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The Hand That Feeds

Chapter Text


 

Sussex, 1869

 

Rey limped clumsily through the woods. Plutt had beaten her again.

 

She hadn’t cried this time, but a blind rage had slowly filled her heart while he’d put his slimy, chunky hands on her.

 

Her foster father had discovered her secret. Every week, during her walks to Alderaan Castle, she would sneak into the manor through an old drainpipe and steal something to read from Professor Solo’s library. She would devour the book at night, hidden in her little bed, and then return it the following week, borrowing another one in its stead.

 

“You can’t eat books,” Plutt had said, while looking for his cane. “Steal something valuable, or I’ll send you to the brothel in town. You still resemble a lad, but men will pay nonetheless.”

 

She didn’t want to become a thief. She had never felt so helpless in her short and miserable life, and warm tears started to run down her cheeks, tracking through the dust and the soot, almost in time with the first droplets of rain from the cloudy, heavy sky. As she covered the few miles to the castle, she crossed her arms, protecting the work she was going to return to the professor’s collection—the second issue of La Revue Archéologique, trying to run despite her injuries.

 

She slowed down only when the pain became unbearable, the looming silhouette of the manor closer with every step she took. Entering the library without alerting any of the servants was easy enough. She could squeeze through gaps with her slender form, still unencumbered with the curves other girls her age had begun to develop. But this time, with the beating she had taken, sneaking around was proving unusually difficult.

 

She managed to crawl up to the second storey, using her uninjured hand on a drainpipe, risking at every moment a fall. She slipped in through a damaged window, hoping that the wheezes coming from her lungs wouldn’t alert anyone. Breathing was easier once she replaced the periodical, retrieving another issue of the same publication to read during the upcoming week. Relieved at her success, she decided to investigate Professor Solo’s artifacts collection, even as guilt quietly gnawed at her.

 

She had to decide between stealing something ancient and valuable from the man’s private collection or staying true to her beliefs. Otherwise, translating it in Plutt’s language, she had to decide between a warm meal and a relatively tick-free bed or getting beaten again and probably being sold off as soon as her monthlies began. Or even before that.

 

The mere thought made her shiver. She had always considered herself extremely lucky to lack the femininity to attract some lecherous man’s unwanted attention, but, if her foster father began considering her more valuable as a dollymop than as a farm boy, this would soon change. The horror of losing what little freedom she had over her body and her person drove her to continue her inspection of the professor’s valuables.

 

Even to her untrained gaze, the sheer number of priceless trinkets, vases and other pieces was breath-stealing. Her attention was immediately captured by the largest vases: two reddish and black kraters. She couldn’t stop herself from tapping on their round bellies with her fingernails, producing a different sound from each vase, before turning to a cabinet filled with trinkets to see if there were jewels or equally transportable goods.

 

A sudden noise coming from the next room prompted her to snatch a miniature basalt statue of Sekhmet from the nearest shelf, small enough to be hidden under her oversized waistcoat. She began to retreat towards the library, but the sudden opening of a door in the far corner of the room made her forget about her plan, and she started running towards her usual escape route. Halfway down the pipe, her injured calf gave out, causing her to lose her grip, falling and hitting her shoulder and the side of her head on the hard ground of the courtyard below.

 

Professor Han Solo found her like this. After hearing strange noises from his study he’d gone to investigate, but found no one. A sharp cry and heavy thud coming from outside had alerted him to the intruder’s whereabouts. On the hard courtyard ground lay a very young lad, dressed in threadbare rags, third issue of La Revue Archéologique and one of his statuettes sheltered between his arms. Seeing blood on the pavement, the professor slowly lifted the child’s head, checking his heartbeat with two fingers on the jugular vein. His heart was still beating, and he exhaled, relieved.


Rey awoke several hours later, looking at an unfamiliar ceiling, with a thick bandage around her head.

 

“How are you feeling, lad? You took an almost two-storey swan dive. I’m surprised you’re still alive.”

 

Turning her head, she needed a few seconds to focus on the person in front of her; a bespectacled, grey-haired man regarded her. In his hands was the statue she had intended to steal. She recognized him immediately, and her heart jumped in her bruised chest.

 

“Professor Solo, I’m so sorry,” she whispered, as tears began to fill her eyes. “I never intended to steal from you, I just wanted to read more about vases and mummies and Odysseus’ journey!”

 

Her apologies were met with a warm chuckle.

 

“So you’re able to read. Who taught you?”

 

“The nuns, back at the orphanage.”

 

“You could have politely asked to visit my library. I could never deny knowledge to a young lad like you.” He smiled, looking tired all of a sudden. “I had a son once, Ben. The smallpox stole him from me and my wife. You remind me of him, when he was little. Though he’d be almost twenty-four years old now, if he still were alive.”

 

“I’m sorry, I had no idea.” Rey dried her tears with a tattered sleeve.

 

“Why were you tapping on my kraters?” he inquired, looking at her dirty fingernails.

 

“I read that attic vases produce a particular sound, but I never had the occasion to ascertain this information. To be honest, I never saw a real attic krater before, I just read about them in your books.”

 

“Did you manage to recognize which vase is from Attica, then?” He smiled warmly again.

 

“The red one, with black figures. The black one with red figures makes a different sound.”

 

“That’s correct. Your knowledge is impressive. I will put this Sekhmet back, and you will focus on recovering from your fall. In the meantime you’ll be fed and your injuries attended. Let me thank you for returning my books in pristine condition.”

 

“Pardon me, Sir, but I can’t accept. My adoptive father would kill me if I came home empty handed tonight. He commanded me to steal from you, instead of just borrowing books like I have in the past.” Rey’s voice trembled. "I'm not a thief."

 

“Who is this man?” asked the professor.

 

“Your tenant, Plutt. We live in the old barn near the western fields, behind the woods.”

 

“I thought he had adopted a girl.”

 

“That’s me. My name is Rey. You can’t really help me unless you let me return home with that little statue. I’ll repay you later, working for you. Besides reading and writing, I can chop wood, wash dishes and floors, sew, knit, mend socks and many other things. Please,” she sniveled, warm tears running again down her dirty face.

 

“Stop spouting nonsense, young lady.” The professor looked sternly at her from behind his lenses. “You are in no shape to walk right now, you fell down a drainpipe and almost died in the process. If what you’re reporting to me is true, the man you call ‘father’ will only beat you again, or worse.”

 

Rey did not dare to look at him, fidgeting with the clean, white sheet. Plutt had adopted her because he needed unpaid workers for his farm, and he’d never hesitated to hit her with his bare hands or with a leather strap every time she failed to obey him. She hated him for that, but she was completely at his mercy.

 

“You can stay here until you’re well. This will take some time.” The professor got to his feet and approached a shelf full of books. “A friend of mine sent me this last year, but I never had the time to even open it. I want you to read it during your convalescence, and then tell me your opinion on it.”

 

Rey tried to turn her head in his direction, but a stabbing pain surged through her skull, forcing her to look at the book he had put down on the bedside table out of the corner of her eye. Its title was long and complicated, and she managed to discern only the first line, printed in bigger letters, On the Origin of Species .

 

“There is no need to worry about anything. I will contact Plutt about you remaining here, I’m sure he’ll understand,” he said, his eyes suddenly mournful. “I can’t wait to tell my wife about you.”

 

Rey’s eyes slowly closed. This was the first day of her new life as Professor Solo’s protegée .


 

London, 1885

 

“Be careful with that, it’s the only panathenaic amphora we managed to buy this year,” Rey barked at the workmen that were crating the vases headed to the museum. Being one of the few women working in the antiquities business meant that she had to shout more than her male colleagues to be heeded by her labourers.

 

Not being married at the ripe age of thirty didn’t help either, but Rey never felt more stronger or independent in her life. She was free to do what she wanted, thanks to her benefactor, Professor Solo, and his good-hearted wife, Leia, duchess of Alderaan. They had saved her from her foster father, Mr. Plutt, and from a life of theft and misery when she was just fourteen. Treating her like a real daughter, the couple had offered her their late son’s rooms in Leia’s country estate during the summer, and another warm bed was waiting for her in Solo’s house in London, during winter.

 

He had personally overseen her education, teaching her everything he knew, and Rey’s young mind swiftly absorbed even the most disparate subjects, from ancient history to hieroglyphics, passing through Latin and Greek, diggings and long travels to Italy, Egypt, Greece and many other countries. He introduced her as his ward to his students, until she took her degree in Archaeology, and after his retirement to Alderaan Castle, he left her his house in London, where she lived by herself, with the company of a competent and curt housekeeper, Miss Rachel T. D. Turner, and Solo’s old chatty butler, Mr. Charles T. P. Oswald.

 

With her determination and the professor’s teachings, she began working in the antiquities business, buying, selling and evaluating ancient artifacts. She was soon able to open a small company with two acquaintances. Finn was a serious young man, already familiar with the art market, whom she met when she was twenty years old, during travels with the professor in Benin Kingdom. Rose was a kindred soul, arrived in Paris from French Indo-China to study art and painting and later moved to London.

 

The previous day, an important contractor had asked the three of them to evaluate a sarcophagus he had found in a building he had recently purchased. After Rey had finished coordinating the pottery transfer to the museum, Finn and Rose joined her to visit the sarcophagus location, an old house on the outskirts of the city.

 

“I find this place upsetting, there is a strange energy between these walls,” announced Finn, entering the dilapidated building.

 

They descended the stairs leading to the cellars, and when they reached the subterranean room containing the artifact, Rose began lamenting a sudden dizziness. The sarcophagus was huge and imposing, made of polished, black wood and completely devoid of marks.

 

“I’ve never seen anything resembling this anywhere,” commented Rey. “It’s definitely not from Egypt.”

 

Finn shuddered. “I’m almost running out of air down here.”

 

Rey opened her wooden tool box, extracting three nail pullers and lending them to her colleagues. Everyone began pulling out the long nails that were sealing the huge lid; when they finished, Finn excused himself and exited the room, lamenting again a growing lack of air around the mysterious casket. Rey huffed, but Rose didn’t seem at ease either, and she soon became pale and had difficulties breathing.

 

They began removing the top, which gave in after a loud creak. There was no foul odour coming out of the sarcophagus, so they opened it completely, placing the lid on the ground.

 

“There’s a body inside.” Rose peered in. “It’s covered by a sudarium and rather taller than most.”

 

There was indeed an imposing figure within the casket. Rey reached out to remove the dusty shroud that was covering the hulking body, exposing a long pair of grey, well-preserved feet.

 

“It’s not wrapped in linen bandages,” commented Rey. “It might be a spontaneous mummy.”

 

“This is the oddest one I’ve seen, then. Look at the unusual colouring and at the texture of the skin.” Rose pointed to the corpse’s bare limbs.

 

“It appears mummified indeed, but I never saw such skin colour before either,” added Rey, caressing the mummy’s instep. “Let us get a better look at it. Help me remove the rest of the sudarium?”

 

Both women forgot to breathe for a few seconds. The body wasn’t desiccated in the usual way mummies were: he was male, more than six feet tall, well built and quite young looking. He almost looked asleep, save for an earthenware brick inserted into his ajar mouth. His skin looked soft, His head was full of luscious, black hair, and he sported a pointy moustache and a small goatee on his chin. Both women explored the mummy’s sides too, looking for the usual signs left by the evisceration process.

 

“There are no traces of post-mortem manipulation; we are indeed in front of a spontaneous mummy.” Rey felt the need to pull out her sketchbook out to capture his striking features.

 

“It’s unbelievable,” whispered Rose. “Its skin is so smooth and well aged, it almost doesn’t seem dead. Finn has to see this!”

 

Rey delicately pried open the mummy’s mouth to remove the brick nestled between two rows of perfectly preserved and slightly crooked teeth, and observed mesmerized as the jaw slowly closed shut again, revealing fully the man’s striking and unsettling beauty.

 

“I could never guess his age,” murmured Rey. “He seems so young, and yet so old? I’ve never seen such facial bones before, I wish I had my sketchbook with me.”

 

“Take my block, in the meantime I will go look for Finn. I don’t really feel at ease in this room,” replied Rose, extending her drawing supplies to Rey. “Will you be okay down here with it?”

 

“Of course. Go find Finn while I sketch our find in situ .” Rey approached the mummy, ready to capture his lineaments on paper.

 

He was a creature made of contradictions. His features were revealing a wildness that both scared and intrigued her, and that wildness was harbouring an almost aristocratic elegance. She traced the bridge of his nose with two angled lines, doing the same for his strong brow, his high cheekbones and his sharp chin.

 

“Get a grip on yourself, Rey,” she muttered between her teeth. “He’s dead.”

 

The realization that she found him attractive was strange at best and a little spine-tingling at worst. She sketched his wide unmarred torso, his long legs, and his elegant, tapered hands, placed to strategically cover his crotch. She was almost tempted to lift one of his hands to see what lay beneath, but she decided she was not ready to nose around his implements, and caressed his long thighs instead. He really was incredibly smooth, and she kept touching the dried skin, up his stomach, through his hard ribs, to finally reach his captivating face.

 

She stroked his high cheekbones with her knuckles, and the hollows under them. His facial hair was soft, and the hair on his head was even silkier, black as a raven’s wings and arranged in elegant waves around his head. Her insatiable curiosity made her lift the locks that covered his ears, maybe his less aristocratic feature. They were definitely on the bigger side.

 

“Well, that would make you a really good listener!” she giggled, inhaling some dust from the shroud and sneezing violently on the mummy’s face.

 

Rey watched in horror as the corpse’s pale skin was now mottled with tiny speckles of blood from her delicate capillaries, and she swiftly covered her dripping nose with her left hand.

 

“By Jove!” She rushed towards her bag to look for a handkerchief to clean up the mess she had caused. She wiped her nose and hands, but when she returned to the mummy the blood wasn’t there anymore, save for the biggest drop, on his bottom lip, slowly disappearing before her startled gaze. She caressed his mouth with her thumb, trying to clean it, and when she checked again the blood had disappeared.

 

She blinked. His skin suddenly looked less grey, and also his lips had a plumper look.

 

Her ears began to ring. A whirlwind of dust surrounded her, and she had to huddle up next to the casket, covering her face with her skirt. Her heartbeat thundering in her chest, she tried to look at what was happening, but all she saw were dancing shadows that stopped invading the room when her ears began working again after a loud, popping sound.

 

Dizzy and terrified, she grabbed the sarcophagus lid, to avoid falling down, and she almost fainted when she realised the mummy had disappeared.

 

"Rose! Finn!"

 

 

Finn emerged from the kitchen, followed by Mr. Oswald carrying a generous serving of tea, sandwiches and biscuits, while Rose consoled a weeping Rey. Both her friends had decided to keep her company at her house, since she was still unsettled by the events that had occurred during the afternoon.

 

“I knew that coffin was bad news,” he murmured, pouring three cups.

 

“It’s my fault,” cried Rey. “I got distracted, and someone stole the mummy. He was astonishing, he would have been perfect in a museum.”

 

He ?” intervened Rose. “It was a corpse, Rey, not a living man.”

 

Rey had the decency to look ashamed, and she wiped her swollen eyes.

 

“The odds of someone stealing a mummy seem very low indeed,” intervened Finn, sipping his tea. “I was in the courtyard for the whole time, and no one entered or exited the building.”

 

“Didn’t you say that you got blood on it, Rey? What if it was a demon and you freed it or something?” asked Rose, gesticulating at the same time.

 

“Don’t be silly, Rose, a demon? I can’t believe you’d spout such inanities!”

 

“Rey, do you want me to sleep here tonight?” insisted Rose. “I would be terrified to be alone after what happened today.”

 

“Thank you, but there is no need. Oswald and Rachel are here with me.”

 

“Well, try to look on the bright side then,” continued Rose. “You’ll soon have a new chest, full of dust and dirt, but at least the wood seemed in excellent condition. And a terracotta brick for free!”

 

 

That evening, Rey went to bed early but didn’t manage to fall asleep, cursing herself for not accepting Rose’s proposal to keep her company during the night. The bed seemed bigger and colder than usual, and every single noise coming from the house or from outside made her heart jump erratically.

