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“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.”

- Song of Solomon, 4:12

 

Rey should have known that utilizing the Jedi texts wouldn’t be nearly as easy as it was taking them in the first place.

 

Of course, the theft itself had almost seemed too easy. She hadn’t even considered it, until an unbidden thought travelled through her mind as she made to depart for her ill-fated meeting with Ben - Kylo Ren , she reminded herself. The books. Take them, whispered the thought. Not one to need much encouragement to steal, Rey simply entered the ancient tree, grabbed what she saw, then left. No caretakers, no Luke, not even any porgs - nothing stood in her path, as though something had cleared them all away to assure that her thieving was successful.

Now, here she was, weeks later, finally trying to get something started. The remains of the Resistance had settled in a former outpost on Dantooine, which the General also assured Rey had once been a legendary Jedi enclave, and perhaps a good place for her to study. Rey had sequestered herself to a remote corner of the massive pyramid-like structure. She wanted to continue her training, and perhaps inspire the Resistance even a fraction the amount Master Skywalker had in his final moments.

Of course it wasn’t going to be easy. The books were written in some ancient script, which Rey was already having to rely on several datapads to help her translate. Even with translation, the texts were… vague. As one accustomed to technical manuals, blueprints, and raw data, Rey felt hopelessly lost in the dense prose of these Jedi writings, muddled even further from their awkward translation. She felt utterly childish that she was gaining far more from the occasional illustration of certain stances and poses than she was any of the writing itself.

 

It had now been three days. Three days of attempting nothing more than to just comprehend the readings, and Rey was ready to literally beat her head against the infuriating books. She swore she had read the same paragraph five times without somehow understanding a single word of it. Frustrated, she propped one of the books open to a page filled with nothing but illustrations of meditative poses and forms.

She fell into the rhythm of the forms easily - it felt much like how she used to practice with her staff. So swept up in the motions, she felt a warmth come over her, reassuring and admiring. Now practically in a trance, her mind drifted. She saw the stars, a long hallway, the steel of a reinforced door, a pair of dark eyes -

 

Rey gasped, crashing right into the table full of books. Datapads and books had scattered across the dusty floor, much to Rey’s horror. These books were ancient , and she had just mindlessly thrown them to the ground. Mortified, she began gathering them in her arms, assuring that no real damage had been done.

Crawling toward the last book that fell under the table, Rey frowned as she carefully pulled it toward her. This was the smallest of the books, the only one she hadn’t done anything more than briefly thumb through - it had no pictures, and therefore drew her interest the least.

But now, as she sat back on her feet and leaned toward the fire for better light, she noticed something. The book indeed had no illustrations, but there were notes . In beautifully scripted and understandable Aurebesh, no less.

In fact, the very page the book had opened to contained a translated section that read much better than anything Rey had seen so far -

 

“A Jedi must take all possibilities into account. He may have the support of his comrades, understand what he is doing, and know the ramifications of his success, and he may have even planned for unexpected factors - but he has failed to understand his own capabilities. He has planned only for success, because he has concluded that there can be no failure. Every Jedi, in every task, should prepare for the possibility of failure.”

Then, written just below it, in a slightly more hurried script - but clearly by the same hand -

However improbable, plan for the absolute worst. Then, at least you’re pleasantly surprised by whatever happens.

 

Rey heard herself snort out loud at the blunt, biting comment after the far more flowery translation. Eager, she folded her legs under her, moving closer to the fire, starting at the very beginning of the book this time. There were other translations, but most of what she read were this particular writer’s own thoughts and observations on whatever he or she was reading.

 

This completely goes against what was stated in Volume 3. Is this the Old Republic writer, or from a later translation?

Obviously, they’d say that when a pauper’s life is all they’ve ever known. Try convincing a Queen that her child is to become a penniless Padawan without title or status.

I don’t think this person has ever had a Force Vision in their life.

 

Then, after an extremely dry translation about how submission and dedication to the Force was different from forming attachment-

 

LITERALLY, WHAT DID HE MEAN BY THIS??

 

That time, Rey actually laughed out loud, startling her as it echoed in the small, lonely room.

She wondered about the writer. Who knew how old these notes were - the book was clearly ancient, and hardly anyone had written anything by hand in hundreds of years. From the tone of the writing, she had a deep suspicion the writer was a “he” - and, practically in response to that thought, a page fell from the book.

At first, Rey gasped, horrified - she had done it, she had officially ruined one of the ancient texts. However, as she placed the book down and picked up the paper, she realized it was not an actual page torn from the book - it was a crisp, folded sheet of paper, clearly of a different age from the book itself. It felt… Different. Rey unfolded it with trembling hands, wondering why a simple piece of paper was filling her with so much anxiety. The handwriting was familiar - it was clearly by the same person who made the notes, though this had nothing to do with Jedi texts.

 

The meditations didn’t work. I saw her again last night.

The thought of her is slowly driving me mad.

I do not know if it’s the future, present, or past, but I cannot get her out of my mind.

Sometimes she is a child, crying out, desperate and alone. Other times, she is a girl, ruthlessly manipulated and used. Always, she is hungry, lonely, and wanting. I feel compassion, and want to help her more than anything, as a Jedi should.

But then… Sometimes she is a woman. I see her strength and resolve as she moves with grace and beauty, and I know that these are not the feelings of a Jedi .

 

Rey felt warmth travel down her spine, and her stomach tied in knots. This… This was not what she was expecting to find at all. Beneath the hurried notes, Rey found - in a much more deliberate, calligraphed script - poetry .

 

Who is this coming up from the wilderness like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant?

My love rises from the deserts, proud and strong as the steel and iron around her.

All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.

Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded, if their blossoms have opened, and if the pomegranates are in bloom - there, I will give you my love.

The mandrakes send out their fragrance, and at our door is every delicacy, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my beloved.

I would lead you and bring you to my mother’s house - she who has taught me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the nectar of my pomegranates.

Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth - for your love is more delightful than wine.

 

Rey squirmed, her face and belly burning. This was… Unlike anything she had ever read in her life. She could feel… No words had ever made her feel this way.

Rey returned the folded sheet to the book, hands trembling. She thumbed through the remaining pages, seeing several other notes, and even more sheets of paper inserted among the pages. But that wasn’t what she was looking for.

She reached the colophon, then the endsheets - and found it.

What she dreaded.

What made her heart simultaneously fill and break.

 

Hey, kid -

We won big and early at the races in the Corellia Classic, so I had a little more time and cash than I’m used to. I found a rare books dealer who seemed to be the first person in this galaxy to know what I was talking about with all this Force business - I hope this book helps you through whatever you’re going through right now. Call your mother, tell your Uncle Luke ‘hi’ for me.

-Dad

 

With a broken sob, Rey dropped the book as though it had burned her, crawling away from it. Her sobs nearly drowned out a quiet, painfully familiar voice just behind her.

 

“So. You found it, then.”

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

“Where has your beloved gone, most beautiful of women? Which way did your beloved turn, that we may look for him with you?” - Song of Solomon, 6:1  

In the weeks following his assuming the title of Supreme Leader, Kylo Ren had slowly come to the realization that, for the first time in his life, his mind was entirely his own.

 

He should have somewhat expected this. Before, he barely even had to second-guess himself when there was a constant, blatant presence criticizing his every thought and move, a voice to consistently remind him of both his failures and potential. A voice to whisper encouragement as he reached for more power, and discourage any thoughts seen out of line.

 

Even if the Supreme Leader - Snoke , Kylo reminded himself - was not as constant of a presence these last few years, there was so much that the man had done to mold Kylo’s mind since infancy. Perhaps the reason Snoke hadn’t felt the need to constantly monitor his apprentice these last few years was because he truly felt that Kylo Ren was under his thumb - how wrong he was , Kylo thought with grim satisfaction.

 

So having his thoughts to himself and his mind (relatively) quieted was something Kylo had come to be grateful for, as jarring as it was. But what he hadn’t expected was just how many things seemed… off . He would hear names, locations, and references that sparked something in his memories - sometimes brief connections he had failed to remember the significance of, or seemingly useless items in his personal quarters that suddenly had a hundred more distinct memories associated with them.

 

One night, he sat on his bed, his lightsaber disassembled across the sheets, and just stared at the cracked Kyber crystal for hours. Tears ran down his cheeks, and he didn’t know why .

 

Of course, he had to keep up appearances - his mask was firmly back in place in both a literal and metaphorical sense. As Supreme Leader, he couldn’t afford to go around the galaxy with a face that had been all over the news not even seven years ago, when his family lineage became widespread knowledge, both to the public and himself. He was incredibly grateful for the return of the mask, it helped disguise these moments where he found himself lost in memory, or struggling to remember.

 

And it certainly helped hide whenever he saw… her .

 

She had been training, wherever she was. Weeks had gone by, and, evidently, she had set up enough of a mental block that she had not seen him even once - that, or she was a far better actor than Kylo could have suspected. Little did she know, their connection still went both ways - though Kylo only had fleeting glimpses; it wasn’t uncommon to see her flit through one of his endless meetings, nose in a book. Or see her out of the corner of his eye as he worked at his desk, as studious and concentrated as he.

 

In the end, that was all they were - just glimpses. Visions just brief enough for his chest to clench - in anger ? That was certainly the easiest one. Anguish? Sorrow ? Those seemed closer. Regret ? Best to not examine those feelings too closely.

 

But, that particular day, Kylo felt her mind laid wide open to him. Her presence was overwhelming, making his eyes widen and causing him to nearly trip - thankfully, he was already on his way to his quarters, no one had witnessed the Supreme Leader stumble over his own feet in the hallway.

 

As he opened his door… there she was.

 

She moved across his room with graceful, flowing movements. Archaic Soresu , a lost part of his mind instantly supplied when he recognized the forms. The only reason she would know how to practice such an ancient form of lightsaber combat was if…

 

Suddenly, she stumbled, seemingly hitting a physical object on her end. She seemed completely oblivious to his presence, and somewhat panicked. Kylo concentrated, seeing if he could extend his vision of her just a bit

 

It wasn’t much, but now he could see the golden light of candle flame, a desk, a chair, and… Books, scattered all across the floor.

 

Those books.

 

A sharp pain tore through his head. This was unlike anything he had encountered so far. Of course he recognized the Jedi texts the second he saw them. While they seemed to be different - far more ancient copies than anything he had studied - he would know that language anywhere.

 

So, the girl had managed to get a hold of some truly… Antique Jedi writings. That hardly explained what felt like a massive rupture in his head -

 

Until he saw the book that she reached for last.

 

She was careful, so careful; her deft scavenger fingers managing to keep the pages from turning as she rescued the book from under the table. She angled it toward the light, squinting at the text, her face lighting up in hopeful recognition -

 

Kylo had to steady himself against the wall of his room, and he slowly sank to the floor. He very well could be sick right now, and that was hardly a way to make a grand entrance back into his… into Rey’s life.

 

He knew that book.

 

It was his book.

 

But why… Why couldn’t he remember anything about it?

 

Snoke, his mind instantly supplied. Whatever was in that book, whatever revelations he had in studying it were evidently considered far too dangerous to remember - this was the most completely gone memory Kylo had encountered so far.

 

He knew it was important. He could feel it. But did he really want to find out why ?

 

Curiosity got the better of him. Rey was angled away from him, completely focused in reading, eagerly thumbing through the pages - surely, she wouldn’t notice if he got a little closer -

 

She startled him by bursting into laughter, her head thrown back. It was a beautiful noise, one he wanted to hear again, and often. Kylo chanced getting even closer, just enough to make out what she was reading -

 

It was his own handwriting. A stupid, snarky comment carelessly written after a long translation upon an ancient page, in his own damn script that he would recognize anywhere. And it made her laugh .

 

Unbidden, a piece of a memory tore through his mind.

