There’s a lot of stuff this year. I’ve been holding on to a lot of things I just need to let go.
And we’re on each other’s teams (Steve/Thor)
The sun hits Stark Tower just right when it rises, and Steve likes to watch it come up. Everybody else is a late riser, or else otherwise occupied.
The city has always been busy. But it's busy in a way that is unfamiliar to Steve now.
Steve and Thor are sparring. There’s no real reason for it. Sometimes it’s just nice to do for the sheer physical joy of movement, reveling in the easy use of their bodies. Thor is the only one Steve doesn't feel the need to hold back with, all the other members of the team being remarkably, fragiley human. And it’s nice, being able to give and get freely without fear of injury.
He sees an opportunity and sweeps behind Thor’s knee. He falls with a whump, hard as you’d expect from somebody as big as he is. He breathes hard, wind knocked out with an oomph. His beautiful brilliant smile flashes.
“I yield,” he says. and there’s no resentment in his defeat, only an acknowledgement that it happened. Steve extends a hand to help him up, and Thor takes it, holding on for a little bit longer than feels necessary. But the moment passes so quickly it might not have been anything at all.
He's putting on his work gloves when Tony questions why he, Captain fricking America, has to do it himself. He's not being malicious about it, but Tony has very particular notions about work that can be done by other people. It has something to do with divisions of labor and cognitive surpluses. Also robot exoskeletons for the reconstruction effort. He's about to say something about public morale and setting good examples when Thor announces loudly he would like to join. Steve claps him on the shoulder and finds him a hard hat.
The amount of destruction and wreckage is astounding. Steve is intimately familiar with the devastation of war, but this is in a whole other league. They clear a bunch of debris from places heavy equipment can’t go, and the awe in people’s eyes is equalled only by the click of cell phone cameras [what the fuck rewrite this]. He can feel, past his aching muscles, in his bones being out there was good for people today. In the elevator, he leans against the wall. It’s the first real break he’s had since heading out, and he is glad for it. On the other side of the elevator, Thor gives him a tired smile, and he feels like it’s the best thing/best accomplishment he’s done all day.
There’s that mental adjustment he needs to make, even after all this time, to realize he’s not the little one anymore, the one who has to run and hide in the face of a threat because he wasn’t capable of defending even himself, much less anybody else. He’s not just the vanguard now, but the leader of it, and even with five of the most capable people in all the worlds around him it still takes a bit to get used to.
He looks up at the Doombot hovering menacingly and it occurs to him that maybe this is not the best time for introspection upon the role of leadership. Thor puts a hand on his shoulder, as if to say, You've got this. [I trust you and your judgment.] He nods back, acknowledging the gesture, and Thor’s face takes on a look of grim determination appropriate for the task at hand. Steve takes a deep breath.
“All right, everybody. Let’s do this.”
In between missions, waiting for things to happen in missions, there’s always downtime. Steve has learned this is really what drives people crazy, these aimless unstructured interludes that can vanish in a second. It’s also the sort of in-between space that can bring people together. They all talk, to varying degrees, and Steve learns bits and pieces about everybody. Natasha and Clint are amiable enough, but he can sense the depths of their secrets underneath the pleasantries. Bruce is still learning to be around people, and sometimes he just wants to be left alone. Tony is, well, Tony. There is a brashness that reminds him so much of Howard it can sometimes be painful. He expects Tony to give him a harder time about it, personality and ambivalent relationship to his father and such, but he simply nods in understanding and leaves him to his memories.
Thor is really the only member of the team he feels like he can actually talk to. There’s an openness and sincerity to Thor that Steve likes, a bright contrast to everybody else’s guardedness. He’s quick to laugh at a joke, raise a flagging spirit, or listen in sympathy. It isn’t until Thor goes back to Asgard to take care of some business at home that Steve realizes how much he misses having him around. He runs into him after he’s returned, and they clasp arms in greeting. This time Thor definitely holds on longer than necessary. Steve blushes and flees the scene, spending the rest of the day wishing he was smoother.
Nobody told Steve being a leader involved so many fucking reports (in this case, he will leave the expletive). Between reading reports from his team and SHIELD analysts, writing them for SHIELD analysts and his superiors, it seems like any time he’s not fighting evil he’s dealing with reports. There’s only so much a man can take, and he finally shoves his laptop and printouts away. His shoulders and neck are killing him, and human eyes weren’t meant for staring at things this long.
Thor finds him in the lounge, rubbing his forehead and sighing over his laptop. Thor digs his fingers into Steve's shoulders, loosening knots he didn’t even know were there until they disappeared. His hands are surprisingly deft, and it feels so good it’s practically obscene.
Technology is a stumbling block for them both. Steve prefers to have JARVIS do things for him, but Thor wants to get in it. Which is hard when so much of it is virtual. Asgard is still very analog, with a tactility to most things that is absent here. Even Steve is surprised when he learns that messengers and couriers are still the most efficient means of relaying information.