 

The pale, spectral moonlight and the trees in the garden were projecting eerie shadows on the walls and floor, making her tremble under the blankets. She thought about sleeping in Ben’s old bedroom—both bed and window were smaller after all—and when she finally decided to light up a candle and head towards the other chamber, someone knocked at the front door, making her blood turn to ice in her veins.

 

It was almost midnight and the wind was howling outside. Rey called for Miss Rachel and Mr. Oswald, but strangely they didn’t rouse from their sleep. She was tempted to run to Ben’s bed and ignore the insistent knocking, but her mind immediately rushed to Rose, too generous to let her sleep alone, defying every social convention and walking alone in the darkness to save her from her loneliness.

 

“I hope at least Finn is with you,” she mumbled, hurrying down the stairs, mindful of her candle.

 

The knocking became more and more insistent. Without thinking twice, she unbolted her door, opening it, and found herself frozen, suddenly unable to move. She slowly lifted her eyes, and she discovered that the person outside was not Rose, but a mountain of a man, shrouded from head to toe in a hooded, black cloak. He was looking at her with dark, gleaming eyes, and her whole body began trembling like a leaf.

 

“Miss Rey, I mean you no harm. Let me come inside and I will explain why I’m here.”

 

Rey felt the grip on her body slowly abate, and she found herself able to move her mouth at least.

 

“Mr. Oswald!” she cried, panicked.

 

“Your servants are in a deep and dreamless sleep. It’s just us.”

 

“What?” she babbled, quivering.

 

“I’m afraid you’ll have to invite me in. We need to talk,” the stranger continued. “Please.”

 

Rey debated briefly about what to do. Apparently, the man was doing something to prevent her from moving, but he was somehow unable to enter her house without her permission. They were at an impasse.

 

The way he had said “please” convinced her to give him the benefit of the doubt.

 

“C-come in, then,” she croaked feebly.

 

He put a foot on her doorstep, and with a long stride, he was in her face. She was finally able to move again, but she remained on the spot, still trembling and riled up by a deep annoyance. She gathered the courage to address him, her gaze fixed on his shadowed eyes, the candle's flame flickering between them.

 

“I’m finding your behaviour really barbaric, Sir. How dare you knock on my door at midnight, demanding entrance to my home? I never met anyone more uncivil than you,” she gritted through her teeth.

 

The stranger inhaled from his long nose, keeping silent for a few seconds.

 

“You’ll have to get used to my barbaric ways then, Miss Rey,” he huffed, his eyes shining like twin flames.

 

“How so, dear Sir?” she retorted, pointy chin held high.

 

Silently, the stranger proceeded to remove his hood. Rey’s mouth hung open—he wasn’t a stranger at all, she knew that face very well. She had sketched it with a charcoal pencil, and she had caressed his angular features that same afternoon.

 

“Because I am your husband.”

 

Rey felt her knees buckle under her weight, while darkness began clouding her eyes. He managed to catch her during her fall, before she could injure herself, and cradled her body to his chest in an almost reverent way. The candle rolled on the floor, extinguishing in a puddle of wax.

 

“Don’t touch me,” she whispered in the darkness, sheltered by his strong arms, quickly losing consciousness.





Chapter Text

Kylo Ren felt a warm hand ghost over his limbs, and realized that, contrary to what had already happened on more than one occasion, his head was still attached to the rest of his body. This time, he was still surprisingly in one piece.

 

His benumbed mind tried to remember the last time he had been alive and in full possession of his faculties, but to no avail. His thoughts were jumbled, his mind weak, centuries and events overlapping in his sluggish brain. He was in dire need of sustenance.

 

He couldn’t help wondering if the delicate hand caressing his face with an almost religious reverence belonged to a future bride of his—they would provide the blood he needed, then. He tried to recall his past consorts, but he had been asleep for too many years to remember their names and their faces.

 

The warm hands caressing his body made him long desperately for a new bride, for owning and being owned like he was used to during his long life. Almost by sheer coincidence, sudden droplets of blood stained his skin, and his heart jumped once, then twice in his hard ribcage, falling silent again after a few seconds of hope. Not a bride then?

 

A real bride would have cut their finger, spreading their own lymph on his dried lips. Without that deliberate and willing act, simple contact with blood wouldn’t be enough to fully rouse him from his long sleep. He tried to open his eyes to ascertain what was happening around his prone form, but the few droplets his skin was desperately trying to absorb weren't enough to bring him amongst the living again.

 

He didn’t even have the willpower to scream, so, he waited. Waiting and surviving were the actions he knew better: he had been living as a slave, as a weapon, for thousands of years. Before that he had simply existed, alone, and he couldn't remember if befriending the human race had been more a blessing or a curse.

 

The ghost of a fingertip on his lower lip stopped the stream of his obscure thoughts, and finally life spread through his withered remains. His whole body sang with strength, collecting itself in the form that would expend less energy: a black, shapeless fog formed by minuscule particles of darkness. He quickly dissolved in the air, shifting his fluid shape and flying around the subterranean room he was kept in, looking for an escape route.

 

He saw his bride then, a woman crouched against his casket, trying desperately to cover herself against the formless assault of shadows spawned from his resurrection. Her form was strong and slender, her hair was shiny and of the loveliest chestnut colour, and she wore it piled on the top of her head. He longed already for her touch, for her delicate hands to caress his lips again and again, letting him feast on her pulsating violet veins.

 

“Soon,” he whispered, heading towards a chimney and abandoning his prison once and for all.



Rey jolted awake, head pounding and heart beating frantically against her chest. She was in her bed, under the warm covers, but she couldn’t remember going to sleep last night. She slowly opened her eyes, Han Solo’s old bedroom coming into focus in the dim morning light, but she had to squint. Even the feeble light seeping from the closed curtains was more than enough to hurt her eyes. She huffed; a migraine would do her no good. It was an important day. She and Finn were meeting an acquaintance of theirs for lunch: Mr. Dameron was bringing them a copper dagger from a recent excavation in Northern Italy to evaluate and, eventually, purchase.

 

Her mind felt foggy, but she tried nonetheless to recall what had happened during the previous evening. She clearly remembered noises and shadows, feeling deep fear for some reason and calling for her butler, seeking help. Other images were more confusing: a pair of dark eyes–the eyes of a man, looking into hers, and a candle slipping from her hand, extinguishing itself during its fall on the floor.

 

She moved to a sitting position, turning her head towards the bedside table to ascertain if the candle was still there. As she fully opened her eyes, she perceived a tiny black shadow behind her right shoulder, and she quickly turned her head in that direction, but there was no one. No shadows on the bed or in the corner of the room—nothing. She perused the bedroom again, but there were no dark spots in the feeble light of the morning.

 

The same shadow appeared again in the corner of her vision: she remained frozen on the bed for a whole minute, her gaze fixed behind her shoulder, waiting for the black spot to surface again. She was so engrossed looking for the shadow that she didn’t even hear the brusque Mrs. Rachel tapping on the door, seeking entry to tidy the room up while she prepared for the day.

 

She washed and dressed herself, continuing to look behind her right shoulder from time to time, hoping to finally catch the mysterious being that kept plaguing her. After gathering her hair in a soft triple bun, she went downstairs, calling for Mr. Oswald. The fussy old man emerged from the kitchen in a heartbeat, contrary to what had happened during the previous night.

 

“Miss Rey,” he inquired. “How can I help you?”

 

Rey was about to ask him why he hadn’t answered her calls during the evening, but the black shadow reappeared again in the corner of her vision, making her frown and squeeze her eyes. The image of that dark gaze resurfaced in her memories again, but she refused to check for dreadful apparitions over her shoulder in her butler’s presence.

 

“Oh dear! Are you feeling well, Miss?”

 

“Not really. I have a migraine,” she explained, unconsciously touching a silver pillbox charm she was wearing, an old gift from Leia. “Have you perhaps heard something unusual during the night?” she finally asked. “Strange noises? Footfalls?”

 

“No, I slept soundly until dawn, without waking up even once,” he admitted. “But now that you mention it, I found a candle in front of the door this morning, and I had to scrape its wax from the floor.”

 

Rey’s blood froze in her veins, but when she opened her mouth to ask for further details about the candle, the doorbell chimed, and Mr. Oswald excused himself, running towards the door. It was Finn, ready to collect her to visit their favourite inn, Maz’s Castle, for lunch with their acquaintance from Italy.

 

Walking with her friend, she tried to avoid turning her head every time the shadow reappeared, but the instinct was stronger than her resolve.

 

“Rey, are you worried about something?” inquired a worried Finn. “You’re behaving like there was someone following you. Do we need to speed up?”

 

“N–no, I’m simply bothered by my head and neck; I think I’ll have a migraine soon. I didn’t sleep well.”

 

“The wind was awful yesterday night, and you had a difficult afternoon. I’m sure a hearty meal at Maz’s will do wonders for your health,” he said with a smile. “I bet Mr. Dameron is already waiting for us!”



Rey didn’t manage to follow the transaction between the three of them with the appropriate level of attention; the shadow kept bothering her for the whole duration of their lunch. She was grateful for Finn’s presence, as he took the matter almost entirely in his hands, negotiating the price of the artifact with his usual expertise. She sat quietly in her corner, torn between the man in front of them, rattling anecdotes from his recent travels to Italy, and the now familiar black spot in her eye, accompanied by the vision of those dark, hungry eyes.

 

“What do you think then?” asked Dameron, pushing again the albumen print towards Rey and Finn’s side of the table.

 

In the picture was a skeleton lying on its left side, the long triangular copper dagger in proximity of its hands.

 

“I’m interested,” answered Rey. “But if there are indeed so many burials, the price you’re asking is too high.”

 

“But not every tomb was hiding this kind of dagger! It’s rare. In other tombs there were flint blades, or prehistoric pottery—listen, I’m not trying to swindle you.”

 

“Mr. Dameron, I think we could settle for a middle ground between what you’re asking and what we’re willing to pay,” intervened Finn, looking intensely in his eyes.

 

Dameron’s gaze softened, and he nodded without further insisting. Money was exchanged, papers were signed, but while Rey was packing the dagger in a linen wrap to store it in her purse, the black shadow reappeared again in the corner of her eye, and this time it was so big that she swayed on her seat from the surprise.

 

“Rey, do you still have that headache? Why don’t you go outside for a moment? A bit of fresh air could be beneficial,” suggested Finn, eyeing the silver pill box hanging from her neck.

 

Rey nodded and got up. Purse in hand, she asked Maz—seasoned innkeeper and Han Solo’s oldest friend—to let her access the backyard, a calm and secluded place. Unconcerned about propriety and cleanliness, she sat on the ground as she was used to during her youth in the country, cradling her head in her hands. She couldn’t remember whom those dark eyes belonged to, but they seemed linked to the obscure presence in the corner of her vision. Being the impulsive woman she was, she extracted the dagger from her purse, unwrapped it, and aimed its still sharp tip over her right eye.

 

“If you’re in there—if you’re in my head, leave immediately, or I will pry my eye out,” she stated flatly, chin held high. “I’m serious.”

 

The shadow became bigger, swirling in the corner of her eye. She got up on trembling legs, eyeing her surroundings to ensure there were no witnesses around her. Distancing the dagger from her face, she kept it at arm’s length, as if to ready herself to strike with more momentum.

 

“I’ll count to three and then I’ll stab myself. I suggest you get out as soon as possible, and leave me alone.”

 

Her sight became almost completely obscured: the shadow, swirling and shifting, was quickly growing, partially blinding her. She closed that eye then, relying only on her left one, which was still unaffected by darkness. Her heart was speeding up, jumping in her constricted ribcage, making her curse both her whalebone corset and her tailor’s entire family tree.

 

“One,” she counted, steeling herself while her eye began pulsing quickly, finally causing a real migraine to take root in her head.

 

“Two.” Her voice trembled, and her limbs followed, but she tried nonetheless to grip the blade with all her strength, using both hands. The pain was almost unbearable, and she began seeing flashes and luminous spots behind her closed eyelid.

 

Without waiting for three , she quickly moved the dagger towards her face, hoping to scare the shadow away. She didn’t aim towards the centre of her eye, pointing instead at her forehead, but something astonishing happened before she could stop herself. Her blood pressure dropped so much that she had to close both eyes for a second, and when she reopened them, there was a full grown man between her and the dagger, his back to her chest, covered head to toe by a black cloak.

 

Too affected by the surprise, the scare, and flashbacks of his black silhouette resurfacing in her mind, she didn’t manage to stop the strike in time, hitting him full-on: she clearly felt the blade run along his face, breaking his soft skin. Seemingly unperturbed, he engulfed her trembling hands with his right one, prying the weapon away from her grip with his other hand.

 

As he turned towards her, Rey’s memories of him came back at once, fast flashes following one another: the recollection of his arms around her resurfaced at the forefront of her thoughts, coupled with the image of the candle falling from her limp hand and the blackest darkness surrounding her. She had invited him into her home in the middle of the night, fainting in his strong arms after he’d revealed her they were mysteriously connected.

 

Gulping, she lifted her gaze towards his eyes, and she couldn’t refrain from bringing her hand to her mouth, aghast: she had literally sliced his face in half, from eyebrow to jaw, luckily sparing his right eye. The cut wasn’t bleeding, showing instead the sick colour of his dark, charred flesh peeking from behind his alabaster skin. Uncaring about his wound, he hid her ancient dagger in the inner pocket of his cloak, scoffing, then addressed her with a calm, deep voice.

 

“Never try anything similar again, Miss Rey,” he whispered, his low timbre making her knees quiver. “You will not be harmed for as long as I walk on Earth, neither by your hands, nor by others’.”

 

She almost had to fight to avoid being swayed by his words and his compelling appearance. She had ruined his face, but it was still easy to recognize the features that had enticed her so much during their first meeting: unfortunately, he was as handsome while asleep as he was obnoxious while awake.

 

“It’s you,” she spat, raising her voice. The inn’s backdoor was shut, and there was no one to hear her. “Stay away from me.”

 

“I won’t touch you, unless it will be to protect you,” he explained. “I knew you were a feisty woman, but I could never have imagined you were willing to injure yourself.”

 

“You were hiding in my head! I was beginning to question my sanity!” She barely restrained herself from shouting.

 

“I’m remorseful for not asking your permission to temporarily reside in your body, but yesterday night, after I revealed to you that we’re joined for life, you lost consciousness, and I had to carry your dead weight to bed.” He lifted a corner of his full mouth. “Is the notion of being my bride so distasteful to you?”

 

“You–you’re a monster!” she gulped.

 

“Yes I am,” he answered, almost pleased with her accusation.

 

Riled up by his smug expression, Rey was about to slap or punch him when she noticed that his tangible form was slowly beginning to dissolve in the air, tiny dark particles floating around his imposing figure. Without thinking, she touched him, and her hand skewed through his abdomen, leaving her with a literal handful of black soot, slowly vanishing in thin air.

 

“Calm down, Miss Rey,” he chuckled. “As your consort, I’m here to protect you and your loved ones. I won’t touch you without your consent. I’m no Mr. Plutt.”

 

“How—how do you know about him?” Rey’s heartbeat sped up, leaving her frantic.

 

“I saw your memories when I touched you, last night. I didn't intend to pry, I swear,” he explained, looking suddenly tired. “Maintaining my human form without proper sustenance is more taxing than I could remember. I’m afraid I must return… in your body. If you'll have me.”

 

“Don’t!” she shrieked.

 

Taken aback by her reaction, he nodded, stepping away from her. He looked in her eyes, a lost expression etched on his disfigured face, before dissolving completely. She watched as the particles of darkness danced before her eyes, flying away in the grey afternoon sky, and she let the first tear slip, from the same eye where he’d been hidden for the whole night.



Old Maz found her sobbing, crouched in a corner of the backyard.

 

“What’s going on, child? I never saw anyone cry so much over a migraine.”

