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As Useless As Each Other.

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Sarai Hux, a cold but beautiful woman, glanced down into the blanket with disgust at the product of betrayal. Pale skin, crystal blue eyes and a crop of red hair; yes, he was his alright. She hadn't wept when she made the discovery; what could she expect only that he would take mistresses but she hadn't expected for him to drop proof of it on their doorstep and leave her in charge of it. Instead, she was white with rage. Why shouldn't she be? While he was off at the Academy, how could he expect her to adhere to this without question? But her husband knew her better than that, he knew she wouldn't. He knew she wouldn't accept him but he didn't think she'd be cruel to Armitage; he was a child after all, a newborn. Perhaps he underestimated that Sarai would feel threatened and jealous, despite the child's mother rotting in the primitive hut he'd been born in, where she had been exiled to on the revelation of the pregnancy.

 

 

 "I don't care what you do with it." Sarai haughtily dismissed the meek woman holding the helpless weight in the blanket, one of her chamber maids; a pretty girl, young, who Brendol had probably already had his way with. The blonde, grey eyed wicked stepmother knew he was a boy, she knew his name was Armitage but to acknowledge those little details acknowledged he was human. This, this bastard brat, a mere result of her husband throwing around his authority and superiority to the women on the estate staff. "But I want nothing to do with it. Take it downstairs, keep it with your people and keep it away from me." Tana, the maid, looked down at the little boy whose face was starting to contort in discomfort. Please don't cry, little one, please don't. It seemed he didn't want to heed her. Whether it was hunger, thirst, a requirement for a new nappy or just the terrible atmosphere in the room; little Armitage began to wail. Much to Sarai's displeasure. "GET IT OUT OF HERE NOW!!" With as close to a bow as she could muster in a hurry and with the squalling child in her arms, Tana exited the room but stopped halfway down the corridor to fix him.

 

 

"Sshhh sshhh sshhh....... It's alright, she's gone. I have you." Tana lifted the baby to her shoulder and secured him and the closer contact seemed to calm him significantly; for now. All the way back through the winding corridors towards the servants quarters; she rubbed his back, kissed his head and held him close to her form until she got to the kitchen where a number of the staff were waiting for her.

 

 

"How did it go?" An older, stout woman called Marla, the head chef asked from over a bubbling pot.

 

 

"About as well as we thought." Tana replied grimly, feeling the tiny hand against her cheek and nuzzling into it. "She's terrible. This isn't his fault, look at him! He's barely a day old! She said she wants nothing to do with him and she wants him kept away from her. And by that, she means down here."

 

 

"So, his mistake and we're raising it?" Vas, one of the gardeners and less liked of the staff chimed in with a raised eyebrow; he should have realized his two cents weren't appreciated by Tana.

 

 

"You're sounding like her! He doesn't have anyone else! His mum's gone, his father's a lecher and his step-mother is a psychopath!" With an exasperated sigh, Tana felt the shift of the tiny body resting against her shoulder and so gently swayed herself in an attempt to comfort the little half orphan. "Looks like you're staying with me, little one. I'll look after you."

 

 

"We all know she won’t be happy until he puts one in her. You're going to need all the help you can get, love." Marla murmured, giving the pot a stir but carefully monitoring it so as to avoid an eruption later when Sarai's dinner was served if it wasn't to her liking; the house was already on edge with the new arrival. "We'll have a look for a few bits and pieces for him but you might need to make a trip into town. And don't expect thanks or gratitude when his father comes back." Tana already that much. She had seen the master, she had heard him speak and she knew of his fascination with the lower women. So far, Tana had escaped unscathed though being the self-appointed guardian to his son might put her in the spotlight.

 

 


 

 

In the days, weeks, months and ultimately years that followed, it appeared little Armitage’s mother’s gentler personality had won out over his father’s significantly colder one. He was good natured, well behaved, slept plenty and ate often; Tana had no complaints but Sarai’s shadow seemed to dog the little redhead no matter how hard the servant girl tried to shield him. Tana continued to make good on her promise though; she had promised Sarai nothing but she had pledged little Armitage protection and as decent an upbringing as she could provide. It might not have been much to be skittering after her in and out of the kitchen but the little redhead knew no different or better; as far as he knew, she was his mother. His unsteady little steps at around a year old were used to help Marla in the kitchen, fetching things for her like utensils and vegetables until Tana came back at the end of the day. Exhausted, he was swept up and kissed and cuddled; he would doze on her lap, leaning against her chest while she ate her meager meal then gather up her adopted son again to bring him to bed.

 

Armitage (or Armie as he was affectionately known by Tana and everyone else in the servant quarters) only saw his father a handful of times in those first few crucial years. Sometimes the elder Hux sought out the little boy, sometimes he didn’t and Tana preferred those times. When he returned from the Academy (usually only for a day or so at a time), his first port of call was Sarai and as if poisoned by his wife, the contact with the child seemed to lessen and lessen which suited Tana just fine. She felt even Armie was relieved by it since the child was affected by the icy, disinterested demeanour. Why did he even bother? If he had no intention of even being kind to the child, why did he inflict himself upon him?

 

“He might be illegitimate but he’s still a son.” Marla’s wisdom seemed to shine through as always, though not quite fitting in with the image of her up to her elbows in bread dough. “And until he manages to get one from Sarai, if he manages it, he’s going to make sure he’s strong enough in case he’s the only son.”

 

“And I think we both know Sarai would rather die than let that happen.” Tana responded bleakly, swallowing a scolding mouthful of soup at the end of a physically and mentally draining day. Leaning back slightly in her chair to take in the toddler’s face, her curiosity was satisfied when she found his eyes closed and his breathing slow as was the norm for that time of night. “Did he eat?”

 

“Mmm. Spilled a bit on his way to the table.”

 

“Sorry….”

 

“He’s a child, Tana. It happens. A good child, at that. Nothing like his father, thank the Gods.”

 

“He’s clever though, Marla. He knows the bells, he knows the different utensils and everything else…. It would kill me if he spent the rest of his life in a kitchen.” There was no possibility of removing Armitage to a more thriving environment, despite the concentrated hatred his step mother openly held for him; his father wouldn’t allow the child to be relocated.

 

“His father knows he’s clever. You mark my words; if Sarai doesn’t produce as she’s supposed to, Armitage will go to the Academy. Hux won’t tell anyone he’s illegitimate, it won’t be on a need to know basis but I’m telling you, that child is a backup. Besides, would it be so bad if he did stay in the kitchen? Or working in the garden? He’s being raised among decent, hardworking folk; of course that’s going to rub off on him. We’ll make a proper lad out of him and not a stuck up little snot like he’d be if he was legitimate. He’s better off with us, Tana.” Wise as always, old Marla.

 

“Can you still make the birthday cake next week?”

 

“Aye. I put in an order for the basics, we’ll just need to chip in an extra bit each to order the chocolate without Sarai noticing. She’d go ballistic if she thought we were getting stuff for his birthday on the household budget. Did you manage to get him something?”

 

“I’ll talk to the others and see if they’ll donate something.” Finished her soup; Tana’s thin, pale fingers raked her hair while her eyes closed and her temples were massaged. Why did it have to be so difficult to plan a small birthday party? It wouldn’t even be a party; just a cake, hugs and kisses. And it would have to be done in silence and secrecy. “I got him a ball.” The answer was almost shameful and though Tana knew she couldn’t do any better, the disappointment in herself was still there. “It’s all I could afford.”

 

“I think I have a little bit saved somewhere, I’ll see what I have.” Marla offered gently but still grunting through the effort of kneading the dough. “Not to worry, love. You know what he’s like, he’ll love the ball even if it’s the only thing he has. Go on, take that child to bed. He’s exhausted.”

 

 


 

 

The usual morning clatter of spoons, bowls, mugs and other breakfast paraphernalia indicated a day like any other. Everyone readied themselves for work even though some had departed already but were due back soon for their morning meal. Tana was no exception when she fought her way to where Marla stood waiting with the little redhead in her arms.

 

“I love you.” The chamber maid told him with the routine kiss to his face, pausing for a moment when Marla dipped him so he could wrap his little arms around his ‘mother’s’ neck in a parting hug. “I’ll be back later, be good for Marla!” Just before she and the others hurried from the kitchen, frantic footsteps on the stone staircase disrupted the morning rush and doused everyone into silence. A few seconds later, one of the earlier maids appeared, a girl in her mid-teens called Nara. Nara darted to the table where she fell against it in relief of her exertion and seemed to stay there, panting, for almost a minute; much to the curiosity of everyone else.

 

“Nar?” Tana poked her way through the crowd surrounding the collapsed maid who still heaved as though she had sprinted all the way from the upstairs of the opposite end of the house. “Nar, you alright?” Nara’s eyes flickered to her colleague; she didn’t seem to be damaged or in pain, simply disheveled.

 

“You’ll never guess.” The younger of the two murmured, managing to prop herself up on the table to address the curious silence. “It’s happened. It’s finally happened. Sarai’s pregnant.”

Chapter Text

 

 

Luckily for the house staff, Sarai spent her days in bed since discovering her pregnancy; as if the discovery itself was draining, prior to it had seen her be her usual tyrannical self. When Tana or any of the other maids tended to her, she complained constantly of how unwell she felt and how even getting out of bed was the most difficult of chores; much to the private amusement of the house staff.

 

“Difficult of chores?!” Marla erupted with a disdained cough at dinner that evening, much to the entertainment of the others. “That woman finds getting herself to the toilet on time a chore! Wait till she gets to nine months and has six of them like I did, she’ll know all about chores!”

 

All jokes and snide remarks about Sarai aside, the lady’s absence was gratefully received by Tana for it meant Armitage didn’t need to be confined to kitchen. On pleasant days (even if those were few and far between on Arkanis), he could play outside in the garden under the watchful eye of the maintenance staff, but only if he stayed to the front of the house and away from the view of Sarai’s window. Still, he helped out where he could; fetching things, carrying light things or even just acting as company to one of the staff who may need it, mostly Marla in the confined security of the kitchen as chief taster.

 

 


 

 

The staff had managed to pool together enough for Marla to get the chocolate for the cake. Even if it was only a small comfort and a treat for the little boy, didn’t he deserve it? The afternoon of Armitage’s third birthday; the strange, unusual and unexpected happened: A surprise visit from Armie’s father. Naturally, the house went into frenzy though he seemed to ignore the fuss, to acknowledge it was below him. Whether the visit was to coincide with his son’s birthday or if it was coincidental was not known among the population of house staff and no one was willing to step out of line to ask. Tana, however, could not shake Marla’s words but she doubted he cared enough about the child to see him on the anniversary of the day he was abandoned amongst strangers. That sentiment was partially substantiated when he went straight to visit Sarai (that was normal, why would it have changed?) rather than Armitage and wasn’t seen for the rest of the day, seemingly having been swallowed by Sarai’s private chambers.

