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Demonology 101

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‘The place on the hill, are you kidding?’ Rey frowned at Finn’s tone of voice, not overly appreciating the layers of negativity.

‘Yeah, the rent’s really cheap!’ She explained, but was still met with stony resistance. ‘What?’ She demanded, glaring at the small group of close friends. Poe looked almost sheepish as he answered.

‘Well, I know you’ve been wanting to move closer,’ he started, glancing at Finn for encouragement. Finn was staring sullenly at his hands, face flushed. ‘It’s just that … well, isn’t there somewhere else you could live?’

‘It’s the cheapest place by far. What’s the big deal? So the aircon’s a little busted and the kitchen is a few decades old. It’s still cheap!’

‘And haunted.’

‘What?’ Rey said, turning away from Poe to look more closely at Finn. The small italian restaurant was quiet, vents pumping icy air conditioning despite the cool weather outside. Aside from the exhausted looking waiter lounging over the register, they were the only three occupants of the entire, red and white checkered room.

‘You heard me,’ he said sullenly, still refusing to look at her now. Poe was rubbing a hand up and down the back of Finn’s leather jacket. Rey folded her arms across her chest.

‘I thought you’d be happy for me,’ she mumbled, feeling a little hurt at the lack of enthusiasm. She’d been scrimping and saving for years, trying to survive the high rent of her old place two towns across, plus transport costs of coming here every day for work. And now, here she was, with a place to call hers that wasn’t a share house, no shared bathrooms or kitchens or laundries that would mysteriously eat her few personal belongings. It was hers, and only hers, for half the cost, and now she could walk to work and see these two idiots of an evening without having to worry about the last bus!

Perhaps it hadn’t been worth all the effort.

Haunted.

Rey rolled her eyes.

‘We are happy, Rey,’ Poe said reassuringly, trying to woo her with that dazzling smile of his. His puppy dog eyes weren’t working though. Not now. Rey glared at them. They were supposed to be happy for her. Actually happy, not this pretend happy.

‘There are stories about that place.’ Finn said.

‘It’s an apartment building.’ Rey said. ‘Haunted houses are creepy old buildings that haven’t been lived in for fifty years. This place has definitely been lived in for fifty years. I don’t think anyone’s cleaned the bathroom in that long.’

‘No one’s kept lease for more than a month. Everyone leaves really quickly. All the downstairs neighbours say they hear weird noises, scraping sounds, bangings, it’s haunted Rey, honest. You can’t live there!’ Finn was persistent.

‘Well the Landlord didn’t mention any of that, and neither did the Real Estate, so I think it’s fine. They probably have to list hauntings with deaths on the properties, you know? No one’s died in there, and no one’s haunting it. Just be happy that I’m so close and not paying through the teeth!’

Poe sighed heavily and nudged Finn in the shoulder.

‘We are happy for you. I’m glad you’re so close. But, just know that if it doesn’t work out you can come crash on our couch for awhile, okay?’

‘I know what you do on that couch, Poe Dameron,’ she shot back, unable to suppress the smile tugging at her lips. Perhaps she wasn’t currently immune to his puppy dog eyes.

‘We’ll throw a blanket over the cushions,’ he answered lightly, straightening up and catching the attention of the waiter. ‘I have work tomorrow and Finn has class. How about we do this again in a couple of days, okay? Just … be careful, Rey.’

***

Rey stood in the foyer of the ancient complex that was her new home.

Unkar Plutt was a large man, but surprisingly spry on his feet as he navigated his large gut around the balustrade of the stairwell. He was also disgustingly handsy and Rey wondered, as she clutched her bag tightly to her, if he wasn’t what made people consider the place was haunted. He certainly made enough strange sounds to be considered some unholy apparition of the night. He sort of looked like one, too, the way he wobbled and jiggled and sweat-sheened everywhere.

Rey immediately clamped down on her thoughts. They were cruel and unnecessary. She barely knew the man, and he could hardly help what he looked like. He clearly tried to present himself well, with his hair carefully combed over a growing bald patch, and the button up shirt that strained over his girth didn’t look very cheap. His shoes certainly weren’t.

Rey turned on her brightest smile as she greeted him.

‘Moving in today, are we?’ He said by way of greeting.

‘I’m so excited!’ She fell into step beside him as he led her up the stairs. There were no elevators here, the building was too old and there wasn’t enough space to install one. The Real Estate Agent had been very clear on that. Rey hadn’t cared. She was young, healthy, and loved a good cardio workout. The fact she was now the proud renter of the attic apartment just meant she’d be incredibly fit in no time.

‘The windows are small, but you have good views over the town.’ Plutt said conversationally, breath coming thick and fast as he began to lag slightly. Rey adjusted her pace to suit. ‘When do the rest of your things come?’ He asked, eyes running up and down her body.

Rey gripped her backpack and suitcase a little tighter instinctively.

‘This is it.’ She said. The furniture had been part of her old lease, and she’d never had the spare cash to afford trinkets or decorations. A handful of books, clothes and toiletries. She was determined to make more of herself here, though. To make a stamp on this place.

Plutt grunted.

‘There’s no rules against decorating,’ Plutt said, as if reading her mind. They began to curve up the second stairwell. Rey couldn’t resist trailing her hand over the faded, embossed wallpaper, enjoying the valleys and crests under her fingertips. ‘All at your own cost. If you want to paint, fine. As you know it’s a little neglected. The owners aren’t overly sentimental. You could knock through a wall and they wouldn’t care. Just don’t damage the facade and any changes to the fixtures need to be approved by myself. Blockages, electrical damage you come to me. Hot water issues, rodents, vents, all my domain. Keep the rest of it as pretty or as filthy as you want.’

It was all too good to be true.

Rey focused on the positives.

‘And my key?’ She asked as they lumbered up flight of stairs number three. Plutt fished it out of his pocket. It was warm as he pressed it into her palm, his fingers slightly greasy as he held her hand for a few moments too long.

‘You lose it, come to me for a replacement. I keep the spare in case you lock yourself out. It happens. It’s easier that way.’

‘That’s really considerate, thank you!’ She gave him another bright smile, feeling her excitement build even further as they made their way up staircase four to her own personal one. Stairwell five. Old, rickety and strewn with cobwebs. A skylight threw a square of warm yellow over darkened floorboards and a narrow hallway.

Rey almost pranced up the seventeen stairs to stand, staring at her door. Hers. It was hers and all hers alone. Deep, brown wood, scored and marked from years of use, the door knob bronzed with hundreds of palms touching it. It sang of stories and tales and age and wonder. And it was hers!

Plutt reached the landing and lumbered behind her to the door.

Rey held her breath as she slid the key, her key, into the lock and turned. It clicked and she pushed the door open.

Hers, hers, hers.

She flicked the switch and the lightbulb in the living space blew in a shower of sparks.

Plutt swore under his breath.

Rey grinned.

***

Plutt had graciously given her a new bulb as a gesture of good faith. But Rey wasn’t fazed. It was an old building, it was bound to happen!

Alone, finally, she took herself on her own little tour. Little being the operative word. It was little, and hers, and perfect.

The front door opened into a living space slash kitchenette. There was no furniture, no pots or pans or cooking utensils, but Rey had been saving and she would fix it. She would fix all of this because it was hers and Rey was good at fixing things. A window above the kitchen sink looked out over the town, over big fir trees and grey streets. A bigger window in the living space revealed more of the same view. There was a lot of natural light and she could already envision the sill covered in small pot plants, succulents and trailing vines. The ceiling was canted, sloped with the outer roof, giving her a delightfully pitched ceiling that housed quite a few spider families. But Rey didn’t mind. They’d keep her bug free.

On the other side of the living space were two doors. The door closest to the outer wall was the main bedroom. She pushed the heavy, squeaking door open, and admired the big, empty space. She’d put more plants in the window, here. The built in wardrobes were handy, too, for when she had things to store. They lined and insulated the wall that divided her room from the bathroom. She imagined they probably helped soften the noise of old pipes, too. Not that it would matter much. She was the only person here, so it’s not like she’d be woken up by someone flushing the toilet in the middle of the night.

She entered the second door in the living space, checking out her bathroom. The mirror above the mouldy vanity was in need of a good scrub. Years of gunk and grime were pasted to the surface that had once been reflective. The shower/bath wasn’t in much better condition, and the toilet was gag-inducing. But there was promise. The tiles were still firmly attached to the walls, and a huge amount of elbow grease and buckets of bleach would certainly solve the gunk coating this particular room. The vent in the corner certainly needed a good clean out. She could hear the fan struggling to whir, no doubt blocked with an unimaginable amount of dust and hair.

Furniture was important, but her first call of duty would be to the cleaning aisle in the store to be able fix all of this, first. Rey ran the mental checklist as she scanned the room, making a note for a face mask and quite a few pairs of thick gloves. And safety goggles. She wondered if hazmat suits were expensive.

She stretched as she stepped back into her living space, eyes tracking over the cracked walls and flaking ceiling, over the water stains beside the window. She then looked at the door to her left, opposite the window. It was the second bedroom, even though it was actually bigger. Rey had to put her shoulder into it to open the heavy door. It creaked and groaned in protest, as if struggling to keep her from the secrets of the universe.

Three windows shone bright light over the spacious room. The walls were in awful condition, scorch marks blackened the ceiling around the two light fixtures. Someone had dug what looked like claw marks into the floorboards, which was a shame. But Rey didn’t care. She didn’t actually own the place, she was renting, and the little deformities could be easily covered with a rug.

She ran her hand over the wallpaper, similar to the embossed style in the hallways downstairs. Her fingers caught in a seam and pulled slightly. It gave easily, so she wiggled her fingers underneath and pulled. The paper came away in huge, tattered shreds, flaking about her feet. Rey couldn’t help but laugh.

This room definitely needed a new coat of paint. Maybe several, but she was more than up for the task. She shook her head at the splatters of dark red paint, at the twists of black and gold and bright red she could see under her destructive efforts. Perhaps the haunted rumours had come from previous owners that had decorated like satanists, who also had a strong appreciation for natural light.

She had big plans for this room. A perfect space for a studio to work on her side projects.

Rey planted her hands on her hips and grinned about her new domain.

Life here was going to be amazing.

Chapter Text

Rey sat on the floor cross legged and ran her forearm over her forehead, collecting droplets of sweat.

A whole week in and this place was starting to resemble something she could call her own.

It was hard, juggling the car shop with this place, but she was managing short nights and long days fairly well. Plus, work had an amazing shower with great water pressure that seemed to make everything okay. She would have a great shower here, too, but not just yet. She hadn’t braved that particular challenge. Fortunately Rey had a bladder of steel and had so far managed to exist with works facilities. The problem was the weekend was coming up and she wasn’t rostered on, so that evening's activities would consist of the annihilation of the mould kingdom.

Rey looked up at the bared walls of her apartment. Every room had been stripped of wallpaper and she already had paint chips sprawled over her floors, trying to decide what would work best with the amount of light the apartment got. So far she was fixated on a yellowish cream and a pale green. Light, warm and welcoming. Plus the fixtures in the kitchen had all been cream once she’d scrubbed the layers of grease and food remnants off them.

The light bulb in the kitchen fizzled and died as Rey looked at it. She sighed and turned away. She’d need to invest in some battery operated lanterns, or something. The wiring in the light fittings were ridiculous. She was worried she’d accidentally burn down the building every time she flicked a switch, what with the way the bulbs kept bursting. Plutt had insisted everything had been checked, and she’d given up after her third attempt for an electrician. Maybe some fairy lights, strung up over the walls.

Rey giggled.

She felt like a little girl.

She could have anything she wanted!

First would be a bed, though. The floor wasn’t very comfortable, and her backpack wasn’t the best pillow. A bed, and pillows, and sheets. A soft, comfy throw rug for the winter that was just around the corner. And curtains, to block out the chill come night time. Perhaps the curtains would deter the birds that had taken to tapping at the glass in the night, too, probably trying to get to the light they could see.

Rey groaned as she got up, muscles whinging and joints popping. Between work, renovating and the stairs, Rey was physically drained. But that wouldn’t stop her, not yet. Not while the sun was still up and she had a bathroom to scour!

She had two big torches that she set up in the bathroom, already anticipating the demise of the bathroom light fixture.

Armed with a bucket, a basket of scourers, sponges and clothes, a thick plastic bag and an armload of bathroom cleaners, Rey snapped on her elbow length gloves, protective goggles and mask and got to work.

First things first, the toilet. Then the bath/shower, then the sink and mirror. She had the kitchen she could use, so that was lowest priority. Then she could work on the walls and the ceiling and that infernal clicking vent.

Rey had no idea how long she had been scrubbing for. The toilet was slowly beginning to resemble something functional when the bathroom door slammed shut. She huffed a sigh and propped it open. She needed the ventilation with the fumes. It was funny, she had to force the doors open on a good day, yet one small puff of wind and slam, slam, slam. Old buildings were just a bag of fun. She flushed the toilet and watched layers of scum swirl down the drain, leaving yellowed ceramic behind. Aged, she could work with. Diseased and slimy, not so much. She was winning.

The shower was a lot less forgiving, sending her slipping and sliding all over the mouldy base, so she resorted to standing one foot in, one foot out, clutching the half screen that would need to be replaced. The taps crumbled in her hands and the soap holder fell away entirely at her ministrations.

The damned door managed to wriggle free of its props and slam shut two more times as she worked.

By ten Rey had had enough of chemical fumes and dizzy spells and called it quits. She scrubbed herself as best she could in the kitchen sink, running the cloth under the tap before rubbing down her arms and face and torso.

She heard one of her torches fall and smash in the bathroom.

Rey groaned, finished washing herself and ate a cold tin of baked beans for dinner by the open window in her living space, looking out over the town.

It was next to pitch black in her apartment now, but the town was a maze of glimmering streetlights and cars, businesses gleaming along the main strip, houses twinkling from numerous windows. She could hear the conversations, music and horns, she could smell wood smoke and food, flowers and exhaust. The crisp air curled around her and tugged at her escaping strands of hair.

Rey breathed deep and savoured the tranquility.

The bathroom door slammed shut. She heard her second torch fall and shatter as well. By the sounds of it, it had fallen into her cleaning bucket and knocked that over, too. At least the liquid would just drain into the floor grate. Definitely a problem for tomorrow. Perhaps it was a sign she was supposed to scrub the floor tomorrow morning.

Rey shut the window and headed into her empty bedroom. She curled up on the floor in the throw rug she’d bought and went to sleep.

***

‘So, what’s it like?’ Finn asked, slinging an arm over her shoulders. Rey rolled her eyes.

‘Are you still going on about the ghost thing?’ It had been two weeks now and Finn would not stop asking. He was just short of inviting himself over to perform his own exorcism. Except Finn was actually terrified of the concept that her apartment was haunted. She could see it in his eyes, and so she hadn’t offered the grand tour yet. It would be unavoidable once she had finished making the place habitable, but for now they passed it off as no point until the renovations were done.

‘I’m just worried about you, Rey.’

‘It’s fine, honestly! I really like it! The place scrubs up nice! I still have to paint the second bedroom, but the bathroom is now clean. The wall cabinet fell apart so I need to get a new one, and I’m trying to find a replacement for the shower screen, but I replaced all the taps and the tiles are now germ free!’

‘Any strange noises, sounds? Cold spots?’ He pressed. He asked this every time.

‘It’s an old building and it’s autumn, so yes to all of the above, Finn. Your apartment is the same and you’re not worried about that being haunted.’ Finn muttered something about burning herbs but didn’t press the matter.

‘So what are we getting?’ He asked instead. They were standing in a charity store and Rey was almost vibrating with her eagerness to explore and salvage and see.

‘Everything I just said, and … well, anything, basically. A bed. Maybe some chairs, tables. Kitchen stuff.’

‘You don’t have a bed yet?’ He asked, incredulous, mouth falling open in surprise. She pulled him into a tight hug.

‘I will soon, Finn! Don’t you worry! We’ll find the best one here and then we get to go buy a quilt and sheets and it’ll be lots of fun!’ She pulled away and he was still staring bug-eyed at her.

‘Where do you sleep now?’ He asked in alarm. Rey was already moving away, intent on purchasing things. She’d never been in the position to buy anything before, let alone an apartment's worth of things.

‘Floor with a blanket.’ She said as she began inspecting a basket of mismatched glasses. They were three dollars for the fifteen. She picked up the box and settled them onto her trolley. It was going to be a bitch getting them up to her place, or even getting them to her building, but she was fairly certain she’d be able to sweet talk the old man behind the desk into doing a delivery. She found a box of serviceable pots and pans too. Rey grinned in delight as she turned them about in her hands.

‘And you said your lights are bad?’ Finn asked. Rey hummed her response, deciding to ignore him for the moment. He meant well, but she didn’t need to think about the one downside to her new place. She couldn’t use candles because she always had her windows open, and the air current always managed to knock over her torches. It was an uphill battle that she was so far losing. Luckily she wasn’t scared of the dark.

‘How’re your studies going?’ She asked instead, finding a delightful array of mismatched plates and a pile of forks with haphazard prongs. They all went onto the growing pile of hers.

‘Okay,’ Finn said. ‘I’ll make graduation at the end of the year.’

‘And then you get to join the big bad world of working!’ She threw a smile over her shoulder.

‘I’ve been offered work at my placement, you know,’ he said with a hint of pride, chest expanding importantly.

‘That’s great! The kids all love you, obviously!’ She threw her arms around him in another hug. Finn caught her easily and spun her around.

‘More importantly the Principal does. She’s great, you know? And the other teachers are really nice. I signed yesterday, a six month contract once I graduate, and we’ll go from there!’ He set her down and then pointed to the other side of the store. ‘Hey, that mattress looks like it’s in pretty good condition!’

***

As it turned out, Rey didn’t have to sweet talk any nice old men. Luke had been more than happy to offer her their free delivery service after she’d bombarded him with about ten thousand requests for help at wiggling pieces of furniture out of the nooks and crannies of his store. He’d even helped her carry them up to her landing once he’d delivered her new possessions.

He wouldn’t walk through her front door, though.

Blue eyes had stared at the door knob, hand running nervously through his beard.

‘No, I best not.’ He’d said on the third trip, pulling a fancy trolley stacked with breakables.

‘I can manage,’ Rey had assured him and had begun hauling everything inside as he’d brought it all up.

She’d tipped him extra and decided to buy him some flowers as a thank you for his above and beyond service.

She was decked out in her finest crap clothes, covered in paint flecks and bruises. Everything new was heaped into a pile in the middle of her living room, hiding under a drop cloth as Rey spent her saturday painting.

It turned out she was a huge klutz when she painted.

She constantly forgot where her ladder was, tripping over it when it wasn’t where she thought she’d left it. Her paint brush seemed determined to fall off whatever surface she’d left it on, and the tray of paint seemed destined for her bare feet. It was fun, though, as she accidentally smeared green over her forehead, hair and eyelashes sprinkled in cream. Everything reeked of paint, but she felt good, organised. Slightly battered and bruised, but things were coming together.

The lightbulb in the living room blew.

Again.

Rey moved into the spare room.

She’d spent the least amount of time in here. The graffiti behind the wallpaper was weird. Huge swirling shapes and strange symbols. But the view out the now open windows were nice, and with the unseasonably warm autumn air blowing into the room, Rey began to work, layering cream over black and red and gold. She probably should have started in here, as she watched the lines bleed through her cream. Rey stood back and glared.

This wouldn’t do.

The room was now going to be green.

Nodding to herself, Rey fetched the tin and began painting with renewed vigour.

One of the bolts on the window must have loosened as it slammed shut with a bang. Rey jumped in surprise, stumbling over the paint tin and sprawling over the ground, grazing her knees and the palm of her left hand. She hissed before quickly righting the knocked over tin. It had landed on the dropcloth, not the floorboards, glugging thick paint, so she slammed the lid on the tin and used what had spilled onto the ground quickly before it became useless and wasted.

She was two coats in before the sun set and the room looked infinitely better.

The apartment looked infinitely better.

Under the light of a new lamp, Rey began to stack the shelves of her kitchen with her new items. Plates, cups, cutlery, pots and pans, trays, a cheese grater, a colander. She sang as she worked, not even blinking as the kitchen light blew overhead for the fourth time since she’d moved in. It was exciting, really, a girl with nothing now had everything she ever needed. She even had a rolling pin! She could make things! Cookies, perhaps, or a cake, or a pie … maybe she’d make Luke a pie with the things she’d bought from him! She’d have to go find a cookbook, and then buy the ingredients, but she was positive she could do it!

Rey danced as she began to push her armchair towards the window in the living room. It was old and worn, but the upholstery was a nice deep green, and she’d bought a comfortable yellow pillow to decorate it. She placed a slightly rickety wooden table beside it and plugged in another lamp. Rey ran to her room and pulled out the five books she’d brought with her from her old home. These took pride of place beside her new chair.

Her bed took longer to assemble, the alan key refusing to play fair as she slotted the framework together. Finally she pushed the completed thing against the wall, foot facing the door as she then heaved the mattress into place. Her new sheets had been washed and dried and she made her bed eagerly, throwing on four new pillows and standing back to admire her handy work.

Sure the bed took up most of the room, but it was her bed! Not some uncomfortable slab of stone that her last landlord had deemed suitable, not some lice-ridden thing the orphanage had put her on. This was hers, bought with her own money. And it was perfect.

Rey grabbed a brand new towel and marched into the bathroom. She pulled the door closed behind her, lighting candles and a new lamp as she filled the tub for the first bath in her apartment. Almost a whole month in and it was finally nearing completion.

The vent whirred almost silently in the corner, free of the disgusting blockages and dead rats that had clogged the blades.

Rey shrugged out of her filthy clothes as the tub filled with steaming water. She’d buy lavender essence soon, but for now the hot water would be perfect. She slid naked into the water and closed her eyes, breathing deeply and relaxing, enjoying the slosh of water against her skin, feeling the sweat and grime wash away.

The sink tap was dripping again. One of the candles blew out.

Rey started to sing.

It was a habit when she was happy, nonsense songs, anything that came to mind, really. She sang and enjoyed the way her voice bounced off the walls, enjoyed the way the water enveloped her with warmth and soothed her new bruises and aching bones.

Despite the sound of the kitchen window slamming shut and the sound of a glass shattering, Rey was incredibly happy.

Chapter Text

He did not understand.

He stood and glared down at her, sneering at her stupid sleeping face.

He did not understand.

How could she be so calm and relaxed? How could she be sleeping?

He stormed into the room that was his. They were all his rooms. But now they smelled different. They looked different. He pushed the pile of books off the table and glared at the door she was sleeping behind.

A month. She had been here for a month and had not so much as twitched in fright.

He would fix this.

He could fix this.

He was not losing touch, he had just gotten lazy.

It had been too easy until now.

Kylo Ren enjoyed a challenge.

***

He met Rey on the third flight of stairs.

‘Good evening,’ she said cheerfully, despite how exhausted she was. Unkar Plutt looked her up and down for a long moment.

‘What is it you do, again?’ He asked.

‘Mechanic.’ She answered, wondering if there was still grease on her face.

‘Good for you. I support that. Girls trying to do well in a man's world. It must be hard. I think you left a window open, too, your downstairs neighbour was complaining about banging.’

‘Thanks, Unkar.’ She waited for him to continue down the stairs before she sprinted up them.

Heart pounding from the exertion, blood pounding in her ears, Rey walked into her flat and exhaled heavily.

She must have left the damned window open. A new plant pot she’d placed on the sill was shattered, dirt splayed out over the floor, succulents scattered haphazardly. The glass on her side table had also been knocked off, cracked in half. The door to her studio slammed shut at the change in wind pressure as she closed the front door.

Rey shut the window, tidied up the mess, scooping the dirt and plants into a temporary home, before climbing into the shower.

The hot water wasn’t working. So she suffered the cold and the goosebumps and scrubbed off the grease and muck and got out.

The oven refused to start, and so did the microwave, so Rey sat in her chair and ate slices of ham for dinner. Her bread had gone mouldy, so she’d had to throw it out. The lamp on the kitchen counter must have suffered an electrical surge. It refused to turn on.

Rey knew what Finn would say.

‘Your apartment must be haunted!’ She said aloud, imitating him, before laughing. The bathroom door slammed, the force of it rattling the frame. Rey closed her eyes and leant her head back against the chair.

Her phone rang.

‘Hey Poe,’ she answered, taking a moment to check the ID.

‘Finn and I are free this weekend if you want to show us your new place!’ He sounded over excited.

‘And you’re not telling Finn, are you?’ She guessed, picking at a loose thread on the hem of her shirt. ‘Friday night good? You bring the food and I give the tour?’

‘Sounds like a great plan! I’m so excited, Finn won’t shut up about curses and evil spirits, but I guarantee once he’s there he’ll be fine.’ Poe sounded so certain. Rey found herself laughing.

‘Should I hook up some fake ghost to jump out at him?’ She was already staring at the ceiling, working out the rigging necessary for a swooping white sheet of hilarious terror. Poe chuckled.

‘Only if you want to clean up the mess and never speak to him again!’ They lapsed into a momentary, friendly silence.

‘I’ll see you when you get here, then.’ She said.

‘Sleep well.’ He said.

Rey hung up and shoved her phone back into her pocket. She brushed her teeth in the bathroom, threw away the empty ham packet and crawled into bed. She heard her bag fall off the kitchen bench, onto the floor. The bag of bolts inside rattled and skittered against the floorboards. Rey rolled over and went to sleep. She’d deal with it in the morning.

***

He did not understand.

At all.

He watched as she bent and fished her hand under the fridge, pulling out another screw to add to her collection. How could a human be so wilfully ignorant?

She had hummed in annoyance when she’d discovered her fridge had lost power. Her reaction to her armchair, shoved halfway across the room, was to move it back again. He had even gone through and smashed every light giving source in the entire apartment. The girl had cleaned it all up and wrinkled her nose at the light switches. Wrinkled her nose. That was the extent of her displeasure.

But then, this was the girl who had spent three days painting layer after layer in the second room, covering the markings, his markings. She had covered over the blood and the ash and the symbols. She had even bent and touched the carvings in the floor. His carvings. From his own hands. His scratches. She had covered them with a threadbare rug and seemed satisfied with her efforts. He took great delight in constantly flipping and rotating the woven disaster to reveal the floor beneath. But never once did she complain.

Oh she would hum and haa and make tutting noises. She would wrinkle her nose or draw her eyebrows together in annoyance. But she would not leave.

It was not only frustrating, it was embarrassing.

Kylo Ren could not scare a little human girl.

He waited for her, that day, because he knew she would be returning with people. New people. People that she had said were apprehensive of an other.

Well, Kylo could certainly use his little bag of tricks to whip up a frenzy. They would be hauling her out of their so fast her neck would hurt.

He slid a hand carefully over the cream walls of the living space, making sure not to blemish it just yet. Perhaps if it stayed nice they would move a family in next. He had not seen a human child in many a year.

The front door slammed and he turned eagerly.

She was alone.

And angry.

Kylo Ren stood in the center of his living room and watched as she threw her ratty backpack onto the floor and snarled at nothing. He had never seen her angry. This is what he wanted! A reaction! Only this was not at him.

‘He meant nothing by it, Rey.’ She finally vented into the silence, and he flinched at the vehemence in her voice. He was used to her singing, to the light pleasantness, not this … this growl. ‘You’re overreacting. He’s nice, he’s probably just tired, wasn’t thinking. It’s Friday. Friday. Shit. Finn and Poe.’ She looked around, probably to see if he had caused any more damage today. But he had not. Kylo Ren was conserving his energy for her friends.

Rey headed into the bathroom and he followed, watching as she splashed water on her face and studied herself in the mirror. He could smell the oil on her, almost taste the metal she had been sifting through all day. But she seemed to judge herself acceptable and he followed her into her bedroom so that she could change her outfit. Sweat stained clothes were thrown into a basket he had not considered upending until this very moment. A flowery dress and leggings took the place of her work garments. Kylo Ren scowled at the bright choice. He raised a hand and brushed it down the front of her, wanting to wilt the sunflowers that adorned the fabric. She shivered as if she were cold.

Rey shrugged it off as her phone began to ring. She was out the front door of the apartment in an instant, going where he could not follow.

She was back shortly, though, with two men in tow.

One of them was ecstatic. He, Kylo Ren did not care about. It was the other one, the darker one, that reeked of fear and tasted of panic. Kylo Ren inhaled deeply and felt himself flare with power.

‘This is it!’ She was saying, throwing her arms out to show off the place. She grabbed their jackets and hung them on a coat stand she had dragged in the previous day. She had also brought in an antique, floor length mirror that Kylo Ren was trying to decide what to do with. The possibilities were endless.

‘Can you come decorate our place?’ The lighter of the two men exclaimed.

‘You should come live at our place,’ the darker one said.

‘Finn!’ The first man admonished.

‘I’m serious, Poe! Didn’t you hear how that creep talked to her? How he looked at her? No way. She should come stay with us.’ Finn said.

‘Unkar? He’s harmless. He’s nice.’ Rey said, but Kylo Ren caught the flare of uncertainty and it stilled him for a curious moment. This girl was never uncertain. Her friends did not notice, though. They were pulling containers of food out of a plastic bag, popping plastic lids and snapping wooden chopsticks open.

‘Are you sure it’s not because you’re scared of the ghost?’ Poe teased. Finn stared about in panic, wide-eyed, as if expecting to see Kylo Ren standing right next to him. Kylo Ren was standing right next to Finn, but they would not know that. They could not. Kylo Ren grinned, leaning forward to inhale the bitter smell of fear.

‘The place looks nice, Rey,’ Finn grumbled. They all ate in companionable silence and Kylo watched them curiously. The food they ate looked … nice. It smelt interesting, the texture fascinating. He found himself actually wanting. Rey rarely ate here, mostly because of his own efforts to dissuade her, so to actually smell and see something beyond what she could scrape out of a can was intriguing.

‘Did I tell you guys I won a gift voucher at work?’ Poe asked as the finished their meal. ‘Most sales this month.’ He waggled his eyebrows.

Kylo glanced at the open bathroom door. It slammed shut with a bang.

Finn yelped, looking around wildly. Poe’s head snapped up. Rey did not so much as flinch, but Kylo Ren was not focused on her.

‘Drafts,’ she said by way of explanation. Her friends appeared less certain. Kylo Ren grinned savagely, a familiar tingle settling into his body.

Rey took the distraction as an opportunity to show them the second room, her studio, she called it, though it was still empty of anything besides the rug. Kylo Ren flipped it before they entered, so they could see the scratches. He then slammed the door behind them and dragged her armchair across the room before pushing the rest of their food onto the floor. He waited until they re-entered the space before blowing the ceiling bulb and then shattering one of the side lamps.

Finn screamed and Poe looked incredibly unsettled, expression visible to Kylo Ren in the new gloom.

Rey sighed and pushed her chair back into place before pulling paper towels out of the cupboard in her kitchen.

‘What the shit, Rey?’ Finn hissed, voice low, although Kylo Ren had very good hearing. The man’s every word trembled, so thick with barely restrained panic that Kylo Ren could almost taste the fear, thick and bitter and addicting. ‘Those creepy arsed claw marks on the floor, and then this? Does this happen a lot?’

‘Bad wiring,’ she gestured vaguely at the ceiling. ‘It’s not that bad. I mean, I’m spending a fortune on lightbulbs,’ she laughed. ‘Unkar insists there’s nothing wrong, though. He won’t send an electrician.’ Because he had sent them before and they had found nothing. Kylo Ren had made sure of that.

‘That Unkar is a creep, Rey. I don’t like you staying here alone with him.’

‘Relax, Finn. He has to walk up all those stairs to reach her.’ Poe said, running his hand up and down his friends back. Kylo Ren watched the interaction curiously. Finn seemed to calm down with the sensation, shoulders sagging, head drooping slightly. It was strange how their attention had pivoted so swiftly from the destroyed room to the safety of their friend from another being entirely. He was the one causing the mayhem, not this Unkar.

‘You lock the door every night, right?’ Finn asked. Rey looked thoughtfully at the front door.

‘I haven’t been.’ She answered truthfully. Kylo Ren followed her gaze and found himself frowning.

He had never considered that someone might walk in and harass her in the night. That did not seem like fair play when he was the one doing the harassing. He would have to ensure no one disturbed them while she was incapacitated.

Kylo Ren took their distraction as a chance to push Finn’s glass off the table. The man was practically sweating out his terror, especially now that it had been refocused.

‘I need to go, I’m sorry Rey.’ He gasped. Rey rolled her eyes and looked to Poe for assistance.

‘I should get him home.’ Poe said instead. Rey frowned. ‘It’s a great place, though! I remember the pictures when you got it. Goes to show what a lot of hard work pays! Great job, kiddo!’ And then he and Finn were departing, almost rushing out the door, leaving Rey standing in her kitchen, arms folded over her chest.

Kylo Ren did not have time to gloat. There was a knock at the door and the handle was turning. It was not her friends. It was the landlord.

‘Unkar,’ Rey greeted in surprise. Kylo Ren felt a surge of annoyance and fear from her. He approached cautiously, until he was standing behind her, an invisible shadow. From Unkar he felt things he did not want to examine too much. He had never been fond of the lumbering fool, too greedy for his own good.

‘I saw your … companions leave,’ Unkar said. Kylo Ren did not approve of the inflections. He had been too out of sync with humans, so did not fully understand, but he could read the girl well enough, and she stiffened noticeably. ‘As you’re awake, I thought I’d take the liberty to discuss something with you.’ He shut the front door behind him and moved closer to Rey. She held her ground.

Something slimy passed through Kylo Ren’s mind, a fleeting notion from the intruder. It was repulsive and made him shudder, pushing it forcefully away. Humans were such disgusting creatures with such disgusting thoughts.

‘What was it?’ Rey asked lightly, she raised an arm and leant against the kitchen counter, supporting her weight. Kylo Ren stepped back slightly. She had put her arm through his hip. It was an uncomfortable sensation.

‘Rent, I’m afraid, my dear. It needs to go up. Quite a bit, too. Letters have gone out, of course, but I’m discussing it with everyone.’ Unkar stepped closer again, his eyes were raking up and down Rey. The slimy thoughts grew stronger. Kylo Ren scowled out his discomfort and folded his arms over his chest, letting his claws bite deep to distract himself. ‘You see, we’ve been having electrical issues, plumbing, the vents are all malfunctioning, people have been complaining about cold spots, and with winter coming up I can’t neglect the maintenance. Unfortunately with rent currently what it is, I don’t have the funds necessary, so the increase will help with upkeep. I’m sure you understand.’

‘Of course,’ Rey said pleasantly, though from what Kylo Ren could see of her face, Rey did not appear to be happy with the news. She squared her shoulders and stood up straight. ‘Thanks for taking the time to tell me.’ She stepped forward, as if to show him to the door. Unkar did not move as she got closer, to within arms reach.

Kylo Ren tilted his head and watched curiously. The humans were both feeling very different things right now.

‘It must be hard here,’ Unkar said instead of moving. Rey paused.

‘What do you mean?’

‘In this town, not knowing many people. You’re new here, it’s only natural.’ He reached out and touched her arm. A friendly gesture that forced another slimy image into Kylo Ren’s mind, matched by the swell of repulsion from her. ‘If you ever need anyone to talk to, about the rent concerns, or anything else, I’m here for you. And if you have trouble paying, just come and see me. I’m sure we could … work something out.’ Viscous slime dripping thickly into Kylo Rens brain, coating his insides black and soggy. He felt nauseous, almost doubling with it as Rey pulled open the front door. He did double with it, suddenly hunched, suddenly down and on the ground, a weakened, embarrassing state. Her smile was sunny and bright, though her emotions were a turbulent, stormy sea.

‘I’ll keep that in mind, Unkar. Thanks again for letting me know!’

He touched her again before he shuffled out, his fingers caressing the bare skin of her arm.

Kylo Ren inhaled deeply through his nose, exhaling through his mouth, trying desperately to gain his feet again. The floor was cold against his hands and knees. He had no idea what had dragged him down so violently, what had turned his stomach so rapidly.

He heard a thump and raised his head.

Rey sat with her back to the front door, in the early stages of her own hyperventilating. Tears glimmered on the edges of her lashes. He watched in fascination as her self sorrow sprouted thorns.

‘No.’ She hissed to the apartment, clawing her way to her feet, hands balled into fists. ‘No. This is not a haunted apartment. I will not be chased out by some rent hike. This is my home and I’m going to stay.

She turned off all the lights, as if preparing to go to bed.

A slow, lazy thought began to curl it’s way through his mind.

Kylo Ren watched her as she paced circles around the living room, in a darkness she had given herself, not him for a change.

Perhaps, he thought, warming very quickly to the idea, this girl could help him. Perhaps she would be able to unchain him from this wretched place and free him. He would promise her safe passage, and she would unfetter his powers. Surely that was a deal worth making.

She was still muttering to herself, promises of strength and resilience.

Kylo Ren flicked the lock on the front door, covering the click with the slam of the door to the second room.

She did not flinch, as he had known she would not.

Yes. Perhaps this was a girl worth investing in.

Chapter Text

Rey tilted her head, eyebrows rising of their own accord.

‘Well that’s weird,’ she said to nothing in particular, reaching out to touch the red marks on the mirror. They were cold and flaked under her inquisitive touch. Rey hummed. ‘Don’t trust him. Well that’s a vague thing to write.’ She pulled her scarf off the hat stand and wrapped it around her neck.

The weekend had gone too quickly, and very quietly. She’d had barrage of texts from Finn on saturday morning recommending herbs to burn in order to ward off the evil spirits. Poe’s texts had been a little more apologetic of abandoning her like that. But Finn came first to him, and she got it. Of course she did. Poe loved Finn and so of course wanted to look out for him. If that meant rescuing him from Rey’s haunted apartment, then sure, whatever. Instead she’d started working in her studio, collecting scrap from the building’s dumpsters and sifting through her finds.

Mechanic by day, artist by night. That was the plan.

Rey stared at the strange words that had not been on her mirror yesterday and hummed. She’d be late for work if she kept dawdling.

She left the apartment and made sure to lock the door behind herself.

The work day always took it out of her, pumped hard for her skills, more so for her small hands and problem-solving skills. But she did what she had to. She loved it, the physicality, the issues, she even loved talking shop with the customers, after getting them past the fact that she was not the receptionist, she was the one that had fixed their car.

Rey was good with her hands, she always had been. She loved pulling things apart, putting them back together, she loved understanding how they worked. She loved fixing things. When she met Finn she had fixed him, in the sense of pushing him at Poe and telling him to stop being scared. She had fixed Poe by proving that girls could be a good shot at darts while drunk. She had fixed up her dump of an apartment and made it a home. She loved the satisfaction of it all.

What she didn’t love was Unkar accidentally meeting her on the stairs when she got home, forcing her to squeeze past him. She didn’t love him hand delivering her mail. But she could overlook it, of course she could. He was a big man, he probably didn’t mean to touch her stomach, or her thigh, or her arse. She made sure to lock her door every night now. And she made sure that her windows were all closed before she left, so he wouldn’t have a reason to fetch that spare key and go through her place in the daytime. How else did her things move about by themselves?

Rey dumped her grocery bags on the bench, cookbook already open to the dumpling recipe.

She shed her jacket and scarf, glancing at her frazzled self in the mirror. Grease spots, dry skin, dirt smear across her cheek, rumpled clothes, oil stains and a brand new red message on the glass.

‘Keep you safe.’ She said aloud. ‘Well that’s more uplifting than this mornings ‘slimy thoughts’.’ She laughed and shook her head. There was no rational explanation for these words, but sometimes life wasn’t rational. It certainly couldn’t be if a five year old was handed to an orphanage with the explicit instructions of ‘don’t find her a home, we’ll be back’. Of course, they didn’t, and the home never tried to place her. How was that rational?

Rey prepped her ingredients and began to fashion her dumplings, already an hour into her meal making. It was fun, tiring, and hopefully worth the effort. She chewed on a spring onion as she worked, placing her little packages of goodness into her sizzling pan, following the instructions to the letter.

She stared up at the canted ceiling as she waited for her timer to go off.

A rent increase was a huge pain in the backside. Of course, it was still less than she had been paying, and she still didn’t need to worry about transport costs. She was still well in the green. No, the problem was the landlord. Unkar was being inappropriate and she had no idea how to deal with it. Was it something he did with every tenant? Or just her. Was she somehow lucky enough to be the only one? She’d never had the opportunity to meet anyone else. Somehow it was only ever Unkar she ran into. She heard people on the stairs, in the corridors occasionally, faintly, shuffling around, doors opening and closing, children crying or shouting. There was enough rubbish in the dumpsters to indicate that the building was occupied. She’d just never met any one of the occupants.

Her timer went off and she rescued her now cooked dumplings.

She took them into her studio, with a dish of chilli and soy sauce, and a mug of green tea, and sat on a new stool she’d rescued from the side of the road. Rey looked at her pieces scattered over the floor and began to imagine how they’d fit together as she ate.

Halfway through formulating a plan, Rey realised she was staring at the scratches on the floor. The ones that were supposed to be hidden under the rug, which had somehow been flicked up again. Rey slid to the ground and lay on her belly. She splayed her fingers over the marks and traced them. They certainly looked like claw marks, spaced finger widths apart. She dragged her nails along them and hummed. Goosebumps trailed coldly from her neck to the base of her spine. She felt them over the swell of her butt and down her right thigh and calf. Her right hand, splayed over the grooves, grew inexplicably cold. She hummed again, and then laughed.

‘Finn would be losing his mind right now,’ she said to the air. ‘Poe would be, too. He pretends he’s cool with stuff, but his grandmother is super religious.’ She nodded at her own words. Then she sighed. ‘This is fucked.’ She sat up and stared at her floor. She felt sad, suddenly, the emotion trickling through her, taking away the pleasant fullness that had been her successful foray into the cooking world. ‘Maybe I should get a dog, or something,’ she mused into the silence. ‘So at least I’m not talking to the furniture.’ She looked at her hands, resting in her lap, and then tugged at the sleeves of her baggy jumper. The weather was growing increasingly colder. The weather reports were predicting snow flurries in the next few weeks. She’d have to get some warmer clothes before that happened.

Rey huffed and turned her attention back to the task at hand. She picked up her soldering iron and plugged it in. A busy mind had little time to dwell on silly things.

***

Kylo Ren watched as the girl pulled a fluffy woolen hat onto her head, jamming it down over her ears. The scarf was pulled snug around her neck, covering her mouth. She paused as she read the words on the mirror. She huffed a laugh and left her apartment.

Kylo Ren fumed.

For an entire week and a half he had been leaving messages. He had watched her read them, laugh at them, leave the house without so much as an eye roll. Was the girl impervious to everything? Did he have to make the paint rot and the walls bleed for her to pay attention?

He had told her it would snow today, and she had left without a warmer jumper. He knew she had one, he had seen her pull it out of a bag yesterday, pulling labels from the collar. The girl was stubborn and foolish. He was itching at the ignorance she displayed. For an entire week and a half he had been on his best behaviour. Nothing had been broken, nothing had been slammed or shut or flipped … well, except for the rug. He hated the claw marks covered, and she had even touched them, had left the rug as he had placed it.

It was a strangely fond memory, now, the way she had almost reverently touched his entry point into this forsaken realm. And so he had touched her, tracing a finger down the curve of her body before placing his palm over hers. She had been hot under his grasp, burning him with her life. An intriguing sensation.

Still, though, she was ignoring him.

Kylo Ren stalked up to the mirror and shoved it.

Glass shattered into thousands of sharp shards, sparkling as they scattered across the floorboards. He threw open her cupboards and tore out her plates and glasses, smashed her ceramic bowls. The pot plants on her window sills exploded dirt and greenery. Her chair upended with a satisfying bang. Pots and pans and trays and utensils scattered across the floor. He used the knives for target practise against the spiders on the ceiling. He aimed for the spaces around them, not actually wanting to harm the ravenous little blood suckers.

It was petty destruction, but see if she could ignore this.

He smiled triumphantly and waited for the shadows to lengthen.

Outside the world turned bitterly cold and white.

Kylo Ren grinned viciously.

Rey entered with a red face and red hands, teeth chattering despite her run up the stairs, and dripping nose. She looked positively frozen and Kylo Ren was filled with delight.

She took in the level of destruction with wide eyes, mouth falling open. And then her lips pressed together in a thin line, eyes narrowing.

‘So you got the fucking weather right,’ she snarled, ‘big fucking whoop. You think the flu I’m probably going to catch isn’t punishment enough? Now I have to spend the whole damned night cleaning? What did you do, tear up my blankets as well? That would be right.’

She stalked into the bathroom and he followed her. She was screwing on the hot bathroom tap. The pipes shuddered and obeyed, slowly filling the tub. She shed her layers of clothes, dropping them thoughtlessly as she began to pace through the destruction of her living room and kitchen.

‘For a building you’re pretty temperamental, you know?’ She was still rambling, pulling her shirt over her head.

Kylo Ren felt his eyebrows rise.

The building?

She pulled her chair up and drew the blinds of her window, getting dirt on her bare feet as she trudged through it.

‘How am I supposed to work hard when I have to worry about my plants? What if I got a pet? Would you throw it out the window? Would a lamp fall on it? Do you know how expensive light bulbs are? I’m not made of money and this is still the cheapest place to live. I made it look good and I am staying, do you understand?’ She appeared to be scolding the lamp on her kitchen bench as she danced through the debris to close the blinds in her kitchen. Her bra and pants joined the mess.

She stepped through Kylo Ren to get back to the bathroom and the steaming water. She shivered as she did so.

Kylo Ren found himself sitting on the toilet lid as she sank into the bath, facing him, her head resting against the tiled wall. She sighed.

‘That’s so much mess.’ She mumbled.

‘I am sorry.’ He answered, feeling rather sheepish now. It was a foreign feeling, and he almost resented her for it. ‘That was not the intention. I only wanted your attention.’

‘Well you have it.’ She mumbled back and he stiffened, hackles rising.

What?

‘It’s like this place is a wind tunnel. A small draft and smash everything breaks.’ Her eyes snapped open. ‘Not in my studio though?’ She looked ready to spring to her feet, the water sloshing as her muscles tensed.

‘No. That room was not touched,’ he assured her, and she relaxed.

What in the seven hells of pain was going on here? Could she actually hear his words? How was she not a babbling fool? Was she actually insane?

Her eyes drifted closed and she seemed to doze.

The room was scented with lavender, tendrils of it rising with the misting steam.

Kylo Ren breathed deep. It smelt of cleanliness and calmness.

‘I was going to cook tonight.’ She spoke softly, and he leant forward, despite being able to hear her clearly. ‘I can’t afford take out, either. I guess I’ll have to have a big breakfast tomorrow morning. If I get up early enough.’ She hummed to herself. And then she began to sing and Kylo Ren felt himself lean backwards, head reclining against the tiles, much like hers was. He felt inexplicably at peace in this very moment. Possibly the first time since he had been dragged here.

She was a strange girl.

He watched curiously as she eventually pulled herself from lukewarm water, droplets sluicing from bare skin. She dried herself quickly and efficiently, padding barefoot and naked into her room, where she pulled on warm clothes and thick socks. Rey stood in the doorway and surveyed the damage, shoulders sagging.

‘Is there even a reason for this?’ She huffed, and he felt compelled to answer her, to see.

‘For your attention.’

‘Well you have it now.’ She muttered, bending down to pick up a small cactus, holding it delicately between her fingers.

‘I need your help.’

‘Funny way to ask for it.’ She stooped and picked up another plant, and then another. They appeared to be her priority. ‘Do ghosts even need help?’

‘I am not a ghost.’

‘Uh huh.’ She picked up a pot and filled it with handfuls of dirt, getting muddy despite having just bathed. She set her plants carefully into the surface as she rescued them.

‘I am trapped and want to be released so I may return home.’

‘That sounds ominous.’ He pushed her armchair out of the way so she could reach another of her buds. She hummed in response.

‘This is real.’ He said, feeling the need to clarify for her. She was far too calm and accepting.

‘I figured that much, thank you.’

‘You are not scared.’

‘Should I be? All you do is mess with my stuff, not me. If you wanted me gone you would have cut me into ribbons and thrown me out a window. If those scratches were you, I know you could do it.’

Kylo Ren stared at the dirt smudged girl, hunched on the floor in her pyjamas, fishing greenery from mud and shattered pottery, her hair pulled up into a messy bun. She straightened and looked about herself, through him, scanning the room.

‘If you made this mess, can you clean it up? I want to go to bed. I’m tired. And hungry.’ She wrinkled her nose in distaste.

‘I cannot.’ He admitted and she groaned loudly, head falling forward in frustration. ‘It takes energy to disturb your realm. It would require too much to piece this back together.’

‘Well isn’t that convenient.’ She placed her rescued plants back on the windowsill and turned back to her bedroom. ‘If you’d kindly use the light switches to turn the lights off, that would be great. Night Ghost.’ Kylo Ren watched in amazement as the girl, Rey, entered her bedroom and closed the door.

Not only could she somehow hear him, she expected him to turn off the lights.

He stared at the main light switch for a long moment.

He had never tried using one before.

Chapter Text

‘Was it blood?’ She asked into the stillness of the afternoon. She waited patiently for a response. Sometimes it took her ghost a long time to answer.

‘Yes.’ It was a he, she was fairly certain. The voice was dark and low, and she was pretty sure it was vibrating through her mind, and not her entire apartment, otherwise her neighbours would be complaining about the noise.

‘Oh, gross.’ She stuck her tongue out in distaste. It had been three days since they had spoken and for some reason she wasn’t freaking out and begging Finn to help her exorcise the unholy demon in her home. ‘Why blood?’

‘It is very accessible.’

‘Yours, right?’ She rubbed her hands together. She’d touched that stuff.

‘Of course.’

‘Can you use pens?’ She asked, and then giggled at the idea of a ghost writing on a whiteboard, or leaving post-it notes.

‘I have not tried.’ Rey hummed and put down her soldering iron. The small piece she was working on glimmered in the spotlight she’d set up in her workspace. She was sitting next to the claw marks, on the floor. He seemed most talkative when she was in this room.

‘So how am I supposed to free you, anyway? Like, will you just appear and eat my soul, or will you go back to wherever you came from?’

‘I am not sure.’ He answered after a pause. She felt a brush of cold that she was beginning to associate with him.

‘You’re not sure if you’ll eat my soul?’ Rey felt a flare of alarm. The voice in her head appeared to chuckle. She wasn’t sure if that’s what the rumble meant.

‘I am not sure whether I will remain in this realm, or return to my own.’

‘Oh.’ She began to attach a new component to her artwork.

The sun was warm where it the light fell over her extended left leg. She leant back and tilted her head, squinting. It was starting to look like a little metallic squirrel made of springs and cogs. She smiled, pleased. Finn was going to love it. She was planning to make a cat for Poe.

‘So how did you get here?’

‘I was summoned.’

‘How do you unsummon?’ She hissed as she burnt herself on hot metal, putting the offended digit in her mouth and sucking. She felt a brush of cool against her cheek and rubbed at it thoughtlessly with her injured hand.

‘I am unaware of the process, as I was not privy to the one that brought me here.’

Rey hummed thoughtfully and began to work again.

She could hear a bird singing outside, probably perched on the roof and looking for it’s mate. Someone was revving their car in the parking lot, the sound loud and jarring in the stillness of the crisp autumn afternoon.

‘So can you go to other places?’ She asked after a while, waiting for the newest additions to cool before she tilted the work on its side. The tail was proving finicky.

It took a long time for him to respond.

‘I can go into the below space, where there is a large young woman and an elderly man. He does not move much, and she consumes far more than I have ever seen a human eat.’

‘They must be the downstairs neighbours.’ No wonder they were quiet, then. ‘Anywhere else?’

‘I am bound to this place. Within these walls. I cannot even venture above to the sky.’

‘How come?’ She tilted the squirrel and watched a bolt fall loose. She caught it and scowled at the betrayal. She hadn’t joined it very well. She righted the squirrel and rectified the problem.

‘This room is my most comfortable space. These walls that you term as your own are mine.’

‘Lease says otherwise, Mister Ghost.’

‘I am not a ghost.’

‘I know.’ She hummed.

Her phone rang, so she switched off the soldering iron and set it down carefully on the stand. She had to kneel to tug it out of her back pocket.

‘Hey Poe!’ She said, standing up properly and stretching. She glanced out at cerulean skies, fluffy white clouds scudding along in gentle waves. The snow had melted already, but it wouldn’t be long for it set in properly. The bird was still singing merrily. She could hear its friend now, joining in. She watched as the squirrel at her feet shifted slightly. She automatically stepped back to give her ghost some room to inspect her handywork.

Had he ever seen a squirrel before? She’d have to ask him.

‘Hey Rey,’ Poe answered, voice all warmth and friendliness, wrapping her up in warm fuzzies. Rey beamed at the empty room, unable to help herself. She may not have many friends, but the two she’d found in Finn and Poe were more than she could ever have hoped for.

‘What can I do for you, Mister Dameron?’

‘A take two, if that’s okay with you?’

‘A take two?’ Rey walked into the kitchen and flicked on the kettle. She fished out a tea bag and mug while she waited for it to boil. It had been flicked off when she pulled her head out of the cupboard. Rey waved her hand in the air and frowned, turning it back on again. The kettle began to bubble accordingly.

‘Yeah, we come over and look at your place again.’

‘Is Finn going to start burning sage?’ She asked quickly, staring at the kettle to make sure it finished boiling.

‘I promise to frisk him before we get there.’

‘Please don’t or you’ll never make it.’ She responded light heartedly, knowing exactly where that would lead. ‘When do you want to come over, anyway?’

‘Uh, well, I’m kind of standing outside a store, waiting for Finn to finish picking out ties, so … when that’s done?’

‘I have tea.’ Rey said, watching as the switch flicked off before the kettle finished boiling. She glared at it until it flicked back on again. Good.

‘I’ll get some danish pastries, then!’ Poe sounded excited. Perhaps because it was still light out and Finn probably thought the ghosties only came out at nighttime. Well, was he in for a surprise.

‘Sounds good! I’ll see you in thirty or so, then! I don’t smell nice, though.’

‘So we should bring some sage?’ Poe teased. Rey laughed and they hung up.

‘Will you quit it?’ She said to the apartment. ‘I’m thirsty and I need that to finish!’

‘Your friends are coming here.’

‘They are.’ She told the disembodied voice, now wondering if she should wait for her guests before she had a tea. She pulled out two more mugs and added tea bags, deciding she’d be polite and wait.

‘Why?’

‘Because they’re my friends and I miss them, and it’s what friends do. And Mister Ghost, you are going to be on best behaviour. No ghost shenanigans! No slamming doors, smashing bulbs or knocking over things. No cold spots, no creepy sounds. I like them and I want them to feel welcome here. My name is on the lease so this is my home. You’re just a freeloader as far as I’m concerned. You don’t pay rent and cost me so much in damages!’ She had no frame of reference for where he was, or if he was anywhere at all, so she marched back to her studio as she talked, scooping up her present to put away. It had moved several feet and been tilted on its side from his inspection. ‘I should get shares in the light bulb company, honestly.’

There was a rumble, low and soundless. She took that from grumbled assent and she smiled as she set the squirrel on a shelving unit, right way up. She closed the open windows and locked them, pulling the curtains closed to keep in the warmth. She managed to make her bed and wipe down the bathroom and kitchen before she had to run down and get her friends.

‘Best behaviour.’ She warned before she pulled the front door closed behind her.

Her ghost remained stubbornly silent.

***

‘Good afternoon Rey,’ Unkar greeted her on the third flight of stairs. It appeared he was also on the way down. She was stuck with him.

‘Afternoon,’ she said, resigning herself to fall into step and hope he didn’t brush her arse again.

‘You’ve cut back on your electrician requests,’ he commented, wheezing slightly as he descended.

‘Everything’s started working again. You must have been right! No issue. There was probably a rat chewing itself silly on the wires.’ She laughed lightly, trying to play off the stress of this situation. Unkar might be a man that tried to look after himself, but it was in a disgustingly selfish way. She occasionally thought of her spare key sitting somewhere in his apartment and shuddered at the thought.

‘You’re the longest tenant I’ve had in that place for quite some time. Decades, I’d say. Quite impressive.’

‘Oh?’ She asked lightly as they got closer the flight of stairs that would lead her to the front doors. She could already see the shadowy outlines of her friends patiently waiting. At least they understood it took time for her to get to them.

‘Ghosts, you know. Biggest pain in my arse. Hysterical women, men drugged out of their brains all clamouring about ghosts. It’s just rumours, you know,’ but his eyes were trying to pin her down, trying to glean an answer from her. Rey shrugged her shoulders and felt herself breathing in relief as she was finally able to peel herself away from his side.

‘I haven’t seen one.’ She said. ‘If I did I’d make it start paying rent.’ She threw open the door before he could answer and she warmly greeted her friends. Finn actually looked pleased to be there.

The smell of pastries was intoxicating.

‘How’d the tie hunt go?’ She asked Finn as they began the trek upwards.

‘Good. I’m starting to put together my work outfits now to spread the cost. I’ve got some comfortable shoes, but I needed ties. I can do a fashion parade for you while we have tea?’

‘In just the tie?’ Poe got in before Rey could answer. Finn responded with a light punch to the shoulder. Rey laughed.

‘Please wear pants, at least.’ Rey begged. She’d missed the bantering. She’d missed them. She watched them fondly as they grinned at one another, eyes crinkling, hands touching. They were always touching, these two, whether it was holding the back of a jacket, finger threaded through the others belt loop, pinkies touching, shoes touching. Something was always connected between them. Rey sighed happily.

‘Alright, pants and tie fashion show.’ Finn agreed, dangling his shopping bag from his fingers.

The laughed and teased all the way up to her door. Finn barely hesitated as he stepped through, though she didn’t miss the frantic look around as he entered, as if expecting the boogy man to jump out at him.

‘I boiled the kettle, but I’ll just reheat it.’ Rey said, flicking on the switch. ‘Don’t touch,’ she muttered softly under her breath, knowing full well Mister Ghost could hear her just fine. She pulled out a plate and dumped the danish pastries on them, mouth watering at the sight. The kettle couldn’t boil fast enough.

They settled into the seats of a small dining set she’d managed to scavenge. The four seats and table had just needed a good scrub down, bit of a sand and a lick of paint. The light blue worked well, and the cream and green floral cushions she’d splurged on were comfortable.

‘This place gets great light,’ Finn complimented.

‘Oh, here, I’ll show you! We didn’t finish last time!’ Rey dumped the pastries on the table and hauled Finn towards her bedroom. She threw open the door, after putting her shoulder into it, and showed off the curtains she’d made and the bed she’d put together.

‘Looks even better here than it did in the store!’ Finn exclaimed, clapping his hands together.

‘Thanks!’ Rey was already dragging them to the bathroom. Poe pulled back a bit.

‘I saw the photos,’ he said hesitantly, so Rey made sure to shove him in first, after she shoved open the doors. ‘Well I’ll be.’ Poe amended, clearly impressed by the yellowing tiles that were definitely clean. She hadn’t replaced the cabinet above the sink yet, but she’d stuck up a picture from a magazine so she could look at a forest while she brushed her teeth. Finn chuckled at it.

‘So your doors look a bit heavy,’ Finn said as she reacquainted them the second room.

‘I need to take them down and shave them down a bit,’ she admitted. ‘They’ve been low on the priority list, and it’s been nice not having to do anything for a bit.’

Both men hummed agreement and they sat and enjoyed their teas while Finn showed off his five new ties. One for each day of the week. Blue, red, purple, yellow and orange. He had socks to match, too. Rey wished she’d had a primary school teacher like him. Education probably would have been a lot more interesting with a teacher like Mr. Storm.

She was sad when they said they had to go.

They were both so relaxed and happy, and Finn was already promising to come back with his laptop so they could order pizza and watch movies in her bed. Rey felt like her heart couldn’t fill with any more love for them as she locked the door after their retreating backs. She turned and blinked away the tears as she stared into her glaringly empty apartment.

‘What is the human fascination for bright colours?’ Mister Ghost made his appearance known with a full body shiver. She wondered if that meant she’d just walked through him. The concept was a little unsettling.

‘They’re pretty.’ She said, clearing away the cups and empty plate. She stood at the sink and watched them. The kettle flicked on and off to her left. She watched the motion absently.

‘What does that have to do with functionality? Do matching colourful ties and socks affect the productivity or ability to complete one’s assigned task?’

‘Finn’s going to work with children, they’ll appreciate it.’

‘You wear bright objects and do not work with children.’

‘No, I work with machines.’

‘Do these machines appreciate the bright colours?’ Rey laughed at his words.

‘No, they really don’t.’ She giggled, emptying the sink as she set the last mug on the drying rack. ‘You ask funny questions.’

‘I am trying to understand. Humans are very strange creatures.’

‘Thanks, I guess.’ She started flicking off the lights until only the lamp by her chair was on. She sat down for a moment and looked out over the town. It was still early. Perhaps she’d read for a bit. ‘Oh, and Mister Ghost?’ He grumbled at the name. ‘Thanks for behaving. I was worried because, I dunno. You’re a ghost, you probably have weird ghost logic, but thank you.’

‘They will come back again. They will bring a laptop and sit in your bed?’

‘Yes, and it’ll be fun.’ He made a strange noise and she realised he was mimicking her humming sound. Rey grinned out into the night, propper her chin on her hand. ‘Do you like observing people?’

‘It is enlightening.’

‘Like what?’

‘When you are at rest your face makes strange shapes, and you toss and turn abruptly. These actions are not normal when you are awake.’

‘You watch me sleep?’ She looked back into the apartment in concern. She’d never considered that. She frowned, brows furrowing.