 

Rey debated for a moment what to tell her: Maz was one of the wisest persons she knew, and having been married more than once, she sported an impressive amount of experience under her belt. She also firmly believed in the supernatural, unlike Rey—at least until now. Having someone to talk to about her accidental marriage to a creature from the past could prove helpful in the long run.

 

“Oh, Maz!” she weeped, embracing the innkeeper’s legs. “I think I am cursed. Rose was right, I awoke something, and now I can’t get rid of it.”

 

“Did this something… hurt you?” inquired Maz, a greying eyebrow lifted in surprise.

 

Rey took a moment to compose herself and recollect her thoughts. Answering the woman’s question, she shook her head: on the contrary, she had been the one to physically hurt him, disfiguring him. She had lost her dagger, and a bit of her pride, but she was otherwise unscathed.

 

“He told me we’re connected, and he’s here to protect me. But I never had a say in this matter,” she exhaled, tired. “You already know how I always avoided marriage, chasing away any potential suitor. My life doesn’t mean anything if I can’t study and travel. I don’t want to live trapped in a house, to serve a man I could never love, bearing children I don’t desire.”

 

The old woman patiently patted her hair with her wrinkled hand. Rey was almost like a niece to her, and she’d always supported her decision to be independent from men. It wasn’t the easiest of lives, but freedom had no price for Rey, abandoned in an orphanage as a newborn and adopted at five not for love, but to work the land and commit crimes.

 

“Some people are meant to cross our path during our life,” smiled Maz. “Maybe the Fates have seen that no mortal man can be a real match for you, so they sent to Earth a supernatural being.”

 

Rey didn’t know how to reply, so she kept silent and bit her lower lip. She didn’t want to think that a creature capable of entering and exiting a human body at his convenience and perceiving someone’s memories by simply touching them was meant to cross her path. She didn’t want to think about anything.

 

“Let’s go back inside? Your friend is waiting for you, he seemed really worried.”



Rey didn’t manage to gather the courage to tell Finn that their latest purchase had been stolen by a supernatural being that had once been a mummy, and now seemed very keen to proclaim himself her husband . Walking towards home, she kept her purse secured under her arm, smiling and nodding at Finn’s chatter, listening to his words but concocting a plan to get out of the cul-de-sac in which she had found herself trapped at the same time.

 

She was thinking about contacting Dameron again, to buy another dagger from him—she was sure that the one she’d lost wasn’t the only one he had, since he took the albumen print of the tomb with him and he was notorious in their field for trying to sell every artifact as a unique piece, to inflate his prices. But a little voice in her head—awfully similar to Maz’s—was telling her to wait, and see.

 

Finn bid her goodbye on her doorstep, recommending that she rest for the remaining part of the afternoon, and avoid overworking herself as usual. Trusting her, he never mentioned the dagger again, and Rey thanked the whole pagan pantheon for that small blessing.

 

Entering her own home, she was very surprised to hear voices coming from the kitchen. Mr. Oswald was being his usual chatty self, but she clearly distinguished Mrs. Rachel’s voice too: apparently, they were having an exceptionally good time. She could hear a third voice–a man’s voice–intermingling with theirs, but its timbre was too low to understand what he was talking about.

 

She slowly walked through the foyer, and her sight was caught by a green object, carefully positioned on the console decorating the sparse room, in front of a daguerreotype portraying her grieving benefactors and their dead son, Ben. She hid her face in the palm of her hand, huffing: it was her dagger.

 

She never felt so tired in her life, not even when she was a little lass, breaking her back every day at Plutt’s farm. After seeing the weapon, she had no difficulty placing the third voice. It clearly belonged to her dear husband, fluttered home long before her. She didn’t even know his name, and the git hadn’t thought about introducing himself. Maybe he didn't even have a name; his casket had been completely bare.

 

Rey finally decided to move towards the kitchen, stomping her feet on the wooden stairs to announce her arrival. No one stopped chatting, and, after entering the room, she witnessed one of the most preposterous tableaus she had ever seen. Her professed husband, his face still split in half, flopped on a chair too low for his unusually long legs, was munching on some raw liver she hadn’t any idea they had in stock.

 

Mr. Oswald and Mrs. Rachel, on their most unprofessional behaviour, were chatting and smiling around the creature, looking at him like he’d hanged the stars in the sky. Noticing her presence, he cleaned his mouth with a corner of his cloak, and smiled at her, making her shiver. Her butler turned towards her and smiled, soon followed by her housekeeper: their eyes were vacuous, their grins unsettling. She felt the need to take a step back from the eerie trio.

 

“Miss Rey, I hope you will forgive me. Your menials will return to normality in no time, I feel a little rusty and I exaggerated while casting a spell to subjugate their minds.” He beamed at her, and his teeth were definitely looking more pointy than they had the previous day. “They seemed very fond of that dead young boy, and I was in dire need of a congruous background to remain here, so I killed two birds with one stone.”

 

Rey’s migraine bloomed with a vengeance, and this time it was real, pulsing and painful, flashing behind her eyelids while she barely contained an explosion of rage.

 

“You—what did you do now?” she almost shouted, still incredulous at his gall.

 

“Oh goodness!” exclaimed Oswald. “Why are you so angry, Miss Rey? We have to celebrate, young Master Ben returned from the dead, and he will remain here with us!”

 

Eyes twitching, Rey turned right around and exited the kitchen, to avoid choking him in front of witnesses.

 

Chapter Text

 

Rey would have appreciated avoiding her still nameless husband during the following days, but it looked like he was able to be everywhere at once, behind every corner of the house. He always had a book in hand—they seemed to have one thing in common, at least. Or maybe he'd simply been terribly bored, since she wasn’t talking to him.

 

The first time she'd found him reading was in the library. It had happened after supper, when Rey entered the room to choose a book for the night, and she'd almost died of fright on the spot when he’d greeted her from a corner, still dressed in black from head to toe, reading without any light source. She had stored away the information that he was able see in the dark, and then she'd promptly insulted him, calling him a murderous snake and running away after a few seconds.

 

The following morning, she'd caught him sleeping in Ben’s old bedroom. A logical solution, since he’d tricked her staff to believe that he was an older, resurrected version of Han and Leia’s dead son. Walking towards the stairs, she'd noticed that the room’s door was ajar, and she couldn’t resist snooping inside, thinking she might find Mrs. Rachel tidying up the unused bed or cleaning the floor. It was him instead, curled up on a mattress that was too short for his imposing figure. She'd caught herself looking at him for several minutes, studying his features in the dim light provided by the heavy curtains.

 

Unfortunately it was too dark to properly ascertain the state of the injury she’d inflicted upon him. She had almost been expecting him to make her pay for disfiguring him with an aeneolithic copper dagger, but he’d never mentioned his wound nor the episode leading to being scarred by her again. He was behaving like it never happened.

 

She'd closed the door again, leaving him to his sleep. He had mentioned that it was difficult for him to maintain his human form, but she’d already seen him eat meat more than once. Maybe he needed to rest like humans to conserve his energies.

 

During another evening, she had bumped against his chest after she’d washed her hair in the bathroom at the end of the hallway, since her candle had fallen in the bathtub and it was already dark outside. He didn’t offer any apology, and she'd shoved him away with a grunt. He was beginning to grate on her nerves.

 

She'd found him again later in the kitchen, reading in front of the hearth, while Mrs. Rachel and Mr. Oswald were cleaning leather shoes at the table. Her servants were slowly returning to their old selves. They were old enough to have known the real Ben while he had been alive, and they seemed genuinely happy to have him back. Thus, to avoid disrupting the current precarious balance, Rey had decided to continue tolerating the creature’s presence, sitting next to him to let her hair dry.

 

He hadn’t addressed her, and she’d feigned disinterest, ogling him out the corner of her eye while she pretended to read. He’d still been wearing the same clothes he had the first time they’d met, but she hadn’t perceive any foul odour coming from him. The wound she had inflicted on him seemed already healed to some extent, but it still was quite visible, bisecting a whole side of his long, pale face.

 

She’d quickly looked the other way when Mr. Oswald began talking, nagging him with anecdotes about little Ben’s childhood and supported, to Rey’s shock, by the otherwise brusque Mrs. Rachel. Surprisingly, her husband had indulged both of them, reciting other small episodes that she had never heard of. Probably, he had exploited her servants’ good nature, touching them with his hands to pry into their minds. After her hair was dry, she’d bid everyone good night and barricaded herself in her rooms.

 

 

She'd continued to keep to herself as more days passed, instructing Mr. Oswald to bring her meals into her study: she needed time to research about more obscure topics now. She was trying to gather more knowledge about different kinds of supernatural beings in the only way she knew: breaking her back on books. Unfortunately, her readings hadn’t proven to be fruitful so far: she had only found texts about well known legendary creatures, but her husband didn’t have anything in common with any of them, vampires aside. Many clues were pointing her in that direction: she had found him with a brick in his mouth, she had roused him with her blood on his lips, he’d needed her explicit invitation to enter her home, he could see in the dark, and he often slept during the day.

 

Moreover, she had seen him eating raw meat, and when he'd reassumed his physical form after lingering in her own head, it had been early afternoon. It hadn’t been a sunny day, but he didn’t seem especially bothered by the light. She would have to investigate further. She could take advantage of the fact that the sarcophagus he’d been kept in was finally to be delivered to her in the following days: if he truly was a vampire, he would feel the need to sleep in there, instead of occupying a small boy’s old bed.

 

But Rey’s thoughts kept circling back to his powers: vampires couldn’t read people’s memories through simple physical contact, could they? This skill of his was the one that had piqued her curiosity the most. She was eager to know if he was able to extend this ability to inanimate objects too. With such a power at her disposal, her job could become exceedingly easy, permitting her to know everything about any find, simply by asking him to touch it and inform her about its origins afterwards. Counterfeits were becoming a huge problem in the market, and this ability could be vital on that front, allowing her to discern real artifacts from false ones.

 

If only she could ask him to collaborate with her without bothering her with that absurd marriage story! She hadn’t signed any document, so he surely couldn’t consider himself her husband in a legal way. But he kept insisting that she was his bride, and she hadn’t the slightest intention of becoming his servant.


After mulling over it for a couple of hours, before being completely consumed by anxiety, she rapped on little Ben’s bedroom door, almost hoping to disturb her consort-without-name during his sleep. No one answered, so without thinking, she let herself in.

 

The bed was unmade. Her fingers ran over his crumpled sheets, and she brought her hand to her nose, inhaling deeply. Again, she couldn’t detect any scent. Prying further, she noticed a book on his desk. It was the same book Han Solo had given her more than fifteen years ago, when he caught her stealing from his private collection in Alderaan Castle: Darwin’s On the Origin of Species .

 

A creak from the door announced his return. Rey remained where she was, browsing her old book’s pages.

 

“Miss Rey,” he greeted her, a hint of surprise in his voice. “I thought you were buried under your books.”

 

Mister Solo ,” she answered, admiring the bare trees outside of the window.

 

He chuckled, and though she heard him take in a breath–probably to deliver a witty retort–she anticipated him.

 

“I know what you are,” she stated, without turning towards her husband.

 

“Say it.” He took a step towards her, amusement clear in his voice. “Out loud.”

 

“A vampire.”

 

“What? No!” He laughed heartily. “Are you perhaps befuddled?”

 

Outraged, she turned towards him, and she almost wished she had remained in her study: he was standing in front of the door, wearing only his underwear. The vision of his pale, broad chest in full display made her forget why she’d been looking for him in the first place. He was imposing and harmonious at the same time, and his shoulders seemed sculpted in the finest Italian marble. His build was so sublime that she couldn’t help thinking about the Laocoön statue, his rippling muscles nearly equal to the beauty of a timeless work of art.

 

“Miss Rey,” he said again, lifting a corner of his mouth.

 

“Do you have something–a cowl or something you could put on?” she squeaked.

 

“Why? You already saw everything while I was sleeping,” he asked, apparently surprised about her embarrassment. “Mrs. Rachel was so kind to wash my clothes.”

 

“Where–where did you obtain the clothes you were wearing until yesterday?” she asked, remembering that he was completely naked while he slept in his coffin.

 

“I stole them,” he answered candidly. “Before coming here.”

 

That notion left Rey almost speechless. She was trying to look in his eyes, but her gaze kept getting swayed by that infinite expanse of skin in front of her. Was this the price to pay for having refused to marry? Or was it only this particular creature that could entice her in this primal, carnal way? She had already felt attracted by him while he was deeply asleep, when his body was more similar to a mummy’s than to a Roman statuary masterpiece. Now, it was definitely difficult looking in the other way.

 

He approached her, and she didn’t move from her spot, lifting her gaze to his long, somber visage, instead on ogling at his pink, unpierced nipples. She fixed her eyes on his wound instead, but she had to restrain herself to let her fingers roam over the scarred tissue nonetheless. His body attracted her like a magnet attracts metallic objects.

 

“Did you need me?” he inquired then, waking her up from her reverie.

 

“I—I have some men’s clothes in my room,” she blurted out, forgetting about their previous discussion. “They are Professor Solo’s, from when he was younger. You can try them. If you want.”

 

“Lead the way, then.” He smiled slyly, making her shiver.

 

On her way to her bedroom, she couldn’t refrain from chastising herself. She had gone from the cold detachment she had sported during the previous days to permitting him to enter her rooms—in completely improper attire, no less. Where had all her integrity gone? Men meant a life of servitude, and even if he wasn’t properly human, he was still undeniably male. Embarrassed by her own behaviour and hoping to avoid further conversation, she busied herself opening a huge wooden chest in a corner, which contained every clothing item already present in the room before she began living there.

 

“Here you are,” she said, filling his strong arms with Professor Solo’s old clothes and praying that he would leave as soon as possible, bringing everything in his room.

 

“Much obliged,” he answered, dropping everything on her bed, and divesting himself of his underwear. In front of her.

 

Rey felt her cheeks quickly assume the healthy colour of shame, and she hid her face in her hands, groaning.

 

“Could you– could you avoid doing that? It’s not proper.” She couldn’t avoid peeking from behind her fingers, admiring his sculpted backside.

 

“What wouldn’t be proper?” he teased, turning towards her while unfolding a white shirt.

 

Rey turned her back on him, her face in flames, biting her lip while he chuckled darkly.

 

“Being naked?” he goaded her again. “I have been naked most of my life. I began covering my body when they trapped me inside of it.”

 

Rey was, again, speechless. He kept giving away small snippets of his past life, but they didn’t fully make sense.

 

“I clearly remember your hands roaming over myself a few days ago. Was that proper then?”

 

“No, it wasn’t. I apologize,” she muttered behind her hands. “I thought you were dead.”

 

“You were wrong. I could feel your touch. I could feel everything.”

 

Rey turned again towards him. He had donned a grey pair of trousers, and a matching vest. the professor’s clothes were a bit out of fashion, but the quality was still excellent. She had never realized Han Solo’s body could be so imposing. Alas, she had met him when he was a middle-aged man, so he had already lost his juvenile physical prowess.

 

“For how–for how long did you remain there?”

 

“I don’t know. I can’t remember,” he whispered. “Every day feels the same when you’re in a prison.”

 

Rey felt her heart crack at his words. Maybe she and this creature were more similar than she could possibly have imagined.


That evening, after supper, Rey convinced Mrs. Rachel to prepare the old fireplace in the library: like a lazy feline, she curled up in one of the armchairs in front of it, an oil lamp on the mantle and a book open on her lap. After her husband had revealed those incredible snippets about his past, her curiosity had gained the upper hand, and she was dying to know more about him. She wanted him to recount his whole story, and she wanted to ask him to collaborate with her and help her with her job. She couldn’t be his wife, but she could try to be his friend at least.

 

She waited for him to join her until late, but he never came out from his room, and she felt stupid all of a sudden. She’d never felt so stupid before. She let the fire die, and she exited the library not knowing if she was more disappointed with him for not showing up or with herself.

 

After only a few hours in his presence, she was already behaving like one of those flirtatious young women she despised so much when she was their age. She used to think that she wasn’t like them, since their only purpose in life was to find a rich husband, live solely to serve him, and remain in the most blatant illiteracy. She was studying to become someone, she was breaking her back on books to have the same opportunities men already had without moving an inch. She didn’t want to sell her body for consumption, neither to a husband nor to a brigade of paying clients—the two were the same for her.

