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the dreadful need in the devotee

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Clouds are just beginning to darken the horizon when he realizes something is wrong. At first, it’s nothing, merely a vague uneasiness. A reaction to the fear-scent pouring off the princess’s retinue, perhaps? The thick, sour stink of it shrouds the entire riding party. But no, he’s been breathing that for days now, ever since the ladies-in-waiting caught sight of their escort. As repulsive as it is, he’s used to it. This is something else.

Whatever it is, none of his men have noticed it. Arrayed in a defensive formation around the carriage, there is no sign of wariness in them. He scans the road ahead and finds nothing.

Still, the feeling persists. Kylo’s instincts are wild and raw, but rarely wrong. He nudges his horse off the main track, circling around to the rear of the group. The beast snorts and fidgets beneath him as they pass the carriage. That all but confirms something is amiss; a battle-hardened warhorse doesn’t spook at shadows. In spite of this, the road behind them is clear. No enemies emerge from the treeline. He can’t find any sign of ambush.

The low boil of clouds is nearly atop them now. The air is charged and heavy.

Must be a storm on the way.

Ready to dismiss the uneasiness and get on with this despicable errand, he’s riding back toward the head of the group when the scent hits.

Warm. Sweet. The universe realigns around the smell: spice and musk and need, ripe and dripping—

Heat-scent.

Kylo draws in a desperate breath before he can stop himself, once, twice, again and again until his lungs are heaving and he’s dizzy with the heavy, drugging pleasure of it. Distantly, he’s aware that he’s lost his grip on the reins. It takes an act of unfathomable willpower, but he manages to pick them back up. His movements are slow and clumsy, as if he’s moving underwater. God’s bones, what is happening? He’s smelled heat-scent before, but it’s never affected him like this. Never made him want to rip his armor off so he can feel the omega’s skin against his, never filled him with the visceral need to bite—

The thought is like ice water pouring down his spine; it cuts through the haze of heat-scent like a knife, leaving a brutal clarity in its wake. The only omega on this godforsaken journey is the princess.

En route to her betrothed and surrounded by a cadre of the realm’s fiercest alphas, the emperor’s granddaughter is going into heat.

It is the work of a moment to assess where his men are. The knights at the head of the formation are unaffected, but those closest to the carriage have already caught the scent. He doesn’t know how long it took him to break free of the drugged stupor that presages the urge to mate, but the heat-scent is spreading. He has precious few seconds to act before all hell breaks loose.

He flings himself from the saddle and sprints to the carriage. The ladies-in-waiting—all betas, as is the custom—flinch and cry out when he wrenches the door open, but he hardly notices them. The princess is flushed and panting, dress askew as if she’s been trying to touch herself. She’s fretful, needy, rocking her hips against the seat in an instinctive bid for friction even as confusion shadows her face. A lone shred of thought pierces the furious lust hazing his mind: her first heat? Something in his chest roars—

He bites viciously at his cheek. Blood wells in his mouth and the coppery rush of it gives him the strength to look away.

“Grab ahold of her,” he snarls at her retinue. “She’s docile now but she’ll start struggling soon. Keep her inside or God as my witness, I’ll kill you all myself.” A fresh surge of fear-stink nearly drowns out the waves of scent coming off the princess. He gulps it down gratefully as her women stare up at him, pale and mute with terror. “Now!” he growls, a deep guttural sound like something out of a wolf’s throat, bestial and hungry. There’s blood on his tongue once more.

One woman gathers enough courage to grab the princess, and he makes himself turn away while he still can.

Slamming the door behind him, he puts the carriage at his back, unsheathes his sword, and lets ten years of camaraderie fall by the wayside. When he faces the Knights of Ren, he does not face his brothers in arms. In their place are enemies, mindless alphas drunk on heat-scent, unable or unwilling to fight off the mating frenzy. It’s the fire he felt earlier, the roar that threatened to overwhelm him in the carriage: the all-consuming drive to bite and claim and take.

He won’t let them.

The alphas advance. Mouth still full of blood, he raises his blade to meet them.

 

...

 

It is a short fight. The knights are strong and well-trained, but Kylo Ren came to his title by dint of slaughter. As their master once fell to his blade, so too fall the knights. One by one, they die. They are too addled by the mating frenzy to work together against him, but the strength burning through his veins tells him that such tactics would matter little; he’s fighting not for his life, but for a mate.

