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The Hand That Feeds

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Rey saw him even if it was dark as night under the railway overpass where she had found shelter. The rain hadn’t stopped in the slightest, sky gloomy and overcast, making it almost impossible to see what was lurking in certain corners of the structure. And yet here he was, the only spot that wasn’t reflecting any of the feeble rays of light filtering from the heavy clouds: her shapeless husband, darker than black, observing her from a nook between two pillars.

 

“I know you’re there,” she sniffed, throwing a rock at him. It bounced off the wall, its clatter covered by the sounds of the impending storm.

 

He slowly approached her, slithering across the floor.

 

“Well? No witty retorts?” she spurred him on, and he answered by speaking directly in her head.

 

Why did you follow me, Miss Rey? I was under the impression that women couldn’t wander aimlessly around without a chaperone, in these strange times of yours.

 

“I was worried,” she snapped, drying her tears. A shiver crossed her limbs, and she embraced her knees again.

 

She didn’t know if she was trembling for the cold or for the sensations that his presence was awakening in her. Hearing his echo in her head was a strange feeling indeed, and she wondered how he could do such wondrous things without even touching her. The mere thought gave her chills.

 

Worried, you say? It looked like you were tolerating my presence for the sake of your menials only. You never made me feel welcome in your home.

 

“Your impressions are not so far from reality, but I mean you no ill will,” she continued. “Unless you’ll try to manipulate my mind like you did with Mr. Oswald and Mrs. Rachel.”

 

My powers can’t work on you. But are you sure you don’t want to eliminate me, Miss Rey? I clearly remember someone trying to gouge their eye out in order to get rid of my presence. And splitting my face in half in the meantime.

 

“I would have stopped in time, but you jumped in front of me.” Rey couldn’t help wondering if he was telling the truth about the impossibility of manipulating her mind. “You’ve been stabbed by your impulsivity, not by my hand.”

 

Maybe you’re too old to play these little games, and I saved your lovely visage from a gruesome scar.

 

Rey kicked him, black particles scattering around her feet.

 

“I may be old, but I’m not stupid. You keep insulting me, and I don’t even know your name.” She shivered again. “I refuse to call you Ben, or worse, husband .”

 

He slithered around her calves. My name is Kylo Ren. Or, I am a Kylo Ren. I never understood the difference.

 

“I never heard of such term. What, exactly, should a Kylo Ren be?”

 

I haven’t the slightest idea. There is no one else like me on this planet. I’m alone.

 

At his words, her heart missed a beat. She couldn’t refrain from feeling pity for him: being alone had been one of the few permanent fixtures in her life, until she had made it a matter of pride, refusing to weave relationships that could clip her wings.

 

“For how long have you been alone?”

 

I can’t remember exactly. When I came here, there weren’t humans yet. I–I simply existed, roaming the Earth and the wat–

 

“Shut up! You’re way older than me!” she squealed, finally laughing.

 

I’m old, yes. Living for so long is terrifying. I waited for so many years, observing the dawn of Earth from the shadows.

 

Rey shivered, again, chills traveling through her limbs. The rain kept falling from the sky, and the humidity of the overpass was slowly trickling in her bones.

 

“What were you waiting for?” she asked him.

 

He didn’t answer, but a lonely tendril of darkness slithered towards her feet. She didn’t move, initially petrified by his touch, but didn’t protest: he slowly enveloped her extremities, protecting them against the elements His presence was a warm respite from the biting cold, and it didn’t bother her as the touch of a human being would have.

 

You’re cold. If we remain here, you’ll get ill.

 

He never finished his phrase, since they both knew what getting ill could imply. Rey wondered if he was talking from his infinite experience. Maybe he had lost loved ones to incurable illnesses? The pity she was feeling for him was slowly becoming respect, and she burned to ask him more details about his past life; but, before she could open her mouth, a violent sneeze shook her body.

 

You should return home as soon as possible.

 

“I know that you’re not equipped with eyes at the moment, but it’s still raining,” she droned, slightly irritated by his suggestion.

