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Le fin du fin

Chapter Text

Felix Lacoste had never met his mother alive.

She had given birth to him, in her bedroom on the second floor in the big house on the corner of Dauphine and Toulouse Streets. Her husband’s sister, the best midwife in the city (or so she’d always insisted), had attended, but even she couldn’t save her. The woman had passed out when he was still inside her body, and died not long after he departed it. His father kept the name they’d agreed to if the child was a boy, although he did not appreciate the irony of it. There was nothing lucky about this child, or so said Andre Lacoste, so Felix was given a more appropriate nickname before he could walk.

Fin. The end. The last son, and the cause of his own mother’s death. For certainly he was more fin than felix.

Felix was Fin until the age of three, when his brother Phillipe spelled his name with a second n as a joke, and it stuck. Finn was five years old before he realized that no one else in the house could see the woman who wandered the upstairs corridor, and he was ten before he understood who she was. He should have recognized her; her visage was all over the house, from small photographs in the private rooms to the wedding portrait in the main hall. But she always appeared blurry, or to be very far away, or at a strange angle, so it wasn’t until the last night - the night she spoke to him - that he knew she was his mother.

Finn had awakened with a jolt in the middle of the night, for no reason that he could discern. It was quiet; it was too quiet. The usual sounds - clatter and chatter in the street, expected even this late, and which should have been clear through the open windows - were absent. The only noise came from the ticking of the clock that loomed in the corner of his bedroom. As Finn listened, the clock slowed and then stopped, and the temperature of the room plunged to freezing despite the crushing summer heat.

Dread overwhelmed him, and he shivered under his light blanket. Cold fingers caressed the short hair on the back of his head without warning, and he had to contain himself to keep from screaming. There were tears on his face but he was strong.

Tu es fort. You are strong,” said the voice that belonged with the cold caress. “Do you know what I am?”

“You’re a fantom,” he replied in a small voice, sounding to his ears exactly as frightened as he felt. But he replied.

“I’m the ti bon ange of your mother.” Her voice sounded too far away to be coming from beside him on the bed, but perhaps, Finn thought, that’s how fantoms work.

“Do you know who I was?” Finn understood what she meant, and he nodded. The fingers followed the movement of his head.

“Then you know that you are the grandson of revolutionaries. You are strong, Felix, the strongest of our line. Stronger than your brothers; you were too strong for me. Do you believe me?” Finn nodded again, but the cold fingers gripped around the back of his head and the voice whispered, “Say it. Do you believe me?”

“Yes.” He had somehow stopped crying.

“My Felix, my lucky boy. Your life will give you many opportunities; embrace them.”

The fingers were soothing; Finn had never been caressed like that. They made him brave. He asked a question.

“Can you see the future?”

“I can see shadows. I can see enough. I can see your opportunities; for success, and for love. Embrace them, my Felix. Embrace them.”

The fingers disappeared. The room was warm, the clock was ticking, and Finn never saw his mother again in his waking life. He slept, and in the morning he wondered if it hadn’t been a dream after all. But he remembered her words. He would live up to his legacy. He was strong, he would work towards success, and he would embrace the opportunities that came his way.

Embrace them.

In another part of the world it was already morning, and a little girl, locked in an attic room, screamed herself hoarse at the window while her brother was dragged out of the family home, kicking and biting. She screamed, and cracked the glass in the window before bruising her fists on the sill as he was trussed and tossed into the back of a carriage. She continued to scream as the carriage made its way across the mudflat that served as the yard, and she screamed more as she watched the carriage exit the gate that marked the border of her prison. She screamed until her screams were silent, until her chest burned and her stomach roiled, and then she curled up in a ball on the blankets in the corner and slept.

Chapter Text

New Orleans, Louisiana, 1901

It was early August, and Finn Lacoste was bemoaning the weather to his valet as they made their way down Carondolet Street towards the Cotton Exchange Building, and Mr. Lacoste’s first meeting of the day.

"La chaleur est insupportable. Snap, I am going to sweat through this suit before lunchtime, and I don’t have time to go home for a change of clothes before my meeting with Mister Hardy this afternoon.” He pulled at the collar of his shirt, to broadcast his discomfort, and the other man chuckled.

“I’ll take care of it, Sir. I can bring another suit to the club when I’m done with your father’s business on Union Street; you should be able to find twenty minutes before this afternoon to do a quick change.”

Finn grinned at his servant as they dashed across the muddy street. Snap Wexley had only been with the Lacoste family for eight months, but he was good at his job. He was relatively young, in his mid 30s, but he had trained up through a well-regarded household in Northern England. He spoke English with a rather strange accent, Finn thought, but his French was impeccable.

“Very well then. I’ll plan to stop by the club after lunch for a change. The purple suit, I think? I need to make sure that Mister Hardy is suitably impressed.”

Snap nodded his assent and continued up the street, as Finn removed his hat and entered the vast lobby of the Cotton Exchange.

The investor’s meeting was scheduled to begin soon, so he jogged across the lobby and up the stairs when he heard his nickname being called and a greeting in English from down below.

“Finn! Finn! Hello!”

He took a breath and steadied himself before turning to greet the woman who was just starting up the stairs. He must have rushed right past her in his haste, and he chided himself for missing her. She was jubilant as always, her dark hair shorter than popular and unstyled, hanging just past her shoulders. He would recognize her voice anywhere; she was his oldest childhood friend, and until six months ago he’d assumed she would become his wife.

“Missus Dameron! Rose! It’s a pleasure to see you. What are you doing here?”

Mrs. Rose Dameron skipped up to where he waited on the landing, holding her skirt in her hands to keep herself from tripping, and greeted him with a kiss on the cheek.

“It’s lovely to see you as well, Finn. Poe and I are setting up new offices in a rented room on the top floor. Oh! Here he is now, with another box.”

Poe followed his wife more slowly, his steps steady as he carried a large cardboard box overflowing with what looked to Finn’s unschooled eye like cameras and other photography equipment. He was dressed comfortably in trousers and a shirt - no meetings for Poe Dameron today, apparently - and his dark, curly hair was mussed as usual, but he had a broad smile on his face that appeared to be genuine. The men nodded to each other and Finn asked after Poe’s father, an old business acquaintance of his own father’s.

“Kes is doing well, thank you. He asks after you as well. Shall I give him your regards?” Finn knew that Poe was not asking just for his father; things between them had been very tense after he and Rose had announced their engagement, although they seemed to be returning to normal. This was an opportunity for Finn to reassure both of them, and he was happy to.

“Of course, please tell Mister Dameron I’m also doing well. My father has given me a share of the company which I can use as I wish, and I’ve decided to join with Mister Cushing’s investment group. That’s where I’m headed now, we have a presentation this morning from someone who has designed some kind of mining equipment. Crystal mining? I don’t remember the person’s name.”

Poe and Rose were both nodding. “That would be Sir Kylo Ren,” said Rose, her stress on the sir. “He’s from Cumberland, in England. A baronet, apparently.”

“A baronet!” Finn scoffed at that. “An opportunist, then. A man who lives off land that others work for him.” He paused, then clenched his teeth. “Familiar.”

Rose nodded. “Quite. Anyway, I heard Mrs. Walker talking about him after church last Sunday. Apparently they met him at the British Museum, last fall, and he was quite taken by Eunice.”

At the mention of Eunice Walker, Finn and Poe traded a glance and rolled their eyes, and Rose chuckled.

Finn continued with his questioning. “And now he’s here?”

“Yes. Mrs. Walker is certain that he’s here to propose to Eunice and take her away to England, but it’s more likely that he’s looking for someone to invest in that machine. But I understand that his sister designed it.”


“Sister. I can’t remember her name. Younger sister; younger than us. Very quiet, both of them, I’ve heard, and a little strange.”

Poe shrugged. “A bit strange, but no one can say exactly how. Maybe they’re just very European.”

Finn, schooled in Paris, elbowed his old friend good-naturedly. Things between them were definitely feeling more normal. “English, please. I wouldn’t say that most Europeans are especially strange. Have you met them yourself?”

His friends both shook their heads. “No, we haven’t yet had the pleasure,” replied Rose.

As they were talking, Finn had been watching the people in the lobby below them, and his eye was caught by a young couple who dashed in and then, rather than hurry through as most people did, took a moment to gather themselves in the midst of the vast room. They didn’t appear to notice the flood of people around them; they were like stones set in the middle of a river, still and calm while the rapids rush around them. They were in their own world, and for some reason Finn couldn’t take his eyes off them.

The woman was rather tall - a few inches taller than Rose, certainly - and slender, and as she removed her hat he could see that her hair had a curious style: three small buns, in a row down the back of her head. Her dress was black velvet with white lace trim, a bit dark for daytime and definitely too warm for the weather, Finn thought, but not unattractive, and although it was a few years out of style it fit her very well. He guessed she was about twenty years old. The man was maybe ten years older and was also tall, very tall, and broad-shouldered, with his long hair pulled back in a tail and a jagged scar down the right side of his face. The composition of that face was striking. He had a long nose and large eyes, and a wide mouth with pink lips that looked very soft. Finn was staring, and the man looked up at him at the same time Poe asked him a question. A bar of sunlight cut through one of the high windows and illuminated his face. His eyes were brown, or maybe gold; a bit like honey. Sweet. Like his mouth.

Finn caught himself and pulled his eyes back to Poe. “Pardon me?”

Poe laughed. “Ah Finn, always daydreaming. I was asking if you’d like to come to dinner at my father’s house next week. A small group; just us.”

Rose placed her hand gently on his arm. “Please?”

Finn was nodding and agreeing, of course he would love to come to dinner, it had been too long, even as he tracked the couple, now making their way up the stairs. The man carried a walking stick in one hand and a mahogany box under his arm. The woman, he could see now, was quite beautiful; her hair was chestnut and her face was delicate and her eyes were wide and green and brown. There were a smattering of freckles across her nose that implied that she spent time outside, which filled Finn with a kind of longing he didn’t understand. Both she and the man were looking at him as they climbed the stairs, and they paused as they reached the trio where they rested on the landing.

“Excuse me,” said the woman, in English, with an accent that reminded Finn very much of his valet’s. “We are looking for the conference room of the Cushing Investment Group. Are we heading in the right direction?” She blushed, charmingly. “I regret that the directions we received were not ideal, but we have an appointment with Mr. Carter Everett Cushing. Esquire.”

Rose smiled at them both. “Goodness. With the great man, himself?”

The woman smiled shyly back. “I’m afraid so.”

Finn gathered his courage and spoke to her himself. “You’re not late, are you? He hates that.” He couldn’t help but notice how the woman’s eyes widened slightly at his voice. He decided to take it as a good sign, and that emboldened him. The man, silent beside her, just stared at him.

“In fact, we’re a bit early.”

Finn shook his head slowly and gave the woman his best crooked smile. “Oh - I’m afraid he hates that, too.” He could hear Poe make some kind of noise over his box of equipment, but Finn ignored it.

The woman leaned a bit closer. “Pardon me for asking, but - is he really as terrible as they say?” Finn was shocked by the question, and Rose coughed, but he decided to play along anyway.

“A monster.” He whispered, and he took pleasure in the way her mouth opened in a gasp and her eyebrows raised towards her hairline. Her face was beautifully expressive and Finn took a moment to delight in it.

The man continued to stare.

“Oh. Here he is now!” Finn had seen Mr. Cushing come into the lobby, and his timing was perfect. The older man stepped up to the gathering just as Finn acknowledged his arrival, and he extended his hand to shake, first with Finn and Poe, with a bonjour and a good day, and then he turned to the tall man.

“Sir Kylo Ren, I believe. Welcome to New Orleans.” The men shook hands as Finn cringed inside; he should have guessed that this was the mysterious baronet and his equally mysterious sister. The sister held her hand out as well, and Mr. Cushing tempered his surprise and took it politely. “And… Miss Ren?”

She smiled at him, revealing twin dimples on her pink cheeks. “Miss Skywalker, if you please, Rey Skywalker. My brother adopted a name several years ago, but I choose to use our family name.”

If Mr. Cushing thought this was unusual he didn’t show it; instead he gestured to Finn and said, “I see you've already met Mister Felix Lacoste, he’s one of the members of our investment group.”

Finn shook hands with both the baronet and his sister, again taking pleasure in the obvious surprise on the woman’s face, and enjoying the strong grip of both of their handshakes. These people were interesting, and for the first time that day he found himself looking forward to the demonstration to come.

The conference room overlooked the street, and the sounds of the automobiles and electric streetcars blended with the hushed conversations of the dozen or so men gathered around the round table in the center of the room. There was another, smaller table, nested inside the large conference table, and that’s where Sir Ren and his sister set up for their presentation. The mahogany box rested near a stack of topographical maps and production charts. Alongside, a small alcohol lamp heated a miniature, nickel-plated boiler.

Mr. Cushing introduced Sir Ren, but to everyone’s surprise it was his sister who led the demonstration while Sir Ren stood by, still silent, and watched along with everyone else.

“The Skywalker Mines have been royal purveyors of kyber crystals since 1796,” she began, her voice strong and authoritative. “The purity of the crystals is renowned the world over. They have been used in jewelry for hundreds of years, of course, but more recently they are sought after for use in optics; microscopic and telescopic, as well in equipment used by medical doctors of various sorts. There are teams of scientists at work right now in the world’s finest institutions, investigating other ways they might be used in science and industry.

“Excessive mining in the last twenty years has caused most of our old deposits to collapse. However in the last few years, we scraped together just enough capital to reopen the mines and find what we believe are very encouraging samples.”

She held up a crystal; it was the largest kyber crystal Finn had ever seen, and its purity was obvious even from across the table. She passed it to the gentleman on the far right, an elderly attorney named William Ferguson.

As the investors hummed around the sample, Mr. Cushing interrupted the presentation. “You say we, Miss Skywalker. Who might that be?”

“Mining engineers. Geologists. We have their statements here…”

Mr. Cushing interrupted again, this time standing up from his seat, and the chatter died down just as the sample reached Finn. It was, indeed, a very fine crystal. Finn’s mother had owned kyber crystals, which his father had put away soon after her death; in a special box on a high shelf in the marital bedroom. The box was officially off-limits, but Finn had found his way to it when he was quite small and had visited it regularly until he was sent away to Paris. He hadn’t looked for it since he had returned home the year before. He hadn’t thought about his mother in ages. He swallowed the lump in his throat; he could think about her later.

He passed the crystal along to the person next to him and realized that Mr. Cushing was still questioning Miss Skywalker, and that it had, perhaps, graduated into an argument. Always a possibility, where Mr. Cushing was concerned. He felt a bit bad for her.

“So,” the older businessman said, suddenly turning to Sir Ren, “you've never done any digging yourself? In that mountain of yours?”

The man looked briefly like a deer caught in a searchlight, but he answered quickly. Finn realized it was the first time he’d heard him speak, and his voice was both deeper and more quiet than he expected it to be.

“I'm afraid not.”

Mr. Cushing turned to the gathered men and smirked. "I thought so." Then he returned to his seat and gestured to Miss Skywalker. “Please, go on.”

The young woman was clearly displeased, but she took a breath, put her smile back on, and continued her presentation.

“As investors in mining, you'll want more than speculation and projections. So here, gentlemen, is a steam drill - my own design - that matches the output of a ten man crew.” With this she removed the top of the mahogany box, revealing what looked exactly like a tiny mining drill. Finn leaned forward in his chair, captivated.

“With mechanized digging, abandoned mines can be reworked and made profitable again.” Miss Skywalker paused to connect the little boiler to the demonstration drill, and with a hiss of steam the brass levers and gears started moving, and the drill spinned. Finn couldn’t help but admire its ingenuity, and again the men around the table began to chatter amongst themselves in wonder - all of them except for Mr. Cushing, who stood again and pointed at the drill with a sour expression on his bearded face.

“Turn that off, please.”

Miss Skywalker complied with his demand and disconnected the drill from the boiler, and the room was suddenly silent as both the drill and the chatter ceased.

Mr. Cushing clasped his hands behind his back and addressed the room.

“So you come to us, having failed to raise capital in London, Edinburgh, Leipzig, Boston… where your family name seems to have counted for very little.”

Miss Skywalker interrupted him, and it sent a thrill down Finn’s spine. She had spirit, and he liked it. He also knew where Mr. Cushing was going with his argument, and while part of him was sympathetic to it, part of him was really, really not.

“I’m not discussing my name,” she said, sharply. “This is a new century. As investors, you must realize that kyber crystals are a growth industry…”

“We have no shortage of kyber crystals in this country,” Mr. Cushing shot back. Finn almost scoffed out loud; there were crystal mines, of course, out west, but he had never seen any that approached the purity of the crystal that they had passed around the room earlier in the meeting. But Mr. Cushing continued.

“Your holdings came to you - pardon me, to your brother - through inheritance, did they not?”

At this, both Miss Skywalker and Sir Ren stood tall. The tension in the room was palpable, and Finn held his hands in fists under the table. The siblings traded a glance, and Sir Ren responded.

“Yes. Our great grandfather was Lord Anakin Skywalker, first Baronet of Mustafar. But the Skywalker Mines are more than a name, sir. More than nostalgia. They are our birthright.” The man spoke softly, but with authority, and Finn was impressed by him, despite his apparently quiet nature.

But of course, Mr. Cushing responded convincingly.

“And now, Sir Kylo Ren the Baronet - you’ve come to America, where you hope to raise money to honor that birthright?”

“In part, yes.”

Mr. Cushing’s nostrils flared, and Finn dug his fingernails into his palms, anticipating what he would say next.

“In this country, Sir Ren, we don’t have such traditions. The men at this table - all of us - we came up through honest, hard work. Well - almost all of us. Mister Ferguson here is an attorney, and Mister Lacoste, like you, inherited from his father, but they can’t help that.” At this the other men laughed, and Finn played along, although his laughter stuck in his throat when Sir Ren caught him again with his honey eyes. All he could do was stare back.

“But their fathers worked hard. Mister Ferguson’s father shined and repaired shoes, and Mister Lacoste's father was the son of a freedman, who built a river shipping dynasty from the ground up. As for me, I started out laying rail tracks for the Texas and New Orleans line - in the yards not far from this building - decades ago. You see? And my hands,” he raised his hands for all to see, thick and calloused, “they reflect who I am. Just as yours do, Sir Ren. Softest handshake I’ve felt in years.”

Mr. Cushing paused and glanced around the room. Finn held his gaze; they’d had this conversation before, and Mr. Cushing knew where Finn stood, but they both knew that Finn was a one-person minority in the room.

Mr. Cushing turned back to face Sir Ren. “In America, we bank on effort, not privilege. That is how we built this country.” Finn saw red around the edge of his vision, and blinked his eyes to clear it.

Sir Ren surveyed the faces of the gathered men, now stern and uncomfortable, and his eyes settled momentarily on Finn. He was trying to channel his own feelings, his anger and his sympathy, but he didn’t know if it came across before the baronet’s glance moved on to the next man.

Miss Skywalker, however, hadn’t quite given up. She laid a finger gently on the silent model drill. “Mr. Cushing, gentlemen, I believe that inventions like this are equal to any man’s hard work. We make no apology for our dreams.”

Mr. Cushing just shook his head at her. “Take your toy, young lady, and dream somewhere else.”

Clearly devastated, Miss Skywalker packed away the drill and the maps while the men quickly abandoned the room. Her brother stood close by, still and silent. Finn waited until they were done and made a move to approach them, but Mr. Cushing grabbed his arm and the siblings exited the room alone.

“Mister Cushing,” Finn seethed, and pulled his arm away. “I wish to speak with them.”

“I know,” the older man replied. “I’m warning you against it. There’s something about them I just don’t like, and I wouldn’t be a good friend, to you or to your father, if I didn’t say something to you.”

Finn mumbled his insincere thanks before rushing out of the room. If he was quick, he might manage to catch them before they leave the building.

Chapter Text

Finn jogged, breathless, out of the Cotton Exchange Building and glanced up and down the street, intent on finding the Skywalker siblings. He only had to look for a moment; they were just across the way, standing on the crowded sidewalk outside the bank. Sir Ren had his arms around his sister and her head rested against his chest; her shoulders were shaking. The mahogany box was sitting next to them on the ground. As Finn stepped up to them he could hear that Sir Ren was whispering words of comfort to his sister. Finn couldn't hear what he was saying, but he recognized the tone.

“Please excuse my interruption,” he began, but was stunned to silence when Sir Ren turned on him with a snarl.

He pushed Miss Skywalker behind his back and growled, “How dare you speak to her after what just happened in there!” His eyes flashed and his teeth bared, and Finn thought for a moment that he looked very much like an animal. But then he was likewise silenced, with a single word.

“Ben,” Miss Skywalker said. Her tone was light but firm, and his response was immediate, stepping aside and lowering his head without a word. It reminded Finn of a dog, being ordered to heel.

“Please excuse my brother,” Miss Skywalker said, her eyes bright with tears which stained her face and clung to her lashes. “He is quite protective of me.”

Finn was a bit shaken but he pulled himself together. “That is admirable. If I may?” He handed the young woman his handkerchief, which she used to dry her eyes as her brother looked on, seeming calm again, silent and unsmiling. Finn waited until Miss Skywalker handed the handkerchief back and tucked it back into his sleeve before continuing. “Do you have time to meet, perhaps this afternoon? I’m afraid I have a luncheon meeting and then another meeting after that, but I would like to speak with you about your proposal.”

“Our proposal? I had the impression that our proposal was firmly rejected.”

“By Cushing’s investment group, yes,” he admitted uneasily. “I confess that I am likely unable to give you the capital that the full group could provide, but I do have something to my name, and I would be interested in knowing more about your financial details. To see if there’s a chance to invest on my own.”

Miss Skywalker clutched her hands in front of her, her expression skeptical. “Why would you do that?”

“I know something about kyber crystals, and I have never seen specimens as large and as pure as the example you showed us in that meeting. Are all the crystals in your mines like that one?”

Miss Skywalker gestured to her brother, who reached into a pocket and pulled out two crystals. The tips of his fingers pressed into Finn’s palm as he set them there, and Finn swallowed and avoided the other man’s gaze. One of the crystals he recognized from the meeting; the other one was slightly smaller but no less pure, a clear, subtle yellow compared to the other’s slight pink. He held them in his palm; they were warm from their time spent in Sir Ren’s pocket, and Finn tried not to think about how they had been sitting so close to the man’s body. Instead he held the yellow crystal up to the sun, causing it to scatter the light, bathing all three of them briefly in tiny rainbow coins.

“It’s perfect,” he mused to himself, and glanced at Miss Skywalker, who was also gazing at the crystal, wearing a smile that made her nose scrunch up adorably and brightened up her face. Sir Ren wasn’t looking at the crystal; instead he was watching Finn, but when Finn caught his eye he inhaled quickly and looked away. It made Finn feel slightly nervous.

“To answer your question,” Miss Skywalker replied, taking the crystals from him and passing them back to her brother, “Yes. All of the crystals we have dug up most recently have been similar to these. They range the usual colors, but the clarity and purity is unparalleled.”

Finn nodded, the gears in his head turning quickly. “Excellent, excellent. Where will you be this afternoon, between three and four pm? I should be done with my meeting by that time. Shall I find you at your hotel?”

Rey grinned and shook her head. “No, Mister Lacoste. We’ll be at the City Park. There’s a grassy area near the carousel, with a few trees; we find it a pleasant place to cool down after the heat of the day. Shall you meet us there?”

Finn readily agreed, and gave them a bow before bounding off for his next meeting.

Embrace them. His mother’s ti bon ange had told him to embrace opportunities for success. And this was an opportunity Felix Lacoste did not intend to let pass.

Finn’s luncheon meeting went well, and he stopped by the club afterwards to discover that not only had his valet delivered the purple suit as requested, but he was waiting there to help him dress.

Tu es le meilleur, Snap, thanks so much for staying to help me with this.” The men chatted while Snap helped Finn strip out of his old suit - he had, indeed, sweated through it over the course of the morning - and rubbed him down with a towel before helping him into the fresh one.

“It's no trouble, sir, it's a pleasure to serve you.” Finn rolled his eyes but smiled; he knew Snap was being silly, but it was true; they did get along. Finn liked him much better than his previous valet, an elderly man who had tattled to his father when he would sneak out at night to rendezvous with Rose Tico. He hadn't appreciated that at all. Snap would never do something like that; he respected Finn’s privacy.

“I met a few interesting people today,” Finn said, as Snap buttoned up his white shirt. “I think they speak like you, a bit.”

Snap chuckled as he put in Finn’s cufflinks. “You mean they speak French very poorly?”

“No, don’t be ridiculous! You speak French très bien. I don’t know if they speak it at all, but they speak English with your accent, or something very close to it.”

Snap took Finn’s golden waistcoat and shook it gently before switching to English and saying, with an affected accent much stronger than his usual drawl, “Hareet, they speak English like they’re from up in Cumberland, frae Whitehaven to Carlisle, eh? Gar on, haddaway an shite!”

Once Finn had calmed his laughing Snap was already helping him pull on his frock coat, and Finn was finally able to respond. “Uh, non. Not exactly the same; they are, perhaps, just a bit more refined. Ger ohn, hahdaway an shahyt? Is that even English?”

Oui! Or perhaps non. In either case it’s the local dialect; influenced strongly by Norwegian settlers in the Middle Ages, I understand. That phrase means, uh, go away. I like the way it sounds.”

“I expect you do. Anyway, that sounds right, Cumberland. I believe that’s where Rose said they were from. Family called the Skywalkers, although apparently the heir doesn’t go by that name any longer. Calls himself Kylo Ren” He paused to give Snap a chance to straighten his cravat. “I don’t think Sir Ren likes me very much.”

Snap was uncharacteristically silent for a minute as he checked the buttons on Finn’s waistcoat once more. Finally he stepped back and spoke. “Yes, I’ve heard of that family. They’re well-known - a bit infamous, you might say.”


Another pause. Finn sensed that Snap was uneasy, and he wanted to know why.

“Snap, I’m thinking about investing in their kyber crystal mining operation, so if there’s anything relevant to that that I should know about, I would appreciate it if you would tell me.”

“Yes, Sir.” Snap nodded his head and smiled apologetically. “But I’m afraid all I know are rumors, and I wouldn’t want to mislead you with those. Nothing, as far as I know, touching the current generation; all forty, fifty years back at least.”

Finn checked his pocket watch; he would already need to rush to make it on time to his meeting with Mr. Hardy. He picked up his hat, and turned back to his valet.

“Snap, just in case, would you mind sending a telegram to your former employers, in my name, asking for any recent news about the Skywalker family? In particular the siblings - Rey Skywalker and Kylo Ren. Just in case.” He considered telling Snap how Rey had referred to Kylo as Ben but decided not to; it was already getting too complicated.

Snap nodded. “Just in case. Very good sir, I’ll do that right away.”

And without a glance back, Finn dashed away for his meeting; but he was already thinking about the park.

After his meeting with Mr. Hardy, which went even better than he expected it to, Finn hopped a streetcar up to the City Park. By the time he reached the carousel, being pulled in its slow rotation by a team of tired-looking mules, his pocket watch told him it was twenty minutes before four o’clock. He was a bit worried when he didn’t see the Skywalkers immediately, but he eventually found them, sitting in the grass, hidden in a comfortable shady area behind a few bushes.

Sir Ren stood up as he approached, his hat in hand. “Good afternoon, Mister Lacoste. I would like to apologize for shouting at you this morning; I was upset after the meeting, but I should not have taken my anger out on you.”

Finn was surprised, but took the man’s proffered hand and shook it. It was soft, as Mr. Cushing had pointed out that morning, but it was strong, and Finn couldn’t help but notice the girth and length of the man’s fingers, or how his hand enveloped his own. They stood like that for what seemed a long time to Finn, looking into each other’s eyes, but it must have been only a second before Rey called them both over and asked them to sit back on the ground. Finn removed his hat before he lowered himself to the ground, across from Rey. Her brother sat beside her.

“Hello, Mister Lacoste,” she said with that smile - the one that brought out her dimples. He interrupted her before she could ask how his day had been going.

“Please call me Finn. If we are to be friends, and I hope we are, you should call me by the name that my friends call me.”

Miss Skywalker tilted her head. “Very well. And you may call me Rey, and my brother, Kylo.” She looked at Kylo briefly, and he nodded at her.

Rey gave him a fond smile and turned back to Finn.

“I know that you want to talk business, but I am curious about your nickname. Fahn. How do you get that from Felix? Does it have a special meaning?”

“Yes of course. It’s from a French word, that means the end. Spelled eff eye en. My brother Philippe added a second en to it when I was very small, so now we spell it eff eye en en. But it’s the same word.”

Rey was frowning. “Wouldn’t eff eye en en be pronounced like fin - like a fish’s fin?”

Finn laughed heartily, and was relieved to see she didn’t appear offended. Kylo didn’t seem to be offended either, although he was staring at Finn as he had done earlier.

“It’s French, so is has a French pronunciation, like fahn, not feen.” Finn knew that his pronunciation wasn’t exactly the same as Rey’s, that his vowel was longer than hers, but she giggled at him so he supposed he didn’t mind too much.

“I do like the way you talk, though.” She said, lowering herself down on her arm, moving slightly closer to her brother in the process. “I enjoy the way a lot of people talk in New Orleans, but I like your accent especially. It’s the perfect combination of the local accent and, I don’t know, something a little bit different, more… civilized, maybe? Not to imply,” she added quickly, “that people in New Orleans aren’t perfectly civilized.”

Finn nodded. “I went to Paris for school when I was fifteen, and only returned last year. I was originally going to help with my father’s business, but I have four older brothers who have taken care of all that. So I get money instead, and lead a life of leisure.” He followed Rey’s lead and leaned over, stretching his legs out across the grass and resting on his elbow.

Kylo continued to sit quietly, just watching them, and plucking blades of grass only to throw them aside.

“Right, your father’s business,” Rey said. “Shipping? Which he built from the ground up? That’s what Mister Cushing said.”

“Shipping up and down the Mississippi. Ships come in the port from all over - Europe, Africa, the Caribbean - and the cargo goes right on our steamships, up the river for distribution. In fact my grandfather started the business, but he was over forty before, well, before he was able to start it, so most of the growth was my father’s hard work. And his brothers’, and my brothers’. But not mine.” He shrugged, and plucked a blade of grass of his own.

Rey was looking at him with curiosity. “Pardon me for asking, Finn, but how was your grandfather able to start a business at all? He was a freedman, if I understand correctly. How did he get the money?”

Finn hummed and rolled onto his back. The sky, although it was now gray and overcast, did its best to wink at him through the spaces between the leaves on the tree, waving in the breeze.

“He was bought by a friend of the family that owned him. My grandfather was allowed to be educated and was very smart, brilliant really, but the family was just using him in the house. So this man, a young man with a vision, convinced his owner to sell my grandfather, him and his family - my father was still quite young - and told the owner he was taking him for a servant too. But instead he freed them, gave grandfather a pile of money and helped him set up the business. It didn’t make the man too much money in my grandfather’s life, but by the time the man died my father had been running the business for years and he’d made a pretty penny from his investment. Do you want to know the best part?”

He turned his head to face them. Kylo was examining the grass, but Rey was gazing at him as though spellbound.

“What’s the best part?”

“The man didn’t have any heirs, and when he died it turned out he left everything - not only the payout of his investment, but everything he owned - to my father.” He laughed. “What do you think of that?”

Rey laughed too, and it sounded to Finn’s ears like bells on the wind. “I think that is the most marvellous thing I’ve heard in a long time. What do you think, brother?”

Kylo gazed at Finn, up through his eyelashes. “I think that sounds very lucky. And isn’t that what Felix means? Lucky?”

“It is, but that had nothing to do with me. My father was still young when he died, I wouldn’t be born for a long while yet.”

But Kylo smiled at him anyway, a little thing, and to Finn it was a gift. He was so entranced by it that he almost missed it when Rey spoke again.

“Hm? What was that?”

“Oh, I just said, now we know all about your family.”

“Oh, ho ho,” Finn replied, lifting himself back up and sitting on his knees. “You only know half of it. That’s my father’s family. Do you know about my mother?” The siblings traded a glance and then shook their heads.

Finn stood up. He thought this was a good time to tell this story; they would be negotiating soon, and they needed to know that, although he was no Carter Cushing, he wasn’t going to go easy on them. The two of them stayed on the ground, Rey still lying on her side, but they both gazed up at him, interest plain on their faces.

“My mother was Philomene Dessalines. Does the name Dessalines mean anything to you?” Rey frowned and shook her head; Kylo looked blank.

“What do they teach you in your English schools? Jean-Jacques Dessalines was a leader of the revolution in Haiti, one hundred years ago now; responsible for the defeat of the French, the massacre of thousands of them. He helped make Haiti a free country, and abolished slavery there. Dessalines was the first emperor of Haiti; my mother was his granddaughter, so I am his great-grandson. Do you believe in ghosts?”

They had both looked slightly horrified at the mention of massacre, which pleased Finn, and the sudden change of subject seemed to throw them off, which was also good. Kylo didn’t say anything, but Rey shook her head.

“I suppose I should, considering where we live, but I’ve never seen one, and I don’t think I do. Believe, I mean.”

“Well, I do. This place has a lot of ghosts, and a lot of superstitions about ghosts, but I’ve only seen one with my own eyes. Hers; my mother’s.”

Rey’s eyes were wide and shining. “My goodness. What did the ghost look like? Was it creepy - like a corpse?”

Finn thought the question was slightly morbid, but answered it. “I thought it was a lady in the house for years; it wandered the upstairs corridor. It just looked like a person, I didn’t recognize it as anything having to do with my mother. I never saw her in life; she died giving birth to me. That's how I got my nickname, in fact, my father called me sa fin, her end, then just fin, and my brothers started calling me that, and it stuck.”

Rey was leaning forward; she reminded him of a child listening to a ghost story around a fire. Kylo looked as though he was more interested in the story than he wanted to be.

“She spoke to me once, when I was ten years old. She told me that it was my strength that killed her; that I was the strongest of my brothers, and that's why she’d died. The last great Dessalines. Can you believe it?”

Rey gazed up at him with something like awe and nodded. Kylo murmured, just loud enough for him to hear, “I believe it.”

Finn lowered himself back down onto the ground and traded a grin with Rey. “So what about your family? The Skywalkers of Cumberland. Your grandfather was the first baronet?”

Kylo returned to contemplating the grass, and Rey shook her head. “No, our great grandfather, Anakin Skywalker. He fought with distinction on behalf of the crown against a series of Irish uprisings, and he was gifted the baronet in reward for his service.” She raised an eyebrow and offered Finn a sad smile. “Ironic, isn’t it.”


“Anyway, the family lived in our ancestral home, Mustafar Hall, in the hills of the Lake Country in Cumberland; the closest village is a little place called Coniston, right on the water, an hour or so by foot, downhill the whole way; or uphill, I suppose, if you're coming back to the house. It’s a bit bleak, up in the rocky hills, but it’s home. Yes, we still live there, although unfortunately Mustafar has declined very much in the last thirty years or so.”

“Do your parents live there too, in Mustafar Hall?”

Before Rey could answer Kylo cleared his throat, excused himself, and made his way out of their secluded spot. Finn looked at Rey quizzically and she shrugged. “He doesn’t like talking about our parents, I’m afraid. Bad memories. Anyway, our parents are both dead. Our mother fell down a cliff when I was small, and our father got quite ill and passed away about ten years ago. It’s been just us since then.”

“Not alone. Surely you have servants?”

Rey blushed. “No servants; it's just us, alone together. Well, men who help with the mining, but they live in the village. And a woman, who comes occasionally to help with the house.”

“Wait, so you run the house? On your own?”

“I do.”

Finn realized he was being rude but he could worry about that later. The situation of the Skywalkers seemed very strange to him indeed. “Rey, I know we’ve only met, and no offense to you but that can’t possibly appeal to you, although it is impressive. I saw your presentation this morning. Your heart is in engineering, if I’m not mistaken.”

“You are not mistaken, Finn.” Rey sighed, and pushed herself back up to a seated position slowly. “If I could spend all my days out in my workshop, experimenting with mining technology, I would. Unfortunately, we have no money with which to hire a staff. It all comes down to money. That’s why we need the drill. If we can just get the kyber crystals out of the ground, we would never need to worry about money again.”

“Right. So we come to investment of capital.” He looked around for Kylo, and found him in another nearby grove of trees. “I’ll go get your brother, and bring him back, so we can have that conversation.”

Rey nodded her agreement, and Finn rose and made his way slowly to where Kylo stood. The man was examining the branch of a tree, and as he got closer, Finn saw that what he thought was a strangely shaped leaf was in fact a chrysalis.

Finn came up beside him. “A chrysalis. Do you know what kind?”

Limenitis arthemis. Red-spotted purple. They’re quite common around here, apparently.” He knelt on the ground and pointed to the scattering of butterflies, their delicate wings a dark purple edged in blue, that dotted the ground under the branches of the tree.

Finn crouched beside him. “Oh, I hadn't seen them.” He picked one up by the wing, then noticed that its legs were moving and dropped it like it was hot. “They're dying.”

“Mmm.” Kylo squinted and looked up into the sky; it was overcast and growing more cloudy by the moment. Finn expected it would rain soon. “They take their heat from the sun and when it deserts them, they die.”

Finn gently stroked the wing of another fallen butterfly. “That's sad.”

Kylo almost smiled. “It's not sad, Finn. It's nature.” Rey’s brother picked up one of the twitching butterflies, its wing between his finger, and turned it this way and that. “It's a savage world of things dying or eating each other, right beneath our feet.”

Finn laughed incredulously. “Come now, surely there's more to it than that.”

Kylo eyed him over the edge of the butterfly’s wing. “Beautiful things are fragile. At home, in Mustafar, we have black moths. They’re formidable, to be sure, but they aren’t beautiful. They thrive on the dark and the cold.”

“What do they feed on?”

Kylo licked his lips and sighed. “Butterflies, I'm afraid.” And he set the insect back down on the ground, amongst its dying siblings.

That night, Finn had a dream. He was surrounded by warm skin, in front and behind; pink skin and tanned, with moles and dimples, large soft hands and small calloused ones. There were teeth on his neck and lips on his collarbone, dark hair and chestnut, all soft and smelling of flowers. There were butterflies in the air around them, and the sound of bells from far away. They writhed, Finn and his dream companions, and as they did the voice of his mother’s ti bon ange sounded from somewhere else.

Embrace them.

Finn awoke with a start as he came, a warm pool of spend soiling his pajamas and sheets. He couldn’t remember what exactly he’d been dreaming about, but he didn’t expect it could have been anything important.

Chapter Text

After the rain started, the meeting in the park turned into dinner at the hotel, and over the next week it became a series of meetings between Finn, Rey, Kylo, and, eventually, Finn’s attorney William Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson was also a member of Cushing’s investment group, and had been present during Rey’s demonstration early in the week. He was skeptical of the Skywalkers, and of Finn’s plans to invest in their company, but he knew Finn well enough to argue too strongly against it.

He also knew Finn well enough to see that he was becoming quite enamored with Miss Skywalker. They were spending afternoons together in the park, Sir Ren always standing watch nearby, and the three took dinner at the hotel in the evening. Mr. Ferguson could understand his young friend’s attraction to the woman. She was intelligent, clever, funny, and quite pretty. She knew how to talk to Finn. She asked good questions - about his family, his interests, his business - and seemed genuinely interested in his answers. She laughed at his jokes, and told her own. And if she didn’t encourage him to ask questions about her, or gave vague answers to the the questions he did ask, she could be forgiven. Perhaps she was shy, or perhaps her brother - her older, silent brother - had instructed her not to share too much about the family. In any case she was well within her rights to answer questions as she wished, and if Finn didn’t mind the lack of detail, Mr. Ferguson wasn’t going to mind either.

Finn’s valet Snap Wexley had also noticed his employer’s regard for the English woman, and he knew enough to be concerned. He hadn’t been entirely honest when informing him of the rumors that swirled around the Skywalker family. There were recent ones, disturbing ones; rumors that led some locals to believe the entire family and the land they lived on was cursed. Snap wasn’t sure he believed in curses, but he believed in the power of gossip to destroy innocent people, and he understood guilt by association. Every morning Snap awoke hoping that this would be the day that the telegram would arrive from Cumberland, that he could finally dissuade his employer from a potentially disastrous entanglement.

It was raining hard the night of the dinner party at Kes Dameron’s, a week and two days after Finn first met the Skywalkers, but although outside it was wet and relatively cold, the house was well-lit and the spirit of the host was as warm and welcoming as ever.

Mr. Dameron’s butler opened the door, but it was the man himself who greeted Finn as he stepped inside. He took a moment to shake off his umbrella, soaked from the quick sprint between the cab and the front porch of the Dameron home, one of many stately houses that lined St. Charles Avenue in Uptown New Orleans.

“Finn Lacoste! Bonjour! Hola! Bonswa! So glad you could make it tonight!” He leaned heavily on the walking stick he always carried in his left hand, but even with a pronounced limp he stood tall, the same height as Finn. Kes was taller than his son, and thinner, but he shared his son's curly hair and infectious smile. The men shook hands, as Rose skipped into the hall from the parlor, followed closely by Poe.

Rose waited for Finn to remove his overcoat before she greeted him with a kiss on the cheek.

“Sir Ren and Rey are already here, if you’d like to come in,” she whispered to Finn, as he shook Poe’s hand. Rose and Poe also understood the regard that Finn had for Rey - it wasn't really a secret among them - and he traded a grin with Rose as she took his elbow and allowed him to lead her to the parlor, where Kylo and Rey were across the room, sitting in comfortable chairs with a low table between them, drinks in their hands.

Finn released Rose, who stayed near the door to chat with her husband and father-in-law, and made his way to the Skywalker siblings. Kylo stood and said a quiet hello, Rey stayed seated but held a hand up for Finn to hold; her right hand, encased in a black glove, made of worn but soft kidskin. The action made them both laugh.

“Your glove!” Finn exclaimed. “The same glove you left at the house this morning, I hope?”

Rey nodded and took her hand back from him, holding it in a loose fist. “The very same. Dear Mister Wexley brought it back to the hotel just as we were preparing to head out for our afternoon constitutional, so it was perfect timing. I should have realized it was missing earlier, thanks so much for getting it back to me.”

“It was no trouble at all, I’m only sorry that I wasn’t able to deliver it myself. I had yet another meeting this afternoon with Mister Hardy.”

Rey sighed and rolled her eyes in mock exasperation. “That Mister Hardy! So demanding.” She was playful, flirtatious, and Finn couldn’t help but laugh again.

He took in her smile, her sparkling eyes, the way her mouth moved when she spoke, but he was distracted by the weight of the ring in his pocket, and the intensity of Kylo’s stare. Rey’s brother stood with them, sipping from a crystal tumbler of golden liquid, but aside from his greeting he didn’t speak. That’s how it seemed to be; Finn and Rey would talk, and laugh, and Kylo would stay silent and watch them.

The group was waiting for Carter Cushing to arrive with his daughter before starting dinner. The Walkers, notably, had not been invited; Finn gathered that Kylo Ren's attachment to Eunice was rather less than her mother has assumed. As he waited Finn girded himself internally for what he was planning to do next.

“Kylo?” He asked, and turned to the man, who still sipped silently at his tumbler of liquor. “May I have a word please?” He glanced from Kylo to his sister, both of whom regarded him with curiosity. “Um, privately?”

Kylo frowned and shook his head. “My sister and I have no secrets. Anything you wish to say to me, you may say in front of her.”

Finn froze; he hadn’t planned on Kylo refusing to step away with him, and he was trying to figure out how to respond when Rey stood. “Brother, I think if Finn wants privacy, I will give him privacy. Besides, you can always tell me what he says later.” And with a wink and a wave, she went over to stand with the others.

The corner of the room the men shared was silent, aside from the voices and laughter that filtered from the group by the door. Kylo was staring again, and as Finn cleared his throat to speak, Kylo set down his tumbler and took a step closer. They were very close, now, and Finn had to crane his neck to look into Kylo’s face. Over the past days the three of them had spent together, Finn had been able to focus his attention on Rey, and considered Kylo something like background noise. But that was impossible now. Finn had the ridiculous urge to lean forward, to push himself against the other man’s body in a show of strength, which he rejected immediately and refused to contemplate further. As Finn gathered his thoughts he watched Kylo’s eyes, no longer fixed; rather, they moved from side to side, up and down, and Finn felt as though he was being taken in. It was unnerving.

Kylo tilted his head, slowly, and lifted his chin. “What did you want to say to me?” His voice was soft, almost a whisper, and Finn almost shivered at the sound.

“I would like,” replied Finn, hoping he sounded braver than he felt, “to ask for your permission to propose to your sister.”

Kylo recoiled, his face drawn in shock, and he took a shaky step back. “My sister?”

“Yes, Rey.” It was clear to Finn that Kylo wasn’t expecting this, so he spoke quickly in the hopes he could explain his reasoning before Rey’s brother rejected him outright.

“Over the past week, I have come to hold your sister in the highest regard. She is intelligent, clever, and, I must say, she possesses a lively wit. I enjoy spending time with her. She also has a strong head for business, which, as a businessman myself, I appreciate. And, although I know that the class organizations between the States and Britain are different, I hope that my position as a well-established and well-off member of the upper class of New Orleans will make me a suitable match for the sister of a baronet.”

As he’d been speaking Kylo steadied, and by the time he was done with his speech Kylo had returned to his usual silent regard - although perhaps he stood a step or so further back than he had a minute ago.

“I cannot give you permission to propose to my sister,” Kylo said, in a tone that Finn thought was cold, even for him. “Nor can I deny it. She makes her own decisions. You are free to ask her to marry you, irregardless of me, and she is free to give you her consent to marry if she wishes. I don’t know if she will.” He paused, and glanced at the ground; Finn thought perhaps he was looking at his own feet. Then he glanced back up and gave Finn a small smile, which made Finn feel just a bit warm. “We haven’t talked about this. I apologize for my reaction; this was a bit of a surprise.”

“In that case, I apologize,” Finn said, returning his smile. “I thought my regard was obvious to you both.”

“I am not very well socialized,” Kylo said carefully. “I never went to school, you see. I should tell you this, in case it matters to you. I was schooled at home, and then I spent several years in Philadelphia, in the home of my uncle.”

“Philadelphia! I had no idea you had family in the States, or that you lived here.”

Kylo waved a hand as though shooing away a pesky fly. “No longer; our uncle is dead, and Mustafar is home. But aside from Rey, and the men who work with Rey on the mining, and occasionally people in the village, I am alone.” He held Finn’s gaze again. “I like to be alone.” His tone was earnest, but Finn didn’t believe him. He clearly liked to be with his sister.

Finn thought it might matter to some people that Kylo wasn’t educated, but it certainly didn’t matter to him, and it didn’t affect how he felt about Rey. “Kylo, I don’t care about your background, or Rey’s for that matter. I care about her, and I care about the future. So I will ask her to marry me, right now, and I hope that she will say yes.”

He turned but Kylo caught his arm before he could leave.

“There are… two things, I think, that we should discuss before you propose.”

Finn nodded and waited for Kylo to continue. The other man licked his lips; a nervous tic that flustered Finn, although he didn’t understand why, and he doubted Kylo knew it had that effect on him.

Rather than letting Finn go, Kylo tightened the hand on his arm imperceptibly. “First, I need to know if our business arrangement is dependent on a successful engagement, or marriage.”

“No!” Finn gasped, and his stomach turned with the thought that Kylo might have thought him capable of something like that. “No,” he insisted, “I want to marry your sister because I love her, and I hope she loves me, or could learn to. The business agreement is separate, and if she rejects my proposal the business will continue. I would not hold a rejection against her, or against you.”

Kylo’s hand loosened, although he did not let Finn’s arm go. Rey glanced over at them, but some secret signal from her brother had her turning her attention back to her friends.

“You love my sister?” Finn wondered at Kylo's confused expression, the question in his voice.

“I do,” he replied, “most ardently. These past days have been some of the most enjoyable in my life, and I credit her with that.” Kylo nodded, his expression running through a variety of options as though trying to decide what to settle on. Finn saw surprise, worry, anger, then happiness and sadness in quick succession.

Finn thought it was interesting that a man who spent so much of his time still and emotionless could so suddenly hold multiple expressions on his face at once, and just as quickly return to null. Which was exactly what he did; Kylo’s face became unreadable again.

“Forgive me; I thought you were in love with Missus Dameron.”

Finn sighed. “I was. We were childhood friends, the three of us, and Edith Cushing, who will be here tonight. Rose and I were always close, and when I returned from Paris I courted her. But while I was gone she and Poe had fallen in love. They had been afraid to tell me. Afraid to hurt me.”

Kylo nodded.

“But eventually it came out, of course, and they got married. It’s fine now, really. I don’t love Rose the way I did.” He glanced at the woman, standing across the room, holding her husband’s arm. “She’s more like a sister, I suppose, although not having a sister I can’t say. But surely you understand.”

This comment brought a crooked smile to Kylo’s face, and for the first time Finn noticed that he had dimples, deep ones in both cheeks. It was a lovely smile.

“I do understand,” Kylo replied. “Thank you for reassuring me. And of course it’s good that you love Rey; if you want to marry her you should love her.” He shrugged. “I've never loved a woman, aside from my sister, so I couldn't really say.”

Finn thought this was a good sign, and encouraged Rey’s brother to continue speaking. “And the second thing?”

“Yes, the second issue,” Kylo continued, “the second issue is more… urgent, I suppose. Personal. As you say, Rey has a head for business. She is the driving force behind the mining company at Mustafar. As such, she needs to be there; she designs the drills, she supervises the work. Nothing at Mustafar can happen without her influence. Do you understand?”

Finn understood, and he was kicking himself internally for not considering this aspect of the eventual marriage. He wasn't sure what he’d thought would happen; of course he couldn't expect Rey to just stay with him in New Orleans, when she had a business to run.

But he nodded, and said, “I understand.” And he waited to see what Kylo might suggest.

The man’s hand was still holding Finn’s arm, and the warmth of his fingers was beginning to leach through the fabric of Finn's coat. He squeezed again, gently, before speaking.

“What I will suggest, then, is that - if Rey accepts your proposal - you get married here, in the city, and you come with us, back to Mustafar.”

Finn couldn't keep the incredulity out of his voice. “You want me to leave New Orleans, to live with you in England?”

“Yes.” Kylo was emphatic. “For one year, which should be enough time to get the mine running and hire and train a replacement for Rey. One year in England, and then, if she agrees, you can take her back with you to New Orleans, or wherever you wish.”

“And you would be alone.”

The other man nodded, his face like stone. “Indeed. But as I said, I like to be alone.”

Before Finn could say a word or make another move there was a commotion at the door. The Cushings had arrived, so there was a fresh burst of greetings, and hugs and shaking hands, and Finn didn’t have the opportunity to pull Rey away for a moment of privacy before it was time to sit down to dinner.

Dinner was tasty, and dinner was frustrating, and dinner took far too long. Kes Dameron loved food, and to laugh, and he loved to have parties to share his food and laughter with his friends. Tonight was a typical Dameron dinner party, with all the usual courses and a group of interesting people.

Rose was acting as hostess, so she claimed the head of the table and Kes the foot. The others were in rows down the long sides of the table; Rose said she had tried to maintain an arrangement that alternated men and ladies, but since there were more men than ladies Poe sat to the left of his father, and Finn was placed at the center of the other side, flanked by Rey at his left and Kylo at his right. Directly across from him was Edith Cushing, Carter Cushing’s daughter. She moved in different circles than the other three - she was a writer, and preferred to spend her time with the people who made up the New Orleans art scene when she wasn’t alone, writing - but she was still a good friend, and a lovely person to sit across from at dinner.

“Why good evening, Miss Cushing,” Finn said with a smile as he used a tiny fork to work a raw oyster out of its shell.

“Why good evening, Mister Lacoste,” Edith repeated with a charming laugh. “I haven’t seen you in ages. How is the life of leisure? I’ve heard a rumor that you’ve been keeping busy recently.”

He answered the best he could, considering how his mind was swirling with thoughts of Rey, of Kylo, of England. “That particular rumor is true; I’m investing in Sir Ren and Miss Skywalker’s kyber crystal mining operation, and we’ve been meeting about details with Mister Ferguson over the past week. The crystals are of immensely high quality, and I have seen the plans for the drill, and a demonstration. I think it’s a solid investment.” He swallowed the oyster and set down the fork, his hand drifting to his pocket. The ring was still there, solid, perhaps even heavier than it had been before.

A glance to his left, and Finn found Rey wrapped up in a conversation with Kes and Poe. She hadn’t even heard what he said; he rather wished she had. On his other side he felt rather than saw both Kylo - intent on his plate - and Mr. Cushing, across from him, silent and sipping a glass of white wine. The two men hadn’t spoken since the disastrous meeting the week before, and Finn suspected that Rose sat them together as an attempt to work past that. It looked like Rose had been asking them questions, trying to get them to converse, but neither of them were responding, so instead she was telling them about the photography studio she and Poe were setting up on the top floor of the Cotton Exchange Building.

Finn asked Edith about her current story, and she described it with enthusiasm. It was a story, with a ghost, “But not a ghost story,” she insisted. “The ghost acts as a metaphor, a pretext, to talk about spirituality.”

By the time she was done describing the story, the entire table was listening. Finn had only heard half of what she said; he was distracted by the woman to his left, how she struggled with the oysters, slurped her soup, chomped her food in large mouthfuls. Having shared many meals with Rey over the past days Finn had become familiar with her manners at the table, and although they had put him off at the beginning, just a bit, he now found them charming. Charming, and hard to ignore. Her brother had much better manners - he supposed his time with the uncle in Philadelphia might be to account for that - but his silence and demeanor, although it seemed to be designed to be as inconspicuous as possible, were just as distracting to Finn as his sister was. The ring in his pocket was distracting as well, it almost felt as though it wished to make itself known. He was aware of it, even when he wasn’t touching it. It made him feel conscious, mindful; or perhaps that the ring itself was conscious of him.

Topics of conversation swirled around Finn as the courses were brought out and set in front of him. Not too many, thank goodness. He had very little appetite but ate everything anyway, because he feared that if he left food on his plate Rose would notice and mention it, and he didn’t want to deal with her questions just at the moment. After the oysters and soup there was blackened trout, a beef roast with potatoes, a garden salad, and sliced fruit and cheese. When the meal ended Finn was stuffed, but he couldn’t remember the taste of the food, or the details of any of the conversation. The ring in his pocket was whispering to him now; the weight of it threatened to pull him out of his chair.

Dinner was over, and everyone was preparing to move to the drawing room for coffee, so Finn finally had an opportunity to pull Rey aside. The others noticed - Rose and Poe both smiled on their way past them, and Kylo gave his sister a look that Finn couldn’t quite parse; a minor variation on his usual intense expression. As the others went to the drawing room Finn led Rey back into the parlor, now empty. Since the evening had cooled off flames danced behind the grate of the fireplace on the far side of the room. They sat next to each other in the chairs that Rey and Kylo had occupied not two hours before.

Rey’s expression was uncertain, and that made Finn nervous. He’d hoped she knew what was coming, but after the earlier conversation with Kylo, he was sure now that she didn’t.

He took her hand - she had placed her gloves back on her hands following the meal - and thought about stroking her fingers through the soft of the leather, although he did not. Her hand and her eyes were both warm, and watched him attentively as he made his proposal.

“Miss Skywalker, although our acquaintance has been brief, I have found myself captivated by your intelligence and charm. I believe - I hope - that you have likewise grown fond of me. I believe we are well matched, you as the sister of a baronet, and myself as the son of a well-regarded businessman. It would mean very much to me if you would consent to be my wife, and take me as your husband.”

Finn stopped, and waited for Rey to respond.

Rey did not normally remind Finn of her brother, but in this moment the family resemblance was uncanny. Her face was still, aspect empty, eyes intense and staring into his own. He had always supposed that this expression on her brother represented true indifference, but he realized that it did not; it was a mask. A hiding of emotion behind a null visage. This awareness touched him deep inside, although he wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, or what to do with it.

“This is why you spoke to my brother. Before dinner.” Her voice was calm and flat; as impassive as her face.

Finn nodded. “Yes. I asked for his permission to propose.”

“What did he say to you? Yes, I suppose, since you’re asking.”

“On the contrary, he told me he was unable to approve my request because permission is not his to give.”

At this news Rey’s eyes warmed, and the corners of her lips turned up slightly. “That was a good answer. Did he say anything else?”

“He did. He asked if our business arrangement is dependent on a successful engagement or marriage.”

Her left eyebrow lifted slightly. “And?”

“It is not, of course not. You can say no without any fear of reprisal from me.”

She sighed, and shifted her eyes so they focused on their hands, Finn’s still pressed against her own, held together between them.

“He also said that if we married, I would be expected to come live with you at Mustafar, for a year. Because the business is dependent on you, and you would need a year to hire and train a replacement.”

Rey frowned, causing a wrinkle to form between her eyebrows. Finn longed to smooth it out with his thumb.

“He said that?” Her fingers stiffened under his, and she pulled away and stood quickly. “Excuse me, please. I need to speak to my brother before I can give you an answer. Will you wait here? I should only be a few minutes.”

She fled the room without a glance behind her, and Finn spent the next several minutes staring into the fire, toying with the ring, considering the mysterious behavior of both of the Skywalkers, and wondering why he found himself so very attracted to it.

Rey returned about ten minutes later, with Kylo at her back. Her eyes were red-rimmed but she was smiling; her brother was wearing his mask, but watched Finn with eyes that could have been wary. Finn stood to greet them, and Rey took his hand. Her hand was shaking, and so was his. He had certainly eaten too much at dinner, and his nervousness was so strong he was afraid he might vomit it up. Rey’s smile eased his mind, but he worked hard to mask his own impatience before she finally spoke.

“Finn, I apologize for making you wait. If your proposal stands, I would like to accept it, with the understanding that we will marry as soon as possible and that you will return with us to Mustafar for a year.”

Relief flooded Finn’s entire body, relief and joy, and he was torn between jumping up and down and passing right out on the floor. Neither of those were acceptable, so he settled for assuring her that yes, the proposal stood, that he accepted her acceptance, and that he was happy and hopeful for their future together.

Finn was still chattering, high on satisfaction, when he remembered the ring, which was now cupped in his left hand. He lowered himself to one knee in front of his fiancée, and held up the ring.

“I almost forgot,” he said apologetically. “This ring belonged to my mother. It isn’t her own engagement ring - that went to my brother Étienne - but it was important to her. She was wearing the matching pendant when I was born - when she died - and it’s buried with her. I would like to give this to you as a sign of my regard and my affection for you.”

Rey pulled off her gloves and handed them to her brother. She then presented her left hand to Finn, allowing him to slip the gold band onto the finger next to her pinky; it fit perfectly. The ring had a single stone, a square-cut kyber crystal that shone slightly yellow in the light of the sconces. Wordlessly, Rey brought her hand up before her face and rotated her wrist, causing the meager light to strike the crystal from all possible angles. She was entranced - eyes focused, mouth slightly open - and entrancing. Finn couldn’t take his eyes off her. She’s mine, he thought to himself, and shivered with anticipation.

“This is one of ours,” she whispered, and Kylo - Kylo, who was still there, Finn had forgotten he was there - Kylo stepped up from behind her and inspected the stone himself.

“It’s yours? You mean it’s from the mine at Mustafar?” Finn asked as he stood to join them in their examination, and followed Rey when she approached the fireplace.

“Exactly, I think so at least. Look at that color, and the purity. There are only a few mines in the world that produce crystals like this, and Mustafar is one of them. Do you know where you mother got the ring, or when?”

“I’m not certain. She inherited most of her crystals from her mother, who collected them her whole life. In this case, I know, she acquired the raw crystal, then had it cut and set into the ring, and the pendant. So the 1830s? 40s maybe?”

Rey nodded, a look of satisfaction on her face. “Yes, that would make sense. Mustafar was producing well through that period.” She leaned against Finn, and his heart stuttered. “This is a good sign, don’t you think?”

She held the ring up in front of him again. It flickered orange under the light of the flames, and for a second Finn thought there was another color in the center of the stone, something approaching red, but then the light changed and he decided he must have been mistaken.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Yes, I think it’s a good sign indeed.”

Kylo, behind them, opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a heavy flurry of knocks on the front door of the house. The three hurried to the front hall to see what the matter could be, and they arrived just as the butler opened the door and the others bustled in from the drawing room.

“Mister Roche!” Kes Dameron declared, stepping up to the flustered, very wet man who dripped unhappily onto the hardwood floor as the butler helped him off with his overcoat. “Is something wrong with Mister Lacoste?”

Finn jumped forward to stand with Kes; Roche was Andre Lacoste’s valet, and his appearance at the door in the middle of a dinner party could indeed indicate an emergency at the Lacoste house. But Roche shook his head, although he turned to Finn with misery etched on his face.

Monsieur, je m’excuse. I apologize for coming to you like this, but it’s Mister Wexley, sir. He’s been murdered.”

Assassiné!” Finn shouted in shock; he felt as though the breath had been knocked out of him. Although neither Kylo nor Rey spoke French the shock of the rest of the group was enough to inform them of the seriousness of the moment.

“Yes sir,” Roche continued in English, shaking. One of the other servants draped a blanket around his shoulders, and Poe brought him a chair and lowered him into it as he explained. “Tonight was his evening off, as you know, so nobody realized he was missing, until a boy found him behind the little church, oh, that’s on the block of St. Charles between Foucher and Delachaise Streets.”