  

He - Ben - couldn’t have been more than 19, startled awake by yet another nightmare. Both of his mentors continually told him to not put so much stock in his dreams, to ignore what he saw - but the visions were just too strong. He lit a small lamp, and pulled a fresh, crisp sheet of paper from a rather untidy stack on his bedside table.

 

Ben’s writing was hasty at first, the sort of quick desperation born of trying to commit your dreams to paper before they slip between your fingers. I saw her again last night.

 

Kylo shuddered through the memory, a whole wake of partial recollections brought up by those particular words.

 

Ben paused in writing and looked around furtively, as though afraid of being noticed. He leaned under his bed, and pulled a sheet of paper that looked as though it had been wrinkled up several times, the writing on it covered with scratched out words and ink blots. Ben’s ears reddened slightly as he glanced around again, making sure there were no witnesses but his books. Now, with a careful hand, he transferred the draft to a more final copy.

 

Kylo blinked furiously, trying to work his way out of the haze of the memory to instead concentrate on the rather appealing sight of Rey squirming before him, her hand clutching the paper. He now knew damn well what adolescent ramblings were on that page, and wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about Rey reading them. At least she didn’t know who-

 

No.

 

No .

 

Rey had quickly begun paging through the rest of the book, revealing dozens of other folded slips of paper, and some smaller slips as well. Kylo’s eyes widened in horror at the realization of just how much of himself - how much of Ben Solo she was currently holding in her hands. Maybe, maybe there was some justice in this galaxy, and she would just assume that these were the deranged rantings of some ancient scholar, and not him -

 

Her gasp as she reached the endsheet told him that fate would not be so kind.

 

Another painful, shorter memory ripped through his head - he could now remember every word of that note. “I hope this book helps you through whatever you’re going through right now…” It was perhaps the best thing his fath- Han Solo - had ever given him. Then again, how could a smuggler have possibly known he had managed to obtain one of the last known readable translations of an ancient Jedi journal?

 

A gasping sob tore through the silent air. Rey covered her mouth, crawling away from the book in silent horror - and, unfortunately, right towards where Kylo had slumped against the wall.

 

Well, no time like the present to make his presence known.

 

“So. You found it, then.”

Chapter Text

 

“Come back, come back, O Shulammite; come back, that we may gaze on you!” - Song of Solomon, 6:13  

“So. You found it, then.”

 

The girl froze at his words. Kylo assumed she was about to whip her head around, and really give her a piece of his mind about her perceived injustices. She would prattle on and on about her precious comrades , how happy she was with her newfound family - he was almost looking forward to the sparking rage in her eyes - but that didn’t happen. Instead, her small shoulders sank with a quiet sigh, and her head drooped down, not facing him at all.

 

“G-go away. I - I can’t do this right now.” she whispered, her voice sounding thick with held-back tears.

 

This was… Not what he expected. Where was his fiery Rey, who was so reliable in trying to murder him whenever she saw him after a dramatic event? Where was the girl who had just laughed in this quiet, lonely room at Ben Solo’s awful quips? Where was the woman who refused the galaxy?

Without his consent, Kylo felt rage boil up in him at what she had done to him, what had become of her - a rage that his old master would have gleefully encouraged - but this was not the time. Breathe . This could be your one chance to bring her back, he reminded himself as he exhaled a rattling, mechanized breath from his mask.

Rey’s startled face whipped around to look in his direction. Tears were running down her cheeks, and something about that made Kylo’s throat clench, and an aching pit settle in his stomach. She quickly transitioned from a face of devastation to a brief flash of anger, followed by a sort of numbed resignation, wiping at her eyes, which refused to look directly at him.

 

“S-so that’s it then. I should have known, stars I was a fool to hope. After - after everything, you still …” Rey gestured toward his mask, hiccuping slightly, rubbing her nose with the back of her hand. Her eyes were downcast, and she held her arms to her chest tightly. “Goodbye, Kylo Ren.”

 

The pit in his stomach had suddenly transformed into a boulder on his chest.

Rey’s image began to blur. Kylo panicked .

 

“Wait! Please !” His fingers were numb and trembling as he desperately pulled at the clasps of his mask, shaking as he tore it from his face and threw it as far from Rey as he could.

 

The scene was… Nostalgic, in a way, to their first face-to-face encounter on Starkiller.

The air was oddly cold on his face, though his eyes were hot - but that didn’t matter, because Rey, still mostly blurry, was now looking into his eyes, and everything would be fine. 

Kylo tried desperately to calm his mind again, blinking as the blur slowly left his eyes. He needed her to listen, he needed to get himself together, he needed to know why Snoke wiped all of this from his memory, he needed to know what other horrifyingly embarrassing writings were in that journal, he needed a plan-

 

“How… how long have you been watching me?” Rey said with no small amount of disgust.

 

At last, the Force listened to him, and handed him an opportunity on a silver platter. She had no idea what he had seen so far - this had to be handled delicately.

“Long enough to know you found a message at the back of that Jedi journal that seemed to greatly upset you.” He felt a sense of calm as he played his hand - now it was time to see how she responded.

 

She was almost adorably predictable. “You mean your journal - this, this is yours !” Rey pointed a shaking finger at the journal on the floor beside her, as though she couldn’t quite believe it herself. So, she hadn’t completely dissociated him from the one she tried to “save” - that was a good first step.

Slowly, as though approaching a wild animal, Kylo crawled slightly closer to Rey, who leaned away from him, but refused to move. He extended his hand, and he saw her tightly crossed arms loosen a fraction of a degree. That was all he needed to see - he quickly bent over to scoop up the journal, then sat back on the floor across from Rey.

Kylo was just as surprised as Rey was to find that he was able to interact with an object from her end of their connection, but his gambit was paying off well so far. He had created the trap, now it was time to bait it.

 

“This belonged to Ben Solo.” Kylo said quietly, thumbing through the pages without truly reading them, and trying to keep his face one of passive boredom. He could practically feel the journal vibrating with the Force and memory. In order to get this to work in his favor, he needed to act utterly disinterested in the journal. He couldn’t let Rey know more about himself ( Ben Solo , he reminded himself for the thousandth time) than he did. Stars , he hoped this plan worked. “The boy who wrote in this is dead and gone, Rey.” 

“No!” Rey reacted almost immediately. “I mean, it’s - it’s yours .” She sat up a little straighter, her arms going from wrapped around her midsection to crossed in front of her chest, defiant as she met his eyes. “That journal belongs to you , Ben Solo .” Her face lit up in proud triumph. 

He felt warmth and power erupt in his chest. But still, he had to be sure - 

“He’s dead, Rey. He’s as dead as my memories of everything about that book.”

Rey’s face fell a little, faltering.

“Search your feelings, Rey. You know I’m telling the truth - everything about that boy was systematically destroyed. I know as much about the contents of those pages as you do. They hold nothing about who I am now. Who I have become”

“I don’t believe it. I don’t believe you for a second, Ben . This, what I’ve read? It’s still one-hundred-percent you !” Rey snarled, gesturing violently at the journal. She seemed to be thinking rapidly, forming some ill-fated plan of her own. “You’re just as trapped in a fantasy now as you were then. Ben Solo was fixated on his visions - you still think that you can chase down your dreams, and now you think you have the power to make them true! It’s not going to go the way you think!”

 

Oh, she was going to play that card. Kylo allowed a hint of a smile to cross his face as he slowly looked Rey up and down, moving closer to her. “Isn’t it?”

 

That threw her. She didn’t move away from him, though, as he drew closer across the floor.

 

“I saw the importance of capturing you - not the droid - on Takodana. I saw the beginning of our connection. I saw that you would be the one to show me the truth. I saw the earth shatter under our combined power. I saw you come to my side to help me strike down Snoke. I saw my rise to become the Supreme Leader - and I saw you by my side .” He felt triumph in those words, the truth they held. “And with that, I will achieve everything .”

 

He was now directly in front of Rey, and she looked shaken. “But Ben, those visions - they’re not…” Rey bit her lip, her face pained. Her mind was clearly racing - she didn’t want to reveal whatever she was about to say just yet, but she went for it. “Even with all the power in the world, your visions can’t come true the way you hope. You - you once saw a crying, hungry, lost child-”

“And now she is found, and certainly no longer a child.” Kylo took a chance, and leaned even closer, slowly pulling off his glove. “I wasn’t able to help her then, but I intend to remedy that.”

 

This was it. No turning back now. He extended his hand toward Rey, palm up, bridging the barest of inches between them. “Let me show you, Rey. Let me show you what I’ve always known for years - what even Snoke could never take from me.”

 

Rey gave him the smallest, saddest smile he’d ever seen. She reached toward his hand with both of hers, hesitating slightly at his fingertips. “Oh, Ben…” she sighed, and her smile broadened, a determined glint in her eye. “Everything you’ve just said - I just got you to admit that, despite everything that has happened, you know that you are still Ben Solo .”

 

Ice shot down Kylo’s spine, but at the same time, she used both of her gloriously warm hands to touch him , to close his fingertips, holding onto his closed fist for just a second too long. “And I think - I think knowing that… It’s about all my heart can handle for right now.”

Before she could release him, Kylo quickly clasped his gloved hand on top of where hers still held to his bare hand, not willing to let go.

 

“Rey, please.” How did this turn around so quickly on him? How did she know exactly how to rip him apart every time? Rey was right, his visions - his visions of her - had distracted him yet again. He had already gotten her to admit that she hadn’t given up on him totally, why couldn’t he just take that victory?

Oh, right. The journal. Every single forbidden thought he’d ever had, everything Snoke had deemed dangerous enough to totally wipe from his mind, right within her grasp - and with him left utterly in the dark. Negotiating from inside a hole was hardly where he wanted to be, but he knew how the Light thought - she wouldn’t be able to resist this opportunity.

 

“Just… Let me be with you. Wait until we have another one of these… Let me be there when you read what I-” Kylo exhaled shakily, grasping her hands perhaps a hair too tight. “When you read what I wrote back then. I… I want to know.”

Rey’s smile was now genuine as she met his eyes. “I… I can do that, Ben.”

Relief swept over Kylo. “Thank you.”

 

He blinked, and she was gone. The Force certainly was one for dramatic timing.

 

Kylo found himself alone in his room, kneeling, hands outstretched as if in prayer. He quickly recollected himself, mind racing. That did… Not go according to plan. He needed to find whatever hole the pathetic Resistance had hidden itself on, urgently . This was bigger than any miniscule military threat they could pose - what Rey had… She could use it to destroy him, more than she already had. He at least bought himself some time with that heartfelt (albeit pathetic) begging - and to feel her skin again… 

No. It was not the time to dwell on that. He needed his journal, to find out whatever Snoke thought needed to be utterly erased from Ben Solo’s mind. He had to regain the upper hand with Rey, and get her to enthusiastically accept his vision for the future.

Kylo pulled himself to his feet, quickly locating where he had flung his helmet, and sealing it back over his face. The Supreme Leader would be taking a leave of absence to personally investigate a potentially devastating breach of information from within their own ranks - Hux didn’t need to know that the breach was in Kylo’s own head. The General simply needed to be reminded of his place once again before Kylo left, to assure that the First Order wouldn’t be in ruins by the time he returned triumphant - with his memories intact, his confidence back, and perhaps even Rey by his side.

 

It was time to hunt .

Chapter Text

 

“Turn your eyes away from me; they overwhelm me. Your hair falls in waves like a flock of goats winding down the slopes of Gilead.”  -Song of Solomon, 6:5

Rey’s hands were still held before her, bereft and shaking, when someone tapped on the entryway of her makeshift study.

 

“Hey, Rey? Are you in there?”

 

Throat still thick with emotion, Rey quickly shut the Jedi journal - Ben’s journal - with a decisive snap , and tucked it into the cross strap of her tunic. “Come in!” she responded weakly. Rey rearranged her legs and clothes, attempting to make it look as though she had been seated in a meditation position, and not crawling across the dusty floor, looking at books and having heart wrenching conversations with the Supreme Leader.