Some distant part of his mind shies from the thought, but he pays it no heed. The battle is not yet over.

He dispatches the last of his opponents with a powerful, two-handed swing, swift and vicious. Arterial spray paints him red as the knight wheezes and gasps. Blood gurgles. A man Kylo once counted as a friend collapses in the mud and dies without ceremony.

Good, the fury in his blood howls. Take her, claim her, make her yours—

Biting his cheek does nothing this time. The air is heavy with blood and rain; neither manages to dampen the heat-scent emanating from the carriage, thicker now, blooming and deepening in the wake of his triumph. It calls out to him, urging him to take what he has won. He grits his teeth and gropes blindly for something else to focus on. His oaths. The emperor’s face as he charged Kylo with escorting the princess to her wedding, grave and stern and cruel. The sound of his uncle screaming as the keep went up in flames.

She is not mine, he tells himself. The corpses at his feet—lesser alphas, his instincts snarl, weak and unworthy and dead—make it difficult to believe. His feet move of their own volition. He lurches toward the carriage, one helpless step and then another before he regains control.

The coachman is nowhere in sight. No doubt he’s fled, headed for the nearest town, carrying traces of heat-scent and spilled blood with him. A coward and a fool. With his livery marking him as a servant of the emperor, every cutpurse and would-be outlaw in the area will be on him like rats at a feast. When they’ve slit his throat and emptied his pockets, they’ll follow the blood in hopes of more easy gold. That alone would be trouble enough, but the heat-scent… the heat-scent will bring alphas. Bring them in droves. He won’t be able to keep her safe from them all.

He feels as if he’s on fire, burning alive. Every fiber of his being screams at him to take her and run, to hole up and see her through her heat, to bite and fuck and fill her—

The thought alone nearly drives him to his knees. He stays upright through sheer force of will, stumbling away from the carriage in a vain attempt to find fresher air. It does little good. Still, he takes as deep a breath as he can, trying to clear his senses long enough to assess the situation with a clear head.

The coachman’s desertion has narrowed Kylo’s options considerably. Whether they push onwards toward their destination or retreat to a defensible position, they can’t continue on with the carriage. Slow, unwieldy, and now infinitely more difficult to guard, it would be a lost cause even if it weren’t adorned with the emperor’s crest and billowing with heat-scent.

Our best chance is on horseback.

It’s a sobering thought. His steed is a powerful brute of a horse, able to bear the weight of two people with ease so long as Kylo strips out of his armor, but a flight on horseback means proximity. Hours, perhaps days of hard riding with her heat-ripe body plastered against his, alone save for each other and the faraway eyes of God. Torture is too kind a word for it.

And yet: what choice do they have?

The beta women are all nobly-born, taught to ride from an early age. With his knights lying dead, there are horses aplenty; her ladies can fend for themselves. Kylo’s duty lies with the princess, no matter how awful the situation, how tenuous his control.

A whine breaks the stillness, high and plaintive.

Alpha, it says. Alpha, please.

No choice at all. He shudders, cursing, and begins to struggle with the stiff buckles of his greaves.

 

...

 

Hours later, the world has narrowed to three things. The princess, fever-hot and clinging to him; the rain, icy and relentless against his skin; and, torturous as he feared, her scent.

So long as he lives, he’ll never forget the smell of the heat-scent rising from her skin, sweet-sharp now as her body grows more and more desperate for a knot. She’s burned into his very being: warm spice and deep feral musk, seeded with maddening hints of something bright and vivid. The more he breathes her in, the more difficult it is to ignore his instincts. They howl and roar, straining at the leash of his willpower.

He wants to get his mouth on her and lap up every bit of the ripe sweet slick dripping out of her, the tang of it so thick in the air he can almost taste it. He wants to rut into her like an animal, hard and fast and deep, over and over again until she smells like him. Until she smells like his.

As if she can sense the shape of his thoughts, the princess moans, her hands gripping his forearm as she tries to grind back against him. Blood wells up against her fingertips and an answering sound rises in his chest. Once again, her nails have broken skin. At first, the blood helped, a harsh, metallic anchor against the inescapable tide of heat-scent, but now—

Now he cannot tell the blood from the iron.