“Oh!” Exclaimed Rey. “That’s just down the street from our hotel. Isn’t it?” She asked, turning to Finn.

“Yes,” he confirmed, “just a few blocks down from there.”

Rey grasped his elbow and leaned into him. Her eyes were wide and the blood had drained out of her cheeks. “Oh dear. He was there, just at three o'clock this afternoon. As Kylo and I were preparing to walk to the park. The glove. What happened to him?” She addressed the question to the valet, who was now sipping on a cup of coffee that Rose had brought him from the drawing room. Rose and Edith flanked him, Kes and Carter Cushing stood nearby, and the support seemed to calm him.

Still, the man shuddered, the coffee cup clinking against the saucer. “They believe he was mugged; violently mugged. His pockets were emptied, they took his signet ring and his pocket watch. They hit… they crushed...” He started to cry. “He was such a good man. He was a friend.”

The women were crying, too; Finn could feel Rey’s tears on her shoulder, and her put an arm around her and pulled her close. He swallowed down his own tears, not wishing to weep in front of her, or her brother. “I didn’t know him well,” she whispered, “but he did seem like a good man.”

“He certainly was,” Finn cleared his throat and pressed his lips against her hair before stepping away. “I’m sorry, but I need to leave. May I call at the hotel in the morning?”

Rey smiled through her tears, and nodded. “Of course. I look forward to it.” Finn glanced at Kylo, back in his mask, eyes dark and inscrutable. Nevertheless the men nodded at each other, a silent acknowledgment, though Finn didn't know of what.

Finn helped Roche back into his wet coat, and said his mournful goodbyes before he escorted the old valet to the waiting car. It was only much later, after he had spoken to the police, helped settle his father, and arranged for a telegram to be sent to Snap Wexley’s family in England, that Finn realized he hadn’t informed the rest of the gathering of his and Rey Skywalker’s engagement. He felt elated and ill that the best and the worst moments of his life may have occurred in the same evening, and he simply was not sure what to make of that.

Chapter Text

Years later, Finn would remember the events of the week following the murder as a series of vignettes, ugly and beautiful by turns.

Walking up Canal Street to make the official identification of Wexley's body at the county morgue, the golden sunlight a contrast to the cold grief lodged in his chest. He’d had to rely on the shape of the man’s chin and hands because his face was unrecognizable.

Kissing Rey’s lips for the first time, in the parlor of the Dameron house, only hours later. Her mouth was soft and sweet and good, and Finn couldn't wait for it to be his.

Signing the documents to have Wexley's body shipped back to England, and deciding that since he would be traveling to Cumberland himself it made sense for him accompany the body.

Rey’s disappointment at the news that she would be accompanying the body, too.

Rey’s concern about her brother, who would travel with them only as far as Philadelphia, where he would be presenting a lecture on the flora of Cumberland at the Academy of Natural Sciences. She had originally planned to travel there with him, on their way home, but the logistics made necessary by the murder and Finn’s response to it meant it was impossible for her to join him there. Finn overheard their hushed conversations: would Mr Alexander MacElwee meet him at the station? Would he still be welcome to stay with Dr Martha Bunting if Rey was not with him? Her concern for his well-being was admirable to Finn, and he loved her for it even as he thought it strange. After all, a grown man should be capable of traveling on his own, in a city in which he’d already lived ten years of his life.

Kylo's face when Finn asked him about the topic of his lecture, and how he glowed when talking about Adiantum pedatum, the maidenhead fern, one of his favorite plants native to Cumberland County. He also described his own cabinet of curiosities, located in the attic of Mustafar Hall, full of plants and minerals and preserved fauna that Kylo had collected since returning to England. When Finn expressed interest in the cabinet Kylo smiled shyly, a secret thing that made Finn warm, and promised to give him a full tour, once he was back, just a few days after Finn and Rey were scheduled to arrive.

Through all of it, Finn missed Wexley. He’d been a constant presence for months, and for him not to be there with Finn's breakfast in the morning, or his nightcap before bed, was strange. He wondered if he would ever get used to the loss. He checked with the police office every day, but there was no news; no one had seen anything, there were no clues. It appeared that the murderer would get away with his crime. Finn’s heart ached for Wexley’s family, and he agonized about what he would say when he met them. How could he possibly apologize for losing their son, their brother, when he was under his care?

The one thing Finn would remember clearly about that crowded week was his wedding day, the day he and Rey made their vows to each other. The day he began his journey to becoming a Skywalker.

The wedding itself was lovely, a relatively intimate affair at Finn’s family home. Relatively intimate because Finn’s family was expansive. His father was there, of course, and aunts, uncles, cousins. Three of his brothers and their wives and children were there; Philippe, the fourth brother, just three years older than Finn, had moved some years before to run the Saint Louis office of the family business, but he sent a telegram with his regards. Finn’s friends came too, Poe and Rose Dameron, Rose's sister Paige, and Edith Cushing.

Rose, Paige, Edith, and Finn’s two youngest sisters-in-laws, Emilie and Juliette, had helped Rey find a dress and style her hair for the ceremony. She was radiant, a vision in white with flowers in her hair and a nervous smile that softened as her brother (his own expression stony as usual) walked with her down the stairs and into the main room where Finn waited for her by the fireplace. He was flanked by Poe, who was his best man, and the family minister. He wore his purple suit, because it was his favorite, and because he’d been wearing it the day they met, and Rey had seemed to find it attractive.

Kylo led Rey through the gathering to Finn, his hand shaking as he took Finn’s right hand in his own and joined it with Rey’s. For a moment the three of them were together, hands joined, and Kylo squeezed them before stepping back and leaving Rey and Finn alone.

Their vows were simple, but Finn meant every word.

I, Felix Lacoste, take thee, Rey Skywalker, to my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.

She spoke the same words to him, her vows, with tears in her eyes.

A few minutes later Finn gave her the ring, again, his mother’s ring, the kyber crystal shared with the pendant in her tomb. Rey’s ring, always and forever, hers along with his heart.

With this Ring I thee wed, with my Body I thee worship, and with all my worldly Goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

At the end of the ceremony Rey and Finn kissed, and laughed, and everyone ate brunch, eggs and bacon and muffins, and there was champagne and cake to finish.

But when it was time to cut the cake, the bride was nowhere to be found. Finn had been caught in business-related conversations with his father, his eldest brother Etienne, Kes Dameron, and Carter Cushing, and he was pleased to have an excuse to leave. He walked from room to room, tripping over nieces and nephews and graciously accepting kisses and congratulations from everyone else. No-one had seen Rey, though, and it was only luck that led him to her. He hadn’t considered looking outside; it was raining, and muggy, so everyone had stayed indoors, small fans gripped in every hand trying desperately to fight the damp stuffiness. But he happened to glance out a window in the study, which faced the side porch, and he caught a glimpse of her veil, like white mist rippling in the wind.

Kylo Ren was with her. Finn couldn’t see Rey well; they were standing several feet down the porch from the window, and Rey was close to the wall, but he could see Kylo, and Kylo was crying. At first Finn thought it was mist from the rain that dampened his face, but a tear escaped his left eye and rolled down his cheek, until his sister wiped it away with her thumb, then rested her palm against where the tear had been. Kylo Ren was not a man who expressed emotion, and the few times Finn had witnessed it, it had felt like a gift, a secret glimpse at the man behind the mask. But he’d never seen him sad, seen him cry. Finn was intrigued.

Kylo leaned into his sister’s hand, and kissed her wrist, and Finn breathed slowly through his mouth. A sudden gust of wind blew Rey’s veil around Kylo, and he laughed through his tears, reaching for the edges of the fabric and clutching them tightly when he found them. He bit his lip, and moved as though to wrap the veil around his fists, but then Poe called from the doorway and Finn had to look away.

“First the bride, now the groom’s gone missing too! Rose wants cake, and your Aunt Celeste is going to reach existential despair if she doesn’t get some sugar, too. Have you found your wife?”

Finn cleared his throat and gestured to the window. “She’s on the porch, with her brother. I’ll go get her now.”

Poe frowned, but he nodded and let Finn past him so he could walk down the hall to the back door. Finn took his time, and when he reached the door he rattled the knob and stomped perhaps more than necessary. They had been having a private conversation, clearly, and he wanted to make sure they knew he was coming.

They greeted him warmly, Rey looking beautiful and Kylo unsmiling; if Finn hadn’t seen him crying earlier he never would have guessed. They followed him inside, Rey on his arm and Kylo trailing behind.

The cake was delicious.

It was a lovely event, but there wasn’t time to linger; Finn and Rey and Kylo Ren (and dear departed Mr Wexley) had a train to catch.

While the previous week had been marked primarily by being too full, the next two days were the exact opposite. Long, boring, and most of all, frustrating.

Frustrating because Finn couldn’t get a moment alone with his wife. Rey had insisted on separate sleeping cars for the train, and although it was within his right to decline her wishes, he wasn’t going to. He suspected it was her attachment to Kylo. She was so nervous about his trip to Philadelphia, although Finn still had no idea why and she still hadn’t told him. He hesitated to ask; it didn’t seem like it was his business, but most of all he wanted her to tell him of her own free will. But she didn’t, and he was stubborn, so he lived with that frustration.

The two days it took to carry them from New Orleans to New York, where they would catch the steamer, the three of them spent mostly in the lounge car. Kylo would read and make notes for his lecture, Rey would sit quietly and look out the window, and Finn would read a bit, but mostly he would think about his wife. He wondered what she felt like, what she tasted like. He also wondered if she’d been touched before, and if so, how. Did she enjoy sex? Would she enjoy him? Would she let him touch her the way he wished to?

When he tired of thinking about his wife, Finn would think about her brother. The more Finn watched Kylo the more appealing he found him, and he wondered if this were strange. He’d seen many good-looking men in his life, in New Orleans and in those particular salons in Paris that he prefered to frequent, but never one quite as striking as Sir Kylo Ren. It was his eyes, Finn thought. His eyes, and something about the composition of his face. His nose was too long, his chin too weak, his ears too large, but taken together they were attractive; Finn couldn’t deny it. Sometimes Rey and Kylo would speak, lean close with heads together, and he would watch them. They were devoted to each other, like peas in a pod; beautiful peas in a private pod, with room only for them. Those two nights, alone on the train, reaching for sleep, Finn thought of Rey, and of Kylo, his wife and his new brother, so beautiful and charming and his.

Rey seemed wary, as though she was afraid Finn might judge her close relationship with her brother and find it strange. On the contrary, Finn admired their closeness, was even a bit jealous. He had never been remotely close to any of his brothers. It would be lovely to have someone with which to share secrets, stories, gentle touches. Finn hoped Rey would be this person for him; perhaps her intimacy with her brother could transfer to Finn as well.

They left Kylo in Philadelphia, from the door of the train straight into the arms of Mr Alexander MacElwee, the Curator of the Herbarium at the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, a friendly man about fifty years of age who still spoke with the brogue of his homeland. He promised to take good care of Sir Ren, and Rey hugged her brother tearfully before jumping back on the train into the waiting arms of her husband.

As much as Finn was sad to see Kylo go, he knew that they would see him again soon; and he was very much looking forward to having his wife to himself, for a bit.

They arrived in New York just in time for dinner. The steamer would depart in the morning, and they had a room at a hotel near the docks - just one room, for the two of them. Finn was hopeful. But Rey was tired, and Rey was sad, so instead of taking her as he wished Finn spent the evening holding her close, kissing her face and hair, and insisting that all would be well. She would see Kylo again soon.

They whispered, in the dark. He told her he loved her, and she said that she loved him too. So that was good.

Finn fell asleep very soon after she did, and by noon the following day they were watching the Lady Colossus and her torch grow smaller and smaller, as their steamer moved out into the open ocean.

“Pass the butter? Please?” Rey smiled at Finn and mouthed thank you as he handed her the butter dish, lifting it over the platter full of ice and oysters that dominated the center of their small table, in the steamer’s first class dining room. As he swallowed another of the salty jewels Finn watched his wife slather a piece of bread with a thick layer of butter, before taking a shell herself - her fifth or sixth, he thought - and pushing the oyster around the shell with her tiny fork.

“Do you eat a lot of oysters at home?” He asked, as she slurped on the shell, chewing twice before swallowing, giving him a grin, and adding the shell to the growing collection in the bowl next to the platter.

“Of course,” she answered, taking a bite of her bread and butter, chewing and swallowing. “We’re quite near the coast, and oysters are plentiful from south of us, all the way up to the Highlands.”

Rey took a sip from her water glass, then eyed the tray of oysters. “My brother loves oysters especially. He would eat them every day, if he could.” She made her selection and used her fork to detach it from the shell, as she had the several she’d already eaten. Lifting it up to her mouth, she raised an eyebrow and inquired, “Do you like to eat oysters, Finn?”

There was something about the way she asked him that made the blood rush to his cheeks. As the shell reached her mouth she pushed her tongue out, and moaned audibly as it lifted the meat and drew it into her mouth, where she sucked on it while staring at him, waiting for his answer.

“I enjoy an oyster every now and then, of course,” he answered, taking one from the tray and preparing it. “They’re not exactly my favorite, but they’re good.”

Rey hummed, and took another bite of bread and butter, and didn’t ask any more questions about food.

Chapter Text

After dinner, as they walked from the dining room back to their stateroom, Finn considered how to approach their second night alone together. He desperately wanted to have sex with his wife, which was still surprising to him. Intercourse was not something that Finn had desired much in his past. He enjoyed sensuality, and appreciated the erotic, but the act itself was not usually appealing. He preferred to watch, to participate in other ways. Besides Rey, Rose was the only other person he had desired enough to wish to undress them, to pleasure them with his own body and take his own pleasure from them. But since he had decided that he wanted Rey physically, it was becoming more and more difficult to deal with his own desire.

And now they were three steps from the stateroom and he had no idea how to proceed. They hadn’t even discussed it. Was she a virgin? What did she expect from him? Her flirtation over dinner, as strange as it had been, seemed to indicate that she had some interest in having sex with him, but how were they supposed to talk about it?

It turned out there was very little talking to be done. They stepped into the room and Finn closed and locked the door behind him, turned around, and Rey was right there. She took a step forward and he automatically took one back, stopping only when his back hit the door. But she didn’t stop. She moved forward, pressed her body against his, wrapped her strong hands around his upper arms and pushed them against the door, too. Her lovely face was turned up to his, gazing up at him with eyes that were full of a strong emotion he couldn’t place but didn’t find attractive. As he returned her gaze her lips parted and she bared her teeth and growled. The expression was so out of place he froze, uncertain of what to do, of what even was happening. As he considered she pressed her hips forward, and rubbed her body against his in a way that would have seemed erotic were it not for her feral expression, for the emotion in her eyes that spoke of anger and pain, so out of place in her beautiful, soft face.

Finn considered stopping her. He could; he was stronger than she was and this was strange and wrong. However, Rey had been acting oddly most of the day, and Finn was aware of her attachment to her brother, and this was her first time apart from him since… he didn’t know. Had they been apart since Kylo’s return from Philadelphia? He wasn’t even sure how long ago that was. Perhaps she missed Kylo, but was afraid to say so.

So unless she said otherwise, Finn would assume that this behavior was due to her brother’s absence, and he would give her what she needed. And it appeared, from the growling and the teeth and the rubbing against his body, that she wanted him, but needed to feel like she had control. He decided that he would give it to her.

Finn experimented by gently pushing back against her, not with his full strength. She cried out and thrust herself forward, hard, and his back struck the door again with an audible bang. This required a warning.

He kept his voice calm and quiet, but injected as much authority as he could. “Rey, we can do this your way, but we need to be quiet. We do not want the ship’s security officer coming in here and finding a black man and a white woman having a physical altercation. They will not care that I am your husband. Do you understand?”

Rey’s immediate reaction was surprise and her expression softened slightly. Although the pain in her eyes did not dim, she backed away and let him move past her.

“Away from the door, then,” she said, as she tossed her shawl and hat on the armchair in the center of the room and attacked the small buttons that closed the front of her dress. She made quick work of them, handling every fastening as though it personally offended her, grunting softly with each small release. He watched her as he slowly removed his own clothing, with control: coat and vest and shirt and trousers and drawers. He was a gentleman, and she was a little animal in a fairy tale, forced to live as a human but able to return to its natural form in the evening. Ma petite fauve, he thought to himself. Mon petit monstre. He longed to push his furious little creature over the arm of the chair and fuck her from behind, until she cried and begged for release. If this were a fairy tale he would make her come on his cock and he would spill in her and then she would no longer be an animal, she would be a human forever, tamed and docile.

Watching her rip off her undergarments - petticoat, chemise, and finally bloomers - cursing under her breath all the while, revealing to him for the first time the full expanse of her skin, golden and smooth, undergirded by muscles, shoulders decorated with a sprinkling of freckles, he was very sure that wasn’t what he wanted. So he stood still, naked in the corner, surrounded by the remnants of his own suit, and waited for her to decide what she wanted to do next.

What Rey wanted, first, was a kiss. Once she had divested herself of all her clothing she gave Finn no time to scrutinize her across the room. She stepped to him quickly, grasped his head with both of her hands, and attacked his mouth with hers much as she had attacked the buttons on her dress. Here was his fauve, with tongue and teeth, snarling into his mouth. He had no idea what she expected him to do, so he returned her kiss as gently as he could, placed his hands on her hips, and accepted what she had to give him. She didn't ask for his consent, although he gave it willingly. She would learn to ask; he could teach her that.

The kissing didn’t seem to calm her; instead it both excited her and made her more angry. Finn could smell her arousal, sweet and musky, and he was greedy for it, but still he waited even as his cock grew hard and stood up between their bodies. After a few minutes Rey moved her mouth to his chin, and then his neck, where she nipped and sucked, growling all the while. Her hands began to wander as well, from his head to his shoulders and then to his chest. As she moved her hands she crooked her fingers and scratched him, almost cruelly, long raking scratches that hurt and would probably leave pink streaks against the dark of his skin, still visible in the morning. But he could put up with it, if it was what she needed.

Rey scratched her way down Finn’s body until her hands finally reached his hips, at which point she took a step back and they both looked down. His cock stood at attention, long and hard and brown; pink where his foreskin was pulling down to expose the sensitive tip. Rey growled once more, took it in hand, and squeezed. Finn moaned at the sensation.

She began to move her hand on him, pulling his foreskin up over the head of his cock, and then pushing it back down. She did it several times, mouth open, breathing deeply, before she spoke.

“On the bed,” she ordered as she tugged him to the foot of the lower bunk. She glared at the bed and he was afraid she might spit on it. “This bed is too small. I hate it.” He had no answer for her; he happened to agree, but there was nothing they could do about it. So he followed her instruction, crawled down the full length of the bunk, and laid on his back with his head on the pillow. Before he was even aware she had climbed on top of him she impaled herself on his cock, snarling, and began riding him vigorously, one hand between her legs and the other on his chest for balance. He brought his hands to her breasts, and as she fucked herself on him he massaged them, palming the soft skin underneath and squeezing her pink nipples tenderly between his fingers. She let him do it, and moaned when he caressed her, the growing slickness inside her betraying any remaining external signs that she wasn’t enjoying it. That pleased him, very much.

After the events of the past several minutes, if there was any doubt in Finn’s head that his wife was not a virgin, this was the moment that doubt was crushed. She had definitely had sex before, multiple times. She knew how to take pleasure from a man and she was taking it now, changing angles and adjusting the speed of her thrusts, and all the time rubbing herself between her legs, bringing herself closer and closer to release. Her movements weren’t designed for his pleasure, although they felt very good. The tension of her orgasm was building inside her, he could feel it on his cock, and it excited him, too. Her eyes were closed; if the top bunk had been higher Finn had no doubt she’d have been fully upright, riding him as a queen rides a horse in a parade, if the queen is an animal in heat. Instead she was bent over him, her face close to his but not looking, not kissing, not even acknowledging him. Her mind was elsewhere; he suspected she was thinking about someone else.

He would give her what she needed, but he needed something, too. When he sensed that she was getting very close, when her movements grew erratic, her breathing rough and interspersed with moans, he squeezed both of her nipples, hard. Her eyes flew open as she cried out in pain, and those eyes, full again of anger, were set squarely on his face.

What the hell?” Rey yelled, not as loudly as she might, Finn was glad to note, but her teeth and the underlying growl were back.

In a single move he lifted his hips and placed his own hands around her waist, pushing her down hard onto his cock. “When you come on me,” he demanded, “you look me in the eyes.”

Rey was livid, face red, and she snarled and growled again like a beast. He could feel her orgasm still coiled up inside her, just waiting to surrender. Still he held her tight, and she ground herself against him, chasing her own pleasure; his thumbs joined her fingers on the bundle of nerves at the apex of her thighs.

Ma petite fauve,” he whispered past her growling. “Mon petit monstre. Mon ange.”

The coil had reached its limit. Rey’s hips vibrated against Finn’s, her face contorted as she cried out and fell forward onto him, tears and hot skin against his shoulder. He lifted her hips and fucked her through her orgasm, and pulled out at the end, spilling his own release onto his stomach.

Rey only rested for a moment, just enough time to catch her breath. She climbed off and didn’t say anything. At first Finn thought she was going to clean up and come back, but she didn’t. She stepped into the toilet stall, then out a minute later. She rinsed her face at the sink, pulled on her nightdress, and climbed into the top bunk, alone.

She sang to herself quietly, a melancholy tune that Finn didn’t recognize with words he couldn’t comprehend; her voice was lovely, and it made him ache. He wanted to go to her, to hold her and tell her it would be all right, but he didn’t think that was what she wanted. So he waited until he was sure she was asleep, his spend grown cold and sticky on his stomach, and when her breathing was finally soft and regular Finn got up and cleaned himself up, and readied himself for bed. Eventually he fell asleep, and if he dreamed of his mother, and Kylo Ren and Rey, he didn’t remember it in the morning.

Chapter Text

Finn awakened to soft sunlight filtered through the lace curtain over the porthole, the sound of whispers and the door of the stateroom gently closing.

It was Rey, blue dressing gown over her night dress, carrying a tray with a teapot, a French press, two cups, and a plate. The room smelled like toast and coffee. She gingerly set the tray on the small table under the porthole before glancing at Finn. When she saw he was awake she smiled nervously.

“Good morning, husband,” she said quietly, stepping across the room to pull a little black bag out of her trunk. “We can have full breakfast in the dining room later but I asked them to bring some toast and coffee for you.” She sat in the armchair across from him and he sat up, perched himself on the edge of the bunk and watched her.

Out of her bag she pulled a glass jar, full of a mixture of dried greens and flowers, and a metal tea infuser, a simple ball on a chain, into which she measured a teaspoonful of the mixture from the jar. Setting the infuser in one of the cups, she poured hot tea from the teapot directly over it.

“The herbs are for my womb,” Rey explained, without looking up. “I drink them every morning; they are designed to prevent pregnancy. Missus Holdo mixes them for me.” She did not expound further on Mrs Holdo’s identity, and Finn tucked the name away for later.

She poured a cup of coffee from the French press and handed it and the plate of toast across the narrow space to Finn. Her hands were shaking. Finn took the cup and plate and set them on the floor before taking both her hands in his. His thumb found the kyber stone of her ring, and pushed against it gently.

“I'm not angry,” he said softly, answering the question she hadn't asked. “We all have pasts. I do.”

“More than Rose?” Rey finally looked at him, a peek through her eyelashes, and he grinned at her.

“It's complicated. But yes, Rose is the only other person I've, uh,” he paused, looking for the right word, but Rey wasn't prevaricating.

“Fucked, you mean. The only other person you've fucked.” She sounded tired, but not angry, as she pulled her hands out of his grasp so she could lift the infuser out of her teacup and set it, dripping, on the tray.

He nodded. “Yes. I'm interested in other things, but I would rather not talk about that before breakfast.” He rubbed a hand across his face and picked his cup off the floor, taking a sip of the hot, bitter brew.

“Your man,” Finn said, lifting his chin at the tray. “For the herbs. He’s someone near your home, I assume? Someone in the village?”

Rey blew across the cup and nodded. “Something like that, yes.”

“You can’t see him any more, Rey.” He spoke softly, but she glanced up swiftly, as though she’d been pinched.

“I’m not jealous, not really,” he stood and walked to the porthole, and lifted the curtain to gaze out at the undulating waves of the North Atlantic. “I wasn’t even jealous when I found out Rose was in love with Poe and was going to marry him. I worried about losing my friends. But,” he ventured a glance behind him. She was staring at the floor, cup in her hand. “You’re my wife, Rey, and I don’t want people in your village talking about us, about me. I want them to respect me, and they won’t, if they think I’m a cuckold.”

Rey nodded, and glanced up at him, tears in her eyes. “I understand.”

Finn returned to his seat at the edge of the bunk and leaned towards her. “Do you love him? Your man in the village?”

She smiled, then laughed through her tears, honest amusement that Finn thrilled to see. “The only men I love,” she replied, “are my brother, and you. I don’t love anyone else.”

The image of Rey and Kylo together, wrapped in her wedding veil by the wind, flitted across Finn’s mind, and that made him smile, too.

“Is that why you were so upset last night?” Finn asked. Rey’s confused expression encouraged him to clarify. “You were upset; missing your brother. I thought, perhaps, that’s why you were so angry. Because you’re used to having him here, and he’s not here now.”

Rey sighed, and nodded. “You’re astute, husband. I’m very worried about Kylo, and angry at him for going to Philadelphia by himself. He’s not been apart from me since he came home - five years ago. I discouraged him from taking this trip, once I knew I wouldn’t be able to go with him, but he’s been corresponding with several naturalists from the city over the past couple of years and he was so honored to receive an invitation to speak when they learned he was going to be in the country.”

Rey took another sip from her cup, and Finn topped it off from the teapot.

“He lived in Philadelphia for years, I thought he would be meeting with old friends? Visiting old haunts? I know that I would love to return to Paris. Perhaps we could go together.”

Rey smiled sadly, a smile that quickly turned to a frown. “I will go with you to Paris, someday, but my brother’s relationship with Philadelphia is very different from your relationship with Paris. He has no good memories of that city; it was terrible to him. He didn’t just go to live with our uncle; he went for treatment. But he didn’t need it, there was nothing wrong with him to begin with. Uncle broke him. I’m so glad he’s dead.” As she was speaking Rey grew more and more agitated, until at the end she very nearly spat, her teacup clattering in the saucer.

Finn fell to his knees in front of her and placed his head against her shoulder, hands around her back, until the shaking ceased. She kissed his forehead, and he returned to the bunk.

“Thank you,” she breathed. “It’s just hard to think about.”

“I understand, but I still want to know, if you can tell me. Why did Kylo go in the first place?”

Rey took another sip of her tea and curled herself around the cup. “I suppose I might as well tell you the whole story. If I don’t tell you Missus Holdo certainly will. Kylo didn’t leave willingly. He was taken.”

“Taken?” Finn asked, his eyebrows raised in shock. “You mean he was kidnapped?”

Rey shrugged. “I suppose so, yes. Luke - Uncle - had been visiting from the States, for the first time since he left Mustafar. It had been years since he’d declined the title and gone to Philadelphia - sixteen years, before Kylo was born. So neither of us had met him before, only heard of him, seen his portrait. Stern, serious man, he seemed fine, but what did I know? I was five, and had met very few people in my short life.

“My mother committed suicide during his visit.” She paused, refusing to make eye contact, and Finn noticed that where her fingers overlapped around the cup, she was worrying her ring with the fourth finger of her right hand. The gesture pleased him, and he sat, rapt, and waited for her to continue. “Nobody knows why, she didn’t leave a note. Maybe she was just unhappy, the way women sometimes are. Bored. Anyway, she had taken me and Kylo out for a walk early in the morning. You’ll see when we get home, our house is on a hill, but then there is a peak, just across the woods, a high, rocky thing. You can see for miles up there, all the way down to the water and beyond. It’s Old Man Mustafar on the map, but our family has always called it Kyber Peak, because of the crystals in its foundation. We were walking up there, which we’d done many times before; I remember because of the flowers, so many flowers, and so many butterflies. It’s a part of the land that Kylo loved the most, and still does.” Her eyes had lost focus, as though she were dreaming. “All those butterflies.”

“Butterflies?” Finn interrupted, slightly confused. “Your brother told me there aren’t any butterflies at Mustafar, only black moths.”

Rey looked at him then, and laughed, golden bells. “Goodness, he must have been joking. There are black moths, of course; they live in the house and dance along the walls of the attic. But outside, the ground and trees are thick with butterflies in the spring. Butterflies are Kylo’s favorite; he loves them the best. His lecture is about ferns, but he’ll be talking about the butterflies, too.”

Kylo had explained the topic of his lecture to Finn, and he remembered how the man’s voice had sounded, so rich and sweet, how his warm breath had caressed his cheek as their heads pressed together over a pencil drawing of a fern, how their knees had brushed under the too-small table in the train’s lounge car. The memory caused a flutter in Finn’s stomach, which he attempted to settle with a sip of coffee, and he nodded at Rey to continue.

She went back to looking at her cup. “Kylo and I were looking at butterflies that morning; he was trying to teach me how to identify them. One moment mother was standing at the edge of the cliff, gazing across at the water as she’d done so many times before, and the next moment she was gone. Poof, like a magic trick.” Rey shook her head and took the last sip of her tea. “No more mother.”

Finn reached out his hand across the space between them and covered hers, still gripping the cup. “I’m so sorry Rey, that must have been terrible, to witness your own mother’s suicide.”

Rey set down the empty cup on the ground beside her feet and gripped his hand in both of hers. “I was so young, Finn, it almost didn’t seem real at the time, but thank you. My brother remembers. He still has nightmares.”

“Is that why he was taken away?”

Rey shook her head slowly. “No. Or, not exactly. Uncle Luke had worries about him before mother… did what she did. He thought Kylo spent too much time reading and drawing, too much daydreaming and making up stories for me, not enough time chopping wood or, I don’t know, thinking about finance.”

Finn’s hand, still in Rey’s grasp, tightened into a fist, and his jaw clenched. He was surprised by his own anger, and didn’t bother hiding it. “Your Uncle thought him too womanly, I suppose.”

“Uncle said he had a weak moral nature. He had been encouraging mother and father to let him take Kylo back with him so he could be… re-educated was the term he used, I found out later. Anyway, after mother’s funeral, father went to stay with a friend and left us in Uncle’s care. While he was gone Uncle locked me in the attic and took my brother away.” A tear slipped out of Rey’s eye and tracked down her cheek.

For a moment, Finn was too horrified to speak. How could their father leave them alone at such a time? And how could their Uncle take advantage in such a terrible way, steal his own sister’s child? How could he do this to them, to Kylo, for whom Finn had a certain amount of respect and regard, and to Rey, with whom he was falling more and more in love with every day? He let his anger and his horror sit while he stroked his wife’s knuckles, looked at the floor, and breathed slowly until he could find the right words.

“Rey, I am so sorry…”

“Yes,” she interjected sharply. “It’s fine. I just wanted you to know.” And she pulled her hands out of his and stood, wiping her tear before placing her cup back on the tray and stepping to the wardrobe for her dress. It appeared that the conversation was over, and Finn followed her lead and prepared for the day ahead.

Chapter Text

That evening, Rey tried again. They returned to the room after dinner, having spent the day reading and walking the deck, talking about nothing in particular. It seemed they had expended their confessions early in the morning. Finn closed the door and locked it, and turned around to find his wife standing close. Her mouth was closed but he could hear a rumble in her throat, and her pupils were full and dark. But this time when she took a step forward he didn’t move, and when she reached for his arms he twisted away.

“No,” he declared simply, and walked past her to set his hat on its stand in the wardrobe.

“Fine,” she spat, and removed her dress much as she had the night before. She was his little animal again, his petit fauve, tugging at the buttons and ripping her clothing off, tossing it on the floor instead of hanging it up so it could be reworn. He loved her spirit, but she needed to learn how to focus it. He could teach her, if she would be a willing pupil. The thought made his belly warm.

He was removing his clothing too, slowly, methodically, folding each piece or hanging it up as required. As she struggled to pull her arms out of the sleeves of her dress he spoke to her, softly. "I don't do anything I don't want to do, and I'll never make you do anything you don't want to do, either." She stuck out her tongue at him, but at least she was listening, and he sighed as he placed his folded trousers back in his trunk.

Rey finished undressing quickly and when she was naked she called to him, and he looked over to see her palm her own breasts, tweak her nipples, and push fingers between her legs. She swore at him then, before throwing her hands in the air, pulling on her nightdress, and climbing into the upper bunk.

Finn tried very hard not to laugh as he finished his own bedtime routine, turned off the light, and crawled into the bottom bunk. Rey was still awake, and once the light was off she started singing quietly again; he stared at the underside of her bunk, just visible though the moonlight that filtered through the porthole, and listened to her until she was quiet. He had brought his handkerchief with him, and when he was sure Rey was asleep he touched himself, thinking of his sweet, angry wife bent over the armchair, begging him for release.

Finn was surprised when Rey tried again the third night. They’d read and walked the decks again, but Finn had spent the entire day having one-sided conversations while Rey alternately ignored and glared at him; she was turning out to be a stubborn thing. Ma petite créature têtue, he thought, as she grasped his arms and growled up into his face.

“No,” he declared, as he had the night before, but then he added, “we do it my way, or we don’t do it at all.”

Her face soured at his proclamation; she stood on her toes and whispered, “I thought you liked it, when I bit you, when I scratched.” And she dug her fingers into his arms as she rubbed against him.

“No,” he replied shaking his head. “No, I didn’t.”

The anger in her eyes sharpened. “Why didn’t you stop me, then? You just let me do it? You said yesterday you do only what you want to do.”

He lifted his hands up to cradle her cheeks; he thought she might flinch but she didn’t, just continued to glare up at him, so he held her face gently and used his thumbs to stroke under her eyes.

“I wanted to do it, even though I didn't like it,” he whispered, “because it was what you needed. I thought you missed your brother, and that his absence upset you, and you needed to work it out, and it was convenient to work it out on me. And I was right; you told me I was right. So I let you do that, and now we’re past it. That’s done. We’re not going to do that again.”

Rey’s expression softened as he spoke, as he caressed her face, and when he was done talking she slowly closed her eyes.

“Oh, mon petit cœur. What do you want, Rey?” Finn breathed, before kissing her forehead gently.

She pushed air out of her nose, and he glanced down to find her smiling, just barely. “I want a bigger bed. These bunks are inconvenient.”

“Well there’s nothing we can do about that, I’m afraid,” Finn said, as he pulled his wife into an embrace. She wrapped her arms around him, too, her face in his shoulder, and they swayed together, breathed together.

“Are the beds at Mustafar bigger than these?” Finn teased. “We can take advantage of them when we arrive.”

Rey momentarily froze, then gave Finn a squeeze before stepping away and wiping her face.

“All right then,” she said, ignoring his question. “What’s your way?”

Finn walked to the wardrobe, where he’d stored his luggage. He put up his hat, then his coat, then reached into the trunk and pulled out the second shirt compartment, a hidden thing which he’d had designed specially. Rey had removed her hat and shawl before seating herself on the armchair, and he set the compartment on the floor at her feet, then removed the lid to expose the contents within.

The compartment was full of rope. Skeins of high-quality rope; hemp from Europe and silk from Japan, organized by material, length, and diameter. Most of it Finn had purchased in Paris, collected over the last four years of his residence - his real education. There was one special skein, a leaving gift from his Parisian friends. He wasn’t sure when he’d ever have the opportunity to use it, but he was glad to know it was there. Finally there were a few he’d bought in a specialist shop up in Storyville. He might not be able to frequent the brothels there, but he could participate in its commerce in other ways.

He took a moment to admire the collection, which he hadn’t examined since packing it up in his rooms at home several days before. He was proud of it; it brought him great pleasure. His attention snapped back to Rey when, comprehending what was in the container, she shrieked and scrambled up the back of the chair, throwing herself right over it; the chair would have toppled over had Finn not grabbed it, holding it down as Rey made her escape.

She landed on the ground with a heavy, painful-sounding thump, then scurried to the door on hands and knees, where she finally paused, hands gripping the doorknob, knuckles white, now sobbing instead of shrieking, long sobs that wracked her body, sounding as though they came from the depth of her soul.

She chanced a glance behind her, but the compartment of rope was already gone; as soon as she was over the chair, Finn had snapped it closed and pushed it under the bunk, all the way to the far wall. Rey finally relaxed, allowing herself to fall sideways and lean precariously. She closed her eyes and lay limp and listless, and Finn crawled across the floor and pulled her into his lap.

He held her, rocked her; it was all he could do, pull her tight against his chest as her breathing slowed, tears of shock tempered, replaced with tired weeping.

Once Rey had calmed she hummed to herself, the same melancholy-sounding tune that she’d been singing to herself the previous two nights. Eventually she spoke, quietly, dreamily, as though talking to herself, while toying with her ring, rotating it around and around her finger.

“They tied him up when Uncle took him away, trussed him like a slaughtered deer. He fought them, kicked and bit them, my brave brother, my Ben. They couldn’t get him across the porch to the carriage. He was too strong, even so young. It was all his time outside, you know, climbing the mountains. Such a strong boy. I watched, from the attic. I cracked the glass of the window, and I was afraid. He saw me, and he fought to come back inside. Four grown men couldn’t hold him.”

She smiled at the memory, though her tears, and Finn embraced her and rocked her as his limbs grew cold with rage and his head hot with pride and admiration.

“He almost got back inside, but then the tall man gave them the rope. They threw him down and the ginger got a boot on his back and he couldn’t fight any more.”

Her face collapsed in despair, tears flowing again as she pressed against Finn’s chest and grabbed at the front of his shirt.

“They threw him in the carriage like he was a piece of luggage, and they took him away; away, away, and he came back to me broken.” She paused to wail, to rub her face against him again.

“He came back to you,” Finn whispered through his own anger, trying desperately to find something positive, something useful to say.

“Yes, he came back,” Rey sniffled and ran her sleeve across her face, and too late Finn pulled his handkerchief out of his sleeve for her; she took it gratefully. “And I still love him, more than anything, my brother, my Ben, my darling. But he’s not the same, not even when we’re alone in the hills, no matter what I do.”

She was done, and squeezed the damp cloth in her hands as she relaxed into Finn’s embrace and allowed him to continue rocking her.

Finn had many thoughts but nothing he wanted to say. This explained so much about them; their loyalty to each other, Rey’s fear about her brother traveling alone, Kylo’s mask. Finn hated their uncle, and the men he’d hired to carry Kylo away. Ben? She called him Ben.

“Rey?” Her eyes had closed and her breathing had grown regular and calm. He thought perhaps she had fallen asleep, but at the sound of her name she opened her eyes, scrunching up her face and humming in a way that delighted him, despite the dismal mood.

“Why do you call him Ben?”

“Oh!” she exclaimed lightly, and smiled. “That’s his name - Ben Solo Skywalker. Solo was our father’s name, before he married our mother and became a Skywalker. Ben took the name Kylo Ren when he was away, and he prefers to use it publicly still. I hate it; I call him Ben when we’re alone. It’s hard sometimes, because he’s always Ben, to me. Kylo is… somebody else, I suppose. But you should call him Kylo. He hates being called Ben.”

Finn nodded. It made sense. He remembered how Rey had called her brother Ben across from the Cotton Exchange Building, outside of the bank, on the first day they met. How Kylo had been prepared to fight him but had quickly stepped down at her command. The memory was shaded differently now; he’d glimpsed something private, special, and he would treasure it.

The floor of the stateroom was hard, and cold, but Finn didn’t care because his wife’s warmth and softness in his arms more than made up for the discomfort. They sat together for a long time after their conversation, not speaking, although Rey started to sing.

Her voice was enchanting; even more so up close than dampened through the mattress of the bunk. Finn loved to hear her speak, but her singing was another thing entirely. She could be a siren, or a mambo asogwe, and he would gladly cast himself into the sea or worship at her altar, just to hear her sing.

It was the same song from before, he recognized the tune, but now he could make out the words although he still had trouble understanding them. The dialect was certainly something from Northern England, or maybe Scotland; he didn’t know enough to be able to tell the difference.

Fair lady Isabel sits in her bower sewing,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
There she heard an elf-knight blawing his horn.
The first morning in May

Finn listened, entranced, and he was able to follow the song well enough. The fair lady followed the elf-knight into the greenwood, where he threatened to kill her, as he’d killed seven other daughters of kings before. But Isabel was wise, or perhaps she was devious, and she lulled the elf-knight to sleep, his head on her knee.

Wi his ain sword-belt sae fast as she ban him,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
Wi his ain dag-durk sae sair as she dang him.
The first morning in May

If seven king's-daughters here ye hae slain,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
Lye ye here, a husband to them a'.
The first morning in May

He wasn’t entirely sure, but he had an inkling of what the ending of the song meant, and he found himself admiring the fair lady Isabel and her cunning in turning the elf-knight’s deceit back on himself. She reminded Finn of Rey, just a bit, and he found himself glad he was just a wealthy layabout, rather than anything more dangerous.

As she sang, Rey toyed with the handkerchief; it was Finn’s favorite, a gift from Rose when he’d first returned from Paris, which she’d edged with lace herself, and marked with her initials. The same handkerchief he’d spilled into last night, as he imagined Rey clenching around his cock while she cried out in orgasmic ecstasy, and which he’d rinsed early this morning and laid to dry on the heating element under the porthole. Now it was damp again, with her tears, and he couldn’t help but be amused by the coincidence.

“Finn?” Rey asked, when she had finished singing. “What do you do with the rope?”

He paused. Her reaction to the collection had frightened him, and he didn't want to upset her. As much as he loved it, as he’d love to wrap his wife in ropes, knots from her toes to her shoulders, push her to her absolute limit, he would put it away forever if he had to. She sensed his hesitation and punched him lightly on the shoulder.

“I'm not going to break,” she groused. “I was just shocked, I had no idea what would be in that box. I use rope all the time, at home. I'm fine. But I need to know.”

“Well,” he answered honestly, “I use it to tie people up, for fun.”

She frowned. “What kind of people?”

“Beautiful people. Men and women. Not anything like what they did with your brother, I promise. I only bind people who want to be bound.”

“But, for fun? Why would somebody want to be tied up? I don’t understand.”

Finn shifted to a more comfortable position and considered how to answer.

“All right, Rey. So, your man in the village. Has he ever held you down?”

Rey lifted the handkerchief to her mouth and gasped quietly, studiously avoiding his gaze. A blush crept up her cheeks, and Finn laughed and rubbed her back.

“It’s like that. It feels good to be bound, to put yourself at the mercy of someone you trust. Or so I’ve been told.”

“Hm. So you don’t…” Rey trailed off, lacking the vocabulary to finish her thought.

“No, I don’t. Never have, can’t imagine. I like to be in control. Directing the action. Making people feel good.” His hand moved slowly downward, flirting with the spot where her lower back met her backside.

She’d relaxed again, head on his shoulder, chewing on her thumbnail. “I think I’m the same way, usually. In control, I mean.” She pressed herself against his hand, and he could sense a new tension in her. “But I like to feel good too.”

Finn moved his hand lower, then lifted his other hand from where it rested on her shoulder up to her neck, and scratched gently into her hairline there, just beneath the lowest of her three buns. “I could make you feel good,” he whispered, “if you let me.”

Rey answered him with a kiss. Her mouth was hot and hungry and she shifted in his arms, lifted her skirt and straddled his lap. She found his erection, tightly bound in his trousers, and rubbed herself against it, her hands grasping around the back of his neck. He reached under her skirt, behind and between her legs and discovered that her bloomers were split, which would be convenient for her when using the toilet but was also convenient for him; he slipped his hands inside and there was her cunt, warm and slick. Finn set the tip of a finger against his wife’s opening and she pushed down on it, welcomed it into her body. She moaned into his mouth as she rode his finger, and he twisted it to massage her inner walls gently.

Within a few minutes Rey had two fingers inside her, her juices were running down Finn’s wrist, and her moans had increased in intensity and volume. That was enough, he decided. He pulled his hand back and lifted her up, setting her on the ground next to him and standing quickly, leaving her in a pile on the floor, expression discouraged.

“What?” She was clearly annoyed, and it made Finn smile.

He held out a hand. “Handkerchief?” She passed it to him and he used it to wipe his hand and wrist, then tucked it back in his sleeve. “I want to do something. Will you let me?”

She pouted up at him. “No rope.”

Finn hummed, thoughtful. “I won’t bind you, but for what I want to do I need to use just a bit of rope. For support.” He pulled her up by both hands, then encouraged her back against the wall and touched the top button of her dress, a small, black circle, smooth and warm from being so close to her body all day. He massaged it with the tip of his finger. “Can I help you with this while you consider it?”

She nodded, and stood still while he released the top button, then slowly worked his way down, dress opening to expose the soft cotton chemise beneath as each tiny button separated from its fastening. When the buttons were unfastened to her waist he pulled the two halves of her bodice apart, and held her breasts with both hands, using his thumbs and first fingers to push the chemise so her hard nipples poked through the thin fabric, their blush just visible. He watched her face as he did this; eyes closed, eyebrows drawn together, mouth slightly open. As he massaged her nipples with his thumbs her eyelids fluttered, and when he lowered his mouth to suck on her left nipple through the thin fabric, she moaned.

“Will you fuck me?” Her voice was low and full of yearning.

Finn pushed the flat of his tongue against her nipple, then worked his way up her bosom and across her collarbone to nuzzle against her bare neck; she tilted her head to give him better access. “Not immediately.” He grazed her with his teeth. “You like to be fucked, don’t you, mon amour,” he whispered, “take a cock inside you, fill you up.” As he kissed her neck his fingers continued their work on her buttons, until he’d released enough of them that he could pull the dress down to the ground.

“Your man in the village. Did he fuck you well?” Finn was on his knees now, and as he waited for his wife to answer he lifted her petticoat and pulled down her bloomers, then buried his face at the apex of her thighs, lifting her leg to his shoulder, taking in her scent and tasting her with long, forceful licks, sucking on her engorged lips as she keened above him.

He didn’t spend much time there; just enough to give her a hint of what he was capable of. When he stood her eyes were closed, face red, breathing ragged.

“Did he?” Finn cupped her face in his hands and kissed her forehead. “Open your eyes. Did he fuck you the way you liked?”

“Yes!” Rey cried, gazing up at him with surprising ferocity. “He did. He made me feel like a goddess, as though I was the most precious and beautiful thing in the world.” Tears mixed with anger, and Finn could believe that she was a goddess, too.

“I don’t understand why you’re asking, though,” she complained, letting the tears fall, “since I won’t be able to see him again.”

“Oh, my sweet, mon ange,” he crooned, and kissed her lips gently. “I have no problem with your man in the village, aside from the gossip. You are beautiful and perfect and deserve to be loved. I’m glad he was there to take care of you, and I’m curious. That’s all.” It was true. The thought of Rey being held down and made to orgasm by some village boy was remarkably compelling.

Rey, however, was not interested in being open about it. “Please stop asking me,” she implored him. “It’s private. It’s over. Please?”

He nodded, and kissed her mouth instead, until she was breathless, pressing her body against his.

Finally, Rey pulled away.

“Yes,” she said, lips pink and full, eyes dark. “Husband, you may make me feel good.”

“I will not tie you up,” he swore, as he helped her lift the chemise over her head. “And I will stop at any point, if you tell me to. Yes?”

“Yes,” she agreed, pulling down her petticoat and kicking it aside on the floor.

Finn kissed his wife, one more time, and then led her, naked, to the bed.

Chapter Text

Rey lay on her back, naked, on the bottom bunk. She was nervous, and she needed to relax, so before they did anything more Finn worked to make her comfortable. It turned out she loved having her feet massaged, so he took them in his lap and pushed the pads of his fingers against the bottoms of each toe, kneaded the ball and the arch, and pushed in at the heel until she was moaning and limp. She’d closed her eyes and allowed her hands to lie loose at her side.

It took him a while, but eventually she reached the point where he thought she was ready.

While Rey was resting, Finn pulled the compartment out from under the bunk and selected a skein of rope. It was one of his favorites - ten feet of black silk. It was probably longer than what was needed, but it was soft and would contrast nicely with the natural gold of her skin; mostly, he hoped she would like it.

Before he showed his wife the rope, he considered the bunk. It was narrow, and too short, and lacked a proper headboard. But there was a low metal bar that ran around the bed, from wall to wall, that served to hold the mattress on the base, and that would have to do.

He sat down on the edge of the mattress, next to her hip, and stroked her bottom lip with his thumb. “Rey. Minette. Wife,” he cooed. “Are you awake?” She had been lying still, breathing deeply, but she leaned into his touch and smiled.

“Indeed, my husband,” she replied, opening her eyes and humming. “I’ve been waiting for you to start making me feel good.”

He returned her smile and set the skein on the bed next to him. She eyed it, but he didn’t say anything about it yet. Instead, he showed her the bar. “Do you see this?” he said, pointing to where it ran under his legs. “It runs all the way around the bunk, including above your head. Can you reach it?”

Rey lifted up and searched past the mattress, and in a moment she’d grabbed onto the bar with both hands.

“Good girl,” Finn murmured, satisfied, and he couldn’t help but notice that she responded to his words with a sharp intake of breath. That made him happy, too.

“I’m going to shift your body, because you’re too close to the head of the bunk, but I want you to keep holding onto that bar, yes?” She nodded, and he stood up and stepped to the end of the bed, then leaned in on his knees, grasped her hips, and pulled her several inches towards him, until her arms were nearly straight.

“Is that comfortable?” he asked, and she tugged at the bar, then nodded again. He shook his head. “I need to hear you, please. Is that comfortable?”

“Yes,” she answered, quietly but audibly. “It’s comfortable. Except,” she frowned, and let go of the bar again, “my ring is digging into my finger.”

She held her left hand out to him, and he grasped the ring and twisted it, pulling it off her finger and slipping it onto the pinky of his left hand. It was just a tiny bit loose, but he wouldn’t lose it. He gave the stone a kiss, and then kissed her for good measure.

“That should fix the issue. So, if I was binding you, I would attach your hands to that bar. I wouldn’t tie your hands at; I’d use the rope to make cuffs around your wrists, and then I’d tie the cuffs to the bar. Do you understand?”

Rey was staring at him, her eyes bright and dark. “Yes,” she said, “I understand.”

Finn smiled at her, and the corners of her mouth ticked up. She was so good.

Rey’s right leg was on the side of the bunk facing the room, and Finn took that leg, lifted it up, and set it on the outside of the bed, so her foot was flat on the floor, legs spread wide apart.

“Is that comfortable, Rey? Or do you want me to pull the chair over so you can set your foot on that?”

Rey opted for the chair, so Finn moved it over and configured it so she could hold her leg straight or bent, or even set it on the ground if she wanted to. She was grinning by the time Finn returned to his perch at the end of the bed. She was getting into it, and he was thrilled.

It was finally time for the rope. He held it out to her. “Here, take it. Feel it.” Rey let go of the bar and shook out her arms before taking it in her hands. Finn showed her how to unwrap the skein, and they pulled the soft, slick cord through their hands, to familiarize her with the feeling of the rope against her skin.

“What do you think?” Finn asked her, after a few minutes, as he used one end of the length to draw patterns around her torso.

“I like it,” Rey answered, gripping the other end in her fists and pulling them apart, drawing a short length of rope taught between them. She raised an eyebrow at him. “What are you going to do with it, if you aren’t going to tie me up?

Finn grinned at her and gathered the black silk rope back in his arms.

“To do what I want to do, your legs need to be held open. But I need both my hands, so I can’t do it, and it’s a lot of work for you, but I don’t want you to work. I want you to relax.” As he spoke Rey’s face grew more and more red, her eyes larger. She reached for the bar above her head, and took it in hand without having to be asked. She was very, very good.

“So I want to use the rope to help. Do you see this bar, in the base of the top bunk?” He pointed to one of the metal struts that supported the mattress of the bunk that Rey had been sleeping in the past two nights. I was located midway between her hip and shoulder.

“Yes, I see it.”

“I want to make a loop of rope, and tie it up here. It will hang down to about here,” he held his hand eighteen inches above the bed, “and we’ll put your leg through it. It will hold your leg up at the knee. We’ll be able to make it higher or lower, whatever you need to be comfortable. Make sense?”

Rey was wiggling her backside into the mattress, but Finn was fairly sure she didn’t realize it. “Yes, it makes sense,” she said, in a wide-eyed whisper.

Finn nodded. “The loop will be held with a special knot, one that is very easy to loosen if you pull from one direction. Like this.” He took the rope in his hand and passed one end around the other quickly, making a loop and pulling it tight. The long end of the rope he tossed up to Rey, who let go of the bar with one of her hands and grabbed it. “Pull it,” he instructed, and she did. The loop immediately fell apart.

“So,” he said, pulling the rope back, “I’ll make the loop here, but you get the long end of the rope up there. At any point if you need to let your leg down, just tug it, and you’re done. Does that make sense?”

Rey nodded, and her eyes were shining brightly. Finn set down the rope and crawled over her, laid his clothed body over her naked one and kissed her tenderly on the mouth. “Is this good? We don’t really have to do this; my insistence was a ruse. Nothing you don’t want to do.”

She laughed, and there were tears in her eyes, but he could see that they were good tears. “It’s fine,” she whispered, “it’s really nice, actually. You’re being very kind. When I saw the rope, I didn’t think it would be this way.”

He kissed her again. “It will always be this way,” he breathed, and since he was there he took a few minutes to kiss his way down her body, ending with an open-mouthed kiss on her cunt that made her moan while her hips bucked up into his mouth.

“That’s why I’m going to need two hands,” Finn said cryptically, with a laugh, as he got to work assembling the loop for Rey’s left leg.

Once her left leg was up and her right leg was in a comfortable position, Finn sat back and took a minute to just take her in. Rey was always beautiful, but spread out on this little bed, she was a vision. Her hair, although still in those three buns, was a wreck - probably from when he pulled her down the bed earlier - her face was pink and her eyes were still dark and shining, the muscles in her arms and abdomen were already tense, and her cunt was wet from his earlier ministrations, and her current excitement.

“What are you going to do now?” Rey asked.

“I’d like to touch you, if I may,” Finn replied. “May I touch you?”

“Oh my god, yes,” she moaned, throwing her head back and pulling on the bar at the head of the bunk.

So he touched her. He started between her legs, although that wasn’t his original plan, but her cunt was so pink and delicious. He kissed her there, using his tongue and lips to explore her, taking her in his mouth and sucking, pushing into her with his fingers, massaging with his thumbs, as he listened to her keen and felt her shake. When he sensed she was getting close to orgasm he moved his attentions up her body, rubbing and kissing up her stomach to her breasts. He spent several minutes attending to them, sweet and soft and rosy, and when he was done she was trying her best to gain some friction against her hips, but she wasn’t having much luck.

Rey was frustrated, and Finn was amused.

“Please, Finn,” Rey sobbed, tears on her cheeks. “Please.”

“Please what, my darling wife, mon petit cœur,” he said innocently, as he placed his left hand on her mons and used the middle finger of his right hand to gently caress the smooth skin just above her opening. She didn’t answer immediately, instead she moaned and shifted her hips in an attempt to gain more pressure against Finn’s fingertips. He answered by pushing down harder with his left hand, to limit her movement.

She wailed.

“Shhh, my love,” Finn gently admonished her. “Remember, you need to be quiet so we don’t draw attention to the room.”

Rey whined, and nodded, and pulled on the metal bar with all her strength.

Finn pushed just a bit harder with his fingertip, as a little reward, and then he slipped his finger inside her, searching for the bundle of nerves that he knew were the sibling of the bundle on her outside. Once he found it, he gently massaged both at once. Rey immediately tensed and her body curled to the right, but the loop holding her leg held fast. Finn watched her face; her mouth was open as though she were crying out, but she was absolutely silent.

“You are such a good girl,” he praised her as he increased pressure on her inside and her breathing sped up to a pant. “My good girl; my wife; à moi.” He could sense her orgasm approaching again, very quickly, and he removed his hands from her and sat back. While Rey groused and moaned he dabbed his forehead, damp with sweat, with his handkerchief, then set it on the mattress beside him and pulled his shirt off over his head.

This move excited Rey. “Finn, oh Finn,” she cried quietly, “Felix Lacoste, my husband, my love. Will you fuck me now? Please?”

He tossed his shirt aside and took a moment to stretch for the benefit of her observation before pressing down on her mons again. “And why would I do that?” He asked, as he gathered moisture from her cunt onto his other hand, slicking his finger before he moved it down to rest it against the puckered hole of her ass.

She didn’t answer; she’d realized where his hand was heading and had closed her eyes and was now very tense, her breath coming in shallow pants.

“Breathe,” Finn instructed, and he gently rubbed his finger against her. “Breathe, bébé. Breathe, calm.” And as he rubbed she relaxed, until she was breathing normally again.

“Have you been touched here before?” He asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Did you like it?” He pushed against it again, tenderly, and she trembled.

“Oh, yes,” she breathed, a tear escaping from under her eyelid.

Finn hummed and gathered more moisture - it was dripping out of her - and returned.

“May I?” He asked, and pressed against the tight, round furrow.

“Please,” she whined, and he pressed his finger in, just to his first knuckle. She keened, and he enjoyed the feeling of her muscle, tight and pulsing around him.

T'aimes ça, mon petit chaton?” Finn asked her, not expecting an answer but enjoying asking the question. He moved his finger gently, forwards and backwards.

After a moment of this he asked the question he wanted an answer to: “Have you taken a cock?” She’d asked him not to inquire further about her man, but Finn supposed if he didn’t mention him specifically he was respecting her wishes; she may have had other men before, after all, and besides he had to know.

Rey was trying desperately to rotate her hips, despite his continued pressure on her mons. She shook her head. “No, no, just fingers. I’ve begged him to, but he doesn’t want to hurt me.”


“He wouldn’t have hurt you. The human body is amazingly resilient.” And he removed his finger, leaned over her to kiss her damp, heated cheek, and took a moment to get up and wash his hands at the basin before returning to the bed.

“You have been a good girl for me tonight,” Finn murmured, as he caressed her thighs from their apex to her knees, then returning to massage the globes of her ass. “Such a good girl. So I’m going to bring you to the edge, one more time, and then you get an orgasm. Yes?”

She’d opened her eyes again, to watch while he was at the sink, and now she was staring. “Yes,” she replied, and bit her lip. “Can I come on your cock? Please?”

He’d expected her to ask, and it was helpful for him to know she had such a preference. However, “No,” he insisted. “Not yet. You can’t always get everything you want.”

She wanted to argue, he could tell, and perhaps she might have, under different circumstances, but instead she nodded, and relaxed back into the mattress.

His fingers returned to her cunt, two of them inside, massaging, while his other worked her on the outside; not only on her clit, but all of it, so much smooth, slick, skin to touch. He ignored none of it, and it was only a few minutes before she was beginning to flutter and moan. She was so sensitive; he loved how her body responded to him.

He pulled away and sat back again to watch her squirm and cry. She was saying his name, breathlessly, begging him to let her come, and it had reached the point where he couldn’t deny her any more.

As much as he wanted to watch her orgasm, he wanted to taste her, so he put his mouth between her legs again, and this time he didn’t hold back. Her hips he held tight, so she couldn’t move; she was at his mercy. He placed his mouth over her and sucked, just for a moment, as much as he could hold, and then he kissed her, licking and sucking, tasting and feeling, consuming her. While his left arm held her still, his right one traveled upwards and twisted her nipples gently; she released one hand and pulled the pillow over her face, and wailed into it. She came, finally, around his tongue, with a gasp and a cry, his name on her lips, a splash of warm liquid on his.

Rey threw aside the pillow and let go of the bar, then pulled on the long end of the rope to release the loop, and Finn helped her lower her leg to the bed. But she clearly wasn’t done; she gripped him by the arms and pulled him on top of her, claiming his mouth and moaning as she licked her essence from his cheeks and lips and inside his mouth.

“Oh, you taste like me,” she sighed, and he answered her kisses with his own as he struggled, one-handed, with the fastenings of his trousers.

“Help me,” Finn begged her, and as soon as Rey realized what he was asking she dove in to assist him, and together they released his cock, engorged with blood and weeping from neglect. He sat up on his knees and tugged his trousers down his hips, so his wife could get a good look at what was hers. They moaned in one voice as he pressed, at long last, into her waiting body.

Finn thought perhaps Rey was what in Paris they’d called multi-orgasmique. He’d known women - and a few men - like this, people who could have orgasm after orgasm, tirelessly. She’d responded to his hands and mouth so generously; she’d already come once, hard, and it appeared she was getting ready to come again very quickly. Once he was inside her she’d taken charge, holding his hips and fucking herself up onto him. Since she needed both hands to position him, he’d taken the initiative to work her clit with his thumb, and she was making the most ungodly noises - still very quietly - and her inner muscles were fluttering around him, most delightfully.

He could feel her coil, tightening and tightening, and as he concentrated on her body he noticed her mumbling. He was getting close too, his own coil tightening in his belly, but he leaned down to see if he could hear what she was saying.

It was one syllable, over and over, but too quiet for him to make sense of.

“What?” he asked, a moment before she shifted him again and pulled her legs up, a new angle that had him seeing stars.

Rey was affected too. Her face was so near to his; red-cheeked, open-mouthed, eyes out of focus, as though they were looking past him to something else entirely. She was on the cusp of release and it was one of the most beautiful things he’d ever seen.