‘And when you are relaxed the most, such as when you bathe, you sing. Yet when you are comfortable you smile or create musical sounds. Your friend Poe, the curly haired one, he smiles a lot also, but his smiles mean many different things. They are quite hard to distinguish between.’

‘Wait, in the bathroom? Do you … have you … you’ve seen me naked?’

‘Of course.’

‘No!’ She shrieked, jumping to her feet. ‘No that’s not okay!’ She crossed her arms over her chest and felt her face burn with an embarrassed blush. ‘That’s really not cool, Ghost.’

‘I do not understand.’

‘Okay, new rules. If you do not follow them I will not help you. Okay?’

‘What are your terms?’ His voice sounded strained, wary. She wasn’t used to different inflections. He was usually quite monotone. It took her a moment to adjust.

‘My bedroom and my bathroom are off limits.’

‘Because you are naked?’

‘Yes. Because I need my privacy, and just because you’re some ghost doesn’t mean you get a free show!’

‘I do not understand.’

‘Of course you don’t!’ She threw her hands up in the air and pointed dramatically at her bedroom door. ‘That room is off limits!’ She said, before pointing at the bathroom door. ‘And so is that one!’ If I am in there you are not. You are out here and you wait. I don’t mind you playing with the kettle of watching me work or read, but do not watch me go to the toilet or … or in the privacy of my bedroom.’ And she was all the more mortified for what else he could have seen her doing in her bed.

She wanted the floor to open up and swallow her whole.

Oh god.

‘I accept these terms.’ He said after an incredibly long pause.

‘Okay.’ She breathed out heavily. ‘Okay. Thank you.’

‘This is a human thing. You are … embarrassed right now.’

‘Yes I am.’

‘Why?’

‘Because privacy is seriously valued, okay? Bathing, the toilet, the bedroom, very private things!’

‘But you will sit on your bed with your friends?’

‘Because we’re very close, and it’s comfortable, yes. But they don’t stand there all night watching me sleep.’

‘I see.’ She wondered if he really did, but let it go. Instead she sat back down and picked up her book, thumbing to the bookmark. It wasn’t in the right place and she heard him chuckle.

Chapter Text

Rey wondered if ghosts got bored.

It had been quite a few weeks since her roommate had started talking to her, and so far they had done nothing about his predicament. For a supposed demon he had very little working knowledge about how to free himself.

So here she was, hiding from the snow, on her way back from work, standing in the local library in front of a bookshelf laden with conspiracy theories and supernatural sightings. Amongst the titles were picture books of Nessie sightings and UFO’s.

Rey sighed, finger hovering over a book on ghosts.

How was this her life now?

Before she could slip into that thought train she plucked the book off the shelf and sat at a table, idly thumbing through the pages.

It was all she expected, really. Old, grainy photos of objects that might have been people or lens smears. Fantastically decrepit houses, neglected and abandoned for decades, insane asylums, castles, all the standard haunting spots. No two bedroom apartments, though. Rey thumbed through the pages, mostly just looking at the images as she waited for the snow to ease up a little bit. Someone was drinking coffee and it was making her stomach rumble.

She was on the verge of snapping the book shut when an image caught her eye. Rey hesitated. The symbols carved into the wall of an old hospital ward looked familiar. Rey frowned and pulled out her phone, taking a picture. She found no description, and the text around it only blathered on about ghost babies, not what the strange symbols meant. They looked familiar though, and she’d know. She’d spent days trying to cover the damned things in paint.

More optimistic than she thought she’d be, Rey returned the book and ventured to the big glass doors that led to the big white world. She tugged on her beanie, mittens and scarf, mentally preparing herself for the cold.

‘Rey?’ She half turned at the familiar voice, face crinkling in confusion.

‘Um, Matt, hi.’ She watched her ex approach, his blond hair scruffy from wearing a hat, glasses partially fogged with the temperature change. There were still snowflakes in his wild curls. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘Work,’ he said, pulling her into a hug that was probably a little overly familiar given that they’d broken up for his inability to be less familiar with other women. ‘A fun little business trip. I’m here for the week, though, if you want to catch up?’

‘Yeah, sure, I-’

‘Your number’s still the same, right?’ He cut it, ‘I still have it!’ She blinked at him slowly, mind reeling at the hows and whys of the entire scenario.

‘Yeah, cool,’ she stammered, utterly unprepared for this. ‘I need to … go, I have a thing. I’ll … I’ll talk to you later, then,’ Rey tightened her grip on her bag. Matt smiled, cheeks dimpling, brown eyes sparkling as she pushed out into the ice, trotting quickly away so he couldn’t see her have a panic attack.

***

‘Matt?’ Finn exclaimed. He pushed the mug into her hands and Rey accepted it eagerly, wrapping cold fingers around the warming ceramic. She inhaled the smell of hot cocoa and smiled. A soft beat was playing on the radio, barely audible over the clack of cutlery and murmur of voices in the bustling cafe.

‘Yeah, he was just … there, you know? And he still has my number.’

‘Of course he does,’ Poe said, and then grimaced slightly. ‘Not that it’s what I still do, of course,’ he patted Finn’s thigh, ‘but back in the day, you know-’

‘When you were a slut,’ Rey supplied. Finn giggled and Poe had the good nature to flush red.

‘Well, yeah. Back in the day when I was a slut, thanks Rey, I kept everyone’s number in case I could hook up with them again.’ He grinned nervously. ‘I mean, even people who left me, I kept their numbers. You never knew. Some were up for round two or three. It was handy.’ He shrugged his shoulders apologetically.

‘But he cheated on me,’ Rey growled, staring down at the marshmallows melting in her drink. She picked up a teaspoon and poked at them idly, trying not to think back on that particular event. She should have known, of course, all the signs had been there. The work trips, the midnight messages, he was too handsome and too nice. It had been all too good to be true. Rey sighed and took a sip, savouring the creamy warmth.

‘Now, I’m not one to-’

‘Yes, Poe. Yes you are.’ Finn said quickly, cutting off his boyfriend. ‘You remember that guy I went to college with? He slept with that guy from your work and was never called back again! You always suggest the hook up!’

‘This is different!’ Poe looked offended, eyes widening in mock hurt. Rey giggled despite her dour mood. Poe looked a bit like a penguin, rugged up in a thick parka, scarf still around his neck. He hated the cold more than she did. Meanwhile Finn was sitting in a long sleeved shirt with the arms pushed up to the elbows, drinking a coke with ice cubes in it. A cold shiver ran down Rey’s spine just thinking about it.

‘How?’ Finn pressed, turning on his grumpy glare, bottom lip sticking out in a semi-pout. Rey took another sip of her drink and watched the show unfold.

‘Well she already knows a relationship won’t work, but how long has it been?’ His attention swivelled to her. ‘You broke up a few years ago and I’m pretty sure you would’ve told us if you scored.’ Rey almost choked on her cocoa. Poe took it as confirmation and kept talking. ‘He looks like a good lay, I reckon go for it. Get it out of your system.’

‘He’s not in my system anymore!’ She whisper-yelled in mortification, feeling her face flush hot and red. She glanced around the small cafe. No one was paying them any attention, too wrapped up in their own lives to care. Poe shrugged and leant back in his seat, sipping at his coffee. His eyes were sparkling wickedly, though, as if he knew something she didn’t. Rey glared harder.

‘How about we change the subject,’ Finn suggested lightly with a smile. ‘Still enjoying your haunted apartment?’

***

Rey stared at the ceiling, replaying the conversation over and over again in her head until it was a false collage of Matt sliding into the cafe to say hi while Poe made lewd gestures behind his back. She groaned and pulled her pillow over her head.

It hadn’t been in her system until Poe had suggested it. The only saving grace was that she didn’t have Matt’s number.

‘Ghost?’ She called out softly, giving up on sleep and dragging a blanket out to her chair. She sat in the dark, huddled up in the soft warmth.

‘Demon.’ He corrected immediately. Rey sniffed dismissively.

‘Do you ever get bored?’ She closed her eyes and rested her head against the upholstered side of the chair, breathing in deep the faint smell of cleaner and moth-balls. She liked to imagine this particular chair came from a nice little old lady who had handfuls of grandchildren and cats and puppies, who baked cookies and told wonderful bedtime stories. On nights like this, when her mind wouldn’t rest, the thought made things a little more bearable.

Mister Ghost didn’t answer for quite awhile.

‘Do you sleep?’ She tried again, listening for any noise. He was being physically silent, too.

She’d walked out occasionally in the middle of the night to get a drink, only to find something skittering across the floorboards. The first time she’d thought it was a mouse. The second time she’d bothered flicking on a light and saw her metal squirrel being toddled along. Apparently Mister Ghost liked to play.

‘What is bored?’ He finally answered. His voice was loud, as if he were right near her. Rey pulled her blankets tighter, waiting for the inevitable brush of cold he brought with him.

‘When you don’t have anything to do. You just kind of sit and stare and do nothing. I nap when I’m bored. But I don’t get bored often. I usually make something.’

He made that humming sound that he’d learnt off her. Rey smiled. She felt a brush of cold against her cheek and she wrinkled her nose. The cold spot moved to there instead.

‘Quit it, you’re like ice,’ she said, rubbing frantically at the frozen bridge of her nose.

‘I do not sleep. I do not get bored. I cannot nap.’

‘So what do you do in your not bored time?’

‘I observe.’ Rey hummed softly at the non-committal answer. The studio door creaked open. Rey cracked an eye to see the squirrel appear. ‘I observe this.’

‘You really like that.’

‘It is … aesthetically pleasing.’

‘It’s a gift.’ She held her hand out and it was placed in her palm.

‘A gift?’

‘A present. I’m making it for Finn. To give to him, so he can keep it.’

‘I see.’ He said in that monotone way of his. Rey laughed. She knew he definitely didn’t.

He took the squirrel back and she watched it hover mid-air. A levitating squirrel of metal, glinting dully in the almost-blackness of her apartment.

‘You are not sleeping.’ He said. Rey jerked at the sound of his voice, wrenched out of the half-sleep she wasn’t even aware she’d been slipping into. ‘What has you troubled?’

‘Human shit, don’t worry about it,’ she yawned widely. ‘I think I can sleep now. Thanks Ghost.’

‘Demon.’ He corrected.

Rey picked up her blanket and hobbled back to bed.

***

Kylo Ren had been watching her for three days and did not know what to make of her behaviour.

The girl was acting erratically.

He fiddled with the squirrel, tracing the shapes and contours as he watched Rey fly about her apartment. She was cleaning, dusting, putting things away and swearing loudly. She dropped a glass and it shattered sparkling shards over the ground.

He raised his eyebrows and said nothing.

She looked next to tears.

It had all been after a phone call. He had heard that awful frequency pierce through his mind, a sharp squeal that mellowed out slightly once she answered. The girl had been in the hall, where he could not reach, and where he could barely hear her. But he could feel and she had felt calm, as she did after most of her days at work. Only, as she spoke, her emotions spiked to a frenzy of panic and excitement and fear and nervousness and he could almost taste the acidic burn of bile on his own tongue. She had entered the apartment in an utter mess, dropping everything to the floor and pacing circles. She did not greet him, did not speak to him. She called her friend Poe instead and yelled at him for putting bad ideas into her head. And then she paced some more.

He decided that ice cream and chocolate seemed to soothe emotional spikes, though, after she left and returned with a lot of both, spending the next two days consuming it all.

She did not speak to him at all over those three days.

Kylo Ren wondered if perhaps this was what boredom was supposed to be like.

He set the squirrel down carefully onto the shelf in his room and stood outside her bedroom door. He waited patiently for her to exit. When she did she was in a riot of colour again. A bright purple scarf and pink woolen hat. A dark grey dress printed with bright flowers, dark tights and shoes the same colour as her scarf. Kylo Ren blinked slowly as she passed through him. He turned and watched as she did another once over of the apartment, checking for mess. Checking for his mess.

He reached out and touched the scarf. He could feel the texture of it, for a brief moment, carding through his fingers. He did not understand why it had to be so bright though.

He was about to ask, but she was pulling the front door closed behind her. The key clicked in the lock.

Kylo Ren frowned.

He looked at his hand and remembered how soft the wool was.

Kylo Ren hummed and went back to his room.

He sat and looked at the squirrel and wondered how he would know if he was bored. Perhaps he would ask her to clarify, if she stopped acting so strangely.

Beside the squirrel was a collection of metal objects. Kylo Ren observed them for a long moment, before slowly picking them up. He looked at the squirrel, at the item Rey called a soldering iron, and then back at what was in his hands. When Rey was bored she kept herself busy. She created things. Kylo Ren was not in the habit of creating. He looked at the tiny metal hands that Rey had fashioned. He looked at the eyes and the tail.

Kylo Ren set about creating a gift for Rey.

It was hard, the process tedious as creating the necessary heat to meld the alloys together took some willpower. He was disturbed by the sound of the front door opening.

Kylo Ren paused, head rising and turning in the direction. He could sense her returning. He placed everything back neatly. She was not alone.

He passed through the door, on his best behaviour for her. But she was not in the living room. He looked to her bedroom door and heard giggling, talking, a deep voice murmuring.

Perhaps they had a laptop and were sitting on her bed.

He still did not know what a laptop was. He had not had a chance to ask her. Just like he had not had a chance to discuss how her research was going. Rey had been very uncommunicative and stressed. It was possibly another human thing he did not understand yet. There were many.

Kylo Ren stiffened as he heard a yelp, and then a moan.

He moved to her bedroom door and hesitated.

Those were not good sounds, were they? Was she being hurt? Was that what a laptop did? Kylo Ren turned away. He did not care for human things, they were strange and complicated. He wanted to return home.

Rey made another strange sound and he turned back again.

Kylo Ren found himself stuck in a moment of indecision. He found himself obliged to make sure that his human was in good health, but she had strictly forbidden him from her sleeping room. The sounds she made were ones of distress, surely on this occasion she would permit just a peek? Besides, unless he touched her or moved something she would not even know he was there.

He wondered why he was so caught up in respecting her wishes of privacy. So he could be free, he decided promptly. It was logical. Her demands were easily met. Except for this very moment.

Kylo Ren stepped through her bedroom wall and tilted his head curiously.

If Rey was in pain, she seemed perfectly happy with it. The man, one he had not seen before, was naked, covering her, his hands sliding between her legs, the movements making her pant and gasp.

Kylo Ren almost hummed, but caught himself just in time. He bent down to see what the man was doing, but it made little sense to him. He had seen Rey do this to herself, but the man seemed far more adept. Shrugging his shoulders instead, Kylo Ren was about to turn and exit when the man pulled away, almost stepping through him. Kylo Ren moved quickly aside for fear of being caught breaking the truce.

The man did not notice a cold spot, too intent on kneeling over Rey, pushing her thighs open to slide … oh. Oh no. That was disgusting.

Kylo Ren left the room promptly.

Chapter Text

Rey sat nursing a cup of tea and regretting ever bringing up the topic of Matt with Poe.

Sure.

Sleep with your ex.

Great plan.

Bonus points for having him groan out some other woman’s name as he’s pumping himself all over your neck, because that’s so incredibly sexy. It sure started well, but that had quickly devolved into Rey wondering what she was going to cook for dinner the next night. Should she have borrowed that creepy ghost library book? Did she put that order in at work, or was it still sitting on the counter waiting for her on Monday? Luckily Matt was not one to stick around after he’d made her all sticky.

Wham, bam, thank you Mam. You can clean yourself up, I know where the door is.

Charming to the last.

That had not been what she needed.

‘I have some questions.’

Tea sloshed over the brim of the cup and burned her hand. Rey swore and set the mug down on the table, jumping up to grab some paper towels before the upholstery stained.

‘Jesus, Ghost,’ she hissed in a mixture of embarrassment, panic and shame.

‘That is the first time I have startled you,’ he commented, sounding surprised. Rey glared at nothing in particular. She felt cold press against the burn on her hand. It felt good. She couldn’t help the sigh that escaped her lips.

‘What questions?’ She asked, locating the towels and returning to press them against the lost tea.

‘Was he hurting you?’

Rey paused mid action, liquid bleeding through the paper in her palm.

‘Excuse me?’ She said, feeling her face slowly heat up.

Last night she had forgotten that her apartment was sentient.

‘The man that you brought back with you yesterday evening, was he hurting you?’

‘Not physically,’ she muttered, feeling about seventy different variations of mortified as she forced her attention back to the stains. Her eyes felt about two sizes too big for her skull, skin tight over her cheekbones, fingers feeling creaky from the tension in them.

‘Were you … was that what you do with your friends Finn and Poe on the bed with a laptop?’ The deep voice was so sincere and certain. Rey burst out laughing, she couldn’t help it, the violent mood swing startling herself. This was hysterical. Perhaps she was going hysterical? She laughed until she was crying, tears streaming from the corners of her eyes. She felt the press of cold against them, and waved her hand in front of her face, feeling her arm move through two cold zones, passing through him.

‘A laptop is a computer, you view things on it, surf the net, check out news, watch movies. I don’t have one, or I’d show you.’

‘Then what were you doing with him? I …’ Mister Ghost trailed off and Rey took the opportunity to finish cleaning her chair, quickly picking herself up and finishing the job before her swinging emotions could get the better of her again. She didn’t dare touch her tea, worried now that she’d slosh it with the way her hands trembled.

Chair saved to her satisfaction, Rey curled her legs up under her and waited for the next question.

‘I went into your bedroom last night.’

‘You what?’ She shrieked, already knowing from his line of questioning, already beyond horrified and mortified and distraught that someone had caught her like that. Had seen her … seen them … with him of all people … ‘We have rules Ghost! You do not go in there when I am!’

‘I thought you were in need of assistance.’

‘I-what?’ She cut herself off in confusion.

‘You sounded as though you may have been hurt. You had a stranger with you. I was ensuring your safety.’ Rey didn’t know what to say to that. She closed her mouth, jaw tense as she processed his words. Had he been … worried about her? Was he trying to look out for her best interests? ‘The thing he did was what your Landlord envisions when he looks at you.’

‘No, no, no thank you. I don’t need that thought in my head.’ Rey sprang from her chair, passing through a wall of ice, before pacing large circles around her small dining table and living room. ‘I do not need to know that.’ She already knew that, the way Unkar always kept close to her side when he was in her company, the way his eyes stayed and lingered on certain areas it was just … she didn’t need it verbally confirmed by some occult entity!

‘Why do you allow the stranger to do that with you and not your Landlord?’ He sounded genuinely perplexed and Rey wanted to laugh all over again at the whole situation, could feel it struggling to bubble up out of her throat. Instead her face burned red hot and she wanted to simply disappear. She was having a sex talk with a temperamental ghost. This was actually happening.

‘He’s my ex,’ she said, trying to end the conversation as quickly as possible.

‘I do not understand.’

She should’ve known that wouldn’t work.

‘Boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend. It’s what partners do with each other. You know, sex. It’s for fun.’

‘I see. But you are not his partner anymore. Is this still for … fun?’

Rey couldn’t do this. She simply couldn’t. No part of her nineteen years on earth had equipped her for this moment. Give her a teenager, giver her a five year old, hell give her a monkey and she could probably explain sex quite comfortably. But a ghost? Some invisible thing that had seen her … seen Matt doing … with her and … this was not covered in school.

Rey hauled open her front door and stood in the hallway for several minutes, savouring the quietness, the solitude, the distinct lack of icy patches. She breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. Oh this was all levels of fucked. A disaster of a hook up with a self-entitled bastard, and now the ninth-degree from her apartment. All she needed was Unkar to walk up the stairs and tell her that rent was being increased again, while dressed in a thong. That would be the icing on the proverbial cake.

As if on cue she could hear footsteps on the stairwell.

Spooked, Rey re-entered her apartment, heading straight for the fridge to see if she had any cider in there.

There was not.

There was, in fact, next to nothing in her fridge. Great. She also had to do the groceries.

‘Why fingers?’

Okay! Enough!’ She yelled, slamming the refrigerator door shut. ‘That is a privacy thing!’

‘You have done it before, by yourself.’

Oh Lord have mercy on her soul.

‘Because it feels good, Ghost, that’s why. That’s all you need to know. It’s a sex thing. A human thing. No more questions, no more perverted trips into my bedroom. If I need you I’ll call for you. Deal?’ She glared about the room, wishing she could see him so she could kick his arse and make him shut the hell up. This wasn’t happening. This was embarrassing. This was mortification at its finest. This was a level of torture that world experts couldn’t dream up.

‘That is acceptable,’ he seemed to acquiesce.

‘Well I’m glad,’ she snarled, giving up on food and deciding to take her anger out on something a little more tangible.

She tried to push open the studio door. It wouldn’t budge. Rey growled.

‘Let me in, Ghost.’ She hissed, putting her shoulder into it and twisting the handle, hard.

‘This is my room.’

‘What are you, twelve?’ She stepped back and kicked, hard. The impact jolted through her knee and into her hip. The door didn’t so much as rattle in the frame. ‘This is my house and you will let me in.’ She folded her arms and sneered at the heavy obstacle, breathing heavily. She wanted to smash and tear and generally just destroy something.

She was going to make Poe shout her the next five meals out. This was his idea, his fault.

‘My age has no correlation to this scenario, and my existence is calculated far differently in my realm compared to this one.’

Rey felt her shoulders sag, exhaustion settling heavy in her bones.

‘Just let me into the fucking room.’ She mumbled.

‘It is private.’

‘Ghost,’ she said warningly.

The door groaned as it swung gently inwards.

Rey did not offer thanks. She simply entered and stood cross-armed on her rug.

She stared at the wall that connected to the bathroom and frowned, remembering the picture from the library.

She dragged her toe along the grooves in the floor, not really looking as she did so. It was more a habit, now.

It felt good to focus on something other than what they’d been discussing, imperative almost for her own sanity. How to get rid of her ghost. Hell, after what he’d just mentally done to her she’d be glad to get rid of him. At least then there’d be no witnesses for her shameful one night stands with ex’s that were ex’s for a damned good reason.

The marks on the wall had been like the ones in the book. Would destroying the marks solve the problem? Smashing the wall would involve possibly damaging plumbing and electrical, plus replastering and painting. It could be costly … but doable … and a good way to work out the incredible amounts of tension and frustration coursing through her.

‘The marks,’ she said to the room, ‘I saw a picture of them.’

‘Those are my marks,’ he said agreeably, disgustingly unphased by what had just transpired between them. She had the distinct impression he was standing beside her, on the rug. It was an incredibly strange notion. Rey pushed the thought aside and focused.

‘Do you think they’d send you back?’

‘If they were destroyed?’

‘Yeah. Like, I painted over them, but that’s not destroying, that’s just covering. What if we break them?’

Mister Ghost hummed.

Rey smiled despite herself.

She felt better now that she was being productive. She could fix this.

‘No.’ He finally said, crushing that thought with a single syllable.

Rey’s smile slipped.

‘Those are my marks. They are supposed to stay there.’

‘Says who?’ She insisted. ‘Why can’t we try?’

‘They must not be damaged.’ He refused to be drawn out on any why’s or how’s, no matter how she phrased them. Instead he seemed to get more defensive until finally he simply stop replying, as helpful as ever.

Rey turned her back on both him and the wall and went to her work collection on the bookshelf. She had a cat to make for Poe. The activity would distract her mind, keep her hands busy. She could be productive in another way entirely. Although, perhaps the cat would be missing a head.

Sleep with your ex, indeed.

She grinned savagely at the concept.

Chapter Text

Rey pushed open her apartment door, still half frozen despite sprinting up all five stairwells.

It had been snowing almost the entire day. Walking home had burned her thighs and numbed her face and hands. All of her felt like frozen fire. She needed a hot bath, a mug of hot cocoa and to curl up in her chair with her blanket and a book. Or perhaps she’d make Mister Ghost tell her a story. He had to know some good ones. It was only fair he start to make himself more useful than playing with her small art pieces. Maybe he could do a puppet show for her. She almost giggled when a sound stopped her.

Rey stopped breathing, stopped moving.

Mister Ghost was a purveyor of noises. But those noises had so far not involved floorboards. And after the other week she was fairly certain he would not be in her bedroom.

Another sickly groan of tired wood.

She hadn’t even known the floorboards could make a noise.

‘Oh, damn.’ She said out loud, mouth moving before she could really think about it. ‘My mail.’

Rey slowly backed out and closed her door, locking it again. She walked down all five flights of stairs and then out the front door. She stood in the blistering cold for several minutes, not seeing the swirls of white dancing about her, the icicles tinkling from the twisted branches of the tree by the mail boxes. Her breath fogged before her as she kept herself calm and centered.

Someone had been in her apartment, and she had a fairly strong idea who.

Rey headed to her letterbox, fingers trembling from the cold as she pried it open, fishing out a handful of junk and a letter from her bank, asking if she wanted a credit card.

Rey made it to the second flight of stairs when she met Plutt on the way down.

‘Good evening,’ he smiled at her.

‘Evening.’ Rey smiled back, sliding past him. She felt his hand brush her back, her arse. She jogged up the remaining flights.

‘I am sorry.’ The deep voice of her ghost said as she pushed open her now unlocked front door.

‘Why didn’t you jam the door on him?’ She snapped, more angry at the betrayal of common decency than her supernatural housemates inability to deal with it. He wasn’t a guard dog.

‘I was down with the elderly man below your floor. He was watching the glowing box and there was something,’ the studio door opened and the squirrel appeared. Rey sighed. She wondered if he’d actually let her take it from the apartment. He seemed pretty attached to the damn thing. ‘There was this on the screen, only bigger and fuller. There was fur covering the exterior, and it moved quite quickly.’

‘You watched a documentary about squirrels?’ She laughed at the concept, glad for the distraction, not wanting to think about what Unkar Plutt had been doing in her room.

‘Yes. They seem very lively. They are quite fascinating. You have seen one before, on a documentary?’

‘No. Real life. All the time. They’re really common.’ She plucked her work out of the air from his hands, she supposed, and walked through the ghost, goosebumps flaring over her skin, despite the many layers of clothes she was still wearing. She set it back on the shelf in her studio before turning to look thoughtfully at the deceptively normal wall.

Rey began to strip herself of her layers: gloves, jacket, scarf, under jacket, boots. She kicked them all into a pile while staring at the wall. Her mind was ticking over, trying to think of any way to help her ghost, some new avenue she hadn’t looked down, if there was anything she had missed.

‘Are you sure those creepy marks won’t do something?’ She asked, certain he was nearby. She heard a soft thump, as if something had hit the wall.

And then the wall began to bleed.

Rey stared wide eyed as the marks she’d spent days covering over started to seep through the green paint, thick black lines and shimmering gold. The only colour that wasn’t brought through was the dark red paint.

‘Blood. That was blood on the walls, wasn’t it?’ She realised out loud, stomach churning in disgust. She’d touched those marks barehanded. How naive was she, dark paint. Of course it was blood. It was a haunted apartment. Of course the walls were bathed in animal sacrifices. The urge to scrub her hands raw with soap and hot water was almost overpowering. She managed to swallow it down with a huge gulp of air, digging her nails into the palms of her hands to stop the immediate trembling.

‘Yes. A man and a woman, to be precise.’

‘Like, cats or rats or something?’ She asked.

‘A male and female homosapien.’

‘Oh, human blood. Great.’ Her voice was eerily blank, at complete odds with the sudden sweat that broke out across her skin, the lurch of her gut as it tried to climb out her throat.

Rey stumbled out of the room, barely making it to the bathroom before she threw up the entire contents of her stomach. Not until she was retching air, unable to bring up any more bile, did her aching throat start to relax and the convulsions in her abdomen began to cease.

She felt cold brush down her back, a long stroke from the base of her skull, following her spine to the belt of her pants. It moved to her forehead, chilling the droplets of sweat beading along her brow.

‘You are ill,’ he rumbled lowly, the coolness vanishing as she began to shiver, body weak and upset.

Rey groaned, dragging her hands shakily through her hair, tugging it out of the messy bun.

‘I’m fine,’ she lied, her strength having flooded down the drain with her lunch.

‘The door was open,’ he said quickly. She glanced over her shoulder and saw he was correct. Shutting it hadn’t been of her utmost concern a couple of minutes ago. ‘I would not have followed you otherwise.’

‘It’s fine. I’m fine. Just … people died in here? In my home?’ Her stomach clenched again and she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to ignore the black dots in her vision. She flushed the toilet to get rid of the smell and breathed deeply, slowly getting to her feet again. Her knees trembled for a moment, but she finally found her balance.

‘I was summoned.’ He said.

She stayed silent, waiting for him to continue. Finally, Mister Ghost took the hint.

‘It requires sacrifices to summon one such as myself. I am not selective of the gender, but a male and a female was used in this instance.’

‘Did … can you tell if they suffered?’

‘Horribly.’ He said.

The world went black.

***

Rey awoke to a dark apartment. Warmth cocooned her, soft and comforting as her head spun dizzyingly. She inhaled deeply the smell of earth and ozone and metal and spice. Her home. Light was splashed across the vaulted ceiling and she watched the patterns for a long moment, slowly moving her limbs to ensure they were all functioning perfectly. A cut on her forearm caught her attention for a moment, long and narrow, trailing from the crook of her elbow to her wrist.

‘Ghost?’ She called softly, turning her head to look around her. She was lying on her floor, between the bathroom and studio. The blankets were warm against her cheeks as she nuzzled her face into them. She had no recollection of how she’d gotten there. ‘Are you here? What happened?’ She thought she might have fainted. Fainted because of … no, she wasn’t going to think of the reasons why she fainted. She didn’t want another dizzy spell.

Her stomach rumbled hungrily, but she wasn’t inclined to move, yet. Her pillows had been laid around her, creating a delightfully comfortable nest.

‘Ghost?’ She tried again, after a few minutes. There wasn’t a clock nearby, and her phone was in her jacket pocket, presumably still in the studio. It had to be getting late.

‘Yes?’ She heard the breath of familiar voice, so strangely soft.

‘You’re very quiet.’

‘I am … tired.’ Curiosity flared immediately. Rey rolled onto her stomach and looked about her apartment, as if expecting to see Mister Ghost standing at her kitchen bench with a mug of tea.

‘I thought you didn’t sleep?’

‘I do not. My powers can be taxed, however, and now I am weary.’

‘You did this?’ She asked, patting her blankets. They were puffy under her fingers.

‘Yes. You were unconscious on the floor. It did not look … appropriate for you.’ Rey smiled at his concern.

‘Thank you. Why didn’t you just move me to my room, instead of dragging everything here?’ She wasn’t complaining, only curious. She hadn’t expected her invisible housemate to care enough to even get her a blanket, let alone build her a bed and put her in it.

‘I had to,’ he paused, voice dropping lower. Rey waited patiently for him to continue talking. ‘In order to move you I was required to take on a physical presence.’

‘What?’ She sat up at that, sheets and quilt pooling around her waist. She rugged them up to her shoulders. The apartment had gotten cold through the evening.

‘For small items I am able to concentrate and move them individually, but human bodies are far more complex. I pass through you.’

‘So you had to turn solid to touch me? You can do that?’ Her fingertips traced the line of injured flesh, eyes widening, lips parting as she realised exactly what had done this to her.

‘Shifting between realms is incredibly exhausting.’

‘So I could see you, if you wanted me to?’ It was the next question that popped into her head, and so she asked without thinking, desperately trying to imagine what her ghost looked like. Perhaps a small old man, wisened beyond his years, with magical strength? She giggled, having difficulty processing that her ghost had been real enough to touch while she was unconscious. To leave a scratch on her arm from moving her.

‘I am tired now, but later, yes, once I have replenished, I could briefly show you.’

‘Not if it wears you out.’ Rey smiled and slowly crawled to her feet, feeling a little like a newborn calf as her legs wobbled wildly. Her stomach was gnawing at itself, the hunger morphing into cramps and nausea. ‘I don’t want you getting sick on my account. But thank you, for this.’

‘I cannot get sick, but you can. Your illness would not aid me.’

She riffled through the kitchen cupboards without bothering to turn a light on, searching for a can of anything to crack open and scoff before she went to bed. A shiver ran through her entire body.

‘You standing in me will probably make me sick, too,’ she pointed out, feeling goosebumps prickle her skin as her teeth threatened to chatter. Her fingers closed around a tin of baked beans and she withdrew it triumphantly.

Spoon in hand, Rey collected her pillows and marched straight to bed.

She paused in the process of recreating Mister Ghost’s nest. Flicking on her bedside light, Rey scanned her room, frowning as the earlier events of the afternoon caught back up on her.

‘Ghost?’ Rey called out curiously, gripping the edge of the bed so she wouldn’t fall over. Her stomach was churning again, stress crawling along her nerves and spiking fear through her in painful shards.

‘Yes?’ His voice drifted from the living room.

‘Did you … did you see what Unkar was doing in here?’

‘No. I am sorry.’

‘That’s alright,’ she sighed, shoulders sinking. She looked at her drawers of underwear and decided that tomorrow morning she was going to wash every item of clothing she owned. Just to be safe.

Chapter Text

Poe pushed the door open for her as the bags in her grip strained, plastic stretching worryingly taut. Finn was goading her on with a musical chant of ‘you can do it!’ and ‘gogogogo!’. Laughing, Rey heaved the bags up and onto the counter. The three of them high fived and cheered.

‘You’re probably shredded by now!’ Finn punched her in the shoulder. ‘I dunno how you do that many stairs, and then you’re wrestling with giant machines and and walking everywhere, you’re like some sort of superhuman.’

‘You better believe it!’ Rey grinned.

‘I bet you have am eight pack!’ Finn continued gushing, unwrapping the long scarf from around his neck.

‘Okay, Finn, honey, you’re taken, remember, by me?’ Poe grabbed him by the shoulders and began trying to massage out the excitability.

‘I’m happy to share if you are,’ Rey said with a smile. Her thighs burned pleasantly and her arms trembled slightly from the workout. The endorphin rush was kicking in and making her slightly giddy.

‘Hello,’ the deep, low voice of her ghost whispered. Rey’s smile widened and she began unpacking the bags, putting Finn on peeling duty and Poe on cutting while she switched on the oven and set the table in preparation for their feast.

She had been living here for three months, now. Three whole months of cohabitation with a ghost. Three whole months of strange questions and weird occurrences that would have sent her two friends here screaming from the house. Yet here she was, a deep voice rumbling in her head, mute to the two men hip-checking each other as they jostled for prime bench space.

‘Excited for graduation?’ Rey asked Finn as she set out the plates. One of them shifted slightly and she pushed it back, only to watch the serviette flutter to the floor. Rolling her eyes, she stooped to pick it up, feeling the brush of cold as she inevitably passed through Mister Ghost.

‘So excited,’ Finn gushed, completely oblivious to the supernatural games going on at the dinner table. ‘I’ve paid to be there, I have Poe’s ticket too! I’m sorry you can’t make it, though.’ He looked over at her, big brown eyes sad, full bottom lip stuck out in a pout.

‘I’m really sorry, Finn. Work couldn’t give me the day off. The boss is on leave, so I’m kind of running the store.’

‘So you’re like a temporary manager?’ Finn asked quickly, voice steeping in excitement. Rey thought about it before shrugging. She was the longest serving employee there, and one of the most proficient. Plus she could use the computer at front desk and make the moody printer work.

‘I guess so,’ she agreed, returning to them, slinging her arms over their shoulders and wedging herself between their hot torsos.

‘You got the chicken on?’ Poe asked.

‘You finished with those potatoes, Dameron?’ She retorted. They grinned at one another for a long moment.

It felt good, easy, relaxing just being with these men, her oldest friends. Already she was wishing the bake was over and done with so they could curl up on her bed and reminisce and fall asleep in a warm pile of entwined limbs, just like the old days.

‘How are you handling the Landlord?’ Poe asked after Rey had torn herself away from them, making herself busy with a herb crust.

‘Fine,’ she said. ‘Everything’s fine, why?’ She didn’t dare glance over at him, in case her face gave her away. She could recall on several occasions just how overly honest she was, regardless of the impact to herself. The most memorable was the primary school teasing on how she’d docked herself ten points on an exam because the teacher had mis-marked her. Rey bit her lip and worked the pestle into the mortar. She wondered how she’d react if they asked her point blank if there was still a ghost here.

‘He was watching us when we walked in,’ Poe said, oblivious to her inner turmoil.

‘He usually does,’ Rey answered lightly, spilling salt and cursing under her breath. They didn’t need to know he appeared to watching the inside of her apartment as well.

‘You are lying to them.’ The deep voice whispered in her mind. She bit her lip harder.

‘That’s creepy,’ Finn joined in. ‘That guy is super creepy. Like, pervert level creepy, I reckon.’

‘Yeah, I haven’t had any trouble with him.’ Rey began to cover the chicken, rubbing her bare hands over the cold and slightly slimy surface. She didn’t want to worry them, they’d only just stopped with the ghost jokes. Having a rather large and very present threat would have the two men dragging her kicking and screaming from her home. Rey could handle herself. She was determined to.

***

‘He was here again.’ Mister Ghost said as Rey entered her apartment, droplets of melted snow cascading from her jacket as she shook it off and hung it on her coat stand.

‘What was he doing?’ Rey asked, glancing about the space that was supposed to be her private sanctuary.

‘He was going through your personal possessions. He went into my room, but I concealed the wall from him. That is not of his concern.’

‘No, it isn’t,’ she responded absentmindedly, finding it more to the point that her life was not of Unkar’s concern. This was the third report she’d had from Mister Ghost of Unkar coming into her apartment while she was out. ‘Is he looking for something?’ She mused aloud, not really expecting an answer. She had nothing of value, and she doubted Unkar would be as obsessed with her little metallic squirrel as her ghost was.

Rey pulled a mug out of the cupboard and found a teabag. The kettle was already switched on, beginning to boil, courtesy of her helpful spirit.

‘Would you be able to stop him?’ She asked curiously. She watched the kettle click off and then on again.

‘It would not be hard keeping the door closed to him,’ the low voice finally answered. ‘However-’

‘You like hanging out with the old guy downstairs, I know. I’m not asking you to be be here all day, just, if you happen to be, don’t let him in?’

Mister Ghost hummed. Rey smiled and poured boiling water into her mug, dunking the tea bag a few times to encourage her drink to steep faster.

‘Of course.’ He finally said.

Rey curled up in her armchair, breathing in the steam of her tea, and turned her gaze out the window at a low, grey sky. Winter was clinging on desperately, and they were forecasting a miserable start to spring. It was the sort of weather that made you want to curl up in bed and read a book. Perhaps that was how she’d spend the weekend. For the rest of the working week she’d be waist deep in car carcasses, tearing out functioning pieces before the tow truck came and hauled the wrecks away.

‘What was your life like, before you got stuck here?’ She asked, watching thick eddies of snow swirl from the clouds.

‘Busy.’ After a long pause she realised he wasn’t going to elaborate.

‘What did you do?’

‘I had tasks to complete. I was very efficient. When I was summoned to this place I was unable to continue my duties. I imagine someone else is undertaking those tasks, now.’

‘Others? There are other ghosts?’

‘Demons.’ He corrected. ‘But also ghosts, yes. Of which I am not one.’ Rey smiled around the lip of her cup, feeling her eyes crinkle as she did so. He seemed incapable of letting her wilful ignorance go. ‘I was considered one of the most powerful.’

‘But then you got stuck here. If you’re so powerful how’d you get stuck?’ The lights of the town were muted behind the curtain of white.

‘A summoned demon is at the mercy of his summoner.’

‘That doesn’t seem very fair.’ Rey frowned and looked around the empty living room. Perhaps it was some sort of cosmic trade off. You could be super strong, but if someone wanted you, you had to listen. She tried to imagine going about your daily life only to be ripped away and trapped in a tiny space. It wasn’t a very cheerful or friendly thought.

When Mister Ghost didn’t respond, Rey realised this line of conversation was over. He always seemed to get touchy when she tried to learn about him, about who he had been and where he was from. The stock standard answer was usually ‘I am not a ghost, I am a demon,’ as if that explained everything away. Rey rolled her eyes. He would never talk about the summoning, about what had led up to him getting stuck. There was only the before and after.

He didn’t seem to realise that she needed to know so that she could try to help him. Rey had even said as much to him, but Mister Ghost had scoffed and vanished. Just like he’d vanished now. His silence was deafening and almost a little bit like a childish tantrum.

Using the old adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’, Rey picked up the book she was currently reading and went to bed.

Chapter Text

Kylo Ren tilted his head, listening intently.

His hands stilled on the pieces of metal he had been painstakingly joining together. Concentration broken, the small bolts fell away, but he barely noticed.

It was far too light outside for it to be Rey walking in through the front door.

Kylo Ren rose and moved towards the offending doorknob, where a key rattled restlessly in the lock, desperately attempting to turn the latch. He would not allow it, though. Rey had asked for his help, and so here it was.

‘Got to be kidding me,’ a masculine voice growled, accompanied by a thump. Kylo Ren waited for a long moment, and then the key jiggled again, doorknob twisting.

The door was unlocked, but he held the door tight to the frame, not overly interested in seeing the slimy thoughts of the landlord again. He knew for a fact that this Unkar Plutt did not treat his other tenants in this manner. Kylo Ren had never seen him lurking in the rooms downstairs. This seemed to be a fixation centred solely on Rey, which would just not do.

It took several minutes before Unkar Plutt gave up and left.

When Rey came home Kylo Ren did not mention it to her. He did not see the need. She was too busy talking about her day at work and he did not wish to sour her thoughts.

***

Rey had been gone barely an hour, according to the big clock in the kitchen that sometimes stuttered and froze. She had initially blamed him for its faultiness but had quickly figured out there was an issue with one of the components. She had not replaced it, claiming it added charm.

Kylo Ren stood in the living room, not really doing anything. It was sometimes nice to be in a state of meditation, it helped to focus his powers that were so diminished in this mid-realm. Within the human plane he could be conceived as terrifying, in his home space he was what humans would call godly. There were other names, more relevant, but Kylo Ren had become accustomed to human speak, and so he settled for it. It made communication easier, especially now that there was one who could hear him.

Barely an hour between Rey running through the front door, lunch forgotten, keys still splayed on the kitchen counter, bedroom door open, scarf fallen on the floor, and there was a rattle.

Kylo Ren did not register it, at first. Meditation was all consuming, and there were rarely distractions this early in the morning when Rey was at work. On the days she labelled weekends she would ask him to help her cook or tell her stories, or ask him endless question to which he rarely knew answers to (how was one to explain that things existed because they were simply meant to?).

He did not register the key turn, but he did register the door groaning as it creaked open, heavy and loud. His eyes snapped open and he watched as the first half of a body squeezed through the opening crack.

He could easily have slammed the door shut, but did not think Rey would appreciate coming home to find her landlord cut clean in half, intestines trapped in the door frame, spilling through layers of fat and slime. Especially not after she had reacted so violently to the mere thought of the sacrifices used to summon him to this plane of existence.

Unkar Plutt peered about greedily, eyes darting this way and that as fat fingers curled around the door jamb.

Kylo Ren tilted his head in curiosity. Fingers were certainly strange appendages, so versatile and yet so defenseless. And the layers that surrounded his organs and skeletal structure would surely not be healthy. There was no such thing as fat in his home, but here humans seemed to revel in the filthy habit of gluttony and gorging oneself. He had no need of physical sustenance, but wondered if the taste was something to do with it.

The fat man shut the door behind him and stood right before Kylo Ren, arms folded over his considerable girth. He was chuckling to himself. Perhaps this was one of those humans who verbally gloated about his feats.

‘What a mess,’ Unkar Plutt was saying, proving Kylo Ren’s assumption right. Kylo Ren hummed softly in annoyance. Unkar Plutt stepped through him, shivering as he did so, making straight for the room that was Rey’s.

Kylo Ren slammed the door shut in front of the sweat stained face. Unkar Plutt would not be going into her room. If Kylo Ren was not welcome, this man certainly was not.

Tension radiated from the big man, body freezing. And then he giggled something about the draft and tried the handle. Kylo Ren refused to allow the door to budge. It was not hard to do, it took very little concentration. Unkar Plutt stepped back, glowering, and then headed to the bathroom. This door was promptly sealed, too. Kylo Ren’s room was already shut, but that didn’t stop the attempt. Unkar Plutt was desperate to touch anything of hers, it appeared, as he started running his hands over her table and chairs, over her walls. He bent over her plants and poked at them. That was unacceptable. Rey had been very forthcoming about the care of plants, especially after he had been so cruel to them. Plants, though hardy, needed love. They needed to not be prodded, they needed light and water to flourish. Unkar Plutt’s greasy fingers were not nourishing or nurturing. They were harmful.

A wave of rage coalesced into one solid heave, ripping Unkar Plutt away from the window sill, toppling the pot with a smash and an enormous thud from the man. Like an insect, the man floundered on his back, legs and arms attempting to right themselves, to keel over onto his gut to push himself up, to grasp onto the table for leverage. Kylo Ren watched with growing disdain as the smear of humanity righted himself and looked about with small, fearful eyes, chins quivering. But the man did not leave. Instead he moved towards the kitchen bench, where her keys rested, muttering nonsense to himself that Kylo Ren was not in the least interested with. What he was interested in, however, was the sudden fixation Unkar Plutt had with her house keys.

‘Gotta come to me for the spare, girl,’ he hissed, as if he had heard Kylo Ren’s silent enquiry. With a small push, Kylo Ren sent the keys skittering away from the grubby, outstretched hand. ‘No you fucking don’t, ghost.’ Unkar Plutt snarled with what would have been a vicious tone if Kylo Ren was not older than time knew how to calculate.

He was, however, surprised at how relaxed Unkar Plutt was with knowing of his existence. Perhaps previous tenants had mentioned him. Perhaps so many years of short stays had clued the fat man in on his presence.

‘You give me those fucking keys or I will make you pay. They’ve already got their eye on you again, so do as I say or you’ll regret it.’

Kylo Ren did not know what Unkar Plutt was blathering on about, nor did he overly care. This mysterious ‘they’ did not worry him. The keys skittered off the bench, across the floor and under the stove. They would be unreachable there. Kylo Ren would pull them out once Rey returned. He would have to let her in, of course. She would not be able to access the room without her keys. Or perhaps even the building. That thought made him frown in indecision. If she was unable to access the building she would be required to go to Unkar Plutt for admittance. Unfortunately there was no way he could combat this. The lobby was far beyond his reach, and simply tossing her keys out the window would mean they would be lost for eternity. This was the best of the scenarios. Rey would require Unkar Plutt’s assistance only once for entry, not for the acquisition of a new set of keys. The less time she had to deal with the slimy man’s thoughts, the better.

Unkar Plutt roared his anger into a string of curse words and wide armed gesticulations that Kylo Ren assumed were supposed to be rude. Kylo Ren folded his arms across his chest, mimicking Rey when she was cross about something. He understood the gesture slightly more, now. It felt empowering, closing himself off from the frustration before him. Unkar Plutt appeared to have no interest in making friends with the demon of this apartment. There was no bowing, no scraping, no attempts at bribery or efforts to obtain good will. Unkar Plutt was doing himself no favours. Kylo Ren narrowed his eyes and found a snarl pulling at his lips.

This level of disrespect was insulting.

Unkar Plutt was disrespectful to Rey, and more importantly, towards Kylo Ren.

That would not stand.

Focused on the enraged face before him, Kylo Ren flicked open the front door. The force of it made the door bang loudly and rebound off the wall. It was good that Kylo Ren had already destroyed the mirror that had once stood there. It would have been destroyed then.

Unkar Plutt visibly cringed, shoulders hunching, head ducking, eyes squeezing shut.

Kylo Ren waited for the man to get a hold of himself, waited for the eyes to open, the pallid tone to vanish, the shoulders to curl back, the sneer to reappear, the vile words to flourish. Only when Unkar Plutt gathered himself, did Kylo Ren finish this interaction. With one hard mental shove, the big man flew out the door with a rough thud, bouncing thickly off the hall wall. Kylo Ren shut the door before he could flounder back onto his feet.

After a series of scrapes and grunts the door was assaulted by thuds and thunks.

Kylo Ren stood and waited for the dramatics to end.

They did, after a time, and then he waited for Rey to return.

She did, after a time, and he was drawn from meditation by the sound of a key turning and Unkar Plutt speaking.

‘No issues up here?’ He was saying, pushing the door open. Rey looked more than a little perturbed, eager to be left alone in her apartment, clutching her bag to her chest, elbows tucked tight to her sides to minimise bodily contact. ‘No weird sounds, electrical issues?’

‘Oh, no,’ she smiled, cheeks flushed bright red, as she tucked hair behind her ear nervously, ‘I think perhaps rats? Something in the roof chewing on a wire. Everything sorted itself out. No more problems with the lights. Plumbings fine, heating. The apartment’s great, thanks!’ She offered him a brighter smile and edged closer to her open doorway. Unkar Plutt did not move away.

Kylo Ren narrowed his eyes, gauging Rey’s discomfort at having to squeeze past him, and so, from his spot in the middle of the living room, gave Unkar Plutt a slight shove. The big man took a forced step back and a second to steady himself, mouth opening in shock.

‘Thank you for helping me get into my apartment! I must’ve left my keys here this morning!’

‘Nothing to report?’ Unkar Plutt pressed, eyes narrowed on her face. Rey frowned, hand on the doorknob.

‘Like I said, everything is fine. Thanks!’ She closed the door, pressed her back to it and sighed. She flicked the lock closed without looking at it. ‘Everything is not fine, is it?’ She hissed softly.

‘No.’ Kylo Ren answered.

‘What happened?’ She asked after they heard Unkar Plutt shuffle down the hallway, his weight groaning on the stairwell.

Kylo Ren summoned her keys out from under the oven and she stooped to pick them up.

‘I was unable to stop him entering without unnecessary bloodshed. I stopped him from entering your personal areas, and he had intent to take your keys.’

‘That bastard!’ She scowled, ‘how did you do it?’

‘I threw him out.’ She gave a bark of laughter, quickly covering her mouth to stifle it, before giving up and chuckling.

‘You mean it literally, don’t you?’

‘Of course.’ He tilted his head and watched as she cracked open the tin of tuna and the crackers she had meant to take for lunch and began to eat them. She rested her hip against the bench and chewed noisily.

‘Thank you, Mister Ghost, for stopping him.’ Kylo Ren frowned at the moniker, but decided to allow her use of it. Regardless of how many corrections he gave, she simply would not listen. Perhaps that was why she had not been alarmed by him. She was a stubborn human.

‘You are welcome.’

‘So I bought a new book on the way home from work. How do you feel about fantasy stories?’ He watched as she pulled a paper bag out of her backpack and set it beside her armchair.

‘I am not averse,’ he admitted. He folded his legs so that he was in a seated position and waited for her to brew her tea and make herself comfortable from her work clothes. Her new obsession with reading him tales was quite interesting. Rey settled herself down in her chair, blanket pulled about her shoulders as she cracked the cover, a smile already gracing her lips.

‘This should be a fun one!’ She said, before taking a deep breath and beginning.

Chapter Text

Rey was under the sink clearing out a blockage when she felt the cold spot stop on her. She paused, tilting her head curiously at the waft of sulfur as she waited for the face full of water that would inevitably come from Mister Ghosts antics. He seemed to enjoy catching her when she was busy, too involved in some other task to detect his mischievousness. However, this time it didn’t come. Shrugging to herself, Rey continued with her work. Perhaps he was playing with the small timer she’d bought the other day. He couldn’t let the damned thing be. He would wake her up at all hours of the night with it, hiding the timer so she had to stumble around, half-asleep, searching for the stupid thing to turn it off.

Rey waited patiently for the persistent beeping to begin. Usually it was tucked somewhere high, like the gap between her kitchen cupboards and the ceiling, or in her bathroom. For a ghost supposedly as old as time, he certainly was childish, and impatient. He couldn’t wait for his pranks to come to fruition. Once he’d rearranged all of the cabinets in her kitchen, bowls and pans and cups and sieves all in the wrong spot. She’d acted as though nothing had changed, cooking her dinner, until he’d asked her more and more pointed questions about whether she’d noticed anything strange or different. She could see straight through him.

After another five minutes of him just standing in the middle of her thighs Rey sighed.

‘Can I help you?’ She began to ask before her words twisted into a sharp shriek of pain. Hot tendrils of fire raced down her abdomen. She looked on in horror as red welled through sudden tears in her shirt, straight lines piercing into her stomach and she choked on spit as she struggled to comprehend what she was seeing.

‘Rey?’ Mister Ghost called out. She heard something thud in her studio. ‘Is something the matter?’ She pressed a hand against her tummy, wincing at the sting, at the dripping red that came away.

Coldness gripped her ankles.

She was yanked violently, skidding across the floorboards on her back.

Pain bloomed in her shoulder as she hit the studio wall, making her hiss.

‘Stop this.’ Mister Ghost said in a deep, menacing voice. Rey opened her mouth to demand an explanation, to shriek one.

‘Stop what?’ Another voice responded. It was silkier, still masculine, dripping with the authority of one used to power.

‘Do not bring the girl into this.’

‘It seems the girl is a very big part of this, no? We have been keeping tabs. All of these years and not so much as a peep. Oh, scared little humans, of course, but that is to be expected with a fearsome demon such as yourself.’ The words dripped thick with sarcasm. ‘But then … complacency? A witch, perhaps? What did she sell for your complacency?’

A roar of anger reverberated through Rey’s head and she winced, clutching at her temples, eyes squeezing shut as she listened to the fight she could not see.

‘I am not complacent.’ Her ghost snarled. She felt a coldness at her side and knew it to be him. She didn’t know how she knew it, she just did.

‘I would suggest virginity, that was quite popular for a while, but she does not have the smell. A sacrificial thing? How did a human woman snare you as protector?’

‘Your issue is with me, you shall leave the human out of it.’ The room was ominously silent then, and Rey slowly pulled herself up the wall, leaving a trail of bloody fingerprints as she stood, panting out the pain. She peered about the apartment, looking for anything out of place. There was only her blood.

A vicious line opened along her forearm, deep and bubbling red. The pain was gagging, tears springing to her eyes as she pulled away, tucking into herself. The strange voice laughed, so close to her, almost in her ear. Her ghost growled.

‘The thing is, of course, that you are trapped within these very small walls.’ The voice gloated. ‘I, however, have the power to roam anywhere I so wish.’ Rey felt a tug against the belt loop of her jeans, subtle, towards the studio. She didn’t question, simply began to edge in that direction, stumbling on trembling legs. Perhaps she was in shock, but didn’t shock mean you didn’t feel the pain? She definitely felt the sharp pain in her arm and torso, the wetness on her hands.

‘And what is your point?’ Her ghost said darkly.

‘You can only protect her within these walls, so answer my questions and she shall not be harmed any further.’

‘I know why you are here, and my answer is still the same. The task is impossible, and she has nothing to do with any of it!’

‘So protective of a mortal. It is such a shame they are so fragile.’

‘The wall.’

‘Which wall? Honestly, I think your seclusion has made you even more unbearable than usual.’

Rey pressed the studio door open, almost falling as she did so under the weight of it. Metal bolts were scattered over the floor. Her new box of scrap metal within arms reach.

‘The wall.’ Her ghost said again, sounding urgent for the first time since she’d met him, and she realised he was speaking to her.

Rey stared at the symbols that he had revealed almost an eternity ago now, mouth falling open.

‘But you said-’

‘Now!’ The answer thundered through her, a freight train pounding into her skull.

Her fingers wrapped around a metal bar, cool in her slick grip. With one swift move she lunged at the smooth surface. The door slammed closed as she let the metal drive deep. Plasterboard cracked and she wrenched hard, shattering a symbol, severing it with flakes of paint and chipped wood. She hacked again and again, silently praying she wouldn’t hit any electrical wiring, praying that this would solve it. That this would work. Because there was another one in her home. Another demon. One that hurt, one that was not polite or funny or strange. She grit her teeth as more blood swelled down the front of her, unable to coagulate as she twisted her torso to bite into another section of wall, dust caking her hair, coating her tongue, stinging her nostrils and eyes.

It took seconds, her actions, but it felt like several lifetimes, caked in blood and sweat and tears. She felt as though civilisation had ended and been reborn again before the metal pole slipped from her grasp, legs losing balance as something ripped through the room. A tornado that slammed her hard into the ground, crackling hot energy that rattled the windows and ruffled the blinds. She tasted fresh blood and spat it out.

‘Oh,’ she breathed when she looked up, body aching. Oh, he hadn’t been wrong.

He definitely wasn’t a ghost.

Chapter Text

He was huge. Well over six foot, and thick with used muscle.

Her mouth would have run dry, if not for the influx of blood from her shredded cheek.

Rey pressed herself up to her knees and stared. How could she not stare? Was she supposed to even be looking at him?

Her ghost looked back at her for a long moment.

Fiery golden eyes pierced into her, surrounded by ebony lashes. Black hair cascaded in waves about his long, pale face, almost framing two enormous spiral horns that protruded from his head, bright red, save for the black fissure-like cracks that marred the surface. He was dressed in black, sleeveless robes trimmed in gold, fixed about his waist with an embroidered gold belt. From the elbow down his pale flesh was black, almost scale like, hands huge, fingers long and inky, ending in vicious talons. Talons that had once wounded her.

Rey opened her mouth to say something, anything, when her ghost moved, impossibly fast, arm lashing out to nothingness, gripping nothingness.

A snarl curled large lips, revealing sharp white teeth, pronounced incisors glinting dully in the afternoon light.

‘It seems you are incorrect, now.’ He said, his voice somehow deeper, huskier now that he was corporeal.

His body shifted, as though whatever he held was struggling.

Fire seemed to flicker in his grasp. Red and orange expanding into the shape of a head, a body.

Her back hit a wall, but she hadn’t been aware she was scampering backwards, away from this nightmare. Away from them as the second demon materialised. Another man, with colourless eyes, wreathed in flames, golden claws shimmering behind the fire light.

He was struggling, writhing, face contorted into savage hate as his legs appeared, and then his feet, as this second demon was fixed into the realm of sight.

‘Do not threaten me,’ her ghost said, voice suddenly silky. And then, with a sharp twist of his arm, the dark beast of a creature slammed the fire monster hard into the ground.

There was no bang, no flash, no nothing.

The fire demon was there.

And then he was gone.

Rey exhaled slowly.

Golden eyes looked at her.

‘Where did he go?’ She asked, not sure what else she was supposed to say.

‘I sent him to another realm.’

‘Oh.’ She pressed her hands against her stomach and tried to will her heartbeat to slow down. ‘Can he come back?’

‘Yes. It will be difficult for him, and he will need to be summoned.’

‘Oh.’

The demon straightened, his horns grazing the ceiling, his shoulders straight, body stiff as he stared down at her.

‘It didn’t work,’ she said after a pause, every hair on her body standing on end as she held the strangest staring competition of her life. She probably should have been terrified, should have fainted already, instead the closest thing she could label herself was probably mesmerised. This is what she had been living with?

‘It is of little consequence now. I did not believe it would send me back. I had hoped, perhaps, that it would. His quarrel was with me, not you. My absence would have led him away.’

‘And now?’ She asked, suddenly hyper aware of what his answer was going to be. Because she could see him. It didn’t seem to be draining him, the way he’d described that other time, when she’d passed out. He seemed quite in control of himself.

‘This is my new realm of existence. I have the majority of my power again. I am no longer contained within these walls. Between planes I was unable to best him, but now,’ he left the rest unspoken as he stepped slowly forward.

Rey had nowhere left to go, so she stayed as small as possible, staring up at him wide-eyed, mouth hanging open as he began to crouch before her. A predator kneeling before his prey. An inky paw of taloned fingers was slowly extended towards her.

‘Come,’ he said gently, and she realised with a start that his voice was no longer in her head. She could hear him. ‘You are injured. I can repair the damage.’

‘Who was that?’ She whispered, staring at the offered hand. After a moment's indecision Rey placed her bloody hand in his. She had lived with this thing for months and never once had he hurt her intentionally. She doubted he would start now. His palm was hot in hers, the scales smooth. His fingers curled around her wrist. She tensed as his claws brushed her skin, they felt like stone, strong and smooth. He did not cut her, though. He was careful as he pulled her to her feet.

‘That was Hux. He is a lesser demon, though quite powerful within his own right.’

‘And you, do you have a name?’ It occurred to her to ask after all these months as he walked her over rubble and blood. He sat her on the edge of her bath tub and released her hand. With a deft motion he tore the remainder of her shirt apart and she watched with a strange detachment as the tattered, blood drenched fabric fall to the ground with a wet plop. Deep red lines scored her belly, like the tallies she used to keep as a child.

‘I am Kylo Ren.’

‘Kylo,’ she mumbled as he splayed his hand across her abdomen. His palm was big enough to cover almost all of the damage. The hiss was almost impossible to stop as he applied pressure, stabbing pain through her in sharp bursts. And then warmth. Pulses of golden light sparkling around the darkness of his hand, sinking into her skin.

Rey watched in fascination as the tendrils of red slowly faded, vanishing under the light until he removed his hand to show nothing more than blood smears. There were no scars, no scabs, nothing. She held out her forearm to him and he repeated the process.

‘I am sorry that he did this to you. He does not have the same respect for life forms as I do.’

‘You wouldn’t tear a person to shreds?’ She couldn’t help but laugh giddily, looking at the monstrously sharp implements cupped delicately around her wrist. Kylo’s eyes were serious, mouth firm as he looked at her, golden irises drawing her attention away from the golden glow.

‘Only if there were a need,’ he said.

Rey exhaled her giggle shakily as he released her and stood, towering and black above her.

‘Kylo?’ She began, not quite sure what she was supposed to make of this new situation.

‘Kylo Ren.’ He corrected.

‘Where will you go now?’ She asked, gripping the cool edge of the tub, calfs pressing against the tiles as she dropped her gaze from the unnatural colour of his, preferring to look instead at the black cloth on his broad chest. That felt safer, somehow.