She could almost laugh, the situation was so absurd. No one would ever believe her, yet here she was - with a piece of the Supreme Leader’s very being that not even he fully knew, right next to her chest. She wiped at her eyes, hoping that it wasn’t too obvious that she had been crying.

 

It didn’t work. Poe’s smiling face came into sight, and immediately fell at the sight of Rey. “Hey, Rey - are you alright?”

“I’m fine.” Rey sniffed, wiping her nose and eyes with the back of the hands. “Allergies - it’s pretty dusty in here.”

“No kidding, this place is ancient.” Poe looked around the walls of Rey’s small study, then gave a theatrical shudder. “I don’t know how you do it, this room gives me the creeps. Want to get out of here?”

“Well, I-”

“Because the General sent me to find you - we’ve got some visitors right now who could become backers of the Resistance, but she thinks that if they see you - if they see what you can do ? Then they’ll join us for sure.” Poe smiled with confidence.

It was hard not to return his smile, but Rey felt doubtful. “But I’m - I’ve barely trained, I’m not ready for whatever they want to see, I’m sure.” Rey’s eyes went downcast, sadness settling over her. “I’m no Master Skywalker.”

“But Rey - you’re the last Jedi! The whole galaxy - hardly anyone has seen anything like what you can do in almost a century. Trust me, if you do anything like what you did on Crait, they’ll be on our side in no time.”

“But I’m not a Jedi! Not yet, anyway.” Rey gestured around her. “I mean, I’m trying. But… It’s hard. It’s so hard.”

“Cheer up, kid. You’re a natural - I’m sure you’ll dazzle them.” Poe grinned, and offered his hand to Rey, who obligingly accepted, brushing some of the dirt off her front as she stood. “Now, come on - we need all the help we can get!”

 

Rey could barely concentrate on what Poe was saying as he led her through the winding corridors of the enclave. Something about former members of the Confederacy of Independent Systems - most of it politics, and utterly lost on her anyway. She smiled and nodded along, her mind still fully occupied with what had just transpired with Ben.

She could practically feel the journal burning a hole in her chest where she had hastily tucked it into her tunic - there was no way she was leaving it unattended, ever. Even though she could tell that Ben clearly had some larger scheme in play, she believed him when he said that he had no memory of the contents of the journal; he wouldn’t have been so desperate to acquiesce and negotiate with her, otherwise.

Poe continued rattling off names of individuals and groups who had gathered here, something about a Muun banking clan, something something Wren something, something about a Techno Union… With each step, Rey became increasingly aware of just how little she knew of the galaxy outside of Jakku, and how quickly she had been dumped into what was evidently a pivotal role in shaping the future of the galaxy.

And you could have been in an even more powerful position, you could have had everything, her mind whispered. Rey couldn’t stop the brief look of disgust that crossed her face that she even had a thought like that occur to her. She didn’t want power, she just wanted-

 

“Ok, here we are, Rey. I’m going to introduce you, and you just tell these folks a little something about yourself. You’re going to do great!” Poe gave Rey a thumbs-up as he jogged into a packed conference hall with a singular podium far to the front, emblazoned with the older Rebel Alliance starbird.

Rey froze in the doorway, numb. She was going to do what?

 

Someone had just wrapped up giving a speech, and was quickly shuffled away from the podium and away from the spotlight. Poe jogged to the front, clearly in his element as he gave a winning smile to the gathered crowd.

“Thank you folks for being so patient, we’ve got a real treat for you today, to see what this Resistance is capable of. Ladies, gentlemen, droids - Rey, the last Jedi!” an audible gasp went through the crowd, and the whispers began. “Come on up here, Rey!”

 

Her legs felt like they were made of pure duracrete. She moved around the massive, seated audience from the back of the room, awkwardly proceeding along the side of the rows of chairs, hoping no one saw her - but of course they did.

The whispers grew in volume and intensity. Some wondering who she was, some disparaging her ragged appearance, others trading rumors. Rey just concentrated on breathing. She never thought she’d long for being in silence among the Jedi texts, but stars , if she could just go back there right now.

She didn’t realize that the podium was on a slightly elevated platform, and immediately stumbled over the first step on her way up. Poe crossed the stage, catching her hand before she could fall. He gracefully pulled her back up to dramatically kiss the back of her hand, making it look as though nothing had happened at all.

Rey felt herself pushed to stand just behind the podium, nearly blinded by the singular fixed beam of light on the stage. She was alone now. The audience was nothing but a dark shadow and murmur. She held her hand up to block some of the light out until her eyes adjusted, trying to fight down the cold, pounding fear in her stomach.

 

“Um… Hi, I’m Rey…” she murmured toward the audience.

“Speak up!” shouted an anonymous voice from the back of the audience.

“I’m Rey.” she repeated with slightly more conviction. “And I’m… I’m training to be a Jedi.”

A whistle came from somewhere in the crowd, and a smattering of applause as well.

“Um…” She had no idea what to say! She wasn’t Poe, she certainly wasn’t General Leia - Rey had no experience with giving heartfelt speeches - or speeches of any kind. “I’m from J-Jakku. I’m - I’m just an ordinary person, really. I didn’t know I had this power… I didn’t know until my first conflict with the First Order.”

Another small smattering of applause. “Is it true you beat Kylo Ren with a lightsaber?” a random crowd member yelled out.

“Well, um, yes, I did, but-” Rey’s words were drowned out with whooping and applause.

“Did you really kill Supreme Leader Snoke?” asked another from the void.

Rey faltered. She knew that was the official story going around, evidently started by Kylo Ren himself. Obviously it wasn’t what happened, but if the Resistance needed these people to think that she represented something… “Um, yes, but-”

 

The roar of the crowd was deafening. Rey flinched back, adrenaline rushing at the sudden noise that just went on and on. Her knees started shaking involuntarily, and her hand went to the journal hidden in her tunic, running her thumb along the corner, just to give her something to ground herself in this moment. Help me.

“Show us your lightsaber!” someone shouted, a cry taken up by many others.

“I-I can’t.” Rey realized they couldn’t hear her. “I can’t .” she shouted with a quaver, hoping they would quiet down, which thankfully they did. “It - it was destroyed during my duel with Kylo Ren.” she continued in a much quieter voice. “I only have the pieces now.”

Rey felt like she was on the verge of tears now. This was too much. This was too much for a scavenger nobody to handle, she shouldn’t be here, she wanted to run-

 

She felt a warmth in her chest, and a thought blossomed in her mind. Think of what they want to hear. “I have some of the pieces, and I’m learning. I’m learning how to put them together, and I’ll remake the blade better than it ever was.” Rey stood a little straighter, a spark of confidence in her. “But I don’t have everything I need. I still need pieces and parts from all over the galaxy to truly bring this blade to its full potential - its potential to strike down the First Order. Who will help me?”

There was a fraction of a second of silence, and then the crowd erupted, standing to their feet as they shouted and clapped. At first, Rey was encouraged, but she felt something darker in that moment -

“Destroy the First Order!”

“Burn down the system!”

“Death to Supreme Leader Kylo Ren!”

Rey’s heart was now hammering out of control. She could feel the power of these words, and the intent behind them - it certainly wasn’t what the Jedi would want to inspire, this wasn’t the Light at all . This - this was all wrong . Fear shot through her veins, potent and powerful.

Then it got worse. Another rallying cry went up - “SHOW US THE FORCE!”

 

Rey took a shaky step back from the podium, and right into a large, warm body.

I’ve got you.” came a whisper at her ear as a black, gloved hand slowly ran its thumb down Rey’s arm, leaving her shivering in its wake. The hand grasped Rey’s right wrist, raising it parallel with her head.

Concentrate, Rey. Use that fear, show them what you’re capable of. That you’re more than just some magic trick.” Another gloved hand came to rest on her opposite shoulder, warm and stabilizing. She tried to block out the chaos all around her, but she still felt the fear as she focused-

Good, good. Now use it.” his lips were at her ear, and a flood of warmth traveled through Rey-

Power surged from her hand across the entire hall. The crowd was silenced with pinpoint precision, as their minds were all touched simultaneously. Rey’s hand was guided slightly to force the mass of people to part precisely down the middle, creating a place for her to walk. Another gesture, and the stairs came to the front of the stage, as the podium was shoved aside to make way for her exit. Her arm trembled with effort, she could feel the hundreds of minds she held under her power-

Beautiful. That was very good, Rey. Now let’s get you out of here.” One hand went to the small of her back as her arm dropped. She was gently guided forward, her dark companion applying pressure in exactly the right place on her back to force her posture into giving her a regal exit.

 

The doors to the hall shut behind her, someone in the closed hall was desperately trying to announce the next speaker over the din, and Rey was finally able to breathe freely. She spun to face her unexpected assistant - the face not even surprising her.

“What - what were you thinking? That - that was the Dark, I shouldn’t have - they’re going to think I’m insane !”

Ben’s lips tightened in what Rey had come to recognize was as close as he got to smiling. “No, they’ll respect you. They can’t just use you as… as some tool.”

Rey didn’t know what to say to that - because she agreed. The feeling she got from all those people in the room… “Still, you - I used my fear, Ben. That’s… That’s not the Jedi way.”

“The Dark has its purposes, Rey. Did you hurt anyone? Did it change who you are as a person? Because, from my point of view, there was only one person who was in pain in that room - and she used the Dark to save herself.”

Rey crossed her arms, hugging her small frame. “You helped - you helped even though this was for the Resistance. I suppose you want me to thank you.” she huffed.

He had a ghost of a smirk on his face as he stepped closer to her. “I helped you, and it was my pleasure. How could I have resisted such a desperate plea?”

Rey’s brows furrowed in confusion. “What?”

“You’ll figure it out soon enough. But until then…” he grasped her hand, and pulled her forward. Rey’s heart raced as he bent his head forward, as though he was going to kiss the back of it as Poe had-

 

Then he disappeared just as he looked up into Rey’s eyes with the widest grin she had seen yet.

 

“Rey? What was - who were you talking to?”

Oh, no . This… This could get awkward. General Leia Organa had just come around the corner, and had obviously heard Rey, though fortunately, she managed to get her hands in a somewhat normal position before she was noticed.

“Hello, General. I - I was just talking to myself, you know, post-speech jitters-” Rey babbled.

“Please, I’ve asked you a hundred times now to call me Leia.” she waved her hand with a flourish. “I was looking for you, but I see Dameron found you first - and now I must apologize.”

Rey blinked rapidly, not understanding. “Huh?” she replied ineloquently.

“I had mentioned it earlier today, that showing these backers that we have the support of the last Jedi could really work in our favor... But I had no intention of putting you in front of a crowd like that, especially without preparation. Dameron’s the kind of ass who assumes everyone’s like him, and just loves a spotlight.”

“I’m - I’m so sorry, did I ruin this whole… Whatever this is?”

“No, quite frankly, you did the opposite, Rey. You scared the pants off some folks, sure - but your words, you inspired everyone in there, and that’s what we need right now.” Leia sighed with a faraway look in her eyes. “And that’s what makes what I’m about to ask of you so difficult. I know that being from Jakku, you’re not used to dealing with this many people. I could certainly tell that the stage is no place for you, if I’m not mistaken?”

Rey shook her head vigorously. She could go the rest of her life without making a public speech and die a happy woman.

Leia nodded. “I suspected as much. You reminded me…” she shook her head sadly. “What would you say if I asked you to attend an event? You wouldn’t have to give speeches, you wouldn’t have to throw people around with the Force - though I certainly wouldn’t stop you.”  

“What - what would you have me do?”