She whispered something. Finn was pretty sure it was “I miss Ben,” but that seemed like such a strange thing for her to say at that moment; he couldn’t possibly have heard her correctly. In any case his brain responded automatically, providing him with a clear picture of his wife, naked, being held down and made to orgasm not by some faceless village boy, but by her own brother. His traitorous body responded, and he came into her at the same moment her muscles clenched around him, and she shouted with joy.

Rey embraced him, pulled him to her and kissed him, whispering words of praise and love. Finn responded in kind, and a few minutes later he used his handkerchief to clean them both up. Once they were clean he transferred the ring back to her finger, and they both admired it for a moment before they tucked themselves under the covers, together. It was a bit snug, but it would do.

Rey fell asleep quickly, but Finn lay awake for a while, considering.

Chapter Text

Finn would remember the last four days on the ocean with joy. It really was a honeymoon, finally; he and his wife learning about each other, having new experiences together, making memories that they would cherish for the rest of their lives.

Over the hours and days they had spent together in New Orleans Finn had learned that Rey was intelligent; it was clear when she had described her mining-related inventions in detail, as they had discussed business arrangements, and as they spent the evenings sharing stories in the park. But her intellect continued to impress him, every day. She was interested in learning French, and picked up phrases quickly; her accent, imbued with the color of her brogue, was not good but was nevertheless delightful to his ears. He read to her from the collected poetry of Mallarmé and Baudelaire, translating the best he could as he read, and she read to him the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, and about the nature of Kyber crystals. She even read to him from one of her brother's books about the fauna of the Lake Country, where their voyage would leave them all too soon.

Rey was sexually adventurous, too, which pleased Finn and surprised him. Although she had initially balked at the ropes and refused to consider them, by the time they landed in Liverpool although she hadn’t consented to being bound she had noticeably warmed to the concept. She also loved praise, gulped it down like sweet tea on a hot summer day. Her reaction to his words was exquisite; her body respond so strongly that he wondered if she had ever been praised like that before.

Finn was thrilled to find that she was also up for playing little games. He discovered this the morning of the fifth day - two mornings after he strung her leg up under the bunk - when she went into his trunk uninvited, and discovered something he’d hidden away and hadn't planned to show her until much later, if at all.

It had started innocently enough. Rey had awakened with the sun, wet and wanting, and after crawling under the covers and edging her, just a bit, Finn had asked if he might take her on her knees. She had been visibly uncomfortable at the suggestion, and with a few sweet caresses he had got it out of her that in the past she had only had intercourse face-to-face. It was apparently at the insistence of her partner - her village man, seeming more interesting every time he came up - because within a few minutes she was sobbing Finn's name into a pillow as he fucked her from behind as slowly as he could manage.

It was a remarkable way to wake up.

Rey was hungry, so they began to dress for breakfast immediately. She took her time cleaning up, so Finn was almost fully dressed while she was still naked. He took his opportunity to kiss and hug her a bit, but she finally pushed him away with a huff and reached past him into her steamer trunk for a dress.

“I am so hungry I will eat you, Finn, so help me I will,” she groused.

He grinned at her double entendre but she either didn't mean it or chose to ignore it, because she just pointed to one of the compartments in her trunk behind him.

“Will you please go in there and get me a fresh pair of bloomers? I can wear the petticoat and chemise from yesterday but the bloomers are stained.”

They had been so impatient after dinner the evening before that they hadn’t bothered to undress before moving to the bed, and Rey’s bloomers had paid the price for their eagerness. Rey blushed at the reminder; Finn kissed her rosy cheek and then went into the compartment she’d indicated, but was shocked when the distinctive suppleness of animal fur brushed against his hand, and he caught a glimpse of something small and grey at the edge of the compartment.

He cried out, grabbed Rey - who had managed to put on only her petticoat - and pulled her towards the door.

L’rat! There is a rat in your trunk!” he gasped, heart pounding. “I hate rats, and there is one! In your trunk!”

Rey, shocked at being manhandled, looked at the trunk, then back at him, confused. “Are you sure? I haven't seen a rat in our room, or heard one, and if that is a rat it's either dead or being incredibly stealthy.”

When he didn't answer, Rey removed his arms from around her and tiptoed to her trunk, peeked into the compartment, then sighed and reached in, bringing out a small grey object. It was most certainly not a rat, and as she carried it to him Finn perceived what it was.

It was a rabbit. A stuffed rabbit, very old and worn, with uneven ears and ivory buttons for eyes. The nose had obviously fallen apart and had been carefully repaired more recently, and a silver locket was tied around its neck with a blue silk ribbon, embroidered with small violet-colored flowers. Its fur was real rabbit fur, and it was soft and warm when Rey set the thing in his hand.

“There’s your rat, silly man,” she said with a smile. “It's just a toy.”

She stroked it gently, and as she did he turned it over in his hands so he could get a better look at it. It was lovingly made, and he felt that by allowing him to hold it she was giving him something special.

“My brother made it for me, when we were children,” she explained in a soft voice as she stroked the thing’s nose and fingered the locket. “It reminds me of how things used to be; I carry it with me everywhere now.” And she lifted it out of his hands and rubbed it gently against her cheek before depositing it back into the compartment with care.

She turned back to Finn with a cheeky grin. “You found my little secret, now let's see what else you have in your trunk.”

It took Finn a second or two to understand her meaning, and by then she was already across the room, giggling and reaching in, opening compartments at random and digging past his collars and shoes, medicine kit and cabinet cards.

She reached into one particular compartment and he shouted, but by the time he reached her she already had the box in hand. The box was black, made of stiff board, and as she lifted off the lid, the front of the box fell towards her, exposing the interior.

He froze as she took in the contents of the box, and the label on the inside of the lid. Her lips moved as she read the words, with an expression both quizzical and deeply embarrassed, a deep flush spreading across both her face and her chest.

“Doctor Young’s Ideal Rectal Dilators?”

He paused to consider his options, and watched her. She reached out a finger but didn't touch any of the four black rubber plugs, shaped like bullets with handles at the flat end, graduated in size, that nestled in their case.

“What are they for?” Her voice was low and breathy.

“Officially they're for the treatment of constipation and various other ailments, but that’s not what I use them for.”

She tore her eyes away from the box and looked at him then, her eyes dark and wide, and Finn realized that he had misread her initial reaction. Her flush deepened, mouth open and panting, nipples stiff even in the warmth of the stateroom. She wasn't embarrassed; she was aroused. He recalculated his response and shifted closer to her.

“You went into my trunk without asking, and found something you weren't supposed to see,” he scolded. “That was a naughty thing to do.” He moved again, close enough now that she would be able to feel his breath against her skin. She turned her gaze back to the box.

He gave her a moment to stew, then followed up, “I thought you were a good girl.”

He wasn't sure if this was the right thing to say to her, but she looked back up at him and replied in a whisper, “I am good, but sometimes I do naughty things.” And she glanced down to his mouth and licked her lips, a gesture that went straight to his groin.

He nodded and gave her a crooked smile. “Then you know what happens to good girls who do naughty things, don't you.”

Rey shook her head, looking almost fearful, and Finn leaned over to whisper in her ear. “It's a game, mon amour. Nothing you don't want. Yes?”

She nodded, and replied softly, “What is mon amour?”

“My love. It means you are my love.”

A small smile graced her lips, and she said more loudly, “Tell me, mon amour, what happens to good girls who do naughty things.”

“Why,” he said with a grin, as he lifted the box out of her hands, “they get a punishment, of course. Delicious punishment.”

Finn took the smallest plug out of the box and handed it to Rey, who plucked it from his fingers with visible trepidation.

“Your punishment, for going into my trunk uninvited, is that you have to wear this plug for the rest of today.”

“All day?” She gazed at him in shock. “That won't be comfortable. How will I sit? What if I have to, you know...” Finn wouldn't have thought it possible but her blush deepened, and she was so adorably flustered he had to laugh.

“You're an intelligent woman, you'll figure it out. And in a show of solidarity,” he continued, taking the second plug out of the box, “I will wear one too. But not for punishment. Just for fun.”

Rey took in a deep breath, and then exhaled quickly. “All right,” she nodded, still contemplating the plug in her hand, “all right.” While she did that, Finn went back into his trunk and came out with a small bottle, which he traded with Rey for her plug.

“This is highest quality olive oil, imported from Greece.” While she removed the stopper and took a sniff, he washed the two plugs in the basin, and dried them carefully with a fresh towel, each one nestled between fingers on his left hand, then seated himself on the edge of the armchair and called her over.

Bottle in hand, Rey bent herself over Finn’s knee and allowed him to pull her petticoat up, exposing her buttocks to the warm air of the stateroom.

“May I touch you, minette?”

“Yes, please, but what is minette?”

He took a moment to trace the right globe of her ass, savoring the small gasp she made when his finger delved into the cleft between her cheeks.

Minette means puss, like a kitty-cat, or like,” and his finger progressed lower and found her cunt. It was warm, and very wet, and when he rested his finger against her opening she shifted to press against it, but he held her steady with his other hand and scolded her. “Oh no, not now, minette. Give me the bottle.”

Rey made a quiet noise of discontent, but passed him the bottle readily enough. While he poured a small amount of the liquid onto the fingers of his right hand, he made a request.

“My dearest wife, you have a beautiful voice. Would you sing for me, while I do this?”

Her responding shudder was so strong he had to bite his lip to keep from laughing, and her response was indignant. “You want me to sing? While you put your fingers in my ass? You are absolutely incorrigible.”

Finn did laugh at that - he couldn’t help it. “I am incorrigible! I would also love to hear you sing while I finger you. I am ready,” he nudged one well-oiled finger into her crack, and relished the way she wiggled on his lap, “so will you sing?”

“Fine. But you’re going to pay me back for this, somehow.” Rey grumbled, but then she did sing. It was a different song, not the one about the lady and the elf-knight; this one was about the maiden of Mustafar and some unfortunate young man named Ruwee Naberrie. She started strong, a little bit of disobedience, and he loved it.

Come sit by me all you
Fine lords and laddies,
And I'll tell you the tale
Of Ruwee Naberrie.

He met a fair maiden,
One bright may morning,
As he went a-hunting
On Mustafar peak.

While Rey sang Finn worked to get her warmed up, to make her comfortable. He held her cheeks open with his left hand, his right one stroking along her crack, concentrating on the whorled muscle, pressing against it tenderly with each pass. Once she’d sung four verses, and her wiggling was almost too much, he pressed a finger in.

'Come to go rest now,'
Said the Mustafar maiden,
'You're weary from trav - ahhhhhh, Finn, oh my god, oh my god,” and he allowed her a moment to writhe freely before holding her steady again with his left arm.

“Such a good girl, yes, mon petit oiseau, mon petit oiseau qui chante, my little singing bird, but I need you to keep singing.” And he blew softly down onto her buttocks and watched the goosebumps rise as she picked up the song where she’d left off. Her voice was just a bit softer than it had been before.

'You're weary from traveling,'
'That I can see.'

'Let us go home now,'
'Over yonder the Greenwood.'
'Come taste the fruits'
'Of Mustafar peak.'

As Rey sang Finn continued his ministrations, always gentle, first with one finger, and after a few verses he added another. She was relaxed, pliant, welcoming; eager for friction against her front she spread her legs and pushed herself against his knee, which he allowed, even as he knew it wouldn’t do much more than frustrate her in the long run.

The song wasn’t overly long, and when Finn sensed that young Ruwee Naberrie was nearing his end, he knew it was time for them to reach their end, too.

'You're bound to me now'
'And I am your lover.'
'I swear you'll not leave here'
'Mustafar peak.'

Cold was the blade
Of the Mustafar maiden. - Finn pushed the hard rubber plug into her, and Rey groaned as her body welcomed it, but with barely a pause she kept singing, and Finn held her legs apart and massaged her backside - globes and thighs, but studiously avoiding the area around her cunt - through to the end of the song.

And soft was the neck
Of Ruwee Naberrie.

And warm was the blood
That flowed from his body.
Red as the roses
Of Mustafar peak.

But deep in the Greenwood
‘Round Mustafar Manor
Lies Ruwee Naberrie
As cold as can be.

No headstone to mark him,
No lover to grieve him,
Save from the roses
Of Mustafar peak.

As soon as the song was finished Finn let Rey go and she scrambled to standing - her face red, her hair, so carefully done not even an hour earlier, already slightly disheveled. The feral expression from their first days on the steamer was back, and she stared at Finn as though she couldn’t quite decide if she wanted to hit him with her fist or fuck him against the wall. Neither of these were options for Finn, so he attempted to mitigate the situation by lifting up the second plug, still gripped between the middle and fourth finger of his left hand.

“Help me with this?” He asked with an innocent raise of his eyebrow, and her expression somehow softened and sharpened at once. In lieu of answering she held out her hand, and he dropped the plug into it, handed off the bottle of oil as well, then stood up and surrendered the armchair to her. He took a minute to wash his hands at the basin, and when he turned back he found Rey turned sideways on the chair.

“This is ridiculous,” she grumbled, shifting another few inches. “It’s like sitting on a broomstick. I cannot possibly wear this thing all day.”

She complained, but she was still flushed and her nipples were sweet peaks. Finn smiled at her as he pulled his braces off his shoulders and unfastened his trousers. “You’ll get used to it, I promise.” He gestured with his chin at the object in her hand. “Do you really want to help me with that? I can do it myself.”

She grinned, sharp teeth with just a bit of venom. “I want to help. But I think you’re too big to fit on my knees.”

Finn grabbed her wrists and pulled her to her feet, giving her a wet kiss on the mouth before leading her over to the bunk. “We can do it here. I’ll lie at the end of the bed and you can lie sideways, that might be more comfortable. Yes?”

It was. Finn pulled his trousers and drawers down his hips and lay on his front at the end of the bunk, and Rey leaned beside him, against him, drawing her well-oiled fingers through his crack while her other hand massaged his buttock.

“Is this good?” She asked breathily. Finn couldn’t see her, his own face turned towards the wall, but he could sense that her eyes were on him - on his behind - and it made him feel vulnerable. He’d been so eager that he hadn’t considered the submissive position he was putting himself in, and he wasn’t used to it - it wasn’t comfortable. In fact, he hated it. But Rey wasn’t going to hurt him, she loved him, he knew that, so he pushed the feeling aside and answered her question.

“It is good, yes.” He paused briefly, enjoying the sensation of her warm, slick digits passing over his asshole. “You can put a finger in, if you’d like.”

If you’d like as though that’s not what you’d like, mon amour.” She chuckled, not unkindly. “I will put a finger in, but I want you to tell me a poem. The one about the beast.”

Finn rubbed his face against the bedcover. “Angoisse?”

“Yes,” Rey said, pressing against him gently. “That one.”

He sighed. He supposed it was fair, considering he’d made her sing for her pleasure, he could recite poetry for his. He just hoped he could remember all the words.

Je ne viens pas ce soir vaincre ton corps, ô bête
En qui vont les péchés d’un peuple, ni creuser
Dans tes cheveux impurs une triste tempête
Sous l’incurable ennui que verse mon baiser:

As he reached the end of the first verse, Rey eased a finger into him - her middle, Finn thought - all the way to her hand. He moaned at the breach, and she gasped, and whispered, “It feels different.”

He paused his recitation to ask, “Different from what?”

“Different from me, I mean, from my cunt.”

“Have you done this before?”

There was a moment of silence, and then she said, “No, never… no.” She didn’t say anything else, but she started moving her finger experimentally, so he continued with the poem.

Je demande à ton lit le lourd sommeil sans songes
Planant sous les rideaux inconnus du remords,
Et que tu peux goûter après tes noirs mensonges,
Toi qui sur le néant en sais plus que les morts:

Car le Vice, rongeant maAAAAAhhhh!” In her maneuvering she’d finally managed to hit his prostate. He’d been waiting for it to happen but even so it was intense.

Rey, to her credit, wasn’t rattled by his sudden outcry. Instead she waited a moment, then poked the bundle of tissue again, more gently, drawing another gasp out of him.

“Is that good, then?” She asked.

“Yes,” he moaned, “it’s very good, but it is a lot. I can teach you more about it later, if you’d like.”

She hummed. “I want to hear the rest of my poem, please.”

He continued, and once he started speaking again she pulled out her finger and came back in with two. The fullness was pleasurable, and the warmth and dexterity of her fingers was better than any dilator. The only fingers he’d had inside himself were his own, and he wanted to weep with how wonderful she felt, and how unafraid he was.

M’a comme toi marqué de sa stérilité,
Mais tandis que ton sein de pierre est habité

Par un coeur que la dent d’aucun crime ne blesse,
Je fuis, pâle, défait, hanté par mon linceul,
Ayant peur de mourir lorsque je couche seul.

Rey pushed in the dilator as he finished the poem, and she gave him a pat and helped him to stand. She was still perched on her hip, slightly aslant, and as he pulled up his trousers and made himself presentable, she sighed dramatically.

“I am starving,” she declared. “Can we please get breakfast now?”

They had breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and in between they walked the decks. Later in the afternoon it rained, so they chatted with their neighbors and read to each other in the First Class lounge. Rey didn’t say another word about the dilator, although Finn could tell by the way she moved that her body was aware of it. So he wasn’t surprised when, upon retiring to their stateroom after dinner, she pushed him against the door with a growl. Unlike the first few times that had happened, he didn’t mind so much.

“I've been thinking about this all day,” Rey whined, throwing their hats on the chair and helping Finn pull his jacket down his shoulders. “This entire day has been the most exquisite torment and I need you, please.”

“I need you, too,” he answered, attacking the buttons of her dress as though he were a petit animal himself. They stared at one another in the dim light of the stateroom, pressed against the door as they undressed each other with near-silent desperation. He finally tugged down her petticoat and bloomers with a snarl, his own drawers already, somehow, resting precariously on the edge of the top bunk. He tugged her towards the bunks, but she paused at his steamer trunk.

“Where is the oil?” She gazed at him, eyes dark and full of desire, of lust, and without a word he reached over her shoulder and pulled the bottle of oil out of its compartment. He would need to buy more soon. While he was there he grabbed a handkerchief, too, and a towel from the basin. He laid the towel on the bed and Rey scrambled to join it, lying on her back and pulling her knees up to her shoulders. It was quite dark in the shadows of the bunk, but he could perceive the glisten of moisture between her legs, and what's more he could smell it, musky and sweet and already familiar.

Too dark; he wanted to see her, so he hopped up and flipped the switch by the door, illuminating the room, before returning to Rey at the bunk. The handle of the dilator peeked out from between her cheeks, and he rotated it slowly.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” He asked.

“Yes, I am so sure,” she whined. “Please, it's all I've thought about today. I've wanted to do this for so long and I never thought I would. I want to do it with you.”

Of course she was talking about before; she’d said she wanted to, but her village man wouldn't do more than put his fingers in her. Finn knew that some people were squeamish about anal contact, but he thought it would take a strong man indeed - or a crazy one - to deny Rey when she was like that, writhing and begging for it. Finn was strong but he wanted to fuck her ass as badly as she wanted it. She'd waited long enough.

He held the handkerchief up to her backside. “Push it out, bébé,” he murmured, and she released the most adorable grunt as the dilator slowly extracted itself. He wrapped it in the handkerchief and set it aside, and then went to work ensuring that they were both well-lubricated.

While he did that she asked him, “Have you done this before?”

“Done what, exactly?”

She rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean. Are you going to make me use my words?”

He paused long enough to insert another finger - three, now, and she welcomed them without a complaint - before answering. “I like to hear you use words, yes. Also yes, I have done this, with my hands, many times. Very many.”

“When you tie people up?”

He nodded. “Hm, sometimes, yes. But I’ve never fucked anybody, or been fucked.”

“Why not?”

“Rose didn’t want to, and you two are the only people I’ve taken my clothes off for. So I will say, no desire, no opportunity.”

Her questions were distracting him, so he tried to find something to focus on, an image or an idea, and when he let his brain go the thing it decided on was Kylo Ren’s hands.

Merde. Of course it was. He hadn't forgotten what had happened the other night, how he’d had an orgasm while thinking about his wife being fucked by her brother. It wasn't the most unusual idea he’d had; Finn was well aware of his own prurient interests, but this particular idea was close and personal, and that made it different, and also interesting. It was, moreover, an idea that was not going to go anywhere in the real world, so he didn't see any harm in following it through in his imagination.

So he allowed it. He imagined Kylo’s hands on Rey, his right thumb helping Rey massage her clit while the fingers of his left hand delved into her ass. Kylo’s fingers would be longer and thicker than his own, though. Would she take them as gracefully as she took his? Looking up at her face - her head thrown back, eyes closed, mouth open, panting - he expected that she would. Finn continued watching her as he imagined Kylo removing his hand from her and wiping his fingers on the towel, conveniently laid out, and then reaching for his cock…

Kylo’s cock. Was Finn going to imagine this? Yes, yes he was. He was fully invested in this daydream; he wanted to see it through.

As Finn nudged his own stiff cock against Rey’s backside he imagined Kylo doing the same. Kylo would call her darling sister and he’d be unbelievably gentle. He couldn’t imagine Kylo raising his voice to Rey, or raising his hands, or causing her harm in any way. He was, Finn was sure, the perfect sibling for her, caring and attentive. As a lover, surely he would be the same.

Rey’s voice cut through his reverie. “Finn, husband, mon amour,” she keened, “push inside, just push inside, please.”

Finn answered, and although he was speaking for himself he felt as though he were what Kylo would say, too. “I just don’t want to hurt you, mon ange.”

Rey’s response was a frustrated howl, and she reached past her own hips and grabbed his roughly. She wiggled her backside against the head of his cock at the same time she pulled his hips towards her, and Finn watched with fascination and a bit of awe as the head of his cock penetrated her body. She celebrated with a guttural cry of victory.

“Finn!” She exclaimed, “Finn, it’s perfect, it’s so good. Please, please…” He was fully back with himself, now; it was Finn and Rey and his cock was inside her and it was a glorious feeling, so tight and slick and warm. Her hands were back on her clit, which seemed to help her stay relaxed, so he kept pushing into her, meeting no resistance until he was fully hilted. He could feel her heartbeat, a steady pulse around his cock. She was so good, wiggling on him, working herself with both hands, lifting her head up to try to catch a glimpse where their bodies met, her muscle stretched so delightfully around his shaft, her vagina weeping juices of arousal that dripped down and coated both of them. Even her breathing delighted him, soft and ragged like a little beast. He pushed her thighs up, wishing his own hands were just slightly bigger, until she shook her head and released a breathy moan.

“Move… please, please,” Rey was almost beyond words. So he moved for her, slowly and carefully at first, both the oil and her dripping fluids providing lubrication, but as he felt her body respond he sped up his movements. She reacted with obvious pleasure, which pleased him in turn, and their delight met and reversed and met again, over and over until they collapsed together in shouts of shared ecstasy. There were tears in Rey’s eyes as Finn pulled his softening cock out of her, and she dragged him down next to her in an embrace before he could even think about cleaning them up.

“Thank you, husband,” she whispered, her voice slightly gravelly. Her hand was gentle and warm against his cheek, her thumb caressing his lower lip. “You were amazing. That was so good, better than I dreamed it would be.”

He kissed her mouth, finding her lips soft and breath sweet. He wished that he felt as comfortable speaking English as he did French, so he said what he wanted even though he knew she wouldn’t understand. “Je t'aime tellement, ma jolie femme, mon petit chaton, mon coeur.”

She laughed. “What does that mean?”

He caressed her cheek with the tip of his nose. “It means ‘I love you’.” And he kissed her one more time before cleaning them up and tucking them into the bottom bunk together for sleep.

Rey woke up in the middle of the night, and jostled Finn as she crawled down the bunk. He reached for her, through a haze of slumber, but she tutted at him.

“I have to use the toilet; I’ll be right back.”

The sliver of moon reflected on the sea outside, illuminating the stateroom just enough that Finn could follow his wife’s outline to the water closet. He must have nodded off, because the next thing he was aware of was her warm, naked body snuggled up against him again. She pressed her face into his chest, wrapped her arms tightly around his torso, her leg tucked between his. He squeezed her in return, and they lay together, Finn skirting the line between sleep and wakefulness, until Rey whispered into the darkness.

“You really love me.”

It took Finn a moment to understand what she’d said, and that she’d been speaking to him. He wanted to laugh, it was such a ridiculous thing for her to say, but he didn’t. Instead he kissed the top of her head. “I do love you. Of course. Did you think I’ve been lying to you?”

She hummed, and yawned, and murmured, “I thought you were deluding yourself.”

He didn’t know how to respond, but he didn’t have to; Rey was asleep again within a few minutes, and he fell asleep, too, very soon after.

Chapter Text

The next day it rained, and Rey was tired and sore, so they spent the entire day in their stateroom, having their meals delivered to them there. When Rey wasn’t napping Finn read to her, mostly from the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe. She enjoyed his horror stories the most. "The Pit and the Pendulum,” "The Masque of the Red Death," and "The Tell-Tale Heart" were her favorites, so although Finn found them morbid he would read them to her again and again. When she slept he would read from his own books, or just relax, draped across the armchair, and listen as sheets of rain battered the porthole. It was so grey outside he couldn’t discern the water of the ocean from the water of the sky. Rey had joked that it was very much like the weather would be at Mustafar, and Finn’s heart fell thinking about it. He hadn’t considered the cliché of the wet English countryside - he hadn’t considered much about England at all beyond the need to go there with Rey, so he could bring her back to New Orleans again in a year. And in just a few days time he would be there himself. Their time on the steamer was a dream, and he would have to wake up.

The next day was the last day on the ocean - the following morning, assuming the steamer was on schedule, they’d be arriving in Liverpool first thing. After his realization the previous day, Finn was full of nervous energy, and he planned on taking it out on his wife as much as possible.

Rey was definitely multi-orgasmique. The question remained: just how multi-orgasmique was she? He was curious, so after breakfast he brought her back to the room. She groused a little as he undressed her, making the very reasonable point that she’d just put on fresh clothes an hour before. “And now you want me to take them off again? It is a waste of effort.” But she smiled as she said it, as they pulled her chemise over her head, so he knew she wasn’t too upset.

She wasn’t upset at all once he got started. They hadn’t even been married a week, and already one day without experiencing her naked body made Finn feel like a starving man, and she appeared to feel similarly.

“What exactly are you doing, now?” She asked him as he tucked a towel under her backside and gave her a kiss in the inside of her knee.

“Ah, Rey, mon amour. I want to play a game where I see how many orgasms I can give you. Yes?”

She sighed and lay her head back on the pillow. “Men,” she grumbled. “Is this a thing you all do? As though giving a woman an orgasm is a measurement of your own virility.”

Finn chuckled and worked his mouth up her thigh closer and closer to her cunt, feather-light kisses to her soft skin. “So your man played this game with you too, hmmm? How many orgasms did he give you?” His cheekiness earned him a smack on the side of the head, nevertheless a playful one, and she pointedly did not answer his question.

“Just get to it, then,” she murmured, wiggling herself down on the mattress. “Measure yourself however you would like, husband. I am going to lie back and enjoy myself.”

And she did; Finn made sure of it. Her first three orgasms happened quite quickly, one after the other, in his mouth. After the third Rey begged him for a kiss, which he gave her, and she licked her essence off of him with a smile and a moan. Although he enjoyed the intimacy of using his mouth on her it did make it difficult to watch her, which was also great fun, so he sat back and used his hands for a while.

Her next release took a while to build up, but it was worth it. He had fingers inside her, and was working her clit perhaps more gently than he needed to, and he only increased the pressure when she asked him to. And then she begged him; hands fisted in the bedspread, head thrown back, hair a mess, face and chest flushed red with exertion and desire.

“Finn,” she moaned, “Finn? Finn?”

Oui, ma chérie. What is it?”

She groaned, and bore down on his hand hard enough that he could feel her muscles contract around him.

“Feels strange,” she whined, “I don’t know, but I’m going to, I’m going toaaaaHHHHH” and she cried out as a stream of fluid gushed out of her cunt, dousing them both with warm wetness.

Finn removed his hand from her carefully and rubbed the fluid against his hands, laughing, and Rey wailed. “What was that?”

“That,” he answered, tugging his handkerchief - Rose’s again, he noted happily - from his sleeve and beginning to mop up the mess, “is your ejaculation. Have you not done that before?”

She shook her head. “No, not at all. I’ve never even heard of it.”

He smiled at her as he finished cleaning up and took the time to sniff the damp square of fabric. “You will not be surprised to hear that I have seen that before. Not every woman can do it, but it is fun, I think, that you can.” He leaned over her and gave her a quick kiss. “And I am honored to have been the first man to give you that gift.”

Rey snorted and pushed him off. “Congratulations, I’m very proud of you. But I’m not done, so please? Do that some more.” And she grinned at him and settled herself back again.

So Finn did it some more. He counted three more orgasms, but then she had one that might have been several in a row, and it excited him so much he forgot to count, and when he asked Rey how many she’d had she just laughed at him. He decided that her happiness was all that really mattered, and he also decided that he would do it again once they reached Mustafar. The next time he wouldn’t lose count. But for now he focused on Rey, on his wife, making her feel good until she begged him to stop. Which, eventually, she did.

It was a marvelous way to spend a morning.

By late afternoon Rey was still naked and lounging on the bunk, although she was making noises about finally putting her clothes back on so they could have dinner in the dining room. “It is our last night at sea, after all,” she said. “We should at least make an effort, shouldn’t we?”

Finn did not particularly care one way or the other, and being dressed already, it wouldn’t involve effort on his part, so he continued to lounge. He was going to miss that armchair; hopefully there was something similar at Mustafar. While he rested Rey mumbled to herself, weighing whether or not she actually wanted to get dressed and go out and talk to people.

It took him a moment to realize she’d asked him a question unrelated to dinner.

“Hmm, what was that, Rey?”

She rolled onto her side, tucking her hands under her neck and curling in on herself, and scooted closer to the edge of the bunk. “I asked, husband, why you like to keep your clothes on.”

This was not a question that Finn was expecting, and he took a moment to consider. First, a clarification. “I don’t always keep my clothes on, do I? I take them off when I have sex with you.”

“You sometimes take them off when you have sex with me. You didn’t take them off earlier. Besides, I don’t really mean with me.” She paused, and drew her eyebrows together pensively. “You mentioned the other day that Rose and me are the only people you’ve undressed for. And that seems unusual, given that you are obviously very…” she pulled her hands out from behind her neck and held them up in front of her face, fingers held apart, “very experienced in some specific ways. I know it isn’t my business, except that I am your wife so perhaps it is my business. I had no idea,” she pulled her hands back and shrugged, looking embarrassed, then gazed up towards the porthole instead of looking at him, “that you were the way you are, but I am still not sure exactly what you are. Or why. And I am curious.”

Finn drew his knees up under his chin and contemplated how to answer. This wasn’t something he thought about, and he’d never explained his feelings about his body and his need to keep it covered to anyone - Rose hadn’t been overly curious, and it wasn’t anybody else’s business. But he supposed Rey deserved his honesty, so he would tell her as much as he could and hope that she would understand.

“Rey, there are different parts to it, I suppose. One part - an important one - is that I don’t experience sexual attraction the way I think most people do.”

Her expression already reflected confusion. He attempted to clarify. “I am clearly attracted to you. But the way I feel about you is unusual for me. It’s how I felt about Rose, yes, and a very small number of other people in the past. Just a couple, really.” Kylo Ren flitted through his mind. Was he attracted to Kylo like that? He still wasn’t sure. Kylo confused him. But he didn’t matter right now, he was a distraction. Finn pushed the memory of Kylo’s dark hair and scarred face and large hands aside. “The way I feel about you makes me want to give part of myself to you. Yes?”

She nodded, although she was still frowning slightly. He was feeling more comfortable, so he lowered his feet to the ground and leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees.

“Other people, though… other people are still interesting. And even when I’m not attracted to people, I enjoy making them feel. It gives me power, and control. That’s why I like tying people up, and stimulating them, giving them orgasms, or choosing not to.”

“And they like you doing it. Even when you aren’t excited by it?”

He smiled at her. “It is exciting, though. It’s just not exactly sexual - or at least it’s not sexual in the same way touching you is sexual. It’s not personal. And those people… they don’t really care. As long as I’m dominating them, and they’re submitting to me, that’s our relationship, and that’s what matters. They don’t care if my cock is hard or not.”

Rey gave him a little smile at that, and stretched her legs out, pointing her toes. “Well, I care about that.”

“You are my wife,” he replied with a laugh. “I am very glad you care about that.”

He paused a moment and watched her, stretched out on the bunk, so beautiful and serene. He wanted to tell her. He wanted her to understand.

“There is another part. This is something I have told only one other person, and I don’t like to think about it. I think it relates to the first part, but to be honest I do not know which one leads and which one follows.”

Finn leaned back in the chair, and pulled his right leg up, but his left foot stayed on the ground. He hated this memory, but he thought it was important for her to know.

“Rey, I was fifteen when I was sent to Paris for school. Did you know that?”

She shook her head slowly. “I knew you were young, but I didn’t know you were fifteen, no.”

“Hm, yes. Fifteen. So a young man - a very young man, not a child but not a man, you know. I’d never even left New Orleans before. I spoke French with a Creole accent, I wore strange clothes, I had grown up in a city yet Paris made me feel like a country child. Rustique. Provincial.

“I was so excited to be there, too. I felt like an adult. In the evening, after classes, I would go out with my classmates and see the city, watch people. So many people.”

Rey was listening intently, watching him with her hazel eyes wide. Could she guess what he would say? He didn't think she could.

“So one night, when I had been there maybe three weeks, my classmates were walking a bit ahead of me - or I was walking slowly, I don't remember - and a man grabbed my arm. I don't recall what he looked like, exactly, but he seemed very large, and old, although I don't suppose he was much older than thirty. He smelled, like smoke and drink, and he had a woman on his arm. This man, who I had never seen before, grabbed me and pulled me aside, and he said to me, ‘Jeune négro, je te paierai 20 francs pour baiser cette femme et me laisser regarder.’”

Finn’s lip curled with the memory. He was angry now, and Rey knew it. She sat up and leaned towards him. “What did he say to you?” Her voice was cold.

“He offered me money to sleep with the woman while he watched.” He didn't mention that the money was a laughably small amount, or that the man had called him a slur while issuing his unwelcome invitation, but he thought Rey might understand that anyway. She rose to her knees and snarled; his petit fauve was back, but this time her ire was directed at someone else, on his behalf, and it thrilled him.

“That is disgusting,” she spat, and then she growled, “I would kill him, and I would kill his wife, too.”

Despite the pain of the memory, Finn couldn't help but smile at her fierce reaction. “The man is long gone, and so is the woman - not his wife, I am very sure. I was fine, nothing happened. I ran away, and I didn't go out again for a long time. I knew what the man meant, how he saw me, and I knew that I wasn't a… black fiend or whatever it was that he expected me to be.”

Rey sat back on her heels. “Mon amour, may I sit on your lap?”

Finn nodded, and she scrambled off the bed and snuggled across his legs. He held her tightly; she was warm and soft, and still smelled slightly of the sex they had earlier in the day, which made him smile.

“You're wonderful, Finn,” she breathed into his neck.

“Thank you,” he said, giving her a squeeze. “It is hard when people look at you and see what they want you to be, and not who you truly are.”

Rey nodded. “It would be infuriating. I can't believe that man thought he could just say that to you, that he could touch you, like you were his… he thought he could pay you… to watch you… to watch you and that woman...” She paused, and a look of deep disgust crossed her face. He thought she might say something else, but instead she relaxed back in his arms and grumbled wordlessly.

Finn cleared his throat. “So, those are the pieces. A few years later I started going out again, and I made friends who helped me understand how I could do what I wanted in a way that was comfortable for me.”

“You found out you could tie people up and have sex with them while keeping your clothes on.”

“Exactly. And I must say,” he looked down into her face, “you are taking this remarkably well. Is this fine?”

Rey hummed and lifted a hand to his cheek. “It is, you know. I have led a sheltered life, Finn. I don't think you understand. Until I was fifteen - when my brother returned from the States - I had never been farther than the village. Since then I have been to London once, for a wedding, Europe once, asking for financing, and now to the States. I am realizing how much I don't know, and how much I want to know. You, Finn, know a lot of very interesting things, and I am enjoying learning from you. Very much.”

Finn smiled down at her. She was flattering him, and he loved it. He gazed into her eyes and considered what else he might teach her, and then her eyes widened, as though she’d suddenly remembered something.

“That is a look,” he said. “What is it?”

“Oh, there is a thing I have wanted to do but haven't been able to, and I thought, perhaps I could do it now.” She bit her lip, and a flush grew across her cheeks, but she held eye contact. “It seems as good a time as any.”

“What is it, then? What other delicious treat has your man in the village withheld from you?”

Rey smacked him lightly, annoyed, and huffed indignantly at his laughter. “Be quiet, he has good reasons. Anyway.” She climbed off his lap, and encouraged him to stand, too, before working on his trouser fastenings. “I want to put your cock in my mouth.”

It was only then that Finn realized that, indeed, she hadn't yet done this for him. He’d only experienced it himself a handful of times and didn't take it for granted, so if she wanted to do it he wasn't going to say no.

As she pulled him out and got to her knees, Finn wondered again what kind of man would say no to Rey Skywalker. Was there something wrong with him? He’d had friends in Paris, more than one, with issues around various acts, usually having to do with some sort of trauma. Was it like that with Rey’s man? He wondered.

She started by kissing his shaft, sweet and gentle from tip to base and then back again, and then she nibbled at his foreskin where it hugged his head before pushing it down and exposing the head fully. She hummed happily and took the naked head into her mouth; her mouth, so wet and warm, and after that he didn't want to waste any more time wondering about that man in the village.

“So good, ma chérie, you are such a good girl, and you make me feel so good too…” he pushed his fingers into the loops of her buns, not to control her but to feel closer to her. He teased her, quietly, “You are very talented, with that, are you sure you’ve not done it before?”

She huffed around his cock, shook her head and hummed, clearly delighting in his praise.

Rey experimented with depth, and speed; she tried sucking harder, working with the foreskin and against it, all the while moving her hands where her mouth couldn’t reach. It all felt good to him, and it seemed like she was having fun, more than anything, and that made Finn very happy; he told her how happy he was. It also made him happy when he came; he gave her fair warning, and when it happened she pulled her mouth off and directed the stream towards her chest with a joyful shout. She grinned at him, naked and dripping with his spend, and he loved her more than he thought possible. She was perfect. How did he get so lucky?

As Rey stood she declared that she was hungry and wished to eat in the dining room after all. Finn groaned, but he couldn't really be angry about it, so instead he helped his wife clean up and prepare for a public dinner.

Finn dreamed that night. He dreamed about Rey, and he dreamed about Kylo, about their skin and hair, their breath and butterflies and the sound of bells. He thought the ti bon ange of his mother was there, too, for some reason. It had been years since he’d dreamed about her, at least that he remembered, but his mind was still on her when Rey climbed on him in his sleep and moved her body against his.

“Husband,” she whispered into his neck as she rubbed her cunt, wet and hot, against his quickly swelling cock. “Please.”

He couldn’t say no to her, so as soon as he was hard enough he held her hips and helped her slip onto him. She rode him lazily until she came, and then he rolled her over and fucked her until he came, too. She scratched his scalp and kissed his face and moaned, and he was very happy.

Afterwards Finn held his wife and thought about the next day. They would all transfer to the the train - Finn and Rey, their luggage, and poor Snap Wexley; Finn was horrified to realize he hadn’t thought about his late valet in days. The train would take them to someplace called Kendal, where Finn was to meet the representative of the Wexley family to transfer to the body to them. Then he and Rey would make the rest of the trip to Mustafar in a horse and buggy. It sounded rustic, and a bit romantic, and despite his nervousness he was looking forward to it.

Rey seemed to sense his unease, and she stroked his arms where they grasped around her chest.

“Tomorrow will be fine, Finn. We’ll be at Mustafar by early afternoon, and Missus Holdo should be there to meet us with some men to carry the baggage.”

Finn held her more tightly and buried his nose in her hair. “I've enjoyed having you all to myself on this ship; it will be strange to be in a house again. And then Kylo will be home in just a few days, won't he? Then I will have to share you again.” He meant to sound lighthearted, but it came out more sober than he meant for it to.

Rey wiggled and rolled until she was facing him, her eyes large and shining in the dim light of the moon filtered through the porthole. “I will have to share you, you mean. My brother considers you a great friend; he will want to show you everything. He’ll take you up to the peak, ask you to help him with his projects. I will barely see you anymore once he arrives home, I just know it.” She smiled at the thought but it was a sad smile, and Finn frowned in his confusion.

“Kylo considers me a great friend?”

Her smile grew. “Yes, of course. My brother doesn’t have friends at home; he doesn’t speak, you know. I’m very curious to find out how this Philadelphia trip ended up. Those people, his correspondents,” she waved her hand between them, “I suppose they are friends, of a sort, but he’s never had to look them in the face and talk to them. I hope he was able to do it. But,” she looked him in the eye again, “he talks to you, Finn.”

“He talks to other people, he does,” Finn insisted, “at the dinner party, at the wedding…” but as he thought about it, Finn realized that he hadn’t seen Kylo speak to anyone except for Rey, and himself, unless he was forced to. He had answered Mr. Cushing’s questions during the demonstration, but did not speak with him at all at the dinner party. And aside from greetings and farewells, Finn couldn’t swear that he’d see Kylo converse with Rose, or Poe, or Kes, or anyone. It was an interesting realization for him to have.

Rey hummed and rubbed her face against his chest. “I’m tired. Let’s go to sleep; we’ll have enough to worry about in the morning.”

Finn held his wife, and thought again about her brother - now his friend - and listened to her gentle breathing until he fell back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Finn released a long sigh and settled, finally, into the seat of the carriage that would take them from Kendal to Mustafar Hall. As they headed up Windermere Road to drive north and around the two lakes - which Rey called waters - that fronted the village of Coniston and Kyber Peak beyond, Rey took Finn’s hand and leaned against him.

Their coats and gloves were new and warm, made of fine wool and leather, purchased in a few minutes at a shop near the dock just before they caught the train to Kendal. Despite some quick tailoring work at the shop they fit imperfectly, but Finn was sure they could have them finished in Coniston. He had been horrified by the cold, which was damp and miserable and accompanied by dark, dirty fog. Although it was only the first week of September it was already as cold in Liverpool as the coldest winter day in New Orleans, and Finn's wardrobe was not prepared for it. His wife’s coat was at least fifty years old and in desperate need of replacing. She’d argued vehemently against his insistence that he purchase new coats for them, but over the past couple of hours she seemed to have forgiven him.

“How are you feeling, husband?” Rey asked, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder and pressing her hand into his.

“I feel as though great weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I am excited to get to Mustafar Hall, and you into bed, as soon as possible.”

Rey hummed and held his hand more tightly, but didn’t otherwise respond. After a moment he nudged her. “Mon ange, don’t you want to go to bed? It’s so cold and damp, and you’re so warm and sweet. You’ll be the only thing keeping me snug through the long winter, I will cling to you so tightly you’ll have to peel me off once the sun returns in the spring.”

Silence was her only answer, and his discomfort grew until she finally said, into his shoulder, “I’m worried.”

He chuckled into the top of her head. He'd purchased for her a new hat, fur and leather to match his own, but she insisted it was too warm for her to wear it. “Oh, ma chérie. We are together, and soon we will be at your home. In just a few days your dear brother and my dear friend will be home as well. Your new equipment will be delivered within two weeks, and by the Spring we’ll be mining crystals. If everything goes according to plan, by next Autumn we’ll be back in New Orleans. All is well, my dear wife. Why are you worried?”

“I am worried,” she declared through a frown, “that you are going to hate Mustafar Hall.”

Finn laughed and pulled her close. “You are a funny oiseau. Why would I hate Mustafar Hall? It is your home, where you were born and grew up. I love you, so I must love it. Non?”

Non, mon amour. You don't have to love Mustafar any more than I have to love New Orleans.” She pushed herself away so she could gaze into his face. Her expression was serious and a little wild. “I fear we have misled you about our situation. Yes, my brother has a title, and we own land and a manor house. But we have very little money to our name. Our father spent most of his inheritance before he died. My brother inherited from our uncle when he died but it wasn't much; just enough to pay taxes and to invest in travel to build up more financing for the mine. We spent our last pennies on the trip to New Orleans; thank God for your investment, which I assure you again will be worthwhile. But the house, I fear, has paid the price of our neglect. It is a terrible mess, and I worry - I am even afraid - that you will hate it and you won't want to stay.”

Rey ended her diatribe with tears in her eyes, gripping Finn’s arm tightly, and his first response was to kiss her and remind her he was there, that he loved her.

“I have seen such houses, in New Orleans, beautiful old mansions falling into disrepair and crumbling away into the bayous. My love, families with old money fall into decline every day, and there is nothing shameful about it. That being said,” he gripped her chin to hold her steady, “you and your brother might be poor but I am wealthy. I have not invested even a fraction of my own money in your mine, and what belongs to me also belongs to you. I did make a vow to that effect, yes? In front of God and everyone?”

Rey nodded and kissed him back. “Yes, you did.”

“Good, I am glad you remember that,” he teased. “I will fix whatever needs fixing - always, for you, as well as I can. Do you believe me?”

She was smiling, her sunny smile, and leaned back into him. “I do. I believe you.”

He pulled her close and they snuggled together, and after a while the gentle rolling of the carriage and clop of the horses’ hooves lulled them both to sleep.

Felix Lacoste stood on the porch facing Mustafar Hall.

Glancing down, he saw that he was wearing unfamiliar clothes - a long black wool coat, heavy boots, his hands encased in fine leather gloves that creaked when he flexed his fingers. His head was covered by a hat, not his usual top hat but a warm thing, with fur pulled down over his ears, and a string tied under his chin.

Were they his clothes? He thought he might be dreaming. But this was too real even for his most lucid dreams. The wind pressing against his face was bitter, and the damp seeping through his coat made him shudder. Unfamiliar emotions threatened to overwhelm him - guilt, sadness, and anger both profound and acute. There was electricity surrounding him, too, like the anticipation in the air just before a lightning strike. Every hair on his body was standing on end. The combination of electric expectation and his unpleasant mental state made him anxious, as though he was waiting for something bad to happen.

He had no memory of arriving here. Casting his mind back, he tried to remember. He must remember.

They had disembarked at Liverpool. It had been nerve-wracking; he’d had to sign reams of paperwork for the importation of Mr. Wexley’s body, oversee his transfer to the train. He’d done this, while Rey managed their luggage.

Rey. His wife, his reason for being here at Mustafar Hall. Thinking about her was soothing; so much beauty and strength. He loved her; he wouldn’t be here otherwise. But where was she? She must have gone inside. He was by himself, lonely on the stone porch that fronted the house.

They'd boarded the train back in Liverpool. But first… the coat. Finn had purchased new coats, for himself and for Rey, at a shop near the docks. He’d been shocked by the damp cold that oozed everywhere and gave him chills, and his New Orleans winter wear would not stand up to it. He’d been horrified, too, by the state of Rey’s coat, so old and threadbare it might have belonged to her grandmother. He’d had to drag her to a shop, and she had argued with him but ended up with a new coat anyway - coat and hat and gloves and boots, all new and beautiful as befitted the wife of Felix Lacoste. She hated them, but she'd be warm.

The train had carried them from Liverpool to Kendal, where Mr. Wexley’s mother had met them at the station. There was a younger brother with her, one of several, and Finn knew that he had met them there but had no memory of what they’d looked like or what he had said to them. Standing in front of Mustafar Hall, both moved and repulsed, he hoped that his words had brought them some solace.

Rey had hugged the older woman, and held her hand; he hoped that her presence had provided some comfort, too.

The emotions roiling through his body were not his own, Finn was certain of this. He had no reason for guilt or sadness or anger - so much anger. He was happy to be here. These emotions came to him from the house, but they were not of the house. The house was dead; there was something in the house.

House was a laughable word for this place. It was a wreck, a pile, a crumbling castle from a nightmare; it had walls and a roof and a tower and he wondered at how it managed to hold together. The jumble of stone and timber gave the impression of a thing that had built itself despite great resistance, had held itself high for a moment, and had then died, collapsing where it once stood tall.

He did not want to go inside, but he was not afraid. Fear was not familiar to Felix Lacoste.

He pushed open the heavy wooden door and went inside. The door was silent in opening, but crashed heavily when he pushed it closed behind him, shutting out the chilly wind but enclosing him in a space that was nearly as cold as the outdoors. The hall was immense, made of stone and three storeys tall, wound with a staircase and open to balconies on all sides. The echo of the shutting door seemed muted despite the scope of the place. His wife’s new coat and accessories were discarded on the coat rack to his left.

Standing in this bleak room Finn was finally able to distinguish his own emotions from the ones that were being imposed on him, and he took a moment to gather the external ones and push them away. He did not understand how he was able to do this, but he did it, and it was taxing. He took a moment to examine his surroundings, and in the process he looked up.

The ceiling and the roof beyond were in the process of collapsing, and the sky, white and foreboding, peeked through heavy beams that he could almost hear groaning in their attempt to keep the house standing. The room was dark and drab and the echo of the door slam had faded away; the quiet was absolute. Finn longed to call out for his wife, but he dared not break the silence. The air was heavy and almost smothered him; he was unsure if his voice would even reach beyond the area immediately surrounding him.

The back of the hall bore an archway through which Finn could see a fireplace; flames danced almost merrily and threw shadows against the walls. Someone was in that room, waiting for him. Perhaps it was Rey - who else would it be? - so he allowed his feet to carry him across the hall, not bothering to take off his outerwear; he would have caught a chill between the door and the fire.

The room with the fireplace was empty and aside from the crackle of the flames, it was as deathly quiet as the great hall. In addition to the light emanating from the fireplace, the space was dimly lit by several sad-looking gas lamps lining the walls. There was no one there, although something about the silence and the eerie shadows in the corners made Finn feel that he was being watched. Sofas and chairs, threadbare and ancient, created an uncertain pattern around the edges of the narrow room, and Finn took a seat on the largest chair, a leather thing with armrests and a high back that faced the fire and had a matching ottoman. It was hot in front of the fire so he removed his hat, gloves, coat and boots before making himself comfortable and taking in the room.

A series of portraits decorated the wall above and around the fireplace, family portraits going back at least four generations. The one to the right of the fireplace featured two children, a very small girl and a much older boy, undeniably Rey and Kylo - or, more properly, Ben. Their father was a surprisingly pleasant looking man, seated relaxing in the same chair that Finn was in now, the hint of a smile on his rugged face. His wife, standing to his right and set back in the shadow, was a small, serious-looking woman, her hair done up in a complex of braids, her dark eyes so much like her son’s. Rey stood in front of her, unsmiling, clutching her mother's skirt in one hand and her stuffed rabbit in the other. Her mother’s hand rested protectively on top of her head; the child Rey’s hair was pulled back into the same hairstyle that was so familiar to Finn, three buns stacked on the back of her head. Ben stood tall on the other side of the chair from his mother and sister, thin and gangly and smiling broadly, his ears prominent through too-short hair. His expression was a revelation, and Finn couldn’t take his eyes off the boy’s painted visage.

After several minutes the swirling emotions overwhelmed him again, the anger absent but still the despair and remorse, this time accompanied by shadows at the edge of his vision. Finn closed his eyes and worked to separate his own emotions again, push the foreign ones away. And again it worked, but it was exhausting. Although he was back in control of his mind, his body was still waiting for lightning to strike. It was unnerving.

“Mister Lacoste? Are you all right?”

The voice by his ear was strong and kind, and Finn turned his head to the side and found a pair of eyes looking down into his own, bright and blue and full of concern, where a woman stood a few feet from his chair. He remembered her now; she’d been there when they arrived, waiting on the porch with a few village men ready to bring in their steamer trunks. The mysterious Mrs Holdo; as tall as him but willowy, with bright white hair that fell in waves around a face that was stern and thoughtful and far younger than the shade of her hair would suggest. She wore a dark dress that was several years out of style, but which nevertheless looked perfect on her.

She took in his expression and sighed, taking a seat on the small chair next to him.

Parlez-vous français?” Mrs Holdo asked, and hearing his native language helped to draw Finn out. His eyes snapped up and he stared at her; she laughed at his reaction. “Yes, I speak it myself,” she continued in French, in an accent that suggested the Mediterranean south but which was nevertheless coherent. “I thought perhaps, with a name like Lacoste, you would speak the language.”

Oui,” Finn replied, his voice sounding strange and alien in his own head. “My mother’s family was Haitian, and my father’s family spoke French as well. I was educated in Paris.”

She nodded and smiled, a lovely sight, bright in the darkness. Her presence was soothing. “I can hear the Paris in your accent. Lovely city, Paris.”

“Have you spent time there?”

“A bit,” her smile widened. “I lived in Cannes, for a time, but would occasionally travel to Paris.”

Finn nodded and hummed, but couldn’t think of anything else to say, so they sat in silence, watching the fire together.

Qui sont les gens dans le portrait au dessus de la cheminée?” Finn asked, gesturing at the large painting that hung directly above the mantle. He had been examining the paintings, which lined the wall to the right and left of the massive hearth, and his curiosity was piqued. This was Rey’s family, still mysterious, and he wanted to know about them.

Holdo pointed to the painting, large and of an older style, featuring a woman in a dress with a voluminous grey dress and a black bodice, seated in a chair. She was beautiful.

“That is Padmé, Rey and Ben’s great-grandmother.”

“She looks like Rey,” Finn murmured, standing and stepping over the ottoman to get a closer look. “Although perhaps a bit older.” He heard Mrs Holdo chuckle behind him.

“Yes, she does, uncommonly so. She would have been thirty-five or -six when this painting was made, I think. The men with her are her husband, Sir Anakin Skywalker, the first baronet, and behind him is Colonel Ben Kenobi, Anakin’s best friend.”

Finn spared a glace away from the woman to study the men, both of them tall and handsome, although Colonel Kenobi, bathed in shadow, appeared to be at least fifteen years older than Sir Skywalker. The sleeve of Sir Skywalker's left arm was pinned at the elbow; Finn supposed that the man must have lost an arm during the war. He returned his gaze to Mrs. Skywalker, who held a small child on her lap, not more than a year old.

“The child,” Finn asked, “is that Rey’s grandfather?”

“Grandmother,” Mrs Holdo replied. “Jyn Skywalker. The family title has, somewhat unusually, passed through the female line twice - first through Jyn, and again through Jyn’s daughter, Leia. Sir Skywalker and Padmé had only one child. They died when she was young.” Here Holdo paused, and the pause felt meaningful enough that Finn turned to her. She was staring up at the painting, a thoughtful expression on her face. Finally her gaze fell back to him. “How much did Rey tell you about her family, Mister Lacoste?”

He shrugged and returned to his seat. “Not much, honestly. She didn’t welcome questions, and I don’t care. My father might care, but he knows better than to try to keep me from doing what I want to do, so I never pushed her for details.”

Mrs Holdo laughed at his confession. “Oh, Mister Lacoste, I can understand why you and Rey get along. Well, I think you should know, so I shall tell you. Sir Skywalker fought for the British Crown against revolutionaries in Ireland.”

“I know that much, yes.”

“Colonel Kenobi was his commanding officer, and they became great friends. So great that when Sir Skywalker married Padmé a few years after he left the service, Kenobi came here to live with them. Sir Skywalker was distraught after the war. He had seen things and done things that he felt were unforgivable, and over time he became convinced that the Irish were in the right, that the British were in the wrong, and that he’d been fighting on the wrong side. But it was too late - he had already killed so many people - and that pain took him to his grave. Unfortunately it also took Padmé. When Jyn was five, Sir Skywalker locked her in the attic, murdered his wife, and then killed himself. Just in front of the attic door.”

Finn’s stomach clenched, his heart cold with horror. “Oh my God.”

“Yes.” Mrs Holdo, still staring up at the painting, shifted in her seat. “Colonel Kenobi found them when he returned from the village later that day. According to the will, Colonel Kenobi was to be Jyn’s guardian until she came of age. So he stayed here, at Mustafar Hall, and raised her as his own daughter.”

Finn looked to the next painting, hanging to the left of Padmé and her family: a man and a woman, both very handsome, and two children, a dark-haired girl and light-haired boy, holding hands. “I suppose that is Jyn Skywalker and her family, then?”

Mrs Holdo nodded. “Yes. Jyn Andor Skywalker - Andor was her husband’s name. Sir Cassian Andor, the second baronet. He was a local boy, worked in the mines, caught her fancy. They didn’t marry until she turned thirty, but they were very happy together, by all accounts. I knew them, did you know?”

The only thing Finn knew about Mrs Holdo was her name, and that she provided the tea that kept Rey from getting pregnant. He shook his head.

“I was friends with their children - Leia and Luke, Rey and Ben’s mother and uncle. We played together here all the time, in the house, the forest, up on the peak.” She smiled with the memory.

At the mention of Luke, Finn’s hackles raised, and he murmured, “Luke.” Mrs Holdo turned her gaze to him.

“Luke, yes. Their Uncle Luke. You know about him, I suppose?”

“I know as much as I need to know. I know he’s dead.”

Her gaze was steady and unblinking. “Did they tell you he fell off the cliff, up on Kyber Peak?”

“No, I didn’t know that.”

“Well, now you do.” Just like their mother was the next part, Finn was sure of it, but he was glad she didn’t say it out loud. He was glad, but now he felt as though he should mention it.

“I am sorry, Missus Holdo, about what happened to your friend, their mother. And… Luke, as well. It must have been a terrible shock.”

She stared at him for a moment, her expression unreadable. Finally she replied, “Thank you, Mister Lacoste. It was terrible; Leia was so young, so vibrant. I still miss her, every day. It’s because of her that I come back, watch over her children. When Luke left with Ben I would come and stay sometimes, keep Rey and Han company. Han Solo, that’s Rey’s father. The third baronet.” And she gestured to the painting of the children Rey and Ben. “It became a habit, and after Han died I kept coming.”

“Wait, Missus Holdo,” he said, confused,“ I thought you were a servant. Are you not paid to keep house?”

The woman threw her head back and laughed long and hard, as though this was the best joke she’d heard in a long time. When she was done laughing she wiped tears out of her eyes. “Oh dear, no, I can barely keep my own house. I have a business, selling herbs and tea and crystal jewelry, mostly to tourists in the summer. I also have a small investment that gives me some financial stability. But I come here a couple of times a week, just to make sure there is food in the house and to do laundry, keep things tidy.”

“Would you like to be paid for your time?”

Her face blanched at the suggestion. “Dear God, no, thank you. But if you would let me continue coming, as I have been, that would make me very happy.”

Finn saw no reason to forbid it, and he said so, so they spent the next few minutes sitting, watching the fire, in companionable silence. Rey, Finn realized, was still nowhere to be seen, and the realization made him uncomfortable. The strange emotions were still licking at the edges of his consciousness, and since the conversation that had distracted him both from them and from the feeling of electricity in the air was over, he was back to feeling those again, and it was beginning to be unpleasant.

Mrs Holdo must have noticed his discomfort, because she finally broke the silence. “How do you feel, Mister Lacoste?”

He had no reason not to be honest with her. “I feel overwhelmed and… I don’t know. As though I am being charged like a battery.”

She nodded and leaned back in her chair. “Ah yes - you’re feeling the power of the crystals.”

Even as she said it, Finn remembered.

He’d awakened from his nap just before the carriage turned at Coniston village and headed up the mountain towards Mustafar. There had been a light drizzle, and that, together with the constant fog, misted the windows, although the fog was cleaner here in the hills than it was in Liverpool. The air smelled clean, at least. He’d known the sun was up there, somewhere behind the clouds, because there was light, but even gazing up through the window and into the fog he had no idea where it might lie. It was when they were slowly making their way up the incline that Finn had noticed the goosebumps, the hairs on his arms and legs standing up on end beneath his clothing.

“Oh!” He declared in surprise, and Rey turned her gaze from the window back to his face. She looked amused.

“You feel it, then?” Rey had read to him about the side effects of large numbers of kyber crystals growing together, during one of their long days on the steamer, and he’d been curious to experience it himself.

“Yes. It reminds me of how I felt when I attended a presentation on alternating current in Paris several years ago. The presenter, some Eastern European, demonstrated a generator that made the air feel like it was alive. A very strange sensation indeed, but not entirely unpleasant.”

Rey nodded. “Some people feel it more strongly than others. I don’t notice it, even if I’ve been away for a while.” She pushed up the sleeve of her coat and dress to expose the skin just above the edge of her glove; indeed, the small, soft hairs lay flat. She shrugged. “I don’t understand the science exactly, although I’ve read about it. It is interesting, though.”

Back in the house, Mrs. Holdo was still speaking to him.

“I feel it too. The crystals live under the mountain, but their power radiates up through the ground and permeates everything - us, the grass and plants, the animals, even this house. Nothing and no one is untouched, even if they don’t know it. I’ve known a few people who find it unbearable, but some people don’t notice it at all. I don’t mind it, and eventually you’ll get used to it too.” She smiled sympathetically, and stood. “Shall I bring you some tea? And some food? That might help.”

Finn ignored her question and asked one of his own. “Missus Holdo, where is my wife?”

Her smile tightened for a second before relaxing again. “She is upstairs, Mister Lacoste. Preparing your room. She will join you here when she has finished her tasks.” She paused for a moment, hands clasped, eyebrows drawn together in worry. “She said this to you outside, before she and I came in, I heard her. You told her you wanted to take a turn around the house. Do you remember?”

Finn did not remember, but he gazed into the fire and let his silence answer. After a moment the woman curtsied slightly and rushed out a door at the end of the room, which presumably led towards the kitchen.

