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Unbidden

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"I'll destroy her!"

 

Rey falls at his feet, her hands grasping at her throat. But Kylo doesn't stop. He keeps squeezing. The Force buzzes in his fingertips and his lips curl into a snarl. Her face goes pale and her eyes plead with him.

 

He doesn't care. He must crush the light. The duplicitous Jedi. He refuses to again wake up to a saber descending on him.

 

He doesn't even flinch as her movements stop.

 

---

 

Kylo gasps for air, then calls out, "Rey!"

 

He leaps from his bed, terror and adrenaline riding him hard. His hands rake through his hair and all he can see is her vacant eyes.

 

Dream, dream, it was only a dream. A nightmare. He wants to reach out to her, confirm that she’s safe, but he doesn’t know how to control when he sees her through the Force. Besides … he knows she wouldn’t want to see him. Not now. Not after ...

 

"I'll destroy her," rings in his ears and he's shocked by how shamed he is he ever said those words. He’d meant them, oh how he’d meant them. He’d been lost to his rage and he’d thought he could … he knows now that he could never hurt her.

 

Rey ...

 

Then he pulls himself to his full height. She rejected him. Met his offer with going for a weapon. Like she always does. She always, always strikes first. Shooting at him on Takodana, attempting to on Starkiller Base … she was even the one to ignite her blade in those snowy woods.

 

He scoffs into the empty room. Her words had been meaningless. Telling him he wasn’t alone, then throwing all he could give her back in his face. He wonders if she had succeeded in gaining control of Grandfather’s saber, would she have left him with another scar, bleeding on Snoke’s floor or if she would have just killed him?

 

Scrubing his face with his hands, Kylo goes and sits on the edge of his bed looking around his quarters. He supposes he should move to the rooms Snoke kept on all the Star Destroyers, the Finalizer included, but the thought of using the same space as his very dead master makes his skin crawl.

 

It’s so quiet in his head now. He hadn’t … he hadn’t understood how frequently Snoke whispered in his thoughts and he finds the emptiness … trying. He hasn’t even begun to untangle what it means that his mind wasn’t his own for as long as he can remember. He just knows everything is more difficult now. Shouldn’t it be easier? But instead he’s plagued with doubt in a way he never was before.

 

Snoke was always there to assure his conviction. He has to push away the temptation to attempt to unravel the skeins of his history. He would be here regardless. Wouldn’t he?

 

It certainly wasn’t Snoke who abandoned him to Luke Skywalker or tried to take his life while he was sleeping. No … Snoke’s influence just made it easier to bear. But it is unsettling to find he wavers more now.

 

While Snoke was alive, he realizes the whispers only truly stopped when he was with … dammit, he has to stop thinking about her. She’s nothing. She didn’t want him. He shouldn’t waste a moment on that scavenger.

 

Kylo goes to his viewport and looks out on the stars, his expression blank and his heart bleak.

 

---

 

He strides onto the bridge, attempting to shake the lack of sleep from his limbs. He should be used to it by now. The brief respite he’d found when he and Rey first … no, he won’t think about that.

 

There is brief satisfaction in watching Hux school his expression into something other than scorn. He might be shredded to pieces inside, but he takes a grim delight in putting the ginger irritant in his place. Frequently. He has years of frustration to excise—now that he can finally do what he’s always wanted. A day hasn’t gone by since Crait that he hasn’t found a reason to Force choke Hux.

 

“Supreme Leader,” Hux says in false deference. He wonders if Snoke was right, does Hux truly have his uses? He’s beginning to think that Grandfather had the right idea when it comes to generals.

 

“What is it, Hux?” he asks wearily. He finds most of what the supercilious lackey brings to his attention to be useless or simply annoying.

 

“There is the matter of selecting the commanding officer of the Tarkin, I left several promising candidates on your datapad.”

 

Kylo only just manages to keep from rolling his eyes. “Hux, I leave that to you.”

 

There is a gleam in Hux’s eyes as he says, “Yes, sir.”

 

---

 

Kylo notes the time and knows he should go to bed, but there’s a new lead on the Resistance that’s just come through. He scans the report … new allies … Outer Rim … Leia Organa. But … he saw her die, how …

 

Shakily, he sits and the datapad slips from his fingers, clattering onto the durasteel. His mo- Leia Organa is alive? He hadn’t wanted to reach for her, to truly know. He’d swiftly pulled away from that wound in the Force where he used to find her when he’d sensed her on the Resistance ship. He’s refused to think on it since. He’d locked it away in the same place he keeps Han Solo.

 

He’s pulled into an unwanted memory, the way that woman would always check on him through the Force when he was at school, before she’d sent him away. Every afternoon he would feel a warm brush of affection, like the sun on his face.

 

She was on Crait … He’d nearly … It doesn’t matter. Kill it if you have to.

 

He clenches his eyes briefly and breathes in deeply. Focus. This changes nothing. He pulls the datapad to him with the Force and begins to read again. He’ll end the Resistance once and for all. He doesn’t need anything as sentimental as these attachments that beckon so seductively.

 

He flinches as Rey’s hazel eyes flit through his mind.

 

---

 

His saber feels good in his hand as he twists and turns through his training regimen. He’s training hard tonight, hoping to exhaust himself enough to keep the dreams at bay. Kylo can’t decide which are worse, the ones where he hurts her or the ones where he most decidedly does not. They both leave him quaking and terrified.

 

He arcs his vibrant red blade through the air and nearly doesn’t stop in time when he finds Rey right in front of him. Swiftly, he switches off his saber. He hates how much it scared him to think of slicing through her. He should want to see her dead.

 

Rey takes a quick step back from him and looks him up and down. Then she averts her eyes and turns away from him. Her body is stiff.

 

His mind is blank and he just looks at her. Her hair has changed, having a glossy sheen and twisted in a complex style. His lip curls as he recognizes his mother’s handiwork.

 

He should ignore her, as she’s clearly planning to do with him, but he can never control himself around her. “Why are you here?” he murmurs.

 

Her shoulders shrug slightly.

 

Slowly, he approaches her. He’s ashamed to see his hand is shaking as he reaches for her. His fingertips just brush the fabric of her vest when she whirls.

 

“No!” Her face twists in anger.

 

He huffs out a laugh with no mirth. “Ah. I see, you are angry at me when it really should be the other way around.”

 

“What?” she spits indignantly. “You chose the dark side, after everything we shared, angry with you doesn’t even begin to cover it!”

 

He wishes she wasn’t so beautiful. “I offered you everything! Everything and you left me unconscious! I saved your life! I killed my master for you!” He takes a step towards her and she pulls herself back.

 

“No, you did that for yourself. You wanted to be free of him, I know you did. Luke told me how he twisted you, Leia said it was since you were a baby!”

 

“You know nothing about it,” he snarls, even as he knows she speaks some truth. Perhaps he would have killed Snoke one day. But he’d needed to save her in a primal, savage way that he still doesn’t understand. But he’s not about to explain himself to her. Not after what she did.

 

“Ben, I know this isn’t you, I know it!” she pleads.

 

“You know nothing about me. And clearly, I know nothing about you. You told me I wasn’t alone … that was obviously a lie.” He hates how wounded he sounds. But he’d thought … he’d believed … Stupid. Foolish. Everyone betrays him, he should know that by now.

 

Her face shifts from anger to anguish and he sees tears forming in her eyes. He despises the urge to comfort her.

 

“I … it wasn’t a lie.”

 

Kylo scoffs derisively.

 

“No … it wasn’t … can’t you see I can’t be by your side if this is what you choose. What you’ve chosen.” She looks at the floor and he sees sadness seeping from her.

 

His heart quickens at the thought of having her with him, truly with him. Together they could do so much for the galaxy … so much for each other. But he brutally pushes that thought away. He won’t make the same mistake. He won’t debase himself by begging. Again.

 

He regards her coldly. “Then we are at an impasse. Leave. Don’t come back.”

 

Rey looks at him in confusion. “I … I don’t know how. I don’t know what happens, why sometimes you’re there and sometimes you’re not.” Her voice is small and lost.

 

Damn. She’s right. He has no idea how to push her away. His jaw tightens as he bites back all his sense of betrayal and consuming devotion. He wishes she would go back to wherever she came from.

 

He can’t stand everything she stokes in him. How his fingertips burn with the memory of that fleeting touch. Nothing had ever felt like that and he’s embarrassed by how desperate he is to feel it again. He curls his hands into fists in an attempt to chase away the rising need to reach for her. Maker, why can’t he just hate her?

 

The silence stretches. Her hands flail and she looks around furtively. “What … what did Snoke do to us?”

 

Kylo shakes his head. This, this is safe. He can keep this clinical. “Nothing. If it was him, it would have died when he did. Besides … I felt … something before he knew of your Force sensitivity. I believe … I believe we did it ourselves. On Starkiller Base.”

 

Her questing expression morphs into fury. “You mean when you pushed into my mind?!”

 

Why is everything always his fault? “Or when you pushed into mine!” he yells.

 

“Oh no, you’re the one who kidnapped me and tried to break into my head!” She stabs her finger at him and oh it irritates him.

 

“I had to! You had the map-”

 

“Just stop.” Her shoulders fall and her hot anger bleeds out, leaving a perplexing sadness. “You’re so twisted,” she says forlornly and then she’s gone.

 

Kylo howls an inarticulate bellow of rage and pain. She doesn’t want him but he cannot be rid of her. She’ll always be there. Judging him. Pushing him. Questioning him. Tempting him.

 

Tonight will be hell.

 

Chapter Text

Before

 

What … where is he? His whole body aches, like after Snoke disciplines him. Did he fail? Again? He feels the smooth floor of Snoke’s hall and his eyes crack open to confirm his location. He’s quite familiar with this gleaming surface. Then he senses ...

 

His eyes snap fully open to see … Hux? No, that doesn’t make any sense. Rey, where is Rey?! Wait. She … she tried … oh Maker, no … she was going to try to kill him. Just like Unc- Skywalker. She’d … she’d … she’d …

 

Then he fully takes in Hux’s expression and he knows he has to think fast. Snoke is dead. At his hand. No. Not at his hand. The girl. The girl did it. That’s the story he’ll tell. He suppresses a groan as he leaps to his feet.

 

---

 

He can barely think through the storm of rage propelling him forward. The girl. No one. Nothing. She dared reject him? He’d offered her everything and she’d bared her teeth and tried to kill him.

 

He’s in his shuttle as they descend on Crait. The whispers of ‘Supreme Leader Ren’ had flown so fast. He wishes he could find satisfaction in his ascension. But all he can think of is how yet another person he lo-cares, cared about wanted to slice him through.

 

It’s possible all his blood has been replaced with pure fury. He will end this. He will destroy everything his family built. Then he’ll find Skywalker and take his head like he’d sought to take Kylo’s own. This last remnant will put it all to rest. Finally to rest. He will move forward, create something new and true and lasting. He, Kylo Ren, will finally finish what Vader started.

 

Now

 

“I’m not talking to you. You’ll disappear eventually,” she says snidely when she pops in front of him as he’s at his desk in his chambers. He’d done away with the ridiculous ostentation Snoke had preferred. No throne or dais for Supreme Leader Ren.

 

“Fine, it’s not as if I particularly wish to speak with you, either,” he responds. He goes back to his map of the Jentesh system. But he can barely keep his eyes off of her. He tries to focus anywhere but her face, hoping she won’t notice his regard.

 

His eyes land on her hands, stars, he can never stop imagining her hands. Twined with his. In his hair. On his body … he closes his eyes tightly, willing these thoughts—and her—away when he hears her growl.

 

Attempting to keep his expression placid, he meets her eyes. She’s glaring at him like she had on Starkiller Base and he doesn’t even try to suppress his snort. If she’s going to just appear he certainly isn’t going to bother to hide his scorn. His hurt …

 

“You think this is a game?” she shouts.

 

“Hardly,” he says blandly.

 

“I know what you did on Crait,” she accuses.

 

“That was days ago, why bring it up now?” he asks with a wave of his hand. He refuses to give in to the need to please her.

 

“Because there were other things to talk about last time. Like how you threw it all away. I’d never known I could …” She purses her lips and shakes her head. “No, I’m not getting sidetracked. Why couldn’t you have just let them get away? How could less than a hundred people threaten the mighty First Order?” she asks sarcastically.

 

“The Resistance is the enemy. The First Order is not in the business of mercy.” No quarter. No prisoners.

 

“You disgust me,” she spits, her revulsion plain on her face.

 

He doesn’t manage to suppress the flinch in time and he’s suddenly filled with anger that she knows she scored a hit.

 

“Yes, well, you lied to me,” he snarls.

 

“You led the attack! On your own mother!”

 

“Of course I did! I am the Supreme Leader,” he bellows.

 

A sickened frown pulls at her lips. “Oh Ben … why? How could you do that to Leia?”

 

“I didn’t know!” he bursts out.

 

“What?” she asks, her confusion plain.

 

“I didn’t know she was there. I thought she was already dead. I thought she died on the Resistance cruiser. There, happy? Am I less of a monster now?” he sneers.

 

Bright pain blooms across her face and her eyes are … haunted. But before she responds, she’s gone.

 

He flings his datapad across the room, not at all calmed by the shattering sound. He’s breathing hard and he jumps up from his desk. He paces wildly back and forth.

 

How dare she! How dare she judge him. She’s nothing. A nobody. What does she know about leading? This is war! She would have had a say if she’d just stayed …

 

And with that, the frantic energy flows out of him and he slumps back in his chair. His head falls forward into his hands and he is horrified to find his eyes stinging in frustration. Why does he still want her like this? What is wrong with him?

 

He’s never been with a woman, never touched anyone outside of familial and platonic interactions. But this woman. This woman inflames him. Nights are full of tortured visions of heat and skin. Days are full of wrestling himself into a place of almost hate. But it always slides out of view, slipping through his fingers. Fingers that always itch to touch her.

 

What is he going to do?

 

---

 

“Supreme Leader,” Hux says as he enters Kylo’s chambers.

 

“What is it, Hux?”

 

“We’ve just had word. The Resistance has found allies with the Atalyns. They’ve been neutral up until this new development.”

 

Atalyn, Outer Rim, of course. Fairly insular, peaceful society. It’s an … odd direction for this conflict to take. But now he knows … he knows where she is. Godsdammit, why does he care?

 

“My understanding was that barely two dozen rebels survived. Is this a genuine threat?”

 

Hux blinks. “I would have assumed, given your … performance on Crait that you would desire to wipe them out completely. Sir.”

 

He knows Hux is right. He should want to hunt the Resistance to extinction. He knows his history. The First Order rose because the Republic didn’t have the stomach to eradicate the remnants of the Empire. He refuses to examine the source of his hesitance.

 

Not bothering to look up from his datapad, Kylo says, “Monitor the situation. Bring me details. Have they only provided shelter? Or are they growing? Rearming? I won’t divert resources until we know it’s a credible threat.”

 

When his order is not met with acquiescence, Kylo looks up to find Hux standing stiffly with eyes narrowed.

 

Kylo raises his hand threateningly and Hux rushes to say, “Yes, sir!”

 

“And Skywalker? Any new leads?”

 

“No, nothing. Perhaps if we re-captured the girl-”

 

“Dismissed,” Kylo says, cutting him off with a clipped tone. He knows if he had her truly in front of him … he can’t finish the thought.

 

“But, sir, she knows-”

 

This time he does choke Hux. Hard.

 

Dismissed,” Kylo hisses.

 

Hux staggers from his chambers.

 

---

 

His eyes flutter closed as she trails her fingers along his cheek, leaving sparks of pleasure in their wake. Stars, when she touches him … he doesn’t possess the words to explain what it does to him.

 

He pulls her to him, her body flush with his and he shudders from all of the contact. Nuzzling against her neck, he hums contentedly. Oh Rey …

 

---

 

Abruptly he wakes, sensing ... something. He looks around his bedroom quickly, finding Rey watching him, her eyes wide.

 

The light is low, and her face is framed in shadows. He’s having trouble shaking the sensations from his dream. He’d just been holding her and he’s not in any sort of state to do this right now. He loathes her. He tries to loathe her. But his dreams, they make him see the lies he tells himself and he’s just not ready for this!

 

Burying all the soft feelings she inspires, he tries to make his expression cold. For one mad moment he longs for his mask. For years he hasn’t had to concern himself with what his overly-expressive face conveys. He knows there’s nothing he can do about his eyes and he hopes she hasn’t learned his tells.

 

He throws off his blanket and stands in front of her. He suddenly remembers he’s only in his sleeping pants and realizes he’s partially hard from his dream. It’s too late to hide. All he can manage is to hope she doesn’t notice in the dim light. He won’t draw attention to his embarrassing state by covering himself.

 

She’s holding herself tightly and her eyes are still huge with something. It’s not quite fear. Surprise, perhaps.

 

“What?” he asks shortly.

 

She looks away swiftly and he just manages to make out the blush staining her cheeks.

 

“What?” he repeats in exasperation.

 

Rey clears her throat and her eyes flit to his for just a moment. “My name. You … you murmured it in your sleep.”

 

Oh for the love of … his dreams aren’t even safe from her? Thank the Force he hadn’t moaned it the way he had in his dream.

 

“And?” he challenges.

 

“I … just … why?”

 

“That’s none of your business,” he says shortly.

 

“It’s my name!”

 

“And it was my dream. You have no right to anything about me, not after what you did.”

 

She sighs deeply and closes her eyes, frowning. She stays like that for a long moment. When she opens her eyes, there is a naked pain that cuts him.

 

“I’ve been thinking about that. Trying to see it from your perspective. I … I see that you might have thought, when I reached for the lightsaber, that I was turning on you … betraying you.”

 

He rushes towards her, towering over her smaller from. “You. Did,” he snarls. Then he cocks his head. “You still wanted to kill me, after everything, what we felt … what I thought we felt …”

 

She shrinks away slightly, but holds her ground. She lifts her chin defiantly. “And what did you do? You made it impossible for me to stay with you! How do you think that made me feel? Power means more to you than what we … what we had.” Her arms tighten around her torso and the anguish in her tone makes him want to find a way through all of this but he knows that’s only folly.

 

“I’ve known you such a short time. You truly expected me to throw my entire purpose away, just like that?” He has to shake his head to clear away the sudden vision of being back with his mother, Rey by his side. He does not want that.

 

Rey’s face crumples. “I … I’d never felt anything like how you make … made me feel. I thought … I thought .... Well obviously I was mistaken.” Then she turns her back to him and he’s absolutely gutted to see her shoulders shake. She’s crying. He doesn’t want that, but he’ll be damned if he’ll comfort her.

 

He’d never felt anything like how she makes him feel, either … but he can’t tell her that. He won’t give her one more inch. He has to find a way to make his heart cold to her. This is interminable.

 

Deciding to ignore her until she disappears, he goes back to his bed, laying down, turning away from her.

 

He wishes he couldn’t hear her quiet sobs.

 

Chapter Text

Kylo wakes with heavy regret pressing on his chest. Last night, he'd just laid there listening to her cry for what felt like hours, though it was likely only minutes. When she'd finally disappeared, he'd been both relieved and profoundly disappointed.

 

He'd struggled so hard with himself to keep from saying something. Trying to explain why he had to follow his path. All of it would have been for nothing if he'd turned his back on his purpose. His mission. His legacy. Han Solo’s death would have been for nothing.

 

When she'd finally returned to her own head, he'd felt such loss. Like he'd missed an essential opportunity. But he still can't divine what that opportunity was.

 

---

 

She’s focused on something. Rey hasn’t noticed him yet. She’s sitting with her chin propped up with one hand, her elbow resting on her knee. Then she reaches out and it’s as if she’s turning a page. He’s utterly enraptured by how her face glows.

 

He decides, for only this moment, he will indulge himself. He won’t fight with his feelings. He’s going to just let himself have this. The castigation will come later, he knows, but right now he’s simply too tired and, Force, he misses her.

 

Leaning against the wall of his chambers, he settles in to watch. Perhaps she’ll never notice him if he’s quiet and doesn’t move. Then she smiles and almost strokes whatever she’s reading. Then her little pink tongue darts out to moisten her lips and it takes all of his control to keep from groaning.

 

Her skin is luminous and he wonders if it’s as soft as his mind supplies when he dreams of her. He can feel the heat rise in his cheeks as he remembers the dream he’d had earlier in the week, just before waking.

 

She’d been in his arms and he’d been kissing up her throat, licking and nibbling, tasting her. She’d felt so good against him. He’d woken harder than he can ever remember, and it had taken a very long and icy shower to calm him down. If he’s honest with himself, he’s beginning to think he’ll have to take himself in hand soon.

 

He avoids that as much as possible. Years of having Snoke in his head had made that particular activity beyond shameful. Snoke had only remarked on it once, but it had been enough to stay him the next time he’d felt the need, and many times after. Really, my young apprentice, don’t you have better things to do with your time than fondle yourself?

 

The memory alone is enough to make him stand forward quickly, ensuring she’ll notice him. He can’t … He won’t just watch her like an infatuated adolescent. He never should have given into the weakness she pulls from him so easily. But he still feels a pang of regret when her easy bearing gives way to guarded animosity.

 

Her hands move as if snapping a book shut and she looks at him coldly. Then her shoulders drop and she just looks … weary.

 

Neither of them say anything, just looking at each other. She blinks slowly and the usual sharp sense of betrayal isn’t snaking through his chest. He just feels a bleak sadness that the warm sharing they’d found together is now well beyond their grasp.

 

He finds he wants to talk to her. Tell her how tedious he’s finding leading truly to be. He has everything he’s ever thought he wanted and it means nothing. Without her.

 

The time stretches, and he feels just a bit of the blessed calm he’d only ever experienced with her. She fits all his tattered edges. He wonders if she feels it, too. Why, Rey, why couldn’t you have at least tried? He almost voices the question, but his throat is too tight.

 

Her eyes are so gentle and sad. Finally he swallows thickly past the anguish wrapped around his throat.

 

“What were you reading?” he asks softly. Just this once he won’t lead with his hurt.

 

Her lips purse. “I … I’m not sure I should tell you,” she responds hesitantly.

 

“Hmm, alright then.” He leans back against the wall, keeping his posture open. He knows he probably shouldn’t be attempting to recapture their closeness. He can never trust her again. But … he just needs her.

 

She looks down and her hand smooths over what he presumes is the book she was studying. That it was clearly a book and not a datapad intrigues him. Paper books are rare.

 

“I … I don’t suppose it could hurt. It’s an old Jedi text,” she says carefully.

 

He stiffens immediately. Of course. She’s returned to Skywalker. Suddenly his fury is right back where it always is and he snarls, “Ran back to my uncle after leaving me?”

 

Her face changes instantly, her expression closing and her eyes gleam with rage. “Like you don’t know,” she says snidely.

 

“The old fraud still refusing to teach you?” I would have taught you. So many things.

 

Rey’s eyes narrow and that oh so familiar expression of disgust mars her frustratingly lovely features. “You really don’t know? Didn’t you feel it?”

 

“Feel what, exactly?”

 

“He’s dead!”  

 

Kylo’s eyes widen. “What?” A desperately confusing set of feelings rises in him. Elation. Loss. Grief …

 

“He died protecting us, from you!” She’s on her feet now.

 

“He was a coward. Wouldn’t even face me properly. You know what he did. I deserved to have my vengeance!” he hisses.

 

Rey closes her eyes tightly, pain roiling off her in waves. “I know … I know, Ben.”

 

He shouldn't let her call him that. But something in him almost sighs in comfort every time she does.

 

“What happened, what he did … it was awful. I can’t imagine how betrayed you felt. How betrayed you were. I’m so sorry.”

 

For the briefest of moments he wants to open up to her again, talk about all that’s inside him. But then he remembers the numerous times she’s tried to kill him.

 

Kylo snorts. “Like you care.”

 

“I do! You know I do!” she says pleadingly.

 

“Then why, Rey, why did you leave me? You said you’d help me,” he whispers, cringing at how pathetic and needy he sounds.

 

She breathes in deeply and her eyes are swimming with heartache. Slowly she moves closer to him, until she’s just scant inches away. She looks up into his face. “I didn’t leave you, Ben. I left … I left who you’re choosing to be. I left Kylo Ren.”

 

He should correct her. Tell her that he is Kylo Ren. Tell her that Ben Solo is dead. Tell her that she was lying to herself about who he is. But she’s so close and he … he can’t.

 

He breathes in sharply when he sees her hand start to raise slightly. Her fingers tremble as she brings them to his face. She pauses for a moment, her hand hovering. So close, so close. His blood is thundering in his ears and all he can think is, please, please touch me. Then she gently presses her hand against his cheek.

 

Oh gods, his whole body hums with connection and he can’t help but whimper and lean his face into her hand. They stand like that, with their eyes locked and he wants to pull her close, but he’s frozen by what it feels like to again feel her touch.

 

If touching fingertips had left him shaken and needful, this, this engulfs him. It’s beyond pleasure. It is an intimacy he simply could never have fathomed. He can feel how she cares through her hand.

 

“Oh, Rey …”

 

Then his comm goes off and Rey snatches her hand back, startled. She backs away, shaking herself and then she’s gone. The last thing he’d seen was sheer terror in her eyes.

 

---

 

Once he’d calmed down from their most recent interaction, Kylo decides to walk the bridge. He needs to distract himself. Remind himself what he’s doing. His purpose. He is the Supreme Leader of the First Order. He is not Ben Solo, and he’s certainly not in lo—doesn’t care about some garbage picker from Force forsaken Jakku.  

 

It doesn’t matter what it feels like when their skin touches. She’s his enemy. That is all she’ll ever be.

 

He strides onto the bridge and takes a certain satisfaction from the expanse of gleaming durasteel and efficient officers. He wanders, not really looking at anything in particular.

 

Skywalker is dead. He’s not surprised he didn’t feel his death through the Force. The first thing he’d done after the temple was to close himself off from his duplicitous uncle. Naively, he’d thought Skywalker would come after him, but instead he’d just run away.

 

He doesn’t know how to feel, now that the man is dead. He’s furious that he wasn’t the one to take Skywalker’s life. But … he can’t help but wonder what it’s done to Leia Organa. Why does he keep having these sorts of thoughts? He’d mercilessly pushed away all thoughts of that woman for years, but now it’s as if Rey has awoken something in him that he wishes would just go back to sleep.

 

Distraction, right, that’s why he’s here. He must get control of his thoughts. He decides that tormenting Hux is exactly what he needs right now.

 

Quietly he approaches the irritating general until he’s looming over the sycophant. Hux whirls swiftly, almost running into Kylo.

 

“Sir! What did you need?” Hux asks suspiciously.

 

“Why, nothing, General. I simply wanted to see that everything was running ... smoothly.”

 

Hux sniffs imperiously. “Always, Supreme Leader.”

 

“Hmmm.” Kylo runs his gloved hand along a console, as if inspecting for dust, which of course would never be found.

 

Hux’s eyes narrow.

 

“General, is there any progress with learning the precise situation with the Resistance on Atalyn?” Kylo queries.

 

“At present it seems that that Atalyns are merely providing them with minimal support. Lodging and whatnot. However, they’ve begun to make contact with other systems. Thus far, no one is providing any further assistance.”

 

“I see.” Perhaps they will simply die on the vine and no further action will need to be taken. Or … he could go and bring Rey back to him … perhaps in time he could convince her? No. No! She made her choice, rejected him utterly. He won’t give her another chance to demean him.

 

“Continue to monitor the situation,” Kylo instructs.

 

“Sir, Leia Organa is very convincing. Allowing her to spread her poison does not seem … prudent.”

 

“General Hux, I do not care to repeat myself.”

 

Hux scowls but says, “Yes, sir.”

 

---

 

He’s on his way back to his quarters when he nearly runs straight into Rey in a thankfully vacant hall.

 

She’s smiling brightly and it hurts that she’s never smiled like that at him. “That’s really great,” she says to someone he can’t see. “I’m so happy for you, Finn!”

 

FN-2187? She’s talking to the traitor? “Get away from him!” Kylo snarls before he even considers it, advancing on her.

 

“Uhm, I’m sorry, I … I uh forgot something back in my room,” she says shakily to her companion, her eyes locked on Kylo’s.

 

Kylo can’t hear the other half of the conversation and his jaw clenches, absolute hatred for the traitor running through him like wildfire.

 

“Yeah, I know, I’ll be there soon. I just have to go … uh, okay?” She’s holding herself awkwardly and panic is flaring from her wildly.

 

He circles her. “Get. Away. From. Him,” Kylo hisses into her ear. If she left him only to go to the traitor he’s going to blow Atalyn out of the sky. His hands curl into fists. His nails would cut into his palms if it wasn’t for his gloves.

 

“Bye!” she says as she’s rushing away and he watches her seem to close a door. He follows her swiftly.

 

He’s on her in a moment, not touching her, but crowding her with his much larger frame. “You will not talk to the traitor!” he commands.

 

“You don’t get to tell me what to do,” she spits. “Finn is my friend and I’ll talk to him whenever I please!”

 

“Is he why? Is he why you wouldn’t join me? Did you leave me for a stormtrooper?” he asks bitterly.

 

“What? No! No, you made it impossible. It wasn’t anything to do with anyone but you!” Her hands are at her hips and her eyes are flashing with fire. “It’s not … it’s not like that with Finn, anyway. It never was.”

 

“Like what? What exactly is it like?”

 

“He’s my friend. My first friend. But that’s all. And it’s really none of your business anyway.”

 

“Oh yes it is. You are absolutely my business,” he growls.

 

“You lost that right when you chose the dark side!”

 

His lips twist in frustrated, impotent rage. She’s right. He’s spent countless hours telling himself that she’s nothing to him, but the searing sense of possession had taken him over completely. He sees that he’s being irrational but he can’t get a handle on the jealousy that’s simmering just under his skin.

 

Suddenly he realizes that she’s with people. All the time. Men. Men who aren’t him. What if she … oh Maker, what if she … found someone? The thought shakes him to his core and his rage is replaced with soul-deep fear. He’s not sure he’d survive seeing her with someone else.

 

He takes a step back, breathing hard. She just looks at him.

 

Tightly, Kylo says, “You’re right. I have no claim on you.” Something in the Force clangs discordantly, as if whatever is between them is reacting to the utter wrongness of his words.

 

“You bet you don’t! If you’d wanted me, all you had to do was come with me.”

 

If I’d wanted you? If? Don’t you know? I want you, oh make no mistake about that, Rey. It’s you that didn’t want me.”

 

“How could you think that? How could you possibly? Just because I can’t go where you’re headed doesn’t … it didn’t change my feelings,” she says brokenly. “Please, Ben. It’s not too late. Come to me. We can be together,” she begs.

 

He knows he can’t. He knows he won’t. But for a brief moment he lets himself revel in the knowledge that she does want him.

 

Then her head cocks in reaction to something. “Someone’s here.”

 

“Where is here?”

 

“My room. Look … I can’t talk to you when others are around. They’ll think I’m insane. Just … please stay quiet until the … connection fades?”

 

He doesn’t like being told what to do, but he realizes that if she just popped up in the midst of a meeting he’d need the same from her. He sighs and nods.

 

She opens her door. “Hi Rose.” There’s a pause as this Rose speaks. Then Rey says, “Yes, I’m going to be at dinner, please tell Poe that I’ll-” And then she’s gone.

 

It takes him a moment to process what he’s heard. Poe? Poe Dameron? He survived? Of course he did. And he’s having dinner with Rey?

 

Poe Dameron, that thief. Stealing his father’s attention, his mother’s regard. And now, now he will be with Rey. His Rey!

 

Kylo screams, “No!” Then his saber is in his hand. He doesn’t stop hacking the wall until he’s broken through to the other side.

 

Chapter Text

Kylo sits in his rooms, brooding. He’s in his chair, hunched low. His tunic is half open and his hair disheveled. He flings back his fifth drink. It’s not helping. All he can see is Dameron’s hands all over her. Touching her perfect skin.

 

He growls and leans forward, snagging the bottle of Corellian brandy, sloppily refilling his glass. Of course he had to punish himself by selecting that particular spirit. The brown liquid sloshes over as he fills it to the brim. He gulps it down greedily, hoping for oblivion.

 

He rarely drinks. Snoke frowned on it. But Snoke is bloody well dead. Kylo giggles slightly. “I’m so disappointed in you, my young apprentice,” he mimics. Then he grimaces. “At least you’re really gone, you creepy old bastard. No Force ghosts for the dark side!” he gleefully remarks.

 

Taking another drink, he smacks his lips. “Oh, Rey … we would have been so happy,” he slurs.

 

It’s sinfully easy to imagine her her with him. Black silk skimming her curves. He’d drape her in jewels, his gorgeous Jedi princess … Wait, no, not Jedi. He hates them. Right, he hates her. Doesn’t he?

 

Of course he does. She’s off with the Best Pilot in the Resistance. He’s probably tangling his hands in her hair right now. Oh, Force, what if he’s kissing her? Tasting her? The images are coming so fast now. What if … what if he takes her to bed? It’s such a torturous thought. Partially because he doesn’t really know what it would be like …

 

Hell. He’s getting maudlin. He much prefers rage. For those few days, as they’d learned each other, he’d indulged in such fantasies. He’d hoped … he’d wanted … His eyes clench shut. He knows all about wanting.

 

He’s not sure he can take it, this not knowing what she’s doing. What if the next time their strange link brings her to him while she’s with him. What if they’re … oh, Maker, he’s going to be sick. Just the idea of seeing her moaning while that arrogant ass makes her his is enough to turn his stomach.

 

Abruptly he goes to his feet, swaying unsteadily. “I’ll kill him,” he says to the empty room. “If he touches her, I’ll kill him.” That makes him feel a bit better and he grins stupidly. “That’s it, I’ll just kill anyone who touches her.”

 

He slumps back into his chair, satisfied with his solution. He just has to remember in the morning …

 

Then he blinks confusedly because he thinks he might be seeing Rey. But she’s a bit fuzzy.

 

“Ben?” she asks hesitantly.

 

“Rey! Beautiful Rey,” he croons.

 

She blinks rapidly. “I … are you … are you drunk?”

 

He thinks for a moment and looks at his empty glass. Finally he nods once. “Yes, yes I think I finally am. Takes a bit for me, you know.”

 

“Well, yeah, you’re huge.” Then her eyes bulge out of her head as her hand flies to her mouth.

 

He snickers. “You’re so cute,” he says affectionately.

 

Rey purses her lips. “Ben, what’s … why are you drunk?”

 

He glowers and spits, “Dameron. Touching you. Touching what’s mine.”

 

Excuse me?” she says indignantly.

 

“Putting his filthy hands all over you. Kissing you. Couldn’t take it,” he mumbles.

 

“Leaving aside the whole ‘mine’ comment, what exactly are you talking about?”

 

“You said you were having dinner with him! Left me, off on some date …” he trails off.

 

“First of all, I don’t know why you think there’s something between me and Poe, but I barely know him. But beyond that, you really have to stop saying I left you. I didn’t leave you!”

 

“Right, just rejected everything I offered you. Including me,” he snarls.

 

She actually shrieks and then says, “No! You utter idiot. That is not what happened. You asked me to be some sort of insane evil overlord of the galaxy with you. It’s not like you gave me a lot of options. I am sick of arguing this with you. You went to the dark side. I’m not doing that. It doesn’t matter how much I might care about you, but I am not joining the First Order!”

 

He leans forward in his chair and looks up at her in entreaty. “What if you didn’t have to? What if you were just … with me? You don’t have to be part of any of it. Just please, Maker, Rey, I need you. Please, please.” Dimly, he remembers that he’d promised himself that he wouldn’t ask again, but right now he doesn’t care.

 

Her eyes flit away and she sighs deeply. Then she’s standing in front of him and her hands go to his shoulders. He doesn’t even hesitate, wrapping his arms around her waist, pulling her close. He buries his face in her abdomen. “Please …” he begs against her.

 

She curls around him and oh Force, he thinks he might be dead, because nothing has ever felt so sublime as her arms around him. He feels so safe. He feels complete. The howling pain finally stops.

 

Then her hands find his hair and he groans. Her nimble fingers stroke through his mane and he’s not sure he’s ever felt anything so perfect. Can he just stay here forever? She feels so, so good and he just … he needs this. He needs her.

 

Then she’s tugging at him, trying to get him to stand. He tightens his arms around her and growls, “No!”

 

“Come on, Ben, we need to get you to bed. You’re … anyway, you need to sleep.”

 

“No!” he repeats, unwilling to let her go.

 

“I know. I do know. I feel it too. But … you’re really, really drunk and … I just … I can’t do this with you when you’re like this. Please, stand up. For me?”

 

He sighs dramatically, but he staggers to his feet. Then he looks down on her and cups her delicate face. “So beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful Rey.”

 

She looks embarrassed and she blushes. He strokes his thumb along her cheek. “Rey, Rey, Rey.”

 

“Come on, let’s get you to bed.” She slings his arm around her shoulder and stops. “I … I don’t know where the bed is. I can’t see anything but you.”

 

All I ever see is you. “Over here,” he directs him to his small bed and glares at it.

 

“What?” she asks.

 

“I hate my bed. I barely fit. Snoke said I should only have what was needed.”

 

Rey’s face grows sad. “Well, you’re free of him. I’m pretty sure the Supreme Leader can have a bigger bed.”

 

“Planning on joining me?” he asks with a waggle of his brows.

 

She rolls her eyes. “Okay, big boy, bed time.” Then she’s pushing him down. She goes to her knees in front of him and starts to take off his boots.

 

He doesn’t like that. She shouldn’t … she shouldn't tend to him. He’s a monster. Isn’t he? “I can do that.”

 

“Shhh, just shut up.” She pulls off his boots, then she’s shoving him back until he’s laying down.

 

He smiles up at her as she pulls the blankets around him. This is so nice. Why can’t she stay? She’s right, he should get a bigger bed.

 

She pushes his hair back from his face and he hums a happy sound. “I like it when you touch me,” he murmurs.

 

“I … I like touching you,” she admits then looks away. “I really hope you don’t remember this,” she grumbles to herself.

 

“Oh, no. I remember every moment I’ve ever had with you, beautiful Rey.”

 

“Stop calling me that,” she snaps.

 

“Okay, sweetheart.”

 

“That is not better,” she says with irritation, but she’s smiling.

 

His eyes flutter closed and he falls asleep with her hand in his hair.

 

---

 

His head is pounding. What the hell happened to him? Then it all comes rushing back, how he’d tried to drown the awful images of Dameron touching Rey.

 

But … then she’d come to him. And … she said nothing had happened. Oh, Force … he’d had her in his arms. Then he remembers how pathetic he’d been. He’d sworn he’d never ask again, but what had he done? Lost control and pleaded with her. Begged her to come to him. She makes him wretched.

 

He growls as he untangles himself from the blankets. His head swims but he refuses to give in to it. He stalks to his ‘fresher.

 

Never again. Never again.

 

---

 

“We have a problem, Supreme Leader,” Hux says with a smugness that immediately has Kylo on alert.

 

“Yes?” He’s sitting in his chambers and hopes whatever it is will require violence to handle. He desperately needs something to pull him out of his own head.

 

“It would appear that the majority of the First Order’s assets have been frozen.”

 

Assets? He hadn’t even thought about that. “What?” he asks dumbly.

 

Hux smiles with an officious satisfaction. “Apparently, Supreme Leader Snoke was the main source of our backing. A thousand years is a great deal of time to … invest. With his death, and no instructions, the Lyrelli are not inclined to release the funds.”

 

The Lyrelli, the banking consortium. This … this is bad.

 

“I’m sure if we surround their planet they’ll think better of it.”

 

“Canon fire does not solve everything, Supreme Leader.”

 

“Doesn’t it?”

 

“No. If we use force, the other sources of funding will dry up … quickly. Our esteemed former leader was not our only source of backing, simply the bulk of it. At present, we can continue to operate as we are for three months. If we move against the Lyrelli, we’ll have nothing.”

 

Kylo snarls and slams his fist into his desk, his nostrils flaring.

 

“Snoke left nothing about what to do in the event of his death?”

 

Supreme Leader Snoke likely did not consider that to be a possibility.”

 

Of course. He’s never known of a more arrogant being. It would be exceptionally easy to berate himself for being so taken in. Without Snoke in his head, the illusions are well and truly shattered. But he doesn’t have time for that.

 

“Leave me.”

 

“But, sir, what will we do?”

 

“Leave me!” Kylo snarls, pushing Hux out of his chambers with the Force. The usual sense of amusement of Hux’s boots skittering along the floor is absent.

 

Right. Three months. He snags his datapad and brings up the Jentesh system. He’d been considering it as a viable next conquest. This just ups the time-table. He begins to review their resources.

 

---

 

Hours later, he has the makings of a plan. He’s surrounded by datapads and has the holo of the Jentesh system flickering in front of him. It’s just at the edge of the Mid-Rim and fairly isolated. Their defenses are not inconsiderable as they have massive veins of orichalc. They won’t go down without a fight, but Kylo is confident he will succeed.

 

That will keep the First Order going for at least another few months. Plenty of time to solve this crisis.

 

A droid rolls up to him with his dinner and he snags the tray, gesturing to the server to leave. He’s just inspecting what’s on offer this evening when he senses eyes on him. He looks up and finds Rey standing in front of him.

 

His eyes widen. She’s … she’s wearing a dress. It’s a pale green, and oh Force, it clings. Her hair is piled on her head and delicate filigree dangles from her ears. Something about the earrings make her neck seem impossibly long and his mouth goes dry from the need to kiss along the column of her throat.

 

Why does he react to her like this? It’s as if all his control simply evaporates when she’s near. Or when he thinks of her. Or dreams of her …

 

He clears his throat, remembering his shameful behavior. She’s just looking at him curiously, staying silent. He doesn’t want to do this now, especially not with her looking so tempting. Then his eyes narrow.

 

“Why are you dressed like that?” he asks suspiciously. “I thought you said there was nothing between you and the pilot.”

 

Just like that, she goes from an almost open bearing to spitting fire. “This again? I don’t know where you get your delusions, but I am not yours.”

 

Fury ignites in his chest. Something ancient in his bones screams that she is his, he’s hers. But he remembers how he’d begged last night and he tries to make himself agree. They’re nothing to each other.

 

He breathes in deeply. “Fine.”

 

“Look, could we not fight? I have to go to this … event and I really don’t have it in me to go around and around with you.”

 

She seems distressed and he isn’t able to stop himself from asking, “What’s wrong?”

 

She snorts. “It’s not like you can help. Or would even want to.”

 

“You are the one who wished not to fight,” he reminds her.

 

Her shoulders fall. “You’re right. I … I’m sorry. It’s just … I’ve never … I’ve never gone to a … party before. I’m nervous. I don’t know what to do.”

 

“Party?”

 

Her eyes suddenly fill with fear. “I can’t tell you more, not without endangering … look, I just can’t say, alright?”

 

“Alright,” he says calmly, a little flair of hope in his chest that she seems to be turning to him for comfort.

 

“I don’t know how to do this,” she whispers.

 

“Do what?”

 

“Pretend I’m normal. I don’t know anything about being around people. I didn’t even know what a fork was. Stars, that was embarrassing.”

 

It all unspools before him, how she’d been raised almost feral. Then he realizes she hadn’t even been raised at all, just hacking a life out of the hell that had been handed to her. He lets himself set his anger aside and just ache for that abandoned little girl.

 

He stands and walks over to her, but not too close. She looks up at him, vulnerability shining in her eyes.

 

“You’ll do fine,” he murmurs.

 

She snorts. “There are so many rules that don’t make any sense.” She grabs at the fine fabric of her garment. “I’ve never even worn a dress before.”

 

“You look exquisite.”

 

Her eyes flit to his and that lovely blush he’s growing quite fond of stains her cheeks. “I … thank you,” she mumbles.

 

Nervously, he reaches out and takes her hand and they both inhale sharply at the contact. Even through his gloves it’s intense. “Listen. Just ask questions. People love to talk about themselves. It has the added advantage of keeping the focus off of you.”

 

“Is that what you do?”

 

He scoffs. “I’ve not been to a gathering of that sort since I was an adolescent.” He pushes away the knowledge that he’d just given her Leia Organa’s advice. He’d never liked parties, either.

 

“I guess there wasn’t really time between all the tyranny.” She gasps and her expression grows stricken. “I … I shouldn’t have said that.”

 

He shrugs. “It’s true.”

 

She turns to face him fully and takes his other hand. “What are we going to do?” she asks plaintively.

 

He looks down on her, knowing rekindling their intimacy is dangerous. But … he can’t deny how much he wants to wrap her in his arms. He draws her to him and holds her close, glorious calm suffusing him. She settles against his chest and the rightness of it all is overwhelming.

 

“I don’t know, Rey … I don’t know.”

 

Chapter Text

He hasn’t seen her in days. He tries to tell himself that this is better. He doesn’t want to be bound to some scavenger. A scavenger who looked so beautiful in her party dress … No, no, he’s not going to think about that.

 

Maybe this connection really was just Snoke’s doing, maybe it simply took some time to fade. The thought makes him physically hurt. He’d never … he’d never see her again.

 

And somehow, he just knows it wasn’t Snoke. He can’t believe anything so … singular could come from such a twisted being. No … it’s something so much more. He’s sure of it. But why hasn’t he seen her in so long?

 

He supposes he might meet her in battle. And perhaps he could bring himself to … no … no. He couldn’t. He knows it the way he knows his own face. Much as he wishes it, he knows he could never kill her himself.

 

Damn this weakness. He can’t stop remembering how she’d cautiously brought her arms around his waist and rubbed her cheek against this tunic. He wishes he hadn’t been so drunk when she’d run her fingers through his hair. He only has the sense memory and he wishes he could remember everything.

 

Where is she? Has she figured out how to close this connection, this bond? The thought that she’d do such a thing leaves him cold even as he realizes he himself should have at least tried. She’s a serious liability. Why can’t he bring himself to care? He just wants to see her again.

 

But he shouldn’t. She’s part of the Resistance. She’s with that woman. He’d seen the evidence woven through her hair. Who else would have made Rey dress in fancy clothes? He’s sure his mother thinks she’s helping. Making her even more enticing for others ...

 

Does she know? Has Rey told her of what is between them? He scoffs into his chambers. No, Rey wouldn’t have told her. Leia Organa would be horrified to find that precious, beautiful, perfect Rey was bound to a monster. He should feel that familiar resentment for all of her pets, all of her protégés, but instead he hopes … he hopes she’s assisting Rey. Showing her the way. Giving her the mothering she never received. He slams down on the memories of kind brown eyes.

 

He snarls and stands from his desk. He wants to hurl every piece of furniture against the bulkhead. But he had not enjoyed the humiliation of explaining how he’d destroyed that hallway. He’s the Supreme Leader. He shouldn’t behave like that anymore. But he can’t seem to stop himself, no matter how hard he tries. At least he no longer has to fill out one of Hux’s little forms.

 

He recalls how he’d cornered Mitaka, demanding a larger bed for his quarters. He'd told himself it was simply for his comfort. Oh how frequently he lies to himself.

 

The trembling, insipid man had had the temerity to enquire as to why he didn’t simply move into the Supreme Leader’s quarters. He hadn’t had to even raise his hand, just stared down on the mousy officer. A larger bed had been in his rooms by that evening.

 

Not that it would seem to matter, now.

 

Not that it should have ever mattered.

 

---

 

“Supreme Leader, I really must insist we discuss the Resistance.”

 

“We already have, Hux,” he says in a bored tone. His eyes keep being drawn to any movement, hoping it’s Rey.

 

“No, you asked that they be monitored. Well, we’ve been monitoring. They’re gathering. It would appear that Atalyns have been hosting a series of … social events where the Princess may bend the ears of powerful leaders.”

 

Social events? Was that where Rey had been going? There will be more? More dresses? More men? “And has she—have they been successful?” he growls.

 

Hux looks at him with cold calculation. “Not as of yet, but, sir-”

 

“Then continue to monitor.” There must be a solution to this mess with Rey that doesn’t involve him having to bring such danger to her door. Damn her for this weakness. Damn her.

 

Hux’s jaw tightens and he only just manages to keep his tone marginally respectful. “Yes. Sir.”

 

---

 

He gets ready for bed mechanically. Ten days now it’s been. Ten days since he’s seen her and he’s seriously considering descending on Atalyn and just taking her. She’ll see reason, won’t she? After she’d wondered so sadly what they would do … she’d even said she feels it too … Surely she’ll come to see his perspective if he could only talk to her?

 

No. No! He is not going to ask again. He promised himself. Never again. He thought she was different. That she cared for him. But she doesn't. He can't let himself believe … She just wants him to fit the box she’d built for him. She just wants him to be Ben Solo. Well, he’s not.

 

He’d thought … he’d thought she truly saw him. All of him. In the small hours of the night he knows that Ben Solo’s heart still beats in his chest. But that’s not all that he is. He feels like she just wants to take a knife and cut him in two, like she’d tried with his own grandfather’s saber.

 

Can’t she see how hard he’s tried to make himself anew? How he couldn’t be that boy any longer? That boy who almost died in his sleep?

 

He flinches as he remembers how Snoke had talked to him. Saying that Snoke had been mistaken. That he was just a boy in a mask. He almost wishes that Snoke had manipulated them. Built this connection. That everything he’d said to him had been a lie to help him be better.

 

He waits, waits for the whispers in his head, telling him to trust in his master, but his head is so empty. Snoke is gone. Rey is gone.

 

A small sob escapes him as he sits heavily on his much larger bed. He’s so alone. He almost wishes he hadn’t killed his master. He doesn’t know what to do now. He killed his father. He killed his master. And now Rey … she’s gone too and he’s not sure he’s ever been so afraid.

 

---

 

Oh … oh, Rey. Her hands move along his naked chest and he whimpers his need. “Shhh,” she whispers into his ear. “I’ve got you, I’ve got you.”

 

Then a strangled gasp escapes him as she grasps his length, her deft fingers pulling such pleasure from him. He didn’t know … he didn’t know he could feel like this.

 

He moans nonsense and she quickens her pace, so close, so close. It’s never felt like this. He feels her body, warm and close, pressed against him and he seeks her lips. They’re so connected. She’s pushing him towards unknown bliss while he kisses her deeply.

 

He groans out, “Rey …”

 

---

 

He snarls as he comes awake. He was almost there and now he’s alone in this huge bed that mocks him, his cock painfully hard and leaking into his sleeping pants. That’s it. He can’t take it any longer.

 

He shoves his hands into his underthings and grasps himself firmly. It’s not nearly as wonderful as Rey’s dream hand moving along him, but it will get the job done.

 

Quick and perfunctorily, he strokes himself firmly. He was already on the precipice and it doesn’t take much. Soon he’s bursting over his fist and calling out her name.

 

He blinks into the darkness, trying to catch his breath, so ashamed of his need.

 

---

 

This time he sees the book in her hands clearly, and he inhales sharply at the sight of her. He’d almost convinced himself it was for the best. Almost. But the time has at least allowed him to regain perspective. He can’t do this with her. Much as he may want to. That knowledge doesn’t stop him from drinking her in, desperate for every last detail.

 

Rey’s head snaps up quickly and the most gorgeous smile he’s ever seen splits across her face.

 

“Ben!” she squeals and she’s on her feet in a moment, the book forgotten.

 

He’s only just caught up when she’s right in front of him. She’s reaching for him but he holds himself rigidly. He cannot do this. It hurts too much.

 

“Rey,” he says neutrally.

 

Her face closes and pained confusion flashes in her eyes. She swiftly pulls her hands back. “I … I don’t understand.”

 

“Before … it was a mistake.” His limbs vibrate with the effort it takes to keep from pulling her to him.

 

“A mistake,” she says, swallowing.

 

“We are enemies. We shouldn’t behave otherwise.”

 

“But … how is that going to work? This … connection, this bond … I thought … I thought I’d never see you again.” Her aching tone pulls at him and he viciously suppresses his want, twin to hers.

 

“Yes, well perhaps that would be best.”

 

He has to avert his gaze, he can’t look into her huge, wounded eyes.

 

“But …”

 

“But what? How precisely do you think this will work? We ignore that we agree on literally nothing?”

 

“I don’t know! I just thought …”

 

“You thought you could sway me,” he says bluntly.

 

“I’d … hoped.”

 

He glares at her. “And if that’s not what I want?”

 

“How can you? How can you even know what you want? For years that disgusting predator was twisting your thoughts, taking over your mind! I remember what he said. That he read your every intent. How can you possibly know your own mind?”

 

He blinks. He’s avoided thinking about it. He’s afraid of what he’ll find.

 

“Leia said-”

 

“No! I will not speak of her,” he hisses, years of anger and suffering taking him over.

 

“She’s your mother!”

 

“Yes, she was, and she sent me off to a man who tried to murder me!”

 

Rey suddenly looks down and pulls in on herself. She’s usually so quick to tell him precisely what she thinks, but she just trembles.

 

“What?” he asks shortly. He hates this, Maker, he hates this.

 

“That’s … that’s not really how it happened.”

 

“I remember. I woke to the green glow of Skywalker’s saber,” he sneers.

 

“I know. I know you did. But there’s more to it.”

 

“More to him coming to my room, ready to kill me?” he scoffs.

 

“He sensed the darkness! For just a moment he thought it was the right thing to do, but he was pulling back when you woke up. He was never going to kill you.”

 

“No! No more of Skywalker’s lies!”

 

“Ben, please. I know, I know he failed you. But couldn’t it be more complicated?”

 

“What do you know of complexity? Your entire life is black and white. Kill or be killed. Did it ever occur to you to talk to me before going for a weapon?”

 

She looks away in shame. “I know … I know I should have. I … I wish I could take it back. I wouldn’t … I wouldn’t have killed you.” Her voice grows small.

 

“Just maimed me enough to run away,” he spits, gesturing to his scar.

 

“I’m sorry! I … wish I could go back to Starkiller Base, agree to your offer to teach me! Maybe we could have found a new way.”

 

“What?” he asks, the shock pulling the breath from his lungs.

 

“I’m all alone now. I don’t know what to do with everything inside me. I just have these books and I … I know I’ve made mistakes.”

 

The thought of teaching her, it instantly takes him to a place of pure fantasy. Oh, the things he could show her. What they could become together … Then he savagely shuts down that line of thought. She’s made her choices.

 

“Well, it doesn’t matter now.”

 

“Isn’t there some way we could … compromise?”

 

“No. This is my path. I’ve sacrificed everything to get here. Everything.” The bitterness winds around his words.

 

Her eyes close for a moment. “I know you have.” Suddenly her eyes fly to his. “Did you know, that I was on the Falcon on Crait?”

 

“What? No … I …” Then his blood runs cold as he remembers. Blow that piece of junk out of the sky! She’d been on it? She was supposed to be on Snoke’s ship. He’d … he’d almost ... His knees feel weak and he has to sit down. He finds his chair and falls into it.

 

He looks up at her, his eyes pleading. “No, I didn’t know.”

 

“Oh.” She pauses but then her expression grows cold. “But you knew Chewie was on it.”

 

“You mean the walking carpet that shot me? Trust me, I hoped he was.”

 

Her little hands ball into fists. “Am I the only person you give a damn about?”

 

“Who says I give a damn about you?” He regrets it immediately. He’s never lied to her before and he wants to take it back, oh how he wants to take it back.

 

She gasps and her brows shoot up. Tears gather in her eyes and she shudders. She opens her mouth to speak but then she’s gone.

 

“Godsdammit!” he bellows. To hell with it. His desk flies across his chambers as he screams out his anguish.

 

Chapter Text

 

Before

 

He has a twisting feeling in his gut as Snoke taunts Rey. All of his control is needed to keep from stopping this. Why did he bring her to Snoke? He’d thought Snoke would give her to him, to train … to … have.

 

Now, oh Force, no, she’s screaming as Snoke tortures her and it’s like broken glass grinding against the inside of his skull. He’d never thought Snoke would do this! She’s exceptionally powerful. This is so short-sighted, so wasteful. He channels all of his rage into keeping his posture impassive, still and accepting. But he knows there’s nothing he can do about his eyes.

 

It feels like an eternity, knowing precisely what she’s experiencing, sick with the knowledge that he brought her to this. His fault, his fault. Just when he doesn’t think he can take it any longer, that he’s going to do something impossibly stupid, Snoke finally relents.

 

He senses the whispers he’s learned to identify as his master, and he empties his mind quickly. He has one purpose and one alone. He will get Rey out of here alive or die trying. He will end this. He must focus. Intent, it’s all about intent. He keeps murder at the forefront of his mind.

 

The contempt, the seething fury builds in him. All the years his master has belittled him. Every strike of Force lightning. The countless atrocities he’s committed to prove himself to this arrogant, manipulative man. Han Solo. It all gathers swiftly in his chest, racing through his system. He hates Snoke. The dark side courses through him as he readies himself.

 

In a small place he’s managed to build over the years—that is his and his alone—he takes in her defiant face and her unfathomable eyes. Stars, those eyes. He’s never seen anything as hypnotic as her beautiful hazel eyes. If he fails, he wants to die with the image of her eyes burned on the inside of his eyelids.

 

Slowly he lifts his saber. Intent, he reminds himself. Intent. He will kill … him. And he’s twitching his fingers, a flicker, a moment, and it’s done.

 

She’s safe.


Now

 

No, no! NO!

 

Kylo stares at his destroyed desk and the creeping understanding of what he’s truly done is seeping in. Rey, who had literally been thrown away, who’d never meant anything to anyone, and he’d said …

 

But it had to be done. Didn't it? He cannot be with her, much as he wants to be. She's chosen the Resistance. Not him. Never him. She is the enemy. It's necessary that he snuff out these warm, soft feelings. They'll sway him, blind him to his purpose.

 

Yet … he’d … he’d told her that he didn’t give a damn about her. The terrible wrongness of those words make his heart ache. He flinches as he remembers her tears.

 

In that moment he understands that there's nothing he can do to stamp out what she means to him. It’s a useless battle he’ll never win. She’s … Force, she’s everything and maybe … maybe he should acknowledge that in the safety of his own mind … heart.

 

It’s time to be honest with himself. Now that he’s lost her.

 

He … he adores her. Everything about her. Her delicate face, her fierce devotion to those she cares about. Even her light, though it taunts and tempts him. Every single thing.