Beneath the funereal black of her dress, fitted snug across the span of her hips, the chastity belt that guards her sex scrapes painfully against his cock, unwelcome and infuriating. He should be grateful for such a failsafe, but he left grateful behind long ago. It makes him seethe. His cock is thick and blood-heavy, and he burns with the urge to knot her; to resist is agony.

Yet resist he does, and the pain feeds his anger the way kindling feeds a flame. The bonds on him are oaths instead of iron, each one freely given, but the belt that torments the princess is another matter altogether. Lurking beneath the lushness of her scent, rising up like blood, the metal reeks of old, sour shame. She hates it. How could she not? It renders her helpless; if there is a key, she does not have it.

How hellish it must be for her, caught in the throes of her heat and trapped so cruelly, like an animal in a cage. How terrible this journey, with a husband like Snoke waiting at the end of it.

The thought sears him like lightning.

A bride dressed in black. She mourns; she does not want this.

He shoves away the terrible certainty rising in his chest, sharp and furious. Imperial colors, he tells himself. Sith black. Her family legacy. His protest rings hollow; he knows it for a lie.

“Please,” she says, her first word in miles. Her voice is raw and cracked with need. “Please.”

She rocks fruitlessly against him once more and he can hear the glide of slick and skin against polished iron. The device thwarts her even there; no friction, no relief.

No freedom.

He wants to rip the cursed belt clean off her. His fingers flex on the reins, itching to settle on her hips. He forces himself to tighten his grip. His hands behave, but his mind does not. I could, he thinks. I could do it, if she held still. Just wrench it off.

Instead: he swallows down another helpless sound as the princess cants her hips and whimpers, pained and pleading. Blood and heat-scent swirl through his senses. Breathing shallowly, he implores every saint his foolish, frenzied mind can remember. Give me the strength to see her to safety. Give me the will to resist. Grant me succor, he begs. Grant us peace.

A jolting step as the rain washes the road into mud. They shudder, pressed tight against each other. Another gush of slick. His cock throbs. The salt and musk of his own scent rises to mingle with hers, and his jaw aches with the need to bite her. Claim her. Save her. More fool he. She moans softly, a ragged keen that slips like a knife between his ribs. He feels as if he’ll die if he touches cloth and iron instead of skin but one more time—

They plod on through the rain. His prayers go unanswered.

 

...

 

Takodana, he thinks blindly. We’re nearly there.

It’s a defensive outpost, firmly under imperial control despite the pretense of independence. Just a few hours more and she’ll be safe there. He can turn her over to the guard and wash his hands of this mess. Find a discreet inn and a willing woman and let his body have what it craves so desperately. Disgust surges like acid at the thought.

Only her, his instincts thunder. Only her, only ever her—

Rage blinds him, vision burned to black. Slowly, slowly, it recedes, but the tether of his willpower is thinned and fraying. The iron scrapes against him, relentless.

The agony will abate, he tells himself, half-hysterical. We’ll forget this madness and she’ll go in black to her betrothed—

This time, when the roar comes, he’s powerless to fight it.

 

...

 

There is a tower.

Half-ruined, barely visible through the driving rain, it looms out of the gathering darkness like a specter. They haven’t yet reached the edge of the Takodana forest; alone in the valley as the storm rages over them, the tower is the only shelter for miles.

In his arms, the princess trembles and shakes. Each shiver strips away a little more of his restraint. He does not bother lying to himself. She is not trembling from the cold. She is not wet from the rain.

She shakes with needing him. Every rush of slick is for him. Every keen, every soft whimper from her pretty little mouth: his, and his alone.

Mine. Even in his head, the word feels primal, almost vicious. Satisfied, though his body has tasted nothing of satisfaction yet; this ripe omega is all his. The tower will give them what shelter they need, keep them dry and safe while he ruts into her until she’s screaming his name, until she’s so well fucked she cannot even scream, until his scent bleeds into hers and neither one of them is ever desperate or lonely again.

She responds as if his thoughts are a language she was born knowing.

“Alpha, please” she whines. “Please, I want that, I want you—” She grinds back against him, hungry, sloppy rolls of her hips that leave them both panting. “Please, alpha,” she begs again. Her words trail off into an anticipatory whine as he draws them to a halt outside the tower.

