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One, I Love

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Rey watched the soldiers, sons of peasants and lords alike, marching through the open gates of Alderaan Kingdom from a small balcony that overlooked the main road. They had returned home victorious, to fanfair and open arms of loved ones. Rey longingly observed as wives greeted their husbands, children ran to their fathers, young lovers embraced as they were united once more. Joyful sights that filled the air with celebration. But Rey held her breath, her nervous hands trembling as she knotted them in the fabric of her blue overdress. Her eyes scanned the faces of the men, trying desperately to swallow a lump of dread that knotted in her stomach and rose to her throat. Surely she would have heard, would she not? Surely word would have spread if he had fallen in battle. 

 

She turned away from the crowds streaming through the gate, forcing her lungs to take in air. Her back against the cold stone arch, she covered her eyes with her hands, closing them for a moment as she sent up a silent prayer to the gods yet again. She’d prayed more these past few months than she had her whole life. Bring him home safe. She’d pleaded. Just let me see him smile at me once more. I need no more than that.  

 

Slowly, like a child who had counted to a number in hopes that when they reach it  and open their eyes, their wish would be granted, she let her hands fall to her lips, kissing her fingers before pressing them together in a last desperate prayer. Then she turned, letting her tear-rimmed eyes flutter open. 

 

The last of the caravan of soldiers were coming through the city walls. The crowd of armored men dwindled, and then the gates were empty. She leaned over the railing, trying to see into the road beyond the wall. But there was nothing but the settling dust of the road. 

 

Suddenly, her bodice felt like it was laced too tight at her ribs. Panic seized her, rushing through her veins and turning her blood to ice. Her heart ceased it’s frantic beat for a moment as her world stopped turning. There was no way she’d missed him earlier, no mistaking his form, his unique armor, his striking silhouette. Reality hit and swung the Earth back into motion in a rush, a hysteric pulse driving through her so that she swooned on her feet and grasped the railing as to not faint. 

 

He’d not returned. The words he’d whispered into her ear that she’d replayed over and over again, as she cried herself to sleep at night with worry, as she watched the horizon for any sign of his return, was but a broken vow.

 

The memory of that moment, and those words, now felt like poison, like a bitter pill that burned and cut her throat. She heard his voice, low and sweet, as if he’d spoken but a moment ago, shivers running down her spine at the remembrance of his breath caressing her ear. She felt the burn of his lips where he’d pressed a stolen, delicate kiss to her cheek, almost as if his mouth had branded her. Her fingers traced the invisible scar of his lips as her eyes flooded with tears and cascaded down her cheeks.

 

And then she heard the thunder of horse hooves from just beyond the gate, and the crowd’s cheers grow louder, every face turning to the archway of the outer walls. She rubbed and blinked her vision clear as the Dark Knight of Alderaan rode through the gate and into the city. Rey couldn’t stop the sob of relief that came from her at the sight. 

 

Covered head to toe in his obsidian armor, his gleaming sword hilted at his hip, she had to admit that he must look a menacing monster to his foes. But Rey knew the boy underneath the metal and leather. The boy who’d defended her honor when cruel peers had flung names at her because of her unfortunate parentage. The boy who’d stolen sweets from the kitchen to spoil her with when they’d sit by the river. The boy who used to play at being her knight in shining armor, calling her “my lady” - when to call her a lady was just shy of blasphemy. 

 

The boy who’d grown into man before her. A man whose voice made her tremble and whose gentle touch ignited fire in her veins. The man who still called her “my lady”, despite their stations and her protests. 

 

The man who she knew to desire the way she did would only end in heartbreak or shame. More than likely both. 

 

The Dark Knight reached up and removed his helmet, tucking it under his arm as he shook the sweat and dust from his long, dark hair. She watched as he scanned the crowd, nodding at the people and offering small waves and gestures of appreciation and gratitude to the masses. And then his eyes landed on her, his dark gaze warming and his features softening as they beheld each other for the first time in months.

 

That’s when she noticed the angry, red slash bisecting his face and she gave a small gasp, more tears falling down her cheeks at the thought that he had been injured. It wasn’t fresh, but it also was still healing. Some soldier must have helped bandage him up, or, knowing how stubborn he was, he probably tried to do it himself mid-battle. It would scar, and deeply, too. She could tell that much even from this distance. Perhaps if they got a moment alone he’d allow her to clean and apply a poultice to the wound...

 

He must have noticed her worry and tears streaming down her cheeks, for his brows creased with concern and he made a small pout with his plush mouth as his brought his hand to his chest, holding it over his heart, as though her tears wounded him. With a mischievous smile, he then reached into the top of the breastplate of his armor and pulled out a small length of simple, blue ribbon. Her heart soared at the sight and she felt her cheeks flush, which she tried to hide beneath her fingertips pressed to her face, along with the smile that curled her mouth. He twisted the ribbon about the leather of his gloves and then brought it to his lips. His intense gaze held hers as he kissed the delicate silk, then he gave her a wink and a roguish grin before continuing his journey home into the city. 

 

The ribbon . Rey felt her stomach knot in a delightful way. That knot expanded and burst into elation, flooding her with joy and settling low in her belly, melting into an agonizing heat. He’d kept the ribbon. That memory played in her mind as uncontrolled as the pleasant burn between her thighs.

 

***

 

She watched as he bid his goodbyes to the rest of the ladies of the court before heading off to war. She rolled her eyes as they all fawned over him, feigning tears and throwing perfumed, silken handkerchiefs edged in lace with their initials embroidered in gold. “To remember me,” several of them sighed. “Carry my favor into battle in hopes that it may bring you luck and home safe.”

 

Rey stood back, watching the spectacle from the shadows. Not a true lady, she knew she had no place with the rest of the swooning coterie. She hoped he’d be able to steal a moment later, down by their tree at the river, to bid her farewell without all the pageantry. She saw him catch her eye from where she stood, giving her the smallest of nods, but offering no other indication that he’d seen her lurking in the shadows.

 

After making his way down the line of well-to-do Lord’s daughters, he’d made his flourishing exit, and the ladies of the court began to trickle out, dabbing their eyes. Rey had to bite her cheeks to suppress her amusement. She knew they shared the thought that most of the ladies of the court were frivolous and silly. 

 

She snuck out of the main hall as it began to empty, entering a corridor that she knew wasn’t as used as the main one. As she was passing a drapery-shrouded alcove, a hand snuck out from the curtains and grasped hers. She made a small shriek, but a playful, almost boyish face snuck out from the parted curtain, finger to his lips to indicate to keep quiet. She covered her mouth, a little giggle escaping, as she allowed him to pull her into the alcove, letting the fabric swallow her into its heat backwards. 

 

“Does my lady not wish to also bestow a favor on the Dark Knight?” his deep voice had crooned in her ear. 

 

He kept a hold on her wrist, thumb tracing small circles into her pulse point that beat faster with every stroke. His arm weaved under hers at her side to wrap around her waist and pull her closer to him, her back suddenly pressed against the wide, warm expanse of his chest. The way his large hand nestled against her belly, splaying out to almost span her entire abdomen, made her feel an instant sense of safety and security. Since they were children, he’d been her sanctuary, her protector. But in recent years, a kindling fire had begun to burn between them, that stoked and grew with each touch, each whisper, each gaze. His hand at her belly, that gentle soothing hold on her wrist, and his lips at her ear caused that little flame to burn bright and sink down low to a place that made her flush.

 

“My Lord,” she whispered, wriggling from his grasp to put some small distance between them, “I believe you have enough favors to keep you protected until the end of days.” She loosed his hold on her wrist and twisted to face him, meeting his darkened gaze before averting her eyes and backing herself up against the wall. Those eyes of his; they always threatened to undo her, whether they were begging her to run through the meadow as children, or insisting she allow him to call her things like “my lady” and “sweetheart”, when she could be neither to him. 

 

He advanced on her, taking two steps to cage her against the velvet wrapped stone. But he stayed a step from her, simply taking one of her hands in his, turning it over in his palm to trace the lines there with a fingertip. “But yours is the only one I wish to guard my soul.” 

 

“My Lord,” she’d breathed out, unable to take her hand from his. He shifted his weight, inching closer to her, and she felt the heat from his body pressing her deeper against the wall. “You are being too familiar.”

 

“We’ve been familiar since we were children,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. A twinkle that sparkled with a wicked charm. He reached up to brush aside a lock of her hair from her collarbone. “We’ve sparred with sticks. I’ve let you braid flowers into my hair. We used to swim together in the river in nothing but our undergarments.” His fingers idly toyed with the light frill of the neckline of her clothes as his voice dropped a little. “A white shift leaves little to the imagination when drenched.”

 

“You’re a beast.” She batted away his hand as it started to stray to the bare skin of her neck. She narrowed her eyes at him. “I was a child of six who looked like a boy. And you were naught but fourteen, all long limbs and big ears.” She gestured at the tease, and he made a face at her, the slight sight of those ears peeking out from under his hair pinking at the tips. “We’ve changed, my Lord. We are no longer those children.” 

 

“We are not. I’ve watched you grow from that scrawny scrap of a girl to the woman you are now.” Another shift in his steps and there was barely any space between them. He didn’t touch her, but he leaned into her, his voice barely above a rumble. Yet it rolled through her like a summer storm across the field, filled with as much lightning and fire. “And believe me, I’ve imagined how you may look now, emerging from the water with your sheer gown clinging to the curve of your hip, the swell of your breast.” His hand ghosted over her body, following the curves of her so that the warmth of him permeated her clothing without laying his hand to her body. It came to rest by her head, pressing to the wall as he captured her eyes. “I could throw you over my shoulder right now and take you down to the river. Toss you in the water and see if my imagination lives up to reality.”

 

“I’ll scream,” she said, trying to sound defiant, but her voice came out a strangled, breathy whimper.

 

“I’m sure you will,” he replied, and the look in his eyes, the note of want in his tone, made her certain he was no longer talking of swimming in the innocence of childhood.

 

His gaze burned her, an embarrassing slickness pooling between her legs as she squirmed against the wall. They’d played at flirtation before, teasing each other gently as only a man and a woman could. But this was stepping over that careful line they’d always walked. The air felt thick, like she couldn’t get enough oxygen, her chest heaving against the ties of her bodice. She felt him lean in more and she turned her head, fearful of holding his gaze any longer. “My lord, I should be leaving.” 

 

“Not yet.” He jumped on her words, his thumb and forefinger carefully grasping her chin and turning her face back to his. “I want to memorize every detail of you to keep me company on the lonely days and nights ahead of me.” A finger lightly traced the line of her jaw. “And none of this ‘my lord’ nonsense. It’s just us. There is no ceremony to uphold. Call me Ben. How many times must I ask you to call me Ben?”

 

“At least one more time, my Lord.” She gave him a small smile, removing his hand from her face. The gesture made him lean back and the rush of cool air from the absence of his body heat made her shiver. “We are no longer children. It is not proper.”

 

She began to turn away from him, but he grasped at her skirt to stop her from going far. “Fuck propriety.” He suddenly knelt, like a knight to a true lady, gathering her skirts in his fists, laying his head against her stomach. “I have no shame to fall to my knees before you, my sweet Lady. I beg of you, would you truly see me go off to war without hearing you say my name, my true name, once more?”

 

His words broke a dam she wasn’t even aware she had been building. Tears blurred her vision and she tried, in vain, to blink them away as she whispered, “Please don’t speak of the war to come.” She allowed her fingers to rake through his hair, tucking the silky midnight strands behind his ear as he rested his chin against the tie to her bodice. “To speak troth, I’m terrified for you. To think of you in battle, fighting. That there’s a chance you might not return—“

 

“I shall,” he swore, his voice tender. 

 

“You cannot promise that, and you know it.” Her knees felt weak and her hands began to shake. Unbidden tears streamed from her eyes as she gasped out, “Please don’t leave me alone in this world. I cannot bear it. Please, Ben…”

 

“You’re not alone, Rey.” He surged to his feet, pulling her to his chest, stroking her hair and shushing her gently. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, “I will come back for you, sweetheart. I promise.” And then he nuzzled his cheek to hers, pulling back just enough to press his lips there. At the touch of him, her breath stuttered and her tears ceased. His lips lingered against her skin, burning their imprint to her. An exquisitely torturous heat began where his mouth marked her cheek, connecting to where his fingers stroked at her shoulders and smoldering away at that fire deep within her belly. 

 

When he finally pulled back, he let his nose trace along the line of her cheekbone, following down her own nose before pressing his forehead to hers. His lips lingered just a breath away from hers. If she leaned in just an inch, if she took too deep an inhale. If he’d just surge forward to claim her mouth…

 

But then he lifted his face from off hers, brushing the tears off her cheeks and taking a small step back. She followed him to teeter on her toes, the energy between them pulling her in his orbit. He steadied her, broad hands at her shoulders. When she dreamily fluttered her eyes to his, he spoke. “Now, wilt you leave me so unsatisfied as to have no remembrance of my Rey for the months ahead, no favor to carry with me into battle?”

 

She smiled a bittersweet smile, brushing tears from her cheeks as she cleared her throat. “I have no silk scarves or fine lace to bestow on you. However,” she reached up and untied the length of ribbon holding back her chestnut hair from her face, “if you’ll carry this, my lord. And return it to me when you have come home at last.”

 

He wrapped the ribbon around his fingers and laid that hand to his heart. “I’ll guard it with my life.”

 

He took her hand reverently and bowed in gratitude before lifting his head and giving her a signature wink and smirk. He then exited the alcove with a flourish, her ribbon clasped tightly in his fist. 

 

As she watched him leave with the rest of the soldiers later that day, she bit back her tears that had fallen so freely when they were alone in the secret alcove. But each pad of his horse’s hooves that carried him farther away from her made her heart sink a little more until her whole being felt heavy and weighted. She barely made it to her small room before succumbing to the deluge of grief she’d been holding back. She slid down the door and gave herself over to weeping. 

 

***

 

“Rey!” A voice called, breaking her from her reverie. “I was wondering where you’d wandered off to.”

 

Rose stood just inside the doorway with her hands on her hips, the crimson silk of her gown, much finer than the blue linen overdress Rey wore, crinkling beneath her hands. 

 

“I just wanted a better place to view the soldiers returning from war.” She rubbed at her cheeks, trying to banish any tears or heated color that might be painting them. 

 

“I know exactly what you were doing,” Rose scolded playfully before she grabbed her hand to pull her towards her. “So, were you able to see your knight?”

 

She made a face at her friend. “He’s not my knight,” she rebuked, then gazed toward the vanishing figure in black, sighing softly. “He can never be mine.”

 

“Maybe he can’t be fully,” Rose said, turning her head back to look at her. There was a softness in her expression, that tender, sisterly love and affection that made Rose her one and only confidant among the ladies in waiting to the Queen. “But never doubt that man cares for you dearly.”

 

“We were childhood companions,” Rey replied with a wistful smile. “History will always leave its mark.”

 

“Oh, he’ll leave his mark on you.” Rose gently poked her stomach before grasping their hands together. “And it’ll be a swollen belly, if you’re not careful.”

 

Rey gasped, “Rose, you’re wicked!”

 

“He carries a flame for you,” Rose said in a matter-of-fact way, before adding with a smirk, “Practically a torch. It would light the way for the blind.”

 

Her delightful laugh soon fed Rey’s own joy, and the girls fell into a fit of giggles. 

 

“Eh-hem” another voice broke through their laughter and made both girls cover their mouths and turn on their heel toward the sound. “And just what has you two in such a dizzy?”

 

Kaydel was standing in the doorway, with her eyebrow quirked at both of them and  arms crossed over her chest.

 

“Nothing.” Rose managed to calm the bubble of laughter in her chest first to speak. “Just a little gossip between friends.”

 

“Well, there will be time for that later. We’ve been summoned. The Queen is requesting us to help her prepare to welcome her son back from battle.” She beckoned the two girls and then started walking briskly back through the halls. She then called over her shoulder, “Did you see the Prince return? That scar marring his handsome face!”

 

“I think it makes him look rugged,” Rose said, adding a little sigh as she glanced in Rey’s direction. “More manly.”

 

“I think it needs a poultice and a good cleaning, or it will fester,” Rey retorted. 

 

“That’s your area of expertise, little Rey,” Kaydel replied as she skipped ahead. “You should mention your concern to the Queen.”

 

As Kaydel turned a corner, Rose leaned over and whispered in Rey’s ear, “Maybe if you bat your pretty eyes at the Prince, he’ll give you a private audience to—“ she paused for effect, lowering her voice and wiggling her eyebrows— “assess his wounds.”

 

“Oh, shush now!” Rey fought the color in her cheeks that burned at the implication of her friend’s words. “Hurry, or we’ll surely be scolded for our tardiness.”

 

Rey grabbed Rose’s hand and the two girls sprinted down the hall to the Queen’s quarters. The image of the Prince with her simple favor pressed to his lips stayed burned in her mind and kept a smile curled on her lips as she helped dress Queen Leia to greet her son. 

Chapter Text

 

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Ben collapsed into the soft, welcoming embrace of his bed. He relished in the fresh, clean linen that smelled of the summer air, instead of a mud-laden, rain soaked, rough wool blanket on a mat on the floor, pillows like clouds to cradle his head instead of rocks and his arm, and curtains he could draw against the sun and sleep till noon—instead of waking before the light painted the sky it’s rosy-orange hue at first light. 

 

Though much of his princely life he found extravagant, he had to admit some pleasures he gladly welcomed after months spent on the battlefield. A hot bath had been prepared for him, with clean water and sweet smelling soap. A servant scrubbed for nearly twenty minutes to get rid of all the mud, soot, and blood from his dark hair, not satisfied until the rinsing wash ran clear. A fresh shave and a scrub of all his extremities, and he felt a new man. He luxuriated in the tub until the water lost its heat and his skin began to prune. 

 

Fresh clothing had been laid out for him. He dismissed the servant who was to help him dress, wanting a moment of peace before the inevitable reunion with his parents. He pulled on his breeches and black trousers, leaving the pants undone and loose at his hips. A white shirt followed, which he left open, before crashing into his bed. 

 

After savoring the way the mattress swallowed him up for a few moments, he crawled along the coverlet to the table beside the bed. There he had laid the blue silk ribbon Rey had given him before heading off to war. He wrapped it around his fingers, weaving it through and around each digit before letting it loosen and fall to his chest slowly, then repeating the motions. The edges of it were frayed, the silk unraveling from months of use and ritual. He brought the ribbon to his nose, inhaling deeply. 

 

The scent of her had long since faded, but he still remembered the aroma it had held, as if she had just pulled it from her hair to hand to him. He’d know it anywhere, a mix of citrus and vanilla and sunshine all swirled together into the essence of Rey. It was emblazoned in his mind, a scent-memory that brought with it thoughts of carefree days spent together, without the pressures of Princely duties and rules of propriety that fell to them as they grew out of childhood. When they’d simply been Ben and Rey, and could pretend at a future where their stations mattered not. 

 

They’d always shared a special sort of bond, something that was much more than brother and sisterly love, but yet just shy of more . The innocence of youth allowed for that borderline to be skirted and flirted with, yet never crossed. But as they both blossomed into a young man and young woman, Ben began to allow his feelings for Rey to flow into uncharted and forbidden territory. He found his thoughts often wandering of their own free will. Watching her hair in a breeze would make him wonder how soft it would feel wrapped around his fingers. The glimpse of the freckles that dotted her shoulders would make him ponder how sweet her skin would taste as he suckled his way up her neck to devour her lips. And those lips… his wicked thoughts so often strayed to what noises he could coax out of them if she was naked and writhing beneath him. 

 

But it was more than just a desire to bed a pretty girl. If it was merely sex he craved, there were women galore that he could sate his lust on. But the few times he’d indulged in such behavior in a hope to cure himself of his urges, he found it left him empty and wanting. Just spending an afternoon in Rey’s company, simply talking about everything and nothing left him more satisfied than a night spent between a woman’s legs. So, he’d sworn off frivolous conquests and found his pleasure in the stolen moments spent with Rey, leaving his lust to his fist and fantasies that refused to abate, filling his dreams and waking moments alike.

 

Another one of those fantasies started, one where he wasn’t the Prince and she wasn’t the daughter of a noble’s mistress, and they could share in a very different homecoming. One where he was able to ride up to Rey instead of acknowledging her from afar. Where he could sweep her into his arms and kiss her in front of all the gods and the kingdom. He could lift her onto his horse and carry her away to their house, lay her down on their bed. Kiss her lips, her neck, mouth at the fabric over her pert nipple as he palmed her other breast. Slowly undo the laces of her bodice. Her voice would softly sigh his name as he—

 

A knock at the door pulled him back to reality. He sat up quickly, pulling his hand from his undone trousers and shoving a pillow in his lap to hide his erection. 

 

“What?” Ben shouted, voice gruff—both in trying to hide his present state, and frustration that he had been interrupted before he his mind could round out the fantasy. 

 

“Your Majesty,” Mitaka said as he poked his head around the door, wearing the distinct expression of a dog who had just been kicked. “Your mother is waiting to receive you in the parlor.”

 

Ben grunted and ran his fingers through his hair. “Tell her I’ll be there when I’m damned good and ready.” 

 

“Yes, Sire. Do… do you require some help in dressing, your Majesty?” The servant offered, his voice quivering just a little. 

 

Ben contemplated the state of affairs currently hidden beneath the pillow, and then snapped back, “I’ve managed to dress myself in armor for months. I think I can manage a simple doublet.”

 

“Of course, your Majesty,” Mitaka said with a slight bow. “I’ll leave you to your devices, and tell your mother to expect you presently.”

 

As the door shut, Ben fell back against the mattress, pulling the pillow over his face and letting out a groan into the cushion. Throwing it to the side, he glanced down at his lap, his eager manhood still standing strong and proud at attention.

 

“You really won’t be satisfied until we’ve seen this through, will you?” He said to the throbbing presence between his legs, and it seemed to bob, as if it was agreeing with him. “You do know that this is most likely a wasteful fantasy. We can’t wed her, and to have her would only bring her shame, as much as we both may desire it.”

 

But his erection seemed to care not, still aching for release. “Fine,” he grumbled, shucking his pants down past his hips and grasping himself in hand. “Perhaps you’ll be able to behave yourself when you see her next, instead of trying to embarrass me in front of the whole damned kingdom again, making me try to ride a horse in armor with a stiff cock, you impatient little bastard.”

 

Not likely , he answered for his member in his head as he tried to regain the daydream of his homecoming in another life.

 

***

 

His libido temporarily satisfied, and dressed in his signature black doublet, the prince strode down the halls of the palace to the parlor of the Queen. Tucked into the inside of his shirt, he’d laced and knotted the ribbon of Rey’s. No one but he would know it was there, and that thought was enough for him. He touched the place above his heart, where the ribbon lay beneath the layers of clothing, before knocking at the door and pushing them open wide. 

 

“Mother!” he announced as he burst through the door. He then noticed that the Queen was not alone, her waiting women surrounding her, many of them flushing or suppressing girlish giggles at his entrance. His eyes almost immediately found the owner of the ribbon knotted at his heart. Their eyes met for a brief moment, and he hazarded a gentle curl of his lips in her direction. He then brought his gaze back to his mother. “Your Majesty,” he said with a deep bow. “I am sorry to keep you waiting.”

 

The Queen stood and walked to her son, her graying hair piled into a braided crown atop her head, and laced around her silver diadem. The amethyst stones in the metal shimmered as she moved, and matched the deep violet of her velvet gown. Long sleeves laced with silver ribbon ran up both arms, which she opened wide to receive her son. 

 

“I’m sure you had much to attend to. A bath and soft bed I’m sure was a welcome sight after the war.” She embraced her son, hugging him tightly to her. She was a petite woman, only coming up to his chest, but she embraced him to her with a strength that nearly forced the air from his lungs. “Now, ladies,” the Queen said, turning to face the women in her company. “If you could take your leave, I’d like a few moments with my son alone.”

 

The ladies in waiting filed out of the room, all of them taking a moment to courtesy to him before exiting. Rose and Rey brought up the end of the line. They moved together, bowing their heads and bending gracefully. Rey dared a quick glance up at him, her hazel eyes bright, but shining with unshed tears. 

 

Everything within him suddenly yearned to reach out, gather her in his arms, and do whatever was needed to stop those tears from falling. His fingers twitched, aching to move to cup her cheek and kiss away the little drops that threatened to fall. But then Rose grabbed Rey’s hand and led her from the room.

 

“Ben,” Leia’s gentle voice beckoned him, and it was only then that he realized that he unconsciously taken a step to follow her, his gaze unable to leave her form until it had disappeared from the room, as if drawn to her like a spell. He felt a gentle hand on his cheek, easing his head back forward.

 

Ben shook his head a little, clearing the enchantment Rey held on him. “It is good to see you, Mother,” he said with a smile. 

 

“And you, my boy. I am glad to see you home safe.” His mother traced a careful hand along the wound cutting his cheek. “Oh, your poor face! Rey warned me it was in need of care, and I can see what she meant.”

 

“Rey was concerned?” He asked, his voice coming out soft as he felt his stomach flip. She’d gasped when she’d seen the wound on his face, had she not? 

 

“Of course she was,” his mother laughed. “Perhaps I’ll send her to you to take a closer look at it. She has quite the healing hand, our little Rey, with the mind and skill to be a proficient healer.” And then, with a knowing smile, she added, “She missed you terribly, you know.”

 

He felt his cheeks color and he cleared his throat, rolling his shoulders as if the move might slow the beat of his heart at her name. “Well, all the ladies of your court seemed to have missed me,” he added with a chuckle and a note of sarcasm. “They didn’t have me to practice their flattery on. How did they survive?”

 

“I know you hate how they fawn over you, but how could they not? My son is handsome, and you are the Prince.” She pinched his good cheek and then soothed the sting with a loving hand. “But it was different with Rey.” Her finger stroked his jaw line before she walked away from him, leaning against the back of a chair that faced the brilliant view of the city. “She’d sit at the window there, her needlework in hand and just stare at the horizon.” The Queen turned back to face her son, her eyes gleaming with the hint of tears, but with a smile curling at her mouth. “I think she was waiting for you. She’s been in a melancholy state since you left.”

 

Ben crossed to the window and touched the glass, as if feeling for her imprint there. The image of Rey on this ledge, watching the skyline, waiting like a sailor’s wife at a widow’s watch filled his mind. Guilt twisted at his insides and made him feel ill. “I am sorry that I caused her grief and pain in my absence,” he said softly. “I know that you are fond of Rey.”

 

“Her father was a dear friend,” he heard his mother reply with sorrow in her voice. “Before his passing, I swore to him I’d keep an eye on her, make sure she was well taken care of. I see her almost as I would a daughter.”

 

Ben’s reflection looked back at him from the glass, and he watched his hand come up to the place above his heart, where the ribbon lay beneath his clothes. “I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that she’s quite dear to me, too.”

 

Leia’s face came into view in the window as her hands lay gently on his shoulder. “I know she is. I have often wished that the stars aligned differently for her birth, so that your paths in life would be easier. But we must work with what the gods have dealt us. And to that end,” Leia maneuvered them both back into the room, and to the plush chairs she had been leaning against, leading Ben to one before sitting opposite him. “There is something I’d like to discuss with you, son.” Ben sat forward, leaning on his knees, watching his mother take a pause and a deep breath before continuing. “Your father and I believe it is time that you wed.”

 

At that Ben stuttered, feeling a knot form in his stomach. “Is now really the time to discuss this?”

 

“Ben, you are of a certain age—“

 

“I’m barely four and twenty,” he rebuked, cutting her off as he rose to his feet. “That’s not of ‘a certain age’. Father was probably still bedding wenches when he was as young as I am now.”

 

His mother shot him a look that made him mash his lips together and turn his eyes to the floor, staring a hole into the stone. “Perhaps that is true, but you are also not a teenager. You are a man,” Leia responded. “ And you are our only son and sole heir to the throne. Your father and I want to see our only child married and settled, ideally with the line secure.” 

 

Ben paced to the fireplace and placed his hands on the stone mantle. “I’ve only just returned from war.” His words came out with a growl. “The blood of battle has barely been washed from my hands.”

 

“Exactly,” his mother replied. He heard the rustle of her skirts as she stood up, and the click on her heels as she crossed closer to him. “You went off to fight without securing an heir. It was a great oversight on our part.” Then her voice softened as she lay a hand on his shoulder. “What if something had happened to you? Not only would I have lost my child, but our line would die with your father and I.” 

 

Ben turned to look at her, eyes narrowed, and spat out with venom, “Then perhaps don’t send your sole bachelor son and heir into the fray next time?”

 

“We had little choice.” Ben rolled his shoulders to cast off his mother’s arm and took a step away from her, but the firm tone of her voice stopped his retreat. “You are our fiercest warrior. And our men would follow you to the ends of the Earth.” He felt her gentle hand reach up, turning his head to meet her gaze before cupping his face in her palms. “Ben, my darling,” she said softly. “Wouldn’t it have been lovely to come home to a wife waiting for you? Perhaps even a child?”

 

Ben felt his heart flutter. There was no way for her to have known that was exactly what he had imagined all these months he was away: coming home to a woman—one woman in particular—with whom he could celebrate his victory and homecoming with. Perhaps finding her already swelling with their child they made in a passionate goodbye. Some days he even imagined having a dark-haired little one toddle to him on chubby legs, yelling for their papa. Young though he may be, he had thought of such a future. But whenever he imagined that life, there was only one face that came to his mind, only one person who he desired to create a family with. 

 

And that future, that family was just not a possibility. Not with him being born so high, and her so low. It was such a cruel twist of fate, to find the echo of your soul in the one who was so close, yet so far. 

 

Ben swallowed and tried to shove aside the thoughts of dark-haired, wide-eyed babes, and Rey round and glowing from his mind. “I cannot say I’ve never thought of such things—“

 

“Good.” His mother patted his cheek with a smile and then walked back to the chair. “Because your father and I have the perfect girl in mind. We discussed the union long ago with her father, and I think you’ll be happy with such a match—“

 

“Wait,” Ben stuttered. “You’ve discussed the union already?” 