 

How could he have said that to her? Stabbed her right in her most vulnerable place? He can still see her exquisite face crumpling in betrayal. He’d had to wait ten days to see her the last time and somehow he’s sure it will be even longer, now.

 

Perhaps he’s managed to ruin even this strange, wonderful connection between them. It wouldn’t surprise him, not even a bit.

 

He destroys everything.

 

---

 

Hours of self-castigation later, Kylo lays in his bed, staring at the ceiling. The silence in his head is deafening and it leaves such an empty place for Rey’s words about Snoke to echo. Can he know his own mind? He remembers Rey saying Snoke had been lurking since he was a baby and he wonders …

 

When did it start? The doubt … the confusion. He remembers begging his mother not to send him away. He’d finally started to make some friends at school, other boys who preferred books and history. But when he was 10, she’d still let Skywalker take him …

 

A memory is just out of reach. He remembers … he remembers laying in his cold bunk that first night at the temple. It hadn’t really been a temple yet. Just an abandoned building where they’d set up cots and old Rebellion-era heating units. It was where they would stay as they built the temple. Skywalker had always espoused austerity.

 

Building the temple had been how Skywalker initially trained them. At first it was just … hard. Lifting heavy beams, slathering together bricks. He’d gotten in trouble the very first week for using the Force to help him. Apparently he wasn’t to do it the easy way. He’s come to see the wisdom in Skywalker’s teachings, as they had mirrored many of Snoke’s. But that one … if you have a tool, you should use it.

 

That night, his first away from his mother … she’d always taken him on her trips, even if he stayed with nannies. He knew that no matter how late she came back to their quarters, she always kissed him goodnight. Always.

 

But … that night, he’d … he’d hated her. He’d hated her so much that he’d almost screamed. The sense of abandonment had completely engulfed him and he’d been wracked with the certainty she’d never loved him.

 

And then it was gone, like he’d never even felt it. But he’d come to know that place very well in the coming years. So well that it’s a well-polished pain.

 

Was that … was that Snoke? He hesitantly pokes at the place he keeps that woman, wondering what else he might find … Then he sits up quickly. No. He cannot do this. Because if ...

 

If this was never meant to be his path, if he truly had been manipulated to this place then … Then that would mean that everything he’s done would be meaningless. Worse than meaningless. All that death, torture, destruction. Han Solo.

 

Pushing Rey away.

 

Then it would mean nothing.

 

He flees to his training room in terror.

 

---

 

Kylo nearly runs down the corridors, and by the time he reaches his private sanctuary, he’s ripping off his tunic and switching on six training droids at once. They descend on him and he wildly defends himself.

 

He won’t let this in. He can’t let this in. This is his path. This is what he was meant to be. He’s always been destined to be the next Vader. Hasn’t he? But … if this is his destiny, why does it hurt so damned much?

 

He deflects bolt after bolt from the training droid, but it doesn’t stop the torrent of thoughts. He's laid all that he has at the altar of Grandfather. He has nothing else to sacrifice. He gave up Rey. Pushed her away. The image of her wounded eyes scrapes along his chest.

 

He’s the most powerful man in the galaxy, finally achieving what he’d devoted his entire soul to. Destroyed his entire soul for. Why does the pain never end? It only ever stopped with her ...

 

He screams in frustration, and in that moment a droid scores a hit on his shoulder. He hisses and slices it clean through, its pieces clattering to the training room floor. Panting, he waves his hand and the rest of the droids go dead.

 

Then he looks down, sees the thin line of blood on his flesh, and suddenly he’s spiraling into the memory of the gash along Rey’s perfect skin. He remembers the savage need to protect her even as the Praetorian Guards overwhelmed him. He’d kept his eyes on her, always on her as he’d fought for his life. For hers.

 

He falls to his knees, his head hanging.

 

What has he done?

 

---

 

“Supreme Leader? Sir? Supreme Leader! REN!” Hux yells.

 

Kylo’s head snaps towards the general. “What?” he growls.

 

“Are you even listening to me?” Hux asks in exasperation.

 

No. No he hadn’t been listening to him at all. He’d been imagining Rey forgiving him. He’d really prefer to resume his fantasy, thank you very much.

 

He sighs heavily. “What is it, Hux?”

 

“Preparations for the assault on Jentesh are proceeding as planned. We will be ready to move the day after tomorrow.”

 

“Excellent,” he murmurs distractedly, remembering the smile she’d graced him with just before he’d treated her so cruelly.

 

“This was your plan!” Hux exclaims.

 

“And you agreed with it,” he snarls.

 

The ginger irritant sniffs. “Yes, well, the least you can do is pay attention.”

 

Kylo holds Hux’s eyes for a long moment. “Duly noted,” he says with deadly calm. It’s a long while before Kylo finally speaks again. “Was there anything else, General?”

 

Nervously, Hux answers, “No, sir.”

 

“Fine. Dismissed.”

 

It might feel like salt in the wound, but wallowing in memories of Rey is really all he wants to do right now.

 

---

 

He’s going to apologize the next time he sees her. Whatever she’s doing, whomever she’s talking to, the first words out of his mouth are going to be that he’s sorry. It’s only been two days, but it’s been enough time to convince him that he just can’t go on like this … can’t go on without Rey.

 

She likely won’t forgive him at first. Why would she? He’d hurt her, intentionally. Yes, it had been said in the heat of the moment, and in that moment he had meant it. He had wanted to push her away. He just hadn’t seen how awful a thing it was to say until it was too late. How foolish it was to try to deny this need.

 

He's accepted his feelings for her. He won't try to quash them again. He doesn't have a clue as to how he's going to fix this, what they'll do if he does, but he has to try.

 

And so, the minute he sees her again, even if it’s weeks from now, he’s going to tell her how sorry he is and how very much he didn’t mean it. Consequences be damned.

 

---

 

His heart, and his apology, are caught in his throat when he sees her again not a few hours later. She’s wearing an utterly beguiling gown, the palest of pinks with shimmering beading cascading down the bodice. It flares out just below her waist and she’s … dancing?

 

Enraptured, he watches her move gracefully across his chambers, grateful for the late hour. He won’t be disturbed. Her dress accents her slim waist and he swallows past the sudden rush of heat when he sees how the neckline dips low, her small breasts on display. He gets the sudden urge to come up behind her, twirl her to him and pull her into his arms.

 

Then he sees movement at her waist and his eyes narrow suspiciously. The fabric shifts and he sees a hand print. All at once the details rush in. She's dancing with a partner. She's looking up, so presumably it's a man. A man who has his beautiful Rey in his arms.

 

Her fingers curl around the phantom hand … someone else is touching her bare fingers. Touching her skin.

 

Something old and feral snaps with in him. Kylo snarls like a beast and her panicked eyes fly to his.

 

He's on her in an instant. “Who's touching you!?” he nearly screams.

 

Her lips purse and her head shakes slightly. Then her eyes leave his as she's whirled away from him. He follows her closely, jealous fury snapping its teeth, wanting nothing more than the blood of the other man.

 

She smiles nervously and says to her partner, “I'm fine, Poe.”

 

“Poe?” he spits. “You're dancing with Poe Dameron?!”

 

Her jaw tightens and she again gives a slight shake of her head as her eyes bore into his.

 

“Stop. NOW!” Kylo demands.

 

She manages to glare at him with just her eyes.

 

“No, I'm fine. Just a little tired,” she says weakly to the damned pilot.

 

His chest is heaving and he wants to rip his way across the galaxy, obliterate Poe’s smug, handsome face.

 

Now, Rey,” he snarls. “You will stop dancing with him now.”

 

“Yes, a drink would be great!” she says with forced cheer.

 

Finally the dancing stops and he sees the tell-tale crease fall away from her slender waist. He watches her watching his rival walk away to fetch her a drink and he growls low in his throat.

 

Then she's grabbing him by the elbow and dragging him with her, to somewhere private he can only assume.

 

Once they stop, she turns on him and he sees the most beautiful fury in her eyes. “How dare you,” she whispers lowly.

 

“He was touching you!”

 

“You made it abundantly clear that you don't, what was it? Ah yes, give a damn about me. So forgive me if I've been enjoying Poe's company. At least he likes me!”

 

I like you!” he roars.

 

“Be quiet,” she hisses.

 

“No one can hear me,” he seethes.

 

“Fine. Just leave me alone. This is the first time I've ever danced and I intend to at every opportunity, with every man I can!” she pronounces, her tone defiant.

 

“I forbid it.”

 

“Forbid? Forbid?!” her voice rises and she looks around quickly then she again speaks in a whisper. “You are going to leave me alone. Don't distract me.”

 

Then she flounces off, leaving him standing, watching her take a drink from hands he can't see. Hands about to touch her.

 

His fists clench. He's not about to just allow this travesty to unfold. But he's not sure how to make it stop. He can't bear this. Yet he's not sure what to do. If he follows her, she’ll end up giving away their connection and the consequences of that … he has to control himself.

 

She throws back her head and laughs as she resumes dancing. Her eyes flick to his and the sadness he finds both hurts and gives him hope.

 

How long will the Force make him stay and watch as she's passed from man to man? Fingers he can’t see, moving along her back, her waist? What if one of them pulls her close? What if … what if another man kisses those enticing lips?

 

How is he meant to endure this?

 

She glides by him and he can’t stop himself from following. He's done simply standing by as she's pawed by faceless men, their grasping fingers touching what's his.

 

He comes up behind her and matches his movements to hers. Placing one hand at her waist, the other on her shoulder, he leans forward, dancing behind her, moving in parallel. She stiffens at the contact.

 

Kylo refuses to think of the man he cannot see with his hand on the other side of her waist.

 

“Rey, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry,” he breathes out. If he can make her understand, perhaps she'll put an end to this torment.

 

“I never should have said that. You have to know I didn't mean it. You are so dear to me,” he croons, his lips against the shell of her ear. She breathes in shakily and a tremor moves through her.

 

He continues to dance behind her, kneading his fingers into the sumptuous fabric, soaking in the warmth of her body. He feels her shudder under his hands.

 

Kylo presses closer, his chest now flush with her back. Then he hears her make excuses to whatever insignificant fool she's dancing with and she's turning to him.

 

Her arms fall to her sides and she looks up into his face. Her eyes sparkle with tears and one breaks free. He slowly wipes it away with his thumb. She’s letting him touch her and he’s filled with cautious hope.

 

“I wanted to take it back the minute I said it. What I said … nothing could be further from the truth. I'm tired of fighting with myself. You … you're the most important person in the galaxy to me. I am so sorry. Please forgive me. Please.” He strokes his fingertips along her her cheek and wishes he’d thought to remove his gloves.

 

Rey's lips part, and conflict moves across her features. She doesn't move to return his embrace, but then again, she really can't in a crowded hall.

 

She's trying to say so much with her eyes. Mostly he just sees hurt. Then she takes a deep breath and steps back. She looks around furtively, then returns her gaze to him.

 

But her eyes have grown hard and he suddenly feels very cold. She’s not going to accept his apology.

 

He's not surprised when she icily pronounces, “No,” and moves away from him.

 

Helplessly, he can only observe as she’s pulled into the whirl of the dance. Her gown swirls around her and she smiles and laughs. He knows he should turn away, stop torturing himself, but she’s just so luminous ...

 

His heart in pieces, he watches her dance until she fades. She’d never looked at him again.

 

Returning to his desk, he sits heavily. He takes in a shuddering breath and purposefully blanks his mind as he picks up his datapad.

 

But he can't focus on the words through his tears.

Chapter Text

Kylo finally pulls himself from his desk when it’s well past midnight. His eyes feel slightly swollen and he keeps his head down as he makes his way across the bridge. Thankfully, the night shift is lightly staffed and he manages to avoid any prying eyes. He knows it’s obvious he’s been crying and on top of his bouts of anger, that rumor is the last thing he needs.

He’d spent far too much time dwelling on how remote her voice had sounded when she’d coldly rejected his apology. He wishes he could get angry, but he just … hurts. It’s a new kind of hurt, though. He truly had thought he’d found all the ways his heart could break, but this … this feels like he might never heal.

Then the sense memories had come for him, and he’d been lost to recalling how she’d felt under his hands as he’d danced with her. How for that brief moment, her body had molded to his and it had felt so incredibly right . He’s terrified he’ll never be able to touch her again.

If only taking his saber to something would help bleed out this anguish.

Reaching his quarters, he pulls off his glove, pressing his palm to the pad to gain access.

Kylo grasps the doorframe of his rooms to steady himself when his door slides open to reveal Rey sitting with her head bowed. She’s sniffling quietly.

He stands frozen for a long moment, then remembers himself and quickly walks all the way into his rooms, the door sliding shut behind him. He doesn't really care if he'd seem mad to a passing patrol, however his instinct is to shield her.

“Rey,” he breathes out reverently.

Slowly, her head comes up and she looks … lost. Haunted. Her eyes are rimmed red and she’s twisting her hands in her lap. She’s still wearing her gown, but her hair has started to fall down from its complicated style.

He rushes to her, pulling off his other glove as he moves. He goes to his knees in front of her seated form. “What is it?” he asks plaintively, hoping she’ll talk to him now that she’s so obviously alone.

Rey shrugs and shakes her head. Oh, but she looks so lovely and he's beyond grateful to the Force for bringing her to him.

“I know … I know I’ve lost the right to your confidence, but please, tell me what’s wrong?” he entreats. His hands hover near hers. He wants so badly to fold his fingers around hers, but he sees her pull back slightly. He nods his acceptance and puts his hands at his sides. His fingers curl and uncurl from the need to touch her.

The silence stretches and he watches tears course down her cheeks His need to comfort her is almost as great as the need he'd felt to keep her safe in Snoke’s chambers.

She takes in a deep breath. Please, please talk to me …

She keeps her silence for a long moment, twisting the fabric of her skirts in her fingers. “I … I tried so hard to enjoy myself tonight. Pretend that everything isn’t hopeless. Pretend ... “ she trails off and looks away.

“Pretend what?” he encourages.

More tears fall from her eyes. “Pretend I didn’t … don’t miss you,” she whispers.

“Oh, Rey,” he murmurs. His heart soars to hear that she’s missed him, yet the sorrow surrounding her pulls at something deep inside him.

Her eyes shut tightly. “You meant it, didn’t you? That you’re sorry?”

With a solid, serious tone, he assents, “Yes, I meant it.”

Rey nods slightly. Then she finally meets his eyes. He finds such misery and, gods, it hurts. How could he have done this to her? He just wants to find that warm, soft place they’d created together, where he’d felt peace for the first time since … He can’t actually remember ever feeling as calm as he has when they’re quiet with each other.

“You just … sometimes, the things you say to me …” She again looks away, her eyes showing clearly how she's recalling previous failures.

It confuses him. He can’t remember having said something else so cruel to her. “I don’t understand,” he says softly.

Rey blinks then cocks her head. “You really don’t remember telling me I’m nothing ?” she asks, bitterness suffusing her tone.

It’s his turn to be nonplussed. He’d told her that she wasn’t nothing ... to him . He’d meant … he’d meant she’s … that he … no, he can’t share that with her. He can’t quite bring himself to accept who she truly is to him. How he … cherishes her.

“Rey … I didn’t mean … I didn’t mean it like that.”

Huge, wounded eyes trap him and she says, “But you … you .. my parents … you made me …” Then she lets out a sob and her tears come faster.

He clenches his eyes shut tightly and he desperately needs to hold her almost as much as he needs to explain. He opens his eyes and faces her pain. “I needed you to let go of the past. I thought … I thought if you did …”

“I would … be with you.”

“Yes,” he says, his own voice breaking as he remembers how she’d shunned him. But the familiar anger and sense of betrayal is dormant.

“I’m sorry I didn’t try to talk with you. I was so afraid if I didn’t defend myself you wouldn’t let me go . I came to you, trusted you, and you … you met me with stormtroopers and binders . Then you let … you let him do that to me, hurt me.” She quickly wipes her eyes. “I trusted you,” she repeats. There's no accusation in her tone, just a bleak disappointment that guts him.

He … he hadn’t thought about it like that. He hadn’t really ever considered doing anything other than bringing her to his master. With Snoke alive it would have been unthinkable to do otherwise. He’d been ordered to bring Snoke the girl so that is what he had done.

Yes, he hadn’t anticipated how Snoke would hurt her. He thought he would charm her, like he'd charmed him back in the beginning. Snoke had praised him so frequently, made him feel worthy .

But instead he'd mocked her. Belittled her. Tortured her. And staying still while she’d screamed was the hardest thing he’s ever done, but … what choice did he have? He’d felt responsible for her pain of course, but It’s not as if he could have just taken her to his shuttle and left with her. Could he have?

And suddenly he truly sees how she had trusted him. Less than a month after he’d captured her, invaded her mind … she’d … she’d come to him. Rey had come to him. He’d never even realized how momentous that really was, not until just this instant.

His lip trembles as he croaks out, “I’m sorry.”

They look into each other’s eyes and there’s just so much pain and misunderstanding. Finally, he can’t take it anymore and he begs, “Please, Rey. Please let me hold you, Maker, please let me.”

He sees a flare of warmth in her eyes and he starts to lift his arms. She nods and then she’s flowing into his embrace. Immediately he wraps her close, still kneeling in front of her. But it's not enough contact and they’re shifting, somehow ending up on the floor. She's on her side, completely enveloped by his frame. He has all of his limbs wrapped around her and his eyes are stinging. He’d come so close to losing this and he knows he’ll do whatever he has to to keep it.

Rey continues to cry and he holds her so tightly, protecting her the way he should have that day on the Supremacy .

“I was so afraid,” she cries into his chest.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” It’s all he can think of to say.

“I thought ... I’d trusted you and I was going to die and, and then you saved me and then we saved each other and I thought … I thought … but I couldn’t … I can’t be what you want.”

He swallows thickly. In this moment he truly doesn’t care about The First Order, the Resistance, light, dark … none of it matters because this impossible woman who’s already been through far too much is falling apart in his arms.

“It doesn’t matter,” he says into her hair.

“What?” she asks in confusion, pulling back to look in his eyes.

He shakes his head slightly. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t care that you’re with the Resistance. I don’t care if you ever join me. I just want you . What I meant when I said you were nothing … what I meant is that to me, you’re everything .”

She blinks at him slowly, and a stray tear streaks down her face. He again wipes it from her cheek as he had earlier in the evening. The smallest of smiles tugs at her lips.

She reaches up and strokes his cheek and he shudders from the sensation of her touching him.

Kylo feels the tension flow out of her. “Okay, Ben. Okay.”

Laying her head back against his chest, she lets out a small sigh. He tightens his arms around her and hesitantly drops a kiss on her crown.

He feels her smile against him.

They stay like that, completely intertwined for a long time. His broken pieces don't feel so sharp and his heart is finally beating properly.

He feels drowsy and almost drugged from the pleasure of holding her, stroking his hand along her back, burying his fingers in her soft hair … occasionally kissing her forehead. She's perfect. This thing between them is perfect.

“Ben?” she breaks the silence.

“Mmmm?” Gods she feels so good.

She pulls back and catches his eyes. “I need you to stop getting so jealous.”

The languid energy shifts and he stiffens as he remembers how she'd danced with partner after partner.

His jaw clenches and he says tightly, “They were touching you.”

“It was only dancing. I'd never … I couldn't , not with how I feel about you. Please trust me?” Her endless hazel eyes plead with him and he's torn.

He despises the thought of other men touching her. Any man, but particularly Dameron . But he knows it's not exactly reasonable to demand she not share casual, friendly touches with her friends.

His jaw works as he thinks it through. “And nothing … nothing … happened this evening?” he asks, more than a little worried about the answer. She had been very angry.

“Ben, no. Nothing happened. Nothing will happen. I … I only care about you like that.”

Elation swells in his chest and he finds some of the possessive fury leave him. She's still his. Only his.

He pulls her head to his chest and he strokes her hair. “I will trust you.”

“Thank you,” she says as she shifts just a little closer.

“Oh, Rey,” he breathes out and the glorious, warm connection between them almost hums with contentment.

---

“We depart for the Jentesh system tomorrow at 0600,” Hux says efficiently.

“Good, good,” Kylo responds. “The personnel is in place to get the mines running at full capacity?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And we have buyers?”

“Yes, our allies are eager for the discounted rate we’re providing. We should have a fresh infusion of funds within a month, assuming the bombardment takes no more than a week.”

“We’ll have them in two days,” Kylo says.

Hux’s brow rises. “That seems … optimistic.”

“It’s war. This, this is what I do.”

Hux smiles tightly. “Yes, sir.” He hesitates at the door.

Kylo is eager to review the battle plans but the frustrating general continues to hover.

“What is it, Hux?” Kylo's impatience is obvious.

“Only … I have wondered …”

“Wondered what?” Kylo asks shortly.

“The girl …”

Unease creeps up his spine. “What about her?”

“She managed to kill Supreme Leader Snoke, his guards and leave you unconscious. Don't you find that … curious?”

Kylo stills. And for one moment he thinks he should likely kill Hux. But then he considers having to replace him. Better the devil you know.

“She's quite powerful,” Kylo equivocates.

Hux holds his eyes unblinkingly. “I see.”

Kylo sincerely hopes that he doesn't see at all.

---

Attempting to focus on training is not working. All he can pay any attention to is how it had felt to hold Rey so close. The Force had been kind, not snatching her from him for another hour. They’d just stayed wrapped together until she’d faded and he’s been feeling relatively calm the entire day.

He’d managed to actually make progress on plans for the First Order, only now that he has no work to distract him, he’s consumed with thoughts of Rey . And for once, they aren’t confusing or painful. It just feels … nice to think about her. Warm. Good .

Training can wait. He’ll be leading their forces tomorrow, he can just let himself have this. He's going to allow himself a rare evening off. He clips his saber to his belt and is walking towards the door when his eyes just about fall out of his head.

Rey is standing in front of him completely naked. Oh Force, she’s perfect . Greedily, his eyes take in every curve, her lithe limbs and utterly delectable breasts with rosy nipples that make his mouth water. Then she sees him and squeaks, scrambling for something to cover herself with.

His brain starts up again and he whirls, putting his back to her. He should have done that immediately . What was he thinking? Well … he wasn’t thinking. He closes his eyes, willing himself to calm down. It really wouldn’t do for her to see what his brief glimpse of her nakedness has done to him.

Breathing shakily, he stutters out, “I didn’t mean … I wasn’t trying to … I …”

“It’s alright. I know it wasn’t your fault. You can turn around now.”

Cautiously, he faces her. She’s wearing a robe and her hair is wet. Her skin is pinked from what he assumes must have been her shower. A droplet of water slides down her chest and disappears between what he can see of her breasts. That is not helping. He hopes she didn’t hear him swallow.

He focuses on his breathing and just drinks in the sight of her. Eventually he feels himself under control.

“Hi,” she says, smiling shyly.

“Hello,” he offers, shifting uncomfortably.

He doesn’t like the stilted awkwardness in the air and he purposefully strides to her, remembering how he'd rejected her the last time they'd come back together. He wants to make sure she knows she’s still wanted.

He strips his gloves from his hands and lets them drop to his training room floor. Cupping her face with his hand, he looks deeply into her eyes. “I missed you,” he murmurs.

Rey’s smile grows. “I missed you, too.” Then her expression turns serious. “Thank you … for last night.”

Why is she thanking him ? He should be the one thanking her. She let him back in. He frowns slightly. “For what?”

“No one … no one has ever just … comforted me like that. Growing up, I used to try to imagine my mother holding me when I cried … I just, thank you.”

A fury that has no place here fills him swiftly. That those filthy animals had thrown away such a singular, amazing person … Well, he’s quite certain he would kill every being on Jakku simply to make sure they were gone if they weren’t already dead.

“I will always hold you when you cry, Rey.”

She looks away, but he sees a small, hopeful smile bloom.

“Come … sit. Talk with me,” he invites. She takes his hand and pulls him to wherever her chair is and she sits. He reaches for a chair with the Force and joins her.

They simply look at each other in silence for a moment, but it’s not uncomfortable. Finally, he asks, “Would it be possible for you to talk with me about the Jedi books you mentioned?” He’s quite aware that there are so many topics they simply can’t discuss. They haven’t said as much, but he knows the only way this will work is if they leave the First Order and the Resistance outside of their time together.

She thinks for a moment and finally nods. “Yes, I think so. We both have the Force, after all. And maybe … maybe you might … you might be able to help me?”

Kylo’s eyes widen. “You’d want that? You aren’t afraid I’ll try to seduce you to the dark side?” He's rather surprised at his bold innuendo.

She grins. “No. For all that we disagree on, I do see that … I do see that you’re honorable. In your own, strange way.”

“Strange?” he asks amusedly.

“Well, I just mean … you’re very …honest, I suppose. When you said it didn't matter, I believed you. Was that wrong of me?”

“No. No it wasn’t. You’re right. I won’t try to push you into anything you don’t want.”

“I know,” she says softly.

The energy between them is so open and he finds he wishes this was always his life. Just this, here with her. “Tell me, what has your research uncovered?”

She brightens considerably. “Well, I really only just got started. It’s written in a very old dialect. It took me some time to learn it.”

He sits back, vaguely shocked. She’d learned an entire written language in what has to be a span of weeks. He hadn’t thought she could impress him more. “Rey, are you really telling me that you managed to learn ancient Aurebesh in just over a month?”

“Oh no, it didn’t take me that long, probably three weeks. It just took me a while to understand the patterns.”

Kylo opens and closes his mouth. “How many languages do you know?”

She looks up, thinking. “Uhm, maybe a couple dozen. I’ve never counted.”

She’s so casual about this. He shakes his head. “Rey, do you understand that that’s … remarkable ? I only speak four, and can read another two besides. I presume you taught yourself?”

“Of course, there weren’t exactly schools on Jakku,” she says derisively.

He can’t help himself. He stands quickly and pulls her into his arms, holding her tightly. “You are amazing, I … I don’t know how to tell you how stunning you are.”

She returns his embrace but then she’s pushing him back into his chair and returning to her own. Her cheeks are flaming .

She ducks her head in embarrassment. “ Anyway . Did you know that the Force used to just be the Force? No light side, no dark side?”

He's familiar with this concept, but her excitement makes him want to hear it from her.

“Tell me more, sweetheart,” he entreats.

She grins so beautifully. “Well … it sounds like the schism happened more recently than you’d think …”

He listens intently as she explains how the Force used to be perceived. She speaks with such passion and blinding intelligence. Watching her bright, eager face, he finally accepts a truth he's known for some time. Perhaps from the moment he first saw her.

He loves her. Oh, how he loves her.

His beautiful Rey.

Chapter Text

Kylo watches from the Finalizer as one of the First Order’s remaining Dreadnaughts leads the bombardment on Jentesh VI, the wealthiest planet within the system. Meanwhile, his fleet of Star Destroyers is spread throughout the rest of the system, subduing the ally planets.

 

Each firing of the canons sends vibrations along the deck of the Finalizer, and he takes a certain satisfaction as he feels it in his boots. He’s hand selected the targets to maximize destruction of non-essential facilities and minimize damage to infrastructure.

 

Unfortunately, that means civilian targets. Universities, entertainment districts. Casualties will be high, but his hope is that the devastation will be so complete that Jentesh VI will surrender quickly.

 

“Supreme Leader, the Jenteshi fleet has arrived! Starfighters to port!”

 

“Release the TIEs” he commands calmly, enjoying the barely contained fury coming from General Hux.

 

The mealy mouthed idiot had dared to complain that Supreme Leader Snoke always left the military operations to him. Kylo had snarled, “I am not Snoke and it would be best for you to remember that!”

 

Since then Hux has been turning various shades of near purple as Kylo has given orders. He knows it’s unseemly—how much pleasure he gets from thwarting the ginger irritant—but he can’t deny the sense of smug superiority as he lords his new position over Hux.

 

---

 

He sees Rey right in the middle of the bridge and he realizes how unsettling it is to have her just appear in the midst of other people. During a battle, no less. Thus far he’d always been alone when she arrived.

 

She smiles so sweetly and he’s returning her smile without even thinking. Then he notices Hux looking positively disturbed and he quickly clears his expression. He feels a quick stab of remorse for how he’d behaved towards Rey when she had been observed. He made that so much more difficult for her than he should have. Damn his temper.

 

“Hux,” he barks.

 

“Yes, sir?” Hux responds with a nervous tone.

 

“You have the bridge. Do not deviate from my specifications for Jentesh VI.”

 

Hux open his mouth to speak then snaps it shut. He finally nods sharply. “Yes, Supreme Leader.”

 

Kylo walks swiftly to his chambers, glancing over his shoulder to confirm that Rey is following him.

 

As soon as the doors slide shut, he turns to her, already peeling off his gloves, and says, “There, we’re alone.”  

 

“What was going on, what's on Jentesh VI?” she asks, looking a bit pale.

 

“Rey … do you really want me to answer that?”

 

She looks down. “No. No, I guess I don’t. I just … hearing you, seeing you behave as the Supreme Leader … I suppose I prefer not think about it.”

 

He nods. “I prefer not to think of you with the pilot, so I do understand,” he says with asperity.

 

“Hey,” she gently chides, coming up to him. She takes his hand in hers and just like that, all that there is is the two of them. Everyone and everything outside their connection just falls away, insignificant to their bond.

 

He lets out a long breath and says, “I shouldn’t have said that.”

 

“No, you shouldn’t have,” she says with an affectionate smile.

 

She draws her thumb across his palm and he wants to lift her hand to his lips, kiss her soft skin, but thus far all they’ve ever done is hold each other. Well, and she allowed him to kiss her forehead. He decides to be bold.

 

He draws her delicate hand to his mouth and presses the lightest of kisses along her knuckles, all the while holding her eyes. The moment his lips touch her skin, she gasps. So slowly he brings her hand back down, keeping it firmly in his grasp. His lips are tingling with the contact.

 

Her eyes are a bit unfocused and he wonders what she would do if he kissed her tempting mouth. He’s … afraid to take that step, afraid he’ll do it wrong. He’d rather never kiss her than to do it badly. No … that’s not true, that’s not true at all. He’s desperate to know what it would feel like to capture her lips with his.

 

His dreams have supplied so many ideas, but there’s no true knowledge behind them. Suddenly he wonders if she’s ever kissed anyone and he can’t keep the distaste off of his face at the thought that she has. Then he has the chilling thought that perhaps she's done far more than that.

 

“What is it?” she asks, looking worried.

 

“Nothing, I just wondered something that is none of my business.” He’d said he’d try not to get so jealous and he’s already managed to bring up Dameron.

 

“If it’s about Poe, I’ve told you, nothing has happened with him, and nothing ever will.”

 

“I know … I know.” He rubs his forehead.

 

“What … what is it about Poe especially? I would have thought … I guess I would have thought that Finn would make you angrier.”

 

He sighs. “I’ll tell you, I will. Just … may I hold you for a moment first? It’s been a long day.” He supposes he really shouldn’t have left in the midst of the assault but Hux was right. He had handled military matters while serving Snoke and it will be hours yet. Presently they’re giving the Jenteshi time to consider surrender. He can have this time with Rey.  

 

Rey reaches up and runs her fingers through his hair and he melts into her touch, an embarrassingly throaty groan escaping him. “That feels so good,” he nearly moans.

 

Then she lays her head on his chest and he wraps his arms around her, pulling her in as close as he can. Bliss. Holding Rey is simply bliss.

 

It’s been years since he’s touched someone with affection, been touched with anything other than violent intent. He’d thought he didn’t like to be touched at all. But, oh how wrong he was. Because when Rey touches him … he’s always left hungry, starving for more. He’s quite sure he will never slake his thirst.

 

She pulls back slightly and he has to keep from pinning her in place with his greater strength. He consciously loosens his hold and she peers up at him.

 

“Is it always like this?” she asks with her head cocked slightly to the side.

 

“Like what?”

 

“Between people who … care for each other.” She stumbles a bit over her words and her shy expression fills him with such adoration.

 

He clears his throat. “I don’t know. I have nothing to compare it to.”

 

“Nothing at all?”

 

“No,” he rumbles.

 

“I thought … since you’re older …” Her eyes flit away.

 

“No,” he repeats. He wonders if this should embarrass him, he’s nearly 30 with absolutely no practical experience with women. Han Solo would be horrified.

 

“Oh.” Then she looks down and mumbles, “Me neither.”

 

Profound relief suffuses his whole body. He knows he shouldn’t care, that it truly is none of his business what she’d done or not done prior to meeting him, but … knowing that no one else has touched her like he wants so badly to touch her … it makes the instinctive, snarling beast within him very happy indeed.

 

“It’s just … when we touch, it’s so different than when I hug Finn or Le- or anyone else.”

 

He’s not thrilled with the thought of her hugging the traitor, but he believes her when she says there is only friendship between them. He opts to ignore that she’d been about to name his mother.

 

“How is it different?” he asks curiously. He knows that touching Rey is unlike anything he’s ever experienced. It’s as if there’s something under his skin that recognizes her. Like magnets. Like home.

 

“You don’t … you don’t feel it?” she asks, her expression growing insecure.

 

“Oh, Rey, yes, I feel it. I just wanted to know how it was different for you. I suppose … I suppose I needed to hear that when I touch you, it’s different than when others do.”

 

She frowns slightly. “I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s … it’s like my edges get fuzzy and … and it feels so good, I never want to stop.” She looks around furtively, a shamed blush staining her cheeks.

 

He tips her face up with his fingertips under her chin and looks deeply into her eyes. “Yes. It’s the same for me. Whatever is between us … it’s special.”

 

“It’s not just because we have the Force?”

 

“No, I’ve never experienced this with other Force sensitives. I believe it is unique to our situation.”

 

“You mean the … connection. The bond.”

 

“Yes.”

 

She lays her head back against his chest and she pulls him closer to her as she settles against him. “Whatever it is … I’m … I’m glad it happened.”

 

“So am I.”

 

He begins to stroke his fingers through her hair and she hums into his tunic. He wonders if they can just stay like this until she fades.

 

After several long minutes of enjoying their closeness, Rey mumbles into his chest, “So what is it with you and Poe?”

 

Kylo stiffens immediately. He really doesn’t want to explain about Poe.

 

He doesn’t like revisiting the past, but he finds he’s helpless to deny her. Besides, he did say he would tell her.

 

“We have … history.”

 

“What sort of history?”

 

“I knew him when I was a boy.” He pauses, trying to keep distance from the painful memories, grounding himself to Rey’s solid form in his arms.

 

“He … he was everything my father wanted me to be. Easy, charming. Interested in fixing ships. I wasn’t like that. I was bookish. I liked to fly, but take apart a hyperdrive? No. Poe Dameron essentially became the son my father wished he had. Something similar happened with my mother once I was with Skywalker.” He speaks clinically, shoving down the sharp pain that speaking of his father evokes. He wonders when he started thinking of him as his father again.

 

“Oh,” is all she says. He looks down into her face and finds her nibbling on her bottom lip. Her eyes are troubled.

 

Kylo lets out a slow breath. “Anyway, I suppose I have always been … jealous of him. He could talk to anyone and I was afraid … I was afraid you might … chose him. He’s far more … handsome,” he finishes lamely.

 

Rey pulls away and stares up at him with her mouth hanging open. “You … you’re handsome, Ben.”

 

Kylo scoffs. He knows what he looks like. Big ears, a nose that doesn’t quite fit with his features. Nothing like the attractive, charismatic Poe Dameron. He’s aware that she’d been affected by his bare chest, but he’d assumed it was simply that nudity flustered her.

 

“No, really. I like the way you look. I always have. Which was very confusing on Starkiller Base. You don’t … you don’t need to worry about Poe.”

 

He wants to believe her, but something about remembering that time has well and truly stoked his insecurity. “You must admit that he’s much better looking than I.”

 

Her brows draw together. “No … that’s not true.”

 

Now he just feels like an idiot, pushing her to reassure his vanity, vanity he didn't even know he had. He’s feeling young and foolish. He feels like Ben Solo. “You don’t need to protect my feelings.”

 

“I’m not! I … he doesn’t make me feel like … like … well, like this.” Her face scrunches up in frustration then she does something very unexpected. She swiftly goes on her toes and clumsily presses her lips to his.

 

He completely freezes at the contact, his brain entirely derailed. He’s not sure what to do. She starts to pull away and something takes him over. He grabs her face and kisses her back. He’s not really sure how to move his lips, and his nose is in the way. She tilts her head and suddenly it all begins to make an instinctual kind of sense.

 

The feeling of her soft, pliant lips against his goes straight to his core. He kisses her deeply, hungrily, desperately. This … this is exquisite. His eyes nearly fly open when he feels her tongue flit out and beg entrance. Some part of him chants, yes, yes yes, and he opens for her.

 

Soon, her tongue is in his mouth, his is in hers and, stars, he’s so hard it hurts. Oh gods, this feels good. He just wants to kiss her and kiss her and kiss her. Her fingers wind in his hair and that makes it even better. Her short nails scrape against his scalp and he groans deep in his throat.

 

He needs more. He pulls her flush against him, not caring that she can feel just precisely what she’s done to him. The urge to grind against her is nearly overpowering, but the small part of his brain still thinking keeps him in check.

 

Eventually the need for air becomes urgent and he very reluctantly pulls back from her. They’re both panting harshly and he thinks he might fall into her eyes. Seeing her lips reddened from his kisses and hair askew from his attentions makes him almost tell her how much he loves her. Almost.

 

But he does need her to know that this was … special. There’s something like fear in her eyes and he cups her cheek with his large hand.

 

“What is it?” he whispers.

 

“That was … intense.”

 

“Yes. Very.”

 

She still seems a bit lost.

 

Keeping one arm around her, he strokes his thumb along the silken skin of her cheek. “You know, don’t you, how much you mean to me?”

 

“I’m not sure. I think so? I … I don't know what to do with everything. Does it ever scare you?”

 

He tilts his head in confusion. “Does what scare me?”

 

“What’s between us. When I’m not with you, I miss you. All I can think about is you, and now all I want to do is kiss you again. I never knew I could … feel like this.” She shrugs helplessly.

 

He trails his fingers along her cheek. “I feel the same way, but it doesn’t scare me. Because it’s you.”

 

She smiles and some of her trepidation fades. She nuzzles into his hand.

 

“And there’s something we can do about the last thing you said,” he says playfully.

 

“What’s that?”

 

“All I want to do is kiss you again, too.” And with that, he finds her lips and kisses her softly, taking time to enjoy the sensations instead of the frantic seeking that had so quickly engulfed them before.

 

She feels so soft and warm in his arms, he thinks he could live forever in this moment. He caresses her face with his fingers as he continues to move his lips against hers. Stars, he loves her so much. He may not know how to tell her, but he tries to with his kiss and his hands.

 

They finally draw slightly apart, but only just far enough that their foreheads touch.

 

“Oh, Ben,” Rey sighs out.

 

“I know, sweetheart, I know …”

 

---

 

He’s in a daze as he makes his way back to the bridge. This has to be the strangest juxtaposition of experiences he’s ever had. Stepping back from military conquest to spend time with his … his … he doesn’t really know what to call who she is to him.

 

And, stars, she’d kissed him! Unconsciously, his hand comes up and his fingers lightly glide over his lips, remembering how it had felt to finally kiss her. He’d dreamt of it for weeks and he really had no idea just how wonderful it would actually be. He’s just … he’s just so happy.

 

Kylo can’t remember ever being truly happy before.

 

Chapter Text

Kylo had been right. It had taken only a day and a half of near-constant bombardment for Jentesh VI to fall. He hadn’t even had to lead a ground assault. A point that irks him slightly. He’d been looking forward to the heat of battle. From his sour expression, he suspects Hux had hoped something might happen to Supreme Leader Ren.

 

He may have to do something about Hux. But what? The fanatical general is the face of the First Order and Kylo doesn’t like the idea of not being able to keep an eye on him. Perhaps he should skim his thoughts …

 

Deftly, Kylo twitches his fingers and reaches out with the Force. He finds such deep commitment to the First Order that he’s a bit surprised. He’d always thought Hux was in it for himself, for power. It’s unexpected that his loyalty is fierce. He finds disdainful thoughts about himself, of course. He subtly seeks for signs of betrayal and only finds a stalwart loyalty. It’s not to him, it’s to the First Order, but it’s enough to allay Kylo’s fears.

 

He can’t go any deeper without Hux knowing what he’s done, and he doesn’t think that would help him deal with the man he finally bested. He knows he’ll lose support if he straps his second in command to an interrogation chair.

 

Pity the mind trick won't work on Hux. He learned that long ago. He glowers for a moment at the memory of being chastised by Snoke for his attempt to control Hux through the Force. It’s strange how quickly he’s lost all respect for his former master. He’s not really sure why he allowed-

 

“Sir?” The ginger irritant’s annoying Coruscanti accent cuts through his thoughts.

 

“Yes, Hux?”

 

“The Jenteshi have agreed to all terms. The first transports of troops are ready to go planet-side and begin seizing weapons. The engineers will have us in full production within a month, but existing facilities will meet our initial needs.”

 

“Good, good.” He’s hopeful there won’t be much civilian backlash. He really doesn’t want to deal with insurrection. It’s tedious and bloody and often involves the use of children. He dislikes when children are pulled into war.

 

“Keep me apprised. I’ll be in my chambers.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

---

 

She’s across his lap and his bare hands are threaded through her hair as he kisses her. He’s not sure how long they’ve spent tangled with each other. He’s hard and thick against her thigh but he ignores it, focusing on the glorious feeling of her tender mouth.

 

Maker, he’ll never tire of kissing her. He knows there is so much more, but he truly can’t fathom anything feeling better than holding her in his arms, delving his tongue between her lips. It makes heat curl low in his abdomen and his stomach flip with pleasure.

 

Rey pulls away and he whimpers his disappointment. Then he gasps as she shifts until she’s straddling him. Before he knows it, she’s grinding herself against his hardness and he only just manages to keep from yelping in surprise.

 

She pulls at his hair, encouraging him to tilt his head back. She stares at him intently and for a moment, all he can see is the glinting greens and golds in her exquisite eyes. They’re full of heat and something far deeper. He wonders if she can see his love in his gaze?

 

Oh gods, he can feel how hot she is through their clothes and his eyes roll back in his head, breaking the intense contact between them. He moans out, loudly. Then she’s pulling his tunic down and kissing, nibbling, sucking at the juncture of his neck and shoulder. Oh, oh, Force that feels amazing. The sublime friction against him, her hot mouth, he’s losing the ability to form thoughts and there’s just … Rey.

 

She kisses up his neck until she's at his ear. She whispers, “You feel so good,” making him tremor.

 

Her breath in his ear and her rhythmic movements against him jolt him forward. Oh, stars, if she keeps this up he's going to finish in his trousers. Most of him is quite fine with that, his hips moving with hers, chasing that bliss, but just enough of him knows they're not ready. They’ve created a cautious bubble where they can explore each other, but they’re still rebuilding the trust they’d found before that day in Snoke’s chambers.

 

And so he pulls back, panting. He cups the back of her head and kisses her cheek softly. “We must calm down,” he murmurs against the delicate skin of her face.

 

“Why,” she whines, continuing to rub herself against him.

 

A strangled groan escapes him and he puts his hands on her hips, stilling her. “Because, this is all so new. We’re on opposite ends of a war-”

 

“I don’t want to talk about that. We can’t talk about that.”

 

“I know, I know, sweetheart. I don’t want to talk about it either, but …”

 

She sighs dejectedly. “But it doesn’t change that it’s true. I just … I just want to pretend it’s not and get lost in you.”

 

His cock twitches hopefully. “Hmm, yes, that does sound … well it sounds wonderful, honestly. But …”

 

“But it’s not realistic,” she finishes for him.

 

“No. We can’t let ourselves get taken over by what’s between us. I won’t have you regret anything we share. I don’t want you to wish we hadn’t crossed any … lines.” The thought of that, of Rey looking back on this singular connection with shame or dismay … he won’t have it. He won’t.

 

“I wish we could just get lost in it. I wish we could run away from it all.”

 

He nods his agreement. It’s so tempting to get completely engulfed by Rey.

 

She sits up suddenly and her expression is painfully hopeful. “Why don’t we?”

 

“Why don’t we what?”

 

“Run away together. We’ll just … leave, go to the Outer Rim, make a life together. You can teach me about the Force. I know I can make ends meet anywhere. Oh, Ben, let’s just leave it all behind.” Her eyes shine and oh how he just wants to take her hand and give her everything.

 

He’s not sure he’s ever been more tempted. He can see it so clearly. A life with her, just her. None of the pain and suffering his path has brought him. Just a little house and maybe … maybe a family. Gods, he can see dark mops of hair and glinting hazel eyes. It spirals out in front of him so quickly, and Force, does he want it.

 

But then he remembers his father’s hand on his face and everything he’s done, and he knows he has to stay his course.

 

She still has that earnest expression on her face and he has to force the words out. “I’m sorry, Rey. I can’t.”

 

She pulls back further and then she’s scrambling to her feet. “Why not?” she pleads.

 

“I … I’ve come so far, done so much. I have to see this through.”

 

“By taking over the rest of the galaxy, you mean.”

 

“Yes. I will bring order to the systems.”

 

“Through any means necessary,” she says in a harsh monotone.

 

He closes his eyes briefly, knowing how much she won’t like his answer. “Yes. The chaos, it’s wrong. People die, people suffer. With a strong hand, the galaxy will flourish.”

 

Her eyes blink rapidly. “You … you think this is … good for the systems?”

 

“Of course I do. Why else would I do it?” He’s mildly offended that she didn’t already know that.

 

“Power,” she says bluntly.

 

That hurts. Yes, he’s sought power, control. But only because the Republic was messy, full of corruption and pain. Better to pull the bandage off quickly.

 

“Do you really think that’s why I’ve done this?” he asks, a bit of his frustration showing.

 

“I … I don’t know. I don’t know why you’ve done this, Ben.”

 

“Because I know I can do better.” Grandfather was so close. He’s come that much further and he can’t … he can’t stop now. No matter how he might wish a different future for himself. He can’t be that selfish.

 

“Better than … who?” she asks with a touch of suspicion.

 

“Snoke. The Emperor. The Senate. Leia Organa.” He fails utterly at keeping the scorn from his voice.

 

“But … it’s just … subjugation.”

 

He gains his feet, coming to stand in front of her. “It might start out like that, yes, but in time it will be different. You’ll see. The people will be happy and prosperous once the war is over.”

 

Her perfect face is marred by indecision and doubt. He sighs heavily. “Perhaps we shouldn’t talk about this.”

 

“You brought it up,” she says mulishly.

 

“I did … I just … I don’t want you to ever regret what we choose to share with each other.”

 

She smiles faintly. “I don’t think I could regret anything with you, Ben.”

 

He smiles back. “I just … I just need you to understand that as much as I want … everything with you, I don’t want to hurt you. Not again.”

 

Rey takes his hand and holds it against her cheek. “I’ve decided that what happens when we’re together is just us. You said you didn’t care about any of it, that you just want me. Well, I don’t care about it either. I can’t … I can’t … not be with you,” she says awkwardly.

 

“I know. It’s like …” he trails off, not knowing how to put it in words.

 

“Fate.”

 

His lips quirk into a smile. ‘The Force.”

 

She shrugs. “I think maybe that means the same thing.”

 

---

 

He flips himself over in his bed. His blankets have become twisted and he snarls angrily, throwing them on the floor. He huffs a frustrated breath and flops on his back. He can’t stop thinking about walking away.

 

He’s absolutely certain that his brain has turned on him, because all he can think about is Rey heavy with his child. He remembers her perfect body when he saw her naked, and his mind has oh so helpfully supplied images of her taut belly round and full. He growls and rubs his eyes angrily.

 

Why won’t she just come to him? He knows he’s right. But she’s so stubborn. Staying with the hopeless cause of the Resistance. Can’t she see?

 

What are they going to do? Just have a few hours here and there? Stolen moments when they’re so obviously meant to spend forever with each other? He’s certain this bond is timeless. Whatever is between them, it’s forever.

 

He again considers taking her. She should be here, right now, in his bed. In his arms. She’s meant for him. He knows it. It’s the will of the Force!

 

He lets out a frustrated huff of breath. He knows he’s lying to himself. She’d never forgive him if he forced her to be with him. There are no words, no logic he could use. All he has is the time their connection allows. It must be enough.

 

It has to be enough.

 

---

 

“Where are you?” he asks as he runs his fingers through her hair. She’s curled against his side in his bed. He’d woken to her right next to him and he hadn’t even hesitated, pulling her into his arms, her back to his chest.

 

“Oh, I’m in my room. I’m not scheduled until late today so I was sleeping in. Until you woke up that is,” she looks over her shoulder and smiles at him coquettishly.

 

As far as he can tell, she’s about two hours ahead of him. He supposes he could just look up the schedule on Atalyn, but he prefers not to acknowledge that he knows where she is.

 

He sighs and pulls her closer, burying his face in her hair. He makes a small, contented sound.

 

“You sound like a kitling I had when I was a girl.” He can hear the smile in her voice.

 

“How so?”

 

“Sometimes, especially when I run my hands through your hair, I think you’ll start purring, just like Lyn.”

 

“Lyn?”

 

“My kitling.”

 

She’s so warm, and he refuses to check the time. He’s not going anywhere until she invariably fades. “Tell me more about Lyn,” he murmurs into her neck.

 

“Oh, she was my best friend!” she says brightly. “She was the color of the sand. Sometimes it was hard to find her.”

 

Rey grows quiet and Kylo squeezes her slightly. “Rey, you were telling me about your kitling.”

 

“I know. It’s ...hard. To talk about her.”

 

The quality of her voice has him on alert and he goes up on an elbow so he can see her face. “Rey?”

 

Then he sees tears. “Lo-sweetheart, what is it?”

 

She wipes her eyes and says, “Just … I lost her.”

 

“She ran away?”

 

Rey flinches and foreboding curls in his chest. “No,” she says darkly. “Plutt found her.”

 

“Plutt?”

 

“My boss, I guess. Though I suppose he was really my owner,” she mumbles.

 

“What?” he growls. Then he remembers. Sold for drinking money. Oh, Force …. Rey had been … she’d been a slave. Just like Grandfather. Why hadn’t he realized this before?

 

“I’d never really accepted it … not really. He let me move out to my AT-AT … I guess I never really understood that I was … his.”

 

Kylo makes a deep, feral sound. “No! You are not his.” You’re mine.

 

She turns over until she’s facing him. “I don’t think he could find me. I just meant technically. He probably has papers or something. I just … I just never let myself believe it, that’s all.”

 

His jaw clenches but she was trying to share something with him. He makes himself calm down. “Tell me what happened to Lyn.”

 

“Oh …” Her eyes fill with helpless sadness. “Plutt broke her neck.”

 

“What?” he gasps.

 

“He said he didn’t have enough portions to feed her. I told him I’d give her part of mine, that I already was, but he said … he said I was already too scrawny.” Rey looks away and Kylo vows to himself right then and there that this Plutt will be dead within a day. One day to Jakku, one day back. The fleet is enough to hold Jentesh VI without the Finalizer.

 

“I … I’m so sorry, Rey.”

 

She shrugs. “She probably would have left, anyway.”

 

His heart cracks in his chest to hear the certainty in her voice and he swiftly has her on her back, looking intensely into her eyes.

 

“I will never leave you, Rey. Never,” he swears with his entire soul.

 

The cautious hope he sees in her eyes makes him desperate to heal every broken part of her. Then her face clouds.

 

“It’s not like you have a choice,” she says dryly, her quirked smile at odds with the anguish in her eyes.

 

“You don’t understand. Without this,” he gestures between them, “Whatever this is, I still wouldn’t leave you.”

 

She scoffs. “Well without it how would you see me?”

 

“I don’t care. I would find a way. I will never leave you,” he swears again.

 

Her eyes widen and then she reaches out and strokes his cheek. “I … I think I believe you, Ben.”

 

He nods firmly. “Good.”

 

---

 

Kylo strides onto the bridge. Hux checks the time obviously. “So nice of you to join us.”

 

His head snaps to his second. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you, Hux.”

 

Hux swallows. “Nothing, sir.”

 

“Hmmm.” He holds Hux’s gaze stonily until the other man looks away. “Now that I have your attention, plott a course to Jakku.”

 

“Jakku, sir?” Hux asks in confusion.

 

“Yes, Jakku.”

 

Hux pauses for a moment, then nods slowly. “Jakku it is, sir.”

 

Kylo sneers cruelly as the Finalizer shifts into hyperspace.

Chapter Text

Kylo is surprised to see her again only a few hours later. He’s in his chambers, just having finished his mid-day meal. He smiles at her warmly and she gives a small shake of her head and he realizes she’s not alone. It frustrates him how frequently she’s with people … he tends to be by himself most of the time. But Rey appears to need … friends.

 

“Yes, I understand. But this is something I have to do. I promise I’ll be careful,” she says to the other person. She’s holding herself a bit more formally so he doesn’t think it’s Finn or Dameron.

 

However, he sees her wrapping her arms around this individual, who is clearly much shorter … oh hell, it’s probably his mother. His heart beats a bit faster and he scowls at the pang of … something in his chest. He shouldn’t want to see that woman. His throat is suddenly tight and he stands quickly, going to his viewport to watch the blue of hyperspace.

 

His supposition is confirmed when Rey says, “Thank you, Leia. And also with you.”

 

Kylo doesn’t turn when he senses her coming up behind him. He’s too focused on calming the storm of confused feelings threatening to overtake him. He refuses to be pulled into memories of loving arms and understanding eyes. That time is long past and those thoughts, those needs, should be dead.

 

“Hey,” she says, stroking her hand along his arm.

 

He breathes in sharply and pulls off his gloves, as is his custom when he’s with her. Finally, he turns to her and runs his knuckles along her cheek. The brief contact instantly calms him.

 

“Hello, Rey.” He bends down and kisses her gently, still thrilled to be allowed this easy affection. He pulls back and tucks a bit of hair behind her ear.

 

“I guess you know who that was.”

 

“Yes … but .... I would prefer not to talk about it.”

 

“Okay, okay.”

 

She lays her head on his chest and his arms come up around her. He loves how she always seeks his touch. They spend almost all of their time together now touching in some way. It soothes and heals him and he’s fast become addicted to the rightness that thrums through him when he has her with him. Gods, he wishes she was always with him.

 

He remembers what he had heard her saying. “You are going somewhere that requires you to be careful?”

 

She pulls back slightly so she can see his face. “Uhm, yeah. It’s not dangerous, I’ll just be on my own. I’m … I’m not sure I should tell you more.”

 

He’s growing to despise how much they can’t talk about. He wants to know everything about her. How she spends every moment of the day.

 

She nibbles at her bottom lip then shrugs slightly. “No, actually I think it’s alright. I’m going back to where I was with Luke, to build my lightsaber.”

 

Another wave of conflicted feelings move through him. He prefers not to think about Skywalker. But building her first lightsaber? That’s wonderful. “Oh, Rey, I’m so proud of you.”

 

She smiles shyly. “Well I haven’t done it yet.”

 

“But you will, and it will be glorious. I’m sure of it.”

 

“Thank you, Ben.” Her smiling face grows pensive. “I’ve been wondering something.”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Why do you let me call you ‘Ben’?”

 

The question makes his brain come to a stuttering halt because he truly doesn’t know. He blinks down on her trying to come up with an answer.

 

He opens his mouth to speak, but she’s already gone.

 

---

 

They’re nearly to Jakku. He’d spent the rest of the day in his chambers catching up on reports, avoiding thinking about her question, and trying to discern a pattern to her visits. They’ve been more frequent lately, and of a longer duration. But then this afternoon it had only been a few minutes. It’s exceedingly frustrating.

 

He just wants to be with her. All the time. He can’t even ask her what she’s done with her day and her past is so painful for her. Conversation is a minefield of reminders of the reality of their situation.

 

Kylo realizes he has an opportunity to know her better through this little detour to her wretched home. He finds himself wondering what he might learn of her.

 

Perhaps this Plutt might be useful before he kills him.

 

---

 

Kylo feels the Finalizer drop out of hyperspace and he’s on his feet immediately. He strides out of his chambers and makes his way to the bridge.

 

“Hux!” he barks.

 

“Yes, sir,” Hux acknowledges swiftly.

 

“Ready my ship.”

 

“Sir?”

 

“I’m going to the surface. Alone.”

 

“Supreme Leader, alone? Is this to do with the map to Skywalker?”

 

Kylo pauses as he realizes he’d never considered what reason to give for this trip to Jakku. He supposes Skywalker is as good a reason as any. “Yes,” he responds shortly.

 

“Are you certain? Our troops were quite thorough th-”

 

“Just do it, Hux,” he orders impatiently.

 

“And you’re quite sure you don’t require a battal-”

 

“Hux,” Kylo growls threateningly, his fingers twitching.

 

“Right away, sir,” Hux grumbles.

 

Kylo nods curtly.

 

---

 

His eyes squint in the Jakku sun and he misses her fiercely. Something about knowing this was her home for so many years makes his heart quicken.

 

He’d landed away from Niima, not wishing to draw attention to himself. He’d replaced his cloak with his old cowl and it helps shield him from the punishing sunlight, though does nothing for he heat.

 

Trudging through the sands, he’s relieved to see the settlement come into view and speeds his pace.

 

As he draws nearer, he sees a series of tents and low buildings. Soon he finds himself walking through a marketplace of some kind. Each stall has the look of extreme poverty, the wares all battered and clearly well-used. He sighs heavily. This … this is where his beautiful Rey grew up and it hurts to realize even the merchants struggle. How bad must it have been for an orphan? A slave?

 

He approaches a squat being with fine, beige fur and startling violet eyes who seems to be selling medicines of some sort. While his instinct is to threaten and take, he realizes he isn’t the intimidating Kylo Ren right now. The lack of mask makes him only an unusually tall human male. He decides to simply ask.

 

“I seek Plutt,” he says without preamble.

 

The humanoid looks him up and down. “You aren’t from Jakku,” the seller says bluntly.

 

“No. Plutt?”

 

He gestures vaguely to a large tent across the way from the marketplace. “You’ll find him where he always is, cheatin’ and lyin’.”

 

“Is this Plutt not well regarded?”

 

“Ha!” the man laughs out. “Unkar Plutt is the lowest of the low, but half of Niima would starve without his portions. Mean as a snake. Don’t cross that one.”

