allows her to find his wife’s arms once more. He watches in fascination as their daughter’s lips find her breast and she begins to feed.

There is pain at first but soon calmness radiates through her. Rey catches her husband’s eye and he smiles serenely, his strong features made softer by the amber glow of the fire.

He is so beautiful. He will always be beautiful for having given her this.

--

His Imperial Majesty makes his way to the chamber hours later and there is a look of such disdain on his shriveled face. She allows her husband to once more have possession of their daughter and hopes the tangible presence of the child will tether him to her, keeping him from doing something that they will both surely regret. Kylo Ren accepts their baby with nary a word, his enthusiasm quickly fading with each of the Emperor’s steps.

The Emperor barely glances at the feminine disappointment in her husband’s arms. His blatant disregard does not surprise her in the slightest.

“It is a girl,” the Emperor states plainly as if it were some great revelation. “Pity.”

Her husband’s shoulders tense and she speaks before he has a chance to retort.

“Yes, Your Imperial Majesty,” Rey says, her head bowed in a mockery of the shame he clearly expects her to feel. The laces on her nightgown are still unraveled from her daughter’s latching and she must look every bit the timid mother begging for her child’s salvation. “I am so sorry.”

 “It is alright, my darling,” His Imperial Majesty replies, waving his hand absent-mindedly as if she were a naughty child tracking mud into the palace halls. If she were more naïve, she would almost say he is happy.

The Emperor holds his hand to her lips, an expectant look on his face, and she kisses the great signet ring that nearly weighs his fingers down to the ground. He seems mollified and she can see her husband tighten his grip on their daughter. 

His Imperial Majesty gives his heir one last cursory glance, awaiting the obsequious bow that never comes. Kylo Ren merely nods his head, his gaze too proud, too defiant to ever be deemed contrite.

But the Emperor does not fight him on the matter, not now when he still has need of him. His Imperial Majesty merely returns his gaze back to her, a mask of concern on his weathered face.

He speaks once more, a smile on his lips that is far more terrifying than his fits of rage.

You won’t fail next time.”

--

Rey has no doubt that the Emperor will make good on his thinly veiled promise to destroy them both. If she is withdrawn, her husband does not address it outright, choosing instead to focus her attentions on the child they have made.

"The baby needs a name,” Kylo Ren tells her, stroking her hair with an absent-minded gentleness. He lies beside her on the bed and the world is calm.

They never would have had the luxury of naming a son. She doubts they would have even had the opportunity to hold a boy before he was cruelly taken away from them both. It had seemed foolish to plan for a child that might not even be theirs and yet Rey offers up a name anyway.

"Phasma," she says almost dreamily and the horror on her husband's face is reward enough for her. She grins, pressing her lips to his cheek. "She did ask quite nicely. It seems only fair."

"She's not a Phasma," he says, studying the child in her arms. “The baby’s been sober for an entire day. They would have nothing in common.”

Rey laughs and he smiles, clearly proud at his brief foray into amusement. But his words ring true regardless.

There is none of the Captain’s hardiness in their daughter’s face. She is too gentle, too sweet to be her friend's namesake and Rey wishes with all of her heart that she always will be.

“Did you have a better idea?” Rey turns to him and her husband responds almost immediately as though he has been waiting a lifetime to be asked.

“Padmé,” Kylo Ren says simply and a wistful expression flutters onto his face as the name leaves his mouth. He looks unsure but less so as she lets the offering fill her mouth, memorizing the way it rests on her lips and tongue.

Rey repeats the name once more and the baby lazily stirs in her arms much to her husband’s delight. Even if she were to disapprove, it seems that the matter has been decided for her. She says the name over and over and soon it comes as easy as breathing.

It is a name that they have both uttered a thousand times, a name that Rey had memorized as soon as she had learned it, but it has new meaning now.

The Padmé in their arms already bears her grandmother’s serenity. Only time will tell whether her star will always burn so brightly.

Chapter Text

Any celebrations that had been scheduled for the future prince are immediately and ruthlessly cancelled. The hordes of courtiers that had clamored so eagerly for a view of the royal birth cease their attempts at flattery and the overreaching gifts soon dwindle to nothing. There are no lines of visitors and no stacks of invitations requesting her presence at events that bear no purpose beyond self-indulgence. Her daughter’s birth has made her invisible once more and Rey has never been happier. 

She spends as much time as possible with Padmé, never allowing her to be too far out of arm’s reach and beseeching the nursemaids the Emperor has grudgingly provided for the opportunity to sleep with her child at her breast. They find her insistence on feeding the child herself incredibly gauche if their barely concealed whispers are any indication but her wishes are respected more often than not.

Padmé is a sweet child, a beautiful child, but she is a daughter not a son. It matters little to them if her influence proves to be misguided. But their disinterest is to her advantage. It means her daughter will always know her parents. She will never know what it is to be alone.

--

Kylo Ren does not have the luxury of a forced confinement but every part of him mirrors the same devotion to their daughter. He has long since abandoned his separate chambers and there are many nights where Rey returns from her toilette to find him asleep on the chaise with Padmé guarded tightly in his strong arms. 

In light of their inability to provide an adequate replacement, the Emperor has once again summoned her husband to his side. The war draws to a close and yet there are days where Rey does not see Kylo Ren’s face in the light. His tutelage threatens to consume him and he often returns to her with his face drawn and the color faded from his cheeks. 

He refuses to elaborate on where he has been and she knows better than to ask but still she checks every night for any new marks on his skin, for the lashes that are merely delayed until such a time that His Imperial Majesty can deliver.

But for now, he is untouchable and they make the most of these tranquil days. Kylo Ren has full-fledged conversations with their daughter, delighting when she responds to his voice in her tiny way. Rey sings the same lullabies she had been raised on when the sun begins to fade in the sky, a blush growing on her face when she catches her husband listening. Only a small number of the toys that had been gifted to their daughter are remotely appropriate for an infant but she still tries her best to goad Kylo Ren into using them for a makeshift puppet show for Padmé’s and her own amusement.

He unfortunately declines, claiming that such a display would give the baby nightmares and it is all Rey can do to roll her eyes at his forced restraint. She has no doubt that such a request will only be granted when Padmé is old enough to ask for it herself.

Their daughter already has her father wrapped around her finger and there has never been a more charming sight.

-- 

There are some who care for the child although their numbers are small. In light of the failures of her womb, Finn has resumed the primary burden of captaining her guard. Their talks resume as easily as if they had never stopped and he promises to one day teach the Lady Padmé chess now that he routinely defeats her mother.

He seems more at ease now that the Emperor’s guards have begun to flee their company and a wayward BB-8 no longer has to be kept from sight. He is almost as he was when Captain Dameron was among their number, the weight of their secrets not so terrifyingly heavy on his shoulders. He always spares a smile for her daughter and a kind word for her but she had really expected nothing less.

Phasma, on the other hand, had treated her pregnancy with a sort of detached curiosity, not really invested but politely intrigued given the nature of their bond. She had not been among the dozens present at Padmé’s birth, choosing instead to spend the afternoon in the quiet of her salon with a glass of cognac at the ready. 

It takes nearly a week for Rey to guilt her friend into meeting the child who has kept her from engaging in more amusing pursuits. Phasma looks like a man condemned to die when she takes in the sight of a bassinet by her bedside and yet her entire countenance changes when she hesitantly takes the baby into her arms at Rey’s request.

Disdain fades into delight and somehow Phasma’s interest is more terrifying than her healthy neglect. Within days, she has ensured that the toymakers of Coruscant will never go hungry and the cedar chest in the nursery begins to overflow with the fruits of her adulation. She begins to visit each day, scarcely talking to Rey as she coos over her newest favorite. The Captain has never seemed so mild and Rey would be amused if the spoils weren’t growing to be far too much.

--

The next Phasma visits her chambers, she doesn’t waste a moment’s breath before demanding to hold Padmé. If Rey rolls her eyes, it is only because her restraint only extends so far. The Captain’s most recent present has caused a headache that she shares with her husband and the indulgences are due to end.

“Did Padmé like my gift?” It is the first the Captain has spoken to Rey since her arrival, her voice mercifully returned to her normal contralto.

“She did,” Rey says with a sigh. “Although I’m not sure a pony is an appropriate gift for an infant.”

The latest member of the Imperial menagerie had been delivered to the nursery with a garland of purple wildflowers around his neck and a saddle that would not be touched for years. He had been spirited away to the stables nearly as soon as he arrived but the horror of the Captain’s bounty was enough to merit a stern talking-to. 

When determining the best means of stopping such generosity, Kylo Ren had insisted that Phasma would only listen to his wife, that her friendship would serve as a balm for any wounded pride. In retrospect, Rey realizes he was merely doing his best to avoid the uncomfortable. 

“Nonsense,” Phasma tells her. “Every child needs to learn how to ride, especially the world’s most beautiful baby.” Her voice is sickeningly sweet and Rey isn’t sure whether to be laugh or wretch at the depravity of her baby talk. She looks down at Padmé and takes her tiny grunt as a seal of approval.

“She can barely lift her head,” Rey insists but Phasma is too busy cooing at her newest favorite to pay her any mind. She sighs and appeals to the one bastion of vanity that has been unaffected by her daughter’s birth.

“Should we have her call you Granny?” Rey asks and Phasma’s coddling is momentarily halted. “You do really spoil her like one.”

“I’m not really the Granny type. I’m nowhere near old enough to be your mother and your husband is scarcely younger than me,” Phasma says, still smiling down at Padmé. “But Auntie Phasma will do quite nicely. Don’t you think?”

 By some sort of miracle, “Auntie Phasma” becomes slightly less generous. There are no more gifts of overly ambitious pets and she stops any and all attempts to commission replica of her own outfits in miniature for Padmé.

But even in her annoyance, Rey hadn’t been truly upset. There are so few who claim to care for the Emperor’s forgotten child. It is much easier to sleep knowing that there are those who will prevent her daughter from reliving her fate should the worse come to pass.

--

Nearly two months after Padmé’s birth, the Emperor’s physician notifies her with no traces of subtlety that she is more than ready to conceive another child. He scarcely asks about the baby that he had helped bring into the world, more fixated on the progression of her healing womb on behalf of the monarch who has sent him to her chambers.

Rey accepts the news with as much grace as possible, all the while wondering just how long His Imperial Majesty has been waiting for this day to arrive.

She is moved from the lying-in chambers within hours, directed to the rooms that Kylo Ren has barely frequented for weeks. When she asks for her child, her guards inform her that Lady Padmé will be kept in the nursery for the evening at the Emperor’s behest. After all, His Imperial Majesty would like to become reacquainted. Her time away from court has been much too long.

--

Kylo Ren has not been invited to share in His Imperial Majesty’s company nor had she expected him to be. The Emperor had always preferred it to be the two of them. It was always much easier to make her cower when she did not have her husband’s strength to hide behind.

Her stomach turns in knots but Rey allows herself to be dressed in a scarlet gown of the Emperor’s choosing, her waist cinched within an inch of her life and her pendant hidden beneath the fabric of the bodice. She presses a fleeting kiss onto her husband’s lips before she leaves and steals one last glimpse before she is escorted to Emperor Snoke’s chambers.

Her husband knows the caprices of his master even better than she and she sees fear barely concealed in the strength of his gaze. It is a fear that mirrors her own but there is no discussing it now. They both know why she has been summoned. They had been expecting it for some time. 

The past weeks in her grandmother’s chambers had been like living in a fairy world and in her dreamlike haze, Rey had almost forgotten the cruelty of the Emperor’s words and the barely concealed threats. But the lights have dimmed and the world becomes what it was before. She sits at his table and he attempts to consume.

--

“Do be careful, my darling,” Emperor Snoke says, watching her as she digs into the latest culinary offering. The plate is full to the brim and she will not deny herself the lush delicacies that have scarcely passed her lips in months. “Motherhood is no reason to let go of such a charming figure.”

She is thicker than she was on her wedding day, there is no denying that, but she’s grown to be quite fond of her newly-discovered hips, the softer features that make her feel more woman than girl. Regardless, her fork falls with a clatter to her plate and His Imperial Majesty seems content.

“Good girl,” he tells her smugly. He brings his own dinner to his lips, chewing on the gristle from his meat. “I’m pleased to find that you are still as ravishing as ever. I haven’t had the pleasure of your company since little Apailana was born.”

“Her name is Padmé,” Rey corrects but her words fall on deaf ears.

“An easy mistake but names aren’t important. I’m more concerned about the health of her lovely mother.” The Emperor wields his fork like a dagger and he stabs blindly in her direction. “You’ll need your strength to give her a brother.” He winks and Rey couldn’t eat more even if she had wanted to. 

“These things take time, Your Imperial Majesty,” Rey offers as some sort of makeshift compromise. In truth, the weeks without his harassment have done her a world of good, but she doubts he would be happy to hear it.

“My men tell me your husband finds his way to your chambers each night,” he says matter-of-factly, the crumbs of some crusty piece of bread escaping his mouth onto the tablecloth. “I can only assume such devoted bedfellows would have already begun to try for another.”

Rey merely reaches for her wine, drinking deep in lieu of acknowledging the Emperor’s hopeful accusation. He takes her lack of response as a subtle confirmation and a lecherous grin unfurls on his face.

In truth, she and her husband have not made love since her confinement had begun. Fatigue coupled with the sheer enormity of her belly had kept her from ravishing her husband in the days before Padmé’s birth and no amount of desire would have allowed her to do so in the weeks that followed. 

Rey had been warned about the suffering that would find her in childbirth. Apparently nobody had seen fit to warn her about the pain that would follow. Her body had ached and she bled more than she ever thought possible but never once had she thought of banishing Kylo Ren from her chambers. She slept better with his body wrapped around hers, his breath hot on her neck, and he had seemed just as content to share her bed even when she couldn’t sate all of his desires.

But she doubts the Emperor would understand the appeal of a bed where her body was not up for the taking. It is easier to be the wanton rather than defend the intimacies of their bed.

His Imperial Majesty has one of his servants fill up her glass with his preferred claret and calls for a toast in her honor. He raises a shriveled arm and his eyes nearly run her through.

“By this time next year, we’ll be toasting to the health of your son,” the Emperor boasts, the wine sloshing from his glass. “Won’t we, Princess?”

“If the gods are good, Your Imperial Majesty,” she replies with a bland voice that hides her trepidation.

They will be,” he responds, a cruel smile on his face. “I would hate to see what befalls our family should they fail.”

 Another servant brings out dessert, an apple tart doused in cream. The Emperor’s concern for her figure apparently does not extend to sweets and he holds the first bite perilously on his fork just in front of her mouth. His pale brow is raised and after a moment, she leans forward, allowing the bitter sweetness to pass between her lips.

He lets out a contented groan and she digs her nails into the meat of her hand to keep from tearing out his eyes. When he finally allows her to return to her husband, the taste of the fruit still lingers on her tongue.

-- 

Rey finds Kylo Ren pacing in their sitting room, trapped by the horde of guards that stand at the ready by their door. He is restless, the physical manifestation of her own whirling mind, but he does not argue when she leads him silently to the bed. She will not risk the Emperor’s men hearing any word that falls from her lips. She will not allow them an even greater opportunity to pry. 

Her husband does his best to help her out of her gown, his touch soothing even if his words are not. The laces of her corset are undone and it is the first Rey has breathed all night. She soon stands only in her shift and he lets his hands run slowly over the flesh of her freckled arms.

“You were gone for hours. I was worried he had hurt you.” There is hesitation in his voice, as though he is anxious to hear the answer that he fears is coming next.

“The Emperor has no interest in harming me,” she answers matter-of-factly, grateful that her husband cannot see the lie on her face from where he stands behind her. “I’m told we’re to have another child within the year. He just needed to make sure the Imperial broodmare was ripe for breeding.”

Her voice quavers and his fingers, which had worked so cleverly to undress her, cease their movements. He hugs her closer, her back flush against him.

“Padmé is more than enough for me,” he murmurs. “His Imperial Majesty will just have to settle for disappointment.”

She tilts her head upward and he blesses her with his lips against her crown.

That night, Kylo Ren holds her in their unfamiliar bed with their daughter still kept hostage. Their touches scarcely go beyond a few reassuring kisses and it feels like a rebellion.

--

Hux’s forces arrive the next afternoon with all of the pomp and circumstance that the conquering hero’s return musters. His smugness precedes him and it is a wonder that his head hasn’t swelled in their wonderful time apart.

His Imperial Majesty invites his brave defender to dine with the Imperial family and she spends nearly the entire dinner with her lips sealed and her hands folded in her lap.

The General describes the Republic slaughter with the same distant enthusiasm one might use when recounting a night at the theatre. Pride burrows itself in every word and he nearly hisses with delight when the Emperor makes a passing mention of his loyalty.

“It is truly an honor to serve, Your Imperial Majesty,” Hux says, his snide voice just the same as Rey remembered. “My devotion to you will never waver unlike some among our number.” He trails off and his cold eyes lock onto where her husband sits.

“Your loyalty does you credit but His Imperial Highness has learned the folly of his ways, General.” The Emperor responds like a father grown weary of his children’s squabbling. “Isn’t that right, Kylo?”

“Everything I do is for the safety of the Imperial family,” Kylo Ren replies. “Your teachings have not been in vain, Your Imperial Majesty.” The Emperor makes a show of taking him at his word. Hux snickers, his pale face reddened by his wine, and Rey can see her husband’s shoulders tense. 

“Do you doubt me, Hux?” Her husband asks, his voice a rumble in his powerful chest.

“There is no need to doubt,” the General replies lightly. “The evidence of your weakness is sitting right beside you.”

He turns his head to her, a mocking smile on his pallid lips. “Your husband’s cowardice could have killed us all,” Hux says, his voice measured and slow like she was a child. “I do hope you’re proud.” 

Rey sees red but it is her husband who conveys the true force of her fury. Kylo Ren stands from his place and reaches across the table, snatching Hux by his collar. The ginger man’s face goes from scarlet to ghastly white and yet the Emperor makes no efforts to stop the fray. If anything, he looks amused.

“If you so much as look at my wife ever again, I will end you.” Rey can see his grip tighten and her heart pounds in her chest. “It won’t take much to snap your neck and I’ve killed men for less.”

When Hux nods in acquiescence, her husband releases him. The General coughs and all parties involved soon return to their seats. Hux drains the rest of his glass and her husband’s hand finds hers under the table.

His Imperial Majesty decides to hold off on any further courses in light of the evening’s diversions. It is the kindest thing he has done in months. 

--

They visit the nursery where their daughter is being kept and her family is together once more. Padmé barely wakes, her little eyes fluttering shut once she has been fed and cuddled. What looks like a smile falls on her tiny face and she is as radiant as the sun. 

By all accounts, her husband was a truly vexing baby and Rey doubts she was any more agreeable. She has no idea how the gods have blessed them with such a peaceful child but she is never one to question their gifts.

It aches to leave her but Rey will not test the Emperor’s generosity when her husband has so thoroughly exhausted his patience. When the air has cleared, it will be the easiest thing in the world to steal her back to their rooms but now she sleeps, innocent and perfect.

--

The Emperor’s guards seek to relay their master’s words to her husband and Rey is left to her own devices. She bids Kylo Ren farewell at the door and sets about engineering the plot that has danced through her mind for hours, ever since her husband’s anger had found its way to General Hux.

When he returns to their bed, she is sprawled on top of the blankets wearing only his ruby pendant and a grin.

There is a moment’s shock before he joins her on the bed. Her husband looks just as keen as he was on their wedding night and she feels the same excited trepidation. She is changed yet she still wants him just as fiercely, perhaps even more now that she knows the depths of his affection.

He kisses her as if it were the first time, each press of his lips eager and unsure, until she tugs on his hair in a fit of need. She moans into his mouth and it is only then that he presses her against the bed. She wraps her legs around him and already she can feel the tantalizing bulge of his cock against her. Kisses rain down on her cheek and lips and her blood sings with how much she wants him. Her lips find his neck and he groans, weeks of gentlemanly restraint coming undone in an instant. 

Rey whimpers his name as easy as breathing and his lips travel down her body, lingering on her full breasts and the soft flesh of her stomach. Her head is thrown back and her hands dig into his shoulders.

“Look at me,” he commands, his rich voice flooding her ears as his mouth hovers above her sex. “I want to see you.”

She eagerly complies, her lips parted as she dares to stare back. He grins, almost smugly, before mercifully descending between her legs.

Kylo Ren does not stop his ministrations until her silent whimpers are replaced by needy demands and the grip of her thighs tight around his face. He allows his fingers to find their way inside of her, two of them curled to prepare her for his cock, but it is no time at all before she yearns for something more.

Her husband tugs down his trousers with no finesse whatsoever but it hardly matters now. She welcomes him eagerly, her breath hitching in her throat when his fingers are finally replaced by his cock. He moves as though she might break and she very well might with how good it feels to have him inside her once more.

He peppers kisses on her cheek and neck as he makes love to her, still moving at the same languid pace. Each thrust of his hips is a revelation and it is no time at all before she can feel her legs begin to tremble. But even when he feels her peak, he refuses to hasten his movements. It’s as though he is savoring every moment spent inside of her and she never wants him to leave. She will carve a hole inside herself for him to linger. She will forever yield to the man who makes her feel like this.

When he withdraws, his eyes are on hers as he wraps a hand around his cock. Her hand covers his and his release comes with a lingering groan. He spills on her stomach but the disappointment from her wedding night does not flood through her as she imagined it would. 

Her husband wants her just as she is, not for the promise of an heir that may never come for a line that was never truly theirs. He loves their daughter for no reason other than the simple fact that she is theirs. There is no need to question his love when it pervades his every action.

--

Though the world might not always feel welcome, she has a place in his arms. For now, it will have to be enough.

Chapter Text

The Emperor’s desires never truly leave her thoughts but for a brief shimmering instant, life is almost as it was before the siren song of the battlefield called forth the true extent of their woes.

Rey still spends every moment she can tending to their daughter. Much to her delight and chagrin, Padmé grows like a weed in the confines of the Imperial garden and she sometimes finds herself missing the infant who could do scarcely more than dream. She babbles, attempting conversation in her happy little chirps and smiles bur she never chatters so much as when she is in her father’s presence. Kylo Ren would never admit it, but Rey can see the delight at their daughter’s obvious favoritism in his eyes.

He had spent months speaking to Padmé before she was even born. It is only fitting that her secrets are spoken only to him. 

--

They make love, not quite as often as they did before Padmé was little more than a happy thought wedged in their minds, but there is a newly forged intimacy that draws Rey to her husband like a moth to the flame.

She had wanted to devour Kylo Ren from the first moment his lips founds hers, when he had so eagerly enticed her to become the wife the Emperor had wanted her to be. He had been a devoted puppet, parroting the words of a man who nearly destroyed their family, and she had thought of nothing else but the strength of his hands while lying in a grandiose bed that felt all too large and cold.