 

“Well, it was years ago and just a thought at the time, but now, in light of everything, it seems quite serendipitous that we made arrangements and discussed—“

 

“Made arrangements?” Ben ran a hand through his hair. Deep down, he knew this day was coming. The day when he’d have to put aside his foolish fantasy and face reality, face the duty that fell on his shoulders of being the only living heir to the throne. But the sudden nature of hearing that his marriage had been in the works for years, perhaps since he was a child, was jarring. “So you’ve basically had me betrothed for years? When were you going to inform me of this?”

 

“It’s not like that.” Leia’s voice was reassuring, but it did little to calm Ben’s temper. “It’s a complicated situation, and took some planning—“

 

“Listen,” Ben interrupted, stepping closer to his mother, arms crossed in front of his chest. He tried to keep his voice even, but a quiet rage was bubbling within him, making his words harsher than intended. “I understand that not all marriages can be of the heart, like you and father. But I’d think I’d at least have some say in who I would marry, share my bed, and mother my children.”

 

His mother lay a hand on his arm, giving it a reassuring squeeze. But there was something in her tone, an edge that made it sound more like she was trying to reason with a petulant child, not the grown man that he was, and that only fed the boiling anger inside him. “You will have some say. And if I am wrong in my suspicions, and you truly do not wish to wed this girl, then we’ll look at other options.” The hand on his arm squeezed tighter, and she leaned into him a little, her voice firm. “But I know I would feel better if we had this matter secured.”

 

Ben shook her off and took a step back, giving his mother an accusatory look. “Why are you pushing this matter so?” 

 

“I told you, your father and I feel it is in your and the kingdom’s best interest—“

 

“Best interest?” Ben spat out with a bit of a laugh. “You speak as though I spend my nights whoring as a pastime. I’m no saint, but it’s not as if I am bedding every pretty girl who offers to spread her legs for me, and, believe me, there have been many offers.” And then he took two broad steps to close the distance between them, standing over his mother with an almost menacing look, his frustration and wrath starting to boil over inside. “Or are you just worried I’ll make the same mistake you did?”

 

Leia’s expression clouded and her brows knitted. “What on earth do you mean?”

 

“Please, Mother.” He took another step, making her stumble backward until she hit the edge of the chair, sinking down into its cushion. Ben placed both hands on the armrests, bending down to be at face level with his mother. “You had me well educated, which means I can do arithmetic, unlike apparently most of the kingdom. I know that the time betwixt your marriage and my birth does not add up to a child at full term.”

 

Leia went pale, eyes darting back and forth between Ben’s stare. She dropped her eyes to the velvet of her gown in her lap, swallowing deeply. After a shaky breath, she spoke with conviction. “You were conceived within the bonds of marriage, most likely on our wedding night—“

 

“Don’t lie, Mother,” Ben spat out, pushing himself off the chair to stand at his full height. “A seven month term baby rarely survives a fortnight from my research, much less is as healthy and large as, by all accounts, I was.”

 

“Ben, it’s not what you think—“

 

Leia started to stand, but Ben stopped her by again leaning down to confront her. “What I think ? Oh, Mother. You’ve given me much to think about.” After a moment, he turned briskly and made his way to the door of the hall. “I’ll discuss this no further. I’ll dine alone tonight, and perhaps find some... other way to celebrate my homecoming.” With a sly smile, he nodded, bowing his body mockingly, “Goodnight, Mother.”

 

And then Ben stormed from the hall, slamming the door behind him.

Chapter Text

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Rey tried to steady her hand on the tray she held. The steaming mortar of herbs clattered against the bowl and pitcher of hot water in her trembling grasp. 

 

But it wasn’t fear that had her hands trembling. Not exactly. There was a kind of fear coursing through her, yes, but a fearful excitement. The last time she’d been alone with the Prince, in that hidden alcove, he’d ignited fantasies within her that hadn’t left her thoughts these long months. He’d held her tightly as she confessed her worry and cried into his chest. He’d marked her cheek with a kiss that she’d felt branded into her skin, and made her feel ruined for any other happiness that didn’t involve Ben’s arms and his hands and his lips. 

 

She steadied the tray on her hip as she pressed her hand to her cheeks, feeling the heat that had risen there in remembering their stolen moment together before he went off into the fray. She shook her head, trying to clear the unbidden images of full lips upon her skin and heated breath and tangled limbs that filled her mind. She was here at the Queen’s request, to see to the health of her son. She couldn’t let her silly, girlish daydreams cloud her purpose. 

 

She stole herself with a deep breath and gently rapped on the door. When silence greeted her, she knocked again. Still nothing. She heard a chair shift from inside, but no voice beckoned her enter. 

 

“Stubborn, as always,” she cursed under her breath. He didn’t show his face at dinner, and she got the impression that he and the Queen had gotten into some kind of argument after she had been dismissed with the other waiting women. The Queen hid her emotions well, but growing up in her care, Rey had learned how to read the truth behind the mask that she wore. 

 

She’d also learned, through years of practice, how to deal with a certain stubborn prince. Other servants may cower at his sharp tongue and intensity, but little frightened Rey when it came to the Dark Knight.

 

So, she gave the heavy door a push without his invitation and walked into his private quarters.

 

The room was dark. He’d lit no candles, and the waning light of day stole in through the windows to cast a soft warmth about the Prince’s parlor. A dying fire was crackling in the fireplace as the only other source of light, it’s dwindling flames making the shadows stretch and twist as they mingled with the failing light, like some sort of strange dance. 

 

Her eyes fell on him, sitting at the table by the fire, his elbows perched on his knees and his head in hands. His dinner lay half eaten in front of him, as well as a pitcher of rich, red wine that looked near halfway gone.

 

She marched over to where he sat, setting her supplies down with a clatter. That finally got his attention, and he lifted his head up from his hands. There was a tired, haggard look to his face, but his whole demeanor lightened when he gazed upon her. 

 

“Drinking yourself into a stupor is no way to greet me after so many months, my lord.” Rey snarked with a smile, leaning against the table’s edge and crossing her arms over her chest. 

 

“Rey,” Ben breathed out, standing to tower over her. They merely gazed at each other for a moment, taking in the realization that they were face to face and alone after so many months of distance. Then, a bright smile spread over Ben’s face, and they both leaned in and wrapped each other up in a hug, her arms around his neck, his around her waist. Her feet left the floor as he hefted her up into the air, making her giggle. “I’ve missed you, my girl,” he said, seeming to breathe her in with his nose pressed to her curls. He set her back down on her feet, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

 

“And I you.” She allowed herself to brush the dark curls from his eyes, tucking them behind his ear. Her fingertips seemed to tingle where she trailed them along his cheek, and she watched as his head tilted toward her touch. “When you didn’t come through the gates with the rest of the men,” her voice shook slightly with residual fear from earlier that day, “I thought—” 

 

“You thought I had been struck down?” He finished for her to save her the agony of saying the words aloud. She nodded, and his features softened, leaning his head down to her, that roguish smirk playing at his lips. “It would take more than some enemy blade to end me.”

 

She trailed her fingers along the gash slashing his cheek, feeling her heart clench at the way it cut deep into his flesh. “It looks like one tried.” 

 

His hand brushed hers from the cut and caught her fingers, letting them curl over his before bringing them to his mouth. “A scratch,” he said nonchalantly, pressing his lips to her knuckles. 

 

She felt her cheeks burn at the touch of his mouth, and bit her lip to try and hide it. “That is no scratch. How much wine have you had, to dull your senses that much? Now sit,” she commanded as she guided him to his chair. He sat obediently, scooting his chair closer so she was all but forced to sit either on the table’s edge or in his lap. She chose the former, perching herself on the ledge. “I have been sent to tend to your wounds, and any other ailments I feel may need my attention.” She pushed the goblet and pitcher far from his grasp. “My first order: no more alcohol for you.”

 

He gave her a stern look. ”I’m not even close to drunk, Rey.” 

 

“I know. And I am grateful, for I will not be called to help the Prince nurse his hangover come morning. You’re the worst patient when you feel poorly.” She wet a cloth and wasted no time in pressing it into the gash to begin to clean it. She took her time, caressing the jagged edges of his flesh that were just starting to heal itself. “I’ve not known you to drink, save for parties and when you are truly vexed.”

 

He closed his eyes, letting her turn his head however she wished to tend to the wound. “Well, after the confrontation with my mother, I guess you could say I was truly vexed.” She switched over to the poultice herbs she’d concocted, giving them a final grind as she nodded to him, urging him to continue. “And, well... ‘in vino veritas’, so they say. I thought a goblet or two might help me come to terms with my fate.”

 

“Your fate?” She couldn’t tell if he was being his typical over dramatic self, or if something dire had happened between him and the Queen after she had left the parlor. 

 

He took a breath, not meeting her eyes as he said, “My parents wish for me to wed.”

 

“Oh—“ The stab of pain that penetrated her at those few words almost stole her breath. They were words that she knew she would hear one day. She’d tried to prepare her heart for it, the day when she’d have to stand aside and watch him marry some other girl. Some girl with a good name and a legitimate birth, who knew naught that his eyes shifted to a honey color when he laughed and dark chocolate when he teased with naughty words. Who didn’t know that, though he often wore black, his favorite color was blue. That though he was as brave and strong as any knight, he couldn’t sleep when a storm shook the stones of the palace. 

 

“They have a girl in mind already,” he pouted. “It’s probably some spoiled, snooty princess of some foreign land they just want me to marry to solidify some political move.” He winced as she pressed some of the herbs into a place where the cut ran deep. “Or some meek little thing who’ll take one look at my mangled face and scream that she refuses to marry a monster.” His eyes shifted up to hers. “You gasped when you first saw it. I frightened even you, my dear Rey. The tears you shed…” His hand twitched to move, seeming to want to raise to her face, as if he could wipe away the tears that had already dried. But he stopped partway, curling his fingers into a fist that he rested on the table beside her. “Is it so terrible?”

 

“The wound itself is terrible,” she spoke plainly, finishing her work and putting her cloth down to resume with the wet rag. “But, if I may say so, my Lord, you are still a handsome man.” At that his eyes lit up, and a hint of color rose from his cheeks to the tips of his ears. “I gasped because I wasn’t expecting it. And then I cried because it was proof that you had been wounded in battle.” And then she softened her voice, turning her gaze to the floor. “That my worst fear was close to having been realized.”

 

He tilted her chin up with barely a touch of his finger. “And what was your worst fear, sweet Rey?”

 

“You not returning home. Some enemy soldier cutting you down on the battlefield, making you break your promise to me.” Her voice broke over tears that gathered in the corner of her eyes. She bit her lip as she twisted the rag in her fingers, picking at some fraying threads to occupy her mind while she tried to regain control over her emotions. “You not returning my ribbon to me,” she added with a small laugh, trying to make it sound light-hearted, but the true meaning sneaking out in her sorrow-filled voice. 

 

“Ah, yes. About that…” He shifted and reached into the pockets of his trousers, pulling out a white silk handkerchief edged in delicate pale blue lace, holding it out to her. 

 

She sniffled before eyeing the gift in his hand. “I didn’t give you a handkerchief, my Lord.”

 

“You did not. And before you say it, this is from none of the fawning ladies of the court, I swear.” He bowed his head a little, before catching her eyes with his and smiling brightly. “A gift from my travels, for my true lady.”

 

She scoffed at that. “I am no lady, my lord.”

 

“You’ve always been to me.” He said it so sincerely, so softly that she couldn’t help but almost believe him. “Take it and open it.” 

 

Rey wiped her hands on the rag she held, and then placed it back on the tray before taking the small bundle from Ben’s large, open palm. The gossamer silk flowed like water in her hands and fell open to reveal a length of midnight blue ribbon of a similar fabric, also edged in a matching web of fine lace. 

 

“Ben,” she breathed out, forgetting all rules of decorum as she let her fingertips trace the elegant fabric. She could feel the heat of his stare on her, and when she glanced up from the gift to meet his, the mischievous smirk that graced his full lips made her heart flutter. “It’s beautiful.”

 

“It isn’t what it should be.” He stood from his chair, taking the ribbon from her and gently nudging her shoulders to make her turn around. She felt his strong, large fingers delve into her hair, gathering half of it and parting it to begin a braid to hold the tresses off her face. 

 

“No, it isn't,” she said, as she suppressed a delighted sigh at the way his fingers played in her hair. “Lovely though it is, I did ask you to return my ribbon.”

 

“That I cannot do,” he responded as he tied the ends of the braid with the new ribbon.

 

“And why not? You didn’t lose it. I saw you with it just this morning.”

 

“Oh, I still have it.” Then she felt his hands on her shoulders, and the heat of his body against her back, almost touching her, but not quite. She felt her mouth run dry, and her skin heated and prickled beneath his hands. Brushing aside her hair to sweep it over one shoulder, his fingers grazed along the exposed skin of her neck, and she couldn’t stop the small moan that escaped her lips. He rested that hand at the juncture of her neck and shoulder, his thumb slowly tracing the sinews that lay just beneath her skin. Her head reclined back on its own, leaning into his touch and coming to rest on his shoulder. When he spoke, his voice was soft and husky. “Do you want to know the honest truth, Rey, why I cannot return your ribbon to you?”

 

“Yes,” and it was barely a word, more a breath that took on the shape of an affirmation. 

 

“I fear I’ve misused your favor.” Suddenly his lips were at her ear, words ghosting the shell and hot breath making a shiver run down her spine. And then that husky voice of his turned dark and sinful, “It smelled of you, like that little vial of oil I gifted you on your birthday.” She felt him bury his nose in her hair, letting out a growl before returning to her ear to rasp against it, “I’d inhale your essence as I took myself in hand and pretended my tight fist was your sweet body.”

 

Rey swallowed as she felt her whole body seem to come alive at his words. Her cheeks burned and her heart pounded in her ears. A liquid heat pooled between her thighs and curled up into her belly. He took a step, just a small shift, but then his body was pressed up against hers. One hand slid down her arm and wrapped around her waist, pulling her against him. Just the smallest guidance of his hand, a small push, and her body moved in a wave, rolling against a firm bulge that pressed in earnest against her lower back. He groaned at the contact and pressed his lips against the skin of her neck. Just barely, hardly even a whisper of a kiss, but the delicate touch ignited a trail of fire that heated her veins and made her desire more . More heat. More passion. More Ben. 

 

And that frightened her, the way her body was so quick to crave his, the way her lips tingled to be kissed, the way a slick desire was now dripping down her thighs and an ache was growing in a secret place, whispering to her that he could ease it, he could fill this emptiness inside her. She was so close to tipping, to giving in to the flame of lust that was devouring her. 

 

“I’ve missed you so,” he said as he pressed his lips into her skin—a full kiss at her pulse point now— and she felt his tongue dip out to taste her there. A subtle roll of his hips pressed her to the table, and she felt his hardened manhood prod against her. He moaned into the beat of her heart racing against his lips, his fingers grasping the dress at her side as his hand on her shoulder started to stray lower, following the line of her collar. If she let him keep going, if those lips that were beginning to lap a line up her neck managed to find her lips, she knew that she wouldn’t have the strength to stop him. 

 

She untangled his hand from about her body and slid from beneath him, though everything within her screamed not to and begged to let him claim her at last, consequences be damned. “My Lord, I can’t—“ 

 

Ben caught her hand, holding it in both of his to stop her from escaping. She kept her body turned away from him, for fear that to meet his eyes would be her undoing. She felt him bring her fingers to his lips and kissed each in turn, each press of his mouth making her heart race just a little faster. “My darling Rey,” his lyric voice said.  “Forgive me. Forgive my boldness. I don’t mean to frighten you with my advances. But I must speak my piece.” She turned towards him then, still keeping her eyes downcast to the floor. “It is not that I object to my parents wishing me to find a bride. It’s that the only woman I wish to make my wife, I cannot have. Not in the way I truly want.”

 

Rey felt tears sting her eyes once more. “Ben, please don’t—“ she whispered out. 

 

But he pulled her closer again, this time cupping her cheek, tilting her chin up and coaxing her gaze to find his, as he lay her hand to his chest above his heart. “You must know, sweetheart. I want you. Only you.”

 

And at that her heart both soared and broke. She wanted to scream at the gods for at once blessing her and cursing her, for giving her a soulmate and then putting him just out of reach. She leaned her face into his hand at her cheek, her tears falling in a steady stream. “Ben, this is so unfair.”

 

“Shh, I know, darling.” He brushed away those little salt rivers. “But I needed you to know. That whatever happens, you are the one who is in my heart.” He then wrapped her in his arms, and she pressed her face to his chest. He smelled of soap and wine and the musky scent of male that made her head grow fuzzy. She took a deeper inhale, and she felt herself grow drunk on him, looping her arms around his neck. He held her tight, guiding them back a few steps to the chair he had been sitting him. As they lowered to it together, he pulled her into his lap, still cradled against him. His fingers stroked her hair and rubbed her back in slow circles.

 

“Do you remember that day in the alcove?” He spoke softly, his lips pressed to her forehead. She nodded, burying herself deeper into his embrace. “You were so beautiful. You always are, but I think just knowing I wouldn’t see you again for i didn’t know how long just made me realize how much I adore you.”

 

She smiled and hid her flush in the crook of his neck. “You flatter me, Ben.”

 

“No flattery, my dear.” He nudged her head as he guided her to sit up. He seemed to smile at the roses in her cheeks, and he captured her chin, his thumb extending to trace over her lips. His eyes followed the little movement and it seemed to create its own gravity, pulling them slowly closer. “Do you know how much restraint it took to not kiss you then? To not kiss you now?” 

 

Her mind was swirling. The heat of his body and the touch of his fingers and the way he licked his lips crimson clouded all rational thought. Her chest heaved, as if the air was in short supply. And each breath just filled her lungs with more of the scent of him. “Maybe—“ and it was a whisper, barely spoken aloud, but Ben seemed to breath in that one little word, taste it on his tongue as she inched her mouth closer to his.

 

But just moments before they fell into each other, he pressed his fingertip to her waiting lips and lay his forehead on hers. 

 

“Rey.” His voice was rough and strained, and he turned his head slightly, letting his nose caress her own, keeping their lips a breath away. “If I kiss you now, it won’t be just a kiss. I know I won’t be able to stop. Because you know what else took every last ounce of my restraint then?” Both of his large hands grasped at her shoulders, squeezing perhaps too tightly. She could feel the tremble in his hands, his fragile control manifesting in tremors, and she grasped at his shirt with both fists, keeping her forehead pressed to his. “It took everything in me to not wrap your legs around my waist, lift your skirts and take you against the stone. To have had you at least once before heading off into battle.”

 

Rey pulled back then, finding his eyes unnaturally dark, pupils blown wide. There was something wild in them, almost feral, and that frightened and thrilled her all at once. He adjusted them in the chair, and she slid into his lap deeper, a prominent bulge pressed against her thigh. She gasped on contact and sank her teeth into her bottom lip to silence herself. 

 

“And do you know what stopped me?” He asked, and all she could do was shake her head.

 

“It’s not that I care not for your virtue. I do, but I would not have hesitated to break your virgin knot that night, if you’d allowed me.” His lust-blown eyes seemed to blink clear, still darkened by desire, but suddenly sad and serious. Then his hand found its way to lay on her belly. Her racing heart seemed to stop for a moment. His hand was warm and comforting, but it felt heavy, weighted with the implication of what the gesture meant. “I was headed off to war. All that filled my mind was what if I had you that night and left a part of me behind with you?” He pulled his gaze up from her stomach, and there was something so haunting in the way he looked at her: desire and lust mixed with hopeful dreaming and sad reality. “And then what would have happened had I fallen? What if I had departed this world having left you with child?”

 

The way Ben’s hand rubbed her flat stomach made her breath catch, and she let her hand fall to his to cover it. It was like one of her lovely, bittersweet dreams, like those moments Rey allowed herself to create a future that never could be. For a moment they were in a cottage somewhere, not a palace. They were sitting by their little hearth, and he was joyfully holding the rounded swell of her belly in his hands.

 

“I’ve—“ he started, softly, his voice quivering. “I’ve thought about it, you know?”

 

She flicked her eyes up to his. “You’ve thought about—“

 

“This.” And his hand pressed gently against her stomach. “How lovely you’d be, swollen with my child. With a babe at your breast.” Ben glided his hand to hold her firmly at the waist, pulling her closer as caught her chin in his fingers, again brushing his thumb over her lips. “By the look in your eyes, Rey, I know you’ve thought about it, too.”

 

Tears burned her eyes. There he was, confessing his longing, seemingly offering himself in every way she’d ever dreamed. And yet that deep-seated trepidation, that knowledge of knowing that her birth prevented them from being together in a way that would be acknowledged as true, gnawed at her heart. She turned her head away from his fingers grasp and pushed herself off his lap. His hand held onto hers and kept her from retreating further than an arm’s length away. “It doesn’t matter what I’ve thought,” she spoke, trying to hide the sorrow in her voice. “It’s but a wishful fantasy.”

 

“So you have thought about us?” Ben leaned forward in the chair, hand squeezing hers. 

 

“Ben—“ She started, pulling her hand from his and crossing a few steps away as the tears choked her words. 

 

She heard the sound of the chair sliding across the floor, and Ben stood and followed her small retreat, his hands resting on her shoulders. She crumpled at his touch, biting her lip to keep from sobbing out loud. “Rey, I keep trying to push you from my mind. I keep telling myself that I cannot have you, and my heart will not obey.” His arms were about her then, crushing her to his chest, his forehead pressed to her shoulder. “You… you act as if I am not alone in these thoughts, these desires.”

 

“I—“ She faltered as his lips again pressed to her skin. Pleasure washed over her, igniting from his mouth. A small moan tumbled forth from her, and the sound echoed in the room, shaking her back from the edge of the abyss. She rolled her shoulder to release his mouth, and fought every urge and yearning in her being to peel his arms from off her. “I forgot myself, my lord. I ask for your forgiveness for my behavior.”

 

“Rey, don’t do that.” There was something so soft in his voice, so gentle and loving, and when his hand again took hers, pulling slightly to turn her back to him, she felt the tears flow even harder. “There is nothing to forgive. You didn’t forget yourself. You let go.”

 

“And I shouldn’t have, my lord,” she choked out, backing away from his hand as it stretched out to brush away her tears. 

 

“Did you want me?” He followed her retreat, backing her up against the table again, the containers she used to clean his wound earlier shaking as she collided with the edge. “Then—in the alcove?”  His hands found the table on either side of her and caged her in, his body dangerously close to hers. He was insistent, predatory, but as with everything he did when it came to her, there was something so careful about his actions, so tender in his words. “When I had you pressed against the table like this, with my lips on your skin? Or when you were in my lap, begging me to kiss you? Did you— Do you want me, Rey?”

 

She darted her eyes back and forth between his. The look in them was so hopeful that it hurt her very soul to deny him, deny her heart’s yearning. She raised her hand to cup his cheek, letting her thumb graze over his skin with a featherlight touch. “What I want is irrelevant, my lord.” 

 

“No, it isn’t.” His hands grabbed hers and held them in his own at his chest. “And stop with all the ‘my lord’ nonsense. I’m Ben. I’m your Ben. I’ve always been yours.” He pressed his forehead again to hers, his voice soft, but trembling on the edge of tears, “Say the word, Rey. Just say it. And I'll prove it to you. Worship you—”

 

“Please don’t make this harder than it is—“ She whispered out, not having the strength in her to push him away, her resolve crumbling around his every word, every touch. 

 

“I love you,” he said, and her heart split open wide. The three words she’d dreamed of hearing were tumbling from his lips and filling her until her emotions spilled out as a sob, fresh tears falling from her eyes. He hushed her softly, brushing them away with tender fingers and one daring, shaking kiss to the corner of her eye that stole her breath. “I’ve loved you since the moment I laid eyes on you. You’re knitted into my very soul.” He pulled back, and the moment his gaze locked onto her, capturing and holding her his prisoner, she knew she was lost. “And I know you love me, too. Just admit it, sweetheart. Say it.”

 

She nodded. “I love you.” It fell from her lips like water through a sieve, simple and pure. Ben let out a breath as a smile curled on his mouth before his head fell to her chest. She dug her fingers into his hair, and he wrapped his arms around her waist. But then her eyes fell to his doublet, draped over the chair. The ebony velvet seemed to shimmer in the light, his jeweled girdle of fine silver and rubies atop it, with his hilted sword leaning against the chair. All reminders of his station. A glance around the room, and there was his crown, laying haphazardly on a pillow near his bedchamber. And that pit again began to form in her stomach, that twisting guilt eating away at her. She pulled his head up from off her chest with a gentle tug. “Of course I love you, Ben. But—“

 

“But what?” He said, a note of fear in his voice, and something dark passing over his eyes that had been so joyful a moment ago. 

 

“I am not for you.” It came out barely above a whisper, but seemed to resound in the room. She untangled his arms from about her and slipped from his grasp, taking a few steps towards the door to place some space between them. Every step away from him felt like it cracked her heart wide open, and every beat of it pulsed with an ache that was bone deep. Keeping herself turned away from him, she continued, “I am an illegitimate orphan, who was only saved from a life of living in the gutter because my father doted on his only bastard daughter, and your mother took a liking to me.” She turned to him then, stealing all her shattered courage and resolve, holding her head high. “You are not just born above me, you’re the Prince. I am low, of the very earth that you—born so high—walk upon. We may love each other, my Ben. But where could such a creature of earth and of air find to make a home? Surely it would spell doom for one of us.”

 

He took two long strides before she could make to back away, kneeling to the ground and holding her skirts like he had in the alcove. “Just tell me this. Put me out of my misery and end my suffering.” He turned his face up to hers, holding on to her, as if afraid she’d fade away into the mists of the field if he let her go. “If I had been born a poor man’s son or you a proper lady, and I swore to love you all your days and asked for your hand… what would be your answer?”

 

“Ben, please,” she begged through sniffles, trying to pry his hands from her legs, but his strength won out. She felt herself stumble and begin to fall as she struggled, but he held her up, a hand braced at her knees, and another finding its way over the curve of her bottom to hold tight to her lower back. Another sob racked through her body. “It is not possible for us.”

 

“But if it were—“ he pleaded.

 

“What is the point of even wondering?” She cried out. Her hands fisted at her eyes, pushing her tears off her face as more fell in their wake. “You’re kneeling before a nobody, with no parents and no name and asking for her hand?” Her cries morphed into an almost bitter laugh that shook her until she began to collapse. Ben surged up from his knees and gathered her in arms. “Please, Ben… Please. It will only lead us to heartbreak.”

 

“My heart is already broken,” he spoke against her hair.  “Just answer me, Rey. Tear me apart or make me anew, as only you can.” She lifted her head from his chest, and his shining eyes greeted her. “If you could, would you marry me?”

 

And then, whispered—no more than an exhale of breath—and with it, all the hope it was weighted with made it hang almost tangibly in the air: “Please?”

 

“Yes.” Her answer was a natural as breathing, as the beat of their hearts. “Yes. A thousand times ‘yes’.”

 

And then Ben leaned down and seized her lips with his, and the world fell away. 

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Ben’s mouth pressed to hers and the missing puzzle piece to her soul locked into place. She felt whole at last. 

 

The kiss was simple, just a press of lips together, but it was laced with all the passion and desire that they had tried to keep hidden from each other, that they had attempted, and failed, to suppress and push away. His arms tightened around her, wrapping her up as she felt herself melt into him. All her worry and fear fell away as he kissed her. The world dissolved, and they were just Ben and Rey, and that was all that mattered. 

 

When he pulled away, she slowly let her eyes flutter open, meeting his bright smile and lust-darkened eyes. Tears that had gathered at the seams of her lids pearled and slid out as his hands found their way to her face. He cupped her cheeks, and his lips pressed to every little drop that fell from her eyes. He breathed her name into her skin, trailing his kisses from teardrop to teardrop, creating constellations of devotion on her cheeks before he pressed his mouth to the space between her eyes. 

 

“I’m yours, Rey. Heart, mind, body, and soul.” He lay his forehead to hers, hands tracing the curves of her neck to fall at her shoulders, before tilting her head back with the slightest pressure on her forehead and crashing his mouth to hers. This time, there was nothing simple or gentle about the way his mouth possessed hers. He lapped at the seam of her lips and she opened for him, his tongue teaching hers how to dance in this erotic and sensual way, and her own proving to be a quick study. 

 

With a groan he began to step forward, causing her to stumble back. He held her tightly, practically lifting her off the floor with his swift motions until she hit something hard, and her back was pressed against the door. Ben was surrounding her, holding her in place with the sheer weight and heat of him and his mouth devouring hers.

 

Hands left her shoulders and found her waist, fists tangling in her skirts, as he slowed their kiss and pulled back. If she hadn’t been pinned into place by his body, the look in his eyes as she opened her own would have nailed her to the floor. The firelight reflected in his dark irises only fed the passionate flame that burned there. Rey swallowed deeply, gasping for air after he’d left her all but breathless with his lascivious lips and his tantalizing tongue. 

 

Her lips moved to form words, but Ben bent his head, trailing his nose along her cheek and stopping at her neck to nuzzle against the sensitive flesh below her ear, and those words died on her tongue. A deep inhale and he groaned, his whole body tensing against hers while she felt her own go loose. She’d fall to the ground were it not for his grasp on her and her hands still clutching at his shirt. “Ben,” she finally sounded, though her voice barely obeyed, barely formed the syllables.

 

Lips pressed to her throat, and her eyes fluttered closed with an exhale of breath. “I warned you, Rey,” he rasped, the thick, husky tone in his voice causing her let out the smallest moan. “I told you if I kissed you, it would not be just a kiss.” His lips traced the lines of her neck, to her collarbone and up the other side before landing at her ear. “Do you know what you do to me?” He eased her hips, helping her to roll against his body and was met with the evidence of his desire. “Do you feel that, my love? My darling girl, you drive me mad with wanting.” He gave a small thrust against her, grinding his hardened member into her lower belly. “But it’s not just that. Here. Feel.” He grabbed her hand and placed it over his heart. It pounded against his chest, so hard her fingers jumped with every pump of his heart. “It beats for you.”