 

“I … thank you for your time.” He starts to move towards the indicated tent when he stops. “One more thing, do you know of a girl named Rey?”

 

The man stills. “Don’t mention her. She ran away, Plutt put a bounty out on her after she stole his ship.” Then he looks around quickly. “But between us, she was always too good for Niima. Nothing could touch her. Hard life, the scavenging, but she managed to stay …” he trails off.

 

“Yes?” Kylo nudges.

 

“Whole. She managed to stay whole.”

 

Kylo hopes that’s true. He isn’t so sure.

 

---

 

He watches the crolute throughout the afternoon. He uses the Force to make the crowds ignore his presence. Plutt has changed the exchange rate on parts numerous times and Kylo frowns as he begins to realize that he consistently provides less food to the young female scavengers. He reminds himself that Rey had said she’d had no experience of that sort.

 

Then he stills at a chilling thought. She’d been asking about how things are between people who care about each other. What if … what if this Plutt had … forced his attentions on her?

 

That thought gets him striding to Plutt’s stall. He grabs the fleshy man by the head and slams it down on the counter.

 

“Tell me everything about Rey,” Kylo hisses down on the pinned man.

 

“That sandra-”

 

Kylo hits him with a bout of lighting and Plutt whimpers. “Rey, if you please. And keep a civil tongue in your head. If you want to keep that tongue,” Kylo threatens. Not that it matters. Plutt will be dead very, very soon.

 

“I bought her when she was 5, good little worker. Always found the best scavenge.”

 

“And?”

 

Plutt stares at him, his beady eyes wide with fear.

 

“She worked for you for nearly 15 years. I want to know everything,” Kylo growls.

 

“She’s an ungrateful little-ahem-she stole my ship, uh … sir.”

 

Kylo is never patient in the best of times, and he’s done asking. Holding Plutt’s head to the counter, he reaches out his other gloved hand and with a slight push, he’s in this disgusting filth’s mind.

 

Rey is at the forefront of his thoughts and the flavor of what’s in Plutt’s head makes Kylo’s blood turn hot in his veins.

 

He watches as her heartbreaking childhood unfolds. She’d kept trying to make toys out of useless bits she’d find while learning the scavenge, but Plutt would find them and destroy them right in front of her little crying face.

 

Years of belittling, telling her she’s nothing. How she’d scream that her parents were coming. “Who’d want you, you piece of trash?” Plutt had taunted.

 

Rey grows, carves out something of a life for herself. And then she reaches maturity and Plutt’s designs on her become quite clear. It’s very difficult for Kylo to keep himself from Force choking him right then and there. But he wants to know it all, regardless of what he might find.

 

He sees time and again, Plutt attempting to convince Rey to trade something other than scavenge for portions.

 

“Come on, little one, I’ll give you two whole portions if you let me touch those pretty little tits,” Plutt had slavered over his Rey. Kylo sneers and digs deeper, making sure it hurts.

 

“What you saving yourself for, girl? I know you haven’t had more than half a portion a day for a week. I’ll give you ten portions if you wrap that sharp mouth of yours around my cock.”

 

“I’d rather eat sand,” she had spit.

 

Plutt swipes back the quarter portion he was going to trade for her day’s work. “Then that’s all you’ll have to eat today!”

 

Her lovely face had filled with impotent rage, but her shoulders had dropped in resignation. Kylo understands immediately that this has happened before. She had only nodded.

 

Kylo claws deeper and deeper, and is relieved to find only more failed attempts. Then he stumbles on a memory from just before she’d left Jakku.

 

Plutt had cornered her, grabbed her, put his vile hands all over her. He’d pulled her to him with his fingers digging into her bottom and had ground against her. But in a flash, she’d defended herself with her staff. She had landed a good blow that had Plutt bellowing in pain.

 

“You can’t hold out forever, girlie. One of these days, I’m gonna make you scream.”

 

Rey’s eyes had held true fear as she’d scrambled away.

 

Kylo has seen enough and he pulls out of Plutt’s head, feeling dirty from having touched such a repellent mind.

 

He’s shaking with fury, wanting to make this man suffer. He could take him apart piece by piece … or choke him leisurely, letting him have just enough air to prolong the agony. There are oh so many ways he could make this man beg for death. “You deserve to have the skin ripped from your body and left to die very, very slowly,” Kylo threatens lowly.

 

“No! I’m sorry, whatever I did, I’m sorry!”

 

“You’re sorry? You’re sorry? You kept Rey at a point of near starvation so that she would give into your disgusting plans!”

 

“I took care of her! Raised her as if she was my own I did!”

 

“She was your slave,” Kylo snarls, grinding Plutt’s head into the counter. He yelps in pain and Kylo’s lips curl into a sneer.

 

“She was my best scavenger. Gave her preferential treatment! Even let her go off and live in that AT-AT of hers. Never beat her. I was good to her, and how did she repay me? Stole my ship!”

 

“Ah, yes. About that. The bounty on her head,” Kylo says, bringing his face eye-to-eye with Plutt. The crolute struggles against Kylo’s hold, trying to free himself, but it’s no use. He finally stills.

 

“There ain’t no bounty,” Plutt says in a defeated tone. “I just told people that so they’d think twice about crossing old Uncle Unkar.”

 

Kylo regards the quivering man. He desperately wants to take his time killing him, but he knows Rey would want him to have a clean death. He generally prefers quick kills, anyway.

 

“Then there’s no reason to keep you alive.”

 

“What? No, Maker, no! I’ll give you all my portions! I have almost a thousand in the back! You can take anything. Let me show you!”

 

Kylo lets him go, amused to see what Plutt will offer up in exchange for his life.

 

“Here,” he scrabbles for something under the counter. Kylo rolls his eyes when he produces a blaster. “Now who’s in charge?” Plutt taunts.

 

Kylo sighs and pulls the blaster to him with the Force. “Me, Plutt. It’s always me.”

 

Again using the Force, he has the quivering blob out from behind his counter and suspended before him.

 

Now Plutt truly begins to beg. “I don’t wanna die, please, please, I’ll do anything. Please …” he blubbers.

 

Kylo drops him to the ground and punches him in the face as hard as he can. He feels the satisfying crunch of the bones in Plutt’s nose and is pleased to find blood streaming down the reprehensible man’s face.

 

He cocks his head and regards his prey. This man is responsible for the majority of Rey’s suffering. Her sweet, small face when she was a child floats in his mind, her cheeks wet with tears.

 

Oh, how he wishes he’d known of her. He’d been 15 when they’d sold her. Old enough that he could have whisked her away, found her a proper home. In that moment, he’s enraged at the Force for waiting so long to bind them. All the suffering he could have saved her from …

 

Because now … now he can sense the chasm in her heart and he hopes he can find a way to bridge it. This … this is a start. At least he can be her vengeance

 

“While I would like very much to take my time, make this last. I have rather pressing business to attend to.”

 

With that, he takes up his saber and Plutt’s head rolls on the ground a second later.

 

---

 

He skims the surface of Jakku’s desert, looking for her AT-AT. He’d glimpsed it in her mind on Starkiller Base. There, there it is. He sets his ship down nearby and makes his way to her home. He just wants … he wants to know. He wants to be in her space.

 

Finding the entrance, he has to duck low as he walks into her odd home. He looks around, finding it nearly empty. He presumes it’s been scavenged. He has to hunch to get a good look around.

 

He sees a flash of orange and he kneels down, picking up a doll, a small rebellion pilot. He glares at it, thinking of another rebellion pilot. But then he recalls how she’d kept trying to make herself toys, be like a normal little girl.

 

The pain of it explodes in his chest and he finds it’s difficult to breathe. She’s just been through so damned much and now … she’s alone with the Force and, Maker, how he wishes she just would have stayed.

 

He stands, placing the doll on a makeshift shelf, and then notices the strangest thing. A wall of hundreds, maybe thousands of tiny marks. What in the galaxy? He walks closer and removes his glove. He finds he needs to touch them. As he’s skimming his hand along the scratches it hits him. She’d been counting days.

 

Oh gods, every single mark is a day she was unloved and he feels like he’s been punched in the gut.

 

“Oh, Rey …” he murmurs.

 

He holds his palm flat against the wall and hangs his head, wishing for impossible things.

 

“What’s wrong?” she asks as he whirls to find Rey. He suddenly feels like an interloper. He didn’t exactly ask her if she would mind him visiting her home.

 

“I ... “ He realizes rather quickly that Rey might not precisely approve of his recent actions and he’s not sure how to tell her.

 

“Why are you so dusty, it almost looks like sand …” Then she regards him with an analytical expression. “Where … where are you?”

 

He grimaces slightly. “Jakku. Specifically, your AT-AT.”

 

“What?!” she gasps out. She shakes her head slightly. “I don’t understand. Why are you on Jakku?”.

 

“I … after you told me about Lyn … I just, I had to do something.”

 

“Do?” Her eyes take on a hint of fear. “Ben … what … what did you do?”

 

Best to just get it out. “I killed Plutt.”

 

Her eyes open and close rapidly. “You … you …” She grabs her stomach and starts to pace. Then she looks at him swiftly. Her expression is a swirl of confusion, recrimination, and an odd gleam of savage satisfaction. “He’s dead? He’s really dead?”

 

“I couldn’t let one more minute pass with that vile creature drawing breath, not once I knew how he’d hurt you.”

 

“You … you really killed him for me?”

 

“Of course I did. He hurt you,” he says again.

 

She holds her head. “Plutt’s dead. Oh Maker, Plutt is dead!”

 

He can’t tell if this pleases her or not. “He hurt you,” he says yet again. It’s so obvious to him. Anyone who hurts her will answer to him.

 

But then she’s shaking her head. “You … you can’t just kill anyone who hurts me.”

 

“I beg to differ.” He’ll do anything to protect her. Anything. She should understand that.

 

“Fine, I don’t want you to kill people who have hurt me. I don’t want you to kill anyone at all!”

 

He scoffs at that. “Some people deserve to be killed.”

 

“No! I don’t ... “ Her eyes close tightly. “I see that you … meant well, and I have to admit I mostly just feel relief that he’s gone. It … bothered me to know he still … owned me.”

 

Kylo growls, “You belong to yourself. You always have. Just because money changed hands doesn’t mean that you were his.” Just saying that she was ever another’s even in this context, stokes that jealous beast he’s trying to learn how to handle. He’s not terribly successful.

 

Her expression grows stormy. “You … you should have asked me if I wanted you to do this.”

 

“I … perhaps,” he acknowledges.

 

“No, not perhaps. Absolutely. I won’t grieve for him, and I might have wished him dead many times as a child, but this is my life, Ben. Mine. He was mine to deal with, when and how I wanted to.”

 

He tries to reach for her but she steps back. “I’m sorry, I can’t … I can’t do that right now.”

 

“Rey?” he asks, suddenly worried he’s made a serious error.

 

“You … I don’t know what to do with this side of you. How brutal you can be. I thought … I thought I could keep it all separate, but … I need to think.”

 

Her arms are wrapped around her torso and she’s looking at something he can’t see. He feels the pull to hold her and his fingers clench into fists. He thinks maybe he should say something but he doesn’t know what. He won’t apologize for ridding the galaxy of a man like Unkar Plutt. She’ll see reason once she’s had a moment to think.

 

She huffs out a breath. “It’s really annoying not being able to control this connection.”

 

“Yes, it can be … trying.”

 

“I need to be alone, but I can’t! And … then sometimes I need to see you so badly and I can’t have that either.”

 

“I know.” He thinks that if she’d just come to him this wouldn’t be an issue, but he is absolutely certain now is not the time to broach that subject.

 

She keeps her face averted and he looks at her pleadingly, willing her to soften. The silence is stilted and cold until she fades.

 

He looks around her AT-AT bleakly and wonders how long it will take her to forgive him.

 

Chapter Text

Before

 

He holds himself still, the medical droid doing its work, methodically repairing her mark on his face. He tries to keep his mind blank, not wanting to think about her. But it’s no use. She’s never far from his thoughts.

 

He should despise her, he should be desperate to avenge himself, prove that an untrained sandrat is no match for him. He should delight at the idea of her at the end of his blade.

 

But he feels none of these things and it scares him. From the moment he first heard about the girl he hasn’t made any sense to himself. His instincts have been pushing him towards something he can’t discern. His behavior has been profoundly illogical and feelings he’s never had before keep taking over his reason.

 

He’d had numerous opportunities to kill her on Starkiller Base. She had no real idea what she was doing with that lightsaber until he’d stupidly let her fall into battle meditation. Never mind how she’d managed that. No, instead of pushing her off that cliff like he should have, he’d offered to teach her, wanting her to accept more than he’s wanted almost anything before. Then he’d just stared at her, lost in … no, he doesn’t dare finish that thought.

 

The thought of teaching her thrills him. Helping to mold that incandescent power, see her reach her full potential ... The dark in her had been breathtaking to behold, and her light had called to him so fiercely.

 

Why did he even take her in the forest? It was such a poor decision to grab her like that instead of calling for reinforcements. And the way he wouldn’t let anyone else touch her, snarling at the stormtroopers who tried to take her from him … why had he done that? He’d guarded her sleeping form, growling at anyone who came too close and he didn’t let her out of his sight until he’d left her in the interrogation chair.

 

All of this could have been avoided if he’d just stayed in the room with her instead of fleeing like a boy to Snoke. His lip curls slightly and the medical droid makes a warning sound. He makes his face placid again.

 

He remembers how she’d felt in his arms. Her slight weight had … calmed him. He’d carried her the entire way from his shuttle to the interrogation room then strapped her in himself, again refusing to allow anyone else near her. Then he’d simply crouched at her feet, waiting for her to wake. He could have nudged her with the Force, but something had needed to just … watch her.

 

And the feelings she’d drawn from him while he’d been trying to get the map. Once he actually had bothered to look for it He’d been completely overwhelmed by the need to know this fascinating woman, taking his time to find out more about her. He still hasn’t analyzed everything he’d learned. He avoids thinking about the girl. He tries to avoid thinking about the girl. And fails constantly, which really shouldn’t surprise him.

 

But, oh, the things she’d stirred in him when he’d taken off his mask for her. Why had he done that? He’d told himself it was simply a tactic to unbalance her, but he knows it was nothing of the sort. He’d just … he had wanted to show her that he wasn’t a creature, he was a man.

 

A sinking suspicion has been building in his belly, why he might have behaved as he did. He doesn’t want it to be true, but he has no real way of knowing. He’s never felt anything like this before. All he knows is that he’d had the overpowering need to be near her. He’d wanted to … he’d wanted to take off his glove and touch her skin.

 

He hates touching people. It makes some part of him shrink away. There was a time when he constantly touched others, when he was with his family, the other apprentices, but that time is long dead and now he needs nothing and no one but his master.

 

Why would he want so badly to touch her, feel her soft skin? What has she done to him?

 

Even now, after she’d sliced his face open and left him to die in the snow … he wants … he wants …

 

Suddenly the Force shifts around him. He waves the medical droid away and focuses. Her, he’s sensing her. Then, no, that’s not possible. But his eyes are telling him that she’s right in front of him.

 

As soon as she realizes it’s him she’s going for her blaster and is shooting at him. Why is she always shooting at him? The blaster bolt has no effect and she’s running away.

 

Oh, no, he must understand this. He’s on his feet in an instant, running after her. This is his chance to make up for all of his recent failures, this is his chance at Skywalker. Just the thought of that man makes rage lick at his heels and the dark call.

 

As soon as he’s caught up to her he reaches out with the Force, compelling her to give him Skywalker. Then he realizes how stupid that was. The mind trick would never work on her. What was he thinking? Again, around her he just doesn’t think. He grimaces, feeling like an idiot.

 

He can’t see anything but her, though he knows she’s not really here. His throat tightens as the unwanted thought winds through his mind. Beautiful.

 

Once she’s gone he finally accepts what he’s denied since he first saw her, so tempting in her fury. He just hopes he can keep it hidden from his master.

 

He knows what it is that he’s feeling.

 

He knows what he’s feeling for Rey.

 

Now

 

He looks down on Jentesh VI from his viewport in his chambers. It’s been three days since he’s seen her. He’s gone over his actions repeatedly and he really can’t find fault with his choices. He does see that perhaps she should have been allowed to decide how she wanted to deal with Plutt. But how was he supposed to have done nothing after she’d told him of her tormentor?

 

That’s just not his way. He’s never had anyone that was his before, and he understands himself enough to know that he will defend and protect her at all costs. Her safety is more important to him than anything else. And if he finds that someone has hurt her, in the past, the present, the future, he will make them pay. This is simply a truth she’ll need to learn to live with.

 

He wishes he could claim her properly. If the galaxy knew she was the Supreme Leader’s … consort … they would never dare lay a hand on her. He knows she can protect herself well enough on her own, but that doesn’t change the instinctual need deep in his bones.

 

A troubling thought forms. What if the Resistance is successful in rebuilding? There’s no way she would avoid the line of fire. His very own troops would be the ones firing. It makes his heart twist in his chest and he’s suddenly terrified that his mother will be successful.

 

He grabs his comm, “Hux!” he barks.

 

“Sir?”

 

“Come to my chambers.”

 

“Right away, sir.”

 

A moment later, General Hux is before him, standing stiffly.

 

“Tell me the latest on the Resistance,” Kylo orders.

 

“There has been little change. Our spies tell us these gatherings continue, but there are no signs of any shift in alliances. No movements of personnel or unusual activity. It appears that the princess is failing,” Hux says snidely.

 

The panic in his chest quiets somewhat. “Good, good.”

 

“We could, of course, move on Atalyn to ensure the final end to the Resistance and the failed Republic.”

 

He just manages to suppress a flinch. He won’t allow anyone near Atalyn so long as she’s there. “We need to concentrate on Jentesh VI, as well as identifying our next target.”

 

Hux’s nostrils flare and his eyes gleam with frustration, but he only says, “Yes, sir.”

 

---

 

Finally she’s in front of him. Five days the Force made him wait. Five days!

 

“Rey!” he calls out in relief  from his reading chair in his quarters as he rushes to her. He already had his gloves off and every molecule of his body is singing out to have her in his arms again.

 

Her arms start to come up from her sides, as if to welcome him, but then they drop and her forlorn expression stops him in his tracks.

 

Ah. She’s still angry. Perhaps once they talk she will understand why he had to kill Plutt.

 

“Rey, I know that I upset you by going to Jakku-”

 

“This isn’t about that,” she says softly.

 

“It’s … it’s not?” he asks, perplexed at the … grief he sees in her eyes. For a horrible moment he wonders if something has happened to his mother. He’s frustrated with himself for even having the thought.

 

She shudders in a breath. “This is about the Jentesh system.”

 

He blinks once and shakes his head slightly. “What … what about it?” The Resistance isn’t threatened … he doesn’t understand.

 

“You really have no idea, do you?” Her eyes are very red and swollen. It’s clear she’s been crying for a long time.

 

He can’t help himself, he lifts his hand and cups her face, desperate to know what has her so terribly upset. Some deep part of him sighs in completion just at the feel of her soft skin. She leans into his touch for a moment then pulls back quickly. She closes her eyes and the pain written on her face has him deeply concerned. What’s happened to her?

 

“Please, you’re scaring me, what’s wrong?” If someone has hurt her ...

 

Now she’s trembling. Whoever has made her feel like this will be dealt with swiftly.

 

“I really thought I could do it. Maker, I’ve never wanted anything more in my life …” Her arms wrap around herself and she’s holding on so tightly. “But that was naive of me.”

 

The mention of what’s between them makes him very wary. “What do you mean?” he asks carefully.

 

“I thought … I thought I could do this, keep it separate. I … I need you so much but I can’t … I can’t pretend any longer.”

 

Dread coils deep in his belly. “Pretend what?”

 

“That I can have you and live with myself.”

 

His breath is coming quickly, genuine panic beginning to take hold. “What are you saying?”

 

“After what you did to  the Jenteshi …  It made me see. I’ve only been deluding myself. I can’t do this with you. I know we can’t control this connection, but after this … when you appear, I’m going to ignore you until you leave. I won’t talk to you. I won’t … touch you.”

 

“What?” he gasps out. His mind can’t really even form the thought, the idea of her never touching him again is  too wrenching to even contemplate.

 

“I … I’m also going to start researching a way to … sever it. There must be something in-”

 

“NO!” he bellows. He grasps her shoulders and she tries to pull away. He doesn’t let her go for a moment than relents. “I will not lose you.”

 

“You already have. You murdered thousands of innocent people just for … what they possessed.”

 

“It’s war! War requires resources!” He didn’t want those people to die, it was just the only way.

 

“Not like that, not like that.” She shakes her head sadly and her eyes are wet.

 

“I won’t allow it. I won’t let you just ignore me. Not after everything. How it feels when I touch you. Please, Rey, please don’t do this.” He doesn’t care that he’s pleading, pride doesn’t matter in the face of this.

 

A sob escapes her. “I don’t know what else to do! When we’re together, I feel so right, I feel whole. When you kiss me … but then when I’m away from you and I see what you’re doing, I can’t do it and be able to look at myself in the mirror.”

 

In that moment he finally sees the shame in her bearing. She’s … she’s ashamed to care for him. It feels so familiar, always unwanted, always inconvenient. “Am I so reprehensible?”

 

Her lip quivers and tears spill down her face. “Yes,” she whispers.

 

His heart cracks in his chest and for a brief moment it’s as if he’s in absolute stillness. She … she means it. She’s going to reject him. Again. He’s going to have to have her right in front of him, and not be able to touch her. Oh gods, the pain …

 

He should just accept it, not keep begging. She always makes him beg. But he finds himself grabbing her hands. This time she lets him touch her. “Rey, listen to me. What’s between us, it’s … it’s destiny, we can’t turn our back on the Force. Please, please, sweetheart, don’t do this.”

 

“It hurts, it hurts so much.”

 

“It doesn’t have to. We’ll just go back to not talking about it.” His voice is strained and desperate. Anything, he’ll do anything not to lose this. Not to lose Rey.

 

“It hurts more to lose my self-respect. I never had anything, but I have always had myself. No matter how much I … I can’t and won’t give that up.”

 

“Maker, Rey … but … I love you,” he says pleadingly.

 

She breathes in sharply. “I know you do. I know.”

 

She didn’t say it back. Something dark and thick turns inside him. He lets her hands go and steps back. “But you don’t love me,” he says in resignation. Of course she doesn’t love him. How could she love a monster?

 

“That’s the worst part.” She looks at him with such anguish. “I do.”

 

Then she’s fading away and he’s left with his heart ripped to shreds and in more pain than he’s ever known. She loves him and she’s rejected him anyway.

 

And she’d never once called him ‘Ben’.

 

Chapter Text

Kylo stares at the space where she’d been, unable to move. If he moves then somehow it becomes real. If he holds himself perfectly still then perhaps time won’t continue on, this won’t have happened.

 

But it has. He knows it has. Then his knees are buckling and he’s on the floor, gasping. He loves her so much and she loves him back. Yet she’s cut open his chest and he feels like he’s bleeding out. His heart starts to race and suddenly he can’t catch his breath. It hurts, Force, it hurts too much. He can’t, he can’t, he can’t.

 

His vision is tunneling and he can’t breathe. Oh, gods, he feels like he’s dying. Maybe that would be a mercy, he wouldn’t have to feel these scraping, tearing, soul-destroying things.

 

She’ll never touch him again. How can he possibly survive without her hands in his hair, her soft body in his arms … her lips on his? Now that he knows what she feels like against him, gods he cannot imagine the agony of never having that again. Soon he won’t have to imagine it, it will be his reality. Soon she’ll be back and cold to him. He’ll have her right in front of him and he won’t be able to know that warm, calm closeness, how the torment quiets when he touches her soft skin.

 

Maybe she’ll relent? He could plead with her. He knows she feels it too, the bliss when they’re wrapped around each other. She can’t truly walk away from that, can she? Then he thinks of how hard her life was on Jakku, how resilient she is, and he’s certain that unless she changes her mind, this wall is insurmountable.

 

Oh, gods, it’s going to drive him mad, demented with need. He’s been on the edge for so long, his mind not his own, torn in so many directions. He’s always managed to find a way to keep himself marginally together, but this … he cannot fathom how he’s meant to do this and not fall apart utterly. He’s already hollowed out and consumed with the brutal pain of it all, and it’s only just begun.

 

He can’t stop seeing her beautiful eyes swimming with torment and finality. He knows she meant it, and she’s going to do exactly as she’d said. Ignore him, refuse to let him touch her. All because of politics.

 

For a moment he wonders if he could do it. Turn his back on Grandfather, go to her … But he’s sacrificed too much to get to this place. He killed his own father to be standing here. As much as he loves her, he cannot make that act be in vain. She’s the one who’s decided this. She’s the one who won’t bend.

 

How will he keep himself from reaching for her? Begging her for just a scrap? He’s certain he will never heal from this. How could he? She’ll continually rip out his heart, over and over again … this wound will never scar, just ooze and bleed.

 

But … it’s something. He’ll be able to see her. Force, it will tear him to pieces every single time, but it’s better than not being able to look on her. At least he’ll have that. He tries to hold onto this little ember of hope, to stoke it into a fire to warm his cold soul … then he remembers. She’d said she was going to research how to sever their connection. She’d be lost to him forever. No chance that she might turn to him again.

 

Just when he thought he couldn’t possibly hurt any more, the knowledge that she wants to cut herself off from him snuffs out that one bright spot and he’s truly left unmoored, nothing to cling to.

 

Rey wants to destroy the most beautiful thing that’s ever happened to him.

 

He throws his head back and screams.

 

---

       

“Ben,” she murmurs against his bare chest. She’s in his arms and she’s perfect. She fits just so against him, as if their bodies were made for each other. He cradles her against him and holds her so close.

 

He pulls her up his body and finds her lips, kissing her reverently. Oh, he will gladly worship at her feet every day for the rest of his life. He pulls back slightly and looks into her eyes, eyes that are full of love. For a long moment he simply holds her gaze, lost in the bright hazel and the knowledge that Rey loves him. He strokes his hand along her cheek and then into her hair.

 

“I love you, beautiful Rey,” he croons before kissing her again.

 

---

 

He wakes slowly, smiling from the warm safety of his dream. He hopes he’ll find her next to him in bed. Then he remembers and for a moment he thinks his heart has stopped in his chest. Never again. He’ll never have her nestled against him again.

 

His throat is so tight and he swallows, trying to push away the pain. But then tears are leaking from his eyes and he swipes at them furiously.

 

No, he won’t cry. He won’t. He won’t let her do this to him. But his limbs are tingling with the memory of her held tightly to him and it’s no use. The tears come faster and soon he’s trembling. He can still feel her in his arms, and oh gods, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts. Make it stop, anything to make it stop.

 

“Rey, please, Rey,” he begs into the night.

 

He draws his knees to his chest, holding himself tightly as he rocks back and forth and sobs.

 

He remembers how he’d felt the first moment their fingertips touched. How he’d seen so clearly their future together and now it’s just ashes and loss. Why would the Force do this to him? GIve him what he’s always needed only to leave him understanding just what he cannot have again?

 

It’s just so bitterly cruel and his tears are coming so fast he can barely see. How could she do this? Tell him she loves him and leave him like this? Share what’s between them and turn away from it?

 

He’s crying so hard that he’s choking on his tears and then he sees her.

 

No, please, no, not now! Don’t let her see him like this!

 

He tries so hard to stem his tears, but he just can’t stop crying. He’s on his side facing her. She’s sitting and then he realizes that she, too, is crying. She sobs brokenly and he wants so badly to just have her in his arms, one last time.

 

A few feet away from each other they hold each other’s eyes as they grieve, together, but so far apart.

 

---

 

Insistent beeping pulls him from a thankfully dreamless sleep. It takes him a moment to realize it’s his door alert. Dragging himself from his bed, he wraps a robe around himself and goes to the door.

 

He finds an extremely disapproving General Hux on the other side.

 

“What?” Kylo snarls.

 

“Supreme Leader, it’s past mid-day. You turned off your comm.” Hux looks him up and down and sneers, “Are you ... ill?”

 

Kylo knows what he must look like. He can feel how swollen his eyes are. He can’t be seen like this. And, Force knows, he doesn’t think he can function today. Tomorrow, he’ll face it all tomorrow.

 

“Yes,” he spits. “I’ll turn my comm back on. Send anything pertinent to my datapad.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Hux says with a slight smirk, but makes no move to leave.

 

Kylo huffs, “Was there anything else?”

 

“Nothing that can’t wait until you’re … feeling better.”

 

“Well then, dismissed!” Kylo barks as he shuts his door in Hux’s face. That makes him feel slightly less dismal.

 

He wanders back into his quarters and resentfully activates his comm.

 

He waits for the shrieking pain to take him over, but he just feels numb. He stumbles back to his bed and waits for the oblivion of sleep to take him.

 

---

 

Kylo sits in his chair in his quarters, staring at nothing. He has no sense of time and no idea how long he’s been sitting here. He’d had another shameful bout of tears and his head hurts from dehydration, which he does nothing about.

 

It was the civilian deaths on Jentesh VI that she’d reacted to. He wonders if it would be possible to adjust First Order policy to minimize casualties. If he did that for her, would she let him back in?

 

But if he did that … the rest of the leadership would want to understand and he would have no answer for them. He’s already aware that his refusal to end the Resistance must have caused a few … conversations.

 

He wishes he could be angry with her. But he’s just hurt and confused and terrified she’ll destroy the bond between them. The rest of it … he can cope with that … he hopes he can cope with that. But if he is never able to lay his eyes on her again, assure himself that she’s safe, he knows it would push him past his limits. And he’s already stretched so far.

 

A huge part of him wants to try to reason with her, make her see why he’s done the things he’s done. But that would mean sharing top level intelligence with her. What would the Resistance do with the knowledge that the First Order’s finances are hanging by a thread? Without that key piece of information, he can see that the bombardment of Jentesh VI likely did seem unreasonably harsh. They simply hadn’t the time.

 

So he’s back to what he most needs from her, what he needs to survive and stay sane. He needs this connection to her, he needs it like food and air.

 

His head turns swiftly when he hears her sharp inhalation of breath. Her eyes are huge and he sees so much swirling in their depths. They’re anything but cold. Then she’s whirling and putting her back to him.

 

His body doesn’t seem to understand the new reality and he’s on his feet, going to her before he even realizes it.

 

But she’s shaking and holding herself, hunched over protectively as if waiting for an attack. She feels she needs to protect herself from him? He can’t have that.

 

She’s back in her rough, gray clothing and he realizes she must be wherever she’d been with Skywalker. She said she’d be alone and he wonders if she’s spent the time since they last saw each other as he has. Why is she doing this if it hurts her as much as it does him? But he won’t ask that because he has a much more vital goal.

 

He approaches her carefully. “Rey, you don’t need to respond. Please just listen.” He runs his hand through his very messy hair, gathering himself. He knows what he wants from her and he’s hoping she’ll give him this one last thing.

 

“I promise I will respect your wishes and ignore your presence to the best of my ability … if you will concede one point.” He pauses in case she chooses to respond. She doesn’t.

 

“Please don’t try to sever the connection. I … know you don’t … don’t want me anymore …” Her shoulders fall further and he hears her shudder. “But I can’t bear the thought of never seeing you again, even just like this. The Force did this for a reason. Please, please don’t break it.”

 

Slowly, so slowly, she turns her head and looks at him. She’s in no better shape than he is, it would seem. Her eyes are filled with such longing that he has to grasp his hands behind his back to hold himself in check. She nods once.

 

He exhales in relief. “Thank you,” he says softly. They hold each other’s gaze for a long moment and he tries to communicate with his eyes how very in love with her he is, and it almost feels like she’s doing the same thing. She’s not looking at him like she thinks he’s reprehensible. She’s looking at him like she wants to throw herself into his arms.

 

But he has promised, and so he returns to his chair, preparing to wait until she fades. Someday he might be able to pick up a datapad, or train, but today he simply sits and focuses on breathing in and out steadily, his eyes closed.

 

It’s all he can manage.

 

---

 

The day had been a blur. He’d signed off on so many items without taking in any of it. The only way he’d been able to make it was to stay in a place of nothingness. He almost feels like he’s been sleepwalking. He finds himself hoping he doesn’t see her for a few days. He’s not sure if he’ll be able to fulfill his promise with the way he’s been feeling.

 

He takes some comfort in the fact that she’d agreed not to sever their bond, but right now he just wants to go back in time and have her with him again.

 

---

 

Kylo moves through his saber forms and his blood is up. The anguish has given way to anger. How dare she! How dare she deny what’s between them. He’s done wallowing. He’s nearly convinced himself that he’s just going to go to Atalyn when she returns from wherever she is and take her. He’s the Supreme Leader and by the Force, she’s his. He imagines Poe Dameron in front of him and he bellows as he takes his phantom head.

 

She won’t be able to push him away if they’re near each other. The pull they feel will make her relent. His body is thrumming with the need for physical release, but he’ll be damned if he gives into his desire for her right now.

 

He needs a sparring partner. He wants to feel the satisfaction of his saber hitting something real. Snarling, he goes to his discarded tunic and belt and pulls out his comm. “Have TL-8176 report to my training room. Tell him to bring his vibroblade,” he commands whomever is on duty.

 

As he waits on the stormtrooper, he hacks and swings but it’s doing nothing to calm him. He’s lost in fantasies of having her with him, always with him.

 

Finally, TL-8176 arrives. “Sir,” he greets amiably.

 

They’ve sparred numerous times and Kylo almost likes the trooper, as much as one can like a stormtrooper. He can’t go as hard as he’d like, but it will have to do. The armor helps level the playing field somewhat.

 

“First blood,” Kylo barks as he spins his saber.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

No time is wasted and they’re crashing together and Kylo bares his teeth. Finally, he’s feeling the evening effects of battle. He really should lead a mission soon, he’s been too long behind a desk.

 

He bellows as he charges at TL, punching him viciously in the chest. The trooper stumbles back but keeps his feet. Now TL swings hard and the impact against Kylo’s saber clangs up his arms. Yes! Good! This is what he needs.

 

Suddenly, she’s striding through his training room until she stops suddenly, startled. Her eyes grow very wide and she looks him up and down. Rey's lips part and she blinks rapidly, a flush rising in her cheeks. He doesn’t bother to hide his smirk. He knows what his naked chest does to her. Look all you want, sweetheart. You’re the one who doesn’t want to touch.

 

But the distraction gives TL the upper hand and he grazes Kylo’s thigh when Kylo doesn’t manage to block him in time. Kylo hisses but welcomes the pain. He holds her eyes intensely as he digs his fingers into the wound. She grimaces and looks away and he grins.

 

Then he remembers his promise and he focuses on his sparring partner. Ignore her. He said he would ignore her.

 

“Again!” he barks to TL.

 

“Yes, sir” he responds.

 

Kylo doesn’t look at her again, but he feels her eyes follow him until she’s gone.

 

Chapter Text

Looking out on the composed and efficient officers, Kylo regards the bridge of the Finalizer. He’s always found the well-oiled machine of the bridge to be almost soothing. Everyone with a job, all fulfilling their purpose. So much more controlled than the chaos in his head.

 

He notices Hux stiffen while reviewing a datapad just handed to him by a junior officer. He glides up next to him.

 

“Problems?” he enquires smoothly.

 

Hux jumps slightly. “Supreme Leader! I didn’t see you there.”

 

“Hmm. Is everything in order?” Kylo asks with just a touch of contempt.

 

“Yes, sir. It’s simply that we’ve lost our chance at the Resistance on Atalyn. They’re on the move, heading further towards the Core. Pity we didn’t take the chance when we had it ...”

 

His chest tightens. No! What if their spies can’t tell them where the Resistance goes next? How is he going to find her? He must have her with him. He knows that now. He’ll play her little game, ignore her when the Force brings her to him, but this bond between them is destiny. It cannot be denied. She’ll come to understand that in time. She’ll forgive him. Eventually.

 

Wait. How does Hux know where they’re headed…?

 

“Do we have a spy embedded within the remaining Resistance members?” he asks with eyes narrowed. He really should have been made aware of this.

 

Hux smiles so smugly that Kylo is instantly suspicious.

 

“One could say that,” the ginger irritant says vaguely.

 

Kylo growls, “You know how little patience I have for stalling. What precisely is going on?”

 

“We should have this conversation somewhere private, Ren,” Hux says in a way that harkens back to earlier points in their relationship. When they’d almost been allies. Almost. Snoke had put paid to that.

 

Kylo had noticed Hux’s slip in protocol but decides not to remark upon it. He strides towards his chambers, not bothering to ensure Hux is following.

 

Once safely behind closed doors, Hux comes very close to grinning and it’s frankly disturbing. “Did you ever think to wonder how we tracked the Resistance through hyperspace?” the exasperating man asks.

 

Kylo purses his lips. No, he really hadn’t. He’d had quite a bit on his mind at the time. Snoke had just … he still can’t really bring himself to think about the depth of his humiliation and shame that day when Snoke had mocked his mask, his entire identity, really.

 

“I leave such details to you,” Kylo says flatly.

 

“Yes, well, this little detail is quite … satisfying.” The pleasure Hux is taking in this is starting to alarm Kylo. Anything that has Hux this … happy is something he should be wary of.

 

“Just spit it out, Hux.”

 

Hux’s eye twitches slightly. “Fine. It should not surprise you to hear that all stormtroopers are fitted with a subdermal tracker. FN-2187 was no exception. And so, in a stroke of beautiful irony, the traitor himself will lead us to them. Every single time. They only believed we’d developed new technology. A belief we should encourage.”

 

Oh … oh this is perfect. Much as he dislikes it, he knows that she’ll always be near FN-2187. He’ll always know where she is, no matter what. Always.

 

Kylo keeps the savage sense of possession off his face and nods. “Yes, I do see the advantage.”

 

“I thought you might,” Hux says with a wicked gleam in his eyes. “There is another benefit.”

 

“And that is?”

 

“Surely you see that we must avenge our dearly departed Supreme Leader Snoke?”

 

Kylo manages to keep from tensing. “Yes, of course,” he lies.

 

“We know that FN-2187 and the girl are close, when you do decide the time is right, it will be easy enough to retrieve her.”

 

And this is why Hux has only pushed for action against the Resistance instead of making it a major point of contention. Hux has known this whole time that they have them cornered. But what has him truly concerned is the bloodlust in Hux’s eyes when he talks about Rey.

 

Kylo keeps his face blank as he says, “Excellent. Inform me of their new location once they’ve arrived.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Hux says with near glee.

 

---

 

Kylo lays in his bed, lost to fantasy. At any time he can bring her to him once she’s returned with her lightsaber. It’s a captivating thought. He remembers what he’d seen when their hands had touched for the first time. That rush of overwhelming connection.

 

He’d seen them together, side-by-side, looking out on a huge crowd. There had been others with them, but he hadn’t focused on that, only looking at Rey. She’d been so beautiful, dressed much as she was that day she’d come to him, when they protected each other, ready to fight.

 

But her eyes had been so soft, and she’d reached up and cupped his face. And he’d known, like he’s never known anything, that this was true. Someday, he will see that day made real. They will look out on a unified people. There will be peace and prosperity. The fighting will finally be over.

 

He remembers how the vision had changed, how he’d watched two sickly looking humans haggle with Plutt on a price for their daughter. He’s beginning to think that perhaps he should send a dreadnaught to Jakku, wipe it all away. But … no, she had not reacted well to his handling of that vile crolute. He’ll leave that junk yard alone. For now.

 

Her father had said, “Don’t cry, we’ll be back.” He closes his eyes tightly for a moment at the remembered cruelty. He’s not sure if her hope for her family is what protected her then or if it’s what keeps her so stuck now. If she’d only let go of the past and see the future he’s offering her …

 

She’d be with him, right now. He’d have her in his arms and perhaps … perhaps she’d allow him to slowly undress her, feel her skin against his. He tries to control his fantasies, but just touching her face, lacing his fingers with hers, it stirs him like nothing has, and he can’t imagine what it would be like to have all of that glorious skin pressed close against his own. Yet oh how he tries.

 

He hardens quickly at the thought. At first he ignores it, as is his custom. But then … then he thinks, why not? There’s no shame in thinking of her. Nothing about her could ever be shameful. She’s his beautiful Rey. And someday, someday soon he’s certain they will take that step together. Find out the extent of their connection. Merge their bodies as the Force has merged their very selves.

 

And so he throws off his blankets and pushes down his sleeping pants. He doesn’t grasp himself harshly as he usually does. This isn’t about long-denied physical need. This is about her. This is about needing to bask in how much he wants her. How much he loves her.

 

Slowly, he strokes himself, allowing the pleasure to build, remembering all of those luscious dreams. How her hand had felt on him, how soft yet firm her touch had been. Yes, it had been a dream, but somehow he’s certain that’s exactly how it will feel when she finally touches him like this.

 

He imagines her gorgeous, pert breasts, recalling the glimpse he’d had of her perfect body. All that silken skin, her lithe limbs and then … an apex of short curls, hiding her heat from him. His fantasies get a bit fuzzy here. He’s seen holos, but that’s not enough to supply what she might feel like. All he knows is he’s desperate to touch her there.

 

Maker, she was so exquisite … he thrusts up into his fist at the memory of how she’d felt in his lap as she’d ground herself down on his length, her slight weight in his arms. Just the memory is enough to quicken the tightness in his abdomen, the sparks of pleasure up his spine.

 

Force, this feels good, taking his time like this. He’s never let himself really enjoy it before, just getting to the end so he can be done with it. This is so different, taken over by his imaginings. It’s almost as if she’s here.

 

He grunts into the empty room as he gets closer, sensing, chasing, needing the ache to resolve into bright ecstasy. Oh yes, yes, Rey, oh Rey, he’s almost there. Soon, soon they will be together. The thought of her sharing this with him, bringing her with him, pushes him over the edge.

 

“Rey, gods Rey,” he moans out as his release splatters onto his chest. In that moment he hears a sharp gasp and he’s horrified to find Rey’s eyes wide with shock, looking down on him.

 

Swiftly, he pulls the covers over himself and just looks at her. He knows he should be mortified, but instead he’s … he’s excited. Now she knows, knows just what she does to him, how much he wants her, and, Maker he needs to kiss her quivering lips so badly.

 

She’s so still, her eyes flitting everywhere. Then they’re staring at a spot on his chest and he looks down, seeing a streak of his pleasure clinging to his chest. Deliberately, he wipes it away with his fingers then cleans them on his sheets. The droids will change his linens in the morning.

 

Finally, her eyes lock with his and oh, oh yes. He sees such desire in her dilated pupils, her quickened breath. Her arms are wrapped around her torso and she’s rubbing her thighs together. Yes, yes, she wants him, too. He’s tempted to throw back his blanket and hold his hand out to her, but that goes against what he’d said he would do.

 

And so he nods at her knowingly, then turns over in his bed. Putting his back to her. Just like she’d asked.

 

He smiles to himself as he listens to her harsh breathing.

 

Nothing is stronger than what’s between them. She can delude herself all she likes, but he knows.

 

He knows.

 

---

 

The next time he sees her, she’s again at her books. She glances up for a moment and their eyes meet. She swallows as her fingers clench over the pages and she lets out a shuddering breath. Then she looks back down on her work and he returns to his datapad.

 

It should hurt … but instead … it almost feels companionable. He can sense her nearness and it just feels … good, It’s not as intense as when they touch, but there’s something so deeply soothing about just being with her.

 

He doesn’t say anything and neither does she. He’s allowed himself the luxury of an evening of reading history instead of the mountain of reports he should be ingesting. Instead he is pulled into the history of a Jedi and a Sith who fell in love. He smiles as he reads, knowing that he and Rey will find their way.

 

Just before she disappears she clears her throat and he looks up to find her face open. She holds his eyes as she fades.


---


He has a horrible headache. He’s so sick of all the paperwork. He’s certain Snoke didn’t do any of this and that Hux is simply enjoying himself at his expense, but he’s also not quite sure how to make it stop. He’s not as strong as Snoke, nor is he as … mysterious. He doesn’t dare leave the everyday operations to Hux The minute he does that, he’ll find himself murdered in his sleep, Force sensitivity can only do so much.

 

He again finds his thoughts drifting to her. Rey. Beloved Rey. He smiles slightly. He likes that. She’s his beloved. He’s wanted to know what to call her and nothing had felt right. All the labels were either too childish or beyond where they are. But, beloved? That is wholly accurate. Rey is his beloved.

 

It’s been a few days since he’s seen her. Apparently the Resistance is now on Quol. Hux hasn’t pressed and Kylo is simply waiting for a sign that she’s returned to them. The last time he’d seen her, she’d seemed alone, so he believes she’s still studying and preparing for creating her lightsaber.

 

As soon as he knows she’s back, however, he’s going to bring her to him. He’ll go on his own, remove her quickly. He still hasn’t decided how he’s going to explain why she’s not to be harmed, but he’s certain he’ll come up with something.

 

He’s looking out across his chambers when he sees her and he gasps. He’s not sure he’s ever seen anything more breathtaking. Rey is making her lightsaber. She hasn’t noticed him and he’s certain she won’t. It’s a deep and profound meditation and the chances she will become aware of him are remote indeed.

 

He thanks whatever decides when to connect them and just … watches, enraptured.

 

Stars, she’s exquisite. The components dance in front of her, and deft fingers pluck and twist. Then her hands still for long moments as she gathers the Force for the next step.

 

It’s nothing short of stunning to watch how easily she manipulates the Force. She’s almost glowing. Her delicate face is calm and she has a slight smile. He’s not sure he’s ever seen her look more beautiful than she does communing with that place of balance he’d only ever found when building his first saber. Though … it’s not so dissimilar to how it feels to touch her.

 

He can almost see the Force moving through her and he is utterly certain that her saber is going to be exceptional and likely something he’s never seen before. Just like her. She’s such an instinctual creature, finding the right answer instead of the known one. She cuts through the chaos and holds the light in her hands.

 

He can feel her use of her power from where he’s sitting. He doesn’t dare get any closer. Besides, he’d promised. But, oh her light does feel sublime as it laps at him. He wonders if his dark has the same effect on her …

 

The lightsaber is taking shape and he only just manages to keep from calling out when he sees a crossguard. She’d … she’d decided to make a saber like his? His chest aches with longing and precious hope.

 

She’s nearly done and he’s beginning to panic. She wouldn’t want him here and he’s done a very poor job of ignoring her as  had said he would. He finds himself hoping the connection fades soon, even as he doesn’t want her to go.

 

As the last few parts whirl about her, she opens her eyes, looking straight at him. He suddenly feels that he’s witnessed something he shouldn’t, that he’s crossed some line.

 

But then she smiles and nods as she disappears.

 

Oh. Oh! She’d known he was there the whole time. And she’d been glad.

 

He closes his eyes and lets himself remember the delicious feeling of her light.

 

It’s going to be alright, everything is going to be alright.

 

Chapter Text

He’s stopped paying any attention to the requests he approves. The last one he’d taken in even slightly was a request for shifting the stormtrooper duty schedule by a single hour. Hux is clearly trying to overwhelm him with tedium and he refuses to play.

 

His back stiff, he stands and stretches. His arms are just falling back to his sides when he sees Rey. And oh … oh she’s moving through forms with her new lightsaber.

 

Time slows and he’s helpless to do anything other than watch. She’s … the grace in her movements, how she is so in tune with the Force, it’s stunning, stirring, and humbling.

 

He was right. Her saber is the most beautiful weapon he’s ever seen. To call it a weapon feels crude. It’s a piece of art. The blade is long and slim, so white it seems almost silver. It’s smooth and hums quietly, sounding almost like a resolved chord. Nothing like the spitting fire of his own blade.

 

The crossgaurds are slightly thicker than his own and there’s … something about the hilt. Then she’s spinning and pulling the crossguard from the main blade and twin blades extend, creating a saber staff. Oh … Oh, she’s made two! She clips the main blade to her belt and twirls the staff nimbly.

 

He should turn away, but he’s powerless to tear his eyes from her. He’s reminded of an opera he’d seen as a boy, so beautiful it hurt. But he’d promised, he must stop this open, naked staring.

 

“It’s alright,” she says, startling him. She ceases her dance and places the now quiet staff back at the hilt of the saber at her hip.

 

He tilts his head in confusion. The last thing he’d expected was for her to speak with him.

 

She sighs, “Really, Ben, it’s alright. I … I’m glad you’re here. I … I wanted you to see them.”

 

Suddenly he realizes he can see them. Then he remembers how he’d seen the books, too. Their connection is changing. Deepening.

 

“They’re gorgeous, Rey, I’ve never seen anything like them … how …” His tone is open with awe.

 

She smiles her perfect smile and shrugs. “I had two crystals, so I thought why not. I got the basics from my books and the rest just … came to me.”

 

“Two crystals …?”

 

“From … from Luke’s old saber.” She looks at him with a flicker of regret. “It cracked in two, but somehow they’re both stable. I didn’t think it would work, I was struggling, then you were with me and everything … sang.” Her eyes shine with joy and her light is beguiling in its strength.

 

Pushing away the memory of his shock when she’d tried to pull his grandfather’s saber to her, stabbing his offer through, he focuses on her open, welcoming bearing. She’s’ talking to him and that’s all that matters. “I was afraid you’d be angry that I was there, that you wouldn’t want to share that with me.”

 

Her eyes close briefly and her face grows tense. “I’m never angry to see you … Really, I can’t imagine not having shared building my lightsabers with you. You were with me when I found the Force, when I first truly felt it flow through me … it was … right that you were there.” She looks away for a moment then returns her gaze to him. ”I just … I don’t know how to be with you when you’ll order the deaths of thousands. I can’t … I can’t just ignore that.”

 

They’ve drawn quite close and she’s leaning towards him. It would be so easy to reach for her hands, but he controls himself. “I can’t tell you why, but I promise it was necessary. I don’t welcome death. I never agreed with the destruction of the Hosnian System and I don’t take lives lightly.”

 

She lets out a shuddering sigh and whispers, “I don’t know how to do this. I know I shouldn’t be with you but … I …” She swallows audibly and shakes her head. “I’m being torn apart,” she says so quietly he can barely hear her.

 

Rey looks so small and he just can’t take it. He pulls off his glove and, very slowly, extends his hand. Her eyes fly to his and she blinks quickly. Fear and longing flow across her delicate features and he keeps his hand held out to her, shoving away the memory of how she’d reacted the last time he’d offered his hand to her.

 

Her arm raises slowly and he sees her fingers tremble. It takes an eternity, but oh, oh there it is. Their fingertips touch, gliding, and soon their fingers are laced together.

 

Breathing quickly from the contact, he’s consumed by the much missed pleasure of her touch. Yes … here it is, everything he needs, right here in her fingers laced with his. He draws his thumb across her palm and she gasps sharply. They never look away from each other’s eyes as they stand, their hands and souls meshed.

 

They say nothing, simply basking in the glory of their connection until it fades.

 

---

 

“Damn,” Hux mutters at his datapad. Kylo is standing next to him, looking out on the stars.

 

Intrigued, Kylo turns his head to look at his second-in-command. “Yes?”

 

Hux looks at him appraisingly. “Only that our spy network on Quol is not as well established as on Atalyn. We have less precise intelligence as to what the Resistance is up to.”

 

Kylo frowns, surprised at the ambivalence he feels. This should frustrate him, but instead he finds a part of him sigh in relief.

 

“Of course,” Hux continues. “We do have their location. Perhaps it’s time to take advantage of that fact?”

 

Kylo senses the danger, that somehow this is a test. He has to find a way to stall. He had intended to travel to Quol himself to bring her to him. He hadn’t really considered the rest of her … compatriots. And now that she’s talking to him again, he’s not at all sure he should take her like he’d planned.

 

However, he can’t put this off any longer. He needs time. “I want scenarios drawn up. Have the analysts review a stealth operation’s effectiveness.”

 

Hux’s lips purse. “I’m sure if we just wiped out their location-”

 

“We can’t keep simply using force. Isn’t it you who told me that?”

 

The ginger irritant swallows tightly. “As you say, sir. I’ll request the analysis.”

 

“Thank you, Hux,” Kylo says with false gratitude.

 

---

 

It’s late and he’s in his rooms. He should prepare for bed, but he keeps hoping she’ll arrive. It’s been two days and now that she’s talked to him, let him touch her again, he’s desperate to see her.

 

He’s afraid she’ll pull away, but he’s also tremendously hopeful. She’s letting him back in. They’ll find a way, he’s sure of it. They truly have no choice. They must be together. It was killing them both to be apart.

 

Finally! She’s here! Oh. Oh Force. She’s wearing very little clothing, clearly either about to go to bed or just waking up. He doesn’t know the schedule on Quol. But her hair is tousled, it must be the morning there.

 

She squeaks when she notices him and draws her arm across her chest, but not before he catches a glimpse of her nipples straining against the scant nightgown she’s wearing.

 

He doesn’t say anything, allowing her to decide how much of their last interaction will change things between them. It’s so tempting to pull her into his arms, kiss along the long column of her throat, pull the thin fabric from her body and finally taste her delectable breasts. But he stands firm, waiting.

 

The smallest of smiles plays on her lips, then she’s putting on a robe. He’s quite disappointed to see her form disappear behind the shapeless garment. But perhaps it’s for the best. He doesn’t know if he could focus with so much of her skin on display.

 

Skittishly, she comes up to him. Then she’s reaching for his hand and he eagerly twines their fingers. He doesn’t try to suppress the sigh of contentment that is pulled from his deepest places. Oh, Rey. Beloved Rey.

 

“Hi,” she says shyly, and he’s reminded of their first interactions after that awful day on the Supremacy.

 

“Hello, Rey,” he rumbles.

 

“I … I’ve been thinking …”

 

Cold fear skitters up his spine. It does not usually go very well for him when Rey has been thinking.

 

“Yes?” he asks with trepidation.

 

“I … I’d like to talk to you, really talk to you about what happened with … Snoke. We … we never really did.”

 

A nerve jumps just under his eye. He doesn’t like to think about that day, how wrong he’d been, the way too much had changed. How she’d rejected him … He stays silent.

 

“I mean, I know we see it very differently, but … I’d like … I’d like to understand why you wouldn’t come with me.”

 

His temper flares and he finds himself snarling, “Or why you wouldn’t join me!”

 

She drops his hand and he panics. Why can he never keep himself under control? But he won’t beg. Not today. He’s sure it’s only a matter of time before she has him begging anyway. She always does.

 

Her face is blank and he has no idea what she’s feeling. Her lips make a thin line then she takes in a deep breath and takes his hand again. “Please, Ben … can we try to just … talk?”

 

He’s not sure why this makes him so nervous, only that he’s not used to talking about what’s inside of him. But if … if he were to share his tumultuous thoughts with anyone, it would be Rey.

 

“Alright,” he finally concedes.

 

“Let’s sit?” she suggests cautiously.

 

He nods slightly and goes to his chair. He sees her pulling a chair, a chair he can actually see, in front of him and soon she’s sitting quite close.

 

Rey takes in a deep breath and her eyes are sad when she says, “After we survived Snoke’s guards … you were looking at me so intensely. I thought you might just sweep me up in your arms, honestly. But then … you stopped and looked at Snoke’s body … or his throne. I’ve never known. What … what were you thinking?”

 

Oh he knows precisely what he’d been thinking when he’d throw off the last of the guards. He’d been thinking that he wanted to kiss her so hard she forgot her own name, but then … then he’d realized it was over. It was finally over. All that pain and degradation. Snoke could never hurt him again.

 

And in that moment he’d wanted all of it to be over. If he became Supreme Leader, with Rey at his side, he would finally be his own man. None with power over him. He’d be free. Finally, free. Force, he’d wanted it so badly. Still wants it. But he’s found it means nothing without her with him.

 

How to put all these feelings and thoughts into words?

 

“I was thinking I was free,” he finally says.

 

“Yet your first thought was domination, as you’d found your freedom,” she says, not unkindly.

 

He clenches his eyes shut. Of course that’s what she’d think. “No. Leading. Ruling. That’s not the same thing as domination.”

 

“Of course it is! Look at what Snoke did to the galaxy, to just want to be him-”

 

On his feet in an instant, he shouts, “Not Snoke, never Snoke! Do you understand what he did to me?"

 

She pulls back into her chair and looks at him worriedly. Quietly she says, "I ... I ... no ..."

 

"He tortured me, Rey. Time and again he would make me scream. Just because he could. And I took it, Maker, I took it because I thought it was to make me better. I thought it was because he cared," he sneers, disgusted with himself. Gods, he feels like he’s going to be sick. He just kept coming back, groveling for more. What sort of twisted thing is he? Allowing himself to be treated like that? Welcoming it?

 

She blinks, staying silent.

 

Kylo goes to his knees in front of her. “Can you imagine? Can you? I gave him everything, everything and the one thing I wanted, the one thing he knew I wanted, he was going to make me kill you. You … who are everything to me,” he pleads, taking her face in his hand.

 

Rey nods and takes his other hand in hers. “I want to; I want to understand.”

 

"He had me so confused, so broken that I believed I had to kill my own father,” he whispers, his eyes stinging. He drops his hand from her face, unable to meet her eyes, the horror of his own actions too much to bear. He doesn’t want to see the way she looks at him when she’s reminded of his sins.

 

He keeps his head bowed and can’t blame her when she pulls her hand from his. But then, he feels her questing fingers at his cheeks and she’s pulling at his face, forcing him to look up. Finally, he allows her to lift his gaze to hers and what he finds takes the breath from his lungs.

 

There’s so much love and … and understanding in her eyes. Her fingers hold his face firmly and it’s so like how it had felt when his father had touched his cheek on that horrible nightmare bridge. For the first time, he allows himself to wonder if it truly was forgiveness he’d seen in his eyes?

 

“Is that why you did it, kill him? Did Snoke make you believe you had to?” she asks oh so gently.

 

He finds himself nodding.

 

“Oh, Ben.”

 

His name on her lips…. he suddenly knows why he allows her to use it. It’s because, somehow, when she does, it’s like he could maybe be everything she sees. It’s been such a long time since anyone thought he could be … better.

 

He’s going to pieces and the only reason he hasn’t disintegrated utterly is her strong hands holding him together. He’s trembling so hard that he can’t form proper thoughts. Memories come for him so fast and hard. The red glow of that moment on Starkiller Base, trying to find the rage he needs to commit this unnatural act.