While she was away, Finn thought again about the trip from Liverpool. Rey had been worried; worried that he would hate the house - because it was old, and falling down, and needed work.

He did hate Mustafar Hall, but not for the reason she’d feared. The house was a wreck but it could be fixed. He hated Mustafar Hall because it made him feel off-kilter, out of control. Finn hated being out of control; he needed to figure out a way to take it back.

Chapter Text

Finn’s eyes had closed, and he was asleep. He couldn’t tell for how long, and when he became aware of it he was positive that there was someone standing next to him. He sat up quickly, annoyed that someone could sneak up on him in an unfamiliar place, and turned his head towards the door through which Mrs Holdo had departed some undeterminable time ago. There was no one there; the space was still empty.

Only… no. There was no person, but there was something. Smoke, or mist, dark tendrils floating in the air, that moved in a way uncoordinated with the continuous dance of the flames. It was across the room, midway between where Finn sat at attention in the worn leather armchair and the door. Or perhaps it was directly next to him, or over in the corner; it was hard to tell. But then Finn blinked and the mist materialized into the form of a woman, grey and translucent and still uncertain in shape and placement. At first glance she looked like Rey, but she wasn’t Rey. She was older than Rey, and her dress was at least one hundred years out of style. Her expression was unlike Rey’s, too, which could flicker from anger to sun to worry and back again quickly but which was always undeniably alive. With a thrill, he realized it was Padmé - the ti bon ange of his wife’s great-grandmother. Unfortunately she did not appear to be a happy spirit. Her eyes and mouth were wide open, as though she were shrieking, and her expression was full of despair. As Finn watched her he could feel her anguish flowing into him, as the other emotions had earlier, until it became his, too. He found its edges and pushed it away - still no idea how, just that he could - and although he could still feel it, it was separate from him, and then he could think again.

“Hello,” he said in English as he stood up, and bowed respectfully, as he’d been instructed to do in childhood when presented with a strange spirit. “I believe you are Missus Padmé Skywalker. My name is Mister Felix Lacoste, and I will be living here now. Your great-granddaughter, Rey Skywalker, is my wife.”

He could still feel her anguish, but there was a taste of something else as well - longing, or maybe hope. And there was a voice, soft and distant yet resonating inside his head. It sounded as though she was crying.

How could you?

Finn chuckled at the ti bon ange. “Because I love her! What an odd question.”

The spirit blinked away and the feeling went with it, and as Finn returned to his seat he became aware of light footsteps moving through the room behind him. A moment later he was greeted with a rush of skirts and a giggle, and his lap was full of wife, warm and wiggling and alive. Her happy arrival, however, was accompanied by another rush of melancholy, more desperate than the sadness that came with Padmé, and he found himself very cold and momentarily unable to contain the emotion.

“I am so sorry to leave you waiting,” Rey breathed as she pulled him down into a kiss. Her lips were soft, delightfully so, and he concentrated on her instead. She eventually pulled away, just barely, to whisper, “I wanted to prepare the room, to make sure it’s ready for us. I put in a dilator, too, just for fun. I want to know how it feels to have you inside me when I wear it. Will you please come with me now? Shall we take some food upstairs?”

As she spoke the black mist swirled behind and around her head. It was similar to the haze Finn had seen just a few minutes earlier, but the accompanying emotion was profoundly different, and stronger. He wanted to curl into a ball and cry. Instead he pulled Rey back to him and opened his mouth to her, breathing her in and concentrating on her taste, her tongue on his tongue and her body writhing against his. She was wearing a dilator at her own initiative, which should have been immensely exciting. At the same time he reached for the sadness and forced it as he had before, but it was too close, too much. It wouldn’t budge.

He couldn’t take it; he shoved Rey out of his lap at the same time that Mrs Holdo reappeared through the door at the far end of the room, pushing a cart containing a large tea tray and a platter of sandwiches. The wheels on the cart squealed as she pushed it across the hardwood floor, and the china clinked nervously as she nudged it over the edge of the rug.

Rey squeaked, a surprised Oh! as her calves hit the edge of the ottoman, and she set her hands on Finn’s knees to hold herself upright. She bore her teeth at him, and growled, “Missus Holdo doesn’t care. Don’t be so concerned with propriety.” And she thrust herself up and walked over to help the other woman with the dishes, the mist drifting along behind as though it could not bear to be apart from her. As it moved away from him Finn felt slightly better, and he was finally able to push the despair away, but it wasn’t easy. He wasn’t convinced he’d be able to do it again.

As the women poured tea and set out plates on the small, round table, Finn stood on shaking legs and cleared his throat. He needed time to think, and he couldn’t do that here.

“I’m not feeling well, I’m afraid. May I please excuse myself and go lie down?”

Mrs Holdo, in the process of moving a sandwich from the platter to a plate, gave him an inquisitive look, almost concerned, but Rey didn’t even look up.

“Yes, fine,” she said, moving the plates back from the table to the cart, her voice cold. “I’m sure you’re very tired after your trip. Go upstairs then, to the first landing, and I will meet you there to show you to our room. I will bring you tea and sandwiches, you surely need them.”

“I can carry the sandwiches, mon amour, if it would help,” he said apologetically to her back, but she ignored him, only handling the china with even more vigor than before. Mrs Holdo shrugged to him sympathetically, but followed Rey and the black haze back through the door with the cart.

Finn slowly redonned his outerwear, taking the time to consider the situation.

Mustafar Hall was haunted. It was haunted, not as his own home had been, with the gentle oversight of the ti bon ange of his beloved mother, but by multiple spirits of uncertain temperament. The spirit of Padmé, at least, seemed relatively harmless, although she was very sad, and it was unfortunate that he could feel her sadness too. But he did not think she was trying to frighten him, or that she could hurt him.

The thing attached to Rey was more unsettling. Was it even a ti bon ange, or was it something else? Whatever it was, it made Finn feel wretched, and it followed his wife like a pet. He tried to imagine being naked with her, making love to her, with that thing around them, and the thought nauseated him. Would it ever go away? He had worked so hard, over the course of their trip, to reassure Rey that he loved her, that he would always be there for her. Those first nights on the steamer, as he quietly built his authority, a gentle dominance that Rey slowly came to trust - could it all be pulled down by a ghost?

It would not. Finn wouldn’t let it. He would figure something out.

He headed back out into the cold, dark hall. It had started to rain, and drops of water fell from the hole in the ceiling, the sound of the dripping water unnaturally loud in the silence of the room. He stepped around the small puddles forming in the wood, which was already warped after years of saturation. A tarpaulin would make a quick temporary fix for that hole; why was one not already in place? A sudden burst of violent anger bloomed in Finn’s chest, and he grasped it steadily before shoving it away with a gasp. He was upset, yes, but he was sure that had not been his own. Was there another spirit? He glanced around room, into the dark corners, but didn’t see anything. Whatever it was, this one was staying hidden.

Slowly he walked up the stairs, testing each step before putting his full weight on it. They creaked and groaned but seemed durable enough. The carpeting was threadbare and faded, as were the tapestries that lined the dark stone leading up the staircase. There was just enough illumination from the gas lamps and the dim glow from the hole in the ceiling for Finn to make his way up the stairs and onto the first landing. Besides the distant clinking of dishes down in the kitchen just beneath where he stood, it was as quiet up there as it was down below. The electric static of the crystals moved through his body, but as Mrs Holdo had promised the sensation was becoming more familiar and less noticeable. Without the added stress of the emotions it felt almost ordinary.

While he waited for his wife, Finn looked down into the dark hall, and then moved into the corridor beyond. Several rooms lined the corridor, facing the back of the house, and he supposed one of these rooms was the one he would share with Rey. Experimentally he tried to open one of them, but it was locked, so instead he walked to the end of the corridor. On his way he passed a large bathroom on the other side of the corridor from the bedrooms, and when he peeked in he was met with floor-to-ceiling tile, dual sinks, a toilet, and a claw-footed tub, set up on a platform underneath a round stained-glass window at the far end of the room. Finn coughed, and the sound echoed eerily for what seemed like too long, around the hard edges of the room.

The corridor ended with a window, through which Finn could just see the wall surrounding the manor, and the road that they must have taken to get here. The peak, a great crag, rose out of the misty forest on the other side of the road. He still couldn’t remember his arrival. There was a door, too, just to his left, and it was not locked; behind the door was a narrow stairway, leading up. The attic, home to at least two horrors, but also the location of Kylo’s cabinet of curiosities. How interesting, Finn thought as he gently pushed the door closed, that a room that once hosted such horror could now house goodness and peace.

He walked slowly back down the corridor, towards the opening to the landing, stopping only to note a loose board in the floor which creaked loudly when he stepped on it. He was just bending down to examine it when he was struck by another assemblage of emotions, this one fully distinct from the others. There was sadness here, yes, and a bit of anger, but it was mostly shame. Deep, abiding shame. The melancholy despair of the other spirits had distressed Finn, and the anger had annoyed him more than anything, but this shame just had him feeling pity. Four spirits, only one of them especially intimidating, and one that he already felt sorry for. He considered this with amusement, when he heard a thump behind him and slowly turned around to find that something was crawling up out of the floor, just in front of the window at the end of the corridor.

Unlike the others this one was red and wretched and groaning and foul, looking half-eaten and very, very dead. It pulled itself along, dragging the wreckage of its torso with a claw-like hand on one side and a bloody stump on the other, until it reached Finn’s feet. He stood, motionless, and stared down at the thing until it tipped its head up to regard him with its hollow eyes. It bared its teeth at him and growled, and he sighed deeply, shaking his head. It looked horrible, but Finn knew it was a mask, like a child wearing a costume on All Hallow’s Eve. He couldn’t help but laugh as he addressed the thing. “Do you know who I am?” The ghost just stared. “I’m the great-great-grandson of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first emperor of Haiti. He was a revolutionary; one of the greatest. I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana; I grew up surrounded by ghosts. When I was young we’d spend the whole day before All Soul’s cleaning our family plot in the Saint Louis Cemetery, and I have heard every possible story about the loving and the vengeful dead from people who experienced them. Anyway, I’m Haitian, and you don’t frighten me.”

The thing growled at him again and floated up towards the ceiling, and as it moved its repulsive redness dissolved and it remanifested into something white; something less like a mangled corpse and more like a person. It looked, in fact, very much as the ghost of Padmé had just minutes ago, or his mother, in the upstairs hallway in the big house on the corner of Dauphine and Toulouse Streets, so long ago and so far away.

He recognized this one immediately from the portrait that hung over the fireplace in the living room. Even so, given the shame that emanated from its form, he could have guessed.

“Sir Anakin Skywalker,” Finn greeted it formally, as he had the spirit of his wife, since it had done him the courtesy of showing its true form. “I am Mister Felix Lacoste, the son of Andre Lacoste of New Orleans, but perhaps you know that. I met your wife earlier. I have married your great-granddaughter Rey, and I will live here now.” There was no response from the ghost; it simply floated there, an inch or so off the floor, just in front of the door to the stairs leading up to the attic.

Finn gestured with his chin towards the door. “I heard that you locked your daughter in the attic, and then you killed your wife, because you were ashamed.” The spirit did not react. “So then you killed yourself. Yes? Right here in the hallway. Where you stand.” The ghost pointed the floor below it and Finn took this as confirmation.

“If I may speak freely, sir, I think you were right to be ashamed. What you did in Ireland was wrong, and I am glad you paid for your sins.” The spirit floated in place, continuing to regard him. “Well, it’s a pleasure - or something, anyway - to make your acquaintance. Can you speak? I once spoke with my mother’s ti bon ange, which is what I suspect you are; is that what you are? The good little angel?”

I’m so sorry, Padmé, sounded a voice in Finn’s head, distant and insistent. I did not know what I was doing. I did not know. Please forgive me.

“I’m not in a position to forgive you,” answered Finn, but the spirit of Anakin Skywalker had already disappeared, and his shame along with it.

Finn decided that, aside from whatever it was that had attached itself to his wife, he was unconcerned with the spirits. They could not hurt him, and he expected that, given the reactions of both Rey and Mrs Holdo earlier, the two of them could not perceive the ghosts themselves. He smiled to himself as he returned to the landing, to wait for Rey to come to him with sandwiches and tea. He could handle the spirits, he was sure. And he could fix whatever was happening with Rey.

Chapter Text

Rey appeared at the bottom of the stairs just a moment later, the tea tray overlarge and awkward as she did her best to manage both it and her skirts. Her misty companion trailed along with her, as Finn had expected, and he took a deep breath and headed down the stairs to meet them. The sorrow emanating from it was as miserable as it had been downstairs, but at least this time he was prepared. Three steps up he took the tray from Rey despite her protestations. Yes, of course she could carry it herself, he agreed, but why, if he was there to do it for her? He assured her that he admired her capability, but he wanted to help her nevertheless.

Rey was apologetic.

“Husband, I am very sorry for reacting the way I did earlier. You had no way of knowing the informal relationship we have with Missus Holdo, and that it would be anything other than improper for her to walk in on us in such a position. And if you are unwell, of course that is no fault of yours. I will take care of you.”

“You have a temper, mon amour, I have come to know it, and I love it. All is forgiven. Yes?”

“Yes,” she replied, a slight blush creeping across her cheeks as she opened the bedroom directly across from the landing and leading him to a small table.

As she set out the food and tea, Finn cast his eyes about the room. It was dominated by a canopy bed, set up on a dais across from the door. The bed was slightly smaller than he would prefer, and at first glance it was sadly lacking in anchors for his ropes, but it would do. The bed was flanked by a pair of windows, which Finn supposed faced a park behind the house. A fireplace was set in the center of the wall on the left side of the room, cheerful flames dancing and heating the room, and two arm chairs and a sofa were set around its warmth. A desk, chairs, and the table where Rey was now busy were to the right. Two large wardrobes - into one of which Finn supposed Rey had transferred his belongings earlier - were on the same wall as the door. The ceiling had once been regal but was now shabby, the shine of the gilded molding having worn away years ago. As Finn looked around the room, he considered what Rey had said about Mrs Holdo, both downstairs and on the way up, and wondered if she’d had the experience of walking in on Rey and her village man at some point in the past. Surely that is what Rey was implying?

Minutes later they were seated at the table with a simple luncheon of tea, sandwiches, and cake. Finn watched Rey as she sipped her tea. He noticed that she was sitting slightly sideways in her chair; she was still wearing the dilator, and the realization depressed him. But the black mist kept him away, almost familiar as it swirled around her head. Its emotion nauseated him and dampened his hunger, but it had been hours since he’d eaten so he consumed everything on his plate anyway. He expected that he would need all the strength he could get.

“So,” Rey said after several minutes of silence. “What did you and Missus Holdo discuss while I was upstairs?”

Finn swallowed his mouthful of too-dry cake and took a sip of too-strong tea before he replied. “I was looking at the portraits over the fireplace, so she told me about your family.”

Rey nodded, and turned her head so she could look across the room and into the fire. “She told you the sad tale of Sir Anakin Skywalker, I suppose? And Padmé, and poor Grandmother Jyn getting locked in the attic?” At the mention of being locked in the attic the mist shifted as though agitated, but Rey’s demeanor remained stony, her gaze fixed on the flames.

“She did,” he replied, thinking of the red monstrosity who had greeted him in the corridor not even an hour before.

“I shouldn’t be angry at her, really,” Rey said breezily, “I wanted to tell you eventually, and perhaps it’s better coming from her, since she’s a bit more… distant from the whole situation. I have very strong opinions about my great-grandfather.”

“Will you share them with me?” Finn asked, crossing his legs and resting his chin on the heel of his hand. “I have opinions as well.”

She looked at him then, fire in her eyes that made Finn shiver. “I think Anakin Skywalker was weak. He made mistakes - errors regarding life and death. He fought on the wrong side of a war, and only realized it when it was too late. He killed people who didn’t deserve it, people who only wanted to be free to live as they wished to. And then, when he understood what he had done, instead of facing it he pulled it into himself, and it drove him mad. His wife and daughter paid the price for his stubbornness.” Rey was leaning forward, on the edge of her seat, her voice growing louder with every statement. “His suicide was the best thing he did in his life. He should have left it at that and foregone everything else. He couldn’t even die without hurting the people who loved him most.”

With this, Rey grabbed another piece of cake off her plate and shoved it in her mouth, before settling back in her chair and turning again to face the fire.

Finn was moved by her address, and he wished the mist would disperse and take its melancholy with it so he could kiss his wife with the passion he craved. Instead he was forced to use words to express himself.

“I agree with you, ma chérie,” he said quietly, and smiled at her when she glanced at him, her eyes wide. “He was a pitiful man. I am sorry about your great-grandmother and grandmother. It would be unfortunate to be cut off in the prime of one’s life.”

“Like your mother,” Rey said, quickly moving her hand to her lips as though she hadn’t thought before speaking. But Finn didn’t mind.

“Like my mother,” he agreed, and they sat and watched each other across the table. A rush of shame, that had come and just as quickly gone, suggested to Finn that Anakin’s spirit had been present for at least part of their conversation, but he did not manifest that Finn could see. Finally, Rey spoke again.

“You should know,” Rey said seriously, tapping her fingers on the arm of her chair, “that I do not like Missus Holdo. I avoid her when I can. She used to visit, when I was a child; I suppose she helped raise me. But after father died, and Ben was here to take over my care, she just refused to stop coming. Bringing food, cleaning up, doing laundry, as though I could not do those things myself. We argued, but,” she spread her hands, “obviously she is still here.”

Finn thought about his conversation with Mrs Holdo. She’d seemed quite pleasant, and had been very open with her knowledge, which Finn had to admit he appreciated.

“I have only met her once,” Finn said carefully, “but I like her very much, I think. Will that be a problem?”

Rey gave him a keen glance. “She spoke to you in French, didn’t she? And she was happy gossiping with you about our family.” Finn made to respond, but she waved her hand at him. “It’s fine, mon amour. It is good to have friends, I suppose. However, I will tell you the rest of the family story, so you won’t feel the need to go elsewhere for your information. Is that all right?”

He nodded. He was so curious about this strange family, the ancestors of the woman he loved.

Rey sighed and leaned sideways in her chair. “You’ve heard about Anakin and Padmé, which I suppose is the most shocking story we have in our coffers. Grandmother Jyn was raised by Ben Kenobi, a family friend and Anakin’s commanding officer in the war.”

“Yes, Missus Holdo told me that as well.”

“For all I know once her parents were dead, Jyn led a happy life. She married a man who worked in the mines, and they had two children. Twins - my mother, Leia, and her brother, our uncle Luke.”

At the mention of Luke and Leia, the mist shivered and swam, and a shock of a complex, unfamiliar emotion shot through the misery. It was close to shame, but with something else wrapped around it. Something like affection. It made no sense to Finn, but Rey was still speaking so he ignored it to concentrate on her words.

“My grandparents died in 1865, of the Irish Fever; Ben Kenobi died at the same time. Mother and Uncle were eighteen years old by then, so Uncle took the title, and Mother was quickly courted by the man who had been grandfather’s assistant in the mining business.”

“Han Solo,” Finn asserted. “Yes?”

“Han Solo. Father,” she conceded. “He was quite a bit older than Mother, nearly thirty years old. They married the following year, and four years later - when Mother was pregnant with my brother - Luke relinquished the title, very suddenly, and left for Philadelphia to become a psychiatrist. Father took the title, and all was well, I suppose, for years.”

Rey paused, her eyes in her lap where her hands twisted together. The mist mirrored the movement of her hands, shifting around itself behind and above her head.

“Until your mother’s death,” Finn provided gently.

Rey nodded. “Until her death.”

The black mist blinked out, and the feeling went with it. It only took a moment for Finn to adjust to the emotional change before he was out of his chair and pulling Rey out of hers and back into his lap. She squeaked in surprise, then wrapped her arms around his neck with a sigh and rested her cheek against his shoulder. The handle of the dilator was prominent against his thigh before she shifted to rest on her flank. The reminder of her earlier excitement both pleased and saddened him, because now was not the time to do anything about that.

“Thank you, husband. So, mother died, and then Uncle took Ben with him back to Philadelphia. For ten years it was me, and Father, and Missus Holdo. Father would travel, leaving me with her, and when he was home, Father would drink.”

Rey paused again, and Finn stroked her back while he waited her to continue.

“He wasn’t a bad drunk,” she mumbled, as though talking to herself. “He wasn’t violent; he never hurt me, or anyone. He was just sad, so sad. He missed my mother, and my brother, and even my uncle. I tried to be enough for him, but I,” she took a shuddering breath, and Finn realized that she was crying. There was nothing he could say, so he gave her his handkerchief to dry her tears, and rocked her while she wept. The mist reappeared, but stayed in the corner by the bed, and although Finn could feel the melancholy again it was not as overwhelming. He silently thanked it for keeping its distance; there was something about the way it roiled that made him think it was holding itself back, for Rey’s sake, which he found endearing. He wondered again if it was a ti bon ange at all, and if so, who it might be.

“Anyway,” she finally continued, squeezing the handkerchief tightly in her hand, “it was the drink that killed him. When Uncle got word of his illness he came home, and he brought Ben with him; that was about two weeks before Father finally died. Father passed away overnight, peacefully, and in the morning, Uncle Luke was nowhere to be found.”

“He was missing?”

“Yes, but only for a short time. We eventually went to the village and put together a search party, and before the day was out they’d found his body in the ravine at the base of Kyber Peak. Apparently, after Father died, he’d gone out and thrown himself off the mountain.”

“Like your mother,” Finn mused, and Rey nodded into his chest.

“Yes. Like my mother. So Ben stayed, and inherited the house and the land and the title. He also inherited from Uncle, although we liquidated and took cash for his business and his house. Since then I have been working to get the mine back up and running, and we’ve been trying to get investors to fund it. And now it looks like that will finally happen.”

“That’s very good,” said Finn, burying his nose in the hair just above her left ear. “There is something I wonder, though. What would have happened to you, if Luke had lived?”

Rey nestled closer before answering. “Luke would have become my guardian, too, and I would have gone to live in Philadelphia with them. That would have been… unfortunate, I think. I would have missed Cumberland, very much indeed. I’m glad things worked out as they did.” Finn had to agree that things had ended up working out as they should. He had invested in them, after all, and he was there, and she was in his arms. It was very good.

Sadly, this moment was not to last; before long the mist made its way back across the room and settled again behind Rey’s head, and although Finn held out for as long as he could eventually he had to let her go. He complained of a headache, and tiredness, and she insisted that he drink a special tea, which she said would help him sleep. They carried the dishes down to the kitchen - another dark, shabby room in dire need of updating, which smelled of old grease and damp - and he drank the tea at the large wooden table that dominated the center of the room, under the watchful eye of Padmé Skywalker’s ti bon ange. He barely made it up the stairs and into the bed, still fully clothed. Rey sat with him and sang, a different song again, but he couldn’t understand the words. She undressed him, leaving him only his his drawers, and took the opportunity to run her hands over him - his chest, stomach, thighs, and cock - which he didn’t really mind at all. His final thought before losing consciousness was how disappointing it was that he didn’t get to help his wife remove her dilator, or to fuck her while she wore it.

Finn slept for many hours, and he dreamed.

He was back in New Orleans, in his childhood bed, and the room was too cold for the weather and too quiet for the traffic outside the open windows. The clock in the corner was silent, its pendulum still. He was lying on his side, and although he knew he was grown he felt very small.

Cold fingers caressed the back of his head, as they had so many years ago, but this time he wasn’t afraid. This time he welcomed them.

Tu es fort. You are strong,” said his mother’s ti bon ange, voice familiar through years of memory.

Manman,” Finn breathed, the Creole slipping out of his lips naturally, and leaned into her touch. She chuckled, and scratched his scalp with what he hoped were fingernails. It felt good. “How are you here, manman?”

“Kyber,” she replied, her voice both present and far away, and he could feel her lay down behind him, resting her forehead against the back of his head and placing her hand on his shoulder. “And because I am your mother; we are bound by blood. I have visited you in dreams before, but never like this. You are surrounded by crystals. They make me feel strong with you.”

“Yes,” he confirmed. “Mustafar. A great kyber mine. I’ve invested in it, and married the sister of the owner. I live here now.”

The spirit chucked again, dark and knowing. “You are embracing. I knew that you would; I saw it. I am proud of you, so proud, my good and brave boy. Pitit mwen, my son.” There was yearning in her voice, and he felt it too. It made him shiver.

Manman.” He wanted to say it so many times. He’d never had a chance to call her so in her life, and he longed to in her death, more now even than he had when he was a child. The ghosts in Mustafar, Rey’s family, had him thinking of his own. His father, and brothers, and his mother.

Pitit mwen, I love you so. I miss you.”

“I miss you too, manman,” he answered, but she was already gone. Finn fell into darkness, hoping he would remember the dream when he awoke in the morning.

When he finally awoke, having slept through the afternoon and the evening and all night, Finn felt less refreshed than he had when he went to sleep. His senses were dulled, as though his body and brain weren't quite connecting. Even though he hadn't eaten since the previous afternoon his stomach balked at the thought of food. Everything felt a little off.

He thought it must be a side effect of the crystals, and the ghosts, although both of those seemed dull as well, compared to the day before. Rey’s misty companion was almost tolerable, but he found he missed the steady electric buzz of the crystals, which today was barely noticeable.

One he’d changed and washed up he allowed Rey to pull him down to breakfast, and he ate the food she cooked for him without argument, without even noticing what it was and despite the nausea. If there were ghosts present, aside from the mist, he didn’t know. After breakfast she declared that she would give him a full tour of the house and grounds, which is how they ended up in the attic, surrounded by Kylo's cabinet of curiosities.

Finn hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect of the cabinet. He’d seen one before; some gentleman in his father’s social circle in New Orleans had fancied himself a scientist and had collected specimens of various sorts from along the bayou, but that had been contained in one small room and had focused mostly on objects remaining from the natives who used to live in the swamps. This cabinet was something else entirely. It dominated the attic, a room both long and wide that ran the depth of the house, with large, round windows set close to the floor on either end. Although the roof was slanted to a point above, Kylo had set up shelves of around eight feet tall to either side of the room, forming a sort of long, narrow hallway down which one might walk to take everything in. Some of the shelves were open, some behind glass, and some had wooden drawers that Rey did not open.

The first thing they passed wasn't a shelf; it was a large wooden screen directly across from the stairs, as wide as it was tall, covered with watercolor sketches of plants and animals. Finn was drawn to it, and Rey stood by patiently as he took his time examining each one.

The animal sketches featured mostly rabbits, with a few other species tossed in for variety - a frog here, a kitten there. A few of them wore clothes, little dresses or waistcoats, and these made Finn laugh.

“My brother used to make stories for me about the animals,” Rey’s voice sounded suddenly from next to his ear, “and he illustrated them with his own drawings, like these.” She paused as she reached out to caress the corner of a sketch of a rabbit in a blue jacket being chased by a gardener. “Uncle forbade him from drawing, but he is much improved since he returned home.”

Finn hummed, unwilling to put words to his anger, and still put off by the sadness rolling off the mist, which was now very close. Instead he pointed at a watercolor of tiny white butterflies fluttering amongst a clutch of daffodils.

“It this Kylo’s, too? The style is very different from the animals.”

Rey tensed, and through his dulled senses he caught a brief and powerful burst of emotion; pride, and love. So much love, it made his heart ache. Then it was gone, and Rey was talking.

“Just purchased in the village, by some traveling artist,” she said dismissively, pulling him away from the artwork towards the rest of the collection. She was lying, Finn was sure, and the thought unnerved him. He didn’t think she’d lied to him before. The emotion he'd felt was connected to the art, and surely it had been another spirit. The artist? It was so hard to think. Finn allowed his attention to wander.

At the end of the hallway of shelves Finn could see a workspace with a large table, currently clear and empty, but as Rey walked him slowly down the middle of the room, pointing out the crystal collection here, the taxidermied rabbits there, a display of butterflies over there, Finn could imagine the table cluttered with objects, and Kylo there amongst them.

He hadn’t thought about Kylo since arriving at Mustafar, and he took a moment - nodding every time Rey pointed out a different shelf - to think about him in his private space. Kylo, dark hair loose and messy around his shoulders, wandering the room, catalog in hand, ensuring that everything was in place. Kylo, reaching up high to take one of those bottles off the tallest shelf, having to stand on his toes to just barely touch it with the ends of his fingers, and swearing when he would have to drag over a stool so he could finally reach it, a satisfied smile on his lips. In the summer it would be hot and stuffy up here. Finn could imagine the man opening the window at the far end of the room in order to let in some fresh air, and removing his shirts, perhaps even his trousers, leaving him in his drawers, sweat glistening on his pale shoulders, as he worked with some obscure objects on that table at the end of the room. Perhaps Rey would bring him tea, and Kylo would touch her.

Eventually they reached the table, and Finn was able to take a better look around that part of the attic. From here he could see that there were dormer windows, facing out to the side of the house, which were otherwise blocked by the shelves. There were two of them that were not blocked, and along with the large round window they provided good natural light, which he supposed Kylo would need to do his work. The table was not only clear, but appeared to have been scrubbed, and there were dozens of boxes stacked neatly under the table and behind the shelves, with clear labels made in an attractive script that Finn immediately recognized as his brother-in-law’s.

Rey perceived his examination, and nodded. “Mmm, yes. My brother can be quite anxious about his collections, which is why I am only giving you a cursory look at the cabinet today; he will want to give you a full tour when he is home. Before we left for America he spent a week organizing and clearing up his work in progress. I’m sure he would appreciate your help taking things back out and working through them.”

“Yes, I would be happy to do that,” he replied pensively, his brain drifting, unable to focus on a single thought for long. But spending time with Kylo in the attic would be fine, he was sure.

Finn finally noticed that there was a small bed, really more of a mattress piled with blankets on the floor, tucked in the space under the roof to the right of the table, hard to see at the moment because of the stacked boxes.

“Does your brother sleep up here?” Finn asked, gesturing to the makeshift bed.

“Sometimes,” Rey said, looking slightly embarrassed. “I have a bed out in my workshop as well. When we’re working, occasionally it’s more convenient to stay and sleep in place rather than go through the trouble of going to a bedroom. My brother has a bedroom, of course,” she continued hastily, “in the east wing of the house. It’s just his room and more empty rooms, so I won’t take you there, but that’s where he sleeps when he isn’t in the attic.”

When she was done speaking, Finn stepped around the table and pressed himself against the large, round window that faced the front of the house. The first thing he saw was the great stone porch, at least thirty feet below, and beyond that the muddy park, the wall and gate, the forest, and finally the peak. The peak dominated; Finn suspected that every window in the house had a view of the peak, even those that didn't face it, and the thought made him shudder.

As he leaned further forward, to see if he could glimpse the front door, Finn briefly lost his balance and crouched, catching himself on the window frame. His attention was caught by a imperfection in one of the triangular panes in the bottom on the window; the glass was broken, several cracks spreading out from a point, as though something small had struck the glass with intensity. Something like a rock, or the fist of a furious child. Finn turned his head to glance back at his wife. She was across the room, gazing out one of the dormer windows. The mist, ever loyal, coiled around behind her head. He felt as though it were watching him.

He cleared his throat and said he was ready to leave, and they carefully made their way back through the cabinet and down the steep staircase. Rey quickly showed him the rest of the second story - mostly locked doors - before they donned their coats and boots and made their way out to her workshop.

The mist did not follow them out the door.

Chapter Text

The workshop was located in a large stone barn at the other side of the field behind the house. They walked around the east wing of the building, past the tower that Finn had noticed yesterday. The tour hadn't included the tower, so Finn asked about it. Rey made a sour face.

“The tower is all that remains of the original building, which was apparently a castle built by some would-be warlord in the fourteenth century.” She gave him a wry side glance. “I'm not sure I believe that, honestly. In any case it hasn't been used in my lifetime; it’s always been a bit of a mystery to me. When I was ten years old I got curious and tried to climb up, but one of the stairs collapsed and I fell and broke my leg. It was hours before Missus Holdo found me.” She shivered, and Finn took advantage of the lack of the mist to put an arm around her and kiss her temple. He wanted to ask her where her father had been, but decided that he didn't want to know.

As they walked past the tower and around the corner of the house, Rey leaned into him and continued. “After that, the door - which entered in the corner of the main room, the one with the fireplace - was bricked up. Eventually the tower will fall down, along with the rest of the house.”

As they walked across the yard - really more of a muddy field - Rey pointed out the family graveyard off to the right, and a small copse of trees to the left.

“When I was young - after Ben left and before I was allowed into the forest under the peak by myself - I used to play in those trees, for hours at a time. I would pretend the animals from Ben’s stories were playing with me. They were my only companions for years.”

“Did you not have friends from the village?” Finn found himself wondering about her man again. Perhaps he had been a childhood friend turned lover?

Rey sighed, and then chuckled without humor. “Oh, Finn. The Skywalkers have the worst luck. Just before I was born, there was an accident in the mine; it’s what finally shuttered the business, although it took a few years for my father to realize it. One of the shafts collapsed, the largest one, and more than twenty miners were killed, all of them from local families - fathers and grandfathers and sons, children as young as ten.”

Even through his dulled senses, Finn was horrified. “Oh my God.”

“God was not there,” Rey spat. “He had nothing to do with it.” They had finally reached the barn, and she pushed open the heavy door and led him through. The barn was made of the local stone, and was large and dark. There were no proper windows although there were spaces between the stones, high up near the roof, that let a bit of light into the main area, which was cluttered with old equipment covered with dusty cloths. Finn followed her across the room, where large rolling doors dominated the far wall.

“The locals blamed my family. Whether they were right to, I cannot say, but they did, and they still do.” She lifted the latch that held the doors together and leaned against the handle on one side, rolling the door open and exposing the interior to the rocky hills just behind the building and the dim light of the overcast sky beyond. Finn pushed open the other door; the room was still not exactly charming, but it was better with the light.

“Some of the bodies never made it out,” Rey murmured as she wiped the dust off her lovely new gloves on her lovely new coat. “They are still there, crushed, under the mountain.” Finn shivered, and followed her back through the main room to a smaller room; an office with a large counter, maps hung on the wall, and an iron stove in the corner. A large orange cat appeared from out of nowhere and sprinted out the door, disappearing immediately under one of the pieces of equipment in the other room. Rey made a dismissive noise with her mouth, but didn’t seem to mind.

“It was learning about the accident that made me want build a new kind of mining drill,” she said, pulling a tinderbox off of one of the lower shelves, “something less dangerous, less likely to cost innocent people their lives.”

Rey went to work setting a fire in the stove while Finn glanced around. Unlike the attic, this room was cluttered and busy, with stacks of paper and piles of metal bits on shelves. It looked like a mess to Finn, but he expected there was some kind of organization behind it.

As Rey had said earlier there was a bed here, too, low to the ground and piled with blankets, against the wall across from the stove. Finn imagined that it could be quite cozy here, in the dark of night, snow piled outside and a warm fire in the corner. The lack of ghosts was a bonus.

Rey, finally satisfied with the growing flames, closed the door to the stove and removed her coat and gloves with a sigh, and Finn did as well. Although Finn still felt a bit strange, he felt remarkably better outside of the manor house, a bit more level-headed. He watched his wife and remembered how she had been the day before - with the dilator in her ass, begging him to fuck her. He'd felt terrible, like a failure. But he was better today. He could do it now, and here.

Without another thought he closed the space between them and pushed her roughly against the counter, lifting her skirt and claiming her mouth with his own. She was surprised, a breathy oh! against his mouth, but she opened to him and lifted herself up so she could perch on the edge of the counter, spreading her legs in welcome to his roaming fingers. He quickly found her cunt through the opening in her bloomers, and it was as slick and warm as he remembered, her gasps and moans just as sweet.

Had it only been a day? Finn felt as though it had been forever. Could he ever be without her? He didn't think he could.

She said something against his mouth, but he couldn't understand so he pulled away, his fingers still working inside her. “What's that, ma chérie?”

“Oil,” she moaned, “oil, please.”

Yes, oil. It's what she had wanted, the day before.

“Is there oil here?”

Rey nodded vigorously and pointed to a shelf on the wall behind him. “Second shelf, big bottle of lamp oil.”

Finn recoiled in disgust. “Lamp oil? Mon amour, mon ange, mon petit cœur, non. Non, non. Lamp oil is for lamps, not for your beautiful behind. No wife of Felix Lacoste will be putting lamp oil in her troufignon.”

Rey’s face fell, and she started to pout, to Finn’s amusement. “Ah, do not worry, mon petit oiseau, I will still make you sing. I will go inside and get the olive oil from my wardrobe, while you wait here. Yes?”

“Yes,” she agreed, and pushed him away to start undoing the buttons at the collar of her shirt. “I will be here waiting for you. Do be quick, husband. I’ve missed you.”

He grabbed her and kissed her mouth, then shrugged his coat back on. “I will be quick, and when I come back I will give you release any way you wish; you need only ask.”

Rey laughed and pushed him out the door, and he ran as quickly as he could back through the workshop and up to the house. The cat accompanied him halfway across the field, until it was distracted by a chipmunk and took chase in the direction of the graveyard.

Finn only slowed as he approached the front door. The anger was back, palpable and potent. It seemed that whatever had been dulling his senses earlier was starting to dissipate, and he was back to being fully aware of the electricity of the crystals, which he liked, and the emotions of the spirits, which he didn’t. Specifically this one - the angry one. But Finn needed the oil, he’d promised his wife, and the thought of her, naked and hot and waiting back in the office of the workshop, wrapped in blankets on that strange little bed on the floor, was enough to give him the strength he needed. He squared his shoulders, strode across the stone porch, and walked through the door.

An unfamiliar spirit floated at the bottom of the stairs, the mist dancing around its head as it danced around Rey’s. Not it - him. This one was definitely a man, a bearded man with an unpleasant expression on his grey face. The anger was definitely emanating from him, and the feeling was so powerful that it nearly overwhelmed the mist's anguish.

Finn didn't have time for this, but at least he recognized the spirit enough to be able to introduce himself properly.

“Good morning,” he said with a bow. “My name, as you may know, is Felix Lacoste. I have married Rey Skywalker, and I live here now. If I am not mistaken, you are Colonel Ben Kenobi, who raised Jyn Skywalker as his own daughter. I thank you for that.”

He paused. The ti bon ange didn't respond; he continued to glower at Finn from the bottom of the stairs. Finn cleared his throat.

“Sir, if you will please excuse me, I would like to go up the stairs.”

The mist, which had been coiling and recoiling around Colonel Kenobi's head, blinked out, but the other one stayed unmoving. A deep voice, sounding both in his head and far away - in the manner of ghosts - spoke, but the words meant nothing to Finn.

It was a mistake, we never should have done it, but I can save him from our fate.

Finn ignored him. “You don't frighten me,” he declared. “I will walk through you if I must.” He stood still and silently counted; when he reached five he held his breath and stalked up to and through the angry spirit.

It was cold, that was the overwhelming sensation; physical chill and a rush of rage that stole Finn’s breath. But then it was past and he could breathe again, and he was up the stairs and in the bedroom and the bottle of precious oil was in his hand and he was leaving again and that's when he decided to stop by the bathroom, to relieve himself and to have a quick wash. It had been a day, and he should be clean and ready for his love. Besides, it wouldn't hurt her to wait a minute.

The spirits were all out today, it seemed. Anakin was in what Finn suspected was his usual spot, just by the attic door, and Padmé was dancing near the entrance to the east wing. Finn made quick work in the bathroom, but on his way back down the hall he stepped on the squeaky board that he had noticed the day before, and paused.

He couldn't say why he paused, or why he was so curious about a noisy floor in an old house, but he was unable to resist the temptation to take a moment to crouch down and examine it. It was a normal floorboard, long and narrow, but there was a knot in it that formed a hole. The hole was smooth, as though many fingers over many years had pried it up in order to deposit secret treasures beneath. Finn smiled, imagining a young Ben showing his baby sister this private space that they could share, away from the prying eyes of their parents (never mind that their mother and uncle, and their grandmother in her own time, had probably used the space for their own purposes).

Finn pulled up the board, and gazed into the area beneath. There was a metal box, and when he removed the lid he found it full of newspaper clippings. On top was a small box, and when he opened it he discovered a large ring, two Kyber crystals, an unusual dark blue, set together in silver, in the shape of a figure eight. It made him think of his wife and her brother, the two children of the family. Perhaps this was their mother's ring, made for her after Rey’s birth; a treasure indeed. Under that was a death announcement dated June 1899 - just two years before. It was the name on the announcement that caught Finn’s attention: Millicent Ren. He read: “Millicent Ren, née Bradford, late of Hyde Park, wife of Sir Kylo Ren of Mustafar Hall, Cumberland County, of apparent suicide…”

Finn was stunned: Kylo Ren had been married. He had been married, and he was a widower. He wasn't sure why that came as such a shock; Kylo was certainly an attractive man. Not the most outgoing person, but that might appeal to a certain type of woman. The type of woman to kill herself? Finn wondered if Mrs. Ren, too, had thrown herself off of Kyber Peak; it seemed to be a popular way to do it. He would need time to absorb this information, and he was disappointed that Rey hadn’t told him herself. Setting the clipping aside, he picked up the next one.

It was an announcement of the death of Han Solo, together with the one for Luke Skywalker, both of which Finn set aside without reading. Another death announcement - he was sensing a pattern - for Doctor Alasdair Snoke of Philadelphia, dated just a few months before Han and Luke's. “Death by accidental electrocution.” According to the brief obituary Dr Snoke had been a psychiatrist, and his business partner was none other than Dr Luke Skywalker.

Finn’s head swam.

Under that was another death announcement, for someone named George Mitaka; a local man struck and killed by a train some seven years before. Whoever compiled this collection, whether it was Rey or Kylo, certainly had a morbid fascination with death.

The last announcement was for Leia. “Leia Skywalker, daughter of Sir Cassian Andor of Mustafar Hall, wife of Sir Han Solo, of apparent suicide…” Finn set that one aside, too.

At the bottom of the box were several packets of letters; dozens of letters, stacked in small bundles and tied together with string. Finn lifted one of the packets out, untied the string and flipped through the envelopes, and his heart caught in his throat. The envelopes had all been ripped open messily across the top. The first one was stamped with a post date of January 3, 1887, and the last one was dated December 15 of the same year. There were twelve of them - one for each month - and every one of them was addressed to Mr. Ben Solo, Philadelphia, with a return address of Mustafar Hall, Cumberland County. The mailing address was neatly printed in the unmistakable hand of a small child.

Finn was aware that time was passing, and that Rey was waiting for him in the cozy warmth of the workshop. He was taking too long - he had to leave. He re-tied the bundle of letters and tossed them back into the box and placed the clippings on top, being careful to keep them in order. Finally he placed the box with the ring carefully on top of the pile. He made sure that it looked exactly as it did when he found it; he had the feeling that he was not supposed to know about any of that, and that Rey might be angry if she knew that he was sneaking.

The ti bon ange of Ben Kenobi was nowhere to be seen, or felt, which Finn appreciated; he was upset enough with the new information he’d discovered under the floor. He wished, desperately, that he had ignored the squeak and just gone back out to fuck his wife like any normal man would have. Now he had information he didn’t know what to do with and which he had to pretend he didn’t know. He cursed his bad luck as he rushed across the field and finally made his way inside the barn and back into the office, now quite warm and cozy. The cat was nowhere to be seen.

“You took too long,” his wife’s voice came from the direction of the bed, and his breath caught as he pulled off his coat and boots and got started on the rest of his clothes. She hadn’t waited for him, and had laid herself on the bed, naked, hair down and strewn across the pillows. The fingers of her left hand were knuckle-deep inside her cunt, fingers of her right hand rubbing against her clitoris, face flushed and breathing erratic. As he watched her she came, with a cry and a moan. He just had time to finish pulling off his drawers before he fell down with her, bottle of oil gripped tightly in his left hand, and pulled her hand out with his right to lick her juices off her fingers.

“What were you doing in there?” Rey asked, stroking her thumb between his eyebrows. “You look upset, is everything all right?”

Everything was not all right, but he wasn’t going to tell her that. He pulled her wet fingers out of his mouth and kissed her knuckles and the stone of her ring. It was warm against his lips. “I stopped to wash in the bathroom and got distracted by my own thoughts. I am sorry, mon amour. But I am here for you now.”

“Oh, good,” she said, teasing as she took the oil from him and poured a bit onto his fingers. “I was afraid you were going to tell me you’d been talking to a ghost.”

Finn had no idea what his expression might be, but whatever it was made Rey laugh loudly. “Oh, my dear husband, I am joking!” She relaxed back into the pillows and pulled her knees to her shoulders to give him full access to her backside. “Missus Holdo claims the house is haunted by the spirits of my dead family, but I’ve never seen anything to lead me to believe it’s true. She’s just crazy, with her crystals and herbs and Spiritualism.”

Mrs Holdo could see the ghosts. Finn couldn’t decide whether this was a good thing or bad, but he had more immediate concerns. He could put aside his worries for a while; Rey needed him.

“You forget, dear wife,” he said, gently pressing the tip of a well-oiled finger through her puckered ring of muscle, “I have seen a ghost. So perhaps you shouldn’t laugh. Yes?”

“I am sorry,” she said with a moan, chagrined and excited in equal measure. “I forgot. You saw the ghost of your mother.”

“I spoke with her,” he whispered, adding a second finger to join his first. She didn’t answer, only arched her back into his touch.

“You should not disparage that which you do not understand,” he finished, leaning over her and spreading his fingers to stretch her a bit.

She moaned, and said, “Dessalines.”

That had been thoroughly unexpected. “What?”

“Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Your great grandfather.”

Finn chuckled - given the confused state of his brain it was all he could bring himself to do - and pumped his fingers inside her gently. “I know who he is. Why are you talking about him?”

“Put your cock in me and I’ll tell you,” she said with a coquettish smile. He was not going to say no, so he oiled himself up and pushed himself inside her, with a shared moan.

“Tell me,” he implored, as he pressed all the way in. “Tell me why you say Dessalines.”

Rey wiggled her behind and wrapped her arms around his torso, pulling him closer. “He was not like Anakin Skywalker,” she murmured into his ear. “He was brave; so brave. He fought for what was right, what he believed in. He wasn’t afraid to kill those who hurt him, or his people.”

Finn moved a hand between them so he could rub against her clitoris. A sob slipped out her throat at the contact, and her muscles clenched momentarily, which made him sob too. She kept mumbling, quiet words about brave Dessalines and his courageous heir, Felix Lacoste, so handsome and alluring in his purple suit in the City Park so many weeks before. Finn had had no idea that she had been so taken by his ancestor, or by himself. Today was proving enlightening in many ways, and Finn wasn’t sure how much more he could take. So instead of thinking he concentrated on the sensation of his wife around him, her breath and skin, muscles and voice. Finally they came together; Rey cried out in honor of the revolutionary blood of her husband, while Finn was so exhausted he’d barely pulled out of her before he laid down, wrapped in the warm blankets. His wife stroked his face and told him she loved him, and admired him, and within minutes he was asleep.

Chapter Text

Mon amour.” Rey’s voice pulled Finn out of a reverie. He had been watching the countryside jog by the window of the carriage they were taking to Kendal, where they would catch a train that would eventually deliver them to Liverpool. Kylo Ren’s steamer was scheduled to arrive early the next morning, and Finn was feeling a bit anxious. He suspected Rey was as well, although she had done an excellent job of hiding it so far. He was more than happy to stop brooding and pay attention to his wife, sitting next to him on the bench and fixing him with a keen gaze.

Oui, minette?” He replied. She blushed at the endearment.

“I was wondering, husband, if you might tell me a bit about your Parisian friends.”

Finn was surprised, not by the question itself, but by the timing. He’d imagined having this conversation in the workshop, while he watched her tighten bolts, or while resting after the two of them shift machinery to make room for the new equipment scheduled to arrive the following week. Or perhaps in bed, either in the house or in the workshop. They had slept the last two nights in the house, where Finn had again dreamed of conversations with the ti bon ange of his manman while the mist kept company with Rey, but their days were spent in the workshop.

In the mornings Finn was always unwell, nauseated and dull-witted, and Rey would happily work while he lounged in the bed and petted the cat, daydreaming about his wife and her brother; always about them. The feeling would begin fading around lunchtime or a bit after, his mind would clear and the electric buzz of the crystals would return, and then they divided their afternoons between the hard work of preparing for the drill and the entertainment of figuring out how to have sexual congress on every surface in the building.

“What would you like to know?” It felt a bit unfair, turning the question back on her, but Finn needed another minute to gather his thoughts. They had left Mustafar just after lunch, and he was still feeling a bit slow in the head but if Rey wanted to talk now, he would talk now. He had already decided what he would tell her, but he still wasn’t looking forward to it. He was, to be honest with himself, apprehensive. More apprehensive than he’d been about any of the ghosts. The ghosts, who had - aside from the mist, which was still Rey’s constant companion when she was in the house - left him alone. Ben Kenobi in particular he had neither seen nor felt since their confrontation on the stairs.

Rey shrugged, and looked unsure. “Just, about them, I suppose. I’ve been wondering about them since you first mentioned them, really, and our conversation the other day reminded me. Finn,” she continued, taking one of his glove-enclosed hands in her own, “I told you that I’ve never had friends. Kylo has never had friends. Aside from each other, I suppose,” she added with a smile.

Finn returned the smile. “I am your friend, ma chérie,” he replied, “and your brother’s friend, too. So you - each of you - have two friends, at least. And your man from the village, I suppose, makes it three for you?”

Her cheeks, already pink, grew moreso, and he felt a little bad; he hadn’t meant it to embarrass her. He wanted her to feel comfortable talking about her mysterious lover; he enjoyed thinking about them together, even though he didn’t know what he looked like. Perhaps he would meet the man someday. He was excited to consider the possibility.

“I suppose. I am not really your friend though, am I? I am your wife. Surely the two are not synonymous.”

Finn sat up as straight as the rolling of the carriage would allow. “My relationship with you is very similar to the kind of relationship I had with my friends in Paris, as a matter of fact. Some elements, perhaps, are a bit different,” he waved a hand back and forth, allowing her to fill in the blank. He did not want to have this conversation. But at the same time, he wanted to be honest with her. Perhaps he should have told her before they were married. But then, he thought to himself, she might never have married you. The thought had occurred to him before, and he had never allowed himself to pursue it. Too late now.

Rey sighed, her forehead wrinkled in consternation. “Finn,” she declared, “I have no idea what you mean by that. Please explain yourself.”

There was no going back. “My friends in Paris for the last few years I lived there, once I had finished with school - the people I was closest to, and spent the most time with, and loved - are putains.” Rey tilted her head and stared at him, unsmiling. He continued, “I am sorry, mon amour, there is not a good word in English. They are whores.”

It seemed to take a moment for Rey to absorb this information. She stared at him openly, and it took her several moments to respond. “Excuse me?”

He opened his mouth to reply, but she shook her head and placed her hands over her mouth. “Please, don’t say anything.” She was silent for several more moments, her eyes wide. Finally she mumbled, “Whores.”

It wasn’t a question, but Finn answered anyway. “Yes. My greatest friends were women who were paid, by men, to spend time with them.”

“To have sex with them.”

“Yes,” he conceded, “usually, of course.”

She wasn’t yelling, or asking the driver to stop the carriage so she could get out, and she didn’t seem disgusted, just shocked. Finn decided to give her time, rather than immediately defend himself, so he stayed quiet. She sat, fingers on her lips, and stared at him.

“You,” she finally said quietly, “were not one of those men.”

“Never,” he confirmed with a shake of his head. “The women were my friends, so I spent time with them when they weren’t working, for the most part. I cannot say that nothing ever happened,” he wiggled his fingers, and Rey - bless her - huffed out a half-laugh and rolled her eyes, “but it was a rare occurrence between intimates, and out of affection or need, not for money.”

“Did you love them?” The territorial gleam in her eye was unmistakable, and it sent a thrill up his spine. You are mine, it said to him. They cannot have you.

“Yes, I did, but not the way I love you, or how I loved Rose.” He thought briefly about saying that he felt for them as he did for Kylo, but a vision of Kylo’s hands caressing Rey’s naked breasts convinced him that it was better not to mention his brother-in-law in this discussion. “I loved them as I love Poe, or Edith, aside from the,” and he wiggled his fingers again, drawing another laugh out of her.

“I suppose,” she murmured after a few more minutes of thoughtful silence, “this does explain some things about you.” She slipped her fingers between his, and squeezed his hand gently. “You are very sensitive, for a man. My brother…” but she paused and shook her head, and didn’t complete that thought.

“Most men that I have known,” she said instead, “do not seem to care for women or girls at all, except for what they might be able to get out of them, or to blame them for the world's troubles, oftentimes both at the same time. But you have never struck me as that sort of man.”

“I suppose I might have been like that, at some point,” Finn admitted, “but spending a few years in the company of women and listening to them describe their situations day-to-day - their troubles, and their hopes and aspirations - surely made me who I am today. I am better for it, I think.”

“I think so too,” Rey agreed, and squeezed his hand again. She kissed his cheek, too, for good measure. “But I am glad you’re here with me, now, and not with them.”

Finn shifted closer and put his arm around her. “They are special to me, though, and they have names. Sophia, Katerina, Colette.” Colette had been young when he met her - fourteen, much too young, but the other women had taken her under their wings and mothered her to the best of their ability. Katerina was older, and tough with a soft interior. She spoke with a thick Russian accent and for the most part she wielded a switch, which made her quite popular in certain circles. Sophia was a sweet woman, and very smart; she was more well-read than Finn, with his university education. She had been married to a bricklayer who had died, leaving her with two small children and no money.

“Husband?” Rey’s voice sounded, concerned, near his ear, and he came back to reality. He was unsure how long he’d been drifting. “Is it usual for a gentleman to be friends with a whore?”

“No,” he replied slowly, “although it is not unheard of. It is more usual for a gentleman to take a whore for a lover, but in that case it is usually a case of a man wishing to challenge taboos. Whores are for … well, you know what they are for. They’re aren’t for you to take into your home, to partner with, to trust with your intimate affairs. My arrangement was accidental, and although I was clearly not afraid to challenge this particular taboo I didn’t seek out to do so.”

Rey leaned her forehead against his shoulder. “How does a gentleman get to be friends with whores?”

Finn smiled with the memory. “It was because of Phasma. I suppose she was my best friend, my most intimate confidante.”

“Phasma?” She looked up into his face. “Is that a person?”

“They call her L’Fantasme in the salons, because she is almost unreal, like a fantasy. She isn’t, of course, she is just a woman, but when she performs it is...” he sighed and shook his head. “I had finished my schooling, and was considering what to do next. I had not been social, for reasons that we have already discussed, but that experience had happened years before and I was nearly twenty. I also knew by then that my interests were not like those of my fellow students. So I was a man, with unusual desires, and I wanted to live a little. A fellow student had heard about a secret salon that moved from house to house, which sounded… unsavory, I suppose, but also interesting. And that’s where I met Phasma, at one of those salons. I should say that she herself is not a putain, although she works alongside them; she is what is called a dominatrice.”

“Let me guess,” Rey said, with a hint of a smile, “that means she ties people up with ropes.”

Finn squeezed her closer, and rubbed her fingers with the thumb of his other hand. He could feel her ring through the supple leather of her glove, and it made him feel connected to her. “Among other things. She was there and I watched her tie up a man. It was the most interesting thing I had seen up until that day, and I knew that I wanted to do that too. So, at the end of the evening I introduced myself to her, and I told her I wanted to be like her.”

“And what did she say to that?”

“Honestly? She laughed at me. Skinny young boy, despite my wealth I had no authority whatsoever and she knew it. But she was curious enough to humor me. We would meet at the café and talk. Eventually I told her the story of the man in the street, how uncomfortable it had made me, how afraid, and it was that story that finally convinced her to train me.”

Rey was rubbing his fingers, too. He loved touching her skin, but there was something sensual about the sensation of the leather on the inside of her gloves rubbing against her skin, of touching her indirectly. His heartbeat began to increase, and he slowed his breathing in an attempt to compensate. Getting excited while talking about his lady friends with his wife would probably not be the best thing to do right now.

“I think I’m glad that she did,” Rey said finally. “You are certainly, um, authoritative now.” Her voice wavered, just slightly and she pressed herself against him. Perhaps they would go there after all, although they were likely getting very close to the station by now.

“Do you like my authority, minette?” This time, the endearment made her shiver.

“I do,” she whispered, tilting her chin up so her mouth was very close to his. “Too much, sometimes, perhaps.”

She took a breath, as though preparing to say something else, but at that moment the carriage jolted to a stop, and the driver announced their arrival at Kendal station. The train was full, so they would have to wait until later to continue their conversation.

Once Rey and Finn reached Liverpool it was late in the afternoon, and they didn’t pick up their conversation from earlier. Instead, they checked into their hotel and made love until it was time for dinner. Finn was interested in seeing the city; the second largest in the country, next to London, and so much of it was newly built, it would be exciting to just wander the streets. But Rey had other plans. She admitted, after a bit of coaxing (and an orgasm that was withheld perhaps a bit longer than necessary - although she didn’t mind, at the end), that she was nervous about what her brother’s return would mean for their shared life. Finn reassured her that he was more than happy to continue spending time with her in the workshop, although that didn’t seem to comfort her as well as he wished. She continued to be distracted.

They ate in the hotel restaurant. The first course was oysters, fresh and rich with a hint of ocean tang, and they reminded Finn of their first night on the steamer. It hadn’t even been two weeks, but it felt like a lifetime ago. Oysters, he decided, would forever remind him of his wife, and when they returned to the room after their meal he told her so, and showed her, too.

Rey had arranged with the hotel for hot water to be delivered to their room before bedtime, so they could drink their respective teas. Finn had continued taking the sleeping tisane at her insistence, despite the side-effects, which seemed to be getting worse. For her part Rey had started drinking her womb herbs at the same time, so they had developed a private little shared ritual. Finn did not like it at all.

“Rey,” he grumbled, as she handed the cup of steaming bitterness to him where he sat on the edge of the bed, “I am sure I do not need to drink the tea tonight. Whatever it is about the house that causes me discomfort doesn’t affect me here, and the sensation of the crystals likewise does not reach this far. Please, I feel so strange in the mornings, and I would like to be fresh to meet Kylo. I will not drink the tea, tonight.”

He attempted to hand the cup and saucer back to her, but she was insistent. “Husband,” she said standing in front of him, voice and expression serious, “the tea works best when you drink it regularly. Eventually your body will become used to it, the morning effects will pass, but you must keep drinking it. Every evening. And I drink with you, in solidarity.” At which she took a sip of her own cup, and made a face. Apparently hers was bitter too.

Finn hated arguing with his wife, even a little bit, and he wanted to make her happy, so he drank.

Some while later - time was strange after drinking the tea - they were lying in bed and Rey was singing, which was usual, but also crying, which was not.

“Why are you crying?” Finn asked - or thought he asked. He was sure the words weren’t exactly right. But Rey understood him, and she shuddered a sigh.

“Ben is coming home, and things will be different,” she whispered into the night. Finn tried to move, to wrap his arms around her, but his muscles wouldn’t respond and all he could do was shift a little on the mattress. Rey understood, though - she always understood - and she rolled on her side and wrapped herself around him. The last thing he remembered was her lips on his cheek, and her voice, quiet: “I will always love you, no matter what happens. No matter what, I am yours, and you are mine.”

When Finn woke in the morning it was as though he hadn’t slept at all. He hadn’t dreamed. His body was tired, mind cloudy. Rey helped him out of bed, and into his clothes, humming all the while. He felt very ill, so nauseated that he could only stomach plain toast and tea for breakfast; black tea, which he normally hated, but which this morning he could barely taste. The cold air blowing in from the sea, rich with the scent of salt and decay, helped wake him up a bit, and before he knew it they were standing at the port, behind the barrier along with around a hundred other people, and watching the steamer roll in from beyond the horizon.

Kylo Ren was easy to spot when he finally made his way down the gangplank. He was, without a doubt, the tallest person on the ship, and his top hat only added to his height. They watched him enter the building where he would show his papers and be admitted to England officially, and when he came out the door several minutes later Rey ran to him with a whoop and threw her arms around his neck. Rey was not a short woman, but she looked quite small next to her brother. Had Kylo always been so large? Finn thought perhaps there was a trick being played on him, either mind or memory.

The hug between the siblings was awkward. In Kylo’s left hand he carried the mahogany case that Finn remembered from the demonstration for Cushing’s investment group at the Cotton Exchange Building. As he pulled his sister into an embrace, Finn could see that his right hand was bound in some kind of bandages. As he watched them from his position by the barrier he could see the moment that Rey noticed Kylo’s hand too. She grabbed his wrist and brought the bandaged appendage to her cheek, worry and concern plain in her expression. But as her brother spoke to her, leaning down, his face close to hers, Finn watched her demeanor change - from concern to joy. She dropped her brother’s hand and grasped him around his neck once more, this time placing kisses across his cheeks - cheeks, Finn noted, that were heavy with several day’s worth of growth. Of course, if he had lost the use of his right hand, he couldn’t very well shave. But the slight whiskers marred his beautiful face. Even so, brother and sister looked very well together, and Finn found himself disappointed when she finally let him go and dragged Kylo by the elbow to where he stood.

“Brother,” said Kylo in that deep intonation that Finn had spent far too much time thinking about since they’d last met. The man held out his right hand as though to shake Finn’s, then noticed what he was doing and laughed, along with Rey. His laugh, his smile, the dimples that formed in his cheeks; Finn found them all distracting.