 

She smiled, taking one of his hands and placing it over her own heart. “As mine for you.” As a smile turned his mouth upwards, he kissed her again, deeply, slowly. His fingers at her heart contracted and then stretched, sneaking beneath the fabric of her dress just slightly, barely riding the swell of her bosom there. But it was as if little sparks ignited at his fingertips and burned their way down to the space between her legs. She gasped and pulled her mouth from his. “If you could feel what you do to me…” she started, breathless, and then trailed off as her cheeks burned. She bit down on her lip and turned her head to hide her flush.

 

He turned her head back, “Don’t quiet your desires, my girl. Tell me. Tell me everything I do to you.”

 

“I—“ she stuttered, her tongue laying thick in her mouth. He held her chin to keep her from shying away from his eyes as he pulled her closer to him, wrapping an arm around her waist and slipping a leg between her thighs. Her eyes rolled when he hitched his leg up enough to come in contact with her core. “I don’t think I have the words.”

 

“I'll help you, love.” His voice was so soft and tender, but rough on the edges—that cut of lust that he didn’t try to disguise or hide. His hand left her chin and rough fingertips glided down her neck, burning a trail on her skin as he traveled lower, between her breasts, plucking lightly at the ties of her bodice to her stomach and then lower still. Her breath hitched as he came to rest just above her apex, not quite at the center of the fire between her legs, but just above. He pressed his hand to that little swell right above her pelvic bone. “Do you feel it here? A twist? An ache?”

 

“Yes…” she breathed out. “And yet, no. It’s lower. Inside. There’s a… a yearning. A need.” And as if on instinct, she rolled her hips so she ground herself against his leg between hers. His pupils dilated as he watched her hips roll and rock against him, discovering what felt good and chasing it with unskilled motion. 

 

“And its growing, isn’t it, as you take your pleasure on me?” He asked as he let his hand crept lower, his finger finding her small bud even through her skirts. She rocked against his thick digit, feeding and fanning the flame burning away within her. Her head fell back as her jaw dropped open wordlessly, grabbing his arms to hold on for fear of falling. His mouth attached to her neck again, nipping slightly and suckling his mark into her skin. “Tell me,” he said, his lips moving to nibble her earlobe. “If I’d lift your skirts right now, would I find you slick for me?”

 

“Yes,” she gasped out. His growl was accompanied by teeth sinking into her skin, and his hands coming to palm her bottom, lifting her off her feet and helping her to continue to grind her hips against him. “Ben, it’s… I’m…” she babbled, not even sure what she was trying to say. Her fingers dug into his shoulder and she braced herself in his arms, her emotions and feelings mixing and swirling into a confusing haze that left her panting and her mind foggy. 

 

His lips released her with a pop and he pressed his forehead to hers. “I know, love. Let me—” he pleaded, his words dripping with longing and lust as he pressed his lips to hers before he could even finish his sentence. He overtook her, his tongue delving in her mouth and conquering hers as his wild and passionate kiss spoke promises to her soul, vowing nights of passion and hearts overflowing with love. She wilted into his embrace, letting him envelope her as he swept her up in his arms.

 

One arm under her knees, the other bracing her back, their lips never parted as Ben strode to the door to his bedchamber. He kicked it open and carried her over the threshold to his large bed, laying her delicately in the center of the mattress before finally releasing her mouth. He took a small step back, his dark eyes raking over her body, then rising again to meet hers. 

 

“Gods, you’re beautiful,” he spoke, the tenderness laced there making her heart beat faster. “I’ve traveled to far away lands and ne’er saw any woman to match your beauty.” His hand trailed along the coverlet as he slowly walked to the foot of the bed, eyes never leaving hers, looking almost like a wolf stalking his prey. He reached a hand behind his head and grabbed his shirt, shucking it off in one swift motion. 

 

Rey couldn’t help but let her eyes take him all in. His broad form, muscles and sinew toned in training, scars won in battle. The way his arms rippled with every small movement. The pale skin of his chest and stomach that contrasted so starkly his ebony locks and the dark trail of hair leading down to disappear beneath his low hanging trousers. The blazing fire in his eyes intense as he contemplated her in the waning light of day. 

 

A little fear invaded her as she watched him stalk her with that gaze. She could feel her breath quicken and her hands begin to tremble as the realization struck of where she truly was. She was in the Prince’s bedchambers, on his bed, with him staring at her like he wanted to pounce on her to devour her whole. 

 

“Ben,” she said, caution in her voice as she swallowed around her trepidation. He planted his hands on the blankets and slid them up so he leaned into her, closing in on her feet, which she curled up into her skirts, pulling herself up to her elbows. “ I shouldn’t be here—“

 

“I’ve dreamed of having you in my bed,” he spoke over her words, and the dark, almost dangerous timbre in his voice curled through her, like something decadent and sinful, casting its spell over her to still her retreat. The danger of the situation pounded in her blood, but as he began to crawl up to hover above her, she found her body responding to his, arching and opening to him. He lowered down upon her to cage her between him and the sheets, slotting between her thighs that split for him. “But dreams do not do reality justice.”

 

His mouth was on her again before she could speak, and an intoxicating and heavy haze of lust clouded over all reason. She laced her fingers in his hair, moaning as his hips began to grind against her, nudging his clothed, hardened manhood closer to her soaked core. She responded in kind, moving her hips in unpracticed and erratic motions, searching to replicate the feeling of his fingers from a moment ago. 

 

And then they found it, the head of his manhood rolling against her at the place of bliss, and even with layers of fabric between them Rey cried out, releasing Ben’s mouth and angling his head to begin a decent down her neck. “Oh, sweetheart. Is that the spot? Did my cock find the treasure beneath your skirts?” She nodded and, with a look of satisfied determination, he began thrusting against her with slow, measured rolls of his hips. 

 

His hand found her breast, squeezing it gently before yanking the fabric of her shift down to bunch under the swell of one of them and palming the bared flesh there. She gasped and felt her cheeks color, but then stroking fingers found her hardened, rosy peak, giving it a gentle pinch right as he thrust roughly against her.

 

“Ben!” She shouted, her voice strained as her back arched into him.

 

“You have the most perfect little tits, sweetheart,” he spoke against her skin and then his lips replaced his fingers, taking her creamy breast in his mouth and suckling at it as he pulled it’s twin free. She covered her eyes with her hand, biting her lip to keep from screaming. She felt him chuckle against her breast. “If you’re containing your screams now, my love, just wait.” He lapped his way over to the other mound, kissing the hardened bud at its tip. “You’ll wake the castle when I worry that pretty little jewel between your legs until you see stars.” He rolled the pink nipple with his tongue, flicking it back and forth before blowing on the slicked flesh. She glanced down to see him staring up at her. He made his way back up her body to lay a tender kiss on her swollen lips. “Then I’ll claim your maidenhead—make you truly mine—and take you to ecstasy once more.”

 

As much as Rey felt his words deep in her core, bringing with it a gush of new wetness to coat her thighs, it also broke her lust-induced fever. “We can’t,” she whimpered out, feeling her throat constrict and her body scream at her to let him continue, to let him take her and give her all the pleasure he promised. He pulled his lips from her at her reluctant refusal, looking at her with worried eyes. “I do want to,” she reassured him, stroking his cheek. “I do. But I fear what comes after I leave your bed.”

 

“You think I’d just take whatever I what and leave you ruined?” He slipped his arms beneath her shoulders and cradled her head in his hands. “Never. You’d wed me, right?”

 

If I could ,” she stressed, letting out a sigh that was heavy with grief. “But a bastard can’t wed the Prince.”

 

“What if we could? I care not about your parentage. You won’t be ruined if I make you my wife,” he said, something mischievous sparking in his eyes. “I’ve discovered a way, Rey—if you’ll still have me. But you have to trust me. Trust that I would never leave you to disgrace.”

 

“What do you mean?” He was still laying heavy and hard between her legs and every slight move he made as he spoke made her fight to keep her wits about her.

 

“You say a bastard can’t wed a Prince.” He made a deliberate roll of his hips in a circle and her sharp intake of breath made her whole body raise to follow his actions. “Well, what if that Prince is a bastard all the same?”

 

She stared at him for a moment. What he suggested was blasphemy, even if it was about himself.  She twisted her body and rolled from under him and sat up on the bed, adjusting her shift to cover herself once more. “Ben, don’t speak of such things.”

 

She felt his hand at her wrist, keeping her from leaving the bed as he came to his knees behind her. “My parents wed in April. I was born in November of that same year. That’s—“

 

“Seven months.” She turned her head to him. “But that’s within the realm of possibility. Babes are born within that time after a marriage.”

 

“But more often than not they are small and weak. They rarely live. I was a healthy and very large newborn. Rey, it doesn’t add up.” He took her hand in his, bringing it to his lips to kiss it, his eyes never leaving hers as he added, “And a bastard may wed a bastard.”

 

The press of his mouth to her fingers made her swollen lips burn for his, and she yanked her hand away before he could press kisses higher up her arm and begin his seduction again. “But even if you were conceived before your parents wed, you are claimed legitimate. I am not.”

 

The bed dipped as he leaned closer to her. “Your father was so dear to my parents. You come from a noble bloodline, if from the wrong side of the mattress. That should be enough. Listen, darling.” He turned her gently, making her face him, before letting his hands slip down her arms and tangle their fingers together. “I know my grandparents did not approve of my father. He had a questionable reputation and was barely a Lord. But my mother loved him all the same, and he, her. They had to find a way to force my grandparents to let them marry.” He paused as she searched his face, then squeezed her hands tightly. “And that way was me.”

 

Her breath left her in a rush. Was he really suggesting what she thought he was? She felt her emotions being pulled in starkly different directions. Fear surged first, followed by doubt. But then overwhelmingly, hesitant joy and an ache—a want—that radiated from her belly.  “Ben, are you saying that we—“

 

“I’m saying we take a page from their book.” His hands brought hers up to rest on his chest and he reached up to run his fingers through her hair. “Let me show you how much I adore you. Let me worship your body as I worship your heart.” He leaned into her, taking her face tenderly between his hands, laying a sweet kiss to her mouth. Gentle and unhurried. “Make love with me,” he whispered against her lips. “Spend all your nights in my bed and let me fill you with our child.” One hand dropped again to her belly, his thumb rubbing a small circle over the fabric of her skirts, and her heart stuttered. “And when we are certain, we’ll go before my parents and tell them. They’ll have to let us marry if they wish to avoid scandal.”

 

Rey placed a hand over his, swearing she could feel his hope, as if some invisible thread was tied between their souls. She pressed his hand into her stomach, letting herself believe it was a plausible solution for the briefest of moments before cutting off the thought and speaking rationally. “Perhaps if you weren’t the Prince, that plan would hold some hope. But you say they already have a girl in mind. Perhaps there is a political treaty in place that hangs on your nuptials that cannot be broken.”

 

He shook his head. “I don’t believe so. My mother already said I’d have some small say in the final word.”

 

“Perhaps she was just being kind.”

 

“I don’t care if she was or not.” He knotted his fist in her hair at her nape, the other hand gripping her hip. “If there’s a treaty already, I’d break it for you.”

 

She tilted her head to release his hand from her hair, pulling back enough to see his face, to speak solemnly to him. “And start another war?”

 

Ben grunted in frustration, a shadow of anger passing over his face before taking a deep breath. He released it with a sigh and let his forehead fall to hers, resting there for a moment. “If I absolutely must marry another, if there is some vow my parents made that cannot be undone,” he took her chin in his thumb and forefinger, “then I’ll take you as my ‘maîtresse-en-titre’, so to speak.”

 

“Your chief mistress?” She breathed out, pulling back from him. That phrase—maîtresse-en-titre—shook her and made her breath quicken and her hands tremble.

 

“It’s not what I’d want for you. For us,” he spoke with a gentle patience and a note of sorrow in his voice. “But it is a title of honor. And we’d be together.”

 

Rey shook her head in disbelief, brushing his hand from her face. “To be wholed up in some secret room or estate, waiting for you to tire of your wife and come to my bed?”

 

Ben rocked forward, catching her to hold her tight, hands clasped to either side of her face. “If they force me to wed, I’ll refuse to consummate. I’ll never bed another as long as I live. Only you,” he swore, letting his eyes fall closed as he pressed their faces together.

 

“You'll have to,” she insisted, feeling the prickle of tears sting her eyes. “To secure your line.”

 

“I’ll secure the line through you.” His hands flew to her waist as he pulled them both up on their knees on the bed, bringing their bodies flush, his hands digging into the flesh at her hips. “I’ll treat you like a Queen. You will be my wife in every other respect. I’ll legitimize all our children. Even if you give me a gaggle of girls, I care not.” His lips pressed to her forehead, holding her tight, and she hid her tears on the warm skin of his chest. “I will be a blessed man, surrounded by beautiful women. This kingdom has been ruled by strong woman for generations. Our daughters will be no different.”

 

She took a breath and pried herself unwillingly from the heat of him, sniffling to swallow her tears. “That would cast blame on that poor girl you marry, if I give you children and she gives you none. If you never even consummate your marriage to her. No, Ben.” With a push that seemed to take all the strength in her body, she pulled away from him and slid off the bed. “I’d rather love you from afar than live a life of shame, then bring shame to another.”

 

He crawled towards her, reaching out to clasp her hand. “If I’m holding you in honor, taking care of you and our children, how is it shame?”

 

Yanking her hand away, she took a step back, her voice quivering. “Ben, you know what happened to my mother.”

 

He nodded a guilty nod, sliding from the bed and dropping to the floor, as the knight he was, fist clenched tightly over his heart. “I swear I shall protect you.”

 

“My father wanted to protect my mother. Swore on bended knee just like you are now.” She was brimming on the edge of anger now, her hands trembling. He knew what happened. She’d been with him when she heard the news so long ago. Bending her head down, she put her face level with his. “Yet still she was called a whore as she was stoned to death in the streets.”

 

“You’d be the Prince’s mistress.” He stood and advanced on her as she tried to turn away from him, but he caught her and held her in place. “ My mistress. The future King’s mistress. You would be protected.”

 

“Protected? Really?” She spat out with more vehemence that she intended. But her anger began to bubble over, flowing through her in the form of hot tears and a struggle against his arms that held her. “When you refuse to bed and breed your proper wife and spend your nights in my bed? I’d think I should be in more danger. You’d have to lock me in a tower to keep me safe.”

 

“Then I’ll lock you away!” He shouted, gripping her shoulders to stop her struggling. She stilled, staring at him in shock. He’d never raised his voice to her before, and the way it echoed in the room and reverberated in her ears gave her a taste of what it may feel to meet him on the battlefield. He mashed his mouth together and squeezed his eyes closed, inhaling to reel in his anger. When his eyes opened, they were no longer turbulent, swirling clouds of darkness. Just soft and warm - and filled with concern for her. His hands relaxed and his fingers stroked gently at where he had gripped her too tightly. “Anything to be with you and keep you safe.”

 

She pushed his hands off of her, taking a step back and holding her head high. “I’ll not be your pretty little toy in my gilded cage for you to use at your pleasure.”

 

“I didn’t mean it like that.” He followed her with quick steps, catching her hands and bringing them up to his mouth, pressing his lips to her fingers. “Rey, please. Forgive me.” His voice was soft, his apology falling gently on her like a gentle summer rain. “And none of this matters anyway. I’m going to marry you, one way or another. I love you, with all I have.” 

 

A hand gently cradled her face, and he hesitantly pressed his lips to hers. The gentle caress of his mouth melted the anger within her and she softened against him, letting him mold her, deepening their kiss. His arms wrapped around her, and she trailed her fingers through his hair, playing at the strands that hung to almost graze his shoulders. He pulled back at a glacial pace, savoring her mouth and pulling little sighs from her. “Come back to bed, sweetheart,” he whispered against her lips, his hands riding the curves of her body down to her hips as he pulled her against him. “Come back to our bed and I will show you pleasure like you’ve never dreamed. You’ll die a hundred little deaths tonight on my fingers”—a kiss pressed to her mouth—“and on my lips”—another to her pulsepoint—“and on my cock,”—rasped into her ear as his lips nibbled the lobe. “I’ll fill you so full of me that you can’t take it.” 

 

“Ben—“ she whimpered. “I can’t—“

 

“Shhh, my love. Just come to bed.” He began to walk backwards slowly, pulling her with him. She found her feet following him, taking small steps, feeling pulled by a hook of desire notched between her thighs and tethered to Ben. “Stay with me,” he said as he pulled her to him, trailing delicate fingertips along her jawline. Her head turned up to him and she fluttered her eyes closed as he pressed their lips together. 

 

Those fingertips descended down her neck, scooping at her collarbone before finding the tie at the bodice of her overdress. Nimbly, he tugged at the knot to undo the tie before plucking the rest loose. She felt the sleeves slip and sag off her shoulders, allowing him to ease the garment all the way to the ground. It pooled at her feet as he released her lips, trailing his nose up and down her cheek as he helped her step out of it, leaving her in merely her white shift. She could feel herself trembling as she stood so bare before him. He guided her quaking hands to lay on his bare chest, his skin warm and soft beneath them. “Don’t be afraid, my love. I’ll take such good care of you, as I always have,” he whispered, hands rubbing up and down her arms. “I swear it. And when your belly begins to grow round with our babe—“

 

Gentle fingers caressed her stomach, and his seductive spell broke, though she couldn’t deny what broke it was deep longing - that was tainted with fear of their situation and topped off with the sorrow of what couldn’t be. “Ben, there’s too much risk.” She pulled herself away from his warmth, his adoring hands, his sweet mouth. “I cannot be here. Not alone. Not with you. Not like this.” 

 

She fought back her tears, quickly gathering her overdress from the floor and covering her chest with it. “Rey, please don’t go,” he pleaded, following her as she crossed to the door. Hand at the handle, she felt him grab her to turn her around, desperate eyes begging and ripping her heart in twain. “We needn’t do a thing tonight. Just share my bed. Be with me. Please.” 

 

“I trust not myself nor you to just lie and not touch and kiss and explore.” She pressed her lips to his once more, chaste and brief, but she could feel her breath falter against his mouth as tears threatened to fall. “I do love you. But I’ll not be your bedfellow before I be your wife. I’ll not bare your children before I be your wife. And if I cannot be your wife—your true wife—then, my lord, I shall do no more than love you from afar.”

 

She pushed the door and exited as quickly as she could, trying to ignore the look of utter devastation that washed over Ben’s face, and the almost blinding pain that stabbed at her heart. She bolted down the hall, praying that she could slip away unnoticed. 

 

But sorrow weighed heavy on her, and her feet refused to go on as her legs began to give out. She slipped through the heavy curtains of an alcove in the hallway, hoping to be swallowed whole by the fabric. Collapsing to the ground, she took in her surroundings in the moonlight just starting to spill through the window. It took her a moment to realize that this was their alcove - and the dam within her crumbled. Sobs wracked through her, spilling out of her lips. She drew her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms about herself, as she tried to muffle her cries and catch her tears with clothes that held the faint, lingering scent of Ben. 

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It had been Rose who’d found her after she’d stumbled blindly through tears to her quarters. She’d taken one look at her tear-streaked face and took her swiftly by the hand to her small room. Running a wet cloth over her red-rimmed eyes, cooling her skin heated by the salty rivers that had been repeatedly rubbed off her cheeks, Rose let her friend’s sorrow spill over in the safety of the small bedchamber. 

 

“Rey, dear, what happened?” She’d finally asked once her cries had quieted and her breath became more even. 

 

“I went… and then he…” her voice broke again, the pain still a fresh wound within her, stinging at the mere memory of what had transpired. 

 

“He?” Rose asked, the cloth in her hands now cleaning her cheeks and dripping water down her neck. As Rose went to mop it up, she paused, a tiny gasp escaping her lips. “The Queen sent you to see the Prince, didn’t she?” Rey nodded and Rose took her hands, leaning in and lowering her voice. “Rey, did something happen? He didn’t…” She paused, stroking the back of Rey’s hands gently, her eyes filled with concern. “...he didn’t force himself on you, did he?”

 

“Gods, no!” Rey spat out. “Why would you—“

 

“You’re shaken. You’re sobbing and—“ Rose traced her fingertips at her neck “—you bare the marks of passion that I can only assume came from the mouth of your knight. So I presume something happened betwixt you. And it did not end well.”

 

Rey flushed and her hand flew to cover the purpling bruises Rose’s fingers had traced. “Oh, Rose. I’m such a fool.”

 

Her friend’s mouth dropped a little, but a hint of mischief escaped in a tiny smirk that formed on her lips. “Did you and he—“

 

Rey shook her head. “My virtue remains, though I very nearly gave it to him. He wishes… oh Rose, he wants to marry me.” 

 

Rey couldn’t help the smile that broke through her tears, and Rose returned it, though adding gently, with hesitation, “But your stations. Your parentage.”

 

Taking a deep breath, Rey said, “To force the King and Queen’s hand to allow us to wed, despite all against us, he suggested he get me with child first.”

 

Rose’s eyes widened, and she mashed her lips together. “If it were any other man, I’d tell you to run and lock yourself away from his sight.” Rose grasped Rey’s hands tightly. “But this is your knight, your Ben—“ Her voice faltered as she said his name without his title. “Still, it’s a dangerous plan. I’m proud of you for keeping your wits about you.”

 

Rey let a sad acknowledgment rock her head and looked down at her hands, twisting Rose’s fingers as they lay in between their laps. 

 

“But I know you, Rey.” Rose’s voice was soft with care as she tilted Rey’s chin up. “You’re not distressed because the Prince attempted to bed you. You’re distressed because you wanted to let him. You want all he offered you.”

 

She nodded, tears spilling over again and slipping down her cheeks. “I’ve wanted nothing but him since I understood what love was. I’d gladly be with him in every way, bare his children, be a family with him. I love him, Rose. I love him—so much that my heart is breaking to have denied him.” She paused, swallowing deeply around the lump that had formed in her throat, trying to loosen the knot in her stomach. “And I feel ashamed for the way I desire him. I shouldn’t. I can’t—”

 

“Don’t.” Rose stopped her, wiping away the drops from her face. “There is no shame in desires like that. We all feel them. It shows we are alive. And there is no doubt in my mind that he loves you and would have done you no dishonor had you gone to bed with him. But Rey.” Her voice was suddenly stern. Still careful and loving, but it made Rey bite her lips to stifle her sniffles. “He needs to give you more assurance than a promise to wed you if and when his seed takes root. There is no guarantee that you’ll get with child. Some babes are years of hopes and prayers in the making.” Rey nodded, falling forward to rest her head on her friend’s shoulder. “I’m not saying his word wasn’t true, but a man will say many things when there is the prospect of a woman to warm his bed.”

 

“I know,” Rey whimpered into her friend’s shoulder. “But it still hurts.”

 

Rose stroked her hair, gently shushing and soothing until Rey had cried herself dry. “Hold tight to this, for I desperately believe it.” Rey pulled herself up to look at her friend’s bright and hopeful face. “If it is truly meant to be, love will find a way.”

 

The words fell as a comfort to her broken heart, and she closed her eyes to breathe them in, allowing her mouth to turn up in the smallest of smiles. 

 

***

 

The days turned into a week in which Rey denied Ben’s access to her. She kept to her quarters, claiming her courses had come upon her and she was too ill to leave the bed, even though she’d worked through them but a few days before the soldiers had come back home. But it was a convenient excuse and one that harbored little question. Her heart wasn’t ready to face Ben, especially now that he knew the depth of her feelings for him, and he for her. Nor did she trust that she would be able to stay as strong as she had that night if he would again attempt to ply her to bed with sweet kisses and promises of passion and babes and wedding vows. 

 

But at the end of her days of self-induced confinement, a letter was slipped beneath the door of her bedroom, familiar, heavy footsteps pacing a few times outside her door before echoing down the hallway. Bound with a silk ribbon as green as emeralds—with a similar web of fine lace as the gift from Ben she’d only removed from her hair to brush and wash—her name was elegantly scribed in the hand of her knight. She tugged the ribbon loose, sitting on her bed and unfolding the thick parchment. 

 

 

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Her heart pounded at the words inscribed carefully on the page. And though she still felt that twist of fear in her belly, she remembered her friends words: “If it is truly meant to be, love will find a way.” And this was her Ben. Poor though his original plan had been, the intention behind it was true, as well as his love. So, she let the hope that this old law he spoke of was a way to their happiness, pushing her trepidation down as she packed her small bag.



***

 

It had been only last evening, yet it seemed like an eternity since Ben had slipped into the lady in waiting quarters to slide his letter of hope under Rey’s door. He had knelt by her door like a love-sick fool, watching her shadow move about the room, pacing before picking up the note. It had taken everything within him to not burst through the door and fall to his knees, begging her forgiveness, and to please say yes to his proposal. As much as the memory of her fingers tangled in his hair and her breathy, yearning moans make him know that she desired him as much as he did her, he feared his attempt to seduce her into his bed damaged her trust in him. And this decision to put her faith in him once more had to be hers and hers alone to make. 

 

So he’d waited. And the hours between then and noon the next day were the longest of his life.

 

He’d arrived at their spot by the stream early, unable to sit still any longer in his room. But now he had nothing to do but watch the sun creep higher in the sky and pray he’d see her crest the hill to join him.

 

Nervously, he checked back over the small pack of items he’d brought in the hopes that she’d come to him, and they’d head off to bind their hands and hearts and souls as one. He’d procured a simple but elegant white overdress for her to wear, with delicate lace detailing and tiny roses sewn in the fairest of blue. A new ribbon to match, that he’d weave himself into her hair in a traditional Alderaanean wedding braid his mother had taught him since he was a boy. And of course, the ring he hoped beyond hope to slip on her finger. Simple and yet stunning. A small band of gold with an opal at its center that caught the light and shone in pale hues of pink, purple, green, and blue. 

 

Now all he needed was his bride. 

 

The mid-day sun rose higher into the sky, hitting its peak as noon came and went. He scanned the hills around the stream, waiting for her chestnut hair to come into view. But the line of the horizon remained unbroken by her figure, and he felt his heart sink. He feared he’d pushed too hard, asked too much of her, went too far that night and now, after begging for her forgiveness, she was denying it.

 

Sad as he was, he didn’t blame her.

 

He placed the ring he’d been unconsciously twisting around his pinky finger back in its leather pouch and tucked it back in the pack, placing a loving hand on the small bag. Taking one last hopeful look toward the hills and seeing nothing, he mounted his horse. He’d head off to the royal hunting lodge, then, to mend his heart and allow Rey time to mend hers. Perhaps when he returned, she’d at least allow him in her presence to hear him out. With a heavy heart, he turned his horse toward the road and nudged him on to begin his journey. And then—

 

“Ben!” 

 

His name rang out over the sound of the stream and the prancing of hooves. He turned in the saddle to see a blur of blue and white bounding up over the hill. He felt his breath catch painfully as the thunderous beat within his chest all but stopped. He dismounted his horse, watching almost stunned as she leaped over the uneven terrain, skirts in one hand and a bag in the other, hair wild but for where she’d pulled it half back. 

 

The momentum from running down the hill sent her flying into his arms, and he nearly toppled over as he caught her. They both released a puff of breath at the collision, but then he heard her giggle as she wrapped her arms around his neck, his hands around her waist, lifting her off her feet and into his embrace. 

 

“You came,” he gasped out into her hair, unwilling to let her go to stand on her own. The feel of her body against his, the smell of her skin, her hair… his heart ached at how much he had missed her. “I thought for certain you weren’t going to show, that I’d ruined everything we had, that you hated me—“

 

“I could never hate you,” she said as she pressed her face into his neck, nuzzling against him as he just held her tighter to him. They seemed to breath in unison, rising and falling together for a moment before he loosened his hold on her enough to let her slide down his body until her feet found the earth. “But, I am hesitant about this new plan of yours. Optimistic, but cautiously so.”

 

“Be optimistic, my love,” he said as he pressed his forehead to hers. 

 

“I still don’t see how this can be.” He could hear how she swallowed deeply, her hands trembling a little as she cupped his face, her bag forgotten on the ground. “My parentage. Our stations—“

 

“Our stations matter not,” he said, fingers twirling her in waves. He felt his heart squeeze when he noticed she’d tied her hair back with his ribbon. “And your parentage, sweetheart, is precisely what will make this possible.” She was staring up, her eyes a stormy mixture of hope and hesitation. He trailed a gloved finger along her jawline, down to her chin. His thumb traced her lips, watching her lashes flutter as he ran the smooth leather along the delicate line of her Cupid’s bow. His own tongue darted out to wet his own lips, feeling the need to capture her mouth, to taste her, to make her sigh and mewl. “Please say I may kiss you.” 

 

She nodded, with an almost shy smile. He surged forward, but she placed her fingers to his mouth, stopping him a mere breath from her lips. “But just a kiss.”

 

“Just a kiss, I swear. For now.” He tilted her by her chin, hovering over her lips so that the heat of his breath caressed her waiting mouth like a phantom embrace. “For in a few short hours, we’ll be wed, and tonight, my love, once a ring is on your finger and you are my true wife, I plan to do so much more than kiss you.”

 

He pressed his lips to hers, melting against her, taking his time as their mouths melded to each other. A sweet little moan vibrated from her throat when he let his tongue carefully trace the seam of her lips, coaxing her to open for him. He wrapped his arms around her to pull her flush to his body as her lips parted, and he continued his slow and languid exploration of the curves and contours of her mouth. 

 

Pulling away seemed like torture, but as their kiss continued to deepen and their hands grew more bold, he knew that it must be done. He withdrew as he slowed his motions, pressing another light kiss to her swollen lips before pulling away. 

 

She chased his mouth with hers at his retreat, whimpering as they parted.

 

“Uh-ah, my little minx,” he scolded lightly. “Just a kiss, remember. And anyway, if I do not stop myself now, I’ll merely end up laying you down on the grass and ravaging you by the stream here - and then what shall we do with the virginal white dress I have for you to wear when we wed?”