 

 


 

 

“Haaaaaappy birthday to youuuuuuuu!” As was customary with any birthday, the last line of the song was paired with a deep breath in and another one out over the candles on a cake that Marla had worked so hard to perfect. When each individual flame had been extinguished to a chorus of cheers and applause, Armie twisted in Tana’s arms and buried his face in her neck in delight; the combination of delirium and embarrassment was one he didn’t quite understand yet.

 

“Happy birthday, Fox Cub.” The tender murmur from mother to child was scarce to the ear but only Armitage heard it; fitting since it was meant for him and only him. “I love you so, so much.” The response was a tightening of his arms around her neck and a clumsy kiss to her cheek. He cracked another smile when the serious second of love had passed to let the playful affection resume; Tana marked that by rubbing her nose against his to a small squeal of pure elation. Marla was right; when presented with the ball, Armie clutched it tight and hugged his mother with little whispers of thanks that only she could really understand. No doubt he would find many hours of enjoyment with it and was already looking forward to them.

 

Only one person in the kitchen did not seem to be sharing in the festivities. He stood apart, basking in the cool shadows by the staircase but with enough of a view of the birthday boy and the woman that had adopted him. He wore no smile like the others, nor did he clap or holler like anyone else; he simply stood mute and barely interested by the goings on of the kitchen that particular night. Did he have a purpose down there, where he rarely ventured? Possibly, even he wasn’t entirely sure. What did snag his curiosity, however, was how his son appeared to have latched on to one of the staff in particular. A pretty, pale skinned girl with green eyes and was, by all accounts attractive. Save maybe for the scraggly mousy brown hair and almost gaunt slimness. He had seen her before, she usually hovered nearby whenever he had one of his stannic visits with his son; he assumed she was stationed in that area or had simply been charged with watching over him. Watching them now though…. Yes, she was more than that. As if the mutual, physical interactions weren’t tell-tale enough, the movement of her lips against Armitage’s ear when he cuddled close could only be positive words of adoration. They clearly loved each other though Brendol had to wonder if his son even knew this woman wasn’t his mother.

 

 


 

 

The birthday party (if it could even be called that) disbanded after cake had been shared out and Armie was passed around for kisses and cuddles, each one reciprocated with the utmost fondness and sincerity the three-year-old could muster. Needless to say, the excitement had been draining and so Armie was carried to bed, all the while struggling to keep his eyes closed. Slumber finally won over when he was changed into his night shirt, laid down and covered over where his busy day would be replayed and relished in high definition from behind closed lids.

 

“Marla; you made the cake, you cooked the food, please just let me tidy up. Head to bed and I’ll see you in the morning.” Marla eventually conceded with a sigh, a wave then did as she was bid by Tana. With Marla gone, the chamber maid began doing her bit in repaying the older woman for her kindness by putting away plates, sweeping the floor, cleaning out the fire; all the little tasks that meant the kitchen was ready for the morning. Just as she was about to quench the last flickering illuminations to retire to bed; Tana’s heart jumped in her chest, startled by an unanticipated voice from the archway near the staircase.

 

“He’s looking well; strong, healthy.” Petrified when the reality of who she found herself alone with set in, Tana spun on the spot to face the towering shadow. “I see you’ve kept him as your own?” He had never spoken to her directly, perhaps barked an order at her once or twice but never looked upon her when he conversed smoothly and confidently as he would speak to anyone else. Tana realized this. In that realization, she remembered her place and dropped her eyes in a show of submission. Eye contact, even with Sarai, was not permitted. In the eyes of the masters, it supposedly made the servants feel like equals. And why would they be so cruel as to let them think they were such? Keep them in their places to avoid such a heartbreak.

 

“Yes, sir. He is and I did.” Even the quiver in her voice intrigued him. Was she really so afraid already? The low light did not help her as she kept her eyes firmly trained on the ground but the heavy, masterful footsteps on the flagstones told her he was nearing. Tana’s nerves frayed; was she in trouble? Did he disapprove of his son being kept in the kitchen? What else could she do with Sarai watching his every move-?

 

“Sarai still disapproves of him?” In her frantic musings, she barely noticed him inching closer until her slight body was sandwiched between the cabinet and his significantly larger form. The warm breath on her face chilled her, the implication of his intentions and closeness suddenly more clear. Somewhere off in the distance of her mind, she was reminded of a predator and the way it watched something it was about preparing to pounce on. “Has she been cruel to him?”

 

“M’lady still does, sir.” Eyes down, eyes down. The thought seemed to be on an urgent loop as if she would suddenly forget after serving for so long. The noticeable swallow born of discomfort when he tucked away a strand of her hair made her pause. “She certainly speaks ill of him, sir. But she’s not cruel to him. She rarely sees him and if she does, she’s never close enough to hurt him.”

 

“My wife worries about you; did you know that?” The dangerous undercurrents continued to swirl and Tana’s discomfort only deepened by the unsolicited close contact.

 

“Sir?” The internal reminder continued though the nervous shift was deemed impossible by the way her body was wedged so helplessly.

 

“Mmm. She thinks you’re very pretty. Temptingly so.” Had Tana looked up, she would have seen the wolfish smirk that would have terrified her even more, not that the toying of a single mousy kink did anything to ease her.

“I….”

“She’s right. You are very pretty.”

“Thank you, sir but-“

“Be quiet. Kneel down on the chair and lift your dress.”

 

 


 

 

Armitage didn't understand why his mother knelt on the flat seat of the chair; he couldn't grasp why she gripped the back of it with white knuckles and why her usually neat and ordered hair was tousled and shaken down around her. His innocent little mind couldn't calculate why her head was dipped down and why she whimpered so softly. Was she in pain? It didn't sound right or pleasant so it should have been understandable why Armie stood behind the shelter of the door and shifted his weight anxiously from foot to foot. Even less fathomable for the three year who had woken in an empty bed (maybe 'bed' was too generous a term for where he and Tana slept) was why her dress had been pushed up around her back while his father's pristine uniform trousers gathered around his ankles. Armitage didn't know whether to call out or stay quiet but his mother had always told him that unless he needed to use the chamber pot (his aim was getting better) that he had to stay in bed. Now, he was out of bed without a chamber pot in sight. 

 

While Armitage’s comprehension of the situation was basically nothing, he could still tell that his father was enjoying it far more than his mother. With his head tipped back, a tight hold on Tana’s hips and bruising thrusts of his hips meeting her buttocks; it was clear who had the upper hand and who had surrendered to keep her job and (more importantly) her son. The grunts of effort and groans of pleasure seemed to go hand in hand where Commandant Hux was concerned; they heightened to such a peak that he could be compared with nothing else other than a snorting bull locked into a cow.

 

“Why didn’t I fuck you sooner?” The question was panted, strained and rhetorical but Tana had no intention of answering anyway; the whine (whether positive or negative) would suffice. “I think I have a new favourite. So. Fucking. Tight.” The snapping of his hips punctuated his sentence then continued with gusto, the chair creaking and the legs of it scraping slightly on the floor with the sheer force but at least he was almost finished and Tana held on for that liberation; finding some comfort in telling herself that he couldn’t go on forever. At some point, her arm had stretched across the back of the chair and her face had become buried in it which worried little Armitage even more.

 

“Uhh…. Uhh…. Uhh… Yes… Oh Empire, yes!” No one would have guessed that the restrained, uptight master of the house would be so vocal; particularly when discovery was such a real possibility and had in fact already happened by his three-year-old son. The crescendo of his indulgent moans were accompanied by the hardest and swiftest thrusts Tana had had to endure yet, evidenced by her soft bleats muffled by her arm. His final propel left his hips stuttering to a stop while he let himself come, still enveloped in Tana. Panic bit at her but the threateningly solid grip on her hips prevented her from turning though protesting was out of the question. When he was finished and satisfied with his load left in the chamber maid, he allowed himself to fall out of her and stagger a short distance to grip the fireplace and make himself presentable once more. Tana maintained her position and intended to do so until he left; obviously her trembling was difficult for her to control after such an unwarranted experience. He left the fireplace with his breathing regulated and more or less back to his callous, disinterested demeanour.

 

“Good girl.” The praise was sickening and even more so when he patted her rear like a farmer would a prized show animal; Armitage took that as his cue to slip back to bed. “When I come back, be ready for me. You’re not Sarai’s anymore. You’re mine.”

 

 


 

 

In the months that passed; Tana was relieved beyond belief that her (barely consensual) tryst with her master had been fruitless. He had not yet returned to the house (though she did dread when he did), she was not pregnant and Sarai’s due date loomed. When it eventually happened, when the she-wolf finally went into labour, the entire household was on edge but none more than Tana. If it was a boy, Armitage was safe. If it was a girl, they would no doubt keep trying but if their efforts were benign…. Armitage would be sent away. The duties of the chamber maids were suspended while a team of medics and nurses did their work and for those long hours, Tana paced the kitchen on metaphorical eggshells while Armie seemed unperturbed by the whole thing, despite the implications it would have on him either way.

 

The hours molded into each other into seemingly forever until the ears of everyone in the kitchen simultaneously pricked up at footsteps on the worn steps of the staircase: Nara. Hesitantly, the younger maid trailed into the kitchen and sat down at the table with her chin hopelessly cupped in her palm; she had a knack for dramatics in announcements but she needed no prompting this time.

 

“It’s a girl.”

Chapter Text

Rosaline was nearly a week old when her father came home to see her. Judging by the flared nostrils and the colder than usual demeanour, he was not impressed that he had been graced with a daughter over a son.

 

“What good is that to me?!” He spat at no one in particular, referring to his daughter as an inanimate object as his footsteps pounded down the main staircase in utter temper. “She’s only going to cost me money in a bloody dowry in a few years! I knew Sarai was useless the minute I set eyes on her, I can’t believe I let myself be coerced! A fucking daughter, what did I do to deserve this?!” He needed to calm down, he needed relief. Should he cut his visit short and return to the Academy? Out of sight, out of mind, as they say? No, his thought process had shifted from one woman to another. “You!” He barked at the maid sweeping the hall who jumped at the sudden interaction from her master. “Tell my son’s guardian I want her in my office. The fire needs to be cleaned out.”

 

 


 

 

Tana almost pitied Sarai. Almost. It didn’t take long for word of the master’s disapproval to seep through the grand flagstones of the main hall down into the kitchen. As usual, one of the maids had been in attendance but essentially a fly on the wall to all the cruel things Sarai was on the receiving end of. “You’re useless!” “I told you I wanted a son!” “She’ll never be good enough!” “This is your fault!” Sarai could not and did not retaliate. She submissively endured everything he hurled at her and reciprocated none of it. Despite the long, arduous labour; the blonde had survived to the bitter-sweet congratulations on a baby girl but knew this would not end well. Her husband had been specific, she knew what he wanted and failed to deliver the legitimate son he craved. It must have galled her to think that one of the kitchen maids had done what she failed to do.