‘What do you mean?’ She could see his hands moving, those curved nails twitching, and she couldn’t help but glance up at his face again. The man seemed … confused. ‘I will stay here.’ Rey nodded her head slowly. Of course he would, where else would go? Rent out another place? She wondered if it was possible to let to a demon. Did he have ID? He certainly wouldn’t have bank records. Was she going hysterical? These were certainly the thoughts a hysterical person would be having, perhaps shock. Rey stood up suddenly, bringing herself flush with him.

Unlike any normal human being, Kylo Ren did not step back. He looked a little bewildered at her movement, eyebrows drawing together in a small frown, head rearing back slightly. Rey pushed past him and moved into the living room. She was in shorts and a bra. Bloodstained. Goosebumps rippled across bare skin. Her stomach rolled. She needed a shower, or a bath, or a stiff drink. She needed to not be in her apartment anymore. She needed for this to not be real.

Rey turned back to the bathroom and stopped. Kylo was standing on this side of the doorway, a towering menace of horns and claws and black and gold. Her chest drew tight, constricting, squeezing her lungs as she struggled for air.

She watched the demon tilt his head slightly, eyes narrowing as she reached blindly for something to support herself. A chair, a table, anything.

The floor roared up to meet her, black and cold and final.

Chapter Text

‘I had the weirdest dream.’ Rey said to her empty apartment, fishing toast out of her overzealous toaster. ‘I dreamt that you were this big creepy demon thing that had a demon battle with another demon.’ She inhaled deeply, savouring the slight bitterness of the green tea beside her. ‘And that’s why I don’t own a TV. Gives you weird thoughts.’ Toast crunched and a clump of strawberry jam stuck to her lip. Rey pulled herself up so she was sitting on her bench, heels thudding against the cabinet door as she kicked an idle pattern.

She couldn’t remember going to bed last night, or even fixing her sink, but she evidently had. Perhaps Ky-Mister Ghost had played some strange ghost trick on her. Rey smiled around the lip of her mug. Life was so strange.

The studio door opened and she paused.

Her heart stuttered.

Rey stared.

‘It was no dream.’ The six foot whatever, golden-eyed, black-obsessed demon said.

The cup slipped through her fingers, shattering against the floorboards. Tea pooled beneath her, running down the dips and troughs of her floor.

‘No.’ She finally hissed, slipping off the counter. She barely registered the liquid between her toes, the bite of ceramic in her heel as she padded towards him, mouth open, arms limp at her sides. ‘How are you real?’

‘You were content to believe in a disembodied voice?’ He queried, and if it had been just that voice she would have laughed. But he was not just a voice. He was extraordinarily tangible. Rey pressed her hand against the smoothness of his tunic, pressing hard against strong muscle, just to make sure.

Very solid.

Very present.

Very real.

He smelled of woodsmoke and iron and sulfur. He seemed to radiate heat.

‘Why is my current form more of a problem to you now than it was before?’

‘I thought you were a midget or something! Some little old hermit man who used to live here, that died of old age!’ She raised her hands helplessly, let them flop back down again.

‘I told you how I was summoned,’ he said calmly, a finger pointing behind him, through the open door into the studio that was coated in dust and chunks of drywall.

‘Blood, yes, but that’s gross and I didn’t want to believe it!’ She replied, recognising just how pitiful she sounded. ‘What am I supposed to do?’ She felt the blood drain from her face as another realisation struck her. ‘Oh no. No, no, Kylo, you have to go invisible, go back to being invisible.’

‘I cannot.’ He said, looking more perplexed than before. ‘It takes much concentration and I am still stabilising my powers and accounting for growth.’ Rey had no idea what any of that meant and she waved it away quickly.

‘My friends are coming over today! You can’t look like … like this!’ He stared at her blankly, golden eyes boring into hers.

‘Like what?’ He finally said.

‘A demon! Christ, Kylo, look at you!’

‘I can … change.’ He offered hesitantly. That pulled Rey up.

‘What?’

‘I could appear human, for you.’

‘You can do that?’ She asked in obvious relief, pressing a hand to his chest again. In response he held his hand between them.

A bright spark of orange burst into life at his elbow, a flickering ember that began to curve its way around the skin of his forearm. Where the fire burned the blackness faded to flesh, scouring away scales to transform his nightmarish paws into very large, masculine hands.

Rey gaped in surprise as he performed the same trick on his other hand. She clutched them to her, running her fingers over the transformation. They were fingers, human, flesh and blood. The claws were gone. In their place short-clipped human nails.

‘That was amazing!’ She gushed, looking up. He stared down at her in bemusement, and she realised she was almost flush against him. Rey stepped back apologetically. His eyes flickered from gold to a warm, honey brown.

The sparks set to work again, fizzing along the black fissures of his horns, eroding away smooth red until the only thing protruding from his scalp were long, black tresses. Rey stared up at him in absolute awe and trepidation. She had a new problem on her hands, now.

How was she going to explain the roguishly handsome strange man in her apartment?

‘Is this presentable?’ He asked, holding out his hands to her again, perhaps so she could hold them again. Rey nodded, suddenly needing to be busy elsewhere. The shattered mug was a good start, and she swiftly tidied the mess, mopping up the waste of tea and dumping the remains of the cup into the trash. She chewed her lip nervously. This wasn’t going to be good.

***

‘He’s from … Europe.’ Rey explained as they sat about the dining table that suddenly seemed so tiny now that Kylo was there.

‘That explains the name,’ Poe grinned cheekily.

‘So you’re staying in the studio, then?’ Finn interjected.

‘My room, yes.’ Kylo said with a stiff nod. He held his mug awkwardly, as if he wasn’t used to his hands. Of course he isn’t used to his hands, she belatedly realised and wanted to scream into her pillow at just how bizarre and wrong and messed up this was.

‘And how did you find Kylo, Rey?’ Finn asked, his smile polite, eyes screaming murder to her.

‘An ad,’ she said, ‘at the library. He needed temporary lodging and I figured the extra rent money wouldn’t hurt, you know?’

‘She was very kind to let me stay here.’ Kylo agreed with a ridiculously stiff tone. The man had to learn to lie. Demon, Rey corrected. The Demon had to learn to lie. But weren’t demons supposed to be natural liars? How had these questions not occurred to her before? She sprung up to go and get more biscuits from the tin.

‘Yes, she is.’ Finn agreed in a tone that said the complete opposite. ‘And what do you do for work, Kylo?’

‘I am an … academic. I study old literature.’

Rey paused and glanced up at him. Warm brown met hazel. Perhaps he wasn’t too bad of a liar after all.

‘Must be hard to find work for that.’ Finn said. Rey shot him a dirty look. Finn wouldn’t meet her gaze.

‘Work always finds me.’ Kylo said, and then he broke into a smile that made Poe smile. It made Finn smile and Rey smile, because they couldn’t help themselves. That was a smile designed to woo people to hell. Rey dropped the new plate of biscuits on the table in front of them loudly.

‘Who wants to play scrabble?’ She asked, changing the subject. Poe leapt at the opportunity immediately.

‘So are you applying at the College for work?’ Finn wouldn’t leave Kylo alone, a dog with a bone, ready to shake every last droplet of information from the strange man in Rey’s haunted apartment. Poe and Rey met eyes across the table, resigned, knowing. They would have to let this play out.

‘I knew of a man that once had employment there,’ Kylo said slowly, musingly. ‘He studied old literature, much as myself.’ He looked down at his large hands, pressed them into the surface of the table until his knuckles turned white, before releasing the pressure. A smile curved his lips, small and private.

‘What’s his name?’ Finn asked. Rey dumped the board game box on the table, having found it in her bedroom cupboard. The worn edges deflated at the impact, and she whipped off the lid to claim the cloth pouch, board and stands. She didn’t try to be quiet or considerate of their conversation. Finn was going to have it, even if she was jackhammering between the two of them while blasting death metal.

‘Professor Snoke.’ Kylo said, and Rey glanced at him curiously. His tone had gone sharp, jagged, yawning into a darkness that spoke of too much and nothing all at once. She could almost see the black claws digging into the tabletop, horns flaming amongst ebony locks, a vortex of rage and hate.

‘Oh, he’s still on staff.’ Finn said, eyebrows rising in surprise. ‘I think they just keep his name on the roster because he donates so much money to the department. He doesn’t teach anymore, but apparently he used to.’ Finn was nodding, relaxing slightly, as if this one truthful fact made Kylo trustworthy.

Rey kept her mouth shut as she shook the bag and selected her tiles before tossing the bag to Poe. Kylo’s eyes tracked the motions with interest.

‘Maybe you could just call the office and get his number? He’d probably get you a teaching spot or something, if that’s what you want,’ Finn continued, picking out his own tiles and then offering the bag to Kylo. He took it and then slowly counted out seven tiles before organising them on his stand.

‘I’ll go first,’ Rey announced, before Poe could nobly suggest Kylo start, being the new guy to the group.

‘That is a wonderful suggestion,’ Kylo said, glancing up at Finn, before watching Rey’s movements. ‘I believe I shall definitely take this under advisement. The college office?’

‘Yeah. They’ll set you up. If they don’t want to just say you’re wanting to discuss a fundraiser for the English department or something.’ Finn laughed as Poe organised his tiles. ‘They’ll never turn down the money.’

Kylo plucked two letters from his stand and slid them onto the board. Rey exhaled softly in relief. Sure he’d left her little messages on the mirror, but until this point she hadn’t been sure if he could actually spell or just pluck random phrases from the netherrealms of his demon land. This was all far too stressful.

***

‘I can’t believe you won.’ Rey turned the oven timer on and stepped out of the kitchen, curling herself up in her armchair.

Kylo’s eyes glimmered gold in the dusky light of early evening, slightly reflective as they caught the reflections from the windows. His lips curved into a grin, mocking and brilliant all at once.

‘I am older than you could know, yet you doubt my grasp of language?’

Rey smiled and looked out at the sky, at the pale clouds against the indigo of coming night. A swarm of small birds flitted past, wheeling and swirling as they dove for bugs and home.

‘Who is Snoke?’ She didn’t want to look at him, not yet. It had been bugging her all afternoon, through both scrabble games and the mockery of charades. It turned out Kylo could produce a word out of the worst letters, but couldn’t act out a word to save his life. The positive was that Finn appeared to be under the impression that he and Kylo were now the best of friends.

The irony wasn’t lost on Rey.

The timer dinged half an hour later without any response from the sullen demon.

Rey pulled the meat pie and chips from the tray and dumped them onto a plate, turning slowly towards the huge shadow of her house guest.

‘You don’t … eat do you?’ She asked, suddenly feeling incredibly rude. She couldn’t remember if he’d eaten any snacks at the table, or had anything to drink.

‘I do not require sustenance.’ He answered, the shadow shifting slightly as his head moved in her direction. His eyes were glowing brightly in the dark room, golden irises focused on her, catching the light reflectively. She couldn’t suppress the cold shiver of unease that ran down her spine.

Rey grabbed a glass of water and resumed her spot on the armchair. The apartment was black, the world outside the window ablaze with glimmering stars and headlights and streetlights. She chewed slowly, more absorbed in the outside world than the disappointingly bland flavours of her meal.

‘I do not require sleep, either.’ He offered as she finished off her meal.

‘Well you’re still banned from my room.’ She answered, leaning over and turning on the lamp.

They both blinked rapidly in the sudden light, squinting at each other.

‘And … do you, well, if you don’t eat, I guess you don’t need to use the bathroom?’ She felt her face heat up as she asked, mortified that she needed to have this conversation with an ancient demon. God, what had her life become?

‘I can maintain my outward appearance through other means, but as to evacuating my body, no.’ He wrinkled his nose and in that instant she knew he’d seen her on the toilet. Her face burned hot, her ears, neck and shoulders. Bright, burning red in horror. His head tilted slightly, observing.

‘So what will you do?’ She asked instead, changing the subject quickly.

‘I will wait until you awaken tomorrow morning, and then we shall begin the day with calling Professor Snoke.’

Rey mulled over his words for a long moment.

‘You do realise that you need a phone for that, right?’ She finally asked.

He stared at her for a long, silent pause.

‘We shall begin the day with you enlightening me on the operation of telephones.’

Chapter Text

The week passed in a strange blur of surreal domesticity.

Rey came home from work on the first day expecting either her apartment or him to simply not be there. She’d pushed her front door open, scanning a deserted living room, before walking into the studio.

‘If I am not allowed in your room, surely you are not allowed in mine,’ he said, making her jump half out of her skin. He was clutching something metal, the shape concealed by his claws.

‘Sorry, I should have knocked.’ She ducked her head in embarrassment, glancing at the clean room and the guts of the wall she had to repair still.

‘It is of no consequence, I only jest.’ He sat cross-legged on the floor, staring at her with those large, unblinking owl eyes of gold. It seemed he hadn’t felt like wearing his horns today, though. She was thankful for at least that sense of normalcy.

On the second day she came home to find him seated upside down on her armchair, his legs resting against the back, head hanging over the edge of the cushion. He was reading one of her books, turning the pages ridiculously fast as he consumed the prose.

On the third he was waiting for her, standing in front of the door. He seemed … pleased with himself. And entirely human. She looked at his hands, at his brown eyes, her own narrowing suspiciously.

‘I washed my clothes.’ He said with a grin.

It was Rey’s turn to blink slowly.

‘Pardon?’ She locked the front door behind her. She could smell her detergent on him as she stepped closer.

‘I used the washing machine. I have seen you do it before, so I washed my clothes. I also washed yours. Your laundry basket was almost full. I separated everything like you do, used the correct functions and the proper amount of liquid.’

‘Thank you.’ She had no idea what else to say as he eagerly showed her the folded items. He’d apparently used the dryer, too. Rey was silently impressed. A demon who could do housework. It was far better than a ghost who only knew how to blow up light bulbs instead of use the switch.

On the fourth day he was standing in the kitchen. Well, hovering. He was a good seven inches off the ground. He passed it off as trying to understand cooking. He’d been glaring out the kitchen window, though, so Rey wasn’t so sure. His golden stare had quickly dissuaded her from any follow up questions.

When Friday rolled around Rey sat on the front steps of her building and stared at the sky.

It was weird having someone in the house, let alone someone who didn’t sleep at all. She could hear him, occasionally, pacing around her living room, or doing something in the studio … in his room. It was weird that she was so … okay with all of this. She had a fucking demon living in her apartment. No. No! Demon’s existed. That should be the shocker, not the ease with which she was living with him. How had this become her life?

And wasn’t that becoming such a daily repetitive question for her, now.

Her phone rang, pulling her back to the crisp breeze and the thick clouds scudding across light blue.

‘Hello?’ She watched a plane swirl vapour in its wake, cutting across the heavens.

‘Hey, Babe.’ She suppressed the sigh, but not the eyeroll.

‘Hey Matt.’

‘So, I’m in town this week, and I was won-’

‘No.’ She cut off his wheedling, hopeful tone. ‘Absolutely not.’

‘Come on, Babe. Drinks. Let’s go out for drinks.’

‘No means no, Matt.’

‘You didn’t have fun last time?’ Her silence was damning. Fun was fun, at least up until the end of their last encounter, but it didn’t mean she wanted a continuation of the Matt circus. She thought he was done and gone. A piece of the past finally buried.

The building door behind her opened, and she half turned to see Unkar lumber out, gloating down at her. She turned back to look at the road, at the budding leaves on the trees. At the rubbish bin in the parking lot. Anything was preferable to Plutt.

‘Look, I’ve got the night free, my business colleague isn’t coming until tomorrow. Invite your friends or whatever. Just drinks.’

Just drinks. Just a kiss. Just a hook up. Just a call. Just a one time thing, she didn’t mean anything, I’m sorry. Just Matt. Tall, blond, Matt. Using his sing-song you-know-you-can’t-deny-me voice.

‘I can bring Poe and Finn?’

‘Those guys? Yeah, they’re great, bring them! It’ll be good to catch up.’ Rey hummed, tilting her head up, at the impending threat of rain. She could hear the rustle of Unkar, the clang of him checking his mailbox. Of him checking every mailbox to kindly run the envelopes up to the residents. Even hers, though she was right here, as if he was stuck in an habitual loop.

‘I’ll think about it.’

‘I’ll see you at the usual place, at seven. I hope you wear a nice dress, Rey.’ And then he hung up on her. The bastard hung up, expecting her to obey. Rey swallowed the frustrated groan and stood up, dusting off her backside as she turned into the face of Unkar.

‘Going in?’ He asked with the false kindness of a spider welcoming a fly.

‘Thanks.’ She ducked in before him. Heard the lock click loudly in the foyer. The wad of paper slapping against his palm. Rey prayed to every deity that he would start with the lower levels and work his way up.

‘Plans for this evening?’ He asked as they began the ascent.

‘Looks like it.’ She answered sullenly, wondering if it would be rude to just sprint up the flights, leaving him in the dust.

‘I remember those days, when I was young, going out with friends, partying until the early hours.’ He smiled at her, peering through glasses. His usually pristine collar was stained with sweat. There was food under his nails.

‘I’m more of a homebody,’ she said, by way of conversation, not wanting to have it, but too polite to let it die a painful death. They made the second flight and he was going to follow her all the way to the top.

‘Sounded like a boyfriend, not that I was eavesdropping.’ He leered and Rey picked up the pace slightly.

‘Just some friends catching up.’ She said, hoping he’d leave it, hoping he’d leave her. ‘It should be a good evening.’ She added as they hit the third stairwell. ‘Some nice drinks, good company. A good night.’ The lie fell flat in her own ears. She didn’t dare look at him as he hauled himself up staircase number four. ‘Did you have any mail for me?’ She asked, seeing her own private stairs, her hallway, her salvation.

‘Yes, yes there was.’ She didn’t pause until she placed one foot on stairwell number five. He caught up and held them out to her. Junk mail.

‘Thanks.’ She took it from him and tried not to make it look like she was fleeing as she raced into her home, phone pressed to her ear, listening desperately to the ring tone.

‘Poe?’ She said the instant he picked up. ‘You free tonight?’ He laughed and then ummed and then hollered over his shoulder at Finn to find out.

‘Hello.’ Kylo walked out of the bathroom, suspiciously chipper. Rey tracked his every movement, looking for a clue to what he’d done. Happiness was his attempt at nonchalance, and it failed horribly every time.

‘Yeah, we’re cool, though we have to leave early. Finn’s being all mysterious. What’s the plan?’

‘Matt’s in town and wants to go for drinks.’

‘We’ll be there, Rey, no sweat.’

***

Kylo Ren looked about with distaste.

The bar was dimly lit and filthy, the counter sticky and stained, the floor tacky under his shoes. Why had he been so insistent on joining Rey on her outing? Perhaps because he was eager to finally leave the confines of the apartment. He was not sure why he had not, yet, perhaps because it would have alarmed Rey. She had definitely been alarmed when he had suggested accompanying her.

The girls eyes had almost popped from her skull, mouth falling open as she’d stammered repeated questions of: ‘you can leave the apartment now?’ Of course he could, he was strong and free. There was no sigil holding him back any longer. He was able to roam where he pleased. The apartment was simply … convenient while he attempted to contact Snoke, to obtain his details from a surprisingly reluctant and stubborn receptionist.

‘Kylo!’ Finn clapped him on the back. ‘Good to see you again! How’s the job hunt going?’

‘With difficulty.’ Kylo Ren responded, rubbing his fingertips together, wishing he could burn away the grime without attracting any undue attention.

‘That’s a shame. Hey, come sit down. Matt just arrived. Have you met him before?’

‘No.’ He turned and spotted the blond head of hair he had seen in Rey’s apartment. The man was far better looking clothed. Kylo Ren’s lip curled with distaste as he followed Finn back to the table. Music thrummed deep bass through the busy room.

‘Hey,’ Matt said, sticking out a hand. Kylo shook it firmly and felt a shiver of ice jolt up his arm. The distaste settled heavily in his gut and he made sure to sit closely beside Rey. Slimy thoughts were circling the blond man's mind, dark intentions that Kylo Ren had no intention of allowing Matt to see to fruition.

The conversation turned back to a previous topic that Kylo Ren was not interested in. Instead he settled on the emotions of it. The group around him were more to his interest, the varying levels of skepticism, of concentration, dislike, hope, love, fascination, they fluctuated and flowed about him. The wider room was a haze of lust and alcohol, of stress and joy and nervousness.

A flare of alarm burned bright in his consciousness, drawing Kylo Ren back to the world of the living, to the conversation and actions going on about him. Condensation dribbled down the outside of the glass he hadn’t touched. Poe already had two empties and was halfway through his third. Finn was eyeing his watch. Rey was panicked, frustrated, a medley of hate and sick and disgust and fear and annoyance. Outwardly she was calm, a small smile gracing her lips.

Kylo glanced down.

Matt’s hand was on her knee, thumb rubbing circles on the skin of her thigh.

‘I do not like this drink.’ Kylo said, startling Matt, who had no doubt forgotten of Kylo Ren’s existence, and had been prattling on endlessly about his highly important work. ‘Rey,’ Kylo continued, watching as she turned to him, pulling away from Matt, ‘I am unsure of beverages, would you care to assist me?’

‘Sure!’ She said brightly, actively pressing herself into Kylo Ren to push him out of the booth and get herself away from the blond man. ‘I’ll be back in a moment,’ she threw over her shoulder, not looking back as she ushered Kylo Ren towards the smelly bar.

Once they were out of sight her shoulders sagged and she sat on a stool.

Kylo Ren seated himself beside her.

‘Thank you,’ she mumbled, almost inaudible over the music and chatter about them.

‘That is alright.’ He said.

‘Did you really need help with a drink?’

‘I cannot drink.’

‘Oh, yeah,’ she laughed, looking up at him. ‘Sorry this is your first experience of the real world since you got free.’ She waved a hand about them. ‘It’s probably not what you were expecting.’

‘There is much of interest,’ he said, finding himself needing to soothe her fears. ‘The group of men over there are attempting to seduce women, however the man being most pressured into the task is in fact interested in the male bartender. The woman in the orange dress is in the process of some mental distress over her child being sick. The couple eating in the corner are seriously planning to murder a colleague. There is much of interest and much to feed on.’

‘Feed?’ She seemed to hang on that word, more than any of the other interesting tidbits he had shared with her. ‘But you don’t eat.’

‘Physically,’ he said, considering her face, the structure of her cheekbones and the curve of her lashes. ‘My sustenance can be gained from the mental energies of those about me. The more turmoil there is, the better the food.’

‘You eat peoples feelings?’ Her hazel eyes were horrified.

‘I have not touched upon yours or your friends out of respect.’ He assauged. ‘Nor do I intend to. However,’ he glanced over her shoulder, back at their table, ‘Matt is ripe for picking, should I have your permission.’

‘What sort of … picking?’ She asked nervously, fingers twisting nervously together in the hem of her shirt.

Kylo Ren considered her for a long moment, weighing up just how much he should tell her. After a pause he decided that with her the truth was perhaps the best.

‘He is drowning in vanity and lust, all for himself. He is thick with narcissism, and his hopes for a sexual liaison with you is only to fuel his conquest for personal gratification and to brag with his acquaintances about how he is still able to coerce his ex-girlfriend into such acts.’ Her face was paling and cheeks burning redder with each word he uttered. ‘I do not believe you should allow him into the apartment this evening, and should call your night short. Finn shall be calling an end to his and Poe’s time soon, leaving you alone.’

‘I’m not alone,’ she said quietly, and a cold hand pressed against the top of his. He looked down at the tanned and freckled skin. ‘You’re here with me.’

Chapter Text

Rey stared at the studio door for a long time.

She didn’t really remember leaving the bar, or how Matt had been given the boot, or even when Finn and Poe left. What she did know was that she was in her apartment, in fresh clothes, face washed and with a half-drunk bottle of cold water.

Someone had looked after her.

She was fairly certain that someone was currently hiding behind the studio door.

The lights were off but she could hear movement.

The demon could see perfectly in the dark. He didn’t need lights to work on his secretive projects with her project materials.

Rey huffed and glared harder.

‘What is it?’ The gruff, sullen question filtered through the door.

Rey didn’t answer. She didn’t really know what her problem was, only that there was a problem. She couldn’t place her finger on it, this slightly off-kilter sensation of something slipping out from under her.

‘Rey?’ He stepped through the door. Actually through it, as if it weren’t there, as if he had walked through an archway instead of a closed, physical object. His eyes burned gold, hands obsidian, horns red in the pathetic light of the lamp on the other side of her living room. ‘What is it?’ He asked again, and she stared at him, mouth falling open.

‘You’re a demon.’

‘Yes.’ He sounded … amused. ‘I am.’

‘A really big one.’

‘Yes.’

‘Yeah.’ She reiterated, stretching out to touch him. ‘You eat peoples feelings.’

‘You are rather intoxicated.’

‘Really?’ She tilted her head and the world trembled accordingly. She supposed that probably made sense, considering the gaps in her memory, the furry taste on her tongue and the roiling of her stomach. Yeah, she was probably kinda drunk still. She wanted to press her hand to his stomach and see if her hand would go through him like he’d gone through the door.

‘You should get some rest.’ He took her hand carefully between his claws before she could follow through with her impulsive desire.

‘I’m not tired.’

‘Come.’ He said, and began to lead her back to her bedroom.

‘Where’d Matt go?’ She asked, but Kylo ushered her through the doorway and pulled the handle closed, leaving her alone in her room.

***

‘I’m going out,’ Rey announced as she stepped out of the bathroom. Kylo was in the kitchen, playing with the kettle again.

She watched him for a moment as he flicked the switch on, allowed the water to start boiling, and then flicked it off again. There were three mugs of steaming hot water on the bench.

‘Do you … do you ever want to go out?’ She asked hesitantly. ‘Do you go out when I’m not here?’

‘No.’ He glanced back at her, all golden eyes and tousled dark hair.

‘What about the Professor? Don’t you want to find him? Surely you can scare that annoying receptionist a little?’ That earned her a small smile filled with pointed teeth.

‘I have had no luck with your telephone device, I do not wish to attempt to traverse the human realm when any sort of trap could be awaiting me.’

‘Trap?’ She asked, and he turned away, apparently done with the conversation. As usual. She pulled a face at his back. Let the demon keep his demon secrets about why he needed this Professor. It didn’t matter to her one bit. Besides, she had groceries to get and a library to visit.

She snagged her bag off the table, checking for her wallet, keys and phone. Kylo was watching her from the corner of his eyes, hand splayed across the vibrating kettle as he allowed it to complete its boiling cycle.

‘If you break that, you damned well better be able to conjure up some magical demon money and buy me a new one,’ she warned, opening the front door.

‘I would not!’ He sounded affronted, causing her to laugh as she pulled the door shut behind her.

The day was warm, filling the sidewalks with pedestrians eager to enjoy the sunshine and blue skies. Icecreams, bicycles, singlet shirts and daggy hats were everywhere. Elderly couples with stumbling toddlers, teenagers face down in their phones, mothers and daughters holding shopping bags, fathers and sons making up rhymes. Rey smiled and hummed at it all. The oncoming summer was a positive thing. Although … her airconditioning was still broken … she’d have to look into that, or get some fans. They were probably cheaper to run. Perhaps Luke had some in his store …

She stepped into the library and perused the musty shelves, smiling at Maz, the librarian who seemed older than the classics she was so fond of. The covers were rough under her fingertips, the pages thick with the scent of adventures and knowledge, of young protagonists foiling years of plans, vanquishing the foe, slaying the dragon. Rey plucked out a couple of novels that’d she’d been meaning to read before trudging over to the counter.

‘Good choice, my dear,’ Maz said, perched on a footstool so she could see over the counter. Her pen scratched as she dutifully copied the barcodes and recorded Rey’s details. Maz was not one for technology. She preferred things the old fashioned way. ‘No cookbooks, this time?’

‘I’m only cooking for myself,’ Rey said, glancing over at the aisles filled with asian dishes, indian delights and cakes to make her teeth rot. ‘There’s not much point.’

‘A pretty girl like you? Oh, dear. You know, I could possibly help you with that.’ Maz grinned slyly, peering through glasses that magnified her eyes impossibly large.

‘No, that’s okay,’ Rey laughed. Maz had been trying to push a nephew onto Rey for quite a while now. It had become something of a game that both women enjoyed dancing around. ‘If I had someone else, I’d have to share my food.’

‘Ain’t that the truth of it, dear. Now here you go, enjoy!’ The books were slipped into a cloth bag. With a wave, Rey bid her farewell and slipped out into the sunshine, weaving through the back alley at the side of the building so she could carve a quicker way to the grocery store.

The books thudded pleasantly against her side, straps digging slightly into her shoulder as she hummed to herself. She could hear a dog barking, the sound deep and playful. There were birds and children, a car horning blaring in the distance. The sounds of a town waking from hibernation. Pleasant sounds.

She turned a corner and apologised as she walked into the broad chest of a man in a dark sweatshirt. He said nothing and didn’t move. Frowning, Rey glanced up at his face. Her eyes widened, mouth falling open in surprise.

Nothingness.

There was absolute nothingness in his expression.

No smile. No grimace. No arched brow. Just his eyes. Dark, hungry eyes.

No sound came from her throat as she stepped back.

His hand shot out, vice like about her wrist.

No sound, pounding heart, Rey tried to step backwards again, arm twisting to break the lock. But he was strong. Really strong, pinning her to that very spot, pinning her with his eyes.

Her pulse beat staccato, adrenaline pounding through her veins as she felt time slow impossibly. His hand tightening, crunching her bones together, bruising her skin, his other hand rising to her face, her neck. A breath, short, gasping, throat constricting, tears in her eyes, bag straps slipping from her shoulder.

Scream.

She had to scream.

Help.

Someone.

Help.

Chapter Text

Ruby droplets hung in the air, refracting shards of sunlight. It was a fine mist, so light it almost seemed to be suspended, trapped in a beautifully horrific limbo. Glimmering iron shifting with the light summery breeze.

Kylo lowered his arm, splayed fingers curling into a fist by his side as he met the stunned gaze of Rey.

Her throat worked soundlessly, bobbing with each dry swallow, a scream trapped and seeking escape.

‘Rey,’ he said, and she stared.

‘Where?’ She whispered so softly a human would not have heard.

Kylo tilted his head ever so slightly, watching as layer by layer the mist began to settle over her.

The man had reeked of chemicals, of decay and dark intentions. A shell of a human, whittled down to the most simple desire of ‘want’ and ‘need’. Addiction. Kylo felt his lip curl in distaste. The fact that the mortal was now coating himself and Rey was not ideal, but the sickening thoughts that had permeated what constituted as his conscience did not deserve existence.

‘What-’ she squeaked, ‘how …’ she raised a trembling hand to her cheek, and it came away red. Kylo Ren scowled as he watched her eyes widen, watched her lips begin to tremble, the colour from her face draining away. ‘He exploded,’ she said.

‘Yes.’

‘He was … and then …’

‘I removed the threat. He is no more, you are safe,’ he said to calm her. His words seemed to have the opposite effect, though. Her knees gave out and she sank to the pavement, smeared in blood, tears pooling in her eyes and beginning to tremble down her cheeks. ‘I eviscerated him for you, Rey.’

The tears fell freely, now, white tracks down crimson cheeks as she hiccuped and hyperventilated.

‘Rey,’ Kylo stepped forward and crouched before her, touching her shoulder gently. She flinched under him, twisting away.

‘I’m covered in blood,’ she hissed. ‘I’m covered in his blood Kylo. That isn’t right. Why did you do that?’

‘He would have hurt you.’ Kylo Ren said, surprise blooming uncomfortably through him. He withdrew his hand in confusion. Her tears were turning to rage and despair directed towards him.

‘Just because he was about to molest me doesn’t mean you can just explode him!’ She said.

He sat back on his haunches and studied her silently. She was in a frenzy of emotion, struggling to comprehend what had just happened before her eyes. He did not understand why she was so hesitant, so shocked by the event. Kylo Ren had saved her, had appeared to remove the culprit before he could perpetrate anything worse. She should be happy and thanking him, not be upset.

‘He was going to take you, Rey.’

‘I could have looked after myself!’ She snapped, hiccupped, stared down at the front of her shirt, at the spray of red that surrounded them, that still danced on the air in tantalising swirls.

‘No. He intended to hold you against your will, take you away and restrain you.’

‘What?’ He felt the fight flow out of her, her shoulders sagging as she splayed her hands on the ground. ‘He wanted to kidnap me?’

‘Yes.’ Kylo Ren answered, deciding that the term meant exactly what he had just told her. She was shaking, and then looking at him with wide, imploring eyes. She was nothing like the girl that had left the apartment only a few hours ago. A strange part of him suddenly yearned for vivacity. He carefully tucked the notion away for later introspection. As of this very moment Rey seemed to need something from him.

‘We need to go.’ She said.

‘Go?’ Kylo Ren asked.

‘Yeah, go. Now. We need to go.’ She lurched forward, clutching at him, knees scraping against concrete. He could see sweat beading along her brow. ‘Kylo, there’s blood, what if someone comes? We need to go. But we can’t walk back, people will see. They’ll see!’ He did not understand her sudden, frenzied fear. She reeked of a kind of insanity that made him uneasy, as though her grasp on reality was starting to slip. ‘We need to go home.’ She was insistent, fingers digging into him uncomfortably.

‘We can go home,’ he agreed, to calm her down.

‘But we’re covered in blood!’ She said, retracting her own words. ‘We can’t go anywhere. We need to call the police!’ Kylo Ren scowled, leaning forward to cup her face with his clawed hands. She was breathing rapidly, chest rising and falling, strands of hair that weren’t clotting with blood fluttering about her lips.

‘Look into my eyes.’ He laced the words with a thick command. She did not respond at first, a natural resistance that surprised him with its strength, but then she succumbed. Her eyes lifted to his, pupils shot wide, almost swallowing the hazel or her irises. ‘Look deep,’ he said, and warped them.

It took next to no energy now that he had his powers back. He felt the world darken and squeeze about him, the whispers rising to a frenzy and then … silence. He and Rey were kneeling upon the floorboards of the apartment. The breeze curled through the open windows, fluttering the curtains.

She was mumbling incoherently in his arms, about blood and death and murder and mess. It was shock, he was fairly certain. He had seen a documentary about it, some months ago. He moved quickly, scooping her up into his arms and strode into the bathroom, flicking a hand to twist open the faucets.

Hot water soon began to steam as he set her on the toilet and began to strip her of her clothing. She uttered no word of complaint, staring numbly as he peeled blood drenched clothes from her skin. Within moments he was then manoeuvering her into the bath tub, sinking her into the lavender scented water. She made no move to clean herself, so he did it for her, running the soap over her skin, scrubbing gently at the stains marring her flesh.

Water splashed up his sleeves, over his front, but he did not overly mind. His focus was on her, on restoring that thread of sanity in her. He could feel it pulled taut, ready to snap. A wavering golden line growing thin in the dark.

Her head tilted down, hair falling into her face.

He felt the spike of panic within her before she uttered the sound, a low keen that sank heavily into his bones.

Red. The water was red with blood that was not hers. She was bathing in the blood of her enemy. Of course she would not like that. This was Rey of small plants and tales of romance.

He plunged his arm into the water, pushing past her hip, her bare legs, to pluck out the plug and drain the water. She was shivering again, lips pale, teeth chattering despite the heat of the bath. He stepped into the tub with her, sliding his hands under her armpits and pulling her up so her weight was against him. The taps turned and the shower sputtered to life above them, dousing them in cold, and then warm water.

It was far more tricky bathing her this way, having to support her and attempt to gently rub away the stains that now seemed embedded in the creases of her skin, as if seeping through her clothes had given the blood the right to mark her forever.

Kylo Ren would not allow it. He pressed a little harder with the soap, rubbed her hair soap into her tresses, watching as the red poured over his own skin. It was hard to suppress a sigh. He was stained as well, and it was washing off onto her. An endless loop that would have her traumatised for eternity at this rate. Had he known about her intense distaste for blood, he would have traumatised her with it before he had gotten to know her.

With a twist of his hand his filthy robes vanished, leaving him dressed in fresh undergarments, every trace of scum removed from him. Against his chest Rey gasped, struggling in his grip as she pulled back. There was something flickering behind her glassy eyes, her brain attempting to process his sudden change in attire, but that faded and he took the opportunity to rub away the last of the soap suds and filth from her hair.

Humans released a happy chemical when they hugged, skin on skin aided that, if he recalled correctly. Satisfied that the runoff from their bodies was now clear instead of murky, Kylo Ren pulled her back towards his chest and awkwardly wrapped his arms around her slight frame.

They were front to front, her breath fanning against him, short and stressed.

How could it be that she was so soft over her muscles, so different to the makeup of his own body? He rubbed a hand up and down her back, feeling the bumps of her spine, the divots of her ribs, the shift of her shoulders as her torso hiccupped. The shiver of her body changed, her fingers curled into fists against his chest.

Water drummed pleasantly against his head, rubbing warmth over him, over them.

She really was quite soft, tucked so tightly against him. He rested his chin on the crown of her head, eyes closed as he tried to think of the next stage. His mind was strangely blank of the helpful program that he had viewed, no matter how deeply he delved for information he knew he’d seen.

Rey made a strange sound, body twitching.

Kylo Ren cracked an eyelid and stared thoughtfully at the bathroom tiles.

And then she did it again.

Unease trailed through him, he recognised that sound.

She was crying on him.

The unease curled into a hint of panic, which was beyond preposterous. Kylo Ren did not panic. But then, Kylo Ren also did not console crying humans. Or save them.

‘Rey,’ he decided that perhaps reasoning with her would work.

At the sound of her name she only began to sob harder. He could feel her face pressed into his chest, her arms snaking around his torso, clinging to him, weight sagging in his grip.

‘Do not cry,’ he said again. She seemed to increase in volume, as if determined to do the exact opposite that he asked. ‘You are clean now, and safe. I will keep you safe.’ He nodded, feeling her hair shift under his chin. Water pattered into his eyes, his ear, so he glared at the taps, forcing the flow to stop.

Without the shower running, the bathroom was filled with the sound of her sorrow.

Kylo Ren held an arm out, summoning her towel to him. She needed to be dry and warm now. That would be best. Humans were fragile things. In her emotional state, remaining wet would only promote an illness. Soft fabric met his fingers and he dropped the fabric on her head, rubbing gently, pulling slowly away from her so he could slide the towel between them and wrap her in it. She was surprisingly difficult to untangle himself from, but he managed in the end.

She was tiny in his arms, wrapped in her pale-blue towel. So very light and delicate and soft.

The water evaporated from him the moment he stepped out of the tub.

He stood in the living room for a moment, debating with himself. He could place her in her room, but then he would risk her wrath, and he was sure there would be plenty of that once her senses returned to her. Less wrath from the tiny mortal would be best, he decided, turning instead to his room.

Rey had repaired the wall, painting it a nice green with his help. They had also gotten him a bed. Kylo Ren had not understood the need, despite Rey constantly telling him that it was for appearances, so her friends wouldn’t assume things that were not correct. Kylo Ren did not understand what they would be assuming, but right now he was glad for her persistence.

She did not make a sound when he laid her down on the covers. Instead she curled up onto her side, eyes open, glassy and unseeing.

Kylo Ren stared down at her for a long moment before picking up the blanket folded at the end of the bed. He draped it carefully over her and then moved into the kitchen.

Excitedly he turned the kettle on to boil and pulled Rey’s favourite mug out of the cupboard. He plucked a teabag from the pantry and stared at the items until the water had boiled. Tea would return her to a sense of normalcy, surely. She enjoyed holding mugs of tea between her hands. Her cheeks always flushed whenever she inhaled the scent of the green leaves, tension slipping out of her shoulders. Perhaps the tea would fix her, make her feel like herself again. And then she would stop crying.

Satisfied that the liquid with the right shade of yellow-green, Kylo Ren fished out the tea bag and strode back into his room. The bed sank under his weight and he carefully laid his human looking hand on her trembling shoulder. She was crying into his pillows, arms wrapped tightly about herself. The smell of tea didn’t appear to do anything for her constitution.

At a loss, Kylo Ren lifted his hand and placed it on her head. With gentle strokes he imbued heat into his palm and began to dry her hair. She would fall ill otherwise. Slowly she began to lean into him, following his hand until her head was on his thigh, hair fanning softly over his skin. He kept patting her as her sobs died and her eyelashes fluttered closed, clumped together from her tears. Her breathing started to even out, and then she was asleep, curled into him, his leg her pillow.

Kylo Ren looked down at the sleeping human and wondered how it had come to this, how he had become nursemaid to this woman. He had never consoled someone before. It was an … odd feeling.

The mug of tea was still hot in his hand. He considered it for a long moment. There was the option of transferring it to the floor, but she normally enjoyed the beverage. It also did smell quite nice, a scent that he would probably forever associate with her now. Kylo Ren hummed and peered into the liquid, breathed upon it so that the surface rippled and steam fluttered into the air. He pressed the rim of the mug to his lips and took a tentative sip.

Slightly bitter, warm liquid pooled over his tongue and he swallowed convulsively. It brought back memories of another time, of a chalice of bone between his claws, the tang of iron and warmth rushing down his throat. Many lifetimes ago now. Worlds away. He sipped at the tea again, deciding that he did like it.

Kylo Ren rubbed his hand up and down Rey’s back, drinking slowly from her mug as he watched the world turn black outside.

She did not stir until the windows were a pale grey with dawn. Her body shifted, muscles tightening as she stretched, back twisting under his hand, arms stiffening, draping over his lap, pressing into his stomach. With her movement Kylo Ren discovered there was an unusual sensation in his gut. It took a lot of thought to place the feeling, to recognise it for what it was.

Kylo Ren needed to urinate.

Chapter Text

Rey sat on her hands, swinging her feet gently against the cabinets as she watched her demonic housemate cook her food.

They hadn’t properly talked since, well … since then. She’d woken up in his bed, in a towel, arms curled around his mostly naked body, and that had been the end of it. He had instantly been in clothes and had vanished awkwardly into the bathroom.

She frowned, a thought occurring to her.

‘You’ve been drinking tea.’

‘Yes.’

‘But you don’t require sustenance,’ she mimicked his words.

Kylo Ren turned to look at her. There was tomato paste on his cheek and she had the insane urge to lick her finger and rub it off. Rey blinked in surprise, quickly quashing the thought. She had no idea where that had come from.

‘I have discovered that tea is quite pleasant,’ he said by way of an explanation.

‘And you’re cooking because …’

‘It is interesting.’

She knew that wasn’t the whole truth. Kylo had been walking on eggshells about her for the past week, doing her washing, her cleaning. He’d been attempting to do everything for her, as if she would break. It was frustrating. She wasn’t going to snap. The nightmares were terrible, yes, but she could still navigate her daily life. She still went to work, she still went to the shops. The alleyway was avoided at all costs, but she’d been to the library to tell Maz that her bag had been stolen. She had refused to walk out until she’d paid for replacement books, despite Maz’s assurances that it was okay.

‘Do you want to go back?’ She asked, watching as he tentatively licked a splotch of tomato paste off his finger.

‘To my realm?’ He looked at her again, his eyes startlingly gold, as if he’d just flicked a switch.

‘Well, yeah.’ Her heels thudded against the cabinet door.

He moved to stand before her, his body slotting easily between her knees. The breath caught in her throat as she looked up at him, her legs stilling.

‘I have unfinished business,’ he said, voice low and dark. Black ripples ran up and down his forearms, scales flickering along pale flesh. Red glowed between his hair, where his horns would protrude. And then he was human again, the anger ebbing away.

‘Professor Snoke,’ Rey said.

‘Yes.’

‘Why won’t you talk about him?’ She asked, focusing on looking at him and not on feeling the heat radiating from his body.

‘It is something I must deal with.’

‘And then you’ll go back?’ She asked, taking advantage of his vaguely chatty mood.

Kylo Ren hummed and stepped backwards, out of her personal space.

‘I believe the oven has preheated enough to cook this pizza.’

***

‘You should take some leave,’ Chewie said as Rey leant against his office door, wiping the grease from her hands onto a rag.

‘Why?’ She laughed, raising an eyebrow.

‘Just been going over the books,’ he said, patting the thick worn cover, yellowing pages crumpled and sticking out in multiple directions. ‘You’ve been working here for years, you have an incredible amount of leave saved up. You should really take some.’

‘I’m fine, really.’

‘When was the last time you had a day off?’ He countered. Rey studied his grizzled face for a long moment, watching him run a meaty hand through his wild, greying locks. He was right, she realised. She’d done her apprenticeship here and been offered a job straight away, had been working here for years. She found she couldn’t remember the last time she had a day off.

Chewie offered her a lopsided grin when she didn’t respond.

‘Take two weeks. You’ll still have a lot left.’

‘Two weeks from when?’ She asked.

‘Today. Go home, don’t come back for two weeks. Sound good?’

‘Sounds like you’re trying to get rid of me,’ she said. Chewie laughed and then leant forward.

‘Listen, Rey. There’s an apprentice coming in, a real cock, has a thing against women doing a man’s job or some shit.’ They rolled their eyes at each other. That Chewie was taking on anyone like that meant it was a favour he couldn’t get out of. ‘I want you out of strife for two weeks, and you did cover for me while I was out. You need the break, you’re looking tired.’

‘Gee, thanks,’ she threw the rag at him. He caught it easily mid-air.

‘And when you come back I want you to show his arse up.’ They shared an evil smile, delighting in Chewies plan before the shop bell rang and Rey went back to work.

***

‘Rey?’ There was a knock on her bedroom door.

She grumbled and rolled over, pulling the blankets up around her head.

‘Rey?’ Another knock, a little more urgent this time. ‘Are you well?’

‘Yes.’ She grumbled, annoyed that she had to be speaking so early in the morning. ‘What?’

‘It is far later than normal.’

‘So?’ She rumbled, trying to sink further into her mattress, pillows caving in around her head, swallowing her in comfortable darkness. She vaguely heard her bedroom door open with a low creak. The bed sank as a rule-breaking demon sat down beside her.

‘Are you doing well mentally?’ He asked, voice concerned. Rey frowned, face scrunched up as she threw the covers off, startling him with her suddenness.

‘What do you mean, mentally?’ She demanded.

‘You are never late for work,’ he said. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise.

‘Oh, that … no … no I’m okay, thank you.’ She immediately felt bad for her grouchiness. Of course he’d be used to her schedule now, it wasn’t like he had anything else to do. ‘I was given two weeks off work, a holiday. Sorry, I didn’t think to tell you …’

‘So you are not ill?’

‘No, just sleeping.’

‘Oh.’ They stared at one another for a long moment. ‘I meditate.’ He said finally, not moving. ‘I believe that is like sleep?’

‘I’ve never tried meditating.’

‘Oh.’

They lapsed into silence again. Kylo studied her face and she dropped her gaze, staring at the threads of her sheet. She knew she should be mad that he’d broken the rule again, coming into her bedroom without permission, but it had been out of genuine concern.

‘I could teach you, if you would like.’ He snapped her out of her thoughts, dragging her gaze back up to his. This close she could see that his irises were not merely the colour gold, but were actually flickering with it, as though his eyes were on fire with molten metal.

‘I guess that would be alright,’ she said. At least it would keep him quiet and she could possibly get a little more sleep out of it.

Instead of him standing or hovering, he swung his legs up onto the bed and lay down beside her. Rey squeaked as his weight made her roll down towards him. She pressed against him, pushing away so she could correct the way she was laying down. He was incredibly warm to touch.

‘Close your eyes,’ he instructed, and she found herself obeying, helplessly sinking back towards his weight.

She knew that she should have an issue with having a supernatural being living in her home, she knew that she should have an issue lying in bed with him. But she found she couldn’t bring herself to be truly bothered. Rey shut her eyes and listened to the deep timbre of his voice.

‘Even out your breathing and clear your thoughts of anything unnecessary. Focus on the in and out, centre everything into the beat of your heart.’ Rey attempted to do it, lulled into a warm sense of security by his voice.

She felt her mind empty, her scattered thoughts about work, about her nightmares and friends and meals all peeling away until she focused on breathing. But it wasn’t her breathing, it was his, the sound of his deep inhales filling his lungs, expanding his broad chest, the heavy gust as he released it all, the pound of his pulse under her fingertips. She was still touching him, a hand bracing herself against his ribs so she wouldn’t roll back into him. He was silk over steel, muscles rippling under her touch as he shifted his body slightly, angling towards her.

‘Your thoughts,’ he said softly, and she could feel his breath over her face, could taste the warmth of it, ‘silence them. They are not conducive to meditation.’

No. No they weren’t. She pulled her hand away from him, forcing herself to clear her mind, concentrate on nothingness, on how her mind must be when she is asleep. How still and quiet she must be. The darkness and nothingness …

Chapter Text

Rey woke to a warm pressure at her back. She shifted slightly, moaning softly as she stretched. Sunlight filtered through the window, bathing her in a pleasant golden glow. She rolled over and found herself pressed into Kylo’s side.

‘You’re not supposed to be in here,’ she mumbled.

‘You fell asleep,’ he said, eyes closed, hands laced over his bare stomach.

‘Where are your clothes?’ She sat up quickly, looking down at him in surprise and then quickly looking away. He was wearing loose pants, but still … and in her room? She felt her face heat up in flustered embarrassment. And then she frowned as a thought occurred to her. She glanced back at him. ‘Don’t you have any scars?’

‘I have many.’

‘I can’t see any,’ she said, bending over him and studying the incredibly smooth expanse of skin.

‘Is that important to you?’ He asked. She glanced up at his face. Golden eyes were partially cracked, peering lazily through black lashes at her. He reminded her of a cat waiting to pounce.

‘Scars are important,’ she said, sitting back on her haunches. She hiked her sleeping shirt up to show him her stomach and ribs. Rey tapped at a silvered line that spanned from her bellybutton to just under her right breast. ‘This is from when I was a kid,’ she told him matter-of-factly. ‘And this one,’ she twisted to show him a puckered circle that rested on her hip and dragged diagonal towards her side. ‘I had a metal pole go through me. It actually scratched the bone, too.’

‘You have so many for a human,’ he said, eyes fully open now, head tilted towards her, cataloguing all her old injuries.

‘Well, I’ve had a hard life compared to others, but it’s part of my story. Scars show where you’ve been and remind you of it.’

She lowered her shirt and met his gaze, slowly raising her eyebrows.

Kylo looked at her for a long moment before huffing. And then his body changed. His skin was rippled and torn, large gashes of pale skin pulled taut, criss-crossing and jagged. Through it all ran thick black lines, a heavy tattoo that ran over his pecs and down his sides, symbols she didn’t recognise slipping into straight lines, accented by dots. He studied her face, watching her reactions as she took it all in, unable to stop the gasp that escaped her.

‘This is …’

‘My past.’ He supplied, voice neutral. ‘I have lived a long life, these bear witness to that.’

‘What else do you hide from me?’ She couldn’t help but ask. There was amusement on his face, twisting his lips into an almost smile. ‘Is it worse than this?’

‘My past is bad to you?’

‘No, I mean …’ but he stopped her from having to explain. He sat up and grasped her hand in his, turning so that his back faced her, revealing more of his tattoo and more of his scars. Kylo angled her hand against his shoulder blade and applied pressure, forcing her to press into the muscle. There was a bump there, deep beneath the surface. ‘What is it?’ She asked. He looked at her from over his shoulder, hair falling into his face.

‘When I was younger,’ he said, still holding her wrist against him, ‘I had the gift of flight.’

‘These are wings?’ She asked incredulously, pressing harder to feel the ridges.

‘They were, yes.’

‘What happened?’ She trailed her free hand over his other shoulder, finding the same spot, and then she pushed, feeling the hard bump under the tension of his muscles. What had they looked like? She immediately thought of huge raven-like wings, feathered and shiny.

‘I severed them.’

‘You … you what?’ She tugged her hands away from him and he turned to face her again.

‘I took a blade and dug it deep into my back, cutting through the tendons and muscles that permitted me to fly. I removed my wings.’

‘But … but why would you …’ She stared at him, completely aghast. She couldn’t comprehend doing that. Not wings, necessarily, but removing something of herself, a finger or toe … an arm … a leg … how could he speak so calmly about chopping part of himself off? And he’d done it himself? She grasped his hands, pulling them into her lap. ‘Didn’t it hurt?’

‘Very much so.’ He agreed, looking down at their entwined fingers.

‘Then why?’ She asked. Kylo’s face went carefully blank as he closed off from her, withdrawing back into himself.

‘My scars are my past,’ he said. ‘Sometimes the past is best left as it is. Behind.’ And then he was standing up and pulling away. ‘I apologise for remaining where I was off limits. I thought you were … not alright earlier.’

‘I know,’ she said, watching as he ducked his head, backing slowly towards the door, ‘thank you.’

Chapter Text

‘I could have been a Sky Walker,’ he said while she ate breakfast. They were seated at the table, Kylo huge in his seat, Rey curled up in hers.

‘A what?’

‘With my wings.’

Her spoon clinked against the bowl as she put it down, looking up at him carefully.

Black claws were tangled together, long lashes lowered on pale cheeks, hair falling into his face as he stared down at his hands. He was the picture of dejection, even the red of his horns seemed muted in colour.

She didn’t understand what he meant, but he’d been quiet since they’d woken up, so it had obviously been weighing on him.

‘Do you want to be a Sky Walker?’

‘It is of little concern to me now,’ he said almost defensively.

‘What- Kylo, I’m sorry. I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ She leant forward and tentatively placed her hand on his forearm, just above his black scales. He was hot to touch, skin searing against hers. ‘Could you explain, maybe? Just a little bit?’

‘A Sky Walker,’ he said with a bland voice, still not looking at her, ‘is a strong clan within the realms.’

‘And how do you become one?’ She asked when he lapsed into silence.

The quiet was long and she was mentally steeling herself to get up and have a shower when he finally spoke again.

‘I was born one.’ He said.

‘You were born?’ She couldn’t imagine him as a child, learning to talk and walk. The image of him with his hand outstretched, haloed by shimmering red popped into her mind, his pupils blown wide, the gold of his irises a slim ring, his horns blazing bright, claws sharp, face impassive. How could that have been a child once, a baby curling into a mother’s arms?

‘Everything is born,’ he said, lip curling derisively, eyes flicking up to meet hers for a moment. They burned bright gold, ringed with black now. ‘My wings denoted me a Sky Walker, the first born in a generation.’

‘You didn’t want to be special?’

‘My state of birth does not make me special.’ The tone of his voice was loaded with the past. Rey had the distinct impression that he’d held this argument many times with himself over the years. ‘What I do makes me powerful.’

‘I bet they were beautiful.’ She said, not sure what else she could say.

He looked at her properly then, his eyes simmering to yellow sparks in a sea of green. Human hands touched her own and she glanced down at them in surprise.

‘Let us go out today.’

‘What?’

‘Into the world. I want to see some of the world,’ he insisted. His horns vanished in a fizzle of embers.

‘I guess we should get you some human clothes …’ she said. He arched an eyebrow and was in jeans and a tight fitting black shirt when she blinked. ‘Well then perhaps a walk?’ She rose, only to stop, his grip holding her locked in place.

‘What do humans do on days such as this one?’

Rey glanced over her shoulder, out the window by her armchair. A light breeze rustled the tops of the trees, the sun high in the sky already.

‘How about we go to the park?’ She offered with a smile.

***

They were literally steps from leaving the apartment when there was a knock.

Kylo’s face darkened immediately, leaving Rey with no doubt about who was on the other side.

‘Hi Unkar,’ she said with false cheeriness as she turned the handle and pulled the door open.

‘Rey! Perfect,’ Unkar Plutt said, standing on the threshold. In his hand was a tool box, the exterior worn and dusty. ‘I’m checking all the smoke alarms in the building, just to make sure, you know? Can’t be too careful.’

‘Oh, I changed the battery a month ago,’ she said as he pressed his way passed her into the apartment. He stopped the instant he saw Kylo.

‘Oh, boyfriend?’ He asked, eyes running up and down Kylo’s body. The demon was impassive, staring down at the rotund man with a blank expression.

‘I live here.’ Kylo said as Rey floundered helplessly for an explanation. ‘I am Rey’s roommate.’

‘Are you now?’ Unkar turned slowly to face Rey, eyebrows raised in question. ‘I’ll need you to fill out some forms then, just for my records. You should come down to my office,’ the tool kit clattered as he set it down on the bench, one of the latches popping open, weak with age.

‘I’ll do that,’ Rey agreed, the smile on her face feeling strained as she glanced at Kylo. The man looked annoyed, his brow furrowing the longer he studied Unkar. She didn’t blame him really, after he’d had to deal with Unkar sleuthing through the apartment while she wasn’t home. ‘How about tonight? Kylo and I were about to go out.’

‘I see.’ Unkar said again, slowly popping the other latch and throwing the lid open to reveal a mess of rusted screwdrivers, hammers and nails. There was a half empty pack of batteries which made her think that perhaps this time he actually was carrying out landlord duties. ‘Well, you’re a tall lad and we don’t want to trouble the young lady with getting out a step ladder. Why don’t you do the honours?’ Unkar handed over a screwdriver to Kylo, who took it and stared at it curiously.

Dredd flooded Rey. This wasn’t good. Kylo hadn’t seen one before, let alone used a screwdriver! He’d mess it all up and then Unkar would know. Somehow he’d know who Kylo was.

Her fingers were still wrapped around the door handle, knuckles white with how tightly she was gripping the knob.

‘This?’ Kylo asked, stepping up to the white circular fire-alarm on the wall in the kitchen.

‘Of course,’ Unkar said, his eyes sliding over to Rey and staying there. His interest in Kylo seemed minimal compared to his interest with her. It made her skin crawl with the realisation. Behind him Kylo held the screw driver awkwardly while the screws and cover plate seemed to remove themselves. There was a moment where Kylo stared uncomprehendingly at the battery and the couple of wires inside, before he turned back to Unkar and cleared his throat.

Unkar turned slowly, confused, before realising what he was supposed to be doing. He pressed a battery into Kylo’s outstretched hand and pointed back at the smoke alarm. Kylo frowned down at it before glancing at Rey. A hysterical giggle tried to worm its way up her throat.

‘The electrics and heating have been fine?’ Unkar asked, turning back to Rey.

‘Oh yes.’ She agreed.

‘No more weird sounds or issues?’ He pressed.

‘Absolutely none. The apartment’s great. Really enjoying living here.’ She nodded, pressing her lips tightly together as her neck moved stiffly.

‘Are you on break from work?’ He continued as Kylo eventually put the new battery on the bench and resealed the device without moving. He turned and looked back at Rey.

‘For the moment,’ she said. ‘We thought we’d go and spend the day at the park or something.’

‘Sounds lovely.’ Unkar wheezed, looking anything but pleased. His face was scrunched up in annoyance, face ruddy.

‘Done.’ Kylo said, moving past Unkar to stand beside Rey. He placed his hand on her back, the point of contact warm and comforting as his fingers splayed across her tense muscles.

‘Thank you,’ Unkar said, gathering up his tool kit slowly. ‘It must be nice being so tall,’ he joked, gaze sliding past them to scan the rest of the apartment. He even glanced up at the ceiling and Rey felt herself biting back a smile. If only he knew the demon he was nervous of had just been handling his screwdriver.

‘Well,’ Rey said, opening the front door a little further.

‘I’m glad to see everything is in order,’ Unkar said as he finally took his leave. ‘Enjoy your … walk.’

They waited for fifteen minutes just to minimise the risk of running into the Landlord on the stairs.

‘You cannot go to him this evening.’ Kylo said emphatically.

‘I’m not going to,’ Rey said. ‘You don’t even pay rent!’ Kylo tilted his head at that. Rey smiled up at him. ‘Don’t worry about me so much. It’s fine. I’ve been dealing with men like him all my life.’

‘That is not comforting.’ Kylo said with a dark frown.

‘I suppose it probably isn’t.’ She shrugged her shoulders. ‘Come on, we’re wasting daylight!’

***

As it turned out, Kylo didn’t seem to particularly enjoy the park.

Rey lead him down leafy footpaths with dappled sunlight and green shade. Flowers bobbed in the light breeze that took the sting out of the warm day. There were dogs and children everywhere, chasing balls, riding bikes, playing tag and fetch and eating snacks and getting dirty.

The demon sat stiffly on a park bench while Rey got them milkshakes, seeing as he’d somehow decided that he now ate food. They drank quietly as Kylo stared up at the trees, watching the branches move.

Rey was happy just people watching, enjoying the pleasantness of the atmosphere and trying to ignore the growing well of darkness beside her.

By sunset they called it quits and strolled home through rectangles of light and bustling sidewalks, climbing the stairs to her apartment, their arms laden with groceries and a bunch of flowers Rey had picked in the park.

Dinner cooked in a pot on the stove as Kylo sequestered himself into his room, the door closed firmly behind him.

Rey ate by herself, staring at the door as she chewed, trying to figure out what he was upset about. He hadn’t responded to her knocks or questions over whether he wanted to join her or not. Perhaps he hadn’t enjoyed their day? Was the park a bad choice? Did demons even like parks?

No. Of course they didn’t! Weren’t they supposed to be evil? Maybe she should have taken him to a museum … or a blood bank … or a graveyard … she had no idea. Was there anything she could have done to make it better? It was his first time out in she didn’t know how long, apart from that other time … she should have tried harder, done more. And a milkshake? What interest would a demon have in drinking a milkshake?

Rey groaned and stared down at her bowl, now devoid of pasta, feeling like Kylo’s mood was her fault. She picked up her bowl and took it into the kitchen, slowly beginning the washing up process, that turned into scrubbing the stove, and then the splashback. Her fridge was emptied and cleaned, the floor scrubbed, cupboards rearranged and wiped. The living room was dusted and mopped, curtains taken down for washing the next day.