 

Now on his knees in front of Snoke, understanding that he will never, ever be good enough. Time has ceased to function. His blade goes through his father, the moment he understands it meant nothing, nothing, spiraling, spinning, taking him down and breaking him open.

 

Rey, precious Rey screaming in anguish, wondering if his screams sound the same. Now he’s killing his master and his mind is his own. There’s no purchase to be found, heinous act after heinous act tearing through him.

 

But the she’s pulling him into her arms and oh, oh … Somehow she’s finding all of his broken parts and putting him back together. Eventually he stops shaking as she soothes him with her gliding hands and crooning voice.

 

“I’ve got you, I’ve got you.”

 

Oh, and she does. How she does.

 

“I love you,” she murmurs against him.

 

He tightens his arms around her, feels her answering embrace and he chokes out, “I love you, Rey.”

 

Chapter Text

Tired of his spinning thoughts, Kylo decides to go to bed early. He hasn’t seen her since last night, and after such an intense experience, he’s missing her in a way he can’t quite define. He always misses her when he’s not with her, but after he’d come undone so completely, the way she’d held him … he … he needs her.

 

It’s growing harder not to have her with him. He wonders … would she accept a small communications device? For when the Force keeps them apart for days on end … just so he can hear her voice? It would be a significant step, but he’s finding it more and more difficult to handle the distance.

 

Shaking his head, he removes his boots and begins to undress. She’d … she’d been so tender with him yesterday, the way she’d cradled him against her … he wishes the Force had allowed them more time. She’d held him, stroking his hair, whispering in his ear how much she loves him. He’s never felt so … cherished.

 

He’d give anything to just have her in his arms again, right now. But he also accepted, in that moment when she’d clasped him against her chest, that he can’t take her. Rey must make her choices. If he took her against her will … he sighs heavily, surprised he’d ever even considered it.

 

Once he’s ready for bed, he crawls under the covers, hoping for dreams of Rey …

 

---

 

He rolls over, still half asleep and very ... excited after a wonderful dream. But then … wait, her soft body is right next to him. Is he still dreaming?

 

Then she's pulling his arms around her and pressing her face against his neck and she’s so warm. The contentment winds through his system as he feels her weight held close. Nothing, nothing, has ever felt like the glorious completion he feels when she’s safe in the shelter of his embrace. Now that he knows what it is to feel whole, he thinks it would be easier to be without a limb than without her.

 

Mmmm, her lips are moving against his skin, and her flicking tongue combined with her solid presence settles him into a haze of comfort and lazy desire.

 

Eyes flying open, he understands that she's truly here. It must be morning for her and still early in the night for him. He groans when he realizes she's only wearing her thin nightgown and he strokes his hand along her back, the delicate fabric allowing him to feel the warmth of her skin.

 

Still muzzy from sleep, his hands glide down her body, skimming her curves. Maker, she feels incredible. They’re on their sides, her face still buried in his hair. She continues to kiss and nibble at the spot just below his ear and the combination of what they’d been doing in his mind and what’s happening now is making coherent thought nearly impossible.

 

Tangling their legs together, she strokes her fingers along his bare back, continuing to kiss and suck at his neck. Her fingers leave sparks of bright ecstasy along his skin and oh, gods, oh, gods, he’s started to moan. Loudly.

 

Already partially hard from his dream, the feel of so much of their bodies pressed close has his cock like iron in an instant. Instinct takes over, and he grinds against her belly, his higher thinking completely derailed. So good, so good. He wants to pull off her nightgown and feel all of her against him. Would it feel as delicious as it had in his dream, their bare bodies moving together?

 

Wait. He’s starting to come fully awake. They’ve only just come back together again and he doesn’t know what she really wants. She’s writhing against him and it would be so easy to fall into that bliss, but he must stop this, talk to her.

 

He pulls back and looks into her eyes, stilling. “I’m sorry, I was dreaming of you, then you were actually here, and I-”

 

Her fingers press against his lips and her endless hazel eyes are half lidded with desire. She shifts them, pulling him so he's atop her, fully nestled in the cradle of her hips.

 

Oh my gods he can't think. How could he possibly think with this humming rightness throbbing through his entire body? He looks down on her, searching her eyes. Is this truly what she wants? How far can he take this? How far does he want to?

 

She sighs out, “Ben,” then rolls her hips against his length and a strangled groan escapes him.

 

The way his name sounds on her lips does something to him and he's catching her mouth with his, kissing her deeply.

 

Oh, how he's missed her. They'd not talked about what's next, but she's not stopping him. To hell with it, talking is overrated. She's enthusiastically bucking her hips beneath him and he’s only too happy to answer her call.

 

“Ben, Maker, Ben,” she pants out as she pushes herself against his erection.

 

‘Ungh, gods, Rey. Force, you feel amazing.” There’s nothing but the feeling of her body undulating against his.

 

He looks into her eyes for a moment, needing to assure himself that she wants this, to be close like this. She smiles so sweetly, then her expression changes to pure hunger and she kisses him fiercely, thrusting her tongue between his lips.

 

Kylo nearly comes right on the spot when he realizes the only thing between him and her welcoming heat is two thin layers of fabric and he’s lost. They build an ancient rhythm and he can’t think through the indescribable pleasure she’s pulling from him. What would this feel like, he wonders, to be truly buried within her?

 

He wants to focus on everything, take it all in, but it’s happening so quickly. Her hands on his bare back, the way she’s kneading her fingers into his flesh. How her legs are wrapped around his waist, pulling him to her with each thrust.

 

Panting and moaning, he’s sure he’s never seen anything so enticing as the gorgeous flush that has bloomed along the tops of her breasts; he wonders how far down it goes.

 

“Ben, I need you,” she pleads, her voice so full of want, but he's not sure what she's asking.

 

She throws back her head and exposes her throat to him. Continuing to grind against her, he bends forward and sucks at the juncture of her neck and shoulders.

 

Her skin tastes so right, so silky smooth under his lips. He sucks and nibbles and he's overwhelmed by the depth of emotion swirling around them. He loves her. He wants her. Oh, stars he wants her.  

 

She growls impatiently and he falters. Has he done something wrong? But then she grabs his hand and nearly shoves it towards her breast.

 

His mind goes blank at the feeling of the pliant flesh that only just fills his palm. Oh. Oh!

 

He looks into her eyes, seeking permission and she nods frantically.

 

Unsure of what to do, he squeezes her breast. That just makes him want more. There's a flash of shyness in her eyes before she slowly draws her gown down. She … she wants …?

 

“Please,” she begs in a husky voice that makes his cock jump. “Touch me.”

 

Her eyes are almost black with her wide pupils and slowly he takes her rosy nipple between his fingers and strokes it, fascinated with how it tightens. She gasps and nods and he stills his hips, entirely enthralled by her gorgeous breast.

 

Stroking his fingers along the crinkled flesh, he smiles when she whimpers and bucks against him. Her taught peek beckons to him and he needs to feel it between his lips. He descends slowly so that she may stop him, but when he glances up, she’s nodding encouragingly.

 

Oh, oh this is perfection. The feel of her hardened flesh between his lips speaks to some part of him he’s only just discovering. He sucks, hard, and she cries out. For a moment he’s worried he’s hurt her, but then she’s begging, “Yes, more, please, more.”

 

Spurred on, he pushes down her nightgown further and strokes her other nipple with his fingers as he suckles at her breast. Her nipple grows in his mouth and it fulfills something deep and primal within him.

 

She keeps rubbing herself against him, almost sobbing and it’s all so intense. He’s doing this to her. Giving her this pleasure. His Rey. His beloved Rey.

 

Then she holds his eyes intensely and reaches between them. He starts when she grasps his hardness through his sleeping pants.

 

Wait. This is … they have to talk. If he doesn’t stop this they’ll … and if she pulls away from him again, after sharing that, he knows it will kill him.

 

“Rey,” he murmurs as he pulls away gently, taking her hand from his achingly hard cock. A frighteningly large part of him wants to push down his clothing, wrap her fingers around him, give himself to her, but not like this. Not when his blood is so heated and his body not quite under his control. This must be a true choice.

 

He takes in her face and finds her expression frustrated and almost angry. “Sweetheart, we must talk.”

 

“I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to think.”

 

“But you’ll wish we had later.”

 

“I won’t,” she says stubbornly.

 

He holds her gaze and watches as reason comes back into her eyes. She sighs with frustration. “You’re right.”

 

Regretfully, he watches as her beautiful breasts disappear as she pulls her nightgown back up. His whole body screams with denied need, but he forces it away, knowing that he’s right.

 

The unfulfilled ache in his core hurts, but he ignores it and smoothes her hair back from her face as they both shudder harshly, calming down. He leans his forehead against hers and shifts his still insistent hardness away from her. Now he’s on his side and pulling back, trying to put distance between them.

 

But she won’t have it, chasing his heat. He rolls on his back and she rolls with him until her cheek is pressed against his chest and her fingers clutch at him slightly.

 

Gathering her close, he kisses the top of her head and breathes in and out slowly. He has a lifetime of controlling his body and its reactions, but that was to pain. He finds he has few defenses to the pleasure she builds within him.

 

They stay like that, holding each other until their breathing has calmed. Eventually he softens and the ache fades. Reaching down, he lifts her face so that he may see her eyes. She seems almost sheepish.

 

“Rey?”

 

Her eyes fill with shyness. “I … I’m sorry.”

 

“For what,” he asks, genuinely confused.

 

“I got … I got so carried away … I didn’t mean to push you. If you don’t want …” He can hear the unvoiced ‘me’ and it knifes through him.

 

“No!” he says emphatically, startling her. He clenches his eyes shut for a moment. “I mean I do. I want you, this, all of it. You. It was just that if we’d … and then you’d pulled away again … “ His eyes flit away and he pushes away the memory of her rejection. It’s not so simple and he must remember that.

 

“Oh,” she says softly. “I thought … I thought maybe I was doing it wrong.”

 

“What?” he gasps out.

 

She shrugs slightly and he’s angry with himself for making her feel rejected. “Rey … please don’t doubt that I want you, everything about you. It’s only that we haven’t really talked about … what … what you want. You know what I want.” You, by my side. Always.

 

Her voice is impossibly young when she says, “I don’t know.”

 

“What don’t you know?”

 

“I … I’ve never felt like this, ached like this, needed like this and it … it overwhelms me. Sometimes I want to forget all my principles and just come to you. Other times I tell myself what’s between us is all that matters.”

 

“Maybe it is,” he offers.

 

“I wish it was that simple.”

 

“It is, beloved.”

 

Her eyes widen. “You mean it, don’t you?”

 

It takes him a moment to understand what she’s asking. Then he recognizes that look in her eyes, when she seeks her family. “Yes, Rey. I love you.”

 

She smiles a little smile that seems to be for herself. “I don’t know what to do next, but, right now … can that be enough? That I love you, and you love me?”

 

“It’s always been enough for me.” It’s fast becoming all that truly matters to him.

 

She nods and settles her head back against his chest. He holds her close, savoring how she feels in his arms. Occasionally she strokes her fingers along his skin, but doesn’t say anything else before she’s gone.

 

He never feels so cold as when he has to let her go.

 

---

 

More reports. They’re endless. He has to figure out how to get Hux to only send him the essentials. Perhaps he should have Mitaka review them?

 

He cocks his head. There’s … something, a shift. He stands from his desk and moves towards the bridge.

 

---

 

He finds more activity than he’s used to and he’s instantly suspicious. What’s going on? He looks over to Hux, who is looking exceptionally satisfied and that makes his stomach drop. What is he up to?

 

“Hux,” he growls.

 

Hux’s head snaps up and he pales, which is quite a feat for the pasty general. But he quickly wipes all expression from his face.

 

“Supreme Leader,” Hux says evenly.

 

“What’s going on?” Kylo asks, trying to keep the ratcheting alarm under control. Something is wrong.

 

“Ah, well, yesterday you signed off on an attack on Quol, the Tarkin-

 

“What?!” Kylo bellows. No, no, NO!

 

Innocently, Hux says, “I have it here, that is your signature, isn’t it?”

 

With the Force, Kylo flings the datapad clear across the bridge and officers dive to avoid the shards of glass as it shatters.

 

“Call off the attack,” he orders, utterly failing to keep the panic from his voice.

 

“Sir?” Hux asks with mock confusion.

 

“Hail the Tarkin! Call off the attack.”

 

“Well, the battalions are already en route, sir …” Hux says smugly.

 

Hux’s boots barely touch to floor as Kylo pulls him to him with the Force. Once he has his fingers around Hux’s throat he squeezes so hard that the general is fast turning purple. “Hail. The. Tarkin,” Kylo hisses before throwing the vicious rat to the floor.

 

Hux lands in a heap and gasps in quickly. When he turns to look at Kylo there is pure hatred in his pale eyes. Fine. Hate me all you want, you duplicitous little vermin.

 

Refusing to wait any longer, Kylo barks at the communications officer. “Hail the Tarkin, NOW!”

 

“Yes, sir!” she quickly responds.

 

Watching tensely, Kylo pleads desperately to the Force to bring her to him. He must warn her! He can’t lose her. Not like this. Not ever.

 

Then the communications officer is shaking her head and looking up at Kylo in terror. “I’m sorry, sir. The Tarkin isn’t responding to hails.

 

“Keep trying,” he orders, spinning on his heels, striding to his chambers. Hux has only just gained his feet and Kylo hits him with a bout of lighting as he passes. And that is just the beginning of the pain in store for General Hux.

 

He’ll warn her, she’ll come to him and he’ll warn her. The Force will bring her to him.

 

It has to.

 

Chapter Text

As soon as the doors to his chambers slide shut, he’s on his knees, reaching out to the Force. Please, please, please.

 

He’ll give anything if the Force will just bring her to him. He looks around wildly, hoping to see her, but the cavernous room is empty of all save himself.

 

He goes into his meditation pose and breathes in and out, focusing intensely, trying to slip into the currents of the Force. This would be easier if he were on a planet, surrounded by life. The Force is always different in space.

 

But he doesn’t give up, reaching, reaching, pushing himself farther than he ever has. He senses all the beings on the FInalizer and goes farther.

 

He nearly loses the thread of his seeking when he imagines Rey overwhelmed by troopers, falling in battle, her delicate face empty in death. But he shudders and pulls himself together. A golden thread beckons him and he follows it. It feels like her and he glides along the pulsing energy.

 

When he brushes past his mother he almost falters, then he wonders, could he warn her instead? Wait … something, he feels a tug in his chest and there, there she is.

 

Come to me Rey, come to me.

 

The Force shudders and he opens his eyes and scrambles to his feet when he finds her standing right in front of him.

 

“Ben?” she asks, a touch of fear in her eyes. “What is it, what’s happened? You look-”

 

“Listen to me. You’re about to be attacked on Quol. You have to run; you have to run now. Take my mother and run.”

 

“You know where I am? You … you’re attacking us?” she asks, her eyes welling with hurt and betrayal.

 

“No! I swear, I didn’t know. It’s Hux. He went behind my back and the Tarkin, the ship leading the attack, they aren’t responding to hails. I know Hux has arranged it. I tried to stop it once I knew, I tried, I promise, I tried. But we don’t have time, you have to leave!”

 

“Our allies, all the people who have helped us. We can’t just run. We have to defend them, defend ourselves.” The resolve he sees in her eyes makes his stomach sink.

 

“No, Maker, no, you have to get safe. Please, please, sweetheart, you have to be safe. I can’t … I can’t bear to lose you.” He’s quite certain he wouldn’t survive her loss. She’s part of him. She’s his heart, his soul. He can’t live without her. He won’t.

 

“Well then you shouldn’t be leading the First Order. This is war. People die in war. Even me.”

 

Her cold pronouncement freezes his heart in his chest. On some dim level he knows he is responsible, that he and the First Order are one and the same, but he can’t think about that now.

 

“I don’t accept that. I’m begging you. You have to run!” he pleads, grabbing her hands. He feels her stiffen, but she lets him lace their fingers together. He wants to pull her into his arms and somehow shield her from what’s coming. For one, reckless moment he wonders if he could project himself as Skywalker had done.

 

“No. I’ll tell Leia. Maybe she’ll want to run, but I don’t think so. She’s done running.” Her eyes are hard and full of a quiet rage that startles him.

 

The panic is threatening to rip him in two. How to make her see? He knows just how ruthless the First Order is, they have to get away! Then he remembers the tracker. Even if they succeeded in escaping, the Tarkin would be right on their heels.

 

“Rey! There’s a tracker in FN-21- ah Finn. That’s how they followed the Resistance through hyperspace, and how they found you now. Get away and destroy that tracker! Even if you defend yourself successfully, you’ll never be safe.”

 

Her eyes widen in shock and there’s a twist of near-hatred in her gaze.

 

“Run, Rey, run.” He holds her eyes intensely, willing her to please, please, just this once, do what he’s asked.

 

But she stiffens and almost sneers, “’They’ found us. Don’t you mean ‘we’?”

 

There isn’t time for this! “‘We’?” he snarls angrily, completely confused and desperate for her to just get moving.

 

“You said that’s how ‘they’ found us. Shouldn’t that be ‘we’? How you found us?”

 

HIs mouth opens and closes. She’s right. Of course she’s right, but everything is spiraling so badly out of control and he just needs her safe, gods, he needs her safe.

 

“You’re right. I know you’re right. I but I swear to you that I would never have allowed this if I’d known. You have to believe me. You know what you mean to me!”

 

Her hard expression falters and he just sees tumult and sadness. He strokes her knuckles with his thumbs. “Please, Rey. I can’t lose you, please, I’m begging you. I’ll do anything you want if you’ll just run!”

 

Then she looks to her left quickly as she stumbles. She swiftly returns her gaze to his, her eyes wide with real fear, and she whispers, “They’re here.”

 

And then she’s gone.

 

He screams out his powerlessness and grabs his head. No, no, NO!

 

---

 

Back on the bridge, he’s barely holding on. He stalks past Hux to the communications officer. “Have you succeeded in calling off the attack?”

 

“No, sir,” she responds, trembling. “No response to hails.”

 

Without looking, he holds his hand out and pulls Hux to him with the Force. Once he feels his fingers wrapped around the traitor’s throat he slowly swivels his head to regard his prey’s infuriatingly pleased eyes. There’s fear there, but there’s also accomplishment and Kylo growls, “What was the battle plan?” in a low, barely controlled voice.

 

Hux tries to speak, but can’t through the pressure of the gloved fingers squeezing forcefully, so Kylo removes his hand from around his neck but keeps him suspended before him with the Force.

 

Gasping for air, Hux says, “You don’t recall the specifications I provided?” Kylo can feel the glee in his voice and he genuinely considers ripping his head from his body.

 

“Now, Hux!” Kylo barks.

 

Relenting, Hux says, “The compound is in the middle of Trant, Quol’s largest city. The Resistance has grown to approximately 150 members. We sent three battalions.”

 

That’s … that’s almost 1,000 stormtroopers. He desperately hopes that Rey is running, right now. There’s no way the Resistance will survive this. Kylo releases Hux and just stares at the deck, his heart pounding hard and fast in his chest.

 

Will he feel it when she dies?

 

“One wonders, Supreme Leader, why you are so … distressed,” Hux muses as he straightens his uniform and smoothes his hair.

 

“It’s wasteful. You know our situation,” Kylo responds threateningly.

 

“Not to do with … General Organa?” Hux asks with suspicion.

 

Kylo stalks towards him menacingly. “You of all people should know I’ve proven myself on that score.” He flinches as he feels his father’s hand on his face. “Of course, you are only a bastard, so perhaps you don’t truly understand.” Kylo smirks in satisfaction as he watches his barb hit true.

 

Hux’s eyes flash with murder and he hisses, “Your position is quite precarious, Supreme Leader. I’ve given orders she be taken alive. Don’t push me.”

 

Kylo steps back and looks at Hux, truly looks at him. In that moment Kylo realizes what a foe he’s created. Or perhaps this is always what Snoke had intended. There had been a time when he and Hux had found something close to comradery, before Snoke had stoked the rivalry of their respective positions.

 

But … Hux has commanded the First Order military for years. Whatever loyalty Kylo enjoys is born of fear, but Hux … Hux is respected.

 

He wants to take the general’s life, right now, make an example of him. Yet… he’s not sure what the outcome of that would be. And perhaps … perhaps he’s ordered that Rey be kept alive as well.

 

“And the orders for the rest of the Resistance?” he asks, attempting to sound disinterested, knowing he’s failed.

 

A pleased, tight smile breaks out across Hux’s face. “Killed on sight.”

 

Kylo can’t keep his eyes from closing in pain. He has to believe that she’s alright, that somehow he would know. Then Hux continues, “Oh, except the girl. She, she’ll need to be publicly executed, of course.”

 

He just manages to keep himself from stumbling from relief, but he keeps his feet. He lets out a slow breath. Rey will be safe. His mother will be safe. He’s not sure how he’s going to protect them, but he’ll find a way.

 

“Inform me when it’s done. I’ll be in my chambers,” Kylo orders, knowing that he can’t keep up the facade of being even remotely under control. Even if she won’t be killed, not knowing what might happen to her, what they might do to her … he knows how First Order prisoners are treated. He has to be out of sight.

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader,” Hux says with undisguised triumph.

 

---

 

He paces back and forth, the need for news keeping him moving frantically. Once Rey and his mother are captured, he’ll have them brought here, somehow he’ll get them to safety. It’s too easy to imagine Rey in binders, beaten and bloody. The thought of her at the mercy of his stormtroopers before he can get to her makes him start to shake. He can’t think about it.

 

Boots clanging along the deck as he moves, he begins to wonder if he should take his shuttle to Quol. But it’s too far, he’d never make it in time. Though … it would lessen the amount of time she’d be in their custody. His eyes close briefly as he can almost physically feel a blaster come down on her head. No, it would raise to many questions. He has to stay where he is. She’s strong. She can take it. He’ll never forgive himself for it, however.

 

How will he free them? Perhaps he could change the memories of the troopers, make them think Rey and his mother had been killed? But how to keep Hux from wanting Rey’s death broadcast ...

 

Gods, he’s never been so afraid in his entire life. He thought that night after the temple, that he would never again feel so lost, so powerless, so unmoored, but this, this is so much worse.

 

He’s the most powerful man in the galaxy and yet he cannot keep his beloved safe. What is the point of any of it?

 

Rey’s soul-rending scream rips through his chamber and his heart, pulling him from his wild stalking. His eyes dart to where it came from and he’s rushing to her. There’s so much blood!

 

She’s doubled over, holding her side with one hand, the other arm hanging uselessly. Her whole shirt is soaked through, a horrific shade of red covering almost all of her torso. Oh gods, he never, ever wanted to see this.

 

“Rey!” he shouts, rushing to her and catching her falling form then he lays her gently down.

 

“It’s alright. We’re safe. We’re on a ship,” she whispers. Then she’s jerked from his arms and he realizes medical personnel are working on her.

 

The red bloom on her tunic only keeps growing and she’s so pale. She coughs and, gods, blood trickles from the edge of her mouth. He wants to howl. He wants to break things. He wants to rip Hux limb-from-limb. He wants to fall to his knees and weep, begging her forgiveness.

 

He’s failed her. His beloved is bleeding out right in front of him. He’s failed her. The First Order did this. He did this.

 

A murderous rage takes root in his gut. Hux did this. He’s going to take that ginger vermin apart.

 

She looks at him with wide eyes, then he sees as her shirt is cut off of her, and the extent of the damage is revealed to him. A huge chunk of her side is just … gone and it won’t stop bleeding, thick rivers of her life coursing down her hip. He’s never seen anyone so pale. He forces himself to look at what he allowed to happen to his beautiful Rey.

 

He knows she can’t respond to him, but she can hear him. “I’m here, Rey, I’m here. I love you so much. They’re going to take care of you. You’re going to be alright. I’m here, I’m here.”

 

Her eyes hold his and she nods almost imperceptibly. He rips off his gloves and places his hand over hers, and oh Maker, she’s so cold. “I’m here,” he repeats.

 

Her breathing is shallow and labored and her mouth is nearly blue, flecks of blood clinging to her lips. Lips he loses himself in kissing. How much blood has she lost? Oh, Force, what if he’s about to watch the life ebb out of her?

 

Her brows shoot up and he sees terror crash into her eyes, but then there’s steely resolve. “I understand. I'm … I’m ready,” she says with a weak voice to whomever is working on her wound.

 

Ready? Ready for what? What are they going to do to her?

 

“Rey, what is it, what’s happen-” Her tortured scream reaches down deep inside him and tears his soul from his body. Her hand clenches around his and he watches as her wound is cauterized. The sounds she’s making are both guttural and shrill and he’s never heard anything more horrible. Rey, Rey, Rey. He holds her hand fast, her fingers digging into his skin.

 

“That’s it, hold on as tight as you need to. I’m here. I’ll always be here. I love you, I love you,” he calls desperately. He would give anything, everything, to take her place, bear this pain for her. Pain he brought to her.

 

Just when he doesn't know if he can take anymore of her agonized screams, she passes out from the pain. He watches as the rest of her wound is burned closed and he can smell the charred flesh.

 

I’m sorry, beloved. I’m so sorry.

 

He watches her for a long time. Her face grows calm, almost placid, but she’s still terribly pale. She won’t be waking up for quite some time. Settling on the floor next to her, he lays his head on her thigh.

 

The feel of her body beneath his cheek quiets some of the sickening fear.

 

He never lets her hand go.

 

---

 

HIs comm startles him from his vigil and he angrily pulls it from his belt. “Yes,” he hisses, trying to keep from waking Rey. Rest is the best thing for her right now.

 

“Supreme Leader, please join us on the bridge for an update on the operation,” Hux’s voice crackles through the small device.

 

Kylo glances at Rey’s peaceful face. Someone has settled a blanket over her naked torso and he can’t see her damaged side any longer. He’s both relieved and frustrated. He should have to see what he let happen to her.

 

“Just send your report to my datapad.”

 

There’s a long pause. “The report will take some time. You don’t wish to know the outcome?”

 

In that moment he realizes his mother might have been captured and the conflict within him is immense, but he won’t take the chance that Rey wakes and he’s not with her. While he hopes his mother has escaped, he won’t leave Rey.

 

“Just tell me Hux,” Kylo sighs out wearily.

 

There is another long pause and Hux’s confused voice says, “Unfortunately, the majority of the Resistance escaped, along with Leia Organa, but Trant has been obliterated. The galaxy will soon hear what happens when you ally with the loathsome Resistance.”

 

“Understood,” Kylo acknowledges.

 

He’s about to switch of his comm when Hux asks, “You don’t wish to know the fate of the girl?”

 

“Fine, go on,” Kylo orders shortly.

 

“She also escaped. But it’s only a matter of time before Supreme Leader Snoke is avenged.”

 

Kylo forces himself to say, “Next time, we’ll have our revenge next time.”

 

Then he ends the communication and shuts off the device entirely. He … he doesn’t want anything to interrupt him while he watches over Rey.

 

Some color has returned to her cheeks and she’s receiving a blood transfusion. He’s relieved he can see the equipment. It’s of good quality and he’s reassured that she’s going to be well cared for.

 

His eyes roam over her face, hungrily taking in every detail. Her silken skin and fine cheekbones. The upward turn of her eyes, how her brows arch so delicately. While he’s pleased she’s resting, healing, he finds the need to see the bright hazel of her eyes is nearly overpowering.

 

He shifts from his place on the floor and pulls a chair to him with the Force. He never releases her limp hand as he awkwardly maneuvers himself into the piece of furniture. Soon, he’s seated next to her, rubbing her palm with his thumb. He wraps his other hand over hers and hangs his head. The shame and self-recrimination is thick and sharp.

 

Closing his eyes is a bad idea, all he sees is her blood everywhere, so he sits back, looking on her intensely.

 

“I’m so sorry, Rey,” he murmurs.

 

Her hand stays still in his, but her strong pulse beating against his fingers keeps him from breaking down at her bedside.

 

Bending forward, he leans over her, tucking a stray piece of her messy hair behind her ear. Now that he’s closer to her, he leaves a lingering kiss on her forehead, letting himself feel the warmth of her skin against his lips.

 

Shifting to her ear, he breathes out, “I love you. I will always love you.”

 

Chapter Text

Rey panting, “Just do it,” pulls him from his fitful sleep at her side.

 

Her face is tense and braced for something. He may be able to see some of her surroundings but he still can’t see everything and Maker, he hates it.

 

He crouches by her immediately. “Rey, what is it?” he asks, already panicking. He should truly be with her, making sure that her care is the best in the galaxy. The well- trod path of thinking if she’d only chosen to be with him then he could protect her, love her … it feels wrong. Yes, none of this would have happened if she’d taken his hand that day, but his righteous fury just feels pointless in the face of nearly losing her.

 

Her eyes shift back and forth between him and what he can only assume is a doctor.

 

“I've had a dislocated shoulder before, just do it,” she growls. Then her eyes hold his and he nods his understanding.

 

He remembers how her other arm had hung limply by her side. Failing to keep his fear for her from his face, he grimaces, knowing how much this hurts.

 

Swiftly, he takes her hand. It must have fallen out of his grip while he slept in his chair. She’s going to need him for this. He wraps his other arm about her neck, curling his fingers around her head, encouraging her to lean into him.

 

“I've got you. I'm here,” he says into her hair, holding her to his chest.

 

She nods against him and he watches as her shoulder is wrenched by a doctor he can't see. The sound physically hurts and he holds her fast.

 

Her hand spasms around his and she calls out, her voice harsh with pain. He keeps her face pressed firmly against him.

 

She pants quickly and nods. “Yes, I'm fine,” she says to the doctor through clenched teeth. She is anything but fine, her face contorted with agony.

 

Then she twists from him and asks, “What's that?” The alarm in her voice pushes him further to the edge. He wants to snarl and protect and all he can do is watch.

 

“Rey?” he asks warily. Her eyes again go to his, but her attention is quickly pulled away from him.

 

“Dulamiate? No, I don't want that.” She’s shaking her head furiously.

 

What? What is she saying. It will help with the pain considerably. He’s certain she's suffering greatly from the hole in her side and the fresh hell of her shoulder.

 

“Take the medicine,” he rumbles.

 

Her eyes flit to his, but she speaks to the doctor when she says, “It's addictive. I don't want it.”

 

What? She’s being completely unreasonable. It takes weeks to develop a physical dependence to the narcotic. “Please, beloved, it will help. You won't have any trouble with a few doses.”

 

“I don't care,” she hisses, then looks slightly panicked. “Uhm, I mean I don't care to take it,” she says to the person he can’t see.

 

She seems truly… terrified, but the pain is making her sweat. Why is she being so stubborn?

 

Then it all clicks. Her parents. Sold for drinking money … “Rey … are you afraid to take the medication because of what happened to you as a child?”

 

Her eyes find his and they’re huge with long buried pain. Hesitantly, she nods.

 

“Rey, please listen to me. You need to take this. Your body will heal better if it's not constantly battling the pain. You won't become like your parents. You never could. Please, allow this one dose. For me. Please.”

 

Her eyes are achingly young and his heart breaks for her yet again. “Please,” he whispers.

 

She looks down and her eyes close tightly. After a long moment, she nods then looks up. “Okay,” she says, holding his eyes.

 

Here attention is torn from him and she says, “I mean, alright. I'll take it.”

 

“Thank you,” he says sincerely.

 

She flinches and he sees where the needle enters her skin. Good. This will work fast.

 

Her eyes watch something or someone. Then she turns to him.

 

“We're alone.”

 

There are so many things he wants to tell her. How sorry he is. How afraid he was. How much he wishes he'd seen Hux for what he truly is. But instead he just kisses her.

 

She meets his desperate need for her with her own passion and he's not surprised when her tongue glides along his bottom lip. He whimpers into her mouth as he opens for her.

 

Oh, Force, he'd come so close to losing this. Losing Rey. He holds her so gently, but their lips are frantic. He strokes his fingers along her cheek, and he wants to touch her everywhere, reassure himself that she’s whole and his. But he controls himself and finally pulls away.

 

Leaning his forehead against hers, he breathes out, “I have never been more afraid in my entire life.”

 

She doesn’t respond so he pulls back to look at her. She blinks at him languidly. Ah, good. The dulamiate is doing its job. Her fingers stroke through his hair and she smiles almost goofily. Right, it’s really working. Of course, she’s never had it before. He is, unfortunately, quite familiar with this particular medication.

 

“So soft,” she croons as she continues to thread her fingers in his hair.

 

“What?” he asks, mildly perplexed.

 

“Your hair. It’s so soft … like a porg’s. Is your hair porgs?”

 

He can’t help the affectionate smile that breaks across his face. He has no idea what a porg is, but her face is open with wonder and he’s never seen her so unguarded. The painkillers are clearly having an effect, and, gods, she’s adorable. But she needs rest.

 

Taking her fingers from his hair, he holds her hand. “Rey, the medication is hitting you hard. Maybe you should sleep.”

 

“I don’t want to. Everything is floaty. I feel … so warm. It still hurts, but I don’t … care,” she says in a sing-song voice.

 

“Then it’s doing what it’s supposed to.”

 

“This is so much better than the last time this happened,” she sighs as she settles back against her pillows.

 

“The last time?”

 

“I fell and dislocated my shoulder on Jakku. Trying to get to the deflector shield of the Ravager, no one’s made it. I thought I could. Stupid.” Her face scrunches up and she shakes her head. “Hurt so bad. Couldn’t get help for days.”

 

His chest hollows out as he realizes she’d been left with a dislocated shoulder for so long, and then to recover without medical attention … He holds her face with his hand and rolls his forehead against hers. “I can’t tell you how much I wish I could have saved you from that.”

 

She pulls her hand from his, giggling as she swats at him. “Don’t be silly. You didn’t even know I existed.”

 

“I should have,” he states emphatically.

 

She screws up her face and laughs again. “I’m no one. Why would you have cared?”

 

He knows she can’t help how glib she’s being, so he tries to stop explaining. “It doesn’t matter. Please rest.” He recaptures her hand.

 

Then her face falls. “I wish you could have come for me. I hated it. I hated it so much, Ben. I was so alone.”

 

He sits next to her and guides her face to him with his other hand. “You’ll never be alone again.”

 

The sadness that fills her face strikes into him. “Of course I will. I’ll always be alone. You’re never going to choose me. I know that.”

 

She might as well have split him open with her lightsaber. How could she possibly think such a thing? “Rey, no … that’s not true.”

 

Her eyes grow heavy and she squeezes his hand. “Oh Ben. No one ever chooses me. It’s okay, I understand. I’m nobody.”

 

“What, no! Rey, please, I … I will choose you. I will.” But she’s already asleep and he’s left with a storm of conflicted feelings as he watches her chest rise and fall in healing rest.

 

He hunches over next to her bed, keeping her hand in his. Does she really think that? That he won’t choose her? That he hasn’t already?

 

Thinking hard, he tries to see what Rey had been talking about. Hasn’t he made it clear to her how much he loves her, wants her? What had she meant that he wouldn’t choose her? She’d said that she thought he’d turn, and, in a way she was right. But he’d seen them side-by-side. He still believes firmly in his vision.

 

But … why would she say he wouldn’t choose her? He told her about the tracker, doesn’t that mean something?

 

Oh. He’d told her about the tracker. He’d never even thought about it, nothing, absolutely nothing had mattered when faced with her being threatened. Doesn’t that mean that, when it was necessary, he’d put her first? What more does she want from him? He’d given away vital First Order intelligence. Obviously he chooses her.

 

Lost in a storm of utter confusion, he strokes her palm and watches her calm face.

 

---

 

The sound of the doors to his chambers opening has him on his feet, instantly aware that he’s just sitting in the middle of the room.

 

Hux looks at the lone chair then back to Kylo with a raised brow. “Supreme Leader, you’ve not left your chambers since yesterday.”

 

Kylo only just manages to keep from glancing at Rey’s sleeping form. The Force has kept her with him for nearly two days now and he’s pathetically grateful.

 

“Yes, well, I had some thinking to do,” Kylo spits, his fingers twitching to end Hux’s life. Rey is lying in her med-bay bed because of what this man did and the urge for revenge is fierce. But he’s not going to make any decisions until Rey is well. He needs to be able to focus on her. She truly is all that matters to him. He sets that startling thought aside to ponder later.

 

“You have seemed … distracted as of late.”

 

“Perhaps because my second-in-command has been plotting?”

 

“I filled out all the proper forms-”

 

“Hux!” he bellows.

 

Startled, the ginger rat stops talking.

 

“We both know you went behind my back to go after the Resistance. What I want to know is why.”

 

Hux’s lips curl then thin. “Because we both know you haven’t the stomach for war. You’ve always been soft,” he sneers.

 

“Soft? Soft!? I murdered my own father to prove myself! Don’t you dare accuse me of being soft.”

 

Hux inspects his gloves then looks up. “Yes, well … welcome to the club.”

 

Kylo blinks quickly. Hux had … He remembers that Brendol Hux had died but …

 

Rey is beginning to stir and he doesn’t have the time or energy for this. “We’ll discuss this more at a later date.”

 

“Will you be joining us on the bridge, sir?”

 

Her eyes are starting to flutter open. “Yes, at some point. Leave me.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Hux says with a knowing smile that makes Kylo’s teeth go on edge.

 

The doors to his chambers close and he’s back with her swiftly. She smiles lazily then grunts in pain. He loathes that there’s nothing he can fight, nothing he can kill.

 

“How are you feeling, sweetheart?”

 

“It hurts, but not as badly.”

 

“You need more medicine.”

 

“No, that was enough, got me through the worst of it.”

 

“But why suffer?”

 

Her eyes grow intensely worried. “Because it felt too good.” Then she closes her eyes briefly. “Did I really ask you if your hair was porgs?”

 

“Yes, you did. What, may I ask, is a porg, anyway?” he asks, amusement in his tone.

 

“Oh, they’re the cutest little birds from Ahch-To-” Then her eyes fly wide.

 

“Ahch-To?”

 

“I … I shouldn’t have said that.”

 

“Is that were Skywalker was?”

 

Her eyes plead with him and he sits next to her, taking his very familiar pose of holding her hand and leaning towards her. “It’s alright. I won’t do anything with that. Besides, with Skywalker gone, what does it matter?”

 

“But … you … you’re still the First Order and they … they did this to me. I shouldn’t trust you like this.”

 

“I know. I do know. This … has changed things. But I need time.” A horrible thought strikes him. “You did get the tracker out of … Finn, yes?”

 

“Yes. They were working on it when I got hit.”

 

“What … what happened?”

 

Rey sighs and he doesn’t like how mistrustful she’d seemed for a moment. “I was trying to help evacuate the local citizens when a wall collapsed. That’s how I dislocated my shoulder. I was able to protect almost everyone with the Force, but I wasn’t so lucky. Then … then the stormtroopers arrived. One of them caught me with some kind of slicing weapon.” She looks down. “I think … think the scar is gonna be bad.”

 

He sees the insecurity flow through her and he quickly lifts her face to look at him. “Do you think for one moment that I care? All I care about is you. Healthy. Whole.” With me.

 

Conflict rises in her eyes. “I wish that was true,” she says sadly.

 

He’s about to ask what she means when she sits up quickly, looking over his shoulder. Ah, the doctor must be back.

 

She shakes her head firmly. “No, I don’t want any more of that.”

 

“Rey,” he says warningly. She glares at him then quickly clears her face. “I don’t care about the pain.”

 

“You’re being stubborn, besides, it’s still in your system, what you’re feeling is still dulled. Just take it,” he pushes.

 

“Will I … will I be addicted if I let you give me more?” she asks the doctor.

 

Then she’s nodding. Her eyes are hollow and far away. He reassures, “I know you’re scared, sweetheart, but this won’t hurt you. Just this and another dose tomorrow. I won’t ask you again, just please. I can’t see you suffer.”

 

She’s shrunk into herself and seems so very small. “Just this and one more dose after,” she says to both him and the phantom doctor.

 

He lets out his breath slowly as he watches the needle go into her arm.

 

Kylo hopes this time she’ll just sleep, as amusing as talking with her in that state had been. She’d been so honest though, and it feels like he’s taking things from her that he shouldn’t if she doesn’t tell him when she has all of her faculties.

 

The happy smile returns. “It really does help.”

 

“I’m glad, that’s all I want.”

 

Her face brightens, and for a moment he thinks it’s for him, but then she squeals out, “Leia!”

 

He doesn’t … he doesn't want to be here for this nor does he want to leave. Instead he stands and moves away from her bed.

 

“Oh don’t be like that,” she chides.

 

His brows shoot up in alarm. “Rey, remember that she can’t see me.”

 

“She’s your mother. You really should talk to your mother you know,” Then she slaps her hand over her mouth and he sees the moment she realizes what she’s done. The fog from the painkillers lifts quickly.

 

Shaking her head swiftly, her eyes bulging in fear, she slowly lowers her hand. “Leia, no. He’s not really here. I … I can explain. You don’t need to call the guards.”

 

Well Rey has done it now. There is absolutely no chance in the galaxy that Leia Organa won’t pull the truth out of her.

 

In that moment he senses his mother’s Force signature. He’s surprised that the well of anger he refilled for so many years is simply … dry and he just wants … he just wants … no, he can’t have that and he shouldn’t even think of it.

 

He just hopes his mother will understand.



 

 

Chapter Text

Before

 

“I’d rather not do this right now.”

 

“Yeah, me too.”

 

The look on her face when she sees his naked chest pleases something deep inside him. He’s affecting her. It might simply be that she’s shy around nudity, but he hopes it’s something else. He doesn’t move to cover himself when she asks. He won’t examine why too closely.

 

The thoughts he’s been having about her have ceased to be confusing and have shifted into need and want and hope. His dreams have taken on a distinctly carnal flavor as of late and he has found that he likes it. He likes the flutter of pleasure he feels when he thinks of her, the heat low in his abdomen when he sees her.

 

But, no, the little fantasy he’d been spinning comes crashing down around him when she brings up Han Solo. Now he does feel oddly exposed but he refuses to give into modesty.

 

It would be easier if she’d stayed angry, but she just looks heartbroken when she asks so pleadingly why he’d killed him.

 

He doesn’t answer. Not really. He turns it around on her, how the past controls her. So much is holding her back. Oh, what she could become. What he could teach her.

 

Yet she’d rejected his offer and now she’s with Skywalker. And she clearly has no idea just how rotten to the core his family really is. So he tells her. Tells her of that night when his world split open and everything he’d been struggling to hold onto had bled out all over the floor of his ruined room.

 

He keeps his tone calm, but he remembers, oh he remembers the sharp betrayal. But more than that, he remembers the inevitability of it all. From the moment that woman had sent him away, the useless Han Solo doing nothing, he’d known that he couldn’t trust his family. He’d begged and cried and pleaded to be allowed to stay, but his desperation had been met with firm denial.

 

No one but his mother had ever understood him, other than the whispers in his head. She always knew what he needed. And then she’d broken his young heart, thrusting him into the care of a virtual stranger. He hadn’t cared that this was his mother’s brother. He barely knew him and he hadn’t wanted to try.

 

Eventually, he’d learned to hide his anger and pain, smile and lie when his mother would visit the temple. But he’d never trusted her ever again.

 

He knows how the past holds you, strangles you, drowns you with its grasping promises of if only. The only way to handle the past is to kill it.

 

“It’s the only way to become who you were meant to be.”

 

Now

 

“We … we’re connected. Through the Force. He can see me, talk to me … touch me. It’s like he’s here in the room with me,” Rey explains to Leia slowly. Her expression is cautious and she’s holding herself stiffly.

 

Not being able to see his mother, yet knowing she’s there is deeply unsettling. As far as he can tell, the woman he can’t bring himself to hate is sitting on the other side of Rey’s bed, opposite him. Staying completely still, he tries to keep the storm of feelings at bay. His mother brings up every conceivable emotion within him and it’s all he can do to keep from shaking.

 

“No … he didn’t do this, at least not on purpose. We think … we think it was when he … interrogated me.” She winces and the self-loathing rises in him swiftly, remembering how he’d treated her. While it’s true that he’d been so gentle with her when he compares it to his behavior with other prisoners, that he ever pushed into her mind like that … it shames him.

 

“No … I don't think Ben would do anything to manipulate me.”

 

Of course he wouldn’t! He’s only ever wanted her to … to choose him. He will never try to influence her. Rey is … she’s so wild and free, to attempt to control her would be … it’s just unthinkable.

 

It’s excruciating to listen to Rey discuss him—and them—with his mother. He’s both relieved and extremely frustrated that he can’t hear what his mother is saying to Rey. Rey keeps looking back and forth between them and her face is tense and wary.

 

“No! I would never reveal anything to him that would put the Resistance in danger!” Rey’s voice becomes low and sad. “He didn’t know we were going to be attacked.”

 

Rey’s face flashes with real anger and he’s surprised. Rey has always seemed almost reverent about Leia Organa.

 

“Because he told me he didn’t know! He … he doesn’t lie to me. He would never want me to be hurt, he was frantic. For both of us. He kept telling me to take you and run.”

 

Rey’s expression grows concerned. “Leia?” Then her eyes go to his and they glisten with unshed tears. Oh. He understands now. His mother is … oh gods, he hopes she’s not crying. He feels helpless and trapped. The memories are getting harder to push away and he wants … he wants to tell his mother that he’s sorry. Force, he’s so damned sorry.

 

When he’d thought she’d died, he’d not allowed himself to feel anything. He’s grown frighteningly good at suppressing his feelings. But now, in this room, he can’t keep the pain at bay. She’d abandoned him! Sent him off to Skywalker like an inconvenience. He remembers overhearing his parents talking late at night. Maybe Luke will be able to handle him.

 

But that’s not all there is. There are so many quiet, tender moments that he never allows himself to remember. How she would brush his hair, tell him that he was her precious boy, how much she loved him … No. No! He will not do this to himself. She broke that all to pieces when she gave him to her brother.

 

Returning his attention to Rey, he finds that her lips are quivering and she whispers, “It’s more complicated than that, Leia. He … Snoke made him think he had to do that. I don’t … I don’t think he wanted to. I think he regrets it.” Rey seems to be refusing to look at both of them and she fiddles with her blanket.

 

He hadn’t anticipated this. Clearly, he should have, but to know that his mother is asking about his greatest crime, talking about how he’d plunged his saber into his own father’s heart … he doesn’t want to be here. It’s very tempting to reach out with the Force, beg to be released from this hell, but he won’t leave Rey. Not while she’s still recovering.

 

As long as the connection holds, he’ll take it. He’ll take anything for her. However, he does need a bit of distance so he stalks to the other side of his chambers, hunching his shoulders, trying to protect himself from whatever else she’s going to say. It’s likely to stab and rent and make him bleed.

 

But she calls out to him. “I know this is hard, but please come back.”

 

He turns only his head to look at her, keeping his body protectively angled away. “Rey … I ... “

 

“I know it hurts, I know it, but she deserves answers. Don’t you think?” she asks quietly with her hand outstretched, beckoning him to return to her. Her eyes shift to his mother and she says, “Yes, he’s really here. This is hard for him.”

 

Rey’s lips form a thin line and her voice is angry when she says, “You don’t … you don’t know what he’s been through! What Snoke did to him!”

 

Oh gods, no. He doesn’t want his mother to know! Know how he just kept groveling at his master’s feet, begging for more abuse.

 

“Rey, no. Don’t tell her anymore,” he says warningly, swiftly turning back towards her.

 

“But, she should know. She should know how he would to-”

 

“No! Stop. I … I don’t want her to know how weak I was,” he says hollowly, looking down.

 

When he finally looks up, her eyes are full of so much worry and such aching love. She nods and again reaches her hand out to him. “Alright, I won’t say anymore. I promise. Now, please come back, Ben.”

 

Closing his eyes briefly, he does what she asks and retakes his seat. Her hand finds his in an instant.

 

The feel of her fingers laced with his makes everything better and he knows he can do this. So long as she’s touching him, he can do this.

 

Rey’s eyes fly open and Kylo wonders what in the galaxy his mother has said to make Rey look so nervous.

 

“What? What did she say?” Kylo asks.

 

She looks at him quickly, then back to his mother. She takes in a deep breath and says, “Yes, I love him.”

 

Then she’s nodding, almost sadly. “I understand. No, it’s alright. I really do understand.”

 

Rey pulls her hand from his and she shifts to put her arm around his mother’s form. It’s very strange to watch her interact with people he can’t see.

 

“She’s gone,” Rey says, recapturing his hand. But she’s not looking at him and she seems … defeated.

 

“What is it, what did you understand?” Kylo asks in concern.

 

“Oh, she’s … she’s posting guards outside my room.”

 

“What?” he seethes, instantly irate. How dare she treat Rey like … like a criminal.

 

“Stop, please. It’s alright. She said she needed to think and that right now I’m a liability. I understand … she can’t just trust me. I don’t think she could do anything else, really.”

 

The hand not holding Rey’s curls into a fist and he growls, “It’s not right. You would never betray them. And I wouldn’t ask you to.”

 

She smiles slightly. “I know.”

 

---

 

Rey quickly fell asleep after the difficult and surreal conversation with his mother. He’d finally eaten something and now he’s sitting with her, reviewing reports. Hux seems to be pacified by his notations and suggestions, leaving him alone.

 

Something must be done about Hux. He just isn’t quite sure what that is. If he thought he could persuade his mother through Rey to lay low for a few months, give him time to untangle this, then maybe he would have a chance at keeping both of them safe, but he can’t trust Hux not to try something like the attack on Quol again.

 

At least Hux won’t be able to find them. He wishes he knew where Rey was, but he won’t ask.

 

---

 

“Ben? Ben?”

 

He comes awake to her gently shaking him. Oh, he’d fallen asleep in his chair. He’s barely had any rest for the last two days so it’s not a surprise.

 

“Yes, I call him Ben,” Rey says with a small smile.

 

“What?” Kylo asks.

 

She looks at him and says, “Your mother, she’s back.”

 

He tries to shake the sleep from his head. He’s really not ready for round two.

 

“I don't know. He never answered when I asked him why he lets me,” Rey says to his mother.

 

That's not precisely true. She had disappeared before he could, and she’s not asked again. A point for which he’s grateful, as he doesn’t think he’s ready to explain either how much it means to him that she does call him ‘Ben’ or that it’s because it makes him feel like she believes in … well … him.

 

“He’s … he’s conflicted.” Rey’s eyes hold his and she fidgets uncomfortably. “I don’t think he’s very happy being Supreme Leader. I … I don’t think he sleeps much.”

 

He has to keep from rolling his eyes. Is his mother going to ask if he’s eating enough?”

 

“I’m not sure.” Rey’s cheeks grow pink and she blinks rapidly. “Uhm, he uh, it doesn’t look like he’s lost weight or anything.”

 

Wonderful. His mother did in fact ask if he was eating enough. Typical. He shies away from memories of holo calls from the temple, how he would secretly delight in her worry for him even as he’d ruthlessly push it away.

 

“Leia!” Rey exclaims. “It … it hasn’t come up,” Rey mumbles.

 

Now Rey’s cheeks are nearly scarlet. What had his mother said? By the look on Rey’s face, he’s not sure he wants to know.

 

Rey’s face softens and her eyes glow with a hopeful light that warms him. “Yes, I’ll ask him.”

 

Kylo breathes in sharply. Being in the room while they talk was one thing, but this … he’s not sure about this.

 

“She wants to talk to you. But she wants you to think about it. I’m to comm her when you’re ready.”

 

“Tell her it’ll be a long wait,” he snipes. He’s not ready to talk to her, even through Rey. He’ll never be ready to talk to her.

 

Rey frowns. “Ben …” she admonishes.

 

He closes his eyes tightly. “I’ll think about it.”

 

“Good. Thank you.” Rey returns her attention to Leia. “I’ll tell him,” she says with a gentle smile.

 

Once they’re alone again, Rey pulls his hand into hers and she grimaces slightly.

 

“Sweetheart?”

 

“Just a little sore. But it’s fine. And I will take another dose in the morning.”

 

He purses his lips, but he had said he wouldn’t push her. He clears his throat. “What time is it anyway?” he asks.

 

“Late.”

 

“Then you should be sleeping.”

 

“So should you. You can’t be comfortable in that chair.”

 

“It’s fine,” he dismisses.

 

“I could scoot over, you could lay next to me?”

 

Oh … oh that is a truly delectable thought. Would the connection even allow it? He’s not tried to interact with her environment before. Wait, no, what is he thinking? He can’t crowd her in her little bed.

 

He shakes his head, “The chair is fine.”

 

“Don’t be stubborn. Come here,” she insists. She rolls over so that she’s on her good side. He supposes he could curl around her, there would be enough room then …

 

Her beguiling hazel eyes capture him, “Please?”

 

He’s on his feet without having made a decision, pulling off his boots as he comes around behind her. Very careful not to jostle her, he slides into the bed, gathering her to him.

 

She fits perfectly. Some part of him that’s been quietly screaming in the corner since she’d been hurt finally quiets and he sighs out. She’s safe. She’s in his arms and she’s safe.

 

Her head is resting on his bicep and his other arm is around her waist and he can’t quite believe he’s about to sleep with his beloved in his arms. It’s a bliss he’d dreamed of, but hadn’t thought he would ever have. Not really. He’s beginning to wonder if the Force will never part them again and it’s a heady thought.

 

But something is nagging at him. Right. Rey had said she’d tell him something. Something from his mother.

 

“Rey?”

 

“Mmm?” she says sleepily.

 

“What did … what did my mother want you to tell me?”

 

She’s quite for a moment then says, “She wanted me to tell you that she loves you.”

 

Is it possible to feel your heart pulled in two and sing in joy at the same time? He has no place for this. How could she possibly still love him? After everything he’s done. Everything he’s done to her?

 

Hesitantly, Rey asks, “Do you want to talk about it?”

 

“No,” he says faintly.

 

Somehow, Rey senses he needs time in his own head and stays silent. He’s quite sure that if he didn’t have his beloved cradled close he would be screaming and destroying things right now. But instead he just blinks, breathing shallowly.

 

He feels Rey slip into sleep as she settles fully into him.

 

Ben stares at nothing for a long time.


Chapter Text

“Ben …”

 

Oh, Maker, he’s in heaven, absolute heaven. He’d slept so soundly, no intrusive thoughts of the changing relationship with his mother, and now Rey is waking him slowly with little sparking kisses along his fingertips. She’s warm and safe in his arms, just like she should always be.

 

“Rey, my beautiful Rey,” he murmurs against her hair.

 

“He wakes at last.” He can hear the smile in her voice. “You slept through the doctor checking on me. Twice.”

 

What?” he asks, not quite believing her. He’s a very light sleeper and he should have reacted to her talking to someone.

 

“It was a little tricky to hide that I couldn’t really move. Every time I’d try to shift, your arm would tighten around me. You’re … you’re really strong.”

 

Fear trickles down his spine and he starts to pull away from her, terrified that he’d hurt her in his sleep. But then her fingers spasm around his and her other hand goes to his thigh, stilling him as he realizes it’s her injured arm.

 

“Rey, no, don’t use your arm!” he orders in a panic.

 

“Well then don’t pull away!” There’s a long pause before she admits, “I … I liked that you wouldn’t let me go, even when you were so deeply asleep.” Her voice is small, profound vulnerability showing through her protective shell.

 

Slowly and very gently, he replaces his arm at her waist and shifts his shoulder under her head. It brings her closer still and he nuzzles into her neck. He breathes in her scent and allows the calm of his beloved to wash over him. He’d come so close to losing her, all because he’d ignored the truth of where he is, the truth of being Supreme Leader while Rey has set herself against him.

 

No … no … that’s not really true. That way of thinking feels like old clothes that don’t fit. He can’t really say that she’s the one building the wall between them when it was the First Order that attacked her. He keeps waiting for the recriminations, the accusations, but she just seems to want his comfort. Want him. Love him.

 

He’s reminded of what his mother had said but he doesn’t want to think about the complex miasma of feelings Leia Organa incites. And right now he really needs to focus on Rey. He’ll find an answer … somehow. A way out of this impossible mess. A way that sees both of the women who are quickly defining his every move safe.

 

Now, what had Rey been telling him? Then he realizes what she’s truly said and he sputters, “Wait … I slept all night?”

 

That never happens. That hasn’t happened since he woke up to murder in Luke Skywalker’s eyes. He always startles to consciousness several times over the course of a night, and he’s frequently plagued by nightmares. Though, since he met his Rey, the dreams have changed rather dramatically. Yet he still sleeps fitfully.

 

And you slept half the morning away,” Rey says smugly.

 

Ben scoffs, part of him convinced she must be teasing.

 

“No, it’s true! They gave me my last dose of dulamiate about two hours ago. I’ve just been dozing and seeing what would trigger you growling in your sleep. It’s sort of cute. You really didn't like it when I tried to pull your arm away.”

 

He cranes his neck so that he may see her profile. She’s nearly grinning and he understands that she’s been telling the truth.

 

“Well,” he muses, “I don’t like to let you go when I’m awake and I do frequently have to force myself to release you. I suppose I’m not surprised that while I’m asleep, I'm not too thrilled to have you out of my arms. That’s where I want you always.” Just like this. Every night. Force, what would he give ...

 

“You … you really want to keep me?” she asks in a painfully young voice.

 

He knows the medication makes her more open, better able to access her feelings. Usually, she struggles to voice what’s inside of her, preferring to pretend something that hurts her simply isn’t true. For 15 excruciating years, struggling against the endless sands of Jakku, she’d managed to make herself believe that she was loved.

 

A stab of guilt makes him grimace. He’d pushed her—hard—about her parents, been almost cruel. But he’d felt then, as he does now, that Rey’s tendency to lie to herself only holds her back, keeping her suspended in her torment. Just because she’d buried her abandonment so deeply that she’d hid it from even herself didn’t keep it from leaving a gaping hole in her heart.

 

A hole he means to fill. Starting now. He’s done trying to find a way to continue the path he set for himself years ago and have Rey as well. It’s just not possible and he refuses to ever hear her scream like that again.

 

He takes a deep breath, feeling a momentous shift within him. “Rey … please listen to me.”

 

“Uhm, okay.” She goes unnaturally still in his arms and here’s so much fear in the air. Briefly, he closes his eyes. She feels like a young fathier filly, ready to bolt. He realizes she thinks he’s about to reject her. Oh, Rey ...