 

Rey had refused many suitors, from lecherous, drunkard mugs at Maz’s Castle to Professor Solo’s snobby upper-class students, since her freedom was the most important thing to her. And now she was feeling like her fifteen years of hard work had become completely useless, after seeing that wretched creature’s unclothed body during the afternoon. Apparently, she was more than ready to toss her morals away for a pair of pretty eyes.

 

She climbed the stairs quietly, as to avoid being noticed, but once she walked past his door, she heard him calling her name. Clenching her fist, she hurried up to her bedroom.


Kylo returned from the library a few minutes before dawn. He undressed and crawled under the covers, quite tired from the lack of proper sustenance: raw meat couldn’t remain a viable option on the long run—he was in need of human blood. Her blood. During the previous evening, he’d heard his bride walking past his door and he’d felt the need to draw her attention, calling her name. She hadn’t answered, and he’d decided to go reading alone in the library, as he was already used to.

 

He felt his human appearance flutter, and he surrendered, reverting to his less exhausting form, a puddle of black fog slithering under the warm blankets. He’d never had to wait so long to feed from one of his brides before. The majority of them had been young, and eager to serve him in every possible way. Many of them had been specifically bred for his coming, growing up waiting for him. Some of them had died before their time, leaving him alone again and again, and many of them had ended his life by their own hand.

 

He’d fallen in love with a couple of them. But, after a handful of those heartbreaking experiences, he had stopped caring about his consorts, remaining emotionally detached and meeting them just for the time to drink their blood. He tried to remember some of them, but his memory was still weak and confused. Faces, bodies and names were seamlessly overlapping in his head. The only things that he didn’t have problems bearing in mind were the heartbreaking loneliness and the deafening silence of the centuries he passed sleeping.

 

Miss Rey was different. She seemed older than his previous brides, even if he wasn’t sure about her real age. But he was sure about one thing: she didn’t want anything to do with him.

He hadn’t managed to explain her that he only needed her for his sustenance. They didn’t even need to live together, they could meet once a month, and then keep going on separate paths. She seemed to have the wrong idea about their link, believing that theirs was a marriage in the modern meaning of the term.

 

Mrs. Rachel had informed him that Rey had never desired to be legally married to another human, because she didn’t want her life to be restricted by a family. And, apparently, her more than legitimate decision had been frowned upon many times, because nowadays it wasn’t proper for a woman to be independent. This notion made his scoff loudly: humanity, on this corner of the planet, was going backwards instead of evolving. With this last thought roaming through his uncorporeal form, he let himself fall into a deep and dreamless sleep.

 

He awoke a few hours later, feeling even worse than before. He needed to explain everything to Rey, in order to finally drink her blood and regain all his powers. Raw meat had become almost useless by now; he needed to eat often and a lot to even manage to walk around the house in his human form. The poor Mrs. Rachel was spending a lot of money at the butcher for him alone. He tiredly shifted his shape, got on his feet and dressed himself, cursing again all the clothes he had to don and the absurd and excessive sense of modesty that permeated this modern society. He wished he could go back to when a loincloth and a couple of shells were more than enough for level-headed people.

 

His reveries were disturbed by strange noises from the parlour. He heard Rey’s voice, loud as usual, and different male ones arguing with her. Worried, he hurried downstairs, and he froze in the middle of the hallway: Rey had somehow acquired the casket where he’d been imprisoned for all those centuries. A blind terror gained control of his limbs: he would undoubtedly have broken into a sweat if he had been alive.

 

Had he offended his bride? Had he scared her? He admittedly hadn’t been on his best behaviour, but he never could have imagined hurting her so much that she’d felt the need to extinguish their link, forcing him to return in his prison again for who knows how long. He took a step back towards the stairs, and their eyes met. She was guiding four men, bringing that old sarcophagus into her house. Rey opened her mouth, but he couldn’t hear what she was saying: his ears were ringing loudly, and he could feel his human body begin to vanish. She had decided to eliminate him. She wasn’t so different from his other brides then.

 

Rey slowly approached him, still talking. In her hand there was the brick they used to block his mouth, and he felt the need to run away as fast as possible from his bride and her home. He let his body melt, the usual black fog slithering on the stairs, looking for an escape route. Rey threw the brick away, shouted something towards the workmen and ran in his direction, skirts gathered in her hands. He quickened his pace, crawling under her study’s door and funneling through the chimney, finding his freedom at last.


Rey didn’t expect to find him already awake. And yet he was, in the middle of the hallway, looking at his casket with an expression etched on this face that Rey would remember until the day she died. She had never seen anyone look so heartbroken before. His usually fierce eyes conveyed a deep desperation, like he was terribly afraid of something. Then she understood. She had delivered him the only thing he had compared to a prison cell: his casket. He’d remained trapped inside of it for perhaps centuries, and she had brought it to him like a present.

 

“Don’t worry,” she told him. “I will bring it in the cellars. There’s no need to be afraid.”

 

But he took a step back, and then another, uttering not one word.

 

Ben.

 

He transformed in fog, crawling up the stairs, and she gathered her skirts in her hands, running after him. She reached the second storey, but there was no sign of him.

She called her butler, shouting for him to lead the workmen to the cellar, and, against every social convention, she ran outside, completely alone.

 

“I don’t even know your real name!” she cried, running down the street. “Come back!”

 

There she was: a woman, running alone and crying for someone to come back. And that someone was currently flying around, in the shape of a barely visible fog. Pedestrians were looking sideways at her, changing their path when she crossed them, frantic and disheveled. She slowed down only when it was clear that she had lost her husband's tracks.

 

He was inconvenient and insufferable and she couldn't stand him, yet her heart had broken in a thousand pieces when she’d seen his wounded expression in front of the casket. Apparently, he was convinced that she intended to eliminate him, bringing his former prison in the house where he was a guest. She would have felt betrayed too, in his place.

 

To make matters worse, it began raining. Rey kept walking, still panting and trying to cool down, but the sprinkle soon became proper rain, and then a downpour. She had to run again. Too far from home, she couldn’t make it back without getting drenched and most likely falling ill, so she had to hastily seek shelter under a railway overpass. It was damp and dark, and she hoped there weren’t too many rats. Uncaring about her dress, she sat down in a spot that didn’t seem too dirty and hid her face in her hands, shivering.

 

“I’m so sorry,” she whined, her echo reverberating between the brick pillars. “I would never hurt you, and yet I managed to do it twice already.”

 

No one replied. She sneezed for the cold, and began crying.

 

Chapter Text

 

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.

 

Chapter Text

 

From the moment he’d exited her door that grisly afternoon, Rey hadn’t stopped thinking about Kylo Ren. She had tried to keep herself busy with work, but the thought of him had wormed its way in her days, distracting her and making her worry about his whereabouts. And every time this happened, she never failed to reprimand herself for wasting her time, thinking about him instead of pledging herself to her studies.

 

During the last week, she had seen both her friends at least once a day, and, like her servants, they’d returned to normality soon enough, like nothing unusual had happened to them. They’d somehow absorbed the notion that she was married, but they hadn’t inquired where her husband was currently living. She wouldn’t have been able to honestly answer that question, since she had no idea, and thinking about him freely roaming the city was indeed becoming quite cumbersome. What if he was wreaking havoc somewhere, meddling with people’s heads?

 

Only Rose had had the curiosity to bring her husband into their discussions, asking where her wedding ring was, but Rey had blatantly lied, telling her that she didn’t like to wear it outside of her house, because she was too afraid of losing it or being mugged. Her friend had nodded, without prying further on the matter. After that question, she’d caught herself looking at her left hand multiple times a day, without meaning to, imagining what kind of ring would suit her long, slender fingers best.

 

During the previous days, they’d managed to place a good deal at the auction house, buying a whole lot of red-on-black Greek pottery from Etruria. The museum had already expressed interest in the small but valuable collection, and she was currently studying the vases, holed up in her rooms, while waiting for her friends to reach her for the afternoon tea.

 

Mr. Oswald knocked on her door while she was, again, absentmindedly stroking her ring finger, her thoughts wandering away from the pottery on her desk.

 

“Miss Rose and Mr. Finn are downstairs, with Mr. Dameron,” he announced, waking her from her reverie.

 

She had no idea Dameron had decided to join them. She thanked her butler and asked him to prepare the tea, then headed towards the parlour to greet her guests.

 

Both Finn and Rose enveloped her in a warm hug, and Dameron offered her a polite nod after removing his hat.

 

“Mr. Dameron,” she greeted him, lifting an eyebrow. “To what do we owe the honour of your presence?”

 

“Finn told me about your latest purchase, and I got apprehensive. Some… acquaintances of mine are– I’m sorry Miss Rey, I don’t know how to say it.”

 

“I think Rey can manage the truth, speak, Mr. Dameron,” suggested Rose.

 

“Someone here in London is preparing counterfeits of exceptional quality, almost impossible to discern from the originals. I’m not in contact with this person anymore, but I know them very well, and I can assure that they already sold pieces to the auction house, in the past. That’s it.”

 

Rey’s breath hitched. She had never expected such a thing could happen to her and her colleagues. Selling a counterfeit to the museum could warrant the end of her career as an archaeologist, forcing her and her friends to go into hiding somewhere else in order to avoid the scrutiny of the whole scientific community. She wasn’t ready to turn her life upside down for such an error. Her mind ran to her husband, burdened with such powers to be able to discern original from forgery with a simple touch, and she cursed herself for having chased him away the previous week.

 

But his behaviour had been inexcusable. Making decisions in her stead regarding people that she considered family was unforgivable even if the situation was dire, with the police involved. And now Rose and Finn also had new memories of her, implanted in their head without anyone’s consent. She would have needed her time to explain to them what had happened, but Kylo decided in her stead, opting for the easiest and quickest way to resolve the problem.



She spent the whole evening with a magnifying glass, tiring her eyes in the feeble candlelight since they didn’t have a working electrical system yet. Her most cumbersome problem was that every single vase had been produced and thereafter painted by different hands, so it was impossible to understand if one of those hands had been Greek, from the fifth century, or British, from the nineteenth.

 

She put the lens down, and her hand brushed her now fixed pillbox charm, the shiny silver reflecting the yellow lights from the candles. She smiled, thinking about how a mountain of a man such as her husband had weighed next to nothing after he’d entered the pillbox.

 

“Where are you hiding?” she murmured to herself, squeezing the pendant in the palm of her hand.



The following morning, she ordered Mr. Oswald to contact Poe Dameron, with the pretense of knowing more about the forger he’d talked about during their previous meeting. While waiting for him to pick her up for a late breakfast at Maz’s Castle, she took Rose’s old block, the one in which she’d sketched Kylo’s mummified body during that fateful afternoon. She detached a clean sheet, spreading every drawing of him on her desk, and prepared a sketch depicting her husband’s appearance based on her old sketches. In the new portrait, his eyes were open and shiny, and his cheeks were full and healthy. Rey absentmindedly caressed the sheet, waking up from her reverie only after she accidentally smudged the charcoal.

 

Dameron arrived, and they walked slowly towards the inn, chit-chatting about his latest interesting findings in the more disparate countries of the Mediterranean. Rey was quite distracted, and she almost tripped on her own feet when a young lad squeezed himself between her hip and a wall, resuming his run without even apologising to her. Baffled, she and Dameron kept walking slowly on the footpath, noticing the same kid and a young girl his age imitating their gait on the other side of the road. Her chaperone laughed, and the two friends ran away again, their behaviour making Rey feel queasy.

 

At Maz’s she soon forgot about their unusual encounter. Once they sat at the table, Rey let every pretense drop, jumping straight at the core of the matter.

 

“Mr. Dameron, I have to ask you a favour. It’s a personal issue of utmost importance,” she began. “My… husband disappeared some days ago, and I would like to find him.”

 

“I… had no idea you were married,” he stated, eyebrows lifted almost comically. “Finn never told me.”

 

He was dead right. She was not married.

 

“My husband travels a lot for work, and he’s been living in Hong Kong since a few weeks ago.” She thought that following Kylo’s lies would be the best idea, since she didn’t want too many versions of the same story to go around. “We had a divergence about work matters, and I may have been exceedingly harsh with him, chasing him away. Now I would at least know where he’s living. I’m not a heartless woman, and I’m worried.”

 

“Sure, I can… ask around. What’s his name?”

 

“Ben Solo,” she answered, tight-lipped, and Dameron’s eyes widened at once.

 

“Is he a relative of Professor Solo’s? I thought he didn’t have children.”

 

“He’s his… son.” Rey began gnashing her teeth together. Was it possible to miss someone, but despise their behaviour so much at the same time? Kylo’s had been infuriating so far.

 

“Curious. Well, I may need a picture of him? Do you have one?”

 

“Not recent, but I have a sketch,” she said, fishing the drawing block from her purse, and extracting the portrait she’d prepared earlier.

 

Dameron’s charming visage was again transfigured by an astonished expression.

 

“I know this man, but his name is definitely not Ben Solo,” he explained. “He told me his name was Kylo Ren, and we almost gambled an artefact last Saturday. I retired my offer at the last minute, or he would have undeniably earned his price.”

 

“What kind of gamble?”

 

“I met him in a… not-so-well-known public house. He was looking at some gentlemen gambling on… a sort of fight–”

 

“I know what a ratpit is, Mr. Dameron,” she interrupted, and he exhaled.

 

“He was looking for money. He asked several people to gamble on him, presenting himself as a skilled fighter.”

 

“Did he kill rats?” Rey hid her face in the palms of her hands.

 

“No, he poked several mugs waiting for the next baiting to happen. The rat catcher was late, and they accepted, calling him names because of his features. He didn’t look well. I mean, his skin was so pale it was almost translucent, and I thought he was drunk or full of opium at first. And I intended to gamble against him, but since I didn’t have money, I almost promised him a Roman ring, a quite unique and unusual piece. Luckily I changed my mind, after seeing a strange, eerie light in his eyes.”

 

“What kind of ring was it?”

 

“A really stunning jewel,” continued Dameron. “Instead of the usual carved gem, it had a fully rendered miniature bust, depicting the goddess Minerva complete with helm and aegis, carved in a green stone mounted on a hollow gold ring. It’s worth a good sum of money, that one.”

 

Rey bit her lip, waiting for her guest to continue.

 

“There were ten, maybe a dozen men ready to break him. He was so pasty, and everyone at the pit gambled against him, but he fought like a lion. I’ve never seen a similar fury in any pit in London or elsewhere. After emptying everyone’s pockets, he literally disappeared in front of my eyes with a pillowcase full of money. He would have won my ring for sure.”

 

“Did he kill anyone?” whispered Rey, gritting her teeth.

 

“I don’t know, I went away right after he won that inhuman fight,” he sighed.

 

Rey nodded, her gaze downcast. Was Kylo a cold-hearted murderer? She bit her lower lip. If he really was as old as he’d told her, he’d surely had all the time in the world to do it. The conversation with Dameron stopped, both of them lost in their thoughts, and Old Maz approached their table.

 

“Mr. Dameron, would you be so kind to let me talk with our Rey for a minute?” she asked the man. “Actually, Chewie would love to exchange a couple of words with you, you’ll find him in the kitchens as usual.”

 

Dameron got on his feet, leaving the two women alone and Maz sat down, taking both Rey’s hands in hers and caressing her knuckles. To any external observer, they would have looked like a wise old woman consoling her favourite granddaughter.

 

“I couldn’t help listening to your conversation, dear child, and I think I know where your… husband is currently dwelling.”

 

Rey’s breath hitched: wasn’t Maz surprised to learn that she was married?

 

“He showed up at my door a couple of days ago, in a very bad shape, asking for uncooked meat,” continued Maz. “He depleted my ice box, but he paid handsomely, and I gave him a room. He’s upstairs, probably asleep right now. Would you like to see him?”