 

I have a solution to your worries. If you’d let me drink a single drop of your blood, I would gain enough strength to adopt my human appearance again, to be your chaperone and shelter you on our way home.

 

Rey barely refrained from kicking him for the second time. What he was suggesting was absolutely inconceivable; she could never let him drink her blood. She wasn’t food, or an object for him to exploit.

 

“Didn’t you say you weren’t a vampire?”

 

l am not, but simply because they don’t exist. Yet, I still need to drink blood to gain full access to my powers.

 

Rey’s curiosity was piqued again, and she burned to ask him more about the subject. She wanted to know everything about him, about what he was able to achieve after drinking human blood.

 

“That’s why you eat raw meat? Because it contains blood?” she began asking, as to probe the topic from afar.

 

Meat is anything but a proper meal for me. Human blood would be better. Your blood would be the best.

 

“That– that’s because I awakened you with it? On your lips?”

 

Yes, that would make you my bride .

 

“Well, I don’t want to be anyone’s bride, look for someone else to suck,” she retorted drily, turning her head away from him.

 

He slithered away from her feet, as if her presence had suddenly become unbearable for him, and she could feel the bitter cold enveloping her limbs again. A shiver crossed her curled up body, and she tried to become smaller to waste less heat.

 

Miss Rey, being my bride does not mean that I’m your owner. You’re a person, and no person should be owned by another one, ever.

 

She looked at his crawling, incorporeal form, swirling slowly on the dirty floor. A train passed over her head and made the whole structure tremble, its brakes hissing and hurting her ears.

 

“Well, Mister Kylo Ren , I don’t know what curious mores you’re following, but here a husband owns his wife: her body and her time are his to command.”

 

You keep misunderstanding me. My only requirement would be drinking some drops of your blood once, maybe twice during a moon’s cycle,” he explained at last.

 

Rey shook her head. Believing his words was difficult, and she didn’t want to get somehow trapped by this absurd deal he was proposing her.

 

“I’ll have to think about this. I don’t want to let you drink my blood and then discover that I owe you the rest of my body, or worse,” she mumbled, looking at a wet spot on the wall in front of her, her lower lip trembling.

 

Define worse.

 

“I don’t know.” Warm tears began to streak her cheeks again, reflecting the rain falling from the oppressive sky. “Leaving my studies because I have to bear offspring I don’t desire. Those things that men require from women all the time, without even thinking twice at the toll it takes on us.”

 

He crawled again towards her.

 

Miss Rey. We sorely need to talk. But rest assured that I can’t sire any offspring. His voice became gloomy. I would never take from you the things that give you more joy. I know how that feels.

 

She nodded, drying her tears, and he glided like smoke around her shoulders, as to preserve her trembling body from the cold and from the inequities of the modern society she’d had the misfortune to have been born into. She accepted his touch like an olive branch, and, cocooned in his darkness, she let sleep cloud her body and her mind.




Wake up.

 

Rey didn’t want to. She felt protected, curtained in the purest darkness and sheltered against the world.

 

Miss Rey? It isn’t raining anymore.

 

She opened an eye, expecting to find herself in Alderaan Castle, under the softest blanket, with Han and Leia taking care of her as if she had been their own daughter; but she was under a railway overpass, and the warm, dark protection draped around her body was him. Her husband. Kylo Ren . She jerked awake, heart beating frantically in her constricted chest.

 

“No need to fret,” she mumbled, still disoriented, trying to calm herself from the scare.

 

He swirled around her, freeing her now warm and dry body from his not entirely unwelcome presence, exiting the shelter of the overpass and swirling toward the nearby street.

 

I think I have a solution to avoid being seen from passersby, if you don’t want me to drink your blood , droned her husband, making her stand on her back foot.

 

She was almost expecting him to insist on that front, since in her regards he’d mainly been arrogant, cheeky and aggressive so far. He re-coalesced in a dense cloud of darkness directly in front of her, and stretched a tendril in her direction, its particles more compact than the rest of his uncorporeal form. The swirling, black bits had come together in the shape of a human hand, with five perfectly formed fingers extended towards her. It looked like an invitation.