Rey has no doubt her husband had craved her in equal measure but even in the sanctuary of their bed, the thoughts of their mutual conversions lingered. Kylo Ren had delighted at any sign of her devotion and she could only dream of the day where he would cast off his Imperial shackles for good.

But with their daughter’s very existence at stake, there is no need to dwell on the lives they wanted the other to live. They are trapped in the now and as hard as it may be sometimes to live, that is exactly what they will do.

She does not deny herself the comfort of his body and when they are in one another’s presence, it is nearly painful not to be touched. She needs him constantly, needs the reassurance that he is hers in whatever way he can demonstrate his affections.

They share a bed only for themselves now. With no plans to provide Padmé with a younger brother or sister, every touch is selfish.

-- 

There has been a temporary reprieve in their dinner invitations. Servants carry the story of her husband’s squabble with General Hux all throughout the palace and nobody in Coruscant dares publicly display their support for His Imperial Highness in the wake of Hux’s obvious displeasure and the Emperor’s seeming indifference to the welfare of his heir.

Hux is a prat and a degenerate, but his freckled fingers are in any number of gossiping pies. If he were anything less than putrid, Rey might be tempted to send a bouquet in exchange for their long-awaited exile but that might require once more being in his presence.

The Emperor summons Kylo Ren only for matters of the utmost importance and even then, he is always returned to their chambers long before sleep threatens to overtake them both and never with the scars that she fears will appear. In another life, His Imperial Majesty’s virtual abandonment of his charge could be deemed a kindness.

But the reprieve is for one reason and one reason alone. Emperor Snoke has demanded the heir he was promised. If it takes providing an uneasy tranquility to lure them back into submission, then he is more than happy to oblige.

--

Their respite soon flickers into nothingness and it does not take long for the Emperor to become frustrated with their paltry efforts. 

Any number of her chambermaids have been bribed to report on just how often His Imperial Highness mounts his wife and Rey is examined by the Emperor’s doctor on a near weekly-basis for the signs of a child who will hopefully never come. The news is always the same and her shoulders sag with relief when there is nothing to be found.

They are being careful and as much as she misses the feel of Kylo Ren spilling inside of her, the satisfaction of non-compliance is too wonderful to relinquish.

Weeks nearly become months and the Emperor’s prying loses any trace of subtlety. She is once more the crown jewel of his dining companions and he asks the same questions each night despite already knowing the answer to his exasperated queries. She responds with a gracious smile, her voice heavy with a contriteness that she cannot bring herself to feel. 

He knows just as well as she that nobody could claim she has abandoned her wifely duties. Unless he decides to watch the marital consummation, there is nothing His Imperial Majesty could do but wait.

--

Rey wakes one morning to find that her bleeding has begun its normal course and it takes less than an hour for the news to spread and the Emperor to call them both before him.

They walk together, surrounded by the fleet of guards that keep their vigil outside their door, and only hushed reassurances leave their lips.

“He won’t hurt you,” Kylo Ren whispers. His hand finds hers and it nearly wills her to be brave. “If he wants a child, he needs you alive and well.”

“He can’t touch you either,” Rey says, squeezing his hand tight enough nearly to break it. She catches his eye and there is nothing but resignation in his gaze.

“Emperor Snoke can do what he will with me,” he insists in a grave voice. “If it keeps you and Padmé safe, it will have been worth it.”

The doors to the Emperor’s chambers are opened with a sickening creak and they make their way to the terrifying unknown.

--

The Emperor sits perched upon his gilded throne with General Hux at his side. His Imperial Majesty glowers but Hux looks as though he might faint from happiness to see her husband brought so low.

She curtseys and Kylo Ren bows but their attempts at civility are not appreciated. There is no preamble to the Emperor’s disappointment, only an angry drawl.

“I’ve been more than generous with you both,” His Imperial Majesty says with eyes narrowed into impossibly small slits. “If you think you’re being clever by withholding what I want, I can assure you that you’re not.”

“We are trying our best, Your Imperial Majesty,” Rey says, nodding her head as obsequiously as she can manage. “There is nothing more we can do.”

“It was easy enough for you to fall with child last time,” he insists, flicking his wrist carelessly in their direction. “Clearly there must be something wrong with one of you. The little brat in the nursery was born scarcely a year after the Republic sold you off and now you give me nothing.”

His voice is a shout and her husband stands at attention. His broad shoulders are held high and he draws himself to his full, towering height. 

“You will have your heir when the gods see fit to give you one,” Kylo Ren barks in a fearsome voice. The Emperor’s guards draw closer and she can scarcely breathe as their hands move to their sword hilts. “There is nothing you can do but wait for their judgment.” 

“I sometimes forget that you are a fool.” A tainted laugh peels from his throat and the General is quick to join in on the amusement. “Only a fool would believe the gods do anything but watch men fall. It is not their judgment that keeps you from doing as you’re bid but your ineptitude.”

Her husband says nothing but bile threatens to spew from her throat just as it seems to build up in his. Piety was one of the few virtues that had been instilled in them both during their formative years and though the Emperor is supposedly one of the gods himself, it still stings to hear him slander them with scarcely a moment’s thought.

Their grandfather had been a pious man even in his later years. It was one of the traits his son had been proud to bear and now their creed lies in ashes in his successor’s wake. 

“I am not a cruel man but it seems prudent to remind you why your gods have given you so much,” Emperor Snoke continues. Hux’s greedy eyes are hanging on every word and there’s a smug little grin on his wormy lips. “A little time apart will be more than enough to set you both right.”

The guards seize her husband and though he towers over them all, he makes no move to fight. Kylo has been expecting this ever since their daughter was born and it might even come as a relief to not pretend the world is good and kind anymore. A scream threatens to leave her throat but is replaced by a heavy lump as they share one last parting look. There is a weary resignation in his face and she must hardly look any better but she will feast before the famine.

“General Hux has proven himself to be a loyal servant of the Imperial family and has happily agreed to host His Imperial Highness during this trying time.” The Emperor beams proudly, nodding his head to the sycophant at his side.

Her heart sinks to the bottom of her stomach as his eyes dart to her. The Emperor allows his gaze to meander over every part of her before her own sentence is decided.

“And the Princess will be my guest. We had such a lovely time while you were gone, Kylo. I’m sure we’ll continue to be the best of friends.”

He grins, all teeth and fangs, and it cuts like a bite.

--

The Empress’ chambers are her cell once more and there isn’t even the illusion of freedom for this confinement.

There are no visits from Phasma and Finn is no longer allowed as one of the guards in the rooms themselves lest their familiarity give her too much comfort. She does not even have the solace of her child as Padmé is being kept permanently in the nursery until such a time that her family’s influence proves itself uncorrupting.

Rey asks the guards for any details of her daughter and her husband but they remain impassive and unchanged by her pleas. None of them will talk to her and after the second day, it becomes clear that nothing she say will convince them to disobey their orders.

She is required to dine with His Imperial Majesty each night just as she did while her husband was away and she’s never felt more like a plaything. A team of maids, new ones who have no reason to keep her secrets, dress her in the Emperor’s preferred garb. The bodices are always cut low and the stores of jewels that might very well have belonged to her grandmother drip from every pore.

She does not talk during their meals, merely forces a smile at every insult and eats as little as possible. Emperor Snoke seems delighted with her sudden burst of compliance and his chair draws closer to hers each night.

His Imperial Majesty had talked so eagerly of a Skywalker child but she fears for the day when he tries to make an heir himself. He is old and nearly enfeebled but she has no doubt that there are dozens of guards who would be more than willing to hold her down when she tried to claw his eyes out. 

It is all she can do to pray that day will never come. It is all she can do to dream of a freedom that they may never have.

--

It has been more than a week since her entrapment when a noise rouses her from sleep. There is no blade under her pillow this time to save her and the sound is too small to have aroused the suspicions of her guard. If it is an assailant, his path will go undisturbed and her only consolation is the knowledge that her husband might remain alive to keep their daughter safe and sound.

But when she emerges from the bed, a leaden candlestick in her hand, the noise comes not from the shadows but from underneath the intricate rug on her chamber floor. There is a creak before a door hidden beneath the surface is burst open, knocking the carpet to the side.

It is not a masked murderer that emerge, but someone whose company she thought had long since been stolen from her. Her fear melts seamlessly into joy and the candlestick falls with a heavy clack to the floor.

The nearly broken Captain Dameron who had been held in Hux’s makeshift garrison has vanished entirely. The man who stands before her is the dashing hero who whisked her away from Jakku, his brilliant orange uniform replaced by the white garb that trails her every move.

 He grins and she can’t help but smile back. It has been far too long.

--

“How did you even get in here?” She asks in a whisper, both happy and terrified all at once. There is still no noise in the hallway but who knows how long that will last. “There are guards posted everywhere.”

“There are tunnels all throughout the palace,” Captain Dameron tells her, unable to keep the thrill of the secret from his voice. “If trouble were ever to come to Coruscant, the Emperor must have wanted a way to hide out.”

“I’m very aware of the tunnels actually,” Rey retorts and a bitter note leaks into her voice. “My former chambers were connected to them.”

She still does not know the name of the man who tried to kill her and Padmé but his arrogant, murderous face still races through her mind. But it seems that the story of her attack has crossed through Imperial territories and Captain Dameron looks appropriately chastened.

“Your aunt heard about your attack, My Lady. The entire world did. As soon as she heard, our intelligence started working on the best means of getting into the palace,” Captain Dameron says, his eyes aflame with the excitement of his gallantry. “We’re here to rescue you.” 

“We?” Rey asks. He is the only other person in the Empress’ chambers, his hidden entranceway safely tucked underneath the plush carpet beneath their feat. 

“Captain Solo and his lieutenant volunteered as soon as they heard where I was headed.” Captain Dameron says. “Almost didn’t let me tag along but I made a promise to return you back to General Leia and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t get the chance to keep it.”

Captain Dameron bows his head and it feels like a formality. He is the answer to prayers that had been made only in secret and she refuses to waste another moment.

“I’d need to get Padmé,” she says hurriedly. Confusion flutters across his handsome face and Rey realizes then that her child’s birth had not merited any formal announcements. “My daughter. She’ll be in the nursery, it isn’t that far from here.”

“Of course, My Lady,” Captain Dameron replies, already moving to lift the rug guarding their escape. “There’s no time to waste.”

“We need my husband as well. It shouldn’t be that hard to find him if General Hux still has him but I don’t know how stable he’ll be.”

The eager look on Captain Dameron’s face fades into something more somber and time stops.

--

“Kylo Ren isn’t welcome in D’Qar,” Captain Dameron tells her matter-of-factly. His dark eyes look almost as cruel as the Emperor’s and her eagerness fades into something hard to swallow. “After the attack on the Hosnians, what’s left of the Republic has been calling for his head.”

“My husband is Captain Solo’s son,” Rey insists hotly and he looks taken aback. Her heart pounds in her ears and she is sure any moment will be the one where any semblance of decorum comes undone. “I doubt your grand plan doesn’t involve returning him back to the Republic where he belongs.”

“I’m not going to risk your life for him, My Lady,” Captain Dameron says, his volume rising almost to match hers. He opens the door to the tunnel and there is no part of her that delights in her former guard’s devotion. “We need to leave.”

“I’m not leaving without my husband. The Emperor wants him dead just as much as you,” she snaps and her skin has turned to stone. “He’ll be killed if I’m gone. I can’t do that to him.”

He launches into an impassioned defense of his plan, one that has clearly been rehearsed for occasions such as this, but a sudden turning of the door leaves them both silent.

Their squabble must have roused one of the guard’s suspicion for the great door creaks open and she fears only the worst. But a name fills the room, one too familiar to be called by any member of the Emperor’s guard.

--

“Poe?” The voice belongs to Finn, who stands in the entryway with his square jaw slack. He is not alarmed, merely aghast as if the evening’s events were merely a deception.

Captain Dameron turns his head and his entire face softens with a gentleness that she has never seen. “Finn?”

Finn slams the door shut behind him, racing over to where Captain Dameron stands above the hidden passage. With no hesitation, he promptly grabs Captain Dameron’s face in his hands and seeks his lips. For the briefest moment, Captain Dameron seems shocked but he nearly melts against Finn, the white of his borrowed Imperial uniform quickly tangled against the brown of Finn’s borrowed jacket.

Rey is intruding on their happiness and it is the least she can do to turn her head and allow them a moment’s privacy as they embrace. There are some intimacies that deserve to be kept between lovers and she remembers all too well the all-consuming desire that had flooded through her when Kylo Ren had abandoned his post.

Finn had made no mention of a more intimate connection with Captain Dameron and Rey had merely attributed his former melancholy to the longing of a dear friend, not the grieving of a deserted lover. His quiet mourning made more sense now as did the outstanding loyalty to a man they might never have cause to see again.

“You have my jacket,” Captain Dameron says when he finally breaks the kiss and Rey can hear the grin in his voice.

“For safekeeping until I saw you again,” Finn replies, just as ebulliently. His bright smile nearly blinds them all. “I can return it now if you’d like.”

“Keep it,” Captain Dameron says,voice heavy with a distracted sweetness. “It suits you.”

It pains her to interrupt such happiness but Finn might not have been the only one to hear Captain Dameron’s voice. There is a telltale rumbling in the hall and they only have moments left.

 --

“If you can’t take us all, you need to find my uncle,” Rey commands. “Let him know that Kylo Ren will not stand against the Republic should they come to Coruscant. We will yield gladly if it means peace between us.”

“Kylo Ren isn’t the Emperor,” Captain Dameron says. “How can he make sure the promise is kept?”

“I will make sure it is,” she responds, thinking of the ease with which she took a man’s life. If it comes down to it, it would not be so hard to do the same to the Emperor should he live to see her aunt’s men come to claim their due. “You have my word.”

Her promise seems to assuage him and he leaves her with one last bow. His lips find Finn’s once more and then he disappears into the dark of the tunnel to find the ears of the few who could end this once and for all.

Finn looks downtrodden and the looming footsteps draw even nearer. There is no telling the penalty for such a disturbance.

Run,” she hisses and Finn looks taken aback. “Captain Dameron will take you back to D’Qar with Captain Solo. You know the palace better than anyone else.”

“My place is here with you,” he insists but she shakes her head dismissively. The matter has been decided. There will be no fighting her on it.

“Your place is with him,” Rey says. “Besides, the Republic is in dire need of more good men. I’m sure my aunt will be happy to have you by her side.”

He hesitates but she refuses to yield. 

“Thank you, My Lady.”

There is a look of such gratitude on his face and she can feel her eyes begin to well with tears. Whatever else, she has made him happy. It is all she can do.

She wraps her arms around him, hugging him tight, and he freezes before responding in kind. He is not her guard now, only a friend, and her cheeks are already damp with how much she will miss his company.

 “It’s just Rey now,” she tells him and she can feel a muffled laugh against her shoulder. “But go, the Emperor’s men will be coming.”

He gives her one last glance before disappearing into the tunnel, closing the entry behind him. Rey replaces the carpet as quickly as she can manage it before the Emperor’s guards storm into her bedchambers.

--

They search the room with an intensity that frightens her, combing through every shelf and tearing through the few items still in her possession. She is not sure whether their idiocy or her luck that keeps them from lifting the rug from beneath their feet but she is grateful regardless.

“The Princess is still here, General,” one of the guards calls out and Hux takes his words as an invitation to inflict his presence on her.

“Good,” he says snidely, looking at her with barely concealed disdain. “I guess Solo didn’t bother looking for her.”

“What’s going on?” She asks with all of the harshness she can muster. He looks almost amused and her skin begins to crawl.

“My men found Han Solo scurrying about the castle on the hunt for Ren,” Hux says, barely concealing his glee. Any minute his head might very well swell to an inhuman size.

“It’ll only be a matter of time before we make him talk.”

 

Chapter Text

Her guards do not tell her about the plans for the Empire’s newest captive nor is she naïve enough to ask. It is all she can do to stay silent, absorbing every stolen whisper from the few occasions they dare to talk amongst themselves.

From what she can tell, Captain Solo has quickly become a thorn in Hux’s side, an annoyance but one who is guarded even more heavily than she and she listens to see if any more secrets pass through their lips. 

The guards seldom speak of her husband and they never speak of Padmé. Her husband’s transgressions have been considered commonplace since his desertion and the exploits of a baby are hardly any of their concern. But still she listens and still she waits, wondering if they even notice the missing member of their original number. 

With the image of Hux’s smug face still fresh in her mind, Rey writes a missive to His Imperial Majesty on her finest parchment. She forces herself to think of the Emperor’s lash on her husband’s back and lets the escaping tears stain her empty words. The guards are instructed to bring it directly to the Emperor and they accept it without truly looking at her. 

The Emperor likes a spectacle and appreciates nothing more than gratuitous praise. If it takes the weeping of a fallen woman to convince him that her atonement is completed, then so be it.

--

When her request for an audience is finally granted, she adopts the mask of obedience Kylo Ren had worked so tirelessly to craft. 

She curtsies lowly before the Emperor and it is nearly a minute before she rises. There is no trace of her husband in her attire, only the borrowed jewels and corseted waist that makes her feel like a concubine. But His Imperial Majesty prefers her like this and it is him that needs to believe the sincerity of her words.

“It is so wonderful to have you back in chambers that befit your radiance, Princess,” Emperor Snoke nearly croons. He looms over her on his gaudy throne like a giant threatening his prey. “I always lament the days where I do not get the pleasure of your company.”

“As always, I am grateful for your hospitality. My rooms are wonderful, Your Imperial Majesty,” Rey says, pointedly ignoring the lecherous undertones of his words. He seems to be in a pleasant mood and it seems more prudent to indulge rather than infuriate him. “Although I am sure I would appreciate them all the more were my husband to join me.” 

His smarmy grin fades into a disappointed look of nonchalance.

“Kylo Ren will be allowed my gracious hospitality when he has proven his loyalty to my Empire,” Emperor Snoke tells her. “If your gods are good, I am sure he will be returned to you within the week.” 

He stares down at her expectantly and she curtsies once more.

“Your Imperial Majesty is too kind,” she says, her voice almost as sickening as the General who holds her husband hostage. “I think only of how our son will one day bring glory to your name. I only hope to raise my daughter to become just as devoted a servant as I hope to be. 

She mourns the future of a child whose birth may never come, the life of a daughter who must surely have forgotten her by now, but the Emperor takes her at her word.

“I know it must be hard for such a devoted mother to be kept from her child,” he says, an almost gleeful cruelty in his voice. “If you’ve truly seen the error of your ways, I’ll be more than happy to let you return to her.”

“I have, Your Imperial Majesty,” Rey says without a moment’s hesitation. “I promise.”

It hardly matters to Emperor Snoke whether she is truly repentant; he merely enjoys watching the slow decay of her rebellion.

“Good girl,” he tells her, speaking like she were his prized spaniel. “All I ask is that you do one little favor for me, nothing too troublesome.”

“Of course,” she responds. There exists any number of terrible tasks that he might assign her and she is so desperate for Padmé that it matters little what her chosen assignment might be. There is nothing she would not do if it meant seeing her family once more.

Luckily for her, the task is not quite as perilous as she had anticipated.

“You will go see Captain Solo tomorrow, my darling,” the Emperor says, his words a command, not a request.

“I will do whatever you require of me, Your Imperial Majesty,” she says automatically. He claps his hands together like an amused toddler with a fearsome grin on his face.

There is an almost hopeful pause before she dares to speak again, eager to exploit his chipper mood. “And my daughter? Can I see her tonight?”

“Later,” His Imperial Majesty tells her with a note of finality in his voice. “If your visit proves to be a prudent one, you two can have all the time in the world.” 

--

The next morning, Rey dresses before the sun even rises and waits for her guards to take her to the prisoner. She has half a mind to wear the gleaming orange of the Republic but settles for ghostly white frock that makes her look nearly as pale as a sheet.

In the desolate hallways leading towards the palace cells, she is a candle flickering in the darkness with only the faintest hint of courage allowing her to make the trek. Her husband’s pendant is hidden underneath her bodice like a dormant ember and she hopes desperately that his own fire still roars. 

Within minutes, her guards stop at a cell kept separate from the rest. They nod and the man perched at the door allows it to be opened, all three waiting outside as she ventures in. They say nothing to her and it is easier that way.

She can almost pretend it is a joyous reunion.

--

“You’re much prettier than my usual visitors,” Uncle Han says but only the ghost of a jest is in his voice. The men, she isn’t sure whether they are the Emperor’s or Hux’s, have spent days trying to uncover the Republic’s plots, and it is starting to show. “Did you come to make me confess?” 

“I suppose that’s why I’ve been told to see you,” Rey says quietly. There are two guards posted at that door and she already feels their eyes through the lone, grubby window. “To guilt you into it.”

“I’ve got plenty of guilt already, guilt from Leia, guilt from Ben. What’s a little more?” He says this almost dismissively, but it stings nonetheless. He does his best to recapture his roguish smile and the urge to embrace him grows even stronger. 

“Are you alright?” She asks in a whisper, already knowing the likely answer. 

“I’m alive,” Uncle Han replies with a shrug of his shoulders. “Ben must be alive too. The ginger would have told me by now if he weren’t.” He looks at her expectantly and it is the most painful thing in the world not to confirm his suspicions. 

“I’ve had the luxury of being Emperor Snoke’s honored guest for nearly a fortnight,” Rey says, her voice carrying to the door where the guards will surely hear it. There is a curious look on her uncle’s face and then one of tacit understanding. She lowers her voice once more and he leans in to hear it. “I haven’t been allowed to see anybody, not even our daughter.”

“So the rumors are true then,” he says. “I have a granddaughter.” There is a smile on his face, a genuine one this time, and she can’t help but smile back. 

“Her name is Padmé,” Rey tells him, eager to talk about one of the few pure things still left in the world. 

“A fine name,” Uncle Han says and he looks nearly young again. “What’s she like?”

“She looks just like him,” she says proudly. Their daughter boasts locks just as dark as her father’s and a smile just as sweet. Despite their separation, not a detail is lost in her reminiscing and it pains her to think of how much Padmé would have grown in such a short time. “She loves to hear singing but her face lights up when she sees Ben. She loves him so much.”

It is a strange thing to call her husband by his given name. For months, she had clung to the idea of Ben and yet it feels almost as a betrayal to let its familiar sound pass her lips. 

“He’ll be a good father,” Uncle Han says almost wistfully. “At the very least, he’ll be better than I was.” 

She says nothing at that and there is nothing to be said. There must be some part of her husband that has forgiven his father for past transgressions but it is a part that has been kept hidden for the duration of their marriage. 

“The past doesn’t matter. What matters is that you came to save him,” Rey says almost hesitantly. “To save us. “

“I didn’t really get around too much saving,” he says, scoffing at his own attempted heroism. “At least I got to see my family one last time. That’s more than most get.”