 

When Nara reappeared in the kitchen with a message; Tana had already finished her shift, eaten her dinner and was helping to clean up before she retired to bed with Armie. Said redhead sat by the fire while he waited with his birthday present clutched close to his chest and his eyelids drooping both from exhaustion and the heat.

 

“Tana?” Nara’s uncertainty caused the slightly older maid to turn with curiosity, pausing her current task of drying a saucepan to inquire of her counterpart’s needs.

“You alright, Nara?”

“Yes, I’m fine, it’s just….” The hesitation was born of awkwardness; everyone seemed to know that Tana now belonged to the master as more than just a worker of the house, in the same way that Armitage’s mother had belonged to him. “The Commandant wants you in his office. He says the fire needs to be cleaned out.”

“But…. The fire’s already been cleaned out.”

“I know, Tana.”

“You go, love.” Marla had been listening but Tana had been open with her about the night of Armie’s birthday. While she was disgusted that such an act had been placed on a woman who clearly wanted no part in it, she understood why it happened; why Tana had allowed it to happen. Sympathetic but practical; she also knew that sometimes there was more to placating the masters than good food and a clean house. She knew it first hand from being at Brendol’s father’s beck and call until he grew bored of her. “I’ll leave some hot water on for you to have a wash when you come back. I’ll put Armie to bed; it’s best not to keep him waiting.”

 


 

 

“You’re not pregnant.” Was the first icy observation from master to servant. Judging by the flat stomach some months after their first encounter, it was the only conclusion the elder Hux could draw.

“No, sir.” The reverent squeak already stroked his ego and as always, eye contact or even to look upon him was carefully avoided. Needless to say; the more submissive she displayed herself, the more she stoked his dominance.

“Good. The last thing I need is another bastard.” Tana didn’t know who to thank for restraining her noticeable flinch at those vile words but she would figure it out later and thank them profusely. For now, though, she remained dutifully silent. “How is my son?”

“He’s very well, sir. Getting bigger every day; eating plenty and-“

“Enough.” The command was obeyed by dropping her sentence and not uttering another syllable. Whether the Commandant could feel the dread radiating from the chamber maid was another question but if he could he revelled in it with his next order. “Get on your knees.”

 


 

 

If the scraping on her knees wasn’t a reminder of her place, nothing was. Tana returned to the kitchen and mercifully found it empty; the thought of seeing anyone or trying to make up an alibi was not appealing. She could still taste him; that awful, tangy saltiness and she could still feel him carelessly pushing into the back of her throat with little concern for if she was capable of taking him or not. It was as if he was still there; moaning in her ear and gripping the back of her head with how the disgusting noise reverberated in her violated mind and the pressing of his fingers had become imprinted in her scalp. Thankfully, he hadn’t used her body but he might see fit to change that before he returned to the Academy. True to her word, Marla had left warm water for her to wash and although her master hadn’t sought that kind of satisfaction, she washed anyway before rinsing out her mouth. The last thing she wanted was to kiss her son with his father still on her breath.

 


 

 

The baby! The baby! The baby! The baby! It was all Armie ever seemed to hear these days!

“Oh she’s so beautiful!”

“Oh she’s so good!”

“Oh she’s so placid!”

 

Armie was beautiful! Armie was good! Armie was placid! Whatever that meant, he was sure he was that too! Had they forgotten about him? All they seemed to talk about was the baby!

 

“What’s a Ros’line?” The little redhead sat on the bed a few nights later while his mother changed though she did her best to restrain her giggle at the obvious disapproval that he didn’t bother to hide.

“Rosaline’s not a what, she’s a who.” Tana explained patiently through her amusement as her darling son’s cheeks were cupped and his forehead kissed once she was dressed for sleep. “Rosaline is the baby’s name. Y’know the baby everyone is talking about?”

“Yes….”

“Mmmhmm. That’s her. She’s…. Sarai’s baby.” Tana doubted Armie would notice her hesitation but surely it was understandable? No doubt there would be repercussions (more than likely with Sarai) is Armie found out Rosaline was his sister. But wouldn’t he find out eventually? If Sarai had her way, he wouldn’t. Then again, if Sarai had her way, he wouldn’t exist at all. There was no gentle way to broach the subject without confusing the child and nudging at the less than savoury situation that might cause him to ask questions. It couldn’t be hidden forever and when it was uncovered, she would be upfront and truthful but hopefully, it would be some time before that happened if it ever happened at all. To play ignorant for now appeared to be the best course of action and the one Tana would take. As far as Armie would know, he didn’t have a sister.

 

“The mean lady.”

“Yes, the mean lady. C’mon, potty before bed.”

 


 

 

At last! The chance to escape! Marla was deep in the scullery, searching for something Armie couldn’t yet pronounce but it was immaterial; the coast was clear and he was going to take advantage of it. He didn’t know the house very well; his time was mostly spent in the kitchen with Marla but surely a chance to explore was worth taking? Armie certainly thought so. His steps were getting steadier and more confident all the time but he still toddled and still tumbled but he was always back on his feet as soon as he did. Even in his sheltered little mind; Armie could calculate that the more splendorous the décor became, the closer he came to Sarai and therefore, Rosaline. For someone so young and sweet, jealousy still bubbled when he thought about the infant. He was there first! Everyone (with the exception of Sarai and his own father) adored him! And she had the gall to step in on that and turn everyone’s heads?! How dare she?!

 

The staff that noticed Armie on Sarai’s corridor assumed Tana was nearby and the little boy was waiting for her. If they had dreamed for a second that he was there alone and with the intention of seeking out the baby, they would have snatched him up immediately and brought him downstairs. For now, Armie went uninterrupted; opening and closing doors until he found a dimly lit one with an overly clean smell. It reminded him of the powder Tana used on his bottom to keep him from itching but also sweet like flowers and entirely warm like the spot beside the fire he was so fond of. So ever so carefully, he pushed in the door. All seemed quiet and calm; there was little noise, only that of the fire crackling and crunching on a dry log but on Arkanis, it was necessary almost all year long as the planet seemed to be in a continuous state of autumn.

 

He followed the familiar sound without too much difficulty and in the unfamiliar room, he found it. Not just the fire but the mass carefully placed in front of it; a mass that clearly needed a sufficient source of heat. It seemed like a bed? A suspended bed in front of the fire? But not like any bed he’d ever seen. As he neared it and brushed against it, it moved. Curious and a tad unnerved, Armie tried to steady the genial rocking of the ‘bed’ but as he did, he heard something else. Like a whinge or a whimper. Frozen with almost excited fear, he listened to the little protests that (to him) sounded like: “You woke me. Why did you wake me?” He decided he needed a closer look and the conveniently placed chair beside the cradle would provide an ideal vantage point. Clambering awkwardly, Armie ignored the ache in his little limbs at the promise of a new experience and when he finally got there, it was more than worth it.

 

Everything the others said was true. In awe, Armie stared down at the tiny life form in the cradle and took in the almost silver blonde hair and the magnificent blue eyes among other things. Fascinated, he watched the somewhat rigid flexing of her fingers smaller than matchsticks, the slow lowering of thin but long lashes over her wakefulness and the inquisitiveness she regarded him with, unafraid. Short of breath out of sheer wonderment for this little thing, he found a smile pulling at the corner of his lips when she began to kick out her legs insistently and reach for him so he gladly conceded. Overly aware of how delicate and glasslike she was, he was extremely careful when he reached in and gently stroked her wee hand with his finger. His hands may have been cold but she didn’t seem to mind; in fact, Rosaline attempted to speak to him in the only way she knew how: pleased gurgles and approving coos.

 

“Hello….” His solid footing on the chair would not be solid for much longer. In blissful unawares of the impending intrusion, he continued to gawp, captivated, as he leaned over the cradle. “My name’s Armie. I live here too but I’ll share with you.”

 

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE??!!” The shriek erupted but it all happened so suddenly that the first thing Armie felt was the torturous dragging at his scalp as he was dragged away from the now screaming Rosaline. Sarai had appeared from nowhere and seized a handful of her step-son’s scarlet hair without an allowance of breaking his fall.

 

“Stop!! Staaahhppp!” Armie’s agonized wail only aggravated Sarai further, even more so when he tried to pry his hair free from her clenched fist. His knees met the floor with a bruising thud and while he tried to struggle to put up some resistance, the stone floor tore at his kneecaps and shredded the skin; only putting the toddler in even more pain. “Pleeeeease!” The pleading sobs wore no impact on Sarai as she hauled the redhead across the room and out into the corridor while it felt like his roots were burning in his skull. “Lemme…. go!! Lemme…. go!!” She had no intention of it. She would teach him once and for all that he was not welcome and to do that, she heaved him to the top of the staircase with her foot at the ready to swing. “Don’t!”

 

“NO!” The merciful echo from below saw Tana appear at the bottom and clear the staircase at a nearly inhuman speed but her eyes only on one thing: Her son. Sarai’s grip grudgingly relinquished before Tana reached them and watched, disgusted, as the chamber maid sweep the boy up into her arms where he broke down. The younger of the two females cradled her child and held him while he broke down into erratic howls of fear, trauma and relief all at once into her chest. His knees wept and his head was only beginning to cool while Tana tried to soothe him and assure him everything was alright. Unfortunately, Sarai still lurked in the background.

 

“If I ever catch that vile, bastard brat near her or in this part of the house again…..” The hiss was dangerous and awfully sincere which meant Tana had never been so tempted to assault her mistress. Eyes flashing and nose wrinkled with loathing, Sarai delivered her chilling threat while Tana pulled her breathless child closer with wary protectiveness. “He will feel every. single. step. Get it out of my sight."

Chapter Text

Abandoning her shift, Tana had struggled with the borderline-traumatized toddler in her arms all the way back down to the kitchen though it was impossible to get an answer from him. She held him as those petrified wails subsided into heavy, suffocating hiccups; the rubbing of her chapped hand on his heaving back eased him a little but fury bubbled in the kitchen maid at the injustice. He was a child, he was bound to be curious; was Sarai expecting Rosaline to grow up like a carefully programmed droid? Did she think her daughter wouldn’t explore and do the things she wasn’t supposed to? Was she so delusional to think that Rosaline wouldn’t stray and wreak havoc; even if there was no malic intended? If she did, Sarai was about to be very disappointed. Poor Armie though, he didn’t see Rosaline again after that; not for a very long time.

 

 


 

 

Seven Years Later

 

“Hurry up and put that bloody shovel back, will you?! It’s gonna piss soon and I want to be inside when that happens!” Another long day in the garden saw the redhead bounding back and forth for pieces of equipment on demand with little break and even less thanks; then again, what could he expect from Vas who had always kept him on his toes? He was still slight in his overall form; weedy and thin as a slip of paper with the unchanged strands of fire and meek disposition but as gentle as he was as a toddler. Ten years old but somehow feeling older with the physical labour of every single day, Armitage did as he was bid. At least this was a signal that the day of work might be coming to an end to rest his aching arms and splintering legs. As predicted and almost as if on schedule; the downpour was torrential but no less the brand that Arkanis had come to expect.