 

“Like you’d care,” she said as her cheeks colored and she twisted the ties at his coat. “You wanted me heavy with child as I was promised to you.”

 

“I care if you do. So I can wait, my darling, to lay you down in our marriage bed and make love to you as my wife.” He pressed a quick kiss to her lips again before lifting her up with ease onto the saddle. 

 

“How far is it to your Uncle’s temple?” Rey asked, adjusting the reins to keep her nervous hands busy. 

 

“Impatient, are we?” he said with a smirk, and when she glowered at him, he chuckled and broke into a bright smile. “It’s a half day’s walk to where my Uncle serves, but only a few hours by horse.” Her bag was soon added to his and he climbed up behind her, a strong arm pulling her into his lap and his lips pressing to the sensitive skin of her neck. 

 

Rey sucked in a breath as he suckled just below her ear. “It took almost a week for the evidence of your attentions to fade after last time.” She turned her head to release his mouth from her. “Do you really want to mark me so I’m purple and red as I swear myself to you?”

 

“Yes,” he growled as his hands tightened at her waist, fingers digging into her hip to roll her against his lap. “I want to mark you as mine. Claim you. Write my name across your skin and brand it to your heart. As yours is to mine.”

 

He felt the little gasp that escaped Rey as her weight sank against his body, as if it was pulling the breath from his own lungs, and it fed his desire that pressed against her. Breathily, she said, “The sooner we get to your Uncle’s and bind our hands, the sooner you may do so, my love.”

 

“Then let us waste no more time.” He pressed a kiss to her lips before grabbing the reins and steering them in the direction of the road.

Chapter Text

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They arrived at the Temple of the Force as the late afternoon sun began to wane and fade into the evening hours, streaking the sky with just a hint of color to tease the twilight hours. Ben dismounted his horse and helped Rey to climb down as a man clad in the robes of the order stepped out of the stone archway.

 

“That cannot be little Rey!” the man exclaimed. 

 

“Aye, it is.” Ben said, and Rey nodded her head in the direction of the man, who stirred vaguely familiar memories in her mind. “Rey, you do know my uncle, Luke, though you were small the last time you saw him.”

 

“My, you have grown,” Luke said to her. “I haven’t seen you since—“

 

“Since you abandoned the throne and forced my parents to step in and clean up your mess?” Ben reached for her hand and held it in his, taking a step between his uncle and Rey. “Yes, it has been a long time.”

 

“That is precisely why I wish to help you, my boy,” he turned to capture Rey’s eyes, bright blue filled with something sad, but gentle. “And you, my dear child. Lord Kira was a friend to me as well. I saw from a young age how close you and Ben were. Perhaps, had I stayed to take up the throne, the chain of events would have laid out differently for you both.”

 

“I’m doubtful of that, my Lord.” Rey spoke boldly, twining her fingers with Ben’s as she stepped to his side. “My father was in a similar predicament as us, in love inappropriately to his station.”

 

“But your father was also in a loveless marriage that had already produced two sons.” Luke acknowledged. “Which you are not.”

 

Ben interjected, “Yes, but Mother and Father wish to see me wed, and have decided upon my bride already.”

 

“Has she now?” Luke said, a twinkle in his eye that made both Ben and Rey pause.

 

“She has,” Ben said after a moment, furrowing his brow in confusion. “And I do not wish to marry another, but may very well be forced to do so for throne and country.” He took both of Rey’s hands in his, bringing them to his mouth and gently kissing the knuckles of each hand. “Elope is what we must do, or else we shall be in the same situation.”

 

Rey gave Ben a sweet, sad smile before turning back to Luke. “Ben says you’ve found an old law that would allow us to marry?”

 

“Not an old law, so much as a loophole,” Luke responded. “Poor wording and archaic thinking that we can use to our advantage.”

 

“Is that what allowed the King and Queen to wed?” Rey asked.

 

“No. They didn’t need a loophole.” Luke shook his head with a light chuckle. “Just to convince my parents. My sister was not the Queen-apparent at the time, and Han was a Lord. Their marriage was completely legal and binding. Our parents just didn’t approve. But they were in love, and I knew Han was a good man. What convinced our parents was that I stood up for Han as to his honor and as witness to their marriage… well, and the fact that Ben here was already on the way. Hard to deny a growing belly and a man swearing to uphold the lady’s honor.” 

 

“As would have been the case with us, darling.” Ben said softly as he brushed a lock of hair off her face.

 

“No, what should work in your case,” Luke continued, “is that the writers of our laws were obsessed with the patrilineal line. While our culture has a fascination with legitimacy and what side of the bed a child was conceived on, there is actually no mention of the legitimacy of the Bride or Groom’s birth. All that is mentioned when it comes to proper marriage is the station of the father.” Luke crossed to Rey, reaching out for her hand, which she offered him. “And Rey, your father, Modon Kira, was as noble a lord as they come, and most importantly, he claimed you as his. Why he never made you legitimate, I’m not sure. But he was proud of his girl. And Ben,” Luke placed a hand on Ben’s shoulder. “Prior to marrying your mother Han was… well… he was a Lord of his own making, but a Lord all the same. As I read it and see it, your union can—and should—be seen as completely binding and true. If we look at it this way,” Luke gave Rey a playful wink, “Rey my dear, you’re actually marrying down, considering your lineage.”

 

Ben shook off his uncle and took Rey’s hand back into his. He gave her a smirk as he said, “Would you marry below your station, my lady?”

 

She couldn’t help but giggle, smiling as he pouted playfully. “Family trees aside, you’re still the Prince, Ben. The man who will be King. And I am a no one.”

 

“Rey,” Luke spoke up to bring her attention back to him. “I have no hesitation to wed the two of you - for here’s what truly matters: Do you love Ben?”

 

“With all my heart,” she answered without hesitation, capturing Ben’s gaze.

 

“Ben, do you love Rey?”

 

“With all my heart,” he repeated, laying his forehead against hers and taking a deep breath, as if breathing her in. 

 

“Then all that need be done,” Luke explained, his tone kind and gentle, “is to stand before the gods, swear those words as I bind your hands, and that which the Force has tethered as one, no man—nor King—shall tear asunder.”

 

Ben’s hand found her cheek, thumb stroking the delicate skin there. “Does that quell your fears, my love?”

 

Rey looked between the two men, Ben’s eyes warm and hopeful and Luke’s bright with reassurance. And she nodded, squeezing Ben’s hands as he dipped forward and captured her mouth. 

 

“Save something for the wedding night, you two!” Luke joked. “You stand on sacred ground, and I’ll not have you defiling it.” Ben growled in Rey’s mouth before pulling away and shooting his uncle a death glare. Rey just bit her lip to suppress a giggle. “Now, I’ll finish preparing for the ceremony, if I can trust you two alone for a moment?” His eyebrows raised in a warning that was at once comic and wholly serious. “There is a tradition that I should let you two be alone for. And Ben, if you forgot it, your mother will have your head.”

 

Luke made his way into the temple as Ben moved to undo his pack. Rey watched as he pulled out a box and a comb from the bag. He then led her to the steps of the temple and eased her to sit as he took a seat on the step above her, undoing the blue ribbon and running his fingers through her tresses.

 

“You’re going to do my hair?” She said with amusement. 

 

“That I am.” He took the comb and started to untangle the knots that had been twisted by the wind as they rode that day. “I was taught from a very young age the proper way to braid and bind the hair for a wedding ceremony. It was very important to my mother that her son be able to do this for his future bride.”

 

As he began to part her hair, Rey let her eyes close, enjoying the way his fingertips brushed at her scalp and grazed the skin of her neck as he worked. He wove another ribbon, lighter blue this time, through the braids as he went. Pins were added to hold her hair in an intricate knot atop her head.

 

“I’ve not heard of this part of the tradition: the bridegroom coming to the bride prior to the wedding. I thought that was bad luck?”

 

“Superstition.” Ben said with amusement, fingers dexterously weaving and twisting her tresses. “And it’s only after you’re in your dress that I won’t see you until you come to me at the altar. But you are right, this is not a true part of the tradition. But I want to do this for you.”

 

He placed the finally pin, tucking the end of the ribbon into the knot and turned her to face him, tilting her chin up and meeting her eyes with a warm smile. “And after the wedding, it is the husband’s duty to undo his new bride’s hair.”

 

“It’s all so simple, but so very intimate.”

 

“As it should be. It’s a part of the consummation of the marriage. An act of love, of gentle tenderness that should set the mood for the rest of the night and the rest of the union. Or so they say.” He pressed a kiss to her mouth, lingering against her lips as he whispered out, “And I cannot wait to unbind your hair, my love.”

 

She smiled against his mouth as he placed another kiss there, soft and gentle, before standing. He gathered his bag and her belongings before taking her hand and leading her up the stairs. They could see Ben’s uncle up at the altar in the middle of a vast room, light streaming in from the setting sun to color the marble and stone in warm hues of orange and pink. 

 

Ben released Rey’s hand and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her to his side as he playfully whispered in her ear, “The price I demand for rejecting my advances and making me wait to bed you is this: I wish my virginal bride to look the part.” He opened his pack and withdrew a bundle of white lace and fabric as fine as gossamer. “Put this on over your shift and meet me at the altar.” Rey took it, marveling at the soft feel beneath her fingers and tracing one of the pale blue roses on the neckline. “Don’t make me wait too long, my love,” Ben said, placing a kiss at her cheek before steering her toward a small room to the side.

 

It took her only a few minutes to exchange her blue overdress for her wedding gown. It was nothing extravagant- not like what one might expect to wear when wedding the Prince. But it was still finer than anything she’d ever worn. It was sleeveless to let the gathered swells of her shift show, but the bodice was made from ivory silk with a fine pattern of flowers embroidered into the fabric in matching thread. The neckline was trimmed in lace, and those lovely baby blue roses she’d admired before dotted the lace, each one studded with a small pearl. Stealing a look in a small mirror, she pulled a few curls loose around her face to frame it and gave her cheeks a pinch to flush them with color. She played with the ivory silk ribbon that strung through the laces and, just to see the look on Ben’s face, adjusted her bosom within the confines of the tightfitting bodice to show off her modest cleavage. 

 

Stepping out into the large room of the temple, she saw Ben waiting, back to her, at the altar. Candles had been lit behind the men, adding to the softened light of dusk. Luke was holding a length of red cord in his hands as he spotted Rey, catching Ben’s eyes and nodding to him. Ben turned around, and as his eyes fell on her she could see his breath catch in his chest. His eyes refused to leave her form as she walked up to the altar, her hands trembling as she held her skirt up as to not trip. A smile slowly started to spread on his face as she drew nearer, and when she reached his side, he let out an exhale of breath, eyes lighting up as she noticed them shining in the flickering light. 

 

“The gods have sent an angel to be my bride,” he whispered as he took her hand, and she felt her cheeks flush. They both faced Ben’s uncle and the candlelit altar.

 

“We shall keep this brief and simple,” Luke started. “Ben. Rey. Is it your intention to come forth this day and be joined together by the Force before all the gods?”

 

Rey and Ben both glanced at each other, taking a small breath together before saying in unison, “It is.”

 

“Then I ask you to turn toward each other and take both hands of your beloved.”

 

Rey felt Ben’s fingers lace into hers—a mimic of the way they’d be bound by the cord in moments—as she turned to him, taking his other hand, knotting those fingers together as well. She inclined her head to find his eyes, warm and so tender, staring down at her in wonder. 

 

“Ben,” Luke said. “Please repeat after me: I, Benjamin Solo, son of his majesty, King Han—“

 

“I, Benjamin Solo,” Ben echoed, “son of his majesty, King Han—“

 

“—do take thee, Rey Kira, daughter of Lord Modon Kira, to be my wife.”

 

“—do take thee, Rey Kira,” Ben’s voice broke a little over her name and he had to clear his throat before he continued. “Daughter of Lord Modon Kira, to be my wife.”

 

Rey couldn’t help but let a smile spread over her face at the title. Ben brought her fingers to his lips and gently kissed her hands as Luke continued, Ben repeating each section of the vows after his Uncle:

 

“From this day forward, thou shalt not walk alone, for I shall be beside thee. I promise to hold thee in honor. I promise to encourage thee, inspire thee, and love thee truly in good times and in bad, for better or worse but naught for granted. Today, tomorrow, and until the end of my days, even into the life beyond the veil, thou and I are one.”

 

Rey felt the tears trickle down her cheeks as Ben echoed the sacred words, coloring them with affection and adoration and devotion. Ben reached up and brushed them away, cupping her cheek for a moment before taking Rey’s hand again.

 

“Now, Rey,” Luke spoke softly. “It’s your turn. Repeat after me: I, Rey Kira, daughter of Lord Modon Kira—“

 

“I, Rey Kira,” her voice shook and her breath hitched, which made her almost laugh in the moment, “daughter of Lord Modon Kira—“

 

“—do take thee, Benjamin Solo, son of his majesty King Han, to be my husband.”

 

At the sound of his name, she felt her joy overflowing from her heart and streaming down her cheeks. “—do take thee, Benjamin Solo, son of his majesty King Han, to be my husband.”

 

Rey recited the same vows Ben had made to her moments before, with him tenderly stroking the back of her hands. As she spoke the final line, Luke handed Ben a ring, which Ben slipped on her finger, leaning forward as he entwined their hands once more and whispered in her ear, “I love you, my lady.”

 

“And I, you,” she said as Ben trailed his nose gently across her cheek, nuzzling his forehead to hers. Her eyes fluttered closed, lips parting and aching for his as she angled her head up. But Luke made a scolding noise, which elicited a growl from Ben as they pulled away from each other, keeping their hands clasped together in front of them. Rey bit her lip to contain a giggle at Ben’s look of utter frustration at the disgruntled countenance of his Uncle. 

 

The red cord was draped over their clasped hands and, as the weight of it fell upon them, Rey felt her breath catch in her chest.

 

“In the joining of hands and the fashioning of a knot, so are your lives now bound, one to another,” Luke said, taking a moment to look at each of them. “By this cord you are thus bound to the vows you have spoken before the gods and each other.”

 

He wrapped the cord around them once, stating, “May this knot remain tied for as long as love shall last.”

 

A second pass of the binding. “May this cord draw your hands together in love, and may they never be used in anger toward one another.”

 

The third and final pass, completing an intricate knot around their hands. “May the vows you have spoken never grow bitter in your mouths.”

 

Luke let the end of the cord fall. “As your hands are bound by this cord, so is your union held by the symbol of this knot.”


As he placed his hands over theirs, he spoke the final words of the ritual. “May it be granted that what is done before the gods and in the sight of the Force be not undone by man nor King nor death.”

 

Rey held her breath, feeling almost as if sparks were igniting from where their hands were clasped. The energy seemed to vibrate around them, and whether it was the gods blessing their union, or the tumultuous joy that emanated from both Ben and herself, she didn’t know. Breath seemed hard to come by, her chest heaving in the tight wedding dress, as Luke eased their hands apart and finished tightening the knot, setting it behind them on the altar before turning back to them. 

 

“Ben. Rey.” Luke paused, drawing out the final moment, obviously enjoying watching the anticipation eat away at the new couple before him. Rey’s heartbeat pounded in her ears and Ben fidgeted in place, starting to let out a growl that sounded like it belonged on the battlefield. Luke chuckled at that before finally saying, “You are now man and wife, if you’ll but seal your union with a kiss—“

 

Luke had barely got the words out his mouth before Ben lunged forward, grasping Rey around the waist to pull her close, his other hand cupped the back of her neck, before crashing their lips together. Rey let out a small, delighted squeal, wrapping her arms around his back. Ben kissed her with a fire, passion burning through the way he conquered her mouth and pressed her against him. His tongue lapped at the seam of her lips and she opened without hesitation, letting her tongue dance with his in a way that she was certain was unseemly for the sacred ground they were standing on. But she cared not, as Ben surrounded her with his arms and his lips and the heat of him.

 

“My wife,” Ben spoke against her mouth as he broke the kiss, letting his hand trail from her neck to twist around the tendrils framing her face. 

 

“My husband,” Rey responded, pulling her hand up so she could take a look at the ring he had placed on her finger. The fiery opal caught the failing light of day, breaking into a prism of colors as she tilted the stone against the light. “Ben, it’s beautiful.”

 

“It’s not quite fit for a future queen.” He took her hand and placed it over his heart, letting his fingertips trace the band. “But I know you. You wouldn’t want anything too extravagant.” His other hand found her cheek, cradling it as he searched her face. “Unless… unless you do. And then I’ll shower you in whatever jewels you fancy.”

 

“No, Ben. This is beyond perfect.” She nuzzled closer to him. “I didn’t need anything more than a piece of twine or ribbon about my finger, if it carries with it your vow of love.” 

 

“My vow of love, my heart, my soul. It’s all yours now, my love.” He pressed his lips to hers. “My wife.” Another kiss, his words growled into her mouth. “My Rey.” His lips sealed to hers fully, sending a wave of pleasure crashing through Rey’s body.

 

“That’s enough, you two.” Luke spoke up, and Rey pulled away from Ben, who tried to turn her face back to his for more. She batted his hand away and gave him a playfully stern look. Luke continued, “To be young and in love. I trust you have lodging for your wedding night? Or I fear the desecration you both are about to wreak upon the temple.”

 

Ben leaned forward to whisper in her ear, “As much as I would not hesitate to take you right here against the altar, with your skirts about your waist and your beautiful breasts unbound and bare in my hands, I did promise you a marriage bed.” 

 

“Ben…” Rey gasped, closing her eyes against the flush that painted her face. Ben’s hand at the back of her neck pulled her against his chest as she felt his lips press to her forehead, feeling his smirk.

 

“Never fear, Uncle. We’ll spare you.” Rey felt Ben hug her tightly to him, his hands rubbing circles into her back. “Besides, I have a surprise for my new bride, and we should try to get there before we lose the sun completely.”

 

Rey smacked him lightly on the chest. “Ben, you’ve already spoiled me.”

 

“I’ve only just begun, my love.” He tapped her on the nose, making a light laugh bubble from her lips before reaching his hand out to shake with Luke. “I thank you, Uncle.”

 

Rey took a deep curtsy as she turned to Luke. “Thank you, my lord.” 

 

He reached out and gently tilted her chin up. “I’m your uncle now, too, Rey. You may address me as such.”

 

She beamed up at Luke as she rose, “Uncle.”

 

He returned her smile with a bright grin of his own, those pale blue eyes twinkling. “The knot made by joining your hands shall remain on the altar for a fortnight,” he explained. “You may come to claim it anytime after that time has passed.”

 

“We shall collect it on our way back to the palace.” Ben nodded as he began to usher Rey out of the temple. He collected her belongings from the room she had changed in and led them back to his horse. 

 

“A full fortnight away from court, Ben?” Rey asked as he helped her back onto the saddle. “I’m not packed for that much time away. And won’t we draw suspicion if we are both gone that long?”

 

“Let them talk. The whole kingdom will know soon enough that their prince has taken a bride of the heart.” He finished tucking away their belongings, and then climbed up behind her. “I’m keeping you to myself for at least a fortnight. Maybe longer. And we’ll have everything we need— food, clothing. I’ve seen to it. Besides,” Ben pressed his lips to her ear, nibbling at the lobe just a little before continuing, “I plan to live between your thighs and keep you naked as much as possible.”

 

Rey swallowed deeply as Ben wrapped his arm about her waist, drawing her practically into his lap. “Husband, you’re wicked.”

 

He spurned his horse on to begin the journey, growling out words that dripped with liquid sin and sweet devotion, “Wife, you cannot even begin to imagine.”

Chapter Text

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Ben led his horse down the road as the sun began to hit the horizon and the sky lit up in the most brilliant shades of orange and pink and red. They ate a simple meal on the road of cheese and bread, some dried meat, and shared a canteen of wine between them. All the while, he continued to murmur sweet nothings into Rey’s ear as they rode, fingers playing at her belly and venturing higher, sneaking beneath the white fabric of her overdress to just tease at the swell of her breasts. She missed the majority of the scenic view of the countryside at twilight as they rode, spending most of it with her head against Ben’s shoulder and her eyes closed as he teased with wicked lips and tongue and wandering hands. 

 

When they came to a stop and Rey opened her eyes, a lovely little cottage lay before her. Ben dismounted, and then helped Rey down as she took in the sight before her. White-washed walls with wooden beams crossing to frame them under a thatched roof. Smoke curled lazily from the chimney. Rey could see the warm light that emanated from the hearth through the windows, and candles already burning bright. 

 

A smile spread across Ben’s face as her own bloomed in recognition, and she couldn’t contain the gasp that fell from her mouth as tears pricked her eyes. “Ben, it's our cottage. It’s the cottage we always talked about, that we imagined was ours when we were young.”

 

Ben nodded. “Well, as close as I could find, at least.” An older, short woman emerged from the stables, and Ben handed off his horse to her, along with a small satchel of coins. Taking their belongings, he walked back to her, his hand finding hers, thumb grazing over the ring on her finger. “As children, we played at a life together. As we grew, I didn’t think that it was possible to make you mine. But here we are. Husband and wife. I thought there was no better place to start our marriage, start our lives together, than by making our childhood fantasy come true.”

 

“I told you,” Rey said, laying her hands on his chest as he weaved his free arm around her back. “You spoil me.”

 

“And I told you, I’ve only just begun.” With a flash of mischief in his eyes, he bent enough to scoop her up into his arms, bracing her back with his other hand under her knees. She let out a small squeal, but Ben silenced her with his mouth, kissing her so that she moaned and eased into his embrace. He began to walk towards the small house, stopping as he got to the door. “Are you ready, my love, to cross the threshold as man and wife? If you still have any hesitations, my dear, tell me now. For when I get you alone in the bed that lies in wait for us, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop myself.”

 

“I’m bound to you. You kept your word and made me your wife. While I worry what will happen when we return to the palace freshly eloped, your mother’s own brother married us in full confidence. ‘Tis enough for me.” She pressed her lips to his, taking the lead to deepen their embrace before pulling back to look into his darkened eyes. “Make me yours, Ben. Fully.”

 

He needed no more encouragement. He growled as he leaned in to devour her mouth, swinging them around so he could nudge the door open with his shoulder. Rey let her lips be the one to do the wandering this time, kissing down his cheek to his neck, the subtle stubble at his chin razing her lips. She suckled the place where his heart pounded against his throat, tasting the salt of his skin there as his strode into the small cottage. He turned his head to detach her from his neck before tossing her gently onto a soft bed that was surrounded by sheer curtains.

 

“Don’t you dare move,” he said, his voice a deep rumble in his chest as he leaned over towards her, hands sinking into the soft quilt that covered the feathered mattress. He planted another fierce kiss to her lips before he peeled himself away from her, letting the curtains float closed as he crossed back to the door to bolt it shut. 

 

Rey took a moment to steal a look around the room through the gently fluttering curtains. The cottage was simple: a table, some chairs, a few baskets with what looked like linens and food. A tub was set in the corner, and a chamber pot off to the side. A fire was burning bright in the hearth, warming the room as the approaching night stole the heat of the day. Candles had been lit all around, giving everything a soft glow. She watched Ben’s form, obscured slightly by the ivory fabric, place their belongings on the table, kicking his boots off and to the side, before moving to remove his girdle and belt. They landed with a heavy thud, and something about the clang of metal on wood breaking the sound of the gently crackling fire, made the finality of the situation settle in. But this time, she felt none of the dread of being discovered or the fear of being shamed. Only her inexperience, coupled with a need that she only partly understood, made her hands tremble and her heart pound. 

 

Ben crossed back to the bed, undoing the ties of his doublet as he went before letting the garment drop to the floor. Rey crawled closer to the edge of the bed, drawing the curtains back as she gazed at her husband, his eyes somehow both soft and wild at the same time, flashing in the firelight. He reached behind him to shuck off his tunic, just as he had done in his room on that night, but Rey pulled herself up to her knees on the bed and stopped him by placing her hands on his raised arms. 

 

“No, husband,” she said, her voice coming out clear and strong, despite the quaking she felt throughout her whole body. “I wish to undress you.”

 

He smiled and then relaxed his arms back down to his sides. Rey let her fingertips trail down the fabric of his tunic, letting the ties he’d undone fall about and between her fingers. She twisted and tugged them for a moment, both stalling while she gathered her courage and teasing her husband, who let out a small groan as she plucked one and let it drop. Taking a deep breath, she reached for the last knotted tie of his tunic and pulled the ends slowly, watching with rapt attention as it came undone. Her teeth caught her bottom lip and worried it as she twisted her hands in his shirt to yank it free of his pants. The undone tunic reached his navel, and her eyes took in the sight of the peak of his stomach and his bare chest. It rose in deep, steady breaths, the muscles twitching when the warmth of her fingers drew near his skin.

 

“I’ve never undressed a man before,” she said with her eyes downcast to where her hands had found the hem of his shirt. “I’m surprised you haven’t batted my hands away to tear off our clothes and ravage me on the bed.”

 

Ben shrugged, an almost cocky grin painting his face. “See that ring on your finger? That means that now, you are mine. I know that I shall have you tonight, wife. And ravage you I shall.” He pulled her to him, pressing her against his chest as his hands squeezed her upper arms. “But this is our little cottage. Our little sanctuary. We can take our time here. There is no fear of someone walking in on us, or of you being shamed on the morrow. You’re my wife.” He bent his head, pressing his lips to her ear, his voice a hushed and lusty whisper, “Remember all those little deaths I promised you? The next few days will be filled with pleasure and discovery. As will all the days that lay before us.” She could feel her cheeks heat at his words, but his lips found the roses blooming there and kissed them. “Teach me what you like. Tell me what feels good as we go.”

 

“The closest I’ve come to laying with a man is when you had me in your bed.” She boldly let her hands creep beneath his tunic, watching the way his eyes hooded and darkened as her fingers found the muscles of his stomach. “I know nothing but the heat you create with your lips and hands and this yearning need within me.”

 

“You need not know more than that. Just to be honest with me. Don’t silence your desire.” Ben's hands went to stroke her face, cupping her cheeks and pressing his forehead to hers. “I regret that I am no virgin, though I’m no experienced rogue either.” His voice got suddenly soft and sad. “If I had known that making you my wife one day was even a possibility, I’d have waited.”

 

Though Rey felt a twinge of jealousy at his words, at the thought of him laying with another woman, she shook her head to clear the sting of envy. “What’s past is past.” She leaned in and kissed his lips sweetly, fingers tracing the dips and grooves of his abs with a featherlight touch. “And if we were both blushing virgins, then we’d be fumbling blind. You can guide us.”

 

Ben pressed his fingers to her lips to hush her. “They were teenage dalliances, few and far between, and I blame Poe, the rake. He insisted that a Prince should dip his wick at least once before he was forced to make heirs on some foreign princess. But I took any precaution I could.”

 

“Precautions?” Rey pulled back with a questioning look. 

 

“They make… sheaths. To create a barrier and protect against contagion. Also, despite the containment, I’ve always spilled my seed... elsewhere.” Ben’s cheeks flushed a little, as did Rey as she understood his meaning. Unpracticed though she was, she was not innocent of the mechanics of the act itself. 

 

Something inside her thrilled, to think that, though she could not be his first, she’d be his first without an impediment. She let that thought guide her courage as she grasped his shirt and yanked it over his head. “Well, being your wife, no precautions are required.”

 

He shook his head. “No, sweetheart. There shall be nothing between us tonight. I want to feel you.” His hand slipped into her hair at her nape, cupping her head and loosening the tight braided crown. She felt the pins he had placed with care begin to slip. A small tug from his entangled fingers and her head pulled back, baring her neck for his lips, which pressed against the throbbing pulse of her heart there. “I want to feel your body open for me and mold to me. Feel your wetness and your heat envelope me. Feel you come undone around me before I empty myself within you.” He nipped her earlobe before pulling his head up to begin to pull out the pins, her hair slowly unraveling as his wicked tongue continued. “Gods, you’ll be so beautiful: your little body stretched around my cock, and—Force and all the gods willing—in a few months, your belly stretched around my child.”

 

Rey opened her eyes, only then realizing that she had closed them, meeting Ben’s darkened gaze. His fingers worked loose the braid he’d pleated earlier, pulling out the pale blue ribbon before massaging her scalp, letting her hair fall free. She swallowed around a lump that had suddenly formed within her throat, casting her eyes to her hands laying on her husband’s broad chest. Her stomach knotted, but Ben cupped her face, bringing her back to look at him as he stroked the heated crimson at her cheeks with his thumbs. “You need not be embarrassed, my darling. And remember, as slow as you need.”

 

She nodded, his gentle reassurance easing her nerves and emboldening her as she turned her head to find his fingers. He traced the outline of her lips with a rough thumb before she pursed them to press against the pad. Through her lashes, she stared up at him as she opened her lips and delicately nipped at his digit before wrapping her mouth around it. Ben’s pupils dilated as they stayed fixated on the action of her lips. The change in his face, the way she could see his breath alter, watch his eyes shift to almost black, it gave her a wave of delight and a surge of bold power. She held his gaze as she let her tongue lap at his thumb before sinking her teeth gently into the flesh there.  A deep, dangerous growl rumbled from his chest.

 

“Fuck,” he rasped, other hand weaving into her hair and wrapping her curls tightly in his fist, applying just enough pressure to make her moan. “My little virgin bride has a touch of the vixen in her, doesn’t she?”

 

She smiled coyly around his thumb before Ben pressed it deeper into her mouth, her lips forming a little O around it. He pumped it a few times, arching her backward as he leaned into the motion. “Someday soon I’ll teach you how to wrap your sweet lips around my manhood and take it deep in this lovely mouth. But tonight—“ He helped her scoot back on the bed, pulling his hand from her mouth with a pop before crawling onto the bed with her. “Tonight. Now… I need you naked beneath me.”