 

“I don’t know what to do, Maz,” she told her, her voice trembling. “I feel so lost when I think about him… He stumbled into my life like a hail storm, and everything changed since that day. Sometimes it’s impossible not to think about my previous life with longing, but sometimes I miss him too, and I’ve never missed anyone before.”

 

“You’re experiencing many new emotions at once. I think that feeling lost would be a common reaction, in such a situation. What does your heart tell you?”

 

“My heart tells me that he’s worth my attentions, while my head tells me to run away as far as possible.”

 

Maz sighed. “He’s in the room at the end of the corridor on the second floor, and Chewie will keep Poe busy for a while.Think about it.”



Rey decided to not think about it too much, or she would have returned home like a coward, without resolving her problem. She thanked Mr. Dameron for having been the perfect guest, and reassured him that he could return home, since her husband was currently licking his wounds in one of the rooms upstairs. Her heart thundering behind her corsets, she knocked on the door at the end of the corridor, second floor.

 

No one answered, and she eased herself inside. He was on the bed, asleep. The curtains were closed, and a feeble, pale light was filtering through them, giving Kylo a surprising ethereal glow: he really seemed more pale than usual, and she gasped when she noticed all the bruises mottling his face. His knuckles were bandaged, and the white gauze was stained with red and brown shadows.

 

He opened a swollen eye only after she put a hand on his chest, to check if he was breathing, his sclera mottled with dark red blood.

 

“Miss Rey,” he croaked, his voice barely a whisper. “What are you doing here?”

 

“I came to see why you let yourself get beaten to a pulp,” she retorted, her nose upturned but her eyes full of unshed tears. She looked away, trying to regain her composure in front of him.

 

At her declaration, he opened his other eye and took her hand in his one, making her jump at the sudden contact. But she didn’t retreat her hand, and after she relaxed, he unexpectedly kissed her knuckles with his split lip, causing her heart to miss a beat. Was this his olive branch?

 

“I didn’t want to be a burden anymore, so I tried to gain some money for repaying your hospitality. Mrs. Rachel’s liver steaks were not cheap.”

 

“And instead of finding an honest job, you decided to face a dozen jailbirds with your bare hands? In a ratpit, nonetheless?”

 

“Fighting is one of the things I know best.” He kissed her hand again, and Rey kept allowing those tender gestures to happen, her heart fluttering. “I was imprisoned in this human body to fight the enemies of ancient empires. This wasn’t anything but a skirmish.”

 

“And, let me guess, you’ll need my blood to properly heal your wounds.”

 

“No, I can heal on my own, it will only take more time. You can keep your precious blood, Miss Rey,” he joked.

 

“Have you thought about returning home?” she spat, and his eyes widened despite their puffiness. She carefully avoided confessing to him that she had caught herself missing his presence from time to time.

 

“Are you serious?” His swollen eyes betrayed a spark of hope.

 

“I have one condition,” she said, her tone serious and her face unforgiving. “You may live in my house again, but only if you swear that you will not meddle with anyone’s mind anymore. It’s a horrible thing to do, and you did that to my closest friends. They’re family to me, and forgiving you for your actions will be hard, if not impossible.”

 

He nodded, closing his eyes, and kissed her knuckles for the third time. She was beginning to enjoy the feeling of his lips on her skin a tad too much.



Kylo borrowed Rey’s black pince-nez to avoid causing turmoil on the streets during their trip home. Seeing that he was as weak as a newborn foal, and with the same coordination skills, she helped him walk straight, avoiding holes and other dangers hidden beneath the rotten leaves. She wasn’t able to make him fly over the city, but she could at least let him reach home unscathed, forasmuch as he was already heavily wounded.

 

Kylo was welcomed with open arms by Mr. Oswald, more fussy than usual because of the young master’s gruesome injuries. Mrs. Rachel, instead, scolded him for having been a dunce, but she readily accepted the money he’d brought her for his past meals, grumbling a bit when he requested more meat, since he was feeling ravenous.

 

The week that followed proved strangely tranquil for them both, with him still healing without any external help such as her precious, wondrous blood. She decided to delay any plans to trick him into touching her vases somehow, as she suspected he was still too feeble to use any of his powers. The first day at home, he slept for several hours in Ben’s old bed, and when he woke up in the evening, she asked him to eat with her instead of holing up in the kitchens as he was used to.

 

She ordered Mr. Oswald to prepare the table in the dining room for her and her husband, and the butler complied swiftly: he cleaned the whole room, usually kept sealed since no one had been invited as a guest after little Ben’s death many years ago, and he polished all the silverware and the crystal glasses. Upon seeing the long, elegant table finally set in a proper way, even if only for two persons, Rey couldn’t help gulping.

 

“Is that real silver?” she asked Mr. Oswald, admiring a fork and thinking already about selling the whole set to buy new artifacts.

 

“It is indeed, Miss Rey. Shall I fetch Mr. Solo?”

 

Rey nodded and sat at one end of the table, wondering how she could manage to talk with Kylo. The only other place setting was at the opposite end of the table, several feet from her chair, and with two candle holders, a pot of flowers and several bottles between them. She’d never understood why rich people needed all those knickknacks for a simple action such as eating, and she didn’t remember Leia’s etiquette lessons with fondness.



Kylo entered the dining hall wearing some of Professor Solo’s nicest clothes, a beautiful black pair of trousers with a matching vest, coupled with a cream-coloured silk shirt. Eager to finally eat with his wife, he resolved the seating problem without wasting further time: under the butler’s horrified gaze, he moved his chair next to Rey’s, asking Mr. Oswald to follow him with all the plates and the silverware. Rey couldn’t help laughing at the poor butler’s shocked face, and Kylo blessed her with one of his devilish smirks, his face still stained by the bruises gained in the ratpit, but his eyes now less swollen and luminous. She briefly wondered how quickly he would have healed if she had conceded him a single drop of her blood.

 

“See anything you like? he asked, winking, and she blushed like a small lass in front of a secret crush.

 

“I was merely considering that you’re healing slowly,” she retorted, avoiding his gaze.

 

“Indeed I am. Imagine an injured human being eating only breadcrumbs for an extended lapse of time.”

 

“I don’t need to imagine that, and you know it very well.” She rejoiced upon seeing him bite his lips, and she was pleased to have directed the conversation to the topic of his powers after only a short exchange.

 

“Was it that Mr. Plutt? Or was it before, at the orphanage?”

 

“Didn’t you manage to see that? I thought your powers could permit you to see people’s past.”

 

“My powers are anything but useful if I can’t drink blood, and you know it.” He eyed Mr. Oswald, who was entering the dining hall with a long, silver tray. “I can merely see shreds of past memories, but those don’t always make sense to me.”

 

The butler positioned the tray in front of them: it contained a small round dish and a bigger oval one. He served Kylo first, placing the smaller dish in front of him.

 

“Deer heart,” he announced, removing the plate cover and unveiling a small, dark, uncooked organ, staining the white china with its burgundy red blood.

 

“Gooducken” he said next, uncovering the larger plate, and Rey clapped her hands.

 

“What a wonderful surprise! Bring my gratitude to Mrs. Rachel on my behalf, please!” she squeaked, as the butler began cutting large pieces from the delicacy.

 

Kylo lifted an eyebrow when he saw that inside the bird there was another bird, and inside the second bird there was a third one. Rey thanked Mr. Oswald again after he put a huge portion of meat on her plate, and he left the room after covering the leftovers.

 

“So, what were we talking about?” Rey asked, chewing on her overcomplicated food with enthusiasm. Her childish glee and voraciousness were almost endearing to him. What a strange, wonderful woman she was.

 

“My powers. When I touched you for the first time, I perceived your loneliness, but I also saw you licking stale breadcrumbs from a dirty floor, and then the pale face of a man with too many chins, shouting at you.”

 

“The crumbs you saw were at the orphanage. The nuns avoided giving us too much food, they loved to keep it for themselves,” she answered, not ashamed of her past. “Plutt beat me so many times that I lost the count after a few months, but his table was never empty. I had to work hard at his farm. I needed the energy to work like any adult man would have.”

 

Kylo hesitated before taking her hand, unsure if she would welcome the gesture. But he had to make the first step if he wanted to rebuild their relationship: he approached her slowly, giving her time to retreat if necessary, and calmly enveloped it, proceeding to squeeze it lightly in a reassuring way. She didn’t retreat her hand, nor did she jump at his touch anymore, and Kylo began breathing again. She smiled and proceeded spearing her food with the silver fork, like they hadn’t been speaking about her gruesome childhood just a minute ago.



Later, they were finally lounging together in the library, in front of the fire, like Rey had dreamed many days before. She was trying to concentrate on her newest book, a publication about Schliemann’s excavations in Tiryns, still hot off the press, but her eyes kept wandering upon Kylo’s black-clad form. The dark colours really suited him, and she almost thought about dyeing all the clothes she’d given him with aniline black, considering that Professor Solo had a penchant for warmer and lighter colours, even in his youth.

 

Tired of pretending to read, she closed her book. “You said that we sorely need to talk, under the bridge.”

 

He promptly closed his own book, an older tome about the Scandinavian Iron Age, and exhaled.

 

“Yes, we have to talk if we want this situation to work without crushing us. Without crushing you, in particular.”

 

“Me?” she asked, an eyebrow raised.

 

“Your lifespan will pass in the twinkling of an eye compared to mine, while you’ll be stuck with my presence for the rest of your days. It’s not mandatory for me to drink your blood, I can survive without using my full powers for a few decades. Never forget that I’m here to protect you, and obey your command.”

 

“If we keep living together,” she stated flatly.

 

“I thought you weren’t interested in men,” he retorted promptly.

 

“I’m not.”

 

“We can live together, then. How old are you, Miss Rey?”

 

“Thirty,” she answered, without batting an eyelid.

 

He nodded. “I’ll have to leave the house when you bleed to avoid accidents, but I’m more than ready to pledge my allegiance to you, even without your permission to drink your blood.”

 

“Wha–what did you say?” she babbled. Had she correctly understood what he was implying?

 

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to restrain myself during your menses. Your smell will be so enticing that resisting will be difficult, if not impossible.”

 

Her book tumbled from her lap, bouncing on the thick rug.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Rey had to wait for her embarrassment to abate before speaking again. She wasn’t usually a shy person, having lived first at the orphanage with many other unwanted children and then at Plutt’s farm, behaving and dressing as a lad more often than not. But no one had referred at her own smell as enticing , nevertheless during her monthlies. The thought of Kylo smelling her should have been repulsive, but she couldn’t help finding it uncomfortably alluring. He continued behaving as usual and picked up her book from the carpet to offer it to her. She took it without meeting his gaze.

 

There were moments during which it was evident that he wasn’t a normal person. No man would talk like that to a lady, and during those moments, it was painfully clear that her husband was more monster than human. He had no idea how men were required to behave, and maybe this was the reason she felt so drawn to his pesky temperament. She’d always barely tolerated men, save for few exceptions such as Professor Solo or Finn, and now she could definitely add Kylo Ren to that short list.

 

Rey took the book from his hands, brushing her fingers against his. They had touched many times during the day, and, if she had to be honest with herself, she didn’t mind his hands on hers anymore. She briefly imagined being enveloped in his arms, and the thought filled her with unease and longing at the same time.

 

“I won’t live with a stranger,” she said then, hoping to land on a less awkward topic of conversation. “Tell me about yourself.”

 

“What do you want to know, Miss Rey?”

 

“Everything.”

 

“I fear it will be quite a long story,” he warned, an eyebrow raised.

 

“We have the whole night, Mr. Kylo Ren .” She smiled.

 

“I can’t actually remember everything, I’ve been alive for too many years. But I’ll try.” He smiled back. “Have I already told you that when I first came here, there was no one? There wasn’t even the Moon.”

 

“Excuse me?” squealed Rey, delighted by the notion.

 

“It formed after I landed on Earth. I was traveling on a small celestial body, wandering for aeons in the coldest recesses of the Universe, and it impacted on what would soon become Earth. And I’ve been stuck here since that moment.”

 

“How many years ago did that happen?”

 

“I don’t know. It feels like an eternity. Time flows slower when you’re alone.”

 

He had already hinted at that, when they were under the bridge: Rey scrambled to take both his hands in hers. They were dry and warm, and she squeezed them in sympathy, trying to not think about his earlier confession, about him finding her irresistible.

 

“You’re not alone anymore,” she said.

 

“Neither are you,” he answered, squeezing back.

 

“You made the Moon!”

 

He laughed, “Not really, I was merely a passenger, floating around. It happened.”

 

“When we were under that bridge, seeking shelter from the storm, you said that you roamed the planet for years. What was it like back then?

 

“I don’t really remember every detail.” He shook his head. “The planet wasn’t suitable for life to form for so much time, and there were so many cataclysms! I wouldn’t bring you there on holiday for sure.”

 

“Are Hutton, Lyell and Darwin right, then?” Rey’s eyes were shining in the dim candle light.

 

Kylo scrunched his brow, as if to take his time to think about it, then nodded. “Life, as you know it, came from water, spreading like the branches of a particularly unruly bush. Many branches died during the years, while other ones thrived towards the sky. But without following any set rule: sometimes the strongest branches died, while the frailest survived against all odds. It really took a lot of years for that to happen, though.”

 

“What about human beings?”

 

“Humanity is… the parasite that latched on one of the many buds of the bush.” He shook his head. “Pardon me, my words are unfair and biased.”

 

She squeezed his hands. “I’m sure you have every right to consider us the leeches of Earth.”

 

“I was completely alone until the upsurge of the first spoken languages. If my life could be compressed in the span of a single day, I would have been alone for twenty-three hours, fifty-nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds. I have observed humanity rise from its cradle from afar, without being able to interact, until people began talking. But shortly after they began talking, they began worshipping imaginary gods, and fighting between each other.” He turned his gaze away from hers, his voice suddenly sombre and demure. “I was captured with a blood sacrifice of inhuman proportions, in a circular temple made of stone pillars, erected by people that didn’t even plant crops, nor farm animals.”

 

Rey’s face was ashen: his words had made every single hair on her body rise in horror and in awe at the same time. “Is that site still there?”

 

He nodded, without providing further information.

 

“How– how did that work?”

 

“I don’t have clear memories of the ritual, only sensations, and images of the blood flowing like a river, and the corpse destined to be my vessel bathed in that same blood. I remember a shaman in a rich vest, his body severely deformed, making me drink some kind of drug mixed with blood after I opened my human eyes for the first time. They believed me the descendant of a malevolent god of theirs, and they used me as a weapon against their enemies, bribing me with the flesh of their own younglings.”

 

Rey clenched her jaw, but didn’t dare interrupt his narration.

 

“Then came the brides. People selected from birth to permit me to have access to blood whenever I needed it. I never drank blood before the ritual, I didn’t even have a mouth. They gave me this flesh prison and a blood addiction in order to control me.”

 

“And did they manage to control you?”

 

Kylo nodded, his eyes closed. “At least they never managed to get an army from me. This cursed body is mercifully sterile as a dead tree.”

 

“I wouldn’t call it cursed,” she interrupted. “It’s your body, and it’s strong, and–” He squeezed her hands one last time, getting on his feet and approaching the window.

 

Her heartbeat gained speed: she’d been distracted, thinking about him while touching his skin with her bare hands. It was impossible not to worry if he had been able to perceive her thoughts. Had he caught her thinking about his body as beautiful? She hoped not. She had sworn to herself to keep their relationship strictly professional for the sake of her moral integrity.

 

“... Miss Rey? Did you hear what I said?” He distracted her from her unholy thoughts.

 

“No. I’m sorry.” She blushed.

 

“Have you ever been in love?” Her heart skipped a beat.

 

She pondered what to tell him. Did academical crushes count? Did her brief infatuation with Finn when she’d visited Benin Kingdom count? She suddenly felt young and naïve while comparing her short lifespan with his infinite one.

 

“I’m not sure, I’m sorry. I’ve never felt any of the things described in those novels where heroines dream about brooding, tall men.”

 

“I have. Several times, actually. But it was so painful, after losing the umpteenth bride, that I’ve decided to avoid any kind of emotional commitment. My latest relationships were strictly devoid of sentimentality.”