 

“What is the meaning of this?”

 

Do you trust me?

 

The only possible answer would have been “ Of course not ”, but she hesitantly extended her hand towards his, closing the last inches that separated them. His makeshift hand was surprisingly solid, soft to the touch and dry, and he shily brushed his fingers against her trembling ones, as if he hadn’t touched anyone in a long time and he wasn’t sure how to proceed.

 

She jolted when he grasped her hand, in a strong but not crushing grip, pulling her slowly outside of their temporary shelter, on the deserted street. Her curiosity prevented her from uttering any word of protest. She wanted to see what he had in mind to return home unseen and unscathed. Was he going to turn both of them invisible?

 

Still holding her hand, he enveloped her whole body again, lifting her weight from the ground. She would have shrieked if she hadn’t been completely flabbergasted by his strength, since he had remarked more than once that his powers were stunted by the lack of blood to drink. Yet, he was making her hover above the ground, her feet hanging a few inches from the wet, cobbled street.

 

Another black, strong hand emerged by the fog that currently was her husband, curling around her constricted waist to support her: they were gaining speed, ascending towards the sky in a perfectly vertical path. She should have been worried, or scared, or somehow unwilling to indulge him in his nefarious plans, but she couldn’t bring herself to care, since he was gifting her one of the most breathtaking experiences of her life. She was flying.

 

From above, the city was unusually beautiful. It was impossible to discern the horrors that permeated its streets: filth, rubbish and corruption were suddenly invisible to her eyes, replaced by the dark green of treetops, the coruscation of wet roofs, the faint clouds formed by chimneys and stacks. A train was slowly slithering under them, like a black, segmented snake.

 

“There is a train coming!” she laughed, uncaring about Kylo Ren’s presence, feeling like the carefree young girl she’d never had the time to be.

 

Indeed there is . One of his hands crawled between her breasts, remaining there and checking her heartbeat.

 

Are you scared?

 

“No,” she answered, surprised.

 

They stopped their ascent, and he enveloped the upper portion of her body, his hands taking hers and spreading her arms like a pair of wings, causing her to squirm.

 

I will support you, do not fear. Put a foot in front of the other, slowly.

 

“Like walking?”

 

Like walking, yes.

 

She lifted her left foot, taking a step, the sensation of moving while someone else was completely supporting her weight foreign and strange. But it was working. A foot in front of the other, they were gently moving, suspended, like they owned the entire sky over the city. It was exhilarating, and freeing, and Rey laughed, a beautiful, crystalline sound leaving her throat at every step she made, guided by his strong hands.

 

Are you having a good time? He chuckled, wrapped around her like an obscure vine, sheltering her figure from the cold wind.

 

“Yes!” she exclaimed, bafflement clear in her tone. “I had no idea you could make me fly, Kylo Ren .”

 

He laughed, and she realized that she liked the sound of his laugh. Inexplicably, the thought made her both uncomfortable and warm at the same time. Was it possible to feel two opposite feelings such as those towards the same person? Was she becoming so irrational because of his presence to actually enjoy his company? Or had he lied about his ability to manipulate her with his powers like he’d done to her servants?

 

But she didn’t have the time to become angry with him, while floating over the city like in a dream. Too amazed by the adventure he was permitting her to experience, she decided to let herself go for once and concentrated on studying the intricacy of buildings and streets below her, dancing in the sky without a glider or a balloon.

 

“The first man to fly: a woman,” she declared, imitating a masculine voice and prompting her husband to laugh again.

 

The first monster to fly: a Kylo Ren , he replied, imitating her in turn, and she detected an unexpected levity in his tone.

 

She burst into laughter, the paper-thin skin around her eyes wrinkling in mirth. If he was able to be a pleasant person, why had he maintained blatant hostility towards her during the previous days? He was almost behaving like a wounded animal, trapped in a cage and slowly showing confidence the more he knew his host.

 

Can you see your roof from here?

