It’s the first time it’s ever been this bad before. This is the excuse she gives, anyway, for why she hasn’t left her bunk today.
Or she would’ve, if anyone had pried, but when Rose stops by to see if she’s coming down to the engine room for their morning ritual of tea and critical maintenance on whatever part of the Falcon has decided to pack in this week, it doesn’t take much more than a look at the grey hue that’s come over Rey's complexion for her to understand.
It’s not like she’s never bled before. It happened, though never with any rhyme or rhythm—if she was on a lucky streak, had managed a few months of relatively steady hauls, she’d maybe get a handful of days of bleeding and the discomfort that came with it, but more often than not it was every few months, if that. When she’d first visited the medbay for herself, she hadn’t understood what the doctor had meant at first when she’d mentioned Rey’s cycle.
Cycles followed patterns. Her blood never had.
The doctor had explained that with a more regular diet it would likely stabilise, and there were ways she could deal with that, but things have been so hectic since then, stress doing as effective a job as malnourishment at throwing her bodily functions into disarray, that it had slipped Rey’s mind entirely.
It’s months, then, before she wakes up to sticky thighs, a cramping gut and a general feeling of unwellness pulsing through her, and rolls over to press her face into the pillow with a groan.
The idea of moving makes her want to throw up, but she remembers Kalonia’s offer then.
She drifts off before she can lever herself upright, a few more hours’ sleep the more appealing prospect than getting out of bed. It’s still early, anyway. Maybe she’ll feel better afterwards.
She feels, if possible, worse, when she wakes again to the sound of gentle knocking on her door.
“Hi—oh,” Rose’s face falls at the sight of her, “you don’t look good.”
Rey tugs the sheets further around herself. “Am I late for something?”
“What? Oh, no,” Rose smiles, “but you stood me up for our morning date, and I was just checking you were okay. Which…”
“I’m fine,” Rey grimaces, “forgot to get an implant last time I was in the medbay, and now…” she trails off, but Rose’s expression shifts to one of understanding.
“Oh, gotcha. Have you got a heatpack?”
“Hold that where it hurts. It’ll help. Or take a hot shower. I’ll bring you some tea.”
“Oh—no, Rose, honestly, I’m fine.”
“Sure, but you’re allowed to feel crappy every now and then,” Rose shrugs. “Paige’d be laid up for days every month, sometimes, when we were younger. No arguments. I’m bringing you tea.”
Rey has lost enough discussions with Rose to know there’s no dissuading her when she has her mind set, and besides—she’s been told that she needs to learn to let people look after her. This is…well, it’s not as bad as it could be.
And it doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world, taking an easy day. Rose’s offer to keep her company might keep her from going spare with nothing to do.
She relents. “Okay. Why don’t you stop by for lunch, then? I might shower now.”
“Done. I’ll be back then.” Rose smiles. “And remember—heatpack.”
Rey manages all of two steps toward her locker when her stomach lurches violently and she makes a sudden swerve towards her tiny ‘fresher. Gripping the side of the shower, she leans over the toilet and waits for the queasiness to worsen or pass.
Eventually, it subsides—she hasn’t eaten yet, there’s not much in her stomach to aggravate it. With a sigh, she leans into the shower and turns the water on. Might as well clean up, while she’s in here. The temptation to shuffle back into her room and burrow into the bed is already hard to deny.
She sits on the floor while she waits for the water to heat up, wrapping her arms around her middle and resting her head on her knees.
This is not the kind of thing she’d been hoping for when she was told her health should improve with a steadier diet and better living conditions. She understands, now, why the doctor had said most people opt out of the inconvenience.
Get it together, she thinks, taking a deep breath. You’ve worked on broken ankles. This isn’t so bad.
It’s not, really, on the scale of pain. It’s barely a stubbed toe. She’s gone spelunking through the hulls of dead starships in far worse states than this before. But—it’s like Rose’s offer had opened some valve inside her, and released the pressure on hurts Rey had never allowed herself to succumb to, because when she straightens up and that wave of cramping nausea rises in her gut again, it’s all she can do to press her forehead to her thighs and let out a low moan of pain, sliding slowly sideways until the cool surface of the bathroom floor meets her cheek.
She focuses on how pleasant it feels against her skin, tries to lose herself to the distant background hum of the ship and the close-by sound of water being wasted.
When that sound grows suddenly muffled, Rey groans again.
Perfect. Perfect bloody timing.
She turns her head to one side so she can look up at him, and finds Ben watching her with a faintly perplexed frown on his face.
“You’re in my bathroom,” she says, stupidly.
He spares his—her—surroundings a careless glance. “You’re on the floor.”