“Not much - mingle, be seen, get people talking about the last Jedi and what she stands for. It’s an event on Coruscant, a benefit fundraiser.” Leia gave a great roll of her eyes. “They call themselves the ‘Orphans of War Trust,’ but their events are well-known gatherings of the whole galaxy’s arms dealers. They’re getting desperate , Rey. The domination of the First Order means they’re not making money. They’ll be eager to start negotiations with us if they know we have a chance - and you’re exactly what they need to see.”

Leia sighed. “I used to go to these awful events all the time, but I’m getting too old - they need fresh, new faces, to know that we have a chance . Would you consider it, Rey?”

“I would be happy to, but my studies-”

“Bring them with you - you’re going to have a long flight, since the Falcon’s not here right now. All we’ve got are the the old rust buckets we left here last time. There’s no place to study like a Republic-era prison ship - trust me, I know.” Leia responded with a painfully familiar smirk.

Rey considered the offer. “No speeches?”

“I swear. I’ll try to get you coached up on how to act around these assholes, and you’ll blow them away. Well, on a second thought - maybe let’s avoid doing that literally this time.”

The thrill of going to the legendary Coruscant was more than Rey’s curious mind could resist. “I - I can do that. I accept.”

“Great. You leave in the morning. Pack up what you’re taking, and then meet me in my quarters. You’ll have the galaxy under your thumb by the time I’m done with you.”

Chapter Text

 

My beloved spoke and said to me “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one - come with me.” - Song of Solomon, 2:10

If there was one thing Kylo Ren thought he could rely on concerning the Resistance, it was their utter lack of creativity.

Yet, seven ex-Rebellion encampments later, he had turned up with no results concerning their current location. He searched from Hoth to Endor, Bespin to Lothal, and still had found nothing but empty shells of bases, long abandoned.

Frustrating as it was, Kylo was grateful for the quiet solitude that came with commanding his own shuttle on his search for the “security breach,” as he dubbed his search for the journal currently in Rey’s hands.

That had been a massive headache. General Hux had initially been insistent that Kylo bring with him a full security detail, and a proper retinue for this, his first personal mission as the new Supreme Leader. Hux immediately began listing the various heralds, guards, personnel that were necessary for such a momentous occasion, the planning and lists to be attended to-

Several seconds of strangulation later, Kylo had managed to impress upon Hux the urgency of the mission and the need for secrecy - which would be impossible with an entire cadre of Stormtroopers noisily following him everywhere and wasting precious time.

Without having to tend to such a massive crowd, Kylo was ruthlessly efficient; he had managed to search seven systems, and eliminate the possibility of several others in the process. Even the distraction of Rey didn’t stop him, as she’d occasionally flit in and out of his vision. Kylo wasn’t at all concerned with what the blasted Resistance was putting her up to now, and what was causing her face to look so confused and lost when he caught glimpses of her. He was well on his way to an eighth possible Resistance base when he came to the realization that he hadn’t slept since the last time he interacted with Rey, in over a day and a half - it didn’t matter. He didn’t need sleep. In this moment, nothing mattered but getting his hands on that damn journal.

 

He leaned back in the pilot’s chair of his shuttle, allowing himself to relax slightly as he made a mental note of the time until he’d come out of hyperspace over Yavin IV. Sleep wasn’t necessary, but surely he could just shut his eyes for a second.

Allowing his mind to drift, his thoughts took a predictable direction - Rey. She had him just about panicked when he felt her urgent plea over their bond not even an hour after their extensive interaction. He had been right in the middle of lecturing Hux about not constructing any superweapons while he was away when he suddenly heard Help me . He had to sprint right back to his quarters and tear off his helmet, concentrating all of his power to desperately reach out in the Force to find Rey - and there she was.

The absolute fury that Kylo had felt upon seeing her shaking, put upon a stage, like something for the proles to ogle - rage had clouded his vision. They should tremble , scrape, bow before her - not gawk at her like some sort of circus act. But he had managed to restrain himself. He knew that this was not what she needed from him right now, and that there was a golden opportunity here.

Connecting with her as he did, guiding her, touching her, feeling her power as she channeled the Dark - Kylo felt the pleasure rush through his body as though it were happening all over again. She became his all the more in that moment, and he knew he had left her wanting for more. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, cracking a tired eye to glance bemusedly at the bulge in his pants - well, that just happened .

 

A rapid beeping distracted Kylo from deciding how to address that particular problem (which had been coming up more and more - stars , he felt like a blasted teenager again). The shuttle had just come out of hyperspace, and was over Yavin IV. While the radar indicated there was no present ship activity on the moon, there was, for once, a significant reading on the comm chatter.

That was good enough for him. He punched in the coordinates for the base, ones he knew well - he had come here many times with Uncle-

Stop. No distractions, he had to remind himself, a sort of hollow feeling settling in him that rapidly took care of his previous concern.

In no time at all, his shuttle made its landing at the clearly long-abandoned Rebellion base. The comm chatter was still coming across strong and clear, albeit scrambled. Kylo stretched as he made his way off the shuttle, back aching from sitting so long.

Stars , it had been ages since he had come to this place. The massive Massassi temple still had that peculiar feeling in the Force. It was here that he and Uncle Luke had discovered-

 

A pang ripped through Kylo’s mind as he encountered yet another one of these… gaps. They found… Someone here. Someone who later joined them at the Academy. She had… She, for Kylo was now certain it was a she, she had some command of the Force, but was… Like trying to remember a dream, the tattered remains of the memory slipped away.

Rubbing at his temples, Kylo trudged on into the base, all the more determined. He and Luke had come here multiple times in their travels, he was sure that he would have written about anything of significance that had happened - and hopefully, for the love of the Force , not write any more mortifying poetry about it.

 

The source of the comm chatter was immediately evident, thankfully. Rows of abandoned and deactivated data terminals had accumulated decades of dust, vines, and filth - but, amazingly, one still gave a weak glow, its switchboard blinking off and on.

Kylo crouched before the terminal, digging up the amazingly-still-operational headset. The chatter was still scrambled on this end, but… His hands flew over the controls as he pressed the earpiece to his head, long-forgotten Rebel codes coming back to him as he made what he hoped to be the changes he needed-

Keshlety univelt pre - rival over Coruscant in 24 hours, General, given our current speed.”

“Good. Is our little Jedi feeling any better?”

Kylo’s heart seized. He didn’t hear what else was being said; his vision focused to a pinpoint surrounded by white. Knees went weak, he barely managed to catch himself as he dropped to the stone floor. He’d know that voice anywhere. She… She was alive??

The communication between his moth- the General - and the yet unnamed party continued. Kylo’s heart still hammered, and hoped that he hadn’t missed any key information during his brief episode.

“You had better make good with her, Dameron, you really hurt her yesterday. It’s a miracle she even agreed to go after that stunt you pulled.”

“I know, General, I feel awful - I just assumed-”

“Never assume anything, Poe! You’ve gotten better about not charging headfirst into a war, but for someone like Rey, that conference was more terrifying than any battlefield.”

Damn right , Kylo agreed privately, feeling some relief that Rey wouldn’t be used by the pathetic Resistance the way he witnessed-

“So you had better do something special for her. No crowds, nothing - I don’t know, take her out to dinner after the benefit, or whatever it is you kids do these days.”

Kylo saw red . No way, there was no way he was going to let Rey be led around by that pathetic, small man who used her-  

“I asked, she said she’d think about it. I dunno, she seems pretty distracted, General, like she’s always focused on something else. And she’s just so - so quiet, do you really think she’ll be able to handle the OWT tomorrow?”

“In my experience, that’s just how Jedi are. She’s quiet, but she’s got a spine of steel, Dameron. Just make sure she feels safe, and she’ll have everyone there eating out of the palm of her hand before the end-”

 

In that moment, Kylo had crushed the receiver, not caring that plastic bits cut his face, or that he destroyed any chance of continuing to listen in on what had perhaps been the most productive bit of spying the First Order had dug up in some time. In this moment, it didn’t matter. He couldn’t handle hearing any more of his mother’s and Dameron’s machinations concerning Rey, it made him sick.

Call it attending a fundraiser, call it giving a speech - Kylo knew what was happening here. They wanted her to be a rallying cry. They wanted to turn her into a weapon. They wanted her as an attack dog. They wanted her face as the one people associated with the power of the Resistance. They wanted to do to her exactly what Snoke had done to him.

 

He stormed back to his shuttle, a plan rapidly coming together in his mind. Leia Organa was alive. Rey would be attending a gala on Coruscant tomorrow with the Orphans of War Trust. He could feel the darkness rising in him as he fantasized about what, exactly , he was going to do to Poe Dameron when he saw him -

Brightness, literal Light seared through his mind. A fraction of a memory, a powerful one - what had triggered it?

He scanned the area around his shuttle, eyes focusing on a small, easily overlooked altar, covered in vines and moss. He approached it warily, echoes of whispers intensifying in his mind the closer he got.

Kneeling, Kylo reached out his hand to brush off the dirt, his fingers just barely touching the worn stone-

 

Ben Solo was young, perhaps only fifteen or so. This was their first visit to Yavin, a sort of Uncle/nephew bonding trip as they investigated ancient ruins together. Ben Solo was young, untrained - and Luke had never seen power like this in his life.

All he did was meditate the way he had seen his Uncle do. He found a convenient slab of rock, crossed his legs, and tried to concentrate. This jungle was quiet, and something had called to him, something different from the usual voices in his head. Maybe meditating here would quiet his mind, the constant pressure and self-doubt that plagued him - maybe it would help him the way this blasted archaeology trip hadn’t, despite his mother’s promises. He just breathed and let everything go, and let everything in-

“Ben? Ben, what are you doing?”

Time was meaningless, he had entered the Light-

“BEN! YOU’VE GOT TO COME OUT OF THIS!”

Ben Solo’s body seemed weightless, his left hand upon the altar the only thing grounding him, as his body hovered just inches above the rock. Behind his eyelids, his eyes were moving rapidly, as though in a nightmare, but his face was one of bliss. His right hand reached up, as though trying to grasp at something Luke couldn’t see-

“But Uncle, don’t you see it? The Light, it’s everywhere. She’s calling me, it’s my destiny - all I have to do is let go-”

“Ben, PLEASE!”

Ben’s head lolled forward, his neck practically boneless. His face was serene as his eyes opened, clouded over in a pure blue. “It’s fine, Uncle. She says it’s fine. I just have to give in, and everything will be as it should-”

Luke surged forward, placing his hand directly on Ben’s forehead. “He is not yours!” Luke growled, concentrating.

“She says you wouldn’t do it. I must finish what Anakin started. The Force is out of balance-”

“Yeah, well they can keep their damn family drama out of mine .”

Luke pressed on Ben’s mind until the call of Mortis faded to a whisper - but not before a surge of red light issued from Ben’s hand, scarring the altar.

Ben’s gangly body collapsed in a heap of arms and legs, the presence gone. Panicked, Luke felt for him in the Force, and quickly ascertained that he was still alive and well. He breathed a sigh of relief, dragging his nephew’s long form away from the altar. He peered at the still smoking stone-

“You look like a man in need of someone who knows how to erase memories.” whispered a voice just behind him-

 

For apparently the second time in his life, Kylo found himself collapsed before the altar on Yavin IV.

What… What was that? This… This was a mystery well beyond anything he had anticipated uncovering. He - Ben Solo - had once been almost completely taken - by the Light? Something about finishing what Anakin started - that was something Kylo was familiar with, but there was so much more unexplained. And, someone else had been there -

Kylo’s hand quickly brushed aside the remaining dirt on the altar, revealing what had been scarred into the rock almost fifteen years ago. He didn’t recognize it, but there was something achingly familiar about the curving lines nestled together in a circle, two teardrops radiating from the center.

It was now more urgent than ever that he get the journal. For the first time in years, Kylo was grateful for Ben Solo, the meticulous writer and researcher, the scholar. Ben Solo, who trusted nothing that wasn’t written in his own hand upon paper - perhaps a fear instilled in him by the Force itself.