 

“Right. C’mon, let’s get outta here!” The strong accent from the north of the planet bellowed to the younger male but it seemed Vas hadn’t planned on waiting for him. With the shed door shut, bolted and secured; Armitage found himself alone in the near stinging pelts but he took a small indulgence to think of how his mother would barrage Vas later and possibly Marla too. Quickly becoming weighty with rain absorbed into his hair and clothes, Armitage started to stumble with the sodden grass quickly becoming water logged and stodgy beneath his feet. With a significant distance to the house and the storm rapidly getting worse, it appeared for it to be fate that Armie’s mind wiped the shed from his mind as a potential source of shelter so on he ventured for somewhere to ride it out, anywhere at all.

 

Head bowed, eyelashes working on overdrive and arms clinging to opposite sides of his chest; he wandered almost blindly for several moments until he came to an embankment. Said embankment curved to provide refuge into a small cavern with enough room for someone to comfortably walk several paces. A very bony rear met the earthy floor with a despondent thump and a soft sigh as he watched the little silver bullets racing each other into the ground and whatever surface they could attack. How long would he be there? Would they be worried about him back in the kitchen?He was cold, hungry, sore….

 

“Hello?” Jumping with an audible yelp of surprise, Armitage scrambled in his urgency to turn with fright etched into those pale features but his fear was unwarranted. Behind him, he found someone tucked deeper into the indent in more or less the same situation as himself; seeking sanctuary. Small, startled pants still ruffled in his chest as his eyes squinted to peer through the makeshift darkness of the clouded sky outside; he could make something (or rather someone) out. Eventually, his eyes adjusted and he found himself face to face with a girl somewhat younger than himself though he couldn’t quite guess exactly how much. He paid no attention to the soil embedded under his nails from the alarmed spin though his fingers did rake at it as his arm propped him up; a nervous twitch.

 

“Hi?” The curiosity seemed to be mutual and the sound of shuffling alerted Armitage to movement further back in the narrow tunnel to suggest the unfamiliar female was moving towards him. Her movement sounded awkward, as if she were dragging herself on her bottom rather than using her arms as he did; the reason would soon become apparent. Her face, pale like his, began to melt into his line of vision, home to two eyes of an icy crystal blue and features in such an appealing arrangement that he found vaguely familiar though he couldn’t place why; nor were the silvery blonde tresses that coated her shoulders and her back. Clutched to her chest, however, Armitage found the cause for her shuffling in the form of a tiny marmalade kitten.

 

“I found her.” The girl offered without prompt, noticing the interest the redhead regarded this unusual entity with. “I found her but it started to rain and I was far away and now my dress is dirty…. Mama is going to be so cross!” Sensing the distress and potential upset, Armitage edged further into the tunnel until there was nothing more than a few inches between their crossed legs.

 

“I’m sure mama won’t be cross.” He tried to assure her gently, taking the lead as he felt an elder child should though her pretty face still held doubt which should have warned him of what kind of person her mother was. He studied the marmalade more closely now; she certainly seemed scraggly, underweight, soggy and generally filthy but the little girl remained protective, already attached by the looks of it. “Have you given her a name? I think she’d like a name.” Armie had no experience with children; he, himself, being one still. His only reference was how the others treated him and while most bore no malice to him, some (like Vas) had little time for him and he was yet to discover why that was.

 

“Uhh….” Turning the kitten with the utmost care to look at her, it took a few seconds of scrutiny until…. “Millicent. I like Millicent.” The kitten was tucked back against her chest with almost maternal attention before her eyes returned to her new friend. “What’s your name? I haven’t seen you before.”

 

“I think she likes it too.” Armie offered with a pull of a soft smile, relieved when her features lit up and the worry disbanded. “Armitage.” He answered to the brief fleeting of a confused grimace; he assumed the pronunciation to be too much of a mouthful for her. “But Armie is fine.”

 

“I’m Rosaline.” The name stirred something, like a long-forgotten memory unearthed from somewhere in his reminiscence; did it remind him of a painfully vague encounter years ago under circumstances he couldn’t recall? Something he complied with forgetting, despite knowing it was special? If it did, this girl was involved but to his frustration, his memory would not cooperate. “But I like Rosie. No one calls me Rosie….”

 

“I’ll call you Rosie, Rosie.” That sweet grin at his stab at humour grated his hidden frustration even more; surely someone at the house would know more? Surely this girl hadn’t just appeared from nowhere? Armitage chanced a glance behind him and mercifully, a change in the weather had miraculously occurred; as if its only purpose was to bring these two (three?) together. “Well, Rosie, it doesn’t seem to be raining anymore; how about we get you back to the house and get you dry? Maybe get something for Millicent too? She looks quite hungry, wouldn’t you agree?” Even if Rosaline couldn’t see it amongst the fur, she would no doubt feel the little animal’s excruciatingly obvious bones pressing against her. The nod was all he needed to begin the shimmying back to the mouth of their temporary reprieve. “C’mon then. It’s too cold out here and it might start raining again.”

 

 


 

 

Rosaline and Armitage hesitantly parted ways at the house, clearly accustomed to different entrances and exits with the promise to see each other again soon. With a stray, bedraggled Millicent clutched tight to her chest, sporting a filthy dress and damp from head to toe; perhaps trouble should have been foreseen. And no sooner than Armie setting foot in the kitchen did the explosion erupt from somewhere in one of the more luxurious rooms upstairs; one of the rooms he was explicitly told her was never to venture anywhere near. He didn’t hear it; the stone work and the distance made sure of that so while he warmed himself by the fire with a bowl of soup and a chunk of bread, pandemonium ensued in one of the grand parlours. Trust Tana to be in the midst of it and to bring the source down to the kitchen with her; gesturing to their room with a swift swipe of her finger directed at her son.

 

“You. In there. Now.” Confused, perturbed but unwilling to disobey, his soup soon became forgotten and his seat vacant. His presence in the bedroom only clocked a few seconds before he was set upon. “Want to tell me what the hell this is about?” His mother demanded as much as her gentle nature would allow when she produced, sure enough, a shaking ginger kitten.

 

“Uhh….”

“That’s not an answer, Armie! Why was I asked to give this to you?!”

“I met this girl in the garden-“

“What girl?!”

“Her name is Rosie-“

“Rosaline?!”

“Yes, but-“

“Oh my God, Sarai’s going to have a coronary….” It seemed the introduction of a feral and dirty animal had not been well received, hence the screaming from upstairs and the wailing of a child as the pet was taken from her. She was not so inconsolable, however, that she could not desperately solicit the help of the maid whom her mother had thrust the cat at and told to drown it by whimpering one name. It seemed there were far more pressing things at hand than just a kitten but rather an introduction of siblings who were never meant to meet. “What happened?!”

 

“I’m trying to tell you but-“

“Armitage!” Biting a controlled sigh and reminding himself of patience, he told himself his mother was wound up; that she would calm herself eventually.

 

“I got caught in the rainstorm Vas left me in. I went looking for shelter and came by the embankment to wait it out but she was already in there with the cat. We talked for a bit then walked back to the house together.”

 

“What else?!”

“Nothing else.”

“Alright…..”The brunette followed her son’s example of a deep breath which seemed to work wonders; something she might try more often. “She’s your responsibility now, just don’t let Sarai see her or we’re all in trouble; cat included.” The patience had paid off as Tana calmed significantly to compassionately lay the marmalade into Armitage’s waiting arms. “She matches your hair. And she needs something to eat; see what Marla has leftover.”

Chapter Text

Six Years Later

 

 

The estate was alight. Alight with hushed whispers and lowered eyes as if a rumour was rife; but it wasn’t a rumour. Those whispers contrasted with the now silenced howls and shrieks confined to one muffled suite, they melted from one brand of pain into another; physical then emotional.

 

“A little boy.” One chambermaid who had been present mumbled discretely to another outside Sarai’s wing; it would catch like wildfire but every word was weighted with truth of the tyrannical female’s most recent and damning failure yet. “Stillborn.”

 

 


 

 

 

Armitage’s individual meetings with his father didn’t amount to many; most of the time, they were token visits for the elder redhead to assess the progress of the younger one. They didn’t last long and for that, Armitage was grateful. It also never escaped his notice that his mother was usually summoned for after and didn’t return until after he went to bed; he had since moved into his own pathetic excuse of a sleeping quarters. While the end of those meetings was usually greeted with unparalleled relief and reprieve; the latest one, that had ended only moments previous, did not end the way the others did. Visibly shaken and mentally reeling, the teen’s feet clicked into autopilot and carried him towards the garden (despite a number of chores still to be done) while his mind clamoured and his emotions barely held themselves together.

 

The muscles in his legs worked together to put one foot in front of the other; over and over again until carpet became tile, tile became gravel and gravel became grass. The steps were innumerable; his mind was too devastatingly blank to count them or even pay them heed but they mounted in quantity while the minutes became indefinite but towards a specific source of comfort. For him to seek comfort alone, however, would be selfish; especially given the mutterings that floated around the kitchen that morning.

 

“Rosie?” The other breathing hitched, realizing her discovery but by the best possible person given the circumstances. He waited for a response while she assessed the voice; it seemed her despair had scattered her rational thought and delayed her reactions. “It’s me.”

 

“Rosie…..”

 

He heard her before he saw her; the sniffling emanating from somewhere among the trees gave her away though he knew she hid from everyone but him so he followed it. Like the day he met her, he came upon Rosaline amidst the foliage in all her blue-eyed glory clutching the marmalade cat that they shared close to her torso; unbeknownst to her mother, of course. Pity swelled in the scrawny, adolescent chest as he watched her stroke Millicent almost unexpressive while staring at seemingly nothing in the depths of her grief.

 

“I’m so sorry, Rosie.” He meant it.  His tone dripped with a sincere sorrow that prompted a heightening of watering eyes to his; it tugged on his heartstrings as he sank into the lush greenery beside her. “I’m so sorry to hear about your brother.” The consequence of those consoling words was a disconsolate thump as her temple joined to his forearm; he maneuvered said arm in such a way to drape it comfortingly across her shoulder and hold her while the sniffling continued. The cat’s patience never wavered; rather, she seemed aware that her young mistress was taking solace from her and so, remained poised without struggling.

 

“Why?” Lost for a kind explanation, Armitage resolved to press a succouring kiss to her hairline; an action that nudged her to cuddle closer and for the redhead to accommodate her with a genial nuzzling of support. “He was only a baby, why did he die?” Again, what could he say? He knew little enough as it was but from what he had gathered from the gossip, the child simply wasn’t strong enough; it happened sometimes and there was no avoiding it.