 

Rey nodded, turning slowly in the right direction and moving her feet in an harmonious, weightless movement, while he continued keeping her suspended in mid-air, guiding her gently forward, towards the shelter of her home.





They landed, still unseen, in the back garden. Kylo extended his hands around Rey’s body, shielding her from the naked branches of the trees. He didn’t want her to get wounded, after she hadn’t consented to let him feed from her: he wasn’t sure he could control himself in front of fresh blood, and he didn’t want to be in her presence in case she got scratched.

 

Her feet touched the ground, and he slowly let her go, hovering around her as to make sure that she wouldn’t fall down without his support. She shivered, but he had no idea if that was because of the cold, or because of something else. A small, shriveled part of him almost wanted her to miss his touch, but that would have been impossible, since she didn’t like to be touched and she still barely tolerated his presence. He chastised himself for those unorthodox thoughts, since he wasn’t a youngster, just arrived on the planet from the deepest darkness of space, hopeful, inexperienced and naïf .

 

But Rey stumbled after a couple of steps, her legs still weak from being misused to move through air, and he caught her by an inch before she could fall on the stone steps leading to her backdoor, his whole being enveloping again around her as to cushion an eventual fall. He felt one of her hand grip his arm with unusual strength, as to reassure herself that he was there and she wasn’t in danger anymore. None of them spoke, but she didn’t retrieve her hand from his arm, remaining in silence for a few seconds, her breath now calm and even.

 

The spell broke when they heard raised voices from inside the house, and Rey’s hand abandoned him. She slowly approached to lean her ear against the door: there was someone other than Mr. Oswald and Mrs Rachel inside, and they were arguing in a overly heated way. She tinkered with the lock, opening it slowly, and turned in his direction, asking him to enter her silver, hollow charm. He complied, after becoming tiny like a speck of soot, and she slithered inside on her tiptoes.




Rey crossed the small room where her servants kept their supplies, but the voices were still too confused for her to properly discern who was there and what they were arguing about.

 

She managed to recognize Rose and Finn’s voices, coupled with Oswald’s and Rachel’s, and a unfamiliar male one. Why were her friends in her house? Had her servants called them? She instinctively brought her hand to her pillbox charm, as if to seek reassurance about her new friend’s presence beside her.

 

Still holding her necklace, she exited the kitchen, walking slowly down the corridor and towards the foyer, finally discovering what all the commotion was about. Finn and Rose were accusing her servants of having lied about her, apparently.

 

“She doesn’t have any husband. I can’t believe you’re saying this, in front of a policeman even,” argued Finn.

 

“Please Sir, calm down,” intervened the stranger. “Would it be possible that your colleague lied to you about being married?”

 

“Absolutely not,” added Rose. “Mr. Oswald, you know her from when she was a little girl. I can’t believe you could even think about such a lie.”

 

Still unseen, she took a peek from the doorway: the unfamiliar voice belonged to a peeler, a pasty, willowy young man with a shock of red hair under his tall, blue hat. Who had called him? He seemed at loose ends, between her friends and her servants, both parties defending their witness.

 

“Oh dear, Miss Rey would never go outside unchaperoned,” explained Mr. Oswald.

 

“She indeed has a husband, he’s Professor Solo’s boy, Ben,” added Mrs. Rachel.

 

“Didn’t you say he died years ago?” asked the peeler, surprised.

 

“That’s why I’m saying they’re lying,” retorted Finn. “He died when she was four and they never met.”

 

“He was simply sleeping!” exclaimed Oswald.  “And she woke him up.”

 

Rey’s grip on her charm intensified. This was a dire situation, perjury could get her servants in huge trouble with the justice. But technically they weren’t lying, they were simply recounting the fabricated events that her husband had planted in their minds.

 

“She woke him up? What do you mean?” asked Rose, stunned.

 

“He waited for her for centuries, and she made a blood oath with him,” explained Rachel.

 

Rey squeezed her charm so hard that the bail broke, and she yelped, revealing her presence to her guests. Everyone in the room turned in her direction, but she was too distracted to acknowledge them: she was looking at the palm of her hand in horror, noticing the smallest drop of blood emerge from her scratched skin.