She moved into her room to start there, but sleep dragged her to bed, the clock read out telling her it was well after midnight.

***

Her eyes opened a minute before her work alarm would normally go off and she dragged herself from the comfortable embrace of her blankets. She was on holidays. A break from work. Which meant no work. What was she even supposed to do? Last night had been a whirlwind of distraction, cleaning most of her apartment, and trying to entertain Kylo had obviously failed.

She couldn’t even work on finishing her gifts for Poe and Finn, as late as they were. The items were sequestered away in Kylo’s room. She couldn’t get to them at all, and his obsession with her materials had meant she’d had little opportunity to make her gifts anyway. Was that what he was doing in there? Making things? She wondered what sort of things a demon would make. What kind of ghoulish creatures fluttered through his thoughtways?

She was standing before his door again, simply staring at the grain of the wood, trying to think of anything that would rouse him.

‘You think too loudly,’ his voice rumbled around the living room.

Rey almost jumped out of her skin, heart pounding in her chest as she struggled to remember how to breathe.

‘What is it?’ He asked, the door opening and filling with his large frame. He was empty clawed, the visible space behind him devoid of any clues to what he’d been doing all night.

‘It’s nothing.’ She said quickly, unsure what to say.

‘It is something.’ He said, sounding slightly … grouchy. Rey felt her eyebrows rise as realisation sunk in.

‘Are you … Mister Ghost, are you … grumpy?’

‘I do not know what this term means,’ he said huffily, arms folding over his chest.

‘What’s on your mind?’ She asked, changing tactics, but doubting this would get her any further. It certainly hadn’t in the past.

He glanced over his shoulder, before looking back at her.

‘It is nothing of any concern for you.’ And then he stepped towards her, closing the room door behind him.

‘It is my concern,’ she shot back defiantly, deciding to stand her ground. She had to live here too, and a grumpy housemate would make everything miserable. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Wrong?’ He stared down at her, eyes flickering between gold and brown, as though he couldn’t decide which form best suited his current mood. He eventually settled on demon, his gaze burning bright, mouth full of sharp teeth as he spoke. ‘I assure you if anything were to be wrong I would not need to confide in you.’

‘Bullshit.’ She said. He blinked slowly at her, brows lowering as he began to frown. ‘You’re lying to me and I’m sick of all your silence. You need to talk to me, Mister!’ She accompanied this with a jab to the chest. She idly wondered what demonic punishment would be like, after she pushed him too far over the edge and he decided to take his revenge on her.

‘Talk?’ He said the word as though he were unfamiliar with it. Frustration burned hot in her and she wanted to shove him. The sudden anger was almost overwhelming, the dam bursting with emotions she hadn’t even realised she’d been harbouring.

‘Yes! Talk! You tried to chase me out of my home, and then after I finally help you what do you do? Nothing. You won’t talk to me but you’re a part of my life now, Kylo! You’re here and we need to work together. What’s wrong with you? Do you feel sad? Are you confused or hurt? Was yesterday boring? Did I offend you?’ The words fell from her and she was helpless to stop them, desperate to make him see that she was only trying to help him, that she couldn’t if he didn’t trust her.

‘Oh.’ He said unhelpfully.

She folded her arms over her chest, suddenly embarrassed at her outburst. She turned quickly to hide in the bathroom.

‘Rey.’ He said, voice quiet. She stopped, waiting. ‘I … I thought that … at the park,’ he paused, sounding almost … nervous. ‘I believed when we were there that … I was upset because I did not get to view a live squirrel.’

Chapter Text

They sat in his room, sprawled out over the floor, windows thrown open to let in the cool breeze.

‘Are you sure you don’t want to try using some of my tools?’ She asked his broad back, wiggling her toes to get the blood circulating in her legs.

‘I am okay.’ He said, hunched over whatever he was working on.

The squirrel had pride of place on the small shelving unit, looking down at them work.

Rey turned the cat over and over in her hands, inspecting the joins and feeling for any rough patches she still needed to file down. It had been a day since Kylo’s grudging explanation of his mood, and now the entire apartment was clean. She’d convinced him to help with the washing, which he leapt at the chance to do, eagerly pressing the right buttons and carefully measuring out the detergent. Their reward was craft work, which was to say, Rey had decided she really needed to finish her project.

Kylo had hoarded some of the materials for himself, casting some sort of shadow over the spot where his highly secret project was resting. It was amusing, how serious he was about keeping it from her, but all she could do was shrug her shoulders and wait.

‘You’re staring.’ He said, startling her from her thoughts.

‘Sorry.’ She said, still looking at the muscle rippling under his skin. She could see the faint whisper of the pitch-black tattoos he’d shown her. The edges of them seemed to flicker in and out of existence, tricking her peripherals. ‘Are you doing that on purpose?’ She finally asked, throwing a bolt at his head.

Kylo glanced over his shoulder, the bright gold framed in ebony lashes sending a shiver down her spine.

‘It is sometimes difficult to maintain a purely human form when I am concentrating.’ He said. ‘Intense concentration would require no disguise.’

‘Oh.’ She shuffled onto her knees and leant forward. ‘So do they mean anything? Finn has a tattoo and there’s a huge story behind it.’

‘Yes.’ Kylo said simply.

Rey waited.

Kylo turned back and continued working, using only his hands and his demon prowess to join the metal pieces together.

‘I’m done for today.’ She announced into the growing silence.

‘Very well.’ He said, still working.

Rey stood and stretched, watching him from the corner of her eye as her shoulder popped and back cracked. He was still casting some sort of shadow before him, so it consumed his hands and the ground, obscuring his work site from her. She huffed in annoyance, hoping to get something out of him.

Rey slid her barefeet over the floorboards, working her way as quietly as she could towards him, bending at the waist, mouth hovering by his ear.

‘Hungry?’ She asked loudly.

Kylo Ren almost jumped out of his skin.

Whatever he was holding hit the ground with a thud, materials scattering from the orderly piles he’d created. The darkness flickered and for a brief second his skin was inked black with his past. Horns pierced his hair and claws scrabbled towards the ground.

‘No!’ He said in the harshest tone he’d ever used on her, utterly flustered. Rey giggled. ‘I do not experience hunger!’ He said, inhaling deeply. Rey grinned widely at how much she’d startled him. Satisfied that he wouldn’t ignore her for much longer, Rey left him to clean up, moving idly around her apartment for lack of anything else to do.

Rey and holidays never really got along. She preferred doing things, working and earning money so that she could save for materials, or a more comfortable space to live. All this time was annoying, to be honest. She could go and get some books, but with Kylo in the house she felt compelled to at least try to entertain him. It was like having a pet or a child. She groaned and flopped into her chair, sliding around so that she hung over the arms, head tilted upside down over the side, looking in the direction of her studio. No, not her studio. Her pet/fully grown demon-baby’s bedroom. That he never slept in. Because demons don’t sleep.

Her phone vibrated in her pocket, mercifully pulling her from her thoughts.

‘What’s up?’ She asked, not bothering to check the ID. Finn was the only one to ever call her.

‘Hey you!’ Finn said cheerfully. ‘I called you yesterday but Kylo answered.’

‘Did he now?’ She asked, frowning at the shirtless figure moving about in the doorway.

‘Yeah, he said you were on holidays? Way to tell me! I actually have tomorrow off, so why don’t I come over tonight for some pizza and movies?’

‘What about Poe?’ She asked, wondering if demons had to work out, or if Kylo naturally retained the thick muscle in his arms, or the definition in his abdomen.

‘He’s working late, and has to go in early tomorrow, so it’s probably best if it’s just me.’

‘Are you guys fighting or something?’ She asked, just to make sure. They were hard to gauge. Most of the time they were joined at the hip, only to sporadically flip around and want nothing to do with each other for a week, preferring to get their schedules out of the way so they could continue making googly eyes and kissy faces at one another.

‘We’re cool, you know how it is sometimes,’ Finn said, sounding utterly fine.

‘Well, come over whenever then, I guess,’ Rey said, supposing that at least sorted out the rest of the days activities. She hung up and tossed her phone onto the ground, listening to the base skitter across the floorboards as she watched Kylo come to stand in the doorway. He looked back, golden eyed and red-horned, black claws hanging limply by his sides. He had to work out at some point. No one could possibly be that massive and well put together, she decided, trying not to let her eyes sink towards the waistband of his pants. He was a demon. A demon. But she was upside down and her gaze just happened to rest at the definition that led to his groin and she had to live with him, Rey, what was with this stupid train of thought?

She sprang to her feet, head spinning at the sudden change of direction.

‘Food!’ She said loudly. ‘I was getting food!’

***

‘Isn’t this a little tongue-in-cheek?’ Rey asked as Finn clicked on the movie file.

‘What do you mean?’ Kylo Ren asked, watching Finn’s motions curiously. He had seen Rey working her laptop before, but never up close. Her movements kept distracting him though. For some reason Rey seemed unable to make herself comfortable, which seemed strange as the bed seemed to be the perfect level of supportive and cushioning.

‘I was wrong, okay?’ Finn said.

‘You’re putting on a horror movie about a haunting.’ Rey said, her tone pointed, eyebrow arched questioningly. Kylo Ren felt his own eyebrows rise, a mimic of her reaction to surprise. He had viewed many documentaries on hauntings down stairs, and although he knew what a movie was, he had never thought that there would be one on any of his kind. The prospect was fascinating.

‘So, I used to think this place had a ghost in it,’ Finn said, directing his words towards Kylo Ren. ‘There were rumours that this place was haunted, and I thought Rey was nuts to buy it.’

‘But it isn’t haunted is it, Finn?’ Rey said as Finn hit play and shuffled back on the bed, squeezing Rey between himself and Kylo Ren.

‘Look, some really weird stuff happened, okay? Maybe you just scared away the ghosts, you’re pretty tough,’ Finn teased. ‘So I figure, why not pay a little homage and watch this thing I downloaded.’

Kylo Ren felt amusement rumble through him at Finn’s dismissive words. With the flick of a hand Kylo Ren could invert the gravity of this room, having them sit on the ceiling to view the movie. He would not, though, for Rey’s sake.

The movie turned out to be quite the let down. Rey and Finn were thoroughly engrossed, jumping and squealing at the parts that must have been scary. Kylo Ren was not all that impressed with it. The plot seemed to be centered around two people in a house, and frankly their reactions were some of the least interesting he had ever witnessed in a haunting. It was all fake too, of course, unless they were being visited by the most incompetent demon ever, which was possible. Some of the weak ones did manage to worm their way through the cracks, occasionally.

No, the movie was quite dull. Kylo Ren found himself more and more interested in Rey pressed to his side. It started out with the scent of her floral shampoo, a familiar and comforting smell that seemed to encompass him. And then he noticed the way her fingers began to dig into his forearm. As being somewhat of an expert in body language, Kylo Ren was mildly surprised to find that she was leaning into him for support instead of her friend. Every fright had her burrowing in slightly deeper, as though Kylo Ren would keep the imagined horrors at bay. He would have to remember to question her on her actions, though Finn seemed utterly unaware of the change in dynamic. He was too busy screaming at the movie couple to leave the damned house and forget the baby.

What would a demon even do with a baby? That was Kylo Ren’s other issue with the movie. It was hard enough containing himself around a rather resilient human female. How was one supposed to train and feed an infant mortal? They had no resistance to cold or heat, and their bones were so fragile. They would certainly not last a day within the Realms. Barely an hour if they survived transporting there.

There was apparently a second movie, which he also had to endure. By the end of it Rey and Finn were wide awake and nervous about the shadows. Kylo Ren was not sure what to make of that. He had spent weeks attempting to frighten Rey from her apartment, and within four hours she was too nervous to turn a light off. Although now he had no complaints, perhaps when he had first encountered her he should have dragged her about the house, regardless of how draining that would have been. Maybe that would have scared her away. It was the past though, he supposed as Finn turned off the laptop and they moved into the kitchen, all lights on, mugs of hot cocoa in hand courtesy of Rey.

‘Couldn’t we have watched Disney?’ Rey grumbled into her cup. ‘Why ghosts?’

‘I told you, it’s a homage to your house! To the lack of anything supernatural residing within these sturdy walls.’

‘You believe in the supernatural world?’ Kylo Ren asked in interest.

‘Definitely.’ Finn nodded. ‘My Grandma was very superstitious, and so was my Father. He was terrified of getting possessed.’

‘Possession is very rare,’ Kylo Ren said dismissively. ‘A haunting is more likely.’

‘How’s life?’ Rey changed the subject, drawing Finn’s attention thoroughly away and boring Kylo Ren utterly with the mundane of the human world. It was not all boring, but if it did not involve Rey, he saw little value in paying too close attention to it.

Finally, as the air pressure dropped to indicate the coming of dawn, Finn decided that perhaps it was time to leave. The moment the front door was closed, Rey was turning towards him, eyes wide in anticipation.

‘What did you think?’ She asked eagerly, as though she had not been awake for the longest amount of time Kylo had ever witnessed. ‘Did you think they were scary? Probably not, you didn’t jump once. Were they at least a little bit scary for you? I think Finn actually bruised my leg. He hit me by accident!’ She laughed and rubbed the offending spot.

‘It was … interesting.’ Kylo Ren allowed. Rey was standing close to him, staring up with big hazel eyes rimmed with exhaustion. ‘You should sleep.’ He said, wondering how well she coped with sleep deprivation. He had not managed to produce that result in her either, she could sleep through scratching in the walls and ignore tapping against windows and slamming doors. Perhaps the film directors could make a movie of Rey. At least she would be genuinely dismissive of the supernatural, instead of sluggish and overly dramatic.

‘I don’t really like scary movies,’ she said, nose wrinkling as she smiled mockingly at her own words. ‘They give my nightmares.’

‘You are not easily scared,’ he said in surprise, eyebrows rising without any need of mimicry. She shrugged, dropping her gaze to look about her brightly illuminated apartment.

Kylo Ren stared at the top of her head for a long moment. His gaze then slid to the inky blackness that coated his forearms now that Finn had left. It felt good to be able to drop minor shields, like relaxing a muscle. With another shimmer his scars and tattoos spread across his skin, straight lines cutting across his biceps, jagged edges running over his stomach. A thick mass of scar tissue marred one of the thicker lines on his left side, interrupting a trail of dots that had accentuated it. It felt good to be able to simply exist without the pretense of perfection now, because his human had said that perfection was not necessarily good. She was a strange human, too naturally chipper despite a sour history that had brought upon her just as much hardship in her short life as he had encountered amongst his years.

‘Come.’ He decided, holding out his hand. She looked at it for a moment before slipping her pale palm against the dark backdrop of his own.

So strange that a film would terrify her, but his long claws closing over her fragile flesh elicited no hint of nervousness.

‘You may sleep on my bed while I work.’ She nodded wordlessly, transparent in her need to not be alone. He walked them both into his room, but when he went to step away from her she held on, forcing him to sit beside her as she lay down on the bed, grip firm on his hand. Her face was pressed into the side of his leg as he leant his back against the headboard, looking down at her, so small and breakable. A fragile human too stubborn to recognise the danger she clung to.

Or perhaps, he realised, she knew that he was no danger to her.

Chapter Text

‘That is a lot for you to have carried by yourself for so long,’ Kylo decided as they entered the apartment, laden with grocery bags. Rey grinned at him.

‘That’s why I’m so strong!’ She teased, pulling the fridge door open with her foot so she could start loading in the cold things. Kylo had been fascinated by the grocery store, eyes widening when the doors had opened automatically, to the frozen section where the sensors had turned the display lights on when they’d approached. The variety of products had perplexed him as well, so Rey had splurged a little, buying a few extra things that had caught his interest. And why couldn’t she? She had a little extra money saved, and she didn’t have anything planned with it.

Kylo Ren, fierce demon home invader was now the proud owner of a toy kitten with enormous gleaming eyes, nail polish, emery boards, cotton balls and post it notes in a variety of colours. He’d also been intrigued by the concept of popcorn, so she’d bought that too, but she liked to think of that as more of a joint purchase. He was practically jiggling on the spot for her to make spaghetti for dinner with the ingredients that he’d helped pick out of the fresh produce section. In fact, he’d liked it so much he’d offered to do the shopping for her again when she returned to work. A perk of having a demon do the shopping was that he didn’t bat an eyelid in the feminine hygiene section of the store, Rey supposed, having just put him through that exact scenario. He’d simply stood at her side, asking her what the different terms meant and what the pros and cons were. That had raised a few eyebrows on eavesdropping bystanders.

‘Rey?’ Kylo said it as though he’d called her name a few times. Rey looked up to see that the rest of the bags had been unpacked and put away already. She blinked in surprise. Had she just been squatting in front of the fridge and staring into space?

‘What’s up?’ She asked, as if she hadn’t just been lost in her own thoughts.

‘I want to make dinner for you.’ He announced. ‘Go and sit and I will prepare it all.’ That made her smile.

‘You don’t know how to,’ she said.

‘I have your instruction guides on how to properly cook a meal. I wish to do this for you.’

Not one to look a gifthorse in the mouth, Rey picked up a newly acquired book and retired to her armchair to read and listen to Kylo murmur to himself as he set about cooking. Although she wasn’t facing him, Rey wasn’t able to concentrate on her book, finding herself staring out the window instead as she listened to him cut up tomatoes, pots and spoons clanging as he began to boil water and combine ingredients. The smells were amazing, and as the colour leached out of the sky Kylo finally announced that dinner was ready.

Rey turned to see that two settings had already been placed on the table, and above the table hovered tiny balls of flame, circling each other, as though trapped in orbit. The gasp escaped her involuntarily as Kylo placed two plates of food down, and then a garlic bread. They hadn’t bought garlic bread. He’d made that himself. Kylo even pulled out her seat for her, and then helped her push it in before taking his own chair beside her.

‘This is amazing!’ She said, at a loss for what else to say as she watched the light flicker and dance above her.

‘You are welcome.’ Kylo said, picking up his fork. He looked utterly human in this moment, dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans. But then he looked up and his eyes burned molten gold. It sent a fizzle through her, nervous excitement churning in her gut. She hastily picked up her fork and put food in her mouth so she didn’t have to think or talk.

‘Oh this is amazing!’ She said around the mouthful immediately, unable to help herself. To hell with manners. She was eating with a demon! And this was possibly the best spaghetti she’d ever eaten. It certainly wasn’t any recipe out of her cookbooks! She had a bite of garlic bread and almost died and went to heaven. Rey actually moaned, flushing bright pink as the sound escaped her.

Kylo watched her with a slight smirk, his fingers tinged grey in the warm lighting as he held a cup to his lips.

‘You approve then?’

‘You can cook any time!’ She nodded emphatically to drive home her point. ‘Hell Kylo, this is just … can you teach me?’ She laughed happily, twirling spaghetti strands around her fork, eager to eat more but also wanting to prolong it.

‘Your holiday time is almost over,’ Kylo said. Rey fancied that he actually sounded a little bit sad. His plate already sat half empty in front of him. For someone who supposedly never ate, he’d developed the knack for it fairly quickly. ‘What do you plan to do on your last day tomorrow?’

‘I’m not sure,’ she said, already eager to get back to work. She missed having grease in her hair and rust under her nails. Being so clean for so long felt almost wrong to her. ‘We can go somewhere if you want to.’ She offered, equally as happy to stay home.

She’d taken Kylo to plenty of places over her break, the museum, the park again, though Kylo had been far more level-headed when they hadn’t spied any squirrels. Rey had even taken him on the train to go to the zoo, though they didn’t end up going in. Kylo had decided the train was fascinating enough, so they’d ridden it a few times, before catching a bus and then strolling through the town watching the shops close for the evening. It was all so mundane, and yet strangely entertaining.

‘I only wished to do this for you.’ Kylo said, patting her hand where it lay on the table.

His palm was hot over hers, and she watched the black trace patterns along his flesh as the illusion dropped away. She ran her fingertip over the edge of his index nail, feeling the sharpness and strength of it. Nails like these had playfully carved her belly open, and she didn’t doubt they could slice easily through metal. They were the evolutionary trait of a predator built to hunt and kill equally strong prey.

‘You really have no fear of me, do you?’ He asked, golden eyes searching deep into her own.

Rey smiled in response with a small shake of her head.

‘I have no reason to be,’ she said honestly. ‘You know, tomorrow I don’t really feel like doing anything. I’m happy to just sit at home and read.’

‘Then we shall do that.’ He decided. ‘You shall read to me.’

‘To you?’ Rey laughed.

‘Yes, like you used to, before.’ He said, determination in his expression. She wanted to laugh again, but held it in check, feeling it bubble inside her. He really was like a puppy sometimes, so eager and determined to do right by her, but also to have his own way. And she did used to read to him, back when he was a disembodied voice in her home.

‘Alright,’ she agreed. ‘Tomorrow I’ll read to you.’

***

‘Welcome back,’ Chewie said as Rey walked through the garage door. She inhaled deeply before smiling.

‘I missed this dump,’ she announced. She knew a couple of the guys heard her, but she didn’t care, and neither did Chewie, who thumped her on the back.

‘Come and meet the new guy,’ he said, rolling his eyes for her benefit. He then turned and sauntered across the floor, weaving around a car to stand at the head of the man she’d been forced onto leave for. ‘New guy, this is Rey, Rey, this is the new guy, Mitaka.’

‘Nice to uh … nice to meet you.’ Mitaka said, laying on his back and staring up at her with wide eyes.

‘Nice to meet you too,’ she said, hands on her hips as she stared down at him. He was a weedy looking fellow, with dark hair and an expression that gave her the impression he was used to being yelled at.

By lunchtime Rey cornered Chewie in his office for more information.

‘I don’t get it,’ she said, one eye out the door to make sure no one was standing around and listening.

‘I hear you,’ Chewie said agreeably.

‘No, you don’t understand! He doesn’t hate women or whatever. He’s terrified of me! He can’t look me in the eye, he does everything I ask, and he’s even managed to stammer out a couple of things to me.’

‘Yeah he’s, uh … not what I expected,’ Chewie nodded, thick arms folded over his gut. Rey sighed, not really sure what to make of any of it. She’d come in expecting a fight for dominance, instead she’d found a guy ready to roll over the moment she so much as glanced at him. He was a decent mechanic, but he’d still have her check over his work, just to make sure it was up to her standard.

‘Did the guys get to him first?’ She asked, utterly at a loss. Chewie shook his head, equally as confused.

‘Honest, Rey. He was touted as a big issue, but the kids harmless. Sorry I forced you onto leave for nothing.’

‘Don’t worry about it,’ she said. ‘It’s done now. I guess just don’t trust whatever agency found him for you next time, huh? They hire good people but they’re really crap at character judgements.’

‘I’ll say.’ Chewie stood up and ushered her out of his small room. ‘At least he isn’t an arsehole. He can do the work and he won’t give you any hassles. That’s a win in my book.’ He pulled a can of coke out of the small bar fridge under the front counter, passing her one as well.

‘Mine too.’ She said. ‘Here’s to no more holidays.’

Chapter Text

‘You don’t get … bored, do you?’ Rey asked curiously. She was sprawled on his bed, which seemed to be a frequent occurrence these days. She rested her chin on her palms, watching him move fireballs about the room for his own amusement. He sat on the floor in all his demonic glory, wearing half robes so that his scars and markings were on full display. She could probably draw them with her eyes closed now, just like she could probably draw the pattern on his horns, Rey saw them that often. Her demon seemed to have become more comfortable with her. He only ever bore his human disguise when they were out in public, or if Finn and Poe were over.

An entire month she’d been back at work, enjoying the routine again. An entire month of coming home to find dinner cooking on the stove and a clean house. An entire month of having a stocked kitchen and a demon who knew how to budget. It was as if she’d found herself a house husband, and while it was nice, she was also concerned.

‘I do not get bored,’ he assured her, talons flicking towards her in a sharp motion. The lights swung in her direction, bobbing about her head. There was no warmth emanating off them, and she knew that if she touched them they’d be cold. He’d playfully dropped one in her hand a couple of weeks ago, actually laughing in delight at her immediate panicked response. She’d dumped a bucket of cold water over his head while he meditated in his room that night. He’d come out of it fast, spluttering in confusion as she told him to clean up the mess.

The Kylo facing her now was serene, not interested in playing pranks, though he’d been delighted at her retaliation.

‘Don’t you want to do anything else? What do you do when I’m not here?’ She asked.

‘I go for a walk.’ He said. ‘I meditate, and I commune.’

‘Commune?’ She hadn’t heard that one before. He nodded in response, the lights vanishing as his gaze dropped to her.

‘I listen to the world,’ he said, ‘and I store energy.’ As if that explained everything, Rey wrinkled her nose at the expectedly vague response.

‘What about Snoke? Have you found him yet? You were so eager to.’

‘No, I have not.’ He said, tone final. Rey sighed.

‘I’m worried about you. I don’t want you just being here not doing anything. You’re a demon! Aren’t you supposed to be powerful and scary? Shouldn’t you be out in the world doing something?’

‘You wish to loose my power on your world?’ He asked with a wry smile.

‘You know what I mean!’ She retorted, sitting up. ‘I guess I just feel guilty. You’re basically looking after me and I can’t do anything for you.’

‘You freed me.’ He said simply.

‘So you’re free to go and do what you want,’ she agreed pointedly.

‘I want to be here doing what I am doing.’

‘Kylo,’ she groaned, sliding onto the floor so that she was kneeling in front of him, between his long legs. ‘Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?’

‘I do,’ he assured her. ‘I am very appreciative of the fact that you are showing concern for my welfare.’

Rey felt utterly useless, crouched before him, pinned by his warm gaze. He was listening to her, she could see that, but she wasn’t getting through. Perhaps he didn’t understand that she was genuinely worried about him. As much as she thought of him like an errant child or wayward pet, he was an adult capable of making decisions for himself. It wasn’t right to keep him cooped up in her tiny apartment, as though he really was happy to bend to her whims. She was Rey for pity’s sake, not some handmaiden, expecting to be waited on at all hours. Rey wanted him to be happy, but she couldn’t tell if he was or not, if this really was the sort of life he was content living for the moment.

‘Why?’ She finally asked, needing to understand that this was okay.

‘It is … different.’ He said thoughtfully, wiggling his feet slightly. Afternoon light creeping through the windows caught in his horns, amplifying the red hues and making them glow vibrantly. ‘Here I can be at peace. I am able to learn many new things. I have ample time to simply enjoy being.’

‘It’s … so it’s like a holiday?’ She asked in amazed realisation. She hadn’t thought of it that way.

‘Yes.’ He said after a moment’s thought. ‘That is an apt description.’ Rey sat back, looking up at the ceiling. When she looked back at him he’d moved, palm outstretched before him.

Hovering over his darkened palm was a small black cloud, shifting and shimmering as the light hit it. Rey tilted her head questioningly, eyebrows knitting together as she frowned curiously.

‘What’s this?’ She asked, scooting forward slightly, wanting to touch the display.

‘It is for you,’ he said simply as the shadows dropped away.

Suspended in his palm was a strange creature. Wings sprouted from its back, four legs splayed defensively. A long tail curved about its feet while a long neck suspended it’s head in what appeared to be a growl. The detail was exquisitely fine, the finish perfectly smooth. It was no wonder he hadn’t bothered with her tools. There was no way they could have achieved such an amazing finish.

Rey picked it up carefully, running her fingertips over the surface, trying to find the joins, and bumps or grit. Cool metal glided beneath her touch, ridged only where there were supposed to be ridges, dips only where they were meant to be.

‘In my home,’ Kylo said, watching her closely as she studied it, ‘we have many of these creatures. They are small, like your squirrels, but far more intelligent. Some breath fire, others ice, or strong gusts of air.’

‘It looks like a little dragon,’ she whispered in amazement, turning it over and over, trying to take in all of the angles and perspectives at once.

‘In a way, yes they are,’ he agreed, sounding pleased.

‘It’s beautiful, thank you!’ She leapt forward without thinking, arms wrapping around his neck. ‘Thank you so much!’ She said and pressed her mouth to his.

Rey didn’t know why she did it, only that she was bursting with happiness at his gift. She knew how long he’d spent on it, how much attention he’d put into making it just right. Perhaps it was because of everything that he’d done for her, the protecting, the cooking and cleaning, for simply being an ear when she needed to talk about a frustrating customer at work, for being good to her friends. Regardless, Rey barely registered that her lips were pressed to his, that they were soft and warm and slightly parted. She had hardly noticed that his breath puffed against her has he exhaled, tasting of spice against her tongue before she pulled back sheepishly.

Rey opened her mouth to apologise, but the space before her was empty.

Kylo Ren had vanished.

Chapter Text

The front door squeaked open, heavy on its hinges.

‘Hello?’ Rey called out, voice soft.

Nothing but silence met her. No slight shift of weight on floorboards, no shift in the curtains, and most noticeably of all, no eager six foot something demon waiting to say hello.

She sighed and place the shopping bag on the counter, plucking out a can of baked beans as she plonked herself in her chair, kicking off her shoes so that she could curl her feet up under her.

Was he alright? She wondered, staring out at the growing darkness, at the streetlights flickering on below. Had he suddenly needed to be somewhere? Or was it her. Was she the reason he’d just left?

Rey glanced at the can in her hand before placing it disinterestedly aside. She had no appetite. She hadn’t for a few days now.

It was an idiotic move. Kissing him had spooked him. It was such a stupidly human thing to do! Of course he wouldn’t know what it meant. Frustration rumbled around inside her, trapped with no outlet. She couldn’t apologise to him because he simply wasn’t there. That fact she was certain of, there was no hint of his presence, no slide of static, no cold spots or unexplained noises. She wasn’t even sure if he could turn himself invisible anymore.

But why was she worrying? He was a demon, he could look after himself. What sense of obligation did she have to him? At least now she had her studio back. Her studio with a double bed and remnants of her demon housemate. The housemate whose lips she barely felt the pressure of, couldn’t even recall the feel of them against her own.

Rising on tired legs, Rey moved into the room, flicking on the lightswitch as the small metal dragon on the bookshelf caught her eye. She picked it up and sat on the bed, looking at it sadly.

The comforter whuffed as she fell backwards onto it, staring up at the ceiling as her fingers traced the now familiar grooves of her gift.

The loneliness had been unexpected. Rey had lived a lot of her life alone, managing to get by on her own. The sadness at being abandoned wasn’t, though she’d thought she was better than that now. They were unpleasant sensations, sitting heavily on her shoulders as she moved about her days. When had she become so dependant on his company, so at ease with caring for another being? So much so that their absence would be so thoroughly felt? Sure she cared for Finn and Poe, but they could go a month without seeing each other and she wouldn’t feel this … this void inside her. This deep well of misery and listlessness as she moped about her kitchen, idly flicking the kettle on and off again.

Rey wasn’t the type to feel sad because a man had run out on her.

That wasn’t who she was.

She was better than that. She didn’t need someone to be there for her, to rub her back when she was sad or offer her a cup of tea when she was tired. She didn’t need to feel this way about being abandoned. Her entire life had been about overcoming the odds, and yet here she was, feeling like she was back at square one. Some pathetic damsel pining over her lost … what. Lost love? Rey wanted to laugh. It was highly doubtful Kylo even knew what that word meant.

Rey closed her eyes and breathed deeply.

Despite his ability to not sleep, the blankets still smelt strongly of him. Rey turned her face into the covers, curling herself up into a ball as she drifted into restless dreams in the same spot she’d slept since he’d gone.

***

He was furious. No, beyond furious. Livid. Outraged. Horrified. Betrayed.

Betrayal.

That emotion struck him deeper than the rest combined, twisting further and further into his heart. It’s grip was vice like, paralysing as it held him in it’s savage throes.

He had no concept of how long he had been pacing. The rise and fall of the sun had escaped his notice, and physical exertion did not tire him. Energy crackled through his hands, shivering static up his arms as he struggled to contain his anger. As much as he yearned to fight and release his frustration, attracting other supernatural kind towards him was not wise. Not when he did not know where he was. All he knew was that he was not on the same continent as Rey any longer.

Rey.

That shard of betrayal fractured, splintering and spreading further through him.

After all this time, after the trust and faith that he had put in that human.

The feel of her arms encompassing him, her gratitude sparkling in her gaze. The feel of her breath against his cheeks, and then her lips, soft and warm and wet pressed to his, sealing him with a kiss.

A kiss.

Of course it was with a kiss.

What sort of fool was he? Acting like some lower class demon, falling for the spells of a human. He had been lured in by her ability to hear him from a different plane, had been soothed in her presence by her lack of fear, her willingness to accept him. It had felt good after so long in isolation, to be the focus of someone. And it had all been a ploy. Her concern and kindness a sham to get at his powers. So of course she had willed him to come to her unarmed and uncloaked, baring his weaknesses to her, his stories splayed across his flesh like a newborn sap.

Kylo Ren had not reached his level by playing the fool. He had not become who he was by allowing others to take advantage of his strength.

The words, fortunately, had not been uttered, but still she had tried.

Something tugged at his awareness, a jealousy, a hatred. It rang true within his soul, a match to the emotions warring within him. Kylo Ren blinked and the rocky wilderness he had been standing in was now a cafe. He did not bother ordering a drink to blend in, he simply materialised one in his grip as he approached the young woman sitting by the front window. She was a small thing, blonde with dark eyes and pale skin, her clothes wrapped in layers about her slight frame.

She started in surprise when he sat across from her.

‘You are angry.’ He said. She stared at him, so he adjusted his language so that she would understand.

‘Is it that obvious?’ She replied bitterly.

‘Only to me,’ he assured her, drinking it in eagerly. It swirled through him, rippling and resonating with his own mood. Oh how he had missed the invigorating pulse of energy. How had he satisfied himself on something so insubstantial as mortal fare for so long? His human … Rey had weakened him so much. It was unforgivable. Disgusting.

‘My fiance cheated on me,’ she said. ‘I found him with my best friend this morning.’

‘That is no good. I do not see how someone could do such a thing to someone as beautiful as you.’ Her eyelashes fluttered slightly, her crumbling walls weak against the charm he inflected into his words.

‘Well I caught them well into the act,’ she said. ‘I want him to suffer. We were going to get married, you know? We had the plan: the house and the kids, even what we’d name our two cats. How could he do this to me?’

‘What sort of suffering would one earn for this sort of betrayal of trust?’ Kylo Ren asked, leaning forward slightly. She mimicked his body language, moving towards him, as though they had been friends for years, as though she trusted him with her life. In this instant, completely unaware of the spells he was weaving through her, she did. Her voice lowered as she confided to a complete stranger.

‘I want him to be impotent,’ she snarled viciously. ‘I want him to be so desperate to have children with his partner, only to find out he can’t. I want it to destroy their relationship, to destroy him.’

‘That is quite a punishment,’ Kylo Ren said, impressed that it wasn’t the standard requests of death or castration. He could already see the path her request would take, the lines it mapped into the world. What he saw delighted him. ‘You are very beautiful. It makes me sorrowful to see you so upset.’ There were tears of anger shimmering on her eyelashes, threatening to fall. ‘If you truly want him to be so punished, will you allow me to kiss those away?’

‘Yes.’ She breathed, closing the gap for him. She tasted of coffee, dark and bitter, but Kylo Ren was satisfied. The deal was done and her fiance was impotent, set to destroy the future happiness of the very woman who wanted him destroyed. It was the sort of full circle effect that Kylo Ren was happy to see come to fruition. Pleased, he exited the coffee shop, feeling another tug that brought him to an alleyway in the dark.

‘Do you require assistance?’ He asked the man slumped against a wall. He reeked of blood and anger. Kylo Ren squatted down beside him.

‘Fuck off,’ the man responded, glaring up at him, right eye swollen, lip cut and bleeding.

‘You have been fighting,’ Kylo Ren surmised easily, already knowing the answer. ‘Who were they?’

‘I thought they were family,’ the man said, unable to help himself now that Kylo Ren had the taste for his misery.

‘Family do not turn on one another,’ Kylo Ren said sagely, waiting eagerly for the problem, for the desired solution. It felt good to be in the world on his own terms again. He could feel the whisper of his wings expanding, bursting with the frantic energy that crackled through him.

‘The fuck they don’t,’ the man agreed. ‘I want them to burn. To pay for what they’ve done to me. We promised, y’know? Through thick and thin. Well we were fucking thick when they did this. I’d hate to see what thin would bring. Nah, they need to burn for their crimes.’

‘If you truly desire it,’ Kylo Ren said.

‘I really fucking do.’ The man replied heatedly.

‘You have blood on your lip, allow me.’

The man was not satisfied with a chaste kiss. He kissed deeply and hungrily, and Kylo Ren drank it all in, taking his fill of the sudden rush of desire, of the panic and manic glee, of the rage bubbling just beneath the surface of it all. Their tongues tangled as the man’s fingers dug into Kylo Ren’s hair, pulling him desperately closer. It had been some time since Kylo Ren had been one to make deals, but he found himself enjoying it as he pulled away from the man, looking at those red lips and dilated eyes. Oh how Kylo Ren could earn so much more from the mortal, how eager he was to open himself up and just give. But Kylo Ren was not interested in those desires. He could feel another soul calling to him.

Eagerly Kylo Ren attended.

Chapter Text

She’d just finished soldering the last piece on Poe’s cat when there was a knock at the door.

Rey cracked and creaked as she stood up, body complaining at being stationary for so long. Pins and needles raced through her right leg and she grit her teeth against the sharp pain, doing her best to hobble quickly as another knock sounded.

It could only be Unkar, she countered to herself, wondering why she was rushing to open the door for him. She threw the locks open as she dug her heel into the ground, desperately trying to jiggle out the needles digging up and down her leg. Kylo certainly wouldn’t use the door, and after two and a half weeks without him, she was beginning to doubt he’d come back at all. As she moved to open the door, Rey caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, at the bags under her eyes and the unnatural slimness in her face. Her response was to frown, to poke her tongue out at herself. Maybe she was coming down with something. It certainly had nothing to do with her lack of appetite or inability to sleep.

‘Hi,’ she said, hauling open the front door to find out what nonsense Unkar was up to today. Only it wasn’t Unkar.

‘Good morning, I do hope I’m not intruding on anything,’ an elderly man said. He was tall and gaunt, dressed in a trim grey suit that appeared to be perfectly fitted. Polished shoes gleamed in the hall light as he shifted his weight towards her. The left side of his wrinkled face was sagged, the remnants of a stroke no doubt, his head bald save for a few wisps of pure white hair. One dark eye regarded her warmly, the other was partially clouded with cataracts.

‘Not at all,’ Rey said, slightly perplexed at the unexpected turn of her morning.

‘I was in the building visiting a dear friend of mine,’ he said, his voice deep and smooth. ‘I used to live in this apartment,’ he continued with a pleasant smile. ‘When I was much younger, a boy in fact. I was hoping, seeing as I was in the building, and if it wouldn’t be too much of an imposition, if I could perhaps have a look for memories sake?’

‘Oh, well it’s probably changed a bit since then,’ Rey said in surprise, stepping back to let him in. ‘I did some work when I moved in, so I’m sorry if it’s not what it used to be.’ There was no harm in it, she supposed. She could imagine wanting to see her roots when she was older too, if they’d been pleasant ones, revisiting her past to relive happy memories.

‘That’s alright, dear.’ He stepped in, politely waiting for her to close the door before he took a stroll around the main living space, taking everything in with a small smile.

‘Would you like a cup of tea? I know the stairs aren’t easy to deal with.’ She offered, moving into the kitchen.

‘Especially not with old age,’ he agreed. ‘It was far easier running up and down them when I was a boy, that’s for certain. A cup of tea would be delightful, thank you. Black, no sugar.’ Rey flicked on the kettle and watched him inspect her home. She honestly had no idea what to say to him. Should she apologise for the colour choice? Any original features had been stripped long ago, though she fancied Kylo’s haunting had prevented any heavy changes to the place.

‘This used to be my parents room,’ the man said, pointing to her bedroom door. ‘And this was mine.’ He pointed to the closed studio. ‘Do you … would you mind?’

‘Not at all.’ Rey said, watching as he pushed open the door and stepped inside. She watched his shadow moving about as he walked the perimeter and looked at her sculptures.

Rey poured the boiled water into two cups, adding milk and sugar to hers, before carrying them to the table, taking her seat and waiting for him to join her.

‘How long has it been?’ She asked curiously as he winced, sinking slowly onto his chair. Once he was comfortable, fingers gnarled with arthritis clasped his cup and pulled it towards him.

‘More decades than I’d wish to count,’ he said with a smile in the past. ‘Do you enjoy it here? I have many fond memories growing up. I hope this home is giving you pleasant memories also?’

‘Certainly.’ Rey said, sipping her tea and not thinking about golden eyes. ‘It gets wonderful light, and the view is beautiful.’

‘That it is,’ he agreed, looking at her. ‘Do you live alone?’ He asked.

‘I had a housemate,’ she said, realising she needed to explain away the second bed. ‘But he left, so it’s just me now.’ It felt strange, finally saying those words aloud. Even Finn and Poe didn’t know yet, she hadn’t had the courage to tell them. Hadn’t wanted to make it so utterly final that Kylo was actually gone.

‘That’s no good. In my day one would never allow such a beautiful young woman to live alone.’ He put his cup down, placing one long fingered hand over the other. ‘I was admiring the statues in the other room, are they yours?’ He asked, eyebrows rising in question.

‘Yes,’ Rey said, looking over his shoulder at them. The squirrel stared back at her. ‘I make them for fun. Two of them are gifts for my friends.’

‘You have so many of them, you’re quite talented.’

‘Oh, thank you,’ she tucked her hair behind her ears, pleasure curling through her at the compliment. ‘I’ve had a lot of free time recently, so I’ve been working on new ones. I plan to sell some, just as a hobby.’

‘What a wonderful idea. I particularly liked that lizard looking one. It’s quite unusual.’

‘It is, isn’t it.’ She agreed, sobering up instantly. ‘I have to admit I didn’t make that one. My housemate did.’

‘What an imagination they must have.’ He replied, nonplussed by her admission. Rey sighed, shaking her head to clear the morose thoughts that were beginning to take root.

‘I’m sorry, I realised I didn’t introduce myself,’ she said, offering her best smile as she held out her hand to shake. ‘My name’s Rey.’

‘Rey, what a beautiful name.’ He took her hand, grip surprisingly strong. ‘My name is Doctor Snoke.’

Ice lanced through her pains, swirling fear and panic through her in heavy waves.

‘Pleasure to meet you,’ she said, pulling her hand away and placing it in her lap.

‘I do believe the pleasure is all mine, child.’ He leant back in his chair, still studying her, calculating her.

Rey wanted to stand up and leave, simply walk out of her apartment and not come back. This was Snoke, the man that Kylo had been hellbent on finding, on seeking out and talking to. For what she didn’t know, but then she didn’t know a lot about him to be honest. That Snoke was in her apartment now, especially now that Kylo was gone … it didn’t rest well with her. That this man had lived here, had grown up in the walls she now called home, that had been haunted with a trapped demon …

‘So how did you do it?’ He asked pleasantly.

‘Do what?’ Rey asked, frowning in confusion, pulled from her own panicked thougts.

‘The demon. How did you do it?’ He asked, utterly relaxed across the table from her.

‘I don’t … I don’t understand,’ Rey said, staring at him.

‘Alright, dear,’ Snoke said, waving a hand in the air as if trying to brush away her confusion. ‘You had an extraordinarily powerful demon residing within these walls. I know because I put him here. I have watched this place for longer than you have been alive, and never has anyone stayed longer than a month. You, my dear, have surpassed half a year and that intrigues me. What intrigued me more is when Unkar Plutt informed me that you had a male roommate in your dwelling. Now, imagine my surprise when he described this strapping young fellow. He bore quite an uncanny resemblance to a certain demon I trapped here in my youth. Is this striking any sort of chord within you, dear?’

Rey simply stared at the elderly man, with his different coloured eyes and pale, wrinkled skin. He could be anyone’s grandfather, smartly dressed and head clear of any of the ailments that usually troubled the old. But he wasn’t anyone’s grandfather. She felt as though a noose was tightening about her neck, and she wasn’t sure when it had been placed there.

‘I don’t-’

‘Now, now.’ He tutted, waggling a finger at her. ‘You control him and I want to know how you managed that. The power he contains is enormous, far greater than I was able to deal with, and yet you have managed it. What sort of deal did you make?’ He glanced up and down her body, his expression making it clear that it couldn’t have been herself. Rey felt her hackles rise at the silent insult.

Movement in her periphery made Rey turn in her seat, hope rising at the sudden apparition in her apartment. Kylo’s name was on her lips as she twisted around, only to turn bitter on her tongue. An echo of pain lanced across her stomach as she looked at the familiar fire-laced demon. Red hair and pale skin embraced by orange flames prowled behind her, golden claws glimmering as he sneered.

‘It’s a strong bond, but perhaps you didn’t hold your end of the bargain? Where did he go? Is he let loose upon the world?’

‘I don’t know,’ Rey replied, gritting her teeth in frustration. She’d opened her home to a kind old man only to have this happen. This … interrogation? Was she being interrogated?

‘You don’t know an awful lot.’ Snoke said as a hand slid over her shoulder, hot and cold at the same time. ‘What I know is that my demon seems awfully bound to you. You freed him and he remained with you, residing with you in some sort of domestic subterfuge. He has protected you, even leaving these walls to do so.’ Rey frowned harder at that, head tilting slightly in confusion. Snoke smiled and sipped at his tea. ‘Oh yes, that was a rather abysmal attempt on my part,’ he said. ‘I should have sent a demon, not an empty vessel to take you. They’re not very good at dealing with the unexpected, and he certainly wouldn’t have expected a demon to materialise and smite him.’ Snoke huffed a laugh, apparently amused by what had given Rey horrible nightmares.

‘What?’ Was all she managed to say to that particular revelation. Kylo’s vagueness, his hesitance at talking to her about it, his sudden disinterest in locating Snoke, it all began to slot slowly into place. That Rey had become some sort of target because of Kylo? The man in the alley, the fine red mist … it was all because of Snoke?

‘Well my father always told me that if you wanted something done right, you should always do it yourself.’ He replied sagely.

‘You can’t just take me!’ Rey moved to stand, fingers curled into fists, but that golden hand kept her seated firmly.

‘My dear, I can and I will if you don’t answer my questions.’ Snoke said. ‘Now tell me, the demon. How do you control him?’

‘I don’t!’ She snapped angrily. ‘I don’t control him! He controls himself!’

‘Don’t pretend to know what you’re dealing with, child!’ He jerked forward in his seat, reaching the end of his patience with her. Fiery claws dug into her shoulder, keeping her firmly rooted to her chair, pinching at her skin.

‘I have no idea!’ She spat back, equally as fed up. This was her home! He couldn’t talk to her like this, he couldn’t expect her to tell him anything after admitting to having her landlord spy on her, to attempting to have her kidnapped! ‘What do you want with me? I’m just a nobody! Kylo isn’t here!’

‘No, he isn’t,’ Snoke agreed. ‘I was certain of it when Mitaka informed me of your listlessness at work, that lack of your usual fire, like part of your energy had simply been fizzled away.’ His gaze moved past her to the demon at her back. ‘Take her.’ He said simply. Rey opened her mouth to object, mind whirling at the new revelation, at how many people in her life where under this mans thumb, only to find there was no oxygen, no light, no anything. She was simply adrift.

Chapter Text

Light glimmered against her eyelids, shifting red and white disturbing the fog of her brain.

Rey found her hands and pushed herself up groggily, head spinning as she opened her eyes. The world tilted haphazardly, nausea bubbling in her gut as she tried to focus on anything to stabilise her.

‘Kylo,’ she mumbled, tongue thick in her mouth, throat parched as she reached out towards the shadowy figure standing by her side. ‘Kylo,’ she tried again, louder, needing him to turn and tell her that it was all okay. That she was okay.

Her vision shifted and shimmered, struggling to focus. She inhaled shakily, body like lead as she managed to drag herself closer to the edge of the bed she was on.

‘Kylo,’ she stretched out, fingers curling into the fabric of his robes. The face that turned to regard her was not Kylo’s. It was his, the fire demon. Rey recoiled quickly, releasing him and scooting away until her back hit the headboard.

The demon scowled at her, eyes glowing brighter than the halo of fire that engulfed him.

‘Where am I?’ She demanded, as far away from him as she could get. Her attention turned quickly to the room, to the blood-red fabrics that draped from the ceiling, over the edges of the four poster bed, to the black sheets she was on, the dark metal of the frame. There were no walls, only archways, leading to an outside she couldn’t make out for some reason. The columns were twisted into the likenesses of creatures and faces she didn’t recognise. There was no lightsource she could see, other than the demon by her bed, and yet the room was thoroughly illuminated.

‘Somewhere you shouldn’t be,’ the demon finally answered, revealing a mouth of sharp teeth. ‘I’m under strict instruction not to hurt you when the Master is not here to witness it.’ He said. Rey found little comfort in his words, drawing her knees to her chest.

‘Is this … is this where Kylo is from?’ She asked hesitantly. They could have been on Earth, it was far more logical, but something in her told her that wasn’t the case. She was far away from any help here, far away from anything familiar or known.

‘We are in the Realms, yes.’ The demon replied, turning to face her properly. Where Kylo was darkness, he was light, purely weaponised and terrifying. But Kylo had beaten him once, when he hadn’t even been at full strength. Although she knew she could do nothing, that thought was oddly comforting and she took solace in that fact. Even if Kylo was no longer here to protect her.

‘Why am I here?’

‘For answers.’ Snoke said, striding into the room. He looked younger, more nimble than he had in her apartment. His face was still disfigured, his hands gnarled, but his steps were easier, his motions more fluid.

‘I don’t have answers for you!’ She snarled, the events in her apartment coming back to her quickly. They’d kidnapped her!

Snoke smiled down at her, hands clasped behind his back as though he were about to deliver a lecture to her.

‘My dear, the answers are not for me, they’re for you. I realised that perhaps you do not quite know the nature of the demon you have been harbouring. I highly doubt he was inclined to tell you himself, so we are here to shine a little light on the more shadowy aspects of him.’ He smiled, a thin sort of expression that didn’t reach his eyes.

‘I don’t believe you.’ Rey said, not quite sure what to do. Could she run? Find someone to help her? Would she even be able to leave this place on her own?

‘I don’t expect you would,’ Snoke said, shrugging his shoulders helplessly. ‘But you will. After you learn.’

***

‘Will you ever go away?’ She asked, not ashamed to admit to herself that she was sulking.

The golden demon glanced in her direction. He’d been standing in an archway all day, staring out into the gloom. At least, she assumed it had been a day. It could have been more or less. There was no way to tell time here, no rise and fall of the sun, no clocks … for all she knew time didn’t even exist in this place.

‘No.’ He said, words clipped.

Rey mulled it over for a moment, though it didn’t need as much thought as she was giving it. One simple syllable, spoken as quickly as possible.

‘Can I go home?’ She asked instead, sitting cross-legged on the bed, where Snoke had left her.

‘No.’ He said.

‘Why not?’

‘It is willed.’ He said, still watching her from the corner of his eye.

Hunger grumbled through her, but she ignored it, not wanting to ask for anything. Snoke had been quite courteous, but his visit had been brief, departing shortly after his ominous words about understanding the way of things. She doubted anything Snoke had to say would change her mind on Kylo. What would Snoke know, anyway? She had lived with Kylo, not Snoke.

‘Why do you serve him?’ It occurred to her to ask, needing to do something to while away the unknowable hours. If she kept asking questions she wouldn’t have a chance to break down and have a panic attack. She’d never had a panic attack, but she imagined this was the sort of scenario that would induce one.

‘Because I am bound.’ The demon said.

‘You … your name is Hux, right?’ Something like surprise flashed across his face, but he covered it quickly.

‘That is correct,’ he allowed. ‘The Knight told you.’

‘Knight?’ She asked, confused. ‘Kylo told me.’ A savage grin was his response to her, sharp teeth glinting in the light he produced.

‘I was bound to the Supreme Leader as Kylo should have been.’ Hux said, body turning to face her more fully. Despite his brightness, the garb he wore was black, simple and fitted around his tall frame. Rey wondered if height was synonymous with being a demon.

‘How are you … bound? When?’ She asked, only to wonder if demons had any concept of what ‘when’ actually meant.

‘Before your parents were conceived,’ Hux said, ‘I was pulled into the human realm. I bargained and made my deal.’

‘And then?’ She prompted.

‘And then Kylo was summoned.’ His mouth thinned into a line, expression darkening. ‘The Supreme Leader is … wise.’ He inclined his head very slightly before turning back to stare out the door.

‘So you’ve been Snoke’s plaything for decades?’ She asked, unwilling to drop it. She could read between the lines, could see that Snoke had hoped Hux would help Kylo toe the line and obey. It had clearly been a massive oversight. After dealing with Kylo, Rey was fully aware that demons were autonomous, subject to their own emotions and desires. What had Hux put on hold for this, she wondered, what had he bargained for?

‘Your bond is thick,’ Hux said after a long pause, still turned away from her. His voice was low, as though he feared they would be overheard. ‘Thicker than Snoke could ever hope to achieve.’

‘I didn’t make a deal with him!’ Rey said, flustered, slamming her hands into the soft bedding beneath her. Frustration curled thickly through her, making her want to punch something, to scream and shout and make a mess. But she sat, relatively calm and collected, waiting instead.

‘I know.’ Hux said it so simply she almost didn’t process what he was saying.

‘But Snoke-’

‘He is strong in many ways. But this is a way that demons know, and demons know the ways of bonds. My bond to Snoke is my word, sealed and signed for. It is tenuous, but it will hold until he breathes his last. I can see the layers around you. They are cloying, powerful. It is almost impossible to contain them and keep you from sight.’

‘So … so Kylo can’t find me?’ She tried to make sense of his words. Hope fractured within her chest, sinking dark into her gut. ‘You’re hiding me from him?’

‘I do as bid. But they are thick and proximity will strengthen them. I can only do what I am tasked to do. If Snoke had wished total dominance he would have been wise to summon someone stronger than me, but less impetuous than Kylo. Humans think they know all, but they do not. Demons know the way of things, and it seems you have the way of learning about you.’

Apparently done with his relatively one-sided conversation, Hux stepped into the gloom, vanishing from her sight.

Rey stared after him.

Learning?

She tried to piece together what he meant. It was obvious that Kylo had rejected Snoke as a master, she couldn’t see anyone controlling him. But bonds and contracts and learning? It was all too much. Her stomach rumbled again and she groaned, curling in on herself.

She wasn’t going to cry, or feel sorry for herself. Rey was going to use her wits and get out of this herself.

Demons or no, Rey was a survivor. She could do this.

***

When she woke again there was a man sitting in a chair beside her bed.

‘Hello Rey.’ He said when she opened her eyes.

‘Luke?’ She asked, dumbfounded. She had to be wrong, horribly and wildly wrong.

Rey looked around the elaborate room of her prison, still trapped within the world of demons. Hux was gone, but Luke, the old man from the second hand store was very definitely sitting in the room with her.

‘Is this a trick?’ She asked nervously, frowning as she sat up, drawing her knees to her chest so that she could hug them.

‘No trick, dear.’ Luke said, picking up a basket from beside him and setting it on the bed. It was full of cheeses and fruits, of biscuits and jars of olives and sundried tomatoes. A package of ham looked too good to be true, and a glass bottle of juice glistened with condensation. ‘Eat.’ He said simply, and Rey threw caution to the wind as she accepted the gift.

‘How are you here?’ She asked as she tore open the crackers and a tub of dip, trying to be civilised as her hunger took control.

Luke gave her a sad, tired smile.

‘I’m from here,’ he said, seemingly unperturbed by the cheese crumbs she was getting over the sheets. His answer gave her pause, as she found her attention centering solely on him.

‘From … but-’

‘Yes.’ He nodded. ‘I … couldn’t enter your apartment because I knew what was within the walls. My nephew, in fact.’

‘Demons have nephews … you’re a demon?’ She pressed in bewilderment. Rey had thought she’d been coming to terms with this new reality, but evidently not. The sweet old man in the second hand store was a demon? What sort of odds … for her to have run into him, to have met him in the first place? Were demons in control of fate or chance or whatever it was that had brought them together?

‘I am, and yes. Kylo Ren is of blood to my clan, and he is very special.’

‘So does that mean you’re a Sky Walker?’ She blurted out, before quickly shoving more food into her mouth so she wouldn’t say anything else stupid. Grizzly eyebrows rose in surprise, blue eyes twinkling.

‘Yes it does.’ He said. ‘One of three left in any of the Realms. So he told you about us?’

‘He showed me his scars,’ she mumbled around an olive.

‘He-’ Luke fell utterly silent at that revelation, openly staring at her. His intensity was uncomfortable, and so she kept eating to try and ignore the discomfort it gave her, wishing she could sink into the bed and vanish from sight. ‘All of them?’ He finally asked.

Rey shrugged uncertainly.

‘The scars and the tattoos, yeah,’ she said, not sure if it was wrong of her to mention them. Luke exuded calmness and peace that made it easy to simply talk, even though she didn’t mean to. He was the polar opposite to Hux, wherever he’d gone.

‘That is … interesting. My nephew is a very … he has caused a lot of issues within the Realms. When he was taken I took it upon myself to keep an eye on him, just to ensure that he caused no trouble within your world.’

‘Why didn’t you save him if you knew where he was?’ Rey asked, something like anger flickering in her as she pushed away the mostly empty basket. She cradled the bottle of juice in her lap, tracing the beaded drops with her fingertips. She felt full, finally, satisfied and a little over-stuffed, but now that such a simple problem had been removed, the larger issue landed heavily on her shoulders.

She was here because of her connection to Kylo.

Because Snoke wanted her for something.

‘Kylo Ren did not always go by that name,’ Luke said tiredly, looking down at his hands. ‘He was born to my sister and a lesser demon. The chances of his lineage was fifty-fifty, and yet once he arrived he bore wings darker than the nightspace. He was a miracle, a herald of peace and prosperity.’

‘Aren’t demons supposed to be evil?’ Rey cut in. Luke chuckled, as though he thought her question was cute.

‘Humans are just as evil, if not worse,’ he countered. ‘There are layers in our society, factions playing against one another. Sky Walkers are the most troublesome, and the most influential. We are revered, feared, loved and hated. Where some can slink about unnoticed, Sky Walkers cannot.’ At this Hux stepped through one of the archways, spine straight and fingers laced behind his back. He levelled a long and distasteful look at Luke, but remained otherwise silent. ‘Kylo Ren was the strongest of us, and then he was taken. He was also the most wilful and destructive. It was better to watch him in captivity, than release him to wreak havoc in a world that was not his own. He would have destroyed everything.’

‘He wouldn’t have.’ Rey said firmly, certain that the man who helped her fold her washing could not be as awful as Luke was making out.

‘Rey,’ Luke said kindly yet determinedly. ‘I was pulled back here to help you make your own decision. I will be upfront and honest with you. Snoke is a strong man. Don’t let his appearance fool you. As a boy he brutally slaughtered two human adults to summon Kylo Ren. The amount of pain and suffering he needed to induce to do such a task beggars belief, especially in only two people. I’m not lying when I say Kylo is strong. The bigger the demon, the harder they are to summon. But just because that is what is needed to summon him doesn’t make him inherently evil. It makes the summoner evil.’

Hux shifted slightly where he stood, face blank as he looked away.

‘It is no secret in the Realms that Kylo Ren was summoned and trapped by a human. What do you think would happen if we tried to break his bonds? If he could summon Kylo Ren what would he do to a lesser demon? And it was … better for us, without Kylo Ren. He was an … he was troubled and caused a lot of pain here. He tore out his own heritage to try and escape who he was.’

‘Why are you telling me this?’ Rey asked, beyond confused as she tried to take it all in. She glanced between the two demons, as if they could simply hand her the cliffnotes version that would make all of this utterly obvious.

‘I didn’t save him because it was easier on everyone.’ Luke said. ‘But you did and he has done nothing.’

And?’ She pressed, not sure what he wanted from her.

‘Kylo Ren is a willful and obstinate demon.’ Hux said, surprising the both of them into looking at him. Hux was studying the column next to him, determinedly not meeting their gaze. ‘He refused servitude to a creature that could perpetuate something so evil to summon him. His pride had him imprisoned for decades.’

‘And what has this got to do with me?’ Rey said, frustration making her want to tear her hair out, or throw something at them because they wouldn’t stop talking in circles.

‘Rey,’ Luke said, ‘think about it. Snoke is under the impression that you bound yourself to him, that you made a deal with the fiercest and most unpredictable demon in the Realms.’

‘But I didn’t!’ She said angrily. Why did no one seem to believe her? She knew nothing about demons. Breaking Kylo out of his bind had been an accident in the first place, pure luck!

‘You did.’ Luke responded softly yet forcefully. ‘You broke his seal and set him free, and instead of hunting down the creature that did this, he stayed by your side and kept you safe. He protected you from the evils he knew waited you for your association with him.’

‘How do you even make a deal with a demon?’ Rey demanded, rising to her knees in anger. ‘This is all ridiculous! He decided to stay with me! I didn’t force him to! He could have left at any time! Hux is wrong! I don’t have some mystical bond with him! I don’t know where he is, he just vanished and left me alone. He’s gone, okay? He isn’t coming back!’ There were tears running down her cheeks but she didn’t recall starting to cry. Her fists were clenched at her sides, nails biting into her palms and she yelled at the two creatures. It was beyond ridiculous, the whole thing.

She had no idea why she was even crying in the first place.

This was some misunderstanding of mammoth proportions. She wanted to go home now. She wanted to be with Finn and Poe. She wanted to go to work. She wanted … well … that wasn’t possible anymore, and perhaps it was for the best.

Rey had been worried about her friends getting the wrong idea, but a whole dimension of demons? They actually had those preposterous ideas and were holding her for them.