Finn finally gathered himself and laughed, too, although the other two had already finished. He ignored Kylo’s quizzical glance and grasped him on his upper arm, and responded, “Brother. It is very good to see you. What happened to your hand?”

The man looked slightly abashed, even as Rey grinned. “I, uh, broke two fingers. Accidentally. Doctor Bunting - I stayed with her, in Rittenhouse Square - she called the medical doctor and he set it with a splint. I should get it looked at again soon, but he seemed to think it would heal well.”

Finn nodded, and before he thought about it he’d opened his mouth again. “I can shave you, if you’d like. Since you can’t use your hand.” As soon as he’d said it he was struck with horror, but Kylo took the suggestion in stride.

“That would be very helpful, thank you. Isn’t that a kind offer from your husband, sister?”

Rey’s smile was, perhaps, a bit tight, but she responded affirmatively. “That is very kind, Finn. My brother’s face is rather more furry than usual.” And she caressed his cheek, as though to punctuate her statement.

The three of them strolled to where the trunks were being unloaded, to ensure that Kylo’s would make the transfer to the next train to Kendal. Finn noticed that his brother-in-law’s coat was as old and threadbare as Rey’s had been, his scarf as well, not really suitable for the weather, and offered to take him to the same shop where they had purchased theirs only a few days before. Kylo was more willing than Rey had been, so while she stayed to track the luggage, taking the mahogany case with her, Finn and Kylo set out to the shop.

Finn still felt terrible, so Kylo slowed his steps to enable him to keep up. Finally he asked, “Finn, are you feeling well? You seem very different from the last time I saw you.” He pulled them into a doorway and stood very close, looming over him. His eyes were dark and full of unease. “Is it the house?”

Finn sighed and answered honestly, fingers of warmth reaching up his neck. Kylo was so close, and he smelled of sandalwood. “The house makes me ill. I spend as much time as I can in Rey’s workshop. She gives me tea to sleep, but the tea makes me ill, too. I will feel better in a few hours, probably by the time we get back to Mustafar.”

Kylo stared at him for a few moments, and then nodded. “That happens sometimes. Missus Holdo - I suppose you’ve met her - she can only stay in the house a few hours at a time. She claims it’s because of ghosts, but I don’t know anything about that. The crystals can have a negative effect on people, too. Do you feel them?”

“Yes,” Finn confirmed, “but I don’t mind that. I rather like it, actually.”

Kylo nodded, decisively. “Starting today, you and I will spend time in the forest, and on the peak. Every day. That should help you feel better.”

Without waiting for a response Kylo pulled them back out into the street, where they quickly made their way to the shop. They didn’t speak again, except about the purchase of outerwear, until they were getting settled with Rey in another crowded train, ready to make their way to Kendal and then back home, to Mustafar Hall.

The gentle movement of the car, coupled with the murmuring of surrounding conversation, had Finn nodding off within minutes of the train leaving the station. Before he dozed he was dimly aware of Rey, beside him on the seat, leaning against him and holding his hand, telling Kylo that she wanted to hear all the details of his trip. He heard nothing after that. They woke him when they reached Kendal; his wife and her brother each took an arm to help him into the carriage. It felt good, having one of them on each side, supporting him.

He was feeling a bit better, although still woozy, and he slept, on and off, all the way from Kendal to Coniston. At one point he awoke briefly to find that Rey had moved from her spot next to him and was sitting with her brother on the facing bench. They were sleeping, too; her hands were ungloved, she clasped her brother’s bandaged hand in hers, and their hands rested where their knees met. Rey’s head lay against Kylo’s shoulder and his cheek propped against her forehead. Again Finn took a moment to appreciate how well they looked together. The family resemblance was unmistakable even in sleep. The shape of their mouths, which Finn believed came from their father, and their brows, which they undoubtedly inherited from their mother; beautiful, both of them.

Finn could imagine them years ago, before Luke. Rey, a tot by Ben’s side - they joke that she is his shadow - Ben, telling her stories about the animals, or walking her across the field to the copse of trees, or showing her the secret space beneath the board in the floor.

Finn also thought about his fantasies involving the adult siblings, which - if he was honest with himself - he may have gotten a bit carried away by. It was one thing to imagine Kylo Ren’s hands on Rey when he was fucking her himself, or when she was working and he was snuggling with the cat and Kylo was far away, but it was something else to consider it when they were in such close proximity to each other, and to him. But he didn’t want to stop.

He wanted to think about them. Kylo, reaching under his sister's skirts to stroke her cunt. She would moan with delight when his thick fingers breached her opening - first one, and then another, but only when she begged - and her orgasm would arrive with a familiar and beloved cry. Rey would repay her brother’s attentions by taking his cock in her mouth, an experience she would thoroughly enjoy and which she was remarkably good at. Finn could only imagine the noises Kylo would make as he released his spend in the back of her throat, and her smile as she climbed up his body to share it with him.

Finn crossed his legs and placed his fur hat on his lap, and was asleep again within minutes. When he awoke they were turning from Coniston up the mountain towards Mustafar Hall, and Rey was back, next to him on the bench, clutching his hand in hers. As the carriage slowly rocked up the steep and narrow lane the crystals began to sing to him, and he felt better than he had since they left. He felt as though he was arriving home.

Chapter Text

Pulling up to Mustafar Hall twenty minutes later, Finn felt better. He was more awake, at least, and beginning to feel hungry, which was a nice change from the nausea. The electric buzz of the crystals had settled into his bones, as though it was coming out of him rather than into him. He welcomed its comfort.

Mrs Holdo met them on the porch, and warmly greeted Kylo and Finn. She tutted over Kylo’s bandaged hand and stroked his furry cheeks with a smile, which he returned with rolled eyes before he bounded past the driver and his assistant carrying his steamer trunk and into the house, followed closely by the older woman.

“Your brother,” Finn said to Rey as he helped her out of the carriage, where she had been waiting, “is different from how I remember him. More...”

“Happy?” she provided, slipping her arm through his elbow and walking with him across the porch and towards the house. “Yes. He’s happy to be home. He loves it here; he is comfortable here. I’m very glad he’s home, and happy.”

But Finn didn’t think she looked or sounded glad. She seemed tired, and a little concerned.

“I know you worry, mon petit oiseau,” he whispered to her. “But all will be well, I will make sure of it. Yes?”

Rey didn't say anything, but she paused to kiss his mouth, and look into his eyes. There was a lot there, in the eyes of his amant mystérieux, but he still didn't know how to read it.

The emotional effect of the ghosts was much less intense than it had been at his first arrival, which he still couldn't remember. He could feel them - the sadness, shame, and anger - and as before he didn't want to go inside, but it wasn't painful. And it was easier with Rey on his arm.

Finn was surprised that the black mist wasn't there to greet Rey, but when Kylo galloped down the stairs, racing past them and back into the kitchen, he could see why: the mist had attached itself to him instead. Although he was moving quickly the mist showed no effort to keep up; it set on his shoulders and seemed almost placid as it writhed around his head. As the man ran by them, a delighted grin on his face, the familiar anguish pressed against Finn's bones.

Finn followed his wife to the dining room, where Mrs Holdo had set for lunch. It was a room that he had seen but had not spent time in; he and Rey had, so far, taken their meals on the large work table in the kitchen, or in the main room in front of the fireplace. This room was lined with threadbare tapestries and was dominated by an enormous table, which had space to seat at least twenty people. The three place settings clustered on the far end looked a bit ridiculous, considering the full length of the table, but the window curtains were open and dim sunlight flowed through the windows, so the room wasn’t as unwelcoming as it might have been.

The table was already set with a basket of fresh bread and a silver dish of butter, and Finn could smell a rich scent wafting in from the kitchen. Rey watched him inhale deeply and giggled when his stomach grumbled audibly.

“Rabbit stew. It’s my brother’s favorite, and Holdo can always be depended on to cook him his favorites.”

Seconds later Mrs Holdo came in carrying a steaming china tureen. Kylo Ren was close behind, mist dancing around his shoulders. Rey moved behind the chair at the end of the table and Finn claimed the one to her left, and Kylo glanced first at Finn, then at the stew - which Mrs Holdo was already dishing into their plates - and nodded decisively.

“Missus Holdo,” he declared, “I wish to go to the peak now, and to take my brother and sister with me. Please pack this in a basket.” He waved his good hand.

“No! I want to eat lunch at the table,” Rey grumbled, “and after lunch I want to nap. Can we go to the peak later?”

Kylo frowned and shook his head. “I wish to go to the peak now, I want to show Finn. He and I can go, and you can eat at the table. Missus Holdo? Please pack a lunch for us.”

“Yes, sir,” said Mrs Holdo, and she picked up the tureen and carried it back into the kitchen. She was quick; Finn wondered if she was anticipating a fight. When he turned to look at Rey, he had no doubt. His wife's face was drained of blood, aside from two pink spots high on her cheeks, and she was holding the back of her chair so tightly he could hear the wood creaking. The mist, which had been clinging to Kylo, blinked out and immediately reappeared over Rey, agitating slightly, as though disturbed by their bickering.

Rey started to open her mouth, but Finn spoke first, doing his best to ignore the mist.

“Sir Ren.” Kylo, surprised to hear his honorific from Finn's lips, turned from where he was already walking towards the door.


“I will eat my meal at the table. With my wife.” He moved closer to her, placing his hand gently around her waist. She shifted closer to him, too.

Kylo’s brow knit, and he took a moment to respond. When he did, his voice was quiet. “But I want to show you the peak. And the woods, and introduce you to the cat.”

“He's met the cat,” Rey spat. Finn rubbed a circle across her back.

“The peak will be there, after lunch,” Finn said gently. “I will go with you then, but not before. I want to hear about your trip.”

Kylo pushed out his lower lip in a pout - a pout? The man’s mask had been thorough, and had fooled Finn. He was emotional in many directions.

“I told Rey about my trip in the carriage, while you were sleeping, she doesn't want to hear it again.”

“To the contrary,” Rey answered for herself, “I will listen to you talk about your trip as many times as you will tell me.” Finn could hear the tears in her voice and squeezed her closer. Kylo nodded.

“Very well. I apologize. I am just… excited to have you here. I want to show you everything. I'll tell Amilyn.” And with that he hopped to the kitchen door, the mist again around his shoulders.

Finn exhaled and looked down at Rey, who looked right back up at him with a watery smile. “I am so sorry, Finn. He’s been having to control himself very tightly for weeks, and I think he is reveling in his freedom. He is also, obviously, excited to have you here.” Finn had to admit that he was flattered by the attention, and his smile implied as much to her. Rey nudged him and laughed. “You’re his first friend, and you’re about to see all that entails. I hope you have enough energy.”

Kylo and Mrs Holdo returned with the tureen, and she ladled out the stew and then announced she was leaving for the day. She had done laundry in addition to preparing lunch, and now she had to go back to her shop in the village to mix herbs. She gave Kylo a parting hug, and waved goodbye to Finn. Finn was frustrated that he didn’t get a moment alone with her to ask about the ghosts, but he supposed he would have to wait for the right occasion.

The bread was fresh and still warm, and the stew was delicious, full of meat and root vegetables. Finn ate heartily, having fully recovered his appetite, but he was disappointed to see that Rey only picked at her meal. That was unusual, a sign that she was quite upset. But perhaps a nap would help, and she would eat more at dinner.

Kylo Ren ate and spoke animatedly about his adventure, tugging on his ponytail and even getting up from his seat and acting out scenes at a few points. As he told the story, the mist, which had been attached to Rey, moved back and forth between them, disappearing from one set of shoulders and reappearing at the other in the same moment. There didn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to the exchange, and Finn found it disorienting the first few times it happened, and decided that it was better to ignore it. Towards the end of the meal the mist settled on Rey, and stayed there.

Kylo had been well cared for in Philadelphia, and had only praise for Mr Alexander MacElwee, who had invited and hosted him at the Academy of Natural Sciences; and Dr Martha Bunting, who had graciously given him a room in her own house for his stay. The audience for his talk had been large - apparently people had been standing in the back of the auditorium because there weren’t enough seats - and had been very well received and even praised in the city’s science newsletters the next day. Kylo described it as a wildly successful visit, and Finn could tell that it contributed to his good mood.

Rey’s attitude - quiet, thoughtful, still a little sad - stood in contrast, and Finn desperately wanted to get her alone so he could talk to her about it. Once they were done eating Rey started to clear the table, and Finn helped her, hoping Kylo would make himself scarce, but he assisted too. He chatted as they washed.

“So Finn, have you been out to the woods yet?”

“No, I’ve only been outside to walk back to the workshop.”

Kylo nodded as he took a now-clean plate from Finn and wiped it with a cloth. “Well, it’s different in the woods, a bit more wild. We’ll have to walk through the woods to reach the path to the peak. It’s a fine path, if we’re lucky we might see a deer. I’ll bring the rifle, just in case. Not for the deer - I don’t really like hunting - but in case we run into a wolf.”

“Wolves!” Finn exclaimed, at the same time Rey grumbled, “You’re not going to run into a wolf.”

“We might!” Kylo replied to Rey, placing the last plate on the drain board. “Just because we never have doesn’t mean we won’t. The week before we left in the Spring I heard Dopheld Mitaka,” he glanced at Finn, “Mitaka, he’s the clerk down at the Post Office - I heard him say that there was a pack of wolves spotted down near Finsthwaite. That’s what - ten miles? Twelve?”

Finn recognized the man’s name immediately. George Mitaka’s death announcement had been included in the cache of clippings under the floor. He supposed in such a small village the two Mitakas must be related, and he wondered what, if any, connection Dopheld had to the growing mystery of the Skywalkers. He couldn’t very well ask.

Rey sighed, and stood from where she’d been resting on the bench by the kitchen table. “Well, you’d better take the rifle then. I’m going to go upstairs and take a nap, I’m exhausted.” She started for the door, but Kylo caught her by the elbow on her way by.

“Sister, did you tidy my room after you returned home?”

Rey gave him a small smile, the first one Finn had seen her direct his way since they abandoned the carriage over an hour before. “I did,” she said, “just a little. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” he replied, and kissed her cheek before letting her pass out the door.

Finn was charmed that Kylo was so intent to take him to the peak, but he had to admit to himself that he’d rather nap with his wife. Napping, which would either begin or end - perhaps both - with kissing and more. He’d grown used to afternoon lovemaking in the workshop, and it was going to be a difficult habit to break. Finn was beginning to understand why Rey was a bit disappointed by her brother’s arrival, even though she was pleased to have him home.

Kylo and Finn followed Rey upstairs, and while she headed for the bedroom she shared with Finn, Kylo pulled him into the east wing. “I am sure you don’t own any clothes you’d want ruined out in the woods, so I thought you might wear something of mine.” He pulled a ring of keys out of his pocket and used the longest one to unlock the second door on the right. Finn didn’t ask, but Kylo explained anyway as he pushed the door open. “I’m fond of Missus Holdo, but she sneaks, so I keep the door to my bedroom locked.”

Finn hummed as he followed him in. “The door to the attic is unlocked.”

Kylo shrugged and pushed the door closed behind them, then tossed the ring of keys on top of a small table by the door that was crowded with other things, including several rocks, a handful of coins, and a very large feather - dark brown, with four wide golden-brown stripes.

“She wouldn’t sneak up there, and even if she did she wouldn’t find anything of interest to her.”

Kylo picked up the feather and stroked it against his cheek before setting it back down again. “It’s from a Golden Eagle. I can’t feel it as well with all this hair on my face. Were you serious about giving me a shave?”

He walked backwards, facing Finn as he waited for him to answer, and Finn said, “Yes, of course.” Kylo nodded and turned around, and Finn was able to get a better look at the space.

If Rey had tidied up, he wondered what it had looked like before. Unlike their own room, which had been the definition of neat and orderly when they’d arrived, this room was cluttered and messy and undoubtedly lived-in. There were shelves built in along one whole wall, and the books were stacked and piled and flowed from the shelves onto every other available surface. Clothes were also scattered around, piled in the open wardrobe, thrown on the floor and the bed, too. The bed was unmade, pillows and blankets pushed in a pile at the head. There was a small object amongst them, which Finn recognized - a stuffed rabbit, very similar but not identical to the one he had encountered in Rey’s trunk on the steamer. This one had black eyes instead of ivory, and although its nose had come apart it had not been fixed. Like the other, this one had a locket tied around its neck on a blue silk ribbon, embroidered with small violet-colored flowers. Finn had to drag his attention away from the toy, and focused instead on the bed.

The bed was much bigger than the one he shared with Rey - it was the largest bed he’d seen, even in Paris, and wider than it was tall. The frame was heavy and sculpted, which gave it ample spots for handholds and anchors for his ropes. Finn envied Kylo Ren that bed.

While he was gaping at the bed, Kylo dug through the wardrobe and came out with two sets of clothing - trousers and undershirts and shirts and heavy woolen socks, rough and stained but seeming clean. He threw both sets on the bed and pulled his shirt over his head. Finn barely had a chance to take a breath before he was presented with Kylo’s naked torso.

Finn knew that Kylo Ren was a large man, tall and broad, but without clothing he could see exactly how much of that bulk was muscle. As Kylo removed his trousers, Finn watched the muscles moving under his skin; biceps and triceps cooperating as he loosened his fastenings, pectorals and abdominals contracting as he bent forward to pull his trousers down his legs before retracting as he stood and kicked them away from his feet. Before he realized what had happened, Kylo Ren was standing before him wearing nothing but his drawers, shaking the ponytail out of his hair and grinning at him.

Finn realized that he was still standing there, fully clothed, staring at his brother-in-law. Heat washed across his cheeks, and Kylo laughed as he picked up one of the sets of clothes from the bed. Finn quickly stripped himself and grasped for a topic of conversation.

“What can you tell me about Colonel Kenobi?”

Kylo sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his socks, and frowned. “Kenobi? Why do you want to know about him?”

Finn shrugged and tugged the braces. The trousers were too large, and threatened to fall down his hips. The braces were his only hope.

“He interests me. Instead of making his own family he lived here, raised another man's child. An unusual decision, isn't it?”

“Not unheard of. He and great-grandfather were very close; they saved each other's lives in the war. Kenobi didn't have a family, that I know of, siblings or cousins. The Skywalkers were his family. And once Padmé and Anakin died, Jyn was his daughter. She called him Father, mother called him Grandfather.” He picked a piece of lint off the bedsheet. “She loved him, very much.”

“And he was happy?”

Kylo looked up at him, lips turned up just at the corners. “You're asking a lot of questions.”

“I'm just curious.”

Kylo stood and stretched. “Well, I'm bored. Let's go outside. You can ask more questions there. And maybe if you're lucky, Felix, I will answer them.”

The man grinned at his own joke and led the way out the door, locking it securely behind them.

It took them nearly an hour to reach the peak - a jog across the yard and the lane, a trek through the woods, and then picking up a steep trail to the base of the hill.

The cat from the workshop - an old friend of Kylo’s, judging by how both man and beast rejoiced when they first saw each other - joined them occasionally, running over to say hello and then just as quickly running away again to chase an insect or a rodent. The trip could have taken about one-third that time, but Kylo walked slowly, stepping frequently off the path, and chatted all the way. His chatting consisted of commenting on the weather (he insisted it was very fine for the season, and he was very amused that Finn wore his winter coat), holding one-sided conversations with the cat, and pointing out plants and flowers, reciting their scientific names and details about each one.

“And this is Platanthera chlorantha” he said, crouching down by a gathering of green stalks, each hosting several small white and yellow flowers, “the greater butterfly-orchid. I’m very fond of butterflies, you know, so this is one of my favorites. You can see, the small petals to the side resemble wings.” He cradled one of the flowers between his fingers and held it so Finn could examine it; it did, indeed, bear a slight resemblance to a butterfly.

Eventually, after many similar interruptions, they reached the top of the hill. The peak proper was the edge; there was a slight rise from the treeline up to the final crag, where there was a sudden drop, a cliff, with a rocky ravine several yards below. From the ravine the valley opened up, and with the cloudless, sunny weather they had a clear view all the way down to the village, to Coniston Water, and the hills and fields beyond.

The view was breathtaking; Finn had never seen anything like it. New Orleans was flat, flatter than flat, and although he had climbed to Belleville in Paris many times, had visited the top of the Eiffel Tower, those were nothing compared to the view from Kyber Peak. They must have been able to see for miles - Finn thought if he squinted he might be able to glimpse the ocean, the continent, Russia and China and all the way across the Pacific to America, all the way around the world. He felt as though he was standing on the edge of the earth; alive in a way he had never been before.

The crystals were a chorus in his bones.

He turned his head to say as much to Kylo, but instead yelped in surprise. The other man had removed his shirt and was standing half naked in the wind, his hair flowing behind him. He looked to Finn like a prince preparing to face down a storm, or a god leading an army of the dead. He also looked cold, with goosebumps across his arms and his nipples hard, and Finn laughed despite himself. Kylo turned to face him, expression serious until he broke into a lopsided grin that made Finn’s stomach flip.

“Aren’t you freezing?” Finn asked, and Kylo laughed and stepped away from the cliff’s edge.

“I’m used to it. Sick of being covered in suits, having to pretend I care what other people think. Glad to be here, where I can do what I want.” And he held his hands out to his sides and turned round and round like a top, until he fell to the ground laughing. The cat jumped out of a bush and joined him, climbing on his chest and making itself comfortable, a soft little loaf just under his chin. Finn sat on a nearby boulder and watched.

“No butterflies?” He asked after a minute. “You promised me butterflies.”

“In the Spring, this place will be covered in butterflies. But now, in the autumn, heading to winter, they’re all long dead. Long dead.”

Kylo scritched the cat under its chin and made a cooing noise. Finn laughed.

“Does the cat have a name?”

Kylo sighed. “I don’t call it by name, but Millie called it Beebee.”

Finn froze. Millie. Millicent. He wasn’t supposed to know about Millicent. Was he? He gathered himself and responded as naturally as he could. “Who is Millie?”

Kylo turned his head and frowned at him. “Rey didn’t tell you about Millie?” He pushed the cat off - she harumphed, but ran to Finn and jumped in his lap instead. Kylo followed her and stood in front of them, agitated, running his hands through his hair. “Rey didn’t tell you? She should have told you. I wish she’d told you.” He groaned and started pacing across the open ground. He walked in long strides, longer than his usual walking stride, and bent forward. He reminded Finn of a cat. Mon petit fauve, he thought to himself, and shivered.

“Millicent was my wife,” Kylo began. “She died, about two years ago. Here, as a matter of fact.” He gestured to the edge of the peak, and Finn shivered again. After a few more paces, Kylo stopped and shrugged. “That’s it, really. She was my wife, and she died.”

But that wasn’t it, couldn’t be it. Kylo stood still, ignoring the cat which had taken the opportunity to wind around his legs. He gazed to the edge, out to the sky, his expression dark.

“Would you like to talk about her?” Finn asked, gently.

Kylo turned and within a second was looming over him. “Would you like to know about her?”

“Yes, I would. I would like to know about Millicent. If you would like to tell me.”

Kylo collapsed on the ground at Finn’s feet, and told him about his Millicent. As he talked he kept his hands busy; picking blades of grass, digging in the dirt with sticks, throwing little stones, petting the cat. Always moving; he was always moving.

“Millie. She was an artist, very talented, very smart. She drew botanical art, mostly - flowers and butterflies - so of course we got on immediately. I have a few of her paintings up in the attic, watercolors, I’ll show you later. She came here for a holiday, we met down in the village. She was painting her way through the Lake District - her father is quite wealthy, Hyde Park something, I don’t remember, not important - and I stopped to watch her work and complimented her.”

He paused for a moment, and Finn knew that he was remembering that moment, the first time he met the woman he loved. It made him think of the first time he’d seen Rey, in the lobby of the Cotton Exchange Building. He’d noticed her immediately; he’d noticed Kylo, too.

“She liked me, for some reason. I’m not used to people liking me, but she did, and I could tell. I took her to dinner, just down at the pub, and then I saw her again the next day. By the end of the week we were engaged.”

“How did Rey feel about that?” Finn asked. The cat was back in his lap, and he gave its ears a good scratch.

Kylo flinched. “She wasn’t happy. She’s very attached to me, you know. She takes care of me. I take care of her too,” he hastened to add, “but, well, when I came back from - you know - I needed a lot of caring for.” He took a moment to pull the leaves off a blade of grass and to blow a whistle through it - the bandaged hand making the effort slightly awkward - before throwing it into the wind. “It gets lonely, just us, and Missus Holdo. Rey is fine with it, but,” he shrugged again and didn’t finish his thought.

“Yes, Rey told me you didn’t have many friends growing up.”

“I didn’t have any friends. Mother educated me at home, so I didn’t go to the village school. The children there didn’t want to have anything to do with me anyway. I had Rey for a while, but then I got taken away. I didn’t have any friends in Philadelphia.” He laid back on the ground and stretched out, left hand behind his head, bandaged right hand resting on his stomach. Finn looked over at the trees, to avoid staring. There was so much of Kylo to stare at, and he was still shirtless, in all his muscled glory. Even Finn, who had been around a lot of naked people in his life, was a bit overwhelmed. Just a bit.

“So then I came back, after years of… well. It wasn’t good. I came back, and I was dependent on Rey for everything. For a while. And I love my sister, Finn, I love her so much it hurts. But it was nice to have someone else to love, too.”

Kylo lapsed into silence for a bit, staring up at the sky. Finn pet the cat and waited.

“I met Millie, and we got married. Down in London - Hyde Park, I think I said. Her father wasn’t too pleased that we were so poor, but he liked the title, so it was fine. She’d been a spinster - she was five or six years older than me - so he was happy to see her married at all. She came back here to live with us, and three months later she was dead.”

“I’m very sorry,” Finn said, after a few moments of silence. “She sounds like a wonderful woman.”

Kylo smiled. “She really was. She wasn’t beautiful - not like Rey, you know - but there was just something joyful about her. She could look at any person, any situation, and see the best in it. It’s what made her such a talented artist. I miss her, very much.”

Tears formed in the corners of Finn’s eyes, but they dried before they could fall. Kylo closed his eyes, and Finn took his leave, following the cat as it made the rounds of the peak, checking for treats behind every boulder and under every bush.

It was under one of these bushes that Finn made a discovery. A very small, slightly fuzzy discovery. To be fair, the cat was the one who made the discovery, and Finn held it back while he called Kylo over from where he was still lying in the dirt.

“Kylo! Kylo! Come here! I found something.”

Kylo slowly folded himself up on the ground, and then unfolded himself upright, stretching his arms up to the sky before loping over to where Finn was crouched under the low bush. Finn pointed at the tiny brown object curled up at the base of the trunk.

“What is it? I think it’s alive.”

Kylo reached his hands in and tenderly rolled the thing onto the palm of his left hand. When he pulled it out, Finn could see that it was a very small but recognizable rabbit. The man brought his palms together, enclosing the animal completely.

“It’s a baby bunny.” He crouched, head down, and breathed into the crack between his hands. Finn moved his hand towards Kylo's, and the other man flinched and pulled his hands away.

“It's mine,” he growled, teeth bared and eyes wild. Finn, shocked, lowered his hand, and Kylo's expression softened, tears in his eyes. “It should be with its mother and the rest of the litter, not alone,” he whispered. “It will die alone.” He stood up, tears already flowing down his face, and gestured to where the rifle and satchel leaned against one of the boulders, along with his shirt. “Get those. We’re taking this home with us.”

He didn’t wait for a response before he clutched the bunny to his bare chest and took off running down the path into the woods.

Kylo was already in the house by the time Finn was out of the woods, and it took him another five minutes to make his way across the yard and back into the house. Padmé danced in the front hall while he left the bags and his coat at the coat rack, her soft sadness dancing along with her, but the only sounds were coming from the kitchen, so that’s where he went.

Rey was sitting on the kitchen table in her nightdress, bare feet resting on the bench, and Kylo was standing between her legs. His hands grasped the fabric on her thighs, hiking her skirt above her knees. Her hands were fisted in his hair, and from the doorway Finn could hear Rey whispering quietly through Kylo's guttural sobs. Their heads were bowed together, as though in shared contrition, and the mist roiled around their heads. The scene was so intimate, so private. In years of voyeuristic endeavors Finn had never seen anything quite like it.

He wanted more. He imagined Kylo pushing his hands further up her thighs, under her skirt. He would kiss her mouth, then she would lay back and he would kiss her between her legs. Kiss her with his sweet, full lips, lick her with his tongue. He would make love to her cunt with his mouth until-

“Husband.” Rey had noticed him in the doorway, and she was staring at him. Kylo was no longer sobbing, instead his face was buried in her neck. Her hands still gripped his hair tightly, just at the sides of his head. She sighed. “He gets upset, sometimes, and needs to be calmed down. He's better now. Aren't you, brother.”

Kylo nodded and stepped away from her, his eyes focused on the floor. Her hands dropped, and she straightened out the skirt of her nightdress. Without a word Finn handed him his shirt, and he put it on.

“Bunny's in the oven,” he whispered, pointing to the appliance that took up most of the far wall.

“You put it in the oven?” Bile rose in Finn’s throat, but Rey hopped down from the table and pushed past both of them.

Warming oven, please. We aren't monsters.” One of the smaller compartments was cracked open, and she waved him over to have a look. The bunny was there, still small, but now twitching in its sleep. Kylo was finally smiling, and Rey was too, a little.

“It's very young, and will need to be fed every few hours. A few drops of milk only. This is your responsibility, Ben. Your bunny. Right?”

“Right. I can do it.” He pushed a finger into the oven and stroked the little animal. He murmured, “It was innocent, it didn't do anything wrong.” He turned to Finn, honey eyes full of hope. “I can take care of it, though. I can make it better.”

Finn thought of the drawing of the rabbit in the attic, being chased by the gardner, and the two stuffed toys with lockets around their necks; all of them made by this man, and the boy who grew up to be him. A man mercurial and beautiful, a study in contrasts. Finn laid a supportive hand on his shoulder and replied, “I believe you can.”

Chapter Text

They didn’t go back outside after the bunny debacle. Instead they gathered in the main room, in front of the fireplace. Kylo had retrieved the baby rabbit from the oven and sat on the floor, close to the warm glow, and refused to let the bunny go. He leaned against the ottoman, held the animal to his chest, and stared into the flames. The mist kept them company.

Rey went upstairs and came back with a book a few minutes later, still wearing her nightdress. She curled up in the corner of the sofa and read silently, apparently happy to ignore both her brother and her husband. Finn lounged on the leather armchair and pondered the family portraits. The painting of Colonel Ben Kenobi bothered him; it didn’t look right, but Finn couldn’t divine exactly what was wrong with it.

After a while he stood up and stretched.

“I’m a bit worn after our adventure this afternoon, mon amour, I’m going to go upstairs and lie down.”

“Have a good rest, my dear,” Rey said. “I’ll be starting dinner soon, and one of us will come to wake you when the food is ready.” She barely spared him a glance. Kylo gave no indication that he heard Finn’s announcement at all.

Finn marched slowly through the hall, taking a moment to enjoy the dusty column of light that shined down through the hole in the roof, then treaded heavily up the stairs. He paused at the first landing and listened; there was only silence downstairs. The corridor was silent too. He stopped by the bathroom to rinse his face and hands, then went into the bedroom and closed the door.

He had hoped, perhaps foolishly, that Rey would follow him upstairs and he would be able to talk to her alone, or hold her, or make love to her. Barring that, he had considered lying down, but he wasn’t really tired. His conversations with Kylo and the ensuing events had unmoored him, and the mist had been especially unnerving today. The buzzing of the crystals was comforting, though it was still strange.

Finn sat on the edge of the bed and considered the box under the floor in the hallway. George Mitaka and Millicent Ren were both in that box, along with the stack of letters; he wondered about them. He wanted to read them, to know what Rey had written to her brother when he was away and she was alone at Mustafar. So instead of attempting to nap he peeked out into the hallway to ensure that all was clear.

The ghosts of Anakin and Padmé were both there, in their usual spots. There was no sign of Rey or Kylo, however, so Finn tiptoed out, removed the board, lifted out the metal box - it was heavy, but he was strong - and replaced the board before carrying the box into the room and setting it on the bed. He closed the door gently, and contemplated locking it from the inside before deciding that would be too suspicious. He carried the box to the back corner of the room, setting it on the floor next to an old chest of drawers that was high enough off the ground for the box to slide under it, should he need to hide it quickly.

He hated feeling so sneaky, but the objects in the box were not for him, and he suspected that Rey or Kylo - or both of them - would be very angry if they discovered he was spying. He didn’t want to make either of them angry, but he was desperately curious about the contents of the letters, and desperate curiosity was going to win out.

When he opened the box, however, he discovered that something new had been placed inside since the day he’d arrived. The small box containing the ring had slipped to one side, and on top of the pile was a crumpled envelope. The envelope was lumpy, and when he picked it up he found it solid and heavy. He tipped the contents onto the rug, and gasped. The pocket watch and signet ring that slipped out of the envelope and bounced on the floor were, without a doubt, the property of Finn’s former, and very dead, valet, Snap Wexley.

Finn bit his hand to keep from screaming and crawled backwards until his feet hit a chair. Mr Wexley had been mugged in New Orleans, his watch and ring stolen, head smashed in by a rock, or a brick - the murder weapon had not been found. His face had been so mangled that Finn had had to rely on the shape of his chin and hands to make his official identification. The attack had been cold-blooded, ruthless, and it had distressed Finn immensely. The only joy he’d had in the weeks since the murder had been his marriage to Rey Skywalker, and his developing friendship with her brother, Kylo Ren.

Kylo Ren, le tueur. The murderer.

He had murdered Snap, he must have. The man’s possessions hadn’t been here, Kylo Ren had returned home this morning, and now they were. But why? What reason would Kylo have to kill Snap? As far as Finn knew they had never even spoken to each other. Finn crawled back to the box, and examined the ring and watch with unsteady fingers. They were both in perfect condition.

When Finn opened the envelope to replace the watch and ring, he noticed a folded piece of paper at the bottom. It proved to be a telegram, addressed to him, Mr Felix Lacoste, care of Mr Temmin Wexley. The paper had been crumpled and folded several times, and seemed to suffer from damp, but the writing was clear and legible. It was dated August 18, 1901 - the same day as Wexley’s murder - and it read:

All rumors widely believed to be true. Collapse not accident. Others as you say. Turnbull has proof. They are dangerous. Advise to discontinue relationship immediately.

Finn dropped the paper and pressed his fingers against his temples. This could be the answer to why. He remembered asking Wexley about the Skywalkers, and being told there were old rumors - the events surrounding Anakin and Padmé, he supposed. And then he’d asked Wexley to send a telegram to his former employer asking for details. In the chaos following the murder, the wedding, and the travel, he’d completely forgotten about it. Yet, here it was. And Wexley had gone to the hotel that afternoon to return a glove that Rey had left in a meeting that morning. Hadn’t he? Perhaps he had shown Kylo the telegram, threatened him somehow, and been killed in response. But Finn didn’t really understand the message. Others as you say - what might that mean? And who is Turnbull? Too many questions to be an answer.

Finn refolded the telegram and dropped everything back in the envelope, set it aside, and took another look in the box.

There was more: two new clippings had joined the pile. The first - no surprise - was Mr Wexley’s death announcement, pinned together with a longer article about the murder. The second was a death announcement for a Mr Armitage Hux of Philadelphia. Mr Hux had fallen from a bridge into the path of a train, killing him. The announcement was dated nine days before - the day after Kylo Ren had presented on the flora and fauna of Cumberland County to a packed house at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

According to his obituary, Mr Hux had at one time been the assistant of Doctors Alasdair Snoke and Luke Skywalker, Psychiatrists, both deceased.

Finn placed everything back in the box and shoved it under the chest of drawers, then crawled to the bed and climbed onto the mattress. He curled up and closed his eyes, wishing that he was back in his bedroom in New Orleans, or in the lounge of Phasma’s house in Paris. Anywhere other than here in Mustafar Hall.

Finn must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he knew there was a soft knock at the door. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, and a moment later Kylo Ren pushed the door open and poked his head in.

Kylo Ren, le tueur.

He carried a tray in his hands, a bit awkwardly considering the bandages, and as he approached the bed and set it down, Finn could see that upon the tray lay the baby bunny, now clearly conscious and squirming, eyes open, wrapped loosely in a kitchen rag. A small dish of milk and a narrow glass tube with a rubber bulb on one end lay next to it. Kylo lifted it up when he saw Finn eyeing it.

“It’s a Pasteur pipette, for measuring and transferring very small amounts of liquid. I use them sometimes in my work, but it will be perfect for feeding the bunny.” He smiled fondly and glanced at Finn. “I thought you might like to watch me feed it, since you found it.”

Finn nodded, still groggy from his nap, and observed as Kylo squeezed the bulb of the pipette and then used it to draw a white line of milk into the glass tube. He paused, and then passed the tube of milk to Finn so he could use both his hands to gently pick up the bunny, cradling it in the palm of his left hand. His palm was so broad, fingers long and thick; his hand dwarfed the bunny. He maneuvered it as he wanted it - on its back, head slightly inclined - and then realized that his healing fingers would be unable to squeeze the milk into the animal’s mouth.

“Oh Finn, I’m sorry, but do you mind?” He gestured for him to hold the pipette over the rabbit’s mouth - which was already open and grasping, soft mewling sounds coming from its throat. “Just a drop, and then we’ll see.”

Finn squeezed the bulb gently, and a single drop of white liquid dropped down into the bunny’s mouth. It smacked its mouth and mewled more loudly as it wriggled in Kylo’s palm. Kylo giggled like a child and grinned at Finn, his eyes warm.

“I think it liked it, Finn. Give it some more.”

So he did. Another drop, and another, until the bunny seemed to be satisfied; it sighed and rolled onto it side, and Kylo pressed his lips against it and set it back on the tray, and wrapped it in the rag.

Kylo Ren, le tueur.

Dinner that evening was agonizing.

After feeding the bunny with Finn's assistance, Kylo (le tueur, Finn’s brain continued to add, helpfully) had fashioned a sling so he could wear it against his chest, leaving his hands free. He'd found a book somewhere about the care of small animals, and as he ate he read random passages aloud, absently stroking the head of the baby rabbit and seemingly unaware of the black mist of misery that stirred around his shoulders.

Rey had reheated the rabbit stew on the stove, but Kylo steadfastly refused to eat it. Moreover, he insisted that Finn and Rey not eat it either.

“No more rabbit stew,” he declared in the kitchen, cradling the animal against his chest as Rey stood facing him with the cast iron pot already hot in her hands, plates on the kitchen table waiting for ladling. “No more rabbit, ever.”

“It's your favorite,” Rey shouted at him, distraught. “We eat so much rabbit. The forest is full of damn rabbits. We can't just stop eating rabbit. We’d starve!”

“The village has a butcher, I’ve seen it from the carriage,” Finn interjected from his seat at the table, “and a fish market. We can just buy meat.”

Rey turned on him with a snarl. “Oh yes, buy meat, spend our money when there’s meat all around. And where do you think the shop gets their meat, hm? Same place everyone else does. It all comes from animals, from the forest or from the farm. Next he’ll be demanding we stop eating meat completely!”

She wheeled back around to Kylo. “But for tonight: fine. No more rabbit.” And with that she marched to the door to the kitchen garden, threw it open while holding the pot close to her body, and then tossed the pot right outside, pot-holders and all, slamming the door closed behind her.

NO! MORE! RABBIT!” Rey stomped her feet as she yelled into the kitchen. Kylo, eyes back on his book, didn’t even look up.

Rey dug in the icebox and came back with eggs and some cheese, and they had plain omelettes for dinner instead of Mrs Holdo’s delicious rabbit stew. Rey barely touched her food, and she answered Finn’s every attempt at conversation with silence. For his part, Finn ate his meal in misery, the only sound aside from his own voice being the clinking of forks against plates, and Kylo’s occasional recitations.

After Finn and Rey had cleaned up after dinner - Finn had stepped into the garden to save the stew pot from an uncertain end - Finn invited her to take a walk with him outside, and to his surprise, she accepted. To his further surprise, Kylo showed no interest in going with them.

Finn was elated.

The sun had set and twilight was nearing its end, so it was chilly, even for Rey. They pulled on their coats and hats by the front door, and set out to walk around the house - their agreed-upon route - but they only made it a few steps down the porch before Rey stepped in front of Finn, grasped the lapels of his coat and dragged him down for a kiss.

Finn sighed into her mouth and put his arms around her shoulders, pulling her close. Her arms snaked around his torso and held him tight. For the first time that day, something felt exactly right. They kissed for a while - Finn wasn’t sure how long - and when she finally pulled away, Finn noticed the damp on her cheek and wiped the tears away with the thumbs of his gloves.

Mon ange, mon petit cœur. Why do you cry? Tell me.”

She started walking again, and he followed, until they reached the corner of the house. “My brother,” Rey said, stepping from the stone porch down onto the damp grass, “can be difficult. Today has been particularly difficult. And I have to admit that having you here makes him more difficult to deal with than usual. Not only because you are part of the reason he is so excited.”

Finn took her hand in his, and they walked down the east side of the house together, in silence, until she spoke again.

“It isn’t your fault. But I have particular ways of dealing with his tempers that simply don’t work when you are here.”

“Perhaps we can come up with some new approaches, then,” said Finn, as they rounded the tower at the corner to the back of the house. The crumbling battlements at the top of the tower loomed like broken teeth against the dark blue of the sky. He entwined their fingers and asked, in a manner he hoped sounded innocent, “Have you ever worried about Kylo hurting anyone? His tempers are unpredictable. Do you think he might be dangerous?”

Rey’s laugh was loud and echoed off the surrounding hills. “My brother? Dangerous? What a question.” She shook her head and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. “He’s the most innocent, sweet man I know. Next to you, of course. You saw him with that damn bunny.” She stopped to stomp her feet. “Ugh, that bunny. You’ve met the cat. Same story.” She started walking again, and he matched her pace. “The kitten was abandoned by its mother, just a few weeks old. He insisted on feeding it by hand, keeping it in his bed.”

She continued more thoughtfully, as though she was talking to herself. “That was a few months after he came home. It helped him, I suppose, to take care of something when he felt so helpless, so unable to take care of himself. Anyway, it’s good, it’s just…”

“A lot.”

“Exactly. On the steamer, all I could think about was how much I missed him, how I longed for him to be with us. I worried about him, wondered how he was managing without me. And now that we’re together, I remember how difficult he can be.” She sighed. “I love him, but he’s a lot.”

They were halfway down the length of the house, and Finn pulled them to a stop, then tugged Rey’s hand and pointed to the workshop, its dim shape imposing and lonely across the dark field.

“We have time, minette,” he murmured. “Come with me to the workshop. Let me love you.” He took a step closer to her, cradled her face in his hands. “Let me fuck you, please. I want to make you feel good. I miss you.” He wanted her, but he needed comfort. It had only been a day, but it felt longer than that.

Rey shook her head, even as she kissed him. “No, mon amour. I am tired, I want to go to bed. It’s time to have our tea, and go to sleep. Maybe tomorrow.”

Finn followed her lead and they continued their walk, soon turning the next corner to head back to the front of the house.

“I like Kylo very much,” said Finn, deliberately not thinking about the metal box under the chest of drawers, choosing instead to think of the wild man on the peak, who took off his shirt and rolled in the dirt and then ran home crying with a baby bunny in his hands. “He is a very interesting person.”

“I’m glad,” Rey replied, and pressed herself against his side. They were quiet for the rest of their walk, which gave Finn time to contemplate his decision. Because he did have to make a decision. Should he stay, should he go? He could go to the village tonight, catch a carriage to Kendal first thing in the morning, and be on a steamer back to the States by tomorrow evening or the next day.

Should he report his concerns to the local police?

His first concern - was he in immediate danger? He didn’t think so. Neither Rey nor Kylo had made any move to hurt him - in fact, aside from a few outbursts of temper they had both treated him with utmost kindness - and he wasn’t afraid. Even so, he could leave.

He considered it. He thought of Rey, his volatile wife, walking next to him quite calmly. She had let him in, opened her heart to him, and he knew now, in a way he hadn’t appreciated before, how extraordinary that was. He couldn’t leave her.

He thought of Kylo Ren, so very different than he’d appeared at first, so thorough was the mask he showed the world. But he, Finn, had glimpsed behind the mask, seen his beautiful, strange, mercurial free spirit. He was a murderer, Finn was sure. But he cried over a baby bunny left to fend for itself, and Finn could count on one hand the number of people he’d met in his life who would do the same. He wasn’t afraid of Kylo Ren, and didn’t think for even a moment that Kylo Ren would hurt him.

Finn was loyal. He’d been loyal to his family, to Phasma and Katerina, Colette and Sophia, and he would be loyal to the Skywalkers, to his wife and her brother. He couldn’t report Kylo; and besides, he had no proof that he had killed anyone, did he. Kylo could have found Wexley’s things, or someone could have given them to him. There could be something else involved - bribery, or blackmail. It was very uncertain, really.

So for now, he would stay.

A few minutes later, Finn followed Rey back into Mustafar Hall.

Chapter Text

Finn accompanied Rey to the kitchen and watched while she boiled water and prepared the tray for their tea. They would take it in their room, since Finn reacted so quickly to the sleeping tisane.

Kylo was nowhere to be seen.

A few minutes later they were in their bedroom, sitting side-by-side on the edge of the bed, and Kylo came down from the attic. He leaned against the doorway, looming, sling across his upper chest. Every few seconds the lump in the sling twitched, and Kylo would lay a gentle hand against the bundle.

“How is it doing?” Finn asked.

“It’s good,” Kylo answered with a smile. “I fed it and now it’s sleeping. Having an exciting dream.” His eyes shifted and he nodded to the cup in Finn’s hand. “How’s your tea?”

Finn shrugged. “It’s fine.”

“How is your tea, sister?” Kylo pushed himself from the doorframe.

Rey took a long, loud slurp from her cup before she answered.

“It’s bitter.”

Kylo turned around and strode away from the door without another word and Finn wondered - not for the first time - what Kylo’s relationship was with Rey’s man in the village. Were they friends? He claimed not to have friends. Did Kylo know about him? Did he even know what Rey’s daily tea was for?

While Finn was considering the questions, Kylo stepped into the room holding a brown bottle in his good hand. He set it down on the table next to the tea tray and pulled something else out of his pocket - it took him a few awkward tries to get it out - and set that down as well. It was a small glass, with a few other things in it. Finn watched with interest as Kylo pulled objects out of the glass - first a round, flat, black thing, a bit smaller around than the circumference of the glass, and the second a small clear bottle with a cork stopping up its wide mouth. This Kylo set on the bedside table; the black object he placed on the saucer Finn held in his hand.

“You say the tea nauseates you, in the morning. That should help.”

Rey eyed the thing. “A charcoal biscuit. Oh Finn, I should have thought of that myself. Mother used to give them to me when I was small, when my tummy hurt.”

Finn had seen charcoal biscuits before; they made a regular appearance at the house that Phasma shared with her friends, either for Sophia’s children, who were often sick to their stomachs, or for the women themselves. He sniffed it warily, before taking a nibble and washing the dry dust down with the dredges of his tea. He was already beginning to feel strange, and Rey gently took his cup and saucer while he continued to eat the biscuit.

Rey sat back down next to him, and Kylo sat on his other side, and together they rubbed his back while he finished. Once he had eaten the whole thing, Kylo took two white tablets out of the smaller bottle, and returned to the bed with those and the brown bottle. He placed the tablets in Finn’s palm.

“Aspirin. They may help your head. And this is ginger beer; ginger is also an effective remedy for the relief of nausea.”

Finn placed the pills on his tongue and took a quick gulp of the liquid. It was strong and spicy and made him cough, but the aspirin went down and stayed down. He took another sip to wash away the bitterness from the back of his throat. After several more mouthfuls of the drink Finn was satisfied, and Kylo replaced the stopper and set it on the floor at his feet.

All the while, Finn’s wife and her brother rubbed his back. It felt good, having them both there, surrounding him, touching him. He was safe. The world was cold and dark and dangerous, but they would protect him. He leaned into their touch, and examined the insides of his eyelids.

“You can have another biscuit in the morning, if you need to.” Kylo’s voice was there, in his head. “And more ginger beer. I will leave the aspirin and glass by your bed.”

“Brother, help me,” Rey’s voice was there, too. Finn was dimly aware of his shirt and trousers being removed, two sets of hands maneuvering him tenderly, a fresh shirt being pulled over his head. But there was something he needed, something that was very important. He opened his eyes to find Kylo, brows drawn together, just inches away, the bunny wiggling gently against his chest. As he gazed up into his brother’s eyes, the man’s concerned expression turned to fondness, and he smiled.

“My shirt,” Finn managed to get the word out, and with Kylo’s help he found the shirt he’d been wearing during the day and pulled the most important thing out of the sleeve, where it still clung to the fabric - his handkerchief, the one that Rose had made for him. Such a good handkerchief. He pressed it to his face and allowed his eyes to close again while his wife and her brother tucked him into bed. Rey stayed, lying down beside him and wrapping her legs around his under the bedclothes. A moment later he heard the door close, and slipped into oblivion.

Finn was awakened by a noise. Something quiet, shuffling in the hallway. Maybe it was the ghost of Anakin; he had manifested as a repugnant red thing a few times since their initial meeting, as though to test Finn's mettle, but he was easy enough to ignore.

He reached his hand out to touch his wife, but the other side of the bed was cold. Rey was out in the workshop. Did she go there at night? Finn thought she must. He pushed himself up heavily, head pounding, mouth dry, and reached for the the bottle of aspirin that Kylo had left for him on the bedside table. It contained a handful of tablets, and he portioned out two of them, but the water glass was empty.

With glass in hand he tiptoed down the hallway, avoiding the squeaky board, intending to fill the glass at the bathroom tap. But he paused before he reached the door, because there was someone already in the bathroom. The door was ajar and there was soft light spilling out. He could hear movement, and the splashing of water. Holding his breath, he peeked at the light shining from the crack on the hinge side of the door; there was just enough space that he could see the center and the right half of the room, all the way back to the tub on the far wall.

He saw his wife, her back, as she dropped her dressing gown to the floor and it pooled around her feet, revealing her unclothed body. She stretched, reaching her arms up high above her head, and he admired the muscles under her skin, the freckles that danced across her shoulders. How he loved to touch and kiss those freckles, run his hands along those muscles, make her moan and cry out with pleasure. He missed her, missed fucking her, and pressed his hand against the front of his drawers, where his cock was just beginning to harden.

She wasn’t alone. As Finn watched, a hand reached out from the tub, and she took it. It was her brother’s hand: Kylo Ren, le tueur. He was already sitting in the tub, far too big for it, but with his assistance Rey stepped into the tub herself and sat down, facing the same direction, and she pulled her long hair over her shoulder, exposing her back to him.

Finn caught his breath. He had imagined this, dreamed this, but never thought he would see it: his wife, and her brother, naked together.

Despite their nakedness Finn could find nothing perverse about their actions. He considered that perhaps English custom dictated that siblings bathe together even in adulthood. He’d never heard of this, but surely it was possible. Finn’s reverie was interrupted by Rey’s singing, the song about fair lady Isabel and her elf-knight, and her voice sounded almost ethereal as it reverberated off the cold tile walls.

"If I had yon horn that I hear blawing,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
And yon elf-knight to sleep in my bosom."
The first morning in May

This maiden had scarcely these words spoken,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
Till in at her window the elf-knight has luppen.
The first morning in May

Finn was surprised, however, when Kylo joined her to sing those lyrics that belonged to the elf-knight. His singing voice was similar to his speaking voice, deep and rich, although his accent was different. His speaking voice still held a hint of America, with its broad vowels and strong Rs, but the song was Northern and his accent was, too; it held the same yearning that Finn heard in Rey, and it made his heart ache.

"It's a very strange matter, fair maiden," said he,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
"I canna blaw my horn but ye call on me.
The first morning in May

“But will ye go to yon greenwood side?
Aye as the gowans grow gay
If ye canna gang, I will cause you to ride."
The first morning in May

Finn listened, and watched as Kylo pulled a cloth up out of the water and, with tender movements, washed his sister’s back. He held it in his left hand; his bandaged right hand hung off the side of the tub, away from the water. She closed her eyes, and a sigh entered her voice as she pushed back against the cloth, against Kylo’s hand. His strong hand, long-fingered and soothing; Finn thought about how those fingers had gentled the baby bunny just the day before, kept it safe, and he sighed at the memory. The siblings continued to sing, back and forth, the lady and the elf-knight.

"Light down, light down, lady Isabel," said he,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
We are come to the place where ye are to die.
The first morning in May

"Hae mercy, hae mercy, kind sir, on me,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
Till ance my dear father and mother I see."
The first morning in May

"Seven king's-daughters here hae I slain,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
And ye shall be the eight o them."
The first morning in May

Finn's own hand ventured back down to the front of his drawers, where he was not surprised to find his cock had continued to grow, to fill them out. He set the glass down on the floor, quietly as he could, and pulled his drawers down his hips, releasing his cock to the cold air of the hallway. He wrapped a hand around himself, but imagined it was Kylo’s instead, strong and gentle, and swallowed a moan. In the tub, Rey recounted the death of the elf-knight.

Wi his ain sword-belt sae fast as she ban him,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
Wi his ain dag-durk sae sair as she dang him.
The first morning in May

"If seven king's-daughters here ye hae slain,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
Lye ye here, a husband to them a'."
The first morning in May

Finn watched as Kylo leaned forward and pressed his lips against his sister’s shoulder. But only for a moment - she flinched and pulled away, and said something Finn couldn’t hear. Kylo laughed, unperturbed, and set the cloth aside, pulling Rey’s hair back behind her. Then they laughed together, a joyful sound that barely reached the bathroom door. She tilted her head back, as though she was looking up at the ceiling, and Kylo dumped a jug full of water over her forehead, so it ran down her hair and down her back. Some of it made its way down her neck to her chest, and Finn licked his lips as one particular stream ran down her right breast. She shuddered, and he shuddered too. Two more jugs and her hair was thoroughly wet, and Kylo pushed his good hand through her chestnut waves, massaging her scalp, and her hair. He did the best he could, one-handed, as she breathed and shivered and Finn worked his foreskin up and down his cock harder, faster.

He found himself thinking about Kylo again; about his cock. If he could be here when they finish, get out of the tub, he might be able to see it. He thought - hoped - it might be big, long and thick. His own was average, he knew - what was special was what he brought to it - but he thought Kylo’s might be proportionate to the rest of his body. He was such a large, handsome man.

Finn stroked himself, and thought about his brother’s cock, and about his wife, how beautiful they looked together. It would be so easy for her to turn around in the tub, climb into her brother's lap, and Finn could watch here from the doorway. He could watch them kiss, and pleasure each other, watch Kylo make his sister come in the tub, in the water. How might Kylo’s face look when he comes too, spilling inside his wife? Maybe there was space for Finn in the tub. Maybe he could join them.

It occurred to Finn that this was real, it wasn't fantasy, and that he should cut it off, push it away. But he didn’t. He liked it. He wanted it.

Rey started to turn and Finn stepped sideways, his foot scraping against the wall. He stopped moving and held his breath; Rey and Kylo both paused, and Kylo pushed her forward to make room for himself and stood up, then stepped out of the tub, dripping wet, and stalked towards the doorway like a giant cat, leaving large footprints across the floor.

Finn’s imagination hadn’t done Kylo justice. He’d seen him without a shirt, of course, so he knew he was muscular across the arms and shoulders, chest and abdomen, but his legs, likewise, were strong and chiseled. Mon Adonis, he thought to himself, mon beau gaillard, mon tueur irrésistible je veux baiser. He wanted him; wanted to put his hands on him, kiss him, fuck him. How had he not realized until now just how much he wanted him?

Kylo’s cock was gorgeous, exactly as Finn had imagined it. It wasn’t hard, but it was plump, flushed and pink, and uncircumcised, the tip of it just barely peeking out of the pale skin that wrapped it like a gift. He wondered what it would feel like in his hand, how heavy it would be, how it would taste. What would Kylo do if Finn tried to touch it? He gripped his own more tightly, excited even with the immediate danger of discovery.

Kylo saw him; Finn was sure that Kylo saw him, made eye contact with him through the crack in the door. Kylo's eyes glanced down, and he thought perhaps Kylo could see the rest of him as well, his drawers down, hand fisting his cock.

“Ben? What is it?” Rey called, from the tub.

“It’s nothing,” Kylo replied to his sister, as he stared into Finn’s eyes, the ghost of a smile on his lips. “Just a rat in the hallway.” Then he shut the door, cutting off Finn's line of sight. Finn had just enough sense to gather the glass from the floor before sneaking back to his room, where he masturbated into his handkerchief while thinking about his wife and her murderous brother, fucking in the bathtub, and then fell into another uneasy sleep.

Chapter Text

Finn awoke in the morning feeling better than he had on any other since arriving at Mustafar Hall. His mind was slow, but not dull, and he was not nearly as nauseated as he had been the previous several days. He thought he could even eat breakfast, which pleased him. He’d missed eating a proper breakfast.

Rey was already up and about, so he lay in the dim quiet of the early morning and thought about his dreams. He’d dreamed about his mother again. They hadn’t spoken, but she’d stroked his head and sung him a song that he couldn’t remember.

There was another song, the song about the lady and the elf-knight; Rey's song. Another dream? Rey, singing. And… more. Kylo? The bathroom? Finn reached into the fog for it but he could only catch bits and pieces. They’d been naked, in the bathtub, and he’d been watching. Kylo had seen him, and smiled.

It had been a good dream.

Thinking about that dream woke him up more. He got out of bed, stretched, and made his way to his wardrobe. He had to poke around a bit - Rey had put everything away, and he hadn’t had the desire or the opportunity to go looking - but eventually he found his ropes, still in the container from the trunk. She’d simply taken it and placed it on the upper shelf. He pulled it down, checked to make sure the bedroom door was closed, and took the container to the bed to have a look.

Everything was there - the hemp and the silk, all colors, and the special one, the gift, exactly as they had been when he’d packed them after their first day of lovemaking. He caressed the black silk length with his finger; the noises that Rey made as he teased her and edged her for the first time playing in his head. It had been wonderful, the whole trip had been, and he sighed.

Finn’s contemplation was interrupted by the soft click of the bedroom door opening, and he caught a glimpse of raven hair and honey eyes and black mist, and immediately placed the lid back on the compartment. Kylo Ren, still dressed in his nightshirt but with the bunny slung around his chest, walked in a few steps, looked at the compartment, and then at Finn.

“Good morning, brother. Did you sleep well?”

“I did, thank you.” Finn picked it up and hurried past Kylo to the wardrobe as he silently greeted and then ignored the sadness that emanated from the mist, placed it back in its spot on the top shelf, and closed the door. “I had some strange dreams, but the sleep was good.”

Kylo hummed. “Strange dreams? Good dreams or bad?”

“Good, I think.” Finn stretched again and scratched the back of his head. “I dreamed of my mother. She sang to me.”

“What did she sing?” Kylo took a step closer. The bundle on his chest twitched, and he rested a hand on it. Finn tried not to twitch himself.

“I don’t remember.”

“Was that your only dream?”

Finn was not about to tell his brother-in-law that he’d dreamed of incest, so he just shrugged. “Nothing else that I remember in any detail.”

Kylo sighed and looked at the ground, and Finn felt bad, as though he’d failed a test.

“How about you, brother? Did you sleep well?”

“I had trouble sleeping, as a matter of fact. I took a bath, and then I felt better.” Kylo looked up at Finn then, focus intense, and Finn swallowed.

“It must have been hard being away from home for so long. Was it good to be back in your own bed?”

“Yes,” Kylo said, losing some of his intensity. “It was. Oh, how do you feel? Is your stomach well? Your head?”

“Fine,” Finn replied, tensing but allowing Kylo to step up to him and lay his good hand across his forehead. “Not normal, but much better than I have for several mornings. I might eat breakfast. How is the bunny? How is your hand?”

Kylo lowered his hand from Finn's forehead and took a step back, and Finn relaxed. “The bunny is well. I have to feed it every few hours, which interrupts my sleep, but I don’t mind. The fingers are healing. The doctor in Philadelphia said it would be four weeks before I could remove the splint. I should stop by Doctor Aphra - she’s our family doctor, practices in the village.

“Do you mind my asking,” said Finn, wishing he could get close enough to comfortably cradle Kylo’s injured hand in his own, “how exactly you broke it? I can’t remember if you told us at the dock, my memory of yesterday morning is very poor.”

Kylo held his hand against the bunny bundle on his chest. “I got angry and punched a wall.” He smiled and shook his head. “I was angry about something stupid, something I couldn’t change, and the punch didn’t help. The only thing I got out of it was lingering pain.”

He looked back up at Finn and walked slowly backwards towards the door. “I will change and join you at breakfast. I will bring another charcoal biscuit for you, and ginger beer. Will you shave me before we go to the village this morning? Will you go to the village with me this morning? I need to see the doctor, but also send letters and buy a few things at the store. I don’t like going by myself but Rey will not want to go with me. Please?”

Finn was still a bit muddled and wasn’t sure he’d caught all of Kylo’s requests, but he nodded his head anyway and said yes; and then the man was gone, the mist along with him, and Finn prepared to go down for breakfast.

Finn groaned inwardly when he saw that breakfast was to be eggs, but it was paired with what they called bacon (he would call it ham) and pan haggerty, a Northern dish of sliced potatoes, cheese, and onions. It was the best food Finn had eaten in days, including Mrs Holdo’s poor departed rabbit stew, and even before he ate the second charcoal biscuit (which he did eat, along with more ginger beer, at Kylo’s insistence) his stomach was strong enough to handle it. The mist switched between the two siblings as it had the day before, and Finn found it less unnerving than he had.