But… There could be another source, if these gaps in his mind were any indicator of just how much had been lost. Kylo, exhausted, shuffled his way toward his shuttle, hoping that his personal effects were undisturbed.

He needed his journal from right after he joined the First Order.



 

Fortunately, the journal didn’t take too long to locate. Within minutes of setting a chart to Coruscant, Kylo found the journal in a well-hidden compartment beneath the floor grates. He couldn’t bring himself to read it just yet. Unlike the Jedi text that Ben Solo converted into a confessional, Kylo knew exactly what was in this book - for the most part. It was going to be painful, far more painful than Ben Solo’s journal, and he’d rather have Rey-

He felt warmth in the bond, for the first time in nearly a day. Was it going to open up? Would he get to see more than a glimpse of her-

Oh.

Oh.

This was an unexpected treat.

Initially, Kylo was hurt - there she sat, blazenly reading his journal, when she had promised to wait. But her face… Her beautiful face was crimson, and her breaths heavy. Her eyes were moving rapidly across the page as she squirmed, rubbing her thighs together. Kylo supposed she could be forgiven.

He was about to clear his throat, or do something to subtly announce his presence - but she lowered the book slightly as her eyes traveled right over him, as though she couldn’t see him, even though she was clearly scanning the area for listeners. She bit her lip as her fingers traveled to brush across her breast, pinching at her nipple through the clothes, then travelled down her slim belly-

Was the Force so kind? Was it so cruel? To allow him this vision of pure temptation . Kylo found himself staring openmouthedly for a full second before he remembered himself - this, this was wrong . It was beneath him. Not to mention it was incredibly violating to her- no, he knew better. He dutifully shut his eyes, and tried his damndest to focus, to get out of this incredibly private moment -

“Oh Master, Master Ben, please-

Kriff . He now had a very good idea of what, exactly , she had been reading. The Force was just not going to let him come away from this as a gentleman, was it?

“I’ve been so good, won’t you please show me? I - I don’t know what to do…”

Stars, neither do I.

“But you’re such a good teacher, Master, surely-

Put the book down, Rey.

Amazingly, Kylo heard the dull thump of the tome hitting the ground. He refused to open his eyes, he would come away from this with some of his dignity intact. Was this really happening?

Tell me, are you cold?

“N-no, Master, I’m burning up…” Rey gasped.

Take off your pants.

“But what if someone sees us, Ben?”

What did you just call me?

“I’m sorry, Master, please… Just help me.”

Maker, he was going to burn for this. Eyes still shut, Kylo loosened his incredibly uncomfortable trousers, drawing out his embarrassingly hard cock. He palmed it a couple of times, just to ground himself as he heard Rey slowly shuffling out of her pants.

Show me. Show me how you pleasure yourself when I’m not there.

“But… But I’ve never - like this, with someone else watching…”

Well, to be quite honest, Apprentice, this is pretty new to me, too. Show me. Now.

If he was going to burn, he was going to at least come away from this with something. He cracked an eyelid open -

-to find Rey on her hands and knees, right in front of him in nothing but her underwear - grinning ear to ear as she stared straight into his eyes-

“Hello, Ben. Goodbye, Ben.” She touched his forehead -

 

Kylo Ren found himself back on his shuttle, alone, with a literal mess on his hands.

She did it. Again. She kept gaining the upper hand in this… Whatever this relationship was. Kylo wasn’t sure if he should be more furious or turned on by the constant manipulation - inwardly, he knew he was just as guilty. But one thing was for certain - he was going to assure he’d hold all the cards on Coruscant.

With a defeated sigh, he cleaned himself up, and started rifling through his personal items once again. He realized that Rey already had a small victory she didn’t even know about yet - but Kylo was willing to lose this battle to win the war.

Prince Ben Solo was going to have to put on an appearance at this gala.

Chapter Text

 

“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” -Song of Solomon, 2:7

Rey had just over a day before her “public debut,” as Leia put it.

She knew she should be sleeping right now, to adjust to the time on Coruscant, but she was restless. So far, she had spent most of her journey in a literal cell. “Everyone take a room or three, there’s only space for two on the bridge, and we’re going to be here awhile,” she remembered Poe warning the ten of them who were going on this trip. “At least the doors lock from the inside now!” he had offered chirpily.

There was no way around it - her room was a literal jail cell, one of hundreds on this massive, lumbering Republic-era transport. By the time Rey had spread out her books and datapads, nearly the entire floor space was occupied, leaving her to cautiously toe around the Jedi journals whenever she needed to leave the room.

Studying had been difficult before, but now… It was impossible . Rey was a gifted linguist, but even she had her limits in making sense of such thick, allegorical writings by the time they were translated - whole, unending paragraph-long sentences of things like

A good will is good not because of what it performs or effects, not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but simply by virtue of the volition; that is, it is good in itself, and considered by itself is to be esteemed much higher than all that can be brought about by it in favor of any inclination, nay, even of the sum total of all inclinations - even if it should happen, that, owing to special disfavor of fortune, or the withholding provision of a stepmotherly nature, this will should wholly lack power to accomplish its purpose, if with its greatest efforts it should yet achieve nothing and there should remain only the good will (not, to be sure, a mere wish, but the summoning of all means in our power), then, like a jewel, it would still shine by its own light, as a thing which has its whole value in itself…

Rey had to slog through page upon page of meandering syntax and prattling prose, trying her damndest to focus and make sense of the needlessly verbose writing.

 

As it had done many times since her acquiring it, Ben’s journal burned a hole in her mind. There it sat, on the shelf next to her cot - untouched, small, and unassuming.

So much knowledge sat right there. So much Rey could know, so much she could use - in discovering more about the Jedi, more about the Force, more about Ben - all of it just waiting- but no, she promised-

Maybe just a peek?

Because, of course - Rey reminded herself as she carefully traipsed her way to the bed - it certainly wouldn’t be my fault if the journal just slipped- she very deliberately pushed the book off the shelf - and just happened to open up, right?

She went so far as to fake her own surprise that the book had landed face-up, open to the very middle. Oh no, what a disaster- she practically giggled to herself, greedily kneeling before the book, seeing what knowledge it had to offer -

 

“Oh Master, Master Ben, please- ” the apprentice breathed, biting her finger as her robes fell from her small shoulders, surrounded by her chestnut locks, free from their typical tight buns-

 

What.

What.

 

This had to be a mistake. Rey shook her head, sure that she hadn’t just read those words. Surely, if she looked at what was open before her, there would be some more dry, witty commentary on Jedi knowledge-

 

“I’ve been so good, won’t you please show me? I - I don’t know what to do-” she couldn’t seem to control her own body as it surged toward him, so affected was his apprentice by the spores-

 

Well, this is what she got for leaving this up to blind chance.

Rey wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth, though - she lifted the sheet the book had opened on, squinting at the small text. It was clearly a piece of a slightly longer writing, with as many words jammed on the page as possible.

 

He hadn’t been affected by the spores the way his apprentice had, but he now knew it was only a matter of time before he was taken in as well. She writhed before him, shameless and debased as she rubbed her shapely thighs together, hoping to bring some sort of release.

“Get yourself together, Apprentice! We are Jedi, we are above this sort of carnal influence! Lust is the way of the Dark side!” his words were strong, but his will weak as he found himself enraptured by the beautiful girl before him.

“It’s so hot - I’m burning up, Master! Please, help me!” She now pulled her robe completely off her shoulders, revealing her lithe, beautiful form to him, only him.

In that moment, he felt something take over his body, as though some dark, beastly instinct had control of his body. “Take off your pants. Now .” he growled, pulling his own tunic from his broad, muscled shoulders.

She obliged without the slightest hesitation, now laid bare before him, panting and eager.

“Good, good girl. You’re such a good Apprentice, don’t you know that?” he crooned, his Apprentice basking in the pleasure of his praise.

She crawled toward him on all fours, unashamed. “Please, I’ve been so good, Ben-”

What did you just call me?”

The apprentice bit her lip in a grin, her brown eyes sparkling in defiance.

“You know what this means, Apprentice. Now, I have to punish you.”

She whimpered in delight as she crawled over his body, pinning his arms down. “My strong, noble Jedi Master - please forgive me…” she pleaded, kissing his throat, his chest, his abdomen - “I’ll be so good…” she whispered as one of her hands inexorably pulled down his pants-

 

Rey could feel her face bleeding crimson. Sure, she had caught some glimpses of naughty holoshows in her years, and seen some rather unfortunate pinups in old Stormtrooper quarters - but all of that paled in comparison to the writings of one Ben Solo - starring, evidently, her .

She flipped over the sheet, eager for more - but it was blank! Nothing more than where the ink had bled through from the front. Quickly looking back at the book, there were no other sheets this size or color caught between its many pages - just this one.

Breathing heavily, Rey considered her options. She could take care of this… problem , or she could calm down, and figure out how to work this in her favor. That’s what the General had told her, after all - “Men will give you all sorts of tells and clues, Rey. Just know that they’re never half as subtle or smart as they like to think they are, and what they usually want is staring you right in the face. Use it.”

Well, according to this, Ben Solo had a deeply-seated longing for a very certain kind of apprentice - and, evidently, the desert girl from his visions was there to fill that role.

This was hardly surprising. After all, Kylo Ren seemed insistent, even in his most desperate moments, that Rey needed a teacher - though she hardly anticipated how he saw himself in that role. There was certainly material here to work with.

What could she do here? Ben had said something a couple days ago - that she’d “ Figure it out soon enough- ” did he mean activating the connection to him?

She looked around the room, considering how to play this. More than anything, she needed to distract him, get him as far from Kylo Ren as possible - if anything, their last interaction revealed that he was willing to up the ante, thinking that she would be completely taken off-guard by his more… flirtatious antics. If he needed to be literally seduced by the Light… He certainly seemed to have given her a playbook on how to pull it off.

 

Rey grabbed the journal, nestling the loose page back between the pages it fell from. She sat upon the cot in the cell, and concentrated , holding the book before her as though she was immersed in reading it, reaching out in the Force as hard as she could-

She felt what she now recognized as a telltale warmth sliding down her back - he was here. It was dark in her cell, but she knew he was there somewhere - she just simply couldn’t let him know that she knew.

Feigning as though she was looking out for intruders, she let her gaze slide right over him hiding in the corner, fighting down the urge to giggle at his dumbfounded expression. She didn’t even need to worry, as the next time she chanced a glance in his direction, he had screwed his eyes shut, giving a slight moan.

It was so easy from there. All she did was read out loud along with his own writings, his thought-rather-than-spoken responses coming in time with the quotes she pulled from the page. A few layers of clothing had been shed - but it was all part of the act - not in the heat of the moment, Rey assured herself. She now watched him brazenly as he pulled himself from his pants, transfixed at the sight before her - Maker , she didn’t exactly have a basis of comparison, but he was huge. She bit her lip, and, in an honest moment, confessed to him that she had never… satisfied herself like this, spread bare and open. After all, on Jakku, everything she did to herself was decidedly over-her-clothes - she couldn’t risk expending moisture on something as indulgent as self-pleasure.

She decided to pull the trigger when she felt him open a single eye, before she got in too deep over her head. Just like in his writing, she had crawled toward him - “Hello, Ben. Goodbye, Ben-” and then promptly locked down the connection, exactly as she’d witnessed him do to her on Yavin IV.

 

And now… Now she was left aching. Well, maybe she could indulge just a another couple of peeks into the journal, Rey thought as she casually flipped to another page-

Though this is adapted from an earlier translation, I can't imagine the Jedi reversed their position on such a critical point in such a short period of time, especially after they had suffered so many losses. This needs to be cross-referenced with volume five, which had a more explicit definition-

Whoops, the book moved, how did that happen, Rey flipped the page again...