They find they have different facilities with technology. Offboarding remembrances and procedures. Digital immigrants. (Research) That sort of translation to the virtual they help each other through, tripping along until it becomes more familiar.
Some days are harder than others, of course, but Steve finds that it’s the moments that he’s not prepared for that really throw him for a loop. The cut of a dress in a boutique window or the shade of lipstick on a passerby that makes him think of Peggy. The way he’ll hear a myriad of accents on the subway that remind him of the Commandos. Most of all he keeps wanting to tell Bucky things, silly anecdotes about his day or about the marvels of modern life. And then he remembers he's not there anymore, and it hurts more than he could ever have imagined.
"I have dreams about him falling, sometimes. Even still."
"Do you reach out, but you still can't catch him?" Steve's voice is thick, but he clinches his jaw.
"Sometimes I am able to grab his hand, only to have him still fall away. Those are terrible nights."
It’s the evening before some party, and Steve hears a knock on his door. Thor is there, dressed in the suit Pepper got him for these occasions and holding up a tie. Steve beckons him in.
“I am not familiar with Midgardian neckwear, as you can see.” He looks sheepish, like he should know how to do this by now. Steve plucks the tie from his fingers and pulls up Thor’s collar. He’s acutely aware of how warm Thor feels under his shirt, and he has to concentrate on evening out his breath. Steve loops the tie around Thor’s shirt and starts tying a full Windsor, because anything else would be sloppy and half-assed. He moves the knot up to the collar, and turns the fabric back down. Thor looks good. Handsome. Dashing, even.
“Thank you Steven,” he murmurs. “You have rescued me yet again.” Steve finds himself eye-level with Thor’s mouth, and he swallows, his throat suddenly dry.
“Don’t heroes get kisses?” He’s about ready to apologize for being too forward--perhaps inappropriate was a better word--when Thor smiles, amused.
“And you shall have your reward.” Thor’s mouth is soft, and his beard is nowhere near as scratchy as he thought it would be. Because Steve has thought about that, and his hands, which are currently cupping Steve’s face, just enough to prevent him from moving his head. Not that he wants to go anywhere, with Thor right up against him and their lips pressed together. There’s a soft crackle of static, which he’s come to interpret as JARVIS’s equivalent of clearing his throat.
“Captain Rogers, Mr. Odinson, your presence is requested. I have been told by Mr. Stark to tell you that Ms. Potts will be very upset if you are not promptly on time.” Steve could swear JARVIS sounds almost apologetic, but that would mean he’s been monitoring what’s been going on, and that’s just not something he wants to think about. Reluctantly, he steps away. Thor catches his tie before he can get too far.
“Do not think I am done with you tonight, Steven.” His voice is slightly rough, and Steve wonders how it would sound, ragged with lust and desire. He shakes his head to clear the sudden haze over his vision and takes a deep breath.
"I intend to hold you to that." His voice doesn't waver, and he is grateful. "I guess we'd better get going."
The party is thankfully large enough they are able to avoid each other for most of it. Which they do. Steve mingles enthusiastically, enough so that the other Avengers and Pepper look at him, surprised. Occasionally he glances at Thor, or feels Thor’s eyes on him, and he’s aware of a slow heat uncurling, low in his body. He drinks a lot of club soda and ice that night.
And then they bang. idk what happens the morning after.
They watch Die Hard together, and enjoy it a great deal.
Steve takes Thor to a Mets game. Thor learns about the existential futility of being a Mets fan.
They’re walking down the street when Thor reaches for his hand and tangles their fingers together. Steve moves his hand away. And then he's embarrassed, and he expects Thor to be offended, but there's only puzzlement.
"Is the nature of our relationship something you wish to keep private, Steven?"
"No, it's just, people will talk and I don't want them talking about us"--he makes a gesture that is somehow meant to encompass them, physically, as well as this thing they have together (the fact that they have a thing still blows his mind sometimes)--"as opposed to the work we do."
"Does that come into consideration for Tony and Ms. Potts?" He tilts his head, trying to figure out the difference and Steve feels like even more of an asshole. "I see them touching in public all the time, and it does not appear to affect the amount of scrutiny either of them receive. Or the way they talk about her."
"No, I suppose not." Thor frowns deeper, then stops like he realizes something.
"It is because we are both men, is it not?" Still there is no reproach, and Steve knows how this looks. Despite what people assume, he’s not a stranger to [alternate sexualites]. He lived near the [gay district] in Brooklyn. Before the war he had plenty of artist friends and he’s not unfamiliar with what happens to men away from their girls and wives in life or death situations. It’s just not something he’s ever thought of as a possibility for himself.