 

His lips were on hers then, taking the breath from her lungs as his tongue slipped inside to replace his thumb. It was heated and desperate, and she could almost taste his need and lust as he speared his tongue with hers. Large hands fell to cup her breasts through the fabric of her dress, kneading the small mounds before finding the delicate ivory ribbon that held her bodice closed. He slowed his kiss as he tugged at the knot, but it caught, refusing to undo as he pulled and yanked it in a frustrated attempt to rid her of her clothing. Rey couldn’t help but laugh at how he groaned against her lips, trying to rip the ribbon apart. 

 

“Husband, stop,” she said between chuckles. “Give me a moment, I’ll loosen it.”

 

“I have a better idea.” His voice was rough and ragged as he crawled from the bed to where he had kicked off his boots. Rey tried in vain to undo the knot of the silken ribbon until the fluttering of the curtains drew her attention back to Ben, crawling towards her on the bed. The look in his eyes made her mouth run dry as she sat back on her haunches.

 

“You trust me, right, my love?” Ben said, bringing himself to kneel before her. 

 

“With my life,” she responded.

 

“Then don’t move while I rescue you from this blasted contraption.”

 

He produced a dagger from behind his back and slipped it beneath the laces at her breast. Rey held her breath as she felt the cool metal through the fabric of her shift, something about the subtle danger of the situation exciting her. A sharp pull of the blade against the fabric and the ribbon shredded, making Rey gasp. Ben tossed the blade far behind him, the steel clanging on the wooden floor as he yanked the now loosened bodice from her shoulders and let it fall to the bed behind her. 

 

“Is this what your highness considers going slow?” Rey teased with a hint of a smile.

 

“I’ve waited years to have you in my bed, never thinking it could be.” Ben pulled her up to her knees again, letting his hands slide down her body, following the line of her waist and hips beneath her shift before gathering the fabric in his hands. “I want to see you, my princess . All of you.” He slowly brought the gauzy shift up her thighs, letting his fingers trail against her skin. “I want you bare before me, so I may slowly worship your body, memorize every lithe curve and freckle on your skin.” He leaned in and pressed a slow kiss to her lips. “Suckle at your breast and lap at your cunt before I claim your maidenhead and make love to my bride. My wife.”

 

Rey smiled and canted forward, pressing her lips to his again before lifting her arms above her head. Ben slowly pulled the white dress up, peeling it from her and tossing it to the side. He sat back on his legs and let his eyes rake up her body. She could feel the heat of his gaze as it started at her knees, crawling up her thighs to the patch of dark hair at her apex. She had to repress the urge to cover her chest as he took in the plane of her stomach and the small, perk globes of her breasts, telling herself that this was her husband—her Ben, her love—staring at her with eyelids heavy with lust. A flush crept up from her chest to cover her cheeks, and when he finally met her eyes, she felt as though she may drown in their depths. 

 

“Do I…” she stuttered, her hands twisting in the air out of nerves  “Do I please you, husband?”

 

“Rey—“ he started, but then stopped, almost as if the words failed him. He pulled himself up again, reaching for her fidgeting hands and bringing them to his lips. He kissed each knuckle, smiling as he came to the glittering wedding ring. “You are my deepest wish and my richest fantasy come to life and lay bare before me.” 

 

Her blush deepened at his words, at the way he stared at her as if she were a goddess. She moved her hands to lay on his shoulders, letting her fingertips play at the ends of his hair. Ben’s warm hands found her waist, slowly wrapping about her, cradling her head and back. She stared up at him for a moment and as he stared back, time seemed frozen. Even their breath seemed to suspend and stand still with the pausing of their universe. 

 

“Ben,” Rey spoke on a whisper of breath, softly enough to all but blend into the sound of the crackling fire and the flickering candles. “Make love to me.”

 

And the world swung back into motion. 

 

Ben crashed his mouth to hers as he pulled her in close, her skin tingling where bare flesh met flesh. His fingers dove into her hair as his tongue, slow but insistant, met her own. There was passion in their embrace, heated and desperate. But it was unhurried. Every move of their lips in tandem was meant to savor, to enjoy.

 

Ben soon tipped Rey backward, cradling her to his own body as he lowered them both to the soft mattress and pillows of their marriage bed. Once she was reclined against the cover, his hands ventured from her back to the dip of her waist before coming up and cupping her breast. She gasped as the warmth of his palm squeezed at her, releasing his mouth from hers. Lips trailed to her cheek and then down her neck, placing tender kisses at her collarbone before dipping further, to hover over her already pebbled nipple. The heat of his breath, with his lips so close to her flesh, made them ache and throb. 

 

“I told you once before,” Ben said, looking up at her with his full plush mouth pulling up at the corners, “you have the most perfect little tits, Wife.”

 

He placed a light kiss to the tip, his hand cupping her breast to bring it up to his mouth. She gave a small sigh as he repeated the action with its twin, pressing them together as much as her skin allowed. 

 

“I know they are small—“ she started, but Ben hushed her.

 

“No, they are perfect. I could suckle at your whole breast if I wished.” He wrapped his lips about one of her nipples, rolling his tongue about the bud so that she arched into him. And then, with a wicked glint in his eye, he made good on his words and opened his mouth to take in almost her entire breast. The sight made her gasp as she squeezed her eyes closed against the intense sensation of his tongue lapping at her and his hot mouth devouring her. When he released his lips from her flesh, the loss of the heat of him made her whimper, especially when he blew across her drenched bud, making it pucker almost painfully. “I adore them. And they will swell when your belly ripens with our babe, and I shall adore them then, too. I shall need quality time with them before our children steal them from me.” He buried his face in the valley created by his hands on her and nuzzled, kissing any part of her skin that came close to his lips.

 

She laughed as she stroked his hair. “I thought queens and princesses were expected to use a wetnurse.”

 

“‘Tis common practice, but I know you, Rey.” He let his kisses move lower, trailing along the underside of her tits. “As if you’d let another nurse your babe.”

 

“What if…” she said, hearing her voice shake. Rose’s words of warning, that some babes were years of hopes and prayers in the making, had been in the back of her head, giving her again that nagging sensation in her belly. “What if I don’t conceive?”

 

Ben stopped his lips, hands stroking at her sides as he looked up at her. “Well, you’ve bleed, have you not?”

 

She simply nodded, chewing at her lip as she felt her cheeks flush, talking about her courses while her new husband was laving at her breasts. 

 

“Then children will come. It shall happen in due course, I am certain. And the sport we will have in trying will be worth it.” He pressed his mouth to her stomach, leaving hot, open-mouthed kisses all the way down to the small, feminine swell below her navel. Her hands lay over his as they trailed down the curve of her sides to rest on her hip bones before he lifted his eyes again to hers. “Rey, you are the light of my soul and the beat of my heart. Nothing will diminish that, whether the gods bless us with children or not. But I can feel it, Rey. My seed will take root right here,” he kissed her stomach with a gentle reverence, “and soon, this skin beneath my lips will be stretched around our little one.”

 

After placing another lingering, sweet kiss to her belly, he got up on his knees, hands tenderly massaging at her thighs. His moves were deliberate, and there was that dark fire of passion and lust in his gaze that would scare her, if it were not her husband staring at her with a look that teetered between hunger and devotion. But those amourious eyes always checked in with hers, making sure that no move was too fast or too much. Her knees parted around his legs and he carefully adjusted to place himself in the space they created, easing her open even more to accommodate the size of his body. He crooked her knees back, pressing them open wide and spreading her before him like a flower in bloom. 

 

“Wife, you’re a vision.” He wet his lips, and Rey unconsciously mimicked his actions, feeling her breath grow heavy in her chest as his eyes raked over her form. “Look at you: lovely tits, soft skin, gentle curves, all flushed and breathless, laying bare before me. Your glistening, pink lips just begging for my mouth.” Rey whimpered in need, pulling herself up to kiss him, but he placed a hand on her chest to press her back against the pillows. “Oh no, my sweet girl.” He cupped her face as she gave him a questioning look, thumb tracing along her lips parted with her ragged breaths. “Though those lips are ripe for the taking, I meant these.”

 

Two rough fingertips carefully traced at her nethers, trailing in slickness that had gathered since their kiss at the altar, and Rey arched off the bed as her vision grew hazy. Ben’s hand lay heavy on her chest to stop her from rolling away from his touch. His fingers made their way back up until they paused at the small nub at her center. He pressed against it, rolling it between her fingers, and she gasped out his name, clinging to the sheets with fisted hands as pleasure ignited in her veins. 

 

“So responsive, my darling. Tell me.” He swirled a circle against her clit. “Have you ever touched yourself like this?”

 

Rey nodded slowly, her cheeks heating at her confession, but Ben slid the hand that was on her chest up to her face to cup her chin. He made her look at him, a possessiveness in the gesture, but a tenderness there too. “No, love. I want to hear you. I want filthy words to fall from these virgin lips.” 

 

“Y-yes.” She stuttered at first, her voice soft. His hand lay carefully at her neck, fingers caressing her jawline as his other hand continued to play with the pearl at his fingertips. She could feel wetness seep from her just below where his hand was working it’s magic.

 

“Tell me, love. Say it,” he hissed out. 

 

“I’ve touched myself… like… like this,” she panted. Ben’s eyes locked with hers, and the way his brow knitted as he worked her, the way his irises were all but blown to rings around black made her bold. “Just as you once told me that you’d take yourself in hand and pretend your fist was me… I’d bite down on my knuckles and thrust my fingers inside myself, wishing it was you instead.”

 

His eyes rolled back at that, and his head fell to her shoulder as a deep moan rumbled from his chest with an expletive mumbled into her hair. Her hands released the sheets at last and found his back, letting her fingertips trace the scars of battle with the lightest of touches. And then she felt his hand buried in her curls slide lower and his thick middle finger caught at her entrance. “It wasn’t enough, was it, sweetheart?”

 

She clutched at his back as his lips kissed up her neck, imprinting her with his mouth. “No,” she breathed out. “It wasn’t you. It was just my fantasy.”

 

“Then let’s see if your dreams live up to reality.” His forehead lay against hers as his finger pressed it’s way inside her. Her mouth fell open with a loud gasp as he carefully worked in and out, slowly opening her up to accommodate his thick digit.

 

“Fuck, Rey,” he grunted, giving another small thrust. “You are so tight. If I want to break your knot on my cock and not my fingers, I’ll have to be careful.”

 

He twisted his hand, thumb finding her clit again as his finger within her curled carefully towards her belly. “Oh gods, Ben!” She cried out, her hips rolling against his hand in time with the come hither motion he played against the sweet spot within her. 

 

“I’ve never lain with a virgin. Too often I hear of first times being painful and unpleasant for the lady. And feeling you at last, Rey…” As his finger gave a deep, slow pump within her, the hand that lay at her throat tightened just a little before he slid it behind her head. “Gods, some pain may be unavoidable. But I want to give you as much pleasure as I can to lessen the pain I cannot ease.”

 

“I am not afraid of the pain of becoming your lover, husband.” She rolled her hips with his hand’s motions, making him thrust harder into her wet heat. “Women may be called the weaker sex, but who are the ones who carry and bring forth life into this world through blood and pain?” 

 

Ben leaned forward at that and kissed her, something desperate tinging the taste of his lips. “Anyone who calls you ‘weak’ is a fool, my strong girl, and just you wait. I will worship you all the more as you grow and bear my child.” His hand withdrew from her body, making her whimper at the loss of him. He fell back on his haunches, hovering over her and highlighted by the glow of the fire in the background. “I’m going to use my mouth now, darling. Kiss your sweet cunt and lap at your jewel until you see stars and you ease a bit. So when I claim you, it will be with passion and pleasure rather than discomfort.” 

 

“I trust you, husband,” Rey said as she propped herself up on her elbows to gaze down at him between her thighs. “Show me.”

 

Ben cracked a crooked grin before crawling down to the space created by her parted legs. He stroked her inner thigh gently, watching his hand graze her creamy flesh up and down, goosebumps trailing in their wake. Every dip down he went closer and closer to her center, until fingertips again met with the dampness there, now punctuated by his heated breath. She shivered and bit her lip as she felt his lips hover just above her sex, looping his arms beneath her legs and splaying his hands out on her abdomen, holding her in place. 

 

She felt his tongue first, a tentative lick through her folds to her bud as if just tasting, just testing her reaction. She squirmed in his hold, sucking in her breath as his tongue ran that long stripe up and swirled around her already swollen clit. 

 

“Sweet,” he groaned out. “My wife has the sweetest little cunny. And the things I’m going to do to it.”

 

And then he dove into her aching core as a man lost in the desert who had found an oasis.

 

“Ben! Oh gods!” She cried out against his ministrations. He nuzzled against her, nose grinding against her clit as his tongue prodded just inside her entrance, lapping her essence to quench his thirst. She thrashed against his hands, which dug in the skin to grip at her hip bones. 

 

“I love watching you grow wanton, wife. Knowing I’m the one making you moan and cry out.” One arm moved to brace over her entire abdomen to hold her down, as the other came back to her slit. He toyed at her, gliding his thick fingertip in the mixture of wetness that dripped to the sheet before slowly gliding into her with much more ease.

 

“Still so tight, but opening for me.” He pumped deep into her core once, twice, three times. Rey moaned with every thrust of his hand, trying to move with him. His finger within her curled and stroked something, some special spot that she had never found with her own hand and she almost screamed at the tight, glorious tension it built inside her belly. 

 

“You’re close already, love, aren’t you?” He spoke against her thigh. 

 

“Yes. Ben, yes,” Rey gasped out, her hands finding his hair and tangling in his tresses. “Please—”

 

Lips kissed at her wrists, the soft sensation of his mouth against her sensitive skin in stark contrast with the way he was plunging into her body. “Do you think you can be brave and take another of my fingers? For I promise you, sweetheart, my cock is much larger than even that.” 

 

His voice was deep, like rich wine, as the primal part of her brain thrilled at his words, twisting the coil in her belly tighter. She nodded, barely forming the sound of his name in a groan as she felt a slicked second finger join the first. The stretch it created within her was exquisite and delicious, just enough to add to the fire inside her. He worked her carefully until both fingers slid within her smoothly. His lips attached to her clit, suckling the swollen gland in time with those deep, crooked strokes within her. 

 

“Come for me, sweetheart,” he coaxed. “Don’t hold back. Cry out to the night. Let everyone hear what I do to you.”

 

His lips again sealed around her clit and sucked hard as he stroked his fingers just so, and Rey tumbled over the edge of the precipice he took her running to headlong. She screamed his name, body pulsing and fluttering about his fingers that continued to work her through the waves and aftershocks of her passion, until it grew to be too much. She tugged his head away from her, chest heaving as she gasped to find her breath again. 

 

She could feel tears gathering at the seams of her lids and it was then that she realized that she had closed her eyes in her ecstasy. She fluttered them open to find her husband staring at her with rapt attention, sucking on the fingers that had been deep in her cunt just moments before. She watched his wicked tongue that had been laving her most intimate parts clean her release from his hand and glistening lips, groaning at the taste as if she were a spice from a far away land. 

 

“I shall never tire of watching you come undone, nor of the taste of you,” he said with a voice darkened and gruff. His hand went to his trousers, palming at the straining bulge that looked barely confined by the fabric, and she felt the flush that had broken out over her chest and cheeks in her climax deepen. 

 

She swallowed, her eyes transfixed on the way his hand stroked at his covered member. “I see it’s had quite the effect on you, husband.”

 

“It aches with need of you,” he almost whimpered out. “It longs to be buried in your warmth.” He started to pull at the strings that held his pants together, but Rey pulled herself up from the bed, brushing his hands away. 

 

“I said I wish to undress you.” Ben moved his hands and let Rey’s nimble fingers find the ties. She pulled to loosen them and then looped her fingers at the sagging fabric around his waist, tugging it slowly down his hips. They caught over his erection and he hissed. She gazed up at him apologetically, gnawing at her lip to hide the trembling there. He reached out and tenderly stroked her face, easing her teeth from her lip before aiding her in freeing himself. 

 

Rey felt her eyes grow wide as he beared himself to her. She’d felt him grow hard against her in the alcove and his bedroom, seen a hint of him outlined in wet trousers from their days spent swimming in their youth. But those little glimpses at his body had left her wholly unprepared for the full sight of his naked manhood, swollen with desire. 

 

“Have you ever seen a man undressed before, darling?” Ben asked as he again found her face, cupping her cheek.

 

Rey shook her head. “Only an infant when attending the kingdom’s midwife. Obviously quite a difference.” She furrowed her brow, tilting her head slightly as she continued to take him in, resting her hands on his hips. “I have nothing to compare it to, but it seems a bit… large… for where I know it goes.”

 

Ben couldn’t help but laugh, stroking his hands through her hair and tilting her chin up to bring her eyes to his. “We shall fit together, my love. But see why I needed you wet and ready for me?”

 

She let her fingertips trace the dip between his hips, tracing the “V” it created until she reached his shaft, throbbing between them. Her hand wrapped around it, fingers not meeting at the base of him, delighting in the velvety feel of his skin over what felt as strong as the steel blade of a sword. Ben's eyes drooped, heavy-lidded, and he moaned at her touch. Her finger dipped in the bead of moisture that had gathered at the tip of him, rolling the substance between her thumb and forefinger before looking up and bringing it to her lips to lick it off, as he had done. The salty, earthy taste of it surprised her.

 

“Wife—” he groaned, almost in warning. 

 

“I can use my mouth, as you did to me,” she said, cutting off his low growl. “If you’ll but give me instruction.” She took him again in hand and pumped his length, watching his eyes roll as she purred out, “I can be an eager and attentive pupil, and I wish to learn all the ways to please you.”

 

“You please me more than I think you are aware of,” he said as he pulled her up from crouching on her knees to kneel flush with him. “We’ll learn other bedsport in time. And besides,” he leaned his forehead against hers, his voice suddenly almost breathy, “if you wrap your lips around my cock, I’ll be done for. And that is not how I wish to put my seed in your belly tonight.”

 

“Ben…” she whimpered, melting against him, finding his lips. The lingering taste of her own essence mixed with the remnants of him on her tongue made her sigh and delve deeper into his mouth for more. His hand found the back of her head, cradling her against him as his other arm looped around her knees. He lifted her in one swift motion and lay her again against the pillows. He took a moment to remove his trousers from where they hung at his knees, tossing them aside before climbing back over her body. 

 

He covered her, surrounded her with his warmth and the heated length of his sinew and muscle. She gazed up at him and found only tenderness and adoration beaming back from his eyes. A nudge from his knee between her thighs and she let her legs fall open for him to slot between. His manhood settled against her wet core and she gasped at the way it grounded her to the reality of it all. 

 

“Don’t be afraid, love,” Ben whispered as he stroked her cheek delicately, as if she were something fragile and precious. “I have you.”

 

“I am not afraid. Not with you.” She adjusted her body to cradle his hips, pulling her legs back a little to give more space for his body. His erection nudged even closer to her center, catching at her still sensitive clit and she gasped. “Nervous, perhaps. But ready.”

 

He kissed her with a sweetness that stole her breath, holding his hips still. Only his lips and his fingers moved, hand stroking her face and through her hair that lay splayed against the pillow. She could feel him trembling to move, every muscle in his body tense to hold himself steady. Her hand reached up to find his at her shoulder, drawing it down her body and guiding him to wrap his hand around himself. Together, they placed him at her entrance, the hot tip of him slotting in her heat. Ben pulled away from her lips to capture her eyes, his other arm sliding beneath her shoulder to cradle her head. 

 

“Take me, Ben.” 

 

And then he inched his hips forward, guiding himself within her with a slow, careful thrust.

 

She had prepared herself for pain, for tearing and blood, knowing that it was a rite of passage to shed her maidenhead. But it wasn’t pain that she felt. Not exactly. More a burn, a stretch that rode the line between pain and pleasure. Gods, he was too much - and as soon as she was about to cry out for him to pause, her muscles seemed to ease about him. He withdrew slowly and then pressed back in, going a little deeper, a little harder as her body slowly opened. His eyes never left hers, pulling his hips back and then forward again, watching her face, fingers massaging her neck, holding himself up as to not put all his weight on her. He surged forward until he could go no further, the stretch within her suddenly feeling too much, too full. He held himself steady, tucking her closer to him as his lips drew up in a smile.

 

“I love you,” he said, tenderly kissing her forehead. 

 

“I love you,” she replied. “This is… this is it, isn’t it?”

 

Ben nodded. “But I have you. Eyes on me, sweetheart.”

 

And then he gave a firm, deep thrust, seating himself full to the hilt, making something within her give with a brief pinch of pain that was just enough to make her cry out. 

 

A kiss covered her mouth, swallowing her cry. “I’m sorry,” he whispered against her lips. “It’s over and I’ll make it better, I swear.”

 

“I’m all right, Ben,” she spoke, though she heard her own voice quake. “It hurt, but it was brief. It’s already ebbing.” She wiggled her hips slowly, feeling the fullness of him within her. It was tender of course, but something utterly delightful began to bloom in her stomach, replacing the discomfort. “You can move, my love. Make love to me.”

 

His first thrust was careful, a slow withdrawal followed by an equally slow push. They both groaned at the feeling, the tight clench of her around him and the way he filled her to the point where all she could feel was him. Another gentle thrust and it all came easier; the tightness eased, the small pain was all but evaporated into pleasure. She cradled his hips with her knees and guided his next movements to be a little more, a little harder, a little deeper. He hit a place inside her that made her arch up into him and cry out in delight, and he took the opportunity to wrap his arm around her curved frame to hold her next to his chest. 

 

“You feel incredible, Rey,” he said as he began to pick up the pace. “Wet and tight and warm. I could live between your thighs and be content all my days, knowing I had found heaven.” A hard slam of his hips and the slick slap of flesh meeting flesh filled the room, followed by a cry of surprise from Rey’s lips. Ben paused, sheathed completely within her. “Too much?” he asked.

 

Rey frantically shook her head. “Gods, no!” she panted out, her hands gripping his back and her legs looping around his waist. “Do it again. More, Ben. Please!”

 

His hips gave a small swirl before again slamming into her, both of them moaning in unison. “You take me so well, wife. I feared I might overwhelm you, but now that I’m inside you, it’s as though you were made for me, made to take my cock.” He kept himself balanced on one elbow, while gliding his other hand down her body to hold her hip, adjusting the angle in which she clung to him. “I’m going to ravage you now, my darling,” he spoke in a voice that sounded barely controlled, bordering on an animalistic growl that formed syllables her ears could comprehend. “Bury myself in your heat again and again until you scream my name in ecstasy. And then I’ll fill you with me, mark you as my own from the inside.” 

 

He captured her lips again as he began to move, slowly at first. Deep, long thrusts that reached something within her, making that coil behind her navel again begin to tighten right down to where he was moving within her. Her nails dug into the flesh at his back as his hand on her hip gripped to bruise. 

 

His pace began to quicken, pummeling thrusts that shook her whole body and echoed in the cabin. His lips sloppily trailed along her cheek before burying his face in the hair at her shoulder. Her name resounded over and over again, intermixed with moans and groans that answered her own and heated her blood. He was driving into her, and there was a little voice that seemed to sing from some primitive depths and rejoice as she let her legs splay open and cling to her lover to let him have his way with her. 

 

But then he paused, pulling himself up to kneel and her with him. She squealed as she was lifted into the air and settled on his lap, still impaled on his shaft and her knees on either side of his. “Ben!” she half laughed, half moaned as the shift in their positions made him sink impossibly deeper within her. “What are you—“

 

“Ride me, wife,” he said before she could finish. He palmed her ass, squeezing her cheeks before giving them both a firm slap, making her shriek. He rubbed the subtle sting out of her skin before cupping the globes of her bottom and helping her to rise up and then back down on him. “I’ll aid you, but I want you to use me how you will. However your pleasure demands.”

 

She paused, taking a moment to brush his hair from his sweat-dotted brow. With her bottom lip captured between her teeth, she gave an experimental roll of her hips, watching Ben’s eyes darken and close as he groaned. She rolled them again, feeling the heavy drag of his manhood against her walls, filling her so full it was almost to the edge of pain. She cling to his shoulders for leverage, looking down between them to see where they were connected, watching her small body swallow him deep.

 

She could see Ben follow her eyes. With a huff of smug satisfaction, he helped her slowly slide up and down on his dick, his slicked length inching into her until they were pressed against each other. “Do you like watching your sweet little cunt take all of me?” he said with a hint of amusement.

 

“You look so big.” She rocked against him again, gasping when she took him to the root and her clit, still swollen from his lips and tongue’s earlier attentions, ground against his pubic bone. “You feel so big inside me.” Her head fell back as she chased the sensations exploding within her, rolling her hips back and forth to grind herself against him. 

 

“Take me, love. Take all of me.” One of his hands crept up her back and tangled into the hair at the base of her neck, tightening to guide her motions. His own hips began to thrust up to meet her as he dipped his head to take one of her hardened nipples in his mouth. 

 

The desire in her belly bloomed in her blood, snaking up from its lusty depths and overtaking her senses. His hand in her hair tugged harder, pulling just enough to arch her back as she rode him harder. She gripped onto his shoulders, his hair, his arms, anything of him she could to leverage herself. 

 

“Ben,” she gasped, between moans and cries. “I think… I feel…”

 

He released her nipple from his mouth, placing hot, wet kisses up her sternum. “You’re about to come again, aren’t you, my wanton girl?”

 

A high pitched cry that sounded like an affirmation was all she could manage as he held her tighter to him, aiding her frantic bouncing with one hand firmly on her ass. 

 

“I can feel you tightening around me,” he said, thrusting up into her hard. “Come again, sweetheart. Come and I’ll follow.”

 

With Ben’s lips suckling at her neck, continuing to whisper naughty words against her skin to spurn her on, and her hands tangled in his raven hair, Rey suddenly stilled and let out a strangled, wordless cry. Her body shuddered and convulsed around his thick cock, which he continued to pump up into her, helping her ride out the crest of her bliss. She felt his teeth scrape against the juncture of her neck and shoulder, as hot breath and deep moans seemed to drip down her skin like water. At last her voice found the air to work and she cried out his name again to the night.

 

“Oh, Rey…” he groaned and then gripped her tightly to him, grasping her hip to pull her down and seat himself deep within her. She wrapped her arms around his neck as his breath stuttered and his thrusts faltered. He shouted her name as she felt him pulse within her, a warmth exploding and filling her. 

 

Ben fell forward, laying her on her back on the bed, shaky arms holding himself up over her as he grunted and groaned, thrusting a few more times. She felt that warmth spread inside her, sinking into her body. Tugging at her lover, she coaxed him back down to lay with his head against her breast. His softening member slipped from her body, both of their passions seeping out of her to the sheet beneath them. Her lips sought out his brow and kissed it, tasting the salt of his sweat that made his hair cling to his face. 

 

After a moment their breath began to calm and their hearts began to slow. Rey let her fingers tuck his damp locks behind his ear and rub his back. Ben’s left hand traced patterns down her arms and chest until he came to rest at her stomach. He spread his hand out, spanning hip to hip, and tilted his head up to find her gaze. “You’re truly mine now.”

 

“I’ve always been yours,” she responded with a smile. She felt something tickle near her hip and reached down, finding a small length of the ribbon that had held her bodice together and Ben had shredded with his knife at her breast to strip her bare. She picked it up, twirling it between her fingers for a moment before saying, “Give me your hand, husband.”

 

Ben lifted the hand from her belly and Rey took it, carefully tying the ribbon around his ring finger. 

 

He let out a small laugh. “You’d have me wear a ring, my love?”

 

She shrugged, “I have a symbol that I’m claimed, but you do not.” She adjusted the ribbon and made sure the knot was snug. “I know men do not wear a wedding band, but perhaps, just while we are here, in our little house, you could wear this. A ribbon from our consummation as husband and wife. I quite like it on you.”

 

He took her hand and brought it to his lips, kissing her own ring. “If you wish for me to wear a symbol of my faith and love for you, I’ll have a ring commissioned when we return.” Ben shifted to untangle himself from her, moving off the bed. “Who knows? Perhaps we’ll start a fashion.”

 

Rey pulled herself up and watched her husband through the curtains. He pulled on his trousers before pouring water into a basin from a pitcher on the table. He then dug in a basket that was on the floor, finding a bundle of white cloth. Grabbing the basin, he walked back over to her. 

 

“A new shift, fit for a queen,” he said as he handed her the white bundle. The fabric felt soft against her fingers, simple but luxurious.

 

“I thought you wanted to keep me naked,” she teased him, twisting the dress around so she could place it over her head. 

 

“I do, but I also don’t want you to freeze. Besides, I can just lift that skirt around your waist and have you against every surface of this little house.”

 

Rey adjusted herself in bed to pull the shift down and winced, looking up at him and meeting his face that held an expression that was something between sympathy and pride. “Oh, wipe that smug look off your face. Yes, I’m sore.”

 

But his face only bloomed into a smile. “From my cock claiming your maidenhead.” He found a cloth and dipped it in the basin before taking her ankle tenderly in his hand. “Lay back, darling. I’ll clean you up.”

 

She leaned back against the pillows and closed her eyes, feeling Ben tenderly wipe at the swollen flesh of her core. “Did I… did I bleed?” She asked hesitantly, blushing at the question.

 

“Only a little,” Ben replied, continuing to clean her. She opened her eyes to watch him dip the cloth in the water again, a small amount of pink staining the white.

 

“Is it… enough?” She bit her lip, staring up at the canopy and feeling a small pit form in her stomach. She was supposed to stain the sheets, was she not?

 

Ben placed the cloth back in the basin after wiping her thighs and crawled up to prop himself next to her. “Enough? Rey, I could feel you break around me.” He let a gentle hand guide her face to look at him. “I don’t need a bloody sheet to wave from the battlements in some archaic show. I don’t need you to bleed to prove your innocence. Nor would I truly care, to be honest. As long as I am the only one to warm your bed now.” 

 

She turned her head and kissed his palm. “There has been no one before and there shall be no other for me.”

 

“I know, love. And no other for me from this day on.” He bent down and kissed her sweetly but fully, not letting her lips go until breath became a necessity. Pulling a coverlet up and over them both, he pulled her into his arms. She lay her head upon his chest and wrapped her legs around his. “Sleep, sweetheart,” he soothed, hugging her close. “And know that this is but the beginning for us.”