“You’ll see us all plenty of times,” she insists but her optimism falls on deaf ears. There is a sad sort of expression on his face but it as though he is looking right through her.

“Whatever happens, I’m glad Ben has you to take care of him,” Uncle Han says, taking her hand and squeezing it gently. It is the first friendly touch in weeks and it pains her given the circumstances. “You really are my favorite niece.” 

“I’m your only niece,” Rey replies, the familiar joke still managing to bring an amused sort of half-smile to his face.

His gaze finally returns to the present and the faintest hint of his usual bravado can detected beneath the bruises.

“So you’re also my least favorite,” Uncle Han says but there is only regard in his voice. “But even I know you’re not supposed to say goodbye like that.”

As if they were summoned by some spirit of annoyance, the guards open the cell door and her uncle snatches his hand back as though any lingering touches would brand him with the taint of her Imperial custom. He might very well be doing it to spare her the pain of Hux’s overeager inquiries but it stings nonetheless. She does not know when she will next feel the embrace of someone who would even claim to care for her.

The men, they look like the General’s if their smugness is any indication, move to lead her out before their commander returns and she turns her head to catch one more glimpse before the door is barred from her forever. He lifts the same hand in a mournful salute, the final gesture of a condemned man. 

Uncle Han had always claimed no prison would hold him for long. She can only hope the drunken boasts during moonlit dinners at D’Qar are true.

--

When Rey is returned to the Empress’ chambers, the Captain is waiting for her with Padmé held tight against her scarlet uniform. The Emperor has kept his word and she is overwhelmed by a need to hold her child.

She forces herself to sit on the overstuffed couch across from her friend, fearful that her legs would give way from a combination of shock and relief. She holds her arms out, momentarily fearful that Phasma had been purposely selected as the makeshift stork in the event there was more bad news to bear. 

“I volunteered to be your chaperone,” Phasma says, passing over the child in her arms. “None of the nursemaids seemed eager to stop me.” 

Padmé is sturdier than she was and Rey wastes no time inspecting every part of her daughter for signs of harm, touching each delicate patch of skin with a timid gentleness. The Emperor had made no claims to keep her safe but it seems his lack of interest has served them well.

The baby fusses and her heart aches with inescapable guilt. She settles her on her lap, her soft crown of hair brushing against her chin. When she finally looks up, Phasma is watching her with a compassionate sort of concern, a hint of sadness in her proud face.

“I saw her each day you were gone,” the Captain tells her but there is no satisfaction in her words. “The Emperor has been terribly busy and I do love having someone to spoil. I’m sure I bought her too many new frocks for your tastes but…”

“Thank you,"  Rey interrupts and Phasma’s gruff edges soften. “I don’t know how we’ll ever be able to repay you.” 

“I’ll collect my repayment when you are in a better position to deliver,’ Phasma says but her words are gentle, almost cautionary. “I’m sure you’ll owe me a country estate by the time you have the next one.” She inclines her head to the child in Rey’s lap and the empty womb that lies beneath. 

“I’m sure we will.” Any lingering joy falls from Rey’s face but her voice keeps the same measured tone.

A hush falls over them both before Phasma does her best to engage her in small talk, the goings-on at court that have nothing to do with anything of consequence. It is nearly impossible for Rey to divert her attentions from her daughter and once it becomes apparent that her responses won’t go beyond the monosyllabic, her friend takes the hint. 

She leaves her with a kiss pressed against her cheek and crouches down to make her excuses to her favorite member of the Imperial family. 

Phasma tells Padmé to be good and mind her manners. Rey can only assume she intends to issue the same warnings to her.

--

It is the hardest thing in the world to ready herself for dinner that night. She had nearly cried when a beleaguered nursemaid had come to fetch Padmé back to the nursery and even the kohl that’s been applied around her eyes can scarcely hide the dark circles that linger underneath.

The chambermaids have trussed her in golden finery that makes her feel bought and paid for and every step towards the Emperor’s dining room feels like the grimmest death march. He will ask her all about her uncle’s captivity. He will want to know the answers for questions she never even thought to ask.

His guards open the door and though the Emperor is at his usual place at the head of the table, it seems another honored guest will be joining their party for the evening.

--

Her husband rises as she enters the room, his lumbering frame caved in somehow. She had not imagined the days spent in General Hux’s company would have been kind but it feels crueler to see the proof right in front of her.

His face is paler than she’s ever seen it and the way he winces as he settles back against his chair belies the lash marks she had feared would find him while the Emperor took his cursed retribution. 

The heat of his eyes bores into her as the Emperor presses his clammy lips to her cheek and there are no words to express the guilt she feels as she sits across the table with their jailor perilously close.

His Imperial Majesty calls her his treasure, his jewel, his little gem all throughout the night. She is his toy, they both are, and the reminder is enough to dispel what little appetite she had. It is all she can do to steal glances across the table, her eyes hopefully apologizing when her lips are sealed shut.

She barely speaks but her husband doesn’t say a word, doomed only to watch as the Emperor details just how thrilling it is to have Captain Solo in their midst, how wonderful it was to have his little champion by his side. 

“I’ve been told Solo will break before the night is over,” the Emperor drawls, finally turning to the shadow on his right. “It won’t take long for him to serve his feeble purpose, and when he does, the General has asked me to be allowed the privilege of disposing of the prisoner himself. I have half a mind to grant him his request.

“You will do what is right, Your Imperial Majesty,” Kylo Ren says with no flicker of emotion in his voice. “Your wisdom guides us all.”

There is a broken look in his eyes but the Emperor either does not notice or simply doesn’t care.

“General Hux is a loyal servant but it feels cruel to deprive you of an opportunity to demonstrate your devotion to the Empire,” the Emperor says. “You will have an honor the rest of the men only dream of once the prisoner talks. I’m sure even the charms of our fair Princess could hardly compare.”

The Emperor’s gnarled fingers pinch her cheek and Rey wonders how hard it would be to slit his translucent wrist.

-- 

When dinner is concluded, Kylo Ren is once more allowed the lacking pleasures of her company. The Emperor’s lingering anger is only outweighed by a desire to be granted an heir who would never dare question his desires. As far as His Imperial Majesty is concerned, any moment without a child in her womb is a wasted one and there are only so many moments left to squander.

They return to their chambers with only two cursory escorts to mind their steps. She can hear Hux’s men from where they sit triumphant at the card tables, the simpering laughs of courtesans echoing the chorus of ribald jokes. The unlucky duo who have been chosen to attend to them look as though they will flee their posts at any moment, eager to join in on the celebrations that might very well pass them by.

Perhaps Han Solo has already given into their questioning. Perhaps even now he has signed his own notice of execution.

--

Rey undresses as quickly as possible, eager to shed the second skin that has trapped her all night. There is nothing erotic in it and yet she is still hurt when Kylo Ren stops her from removing his shirt. He gently stops the practiced rhythms of her hand, looking down at her with shame mingled in his gaze.

“I’m not as I once was.” His voice, normally so clear and calm, is tentative. “I’m not sure you’ll like what you see.”

“I want to see you, Kylo,” she murmurs, looking up at him with pleading eyes. “Please.”

He no longer protests, merely gives in to her as he always does. When she finally manages to pull his garments over his head, she can’t help but gasp at the sight of his naked torso.

There are scars strewn on his chest and arms, a vivid pink against the pale skin of his remaining unmarred flesh. She finds several cuts on his stomach, not deep enough to maim but deep enough to hurt.

They are the work of a well-practiced hand and she has never loathed General Hux more.

Her husband watches her reaction to his changed body, his great body still as she absorbs every mark. She looks back up at him with her anger and her sorrow intermingled before letting her lips fall gently on the scar nearest his heart, kissing it with reverence.

 As the night goes on, she kisses every scar with the same apologetic worship. She cannot stop the pain he has endured for her sake, cannot even stop the pain that will soon come, but she will do her best to keep the hurt from stinging tonight.

They drift to sleep without making love but with their bodies entwined, the heir the Emperor so desperately craves still mercifully out of reach.

--

The moon still hangs heavy in the sky when he rouses from their bed. By the time she finally manages to fully wake, he is fully dressed in the black training garb he often wears when his duties go beyond the ceremonial. 

“Come back to bed.” Rey mumbles, a yawn escaping from her throat. “You need to rest.” 

She props herself against the pillows and the startled look on his face is evident even in the dim light. He clearly had not anticipated an interruption. 

“I will,” Kylo Ren tells her but there is an uneasy quality to his voice that makes the air grow cold. “I promise.”

He lets his lips find her forehead before speaking once more. 

“I’ll always love you, Rey,” he says, staring at her intently. “Whatever else happens, please remember that I love you.”

There is passion in his eyes and enough sorrow to break her heart a thousand times over. She holds her hands out like a child and he deigns himself to be pressed tightly against her chest.

“I love you too,” she murmurs. She holds him perhaps a little too tightly, but there is no saying when he will return to her. “But you shouldn’t say things like that if you don’t want me to worry.”

He allows himself to be held for only a moment more before leaving her with a final peck on her lips. He does not say where he is going and she has no intentions of asking.

There are secrets that she will not share with anyone, not even him. The time for answers will come when they can speak freely.

 --

She lies in their bed, counting every harrowing minute until his return. There are no rumblings of their guard, no sounds at all, and she wonders if the drunken celebrations that had filled the halls earlier are still ongoing. The pending death of the Empire’s most wanted fugitive is surely an occasion to indulge and she does not doubt her guards are taking advantage of every opportunity.

Kylo Ren only returns when nearly all of the stars have vanished from the sky, slinking into bed beside her with nary a word on his drawn face. She wraps her arms around his frame and his usual warmth has been replaced by a piercing cold.

They huddle together in the solace of their bed, neither of them daring to sleep. When the sun finally rises, they ready in silence, afraid to acknowledge the terror that is soon to unfold.

Chapter Text

They depart their chambers together only to find General Hux waiting. His snide face is a violent red yet his words are eerily calm as he blocks their path.

“Ren,” he says, scarcely looking at her. “I need to speak with you.”

Hux has long since abandoned the use of formalities as far as her husband is concerned and she misses the days when he merely feasted on Imperial recognition.

“Go ahead, then,” her husband replies, his grip on her arm growing tighter. Hux is not a short man and yet her husband looms above him. “Speak.”

“I meant alone,” Hux adds, his dour look only strengthening in severity. “Your wife is unnecessary.”

He lets his eyes flit to her yet even his passing glance is filled with such disdain. 

“I don’t care what you meant,” Kylo Ren reiterates, voice slow as if he were talking to a child. “I gave you permission to proceed. I’d have thought it would be easy for you to follow orders.”

She waits for the shouting match that never comes but both men remain steadfastly and deceptively calm. Her husband does not move and Hux no longer makes any efforts to force his hand. The general finally clears his throat after a moment, deigning to speak at last.

“My men found something interesting this morning,” Hux says matter-of-factly and Rey can hear the anticipation in his voice as he finally delivers his news. “The prisoner, stabbed to death in his cell. 

Rey bites the inside of her cheek to keep a gasp from being torn from her throat. There is a heavy pain in her chest that nearly topples her over but now is not the time to let her emotions flicker out. 

Her husband’s face remains unchanged, his lips set in a harsh line. He is woefully unaffected and it terrifies her.

“Your men really need to do a better job minding their charges. I could hear them carousing all night,” Kylo Ren replies in the same glib voice. “Does the Emperor know?”

“His Imperial Majesty was the first to know,” Hux says pompously, words deliberate and precise. “He asked that I bring you to him myself in light of the… disappointment.”

The general has not brought any guards to carry his orders out for him but there is no need. Her husband drops her arm just as easily as he had snatched it, storming behind Hux with a nod and without sparing her a parting look.

When Kylo Ren has finally disappeared down the corridor, Rey finally allows herself the pleasure of her grief, her eyes welling with tears and her breath coming in shaky pants. She collapses against the nearest wall, her knees sinking beneath her as she slides down to the ground.

Her sobs echo through the hall until she no longer feels anything but numbness. It is the hardest thing in the world to finally rise once more but the idea of anyone at court seeing her so vulnerable is enough to return her strength. 

Rey slowly makes her way to the nursery, eager to see the child who will never know her grandfather and does her best to bear the weight of mourning solely on her shoulders.

Her husband’s impassive face refuses to leave her thoughts and she realizes now where he had ventured while the palace was asleep. She understands now the secret he thought she could not bear.

--

Rey hides herself in Padmé’s nursery for as long as she is allowed and perhaps even longer. Any solace that she feels comes solely through her daughter’s babbles and even in her melancholy, she does her best to return each and every gummy smile. They play with the army of porcelain dolls so lovingly procured by Auntie Phasma and Rey can’t help but envy the blank looks in their eyes.

Try as she might, the world outside the nursery does not disappear. She waits each hour for notice from her husband but it seems the Emperor’s counsel has once again kept him from her side. Her fear never truly goes away and when she is finally shooed away, it is the strangest thing to find that His Imperial Majesty has rescinded that evening’s invitation for dinner.

It seems, the guards inform her, that Kylo Ren’s presence will be more than enough.

Rey readies for bed and though her stomach roars, she cannot bring herself to eat. She waits perched on a chair in their sitting room, her eyes fixed on a door that never seems to open.

--

It is nearly midnight when Kylo Ren finally returns to their chambers. He nearly stumbles into the room and she can already smell the wine on his breath. He does not look surprised, merely resigned with his inebriation dulling the pierce of his gaze.

“You should have slept,” he tells her without truly looking. He does his best to straighten his lumbering frame but the efforts prove unsuccessful.

“I couldn’t,” she says simply, watching as he collapses on the chaise opposite her.

Her husband stills suddenly and she wonders if he has fallen asleep. She stares even though it pains her, waiting for the steady rise and fall of his chest to confirm her suspicions, but instead he rises, sitting himself up against the plush fabric.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he says a little too gruffly when he finally notices her gaze.

“How exactly am I looking at you, husband?” Rey asks. Her voice sounds foreign in her ears, speaking the words of a prim, obedient wife.

“Like you pity me,” he drawls. He stretches his arms overhead before letting them collapse at his sides. “I don’t need your pity.”

“I don’t pity you,” she says quietly and he lets out a snort.

“You’re a terrible liar, Rey. I can see it on your face,” he says and there is a hint of satisfaction rumbling in his voice. “You can’t hide it from me. Just admit it.”

He barks his final command like he were on the battlefield once more and she cringes.

“Alright then, “ Rey says. Her voice is sharp and it cuts through his stupor like a snake through a dormouse. He straightens in his seat and he is nearly the menacing shadow who had whisked her away from D’Qar. “I pity what you did. I pity the fact that you felt you had no other choice and I pity you for whatever grief you might be feeling but I guess those worries are a tad misplaced. Apparently I’m the only one who has emotions but you should have been able to see that by looking on my face.”

Her heart is pounding in her chest and she can feel each and every trembling breath. The mask he wears has momentarily come undone and there is nothing but hurt in his eyes. She should apologize but she doesn’t and some wicked part of her is thrilled to see a reaction at last.

“I didn’t want you to try and change my mind,” her husband says when speech finally returns to him. “The Emperor wanted Han dead and there was nothing you could have done to prevent it from happening.”

"You should have told me,” Rey insists. The faintest hint of an accusation finds it way into her words and he wilts even further. "I could have..."

"You could have what?" She can hear the restraint in his voice, the clipped nature of each word as he wills himself into neutrality. "Would you have held the blade instead? Would you have watched the life fade from my father's eyes so I might be at peace?"

He so rarely calls Han Solo father and the title trembles on his lips. Her husband draws in a shaky breath before finally allowing his gaze to find hers once more.

"He told me to do it,” Kylo Ren says. Anguish has made its way to his speech and it only deepens the hurt in her chest. “I went down to the cells with my knife expecting him to plead for his life and he looked as though he might cry from relief when he realized why I had finally taken the pains to appear.”

Rey can feel a lump catching in her throat but she swallows it down as he speaks, afraid to miss a single word.

“He said he was grateful that I would spare my mother the pains of a public execution, ” he tells her, voice flush with self-loathing. “He called me Ben like I was still his son and he thanked me for killing him.”

She doesn’t move to sit beside him even though every part of her being compels her to do so. Her husband still sits far too stiffly and she fears what he might do should she attempt to embrace him. There is no part of her that wishes to be rejected a second time.

“You let your father die with some pride,” Rey says, her own voice quavering with the grief she is unable to hide. “You did a merciful thing.”

“It was cowardice not mercy that killed him,” Kylo Ren retorts and even now there is still fire in his words. His voice shakes and the room nearly follows. “I was too afraid of what the Emperor might do if I wavered in front of his men. I was afraid of what I would do if Hux got his way. My father was a liar and a thief but even he did not deserve that.”

There are tears streaming silently down his face and she nearly leaps from the chair entirely. She wraps her arms around him as his cheek s pressed to her breast, his sorrow crashing over him like a wave. She can feel his body heave against hers and though her heart crumples, her eyes remain mercifully dry.

He has been her strength for so long. It seems only fair for it to be her turn.

--

If there is any retribution for the loss of the Empire’s prized captive, then it is General Hux who bears the brunt of it. It was the eagerness of his men that left her uncle unguarded. It was Hux’s arrogance that allowed them to leave and the next time he is her presence, Rey can nearly taste his shame.

Much to her surprise, her husband is not banished to some dank cellar nor is she kept in chambers like a songbird in a cage. However, she does not doubt that the Emperor knows full well what transpired in the cells beneath the palace’s gilded halls. Emperor Snoke, for all of his faults, is a clever man and though her husband takes care to stand before him the following morning with a blank face and thoughtful words; there is a hollow, almost-broken quality in his submission.

Kylo Ren was taken from her so that he might be broken. As much as it pains her to admit it, there is barely anything left to break.

--

She scarcely sees her husband in the days that follow and when she finds herself in his presence, he only glides behind her like some great phantom. When they lie in bed, he curls up into himself as if any fleeting touch would burn his skin to the bone, and she does her best to pretend nothing is wrong. She does not know what else she could do.

Her husband finally agrees to visit the nursery with a silent nod but as Padmé reaches her chubby arms toward him, a happy chatter on her lips, he keeps woefully still.

Rey snatches their daughter from her cradle, confusion furrowing her brow as she props her on her hip.

“Why won’t you hold your daughter?” She presses her lips against Padmé’s inky curls and she can feel her impatient wiggles as she steps closer to his perch. “She wants her papa.”

He finally speaks and his voice sounds almost unfamiliar with how lost it is.

“I don’t deserve to be anyone’s father,” Kylo Ren says. His eyes look right though them both. “I don’t deserve to have anything.”

Her husband turns to leave when a tiny hand clutches onto the dark fabric of his jacket. He freezes and the only sounds are the first stirrings of Padmé’s tiny fit upon going unnoticed.

Kylo Ren’s shoulders sag and when he finally faces her, Rey wastes no time in placing their daughter in his arms. Her sobs die almost immediately, her frustration replaced by an easy, happy joy.

“You will always have us,” Rey says quietly and tenderness infiltrates the dreary look on his face. “Don’t leave us when we still need you.”

He spends the rest of the afternoon with Padmé cradled in his arms and their little family feels nearly whole.

--

She wakes that night with his body wrapped around hers. His breath is warm against her neck and his voice is still heavy with drowsiness.

“Rey,” he murmurs. Her name is an incantation on his lips and his cock is hard against the swell of her ass. “I need you.”

Her eyes are still bleary but she nuzzles even tighter against him. He lets out a groan and any residual drowsiness quickly fades into want.

“I mean it,” he whispers. His fingers darts down to her breast, just barely ghosting against the thin fabric of her nightgown. “I need to touch you.”

“Then touch me,” Rey breathes, pressing her chest into his hand. He squeezes her breast, kneading a hardened nipple between his finger and thumb. “I want you to.”

It has been so long since he has held like this and something within her bursts. She wraps a hand around the back of his head, urging his lips closer as his touch descends lower and lower. They kiss sloppily as he works, his cock thrusting between her parted thighs.

They are newlyweds once more, learning each other’s bodies, and each furtive touch between her legs sends a chill through her spine.

It takes only minutes before she is straddling his hips with her nightgown hitched around her thighs. Rey can feel him leaking as she grinds herself against him, contented moans escaping her throat as he mouths hungrily at her neck.

She sinks down onto his cock and they gasp in tandem. Her hips are still and it is all she can do to savor the feel of him filling her entirely. She grinds back and forth and he makes no attempt to hasten her, simply enjoying each languid movement.

“You are so perfect,” her husband tells her, voice glowing with adulation. He deftly kneads her breasts, his breath trembling with each rise and fall of her hips. “I can’t believe you’re mine. I can’t believe you want me.”

“I always want you,” she says, voice barely above a whisper. Her lips find the shell of his ear and she groans as he sucks greedily on her skin. “I will always need you, Kylo.”

He thrusts and she moans against his skin. Her easy rhythm is all but lost but it hardly matters now as he fucks steadily into her.

His cock is so deep that she can’t help but cry out. He does his best to swallow each and every sigh but they are soon lost in one another and the room is filled with every frantic whine.

Rey feels his cock throbbing within her, swelling to an almost impossible size. His breathing is shallower now and even then he is still fucking her in earnest, watching as she comes undone above him.

Her legs nearly go weak and her cunt tightens around him. His name, not quite Kylo but not quite Ben, is torn from her throat, and even in her haze; she drinks in his cries.

He makes no move to part from her and she could not bear it if he left. She has pined for his tenderness for so long and she will not deny them both what they so desperately crave. When he finally peaks, he is still inside her with his cock throbbing and she can scarcely breathe with how wonderful it feels to be truly joined once more.

The moans soon become drowsy silence, their lips just barely brushing together as she burrows against him in peaceful bliss. His body is so pliant now and it is the easiest thing for Rey to shelter herself in his touch.

--

In the morning, they will regret their carelessness.

But in the heat of the night, it is easy to forget.

Chapter Text

In the morning light, the solace of their lovemaking has all but disappeared. Her husband’s guilt continues to cover him like a shroud and even the slightest touch of her hand is received with apprehension. He attempts to apologize for the night before, acting as though his pleasure had somehow tainted her, but his regrets fall on deaf ears.

There is so little Rey can give him and if it takes the heat of her body to reassure him of the love she will always bear, then it is all she can do to yield. If he is a fool for spilling inside of her, then she is a fool for urging him on. There is nothing to be done now and she will not have her husband torturing himself for a sin that felt only like the most exquisite paradise.

Her lips find his brow and though he allows himself to return an almost timid peck against her cheek, it is painfully clear that her words have done little to soothe him.

--

Despite Hux’s grandiose promises of a Republic surrender, there have been no peace offerings made by any of her aunt’s emissaries and the people she had so hastily abandoned refuse to yield. In light of their defiance, any number of suspected dissenters have been captured and she can nearly hear their screams as they are dragged into the bowels of the palace. It matters little to the Emperor whether they are guilty or innocent of their crimes. It matters only that the blood still flows, that the people of Coruscant still know just exactly where true power resides.