No. Sure Kylo could be annoying sometimes with his antics, he could be a bit full on trying to learn the way of the world. But he was just Kylo. Not some big bad evil hell bent on causing armageddon.

‘You’re all wrong,’ she said through gritted teeth. ‘I don’t care what you’re saying. The man you’re talking about and the man I know are two different people. Demons. Whatever. He left me, and I really don’t think he’s ever coming back. Okay? Ever.’ She glared at Luke now as she spoke, feeling slightly awful for treating him this way, but for all his apparent kindness he didn’t seem like he was inclined to help her escape from here either. He was just as bad as Hux, as bad as all of them. And to learn that he’d helped keep his own nephew locked away because it was convenient?

Luke rose stiffly from his chair, head bowed.

‘I don’t know if I believe that.’ He said curtly before vanishing into thin air before her eyes.

Chapter Text

He raked a hand through his hair, staring at himself in the reflection of the mirror.

How pathetically human he was in this very instant. How low he had been brought simply by absence. It tugged at his very being, pulling him back to where he should be. Should not be. It did not matter. The body at his feet twitched, still thrumming with life, though currently useless to him.

The swirls of resentment and betrayal and hate had been cloying, but now they coated him sickeningly, grease and oil coating his tongue and squirming through his veins.

The man on the ground moaned softly to himself, spinning through some sort of drug induced frenzy that Kylo Ren had aided him on. The deal had been minor, not really worth his presence, but the emotions had drawn him in regardless. Honestly he had lost count long ago on just how many deals he had made, pinging from one aching human to the next. Some required more than a kiss, others required a blood-letting, and it was awakening within him an old beast that raged and shivered.

At this very moment, staring into dulled brown eyes, studying limp black hair and pale skin, the beast was straining to return back to what it seemed to call home.

Instead he squatted down and seized the mortal by the neck, lifting him back to his feet. The man somehow found his balance, swaying dizzily, hands curling into Kylo Ren’s shirt.

‘I feel good, man. I wanna make you feel good,’ he was burbling, straining upwards to catch Kylo Ren’s mouth.

‘What else would you want in return?’ Kylo Ren found himself asking out of habit. He could still taste the alcohol from the mans tongue.

‘You man, I wanna make you feeeeeeeeel.’

‘From a kiss?’ Kylo Ren asked blankly, looking down at the messy hair and bloodshot eyes. The man nodded. ‘Your deal is a kiss for a kiss? No … no vengeance or wishes?’

‘You sound so weird!’ The man laughed, trying to pull Kylo Ren’s face down to meet his, but Kylo Ren stepped away instead, thoroughly disinterested in what the mortal was offering. It was the words that were swirling through his mind instead.

A kiss for a kiss wasn’t a deal.

Where was the value in that?

Soft lips against his, the whisper of breath, the tingle of excitement, the bloom of nervous hesitation as her mouth met his and then … Kylo Ren stepped into the throbbing pulse of the bar. It was packed with emotions, with humans writhing and sweating over one another. It was thrilling and boring all at once as he squeezed through the fray of pressing bodies, wriggling between grinding couples and groups balancing drinks as they looked for tables. When the night air hit his face Kylo Ren breathed in deeply, gulping in lungfuls of the polluted air.

He had no knowledge of what country he was currently in, mostly because a deal was a deal and it did not matter what nationality made it.

How could something so trivial have rattled him? Had he become complacent playing house with a mortal? Had he let down his guard too much for her? That seemed like a foolish question. Of course he had. What sort of fool had he been to have revealed the most painful parts of himself to her? The scars of his life and the tales weaved onto his own flesh?

With a roar that was heard by no one as it bounced off the walls of the buildings about him, Kylo Ren threw himself back into a very known world.

It was jarring at first, the daylight streaming through the window, the sound of birds twittering in the blue of the sky. He reoriented himself quickly, searching for her, but he was thoroughly alone in the apartment.

The bed beside him was ruffled and smelled strongly of her. She had lain here many times since his departure, of that he was sure. Something within him tightened at the realisation and he growled more at himself than anything else.

There were more figures on the bookcase. The squirrel and dragon sat beside one another, in pride of place on the top shelf. She had been utilising this room often, then, in his absence, to have created such a small stockpile of new creatures. He did not study them for too long, unable to assign names to all of them. Instead he stepped out into the main living space and froze.

It crackled about him, faint yet there. The acrid stench still lingering, zinging static through his entire body. It was a signature he recognised, but the underlying strength had his hackles rising. He hooked a talon under the handle of one of the tea cups sitting on the table. It trembled in his grasp, swaying as it dangled from his finger. Fury shattered it.

Snoke.

It reeked of Snoke within this space. A feeling that had not changed in the eons since his departure.

Something close to hatred roiled through Kylo Ren as he turned a slow circle, taking in the space. The now solitary tea cup, the crooked chairs. The kettle sitting off its station, the open cupboard door. They were such small discrepancies, but Rey would not leave them out. She would clean them, put them in their rightful spot, just as she had placed the squirrel and the dragon after his disappearance.

The doorknob turned and the front door was pushed open.

With furious curiosity, Kylo Ren concealed himself at the sight of Unkar Plutt stepping into the realm of Rey. He seemed pleased with himself, gloating as he moved about her space, fingers running over her armchair, prodding at her books, fiddling with her plants. And then he placed his hand on her bedroom door and Kylo Ren lunged forward, pulling them both away.

***

It was peaceful here, under the shade of the huge trees, their branches filled with the chatter of bird and insects. It was the sort of place that Rey would like to be taken. Or would have been.

Kylo Ren turned his attention to the sweating mass of flesh connected to the end of his arm.

Unkar Plutt had turned a very pale shade of green, his eyes almost bugging from his skull. It was not something Kylo Ren found himself sympathising with.

‘Please!’ The grotesque excuse for a man spluttered all over Kylo Ren’s forearm. ‘I’ll make a deal, anything!’ With a disgusted curl of his lip, Kylo Ren looked disinterestedly away. He had pressed his mouth to many since his departure of the apartment, but somehow the concept of pressing his to Unkar Plutt’s seemed cheap and almost disrespectful to the woman he was seeking.

‘Where is she?’ He asked instead, curling the flat of his fingers into the bugs windpipe.

‘I don’t know!’ Unkar wheezed, face a mottled display of panic and colour.

‘You know what I am,’ Kylo Ren said, making sure to speak loudly and clearly. They were very much alone here, and he was sure that the bug’s head was roaring with the lack of oxygen and pulsing of blood. Oh but there would be blood everyone soon, of that he was positive. He could almost taste it on the air, and his teeth sharpened at the thought, his glamour failing with glorious results.

If Unkar has seemed terrified for his life in the hands of a human, he was almost dead at the sight of Kylo Ren in his true form. The human sagged, toes scraping the earth from where he was suspended, head lolling to the side. His breath was ragged, eyes glazed over.

‘You have seen this before,’ Kylo Ren jeered, shaking him violently so that Unkars head whipped back and forth in an ungainly way. ‘You are not new to this world. Where. Did. She. Go?’ He was growing rapidly tired from the lack of information. He had only asked twice, but that was two times too many, to be quite honest. He felt energy crackle through him, invigorating and static as it curled heat through the black of his arms and through the talons that now pricked beads of blood in the excessive fat rolls around the human’s throat.

‘No.’ The fleshy bug lied.

Kylo Ren released him, allowing Unkar Plutt to buckle under his own weight the instant his unready feet hit the uneven earth. He felt the panic, the fear, the pain, snippets flashing through the man’s head, coalescing into a ball of terror. It was … pleasing. And addictive. He hadn’t felt this sort of unrestrained fear of life in … well his time frames were muddled. He crouched beside the prone figure and dug a nail straight into the flesh of the mans arm, so deep that he sank down to the first knuckle of his pointer finger.

Unkar Plutt screamed.

‘Talk.’ Kylo Ren said pleasantly.

‘I let him in!’ The fat man babbled. ‘He owns the building, of course I let him in!’ Flesh rolled and squirmed beneath Kylo Ren’s finger, trying desperately to escape the sharp pressure pinning him down, causing blood to well and bead over sickly skin. The moving had sunk Kylo Ren down to the second knuckle. He wiggled it experimentally.

Unkar Plutt shrieked murder.

‘Please, stop! I’m talking!’ He begged pathetically, snot dripping down his face, mingling with spit and tears. ‘I was watching her for him! When she wasn’t scared off by you! But you were still in there! So Snoke came to investigate for himself! Of course he would, you’re his!’

‘I am not his.’ Kylo Ren snarled, refusing to be baited by this insect.

He felt a sudden lack of resistance and glanced down at his nail protruding through the fleshy forearm. He withdrew it quickly, watching the sudden gush of red. He dug all of them in next, sinking deep and gripping tight, watching flesh and muscle peel away until Unkar Plutt went lax under him, breathing shallow and panicked. Oh but he was a tasty thing right now, so pure in his agony, in his suffering. Kylo Ren was tempted to sink low and drink it all in … but no. He would not sully himself this way. He would not taint his essence with the likes of this man.

‘Your interest in her was not only for Snoke. I saw you in her home multiple times, the way you touched yourself with her possessions.’

‘Oh, like you didn’t?’ Unkar spat with surprising vigour. It was an attitude Kylo Ren did not like, so he dug deeper and pulled. Bone wrenched from tendon and Kylo Ren dangled the severed limb above Unkar Plutt’s head, allowing the blood to momentarily blind him, savouring the confusion, the dawning comprehension as the fat man tried to sit up, to look at what Kylo Ren had done to him, at the ragged stump. But he could not, his skin was a slimy sheen of sweat, pasty and green.

‘Talk,’ Kylo Ren prompted, exerting a little bit of energy to stem the bleeding. It would do no good to have the man die of blood loss before he had revealed all.

‘I don’t know!’ Plutt shrieked, beyond hysterical as Kylo Ren continued to dangle the severed arm above his head, the limp fingers slapping at the nose, the quivering chin, dripping muck into the open mouth of Unkar Plutt. ‘He came in, said not to be disturbed and never came down again! I don’t know! I checked later that night but the place was empty!’ His head was pressed back into the earth now, body arching as much as it could under its own weight as Kylo Ren rose from his crouch, tossing the offending limb aside.

‘You have been a blight,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘A pestilence to my human, and for that you must suffer. Your allegiance is towards yourself, and that simply will not stand. Your stain will no longer taint her or her home, do you understand?’

‘I do!’ Unkar begged and pleaded and screamed all at once, froth spilling from his lips, bloody from where his teeth had torn at the insides of his cheeks. ‘I’ll never go back there!’ He promised, and Kylo Ren could feel the honesty in the words, could smell the stench of urine as it soaked into the man’s pants. If he were a lesser demon, or perhaps more human, Kylo Ren would be satisfied with that.

He had the information he needed.

Rey was not within the human realm anymore. Snoke had taken her to another place. To Kylo Ren’s place, and so he too would have to follow.

But Kylo Ren was not a lesser demon, and although his time playing house with his Rey had been enjoyable, he was certainly not more human. He stood, looking down at the shivering flab of meat that called itself a man and tilted his head. Rey had … affected him, yes, but he would not allow anything to harm her, or interfere with her if he could help it. He had stood by for too long while this parasite had infested the happiness of her life. Kylo Ren lifted his body from the ground, allowing himself to hover above the miscreant, and he felt the glimmer of hope from the bug that this was over, that Unkar Plutt would be able to crawl away and live out his miserable life somewhere quite far away from all of this.

Kylo Ren smiled and began to remove Unkar Plutt of every joint, slowly, one at a time.

Chapter Text

Rey rubbed her arms as she paced the perimeter of her room. Around and around she circled, not stopping to admire the intricate carvings of the pillars, or the art that was blended into the wall, painted so finely, and in such similar shades that she had though the walls were plain until she’d walked closer to one. Around and around she went, her mind lapping her again and again as she raced to keep up with her own thoughts.

None of this was right.

Or real.

She was hallucinating.

The whole thing. She was hallucinating the whole thing.

But no, that wasn’t right either.

She was better than this slightly hysterical train of thought.

Rey had survived a demon living in her home, had beaten him in a strength of will and earned a relationship of mutual trust and respect. That was not a girl who fretted and paced endlessly and pined over something she couldn’t have! She shook her head and made herself stand still by one of the archways. She could neither walk through them or see through the murky haze. It was as if they were protected by murky glass that Hux seemed to melt through. He was absent for the moment, allowing her time to wallow in her own sorrow.

And it was sorrow. Mourning, even. She had no appetite, and sleep was becoming hard. She missed her bed, her home, her friends and that stupid idiot that had placed her in this situation in the first place. And she would fix this herself. Somehow. She had to. Kylo wasn’t coming to get her, so she’d have to beat them at their own game. They could terrorise her and question her all they liked but she wouldn’t give them anything. She had nothing to give. Especially not Snoke.

Oh, Luke could warn her all he liked, though he hadn’t been back since his first visit. He could talk until he was blue in the face, but he was also the man who had let his own family remain trapped within the walls of an apartment for decades. No, she would give them nothing. If Kylo had distrusted Professor Snoke, had actively kept Rey from helping track the man down in any way that could incriminate her more than their cohabitation already did, then that was good enough for her. And it had been protection. She could see that now. He had purposely stopped looking for the man who had trapped him so that Rey would not get caught up in all of this.

The anger burned hot and bright and she clenched her fists, glad the Professor wasn’t currently in the room, otherwise she’d be sorely tempted to break his nose. Or was it a shame that he wasn’t here, perhaps? No. Rey wasn’t violent. She was smart. She would be smart about this. She hadn’t survived her childhood.

‘Oh, Child.’ Rey’s feet left the floor, the soft voice gave her such a start. She clutched desperately at her chest, trying to claw oxygen back into her lungs as she turned and looked down at the small familiar frame of her librarian.

‘Not you too,’ she groaned despite her shortened breath.

‘Come for a walk with me.’ Maz said kindly, offering a hand.

Rey looked at the wrinkled limb for a long moment before finally relenting.

‘Are you a Sky Walker, too?’ She asked tiredly as surprisingly strong fingers wrapped about her palm. Maz looked owlishly up at her, big eyes reading her face like a book.

‘No,’ Maz said with a small smile and a shake of her head. ‘I am a librarian, dear. I’ve been at it for a while. My current job is in your realm, but I have lived many lives in this one as well.’

‘So you are a demon?’ Rey asked in confusion. Maz tugged on her hand, moving towards the archway barrier. Rey hesitated for only a moment, certain she was going to walk into that strange invisible wall. But Maz was insistent, pulling her forward with considerable strength for someone so small. She followed, tensing for the impact, but none came. She stepped through the grey mist and felt it roll around her, silken soft, before slipping away.

The world outside was blinding bright. A high noon sun almost burning out the silver glow of two crescent moons in different stages of waning.

The contrast made her stumble, sinking to her knees.

Hux turned to look at them, brows rising.

‘Wait,’ he said, almost alarmed as he moved from the balustrade he’d been peering over. ‘Wait, she cannot be out here.’

‘Well it appears she is, dear.’ Maz said pleasantly, patting the back of Rey’s hand absently.

‘I was not informed of your arrival.’

‘I was not expected,’ Maz replied, her free hand propped on her hip as she glared up at Hux. Rey watched them in silent bemusement, choosing to focus on the two knowns instead of the expanse of purple-blue above her, or the silver-green sea of leaves they were perched above. ‘Rest assured, soldier, I shall have her returned. I wish no ill will to your Master. I merely wish to enlighten the girl, which I’m sure you could not object to.’

Hux opened his mouth to object, before closing it, considering. An almost smile curled the right corner of his mouth, and then he moved back to where he had been resting. His silence seemed to be all the permission Maz needed as she began to pull at Rey again, forcing her up to her feet to continue walking or be dragged behind the demanding woman.

‘Don’t fear, dear. Hux is a stickler for the rules, but he appreciates a bend here and there where the rules go lax. Especially when in his favour.’

‘He doesn’t like Snoke.’ Rey mused allowed as Maz led her down a curving stairway cut into the stone of the mountain. Because they were on a mountain and when she glanced back at the archways it revealed to her an enormous castle, the kind that artists drew for high fantasy that could never have possibly existed simply due to the impossible amount of materials, craftsmanship, technology or defensibility.

‘A pact with a Master is usually short term. A decade or two at most. It is rare for one to be bound for a mortal life, especially one as formidable as Hux.’

‘He’s strong then?’ Rey asked, enjoying the slight burn in her thighs as they continued their descent, the stairway dipping from out in the open to back within the rock. The walls were covered in rich tapestries that Maz wouldn’t slow down to look at, illuminated by some invisibly source.

‘Of course he is. Snoke only collects the best. I’d wager Hux was a means to the true goal, but whatever that was, the loophole trapped him when it failed. It is sad, but demons are prone to boredom as much as humans. Hux is a very bored demon.’

‘Oh.’ Was all Rey said, falling silent as they continued down, down, down.

Finally Maz was pressing her hands to two large doors and pushing them easily outwards. Natural light poured in again and Rey blinked rapidly, desperate to get rid of the black spots dancing in her vision.

The world on ground level was so startlingly similar to home that it took Rey a moment to realign her thoughts to this being a place of other. And then a small dragon darted through the long grass and scampered up the gold-hewn bark of a silver-green leafed tree and Rey didn’t need to try too hard anymore.

‘This is weird.’ She said, unable to put the well of emotions within her into any other sort of sentence.

‘You’re handling it remarkably well,’ Maz said, releasing Rey’s hand and moving forward, leading the way. Rey followed on numb legs, body moving on autopilot as her head swivelled on her neck, trying to take it all in, make sense of everything. The dancing lights flitting through branches, the red rocks resting on the earth, the strange clicking calls that she could only assume were coming from the dragon-squirrels. This was where Kylo was from? This bright and colourful place so vibrant with life and nature and activity? Through the canopy Rey caught glimpses of the castle’s spires, of bright flags whipping in the breeze, too far up to make out the crests.

‘This is really weird,’ she muttered again, more to herself now. This was surreal. Real, but surreal. The ground under her feet was firm, was slightly soggy with some recent rain she’d been locked away from. The air was crisp, free of the pollutants she was so accustomed to, oil and gas and rubbish non-existent in this place. Instead she was surrounded by the smell of earth and plants, and the moth-ball scent of Maz as she plodded on determinedly.

‘I won’t make you walk back up the stairs,’ Maz informed her. ‘Heavens knows I won’t make it up there. These legs aren’t what they used to be.’ She didn’t elaborate on how that was going to be achieved. Was there an elevator? Did demons use elevators? Or was Maz going to set Rey free down here? Were demons all so friendly? Would they protect her, a human?

Rey opened her mouth to ask as much, but the treeline opened up into a small glade with a bubbling brook and a patchwork picnic rug spread in the middle, over the long grass. In the centre was a woven picnic basket, smelling of a hot BBQ chicken. Mouth watering, Rey allowed the old woman to guide her into a sitting position, and then watched as Maz proceeded to produce and serve fluffy bread rolls, dollops of mayonnaise, shredded chicken, stuffing, salads of beetroot and lettuce, coleslaw, and a thermos of hot green tea. She also glimpsed a cake, cookies and whipped cream in the bottom of the basket.

‘Are you my fairy godmother?’ Rey asked, not sure whether she was joking or not. At this stage anything could be possible, and she doubted she’d be anymore confused about it all than she already was.

‘Speak your mind, child, we’re safe here.’ Maz said, before counteracting her words by tapping the underside of Rey’s hand, urging her to eat as well. Rey quickly obliged with the latter, suddenly starving as she sank her teeth into the sandwich, almost groaning at just how normal it tasted. ‘I thought you’d like so homely food. I got it from the store around the corner from the library. They sell some marvellous cheese as well. I have some for later. I know you saw the cake though. This realm can make humans quite hungry, so don’t worry, there’ll be lots of room in that stomach of yours. Sometimes we forget that humans need to eat, and this place is just so taxing on you. I mean, you can’t blame Hux for it, really. He doesn’t need to eat, so it’s not something he’d naturally think of.’

‘I know,’ Rey mumbled around her food. ‘Kylo already told me.’

‘He did, did he?’ Maz asked with what seemed like a mixture of surprise and knowing. Her eyebrows lowered as she settled herself into the rug, small hands curled around a cup of steaming coffee that she’d produced from a second thermos, like some tiny little witch. Rey licked the juice and sauce from her fingers and found that she wasn’t remotely full, watching attentively as Maz set down her cup and fixed up a second plateful of food.

‘He said demons feed off emotions. But he never fed off me.’ Rey accepted the second plate with a muttered thanks as she tucked in again. Part of herself was mortified out how greedily she was digging in, but the rest of her was just so hungry.

‘Demon’s usually feed off their Master. It’s a convenient and reliable food source.’ Maz said matter-of-factly.

‘We just kind of … cooked, I guess.’ Rey said with a shrug, choosing to look down at her plate instead of watch the intrigued face of her librarian.

‘You … cooked?’

‘He’s better at it than I am.’

‘Kylo Ren … cooked for you?’ Maz repeated, her tone of voice neutral. Rey frowned as she played with a clump of chicken, shredding it between the nails of one hand. Was it so bizarre that someone would cook with her, for her? Wait, no, she chided herself. It was weird because they seemed to think Kylo was the biggest and baddest demon of them all and he’d been cooking for her.

‘Towards the end. In the beginning no … but he was bored, maybe? So he started cooking. He learnt to do the groceries, too.’

‘So you let him go out without you?’ That made Rey look up in confusion. Maz was peering over the frame of her glasses, coffee entirely forgotten on the rug beside her.

‘He could leave whenever he wanted to.’ Rey said, utterly lost. Why was this such a big deal? ‘And no, I didn’t bind him or whatever! He just stayed there, okay? He knew he was allowed to go whenever he wanted, but he stayed and learnt to cook and clean and do the groceries.’

‘That’s all so … so human …’ Maz mumbled to herself, and then grinned widely. ‘You are a very special girl.’ She accompanied the words by leaning forward and patting Rey’s hand, before whisking the plate away and piling it full of baked goods. Rey didn’t need to be asked twice as she gobbled down two chocolate cookies and sipped her tea around them.

‘So … not that I’m complaining,’ Rey said, ‘but why are you here?’

‘I had to see it for myself,’ Maz said with a smile. ‘I mean, I saw the mess Kylo Ren left of the man who attacked you. I felt it happen, of course, but to see you actually here, in our realm.’ She shook her head and smiled fondly, shuffling closer. ‘You’re a special girl to have such a demon looking after you.’

‘If he was looking after me I wouldn’t be here,’ Rey didn’t bother keeping the hurt and frustration from her voice. It was like gravel in her throat, rasping the words out into existence. Because it was true, wasn’t it? She’d shown him gratitude, happiness and … and something she didn’t want to look too closely into, something that was private and cherished and now smashed to smithereens. She’d expressed herself to the best of her ability and he’d left her. Left her alone without any explanation and she wasn’t going to go through this internal argument again!

‘I don’t know why he left!’ She said aloud, immediately horrified that the words had escaped her. She found no judgement on Maz’s face though, only a sort of intent interest, as though every word Rey had to say was important, meaningful … and somehow that made it okay. ‘Why did he just leave like that? He was there for months, Maz. Months! We lived together like … I told my friends he was my housemate, but it was like we were a couple! And I know that’s stupid, I know it, okay? He’s a demon. The horns, the claws, the tattoos and the scars and the eyes, I get all of it. He’s so big and he’s supposed to be terrifying-’

‘Supposed to be?’ Maz interjected softly, and Rey found the outpouring of bitter emotion stutter and dry up.

‘He isn’t though.’ She said, more confused than ever. ‘I mean, the way Luke and Snoke talk you’d think Kylo tore babies heads from their bodies or something … but he isn’t like that. Does anybody actually know him?’

‘You do.’ Maz said consolingly. Rey snorted, not really sure of that at all. If she knew him he wouldn’t have just vanished like that.

‘I’m not some stupid damsel in distress waiting for him to rescue me, you know.’ She said gruffly, crossing her arms over her chest and hunching in on herself.

Maz didn’t pat her or touch her this time, the small woman began to pack up the picnic things, before pulling out some dips, crackers and cheeses. And for the first time, she began to nibble at them, pouring them both another hot drink while she was at it, a silent encouragement that they weren’t leaving yet, that Rey could keep talking.

‘I just don’t know what to do. How do I go home from here? Make a deal with a demon? I don’t know how to do that, but apparently that’s why I’m here? Is everyone telling me how ferocious Kylo supposedly is so that I’ll break this imaginary tie with him? Is that Professor Snoke’s goal? So I’ll be scared and back down, and then Snoke can take control like he wanted in the first place?’

‘You’re a very smart girl,’ Maz said, peeling off the lid to a pumpkin dip. ‘I’d warrant you’d be about right to that, not that I really know what Snoke intends with someone of Kylo Ren’s strength.’

‘Maz,’ Rey wasn’t sure if she was imploring or begging now, ‘I didn’t make some deal with him. I didn’t, okay? I broke his seal by accident because Hux attacked us. I’m not some weird cultist, I don’t know how any of this works!’

‘Some bonds don’t need sacrifices of incantations, dear.’ Maz said with a knowing smile. ‘Sometimes they run much more silent, much deeper than that.’

They lapsed into silence then as Rey mulled over the words, trying to figure out what the tiny librarian-demon meant. She tilted her head back and watched the wisps of clouds scud across the strangely-hued sky. She could see both moons from where she sat, swollen despite being half eaten in shadow, half blinded by a sun that seemed bigger and brighter than the one at home. Yet it wasn’t as warm, the rays a gentle caress that barely took the chill out of the breeze that curled through the golden trunks of the forest.

‘You.’ The sound of Hux jerked Rey violently back into the now. She sat up quickly, turning to find him standing in the tree line, a stark contrast to the calming greens of their environment.

‘Can we help you?’ Maz asked, beginning to put away the small amount of food that Rey hadn’t managed to eat yet.

‘He is back.’ Hux said. The air about him seemed to crackle, the light of him almost forming an extra layer of shadow, as though the colours of the world needed the barrier in order to coalesce and exist properly.

‘Snoke?’ Rey asked, rising to her feet. She had the urge to turn and run, almost overwhelming. She could do it. She could lose herself in the trees and then … and then what? Beg Maz to take her back? It was clear she had no intention of doing that, regardless of the outing or the food. Maz was going to leave her here, let Hux track her down and drag her kicking and screaming back to that prison-cell of a room.

‘I’ll be off then.’ Maz said. Her basket was packed and the blanket that had been under Rey’s feet was now folded on top. Rey opened her mouth, to ask Maz to stay? To beg Maz to take her home? ‘Just remember Rey, the stories they tell of your demon are true. But so are your stories. There is more than two sides to any tale. Be strong.’ And the glade was empty save for the fire-brand of Hux and Rey herself.

She blinked dumbly at the sudden lack of Maz.

‘He is furious.’ Hux stated, tone as clipped as ever, frown disapproving.

‘And now you’re in trouble?’ Rey snapped back, dusting her hands off on her pants before moving to the brook to wash the grease and crumbs out from under her nails and the creases of her palms. Hux moved closer to her, standing on the opposite pebbly side, his footsteps crunching over the rocks.

‘He was not agreeable to the unscheduled outing,’ Hux allowed. ‘I am to take you back.’

‘Immediately?’ Rey asked, glancing up at him. Hux did not answer, nor did he look at her, his lips twisting slightly. She tilted her head slightly. ‘Did he always have to be so precise?’ She asked.

That made Hux look at her. There was no emotion on his face, but she fancied she could feel the surprise radiating from him, and then something like a vicious delight. A small smile curved the features of his face, a predator at play with its prey.

‘I was instructed to find the girl and bring her back. I was not informed of a time frame,’ he allowed. ‘Of course, the longer it takes the more explosive his temper shall be, so I do suggest some haste with your bathing.’

Rey looked back down at the clear water, at the leaves trapped in the rocks beneath the surface, and smiled.

He wasn’t quite an ally, but Hux’s obedient defiance wasn’t something she could completely disregard. Hux certainly wasn’t disregarding her, either.

Chapter Text

It was silent and eerie as he felt the earth solidify under his feet. There was something unnerving in this realm, and it took him a moment to place why as everything came into glaring focus.

Twin moons hung bloated in the sky, the sun a shade on the horizon now. There were no stars, only a grey lunar stain against the endless black. It was one of the many things that the human world possessed that made it greater, supreme. As though his home realm was a pale shadow of what it should have been.

Kylo Ren flexed his fingers, tilting his head consideringly.

It was far too quiet. They should have felt his arrival. There should be others here to pay their deference, or to try and slaughter him where he stood. Instead there was nothing. No breeze, no chatter of the dragons, the nightly song of the birds, or even the low level hum of energy that he remembered so distinctly. But she had been here, that he could feel. A low tug from within, pulling him ever onwards, leading him towards her. Towards his human. It was only right that he find her, restore her to her proper position. It was only fair after her patience with him.

He stared up at the sky for a moment, puzzling out where the urge was taking him, and then he let it, sinking into the black and reemerging on a stone balcony that stung with memories, both sweet and bitter. Without allowing himself to dwell too long on what had been, Kylo Ren stepped through the archways and into the room that haunted his worst night terrors.

At the end of the bed was a dark stain, immovable from the stone. A dark shade that had been covered with rugs, but he knew it to still be there. He could smell it, could feel it. The part of him that was gone forever. The endless reminder that had forever conflicted, forever goaded and chided and made him question himself. A stain in the floor, surviving the magics thrown at it, the suds and brushes, the endless hours of scrubbing, of cursing by numerous people. Immovable, an unquestionable reality.

He tore his eyes away from the hidden reminder and instead looked at the bed, so innocuous, so plain and empty. And it smelt like her. It felt like her. She had been here, lain upon the covers, had dreamt nothing thoughts here. And yet here she was not. This entire realm was empty. Devoid of anything and everything except his mounting fury.

It was false.

All of it.

A promise of the nothing that awaited him?

Kylo Ren clenched and unclenched his fists, forcing himself to inhale deeply, to concentrate and cast out his feelings.

He was here to search, to seek and find her. To rescue her. Getting angry had already done no good, so he would not allow himself to be angry again. Not now, not yet. His jaw clenched, teeth gritting as he tried harder, reaching only the emptiness, so big and endless that it hurt his mind. It clawed and seared, screaming through him that he was alone, alone, alone.

Desert her and your world deserts you.

Only fitting.

Only what he deserved, still glutted by the masses he had swayed into foul deals all over the human world.

The anger was rushing through him, mounting by the passing second as he failed to sense even an insect, and just as he was about to crack, about to let it all fall apart he found it.

A split.

One small, paper-thin crack. A chink in the armour that exuded a foulness, a rottenness to it that curdled his gut and turned his blood to ice.

That was a sensation he recognised, one he knew all too well, and the hatred within him solidified into one solid lump in his chest.

It was a lie. Of course it was all a lie. Some elaborate trap designed to keep him wandering in circles, around and around, wasting time, distracting. Oh, but he was above that, stronger than that and he felt the savage grin split his face, felt the cold air against his teeth and heat began to flood through him.

One did not play games against Kylo Ren and expect to win. Not when there was something so precious being held.

Electricity crackled across his fingertips, reassuring in just how vibrant it felt now. It had been a long time since he had allowed himself this, a long time since he had been able to do this. And it felt good. Better than good. It was the sort of feeling that he drained from those mid-sexual release. The sort of feeling gleaned from drug-induced mortal highs or murder. It felt right.

Kylo Ren stood over the stain that was false. A perfect replica of a world that was somewhere else. A realm kept from him by Professor Snoke, the master of deceit. A demon would not think to create such a falsehood. Oh, demons could double-talk and convince a child to murder their mother, he had been party to much of that in his time, but never would a demon falsehood in favour of concealment. It was not in their way of things, not in their nature, regardless of strength. Things were talked out, discussed, fought over, but never hidden. That was a mortal thing, and there was only one mortal intent on concealing him from something.

With manic glee Kylo Ren exploded.

The endorphin rush ripped laughter from his throat as he searched every single room, reducing it from existence as soon as he was satisfied that it was empty. It did not take long, he knew every room was deserted, and soon the castle was no more, a gaping black hole against a gaping black sky.

With the twitch of a finger, Kylo Ren ripped the false realm into non-existence, shredding it apart with little effort, watching the threads come undone at the seams. Colours melded and blurred, toppling into piles of matter, piles of sludge and then simply nothing.

Because there was nothing.

There had been nothing, and now there was nothing left.

Kylo Ren had seen to that.

And he would see to more.

He could feel her still, tugging at him now that this blockage had been removed. He could feel her deep within him, a homing beacon forever summoning. She wasn’t calling to him. It was nothing so simple as that. But it was something else, some strange connection that had not existed in her home, or in her world. He could feel it now though, stronger than before, infinitesimally so, and he wondered how many realms he would need to obliterate in order for it to glare blindingly and lead him true.

So he took the next step and smashed through the barriers of the next realm, barely conscious of doing so as his anger mounted. Anger at still feeling, at being unable to reach her, at the emptiness of what was supposed to be his home. But none of it was real, and though she was getting stronger, though he could feel the essence of her more clearly, the tinge of fear, the swell of defiance, of purity and anger, he was getting no closer.

He skipped realms again and again and again. Fake, fake, fake. Again and again, and still nothing and no one and his fury mounted until all he could see was red, all he could taste was black and his body vibrated with all of it. That euphoric hum of his frenzy sparking with every movement until he was sure that no realm would be able to stand in his way. Not now, not ever, and he would find her.

Chapter Text

Rey started awake, jerking upright with a sharp gasp.

‘Hux!’ She called out, panicked at the flood of light, and the change in the firmness of the mattress, the coarseness of the sheets. The world continued to flood her senses as reality came crashing back before she could call for her guard again.

‘Kylo?’ She asked instead, pushing herself out of her bed so that she stood in her room. The drawers were still how she left them, half open with a stack of washing folded on top, the wardrobe door parted a crack. Her plants on the sill looked a little thirsty, but they wouldn’t mind waiting another few minutes.

She yanked the door open and stared into her apartment, at her chair, her table, into her kitchen. Sunlight splayed through her safe haven, reflecting off dust motes and imbuing everything with a fuzzy gold halo.

‘Kylo?’ She called again, voice soft, too scared to enjoy the sanctitude of her home. Because she was home. She had to be home. And the only person who could have done that was Kylo. Had he saved her?

A noise from the studio … Kylo’s room … drew her full attention.

‘Kylo?’ She asked, louder this time as she began to move, feet stepping across the room of their own accord. She pushed against the door, heart in her throat, breath ragged as anxiety and excitement vied for pride of place. He was here. He was standing in the room, waiting for her, all demon fury and humble apology. She was opening the door and he would be there, and she didn’t know what she was going to do. Rage, yell? Throw herself at him? Kiss him and scare him off again? She shoved open the door and her mouth fell open.

‘Awake finally, I see.’ Hux said from his spot in front of the windows. His arms were folded across his robed chest, a jagged knife dangling from a clawed hand. Blood pattered against the floorboard, kept carefully away from his person.

‘Where’s Kylo?’ Rey demanded, only to be again distracted from her mission. This time by a moan from the wall beside her. Rey stepped into the room fully and felt her heart fall from her chest and shatter against her feet.

‘No.’ The word escaped her, a ghost of her own voice.

‘Oh, yes.’ Hux said, voice utterly devoid of inflection or emotion. ‘Orders. Do you feel enlightened yet?’

Rey didn’t answer, unable to as she stumbled, hands outstretched towards Finn. He was strung up against the wall, stretched into a spread eagle, metal chains pulling him taut and linked to pegs driven through the wall that had held Kylo’s seals. His face was a mass of swelling and bruises, blood dried against his eyelids, his mouth and nose, his ears. His torso, though, was bare and welling with fresh red, dribbling from ragged cuts along his collarbone, down his arms, curling over his chest and stomach. Some were deep enough to see muscle.

Bile caught in her throat, and she swallowed thickly, refusing to give Hux the satisfaction of that weakness.

‘Finn?’ She pressed a hand to his hip, feeling the heat of him through her palm. He stirred, eyes cracking open as a groan rumbled out of him.

‘Rey,’ he coughed. ‘Rey, please … why?’ And then his head lolled forward, unconsciousness seizing him.

‘What a shame.’ Hux said from behind her as the front door slammed open.

‘I’ve had a report of a water leak down stairs. Rusty water dripping through the ceiling!’ Heavy footsteps moved towards them, vibrating into her body as she dragged her gaze away from poor Finn’s face to look at Unkar as he burst through the doorway, his face red and sweaty. ‘You get a plastic mat to stop that mess!’ He snarled to Hux, before a delighted smile spread across his face. ‘I didn’t know you were back!’ His steps were lighter as he sauntered up to her. ‘Your friend and I came to an agreement about this place for the next few weeks. I ignore the going ons and I get to have some fun.’

Rey struggled to find any words to say. They were stuck in her chest, tumbling uselessly about her brain as internally she screamed desperately for help, for herself and Finn.

‘Do you know what sort of fun I’m allowed to have?’ Unkar Plutt asked as he cupped her face with one clammy hand.

Rey squeezed her eyes shut and wished she could disappear.

***

‘So, girl, will you tell me now?’ Rey lay on the floor of the living room, not feeling like much of anything. Her body hurt. Not one part of her wasn’t aching in some way. Even her breath hurt, as she panted pathetically. Unkar adjusted his clothing and settled down into the dining chair he’d pulled out from the table. It groaned under his weight, struggling to find equilibrium.

‘I don’t have anything to tell!’ The snark was drawn out of her like a reflex. She pressed her face to the cool boards and slowly pulled herself into a fetal position.

‘Girl,’ he said warningly, and she flinched despite herself. The flinch sparked her ire and she felt the flicker of resentment and anger begin to fill her, inflating her leaden limbs. Bit by bit she came slowly into herself again, dragging her emotions back, her thoughts, refusing to dwell on the hard hits, the low kicks. Instead she found her hands and knees, uncaring of how submissive she looked to him, how in range of him she was.

She was not some weak-willed damsel waiting for her hero to return! There was only her. Finn needed her help. She had to help.

How long had she even been here now? The room was darker, the outside world dimmer, but she had no concept of whether it was even the same day.

‘Get out of my house.’ She hissed.

The back hand was quick, though not unexpected. The fistful of hair was, though, as he yanked her closer.

‘I can think of a few things to use that pretty mouth of yours for.’ He sneered, pressing his thumb to her lower lip, prying her mouth open though she clenched her jaw as tightly as possible. ‘You get up to any nasty business with those teeth and your friend in there will meet his end very quickly and violently. I believe the demon is merely toying right now.’

She felt the tears well up in her eyes as her body went utterly slack in his clammy grip. He wasn’t serious. This wasn’t actually … but he was tugging her forward, his free hand moving to his belt.

‘Remember your friend, girl.’ He said, feeling her begin to tense, beginning to pull back.

And he was right.

Sickeningly, disgustingly right.

This wasn’t about her.

Right now this wasn’t even about Kylo.

This was about keeping Finn alive, and if this was all he wanted, then she could do it. She could do this, and she could save Finn. It would be okay.

Rey would make this okay.

***

It was not okay.

It was in no way okay.

She could not do this.

She couldn’t even breathe.

She curled in on herself as much as she could, trying to protect her broken arm.

‘Finn,’ she sobbed his name helplessly. It was her mantra, her only coping mechanism, and even that was failing us he hung unconscious above her.

His blood pattered against her skin, mingling with her own.

Hux looked down on her with something akin to disgust.

‘Well?’ Unkar prompted from Kylo’s bed, his massive, mostly undressed frame sprawled across it. Rey couldn’t even look at him. The sound of his voice churned the emptiness in her gut. There was nothing left to expel, not even bile.

‘Yes?’ Hux said when Unkar failed to elaborate. He hadn’t taken his eyes off Rey, as if trying to convey something to her with his impassivity. Instead she turned her face up to Finn, trying to pretend the deep grooves in his flesh weren’t there, that the chains hadn’t been replaced with metal pins through his hands and feet and shoulders, as though he were Christ, though the punishment he received was for Rey’s sins and Rey’s mistakes, not his.

‘Ask her now.’ Plutt said, ego-bloated and oozing self-confidence.

Hux did not ask, but Rey answered all the same. Her voice was sandpaper in her throat, scraping raw into the air, soft and pathetic.

‘I don’t know.’ She whispered.

I don’t know, Finn. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. Finn. Believe me. I don’t know. I’d tell them if I knew, for you, in a heartbeat, but I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know and they won’t believe me.

Because they wouldn’t.

She’d told the truth from the beginning of this. What was her secret? She had none except that a demon was obsessed with her. One not here. One that had to save her. Because she couldn’t do this herself. Her entire body ached and throbbed in places that Unkar Plutt should never have been privy to. Her ribs ground together and her arm throbbed with every stuttered beat of her heart. Her hair was matted blood, stuck to her forehead, her neck. She was not the girl she’d been when she’d woken up.

She was not that girl.

And she possibly couldn’t ever be that girl again.

Could she?

For Finn.

Could she?

For Kylo.

Could she?

For herself.

Hux was still staring at her, as though he could hear her thoughts.

The dagger slithered from his clean hands and clattered to the floor. It was replaced with something bigger, and far more sinister.

‘Rey?’ Finn gurgled, voice wet and thick, slowly coming to with pained, uncomprehending sounds. A small animal trapped in a hunter's snare.

‘Finn?’ She gasped, but she couldn’t take her eyes off Hux, as though he’d trapped her with his gaze. Fire burned hot in her mind, scouring through her as the blade was lifted, the edges jagged and twisting in differing directions. This was not meant for anything clean.

‘Rey.’ A cough, a whimper. ‘Where am I?’

‘It’ll be okay, Finn,’ she lied. She was lying through her bloody teeth. Lying with as much conviction as she could muster. ‘It’s all okay,’ she said as Hux lunged forward and the blade carved through meat and bone and flesh. It glowed gold and red and black in his hand, and seemed to illuminate the room, using Finn as it’s source.

As his heart burst, her heart broke and the entire world seemed to shrink in on her. A physical sensation that had Hux’s eyes widening in surprise. It felt as though everything was being drawn to her, the very air compressing about her body as she was finally able to look away from the fire demon. As she trailed the length of the savage blade, to where it embedded itself in Finn’s chest. Where blood dribbled and pooled on his torso, on the metal of the sword, running crimson rivulets to the stained floor. Up to Finn’s lax face, lips parted, utterly still. Utterly dead.

Because of her.

The world exploded.

It was an eruption of everything. Of the air being pushed back, of elements being ripped apart, of light chasing dark chasing nothing. Around her walls and trees and lives fell. She as the epicenter, the detonation, a living weapon curled in the void as her entire reality seemed to vanish from existence.

In the dark, tears did not come, only confusion and horror as she stared at where Finn had been. Only now there was a complete and utter nothing. An extreme lack of anything.

And then there was Kylo Ren.

‘How-’ he said, body shimmering and refracting, as though he were standing on the other side of a warped windowpane. ‘How did you do- there were so many others and they are-’ but his words trailed off as he stared at her.

She stared back, body wracked with shivers, teeth chattering, although the involuntary movements caused her intense pain. She couldn’t move, and didn’t know if she even wanted to. But Kylo seemed content to move for both of them. His arm rose, palm splayed out towards her. Without seemingly doing anything the darkness exploded into crystalline shards that sparkled silver into a remarkable lack of nothing. More nothing, but deeper this time, darker, tugging at her soul and her thoughts and at a lump in her chest that hadn’t been there before. Something that stirred and murmured and seemed to sing in the absence of everything.

‘Rey.’ Kylo said, and he was utterly whole now, and complete. He stood before her, and then crouched, talons somehow inkier than their environment. He held her gaze as he cupped her cheek.

She expected a burst of pain, a throb, something other than the hum of warmth, of comfort.

She stared up at him, useless and alone and terrified.

‘What did you do?’ She found her voice.

Kylo’s brow furrowed, and his astonishment turned to something awful that should have terrified her. Rage seethed around him, visible in waves of black and red and purple, shadows of it flicking white-hot embers about them. He bared his jagged teeth viciously, lips drawn back, horns glowing brightly as he seemed to struggle with the anger now burning him. His breath was short and laboured, his muscles straining against themselves.

‘Kylo?’ She asked nervously, unable to escape him. There was no where to go, and she didn’t think she could move. Unkar had been … violent. He had done things to her, things with a knife from his pocket, with his own fingers and teeth and his own disgusting self.

The shadows were fleeing from him, and so was light. Their lack of reality seemed to tremble and collapse about them as Kylo battled himself, as he crouched over her, his hand still a caress on her cheek, his body warming hers as line by line his tattoos flared into startling red light. With each trail his breathing became more strained, his eyes squeezing shut.

The talons bit into her cheek as he convulsed above her. His voice a rabid howl, ripped from the very being of him.

Fear began to grow within her, uncertainty blooming as that strange lump in her heart seemed to be at peace with whatever was tearing her demon apart. Panic spiked adrenaline through her as he almost collapsed above her, before arching back, chest thrust forward, a sheen of sweat erupting over him.

And then he was silent and still.

A hulking, abruptly dark shadow above her.

‘Kylo?’ She whispered tentatively, unsure of what to do. Before she could even think about touching him, he lunged.

His mouth was hot on hers, his tongue wet and thick and demanding. His teeth were sharp and the claws on her face dug deep. Deep enough to draw blood, but there was no pain. Her jarred teeth no longer shot fire into her gums. Her jaw no longer throbbed. His other hand dropped to her chest, and her breathing came easier, her lungs no longer compressed.

Healing.

He was healing her as he tried to devour her, and she was helpless to stop him, caught in his arms, weak and defenseless.

She shouldn’t want this. Especially not after … but he was chasing away all the poison of Unkar Plutt, replacing the taste of evil with Kylo’s own brand. And something like arousal bloomed in her belly and sunk lower into places that were agony and unusable now. Places that his hands dipped to, talons pressing and prodding and caressing and stroking.

Rey groaned into his mouth, and she let her head fall back as he attacked her neck with his lips and teeth. He was fire and rage and certainty as he stoked her, making her feel things she shouldn’t be able to feel.

What about Finn?

Kylo’s finger slipped into her, now that she was whole and healed, and she clung tight to his shoulders, hips bucking.

Nothing about Finn.

It was unimportant. It didn’t matter. Couldn’t matter as Kylo found his feet, with her in his arms, as though she weighed nothing.

Although she had already been naked, now so was he, and the feel of his skin against hers was scorching hot. Electricity and desire rippled through every nerve in her body. She felt no shame in her desire now smeared between her thighs, as his finger found her again and she groaned loudly into the absence of anything else, her legs locked about his waist.

‘You are mine.’ He growled into her throat, before biting deep. Something bigger and thicker and hotter replaced his finger, pressing against her entrance. ‘And I am yours.’ She wasn’t sure he was even speaking as the vibrations rumbled through her chest. All she wanted was him in her, to chase out the last of the shadows, the last of what had happened, to vanquish the evil spirits that had held her captive.

‘Save me,’ she whispered, digging her fingers into the tangle of his hair, breathing her words into the black tresses. ‘Save me.’ She began her new mantra as he thrust in, whole and unprepared. The shock of it made her scream, the pleasure curling her toes and turning her vision to static. His hands on her arse held her firm as he began to rock her in hard, fast thrusts.

He grunted savage and vile things into her ear. Things she didn’t understand, and understood all too well. He claimed her and repossessed her and hurt her in ways Unkar could never hope to. He tore her apart and made her new again, driving in and out with a speed that should have shocked her. But she only wanted more. She needed more. The fierceness, the possessiveness. She needed it all. She needed him. All of him. As he was, as he could be, as he had been. And as she came apart once, twice, however many times, she had no concept of anything of the sort anymore, she felt the feather soft brush of him about her, surrounding her, cocooning her. It smelt of ozone, of lightning before the storm.

It smelt of Kylo Ren. For he had fixed her and made her whole.

And she had done the same to him.

Chapter Text

‘Where are we?’ She felt as though her heart was going to explode, it was thundering so rapidly between her ribs. She could feel it pulsing in her throat, in her skull, behind her eyes. There was snow outside, but it was summer at home so that was impossible. It was impossible unless this was all still a trap and she was still there. Was Kylo even here?

‘We are safe.’ Kylo said, pulling a thick blanket out of a wooden trunk. It was a small cabin, lit only by the fire roaring in the hearth. She knew it was pretty and idyllic, but it barely registered. Safe. Safe? ‘On Earth.’ He added, as though sensing the spike of fear that almost stopped her heart.

She snatched the blanket from him before he could touch her, edging away to the window to look outside.

‘I want to go home.’ She said, wrapping herself in the soft warmth, the smell of mothballs surrounding her.

‘I did not think that … wise … considering what you have experienced.’

Rey fell silent at that, mulling it over.

He was right, she supposed. She had been abducted from there. Home wasn’t the safe place she remembered.

‘What happened Kylo?’ She asked, not looking at him, her voice steely with her resolve to get the truth from him, to finally have some answers. Remnants of him still stained her thighs, and as her thoughts turned to it she was filled with a fuzzy sense of warmth.

The strange lump in her chest thrummed in annoyance at the sensation.

It seemed to have followed her back home, this new other that resided within her. She pressed between her breasts, over the place where she imagined this new part to be. She could feel nothing unsual, only the slowing beat of her heart.

‘It was Professor Snoke.’ He said simply.

‘I know that,’ she snapped, not at all sorry as he flinched at the tone of her words. Let him feel nervous about her. Let him be worried and concerned and all those other things. He left. He left her and then Snoke had come and taken her away to a place that shouldn’t even exist.

‘He took you to my Realms.’

‘Kylo!’ Rey finally turned to look at him. Looking up at the dark locks and red horns, at the black arms and talons and pale skin. His tattoos were gone but his scars still trawled across his flesh. He wore pants, at least, saving her from having to see anymore. She didn’t want to see anymore. She’d already felt enough. The warm fuzzy feeling began again at the idea. And so did the agitated buzz of her new part.

‘Rey.’ He said simply, though his expression was guarded, eyes cautious. His shoulders were curled forward as he hunched in on himself.

‘What is this?’ She said, letting out her fear and anger in her words. She deserved it. God had she held her tongue. ‘I told the truth, you know? I told the truth the entire time and only Hux believed me. HuxHuman people Kylo. Hux tried to help me. And I called for you. Every. Day. Why didn’t you come? What were you doing? Were you bored of me? Is that why you left? Why?’ And she was crying now. Huge fat tears were rolling down her cheeks. She rubbed them furiously away, not wanting to show this type of weakness. Not after what she’d been through. Not after … not …

What had she been through?

Rey fell silent and stared at his collarbone, searching her thoughts. There was an enormous hole in her memory. From the point of waking up in her bed, which she could remember hazily, to clinging to Kylo as he gave her the roughest fuck she’d ever had. It made her warm and fuzzy just to think about it.

The other part grumbled.

The demon’s silence was deafening and damning.

She met his gaze straight on, fury upon fury building.

‘No,’ he said suddenly, fear flashing across his features, ‘Wai-’

‘No!’ She screamed, ‘you do not get to tell me no! I demand to know what you’ve done to me! Kylo Ren! What have you done to me? Why can’t I remember anything? Why did … WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME?!’ She didn’t hit him, but she was close. Never had she felt so defenseless and weak. At least that she could recall. Was she missing a day? A week? How had it gone from Kylo vanishing to them having sex? Had he erased half her life? Could he do that?

She looked about the room frantically, spotting a mirror by the bed. She rushed to it and studied herself closely. She didn’t seem any older. Perhaps a little malnourished and tired but …

‘I was merely trying to help.’ Kylo said from his spot against the wall, looking like a hunted creature, so pathetic and small.

‘You do not get to decide how to help me until you fix what you’ve broken.’ She hissed, glaring at him, fingers curled tightly about the mirror frame.

‘I do not wish to cause you further pain.’ He mumbled. Her demon was mumbling, sulking as he tried to avoid her wrath without actually fleeing again. Oh but part of her wanted him to flee, so that she could hate him. She was used to being abandoned, to being by herself. If he did it again at least she could console herself with the knowledge that she would survive. That she could do it all over again.

‘Give it back to me Kylo.’ She said it softly, lacing her words with as much anger as she could muster. It wasn’t hard to do. She was shaking with it, unable to release the emotions satisfactorily. What right did Kylo think he had? To take away part of herself, regardless of what it was?

‘I need to touch you. May I … may I touch you?’ He finally asked, hesitant, as though she may lash out and bite him.

Rey stalked towards him and held out her hand, palm up. She said nothing, merely waited as he tentatively unfurled his right arm, pointed talon extending cautiously to tap against her wrist.

It was an explosion inside of her, ripping horror upon horror through her. The world was screaming about her with the agony and the blood and the ripping of flesh and fluid and - it was her screaming. She was on her knees, head in her hands, rocking as she screamed herself hoarse. Screaming until she couldn’t scream.

But it was okay.

It was okay.

‘It is not okay.’ Kylo said, having moved away further from her, hunched in and tiny, an awkward mass of flesh quivering in the shadows. His horns caught the light of the fire and glimmered wickedly.

‘Finn is dead.’ She said the words and felt the void inside of her where her emotions were supposed to be. She knew this sensation. Knew it well, a childhood of neglect and trauma would do that to a soul. Never had she dreamt that she would find it again, that it would layer itself over her mind and suck away her passions. She could taste Unkar again, the swell of him in her mouth, the feel of his hands on her skin. She could see the dullness in Finn’s eyes, the twist of the blade in his chest. She could hear the grind of his bones, feel the crunch of her own. But it was all nothingness, really. It was all so … meaningless.

She had been bruised and battered before.

When she was five she hadn’t been able to walk for days.

She couldn’t recall how she came to be a temporary invalid, only that there had been intense pain and the same blankness in her thoughts.

Kylo scowled at her recollection, and she could feel a wave of power ripple out from him. It washed across her, static and strange.

That new part of her resonated with it, humming gleefully, no longer agitated.

‘Finn is dead because of me. Because I told the truth.’

‘Finn is not dead.’ Kylo Ren said, as though she could believe the word of a demon now, after everything.

‘Take me home then.’ She demanded, turning her gaze back to him, limbs heavy with remembrance, though they were whole again, though she was all here.

‘I do not believe that is wise.’ Kylo hedged. Rey turned her head to glare at him.

‘Kylo Ren,’ she said. ‘You will tell me everything, right now, or I will never speak to you again.’ It was a gamble. After what he’d done, she had no idea if he even cared enough, but the sudden paling of his face, and the shift in his posture told her everything she needed to know. It didn’t sit well with her, this sort of blackmail or bribery, or whatever it could be called, but how else was she supposed to convince Kylo? She’d spent months trying to learn anything from him. He was the master of sullen silence and misdirection.

‘I thought … when we kissed, that you had fooled me into a deal. I realised too late that this was not the case, that you were perhaps enacting a human desire to be … to … well, I enacted my part of it when I found you again.’

‘When you …’ her mouth actually fell open in shock and surprise. ‘Kylo … kissing doesn’t mean sex.’ It was like she was living with a toddler. The logical jumps were off my so much, just out of line with reality. She shook her head, suddenly bemused. ‘I kissed you because I liked you, Kylo, because I was happy and grateful. Because I wanted you to feel as good as I did.’

‘Oh.’ He said, looking just as dumbfounded as she felt.

‘You had sex with me because you thought that’s what I wanted?’

‘A man in the toilet suggested that I have sex with him after we kissed.’ Kylo said, as if that didn’t raise more even questions. Rey couldn’t even formulate how to approach that little gem of wisdom.

‘Why do I feel so … warm whenever I think about it?’ She asked instead, her chest tightening and grumbling with their discussion. ‘I feel strange.’ She watched his shock turn into bashfulness and then embarrassment. He’d done something.

‘I wanted you to feel calm, especially after what you had witnessed.’

‘Get rid of it.’ She ordered, holding out her hand. He tapped her wrist once more, and the fuzziness dissipated like mist in the sun. ‘And the rest?’ She prompted when he continued to stare at her. She pulled the blanket tighter around herself and shifted position, sitting cross-legged on the rug. The fire was warm against her left side, relaxing her somewhat as she talked to the brooding demon on the floor across from her.

‘I returned once I realised the errors of my ways, but Professor Snoke is a master of false realities. His creations took a long time to navigate and obliterate.’

‘How hard is it to break through fake worlds?’ She asked, past curious and part dismissive all at once. It was hard to wrap her mind around the fact that magic was real, despite having lived with this ghost/demon for months now. Perhaps because she’d never had to properly dwell on the logistics of it. It was better not knowing and simply accepting, until that had been cruelly ripped away from her.

‘False realities become real once they are created,’ Kylo said, tone almost scolding. He was relaxing as well, spine straightening and shoulders rolling back as the conversed. ‘They were too young to have been inhabited, but they truly existed, which makes them harder to pull apart. The seams are firmer, and the deeper I got the older they were.’ Some small, thoughtless lifeforms had begun to dwell in those outside of yours. Lesser beings.’

‘And Finn?’ She asked, spitting the words out quickly to try and avoid thinking about why she was saying his name.

‘A figment. As was Unkar Plutt.’ Kylo replied confidently. ‘Only yourself and Hux were there. I felt him leave as you ripped the realm apart.’

‘Me?’ She didn’t miss the detail, despite the relief that Finn hadn’t been real. A small part of her still felt as though Kylo were lying, that she wouldn’t believe it until she could touch Finn, until she could wrap her arms around him and hold him close enough to breath him in. To be scraped with his stubble and his over-starched shirt.

‘Of course you. I had not reached you yet, and Hux was tasked with your keeping. He would not set you free unless ordered to do so.’ Kylo stared at her intently, golden eyes flickering in the light.

Silence stretched between them for a long moment.

Rey laughed.

It was a loud, abrupt sound that made the demon jump in surprise.

‘No,’ she said, clutching her stomach as she doubled over, pressing her forehead to the ground and savouring the happiness that flowed through her. It had been a long time since she had felt like this, felt like everything was okay with the world. ‘Thank you for finding me.’ She said, struggling to breath.

‘Why do you laugh? I am not lying. You did that.’

The thing in her chest expanded with pride.

The laughter died in her throat and she looked at him. Properly looked at him.

‘Where are your tattoos?’ She asked instead.

He looked down at his torso, and then back at her.

‘You took them.’ He said as if it were the most obvious thing. ‘You healed me when I healed you.’

Rey chuckled again, but it was a sick thing, full of agony and self-loathing at the things she refused to think of, that felt like ice in her memory, untouchable and distant.

‘I told you to tell me everything, Kylo.’ She said, pulling the blanket tight around her, as though it could protect her from the world.

‘I am.’ He was so earnest as he slid closer towards her, moving out from his position between the bed and the table and the wall. He brought himself close to her, so their knees touched and they sat in the open space of the middle of the room. Rey didn’t shy away this time, secretly glad for his added warmth. The snow chill seemed to be seeping through the walls, despite the efforts of the fire and the blanket.

‘Kylo,’ she said, but he didn’t let her continue. He was staring intently at her, and she felt compelled to look back.

‘There is a part of you. It is new, and bright. Very bright.’ He was looking into her eyes, through her eyes, into a part of her that she couldn’t reach. A part that was warm and glowing within her, coating her heart in a feeling of belonging and peace. ‘It is a part that I carry, but it is mine and that is yours. You are your own being, and you did for me what I could not.’

There was a rustle and the room grew dim.

‘Kylo-’ she said again, but this time was interrupted by a breeze.

‘You are stronger than you know,’ Kylo said as Rey leant back, wide-eyed to take him in. All of him. He did not allow it for long though, as he leant forward and pulled her close. ‘You need a teacher, Rey. Let me guide you, to allow you to find the calm that you want. Let me help you right this error of mine. I did not want you pulled into this conflict. Let me be your teacher.’

Rey could say nothing as he hugged her tight against him, her blanket slipping as she clutched at his chest, breathless and filled with wonder as the were cocooned in the glossy black of Kylo’s wings.

Chapter Text

She was screaming. Her legs thrashed and her arms flailed, causing the blankets to twist tightly about her sweat-drenched body.

Kylo Ren sat up and moved away from her, careful to stay clear of her unruly limbs.

He used the opportunity to stoke the fire, adding more logs to chase away the chill as he waited for her consciousness to return. Nothing good would come of her night terrors, but he did not want her disoriented and fearful of him if he was to awaken her from them. He could still visualise the moment of loathing that had filled her gaze, in this very room. It had dug ice shards into his very soul, blaming him for what he had done, or perhaps failed to do.

Finally a scream ended, mid-flight, caught in her throat as her eyes snapped open, tensed muscles hauling her into a seated position. Her chest rose and fell heavily, shoulders slumped forward, hair in disarray.

After what felt to be an eternity she finally looked up and saw him.

‘Kylo,’ she whispered, hoarse and sorrowful. He did not apologise for something he had not done, but he moved to her anyway. His inaction had caused this. His utter misunderstanding of some human habit had brought this upon her.

The bed sank under his weight.

She reeked of body odour, her skin glistening in the fire light as panicked eyes looked up at him. He found it wise, in this instance, to appear utterly human. Long, blunt fingers grasped hers and held on tightly. Her head bobbed up and down, though whether she was nodding to herself, or to him, he was not sure.

‘I don’t want you to change my moods again,’ she said softly. ‘I … no matter how bad. My head is my own, and I don’t want you to … to do anything.’

‘I understand.’ Kylo Ren agreed gently, wondering if a human kiss would make her feel better. If they were to express happiness, then would they not create happiness?