“If you are ill at ease with public displays of affection, I will of course refrain. Your comfort is of utmost importance to me.” Thor’s voice holds nothing but understanding and accommodation, and it would be so much better if he were angry about this, so Steve could justify yelling or stomping off, something to not have to deal with the feeling coiling in his gut.
Jane visits from Tromso. When she and Darcy finally arrive in the common room she squeals and throws herself at Thor. He lifts her up and spins her around, like she weighs nothing at all. The joy at their reunion is palpable, and Steve is happy for them, really, but he feels left out that it doesn’t involve him in any way. They break apart, finally, and Jane leans against Thor’s side, like she wants to soak him in as much as she can. Steve doesn’t blame her.
Her eyes light on Steve and she walks over to him. He’s about to extend a hand, greet her properly, when she pulls him into a hug. He has to bend down to meet her, and Thor smirks, amused.
“Steve! It’s so good to finally meet you!” She kisses him on the cheek and Thor’s smirk widens into a grin.
“Ms. Foster.” He’s not sure if people are that much more familiar nowadays, but better to be more formal than not.
“Please, call me Jane.”
“Jane, then.” Thor picks up her suitcase and beckons.
“You must be tired from your journey. Perhaps you would like to unpack and refresh yourself?” Jane looks confused at first, and then nods in agreement.
“Steve, would you like to join us?”
They’re fighting someone, something. It doesn’t really matter. Steve takes a nasty wound to the side and falters for a few minutes, rolling behind a burned-out car to catch his breath and start healing. He hears a roar that might contain his name, and sounds of a god’s hammer smacking things very hard coming towards him. Thor is at his side, radiating concern.
“Are you all right?” He reaches his hand out like he wants to touch the wound, but Steve bats it away.
“Hey, uh, Thunder Thighs, I could use some backup over here.” Tony actually sounds concerned, so it must be serious.
“Go!” Steve motions with his head. The We’ll talk about this later hangs in the air.
In the hospital. Steve gets angry.
Thor likes poetry. Long epic poem cycles, dense blocks of text to puzzle through. Steve is not so much into it. Pictures and art are easier for him to grasp. But he'll try for Thor. Sometimes he falls asleep to Thor reading Heaney’s Beowulf or Fagles’s Illiad, half under his breath, the droning of long stanzas washing the day away.
He goes up on the deck when it's still dark, as usual. Thor is there, waiting. It's chilly, and he radiates warmth like a furnace next to Steve. They lean against the barriers, the sun only just peeking over the horizon. A few birds chirp, awoken. Thor grabs his hand, working his fingers between Steve's. The sun comes up all the way, painting Manhattan full of light.
Sam Wilson ficlets
Intellectually, Sam knows that superstition in the field isn’t a thing, but he’s been out here long enough that he knows the state of mind a soldier’s in can make or break a battle, or whether he comes back to base. And after his second tour, he’s not surprised that he’s started adopting some of the same behaviors he originally thought were silly, like listening to the same piece of music before he goes to bed, or putting on his boots in the exact same order. The thing he’s done from the very beginning though, he refuses to feel bad or ridiculous about. Every day he’s out in the field, he takes a picture of Boogie with him. He remembers the first time Riley saw him tuck the creased picture of his childhood dog into the inner pocket of his vest and was about to make a smart remark.
“Don’t you even start. He protected me from all the night monsters when I was little.”
“And he’s gonna keep you safe now.” Riley smirked and handed Sam his jacket. “With some help from me, of course.”
Sometimes, when he glances to his right, Sam has to consciously remember it’s not Riley next to him. Not that he looked anything like Steve, despite them both fitting into the blond goofy white boy category, but he occupies that same spot in his head: wingman, partner, the guy that has your back, sometimes literally. It got cold in the deserts of Afghanistan, and sometimes they would sleep pressed together, back to back. He’s thankful Steve is a hugger who curls himself around whoever’s in the bed next to him, or else it would be too much. Sometimes it already is.
Bucky/T’Challa, marraige of convenience
Bucky probably should have known something was up when T’Challa stepped into his room, looking unusually serious. He’s not exactly prone to mirth (but somehow always has a smile for Bucky), but it’s rare that he looks this grave.
“We have a problem,” he says. T’Challa’s direct; Bucky’s always liked that.
“And how’s this different from any other day?” Bucky’s life, while less dangerous than it used to be, is still challenging. He has a therapist and psychiatrist and an online group thing through the VA, and they all help, but there’s work that can only be done by him.
T’Challa’s expression gets even graver, and Bucky starts to feel dread rise in his gut. If the king of Wakanda is concerned, what hope does he have against whatever it is that has T’Challa worried?
“I had a teleconference with the UN Security Council today. They say they have tolerated Wakanda’s harboring of an international fugitive for long enough.” T’Challa makes an actual face. It’s very unroyal, which must speak to the depth of his annoyance. “They would… overlook my participation in the events that lead to your presence here if I surrender you to UN authority.”