The executions have become required viewing and there is not a soul at court who dares to let the violent spectacle pass them by. The rabble have taken to wearing the same brilliant yellow the Emperor prefers for such disgusting occasions, their golden finery impossibly luxurious against the sight of blood splattered on the block.

Rey has been saved a place of honor at His Imperial Majesty’s side, perilously close to the feeble gropes he is always so desperate to attempt. General Hux sits at his other hand, always eager to bask in the glow of the Imperial master who allows his sadistic tendencies to take flight. Hux is a man whose cruelty is best demonstrated when his prey is defenseless and though he speaks eagerly of how he would be honored to dispose of the prisoners himself, Rey doubts whether he would even have the capacity to swing the sword.

Together they watch as the prisoners are summoned, their faces battered and swollen by the guards who drag them to their doom. She pities the men whose screams fill the perfumed air and she is frightened by those who walk the perilous trek in silence, their eyes defiant even if their bodies seem to crumple. But regardless of the demeanor of the accused, the crowd is always eager to make their disdain known. Their taunts and jeers disgust her and she can only feel grateful that her husband had spared his father the horror of these final moments.

It is Kylo Ren who meets them on the chopping block when their journey is finally done, his sword always at the ready and his tongue kept woefully silent. With the eyes of the court upon him, His Imperial Highness is the perfect servant, an Imperial paragon clad all in black, and she could not look away from each slaughter even if she wanted to. Every new body is penance for the one he had deprived the good people of Coruscant, and each one bears Han Solo’s face.

The Emperor’s gaze is just as unyielding and though his touch might start to wander in the quiet moments before the bloodbath begins, it seems his eyes are always fixed on her husband. His thin lips curl in a satisfied smile whenever another head is cleaved from quivering shoulders and it is his laugh that roars above the crowd whenever one of the condemned sees fit to plead for his life.

Their prayers are never answered, only silenced by the angel of death who dares not publicly question a cruel and unfeeling god.

--

Rey cannot sleep with the ghosts of the condemned fresh in her thoughts and her husband has long since abandoned the endeavor entirely. It is easier not to try and they find comfort in one another the only way that seems to stop her mind from racing even if only for a little while.

It is not lovemaking that fills the quiet hours but fucking, brutal and unforgiving. Kylo takes her from behind, his hands knotted tight in her hair as they rut against the edge of the bed. Rey pins down his arms as she rides him, her nails digging into the skin as he moans her name. When he spends, he marks her with his seed, letting it fall upon her breasts and face as she kneels before him with mouth opened wide.

In another life, she would blush at their depravity. In this one, it is all she can do to urge him even deeper. Life hurts a little less when her body aches from claiming him and the bruises are better than nothing at all.

--

They barely talk and when they do, it is only of the lightest things lest their demons find another way in. In the lulls between death and dinner, they visit with Padmé and even then, it only feels right to hold her when her skin has been scrubbed raw in the bath. Their daughter is the only pure thing left in their possession and she will not let a single terrible thing permeate the nursery walls even if it is only the blood she imagines will always stains their hands.

They do not talk for there is simply no need. She does not have it in her to fight the shackles that only ever seem to grow tighter and Kylo Ren no longer has the fire that had once so eagerly burned in the defense of his Imperial patron. It is not as if a conversation about the leagues of men condemned to die will bring them any closer toward justice. It is not as if the recollections of her uncle could ever recall him to life.

--

She is weary; her exhaustion cutting painfully down to the bone, when she realizes her fatigue might go beyond the nearly two weeks of sleep deprivation.

Her appetite, which had all but disappeared during her second draconian confinement, has returned in full force despite the severity of their daily routine. The Emperor chides her for so eagerly cleaning her plate the first he notices; he prefers her when she is almost painfully thin, but soon begins studying her as eagerly as he watches his disciple. He only ever wanted her plump when she was with child and she takes the greatest care to eat sparingly from that evening on.

Despite her restraint, she feels bloated and her breasts are heavy with something other than what lacking nourishment she still has in her possession. She drips even before her husband touches her and were it not for the lack of nausea, everything would be as it was during a much happier, faraway time.

She prays for blood that in all likelihood will never come and nearly wretches at the thought of sharing her tidings with the man who will mourn the news just as readily as she.

--

Kylo Ren holds her each night after he consumes her, their bodies sticky with sweat as they struggle to return to humanity. He hides his fangs and laps at her bruises, both the old ones finally starting to fade and the new ones that stain her breasts and stomach.

She doesn’t speak as he works, the air painfully quiet even for the pair of them as visions of an uncertain future unfold. 

“Are you alright?” Kylo asks, his voice wary as though he fears what she might reveal. Her head is pressed against his scarred chest and his hand runs a steady trail over her back. “You seem… different.” 

It is perfectly clear what he is implying and the truth can no longer be hidden for a moment longer. 

--

“I’m pregnant.” 

The words leave her mouth before she has the opportunity to think them through and he stills.

When Rey lifts her head to look up at him, she is surprised by what she sees. She had not expected to see the look of joy that had painted his face upon learning of Padmé’s conception but he seems shockingly unflustered, the reality of the situation not yet set in. 

“Are you sure?” His voice is barely a question and concern flickers in his eyes. 

“It feels like the first time,” she says quietly. “It’s a lot easier to tell now that I know what to expect.” 

She feels him press his lips to her crown and her eyes threaten to well with tears. He doesn’t speak and neither does she; they simply bask in the promise of what is to come. 

“That explains why you smell like last time,” he tells her, his sigh heavy against her skin. “I thought I must have been imagining it but you taste like it too.

He has just spent the better part of an hour with his head tucked between her thighs, his tongue confirming the condition they both already seem to have suspected.

Her face grows hot and she sits upright, their lingering tranquility utterly disappeared.

“Are you angry?” It is hard to look at him without bursting into tears but he merely shakes his head.

“No,” he says simply, his body frozen against the sheets. “I’m lots of things right now but angry is not one of them.”

He looks thoroughly corrupted with his lips swollen and his hair wild but he speaks as gently as the dawn. In an instant, she begins to cry despite every intention of remaining strong and she hates herself for doing it.

It takes only seconds for him to wrap her in his arms once more, his grip a little too strong as he attempts to hide her from the life outside their bed.

“We will be alright,” Kylo tells her, the lie so sweet that she wants desperately to believe it. “I promise.”

“For how long?” Rey says skeptically. Her cheeks are stained with the apprehension that has clouded her mind and she does not know whether she could survive the world when their secret is finally revealed. “If the Emperor doesn’t figure it out, somebody else will.”

Hux’s men might be prone to fatal errors when it comes to serving their commander but the same frailties seem to have entirely escaped His Imperial Majesty’s preferred physician. She had always admired the man for his comforting neutrality but there is no part of her that pretends he sees her as anything more than a source of income. He has no reason to conceal any findings. It is not his future that rests on the bounty of her womb. 

“I don’t know,” her husband replies. His lips linger on her forehead and she can feel the tension pulsing through his body. She lets her fingers trail over the scars strewn about his chest, each pink stripe a bitter reminder of the pain he has already endured for her sake.

Kylo Ren waits until her cries have faded into shaky oblivion, peppering kisses on her brow, before speaking again.

“I just wish we could pretend.” His rich voice is so hesitant that a pang of guilt stabs her in the chest. “Just for tonight…” He trails off and there is a quiet longing behind his eyes. 

“Pretend what?” She sweeps aside the curtain of hair that threatens to disguise his face, unable to tear herself away from his gaze. 

“That this is the baby I wished I could give you,” he says and a sad sort of smile finds her lips. “That I can be as happy as I want to be to see you carrying my child once more.”

Their lips just barely touch, her kiss silencing the hopes she had barely dared to dream herself as they set about their ghost of a celebration. He cradles his hand over her stomach in the same tender way he had when their daughter was just a hopeful flicker and she nuzzles against his neck as they talk of the babe in her belly.

He expresses his desire for a baby just as sweet and curious as Padmé. She runs through a list of names, grand, boorish ones with each more far-fetched than the last, and smiles greedily when he laughs for the first time in weeks.

They make no mention of the child’s sex as if the verbalization of their wordless prayers would somehow spite the gods.

Regardless of sex, she loves the child already. At least for tonight, she will pretend it is solely a blessing and not a curse that has been bestowed upon them both.

--

Hux temporarily runs out of bodies to question and dispose of and Rey uses the reprieve to visit the only other solace still left to her. Her husband escorts her, the pile of corpses in his wake proof enough to the Emperor’s guards that his orders are not to be questioned.

Kylo Ren is a quiet man but there is nothing subtle about the way he moves beside her. It as if he is shielding her from the stares that only grow with every stomp of his lumbering frame but to scold him seems almost cruel.

He is her champion in the only way he knows how. He is trying and it speaks volumes.

--

She wears her corset as harshly as her thickening frame will allow, her breasts threatening to spill over the top of her bodice but it isn’t the tightness of her clothing that makes her gasp when she enters the Captain’s apartments.

It has been nearly a month since Finn fled to aid the Republic and in the chaos of it all, she has neglected the one promise Captain Dameron had beseeched her to keep. She had left BB-8 to the wolves of the Imperial court and yet her canine charge is sitting happily at Phasma’s side, noticeably plumper and almost smug. 

“Why is BB-8 here?” Rey asks, mystified at the dog that sits perched beside her friend on the opposite sofa. There is a purple ribbon tied around her neck and though her tail thumps against the plush fabric, her happy yips seem almost regal.

“She was in the stables harassing Jaime when I last went for a ride,” Phasma tells her, ruffling BB-8’s pointed ears. “I’m actually quite surprised he didn’t crush her to death but he’s always been a little too tenderhearted for an Imperial stallion.”

“So you let her join your menagerie?” She holds out her hand and BB-8 licks the proffered fingers.

“I have plenty of time to tend to her. A woman needs company even if that company offers very little in the way of conversation,” Phasma says. “I’m sure you’ve already noticed but the Emperor is not nearly as taken with me as he used to be. I dare say he’s already gearing up for my replacement but I have time enough before that day arrives.”

The Captain lifts her glass in Rey’s direction, but there is no menace in her gaze.

“I would offer my condolences but that would imply the Emperor’s company were something to miss,” Rey tells the other woman with a frankness that surprises even her. Phasma raises her eyebrows but says nothing in response. “If it’s any consolation, what I’m about to ask will guarantee you whatever palace you want if my husband takes the throne in His Imperial Majesty’s stead.”

“What is it then?” Phasma asks, setting her wine down and leaning just so slightly forward in her seat. “It must be something dreadful or you wouldn’t have bothered with me.”

Rey swallows the lump in her throat, a sigh escaping the confines of her chest before she speaks.

“There’s going to be a new child for you to spoil,” Rey says and Phasma’s eyes widen in surprise. “You’re the only other one who knows and we need to keep it that way.”

The Captain drains the rest of her wine, her cheeks pink as a pensive expression flutters onto her face.

“There are ways to solve your little problem if now is not the time,” Phasma says not unkindly and her eyes flicker to Rey’s stomach. “There is no shame in using them and I expect that I know more about these matters than you.”

“I know there are,” Rey replies, thinking of the herbs whose names she’s only read in forbidden texts, the shadowy figures who were only called upon in hours of desperate need. “But I don’t think Kylo could ever forgive me if I did.”

Her husband loves so readily, his entire heart thrown into every endeavor with little care to the consequences. It would kill him to lose the child they have made when so much has already been stripped from their possession. She will not destroy him further even if it could save them both. She doesn’t think she could.

“Then that is your choice,” Phasma says. “But if that is the case, I’m not sure how I could be of any help.” 

“You know anyone who is anyone at court,” Rey insists and Phasma’s chest puffs a little with the vanity that is her most tangible vice. “You could stop any rumors before they start. Even now, nobody would ever dare cross you for fear of the Emperor taking your side.

“That’s all well and good,” Phasma begins. “But I’d still have to deal with Doctor Krennic. He’s a striking man, it’s a pity he doesn’t seem to fear me at all. ” There is a lingering threat in her voice and Rey’s heart falls into the pit of her stomach.

“Are you going to kill him?”

Her question is hushed, her eyes darting around the room for any of the guards who might betray them both but the only sound is the roar of Phasma’s laughter.

“Don’t be silly,” Phasma says when her snickering finally stops. “I was going to bribe him. Although I’m honestly quite flattered you would think me so ghastly. It truly is the nicest thing I’ve ever been suspected of.”

“Do you think that will suffice?” Rey asks, still skeptical.

“Half the trinkets in this room are worth more than his yearly pay,” Phasma says. She takes the crystal glass from the mother-of-pearl table between them and tosses it idly between her hands. “Everybody has a price and I’m sure I can match whatever he demands.”

Within the short span of their visit, her friend has already seemed to returned to her former shining glory, the crystal blue of her attire only further highlighting the intrigue that glimmers in her eyes.

“We’ll never be able to thank you enough,” Rey says earnestly.

“I know,” Phasma replies lightly. She throws the glass across the room and BB-8 springs off of her perch to catch it. “But that’s not the reason I’m doing it.

--

Rey lingers until Kylo Ren fetches her for dinner with His Imperial Majesty, answering Phasma’s cheery wave with a reluctant nod. She waits until they are in their rooms to discuss her meeting, speaking in whispers in case the guards have decided to linger while she dresses for dinner, and it is as though a great weight has been temporarily lifted from his shoulders.

--

They are not as alone as they were. It is the greatest victory to finally have someone on their side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 Rumors soon flit about the palace, all the invention of Phasma.

It is said that His Imperial Highness is growing tired of his barren bride and that he longs for nothing more than a son born of a beautiful Imperial virgin. Anyone would half a brain would have no trouble ignoring the gossip but even then, it soon becomes a recognized truth. After all, if the prince still enjoyed his princess’ bed, she surely would have fallen with child by now. It is not uncommon for those of noble blood to set aside what many have proudly deemed to be tarnished goods and when the whispers find the ears of the ladies; Rey is both horrified and amazed at the speed with which they set about ensnaring Kylo Ren.

After each day’s bloodbath, hordes of young ladies block her husband’s passage back into the palace walls. With bosoms heaving and painted lips, they curtsey in a way that highlights their milky décolletages and nearly swoon when Kylo Ren accepts their glowing praise with a painful, forced amity.

If any of them truly knew anything about their princely prey, his resistance would be painfully obvious, and Rey has never been more grateful for their utter lack of empathy. They see only what they have been told to see and when they glare at their princess with eyes narrowed from across the green, it feels like an unqualified success.

The gossip only grows and Rey does her best to swallow the jealousy that her former attendants inspire. On the few occasions they dine with the court, women flock to their table as if summoned by some god of love. They speak in thinly veiled innuendo, nearly whimpering when they talk of their desire to service the Imperial family, and drop handkerchiefs smattered with perfume right beneath His Imperial Highness’ feet. Rey is completely ignored, only acknowledged on the rare occasions one of the would-be seductresses mentions just how calming a life of chastity could be for a matron of her stature, and she loathes them even if they are unwittingly aiding their cause. 

When she had been pregnant with Padmé, there was no escape from their stares. Given their current distaste, she could easily give birth during dessert and they would merely comment on how unbecoming it was to embarrass their noble prince in such a disgraceful manner.

When they are safely secured in their chambers, Kylo Ren does his best to remind her of his unwavering affections. Their violent lovemaking has been replaced by gentle caresses, his touch soft as he delights in her changing body. He says that she has never been more beautiful and with his hands cemented to her stomach and breasts, it is easy to believe him.

She does not tell her husband of her envy, choosing instead to focus her attentions on making him forget everything but the feel of their bodies pressed together. After all, it is much easier to witness attempted seductions when his uniforms conceal love bites only she will see.

-- 

Rey is still monitored for any signs of the child they are both so desperate to conceal but it is not Doctor Krennic’s keen eye that observes the now-obvious symptoms. When His Imperial Majesty demands a thorough inspection; it is the doctor’s apprentice, a timid looking man named Mitaka, whom acts in his stead.

He seems utterly embarrassed to be in such close proximity to the female body and it takes only the slightest mention of “women’s troubles” for him to abandon his duties with an almost-green look on his face. Rey remains untouched and though she should be concerned that a man of science is so easily fooled, she is more relieved than she had ever imagined when he regretfully tells her that she is not yet with child.

When Rey asks where the noble doctor has departed, her queries are answered with a shrug of Mitaka’s agitated shoulders and a series of rueful apologies spoken in an almost-shaky voice. Though his training has only just begun, Doctor Krennic thought it best for the young Mitaka to begin his service to the Imperial family as quickly as possible and he is terribly sorry he could not attend to the princess himself.

It seems, Mitaka tells her, that Doctor Krennic has recently inherited a great sum from a long-distant relation. He will be thoroughly occupied with the practicalities of the matter for the foreseeable future and would hate for Her Imperial Highness to go without the finest care that only one of his men could provide. 

She assures the young man that she is grateful for his strict attentions to his duties, his chest puffing with pride when she compliments his skillful hand. He is much more easily swayed than his predecessor but even then, she does not know how much longer his benevolent ignorance can last. 

-- 

The rumors linger and the bribes only grow grander, but her body threatens to betray the secret that lies within. Her waist thickens more rapidly than it had when she carried Padmé and not even the tightest corset can truly mask it. In a desperate attempt at distraction, Rey begins to wear the most scandalous of the gowns that have hidden in her armoire. With bodices that are cut far too low to be respectable, nearly her entire bosom is on daily display much to the Emperor’s obvious delight and her husband’s chagrin.

 Kylo Ren does not like it when others can see the curves that belong only to him but desperate times call for desperate measures. His Imperial Majesty’s snide comments about her eating habits are soon replaced with lecherous glances and it is all that she can do to swallow her revulsion as he brushes his lips against her hand. His compliments are effusive and there are near daily gifts of gems from the Imperial stores. While the Emperor’s attentions are temporarily focused elsewhere, General Hux calls her a whore under his breath, and she can’t find fault in his description.

She is buying time with her body. It is the only currency she has.

--

There are flutters, subtle at first but quickly recognizable, and her belly threatens to burst with each passing day. Every tiny change seems to happen far too quickly and they are both keenly aware that time is running out.

“How much longer do you think we have?”

Her husband’s face is resting against her stomach and when he speaks, she can’t help but let out a sigh. Her fingers dart to his hair and though her touch is gentle, her answer is not.

“A few weeks,” Rey says, unable to provide him with the hope they so desperately crave. “Perhaps more time if heavy cloaks become wildly popular within the fortnight.”

It is an attempt at levity and a feeble one at that. He burrows even tighter against her and her heart sinks in her chest. She cannot promise him the future he wants and it pains her to think of the terrifying prospects that lay ahead. 

There is only one future in which their little family remains intact and even as she describes it, Rey can’t help but feel a tad foolish.

“When your father snuck in through the tunnels, he wasn’t alone,” Rey says. Kylo Ren lifts his head and there is an incredulous look on his face. “Captain Dameron said the Republic’s army has spent months determining the best means of getting into the palace. If there is a siege, I have already promised our surrender… If the Republic comes, we could go home.”

Rey had expected her words to be met with a wary optimism. Instead, she sees only the bitter look of a scorned lover. 

“Well if Captain Dameron said it, it must be true.” There is a lingering distaste in his voice and her husband’s eyes flicker with jealousy. “Do you not think he would have said anything to steal you away? I’m sure he would have told you anything to take you from me.”

“He has no desire for me and I can safely assure you that he never will,” she snaps and Kylo doesn’t even have the decency to look the least bit cowed. “I know the whereabouts of my friends are the least of your concerns but I can assure you Finn’s sudden absence has less to do with treason and more to do with Captain Dameron.”

There is a pause and then sudden realization overtakes him. His tension eases and she can’t help but feel a little smug.

“Captain Dameron is loyal to my family, our family,” she says once he is noticeably subdued, her voice gentler this time. “If your mother trusts him, then so do I.”

“The only person I trust is you,” her husband tells her and despite herself, she softens. “The Republic could fly a thousand white banners in the courtyard and I’d still assume they were coming to collect my head.”

His lips finds hers, beseeching forgiveness the only way he knows how to ask. Within minutes, he has descended between her legs and his tongue nearly erases the memory of anything else. She comes with nary a word, her cunt still throbbing when he slides inside her. 

It is only when they fall into an uneasy sleep that she realizes he kisses her the way he did before he rode off to fight in the Emperor’s name.

He kisses her like it’ll be the last time.

-- 

There is nary a cloud in the sky on the day they are found out.

The disposal of Imperial traitors is about to proceed as expected, with the deafening roar of Coruscant’s nobility filling her ears like the most mournful chorus. The sun beats down on the assembly with a violent fury and beneath the silken gown she wears, there are sure to be puddles of sweat. Rey can’t be sure whether it is the heat or the gruesome display that makes her suddenly feel so weak, but either way her head spins.

When the gathered crowd stands to welcome His Imperial Majesty to his perch, she follows suit like the puppet she has so readily become. She can feel General Hux’s stare locked onto her as his master ambles towards them, can feel the eyes of the dozens who are surely wishing for her demise, and her heart begins to race. 

She can nearly smell the Emperor’s breath as his guards escort him to their platform but even then she can barely see his shriveled form.

The world grows hazy and then goes black.

The last thing she hears is her husband screaming her name. 

-- 

Rey wakes in an unfamiliar room with Kylo Ren sitting in a chair by her bedside. The room’s furniture is sparse and pristine, the fabrics glowing a brilliant white. She has been stripped down to her shift but before she can demand an explanation, Doctor Krennic enters the chambers. He closes the door in a swift motion and though her head aches, she notices just how sumptuous his clothing has become.

He looks at her with complete neutrality, sliding on his black gloves with a practiced detachment.

“You’re with child,” Doctor Krennic says matter-of-factly. “Although I suspect you both already knew that.”

She doesn’t answer and neither does Kylo Ren, both of them choosing instead to look guiltily at the floor. The doctor merely takes their silence as an invitation to continue. 

“His Imperial Majesty will want to know why exactly you fell ill, Your Imperial Highness,” the doctor tells her, punctuating his words with a curt nod. “I trust you understand that I will be giving him a full report.”

He does not say this unkindly and yet she feels like she might wretch. Her husband stands from his perch and wears the look of a desperate man.

“If the Captain failed to provide you with a sufficient allowance, you can be assured I will be more than happy to supplement it,” Kylo Ren says, voice full of a calm he surely cannot feel. “Whatever you want, it will be yours.”

“Your Imperial Highness is too kind,” Doctor Krennic begins. “But I have no intention of lying to the Emperor. I much prefer my life to lofty promises. “

“Then why did you even agree to keep away in the first place?” Rey snarls, propping herself against the lone pillow on her bed. “You never had any intention of keeping the baby a secret.”