 

“I love you,” he says firmly and some of the tension leaves her frame. “I know that what happened on Quol has changed things for me. I’m not sure how, not precisely, but I do know that it made it abundantly clear to me that you are all that truly matters to me.” This makes her relax fully. “Yet … I can’t abandon the First Order and simply take up with the Resistance-”

 

She tries to break in and he softly hushes her with his fingers to her lips. “I need to get this out. I want to hear everything you have to say about it—I know I was ultimately responsible for your current condition-” She starts to shake her head so he continues quickly. “But, I ask you to let me tell you what I need you to hear.”  

 

Rey breathes in a long, slow breath and she’s once again tense in his arms. But then she’s nodding and settling into him.

 

Part of him wishes they were facing each other. He wants to say this while looking into her eyes. But another part of him knows that being able to have her flush against him like this, have her feel with her body the sincerity of his words, it will make it easier to face the nagging truth of their situation. And just how far he’s willing to go to be with her. Besides, she can’t roll over because of her shoulder and wound, and he really doesn’t want to let her go.

 

“I don’t agree with the Resistance. The Republic was messy and corrupt, it allowed places like Jakku to flourish and I cannot join their cause. However …” He stops himself, accepting that the path he’s sacrificed everything for means very little to him now that he’s seen Rey’s blood flow so freely from her body. “However, I no longer believe that the First Order is going about it the right way.”

 

Lifting his hand to her hair, he smoothes it back, centering himself with the silken texture of her tresses. He kisses her temple and just feels her for a moment.

 

Rey changed everything. From the moment he first heard of her, it’s all shifted. Or perhaps come into focus. He’s not really sure. He just knows that without Rey, his life means nothing.  

 

“You asked earlier if I really want to keep you. You need to understand that I will do anything I have to to keep you. I know, I know you grew up in a place that told you that you didn’t matter, and you fought so hard against that. Because, I think, deep down you do know that they were wrong. You are so special. Not just to me, but to the galaxy.”

 

Against her ear he murmurs, “To me though, you are my life, Rey. I came so close to losing you. Losing you to my own soldiers. I will not allow that to happen, ever again. I know you won’t come to me, and I’m not sure I could keep you safe if you did.” Admitting that hurts. He wants to believe that he can always protect her through sheer force of will. But it’s time to be realistic.

 

“What I'm saying is I need time. I can't leave and I can't stay. Hux is likely well into his next scheme and if we were to run away together, I'm absolutely certain that Hux would make it his life's work to kill you.”

 

He can feel her frustration at keeping silent so he gets to the point. He kisses her ear lobe and she gasps. He pitches his voice low. Though there's no need, no one save Rey can hear him. But he needs her to hear the sanctity of his words. “What I need you to know, like you've never known anything, is that I want to spend my life with you. I will find a way for us, we will find a solution that we're both happy with. I want to keep you. I choose you. Every single day, for as long as I draw breath, I choose you.”

 

She's begun to tremble and he's confused. “Rey? Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?”

 

She nods quickly but still doesn't say anything. Something is wrong. Then she chokes back a sob and he needs to see her face. He starts to pull away so he can go to her other side without hurting her shoulder and wound, but she grabs at his hand and her broken voice pleads, “No!”

 

Ben stops attempting to disentangle himself but does shift so he may go up on his elbow.

 

“Please, let me see your face, beloved,” he entreats so gently.

 

Slowly she turns, just enough for him to see her wide, beautiful eyes. Tears are streaming down her cheeks and he's not sure what he's done to upset her. Is it that she's perceiving that he's the one who allowed her to be so egregiously wounded?

 

Blinking through her tears she whispers, “Please … I need to hear it again.”

 

Hear what again? Oh. Oh his broken girl. Of course. He should have anticipated this. No one has ever chosen him either. He has a moment of insecurity; Rey has fought what's between them far more bitterly than he has. Would she react like this to being wanted by anyone? But he stuffs those feelings down, down, down. Right now, Rey needs to comprehend the lengths he will go to for her.

 

He strokes her cheek, whisking away the tears that fall, and vows, “I choose you.”

 

Her breath is harsh, then she asks, “Again. Please.”

 

Holding her eyes intensely, he responds, “I choose you. I will always choose you.”

 

Her tears come faster and she starts to weep in earnest, great gasping sobs wracking her body. Gathering her up in arms that always yearn for her, he pulls her back against his chest and throws his leg over hers. There, now he has her shielded completely. She's protected entirely. Because somehow she has become his very heart.

 

She sobs out years of abandonment, no warmth. No love. At least he had known what it was to be held when he cried. Bountiful food for every single meal. But this isn't about him.

 

So small. So small in his arms as she weeps. She cries hard and he croons how he loves her, how he needs her, how she's everything to him. He kisses up and down her cheek, her temple, the crown of her head, everywhere he can reach without jostling her healing body, trying to write his devotion on her skin.

 

Eventually, her sobs turn to quiet sniffles. He’s never ceased holding her close, and when she lets out a shuddering breath, he again places his lips at the shell of her ear.

 

“I choose you.”

 

---

 

Panic flies through him as he hits the floor. What?!

 

Dazedly he looks around his chambers and realizes Rey is gone. As is her bed. Which is why he's sprawled out awkwardly. He pulls himself to his feet and tries to get his bearings.

 

Two days. Two days the Force gave him with her and he feels even more confident in his decision. They'd not talked further about what happens next. He doesn't know what she thinks about what he's said about the First Order and the Resistance, but he knows he needs to make a plan and move quickly.

 

Looking back, he sees that he’s left Hux to his own devices for far too long. It surprises him how quickly all of his plans—the desperate need to prove himself to Grandfather, the desire to lead the Galaxy to a better way—have just disappeared. The drive that’s pushed him for years is just … gone.

 

He realizes he’s even willing to talk to his mother. A little skitter of excitement goes through him at the prospect of maybe seeing her again one day. No, much too soon for that.

 

In that moment he remembers he’s been holed up in his chambers for two days, which is decidedly odd behavior, even for him. He goes to the ‘fresher off of the large hall to do what he can to make himself presentable. Catching his reflection in the mirror he stops and stares.

 

Something’s different. He’s not sure what, but he can see it in his face that this time with Rey has shifted something in him, something deep and profound. His goals have shrunk, but he feels a sense of purpose he can’t recall ever experiencing.

 

There’s no doubt, he realizes. He’s not questioning himself. What he wants, what he needs, and what he’s going to do are perfectly aligned.

 

He will deal with Hux and find a way to end the cycle of conflict.

 

Rey's life may depend on it.




Chapter Text

Feeling more rested than he has in a long while, he leaves his chambers for the first time in two days. He needs to go to his quarters and bathe, but then he’ll make his way to the bridge and begin handling the Hux problem.

 

He's extremely grateful for all the time he was allowed with Rey. If he hadn't been able to be with her for so long after her injury, he would have gone out of his mind with fear for her. As he walks to his rooms, he pushes aside the way her face had looked, so marred with pain.

 

It would be so easy to sink into self-recrimination over how close she'd come to dying. Now that he's decided to put her above all things, he can't quite wrap his mind around how long he’s waited to do so. He really should have understood precisely who she is to him from the very beginning.

 

He’d had an inkling, a sense, but he’d been so blinded by Snoke’s teachings that he hadn’t listened to how the Force had been clanging in his head. In hindsight, it’s obvious to him that he and Rey … what they’re becoming … it was always going to happen. Perhaps they’ve been connected since she was born. The Force had been pushing them together before they’d even met, the pull to her had been intense from the moment he first heard about the girl.   

 

If only he hadn’t been so overwhelmed by being free of Snoke that day on the Supremacy. If he hadn’t been so quick to demand she join him and his vision, he could have done what she’d asked, let the Resistance go and then simply … talked with her. It seems blatantly obvious to him now.

 

He truly had pushed her into a corner. No wonder she felt she had to fight her way out … Maker, he’d been so blind.

 

For years, years, he'd devoted his entire being to finishing what his grandfather had started. And now it just seems like a hollow life. What would bringing order to the galaxy matter if he didn't have Rey with him?

 

As he walks, an image of his grandmother flashes behind his eyes. He’s never really spent much time thinking about her, but now … now she seems so much more important. Did Grandfather love Grandmother the way that he loves Rey? He doesn’t think so, because if Vader had, he would have done whatever he had to in order to keep her safe. The stories are vague, but it’s always bothered him that she supposedly died in childbirth.

 

Snoke had once suggested that Obi-Wan Kenobi himself had murdered her, and it had seemed likely to him at that time. But now … he’s not sure why, but it just doesn’t feel right. Perhaps because he can’t trust anything his thankfully dead master had told him.

 

Why hadn’t he questioned Snoke more? Why did he just accept everything the old alien had told him? Was he really so desperate for guidance?

 

He stops walking to his rooms and realizes that he was. He’d only just learned that Darth Vader was his grandfather when Skywalker had tried to kill him in his sleep. A nerve in his cheek jumps slightly at the memory of Rey’s words. It’s more complicated than that.

 

Regardless of what Skywalker may or may not have have been thinking, the fact remains that once he’d defended himself, he’d put his half-formed plans into action. It had always been an idle thought, that perhaps there was more to the Force than his uncles antiquated teachings. That Skywalker was wrong.

 

As the thought had taken root and grown, he’d learned who was willing to listen to when he questioned the Jedi ways and who would look at him like he’d kicked their twyla. Once Skywalker betrayed him, it had been frighteningly easy to slide further along the idea that the dark held answers the light would never reveal.

 

That night … when K’Nel, Jareth, Lorell, Boyn, Set, and Kell had joined him, fought side-by-side with him … they’d forged something strong in the temple, until Snoke had … Ben shakes his head. He can’t think about what happened to them. More loss he’s beginning to see was never necessary.

 

Without Snoke … what does he truly want to achieve? He does want to see the systems made whole and he’s certain his mother’s way of going about isn’t going to get the job done. The Republic had simply recreated the failed governing structure of old.

 

But … hadn't the First Order as well? He has the sharp feeling of insight and he feels a bit dull for having missed it this whole time. History repeats itself. Inevitably, invariably. The Empire fell because people fought back.

 

They always fight back. It's like trying to hold on to water with your fist.

 

He'd told himself that it was his grandfather’s betrayal of the dark side, giving into compassion that had been the downfall of the Empire. But it wasn't. Not really. There will always be rebels.

 

And now they’re caught in the same dance. Something has to change or there will just be more war, endless destructive war. It will never stop.

 

---

 

Feeling purposeful and clear for the first time in a very long while, Ben strides onto the bridge.

 

Hux’s lip curls slightly before he clears his expression. “Welcome back, Supreme Leader.”

 

Ben stares at him blankly. “I was simply in my chambers, as you well know.”

 

“Of course, sir.”

 

Ben fixes Hux with a glare. “We need to talk. Now.” His tone makes it clear that Hux will obey.

 

But Hux doesn’t even flinch, his eyes clear. Something about the conniving ginger’s confidence concerns Ben greatly.  

 

---

 

Once in his chambers, Ben regards the general, who stands at attention and waits patiently.

 

“Why did you move on the Resistance the way that you did?”

 

“You clearly weren’t capable of making the hard decision. I can’t imagine what’s changed since Crait, but you obviously don’t have the strength to attack Leia Organa,” Hux says baldly.

 

Hux has him there, partially. Though Rey is the greater reason, he can’t bring himself to bring more violence to her door. Hux had been right when he’d said he doesn’t have the stomach for it. He’d killed his father and if he killed his mother, too … he’d never be able to allow himself to touch Rey again. He’d lose any right he had to her if he took Leia from her as well.

 

However, he needs to convince Hux otherwise, buy some time.

 

“Did it occur to you that I simply have other concerns? Our position is precarious and expending those kind of resources given our financial situation was … reckless. That’s unlike you,” Ben says in a measured tone.

 

Hux clenches his jaw and his eyes narrow slightly. “It’s the Resistance,” he hisses.

 

“We both know two things. They pose no real threat and there will always be a faction fighting against First Order control. Always. Why spend what we don’t have on such an insignificant band of rebels? Do you genuinely think they will be able to grow into something that can match us?” He has to suppress a flinch as he casts himself as one of them. It doesn’t fit, not any longer.

 

“We must not allow them to grow!” Hux spits.

 

“Do you truly believe that the Resistance will manage to build themselves up to a point where they can, in any meaningful way, threaten the First Order?”

 

“Yes,” Hux seethes.

 

Ben crosses his arms and regards General Hux. He needs to lull him into working with him, not against him. And so Ben nods and says, “Alright. We’ll do it your way. Where have they escaped to?”

 

“They’re still on the move. FN-2187’s tracker shows them heading to the Core. It’s been an odd pattern of movement. It’s possible no one has been willing to shelter them.”

 

His chest tightens with fear. He hopes that his mother put Finn’s tracker in a decoy ship and that they didn’t somehow fail to find it. Last he knew, Rey was on a ship, so he’s not certain. He must convince Rey to accept a communication device, it’s just too dangerous to rely on their connection. Thus far the Force has linked them when it was important, but to leave it to chance like that … no, her safety is of utmost importance.

 

He keeps all of this from his face. Time to make the man who hurt his Rey believe he’s getting what he wants. “And now do you suggest we proceed?”

 

Hux’s head quirks quickly and Kylo tries not to smile at his obvious confusion at being asked for his opinion.

 

“Well, sir,“ Hux begins slowly. “I believe we should wait until they’ve settled then obliterate them. Aerial bombardment. Leave no chance for escape. We lose the opportunity to publicly execute the girl of course, but we’ll be rid of them for good.”

 

This isn’t ideal. It’s only a matter of time before Hux realizes he’s lost his ability to track the Resistance but First Order spies will invariably find them. Perhaps … if his mother works with him, they can select a location and make it appear that the Resistance has in fact been wiped out. If she agreed to that, he would be able to reorient the First Order … others will see it as he has come to, he’s sure of it. They simply cannot continue to make the same mistakes as the Empire.

 

How had he not seen it before? Snoke’s hubris truly had no bounds, thinking he could follow the steps of Palpatine and somehow meet a different end? So short-sighted.

 

Hux looks at him expectantly and he realizes he’s not responded, too lost in thought. “Yes, good. That will do nicely. Keep me apprised of developments this time, will you?” he asks with a raised brow.

 

At least Hux attempts to look chastened. “Yes, sir.”

 

“Dismissed.”

 

Ben watches Hux leave his chambers and oh how he wants to hit him with lightning. Make him scream for what he did to Rey. But he has no idea how deep Hux’s machinations go, what killing the face of the First Order would do, how the power structures might unravel. But someday, someday he’s going to take that ginger rat apart piece by miserable piece.

 

---

 

Kicking off his boots, he settles into his chair in his quarters. It’s been two days since he saw Rey and he’s tried to stave off the worry. She was healing well and there’s no reason to believe she’s in any danger.

 

He’s certain that Finn’s tracker is in fact on a vessel charged with leading the First Order on a merry chase. It’s been quite amusing to watch Hux get increasingly frustrated. He thinks he has a few more days until Hux will demand they go after the ship instead of waiting for the ‘Resistance’ to find a new home.

 

The last two days have been trying and he’s found his thoughts of her have vacillated between simply missing her to an intense physical craving that leaves him gasping her name into his empty rooms as he tries to satisfy his growing hunger for her. It just leaves him needing to touch her that much more.

 

Something about having definitively chosen Rey has unleashed a torrent of scorching need within him. He’s always been drawn to her in this way, but now that there’s nothing holding him back, a primal place he didn’t even know lurked in him has come roaring to life.

 

One way he’s attempted to handle his lustful thoughts is through research. He may not have any actual experience with a woman’s body, but Maker knows he’s always researched. And so he picks up the datapad waiting for him and finds where he’d left off. This particular text is dry and academic, describing female anatomy in great detail. He’s learned quite a bit over the last two evenings.

 

“Ben,” she sighs happily. He’s on his feet in record time, datapad clattering to the floor. She’s up and about, no longer in her med-bay gown, cheeks glowing with vitality. He goes to her immediately. Rey, Rey, Rey …

 

As soon as she’s in his arms, he kisses her deeply, reveling in her hot mouth and how blessedly alive she feels under his hands. She matches his intensity and she’s making little whimpers that are driving him insane.

 

“I missed you,” he murmurs between kisses, his hands going into her hair. He’s nearly overwhelmed by the rush of desire and adoration that flows through him.

 

“Me too,” she responds before gliding her tongue between his lips. He loves it when she does that, how it makes his core quiver and his pulse quicken.

 

He’s hardened swiftly, and she giggles as she writhes against him. “Seems like somebody missed me,” she says suggestively, pulling back and looking into his eyes. She’s already delightfully disheveled and he likes it, likes how it marks her as his.

 

“Always,” he growls, kissing her again. He’d never known he could want someone like this. Nothing has ever affected him so completely. It’s like she reaches inside him and weaves him back together when he’s with her. She makes him whole and she makes him yearn.

 

Placing his hands at her hips, he pulls her flush against him, but the action makes her yelp and he instantly lets her go. He’s hurt her! Her side, he’d forgotten in his eagerness to touch her. Idiot.

 

“Rey, I’m so sorry!”

 

“No, no, it’s alright. Don’t stop kissing me, never stop kissing me,” she says huskily.

 

And just like that she sweeps away his worry and he does exactly as she’s asked. So perfect, she’s just so perfect. He can’t see how yet, but he knows that he’s going to find a way to be with her every single day. For the rest of their lives, if she’ll have him.

 

He walks her back until they hit his bed and she gasps out, “Your bed! I can feel it.”

 

“Yes, it’s interesting how the connection is changing-” She cuts him off with another searing kiss as she pulls him down onto the bed, encouraging him to lie down with her. They’re on their sides, facing each other.

 

Rey tries to pull him on top of her but he shakes his head. “No, your wound, I shouldn’t put my weight on you.”

 

“But I’m finally feeling better and this was all I could think about. I love how it feels to have you on top of me …” She leans forward and breathes into his ear, “Feel you between my legs, how hard I make you.”

 

A strangled moan escapes him. “Gods, Rey!”

 

This is all he could think about, too, in between trying to focus on Hux. That thought cools his ardor a bit and reminds him that there’s much he needs to talk with her about.

 

But then she’s looking at him like she’d like to eat him and she scoots as close as she can. He’s careful of her wound as he wraps her in his arms and decides practical concerns can wait for a bit as he loses himself to the inviting heat of her mouth and how her hands feel on him.

 

Ben pulls back to look in her eyes. Slowly, deliberately, his fingers quest up under her shirt. Her skin is so soft.

 

When he reaches the band of fabric around her breasts he pauses. “Yes, please, yes,” she begs.

 

That’s enough for him. Swiftly he pushes the band up over her wonderful breasts. Maker, he adores how they feel in his hands. Her nipple tightens between his fingers and he needs … he needs to see them.

 

She whimpers when he moves his hand away from her glorious flesh but she nods frantically when he starts to pull up her shirt. She shifts and helps him with the garment and between the two of them they have her half-naked in front of him.

 

He takes in all that beautiful skin, smattered with freckles. Her side is still bandaged and something about the reminder of how close he’d come to losing her makes his heart swell with devotion. “Oh, Rey … you’re so gorgeous.”

 

The heat in her eyes grows shy and she mumbles, “No, I’m not. I’m too skinny. And my breasts are too small.”

 

“No … no. I love them. I love you. You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” he says sincerely.

 

Her lips pull into a small smile and she blinks at him. Her face is so open, so vulnerable and it speaks to his most hidden places. The places he keeps his light. His self. And now her.

 

Suddenly he has to kiss her again, touch her again, limn her entire body with his hands. Just before capturing her lips, he groans, “Let me show you how much I adore your body.”

 

As he delves his tongue into her mouth, he palms her breast. He’s never enjoyed anything half as much as he enjoys touching and tasting his beloved. Shifting from her lips, he kisses along her cheek, then below her ear, until he reaches the base of her throat, nibbling, licking, sucking.

 

Now though, now he must again feel her stiff peak in his mouth, how it grows hard and plump in his mouth. Gods, so good, so good. He wonders what it will be like to taste her there. Will her clit swell like her nipple does when he takes it between his lips?

 

Alternating between breasts, Rey is soon panting and moaning. She’s rubbing her legs together and he’s so hard it almost hurts.

 

“Please … please Ben, I need you. I need you to make this ache go away. Please, oh gods, please.”

 

He stills at her breast, wondering if he dare believe that she’s asking what he thinks she’s asking. When they’d gotten so carried away the morning he woke to her next to him in that tiny little nightgown, he’d been afraid of her pulling away.

 

But after her injury, something has shifted between them. Something deep and profound and he’s certain she won’t push him away as long as he doesn’t give her a reason to.

 

“Tell me what you want,” says, his voice rough with desire.

 

“I want …. I want …” she trails off but then she’s rolling onto her back and drawing his hand towards her center. With her other hand, she undoes the fastening of her leggings and he watches in rapt fascination as she pushes his hand beneath the fabric.

 

Force, he might pass out. For a moment he doesn’t move his hand, but then he hesitantly pushes past her underthings to find soft, tight curls and oh gods, she’s so hot. She begins to squirm and he catches her eyes. “Please, please, Maker, please!”

 

He wishes he knew what to do. Of course he knows the basics of her anatomy. He’s read quite a bit, and understands the mechanics. But he’s seized with fear that he’ll disappoint her. That he’ll make a fool of himself.

 

Her eyes though. Her eyes are drowning him with her need, so hesitantly he parts her folds and dips a finger into her wetness. Oh. Oh this is amazing. Her tight heat feels softer than the softest silk and his cock spasms in his trousers at the thought of what she would feel like around him. But she’s so snug around his finger, how would he ever fit?

 

Her hips buck against his hand and he starts to thrust his finger slowly in and out of her. She’s so wet and it fills him with a deep, masculine pride he’s never felt before. He did that. She truly does want him.

 

“More,” she pleads and he adds another finger. Ah, so that’s how he’ll fit. She stretches to accommodate the added girth and, Maker, it’s so, so easy to imagine how she’ll feel when he enters her, her body making room for him, welcoming him. He groans, deep in his throat and he’s beginning to think he’s going to come without having to even touch his weeping length.

 

“Faster,” she demands, her confidence growing. He watches her face as he gives her what she wants, pulsing his fingers, quickening his pace with each stroke. Her lips are parted and she’s taking in quick little breaths.

 

“Yes, gods, yes!” she moans out.

 

He remembers reading that there’s a spot, just inside and up, so he curls his fingers and feels how she has a different texture there. Her eyes go to his and she starts to pant. “Right there, Force, Ben, right there!”

 

Repeating the motion, she starts to babble nonsense and her skin has grown flushed. Her pupils are wide with lust and her cries of pleasure go straight to his core. He’s really doing this, sharing this with his beautiful Rey.

 

She’s meeting each thrust with her rolling hips and she starts to whine, seeming almost frustrated. “More, I … I need more.”

 

Their faces are so close, eyes intensely connected. “Tell me what you need, beloved.”

 

Then she again gets that shy look in her eyes. “When … when I’m alone … higher.”

 

Right. Of course, he knew that. Women often need more than just penetration. He has been studying quite a lot, after all. But … what if he shifted his hand just so? He twists his wrist until he can use his thumb on her clit as well as his fingers in her passage.

 

It takes him a moment to get his bearings, but then he feels a hard little bud of flesh and he’s certain he’s found it. He makes gentle circles around the fascinating center of her pleasure.

 

“A bit to the right, yes, like that. Harder.”

 

He does his best to follow her instructions then she throws her head back and swears. Is that good? Her hand goes to his head and she fists his hair as her other hand twists the sheets. Her whole body is writhing and she’s getting marvelously loud.

 

Wait. What’s that? He feels a flutter around his fingers, her muscles contracting. She’s tightening around his fingers and she’s almost screaming. Eyes closed tightly, her face contorts in pleasure. Pleasure he is giving her. He never, ever wants to stop touching her like this.

 

His cock is throbbing, jumping with each of her high moans. Gods, he could listen to Rey lost to her ecstasy forever. He wants to find out every single noise he could coax from her throat.

 

Then her eyes fly open and she pulls his face so close he almost can’t hold her gaze. “Ben, I’m, I’m—oh gods, Ben!”

 

She contracts around his fingers, so hard she nearly pushes him out, but it’s mesmerizing and she’s calling out his name over and over again as she comes apart around his hand. The twist of pleasure he feels in his core is so intense he wonders if he came, too.

 

He keeps moving his fingers until she quiets then he stills, his hand still buried in her. There are wonderful little aftershocks and she trembles with each one. Her eyes are glazed and she’s breathing harshly.

 

Surging forward, she kisses him, hard and frantic. He meets her intensity as he gently pulls his hand from her utterly exquisite sex. He must have her with him, he has to do this as often as she’ll let him. Will it feel differently if it’s not through their bond?

 

He’d thought she’d wish to recover, but now she’s pulling off his tunic and pushing him on his back. Oh. Oh! Her little hands are unbuttoning his trousers and his mind whites out when he feels her clever fingers wrap around him.

 

Nothing could have prepared him for the delectable feeling of her hand stroking firmly along his length. This is so much better than his dreams. But then she stops and finds his eyes. “I … I should have asked, is this okay?”

 

Words aren’t possible for him just now, so he nods eagerly. She smiles, just a tad smugly, and then he’s utterly lost to sensation as she continues to stroke him. It’s so different than his own large hand. Her fingers are slim, her palm smaller, and she’s hesitant, not using as much pressure as he does. But that makes it that much better somehow, because Rey is touching him, wanting to give this to him. That she wants to give him this, it soothes something raw inside and he has the strangest moment where he thinks he might cry.

 

Then her fingers tighten around him, speeding up her pace and everything but Rey’s eyes and the glorious tension she’s building within him just falls away.

 

He was already so close, this won’t take long. His mind blurs with bliss and his instinct is to close his eyes. But he doesn’t want to. He wants her hazel depths burning into him when she takes him there. Force, Rey, his precious, gorgeous, perfect Rey has her hand wrapped around him. Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods.

 

His orgasm is gathering fast, sparking up and down his spine. Holy hell, it almost feels too good. He’s begun to moan and, and, and he’s gone. His release surges from him and he keeps his eyes locked with hers. She’s panting along with him as another wave crashes over him. He’s coming so hard that he’s seeing stars. It feels like it goes on forever until finally the last burst of his seed is pulled from him.

 

Collapsing back on the bed, he tries to catch his breath. She’s breathing hard, too. He looks over at her and finds her blinking, almost in shock. She pulls her hand from him and he’s suddenly embarrassed by his mess. Swiftly, he calls a cloth to him with the Force and takes her hand, cleaning his spend from her fingers, then himself.

 

Feeling very exposed, he tucks himself back in his trousers. Was this too much for her? He knew it. She wasn’t ready. He never should have allowed this. He stares up at the ceiling, waiting for her to pull from him.

 

“That was amazing,” she finally says. Wait, what?

 

She goes up on one elbow so that she is looking down on his face. She’s grinning, then she starts to make little patterns with her fingers against his bare chest. His fear begins to recede.

 

“I never knew I could make someone feel like that. I swear, it almost felt like I came again when you did.”

 

He blinks at her dumbly. It hadn’t occurred to him that she’d want to … talk about it like this. He feels young and awkward, but at least she doesn’t seem to be regretting it. He could never regret anything he shares with his beloved.

 

He still hasn’t said anything when she kisses him. It’s a sweet kiss, full of love. “Thank you,” she murmurs against his lips.

 

She’s thanking him? He’s the one who should be thanking her. Giving him the honor of touching her like that, giving him the best orgasm of his life … no this won’t do. He pulls back and holds her eyes. “Thank you, Rey.”

 

There’s a flash of insecurity in her eyes and she says, “So … it was … okay?”

 

He takes her face in both hands and says, “It was perfect. You’re perfect. Not that I ever would, but I’m really not letting you go, now.” He grins at her wolfishly.

 

Turning, she settles her head against his chest. “Maker … if it feels so good when we do that, I’m not sure I’ll survive the first time I feel you inside me.”

 

His recently spent cock twitches hopefully and he tightens his arms around her. He very much wants to be with her like that, but … he wants … he wants … “Rey, when I make love to you for the first time I want us to be truly together. In the same physical space.”

 

She pulls away slightly, looking at his face. Her expression is thoughtful. “You really meant it, didn’t you? That you choose me. That you’re going to find a way for us to be together.”

 

“Yes. I’ve never wanted … needed anything more in my life.”

 

She nods. “Okay. I can wait.” Then alarm flashes across her face. “We can still do this though, touch each other, right?”

 

He barks out a laugh. “Oh, my wonderful Rey, I’m going to touch you like this as often as you’ll let me.”

 

Pure wickedness sparks in her eyes. “Well, in that case …” She brings her lips to his ear and breathes out, “Let’s get started right away.” Rey pulls at his hand, drawing it back to her center.

 

Ben eagerly complies.



Chapter Text

He holds her close, so close. Their skin hums together and he strokes his fingers through her hair. Still shuddering from his last climax, he presses his lips against her temple and the overpowering love he feels for her flows through him.

 

Swallowing thickly, his voice breaks when he says, “I love you so much, Rey.”

 

Her arms tighten around him and she responds, “I love you, Ben.”

 

He’s near tears from the glory of it all. Being with Rey like this, giving her pleasure, receiving it, he can’t begin to process just how much she makes him feel.

 

The sensation of their bare torsos pressed together is enough to make him tremble and he wonders what it will feel like to be completely naked with her. It’s already entirely beyond his ability to comprehend and all he can do is surrender to this singular connection, this singular woman.

 

But, they’ve already spent several hours lost in rapture, time he knows should have been spent talking. He can never anticipate how long he’ll have with her and he knows he’s been foolish. Reckless. He hopes the Force will give them just a bit more time.

 

“Rey?” His voice sounds somewhat less shaky.

 

“Mmm,” she hums languidly.

 

“There are things we need to talk about.”

 

She sighs deeply. “I know. I just … after everything that happened I … I needed you. Needed this.”

 

Perhaps he hasn’t been so foolish, after all. Perhaps they truly had needed this more than anything else. It feels like they’ve made promises to each other with their skin.

 

“I … I did too.” He shifts her and captures her lips, kissing her because he doesn’t have the words to express himself. To explain how she’s changed everything.

 

After allowing them just a few more moments to revel in each other, he eventually pulls back and looks into her eyes.

 

Everything about her is perfect, but it’s her eyes that have always held him fast. So many colors, such ferocity, so much compassion. He’d like to just fall into them, but it’s time to talk.

 

“You know who General Hux is, right?”

 

Her lips make a moue of distaste. “Who doesn’t know who that rat is?”

 

“I quite agree. He’s getting very dangerous and I know he’s plotting. I don’t know what he has planned—yet, but I’m certain it’s not good. I think I have him working with me, for the moment, but I don’t trust a word he says.”

 

He can tell she doesn't really like talking about the First Order, but they must. “Working with you? What … what’s your plan?”

 

This is it. This is the moment when he proves that all that matters to him is her. He’s about to collude with the enemy. Treason. But it doesn’t feel like treason and she is anything but his enemy.

 

“I need time. He’s dead-set on eradicating the Resistance and I want to work with you … and my mother, to make him believe that he has. We create a target, I’ll ensure it’s attacked from orbit, no ground troops.”

 

While he's been talking, Rey has settled back against his chest. He feels her nod and he kisses the top of her head.  

 

“We’ll have a few stragglers ‘escape’ and let it be known that Leia Organa and the Jedi Rey are dead. Then I want you all to hide. I need three months. That’s all I’m asking for. Three months to make allies within the First Order. Then we reveal that you’re alive and well and we … we can start to work together. Find a better way. No more imperialism. But no more Republic, either. Something between and beyond. Something new.”

 

It reminds him a bit of how he'd swayed his fellow Jedi. He shies away from how that turned out and focuses on that he knows he can be persuasive when he believes in his cause.

 

“No more conquest?” she asks suspiciously.

 

“No, no more conquest, I promise. I see now that that only leads to this constant cycle of destruction. I can’t promise you that there won’t be more bloodshed, but I can promise that what happened on Jentesh VI won’t happen once I’m able to unravel whatever Hux has done. I just can’t focus on that while you and my mother are so threatened. I just … I just can’t.”

 

“Are we in any danger right now?” As if he would simply be laying with her like this if she were!

 

“I don't believe so. May I presume that Finn’s tracker is on a ship far away from where you really are?”

 

A pained expression crosses her face. “I … I don’t know. All I know is that they got it out of him and they had a plan. They haven’t told me anything since Leia found out about … us. I … I’ve been confined to my quarters.”

 

“What?” he growls.

 

“Don’t … don’t be like that. What else was Leia supposed to do? For all she knows you could be using me …”

 

He scowls fiercely. “I would never-

 

“Shhh, I know. I know that. But … you still haven’t agreed to talk with her … And you wouldn’t let me explain about Snoke. All she really knows is … is …” She shudders and looks away from him.

 

“Is that I killed my father,” he says with no inflection.

 

Her eyes come back to him and they’re sad but oddly encouraging. “And she doesn’t know why.”

 

Staring blankly at the ceiling he tries to keep himself centered by stroking Rey’s back, feeling her skin. He knew he’d have to talk to his mother. He hadn’t really thought about it, simply understanding that he can’t do this without her. If he’s going to have any chance at all at changing things from within, he has to get the Resistance to pull back, give him some time.

 

He’s furious that Rey is being punished for his crimes. Intellectually he understands. His mother would be an idiot to have done anything else. But … but this is Rey. She’s already suffered enough because of him.

 

“Alright,” he says flatly.

 

“Alright?”

 

“Alright, I’ll talk with her.” He wishes he didn't sound so petulant.

 

“Now?” she asks hopefully.

 

Oh. He supposes it should be now, there’s no way to know when he’ll next have the opportunity. But he has no desire whatsoever to pull from Rey, watch her hide away her lovely breasts, then talk with his mother. It’s positively surreal.

 

He’s about to agree when he remembers something else he must discuss with Rey. “Before you comm her, there’s another item I’d like to talk about.” He’s not sure how she’ll react to this and he’s a bit worried she won’t like it.

 

“What is it?” she asks, her eyes sparking with curiosity.

 

“Rey … I’d like you to consider allowing me to give you a cloaked communications device. I won’t be able to track you through it,” he says hurriedly. “But I don’t want to take the chance that I need to warn you of something and be unable to reach you through our connection.”

 

Her eyes flit around the room and she clutches at his chest. “Oh,” is all she says.

 

“Please, if Hux pulls something else and I’m unable to warn you …”

 

She nods faintly, obviously thinking hard. “How … how would you get it to me?”

 

Nervously, he offers, “I had hoped you would agree to … to meet with me.”

 

Her eyes go very wide and the flare of excitement he sees encourages him. “We’d … we’d get to see each other?”

 

He’d thought he’d have to make more of a case, that she’d … be more afraid. But now she’s smiling a little secret smile and he remembers how young she is. He may be as inexperienced with any of this as she is, but for a moment he sees a hint of the young woman she should have been hiding behind her eyes. No galactic conflict, no Force, no overwhelming bond she never chose. Just a girl, a regular girl. Excited to see him.

 

Pushing her hair back from her face then cradling the back of her head, he says, “It wouldn’t be for very much time. I’ll need to sneak off the ship. If Hux knows I’ve left, he’ll be exceptionally suspicious. But yes, we’d get to truly see each other.”

 

She nibbles at her bottom lip. “I’ll need to get Leia’s permission.”

 

His temper flares at the reminder that his beloved is being caged and a small part of him wants to laugh at the absurdity of it. Will Leia give her a curfew? He suppresses a snort and his ire leaves him.

 

“Then I suppose it’s time we asked her.”

 

“You’re ready, to talk with her?”

 

He laughs a sound with no mirth. “No, I’m really not. But I don’t think I ever will be.” He takes in a deep breath. “It’s time.”

 

Rey holds his eyes for a moment, then strokes his cheek. “It’s going to be alright. Remember, she still loves you. She wants to trust you. It was in her eyes.”

 

He nods slightly then he’s encouraging her to sit up. He helps her with her shirt, then puts his own tunic back on while she fixes her hair.

 

Finally, they’re both presentable and she holds his eyes as she comms his mother.

 

Force, what is he even doing?

 

---

 

“Hello, Leia.”

 

Ben stands next to Rey and he can sense his mother’s presence. He can’t see her, hear her, but her Force signature is unmistakable.

 

“You can?” Rey asks Leia. Then she turns to Ben and says, “Your mother says she can feel you. She couldn’t feel you before.”

 

“I can feel her, too. I felt her last time as well, but it’s much stronger now.”

 

Rey looks between them speculatively. Sensing his mother like this, it feels like it had when he was a boy, when he always knew right where she was. It’s such a warm, achingly familiar feeling and it makes him yearn for a time long-dead. He struggles against the conflicting urges to shield himself and to go deeper.

 

Then the silence grows. Is his mother talking? But Rey doesn’t appear to be listening, she’s just watching his mother sadly.

 

“What … what’s going on?” Ben asks.

 

“I think … I think she’s just … feeling you,” Rey says quietly.

 

His eyes close tightly and the pain is swift. And in an instant, he understands how much he’s missed his mother. If only she’d never sent him away … what would his life be like now if she’d just let him stay?

 

But now Rey is nodding. She looks to Ben and says, “She wants to know why she should trust you.”

 

Because he’d die before he ever let Rey be harmed again. Because he can barely live with what he did to his father and if his mother died due to even his inaction, he would never recover. Because the First Order is as wrong as the Republic and he has a chance, a slim chance, but a chance nonetheless, to change things. He could have said any of those things. Instead he says, “Because Hux is a fanatical tyrant who will never stop until every single Resistance member is dead.”

 

Rey conveys what he’s said and then breathes in sharply and looks almost disappointed when she says, “Leia asked why that’s a problem for you.”

 

In that moment he realizes this is never going to work. He can’t properly convey what he’s feeling in words, words translated through an intermediary, at least not words that will persuade General Organa to work with him.

 

“Rey …” Is he really going to do this? Gods, he must be mad. “Rey, I want you to put my hand in my mother’s.”

 

Her brows shoot up. “What? Why?”

 

“I need to communicate with her directly and I think … given our past … connection, that this might work.”

 

“You … you’re willing to talk with her … through the Force?”

 

He fixes Rey with his eyes. “I will do anything I have to in order to keep you safe. There is nothing I will not face for you, Rey. Nothing.”

 

She blinks rapidly and she murmurs, “Oh.” Then she looks down for a moment, but he sees her smile.

 

“Leia … he wants … he wants me to join your hands.”

 

Rey is obviously listening intently to what Leia is saying. “He said … he said he’s doing it for me.” Another secret smile crosses her lips. “He does. Very much.” Rey nods and quietly says, “Thank you.”

 

Her attention returns to him. “She’s ready. Come here.”

 

Rey reaches for his hand and he watches as she places her other hand around Leia’s and he tries to keep the panic at bay. He hasn’t had any sort of contact with his mother in seven years and the chasm between them … he’s not sure it can ever be bridged. If he wants to.

 

But then he can’t think through the blinding pain he’s sensing. He stumbles, almost falling. It’s too much, the grief winding through her howls through him. Maker, he can’t think! Force, is this … is this how she feels? Did he … did he do this to her?

 

Flashes, moments start to coalesce. The small weight of a baby in her arms. Him. The warmth envelopes him and he begins to get his bearings. The sensation of his hair threading through her fingers as she gave him his first haircut.

 

Completion. She’s in his father’s arms and it’s so similar to what he feels when he holds Rey … he finally truly understands what he took from her. He hadn’t … he hadn’t thought of that. He murdered his mother’s beloved. That’s when the tears start.

 

“I’m sorry!” he calls through the Force. “Mother, I’m so sorry! I never … I couldn’t … I didn’t … oh, gods… I didn’t mean it.”

 

Sharp, red accusation knifes through him. “I thought I had to … I thought I had to,” he wails.

 

She doesn’t say anything and that’s when he realizes that she can’t. She’s feeling his feelings, he’s feeling hers. His words never traveled, only his emotions, images, sensations. The purity of this communication makes him feel raw, exposed and terribly vulnerable.

 

The storm lessens as his mother finds some control over herself and then, suddenly she is placid. Ah. This. He remembers this. His mother could always find her calm, even when he desperately needed her to meet him in his storm. Leia Organa can always keep herself under control.

 

He feels curiosity and he realizes she’s waiting. Waiting for him to make his case. He begins with Rey, how he feels about her, careful to focus on his love and not his desire, but he still feels some of it slip through.

 

His fear for his mother’s safety when he realized what Hux had done, that she might die before Ben was ever able to see her again. That it would be his fault. The desperation, how he’d pleaded with Rey to get them both to safety.

 

Disillusionment with the First Order, realizing the futility of it all. Hope for a better way. The need for time.

 

He remembers Rey telling him that his mother deserved answers for his father, to know what Snoke had done to him.

 

So he allows himself to remember. Remember what it was like before Rey. How every day was constant torment and near-madness. The never-ending pull to the light. The shame, the unrelenting shame as he would fail again and again.

 

He had been a man made of fractured pieces, grinding together like broken bones. He remembers, oh how he remembers.

 

The night after Snoke first told him he expected Ben to kill his father. The horror. The revulsion. How it had made him sick. The hope that it would finally heal the rift in his soul. Peace, please, Force, please give him peace.

 

Crawling to his master, begging for any little scrap. Then the punishments. Taking it like a beaten dog. How Snoke would use lightning over and over and over again, how sometimes he thought he might die. How sometimes he wanted to …

 

Oh … oh, he remembers this. She did this when he was a boy and he’d had nightmares. He feels her light wrap around him and it feels just like it had when he was small. Safe. He’s so safe. The monsters can’t get him if Mama’s here. He almost hears the lullaby she used to sing.

 

Cradled in his mother’s love he begins to weep in earnest. “I’m sorry. Please, Mother, I’m so sorry.”

 

Time is moving oddly, and echoes of my precious boy ring in his head, long-denied memories rising to the surface. All the while he feels as if she’s rocking him as she did when he was small. A light kiss at his temple.

 

Then he feels a new feeling.

 

It takes him awhile to discern it. He’s never really felt it before. At first he can’t accept it, pushes it back, shaking his head. He … he can’t do this. He wants to rip away as much as he wants this feeling so badly that he never wants to leave this place.

 

Finally, he bows his head and he can feel her hand ruffle through his hair and he finally lets it in.

 

Forgiveness.



Chapter Text

Rey’s arms wrap around him as he feels himself pulled away from the overwhelming place of connection with his mother. No! He’s not ready! But then his beloved is encouraging him to lay his head on her shoulder and she’s soothing him with her fingers in his hair.

 

He should stop this sniveling, but … he can’t. Rey is holding him and he just … lets go. He’s done so much, hurt so many … for what? Dear gods, for what? Nothing, it had all meant nothing.

 

This knowledge, he’s been pushing it away since the moment he realized—on that nightmare bridge bathed in red—that there was nothing he could do to snuff out the light. That if killing his own father didn’t bring him fully to the dark, nothing ever could. Nothing … nothing. All for nothing.

 

Father. Oh, Father ... he can’t really believe that he did that, as he’s pulled further down into memory, the sensation of his blade plunging through his father’s heart. That discordant sense of utter wrongness rises in him. It will never fade. Until the end of his days he will always be the son who murdered his father, stole his mother’s husband from her. Oh … oh, Maker it’s even worse than that ...

 

In a blinding moment of clarity, he understands that his father had loved him. Fiercely. Ben just couldn’t perceive it. But now, after feeling how his parents had loved each other … he spirals into the daydreams of Rey heavy and ripe and he knows, deep down in a place he cannot deny, that he would give anything, do anything for a child borne of his beautiful Rey.

 

What if all those frowns from his childhood were confusion? What if his father had truly meant it when he’d said, “We miss you. Come home.” Oh, Force … what if … what if he had, taken his father's offer and gone home?

 

His father would be alive, he'd be with Rey every single day. Every single night. His soul wouldn't be a shattered mass of mistakes and regret.

 

He can barely think through the bursting connections, and he starts to gasp, unable to fill his lungs with air. His heart beats wildly, out of sync, it hurts. Make it stop, it hurts.

 

“Look at me!” Rey’s plaintive call breaks through his anguish.

 

His eyes, near blind with tears, search for hers, then she’s grabbing his face and all he can see is Rey.

 

“There, yes. Focus on me.”

 

He blinks slowly and his tears stop. Stars, she’s so beautiful.

 

“That’s it Ben, just listen to the sound of my voice. You’re alright. You’re safe.”

 

Safe? Safe?! He knows that’s a lie. But … Rey is telling him he’s safe and her hands running through his hair feel so good. Mmmm. Rey is here. Rey … Rey … Rey …

 

“Yes, he’s fine. Well, he’s going to be fine. I’m sorry I broke you apart like that, but he was … he wasn’t alright.” Who is Rey talking to?

 

Oh. That’s right. He’d been with his mother. Wait, how is that possible? He shrugs slightly, deciding Rey can do anything.

 

She makes a little squeak when he pulls her to him, burying his face at the crook of her neck. She smells just right. Home.

 

“Ben?”

 

“Mmm?” he enquires as he nuzzles against her.

 

But she pulls back and he whines in disappointment. She again takes his face in her hands. “Your mother is extremely worried about you. And so am I. What … what happened?”

 

Rey looks so concerned and he doesn’t like it. She shouldn’t be distressed. Then his mind begins to clear and he starts to remember. He'd been with his mother. Shame coils and snags through him as he realizes he’d … he’d shared everything. The lightning. How he blindly obeyed a monster. The way his own body had rebelled against the unnatural act demanded of him ...

 

Then she'd … she’d forgiven him. Force … how is that even possible?

 

Rey’s face is so full of fear and he doesn’t know how she brings herself to touch him. He’s too stained with his father’s blood. Maker, he’s disgusting. But her hands slide down his cheeks and she’s pulling him into her arms again.

 

Why would the Force have ever given him such a gift? This bond? Bless him with Rey while damning her with him? He doesn’t understand. All he knows is that when she holds him, he feels whole.

 

“Please … please tell me what happened, Ben,” she murmurs against his cheek.

 

Taking in a shuddering breath, he prepares to pull away so that he may see her face when he tries to explain what he doesn’t even begin to comprehend himself. Most of him wants to stay right here forever. In Rey’s arms where everything doesn't hurt all the time. He's so damned tired.

 

Finally he shifts, loosening his hold and finding Rey’s eyes.

 

“She … she forgave me,” he whispers. The words feel odd in his mouth.

 

A gentle, kind smile blooms on Rey’s face. “I'm glad.”

 

Glad? But … he does not deserve this … this … impossible grace. He almost wants Rey to hiss and spit, remind him he's a murderous snake, a monster. Creatures are not for forgiving. He can't let this in.

 

“But I don't understand! How can she ... how can she possibly forgive me? I killed him, Rey!”

 

She flinches and looks away. She’s right not to want to look at him. He rips his hands from her and stares at them with horror. “I killed him with these hands!” He thrusts them out in front of him, palms up.

 

She tries to lace their fingers together but he barks, “No!” He swiftly avoids her grasp. “These hands don't deserve to touch you! These hands have brought only pain and destruction and murder. I cannot be forgiven!” I don't know how to be.

 

Rey’s brows draw together in a deep furrow. She again holds out her hands and says, “Please, Ben. Please.”

 

“I have no right to touch you. I'll only taint you,” he snarls, backing away from her.

 

“Stop. I'm the one who decides if you're allowed to touch me. It's not your choice to make. Now give me your hands,” she says sternly.

 

Ben shakes his head. “Tell her … tell my mother that she shouldn’t forgive me. Tell her she should hate me!” Like I hate myself ...

 

“I’m not going to do that,” Rey says gently, then looks over to where his mother must be standing. “He’s having trouble accepting that you forgive him.” Rey smiles just a bit and nods.

 

He doesn't like that they’re discussing him. It makes him feel like an errant child. “What did she say?” he asks shortly.

 

“She said, ‘Well it’s a good thing that’s not up to him.’”

 

Some part of him is quickly filled with familiar fury at how dismissive his mother can be. She always did this when he was a boy, when he’d get so angry. She’d smile at him indulgently and it made him feel so stupid.

 

Yet … he'd felt it. Instinctively he knows that lying was simply impossible in that strange place of feelings and raw history. He knows his mother truly does forgive him, even as he will never, ever forgive himself.

 

She doesn’t even know why he'd destroyed the temple, killed … Chan, Rell … no, he won’t remember them. How he’d tried to get his fellow Jedi to see, how everything went so horribly wrong …

 

He wraps his arms around his torso and turns away from Rey, ignoring the flash of hurt he sees.

 

Skywalker is dead. He’s hurt his mother enough, she doesn’t need to know what her brother did to him.

 

Wait. That means she'd forgiven him even thinking he'd betrayed her brother? Murdered her husband, destroyed her twin …

 

He turns slightly and croaks out, “Why?”

 

“Why what?” Rey asks, her hands reaching for him again. He tightens his arms around himself, he doesn’t deserve her offered comfort.

 

“Why was she willing to forgive me? Why would she want to?” he nearly begs.

 

“Oh Ben … you … there’s so much I wish you could see …” she says sadly before closing her eyes briefly.

 

Rey focuses her attention on Leia and asks her his question. She listens and then nods. “She said … she said because you're her child.” Her voice is filled with sadness, but it’s different, now … she’s beginning to hunch into herself.

 

Something is upsetting Rey. It pulls him from his spiral of self-loathing and the ever-beckoning past. His beloved needs him, and even if he knows he doesn’t deserve to touch her, it will help her if he does. And so he's reaching for her, taking her hands, needing to comfort her the way she’d been attempting to comfort him.

 

Stroking his thumbs along her palms he peers at her. Yes, something's wrong. “Rey?”

 

Her eyes dart to his and he sees it. The longing, that deep wound that's behind all of her choices. Her parents.

 

Then her expression clears and her spine straightens. She shakes her head. “It's not time for that,” she says, almost to herself.

 

“But-”

 

“No. I can't! I … maybe later.” She searches his eyes pleadingly. After a long moment he nods once.

 

She lets out a slow sigh. “Are you feeling better?” she asks.

 

Something about his concern for Rey has pulled him from the chaos of his history. Locking it all away again, he takes in centering breath.

 

“Yes. I am.” He lifts her hand to his lips, kissing her palm softly. Her fingers press into his cheek. He may not deserve her touch, but he's never going to give it up. He's not strong enough to go without her.

 

“Thank you, for …” For holding him as he fell apart so completely. For making this time with his mother possible. For loving him. But nothing seems right. “Just … thank you,” he finishes awkwardly.

 

Her eyes grow soft and she strokes his cheek. “You’re welcome.”

 

Leaning forward, they touch their foreheads and feel each other for a moment before breaking apart.

 

There's much left to talk about with his mother.

 

---

 

He'd listened to Rey explain his plan to thwart Hux. She'd added to it here and there, logistical details he hadn't yet considered. It had sounded so much more … thorough when he’d listened to her lay it out for his mother. He wonders if Rey has the barest comprehension of how amazing she is?

 

As she’d talked and answered his mother’s questions, he’d been able to put himself back together, more or less. The strong sense that he shouldn’t touch Rey has replaced itself with the need to hold her close.

 

Now they're alone again, Leia needing to think. His mother had touched his hand briefly again just before she'd left. He'd been surprised to feel … pride. And a rush of deep affection for Rey, approval ...

 

Tucking Rey against his chest, he gives himself a few moments of simply enjoying the solid rightness of her in his arms, but they’ve been together for most of the night at this point, and she’s sure to fade soon.

 

He pulls back and looks down into her face. “You never asked my mother about … about meeting me. In person.” He’s decided on Cathne. It’s less than an hour from the Finalizer’s current position. He’ll be able to manage a few hours away undetected.

 

“I want to have that conversation alone,” she says, blushing.

 

It stings that she doesn't trust him and his face falls.

 

“No! It's not because there are things I don't want you to know. It's … she asks such embarrassing questions … half the time I don’t even know what she means ...” she trails off.

 

He remembers how Rey’s cheeks had flamed when his mother had just found out about their bond. How shocked Rey had been at something the other woman had asked.

 

“What was it she said, anyway, when you said ‘it hasn't come up’?”

 

Rey’s blush deepens. “She asked … she asked if I had the … uhm ... implant…”

 

Oh. Oh! He hadn't even thought of that! For a strange moment he wants to be incredibly reckless and not bother with it when the time comes. But … it's war and Rey pregnant … with his child … it would be beyond selfish. The thought lingers, however.

 

Rey’s cheeks are still burning and he asks, “Why … why did that embarrass you?”

 

“She’s your mother! Besides … I …” She looks away and grows quite tense.

 

“What is it, sweetheart?”

 

“I never thought … I never thought I’d ever … be with a man. On Jakku no one can afford the implants anyway and I don’t … I don’t really know what to do. I mean … do I just go to the doctor and … ask? And I don’t have anything to trade for it and I ...”

 

She looks so nervous so he takes her into his arms and murmurs, “I’ll take care of it. As long as one of us has one, that’s all that matters. But if you do want one, yes, you just need to ask. They won’t expect you to trade anything for it, I’m certain.” The Resistance doesn’t want pregnant soldiers any more than the First Order.

 

Rey grimaces. “I don’t understand that,” she says lowly.

 

“What, what don’t you understand?”

 

“They just … they just give me things.” She shrugs. “The first day I was on Atalyn, I tried to offer to work on ships for food and Poe just stared at me … Finn explained and I … I hate their pity.”

 

He works very hard to keep the sorrow off of his face. Of course she wouldn’t understand kindness. Plutt taught her that no one ever does anything without expecting something in return and he suspects this lesson will take a long time to untangle.

 

Rey sighs. “Then Leia, she … she started bringing me beautiful clothes, jewelry ... and it scared me. It felt … it feels like a debt I can never work off. She tells me I’m being silly, but …”

 

Ben hums slightly. “I think you need to talk to her. Tell her about Jakku. And I mean the truth of it. What it was like. Plutt,” he says darkly.

 

Rey shakes her head emphatically. “No. I don’t … I don’t want her to know I was … I was a slave.” Her voice is thick with humiliation and it slices into him.

 

“Rey, you have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing. My mother … my mother will help you. She … she cares about you very much. I felt it when we were together in the Force.”

 

She scoffs. “Leia cares about everyone.”

 

“No … you’re special to her. I know you are. Talk to her. You don’t need to be alone in this.” He’s surprised at how much of the resentment he’s used to feeling just … isn’t there. His mother always had a protégé or two under her wing and he’d hated them. But now … now he just sees it as his mother’s nature and he’s in fact quite grateful for it. Rey needs someone to help her navigate this new reality where none of her old rules apply.

 

“I hate not knowing how things work. At least on Jakku everything made sense.”

 

“You’ll learn. You already are. Talk to her,” he repeats.

 

She holds his eyes and some of the trepidation fades. “I … okay. Okay, I’ll talk to her.”

 

“Good, good.”

 

He wishes he was with her all of the time. To be the one to help her learn to accept generosity, slowly ease the suspicion he often sees in her face. Oh how he despises what her parents did to her. Wait, her parents, something had made her think of them while he was cracking wide open.

 

“Earlier … something reminded you of your parents. What was it?”

 

She flinches and blinks rapidly. “It was … it was when Leia said she forgives you because you’re her child, like it was the most obvious thing in the galaxy. Like there was nothing you could do to stop her loving you. No one has ever loved me like that.”

 

Ben cups her cheek, noticing how his large hand covers almost half of her face. “That’s not true …”

 

“Of course it is! They sold me!” she exclaims hotly.

 

“No … Rey … I meant me. There’s nothing you could ever do to make me stop loving you.”

 

“Oh,” she says sheepishly.

 

He draws his thumb along the silken skin of her cheek, simply holding her eyes, letting her see his devotion.

 

She leans forward and kisses him, long and slow. Pulling back, she says, “And … and I guess I was a little angry. I try not to be, but sometimes …”

 

“Sometimes?” he prods.

 

Her eyes grow hollow and she looks away from him. “You … you had everything I wanted and … and I know there’s so much more to it, but sometimes I still get upset that you don’t see how lucky you were.”

 

His brows shoot up. Lucky? He’s anything but lucky to have been born into the Skywalker family but something about her bearing keeps him from arguing with her. Then he realizes she’s right. Measuring by Rey’s scale is … humbling.

 

Drawing her to him, pressing her face into his chest, he rumbles, “I’m beginning to.”

 

---

 

Ben notes the time, there’s really no point in going to sleep. He feels oddly at peace, as if some of his anguish has bled out of him. The calm Rey brings has remained. They’d spent their last few minutes together caressing each other gently and he’d had his lips pressed to hers as she’d faded.

 

They’ve made plans to meet on Cathne the day after tomorrow. That should give him enough time to adjust duty schedules and disable the necessary security measures. And for her to speak with his mother.

 

He wishes he had time to find a gift for her. Thinking about her life of deprivation makes him want to give her everything. But he can’t exactly slip off the ship twice. Perhaps he could arrive on Cathne a bit earlier … see if he could find something?

 

Wait … he goes to a cabinet in the corner of his room and opens the top drawer. There. When his crystal had cracked, a shard the size of the tip of his pinkie had come loose. It’s still the original blue and it feels almost warm in his palm. He’s kept it, never knowing what to do with it. It felt wrong to discard it.

 

Taking the crystal with him, goes to his work table, pulling out his tools. A design is already forming in his mind as he sits down.

 

At least this way, a part of him will always be with her.


Chapter Text

Giddy. He feels absolutely giddy with excitement. He’s going to see Rey in just a few hours and the weight of her gift in his pocket makes him feel like a damned adolescent. The nervousness and anticipation have him almost bouncing out of his skin. Will it feel differently, kissing her in person?

 

He’s forced himself not to think about the last time he’d seen her since their connection had changed everything. He won’t think about what happened that day on the Supremacy. Well … he tries. It’s difficult not to question himself, castigate himself for being so rigid.

 

This will be the first time he touches her bare skin with his true hands and the need for time to just hurry up is eating away at him. The waiting is killing him!

 

He can’t sit still so he decides to go to the bridge, hoping for some distraction before the shifts change and he’s able to put his plan into action.