‘Even after what … in that place … I wish … it -’

‘My brethren can be cruel and callous,’ Kylo Ren said, scooting a bit closer, spreading his legs so that he could wrap about her without her needing to move. ‘But they always have cause, have a need for it. Some do it to feed, they develop a taste. Others have a skill that makes them highly employable. Hux is one of the later. Rey, a human did this to you. Not a demon, do you understand that?’ He needed her to understand it, to accept it into her being. His people were not callous and cruel. They could not be anything but themselves. And if they could only be what they were supposed to be, then so was he.

‘I understand,’ she said in a queer, flat tone that tugged at his chest. He wanted to envelop her in his arms, pull her to him so that he could soothe it all away. It was not fair that she had to process this on her own, deal with it all internally. He chose not to think on the protectiveness he felt for her, the fury with which he wanted to battle away her imagined and real terrors.

‘Your night terrors … they are … ‘ he trailed off, not quite knowing how to approach the delicate topic. ‘Your thoughts are loud now, when you are highly emotional. Your dreams are amplified, screaming in my skull.’

‘And that’s a problem for you?’ She tensed immediately, voice sharp and jaw setting in determination as she reared back, eyes alight with a level of rage he had never seen within her.

‘No,’ he said hastily, ‘I have seen far worse, but to creatures that mean nothing. With you … I only want to make you feel better. You understand? I took away the suffering so you would not have to live through it again and again in your thoughts. I increased the pleasantness of your recollections of after, to make it better.’ He watched her sag as he spoke, her forehead dropping until it thumped against his chest. He could feel the moisture of her fear, the trembling of her limbs, the warmth of her. Her rage had been so tangible, but now it was a diminished thing, retreating back to its hiding place, cowering beneath her exhaustion.

‘That may be so,’ she whispered, breath fanning across his bare skin, ‘but this is my battle, not yours.’

Kylo Ren fell silent at that.

He had nothing to say to her conviction. Was it truly her battle when he was the one to place her on the front line? If he had only managed to scare her away in the beginning. If he had only been able to keep his distance … but the loneliness …

‘You heard me when no one else could,’ he mumbled, gently running a hand up and down her back. She had completely soaked through her shirt and it tried to cling to both his hand and her skin with every pass. Kylo Ren pressed his lips to her hair and breathed deep the sleepy scent of her. The ebb of panic and fear was waning, exhaustion and contentment slowly taking hold again as he merely held her. ‘You were the first to speak to me in longer than I care to recall. Perhaps I was weak in allowing our acquaintance to develop. I should have allowed you unimpeded access, allowed your freedom. But you responded to my words, accepted my being in your dwelling. I was selfish.’ He admitted, feeling her limbs turn soft as she fell further into him. She was listening, he was positive of that, but her tiredness was dragging her quickly away. ‘You should never have been brought into my world, it was my error of judgement. For that I apologise sincerely to you.’

He nodded to himself, mimicking the gesture she had performed earlier, a useless, self-serving motion of self-agreement.

‘No one has cared about my existence for longer than I was trapped within those walls. Before I was summoned I had already been trapped in a wasteful life, utterly alone. And then you spoke to me. Rey, the girl who was not afraid.’

The woman in question was asleep now, her breaths even and deep.

Reflexively, Kylo Ren wrapped his arms around her, hugging her close.

He could feel it within her, vibrating pleasantly, resonating with him. That part that had caused her so much conflict upon their arrival back to her world. Rey had said nothing, but he could feel it warring and rejecting his efforts at keeping the peace of her emotions, alerting her to something being wrong, that something was impeding her autonomy. It’s strength had surprised him, but perhaps that had been narrow-minded.

She had been so surprised, so broken; tatters and shreds of a human. Reducing the falsities to a shower of cosmic dust, all but that last barrier that he had shattered. He had told her she had strength, but that had been an understatement. One by one he had gone, searching and breaking. She had ripped apart twelve in a singular burst of energy. And in the state she had been in? No he would not think of her blood, of her bruises and breaks. Those he had healed, had smoothed them away with his hands and praised the healed flesh with his mouth. And then, despite the impossibility of what had just transpired, she had unravelled centuries worth of binding. She had done what no other had been successful with.

Kylo Ren flexed his shoulder blades. Despite his human form, he could still feel the tug and pull of the strange yet familiar shift of muscles. He had severed them, had watched the blood drip down his arms and soak into his clothes, dribble to the floor, spatter over his boots. But he had never been able to regrow them.

All it took was her, her hands, her abandonment as he had flooded her mind with goodness, draining her of the trauma. He had felt her resist at first, had felt her questions and confusion, but he had selfishly driven them away to reciprocate, to prove that he was worthy of her, that he could be what she needed. And despite it all, in the throes of her ecstasy, she had ripped the blackened bandages from his very skin and poured in such a strength of light that he had never before known.

Kylo Ren carefully laid her out on the bed, adjusting her limbs so that she would be comfortable upon waking. After a moment’s hesitation he impressed upon her cleanliness and new clothes, watching as his magics took effect. And then he shifted her to the side he had been occupying, unsatisfied with the damp patch she had created, knowing it would only cause her discomfort.

Finally satisfied, he sat on the sullied side and watched the evenness of her inhalations and exhalations. Her face was flushed, muscles lax and at peace. It was … a strange sort of contentment that filled him as he studied her. And then a crease formed between her eyebrows, a slight puckering of her lips, a twitch of her shoulder. He could feel the build again, rapidly rising to a state of terror.

Kylo Ren leant forward and placed his lips to the crease and whispered words against her skin that had no power within them, but all the power in the world. Against him she relaxed, ebbing back into the nothingness of a dreamless sleep.

Satisfied, he lay along the length of her, pulling the blankets up so that she would not be chilled as he settled himself into watching over her for the remainder of the night.

***

It was the cold that dragged her out of blissful oblivion. It pinched at her covered skin and licked at her bones, rippling goosebumps and shivers up and down her skin.

‘How do you feel?’ Kylo asked. She jumped at the unexpected sound of his voice, quickly becoming aware that she was pressed into his side, his arm flung over her hip to keep her in place. For warmth, she realised quickly, as she moved away from him, only to quickly return to her spot. He had been the only thing keeping her warm. The building they were in seemed to be made of cardboard, for all the good the insulation and fire was doing to keep out the snow chill.

What a loaded question.

Rey closed her eyes for a moment, allowing herself to enjoy the press of his muscles against her, the barely contained strength curled so protectively around her.

‘How do I feel?’ She mused aloud. ‘I feel … Physically I feel fine.’ She finally decided. ‘I want to go home, Kylo. I need to see it.’

‘Okay.’ He said. It surprised her into looking up into his mellow, brown eyes.

‘That’s it?’ She asked, having expected to argue her point, to make him take her back somehow.

‘Of course.’ His irises flickered golden for a moment and she felt a burst of warmth rush through her from every inch of contact she had with him, as though he had somehow made himself hotter for her sake. ‘You made it clear that you are capable of emotionally handling yourself, and so if you deem it wise to return then we shall do just that.’

She held his gaze for a long moment. She wasn’t doing anything so silly as falling into their depths, or wondering if he would kiss her. Rey was mulling over something far more important.

‘You don’t like the cold either, do you?’ She finally decided. ‘That’s why you want to leave.’

Kylo was silent for an extraordinarily long time, not dropping eye contact.

Finally he sighed.

‘I shall take you back now,’ he said and the cabin vanished in an instant.

She was on her feet when the world shifted itself back into focus. On her feet and not in the clothes she went to sleep in. It was a thought she pushed quickly to the back of her mind, though. A thought that was shoved brutally away as her legs gave out beneath her.

It was all …

It was all the same.

Two cups … two cups of …

She was on her feet before Kylo could ask if she was okay, taking three long strides to pick up the mug, still full of tea. It was cold, icy, and curdled. With a shriek Rey heaved it overarm and watched it smash against the wall. Ceramic and liquid exploded, littering the ground with fine shards and thick globs of debris. She kicked over the chair, his chair, and kicked it hard, not caring about the ache in her foot.

It was all so clean and sterile. They way she’d left it after all the cleaning, after Kylo had left and she’d been alone and then … and then … she was in Kylo’s room, looking at the shelves with her sculptures. She looked at the squirrel, at the dragon, at the other creatures she had created. They were all so normal, so everyday and her. But the pull was too great and her eyes were sliding to the left, sliding to the wall where Finn had been, where Hux had stood, to the bed where he had reclined in his filth and satisfaction.

‘It really was all fake.’ She mumbled. She could feel Kylo standing behind her, and knew without looking that he was in full demonic form. She knew because that thing inside of her was humming to the tune of his energy, lapping it up eagerly.

‘No.’ Kylo said.

He didn’t need to elaborate. She knew what he meant. It had been all so brutally real. The tastes, smells, sensations … the sounds …

Kylo’s arms were strong around her, as he pulled her backwards out of the room. She didn’t resist, allowing him to overpower her, allowing his being to drown out everything else.

‘Where are your wings?’ She asked when he turned her around and forced her head up to look at him. He gifted her with a crooked smile, his hair falling into his face as he stooped slightly over her, his breath fanning across her cheeks.

‘They would not fit too well in this domain,’ he said, humour lacing his tone.

‘I suppose,’ she admitted, looking around what had once been her sanctuary.

‘Rey-’

‘Will he come back?’ She interrupted, looking back up at him as she slipped her arms around his torso, holding him close, needing to be close. Somehow he was the only safe, the only sane thing in her world right now.

‘I will not let him.’ Kylo said, and his eyes burned molten. ‘I will place protections and guard you. I will allow no more folly on my behalf to place you in any more danger.’

Rey heaved a sigh and pressed her face into his bare chest. He was so warm and real. His skin was soft over the hardness of his muscles, so smooth against her as she squeezed tight.

She heaved another sigh, enjoying the way her lungs expanded and contracted, how her body trembled with the effort. She pressed her lips to the spot over Kylo’s heart and kissed it lightly before stepping back.

He was watching her curiously, head tilted ever so slightly. Before he could ask her what that particular kiss meant, another thought popped into her head. It hit her so suddenly that she physically jumped and looked wildly about the apartment.

‘Finn!’ She exclaimed.

‘It was not him!’ Kylo rushed to say, but Rey ignored him, racing into her bedroom to find her phone. It was flat, of course, and she plugged it in quickly, desperate for it to charge enough to load. She jiggled from one foot to the other, impatient as Kylo hovered by her doorway, watching on nervously.

A squeal escaped her as the screen finally lit up and … there were three missed calls and one message. All from Chewie.

Rey frowned.

She’d been gone for weeks, surely? She checked the date and turned to stare at Kylo. He stared back, looking utterly perplexed by her behaviour.

‘It’s been two days.’ She said.

‘Okay.’ He replied.

‘It’s been two days, Kylo. I was gone for weeks.’

‘Oh, that. Time passes differently in the realms,’ he answere blithely, actually turning away from her to move into the kitchen. Rey stood in her doorway, watching him. Her fist tightened around the phone, and then relaxed.

It had only been two days.

She stared at the screen, at the messages, stuck in her own head. It was her boss worrying about her, making sure she was okay, that she was alive … because she’d only been gone for two days, so he was the only person who had noticed her absence …

She should call him. It was the right thing to do. He was a friend as well as her employer. She couldn’t just vanish like that and not tell him … something.

She pressed the screen and held the phone to her ear, chewing her bottom lip nervously as her mind raced with what to say.

She’d never missed work before. She was never sick, and everyone knew what she thought of holiday leave ...

She stared out her bedroom door, watching as Kylo made his third cup of tea, evidently enjoying being able to play with her kettle again, although she didn’t want a tea, and he seemed disinclined to have one himself. At the very least he was utterly ignoring her right now, seeing as she wanted to stay with her phone, in her room. Because apparently he had decided to now honour their agreement of him staying out of her space after he’d rescued her, mood altered her and screwed the ever living daylights out of her.

‘Chewie?’ She said as she heard the line connect.

‘Rey?’ Chewie’s gruff voice was music to her ears. ‘You okay?’ He sounded genuinely concerned and guilt twisted at her heart. Kylo glanced in her direction, before looking away again, making a show of pouring out the cups of tea into the sink and tossing the bags into the garbage.

What a waste, the brat.

‘Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry I … I think I had a bad fever. I kind of …’

‘Are you okay now?’ She could hear the machinery in the background, the clank of tools and the mumble of the other mechanics voices. It was all so familiar, so every day.

‘Yeah,’ she said, ashamed at having to lie to him. ‘My housemate looked after me, but he didn’t think about letting you know, and my phone ran out of battery.’

‘That’s alright, as long as you’re okay now. Mitaka’s been running shop for you. He’s really doing well, that kid.’ He sounded amused at the idea. ‘Take the next couple of days off. I want you in your best health.’

‘You don’t have to do that,’ Rey said immediately, clutching the phone to her ear. She was both grateful for the extra time, but desperate to get back to work, to being productive and owning her own life, at being herself again.

‘Nonsense. You never take sick days, anyway. You have so many stored up. Oh, that old bastard’s here for his car. I gotta go-’

‘All good.’ She said as he hung up on her, not waiting for her response.

Satisfied that at least that was done, albeit deceitfully, Rey looked at the next person she wanted to call. But she put down her phone and moved back into the main room. What was she even supposed to say?

‘Kylo,’ she said instead, lacing her voice with as much reprimand as she could muster.

She was going to take control of her life again and be no one's victim.

Not anymore.

This was one thing she could do. One thing she had always done.

Rey was no one's damsel in distress.

‘Stop wasting my tea.’

The tea bags fell from his hands and he turned to look at her a little guiltily, and she immediately felt like she was scolding a puppy. His big golden eyes stared dolefully at her, as though he had no idea what he was doing was wrong.

‘Are you sulking because I’m ignoring you?’ Rey wasn’t buying his act for a second as she crossed her arms over her stomach, arching a questioning eyebrow.

‘No.’ He scoffed, turning away to clean up his mess, as though he hadn’t been purposely trying to bait her. ‘Would you like a cup?’ He asked as an afterthought.

The sound of knocking on her door halted her response.

Fear knifed through her chest, crippling her with hyperventilating anxiety immediately.

Kylo studied the wooden door placidly, his being shimmering and shifting into the human variety. He glanced at Rey, and his expression was understanding and kind as he approached her, circling his arms around her. His breath was warm against her ear as he pressed his lips to them.

‘You want to open this. I am here to keep you safe, remember?’

But they were just words, weren’t they? What was he going to do? Wouldn’t Snoke just make him invisible again, lock him up inside a wall? Put him in a bucket this time and dump it in the ocean so Rey would never see him again? Was she just supposed to trust the unexpected knocking? Was it Unkar? But Kylo wouldn’t be so placid if it was her Landlord. Who else would be knocking? No one had called to be let in, and she didn’t know anyone else in the building …

‘Open it,’ Kylo said, having returned to his spot in the kitchen, where he had set out four mugs and placed tea bags in all of them.

Right.

Rey. Do this.

She could do this.

She could open up her front door.

It was a door.

That wasn’t scary.

She curled her shoulders back, stamping down hard on the panic that threatened to engulf her again. Threatened to swallow her whole. But she wasn’t going to do that. She’d just promised herself!

She did it before she could think about it. The lock was pulled and the door was thrown wide open.

‘Finn!’ She squealed, launching into him with a bear hug that had him slapping at her back for release.

‘What, no Poe?’ The other man in the hallway feigned offence. Rey held out one arm, refusing to let Finn go, as Poe happily joined the group hug.

‘Why are you here?’ Rey asked, trying not to cry as she made herself release them, release Finn as she let them into her home.

‘Decided to stop by,’ Poe said, blinking in surprise as Kylo thrust a cup of tea into his grasp. ‘Oh, thanks man!’ He said with a toothy smile.

‘We wanted to check up on you.’ Finn said, also thanking Kylo for the unexpected tea.

‘Me, why?’ Rey asked, turning away from them to hide her nervousness. She stopped in surprise when she realised there were four seats at her table. A surreptitious glance to her left revealed a clean wall and floor, too. She glanced back at Kylo who followed them quietly to the table, where he placed her mug and sat down on the offending chair.

‘About your landlord,’ Finn said, sitting down as well. He made sure to sit next to Kylo, and nudged the taller man in the arm for a better greeting. Kylo nodded uncertainly back, choosing to pick up his tea and nurse it with both hands.

‘Unkar?’ Rey asked, unable to suppress the shiver and the almost suffocating dread.

‘She doesn’t know!’ Poe said in amazement, dropping into a chair, sloshing his drink over the table. ‘How-’

‘I was sick for a couple of days!’ She said quickly, ‘a fever, really out of it. What about Unkar?’ Her words blurred together, but they seemed to forgive her, too excited and eager to share their news.

‘It was all over the TV!’ Finn said.

‘And the radio-’

‘The newspapers-’

‘Absolutely everywhere!’ Poe said, almost knocking his drink over entirely as he threw his hands out wide. FInn caught them and wrangled them back towards Poe's body, causing a small wrestling match that had them both giggling like school children.

‘Unkar?’ Rey pressed, smiling at their antics despite the tension in her entire being. It felt as though her very existence teetered on what they were about to say.

‘They found him, Rey,’ Poe said before Finn could, raising his voice as Finn tried to drown him out, wanting to be the one to tell her. ‘He was murdered!’ If they were expecting shock or horror or fear or something girlish like a squeal of disbelief, her best friends were horribly disappointed. Rey couldn’t have stopped the smile that spread across her face if she’d tried. And she didn’t try. She was a horrible person, feeling such elation … such … relief at someone’s death.

‘That’s awful.’ She said, as though her happiness was a natural reaction. Finn rolled his eyes dramatically.

‘You know he was an actual, certified perv?’ He leant forward conspiratorially, as though what he was about to tell her hadn’t been gleaned from the media circus, and that he was the sole holder of what she was about to hear. ‘He had police records, restraining orders. He used to film girls in primary school bathrooms, and swimming pool change rooms. That actually happened Rey! Was he … was he inappropriate with you?’

What a question. She wanted to laugh at it.

‘He was a bit weird,’ she said instead. ‘He used to come in here with all sorts of excuses about fixing things.’

‘He did not like when I moved in,’ Kylo spoke up abruptly in agreement.

‘Well, whatever happened, I’m glad that he can’t harass you, Rey. I felt absolutely awful. We’ve barely seen you, and you could have been-after all this time …’ Finn shook his head helplessly. She leant forward and rested her hands on Finn’s, clutching them tightly.

‘It’s okay, Finn.’ And strangely, it was. It sort of was okay.

It was freeing, knowing that he was gone. She hadn’t known how she was going to face him again, after what she’d been through.

Had it been her? From what Kylo said she’d done? But that wasn’t possible, because Kylo had also said that he was fake, that only her and Hux had been real there … what an insane coincidence.

Perhaps it was the Universe's way of rebalancing her life.

As Rey lay in bed that night, she let her mind turn lazily over the rest of their visit. Of their chinese extravaganza as they introduced Kylo to as many dishes as possible, of the rom-com movie Finn insisted was absolutely necessary they watch, and of the incessant heckling of the boys over her ex, Matt.

Last night she had been … she hadn’t been whole … and now she was lying under soft covers, with a bloated belly and filled with contentment.

‘You should rest,’ Kylo murmured into her neck, his hand rubbing soothing circles over her stomach. Once she’d finally allowed Finn to leave, Rey had been loathe to go to her bed, not wanting the horrors that lurked within the shadows there. And so here she was, tucking in Kylo’s arms, in his bed, staring at the wall that she had seen Finn murdered against.

‘Which was your favourite?’ She asked, refusing to let her mind dwell after the normality of her day, choosing instead to think of the happiness in Finn’s face as Poe had literally clambered over Rey and Kylo, where they all lay amongst pillows and blankets on the floor, watching the movie on Rey’s battered laptop, to cover him in kisses. They were so … innocent and in love. They had no idea the horrors she’d been through, or what she’d witnessed. They had no concept about what was out there, about what horrors lay hidden in plain view-

‘The spicy one,’ Kylo said, drawing her out of her thoughts again. ‘The szechuan beef, I think it was called.’

‘You like spicy food,’ she decided, making a mental note to have him try more, already trying to think of more, to think of anything other than what her mind kept drawing her back to.

‘I suppose I must,’ he agreed, pressing a kiss to her shoulder, her neck, the back of her head as he pulled her in even closer. He was hot, as were the blankets, and it most certainly was not cold, but Rey couldn’t find it in herself to care too much.

‘You do know what happens when you eat food, right?’ She asked into the growing, comfortable silence. Sleep was finally pulling her down into its unreliable embrace.

‘I have rediscovered this, yes.’ Kylo murmured, laughter in his voice. ‘Go to sleep.’ He said.

Rey complied, sighing as her breathing finally evened out, unable to see the golden gleam of Kylo’s eyes in the black room as he lay awake beside her, keeping watch over her dreams.

Chapter Text

It was as though nothing had ever happened.

Rey came home from work to dinner being cooked, her washing folded and a clean apartment. She came home to various metal creatures splayed across the kitchen counter and the floor. She came home to Kylo sprawled in her chair, gazing out the window as he waited for her to return to him.

Every day was a variation of the same, and every night they slept curled in his bed, taking solace in each others presence.

But it was all slightly off.

It was all the same.

But nothing could ever be the same again, could it?

Poe came over alone for dinner one night, and loudly declared that Rey could never let her housemate leave, he was far too good a cook.

Finn stopped by one Saturday and dragged them out for a walk in the park.

She met neighbour’s she’d never known existed, the hallways now filled with gossip and rumours. The police came by and disinterestedly asked her questions. Kylo was her alibi, and she was his. They lied smoothly, but the police were more interested in clocking off than figuring out who murdered a pervert.

It was all different and all the same.

Rey didn’t notice it at first, too determined to be blind to the horrors. She pretended she wasn’t having staring matches with the wall in Kylo’s room, that she didn’t stand and stare at the chair that had been Unkar’s favourite to perch on while she … that she didn’t put it in weird spots, trying not to see it, although there were no hiding places in her small home. When she did notice, she merely shrugged it off and returned to her normally scheduled life. She had books to read, sculptures to make, bathrooms to clean.

Her nightmares were still horrific, and sometimes they curled into her daydreams, latching on when she was elbow deep in an engine, or grinding rust off an old part. The grocery store would give her anxiety, and the brush of people against her made her heart thump wildly in her chest.

She was okay, though. There was nothing strange happening.

Rey was fairly certain Kylo had always stopped mid whatever he was in the process of, head tilted as though he were listening to something. That was ridiculous, because she could hear nothing, and he always looked at her as though she were crazy when she asked him about it. She was also mostly confident that he had always watched her so intensely, that he had physically followed her when she went to and from work.

There was nothing abnormal going on.

Life was just … a little off kilter … but it would return … it would go back and she would be okay, and Kylo would be his normal ridiculous self.

Nights were slowly given back to Rey, as Kylo relinquished his hold on her and Rey built her courage up to sleep by herself. She curled up into as small a ball as possible and pretended for everyone’s sakes that the terrors were gone. She made her own breakfast, and refused to let Kylo make her lunches.

When she read to him of an evening, she found she preferred it if he didn’t rest his head in her lap. He never used to, really, she argued with herself. He used to be invisible when she read to him a lot. He probably used to just hover and listen, so his touching her wasn’t necessary. Neither were his hugs when she was washing dishes or watering her plants.

In fact, Rey decided that she never really spent that much time at home before all of this started, anyway. She began working longer hours and taking more shifts from Chewie. Mitaka became her shadow at work, a silent, diligent helper. She overlooked his connection to her tormentor, and he made no comment of it. She dined out with Finn and Poe more, sleeping on their couch when she’d had a few too many. This was the life she used to live, going to movies, taking long walks through the park, staying in crowded shopping centres where everything was monitored by security. She’d always been adept at slipping through crowds without touching other people, at staying quiet and unnoticed. She always used to have late nights and run on little sleep. Rey had always been mostly exhausted. She’d just forgotten, was all.

‘Hi Maz,’ Rey said as she slumped against the librarian's desk. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been home, but she could remember the last time she’d seen the small, old woman.

‘Good to see you again,’ Maz said, adjusting her glasses with a smile. ‘I hadn’t expected to see you for quite some time.’

‘No thanks to you.’

‘Oh, hush child,’ Maz admonished good-naturedly, not really bothered by Rey’s gruffness. It almost made Rey feel bad for the flare of temper she’d felt at seeing the tiny demon. ‘You know that’s not how these things worked. Besides, you proved yourself a worthy adversary. Come, child. You look as though you need a cup of tea and a biscuit.’

Maz moved from her customary spot and led Rey through the familiar stacks. It all smelt of dust and leather and plastic, so pleasant and comforting as Maz gestured for Rey to take a seat on one of the comfy reading chairs.

Obliging, Rey soon found her hands filled with a beautiful china tea cup and a plate of chocolate biscuits that had certainly not been there before. She knew better than to bother asking, though, as Maz settled across from her with a matching cup.

‘Talk to me, dear,’ Maz said encouragingly.

‘I feel like I’m going insane.’ Rey said.

She stared down at her hands, at the tea and the cookie crumbs already dusting the saucer and her fingers. She swallowed thickly, suddenly not sure that she should even be here, talking to Maz. What if she was an enemy? But she couldn’t talk to Finn or Poe … and Kylo …

‘I can feel it in my chest, this constant drone. It gets louder around him, Maz. And around you, but not so much. I can feel it and I think he’s doing something to me. I asked him not to, but can I trust him? How do I get rid of him, but I need him to keep me safe. And I don’t want to get rid of him…’

‘You’re not insane, dear,’ Maz said, voice low and soothing. ‘Kylo Ren is powerful, so it’s only natural you react to him more strongly than you do to myself. It is not his doing, and I must admit that his self control is quite impressive, given his normal nature.’ The librarian took a sip, watching Rey shrewdly over the rim.

‘I feel wrong.’ Rey said, voice filled with defeat as she felt herself hunch inwards, weighed down by the past few weeks of uncertainty and fear. The very thought of returning home, to her apartment, filled her with dread. The thought of opening the door to see Kylo, to see the chair and the wall, to see the floor that had been stained red with her blood. It didn’t matter if it was all an illusion … it didn’t …

‘You’ve unearthed something unexpected, is all.’ Rey looked up at her, startled, having momentarily forgotten where she was.

‘I can’t talk to him about it … Maz, I just … and I’m not going to Luke,’ she couldn’t help the bitterness in her voice as she said the name. Regardless of how muddled she was, or how twisted her thoughts turned around the subject of Kylo, she still felt the hostile and protective of him. After what Luke had said, after what he’d done? No, Rey would not be going to him for help. She wouldn’t be asking anything of him, and she certainly regretted giving him flowers for helping her move furniture into her apartment when they’d first met.

‘Kylo Ren has always been his own worst enemy,’ Maz said airily, interrupting Rey’s thoughts. She seemed to spend a lot of the time stuck in her own head these days. ‘When he was a child, an adolescent, a young man. Now look at him. He is what he is. He does what he thinks is right and follows his own moral code.’ Maz gave her a pointed look that Rey didn’t quite understand. ‘He has always known things, dear. I know things, Luke knows things, but Kylo? He is a special breed, unique. Hard to tame but he would be worth the battle.’ Rey had the sudden impression that Maz was no longer talking about her.

Snoke, then? Was that why Snoke was after Kylo? Because Kylo was some prized stallion in the demon world?

There was a shadow over the older womans face, as though dark images were crowding her mind. There was no way Rey could even begin to fathom what Maz had seen and experienced in her lifetime. Rey had experienced more than enough in her own …

‘Information is a powerful weapon, but paired with the matching strength and power as well?’ Maz tutted and then peered over the edge of her glasses at Rey, gaze once again searching, seeing all. ‘Tell me, was it you or Kylo Ren who popped you out of that little bind?’

‘Rey.’

The tea cup clattered to the ground as Rey spun, stumbling to her feet, hands outstretched in front of her as panic rippled through her being.

‘Good afternoon Hux,’ Maz said pleasantly, taking another sip, as though Rey hadn’t just smashed the cup and spilt tea everywhere.

‘I must kindly ask you to desist your conversation, Maz,’ Hux said, stepping out from between the shelves. He was as golden as ever, fire rippling under his skin, chasing away the shadows in the room. ‘I have been given the odious order to ensure that Rey does not seek out other demons. Apparently she is to be kept with his high and mighty until my Master does whatever it is he plans to do.’ He accentuated his words with a vague wave of his hand, not even looking at them as he spoke, apparently more interested in the posters that adorned the far wall.

‘Why should I?’ Rey demanded as viciously as she could, clenching her fists to stop them from shaking. The thing inside her was arcing up, boiling away the fear that had startled her. It was beyond confusing, but Rey accepted the empowering energy, grateful that she could speak, that she could move in front of this demon who had tortured and murdered the imaginary version of her best friend, when her own front door gave her anxiety attacks.

Hux turned to study her, as if surprised that she’d even spoken. His gaze raked her up and down, before a small smile graced his features, cutting through his indifferent facade.

‘My, so I was correct.’ His eyes flickered to Maz, and then back to her. Rey had no idea what the look meant, or whether Maz had returned it, it had been too fast to follow, too full of unknown meaning. ‘Rey I must inform you that I have been given strict instructions to disembowel you should you fail to follow the warning. I find myself in the pitiful position of begging you to please heed me. I do not fancy myself being torn to shreds by your overzealous guard dog.’

‘But I want-’

‘It’s not about what you want,’ Hux said blithely, stepping closer until she was forced to look up at him, almost toe to toe. Although she should be terrified, Rey found herself determined to hold her ground, to not show fear to the fire-demon. That something in her was baring its sharpened teeth and making a stand. The flames that surrounded him lapped at her skin, surprisingly cool against her. ‘I have been given orders that I must follow. Please be a dear and listen. Maz, I trust you will help enforce this rule?’

‘I would detest seeing the poor thing gutted,’ Maz mumbled, more to herself than to Hux. ‘If this is the way of it?’

‘It is.’ He confirmed.

Rey shook her head.

‘What are you talking about?’ She demanded, fists clenched at her sides, teeth gritted in frustration.

‘This has all been said before. Now don’t move too much.’

‘Move-?’ Her words were caught in her throat as the over laden shelves of the library morphed into the overly familiar bedroom of Kylo. With a flash of golden fire and a palm against her stomach, Rey stumbled backwards and into a solid warmth.

‘Rey?’ Kylo blinked down at her, arms wrapping around her to stop her from falling over as she struggled to regain her balance.

‘Kylo?’ She twisted in his grip, looking up as she turned to face him properly, trying to rapidly blink away the bright dots in her vision. Had … she turned to look for Hux, but he was gone, probably hundreds of miles away from Kylo now.

By the time she turned back, Kylo’s entire expression had darkened, his entire presence menacing.

‘I can feel him on you,’ Kylo seethed, fingers digging painfully into her upper arms. Rey wrenched herself free and staggered backwards a couple of steps. He followed her, crowding her into the wall.

‘Who?’ Rey asked helplessly, unable to drop his golden gaze, suddenly hyper aware of the inkiness of his fingers as he reached out for her again.

‘Hux. You have been with Hux. He has touched you. I can …’ he didn’t touch her, not quite. His hand hovered over her, slipping down her arms, over her head, repeating the motion on the other side. She could almost feel his anger, a suffocating blanket that enveloped her as those clawed digits curled into a fist tight enough to bead blood against his skin. His chest rose and fell rapidly, lips pressed tightly together as he actually trembled with his suppressed anger.

‘Kylo, not on purpose! I promise!’ She was frightened, not for herself, well … that was a lie. She was terrified for herself, and terrified for what Kylo was about to do. He looked unhinged, horns pulsing light, his dark hair in disarray. She could see the shimmer of his wings, almost tangible as his anger fought his self-control. How had her day become like this? A heart-to-heart with the only person who could possibly help her understand to … to this? To Kylo having a meltdown in front of her, physically intimidating.

But when had she ever been scared of him?

The thought was a strange one, sobering as she blinked slowly.

Cog by cog, it felt as though her brain was slowly clicking into gear.

She had never been scared of Kylo, because he would never allow her to be scared of him. And right now he was not angry at her, he was being Kylo. The Kylo who was occasionally blind to human emotion, the Kylo who wanted to protect and save and keep her from harm. He wouldn’t be the harm.

‘Kylo,’ she said softly. She hesitated before splaying her palm against his chest, resting it above the heavy thud of his heart. ‘Kylo, Hux found me and brought me back so he wouldn’t have to kill me.’

‘Kill-?’ Kylo stammered, as though ripped from his own primal hate. He gaped down at her, dark brows knitting together in consternation.

‘He was ordered to by Snoke.’ She said and watched as the muscles in his neck and shoulders visibly relaxed.

It was strange how Kylo could accept Hux’s lack of independence as a valid excuse. But then, Kylo had run away from her because he thought she’d wanted to make a deal. It was becoming alarmingly clear just how powerful a deal with a demon actually was. In fact, she had no idea what would happen to a demon if they failed to comply with their Master. Would they be punished? They certainly wouldn’t be released from the bargain, or Hux would presumably have done it decades ago. So what was it that kept them in this state of servitude?

Rey sighed and leant her head back against the wall with a thud.

‘I am glad you are safe.’ Kylo finally said, stepping back and letting her hand fall down to her side, fingers slipping from his skin. Rey frowned up at him, at his obvious dismissal.

‘Thanks,’ she mumbled, leaving his room.

The door closed behind her, leaving her standing in her apartment, feeling utterly alone and adrift.

But it was okay.

She’d been alone before.

This was her space.

It was all the same. Maybe slightly different. But mostly the same.

Rey moved through the motions of dinner: a cold can of baked beans as she curled up in her chair and stared unseeing at the pages of a book. It wasn’t until her phone buzzed at 10:37pm that she realised she hadn’t even turned a light on. She’d simply been sitting in the dark for hours, unthinking, unseeing, almost comatose.

But it was okay.

She didn’t bother checking her phone as she went to bed.

Nor did she bother undressing.

She simply fell forward onto the mattress and let sleep sink its sharp claws into her flesh and drag her down into the depths. Hellish depths of fire and figures wreathed in flame, black wings and blood. Splitting flesh, searing agony and the sound of her scream ringing in her ears as she sat up, sweat drenched and panting.

Rey staggered out of her room, palms pressed to Kylo’s door before she truly registered what she was doing. She didn’t want to be alone. She couldn’t. Not with the things in her head, not with the monsters that stalked her in daylight hours. She was so scared and alone. But never alone. They were everywhere, the enemy, all around. At work, in her home, in the streets. She was forever being watched and followed. Nothing was okay, and nothing ever would be okay. This was her fault, it had to be. Why else would Kylo have pushed her away this afternoon?

The door opened easily and she should have been terrified by what she was seeing, but she wasn’t.

He was seated on the floor, a dark figure in a gloomy room. Though the rest of the room was dark, he was darker, as though the shadows were congealing about him, sticking to him and amplifying the utter nothingness of black. But it wasn’t this which dragged icy shivers through her nerves. It was his eyes, glowing and catlike, that pierced the night. They shone like hellish golden beacons, and they were focused on her, on where she stood in the doorway.

Uncaring, Rey padded towards him and dropped herself into his lap. His entire body jerked, muscles tensing and relaxing as she slipped her legs around his waist and her arms around his torso. After a long, silent pause, Kylo hugged her back, resting his cheek on the top of her head.

‘I’m still having dreams,’ she whispered into his chest. His hair was soft against her cheek and shoulder as he leant over her, cocooning her from the world. He smelt of tea and and cloves, of ozone during a thunderstorm.

‘I know,’ he said back. She could feel his voice rumble out of him, the vibrations soothing her frayed nerves and chasing away the horrors that still clung to her.

‘I feel like I’ll never be able to sleep again,’ she said, voice soft as she admitted her weakness. Her grip about him tightened. ‘This is normal, isn’t it? The dreams? It’s just my brain working through it all. It’s normal, right? I’m normal? We’re normal?’ She pulled back slightly, dislodging his chin from her hair as she met his demonic gaze. ‘Us, this, it’s all normal, isn’t it? I mean, I broke the prison, I fixed you, but you fixed me, but it’s all normal. I’m still normal. I’m still … I’m still me aren’t I?’ Because wasn’t that what it all boiled down to, really? Was she still herself, still the Rey who had moved into this apartment so long ago? She was still the same girl, bright and optimistic. She was still that Rey, wasn’t she?

She looked desperately into his eyes, searching for an answer there, desperate to hear him say that everything she said was perfectly logical, that her reaction was normal.

She was normal.

She had to be normal.

Kylo Ren stared at her for endless seconds, hours, months. Stars died in the length of their silent gaze.

Panic clawed up her throat, squeezing her heart and scratching at her brain.

‘Kylo,’ she whispered, hating the tears that suddenly flowed down her cheeks. She knew he could see them, that he could see her perfectly in the dark.

Why wouldn’t he say anything?

He lifted up a hand, inky in the blackness of the room. She felt a finger tap against her forehead, just once, the tip of a claw. She blinked in response, except it was daylight and she was lying in bed. In his bed. Rey sat up, confused.

She couldn’t remember falling asleep, she couldn’t remember getting into bed.

‘Kylo?’ She called out, voice scratchy, as though she’d cried or screamed in her sleep.

There was no response from her empty apartment.

Rey was alone again.

Chapter Text

She was halfway through a solitary breakfast of a cup of tea and staring morosely out the kitchen window when someone knocked on the door. She sighed and rolled her head in the direction of the sound, mug clunking against the bench top as she put it down.

Security in the building had been lax since the murder. Residents had been leaving the entry door open, propped with a brick, now that the caregiver wasn’t there to constantly screen guests. Personally, she didn’t think it made sense, being that the man in charge of the building had been murdered, presumably in or around the building. And who was to say the culprit wouldn’t come back and target residents next? That being said, it certainly made life easier, especially for Rey who no longer had to hike down several flights of stairs to greet her guests. Though it was annoying for moments like this where she just wanted to stew in her own thoughts.

Another knock reverberated through the door, disturbing her sullen solitude.

Resigned to put a smile on her face and greet either Finn or Poe, Rey relinquished her post by the window and moved towards the door, arm outstretched lazily for the handle.

It was still outstretched as something struck her body, like a wall of cushions bouncing her backwards, feet flying out from beneath her as she sailed through the air, into her living room, the door growing smaller as the hulking form of Kylo Ren materialised in the space she had been. She landed on her arse, the fall strangely soft as she watched her front door burst inwards of its own accord, snapping back so hard it bounced off the wall and then suddenly froze.

Kylo stared at her for a moment, body hunched, his arm extended limply in her direction, before he straightened to his full height, red horns gleaming and golden eyes deadly as he slowly turned to face the intruder.

‘Professor Snoke,’ he said coldly, voice dripping violence and disdain.

Rey pushed herself up slowly to her feet, feeling a little wobbly from the unexpected rush of adrenaline. She dusted off her bottom and legs as she rose, eyes locked onto an interesting wood grain swirl on the floorboards. Her heart raced in her chest, hammering against her ribs as she tried to control her breathing and shake away the black spots in her vision. Every part of her was screaming to look up, to look at Kylo, to look at the man in the doorway. But she couldn’t. Her neck was locked downwards, gaze trained steadfastly on the floor, refusing to allow her to face this head on.

Kylo had been gone, but he was here, and he’d protected her. A little roughly … but he was here, between herself and Snoke, the cause of all of … of all of whatever this was. She was safe, surely, surely she could look up now.

‘Can you imagine my surprise,’ Snoke’s deceptively frail voice rumbled through the room, shoes clicking as he let himself into her home, ‘when Mitaka called me to say that you were back at work? Two days, my girl, that’s a very short time for a nightmare. I wasn’t expecting you back for at least a week, if ever.’ The tapping drew closer until his shoes appeared, gleaming with brown polish in her line of sight. His proximity finally forced her body into action, making her eyes trail up the sharp lines of his trousers, his blazer and gaze into his withered face.

He looked so … human.

Behind him, Rey could see Kylo snarling, lips pulled back over fanged teeth as he writhed against invisible bonds, seemingly desperate to try and reach them.

Rey remained quiet, hands balled into trembling fists at her sides.

She felt so pathetic right now, standing in her pyjamas, in the middle of her house, being intimidated by an elderly man. An elderly human man who had somehow subjected her the horrors that managed to surpass her turbulent childhood.

‘He is far more powerful than I gave him credit for,’ Snoke continued, unconcerned by her traumas, ‘to find you so quickly in the Realms.’ He paused and tapped a gnarled finger thoughtfully against his chin, glancing out her lounge room window to the blue morning sky. ‘Though it is a shame what happened to Mr. Plutt, he was quite handy to have. But nevermind, this will simply prove to put us into closer quarters where I can keep a far closer eye on you. ’ He leant his face close then, his peppery breath ghosting over her cheeks, getting into her nose and making her want to gag. She tried not to flinch or wince as she was forced to take in the crevices of his face, the milky eye and the barely concealed greed in his expression.

Finally, something in her shifted, and Rey managed to take a step back, to gain control of herself just a little but, giving herself some extra breathing room. Thinking room, even. She just needed that insulation of air, away from Snoke. Away from that horrid emotion that was twisting his features. She wanted Kylo at her back, with an arm around her, protective and cuddly. Would it be safe to walk around Snoke and reach for him? Snoke was an old man, he couldn’t physically hurt her. At least, not more than he already had.

‘Give him to me.’ Snoke said, as though he had read her thoughts, shifting ever so slightly so that he was more decisively between them. The buttons on his shirt gleamed dully in the morning light.

Behind the Professor, Kylo had ceased thrashing around, his eyes golden slits as his muscles strained with the exertion he was putting against the invisible barrier that kept them apart. The stress on his face was what made her finally move, restoring her fully back to herself. It was as if she were finally breaking the surface of the ocean, taking a huge gasp of oxygen to breath life into her suffocating limbs, slipping free of the pressure that gripped her muscles in panicked terror. She darted quickly around the intruder, trying to reach Kylo, hands out to touch his face, to cup his cheeks, to bring him back to her. He was so close, barely two metres away, a finger tip.

In the space of a second she was immobile, leaning against a force she couldn’t see, unable to touch him. She was so close, a hair's breadth away from her fingertips grazing his cheek. Kylo’s eyes were open now with surprise, body relaxing as he stared down at her, worry etched in the curve of his brows and the chocolate flicker in his golden gaze. He hadn’t uttered a word since Snoke had entered, and in her bewilderment Rey wondered if somehow Kylo had been silenced as well.

‘The amount of control you have on him is impressive, but I want my answers girl. And more importantly I want him, so hand over control and we will be out of your life very quickly, so that you can resume whatever mundane existence you have.’

‘He isn’t mine to give.’ Rey hissed through her clenched teeth, staring up at Kylo, so desperate to touch, to feel his arms wrap around her and hold her close and safe. She wanted his warmth and security. She wanted her Kylo, and Snoke was keeping her from him again. He was endlessly keeping her from everything, it seemed.

‘Girl, they are merely dogs.’ Snoke said.

Rey felt Hux before she realised he had been summoned. He bathed them all in golden light, buffeting them with waves of warmth. Slowly Rey turned to face him, not sure what to expect after their last meeting and his talk of disembowelment.

Snoke stood with his hands behind his back in the centre of her home, with Hux just at his left shoulder. The fire demon’s face was impassive for a moment, until his gaze dropped from Kylo to meet Rey’s, and she saw the subtle rise of his eyebrow, the twitch of his lips.

The world about them shimmered, everything wobbling, and suddenly nothing was the same.

Rey could feel it, the instant it happened, the shift in parameters, in existence.

She was back again, back in her hell, in the demon realm.

It wasn’t anything obvious to the naked eye. She was still in her home, nothing had changed visually. Snoke was still in front of her, Kylo a stony presence at her back, and Hux was just as arrogantly dismissive as he had been a second ago. But there was something. It thrummed within her in a way so physical to her being that she could feel others. Feel them as though they were part of her, small, weak things that were moving behind the false walls of her false home.

In the time it took her to realise the shift, to acknowledge that the thing in her chest had come to life again, after being dormant since falling asleep in Kylo’s arms, Snoke had released the two demons. Without so much as moving, Snoke sent Hux lurching forward in a snarling flurry of fiery talons. She watched in horror as Hux moved past her, a burst of extraordinary heat washing over her in the process. Panic thrummed through her veins as she heard Kylo grunt behind her, stepping backwards and away from her, so that she could see him in her peripheries, drawing Hux into the kitchen, away from her.

‘They’re just lap dogs, girl,’ Snoke said, as though he hadn’t just forced Hux into a frenzy of violence that Kylo seemed to almost struggle to keep under control. ‘Lap dogs in the right hands, of course. Oh you have control of him, but not like I could. Look at how mine fights for me. I doubt yours would, he would argue with you first, would he not?’

Rey didn’t bother answering, let alone worrying about the ethical implications, as she turned to look back at Kylo with his arms out, sweat glistening off his extended muscles, forcing a barrier between himself and a snarling Hux, who clawed desperately at the resistance, trying to get through, to hurt and maim. He was so unlike himself, composure slipped completely free. Snoke had done this, had ripped away the essence of Hux to make him perform like some sort of trick pony. And he wanted to do that to Kylo? Her Kylo who was obsessed with squirrels and loved cups of tea, and to curl up with her in bed? He wanted to strip away everything that made Kylo who he was, in order to make him like a rabid beast?

In an instant she felt awful for the past week, for her withdrawal, for treating him as though he didn’t exist. How could she have done that to him, to her Kylo, after all they’d been through, after all he’d tried to do for her?

‘No.’ She said, rolling her shoulders back, eyes fixed on the demons instead of the frail, mortal man. She would not let herself be intimidated now. His demonstration with Hux was the bit of resistance she needed.

‘I beg your pardon, girl? You don’t know what you’re dealing with here.’ His voice was full of mocking laughter, as if no one had ever denied him before.

‘I said no.’ She grit her teeth and watched as the demons glanced at her, both sweaty and disheveled, though they had yet to touch each other. The light surrounding Hux dimmed slightly, and she could see his claws lowering, snarl fading ever so slightly, as though whatever hold Snoke had on him was diminishing.

‘You cannot control him properly, and surely you don’t want to have him ruining your life until the day you die. Come now girl, see reason.’ His tone became an awful sort of wheedling, as though he could sweet talk her into what he wanted after his harsher methods had failed.

‘If you’re so strong, why can’t you control him?’ Rey demanded, feeling her skin prickle with a sizzle of anger that curled down her spine and encircled her heart. She caught the perplexed look on Hux’s face, and the surprised yet smug look on Kylo’s as she turned to face the Professor once more. ‘Why do you need my permission? I don’t own him, and didn’t you already try?’ She folded her arms across her chest, fists still clenched. The words fell from her mouth, though she didn’t know where they came from, or the well of confidence flooding her veins with courage. It mingled and hissed through her, like cold water in a frying pan, spattering and steaming, filling her with a new sense of purpose that she couldn’t define. The thing in her chest was thrumming with each pulse of anger as she stared at the foul creature across from her that dared call itself human.

‘I already control fire, girl,’ Snoke said, face twisting in displeasure at her attitude, ‘and you’re already on thin ice as it is.’

Rey could feel the twisting lives of demons, could feel them surrounding her false home. They called to her, as the thing in her called back to them. It was perplexing and reassuring. And to and fro that she used to ground herself in this false world.

‘You can’t have what isn’t mine to give,’ Rey said, tired of this endless argument, tired of being honest and in the wrong through no fault of her own. This wasn’t her world, and this shouldn’t be her problem. She just wanted to be home. She wanted to be normal again, but not if normal meant she couldn’t have Kylo. Because he was hers, and not in whatever strange sense that Snoke meant.

No.

Kylo was her friend, her roommate, hell, even her lover now, she guessed, even though it had been one time and neither of them have been in their right minds.

Rey was angry and tired of this endless battle. She was angry for herself, and she was angry for Kylo.

Snoke circled around her, so that she was once more separated from the demons. She let it happen, suddenly unafraid of what this man could do to her. In this very instant she felt invincible, an amazon in her own domain. The demons had completely stopped fighting. Hux stood with his head tilted quizzically to the side, a puzzled, yet vaguely satisfied smile curving across his face. Kylo, on the other hand, looked horrified now, his own smugness vanished, eyes wide and mouth open. Yet neither of them moved, trapped once more by Snoke’s doing.

‘Why are you being so stubborn?’ Snoke demanded.

‘Why aren’t you listening to me?’ Rey yelled, letting her arms drop to her side. Her entire body was trembling with her anger now as it built layer by layer, Snoke’s refusal to pay attention adding more cement to her resolve.

Snoke raised a single brow, before taking off his hat and dangling it casually in his hands before him.

‘Child, you are but a bug to the creatures behind me. A fragile human being with no concept of what you’re dealing with. I have informants everywhere. I had Unkar Plutt, I have Mitaka. I own Hux, here. He is mine, just as Kylo is somehow yours. I don’t ask for much in return for the normalcy of your mundane life. I could say I regret my actions, but the realms clearly did not break you enough. Perhaps some more time spent within them will help?’ He made no move, but Rey felt the walls close in slightly, physically shrinking the space about them. The counters in the kitchen seemed to squeeze in around the immobile demons, though they appeared unconcerned, supernatural eyes fixed solely on her.

She grit her teeth and held her place, determined that she would not bend to him. She would not bow and scrape and give into a man who saw nothing wrong in what he’d done, in what he was doing. And what was Snoke going to do with Kylo, anyway? Why was he so fixated on her demon? He had Hux, wasn’t that enough? It had been so many years since he’d tried. Why was Kylo still so important?

‘You knew Kylo was here, so why didn’t you come and get him?’ Rey demanded, feeling the pressure of those other lives encroaching, swarming curiously about Snoke’s shields. She could feel them prying at this half-realm, trying to peek through the gaps and see what was going on. Either Snoke couldn’t feel them, or he was ignoring them as he made no indication that they were even there.

‘He was evidently broken,’ Snoke said, hands splaying out, palms up. ‘Who would not agree to become one of mine, especially at the price I had so generously offered? But you put some sense into him. What price did you pay, I wonder? Definitely not virgin blood, I’ll wager,’ and he tittered here, like some sort of prepubescent school-yard child.

Was he really suggesting Rey had sex with a demon to earn his favour? No, he was implying she was a slut because she couldn’t offer that. Was that what Snoke was saying to her, in this version of her home, that he presumably imagined she still thought was her home?

Forget everything she’d already been angry about. Forget all of it. She dug her heels into the floorboards, body tense, jaw aching as she glared at him. Her skin felt as though it were on fire, rippling undercurrents of electricity as she glared at him.

How dare he come into her home and threaten her? How dare he kidnap her, have her brutalised and her best friend murdered before her eyes? How dare he treat her as though she had done something wrong?!

Rey was a survivor. Rey had survived all of her life against men like him. She had survived the unknown of humankind, the unknown of the supernatural.

She would not be treated this way.

Not any more.

She was her own goddamned person, who could make her own goddamned decisions. If Snoke wanted a demon so fucking badly, he would have to rip Kylo out of her dead grasp, because Rey looked out for those she loved, and somehow the demon had fallen into that category. She would be damned if Snoke thought he could get away with doing whatever the hell he wanted any more.

She would be damned if Snoke thought everything could go back to the way it had been. She’d seen that the past week, after what he had subjected her to. There was no return from this. No return back to whatever form normalcy had been for her pre-realm. There was only now.

Unkar Plutt was still dead. She still knew that demons were real. She still knew what it was like to watch someone you loved die a horrible, callous death. She knew how it felt to be covered in the mist of an assailant's blood, what it felt to be teleported, to be mistreated and abused and taken advantage of. And still Snoke was talking, his voice filling the shrinking spaces of her room, because it was just a room now. It had shrunk so rapidly that the demons were no longer in the kitchen because there was no kitchen.

Perhaps it wasn’t Snoke’s doing then, she realised idly, as Kylo pressed a black palm against his barrier, as if urging her to stop, the panic still written clear across his face. But what was she supposed to stop? The scrabbling of hundreds of entities against the walls? She couldn’t stop them anymore than she could stop this room from shrinking as Snoke continued to berate her, continued to demean and debase her existence as pitiful and meaningless, all because she wouldn’t give up her imaginary control over a demon.

There was no life before Kylo now, only an after.

Something in her chest clicked, something that startled both demons behind the oblivious old man, who continued on none the wiser.

‘Are you even listening to me, you worthless whore?’ Snoke all but yelled at her, his eyes burning black voids as he scowled down at her from his spindly height, his hat still clutched between arthritic fingers. He stepped towards her, all form of gentility and amenability long gone. His very being screamed hostile and violent. ‘I demand-’

And Rey screamed.

Her anger poured out of her in an explosive blast that rippled the world and suddenly those battering to get in were fleeing, far fewer now than there had been, perishing in the onslaught of her rage. And she could feel them, snuffing out one by one as she felt the fragile walls of Snoke’s creative splinter and cave. She could feel the barrier’s he’d constructed around the demons fracture, could feel the swell of Kylo’s very being, the heat of Hux’s existence burning bright.

Snoke’s mouth fell open in a semblance of shock, and just before she stumbled forward, rattled by her own creation, Rey saw smug satisfaction on Hux’s face as he flickered out of existence, as Kylo leapt for her, arms encircling as he dragged them both away.

***

They both staggered as their feet found wooden floorboards.

Her wooden floorboards.

Kylo whipped her around, human fingers digging into her biceps as he peered into her eyes, eyes frantic as he searched her face desperately, hair sticking to his forehead in sweaty strands.

He was so normal right now, so … so perfectly human.

Rey giggled, throat hoarse as she pressed her fingers to his cheek finally. The were covered in stubble and warm to the touch.

‘You left me,’ she said, no longer angry at the notion. He was here now, warm and solid. He smelled of sulfur and wood pine and ozone. And then he was gathering her close, scooping her into his chest, almost suffocating her as he hugged her tightly. Tighter than he’d ever held her before. She rubbed her hand up and down his back, feeling the muscles twitch beneath her touch, glad that he was shirtless simply so that she could be closer to him.

‘I was looking for him,’ Kylo admitted quietly. ‘I wanted to protect you, and yet-’

‘He owns my building,’ her voice sounded strange to her own ears, muffled against his chest. It was a startling and disturbing realisation. How much that evil man controlled her life.

‘You are safe Rey,’ Kylo said, but his words felt as hollow as they sounded, hanging awkwardly in the air around them. She pulled away slightly and looked back up into his face, seeing stress where there had never been stress before. It was etched into the creases around his eyes, in the corners of his mouth.

‘You don’t have to lie to make me happy,’ she said softly, looking at her hand as she splayed it across his chest. And then she glanced up at him again, at the warmth in his gaze, the frizz of his hair as it began to dry. ‘I felt things, in there.’ She said. He nodded, not in the least bit surprised by her words.

‘Why are you shaking?’ He asked instead. Rey frowned in confusion. He took her splayed hand in both of his and made her look again. Sure enough, she was. Her entire arm was trembling, her whole body. ‘Rey?’ His thumb brushed against her cheekbone, under her left eye, and came away wet.

What was happening to her?

A sob wriggled its way up her throat and sat solemnly between them.

‘Rey.’ Kylo murmured. He leant down and pressed his lips to hers, so gentle and warm and kind. Rey groaned as another sob escaped her, more tears slipping from the corners of her eyes as she squeezed them shut. She threw her arms around Kylo’s shoulders and buried herself into him, breathing him in, trying to listen to his breaths, his pulse, trying to take in his strength as her own.

They stood there for an eternity before Kylo scooped her up effortlessly and carried her into his room. He tossed her onto the bed, and she couldn’t help but squeal as she was flung into the air, limbs akimbo and hair wild, eyes springing open to see him smiling, reality rippling and distorting about him. The hint of horns, of wings, of inky forearms and pointed teeth. But then he was human and crawling under the covers beside her, holding her as close as he possibly could.

He pressed kisses against her hair, trailed his fingertips under her eyes, smoothing away the tears and her fears with gentle words. And finally they lay in silence, listening to birds chirping through the open windows, to the cars and pedestrians and planes, to the world continuing to turn without them as they lay ensconced in their own little bubble of reality.

‘Rey,’ Kylo finally said as the afternoon light caressed their skin, ‘I feel like there is something you should know.’

Chapter Text

Kylo Ren stared down at the woman in his arms.

He studied the puffy hazel eyes, the freckles smattered over her nose and cheekbones, the fabric creases pressed into her skin. Her hair was a ruffled mess, haloing her head, the tip of her nose red from sniffling, though she hadn’t cried for hours now. This was his human, his Rey, and this morning had been both quite alarming and informative for him.

They were both very aware of the truth now.

Kylo Ren could not protect her from Professor Snoke. He was far more powerful than Kylo Ren had expected. It was something he should have known, especially after the Realms. The amount of strength and skill one would need in possession to create a maze like that was almost beyond belief. Regardless, it was done now, and Rey’s inability to rely on him in that regard was a huge blow. A blow not to his ego, which he was stunned to realise, but instead to his chest. His heart felt physically pained at knowing he could not be everything that she needed him to be.

‘Rey,’ he murmured, bottling away the realisation of what precisely that meant for later.

Her gaze flicked up to his, focusing on him, seeing him. He enjoyed the mottled colour of her irises, the way the green and brown danced and spun about her pupils. It was something he wished he could recreate, but human form was finite, and how he presented now was how he would have been born if he had been sired on this plain.

‘I feel like there is something you should know.’

The languidness of their dreamstate dissolved with his words. Immediately her frame stiffened against his, muscles tensing as her beautiful eyes narrowed.

‘What?’ It was brittle as it escaped her throat, stabbing him sharply, another dagger point to his already weakened heart.

‘While it appears I can no longer be in control of my own person when around Professor Snoke-’

‘Didn’t he die?’ She cut in, but he saw the realisation tighten her facial features as she spoke. It drew the blood out of her cheeks and created shadows beneath her eyes. He had no need to read her thoughts or taste her emotions. She was an open book to him now. It was only natural that she would assume that Professor Snoke had died in the blast, but she would have felt it, just as she had felt the others die.

He watched as she worked through her scattered memory, piecing everything together. Of Kylo Ren lunging for her, of Hux vanishing. But Hux could not have left his Master to die. Even Rey must realise that now, and clearly she did, because her lips thinned and jaw tightened, eyes narrowing slightly as she refocused on him. There was no need for words as she silently encouraged him to go on.

‘You are strong, Rey.’

‘You’ve told me this before,’ she said sullenly. Kylo Ren tugged her slightly closer with the arm he had resting over her waist, pulling their bodies flush together. He liked the feel of her, the softness, her curves. But there was strength in her too, in the tension of her muscles, the slimness of her build, and that thrum of power that resonated through her core, awake and feral and calling hungrily to him.

‘I have,’ he acknowledged, ‘but do you not wonder how this came to be?’

‘What are you on about?’ She grumbled, looking past him and out the window, stress etched in her expression, nervousness as she pressed a hand to his chest, nails curled in slightly, as though she were attempting to cling to him.

The sigh escaped him before he could stop it, a large gust of air stirring her hair and making her blink rapidly. She wrinkled her nose in distaste.

‘You were the one to destroy the realms upon your capture, Rey,’ Kylo Ren said, the weight of his words felt like rocks in his chest, compressing his heart. He did not anticipate a favourable outcome for what he was about to reveal. ‘You again destroyed the half realm today. You are strong-’

‘You’ve already told me I’m strong.’ She said it quickly, too quickly, panic and fear clouding her words and souring her emotions.

‘You may be stronger than me, Rey.’ And he did not say it lightly.

‘Did I somehow make a pact with you, like Snoke thinks I did?’ She retorted sourly. Kylo Ren frowned at her, rubbing soft circles into her back in a sad attempt to calm her. If he could not press calmness into her mentally, then he would try the physical approach, as ineffective as it was.

‘No,’ Kylo Ren said softly, looking into her face and wishing she could have remained untouched by all of this. What sort of life would she have encountered, not knowing? ‘We have no pact between us. My soul is yours through no method enacted by you.’ She looked at him quizzically, but he pushed onwards, needing to get the words out. ‘I do not know by who, or how, Rey, but you are not quite of this earth. Not of this realm, but of many. You are of mine. Not a Sky Walker, I feel none of that in you, nor do I sense any lineage that I recognise, yet you are of a kin to me and mine.’

She opened her mouth to question, to refute, but Kylo Ren did not allow her.

‘You are not fully human, Rey. Part of you is, and yet whatever of my brethren that escaped into the mortal world, they were strong. Their lineage has evidently maintained that. What of your parents?’ He was excited for the answer, and yet apprehensive. For someone to have left the Realms that he had no knowledge of, they were clearly old, ancient even, of a time of his parents or far before. Time was hard to grasp within his own home, a fleeting thing, both non-existent yet all too present.

‘I don’t know.’ Her answer was soft, incredibly confused and quiet.

Kylo Ren hummed, masking his disappointment.

Rey was pulling away from him now, sitting up and removing herself, sitting on the edge of the bed as she stared down at him. He quickly pulled himself up so that he was also seated, desperate to maintain eye contact, to continue this conversation. It was important she understand, he had to make her see it.

‘I did all that, before? I killed all those creatures?’

Kylo Ren tilted his head, momentarily perplexed.

‘They were of no consequence Rey,’ he said, remembering the pathetic creatures she referred to. ‘They feast on energy, on power, and had they gotten in they would have feasted on you, on me. Think of them as insects, vermin. They were not intelligent beings.’ His answer seemed to relax her slightly, but understandably not much.

‘So … so you’re saying I’m part demon?’ She asked, brows furrowed so low over her eyes that her forehead had deep creases, her lips thinned to almost being nonexistent.

‘It lay dormant within you, but it does explain how you could communicate with me. Once you were exposed to the Realms it reawakened within you, the stress that you were put through sparked it into awareness.’