“Young Mitaka has been your caretaker these past few weeks. I have not. Up until your little incident, I was never in a position to verify your condition,” he says with a shrug of his shoulders. “It was not my secret to keep. If anyone is to be executed for not recognizing the signs, then it will be him.”

He adjusts the drape of his jacket, one undoubtedly purchased with his ‘newfound inheritance,’ so that it hangs just so. “I said I would not lie to His Imperial Majesty. I never made any promises to him about the incompetency of my staff.”

The doctor moves to leave, pausing for a brief moment in the doorway. There is no cruelty in his eyes and yet that somehow makes his indifference even more painful.

“If it’s any consolation, Your Imperial Highness,” Doctor Krennic says. “The baby seems perfectly healthy. The gods have been very kind.”

He finally departs with another curt nod and it is only a matter of time before His Imperial Majesty hears the same tidings.

--

It takes less than a quarter of an hour for the Emperor’s guards to make their way to her sickbed. She has been redressed in her silks for nearly as long, idling away the final moments with her husband in a deliberate silence. There is nothing she can say to him that he does not already know. There is nothing she can say that would keep the world from breaking. 

There is a harried mention of a trial and her blood runs cold when the phalanx of goons takes hold of her husband. Another group moves to escort her and her legs threaten to give out once more as she is hauled to His Imperial Majesty’s chambers.

The door opens and her heart nearly stops when she realizes Kylo Ren is nowhere to be found.

--

She realizes too late that the proceedings are for her.

She realizes then that the Empire’s justice is due.

                                                                                                 

Chapter Text

 

“I take it that congratulations are in order.”

The Emperor’s voice is a sickening drawl. It thunders down from his elevated throne all throughout the chambers like he is Jupiter reborn and it would not surprise her in the slightest if he hurled lightning from his shriveled fingers.

It is all she can do to curtsey as lowly as possible, taking advantage of her momentary lack of restraints. There are guards cemented on either side of her, poised to grab her should she attempt a misguided rebellion. 

With her pregnancy revealed, she doubts they would strike her unless she crossed some unforgiving boundary or struck the Emperor down herself. It isn’t as comforting of an idea as it should be.

“A baby is a blessing,” His Imperial Majesty adds, an indecipherable look painting his face. He is not shouting but he might as well be, the false pleasantness making her cower. “Why would you deprive us all of such wonderful news? I thought we were the best of friends.”

She swallows the lump in her throat as best she can and stands with her head held high. Perhaps if she looks brave, courage might find her. At the very least, she will accept her fate with a dignity she might no longer possess.

“I wasn’t certain, Your Imperial Majesty,” Rey says. “I did not wish to disappoint you if I were wrong.”

She reeks of desperation and the stench of it is cloying. She is lying, her loosened stays only highlighting the proof of her deception. There is no mistaking the signs of her condition and there isn’t a soul in the Emperor’s chambers who would dare to believe her. She feels the hatred oozing from every man in the room but none so much as General Hux. 

“I had such high hopes for you, my darling….” The Emperor clicks his tongue like she was an impudent child and his voice is heavy with disappointment. “You are quite clever… even for a woman. I would have thought you too smart to try and betray me in such a disgusting way.” 

“I swear I never meant to betray you,” Rey insists. Her hands are trembling now and he voice is nearly a shout. “You must believe me, Father.” 

She has stooped so low to address him in such a manner but he is woefully unmoved. Even hours ago, he would bestowed upon her the keys to half the kingdom to hear such pretty words, but it seems those days are gone. 

“There is no need to lie now.” He holds up a hand and shakes his head dismissively. General Hux, perched eagerly at his right hand, looks triumphant. “A princess should be a paragon of virtue and I would not have you dishonor yourself even further.                                                                                                           

The guards step even closer to her and the Emperor drones on.

“Deceiving me is unforgivable. What you have done is tantamount to treason,” he says and time freezes. There is no doubting what the punishment for her transgressions would be. They have spent the past several weeks feasting on the blood of the accused. “In truth, I should have you killed.”

Rey’s knees threaten to give way once more but by some miracle, she manages to keep herself erect. The Emperor is not a man whose mind is easily changed. If he calls for her head, there is nothing to be done. It will be better to face her fate without cowering. It will be better to be brave.

“Your Imperial Majesty will do what is just,” Rey says with a bow of her head. She speaks the words without truly meaning them and Hux seems almost disappointed by her lack of groveling. 

Rey has given her freedom to this man. She does not have it left in her to kneel.

“I am not a cruel man, “ the Emperor boasts like some beacon of innocence. “The child you carry does not yet bear the stain of your wrongdoing. I would not have him be punished for the sins of his foolish mother.”

She can feel her shoulders sag with relief but any solace is short-lived. The guards seem to swarm even closer and the room threatens to cave in. 

“I will give you the opportunity to atone before the child is born,” His Imperial Majesty says. His eyes dart to her belly before lingering on her breasts. If it is his lust that has stayed her execution, than she has never been more grateful for the weaknesses of her sex. 

“You are too good,” Rey says, voice heavy with a gratitude that almost seems sincere. “Your Imperial Majesty is truly too merciful.”

“I know full well that I am too lenient with traitors, even ones as striking as you,” the Emperor tells her but there is a lingering smugness in his tone. “If your penance is sincere, I am sure nobody in the world will be happier than you to give me an heir when the time comes.”

It is then that she is spirited away to whatever prison he deigns to harbor her in

There is no mention made of Kylo Ren’s fate. In truth, she is too afraid to ask.

--

Part of her had expected to return to the Empress’ grandiose chambers. They feel almost familiar now and she has long since grown accustomed to the horrors of her gilded cage.

Instead, the guards seemingly drag her down to where her uncle had been kept, the cells that harbor the palace’s damned. There are screams as she is led throughout the halls but the lone voice she craves is nowhere to be heard.

Her rooms are not the same confined quarters that Han Solo had died in, but ones clearly designed for only the most noble of prisoners. There is a small bed, harsh and unforgiving, as well as a chair for the visitors who will never come. She has been given a desk but there is no sight of ink or a quill let alone any parchment. Were it not for the bars at the door, it would look like a tavern’s most lacking room but there is no comfort in it.

The guards depart without giving her a second glance, locking the cell door behind them and leaving her mercifully and horrifyingly alone.

The door muffles their steps but Rey counts twenty paces before her sadness threatens to overwhelm her.

It takes thirty before she finds herself unable to cry.

--

Rey lies on the bed, idling the lonely hours in silence. She does her best to remember the happy moments at her husband’s side, the warming memories that had kept her sane while he fought for the Emperor, but there is something poisonous in the borrowed happiness. With every picture of how he once was, she sees the lashes that still scar his back and the wounds that cover his chest. Try as she might, she sees only his pain and it breaks her heart to imagine the suffering he must surely be enduring for their family.

She thinks of Padmé, the last good thing left in Coruscant, and wonders if her daughter would even remember her should she fall. Part of her, the part that still dares carry hope even in such a desperate place, believes Phasma would tend to Padmé as her own. She’d keep her daughter safe when she couldn’t, perhaps she’d even keep her parents’ ghosts alive.

There is another part of her, crueler and destroyed, that cannot bear to think of the future that her daughter will endure. Perhaps she will be shipped away to Jakku like her mother was when the Republic threatened to crumble. Perhaps the Emperor will finally quench his desire for a Skywalker bride.

It is harder still to think of the babe in her belly, the son or daughter who has been loved so much in such a short time. Even now, Rey would die for the child just as she would for Padmé but she doesn’t dare dream of what should happen if she gave her husband a son.

The world is cruel to lost boys; her husband is living proof. But in the loneliness of her cell, there is little she can do but wait.

--

She is only interrupted when General Hux deigns to visit her cell. He looms over her through the metal bars, studying her like she was an animal he caught during the hunt.

Rey raises her fingers, gesturing in the same rude way Uncle Han had taught her long ago, and his scowl deepens. It is only when the silence grows too heavy that she dares to approach the door.

“Where is my husband?”

He waits impossibly long before replying, delighting in the way the anticipation makes her squirm.

“It doesn’t really matter where Ren is,” Hux says. His voice is full of feigned disinterest yet she has no doubt he is as jubilant as she is destroyed. “It’s not as though you’ll have any cause to see him. He has exhausted his utility. The Emperor doesn’t need him anymore.”

“I might bear Kylo Ren another daughter,” Rey taunts, her hand held tight to her burgeoning stomach. Hux’s hand finds the hilt of his blade with the same practiced ease. “If the conditions of my imprisonment are anything like the ones he was forced to endure, I could easily lose the child. Worse things have happened under your care.” 

“I am not a sadist, Your Imperial Highness,” Hux says lightly, shaking his head dismissively. He uses her title like it is the foulest curse, like the sound of it burns his tongue. “I am His Imperial Majesty’s most trusted advisor. Harming you would be below me. I see that now.

He has the audacity to grin and the smile that unfurls on his putrid face is far crueler than any of his threats.

“I was too hasty last time,” Hux tells her. There is delight resting plainly on his face and her blood runs cold even if she’s not entirely sure the source of his glee. “I was so eager to return the Empire to its former glory that I gave in to my baser desires. I was weak but the gods have given me another chance to prove myself…There are days that I’m almost grateful that your idiot of a guard was there to stop my man from killing you…Life is all the sweeter when I get to see you doom yourself.”

He smiles again and realization sets in. In an instant, she is transported back to that night in her chambers with her father’s blade in hand. She can almost smell the terrible stench of fear, the assailant’s blood clouding her nostrils, and her ears are filled with the sounds of his dying breaths.

The man had called her “Kylo Ren’s whore,” had boasted of what he would do to her when Finn was slaughtered. There is only one person alive who would dare slander her in such a manner and it is the pitiful man standing on the other side of her cell.

“You’re a monster,” Rey shouts. All decorum is lost and never will it return in Hux’s presence. He is the nightmare that tried to snatch Padmé from her womb. He is the terror that does not sleep while her husband lives.

Hux seems unaffected by her fury. If anything, he seems blandly satisfied as though he has waited every day to reveal the true extent of his depravity.

“I am a servant to the Empire,” Hux says earnestly. “You corrupted Ren beyond salvation. If you had died when you were supposed to, perhaps he could have been saved but I was not going to let your stain tarnish His Imperial Majesty.”

“He will know what you did,” Rey says hotly. “The Emperor will have you killed for trying to harm my child.” 

She threatens him without the means to uphold her words and there is no fear in his face. The Emperor’s good will is a fickle thing and she does not doubt that it is lost to her forever. 

“Go ahead,” Hux retorts, shrugging his shoulders. “I’m sure he’ll believe the slut who betrayed him over the man who saved the Empire. Your only duty was to give him an heir and you gave him a useless little brat. If you were smart, you would die birthing the next one rather than infect us all.”

Without thinking, she spits in his face. She has never been more grateful for the confinement of her cell and the disgusted look he wears is the most beautiful vision she has seen in days.

“I will not rest until you are dead,” she hisses. “I only hope I get the pleasure of killing you myself.”

“Harsh words from such a fine lady,” Hux scolds after clicking his tongue. He is not the same obsequious dog he had been on their first meeting. This shadow of his former self much prefers to hold the leash. “If only Ren could see you now.”

He turns to depart, returning to whatever circle of hell from which he had been summoned, but leaves her with a final parting blow.

“The Emperor will set aside Ren and your whelp soon enough,” Hux says, his eyes filled with nothing but the purest loathing. “He will have an heir that deserves the title, not a traitor given only the gift of noble blood.”

She does nothing but stare as he leaves, her vision clouded with a rage that threatens to consume her.

--

Hours later, a terrified-looking kitchen boy brings her a tray. She thanks him, doing her best to manage a gracious smile, but he only bows shakily before running as fast he can from the cell. It is a pity. She would have liked the comfort of a friend.

The rations themselves are hardly better than slop but Rey devours them anyway, licking her fingers clean of each and every crumb. It is easy to eat without the Emperor’s gaze tormenting her and her stomach growls with a hunger that has long been ignored. The baby demands to thrive even in such a terrible place and she will nurture her child as best she can given the circumstances.

When sleep finally threatens to overtake her, she curls up on the hardened bed with her heartbeat throbbing in her ears.

Prayers to the gods run silently through her thoughts. She prays for the safety of her husband and their children. She offers up a prayer for the care and keeping of her aunt, the last connection to a world so far away, and another for the soul of her uncle who did not deserve to die in a place as bleak as this. She prays for Finn, for Captain Dameron, and even for Phasma to thrive in the days to come but there is one wish that does not leave her mind until the moment her eyes close. 

--

Rey asks the gods to strike down the Emperor and his lapdog, General Hux. Her gods, the gods of her father, are good. Even in her anger, she recognizes that they might not honor such a bloodthirsty request.

In that case, she decides, they need only grant her the strength to kill them both herself.

 

Chapter Text

With the exception of the few unlucky servants who have been charged with her care, Rey’s only visitor is the increasingly smug General Hux.

He does not betray the secret of Kylo Ren’s whereabouts and she takes comfort in the knowledge that Hux would be unable to contain himself were her husband’s heart stopped in his chest. Deep in her own heart, she can still feel her husband’s presence in the palace and that will simply have to be enough until the day they are reunited.

For all of his grandiose talk of the future heir she carries, Rey doubts the General even knows her daughter’s name. Padmé is only ever the “brat” in his vague recollections and it infuriates her to no end to think of the blameless children who have been forced to suffer at the hands of pitiful men like Hux.

She learns quickly that nothing frustrates him more than her silence and it is the lone delight she has left to watch his face redden and his shoulders squirm as she meets his taunts with nothing more than a blank look on her face. 

Hux does his best to goad her and his efforts are almost admirable, the hallmark of an unqualified success. He talks eagerly of the last time Kylo Ren was kept under his care, the ease with which he cut through perfect skin and listened to his screams. He speaks of what he did to Uncle Han, the only ounce of regret found when he remembers just how cruelly he was deprived from his ‘just reward.’

He had expected her to succumb, to fall prey to the feminine frailties he so loathes in her, and she refuses to yield. She meets his anger with the same dignity she had long admired in her aunt, the same she imagined her grandmother to possess while her conquering husband rose to power. She meets his hatred with the nothingness he despises.

He leaves each day in a snit, always threatening to finally engage the only means of persuasion he knows. It is an empty threat- he is far too enamored with the idea of Emperor Snoke to harm the child that might one day bear the mantle of his cruelty- but his promises still sting.

If tears threaten to escape when the cell door is abandoned, then that quiet act of sorrow will belong only to her.

--

She has forgotten what it is like to dream. When sleep finally overtakes her, she is only greeted by nightmares. She sees Padmé trapped in the same desert prison that had kept her stranded, the exile that never felt like her home. She sees her husband’s head spilling onto the same block that has been his constant companion these past dreadful weeks.

In her dreams, the child she carries is never quite in sight but instead running impossibly far ahead. She holds her hand out, desperately trying to snatch her baby back from the looming shadow down the hall, but it is never enough. 

It is those visions that trouble her the most. It is those visions that make her blood run cold.

--

Days have become weeks when the kitchen boy who brings each night’s supper finally starts to warm up. He is not much of a talker but neither is she and it is simply enough to have a friendly face daring a smile when the rest of the world has gone cold.

His name is Snoke, just one of the many rootless Coruscant children who were named after the Empire’s great leader in hopes of incurring sympathy from passing nobles eager to flaunt their coin. She tells him to call her Rey, hoping the lack of a title will make her appear as she truly is, but he refuses and seems almost horrified at the suggestion.

It has been ages since she has felt anything remotely like a princess but she supposes the grandeur of palace’s finest cell gives her decorum that she unfortunately still lacks.

Snoke meets her smiles with a wary grin, bowing his head in his timid way whenever one of the guards allows him passage into the cell. The trays he brings are still heaped with slop but more than a few times; he manages to sneak her in an extra crust of bread.

He can’t be scarcely older than nine or ten and he has done more for her in days than his namesake has done during their entire acquaintance. It is a comfort to see that kindness still endures.

--

It has been three weeks since she has seen her husband’s face when the boy delivers her dinner with a shaky cough.

“Are you alright?” Rey asks. His round eyes are wide and the wary look on his face reminds her of the boy who was once Ben Solo.

“I have something for you, Your Imperial Highness,” the boy says quietly, slipping a crumpled bit of paper from his sleeve and letting it fall onto the side of her tray. There is obvious trepidation in his voice and his tiny hand wavers.

When she starts to ask the source of the note, Snoke scurries from the cell just as soon as he arrived.

She opens the paper when she is sure there are no guards looking in, peering around the room as if Hux were standing beside her. There is part of her that suspects a trap. There is an even greater part of her that is desperate for any sort of news.

Be patient. We are coming.

There is no signature but Rey immediately knows the source of the message. The letter bears the same flourishing script that she recognizes from birthday greetings and her father’s lengthy correspondence. The ink is smeared, the lasting afterthought of an author eager to put words to paper, and her heart floods with an unfamiliar sensation. 

It is hope that fills her chest when she rereads her aunt’s words, devouring the sparse words with a fierce hunger. It is hope that lets her dream for the first time in days. 

--

Rey had been told to be patient, to prepare for the conquering storm to take hold of Coruscant, but everyday it becomes harder to wait.

Her belly grows and though the child’s birth must still be months away, she feels enormous in a way that she never had when she carried Padmé. The few gowns that have been bestowed upon her during in her imprisonment do little to conceal her girth and she can see the uncomfortable looks that some of the guards wear now that they can ignore her condition no longer.

Unlike their masters, they do not seem enthused to drain what little life she has left in her. However, they do as they are bid and any brief looks of pity are quickly superseded by their adherence to duty.

They are paragons of Imperial virtue when Hux is present, standing idly by as he inflicts the limited torments he has been allowed to use while minding her care. She makes a vow to remember each and every one of their faces for the day that the Republic comes. Even then, she is still unsure as to whether she will reward them with her father’s mercy or her grandfather’s justice.

She already knows the fate that awaits the Empire’s beloved General Hux.

--

Rey dares to dream of home, forcing herself to think only of good until she falls uneasily to sleep. Her efforts rarely work, she hadn’t expected them to, but it is always nice to feel something other than dread.

She wakes one night from of these flickering dreams with her heart racing to the pulse of the gathering storm. There is a din that nearly clouds her own thoughts and it is the greatest cacophony she has ever heard. There are steps thundering over her head, too harried to be the march of Imperial guards and voices that go beyond the monotone compliance she has come to expect. With every passing moment, the sky threatens to collapse on top of her and the harsh bark of orders rains down even to where she is being kept. She can hear the shuffle of guards outside her door, steadfast in their devotion to her imprisonment, but she is hardly troubled by their presence now.

The hall, normally so still at this time of night, is filled to the brim with shouts. She can hear Hux’s men yelling at the rabble to quiet down but soon their voices are drowned out by the tide of excitement.

Rey prays to the gods who must surely have heard her. She prays for the salvation she thought they would never bring.

The Republic has come to Coruscant. For the first time in weeks, she truly believes they will be saved.

--

She can hear the sounds of men falling to their ends from just outside the door. It is unclear as to whether they are nameless, traitors just like her or the devoted guards who had been so eager to serve the Emperor, but the anguish soon stops nonetheless.

It feels like hours before the cell door finally bursts open but when it does; it is more than worth the wait.

Captain Dameron and Finn stand before her with swords drawn, the bright orange livery of the Republic stained crimson with the blood of Hux’s men. Even now, Captain Dameron manages a dashing smile while Finn wears the same exhilarated mask she can finally don herself. 

The Republic’s lone ambassadors are reunited once more but there will be ample time to celebrate later.

For now, they run.

--

She is not nearly as quick as she once was but the Emperor’s men are far too occupied to take notice of their humble party. The halls nearest the Imperial family’s chambers are oddly empty and in the chilling silence, an all-consuming thought takes hold. Rey freezes, suddenly guilty that the excitement of her freedom has rendered her so selfish.

“Do you have Padmé?”

She can hear the fear in her voice escaping into the air.

“She’s safe,” Captain Dameron assures her, scarcely out of breath. “I promise you that she will not see a single sword drawn.”

“Then where is she?” Rey demands. “I need to see her.”

“The General thought it best to get her out of the palace,” Finn says. “Lady Padmé is being delivered to her camp as we speak. I told your aunt to seek her out first.”

There is earnestness in his eyes that quiets some of her fears and she has never been more relieved to have the gift of his friendship.

“And my husband?” Rey asks, still afraid to know the answer despite the flurry of excitement. “What of Kylo Ren?" 

“We have our men on the hunt for him,” Captain Dameron says reluctantly. “General Leia has made it quite clear that we will not be entering into any sort of agreement with the Empire until her family is restored.”

His lack of enthusiasm is palpable but his words sound almost like poetry.

In her mind, she can almost see the lush gardens of Naberrie, the halls that shaped her childhood. It is a thought that no amount of skepticism can diminish.

There is a threat that looms closer with every moment they linger and her additional questions will have to remain unanswered as they flee once more.

The Republic is so close she can taste it. Her aunt’s men are not even leagues away.

--

When they emerge from the palace walls, she can see the flicker of Republic fires hidden amongst the trees, can hear the raucous shouts of men who have risked life and limb to save her. Her heart swells and suddenly stops entirely, the sight of a familiar face dashing the hope she has only just begun to savor.

Hux, his uniform thoroughly unruffled, stands close to the edge of the camp with two of his men in tow. There is no surprise in his face; he has waited for her escape since the day she was dragged to Andui and she half expects him to order her execution right there.

Instead, he issues a lone warning in a voice as deadly as any poison.

I have Ren. Surrender and he might be spared.

Chapter Text

Rey does as she is bid, following Hux back into the palace. She can hear Captain Dameron shouting in the distance, imploring her to return to the Republic camp but she derives more strength from Finn’s resigned silence.

He knows better than anyone the depths she would go to protect her family. He had the misfortune of seeing it firsthand.

--

The corridors leading to the Imperial family’s chambers appear to be almost untouched by the carnage of the Republic’s assault. There are no pools of blood, no festering bodies clad in Imperial white but it is easy to tell something is amiss. The halls reek of death, the same nauseating stench of blood and sweat that haunts her nightmares.

She can only hope it is the side effect of a larger threat, not the promise of what will find her in the Emperor’s chambers.

Two guards, their uniforms still pristine, open the great door guarding His Imperial Majesty and she follows Hux like a silent shadow inside. Though her seeming surrender should be his greatest triumph, he is more content to mutter to himself and it seems the promise of an Imperial glory is far more appealing than the final torture of a captive. 

They pass by a gilded mirror, the first she’s seen in weeks, and is taken aback by the street urchin who bears her face. Her gown, once a pale pink, is nearly a dingy brown and her hair is lank and lifeless. There is no part of her that resembles the Emperor’s “little gem” and it would be a relief to be so unencumbered if she weren’t so terrified.