“My name, princess,” he snarls, dismounting and yanking her off the horse. She all but collapses into him, knees weak, scent spiking. Blooming; impossibly rich and deep. Christ in heaven, she’s so ready. He wants to devour her. She moves first, wrapping her arms around him and hauling herself up for a kiss.

Her mouth is furious. Tender. There is no finesse to her kiss, nothing practiced about it. Determined, yet chaste, as if she has no idea how deliciously filthy such an act can be. She needs a teacher, he thinks, and it makes him burn. He cups her face and takes over, swallowing down her moan as she parts her lips for him, pliant and sweet and trusting despite her hunger. It’s heady, decadent as the finest wine.

“Say my name,” he orders, voice low and strangled. She clutches at his shoulders, trying to draw him back to her. The wildness drives him mad. “Say it, princess, and I’ll take care of you.”

“Kylo,” she breathes, a sharp, desperate sigh. “Take care of me, Kylo—”

The title echoes dully in his ears, stuttering like a heartbeat. It is ice water, blood, shame. He wrenches away from her, holding her at arm’s length as she mewls in protest. Reality floods back in, stark and terrible. God above, he thinks. My vows— I nearlyI was to keep her safe, not ravage her like an animal.

Something like rage sweeps through him at the thought, searing away the shame. It roars in his blood, an all-consuming, soul-deep insistence that she is his, his to guard, to love, to keep—

He clings to his resolve as the feeling burns through him, but only just. He feels as though he’s plummeted from some great height, devastated by the fall. The world spins around him, heat-scent and need and the sound of her voice as she pleads with him.

“Kylo,” she begs, “Kylo, please, I need it, why did you stop?” She doesn’t wait for him to respond. She scrabbles at his gambeson, reckless, seeking skin. Her eyes are all pupil, a black so deep and absolute it threatens to obliterate him. He could get lost in her. He very nearly did.

If he looks at her— touches her— breathes her for one more second, he’ll surrender. Another fall will kill him. It is a certainty; he knows it in his bones.

He hoists her over his shoulder mid-protest and lunges for the entrance. The door gives when he slams a hand against it, rusty hinges wailing. The princess keens with them, frantic, needy, still begging for him.

It takes every ounce of strength he has left not to give in to her pleas. She’ll be glad of his restraint once she’s passed through her heat. She would not want this—would not want him—if she were in her right mind. It is a paltry reassurance; even as he cleaves to it, he knows it for a lie. He forces himself up the stairs anyway.

For all that he’s never been here before, the tower is nonetheless familiar. Three floors, small high windows, and a narrow set of stairs snaking upwards; a watchtower, one of dozens that stand sentry across the borderlands, offering defense and shelter to weary soldiers as they trek across the kingdom. Long-abandoned, but serviceable enough. If there is any grace in the world, the locks will still work.

Letting go of her is the hardest thing he’s ever done. She screams when she realizes he’s going to leave her, an agonized thing that fades away to a hoarse sob. It cuts him to the quick, that sound. Infinitely worse is the way she goes limp when he finally manages to pry her loose, boneless—hopeless—as he all but flings her into the far corner of the captain’s quarters.

Bitterness swells in her scent, surging up through the musk and spice. Worse than the iron. Worse than the shame.

Despair, he thinks. Loneliness.

He's stripped her of choice and comfort both. His instincts tear at him, urging him to go to her, cradle her, soothe away that awful vein of sadness, old and deep and so brutally familiar, a match for the all the pain hidden away in his heart.

Go to her.

It is agony to leave, but agony is nothing new. He throws the lock and jams the knob. Her scent crests, desperate, but he has just enough strength to lurch away and stumble back down the stairs.

Her voice chases after him, sharp, helpless. “Kylo, please! Don’t go. Don’t leave me!”

It is a command he cannot obey.

 

...

 

He prays.

Ave Maria, gratia plena...

Rote, stiff, he begs for mercy. He does not want mercy; he wants the princess.