 

Chapter Text

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Though Ben was not speaking in jest when he said he was planning on living between Rey’s thighs and keeping her as naked as possible, he knew that after their first time together she may need some time to recover. The morning following their wedding night, Ben had served her a simple breakfast in bed and had a warm bath prepared for both of them. She’d shown him a simple concoction of herbs to eleviate pain that Ben had added to the waters and helped her gently soak the soreness from their coupling away. Wanting to let the healing qualities of the bath take effect, he’d resisted the temptation of taking his naked wife into his lap and guiding her to ride him again in the warm water of the bath, as delightful as that sounded. 

 

Instead he drew her in to lay against his chest as he washed her long hair and cleansed her body as it draped against his. Then she’d insisted on doing the same for him, and it was her hands that had drifted beneath the suds and steam to wrap around his manhood as she crawled into his lap. Nimble fingers proved a quick study as he helped her stroke him up and down in the water, watching her pert breasts break the surface of the water again and again. She bit her lip in concentration as her hand worked beneath the little waves created by her actions until he let out a shouting moan, grasping her fingers to help her milk him of his release. His spend slowly sank to lay hot where their bodies were pressed together.

 

“Wicked girl,” he growled from deep in his chest, his breath stuttering with the effort of his racing heart. “Making your husband spill himself with your little hand.” He pressed his lips to hers, pulling her to him. “Seems a waste of perfectly good seed. I have half a mind to salvage what I can and finger fuck it into you so it can do its job.”

 

Her cheeks flushed at his crudeness as she squirmed in his lap. “If I brought you pleasure, then it did not go to waste.” She stood in the bath, and he watched the water drip in rivulets over the curves and valleys of her body. He couldn’t help but reach up and let his hands run along the skin of her thighs, his eyes going to the wet patch of curls that lay before him. 

 

“You’re tempting me, wife,” he said low as he brought himself forward, pressing a kiss to her lower abdomen before gliding his lips lower.

 

“Ben,” she said, running her fingers through his damp locks. “The soreness is better, but it has not abated.”

 

With a small growl he placed his forehead against her stomach and took a breath, “I know, love.” He stood himself and grabbed the towels that were off to the side, wrapping her up first and helping her out before tying his own towel about his waist to follow her. “Today you shall rest. And tonight, I’ll make love to you, gently and slow, so your body may learn your husband.”

 

“My husband is a big man.” Rey looked over her shoulder, letting her gaze fall to where the towel hung low on his hips. “It shall take practice.”

 

“And we shall commence your tutelage tonight.” He gave her bottom a gentle swat as he crossed to the basket where he had pulled the shift out the night before, lifting it and placing it on the table. “I have brought a few outfits for you to wear when we return to court. Try them on if you’d like. This may be the last day for a while that we even dress at all.”

 

Ben took great delight in her almost girlish giggles, and watched with barely restrained hunger as she dropped the towel, standing bare before him before slipping on her new shift. He did nothing to hide his smile as she lifted the small bundles out of the basket, loving how her eyes lit up at the rich silks and lace in jeweled hues: deep garnet red, sapphire blue, amethyst. 

 

“Yes, the purple one,” Ben said as she held it in her hands, jumping up from where he had been leaning against the table. “I want to see that one on you.” 

 

Rey smiled and undid the bundle, slipping it over her head and pulling the slightly belled sleeves up over her shift. Ben quickly came behind her and began lacing the bodice up, pulling tight enough to press her breasts together at the low cut neckline. “Yes, a vision.” He said as he finished tying the back. His hands settled on her shoulders and rubbed, tracing the line of the dress down her chest to graze the gentle swell of her breasts. “Plus, I will have great fun staring at your tits threatening to spill out all day, and then unlacing you from behind tonight.”

 

“Should I just spend the rest of our honeymoon on my back with my legs spread for you?” she quipped as she turned about, batting her lashes and lacing her arms around his neck. 

 

“Of course not, wife.” He found her waist and encircled her with strong hands as he brought their bodies flush together. “We shall picnic and swim and cuddle by the fire.” He smoothed over the curve of her hips and found the swell of her bottom beneath the violet silk, grasping it and rolling her against his body. Her eyes fluttered shut and he felt her breath quicken, constrained by the tight bodice, as she tilted her head up. His breath danced along her upturned lips as he growled, “And I’ll have you on your back, on your side, on your hands and knees. I’ll bend you over the table, take you on the floor before the fireplace. Fuck you pressed against a tree and have you ride me while sitting in my lap.” 

 

She was growing more and more breathless at his words and he smirked a bit, knowing already that the way she clung to him, the little undulations of her hips, the darkened green in her hazel eyes as she opened them meant that she was slick between her thighs, despite any lingering tenderness she may be feeling. He reached up to capture her chin. “So no, my pretty little wife. You shall never have to just lay on your back and think of Alderaan. For we shall have passion in our lives. We have lost time to make up for.”

 

Ben stayed true to his word, and for nearly a fortnight they enjoyed each other’s company in every way. They swam in the river and ate in the shade of the willow trees there, as they once had done as children. They prepared meals together, Ben trying his best to impress her with the rudimentary culinary skills he’d acquired on the battlefield. They read to each other by the fire, naked save for the blankets and furs they wrapped themselves in. And almost all of their common activities, from swimming to cuddling to even cooking, had an amorous conclusion.

 

They made love slowly and sweetly at first, Ben trying very hard to be mindful of the tenderness the loss of her virginity must have caused. Yet, she proved to be quite the wanton little lover, unbridled in her desires and seeming as insatiable as him. They indulged in all kinds of bedsport as the days carried on, Rey just as likely to initiate intimacy as him. 

 

So when Rey, after breakfast one day, decided to slip under the table with a coquettish grin and crawl on her hands and knees to arrive at Ben’s lap, he merely thanked all the gods for blessing him with such an adventurous mate. 

 

Reaching down, he stroked Rey’s hair tenderly as he let her ease his knees apart to allow herself to settle between them. “Remember how we used to play make believe as children?” He said as a devious idea spring to mind. “I’d pretend to save you from a dragon and then carry you on my back to our ‘cottage’?”

 

“Of course, my brave knight,” she said with a wild look in her eyes, her fingers tugging at the ties of his breeches. “But now I shall be your knight and save you from the dragon hiding within your clothes. I’ll slay him with my hands and lips until he spills his lifeblood on my tongue.”

 

Ben groaned and felt himself twitch in his trousers, already half hard, as his wife slid her hands up and down his thighs, tugging the fabric down. “You’re going to be the death of me, woman.” He grasped her upper arms to keep her from removing his clothing further just yet. “But I had a slightly different thought. I think we should play our game of pretend, but in a more grown up fashion.”

 

“You’d rather play a game than have me wrap my lips about your cock?” She quirked her eyebrow and let her fingers trace the outline of him beneath the fabric.

 

Ben’s hips moved in a soft thrust to Rey’s teasing, a grunt escaping his mouth. “Oh no, my love. You’ll still take me in your sweet little mouth.” He tilted her chin up, running his thumb along her lips, as he had grown fond of doing before cupping her cheek, fingers tangling in her hair. “But with your bodice loosened and your hair wild, you look like a saucy little barmaid who I think I’d like to have a tryst with.”

 

Rey’s brows furrowed and she sat up, a slightly hurt look in her eyes. “Have you grown tired of your wife already, that you’d wish a barmaid in her place?”

 

He reached for her, pulling her to him and placing his forehead to hers as he swore, “I’ll never tire of you, wife. Nor desire another in your place.” He placed a gentle kiss to the spot between her brows. “The joy of the game is that I’m still ravaging the woman who wears the ring I placed on her finger. Besides, I doubt we’d be able to get away with playing this once we return to the castle.”

 

“Speaking of that,” Rey said, twisting the fabric of his open shirt in her hands, “it has been a fortnight, Ben. Perhaps we should think of bringing our honeymoon to an end and returning to your mother and father with the good news of our marriage.”

 

Ben felt a small jolt of panic and shook his head. “Not yet. I love having you all to myself. And if we wait a little longer, we may just have more good news for my parents.” 

 

She laughed lightheartedly. “My love, we can try for children in our bed at home. In fact, I believe it will be all but expected of us. If your mother was so desperate to marry you off, they’ll probably lock us in the bedroom and throw away the key, only to call the locksmith when my courses have stopped for several moons.” 

 

Ben swallowed around the lump of doubt that rose into his throat, keeping his face as calm as he could. “That may be true.” He twirled a lock of her hair, flowing loose about her shoulders. Her pretty lips were still stained from his mouth on them this morning, and her skin was a map of love bites from where he couldn’t resist tasting her and leaving his mark. “But can we try for them with you looking like such a debauched and wretched beauty? Surely bruises from my mouth would be unseemly on the future queen.”

 

He pressed his lips to hers and with a little moan he felt her melt. “If I’m a naughty wench,” she said against his lips, “then who are you?”

 

Ben smiled wickedly while internally breathing a sigh of relief to have seemingly seduced his clever wife away from inquiring about their return, at least for the moment. “A handsome, rich rogue with a reputation for… impressive equipment.” He pulled back enough to palm himself through his pants, angling the clothed bulge to press between her breasts that hung loosely in her shift, her bodice tied low beneath them.

 

Rey held his hips, leaning into his motions, but looking up with a sassy look. “You’re quite proud of your member, are you not, my love?”

 

“I’ve ne’er received a complaint.” His hand released himself and he took her chin between his forefinger and thumb. “And even after a fortnight, you still stretch around me in the most deliciously agonizing fashion every time I delve into you.”

 

He kissed her again, fingers lacing to knot in her hair as he tilted her head to allow him to deepen the embrace, tongue languishing with hers. She rose on her knees to follow the lead of his mouth, feeling him harden more against her chest. 

 

“Well, then, my lord,” she said, her voice low and sultry, stepping into her role with a feline twist of her head. “Perhaps I can tend to your needs and serve you in another fashion.” Her hands tugged at his trousers, and he lifted himself up enough for her to pull them down his thighs, yanking them off and tossing them to the side in one fluid motion. 

 

“You’ve quite the mouth on you.” Ben sucked in a deep breath, feeling a flip of excitement in his belly that she was playing along. “I’ve corrupted you perfectly.” He joked, before asking softly, “May I play a bit rough, my love? In words and actions? Just tell me to stop if it’s too much.”

 

She nodded slowly. “I trust you.”

 

He pressed a kiss to her forehead with sweetness before he fisted his hand in the hair beneath his fingers and tugged enough to hold her in place. “What a hungry little wench,” he growled out, staring at her pinkened cheeks and the way she licked her lips. He pulled back his tunic to free himself to her sight and wrapped his hand about his hardened cock. Her eyes flickered down to him, and he could swear he could feel the heat from her gaze, loving the way her body canted toward him. But he held her steady with a firm hold of her hair, making her stay just out of reach, and she hissed at the subtle sting of the increased pressure of his grip. “I bet your mouth is watering for me. I bet you can’t wait to wrap your plump little lips around this big cock and take me deep in that pretty little mouth.” He gave another tug, pulling her head back a little more, “Think you can take all of me, poppet?”

 

She nodded as her eyes flashed up to his with a sweet, but slightly wicked smile. “I wanted to suck you under the table while your men were seated here. Listen to you try to maintain your composure when I swallowed you to the root and made you spill down my throat.” Her hand wrapped around his and helped him pump his shaft. “Or else sit in your lap with my skirts raised just enough to let you sink in and ride you slowly, biting my lip to keep from screaming.”

 

“Oh, I’ll make you scream, girl.” He pulled her to him and slammed his lips to hers, tongue prodding into her mouth without pause or hesitation. He could feel himself throb and swell in her hand, aided by her little moans with every swipe of his tongue. He pulled her away suddenly, their mouths releasing with an obscene sound. “But first,” he said as he tightened the fingers in her hair, pulling her toward his lap. “Suck.”

 

She bent her head as he released her and gently kissed the tip of his member, the bead of precum making her already swollen lips glisten. She ran her tongue along her rosy mouth, closing her eyes and hummed a sigh at the taste of him. Coyly, she said, “You didn’t say ‘Please’, my lord.”

 

“I’m not accustomed to begging for the things I want, little one,” he spoke with an arrogant edge as he rolled his eyes playfully. Rey traced little circles at his bare hips, batting her eyes and baring her bottom lip with a tilt of her hair. She huffed out a breath that cooled the moisture that lay on the head of him, and his cock pulsed at the sensation. “But when you pout so prettily… Suck.” He paused and groaned as he stretched out his next word, “Please.”

 

After a triumphant little laugh, Rey’s tongue emerged from between her lips and darted out to lick a slow, delicate stripe along the underside of his manhood, beginning at the base and ending in a lap around the head of him. Wrapping both her hands around his shaft, she placed another kiss at the leaking slit before parting her lips and taking him into her warm mouth. 

 

Ben threw his head back with a groan, eyes closing. Over the course of their two weeks of marriage, they’d explored each other’s bodies and spent time learning how to please each other with mouths and hands. Just feeling her take him in her unpracticed mouth had been enough, but she was eager to learn how to wring the pleasure out of him while on her knees, and quickly became an expert in driving him mad with her tongue. She seemed to thrive on the power she could wield, turning the Dark Knight of Alderaan into a pleading, quivering mess with her newly attained wiles. 

 

She bobbed her head on him, taking him deeper each time. Her hands followed the motions of her mouth, squeezing slightly, gathering the saliva that dripped down his length and using it to aid in pumping him up and down. He rested his hand on the back of her head, gently guiding her movement, twisting his fingers in her curls. He gave her a slight push down and she hummed about him, taking as much as she was able to.

 

“That’s it, little one. Take all of me in that saucy mouth of yours,” he groaned out. He could feel her gag and constrict around him as he nudged the back of her throat. Nimble fingers squeezed his balls with a careful pressure, and his hand tightened in her hair, holding her in place for a moment, his hips thrusting up further to slip deeper down her throat. She sputtered about him, and he instantly released her head. As she gasped for air, her bright and wild eyes found his. He took in her flushed cheeks and chin shining with spit before pleading silently as he searched her gaze, checking in with her to ensure she was alright. When she gave him a small nod and a smile, he continued their game.

 

“You are beautiful with your lips stretched around my cock, my dear.” Ben cupped her face, his thumb smearing the moisture dripping from her parted lips. “I shan’t last if you continue to fuck me with your mouth.”

 

Rey smirked, giving him another slow pump with her hands. “I thought that was the point, my lord.”

 

“As tempting as that sounds,” he said as he pulled her up from her knees, standing with her. “I’d rather see how beautiful you look with your hot cunt stretched about my cock.”

 

He turned her abruptly in his arms so that her back was pressed against his chest, pulling her to him with a firm, strong arm about her waist to hold her in place. He took a step forward, urging her to move with him until her hips hit the table and he pressed her against the rounded edge.

 

“So you intend to have your way with me, my lord?”

 

“As if that wasn’t your intention when you wrapped your lips around my cock, girl.” His voice was a rasped whisper against the shell of her ear, dripping with danger in its rich bass. “And besides, you know I can take whatever I want.” With a gentle tug, he yanked her shift down her shoulders, exposing her breasts that rode up over her bodice. His large, warm hands covered them, plucking at her nipples that came alive beneath his touch. She whimpered, shivering in his arms as he pressed her hips to the table’s edge with the weight of his body against hers. “But I’d rather you give it to me.”

 

One of her hands found his face, gripping his ear for leverage as her other guided his hand at her breast. “Take me, sire,” she begged, letting out a hiss as he twisted one of her nipples to just the point of pain between his thumb and forefinger. 

 

Ben pressed his lips to her cheek, nudging her to turn her head so he could seize her mouth  with an overbearing kiss. His hands left her breast and traveled down the curves of her body before gathering her skirts in his fists and dragging them up her thighs. 

 

“Bend over, wench,” his gruff voice commanded as he placed a hand in the middle of her back and pushed her to lay against the table, flipping her skirts up over her bare backside. “Spread your legs so I can see just how wet and ready your little cunny is for my cock.”

 

Her legs eased apart as his hand rubbed her bottom in a slow circle before slipping down between her cheeks and dipping his middle finger deep into her core. He bit back a groan at how wet she was already, resisting the prickle of release he had been dancing along as she took him in her mouth. And then she arched her back against the hand that held her down with a deep moan and he had to close his eyes and bite back his own need. He released the pressure of his hand against her, letting her rise up on her elbows and allowing him to wrap his arm tightly under her and across her chest, wrapping his fingers carefully at her neck. 

 

Ben pumped his finger before pushing a second into her, cursing under his breath at the way her body stretched to take another digit. “Dripping for me already, my sweet little whore,” he said, accompanying a hard thrust of his fingers within her. 

 

But she let out a wince that made him instantly drop character, pulling his hand from her as cold fear crept into his veins that he’d hurt her. “Rey, what’s wrong—“

 

“Ben,” she said, her tone severe as she pushed herself up on her hands. “I cannot abide with that word. Not even in play.”

 

“I was merely playacting, my love.” He gathered her hair in his hands pulling it off to one side to place a delicate kiss at her now bared shoulder. “I’m sorry.” 

 

“I know, Ben. It’s just… that phrase. I can’t.” Rey turned her head, allowing him to nuzzle at her cheek. “Not after my mother…”

 

“I understand, sweetheart. It was too far. I shall refrain, I promise.” He wrapped strong arms around her, trailing his lips at her cheeks and into her hairline. “Were any other names I used a bit too much?”

 

“For some reason, no. I could pretend with the others.” She said, finding his hands and lacing their fingers. A small laugh burst forth from her as she said, with a hint of their game starting to sneak back into her voice, “And I most thoroughly enjoyed you growling ‘girl’ in my ear. I can feel it vibrate in my soul, in my toes, in my…” She trailed off, her cheeks heating as her teeth sought her lip.

 

“Ah, you don’t get away that easily.” He scolded gently, hand again seeking her throat to hold her possessively. “Where do you feel it, girl ?” His other hand dove through her bunched up skirts and found her clit, already slicked and swollen. “Here? When I call you ‘girl’, does your little cunt get wetter for me?”

 

“Ben!” She gasped out, and he held her tighter, tensing his hand at her throat to squeeze gently and swirling his finger around her sensitive bud. 

 

“Who am I now?” he said with a hint of amusement, angling his body so his still hardened cock slipped between her legs and nudged against her slit, her wetness covering him, allowing him to slide with ease against her folds. 

 

Her voice was breathy, caught in her chest, though he could feel the twist of her mouth against his cheek as a smile curled there. “Sire…” she said, bracing her hands on the table again and moving in time with the small motions of his hips. 

 

“Yes, that’s it, poppet.” His hand left her clit to help guide his cock, lining him up at her entrance. “I’m going to fuck you now, so that you’ll feel me betwixt your legs for days.”

 

“Please, my lord. Please.” She whimpered, rolling her hips so that the head of him notched within her. 

 

They both groaned as he started to slip into her warm heat, but then he stopped, grasping her to hold her body in place as he nipped at her ear. “Please, what?” 

 

“Please fuck me, Sire.”

 

“What a good girl, asking so sweetly. Think you can take me, little one?” 

 

She merely nodded, her breath coming in short quick gasps with a barely discernible “Yes, please” whimpered out, and he pressed forward into her tight, welcoming body.

 

The way that her body still all but resisted, how he had to open her up slowly, feel her stretch to accommodate him within her core, drove him mad time and time again. He knew he would never tire of how it felt to sink into her and know that she was molded to him - and him alone. And that sweet moment of resistance, even after a fortnight, still made them both gasp. It only lasted a moment, long enough for a deep breath to feel how she gave about him as a heady moan fell from her, and then he was buried to the root and enveloped in the heaven that was his wife. 

 

“You feel divine,” he groaned as he pulled out, only to thrust forward again. “Such a sweet, tight fit for my cock.”

 

“You’re so big, my lord.”

 

“Ah, but you take me so well.” His hand moved from her throat to twine in her hair at the nape of her neck, fisting tightly as his other hand gripped her hip. He gave a sharp tug to the hand embedded in her hair, making her rise up on her hands so he could press his lips to her ear. “Is this what you wanted, girl? My nice thick cock between your thighs?”

 

A strangled cry of “Yes,” came out as he thrust hard and then held himself in place for a moment, squeezing her hip and lapping his tongue to taste the skin of her neck. 

 

When he began again, he started slow, taking his time to feel the stretch of her around him, of how her body slowly swallowed every inch with each careful thrust. The tight, wet heat of her tempted him, and it took every ounce of control he possessed to stop himself from just rutting into her with brutal, animalistic intent. 

 

But rough treatment was what he had promised and what she seemed to have in mind, for after a few moments of the slow, almost torturous strokes he was driving into her with, she began to rock back against him to meet his movements. Their combined effort caused skin to slap against skin and fill the cabin with the slick sounds of their coupling. His pace increased until he overtook her motions, slamming her hips to the table’s edge, his hand tightening even more in her hair so that she hissed out between her passionate cries. 

 

He could feel her begin to tighten around him, and could tell by the way her breathing became quicker and her mewls and moans went up in pitch that she was close to finding her pleasure and exploding about him. He released her hair and hip and his hands found her breasts, unbound and shaking with every thrust of his hips. He noted that they felt fuller and heavier in his hands somehow, propped up by her corseted bodice. He pressed her to his chest as his fingers plucked and teased her swollen and budded nipples.

 

“You’re going to come on my cock, girl,” he said as one hand followed the laces of her bodice down to rummage through her hiked skirts and tease her clit. He rolled it in time with the way he was driving into her, pressing where he knew made her see stars and pinching to hear her scream. “And then what shall I do? Do I turn you about and spill my seed on these beautiful tits? Or should I stay buried deep within you and paint your pretty cunt white?”

 

““I—I want to feel you,” she gasped, her voice quivering as he tweaked both pretty pink buds beneath his fingers and she began to flutter around him. 

 

He found her pulse point, her heartbeat pounding against his lips, and latched on to suckle purple into her skin as she screamed her release. She convulsed in his arms, a flood of her essence dripping down her legs. 

 

Her body shuddered around him, growing impossibly tighter as the crests and waves of her bliss pulled him over the edge with her. He caged her still-pulsating body in his arms as he slammed his hips to hers a final time, seating himself deep before groaning as he filled her with his spend, feeling it leak out to create a sticky deluge of their passion painting her thighs.

 

They collapsed onto the table together, her sweat-streaked cheek laying against the cool wood as Ben pressed open-mouthed, lazy kisses to her bare shoulders and nape. His hips jerked a few times, his softening member sliding easily in the slick that lay between them. “So naughty, wanting me to finish within you. If it’s a babe your wanting, I’ll give you one,” he rasped as his hand found her bottom, rubbing the rounded mound in warming circles before bringing his palm down on her backside with a startling slap. She yelped and strained in his hold, stilling when he found her ear again and bit at the lobe. “Now, get me a pint of ale and allow me a few minutes rest. We’ll see if I can plant a royal bastard in your belly yet.”

 

Rey looked over her shoulder at that. “Really? A royal bastard?” she asked, pushing up from the table so he moved with her, rising up and wrapping his arms around her waist. With a quirk of her eyebrow she added, “And here I thought you were a handsome rogue.”

 

Ben blanched and then buried his face in the space between her shoulder blades for a moment, again pressing his lips to her skin. He released his hold on her, casting his gaze down as he moved to standing. He eased his member back in his breeches and retied the laces before finally meeting her eyes again. “Well, be I Prince or rogue, my aim is to bring you bliss while I make you round with my heir.” 

 

“Aye, and you do bring me bliss.” She stood and turned, adjusting her bosom back into her shift and letting her skirts fall down from where he had hiked them. Placing her hands on his chest, she gave him a gentle shove so he fell into the chair before joining him to straddle his lap. “But our children shall not bear the weight of the title I have. They will be your legitimate heirs, conceived in our bed.” 

 

As she spoke, he wound an arm around the curve of her waist and trailed down to place a firm hand at her lower back. His other found her belly, spanning the width of it, praying silently that life was already blooming beneath his hand, as to make what they would have to do soon easier. Rey seemed to notice his pensive expression and tilted his chin up to meet her eyes. “We shall know soon enough, my love.” Her sweet smile burned through the worry that gnawed at his soul, and he returned it before she pulled his head to her breast, running her fingers through his hair. “But as you have told me yourself, we have time for children, Ben. If they come from our time here, they come. If not, well,” she sighed dramatically and playfully added, “you’ll just have to continue to bed me with as much fervor as you have been these past two weeks until it takes.”

 

Ben laughed against the swell of her chest, nipping gently at her skin there before lifting his head. “Until it takes and beyond, because if you think you’ll find reprieve once you start growing so lusciously round, you are sorely mistaken.” He gripped her hips and tugged her so her swollen, slick core leaked to wet his clothed bulge. “I’ll want you all the more. Just thinking about how you’ll look makes me want to ravage you again.” He thrust up, pulling her down to find her lips to capture the laugh that burst forth from her. She kissed him back, rocking in his lap with the guidance of his hands at her hips. By the time they stilled their mouths and parted to catch their breath, they were both panting. “But still,” Ben started as he ran his hands up her back, rubbing the muscles in slow circles, “the more evidence I can bring forward upon our return—“

 

“Evidence?” She pulled back and then added with an uneasy laugh. “Ben, what evidence would we need? We are married in the eyes of the law and of the Force.”

 

“We are.” Ben stated, reaching for her left hand and bringing it to his lips, gently kissing the ring on her finger there. “At least, as far as I see it and under the interpretation of my Uncle.”

 

“Yes, and he is a priest of the Force and a historian of the kingdom’s laws—“

 

“But he’s not the King.”

 

Rey froze for a moment, staring down at him, her lips parted as the color that had flushed her cheeks but a moment before began to drain. 

 

“Ben, what are you—“

 

“I’ve had a fear that has crept in these past two weeks.” Ben spoke gently, reaching up to cup her cheeks and stroke his fingers through the errant curls that framed her face. “What if it’s not enough? What if my father, as the King, wants to overturn that law? Deny our marriage.”

 

“But he cannot.” Rey untangled his hands from her hair and pulled herself from his lap, backing up to the table’s edge. “Your Uncle even said that during our ceremony: ‘That which the Force has tethered as one, no man—nor King—shall tear asunder.’”

 

Ben stood to follow her, reaching for her hand, capturing it between both of his and bringing it to his chest. “Not if I presented you as my wife, carrying my child that has already quickened within you. And should he try, I can throw in his face how hypocritical his actions are.”

 

She pulled her hand away from him, turning and crossing to the bed, sinking into the soft mattress as she sat. “Ben, you are speaking like you did that first night, when you wished to bed me and get me with child so that your parents would be forced to wed us to avoid scandal.”

 

He stood as she was speaking and followed her. “And as I said at our wedding, I still believe that would have worked.” She looked up at him, tears beginning to brim her eyes. The way her breath seemed to catch in her chest and how she swallowed thickly, he knew he was frightening her. He knelt beside the bed, taking her hands and rubbing the backs of them with his thumb, trying to soothe. “Rey, I promised to hold you in honor. Care for you. Protect you. And our children. And I shall. I swear it. They will be my heirs. No matter what.”

 

“No matter what?” Her eyes searched his, darting back and forth almost desperately as a tear escaped and trickled down her cheek. “No, Ben. I am your wife.” Another tear fell from her lovely hazel eyes, and she whispered out, “Am I not?”

 

“You are my wife.” He insisted, reaching up to cup her face, wiping the drops away with careful and tender fingers. “My wife and my truest love and my future queen.”

 

She took his hands from off her face, the look in her eyes suddenly fierce and strong as steel. “Then take me home, Ben.“

 

He nodded silently, pressing a kiss to her hand. He watched the fear seem to drain from her face at that. But his own continued to eat at his gut, chipping away his resolve. He stood, taking a step back as he brought his hand to his mouth, calculating quickly in his head. He then gently asked, “When are your courses due next?”

 

“My courses?” She looked up at him with furrowed brows, confusion painting her expression.

 

“Yes.” He was pacing a little now. If he wasn’t mistaken and had done the math correctly… “You did not bleed the night I tried to bed you,” he explained. “And you have not bled this whole fortnight. So they must be soon. Unless they came the week you denied my access to you.”

 

“I—“ He watched as she counted in her head, his heart beginning to pound in his ears as excitement began to bubble within him. “They are set to come any day.”

 

“So let’s wait.” He crossed the small space to again be at her side, this time pulling her up from the bed as he captured her slight waist in his hands, letting his gaze fall to her stomach. “Let us see if our babe is growing within you.” She seemed to move to speak, but he placed a finger to her lips to stop her words before pressing a kiss to her forehead. “And I promise, if you are delayed but a week, we’ll take that as proof enough.” He grabbed her face, cupping her cheeks, ignoring the way the tears were gathering in her eyes again. “We'll return, our wedding knot in hand and my Uncle’s word and your belly full—“

 

“Ben, please stop.” She said, her voice rising to overpower his. She tore herself from his embrace, stepping back, her eyes narrowing. “You brought me to the altar and took me to bed with seemingly full confidence in the validity of our union. And I trusted you.” Her voice quivered and her shoulders shook as her tears escaped. Ben ached to see her so distraught, but as he took a step toward her, she countered, maintaining their distance as she quickly rubbed the tears from her cheeks. She stood tall, and where it had started to tremble, her voice was now determined. “If I am truly your wife—by law and not just in your heart. If I am not just some foolish girl who you’ve tricked into your bed to make your mistress, then take me home. Now.”

 

Ben took a deep breath, the silence stretching between them. He watched the strong and hard set lines on her face slowly fade into fear as the seconds ticked by. But he knew not what else to say. So he shook his head solemnly. “I cannot.”

 

Her voice cracked as she spoke, “So I am but your mistress then. Some broodmare to serve as a vessel—“

 

“Don’t you dare—“ He started, rushing to her and wrapping his arms around her. She tried to escape his hold, sobs beginning to rack her body, but he captured her hands and pressed them against his chest, pulling her to him with strength that she could not overpower. “Never call yourself that.”