 

“Rey!” cried Finn. “Where have you been?”

 

“What is happening? What is this marriage nonsense?” continued Rose.

 

She opened her mouth to spout any believable justification for her disappearance, but she didn’t have the time to explain anything to her friends: Kylo appeared in front of her, again in his human form. She looked at her palm, noticing that it was now clean: the droplet of blood had vanished, and her small wound looked like it had already been healed. He’d somehow absorbed her blood, against her wishes.

 

She keeled over on the wooden floor while everyone in the room was distracted by her husband’s towering, black-clad figure. Everyone around him was moving slowly, as if they’d been dipped in molasses. Was this the effect of his power?

 

He extended a hand in her servants’ direction. “I’ve been abroad so far,” he slowly announced, his other hand reaching out to the peeler. “I’m Han Solo’s son.”

 

Oswald and Rachel’s eyes became glazed, soon followed by the policeman’s. He approached her colleagues, his arm still extended in front of him.

 

“No!” roared Rey. “Leave them alone!”

 

“I’m doing this to save you from this mess.” He looked briefly at her, sorrow in his gaze.

 

“If you touch my friends, I will never talk to you again.” She was on the verge of crying, his betrayal breaking her heart.

 

“Rey. We don’t have a choice.”

 

“Tamper with their minds, and you’ll never set foot in my home again.”

 

He nodded, looking first at his feet, then at her again. Rey’s heart was beating frantically in her chest, and she shook her head mouthing a silent “ Please ” in his direction. His Adam’s apple bobbed visibly, and he turned his gaze on her colleagues.

 

“I’m Rey’s husband,” he declared, moving his fingers in a hypnotical way, in front on Finn’s and Rose’s eyes. “She’s happy.”

 

“No!” she cried again. “Don’t!”

 

Her friends’ eyes lost their usual brightness, and time resumed its normal flow.

 

A hand over her shattered heart, she could only witness her husband’s ruthless insouciance in regards to everything and everyone she cared about. He quickly became the protagonist on the scene that was taking place in front of her, diverting everyone’s attention away from her slumped, grieving form.

 

“I’m sorry Sir, I fear I didn’t catch your name,” he recited in front of the peeler.

 

“It’s Officer Hux, Sir. Is your wife well?”

 

“She is. We got distracted during our promenade, that’s why we were late to the appointment with our dear colleagues here.” He smiled and turned in Finn’s and Rose’s direction. “There is no need to worry.”

 

Rose left the group to approach her, her eyes still vacuous.

 

“Rey, why are you crying? Did you hurt yourself?”

 

“No, Rose.” Rey smiled weakly, drying her tears. “I saw that the police was here and I thought something bad had happened, that’s all.”

 

Finn joined them, helping her on her feet. Mr. Oswald and Mrs. Rachel began preparing the table for the afternoon tea, as if nothing had happened, while Kylo was accompanying Officer Hux at the door.

 

Rey sat on the sofa, while the people around her chatted, sharing again the false memories that her husband had planted in everyone’s mind. Apparently, he had been in Hong Kong during his whole youth, and then he’d returned to London during the previous year to marry her. When Rose asked her to show her an albumen print of her wedding dress, she excused herself, abandoning the table to seek shelter in her study.

 

She approached the window, leaning her head against the glass and looking at the trees in her garden, remembering how delicately he’d sheltered her against their dead branches. And how he’s readily betrayed her, a few minutes later, disobeying her command to not touch her friends. She was feeling empty and tired. She had naively believed that they could somehow become friends, and he’d promptly shown her his true nature. He was a monster, after all.

 

She heard the door opening and felt his presence behind her. She spoke her mind before he could outsmart her with one of his many excuses.

 

“I want you to leave this house before I wake up tomorrow morning. You can keep the clothes I gave you, but not the books.”

 

She heard the door hinges creak again, and the noise of his steps waning down the stairs. Eyes close, she leaned again against the window, sighing.