The blood roars in his ears, and he forces himself to breathe: in, count, out, repeat. It was too much to hope this would last, but he did anyways. It’s only now that he’s faced with the possibility of losing it that he realizes he likes the life he’s trying to build here. No more jokes with the girl who brings him his meals, or sitting with the stray cat that lives in the courtyard. He’d miss his video chats with Steve, who’s still doing vigilante missions from god knows where, dragging Wilson with him, but somehow still finds time to talk to him every week.
And he’d miss T’Challa, who still tends to Bucky’s new arm personally despite the many other things he probably should be doing. T’Challa, who sat with him when he couldn’t sleep those days after he came out of cryo, and sparred with him until he was too tired to think. T’Challa, whose scientists and neurologists pulled all the shit that made him a murder machine out of his head.
“There is one option, although I do not know if you would find it palatable.” T’Challa sounds hesitant, and now Bucky’s legitimately confused. He’s seen T’Challa angry, frustrated, sympathetic, but never unassured or uncertain about anything.
Bucky gestures at his head. “There’s nothing that could be more terrible than anything that’s already happened.”
“I suppose you’re right,” T’Challa acknowledges. He takes a deep breath. “Are you familiar with the concept of sovereign immunity?”
“Briefly, a head of state cannot be prosecuted by another country or international body.” T’Challa pauses. “This privilege also extends to the spouse of the head of state.”
Bucky/T’Challa, a soft landing
“Is this safe?” Bucky asks.
“Nothing is ever truly safe, but if you are asking if any possible danger from this experiment will be contained, then yes.” His Highness nods to the ring of beautifully fearsome women currently surrounding them. They’re standing in relaxed poses, but it’s the languor of a predator conserving energy for a strike. (Like knows like, he thinks.)
“If you say so.” The only people who could ever stand against him in a fight were all more than human, enhanced chemically or mechanically. As good as they undoubtedly are, they’re still mortal.
The king’s lips twitch, like he’s heard this before, probably multiple times. “One Dora would be more than a capable match for you even at your peak. I have every confidence a group of them will be quite adequate, Mr. Barnes.”
It takes him a moment to realize that means him. The parts, and the names that go with them (James, Sergeant, soldat) don’t always connect as quick as they should. But even old brain cells still form connections, if you do the thing enough. He looked it up online. And he thinks about who he wants to be, and how he works towards it.
“Call me Bucky,” he says.
Something crosses the king’s face, too quick for him to read before he schools his expression and nods. “Then you must call me T’Challa.”
“All right then, T’Challa.” Bucky nods at the book with the star on the cover. “Let’s do this.”
T’Challa opens the book and starts reading slowly. The Dora shift: not exactly on alert, but definitely not relaxed anymore. His accent is passable, even if his pronunciation is a little tentative, definitely not native. It occurs to Bucky that he can notice--has noticed these things. It might be a fluke.
“I think we should try it again,” he says. T’Challa raises an eyebrow, but repeats the words. With dawning wonder, Bucky realizes they don’t mean anything together anymore.
T’Challa closes the book and puts it on a table. “These words have no power over you anymore, Bucky. I am glad for you.” He smiles, and it is brilliant, the sun appearing through clouds. “Now if you will excuse me, I have another matter I must attend to.” His expression becomes softer, apologetic, as if he’d much rather be here than wherever his kingly duties obligate.
“Do what you need.” Bucky tries for casual acknowledgement, and thinks he mostly succeeds.
T’Challa taps him on the right shoulder gently. “I will be back to check in later.” He leaves, the Dora following after.
Bucky leans back in his chair. It occurs to him that T’Challa is the first person who has touched him without necessity since he’s come out of cryo. It also occurs to him he can still feel it, the pressure ghosting on his skin.
“You can do whatever you want here, as long as it doesn't hurt anybody or compromise the safety of this facility.”
“That's a generous offer,” he says, because it is, and the enormity of being offered almost everything is a little too much to cope with.
T'Challa fixes him with a look. "What do you want, Bucky Barnes?"
He pauses. He wants more of that cabbage and carrot dish that came with his lunch, buttery and flavorful and sweet. For Steve's face to not be so intense during video chats, legitimately concerned but also hungry despite his best efforts, wondering if he'll ever get his friend back. He thinks about the competent gentleness of the doctor who worked on the stump of his arm, the way she murmured warnings when she thought she might hit a spot not even the anesthetic would dampen. (It has been a long time since a doctor tried to avoid causing him pain.)
“I want to help people. Put them back together.”
T'challa smiles. “That can be arranged.”
"So you and Captain Rogers--"
Bucky laughs softly. "Stevie? No, not like that."
He's seen the way he and Wilson look at each other when they think he's not paying attention, how they lean together, the way they smile. It makes him glad, even if his chest aches a little at it.