 

“I don’t know.” The teenager admitted with his own trial seemingly forgotten to get her through hers. Leaning sideways, the white-blonde head had become buried in the grubby, greying cloth of his work tunic where fresh tears soon added to the staining; Armitage almost doubled over on her in an attempt to shield her from the dreadful turn of events but nothing he could do would change them. He couldn’t tell her now, surely? What his father had said to him in that terrible meeting? He couldn’t, it would be cruel when she was so delicate so for now, Rosaline would be his focus and he would be her rock.

 

“It’s not fair....” The voice like an Arkanis summer breeze cracked again like it had with every other distraught uttering; despite being muffled by her friend’s chest. “He shouldn’t have died…. Mama is heartbroken and father is furious….” Yes, he remembered that much from the brief encounter in the Commandant’s office; the outraged pacing, the saliva flying, the savage insults towards Sarai that were unnecessary in a conversation between father and son on an unrelated topic…. “I wish there was something I could have done!” Armitage felt the same; had the son survived, he would have been spared the Academy but alas, the bloodline needed to be represented, even if it was done so by a bastard.

 

“There’s nothing you could have done, Rosie.” Armitage reasoned as he continued to tenderly cradle the younger female close in a bid to ease her; it may have taken more than sympathetic words but it was the best he could offer for now. “There’s nothing anyone could’ve done; it just…. happens.” The intention was comfort but only caused the female to weep a little harder. “I know... I’m sorry....”

 

With the close proximity and passionate tensions running high, one inexplicable thing lead to another when a tear in time found one set of teenage lips against the other; the instigator unknown. There was no mistake-rectifying scramble apart, no mumble of apology and quick scoot of distance; nothing of a regretful essence as the gentle, water-testing embrace continued and suddenly…. Everything settled. There was no fret of the Academy, no mourning for a baby brother; even the cat made a hasty exit. There was peace and in those few seconds, not a single thing was out of place in the galaxy; not according to Armitage and Rosaline, at least.

 

When the natural course of it had run and the time came to break apart, they stared at each other. Again; there was no remorse, no shame, no embarrassment and certainly no penance. There was silence save for the white noise of birds chirping and wind rustling with thunder rumbling somewhere in the distance; evacuation from the garden would be imperative soon, lest they repeat the setting of their first meeting. But that played in the background for now, there were far more pressing things than bird song and some rain; much more important was the awakening, a terribly timed awakening born of reaction in two different individuals to two separate (or somewhat connected) tragedies. Or was it? If there had been nothing there previously, why did it feel like so many things had just clicked into place and resolved themselves when their lips met?

 

All those walks in the garden with just each other for company, the joint custody of Millicent which they joyfully shared, the secret meetings after bedtime where she would smuggle indulgences from the dessert cart to enjoy with her companion…. Those things, among others, were not nothing. They may have masqueraded under the guise of friendship for the last six years but had they been fooled in thinking that was all it was? It seemed so. Did that trouble the pair? Apparently not. Not when the kiss resumed with far more confidence and sureness, a theme that carried the subsequent kisses. That is…. Until the rain came.

 

 


 

 

Two Days Later.

 

“You couldn’t have told me sooner?” The question cut him, particularly the forlornness that made him bite his lip. He should have told her sooner but with the rawness of losing her brother, he felt it was best to wait before hitting her with another blow; especially since the recent development in their relationship.

 

“I didn’t want to overload you.” The excuse clearly wasn’t good enough with the unchanging of her crestfallen expression and lowering of dejected eyes; Armitage did not restrain his dismay but it seemed nothing he could say would change the borderline betrayal. “I don’t want to go either, Rosie.” He professed softly while she clutched Millicent, her living security blanket. “But you know how cruel he can be and if he finds out about us, I don’t want to think of what he’ll do to you to force me.”

 

“I already lost my brother, I don’t want to lose you too!” Rosaline protested with uncharacteristic but desperation driven force; losing a brother she didn’t know was one thing but losing a friend who had recently (very recently) become more was another, distress was understandable. She retreated to despondency but in an instant, Armitage’s forehead found hers to impose comfort like he had done two days previous.

 

“I promise….” He mumbled, purposely keeping his voice low to avoid an assault on her delicate ears. “I will come home as often as I can to you, I’ll keep in contact any way that I can and I will strive to get out of there as soon as possible to come home to you. I promise that, Rosie; I promise it faithfully.” Lips joined then separated in a vow, Rosaline simply nodded, knowing she could do nothing else. Those kisses were commonplace now; in the past two days they had made up for lost time which made the imminent separation all the more traumatic.

 

“Tomorrow…..” She returned the favour of keeping her voice low while the physical closeness did ease her somewhat but something else vexed her and she conveyed it in finding his eyes with hers. There was something else in that look, something else that gave a different taste to the next kiss; something far more devotional than meagre kisses or holding hands. Armitage seemed to know.

 

“Are you sure? We don’t have to-“

 

“I want to. We don’t know when we’ll see each other again.”

 

“That doesn’t mean we-“

 

“I’m sure.”  Not entirely convinced but willing to comply with her logic, the garden was not ideal.

 

“Okay….” Armitage maintained the closeness but cast a look past the trees to assess how likely it was for them to be caught on their way back to the house, hand in hand. Safe for now, he still had thinking to do with the logistics of how it was going to work.

 

 


 

 

“I’ll go through the kitchen, you stay here.” He affirmed with a kiss to her forehead before he prepared to leave her at the basement window. “I’ll open the window, you climb through; it’s over the bed so you won’t get hurt and I’ll help you down, don’t worry.”

 

 


 

 

They knew what they eavesdropped, what Rosaline heard the maid’s giggling and what Armitage heard the men boasting; it was by no means concrete or even helpful to two virgins but they would make do. The bed (if it could even be called that) was uncomfortable with its sack-like mattress stuffed with all matter of things to give it depth, a patchwork blanket of various materials stitched together like a tapestry and a pillow so worn, he was sure it was older than him; however, it didn’t impede them. Despite the consciousness of the redhead that her bed was far superior to his and it might deter her, that didn’t seem to be the case; rather, it drover her.

 

“Are you sure?” He asked for the umpteenth time, giving her ample time and opportunity to terminate the arrangement should she be anxious or apprehensive but his concerns were silenced by the press of encouraging lips to his that directed him to sandwich her between him and the scratchy mattress. With limited knowledge and experience, they felt their way in the metaphorical and (almost) literal darkness when it came to contraception, positions and the idea itself but eager to get underway, the last of their clothes were discarded every which way. “Are you ready?”

 

“Yes.” The certainty was greeted with a conceding nod before he teetered back a to carefully guide himself with the utmost concentration. It was strange, in the most wonderful way, to see her as he’d never see her before; to see parts of her he’d never seen before that enamoured him even more. Particularly when he watched his first inch or two disappear into her before the squirm and the whimper woke him to her discomfort.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

“It hurts….”

 

“D’you want me to stop?”

 

“No…. Just…. Do it and come here.” He obeyed. To fully immerse himself would agonize her so instead, he opted to watch her face and test her threshold; when her face contorted and her breath hitched in torment, he would not push so far again. When he eventually found the happy medium, he did as she commanded and shuffled back to reunite his lips with hers; all the while trying to keep the position favourable to her. When he was assured of her contentment, only then did his genial nudges start to edge towards her core but on constant alert for any excess in reaction.

 

Closer now than they had ever been, the couple melted into each other as the hurdle of pain was overcome and there was little to do now but enjoy it until the inevitable end; lack of experience would ensure that end would come soon. The groans and sighs of mutual delight may have been quiet and hushed but they were there nonetheless and appreciated by the other in a steady stream of delectation. Armitage gazed at this magnificent creature, the one that watched him from beyond shyly lowered lashes. She’d grown into herself in the past six years; every day she grew more beautiful and it was an honour for him to witness that. Which was probably why when he was in this position of absolute trust and intimacy that things became clearer and blatant.

 

He already knew she was his sister; half, but still his sister and yet, with her then and there, it didn’t feel like it. It didn’t feel like a taboo between siblings or even forbidden between servant and mistress; it felt like a cementing of what it should have been all along and not only a very recent blooming, blood was irrelevant. He had never known her as such, as a sister; only a friend that he knew he was fond of in a different way. Perhaps things may have been different had Sarai been more accommodating of the unfortunate situation surrounding his birth but it made little odds; he had no sister now, only a lover.

 

His thrusts, amiable and placid in nature, were barely visible above the blanket but the activity was obvious; especially to Tana’s revolted horror when she came to check if he was packed and ready to depart the following morning. Luckily, she was subtle by nature and by profession so the intrusion went undiscovered but reeling and stunned, her scrabbled retreat nearly wasn’t. The activity itself was probably normal for someone his age to explore and it occurred to her long ago that her son would, at some point, part-take in sexual intercourse; but it was the white-blonde head that disturbed her.

 

As probably predicted, it didn’t last very long. Armitage picked up his thrusts to just enough to carry both himself and Rosaline over into satisfaction but also to avoid hurting her as much as possible. Eventually, gloriously, it happened and the couple found their peak together. Clinging tight to each other, noses aligned and lips poised; the redhead felt that unfamiliar but incredible sensation of her internal hugging that milked him in a way that should have caused concern. Thankfully, ignorance was bliss and instead of such panic, they moulded into their post-coital relaxation where they would stay until the next morning when a very difficult goodbye would induce heartache.

Chapter Text

There was no contact; no com calls, no holo-transmissions or holomail. Not even the most primitive, hand-written note so Rosie worried. Had she been foolish? Had she overestimated the entire situation? Had she given herself to someone who didn’t want her at all? No, that couldn’t be it. She had been the one to suggest it and coerce it; unless Armitage knew her well enough to know she would do so and wouldn’t have to do it himself and seem…. No. That wasn’t her Armie. He had been fretful and uncertain but gave her what she wanted regardless, even taking the utmost care of her while doing so.

 

So why no contact? It seemed Armitage had made assumptions in how the Academy was run, like a normal boarding school; but that was not the case. Once he’d been shown to his bunk (in a shared room with other cadets), he was effectively put on lockdown. Outside contact (for the Commandant’s son, at least) was prohibited. I’ll keep in contact any way that I can…. Perhaps that wasn’t so easy after all and though he had done nothing to the other boys around him, being the Commandant’s son was enough of a black mark for them to refuse to send his holos for him. Whether they feared repercussions for helping him or didn’t like him enough to do so, Armitage couldn’t be sure but it was unfair all the same.

 

Even though he couldn’t contact Rosaline, he had to cope in any way he could to return home to her; she became the cornerstone of his survival. That extended to when the lights went out and his dorm-mates (hopefully) fell asleep; then he took matters into his own hands.

 

The top bunk wasn’t ideal; if he got too riled or excited, it was easily distinguished and waking someone was all too likely. But Rosaline…. His Rosie…. His coiled fist didn’t feel the same but if he closed his eyes and imagined hard enough, she was there; with him, enthusiastic and adoring. He didn’t dare mention the girl back home like the others did. Not only would they not believe him, but word would reach his father and there was only one blonde girl in his age bracket at the house; his forbidden sister.