Ora pro nobis peccatoribus. His voice cracks on the words. Pray for us sinners, and oh, oh he is a sinner. Kneeling in the rain, he fumbles a hand beneath his braies and grasps himself. His touch does nothing to quell his need, but it makes no matter. One clumsy stroke, two, and her scent—bitter as it is now—does the rest. He comes in long, furious pulses.

To his shame, it is no relief; he aches, he needs

A soft cry drifts down from the tower, heat-scent deep and rich and still threaded through with bitterness.

“It hurts,” she moans. “Please, it hurts.”

Nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae

 

...

 

Mercy eludes him.

In the darkness and the rain, they burn.

 

...

 

The night is endless.

Shame. Heat-scent. Pain. Eleison, eleison. Have mercy. His lips stumble over syllables that no longer have meaning, desperate words that will not deliver him from this hell. It makes no matter; he does not deserve deliverance.

The princess aches, and aches, and cries out for him. He burns as she does. Fingers coated in his own spend, he can hardly bear the agony of a touch that is not hers, but still, he cannot stop. His hips jerk as he comes again, body spasming in a parody of release; he will find no relief without her, but if he stops—

Blind with pain and drunk out of his mind on her scent, he knows without a shadow of a doubt that if he stops, he’ll go to her. Locked and jammed, the door won’t stop him. He’s strong. Hours after the first breath of her heat-scent, the frenzy’s strength still courses through him. He’s killed alphas for her already; what is one half-rotted door?

No. She’ll hate me for it. His thoughts are scattered. After. She’d hate me.

The bitter tang of her loneliness burns through him as he hauls in a desperate breath. He’s drowning in it. Perhaps she hates him already.

“Please,” she begs, voice raw, so raw. “You promised. You promised you’d take care of me.”

He did. He promised, but he can’t

His name falls from her lips like a secret, low and hoarse and filled with a terrible longing.

“Come back, Ben.”

It crashes over him: waves, thunder, divine revelation. He staggers to his feet, heedless of the rain or the darkness. She burns in his senses like solar fire, searing and bright. Nothing in him can withstand her.

The door gives as easily as he knew it would.

“Ben,” she says again. It is dawn breaking; it is coming home. As he falls into her, it does not occur to him that she has no cause to know his true name.

 

...

 

Her dress is soaked. Drenched with slick. He falls to his knees before her at the smell of it, all that want, hours and hours of it, all of it for him

She squirms beneath his touch as he tears at the sodden fabric of her clothes, peeling layers and layers of fine linen away from her skin. She’s writhing by the time he can lay his hands on that cursed belt.

“Be still, princess,” he tells her. The words don’t register; there’s nothing but need in her eyes, nothing but trust. He moves without thought, one hand splaying high on her belly to keep her in place while the other finds the edge of the device. She whines beneath the pressure of his palm, hips settling for one brief instant, her whole body gone still and pliant. One instant is all he needs; the hinges give beneath the force of his strength and he wrenches the belt off her.

It rattles across the dusty floor, forgotten. Her small hands wrap around his cock, guiding him in, guiding him home—

He slides into her in one long thrust. White light explodes across his vision. Distantly, he can hear her wailing as her cunt clenches around him, wave after wave, gripping him tight as he spends inside her. She takes him so well, so perfectly; all he can think is that they were made for each other. Made for this.

The light recedes, but the pleasure does not. Sweeter even than the hot clutch of her cunt is the deep pulse of his knot as it swells within her, tying them together. She pants as it fills her, tiny, breathy sounds that spur him into motion. He drinks them from her mouth, kissing her until he’s dizzy with the taste of her.

The bitterness is gone from her scent; all that remains is a warm, satisfied delight, sticky-sweet, like sugar melting against her skin. Beneath it is the low simmer of her heat, banked, waiting to flare to life once more.

You’ve pleased her, his instincts rumble. Your omega is content.

How could he ever have denied her this? He would tear apart the world to keep her as happy as she is in this moment.

“Princess,” he says. Her eyes blink open, drowsy at first, then guarded. “No, no, shhh,” he croons, the final shred of his restraint vanishing on the wind. Her name is heavy in his mouth, precious, sacred. He says it again, and knows he is lost. “You’re not alone, Rey. I’m here. I’ll take care of you.”

She flutters around his knot at the words, scent so rich, so deep. Want crawls like fire up the tinder of his spine.

“I know,” she says. “I know you will.”