"He tore down SHIELD for you, defied the edict of 117 nations to make sure you were safe." There's a note of wonder and admiration in T'Challa's voice that Bucky's never heard before.
"Well, that's the kind of guy he is."
Dragon Age: Inquisition
As the night lay down on top of us (f!Hawke/Varric, before Weisshaupt)
He doesn't understand the logic by which the Inquisitor picks her companions for the trip to Adamant. Or more accurately, he doesn’t understand why he’s not going with them. But she knows best, he figures. Not that it would do any good to argue. Her Heraldness is a reasonable sort mostly, but he’s learned when she sets her chin like that a decision’s been made. And so he settles in for the long wait.
(Things that happen: they play a lot of Wicked Grace. Varric paces a lot. Leliana shoos him out of the war room. The other companions try to stop him from fretting.)
A lookout on the battlement spots the returning party, and blows a horn that can be heard and felt throughout the entire fortress. They’re still a ways off, but Varric goes to the gates anyways. He is not the first one there. He recognizes friends of the other soldiers, lovers, family, sweethearts. Josephine scribbles on her board, the set of her mouth the only indication of her concern. Dorian leans against a wall, trying to look nonchalant and failing miserably.
The party finally arrives, and the gates open. He’s dimly aware of Josephine and Dorian running to their respective partners, all pretense at restraint forgotten. Hawke emerges from behind the main scrum, dusty and exhausted. Varric doesn’t run, but he doesn’t walk slowly either. She smiles, weary but glad, and sinks to her knees. He hugs her, burying his face in her shoulder. She smells of horse and road dust, but he was past caring as soon as she wrapped her arms around him.
“What theatrics, Varric. It’s like you thought you’d never see me again.” Her voice is light, the one she uses when she doesn’t want to acknowledge the gravity of a situation, not yet.
“Bullshit. No matter what, you always come back.” His voice catches, and they both pretend it didn’t happen. She leaves, probably for a long bath in her quarters, and he sits down in his chair in front of the fire.
Cataclysms have a way of exposing that which was long buried. Varric has been through his share, he should know.
"I don't want to complicate things with--" She puts a finger to his lips. He does not kiss it, and he is pleased he can exercise such restraint.
"That's not your concern, although I appreciate it nonetheless. We spend a great deal of time apart these days, and we have an understanding, although it is not something I've chosen to exercise."
It's not that he hasn't seen her naked; adventuring with people shows you more about them than you'd ever usually want to see, inside and out. But it's the first time in a long time he's been allowed to do more than just look.
It becomes a weekly ritual. Varric wanders into the war room and looks expectantly at the advisors. Invariably, they shake their heads and he walks back out. And then one day he stops coming at all.
They’re both reserved people by nature, and the grief of losing so many in such a short span does not make it easier to talk. So it’s good the dog is there. Chop water and carry wood. Even in the midst of everything, Max still needs to be walked, fed, loved.
Without Jaegers, without the Breach, there’s no more need for a Shatterdome. There is a sort of… something in coming to San Francisco. Like a circle closing. A great deal of the techs and support staff stay behind in Hong Kong, but Herc, Mako, Raleigh, and Tendo go because what else is there but the PPDC?
The quarters they’ve been given are part of an old co-housing startup back in the ought-teens. Mako and Raleigh also find that they’ve been given a double room. (This isn’t unusual. Pilots tended to room together; it helps the Drift go smoother if you’re in each other’s space all the time.) They look at each other and insist on separate beds, even if it makes the quartermaster raise her eyebrow. But they’re used to people making assumptions.
(This does not stop Mako from waking up in the middle of the night, the weight of her grief so heavy she can scarcely breathe. She can feel echoes of loss reverberating back from Raleigh before he pushes it away. She feels guilty that it brings that back for him. But he shoulders it, and hers, when she crawls into his bed and puts her forehead against his back.)
Emily choosing to accept the Mark
There are all manner of strange men in the Cat, but one has never actually approached Emily. And they certainly don’t wear masks, elaborate or otherwise. He holds himself with a great deal of control, like Mother did in public, but she sees his frame relax a fraction before he stops. He does not look familiar, and she moves closer to look at him.
“Who are you?” He takes off his mask, and becomes a different man completely.
“Corvo!” She never thought knees could actually go weak with relief, but she understands what the phrase means now. Corvo tosses her up in the air, and she feels joyous, almost giddy after the past few months.
“I’ll never let anybody make me afraid again.”
Meeting the Outsider. He makes her uneasy. He smiles like he expects it, and like he expects her to send him away.
Training with Corvo. He doesn’t want this life for her, dripping with blood and death. But it’s not his choice. That was made when Mother died.
Running from Dunwall. Back to Serkonos, and Karnaca. Starting over. The Outsider visits again. “Are you ready this time?”