 

Still, it never stopped him slicking his own hand with spit and pre-cum before entering that dream world where he wasn’t making love to his own hand.

 

When it finally happened that cadets were informed they would have one standard week of rest with the option of returning home, Armitage paled. Empire Day fell in the middle of that week, the reason for rest week, he assumed; unable to pack quick enough. He remembered his father being home for maybe one or two (maximum) Empire Days back at the estate, the rest he had opted to spend at the Academy; a blessing for which the staff and Armitage were grateful. Now, it worried him for two reasons. The first: If his father wasn’t returning to the estate, would he be permitted to go without him? And the second: If his father did return with Armitage, how would he and Rosaline reconnect with their father skulking around?

 

Mercifully, neither of those things came to pass.

 

 


 

 

Tana welcomed him with open arms and on the verge of tears (she’d shed many in his absence); that lonely frustration had apparently not been exclusive to Armitage. The others milled around with their own brand of fawning, the women and the men significantly different in their greetings. But in everyone that received him home, there was (probably understandably) no Rosie. When he managed to weasel his way with the explanation of needing fresh air after being cooped up in the Academy and then a carrier, Armitage made for the garden.

 

 


 

 

Rosie waited where she always waited; where she sat when she had a stolen piece of cake to share from the dessert cart or an extra piece of meat or pastry that she had bundled away for someone who had less. The light, airy cream sponge waited with her, as did Millicent. She knew he was home, the building excitement was palpable among the service folk and she listened to their conversations when she could; to gather information on Armitage’s homecoming.

 

She’d been no better than Armitage while he was away. She thought of him often; every night and day, in fact. Her mother snapped at her at regular intervals for being in a daydream, for having her head in the cloud but Rosaline just couldn’t help it. Each day, she pined heavily for her redheaded lover but couldn’t tell anyone why she stared listlessly out the window or why she spent so much time wandering the garden by herself. She was off, not herself but no one seemed to care too much about her to notice; that wouldn’t happen if Armitage was there, she was sure of it.

 

Nothing had come of their last union, not that she understood the implications of it. It would have betrayed everything and either she or Armitage would have been sent away for certain, never to be seen again, if her belly had started to swell. Fortunately, that did not happen either. Though for some reason, she did catch one of her mother’s chambermaids looking at her more than usual, more than necessary; the chambermaid she knew her father had a lewd liking for. Tana’s protective concern was for more than just Armitage after the discovery that no mother wanted to make; by keeping a watchful eye, Tana hoped to help Rosie discreetly should she need it.

 

And so, they had survived alone but only because of each other.

 

Armitage would know that white-blonde head anywhere. He moved carefully to their usual spot, where she usually waited for him to finished whatever jobs he had been assigned for the day; mindful of snapping twigs and rustlings leaves that might convey that she was no longer alone. After all, who doesn’t love a surprise? Depending on the surprise, of course.

 

He was upon her before she realized it, a pallid hand covering her eyes from behind though the little squeal of delight suggested that maybe he should have covered her mouth instead. Whipping around and into the guarding embrace of her lover, Rosaline felt complete at last. Cake and cat forgotten, the teen buried her forehead into a cadet’s uniform rather than a grubby work tunic and did her best not to cry; save for a few stray tears, she was successful.

 

“I can’t believe you’re back!” The ecstatic breath marked the first of many mutual kisses, making up for the ones they hadn’t had all along. “I’ve missed you so desperately, you have no idea!”

 

“Oh I have some insight alright.” He countered playfully, dropping his forehead to press affectionately to hers, the sate the longing ache he’d beaten back for months on end. “I hate that place. I tried to contact you; I wasn’t allowed any of that privilege and none of the other cadets would help me….”

 

“You’re home now.” She interjected, gently but firmly; sparing him the ramble. “You needn’t worry about then and I know now, we should be making up for lost time before you need to go back again….”

 

“I’m home for a week so there’s no hurry…..” With that said, the pressing of lips became that bit more urgent and breathing deepened to accommodate the mounting arousal. Millicent scarpered into the darkness while the napkin-coated cake lay abandoned and Rosie’s behind met the base of their tree. Several layers of modesty-shielding fabric fell prey to Armitage’s more adept fingers; adept at weapon handling, disassembly and reassembly, the dress was no match.

 

Back to the tree-trunk for grounding, Rosie welcomed him shuffling between her bent, open knees and granted another kiss to cement it. Exposing himself to the absolute minimum but enough for their secret activity, Armitage moved in the rest of the way and buried himself to the melody of a soft gasp. They remained mostly dressed; to keep the cold out and to escape quickly should they be almost stumbled upon but the unity itself was all they needed.

 

Fitting her as if they had been made as one whole then cruelly separated, Armitage’s knees braced his full weight on either side of her waist and his chest dipped against hers; his beautiful Rosie. Genial, his hips rocked to the tune of faint whimpers from below, until their lips met once more and passed that breath back and forth.

 

At her whined approval, the redhead increased his nudges, picking up those pleasuring movements but always wary of crunching leaves underfoot nearby.

 

“I’ve missed you….” The devoted murmur came from barely parted lips in the midst of peaks colliding and eyes locked. “So, so much…”

 

It wasn’t long after that that the teens unravelled together; their inexperience still working against them but the resolve to change that was automatic and unspoken, that this affair would continue. Panting, delirious and more overjoyed to be reunited than before; Armitage and Rosaline began to plot.

Chapter Text

Empire Day was no longer celebrated as widely as it once was.

 

In fact, it was barely celebrated at all; only in the most defiant and brazen communities that still craved the return of the Empire. The democratic Republic did not hold the same values of order, discipline and hierarchy; all the values that inspired strength and unity within the Empire, that had made it the powerhouse it once was.

 

Now, to celebrate the day that marked Palpatine ascending to the throne of Emperor and observe the importance of those Imperial values left one open to persecution. It was seen to be outdated, obsolete and, worst of all, that one did not stand with the Republic and the weakness it represented.

 

Armitage, of course, wholeheartedly believed that the Republic was but a poor imitation of his beloved Empire; the one he hoped he would see rise again in his lifetime and, if he worked hard enough, be part of it. Founded on the flaws of compassion and equality, the Republic would not last long and it would almost be worth enduring the Academy if it meant he had a hand in its downfall. If only he knew.

 

So it was only natural that the young redhead stood, brimming with honour, in his pristine cadets uniform. Even though his father never spared him a glance when the fireworks erupted overhead and the Imperial anthem “Glory of the Empire” droned from somewhere in the distance, Armitage was too immersed. There was perhaps no one present quite as enthusiastic about the proceedings as Armitage was; the staff noticed but put it down to his surroundings over the past few months. Tana tended to snap at anyone who used the word “brainwashed” but even she was beginning to see shadows, much to her dread.

 

Like the good old days of the Empire, attendance at the Hux Estate festivities was mandatory and mandatory meant keeping one’s job; particularly when the Commandant was present. Brendol Hux stood with his wife (she was only that by title) and his daughter (whom he regarded as little more than a drain on his finances); a seemingly perfect Imperial family, minus the son. Or maybe they were more perfect in the reality of an Imperial family where absolute dread and misery were concerned.

 

Armitage, in his bliss, broke his concentration for one moment, just one moment, to glance along at his lover; the one he’d been reunited with only three days previous. Standing between her parents, her gaze had trained on the sky too but to his astonishment, it wasn’t excited or passionate like his. Instead, Rosaline looked bored and disinterested. He stared long enough for it not to be noticeable and therefore, commented upon until he realized himself. In a bid to distract himself from his lover/sister’s indifference, Armitage blinked and refocused on the exploding bursts of colour above.

 

Why was she not elated like he was? Why was she not in the very depths of fascination and pride at this joyous event? After all, the lengths gone to by the estate staff to set up such a gala had even been commented upon by the Commandant. Her exposure to it on the upper levels of the house must have been more luxurious than his in the lower ones so why wasn’t she more enthusiastic? First the food, the decorations and then the fireworks, it made no sense.

 

When the last spark petered out and the last of the half-hearted applause died away, everyone went their separate ways; depending on where in the house they lived, of course. He chanced one last glance at Rosaline before she was shepherded by her mother towards the main front door and he was herded by his mother towards the back stairs of the cellar. In a split second in between though, one eye caught another and that was the signal.

 

 


 

 

Rosaline had “gone to bed” and would not be disturbed until morning. By that, she was supposedly in her room and so it would have to be taken at face value that she was indeed in there and not in one of the matchbox-sized rooms in the cellar. More to the point, it was assumed she was in her own bed, asleep and not in the bed of the kitchen boy, naked and breathless.

 

“Ohhhhh….”

 

“Shhhhshhshh….” Armitage’s chest covered her back, to get closer to reach her ear but buried himself deeper at the same time. “My mother’ll hear us, she can’t hear us….” Still, his pelvis bounced off the meaty cheeks of her buttocks and both were close to coming undone in the fresh experience of it. This was new, the way he took her. He’d seen it in a dirty holo and upon explanation, she seemed eager to try it; to both their benefits, it seemed. “I’m nearly there, Rosie….”

 

Hands and knees bracing both her weight and part of his, Rosaline took him with no complaint and the utmost delight; as she usually did but that night was experimental. Even though (when he leaned forward) Armitage could only see one side of Rosaline’s face as he roughly gave her every throbbing inch, hindrance struck him, and he couldn’t help but observe: She was far more zealous then than she was at the fireworks. Like being rammed from behind was more delectable than being awestruck in memory of the Empire.

 

That beautifully alabaster face contorted with the waning fuck and another barely restrained moan, wary of his warning. The rapid snaps of skin on skin came to a bruising crescendo, marking something that wasn’t quite completion but almost as Armitage gave one last snarl at the ceiling. When she suddenly no longer felt the pummels, Rosie knew why and reacted accordingly. Head on the pillow, mostly spent body relaxed along the bed and air expectant, it wasn’t long before he her; or himself, to be precise. Armitage shuffled on his knees, one on either side of her, until he reached where he wanted to be.

 

The envelopment of scarlet-stained lips would finish him, the ones that would leave a faint reminder of the evening when he washed himself that night; what better way to end It?

 

“Good girl, Rosie...” He sighed with flickering lids; a symptom of pure pleasure as he reached back to knead an ivory breast. “Good girl, milk me....”

 

The wet heat of his Rosaline's mouth took the nudging thrusts with muffled whines of her own. This was the third time they'd indulged; the first was experimental in the shed, the second, she'd insisted upon in the garden and now it was becoming a habit. A habit enjoyed immensely and mutually but also a better way of disposing of the fruit of an encounter.

 

“Empire....” Almost... “Empire...!”

 

So much for discretion and subtlety. Cock aimed and loaded for the back of his sister's throat, Armitage kept her comfort somewhere in mind and so restrained himself from pushing further; like his impending orgasm dictated. But, like he'd murmured to her, she milked him still with gusto.