 

Her fists beat against his chest in the small space that she created as she tried to pull herself from him. “What else can a bastard girl hope to be, but the King’s mistress whore?” 

 

“Stop that!” He yelled, grabbing her firmly by the shoulders, holding her at arm’s length so she was forced to look at him. “If I am not allowed to say that word in play, I’ll be damned if I let you debase yourself so.” She stared at him for a moment, tears still silently streaming down her cheeks before twisting her shoulders. He released her, letting her take a few steps away for her to catch her breath before he spoke again. “That is not why I want to stay our return.” He said carefully and as calmly as he could manage. “I just wish to make every assurance so that our marriage will be honored.” 

 

He took a slow step toward her, and this time she did not back down. But her sad eyes gazed at him, reminding him of an animal cornered and afraid. Cursing himself for bringing her such woe, he reached out his hand, brushing her fingers with his. “Sweetheart, please. Let’s just wait. I’ll bed you no more—sleep on the floor at your feet—until you allow me back into our bed.” He dared to step to her again, his hands finding her waist, hearing her gasp when he touched her, her eyes closing as she placed her own hands on his arms. He leaned his forehead to hers, his voice pleading, “But you must know, darling. You must know I love only you, want no other. Within you the future of our kingdom may be taking root—“

 

“Ben, don’t you see?” He lifted his head at the sound of her soft voice. “That puts me in danger. If our marriage be not binding—“

 

“You’re in no danger,” he interrupted, tightening his grip on her waist. 

 

“But I am.” Her hands slid down his arms, releasing his hold on her, putting more space between them. “I very well may be full with your child already. And if our marriage is denied, what happens to me then? To our baby?” Her hand lay against her stomach, and he reached to do the same, but she turned away from him, pacing as he sensed her anger beginning to rise. “And what of the marriage your parents had arranged? What if your new bride be jealous and of a powerful ally, and dislikes you have a lover and an illegitimate child—“

 

He crossed in her path, boxing her into a corner, placing his hands on the walls at either side of her. “Then I would keep you both safe. I promise.”

 

She made a move to try to get around him, but he stepped to block her path. Looking him square in the eye, with tears clouding the green-gold there, she scolded, “Do not swear that which you cannot assure.”

 

“But I can.” He insisted, pounding the wall by her head and making her jump. He paused, taking a breath and willing himself to calm as he found her shoulders. She tensed, but did not move away, though her gaze fell to the floor, and he watched silent tears slip down her cheeks. “Darling, I will guard you with my life. You must know that. I’d rather meet the business end of a sword then see any harm befall you or our child.” He dared to reach up and cup her cheek, brushing her tears away. He felt her tilt her head, lean into the palm of his hand as a soft sob fell from her. Her lips trembled and her eyes squeezed closed, which just made him want to hold her tighter, kiss away every fear until she saw and believed that he would fight to the death for his little family, do whatever was necessary to keep them together in whatever capacity he could. He pressed his lips to the top of her head, feeling her ease into his embrace, his arms wrapping around her to hold her close. “I meant it when I said I would lock you away if need be to safeguard you,” he spoke into her hair. “I’d keep you here, well provided for and protected—“

 

She pulled away, shock and betrayal written in her eyes as she stated, “So this is my gilded cage, is it not?” She shoved him away and he stumbled, taken aback for a moment at the strength his little wife possessed, and the utter venom in her voice. “The place to hide me away until you grow tired of the wife your parents have selected for you?”

 

“No, Rey.” She pushed past him, and he followed, pleading with her. “Sweetheart, please listen. That is not what I mean—“

 

“I cannot be sure of anything anymore,” she whipped around to confront him again, “for you always did have a flattering tongue and would charge headlong into battle without thinking. But I thought with me…” Her voice cracked and tears began to fall again. She pressed the palms of her hands to her eyes as she steadied her breath. “You were so sure but two weeks ago. You know my fears, what happened to my mother… I was a fool to believe you so wholeheartedly.”

 

“You’re not a fool,” he said softly. “It is merely a precaution—“ 

 

Ben reached for her, but she batted his hands away as she let out a frustrated cry, that mingled with her sobs and resounded in Ben’s head, threatening to crack his heart with it’s sorrow. “If you were not completely certain, Ben, how could you?”

 

“Because I love you and I’ll not lose you!” He asserted, his voice echoing in the small cabin, louder than he had intended them to be. But she was being unreasonable. How could she not see that everything was for her, for them, for their future? “I’d do whatever it takes to have you, to be with you. I want no other in my bed.”

 

Her cries morphed into a short, cruel burst of laughter. “You’d do whatever it takes?”  And though tears continued to stream down her cheeks, her eyes narrowed and she stalked toward him, an edge of bitterness biting into her tone. “Even tricking me into thinking I’ve wed you, that I am your wife, so that I’ll spread my legs for you?”

 

“Don’t you dare… It was no trick!” But his insistence, his plea seemed to fall on deaf ears. She huffed and stormed past him. But he reached out and took hold of her elbow, gripping tightly and turning her about. “You are my wife and I’ll ensure that you stay as such!”

 

“You’ve made it clear that you can no longer promise that, Ben.” She jerked her arm from him and backed away slowly. “And in doing so, you’ve made my fears reality. I am now tainted. Disgraced.”

 

“You’re not!” He shouted. She shook her head and turned quickly, grabbing a few items of clothing and stuffing them in a bag. “What are you doing?”

 

“Leaving.” Her voice was small, but resolute as she continued to hastily pack. 

 

He felt his heart plummet. “Leaving for where?”

 

“To follow in the path of all fallen women,” she slung her bag over her shoulder and started for the door, “and abjure the company of men.”

 

“Wait—A nunnery?” He stammered, rushing to her side, grasping again for her hand, her arm, anything he could catch to hold onto. “Rey, no—“

 

Again she eluded his hold, again she slipped through his fingers and her answer felt like a slap to the face. “I’d rather take up the livery than be a mistress, fearful of my life.”

 

“Rey! Sweetheart, please—“ He did find her hand this time and yanked her to him, cupping her face and pressing his lips to hers in one last desperate plea. He poured his heart into the kiss, how it had beat for her and only her since they were children. She tasted of salt from the tears he had caused to fall, but as her trembling lips kissed him back, he let hope bloom in his chest. He dared to deepen their embrace, sliding his arms around her back and waist, teasing the seam of her lips to open for him. He sighed in relief when she relented, tangling her tongue with his slowly, her hands diving into his hair.

 

But then she let out a sob against his mouth. Her lips pursed closed, but not before he felt her press them against his once more—just barely. It was so quick and soft, he almost missed it. 

 

Then she whispered out, “Goodbye, my love.”

 

And she slipped out the door before he could open his eyes. Ben stood frozen, unable to move for a moment. And then he heard the pounding of horses' hooves. He opened the door just in time to watch her turn the corner and disappear into the woods.

Chapter Text

 

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Rey had intended to ride without pause straight to the sisters of the Force and hide her broken heart and shame in the livery of the order. But as she stood outside the cloister, she hesitated. She knew she was far too close to the palace, and merely a few hours ride from the cottage Ben had procured. She’d taken his horse, but how long would it really take him to find her? A day? Two at most? And then as the Prince, what power would she have when he came and demanded the Mother Superior release her to him—if he would even observe formalities at all. More likely he’d burst into the temple and throw her over his shoulder to carry her away like some barbarian claiming his war prize. 

 

She cursed the soft pang of desire that pulsed at her core at the thought of him. A delightful soreness still rippled through her, making her even more aware of the way her thighs were still coated in the evidence of their early passion. And worst of all, her lips still held the taste of his mouth, of that kiss that had nearly undone her as she turned to flee. It had taken everything in her to run out the door. If he found her, if he kissed her again… She truly feared she’d not have the strength to save what little honor she still had. 

 

No, she’d have to venture farther than just to the convent down the road. So, she turned the horse away from the temple and started back down on the road she knew. Half a day's journey brought her in front of the palace once more, right outside the battlements by the tree in which she had set off with Ben but two weeks prior. There she paused, staring at the willow tree blowing softly in the breeze, skirting the waters of the river. She’d been so hopeful, so joyful—

 

“So foolish,” she spoke aloud. The forbidden love she harbored in her soul for her childhood sweetheart she knew was always bound to ruin her. But she thought it would be from a broken heart as he married some highborn girl in a political marriage of allies. Not from giving into lust and the wicked desire he stirred within her. 

 

She dismounted the horse and led it to the stream to drink. There, she shed herself of the red silk bodice he’d ravished her in that morning. She splashed water on her face and washed away the stain of him from her thighs. She’d grabbed her old blue overdress as she’d fled, and she pulled it on over the chemise he’d given her. Tears clouded her vision, stinging her red-rimmed eyes as they fell down her cheeks. Once her bodice was laced up, it felt too tight against her ribs - and it was almost painful to breath. She untied the knot at the front and sank down to rest in the shade of the tree. A wave of exhaustion hit her and she closed her eyes, pressing her hand to her heart to attempt to steady her breath as it stuttered and caught between otherwise silent tears.

 

“Rey?” A familiar voice spoke above the murmur of the stream. “Rey, are you alright?” 

 

She opened her eyes to see her friend running towards her, blessedly alone. Where she had been able to quiet her cries, they now broke forth from her chest as relief in seeing her dear companion flooded her. 

 

“Oh, Rose,” she sobbed, unable to stem her tears. “I’ve had such sorrow and I’ve been such a fool!”

 

She tried to stand, but her head swam as she attempted to get to her feet and she swayed unsteadily, her hand finding the tree trunk for support. Rose rushed to her side, holding her steady and helping her to rise. 

 

“Easy there,” Rose coaxed as she wrapped her arm around her waist. “What is wrong that is making you so weak? Are you hurt? Ill?”

 

“No, nothing of the sort.”

 

“Are you sure?” Rose took her face in her hands, tilting her head down so she could look her in the eyes. “You are so pale.” 

 

“I swoon for weariness is all. I’ve traveled far.” Rey tried to force a smile through her sorrow to ease the look of deep worry that was etched on Rose’s face. “And I’ve not eaten since this morning.” 

 

“But the tears? I doubt they are caused by an empty stomach and a long journey. What has you so vexed?” Rose searched Rey’s eyes, her gentle hands smoothing the tangles of her loose hair. “And why have you arrived alone? I would have thought the Prince—“

 

At that, Rey crumpled, fresh tears filling her eyes as she closed them against the flow, biting down on her lip hard enough to taste blood.

 

“Oh, Rey…” her friend sighed, “I can think of but one thing that would bring you such sorrow as this.”

 

“I was a fool, Rose.” She leaned against the trunk of the willow, her hands covering her face, the unbidden drops falling between her fingers before she wiped them away. “But a willing fool. I gave myself over to him and oh—it was passion unlike anything I could have imagined! But it was a lie.”

 

“How a lie?” She pulled a silken handkerchief from the small bag at her waist and dabbed her friend’s eyes. “He adores you. He worships the ground you walk upon and has since you were children.” Rey turned away from Rose, staring up at the sky as a shaky breath caught in her chest. “Even if you feel a fool for going to his bed, a foolish action may still have good intentions.”

 

“Good intentions, perhaps,” she said, eyes still cast up to the heavens. “But with false pretenses. And consequences that only I must suffer for.” Then she turned back to look at her friend, knowing her reddened eyes, while still gleaming with the tears of heartbreak, also held in them her steely resolve. “Rose, I must get away. Your sister took vows, did she not?”

 

“Yes, at a convent several day’s journey from here.” Rey watched as everything clicked into place in Rose’s thoughts and the reason for her question became clear to her friend. “Rey, you’re not thinking of going into the sisterhood?”

 

Rey shrugged. “What else can I do now? I don’t even know where to go—”

 

“You’ll come home.” Rose took her hands, pulling her closer as she dropped her voice. “I can name several ladies of the court whose virtues are far from spotless, and they will still marry well.”

 

“They are highborn,” Rey retorted. “A good name may hide some indiscretions. I have not that luxury.” 

 

“But who shall really know but you and he?” Rose reached out and tucked a loose curl of Rey’s hair behind her ear. “But if you wish to be more discreet, come with me. You’ll stay in my quarters until the Prince returns and the two of you—“

 

“No, Rose. I cannot face him.” A gentle sob shook her shoulders as tears slid down her cheeks. “I was foolish to think there was a way for he and I to be together. I wanted it so that I believed his honey-sweet words, trusted in him swearing vows that he has no power to keep. I barely had the strength to walk away from him. If I see him, should he kiss me once more, I shan’t have the strength to walk away again.”

 

“Oh my Rey,” Rose said as she gathered her in her arms, hugging her close. “I’ll write to my sister, if you wish. See what she advises as to taking you into her order.” She tucked away more of Rey’s errant hair so she could brush away her tears, speaking with a mothering voice. “But that will take time. And you need the rest. Let me take you in so you may begin to mend your heart.”

 

Rey nodded against her friend’s shoulder. She gathered her small bundle and let Rose begin to guide her back to the palace. Looping their arms, Rose leaned in and with a stifled giggle said in a hushed whisper, “I take it he was quite the lover.”

 

Rey stopped in her tracks, gasping as she pulled herself from her friend's linked arm. “Rose!”

 

“What?” Rose shot a smirk as she turned around to where Rey stood, then shrugged dramatically. “If with but one kiss you’d be undone—”

 

Rey gave her friend an evil glare and Rose stared right back, daring her to prove her wrong with the gleam in her dark eyes. After a moment, Rey softened, shaking her head. “Truthfully, he need only look at me with those eyes of his and I’d wish to throw all propriety to the winds again.”

 

Rose let out a small breath, smiling almost sadly. “The depth of your love for him, Rey.” She took a few steps back to Rey, taking her hands in her own.”I have to believe that not all is lost, and this is but a bump in the road.” She placed an arm around her shoulder and they began again toward the palace. “Either that,” Rose said after a few moments, “or it speaks volumes as to his… abilities.”

 

“Can it not be both?” Rey said with a sideways glance and a small smile. 

 

“There’s my Rey!” Rose exclaimed, giving Rey a squeeze. “Let’s get you some food and rest. I know that things will look brighter in the morrow.”

 

***

 

Rey slept for near a full day before waking, only nibbling at the food that Rose had brought her before falling asleep again.

 

And the pattern continued for almost a week. Her waking hours were spent between silence and tears. The exhaustion continued, seeming to overwhelm her. She found her sorrow robbed her of her appetite, and with each tray of barely touched food, Rose grew more and more anxious and worried. Rey insisted it was merely a symptom of her broken heart, but her friend seemed hardly convinced.

 

One late morning, a knock came to the door of Rose’s quarters, which stirred Rey from her deep sleep. Barely lifting her head from her pillow, she groggily called out, “Rose, I fear I still have no stomach for food—“ 

 

But when she emerged from the nest of blankets and pillows she’d wrapped herself in to shut out the world, it was not Rose’s face that greeted her.

 

“Your majesty—“ Rey scrambled to untangle herself from the covers, trying at the same time to smooth her hair and adjust her shift, both a crumpled mess.

 

“No, no, my dear. Stay as you are,” Queen Leia said as she stepped into the room, making sure the door closed behind her. Rey could feel her cheeks heat at seeing the Queen, trying to push away that little voice in her head that taunted her with, You’ve lain with her son. The mother of the man who’s made you cry out in passion more times than you can count is standing before you, and you are wearing naught but your shift! She stared down at the blankets to try to hide her blush, twisting a loose thread between her fingers. She heard the Queen’s quiet footfalls as she crossed to her. “Rose has been worried for you, and when I was able to pry the information from her, I insisted on seeing you myself. I did not know you had returned, seeing as my son has not yet come home.” She then felt the bed sink as the Queen sat on the edge. “Did you and he have a lover’s spat?”

 

The heated flush drained from her face as she gazed up at the Queen, mouth agape and wide-eyed. “Madam, I—“

 

“Rey, darling,” she spoke tenderly, taking Rey’s hand in hers as she leaned in. “I am no fool. I’ve known for years that there is more between my son and you than merely friendship. The way you two look at each other—I would have to be blind or very stupid to not see it, my dear. And I am neither. Now, what has my son done to cause you to weep so?”

 

Rey felt more tears sting at her eyes, and she closed them, willing them not to fall. But then the gentle hand of the Queen touched her cheek, stroking it lovingly, as only a mother could, and the dam broke. 

 

“Oh, my dear child,” Leia soothed, her other hand cupping Rey’s face to wipe away her tears. “You may tell me. My son inherited the best and the worst of his father and I. He is so often a headstrong idiot with a scoundrel’s charm.”

 

Rey nodded, seeing a smile spread on Leia’s face at that. “Would it be treason to say I agree?” The Queen laughed lightly. “But I fear I share that headstrong quality. And couple that with a childish, delusional fantasy—“

 

“Being headstrong is a quality I think more women of our time need. And love,” Rey blushed at that, but the Queen’s eyes held a twinkle in them as she spoke, “is hardly a delusional fantasy, Rey.” Leia gently brushed her thumb across her cheek, wiping away the tears there. “Now, besides your sorrow, how is it that you are unwell?”

 

“I am so very tired, your majesty. I try to leave the bed, but I cannot.” Leia lay a hand on her forehead, most likely checking for a fevered heat. “I feel as if I’ve cried out all my strength.”

 

Leia hummed, brushing her hair from her eyes and then laying the back of her hand to Rey’s cheeks. “And you’ve hardly eaten?” 

 

Rey nodded, “Heartache and a melancholic state can turn your stomach, can it not?”

 

“Aye.” Leia cradled Rey’s head and turned it slightly, exposing her throat. Rey swallowed and prayed that the love marks from Ben’s mouth had faded enough that Leia could not see them. She took her hands after a moment of examination. “But something tells me the cause has more to do with affairs of the heart.” She leaned in and though her voice was kind, there was a serious quality to it that made Leia the kind of ruler that the people both loved and obeyed. “Rey, now tell me true: you did not leave to attend to an ill relative, did you?”

 

“No, your majesty,” she said quietly, with eyes downcast again to their joined hands.

 

“You went away with the Prince, didn’t you?”

 

A guilty nod of her head before she remorsefully answered, “Yes, your majesty.”

 

“Now, I must ask, and please know I pass no judgement either way…” She reached up to tilt her chin, making her meet her eyes, so much like Ben’s that her heart stuttered. “Has my son seduced you to his bed, or have you been able to resist his charms?”

 

“I—“ Rey started as her cheeks flamed and she turned her head away. Her voice refused to work, but the subtlest nod gave the indication of her answer.

 

“The rogue,” Leia scolded, letting out a sigh. “Was this time the first?”

 

Rey nodded, then softly added. “But it was hardly once, your majesty.”

 

“Ah.” Leia responded and her tone let Rey know that she needed to know no more. “Frankly, I’m surprised we’ve not had to have this conversation sooner.” A hand again cupped her cheek and Rey slowly and bashfully raised her eyes to Leia. “You’re a strong woman, Rey, no matter what you may think right now.”

 

“No, I was weak,” Rey whimpered out.

 

“No, you are human,” Leia asserted. “I know all too well that the heart wants what the heart wants, and there is only so long we may deny our true desires.”

 

“I’m so sorry, your majesty!” Rey blurted out, the tears again bursting forth unrestrained. “It’s just… I love him. As furious as I am with him… I love him.”

 

“I know you do. And I have said those exact words about the King, child. Too often to count. Men can be infuriating.”

 

“He tells me you have a wife arranged for him. I knew, and yet I still—“ The memory of Ben’s hands on her, coaxing her to ecstasy filled her mind and she paused, trying to banish him from her thoughts. “I’ll leave the court. I’ll lock myself away as to not be a burden, nor a distraction. She’ll never know—“

 

“Oh, Rey, my dear girl. Hush now,” Leia grasped Rey’s hands in hers, a smile on her face that puzzled Rey. “You are staying right here at court. For I do believe I know what may be ailing you. And if I am right, we have much to discuss.”

Chapter Text

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Ben had never felt desperation such as this, not even in the thick of battle. He’d run after Rey, bare feet pounding the ground until he could no longer hear the horses’ hooves upon the earth. Then he’d bolted backwards to the cottage long enough to put on his boots and grab his sword and belt before dashing back out the door. He’d run until he found a stable with a horse, stealing it and leaving more than enough coin for a replacement. 

 

And then he’d set out to scour the land for his bride. It had been too much to hope that Rey had retreated to his Uncle’s temple and the cloister there. Yet, he’d still burst through the doors and searched every room all the same.

 

As he walked through the temple, a knotted cord of red caught his eye on the altar. Taking careful steps up to where it lay, he placed his hand over it, feeling the stinging bite of tears in the corner of his eyes. Pain radiated through him with every beat of his frantic heart as he gently squeezed the cord between his fingers. 

 

He hated himself, hated that he’d let the doubt in his heart bubble forth and frighten her. Rey felt he’d betrayed her, tricked her—when all he’d wanted was her. Her—and the family they would create together. 

 

He knew, in that moment, he’d forsake crown and country, denounce the throne and even his very name if it meant having Rey by his side.

 

Filled with new fire and determination, he clasped the cord in his fist tightly. “I shall find you, my love,” he swore, bringing the knot to his lips. “And I shall fall to my knees and beg of your forgiveness.”

 

“Have you come to retrieve your knot then?” A voice belonging to his uncle came from behind him. 

 

“Where is she?” Ben felt his voice grate in his throat. 

 

“Where is—“

 

“My wife. Rey,” Ben interjected, turning his head to look over his shoulder. “Did she come to you?”

 

His uncle gave him a questioning look, a small chuckle proceeding his words. “Have you lost your bride so soon?

 

Ben found no amusement at that. He growled, whipping around as he drew his sword and held it out to his uncle, blade hovering near to threaten his throat with a wrong step. “If I discover you are concealing her from me, I swear—“

 

“Easy now, son.” Luke put his hands up in surrender, voice calmer than it should have been with a sword held under his chin. “I swear to you, upon these sacred grounds and the very Force that runs through us all, I’ve not seen your wife since I joined you both as one.”

 

“If you lie—“ he spoke through gritted teeth as he twisted his blade and inched closer with the threat.

 

“I pity the poor soul who lies to you where Rey is concerned. I am wise enough to not be among that number. Now if you will lower your blade, perhaps I can be of assistance.”

 

Ben narrowed his eyes before pulling his sword back and sheathing it. 

 

Blade no longer at his throat, Luke breathed a sigh of relief and continued, “Now, how is it that you’ve come to be sans a wife?”

 

Ben paused before answering. “I doubted and opened my mouth.”

 

At that, Luke chuckled. “You are your father’s son, therefore your list of possible indiscretions due to that are wide and vast. Please elaborate.”

 

“Despite the old law you cited at our wedding,” Ben began, irritation at his Uncle clearly painting his tone. “I feared whether our marriage would be upheld, given the multitude of circumstances surrounding our union. As King, perhaps my father could proclaim our marriage invalid if they disapproved. I know your parents did not approve of my mother’s wedding to my father, but I figured if we followed their example, perhaps we stood a better chance.“

 

“But you did, Ben.” Luke took a step toward Ben, his expression quizzical. “You eloped and married of your own choice.”

 

“The ceremony you performed was merely to ease Rey’s fears,” Ben confessed. Luke looked truly flabbergasted, and Ben realized how that divulgence must have sounded. “No, please don’t misunderstand my meaning. I love her, want her as my wife more than I can express. But I thought it not possible by traditional means. I ventured if I got her with child and confessed to the indiscretion and my desire to make it right, a wedding would have to follow. After all, my mother was pregnant with me when her and Father wed; April to November is only seven months.”

 

“Ben,” Luke sighed, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Your parents eloped in mid-February. I was there and bore witness to their union. Yes, you followed quickly, but as far as I am aware, you were conceived after their marriage. They had a proper ceremony for all the kingdom in April, when your mother became aware of her condition and my parents conceded.”

 

“But why wouldn’t they tell me?”

 

Luke shrugged. “Leia was so early in her pregnancy with you that most people did not realize that she was with child at the ceremony. There was no real need. Now tell me, son, have you ever told either your mother or father of your feelings for Rey?”

 

“Why would I? We are from two different worlds. There was little hope of us marrying without something to force their hand.”

 

Luke shook his head. “Kings have held mistresses and produced bastards for ages. Rarely did such acts result in a marriage. And you soon forget: your parents were from different worlds. Your grandparents were from different worlds. Force, your grandfather started his life as a slave and became a King. Do you think your mother and father wouldn’t understand? Ben, you have no need to fear. You and Rey are married. I swear to you. After your parents get over the fact that their only child married without them present, they will accept Rey with open arms.” And then he added with a small grimace, “Though your mother may have my head for my part in it.”

 

Ben took in what his uncle said, realizing that perhaps, yes, he had acted rashly. To not approach his parents with his proposition of marriage to Rey was maybe unwise. But he also knew that had he brought his wishes forth and he was denied, that would be the end of it. And there was the matter of the marriage his mother had been attempting to push upon him. “But what of the arranged marriage—“

 

“I truly doubt they would seal a union without your approval,” Luke consoled.

 

“And if they have, I shall renounce my name to be with the one I love.” Ben squeezed the wedding knot in his fist before placing it in his pocket. “But first I must find my runaway bride and beg of her forgiveness.”

 

“Why did you think she’d be here?” Luke asked.

 

“She said she was resigning herself to a nunnery.”

 

“Ah. The good news is she shall be safe amongst the sisters. The bad news is there are several Temples of the Force scattered throughout our kingdom where she may be, if she even stayed within our lands.”

 

“As is my fear. She has my horse, so she may have traveled far by now.”

 

“There is a horse in the stables you may use.” Luke took Ben’s hand in both of his. “Take it and find her.”

 

“Thank you, Uncle.” Ben made a move toward the direction of the parish stables with haste.

 

“And Ben,” Luke called out, causing Ben to stop at the door, “When you find her—“

 

“I know. I shall prostrate myself at her feet and apologize for being the complete ass that I am.”

 

“Well, yes. But bring her home. You have no shame of her parentage. Prove that to her. Stand with her, beside her. Present her to your parents with pride as your wife.”

 

With a grave nod, Ben took a deep breath and strode out the door. 

 

***

 

For two weeks, Ben traveled the lands seeking out every holy house, inquiring as to any new postulates they may have gained, or run away young women they may have taken in with nowhere else to turn or claiming sanctuary from an ill-fated marriage. But Rey was found in none of those halls. With every cloister he walked away from without his bride in hand, he grew more desperate, more frightened that she’d slipped away and found a way to disappear. 

 

After yet another search left him empty handed, he dejectedly left, leading his horse to the river to drink. Bending down, he caught his reflection in the water’s surface. Deep-set circles colored his eyes, and his tunic was dirty and in need of a wash. The anguish and love-sick sadness was etched in the lines on his face, indications of his hope slipping away from him. He splashed water on his face and ran his wet fingers through his hair. The palace was just visible from this temple, cut out against the horizon along the winding path of the river. Just like searching at his Uncle’s parish, he doubted he would find Rey here, so close to home. But it would have always plagued his mind had he never checked, and she had been just down the road. 

 

“Excuse me, your majesty,” came a soft voice from behind him. He turned to see a girl dressed in a novice’s garb. A sweet, pretty face that couldn’t be much older than Rey was framed in the crisp white of her habit. “I’m sorry to bother you,” she said as she took a deep curtsy, keeping her eyes downcast. 

 

“It is no bother, sister.” Ben could hear the wariness in his own voice as he spoke. 

 

“I—” she started, her mouth opening and closing before she rolled her lips between her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. “My apologies. I shouldn’t be speaking with you. You’re not just a man, which is frowned upon. You are the Prince.”

 

Ben let out a half-hearted chuckle at the way the poor girl’s cheeks pinked and how she could not meet his eye without immediately gasping and staring at the dirt at her feet. “If my title intimidates you, then think of me as merely a man.” He held out his hands and took a few steps closer to her. “And as a man, I do not wish to cause you trouble. If you are inquiring as to my business, I merely am watering my horse and then I shall be gone and will bother you and the other sisters no longer.”

 

“It’s not that,” she offered, her voice trailing off with the last syllable. Ben studied her as she seemed to summon her courage to say what she had approached him for. “It’s just—I overheard you speaking to the Mother Superior. About your wife.” Ben’s breath caught, and a flicker of hope ignited in his chest. He nodded, urging her to continue. “See, I was in love below my station. We were… we were together .” The way she all but whispered the word made it clear she was confessing her indiscretions. “We tried to elope, but were discovered. My parents cast me out, told me I could go to a whore house or a convent, but that I was no longer their daughter.” Her voice trembled as she spoke. She was so young, Ben thought, that this couldn’t have been more than a few months prior. The wound of her disownment must still be fresh. “I do not know what became of my lover. But I have foolishly dreamed of him finding me and whisking me away. I fear he has either forgotten me or did not survive the discovery of our sins, for there has been no other men coming to bang down our doors, searching for their lost love. So if there is a chance for a happier end than mine for another, I wish to assist it to happen in any way I can.”

 

“You speak as if you know something, girl.”

 

She looked around, searching to ensure they were alone and then stepped closer to him so she could speak in a hushed whisper. “We received a letter from a sisterhood several days from here, in a neighboring kingdom. They were looking for advice. Seems they had a young woman show up on their doorstep, very distraught and seemingly ill. When they took her in and brought a doctor to assess her condition, they found her to be in a…” She let her voice drop even more, so Ben could barely hear her, “a ‘delicate’ way.”

 

Ben felt his heart stop, and his stomach both plummeted and flipped at the same time. “She’s… she’s pregnant?”

 

“Yes. Early on, but there is little doubt she is with child.” Ben exhaled a stalled breath, feeling it quiver as it left his lips. “They did not say whether she had been married or no,” the girl continued. “But if this be your wife, she has great need of you. I’m sure whatever quarrel you had, it can be mended.”

 

He reached out and took the girl’s hands, “Where?” The desperation in his voice shocked even him. “Please, tell me quick. If it be her, I must get to her.” 