"While a Jedi should strive to accomplish much, critical thinking and decision-making should be approached slowly, with frequent meditations on possible outcomes and consequences deriving from his or her actions-"

Well, these were the sort of useful notes that she had been initially looking for - but now that she knew what kinds of… intriguing things Ben Solo had hidden away in this journal, she wanted more. More material to use against him , Rey assured herself.

"When a Jedi behaves badly in public, an observer might think, 'If this Jedi is a representative of the whole Order, then plainly no Jedi is worth respect.' On meeting a second Jedi, who behaves better than the first, that same person might think, 'Does this say that half the Jedi are good, and half bad?' On meeting a third Jedi, who behaves as well as the second, the person thinks, 'Was the first Jedi an exception, then?' In this way, only by the good behavior of several Jedi can the public be certain that the poor behavior of one Jedi was unusual. Thus, it takes many Jedi to undo the mistakes of one."

It was as though the journal was doing its very best job to turn her off.

She flipped closer toward the back of the book, where the cleanest sheet of paper so far stuck out at her like a white flag. This was clearly the least aged thing in this journal. At first, Rey thought it may have been someone else’s writing altogether - instead of the beautiful script she had now grown used to and looked forward to reading, this was done with a shaking, almost childlike hand, though a handful of Ben Solo’s flourishes were still evident. It didn't make sense - what had happened for him to become so careless in his penmanship, clearly something he took pride in?

Then Rey took in the words. These were not the flowery, fanciful words of Ben Solo. This was not a boy extolling the beauty of the world around him, longing for the girl in his dreams. This… this was him becoming someone else altogether, Rey realized, her heart in her throat.

I'm becoming less defined as days go by, fading away

Losing focus, drifting into the abstract in terms of how I see myself.

Sometimes, I thought you saw right through me.

I'm alone, but then again, I always was, as far back as I can tell

I think maybe it's because you were never really real to begin with.

I just made you up to hurt myself.

And it worked.

 

“Hey, Rey? Your light’s on, you awake in there?” a voice called from just outside her door.

Kriff! For the second time in as many days, Rey felt herself wiping away tears as someone interrupted her reading, now with the embarrassing addition of also having to scramble to put her clothes back on. She closed Ben’s journal, and stuffed it under her pillow. “Hold on!” she said breathlessly, opening the door.

Thank the Force, it was Finn. She wasn’t quite sure how to handle herself around Poe - who seemed to be tripping over himself apologizing to her now, and even asked her if she wanted to get dinner- “We’ve got portions in our quarters, right? I’ll be ok,” she had responded, leaving Poe looking thoroughly puzzled for some reason.

She opened the door to Finn’s smiling face. “Hey. Just checking in on you - you ready for this… Thing tomorrow?”

Rey sighed, leaning in the doorframe. “Honestly… I’m not sure, Finn. The General gave me a lot of advice - stars , Finn, she’s even sending me to her penthouse, and having someone come in to do my kriffing hair…

“Woah, you get to stay in the General’s penthouse? Sounds pretty cush, Rey - the rest of us are crashing at Snap’s folks’ place.” Finn chuckled. “Of course, from the way it sounds, most of them are ‘catching up’ while they’re on Coruscant, so we may not see them much after the gala.”

“Yeah, I guess there’s a lot of that going around…” Rey sighed. “Finn - do you ever… Do you ever feel like you’re out of place in all of this? Like... Like everyone else just knows a thousand more things than you, and you’re just struggling to keep up with how to even talk to people?”

Finn gave a sympathetic smile. “Of course, Rey. I felt that a lot at the beginning - but I’ve always liked people . I always wanted to help - I think that’s part of the reason I was such a terrible Stormtrooper. There's no room for those kinds of feelings on the battlefield, you know?” He scratched his head, thinking. “I’m sure it’s different for you, though - scary, even. You’ve got all these people expecting things from you, and for you it’s barely been a few months since you were on Jakku.” Finn shrugged, grinning. “Well, I know what always worked for me when things didn’t seem quite right, even when I was a Stormtrooper - wanna spar?”

A massive smile spread across Rey’s face, relieved at her friend’s ability to tell her exactly what she needed to hear. “I would love that.”





After four hours of intense, widely-spectated sparring, and about eighteen hours of recovering and sleeping later, Rey woke absolutely wrecked . She told Finn not to take it easy on her, and he wasn’t one to hold back - whatever training program those Stormtroopers went through was insane .

Her knuckles were bruised, her fingernails scuffed, and there probably wasn’t a square inch of her body without some kind of bruising on it from being repeatedly slammed into the training mats and walls of the “yard,” the large open space in the middle of one of the pods of cells. But Rey felt… Better. She worked out her frustrations at everything that had been happening in a decidedly constructive way, and had gotten a literal workout in the process.

That didn’t mean she wanted to be blasted awake by the intercom, announcing that they would arrive on Coruscant within twenty minutes, and they should be ready to disembark in five.

Rey packed the journals, datapads, and her notes. She only trusted Ben’s journal to the safety of her tunic, and had even gone so far as to secure it shut with a small belt, so afraid was she of losing even a scrap of it.

After a long walk through winding corridors of cells, she joined the other members of the Resistance, grouped together by the drop deck. There were so few of them - the tiny group sent out to do what they could for the Resistance, their youngest and brightest.

She saw Rose Tico talking with Finn, who was sporting a few bacta patches on his shoulders, Rey noted with a hint of pride. Poe and a handful of the surviving pilots stood in another group, while Lieutenant Connix and Snap Wexley had gathered with the rest. It was such a small group - but Rey still managed to feel like… Like she didn’t quite belong.

“There she is, the woman of the hour!”

Statements like that didn’t help.

Poe Dameron had a datapad in front of him with what looked like a massive checklist from the General. “So, here’s the plan - Rey, the General requested that you go to her apartments, apparently there’s some extremely specific outfits she wants you to wear, and I’m not even going to pretend like I understand what her plan is here. There should be a couple folks from New Alderaan at the docks there for you - they’ll take care of everything. Everyone else - we’re getting together at the Wexleys. Anyone who doesn’t know their suit or dress size is coming with me, everyone else is staying with Kaydel, and we’ll figure out who’s wearing what and who’s talking to who from there. Understood?”

A resounding “Yes sir!” came up from the small group gathered, settling the matter.

Already, Rey felt lost. She felt even more lost when the ship finally made groundfall, and the drop deck finally lowered-

It was unlike anything she had ever imagined.

Coruscant was laid out before her - and above her, and below her, and all around her. Lights, sounds, an overwhelming cacophony slowly surrounded her. The Force was so loud here, as though there were thousands of voices all talking over each other at the same time, and the buildings so massive; Rey felt vertigo settle in as she attempted to look up, up, up- and stumbled - this was too much, this was too much-

Her hand had somehow found the journal in her tunic again, and a brief heat traveled down her arm. Calm down. Focus. She breathed slowly, shutting her eyes, centering herself. There were no threats. She could handle this. It was just a lot of people - a lot of people.

“Miss Rey? Excuse me, are you Miss Rey?”

She opened her eyes to find two impeccably dressed women who were not too much older than her, perhaps in their early thirties. Their long, dark hair was gathered back into a series of intricate braids, partially covered by veils that went well past their hips. These must have been the representatives from New Alderaan, Rey realized, as she saw her companions slowly shuffling away from the docks.

“Um, yes. ‘Rey’ is just fine though, thank you.” Rey re-shouldered her backpack full of books awkwardly, not sure how to act in front of these women.

They giggled, though at least their eyes lit up in genuine humor. “Oh, that would be incredibly rude of us, Miss Rey - after all, you are an honored guest of the Queen!” the taller of the two responded.

“Now then, shall we get you ready for tonight?” the shorter and deeper-voiced of the two questioned. “We have so much to get done, and so little time.”

“But you’re in good hands, trust us.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your names…?”

“I’m Meghana.”

“I’m Divyya.”

“We’re the Queen’s nieces.” the taller one, evidently Meghana, propelled Rey toward a sleek shuttle at the end of the dock.    

“Well, cousins, technically.”

“Something like three times removed.”

“But she’s always been Auntie Leia to us.” Divyya said dreamily.

“Now, let’s get you to the Queen’s quarters - I can’t wait to get started on you.” Meghana had a Lothcat-like smile to her, wide and predatory as she eyed Rey’s hair.

 

The door to the shuttle sealed shut, silently proceeding high into the dense layers of Coruscanti traffic, and Rey wondered just what kind of family drama she had gotten herself into.

Chapter Text

 

 

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” - Song of Solomon, 8:6

 

It took a while to get into the proper frame of mind.

The arrival on Coruscant, bare-faced for the first time in almost a decade - that had already thrown him off. Last time he was here at all, he was a masked slave to Snoke, groveling and looking for any scrap of praise during a ceasefire agreement.

Now, he was… He breathed deeply, having to center himself. He was Ben Solo. He had to be Ben Solo. It was necessary to get what he needed. If he played this right, he could have everything.

For so long, it had been Kylo Ren who had protected him. Kylo Ren, who shielded the tattered remains of the boy who had been Ben Solo, but here, surrounded by opulence and aristocracy - the crusader, the warrior was useless. He needed to be the prince.

Thankfully, he had good intel to work from while he was here. While General Hux was delighted with the extremely valuable intel the Supreme Leader had gathered so far, he had insisted on some form of security in a place as open as Coruscant. And, finally, Ben was able to slightly agree - he would certainly be exposed here, in more ways than one.

A stormtrooper brigade was of no use - he needed to be Prince Ben Solo, after all. He couldn’t look as though he had any ties to the First Order whatsoever, or he’d scare away half the attendees of the Orphans of War Trust gala. Kylo Ren would frighten away the galaxy - but Ben Solo? He was royalty of the best kind  - mysterious . Ben had done plenty to make his name known as a youth, for better or worse, and then the rumors circulating around his disappearance seven years ago made him all the more intriguing in the public eye. He had enough allure and influence to draw the attention of anyone .

 

Kriff, he hated it.

He hated that his security consisted of the three Knights of Ren he thought least likely to watch him die for their own amusement - though he insisted they keep their distance, only monitoring him in public areas. Most of the Knights had continued their roles as Inquisitors after his rise as Supreme Leader, carefully monitoring any signs of Force sensitivity awakening in the galaxy. Ben didn’t know why he hadn’t called them off at this point - it was Snoke’s assignment to them, not his; he couldn’t give less of a damn if some kid figured out how to make his toys float. But it was easier to maintain the status quo until something needed to be changed - thus how he ended up with Shartom Ren, Obaan Ren, and Enoch Ren, the three Knights he had known the longest, tailing him.

He hated the feeling from Coruscant - just the feeling in general. He hated this place even as a kid, so overwhelming it was in the Force. It was like being trapped in a conversation with someone who didn’t know when to stop talking, except it was every mind, everywhere, all the time. This many minds were never meant to exist in one place, Ben was sure of it. It made him long for quiet, peace  - hell, it made him long for a drink.

He hated the sinking feeling in his stomach as he entered his portion of his mother’s expansive apartments she kept as the Queen of Alderaan - kriff, if something in his chest didn’t turn to stone when he realized that his passcode still worked. His rooms, thankfully, had their own entrance - or there would have been some awkward interactions in his teens.

He hated that everything was exactly as he left it. The last time he was here… Stars, relatively speaking, it wasn’t even that long ago, less than eight years now. It was the 30th anniversary of the destruction of Alderaan; a somber ceremony, but a hopeful one. The citizens of New Alderaan celebrated how far they had come in their new settlement, toasting with the first wine made on New Alderaan, grown from seeds that produced the very same vines that once covered the Organa estate.