The Force Awakens
the flames, the sword (the dark!Rey AU of misery)
In a change, he dreams of Rey now.
She wears black and red, fierce and beautiful and terrible.
It started with Chewie. He hiked all the way up the mountain to tell her she had a message. Not even a call, it was apparently that urgent. They thought Finn was stable, but he’s not. The injury tore through some vital nerves. There’s nothing they can do. Would she like to come back to say goodbye?
She’s silent, closed-off the entire way back to D’Qar. Perhaps he should have seen the warning signs then. But she was doing so well, and he was happy to have a pupil that didn’t show any indication of turning to the dark. And her first and best friend in the world was dying. Who wouldn’t be distraught?
He sees someone in a pilot uniform next to the young man’s bed. It’s Shara and Kes’s boy--man, now, and has been for many years. It makes him feel old, knowing how much of the world has passed him by. He looks up when Rey enters. Luke leaves. This is not for him.
She’s not in there for very long, but he feels a storm of grief and pain, so overwhelming he almost falls to his knees. He tries to send comfort back, but he doesn’t know if that’s something she’s even open to right now. Her eyes are red, but they’re dry when she comes out.
“I’m not going to ask you if you’re all right, but I’m here if you need me.” She nods.
“Ren will pay for this, I swear it.”
“You’re not in your right mind. Don’t be hasty.”
“Yes, Master.” She never called him that. And still he didn’t think there was a problem.
The entire base came out for the memorial service, knowing they owed their lives to him. Rey stood on the stage next to Dameron, sober and dry-eyed, as Leia spoke about selflessness and sacrifice and doing the right thing. They buried him in Poe’s jacket, under a tree by the lake. The pilots held a wake, grimly raucous until it wasn’t. Luke and one of the other pilots (Wexley?) hauled Rey and Poe back to their rooms.
“Is she going to be all right?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” He not sure if it’s good to be this honest to pretty much a stranger, but he doesn’t have the strength for Jedi bullshit mystique right now. Rey’s been radiating grief and pain down their bond for two days straight, and he’s finding it hard to not to be dragged under.
He woke up, and she, Dameron, and the Falcon were gone. The Falcon and Poe came back, three weeks later. Rey did not.
“I don’t know how she found out where the First Order’s been hiding. She said ‘I’m sorry’ and that’s all I remember. I woke up with a sore head in the Falcon in the middle of hyperspace.”
Six months later, Leia collapses in the middle of a meeting at the same time Luke feels a surge of vicious satisfaction down their bond. She’s stabbed Ben--Kylo, with his own lightsaber, straight through the heart. For Han, for Finn.
I had the courage to do what you never had the strength to finish. This last bit is for him. [You should have killed him at the Temple, put him down like the mad dog he was.]
He runs to his sister’s side. There are tears running down her face. He’s never seen her cry openly like this.
“You took everything away from me. This is your fault.” The worst part is, he knows she’s right. He goes back to Ahch-To. Where else can he go? He’s failed again.
Poe presses a holocommunicator into his hand before he leaves. “Just in case we need you,” he says, grim. “You’re the only one who would have the first clue about how to take her down.”
Two years pass. Poe gives him sporadic updates about the state of the galaxy. The First Order regroups, grows strong. The Knights of Ren become feared throughout the galaxy, the Red Lady at their head. Nobody knows where she came from, but it’s rumored she’s a Skywalker, like Ren was. (She doesn’t even have a name anymore, and somehow that hurts the worst.)
Two more years pass. And somehow, Snoke is dead, as are all of his major lieutenants, slaughtered by their companion Knights. It may rebuild, but it’s hard to say, with so many key players dead.
One day, she comes back to the island. She hands him the lightsaber, in a terribly grotesque parody of their first meeting.
“I told Finn I’d tear apart the First Order for him. And I did.” She looks so tired.
“Are you satisfied?”
“Are you happy?”
The Rey/Phasma thing that never got to the Rey/Phasma
Capture. Poe and Finn are there. So is General Organa. Rey shoves in, arguing that she should be given another chance. Organa gives her a hard look. “You should thank this young woman, for your freedom. I would have locked you up and thrown away the key.”
"You were flying in low, so obviously you didn't want to be detected. The shuttle you took is small, with room for no more than ten or so troops, which we easily could have overwhelmed. I thought it would be unlikely you'd have ppl with you, given the state we left the base in. So I told them not to shoot you down and see what you wanted." She still feels a pang of something, she's not quite sure yet, that this one--FN-2187--got away. He would have been such an asset to the Order, perhaps even as great as herself.
Poe and Rey argue. She hears it through the door.
“She’s useful. More useful than Finn, if you intend on actually fighting the First Order. Why shouldn’t we give her the same chance you gave Finn?” Poe can’t actually come up with a good reason.