“It’s comfortable down here,” Rey mumbles. “You should try it.”
“I’ll pass.” His brow furrows when she huffs a breathy laugh. “You’re hurt.”
Oh, no. No way.
“I’m fine,” she grits her teeth, “go away.”
“No. What’s wrong?” He’s closer now, she can feel him hovering near her like a great hulking presence in the Force, and she hates that some pathetic part of her feels drawn toward the warmth of him.
“Rey.” He crouches down beside her. She can hear him, the soft shift of his clothing, the way he breathes, and damn him and the Force he rode in on but it soothes her just a little.
When she takes a breath, she can smell him.
The thought that he might be able to smell her makes her stomach clench.
“I can feel you,” Ben says softly.
“You and me both,” mutters Rey. “I told you to go away.”
“You know I can’t. Why’s your ‘fresher on?”
“I’m about to get in it. Hence, you get out.”
“Hmm. I’m not familiar with this part of the bathing process.” He draws back, and for a moment she thinks he’s about to actually obey her—as much as he can when the Force is dragging them together—but then he pauses, and belatedly it occurs to Rey that with her knees pulled up to her chest like this, the source of her discomfort is hard to miss.
“Oh,” is all he says. His cheeks have gone a funny pink colour.
Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, blushing over a pair of bloody shorts.
Ben looks back up at her quickly. “Nothing.”
“Told you I was fine.”
“I believe you,” he says, and she’s definitely not imagining the dry tone in his voice now. Bastard. She opens her mouth to say something unkind, but a twisting cramp deep in her gut makes her turn her head into her arm so she can muffle a whine there.
“Do you have to just sit there?” she asks, when it passes.
He considers that. “What would you prefer?”
You to not be here. “I dunno, help me up?”
She’d been joking, and even if he’d taken her seriously she’d expected a hand up at most, but she yelps in surprise when his bare hands slide under her and suddenly she’s being hoisted aloft as Ben rises smoothly to his feet with her in his arms.
“Put me down,” she gives a half-hearted attempt at struggling free but the man is and always has been obnoxiously strong, and only holds her tighter.
“I will,” he says, and then he does, lowering her clothes and all onto the floor of the fresher.
The water’s still hot, despite the precious minutes she’d let it run—it’s a luxury, still, unrationed water, one she doesn’t think she’ll ever get used to—and Rey leans back against the wall so her face is out of the stream and simply relaxes into the soft pressure of the water against her abdomen.
Her nightclothes are soaked through in seconds, but she can’t bring herself to mind.
Ben kneels just outside the cubicle. His eyes meet hers through the fall of water, and a soft breath of surprise escapes her at the look she finds there.
Then she notices the washcloth in his hand.
His fingers curl into a loose fist around it, and he tilts his head to one side as if to say may I?
Something strange and fragile has slipped into the room with them. To speak, Rey thinks, would be to chase it away.
She doesn’t want it to go.
Slowly, her eyes never leaving his, she parts her thighs for him.
He’s still looking at her face when he rolls his sleeves up and shifts onto one knee before her, leaning in to soak the cloth under the water. Wordlessly, Rey reaches under her leg to pass him her little bottle of soap, and he takes it from her with a steady hand.
She barely feels the first swipe of the cloth against her skin, but it makes her shiver anyway, and it’s an absurdly intimate thing to allow anyone to do, never mind the man who is supposed to want her dead, but it’s made all the more so by the way Ben refuses to let her look away from him while he cleans the dried blood from the insides of her thighs, lathing her skin until all it takes is the gentlest motion to leave her good as new.
He lingers when he’s gotten it all, and all that’s left is what’s covered by her shorts. She watches him pull his lower lip between his teeth, his jaw working as he finds his courage.
“Can I?” he murmurs eventually. Rey waits for the sound of his voice to dispel the tension strung like burning wire between them, but if anything it gets worse.
She nods anyway, and lifts her hips for him when he reaches up to the waistband of her shorts and peels them slowly off her body.
Maybe if she hadn’t been looking him in the eye—or at least, looking into his eyes, because they dart down when her shorts catch on her knees and dart right back up again as soon as he’s tugged them free—she might have let herself question what she’s thinking, letting him do this. What she’s playing at, opening her legs for the Supreme Leader of the First Order, and letting him see—letting him touch—parts of her that no other ever has.
The Supreme Leader is on his knees before her, though, asking her permission to take care of her with those guileless dark eyes of his, and maybe if he weren’t the worst liar she’s ever met Rey might have thought twice about giving him her consent but—well, if he weren’t that man she’d never have let him near enough to lay a hand on her.