 

Every spare moment he’s had between monitoring Hux and addressing First Order business has been spent either on working on her gift or adjusting duty schedules and redirecting security measures. He has a narrow window of around 15 minutes to get off of the Finalizer undetected. He’ll be taking a standard TIE and the swiped flight suit is already hidden away in his quarters.

 

Hux’s snarled, “What?!” greets Ben as he strides onto the bridge.

 

“Problems?” Ben inquires with a lifted brow.

 

Hux turns to him swiftly and his jaw clenches. “Not here.”

 

Ben gestures towards Hux’s ready room and makes a point of entering first.

 

Once the door is closed, Hux seethes, “Somehow, the Resistance managed to remove FN-2187’s tracker. We’ve been following an empty freighter all over the bloody galaxy.”

 

There’s a pause before Ben schools his face into a frown. “How did they find it?”

 

“I couldn’t possibly say. None of the stormtroopers know that they’re there and it’s cloaked to avoid most scans. You have to know to look for it.”

 

A frisson of apprehension runs up Ben’s spine. “Then we must presume we have a leak at best, a spy at worst.” He’s going to have to find a way to cast suspicion elsewhere.

 

Hux looks at him for a long moment, his expression unreadable, but Ben senses … something from the other man.

 

“Yes, as you say. There is clearly an … issue with our security,” Hux says.

 

“Where does this leave us when it comes to finding the Resistance?” Ben desperately hopes that Hux doesn’t have any further tricks up his sleeve.

 

“We’re left with traditional methods, unfortunately. We’re going to have to rely on our network of informants. But our reach is vast and the Resistance has so few resources, we’ll find them,” the general says with confidence.

 

Maker, he hopes not. He’ll have to tell Rey about this, make sure his mother knows to be extremely cautious. “Keep me informed,” Ben orders.

 

“Of course, Supreme Leader.”

 

Ben strides from the room, an apprehensive itch at the back of his head.

 

---

 

The flight suit fits oddly, he’s used to a cloak or a cowl and it bunches in strange places. Wearing a helmet again feels almost oppressive and Snokes humiliating words keep floating through his head. Take that ridiculous thing off.

 

Snoke himself is the one who’d insisted he hide his face. At first because Snoke hadn’t wanted to let it be known that Ben Solo had joined their cause. At the time, his face had been quite well known once his connection to Darth Vader had been revealed. Now though … he’s found when he goes without his mask few recognize him. But years ago, Snoke hadn’t been ready for the attention; the time to strike had not yet arrived. Later, after the slow whittling away of his knights … Ben had welcomed the mask, welcomed the way he could hide.

 

He supposes he’s simply hiding again, but this time with a true purpose, something real. Rey’s communication device is tucked into his boot and he reminds himself this isn’t like being Kylo Ren, this isn’t redonning his mask. But he still doesn’t like the close feeling of it around his face.

 

It’s time. He reaches out with the Force and just as he’d hoped, the corridor outside of his rooms is empty. Slipping out the door, he begins his journey to the hangar.

 

---

 

Once he’s safely away from the Finalizer, he rips the helmet from his head, breathing quickly. Everything had gone smoothly. He’d only had to mind trick the officer on duty to change the logs.

 

Entering the coordinates to Cathne, he smiles slightly. He hasn’t seen her in two days and there’s something about knowing that he will, when he will, that makes him tingle with excitement. It’s only an hour’s flight, but he knows the time will go very slowly.

 

---

 

Walking quickly, he checks his datapad, following the directions to the tavern they’d discussed. He’s going to see her! He knows he really can’t spend more than an hour with her, but it’s time truly with her. And after this, he’ll be able to contact her any time he needs to. It’s a heady thought.

 

He’s in a gray shirt and dark trousers, not wanting to draw attention to himself with his usual attire. He’s left the flight suit behind in the TIE. He’d purposefully selected a First Order world so that the appearance of a TIE and its pilot would be unremarkable.

 

Happily making his way to Rey, he realizes something. What if his mother hadn’t given Rey permission? What if … what if she’s just not there? They haven’t seen each other since making their plans and she would have had no way to tell him. His heart sinks to his boots and he has to stop walking.

 

After a moment he shakes himself. She’ll be there. He needs her to be there. He continues his journey, hoping nothing has gone wrong.

 

He’s about halfway there when he feels her. She almost throbs in the Force and oh, Maker he’s going to have her in his arms, solid, real, his.

 

It takes a shocking amount of control to keep from running the rest of the way, but his pace does increase swiftly. He rounds the last corner and the tavern comes into view. It’s tucked away in a small alley and it’s supposed to be quiet and private. He wishes he could have arranged to take her somewhere grand, like the opulent hotels on Coruscant. Someday. Someday he’ll show her everything, give her everything.

 

He reaches into his pocket, assuring himself her gift is still there. It’s not as fine as he would have liked, he only had his tools to work with, but he hopes she’ll still like it.

 

There, there she is! Rey is wearing a deep green tunic with leggings and her hair is down. She’s craning her neck, looking for him and she sees him in an instant. An incandescent smile blooms on her face and she’s running to him. He matches her pace and the moment she’s within reach he captures her in his arms, swinging her around.

 

It’s the same but somehow different in person. There’s an added layer to the contact and he’s not sure how he’s ever going to let her go. She’s peppering his face with kisses, but it’s not nearly enough so he sets her on her feet and takes her face in his hands, finding her lips and delving his tongue between them immediately.

 

Everything is just a bit more in focus, and the knowledge that the Force can’t snatch her away at any moment makes it all seem so much more real. How is he meant to make himself stop kissing her? He shifts his hands from her face and pulls her as close as he can. She goes on her tiptoes and he lifts her by her waist, closing the gap in their height. Her legs wrap around his hips and Force, her center is right against his already stiffening length.

 

Their lips haven’t parted once and the feel of her hot mouth makes his core flutter with pleasure. Maker, he wishes they were alone but they don’t have time for that.

 

“Oy!” a voice breaks into their bubble. “They have establishments for that sort of activity!”

 

Rey swiftly pulls away and looks around quickly. Ben sees the speaker first and is met with a portly twi’lek scowling at them. Rey unhooks her legs from around him and he can already see the flush rising in her cheeks. No, that will not do. He won’t have Rey being made to feel ashamed.

 

He hides her body behind him in one smooth gesture and glares at the offending party. Ben raises his hand but Rey stops him with a gentle touch on his arm. “No! Don’t hurt him.”

 

Confused, he looks back over his shoulder at her and says, “I … I wasn't going to. Just make him forget what he’s seen.”

 

“Oh. Okay,” she says sheepishly.

 

Refocusing on the twi’lek, Ben intones, “You saw nothing and will go about your business.”

 

Eyes going glassy, the twi’lek responds, “I saw nothing, just going about my business.”

 

That dealt with, he turns back to Rey and takes her hand. “It’s so, so good to see you.”

 

“I can’t believe you’re really here!” Stars, she’s almost glowing.

 

“Believe it, my love,” Ben says as he strokes her cheek with his other hand. “Come on, let’s get inside.”

 

They cross the threshold and Ben is about to speak with the man by the door about a table when Rey says, “I … well … I did some research. They have private rooms upstairs. I … I got us one. Was that … was that okay?” she asks, her shyness deeply endearing to behold.

 

“Of course!” He’s a bit put out with himself that he didn’t think to do that on his own. “But, I insist you allow me to pay for it.”

 

“No. I … this is the first time I’ve had credits and I … it’s just important to me, alright?” There’s a mullishnes to her expression that makes him back off immediately.

 

“Whatever you want, Rey.”

 

She smiles and starts pulling him to a staircase. “Come on!”

 

---

 

The room has a table with food waiting and a wide settee in the corner. It’s small, but cozy and the room reminds him just a bit of the private areas at Maz’s old place. He pushes that thought away and focuses on what really matters.

 

Rey is still holding his hand, but seems almost furtive now. He reaches out and draws her face to look at him with two fingers under her chin. “What is it?”

 

“I … wasn’t really sure what to do … Leia helped me. I … ordered food but I just … I hope I did it right.”

 

Then he understands. Like her gift waiting in his pocket, she’d wanted to do something for him. The realization fills him to bursting with warmth and love. “You did perfectly, Rey. Thank you.”

 

“Are you … are you hungry?” she asks tentatively.

 

He’s not really, but she’s obviously tried so hard to please him, so he says, “I would love to share a meal with you.”

 

She grins and leads him to the table. He pulls out her chair for her and she looks confused for a moment. “Please … sit.” he encourages.

 

Taking her seat, he joins her and she pulls the covers from their meal. It’s a simple but hardy looking collection of meats and vegetables. He makes a plate for her and then himself. She picks up her fork and he can tell she’s still not comfortable with the utensil. He wonders when he’ll stop finding more reasons to wish he could kill Plutt all over again. This time he would make sure he suffered.

 

Cutting into his meat, he watches her, how her eyes close in pleasure as she eats, the little hums of happiness she makes. He hasn’t even taken his first bite, too enraptured by watching her enjoy her food. There’s something about seeing her fed that quiets the snarling beast she’s awoken in his chest.

 

He’s always had a temper, and it had only grown under Snokes careful tutelage. But the feelings Rey inspire in him are so much more potent. He had no idea he could … could love like this. The ferocity of his need to see her safe and happy always comes on him swiftly when he’s reminded of what her life has been. She just … she just … she makes him better as she also makes him reckless.

 

“You aren’t eating,” she says quietly.

 

“Oh, sorry, yes. I … I was enjoying watching you.”

 

She smiles a small smile and says, “Well, don’t let your food go to waste.”

 

No … he sees that he could never pick at his food around Rey. He can feel that Rey’s relationship with food  is …. complex. Suddenly this gesture becomes much more important. Ordering their meal, having it waiting, insisting on paying for it herself …  he cannot really fathom what providing food to another must mean to Rey. There’s just so many layers to it all and he finds his throat tightening.

 

A memory comes for him. The last time he’d shared a meal with his mother. He’d nearly missed it, asuming she’d be late, like she always had been. She’d come to the temple when he was around 15. Skywalker had told him she’d arrive for the evening meal, but Ben hadn’t believed it. Too many years of waiting for Mother to arrive only to be told by whatever nanny was with him that day that he needed to eat before bed.

 

So he’d stayed away, he now sees out of spite. The shock and regret he’d felt when he’d tumbled into the hall just before the end of the dinner hour to find his mother waiting patiently … he can still feel it. There had been no recriminations, aside from Skywalker’s stern expression.

 

But his mother had just smiled at him and filled his plate with twice as much food as he was accustomed to. He’d left nothing behind, though he’d been nearly bursting by the last bite.

 

He looks at Rey and sees … so much. He may have no idea what he’s doing, but he at least understands the social customs that govern most interactions. Rey though … she’s had to learn so much so quickly and yet she still wanted to do something for him.

 

He begins to eat.

 

Clearing his throat he says, “It’s good.” Her hopeful smile makes his heart ache. “Thank you for doing this, I … it’s been a long time since anyone has … well … thought of me … cared for me.”

 

The caution in her bearing falls away and her bright hazel eyes shine. “I wanted … I wanted it to be special.”

 

“Any time I have with you is special, but it … it means a great deal to me that you did this. Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome,” she says with quiet joy.

 

---

 

Halfway through their meal he’d realized he couldn’t leave after only an hour with her. It would have meant disappearing right after her sweet plans and that hadn’t set well with him at all. Besides, he’d been certain his legs would refuse to carry him from her side. He had planned to slip back in with the morning patrol, but as she’d told him about discovering her favorite foods he’d decided to time his return to the mid-day patrol instead. While it’s early evening on Cathne, it’s early morning on the Finalizer.

 

They’ve just finished dinner and he breathes more easily, knowing they still have several hours together. Though, it won’t be nearly enough. He’ll never be at peace until she’s with him always.

 

Sharing something so simple as dinner had been a revelation. Watching how animated she gets when she talks, how alive her eyes become … it had made him understand a new depth to his feelings for her. He’d known he loves her, that his heart beats for her, that her touch sets him aflame, but the gentle pleasure of her company made him see what a life with her could be.

 

Now he’s brimming with a warm contentment he’d never have been able to fathom before Rey. He stands, holding out his hand.

 

“Come, let’s sit where I can hold you.” He doesn’t want to waste a moment he could be touching her.

 

She puts down her napkin and joins him, placing her hand in his. He draws her over to the settee and she settles into his side as they sit. His heart sighs with the completion of having her in his arms. He’s so grateful for this time together even as he knows it will make their separation that much harder.

 

He still hasn’t given her her present and he finds he’s … nervous. What if she doesn’t like it? He wants to believe that she’ll see what he’s trying to say, that he wants her to have something tangible for when they’re apart, a physical representation of his commitment to her above all things.

 

Taking in a fortifying breath he says, “Rey, I … I have something for you.”

 

“Right, yes, the communication de-”

 

“I have that too, but this is something else. It’s … it’s a gift. I made it for you.”

 

She turns in his arms and blinks up at him. “A gift?”

 

He nods and reaches into his pocket, pulling out a small package. He’d wrapped it in a soft cloth. He pulls from her a bit and angles himself so he’s facing her. Taking her hand, he  nervously places the gift in her palm.

 

For a moment she just stares at the still-wrapped token. Then she looks up and he sees that her eyes have grown very wide.

 

“You made this … for me?”

 

He shrugs, suddenly feeling awkward and desperate for her to just open it. If she’s going to hate it, he wants to get it over with.

 

Her gaze goes back to the parcel and her other hand trembles slightly as she pulls back the cloth to reveal the necklace he’d made for her. All he’d had at his disposal where the tools he uses for his lightsaber’s maintenance.

 

He’d had plenty of silver wire and had meticulously soldered together the fine little rings to make the chain and had wrapped the bit of kyber crystal with several layers of the wire. In her palm it suddenly looks very shoddy indeed and he feels so stupid. What had he been thinking?

 

His stomach sinks when he sees tears spring to her eyes and her bottom lip quiver. But then she whispers, “This is really for me?” She seems almost in awe and he begins to breathe a bit easier.

 

“I know it’s not much, but my options were limited so I-”

 

“Ben, stop. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

 

She likes it? He lets out a great sigh of relief and realizes her tears are from happiness. Rey holds it up and looks at the light shining through the glinting blue of the crystal. “How did you get it?”

 

“It’s … it’s from when my crystal cracked … I saved it. I never knew why, maybe now I do.”

 

“This is from your lightsaber?”

 

“Yes … I liked the idea of you having it … something of me-”

 

Her lips crash into his, cutting him off, but that is just fine with him. He accepts her passionate kiss and joins her there, desire rising in him swiftly. Tangling his hands in her hair, he pulls her across his lap and sets himself to enjoying her tender mouth.

 

One of her hands runs along his scalp then she pulls back, panting. “Wait. I want to wear it.”

 

She turns herself around in his lap and puts the necklace in his hand. “Help me put it on?”

 

Her pert bottom is nestled right against his already hard length and he fumbles a bit with the fastening, focus eluding him. She lifts her hair and the expanse of her delicate neck makes him almost frantic to kiss and nibble that soft skin. But he has a task first.

 

Carefully, he places the necklace around her throat and manages to close the clasp on the third try. Then she swiftly faces him and looks down at where his gift lies just above her breasts. He suddenly wants to see her wearing only his crystal.

 

“How does it look?”

 

Something about her wearing a piece of his history, everything that had led up to the crystal cracking in the first place and all that had come after, makes him feel a bit overwhelmed. Finally he murmurs, “Right. It looks right.” Because it is. Now, in a way, he will always be with her.

 

“I’m never taking it off,” she swears.

 

He’s told her before that he’ll always love her, but she’s never said anything to indicate she sees permanence between them. The thought of her always wearing his gift, it makes another shard of his fractured soul slide back into place. She truly does want to be with him.

 

Kiss her, he has to kiss her again. He surges forward and pulls her into a deep kiss while his hands run up and down her back. “Thank you,” she moans against his mouth.

 

“No, thank you. You have no idea what it does to me to know that you’ll be wearing it, that no matter how far apart we are, I’ll be right there in that crystal, next to your heart.”

 

She wriggles against his hardness and grins, “I think I have an idea of what it does to you.”

 

“That seems to be my natural state around you, sweetheart,” he says, returning her grin.

 

“I’m not complaining,” she says in a low, husky voice as she moves to straddle him. He almost growls as she begins to grind against him rhythmically. He cups the back of her head and they hold each other’s eyes as they move together.

 

Force, he wants her. He wants to rip off all of her clothes and find out just what she’d feel like wrapped around his cock, but he won’t do that until they have time. Lots and lots and lots of time.

 

Holding his eyes, Rey begins to push his tunic up over his chest. For a moment he wonders if he should stop her, but they’ve done this before and the thought of being able to feel her skin against his while they’re properly together is beyond his ability to deny. He helps her and their eye contact is only broken for the moment it takes to pull the cloth from his body.

 

Continuing to roll her hips against him, she smooths her hands over his chest and her eyes are full of heat. He moans at the contact, at how it feels whenever she touches him. “Rey …” he breathes out.

 

Now she’s pulling off her own shirt, her breasts beautifully bare before him. His cock pulses when he understands she’d not worn her breast band. He’s grateful he hadn’t realized that before, he never would have made it through dinner.

 

She pushes him until he’s laying back on the settee and she moves down his body, going for the fastening of his trousers. He reaches down and stills her hands. “No, Rey, let me take care of you first, let me touch you.” The memory of what it felt like to thrust his fingers up into her wetness makes him that much harder. Stars, he didn’t know he could get this hard!

 

But Rey is shaking her head. “No … I want … I want … I want to taste you,” she says meaningfully.

 

As soon as he realizes what she means he nearly comes right then and his core is aching with unfulfilled need.

 

He blinks at her, trying to process what she’s said. She really wants to … with her mouth? He knows that lovers do that of course, fantasized about her thighs trapping his head against her gorgeous sex, but he never thought she’d want ....

 

The war within him is immense. His body is desperate to know what it would feel like to have that amazing mouth he so adores kissing taking him between her lips. He can’t really think about it for long, certain he’d peak. But … would he be taking advantage of her in some way? It feels so selfish.

 

She crawls up his body and he gasps at the feeling of her nipples dragging along his chest. The sensation of her bare breasts against his skin is enough to make him whimper. When she reaches his face she whispers in his ear, “Stop. Stop thinking so much. Please Ben, let me give this to you.”

 

He’s not entirely certain he can speak, but he has to try. “You really want … that?”

 

“I know we don’t have time to do what I really want to do,” she responds with a undulation of her heat along his hardness. “I want pull off all of our clothes and take you deep inside me,  know what it’s like to have you in me.”

 

“Uhng, Rey … Force, Rey!” She’s making him incoherent with need, her frank desire making him feel wanted in a way he didn’t know he could. He grinds up against her, needing friction, needing everything she’ll give him.

 

Her lips murmur against his ear, “But I want so much to feel you in my mouth.”

 

Yes! Please, gods, yes. Her breath is hot as she pants into his neck, continuing to writhe against him. Wait … he has to make sure. Taking in a shuddering breath he stills her hips with his hands. He looks deeply into her eyes, searching for any trepidation. “Is that truly what you want?”

 

Please,” she moans out.

 

He senses no ambivalence and he’s overwhelmed with the realization that Rey truly wants this. Wants him. He cups her face with both of his hands and kisses her sofly. “Thank you.”

 

Her eyes gleam with satisfaction and she again moves down his body, her busy hands undoing his trousers. She’s about to slide them down when she stops. Perhaps she’s thought better of this? But she giggles and says, “Boots.”

 

Scrambling down his form, she makes quick work of them and then she’s back to her real task.

He can’t quite believe this is happening to him as he lifts his hips to allow her to pull down his trousers and underthings. His erection springs free and it’s almost standing straight up. He didn’t know it could do that!

 

Bleary with lust, he’s confused when she stands and his eyes fly open as he watches her toe off her own boots and peel her leggings down. Oh dear gods, Rey is naked. Right in front of him. The low light makes her skin glow and the sight of the apex of curls between her thighs makes him very eager to taste her, too.

 

She’s indescribably perfect standing there wearing only his gift. Mine, a savage, primal part of him thinks. This exquisite, impossibly perfect woman is his. His love is dangling between her absolutely mouth-watering breasts and he can’t wait any longer.

 

He’s on his feet without thinking about it, going to her. He pulls her into his arms and they both groan out as they feel the expanse of their nude bodies pressed close for the first time.

 

She trembles in his arms and presses even closer. Force, just the feeling of his cock trapped against her silkin skin is nearly overwhelming. They stand, their bare bodies wrapped around each other for several long moments. They breathe in and out together, eye locked, and he senses their connection, that golden thread between their hearts.

 

With one hand, he cups her face and kisses her gently, the wild lust having quieted for a moment as they experience what it is to be in their most vulnerable state together. He thinks he could happily spend their remaining time just like this. Really, he’s never felt so complete.

 

Rey, however, has other ideas and she pulls away. His skin almost screams out at the loss of her against him, but then she’s pulling him back to the settee, encouraging him to lay back down.

 

She joins him, and he sighs to again have their bodies in contact. He hadn’t ever really considered how intense just being naked together would be, but part of him wants to simply spend this time running his hands over every inch of her skin, soaking up how touching her feels like his love for his beautiful Rey.

 

Then she’s holding his eyes with such promise as she slowly crawls down his body until her face is right next to his hardness. She doesn’t look away as she grasps him firmly. He lets out a strangled moan when she licks her lips not more than an inch away from the head of his cock.

 

Lightly, she strokes him and then …. then he can’t comprehend this is happening when her little pink tongue darts out and licks a drop of pre-come from his head. Her eyes gleam and before he’s caught up, just like that she engulfs him with her hot, wet mouth.

 

He just about screams at the feeling of her lips sliding down him. He hadn’t known what to expect, but he had no idea anything, anything at all could feel this good. Back arching off the settee, his hand slams down on the cushion and his fingers clench into the upholstery as she bobs up and down.

 

Oh, oh, oh gods! She’s using her tongue along his shaft as her mouth moves along him and his hand flies to his mouth as he bites down on his fist. While he’s certain that their privacy won’t be disturbed, he’s equally certain this tavern doesn’t expect their guests to start bellowing out obscenities.

 

His eyes roll back in his head and his heels dig into the settee when she starts to use her hand to make up for the fact she can’t quite take all of him and the added sensation jolts him quickly forward.

 

“Rey … you have to stop. I’m so close, sweetheart, you have to stop.”

 

She shakes her head and starts to hum with contentment, clearly enjoying her task. It sends vibrations straight down his shaft and his balls tighten.

 

But, he doesn’t … he shouldn’t come in her mouth. She needs to stop but, oh gods, oh gods, it’s too late. His release surges from him as the indescribable pleasure riots through his whole body. He can’t take his eyes from Rey and another wave of his orgasm moves through him at the sight of her swallowing down his spend.

 

As the last pulse of his orgasm leaves him, she pulls her mouth from his length and looks up. Her lips are so red and her hair is flowing around her shoulders; Force, she looks edible. Swiftly, he takes her by her upper arms and hauls her up his body, kissing her fiercely. She squeaks in surprise but kisses him back.

 

He’s never loved her more as he tastes himself on her lips. Holding her as close as he can, her small body draped over him, he feasts on her mouth just as he knows that soon he will feast on her.

 

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he murmurs against her lips. “That was glorious. You’re glorious. I love you, Rey, I love you so damned much.”

 

In one sure movement he flips their positions and now she’s on her back. “What … what are you doing?” she asks in confusion.

 

Covering her body with his, he kisses her firmly before he moves to her neck, sucking and nibbling at her deliciously soft flesh. Then he takes her earlobe between his teeth before he growls into her ear.

 

“My turn.”

Chapter Text

“My turn.”

 

He drags his lips from her ear to her mouth, again wanting to taste himself on Rey’s lips. There's something about the knowledge of what she’d given him that fills his sated body with hunger. It doesn't seem to matter that he’s already found his release. He still craves. All the time with her, he always needs more.

 

More than that, the knowledge that she'd given him something so singular, so intimate, makes him feel accepted, wanted, in a way he has no place for. His beautiful Rey had simply desired to give him pleasure and he's determined to reciprocate.

 

While moving his lips against hers, their tongues dancing, he shifts, putting his weight on his hip, slightly to her side. His cock valiantly stirs against her thigh and he wonders at how she's taken over every single part of him.

 

Perhaps that is his new reality with Rey, a constant state of need and desire. It’s not such a bad fate.

 

His hand wanders down her body and his fingers skim along her healed wound. The doctors did an excellent job of knitting her skin back together and now there is only a scar the length of his hand along her side, above her waist. After the extent of the damage, their work impresses him. The lost flesh has been regrown and it looks far better than he’d expected. What it looked like never mattered to him, precisely, but he’s relieved she’s not left truly maimed by his inaction.

 

They’ve still not really talked about it, how her injury was the result of the First Order, therefore by extension, him. She doesn’t seem to blame him, but he blames himself, bitterly. If he’d understood sooner the truth of what and who Rey is to him, she probably wouldn’t have been hurt.

 

No … now is not the time for these thoughts and he soothes his hand along the damaged patch of skin in apology, pushing the rest of it away.

 

She flinches and gasps sharply when his fingertips touch the scar tissue again and he pulls back to look into her eyes.

 

“Did I hurt you?”

 

“No,” she mumbles and he can feel her closing off from him.

 

“Rey, sweetheart, what is it?”

 

“It’s just … it’s ugly.” Her face grimaces in disgust and he's surprised at the intensity of her expression.

 

“No … no, it’s healing so well and I’m sure it will continue to fade. Nothing about you could ever be ugly.” He keeps stroking the pinked line, trying to infuse his action with devotion.

 

She scoffs and he frowns but then she asks in a timid voice, “You don’t … mind?”

 

“Never! Everything about your body is perfect,” he reassures.

 

Now she won’t look in his eyes and he's becoming genuinely concerned. “Rey, beautiful Rey,” he croons, trying to coax her back.

 

Her lips purse and now she’s truly drawing into herself.

 

“Please, tell me what’s upsetting you? Are you regretting-”

 

Swiftly her eyes find his and she exclaims, “No! No … it’s not that. I really liked it, giving you that … it made me feel … close to you.” Her face takes on that almost bashful look he’s fast finding always makes his heart flood with devotion.

 

The way she can be in turns so bold and brash then reticent and shy fills him with affection. He pulls his hand from her side and strokes her hair back from her face then simply cards his fingers through her tresses.

 

“It made me feel close to you, too. If it’s not that, please tell me what’s bothering you … Tell me …” he murmurs. In the past, she’s exhibited some baffling insecurity about her appearance, and he begins to wonder if it might go deeper than he’d thought.

 

Rey starts to pull her arm across her chest and his brow furrows. “Please don’t hide yourself from me, please,” he entreats.

 

Slowly, she again reveals her lovely breasts and succulent nipples. “Tell me …” he requests again, his voice soft and pleading.

 

Stealing her gaze away, she says so quietly he can barely hear her, “Plutt.”

 

He stiffens and his lips form a snarl. “What did he do,” Ben growls.

 

“It wasn’t anything he did, not really. It was all the things he said while I was growing up. And after,” she admits with a wounded, small voice.

 

Nodding for her to continue, his fingers keep threading through her hair, hoping she finds this as calming as he does when she does it.

 

“He … he said I’m scrawny, that I look like a boy.” The humiliation is coming off her in waves. Her voice drops as she stutters out, “Th-that … I have n-nothing to hold onto … That no one but him would ever want to touch ‘those sand-hornet stings that pass for tits.’” By the times she's finished her voice had become a whisper.

 

The bald cruelty of Plutt’s words knife through him and Ben has to consciously force himself to keep stroking her hair soothingly. He must keep his fury in check. One of his rages won’t help Rey, not with this.

 

Somehow he knows there's more. “What else, what else did he tell you?” he asks evenly as he moves his hand from her hair, drawing his knuckles along her cheek. Ben tries to catch her eyes, but she keeps them averted.

 

“That … that ...“ Tears are beginning to form when she finally does meet his gaze. Her fathomless hazel eyes are full of so much pain that it scrapes along his heart. Plutt is very, very lucky that he’s already dead.

 

She takes in a shuddering breath and her voice breaks when she chokes out, “He said … he said that if I was p-prettier my parents wouldn’t have thrown me away like the trash I am.”

 

Her words slam into him as if he’d been punched, hard. He bypasses rage and goes straight to heartbreak.

 

“No … that’s not true, please tell me you know that’s not true,” he pleads. The thought of Rey ever believing such things breaks something inside him.

 

Shrugging, her eyes slide away from his.

 

“Oh Rey …”

 

His body is still half-draped over hers, one leg tangled between her parted thighs, holding his weight on his side. With his free hand, he’s been trying to calm and soothe her, but now he cups her face and gently makes her look at him. At first her eyes flit everywhere but his until they finally settle.

 

“Listen to me. Are you listening to me?” he asks in a soft, firm tone. She nods ever so slightly.

 

“I’ve told you how beautiful you are, but I need you to believe me. You must believe me.”

 

Her eyes are full of doubt and he sighs, deciding to take a different approach. He knows words alone won't undo this kind of damage; Rey is a woman of action.

 

Adjusting his large frame, he moves over her, managing to put most of his weight on his elbows on either side of her head and his knees between her legs. It’s a very intimate position and his not so softened cock lays across her thigh. He ignores the urge to grind against her, knowing he must make her understand that she is the embodiment of beauty in his eyes.

 

“Everything Plutt told you was a lie.” He kisses either cheek softly. “You are a gorgeous woman Rey. You truly are. Sometimes I think I’ll fall into your eyes, never to return. They’re so lively and I adore the way their color changes. Sometimes they’re brown, other times they’re green, or some lovely shade in between.” He caresses each eyelid.

 

Her expression is still full of so much shame ... He holds her face with both hands and kisses her deeply, stroking her cheeks. Then he pulls back and looks into her eyes intensely. “You’re perfect Rey, so perfect.”

 

Cautious hope swims in her eyes and he shifts down her body slightly, kissing along her shoulder, embroidering his words along her flesh. “Your skin is like Cyrene silk, so soft, so perfect.”

 

He continues to caress her wonderful skin, traveling his way along her arm. “You’re anything but scrawny, you’re lithe, strong, so perfect.”

 

Making his way back to her torso, he trails his fingers along her clavicle, brushing against his gift for her, then drawing his hand along the outline of her breast. “And your breasts, dear gods, your breasts. I could happily spend an entire afternoon … day … week … forever worshiping these glorious breasts. They’re perfect, so perfect.” With that he bends forward and draws her nipple into his mouth and feels her arch her back. The flesh tightens in his mouth and she sighs out in pleasure. Good, she's beginning to relax.

 

When he releases her now red and engorged peak, he grins as he rumbles, “And so responsive to my attentions.”

 

Ben moves his focus back to her face. Most of the tension has left her, and her lips are quirked in the smallest of smiles, but he’s not nearly done. He kisses and nibbles between her breasts then along her belly, humming with satisfaction as her pulse quickens and he knows she’s coming back to him. Moving his mouth over to her scar, he kisses every inch but says nothing about it, not wanting to rekindle her insecurity.

 

His lips trail down until he reaches her hip and he slides to his knees, giving him access to where he really wants to be. Now kneeling on the floor between her legs, he has an utterly enchanting view of Rey, laid out for him like the most indulgent feast. Where he had been caressing her tenderly, reverently, he begins to lick and suck his way towards his ultimate destination.

 

Her thighs are already parted to accommodate him and oh, Maker, he can smell her. It’s a rich, deeply feminine scent that calls to an animal part of him. His mouth has begun to water and he licks down a stripe from her hip to her inner thigh, causing her to gasp.

 

The sound of her quickened breathing makes him look up. Her eyes are wide and a touch nervous. Holding her gaze he says, “Let me show you how much I love your body, let me show you how perfect you are.”

 

Her face has grown flushed and now her breaths are harsh.

 

“I want to touch you, I want to taste you. May I taste you, Rey?” he asks as he glides his fingertips along her inner thigh with a feather-light touch. Her thighs part further but there’s tension in her face and he wonders if he’s asking for too much. He doesn’t want to press her, but the need to feel her on his tongue has nearly taken over his reason.

 

Continuing to draw his fingers along the obscenely soft skin—so close to where he actually wants to be—he keeps her eyes locked with his, waiting for her answer.

 

Slowly, he watches as heat replaces trepidation in her gaze and as his fingers come so close to grazing her entrance, she shudders and her hips roll, as if seeking his hand.

 

“Touch me, like before. Please, please touch me like before.”

 

She’d only said he could touch and he hides his disappointment. He’d so wanted to know if she tastes half as good as she smells, but he’ll still get to feel her again, watch her beautiful face contort with pleasure as she comes undone beneath his fingers.

 

And this time he gets to really see, nothing hiding her from his hungry gaze. He moves his eyes to the lovely mystery in front of him and gently, slowly parts her folds.

 

For a moment he just stares at the absolutely glorious sight inches from his face. He’s well and truly hard now, and oh gods, he needs to delve his tongue into the glistening pink perfection revealed to him. But he keeps himself in check as he moans out, “Rey, you’re gorgeous.”

 

She giggles, “My face is up here.”

 

He looks up from the exquisite site of her parted and open for him and keeps his eyes steadily on hers when he says, “I meant what I said. Everything about you is perfect. So perfect.”

 

“Oh,” she breathes out and now all he senses from her is her need. Again her hips buck, encouraging him to just get on with it.

 

“Ben, stop teasing,” she whines.

 

While a part of him wants to keep exploring, he's eager to feel her again. So he enters her slowly with his hand, and groans as he watches his finger disappear into her tight heat.

 

She’s so slick and this time he’s able to focus more, feel each ridge. She's told him to stop teasing her so he wastes no time quickening his pace. Soon, she's ready for a second digit and he glances up.

 

Her head is propped up on the arm of the settee and her eyes are closed tightly, brows knitted together. She's already begun to pant. Rey is always at her most beautiful when she’s like this, chasing her bliss.

 

Using his other hand, he rubs her needy clit between the pads of two fingers, watching for the moment the sensations he’s giving her intensify. He’s deeply satisfied when she groans and her fingers dig into the cushions.

 

“Ben!” she calls out and her hips are meeting his thrusts.

 

He wonders … “Look at me.” He needs to see her when he does this.

 

Blearily, her eyes open, and he holds their hazel depths as he adds a third finger to her passage, stretching her … now he knows she’ll be able to take him. Quickly curling his fingers, he drags them across that special spot inside her.

 

Rey’s eyes widen and she moans, “Oh, Force that's so good.”

 

Watching Rey get lost to what he's making her feel has his cock straining towards her, as if it's seeking her heat.

 

She's so wet and his face is so close … her musky scent is only growing more potent and he can't stop himself from begging, “Rey, gods, Rey, I have to taste you, please, please let me taste you.”

 

Now she's grinding herself down on his hand while he continues to roll her hard bud between his other fingers. She's inches from his hungry mouth.

 

Please, please, please.

 

There's no hesitation when she nods quickly, “Yes, stars, yes!”

 

His tongue has taken the place of his fingers on her clit before she's finished speaking.

 

Oh. Oh yes! She tastes like nothing he's ever experienced and he's instantly addicted to her luscious flavor. So good, so good.

 

He wants more, so he pulls his hand from her tight passage and swiftly replaces it with his tongue, thrusting into her as her juices flood his mouth. Remembering that she needs more than just being filled, he again slides her clit between his soaked fingers.

 

He's never heard sounds like she's making. She's almost sobbing and he hopes the walls are thick.

 

She throws her legs over his shoulders and her hands fist into his hair. Still on his knees, his hips instinctively move in time with how she's thrusting up against his face, his tongue pulsing in and out of her.

 

“Ben, Ben, Ben,” she chants.

 

He wants to feel the center of her pleasure between his lips again, so he licks up her labia and latches on. It feels wonderful, this hard little bundle of nerves in his mouth, and he sucks.

 

She's writhing wildly and she pants out, “I need your fingers. I need to be filled. Oh gods, I want you inside me!”

 

It would be frighteningly easy to slide up her inviting body and bury himself so deeply inside her that he never leaves. But he can't do that, not yet. So he swiftly returns his fingers to her welcoming wetness.

 

The flutters he loves so well have begun, and soon they give way to her walls tightening around his hand. His cock is weeping copiously now, so inflamed by Rey’s pleasure. He laps at her firmly and, Maker, she's getting loud.

 

Her hands tighten in his hair and it almost hurts, but he loves it, loves how the tension has grown so taught. He's learning to tell when she's close and he thinks she's almost there.

 

Oh, gods, he's so turned on it aches and he doesn't think when his free hand wraps around his cock. Relief, he must find relief. He strokes himself furiously as he pounds his fingers into her. His fingers are covered in her wetness and a guttural moan escapes when he realizes it’s her slickness that is easing his hand along his erection.

 

She's begun to keen, and her walls clench down on his fingers as her thighs slam closed around his ears. She pulls his head so close against her heat, leaving him feeling completely enveloped by Rey.

 

There, that's it. The rhythmic contractions begin and she's making a high, desperate sound while he moans against her delicious center. He continues to move his hand up and down his length and their twin pleasure is driving him mad.

 

He's taken by surprise when the surge of wetness filling his mouth triggers his own climax and they're groaning together as bliss takes them both over the edge.

 

His release arcs from him, painting the floor, and he thinks Rey might have pulled out some of his hair. He slows his fingers and tongue as she rides out her orgasm and her thighs relax around his head.

 

With the last twitch of her pleasure, he pulls from her, sitting back on his heels. He looks up at her and finds her blinking slowly and her lips parted. Fine little curls cling to her forehead and she’s glowing.

 

She opens her arms to him, her eyes pleading.

 

With wobbly legs, he moves up her body, nestling himself in the cradle of her hips. The tight curls of her sex tickle against him as her arms enfold him. She wraps her legs around him as well and oh … their skin sings together, hot from their passion and he almost feels like they’re one being. He feels … cherished, wanted, complete. He hopes she feels it, too.

 

For several long moments they just hold each other's eyes and feel the aftermath of sharing such intense pleasure and closeness. She's so beautiful in her thoroughly debauched state and she leans forward, capturing his lips in an achingly sweet kiss.  

 

He wonders if he should have wiped his mouth, but he likes the idea of her tasting herself on his tongue. The kiss is long, slow, and thorough.

 

When they break apart he catches her gaze again. “You're perfect, Rey. Do you understand? So perfect.”

 

She smiles and he swears he can see part of her heal right in front of him when she nods.

 

 

Chapter Text

He didn't know he could feel so close to someone. It's as if they're extensions of each other. He's beginning to understand more about how the bond operates on them. There's this almost tangible feeling connecting their hearts and it's humming with pleasure. It vibrates along his whole body and he would give anything to be able to just let it skitter through him for an eternity.

 

They've shifted, and he's on his back with Rey half draped across him, her cheek pressed against his chest. Her little huffs of breath tickle along him and make his heart flip. He has her head cradled in one arm and the fingers of their free hands are dancing together.

 

The way her skin feels, it must be the bond … right? Something passes between them when their skin touches. He’s not sure how he’s going to leave her. Reluctantly, he reaches out with the Force and his datapad flies into his hand. He checks the time and the realization that he only has just over an hour left with her makes him feel like his chest is cracking open.

 

He shudders out a ragged sigh and lets the datapad fall to the floor as he kisses her temple.

 

“How much more time?” she asks.

 

“I … another hour, then we’ll need to get to our ships.”

 

She goes stiff in his arms and her voice quavers when she confirms, “An hour?”

 

“I’m sorry … I wish …”

 

“It’s alright … I just … I hoped we’d have more time. I didn’t want to know, that’s why I didn’t ask before. I wanted to pretend we had all the time in the galaxy.”

 

“We will, soon, this will all be over and we’ll have forever.” It’s such a close fantasy, well known and well-trod.

 

She shifts to look in his eyes. “It’s getting harder to wait.”

 

“I know … I know, gods I know.”

 

“Now that … now that you see what the First Order is, I could come with you, hel-”

 

He stops her with a searing kiss. He can’t let that thought in because he knows he can’t keep her safe from Hux, but he wants to take her back with him so badly that he has to stop her words. He’s not strong enough to hear her willingness to come with him and then turn her away.

 

Her mouth, Maker, her mouth. It would be so easy to push away the reality of their situation and spend what little time they have left hiding in this amazing connection, but there are things that must be discussed so he slows his kisses and pulls away from her.

 

Her eyes are open and pleading and he has to look away for a moment. “Sweetheart … it has to be this way right now. Hux … I can’t protect you from him.” It guts him to admit that.

 

“I hate him,” she spits.

 

“You are not alone in that sentiment.”

 

She settles back against his chest. “I talked with Leia, like you suggested.”

 

Grateful that she’s changed the subject, and surprised that the mention of his mother doesn’t hurt like he’s used to, he strokes her hair. “What did she say?”

 

“She … she cried. I ... I didn’t know what to do with that. She told me that Jakku was a perfect example of why she fights so hard. Why she wants things to change. She said she thought slow and steady was the best course of action … but that she’s beginning to wonder about that.”

 

Ben blinks quickly. He hadn’t thought his mother would see that. He thought he’d have to fight her tooth and nail about what would come next after he succeeds in fracturing the First Order from within.

 

Rey continues, “She told me I shouldn’t be angry at you for killing Plutt, that if someone had treated her like that, that Han-” She breathes in quickly. “I … I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have …”

 

Hearing his father’s name had made his brain come to a stuttering halt, not prepared for it. But he finds he wants to know what his mother thinks. “It’s … it’s alright, please go on.”

 

She strokes her fingers along his chest for a moment then says, “She told me about being kept as a slave, like me … what Hutt did. She told me how angry Han was that your mother had already killed Hutt. That he wanted to be the one to do it. He was glad that Hutt was dead, and proud of your mother for saving herself, but he … he felt he’d failed somehow.

 

“She said that Han would have done the same thing, what you did to Plutt, that when someone hurts the person you love most, that for Solo men, all they know is action.”

 

Swiftly, he’s pulled into the memory of how his father had walked boldly out on that bridge and he feels it deep inside that his mother is right. Action is all he and his father know. It hurts to hear himself called Solo. He lost that right the minute he killed his father.

 

But at the same time ... it warms him to know that his mother … approved of his actions, that his father would have, too. He doesn’t know what to do with that, that she sees some of his father in him. He’d tried so hard to snuff it out, and he again feels such shame that it took loving Rey for him to understand his father’s confounding behavior.

 

“Are you alright?” Rey asks cautiously.

 

“I … I don’t know. It’s difficult to think about … him.”

 

“You’re going to have to, to find a way to …”

 

He takes in a deep breath. “To find a way to live with it.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I know,” he says quietly. “But … not today.”

 

“Okay, Ben.” She’s continued to smooth her fingers along his flesh and it keeps him from spiraling into the past. “She also said she’d known that adjusting was difficult for me, but she hadn’t seen just how … brutal my life was … now she’s sets aside an hour each afternoon where she encourages me to ask questions. We’ve only had time to meet twice, but it was … nice.”

 

He smiles and lets the confusion and pain of his father fade and allows gratitude for his mother to fill him. His mother’s tendency to be kind to everyone, to give so much of herself, it had once made him feel just like one of many, but now he sees how it’s all come full circle. She’s caring for his beloved and that’s all that really matters to him.

 

“We talked about you, about how you were as a little boy. She showed me holos.”

 

Ben covers his face with his hand and groans. “Please tell me she didn’t show you the one of me in the bath with my hair slicked down.”

 

“Oh yes, she did! Your ears were so cute! They just suck straight out!”

 

“Why do you think I wear my hair long?” he asks with asperity.

 

“Oh, Ben … I like them.” She pushes his hair back and strokes her fingers along the shell of his ear. The sensation is almost erotic and he’s again taken by the desire to just get lost in her, but he can’t … there’s no time.

 

“They’re ridiculous,” he argues.

 

“No … they fit you. Everything about you … fits.” She moves her hand from his ear to his face and then lightly glides her fingertips across his face … then along his scar. “Even this … it fits you. Though I am sorry.”

 

“I’m not.”

 

“You’re not?”

 

“You gave it to me. I … can’t regret it. Even when I knew I should have hated you for besting me … I never could.”

 

Continuing to stroke along his cheek she asks, “Does it hurt?”

 

“No … it’s sensitive, but it doesn’t hurt.”

 

“Oh,” she says, snatching her hand back.

 

“Rey, it feels nice when you touch it … any time you touch me, it feels good.”

 

Hesitantly, she goes back to stroking the thin line. “You could get rid of it.”

 

“No,” he growls.

 

“It does make you look even more handsome, somehow.”

 

He raises an eyebrow. “Even more handsome?”

 

She blushes and rolls her eyes. “You know how attractive I think you are.”

 

“Do I?” he asks playfully.

 

“You’d better!”

 

He decides not to push her, though a large part of him would like very much to hear what she thinks when she looks on him. He knows he’s strong, that his body shows that strength, but he has too many years of being teased for his awkward, gangly frame and overly-large features.

 

She turns in his arms and moves up his body. The feeling of her naked flesh dragging along his own sparks along him and then she’s placing soft, healing kisses along his scar, until she caresses along his brow and up his forehead. “I am sorry that I hurt you. I didn’t know … I didn’t know what’s between us.”

 

He lifts his head and captures her mouth, kissing her gently for a moment. Then he breathes against her lips. “It’s alright. Everything that’s happened has brought us here. I wouldn’t take the chance of any of it going differently if I changed just one thing. Nothing is worth losing this love that’s between us.”

 

“I do, I love you.”

 

“I know, sweetheart, I know.” His heart has swelled so that it feels like it can’t possibly fit in his chest. “Now … there are things we must talk about.”

 

He begins to sit up and is surprised when her hand pushes him back down. “No!”

 

“Rey?”

 

“I … I’m sorry. I’m just … I’m not ready. I don’t know how to let you go …”

 

Her words scrape along the inside of him. He knows, oh how he knows. He breathes in quickly and says, “But we must. Please know it’s the last thing I want.”

 

“I know … I know … I’m sorry,” she says in a small voice as she begins to pull back from him.

 

It’s his turn to be irrational as he draws her back, shifting her until she’s completely over his naked body. He ignores how his cock stirs against her and takes her face in both his hands. “I love you, Rey. No matter what happens, this precious time with you has been the most beautiful thing to happen to me.”

 

“Don’t … don’t say it like that. Like something awful is coming.”

 

“I … I didn’t mean to, I just … I just need you to understand how deeply I love you, how desperately I want you, how in such a short time you have become everything to me.”

 

“And you’re everything to me.”

 

“Truly?”

 

“Yes, Ben, truly.”

 

He’s not sure who moves first, but soon they’re wrapped around each other and their tongues are moving together. She shifts until she’s straddling him and he can feel her folds along his rapidly stiffening length. Oh gods, she’s grown so hot and slick and it would be so easy to slip inside her. But there’s no time for this, they can’t do this. Much as his entire soul is screaming at him to just make her his, completely his.

 

“I need you,” she breathes out harshly.

 

“And I need you, but I … I can’t be with you like that and just put you on a ship. I can’t Rey.” When he finally joins with her physically, the way they’re already merged so completely, he knows he could never let her go after that. Once she’s truly his, he won’t be able let her leave his side ever again.

 

“I know, I know.” She leans her forehead against his and she slowly pulls her heat away from him. He groans brokenly at the loss of contact. He watches as she stiltedly pulls from him and now she won’t look at him as she starts to reach for her clothing.

 

“Rey …” he prods with concern.

 

“I’m fine. Really, I just can’t look at you and pull away. If I look at you ...  I’m going to throw myself at you again and I know we’re running out of time.”

 

He doesn’t like this awkward feeling and he stops her hands with his. He draws her back and moves their bodies until she’s seated next to him. “Just one more moment. Let me feel you like this for one more moment.”

 

She settles against him and he feels her nod. He murmurs against her temple, “This is only the beginning. We’ll have years together. We’ll explore everything. I’ll lick and kiss every inch of you and join with you so completely that you’ll forget where you end and I begin.”

 

“Promise?” Her tone is so young and questioning.

 

He knows he can’t really, that they’re in the middle of a war, but he needs to believe in a life with her. He hopes it isn’t a lie when he vows, “I promise.”

 

She takes in a long, heavy breath then says, “Well then. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we’ll be together.”

 

He knows she’s right, but as each piece of their clothing is replaced, he can’t shake the dread at the back of his neck.

 

---

 

“If you need me, just press this here. It will send a signal to the device’s twin. Once I’m alone, I’ll be able to respond. If I need you, it will alert you similarly and you will be able to talk to me once you’re unobserved,” he says, showing her the device.

 

She holds the little piece of technology listlessly, but nods her understanding.

 

“Rey?”

 

“Yes, I see. I’m sorry … I didn’t know this would be so hard. To have you and have to say goodbye …”

 

“This isn’t goodbye, sweetheart, we’ll still have our bond.”

 

“I know … but … this has been … different. It feels almost the same as through our connection, but there’s something about knowing you’re really here …”

 

“I feel it too.”

 

She smiles slightly. “You say that a lot.”

 

“I suppose I do. I don’t … I don’t really have the words for the feelings you inspire in me.”

 

“I don’t either. But I hope you know.”

 

“I do, beloved, I do.”

 

“Good.”

 

He pulls her to her feet and turns, looking down on her. “There’s one other thing.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Hux has discovered that FN- ah, Finn’s tracker has been removed. There will be spies everywhere now. Tell my mother and tell her she must be careful. Tell her to trust me, to give me this time and to not do anything too … rash.”

 

Rey makes a funny little face. “Your mother is never rash.”

 

“Hmm, well remind her about the trash compactor if she gets any ideas.”

 

“What?” Rey asks in confusion.

 

“I’ll tell you about it someday. Though I do rather like the idea of you asking her thoughts on the matter.”

 

“Uhm, okay,” she says slowly with a furrowed brow.

 

His datapad pings softly. It’s time.

 

“Now, let me get you to your ship.”

 

“Oh … you don’t need to do that.”

 

“Rey, I remember your memory of your parents leaving you. I know it wasn’t true, that they never left Jakku, but … I don’t want you to see me walk away. I will be standing at the starport, watching you fly away. Because even like this, I won’t ever be the one to leave you.”

 

He’s alarmed when her eyes fill with tears, but then she’s wrapped around him and holding him so tightly.

 

“Rey?” he asks with real worry.

 

She shakes her head against his chest but then she mumbles into his tunic, “I never thought … I never thought anyone could understand but … but you do … and I just …  I love you, Ben, I love you.”

 

He nuzzles the crown of her head, taking in the scent that is all Rey, and murmurs, “I will always love you, I will never abandon you. So long as I draw breath, you are mine and I am yours.”

 

The feeling of her firm nod against him is more than enough.

 

---

 

They’d walked to the starport, hand in hand and he feels her slipping away with each passing moment. He tries to remind himself that as soon as he’s back on the Finalizer he could contact her, that perhaps the Force might bless them with a visit in only a few hours, but none of that can keep the bleakness away.

 

This time with her has shown him so much. He’d already known what he was fighting for, to keep her safe, but now he allows himself to believe in this dizzy dream. Someday, with Rey. No war, no distance. Just Rey in his arms for the rest of his life.

 

He wants it now like he’s never wanted anything. He can’t stop thinking about how she’d asked him to run away with her and as soon as they reach her ship he wants to follow her, tell her to take them to wild space and never look back.

 

But he can’t. That’s no life for her, always running. Rey deserves a home. She deserves every luxury he can provide, a family of her own. Not being hunted until, invariably, Hux found them. So he stays strong and leads her to the ramp of her little freighter.

 

She stops, just before ascending and turns. Then she’s pulling his face to hers and she kisses him with a depth and tenderness he’s never felt. It’s as if she’s found a way to infuse him with all of her love and it glides along every last one of his nerve endings.

 

It’s beyond pleasure, the way she makes time stop and everything right. There’s no more pain, no more conflict. Only Rey and her sweet, perfect mouth. Gasping, she rips from him and runs up the ramp, leaving his arms empty and his heart screaming for its mate.

 

At the entryway of her ship she stops and holds his eyes, tears coursing down her cheeks. He shudders as the last glimpse of her disappears when the durasteel closes her off from his sight.

 

He stands, steadfast and true, watching her ship shoot off into the atmosphere.

 

Barely able to see through his tears, he makes his way to his TIE.

 

Rey ...

 

Chapter Text

Before

 

Dust. It's all turned to dust, like the red soil of Crait.

 

Kylo kneels down on the floor of the old Rebellion base and picks up Han Solo’s dice. They sear through his glove and he has to push down the cascade of memories before they pull him under. But a few come for him anyway.

 

The first time he'd flown the Falcon, sitting on Han Solo’s knee … Family trips before it had all fallen apart. The red glow of his saber … no, NO! Han Solo means nothing to him. The girl means nothing to him.

 

Should mean nothing to him ...

 

He’s reaching for his familiar anger, cloaking himself in the dark side when he feels it.

 

Elation and heartbreak twine through him in equal measure as he senses her presence. The relief that their connection didn't come from Snoke is nearly overpowering. He hadn't wanted to believe that this amazing bond had come from something so grotesque.

 

He shouldn't think of it like that. It's not amazing. It's full of lies. Just like her.

 

Of course he's on his knees, bowing before her. How fitting. No one has ever laid him so low. He looks up, and just as he'd suspected, he finds her looking down on him.

 

At first she's almost open in her bearing and she's ushering someone past her. Their eyes lock and he can barely breathe. How can she pull so much from him? Years of nothing but rage and pain, but whenever he’s near her he feels everything.

 

He should hate her. She’d rejected him, after all her pretty words, her pleading eyes, she'd just left him unconscious. Left him behind. She's no better than any of them and he'd been so foolish to let himself yearn. Hope.

 

So why is he staying on his knees, longing with his entire being for one soft word from her? Some sign that what they'd built together is still there? Some indication that she does care, even half as much as he does …

 

For one glorious moment he sees conflict on her face and his heart soars. But then, her eyes harden. She shuts herself off from his sight with a closed door and he flinches as he understands.

 

He would rather she'd sliced him open again, that hadn't hurt nearly as much as the realization that he's lost her.

 

Looking back down on the dice in his hand he's not surprised as they fade into nothing.

 

Nothing. That's all he has. All he is.

 

Nothing.

 

Now

 

He clenches the controls of his borrowed TIE and takes in several shuddering breaths. Force, he wants to comm her right now and beg her to come back, let him follow her to the Resistance. He could work with his mother, sow dissent from the outside …

 

Be with Rey.

 

But he knows he can't. Hux is too dangerous and the Resistance is barely holding on. The only way he can give Rey the life she deserves is to go back. He helped build it and he must turn the tide because she deserves to live in a galaxy where there are no more Plutts living off the sweat and blood of children.

 

It’s never been so clear to him before, what truly matters. He’d been so lost when they’d first crossed paths, but she’s made everything make sense. He hangs his head, his hair falling forward and he blinks back the tears that have been flowing since her ship’s door had closed him away from her.

 

Watching her face disappear behind the durasteel like that … it brings that moment on Crait uncomfortably close. He knows it’s not even remotely the same, that so much has changed. But the reminder of her rejection pulls at him.

 

Shaking himself, he brings the TIE online and prepares for takeoff.

 

---

 

The flight back to the Finalizer stretches out, the hour turning interminable. The ship feels cramped and small. So different from the cozy room he'd shared with Rey.

 

Beating back the fear that she’ll reject him again, that it’s inevitable, he reminds himself of how she’d looked at him, wanted to please him, how hard it was for her to leave him. He can’t quite believe that he’d truly had her in his arms, right there, real, solid … his.

 

He wants to bask in the memories of their time together, but it just hurts right now. Knowing how beautiful something as simple as sharing a meal could be, the way she’d felt under his hands … he feels like a fool for every single choice he’d made leading up to her injury. Choices that now keep him from her.

 

The fate of the galaxy feels utterly insignificant in the face of his need for Rey. How could he have been so blind and stupid? If he’d saved the remnants of the Resistance … tried then and there to work with them …

 

But it’s done now. These are the cards he’s been dealt and he’ll play them to the best of his ability. He huffs out a grim laugh. His father would have liked that.

 

---

 

Shortly after midday, Ben strides onto the bridge. Just as he’d hoped, he’d slipped in with the most recent patrol, using his override codes to inflate the number of TIEs to return by one. Another mind trick in the hangar and he was safely back aboard the Finalizer.

 

“Supreme Leader,” Hux greets him neutrally, not bothering to look up from the blinking lights of the console he's inspecting.

 

“Hux,” Ben responds, waiting for the castigation over his tardiness.

 

“What pressing Order business kept you from us this morning?”

 

Ben’s eyes narrow. Hux is growing bolder in his disrespect. “Sparring.” He makes a mental note to find TL-8176 and fix his memory to corroborate his little lie.

 

“Yes, one must stay in fighting trim.” Hux finally turns to Ben, his lip curled in scorn.

 

He’s tempted to show Hux just how … effective he can be in a fight but only says, “Hmm, indeed.”

 

---

 

After a cursory inspection of the bridge, Ben is in his chambers and has pulled up every report Hux has filed since Ben’s ascension. It’s daunting, but he’s adept at finding patterns, and now that he knows to be looking for … something … he’s hopeful he’ll catch the thread soon.

 

His comm linked to Rey’s similar device positively burns a hole in his pocket. They hadn’t specified if they would use it to simply … say hello and he’s nervous to reach out to her. After feeling so enmeshed with her, he finds he’s seized with an odd insecurity.

 

Rey had been so open, so joyful in her desire to be with him, but now that they’re apart he finds he’s filled with doubt. Would she react the same way to anyone offering her attention? After a lifetime bereft of affection, is she simply … grateful?

 

He doesn’t deserve the love he sees in her eyes, he knows he’s made himself a monster. What if she changes her mind? It suddenly feels so juvenile, this need for her reassurance, that she’d meant everything she’d said.

 

If he commed her, would she think it was an emergency and then be angry with him that he’d just wanted to hear her voice? He hopes the Force will bring her to him so he doesn’t have to reach out to her. Maybe she’ll contact him?

 

This is getting him nowhere. He has things he must do. Taking a deep breath, he begins digging through Hux’s mountains of reports, hoping to find out what that ginger bastard is up to.