Everything is different here. She senses he feels it too, the way he moves: still wary, because there's only so much one can get away from years of conditioning, but not fearful or awestruck. She does not feel anything like it, not the way she used to walking down the halls of the Finalizer. It came off in waves from the squads, mingled with reverence and yearning and desire. Not necessarily for her, but what she represented.
He tugs on the weapon at his uncle’s belt. It’s shiny, novel, yes; but he feels it calling to him, in a way he can’t really explain. He knows the basics of his heritage--anybody who can type “Skywalker” into a holonet search can--but it’s a completely different thing to see something his grandfather touched, made, used.
“Ben, don’t touch things that aren’t yours without permission,” his mother reprimands. It’s all she seems to do these days. She says it’s because she cares about him, loves him, but he thinks if she did, she would let him do more of the things he wanted.
“It’s fine, Leia.” Uncle Luke says. Ben likes his Uncle Luke. Not just because he’s a Jedi, but because he lets Ben do whatever he wants. “It’s good he’s taking an interest in his heritage.”
His mother gets that look on her face, the one where she doesn’t like what she hears but is trying to figure out if it’s worth kicking up a fuss. (She directs it at his father a lot.)
“He knows where he comes from.” She says tightly.
“He knows where you come from.” Uncle Luke says mildly, like he’s daring her to disagree. That is true. Ben used to ask for stories at bedtime about the people who raised his mother, and she was happy, almost desperate, to tell them. She is much less forthcoming about her biological parents, but her birth father most of all.
“As long as you're careful,” she says, after a long pause. “We've already lost enough limbs to that thing as is.” The last is directed to Uncle Luke, and he flexes his metal hand, the fingers clicking together softly. It seems cruel to say something like that, especially to your own brother, but Uncle Luke's face remains calm, so Ben lets it go.
the one where Poe and Rey attempt to deal with the aftermath of being tortured
Poe knows the base better than Rey does, of course, so it’s not surprising that he’s the one who finds the place. It’s a storage closet deep in the bowels of the base, so remote she wonders if anybody else still knows it’s there. She stands in the middle of it, and can hear nothing, which is alarming in a place with so many people. She hopes it also means nobody else can hear them. She walks the length and width of the room. It’s not big, but it’s big enough for what they need, and she nods at Poe. He acknowledges it, and the set of his mouth goes ugly, unpleasant, completely different from the easy charm he shows everybody else, including Finn. She doesn’t like it at all.
She asks Luke about mind control. He’s silent for a long while before he answers.
“Obviously you know it’s possible, because you’ve done it.” She’s told him about the Stormtrooper, reaching out and forcing her will on him. It only occurs to her now how close she might have come to being like him, however accidentally or needfully, and her stomach roils. “Ben--the other one--did it in front of me, once. He was so casual about it, and I suppose I should have been less impressed than I was. But there it was, somebody using the Force in front of me, with tangible effect.” He smiles ruefully, no longer looking at her for a moment. “I was much younger than you were.” (She resists telling him she’s done the math. He was the same age she is now.)
“So theoretically, it could be possible to teach someone to resist?”
“That’s not something I can claim much expertise in. You might want to ask Leia.” Rey looks at him in surprise. “She resisted an interrogation from Vader when she was nineteen. She’s always been the stronger of the two of us.” His voice becomes a little sad. “I regret that she’s had to be.”
She brings this back to Poe, who looks like he’d rather face a stampeding rancor than ask the General about anything like that. She can’t say she blames him. She just wishes any of this looks like it was helping at all.
The one where Finn and Rey sleep with everybody but Poe
Poe expected Finn and Rey to sleep with each other. The way Finn talks about her, equal parts awe and reverence, how her face lights up when she sees him after retrieving Skywalker; it was inevitable, really. Of course it’s not anything he begrudges. He’s happy they’re happy, the way they whisper to each other and hold hands while waiting in line at the mess, how Rey leans against Finn when they come over to Poe’s room for their weekly holoseries marathons.
What he does not expect is them sleeping with everybody else on the base. Well, not literally everybody, but enough people that he wonders if there's a line or a list that nobody told him about. As far as he can tell it's something they do separately, based upon who they leave with after dinner or who shows up late to breakfast, hair disheveled in a manner he's intimately familiar with from his younger, wilder days.
The one where Poe deals with loss as a commander
It always starts with a box. They’re kept in the quartermaster’s office, and something must show on his face or how he walks in, because Mere always knows when it’s for that.
He can't tell if it's good or bad that this part of his job never gets easier.
The first time he had to write condolence letters after a mission for the Resistance, he was out in the mess, late at night, hoping being in a public space would keep him from getting too emotional about it. He wasn’t sure if it helped, but the General saw him, and stopped.
“First time doing this?” She asked, her voice soft. They didn’t know each other particularly well personally, but it was late enough that any barriers around rank and command seemed unimportant, especially when it came to things like this. He nodded.