After breakfast, while Rey cleaned the kitchen, the mist settled comfortably around her shoulders, Kylo led Finn up to the bathroom.

“How is your head, Finn? Are you feeling well enough to do this? I’d rather not end up with a cut throat.” He smiled his sweet, crooked smile - amused by his own joke - and Finn tried his best to smile back as his stomach twisted.

“I’m feeling well enough to shave you, and I promise to be careful. No cut throats this morning, I am sure.”

Kylo had already laid out his shaving accoutrements on a table beside the basin full of hot water, a strop clipped to its edge: cup of soap with a brush, bottle of Rowland’s Kalydor at the ready, and of course the razor itself. It was very fine, folded into an ivory handle inscribed in gold with the initials HS, and when Finn unfolded it the razor’s edge glittered sharp in the sunlight streaming in from the window above the tub.

Kylo reclined in a soft chair that normally sat across the room; he’d moved it next to the sink, and the chair was designed so he could lay his head back comfortably, making Finn’s job easier. Finn laid a towel over his chest; the bunny was not present.

“Do you wear a moustache? Sideburns?” Finn asked as he stropped the razor. The strop, like the razor, was clearly old but had been well cared-for.

“Sideburns down to about here,” said Kylo, indicating a spot just below his ear. “But no moustache, please.”

Finn soaked a small towel in the hot water, and then wrapped it around Kylo’s face, concealing his mouth and cheeks, chin and neck; all the skin that was covered with the thin layer of hair. This would soften the hair and open the pores in his skin, making a closer shave possible.

“I am lucky, I suppose, that my hair does not grow quickly, or thick,” he said, enjoying the soft swick of the razor as it glided up and down the fine leather of the strop. “I only need to shave every few days, and it is never much of an ordeal. I’m not sure I could grow a beard even if I wanted to.”

Kylo hummed in reply.

When Finn was satisfied, he turned the strop over and did the same on the fabric side.

Kylo wasn’t able to speak, because the towel covered his mouth, but Finn made eye contact with him and smiled, and Kylo’s eyes smiled back at him. Il est un tueur, his brain reminded him, and he pushed the thought away. He certainly wasn’t murdering anyone now.

You could do it, though, his brain provided. Slice his jugular. Rid the world of a murderer.

But he couldn’t, not really. It wasn’t in his nature; and besides, he didn’t know.

You do. His brain replied.

He ignored it.

Next was the cream, which would protect Kylo’s skin and help guarantee a close shave. Finn removed the towel from Kylo’s face, finding pinkened skin and a generous, crooked smile beneath, which he couldn’t help but return. He soaked the brush in the hot water, then stirred it into the hard soap to work up a nice, thick foam.

As he lathered up Kylo’s face, the man continued to gaze up at him. It made Finn slightly uncomfortable, but also felt good.

“I won’t be able to talk, while you’re shaving me,” Kylo said as Finn started on his left cheek. “Would you mind terribly talking while you do it? You can tell me about your favorite things, or stories? I would like to know more about you.”

“Yes, I can do that,” Finn replied as he double-checked the coverage. “I’m ready now, if you are.” Kylo nodded and set his head back on the chair, and Finn picked up the razor.

He started on the right side of Kylo’s face, at the place where the man had pointed out the lower edge of his desired sideburns.

“You want me to tell you about my favorite things.” Finn considered the question. Unfortunately, his favorite things involved ropes, or Rey in various states of undress, or imagining Kylo and Rey together, or combinations of those things. So he would have to go in another direction.

“I love going to a café in the afternoon,” he said, working the razor down the right size of Kylo’s face in short, steady strokes. “Sitting with a friend and just talking for hours, about whatever we want. Watching people walk by. Or trees! Yes, once I was in a café with my friend Phasma - she was my closest confidente in Paris- and wheeled contraptions rolled by on the street carrying full-grown trees. Sticking straight up in the air! We learned from a passerby that they had been grown in the jardin botanique - botanical garden, sorry - and were being planted in the sidewalk on a nearby street. It was quite the spectacle.

“That evening I accompanied Phasma home. She lives with several other women, including our friend Sophia. Sophia has a young son, Georges. I told him that we had seen walking trees, la marche des arbres, and it made him laugh and laugh. He asked me to retell the story, every time he saw me, for weeks.”

He sighed, and started on Kylo’s left cheek.

“Phasma, in addition to being a very interesting person, has beautiful hair. Or, had; she cut it quite short just before I left Paris. Thick and strong, the color of sunlight. I used to braid her hair; she taught me some quite complex styles.” He paused a moment to carefully shave Kylo’s upper lip. “I have considered asking Rey if she would allow me to braid her hair, but I just haven’t.” He said quietly. “Your sister also has beautiful hair.”

Kylo took the moment Finn required to wipe the lather off the razor to agree. “Yes, she does. And you should ask her. I’m sure she would love it, for you to braid her hair. Or to wash it.”

Finn blinked. “Maybe I will,” he said, returning to his task. He had only the chin and neck left to go. “What other favorite things do I have. Well, I am interested in photography; Rose and Poe have their business, you know, but I had access to a camera in Paris and used to take photos of my friends. I dislike rats, very much, and when we were children Poe used to torture me with his pet rat, Ocho. He cried when Ocho died, and I felt bad, but I still hate rats.”

Mentioning Ocho reminded Finn of the toy bunny from Rey’s trunk, which reminded him of Rey in his trunk, which reminded him of Rey on his lap, singing and rubbing herself against his knee while he pushed a hard rubber dilator into her sweet troufignon. He took a breath and forced himself to focus.

“And, finally, my family I suppose. I have four older brothers, as you know, and I am not close to them, but I adore my father - even though he can be strict - and my mother…” He made the last strokes of the razor against the skin just under Kylo’s mouth, and stepped back.

“Your mother. The granddaughter of Jean-Jacques Dessalines. You see her in your dreams,” Kylo finished.

Finn shivered at the mention of his great-grandfather; his brother-in-law and his wife, both mentioning his connection to Dessalines. “I do, yes. Only since I’ve arrived here; I think it’s the crystals. Does that sound strange?”

Kylo stood up and went to the basin and turned on the cold water. “Everything seems strange, here. I don’t know that talking to the ghost of your mother in your dreams is any stranger than anything else.” And he splashed the cold water on his face, finishing with a splash from the bottle of Rowland’s Kalydor.

“How do I look?”

Finn gazed at him - his honey eyes, his freshly-shaved face framed by ebony waves - and nodded. “You look good. Aside from your hair, you look as you did when we first met.”

“Well, we will go dress for the village, now, and I will look exactly as I did when we first met.” He didn’t look happy about it.

Finn had seen Kylo dressed in a suit just the day before, coming off the steamer, but with all that had happened in the intervening time - the visit to the Peak, the revelation that Kylo was le tueur, and the strange dream that Finn still couldn’t quite remember - it was a shock to see him wrapped in dark fabric, all his skin covered but his face and his right hand, hair pulled back in a ponytail, tall hat atop his head.

He stood in the great hall and stared at Finn, his visage null and without emotion, looking exactly as he had the first time they met, on the stairs in the lobby of the Cotton Exchange Building. Knowing how he really was, beneath the mask, Finn found himself angry - unreasonably angry. He wanted to slap the man's face to uncover his beautiful smile, and he wanted to rage at a world that made his mask necessary.

Rey had already gone out to her workshop, and she'd taken Kylo's bunny with her, promising to protect it from the cat and to feed it when it was time, so the men set out alone. They took bicycles; only a few years old, they’d been a gift from some friend of their father’s, presented some time after his death. Kylo did not ride, but he said he liked to use them for their saddle bags.

They pushed the bikes along, in silence, and Finn thought he understood why.

“You hate this, don’t you,” he said to Kylo, as they turned from the drive onto the lane that would lead them down the mountain into the village of Coniston.

“I don’t mind going to the village per se,” Kylo answered, his voice flat. “Not everyone there is terrible, and perhaps today I will meet someone new. I enjoy meeting new people; sometimes I even like them.”

Finn caught a slight upturn at the corner of Kylo’s mouth, and laughed.

“Today we’ll visit Doctor Aphra, so she can look at my hand and see if it’s healing well; I have no reason to think it is not," Kylo said as they sauntered down the road. The weather was fine but cold. Finn wore his overcoat; Kylo, as usual, did not. "Doctor Aphra has been our family doctor for decades; I like her very much. She is good friends with Missus Holdo; you might say that they are spinsters together. We’ll also go to the Post Office, to mail my letters,” he pointed to the leather satchel in the saddlebag, “and to pick up whatever mail is waiting there for us. Missus Holdo brings mail when she comes, but since we’ll be in the village anyway, we can pick it up today.”

Kylo lapsed into silence as they turned the final corner, revealing the houses of the village spread out below, between the bottom of the hill and the long expanse of Coniston Water.

“We’ll visit the meat shop - that’s Mister Becker - and the seafood shop, for fresh oysters - that’s Mister Ackbar.” He kicked a stone, took a deep breath, and let out a sigh. “Anyone else we meet will not be anyone worth meeting.”

Finn readied himself as they took the final steps and entered the shade of the houses on the edge of Coniston.

They stopped by Dr Aphra’s office first, which was in a small, one-level house close to the edge of the village. It was a quick visit, between scheduled patients. She was a small woman, several inches shorter than Rey, and Kylo had to bend over to give her a hug, which she accepted warmly. She shook Finn’s hand with a smile that brightened up her face, which was unlined although her hair was white; it was hard to tell but he thought she must be at least in her late 60s.

“Mister Lacoste, it is a pleasure to meet the man who married Rey Skywalker. How are you finding Mustafar Hall?” Her voice was light but he thought there might be strain of concern behind the question, although it could well be the stress of fitting them in before her next appointment.

“I have been enjoying my first week there very much, thank you. Rey has been taking very good care of me, as has Missus Holdo.”

“I’m sure you’re pleased to have Sir Ren home as well,” she said, taking the man’s hand and removing the bandages and splint so she could see the fingers.

"Indeed we are."

She gently examined Kylo's hand, and carefully manipulated his fingers before asking him to rotate his wrist this way and that. After a minute or two, she reached into a nearby drawer and came back with another splint and fresh bandages, which she proceeded to quickly wrap around his hand, but with obvious care.

"This was handled properly by your first doctor; it is healing well. Keep it steady, and wrapped. No movement for another two weeks, three if it is still sore. No heavy work for another two weeks after that." She grasped the hand and looked into Kylo's face with a smile. "How does that sound, my dear?"

"It sounds good," he replied, the apples of his cheeks and the tips of his ears turning a bright pink, an event that delighted Finn.

She walked them to the door. “Have you been into the village yet, since you’ve arrived?”

Both men shook their heads, and she sighed. “You should be aware that people are talking about Miss Skywalker’s new husband. Apparently the carriage drivers all talk when they have a few pints in them.”

“Gossip, you mean,” said Finn with a frown.

The Doctor gave them a resigned smile. “There’s nothing a little village loves more than some good, juicy gossip.” They reached the door, and she shook their hands, sparing another hug for Kylo. “Good luck,” she said, then pushed them out the door to make room for her next patient.

Their next stop was the Post Office. The Post Office was the center of action for the village; it was not only where mail was sent and received, but where carriages could be rented; and it was also where people gathered to talk - to gossip - as they were going about their business. Kylo quickly led them through the main door and past a few small groups of people chatting. Finn caught a tall, thin man wearing a watch cap and a brown leather coat looking at him out of the corner of his eye, and when Finn looked at him directly the man turned his head and whispered to the woman standing next to him. They were talking about him, he knew. In the past he had enjoyed going to parties and knowing people were whispering about him, but this was different. These people, he knew, were not his friends, and they were not to be trusted.

They walked steadily towards the counter, where Finn could see a young man stamping letters. They were a few steps away when two older men stepped in front of them, blocking their advance.

Sir Ren,” said one of the men, who was wearing a white priest’s collar with his black ensemble and a short hat with a broad brim. “How good to see you. How was your time in the States? We see you brought someone back with you. Would you please introduce us?”

The two men turned their heads at the same time to look at Finn. The other man was slightly taller and thinner than the first man, but their faces were similar both in features - long, narrow noses, wide eyes, thin lips - and in expressions - sour - that Finn figured them to be brothers.

“Brother,” said Kylo Ren dispassionately, gesturing to the shorter man, “this is Reverend Turnbull, the village vicar, and this,” he gestured to the other man, who wore a very nice suit of dark grey wool and a top hat to match, with a pocket watch on a chain in his vest pocket, “is Mister Turnbull, the county coroner.”

Turnbull. It was the name in the telegram, the telegram that insisted “Turnbull has proof.” Proof of what, exactly, Finn was not sure, but he was sure that it wasn’t good.

Kylo gestured to Finn. “And this is Mister Felix Lacoste, of New Orleans.”

Finn attempted a smile and nodded to both men. “Good day, sirs.”

Mr Turnbull grimaced - Finn suspected but was not sure that it was supposed to be a smile - and looked Finn up and down in a manner that Finn found to be quite rude, but he did not express his disapproval. “I understand that you have married Miss Skywalker and have come to live in Mustafar Hall for a time before taking her back with you to America.”

“You understand correctly, sir.”

“Very good, very good,” his brother nodded gravely. “She has a reputation for being a bit wild, she could use a Strong Hand.” He pronounced strong hand as though it were the proper name of something unpleasant, and Finn had to control himself to keep from forming his hands into fists and using them.

Kylo stood by, still as a statue, but Finn could imagine what was happening in his head, behind the mask, and what he might do if he wasn’t trapped there.

“I assure you, sir,” he replied, “that my wife is quite well. Thank you for your concern. Now if you’ll excuse me, we have business to attend.” His attitude would give them more to gossip about, but Finn was beyond caring. He could not stand by and allow a man to say such a thing about his wife.

Finn made a move to step around the men, but Reverend Turnbull put up a soft and pudgy hand and gripped his arm. One look from Finn and the man dropped it, alarm clear on his face. If he had planned to say anything more he decided against it, and the Turnbull brothers said their goodbyes and scurried out the door.

Finn and Kylo turned to the back counter to find the man there watching them, wringing his hands with an apologetic look on his face. He had apparently seen the entire interaction and was distressed by it, but by the time they reached him he was smiling, and he stretched out a hand to Kylo over the counter and greeted him warmly.

“Sir Ren! It is very good to see you again,. Sir. How was your trip? How is your sister?”

“Mister Mitaka,” Kylo replied, a hint of warmth in his tone of voice, and a hint of a smile on his face. “The trip was successful in all ways, but it is very good to be back in Mustafar Hall. My sister is doing very well, thank you for asking. You have probably heard of her marriage. I would like to introduce you to her husband.” He turned to Finn. “Finn, this is Mister Dopheld Mitaka; as you can see, he is the clerk here at the Post Office. Mister Mitaka, I am very pleased to introduce you to Mister Felix Lacoste of New Orleans, my brother-in-law and Miss Skywalker’s husband.”

While the men had been talking, Finn had been trying to size up Dopheld Mitaka. He had decided ahead of time that Mitaka must be Rey’s mysterious man in the village, but now, standing before him, he was having trouble imagining him with Rey. He was attractive, with brown hair parted in the middle and slicked down, and a handsome, well groomed moustache on his upper lip. But he was only slightly taller than her, and slender. Did he have the strength to hold her down? He doubted it. Finn watched him as he spoke to Kylo, watched his wrists, how he moved his hands, how his eyes danced over Kylo.

Given the way Mr Mitaka was looking at her brother, Finn wasn't even sure the man would notice Rey if she were naked in his lap. It was still an interesting idea, however, and Finn tucked it away for later just in time to bow to the man himself.

"A pleasure to meet you, Mister Mitaka."

The man's eyes brightened at the sound of Finn's voice, and he replied, a bit breathily, "the pleasure is all mine, sir."

Mr Mitaka took a breath, and then he was all business.

"Sir, I have letters for you," and he handed a stack of envelopes over to Kylo. "There are a few there for Miss Skywalker - pardon me, Missus Lacoste - as well. And for you, sir," he continued, turning to Finn, "a package, and a few letters."

Finn took them, curious, as Kylo and Mr Mitaka worked on his outgoing mail.

The package was from Paris, labeled CADEAU DE MARIAGE in a large, fancy script, and Finn blushed as he considered what might be inside. There were two letters from Paris, too; one from Phasma and a thick envelope from Sophia et Famille. A letter from Mr and Mrs Poe Dameron, one from Mr Dameron (Senior) and finally, one from Finn's own father, Mr Andre Lacoste. His heart sang and he clutched the mail to his chest as they exited back onto the street.

Their final visits, to the butcher and the seafood shop, were quick and uneventful. Apparently the Turnbull brothers had made themselves scarce; Finn was relieved not to have to see them or deal with them again. Out on the street they loaded their parcels into the saddlebags of their bicycles, and started the long walk back to Mustafar Hall.

Chapter Text

The walk back was a bit of a slog, what with the burden of the bicycles that they couldn’t ride up the hill, and the saddlebags, which made the bicycles top-heavy and difficult to push. But they walked in comfortable silence, Finn thinking about the package from Paris, and lunch, now overdue. Kylo seemed lost in thought as he walked silently, with purpose. His mind was a mystery to Finn, until they reached the cusp of the hill, after which point the road would be on a more level incline until they reached the house. The woods that flanked Kyber Peak were just starting on the right, and the ground, under which the crystals buzzed and sang, was rocky and bare with patches of grass to the left. Finn could just see the wall surrounding Mustafar Hall, several hundred yards up ahead. The village, a good twenty minutes behind them, was no longer visible, which meant that they were no longer visible to the village.

“Brother,” said Kylo, stopping suddenly. “Will you please hold my bicycle?” He had been walking to the right of Finn, and pushed the vehicle towards him. Finn shifted so he could take the bicycle’s handle with his free hand.

“Of course. Are you well?”

Kylo reached his arms above his head and laughed - a long, deep laugh that ended with a sigh. When his arms came back down, his top hat was in his hands. He tossed it on the seat of the bicycle.

“That was horrible,” he said, loosening the buttons at the collar of his shirt. “I hate those Turnbulls. They always say nasty things about Rey, and I just stand there and don’t do anything. You, though,” he looked up from the front of his shirt to Finn, “you were amazing. You frightened them. I will dream of that, tonight.”

Kylo’s eyes were large, and wild - alarmingly so - and Finn wasn’t sure how to respond.

He opted for “Thank you,” and watched as Kylo wretched off his coat and waistcoat, threw them over the handles of the bicycle, and then pulled the shirt over his head and placed it atop everything else.

“Brother?” Asked Finn, “what are you doing?”

“You asked me before,” Kylo declared loudly, working on the buttons of his shoes with shaking hands, “If I am well. I don’t know the answer to that question.” His right shoe, tugged off, he tucked into the spare space of one of his saddlebags. “I don’t know what well is, I haven’t for years. But I know what feels good, what feels right. And that,” he pointed back down the lane towards the village with his left shoe, before cramming it in with the wrapped meat in another saddlebag, “does not feel right. It reminds me of being with Uncle, and I hate it.” Kylo bore his teeth and groaned as he stretched his arms over his head a second time.

Finn was frozen. He stood there, holding the bicycles, and watched as Kylo pulled the ribbon out of his ponytail, letting his hair lose. He shook it out, like a wild horse shaking out its mane, and tucked the ribbon into the pocket of his trousers as he advanced on Finn. His skin was turning pink from the cold, hair standing on end. Kylo leaned down into Finn’s face, the scent of Rowland’s Kalydor still apparent on his skin.

“Do you know what feels right?” He growled. Finn shook his head, and Kylo took two steps back. His expression transformed from that of a petit fauve into a goofy grin and he pulled down his trousers before tossing them into the grass on the side of the lane. Finn looked up at him, noticing too late that he’d removed his drawers along with his trousers, leaving him only in his socks. They didn’t last long; in just a few seconds they joined his trousers at the side of the lane, and Kylo Ren was naked.

He picked up the pile of clothes in the grass and dumped them on top of the bicycle with everything else, making a precarious pile, then walked forward slowly. Finn followed, pushing both the bicycles the best he could. They were heavy, and cumbersome, and the lane was rocky and uneven.

“Everything that Uncle hated feels right, Finn. This place. This ground.” He stopped suddenly and crouched on his haunches, and Finn averted his eyes. When Kylo stood and Finn looked at him again, he had rubbed dirt over his arms and shoulders, turning them ashy. “He hated it. Hated me. Rey. The Skywalker family. Mustafar. Kyber Peak. He hated it all, and it made him so angry.”

Kylo held out his arms and rotated slowly, as he had on top of the peak the day before. “He hated love, he hated the world. He did his best to make me hate it too. But now,” he stopped, and turned to face Finn. His right hand, dusty and grey, wrapped around his flaccid penis and tugged it distractedly. It reminded Finn of Georges, very small and fresh out of a diaper, just enjoying the air. The whole scene made him feel strange.

“Now, I love it all. Everything worth loving, here, in my heart.” He released himself, to Finn’s relief, and tapped his chest, staring at him intently. “Here.”

“Kylo, we need to go to the house,” Finn implored. The man was out of control, and it upset him. “It’s lunchtime and the meat needs to go in the icebox. Please, take your bicycle, and let’s go.” He begged. He knew they were still forty minutes away from Mustafar Hall, and he was now very hungry; it had been hours since breakfast. And something was very wrong with Kylo.

But Kylo shook his head. “No,” he said, “I’m sorry. I’m going to go in the woods.” He didn’t look sorry. He laughed, and it sounded mad, echoing off the cliff of the peak ahead of them. “My uncle would hate it.”

He jogged a few feet before spinning around and shouting back, “Tell my sister I’ll be in the clearing!” Then he sprinted up the lane and dashed into the woods, with Finn shouting and swearing behind him.

It took Finn over an hour to get back to Mustafar Hall with both bicycles, and when he arrived he was hot, tired, dusty, and angry. He’d removed his overcoat to avoid sweating through his suit, but it had still happened.

He left the bicycles leaning against the low wall that surrounded the porch, took the saddlebags, and let himself in the front door. The spirits of Padmé and Anakin were both there, dancing in the air above the great hall, and the mist, too, drifting unattached near the bottom of the stairs, which was unusual.

“Hello,” he said to them as he rushed towards the kitchen. “I hope you’re having a better day than I am.”

Rey was there, as he expected, reading a book at the table. A pot of soup bubbled on the stove, the remnants of its preparation scattered on the countertop, and the table was already laid, bread and butter and plates, and glasses of milk. The baby bunny, wrapped in a rag, snoozed in a box in the middle of the table.

“Where have you been?” She asked, standing up and preparing to ladle the soup. “I thought you'd be home ages ago.”

Finn paused his work transferring the wrapped packets of meat into the icebox - hopefully it would still be fresh - and glared at her. “Your brother,” he said.

Rey froze and turned, finally taking him in. She stared for several seconds, mouth agape, and muttered, “oh my God.”

“No God,” Finn hissed, standing and throwing the saddlebags - with the mail still inside - on the kitchen table. “Just your brother.”

He stomped back out, intending to bring the man’s clothes inside and put the bicycles away, but Rey was close behind him.

“What did he do, Finn? What did he do?” She grabbed his arm before he reached the front door, and pulled him around to face her. The expression on her face was a combination of concern and terror, and he softened at the same moment that the mist appeared behind her shoulders. Its misery and her proximity reminded him of his first day at Mustafar Hall, when she had climbed on his lap begging for him to fuck her while she wore the dilator. So he cursed the damn mist and kissed her, through the sadness, and she kissed him back, and when they separated they were both more calm.

Finn sighed, and walked to the door, her hand clenched in his. “Your brother took off all his clothes, made a speech about your uncle, and ran into the woods.” They went outside and she gathered the clothes close to her chest, but instead of going back into the house she followed Finn while he pushed the bicycles around the side of the house and into the small shed that sat crumbling under the shadow of the eaves.

He pushed the door shut with a sigh, and leaned against it. “He wanted me to tell you he was going to the clearing. Do you understand what he means?”

Rey’s eyes widened and her cheeks grew very pink, and she took a step back.

“Are you all right?” Finn asked, stepping up to her and holding her elbows.

“I’m fine,” she answered, “I’m embarrassed that this is happening.”

Finn paused, but he had to ask. “Rey, I love you, and I am very fond of your brother, but I must know - is he mad? Really mad? I fear for him. You can trust me. Please.”

Rey wretched away from him and shouted, “No! He is not mad! There is nothing wrong with him, and there never was.” Tears shined on her face and she started to back away, and stepped more quickly when Finn walked towards her. “He was fine,” she spat, “and then Uncle took him, and broke him. But now he’s better! He really is! He’s just a little… oof!” She had walked backwards around the corner to the front of the house and tripped on the stair up to the porch, landing on her bottom. Finn pulled her up to standing. She clutched the clothes more tightly and pulled them under her chin. “He just… does whatever he wants to, that’s all," she finished, deflated.

Finn put an arm around her and helped her inside. They took the worn garments upstairs, and Rey went into Kylo’s room and brought out a fresh change of clothes, plain trousers and a shirt, and she handed them to Finn.

“Please go out to the woods, and bring him home. If you call him, he’ll come to you, I’m sure.”

“Like a lost dog?” Finn asked, in an attempt at humor, but Rey’s face fell.

“He’s not a dog,” she wailed, “he’s my brother.” Finn pulled her close, and she snuffled into his shoulder.

Mon amour, mon ange, mon petit cœur,” he spoke softly into her hair, as they rocked back and forth. “I did not mean it that way. I am very fond of him too, very fond. I am simply finding him a bit difficult to figure out.”

Rey pulled back and looked up into his eyes. “When he was with Uncle,” she said carefully, “he was controlled. He was told what to do, and when. He was told what to think. He was told horrible things about men, and women, and me. He was given drugs, and… other things.”

Finn was horrified. “That was his treatment? You told me he had been treated.”

She nodded, expression heartbroken, tears in her eyes again. “Uncle called it re-education. Because he had a weak moral nature - that was the phrase Uncle used. Because Ben was too attached to me, because he wrote me stories and drew me pictures, because he would rather look at flowers than stomp on them. It was very stupid. Uncle was afraid he was... too close to me, if you understand what I mean, and that we would become attached in adulthood. But Uncle was also afraid that he liked men too much.” She shook her head. “Don’t ask me how those two things fit because I have never understood.”

They walked together to the stairs, and down, and when they reached the bottom, Rey paused and turned to Finn. “My brother can tell you the rest; it is his story, and I think he would tell you, if you asked. But what I can tell you is that he was controlled, and now he’s not. So he tends to be a bit… excessive at times. That’s all. He is a man enjoying his freedom. He’s not mad, I promise."

Finn believed her. What else could he do? He grabbed his overcoat, gave his wife a kiss, and headed back out to find Kylo Ren.

By the time Finn reached the edge of the woods his anger had fully dissipated, and was replaced with worry. The air was getting colder, and the sky was beginning to turn grey; he feared a thunderstorm was on its way.

“Kylo!” He called, stepping on the path, just inside the treeline. “Kylo Ren! This is Finn, your brother! Rey sent me for you! I have clothes for you!” He walked in further, staying on the path, shouting every few steps, but there was no response. Kylo had run into the woods more than a mile away from the house; the wood was narrow, spanning from the lane to the mountain, but it was long. There was no telling where he might be.

After just a few minutes, Finn decided that a better approach would be to walk west, along the border of the wood, parallel to the lane. So that is what he did, walking back down the lane in the direction of the village; sometimes calling, sometimes listening. He walked for about twenty minutes before he had a clue: the orange cat ran out from the treeline and came over to say hello.

Viens, minou, minou,” Finn crouched and crooned, “doux minou,” but the cat turned away before it reached his extended hand, instead hopping off down the lane, towards Mustafar, not taking another look behind it. “Comme un chat,” Finn muttered to himself as he stood and turned back to the woods. As the cold breeze caressed his face and made him shiver, he heard a noise in the woods.

Finn was certain it was an animal, but there was only one animal he knew that made a noise like that. He cautiously stepped into the treeline, being careful to avoid sticks or dry leaves that might break and announce his presence. It did occur to him that the whole point of him being out there was exactly to be known, so Kylo could find him and get dressed and come in out of the cold, and the impending rain. But that noise had overtaken whatever sense Finn had. He wanted to see the source of the noise. So he was quiet, and pressed on into the woods.

A few yards in Finn caught sight of a flash of black and white among the orange and red of the leaves, and he crouched behind a tree, then glanced around it. He was near the edge of a clearing, and in the clearing was Kylo Ren. He was walking in circles and talking to himself, crying out wordlessly every several seconds. It was the wordless crying that Finn had heard from the lane. He was too distant to hear what Kylo was saying, but the man seemed by turns happy, then sad, then upset, then happy again. His cock was erect, and bounced in front of him as he paced. After a minute of this he sat down heavily on one of the stumps that littered the clearing, facing in Finn’s direction. He threw his head back and gripped his cock firmly in his left hand. His right hand, wrapped in bandages, rested on his knee.

He began to masturbate, pulling his foreskin up and down over the end of his cock, slowly at first but gaining speed after a few moments. He squeezed himself, and pushed. He wasn’t trying for finesse; he was chasing release. He closed his eyes, and his face was calm, although his teeth were tightly clenched.

After a few minutes of this Kylo shouted in triumph, and a stream of viscous white shot out the end of his cock and splattered across his torso. He sat still, just for a moment, before groaning and using his left hand to scoop up the fluid and fling it away, mumbling, lip curled in disgust. He picked up a handful of leaves and rubbed them over himself; he tossed the leaves aside, wiped his left hand against his leg, rested his face in his hands, and was still.

Finn crept backwards until he was far enough away to stand, at which point he hurried back out to the lane and ran several yards, just to be careful. The wind was picking up, and the air smelled like rain. They needed to get home soon; he was acting very foolishly. He turned around and shouted again.

“Kylo! Kylo Ren! It’s Finn!” He called, and walked, and when he had almost reached the point where he had entered the wood to begin with, he heard Kylo’s answering shout.

“Brother! Finn! In here!” Finn walked a few yards into the woods, and met Kylo walking out. This close Finn could see that his shoulders and arms were still dusted with dirt from the road and he’d gained a second layer from his time in the woods, and from the leaves; his face was red and damp but he was smiling. Finn handed over the trousers and shirt, and Kylo put them on without fuss. When he was dressed he offered Finn an apology.

“I am sorry, about what happened earlier,” he said quietly, slipping his left hand into Finn’s right one and intertwining their fingers. “I was upset, after the village, and I needed to run away.”

Finn squeezed his hand, which was warm, and still slightly sticky with spend. Finn didn’t mind. “I was very angry, Kylo,” he replied, “and I worry about you. Please don’t do that.”

Kylo’s eyes flitted between Finn's own, down to his mouth, and then back up to gaze at him. “I don't want to make you angry. If you don’t want me to do that again,” he whispered, “I won’t.”

Warmth flooded Finn’s gut, and he tugged Kylo in the direction of the lane.

A minute later they walked together out of the woods, hand in hand, just as the first drops of rain fell.

By the time they got back to Mustafar Hall they were soaked, even though they had hurried through the rain. The mist wrapped itself around Kylo as soon as he was in the door, and he ran towards the main room, exclaiming, “I will get blankets! Go to the kitchen!” Finn watched him skip directly through the sizable puddle that had formed under the hole in the roof, and remembered that he had planned to put a tarpaulin up to keep the weather outside.

Finn was wet, and feeling odd and lightheaded, which he contributed to his extreme hunger. He had considered going upstairs to change before eating, but if Kylo was going to eat wrapped in a blanket and sopping wet, he figured that he could as well. So he stripped off his overcoat and coat, pulled off his muddy, waterlogged shoes, and made his way directly to the kitchen. He looked up at the hole in the roof as he passed through the hall, and considered what a shame it would be that in shutting out the rain he would be shutting out the light as well. He did enjoy how the sunlight shined through the hole, even when it was overcast or dim outside.

Rey was there, still waiting, sitting as she had been before - how long had it been? Finn had no idea - on the bench by the table, book in her lap. But she seemed relaxed, and smiled at him when he walked in even though he was dripping water all over the floor, so that was good. The pot of soup was still hot on the stove, plates waiting to be filled, glasses of milk patiently waiting, detritus from the soup preparation spread out on the counter. The only difference was that the saddlebags had been set on the floor, and the mail was divided into piles on the table, where it butted up against the wall.

Rey didn’t speak, but she took Finn’s bowl as he was sitting and ladled the soup. Kylo barrelled in, a blanket around his shoulders and another in his hands, which he tenderly draped over Finn’s shoulders, giving him a hug in the process. He tried to hug Rey but she shrugged him off. He kissed her cheek instead.

He apologized before she had a chance to say anything. “I am very sorry, sister. Very sorry, and I have apologized to Finn as well. I was… constricted, after the village. You know how I get. We ran into Mister and the Reverend, and they were upsetting. Did Finn tell you?”

“Finn did not tell me about that,” she tiredly said, setting the bowl in front of Finn and picking up Kylo's. “What did they say?”

Kylo waved his hand as he collapsed on the bench at the end of the table and pulled the box containing the still-sleeping bunny next to his place setting. “It doesn’t matter. The important thing, dear sister, is that they were very impressed with your husband.”

“Well of course they were!” She set the bowl down and picked up her own. “He’s very impressive, after all.” There was pride in her voice, and love, and she kissed Finn’s cheek before serving herself.

The soup was thick, rich, hot, and delicious. It was full of vegetables from the garden, and she had added some of the game bird that they had bought from the butcher. There was something sweet, too, berries or fruit, that made the meal something special. The bread was a bit dry, from a loaf that Mrs Holdo had brought with her the day before. She would bring more with her later in the week. They ate together in companionable silence, but when Kylo finished and carried his bowl to the sink, he brought a large carrot back to the table with him. It had apparently been on the counter, but had escaped Finn’s notice.

"Sister, why did you not put this carrot in your soup?"

Her mouth was full, and she chewed slowly and then swallowed before answering.

"The soup had enough carrot. It didn't need another one."

Kylo hummed and held the carrot up. "I like carrots very much, and this is a fine one." He sniffed it, a move that Finn found most odd as he scraped the last of the soup from the bottom of his bowl.

"I think you should add this carrot to the soup. It will help us draw it out for another meal."

Finn could tell that Kylo was teasing her, and that she didn't find it amusing. She stared at him as she took another bite and chewed it slowly.

"Do you like carrots, Finn?" Kylo asked, giving the carrot another long sniff.

"I like carrots very much."

"See, sister?" Kylo said to her with a smirk. "Your husband likes carrots too."

Rey was chewing the inside of her cheek and glaring at her brother, and Finn knew that they were having a conversation in a language he didn't understand.

"Would you like this carrot, brother?" Kylo asked, holding it out to him, but Rey intercepted it with a growl.

"I will put the carrot in the soup, if you insist," she said coldly.

"Ah," her brother answered, and released the vegetable to her. "I do insist. Thank you."

Rey left the last bit of soup in her bowl and furiously chopped the carrot at the counter, and Kylo turned to Finn.

“Would you join me in the main room after lunch? We can sit by the fire and dry off, and read to one another.” Finn readily agreed, imagining sitting on the sofa with his wife while Kylo snuggled the bunny on the floor. While Finn waited for Rey to finish with the soup he carried his bowl to the sink, and Kylo carried the bunny away.

Minette,” he said, sidling up beside his wife, “I miss you. Will you sit with us in the main room, when we are done here?”

Mon amour,” she replied. “I am tired. I will nap this afternoon, and then I need to go back to the workshop later. I wasted too much time this morning waiting for you.” Her words were harsh, but her voice was just sad.

“Would it help if we hired a servant? Someone to help you run the house? You are overworked.”

She smiled without humor as she dumped the carrot into the soup.

"No one from the village will come, and we don't want them. You've seen how they gossip, what they say." She paused as she wiped down the wooden cutting board and set it aside. "What exactly did the Turnbulls say, that my brother didn't want to tell me?"

Finn considered refusing to say, or lying, but one look in her eyes and he knew he could never.

"The Reverend strongly implied that I should beat you."

She gasped, a small thing that made his belly warm.

"That is a horrible thing for him to say. However... would you beat me?" She asked quietly, staring at the counter, "If I were very bad?"

He placed a hand on her lower back and leaned to her ear.

"Only if you asked me nicely."

She closed her eyes and sighed, but when she opened them again she stepped away.

"I am tired," she said, twisting the rag on her hands and setting it on the counter. "I am going to go nap."

"May I come with you?" The earlier scene, with Kylo Ren in the woods, combined with a general feeling of loss, had him yearning for his wife's touch.

But she shook her head. "No, husband. Our brother waits for you in the main room. I will nap, then go to the workshop later, to work. I will see you at dinner."

And then she was gone, and Finn, frustrated, made his way to the main room, to Kylo Ren.

Chapter Text

Finn found Kylo back on the floor, leaning against the ottoman, fire crackling and bathing him in warm light. The blanket was still wrapped around his shoulders, but now the bunny was in its sling, snuggled up warm against his chest. His hair was still damp and hung lanky down his shoulders. Finn thought they looked very comfortable, and when Kylo smiled up at him and scooted over to make room, he sat down on the floor instead of on the sofa. He arranged his own blanket to his satisfaction, then reached out a hand towards the bundle, but paused before touching it. He remembered how Kylo had been when he’d attempted to touch the animal in the clearing the day before.

“May I?” He asked, and Kylo nodded, so he rested his palm against the lump. It was warm, and he could feel it as it breathed and twitched in its sleep.

“I’ll need to feed it soon,” Kylo said, his eyes on Finn’s hand. “Rey fed it when we were out, but it will be hungry again before long.”

Finn hummed, and took a moment to just enjoy the heat, and the softness, and being close to Kylo. It felt good, sitting on the floor next to the man, and Finn had an urge to lean over and rest against him, but fought it. He thought that Kylo would probably like it if he did - he’d like it very much - but he wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about it.

“Does Rey like the bunny?” Finn asked, after a while.

“She does, I think,” Kylo responded, “although I don’t think she wants to.”

Finn glanced up to see that Kylo was smiling, and it made him smile too. “Does the bunny like Rey?”

Kylo chuckled at the question. “Do bunnies like anyone? I don’t know. It trusts her, I believe, as much as it trusts me. Or you.”

“You think the bunny trusts me?”

“Yes,” he answered slowly, “You fed it, and you were gentle. But it’s more than that, Finn. It trusts you because it trusts me. Rey is my sister, so it trusts her. Because it knows that my sister will care for what I care for, because she loves me.”

There was a sudden crack from the fireplace that surprised them both, and a log collapsed on itself. Finn got up to place a fresh log on the fire, and sat back down so that their arms pressed together through the blankets.

“And because you are married to Rey,” Kylo continued, “it trusts you. You are cleaved to Rey through marriage, and Rey is cleaved to me by blood. We are all tied together, brother. And so the bunny trusts all of us, by virtue of its trust in me.”

He lifted his eyes from Finn’s hands and gazed at him. His eyes were large and dark, his expression uneasy. “Do you understand what I mean, Finn?”

"I think I do.”

They sat together in companionable silence for a few more minutes, before Kylo announced that it was time to feed the bunny, and they passed through the kitchen for milk on their way to the attic, where the feeding would take place.

The attic had changed since Rey had taken Finn up on his first day at Mustafar Hall. There were some new drawings tacked to the screen, very finely done pencil drawings, and Finn stopped to admire them on his way into the space.

“I drew those in the Botanical Garden in Philadelphia, my host there is the curator,” Kylo said, stepping up close beside him and touching the corner of a drawing of small flowers set among many small serrated-edged leaves. “This one is Potentilla canadensis, Dwarf Cinquefoil. They are native to the area and grow and thrive everywhere. And this one,” he pointed to one with large, smooth leaves and small flowers with two petals on the top with what looked like short strings hanging down from them, “is Commelina communis, Asiatic Dayflower. It grows in wet spaces, like a swamp, or even a ditch next to the road.”

Finn looked at the other art, the watercolors, and nodded to the daffodils and white butterflies, the same one he had pointed out to Rey during his first tour of the space.

“Is this one by Millie?” He asked, and Kylo reached out and grasped it by the corner as though to straighten it, although as far as Finn could tell it was square to begin with.

“Yes,” the man breathed, and traced the stem of a daffodil from its base up to its yellow bloom with the tip of one healing finger. “This is the piece she was working on the day we met, down by the water; she gave it to me as a gift, a memoriam. In the spring there are daffodils there, thousands of them. They are beautiful, unfettered, and they dance in the breeze. I recited a poem for her on that day; I think that’s why she loved me. Do you know Wordsworth?”

A sudden burst of emotion flared in Finn’s heart - pride and love. He remembered this emotion; had felt it, briefly, during his visit with Rey on his second day at Mustafar Hall. It was Millie, he understood that now. Her spirit was here, in the cabinet with them; she stayed close to Kylo in death.

Finn longed to glance around, to see if she had manifested. He wanted to give her some indication that he knew she was there, but he didn’t want Kylo to suspect anything. He kept his eyes on the delicate green and yellow of the painted flowers and shook his head, even though he did, of course, know Wordsworth. He hoped that doing so would encourage Kylo to recite the poem for him, too, and he was not disappointed.

“William Wordsworth is one of the last century’s greatest poets. He wrote a wonderful poem about daffodils; the story is that he was walking with his sister in Ullswater - that’s only 20 miles or so north of here - and they came across a long belt of the flowers. Like the ones we were with the day we met.” Finn chanced a glance at Kylo. His expression was complex, happy and pensive and wistful all at once, and it made Finn sad.

Kylo spoke, his voice low and lilting.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Kylo’s voice mesmerized Finn, and when he stopped speaking it took him a moment to realize the other man’s arm had slipped over his shoulder. The arm was warm and heavy, and Finn enjoyed how it felt resting on him. After a moment Kylo removed it, sighing as he stepped into the shadow of the shelves, and Finn mourned its absence.

“Do you think about daffodils,” Finn asked, following him, “as you lie in front of the fire, or on your little bed here in the attic?”

Kylo laughed, and Finn’s heart skipped to think that he had improved his temper. “You know, I suppose I do.”

Finn glanced around as they proceeded between the shelves. The cabinet appeared to be under process in a way it hadn’t been before; things were cluttered and placed as though their locations were temporary, as if they might need to be moved again at any moment.

"I'm rearranging things a bit," Kylo said, waving his hands. "To make room for some new objects. I suppose I will need more shelves before long."

At the back of the room in Kylo’s workspace, many of the boxes had been emptied, their contents spread out on the table; rocks and feathers and small boxes, bottles and jars that Finn supposed contained chemicals, or perhaps paint. A small axe with a dull-colored but nevertheless sharp-looking blade sat in an open box. A stack of wooden frames sat at one corner, white paper and pens for correspondence sat at another corner. Kylo approached the table, but was distracted by something along the wall. He groaned, and crouched down beside it. Along the seam where the wall met the floor, something dark fluttered.

“Moths,” Kylo groaned. “Black moths. Their larvae eat my taxidermy, and whatever else they can reach. They are pests, and I dislike them.”

“Oh,” said Finn, “you told me about them at the park. In New Orleans. Do you remember? You told me they eat butterflies.” He shuddered at the memory.

Kylo threw his head back and laughed, his cheeks turning a delightful shade of pink. “Oh Finn,” he sighed, standing and turning back to the table. “How dramatic I was that day, and how mean. Adult moths do not have mouths, only proboscis - similar to the pipette, as a matter of fact. They eat liquid; they certainly don’t eat butterflies.”

“Why did you tell me that, then,” Finn asked, following him. “It is a strange sort of lie to tell.”

“It wasn’t a lie,” Kylo answered, leaving Finn perplexed by his response. A short silence hung between them before Kylo turned to his task.

Back at the table, the same tray from the day before was laid out front and center, with the pipette and the dish, both apparently having been washed since Rey used them earlier.

The bunny was awake and aware, mewling and wiggling when Kylo lifted it out of the sling. Finn imagined that it watched them in contemplation as they worked with it together, Finn holding the pipette and pushing drops of milk into its mouth while Kylo held it tenderly in the palm of his hand.

“I will need to gather clover for it to eat,” Kylo said as Finn filled the pipette a second time. “According to my book, the rabbit’s eyes open on day ten or eleven, and they start eating solid food in addition to milk on day eleven or so. This baby opened its eyes yesterday, so I think it is time.”

He stroked it with an unbroken finger as it grasped the pipette with its front paws and pulled it into its mouth; both men chuckled at the scene. The animal eagerly sucked down the white liquid, whimpering with satisfaction. It reminded Finn of Rey, and he imagined both of them, him and Kylo, treating her in a similar manner. Holding her, feeding her, caressing her, ensuring that she feels safe and cared for.

The bunny accepted three pipettes full of milk before it pushed the glass tube away. Kylo’s skin grazed hot against Finn’s as he scooped the animal out of Finn’s hand, and the hum of the crystals sounded loud in the moment that their hands connected, Finn’s cheeks burning hot. Then both the hand and the bunny were away, and Kylo set it on the tray and allowed it to hop around a bit before tucking it back in the sling and carrying the pipette and dish down to the bathroom to rinse them off.

After her nap Rey spent the rest of the afternoon in her workshop, and she pulled Finn and Kylo down from the attic to help her. They worked well together, continuing the rearrangement of the equipment that she and Finn had started the week before. Finn noted that the work moved much more quickly with three of them - and when the workers weren’t constantly distracted by sex. He celebrated the work, and mourned the sex.

After dinner - a simple meal of the fresh oysters they’d purchased that morning, followed by Cumbrian sausage and potatoes - they opened their mail. Kylo had received several letters from his usual correspondents, including Dr Bunting and Mr MacElwee, to whom he had sent letters earlier in the day. He read them quickly at the table, then excused himself, bunny in tow, to peruse them more carefully in his workroom. The mist accompanied him, leaving Finn and Rey alone at last.

Finn kissed Rey, and she seemed receptive at first, but pushed him away before he could make an attempt to further it, so he sat down to read his own letters. Rose and Poe assured him that they missed him, and they shared a bit of gossip. Apparently, Eunice Walker had attempted to attach herself to yet another mysterious visiting stranger, but he had been quite taken by Edith Cushing instead. Edith was likewise captivated, and she was now engaged to be married to him and would be moving to Milan in the near future. Her father, ostensibly, was thrilled. Finn could not imagine Carter Cushing being thrilled about anything, but he would take their word for it.

Kes Dameron sent greetings and talked mostly about the weather, the constant heat and rain, which gave him pain in his joints. The letter from Andre Lacoste, Finn’s father, focused on the ongoing mystery of Snap Wexley’s murder. There were still no clues, no leads, no indication of who might be responsible. Finn swallowed and tried to school his features so Rey wouldn’t notice there was anything wrong, or ask what might be bothering him.

But Rey was reading her own mail, and as Finn was finishing the letter from his father, she cried out, “Oh no!”

Mon amour, what is it? Is everything well?”

She set down the letter she'd been reading and stood with a nervous smile. “Very well, I think. The letter is from a man named Mister Moden Canady. He has been managing coal mines down in Wales, in the Rhondda Valley, and he will come to manage our mine. So he can replace me, when we return to New Orleans next year. I must go get my brother.”

Rey clutched her hands and ran out the door, and Finn started. After not even two weeks at Mustafar Hall he had forgotten about the plan to return to New Orleans. A whole year. Could he survive here a whole year? Could he ever leave?

A few minutes later Rey returned with Kylo, breathless. The man sat down next to Finn, the mist of sorrow draped around his head having its usual effect on him. He did his best to ignore it as Rey paced and exclaimed,

“Ben, I don’t know if you remember him, but Mister Canady was a friend of father’s. He visited occasionally after you left, he never stayed very long but he would say how much he liked the area, and at one point he offered to move here to try to reopen the mine but father would not accept. I wrote to him the day we arrived home, explaining our situation and asking if he would still be interested in coming, and he is - very interested. In fact he is so interested that he will be arriving in three day’s time.”

“Three days!” Both men exclaimed together. Finn was just getting used to life with the three of them, how would it be adding another person to their household? Kylo appeared to be bothered by the news as well; Finn supposed that he was thinking about the need for his mask, and he felt bad for him.

“Yes, three days,” she declared. “This is good news; we need a manager, and he will arrive before the equipment so I can begin training him immediately. But it does mean more work in the meantime, because I plan for him to live in the old manager’s cottage - that’s behind the copse of trees, all the way down by the wall - but no one has lived there for fifteen years at least and it needs to be cleaned and fixed up in preparation for him. I doubt it will be ready in time, and he will have to stay at the Inn in the village, which could be…” she trailed off, and Kylo finished her sentence for her:


“Indeed,” she replied.

“All right,” said Finn, “who do we need to hire to fix the cottage? I can go down to the village tomorrow to make arrangements, and of course I can pay for it all. We need to start work on the main house as well, the hole in the roof will continue to get worse if we don’t mend it soon.”

Rey stared at him in confusion. Kylo coughed as though he were suppressing a laugh.

“Husband,” Rey began slowly, “you do understand that arranging help from the people in the village is out of the question. I have told you this, several times. They do not like us; they will not come here. Workers for the house will need to be imported from somewhere. If you would like to you are very welcome to climb up on the roof and install a tarpaulin to cover the hole. The cottage will be fixed by you and my brother."

Finn had never fixed a thing in his life. "Oh," he said. Kylo slapped his good hand on his knee and howled.

Rey looked annoyed and shook her head. "It won't be hard. The furniture should be fine, just needs a scrubbing. We can bring furniture out from the house if anything needs to be replaced. If mice got in that will take some cleaning, maybe a new mattress. Holes in the roof, in the walls. Check the doors and windows." Finn's head reeled. "It will take you a few days, but I have faith that you can do it."

Finn wished that he had the same.

Rey, still agitated, went to the stove to heat water for tea, and Finn opened his last envelope, the one from Sophia et Famille. As he ripped it open carefully with his finger along the top seam, Kylo touched the wedding gift package with one long finger.

“Will you open this one, too, brother? I’m curious to see what kind of gift your friends in Paris might have sent you and my sister.”

Finn felt himself blush as he pulled a thick stack of paper, folded across the short side, out of the envelope. He didn’t know exactly what that package contained but he had some ideas, and he didn’t want Kylo near any of them.

“I will open that one later, when I am alone with my wife.” He refused to look at Kylo, but he could feel the other man’s gaze on him, and could feel his curiosity in his skin. But Kylo didn’t argue.

“All right,” he said, humor keeping his voice light. “Keep your secrets.”

Finn unfolded the stack of papers and cried out in delight. “Ah! Just as I’d hoped - letters and drawings from Georges and Jean, sons of my friend Sophia. They are quite talented for children. See, brother!” Finn held out the top sheet, the top half of which was covered with the neatly-printed writing of a small child - in French - and the bottom half dominated by a colorful drawing of a figure with dark brown skin and purple clothing - undoubtedly Finn - holding hands with two smaller figures, the slightly larger one with brown curls and the smaller one with straighter yellow hair. The Eiffel Tower - Finn supposed it was supposed to be - rose up behind them. The sky was blue, and all three of the figures were smiling brightly.

“The small one is Georges - I suppose he is near five years old now, not so small - and the older one is Jean. Good boys, and…”

Kylo stood suddenly, and when Finn looked up at him he was shocked by his expression. The man’s face had gone white, and his eyes were wide; he stared at the paper, unmoving, as though he’d seen a ghost. His hands were shaking. Finn didn’t understand what could possibly be frightening about a child’s drawing.

“Kylo,” Finn said gently, “are you all right?”

Kylo blinked and shook his head. “I’ve just realized it’s time to feed the bunny again. I will go up and do that - no need for you to come with me - and I will meet you in your room with a biscuit and some ginger beer. That worked well to counteract the negative effects of the sleeping tea, did it not?”

Finn nodded, and Kylo was away. He'd forgotten to take the milk with him.

Rey was completely uninterested in perusing the children's letters with him, so he enjoyed them by himself, chuckling with amusement at the stories of their antics and their interpretations of the adults around them, until the tea tray was ready.

That night - the second night of Kylo’s presence at Mustafar, although it felt like longer than that to Finn - went much as the previous night had. Rey drank her womb tea, Finn drank his sleeping tisane, and Kylo stood in the doorway with the bunny and watched them. Then, when Finn’s cup was empty and he was already beginning to feel blurry, Kylo sat down next to him and encouraged him to eat a charcoal biscuit, hard and dry, and to drink the spicy ginger beer. As Finn chewed and swallowed, Rey and Kylo rubbed his back in silence. He decided that this was his favorite time of the day. Sitting quietly, between the two of them, relaxed and together. No discussion, or arguing, just being together. It was pleasant. No, it was more than pleasant; it was good.

After a while Finn’s eyes closed, and, as they had the night before, Rey and Kylo worked together to divest him of his outer clothing and then leaned him back on the bed. He considered their day: shaving Kylo and telling him a bit about his life in Paris; their unpleasant visit to the village (that was unfair; the gossip was unpleasant, as was the conversation with the Turnbulls, but Dr Aphra was kind, and Mr Mitaka was interesting); Kylo’s strange outburst on the way home; watching Kylo touch himself in the clearing.

Finn thought, perhaps, that he would like to touch Kylo. He also thought that Kylo might like it if he did. Mon Adonis, he thought to himself, mon beau gaillard, mon tueur irrésistible je veux baiser. He thought about the bunny, and Rey, and the wedding gift - still unopened - and how strange everything is, here in Mustafar Hall.

Finn was aware of a night shirt being pulled over his head, and being tucked under the covers by two pairs of strong hands, and of his wife, clad in her nightdress, tucking herself around him. After that, only darkness.

It felt as though no time had passed when Finn sat up wide awake in bed, mouth dry and head pounding. There was a bright flash in the window by the bed followed quickly by a mighty crash; the storm raging outside must have awakened him. His mind was a bit soft but sound, and the spot next to him in the bed was empty, and cold. He supposed Rey had gone out to the workshop again, and been stranded there by the weather. He imagined her sleeping on the little pallet where he had spent so many hours in the previous days, and wished he could be there with her.

He took the glass and aspirin from his bedside table and padded quietly to the bathroom, where he swallowed the bitter tablets with a glass of water and then had a second glass to ease his dry mouth and wash away the taste. After returning to the bed, he laid back down and closed his eyes, but after about ten minutes he knew it was a lost cause. He’d remembered the box under the chest of drawers at the back of the room and he needed to ensure it was returned to the space under the floor; he couldn’t imagine what Kylo might do if he found out it was missing.

He checked the clock on the bedside table - just after 2am. Kylo would be asleep for hours, and Rey would probably be out for hours, too. Wouldn’t she? Would she come back inside immediately once the storm waned? Finn wasn’t exactly sure how much she slept. She’d slept with him all night on the steamer, but then most nights they’d been worn out from sex, and there hadn’t been anywhere for her to go. What her regular practices were at home, Finn had no idea.

He lit the wick of the lamp with steady fingers and padded over to the dark corner. The box was where he’d left it, pushed all the way to the back, by the wall. He pulled it out and carried it back to the bed, and made himself comfortable before lifting the lid.

The contents of the box looked exactly as they had when he had left it the day before. This time he focused on the letters, so he quickly and carefully removed the other contents and set them aside, trying not to think too hard about what lay within the wrinkled, heavy envelope, or what exactly the clipped death notices might portend.

Finn pulled out the packets of letters, taking note of the order in which they laid together in the bottom of the box, and set them out before him on the mattress. There were eleven of them, nine of which contained twelve letters, one for each month of the year. The other two contained many fewer letters. The packet representing the year 1895 contained only three letters, January through March. The packet for ten years prior, the year that Ben had been kidnapped by his uncle and taken to Philadelphia, contained four letters, September through December. It was to these letters that Finn turned first.

The first dozen or so envelopes were addressed in the messy scribble of a distracted adult, and the first letter, dated 3rd September 1885, was written in the same script. This letter was brief, a single sheet of paper. Finn carefully removed the letter from the envelope, and was greeted by a very messy child's hand printed to cover the entirety of the half-page: FOR BEN SKYWALKER ONLY. He unfolded the sheet and the first thing he noticed was that rather than a traditional signature the letter closed with a drawing; two stick figures, one much taller than the other, their circle hands overlapping as though gripping each other. Both of the figures had broad smiles on their round faces.

He read:

Dearest Brother,

You have tried to teach me to write but I cannot, so I am telling Father what to write. I will have him read it after so I know it is right. He says you have gone to stay with Uncle and you will be gone a while. I hope it is pleasant where you are and that there are butterflies and bunnies where you are too. I enclose a drawing I made for you although it is not as fine as the ones you make for me.

Finn checked the envelope again; if such a drawing had ever existed it was not there now. The letter continued:

I miss you. I am not allowed to go to the wood without you or mother so I play in the copse, I pretend you are there and Peter the rabbit too. Please come home soon I long for you to swing me.

All my love,

Your sister,

It closed with the drawing.

Finn sniffed the letter; it smelled like nothing other than old paper. The sheet crackled as he refolded it gently and slipped it back into the envelope. He skipped over the rest of the letters that Rey had dictated to her father, and selected the first letter that had a child’s print on the envelope: September 7, 1886. This letter was a bit longer than the first, written front and back, and it included a signature but also had the hand-holding stick figures. This time they were wearing clothes, and had a bit of hair drawn on their heads. They were still smiling.

Dearest Brother,

You will notice that I am writing myself I told you I have been practicing My Writing and now I am ready to show you I hope you find this easy enough to read. I am Writing this on the Peak Father brought me here because I asked it is your favorite place and you have been gone for a year now. It is cold but we brought tea to keep us warm. I miss you so much. I practice my Drawing (see encl.) but I am still not as good as you. Father will not read this so I will tell you that Holdo comes over too often and I do not like her. I fear she wants to be My mother but she will never be My Mother. She tries to hug me and I run away. Father scolds but I do not care, I do not want to be NICE. I want to be alone. Except for You. Will you come home soon? Father says he does not know but he is a grownup and grownups are supposed to know.

Father says it is time to go I will stop now. I love you and miss You Ben. Please come home.

Again, the promised enclosed drawing was missing.

Finn skipped ahead again, another year. September 10, 1887. Rey would have been seven years old.

The letter recounted daily events. Rey had been sick the last weeks of August, confined to her bed, and she complained that Mrs Holdo had come to care for her instead of her Father. He had been away, visiting someone she called Uncle Lando, and Rey had no idea when he would return. Mr Canady had visited for a day and that was nice. She recalled a time that she had been sick as a child, and Ben had sneaked into her bed at night, until their mother had found them and shooed him out. She wished that he could have been with her when she was sick now. As with the previous letters, she told Ben she missed him, asked when he would be home, and closed with a drawing of the two of them together. Her handwriting had improved, as had her artistic skills.

Finn remembered that Rey had broken her leg when she was ten, so he took a chance and skipped ahead three years, to September of 1890. Her handwriting and grammar had improved greatly; in the letter she mentioned reading, purchasing books in the village and also ordering them from abroad. She complained of pain in her leg, although it appeared that the break had happened months before, and she was fully healed and able to visit the Peak by herself. She would go to the peak for hours, and read, and think of Ben. The children in the village were mean to her, but it didn’t bother her; Father was away again, but she didn’t care.

The closing of the letter was slightly different.

You have been gone now for five years, and it feels like an eternity to me. Why have you not responded to my letters? Father says that you are busy, with studies and work, but if you loved me. Would you not write? Please write to me and tell me what you do. I miss you, Ben.

All my love,


This letter did not close with the childish drawing; perhaps she felt that she had moved beyond that.

He read the letters for September '91, '92, '93, and '94. As the years passed the letters continued to become more confessional, reading like entries in a personal diary rather than letters to a loved one. Rey wrote of books she was reading, foods eaten, flowers blooming late on the peak; everyday sorts of things interspersed with observations of a stranger, more intimate nature. In '92 she mentioned witnessing an event involving her father and Mrs Holdo that traumatized her, and in '93 she described her first menses in some detail.

The blood is warm and dark, very much like the blood of a rabbit, although it does not flow as from a wound. It smells warm too, and sharp. I have not yet had the courage to taste it. The flow is heavy, soaking through a rag in a matter of hours, but Holdo promises it will only last a few days. My mind is clear; I am not ill. So many lies we are told. Yes, the cramps are painful but Holdo has a tincture for that, of course she does. Warmth is soothing; I take baths, and remember your hands. Your hands in my memory are hot and against my belly would be most soothing.

The letter from '94 referenced an undertaking that she had planned for some time and which had been successful, but there wasn't enough detail included for him to have any idea of what exactly she had done. She talked of familiarizing herself with the mine and old equipment; knowing her current interests he guessed it had something to do with that.

Finn was slipping the letter from '94 back into its envelope and considering what to read next when the front door slammed and there was a great clamoring up the stairs. He had just enough time to pull the bedcover over the purloined collection when there was a light knock on the door before it opened, and the pale face of Kylo Ren appeared, leaning in from the hallway. His eyes were wide and wild, his hair sopping wet and clinging to his head, water dripping off the ends and down his mackintosh. He was thoroughly drenched.

"Hello brother," he said, glancing around the room, his voice artificially light. "I saw from outside your lamp was on and I was hoping I could talk to Rey, but she is not here, apparently. Do you know where she is?"

"I awoke some time ago and was unable to fall back asleep," Finn answered. "Rey was not here, I assume she is in her workshop stranded by the storm."