--

His Imperial Majesty is not perched on his throne when the labyrinth finally reveals his monstrous grin. Instead, he sits at the head of his oaken table as though he has merely summoned her for dinner and conversation, not the destruction of all she holds dear. He waves a hand to the seat at his left, beckoning Rey to rest at his side and she complies wordlessly.

She bows her head without looking at him, her gaze locked onto the sword that rests on the table. The point faces the opposite end of the table and the sapphires that adorn the hilt flicker tantalizingly in the light. It is a treasure that had been hidden from the very tyrant who displays it now and she feels nothing but shame for allowing it to fall into his gnarled hands. 

The Emperor clears his throat, impatient at her lack of immediate supplication.

“It is so good of you to see me, little princess,” he says. There is no trace of fondness in his voice and his words are as bitter as steel. “I trust General Hux relayed my message.”

“He did,” she replies matter-of-factly, finally daring to meet his gaze. “I came to claim what I was promised. Where is my husband?”

“Patience…” His Imperial Majesty drawls, savoring each sound.

“I don’t have time for patience,” Rey retorts. “The Republic has you surrounded. General Leia’s men will not hesitate to strike you down if you refuse to release her son.” 

“Her son was dead long before the Republic came,” the Emperor tells her. “He died the day I saved him from mediocrity. I spent years making him into the man he should have been and it was all for naught…. I gave him the world and he wasted it.”

“I don’t care about the ramblings of an old man,” she says through gritted teeth. “The only reason you still breath is because Kylo Ren does. I asked once and I shall not ask again. Let me see him.”

Hux, who has stood devotedly at his master’s side, moves to draw his sword but His Imperial Majesty dismisses him with a wave of his gnarled hand.

“Still devoted to your husband when he has nothing left to give you,” the Emperor says, more amused than offended at her words. “Some might say your devotion does you credit… “

He inclines his head toward Hux who disappears into the adjoining chambers, the ornate door left open behind him.

“I, on the other hand, find it tedious. Nobody cares for a martyr, my dear.” He nearly rolls his eyes and her contempt is stronger than it has ever been. “But regardless, I will give you what you want if you can promise me the same.”

“And what is that?” She asks, already suspecting the answer. 

“You tell your shrew of an aunt to call off her men and send them back to the wasteland from whence they came,” Emperor Snoke tells her. “I will allow for negotiations if the fighting stops tonight.” 

“So peace is your only condition?” Rey asks. “I find that hard to believe.”

“It is the most urgent of several conditions which I’m sure you’ll find more than fair,” the Emperor says. “In exchange, I can give your son the life his fool of a father should have had.”

He stares at her belly and it feels like he is undressing her. Before she can say anything in response, her anger already hot on her tongue, Hux returns from his cave with his hostage in tow.

--

If she had thought her imprisonment had left her crumpled, then her husband is completely shattered. A scar, vivid and fresh, cuts across his strong face and though his garments are dark, it is impossible to miss the blood that has stained the fabric. He is walking toward their table with his hands bound behind his back, his great legs nearly shaking with the exertion of a few moments’ worth of steps.

Hux nearly shoves him to stand just beside the Emperor and her blood boils as a grunt of pain escapes his throat. The hollows of his cheeks are blinding and she will make the General suffer for every day he made her husband starve.

“Your husband, little princess,” the Emperor says, beaming in her direction. “Alive and well. See just how easy compromise can be reached when we are reasonable.” 

Kylo Ren threatens to topple and she jumps from her seat in an effort to catch him. Her gown is soon dotted with his blood and it takes every ounce of strength to keep him steady.

“You’ve nearly killed him.” There is no fear now, only anger that makes her own blood hot underneath her grubby skin. “He needs a doctor. There’s nothing reasonable about what you’ve done to him.”

“Rey,” Kylo rasps. He releases a labored breath and her heart threatens to break as he does his best to meet her eye. “Padmé?”

Each word is a struggle and she can see the fear in his face as he waits for the solace of her answer. 

“She’s safe.” Rey tells him, cupping his cheek in her hand. The bone nearly threatens to cut through the skin and her rage threatens to bubble over. “We’re both safe, my love.”

The Emperor clears his throat and the moment shatters.

“While this is incredibly touching,” His Imperial Majesty drawls. “You have yet to hold up your end of the bargain. The prisoner will only be yours when the Republic yields.”

Hux, abandoning his perch at the Emperor’s right hand, wrenches her from her husband’s tenuous grasp. Were her husband not so battered, such a grievous insult would not be imaginable, and it is obvious that the General is very much aware of the golden opportunity Kylo Ren’s copious injuries have allowed him. 

Her husband is left to bear his injuries alone and she is thrust back into her seat. It seems nothing good is allowed to linger.

“I’m not done discussing the terms of your surrender,” the Emperor says. “Stay a while, my dear. We were such good friends once. If you simply do as your bid, it will not be hard for us to become friends once more.” 

He reaches his hand out to pat her cheek, a foul echo of the embrace she had just shared with her husband. It is the hardest thing in the world not to spit in his face. 

“I am not your friend. You only ever wanted me to be your trophy,” Rey says. “I bet I made quite the pretty doll, wearing your jewels and breaking your bread, while my husband fought your senseless wars. You only ever wanted Luke Skywalker’s daughter; you never truly cared for me.” 

The Emperor laughs and she digs her nails into the meat of her palm.

“Half the world sees me as a god. There is no need for me to care for anyone, ” he says, voice too proud and too loathsome. “Least of all, wretches that don’t deserve the blood that runs through their veins. You don’t deserve it and your father didn’t either.” 

His Imperial Majesty seizes her father’s blade from the table, an almost gleeful look on his face.

“This was your grandfather’s sword,” he boasts, holding it aloft. For someone so frail, he looks remarkably unburdened by the strain. “Lost to the ages until very recently. It’s something I’ve coveted for quite a long time.”

 “There was a time where it would have been yours, my boy,” The Emperor says, his attention finally diverted to Kylo Ren. Her husband’s eyes are clouded with pain but there is hurt that goes beyond the physical. “You could have been a great man like him. You could have finished what he started with the sword that slaughtered thousands.”

His Imperial Majesty sets the sword onto the table and the hilt is not even inches away from her grasp.

“Of course,” he drawls with eyes narrowed. His gaze is fixed on his heir and it is filled with nothing but hatred. “Those days are long gone. You gave up the world for a girl who would destroy everything your grandfather worked for. You have become a weak man, just like your father. It’ll be a wonder if you even last the night.”

Rey tastes only bile but she swallows it down, meeting the Emperor’s threats with the falsest of tears. Her hands cover her deception and she tries to weep as prettily as possible, the sound of her sobbing too ostentatious to be real.

The Emperor had claimed not to care for her and she does not doubt his lack of compassion. But he always liked it when she pleaded for his mercy. He always liked to play the white knight.

His Imperial Majesty rests a shriveled hand on her shoulder and it nearly burns through the fabric of her gown. 

“No need for tears, little princess,” he croons. “You’re a clever girl. I’m sure you and I could come to some sort of an arrangement.”

His fingers dart to her neck and her skin begins to crawl. She lets her hands fall from her face, exposing the look of mock sincerity she has worked tirelessly to craft.

“I’m sure we could, Your Imperial Majesty,” Rey says. She sounds eerily like any one of the girls who had attempted to ensnare Kylo Ren and his cruel mouth grins in delight. “Of course, I’d prefer to discuss such matters in private.”

She smiles sweetly, purposely avoiding her husband’s eye, as she grabs the Emperor’s hand in her own. He looks positively enchanted. 

“I’m not sure that would be wise,” Hux interrupts, unmoved by her feeble attempts at charm. “Your Imperial Majesty would be better served by…”

“You will leave us, General,” the Emperor says, waving his free hand towards the adjoining hall. “I will let you know when your services are once again required.”

“And Ren?” Hux asks. “I am more than happy to relieve Your Imperial Majesty of the traitor’s presence.” 

“He will stay,” Emperor Snoke says matter-of-factly. He presses her hand to his lips and it is the hardest thing she has ever done to meet it with civility. “I would have him see the rewards bestowed upon those who are willing to kneel.”

General Hux spares her one last scathing look before taking his leave, his steps wary as though he is waiting for an additional Imperial invitation. For a brief moment, she catches her husband’s eye and though her face remains unchanged, she hopes he will understand just what she is about to do.

--

Hux’s steps fade and the Emperor’s sour breath hovers around her face like a noxious cloud. There is a look of bewilderment on his face, as though he cannot believe his luck, but soon it is replaced by something else entirely.

Rey snatches her hand away from his grasp, taking hold of the sword that he had been foolish enough to leave unguarded. With both hands on the hilt, she drives the blade into his stomach, her grip tight just as her husband had taught her in those faraway days when they first were wed. There is a sound of shock that emerges from the hollows of the Emperor’s throat but even the last struggle of his ancient arms does little to deter her.

It feels like hours but it only takes seconds. She does not count how many times her father’s sword cuts through Emperor Snoke but it soon proves to be enough. His blood flows onto the table like some unholy communion wine and even then, she does not stop until she hears Kylo Ren’s voice cutting through the air.

“He’s dead,” her husband says. His breathing is labored but his words are almost gentle. “It’s done. You can stop.”

“I can’t,” she tells him, still driving her blade into the body that once held the Emperor. Her movements have slowed but only just. “I can’t let him hurt us anymore. I can’t let him take you away.”

Kylo crouches down, kneeling as best he can beside her.

“There is nothing left to fear from the Emperor. He’ll be nothing but ash in the morning,” her husband says softly. “We can go find Padmé. We can take her home.”

The mention of a home she never thought to return to gives her pause. Her hand stops in mid-air and she finally turns to look at the man she loves.

“Home,” Rey repeats, savoring the feel of the word in her mouth. “We can go home.”

--

He nods and she does her best to stand upright, her sudden movements punctuated by a particularly strong flail of their baby’s limbs. Though her father’s sword is matted with blood, it takes no time at all for it to cut through the binds on Kylo’s wrists.

Rey offers a hand to him and he takes it readily, rising to his full, proud height once more. His gait seems steadier now but the pallor on his face is still too severe for her comfort, only further highlighted by the vibrant shade of his scar.

His eyes, still unchanged after everything he has endured, are locked onto her face and even now, it is almost enough to make her blush. He gazes at her like she is some forgotten goddess of vengeance, brought down from the heavens to smite the world’s evils.

He stares at her like she is holy and it is almost enough to make her forget the world.

Unfortunately, it seems the world has other plans.

--

The Emperor, though a frail man, had never been a quiet one. His booming voice had carried through the halls of the palace and any of his devoted, misguided servants could not mistake his silence for anything other than peril.

Hux strides into the Emperor’s chambers with his sword drawn, his steps wary until he notices the fallen leader he had so idolized. There is a pause and Rey is frozen, forced to watch his crestfallen face morph into nothing but the purest rage as he takes note of the bloodstained sword she holds at her side.

You little bitch,” he snarls, charging towards her with a fury that she has never been unfortunate enough to witness firsthand. “You ruined everything.”

Rey abandons the hold she has on Kylo Ren, gripping the hilt of the blade as best she can to deflect a fatal blow. The gods are merciful and she is spared, the clang of their swords filling the room, but they both know her meager defenses will not be enough to stop him

The Emperor was unarmed and too trusting by far. The General has dreamed of nothing but this day for months. There is no telling how long she has to subdue his efforts.

Hux is so consumed by the desire to destroy her, his eyes filled with nothing but hatred, that he does not sense her husband’s retreat behind him. He lunges at her belly, desperate to injure the heir who will no longer born for his Imperial master, and Kylo Ren wraps his hands tight around his neck

Hux’s pale complexion starts to change to a violent indigo. His sword falls to the floor with a clatter as he desperately tries to claw at her husband’s fingers. He looks terrified and her husband wears only a mask of righteous anger as his grip tightens even further.

--

Stop!”

Rey shouts without even realizing it and her husband complies wordlessly. He still retains his hold on the General’s neck but it is looser now, almost enough to return the smug look to his odious face. 

She holds her sword aloft, the point threatening to cut through the pristine black of his uniform. 

“Republic monarchs believe in mercy.” Rey tells him. Her father’s sword darts upward until it hovers perilously over Hux’s heart. “If I were truly my father’s daughter, I would stop your execution until you could answer for your crimes.”

He watches her with fear in his eyes and it is the easiest thing in the world to dash his hopes for a reprieve.

“Unfortunately for you, I am not just my father’s daughter. I am my husband’s wife,” she says, stretching each word in the most exquisite torture. “I will honor the Empire you love so much and follow his command.”

Rey meets Kylo’s eye and she smiles, her fangs bared like the most savage of creatures.

“I killed your man when he came for my daughter,” Rey tells Hux. There is some primal part of her that delights in the shock he wears but she will not forget the urgent matter at hand. “I will not deprive Kylo Ren of the opportunity to punish you as you so justly deserve.” 

Rey nods her approval and her husband resumes his terrible work. She watches every second, forcing herself to listen to the pitiful noises that escape in the General’s final moments. 

When it is done, Kylo lets Hux’s body fall unceremoniously to the floor, crumpled like an ill-used piece of parchment.

A wave of relief washes over them both. Her guilt never seems to arrive.

--

There are guards posted at the door, who even in their ineptitude, could not fail to notice the blood that shrouds them both. Their masters are dead but the question of their loyalty is still very much alive.

But they cannot stay in the Emperor’s chambers forever. She offers her father’s sword to Kylo Ren, holding it aloft in silent expectation.

“I don’t need it,” he insists but Rey holds firm.

“They will wonder why I have it,” she says matter-of-factly. “They will not question why you do.”

Her husband attempts another protest but finally takes it when she nearly throws it at him. He grips the sword easily, his strong fingers more suited to the heft of it than hers ever were.

He is a titan, a tribute to the conquerors of old. His wounds are fresh but he reminds her of the besotted boy who stands beside their daughter’s namesake in the painting she saw so long ago.

He is Anakin Skywalker in all his fiery glory. He is the man who forged an Empire.

--

Her husband offers his free arm and they slowly make their way to the door, fatigue setting in with every step. It feels almost inhuman to leave the Emperor and Hux decaying on the floor but there is something sweet in their abandonment.

They do not deserve her pity. They do not deserve their grief.

When the Emperor’s great door is opened, the guards are nothing but wary, their eyes traveling over the evidence of their destruction. It is her husband who breaks the uneasy silence. 

"The Emperor is dead. It was Hux that was responsible " he says solemnly. "I disposed of the General as soon as I found out. Traitors to my family will never go unpunished."

The guards bow their heads toward Kylo, their eyes heavy with a reverence that she hadn't seen in months. If they doubt his words, she sees no proof of it. He looms over them like a demigod, his blade still saturated with the blood of her slaughter.

"You will send a missive to the Republic camp. Let them know I will meet in the morning to discuss their terms,” he tells them. "We will be returning to our chambers. There is no need to follow us.”

"Of course, Your Imperial Majesty," one of the guards says, bowing lowly. 

She almost looks around for the man who once bore that title. It takes moments to realize it now belongs to her husband.

The other guards follow suit, bending their knees as Kylo Ren leads her to their rooms. She holds tight to his arm, basking in the silence that sings like a hymn.

--

The world has gone quiet by the time they reach their chambers. For the first time in weeks, they are well and truly alone.

Kylo undresses her, taking his time with every scrap of fabric on her body. He runs his weathered hands over her full breasts, the belly that has started to swell like a wave, but there is more gentleness than lust in every touch.

He is rediscovering her and she will not disrupt his explorations, choosing instead to watch them both in her mirror.

"Shall we go to bed?” Rey asks. Her eyes are heavy with fatigue and her words are punctuated by a yawn.

“If my Empress commands it,” Kylo replies, bending down to press a kiss on the column of her neck. She tilts her head, yielding even further.

Your Empress isn’t quite sure she’ll get used to being called that,” she says and he laughs softly against her skin. “But I do command it if my Emperor will be so kind to oblige.”

Rey undresses him in the same lazy way he had done to her, pressing her lips against all of his scars, the healed ones on his back and the fresh ones on his side. She saves the one cutting across his face for last, kissing a trail that ends at his lips.

They make their way to the bed they haven’t shared since he rode off to the Republic, the plush fabric of the blankets a welcome respite after the weeks spent in Hux’s care. Her husband wraps his great frame around her, the heat of his body serving as the most delicious furnace.

Her mind races despite her exhaustion, teeming with the promise of what the next day will bring. She thinks of Padmé, safe and unscathed under Finn’s watchful eye. She thinks of the child who will never know darkness and the home she only ever imagines bathed in light.

Kylo presses another sleepy kiss against her cheek, gripping her tight as she nuzzles even closer to him.

--

There is so much to dream of, so much to imagine, but there will be time enough for them to do that in the morning.

For now, the Emperor and his Empress will sleep.

Chapter Text

Rey wakes with a start before the sun even rises, half-convinced she is merely living some foolish dream.

By all accounts, she should still be in her cell. The bed, regardless of how sumptuous it is, still feels like an artifice. Any minute now, she will wake to the dulcet sounds of her fellow prisoner’s screams. Any minute now, the dream will end.

Her husband sleeps still with drool escaping the corner of his mouth. Though he would insist otherwise, he sleeps the same way Padmé does-sprawled against the blankets, limbs akimbo and hair wild. He seems younger when he sleeps, almost more boy than king.

She watches him, savoring the steady rise and fall of his chest. There had been a time where she had thought him almost alien, cruel and harsh, but she can’t remember ever seeing something so beautiful. He is beautiful and he is hers. For the first time since their engagement, there is nothing to steal him away from her.

The sun soon begins to flit through the curtains, illuminating the planes of his body. She stares long beyond the point of politeness until he finally wakes.

Kylo stirs drowsily, his hands finding her belly as he curls himself around her.

“We’ll just stay here today,” he murmurs. His breath is hot against her neck and a lazy morning in bed has never seemed so appealing.

“The Republic delegation will come any minute,” Rey tells him. “I can only assume we will be required when they do finally arrive.”

“Negotiations can be postponed,” Kylo says. He kisses a trail down to her shoulder and a sigh escapes her throat. Despite her longing, she does not allow him to continue. There is still too much to be done.

"Your mother will be here soon," she says reluctantly and his ministrations cease. "We need to get up."

"It took her more than a decade to get here," he mutters with bitterness lingering in his voice. “She can wait a while longer."

"She made sure Padmé was out of the palace before Hux’s men could hold her hostage,” Rey says. “She kept our child safe. You owe her your presence at least for that.”

He retreats within himself, rubbing his hand over her stomach. It is only when she promises to join him in the bath that he finally allows her out of their bed.

--

Rey dresses in black. They both do.

The court weeps for their fallen leader, their grief cheapened by the finery of their mourning garb. It will seem strange if Emperor Snoke’s heir did not join his people in their sorrow. Even in their arrogance, they will no doubt suspect what truly transpired while their soldiers fell on Republic blades.

She wears only the ruby pendant her husband had given her, deliberately ignoring the mountains of jewels once gifted by the Emperor. She has no use for them now, and though they gleam in the sunlight, she thinks of nothing but how ugly they look.  

Unlike his predecessor, Kylo Ren does not don a crown. Snoke had fallen with his crown weighing down his shriveled face and rings strewn about his fingers like constellations. He wore his power on his body like a cloak but her husband has no need for such things.

His strength lies in the lash marks on his back and the scar that cleaves his face in two. It comes from suffering, not from pride, and he is the strongest man she knows.

A good man, she thinks, even if he would never call himself the same.

--

They make their way to the council chambers she had never once been allowed to enter. As they walk down the halls, passersby leap over themselves to bow but she takes little joy in their subservience.

The girls who pretend to fawn over her gown, one that predates Padmé’s birth, were the same harpies who had spent all of their cunning trying to ensnare Kylo Ren. The men, all compliments and desperate apologies, were those who had toasted to the death of her homeland.

Her only comfort comes from their newfound contempt for Snoke’s greatest champion. Word has spread about just how their beloved Emperor was so cruelly taken away, and her husband’s lies have ensured that Hux will be remembered as nothing more than a traitor and a coward.

Hux’s legacy is forever tarnished and the Empire’s histories will blacken his name for generations to come. It is the tribute such a fine commander deserves.

--

Her husband paces around the great oaken table as they wait for the Republic to arrive. His unease is contagious and she is soon consumed by the same affliction.

“They’ll be here soon,” she says, doing her best to soothe him from her seat.

“I know they will,” Kylo snaps. She merely raises her eyebrows and he looks immediately ashamed. In lieu of an apology, he strides over to the window that overlooks the palace grounds, staring out into the vastness that is now theirs to subdue.

“My mother hasn’t seen me since I was a boy,” he says quietly. “She will not like the man she sees.”

“Of course she will,” Rey tells him, standing up with as much grace as she can muster. She makes her way to stand beside him, her hand immediately taking his.

“I’m the man that killed her husband,” Kylo says simply. His eyes are still fixed on the window, staring at everything and nothing. “She will despise me like the rest of them.”

“You are her son,” Rey says, squeezing his hand. “She has loved you since you were a boy. She will not stop loving you now.”

He turns to gaze down at her and she lets their lips fall together. There is no lust in their kiss, only quiet reassurance.

Seconds later, a pair of guards intrude to announce the arrival of General Leia’s delegation. With a nod from Kylo Ren, the doors are opened to reveal the Republic they thought would never come.

--

General Leia, clad in a royal blue gown, enters while flanked by two familiar faces. Captain Dameron and Finn follow her aunt as she strides into the council chambers, their uniforms bright against the dark wood of the table.

Rey should be stoic, a pillar of support, but she cannot hide her excitement any longer. She beams, her smile only growing as Aunt Leia wraps her in a long-awaited embrace. So much has changed since they last saw one another but nothing could change how wonderful it feels to be a little less alone.

“My brave girl,” Aunt Leia whispers, pressing her lips to Rey’s cheek. “I’m so happy you’re safe.”

Her aunt pulls away from the hug, taking in the truly impressive stomach Rey bears, before turning her attentions toward her son.

“Ben,” she says. Her voice is full of a mother’s affection but heaped with the same guilt Uncle Han had always tried his best to hide. “You’ve grown so much.”

She stares at her son like his very existence is a miracle. After a decade apart, it must truly feel that way.

“Mother,” Kylo says, nodding his head stiffly. His lips are a thin line and Rey cannot gleam any information from the emotionless mask he wears. He makes no move to embrace his mother and she does not dare to intrude.

There is a silence, long and lingering, before Rey has the mercy to break it.

“You got to meet Padmé?” Rey asks. Her aunt’s hesitation fades into enthusiasm and her relief is palpable.

"She's quite the charmer," Aunt Leia says. “I’ve never met a more agreeable baby.”