 

Ben opened closet upon closet of relics from his past, hoping to find something appropriate for this impending event. He quickly realized, with a grimace, that he'd have no such luck  - the Ben Solo who wore these clothes was gangly and almost impossibly thin, even in his early twenties. Another memory passed through his head, connecting some previously disparate pieces. Last time he stood here… He now distinctly remembered his mother tutting over him, her eyes shining with worry  -

Ben, you look so  - so tired . And you're just wasting away…” she had reached up to his thin neck, tracing her fingers over his protruded collarbone. He was tired. So very tired, but when he slept… he shuddered, causing his mother to quickly pull her hand away, not knowing that the tremble was brought on by the mere memory of what he saw in his dreams these days, not her very much welcome touch. He was wasting away. He no longer even felt hunger, food had been like ash in his mouth for some time now. At this point, there was hardly any of him left.

Ben slowly exhaled, centering himself. He knew that coming here was going to be… hazardous, as far as recalled memories, but he hadn't quite been prepared for that one. That Ben Solo, the gaunt, haunted one who attended the ceremony with his mother, rumors circulating wildly among the Noble Houses about him falling into a spice habit  - in less than a year, that boy would discover his legacy, find out just how long his family had lied to him, be betrayed by his uncle, and join his other master.

Well, one thing was for certain  - the man he had become since then was certainly not going to be able to fit into any of this skinny boy’s finery.

 

Begrudgingly, Ben opened his door to the long hallway that connected the Queen of Alderaan’s various rooms and chambers. He couldn't bring himself to go into her rooms - besides, what he needed wasn't in her penthouse.

He opened the opulent doors to his grandfather’s study  - his adoptive grandfather. Bail Organa had perished along with the planet he had been King of, but Leia had kept his personal quarters exactly as they had been when he was alive. Ben had come here many times as a child to read, liking the quiet peace offered by this room - but he also enjoyed, as children tend to, spying. It was because of that childish snooping that Ben knew he'd find what he needed.

Bail Organa may not have been Ben’s grandfather by blood, but, thankfully, he was quite tall, had a similarly large frame. Ben found several carefully preserved sets of his ceremonial clothes, and quickly deemed them both long enough for his legs and wide enough for his shoulders, while still displaying a distinctly Alderaani style. These would do.

He pulled on the clothes, something difficult he had never had to do for himself with such thick fabrics, complicated with multiple folds - maybe this is why royalty have so many attendants, Ben thought begrudgingly.

Finally done, he caught sight of himself in a mirror on his way out, causing him to swallow tightly. This… This was what his mother always wanted, wasn’t it? He looked every bit the Prince he was supposed to be, though he hardly felt it. Ben didn’t know if he’d ever be able to pull it off convincingly after what had happened-

Then he spied the brandy in the foyer. Oh. That would work, too.




The journey to the fundraiser was blissfully uneventful. He had a comm to contact his Knights if things went south, but Ben was becoming less and less convinced that an attack was a possibility - after all, he was just another member of the Elder Houses showing up to a fundraiser, and the OWT certainly would have no problems funding decent security. He’d be one of dozens of nobles, hardly worth singling out.

He was more grateful for the now-empty bottle of brandy than ever as he approached the gala, people already being set upon him. “Prince Ben Solo is here!” went the whispers. With a slight buzz on, it was almost easy to go through the motions his mother had drilled into him since childhood - shake this person’s hand, bow here, ignore these people, smile, look concerned, laugh here.

It took a while to work his way through the crowd to overlook the main event space, a massive, open room below, where the most important members were announced upon arrival. They’d then descend the grand staircase to mingle with the proletariat - but it wasn’t time yet.

Paying off the herald was its own reward almost immediately. From up here on the balcony, Ben was able to scan the room below, sorting through hundreds of faces -

 

And then he found hers.

 

She was… Beautiful was a weak word here. Stunning. Mind-numbing. He looked at her, and everything took on a comfortable silence in the Force, allowing him to only focus on her. She was with FN-2187 and Poe Dameron, not surprising Ben in the least, as he swallowed down the slightest bit of repressed rage. Rey’s cheeks were stuffed with presumably the same deep-red berries she had a handful of - those berries quite possibly came from what was supposed to be a decorative display. Somehow, to Ben, this was charming.

Clearly, someone had taken Rey under their wing, for this… Creature to emerge. Ben had reason to suspect that his mother was at least partially responsible from her dress alone.

He recognized the bare-shouldered, floor-length gown immediately, its distinctive fade from golden yellow at the top to deep lavender by the train marking it as a dress that was one Padme Amidala’s favorites - and one Queen Organa kept lovingly preserved. The dress was… Ben gulped. Not one he would have chosen for her, with its completely exposed back that left her looking vulnerable, though perhaps that was the purpose. She moved in it slowly, clearly afraid of ripping the layers upon layers of gossamer-thin fabric pooled by her feet. Ben caught her scooping up the bottom of the train multiple times in order to move faster, a small smile crossing his face - that’s for her escort to do .

She was a little too far away for him to truly appreciate her full beauty, but as his eyes wandered to her hair, his heart stopped.

Her hair - her hair. This was… He must have been compromised. Somehow, someone knew he was coming. This had to be a message. This was a blatant challenge to him. For who at this gathering, other than him, would so quickly interpret the meaning?

It would be lost on anyone not raised in high society - in fact, it could possibly even go unnoticed by anyone not raised among Alderaani customs, so specific was the style. However, this particular crown of braids had been replicated enough in society that some other blue-bloods would most likely pick up on the meaning. But Ben Solo saw the particular part of Rey’s hair, the specific position of the braids, her head unveiled, her neck bare, knowing exactly its meaning - this was the hair of a young noblewoman freely courting, searching for suitors.

It made him livid. Here she was, surrounded by all these unworthy men ogling and pawing at her, not knowing that her hair was clearly sending a message only to the most well-to-do of them, announcing her availability. In all the ways that were important, Rey was spoken for. Kylo Ren clawed at the surface, begging to be set loose and claim Rey like the animal he was - but this was not the place. Rey clearly was oblivious, and she didn’t ask for this. Ben centered himself, knowing that he had to approach this in the most repulsive of ways - the politician’s path.

He breathed, focusing again, before finally nodding to the herald.

It was time to make his entrance.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The OWT gala was unlike anything Rey knew could even exist in the galaxy.

She should have known from just how long she was in prep for this event that it was going to be… different. For the first time in her life, she had been plunged into a bathtub full of clean water - and then Divyya and Meghana proceeded to put her through a lot of other firsts as well.

They bemoaned the damage left behind by the previous days’ sparring, tutting about the state of Rey’s skin. By the end of it, they had probably slathered her with more bacta than they did cosmetics or lotion, deeming that she needed a “youthful” look for tonight.

“Tonight, an innocent seduction. Tomorrow, at the ball - a deliberate seduction. No one will forget you, and everyone will want to support you.” Meghana had declared as she pulled the gauzy dress on to Rey - though if this was “innocent,” Rey feared what they defined as “deliberate.” With her upbringing, Rey was hardly one with a traditional sense of modesty, but still… Her shoulders and back were completely bare, though at least the voluminous layers amply obscured her body, giving Rey plenty of room to holster a blaster on one thigh garter and Ben’s journal on the other.

There had been a considerable amount of argumentative whispering between the women as they worked on her makeup, hair, skin - apparently Leia had left extremely specific instructions. At this point, Rey had learned it was just best to wait until this was all over, and be grateful for the fact that it seemed as though she may have finally rid herself of the last grains of sand from Jakku.

Finally, they had attempted to get Rey to wear some truly horrifying-looking shoes, which, upon Rey immediately proving that she couldn’t walk a single step in them unassisted, were exchanged for some far more practical flats. Why there was such a bother for something no one would even see through all the layers of dress was a mystery to Rey, who was already terrified of ripping the clearly precious dress.

 

Rey did not actually get a full look at the ensemble until the gala itself, when she arrived and met up with the other members of the Resistance in a small hallway separate from the main entrance she saw other attendees approaching. She saw them first, and her face just about split open in a grin - they all looked great! She had been so worried about how seemingly over-the-top her own outfit was, but seeing the other women in similar, pooling-on-the ground gowns and the men in extremely stiff-looking, but handsome suits made Rey feel much better.

Approaching them, she finally passed a floor-length mirror - and was completely stunned. This… This was her? She looked… Rey had never looked like this in her life. She slowly approached the mirror, stupefied. Well, she certainly looked… nice, she’d admit that - the dress complimented her tanned skin beautifully, and whatever Divvya and Meghana did to her hair gave her an almost ethereal look with the crown of braids. She looked like something out of one of her fairy tales, some sort of wispy, magical thing. Rey wasn’t sure how she felt about that.

She caught up with the rest of the group, where all four of the women squealed over the dress Rey was wearing, Rose Tico actually covered her mouth, gasping “Queen Amidala’s gown!” They settled in quickly, though, everyone grouped around Poe’s datapad, where he was scrolling through company headshots.

“These are the main groups we want to approach, as well as any of these individuals - they’re dealers, and not necessarily representatives of companies, so they should be easier to work with. It should go without saying that anyone from Czerka should be a top priority to make contact with. Remember, tonight is all about meetings and first impressions, guys - don’t seem overly eager, because no one will even start any negotiations until tomorrow. We want to get our faces out there, make our cause known, and show our strength - understood?”

A murmur of agreement went through the group. Poe nodded before continuing. “All right, this whole fundraiser song and dance is old hat for some of you, but anyone who’s never done one of these needs to find and stick with someone who has. You two...” Poe very deliberately pointed at Finn and Rey “You’re sticking with me. As the ex-Stormtrooper and the last Jedi, you’re both our most critical people that these folks will want to meet and the least experienced at this kind of thing.”

Poe scratched at his chin. “In fact… Rose, you better come with us, too. I have a feeling that these two are in for some culture shock, and I’ll need someone to help me field what I’m sure are going to be about a million questions.”

Rey and Finn exchanged affronted looks as the group approached the massive doors separating them and the event-

 

Well, maybe Poe was right to worry.

Immediately, Rey became aware that this was more food than she had ever seen in her life. Never mind the towering, cathedral-like ceilings, the hundreds of impeccably dressed attendees, the sparkling chandeliers, the wide, sweeping staircase that seemed to dominate the room - Rey’s eyes were focused only on the tables full of food.

This… This was a fundraiser? How… How could they expect to make money when it was clear how much they spent?

“Come on, you two - ogle and mingle.” Poe pushed Rey and Finn forward into the crowd, Rey grateful to see a similar look of stunned disbelief on Finn’s face.

“The food - this is all… Just free?” Rey asked timidly.

“Well, it was paid for by the OWT, so that depends on your definition of ‘free.’” muttered Rose, who had apparently already found something to drink.

The evening began to pass in a blur. Rey was led around to various groups of people, Poe always making introductions, not giving her much more to do than smile and nod, which she was grateful for. Some would shake her hand, some bowed, curtsied, and a few even kissed the back of her hand like Poe once had. One thing was consistent, though - it never failed to stun a single individual to learn that Rey was the last Jedi. Every time, the individual or group would go from polite interest to genuine intrigue, appraising Rey with new eyes.

The eyes, the noise, the general feeling of this place - Rey began to see why Rose had started drinking. There was a screamingly loud herald that went up seemingly every other minute, announcing yet another wealthy noble, here to add yet another mind to this overwhelming room. The next time a caterer went by with a tray full of wine, she asked for a glass, hoping that it would be better than the coolant tank moonshine she had sampled a few times back on Jakku-

Stars, this was better.

The glass of wine went quickly, and was followed by another. Now, the room seemed warmer, the herald not as piercing, the swarm of minds in the Force more tolerable. Poe stopped her midway from grabbing a third, encouraging Rey to go get some food before having any more to drink. Rey did not need to be told twice to eat - her eyes had been fixated on a particular display of fruit from the moment they entered the gala.