Kylo stared at him for a moment and worked his jaw, then offered up a strained smile.

"Of course. I shall find her there. Thank you, and I hope you are able to sleep again before morning. I would like to take you to the peak early, it is always most lovely after a storm."

He pulled the door shut with a quiet click, and galloped back down the stairs and out the door.

What on Earth was Kylo doing out in the rain at three in the morning? Finn was left unsettled by the interaction, and he decided that no matter how interesting he found Rey's letters it was time to put them back. He quickly and carefully retied the bundles, arranged them in their proper places, and Anakin and Padme watched as he snuck out of the bedroom and dropped it back into its hole in the floor.

Despite his excitement, Finn was asleep within moments of his head hitting his pillow.

Chapter Text

The next three days were a whirlwind of a new routine, focused on preparing the cottage for Mr Canady’s impending arrival. Finn and Kylo spent their days -not wandering the woods or stalking the peak as Kylo would prefer, or reading books and chatting in front of the fire as Finn would - but scrubbing floors, cleaning the chimney, emptying out mouse nests, and mending holes in the roof and walls to ensure no other critters could find their way in. Finn was impressed that Kylo didn’t let his bandaged hand slow him down. The bunny stayed with them, in a little wooden box instead of the sling, and they would break every few hours to feed it milk and a little clover, which after initial curiosity it nibbled down with gusto.

Finn saw very little of Rey in these days, and it hurt. They sat together at meals where they ate simple fare; bread and cheese that Holdo silently dropped off in the kitchen, and lots of vegetables from the garden, since Rey didn't have time to cook and they had run out of fresh meat. They also had their nightly ritual, which Finn found both unpleasant and soothing, but even then they hardly spoke. The mist continued to float about Rey and Kylo, and its near-constant presence made it difficult for Finn to think clearly, much less want to speak. On the odd occasion when Rey called the men to her workshop to help with some task she was all business and did not respond to Finn's tentative flirting. By the second day of this, Finn had to admit to himself that he was frustrated and lonely. He missed his wife and longed for their days on the steamer.

On the second night, Finn dreamed of his mother. She often appeared in his dreams, but it wasn't always clear if it was her, or his mind's version of her. On this night, he was certain she was with him. It was as it had been before; he was lying on his side in his childhood bed, clock silent and room freezing cold and deathly quiet.

Manman,” he breathed, as her familiar cold hand gently massaged the back of his head.

"Pitit mwen," the ti-bon-ange of Philomene Dessalines breathed. "My darling. How are you?"

"I am lonely," he admitted. "My wife keeps away from me and I don't understand why. None of my previous experience has prepared me for this pain."

There was a thoughtful silence from behind him, followed by a sigh.

"Felix, what happened?"

"Her brother came home."

"Hm. Do you get along with the brother?"

Finn considered before answering. "I do. I like him very much, and he seems to like me. But I fear he is mad. He acts very rashly."

"My uncle was mad. Did you know?"

Finn had not known that his mother had had an uncle at all, let alone a mad one, and he shook his head under her chilly fingertips.

"It was very hard for his mama, and my aunt, who was his twin. He was sent away when he was fifteen and my aunt never forgave her parents for it. But if he'd stayed, my aunt would have spent her whole life caring for him. She never would have been able to get married or have a family of her own."

"Are you telling me," Finn said, his hackles already on their way up, "that we should put her brother in an asylum? He's already been treated and it only made him worse…" He was silenced by a cold pressure around his head, far too large for a woman's hand.

The voice was loud, as though it came from inside his own skull. "What I am suggesting, Felix, is that you spend less time worrying about yourself and your needs, and more time considering your wife."

Finn had nothing to say to that. He helped Rey, didn't he? He assisted her in the workshop, and he thought he'd handled Kylo admirably the day they visited the village. He had been spending so much time with Kylo over the past two days and nothing else like that had happened. In fact, Kylo had seemed quite calm, more than happy to do whatever work Finn appointed for him as they worked their way through the list that Rey had given them.

But he gave the only response he could, which was, "Yes, manman. I will."

She sighed. "Oh, my son. I wish I could see you. I wish I could be with you all the time."

"I do too, manman," Finn said, a tear slipping from the corner of his eye. "I wish you were here."

"If I was there," she whispered, her voice dreamy and sounding from far away, "if I was there, I would tell you that I love you all the time. I would follow you everywhere. I would drape myself around you like a shawl and never leave. I would wait by the door for you to return every night."

She sighed again, but Finn didn't hear it because he was suddenly awake, wide awake and sitting up in his bed, his wife sound asleep next to him. The mist was floating above her head as usual, its sorrow burrowing into his heart.

"Leia," Finn said to the mist, and it twisted and swirled.

"Are you the ti-bon-ange of Lady Leia Skywalker?" He said more quietly, afraid of waking Rey. The mist lowered itself until it touched the side of Rey's face, and swirled faster. Finn wasn't entirely sure what it was trying to communicate, so he tried again.

"Is Rey your daughter? Are you her mother?"

The mist jumped up, almost as high as the canopy, and then danced; despite the overwhelming sadness the mist continued to project, Finn had to hold back a laugh.

"I would like to speak with you," he whispered, "will you meet me in the main room?" The mist blinked out, and Finn eased out of bed and pulled on his dressing gown and slippers, hoping that he was right and that the mist would be waiting for him downstairs.

She was. She floated in front of the fireplace, reeling and shifting in a manner that reminded Finn of the clouds of cherry blossoms that are in abundance in certain areas of Paris during the spring. The room was dark and cold, the fire having long since burned itself out. (There was always a fire burning brightly in the morning, and until now Finn had never considered who lit it. Rey, undoubtedly. He could do it instead; he could do that for her.)

Finn stood in front of the spirit of Leia and spoke, his head high. "I apologize for not introducing myself before now. As I’m sure you know, my name is Mister Felix Lacoste, of New Orleans; my friends call me Finn. My father is Mister Andre Lacoste, and my mother is the late Missus Philomene Dessalines. I have married your daughter, Rey.”

She continued to swirl and turn, still emanating the same melancholy as always, and Finn heard a distant woman’s voice, low and mournful, Rey… the voice said, Rey, my baby…. Finn cleared his throat.

“I love her, very much, and I promise you that I will take care of her, to the best of my ability. I also promise that I will take care of Kylo - Ben.”

At the mention of her son the mist thinned, lengthened, and twirled faster, and the voice sounded again, Ben… Ben…, before returning to its normal state. It seemed like a lighthearted move, and it made Finn smile.

“I have only heard good things of you, from your children,” he continued. “They love you, and miss you, I know. I know that you loved Kyber Peak, and I have been there with Kylo once, and I hope to go back there with him again very soon.”

At the mention of the peak the spirit of Lady Leia agitated back and forth in a manner that made Finn uncomfortable, and he cursed his choice of topic. Of course she wouldn't want to hear about the peak. So he changed the subject to one that was more important to him.

“Lady Skywalker, I understand now that even in death you are attached to your children, and I appreciate that. And I know your sorrow - I can feel it, when you are close to me. But it is overwhelming. When you are with Rey, I find it difficult to be close to her too. So I was hoping - as a favor to me - you might be with Ben when I am near Rey. And,” he paused for a moment, then added, “be with Rey, when I am near Ben. Please?”

The spirit of Leia shifted and swirled, but remained silent, and there was no way for Finn to know if she understood his request. So he bowed and took his leave, and the mist was nowhere in sight when he returned to the bedroom and tucked himself back into bed next to his wife, who was still fast asleep. Very soon he was asleep as well.

The next morning was the day Mr Canady was scheduled to arrive on an evening coach from the Kendal rail station. Finn awakened when Rey climbed out of bed and thumped around in her wardrobe, pulling out her dress for the day.

Mon amour,” he called to her, warm under the covers, voice still rough with sleep.

His wife turned to look at him, hair loose down her back, nightdress already off and hung ready for the next night, fresh bloomers and chemise in hand. She was naked, and she was beautiful.

“I am sorry, mon amour,” she answered. “I didn’t mean to wake you. You can go back to sleep.”

He eased himself up to sitting, taking note of the state of his head, and his stomach. He felt just a little muddled in both places, but not so muddled he couldn’t perform. And he was getting desperate.

“Come back to bed, minette,” he said, with as much authority as he could muster. It had the desired effect; Rey gasped, and a flush emerged from her cheeks.

“Husband,” she breathed, “I need to work.”

“I will work you,” he said, and sat up on his knees so he could pull his nightshirt over his head, leaving him clad only in his drawers.

Rey’s eyes tracked Finn’s body, from his face to his knees. He was pleased to see that they lingered on his erection, visible through the white fabric; he pressed his palm against it, and she gasped again. Her eyes still on him, she quickly pulled on the undergarments and stood still, her hand pushing the wardrobe door closed behind her.

Finn crawled slowly to the end of the bed and off. He paused after standing, and watched her watching him. She made no move, said nothing, only stared at him with her eyes bright. He walked towards her slowly, and she tensed. She was his petit fauve again, his monstre, a little feral thing, and he knew that she would run if he wasn’t careful.

As Finn approached Rey her flush was visible, spread down to her chest, and her eyes were shining and black. He stepped up to her and cradled her face in his hands. She did not flinch, and he took that as a good sign.

Ma chérie,” he whispered, caressing her cheek with the tip of his nose, “come back to bed.”

“No,” she said, her voice shaking, hands fisted beside her. Finn ran his hands slowly down her neck, across her shoulders, and down her arms, finally pressing his fingers into her fists. She unclenched her hands, allowing him to intertwine their fingers. They both sighed when he brought their hands up between them, kissing her fingers one-by-one and finishing with a lingering press of his lips against the stone of her wedding ring. It was warm to the touch.

"I love that ring," Rey murmured. "I hate it, when I have to take it off to work. I hate being away from it."

"I hate being away from you," Finn replied, and gave the crystal one last kiss before releasing her hands and shifting his hands down to her ribcage, palms around her sides and thumbs resting just under the swell of her breasts. Still, Rey did not move.

Finn kissed her then, and she kissed him back. Her mouth was hot and wet and tasted of sleep, but he didn’t care; the gasps that escaped her throat more than made up for it, and he swallowed them as quickly as he could. He moved his thumbs up to tease her pebbled nipples through the chemise; they hardened further under his ministrations. She moaned into his mouth, and finally reached her hands out to grasp his arms. It made him smile as he kissed across her face and nibbled her ear and lower.

“Rey,” he breathed into her neck, “wife of mine, let me love you. Let me pleasure you.”

She didn’t answer, but she didn’t say no, so he caressed her ruddy collarbone with his lips and slowly got to his knees, kissing down the thin fabric that covered her body. Her hands shifted from his arms to his head as he lowered himself before her.

He held her hips and nuzzled the apex of her thighs, inhaling her scent through her bloomers. It was familiar; he recognized it from the steamer, and their first days in the house. Organic and musky; it was the way she smelled when she begged for him to let her come.

“I smell your desire, minette.” Finn’s voice sounded deep and rough to himself, and Rey shuddered, her hands coming to grip the sides of his head. He nudged his nose further between her legs, closer to the gap in her underwear, and she whimpered.

“Please let me put my mouth on you, please.” He pleaded; he begged. But still she didn’t answer.

Finn’s hands had started drifting inwards, his thumbs preparing to move between his wife’s legs, to open her bloomers and her lips so he could reach her with his tongue, when a soft knock sounded on the door. There was no pause, no time to react; it opened quickly and Kylo Ren was in the room, mist around his head, his arms laden with biscuits and ginger beer, the lump of the bunny as always clutched against his chest by the sling.

It took Kylo a moment to glance over and see them in front of Rey’s wardrobe, and by then Finn had removed his face from Rey’s nethers and she had stepped backwards, abruptly running into the door of the wardrobe with a bang. Kylo stared for a moment and gasped, and averted his eyes, blushing furiously, then mumbled something incoherent and backed right out of the door, shutting it softly behind him.

Rey leaned against the wardrobe door and wept, face in her hands. Finn stood and held her, comforting her as well as he could. But he didn’t understand why she was so upset, and she wouldn’t answer his hushed questions.

After a few moments she pushed him away and pulled on her dress and her boots while Finn moved between her and the door. When she went to walk around him, eyes averted, he grasped her arm and pulled her to him again.

“I love you, Rey,” he whispered into her hair.

“I love you, too,” she mumbled at the floor.

He cradled her face again and urged her to look at him, wiping her tears with his thumbs. “I will be down in a minute. I will make the fire in the main room, so I do not want you to do that. Yes?”

Rey frowned, her eyebrows pulled together in confusion, but she said, “yes.” And then, a beat later, “thank you.”

“One more thing,” Finn said, staring into her eyes. “No more tea. I don’t need it, and I don’t like it. I will admit that I enjoy the ritual, but no more. Please do not offer it to me again.”

Tears gathered on her eyelashes, reminding him of dew on the grass in the early morning, back in New Orleans.

Rey sighed with a shudder. “All right.” She stepped back, wiped away the rest of the tears, and left the room. Finn heard Kylo’s voice in the hallway, but she didn’t respond to him as she clattered down the stairs.

Finn went to his own wardrobe to select work clothes - he’d borrowed more clothing from Kylo, items he didn’t mind getting grubby out in the cottage - and Kylo came back in, apologetic, his face still very red.

“Brother, I am so sorry…” he began, but Finn waved him off.

“Never mind, Kylo, it’s fine,” he grumbled, pulling up his work trousers and snapping the braces over his shoulders. “But please, next time wait to be admitted before you come in.”

"I will. I promise." Kylo meekly placed the biscuit and bottle on the table. "I will get dressed myself and meet you downstairs."

Kylo made to leave, and as the man hastily rushed past him, Finn noted that he needed another shave, but he didn't feel up to giving him one today. He ate the biscuit and drank some of the ginger beer, and thought about how good it would be to not have to deal with the side effects of the damn sleeping tea.

As Finn prepared to go downstairs, he realized he’d forgotten his handkerchief, which he always kept tucked up his sleeve. He dug through the drawer looking for his favorite one, the one that Rose made for him, but couldn't find it. When was the last time he'd seen it? He couldn't remember. Swearing, he picked one of the plain ones and went downstairs to build the fire.

By lunchtime the cottage was almost ready for habitation. The floor was swept, roof whole, they had even cleaned the windows, which were small but let in just enough light to illuminate all but the darkest corners. With a blaze going in the small fireplace the space was almost charming.

Rey approved with a smile. "This is very nice, very nice." Finn grinned at how Kylo preened under her praise, as he enjoyed it himself. "The only thing left to do is the curtains and bedsheets.”

"I can do that, after lunch," Finn said. "Where can I find them?"

Rey offered him a beaming smile that drew her dimples out and made him feel warm all over. "I asked Missus Holdo to leave them on the middle shelf of the closet in the upstairs hallway, just outside the bathroom. There should be enough curtains for all the windows, and a blanket, too."

After lunch - prepared by Mrs Holdo, who was making one of her biweekly visits - Finn went upstairs to get the linens while Kylo and Rey went out to the workshop to attend to some important task. He was surprised to find Mrs Holdo on her knees on the floor of the hallway, uncomfortably close to the loose board that covered the box; the box which, Finn was fairly certain, was still under the chest of drawers in his bedroom. How had he forgotten about the box? He cursed himself, made a mental note to check on it at the first available opportunity, and moved to help Mrs Holdo stand. She was weeping.

"Are you injured, Missus Holdo?" He asked, helping her to her feet.

"I'm fine," she replied, accepting his offered handkerchief with a watery smile. "Just a little trip."

"But you're crying. Are you sure you are well?"

She laughed at his question. "I'm sure you haven't heard, but the vicar died the other night, and the whole village is in mourning. Bit of a shock, you know."

Finn's limbs had gone cold. "I'm so sorry to hear that," he said.

"It happened during the big storm earlier this week. He went out in it, in the middle of the night, and drowned in a puddle in his own front garden."

Finn could imagine very easily how such a thing might have happened. "How very strange."

"Yes," she replied, and handed the damp handkerchief back to him. "Very strange."

Finn shook his head to clear it. "I have something else to discuss, if you don't mind."

The expression on her face indicated some trepidation, but she nodded.

"I want to ask you about the ghosts."

Mrs Holdo laughed, and he thought relief flitted across her face. "I apologize," she said, "I thought you might ask, eventually. I wondered if you saw them, on the first day, but it’s not exactly something you ask about unless you’re sure."

“Indeed,” Finn nodded. “Rey mentioned that you have said you believe the house is haunted, so I was comfortable mentioning it to you.”

Mrs Holdo followed him on his path to the linen closet. “How do you perceive them?” She inquired. “I ask because others have known they were here, but they don’t appear the same way to everyone.” She folded her arms and peered into his face as he lifted the pile of fabric out of the closet.

“I see them,” he said slowly, “as they were in life, for the most part. There is one that appears to me only as a mist. And… I feel them.”

“So you can distinguish between them,” she nodded. “I can’t. I mostly know they’re there, but I don’t really see them. But I feel them, as you do… sadness, anger, love, all together.”

Finn nodded. “Yes, all of those. And more. But Missus Holdo, do you know why?”

“Why what?”

“Why they are ghosts. Not all of the dead, that I know of, are ghosts. I’ve not seen Sir Andor, or Jyn Skywalker, or even Luke.”

Mrs Holdo’s face drew together into a pensive look. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I’ve always supposed that the spirits that stay have unfinished business, or perhaps penance to serve.” She shrugged. “And the crystals have something to do with it, I’m sure. I believe they strengthen them.”

Finn nodded. He was sure of that as well.

“Speaking of the crystals,” she continued, “how are you feeling? I remember they were bothering you quite a bit on your first day.

Finn had forgotten about the crystals, but he paused, and listened, and there it was - the electricity, the buzz. It was a part of him, now.

“The crystals are fine, thank you.”

She smiled, and moved slowly towards the stairs. “I have a few things to do in the kitchen before I leave for the day. Will you come downstairs?”

Finn shook his head and glanced at the bathroom door. “I have something I need to do before I go back outside. Thank you.”

Mrs Holdo stepped down the stairs, but Finn did not go to the bathroom. Instead, he went into the bedroom he shared with Rey - quickly, quietly - and tiptoed to the corner to where the box was hidden far under the chest of drawers.

Only it wasn’t there. Finn’s heart caught in his throat, and after a brief moment of absolute panic - Kylo had found it, he knew that Finn knew - he stopped to consider what he had just seen in the hallway: Mrs Holdo, on her knees, weeping, very close to the hidden space under the floor. She was crying over the unexpected death of Father Turnbull. If she knew - about the other murders, and Kylo’s responsibility for them - perhaps she was looking for proof. Proof would be in the box. But the box hadn’t been there, because Finn had taken it away.

Before the murder.

A memory, or something like one, was working its way through Finn’s brain. A memory, but not a memory of something real; a memory of a dream. Of himself, reading letters that Rey had written to her brother in childhood. Of Kylo Ren, wild and dripping rainwater, seeking his sister in the middle of the night. And himself again, replacing the box in the fear that Kylo would discover that he had been sneaking. Memory of his anxiety, about what might happen to him if Kylo discovered the truth.

Was it a dream? There had been a storm. Perhaps it had awakened him, and he had done those things, but he had forgotten them? Because of the tea, or the crystals. Or because he willed himself to do so.

There was another memory, one which was definitely a dream, because the alternative was too much for him to bear. Dreams, then. Finn set these thoughts aside, for there were urgent matters to attend to.

The explanation was simple. Holdo had sneaked into the room and found the box under the chest of drawers, and had replaced it in its hiding place.

Back out in the hallway, Finn dumped the linens on the ground and lifted up the floorboard. There was nothing under it; the space was empty. His mind reeled again. Where was the box?

Perhaps Kylo had found it after all, and had taken it up to his workshop, in the attic. Finn reclaimed the sheets, and climbed up to Kylo’s cabinet to investigate.

The room was dim, and without the presence of Kylo and the bunny, it was absolutely silent. Dust motes floated through the window at his end of the room, shifting through the moving air as he moved quickly to the end of the room where Kylo kept his workshop. It was cluttered but organized, and the box was not visible. It could be behind any door in the long row of shelves down the middle of the room, but Finn simply didn’t have time to go exploring; he needed to get back to the cottage before Kylo did. He would return, if he could, to look further. It had to be somewhere.

He hurried back towards the stairs, but paused when he reached the end of the cabinet where the screen dominated, covered with drawings and paintings of animals and plants. There was one more thing Finn needed to do, as long as he was here alone.

He stretched out something inside of him, unsure of what exactly he was doing and how, and reached for the spirit of Millicent Ren. He thought she must be there, although he couldn’t feel her yet. He walked to the screen, where Kylo had pinned up both her art and his own, and shifted the pile of textiles onto his left arm. With his free hand, he touched the corner of one of her watercolors that he hadn’t had a chance to examine before. It showed a rock face, carpeted with short-stemmed purple flowers with small, pointed leaves. The plants looked soft, and he wished he could reach into the painting and press his palm against them. He imagined how they might smell, out in the sunshine, in the breeze, and wondered if he would get to see and touch them himself.

“It’s a beautiful painting,” Finn spoke into the room, and there it was - the waves of pride, and of love. “You are right to be proud of it.”

He turned to the window, and the shifting dust formed itself into the shape of a person; a woman. As with the other ghosts, her position was uncertain; she seemed to be in several places at once. But even so, he was able to make her out well enough. She was shorter and rounder than Finn had expected her to be, but despite her grey pallor and unsmiling face she was very pleasant to behold. Finn thought of her artwork, and the things that Kylo had said about her, and wished he could have known her in life.

“Missus Ren,” he said to the spirit, “I am Mister Felix Lacoste. I apologize for not introducing myself before, but I did not realize you were here, and since then I have not had the opportunity. I have married Miss Skywalker - Rey - and I live here now.”

The spirit of Millie Ren fluttered briefly, and a bright, posh voice sounded in his head: Rey… his sister.

“Yes,” Finn said. “My wife is Kylo Ren’s sister.”

My sister… sounded the voice of the ghost. Ben.

Finn had decided after the second or third time he’d attempted to speak with the spirits that their words were not for him, but that they were some kind of echoes of the past - much as the spirits themselves seemed to exist as manifested memories of themselves rather than as rational beings. But there was something about the way the spirit of Millie sounded Ben’s name that touched Finn’s heart.

“Yes,” Finn agreed, “his name is Ben. But I don’t call him that. Rey asked me not to, and I respect her wishes.”

Rey… the spirit voiced again, sister… And then she was gone, and Finn made his way back out to the cottage.

Chapter Text

The cottage was empty when Finn returned. He supposed Kylo was still helping Rey with whatever task she had been so desperate for his assistance with after lunch, and he couldn’t help but feel relieved to be alone for the time being. He dropped the pile of linens on one of the wooden chairs and paced the room, taking a moment to begin to process everything that had just occurred in the house, but he had to stop himself when he felt panic starting to creep in. Kylo and Rey could come in at any moment, and he needed to regain control of himself before they had an opportunity to notice that something was amiss. He needed to focus on the immediate tasks at hand, so he got to work hanging up the curtains.

It was a small space, so there were only a few windows. One was in the front room, next to the door, which faced the slope that led up to the copse of trees; one in the very small bedroom; the single bed and the table next to it left just enough room to maneuver to the wardrobe and the window at the side. The bathroom had a narrow window, high up on the wall; Finn supposed this was an effort to maintain privacy, although privacy from whom, all the way out here, he wasn’t sure. Finally, there was a room at the back, more like a hallway, with some storage and a washing-up tub; it had a larger window that faced a small garden. There was a separate kitchen building on the other side of the garden, but there were no curtains for that. Rey had said that Mr Canady would join them at the house for meals, so they hadn’t cleaned it beyond a cursory wipe down. If the man wanted to use it to cook, he could clean it up himself.

Finn realized that he’d put the wrong curtain in the front window and had taken it down. He was standing in the corner of the room, tugging the curtain off the rod when Kylo banged through the front door. Finn had been concentrating on his work and hadn’t seen Kylo’s approach, and when the man blew in, coming in along with a gust of cold air, Finn yelled in surprise and dropped both rod and curtain. They fell to the wooden floor with a clatter.

He opened his mouth to scold Kylo for entering the cottage so abruptly, but before he could get out a single syllable Kylo slammed the door, making the cottage shake, then picked up the chair on which the sheets were innocently resting and hurled it across the room. It crashed against the wall and shattered to pieces, reopening a hole in the wall that they had fixed just that morning. The sheets unfolded and fluttered to the floor, one of them coming to rest in the pail of dirty water that they had used to wash the windows. Without a pause he loped across the room to where Finn stood, growling like an animal, and before he could even think, Kylo was looming over him.

Finn was caged. He had forgotten how large and imposing Kylo could be; several inches taller than himself, and so very broad and muscular. Kylo’s hands pressed against the walls on either side of Finn’s head, his arms and legs acting as a physical enclosure that crowded Finn into the corner in a way he found exceedingly uncomfortable. Kylo’s body blocked the room and all Finn could see was his massive frame; his torso heaving with harsh breaths, as though he’d run all the way from the workshop.

His shirt was loose; the buttons were unfastened down to his midsection, and his flushed skin peeked through, smooth and sheened with sweat despite the chilly air outside. His hair was loose, too, ribbon nowhere to be seen. His eyes were dark, and wild; and his lips parted to reveal his teeth, gritted together, his jaw clenched tight. It was impossible for Finn not to notice that Kylo was also physically excited; his cock was hard and visibly strained in the confines of his trousers. They were so close; Finn could reach out and touch it, if he wanted to. He wondered what Kylo would do if he tried.

Kylo's entire body was tense, like a tiger on the hunt, as though he might pounce at any moment. He was big, and Finn knew that he was dangerous - the contents of the missing box immediately flew through Finn’s thoughts - but in this moment he was also beautiful. His appearance didn't frighten Finn as it probably should; it excited him instead, despite his discomfort at being physically confined. Mon petit fauve, his mind offered. Mon Adonis.

Finn's head swam, overwhelmed by the presence of this enormous, angry man. A man who had killed many people. Mon tueur. That thought excited Finn, too; he couldn’t bring himself to think that Kylo would ever hurt him, but still he did not want to examine it too closely. In any case, he didn't get a chance to, because Kylo took a step closer, only inches away now, and Finn responded automatically.

He drew himself to his full height and held his chin up. He didn't shout, but he didn't have to; he knew that tone of voice mattered so much more than volume. His face less than an inch away from Kylo's, he declared, “This. Is. Unacceptable.”

The change in Kylo's demeanor was frighteningly instantaneous. He gasped, as though he’d been slapped, and moisture immediately began to form in his eyes. He snatched his hands back to his chest and then crumpled on the floor at Finn’s feet, his tears dripping into random patterns on the floor.

“I’m sorry,” Kylo whimpered, before Finn could comprehend what exactly had just happened. “I’m sorry,” he said again, louder, and sat on his heels, hands on his knees, and lowered his head. “I apologize, sir.”

Sir got Finn’s attention. Sir Kylo Ren, baronet of Mustafar, had never called Felix Lacoste sir, even in jest, and he had no reason to. Finn’s blood ran cold.

“Sir,” Kylo said again as he raised himself up on his knees, eyes still aimed at the floor. “I know you are disappointed in me. I know how to improve the situation.” His voice was flat, as though he was reading from a script, and anger and horror flooded Finn’s head in equal measure. This was disturbingly familiar.

Kylo began to reach his hands towards the front of Finn’s trousers, but Finn shouted, “NO!” and grabbed his wrists, holding them tightly. Kylo sobbed and tried to pull away, but Finn refused to let go. Instead, he crouched on the ground with him and pulled him into his arms. There was a bit of a struggle, but when Kylo realized that Finn wasn’t going to release him he relaxed, a heavy, hot, weeping heap of a man gripped awkwardly in Finn’s lap.

They sat like that for what felt like hours. Finn rocked Kylo in his arms, and Kylo sobbed, each of them holding the other. Eventually Finn’s legs fell asleep and his back became sore, and while he continued to do the best he could to soothe him, still Kylo kept crying. The man couldn’t seem to calm down and Finn felt tears prickling in his own eyes.

“Kylo,” Finn said softly, his nose buried in the other man’s hair, “Kylo, I need you to calm down. I want to talk to you.”

There was a muffled reply that Finn couldn’t discern.

“What was that? Say it again.”

“Ben,” he said through his tears, audibly this time. “Call me Ben. I hate it when you call me that other name.”

“I’m sorry,” Finn said, giving him an apologetic squeeze. “That’s what Rey told me to call you.”

“Yes, that makes sense,” Ben mumbled, rubbing the tears on his cheeks off against Finn’s chest, moistening his shirt. “Most people… yes. But not you. Please? Call me by my name.”

“Yes,” Finn whispered, his nose back in Ben’s hair. “I will.”

Ben’s hair was soft and smelled like sweat and wind and the barest hint of his sandalwood soap, and Finn was enjoying the situation a bit too much, considering that Ben was still crying.

“Ben. Can you calm down?”

The man shook his head, and sobbed again. “I need,” he whimpered, “I need…”

“Whatever you need, Ben. Tell me what you need.” Finn said this, knowing what it might be that Ben needed to do to calm himself; he'd seen it before, in the clearing in the woods. He wasn't sure how he should feel about it, but Ben wouldn't stop crying and the things that Finn was doing weren't helping.

Finn’s instincts were correct. Ben turned, slightly slumped, so his back was leaning against Finn’s chest, his head propped against his shoulder, legs stretched out before him. Finn took the opportunity to wrap his left arm around Ben, and to unfold his own legs and set them on either side of the other man; he moaned as his toes tingled and made themselves known. Without a word, Ben released the fastenings of his trousers and pushed them and his drawers down his hips, releasing his cock, which was hard and purple and weeping at the tip. He sighed as he gripped it with his left hand and began to work the foreskin up and down his shaft, his bandaged right hand resting uselessly on his thigh. Finn tentatively lifted Ben’s right arm, bending it to angle his healing fingers to his lips, where he kissed the bandaged digits as Ben pleasured himself and moaned.

“Does that help?” Finn breathed. “Does it calm you?”

“Yes,” Ben sighed, his body beginning to tense and push back against Finn’s. “Feels good. Better.”

“Is your hand fine? I was worried about it, when you threw the chair.”

Ben waited a few strokes before he answered. “Hand’s fine. No worse.”

“That’s good. I worry about you, Ben.”

Ben sobbed, but it was a sob of pleasure; his tears had finally dried. Finn allowed Ben to pull their clasped hands down to his torso, and Ben angled his head so he could look up at Finn.

“Please,” he said, his whisper so hushed it was almost inaudible. His eyes searched Finn’s face, flitting between his eyes, to his mouth, back to his eyes again. “Please look at me. Please help.”

“I will look at you, but are you sure you want my help?” Finn asked, stilling his hand. “Only if you’re sure.”

Ben nodded, and let go of his cock at the same time he released Finn's hand. Slowly, hesitantly, Finn wrapped his fingers around Ben's cock, and tugged his foreskin up so it enrobed the head fully. Ben placed his hand back over Finn’s, then closed his eyes and smiled, a blissful smile, and sighed in a way that Finn found delightful. It encouraged him, and he began to move his hand, mirroring the motions that Ben had made himself, Ben’s own hand following rather than guiding him.

Finn had imagined touching Ben, touching his cock, but the experience was better than anything his brain could have invented. It was, he thought, perfect; thick and long with a very slight curve, and a pronounced head that slipped into the foreskin at every upward stroke and then out again, as though it was saying hello. It was a bit like playing coucou with a baby, and Finn laughed at the association. Ben, his eyes open again and gazing up at Finn, laughed along with him.

Finn imagined Rey's hands with theirs, how small hers would be in comparison with Ben's cock; he wondered if she could even fully wrap her hand around it. He imagined different ways that Ben could fuck Rey with this cock; into her hands; her mouth; her cunt, slick and hot; her perfect, tight ass. He imagined how Rey could fuck herself on it, riding him like a queen on her mount; how it would look moving in and out of her, the noises she would make when she came on it. Finn considered these things, and more, and shuddered.

Finn watched Ben watching him, and he enjoyed the expressions that flitted across the other man’s face; a corner of the mouth turned up here, lips pulled together, then apart there, eyes fluttering closed, then open and gazing right at him, then closed again. And the noises he made, the noises, as feral and delicate as any sound his sister had made in the same situation.

All good things must come to an end, and this experience was no exception. Ben encouraged Finn to speed up his strokes and Finn tightened the hold of his left arm, clasping him soundly, hoping he felt safe and secure. Ben's coil was wound tightly, Finn could feel it in his body and hear it in the whines and moans that rose out of his throat unbidden. As Finn listened, he realized that he was making noises, too; praising Ben, offering words of encouragement, and even soft sounds of his own as he took pleasure in these moments. Finn thought about Rey again, and imagined she was with them, and he thought he heard Ben whisper her name, and maybe he said it himself, too. He decided that was fine.

Ben cried out when he came, his eyes staring into Finn's soul as he shouted into the room, and his spend arced up in two long spurts, dousing Finn’s arm as well as most of Ben’s clothing.

Finn laughed, and released Ben’s cock so he could wrap both arms around him, hugging him from behind, his lips against the other man’s temple, but Ben was not so pleased.

“Ugh,” he groaned in revulsion. “What a mess. I hate it. Disgusting.” He used his good fingers to scoop up fingerfuls of the stuff and made to fling it away before Finn grabbed his wrist.

“Don’t do that,” Finn admonished him. “We’ll use a handkerchief, and we can rinse your shirt in the washing tub at the back. Yes?”

Ben nodded, and sat still while Finn used his plain handkerchief to wipe up the sticky fluid. When they were more or less clean, Ben refastened his trousers and pulled off his shirt, and the men walked together to the back hallway to finish washing up.

Finn insisted on rinsing the shirt himself, and the handkerchief along with it, so Ben wouldn’t get his bandages wet. Ben leaned against the wall next to him and watched. The sexual release had definitely calmed him; it was difficult to believe that this man was the same one who had barged into the cottage earlier. Ben saw Finn watching him, and his cheeks pinked.

“I am sorry,” he said softly, his good hand clenching and unclenching nervously at his side. “R… my sister and I had an argument, and sometimes I get like that.” His face turned more red and he shifted his gaze out the window. “I wanted to run to the woods, but I remembered that you told me not to so I came here instead.”

Finn thrilled at Ben’s admission, and quickly replied, “That was the right thing to do, Ben, thank you. When that happens and you get upset, I would much rather you be with me than running around outside. I was worried the other day, that you could injure yourself, and we might not be able to find you. It can be dangerous. Yes?”

Ben nodded his head, and slumped back against the wall in relief.

“What was your argument? Will you be all right?”

“It was nothing,” Ben shrugged, “nothing important.” That was all he would say and Finn knew not to press.

“In Paris,” Finn said after a few moments, squeezing at the large damp spot on the front of Ben’s shirt, “I have a friend named Colette.”

He paused, and Ben nodded to indicate he was listening.

"She was very young when we met, thirteen years old maybe, perhaps a year older."

He paused again. He hated this memory. But he thought it might be helpful to share, so he swallowed his discomfort and continued.

"You are thinking, perhaps, that Colette was the daughter of a friend, or a waitress at a café.”

Ben nodded.

“She was neither of those things. She was a whore. Is. Is a whore.”

Finn waited for Ben’s surprise, but it didn’t arrive. The other man just stared at him. He looked a bit sad.

“She had been poorly treated, her whole life. By the time I met her things were looking better; she was living with my friend Phasma, who has a commune where the women live together and take care of each other.”

“That sounds nice,” Ben said, eyes still on Finn.

“It is,” Finn insisted. “They would invite me into their common room on some evenings, to eat and drink a bit, tell stories, that kind of thing. Anyway, I knew they had a new girl who had come to live with them, and I’d met her earlier, at a, uh,” he glanced back up at Ben, who had leaned his head against the wall and was now smirking at him, just slightly. Finn’s face turned very hot, very suddenly, and he returned his attention to the shirt, which didn’t need it. “Club,” he finished, weakly.

“You and your Parisian clubs,” Ben said, not unkindly, and Finn couldn’t help but smile.

“We laugh, but this is not an amusing anecdote. When I first saw her she was having a conversation with an unpleasant man. He touched her, I stepped between them. He had a lot of bluster, but he left her alone afterwards, and she was thankful.”

Ben’s expression turned dark, his lips pressed together hard.

“On this particular evening after she moved in, at the house, I was resting on one of the settees, and she decided to show me her appreciation. My eyes were closed, and I was… sprawled, I suppose.” His face was so hot, the memory like a brand of embarrassment and shame. “She tried to unfasten my trousers,” he quickly continued, “and I shouted at her, pushed her away. I was very angry. I don’t like to be touched, and she was just a child.”

“I understand,” Ben said softly.

“She was upset. It was, I found out later, a thing she had been trained to do years before. I had to leave, and she wouldn’t speak to me for a long time. We’re very good friends now, but it took a while to fix that.”

Ben’s arm snaked around Finn’s shoulder, and he leaned into him. “I’m sorry that happened. All of it.”

“So am I, Ben. But I’m telling you that story because it reminded me of what happened earlier. I want you to know that I recognized it, how you reacted to me. And I want you to tell me what happened to you, Ben, if you will. I want to know.”

“No you don’t,” the other man quietly replied, gazing into his eyes. "If you know what happened to me, what was done to me, it's all you'll think of. Every time you look at me. I don't want your pity, brother."

"What do you want?"

Finn asked the question not knowing if he wanted the answer. He thought he knew what Ben would say, even as he hoped he wouldn't say it. His mind went blank when Ben - his friend, his wife's brother - leaned closer, and whispered, as though imparting to him his heart's greatest secret.

"I want you to kiss me."

Ben's expression was one of hopeful unease. Finn understood why - admitting to your sister's husband that you want him to kiss you wasn't something one did every day.

Outside the window, the sun, which had been overcast by clouds all day, suddenly broke through and a bright band of light illuminated Ben's face much as it had the first time Finn had seen him, in the lobby of the Cotton Exchange Building, just six weeks or so earlier. Finn had thought Ben beautiful then, and he was even more beautiful now; now that Finn understood the complicated man that lay beneath the placid, emotionless exterior that he showed to the world.

It was a bad idea. It was a terrible idea. It was one of the worst ideas Finn had had in his life, and he'd had his share of very bad ideas indeed. But, at the moment, it seemed like the thing to do. So he leaned forward, without a word, and pressed his lips against Ben's. Ben sighed, and wrapped his arms around Finn's torso, pulling him closer, as Finn's hands snaked their way into the other man’s tresses. Ben’s lips were soft and pliable, and when he opened his mouth, hesitantly at first, but with more certainty as they continued kissing, Finn found that Ben’s mouth reminded him of Rey’s; sweet and luscious, hot and wet. And he wanted all of it.

It was a few minutes before either of them pulled away.

Chapter Text

Once they disentangled themselves, Finn forced himself to ignore Ben’s plaintive glances and tried to get right back to business.

“We need to clean up the mess, Ben,” Finn said matter-of-factly as he stepped around the other man, took him by his good hand, and drew him along, back down the short hallway and into the front room. “You take the chair, and I’ll patch the wall, and then we can make the bed and put up the curtains. Yes?”

Ben didn’t look happy, in fact he pouted, and Finn had to stifle a laugh, but he did as he was told. Finn was pleased with Ben’s obedience; he stroked Ben’s arm as he walked past him, the remains of the poor chair piled in his embrace, and that made both of them smile. Ben dumped the broken chair outside, next to the kitchen, then made the bed as Finn hastily finished re-patching the hole in the wall.

They worked together to hang all the curtains, leaving the one in the front room for last. Ben caught a glimpse of Rey making her way down the hill with the cat dancing around her ankles through the front window as they finished hanging the curtain. He turned to Finn and grabbed his arm.

"Don't tell my sister," he whispered, his fingers clenched so hard around Finn's arm that it hurt, his eyes large and serious. "Don't tell her what we did. She'll kill us both and make it look like an accident."

Finn wrenched his arm away and laughed nervously. Of all the people to be worried about killing him...

"Don't be so dramatic, Ben. She'd be upset, but she wouldn't hurt us. Anyway, I wasn't planning to say anything to her. It was just a kiss. Yes?"

Finn had just enough time to catch the injured expression that flitted across Ben's face before there was a knock on the door, and Finn opened it to allow Rey to enter. She was carrying the wooden box with the baby bunny inside; the animal was making enough noise that they could hear it as soon as she came in. The cat darted past her feet and straight into the hallway, and Finn expected her to curse or grumble, but she only sighed good-naturedly. Whatever the argument was she’d had with Ben, she was obviously feeling better about it, too.

“The bunny needs food,” she said, scooting by both of them and setting the box on the table. “It’s been making these noises for a while, and you were taking too long.” Ben reached in and pulled out the tiny animal, and its squeaking got louder without the walls of the box holding in the sound. He lifted it up to his lips, and the other two chuckled as he pressed his mouth against it with a loud smacking sound. Then he held it against his chest and walked right out the door, into the cold afternoon, bare from the waist up.

If Rey cared that her brother was shirtless she gave no indication; he followed him closely, the box in her hand. Finn ran to get his handkerchief and Ben’s shirt, which they’d left hanging damp in the back room, then followed them out and closed the door behind him. He sniffed the small square of fabric before tucking it back into his sleeve. He'd rinsed it well, but he was certain that he could still sense the essence of Ben's spend in it's damp scent, and the thought made him smile as he shrugged on his coat and followed them out the door.

According to the itinerary Mr Canady had included in his letter, he was to arrive in Kendal on the late afternoon train, and then hire a carriage to carry him the rest of the way. At half past five, Finn and Ben were in the kitchen, feeding the bunny its pipette of milk (on top of a handful of clover, pulled up by Rey in fistfuls on their walk back up to the house) while Rey boiled water for tea. Finn was surprised when the door from the garden opened and Mrs Holdo walked in; he hadn’t seen her since their conversation in the hallway just after lunch, and she wouldn’t normally return for another few days.

He greeted her, and she smiled nervously. As she removed her coat to hang it on the hook by the door he could see that she had done herself up quite nicely. She usually wore a plain dress, her hair loose in waves trimmed to her shoulders, but this evening her dress was more formal - dark blue velvet, several years out of style, but well-fitted - and her hair was pulled back into a bun. The style was simple, but when she turned to Rey he could see the pearls that held it in place. They were fine, and undoubtedly costly. A matching set of earrings and string of pearls around her neck completed the ensemble. Finn was impressed; she was beautiful, and he was ashamed that it had taken a pretty dress to make him see that.

“You look very fine this evening, Missus Holdo,” Finn said to her with an admiring smile. She answered his smile with a good-natured frown.

“Do you think so?” She held out her arms and looked down her body, as though she might have imagined her dress in a realistic daydream. “It’s been many years since I wore this dress, I’m surprised it still fits.”

“I do,” he replied.

“Has Mister Canady arrived?” She asked, and the pieces of the puzzle fit themselves together in Finn’s mind, and he understood why she was dressed so nicely and had showed up at the house again so unexpectedly. Finn was reminded of Cinderella, awaiting the arrival of her prince.

Rey, who was busying herself with the tea set, the mist of Leia coiling and uncoiling slowly around her shoulders as it had been since they returned to the house, ignored her completely.

“Not yet, I’m afraid,” Finn said, and they both watched as Ben set the bunny back in the box, where it hopped around a few times before flopping on its side.

“I believe his train was to arrive at Kendal at five o’clock, or thereabouts,” he continued, setting down the empty pipette. “So it will be another hour or so before he arrives.”

Mrs Holdo nodded at them and glanced around the room, eyes flitting from Ben - still without a shirt, which was now in the main room drying in front of the fire; apparently, she did not find his nakedness odd, nor worth mentioning - to Rey, to the door, the corner, the table, the bunny. After a minute of this, Mrs Holdo excused herself and walked out the main door of the kitchen, heading towards the front of the house as Rey continued to ignore her presence and keep noisily clattering about with bread and cheese and cups and saucers and hot tea.

As soon as she was out Rey scoffed audibly, and Ben responded with a loud shush. Finn glanced down at him, his fingers softly petting the small animal, which was now thoroughly asleep. His eyebrows were drawn together and the corners of his mouth pulled down in a frown.

Rey set the tray down roughly at Ben’s elbow, with a bang that was loud enough to cause the bunny to flinch in its sleep.

“Sister,” Ben said with a warning in his voice, and she paused, and stared down at the back of his head. He turned around, slowly, and stared right back at her, and Finn could feel the energy between them. It was palpable, in the air, and he could feel it inside him, like the buzzing of the crystals. There was a sudden burst of anger, that Finn thought belonged to the ghost of Kenobi and not to them, but it quickly passed. They communicated something, somehow, and after a moment Rey relaxed and so did Ben; he went back to the bunny, and Rey poured the tea.

They drank together in silence. Finn and Rey both watched Ben, and Ben watched the bunny. Finn wondered what Rey was thinking about. Did she think Ben looked beautiful, his expanses of pale skin, muscular, so strong but so gentle? Finn thought about what had happened earlier, how Ben felt in his arms, how he tasted, and he shifted in his seat.

Rey was beautiful too. She looked content, sipping her tea, her eyes on her brother, a fond smile gracing her lips. How long had it been since he’d tasted her? Her mouth, just this morning. He’d been so close to the best part of her and he’d been startled away from having her on his tongue. What if he hadn’t stopped, when Ben walked into the room? What if he’d kept going, put his mouth on her, made her cry in pleasure? Would Ben have stayed then? Would he have watched? Would he have helped?


It was Rey. She was gazing across Ben at him, a curious sort of expression on her face.

“Ah, sorry,” he said, then cleared his throat. “I had something on my mind.”

She nodded, but didn’t respond, and they both went back to watching Ben.

Not long after, Ben stood without warning and walked out of the main door of the kitchen, the mist of his mother trailing along behind him. Finn watched him go, then turned to look at Rey. She was chewing a piece of bread, her eyes on the still-swinging door.

“He’s gone to change,” Rey said through her mouthful of bread, without looking at him.

Finn glanced at the other door, the one that led directly to the main room. “But his shirt is in there. It should be dry by now.”

Rey grimaced, shoved the last crust in her mouth, and dusted the crumbs off her fingertips. After she chewed and swallowed, she answered. “He’ll be putting on his suit.”

Finn’s face grew hot. “His mask.”

“I suppose so,” she replied thoughtfully, then carefully got to her feet, and started to load the detritus of their small meal onto the tray. “I never thought of it like that.”

“I don’t like it,” Finn admitted, and Rey froze and shot him a sharp look. The heat across his cheeks drifted over to his ears.

“You don’t? Why not?” Her voice was mild, but Finn sensed something just underneath, something he couldn’t parse.

Finn sighed and looked down at his hands, and tried to articulate his feelings. “When he’s like that, he’s not himself, not really,” he began. “When he puts on that suit, and that face… it’s like he’s another person. And that’s how I thought he was, when we met. Do you remember?”

He looked up at her, still frozen and gazing down at him, a teacup in her hand, and she nodded.

“I’ll never forget meeting you,” she said softly, and Finn had a sudden vision of the first time he saw them, his wife and her brother, together in the lobby of the Cotton Exchange Building. They’d stood together, the two of them against the world; her, so strong and beautiful, and him, mysterious, brooding, and supporting of his sister. As they’d looked up at him the sun had struck Ben’s face, highlighting his unusual features and long, dark hair, and Rey had smiled, and Finn had been immediately drawn to them. Now he has kissed them both and tasted their tongues, felt Rey’s cunt so sweet and slick on his fingers, and Ben’s hair so, so soft, and Finn felt the blood rush from his face to his cock so quickly that spots came into his eyes.

“I’ll never forget meeting you, too,” Finn replied, adjusting himself under the table. He was losing track of the conversation. What had he been trying to say? He’d been talking about Ben’s mask. Kylo Ren.

“He asked me to call him Ben today.”

Rey unfroze, and gently placed the teacup on the tray, next to its partners.

“Oh?” Mild again, so mild.

“Yes. He was upset when he came in from the workshop, and I consoled him.”

Rey traced around the lip of the teacup with the end of her finger. “You did?”

“I did. He cried, and I held him. And when he calmed down, he asked me to call him Ben.”

“That’s good, I think,” she said, lifting the tray and carrying it the three steps back to the counter. He couldn’t tell if she was telling the truth or not.

“That’s not how he is, though. When he wears the mask.”

Rey nodded and sighed, and Finn realized he had slightly changed the conversation again. But it was where he wanted it now, so he kept going. “When he’s here, with us, he’s different. He’s himself, he’s… free.”

“He’s difficult,” Rey interjected, one hand gripping the edge of the counter while the other flew to her mouth, as though to hold in whatever was threatening to come out. It didn’t work. “He’s difficult, and wonderful, and sweet, caring, beautiful,” she paused to sob, and Finn was there to hold her. She smelled so good, and she was soft and sweet, and he had to remind himself that he was there for her comfort, and not for his own pleasure.

“He is all of those things,” Finn assented. “He is a wonderful person and I am very glad to have him as my brother.” That wasn’t the entire truth, but it was close enough, and it seemed to soothe Rey. She relaxed into him and laid her head on his shoulder.

“But it’s all him, Finn,” she continued, and pulled back so she could look him in the eyes. “The thing you call the mask? That’s Ben, too. He’s not two different people, not like Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde.”

“Jekyll and Hyde were the same person, though,” Finn teased, and Rey gave him a squeeze in retaliation.

“Be serious, husband, you understand what I mean.”

“You mean, I suppose,” he answered, nuzzling the top of her head, “that I should get used to it.”

Rey released him and took a step away, and busied herself with the dishes. “That’s what I mean. If you love Ben, you need to love his mask. He uses it to protect himself, which is what he’s doing now. He warmed up to you, didn’t he?”

“Yes, he did.”

She set another cup in the basin. “He’ll warm up to Mister Canady, eventually, I’m sure. We just need to be patient. I guarantee that if you try to rush him, nothing good will come of it.”

Finn sat back down on the bench and watched his wife start the process of washing the dishes, gathering hot water and soap and the rag she kept on a hook at the back of the sink.

"Why was he so upset this afternoon?" Finn asked her, wishing her back was not turned to him and that he could see her face. "What did you fight about? Ben refused to tell me."

The gentle splash of a teacup being lowered into the basin broke the silence before Rey spoke.

"I can hardly even remember now, it was a silly argument that got out of control," Rey answered. "He wanted something and I told him he couldn't have it."

Finn believed it; Ben could be demanding and he liked getting his way. He could imagine Ben getting very upset if Rey told him he couldn't have a special hutch for the rabbit, or whatever the issue had been.

At a quarter to seven, Holdo rushed to where they were all seated in the main room. Ben had returned wearing his suit, complete with the top hat, and he was sitting - stiff, still, and silent - on the edge of the armchair, gazing into the fire.

“I’ve seen a light,” she exclaimed, “turning at the end of the drive. It must be Mister Canady!”

The other three followed her out to the porch, to watch the carriage as it made its way up the drive and parked, finally, just in front of the house.

The man who stepped out of the carriage looked more like a gentleman than a mining engineer; he had clearly dressed in his Sunday best for his arrival. Under his black wool coat he wore a fine suit with a dark grey silk waistcoat, all slightly wrinkled from his travel, and a top hat was perched on his head. He was freshly shaved, and when he removed his hat in greeting Finn could tell his greying red hair had been trimmed recently, and was carefully styled.

Mr Canady was taller than Finn by a couple of inches, and thus stood at almost exactly the same height as Mrs Holdo. His face was worn and wrinkled, and when he first stepped down from the carriage his expression was quite serious, but he broke into a broad smile when Rey walked forward and held out her arms.

“Mister Canady,” she said, embracing him, “it is such a pleasure to see you again, after so many years.”

“Aye, Miss Skywalker - pardon me, Missus Lacoste. It is lovely to see you, as well. How you’ve grown!” He pronounced the name lah-cost-ay, a mispronunciation common amongst English speakers unfamiliar with French, but Rey gently corrected him.

“The name is pronounced la-cost, Mister Canady. Husband,” she said, turning to Finn, “this is Mister Moden Canady. Mister Canady, my husband, Mister Finn Lacoste, of New Orleans.”

Finn smiled and held out his hand, and Mr Canady took it warmly.

“Mister Lacoste, I was so pleased when I heard that my little Miss Skywalker had finally found a man and settled down. I hope you appreciate her.” His expression and voice were serious, and Finn found that he liked him, very much.

“I certainly do, Mister Canady. I am very lucky to have her.”

Mr Canady looked satisfied, and turned to face Ben. Ben’s expression was blank, making Finn’s stomach turn, but he kept in mind what Rey had told him earlier. Ben is here; here is Ben. Kylo Ren is just Ben. It made him feel a bit better.

“Brother, I am very pleased to introduce you to Mister Canady. Mister Canady, this is my brother, Sir Kylo Ren, the baronet of Mustafar.”

Mr Canady shook Ben’s hand solemnly. “Sir Ren, it is a pleasure to meet you, at long last. I know that your return happened under unfortunate circumstances, but I am sure that your sister has been very happy to have you back in Mustafar Hall.”

“Thank you, Mister Canady. Welcome to our home.” And that was all Ben said.

Finally, Mr Canady turned to Mrs Holdo.

“Amilyn,” he said, taking her hand and bringing her knuckles to his lips. “It is very lovely to see you again.” Mrs Holdo’s cheeks turned pink, and she greeted him in turn as Finn gave Ben an amused glance. Ben stared straight ahead and didn’t seem to notice, and Finn checked his disappointment.

Rey, unamused, cleared her throat. “We should get you to the cottage, Mister Canady, so you can get settled, and then we can have light refreshment. I’m sure you’re famished after your long trip.”

“That I am, Missus Lacoste,” he said, turning to pay the driver and then pick up his carpet bags. “I remember the cottage well, but I will follow your lead.”

“I’ll go inside and prepare the tea,” interjected Mrs Holdo, and she sent one last warm smile towards Mr Canady before skipping back into the house.

The other three trooped around the house, and made their way across the field and past the copse of trees to where the cottage sat still and lonely near the wall marking the outer edge of the property. Though perhaps not completely lonely.

“Hello!” Mr Canady exclaimed as they approached the building. “We seem to have a visitor!” He pointed to the front window, where a very unhappy looking ginger cat gazed at them from inside. The cat - it had followed Rey into the house and Finn had forgotten all about it. As they approached the cat stood and meowed, silent through the glass, but Finn could imagine the noise it was making. Mr Canady howled with laughter, and Ben mumbled, “poor kitty”; the first sign of life he’d shown since putting on that damn suit. When Rey unlocked and opened the door, the cat bolted outside, but instead of heading up to the trees or out into the field, it made a beeline for the new man.

“Always looking to make new friends, aren’t you?” Ben scolded the cat, seeming to forget himself as Mr Canady bent down to give it a good scratch behind its ears. Finn’s heart warmed at the sight of Ben, crouching with the cat alongside Mr Canady.

“Oh yes, that’s a good kitty, aren’t you a good cat?” The cat purred and rubbed against the new man’s legs, depositing a layer of white and orange hair around the cuffs, but he didn’t seem to mind.

“He’s a good cat if he didn’t make a mess while he was in there,” Rey said, holding the door open so they could all go inside. The front room was crowded with everyone there, but thankfully there was no scent of cat, and the space was cozy and warm with the low fire. Ben set a couple of logs on from the pile in the corner they’d made earlier in the day, and Rey lit the gas lamp on the table to provide a little more light.

“Yes yes, this is very fine, thank you,” Mr Canady said, nodding his head and glancing around the room.

“There’s a small bathroom in the hallway, with a toilet,” Rey said, pointing, “and the bedroom.”

Mr Canady set down the bags and rubbed his hands together. “You mentioned refreshments?”

“Yes,” Rey replied. “Up at the house.”

“I would like a few minutes to freshen up, if you don’t mind, and then I’ll meet you up there. No need to wait for me.”

The other three left him in the cottage and slowly made their way over the dark field towards the house. Finn felt a bit better, not being able to see Ben in his Kylo Ren suit, and he felt worse for not being able to see Rey. But he took the obscurity of silence and darkness as an opportunity to ask a question he had wanted to ask for almost as long as he had been in residence at Mustafar Hall.

“Wife,” he asked, watching his feet to avoid slipping through the cold grass, damp with dew. “Why do you dislike Missus Holdo so intensely?”

The silence was deafening, and it overwhelmed the sound of their footsteps and any noises that might have been made by the nature that surrounded them. Finn's ears rang, and the deep electric buzz of the crystals hummed in his bones.

Her answer finally came, through a voice tight with anger.

“I told you that my father was away when Uncle Luke took Ben. Do you remember?”

Finn did remember. She had told him that story on the steamer, after he had first showed her his ropes, when she had climbed over the chair and tried to escape the room on her hands and knees. He’d held her, and she’d wept, and relayed the story of how Luke had locked her in the attic and carried Ben away, trussed like an animal, because their father was away visiting a friend.

Finn’s limbs went cold with the realization.

“Your father was with Holdo.”

Finn expected Rey to cry, but perhaps she had already cried enough, or her emotions were beyond it. She walked, and spoke, and Ben stepped silently beside her.

“It was only days after Mother died. I was very small so there is a lot I don’t remember, but I remember that Father was sad, and Uncle was angry, and Missus Holdo was here a lot, helping with the house, watching me and Ben.”

“She did,” Ben said, a low quiet rumble. “She was very helpful. She held me when I cried.”

I held you when you cried,” Rey snapped, and Ben snapped right back.

“You were small, and you cried too.”

They stomped beside each other, the house getting steadily closer, and Rey spoke more quickly.

“She was here, and Luke was mean and awful, and Father was sad, so at night he would walk over to Missus Holdo’s cottage for visits. He went every night for a week - I remember because his room was next to mine and he would make so much noise leaving. One night I opened my door and I saw him go downstairs by himself, and the next day Luke said something and Ben understood and he told me.”

Her voice grew harsher even as it quieted. She finished the story in a guttural whisper that sounded as though it hurt her throat.

“He went to her every night for a week, and so he was gone when Sn- … those men came and took Ben away, and then Ben was gone, and I was alone. And then... Do you want to know the worst part?”

She stopped short and turned to Finn, her eyes still dry but full of rage. Ben stood beside her, soft and silent.

“What was the worst part?” Finn asked, not knowing how the story could possibly get worse.

"The worst part is that the next night, he slept at home."

"He wasn't going to leave you alone, was he," Ben grumbled, and all the anger that had been building up in her since Finn asked the question suddenly bubbled over and she rounded on her brother and pushed him, hard.

"THAT IS NOT THE POINT." She shouted in a whisper, and Ben stood still as she pummeled his chest with her fists. "The point is that if he had bothered to stay home the night before, Luke wouldn't have taken you away from me."

"No," Ben insisted, and grasped her wrists so she could no longer hit him. "You know that's not true. Luke wanted me. They…” he paused, and then stammered, “they both did. They would have gotten me somehow. Father never would have been able to stop them."

Ben stated this with such certainty, and so much pain, Finn's heart hurt with it.

"Hello!" Mr Canady, cheerful, called from behind them. "Either you're slow or I'm quick, but in any case I'm about to catch up with you!"

Rey stepped away from her brother and shouted back with a voice full of warmth and good humor, "Mister Canady, we are slow! We'd just stopped to admire the sky." She gazed up towards the heavens, Finn and Ben following suit, and it was just clear enough to be believable.

"Aye," declared Mr Canady, taking the final few steps to join them and taking a look up himself. "It's a lovely night. Cold, but lovely."

Rey chuckled. "Is that a hint, Mister Canady? Would you like some tea?"

"I would love some tea!" He replied heartily, and the four of them walked together to the house.

Chapter Text

After refreshments in the kitchen, the five of them spent a couple of hours sitting in the main room, warm from the fire and glasses of brandy and Mr Canady’s laugh. The Welshman expounded on his love of the outdoors, and described the mountains and wilds of Wales. They sounded both very similar to, yet somehow alien from Mustafar and its environs, at least to Finn’s ears. Although Ben didn’t asked any questions, he seemed more relaxed around Mr Canady and was clearly engaged by his tales, leaning forward in his seat to ensure that he caught every word. He sat on the sofa between Finn and Rey, their knees occasionally touching - at times accidentally and other times on purpose - which certainly seemed to help. Rey was relaxed as well; towards the end of the evening she removed her shoes and tucked her feet under her, placing her head on her brother's shoulder and leaning against him. It was highly unusual behavior considering the company, but nobody cared.

Mrs Holdo and Mr Canady finally let themselves out the garden door, leaving the other three alone at last. They spent another quarter hour in the kitchen, where Rey prepared her tea while Finn and Ben fed the bunny, which had spent the evening napping in a box on the kitchen table, and they sat together in comfortable silence. When it was time to head upstairs to go to bed, Rey did not even suggest that Finn take his sleeping tea. The confirmation that she had heard his request and taken it to heart pleased him very much, and he loved her for it.

Ben walked up the stairs with them. When they reached the top he paused, said goodnight, and took three steps towards the east wing before he suddenly turned around and pulled his sister into a tight embrace.

They held each other, silent and still, and as Finn looked over the balcony into the dim hollow of the front hall, he felt inside himself for the buzzing of the crystals, and then stretched out again to the ghosts, the ti bon anges that he knew were nested in the darkest corners of the house. He could sense them all, as well as their locations. Leia, swimming around the siblings as they embraced behind him; Millie in the attic; Anakin Skywalker, down the hall by the stairwell to the attic; Padmé, his wife, very near to them in the east wing; and finally Colonel Ben Kenobi. Unlike the others he was hidden away but definitely present, his everlasting anger a bright pulse above all the other emotions the spirits emitted together, a great mingle of sadness and pride, shame and love - so much love - and then that bright red pulse of anger shooting through it like lightning through a thunderstorm.