"I have no idea where she gets it from," Rey tells her. Her aunt laughs and a smile falls easily on her face.

Her husband doesn’t join in the amusement.

“Where is she?” Kylo asks, voice a tad too harsh for politeness.

Aunt Leia looks on the verge of a response when the chamber doors are opened once more.

--

Phasma, normally so proud and crisp, looks positively ruffled. She wears the same garments she had always enjoyed, a dove grey suit that would have seemed ridiculous on anyone else, but there are circles ghosting under her eyes.

She has Padmé propped on her sturdy hip, tiny legs wriggling, while a mud stained BB-8 close on her heels. The dog yips happily as it follows its new mistress into the room, tongue lolling with the same glee that radiates steadily throughout the room.

If Rey had not trusted the Captain fully, then she cannot help but do so now.

“My little menagerie seems to get bigger by the day. I’m sure I’ll have a tiger in tow within the week.” Phasma says. Her voice is glib but there is warmness in her eyes.

“We found your friend Phasma in the nursery when we came to rescue Padmé,” her aunt explains with a wary sort of amusement. “She made it very clear that if I was going to take my granddaughter, I’d have to steal her away too.”

“I had no desire to be in the palace when heads began to roll,” Phasma tells them but the easy grip she has on Padmé belies her self-interest. She knows their daughter better than anyone, perhaps even better than themselves given the duration of their imprisonments. She would not let her favorite charge go without protection.

Padmé looks like a young lady, her tiny head covered in a mop of inky curls. She is even more beautiful than Rey had remembered and her heart aches as chubby fists reach toward her.

Phasma meets her eye and smiles, her face almost maternal.

“She’s all yours,” the Captain says, gingerly passing Padmé into her arms. “I can assure you I have no desire to play nanny for any longer.”

Her daughter is sturdier than she had remembered and her long limbs are a tad too long for the garments that were made with a smaller child in mind. But she is still the same sweet baby; her tiny face lighting up when Rey lavishes her with kisses.

After a moment, Kylo presses his lips against their daughter’s head before taking her gently from Rey’s arms. Any shadow of his former menace has all but disappeared as he holds Padmé tight against his chest, rocking her while she attempts to pull on his hair.

He murmurs something none of them can hear and though the sight of her husband reunited with their child is a beautiful one, Rey can’t help but study Aunt Leia. There is contentment in her strong features, but also sadness, the same sadness that sometimes colors her son’s face when he cannot bear the world.

With Padmé still in his arms, her husband grabs her hand and leads them both toward the council table. She sits warily down by his right, sparing the Republic delegation and Phasma an apologetic glance as they find their seats.

Kylo sits at the head of the table, his frame filling the carved chair in a way Emperor Snoke’s frail body never could.

The time for pleasantries has ended. The time for resolution has begun.

--

"The word around the palace is that General Hux killed the Emperor," Aunt Leia says from where she sits at Rey’s right. "From what I've heard about your general, treason seems out of character."

She looks knowingly at them both. There is no hurt in her face, only curiosity. She suspects her son is responsible; she is merely waiting for confirmation.

"Hux was a sadist and zealot," Kylo says firmly. "He kept a pregnant woman locked in the same cells he tortured prisoners. There is no evil deed that was beyond his meager scruples."

Even with Padmé bouncing on his lap, he is a fearsome vision. His hatred of Hux was all consuming, possibly greater than hers, and his loathing threatens to cloud his eyes.

"What matters now is that Emperor Snoke is no longer a threat to a peace between nations," Rey says after a moment, refusing to acknowledge the truth they suspect. "We will get the matter settled and can establish a viceroy for us when we return to the Republic."

Her aunt suddenly looks guilty and for the first time since their reunion, Rey’s heart sinks in her chest.

“Kylo Ren isn’t exactly the most beloved figure in the Republic,” Aunt Leia says with a sigh. She says the name Kylo like it belongs to the foulest beast, like it is the very poison that killed Ben Solo. “The Senate is not nearly as forgiving as I am. Any talk of a pardon was dismissed before I could reason with them.”

"Hux was the butcher who burnt the capital to the ground,” Kylo says, his fist slamming against the wood of the table. "The guilty party died by my hand last night. Surely that is enough to warrant forgiveness.”

"The man who nearly destroyed the Hosnians was the same who killed Emperor Snoke," Captain Dameron drawls from his position across the table. Her aunt shoots him a harsh look but he is unaffected. "How convenient for you."

"I can have you killed right now," Kylo snarls. "Don't test me, Dameron, or I will do it myself."

The two men stare at each other, both silently daring the other to strike. Finn looks utterly horrified at the unwarranted display of aggression. Phasma, on the other hand, looks amused.

Rey takes her husband’s hand from where it rests against the table and takes it in hers. The stiffness barely leaves his shoulders but it is enough to reassure her that no brawls will take place in the midst of peace talks.

“You said the Senate will not pardon him,” Rey says, her eyes fixed on her aunt. “If that is the case, are we to be punished?”

Her courage has all but faded away and she can feel her husband squeeze her palm from somewhere faraway.

“Nobody is to be punished, least of all you,” Aunt Leia says, looking intently at them both. “The Republic is anxious for peace and I’m sure all of the Empire will be just as glad for the bloodshed to stop once a compromise has been reached.”

“A compromise,” Kylo says dismissively. “The last compromise the Republic made with the Empire had my wife sent to a desert wasteland and my youth ripped to shreds. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not leaping at the opportunity to compromise.”

Her aunt’s face falls for a brief moment before returning to its stoic grace, but it is her former guard who details the terms of the Republic’s negotiation.

“The Senate determined that Kylo Ren would be exiled for his crimes against the Republic,” Finn says as dispassionately as possible. “There were those who called for your death. We’re lucky they weren’t in the majority.”

His kind eyes meet Rey’s but it is not enough to stop the shock from flooding through her body.

“And Rey?” Kylo asks. He turns to her for the first time since their council began, his eyes filled with apprehension. “Does my wife get to suffer for my sins?”

“If Rey wishes to return to the Republic, then she is certainly free to do so,” Aunt Leia says, her eyes focused on her. “She didn’t have a choice in the matter. Nobody blames her for any of this.”

Her aunt means well but the hypocrisy of her good intentions leaves a bitter taste in Rey’s mouth. Kylo had even less of a voice than she had and yet it is he that still suffers on their behalf.

“And if I never wish to return?” Rey asks without hesitation, voice ringing clear.

The words feel right leaving her tongue but her husband looks shocked by the earnestness of her response.

“Then nobody will stop you,” Aunt Leia tells her, an understanding look on her face. “But I can’t say I’m happy to leave you here. There’s nothing in the world I’d rather do than take you home.”

She squeezes Kylo’s hand once more, her gaze drawn helplessly to the little family they have forged themselves. Her children may never know the gardens of Naberrie or the beauty of D’Qar but they will have their mother and they will have their father. They will never know what it is like to live without love.

“My family is here,” Rey says matter-of-factly, meeting her aunt’s eye. “I am home.”

--

The Empire is allowed the dignity of a truce in lieu of a surrender, a concession that will hopefully allow the young Emperor to retain the admiration of his grieving people. Aunt Leia is unusually quiet during their talks, almost lost in thought as Captain Dameron handles the brunt of the negotiations.

When the more urgent matters are resolved, the council soon disbands. Finn serves as a liason between Captain Dameron and Phasma as they argue over which of them will best care for their mutual canine friend, his steadiness a valuable asset as friendly banter threatens to dissolve into harsher words.

Despite the excitement of the morning, Padmé has fallen into an easy sleep against her father’s chest. Drool threatens to spill from her tiny mouth onto his shoulder but he pays the pending mess no mind.

Aunt Leia stays in her chair, watching them both, finally daring to speak once it is clear the other members of their party are distracted.

"There is nothing urgent awaiting me back in D’Qar,” she says quietly. "I’d like to stay until my next grandchild is born… If you’ll have me.”

Her voice is wary and Rey feels her heart pang with empathy. In her readiness to stay with her husband, she had forgot about the woman he had widowed, the aunt who has been just as lonely for even longer than she.

"Of course we will," Rey says reassuringly. "We would love to have you."

She turns to her husband who has said little else but pleasantries to the mother he left behind.

Kylo is silent for what seems like ages before he finally speaks.

“You can stay,” Kylo says, voice steady with determined neutrality. “Padmé should get to know her grandmother.”

It is as though a weight has been lifted from her aunt’s shoulders. She smiles, tentatively before rising from her seat.

She presses her lips against Padmé’s sleeping head before kissing her son’s brow in the same gentle way.

“You’re a good man, Ben,” Aunt Leia whispers in a voice Rey can barely hear. “I’m so proud of you.”

The words are meant for Kylo and Rey does her best to pretend she isn’t eavesdropping.

Her husband does not react to his mother’s embrace, merely allows it in the same resigned way a tomcat endures a collar. He doesn’t seem upset, merely overwhelmed at the rapid pace at which their lives have been predetermined, but even now he hides it well.

--

They depart the council chambers sometime later with mountains of obligations foisted in their laps.

If it was up to Rey, Emperor Snoke would be buried in a pauper’s grave, his carcass offered up to beasts almost as foul as he was. Unfortunately, as Empress, it is now her duty to plan his funeral, to mourn him as the Empire sees fit.

She commissions the least opulent ceremony she can imagine. The only concession to Snoke’s vanity is the crown he will be buried in, a ghastly monstrosity she would never want her husband or son to wear. It is decided without consulting anyone that his other gems will be sold to fund the war that nearly doomed them all.

It was his pride that nearly destroyed the Empire. It seems penance enough to make him pay.

But there are matters that go beyond the ceremonial and it is those matters that are brought before her Emperor husband.

The gilded throne that had been Snoke’s favorite place looms menacingly in the great hall. Despite their best efforts, the guards cannot find the seat that had belonged to Padmé’s namesake. Rey suspects it was melted down to fund Snoke’s decadence but she will keep such grievous suspicions to herself.

Her husband refuses to sit, his hand momentarily resting on her stomach as he helps her sit in his place. Her belly feels massive but there is still enough room for a still drowsy Padmé to sit in her lap. Any minute it feels like the metal will consume her but the warmth of her daughter’s body and the richness of Kylo’s voice tethers Rey to the ground.

She sits and watches as he answers the numerous queries brought before them. He allows her to intrude even on matters his predecessor would have considered unladylike, listening carefully to her words before rendering a verdict.

Her heart swells with pride when he promises trials for the prisoners still kept in the palace cells, assuring the gathered crowd that he will preside over the matters himself.

The mob seems more than satisfied by the Emperor’s justice but Kylo turns his head to her after each decision, eager for the confirmation that he is doing the right thing. It is all she can do to answer with a nod, full of hope even if she cannot be fully certain either.

She is nervous but so is he. They are learning to rule together, it will take time to feel as strong as they must surely look.

--

The dinner hour has been promised to Aunt Leia but Rey can feel her fatigue seeping into her bones. The early days of her pregnancy had not been filled with the same nausea that Padmé had induced but it seems the child is making up for those calm first weeks in full force. The flutters in her belly are unrelenting and it is the greatest luxury in the world to return to their chambers for a rest.

She undresses down to her shift and falls asleep nearly as soon as her body touches the blankets, barely registering the single kiss her husband places upon her brow. When she wakes hours later, the sun has set and the bedchambers are empty.

Her husband’s voice echoes from their sitting room. Still bleary with sleep, she tugs on her robe, hoping whatever dignitary has forced his way into their chambers will forgive her rumpled hair.

--

When she enters the sitting room, Padmé is crawling, or at least attempting to, with every tiny shuffle drawing her closer to the father that waits only steps away.

Kylo sits on the rug with arms open, praising every movement in the gentle voice he is afraid to use in the company of subject and stranger alike. He catches her staring and grins, his smile bright and unashamed. He is radiance itself and both she and Padmé are drawn to him like a moth toward the flame.

Her aunt is propped against the plush cushions of their overlarge couch, her face bathed in the glow of the fire as she watches her son and granddaughter. Rey sits beside her, making sure to clap excitedly when Padmé finally reaches her papa.

“He didn’t want to wake you,” Aunt Leia says quietly. Kylo is too enraptured with the baby babbling in his lap to eavesdrop. “Said you needed the rest.”

“I didn’t,” Rey replies, holding her hand to her stomach. She feels almost as overstuffed as the cushions they lay on. “The baby did.”

“Twins do run in the family,” Aunt Leia says with a knowing look on her face. “There might be two of my grandchildren tiring you out.”

“I’m not sure we could handle twins,” Rey admits. She wants nothing more than to give Kylo more children but the vision of two demanding infants fills her with excitement and terror all at once.

“After all you two have been through,” Aunt Leia says. “I’m sure you could handle anything.”

Aunt Leia smiles, her face a vision of maternal warmth, before returning her focus to where Kylo plays with Padmé. She watches them both with an almost greedy look on her face as though she can’t believe the wonder she is allowed to observe.

--

Aunt Leia insists on watching their daughter for the night, implying with as much tact as possible that her parents might enjoy an evening alone after the day’s event. Rey suspects she is more concerned with commandeering as much of her granddaughter’s time as possible but the offer makes her smile nonetheless.

Kylo seems reluctant but eventually allows their daughter to find the comfort of someone else’s arms. He kisses Padmé goodnight, handing her over to his mother’s eager embrace with a curt nod. The two of them have barely spoken since the morning’s council, their time apart has been too long and too bloody for ancient hurts to be fully healed, but Padmé is a safe subject.

Both parties refuse to discuss the terms of their exile any further and questions about the stolen years only make the wounds feel fresh. Uncle Han’s name has not passed either one of their lips and only time will tell whether they will ever discuss the husband and father they have lost.

Rey kisses Padmé’s plump cheek, already missing her even though she will be only a hallway away. It is strange to know exactly where she will be in the morning, but it is a welcome relief after months of nervous speculation. It is much easier to watch Padmé leave when she knows it is family that keeps her safe.

Soon they are alone, with her barely dressed as it is. She gazes at her husband with what she hopes is an enticing expression before he takes her hand.

“Get dressed,” he says. His voice is filled with affection but his words are hardly the ones she was expecting.

She must look puzzled for he feels the need to elaborate further.

“It’ll be worth it, I promise,” Kylo says. He kisses her soundly on the lips before tugging her back into their chambers to ready for his unknown plans.

Rey doesn’t bother with elaborate undergarments, merely dressing in the rumpled ebony gown that rests on their chamber floor. Her hair is unbound, but the hour is late; there will hopefully be no idle courtiers ready to criticize a less than coiffured Empress.

It takes no time at all for her to ready and Kylo whisks her out of their chambers in no time at all. He has her hand firmly in his and soon the uncertainty surrounding their destination is all but disappeared.

Her husband slows their pace as they reach the door guarding the throne room, nodding his head at the posted guards before they even have the opportunity to bow.

“Your Imperial Majesties,” they say in tandem, falling over themselves to be the most obviously obsequious. Rey thinks she recognizes one of their faces from her time in Hux’s care.

“Your Empress and I require use of the throne room,” Kylo says with a steely voice. His free hand finds the hilt of his grandfather’s sword. “I will not require your presence. You are to remain at the door.”

They bow again before allowing them entrance. If they question their Emperor’s command, their faces do not betray their disbelief.

--

The room is barren and each of their steps echo on the marble floor. Her husband seems deadly serious but Rey can’t help but grin as she realizes the more nefarious purpose of their excursion.

“We require use of the throne room,” she says in a pale imitation of his deep voice. She turns to him with a smug smile on her lips. “You could have at least been subtle.”

He helps guide her up the towering stairs, waiting until they stand before the throne to speak.

“I’m the Emperor,” he says. Even in the dim light of the candles, she can see the want in his eyes. “I don’t need to be subtle.”

He undoes his sword belt, letting it fall to the floor, before his lips finds hers. He kisses her as though he is trying to consume her, like he has never wanted anything more, and it is all she can do to respond in kind.

Within moments, her hands are knotted in his hair, tugging him closer as his tongue explores the heat of her mouth. She moans against his lips, feasting on the touch she has craved for weeks.

His hands are cupped around her ass and soon his mouth is suckling at her neck. There will be marks in the morning and the thought of it sends another wave of desire crashing through her.

“Sit on the throne,” he whispers. His breath is hot against her ear and she nearly whines when his teeth bite into her skin.

“And if I don’t?” She sucks hard against his pale neck, smirking against his skin when he groans.

“Then I will make you.” He rewards her insolence with another bruising kiss against her neck before lifting her into the air.

Her feet do not touch the ground again until she has been placed on the edge of the gilded chair and she has barely any time to absorb the change before he kneels in front of her.

“Lift your skirts,” he commands in a low voice, already tugging them up her thighs. “And part your legs.”

His lust has deprived him of his eloquence but Rey doesn’t mind in the slightest. She complies greedily, her moans filling the air as his lips journey slowly from the flesh of her thigh toward her glistening sex.

He does not draw out her torture, choosing instead to feast on her in the all ways that make her toes curl. His tongue is a broad stripe against her and the first suckle of his lips against her nub is nearly enough to make her come undone. He laps at her like a man dying of thirst and she will happily let him drink for the rest of his days.

He runs a finger against her wetness, teasing before sliding it inside her. He curls it in just the right place and soon the only thing she remembers is her husband’s name.

Kylo licks her through it, only stopping when she tugs insistently on his hair.

“You were right,” she says, her heart still racing. “That was worth it.”

He grins, kissing her thoroughly, before letting his voice fill the air.

“Good,” he says, rising from his perch. “But we’re not done yet.”

--

Her husband lifts her up just as easily as he set her down before sitting in the throne that looks like it was built for him. He tugs down his trousers just enough to expose his leaking cock, beckoning her over with a crooked finger.

Rey climbs astride his lap, her skirts bunched high as he wraps his arms tight around her. She grips in hand before sinking down onto his length. The groan that escapes her throat is surely loud enough for the guards to hear but they could hang for all she cares.

Though she has mounted him, it is he that thrusts mercilessly into her. He fucks her as though he is reclaiming her, his lips devouring every sigh that leaves her mouth. It is now as he takes her that she finally believes the Emperor must have been crafted by the gods themselves.

He pulls away from their kiss, his voice rumbling in his throat as he moves into her even harder. His eyes, clouded by the same lust that fills her entire body, bore into hers.

“You’re mine, Rey,” he groans. She can feel his body begin to tense and knows his release is only moments away. “I want to hear you say it when I spill inside you.”

“I’m yours,” she moans. Another groan is torn from her throat and she can feel his cock begin to swell. He isn’t going to last and neither is she. “I’m always yours.”

He finds his release with their lips melded together, their bodies entwined as the world falls back in view. 

There will be a coronation in the weeks to follow, an elaborate ceremony where her husband inherits the title Snoke had been so desperate to cling onto.

But tonight, for the first time since the world turned upside down, the throne finally starts to feel like theirs.

--

Even with the thrill of their lovemaking lifting her spirits, she cannot help but stifle a yawn as they make their way back to their chambers, her eyes just barely keeping open.

Without saying a word, Kylo picks her up, his strong arms cradling her back and legs. She is too tired to protest, content instead to nuzzle against his broad chest.

He smiles softly down at her, letting his lips find her forehead before their trek resumes.

Together, they make their way to bed. There will be time enough for whatever else comes in the morning.

 

 

Chapter Text

Her last birthday had passed with little fanfare. Her husband was gone, still fighting some other man’s war, and the thought of growing older in a world where he might not come home was too terrible to bear.

Rey had let the day pass in the same way she had endured the days before his return, thinking of how only two year ago, her entire world had changed with only a scrap of parchment.

It seems, however, that this year will be different.

--

She wakes for the third time that night, interrupted from her dreams by the child who seems to grow more active by the minute. Light is already starting to peer through the curtains and it seems futile to give rest another attempt.

Rey grumbles, perhaps too loudly for politeness, before realizing she isn’t the only one snatched too early from the welcome jaws of sleep.

“My beautiful wife,” Kylo tells her before wrapping his body around her. “You look radiant.”

Kylo doesn’t seem nearly as annoyed as she is to be up at such an hour but he isn’t the one being prodded from the inside.

“I’m enormous,” she says, barely concealing a yawn. “I’m nearly the size of one of the Hutts.”

The Hutt trade delegation had come to Jakku once, their jowls round and appetites insatiable as they took every last crumb from Unkar Plutt’s table. With her heaving belly and swollen legs, she is sure to blend right in to their gluttonous horde.

“You’re with child,” Kylo says. He kisses behind her ear before his lips find her cheek. “You could be bigger than good king Jabba himself and you’d still be perfect.”

He cuddles even closer, the proof of his adoration hard against her back. She smiles, despite herself, a contented sigh quickly turning into a quiet moan as his hand finds its way between her legs.

Rey peaks twice, her juices dripping on his fingers by the time she commands him to use his mouth. Her husband complies happily, making her come undone once more with just his lips and tongue.

He calls her his queen as he brings himself to his own release, begging for the touch of her hand before spilling on her belly. He is her devoted servant after all.

--

When they breakfast with his mother and Phasma, she manages to keep from blushing but only just. Kylo smirks at her from across the table, eating an apple in the most obscene way like some god of seduction eager to claim his due.

The image torments her the rest of the day, flitting into her thoughts at the most inopportune times. Finn, her finest chess opponent, looks at her as though she is convulsing when the memory of Kylo’s clever hands makes her drop her rook. She blames her distracted nature on her mother’s brain but the words ring false even to her.

She does her best to put the morning’s escapades out of mind soon thereafter. She walks with Phasma and her aunt in the gardens with a watchful Captain Dameron close behind. Her husband’s distaste for her friend still lingers despite the peace but he values her protection even more than his pride. Their party strolls together, Rey telling Padmé all about the brilliant flowers she could only ever read about in Jakku.

It has been so long since she has seen so much green. It is nice to see the growing things return.

It is only when she sits beside her husband as the Empire comes to call, almost comfortable in the throne he has commissioned her himself, that she allows herself to start thinking of a fitting punishment for his cheek.

She denies the court of their expected feast, too tired and too bloated to even imagine wearing a gown befitting her new role as Empress. Instead, she dines with her little family that seems to grow bigger each day. They feast on chocolate petit fours and candied oranges, the sweet taste lingering on her tongue long after she and her husband lay Padmé to rest in her crib. 

She waits until their bedroom door is closed to unleash the justice her Emperor is due.

--

Rey instructs Kylo in her most queenly voice to undress; his eyes perking with excitement the very second the words leave her lips. He is eager to follow instructions and it takes hardly any time for his clothes to fall to the floor. 

She is eager to command further but he interrupts before she can enact her next edict. 

“I have something for you,” her husband says. He snatches a silken bag from his fallen waist coast pocket, holding it out to her with an outstretched palm. “For your birthday.” 