“It's going to hurt, a lot. And it always will, every time you do it. I wish I could tell you differently.”
“I don't know, ma’am. Maybe it always should, every time.” She looked at him, like something shifted in her evaluation. She patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t stay up too late,” was all she said, but when he looked up again, there was a mug of caf on the table.
The Percy/Vex femdom exhibitionist one I couldn’t figure out what to do with
It has been a long night, long enough that it probably qualifies as early morning at this point. But confirming that would require Percy to go outside, and he is quite comfortable where he is, thank you very much. He’s leaning against Keyleth, and she’s leaning against Vex, and they are all quite drunk in companionable silence.
It is with the great, careful effort of the very inebriated that Vex turns to Keyleth. “I have a question for you,” she says.
“Yeah?” Keyleth is past her loud and gregariously drunk stage, and well into cuddly. There’s a languorous, content quality to her voice that he does not hear enough ever, but so much less these days. It’s nice to be reminded it exists.
“How are things going with my brother?” Percy raises his head from Keyleth’s shoulder in surprise. Vex must be well into her cups, if she’s inquiring about this. He assumes that she must be all right with whatever’s going on, as she’s finally stopped making fake gagging noises whenever she sees Vax or Keyleth leaving the other’s room, but it’s not something she talks about.
“They’re good.” Keyleth’s voice grows soft, fond. “Really good.”
Evidently that’s not exactly the answer Vex is looking for, because she makes an impatient face. “That’s lovely, darling, but I was referring more to”--and here she does a gesture that might be lewd if she had the requisite coordination. (It is only with the utmost control that Percy does not laugh, and he is grateful for the many opportunities he has had to practice keeping a straight face.)
“Oh! That.” Keyleth pauses for a moment. “It’s nice, I guess?”
Percy imagines his face has the same horrified expression Vex’s does, because Keyleth looks at them both and immediately says, “No, not like that! He’s very considerate. More than he needs to be, probably. It’s just…” she pauses again, thinking. “I feel like he could be enjoying himself more, but I’m not sure how.”
Vex looks ceiling-ward, like she’s imploring any deity who might be listening, although Percy’s not sure for what. “I was afraid it would come to this.” Her gaze settles on Keyleth, serious and very intent. “You must never let Vax know I told you this. Promise me.”
“I promise.” Keyleth’s voice is confused but solemn.
“In the course of our travels, we both… sought companionship where we could find it. And sometimes the walls were quite thin.” Vex looks like she would rather be fighting a dragon by herself, unarmed, but she seems quite determined to see this conversation through. It is admirable, in its own way.
“I see.” Keyleth’s tone hovers between intrigued and slightly horrified, and Percy cannot say he blames her. “So what did you find out?”
“He likes to be told what to do, if you take my meaning.”
“I can do that. I’m not exactly shy about expressing my needs.”
Vex’s expression is impatient, like her words aren’t coming across like she wants. “Be forceful about it. Have your way with him.” Oh. In his drunken state, it takes Percy this long to finally put the pieces together. Oh.
Keyleth’s eyes widen. “You want me to hurt him?”
Vex laughs, low and amused. “To be clear, darling, he wants you to hurt him. But it doesn’t always involve pain. Talk about your limits, of course, and establish a watchword, but he will thank you for it.”
She looks at Percy for a moment, a slow smile creeping across her face. “I could demonstrate for you, if Percival is amenable?”
It’s Keyleth’s turn to look at him now, her expression unreadable. He has never outright told her about Vex, but she is perceptive. He knows she suspects, based upon the way she’s watched them interact, but has never said anything. “I’m all right with it if Percy is.”
And evidently she has decided to give him a push. Perhaps it is the drink (many drinks, if he wants to be precise) or the always imminent doom hanging over their heads. It could also be Keyleth’s knowing smirk, or Vex sitting there, waiting for an answer, that forces him to a decision. Fuck it; live a little, he thinks. “I am.”
Vex saunters over to him, remarkably steady. She smiles again, this time with a hint of teeth. “That is exactly what I like to hear.” (At this moment, Percy wonders if he will ever stop getting himself entangled into complicated situations he, on some level, wants. Maybe this one will end better than the rest.)
Fingers dig into his chin: not enough to hurt, but hard enough to get his attention. He bites down on a gasp. If he were less drunk this would probably be embarrassing. They force him to look up. Vex is staring at him, a grave expression on her face. “This is very important, Percival, so I need you to listen. Are you with me?” He nods, not trusting his voice. “If you are uncomfortable. If it hurts in a bad way, if it becomes too much, I need to know. Do you understand?”
“I do.” Despite the vast quantity of liquid he has imbibed, his mouth is suddenly dry.
“Good boy.” Her voice is fond as she rests her hand on the side of his face. He absolutely does not lean into it, as much as he wants to. She didn’t say if he was allowed.