‘Awareness? Is it … Is it like a parasite? Some other part in me?’ She placed her hand against her chest, beside her heart, and he could not help the pleasure that welled in him. She could feel it within her, that store of ancient power, knew where it resided inside of her.

‘No,’ he reassured her. ‘You are still very much you, Rey. That will never change. This power that you have, your abilities, they are merely another tool at your disposal, like your humming, or your ability to create beautiful things out of scrap. This alters nothing about who you are as a being, Rey. I promise.’ He reached for her hands, and she allowed him to take them, to enfold them with his fingers and draw them into his lap. Kylo Ren squeezed tightly, attempting to reassure her as her panic began to turn to unshed tears glimmering in her eyes. ‘I would not wish this life for you, you were so content and at peace before. And I had no desire for Professor Snoke to ever witness this side of you.’

‘What?’ Her gaze was ripped from their hands to his eyes. She was so innocent and fragile before him, so lost at his words, and he did not blame her, could not.

‘Hux has no love for his Master, and I doubt very much that he would have informed the Professor that it was you who destroyed the trap. Professor Snoke appeared very much under the impression that it was I who dismantled everything and saved you. Do you not recall?’ He could see that she did in the retightening of her jaw, the slight straightening of her spine in defiance. ‘You revealed to him what you are today. What you could be.’

Her hands were wrenched out of his grasp so suddenly his palms went cold.

Rey stood over him, her feet now planted on the floor on the other side of the room. She glared at him, fury a shimmering aura about her.

‘Are you … are you blaming me?’ She demanded. Kylo Ren felt the rest of himself go cold at the accusation. His mouth fell open in surprise, before he snapped it shut quickly, desperate to resolve this.

‘Rey, no, of course I am not! It is only that now he knows how strong you are!’

‘And you didn’t think to tell me before? So maybe I could … why does it even matter?’ She threw her arms out wide, her gestures dramatic as she worked herself into a rage. The demonic part of her flared, feeding greedily from her emotions, and from his panicked ones as she moved further away from the calmness he wanted her to be in, from the receptive bubble they had been reclining in only moments ago.

He stared up at her helplessly, at an utter loss of how to bring this back.

***

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

Demon?

She was part demon?

She wanted to laugh. Long and loud and hysterically. That was preposterous. She couldn’t be part whatever he was! That wasn’t possible. She was Rey, an orphan, abandoned. That was who she was. Human through and through. But that thing in her chest was buzzing and she couldn’t ignore it, hadn’t been able to since the Realms. She wanted to scream and cry and tear out her hair. She wanted to rage and hide and pretend none of this was happening to her.

Rey stared at the demon sitting on his bed, his hair a black halo about his pale face, large brown eyes so sorrowful and pleading under thick black brows. Why did he look so human right now? Why couldn’t he be in his true form? All evil and other to make this easier. Why was he so nervous about this, so compassionate and frustratingly understanding, as though he was trying to make this easy on her?

And how dare he blame her? How was she supposed to know if he hadn’t told her? If it was even real.

But it had to be real.

She’d felt the explosion, felt the shudder of it run through her, from her. Felt Snoke and Hux as they fled, felt the loss of life, as much as she could feel Kylo now on the other side of the room, looking as though she’d just kicked him repeatedly in the ribs while he was down.

‘If I were to believe you,’ she said, the words trying to stick to her throat, ‘which I don’t! But if I were … What does it matter if Snoke knows? He’s after you.’

‘Me, yes.’ Kylo said. But he paused and the silence was long and terrible. Rey clenched her fists and grit her teeth, trying to stay in her anger, to keep herself from sinking back onto the bed and wrapping her arms about his neck. He was so sad, so lost … why did he have any right to be that way when he was making such outrageous claims about her?

‘Kylo?’ She tried to lace her voice with as much threat as she could, but it came out more of a sorrowful whine.

‘To summon me Professor Snoke had to quite horrendously end the lives of humans. You already know this, and for him to attempt another bond, which I would again refuse, he would need to do so again, despite me currently residing in your world.’

‘What’s that got to do with me?’ She said, folding her arms over her chest to stop them from shaking, knowing that those lives had ended where she stood now. Did it mean that Snoke would try to murder her? That she would be his next victim? Kylo’s hopeless smile seemed to confirm her suspicions, but his words were far worse.

‘Why would he go through the efforts of attempting to bind a wayward demon when he could harness the essence of a mortal demon? It is powerful magic that you possess, and at a much smaller cost to himself. He would either use you to control me, or myself and those you love to control you. If not both.’

Rey had no answer to that, or to the implications.

Instead she turned and walked out of his room, finding solace in turning on the kettle and staring at it as it boiled. She found reassurance in getting a cup and tea bag, and in watching the tea steep once she filled the mug with steaming water.

As ridiculous as it was, it all sort of made sense, she supposed. It had to, didn’t it? How was it any stranger than demons being real in the first place, or her having visited other dimensions or whatever they were? That her unknown parents, one of them, had been a demon, or a relation of a demon? Had they known? Had they known and then left her alone to fend for herself? Or were they like her, utterly unaware of the supernatural until it had been forced onto her? Had it been forced on them as well?

She stared at the cup in her hands, watching the tendrils of steam swirl and dissipate in the air.

‘When a human is taken to the Realms,’ Kylo said softly from his doorway, ‘they display signs of nausea and disorientation. They have an inability to mentally grasp what is occurring, and sometimes their body will physically give out, unable to cope with the simple act of teleporting. There are many adverse affects to humans, inadvertently caused by demons, illness, accident or simple incompatibility. You have displayed none of these traits. Statistically there should have been one. I had not thought once about it. I simply enjoyed being around you, and keeping you safe. It never occurred to me until you found me in the Realms that there could be any other cause.’ He fell silent for a moment, and Rey tightened her fingers about her cup. ‘I would never have wished this life for you, Rey. I wanted you to remain human, to be happy with your friends and your work, and possibly with me if you would allow it.’

‘Why are you telling me this?’ She mumbled. The fight had left her. She had no will to battle him, no desire to make him hurt or feel sorry. This was Kylo, her big scary demon who liked being read to, who liked cuddles and folding laundry. She set down her cup, still full, in the sink, before turning to face him.

‘I did not want you to think I was using you,’ he said.

‘Everyone thinks I am using you.’

‘In a way,’ he replied noncommittally. But Rey wasn’t letting him get away with it, not now that he was finally being talkative.

‘What do you mean by that?’ She demanded, stalking closer a couple of steps. He looked down at her, brown eyes melting through her spark of anger. His gaze held such warmth and promise and fear, all for her.

‘It was an accident,’ he finally said when he realised she wasn’t going to let it go.

‘What was?’ She inched closer, placing her hands on her hips, glaring up at him without any real malice. She should be raging at him, blaming him for ruining her life. But wasn’t her own stubbornness as much to blame?

‘We are not officially bound in the strictest sense,’ Kylo said evasively. She firmed up her glare and made him wither slightly. He cleared his throat and wrung his hands together, the epitome of guilt and self-pity. He really was just a dog shoved into a person’s skin. ‘I did not think of it until just now, you must be assured of that. But when you … when you heard me. The first time, and answered … I had been alone for so long Rey. Trapped within these walls with no foreseeable end. I am not used to the confines of time like you are, and they can be horrible I have discovered. You spoke to me, you were a breath of frustrating and fresh air into my suffocating world. You were fair, and kind. You treated me as though I were a normal aberration to have in one’s home. Had I known then what I know now … I would not have pressed so hard and stayed so close to you. I would not have spoken to you thusly, would not have imparted myself onto you-’

‘Onto what?’ She cut in, feeling more than a little bit alarmed. But Kylo had started talking and he wouldn’t stop now.

‘I do not know exactly when it occurred, but my guess is that it was when Hux first appeared, when you freed me of my seals. I never thought that someone, much less a human, would rescue me. Kylo Ren, a Sky Walker who should have no need of rescuing. The bond they have been chasing you for, I was unaware that there was even one between us.’

‘Because there isn’t-’

‘There is. There can be between demons, or their kind. Do you not understand? We have a link between us, our beings intertwined when I spoke to you mentally, when you responded. I gave a part of myself to you on the day you freed me, to keep a human safe from the harm that my presence may bring. But you have the essence of my kind within you, and that part of me linked to that part of you.’

‘I did not make a bond with you.’ Rey said, confused, frowning up at his earnestness.

‘You did not have to, Rey. I gave it willingly, much as you have willingly given yourself to me. No,’ he said quickly, bring his large hands up, palms out in a calming gesture. ‘I admit that our physical union was not in your right mind, no I talk of before then, before you were awakened. But the pieces were already there, and we are bonded.’

Rey stared at him for a long time. She could feel the shadows lengthening in the apartment as she stood, feet fixed to the floorboards, as she stared at him.

As the light dimmed his eyes began to glow, golden sparks morphing into pools of molten heat.

‘Can we break it?’ She finally asked into the growing gloom.

Kylo took a step forward, wreathed in shadows darker than the deepening night should have allowed for. Taloned fingers slid across her cheek, her jaw, and cupped the back of her neck.

‘If you so wish,’ he replied just as softly, sadness creeping into his voice.

Rey pondered it for a long moment, selfishly enjoying the heat of his palm against her skin, the solidity and strength of his fingers trapping her in place.

‘What does it mean, the bond?’ She asked, staring up at him as his horns appeared, red trailing through the darkness and beginning to glow warmly.

‘You are so incredibly pure,’ his breath was hot against her cheeks, a stark contrast against her skin despite the pleasant summer’s day they’d had and the warmth that still lingered in the air. ‘Your thoughts were so good, so positive, despite everything you have existed through, before and after. Your mind speaks loudly of your honest intentions, and I selfishly want that part of you. There is little good in me. There never has been. I do not doubt my own family were happy for me to remain locked away. This bond, should we nurture and allow it to grow, can become formidable and strong, a method to be able to communicate, to exist, a beck and call to one another. For now it is merely a hum in the back of your mind, that I doubt you are even aware of. It can remain that way, as merely a beacon so that I may find you should I need to, and so that you may always recognise me, whether you are able to see me or not. And should you chose to break it? The longer you wait, the harder it will be, until it will feel as though you have removed a part of yourself.’

‘You’ve had one before?’ His face was so close to hers. She swayed closer to him, only vaguely aware that she’d done so.

‘Never. No one has ever trusted me the way you have, or opened up about anything.’

‘What about the bond with Snoke? Why does he want you so badly?’

‘Until you,’ Kylo sighed, eyelids closing and blocking the vivid light of his gaze. ‘I was the strongest. The Professor was a young man when he summoned Hux, and then myself. The summoning alone should have exhausted him, simply for Hux, but he managed both of us within a day of each other. He would use me to dominate others, to take my strength and enforce those weaker to bend to his will. He wants power and destruction, and I will not allow him that. I was a Sky Walker, and my line always fought for peace, for prosperity. It may not have always ended that way, but my line was always respected before me. Professor Snoke would tarnish that for his own gains, he would strip worlds of their beliefs and power for his own personal, selfish interest. That is not something I am willing to bow my head to.’

‘You should never have to bow your head,’ Rey said in horror, wrapping her fingers around his forearm and squeezing it tightly in reassurance. ‘Not for anyone. It isn’t right. That’s slavery. You should be allowed to make your own decisions.’

‘I will only ever bow to you.’ His eyes opened and bathed her in gold, melting her with their burning intensity. In this very moment he was the powerful demon, with his curved horns and mantle of shadows. She could feel the silken glide of his wings, the pressure shift in the air as they moved, the prick of his talons against her neck, against her hip where his other hand now rested. He thrummed with barely contained power, so dangerous and volatile against her.

‘I never want you to.’ Rey whispered, before rising onto her tiptoes to press her lips to his.

And then he was human again, utterly helpless as his lips parted and their teeth clacked painfully. His arms moved until they were wrapped around her waist, pulling her close as she entwined her hands around his neck. He moved to step away, but Rey held him tight to her.

‘No,’ she whispered. ‘Trust me,’ and she began to pull him forwards as she walked backwards, leading him towards her bedroom door.

‘I always trust you,’ he said against her lips, unable to hide the waver of nerves that crept into his voice.

She felt him tense as they passed the threshold, as if her rules suddenly mattered to him, but then she was pushing him backwards onto the bed. She didn’t bother with turning on a lamp, she could see well enough by the light from the window, from the streetlights and the stars. She didn’t know if she should be doing this, especially after what he’d told her. But he’d told her. He’d actually opened up to her, explained things, as awful as they were to hear.

Before she could think any further, Rey grasped her shirt by the hem and pulled it up over her head. He’d already seen her naked, but somehow this was more exposing as he stared up at her, wide-eyed, mouth open in surprise. She smiled at him, a little unsure, but determined to keep going. He sat up, large hand curling around her hip, careful to only touch the fabric of her pyjama pants, his gaze connected to hers, as though he were afraid to look at any other part of her.

Rey couldn’t help it, she giggled.

‘Do you know what’s happening?’ She asked, not wanting to tease him, but unable to help herself.

He swallowed thickly, grip tightening reflexively.

‘You want to have sex with me?’ It was said with such an odd mixture of hopefulness and studiousness that she laughed again, suddenly bubbling over with excitement and joy as she grasped his face in both hands and kissed him deeply, releasing all of her inhibitions as his lips parted and they moaned against each other. She savoured the hot slick and slide of his tongue against hers, of the softness of his lips, of the way his fingers kept digging in and then smoothing over her hip. She tugged desperately at his shirt and then ran her fingers over his scars, breaking the kiss to trail her tongue and teeth and lips along as many as she could find.

Above her Kylo groaned, his head tipping back and exposing his throat. She took advantage instantly, moving back up to latch onto his pulsepoint and suckle a deep bruise there. He didn’t fight her, too lost in the sensations as he moaned again, his other hand lifting to grip the bare skin of her waist. His thumb rubbed circles against her skin, sparking electricity in her veins and a deep throb between her legs. Had he any idea what he was doing to her?

Rey pushed him backwards onto the bed again, so that he was laying down with her still standing between his legs. He looked up as she stared down at him. He was utterly at her mercy and they both knew it. His chest heaved, as though he’d run miles. She grinned at the sight. He smiled uncertainly, almost nervously back.

‘You’ve never done this before?’

‘Not … not affectionately, no,’ he admitted. Her heart clenched at his words. Because this was from affection. She was doing this because she lo-liked him. Because she wanted him to feel better, feel appreciated. Because she wanted him.

‘And you’re okay with this?’ She asked, needing to know that it was, that he wasn’t doing this only because she wanted it from him. She leant over him, hands resting on the hem of his pants. He blinked at her slowly, mulling over his own thoughts, before he relaxed beneath her, a genuine smile curving his lips, revealing slightly pointed canines, his eyes sparking gold at her. ‘Good.’ She accepted his silent affirmation and helped him wriggle out of his pants.

Rey should have expected it, but she was an idiot and hadn’t thought past kissing him and getting him onto her bed. Because now she was faced with his full-bodied nudity and her mouth actually watered at the sight. She didn’t want to objectify him, didn’t mean to, but scars or no scars, wings or horns or black scaled arms, he was a sight to behold. And she had previously, but not like this, not with the innocent expression on his face, not with his fingers tangling in the loose curls about her face. He was hers, utterly hers because they both wanted to be there.

Trying not to be nervous, because she’d done this before damn it, and she knew what she was doing, Rey shimmied out of her pyjama pants and climbed onto the bed as well, lying against his side, in the crook of his arm. He giggled and shifted under her as she trailed her fingers along the dip between his hip bones, but it swiftly turned into a deep-throated moan when she kissed him behind his left ear, drawing another bruise to his skin. She felt his cock twitch against her hand, felt the muscles of his abdomen tense under her touch. She wrapped her lips around his earlobe and nipped, before trailing kisses back to his mouth, where he met her eagerly.

They were sloppy, all teeth and tongue and lips, uncaring about technique when they could simply have each other in this moment. She ran her fingers up and down his chest, tweaking a nipple, raking nails along his musculature curves. He was panting when she pulled away, but then so was she. Red painted his cheeks and stained his chest. Part of her wanted to turn on a light to appreciate all of him properly, but the external light was enough, and she didn’t want to ruin the mood, to distract either of them. She propped herself up and looked down at him. His expression was cloudy with lust, lips kiss-swollen, his hair a mess about his head.

It wasn’t enough. She wanted more. She wanted to see him fall apart between her legs, beneath her fingers. She didn’t glance down as she wrapped her fingers about the solid length of him, biting her lip as the velveteen weight in her grip. His hips jerked up to meet her touch, another moan slipping from his lips as he squeezed his eyes shut.

The sound alone made her squeeze her legs together, internal muscles clenching tightly as desire coiled thickly through her.

She watched the muscles in his neck strain as she tightened her grip, slipping up and down him, collecting the slick from his head and spreading it around his length. He was almost as wet as she was, and she could feel the restraint as he tried desperately not to buck further, to give into the pleasure of her hand.

Rey couldn’t wait anymore. She didn’t care about herself, of whether she would make him touch her, or kiss her. She simply wanted him, to be one with him. With that thought in mind she threw her leg over him and slid down his torso, meeting his startled expression with a victorious smile as she lined him up and slid slowly backwards onto him.

It didn’t go nearly as planned.

She barely made it an inch before she was hunched over him, groaning along with him as she struggled to slow her breathing. Hell but he felt amazing. He bucked slightly, sliding himself in further and she moaned, forcing herself to sit up, head tipping backwards as she seated herself fully onto him, allowing herself to stretch around his girth, to acclimatise herself and let them both catch their frantic breaths. His hands were on her hips, gripping tightly, and when she opened her eyes she could see that his jaw was tense, expression strained.

‘You feel like paradise,’ he sighed between barely parted lips, his teeth clenched with the strain to contain himself.

‘And you feel like sin,’ she shot back with an experimental roll of her hips that sparked pure pleasure through her core, and started her thighs trembling instantly. She felt the flush of wetness between her legs, felt his body tense further. They were not going to last long at all.

‘More,’ he grunted, grip so tight he would leave bruises by the morning.

Eagerly, Rey obliged, beginning a slow pace that almost crippled her with pleasure with each movement. She managed to tug one of his hands free from her waist, sliding his hand between them, but he needed no more encouragement, finding the bundle of nerves and pressing deliciously against it as she rolled her hips, moving faster and faster until sweat dripped down her forehead and between her breasts, until she could barely breathe and her legs would not stop shaking.

Beneath her, Kylo was a wreck, his head thrown back, entire body taut as he was reduced to incomprehensible words and groans, hips bucking to meet hers with every thrust as she held herself up by resting her hands on his shoulders, holding tight for dear life. It was only them, together, a hot and sweaty mass of giving and taking, of stretched limbs and bunched muscles and nerves on end. Hot static filled her mind, her entire body alive with it, sparking with each minute motion, with each shift of his person, each sound he made.

It blindsided her when her orgasm came, ripping through her and tearing her to pieces as she crumbled over him. His arms encircled her, holding her tight to his chest as he pounded into her, drawing out a wail from her gasping lips, lost in the sensation in the endless beauty of it all before he caught her mouth and kissed her desperately. He fell apart with her, clutching her close, dragging them both into oblivion, until they resurfaced groggy and satiated.

‘That was-’

‘You don’t need to speak, Kylo,’ she mumbled into his chest, content to lay in his arms, legs tangled together as moisture began to stain her thighs, and therefore his thigh as well. She had no recollection of when he’d pulled out, of when he’d shifted them so that they weren’t half dangling off the bed.

‘I feel that I do,’ he huffed, warm breath stirring the hair on her head and rolling down her back. ‘You are amazing.’ She could feel his smile against her head as he pressed a kissed there.

‘You’re really talkative now,’ she squirmed against him, trying to find a new comfy spot now that she’d been pulled from her daze. He hummed thoughtfully, trailing a finger from her hip, along the side of her stomach and around the outside curve of her breast. It caused a new burst of static through her, stirring interest in her lower belly again.

‘I feel as though perhaps now I should return the favour for you.’

‘Favour-?’ She squealed, cut off as Kylo flipped her onto her back, the unexpected move trapping the words in her throat. He trapped the rest with his lips and tongue, silencing any protest she would never have voiced in the first place.

She was a quivering mess by the time he’d slipped down her body and raised her knees over his shoulders.

‘Kylo?’ She moaned, reaching down for him, wanting to touch him.

‘Just because I have never done this affectionately, does not mean I do not know what to do,’ he said, the smirk that graced his face pure sin. And then his lowered his mouth, hot and moist and insistent. Rey began to lift herself, to see, still wanting to touch, and then his tongue moved and she fell back, boneless and at his complete mercy.

Chapter Text

Rey stretched lazily, letting her head tilt backwards over the armrest of her chair, book flopping onto her stomach.

Kylo arched an eyebrow at her from where he sat in the doorway to his room, metal components in his black grip.

‘I’ve been thinking,’ she said, earning a second raised eyebrow. When she failed to elaborate Kylo vanished and reappeared so that he was kneeling beside her, face hovering over hers, their lips almost brushing.

‘About what?’ He asked.

Rey blinked in stunned silence, slipping out from under him and accidentally sliding off the chair in the process. Sprawled unattractively over the floor, Rey cleared her throat and reorganised herself into a more comfortable position. Golden eyes glimmered humourously at her.

‘Hux.’ She said simply, not missing the way his expression shuttered almost instantly. ‘No, no Kylo, listen! So, he’s tethered to Snoke, yeah?’ His stilted nod was the only response. ‘Okay, so how do we undo it? What happens if he doesn’t obey? Is it bad?’

‘Exceptionally.’

‘Have you ever been in a deal? What’s it like?’ He looked at her from the corner of his eye, dark hair falling into his face, hewn red from the glow of his horns. After a moment he looked at her properly again.

‘Like sex with someone you are affectionate with.’ He said. Rey felt herself blush, cheeks and ears heating up rapidly under his appraising gaze.

‘So Hux likes where he is, then?’ She didn’t like the sound of that. After the other night, when they’d only drifted into a sweaty, tangled sleep in grey light of morning? Rey could definitely see how deals would become addictive. She pulled herself back into her seat, curling her legs up underneath her, hands pressed between her thighs. Despite kneeling, Kylo was still at eye level with her.

‘A deal is-’ he paused, evidently mulling over his words. It was strange that now he had to think on how to phrase things, whereas she used to wonder if he had knew how to speak at all. ‘The creation and completion of a deal are what cause the euphoric state. Different demons gain different things, of course. I personally enjoy the high, as well as the emotional toll for feeding purposes. However, extended deals have the potential of becoming quite harmful. It is impossible to take on deals that contradict one another, therefore being trapped in servitude can have negative impacts upon the demon.’

‘Like what?’ She leant forward, enthralled and horrified all at once. Kylo edged closer her, resting his hands on her knees, talons lightly pricking her through her tights.

‘A Master can keep his charge in stasis unless required.’

‘Stasis?’ She couldn’t help but cut in, earning a disapproving flex of his nails into her skin.

‘I believe Professor Snoke must keep Hux between realms unless summoned, as I have trouble sensing him on most occasions. He could be used as a locator for the Professor, as Hux is an incredibly powerful well of power to hone in on.’

‘Can he do anything there?’

‘It is like a forced sleep, though he would be aware of everything in the passing. It is no different to how I was trapped in this place, only I was able to interact at some level. That was the closest the Professor could do to trapping me.’

‘Why is he so much stronger than you now?’ She asked. ‘Why does he still want you?’

‘He is old, and has grown in strength. But why use your strength when you can use anothers?’ Kylo stood up, leaving her knees cold with the sudden loss of his touch. ‘Would you care for pasta for dinner?’

***

Rey stared at herself in the mirror. She couldn’t help it. It had been so long since she’d actually looked. Usually it was just a fleeting glance as she brushed her teeth or her hair, or to check that there wasn’t a stain on her clothes. But now she was looking at her face, at the light spray of laugh lines that fanned around her lips and eyes. She looked at the sunspots and freckles, the frizzy strands of hair that escaped her ponytail. She had to do her eyebrows, and she couldn’t remember the last time she’d properly washed her hair, but Rey looked different to herself. Older.

Torture would probably do that to a person, she supposed, but it was more than that.

And it wasn’t because of that demon part of her that seemed to reach out and catalogue the moods of everyone about her, acting like a homing beacon to the constant whereabouts of her housemate.

She looked older because she was older.

But if things kept going as they were, she doubted she’d get any further past this stage of her life.

Kylo was in his room playing with his squirrel. She could hear him humming something to himself, even through the closed door of his room and the bathroom.

She tightened her grip on the sink, inhaling deeply as she closed her eyes against her own reflection.

It had circled her thoughts endlessly. Hux’s look of smug satisfaction the last time she’d seen him. That slight curve of his lips, the gleam in his eye. She didn’t need to ask what he had to be so pleased about, because she knew.

She had to help him. She had to. He had to be free, to get out from under Snoke. Could she get him to make a deal with her? Would that work if she was whatever she was? Would her demon self somehow trump the deal system and let her snake him out from under Snoke?

She leant her hips against the cool porcelain and let her head droop down. She could feel the tingle of the stretch down her back, the nerves tight along her spine.

If Kylo couldn’t find him, though, how was she? Was there a trick to it? Apart from murdering people, of course. She shuddered at the concept, the thought of Unkar flitting through her mind. They were still investigating his murder, the police a more and more infrequent presence in the building as they settled themselves into a cold case in the making. It had to be a gruesome murder, though, or so the rumours said. The police were exceptionally tight lipped about the state he was found in.

That dragged her mind to the man in the alleyway, and the fine mist he had been seconds later. Another pawn of Snoke. So many people under his control, in his pocket, bending to his every whim and desire. That man would have had a life, a family, and then Snoke had pulled the soul from him, drained him dry and set him loose on her.

She idly wondered if Hux had eaten the lost soul. She found she didn’t feel particularly bad at the concept. It wasn’t as though he had done it of free will, and even though she hardly knew the fire being, she highly doubted he’d trouble himself with a task like that of his own accord.

Shrugging herself out of her own head, Rey looked up again, staring at the green flecks in her eyes, at the way the eyelashes on her bottom right eyelid liked to clump naturally together. She studied the small nose hair sticking out of her left nostril, and the hint of a pimple on her chin. She really needed to do her eyebrows. Desperately.

Rey stepped away from the vanity and turned towards the door.

She didn’t really think as she slunk out and crept towards her front door, slipping her keys and wallet into the pocket of her jeans, the sound of Kylo floating through the apartment as he entertained himself. There wasn’t a concrete plan as she headed down the multiple staircases and out the open front door.

There was nothing definite, but she had an idea of what to do.

***

‘Rey!’ Maz dropped the pile of books she held, surprise suffusing every part of her tiny body. ‘Dear, what are you? Rey? What are you doing here?!’ She looked about hurriedly, eyes wide and alarmed.

Rey knew what the small demon was looking for.

‘He isn’t here yet.’ Rey said calmly. ‘You’re the only demon around.’

‘The only-’ and then understanding spread across wizened features. Maz nodded slowly. ‘A deal is still a deal and orders are still orders, my girl. He will shred you to tiny pieces because his Master so wishes.’

‘We will see.’ Rey said calmly, as though fear wasn’t in the process of shredding her internally, wreaking havoc on her gut and pulse and heart. Hux wouldn’t have to do a damned thing at this stage. She was mad. Utterly, hopelessly mad. She had to be. Because right now she could hold out her arm and press her fingertips to Maz’s forehead. She wondered if touching Maz would help speed this up.

One look at the concerned Librarian made her disregard the thought.

‘How does it feel?’ Maz asked, stooping to regather the books, reordering them as she did so, until the last one was slotted under her chin. Rey watched as she shuffled over to the main desk and set them down carefully. A few weeks ago and Rey would have helped. Now she was content to merely observe, feeling strangely disconnected from everything.

‘It feels … weird. But normal? I control it as much as it controls me.’

‘That is a fine balance to have, especially so early on in your relationship. I do hope it continues. The little mite in your chest can be a greedy thing if left to its own devices.’ Maz adjusted her glasses as she nodded knowingly. ‘And your other demon? How fares he?’

‘Well.’ Rey said, and proceeded to blush again. Maz added a knowing smile to her current expression.

‘I can feel just how well you are both going.’ Maz said, flicking her gaze up and down Rey’s body. ‘You are quite harmonious, content in that respect, I think.’

‘He talks to me now.’ Rey said, closing the small distance so that she leant against the counter, folding her arms across her chest as she confided in the demon. ‘It’s … nice, after so long, and after everything.’ Maz hummed in agreement. ‘Oh.’ Rey turned suddenly, feeling a crack of something flicker through her awareness.

‘It’s Hux, dear,’ Maz said. ‘It’s the fire in him. It creates quite a spark on entry.’

Hux stood and glared at them, looking the most human Rey had ever seen him. Gone were the flames and golden claws. His eyes were now a stormy green, his hair still vivid red, though everything else about him was mundanely crisp.

‘You’re attired a little wrong there, dear.’ Maz called out helpfully. Hux’s indifferent expression shifted into a scowl.

‘The order has not been rescinded,’ he said, the tone of his voice betraying his annoyance. ‘I am still to kill you. But I am also to keep you very much alive for my esteemed Master’s benefit, so you see the small quandry I am in right now.’

‘Quite the dilemma.’ Maz agreed. ‘Would we all like a cup of tea?’

‘Can I barter you out of it?’ Rey cut straight to the point, not wanting to waste time in case Kylo realised she was missing. He could get oblivious about time, but that didn’t stop him from missing her presence incessantly.

‘Barter me out of what?’ Hux asked, an eyebrow rising slightly in question.

‘Your deal.’

Behind her Maz sighed and shuffled away, her footsteps retreating through the library.

‘No.’ Hux said.

‘Why not?’ Rey demanded. ‘I’m part whatever I am, surely that makes me a better prospect?’

‘Having Kylo Ren under my beck and call is a better prospect,’ Hux said, answering a question she hadn’t known if she’d had the courage to ask. That was what Snoke had promised him? Hux smiled, flashing fangs, though it came across as a bitter thing. ‘Oh yes,’ he said. ‘I was to be the right hand man, and Kylo Ren, one of the very last Sky Walkers, was to be under my command. Of course what was not mentioned was the expectation that I was to subdue one of the most volatile creatures in the known universe.’

‘That’s-’

‘Exactly how a deal should work. State only the bare bone facts and leave your enemy in the dark.’

She stared at him, tilting her head as she studied him. He stared back, unconcerned by her scrutiny as he kept his position amongst the shelving. He appeared to be incredibly relaxed, and she found herself wondering if this was what he would be like normally, now that he was sitting comfortably between conflicting orders. Her thoughts flashed to him standing on the balcony, as Maz took her out on a picnic, how relaxed he’d been at having his directed orders twisted to suit his needs.

‘I don’t think of you as an enemy.’ She admitted, earning a startled huff of air from him, which could have been a laugh.

‘You should, girl. And even though you let that beast of a demon between your legs, you should view him in much the same way.’

‘How-?’ She cut herself off quickly. How did everyone know she’d been sleeping with Kylo? Did the act send fireworks into the demon realm? Did they broadcast on some demon wavelength that just screamed ‘WE’RE HAVING SEX’ on repeat? Hux merely smiled again, however there was a lot more humour and a lot less bitterness in this one.

‘Here we are.’ Maz said, making Rey jump out of her skin with fright. She turned to find a teapot and full cups of tea resting on saucers on the counter. Maz smiled benignly, as though nothing were amiss. Hux stepped forward and accepted one with a proffered courtesy.

They sipped at their beverages and nibbled at the accompanying biscuits for a long moment, eyeing each other contemplatively.

‘So what are we going to do?’ Maz asked, helpfully breaking their silent stalemate.

‘I have orders to tear her to bloody shreds and feast on the remains. I also have orders to take her back to Snoke in one whole and healthy piece now that he has seen and realised just what a tasty morsel she is.’ Rey felt her grip on the teacup tighten so much that the delicate china was in direct threat of shattering.

‘And what have you decided?’ Maz prompted.

‘What sort of deal would you have offered?’ He leant forward, bending down to peer into Rey’s eyes. She swallowed the wave of uncomfortableness that threatened to drown her at his sudden proximity.

‘I don’t … something to free you. Something to do with my power?’ She hedged, realising that she hadn’t actually thought that far, which was either incredibly foolish, or realistic.

‘That,’ Hux said, setting down his saucer and pressing the tip of his finger into her chest, right over the demon part of her, ‘is actually quite a tempting offer.’

She felt rather than saw the shift in his state, the sudden prick of his golden claw against her skin. It wasn’t hard enough to draw blood, merely her attention to the sudden yearning that flooded through her. It hummed in her to feed, to tug at the threads Hux was offering and drink deep of his power. She looked into his eyes and saw the colour drain from them, turning to stormy clouds. His skin took on a golden sheen as he reacted.

‘I can see what draws him to you now.’ Hux almost purred, flashing pointed teeth as he stared greedily down at her.

‘He always did have a knack of sensing the unusual,’ Maz agreed pleasantly, as though they weren’t having some sort of power-play-eye-fucking moment before her. ‘You know how it can be Hux, like power calls to like. But in all my years I’ve never felt her kin. Yourself?’

‘No.’ Hux agreed, hand splaying across her sternum, claws sliding against the bare skin of her throat. His power was lapping over her, engulfing her. It tingled at her skin and set her senses aflame. ‘The Professor was harping on about ancient blood lines, Kenobis and Sky Walkers and such, but she is an unknown. Of a very-’

‘Step back Hux, or you’ll have an angry Sky Walker on your hands,’ Maz said from behind her tea cup, a smile crinkling her eyes.

The power snapped, and Rey staggered, leaning momentarily into his hand, blinking rapidly as her head cleared. She stepped back, letting her weight sink against the library counter as she glanced between the two demons.

Hux’s face was flushed, cheeks mottled red, hair somehow in disarray. His hands hung limply at his sides, looking thoroughly ruffled and out of breath. She felt rather the same, though. Whatever that had been was thoroughly intoxicating.

‘I am forbidden from that sort of powerplay in my current contract,’ Hux finally said, once he’d regained his bearings.

‘What?’ She asked dumbly. He actually looked surprised at her lack of comprehension.

‘Are you trying to make me believe that yourself and your house pet do not do that?’ He scoffed, only to fall silent when Rey failed to immediately reply.

‘We just … we do human stuff, I guess,’ she answered lamely, glancing back to Maz for confirmation. The old woman shrugged her shoulders.

‘Believe me when I say that your well runs incredibly deep, and that if it was within my capacity to bend my current contract, I would be doing do this very instant. As it is I am currently married to a man who refuses to die of old age.’

They all fell silent as the atmosphere seemed to darken about them, the ripple sudden and ominous.

‘That’s your cue to leave, dear. I believe your flirting did not go unnoticed.’ Hux didn’t so much as offer a goodbye before vanishing.

‘Flirting?’ Rey asked, turning to look at Maz, ignoring the fact that Kylo was currently in proximity and drawing closer. She could feel his mounting concern and fury.

‘Oh, my dear. You have so much to learn.’ Maz smiled sweetly and the tea and biscuits vanished with a sweep of her wrinkled hand. ‘You might as well have just shagged on the desk.’

‘But I didn’t know!’ She blustered, suddenly wishing the ground would simply open up and devour her. How was she supposed to know what that was? Was that what it was? Was Maz pulling her leg? It had certainly felt pretty amazing. She could still feel the press of Hux’s hand against her.

‘Rey!’ Kylo strode through the shelves towards her, a thundercloud of emotion. She could almost see the blackness ebbing around him in waves. He paused before touching her, nostrils flaring, eyes narrowing.

‘You should really show her the demon ways, Kylo Ren,’ Maz offered helpfully into the mounting silence as Rey stared nervously up at her demon. ‘She seems to quite like it. I’m quite sure Hux sends his regards as well.’

The tiny demon disappeared before either of them could react.

Chapter Text

If Rey could have done anything, it would have been to go back in time with the knowledge she currently held. The foremost of that would be that Kylo was an incredibly powerful and creative demon. The second would be that what Hux had done to her had basically been softcore porn, and Maz had simply stood by and watched on drinking tea! The mortification was overwhelming as she turned her face up to the spray of the shower, trying to let the hot water burn away the swell of uncomfortable emotions.

Kylo had been furious at first, and then incredibly, demandingly possessive. She should object, should have objected. She was no one’s thing, but it would have done no good. He’d been insatiable, determined to cleanse her of the fire demons touch, his hands and lips and tongue and teeth chasing away any lingering sensations of what had occurred in the library. And then Kylo had shown her the true extent of how their power could be used for pleasure.

That had been two days ago.

She’d had to call in sick to work.

Rey groaned, sinking down onto her haunches, water pattering against her hunched back as she pressed her hands to her face.

This wasn’t good.

Whatever this was, it wasn’t good. It was possessive and manipulative and wrong. And right. And amazing. And unhealthy.

There was a demon who was obsessed with her and obsessed with possessing her.

And he didn’t sleep.

How was she supposed to sneak around or even have a moment’s respite when her house jailer now watched her every move? And he mightn’t realise it yet, but she knew he stood and watched over her while she slept. That’s because she barely slept. How could she with his glowing eyes piercing through her soul in the early hours of the morning? Of course as soon as she made the slightest motion of wakefulness he’d pounce with exuberance and ardour and drown out her nervousness and self-doubt with lust.

Kylo Ren was exhausting.

She was exhausted.

And she was hiding in her shower crying over it.

Not only could she not rescue Hux, she’d been molested by him, and then taken into captivity by her supposed boyfriend and quite thoroughly molested multiple (quite enjoyably and quite willingly every single) time. The thing in her chest was thoroughly sated, sleeping against her heart, filled with his power and with his emotions. Yet her human stomach rumbled tiredly. He hadn’t stopped to let her eat, and she felt shaky with it.

It wasn’t intentional, just an irrational oversight from him in his overeagerness to teach her. At least that’s what he called it, she was starting to wonder if he wasn’t trying to stain her with the scent of him, like a mating pair or something equally as demon-strange. She rubbed her face, and then pressed her palm to her aching stomach. She had to eat soon, and the water was starting to run cold.

Footsteps thudded through the apartment, her demon becoming impatient with her absence.

Well tough.

Tough.

That was it.

Rey stood, ignoring the sudden headspins at the abrupt change in position, as she angrily screwed the taps shut and stalked out of the tub. She threw the door open so hard it hit the wall and rebounded into her, though she didn’t feel the impact. Kylo was in the middle of the room, standing frozen, staring at her naked body in confusion.

‘I am going to work and you are staying here.’ She said with a calmness that defied the roiling emotions in her gut.

‘No.’ He said, straightening to his full height, expression darkening, forearms growing black, horns spiralling from his forehead. Before his transformation was even complete Rey was in front of him, finger jabbing hard into his chest. It probably hurt her more than it hurt him though, finger joints aching at the rough impact. She was not going to let him throw a tantrum, not now that she’d made up her mind.

‘I am going to work.’ She hissed, narrowing her eyes and letting some of the vitriol she was beginning to feel seep into her tone, stabbing him in the chest again to punctuate her point. ‘If you stop me I will hurt you, and if that does not work I will hurt myself. Do you understand?’ She didn’t know why she said it until she saw his expression. One of utter horror and panic.

‘You can’t!’ He said, hands hovering over her arms, as if suddenly afraid to touch her. ‘You can’t harm yourself!’ He said it desperately. ‘You’re too important Rey! Why can’t you stay here with me, where it’s safe?’ She wavered. For a brief, indecisive moment she wavered. And then she thought back to barely a minute earlier, crying in the shower, her only refuge from this man who was playing her protector.

‘Because I have a life that I need to live, and you are stopping me from doing so.’ It felt cruel to say, but she had to be honest. She needed to get it off her chest, to try and make him understand. ‘You will let me go to work for the rest of the afternoon, and then I will come home and we will eat dinner, human dinner, with food, and then tomorrow morning I will again go to work, because that is what I have always done, and that is what I will continue to do. Am I clear?’

He was silent for a long moment, muscles tense against her fingertip. And then he nodded his head ever so slightly. Satisfied, Rey turned her back on him and headed into her room to get herself ready for the rest of her day. It didn’t take long, after scrounging a towel out of her wardrobe, and then tugging on a pair of jeans and a shirt. She barely paused to tie up her hair, before brushing past Kylo, who hadn’t moved, to leave the confines of her once loved apartment, down those interminable stairs, and out the ever-open door to sunshine and traffic and other people.

She walked the entire way, not bothering to catch any form of public transport as she vented her frustration through exercise. She was already late, and work wasn’t even expecting her in the first place. It didn’t matter how long it would take to get there, it was the simple act of being free and traversing the world again that filled her with joy.

‘Didn’t expect to see you,’ Chewie said as she breezed through the open garage door. She headed straight to a car in the back she’d been working on. She hadn’t even brought her bag with her, she’d been that desperate to get out from under Kylo’s watchful eye.

‘I feel a lot better,’ she said by way of greeting, flashing him a smile that seemed to reassure him.

‘Hi,’ Mitaka said at her feet. She looked down to find him half lying under the car she’d wanted to work on.

‘Hi yourself.’

‘You okay? You look a little … flushed …’ He looked nervous as he spoke, as though worried she’d make him sick. Rey smiled as something occurred to her. She glanced at Chewie, who was heading back into his office to answer the ringing phone. Satisfied there was no one else in for the day, Rey squatted down by her nervous colleagues head.

‘Where did you work before this?’ Rey asked, ignoring how uncomfortable Mitaka looked as she knelt by his exposed head, trapping him on his back. He swallowed, throat bobbing with the motion. He was like a trapped rabbit, all wide eyes and quivering skin, nostrils flaring as he began to breath in rapid, panicked breaths.

‘I worked in academia,’ he said, voice strangled. Rey smiled in the most friendly manner she could. She felt a little bad at cornering him like this, but also a little bit glad that he was so horrendous at lying that he preferred to take the truth. What had Snoke expected when he’d set such an honest man out to do his spying?

‘Woah, what made you want to become a mechanic?’ Rey asked, continuing the conversation. ‘I have a friend who’s a teacher, and I loved study, but I’m such a hands on person. Was that it for you?’ She gave him his out, and he stared up at her, the pause before he answered drawing out between them to an uncomfortable length.

‘Not really,’ he finally said with a wince.

‘Rey!’ Chewie hollered from the office. ‘C’mere! I need your opinion on this quote.’

‘Sure!’ She called back, before sighing and standing up, knees cracking embarrassingly loudly. It was like she’d aged several years in the past couple of months. Demons were exhausting. She looked down again at her workmate. ‘We should get to know each other more, Mitaka. You’re pretty quiet, but you’re a good worker.’ She smiled, before heading into the office to help her boss.

***

Mitaka was at work the next day and Rey glued herself to his side, taking on some of Kylo’s annoying tactics of not giving the poor man breathing space. She bombarded him with questions, much to the amusement of their co-workers and boss. She questioned his work methods, which were commendable and occasionally creative; she dragged out his academic prowess, which turned out to be quite high. He’d written quite a few published and peer reviewed papers, and had even been approached to write a book on his field of expertise, which turned out to be a field dedicated to the superstitious and supernatural. His boss, as she eventually managed to wring out from him after hovering over him all day, was none other than Professor Snoke. She’d known the answer all along, but it was nice to hear him squeak out the words. Mitaka also lived with his elderly mother as her carer, owned a fluffy orange cat named Millicent, and enjoyed cooking.

By the end of the day Rey was thoroughly convinced that Mitaka was a thoroughly wonderful and intelligent young man and was certain that if he hadn’t been sent to spy on her, they could have been friends. In fact, she was fairly certain she was going to try and make that happen anyway. She couldn’t judge a man on being terrified of his horrible, overbearing boss who also happened to be in command of a powerful demon. Rey was certain Mitaka was highly aware of the fact. He obviously hadn’t admitted to anything like magic being real, but she could read between the lines.

Mitaka had an unprepossessing nature and a natural desire to please. He was also unfailingly nervous and timid, despite the fact that his brilliance made him almost always right.

‘Come to dinner tonight,’ Rey said as they were closing up the shop, everyone else already long gone, having left Mitaka to Rey’s mercy.

Mitaka had that deer in the headlights look on his face, hand on the door lock as he slowly pivoted on his heel to look at her. She could see the nervous sweat gleaming on his upper lip.

‘I’m meeting some friends tonight at the pub,’ she pressed, knowing that if anyone could help Mitaka loosen up, it would be Poe and Finn, with the aid of alcohol. The thought flitted through her mind that it could put her friends in harm's way, but then Snoke obviously already knew about them if he’d used Finn to torture her earlier. She also idly considered inviting her errant demon, but quickly tucked that thought away as well. She was in no mood to deal with him. The previous night she had cooked for him, fed him, and then locked him out of her room, which she knew was mostly symbolic as the bastard didn’t need doors to enter a room anyway.

‘I’m … uh …’

‘You already said you didn’t have plans,’ she said cheerfully, referring to an earlier conversation she’d dragged out of him.

‘That’s true,’ he admitted in defeat, shoulders slumping as he finished locking the door. Without another word he fell into step with her and let her fill their journey into town with inane babble about customers and the weather and how Rey had always wanted a pet, and envied Mitaka for having one. And also a parent, she overshared that with him as well. What was the harm, she thought, when he probably already knew everything about her anyway?

‘There she is!’ Poe hollered as she entered.

‘Mitaka!’ Finn said in surprise, shaking the man's hand as Poe enveloped her in a suffocating hug.

‘You know each other?’ Rey asked, sliding into their booth.

‘Yeah!’ Finn said enthusiastically, wrapping an arm over her shoulders and hauling her into his side. She breathed in deeply, savouring the smell that was Finn. That spicy, slightly mothball smell that seemed to come solely from the leather jacket that had almost become his uniform, having stolen it from Poe almost a decade ago.

‘How does everyone know each other?’ Poe asked, leaning against the table, causing it to tilt haphazardly towards him, but he didn’t seem to notice, intent on the new person in their midst. Mitaka didn’t answer, though Rey noticed a sheen of sweat now decorating his forehead.

‘He worked at the University!’ Finn said, squeezing Rey again, refusing to release her, not that she was complaining.

‘And now he works with me.’ Rey agreed. Poe nodded as if that were the most obvious and logical progression.

‘What a small world.’ He said diplomatically.

‘Yeah, he was an aide to Professor Snoke,’ Finn continued. ‘You’re really smart, man. I heard you’re writing a book now! But you’re a mechanic? As a career change or hobby?’

‘Uh-’ Mitaka said, only to be interrupted by an unwelcome party.

‘Hey!’ Poe was on his feet again and hugging Kylo enthusiastically.

‘Hello,’ Kylo said, returning the hug awkwardly. His eyes skimmed over Rey, nestled into Finn’s side, the look burning despite its brevity, before settling on an incredibly white Mitaka. Kylo tilted his head ever so slightly before sliding into the booth, squeezing Mitaka between himself and Rey.

‘What are you doing here?’ Rey asked as pleasantly as she could. She’d needed the recharge with her friends, with no demon interference or presence. Just humans doing human things.

‘You left your phone at home,’ Kylo said, plucking it from his jacket pocket and waving it at her. As he did so the screen lit up with a range of unread messages from an overly descriptive and informative Finn. ‘I thought you might need it. I only found it an hour ago, when I was in the kitchen.’

She’d left it in her room, shoved under her pillow from turning off her alarm instead of snoozing it this morning. She’d woken up in a fluster of lateness and realised as soon as she’d gotten to work where she’d left it. Rey glared at him for a moment, but he ignored her, settling his attention on Poe, who was asking Kylo what he’d been up to.

‘So, a mechanic?’ Finn prompted.

‘Uh, yeah.’ Mitaka bobbed his head, hair plastered to his forehead as he tried not to stare at the giant pressed up against him. Rey could taste the fear radiating from him, but she refused to allow herself to feed on it, stomping away the feeling that seemed to amplify in Kylo’s presence. ‘I was … the … I needed a temporary break from writing. So I … I took a sabbatical? Maybe? To work on machines. Cars. To mechanic-be a mechanic.’ He cleared his throat nervously, glanced again at Kylo, and then fixed his gaze on Finn, who seemed to be his safest option out of the group.

‘Cool.’ Finn said and leant back.

‘I’ll get us drinks!’ Poe said enthusiastically, springing to his feet.

‘Have I made your acquaintance before?’ Kylo asked, his attention now returned, and Rey almost rolled her eyes.

‘N-no. No never.’ Mitaka said. ‘You are a f-friend of Rey’s?’

‘Her roommate.’ Kylo said, leaning down to bring his face more on level with Mitaka’s. For a moment his eyes flicked up to meet Rey’s, and a sizzle of electricity raced through her. His eyes spoke of knowing, of desire and frustration and playfulness. She swallowed dryly, suddenly nervous because Kylo knew exactly who he was sitting next to, despite never having met the man before. He knew, and he was having fun.

‘Ni-nice to meet you Mister …’

‘Ren.’ Kylo said and took Mitaka’s shaking, proffered hand in a firm grip. Rey could see their knuckles turn white and Kylo’s forearm tense. Mitaka winced but didn’t pull away, much to his credit, though Rey wondered if that was partly because he was physically unable to.

‘I work with … with Rey.’

‘I believe she has mentioned you in passing before.’ Kylo agreed pleasantly, sitting back and angling himself more towards his target.

‘Mitaka,’ Rey said, pulling herself away from Finn’s side. ‘Would you like to go to the bar with me and get some food? Poe always forgets to order food, and we’re always a few drinks in before we remember.’ He nodded rapidly, as though determined to give himself whiplash.

Kylo took a long moment to cooperate, but finally he stood and let them slide them out of the booth.

‘Deep breaths Mitaka, there’s a boy,’ she said quietly as they moved away from the table. Her poor colleague was moments away from hyperventilating.

‘Why are you doing this?’ He gasped, grasping onto the bar for dear life as Rey plucked up a menu and pretended to look at it. The words were gibberish though as she slowly slid her gaze to an utterly terrified Mitaka.

‘I promise you I had no idea he’d be here tonight. He’s being an absolute child.’

‘You don’t control him?’ He squeaked, fear amplifying ten-fold. Rey refused to glance back at Kylo, but she could feel his attention burning through her back.

‘You can’t ever truly control someone,’ Rey chided, feeling almost playful in the face of his terror, but she quickly took pity on him, dropping all pretenses. ‘I highly doubt Hux is always controlled.’

‘Not always,’ Mitaka agreed, ‘only when within the limits of the-’ he fell silent, words grinding to a halt as his eyes glazed over in horror.

‘There’s a boy,’ Rey repeated, patting him gently on the shoulder.

‘I’m going to die.’ Mitaka said with quiet certainty.

‘You’re not going to die.’ Rey said confidently.

‘I’m going to die.’ Mitaka repeated with equal confidence. Rey shook her head and leant close, as if they were discussing menu options instead of life expectancy.

‘I won’t let you die, Mitaka.’

‘I wasn’t supposed to tell you anything,’ he looked up at her with giant eyes filled with unspeakable things. ‘Hux will kill me now. He was ordered to.’

‘He was also ordered to kill me, but he didn’t seem that inclined last time I saw him,’ Rey confided, smiling reassuringly.

‘He hasn’t seen you since the incident!’ Mitaka shot back, and Rey felt her eyebrows rise of their own accord. The incident? Did he mean the meeting in her apartment? When Snoke had found out about her?

‘Does Snoke tell you everything?’ She asked. Mitaka nodded before realising what he was answering. ‘Well I don’t think Hux tells Snoke everything, because I saw him a couple of days ago, and he was quite happy to let me carry on with living. If he does appear, tell him that I want to speak with him first, okay?’ She had no idea if her name would carry any sway with the golden demon, but she had an inkling.

‘Rey,’ Mitaka said after a long pause, where Rey had pulled herself up onto a stool and had actually started reading the menu in her hand.

‘Hmm?’ She glanced at him. He’d sat down as well, his palms visibly clammy as they rested limply on the top of the bar. Mitaka looked as though he’d aged several years in the past couple of minutes. His face was gaunt, eyes surrounded by dark circles, his hair an utter mess, limbs trembling.

‘You really don’t control the Sky Walker, Kylo Ren?’ He whispered.

Rey shook her head, turning to face him properly, unsure of how to comfort him properly. How had Snoke expected this poor man to be a spy with a constitution like a wet blanket?

‘I doubt anyone truly can.’ She said, knowing it was possibly the least comforting thing anyone could say.

‘He knows who I am.’ Mitaka said, voice even softer, ‘he can feel the Professor on me, and Hux, their power. I’m not … I’m not stupid. He knows who I am and he will kill me for it.’

‘He won’t kill you.’ Rey said. ‘I won’t let him.’

‘But you just said you can’t con-’

‘I know what we said,’ she cut in brusquely, raising a hand to call the bar staff over to order. ‘Just because I can’t make him do something doesn’t mean I will let him do what he wants. I won’t let him kill you, Mitaka, because you’re not a bad person. The only thing in this world that can incite fear in that giant moron is me, but if I find out that Snoke somehow knows that about how our relationship works? Then I’m afraid our relationship will be a short one, Mitaka, because I can suggest things to the idiot, but he doesn’t always listen.’

She felt a bad, threatening him, but she had to make sure he knew his place. And while Kylo was a royal pain in her arse at the moment, what with his possessiveness and stalking and clinging, he was still hers. Rey looked out for her own, she protected her own. And now that she had an in with Mitaka? She felt one step closer to Hux, and closer to a plan on how to deal with Professor Snoke.

Chapter Text

Mitaka still came to work the day after, and then the day after that. And more than that sign of good faith, that he was still alive, he also willingly spoke to her. He seemed to have come to his own conclusion after fleeing the pub, leaving her to excuse his absence with his mother being sick. Mitaka seemed resolute in befriending her and keeping her demon's secrets.

It was a strange situation to be in, and both of them shared looks of quiet seriousness when their conversations lulled. Not that they lulled often. As it turned out, when Mitaka wasn't fearing for his life, he was actually quite charming and talkative.

'You should meet Millicent,' Mitaka said as they locked up the shop. Rey pushed loose strands of hair behind her ears and grinned, watching him slip his key ring back into his bag.

'And your mother,' she added playfully. 'This is all moving so fast!' Her co-worker laughed in response.

'She may have heart palpitations when she sees I've brought a female friend home.' He agreed.

As it turned out Mitaka lived out of town, on a semi-rural block that housed a smattering of cows. Rey was practically hanging out the window, trying to take it all in at once. The greenery and animal life, the sounds and smells. They leased the land, Mitaka explained, as he drove them up the pot-holed driveway to a rustic, and rather neglected looking, home. The wrap-around verandah was devoid of life, though there were ample cushioned chairs, and a much loved swinging seat.

'I didn't think you'd live so far from the University,' Rey admitted as she stretched her arms above her head, breathing in deep the sense of nature and cow shit. Mitaka shrugged his shoulders as he slung his backpack over his shoulder and locked the door of his rusted truck. He driven it to work specifically to invite her over for afternoon tea. She had wondered at first if it was a trap, but Mitaka was far too bad a liar, and so she had excitedly accepted. Kylo could sit at home and sweat over her absence. He was still in trouble for coming to the pub the other night.

'I'm home,' Mitaka hollered in the loudest voice she'd ever heard from him. The porch groaned welcomingly underfoot as they mounted three short steps and moved to the front door.

Inside they were greeted with doilies and glass-fronted cabinets filled with delicate china. Despite the rustic exterior, the interior breathed refinement and class.

'Did I hear someone else with you?' A woman called out from another room. A fat, orange tabby cat preceded a silver haired, yet spritely older woman through one of the doors. The moment she saw Rey she actually faltered. 'Oh good heavens.' She said.

'Heart palpitations,' Mitaka said to Rey, before sweeping his mother in a hug. He then scooped up the feline and bopped it in the nose with a knuckle.

'Nice to meet you Mrs. Mitaka,' Rey said with a smile. 'I'm ... well I guess I'm his manager.' It was funny to think of herself that way, and she wrinkled her nose at the idea.

'A workplace romance!' His mother gasped, hands clasped together so tightly against her chest that her knuckles were turning white.

'She has a boyfriend, Mother,' Mitaka said without looking up from his enamoured pet.

His mother visibly deflated.

'Oh.' She said. Rey smiled apologetically.

'This is a lovely home,' Rey said by way of truthfulness and distraction.

'Thank you, dear. It's nice to have people over occasionally to appreciate it. And fortunately for you, because Dopheld never tells me to expect company, I actually did some baking today, so there's fresh scones and cookies in the kitchen.' Rey opened her mouth to respond and found herself genuinely unable to say anything at all.

She had never been faced with anything so ... domestic. Tears rose embarrassingly fast and she squashed them just as quickly. But not quick enough.

'Have I said something wrong?' Mrs. Mitaka had her by the hands and was pulling her presumably towards the kitchen, where a kettle was beginning to shrill.

'Your overbearing nature is scaring her, she never had a family,' Mitaka said matter-of-factly. For a moment Rey missed the meek and demure Mitaka of old. The man with her now was self assured and almost cocky.

'Well that's not possible,' Mrs. Mitaka scoffed, pushing open a door to reveal a kitchen fit for any wealthy country home. Broad wooden benches with knots and swirls took up two walls, covered in trays of cooling cookies and cakes. Delicious meat smells wafted from a glowing oven and drying herbs hanging from the ceiling, as well as ones growing in pots in the multiple kitchen windows, all added to a beautiful aroma.

Mitaka settled himself at Rey's elbow as his mother began getting the cups of tea. The big feline seemed to notice Rey for the first time and swatted at her arm for attention. She obliged willingly and soon had the cat in her own lap as she scratched Millicent behind the ears.

'Well?' The older woman asked once tea had been served in delicate cups and she was seated across from them at the island counter, a spread of cream and jam, scones and biscuits plated before them.

'I was raised in the system, Ma'am.' Rey answered easily, overly used to this line of questioning as she waited for Mitaka to pick up some food before she did the same, though it was a little more tricky with a selfish cat in the way demanding attention. 'My Guardian wasn't ... he ...'

'So you're Dopheld's manager, then?' Mrs. Mitaka tactfully changed the subject, not looking in the least apologetic for Rey's sad childhood. That act alone raised the woman in Rey's esteem. 'How's he doing? He never did seem to have an interest in getting his hands dirty. Used to be bullied by all the local children, but look at them now. In prison, or working such menial jobs, several children deep,' although she said the latter like a curse, Rey got the distinct impression that perhaps Mrs. Mitaka wished for the exact opposite. Mitaka groaned as though this were a common point of contention. 'But he's quite famous in his circles, you know? He's even been published! He's been on a tour with his paper and has spoken to important people in his field. And now he's fiddling with oil and machine parts! Is this some sort of mid-life crisis dear?'

'He's very good at what he does,' Rey grinned around her cup of tea, trying not to glance at her flustered friend. 'One of the best workers, actually. I'll be sad when he goes back to academia.'

'So you're returning then?' Mitaka, who had just taken a large bite of a cream laden scone, rolled his eyes in response.

'I'm sure if he wanted to, he could manage both. I certainly don't want to give him up just yet!' Rey laughed for him, trying to diffuse the family tension. It seemed to work.

'A smart boy like my son? Of course he could do both! What a fantastic idea!' Mrs. Mitaka clapped her hands together in delight. The chime of the doorbell interrupted whatever she was about to say next. 'Oh, I invited some of my friends over. Do try not to be too noisy, we're discussing our latest book in book club.' And with that she was up and out of the kitchen.

The moment she was gone, Mitaka was piling a plate with snacks and then ushering Rey quickly back out into the hallway, down the corridor and into a section of the house that seemed to be reserved solely for him if the amount of stacked books was anything to go by.

'Your mother is delightful.' Rey said in wonder.

'She is,' Mitaka agreed.

'I imagined she'd be ... older, more frail ...'

'Because I live with her?' Mitaka asked, amusement lacing his voice. Rey shrugged helplessly as Mitaka opened another door and preceded her into what appeared to be his bedroom. He dumped the plate of snacks onto a desk covered with printed and handwritten papers. His bed was neatly made against the far wall, beneath gauze covered windows which fluttered idyllically in a soft breeze. Against the wall beside her were bookshelves overladen with yet more books, and a comfortable looking couch and armchair.

'She had me when she was young.’ Mitaka said, slinging his bag onto his desk chair. ‘She came from a wealthy family and my father was ... he was a local kid. Her parents set her up here and here we are.' He gestured to the couch and Rey settled in, finding it just as comfortable as it looked.

'Out of sight, out of mind, huh?' She offered. He bobbed his head in agreement. He was shuffling through his papers, putting them back into order as he spoke, allowing Rey to study the multitude of literary texts stack before her.

'They're alright people, they just have different rules to us. Plus I don't know how she would have ever been able to work a day in her life. They trained her to be a perfect housewife.'

'Not you though?' She asked.

'I think I'd look nice in a frilly apron,' Mitaka said with a surprisingly straight face. Rey couldn't help it, she burst into laughter. It was nice being able to relax, being able to forget. There was no doubt a furious demon waiting at home for her, but right now she could not care less.

'Finally! You have no idea how long-' Mitaka, who had finally been in the process of sitting down in the armchair, froze. Rey, however, jumped to her feet, laughter vanishing as she whirled to face the equally startled demon sprawled on the bed with a content looking Millicent. 'Ah.' Was all he said in the ensuing silence.

'Hux,' Mitaka finally said, face deathly pale.

'Yes.' The fire demon answered, before clearing his throat and swinging his feet to the floor, sitting himself up. It was only then that Rey noticed the demon was considerably less dressed than normal, and far less composed. His shirt was unbuttoned, sleeves pushed up to his elbows, and his normally sleek hair was tousled, as though he’d run his hands through it repeatedly. Her eyebrows rose impossibly high as she turned to look back at her colleague.