“I told you I didn’t need anything extravagant,” Rey reminds him. She shakes her head but he doesn’t seem the least bit cowed. “You already had a throne built for me. I would be the vainest woman alive if I thought my birth merited anything grander than that.” 

“You needed the throne. I have no intentions of spending our entire reign on foot.,” he tells her, his rich voice gentle. He thrusts the bag into her hand and she has little choice but to accept. “I want to spoil you. “ 

He gazes at her fondly, watching her every moment as she draws her treasure out of its keep.

He had given her a gift like this when they still danced around one another, a pendant that marked her as his bride. But in lieu of a ruby, a sapphire hangs from the delicate silver chain. It shines in the moonlight, its gleam brighter even than the jewels that rest on the sword her husband carries. 

She gasps and he grins, clearly pleased at her reaction.

“If it is really too extravagant, I can have it melted down,” he says with a teasing lilt. “But I thought you might like to have it.”

No reply leaves her lips, it would make him far too smug to know how enamored she is with her newest trinket, but she moves closer toward her vanity with a look of silent demand on her face. 

He is nothing if not the perfect servant, taking the pendant from her hands to place it around her neck. She likes the way it falls on her chest, the tantalizing way it catches the light and she suspects from the hungry look in his eyes that her husband agrees.

“It’s from the Republic,” Kylo says quietly. He watches the jewel hang between her breasts with an almost predatory want. “I may be the reason we cannot return but I would not have you forget your father’s country entirely.”

The words are soft, almost regretful, but now is not the time for what cannot be undone. She turns her head to kiss him, holding his cheek tight against her face as her lips claim his. She had entered the room with every intention of conquest but the lovemaking that follows is tinged with her gratitude, her sighs almost peaceful as she draws her pleasure from his perfect, willing body.

When it is done, they lie together with only her pendant covering her naked flesh. Her earlier grievances are long forgotten and her birthday has become a truly splendid occasion indeed.

She is enormous, full of the child who will only know his parents to be happy, but she’s never felt more beautiful.

--

Rey is enormous for a few more weeks until labor pains befall her once again.

Though she once again retreats to the solace of her grandmother’s chambers, the birth is a decidedly different affair than her daughter’s. There are no hordes of courtiers filling the room when she and Kylo ready to welcome their newest child into the world, all of them blissfully unaware of the news she had threatened her guards not to spread.

The process takes nearly twice as long, but with only Doctor Krennic’s steady instructions and her husband’s voice ringing in her ears, it is practically peaceful. When it is done, the doctor reveals the mystery of her womb with the same neutral precision he had announced Padmé’s arrival, utterly unaffected by the bounty that makes the Emperor’s eyes widen in shock. 

Her aunt had been right.

Twins do run in the family

--

They are left to their own devices soon after, preparing for the onslaught of well-wishers that are will surely envelope them when the news finally spreads.

“He seems so small,” Kylo say. He gazes at the baby in her arms, their eldest son by a quarter of an hour. “It’s strange to think he’ll rule one day." 

“Hopefully not for a good long while,” Rey says. She can hear the exhaustion in her voice but it is hard to feel anything other than contentment. “They’ll both need you to guide them.”

Their other son sleeps just as soundly in his father’s arms, his tiny head covered in the same brown hair as his brother’s. Kylo presses his lips against their sons’ foreheads, kissing them both as gently as he can manage.

“They’ll need their mother too,” he says. “Just as their father does.”

His lips meet her forehead and her eyes nearly well with tears. She is not saddened, far from it, but merely overwhelmed at how their little family has grown in these past few hours.

She has nearly a litter now. The term little no longer feels appropriate. 

“Your mother is going to be ecstatic,” she says, turning her head to see his amusement. “She spoke so much of us having twins that I thought she would be happy at nothing else.”

He hums briefly in agreement before speaking again. 

“I’m more thrilled that their birth will utterly disappoint Phasma,” he says with no small sense of smugness. “She seemed very keen for us to have another daughter.”

“I doubt she’ll be too upset,” Rey says. “I’m sure there’s already an elephant waiting in the nursery for both of them.” 

“Perhaps but I won the little wager she insisted on making,” Kylo replies. “If she won, she would have been the child’s namesake.”

Rey manages to hide the eye roll she can barely contain.

“And since you won?” Rey asks with her eyebrows raised.

“We’re now the owners of Coruscant’s largest wine cellar,” he boasts. “I’m sure whatever price we can manage will be more than enough to take care of whatever pet she decides our children need.”

He looks so gleeful that she can’t help but return his grin.

It is easy to smile when they have been so blessed. It is to be happy when there are no more ghouls to haunt them.

--

Aunt Leia looks so happy to see the four of them that she might very well burst.

“They are wonderful,” she says, her smile almost as bright as her son’s. “Absolutely beautiful boys.”

She does not yet ask to hold the babies and Rey doubts she would be able to let either one of them go just yet. They are so delicate, smaller than Padmé ever was, and she can tell Kylo is just as nervous about letting them experience more of the world just yet.

“Do my grandsons have names yet?” Aunt Leia asks, standing serenely by Rey’s bedside.

“Anakin for the eldest,” Kylo says, his attentions focused on his mother. His neutrality is middling at best and his pride escapes his tone. “Like grandfather.” 

Aunt Leia nods and though her exuberance is somewhat tempered, there is quiet understanding in her gaze.

It is a matter that had been decided long ago, long before Doctor Krennic had presented him with their heir. Their eldest son was fated to rule over the Empire that had once tried to tear apart his family. He would need an Imperial name just like his father and there was no better namesake than the grandfather her husband so ardently admired in his youth.

Their second son’s name had not come quite so easily. Despite Aunt Leia’s accurate prediction, Rey had not truly expected to become the mother of two sons instead of one. A number of names, all strong if neutral in origin, had come to mind when their youngest boy had found her husband’s arms but they disappeared almost immediately upon further discussion.

“He’s named after a grandfather too,” Rey says quietly, nodding toward the curious infant in Kylo’s arms. “We’ve decided to call him Han.” 

Her aunt’s eyes threaten to spill over with tears and any moment, Rey is sure to follow suit.

It had been Kylo’s suggestion and it had shocked her to the core to hear the name emerge from his lips. He had seemed almost scared to suggest it, afraid to have his penitence realized in remembrance, but their younger son, already so loud and stalwart, was already living up to his namesake.

“It’s perfect,” Aunt Leia says, but she is looking at her son and not at Rey when she speaks. “Thank you.” 

Her aunt gazes at Kylo and though they do not speak further, a thousand words pass through her aunt’s eyes.

The wounds of their past will never truly disappear. Today, however, feels only like the start of a brand new future.

--

 

-- 

It is ten years to the day Emperor Snoke was deposed that the Republic becomes willing to alter the terms of the ceasefire. The peace between the two nations is unprecedented, an era of tranquility that even Rey herself never could have predicted.

Her aunt is older, a tragedy and an unavoidable fact that Rey can’t help but think of every time she passes her uncle’s resting place. Her hair has long since turned to a snowy white and the knowing way she minds her grandchildren during her frequent visits reminds Rey of the dear decrepit Maz Kanata who had once stolen her away from Jakku.

The trek from D’Qar to Coruscant is not quite as perilous as it was but it is still a lengthy, tiresome process. It is not one she wants to force another to take, especially with the way the years have begun to take their toll.

An idea, a nearly wicked one at that, floods through her mind when she takes her sons to visit their Uncle Han’s grave on the anniversary of his death. Rey watches Han prattle on to the growing vines, talking happily of the stables to the man who would be so proud to be his namesake. Anakin is decidedly subdued, his brow furrowed as though he is trying to unearth the depths of the earth himself. She will take Padmé when their respects have been paid- she cannot help but think of the time stolen from them both when the cursed day rears its ugly head and it makes the grief less terrible to care for the daughter her uncle adored sight unseen.

Her husband will make the trek alone as he always does, even now still afraid to reveal the hurt he does his best to hide.

He would never ask for a pardon for his past transgressions nor does Rey suspect he wants one. Only the gods can bring salvation but perhaps she might soothe the wounds their trials have left. It is in her power to change the future.

It is a testament to the years of goodwill that the sudden request of Her Imperial Highness is even acknowledged by a Republic audience. The Empire may no longer be a nation filled with bloodthirsty savages in the eyes of the Senate, but it is hardly an ally that they are eager to claim. It is not the might of her anointed husband that grants her an audience with the visiting Republic delegation, but the blood of her father that makes them willing to hear her at all.

Even Ambassador Mothma cannot deny that the years of peace have been good to both their kingdoms. Travellers make their way unburdened by fear and what would have once inspired a war has now lead to a wary sort of diplomacy. The world is the same sleepy way it had been long ago. One little visit is not enough to disturb the peace. 

Rey does not tell her husband of the meeting’s results, does not even tell him that she is holding court at all, until their arrangements have been settled and all that is required is his seal on the revised trade agreements between the two nations.

It is shock that fills his face when she informs him their family will be allowed to visit his mother’s estate. It will be the first time in twenty years that he will be a welcome guest in the soil where he was born.

She does not fault him for his surprise. In truth, she had expected nothing less.

--

The morning of their initial progress is not without its complications. Scores of people fill the courtyard and in the rabble, it is easy for the majority of her children to get underfoot. Kylo is swarmed by throngs of skeptical Imperial nobles, their farewell speeches filled with words of warning towards his mother’s homeland. She does not envy him the gruesome task so the herding of children falls to her.

Han, to nobody’s surprise least of all her own, is in the midst of annoying Captain Dameron when she finds him enraptured with their delegation’s horses.

“Get in the carriage, Han,” Rey barks from a few paces away. He makes no attempt to turn his head, instead focusing on his newest equine companion.

“Poe said I could meet the horses,” he says, gently stroking the muzzle of a large brown stallion. The horse seems contented enough and she mentally thanks for the creature for his infinite patience. “This is Chewie and he’s my newest friend.”

“And he’s very pleased to make your acquaintance, Your Highness,” Captain Dameron says, smiling down at his young charge. “He told me so himself.”

Han’s eyes widen and she has no doubt that he will not rest until every horse in the Imperial camp strikes up conversation.

“You’ll have plenty of time to talk to Chewie later,” Rey says gently. “But he needs to help us to start our journey. Horses are very keen on staying on time.”

She holds her hand out to him and though Han spares his equine friend a longing look, he realizes soon enough that it is time to depart.

“What do you say to Captain Dameron?” She asks, inclining her head towards her friend.

“Thank you, Captain Dameron” her son says. He runs to give the man a hug, his lanky arms wrapped tight around him. “You’re my best friend except for Padmé.”

The Captain laughs and so does she, her exasperation all but forgotten by the time her son takes her hand and they make their way back to the carriage.

Anakin is already sitting nearest the window when Han finally takes his seat. It is her daughter, unsurprisingly, that refuses to cooperate. 

-- 

Padmé had, according to a report from Finn, spent the morning hiding in Phasma’s carriage, hoping the blatant favoritism of her beloved Auntie would protect her from the frightful events that might happen should she spend an entire day trapped in close proximity to the rest of her family.

Her skirts are still rumpled when Finn helps her toward her mother’s keep, a disappointed look on her face as she stomps grumpily toward the carriage.

Padmé looks as though she is about to protest her imprisonment but they have wasted enough daylight as it is. She can be as insolent as she likes on the road.

“Carriage,” Rey says simply, pointing to where her sons have already found their way. “Now.”

“Why isn’t father riding with us?” Padmé asks. “I want to ride with him. Sabé and I can keep up.”

 “Your father needs to focus on our progress,” Rey says. “He can’t worry that you’ll go off looking for trouble when his back is turned.”

“Can I ride with Auntie Phasma then, mother?” Padmé insists. “She has the best stories and I’ll be out of the way.”

“Perhaps tomorrow if you don’t run off again,” Rey says, attempting a makeshift compromise with the daughter who only deals in absolutes. “But you can’t go disappearing just because you don’t get to do whatever you’d like. I worry when I don’t know where you are.”

“You don’t need to worry. I’m not a baby!” Padmé says, rolling her eyes. “I’m almost eleven. I’m practically a lady already.”

“I’m sure one day you’ll be the grandest lady that ever was and you’ll travel with all sorts of people and do all sorts of things I’d disapprove of,” Rey says with a sigh. “But for now, you are my responsibility. And that means you get to spend the day with your brothers and me.”

Rey inclines her head towards the waiting carriage and the beleaguered princess slowly but surely finds her seat next to Han.

When she thinks her mother isn’t looking, Padmé sticks her tongue out in disapproval. If they weren’t already so waylaid, Rey would be sorely tempted to follow suit.

--

The journey reminds her of another Rey made long ago. The gold of the wheat fields are almost the vast sands of Jakku and she can’t help but think of the kindly Maz who had guided her on her way.

She watches the leagues of fields pass them by once the children’s enthusiasm fades into drowsiness. Padmé sleeps with her head propped against the window, Han tucked neatly beside her. The two of them look almost angelic and were it not for the hour they spent shouting with glee upon the start of their grand adventure toward their mother’s home land, Rey would almost believe they were cherubs sent from the heavens.

Her eldest son does not share in their sun-drenched nap, the glower on his face a lingering keepsake from the start of their travels.

“What’s wrong,” Rey asks after the third of his very deliberate sighs. “Are you alright, sweetheart?”

“I want to go home,” Anakin grumbles. “What’s so good about the Republic anyway? Why can’t Grandmother visit us like she always does?" 

With his pouting lips and sullen expression, he is the very replica of his father even with her crown of chestnut hair on his head.

“Your grandmother isn’t as young as she once was, darling. You should feel very lucky that we are able to visit her at all,” Rey says. “I’m sure I still know how to sneak into the kitchens and you can play chess with her and Finn for as long as you’d like. Don’t you want to see where your father grew up?" 

“No.”

He says this so abruptly that she can’t help but laugh. His scowl deepens and she can’t help but kiss his forehead.

“Alright then, Your Imperial Highness,” she says. “I’ll have Captain Dameron turn the carriage around right now. We’ll be back in Coruscant before dinner.”

The only sound is the shuffle of the carriage along their path until Anakin lets out another sigh.

“I meant it, mother,” he says, staring forlornly out the window. “I don’t want to leave.”

The lands have all but healed since last Rey saw them but she doubts Anakin will be happy to hear of the state of the Empire’s latest harvest.

“Father had to leave his home when he was my age. He told me Emperor Snoke forced Grandmother to let him go,” he says after a moment. “What if you leave me there?”

Her heart pangs with affection for the boy that fears enduring his father’s stolen years.

“We would never leave you, sweetheart,” Rey says. “If the gods themselves tried to take you from me, I wouldn’t let them.”

She tugs him closer and he accepts her embrace with little complaint. He’s getting so tall already. Soon he will be too old to cuddle and it pains her to think of the day he will be too grown up for his mother’s love.

“Padmé says you would,” he tells her, whispering more for his own sake than for hers. “She says it’s the only reason we’re even leaving home in the first place so that I wouldn’t know you were sending me away.”

“Your sister is just trying to scare you,” Rey says, eyeing her daughter with suspicion from across the carriage. She is still asleep or at least pretending to be; unaware of the talk she will be receiving when their party has stopped for the night. “She’s a lot like your Auntie Phasma and you know just how much your aunt likes teasing your father. You need to act like it doesn’t bother you and she’ll leave you alone.”

“She’s always mean to me though,” he insists. “It’s not nice.”

A small snort escapes from her daughter’s nose, utterly ruining the delusion of peaceful slumber. Her son’s scowl deepens but Padmé’s amusement only inspires an equally devious plot from her mother.

“I know it’s not,” Rey tells him before kissing the top of his head.

“But I’ll let you in on a little secret,” Rey says, lowering her voice to add to the illusion of secrecy. “We’re really going to the Republic to find a suitable husband for Padmé. With any luck, your father and I will find someone even older than he is to teach her some manners.”

Anakin looks satisfied with her revelation and his chipper mood lasts until their party stops for the evening.

If Padmé just happens to be the epitome of politeness when she wakes, then it is merely a happy accident.

--

There is a feast, filled with social climbers eager to seek the approval of their royal family. Kylo is overrun with questions but Anakin is as well, all manner of country lords eager to worm their way into the heir to the throne’s good graces.

He handles the mock interrogation with more grace than either one of his parents would have at the same age, but his body sags with relief the moment the evening’s celebration starts to slow. Her husband places a comforting hand on Anakin’s shoulder as the last of the courtiers finds their way back into their cups, giving the silent reassurance he had spent his childhood craving.

It makes her glad to see them so close. Anakin is so quiet that she wonders often whether he will get lost amongst the chaos of his brother and sister, the two rascals making faces at one another when they think father isn’t watching. It is always good to see him so happy.

--

The children begin to yawn into their dessert and despite a series of very sleepy protests; all three of them agree it might be time for bed.

Despite practically being a lady, Padmé cajoles her father into carrying her to bed and soon enough, Han demands the very same. Anakin does his best to hide his interest, always the careful little lord, but his smile is just as big as his brother’s when Kylo hoists him up. Rey is sure any number of Imperial nobles would be scandalized to see their Emperor acting as a makeshift carthorse but she will never tire of the way her husband loves their children.

--

They settle into the rooms their host has so graciously provided, every item far grander than it needs to be.

“You’ll have to talk to Padmé,” Rey says as they ready for bed. She sits on the overstuffed cushion perched before her vanity, catching her husband’s eye in the mirror as she undoes her hair. “She’s spent the entire journey trying to terrorize Anakin.”

“What’s she doing now?” Kylo asks. He runs a hand through his mane of hair, his fingers pale against a sheet of black and grey. “Is the ghost of Emperor Snoke still trying to haunt his chambers?”

Their daughter, armed only with a bed sheet and far too many tall tales about the long dead Snoke, had done her best to scare her younger brothers into giving her their share of sweets. Han had figured out the source of the nightly haunt almost immediately and joined in on the fun as a slightly smaller ghost, but one just as eager to collect a tithe of caramels.

Anakin, on the other hand, had nightmares for weeks. Kylo had been forced to “slay” the ghosts himself before their eldest son would even consider sleeping in a darkened room without her presence by his bed. 

“No. He’s scared that he won’t be returning to Coruscant with us. It seems your daughter is trying to convince him that he would be staying in D’Qar forever,” Rey says. 

“She’s always your daughter when she excels in her studies or behaves at dinner,” Kylo says, eyeing her suspiciously. “And yet she is only ever mine when she wreaks havoc. That doesn’t seem quite fair.”

“It’s because she prefers you to me,” Rey says. “She always has. I could tell her a million times not to tease her brother but it only takes a word from you to make her realize she’s done anything wrong.” 

Her daughter bears more than a passing resemblance to her now, her inky locks one of the few indications that she is not merely the re-imagining of her mother at the same age, but it is her father that she idolizes. She is her father’s little princess. No matter how old she grows, she always will be.

“I’ll have her ride with me in the morning,” Kylo says after a moment. “It’ll keep her out of trouble if only for a few hours… Will Han need to join us?”

“He wouldn’t go even if you asked him,” Rey says. There is a curious expression on her husband’s face and she does not fault him for bearing it.

Were it not for the difference in age, it would be the easiest thing in the world to mistake Padmé for her brother’s twin. They share the same zeal for anything meddlesome, much to the terror of any unfortunate passerby.

“Phasma said BB-8 could ride in the carriage with us tomorrow. He hasn’t stopped talking about it all day,” Rey says as she plaits her hair. “All it takes is the presence of anything with four legs and he’s the best behaved of the lot.”

He laughs and she grins, watching him strip his shirt from her perch at the vanity.

Her husband is still quite well formed, especially for a man standing on the precipice of middle age. She cannot think of time, even now, when it has been a hardship to share his bed.

Kylo catches her appreciative gaze, meeting her lusty eye with a smug smile.

“You’re staring, Your Imperial Majesty,” he says, eyebrows raised in amusement.

“Am I?” She says as cockily as she can manage. “How rude of me.”

He strides over to her ottoman, his strong hands finding her shoulders and squeezing gently. She expects an attempt at carnality . She finds his gentle concern no less touching.

“I’m glad Anakin has a mother like you to care for him,” Kylo tells her. “You help him stay strong.”

“So do you,” Rey says. She lets out a sigh, her heart briefly aching for the boy who is undoubtedly attempting to read under the covers. “If only Padmé and Han weren’t quite so joined at the hip. He might feel a little more sturdy if he weren’t always the odd man out.”

“We’ll have another daughter then,” Kylo says. He tugs gently on her ivory robe, running his fingers on the skin revealed by the fallen silk. “Make things a tad more even."

“You just want another little girl to spoil,” Rey says knowingly. It is a discussion they are wont to have on quiet evenings like this, one both thrilling and alarming all at once. “Another little princess to have you wrapped around her finger.”

Despite both their dreams of a veritable horde, they are both quite content more often than not with the three children sleeping just down the hall. That isn’t to say, however, that another child is outside the realm of possibility

There was a brief time just before the twins turned seven when both Rey and her husband thought another might join their little family, another happy accident to bring them even greater joy. The signs were all there and it had been almost impossible to hide their excitement from the court let alone those dearest to them. Their dreams had been faded nearly as soon as they had begun, dashed in a sea of blood and tears.

She had been heartbroken but Kylo’s grief was something primal, terrible in its intensity. His healing has come slowly, and even now, she fears the sorrow that might overtake them once more should they dare to try once more.

Tonight, it seems, that her husband will let his fears hide in the shadows.

“Is it such a bad thing to want another child?” He asks, his voice a pleasing baritone. He bends down, his insistent mouth finding her neck. A pleased hum escapes from his throat when she lets out a breathy moan and she can feel his smugness radiating in the air. “I miss seeing you with a baby.”

She angles her body toward him and his lips hover dangerously close to hers. Rey can feel his breath hot on her face and she does nothing but want. 

“Are you trying to seduce me, Your Imperial Majesty?” She asks much to his amusement.

“Is it working?” His rich voice is low in his throat but he doesn’t dare to close the space between their mouths.

He is perilously close now and yet still too far. “I miss seeing you with child,” he admits, brushing aside an errant strand that had escaped from her braid. “I like seeing your belly all swollen and having everyone know that you’re mine.”

"Greedy," she chides but there's no real menace in it. 

"Not greedy," Kylo says. "It's hard for me to look at you without just bending you over the nearest table, if anything I'm restrained.”

There is want clouding his eyes but there is something else entirely, something so earnest that she cannot help but be touched by it. He needs her just as she needs him. He loves her just as she loves.

She steals a kiss from his waiting lips, savoring the heat of his mouth for the briefest of moments until she pulls away.

“We'll see what happens," she says. It is not an outright acceptance but one could hardly call it a denial if only by the way his smile grows. "We'll let the gods decide."

--

Rey leads Kylo to bed as she has every night for the past ten years, just as she will for the rest of their lives.

She does not know what the gods have planned for them but, in truth, it does not matter.

They will face the world together. They will conquer their fates side by side.