And he does.

 

...

 

He has her every way he dreamed of in the darkness and the rain.

On her back, face buried in the hollow of her throat, whining as her fingers trace devastating circles around his glands. On her stomach, fucking into her like they’ll die if he stops, gliding in with no resistance at all, just wet, slick heat and the obscene slap of his hips against her ass, loud, shameless, dizzying. Astride him, her head thrown back and her pretty little tits bared to his mouth. He suckles at her until she cries out and thrusts her hands into his hair, yanking him away and then relenting, again and again, driving them both wild. On their sides, her delicate frame curled into the shelter of his body; pressed close like two halves of a secret, coming together like lock and key.

He knots her again and again, emptying himself into her perfect cunt until there’s nothing more left to give, until, impossibly, there is. The ache of it is transcendent. This is absolution; this is forgiveness.

He’s delirious with her; every breath, every heartbeat, every part of him is hers.

She blooms beneath his touch, arms and lips and cunt welcoming him in, holding him close, cradling him as he withdraws. Each thrust is better than the last; each peak higher; each moment an endless, glowing eternity. He could spend a thousand lifetimes like this, lost in her and the way they move together. He maps the golden cream of her skin, flushed red from his ministrations, revels in the sound of her voice on the litany of his name, torments himself with the lushly-scented gland at the base of her skull, silken and smooth, unmarred, begging for his bite.

Everywhere he touches, she’s soft and hot and damp, a beautiful mess of sweat and slick and spend. He can smell himself on her, warm spice redolent now with musk and salt, steel and pine. Their scent fills the tower, a wordless declaration: we two are one. They are so deeply entwined there can be no question of their claim on each other. Even so, he aches.

Bite her, claim her, mark her as yours—

His name is a sigh on her lips; thought scatters like clouds in a windswept sky. There is only Rey.

 

 

...

 

“You’re so good, omega,” he groans, stroking into her. “Taking me so well, every inch of me in your sweet cunt—”

Rey whines at the praise. She’s parched for it, he realizes, desperate the way a traveller in the desert is desperate for water. The knowledge settles painfully behind his ribs as she lies dazed beneath him, shivering, eyes fixed on his mouth as if he’s given her a benediction instead of the unvarnished truth.

“Do you need to hear it, Rey?” he asks, gathering her close, lips brushing the delicate shell of her ear. “Do you need to know how ruinously perfect you are?”

She shivers again, trembling, voiceless with need.

“Ah, you do.” The words fall on her like rain. He wants to give her more; a storm, a river, the ocean; enough to drown in.

“You’re the best thing I’ve ever touched,” he says, low and fervent as he flips her onto her stomach, draping himself across her back. “I would do anything to stay inside you—” slick pours out of her, drenching them “—want to fuck you forever, claim you, keep you—”

She shakes around him, orgasm sweeping over her in waves. Her cunt clenches around him, drawing him impossibly deeper. Pleasure shatters his thoughts. Words escape him.

Tell her, tell her

It is a howl from the deepest corners of his heart, from the place she’s carved for herself in his soul. She needs to hear it; she needs to know. Tell her.

So he does. It flows out of him like water, like the sea drawn inexorably to the shore, the tides bowing to the moon’s command: “You’re everything, Rey. Everything I’ve ever wanted, nothing more perfect in all the world—”

She makes a sound like a sob. There are tears on her cheeks, warm and salty against her skin. He brushes them away with his fingertips, the gentlest touch he knows how to give. She turns blindly toward him, gasping out his name and capturing his lips in a frantic, graceless kiss. He breathes the words into her mouth “—once more, sweet girl, I know you can. Come for me, love—” and he doesn’t mean to say it, but oh, oh, they are undone.

 

...

 

She trails kisses across his skin, gentle and exploratory in the quiet moments while they wait for him to soften. He is torn between the delicate press of her mouth and the way her hips keep moving in tiny, hitching circles, as if she needs more than he’s given her. She’s so full of him—his cock, his knot, his seed—and still, it isn’t enough.

“Greedy,” he murmurs. His voice is hoarse and deep, and she shivers at the sound of it.