 

---

 

Hours later—his neck stiff and eyes sore from so much reading—he’s not quite sure what to make of what he’s found. Hux has clearly been shifting personnel, using his authority granted by Snoke to move certain people into key placements.

 

It’s not surprising that most of the largest ships are now commanded by Hux’s selections. Now that he’s looking, he can see quite clearly that Hux has slowly been setting this in motion since the day after Snoke’s death. He just had to dig to find the pattern.

 

He’s not at all shocked, in fact it’s what he expected. What’s … odd, though, is the serious increase in disciplinary action amongst the stormtroopers.

 

Reconditioning orders have trebled across the fleet and he wonders if Hux has actually noticed. With Phasma gone, he’s not sure Hux would have paid attention so long as the soldiers went where they were told.

 

Hux has always had a certain contempt for the stormtroopers. Perhaps it’s because he thinks them so far beneath him. He was genuinely shocked when FN-2187 defected, and Ben wonders … what if he was only the first?

 

He has no desire to alert Hux to the situation if it hasn’t already come to his attention, but he needs more information. It would be best to go to the source.

 

Ben comms the bridge, “Have TL-8176 meet me in my personal training room immediately.”

 

“Yes, sir,” the nameless officer replies.

 

---

 

“Weapons or hand-to-hand,” TL asks.

 

“In a moment … I would … speak with you.”

 

“Sir?” TL’s voice is cautious.

 

“The stormtroopers … has there been any … unrest?”

 

TL stiffens then seems to consciously relax. “No sir, no unrest.”

 

“Hmmm. Disciplinary actions have increased significantly,” Ben prods.

 

“I … uh wouldn’t know anything about that, sir.”

 

“You haven’t noticed anything at all?”

 

“No, nothing out of the ordinary, sir,” TL says, his voice beginning to show strain.

 

“TL … we’ve known each other a long time. I … respect you. I am not attempting to trap you. I just want to know if something is … brewing with the stormtroopers.” Ben almost hopes there is. This could be quite useful. If he could sway their fighting force it would provide him the support he needs to topple Hux.

 

“Why?” TL asks carefully.

 

“Because changes are coming for the First Order … sides will have to be chosen. And I wonder where the stormtroopers’ loyalties lie ...” Ben decides to be blunt, he’s going to ensure TL has no incriminating memory of this conversation either way. “With me, or with General Hux?”

 

“Changes, sir?” Ben notices that the stormtrooper avoided the question of loyalty entirely.

 

“I’m tired of war, tired of conquest. And the First Order’s resources are limited. A storm is coming and I wish to know if the troopers will follow me towards the unknown or Hux and his particular brand of fanaticism.”

 

Ben stares down on the stormtrooper for a long moment. Finally, TL’s shoulders fall slightly. “I am not in a position to say, sir.”

 

Ben considers simply invading his mind, but decides against it. He’ll leave it for now, see if he can bring TL closer to trusting him.

 

“Well, thank you for indulging me, TL.” Ben flexes his fingers. “You will have no memory of anything I said about General Hux.”

 

“I will have no memory of anything you said about General Hux,” the stormtrooper intones.

 

Once the haze of the mind trick fades, Ben says, “Hand-to-hand to start. Then we’ll move to blades.”

 

“Yes, sir,” TL says, his usually friendly demeanor returned.

 

---

 

He’d trained hard with TL and his muscles are tingling pleasantly. He'd reminded the stormtrooper that they'd also sparred that morning.

 

It's late and he really should go to bed, but instead he holds his comm in his hand and stares at it longingly, willing it to chirp.

 

After far too much time has passed, he snorts at himself with derision and sets it down. It hasn't even been a full day since he’d had to let her go and he's just sitting in his quarters pining.

 

Angry with himself, he pulls his datapad to him. He knows he won't find rest, so he decides to keep digging into Hux’s recent activities.

 

---

 

Much past midnight he's beginning to get the picture. The promotions have all come from prominent, wealthy families. He's even found ties to the Lyrelli Banking Consortium. So that's Hux’s angle. Undermine the Supreme Leader and solve the funding issue in one neat stroke. The Lyrelli will likely release the First Order’s assets if Hux can build enough influence amongst key members.

 

A number of significant appointments were only just put through this morning, while Ben was with Rey. With a satisfied smile, Ben denies the orders. He won’t simply be approving Hux’s requests in the future.

 

Sighing, he accepts he should at least attempt some rest. At least he'd found some respite from the ache of Rey’s absence, research has always calmed him.

 

As he changes into his sleeping pants he can't help but remember being naked and tangled with his beloved. If only she were with him right now. She'd be beautifully bare and waiting for him in their bed ...

 

Gods, he misses her, and he desperately wants to reach out, just for a moment. Just to hear her voice.

 

Getting into his cold, lonely bed, he closes his eyes and remembers how she feels in his arms, how her hands glide through his hair. Stars, he loves how it feels when she touches him. He’ll never get enough of her hands on him.

 

What is she doing right now? He has no idea where she physically is, he hadn’t wanted to press for that information, but now he aches for every scrap of Rey. Is it night? Is she sleeping? Or is she meeting with his mother? Perhaps she’s sharing a meal with the pilot ...

 

Growling, he flips over on his stomach and reaches for the comm on his bedside table. Sliding his fingers over the device, he nearly activates it. Then snarls as he lets it go, turning over on his side, away from temptation.

 

Clenching his eyes shut, he attempts to sleep.

 

It doesn’t work.

 

---

 

Surly and frustrated, he makes his way to the bridge the next morning. Having the means to communicate with her and not doing so has him spinning in circles, indecision driving him nearly mad.

 

Amidst the chaos in his mind, he has come to one conclusion. He should probably tell Rey about the First Order’s financial difficulties. He’d initially planned to walk a thin line between the Resistance and the First Order, but now he’s feeling like anything he can do to hasten his way to Rey is worth it. Telling her about the Lyrelli would be a good reason to contact her, wouldn’t it?

 

While he’s dithering about finally activating her device, he can at least confirm that the Resistance—and Rey—remain undiscovered.

 

“Hux!” he calls out to the general’s back.

 

“Yes, sir,” he responds evenly, rounding to face Ben, tugging at his uniform. Not that it needs to be straightened. Hux never has a hair out of place and he only appears ruffled after Ben Force chokes him.

 

“Any update on locating the Resistance?”

 

Hux’s expression goes completely blank and the hairs on the back of Ben’s neck stand on end.

 

“We’ve had a few leads. There’s some indication that they’re on Sheytaya.” Hux’s tone is measured.

 

No, no, no! He’d told Rey to make sure they were careful! “What indications,” Ben asks slowly.

 

“Just some chatter that an abandoned resort has seen activity. But Sheytaya has always been firmly neutral.”

 

It’s one of the most popular destinations for leisure activity owing to their peculiar weather patterns and spectacular scenery. Many influential people protect Sheytaya. The planet is primarily covered with oceans and many small islands, and is thus given to privacy. It’s a very wealthy enclave, playing host to the galaxy.

 

What had his mother been thinking? Sheytaya protects their status fiercely and would want any incursion, Resistance or First Order handled swiftly. And she’d always said he got his arrogance from his father …

 

“Jentesh VI is well in hand, shall we investigate?” Hux asks with an eager gleam in his eyes.

 

Every primal instinct he possesses screams out in protest, but Ben forces himself to be strategic about this. He can warn Rey in time and still be seen to be assisting in the … hunt. If he denies Hux’s suggestion he might go behind his back again.

 

“Yes, plot a course to Sheytaya. Let’s look into it.”

 

Hux smiles tightly. “Excellent.”

 

“I’ll be in my chambers.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

---

 

As soon as he’s safely behind closed doors he whips out his comm and is about to send the alert that he needs to speak with her when she’s already right in front of him.

 

“Rey!” he gasps and rushes to her, clasping her body to his fiercely.

 

“Ben, wha-”

 

Pulling back, he holds her firmly by the shoulders and his eyes burn into hers. “Listen to me, Hux has found you, we’re on our way to Sheytaya right now. Go to my mother, get out! This time please listen to me and leave!”

 

Rey’s brows furrow. “No, Ben-”

 

“Don’t argue, please, go, go now!”

 

“That’s not it-”

 

“Godsdammit Rey, there’s no time. We’ll be there in under an hour. You have to evacuate!” He shakes her slightly.

 

“Ben, no-”

 

“Why won’t you ever listen to me!” he bellows.

 

Rey slaps her hand over his mouth and shouts, “We aren’t on Sheytaya!”

 

He shrugs off her hand. “Please, you have to … wait, what?”

 

“We aren’t on Sheytaya,” she repeats.

 

The relief makes him stumble. It had been such a gamble to allow Hux to pursue them. He pulls her back to him and holds her as tightly as he can, burying his face at her neck. He gulps down air, trying to calm his racing heart.

 

“We’re on Corell-”

 

“Stop!” Though he’s too late, he knows now. Corellia. Of course, his father’s old associates would protect them. He’d never understood the peculiar brotherhood that governed much of his father’s life, but now he’s grateful for it. The widow of Han Solo is likely now the safest person in the galaxy.

 

Rey pulls back and looks up into his face. “Why don’t you want to know?”

 

He’s not actually sure, but somehow it just seems reckless for that information to be anywhere near Hux.

 

“Instinct. I just … it felt safer not knowing.”

 

Her face grows troubled. “But … you wouldn’t … you wouldn’t betray us, would you?”

 

“What? No! Sweetheart, no … I can’t explain it. It’s just a feeling.” He ignores how much it hurts that she’d even asked him that.

 

Then her face grows even more remote and she starts to pull away from him completely.

 

“Rey? What is it, love?” All his doubt comes rushing to the surface.

 

She shrugs slightly. “I … I thought I would have heard from you by now.”

 

“We … we never discussed it … I didn’t … I didn’t want to … well, intrude I suppose.” His hands flail.

 

Blinking in confusion, she asks, “Intrude? But that’s why it alerts me first, so I can get somewhere private. Unless … unless you didn’t want to talk to m-”

 

He shuts her up swiftly with a thorough kiss then rests his forehead against hers. “I always want to talk to you. I worried you wouldn’t want to talk to me,” he admits, feeling foolish. She’s quite good at making him feel like a bumbling adolescent.

 

It’s her turn to press her lips to his and it’s almost as delicious as when they’d been on Cathne. He could spend his life exploring her tender mouth and perfect pink tongue.

 

But then she pulls back and peers up at him. “Why would you think that?”

 

Now that she’s in his arms he finds he’s not quite sure, it suddenly feels preposterous. “It’s not as if you contacted me,” he offers defensively.

 

She looks away. “You’re right … I didn't. I guess I was afraid.”

 

“Afraid?”

 

Rey shudders out a breath. “Afraid that maybe it was just a dream, that maybe you don’t really want me the way I want you,” she whispers.

 

He realizes that’s exactly it. He too had been afraid. Their time together had been so intense, everything he’s needed his entire life, that it was too much to believe in. Cathne had made all of this irrevocably real.

 

Ben holds her face in his hands. “Never doubt how much I want you, beloved,” he breathes out reverently.

 

She puts her hands over his and says, “Then you don’t, either.”

 

Nodding, he agrees, “It’s a deal.”

 

A small smile tugs at her lips. “You know what this means don’t you?”

 

“No, tell me.” He draws his fingers along her cheeks, transported by how fine and delicate her skin is.

 

Rey rolls her eyes. “It means we’re both idiots.”

 

He snorts. “To tell.”

 

She steps closer to him, almost flush with his body. “Have you been wanting to contact me since Cathne?”

 

“The minute your ship left the atmosphere.”

 

“Me too,” she says softly. “I had so wanted to say goodnight.”

 

“Oh, I wish you had. I’ve been missing you so much.” He draws her completely to him, wrapping his arms around her smaller frame.

 

“So … every day we talk?” she asks into his chest.

 

“Yes, darling. Every day.” He tips her face up and caresses her gently, sealing the agreement with their lips.

 

They kiss and touch until she fades.

 

---

 

“Nothing?” Hux asks furiously.

 

“No sir, there’s no sign of recent habitation,” the stormtroopers voice comes through the comm. The stealth team they’d sent down to Sheytaya is coming up empty handed and though it was what he expected, Ben still breathes that much more easily.

 

“No sign of Resistance activity?”

 

“No, General Hux. It appears we’re the first to set foot here for quite some time.”

 

“Keep searching, I want you to tear that place apart,” Hux seethes.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Hux whirls away from the communication console and stalks to the viewport. “Rebel scum,” he mutters.

 

Ben slides up next to him. “It’s only a matter of time, General Hux.” He doesn’t specify to what, precisely.

 

Hux cocks his head and glances at Ben. “Indeed. Sir.”

Chapter Text

Sighing contentedly, he pulls his blankets over himself and snags the communication device from his bedside table. He smiles as he sends the alert then settles back against his pillow to wait.

 

Yes, they’d had a bit of time together earlier in the day, but now he knows that it’s alright to contact her to simply … say goodnight. It’s seductively mundane and his stomach flips with a nervous sort of pleasure. There are things they should talk about, plans that need to be made, but right now he simply wants to find that place with her where there’s no war, no sides … simply Rey.

 

He’s only just begun to truly fantasize about her when her voice crackles through the comm, “Hello?”

 

“Hello, Rey,” he nearly purrs. There's something wonderfully intimate about having her voice with him in his bed. He doesn't have to wait for the whims of the Force, whenever he needs her he can have her with him. It may only be her lovely voice but, gods he's thoroughly aroused at the idea that he might really be able to talk to her whenever he likes.

 

“It’s … it’s nice to hear your voice,” she says with a sweet, shy tone.

 

“I could spend hours listening to you.” He's alight with his need for her but what he truly wants is her attention.

                                                             

“Me too … but then we'd never get anything done.” He can hear the yearning in her voice and the last vestiges of his doubt melt away.

 

“What were you doing when I sent the alert? Did I interrupt you?” What he really wants to know is how much time he has with her.

 

“Oh, I was working on saber forms. Your mother made sure I have space to train. It's almost time for dinner here, but I have food in my room so there’s no rush. Though … isn't it late for you?”

 

“Memorized my schedule, have you?” he asks playfully.

 

“So?” she sputters defensively. He can almost hear her blush.

 

“Shhh, I would have done the same if I allowed myself to really think about where you are.”

 

“Why won't you?” she asks, sounding perplexed.

 

“Because I'm not sure I could keep myself from coming to you if I spent too much time thinking of it.” He opts not to mention how close he came to breaking and taking her against her will.

 

“Oh …” she breathes out.

 

He wishes he could feel her breath against his skin. Just the thought has him shifting uncomfortably.

 

His tone plaintive, he says, “I wish you were here. I know we had a few moments earlier ...”

 

“But it's not the same.”

 

“No. I can't even really explain the difference. Maybe it was knowing that you were genuinely with me on Cathne … you feel the same, smell the same, but ...” Ben trails off.

 

“Not.”

 

“Yes,” he confirms. His arms ache from the memory of holding her close. He didn’t know he could feel such longing for another person. “I miss you all the time.”

 

“I miss you so much …” They both sigh then Rey asks, “Where are you?” The feeling of her voice through the comm makes him shiver.

 

He turns over on his side and his lip quirks up. “My bed,” he rumbles suggestively.  He wishes fiercely that she was sharing it at this very moment.

 

“Oh … so you're … uhm … ready for sleep?”

 

He knows what she really wants to know. “Rey ... are you asking what I'm wearing?” he teases.

 

“No! I mean … uhm ... I was just wondering.” It’s so easy to imagine the face she’s making, her eyes flitting about, that lovely blush staining her cheeks.

 

“Yes, I'm ready for bed, just in my sleeping pants,” he says lowly.

 

He hears her breathe in quickly and he smiles wickedly, pleased to know the thought of him without his tunic affects her. It’s so reassuring that she seems to like his body. Maker knows, he adores hers.

 

“And you, my love, what are you wearing?” he asks, voice heavy with innuendo.

 

“Oh … uh … just my training clothes.”

 

“Describe them for me. Let me see,” he croons.

 

She lets out a vaguely scandalized, “Ben!”

 

“Rey …” he coaxes.

 

“Uhm, well okay. Just a pair of loose leggings and an old breast band. It’s nothing … special.”

 

“Oh, I don’t know about that … I could help you change …” He groans at the thought of her midriff exposed, the leggings riding low on her hips. She would feel so good as he slipped her scant clothing from her body ... leaving her once again in only his gift.

 

She gasps and he listens to her quickened breath. “In fact,” he says lowly, “I think I’d like it best if you didn’t get dressed again.”

 

Rey giggles. “I’d have to get dressed eventually, I already get cold going from my room to the training room. They might not like me running around naked.”

 

His blood flares with jealousy as he realizes she’s been out in public wearing so little clothing.

 

“Did anyone see you?” he asks through clenched teeth.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Coming back from training. Did anyone see you cavorting about half-naked?” he growls.

 

“Wait. Seriously?”

 

“Answer the question, Rey,” he orders dangerously.

 

“I don't know! Maybe? I was too focused on getting to my room to talk to you to notice!” Her voice rises further on each word.

 

“Do you make a habit of letting every man in the Resistance see you exposed like that?” Ben hisses.

 

“So what if I do! It's not like I spread my legs for them! They’re just ratty old clothes that I can move in!”

 

“Clothes that allow every man in the Resistance to see you half-dressed!” See what’s mine.

 

“No one cares! Everyone is way too busy to notice what the weird little Jedi girl wears to practice saber forms!”

 

“Well I care!” he almost yells.

 

Rey goes silent and Ben’s nostrils flare with each harsh breath. How could she do that to him? Let other men see her like that? It should be special, seeing all of that soft skin should only be for him. He doesn’t know how to put it into words, this panic and fear. What if one of these other men caught her eye? Made her think better of being with him?

 

He hears her sniffle lightly and he realizes he’s hurt her. Replaying what he’s said in his mind he sees that he’s let his jealousy get the better of him … again. He’s just so afraid of losing her … he can’t think straight and now he’s accused her of … dammit.

 

“I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that,” he offers pleadingly, the possessive fury shifting into fear, that constant fear hiding in the back of his mind that she’ll reject him again.

 

“No … you really shouldn’t have,” she says in a wounded tone.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I just … when we’re away from each other I … I think of all the men you must be around and I … panic.”

 

“What have I ever done to make you question me? Do you think for one moment I could ever look at another man after Cathne? Hell, after Starkiller?!” she hisses.

 

“You're right, I know. I'm sorry. I don't know what happens to me. I just know you spend all your time with other people and I hate it. I want you all to myself,” he admits miserably.

 

She sighs heavily. “Ben … I spend most of my free time alone or with your mother.”

 

“What about Finn or Dameron?” He cringes as soon as the words escape him. Even he can hear the naked insecurity in his voice.

 

Scoffing at his words, she says, “Poe is teaching Finn to fly every spare moment they have. There's so much to be done for the Resistance ... I only get to see them at dinner, and that's only sometimes.”

 

“Oh,” he says dumbly.

 

“Yeah. Oh.” The scorn in her tone makes him flinch.

 

“I'm sorry! I just … I … I've never felt like this, it's overwhelming and I'm terrified of losing you!” he exclaims.

 

“What? I don’t understand. Have I done … have I done something to make you think that?” she asks, her own insecurity bleeding through.

 

“No, not a thing …” And she really hasn’t. She’s never once indicated she wanted anyone but him. Even when she tried to turn her back on their connection it seemed to hurt her just as much as it hurt him.

 

“Then why, why do you think you’re going to lose me?”

 

“Because everyone I've ever cared about has either rejected me, been taken from me, or tried to kill me!” he bursts out, sitting up quickly.

 

There's a long pause before Rey carefully asks, “Taken from you?”

 

He's seized with fear. He hadn't meant to bring them up. He tries to never think of them.

 

“Ben?” she nudges gently.

 

“I didn’t mean to say that,” he says flatly.

 

“Please … I can tell this hurts you. Don’t hide from me. Don’t ever hide from me.”

 

Hide from Rey? No … he never wants to do that … And suddenly the wall crumbles and he whispers, “The others from the temple. The ones who came with me. Fought with me. Defended me.” He’s sitting up fully now and he hugs his knees.

 

“Defended you?”

 

“After … Skywalker ... it was chaos. Some believed me, that he’d attacked me in my sleep, but the others, they turned on me … then someone ignited their saber … All I know is that it wasn’t me.”

 

The memory of their angry faces, how they'd raged and spat at him makes him shudder involuntarily. Chan’s twisted, hate-filled expression. He had thought they were friends, but she was the first to swing her lightsaber at him. The sickening feeling of his beloved blue saber cleaving her in two had been his worst memory until his father …

 

It hadn’t been intentional, he’d whirled quickly, defending himself from Rell when Set pushed Chan hard. She’d stumbled right into the path of his arcing blade. Her startling eyes had drained of life in an instant, and Ben’s life as a Jedi had well and truly ended in that moment.

 

He shakes his head and scoffs derisively. “I should have expected it really. Everything changed after it was revealed that Vader was my grandfather.”

 

“But … how could the others have not known? I mean … even on Jakku I knew about your family,” Rey says in confusion.

 

“Ask my mother,” he says bitterly. That day had been hellish, the way the news flew through the temple, how some of the other apprentices drew away from him in fear and revulsion. Not all of them though.

 

Ben clears his throat. “Six of them believed me, believed in me, we banded together … we fought our way out and they came with me.”

 

Stars, they’d been so young. Everything had happened so fast. It was the first time he’d ever killed anyone and he’d barely been able to fly them out of there, his hands had been shaking so badly. Rell’s clear, violet eyes still visit his sleep, the moment the life left them playing over and over again.

 

“But if they came with you …. what happened to them?” Rey asks, fear in her voice.

 

“Snoke killed them,” he says bluntly.

 

“What?” she gasps.

 

“It wasn't all at once. We lost Boyn first. Snoke said we needed to prove ourselves. Made us spar. Killed the loser,” he recounts mechanically. It had been sometime after the first year had passed. They’d been deeply entrenched in the dark side and whipped into a near fanatical frenzy when it happened.

 

He remembers how Boyn had always been just a little slower, a little lazier … he’d told himself that Snoke was only doing what was necessary. That he only wanted the best of the best in the Knights of Ren.

 

“And you … you stayed … anyway?” The horror leaks through her tone and he can't blame her.

 

“I convinced myself he was weak. But by the time Snoke killed Set … I knew. Deep down I knew.” Maker … Set. He had been so quick, so brave. Set was the first to pick up his blade to fight by Ben’s side that horrible night at the temple.

 

“Knew what?” Rey prods gently.

 

Ben pulls his knees even tighter to his chest and begins to rock slightly. “That he did it to isolate me. Everything he did to me, he did it to keep me apart from others. There was a brief time when Hux and I were almost friends, if you can believe that. But Snoke put an end to that and now we despise each other.”

 

“I see … at least a little. But why … why did the others stay?”

 

“Where else were they supposed to go? He had us all so twisted up inside, believing it was noble. That the rest of us grew stronger with each culling. But we didn't. We just lost more of our humanity.”

 

“Oh, Ben …” her voice soothes though the comm.

 

“Don’t … don’t pity me,” he requests softly.

 

“It’s not pity … I just … I hate knowing you were so alone; I hate what he did to you.”

 

He shrugs then realizes she can’t see him. “I still kept coming back,” Ben murmurs.

 

“I wish … I wish I could hold you right now.”

 

The thought of her comfort makes his throat tight. Oh how he wishes that she could, too. But … “I don't deserve it. I've done horrible things in pursuit of the dark. Things I hope you never learn.”

 

“What if I want to know? What if I need to?” she asks carefully.

 

“Please, Rey. Don't ask me. Please don't ask me.”

 

If she asks, he'd have to tell her. Tell her how he'd been the one to kill the last of his friends. The way Lorell had nodded his acceptance as his blade had come down. How Snoke would mock him by calling him ‘Master of the Knights of Ren’ long after he was alone. So alone.

 

He rubs at his eyes, trying not to see the faces of his countless victims. The times he'd had to kill innocents… She knows he murdered his father, she doesn't need to know the rest. If only he himself could forget.

 

“Ben?”

 

For the first time since she'd first called him Ben he wishes she wouldn't. He has no right to that name. He's Kylo Ren, a boy in a mask.

 

“Ben? Please talk to me. I'm …I'm worried.”

 

He lets out a shaky breath. “There's no need to be. I'm fine.” There's no inflection to his words. The past is digging its claws into him and he wonders if he should just say goodnight. There are things he'd wanted to say … tell Rey about the Lyrelli … but now he's worried about what else she'll pull from him. If she knew the breadth and scope of his crimes she would surely leave him.

 

“You aren't fine. Don't lie to me,” her gentle voice softening her words.

 

That brings him up short. He'd never lie to Rey. Except … he had. Because she's right. He's anything but fine. “I'm afraid,” he admits brokenly.

 

“Tell me what you're afraid of,” she requests gently. Her voice is so soft, so soothing.

 

“I'm afraid … afraid that …”

 

“I'm here, I'm holding your crystal and I'm right next to your heart.”

 

For a moment he thinks he almost feels her, nestled in his chest. Perhaps it would be alright to tell her.

 

“I'm afraid that if you know all I've done, everything I'm capable of … that …”

 

“It's alright. Please tell me. Please trust me.”

 

He's almost glad he can't see her face when he admits, “I'm afraid you won't love me anymore.”

 

“Oh, no Ben. No. That's not possible. We're so far beyond that. I love you. I will always love you.”

 

He chokes out a dry sob and Force, he needs her.

 

And then she's there, wrapping her arms around him and he immediately hides his face at her neck as she tangles herself around him in his bed.

 

“Rey,” he gasps out.

 

She strokes his hair and coos nonsense against the shell of his ear. “Whatever you've done I only need to know one thing, just one thing.”

 

“Anything.”

 

“Will you ever kill an innocent again?”

 

He blinks into her slender neck and he's begun to tremble. The thought of never adding another face to the endless parade that haunts him is so freeing.

 

“No, Rey. Never again.”

 

“Alright then. That's all I need to know.”

 

He falls asleep in Rey's arms, her hands gliding through his hair and whispers of, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” keeping him safe.

 

Chapter Text

Looking at a map of the known galaxy, Ben is contemplating likely planets for his ruse to protect Rey and his mother. If he can make Hux believe that the Resistance has been eradicated, then he can focus on building support within the First Order and taking down the ginger menace.

 

It must be a planet where it would be believable that the Resistance had taken up residence, but also nowhere near any civilian life. He’s promised Rey that no more innocents will die and besides, it doesn’t sit well with him regardless. It’s a wholly different point of view and it’s difficult to adjust to this new arithmetic.

 

Right now he’s investigating Hoth. There is the old Rebellion base so it does make some sense. Hoth brings up strange memories, however; all the stories his mother told him swirling in his mind. How it was there that his father first started to realize how he truly felt about his mother; how she fought him every step of the way. He doesn’t really want to destroy it, he finds.

 

Perhaps he should ask Rey to get his mother’s input. He supposes he could just talk with her directly through Rey’s comm, but the idea makes his stomach roil with apprehension. He’s not sure he can handle hearing her voice just yet.

 

“Supreme Leader, sir?” an officer’s voice comes through his comm, interrupting his musings.

 

“Speak,” he orders, relieved to be rescued from his confusing thoughts.

 

“Hux is requesting a formal audience, sir.”

 

That’s odd. Hux has absolutely refused to give him the same deference as Snoke no matter how frequently Ben Force choked him. Eventually, he’d decided it just made him look childish and had stopped demanding it of the frustrating man.

 

“Send him in.”

 

A few minutes later Hux strides into his chambers, his uniform looking particularly well pressed.

 

Hux regards him for a long moment, his pale eyes flashing. “Why, Supreme Leader, did you deny my promotions and personnel changes?”

 

Ah. That. Internally Ben winces. He probably should have continued to just approve everything, make Hux think he’s completely oblivious to what’s coming. But it’s done now. “I have not been as invested as I should be in First Order matters as of late and I simply wished to discuss it first. I’m sure your suggestions are excellent,” Ben flatters.

 

Hux sniffs imperiously. “Well. Fine then.”

 

Ben has to keep himself from smiling at Hux’s deflating sails. “In fact, why don’t we review them now, hmm?”

 

Hux blinks quickly, clearly not having anticipated this. But he recovers himself quickly. “Quite right, sir,” Hux says, producing a datapad. “Now, Lieutenant Jehan is an excellent choice for promotion.”

 

Oh yes, she certainly is. First born daughter of Micah Jehan, second chancellor of the Lyrelli Banking Consortium. Being in her father’s good graces can only help the general. Ben nods for Hux to continue.

 

---

 

Nearly an hour later, Ben is mildly offended that Hux thought he could act so blatantly right under his nose. Yes, alright, he doesn’t tend to focus on these sorts of matters, but he’d have to be blind and stupid to have missed this. As Hux prattles on about his personnel movements, each name is well known to Ben.

 

Lerin Turso, second son of the leader of the Kantru Syndicate, the muscle behind the Lyrelli, conveniently married to Ashla Ten, daughter of L’roo Ten, matriarch of the ruling house of Sheytaya. Turso is up for his first command, conveniently the sister ship of the Finalizer.

 

The list goes on and on, every last name some tie to the Lyrelli or to an extremely powerful family or organization. He’d found his mother’s parties tedious and had entertained himself by determining how many degrees separated the guests. It was rarely more than three. He knows their connections well.

 

Doesn’t Hux know that Ben grew up rubbing elbows with the wealthiest, most powerful people in the galaxy? Does he truly think that Ben Solo, son of Princess Leia Organa won’t recognize these names?

 

Then he recalls how Snoke would demean him in front of Hux, how his role within the First Order had always been that of terror and doing what he was told. Hux likely has no real idea who Kylo Ren really was … or who Ben Solo is and what he’s capable of. Ben is no longer anyone’s loyal dog.

 

Additionally, Hux has always been a social climber. He wouldn’t know what a privileged childhood really looks like. It’s an interesting hole in Hux’s strategy. At least it will make it far more likely that Ben’s plan will work. Hux won’t suspect a thing ...

 

Rey’s comm chirps and he freezes. It’s still morning on the Finalizer so it’s very early for Rey on Corellia. Is something wrong?

 

Swiftly, he turns off the distracting chirp and seemingly returns his attention to Hux. Now, all he wants to do is rush the man out of his chambers and respond to her, but he’d have no way to explain himself. So he forces himself to listen Hux drone on as his panic only grows.

 

---

 

Finally! He’s alone and he ensures no one can disturb him. Pulling out Rey’s comm, he’s speaking into it before it’s even had a chance to connect. For the last 15 minutes all he’s been able to think about is the fear that something has happened to her. “Rey! Rey, are you alright!?”

 

“Yes, I’m fine. I didn’t mean to worry you.”

 

Relief floods his system at the sound of her calm voice. He takes in a steadying breath. “It’s alright, I don’t know why I panicked.”

 

“I really am sorry.”

 

“No, never apologize for reaching out to me. You may always contact me, whatever the reason. I always want to hear from you. But … is this just to say hello?” he asks curiously.

 

She sighs deeply. “No … there’s something I need to talk with you about. I hope you won’t be angry with me.”

 

He instantly thinks of all the men in the Resistance but holds his tongue. He knows she wouldn’t do that to him, he knows it. But it doesn’t keep the fear from skittering up his spine.

 

“What … what’s happened?” he asks with trepidation.

 

“I … oh Maker, I hope you aren’t mad …”

 

His anxiety rises but, he keeps his voice calm as he says, “Sweetheart, don’t worry, I won’t be angry, whatever it is. Just tell me.”

 

Hesitantly she stutters out, “I … I ... told your mother. About what Luke did. About what happened after. With your friends.”

 

Everything goes still and he can’t quite process what she’s said. “You … you told her?”

 

His chest hurts as he tries to decide if he is angry with Rey or simply shocked at the idea of his mother knowing how he failed his friends. Somehow, her knowing that he wasn’t able to see what was happening to him until it was far too late to save anyone but Rey makes him feel shamed and small.

 

He should have been stronger; he shouldn’t have let Snoke do that to him. To them.

 

Her voice teeming with remorse, she says, “I’m sorry … I didn’t even really mean to, it was just, you were so upset and after you fell asleep your mother came to check on me because I wasn’t at dinner. She could tell that something was wrong and it all just … it all just came tumbling out.”

 

Ben snorts, remembering his mother’s uncanny ability to make even the most hardened criminal spill his guts. “I understand, Rey. I’m not angry with you.”

 

“Are you angry at all?”

 

He pauses, thinking. “No … I’m not sure what I feel, but it’s not anger.”

 

“So you don’t mind, that I told her?”

 

“No … no I don’t mind. I know you didn’t do it to hurt me. Maybe it’s good that she knows, I’m not sure.”

 

“I think it’s good. I think … I think it helped her make sense out of everything.”

 

“Hmmm,” he hums noncommittally.

 

Warily, she says, “There’s something else …”

 

“What … what is it?”

 

“Uhm … your mother wants to talk to you. Through the comm.”

 

Ben flinches at the thought and his heart starts to beat rapidly. He’s not ready for this. He’ll never be ready for this. Even with her forgiveness, the thought of speaking with her, hearing her voice after all these years … it’s terrifying, utterly terrifying.

 

Will she scold him? Will she ask him her probing questions that he’s always been powerless against? He remembers how, with a single look, she could reduce Han Solo to looking like a naughty schoolboy shuffling his feet.

 

“Ben?” He realizes he’s been silent for quite some time.

 

He clears his throat. “I … know that I will need to speak with her, but I’m not sure that I’m ready.”

 

“Please … she’s … she’s very upset.”

 

That oh so familiar sense of rejection claws at his chest. Of course she is, of course she doesn’t believe him. “I’m sure she didn’t like hearing that her precious Luke Skywalker wasn’t who she thought. Does she want to tell me that I’m wrong? That Luke would never do such a thing?” he sneers.

 

“No … no,” she says gently. “She’s not upset about Luke. Well she is, but that’s not why she wants to talk with you. She’s upset about you. About what it meant for you.”

 

His jaw clenches and he looks around wildly, not sure how to handle this piece of information. On some level he knew this is how she would react, that she would believe him. But he has so many years of resentment, Snoke’s voice telling him that his mother would never understand if he went to her about the whispers … it feels impossible that she might … be on his side.

 

“Please … she’s lost so much, let her have this. Let her hear her son’s voice,” Rey pleads.

 

His eyes close tightly against the pain. He’s to blame for much of her loss and it seems almost perverse that he could be a source of comfort to her. But … if what Rey says is true, it would be so cruel to deny this request.

 

Ben lets out a long, slow breath and opens his eyes. “Alright. I’ll speak with her.”

 

“Do you want … do you want to talk to her now.”

 

A nerve jumps in his cheek. He wants to put it off, but he knows it won’t make it any easier. “Yes, fine. I’ll speak with her now. Though … isn’t it very early?”

 

“Neither of us slept. We were up all night talking. She had … she had a lot of questions and then we just sat together. It was … I don’t know if nice is the right way to put it, but I was glad she let me stay with her. She’s done so much for me … Anyway … I left her in her quarters while I contacted you.”

 

He smiles. He can see them, sitting, perhaps drinking tea. Together … it warms his heart to think that his mother and Rey have become close, satisfies some part of him to know that at least in this one thing he has been successful. He has chosen a mate who makes his mother happy.

 

And what of the future? Someday … could they perhaps all be happy together? Could he heal his mother’s heart with a new family? Again he’s pulled down by thoughts of a life with Rey, little ones with his hair and her eyes. He can almost see his mother holding his child on her hip.

 

It’s a dream too beautiful to hold onto for long and he shakes his head, bringing himself back to the present. “Well … then I suppose it’s time. Let’s get this over with,” he says, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

 

“Thank you, Ben.”

 

“Oh, Rey … there’s no need to thank me. She … she deserves this and so much more. Anything she could ask of me … I think I would try to do it.”

 

“Because you feel guilty?”

 

“Because I am guilty.”

 

“I … I don’t know what to say to that.”

 

“It simply is. Now, let’s go talk to my mother.”

 

---

 

Rey doesn’t say anything as she delivers the comm to his mother. He’s disappointed but also grateful for the time to gather himself.

 

He paces his chambers with a manic energy that’s part anxiety and part excitement.

 

Maker, if this is how he feels at the prospect of talking with her, how will he handle it when he sees her again? Will he break down and throw himself at her feet? Beg her to give him some way to atone, even as he knows that’s impossible?

 

“Uhm, we’re here,” she says into the device. Then her voice sounds far away as he hears, “Hello, Leia. Yes … he’s ready. Do you want me to stay?”

 

Wait, he needs Rey to be there. Even if he can’t talk to her while his mother has the comm, he can’t do this if he doesn’t know he can ask for her back at any moment. He’s about to try and get Rey’s attention when he hears his mother’s voice for the first time in almost ten years.

 

“Yes, Rey. Please stay. You’re family, now.”

 

He starts to breathe quickly. Though her voice is distorted by the distance from the comm, she sounds almost the same as he remembers. Her voice is a little lower than it had been and oh gods he can’t do this. Thumb hovering over the comm, he nearly ends the transmission. But, no … he won’t be a coward. He will face his mother like the man he should have been.

 

Then he can hear his mother take a shuddering breath. Force, this is hard.

 

“Hello, Son.”

 

Unbidden, his eyes well up to hear her claim him so. “Hello, Mother,” he chokes out.

 

He doesn’t know what to say, and clearly neither does she as the silence stretches, but he can almost feel her, and it’s like they’re getting accustomed to the idea of each other.

 

Finally, she says, “I want … I want to say that I’m sorry.”

 

Blinking furiously, he swallows past the tightness in his throat. “No, Mother … I’m sorry.”

 

“I know you are, I felt it. And you know how I feel in return. But that’s not why I wanted to talk with you.” She sighs. “I never should have sent you to Luke. I should have listened to you when you asked to stay.”

 

Anger flares in his chest and before he can stop himself he snarls, “Asked? I begged, Mother, I begged and cried and begged some more.” The visceral memory of how he’d pleaded with everything his young soul had to just be allowed to stay nearly takes him over, but he pushes it back and focuses on his breathing. He can’t lose his temper. That’s not what he wants, not really.

 

“I know,” his mother says softly. “I was wrong.”

 

He almost wishes she would try and justify herself. This absolute surrender leaves him rudderless. The Leia Organa he knew would never just admit she was wrong like this.

 

Unable to speak, he keeps quiet.

 

“I’ve known for a long time that I made a horrible mistake … but what Rey told me, what Luke did to you. She told me his version and yours and it doesn’t really matter what the truth is. Because I believe that in that moment you thought he was going to kill you and you had every right to defend yourself.”

 

This is all too much and he has to sit down. Unsteadily, he finds his chair and his hands are shaking.

 

“You really believe that?” he asks in a small voice.

 

“Yes, Son, I do.”

 

“I … I didn’t want to … I just didn’t know what else to do … I couldn’t just let him kill me,” he whispers.

 

“You did the only thing you could have done … and what happened after …”

 

“Please … I don’t want to talk about them. Please don’t make me talk about them.” The regret he feels for his lost comrades, his own part in their deaths is more than he can bear on top of everything.

 

“Shhh, shhh, alright my precious boy,” she soothes.

 

Oh gods, those words knife through him and he gasps. A torrent of memories pulls him down. So much warmth and safety. His mother, the only one who ever seemed to understand. How she would tend to his wounds when he’d defend himself at school. Stollen afternoons when she would clear her duties just to spend time with him.

 

Wiping at his eyes he tries to speak but his words won’t come and he just lets out a strangled sob.

 

“It’s alright, I’m here. I’m right here. I’m so sorry I wasn’t for such a long time. I’m sorry for all that you have suffered, everything that Snoke did to you-”

 

“Stop,” he finally pushes out past his tears. “Don’t … don’t apologize, not anymore. I … don’t deserve your forgiveness and I know I don’t deserve your apologies. I paid you back tenfold for any mistakes you made.”

 

“But-”

 

“No. Please. I … can’t bear it. I can’t. It happened. We can’t change it. We can’t fix it. All we can do is look to the future.” His voice breaks, but is strong.

 

“Son-”

 

“I’m serious, Mother,” he says firmly.

 

He’s surprised when he hears her laugh slightly. “You sound just like your father,” she says wistfully.

 

It hurts, but not as much as he would have expected.

 

“And, just like your father, you seem intent on a girl who is far too good for you.”

 

It’s his turn to chuckle. “Yes, she is. Please don’t tell her?” And just like that, he remembers how easy it had always been to talk with his mother.

 

“As she’s right here, I think the twyla is out of the bag.”

 

Ben wipes the last of his tears and says, “I’ve missed you, Mother.”

 

“I’ve missed you, too, Son.”



Chapter Text

“It’s a sound plan, but I don’t like the idea of just hiding,” his mother says with mild asperity through the comm.

 

After they’d both pulled themselves together, they’d begun to plan, both needing the distance that strategy brings. He knows they have hours of talking yet to do, but they’ve made a sort of peace and he’s certain the rest is almost superfluous.

 

“Please … I know you’ve no reason to trust me, but I truly believe if I can just have time I can make real changes within the First Order.”

 

“I do trust you, as foolish as that might be. If this had been before Crait I could never promise you time, it would be out of my hands. But as I’m the only member of leadership left alive …” Her voice is marred by all her loss.

 

“I … I wish I could go back-”

 

“Stop. This serves no purpose. I know you were lost to the dark and had just killed Snoke then. You weren’t in your right mind; not like you are now. I can’t forgive you for it, it’s not my place to give you absolution, but I do know that we won’t get anywhere if we don’t keep our focus firmly on the future.”

 

He breathes in shakily. “You’re right, of course you’re right.”

 

“A point I could never get your father to agree on.”

 

His lips twitch. It’s growing easier to hear about his father. “No … I wouldn’t think so.”

 

There’s a pause, but it’s not uncomfortable, exactly. Then his mother says, “Alright. I’m willing to give you time, but we will need to be in constant communication and the Resistance will be watching.”

 

It stings that she needs to keep tabs on him, but he understands. “That is more than fair.”

 

“Good. We’ll have a few of our people be a bit more conspicuous, lead your spies to a plausible location.”

 

He bristles at the idea of them being his spies, but he knows it’s accurate. “Yes. What I can’t decide on is the system. I had thought Hoth … but ….”

 

His mother breathes in sharply. “No … I know it’s already half destroyed but …”

 

“Now that he’s gone …” He wonders if it’s cowardly not to own his actions.

 

“Yes …”

 

“I’m so-”

 

“No, like I said. The future, we can’t look back. We can’t. I can’t,” she says with a strangled tone.

 

Gods … will he ever find a way to live with what he’s done? The stark pain in his mother’s voice is almost more than he can bear and he hangs his head in shame. The need to apologize over and over again is profound, but he knows that she’s right. The future is all that can matter now. Besides, apologies change nothing.

 

He hears her let out a long breath and he can feel her mood shift through the Force. “Speaking of the future,” his mother says with mischief.

 

“Yes?” he asks warily.

 

“Rey has fallen asleep, and I want to talk with you about her. She says you love her?” Her tone is light, but he senses her protectiveness weaving through her words.

 

Ben’s expression softens and just thinking about Rey sleeping peacefully brings him much-needed calm. “I do … I Mother, I didn’t know I could love someone like this, that she could be all in the galaxy that matters to me.”

 

“It’s very powerful, love.” The wistfulness in her voice makes his heart twist.

 

He wonders if he’ll ever be able to speak with his mother without constant reminders of all he has done to her. “Yes … it is.”

 

“You can’t toy with her, she can’t be a conquest, not like I’m sure you’re accustomed to.” There’s a bitterness in her voice that confuses him.

 

“I … I don’t understand.”

 

“You’re a very powerful man with Solo genes. I don’t even want to imagine your history.”

 

He’s so shocked he can’t even speak for a moment. His mother thinks … he gets sudden insight into his parents’ marriage that he does not want. Han Solo had always been a rogue but … No, he’s not going to think about that.

 

“Mother, no … I …. I have no history,” he admits, his cheeks burning. While he’s grateful that he comes to Rey entirely hers, he knows it’s … unusual.

 

“Ah, so she’s the first one that’s mattered to you-”

 

“Uh, no. As I said. I have no history.”

 

He can almost see his mother blinking in shock. “Oh. I see … well then …” She clears her throat and continues, “The point still stands. Rey is obviously very much in love with you and, with her past, it would devastate her if you cast her aside.”

 

“That won’t be an issue. I … I can’t imagine living without her. I … I’m not going anywhere. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.” Just the thought of doing that to her fills him with revulsion.

 

“Yes, this bond. That would complicate things if you two moved on from each other. I can only imagine how awk-”

 

“Mother,” he growls, not even wanting to entertain the idea. “Let’s just say you don’t need to worry. Rey and her heart are completely safe with me. I would die before hurting her.”

 

He hears the smile in her voice when she says, “I believe you, Son. Well, now that that’s out of the way, I think I’ve thought of the right planet.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Eshara. It’s a desert planet, mineral mining but sparsely populated so there should be no casualties. There’s an abandoned mine we looked into as a base a while back. I think it would do nicely.”

 

He thinks for a moment. Yes, that would work perfectly. A structure with underground facilities, difficult to scan. Hux would assume the lack of life signs was simply from the depth of their ‘base’. Once the few ‘survivors’ escaped to tell the tale Hux would buy it completely.

 

“Eshara it is.”

 

---

 

After ironing out the specifics, he’d said goodbye to his mother and then had a few moments with Rey who had woken up. But then she’d yawned and he’d regretfully let her go.

 

He sits in his chambers, trying to find his center after such an important conversation with his mother. Hearing her voice had been … it had been wonderful, if he’s honest with himself. He finds he’s impatient to see her again and he wonders how long it will be before he’s able to legitimately sue for peace.

 

The realization that it will be months before he’s able to truly see her makes a spot just under his sternum ache. Now that they’re finding understanding he’s … eager to rebuild his relationship with her.

 

But he’ll have to content himself with the knowledge that she’s with Rey, as close to being with him as possible. Ben smiles, remembering how his mother had called Rey family. Because she is. She’s his family in a way he can’t really name. His chosen family. The family he wants to create. With Rey.

 

---

 

Now that they have a genuine plan in place, he’s restless. The day had gone by so slowly and he’s once again in his bed holding Rey’s comm in his hand. He’s not sure if he should contact her, she’d not slept last night and perhaps she’s still catching up. But he decides he won’t question her willingness to say goodnight.

 

He sends the alert and almost immediately her voice fills his room, “Ben …”

 

“Rey …

 

---

 

Every day he checks with Hux for news of the Resistance and every day, nothing. He knows he’s being impatient, it hasn’t even been a week, but he just needs to know that Rey and his mother are safe. Until Hux is satisfied that the Resistance—and Rey and Leia Organa—are no more there’s the very real chance that First Order spies will discover that they’re actually on Corellia.

 

He’s fairly confident that his father’s old … associates will keep them well hidden, but he can’t be sure and he’s desperate to see this done. But all he can do is wait.  

 

Ben is in his chambers, reviewing the operations on Jentesh VI. The first shipments have been delivered to First Order allies and their finances are holding. For now. He’s hoping to utilize Hux’s plan to sway the Lyrelli Banking Consortium to his advantage.

 

It’s taken him many hours of research, but he thinks he has a reasonable list of contacts who have had … less than positive experiences with Hux. Demoted officers, older generals who chafe under the younger man’s leadership. He doesn’t want to move too quickly, but he has quietly transferred a few lesser officers to the Finalizer. He needs allies close.

 

Correll Bast is especially promising. He’s very young, but had risen to second in command of the Sector 5, the analysts. He’d been stationed on the Supremacy and had been demoted back to Analyst II after he’d refused to set aside a bit of intelligence surrounding the death of Brendol Hux.

 

Analyst Bast is due to arrive the next day and Ben is keen to meet him and get the measure of the man. He could use a person of intellect at his side.

 

“Sir,” Lieutenant Mitaka’s voice comes through the comm. Ben has actually considered Mitaka, but he’s too skittish.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Well, sir … TL-8176 is requesting to speak with you. I-I realize this is h-highly irregular, but as you do sparr with him regularly I-I-”

 

That is extremely odd. “What does he want?” Ben asks.

 

“H-he w-wants to confirm th-that you’re sp-sparring this evening.”

 

Ben sits back in his chair. They had no plans as such, but his instincts tell him he needs to follow this where it takes him. “Yes, confirm that he should meet me in my private training room at the usual time.”

 

“Y-yes, sir.”

 

---

 

“Well, TL, this is … strange to say the least.” Ben regards the stormtrooper currently just inside his training room entryway.

 

“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t know how else to contact you.”

 

“And why would you need to contact me, what is it you need?”

 

“It’s not what I need, sir, it’s … it’s what I can do for you.”

 

Intrigued, Ben cocks his head. “Go on …”

 

TL looks down for a moment and Ben can just detect a shudder through the modulator of his mask. “First, you should know that … that the mind trick doesn’t work on me.”

 

Ice trickles down Ben’s spine as he remembers all the times he’d let something slip during training, trusting in the mind trick to give him safety. His true feelings about his life, Hux … Snoke. Oh gods, that one time TL found him on the anniversary of the temple … He feels the color drain from his face and he stutters out, “H-how long?”

 

“It never has, sir,” the stormtrooper says regretfully.

 

Ben stands very still, trying to decide if he needs to kill TL. He knows far too much. Then TL interrupts his thoughts.

 

“Sir, I have never betrayed your confidence. Not once.”

 

Ben realizes that must be true. If Snoke had ever heard of his moments of disobedience, he would have surely been punished. But there had never been even a hint that TL ever spoke a word of his moments of weakness.

 

“Why?” Ben asks flatly.

 

“Because, well sir … you needed a friend.”

 

Ben snorts. Before Rey he would have Force choked the stormtrooper for such impudence. But now … now he knows TL is right. He had, and TL has been an odd sort of friend. One he never trusted, one he knows nothing about, but he’s shown him loyalty that Ben can barely comprehend. And he’s never seen his face.

 

“Would you take off your mask, TL? If we’re going to really talk, I’d like to do it face to face.”

 

They stand, facing each other and TL slowly removes his helmet. His hair is black and cropped short and his skin is a light brown with olive undertones. He has large, dark eyes and looks to be in his early 20s. It’s a pleasing, friendly face.

 

“Well, TL … what is it that you can do for me?”

 

His eyes grow furtive and he takes a deep breath. “You were onto something with the stormtroopers. Ever since FN-2187 defected things have been changing. Conversations I’d never thought I’d hear have been everywhere. We … we aren’t happy and we want things to change.”

 

“As do I,” Ben says.

 

“If I may be blunt, why is that? I think I have some idea of what you’ve … endured, but why do you want things to change?”

 

“Because it’s time to let old things die. This is just the Empire rebuilt and it didn’t work before, why would it work now? I want to do something truly new.” For a moment he almost tells TL about the Resistance, but he doesn’t dare.

 

“Would there be a place for the stormtroopers in that? Where we have a voice?”

 

“Yes,” Ben says firmly.

 

“Then I think there’s someone you need to meet.”

 

---

 

Ben works through his saber forms, his mind reeling. TL is going to introduce him to the leader of some underground stormtrooper movement, headquartered right here on the Finalizer. That it’s happening right under Hux’s nose gives him a savage sort of pleasure. This, this could be the key to it all.

 

If he could work with the stormtroopers he could take over the entire fleet in one well organized attack. Perhaps they could even get the pilots on their side. His blood is up and excitement trembles through his limbs as he arcs his saber.

 

He’s stripped down to his trousers and he’s about to activate the training droids when he sees her. She’s in her leggings and breast band and oh he wants to touch every inch of her exposed skin.

 

“Oh!” she squeaks as she takes in his bare chest. She smiles wickedly and comes up to him. He extinguishes his saber and places it on his belt.

 

Rey smoothes her hands along his chest and he shudders. Her eyes are full of heat and her fingers glide along one of his nipples. It sends a jolt of pleasure straight to his groin and he buries his fingers in her hair, pulling her to him.

 

She gasps as he thrusts his tongue into her mouth, needing to dive into her. Her hot mouth welcomes him and soon her tight little body is writhing against him as they kiss hungrily. Dimly he remembers his jealousy that she goes about dressed in so little clothing, but right now he just wants to feel all that skin pressed against him.

 

He’s confused when she pushes him away, even a little hurt. “Rey ...what-”

 

“You were sparring. I was about to start training. What do you say, Ben, up for a rematch?” she asks playfully.

 

The way her eyes look like she wants to devour him makes his whole body thrum with heat and the idea of crossing sabers with her while in such a state is so erotic his cock is instantly straining against the fabric of his trousers.

 

He doesn’t say anything, just ignites his saber and looks at her intensely.

 

She grins and her own saber comes to life. She begins to circle him like he’s her prey and he can’t have that. Quickly, he arcs his blade towards her and she swiftly parries him. And then it’s on.

 

They dance along his training room floor, their blades crashing, teeth bared. He’s going to show her what he’s really made of this time. He’s not bleeding out from a bow-caster wound and he’s going to best her. He’s filled with the need to own her.

 

Ben rounds on her and twists his blade just so until they’re locked together. He uses his superior strength to push her until her back is pressed against his training room wall. Swiftly, he drops his blade and grabs her wrists, forcing her to drop her own weapon. He holds them against the surface behind her.

 

He grinds his hardness against her center and she gasps before darting forward to steal a kiss. He’s about to get lost in her mouth when she surprises him by dropping to the floor and pulling her weapon to her with the Force. The white blade is stunning as she almost gets him.

 

But he whirls quickly, his saber once again in his hand, and then they’re crashing against each other, roaring and panting. Oh gods, he wants her. This is unlike anything he’s experienced. The thrill of battle and the hunger of desire heats his blood to boiling.

 

He almost wants to throw down his weapon again and just claim her in a different way, but his pride is calling for victory.

 

Again, he almost has her when she uses her smaller stature to twist around him. Then she swipes his legs out from under him and they land in a tangle of limbs, both only just managing to extinguish their sabers in time.

 

She’s landed on top of him and he can feel her chest heaving against his own and suddenly he doesn’t care who wins, savagely capturing her lips. She matches his intensity and before he knows what’s happened she’s whipped off her breast band and is rubbing her breasts against him.

 

He hauls her up his body and latches on to her glorious nipple. He loves how it grows in his mouth as he flicks his tongue on the tightening flesh. She’s calling out encouragement and he switches to her other breast.

 

It’s not enough, he needs more. Swiftly he flips her on her back as she whimpers, “Yes, Ben, please.”

 

He has his hand down her leggings and two fingers inside her in an instant. Maker, she’s so damned wet. “Rey, oh, Force, Rey,” he moans.

 

“Just like that, oh gods, just like that!”

 

Then she surprises him when her own hand snakes down the front of his trousers and grasps him. She groans, “Gods, you’re so hard, you feel so good in my hand.”

 

He can only agree as she starts to pump him. For a moment he forgets what he’s doing until she impatiently moves her hips and he remembers. He pulses his fingers in and out of her as he swirls his thumb along her clit.

 

She’s sopping wet and his hand is soaked with her essence. It’s hard to focus on pleasuring her as she pulls him ever closer to the precipice. He loves when she touches him. It makes him feel wanted and accepted and, Force, it feels so damned good.

 

He lets out a strangled sound as she twists her hand just so across his head and oh gods, he can’t last much longer, already so aroused from their sparring. He increases his pace and she’s a sobbing mess under his hand. She’s begging and keening and every sound she makes pushes him ever forward.

 

Please, please, he needs to feel her tightening around his fingers. He focuses on what he’s doing to her, trying to ignore the ecstasy she’s wringing from him. There, there it is. Her walls begin to quake and she grabs his face, forcing him to hold her eyes.

 

Watching her orgasm break across her face is the most glorious thing he’s ever seen. Her eyes go wide and her mouth is in a silent scream. Then she’s breathing harshly as she spasms against his hand. With one final contraction, she yells out, “Ben!” and he slows his thrusts until he stills inside her.

 

She’s breathing hard as she keeps moving her hand along his length and his focus is now entirely on the intense sensations she’s creating in his center. The pleasure tightens in his core and she moans, “I love you.”

 

That’s all it takes, her hazel eyes, full of her devotion and her love on her lips has his release bursting from him, hot thick ropes coming from him. Each surge makes his vision dim and he shudders as she slows her hand.

 

Trying to catch his breath he leans his forehead against hers and then he has to kiss her. Feel that connection. Their tongues tangle and they draw their hands from each other. They’re both a mess and he loves it.

 

She pulls back slightly and holds his eyes, grinning. “I win.”

 

He barks out a laugh and agrees, “Yes, my love, yes you do.”

 

Chapter Text

Correll Bast has been on the Finalizer for a few days when Ben decides it’s time to approach him. This move is not without risk and he’s wary of this next step. The Force will help him gauge this potential ally, but he’s still feeling cautious.

 

Needing to ensure privacy, he’s reviewed the logs and it appears that the analyst always works late. He times his arrival accordingly, and is relieved to find Bast alone in in Sector 5. Now comes the tricky part.

 

“Analyst Bast,” Ben says with authority as he enters the young officer’s work space.

 

“Supreme Leader! Sir! What can I do for you?” the eager man exclaims, jumping up from his chair. He has a long, gangly frame and he looks far younger than his 22 years. His uniform doesn’t fit him quite right, leaving the impression of a child playing dress-up. He certainly appears non-threatening, which plays into Ben’s plans nicely. Hux would never suspect the analyst to have it in him.

 

“Walk with me,” Ben requests. Though they are alone, he doesn’t want to take the chance of someone walking in on their conversation.

 

Analyst Bast cocks his head in confusion, but quickly comes around his desk and follows in Ben’s wake.

 

“You’ve only just joined us, how are you finding the Finalizer?” Ben asks, keeping his head straight ahead, a slight sneer on his face as they walk side-by-side.

 

“Oh, great, just great! I’ve been assigned the most fascinating project, decrypting Resistance communication. They’ve recently changed their codes, so it’s especially exciting. I get to really dig-”

 

“Yes, indeed,” Ben says, stemming the tide of words. Analyst Bast is certainly … enthusiastic. “So you find this assignment fulfilling?”