 

“What are you implying?”

 

“I’m merely stating that being married to me would be quite different from being married to a man from your times. I will not require anything from you that you will not be willing to concede me. Such as blood, or sharing a meal with you.”

 

She nodded. “Kylo?”

 

“Miss Rey?”

 

“Is there… is there a god that is not imaginary?”

 

“No, there isn’t.”

 

During the following week Kylo demonstrated to Rey that he had no intention of stunting her life in any way, leaving her alone during the day and joining her only in the evenings, after Mr. Oswald called him for dinner. They were still getting to know each other, after all, and he didn’t want to suffocate her with his looming presence since, luminous being that she was, she didn’t deserve to be smothered by anyone. Her wishes and needs had been clear from the beginning, and he had the chance to rest and keep himself updated about the latest discoveries from her wondrous and contradictory era by reading books and newspapers.

 

More than once he had the luck to observe her interactions with her menials and with her friends, and he understood why she’d been angry enough to chase him away from her house: those people were the closest things she had to a family. He’d never experienced any of the feelings she was harbouring for them, but he knew what losing someone could mean, and he had no intention of losing her again, even if he didn’t have any intention to get sentimentally involved with her. She was an extremely intelligent woman, her demeanor was straightforward and genuine, and he was thoroughly enjoying her company during his otherwise lonely evenings.

 

During an unusually sunny afternoon, he woke up to find a significant part of his clothes gone. In the small hickory wardrobe he could still find a good number of white shirts, and the only two pairs of black trousers previously owned by Professor Solo, with their matching vests. He didn’t really care about colours, but Rey seemed to be very fond of the darker ones, and he liked to reserve those for dining and reading with her.

 

Unwilling to dress himself with colours more suited for the evening, he donned a pair of underpants and, bare chested, he headed downstairs to look for Rey and ask her if she knew anything about the disappearance of his clothes. After meeting an unsurprisingly flustered Mr. Oswald, who lectured him about the impropriety of wandering around half naked, he finally found her in the backyard, intent on hanging something that reminded him definitively of Professor Solo’s old clothes. The only difference was their colour: everything was black, or, in any case, very dark.

 

Kylo stopped on the steps, observing her otherwise pale face now kissed by the sun and her brown hair shining with golden undertones. Her cheeks were rosy, and her laugh lines were a bit more evident than usual. It all conspired to make her stunning instead of just beautiful. She was joking and laughing with Mrs. Rachel as the poor woman was helping her, grumbling as she was prone to.

 

“Miss Rey?” he called, stepping outside, his eyes squinted under the sun.

 

She turned towards him, and her cheeks coloured straight away upon seeing his naked chest, but she didn’t avert her gaze, and her eyes were shining with glee. He gulped, his Adam’s apple bobbing, and he forgot what he needed to ask her. Then his attention was drawn to her hands: her fingers were completely black, and her forearms were mottled by several dark blue discolorations.

 

“Good afternoon! I didn’t want to wake you up earlier, so I took your clothes without knocking on the door.” She extended an arm towards the clothesline weighed down by its load. “What do you think?”

 

“Are those really my clothes?”

 

“Indeed they are!” she laughed, her cheeks colouring again. “I–I thought that darker colours suit you better than lighter ones.”

 

He was speechless. No one had dared doing anything similar for him for the whole duration of his permanence in the fleshly body he was inhabiting. Did she care for him so much to ruin her delicate, soft hands in dyeing those hand-me-down clothes to better complement his human form? His old, shriveled heart did a somersault.

 

“Some of them remained dark grey, but I think it’s still better than beige, don’t you think?”

 

“I–I don’t know what to say,” he whispered. “Thank you.”

 

“It was my pleasure! It was a quite unusual and fun morning activity, actually.” She looked at her stained hands and smiled at him, little crow’s feet around her eyes crinkling. “Would you like to accompany me at Maz’s one of these days, or at the museum, or at the park? When your clothes will be ready, of course. I mean, tomorrow, or the day aft–”

 

“Yes,” he interrupted her babbling. “It would be a honour, Miss Rey.”

 

Kylo watched himself in a mirror for the first time after almost three centuries. He remained for nearly an hour in the small bathroom at the end of the hallway, the one Miss Rey used to wash her hair every couple of weeks. She’d been right, black suited him better than other colours: after all, the first clothes he’d stolen before knocking on her door had been black, and he wondered if the theft had been guided by his instinct. He would still have preferred to remain naked or mostly naked, but it would be impossible in the year of their Lord 1885.

 

He wouldn't have considered himself particularly pleasant to look at, but Miss Rey had seemed appreciative of his features so far. He’d often caught her watching him, thinking that he wasn’t noticing, her cheeks rosy and her eyes shining. She had small wrinkles around her eyes, between her brows and around her mouth, and every time she smiled they crinkled in a way that he could only describe as adorable. This brought a smile on his own face, but instead of perusing himself in the mirror again, he stepped away to finally join her, waiting for him downstairs: they were going to visit the Natural History section of the British Museum.

 

This was how, during the following weeks, Kylo became Rey’s main chaperone. She still went out with Finn, Rose, and occasionally Mr. Dameron for business, but pleasure outings were all reserved for Kylo’s company now. She loved to roam the city with him, visiting museums and other beautiful places, and acting like a guide. He knew nothing about modern London, obviously–the last time he’d visited, Queen Elizabeth had still been alive–and he loved listening to her. She knew so many things, so many details and curiosities that he couldn’t help himself, and he rapturously imbibed all the knowledge she was offering him.

 

They usually went out during the afternoons, as soon as he was awake and ready, but during the last days he began to wake up earlier, in order to accompany her to take her lunch at Maz’s, if she desired. He also began again to maintain his human form only when she was around, for the sake of avoiding a sudden collapse caused by fatigue: his raw meat diet would never be enough to sustain him if he couldn’t even sleep enough hours in the mornings.

 

He was quite surprised by the fact that in the evenings Rey still desired to dine in his company and to sit close to him as they read together in front of the fire. He so deeply enjoyed passing his time with her that he’d never felt so alive before, even to the point that he missed her when she wasn’t around. It was the first time he’d felt the need to be with someone without blood involved in his whole long life. He’d never be able to thank her enough for giving him her dark pince-nez, since he couldn’t stop himself from stealing glances at her: at least now he was able to do that undetected, and he could watch her any time de desired. If he were able to, he would look at her the whole day. And he hadn’t even drank her blood–the small droplet he’d stolen while he was hiding in her pendant didn’t count, since it wasn’t freely given.

 

He’d too soon reached a point where keeping himself distanced and avoiding any development of feelings for Miss Rey was utterly impossible, and he did the unthinkable: he contacted Poe Dameron to buy the ring, the Roman one with the green Minerva cameo. He was doomed, bewitched, enthralled, and she needed to know it as soon as possible.

 

He spent a considerable amount of money on that ring, and he advised Dameron to keep his mouth shut, especially with Finn, since he knew that the two were bachelors, and they often canoodled together during their leisure time. He briefly considered to tricking Dameron’s mind into giving him the ring for free, but he wanted Miss Rey to be able to wear it in public. He’d seen that ring at the ratpit–too bad that Dameron had retired his offer–and he’d already thought that the jewel would be perfect for her fingers. The green of the stone would perfectly complement the colour of her eyes. Minerva was also a goddess of wisdom, and she had something to do with arts and trades too, which suited Miss Rey’s persona and her passions.

 

By the time the right occasion presented itself, the ring had already burned a metaphorical hole in his vest pocket. He chose a sunny day to finally give it to her and reveal his feelings: they were going to the park for what Miss Rey insisted on calling“a picnic”, or the first al fresco meal of the season. It was still cold during the early mornings and the evenings–Mr. Oswald continued meticulously preparing the fireplace in the library–but at noon the weather was warm enough to take shelter in a secluded place in the park, provided it was a sunny day.

 

But even though Kylo had finally chosen the perfect, unusually warm day to give Rey the physical testament of his feelings for her, the weather had decided to not be lenient with them: towards the end of their lunch, clouds covered the sun, which made it vexing to remain sitting on the ground. Heart thundering, he covered her shoulders with his woolen cape, since he didn’t really need insulation against the cold and the wind. She needed it more than he did, being only human, and she accepted his gallant gesture with a shy smile.

 

“Do you want us to return home? It’s getting cold here,” he proposed, but she swiftly refused, seemingly nervous.

 

Had she somehow perceived his intentions? He puffed his cheeks, observing her: she soon extracted a pomegranate from their picnic hamper, one of the last fruits of the season. Its skin was already dry and shrivelled, but earlier she’d promised him that the pulp around the seeds would be surprisingly sweet. It proved too difficult to open with the kitchen knife they’d used to cut their bread, and she produced a small switchblade from her purse. Seeing her fiddle with the tiny blade worried him, as he could remember what had happened the last time she’d had a sharp object in her hand–she’d split his face in half.

 

“Do you want me to open that pomegranate for you?” he proposed again, but she declined for the second time, shaking her head and avoiding his eyes.

 

Her face scrunched briefly, but he didn’t even have the time to ask her what was happening before his nostrils flared all of a sudden, and his pupils dilated until his eyes became completely black: she’d cut herself, and the smell of blood was already permeating the air.

 

He got on his knees, speechless, nauseous, his limbs trembling, saliva gathering in his mouth: she was bleeding for real, her precious, invaluable blood mixing with the red juice of the pomegranate, now torn open by her carelessness. She looked at him, chest heaving and jaw open wide, like she couldn’t believe she’d been so sloppy and reckless to injure herself in his presence.

 

He was torn apart. The situation was harrowing: they were alone in a public park and she was bleeding in front of him, the bewitching rivulet of red stemming from her fingertip now almost reaching her wrist. He looked at her, his head now spinning with the strain of keeping himself in check since she’d never given him the permission to drink her blood. Their eyes finally met. She spoke, but his ears were ringing so ferociously that he wasn’t sure he’d heard what she’d whispered. He was quickly becoming crazy with need.

 

“What?” he blurted out, a droplet of spit now dribbling from his lower lip.

 

“I’ve said,” she repeated. “I’ve said that since we’re here, and I cut myself… would it be so terrible if you drank my blood?”

 

He cleaned his mouth with a sleeve, incredulous. Was she jeering at him? Could she even fathom what she was asking from him?

 

“Rey–Rey, do you understand that if I drink your blood, we’ll be bonded until you die? Do you really want this?”

 

She nodded, her expression grave. He drooled again, the tremor in his limbs now almost untameable.

 

“A–Are you sure? I’ll have to drink your blood for your whole life. You’ll never turn back from this.”

 

Do it,” she whispered, extending her left hand towards his mouth.

 

She’d cut the tip of her thumb, and not much blood had spilled, but it was still enough to sustain and revitalize him for a few weeks at least. He closed the distance between them, taking her trembling hand in his equally trembling one, and looked in her eyes for the last time as he closed his ravenous lips around her digit.

 

It was pure, it was powerful, it was home. He closed his eyes, his heart singing: this was the closest he’d felt to the divine since the dawn of time.

 

Mesmerized by his black, bottomless gaze, Rey couldn’t tear her eyes from his face. She jumped in surprise at the humid, scorching-hot sensation of the tip of his tongue over the small cut in her skin but kept her hand steady. His luscious mouth slowly enveloped her whole thumb, and she clearly felt the tip of his canines nibbling on her nail, delicately but shamelessly in his unabashed hunger.

 

This was the point of no return. Selling her dignity for her job should have made her feel guilty at least, but seeing that timeless, powerful being groveling on his knees and waiting for her permission to lick her blood like a starving dog begging for scraps from a dining table made her feel really invincible for the first time in her life.

 

He was the closest thing to a god that had ever graced the Universe with his presence, and she had the power to fully control him now: what did that make her, then?

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Rey’s gaze had never wavered from Kylo’s for the whole time he’d sucked her wounded finger in his mouth. It had been one of the most surreal experiences of her life, having him kneeling like that in front of her, eyes full of awe and something else she hadn’t managed to grasp.

 

She’d always imagined blood sucking to be some strange, traumatizing experience, violent maybe, with pointed canine tearing at delicate skin, but she’d perceived only respect and reverence from him. In the end, In the end, she’d been lily-livered, and the cut on her finger had been quite shallow, producing only a few droplets of blood that he’d licked like his life depended on it, making her heart run like a wild horse..

 

Now she was lying on her side, squeezing her hand in one of the serviettes they used for their lunch, her body sheltered by his cloak. Kylo was sitting beside her, cradling his knees and looking at the trees around the small puddle they called a lake, lost in his musings.

 

The unthinkable had just happened: maybe for a trivial reason such as her old pots, maybe because she was doing the right thing for both of them–she wasn’t sure, but she knew she wanted his lips on her skin again, as soon as possible, and tried to draw his attention. Her trembling hand almost reached the lapel of his vest when a pinecone hit her on the shoulder. They weren’t under any tree, since she’d preferred to eat in the sun and pine needles would have ruined their picnic cloth, so someone must have tossed it from somewhere.

 

She didn’t even have the time to turn her head when Kylo disappeared before her eyes with a strange vacuum sound. Her heartbeat sped up; these were some of his real powers, on display in front of her. She got to her feet with haste, following the harsh sound of cries from a crop of trees behind them: Kylo was there, holding two lads by the scruff of their necks, and she ran towards them. They kept trying to kick her husband but to no avail, and upon a closer inspection one of the boys looked in fact like a girl in hand-me-down clothes too big for her, and Rey’s heart constricted.

 

“Kylo, stop right there!” she cried, covering the last yards between them with long strides.

 

He turned towards her as one of the lads finally managed to kick him in a shin, but he didn’t even flinch.

 

“Put them down,” pleaded Rey. “They’re children.”

 

And he did. He opened his hands and let the two rascals fall on the ground. One of them lost their hat, revealing two long braids: Rey had been right, she was a girl. Both scrambled to get on their feet again, but before running away, the boy spat at Rey, his saliva hitting the hem of her dress. And then she recognized the duo: they were the same younglings that had disturbed her promenade with Mr. Dameron, a couple of weeks before. She crouched, cleaning herself with her serviette, trying to understand who those children were, and what they could want from her.

 

“Let’s return home,” said Kylo, and she nodded, tired.





They quickly collected their victuals in the picnic chest, and when they finished, Kylo approached Rey and lifted her in his arms like a husband does with his spouse after the wedding ceremony. She squeaked in surprise but didn’t stop him, enjoying the sensation of being lifted almost effortlessly combined with the warmth of his strong arms around her.

 

“I suggest you close your eyes,” he prompted her, but she didn’t even have time to ask for clarification before everything was swirling around them, and a plummeting sensation hit her stomach and disoriented her.

 

She shut her eyes then, holding tight onto his neck, and he squeezed back, as if to ground her. When Rey opened her eyes again, she discovered that they were already in the foyer of her house: in the blink of an eye, he’d somehow transported both of them instantaneously home, directly from the park. She opened her mouth in awe: this power of his was new, and unexpected, and incredible. Her mind raced through all the archaeological sites she had visited in her youth and the countless hours spent on trains or boats to reach them, and how she had often felt  too unwell to appreciate traveling. She’d definitely underestimated her husband’s abilities.

 

“How did you manage that?” she squealed in delight, and he tightened his hold on her.

 

“You gave me your blood,” he answered, “I will need time to adjust, but my powers will slowly come back now.”

 

Avoiding thinking about why she’d conceded him her blood was almost impossible now. Squirming, she prompted him to let her down, chastising herself for thinking about her forged pots while he was touching her. A touch she definitely didn’t mind anymore.

 

He’d drank her blood, and she had to be careful with her thoughts from now on: he could touch her and read her mind whenever, or she could accidentally project images from her plan directly into his mind while they were promenading, arm in arm. She went in the kitchen to leave her picnic chest there for her menials to clean, concocting a polite way to dismiss him.