“Only for what’s mine,” she says, pressing the words into his skin. Her boldness makes his chest ache. She looks up, eyes sharp on his face. He doesn’t know what she sees in his expression, but it makes her frown. “And you’re mine,” she snaps, unexpectedly fierce.

“Yours,” he agrees. Disgraced knight, discarded heir, unworthy from the start, but hers. For as long as you’ll have me.

He does not give voice to the thought, but she senses it all the same. How? he thinks faintly, then: the same way I knew what she needed to hear?

A snarl rips from her throat and his thoughts fade. Her mouth turns wicked; her lips find the raw deep line carved through his cheek and down across his chest, a mark from his fight with the Knights of Ren. He hardly felt it when the blow landed, adrenaline and heat-scent clouding his senses, but now— now, it makes him burn. The world vanishes. There is only Rey, her clever tongue tracing the line of his wound, and the rapturous pain each stroke brings.

“You killed for me,” she purrs, low, feral. “Bled for me. You’re mine.”

He moans, hips surging into hers, rutting into her as best he can with his knot still full and heavy inside her. She grinds down on him, working herself against him, so blissfully, brutally tight; her hunger rises, and his to meet it. His vision blurs and fades. The pleasure is so intense it threatens to obliterate him.

He falls into it gratefully, the warmth of her mouth like a brand against his ruined flesh, her breasts crushed between them, her cunt a silken fist around him. Bite or no, it is a claiming; he has never been so held, so seen.

Yours, he thinks, before she takes him to a place beyond thought. Yours, Rey.

 

...

 

 

Time passes.

Night burns into dawn, slips away into darkness once more. The room burns red at sunset. The storm is long gone.

Her heat has yet to subside. The lulls come more frequently, lucid moments where they hold each other and try to make sense of all that has happened, but they are fleeting. Always, the heat-scent blooms and deepens once more. Always, he presses into her like a homecoming.

“Come back,” she begs him every time, every stroke, “Ben, come back, come back—”

As if there is anything that could keep him from her. Oaths and iron have already failed; the only thing that could see them part is Rey herself.

“I’m here,” he gasps out, biting down hard on her shoulder, bare inches from the spot that torments him so. She moans, wanton, wild, and takes him deeper.

Let me stay. The thought rises, unbidden, until it is all he can think. Let me stay.

She pulls him closer, wrapping her legs around his hips and urging him on, faster and faster, until he’s slamming home and they’re both crying out, blazing and ruined, nothing left of them but ecstasy.

Let me stay.

 

...

 

Please—

 

...

 

Dawn breaks, and her heat with it.

She’s asleep on his chest when he feels the last dregs of it finally fade away. His thoughts turn to a dull roar: how long were they insensible, how much time do they have before someone catches up to them, how will he ever let her go—

Rey stirs, one small hand sliding up his chest to cradle his cheek. “Ben.”

My name. How does she know my name?

He swallows, throat dry. The frenzy is gone; he’s tired, wracked with hunger and thirst, heartsore. There are secrets in the air between them. Each breath is heavy, full of regret. Close enough to kiss—hell, he’s still inside her—and already she’s slipping through his grasp like ashes.

“No,” she says, “no, Ben, listen to me—”

“How?”

She stares at him for a long moment, eyes sweeping across his face like she’s reading every thought that passes through his head. Let me stay, he remembers thinking, desperate, painfully sincere. His basest desire—to belong—laid bare.

Her eyes are a muted hazel in the pale dawn light. Her gaze devastates; she is lucid, unreadable, and he wants her still.

“Princess.” The word is soft and bitter as blood. He cannot call her by her name. It will break him if he tries. “Tell me.”

Her thumb strokes over his skin, finding the seam of his wound and pressing there. Pain flares at her touch. Pleasure follows.

“Please.”

“It was a guess. My grandfather…” Her voice trails off. When she speaks again, it is tight, shamed. “My grandfather is not so careful with his secrets as he should be. He only laughed, before, when you took command of the Knights of Ren, but he bragged when Snoke sent you to guard me. ‘The lost son of Alderaan, delivering the instrument of my final victory. How fitting. What his uncle stole from me, he shall return.’”

Ben swallows again, forcing back the ache of memory and abandonment, the shame of his service. “Alderaan does not claim me,” he rasps. “My own mother sent me away.”