Finn had no idea what he was doing or how he was doing it, but he enjoyed it, and he experimented with this new skill. He reached out deliberately to his wife, and her brother, still holding each other behind him, and touched them with his mind. But unlike the ghosts, who were only snapshots, Rey and Ben were alive; their emotions were alive too, and painful in their complexity. There was love, pain, sorrow, and more - so much more - and Finn quickly pulled away before he was completely overwhelmed.

Instead, he turned his attention to the house itself, parts of it hundreds of years old, and he found that its stones and timbers contained emotions, too. Not attached to events, or individual people, but gathered memories of thoughts and feelings and senses. He started at the attic - and said hello to Millie on his way through, although he doubted that she sensed him in return - and worked his way down into the basement, a place he’d never seen and didn’t care to. All along the way he could feel remnants of the people who had lived in the house, and glimpses into their histories; the Skywalkers and whoever had come before them, generations upon generations.

Finally, he reached the tower, the mysterious stone edifice on the corner of the house, so familiar now that he hardly noticed it. It felt different from the rest of the manor, perhaps because it was older - so much older, so many more memories - but there was something else. Something there… another ti bon ange? He stretched out for it but was interrupted by a hand on his arm and a sweet voice in his ear.

“Husband? Are you all right? Finn?” Rey gazed up at him, concerned, fresh tears on her cheeks, and he wiped them away with his thumb.

“I’m fine; just thinking. Are you all right?” He glanced around, but Ben was gone. “Has your brother gone to bed?”

“Yes. He said goodnight to you, but you didn’t respond.” Her eyes flitted around his face, as though making sure he was all in one piece. “Are you sure you’re fine?”

“Very sure,” he declared, passing his arm around her waist and pulling her to him. “Mon amour, let us go to bed.”

What I am suggesting, Felix, is that you spend less time worrying about yourself and your needs, and more time considering your wife.

Finn contemplated his spirit mother’s words as he pulled on his nightshirt and crawled between the covers, waiting for his wife to return from the bathroom. They were good words, and wise, and he’d taken them to heart today; he’d started the fire in the main room this morning, hadn’t he? And he’d also lit the fire in the bedroom, just minutes earlier, while Rey undressed. But he could do more; he knew he could do more.

Eventually, Rey came back into the room and Finn watched her as she gently pushed the door closed behind her, as she placed one more log on the fire, as she finally crawled under the covers next to him. Before she could say anything and without a word of his own he reached out and pulled her to him, shifting her body in the movement so her back came solidly against him, one of his arms under her head like a pillow, the other wrapped around her torso; he hoped she would let him hold her for a while. She’d set her hair in a messy braid that was pressed between them, and she smelled like soap and rosewater. Finn’s heart leapt when Rey wrapped her own arms around his, and interlaced the fingers of her left hand with his. The gold band pressed between his first and middle fingers, and if he could he would have reached out to touch the golden kyber crystal nestled in its embrace.

They lay like that, not speaking. The only sounds were the crackling fire, the creaks and groans of the house settling around them, and their own breathing. Finn was briefly dismayed when Rey extracted herself from his arms a few minutes later and wiggled to the other side of the bed, but then she reached back with her left hand and took his hand in hers. It was enough. He stroked the warm crystal with his thumb, and he was surprised to find that through it he could sense the crystals in the ground, and all of those that had been taken; the one that lay with his mother in her tomb, along with countless others, all around the world. He wondered how this was possible, and why; it was a strange sensation, and it made him feel very small.

Very soon Rey’s body went slack, her breaths steady and slow. Finn followed her into sleep soon after.

Four days would pass between that first night and the day that everything changed; four days that were marked by new routines, new people, and new experiences.

Finn and Rey had awakened early the next morning. She woke first, and he slipped into consciousness as the mattress shifted when she got out of bed to use the bathroom. When she returned a few minutes later Finn had lit the lamps and the fire, and was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed, the package from Paris, long forgotten, resting by his knee. His mind was so clear without the remnants of the sleeping tea in his system, and he intended to take advantage of this renewed state of mind; it was good to feel whole again. With the hum of the crystals in his bones, he was even better than whole.

"Oh dear!" Rey nervously eyed the package as she came back to the bed. "The gift from your whores. I'm almost afraid to open it." She sat across from him with her feet tucked under her, not next to him as he’d hoped, and he tried not to take it as a slight.

"I am sure we have nothing to worry about. But it's been days and they deserve a response, so we should do our best to give them a good one."

Rey grabbed the largest letter opener from the desk, and Finn carefully cut the string and pulled off the paper. Inside was a box made of cardboard, also tied with string, and Finn sliced through that as well, and finally opened the flaps of the box to expose the contents.

On top was a thick envelope, which contained a sheet of paper and several photographs. Rey looked through the photos as Finn translated the letter for her.

"My friends send greetings, and their best wishes for a happy marriage - that is very kind. They are doing well. Oh, Colette is getting married! That's wonderful, apparently there is a photograph of her with her betrothed?" He gestured to the prints, now spread out on the bed, about a dozen of them. "The small girl?"

Rey plucked out a likely candidate, a petite woman wearing a bright smile and a light-colored dress with a flowered print and plenty of lace, standing next to a much taller man - taller and older, in his mid-40s at least, but handsome enough and sporting an impressive handlebar mustache.

"That's her. Such a sweet and lovely girl. He is a businessman from Lyon, very good, a widower with children. Well, that should be interesting for her; his children can't be much younger than her and may very well be older. I worry about how they will feel about their father marrying a whore."

"You are very cynical, husband," Rey said quietly, plucking the photograph out of his fingers and returning it to its rightful place with the others. "I expect she has led a hard life. I choose to believe they love each other and will be very happy together."

"I prefer realistic to cynical, and I think you are being quite optimistic. That said, I hope you are right." He continued with the letter. "Everything else continues as usual. The house is in good repair… ah, they’ve hired a nanny for the children, that’s very good. Phasma and Katerina celebrated ten years together, goodness ten years, there should be a photo for that too…”

Rey picked it out before he’d finished speaking. Most of the photos had been taken out-of-doors, in some sort of park, and featured various combinations of women and children and a small dog who bounced around and blurred in the corners of some of the photos (the children did this as well). The one Rey handed him was taken under a tree, and featured two women, both wearing fine men’s suits. The woman on the left was very tall, with light-colored eyes and hair as well, cut above her shoulders, while the woman on the right was shorter, heavier, with black curly hair and dark almond-shaped eyes. Their arms were around each other, and they wore matching crowns and dazzling smiles. A small blur - either the dog or the smallest of Sophia’s children - streaked across the bottom of the screen. Finn couldn’t help but laugh.

“Ten years,” he said, passing the photo back to Rey, who gazed at it for a long moment before carefully putting it back in its place. “Imagine being with someone for ten years.”

Rey sighed and picked up another one of the photos. “Maybe someday,” she murmured wistfully. “Who is this?”

"Ah," he exclaimed, taking the photo and pulling it towards himself with a grin. The image was of a woman standing by herself on top of a boulder, above the photographer, staring down into the camera with a challenging sort of look. She was quite average-looking, in her early 20s, with medium-dark skin, and light-colored eyes that seemed to hold a wisdom beyond their years. Her hair was pulled back severely, and her dress was quite plain in comparison with the fine lace of Colette's, however there was something striking about her stature, and her gaze, and Finn felt warmth bloom in his chest as he looked at her image.

He had been holding the photo for a bit too long, and Rey was beginning to look annoyed. The warmth moved from his heart to his cheeks.

"This is Sophia," he said, handing it back. "The mother of the children; the one who sent the other letters, with the drawings."

Rey's lips pressed together and Finn remembered how she had refused to even look at those drawings, and how his brain had dreamed up similar ones in imagined letters from her to her brother. But as Rey examined the photo her expression shifted from annoyance to something more fond.

“I think I like her,” she slowly said. “She looks fearless.”

“She is. She was born in the French West Indies but came to Paris as a child, and not soon after her parents died, leaving her with an uncle, I think, who did not care much for her. She married young, but then her husband was killed in an accident and left her penniless, and her family refuses to help. Since then she’s done everything she can to take care of herself and her children.”

“I admire her,” Rey said quietly, setting the photo down and toying with its edge. “I don’t think I could do that.”

“You’ll never have to,” Finn answered confidently, as he started picking up the photos and depositing them back in the envelope. “If I die, you’ll inherit everything from me, and that would be enough to keep you and Ben very comfortable for the rest of your days - even should the mine never be productive again.”

“Which it will!” Rey declared. She added, earnestly, “I don’t want you to die, Finn. Please don’t die. Don’t leave me.”

Finn looked up from the envelope to find that Rey was gazing at him with a most serious expression on her face, tears just beginning to gather at the corners of her eyes. He set the envelope aside and climbed across the bed to hold her.

“I will never leave you,” he insisted, steady and sure. “I won’t. I’ll take care of you, no matter what.”

“Do you mean that? No matter what?”

Finn nodded. “I do.” Rey kissed his cheek, and they turned back to the package, which still had something - a very large something - waiting for them at the bottom of the box.

It was another box, plain and black, and Finn was dreadfully nervous about what it might contain. Rey seemed to sense his discomfort.

“What do you think it is?” she whispered.

“I am almost afraid to find out,” he answered, and lifted the top.

Inside was a folded sheet of writing paper, and a contraption that Finn recognized immediately, and he silently praised his friends for their kind thoughtfulness.

Rey reached into the box and pulled the thing out, and Finn claimed the paper.

“What is it?” She asked, holding it by the handle and turning it from side to side, so that the chrome ball at the end glinted in the firelight. A small metal rod was affixed to the side of the ball with a pair of screws, and Finn could see a drawstring bag made of gold cloth inside the box as well. He knew from experience that this bag would contain a leather cover made to soften the harsh tremor of the vibrator, plus a few soft attachments made to slide onto that rod. Three of the attachments would have come with the machine when it was purchased, and some number more would be Sophia’s clever inventions, which she sold on the side to bring in extra money for the womens’ household. Finn did not draw attention to the bag, and Rey was fascinated enough by the object itself that she didn’t notice it.

“This,” he said, “is an Arnold Massage Vibrator, imported all the way from your country. They are quite popular in Paris with women who need help relaxing after a long day at work.” Finn gently lifted the massager out of her hand and pressed the smooth side of the chrome against her shoulder. “There is a motor inside, and with electricity” - he pointed to the fabric cord that ran a few feet out of the end of the handle and ended in a screw plug - “the motor makes this part vibrate. It is a patent medicine, designed to be used on any part of your body, as a natural alternative to drugs.”

Rey visibly perked up at the description of their new tool. “Oh, that sounds lovely. An electric massage!” She rubbed her shoulder against the thing, and Finn pressed down harder. “Oh, that will feel so good, sometimes my shoulders and feet are so sore at the end of the day. What a marvellous contraption!”

Finn nodded sagely. “Indeed.”

Rey took the massager back and examined the cord, and the plug. “It’s unfortunate we don’t have electricity in the house, but I’m sure I have something in the workshop that we can use to make this run. What a lovely gift!” She glanced down at the paper, pressed between Finn’s fingers. “Is that a note?”

“Ah yes, it is,” he said as he opened it, trying to decide the best way to translate it for her. “Phasma wrote the letter, but the gift is from all of them. They send their greetings... and they say that they want you to know what a very lucky woman you are to have me for a husband.”

“They do not!” Rey exclaimed. “Show me!”

“They do! Right here.” He pointed to the neatly-written line as he read it: “Vous êtes une femme très chanceuse pour Monsieur Lacoste de vous avoir pris pour épouse.” This is what he said to his wife, but the letter had actually referred to him as ‘l’Manipulateur’, a nickname Finn didn’t especially feel like explaining just at that moment. Thankfully, Rey didn’t seem to notice the slight difference between what was on the page and the words that came out of his mouth. “And then they go on to say that this gift is especially for you, and they hope it will give you many years of relaxation, and that you should make me use it on you at any time if you see fit.”

He had translated the letter as accurately as he could without suggesting anything indecent, and Rey beamed. He was confident that she would figure out its true purpose soon enough, with or without his assistance, and he beamed right back.

She was placing the thing back in the case when she paused and turned to him with a confused expression.

"Husband," she said, "do you smell bacon?"

A few minutes later they were dressed, downstairs, and being greeted in the kitchen by a glowing Mr Canady. He had let himself in and helped himself to the contents of the larder, whipping up a fine breakfast of eggs and bacon, and something that smelled slightly fishy was currently frying up in a pan.

"Bore da!" He cried when they came into the room. "Good morning! I hope you don't mind if I use my mother tongue. Might get me killed in some company." He winked at them with a grin, setting a plate of thick-cut black bread on the table, amongst four places already set.

"Good morning, Mister Canady," Rey replied, looking slightly perturbed. "You are welcome to use any language you like; my husband often uses French phrases and I have been learning a bit. But excuse me, what are you doing?"

He glanced at her as he flipped another thing on the stove - it looked like a green patty and definitely smelled fishy. "Aye, I'm making breakfast, I hope you don't mind. Brought some specialties from home and they need to be eaten today. Please have a seat, this will be ready soon." He looked around nervously. "This is fine? I apologize if I have overstepped my bounds."

"Good morning, Mister Canady,” Finn said, taking his wife by the elbow and encouraging her to sit on the bench. “I will use yet another language, and wish you bonjou, which is Hatian Creole for ‘good morning’. This is quite wonderful, thank you. What is it you're cooking there?"

Mr Canady turned back to the stove and pulled the pan off the flame. "This here is cockles and laverbread, bara lawr, bought fresh yesterday and kept cool by ice on the train. I expect you’re familiar with cockles," he held up a shell from amongst a small pile of them littering the countertop, similar in shape to a clam shell and quite small, "but laverbread isn't proper bread, it’s oatmeal mixed with seaweed and fried in bacon fat." He caught the looks on their faces and laughed. "No worse than black pudding and maybe better. Come on."

He served the food, setting aside a plate for Ben in the warming oven. Rey sniffed at it doubtfully before taking her first bite, while Finn started eating before he had a chance to think about it. He found the meal unusual but tasty. The bread, which he’d thought was plain black, was actually full of sweet dried fruit; Mr Canady called it bara brith and set aside a slice to eat with his tea, and Finn did the same.

Ben - and the bunny in its box - joined them just as Rey was serving tea. He was dressed in his usual day clothes, clearly prepared for work; whether outside, in the workshop, or in the attic. His hair was pulled back in a ponytail, which Finn took as a sign that the mask was not yet completely off. That was fine; partially off was much better than fully on.

Finn helped his brother-in-law feed the bunny while Rey and Mr Canady looked on. Ben told the older man the story of how the animal was found, up on the peak, and he was suitably impressed.

"You're a lucky little cwningen indeed," he muttered to the squeaking fur when Ben stood up to get his plate and tea. "You couldn't have been found by a better man, I reckon."

Chapter Text

It was raining that morning, a dismal, gray, steady fall of water from the sky, and Finn dug into the storage room at the back of the kitchen, gathering several pails and buckets which the other men helped him set up under the hole in the roof in the Great Hall. It was still uncovered, and Finn swore he would patch it with a tarpaulin as soon as the weather cleared. Rather than going out to the peak, Ben said that he would take Finn to the attic, so they could work together with the cabinet. Rey had made a face at this suggestion, but Mr Canady encouraged her to let them go.

"Let's use the morning, you and I. You can show me the workshop, share your vision. We can spend some time thinking about it. Then, if we're ready to put them to work, we can bring them in later. Meanwhile, let’s let them have their fun, why don't we."

Rey had reluctantly agreed, and she and her new assistant headed out into the cold, wet morning while Ben and Finn went upstairs. Finn briefly stopped in the front hall to grab his overcoat; it was chilly in the attic, and there was no fire. Ben smiled fondly to see him wrapping himself up, but didn't tease him, which Finn appreciated.

Millie wasn't immediately present; Finn reached out and sensed her, and it made him feel good.

"Right," Ben said as he reached his work table. "Our task this morning is to recategorize my collection of weapons. These include family heirlooms," he gestured to the small axe that Finn had noticed before, "and others that I found in the basement or on the grounds."

There were about a half-dozen boxes on the corner of the table, and Ben opened them one by one and presented their contents to Finn. There was another small axe with a worn wooden handle, not as fine as the other; two daggers, one with an inscribed wooden handle, and the other tarnished and inlaid with jewels; and two other hand weapons that Finn didn't recognize, they looked medieval, and were very ugly. A long, thin box contained what appeared to be a walking stick, with an ivory handle and a dark wooden stick with rubber at the end. Ben tentatively lifted it, gripping the handle and stick in front of him and tugging them apart with a grunt. The handle pulled out with a smooth sound to reveal a rapier blade - quite sharp, by the look of it. Ben handed the sword to Finn for a better look. From up close, Finn could see that the handle of the stick was shaped like the head of a rabbit, or perhaps a hare, with long ears thrust out behind an oblong head; its eyes were dark glass beads. As Finn examined the object, tracing the delicate carving along the edge of the rabbit’s ear, a burst of anger cut through his reverie, harsh enough to make him gasp, and then was gone.

"This was Colonel Kenobi’s," Ben explained, and as Finn turned it the blade gleamed in the lamplight. "Our grandmother’s mother had matching sticks made for him and our great-grandfather, as a gift. Kenobi’s was put aside after his death and ended up in the basement, which is where I found it last year. Great-grandfather’s was inherited by Uncle Luke. He came at me with it the night he… the night he died."

Finn felt that he was close to something, standing on the edge of a precipice, of Kyber Peak itself, and he didn't want to misstep.

"Oh?" He asked, handing it back to Ben. Ben took it in his hand and turned towards the cot in the corner.

"Yes," Ben said, dreamily. "I was asleep here, and I awoke to find him standing over me. His sword was drawn, pointed at me." He shifted the blade so the point was directed at the pillow. "He said that Father had died, and that I was going to die, too."

The rain pattered the windows and the bunny, in its box on the far corner of the table, snuffled quietly. Finn couldn't breathe.

"His eyes were so dark. So dark." Ben whispered. He was somewhere else. He paused for a long moment, then dropped the sword to his side.

"And then he left," Ben murmured, “and I never saw him alive again.”

He thrust the blade back into its scabbard and laid it on the table, then ran his fingers through his hair, pulling out the ribbon in the process.

“I’m sorry,” Ben said. “It just reminded me.”

“It’s fine,” Finn insisted, stepping up beside him and laying his hand on Ben’s shoulder. “Are you all right?”

Ben didn’t answer. Instead, he turned to face Finn, then leaned down until their noses were almost touching. His breath, savory from their strange breakfast, was warm on Finn’s mouth, and Finn moved the last inch for a kiss.

Finn liked kissing Ben; his lips were soft; his tongue was sweet; and his body, which Finn embraced this time, around his torso, was large and warm. While they kissed, Ben moved his hands under Finn's heavy coat and ran his good hand up and down his back, and Finn liked that too.

When they finished kissing, Ben touched Finn’s face, but the only thing he said was, “time to get back to work.”

Work involved taking the ‘new’ weapons from their boxes, as well as the weapons that were already in the cabinet - another dozen, mostly daggers that had been collected by Colonel Kenobi - and making or updating the cards that accompanied the object.

“The ones on the shelf have cards with information that came from Kenobi,” Ben explained, as he laid the last dagger - a small thing with a very smooth handle, inlaid with a blue jewel, “but I want to double-check his identifications and also attempt to find information about these other ones.”

He stepped back to the cabinet and pulled a large book off one of the lower shelves.

“This is a fairly new book on the subject - a complete taxonomy of weapons dating to the middle ages.” He flipped it open, and it landed on a page with a drawing of a small axe in one corner, the rest of the page filled with descriptions. “For each of these we’ll look through the book, find the example that most closely resembles the one in my collection, and then add the information from the book to what we already have.”

Finn nodded. “That sounds easy enough.”

It was not easy. The author of the book was demanding, and Finn had difficulty at times telling the difference between one type of dagger and another. Ben did his best to help, explaining the shapes of the handles and blades; the different ways the two could be attached; the significance of the decoration; and a few hours later, after they had added information to two of the cards and had started working on the heirloom axe, Finn was starting to see the variations, too.

He was also getting a headache. Ben continued to recite dry description from the book, and Finn, who had been standing close to him all morning, leaned into his side.

“This work is making me feel tired and stupid,” he interrupted. “May we stop? I would like a rest, please.”

Ben ceased reading and looked down at him, into his eyes. They were standing very close again.

“As you wish,” he said, and closed the book, being careful to mark their place with one of the cards. He glanced at the corner of the room - at the cot, nestled under the dormer window. “Shall we lie down for a minute?”

Finn took Ben’s hand and led them to the cot. Lying together was a terrible idea, as the kissing had been before, but just as with the kissing, it felt like the thing to do, so Finn was going to do it anyway.

Finn shrugged off his coat and lay with his back to the wall, and Ben lay beside him. The cot was narrow and forced them together, arms around each other’s waists, legs entangled; they snuggled together under the coat, as though sharing a blanket. Heads together on the single pillow, they gazed into each other’s eyes, not speaking, until sleep took them both. The last thing that Finn perceived before losing consciousness was the soothing presence of Millie Ren.

A little while later, Finn awoke with a start to find Mr Canady standing over them. His hands were clenched in fists, his jaw tight. As Finn looked up at him, he could see the man’s nostrils flaring. His breathing was harsh, as though he’d been running, and his face was very red. He was clearly livid.

Ben was fast asleep, content and dear, and neither man seemed interested in waking him. Mr Canady stepped back as Finn took the time to extricate himself from Ben’s long limbs, and as soon as Finn was standing Canady stalked back through the cabinet, towards the stairs. Finn followed him, feeling like a schoolboy preparing to receive a lashing.

The ghost of Anakin was floating in his usual spot at the bottom of the stairs, and Mr Canady waved his hand as though pushing it away as he stumbled past it through the stairway door.

“Bah,” he said.

“You can see the ghosts?” Finn asked, and the other man wheeled around and backed Finn against the wall. Anakin’s ghost blinked away.

“I see them, yes,” he growled, poking his thick pointer finger into Finn’s chest, “but that’s not what we’re talking about now. What we’re talking about now is what you were doing up there, wrapped around Sir Ren like a lover.” Mr Canady’s anger brought out his accent, and Finn hoped he would be able to understand him. “Ach-y-fi! That is not the fun I was thinking of when I convinced Missus Lacoste to let you stay inside this morning. Does your wife know what you get up to with her brother when she’s not around?”

“Why did you come up?” Finn asked, instead of answering.

“I came up,” he answered slowly, “because your dear wife needs your help, out in the workshop. Remember the mine? It’s why we’re all here? And she needs her brother’s help too, and she asked me to come and get you. Thank goodness she asked me instead of coming herself.”

Finn remembered Ben’s insistence the day before that Rey would kill them if she knew they’d kissed, and he thought about the weapons laid out on the table in the attic, and even though he was sure Ben’s concern was exaggerated, he shivered.

“She doesn’t know,” Finn said quickly.

Rydych yn hurtyn,” the man snarled quietly, poking him again. “What the hell are you thinking, marrying this poor girl and then getting with her brother. It's despicable. And let’s not get started on him, grown man who can’t possibly survive on his own, entirely dependent on her. What do you think will happen, when she finds out?”

“It’s not like that!” Finn raised his voice, and Canady glanced meaningfully at the opening to the stairway, and then back at him, face like stone. “It’s not like that,” he repeated, more quietly. “We’re friends. We were tired, and the cot is small.”

“You’re friends. The cot is small." Mr Canady's voice was mocking. "All right,” he took a breath. “Have you kissed him?”

Finn didn’t reply, and his silence was all Mr Canady needed for confirmation.

“Ah, just friends indeed. Have you done more? More than kissed?”

Finn’s chest filled with heat, and his face did as well. Mr Canady sighed and stepped back.

“You really are something else,” he mumbled sadly, rubbing his hand against his forehead. “It seemed too good to be true when Amilyn wrote to tell me about it, you know. Wealthy American falling in love with our Miss Skywalker, someone to take care of them? Had you been looking for someone poor and feeble-minded to take advantage of, or was it a happy coincidence?"

Finn's anger was immediate and overwhelming. He stepped forward and pushed his chest against Mr Canady's. "Ben is not feeble-minded, and how dare you say such a thing," he growled. "He is difficult, yes, but his mind is strong. Don't you ever suggest otherwise in my presence."

The Welshman stared Finn down and clenched his jaw although Finn was certain there was a touch of respect mixed in with the protective anger. "What do you know."

"I know Ben," Finn replied with certainty. "I care about him. He is my brother; he is my friend."

Mr Canady's expression softened, shifting from anger to something more like sadness.

"You don't know," he whispered. "You don't know what they did to him."

"I don't," Finn shook his head. "Ben doesn't want to tell me. He's afraid I will judge him, take pity on him, and he doesn't want my pity."

"Aye," Mr Canady sighed. "I can see that logic." His expression grew harsh again and his finger was back against Finn's chest. "I believe you, what do you say about Sir Ren. And I have seen you with Missus Lacoste; I believe your regard for her is genuine. However," he glowered menacingly, "you need to stop this… whatever you're doing with Sir Ren. Miss Sk… your wife deserves better than what you're giving her. She needs more than money and pretty words. If you hurt her - if you hurt either one of them - I don't care about your regard, or your wealth, or your fancy clothes. I know how to kill a man with my fists, and I won’t hesitate."

Finn believed him.

Mr Canady took a step back, defiant. "I suppose you can fire me now, sir."

Finn sighed. "I'm not going to fire you; Rey would kill me."

There was a clatter in the attic and a moment later Ben came bounding down the stairs, the mist of his mother draped around his shoulders like a shawl. He calmed when he saw the two of them standing together in the hallway.

“Hello,” he muttered, rubbing his eyes. “I fell asleep, and I thought you'd left me.”

Finn longed to wrap his arms around Ben, to hold and kiss him and tell him he would never, ever leave him, but he couldn’t. Instead he crossed his arms and nodded to Mr Canady, who stood, mollified, several steps down the hall, where he’d moved when he’d heard Ben on the stairs.

“Missus Lacoste sent me in to get you,” Mr Canady explained. “We need your help in the workshop.”

“Yes, all right,” Ben said, and he and Finn followed the other man down the stairs. Finn managed to squeeze his hand and give him a smile on their way down; it would have to be enough.

Later that day, after the men helped Rey rearrange some of the mining equipment again - Finn was certain that they were putting some of the pieces of heavy machinery back exactly where they’d been before - and after lunch, Finn and Ben were on their own again. Canady gave Finn a meaningful glance on his way out the garden door into the still-steady rain, fists by his sides, but the man’s show of hostility just made Finn defiant.

“Back to the attic?” He murmured to Ben, as the other man set the bunny in the sling for its after-meal nap. Ben nodded, his eyes large, and took Finn by the hand. They walked upstairs in silence, hand-in-hand, and when they reached the work table Finn pushed Ben against it, being mindful of the bunny. Finn’s cock was hard and he pressed it against Ben’s thigh, cradling his face in his palms and kissing him gently. Ben returned his kiss, his hands on Finn’s elbows, but shifted his leg slightly so Finn could no longer lean against it.

Mon beau gaillard,” Finn murmured into Ben’s mouth. “Mon chéri.”

Ben moaned at the endearments, although Finn doubted he understood the words. Finn pushed his cock against Ben again experimentally, and he flinched and pulled away.

“Too much?” Finn asked, taking a step back to give Ben space.

“A little. This is… different.”

“Different from what, brother? Different how?”

Ben nestled the wrapped bunny in his hands and lifted it to his face, rubbed it against his chin.

“The men I have… known… have not been kind to me. You are kind, Finn.” The bunny reached his cheek, and jerked in its sleep, kicking a leg against the side of the sling. He lay it back down on his chest, gently. “That’s different.”

Finn shuffled closer again and laid his hand on the animal. He could feel it heartbeat through the fabric, rapid and strong.

“What men have you known?”

Ben traced Finn’s knuckles with the tip of his finger. “Only two. One was… not worth mentioning.” He shook his head, as though working the memories loose. He said, more softly, “he was bad.”

Finn remembered Ben in the cottage the day before, compliant and on his knees. “Was it Luke?” Finn whispered the question, afraid to know the answer but needing to know it, all the same.

“Dear God, no,” Ben answered immediately, reaching his arms around Finn to hold him close again. “He never… no. But he didn’t seem to care.” Ben’s nose found Finn’s neck, and nuzzled there for a minute.

“The other one,” he finally continued, as though the scent of Finn’s skin gave him strength to go on, “was Hux. He worked for Uncle and… yes.”

“Was he bad too?” Finn’s fingers found Ben’s hair, twisted and pulled it.

“He was confusing,” Ben sighed. “Sometimes he was very nice, and sometimes he wasn’t.” Ben rubbed his nose against Finn’s ear, and Finn shuddered.

The name ‘Hux’ was familiar to Finn; he’d seen the name ‘Armitage Hux’ on a death announcement, in the box. It had appeared when Ben had come home; the man had died in Philadelphia not even two weeks before. Finn was certain that Ben had murdered him, and now he had an inkling of why. Mon tueur, mon bien-aimé que j'adore. There had been another Philadelphia death represented in the box - Alasdair Snoke, Luke’s partner in his psychiatric practice. Finn wondered.

“Have you known men, Finn?” Ben hesitantly asked.

“Yes,” Finn answered, his hands moving to Ben’s hips.

“How many?”

Finn didn’t even bother trying to count. “I have no idea.”

Ben’s lips found Finn’s throat, and his teeth followed, but it was only several minutes later that Ben pushed Finn away and announced that it was time to get back to work on cataloging the weapons. After excusing himself to use the washroom, Finn was more than happy to comply.

Chapter Text

The following day was also rainy. After spending the morning in the workshop, sitting around until Rey or Mr Canady needed something moved, Ben and Finn returned to the cabinet, and to the weapons. Mr Canady’s demeanor was cool towards Finn that morning, as it had been since their confrontation the day before, but not so cool that Finn thought Rey or Ben had noticed.

Finn and Ben kissed again, as soon as they were alone. Ben was getting braver, and he instigated the kiss this time, pressing Finn back against the table as Finn had done to him the day before, although he didn’t make his arousal obvious the way Finn had. He didn’t have to; Finn could tell he was excited, but he was happy to let Ben have his space, to go at his own pace. When Ben eventually broke the kiss, he laid his head on Finn’s shoulder and Finn held him, rubbing his back and whispering to him how very sweet and good he was, and that was as pleasant as the kissing had been.

Afterwards, they cataloged the weapons, with Finn writing the cards since Ben had trouble holding the pen with his bandaged hand, but after a few hours of this, Finn’s eyes were tired and his head hurt.

“Please, brother,” he implored, as Ben set down the last of the daggers and reached for the walking stick, “can we pause? I would like a rest, if only for a few minutes.”

Ben smiled, and glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. “I’m sure you would love a rest. Another rest, as we had yesterday morning?”

Finn flinched inwardly, as he remembered the shock of awaking to Mr Canady standing over them, but softened at the memory of being wrapped in Ben’s long limbs.

“Perhaps not that restful, cher frère,” Finn answered, reaching for him. “We can stay upright today.”

Ben pushed Finn against the table again, and kissed him - his mouth, cheeks, chin, throat, neck. Finn loved the sensation of Ben’s lips against his skin, so soft and supple; his mouth was capable. They were active lips; seeking, feeling, enjoying. Occasionally the tips of his teeth would break through and nip, and those moments of surprise brought Finn such joy he had trouble containing himself. Ben unbuttoned Finn’s heavy coat and then reached his hands under it, resting them around Finn’s hips, his thumbs rotating gently over the softness of Finn’s lower stomach. The sensation was almost a tickle, but mostly it just felt very, very good.

After a few minutes of this, Finn was surprised to feel himself being lifted up, and his behind being set on the edge of the table. He must have made a noise, because Ben leaned back, although he kept his hands around Finn’s hips.

“Is this all right?” Ben asked, his eyebrows drawn together in concern. “Are you comfortable?”

“Very comfortable,” Finn replied, reaching for Ben’s waist and pulling him close, notched between where his legs hung heavy off the table. “Just surprised. Your hand?”

Ben pulled out his hand, which he’d apparently bound himself that morning with fresh bandages. “It’s getting stronger every day; I hope to be able to remove the splint sooner than the doctor recommended. I miss having the use of my fingers.”

Finn couldn’t help wishing that Ben could have full use of his hand, too.

Perched on the table, Finn was at the perfect height; from here, his face was level with Ben’s, and his lap was level with the apex of Ben’s thighs. Ben was aroused; Finn could feel his cock, set up against his own, as they continued kissing, and although Ben didn’t press against him he didn’t flinch away, either. Finn wrapped Ben’s hair around his fingers and tugged at it gently, and Ben answered with soft sighs against his lips.

“I can feel that you want me,” Finn murmured.

“I do,” Ben whispered. “I do want you.”

Finn rewarded his admission with a kiss, licking into Ben’s mouth as he tugged at his hair. After a moment he spoke again.

“Ben. I would touch you, if you asked.”

Ben made a noise, deep in his throat, a low groan combined with a hum. Finn understood that although he had taken Ben in hand before, bringing him release on the floor of the cottage, it had been under special circumstances. Although it had been enjoyable for both of them, the purpose had been to calm Ben. Touching Ben now, bringing him to orgasm here - that would be an indulgence. It would be want, not need, and that was different.

Ben seemed to be making the same calculation. “No, Finn,” he sighed, even as his hands tightened on Finn’s hips. “Not now. Not yet.”

Finn answered him with an embrace. He pulled Ben’s body to him, whispering to him as he had done earlier. He could be patient; they had time.

A few minutes later Ben stepped back, and smiled shyly, apologetically.

“Back to work, I’m afraid.”

Finn pushed himself off the table and landed on the floor with a thud, turning back to the weapons with a groan. They still had more than half of them to work through.

“Do we have to?” he whined like a child, but he didn’t care.

Ben shrugged. “I was hoping to get this done, but I didn’t realize it was going to take quite so long. We can work with the crystals, I suppose. They are well-cataloged - I collected them all myself - but I have a few more to add. I can at least show you my process.”

Finn’s ears pricked up at the mention of the kyber crystals. The only crystal he’d touched since moving to Mustafar had, ironically, been the small one in Rey’s ring. His new nighttime habit, in the few nights since he'd stopped drinking the tea, was to rub his thumb against the warm yellow stone as he drifted to sleep. The crystal would lead him places - to his mother’s tomb, where her dessicated body lay with the pendant around its neck; to the houses and homes and secondhand shops where other stones from the same crystal bed lay in wait to be held and worn; and down into the ground, to the bed itself, where the crystals hummed and spoke together in a language Finn could hear but couldn’t comprehend. What would the crystals in Ben’s collection show him? He tried not to let his excitement show as Ben packed up the uncataloged weapons to make space for the crystals on the table.

Ben paused when he picked up Colonel Kenobi’s walking stick, holding it gently in both hands. Finn couldn’t deny his curiosity.

“You told me yesterday that your Great-Grandmother had matching sticks made for her husband and their friend, and that your uncle inherited the other one.” Finn reached out with a finger and touched the smooth ivory of the rabbit’s ear.

“That’s right. He had injured his foot in a childhood accident and he walked with a limp. He carried the walking stick everywhere. It was a part of him.”

Finn pushed his finger across the face of the ivory rabbit and allowed it to skim across the side of Ben’s hand before moving it back up to its ear.

“What happened to your Uncle’s stick?”

“We destroyed it, along with everything else of his. Made a big fire, at the front of the yard, down by the wall. Portraits, his clothes, anything we could find in the house that had to do with him, straight into the flames. Everything except for the childhood portrait, which we kept for the sake of the memory of everyone else in it.” He sighed, and the slightest trace of a smile played on the corner of his mouth. “It was very satisfying. We never cleared it out; for all I know the remnants of the stick are still there now. But they’d be worthless, and I’m not going to look for it. He’s gone, it’s all gone.”

Ben turned to face Finn, still holding the stick in front of him. “Is that enough for you? I’d like to stop speaking about him. It upsets me.”

Finn thought about Ben, upset, in the woods and on the floor of the cottage. Upset, Ben was naked and pliant, a little bit frightening, and Finn liked him like that. Ben was pleading with him now, with his eyes, ‘please can we stop talking about Luke, it upsets me’, and a part of Finn briefly considered pushing on it. Like pressing on a bruise, not hard, just enough for Ben to crack, to get him to pull off his clothes and beg. They could run into the woods together, and Finn could hold him down and tease him, and then he could give him an orgasm with his hand, or maybe even his mouth, the bitter flavor of his spend splashing in the back of his throat, and Ben would cry with the release and it would calm him back down again, and make him feel so good. Finn wanted to make Ben feel good.

As Finn considered this thought the other part of him crawled up, and it carried with it an unfamiliar feeling that he nevertheless immediately recognized - guilt. Guilt, like jealousy, was not in Finn’s emotional repertoire. It wasn’t something that came to him naturally, so it wasn’t something he considered. But this thought, that he might push Ben to his breaking point to satisfy what he recognized were really his own desires, this made him feel guilty; guilty and more.

Monster, sounded a voice in his head, how could you even think about doing that to him? The voice was Rey’s voice; the voice was right, and it made him flinch.

“Of course,” Finn said, gently taking the walking stick from Ben’s hand and setting it beside them on the table. “We can stop talking about that. Why don’t you show me the crystals?”

Ben’s smile, grateful and warm, was worth a thousand forest orgasms, and Finn’s heart soared. He pressed a kiss to Ben’s furry cheek, and then followed him into the cabinet where they gathered the trays of crystals and carried them back to the table.

Ben laid out three wooden trays, lined with black felt and containing raw crystals, just the right size to hold in one’s palm. They ranged in color from clear all the way to blues, greens, and yellows - the same shade as the stone in Rey’s ring - and through to orange and pink and red. There was one tray similar to the others, empty but for a small drawstring bag and a stack of blank cards like the ones Finn had been filling out for the weapons.

Ben explained that each crystal was paired with a card describing which bed it was mined from, and what its color and clarity implied about its potential use.

“Once the mine is up and running, Rey wants to use some of these as examples for deciding where to pull for which buyer - depending on what they want them for. The crystals with the highest clarity are best for medical and scientific uses - new telescopes and microscopes, experimental surgical appliances. Very exciting. Colorful ones are still used mostly for jewelry, and as mines in Asia have been emptied, there will be more international demand for ours. Like this one.”

Ben opened the drawstring bag and pulled out a blood-red crystal with his good hand, and passed it towards Finn.

“My God,” exclaimed Finn, reaching out for it. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Ben’s face broke into a proud grin, and he opened his mouth and began to say something, but the moment the smooth surface of the crystal touched Finn’s fingers he could no longer hear Ben's voice. He was underground, nestled in a chilly bed of kyber crystals - clear and blue and blood-red - humming, murmuring, talking amongst themselves. As he held it longer, Finn became aware of other crystals, in other places, the siblings of the one in his hand, drawn from the same bed - and he discovered that he could select them, trace them of his own volition. To a vial in a drawer in a university in Scotland, embedded in a piece of equipment in a research hospital in Paris, a signet ring in London, a necklace in Saint Petersburg. The necklace was in a safe, in a house near water. He could sense the water, cold and dark. The signet ring was on the hand of an old man. The man had owned it since his father died, and his father…

“Finn?” Ben’s voice broke through his reverie. “Brother, are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” Finn answered, shaking his head and returning to the room. “Just … my mind wandered.”

Ben’s expression was concerned, but he nodded and turned back to the crystals. He continued describing the system for cataloging them, and as he spoke Finn experimented with his visions, touching the other crystals in turn and following the paths they led him down, being careful to keep enough of his attention on Ben to avoid his curiosity.

Once Ben had fully explained the system, the two of them got to work describing the new crystals and reorganizing the trays to include them amongst the older samples.

“Finn,” Ben said, several minutes into their work, as he examined the new crystals and instructed Finn what to write on the cards. His voice was quiet and nervous. Ben’s hands and eyes were still solidly on the crystals in the tray in front of him. “What does ‘Mah boo gayah’ mean?”

Mah boo gayah?” Finn repeated slowly, confused. “I have no idea. Why?”

“You, uh,” Ben stammered and picked up one of the pink crystals before setting it down again quickly, “you said it to me yesterday. Or something like it. When we were, uh, kissing.” Both his cheeks, and the tips of his ears, peeking through his hair were colored bright pink, and Finn thought it was one of the most darling things he’d seen.

“Ah,” Finn replied, “Yes, of course. Mon beau gaillard. It means, my handsome fellow, or something like that.”

Ben looked up at Finn from his tray, his eyes wide with surprise. “You think I’m handsome?”

“Ben,” Finn murmured, closing the space between them with a few steps and reaching up to place his left palm against Ben’s right cheek - in serious need of a shave, but neither the stubble not the ragged scar beneath it did a single thing to detract from his beauty. “You are very handsome, even with your flaws. Because of them, even. Surely someone has told you that before. Your wife? Your sister?”’

“My mother used to say I was handsome,” Ben said sadly. “So did Millie. And Rey, of course. But,” he gazed at the ground and worked his jaw as though he was chewing something unpleasant, “it’s different when it’s you. And I will admit that I have,” he reached up to place his bandaged fingers over where Finn's gently traced the line down his face, "I have worried about your opinion of the scar."

“I love your scar. Have you,” he paused to think about the best way to phrase his question, “have you bad memories of receiving it?”

Ben actually smiled. “Not really. Rey gave it to me, the day I arrived home from Philadelphia.”

“My goodness!” Finn declared, but Ben shook his head.

“No. It was an accident.”

He looked into Finn’s eyes then, with a hint of a smile. “How do you say ‘butterfly’ in French?”

Finn thought for a moment. “Butterfly would be ‘papillon’.”

Papeeoh,” repeated Ben, and Finn laughed, and said the word again. A few times more, and Finn was satisfied with Ben’s pronunciation.

Papillon,” Ben said, “papillon. Mon beau papillon, Finn. Is that right?”

Mon beau papillon would be ‘my handsome’ - or maybe ‘beautiful’ - ‘butterfly’. Is that what you want to say?”

Ben grinned, a sunny expression that brought out the dimples in his cheeks. “I like that. My beautiful butterfly, yes. Finn, you are mon beau papillon.” He reached out and pulled Finn closer, and Finn’s hand slipped up from Ben’s cheek into his hair.

“Me?” Finn demanded, teasingly. “I hardly think so. You are much more a beau papillon than I am. Or Rey, perhaps.”

“Rey, yes. My sister is very beautiful, isn’t she.” Ben sighed as Finn twisted his fingers in his hair. “So beautiful. You are a lucky man, to have her for a wife.”

“I am, aren’t I,” Finn replied. He was, very lucky, he thought to himself, to have such a beautiful wife and such a handsome brother, ma belle femme et frère beau. Ben’s lips returned to claim his own, and his sweet mouth distracted Finn from his thoughts, until he spoke again.

“Brother,” Ben murmured, pulling away, “daydreamer. Time to get back to work.”

Finn smiled and hummed, and stole one more kiss before he turned with Ben back to the crystals.

The weather the next morning was glorious, the sky blue and cloudless and the grass in the back field a brilliant green. Despite Mr Canady's protestations that they might need the men to shift equipment some more - a transparent move to keep them in constant sight, which rankled Finn - Rey had given them morning leave, insisting that any additional shifting could be done after lunch. The new equipment was scheduled to arrive the following afternoon, on a specially-hired train that would deliver directly to the seldom-used station at Coniston that abutted the Post Office. A very large wagon would meet them there, to drive the equipment up to the workshop. It would be quite the ordeal, but worth it in the end.

The weather might have been glorious, but it was also very cold despite the sun, Finn learned as he followed Ben out the front door, finally heading back to the peak together after days stuck indoors.

“Brrrrr!” Finn declared, pulling the flaps of his hat further down over his ears, and tugging the lapels of his heavy coat around his neck. “I should have worn a muffler!”

Ben, who had bowed to the weather just enough to shrug on a coat, although he hadn’t buttoned it and he wasn’t wearing a hat, laughed joyfully into the still morning air. The rifle and satchel were casually tossed over his shoulder.

“Soft American,” Ben called back to him fondly. “How would I say that in French?”

Finn considered for a moment. “Un Américain faible, I think,” he finally answered. “It’s more like weak but I think that is the sense I’m going for. Not that I am soft, but that I am weak in the face of the cold.”

“I don’t know, Brother,” Ben replied, his cheeks growing noticeably more pink - and Finn did not think it was because of the cold. “Parts of you are soft enough.”

"Perhaps. And parts of me are sometimes hard."

Ben laughed, and sighed, and he didn't speak again until they were over the treeline. He waited for Finn, took his glove-clad hand in his own, and led him up the familiar path. But when they reached the summit, Ben pulled him to the left, away from the peak and further into the trees.

"Come with me," he pleaded. "I want to show you something."

As they stepped together through the woods, the buzz of the crystals - always present, though easy enough to ignore - increased and grew into a call. They were nearing a crystal bed, he was sure of it. Indeed, several minutes later they climbed down an incline, through a large crack in the rock face, and into a shallow room, with another, slightly smaller crack at the back of it. Sunlight streamed through the opening, illuminating the space. Finn could almost see the energy flowing in this room.

"What is it?" Finn asked, surprised that his voice made any sound at all.

Ben set down the rifle and satchel, then pulled off his coat and laid it on a boulder that sat to one side, and leaned against it. "It's just a cave," he said casually, and Finn remembered that in addition to being completely unaware of the ghosts, Ben was immune to the power of the crystals. The other man reached out his arms to him. "Come here."

Finn shrugged off his own coat and removed his hat, setting them on another rock - it was cool in the cave, but not unpleasantly cold - stepped closer and accepted his embrace. After a moment he pulled away and raked his fingers into Ben’s soft tresses. Ben’s hands lowered, resting on his hips.

“Let me braid your hair,” Finn implored. “It’s so long, and soft. Just… small braids, along the side here.” He ran his fingers from just above Ben’s ears to the nape of his neck, and the man shuddered.

“Yes,” he whispered. “Please.”

The cave was filled with a comfortable silence as Finn encouraged Ben to turn his head, and separated the hair on the right side of his head and began to plait it. As his fingers weaved Ben’s hair - up, over, though, pulling in more strands with each tuck - he remembered how it felt to do this with Phasma. Her hair had been much longer than Ben’s, down her back, closer to the length of Rey’s hair. Finn had thought about braiding Rey’s hair, but hadn’t.

Ben’s voice interrupted the quiet, as though reading the thoughts right out of Finn’s head. “Have you braided my sister’s hair yet? You mentioned it, the other day.”

“I haven’t had the opportunity.” Up, over, through. Ben’s thumbs pressed in gently at his waist, his body solid and warm in front of him. “I’ll ask her tonight, before we go to sleep. The past few nights we’ve been so tired at the end of the day, I haven’t thought about it.”

Finn finished the first braid, and tucked the end below the longer hair at the nape of Ben’s neck. “I don’t have anything to hold it.”

Ben hummed and gave him a squeeze as Finn took him by the chin and rotated his head so he could reach the left side of his head.

“You need a shave,” Finn admonished Ben, as he separated his hair. “You’re getting quite furry after only a few days.”

“Will you help me? Tomorrow morning? Or when we get back this afternoon?”

“Of course.” Up, over, through. “Whatever you need, brother.”

They stood in comfortable silence, Ben’s thumbs continuing their slow rotation, as Finn finished the second braid and tucked it back.

“There you go,” he said, wrapping his arms around Ben’s back and pressing a kiss to his chin. “Matching braids. You look very sweet.”

Ben’s cheeks pinked, visible even in the dim light of the cave. “Thank you. I feel very pretty.”

Finn laughed, rested his head against Ben’s chest, and took a moment to listen to the song of the crystals. A few minutes later Ben interrupted with a question.

“Has my sister told you about this place?”

“No, she hasn’t.”

Ben hummed and pushed his palm against Finn’s back. “We spend time here sometimes, when we want to get out of the house and it’s hot in the summer, or very cold in the winter. It’s always pleasant here, and dark.” He nodded to the opening in the back of the cave. “There is an entrance to the mine here, too. Sometimes we’ll bring lamps and go there for picnics. When you turn off the light it is completely black; you can’t even see your hand in front of your face.”

Finn shivered at the thought. “That doesn’t sound very pleasant.”

“It’s not so bad, when you’re not alone. We’ll have to take you there sometime.”

As Ben held him and pressed his soft, sweet lips against his forehead, Finn reached through the gap in the stone with his mind, probed through the energy that was already palpable, just to see what he might find. He found crystals, thousands and thousands of them, alive with energy and power. And there was more. There were soft emotions floating amongst the voices of the crystals, sadness and fear; human emotions.

“Ben,” Finn murmured. Ben didn’t respond; his mouth was occupied by the tendon in Finn’s neck, left hand clasped confidently around his hip, right hand resting on his lower back. “Ben,” he said again. “Rey mentioned a… a mine collapse. Was that near here?”

Ben groaned. “What a thing to think about. It was under this hill, yes, but far, far down, and it happened over twenty years ago - before my sister was born.”

The people were still there, though. Rey had told him that some of the bodies didn’t make it out, but whether the dim ti bon anges he was sensing belonged to the bodies that were removed or those that still rested in the mountain, Finn had no idea.

He thought about the ghosts as Ben kissed him, nuzzled him, but he became distracted when he realized that Ben’s thumb, which had been rotating above his hips, was slowly straying lower.

“Brother,” he whispered in a sing-song sort of way, and Ben’s hand stilled. “Brother, what are you doing?”

“Nothing. Nothing, just…” Finn pressed his hips forwards, against Ben’s hand and his own body, which leaned back comfortably against the rock.

“Are you sure it’s nothing? It feels like something to me.”

There was no reply. Finn could see Ben’s face in the sunlight that spilled in from the crack to the outside; his eyes were large and his mouth slack, and as he watched him the man swallowed. He looked dear and beautiful and nervous. Finn thought he wanted something, but today he was shy. It was up to Finn to get it out of him.

“Ben. Do you want something?”

“I do.”

“Can you tell me? I like it when you talk to me.” He rubbed his cheek - smooth from his own morning shave - against Ben’s furry one.

Ben whined, an animalistic sound from deep in his throat, but didn’t speak.

“Do you want to touch me?”

Ben’s fingers tightened, his thumb pressing into the hard point of Finn’s hip bone, and the heel of Ben’s right hand likewise pressed into his lower back. It might have hurt, but Finn didn’t notice. All he could feel was Ben’s excitement.

“Is that what you want? Tell me.”

“I do.” Ben had leaned forward, the tip of his nose just barely touching Finn’s. He could feel his breath, hot against his lips. “I do, but you said-,”

Finn interrupted him. “I know what I said. And it’s true that I often don’t like to be touched. But I’ve let your sister touch me, haven’t I.”

It felt strange, admitting so blatantly to Ben that his own sister had touched him, but it didn’t seem to bother him.

“That is true,” Ben admitted quietly. “But she’s your wife, she should touch you.”

“I am a fortunate man to have her as my wife, aren’t I, and to have you as my brother. She is tied to me by marriage, and you are tied to her by blood, which ties you to me, too. You told me that once.”

Ben rubbed his nose against Finn’s. “I did say that.”

“Then touch me,” Finn said, taking a step back. “If you want.”

Ben did want. Without a word and with shaking hands he reached between them; Finn laid his hands on Ben’s shoulders and watched his face as the other man unfastened his trousers, tugged them along with his drawers down his hips, and slowly, carefully, wrapped the fingers of his left hand around Finn’s cock, his right hand resting against his hip. They breathed together, and Ben’s expression of serious concentration relaxed into a smile. He glanced up into Finn’s eyes.

“Is that good?” Ben’s voice was hushed.

“So good,” Finn replied, and glanced down. The sight of Ben’s hand wrapped around his shaft, the pink head of his cock peeking out from the brown foreskin, made his breath hitch. Ben’s fingers and palm were warm, the pressure of his hold was close to perfect.

“You can move your hand,” Finn whispered into the space between them. “I know you know how.”

Ben did know how. He started slowly, pulling his hand down and then back up again, exposing the head of Finn’s cock to the cool, electric air and then covering it up again, down and up, just this side of not-quite-fast-enough. He seemed to sense Finn’s building frustration, and sped up his movements at exactly the right point, adding an occasional swipe of his thumb at the tip to help distribute the precum, a move that pulled a moan out of Finn’s throat.

“You like this?” Ben murmured, his forehead pressed against Finn’s both of them gazing down between them. “Do you like my hand on you?”

“Yes,” Finn whined.

His eyes had fluttered closed, and his mind wandered with his pleasure, and he found himself, as always, thinking about his wife and her brother. Finn thought about Rey and Ben together as Ben handled his cock and pressed kisses along his lips, and up against his jaw, before finding their way to his ear.

As Ben sucked and nipped the sensitive skin on the side of Finn’s neck and his hand became more confident, Finn imagined Rey in his own place. Her brother would kiss her neck and lift her skirts, and eventually his fingers would find her cunt through the split in her bloomers. He would touch her, and she would moan, the same beautiful noises that she used to make for Finn when he put his own hands on her, or his mouth. And when she was hot and wet and begging, Ben would turn his sister around and press her against the rock, and he would fuck her until she cried, until she begged him to stop or to keep going. And Finn - Finn would stand in the cave entrance and watch, and he would think to himself, that yes, they look very well together indeed. And they are mine, he would think, satisfied. All mine.

“Is this still good?” Ben’s voice came softly from beside Finn’s ear; he was unable to answer the question.

Ben chuckled at Finn’s inability to speak. “You do like it. Allow me to try something.”

Without waiting for an answer, Ben increased the pressure and the pace, and as he moved up Finn’s shaft he twisted his hand, then again on the way down. Up and down, twisting one way and the other. It was perfect.

Finn saw himself taking the steps from the cave entrance and joining them at the boulder. He was so hard, and she would be wet. She would be between them; her back to Ben, who would lift her up and hold her legs open, whispering sweet words in her ear as Finn fucked her to orgasm, writing and whining. Or Finn would hold her; she would wrap her legs around his hips, and they would kiss as Ben fucked her from behind. Or they could take her together; he’d seen this, a few times, and the logistics were interesting.

The idea of fucking his wife at the same time her brother did was new, and it excited him. He wondered if Rey would like it; he could fuck her ass - so sweet, so tight, dear god he missed his wife’s ass - and Ben would take her cunt. Ben’s cock was large but Finn thought she could take them both, if they were gentle and slow. He imagined the noises she would make, and Ben; they’d whisper to each other and Finn would be there too, whispering and kissing and fucking. It was with this thought, now, in his own time, with Ben’s hand on his cock, that he came with a cry that was muted by the close, dull walls of the cave.

Finn opened his eyes to find Ben gazing down at him, the sweetest smile pulling at the corners of his mouth, his eyes bright with pleasure.

“Was that good, mon beau papillon?”

“So good, Ben. Très bon, mon chéri.” Finn kissed his mouth gently. “So very good.”

“Was it as good as it is with my sister?”

“I… Excusez-moi? Pardon me?” Finn was not sure he’d heard Ben correctly.

“Does my sister make you feel good like this? I … I want to know?” His expression, which had been bright and certain, faltered slightly, and Finn’s stomach clenched.

He wanted to tell Ben that his sister made him feel wonderful, that he loved her; and that he, Ben, made him feel good too. Finn wanted to tell his wife’s brother that he wanted them. He wanted them both. Together. He had been imagining them together while lusting for them both, but had somehow managed to keep from himself that he also desired for all three of them to be together.

Finn considered telling Ben. Ben was sweet, and good, and he was curious about what Finn did with Rey. There was an opening; it was what he wanted, wasn’t it? But he couldn’t; it was too much, and he wasn’t ready. He felt like a small animal in a cage; trapped against its will. So he opened his mouth and said the first thing that came out of it.

“You shouldn’t say that; it isn’t appropriate.”

Saying those words felt like delivering a punch, and Ben reacted as though Finn had smacked him across the face. The falter in his expression turned into a fall, and Ben shoved Finn away with a grunt. He blinked quickly several times, opened his mouth, closed it again. Finally, without a word, he fled through the opening of the cave, back out into the freezing sunlight, his hand still coated in Finn’s spend. He left his coat, and the satchel and rifle.

Finn pulled his handkerchief out of his sleeve and used it to clean himself up the best he could. He refastened his trousers, put on his hat and coat, picked up Ben’s coat from where it lay on the boulder - still warm from where he’d leaned against it as he pleasured Finn - along with the rifle and satchel, and walked out of the cave. There was a path there, and he followed it until he reached the point where they had deviated from the main path, but instead of heading down, and back to the house, he followed the path up to the peak.

Ben was there, as Finn had expected. He’d been a bit afraid that Ben would be upset, undressed, crying, but he wasn’t. He was sitting on the ground, curled into a ball and leaning against one of the boulders. Finn handed him his coat, and Ben accepted it and placed it over himself like a blanket. Finn sat beside him, unmoving and silent, and after a few minutes, instead of leaning against him, as Finn had hoped, Ben stood up and shrugged on his coat, and began to pace the clearing. Up to the cliff, back down to the treeline, back and forth, for several agonizing minutes. Finn wanted to speak, but he had no idea what to say; he just wanted Ben to calm down so things could return to normal.

“Finn,” Ben said finally, pausing mid-stride, “I have to tell Rey.”

“Sorry?” Finn said. It was the last thing that Finn had expected him to say. “I didn’t hear you.”

He was lying, and he could tell that Ben knew it.

“I am going,” Ben said more loudly, more slowly, “to tell Rey,”

Finn chose willful ignorance over accepting the obvious. “Tell Rey what?” he asked, using his most innocent tone, the one he’d used as a child when he’d been caught in the midst of doing something he had already been told never, ever to do.

Ben huffed in frustration, and he worked his jaw as he stared down at Finn. “About us. You know. The kissing? The...” he gestured back towards the path, the cave.

But it was so easy for Finn to pretend.

“Ben,” he said, tilting his head and reaching out towards him. “Be reasonable. We’re brothers. Friends. We’re close. We don’t have to tell your sister everything we do.”

Ben’s eyes narrowed. “You might not want to tell your wife everything, but I need to tell my sister.” He crouched down in front of Finn, the very beginnings of anger flashing behind his eyes. “I’m closer to her than anyone, and she to me - including you. We can’t keep secrets from each other.”

“But you said she’d be angry, Ben,” Finn pleaded, feeling the moment slipping away from him. “You were very insistent the other day that I not tell her. And I haven’t, because you asked. And now you’re saying you want to tell her?”

Ben, stood back up, so tall and strong, and glowered down at him. “Exactly. I said that you shouldn’t tell her. It would be one thing, coming from you. From me, it’s different.”

“You think your sister, my wife, would be more understanding if you were to tell her ... for her to know that we … are …” he couldn’t find the words. “I don’t know. Ben. I love her, I do. I don’t want to make her angry.”

Ben’s lips pulled up in a sneer. “You have no idea what Rey is like when she’s angry, and you should have thought of that before you kissed me.” He lifted his left hand up as though to rake it through his hair, and started in surprise when his fingers tangled in the braids that Finn had weaved in so gently and lovingly not even an hour before. With a growl and a baring of teeth, Ben pushed through the braid, violently pulling the plait apart, and reached up with the thumb of his right hand and did the same on the other side.

Finn reached out. “Ben…” the anger with which Ben destroyed the braids was like a stab in the heart. Ben saw his flinch, and his sneer took on a satisfied look.

“I’ll talk to her as soon as I can; tonight, if I can get her alone. Canady doesn’t need to know. I hope to God she doesn’t get too upset; there’s no telling what she might do to you, to both of us.”

Finn was certain that Ben was exaggerating; after all, this was le tueur, the killer with the box of treasures documenting his victories. Why would he fear his sister?

“Ben,” Finn pleaded, feeling very small in his place on the dusty, cold ground. “Please do not do this.”

"Brother", Ben said, standing at a distance, his voice firm, "I'm going to tell her and you can't stop me. I have to do it." He paused, then turned toward the path. "I have to go feed the bunny now."

There was nothing Finn could say. He sat on the ground and watched as Ben loped back down the path towards the house, away from him. He stared, and thought of nothing. After some indeterminable amount of time, he shifted, and discovered that his limbs were frozen, his stomach was empty with hunger, and the sky, which had been clear that morning, was threatening a storm.

Finn considered walking to the village, renting a carriage, taking the next train from Kendal to Liverpool and from there, a steamer home. Back to America. Could he do it - leave Rey and Ben and go back? Just… run away? He imagined it in his mind - walking down the path, then down the road, greeting Mr Mitaka at the Post Office, who would frown at him when he requested the carriage rental. How Rey would cry, and curse his name, and Mr Canady would comfort her, assuring her that she was better off without him anyway. Ben… Ben might be angry at him now, but if he left, Ben would hate him forever. Rey and Ben, together in their haunted house, hating Finn forever. Could Finn live in a world where Ben hated him, and Rey cried, and Mr Canady was proven right? He didn’t think he could. Whatever else was to come, he could handle it, without running away. So he stood, brushed himself off, and made his way back down to Mustafar Hall, the song of the crystals keeping him company all the way home.