 

But when she returned in the foyer, he was still there, waiting and smiling at her. His right hand was hidden in his pocket, and a corner of his mouth was lifted, but not in his usual, sardonic way. This smile of his seemed genuine, and full of expectation, and her heart began to beat frantically in her constricted chest.

 

Before she could excuse herself to disappear into her studio, he grabbed her hand, making her jump in alarm.

 

“Are you feeling well, Miss Rey?” he inquired, a frown sombering his otherwise cheerful features.

 

She averted her gaze and turned towards the door, hoping that avoiding his eyes could be enough to stop him from reading her mind. But his grip on her hand grew stronger, as if he could soothe her with his insistent, warm touch.

 

Rey understood that she’d slipped in the end, letting her mind race towards her pots when his hand abandoned hers all of a sudden, almost like her flesh was burning from the inside. She’d thought about how she needed him to touch her vases despite having desperately tried to avoid it so far, while he was genuinely worried for her, and trying to ascertain if she was unwell.

 

Guilt gnawed at her heart, and she gulped upon finding his eyes fixed on hers, cold as amber stone. He was still as a statue, sorrow etched across his long, solemn visage, looking at her with a coldness that iced the blood in her veins.

 

“Is that so?” he finally spoke, his voice devoid of any emotion but almost trembling despite its hardness. “Did you cut yourself on purpose?”

 

She kept her mouth shut, unsure of how to answer.

 

“And you let me drink your blood only to exploit my ability to see the past with my hands?”

 

“No!” she cried. “Not only because of that!”

 

“And for what, pray tell?”

 

She lowered her gaze. Why did she let him drink from her hand? To discover more about the forger, undoubtedly, but that wasn't the only reason she’d let him feed on her. But words were now failing her, and her lips refused to open.

 

“Very well,” he interrupted her silence, “I’ll touch your wretched vases and I’ll disturb you no further.”

 

“Please, let me explain!” she cried, but he didn't stop.

 

His long legs brought him to the upper floor in a matter of seconds, and he stormed into her studio while she tried hopelessly to keep up with his pace, her hands lifting and creasing her tabinet skirt while she ran up the stairs.

 

“Are these your vases?” he barked, opening the door with haste and approaching her desk.

 

“You misread my thoughts, Kylo. Please, stop and listen to me.”

 

“Don’t. Please, don’t treat me like I was born yesterday.” His gaze sorrowful, he took the first vase in his hand, lifting it towards her. “You cut yourself on purpose, to know who made these.”

 

Rey lowered her gaze again, nodding. He was right, she had thought that fooling him could be easy as picking a low-hanging fruit. And in doing that, she had wounded him again, deeply, maybe in an irredeemable way. Who was the monster between them now?

 

“This was made by a Greek man called Oltos, in Athens, more than twenty-two centuries ago,” he said, avoiding her gaze and picking up another vase. “This one was made by one Timonax, in Taras, and these two were both made in Vulci, by two different people, Makron and Velparun.”

 

“Kylo,” she pleaded, but he promptly interrupted her.

 

“And this one. This one was made two years ago by a woman called Bazine Netal, in Bleeding Hart Yard, London.”

 

“Kylo.” Rey tried again, without letting slip any reaction to what he’d presently said.

 

“Now I'll see myself out,” he announced, approaching her slowly and extracting something from his pocket.

 

Rey felt her legs threaten to give out under her but collected her strength nonetheless and remained stoically glued on the spot, waiting for his next action. He took her right hand in his: his touch was electric, and she jolted at the contact. He put something in her palm without letting her see what it was.

 

“I wanted to give this to you earlier, after lunch. Do whatever you want with it, I don't care about it anymore,” he announced, exiting the room. “Goodbye, Miss Rey.”

 

She opened her hand only when she couldn't hear the noise of his steps anymore. Upon seeing what he’d given her, her heart skipped a beat, and she had to close her eyes again, grounding herself against the ringing noise that quickly filled her ears.

 

A warm tear escaped her lashes: in her hand there was a stunning gold ring with a carved green stone. It could only be Poe Dameron’s Roman one, and Kylo had bought it for her.




During the following week Rey tried to keep herself as busy as possible in order to not think about her husband leaving her again. This time, she had been the main cause of her woes, and while she tried to keep herself distracted with her studies by day, her dreams were haunted by Kylo Ren’s piercing eyes by night, leaving her exhausted and yearning for his forgiveness. She even tried, under the shelter of her quilts, to touch herself, chasing solace. But even on the cusp of relief, all she could imagine were his lips around her finger, tinted red with her blood.

 

She had to hide the Roman ring in a small wooden box on her bedside table in order to not look at it, but sometimes her gaze was drawn to the jewel case against her will. But she’d solemnly promised herself to not look at it, so she didn't. Her willpower was stronger than her loneliness.

 

In the end, she’d reached her primary goal–discovering the truth about the vases she’d brought at the auction house with her colleagues. She told Finn and Rose that after several hours of careful study she’d managed to discover which one of their red-on-black vases was false, and the whole lot—minus the counterfeited one—had been sold to the museum as previously programmed, without further hesitation.




Spring came shyly but arrived nonetheless, and the gardens and parks of the city slowly started blooming with new buds and flowers while birds and squirrels played amongst the young leaves. Rey became inexplicably angry upon witnessing nature’s awakening, but she couldn't exactly pinpoint the reason behind all that resentment. She almost wished for winter to come back and freeze all the buds off their branches and envelop her body, cocooning her under a blanket of snow and ice.

 

One morning, Mr. Oswald knocked on her study door, announcing that he was bringing sad news.

 

“It looks like one the trees in the back garden did not survive the bad season,” he announced, sorrow in his voice.

 

Rey closed the tome she was consulting and got to her feet, her chair scraping the wooden parquet. He was talking about one of the trees she and Kylo had traversed during their flight over the city, and upon thinking about him, her heart sped up and she had to blink back tears. She hated getting emotional before her monthlies.

 

She followed her butler to the garden to ascertain with her own eyes if he was telling the truth or not. One of Professor Solo’s black poplars already had small, light green gems on its trunk, while its twin was still naked, gnarly branches extending towards a sky rich with clouds and gentle spring rains.

 

Rey touched the dark, corrugated bark in a reverent way. She’d always liked those two huge trees in her back garden, remembering the awe she’d felt the first time Leia accompanied her to see them. It was a few months after she’d met Han Solo and the elderly couple had decided to take her under their wings.

 

“Miss Rey, should I call someone to take it down?” inquired Mr. Oswald.

 

She turned around, surprised. “No. It’s not really dead. Insects and small animals still live inside its trunk and between its branches. It would be cruel to them to cut the whole tree down. And besides that, even without sap running beneath its bark, it remains a majestic specimen. Now it’s the most beautiful tree in the garden.”

 

The butler nodded, leaving Rey in the garden, alone with her thoughts.



The idea that she was, in fact, in love for the first time in her life reached her during a quite boring task: she was helping Mrs. Rachel cutting some onions for their lunch, since the poor woman’s eyes were particularly sensitive to the fiery bulbs. As she removed the first, purplish and desiccated layer from the onion, her thoughts wandered to Kylo Ren. A monster coming from the dawn of time and the depth of space. Her husband.

 

She missed him. She missed his presence, and their chats, and their promenades, and his wit. But she also craved his lips on her skin again, and the thought made her sigh deeply. For the first time, she was finding someone’s company more appealing than her own. Thinking that she could exploit its powers like his innumerable previous masters before her without hurting him had been a huge lapse of judgment on her part. Her knife descended on the poor, innocent onion, butchering its delicate and juicy layers.

 

“Miss Rey, I’ve asked you to cut it, not to pulverise it. Return to your broken pots, please!” squeaked Mrs. Rachel.

 

Rey could only nod, and, defeated, she returned to her rooms. Keeping away from the small box on her bedside table was now impossible, so she opened it, admiring once again the stunning Roman cameo. She slipped it on her right ring finger, her thoughts lost in the delicate carving of Minerva’s helm, and closed her eyes, wondering what Kylo was doing in that moment.

 

She threw herself over the bed like she used to do when she was a young lass: she would embrace her ratty cushion, imagining that it was one of her parents, finally back to save her from Plutt’s whip. But upon waking up in the morning, she was still on her small bunk in Plutt’s house, and there was no trace of her mother, or her father. Now, in the same fashion, stroking her ring with her fingertips, she embraced her plump goose cushion, imagining that it was Kylo, and they were happy, relaxing on her bed after reading together, or after a long and beautiful trip. Lulled by her reverie, she fell asleep, hoping to see him in her dreams at least.

 

Upon hearing someone knocking on her door, she woke up and found herself still squeezing the cushion between her arms. The sun was shining beyond her heavy curtains: the colour of the light was hinting that it was already past lunchtime. Her mind felt hazy, and she blamed a deep fatigue that hadn’t been there that morning. Another knock on the door prompted her to answer, lamenting an alleged migraine.

 

“I don’t feel like eating! I’ll have some tea later!”

 

Mr. Oswald’s voice came muffled and feeble from behind the wooden door. “Oh dear, are you feeling well, Miss Rey?”

 

“I feel a bit tired, nothing to worry about. I’m sure that’s because of the change of season.”

 

She turned on her side, squeezing the cushion again. Her head was spinning: she had to close her eyes for a moment to ground herself, and her traitorous brain brought her to her last day with Kylo, when he’d transported her from the park to home in a matter of seconds, making her experience a similar kind of dizziness. When she opened her eyes for the second time, they focused on the dull gold of the Roman ring, still wrapped around her finger. The goddess’ dead eyes were fixed on her, as if daring her to take Kylo back, and Rey’s heart began beating again at the mere idea of ordering him to return to her.




Rey pondered her reflection in the mirror. There was no time to ask Finn or Mr. Dameron to accompany her to Maz’s, so she’d donned Professor Solo’s clothes: after almost twenty years, she was going to take a stroll all by herself, dressed as a man. The old coat and trousers were big indeed on her, but she was hoping the impending twilight might make her less recognizable as a woman while covered up in ill-fitting masculine clothes and with her long, chestnut waves hidden under a hat.

 

After closing her bedroom door and leaving a note in front of it on the floor, saying she wished to rest in silence until the morning, she sneaked through the house, walking against the walls and listening for any indication of her menials’ position. Both Mr. Oswald and Mrs. Rachel were in the kitchen, the first one chatting inanely, and the second one grumbling from time to time. Rey slipped through the front door, careful to not produce any kind of creaking on the wooden floor.

 

Outside, the air was crisp and the sun was already going down, its violet rays already hidden behind the tall buildings of the beating heart of the city. Rey grit her teeth as she leaped over the rail fence, her knees and hips more used to keeping seated for hours than to be exerted in physical activity. She had to start digging again as soon as possible, and if everything was going as planned, her dear husband was going to bring her where he’d been trapped in that beautiful body for the first time, and together they were going to unearth that long-forgotten temple. She only had to tell him she was sorry, confess to him that she found his company more appealing than her own loneliness, and bring him home again.

 

Walking alone was beautiful, freeing and, so far, uneventful–until she reached one of the bridges over the river: she turned around swiftly, hearing a pair of fast, small steps over the wooden and metal flooring of the structure, and noticed a small, lithe outline emerge from the shadows, coupled with another set of steps coming from behind her. They were the two kids that kept crossing her path, and she’d been surrounded. The boy was blocking the escape route in front of her, and the girl was slowly approaching her back.

 

“I would seriously avoid walking in the darkness at your young age. Your parents must be very worried for you,” she said, her voice trembling slightly.

 

“We wouldn’t be here if we had parents,” said the lass, and Rey turned her head in her direction.

 

“We’re only enjoying a visit in town before returning to Sussex,” chimed in the lad, spite clearly perceivable in his tone.

 

“Who are you, and what do you want from me?” growled Rey.

 

“My name is Devi, and he’s my brother Strunk.”

 

The boy spit on the ground in Rey’s direction. “What do we want? What are you willing to give us, I’d say.”

 

“Why should I give you anything?” snapped Rey. “Return to Sussex or to whatever pit of hell spawned you, or I’ll let my husband give you a real lesson.”

 

“Your husband? Do you mean that man that stormed outside of your house several days ago and never returned?” seethed Devi.

 

Rey’s heart stopped. They were spying on her, and they knew she was currently alone. Someone had sent them to track her movements, but who? Her mind raced to all the people she knew in Sussex, apart from Professor Solo and his wife Leia of Alderaan: her only tie with that place was Unkar Plutt. She’d never seen him again after she’d met Han, and he’d reassured her that she hadn’t anything to worry about.

 

“Did Plutt send you here?”

 

The pair began laughing hysterically, making her skin crawl.

 

“It looks like studying for all those years really made you intelligent,” continued Devi, while her brother was showing his teeth–the ones still attached to his gums, at least–to Rey. “Give us your ring, and we’ll tell Plutt we didn’t find you here, that you live abroad now.”

 

The last time Rey had seen this Devi girl, she was scared and screaming for her life, while Kylo was yanking her around. Now she looked as menacing and feral as her brother. Were they really ready to do anything to obtain what they wanted? Had she really been like them when she was a lass? Rey put her right hand in her pocket with haste, as if to shelter Kylo’s ring from their hungry gazes.

 

“T–the ring is a gift from a loved one, I won’t give it to you,” she said, head held high.

 

The creepy younglings approached her slowly, snickering. Rey, not knowing where to run or take shelter, approached the bulwark of the bridge, but they quickly jumped on her, making her cry out loudly as they extracted her hand from her pocket, twisting her finger and dislocating its joint to remove her ring. Blinded by the pain and speechless by the ferocity displayed by the children, she wasn’t fast enough to react when they used their combined weight to push her over the bulwark. Rey didn’t know how to swim.

 

This is it. This is how I'll die , she thought as her limp body collided with the icy depths of the river.

 

The dark, polluted waters swirled around her, and ice began to seep into her bones. She coughed once, then twice, but air was out of her reach, and her lungs were already burning, water filling them in the most painful way. Her ears started ringing, and as she began to drown, she thought she heard Kylo’s voice.

 

“I’m here for you, sweetheart.”

 

Everything went black, and she closed her eyes.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Kylo Ren brooded for a whole week between Maz’s Inn, the public library, and several ratpits downtown. He was still irate at Rey, but soon boredom and loneliness chased his pain away, making him crave her presence again only a few days after leaving her house. She had hurt him deeply, only wanting to use him for her personal schemes. But not long ago, he’d been the one who desired her blood to regain his power. That made him snort. What a couple they were.

 

He’d bought her a ring. He’d never bought a ring for anyone, not even his favourite wives. For the first time, he was confused. This was strange, and new, and made him yearn madly for her acceptance and for the chance to pass his painfully infinite time in her company.

 

During those solitary days, he’d read something akin a couple hundred books, wandering the almost deserted libraries of London during the afternoon, and he’d once more earned a substantial sum of pounds roving the most squalid slums of the city at night, where the seediest wagers took place. He’d fought almost every evening, Rey’s blood flowing powerfully in his veins, the perfect propellant to transform him again into the lethal weapon he’d been for the latest part of his life.

 

Not knowing what to do with all the money, he’d left a considerable sum of coins at Maz’s, hoping that she would finally decide to invest in a modern indoor plumbing system like the one at Rey’s house–he was tired of people pouring their chamber pots out over the inner yard in the early hours of the morning, while he was sleeping. He’d had to suffer this predawn torture for centuries, and he was happy to finally experience some useful technological advancement aimed at keeping cities cleaner and healthier.

 

One night, as he was about to enter another illegal fisticuffs ring, he began to perceive Rey’s distress: this wasn’t her usual kind of disquietude, which stemmed from small things such as not being able to get her hands on the latest issue of La Revue Archéologique . This was real, deep anguish: she was terrified, and her feelings were so strong they had been able to reach him. He exited the basement, running up the stairs and elbowing the men who were obstructing the passage as they idiotically chatted with their peers. Once he was in the streets, he entered a nondescript alley, transformed into a fog and flew as fast as possible in her direction.