“Fostered you out,” she argues, but he does not let her sweeten the lie.

“Sent me away,” he bites out, “and left me in the care of my uncle. A broken man, so shattered by war he couldn’t see a frightened boy for the shadow of his grandfather. And then—” He hauls in a shaking breath. “When the raiders came and the keep burned, he let them take me. He let them! I was screaming. Begging for his help.” His voice cracks pitifully. “He just stared as they hauled me away.”

There are tears on her cheeks again, sorrow and rage glittering in her eyes on his behalf. She surges forward before he can stop her, fierce and furious, and sinks her teeth into his skin, nipping viciously along the column of his neck.

“Rey,” he chokes out, but she ignores him. So perilously close to his mating gland, the blunt press of her teeth burns through him, as powerful and overwhelming as heat-scent. “You don’t,” he pants, “you don’t want this—”

She threads her fingers into his hair and yanks, twisting his head to the side and baring his gland. It throbs under her gaze.

“I told you,” she says, clear-eyed, steady. “You’re mine.”

Emotion crashes through him, foreign yet familiar. Rey, hoping he will let her press her claim. Hoping he will honor her choice and choose her in turn. Aching for him; for Kylo Ren, master of the Knights of Ren, the alpha who threw her into heat; for Ben Solo, lost and abandoned, still with so much love to give; for all that he is. She’s read him from the first. Now it’s his turn.

“I feel it,” he gasps, “I feel it too, Rey.”

Let me stay.

Her teeth break the skin of his gland and the world is remade.

 

...

 

Later they will laugh about the ruined tower, the broken iron of the belt. She will blush a delightful, fetching pink at the memory of such a fraught conversation taking place with her still seated on his cock. He will chase her flush with his tongue, kissing every inch of her, and finally get his mouth on her the way he dreamed of during the long, doomed flight toward Takodana. She will scream, sigh, hold him close; deep in her heart, she’ll dream of a child, though first heats rarely lead to such blessings. Secretly—though nothing is secret between mates—he will dream of that, too.

But that is later.

Now, he moans beneath her bite, instincts howling, howling, howling—

They are wild and raw, but rarely wrong.

A fumbling moment to reposition them, and then he sinks his teeth into her gland, warm spice and that maddening brightness flooding over his tongue. Citrus, he knows now. Lemons and sunshine.

“I’m yours,” one of them babbles, “I’m yours and you are mine—”

And so they are.

 

...

 

He wraps her in his cloak—significantly more intact than her dress—and retrieves his sword. It is a miracle thrice over that none of their pursuers have caught up to them yet. No fortune-seekers, but moreover, no soldiers. He knows in his bones that the emperor has sent men after them, but he cannot bring himself to care.

He’ll kill them if they try to take her.

The mating bond hums between them, feral satisfaction radiating out from Rey’s mind to his.

“And Snoke?”

He snorts. “He’ll never lay a hand on you.” Another vow, but this one he knows he’ll keep. No more false masters, no more punishing himself for the failings of others. The Knights of Ren are dead; Kylo Ren is a weight he can wear or discard at will, a weapon like any other.

He’ll need it. They’ve defied the emperor and his closest ally, destroyed the kingdom’s most powerful warriors; they’re rebels, now.

Ben secures his sword at his side and mounts up, wincing as he settles his weight behind the warhorse’s withers. A saddle wouldn’t go amiss, but he can’t regret any part of what brought them together; a little soreness is a small price to pay. His horse snorts and stamps as he lifts Rey up ahead of him, easing her across his lap. If he is sore, he cannot imagine how tender she is.

“Alright?” he murmurs, breathing in the brightness of her scent, citrus and sun and endless, bone-deep contentment.

“Just fine,” she says tartly. Then, sly: “I know you’re nearly as well-endowed as your stallion here, but don’t let that go to your head.”

His laughter rings out over the tall grass, startling a flock of birds. They take off into the sky, scolding and screeching. He cannot remember the last he laughed like that.

“I’ll do my best, princess.”

“See that you do.” The slyness fades. “Where to, Ben? Takodana?”

It’s a jest, but as she knows him, he knows her. She needs to hear it.

Tell her.

“No,” he says, turning them to the north, and the mountains. The sky is clear and blue above the distant peaks. “Alderaan.”