 

“The convent of Hays Minor,” she replied, “in Otomok.”

 

“Bless you,” Ben said as he grabbed his horse by the reins, mounting the saddle in one swift movement. “Your name, girl?”

 

“Tally, your majesty,” she answered, bowing her head.

 

“Dear Tally, once I have returned, I shall do all I can to discover what happened to your love. And if he be living and will have you, I shall personally bless the union. Additionally, my wife shall need her own ladies once at court. I’d be honored if you’d be the first.” 

 

“Your majesty!” She gasped, falling into a deep curtsy. “I know not what to say.”

 

“If you agree, you need not say anything. Just tell the Mother Superior you’ll not be taking your vows, and the Royal Guard shall arrive within a few weeks to collect you.”

 

He saw the girl nod, tears brimming in her eyes, before he nudged his horse to urge it back to the road.

 

Otomok was at least three days ride away. It was logical, if Rey had rode straight until she could no more, she could have reached the Hays Minor Convent with enough time for a letter to arrive in Alderaan since Ben last saw her. He’d searched every temple of the Force in his kingdom, but did not find her within their walls. The chances that she had left the boundaries of the kingdom seemed great, especially with this news of a girl who could very well be his poor wife having taken sanctuary nearby. 

 

Ben turned toward the palace. He’d been traveling for over two weeks in search of Rey. The journey before him was a long one, and he could use a replenishment of supplies. And if Rey truly was there and was in the condition the letter stated, he could stock his bag with things to make her trip back to Alderaan more comfortable. Should he maybe even send a carriage on after him? If she was ill for her pregnancy, perhaps riding horseback was not the best way for her to travel. 

 

That, of course, was if she would forgive him and return with him at all. 

 

That thought urged him to ride faster, galloping through the city until he reached the palace gates. Giving his horse to the stables, he asked for another to be made ready for when he returned.

 

Once in his chambers, he stripped himself of his clothes, pulling out fresh ones as he splashed water on his face and washed what he could of himself quickly. As he was pulling on his shirt and tying his breeches, there was a knock upon his door.

 

“Your majesty,” the timid Mitika said as he peeked around the corner. “I did not know you had returned.”

 

“I have only stopped to refresh and I must be off again.” Ben grabbed a doublet, pulling it on, but not tying it closed.

 

“But sire, your mother—“ the servant spoke up, stepping into the room. 

 

“I don’t care,” Ben interjected as he grabbed his sword and belt. “I have urgent business that must be attended to.” He pushed past the man before having a thought and turning back to him. “I would like you to see to it that a carriage is sent to the Hays Minor Convent in Otomok. Ensure that it is packed with enough food and water for two people for at least five days. I also wish it to have the extra comforts you may think of as to make the ride more pleasant—pillows, blankets, etc.”

 

“I shall see it done, my Lord,” Mitika bowed to him, then lifted his head up and, with a grimace, quietly said, “But your mother—“

 

“Can wait, damn it!” Ben bellowed, then took a composing breath. “I really cannot stall a moment longer. See to it that the carriage follows with haste as soon as it is equipt. Tell my mother that she can speak to me when I have returned, for then, with any luck, I shall have news which shall be of interest to her.”

 

“I would tell her, my lord, but—“

 

“But?” Ben challenged, stalking toward the servant. “But what?”

 

“But I fear you shall have to.” Mitika replied meekly. “She is waiting in your parlor, sire. Just outside this door.”

 

Ben grunted, “Oh, fuck me and the Force,” before pushing past the man and into the parlor of his quarters. 

 

And sure enough, there was his mother sitting in the chair by the hearth. She stood as he entered, a smile spreading across her face.

 

“Ben, darling. Where in the world have you been? We expected you home weeks ago!” Though she was scolding him, concern crept out between her words. 

 

Ben stole himself, figuring he did at least owe his mother a greeting before disappearing once more. “I do apologize if I caused you worry, Mother,” he said as he crossed to her, embracing her quickly. “Unfortunately, I must be off again this moment.”

 

His mother laughed at that. “Nonsense. You’ve been gone over a month. Surely all this dallying about can wait a day or two.”

 

“It cannot, nor am I dallying,” he bit back, feeling the tension rise within him. “I have business that needs immediate attention. Delaying my journey will only cause grief, or worse.”

 

“Well if it’s truly that urgent, you may leave momentary. However, I require just a few moments of your time for an urgent matter of my own. Sit down, please, son.”

 

Ben contemplated completely ignoring his mother’s request and walking out the door, and his heart screamed at him to do so. But his brain told him it was best to get in his mother's good graces for when he brought back his newly wed wife of illegitimate birth, along with the news that she was already gone with child. So, Ben sat down in the chair by the hearth, trying to calm the way his legs jiggled as he longed to run out the door to Rey’s rescue. 

 

“All right, Mother. A moment. What is so very important that it cannot wait a few more days?”

 

Leia walked to the door and knocked at it. One of her ladies in waiting—Rose, he was sure her name was—opened the door and bowed her head expectantly. 

 

“Rose, be a dear and get our guest, would you?”

 

“Guest?” Ben asked cautiously. 

 

“Yes. The girl that I was telling you about, the one your father and I arranged for you to wed is here,” and then she added pointedly: “has been for some time, actually—and I’d like for you to at least see her before you ride off again.”

 

Ben stood and crossed to his mother, a sharp “No!” bellowing from him. 

 

Aghast, Leia crossed her arms in front of her chest. “No?”

 

“I told you I did not wish to go through with this arranged marriage, Mother.” He stood towering above her, feeling his rage bubble and boil in his chest. “Now you’ve brought some poor girl here under the impression that she was to wed the Prince - and you’ll have to be the one to disappoint her. I’ll not wed her. End of discussion.” He turned quickly on his heel to march out of the room. 

 

“Benjamin Charles Naberrie Organa Solo, you will stop where you are!” Queen Leia was a small person, but she held the ability to command an entire room with merely her voice. And coupled with the instinct left over from childhood of hearing his mother yell his full name, Ben froze in his tracks. “You shall sit down, and when that girl walks through those doors, you will be the gentlemen I raised you to be.” She walked to Ben and took him by the arm, guiding him to the chair and forcing him to sit. “And after you have charmed her, you shall uphold the agreement your father has worked so hard to secure, and you will marry her. That is the end of the discussion.”

 

Ben took a breath, and then simply stated, “I cannot marry her.”

 

“And why not?” Leia asked, once more taking a defensive stance with arms crossed and a stern expression on her brow.

 

“I cannot - because I am married already. To your lady-in-waiting and Lord Kira’s daughter, Rey.” Ben stood, and his confession spilled forth from his lips. “I love her, Mother. Have loved her for years. I didn’t retreat to my hunting lodge. I stole away with the woman I love. We are sworn to each other. Our hands have been bound, we have exchanged our vows. And furthermore, the marriage is consummated. Therefore I cannot wed another without forsaking my lawful wife.”

 

“Benjamin.” She reached out and cupped his cheek, her features softening as a smile grew upon her lips. “I know.”

 

“You—“

 

Leia made a motion towards the door. Ben heard the hinges creak and the feminine footsteps that followed. With a small nudge from his mother, he turned in the direction of the doorway. 

 

And there she was, dressed in a silk gown of her signature blue.

 

“Rey,” he breathed out, feeling the syllable catch in his throat. 

 

Tears glittered at the edges of her eyes, though he could tell that she was trying to not let them show. “Ben.”

 

For just a moment, they both stared at each other. Words failed to form on his tongue, held at bay by the weight of everything that had been said before they parted, the weeks spent without each other, the fear he had felt when he searched and searched for her, but came up short. The tension and the weight of it all hung thick in the air until finally, it broke. 

 

Ben rushed forward to her, falling on his knees and wrapping his arms about her legs. “Oh, thank all the gods, you are safe!” 

 

“Aye. I am safe and have been well cared for in your absence,” she said, her hand finding his hair and running through it gently.

 

“I’m sorry,” he spat out, words flowing from him as tears spilled down his cheeks. “I’m so very sorry, my love. My light. My wife. I was a fool and I let doubt cloud my judgement, overshadow logic and reason. And because of that, I was cruel. And I was wrong. Forgive me, sweetheart, please. I beg of you.”

 

“You may have been wrong, but I do know, deep down, it came from a place of love.” She tilted his face up, cupping it gently. “Of course I forgive you.”

 

With that he rose up from his knees, gathering her in his arms and capturing her lips with a kiss, tasting her, relishing the feel of her against him once more. When he pulled back, he pressed his forehead to hers, holding her close. “I am never letting go again. I shall fight for you. I promise.”

 

“Ben, darling,” she said through a smile, her hands finding their place at his chest. “Perhaps you should listen to your mother.”

 

“Your wife is right, Ben.” Leia spoke up from behind him. “You should listen to your mother.”

 

“Wife?” Ben turned to look at her, meeting her sly smile. “You approve?”

 

“Approve?” Leia chuckled, walking towards them, shaking her head. “Ben. The girl who I wished for you to marry, who we had discussed the union with her father years ago, the girl who we had to arrange for special dispensation due to circumstance.” She placed a hand on both of their shoulders. “It was Rey.”

 

“What?” Ben stuttered, feeling a strange churning mix of shock and anger and relief flow through him. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

 

“Looking back, I could have been more direct,” Leia said. “But you never let me get a word in edgewise.”

 

“But how was it even possible?” Ben inquired.

 

“We had always thrown around the idea with Modon Kira when you two were young, perhaps a bit jokingly as we had a son and he had a daughter and wouldn’t it be sweet if the two of you married,” Leia explained. “And then we saw how much you were drawn to each other, even at a young age. Modon started the process to legitimize Rey so that, should childhood adoration melt into love, she would be a proper lady and suitable for the bride of a Prince. But then he fell ill. He passed before he could finish. We had to find all the documentation and then have her elder half-brother vouch for her. Which took more convincing and bribery than I’d like to admit.”

 

Rey spoke up, laying her head against Ben’s chest as his hands found purchase on her back. “I still cannot believe Callen agreed to the legitimization.”

 

“Begrudgingly.” Leia groaned. “And so you understand, son, your bride is legitimate in name only. She comes with no additional dowry beside the small one which was already put aside for her by Lord Kira. She’ll not inherit anything, land nor riches, now that she is claimed.”

 

Ben tilted Rey’s face to bring her eyes to his. “Unless there is some token which you wish to have, my love, your brother may keep your dowry. As for lands, I shall give you a kingdom as Queen.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead before wrapping his arms around her, feeling her do the same. “Mother, I can't believe you approve.”

 

“Really, Ben?” Leia placed her hands on her hips. “After what your father and I went through to make my parents approve of our marriage, and after seeing how very much in love you and Rey are—I merely want your happiness, my boy. I’m only disappointed I wasn’t able to watch my only child wed, so you’ll have to forgive me if we throw a small ceremony to announce your marriage for the kingdom. Though—” the smile of her face turned mischievous suddenly. “We will have to make up some excuse as to why you wed in private prior.”

 

“Why?” Ben added. “I’d wed her again. And again. Why not just have another wedding? That way I can swear before the whole kingdom that she is mine.”

 

“Well, my dear,” his mother paused, and she almost seemed as if she was silently asking Rey for permission to share a secret. “If you put two and two together as to when your father and I actually married due to your birth, then someone in the kingdom is sure to do the same for you in a few months' time.”

 

“Why in a few months’ time—“ Ben felt his eyes go wide, and he sucked in a breath as the realization hit him. He looked between his mother and his wife, noticing Leia’s eyes twinkling as she gazed at Rey. His wife flushed a pretty pink, a shy smile curling at her mouth.

 

“Rey, sweetheart. Are you—“ his voice trailed off as his eyes fell to her stomach, his hands moving to frame her hips before gently laying his hand over her belly. It was flat beneath his hand, but suddenly his mind was filled with those beautiful day dreams again; of her growing lucious and round, of dark haired little ones. Of family. Belonging. Love.

 

“I believe so,” she said softly, bringing him back to the present and the reality that those dreams may be coming to fruition beneath his fingers. She lay her hand over his on her belly. “Though it is early to be certain.” 

 

“I would bet my life on it, dear.” Leia said. “ You have all the symptoms I did with Ben. Exhaustion. Little appetite. Feelings of nausea.”

 

“Swollen breasts…” Ben leaned over and whispered in her ear. 

 

Rey’s flush bloomed crimson, and she slapped his chest playfully. “Ben!” 

 

“Darling, they look delectable,” he rasped against her, pulling her close so that his mother couldn’t hear the words he spoke. “And if you are feeling well enough, I intend to bury my face in them once I have you naked in the bedroom.”

 

“You may think you’re being secretive, but I know full well that my son is being a scoundrel at this moment.” Leia crossed over to them, laying a hand on both their shoulders. “I should leave you newlyweds alone to be reacquainted.” With a wink, she made her way to the door, pausing as she stood with the handle in hand. “And, son? I know you’ve missed her terribly, but know that she may not feel up to the task, so to speak. She’s already carrying your child. That is work enough alone. And Rey— daughter ,” she added with warmth. “You have my permission to give him hell.”

 

And then, at last, they were alone. 

 

“Sweetheart,” he breathed out, pressing his lips to her forehead. He then found her hand, feeling that her ring still lay wrapped about her finger as he brought it to his lips, kissing the knuckle above the shimmering opal. “My Lady.” His eyes caught hers and he watched as a full smile bloomed upon her mouth, crinkling her eyes. “Wife.”

 

Lips met as he kissed her full and long, tasting and savoring until his hands fell again to her waist.

 

“Really?” he spoke against her mouth.

 

“Really,” she beamed. They both broke out into matching smiles, trying to continue to kiss each other through their grins.

 

“I have to admit, I was prepared to find you with child, but because I had word of a girl having arrived at Hays Minor Convent to conceal her condition.” His hands at her hips tugged her until she was pressed tight against him. “I was intending to ride full speed to Otomak to rescue you and bring home my wife and our child she carried. Then I find you here, home. Safe.” He pulled away just a breath, just far enough for his hand to fit between them and rest against her belly. “Yet still full. My heart can barely take it.”

 

She smiled softly at him, her small hand covering his own. “Oddly enough, I had intended to go to Hays Minor. Rose’s sister took vows there, but both she and Leia were suspicious of my condition as soon as I arrived and stayed my departure.”

 

“I owe them a debt for keeping you here. A journey like that cannot be good for a woman in your condition.” He brushed the hair from her face, letting his fingers rest lightly below her ears as his thumbs gently traced her jawline. “You should be resting on a mountain of pillows with your husband attending to your every need, making amends for the ass he has been.”

 

She gave a chuckle. “While I will accept reparation for the emotional distress endured due to your well-intended—but poorly conceived—plan, I am not an invalid. I’m merely early with child.”

 

“But my child.” He lowered himself to his knees, catching her hips and pressing a kiss to the swell of skirts covering her middle. He cradled her belly as she ran her fingers through his hair. “My son.”

 

“It could be a girl, you know.” 

 

“I do.” Ben glazed lovingly at the sight before him, pressing his hand there before looking up at Rey. “And yet… I know it’s a boy.”

 

“If you say.” And then a little softer: “Just promise you’ll not cast me aside should I bear a daughter.”

 

Never . I’ve told you this, Rey. Bring forth only princesses and I’ll be a blessed man. I’m not saying you are carrying a son because of some archaic preference for a male heir. As long as you and the babe are healthy and well, I would be glad of a daughter. But… I just have a feeling. It’s a boy.”

 

Ben let his eyes fall again to her belly, thumbs tracing small circles against the fabric of her gown. He glanced up at Rey, seeing her stare down at him with tears brimming at her eyes. His own breath caught in his chest, confronted with the reality of the woman he’d loved for years standing before him as his true wife, and the thought that his child was growing within her, beneath his fingers, at this very moment.

 

He rose from his knees and captured her mouth, kissing her deep, drinking her in. He poured his heart into the kiss, all his love he’d held for her since they were children, and a silent promise to stand by her side always. To never doubt what their love could do again. 

 

“You kept it,” he heard her say once they paused for breath. 

 

Slightly confused, he asked, “Kept what, my love?”

 

Rey placed her hand in his and took it from her face, bringing it between them. Her finger traced over the tattered ribbon wrapped around his ring finger. 

 

“Aye. It has not left my finger since you tied it on our wedding night.” Ben took in the once-white twine of silk and laughed a little. “Though it is well-worn now from wear. I’ll have to get something a bit more durable to replace it.”

 

She smiled brightly. “Truly? You’ll wear a ring?”

 

“Proudly. I’ve grown fond of having a symbol of our love right at hand. Besides,” he twisted their hands so he could kiss her own. Then he recited the end of their wedding vows, staring at her with possibly more love than on the day he wed her: “Today, tomorrow, and until the end of my days, even into the life beyond the veil, thou and I are one.”

 

Rey let out a sob as tears suddenly burst forth from her eyes, though they slid down her cheeks to meet a bright smile at her lips. Her arms flung around his neck as she pulled herself up to press her mouth to his. Ben’s hands rode the curves of her body down to her hips, giving a squeeze to the curve of her bottom before breaking the kiss and scooping her up into his arms. 

 

“Ben!” Rey squealed through a fit of giggles. “What are you doing?”

 

Ben began a stride towards his bedchambers, adjusting Rey in his arms to ensure that he held her tight. “Last time I had you alone in this very room, I nearly took you against that door. And then you fled from my bed, fearful of ruin.” He kicked the door open and crossed the threshold. This time there was no fear or trepidation. It didn’t feel forbidden or wicked. She wasn’t staring at him with wide eyes and a virgin blush. This… this was right. How it should have been. “Now, I’ve wed you. Bedded you. I’ve even managed to make a child on you. But I’ve yet to see you spread out on my mattress, naked and writhing beneath me, as I’ve dreamt of.” He tossed her gently on the bed, stepping back long enough to to shuck down his trousers before he climbed up to brace himself above her. “I believe it’s time to remedy that.”

 

Rey propped herself up on her elbows as he grabbed her knee, bringing it up so he could remove her shoe and then tug the silk stocking down her leg slowly, his fingers tracing small patterns into the skin of her thigh and calf as he did so. “Perhaps we should take advantage while we can, before I’m as big as a carriage and you’ll find me no longer to your liking.”

 

“Never,” he growled as he yanked the other stocking off her leg, crawling up her body as he continued, “I’ll want you the more when you are round with my babe.” A groan fell from him as he ground his hips into hers. “See. Now you’ve put that image in my head, and my cock wants to show you how very much we shall still desire you.”

 

“You are positively wicked, husband.” He knew she was trying to scold him, but it came out breathy and needy, her body rolling to meet his. 

 

“Would you have me any other way?” She shook her head and he bent down to place a long sweet kiss on her lips before pulling her up so they were both sitting, him kneeling between her spread thighs. “Now, off with this gown before I rip it from your body.” Nimble fingers plucked at the blue silk ties of her dress, pulling them loose enough for him to tug the overdress down her arms, letting it pool at her waist. 

 

Gently, he eased her to lay back again, tugging her gown off and discarding it on the floor. His hand found her belly, covered merely by her chemise, and he lay his hand against it. It was still flat between her hipbones, but his mind was already imagining the soft swell that would grow there in the months to come. He smoothed out the fabric and then pressed his lips to her stomach. “I’m going to kiss our child and lull him to sleep in your womb. And then I’m going to make love to my wife. In our bed.”

 

“Our bed?” Rey cocked an eyebrow at him. “And here I thought it was proper for husband and wife to resign in separate quarters, save for begetting children. And seeing as your seed took so quickly—“ She made a half-hearted attempt to roll from under him, but he caught her hands and pinned them to the sheets. He buried his face in the crook of her neck to nibble at her skin, making her laugh and squirm.

 

“Yes. Our bed, wife. I’ll ne’er sleep another night without you by my side if I can help it.”

 

“For today, tomorrow, and until the end of my days,” Rey recited, “even into the life beyond the veil, thou and I are one.”

 

“One,” Ben repeated, lacing their hands as he pressed a kiss to her lips. “And you are the one I love.”

Chapter Text

D2DDD293-8893-4226-842C-77F6E2D64803

5 years later

 

The sun crept in through the window, it’s warmth stirring Ben from his slumber. He groaned and stretched, rolling towards the center of the bed. He slowly opened his eyes to the morning’s light, and a dark mop of curly hair peeking out from a pile of blankets greeted him, a soft snore coming from beneath the covers. 

 

“Scoundrel,” Ben groaned through the sleep laying heavy on his voice, but a smile turned his mouth all the same. 

 

Looking past the snoring mound, Ben’s eyes fell on his wife. She was still soundly asleep, one arm wrapping about the curly haired bundle between them, the other laying across her round belly.

 

It was mornings like this when he would pinch himself to ensure he was not dreaming. 

 

Part of him marveled in disbelief that in the five years since they wed, they’d not had a babe a year, as it certainly was not for lack of trying. The midwife attributed it to the fact that Rey, as Ben had predicted, had insisted on defying all tradition and nursed their son herself, thus delaying the conception of more children. 

 

Ben was silently glad of that fact. He had been so swept up in the romantic sentiment of creating a child with the woman he loved and the idea of a large and loving family, that he’d nearly forgotten how dangerous the process of bringing another life into this world was. The earth had swallowed up a brother and two sisters of his own before it was deemed his own mother could bear no more. Ben had demanded to be in the room to welcome their child and, though Rey had endured the labor pains and the birth of their boy with a grace that shouldn’t be possible in an act that contained that much blood and agony, he’d never known such fear nor such helplessness. 

 

But once the gore had been cleaned from the sheets and the sweat mopped from Rey’s brow, their son bathed and swaddled and contentedly nursing at her breast, Ben was able to marvel at the woman he’d married and the amazing little life she’d nurtured and brought forth. Once the threat of childbed fever was long past and their son began to gain a round little belly and a double chin, he could at last breathe with ease again.

 

They’d enjoyed their life as a little family of three. Theodore—or Teddy, as all called him—was a happy boy, spoiled by the King and Queen as they doted on the grandchild they’d long desired to have. And they truly were happy, as life of the aristocracy was so rarely allowed. Of course, life wasn’t exactly as they had played at it as children. Their little secluded cottage of their make-believe became the stone of the palace of Alderaan. Royal duties filled their days. 

 

And their large family they’d imagined having did not grow as they expected. Teddy was near three before Rey fell pregnant again, and unfortunately only carried the babe a few moons. The kingdom mourned with the couple, but then rejoiced when only a few months later, Rey again began to swell with the little one who was currently turning in her belly.

 

A hand coming up to rub her stomach let Ben know his wife was awake. She hushed the child within her before kissing their son’s head and raising her sleep-laden hazel eyes to his. 

 

“How is my daughter this morning?” Ben whispered, placing his hand lovingly on Rey’s stomach and receiving a strong kick of a morning greeting. 

 

“Awake and dancing about.” Rey’s hand met his, and they marveled for a moment as a limb seemed to pass beneath their hands, almost as if the baby was reaching out their fingertips to link their hands. “She is running out of room. If she wishes to continue her routine, I feel as though I may burst.”

 

“Hush,” Ben said as he leaned over their sleeping boy to kiss Rey on the top of the head. “You are a vision. Albeit a very round and glorious one.”

 

Rey shook her head. “You flatter.”

 

“Not at all. I love you like this.” Ben lowered his voice and placed his hand carefully over their son’s ear. “Makes me want to kick this rascal out of the bed and show you what you full with my babe does to me.”

 

“I know full well,” Rey scolded gently. “How do you think I ended up like this to begin with?”

 

“On your back as I held your wrists above your head and practically broke the headboard,” Ben purred out with a devil’s glint in his eye. “Or perhaps it happened when I took you on the balcony from behind, fully clothed and having to bite your fist to not scream—”

 

“Ben! Teddy is—“

 

“—Is asleep. And wouldn’t understand our meaning anyway.” Ben’s fingers found the laces of Rey’s nightgown and playfully tugged at the knot. “Or maybe we made her when you rode me in front of the fire—”

 

Rey quickly batted Ben’s hand away. “Wicked, wicked man.” Her hands smoothed out the fabric over her belly, rubbing slow circles that had become an almost subconscious action since the moment she knew she was carrying. “You are so sure this one is a girl? It may be another gigantic boy, like your son.”

 

He shook his head, his hand again covering the gentle curve of her abdomen. “This is my little princess. I know it.”

 

“Another feeling, like before?” she asked.

 

“No. I’ve dreamt of her. Well, about us.” Ben’s eyes stayed on the swell beneath his hands, as if he were recounting the dream to his unborn babe. “Of a summer’s day and us down by the lake. I was playing with Teddy, teaching him to swing a stick like a sword and you were watching us, holding a tiny bundle wrapped in a blanket edged in lace and pink ribbon.” Ben’s gaze lifted to find Rey’s again. “A vision from the gods. To ease my nerves that all shall be well, and I’ll have a healthy wife and daughter when this is through.”

 

“I shall be fine, Ben,” she reassured him softly.

 

“Nevertheless, I’m not leaving your side. The midwife can try to kick me out again if she wishes, but I will be there to watch her draw her first breath.”

 

“After the fit you threw when I was bringing Teddy into this world, I don’t believe anyone would try to make you leave the room again.”

 

A small little groan came from the mound of covers before a pair of dark eyes popped out from the rich red coverlet. 

 

“I sleep in the big bed!” little Teddy boosted with a lopsided grin.

 

“Yes, you did, my darling,” Rey said as Teddy popped up to sit up on his knees.

 

“And just how did you escape your quarters, you wee little devil?” Ben growled playfully as he picked the boy up and held him over his head as he lay back on the bed, making Teddy giggle and squeal before bringing him down on his chest.

 

“Shhhh!” Teddy said with a big smile, placing his finger to his lips and bringing his voice down to a whisper of a roar. “Tally is sleeping.”

 

Ben turned to Rey. “We really should take on a different nursemaid, let that poor girl rest.”

 

“I know,” Rey sighed. “She’s further gone than I am, yet she insists. I’ve offered her rest many a time. But she’s been with Teddy since the day he was born. I don’t think she’ll be ready to leave him until her time comes.”

 

A knock on the door made Teddy dive under the pillows. 

 

Ben laughed as he shouted for the servant to enter, grabbing for the child to stop him from burrowing all the way to the end of the bed beneath the covers.

 

Mitaka entered, nodding his head respectively at the royal couple. “My wife sent me to fetch the youngest majesty, as well as to convey her deepest apologies.”

 

“No apology needed,” Rey insisted. “I don’t think it would be a true morning without this little rascal’s face to greet us. And Tally should be resting.”

 

“Now listen here, you wild thing,” Ben spoke with a playfully scolding tone. “You behave yourself. Follow ‘Taka and listen to Tally. I want you dressed and working on your studies by the time I find you next.” He kissed the boy on the head and sent him off, watching him climb to the end of the bed and shimmy down the poster to the floor.

 

“His studies?” Rey laughed. “Colors and numbers and building towers are hardly studies.”

 

“Yes, but learning them in four languages is,” Ben responded.

 

“And Tally makes it a game, does she not?” Mitaka added, picking the young prince up before he could run away.

 

“Shoulder ride, ‘Taka! Shoulder ride!” Teddy chanted.

 

“Aye, as thy majesty commands.” The servant laughed, hoisting the boy up before nodding to the couple and heading down the hall. Teddy’s giggles and laughter echoed as they made their way back to the nursery. 

 

Ben fell back into the bed, placing his arms behind his head as he relaxed against the pillows. “Dopheld will make a good father.”

 

Rey nodded as she nestled into the nook at Ben’s side. “I still thank the gods they found each other. I thought Tally would never recover after we discovered what had happened to her first lover.”

 

“I hated bringing the news to that poor girl,” Ben sighed. “But they are proof that love can heal. Force, Mitaka was smitten with her from the moment he saw her at court, and it made him bold in a way I’ve never seen. And look at them now. Happy, preparing for the arrival of their firstborn.”

 

Rey smiled. “Perhaps they have a little girl and years down the road, her and Teddy shall fall in love like you and I?”

 

“Or a son, for our daughter.” Ben placed his hand at Rey’s belly, letting his fingers follow the curve their child within her created.

 

“Watch,” Rey groaned as she adjusted herself to lay back against the pillows, trying to find a position that was comfortable. “It shall be all boys, and they will wreak havoc on the kingdom in their own little clan.”

 

“They’ll strike terror in the hearts of our enemies! But I told you, love.” He bent and placed a tender kiss at the rounded swell of Rey’s stomach. “We are having a girl.” After a brief pause, he added, “And she is my child. She will still wreak havoc on the kingdom.”

 

She laughed heartily. Her fingers carded though his hair as his head lay against her belly, as if listening to their child. “And she shall know she will be able to marry whoever she chooses, be it Dopheld and Tally’s son, or king of a foreign land or a stable boy.”

 

“You know,” he said, his fingers caressing a small kick from within. “I should like to see a stable boy in line to the throne.”

 

“If an illegitimate girl can marry the Prince and become next to be Queen, why not a stable boy?”

 

“We are a family with a tradition of humble beginnings, my love. But our line—my grandfather, my father, you, our son—they are proof that those humble beginnings mean little in what a man—or woman—can achieve.”

 

“Nobodies and slaves raising themselves up to be kings and queens.” She cocked her eyebrow at him, before smiling and raising herself up on her elbows. “Tis like a fairy tale.”

 

“Albeit with more…” Ben paused as his hand crept beneath the sheets, fisting in her nightgown and beginning to pull it up her legs, “erotic passages than you find in children’s books.”

 

“Ben!” Rey burst into a fit of laughter, squirming to bat his hand away before he reached a point of no return, where she knew she was but lost to his charms. “We shall be late to attend the council.”

 

“Let them wait. Let the world wait. My world is within these four walls. Here.” His lips pressed to her belly before snaking their way up her body. He tugged the laces of her nightgown open with his teeth and then followed the line of her neck up to her lips. “And here.” He pressed his mouth firmly to hers, his hand lavishing the swells and curves of her side. “My world. My love. My life.”