 

She wasn’t far from her house: he detected her presence over a small bridge they’d traversed many times to reach Maz’s. When a perception of physical pain joined that of her crippling fear, he increased his speed until space itself seemed to fold around him. He appeared instantaneously over the bridge, just in time to see a limp body falling into the murky waters of the river. It was Rey.

 

Kylo’s heartbeat stopped: Rey didn’t know how to swim. Without paying attention to the rascals on the bridge, he plunged himself in the icy depths of the river. Rey was fighting against the river flow, trying to keep her head above water. But her struggle was useless, since she couldn’t control her arms and legs, her movements actually dragging her farther from the surface, making her sink silently. Kylo’s black mist surrounded her: she was still alive, but barely, her limbs freezing from the low temperature and her lungs already half full of water.

 

“I’m here for you, sweetheart,” he murmured against her feebly beating heart before folding the space around them again and reappearing in her bedroom.

 

“Please, don’t die,” he murmured, laying her in the rug in front of the fireplace. “I’m here now.”

 

She was unconscious. With a hand over her chest, he absorbed the water from her lungs, maintaining the contact until she began breathing again, coughing and wheezing.

 

“I’m here,” he repeated, caressing her cheek. “Don’t be afraid.”

 

She was so pale that her skin was nigh translucent, her heartbeat almost inaudible; he needed to warm her body as soon as possible. Mortal beings were awfully frail. He began unfastening her shirt, noticing only then that she was wearing the professor’s clothes, the ones she’d dyed for him; their familiarity was a relief. He had no idea about how to unfasten a modern feminine ensemble.

 

Upon unbuttoning her shirt, he discovered that she wasn’t wearing anything underneath, and couldn’t help noticing straight away that her bosom was decorated with jewelry: she was wearing a small silver ring on each nipple. The two rosy buds were pierced horizontally, right in the middle, and the sight made him smirk. He hadn’t seen nipples rings in centuries.

 

He kept disrobing her, removing her soaked bloomers and socks too. While he brought Rey’s freezing body to bed, he proceeded to remove his own clothes as well and slithered behind her, a hand over her heart, trying to warm her again. Her breath sounded more regular now, and listening to her heartbeat slowly regain strength, he soon fell asleep too, his dreams talking of her.


Rey was burning. Upon her awakening, she immediately recognized the tremors typical of a fever, the sensations of being boiling hot and freezing cold at the same time, the dull halo around her head due to breathing issues–her lungs were on fire. She tried to open her eyes, but she was surrounded by darkness, a warm, soothing, gentle darkness. It was him. She basked in the black fog, cocooned by warmth and affection, his uncorporeal form slithering over her skin and under the covers. He was back; he’d come back for her.

 

“Kylo,” she croaked, and he coalesced, regaining his human form again.

 

He was naked, and one of his hands was currently dwarfing her small breast, as if to protect her heart. She should have protested, but she lacked the energy to do so, and his touch wasn’t unpleasant at all. She almost wished he could touch her more, caress her goosebumps and chase away the feverish shivers that were wracking her whole body.

 

“How are you feeling?” he asked, removing his hand from her chest and placing it over her soft belly.

 

“Am I dead?” she whined. “Everything hurts.”

 

“You almost drowned in that river. I felt your distress and I came to you, but I wasn’t quick enough. You inhaled an impressive quantity of water.”

 

He’d saved her. Had he breathed for her? Had he touched her bloodless lips with his own? She turned around, seeking shelter in the curve of his neck. His skin was smooth, pale and soft. She wanted to close her eyes again and bask in his warmth.

 

“I was coming to you,” she said, taking one of his palms and bringing it between her breasts again. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry,”

 

“I know,” he interrupted. “I saw your thoughts while you were sleeping.”

 

She closed her eyes, and he kissed her brow.

 

“I didn’t want to poke my nose into your head, but you shared your dreams with me this night.”

 

“Oh,” she whispered.

 

He knew, then. He knew she was in love with him. He knew and he’d remained in her bed, warming her body, sheltering her heart.

 

“Miss Rey, you’re not alone,” he whispered, before kissing her eyelids. “I feel the same towards you. I didn’t want to fall in love. It’s so painful for me, but here I am.”

 

“Kylo.” Warm tears were already pooling in her feverish eyes.

 

She knew he could sense her confusion, could see her hesitation like it was his own. Everything was new for her; she was like a trapped, wild animal, frail and proud. They could easily destroy each other, or they could finally find bliss and solace, together. Silently, he embraced her again, nuzzling her temple with his nose, and she finally calmed down. He lulled her to sleep, sheltering her between his arms, protecting her. She needed to rest and recover from her ordeal.


Their small cocoon didn’t even last the whole day. Unfortunately, the always nosy Mr. Oswald discovered that Miss Rey wasn’t feeling well and proceeded to call a doctor without consulting Kylo first. She wasn’t in danger anymore, obviously, and Kylo began to fret, knowing that doctors were prone to prescribe absurd treatments, such as leeches, and they never washed their hands between visiting patients.

 

Someone knocked on the door. He yanked it open: if looks could have killed, the mousy doctor in front of him would have died twice at least.

 

“I’m D–doctor Dopheld Mitaka, S–sir.”

 

“Did you wash your hands?” he barked.

 

The man went pale but nodded.

 

“You have fifteen minutes. No leeches.”

 

Rey smiled weakly from the bed, her frizzy hair forming a halo around her head: she looked like a child. A very tired child. Kylo’s heart constricted. She was wearing a clean nightshirt, and he’d changed the sheets and started a fire in the small fireplace. Everything to avoid her menials and their cursed meddling, but it had been useless in the end: Oswald had managed to enter the room with a spare key, worried upon hearing Rey’s creaky voice. Kylo longed to remain alone with her again. But she had consented to being visited and asked him to not play with the doctor’s guileless mind, so his hands were tied.

 

“So, uhm, the Lady has a fever, and a broken finger,” the doctor told Kylo, as if Rey wasn’t even in the room.

 

“The Lady can hear, and talk,” snapped Rey, and he snickered: she didn’t need his presence for sure. He had been worried for no reason.

 

“I’ll leave you alone, then,” he announced. “I’ll be back soon.”

 

Without looking at Rey, he left her apartments and disappeared immediately on setting foot in the corridor. He needed to retrieve the ring.


Rey felt him crawl between the sheets again during her afternoon rest. She’d eaten a few spoonfuls of broth earlier, upon the good doctor’s recommendation, and had returned to bed right away. She’d actually tried to read, but the book was heavy, and the splint she got on her ring finger didn’t help: still feverish, her tiredness had won, and she’d fallen asleep after only a couple of paragraphs. She shivered as Kylo embraced her from behind, since he hadn’t disrobed and his clothes were still cold from the outside.

 

“You can remove your nightshirt, so I can properly warm you up,” he prompted, the hint of a smile in his voice, and she laughed sleepily.

 

“Feeling bold now?”

 

“Please, don’t forget I already saw everything last night.” He was right: he’d indeed disrobed her before putting her to bed and warming her with his own body.

 

Surprisingly, the thought didn’t make her uncomfortable at all. She wondered what he’d thought upon seeing her bosom piercings. She smiled, realizing that he’d also seen her calves, since she wasn’t wearing any socks when she woke up.

 

“Oh no, you saw my calves,” she snickered. “Now we’ll have to marry for real.”

 

“... you modern people and your obsession with calves! You can bet I saw your calves, Miss Rey! But I was too shocked by your nipple rings to actually remember your sinful extremities.”

 

“Do you like them? I got them in Paris, during a trip with Finn and Rose.” She turned in his arms, smiling. “What about you, do you hide jewelry in the small percentage of your body I haven’t seen? Any tattoos?

 

“I had some of those in the past, but they faded, and the piercings closed with time. My skin can’t bear scars.”

 

“What about this, then?” she asked, caressing the angry red line bisecting his face.

 

“This was made by you, it will linger until you’re no longer alive. I don’t mind it. I couldn’t imagine my face without it, now.” A corner of his mouth uplifted. He was wearing his usual sardonic smile, but his eyes were shining and mischievous, his gaze fixed upon her sleepy face. She wanted to kiss him, and she wasn’t afraid of him knowing what she wanted to do.

 

“Let’s hope it will remain for a long time, then,” she whispered, and touched his mouth with hers, without hesitation, her heart beating wildly.

 

He froze, letting her explore his mouth and delicately touching the nape of her neck, his fingers disappearing in her disheveled hair, without pushing her. She licked her own lips: he tasted good, she could discern a slightly metallic tang on him, and she couldn’t help wondering if that was because of the blood he’d drank from her hand. He answered her attentions with tiny kisses of his own, the sticky sound of their contact as sweet as his own taste.

 

He wasn’t in a hurry: he knew physical affection was a mostly unknown subject for her, but he wasn’t making her feel lacking, in that regard. Kylo already knew she wasn’t used to touch and being touched, and he’d accepted that fact as a part of her without trying to make her change her mind on the topic. But, while he’d had all the time in the world, she hadn’t, as a mere mortal being. She wanted to try everything with him; she wanted him to lead her in this, to be her teacher.

 

He was patient, and soft, and scary, and hers.

 

“Yes, I’m yours,” he said, flipping her on her back and carding her hair away from her forehead.

 

She put her hands over his ears, bringing him down again, letting her tongue touch his lips this time. He definitely smelled of iron.

 

“You taste like stars,” she said, and blushed, immediately thinking it was a silly thing to say.

 

He didn’t seem to care: he smiled, and kissed her. His tongue was quickly upon her lips, making her breath falter and her limbs tremble. Was it this that people loved so much? Was it this that people couldn’t live without? It was delightful, and it felt so natural doing it with him. She opened her mouth, caressing his tongue with the tip of hers, shily at first, then more boldly, until their teeth clashed.

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, but he didn’t stop, sucking on her bottom lip, nibbling at her with his fangs, always delicate, always careful.

 

Rey’s head was spinning, and she was sure her quim was pulsing in tandem with her heart. His overwhelming presence above her was divine, and she was glad she was experiencing these sensations with him for the first time. She wouldn’t have tolerated any other man. But he wasn’t a man, was he?

 

“No, I’m not,” he growled, biting her lips, as if to remind her he was, in fact, a monster.

 

The metallic tang of blood invaded her senses: it was her own taste, tangy and sweet and heady. His pupils dilated, his eyes now completely black. He soothed the wound with his tongue, his hands roaming over her overheated body, he was everywhere at once. She had to interrupt the kiss, or she wouldn’t be able to stop him if he wanted to push her further. Did she want him to push her further? She wasn’t sure. After forcing him away, she checked her wound with the tip of her tongue: it was but a small cut on her lower lip, its bleeding already finished.

 

Kylo sat on his haunches, extending a hand in front of him, and he helped her sit up in bed without saying anything about her abrupt decision to interrupt their explorations.

 

“I have something for you,” he said, producing her ring, the Roman one, from thin air. She gasped.

 

“Where–how did you find it?”

 

“I chased those delinquents. I should have killed them last week, when they bothered you at the park.”

 

Rey was thankful for the fact that she was in bed at the moment, because her legs wouldn’t have sustained her for sure. Her ears were ringing, and guilt began gnawing at her heart: had he committed a crime? Had he killed those two youngsters for her? But, if not for him, she would have drowned in that river, and who had pushed her over the bulwark of the bridge? Devi and Strunk hadn’t thought twice about trying to kill her to steal her ring, but she wouldn’t have expected less from someone raised by Unkar Plutt. She shivered, thinking that she could have ended in the same situation: a slave.

 

“Did–did you kill them?”

 

“They’re far from here now. They will never bother you again.”

 

Rey exhaled. Kylo took her left hand, the one with the splint, and began unwrapping her bandages. Her ring finger was still black and swollen under the gauze compress, and she jolted at his touch. He delicately wrapped his hand around hers, soldering her bones and tendons back together, absorbing the swelling and the pain with his powers.

 

After her hand returned to normality, he slid the ring on her newly healed finger, kissing her knuckles, his eyes closed. The last time he’d left the ring in the palm of her hand before storming away, hurt by her greediness and her disregard for his feelings. Now it was different: sliding the ring on her finger gave Rey an impression of closure, almost like it was an official seal on their relationship, and her heart skipped a beat. It was like they were married for real, now. There was no turning back from that.


The following day Kylo returned to Maz’s to empty the room at the end of the corridor on the second floor from his meager belongings. While he collected his books in a bag, he couldn’t help thinking about the kiss he’d shared with Rey. He’d inadvertently bitten her lip, and the smell of her blood had carried him away to the point that she’d had to physically push him away from her to stop him. He’d thought he was better than that, and yet there he was, behaving like an animal in front of her. He needed to keep some distance between them.

 

The room finally pristine, he descended the stairs to thank Maz. The old, wizened woman seemed to have a soft spot for him, surely encouraged by the more than generous tips he’d left her. Before he could abandon the Inn–this time with finality–she put a hand on his wrist, and he stopped to listen to her.

 

“You know, my child, I’ve lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people. And you and our Rey hide the same restless longing in your gazes. You’ll take good care of each other, yes?”

 

He could only nod.

 

“I’m happy you found each other. I knew that no man could keep up with her.”

 

“I’ll try to do my best,” he said, and she hugged him, making him bend awkwardly.

 

He disappeared in front of her without a second thought. Maz seemed to know everything about him, even if he hadn’t told her anything, so there was no point in feigning to be human with her.

 

He reappeared in Ben Solo’s old room, since Rey was currently having a meeting with Finn and Rose in her study to talk about a possible involvement of the police in their business, after their last purchase. She’d told her friends she’d slipped in the river, and they’d insisted on meeting her at her house, in order to avoid worsening her health condition. He was glad Rey could count on them, and he didn’t mind having a room all for himself in the house, even if small: he was used to being kept in a coffin–a dead lad’s bedroom was like a palace for him.


The meeting had been fruitful. Rey had told Finn and Rose that she was aware of the counterfeiter’s identity and address, and they consented to press charges, calling the authorities in a couple of days. She only needed to concoct a believable story to tell the police now, while Finn was trying to convince Mr. Dameron to work as a witness. After bidding farewell to her colleagues, Rey went in search of her husband.

 

She knew Kylo had gone to retrieve a couple of items at Maz’s after they’d talked about him returning to live with her, but it was a business necessitating to an hour at the most. She thought about knocking on Ben Solo’s old bedroom–the one Kylo had used until their last controversy–only after tiring herself, having wandered the library and the whole first floor in search for him.

 

“Enter,” he said, his voice muffled, behind the door, and she did.

 

He was nose deep in the small hickory wardrobe, rearranging his clothes and the many books he’d purchased during the last weeks when he was trapped at the inn, bored beyond himself. She almost wanted to kiss him again, but the sight of him still dwelling in the small, dusty bedroom caused her anguish. Her bed seemed awfully big and empty without him now. She wanted him back with her.

 

“You could bring your things to my room,” she suggested, letting disappointment taint her tone.

 

He stopped fidgeting with his belongings and turned in her direction. He looked calm and composed, seemingly unaffected by her presence and her invitation to share her apartments.

 

“Not yet. I’ll sleep here for the next few days, he announced gravely.

 

“Why?” Did she do something wrong?

 

“I get that you’re aware that you’re going to bleed shortly?” he asked, his eyebrow lifted.

 

Rey was appalled. How did he know? Did her smell change?

 

“I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep my hands off of you, if we shared your bed during those days,” he explained.

 

“Would that be a problem?” she exclaimed, thwarted. “What if I don’t want you to keep your hands to yourself?”

 

“You don’t know what you’re asking for, Miss Rey,” he whispered, his voice pained and his gaze downturned. “Shall I remind you that I’m no man?”

 

“You seemed more than happy to show me what you are yesterday, and now you’ve already changed your mind. Is this because you remembered I’m a virgin?” she spat.

 

“Virginity is a man’s construct invented to shame. I may be a supernatural being, but my cock will not change you in any way, I swear.”

 

“Then why?”

 

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he finally confessed.

 

“You won’t,” she whined.

 

“Your trust is misplaced.”

 

“Let’s see, then,” she spat, and exited the room.

 

She had to show him he was wrong about himself.