 

“Very much, sir! I’m extremely grateful for the transfer. After the Supremacy, I was worried I’d be stuck analyzing chatter for the rest of my career. This is so much more interesting!”

 

Pleased that Bast has given him an opening, Ben stops walking and Bast skids to a halt. Turning to him, Ben says, “Speaking of the Supremacy, I hear there was a bit of trouble. Something to do with Brendol Hux?”

 

Bast’s almost frenetic energy changes and he looks around furtively. The corridor is empty and Ben knows the patrol schedule. They have around five minutes undisturbed. He reaches out with the Force and skims the young man’s mind. He finds confusion and hope, hope that someone might actually listen. Hope for an ally. This fortuitous confluence of purpose forces him to suppress a smile.

 

“Uhm … well, sir, you see … I thought I was onto something, but when I wouldn’t let it go, they demoted me.”

 

“And what did you find?”

 

Bast’s eyes dart away. “I’m not sure I should say … sir,” he says, beginning to look truly afraid. Again Ben peaks into his head with a twitch of his fingers. He senses caution and fear; the need for a sign.

 

“I am aware of General Hux’s roll in his father’s death,” Ben says pointedly.

 

Bast’s eyebrows rise slightly and his eyes gleam with excitement before he makes his face blank.

 

Ben holds his eyes as he says, “I have nothing to gain by entrapping you. What I need right now are people I can trust. Can I trust you, Correll Bast?”

 

Analyst Bast’s eyes grow keen and it’s almost as if Ben can see him doing calculations in his head. “Yes, sir. You can trust me.” He feels the truth of his words in the Force.

 

“Good. Now, tell me what you found,” Ben commands.

 

There’s a slight pause before Bast pitches his voice low. “Evidence that General Hux plotted the death of his father.”

 

A savage anticipation fills Ben. This is just what he needs to discredit Hux; the First Order will surely turn on him if he’s able to prove Hux was responsible for the death of Brendol Hux.

 

“I don’t suppose you kept a copy of this data?” Ben nudges just a bit with the Force.

 

Bast suddenly looks sheepish. “I may have done, sir.”

 

“Excellent. Keep it safe and don’t tell anyone we spoke. Especially not General Hux.”

 

There’s a slight quirk to his lips when Bast says, “No, sir. I wouldn’t dream of it.”

 

“Thank you, Analyst Bast,” Ben says as he strides away, very satisfied indeed with his findings. Hux won’t know what hit him.

 

---

 

He rolls over in the middle of the night to find Rey in his bed. Oh, he loves when this happens. She’s on her side, facing him and he arranges himself so he’s mirroring her position. She’s completely asleep and he just watches her for a while.

 

The dim starlight from his viewport gives her an ethereal glow, and his gaze roams over her face, taking in her delicate features. Her high cheekbones and fine, slightly upturned nose. Her dark lashes sweeping along her glowing cheeks and his heart aches with loving her.

 

His chest feels too small to hold how much he adores her. She’s perfect. She’s everything he needs and the light in the darkness. Suddenly, he wants to hear her voice, see her eyes. Hold her. So he strokes his fingers along her cheek gently.

 

Rey smiles in her sleep and he leans forward, trailing kisses along her forehead, down her nose, until he reaches her lips. He caresses her softly, continuing to glide his fingers along her face.

 

Against her lips he whispers, “Beloved, wake up.”

 

“Hmmm?” she mumbles as she begins to stir.

 

“I don’t want to miss one more minute with you,” he murmurs into her ear.

 

He feels as her arms come around him and he responds in kind, pulling her sleep-warmed body close and nuzzling into her neck. She always feels so good. “Oh, Rey,” he breathes out.

 

“Hello, Ben,” she responds, her voice husky from sleep. The sound goes straight to his core and he feels himself begin to harden, but he ignores it, wanting to just hold her right now.

 

“I’ve missed you,” he rumbles.

 

“We just said goodnight, what a few hours ago?” she says with a yawn, still waking up.

 

“I don’t care. That’s different. I haven’t been able to hold you in days.” The last time he’d seen her had been when they’d … sparred.

 

“Hmmm, good point,” she agrees, nestling deeper into his embrace.

 

“It’s killing me being apart from you,” Ben admits.

 

“I know. I just want the First Order to pick up our trail! We can’t be too blatant, but I really thought something would have happened by now.”

 

“Well, I may have a way to speed things along. There’s a new analyst who I think I can point in the right direction.”

 

Rey nods against him. “That’s good,” she says faintly. There’s something about her tone that makes him concerned.

 

“Rey? Is something wrong?”

 

“I … I was just wondering, do you think … do you think you could sneak off the ship again? So we could see each other in person?”

 

It’s a beautiful thought and he’s not sure he’s ever wanted anything more. He starts to contemplate reasons he could legitimately be gone for several days instead of a few fleeting hours. Days he could spend just with Rey … He could take her to Sheytaya, wrap her in the luxury she’s been so long denied. They would get a room overlooking the ocean and he’d keep her naked the entire time.

 

Sighing, he lets the fantasy go, knowing he doesn’t dare be gone right now, even for a short visit. It was too much of a risk to see her the first time. He gathers her up, holding her as close as he can, and caresses her temple.

 

“I’m sorry,” he murmurs against her soft skin.

 

He feels her go limp in his arms and it’s her turn to sigh. “I know … I just … I hoped. I miss you. All the time, I miss you.”

 

“You are not alone in that, sweetheart. Soon. It will all be over soon.”

 

They cling to each other in the night and he can’t shake the fear that he’s just lied to her.

 

---

 

Everything is coming together nicely. He’s been avoiding Hux, concerned the general would detect something on his frustratingly open face. This evening he’s to meet this mysterious associate of TL’s in his training room under the guise he’s requested multiple sparring partners, leaving it to TL’s discretion as to the other stormtrooper.

 

Sitting in his chambers, he’s confused when he feels the Finalizer shift into hyperspace. He hadn’t given any orders to change their position. What is Hux up to now?

 

With trepidation he stalks out of his chambers.

 

---

 

“General Hux, where, precisely, are we going without my having given any orders?” Ben bellows as he strides onto the bridge. Hux is standing at the center of the cavernous space with his hands folded behind him, looking out on the blue of hyperspace. He turns slowly and his eyes glitter with malevolence. The back of Ben’s neck tingles with apprehension. Tension thrums through the officers.   

 

Continuing to move towards Hux, Ben doesn’t stop until he’s standing right in front of the ginger rat, lifting his hand threateningly. “Where are we going?” Ben repeats with deadly menace.

 

A slow, creeping smile spreads along Hux’s pale, narrow face. Voice dripping with satisfaction, he says, “Corellia.”

 

Ben’s stomach sinks to his boots and his heart starts to race. He found them! Rey! Mother! He reaches out with the Force and starts to squeeze phantom fingers around Hux’s neck. If Hux knows the Resistance is on Corellia, what else might he have discovered?

 

“No more going behind my back, you duplicitous bastard,” Ben snarls, all his plans unravelling swiftly.

 

He’s going to kill him, that’s all there is to it, let the chips fall where they may. Hux has dared to threaten his beloved, again, and he cannot—will not— allow that to happen. Ben is going to choke the life out of him right here on the bridge in front of everyone. He hadn’t wanted to use fear to control the crew, but he’s out of options.

 

What’s more, he’s going to enjoy this particular kill. It’s long overdue and well deserved. This vicious little weasel of a man has done nothing but belittle and scorn him for years. Tattling to Snoke, knowing it would mean torture for Ben. Masterminding the monstrosity that was Starkiller Base. Ben’s sins are numerous, but Armitage Hux’s body count is obscene.

 

The memory of Rey’s broken form fills his mind, how her life’s blood had poured from her at an alarming rate. Her screams as they’d cauterized her wound, her pale face marred by agony. Hux did that to her and Ben is going to enjoy this.

 

He pulls back slightly, letting the deceitful viper get a lungful of air. Oh, he will make this last. Smiling cruelly at his prey’s futile gasps for breath, he’s about to squeeze again when Hux grins maniacally and makes a signal with his hand; the Force clangs with danger.

 

Ben has just whipped his head around to look for threats when everything goes black.

 

---

 

His face blooms with pain as he crashes into consciousness. Another blow comes as his head snaps to the other side. He tries to lift his arms but they’re bound behind him. He can’t quite think through the haze. Stunned, he’d been stunned. Shaking his head, he tries to clear the fog.

 

Wait. Something was wrong. Something was desperately wrong.

 

Rey! Mother!

 

His eyes fly open and he sees Hux sneering down on him. He realizes he’s on his knees, being held up by two officers. Did Hux really think this would work? He scoffs as he releases the binders with the Force and starts to stand when Hux says, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. You’ve never been terribly observant, but I should think you would notice all the blasters pointed right at you.”

 

Ben looks around and sees at least 40 officers, all with their weapons trained on him and his heart sinks. This is much worse than he’d originally thought; clearly the bridge crew has sided with Hux. There’s no way he could block all of them. He could probably Force push ten of the officers and stop maybe five bolts. He’d go down in a matter of minutes and then there’s nothing he could do to protect Rey and his mother.

 

“Now, be a good little dog and stay on your knees,” Hux taunts.

 

Oh how he loathes this man. “I will kill you for this,” Ben promises.

 

“Yes, yes, I’m sure. You see, Ren, that is where you are wrong. We’re almost to Corellia where your precious Jedi whore is hiding.”

 

Ben bites the inside of his cheek to keep from charging Hux. For a moment he thinks he could snap his neck before they killed him. But then what would happen to Rey?

 

Rey! Gods, Rey! He has to warn her! Cursing himself for leaving his comm in his chambers, he frantically reaches out with the Force, hoping that their connection will work. Please, please, please. Let it work. Bring her to me, bring her to me, bring her to me …

 

But he can’t focus properly as Hux prattles on. “I wondered how it is that one scrawny slip of a girl could have managed to kill our Supreme Leader and then his guards. Never mind leaving you on the floor.” Hux begins to walk back and forth, tapping his lower lip with his index finger.

 

“It all became quite clear when you were seen on Cathne, rutting in the street with your slut.”

 

Ben’s stomach feels like it’s filled with rocks as dread coils around his chest. His need to see her, to be able to communicate with her had brought this monster to her door.

 

Hux sniffs imperiously. “Of course, one really shouldn’t expect better from a lowly scavenger from Jakku. You however, I must say I was surprised, Ren. She must have a tight little cunt indeed.”

 

White hot rage propels Ben to his feet, shoving the officers holding him violently to the floor. He snarls, “Don’t you dare say one more word about her!” He starts to advance on Hux, the darkness swirling, gathering around him.

 

The general lifts a hand and the crew raise their weapons. Ben stills. He has to get out of this alive or else he has no chance, none, of saving them. He howls out in frustration but he steps back from Hux.

 

“Smart choice. Now, I haven’t even told you the best part. While you were holed up in that nasty little tavern, no doubt partaking of that bitch’s dubious delights, you gave me plenty of time for my spies to inform me of your whereabouts and to get a team there. She was tracked. Right back to Corellia and the Resistance. And of course, Leia Organa,” Hux says triumphantly.

 

Ben’s fists clench and unclench. He’s going to rip that disrespectful tongue right out of Hux’s filthy mouth. He begins to wonder if his rage would give him the strength to take all of the officers down with one huge Force push.

 

Never before in his life has he felt such fury and terror combined in a near madness-inducing red haze. Every instinct he possesses is screaming at him to fight, but that will ensure his swift death, leaving Rey and his mother completely vulnerable to the sadistic general.

 

Then the Finalizer shudders out of hyperspace and Ben’s blood turns to ice. He’s running out of time. What is he going to do?

 

Again, he frantically reaches for Rey through the Force, begging and pleading in his mind for their bond to open. But there’s only that connection he feels in his heart and no matter how hard he tries to pull on it, nothing happens.

 

“Ah, we’re here,” Hux says lightly. “Now, you traitorous scum, I’m going to tell you what is going to happen.”

 

Hux circles him until he comes to a stop in front of Ben, holding his gaze. “Before I have you executed for treason, Kylo Ren, you’ll watch as we obliterate your whore and your bitch of a mother.”

 

Hux leans forward, getting very close, and sneers, “I hope you feel that slut suffer through your beloved Force.”

 

Swiftly, Ben rears back and smashes Hux in the face with his head, very satisfied to hear bones crunching. Hux yells out in surprise then staggers back as blood streams down his face. He holds his very broken nose.

 

Hux says nothing for a moment then removes his hand from his injury. Ben glares at him in triumph and watches as his blood spatters the deck.

 

The general tilts his head and his pale eyes blink slowly. “That is the last time you will ever lay a hand on me, Ren.”

 

“Oh, I’ll lay more than hand on you. If you hurt her or my mother I will take you apart,” Ben threatens.

 

Hux just laughs. “You’re beaten. Do try to take it like a man instead the mewling child you’ve always been.”

 

The general turns his back on Ben, leaving him standing there, rage making him tremble. Pure hate pours out of him and the dark side is closer than it has been in a long time.

 

“Contact the Aeron, begin charging the autocannons. Have them inform me when they’re ready to fire,” Hux orders.

 

The Aeron … one of the remaining dreadnoughts. Maker, no! They’ll never survive the bombardment. Rey … Mother … His pleas to the Force have been reduced to silent, panicked prayers, and somehow he knows they will go unanswered.

 

“What do you want, Hux?” Ben asks in a defeated tone.

 

Hux spins on his heal and regards Ben. “Want? Want? I only want to break your heart and spirit then watch you die. You have no leverage here, Ren.”

 

“Autocannons charged, sir.”

 

Hux slinks around Ben until he’s standing right behind him. He digs his fingers into the meat of Ben’s shoulder, using his thumb to stab at a nerve. It hurts, but Ben doesn’t even flinch. He won’t give this vile worm the satisfaction.

 

He feels Hux’s breath in his ear when he hisses, “Say goodbye to mummy.”



Chapter Text

Time. He needs time. Maybe at this distance he can reach his mother through the Force. He doesn’t know why his connection with Rey isn’t allowing him to speak with her, but he and his mother would communicate frequently when he was small. Her kind voice would bloom in his head while he was at school, reminding him that she loved him. That was when he was only a child and his control and access to the Force has significantly increased. Maybe this could work.

 

Time to stall.

 

“Don’t you want to know what happened to Snoke? You know how powerful he was, aren’t you the slightest bit curious about how we did it?” Ben asks, trying to keep the desperation from his voice.

 

Hux lets go of Ben’s shoulder and circles him until they’re again facing, a few paces between them. There’s something very rewarding in seeing Hux’s face streaked with blood and his nose crooked. Ben hopes it heals badly.

 

Rolling his eyes and crossing his arms, the general says, “So transparent. Hmmm …  but I suppose a few more minutes won’t matter either way. Regale us with how it is you and your scavenger slag managed to murder our esteemed Supreme Leader.” Hux’s voice is laced with mockery.

 

Splitting his focus, Ben casts out with the Force, concentrating on the surface of Corellia. Swiftly, he’s able to sense his mother’s energy and he narrows in on the compound of the Resistance.

 

Mother, Mother, please.

 

“Just the day before he died he called you a rabid curr,” Ben remarks, unable to keep from sniping back. It’s difficult to hear Rey spoken of like that.

 

“Tut tut, do behave. I’m certain the Supreme Leader had his reasons. Besides, he called you the disappointment,” Hux responds haughtily.

 

There’s a flicker of her through the Force and Ben grasps onto it with all of his strength.

 

Mother, oh gods, Mother, hear me!

 

“He always did set us against each other. Do you remember? Before Snoke made us hate one another?”

 

Ignoring the way Hux’s eyes narrow with loathing, Ben continues to seek his mother. This has to work; it just has to. He thinks of Rey and her beloved form disintegrated by cannon fire. The thought of her dying in fear and pain ignites something in him and he uses all of his power for one final plea.

 

MOTHER!

 

Hux steps towards him swiftly, his voice dripping with contempt when he sneers, “I always despised you. Pampered little princeling with your precious Force. No self-control. Disgraceful.

 

If Ben weren’t trying so hard to contact his mother, he might have been surprised that Hux had hated him from the beginning, even before Snoke’s interference.

 

Ben? What’s wrong?

 

It takes all of his control to keep his face blank and not fall to his knees in gratitude. A chance, his beloved and his mother now have a chance.

 

Mother, oh thank the Maker. The First Order is about to bombard you with cannon fire. You have to evacuate!

 

Keeping his eyes on Hux, he notices a nerve jump in the ginger monster’s cheek. “Ren, do get on with it. How did two children manage to murder Supreme Leader Snoke?”

 

“Snoke always underestimated me. That’s how I did it.”

 

“You? You killed him yourself? She didn’t help you?” Hux asks, looking genuinely shocked.

 

How did Hux find us?

 

It doesn’t matter! Just run. I don’t know how much more time I can buy you. Tell Rey that I love her, that I will always love her.

 

“Yes. In the end it was easy. He was so certain he owned me, body and soul, that I used his own hubris against him,” Ben says.

 

I … I understand. I love you, Son.

 

“Well I hope you don’t imagine that will work here,” Hux boasts.

 

“No, you’re right. I’m beaten.” He forces himself to stoop his shoulders and hang his head in supplication.

 

I love you too, Mother. Go, go now!

 

He almost sobs with relief when he feels her withdraw, her intent firm and clear. She’s going to get them out. Just a little more time. He must give them a little more time!

 

Hux cocks his head and narrows his eyes. “Are you really such a coward that you’ll debase yourself for a few more paltry minutes of your wasted life?”

 

“I simply understand when a fight is lost. I lose, you win.”

 

“Yes, I have!” Hux hisses, a mad gleam in his eyes. “What has the great Kylo Ren really accomplished? Betrayed two masters and shacked up with a sand rat slut.”

 

Ben clenches his fists to keep from wrapping his hands around Hux’s throat. Once he knows they’re safe he’s going to make sure Hux goes down with him. He’s going to die, but so is Armitage Hux.

 

“I may have betrayed two masters, but at least I’ll die free and having known what it is to truly love.”

 

“Oh you really are pathetic,” Hux says with disgust. “You think you love her? A dirty little scavenger from Jakku?”

 

“I know I love her, Hux. I promise you, you wouldn’t understand.”

 

“Oh you’re quite right about that, she’s not fit to clean my boots.” Hux’s lips twist in revulsion.

 

“Rey is beyond your comprehension.”

 

Hux snorts then nods slowly. “You did it for her, didn’t you? We’re this close to having the galaxy in our grip and you had to go and think with your cock.”  He scoffs, “Typical.”

 

Ben’s teeth are clenched so hard he’s surprise they aren’t breaking. If he allows himself to be goaded into losing his temper, Hux will give the order to fire so he tightly says, “Yes, I did it for her.”

 

The general laughs a cruel laugh and shakes his head. “And now you’ll both die for your crime. It’s almost romantic.”

 

Ben can’t think of anything to say that isn’t inflammatory so he stares at Hux stonily.

 

Hux begins to walk back and forth as he pontificates. “This really is delicious. I’ve always known you were an idiot, but to throw it all away for something as fleeting as love? It’s just too perfect.”

 

“I will love her forever, in the Force,” Ben says through clenched teeth.

 

“You’ll be dead, Kylo Ren. You won’t love anything,” Hux declares with satisfaction.

 

“Perhaps, but these months with her were worth a lifetime.” He may be attempting to buy them more time, but he knows every word he’s spoken is true. Rey is worth every sacrifice.

 

Inspecting his gloves, Hux says. “Yes, yes, you love her. I don’t particularly care. Go on, finish your tale. How did you kill Snoke, really? I find I do wish to know.”

 

An officer interrupts, her voice panicked. “Sir! We’re detecting ships leaving the Resistance compound!”

 

“What?!” Hux snarls, then looks directly at Ben with murder in his eyes.

 

A mad smile breaks across Ben’s face. Safe. She’s safe. They’re safe. “Simple, really. I made him believe one thing while I did another.”

 

“I will enjoy killing you,” Hux growls then turns to a bank of consoles. “Fire the autocannons!”

 

As the white beams leave the Aeron, Ben lunges for Hux before he can order the crew to fire on the Resistance ships. He almost has his hands around his throat when a blaster bolt rips through his thigh and he staggers to the ground. Quickly, he blocks three more before they reach him.

 

“Stop!” Hux commands. “When he dies it will be with the knowledge that I killed him!”

 

Kneeling on the deck, Ben is about to just snap Hux’s neck with the Force when he’s overwhelmed with fear and pain. He falls forward, catching himself with outstretched hands.

 

I’m proud of you, Son.

 

For one brief, eternal moment, he hears the song she used to sing to him and he can sense her arms around him, safe and secure. But it shifts swiftly and he feels his mother’s scream, her terror and acceptance.

 

Then silence.

 

Breathe, he can’t breathe. The rip through the Force is ragged and bleeding as he frantically reaches for his mother. No, gods, no!

 

Mama!

 

Nothing, just a gaping hole where his mother should be.

 

Rey! What if … but no, he can still feel the tether to her, that energy that always connects them. Rey is still alive.

 

But his mother …

 

The Force pulses in him like a wound. This is so much worse than his father.

 

He lifts his head and looks straight at Hux with pure hatred. Whatever is on his face makes Hux take a step back and lift his weapon.

 

Ben is about to pull the blaster to him with the Force. To hell with all the other weapons pointed at him. He knows he can kill Hux before they take him out. Mother!

 

He tries to rise when all hell breaks loose. Stormtroopers charge the bridge and immediately begin firing on the officers. It’s not long before the air is filled with blaster bolts and scented with the acrid smell of scorched durasteel.

 

Hux has taken cover and Ben can’t see him. He tries to stagger to his feet, but the hole in his thigh is making it difficult. Focus is eluding him, the tear through the Force where his mother was ripped away from him making his chest hollow. Mother ...

 

“Supreme Leader!” a stormtrooper kneels down next to him as six of his comrades create a defensive line. Officers are falling quickly to the better-trained troopers.

 

“TL?” Ben asks as he blinks in confusion. His mother is dead and nothing makes sense any longer.

 

“We have to get you to your shuttle!” TL yells over the din of battle. He looks down and shakes his head. “Oh, hell, you’re wounded. Come on.”

 

TL hauls him to his feet and slings Ben’s arm over his shoulder. “Can you put weight on it?” he asks.

 

Shaking himself, Ben finally finds something approaching focus and draws strength from the pain. He feels blood oozing from his thigh and he looks down. The wound is deep and wide but he grits his teeth and begins to walk.

 

It’s slow going, but TL’s compatriots keep them covered and they make it off the bridge.

 

Wait. Hux.

 

“I have to go back,” Ben commands.

 

“That’s not an option, sir.”

 

“TL, General Hux killed my mother,” he snarls.

 

“And we don’t have time. Any minute reinforcements will arrive and if we aren't on our way to the hangar, we’re never getting you off the ship.”

 

Off the ship. Rey! He can get to Rey, make sure she’s safe.

 

“Sir, we need to go. Now. Not all the stormtroopers are on our side and we won’t be able to hold them off. Hux has turned nearly all of the officers against you. We have to move!” TL’s voice rises in an almost panic.

 

Ben looks back to the entryway of the bridge, his jaw tight. Rey is more important he decides quickly. But he will see Hux dead. Soon.

 

Mother …

 

---

 

More stormtroopers join them as they make their way to the hangar. Now there are around 40 working to get Ben off of the ship. There’s a few skirmishes along the way, but they finally make it.

 

“What is the meaning of this?” the deck officer demands, eying Ben’s wound. It’s bleeding profusely and Ben is beginning to feel light-headed.

 

“I’m taking my shuttle,” Ben snarls.

 

“I can’t let you do that, Kylo Ren. General Hux has grounded all craft.” The officer’s face is twisted in contempt and Ben fleetingly wonders if he’s always been hated by the crew.

 

Ben is about to use the Force on him when one of TL’s fellow stormtroopers shoots the officer.

 

“What were you thinking!” TL hisses at the shooter. He looks to the trooper to his right who nods and creates a defensive line. Again blaster bolts start flying as other stormtroopers react to the shooting.

 

Ben is half dragged to his shuttle. It feels like an impossibly long distance to travel. He’s beginning to see spots and he knows he has to get his wound closed fast.

 

Finally, they make it and TL drags him on board. He helps him into the pilot’s chair and puts a med-kit in his hand. Then he programs the hyperdrive.

 

“I’ve set the coordinates to open space. We already disabled the trackers.” TL pulls a device from his utility belt. “This is a long-range communicator. Contact me when you’re safe.”

 

“Why are you doing this?” Ben asks through the haze of pain.

 

“Because you’re our best chance for freedom. Now go!”

 

TL runs down the ramp and Ben stares at the console for a moment before realizing he has to get underway swiftly. He’s tempted to try to get down to Corellia, but since he knows Rey is still alive she must be on one of the ships. The bond will connect them and he’ll know where to find her. He hopes.

 

He powers up the shuttle and maneuvers it out of the hangar as quickly as he dares.

 

It rocks hard when the laser fire bounces off of the shields. Hux must have recovered control of the bridge. But he’s too late to re-capture Ben. The shuttle enters hyperspace and he sits back in his chair, grim satisfaction at thwarting Hux making him sneer.

 

---

 

Clumsily, he tries to staunch the bleeding, but he’s losing coordination because of blood loss. A wave of grief starts to pull him down. Mother … but he can’t let it in, not now … not yet.

 

He snarls, “Dammit!” as he drops the wound-sealant. He’s pulling it to him with the Force when she’s there.

 

“Ben!” she cries out frantically. “Oh, gods, Ben!”

 

“Rey …”

 

“You’re hurt! What happened?” she asks as she hurriedly kneel next to him, inspecting the damage.

 

“Hux,” Ben slurs. “Mutiny.”

 

“I knew you hadn’t betrayed us!”

 

He tries to cup her face with his hand, but he can’t quite find the strength. “Never,” he whispers, his vision dimming.

 

Rey takes the bandages and wound-sealant from him and works quickly to close the gaping hole in his thigh.

 

She strokes his cheek and he sees that she’s streaked with dirt. “Where are you?” he asks, his voice ragged.

 

“I’m still on Corellia.”

 

“What?” Panic rips through him. He has to get to her!

 

“It’s alright, they’ve stopped firing and I’m well away from the compound. I’m going to meet up with the others shortly.”

 

“Why didn’t you leave with everyone else?” he asks, his voice weak and frantic.

 

“I … I’ll explain later. When you’re feeling better. But I’ll go soon, I promise.”

 

He hates this. He’s beginning to fade and he just needs to know that she’s safe. His eyes flutter closed and he’s having trouble opening them.

 

“Ben? Ben?” He uses the last of his strength to make himself open his eyes. She smiles in relief but then looks behind her and yells, “No! I can’t leave, not yet!”

 

Through slowly blinking eyes, Ben watches as unseen hands try to drag her away. “Let me go, Finn, or I’ll make you!”

 

Then she raises her hand and he can only assume she’s used the Force. “Poe, take him and go. I’ll follow. If you try to take me I will Force push you, too.”

 

Rey shakes her head firmly. “I don’t care if you understand or not, take him and go! I can’t come yet; you have to go!”

 

He loses consciousness for a moment, but when he comes to, she’s on her knees next to him.

 

“Ben, please, you have to live. I can’t lose you,” she sobs.

 

“I’m h-here,” he murmurs.

 

“Oh thank the gods. I need you to tell me how to heal with the Force.”

 

“I n-never could,” he says weakly.

 

Her eyes fill with fear, but she puts her hands over his thigh. “I’ve only read about it, but you’ve lost too much blood and I have to try.” She leans over and kisses him quickly. “I love you.”

 

“L-love you,” he breathes out.

 

Closing her eyes, her brows knit and he tries to watch her, but his eyelids are so heavy. He gives into the need to close them and soon he knows only blackness.

 

Chapter Text

His head is throbbing when he wakes to the shrill sound of his shuttle alerting him that he’s come out of hyperspace. Blearily, he slams his hand on the controls, shutting off that infernal racket.

 

Where is he? He’d been injured … wait, he’d had to run, why … oh gods, Mother! The realization that she’s gone slams into him and he gasps. Then he remembers how it had all gone to hell on the Finalizer and he looks down on his thigh to check his wound. His trousers are torn down to the knee but he finds only smooth, pale flesh.

 

Rey … she’d been with him … where is she? Force, Rey! She’d still been on Corellia! Why, why did she stay? She’d clearly healed him, and he’s struck with the horrible thought that she’d stayed behind only to look after him. Stars, no … He’s certain Hux would have sent ground troops after the bombardment.

 

He rubs his eyes with the heel of his palms and tries to keep the panic at bay. He can’t help Rey if he falls apart and he certainly can’t dwell on the loss of his mother and remain functional. Later. He’ll let it in later. Tamping down on his emotions, he shakes himself. He knows how to keep going through pain.

 

Corellia, last he knew, she’d been on Corellia, so that’s where he has to go. Checking the time, his blood goes to ice as he sees that well over an hour has passed. If she didn’t get off the planet, she’s surely been captured. But where else can he go to start his search?

 

If only he hadn’t left his comm back in his chambers on the Finalizer! Why hadn’t he asked her where she was headed? Then he could at least find the Resistance, allies. His lip curls in disdain as he thinks of the traitor and the pilot. But it doesn’t matter, he didn’t ask her so he doesn’t know. Foolish, foolish Ben Solo.

 

But … there is the bond. Once he’s with her, finally with her, they’re going to work on this and figure out how to control the damned thing! It may not have worked before, but he has to at least try.

 

Sitting with his legs crossed on the floor of his shuttle, he begins to meditate, following that golden thread between their hearts. It takes him longer than he’d like to calm his breathing and find that place of emotional distance. He’s never been very good at this, the storm that always rages in him rarely quieting enough for true meditation.

 

He thinks of Rey, of how it feels to hold her, pushing away the panic that beats at the edge like a trapped bird. Finally, the maelstrom ebbs and he’s able to focus himself on the place in his chest where Rey lives. Her hands in his hair, his lips on hers. Those endless hazel eyes that trapped him from the first.

 

Deep in sense memory, something discordant sears across his skin. He doesn’t find the soothing calm of Rey. Instead, fear knifes through him as he feels something wrong, deeply and horribly wrong. The tether between them is wavering and he desperately flings himself along the connection. He gets a flash of her … pain, she’s in pain! It’s over before it had truly begun and he howls out in frustration and terror.

 

That’s never happened before, she’s always manifested in front of him, but this had just been a moment of knowledge, like a thought or a feeling. Is the bond weakening? Not now, gods, not now … he has to find her. He can’t … he can’t lose her, too.

 

Scrambling to his feet, he lunges towards the pilot’s chair. His hands shake as he swiftly programs in the coordinates to Corellia into the hyperdrive and the frantic helplessness is threatening to engulf him. It’s the only place he knows to go.

 

He’ll find her. He will.

 

Then out of the corner of his eye he senses something and quickly turns his head to find Rey’s broken body lying in the middle of his shuttle.

 

“Rey!” he cries out, horrified by what his eyes are having trouble processing. She’s riddled with bruises and she’s not moving. “Oh, gods, Rey!”

 

He’s by her side in an instant, falling to his knees next to her. She doesn’t respond to him, her eyelids fluttering, but they aren’t opening. She’s been badly beaten, her lip is split and her skin is mottled purple everywhere he can see. He lifts her shirt and finds boot prints along her abdomen.

 

Eyes closing in pain, he keens, “No, please, no … I’m sorry, Rey, I’m so sorry.”

 

He hunches down so his face is close to hers and gently strokes along her cheek, avoiding the bruising. “Please wake up, Rey, please.”

 

Again her lids flutter and she lets out a pained whimper. The sound tears through him and he chokes out a dry sob. “Sweetheart, you have to open your eyes. You have to tell me where you are.”

 

“B-ben?” she asks in a broken whisper.

 

“Yes, yes, I’m here, beloved, I’m here,” he calls out desperately, taking her hand in his. “Rey … Force, I’m so sorry.”

 

“Not you’ fault,” she pushes out through her bleeding lips. Then her form is wracked with a choking cough and the fury wars with the dread within him. Someone will die slowly for this.

 

Holding her hands firmly in his, he murmurs comfort until she’s again breathing regularly, though more shallowly than he’d like. “Rey …”

 

“I’m s’ glad y’ here,” she slurs.

 

“Always, beloved, always,” he promises.

 

He would give anything to take this pain from her. Her expression is twisted from the strain of the beating she’s taken and if he thought he’d felt helpless when she’d been bleeding out in front of him, it’s nothing to this. He’d known where she was and she’d had medical care.

 

The need to scream and rage is intense; he wants to tear the galaxy apart until he has her back by his side. He never should have left her on Cathne. He should have gone with her. But in his arrogance he’d thought he could have it all. He thought he could make peace, compromise. Have Rey and finish what Grandfather had started.

 

Grandfather means nothing, not compared to Rey. How could he have been so stupid? How many times will he have to learn this lesson? All that matters is Rey.

 

Again her body is wracked with coughs and her beautiful face is marred with agony. Gods, he needs to help her, fix this, anything. Anything, anything, anything. He’ll give anything to help her. Everything.

 

Wait. The Force. He’s never been able to heal with the Force, but if anything could give him that power, it would be his love for Rey.

 

“Rey, I’m going to try to heal you.”

 

He’s shocked when she shakes her head, feebly muttering, “No, no, no.”

 

“But, darling, you’re in so much pain. I can almost feel it through our connection. His heart squeezes in his chest and he untangles his hands from hers and holds them over her battered body, intent on helping her.

 

“Ben, no. Y’ can’t, they’ll … they’ know,” she gasps out and her eyes are finally properly open, wild with fear.

 

“Who, who will know?” Though he’s certain he knows already.

 

“Firs’ Order.”

 

He’d already known, on some level, that this had happened. His people have her. But to see Rey’s broken body, knowing she’s at the mercy of the First Order … it’s … it’s more than he can bear. He knows what they’ll do to her.

 

“Please, let me try. Let me at least heal the deeper wounds …” She’s likely bleeding internally and he can at least take the edge off.

 

Her piercing hazel eyes hold him captured. “Jus’ a little,”

 

“Alright, Rey.”

 

“Promise me!” she commands fiercely lifting her head with what little strength she has left.

 

Oh, his darling warrior girl. He can only nod his acceptance, much as he desperately needs to see her whole he knows she’s right.

 

While he’d struggled before, he finds himself falling easily into meditation, his focus coming swiftly. Rey, he must help his beautiful Rey. His fingers tingle but he keeps his eyes closed and instinctively places his palms on her abdomen, the healing energy flowing without issue.

 

Pain blooms along his whole body as he feels her injuries. Oh … oh his love … she’s so strong. The throbbing ache in her stomach subsides as he weaves her insides back together with the Force. She’s still hurting, nearly everywhere, but the danger has passed.

 

He’s about to pull back when he senses a sharp, pulsing feeling from her ankle and draws his fingers along her leg until he finds the injury. His hands flare with warmth as he senses bones knitting back together.

 

Her face hurts, he must fix her face. He trails his hands along her beloved body when she captures her fingers with hers.

 

“No … no, you have to stop.” Her voice already sounds more like it should, and his eyes open to find her breathing more evenly.

 

“Please, Rey, I can’t leave you like this,” he pleads. He knows what’s coming and he needs to do what he can to give her the strength to withstand it.

 

“You don’t have a choice!” she says sharply then takes a deep breath. “They can’t get suspicious, find out about our bond. I’m on a transport of some sort, I don’t think there’s any sort of surveillance, but once they have me somewhere secure we’ll be observed. If you heal me, they’ll try to find out how. I already have enough secrets to hide,” she says meaningfully.

 

She’s right. The smaller ships don’t bother with it, but once she’s on a Star Destroyer … Then the rest of what she’s said sinks in. He knew they’d torture her, of course he knew, but to face it … His fists clench and he can feel the rage rising. If they touch one more hair on her head ...

 

Her hand slides gently over his arm and he closes his eyes, pulling himself together. He has to be strong for her. The last thing she needs is to have to calm him down.

 

Shoulders sagging, he admits, “You’re right … you’re right.”

 

She smiles then winces as her lip opens again and blood starts to ooze. He doesn’t think, just swipes his thumb along her injury, leaving healed, pink skin in its wake.

 

Her expression sharpens and he sighs. “That’s the last, I promise.”

 

“I suppose it’s alright because now you can kiss me,” she says with a wry grin.

 

Oh … gods yes. He descends on her and captures her lips, kissing her urgently, but making sure to keep his touch gentle. He whimpers against her lips, desperate to somehow rip her through time and space and bring her to his side.

 

Her hand comes up and winds through his hair and for just one blinding, perfect moment, everything is alright because he’s with Rey.


Rey, Rey, Rey …

 

But then it’s over and he has to pull back. He tries to ignore the brilliant purple blooming around her eye.

 

“What happened?” he asks softly.

 

Her eyes dart down and she shudders. “I have something I have to tell you.”

 

There are tears forming under her lashes and he realizes what she’s going to say. Mother … “I know. I felt it,” he says with no inflection.

 

The tears break free as she looks back up. “I’m so sorry, Ben.” Her arms come up around his shoulders and she’s trying to pull him to her but he stays firm.

 

“No … I can’t … not until you’re safe.”

 

“I ... “ She lets out a long breath. “Yes, alright. I understand.”

 

“What happened?” he repeats.

 

She holds his eyes for a moment and he sees so much love, compassion, and grief that it nearly undoes him. But then she blinks and says, “She saved me. We were running, trying to get to the transport. Then somehow she just … knew and she used the Force. She pushed me just outside the blast zone.”

 

His mother used the Force? She … she’d never … no, he can’t do this. He allows himself one shuddering breath then nods. “Then what?”

 

“I was knocked out, when I came to I started back towards the starport, but …” She looks away from him and his stomach sinks.

 

“But you saw me,” he says, already understanding that her present condition is his fault.

 

“You were bleeding everywhere, I had to help you.”

 

“You should have left me!” he barks.

 

“Not a chance, Ben Solo,” she spits.

 

His nostrils flare and he’s so angry and helpless and furious and terrified and he thinks he might just start crying. “But, look at you,” he lets out brokenly.

 

“I’ll heal.”

 

“I don’t even know where you are.” His voice finally breaks and he blinks back his powerless tears, not able to look at her.

 

“You’ll find me. I know you’ll find me.” She reaches out and takes his face in her hands and makes him look at her.

 

“Why, why didn’t you run?” he begs.

 

“Do you really need to ask that? Would you have run if I’d been bleeding right in front of you?”

 

“Never!” The very idea makes his jaw clench.

 

“Well, there you go.” She smiles at him and he can’t help but smile back. She’s just so perfect, even in a desperate situation, injured, bruised … she still fills him with her light.

 

“I love you, Rey, stars, I love you so much.” He holds her endless hazel eyes with his.

 

“I know. And that’s why it’s going to be alright.”

 

“How?” he chokes out.

 

“Because this isn’t how our story ends. We have too much to do. The Force won’t let it end like this,” she says with such conviction he has to believe her.

 

He realizes he doesn’t know how long they have together and he asks quickly, “Do you know anything, anything at all about where you are?”

 

“No … but …” Her brows draw together in concentration. “They did say something about General Hux.”

 

His heart seizes in his chest. Of course she’d be taken to Hux. He knew already, if he’s honest with himself.

 

“Rey, listen to me. Hux believes that you killed Snoke.”

 

She cocks her head then nods. “Of course … what else could you have told him?” She smiles sadly, obviously remembering that day on the Supremacy.

 

“I’m sorr-”

 

She stops him with her fingers at his lips. “No. We’re beyond that.” Rey takes a steadying breath. “Okay, so Hux is going to want vengeance.”

 

“Yes. But he’ll want me more. You’ll be …”

 

“Bait.”

 

“Yes.” Heavy regret pulls at his gut.

 

“Okay, we can work with this,” she says in that matter-of-fact way she has.

 

Her nonchalance frustrates him. “But, you don’t understand, he’s going to interrogate-”

 

“I can take it.”

 

“Rey, their methods-”

 

I can take it!” she snarls.

 

Pushing aside everything he knows about First Order interrogation protocols he says, “Stay alive. Give them whatever you have to, just stay alive. I’m coming for you.”

 

She holds his eyes firmly. “I know you are.”

 

“I love you,” he says again.

 

“I love you, Ben,” she affirms.

 

And then she’s gone.

 

---

 

She’s gone. Rey is gone.

 

He falls forward, catching himself with his hands then lowers his forehead to the deck of his shuttle. Shudders move through him as the horror of what’s happened finally washes over him.

 

His mother is dead and his beloved is going to be tortured and there’s nothing he can do about it. The furious, powerless tears finally come and he starts to bang his fists into the durasteel.

 

A primal howl is ripped from his lungs as he pummels the flooring. He knows precisely what they’re going to do to her. Pump her full of drugs, show her horrors, indescribable pain … no, no, NO!

 

“Rey!” he screams. “Rey!”

 

He has no idea what to do, where to go. If he returned to Corellia in just his shuttle he’d be shot out of space within minutes and then Rey would surely die.

 

“Godsdammit!” he roars, as a wave of the Force comes off of him, rocking the shuttle.

 

He has to calm down. He’s no good to Rey like this. His blows become weaker.

 

What is he going to do? Where can he go? He needs … he needs ...

 

Mother … he’ll never see his mother again. If she were still alive, she would know what to do. But she’s gone and he knows it’s because of him. She never would have been such a tempting target if Hux hadn’t hated him so much.

 

If he’d just gone home … he could have helped the Resistance … been with Rey … but no, now his beloved is at their shallow mercy and his mother is dead.

 

His mother is dead.

 

The tears come faster as he sobs out, “Mama, I’m so sorry.”

 

He stops pounding the deck and just stays there on his hands and knees, his head hanging, panting from exertion. His knuckles are split and bleeding and all he can think is, “Good.”

 

There’s nowhere to turn. He has nothing. His choices have left him floating in the middle of gods know where, his beautiful Rey beaten, bloody, captured.

 

His heart rips in two when he realizes how much he wants his father. He’d have a plan. Han Solo always had a plan. Insane, reckless, but he’d know how to get to Rey.

 

Every single choice he’s made has brought him to this moment. It all becomes blindingly clear that each step led him to this point, where he’s on his knees and utterly powerless. If he’d never joined Snoke, if he hadn’t killed his father, if he’d gone with Rey instead of insisting she join him … If, if, if. And everyone he loves has paid a price for his selfish stupidity.

 

Falling to his side, he curls into a ball and just starts to rock. His gorgeous, resilient girl … what are they doing to her right now?

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he keens.

 

He pulls himself even tighter into himself and just sobs, feeling like a terrified little boy.

 

Alone. So alone.

 

“Hey, kid.”

 

In a flash, he’s on his feet, drawing his arm quickly across his face to clear the tears.

 

Glowing and translucent, a man he never wanted to see again smiles at him placidly.

 

“Luke,” he snarls.

 

Chapter Text

“Leave,” Ben orders shortly.

 

“Now, Ben-”

 

“Don’t call me that,” he snarls.

 

Luke looks at him with sad blue eyes and says, “Do you still feel like Kylo Ren?”

 

A nerve in Ben’s cheek jumps. Force, he hates this man. His jaw clenches and his lips form a thin line. He won’t answer that question even as he knows Skywalker has him dead to rights. He hasn’t thought of himself as Kylo Ren for a long time now. Maybe from the first moment Rey softly said, “Ben …”

 

Rey … her beaten body flashes in his mind and he can’t keep from wincing. He doesn’t have time for this impromptu reunion with his former master. Skywalker looks older than when he’d seen him on Crait, his hair longer and more unkempt. Of course he’s in the long, beige robes of a Jedi.

 

“As I was saying, Ben-”

 

“I thought I told you to leave,” he says, turning his back on the unwanted interloper.

 

“Hmm. Yes, but that’s not really up to you. You can’t slice me open with that monstrosity you call a lightsaber.”

 

Ben turns his head slightly, again looking at his uncle. “Making a habit of being nothing but empty projection, are you?”

 

Luke smirks and it makes Ben’s blood boil.

 

“As I was saying-”

 

“I can’t do this right now!” Ben yells, the panic welling in him. He has to do something, to find Rey. Maybe he’ll go to Maz, she always knows something. If she’ll even see him …

 

Luke’s face softens. “I know you’re worried about her.”

 

Oh, that makes him angry. “Worried? Worried? You think I’m just mildly concerned about the woman I love more than anything being in the clutches of the First Order? I’m godsdamned terrified is what I am and you are in my way!” he bellows.

 

Ben circles past the old Jedi on his way to the shuttle controls, not quite wanting to pass through him. Rigid with rage, he stiltedly takes the pilot’s chair, wipes the coordinates to Corellia, and programs the shuttle to head towards Takodana. Once the calculations are complete he engages the hyperdrive.

 

“There, now we have time,” Luke says with satisfaction.

 

“I’m not talking to you.”

 

“What else are you going to do for the trip to …” Luke moves next to Ben and leans over to look at the heading. His eyebrows rise. “Maz? You are desperate.”

 

“Of course I am!” Ben slumps in the pilot’s chair and murmurs, “Not that you would understand it, you old eunuch.”

 

Ben startles when Luke lets out a great guffaw. “I’ve missed that Solo charm.”

 

His shoulders slumping, Ben whispers, “Please … I can’t do this. I have to plan. I have to figure out how to save her … just go away.” Maybe he can bring her back through their bond? At least he could provide her silent support even if it will kill him to watch what is sure to unfold.

 

“Ben … I can help.”

 

Ben’s eyes go swiftly to the translucent form hovering next to him. “Help? You? Like you tried to help me with Snoke?” His voice crackles with contempt.

 

Luke flinches. “I know I failed you.”

 

“Great. Can we be done now?”

 

Luke sighs and scrubs his face with one hand. “I told Leia this was a bad idea.”

 

Everything spirals into one magnificently painful point in his heart. “Mother?” He hates how young and vulnerable he sounds. But … maybe this means he’ll get to see her again!

 

Then his open, hopeful expression closes as he realizes she didn’t choose to come herself, sending Luke Skywalker to handle him. Like always. They may have made progress, but the resentment is still too raw and he can’t help but feel abandoned. Again.

 

“Oh hell,” Luke mutters and Ben’s eyebrow rises at the mild curse.

 

“Not very Jedi of you, Luke.”

 

“You used to make that face when she had to cancel her trips to visit you at the temple. It’s not that your mother didn’t want to come. It’s that she couldn’t.”

 

He can’t stop the pathetic tone to his voice when he asks, “Why not?” He’s been trying so hard to keep the grief, the memories from engulfing him, but in that moment he’s a lonely adolescent, waiting for her transport that never comes.

 

“She … it’s different for soulmates. She can’t come back because she’s with Han.”

 

At the mention of his father, that point of anguish in his heart expands to encompass his whole chest. Oh, gods, if only he could see them both again. More memories come, from when he was very small. From when they were happy. Weaving through marketplaces on his father’s shoulders. Exotic treats hidden from Mother, little presents they’d pick out for her together. The way her eyes would light up when he would shyly offer them to her waiting hands.

 

Is it possible that if his parents are with each other that he truly might be able to have just one more moment with them, together, as a family? But he won’t ask Skywalker for more information. For all he knows he’s lying. His family is very good at that.

 

Ben stubbornly looks at the controls.

 

Luke sighs. “They’re two halves of the same soul, but he’s not a Force user. She had to go to him, the pull was too strong. She wanted to stay, to talk to you one last time, but she couldn’t fight it.”

 

The thought of them united again warms him until he thinks about it. The very idea of his parents being soulmates is utterly ridiculous. There were never two more discordant people in the history of the galaxy. He shoots Luke a baleful glare.

 

“I know what you’re thinking. They fought all the time, how could they be soulmates? But did you ever stop to wonder why they could never really leave one another, even when they were making each other miserable? They’re both too stubborn and difficult. Made of the same stuff.”

 

The wall Ben threw up around his softer feelings the minute he saw Skywalker starts to come down against his will. The desire to understand his parents is too great, even after all this time.

 

“But the way they would talk to each other … I remember the screaming,” he says in a wounded tone, finally turning towards Luke. Then he recalls how his mother had hinted that his father hadn’t been altogether faithful and the wall comes back up, but he keeps his eyes trained on Skywalker.

 

His eyes are filled with regret but Ben isn’t going to fall for it. Luke lets out a long breath and looks away for a moment. “I … I should have talked to you more … helped you understand them …”

 

“That would have meant acknowledging I was family,” Ben accuses bitterly. Why can’t he just shut up? He has to get to Rey!

 

Luke looks down for a long time. When he lifts his shaggy head, he quietly says, “I was wrong. I tried to follow the old ways … no attachments.” His hand flutters helplessly.

 

“Wrong. You were wrong,” Ben says sarcastically. “Well great, everything is just fine now.” His expression shifts from contempt into anguish. “My … my … my very heart is being held in a First Order cell and you were wrong. You want to help? Fine, help, then get the hell off of my ship.”

 

“I just want to talk-”

 

“Earn it, old man,” Ben growls.

 

“You talk a big game for a scared boy who murdered his father,” Luke says with a spark of temper.

 

“No. That’s not going to work, not anymore. I won’t be manipulated. Yes, I did do that. And I’ll regret it for the rest of my Force-forsaken life, but I don’t have time for your Jedi pedantry. Help or leave,” Ben spits.

 

Luke crosses his arms and smiles the most infuriatingly indulgent smile. Oh, Ben has always hated that smile.

 

“There might be hope for you yet.”

 

“I swear to all the gods if you don’t-”

 

“Alright, alright. You need to get yourself to the Resistance. They can help you.”

 

Ben rolls his eyes. “Brilliant, why didn’t I think of that. One problem. I have no idea where they are!” he almost yells.

 

“That’s the great thing about being dead. Omniscience.” Luke taps on his forehead and nearly grins. “They’re headed to Naboo.”

 

Blinking, Ben says, “You’re sure?”

 

“No, the all-seeing Force ghost got the coordinates mixed up. Of course I’m sure.”

 

“Fine.”

 

Ben stiffly goes to change the heading when Luke says, “You might not want to do that.”

 

Through clenched teeth Ben seethes, “And why wouldn’t I want to go where you just said I should go?”

 

Luke waves his hand around the inside of his shuttle’s cabin. “Oh, I don’t know. Hard to show up at the Resistance in a First Order command shuttle. Maz can help you with that.”

 

Dammit. Refusing to acknowledge that Luke is right, Ben just sits back in the pilot’s chair and stares out into hyperspace.

 

“Does that earn me a conversation?” Skywalker wheedles.

 

“Once I have Rey back,” Ben grits out, glancing over at Luke.

 

“Hmm …” Luke nods his head slowly to himself. “You probably would be a lot easier to deal with if you got laid.”

 

“Do not speak of things you know nothing about.” If he wasn’t out patience before, having his intimacy with Rey spoken of so casually ate up the last of it.

 

Luke chuckles. “Oh, you’d be surprised.” He looks around the shuttle one more time. “I’ll see you around, kid.”

 

Wait. Rey. Luke might know how to find Rey! Ben is about to call out when he hears his disembodied voice say, “Oh, and check your pocket.”

 

“Get back here and tell me where Rey is!” he orders, but something tells him he won’t be answered.

 

Ben sits with his fists clenching and unclenching for a full five minutes, refusing to do anything Luke Skywalker told him to do. Eventually he realizes he’s being ridiculous and he pats his trousers.

 

He feels an object and when he withdraws it he finds a comm. The comm from TL! He’d been so hazy from blood loss that he’d completely forgotten about it!

 

A shuddering breath is pulled from him and his eyes sting in relief as he realizes he’ll be able to find Rey.

 

Maz will get him a clean ship, he’ll convince the Resistance to help him, TL will tell him where Rey is …

 

A plan. He has a plan.

 

“I’m coming, Rey,” he whispers.

 

---

 

The smell of Maz’s rebuilt castle hits him like a blow to the gut. He’d first been here when he was 8 … with his parents. When he’d been travelling with Skywalker, they’d stopped in here quite a few times, gathering information. Before … Starkiller Base, this had been the last place he’d seen his father.

 

He doesn’t want to do this. Force, he does not want to do this. The urge to turn around and just run is so strong he feels himself hesitating at the entryway.

 

“Ben Solo!”

 

Too late.

 

“Hey, Maz.”

 

The diminutive alien scurries through the raucous crowd and looks at him from head to toe. Then she beckons him down. He stoops slightly and she impatiently gestures for him to come closer.

 

He huffs out a frustrated breath and crouches down until he’s at her eye-level. Her hand shoots out and she grabs him roughly by the ear.

 

“You’ve got a lot of nerve coming here after what you pulled!”

 

“Ouch!” he calls out, totally surprised by her action. He tries to pull back but she just pinches harder. He nearly Force pushes her but manages to keep himself in check. It won’t help his cause to send Maz flying.

 

So he has no choice but to submit. “I know, I’m sorry about the castle.”

 

“Oh, child … do you think I care about bricks and mortar? I meant my friend. And what you’ve put that girl through! Supreme Leader indeed,” she admonishes.

 

She lets his ear go but keeps glaring at him.

 

Still on his knees he catches her eyes and says softly, “I’m sorry for that, too.”

 

Maz cocks her head and pulls her outlandish goggles back. “I know you are, deru.” She reaches out and pats his cheek. “She’s all over you, you know. Wrapped around your heart so tightly you’re never getting rid of her.”

 

“I wouldn’t want to,” he murmurs.

 

Maz crosses her arms in front of her and leans back on her heels. “Just so. You were all over her, too, when I met her. It’s only fair.”

 

“You met Rey?” he asks eagerly, his heart swelling from just the thought of his beloved having been right here.

 

“Of course I did. Where do you think she was before your attack dogs destroyed my business?”

 

“I am so-”

 

“Don’t repeat yourself,” she snaps.

 

“Yes, Maz,” he says, sounding like an obedient child. He’s getting pretty tired of his past speaking so loudly.

 

“It’s true, I met your girl. Knew she was yours before you did.”

 

“But we hadn’t even … met,” he says awkwardly, remembering how it was very near here that he’d taken her.

 

Maz snorts. “Is that what they’re calling kidnapping these days?”

 

Ben’s lips purse but he doesn’t say anything.

 

“No matter. The Force was whispering the minute she awoke. Perhaps even before, in your case.”

 

His reaction to the girl … even then?

 

“Even then, Ben Solo.”

 

His eyes narrow. He’s always hated the way she could do that. He remembers how she’d reached behind her and slapped his hand when he’d been about to steal a bit of his father’s uneaten dessert. She’d never even turned around.

 

“Ach, boy, so easy to read for such a big bad darksider,” Maz teases, giggling to herself. Then her expression grows serious. “You have to hurry.”

 

“I know. Will you help me?” he pleads.

 

“Your ship is already fueled and waiting, deru.”

 

---

 

The ship is almost as old as the Falcon, but it seems to be in working order, easily accepting the coordinates for Naboo. Once he’s in hyperspace, he stands from his chair and stretches, keeping his mind blank. There’s too much calling for him and all he can do is keep it locked away.

 

First he’ll take stock of his supplies, then he’ll try to contact TL. He begins his inventory and is surprised that Maz has left him quite well provided for. There’s clothing, weapons, food … even a rather impressive med kit.

 

He finds himself wondering how long Maz had known he was coming when he sees Rey sitting on the floor, her back against the bulkhead, eyes closed. She looks a bit better and he calls out, “Rey!”

 

“Ben!” Her bright eyes sparkle at him and he tries to ignore her bruises.

 

She’s starting to get up when he gestures for her to stay where she is. Rey might be observed. “Are you still on the transport?” he asks cautiously. If she’s been moved to a proper cell there will be surveillance.

 

“Yes. We docked somewhere, but no one has come for me. Well … again.” She looks almost sheepish.

 

He makes his way to her and awkwardly sits next to her. His long frame wasn’t really meant for sitting on the floor. She leans against him and he swiftly puts his arm around her. They both sigh out in relief. Oh, Rey ...

 

“What did you mean, again?” he murmurs against her hair, gently stroking his fingers along her upper arm and wrapping his other arm around her, careful not to hold her too tightly. He wishes she would have let him heal her completely.

 

She turns in his arms and looks up at him. “I sort of Force pushed the stormtroopers that came to get me right back out of the cell. I think they’re scared of me.”

 

“As well they should be,” he says proudly. The fear lessens a fraction as he remembers just how formidable Rey really is. Maybe this won’t be as bad as he thinks.

 

“I hope I didn’t hurt them …”

 

“All that matters is your safety. I’ve been going out of my mind for you,” he admits.

 

“I’ll be okay.”

 

“I know … I just hate what’s probably coming.” Even if she defends herself, she’s likely going to at least get hurt again.

 

She shrugs. “I told you, I can take it.”

 

“You shouldn’t have to,” he says softly.

 

“Even so. You can’t think about it. You have to focus.”

 

“I know.” He turns and drops a kiss to her crown. “I know …”

 

Rey nestles in closer and oh, he feels like he can breathe for the first time since he’d been in his chambers on the Finalizer.

 

“So what’s the plan?” she asks into his chest.

 

“I’m on my way to Naboo, to the Resistance. I don’t think I can get to you alone.”

 

She pulls back and holds his eyes. “You’re really going to go to my friends for help?”

 

He winces slightly at the reminder of who, precisely, he’s on his way to in order to beg for assistance. “I’d much prefer that I’d figured all of this out sooner, that you are all that matters … gone to them when you were still there, when …” He trails off at the reminder of his mother.

 

Rey rubs soothing circles along his chest. “I know, Ben … I know.” She shifts and cranes her neck, seeking a kiss.

 

He gladly pulls her closer, sealing his lips against hers. They kiss for a long time, letting their devotion wind through them. That tether between their hearts hums in contentment and he just soaks it all in, letting it smooth his tattered edges.

 

Finally she moves away slightly and searches his eyes. “Do you … do you want to talk about Leia?”

 

He lets out a shaky breath. “No … I can’t. If I start … I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop and I have to stay strong. For you.” He strokes her cheek gently.

 

Rey smiles a small smile that tugs at somewhere deep inside of him. She settles back against his chest and they just hold each other.

 

He feels her stiffen slightly after some time. “Wait … how did you know the Resistance was headed to Naboo?”

 

“Well … that’s a long story …”