This time she gasps when the cloth moves over her, and the hand recoils swiftly. He waits for her to settle back against the wall before he leans in again, cleaning the smooth skin of her inner thighs with careful, deliberate strokes. Her eyes have fallen lazily closed and she could almost doze off here when he turns his attentions to the sensitive, swollen lips of her cunt, and she can’t help the soft sound that escapes her.
He makes a sound too, Rey thinks, but she doesn’t open her eyes to see because this is already too much, the sensation of his hands on her and the awareness of whose hands they are; she doesn’t think she could take the sight of it too.
She’d been mistaken, before, to think what hung between them was fragile.
This is the moment where she learns the true meaning of the word.
This is the moment it might kill her to shatter.
He’s so gentle, like he fears she might break if he applies any more than the lightest pressure to clean away the blood and rinse away the soap, but when Rey catches him gnawing on his lip hard enough to bruise the skin she realises it’s not her he’s anxious about. His hands tremble, and he can’t quite hide it behind the care he takes with every motion of the cloth over her most intimate skin.
He sets the cloth to one side and leans back on his haunches, wet hands resting on his thighs. She brings her own together reflexively, lets the silence stretch out between them as the both of them wait for the other to give.
Ben blinks first.
With a flick of his fingers, the water shuts off. He holds out a hand, and Rey hesitates for only as long as it takes to shift her weight before she accepts it and lets him help her to her feet.
If he was considering lifting her up again, the look on her face deters him: instead, he reaches for the towel hanging on the back of the door and hands it to her in silence. The room is suddenly far too small with them both standing up, so Rey makes quick work of drying herself off and wrapping the towel around her damp hair. He moves away while she twists it up in a knot, stepping out into her room and glancing around like he’s never seen it before.
She knows he has. The bond doesn’t care where it calls them to. He’s seen everywhere she has, at this point.
He folds himself into the wall when she slips past him, making himself as compact as he can considering he’s six-foot-something of solid flesh and muscle, and when she’s done tugging on a dry shirt and clean pair of pants, cloth pad safely in place, Rey turns back to find him staring fixedly at the floor between his feet, a different man altogether to the one who had knelt between her legs and bathed her cunt with his bare hands not minutes ago.
Her lower muscles are twisting themselves in knots again without the warm water to soothe them, and she can already feel gravity beginning to do its work on her insides, so Rey moves brusquely past him and climbs back into bed, setting in with her back to him. She can feel his eyes on her, but he doesn’t move.
“Get in,” she mutters, reaching behind her to tug the sheets back. She has a few hours before Rose is due to return with lunch, and since she was distracted from finding her heat-pack she’ll make do with the next best thing.
For a long minute, Ben stays where he is, but then there’s a shuffle, and a sigh, and she feels a weight sink onto the bunk behind her.
“I thought you wanted me to get out,” he says as he slides in under the covers, snorting when her elbow jerks back and misses him completely.
He hovers behind her at first, which is—Rey tells herself—entirely beside the point of his being here, so she inches backwards until she can feel the warmth of him along her whole body. He grows bold again at that, and his arm pushes under the blanket to settle over her waist, the weight and heat an instant relief to her tender muscles.
“You’re wet,” her voice is muffled by the pillow, but she feels an answering rumble of low laughter shudder through him.
“You’re a delight—oof,” Rey’s elbow doesn’t miss this time, landing somewhere north of his solar plexus, but Ben only tightens his grip and draws her further into to his chest, bringing his knees up to fit his legs to hers. “Really charming.”
“I said shut up,” she says primly, nestling as close to him as she dares (which is, at this point, about as close as is possible while they’re both still dressed, and oh, if that thought doesn’t send something swooping through her).
“Your heart’s racing,” mumbles Ben into the back of her neck.
“Hmm, nothing,” he tucks his face further into the space between her hairline and her shoulder, his breathing beginning to even out as his whole body goes slack against her. “Sleep, Rey.”
She doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to drift off with another person—with him—so close, not until the bond separates them again, but Ben’s body heat seeps through her and the rise and fall of his chest against her back pulls at her consciousness like the lapping waves against the shore, that distant ocean she chased through her dreams back when her only memory of it was a dream, and she had no idea it was even possible to be this entwined with another being, to feel the rhythms of her own body begin to fall into pace with his until he’s not separate from her, anymore; not apart, but a part of her.
His heartbeat in her chest; her breath drawing air into his lungs. Her monster, keeping her safe.
Rey rests her arm over his where it holds her close to him, sliding the other under her pillow.
It doesn’t hurt so much anymore: she feels swollen, achy, but the pain is almost gone.
Ben breathes loudly in her ear.