 

“Ahhh….! Ahhh….!” With little warning other than the sudden intensifying of the seemingly constant niggle, Armitage’s (internal) body was hurled into an increasingly familiar state of euphoria; the only release, was a tiny trickle and an abundance of panting. He remembered to stop the pushing of his hips; slowing them to allow Rosaline to clean him properly before yielding completely and stroke that sliver of cum from her chin. She took it with her tongue and only then was she satisfied that he was as clean as she could make him.

 

With the primal urges out of both their systems, they opted for something more human; something that saw Armitage fold down on the bed beside her to sate the need for closeness. Lips pressed to hers in a series of worshipping pecks and a weapon-adept hand cradling her pinkened cheek; Rosie never had any doubts that she was adored.

 

“Did you enjoy the fireworks?” As soon as his lungs, his brain and every other vital organ had become replenished with blood and oxygen, Armitage decided to test the water; while his stare could have been taken as veneration, he used it also to monitor her reactions. “They lit up your face so magnificently, I found it difficult to look anywhere else.” He knew that shy, slow lowering of her lashes all too well, her usual response to flattery but the slight pursing of her lips suggested hesitation; like Rosaline was choosing her words carefully.

 

“They were beautiful.” She responded with the barest touch of wariness; enough for Armitage to pick up on like he had learned in interrogation training. “A novelty, something to look at; an excuse to leave the house.”

 

“So, you weren’t bored? I heard someone remark you looked bored.” Another standard tactic; blame someone else, protect yourself and appear as a friend. “And not just the fireworks; surely the whole house was decked out in honour of Empire Day?” Discomfort started to noticeably ebb at Rosaline’s prepossessing features; whether she knew he was purposefully putting her in a corner or not, he wasn’t sure yet. “I’m quite sure I saw some Imperial delicacies being prepared in the kitchen but, unfortunately, I didn’t get to sample any.”

 

“I really should go.” Rosaline sat up quickly without giving an answer and looked over the side of the bed for her dress to avoid looking at Armitage. “Big day tomorrow; music lessons and-“

 

“Why didn’t you enjoy Empire Day?” Cutting to the chase, Armitage stared intently at the creamy expanse of his sister’s back until her gaze returned to his; immediately, she was unnerved. “The Republic aren’t capable of ruling this galaxy, Rosie. You know the Empire is going to be restored, why not commemorate it? It is, after all, inevitable.”

 

“Commemorate it?!” The blue-eyed beauty repeated with something akin to horror; the closest her emotionally repressed upbringing would allow, at least. Women should be seen and not heard and they certainly shouldn’t be seen to be disagreeable; or so her mother had told her. “Commemorate what?! Genocide?! Terror?! That awful weapon?! Armie, what has that Academy done to you?!”

 

“It’s made me see the truth, Rosie!” He spat, frustrated by her blindness; the whole galaxy seemed to wear the same blindfold. “It’s educated me in the hidden history of the Republic and the Empire! The Republic is guilty of its own atrocities and continues to be but where I am now, I can do something about it!”

 

“I’m leaving, Armie.” Rosaline declared with an edge of pity and resignation after a bout of stony silence. “I’m not having this argument with you, not now.”

 

“Of course you won’t!” He barked with irate vexation as she started to dress; just the bare minimum and enough to leave. “Because you know it’s the truth! Cling to the lie of the Republic all you want but it won’t last!” Dressed and having had enough, Rosaline turned to leave but Armitage’s barrage wasn’t quite finished so his words followed her. “Peace won’t last! Order won’t last! And when it doesn’t, you’ll want to be with the winning side which won’t be the Republic!”

 

Childish? Maybe. Brainwashed? Certainly.

Chapter Text

Armitage, like a snotty brat after a tantrum, didn’t seek Rosaline after that; not for the rest of his shore leave. He made it his business to spend as much of his time as deep in the garden as possible and immersed in his propaganda. Even when the weather was poor and he was forced inside, Armitage spoke to no one; much to his mother’s devastation.

 

To her credit, Rosaline did, despite her dread, try to see her Armie again before he left. Twice. And both times, she was hesitantly told by his mother that he was elsewhere. Now, having known Tana for as long as she could remember and the fact that Tana didn’t hide the fact very well, Rosie was well aware that she was a very poor liar; the grimace suggested she wanted to tell her everything but knowing he was listening made her think again. So, twice, Rosie slinked from the kitchen, downcast and embarrassed.

 


 

 

“She was here again.” Armitage already knew but didn’t turn away from his packing to acknowledge his mother. Tana waited for a response with her hand poised on the handle of the open door; feeling much like Rosie looked like she felt. He wasn’t her Armie anymore. He hadn’t been in quite some time, not since he went to that vile Academy and underwent the brainwashing she’d feared. He wasn’t the child she used to cuddle up with at night, he wasn’t the placid toddler that would give everyone a hug before they left for their daily duties. He certainly wasn’t the lumbering pre-teen that helped out in whatever way he could, no matter how dirty the job. He’d changed, and not for the better.

 

Now…. He was this ruthless and unfeeling specimen that packed one hell of a shot; if the evidence on the tree trunks in the woods were anything to go by. She’d told herself she’d imagined the elitist disdain she’d seen whenever he was subjected to any of the people he used to consider his family; herself included. The way he spoke, with the rolling r’s and the trademark Imperial drawl, made him difficult to even speak to; never mind the horrible things he’d say. He had, regardless of her best efforts, become his father.

 

“You should see her before you go.” Again, she went unanswered. Armitage had never disclosed the illicit relationship with his sister to his mother; or anyone, in fact. But Tana knew and she knew she couldn’t stop or change it; all she could do was watch from afar and try to prevent any damage. Having witnessed Rosaline’s hurt, it seemed some damage had already been done and as a direct result of the redhead’s terrible transformation; he’d isolated everyone else, it was only a matter of time before Rosaline felt the sting too. Good, kind, pure Rosaline didn’t fit into his cold, regimented sphere any longer; so what is the best thing to do with useless ties? Sever them.

 

“Armitage?” Tana tried again but Armitage continued to pack with the arrogance to pretend that she wasn’t there. The chambermaid could only take so much before she opted to intensify her presence and approaching him directly with unravelling emotions. “Baby….” The redhead ignored the wavering note of plea and the accompanying sniffle but the hand that had taken his hovering over the trunk made him pause. “Talk to me…. Please….”

 

It didn’t make him pause for very long, enough to build hope before it was cruelly shaken off again and he turned to do something else; leaving his heartbroken mother confused and uncomprehending.

 

“What’s happened to you?” The desperation had no effect, especially against a turned back. Only a year previous, he would have rushed to her if he’d seen or heard her cry but the events of Empire Day had turned him into some sort of monster. A monster he’d managed to blanket until the festivities and his sister’s inability to see the truth triggered the new Armitage; Dr Jekyll had arrived and now, he was leaving as Mr Hyde.

 

“You’ve changed.” The wept observation was genuine, but she’d hoped it might reach him regardless. “You’re just like him. You said you’d never be like him.”

 

“For the better.” Armitage replied, calmly but cuttingly and neatly pivoting on his shiny boot heel to finally face his mother. Disbelievingly lost for words, the cadet filled them in for her while closing the distance and imposing his advantageous height. Tana found herself looking into a stony gaze that didn’t belong her little boy. “This house, Rosaline included, is filled with cowards. Blind, stupid cowards Not to mention, active spies and traitors.” Tana opened her mouth to say something but Armitage mercilessly shut her down, knowing she was about to spring to denial; it was worse than she feared. “I’ve heard the whispers, who is allied with who and I have every traitor to the Empire under my father’s employment ear-marked, don’t you worry.”

 

“Armie, this is mad!” Bordering on uncontrollable hysterics now and no softening in her son’s demeanour, Tana had yet to realize she’d lost him. Spouting propaganda was one thing but being obsessed enough to be alert to the silent dealings among the staff was quite another. He was right. There were those in the house affiliated with rebels and perhaps, the occasional secret was leaked but those people had loved him and raised him.

 

She thought of Nara, whose brother had flown with the rebel alliance and, as far as Tana was aware, still did. She thought of Marla, whose sons, daughters, nieces and nephews had all taken part in some rebel activity or another. She thought of Vas, whose wife had operated as a rebellion medical volunteer for the Battle of Endor. Among others. Tana had no one, only Armie. Surely, he wouldn’t hand them over and risk them being executed for withholding information or worse, espionage? Guilty by association. And for what? A meagre word of growled praise from his father?

 

Armitage’s patience with his mother’s snivelling display was rapidly deteriorating, much like it had with Rosaline.

 

“It’s not mad.” He countered simply and Tana swallowed helplessly but the ice in those eyes had almost become unbearable; as was the righteousness he pontificated with. “This galaxy requires order, order that the Republic are not capable or providing it if they insist on their ridiculous morals. Letting non-humans govern themselves? Have you ever heard such rubbish?!” Nostrils flared and features ironed with contempt, Armitage stalked away from his mother’s quaking form and fell into a proud, vain saunter.

 

“The Empire will rise again; or something stronger. And when it does, I’ll be there; secure in the knowledge that I did everything I could to deliver this galaxy into safety once again where all citizens will be equal.” Sickened, Tana started to scramble back towards the door and Armitage’s callous sight followed. “If no one has anything to hide, they have nothing to fear. But if they do, I will do my duty to root out any potential usurper and protect the innocents that depend on me!”

 


 

 

Armitage strode the carpeted staircase, onto the landing and along the hallway where he had been banished from as a child. But no longer being a child and having thought on the matter plenty, Armitage had decided that that barring order was no longer in place. He paid no heed to the lavishness of his surroundings as the hallway passed him by; not feeling the prick of injustice in equating it to having very little as a child.

 

He found the suite; the one he remembered but just barely and didn’t afford a knock to the occupant, the one he hadn’t seen since the firework display that looked like she wanted to be anywhere else. Even when he entered, she wasn’t immediately apparent. So Armitage took a seat and waited.

 

Eventually, he was gifted with the presence he’d sought; blue eyed and blonde hair, she looked him over with something akin to incredulity.

 

“What-?!” Sarai spat on the verge of scandal, at the sixteen-year-old redhead who had made himself comfortable in her parlour. “What are you doing here?!” Armitage didn’t answer immediately, just content to return the look-over his step-mother had given him.

 

“I felt the need to see you.” The first words he’d ever uttered to her as an adult were brazen and a complete disregard for the privacy of her room. Before she could project her outrage and shoo him again, Armitage coolly continued. “I’m leaving this evening, as I’m sure you’re aware-” Of course she was, her husband was leaving on the same shuttle. “And there are some things I would like to air out with you before I do.”

 

In an unseen move, Sarai swivelled to her drinks cabinet; a crutch in recent years to comfort her on her failure as a wife. Instead of one glass, as always, she poured two of a honeyed whiskey and retraced her steps where one was held aloft to Armitage. Surprised, but not willing to betray it, Armitage took the glass without a word of thanks; Sarai was not expecting one.