'Well this is unexpected.' She said.

'Incredibly so.' Hux agreed. 'Even the cat stinks like you.' He didn't release the feline though, seemingly happy to keep patting it despite its evident flaw.

'He could be here to ... to kill me for talking to you,' Mitaka offered weakly. No one for an instant believed his answer.

'Oh please,' Hux said, finally standing and settling the cat down. 'It's quite obvious I'm here to do other things to you.' Rey couldn't help the inappropriate giggle that escaped her. This was beyond ridiculous. Hux and Mitaka were … friends? 'So why is she here, and in your rooms?'

'We were having afternoon tea,' Rey answered for the both of them, settling her hands on her hips as she processed this new turn of events. 'Does Snoke know?' She finally asked, watching Mitaka and Hux hold a silent conversation from opposite sides of the room.

'Mitaka wouldn't be alive if Snoke knew many things,' Hux said calmly, settling himself on the couch, closest to Mitaka, who seemed to remember himself and finished sitting, almost collapsing backwards in a nervous heap.

'Like what?' Rey couldn't help but ask, realising that if she wanted to sit she'd need to do so beside the demon. With an internal shrug she did just that. It wasn’t as though he’d try to do anything to her. At least, nothing serious, she hoped.

'Like the fact that the woman Snoke desperately wants is currently sequestered in Mitaka's personal living space,' Hux said, dancing his fingers down Mitaka's arm. 'Or that Mitaka came home reeking of a certain temperamental Sky Walker the other night.'

'How are you even here?' Rey asked, watching as Mitakas face turned a splotchy red under Hux’s attention.

'My ever gracious Master lets my leash loose every so often to fetch things that he so fancies. I occasionally take longer on some occasions, than on others.’

'How ... considerate.'

'In this instance he's after information on the girl.' He drawled out the last word, delighting in his current situation. 'Mitaka? How is your mission going? Have you wooed her yet?' Rey choked on her own breath as Mitaka's face turned from splotchy to flaming red, bright enough to match his tormentors hair. 'It doesn't appear that you have, what a shame. Have you at least befriended her outside of your working confines? No? You never discuss anything personal? You haven't spoken to her about him? How errant of you. Not overly suited to this task. Not very good at befriending, are you? If only you were as good as others,' he shot Rey a bemused look here, before returning to slide his fingers under the back of Mitaka's collar. 'So really you have nothing to report to Snoke, nothing that I can give back to him of any use? What an utter shame. For someone working so closely with the girl, you think you'd have something a little more informative than nothing. Other than that it appears she has returned to work. Perhaps that is worth mentioning. It is a tidbit.'

Hux cast his burning gaze over Rey again, and she found herself blushing as well. Whatever was going on here felt incredibly intimate. And it had nothing to do with her presence. It felt more as though this were a common interaction between the two, as Mitaka offered no resistance to anything Hux said.

'Any other tidbits?' He was still looking at her expectantly, and with a jolt she realised he was waiting for her response.

'I go for a walk alone every night,' she said, making it up on the spot. 'After dinner, to get away from my roommate.' She didn't, but walking after meals was supposed to be good for your digestion, wasn't it? She could always start.

'That's certainly ... interesting,' Hux said, a brow raising in silent appreciation. 'She must be very annoyed at her roommate if she's discussing her personal life with someone like you, at work, Mitaka.' Mitaka made of noise of protest at that, a flash of annoyance crossing his face, which Hux settled by interlocking their fingers.

'He's very annoying,' Rey answered truthfully. Hux's smug grin told her he knew just how truthful she was being. 'Quite overbearing at the moment.'

'Oh, I could imagine.'

The bastard.

The utter bastard!

She knew, in that moment, that he knew. What he'd done, and why he'd done it. To make Kylo jealous, to make him do what he did, to make her annoyed. It was a trick well played, artfully played, and she was impressed despite her anger and annoyance. Despite the fact he wanted to punch him in his arrogant nose.

'So I need to get out of the house and clear my head. I go walking through the park.'

'Not many people in the park after nightfall,' Hux commented. 'Must be quite lonely.

'It means I can clear my head,' she agreed nonchalantly.

'You should be careful, strange things can happen in the dark.'

'So I've been lead to believe.' They stared at one another for a moment.

'Alright, leave now.' Hux said, turning abruptly away from her to face Mitaka.

'Excuse me?' She spluttered, standing up to tower over him angrily.

'I'm done with you, and Mitaka doesn't like an audience. I'd be fine with it, though,' his eyes sparkled as he glanced over his shoulder at her.

'I have to drive her home,' Mitaka mumbled.

'But I can-' Hux began to protest.

'He'd know.' Rey cut Hux off quickly with a dismissive wave of her hand. 'You are not making him go crazy again just because you want to get laid. I like being able to walk, Mister, and leaving my house, so Mitaka is driving me home.' Hux had turned to stare at her through her mini rant, his mouth falling slightly open, as though he couldn’t believe the way she was speaking to him.

'You are the strangest little creature I have ever met.' He decided out loud.

'And for some reason I still want to save you.' She spat back, folding her arms over her chest as she glared down at him.

'Save Hux?' Mitaka said, slightly alarmed. 'But the only way is-'

'She's aware,' Hux said, slowly standing, and pulling Mitaka up with him. 'She is very much aware that the only way to rescue me is to kill Professor Snoke.' Rey felt the blood drain from her face, though her determination remained. Mitaka was looking at her as though she were an entirely different person.

'I'll take you home now,' he finally said. 'I brought you some snacks,' Mitaka added to Hux, waving his hand at the plate of cookies.

'My favourite!' Hux said, entire conversation apparently forgotten as he vanished and reappeared with the plate, sitting cross-legged on Mitaka's bed, a cookie already in his mouth. 'Have fun children, and don't be too long,' he gave Mitaka a pointed look, 'I don't have all night.'

***

'So, how long?' Rey asked as the car idled out the front of her apartment block.

'A while.' Mitaka said, looking down at his hands, which were clasped nervously in his lap.

'Hey, I'm obviously not one to judge,' Rey laughed. 'I moved into a haunted apartment and started sleeping with the ghost so ...'

'Are you really trying to save him?' Mitaka whispered so quietly that Rey almost missed the question.

'Hey,' she turned towards him, waiting for him to finally meet her gaze. 'I really am. Hux can be a dick, and so can Kylo, but neither of them deserve Snoke. I want to save them both.'

'Okay,' he mumbled. And then his shoulders straightened, expression becoming determined. 'Okay.'

Rey smiled, and then pulled him into a hug. She pecked him on the lips and pulled back with an impish smile to counter Mitaka's surprised expression.

'I want to save Hux, but I don't want to make life easy for him,' she said, opening the car door. 'You'll see what I mean when you get back.' She winked at him and then shut the door, leaving the poor, bewildered man to his possessive demon as she trudged up her apartment stairs to face her own.

***

Kylo Ren paced the room again. It felt like the hundred thousandth time, and he would pace it one hundred thousand more until she returned. And he fully intended to, but the door lock clicked and the handle turned.

'You smell like baked goods,' he said sulkily, 'and Mitaka.' He refused to admit that it was jealously flooding through him, especially as Rey shrugged her shoulders and set her bag on the kitchen counter, pulling her hair up into a bun to reveal the delectable column of her neck. He was not allowed to display jealousy. It had not been expressly said, but he could read between the lines. She had not appreciated his display of devotion to her, not that he could fathom why. The sound of his name being wrung from her panting lips still gave him shivers of delight.

'Did you have a good day?' She asked, cracking the fridge to examine the contents.

'Where were you?' Kylo Ren asked instead, not being jealous.

'I was with Mitaka,' she answered, at though he were simple in the head. 'We had afternoon tea together.'

'And that is all?'

'I did kiss him,' she said thoughtfully. Kylo Ren felt as though he had been tossed into another realm, one with unstable surfaces determined to throw him off his feet. But then he saw the spark of amusement in the sidelong glance she gave him, and he quickly pulled himself back together again.

'You should only kiss me.'

'I'm mad at you,' she reminded him. Kylo Ren huffed, turning away from her. He did not understand her fickle moods sometimes. She wanted no attention from him, and then all of the attention. It was simply not fair, and confusing. He was certain that she loved him, though. Very certain. She had not banished him from her presence, which she could very well do.

'I could kiss you instead?' He offered, suddenly turning back and stepping closer to her. Her back stiffened at his proximity, and he couldn't stop the predatory smile even if he had so desired. 'I could kiss you in many places.'

'How about dinner instead?' She said, pulling out a variety of cheeses and a bottle of olives and another of sundried tomatoes.

'I suppose that may be acceptable,' he responded, disgruntled by the change in direction of his plans. 'My day was relatively dull,' he said, answering her earlier question as she set out their meal on the table. A box of crackers was put out, as well as two glasses and a jug of water, before Rey seated herself and began to eat. 'I get lonely without you.'

'Can't you go back to your realm and do demon things?'

'But then I would be away from you.' He said before he could stop himself, watching her intently as she used a fork to wrestle an olive out of its jar.

'What would you do if Snoke was no longer after you?' He blinked at her slowly, trying not to let the annoyance creep into his tone as he responded, not in the least bit fooled by her innocent expression.

'I do not know.' Just as he did not know why she was so obsessed with the Professor. As though she had the power to stop a man more powerful than he, through magics and a will far darker than any mortal should possess. He did not envy Hux his position, any more than Hux did. Kylo Ren could not understand how Rey did not see just how dangerous Professor Snoke was, and yet she was determined to go after him. Could she not leave well enough alone? Could she not see that if she remained quiet, he could sequester them away to safety, if only she would give up her guise of human life. She could be so much more, be so much stronger. Even now, though sated, that demon part of her called to him, hungering and yearning.

'Think about it,' Rey pressed, leaning forward eagerly, the most expressive he had seen her since she had bruised his chest with her talon of a finger. 'If you were free of his threat, if Hux was no longer under his control. What would you do?'

'I would ...' he paused, rolling it through his thoughts. He had never truly allowed the threat of the Professor to alter his behaviour, except for where it regarded Rey. 'I would stay with you.' He finally said. 'We would go home, to the Realms, and I would show you just how much trouble I can truly cause.' His teasing failed to produce the desired result.

'I don't want to go back to the Realms, though,' she frowned. 'I want to stay here.'

'Though you are not human?' Her answer was honestly bewildering and he struggled to find the logic in it.

'I'm not a demon either,' she snapped angrily, slamming a palm down against the table loudly. 'My life is here, Kylo.'

'But not for eternity,' he said in confusion, frowning at her. 'What if your life extends beyond the natural human term?'

'Is that possible?' She asked, and the fear on her face was awful to behold, eyes widening, mouth slackening. He grasped her hand quickly, attempting to squeeze it reassuringly.

'Yes,' he said, unable to lie to her. 'With your strength it is an inevitability. You will outlive your friends.'

'But not you,' she growled, glaring down at her plate of crumbs.

'No.' He said, glancing down at the mostly untouched meal between them.

'And if I want to stay here? Without you?' His heart squeezed tightly in his chest, as though clamped with a vice. He never wanted to feel that sensation again, that flare of panic and denial. She looked angry and upset, but he was unable to judge her mood properly, for his own was reeling.

'I am used to waiting.' He said softly. He heard her slight intake of breath, felt the muscles in her arm tense, and then she was pulling her hand free, pulling away from the table.

He watched her go morosely, feeling as though he had lost something in this moment. Something important and irretrievable.

The bedroom door clicked closed behind her, leaving him alone with his thoughts once more.

Chapter Text

It was a month before anything happened.

An entire month of seeing Mitaka at work, of knowing looks and waggled eyebrows and developed in-jokes that sparked rumours between their colleagues of an affair. An entire month of a sullen and aloof Kylo. She understood his hurt, that she would be considering a life without him. But how could he expect anything less? Look at what was happening to her! She wasn't even fully human! She could have lived her whole life not knowing, happy and content with her friends and her job. Perhaps one day she would have married, started her own family who she would have loved and cherished. But not anymore.

No.

Not anymore.

She was touched by the demon world.

Touched by a powerful demon.

She couldn't imagine ever laying with another man again. And she'd tried, sitting quietly on the bus and staring out the window. She'd tried to imagine sparking up a conversation with the handsome man beside her, accepting an offer of coffee, a first date, first kiss, first tussle under the sheets ... but they all ended with Kylo's golden gaze, with his blackened claws trailing down her navel, with the brush of his silky hair between her thighs.

There was only him, the demon who had turned her life upside down, had changed everything she'd ever known. There was only him, and she couldn't be with him. Not now, not yet. But a future life ... an eternity she apparently had in front of her, an unknown, unquantifiable amount of years left to experience ... could she turn to him then? After she'd lived through her human existence? If she could even still have one?

Rey chewed on her bottom lip as she traversed her nightly circuit through the deserted park. Exhaustion gnawed at her bones, but she ignored it, as she had been over the past few weeks.

And what of children? Would they live forever? Could she even have children?

A fierce protectiveness washed through her, and she hugged her stomach determinedly.

She hoped they would, so she could prove to herself, to them, that they were worth loving, and that so was she. That she wouldn't abandon nor neglect them, no matter what happened. But if no man tempted her like her demon ... what option did that leave her?

Not that she was complaining about sleeping with the demon ... there was definitely nothing to complain about there ... but still ...

'Rather late for a walk, isn't it?' A disgustingly familiar voice disrupted thoughts that were starting to turn her underwear slightly soggy, and had unintentionally sped up her return to her apartment for the first time in weeks.

'Then why are you out so late?' She asked, turning to look at the withered old man on the park bench to her right, hoping the flush in her cheeks could be put down to her walk.

'Waiting for you, of course. What else?' Snoke pushed himself up, his smile unnerving as he stared intently at her.

'Are you going to trap me again?'

'What would be the point of that?' He chortled, as though they were the best of friends. 'You'd merely break it, wouldn't you, my girl?' The way he said it, that almost endearment, made her skin crawl.

'You can't have him.'

'Kylo Ren? Oh, I'll have him eventually, my girl, don't you worry about that.' Rey scowled at him, hands balling into tight fists at her side. 'No, I wanted to visit you. See how you're doing. I hope you're well.'

'I am,' she answered warily, not sure where he was going with his line of questioning, but on her guard all the same. She could neither see, nor sense, Hux in the vicinity, which meant Snoke was all alone. A silent dare to do something to him, to see if she had the spine for it. But she wasn't stupid, she didn't doubt he had something up his sleeve in the event of her trying to harm him. It was still unnerving, though, this withered old man facing her down in a deserted park. She could outrun him easily, probably even out walk him. But he didn’t play by anybody elses rules.

'Good, good. I like my pets healthy.' He nodded, more to himself than to her.

'Your-' her indignation was cut short by a searing pain through her limbs, which seemed to spike directly into her heart, pulsing sharp and hot. So intense she couldn't even scream as she crumpled to the pavement, trembling under the onslaught that vanished as quickly as it had begun.

'I'm not your pet!' She snarled through her panting, sweating dribbling down her forehead and into her eyes.

'Oh, on the contrary. I've been looking into your kind. You're very rare. So rare there are very few records of existence at all.' A strong pair of hands grasped her by the biceps and pulled her to unsteady feet. She leant heavily against Hux's torso, who mercifully allowed her to do just that. His face was impassive when she managed to summon up the energy to tilt her head up enough to glance at him. The abrupt attack had been so vicious she hadn’t sensed him appearing. 'And what's even better than your uniqueness is your ability to flaunt the standard rules of entrapment. In fact, you don't even need to deal if you don't want to. Your power doesn't rely on it. Isn't that marvellous?' She couldn't reply, to busy trying to keep breathing, to regulate her erratic pulse as Hux squeezed her arms gently, almost comfortingly, which was ridiculous. Hux would never comfort her. 'And because you don't need to place yourself in servitude, by rights, if I catch you, your power is mine.'

'That's stupid!' She said, trying to push away from Hux and failing. Her muscles weren’t responding, feeling like jelly trapped inside her burning skin.

'Is it?' Snoke asked idly. The calmness with which he spoke made her snap her head up to look at him properly. He was too calm. Too smug. Too ... knowing ... 'Let her go, Hux.'

Hux stepped away suddenly, but she didn't fall, like she expected. Her feet were solid beneath her.

'Turn in a circle, girl.'

And she did, without willing it. Her body moved of its own accord, as though she didn’t feel like she was constructed purely of cooked spaghetti.

'Now give your new Master a kiss.'

She saw Hux look away from the corner of her eye as her body moved again, head tilting forward, lips meeting Snoke's in something that lasted far too long. Whiskers scratched at her cheeks, his breath fetid against her mouth. Internally she screamed at herself to stop. To move away, to call for Kylo. But no sound escaped her throat.

'You taste of power, girl,' he breathed against her face. 'You'll taste even better soon, when I have time. Now step back again.' He looked past her, to Hux, and she found she was able to look as well, trembling hands rising to her face, which was wet with tears she hadn't known she'd been crying.

Fear and terror seized her chest and stole her oxygen as she met the fire demons sympathetic gaze. Snoke spoke over the top of her, uncaring that she heard her own fate.

'Take her to the holding,' Snoke said. 'And when I summon her, bring her to my chambers. She needs to be suitably broken to the task.'

Hux grabbed her again, far more gently, hauling her into his chest, and then the park was gone, Snoke was gone. Her world was gone.

***

They sat in a world of grey. Or were they standing? She couldn't be sure. Her body felt light, her mind unattached, yet connected.

'I am sorry,' Hux said, and he was suddenly burning bright in the nothing. She looked down at her hands and saw black voids. 'I was suspicious when he took so long to act upon the intelligence you provided, but if I had known ...' he trailed off, looking away from her. Guilt poured from his essence. She could almost taste the bitterness of it, despite not being sure she even had a mouth.

'Is this where he keeps you?' She asked quietly to take her mind away from the state of her body.

'Where he keeps us, now.' He said. 'He's a fool if he thinks he can break you to his will. He won't,' Hux said with a certainty she didn't feel. 'If you can survive Kylo Ren, you will survive Snoke.'

'Have you?'

'In my own way,' he answered.

'Mitaka.' She breathed, and he nodded glumly.

'Mitaka was ... unexpected. As are you. But he cannot keep you like he keeps me. You must recognise that.'

'I don't understand any of this,' she said, twisting to see more of herself in this place, but she couldn't see her tanned legs, her favourite joggers, she couldn't see her uneven fingernails, of the scabs on her arms from work. She was an absence of light. A shadow in this grey realm. 'Where's my body?' She asked, feeling remarkably calm about it, given the circumstances.

'I'm glad you were born human,' Hux said, looking at her once more, burning brightly in stark contrast with herself. 'You would be utterly formidable had you been birthed in the Realms. What you see now is a representation of your power. Were Kylo Ren here, he would be a winged shade, with sharp claws, and wholly distinct. Similar to how he presents your world, just as I am. But you,' he circled her examining her. He reached out a hand and waited for her to take it, as though he didn't know exactly where it was. She stretched out, but did not feel the expected warmth, or even a hand, yet still she held onto him. He spun her dizzyingly fast, twirling her before stopping her. Though her head spun everything about her remained monotonously dull. 'You have no form, no shape. You eat up the world about you, your very essence is eating at the power of this place. That demon part of you is greedy and starving and I wonder just how long it will be before it eats us free of this place.'

The flame that was his face split into a grin of lethally pointed teeth.

'So we just need to sit and wait?' She asked uncertainly.

'It's usually so very boring here,' he said in delight, 'but I think you will make things gloriously entertaining.'

***

He felt it happen, felt the tear as though it were his soul being stripped from his body. And he could not stop the scream that ripped from his throat as his legs could no longer hold his weight.

Rey.

Rey was gone.

His Rey.

She was no longer here, but not in the Realms, either. She was in the other place, trapped and waiting. Subservient? He highly doubted. But how? She could make deals no more than he could pass up the opportunity. So how? His arm was crumpled awkwardly under his chest, but he barely felt it as he tried to find her, reaching out wildly and no doubt broadcasting his exact location to any who cared to look.

Anger flared through him, pulsing hot in his veins, pumping strength into trembling muscles. He did not bother to stand. He lay on the floorboards, allowing the pain and confusion to wash over him, the utter hatred for the mortal that had tried so hard to ensnare him, who had ensnared the woman he loved. Ripped her not only from his grasp, but from the very world she fought so hard to stay in.

Her walks, the ones she had spontaneously decided to take on her own. Was it some sort of misguided trap on her part, which had backfired so spectacularly? Was this because she was so noble in her attempts to save both himself and Hux?

Every window in the apartment shattered, glass exploding in the kitchen cabinets, the bathroom mirror scattering across the tiles. The walls rippled and paint peeled as wave after wave of heat radiated from him. The spiders on the ceiling began to move, scurrying for cracks in the walls for safety. Steam poured from his mouth with every ragged exhale as black claws dug into the floorboards, flexing and relaxing with every furious convulsion.

Black wings burst from his back with a violent shudder, spraying feathers and blood over the room, but he barely noticed, mind spiralling down into the unknown, trying desperately to feel her, sense her.

But she was gone.

She was completely gone.

From him.

And not by her will.

He could still feel her fear, her panic, her unadulterated terror lingering in the air, like ozone after a lightning strike. Someone had stolen her away, and he knew who.

A who that he could not get to, could not tear to tiny pieces. He could not feast on the fear, could not barter and bargain and steal with. His hands were disgustingly tied because of what he was.

Weak.

And alone.

Like he had been before.

Before her.

The apartment warped and groaned around him, buckling under the stress of his rage as large cracks raced across the ceiling. He dug his hands in tighter, blackened fingers curling into fists and plunging through the floorboards, his entire weight sinking through them in his grief. Fire licked at the ground around him, seeking flammable purchases. And they found them, gobbling greedily, consuming all they touched as he flickered from the existence of the mortal realm, leaving his prison a fiery ruin, a burning beacon for the humans to deal with.

Chapter Text

The walls of grey crumbled about them far sooner than Hux had anticipated.

Rey blinked in the sudden light, raising a hand to protect her eyes, only to be startled when she realised she was looking at her actual hand.

'You did it,' Hux said, sounding impressed. He was still a human shaped flame, but he rectified that quickly, slipping into his human skin. 'How do you feel?' Rey frowned and flexed her fingers, rolled her shoulders. She felt fine ...

'Strong.' She said. 'I feel ...'

'Powerful. It happens to the best of us.' He flashed her a jagged smile.

'Where are we?' She peered around the room they found themselves in. Opulent was the best way to describe it. Rich woods, marble floors, huge, open spaces crowded by lavish furniture. Hux sighed and brushed past her, moving with familiarity through the rooms. She rushed to catch up, joggers squeaking on the floor as she did so.

'He isn't here, at least.' Hux said. 'You know, I was put in holding, but because you broke it, am I still trapped?' He flicked his hand and an ornately carved chair exploded into wood chips and tufts of fabric. A wicked smile curved his face. 'I do believe I might be in love with you.' He said conversationally.

'I can barely deal with one of you,' she grumbled, looking nervously over her shoulder as Hux proceeded to implode every item of furniture in the room with manic glee.

'I can take you home, if you'd like, but he still has his claws in both of us. One word and we'd be dragged back again.'

'We?' She looked back at him in time to see him moving into another room.

'I thought you were rescuing me,' Hux said, leading her further into the labyrinthine depths of Snoke's home.

'I want to,' she said breathlessly, having to jog to keep up with Hux's long strides. 'But I'd have to kill him. I don't know if I can do that.'

'Then don't,' he said dismissively, stopping before a set of double doors. Without touching it, the lock unlatched and the doors swung open, revealing a spacious room. In the centre rested an enormous four-poster bed. 'Just remember that when he's breaking you,' Hux said, looking pointedly at the immaculate sheets. 'I'll let Mitaka know you couldn’t go through with your plan when I see him next. And I shall tell Kylo Ren when he's been ensnared.'

'What?' She looked up at him in alarm.

'He still wants the Sky Walker,' Hux said with a scoff. 'That's a pretty quick way to earn the allegiance of an entire realm of demons.'

'What do I have to do with it?' She demanded, wishing the doors were closed, that they weren't standing so close to the place where Snoke slept.

'Poor little human girl,' Hux chided. 'Kylo Ren won't want to hurt you. And you have some serious power in that tiny vessel of yours.'

'He's going to use me to capture Kylo?' She didn’t know why she hadn’t thought of such an obvious thing before. Of course she would be valuable for that. Kylo would move the world if it meant keeping her safe. But would he really subject himself to slavery on her behalf?

'I don't know the details, and nor do I care. You promised to help me, remember? And your oaf of a boyfriend.'

'You didn't want my help,' she said accusingly, edging away from the doorframe. He followed her closely, stalking her backwards, utterly intent on her.

'Doesn't mean I won't take it when it's offered,' he said. 'If he had you, he'll get Kylo Ren, and then Maz and Luke and every other demon you've grown a fancy to. He'll squash Mitaka, and anyone else who knows anything about him or his plans, and he will rule. Fiercely.'

'But he's old, he'll die soon,' she hedged. He was an evil man, but could she really take a life? Could she kill someone so easily, without any guilt? The answer was a resounding no, and nerves chewed relentlessly through her gut. Could they wait until nature took its natural course?

'With that sort of power?' Hux shook his head pityingly, and then froze. His eyes narrowed, and then he was standing tall, posture stiff. 'He's back now.' He said. 'And he knows we're free.'

'What do we do?' Panic lanced through her, and only as she reached for Hux did she notice the marks that wrapped about her hands and arms. Thin, dark lines circled intricately under her skin. Tattoos she certainly hadn't had before. They looked like chains, tiny links carving patterns through her flesh. 'What are these?' She twisted her arms around, realising with horror that the spread up and under her sleeves.

Hux watched her with a pitying expression as she staggered to a nearby mirror, the frame wrought gold.

The chains looped like a collar around her neck, black as the void she had represented in the grey. They were beautiful, in a sadistic way, and she had no illusions as to what they were. Her collar.

She tugged up her shirt, but there were no marks on her stomach or back, none on her legs. Just from her hands to her throat. A delicate, gothic lace of tattooed chains. Her slavery and servitude for everyone to see.

'Don't stop there,' a withered voice practically purred. Rey dropped her shirt back into place quickly, spinning to find Snoke standing beside Hux. 'I see you led her straight to where she needed to be.' Snoke congratulated Hux, who seemed to deflate under the words. Behind Snoke's back he looked both apologetic and angry.

'I'm not going in there.' She snarled, hands balled into fists at her side. The demon part of her flared angrily, so full of energy that she could feel the heat radiating and crackling about her, could almost see the static sparkle in the air.

'Go and sit on the bed, my girl.' Snoke said, waving a hand in its direction, before folding them behind his back casually. Her legs moved without her permission, the mattress sinking under her weight. Rey’s eyes widened in horror fingers digging into the soft quilt as she looked desperately to Hux for help. 'And you,' Snoke turned to the fire demon, 'I'll need you to make sure she stays in check.'

'Of course,' Hux said, bowing his head ever so slightly.

'I will not!' She yelled, but the surge of anger seemed to bounce against something and dissipate, leaving her light headed and confused. Snoke chuckled as he began to undo his cufflinks.

'Did you really think I would allow you to pull that trick again? The spell work you were just admiring is really quite strong. No nasty surprises from you unless I will them.' He turned his back to her as he shucked his coat and began to loosen his tie. The casualness of his motions made her want to be sick. Her gut roiled with it. And she let it, suddenly willing herself to be sick, to do something he didn't want, to get her off the bed and out of the room. Even the bland grey seemed welcoming right now.

She felt her stomach twist, acidic bile surging up her throat. She gagged, and then threw up, liquid and the remnants of dinner from who knew how many days ago spattered over the expensive looking linens and pillows. Tears streaked from her eyes as her stomach heaved and emptied.

'Up!' Snoke roared, and her legs obeyed as she hiccupped and gasped. 'You little wretch!' Satisfaction swirled under her nausea, and she caught the knowing look that Hux sent her. She perhaps couldn't use her powers, but she was still human, and still mad. 'Go to the bathroom and shower, clean yourself up. Watch her, Hux, while I get this filth sorted.' He left, far more spritely than his old age should have allowed him to be.

Rey found herself at a loss for a long moment when her feet failed to move.

Hux studied her for a moment.

'I don't know where the bathroom is.' She said unapologetically.

'I'm merely doing what I've been told.' He answered, and then after a pause, 'you know I could take you to somewhere with a bathroom,' he suggested as they considered each other.

'I feel like I should obey my command then,' Rey said, not entirely lying as she felt something within her tug at the suggestion, urging her onward. It was like a compulsion, the need to do it, almost overwhelming her.

'Very well then,' Hux said. He wrinkled his nose before offering her a hand. The instant she took it the world about her shifted and they were no longer in Snoke's home, but in the demon realm, where she had been held captive by the demon at her side so long ago. 'You smell truly awful,' Hux said. Rey turned herself in a circle, taking in the familiar room, reorienting herself, before heading to the bathroom. Hux trailed obediently behind her.

Fully clothed, Rey stepped into the shower, not waiting for the temperatures to adjust, as she turned to face Hux.

'How long were we in there? In that holding grey place?' She asked.

'Two weeks,' he answered easily.

'Kylo?' She asked nervously. ‘What about Kylo?’ Hux shrugged a single shoulder, and then glanced sideways. Rey almost missed the motion as a deep voice almost startled her out of her skin.

'What are you doing?' The demon in question asked, standing by the hand basin, where he certainly had not been when she’d walked into the room. The smile of delight that rushed to split her face stuck halfway as she stood under the fall of water, taking him in properly.

'What happened to you?' She gasped, stumbling out of the shower, dripping wet as she moved towards him, hands outstretched, but he stopped her with a sharp, golden look. He was as confused by her as she was by him. As he studied her visible markings, she studied his. The horns on his head were bigger and blood red, the black fissures no longer visible, but the skin at the base of them was as inky as his forearms, which sported even bigger claws. His legs, too, ended in vicious looking talons, his feet just as dark as the enormous feathered wings that sprouted from his back. As he spoke, he revealed teeth sharper and bigger than she had ever seen him sport. He looked beastly, ferocious, his naked torso rippling with shadows of black and gold lines, the magic coursing through his veins.

His face twisted into a snarl of disgust.

'You are his slave.' Kylo looked over her shoulder to Hux, who nodded his confirmation. Rey caught the gesture in the reflection of the mirror, but didn’t look at him. She was too caught up in Kylo, in how different he was. He even felt different, the very essence of him thickly laced with something darker, more potent. Her humanity shivered in barely suppressed fear.

'You have been causing quite a bit of trouble here,' Hux said, tilting his head as though he were listening to something. 'You have been recreating an empire.' He sounded impressed.

'Kylo, what's wrong with you?' Rey asked again as Kylo brushed a claw along the black band at her throat.

'You were gone,' he said. 'I was angry.' And then he looked ashamed, golden eyes dropping to the floor. 'Your home is no more. I could not ... I apologise.'

'My ... Kylo, are you okay?' What did he mean about her home? She couldn’t concentrate on that, not now, not with Kylo here and acting so strangely.

'Fine.' He said dismissively, his palm now cupping her throat, a delicate yet powerful gesture. 'Are you?'

'Hux found a loophole to get us away from Snoke.'

'He is good at loopholes,' Kylo said, searching her face intently, his lips so close to hers as he leant towards her.

'Kylo, he wants ... I can't stop myself if he orders me to do something.'

'Then do it.' He answered. Rey didn't know what to expect, what she should have expected. But it wasn't that. It wasn't advice to submit. Especially from Kylo of all people.

'What?' She stammered, pulling herself away. Her joggers squished beneath her, clothes rubbing uncomfortably against her skin.

'If you fulfil your orders then you are free until the next,' Kylo said, flashing her a sudden and vicious smile. 'Demons are both slave and master at the same time. We are experts at loopholes to get our way.' Rey turned to Hux, only to find him with an almost identical smile. It was hard to remember sometimes that these men were not human, nor did they ever think like them.

'Snoke treats you as a human girl. Don't be human.' Hux said. 'You've spent enough time with demons to be able to think like one.'

'But I don't want to be a demon! I just want to be normal!' She sounded pathetic and whiny to her own ears. She was just so tired. So physically exhausted. She wanted it all to be over.

'I am not asking you to be one,' Kylo said consolingly, moving closer and pulling her into his arms, heedless of her still dripping clothes. He was incredibly hot to the touch, but she couldn't find it in herself to care. 'Think like one. Do what a demon would do. Professor Snoke expects you to be a human, so do not be one.' He pressed a kiss to her forehead.

In that moment all she wanted to do was lose herself in his arms, to press her lips to his, to forget in the pleasure he could give. In the security of his arms. Like some sort of woman who needed her man to protect her, to smooth away all her hurts and troubles for her.

'You could never play the damsel in distress well, Rey.' He breathed against her hair, echoing thoughts she'd held of herself for months now. To be strong and brave. She was her own knight in shining armour. She had to be.

'I must take her back,' Hux said suddenly, head tilting in a way Rey was quickly coming to recognise as some sort of connection to Snoke. 'He summons impatiently. You do not want him summoning her directly.' She was pushed suddenly from Kylos arms into Hux's, the change startling and confusing, and also a little bit hurtful.

Kylo flashed her a sharp smile.

'Be a demon.' He said, before Snoke's bedroom materialised in front of her once more.

Chapter Text

Kylo Ren stormed through chambers of black and gold and red. He took in nothing but his own thoughts, tumultuous as they were.

She had been here.

She had been here, wrapped in choking chains that were not of his design. They had been stained with mortality, corroded by insidious greed. Professor Snoke had laid his claim thickly. So thickly that to have pulled her free, to have wrestled and struggled and broken her out of her binds would not only have slain him, but also her. And that he could not abide by. He would rend worlds apart for her, tear himself to the smallest shred if it would keep her safe and sane and whole.

Instead he had been faced with confusion and fear. He had looked into the face of Hux and seen nervousness. Hux had been nervous, and not because of him. But because of her.

Because of the tap on her power, the lock clamping her shut. Tamping her down.

He had felt it, they both had, simmering under the surface of her skin, and they had both understood, had both known what it meant. What it would mean.

Rey.

Woman of both worlds and none.

The destroyed of all things, and nothing.

She was the key to her own salvation, and so he could only sit on the sideline and watch, hope and wait.

‘To me,’ he bellowed, voice roaring through through empty corridors.

Around him the air shimmered. Plumes of steam, bursts of frost, ash and smoke and gentle breezes warred about him, a kaleidoscope of aromas and environments. One by one his knights appeared. He stared at them all, seeing through their own egos, their desires and lies.

‘Yes?’ He did not care for their names, which had been lost to the echoes of time.

‘We shall act, soon.’ Kylo Ren said, continuing to walk, hearing them all fall into step behind him. The realm about them warped, flickered. They were testing him, observing him. Probing for weakness and finding none. Kylo Ren was rage and hatred and vindictiveness.

‘For what?’ One of them questioned, the dulled edge of their sword dragging along the cobbled floor, sparking and grinding.

‘For a particular problem to no longer be one.’ Kylo Ren turned them into an enormous chamber. It was black as pitch, but glossy all the same. Torches spluttered to life, the flames green and widely spaced, illuminating columns that stretched towards a ceiling that could not be seen.

Step by step Kylo Ren lead them down the path, listening to the echo of their movement, strangely dull on the still air. His boots thudded up five steps, when he turned and faced his Knights, looked impassively at them.

‘You will prepare the realms and claim all debts. We have idled for too long, languishing without direction. Go.’ He flicked a hand and they were gone, leaving him alone as he sat on his obsidian throne, trapped again with his thoughts and memories.

With the distinct absence of her.

The girl.

Rey.

***

'Why is she still wet?' Snoke sighed. 'Why are her clothes wet? Why is she even clothed? Should I whip you instead of her?'

Rey's eyes widened. Whipping? She'd thought ... but then he was fairly old ... Cool air distracted her thoughts. She shrieked in mortification at the realisation that she was now naked in front of the two men. Hux, well, she could handle his perverted comments, especially now that she knew his tastes ran towards Mitaka, but Snoke? His eyes were cold and hungry as he took her in.

'Ownership looks good on you,' he rasped. 'Kneel over the footstool at the end of the bed. Apparently you need a lesson in obeying commands.'

'I did obey,' she scowled as she moved helplessly to the stool in question. 'I had a shower to get clean.' Snoke scoffed at her words, pulling the belt from his waist as he moved towards her.

'Hux, if you would be so kind.'

'Sir?' For the first time, Rey heard a hint of fear in the fire demons voice. She could no longer see them as she knelt on the soft white rug, pressing her torso down against the stool. She was glad that she was no longer so horribly naked in front of them, but now she was prostrate and exposed, unable to see her attackers. She dug her fingers into the cushion, wondering how Kylo could let her return here, how he could act so casually in handing her back.

'You're not worried about the Sky Walker, are you?' Snoke said. 'He can do nothing to you now that we have her power.'

'Of course.' Hux said. Rey shifted restlessly, nervously. The first lick was more surprising than painful, but the second one hurt, the buckle catching her under her right breast. Fury licked along her bones, battling against the wards on her skin. Air hissed from her lungs as the third hit curved along the length of her spine, the fourth raising welts along her bottom.

She didn't understand how this was supposed to break her.

It was just making her angry.

'Do as I say, my girl, do as I will, and you will experience little pain in my servitude. But fail?' There was a pause before her next strike. And then her skin felt as though it were on fire, hot liquid spilling down her left side as Hux hit her hard enough to split the skin. Rey whimpered at the impact, unable to hold in the sound as her fingers scrabbled for purchase against the chair.

The next hit was harder.

As was the next.

She was gasping for air, light headed and woozy. Her sides and back and arse felt as though they were on fire, boiling, skin stretched taut. She didn't even realise she was crying until Snoke laughingly pointed it out to her.

'Stand up, my girl,' he ordered cheerfully, and painfully she did. She could feel blood dribbling down her back, tracking down her thighs to tickle the backs of her knees. She had been through worse and thought it was real. But somehow, now, standing naked and trembling before Snoke, coated in her own blood and tears, she felt weaker and more fearful than ever before. 'Now give me a circle, let's see how well Hux did.' He hummed approvingly. 'Next time we'll use an actual whip. With blades in it.' Rey bit her lip hard to keep from making any noise.

Think like a demon, they'd said.

What would a demon do. Stand here and take this?

No. They'd kill Snoke.

Unless they were Hux.

She looked at him as she rotated again. His gaze was piercing and murderous, as though it had been he who was whipped. Which was ridiculous, because Hux didn't care about her or her welfare.

Think like a demon. What ridiculous advice. She scowled as she looked back at Snoke, unable to conceal herself from his gaze.

'How long do you think it will be before we can catch the Sky Walker?' Snoke asked Hux, moving closer to Rey to drag his finger through her blood.

'It's hard to say.' Hux said. 'It depends on her willingness to serve.' Something in the way he said it caught her attention. Demons could play at servitude as well as being a master. Snoke dotted her blood on the tip of her nose and she immediately bowed her head, turning her face away from him.

'We should find out then. What should we have her do?' Snoke clearly knew the answer to his own question as he looked slyly at her, trying to spook Rey further. 'I can think of a few things that she would resist to the best of her ability.' He clipped her arse at that, making sure to catch an open wound that jolted agony through her. Anger and resentment followed close behind, simmering.

'She is dripping blood on your carpet.'

'Get her cleaned up then,' Snoke snapped in annoyance, 'these are new!' Rey was expecting to be whisked away again, but instead Hux brushed his hands down her back and the pain ceased. She glanced over her shoulder and realised the wounds were gone. Hux rested his hand on her lower back and she felt a frisson of power sizzle through her, comforting and familiar.

'Tell us where he is.' Snoke interrupted.

'Who is?' Rey asked obliquely.

'Kylo Ren.' Snoke responded.

'In the Realms,' her lips formed the words before she could stop them. 'He's currently in the Realms.' She paused, watching as Snoke studied her with interest. 'I can feel him.' She tacked on, only slightly lying she realised in surprise, and equally pleased that she was able to tell half-truths . 'He's there, and he's angry.'

'Interesting.' Snoke murmured. 'Have you always been able to feel him?'

'Sometimes.' She said. Mostly when she had some part of her body pressed against him, like a normal person.

'And when you do, you can feel his moods?'

'Generally.' Like his erection when he was turned on, his smile when he was happy, the tension in his muscles when he was angry. Rey was careful not to smile, glad that she was a better liar than Mitaka.

'Is the demon in his realm?' Snoke demanded. Hux nodded quickly.

'He has been there for a few weeks now.'

'He ran home when we took his Master. Perhaps he thinks himself free of her?' Snoke mused.

'Unlikely.' Hux said.

'Oh, that reminds me,' Snoke stepped closer towards Rey again. He smelt of overpowering cologne, his skin paper-thin and sagging with age. 'How did you snare him into servitude?' Snoke demanded of her, looking down into her face. He was covered in a clammy sweat, as though standing upright for so long was exhausting to him.

Rey fought the answer, tooth and metaphorical nail, trying to keep it inside, before remembering that all along she had told the truth, and now he finally had to believe her.

'I didn't do anything.' She said. Snoke frowned, expression darkening.

'Hux.' He said simply, before she screamed, fire lancing down her back, following four deep grooves that peeled through muscle and flesh. 'Stand!' Snoke ordered as her knees began to buckle under the sudden onslaught of pain. She was still turned slightly, seeing her blood dribble down Hux's hand.

Like a demon. Be like a demon. Tell the truth effectively. Don't be a human. Don't think like a human. Snoke was barely human anyway. The thoughts spun round and around her head, looping and overlapping.

'How did you convince Kylo Ren to serve you.'

'He convinced himself!' She spat. Horrified at the taste of blood in her mouth, at the gurgle of it in her throat. Her legs trembled, knees like jelly beneath her. 'He convinced himself that he needed to serve me.'

'That seems highly unlikely.' Snoke turned away from her, before turning back just as abruptly. He gave Hux a look, and then the world was grey.

'No!' She shrieked, feeling Hux pass his hand down her back and then pull her into him. 'But we broke this place,' she gasped, feeling cloth wrap around her body, the pain gone.

'We broke through it,' he corrected her. 'It will always be there.' She didn't struggle as he held her. Instead she sank into him, letting his light surround and blind her in the nothing.

***

Snoke was seated behind a large desk, dipping his pen into an inkwell when they were sucked back into reality.

'Feeling more amenable, my girl?' He asked. A noise to her left drew Rey's attention, and she found herself looking at a very startled Mitaka, his face pale and eyes bruised with exhaustion. There was a mountain of paperwork piled on the small desk he sat at. Behind her, Rey felt Hux stiffen infinitesimally.

Snoke opened his desk draw and pulled something out. He offered a long, black item to her. Hesitantly she took it, realising what it was as soon as her fingers wrapped around it. With horror, she almost dropped the whip, the leather straps knotted at random intervals.

'Mitaka,' Snoke said, 'would you mind coming here a moment?' Mitaka rose quickly and scurried to his master's side. 'This is what your information brought me. Isn't that fortuitous?'

'Of course,' Mitaka squeaked, bobbing his head rapidly.

'Now would you take off your shirt and kneel on the floor?' Snoke looked at Rey as he spoke, expression lecherous, tongue peeking between his teeth as he moistened his lips.

'Sir?' Mitaka asked, eyes impossibly round. The whip squeaked in her grip as Rey realised exactly where this was going. Her anger flared and then vanished, repelled by the seals on her skin. She stared morosely at her friend, watching as he nervously fingered the buttons of his shirt, his eyes flickering between the three other occupants of the room.

'Oh, don't be so timid all the time. Show some backbone. Quite literally in this instance. I shall have Hux heal you when it's done. Good as new. Now remove your shirt.' Mitaka did, slowly at first, hands trembling, until panic had him pulling it over his head so he could be done with it. 'See, my girl? Not everyone needs to be trapped to be loyal. See how easy it is if you don't fight?' Rey didn't look at the monster in the chair. Her gaze was stuck on the pale man kneeling on the floor, back hunched and shaking with fear. A bead of sweat rolled from his hairline, down between his shoulder blades.

Was he actually going to ask her to do this? She already knew the answer, and knew that she would have no choice in it.

Think like a demon.

How would a demon respond to this? With joy? From the tension radiating off Hux, there was no immediate demonic joy to be had here. Mocking? Fun? She felt no perverse pleasure, only exhaustion, fear and nausea. Her stomach still hadn't settled, even in the grey, and the discomfort was making her all the more agitated.

'Whip him so he bleeds.' Snoke ordered.

Her arm moved before she realised, lashing out. Mitaka whimpered and flinched, but the whip barely made contact. Because she didn't know how to do it. She glanced up at Snoke, who scowled.

'Do it until you can,' he snarled.

'I'm so sorry,' she managed to whisper, her only pleading defiance before her arm began to burn with the amount of hits she rained down upon Mitaka's back, until he was face down on the floor, sobbing helplessly as she turned his back bright red and then black, until finally blood flecked his skin and she was able to drop the horrid thing. She staggered backwards, panting, muscles screaming in agony, shoulder throbbing painfully as Mitaka continued to cry.

'Very good.' Snoke said. 'Pick it up and make him bleed more.' He walked around the edge of his desk and propped himself against it, hands clasped before him as he looked down his nose at his assistant.

Rey bent stiffly and picked up the whip once more, fingers aching with how tightly she'd held it.

'You're a brilliant academic, Mitaka,' Snoke said conversationally as Rey lifted the whip and brought it down again. 'Awful at real world application. I feel like this should motivate you more next time. When I request useful information, you should provide me with useful information. Your months with this woman were the least informative months I have ever had with you. In fact,' he paused to let Mitaka scream as lines of blood tracked across his bruised skin, 'she appears to be crying, which leads me to believe that you two were far closer than I was lead to believe.' His cold gaze lifted to Rey, who was unable to stop her arm, unable to stop the pain she was inflicting.

Hate flowed through her, pure and raw, directed solely at the man leaning against the desk.

'My girl,' Snoke said, in his silky voice, 'are you and Mitaka close?'

'Yes.' She said through gritted teeth.

'Do you tell him things?'

'I tell people lots of things,' she answered evasively, though the skin around her neck burned painfully for her transgression.

Snoke tutted warningly.

'I can feel your resistance, my girl. I can have you on the floor beside Mitaka, back just as messy as his in a far shorter time span. Now, did you speak to Mitaka often about private things.'

'I spoke to him about my family.' She volunteered freely and honestly. 'About my childhood.'

'And more recent things?'

'About my friends.' She said, sweat clinging to her face, willing her fingers to relinquish their punishing grip on the whip, to simply let it drop from her grasp. It would not. Not until he told her to stop.

'And your demon?' She tried to lie, but he was her demon. Hers entirely, as she was his, linked irrevocably.

'Yes.' She breathed.

'Give the whip to Hux.' He said. So she did, feeling the relief as her muscles relaxed and she was no longer under direct command. She visibly sagged, trying to not to gag at the mess she'd created before her. Mitaka was no longer crying, his breathing ragged, body limp against the ground.

'Whip them both, Hux.' Snoke said. 'Do not stop until you are satisfied they are remorseful.' He left the room with a limp, satisfied with his work.

Hux waited let the whip crack once, twice, the heat of it spreading across Rey's back. The door closed, and the whipping stopped. Hux was at Mitaka's side, healing quickly and murmuring presumably soothing things to him.

'Mitaka,' Rey gasped, her right arm agony, muscles in her back seizing. 'I'm so sorry.'

'It's okay,' he sobbed as Hux helped him sit up, the huge wounds on his back closed, though he was still bruised and covered with blood. 'It wasn't your fault.' He buried himself into Hux's arms. The demon appeared to be trying to not glare at Rey, lips pressed tightly together.

'What are you doing?' He hissed.

'I can't help it!' She snapped back, furious in her helplessness and deserved pain.

'Not about this!' Hux said dismissively, waving to the blood that was now smeared over him. 'Snoke! You aren't bound to protect him!'

'What?' She said dumbly. Hux almost rolled his eyes at her.

'I am unable to harm him! But you are! You can end this. You have gaps between your orders that he doesn't fill. Let him close and end this.'

'It's not like I have a knife on me,' she snapped.

'You have your power,' he shot back angrily, cradling Mitaka delicately.

'But the marks,' she said, rubbing at her hands.

'Stop anger, not the power. They stop you from acting out in the heat of the moment like you have before. That doesn't mean you can't be calculated about it. Think like a demon.'

'That doesn't help!' It was hard not to scream at him. 'That advice isn't helpful!'

‘It would be if you used it right!’ He snapped back, pulling Mitaka even closer. ‘Stop trying to out human a human corrupted by demon magic! How hard could that possibly be to comprehend?’

‘I wasn’t raised like you!’ She was being hysterical, she realised dimly, her voice high pitched, hands shaking, tears leaking from the corners of her eyes. ‘I can’t be like this! I don’t want to hurt people!’

‘Sometimes you simply have to.’ Hux said, coated in Mitakas blood.

Chapter Text

*** Catch up

Rey was trapped by Snoke, was used to torture Mitaka in order to prove his control over her, discovered that Hux will warp his commands if possible, and has no idea what the hell she needs to do in order to be free. ***

It felt as though she had been standing in the grey place for an eternity. Her very existence ached with remorse and sorrow. She missed sunlight, she missed the tang of oil and rust on her skin. She missed having skin. She missed the taste of Kylo’s skin, the feel of Finn’s hugs and Poe’s bear tackles. She missed the sound of traffic. She missed being human.

Hux had been gone for almost as long as she’d been trapped, and she felt as though her mind was slipping through the cracks of her loneliness. Her thoughts were circular, looping around and around until everything she knew was one big mess of sound and taste and sensation that didn’t quite make sense. A flash of gold, skin warm chocolate, peal of laughter, taste of salt, sun on her skin, grease under her nails, paper course under her fingertips, velveteen skin against hers, the smell of car trips into the countryside, the sound of Poe singing, the blue of the sky outside her apartment window.

The world felt wrong when it materialised about her in disorienting colour. Loud in its vibrancy, regardless of the dim lighting and the monotony of the dark wood. There was nothing definitively out of place, at least as far as she was aware. Snoke’s desk was still the same stained monstrosity, the surface cluttered with papers, weights and expensive pens. The rug beneath it lush and bland. It was more a feeling of wrongness, that something was off-kilter, and not only from the power-starved centre of her.

‘Hmm,’ Snoke said from behind her. Rey pivoted quickly, hair falling about her face, heart thudding so violently in her chest she could feel it in her throat, behind her eyes. A war beat as she stared at a man so bent and crippled by age he was almost unrecognisable.

Dressed in what appeared to be a golden bathrobe, face distorted by scars and surgical procedures, Snoke looked barely human.

At his side was Hux.

Only, a different type of Hux.

Straight backed and clad in a robe of pitch black, his fiery aura was tempered, skin pallid and face drawn, hair unkempt and longer than it had been only hours before. His gaze was ice, with barely constrained rage and hate.

Directed at her.

Solely at her.

Someone else moved in the room, catching her attention. She glanced to her right, to Mitaka’s desk, where she spied a dark head bent, scribbling furiously. He looked up, but it was not Mitaka’s gaze that met hers. It was female and disinterested, harried and dismissive as she returned to her work. To Mitaka’s work.

Snoke was moving slowly to his own desk now, aided heavily by an overly ornate cane, his fingers clutching it desperately.

Rey looked back to Hux, who had not stopped staring. He barely even appeared to be breathing, pale lips slowly curling back to reveal razor teeth, fingers stretching into clawed tips as he just stared.

‘You don’t look a day older,’ Snoke said. Rey dragged her gaze away from this strange version of Hux, chills racing down her spine as she turned her back on him to direct her attention to Snoke once more. ‘Amazing, really, something I never can seem to get passed.’ Despite his withered exterior, he sounded more energetic, more youthful than he had earlier. Which seemed odd, because there was no violence for him to get off on at the moment. Rey glanced nervously at Mitaka’s desk again, wondering where he was.

The thing in her felt tilted, the world still wrong. Everything was off balance.

‘What do you want?’ She demanded, wondering if she could do it now. If she could get close enough to stop him, like Hux had said. There was no order saying she couldn’t, so could she? It was something she’d wondered about, thought long and hard on the ethics and her own moral code. There was no satisfactory answer, though. Rey simply didn’t know. She stared at the barely living creature before her and tilted her head slightly to the side, scrutinising him.

Snoke muttered something under his breath, resulting in Hux appearing at his side once more, face still twisted in anger. Rey wanted to cry or scream, she wasn’t sure. Confusion was swirling about her so thickly she was sure everyone could see it. She was certain Snoke could, judging by the calculating look her gave her, cataract clouded eyes skimming over her.

‘So powerful,’ he hummed. ‘But then, so am I now. I’ve had time to gather and strengthen my forces. Oh, your demon pet was amassing an army and I simply could not have that. So I took what he thought was his and have left him once more with barely a thing. It wasn’t hard.’ He spread shaking hands out over the surface of his desk, face cracking with what was presumably a smile.

Rey frowned in response, puzzling over his words.

Snoke’s smile grew wider the longer she remained silent.

And then something odd happened.

His face shifted, distorted. It warped the very fabric of space around it. She could see the disturbance, feel the energy of it.

A young man stared back at her, blond haired, blue eyed, with sharp cheekbones and a cruel smirk.

‘You’ll find I have plenty more time now,’ he mused, his voice now matching his exterior. ‘Much more time.’ He gestured her closer, flicking two fingers imperiously at her. Rey didn’t move, but found herself stepping closer regardless. She fought hard, muscles quivering to stay still, yet her own body wouldn’t obey until her thighs were almost pressed to the edge of his desk. ‘Oh, my dear,’ he tsked almost pityingly, but there was no mercy in his gaze.

Rey looked down at the table, at the array of documents, she looked up to Hux, at the violence etched in his expression. She glanced back at the woman who was not Mitaka.

The new version of Snoke laughed. He laughed deeply, heartily, and long.

‘How does it feel to experience the world as a demon?’ He leant forward, bringing him closer. He would have been handsome, if not for the cruelty in the sharpness of his grin, or the hard glint in his curious gaze. ‘As strong as I’ve gotten, I will never truly know what it’s like to live as one of them. Though why I should ever want to…’ he trailed off, looking her up and down in a far more predatory way than he ever had before. He was studying her as one would prime livestock.

Something was wrong and the thing in her was cracking, twisting, trying to restabilise.

‘How long, Hux?’

‘Perhaps a few days, hours, minutes,’ the fire demon answered promptly, voice devoid of inflection.

‘How long here?’ Snoke asked, leaning closer still. Rey held her breath, confused and bewildered, wanting to lean back and out of his bubble.

‘Not accounting for discrepancies on switching between realms,’ here he paused, and it was a meaningful, angry pause that dragged sharp nails through her soul with misgiving, ‘I would say a decade has passed since you locked her away.’

Rey laughed.

She didn’t mean to, but she did anyway.

She smiled up at Hux, but it stopped halfway, slipping from her face as she looked back to Snoke, down at the dated papers sprawled over the monstrosity he called a desk. She looked to the woman who was not Mitaka.

The thing in her chest sighed, re-established and content now the problem had been solved.

A decade.

She had been gone …

‘No.’ She said, and slammed her palms down hard on the desk. ‘Stop lying to me.’

‘Why would I bother lying? I have Hux at my side, you in my power, and I’ve managed to crush most of Kylo Ren’s forces in the Realms. Why would I lie?’ He sat himself down, hands folded over his stomach and he smiled benignly.

‘What do you want, then?’ She hissed, frustration mounting as her rising anger was rebuffed again and again by the markings, as though she wasn’t entitled to her sense of loss and fear and hatred. So she bared her teeth and snarled at him. Snoke seemed only to delight in her response, settling further back, unperturbed.

‘I want you to sit in that chair, over by the door, and watch quietly while I work.’ She looked back over her shoulder, at the rather uncomfortable looking wooden chair situated right by the doorway.

‘What?’ The order was already tugging at her, but she resisted as she looked at him in confusion.
‘You want me to sit?’ Snoke was already plucking a document off his desk to peruse, thoroughly ignoring her as his order wormed its way down into the marrow of her bones. When resistance got her nowhere she obeyed and sat.

She sat and stared at Hux, who stared back. She sat and thought about a decade, ten years, lost. What of her friends? What did they think happened to her? Had anything happened to them? Were they still alive? Finn, crucified on the bedroom wall, dripping red onto the floorboards. He had to still be alive. He had to be. And Mitaka, his day off? Hux was still scowling, time was crawling now, slower than the holding place, and each second weighed heavier than the last.

‘Enter!’ The young Snoke called, though no one had knocked.

A figure materialised, shackled and chained. Blackened iron pierced through limbs, metal links dangling from either end, jingling with each slight motion as he swayed on his feet. Bare black feet. Black forearms tipped in blackened talons. Black wings clamped tight by lethal looking, blood stained metal claws.

‘Is it done?’ Snoke demanded, setting down his pen and deigning to look up.

Kylo Ren tilted his head to the side slowly, his hair longer now, locks slipping over his bare back and wings. He didn’t answer immediately, seeming to puzzle over something.

Rey held her breath, fingers gripping the edge of her seat tightly as she stared at him. At the shell of a demon he had become. Her chest ached at the sight of him, wanting to gather him up and hold him close.

‘It is done.’ Kylo finally said, head turning ever so slightly in her direction, but not enough to see her. ‘I demand my payment.’

‘You are in no position to demand anything, slave.’ Snoke was gloating, a poisonous grin spread across his face, lips gleaming with spit. Behind him, Hux wore a strange expression, now intent on Kylo, eyebrows raised, lips pressed so tightly they were almost invisible on his face.

‘I have every right to demand.’ Kylo’s back straightened, muscles rippling as he pulled his shoulders back to match his haughty tone.

‘Perhaps once,’ Snoke mused, raising elegant fingers to press against his mouth. His grin widened further, the glint in his eyes malicious, even from her distance. Rey felt the order before he uttered the words. ‘Sit on my lap, child.’

The words were ludicrous coming from the mouth of a man who looked not much older than her, but Rey could still see the creature he had been. Kylo still did not turn as she rose stiffly, the chair scraping loudly in the sudden silence.

Hux still stared at Kylo, as though they were having a silent conversation, which they very well could have been. At this particular moment, Rey didn’t care. All she wanted was to stop her inevitable, slow movements towards Snoke’s lap. She wanted to reach out and touch Kylo, wanted to savour in the heat of him, explore his new scars and remove the horrific visual reminders of his current imprisonment. She wanted to slap him for their last encounter, kiss him to savour whatever goodness still remained in this world.

Her eyes were entirely on him, as she finally drew abreast, and then in front of him, so that she was almost walking sideways.

His gaze slid to her, and for a brief moment time seemed to stop, and his head was turned fully to her.

‘I have missed you for every second you have been gone,’ he said, eyes blazing gold, horns burning red. Her vision warped, fluctuated.

She was moving again, and he was not facing her, his eyes still on her, as though nothing had happened. His jaw was tense, a vein throbbing in his neck. Snoke was still grinning as she rounded the desk, and Rey wondered if she’d finally gone insane, for surely the Professor would have done something if Kylo had actually spoken to her?

A cool hand curled around her forearm, pulling her into an unwanted lap, so she was sitting across his legs, perched awkwardly and refusing to hold onto him to make herself in anyway more comfortable. She could feel the beat of his heart, smell the hint of cheese and onion on his breath, feel the humid gusts against her neck as he leant forward and breathed deep. He was smelling her, displaying some sick sense of power and control over her, proving a point in front of Kylo, and it hurt. It hurt to know she could do nothing about it.

‘And now?’ Snoke finally asked, after he’d spent some time running his fingers through her hair, straightening her clothes as though to pretty her up and make her presentable.

‘I demand my payment.’ Kylo said, his golden gaze fixed solely on Snoke’s face. His fists were curled and blood dribbled from the metal punctures in his skin.

‘Rey, child, I would like you to remove Kylo Ren’s shackles, and put each one in a new spot on his body.’

‘What?’ She turned her head to see if his was serious, only to find Snoke’s face centimetres from her own. She pulled back, upsetting her balance in the process, so she fell backwards off his lap and onto the floor. ‘You can’t be serious,’ she scowled, but she could already feel the tug, feel her fingers itching to wrap around rusted metal and pull.

‘When Kylo Ren disobeys an order, he is punished. He seems to think that this one task I assigned him gives him power to demand some of his people back. People I promised him once everything has been completed. One task, Kylo Ren, is not everything.’ What had started out calm, ended seething. Rey could feel the power in the air, oppressive against her, pushing her down into the floor, even as his will drove her to her feet.

And she was suddenly in front of Kylo, looking up at him, as he looked down, his lips pressed tight together, expression thunderous. She reached up, the desire from earlier curdling in her belly, souring bile in her throat as her finger tips slid over familiar flesh, so real and present, to grip the first of the metal rods. As she wrapped her palm around it, the links locking each end of the spike fell away, revealing the sharp ends. Already light headed, she began to pull. Feeling resistance, and then feeling the tear of skin and the well of blood as Kylo stood immobile before her. The only sign of discomfort the slight stutter of his chest as he suppressed a sound.

‘You will not faint,’ Snoke said as the first spike clattered noisily to the ground. She stared at the gaping hole in his forearm, trying not to think too hard on the fact that she could see right through it. Her vision was greying, but now stubbornly refused to blacken. So she placed a hand over the wound and looked back up at him, into such familiar golden eyes now distant and strange.

She smiled as she pressed health into him. As she felt the wound close and the pain leech away.

The thing in her chest sighed in contentment, even as she felt the surge of rage at her back.

Fuck you. She thought succinctly as Hux ripped her away and plunged the free spike through Kylo Ren’s shoulder.