 

“And what kind of things would you like to air out?” He ignored the bite of taunting in her tone in favour of savouring the first sip while Sarai occupied another armchair.

 

“I know why you hate me.” An Imperial man thrived on efficacy and effectiveness and so, Armitage cut to the chase. “Not only do I know you hate me, I understand why you hate me.”

 

“That would be a lot more impressive if it wasn’t common knowledge that I hated you.” Sarai retorted slyly with a sip of her own without taking her eyes off her step-son. Wicked bitch, he thought. “But do go on. Why do I hate you?”

 

“Loyalty is very important.” He explained, sitting forward and resting the glass on the bend of his knee. “Be it a lover, a friendship or, say, a system of government.” Sarai wouldn’t allow herself to look intrigued but half nodded him on anyway before burying herself in her tumbler once more. “Without loyalty, there is no trust, without trust, there is suspicion, with suspicion comes doubt and with doubt, comes chaos.” Again, she nodded him on; seemingly only half interested.

 

“To breach loyalty is to breed scorn.” Armitage added pointedly and suddenly, Sarai’s focus became more fixed. “Have you ever been disloyal to him?”

 

“With what, the help?!” She spat, derision dripping from the words. “I wouldn’t lower myself.”

 

“He did.” The cadet argued, lifting his brows while Sarai’s eyes narrowed. “My mother-“

 

“You know she’s not your mother, don’t you?” The matriarch drawled, the sensitive nature of the comment being absolutely nothing. Armitage didn’t know that but it seemed he and Sarai had a running theme of repressing expressions. “Your mother is dead. A little kitchen tramp who died as she lived: with her legs open and someone in between them.” Sarai paused her glass. “The last time happened to be you. In the little hut at the outskirts of the village; where I had her put when she couldn’t scrub floors anymore.” There it was, the bitterness he’d looked for; granted, he hadn’t expected the extra revelation. “Then Tana took over; both you and him.”

 

“That aside.” Armitage pressed on, said revelation not affecting him; he didn’t know the woman, after all. “He didn’t grant you the same courtesy of loyalty.”

 

“What’s your point?!” She barked, waving her free hand in a frantic circle; a gesture for him to hurry up.

 

“Why have you never reciprocated the disloyalty? You don’t strike me as someone who would take it lying down.”

 

“Again, with the help?!” She stood to refill her glass, the conversation reaching new heights of bizarre with each sentence. “They’re filthy, I wouldn’t touch one!”

 

“No. With me.” Sarai’s afternoon dress swirled with her to stare, horrified, at the teen on the armchair; who looked rather relaxed, as it happened.

 

“You’re worse than help, darling.” She replied, sickly sweet, upon recovery. Armitage shrugged and rose, clutching his glass at his side by the fingertips.

 

“Perhaps. But I’m half his.”

 


 

 

It was strange for Armitage Hux to be in such a frenzied state of mind that folding his uniform neatly was so far away. Instead, it lay scattered and discarded; along with an afternoon dress and a selection of complex underwear.

 

Instead of clear, concise decision making, his head fizzed but dictated enough for him to grip the bed post for traction; to drive swift, heavy fucks into the forty-something-year old cunt he shared with his father.

 

It didn’t register with him then, but it would on the shuttle when he sat, pokerfaced, across from his father; how it could be so mind-blowingly pleasurable to pound into a woman who had birthed two children. One living. One dead.

 

Sarai restrained her moans, wary of discovery, in the same manner that Rosaline did. She bit her lip the same way, murmured passion-clogged nothings and flickered her eyelids out of sheer ecstasy as her peak climbed identical to her daughter too. Even her neck was as sensitive to bruising.

 

Rosaline never hooked her nails into the soft flesh of his buttocks to force him deeper, but Sarai did; enough to draw blood. Rosaline had some sort of innocent dignity about her during intercourse; not like her mother, who unashamedly sang her moans like a bitch in heat. Fuck discovery.

 

She took a load like an Imperial woman should, better than than Rosie ever could. And if Armitage ever came back, he’d be sure to visit Sarai again.

 

Loyalty is very important. Be it a lover, a friendship or, say, a system of government. Without loyalty, there is no trust, without trust, there is suspicion, with suspicion comes doubt and with doubt, comes chaos.

 

In Armitage’s warped psyche, Rosaline had betrayed him first.

Chapter Text

Had Rosaline really expected her beautiful, breezy, carefree life (with the exception of the strife of Arrmitage) to stay that way? Did she really think her father wouldn’t get what little use he could out of her? Armitage had all but accused her of nativity when she’d seen him last, nearly three years previous, but when Rosaline bitterly reflected on it, maybe he hadn’t been as wrong as she would have liked.

 

It was only a matter of time before a delusional Empire-worshipper laid claim to the darling Rosaline Hux. The much older man who made her uncomfortable in the way he watched her and the things he’d say was not an ideal candidate, not in Rosaline’s eyes, at least.

 

It was, however, in her father's view, her calling in life and her greatest purpose: to be married and bred for future soldiers of the Empire and beyond. After all, was that not all she was good for? Based solely on what was between her legs? Admittedly, it was the most pleased she'd seen him in anything that concerned her; including her birth, probably.

 

Rigid in shock and white as a sheet, Rosaline left the parlour where the nefarious deal was still being finalized before anyone (including her groom-to-be) could follow her.

 

Disbelief dogged each stupified step. Her surroundings gelled into an unconscious blur as her feet carried her on autopilot down into the bowels of the house. She hadn’t ventured there much, not before Armitage left, but since, she’d found it to be of a great deal of comfort. That comfort was mutual; mutual between Rosaline and the house maid that hugged her close to her chest when the blonde numbly stumbled into the kitchen.

 

“Sshhh…..” Where was the good in that? It had no bearing on the younger female who unravelled upon work-strong arms enveloping her torso. “I know, sweetheart, I know.” Tana uttered, dejected and shaken, over Rosaline’s heart-wrenching sobs. They had expected this, all of them. Especially when the Imperial gene pool had become so…. restricted. And the Comandant’s daughter, with her blonde hair, blue eyes and docile disposition? No one was going to miss out on a prize like Rosaline.

 

“What am I going to do?!” The laboured breath was just about distinguishable; to Tana at least, whose ear it happened to be in. All the maid could do was tighten her helpless grasp and look to the others, but no one came forward with a solution.

 

There were fewer of them than before Armitage left and it was common knowledge (but never spoken) that he was the direct cause.

 

He had not been bluffing (apparently, Imperials didn’t bluff) about shaking loose the traitors from his father’s household; despite said “traitors” raising him as one of their own.

 

Vas’ health had somewhat declined of late and the standard of his work had followed which led to his dismissal. What no one spoke about, however, was the events that led to his decline. Namely, every employee being lined up and scrutinized for “rebel links”. Nara had been taken away for “further questioning” and never seen again. Marla had survived the ordeal but had been rattled ever since; she remained under watch. Since that incident, Rosaline (out of disgusted protest) spent more time in the kitchen, sharing what little she was able to sneak away; like she had done with Armitage.

 

The entire kitchen remained in unified trepidation; it was occasionally punctured by Rosaline attempting to regulate her breathing, losing the battle and breaking down again. Still, Tana held her and rocked her; like she had done with Armitage, once upon a time.

 

Each sniffle tore at Tana. Every suffocating gulp drove her desperation to a new level and the options slipping away in front of her didn’t help. So, it only made sense to take the bull rancor by the tusks and make their own options. Therefore, the resolution was instantaneous.

 

“We’re going to fix this.”

 

The decision and the determination came from nowhere but Tana wouldn’t undermine her own confidence by being as surprised as everyone else. Roseline included. Before objection or doubt could be voiced when the blonde lifted her head to question it, Tana had sandwiched the pale, pretty face between toiled hands and directed her eyeline.

 

“We’re going to fix this.”

 

“How, Tana?” A strained Marla beseeched, traces of despair in her husk. “What can we possibly do?”

 

The mousy-haired maid summoned her conviction, hardened her eyes and lifted her chin; this was going to be bold.

 

“We’re traitors, aren’t we?” If a pin dropped upstairs, it would have been heard with the deafening silence in the kitchen. “Maybe we should fucking act like it.”

 


 

 

Having checked the hallway and assured that Sarai was otherwise occupied, Tana secured the bedroom door.

 

“Think of it as an early birthday present.” Tana offered gently to the blonde sitting up in the bed who replied simply with a watery smile. Wasn’t it just the epitome of Imperial coldness to marry off a poor girl just in time for her sixteenth birthday? Thankfully, Tana and the others were going to counter it with a better present. It seemed Nara’s brother, the pilot, hadn’t been too pleased to find out his sister was missing or the reason why; so he took only too much pleasure in doing his vengeful part.

 

“He’s arriving tomorrow at nine.” She murmured casually, as if commenting on the weather rather than a conspiracy of epic proportions. Tana could feel Rosaline’s eyes on her as she shook the metal handle beneath the sheets; the one attached to the lidded pan that warmed the bed. “He’ll take you to Coruscant. As far as your mother and father are aware, you’re going to see the Galactic Museum, the Imperial Palace and the University. A last day of freedom to yourself before you get married.” Rosaline hadn’t been the only one surprised when both her parents agreed to it; to let her go off-planet, unsupervised and unattended, with a “hired” pilot to spend one day doing something she liked before she was caged.

 

“Do you have everything?” Tana pressed, swapping her task to fold Rosaline’s dress over the back of her vanity table stool. Yes, Rosaline had everything.

 

Her own credits.

 

Some of her mother’s more expensive pieces of jewellery (that would, hopefully, go unmissed for a while).

 

Smaller, more compact antiques that she could fit in a shoulder bag. Valuable ones. Pawnable ones.

 

The blaster. The one of unknown origin. The one she knew better than to question.

 

“You need to listen to Kyde.” Tana implored, dropping her voice and perching herself at the edge of Rosaline’s bed: to be close was to make an impact and convey the absolute urgency. “You need to do whatever he tells you and trust him, okay? Remember everything he says, you might need it later.” Maternal instincts had always come naturally to Tana, despite never having any children of her own. But she felt them swell in tandem with mourning when Rosaline’s mouth stretched into a grateful smile; so full of hope and fear. The maid indulged in a quick kiss to the blonde’s forehead and a final squeeze of her frail form before she backed off and prepared to lose another child.

 

It was hard to keep her composure, but Tana remembered that this was for the better. She might not have been able to protect Armie or even help him, but she could make up for that now. Swallowing the welling in her eyes, the lump landed in her stomach and stayed there. Pausing at the door, hand poised on the handle, Tana took one last look and it appeared Rosaline shared in the sentiment, watching her friend in turn.

 

“Don’t worry, Rosie. It’s going to be a happy birthday.”