A towering showstopper of tropical fruits was all the temptation Rey needed. With an efficiency borne of years of starving, she circulated around the table, trying one of everything she saw, oblivious to the few attendees who attempted to engage her. She liked a carved display of bloodred berries the most, which she proceeded to load up into her hand and eat as she shuffled awkwardly back to her friends. Kriff this nonsensical dress, it was as though she wasn’t supposed to move at all. The handful of particularly delightful berries only lasted her from the trip to the table back to her comrades, who, for once, didn’t have any prospective arms dealers in their midst.

Well, she had eaten now. Time for more wine. She grabbed the last glass from a passing waiter, draining half of it as she caught Rose’s eye.

“I’m moving on to the heavier stuff, but I like your style!” Rose grinned, then whispered theatrically as she left, “The bar’s over by the windows!”

Rey was halfway listening to Poe describing the next target they needed to track down in this massive space when the herald went up again, as cacophanus as it had been the other dozen times. Rey was fully prepared to tune it out as she sipped from her glass-

 

“Presenting His Highness, Prince Ben Solo of New Alderaan!”

 

PFFFFBT

 

In an incredibly un-ladylike manner, Rey managed to simultaneously choke on and spray her drink, coughing wildly. She was still coughing, red-faced, as she turned toward the stairs-

There he was. The. Absolute. Nerve of him, what was he thinking? Was this whole event a trap? Would the First Order surround the building, and gun down what was effectively half the core members of the Resistance? He must have spied on her when she hadn’t noticed, to know that she’d be here. The basta- well, that was hardly flattering to Leia.

Wiping wine from her mouth and setting her glass on a table, Rey stared at Ben. She hardly recognized him in clothes that weren’t black, and with a swagger she never would have expected him to be able to affect. He looked every but the prince he was announced as.

He wore a navy tunic that accentuated his broad shoulders, trimmed in burgundy and gold. His pants were tucked into knee-high brown leather boots that gave him the casual look of someone who had just arrived from attending some multimillion-credit steeplechase. He had a cape on, for kriff’s sake. All along the edges of everything he wore were a series of complicated swirls and knots, an elegant, clearly hand-stitched golden brocade. His hair fell in beautiful, perfect raven waves, and his face didn’t look remotely drawn or exhausted, as Rey had seen him last in the flesh. A wide smile utterly unfamiliar to Rey was across his face as he enthusiastically shook hands with an eager crowd gathered around him, his movements comfortable and practiced.

It should have looked ridiculous. He should have looked ridiculous. But kriff, if a thrill didn’t shoot through Rey’s spine at the sight of him.

 

“Is - what - are - are you kidding me!?” Finn whisper-shouted.

Poe was speechless, mouth hanging wide open as he stared straight at Kylo - or, rather, Ben Solo. Rey wasn't sure Poe knew until she saw his face - this was clearly a man aware that they were in the presence of the Supreme Leader.

Rey shook her head rapidly, having to ground herself in the moment.

Finn was the first to come to his full senses. “Poe? Poe! Snap out of it - what do we do here? Do we - does anyone else know?

Poe tipped back the remainder of his drink, eyes still locked on Ben Solo. “I - I don’t know. I don’t know.” he seemed to be trying to think very quickly. “The General didn’t - most people think Ben Solo died at the Academy, or went off on some sort of sabbatical or something-”

“The Barash Vow.” Rey whispered, also still staring at Ben moving the gathered throng, looking every bit in his element.

“Yeah - that one…” Poe blindly groped toward Finn, stealing his drink, tipping it back as well. “Finn, when you were with the First Order - what did you know?”

“Nothing. The rank and file - we didn’t know anything about who Kylo Ren was. Ben Solo was just that guy who was in the media all the time, before the whole Darth Vader thing. I think most people thought Kylo Ren was some sort of droid-”

“Good. That’s good…” Poe ran his fingers through his hair, seemingly trying to think as quickly as he could. “What about the rest of the galaxy? Surely-”

“Did you guys see? It’s Ben Solo! Can you believe it? The General’s son is back! This is fantastic!

Poe, Finn, and Rey all turned, ashen-faced, to see the blushing Rose, who had evidently returned from getting a stronger drink.

“Woah, who died?” Rose questioned, sipping on her martini.

“No one! Just… Coming up with a plan.” Finn quickly intervened.

“Yeah, this is just - you know, the General didn’t tell us about… Ben.” Poe supplied lamely, now grasping for Rose’s drink as well, which she held out of reach.

“Right! She sure surprised us there. Good ‘ol General Organa.” Finn instead snatched Rose’s drink, finishing it in one gulp. “Hey, Rose, quick Stormtrooper question here - what did you hear happened to Ben Solo, anyway?”

Rose pursed her lips at Finn’s behavior, but grinned as she responded. “Well, that’s just the thing, right? He trained to be a Jedi, but then he vanished! People said they saw him everywhere - setting out to explore the Unknown Regions, stealing treasure from Sith temples - Rey, come on - you lived on Jakku, I know you heard stories about the Pirate Prince!”

Rey felt like her eyes were about to fall out of her head. “P-Pirate Prince? You mean-?”

“Of course! And now he’s here, Leia must have asked him to come and support us!” Rose gushed.

Ben Solo was working his way through the crowd - and decidedly in their direction. Poe and Finn met eyes, panicked, while Rey was still just trying to get her bearings in this situation.

“Hey, Rose? Do you mind getting me a drink? I’d usually never ask a lady, but my back is just killing me-” Finn implored.

“I guess I can do that for you, Finn - it’s not like you just stole my drink or anything!” Rose replied with a huff, heading back toward the bar. The three of them watched her, making sure she was a good distance away before reconvening-

“Stars, what are we supposed to do here?”

“Well, we can’t exactly just yell ‘Ben Solo is the Supreme Leader of the Galaxy’ - that would destroy everything-”

“Exactly, people already accused Leia of gaming the system seven years ago, trying to continue the Skywalker dynasty-”

“Okay, we need a game plan, guys. Maybe he hasn’t seen us yet, and we can just-”

“Ah, and here they are, Mother’s little… soldiers.”

 

Prince Ben Solo had arrived.

Rey whipped her head around to see Ben in front of her - in person - for the first time since she had left him aboard the Supremacy, his presence in the Force absolutely overwhelming.

He had a whole entourage at this point, tittering at his comment as they whispered amongst themselves. But his eyes were focused only on Rey, that odd, tight-lipped smile playing about his mouth as he swirled his wine glass.

Without breaking eye contact with Rey, he lazily raised his hand toward the onlookers. “Leave us, I’m afraid this is going to be… Confidential.” he turned toward the group, flashing a winning smile. “Resistance business, need-to-know basis only. Though I’m sure they’d be thrilled to count you among their supporters, when you’re ready to make the commitment.” he raised his glass to the crowd as they shrank away with delighted laughter, still whispering and tittering.

His gaze followed them until he had evidently deemed that they were an acceptable distance away. He turned his attention to the three in front of him, looking down his nose as his face shifted into a wholly different smirk.

“Well, isn’t this… Cozy.” he drawled, taking a long drink from his glass. “I must admit, you’re looking well, Traitor - how’s the back?”

If he gave Finn a cruel smirk, nothing but cold hatred was reserved for Poe. “And you’re a fair sight better than last I saw you in the flesh, pilot. Feel better after pushing some women around? Should I interrogate for myself?” Ben bit out with particular derisiveness.

His eyes then genuinely warmed- “And Rey…” he took her hand in his, Rey feeling as though a shock passed through her body from the skin-to-skin contact. Ben gave the smallest of deferential bows over her hand. “Breathtaking, as always. As stunning as Queen Amidala herself was in that very gown.”

He didn’t let go of her hand, pulling her closer to him and bracing her arm, as though he were her escort. Rey’s fingers trembled in his warm hand, which gave a somehow reassuring squeeze.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve showing up here-” Finn looked around, ensuring no one could hear him - “Ren.”

Ben’s lip curled in distaste. “No one calls me that.”

“Whatever, Solo-

“Yeah, no one even called my father that.” Ben rolled his eyes, taking another dramatic sip of his wine as he repeatedly ran his thumb over where he held Rey’s hand.

“Fine, then how exactly are we supposed to address - this bantha in the room?” Finn questioned. Rey saw determination in his eyes - which was good, since Poe was still evidently shocked into silence. She wasn't faring much better, her mind racing to come up with… something.

“‘Your Majesty’ is the typical form of address, but I suppose… Ben will do for my very dear friends right here.”

“Okay, then, Ben. What exactly are you playing at here?” Finn was able to keep far better pace with these social changes than Rey ever hoped, since she, like Poe, still found herself dumbstruck by whatever she was witnessing.

Playing?  That’s what these companies are doing here, FN-2187. I hope you realize this is just a game to them, just trading in on promises to stockholders, keeping everyone fat and happy. Like livestock.” he took a final sip of his wine, casually handing it off to an unseen attendant. Glass gone, he seemed to drop some of the prince persona. “You’re a real warrior, like I am. This is no place for us, we’re just assets to them, mindless numbers on a page. Look around you - none of these people care if you live or die, it’s just a bottom line to them.”

Finn seemed genuinely stunned at this brutally honest statement, but shook himself out of it. “It’s not as if you’re not any better when it comes to throwing away lives, Supreme Leader - why are you here ?” he whispered urgently.

Supreme Leader? Oh, it does warm my heart to hear you call me that, FN-2187 - but I’m merely present as a concerned private citizen. Rumor has it…” Ben tugged on Rey’s hand again, pulling her to stand in front of him, facing her back. He now held her left hand with his, using his right hand to slowly run his fingers up her bare arm toward her neck, tracing swirls as he went. “Rumor has it that the last Jedi is here. And as a former scholar of their… archaic ways, I found it prudent to investigate for myself.”

“Get your hands off of her-” Finn snarled-

“Oh, gladly, traitor.” Ben pulled Rey against his warm body, his words hot on her ear - “Wait for me outside- ” before he propelled her toward the balcony door.

Rey stumbled forward, trying to gather her gown, and hesitated long enough to see Ben pull Finn and Poe into his arms, as though they were old friends-

“Do not disturb us. And if either of you want to live to fight me another day, you’ll keep her away from these horrible ‘events.' ” Ben bit out, a practically tangible Dark giving his words a very real threat. “Every time you expose her in the public, every time a new pair of unworthy eyes gazes upon her, you create a thousand new threats - you should be grateful that I at least have her best interests at heart.”

He clapped them on their backs, nearly knocking them over as his fingers clearly gripped their collarbones in a painful manner. “Give the General my warmest regards-” Ben rounded on Rey, eyes glowering. “-and I thought I told you to meet me outside.” he growled, pushing Rey forward. His long fingers managed to singlehandedly grab two glasses of wine from a passing caterer, letting him use his other hand to gracefully snag the bustle of Rey’s dress without missing a step.

 

It was certainly easier to move around this way as they walked outside, though Rey couldn't shake the feeling that Ben carrying her dress, following her was rather like being led about on a leash -

“Much as that is an appealing image, Rey, we have business.” Ben dropped the bustle with a flourish now that they were alone on the balcony, letting it flutter all around her. He offered his hand to guide her to sit on a bench overlooking the skies of Coruscant, but Rey stubbornly stood, glaring right into his eyes as she felt indignation build in her.

Ben shrugged. “Suit yourself.” he handed Rey the other glass of wine, which she readily accepted. Ben drank from his deeply without taking his eyes off of her.

“What - Ben - what is - what are you doing here?”

Sighing, Ben took a moment before responding. “I’m here to offer a proposal.”

Chapter Text

 “How is your beloved better than others, most beautiful of women? How is your beloved better than others, that you so charge us?” -Song of Solomon, 5:9  

She was standing right in front of him.

She was standing. Right in front of him.

Kriff, breathe, Ben reminded himself.

Never mind the fact that she had been in his immediate presence for almost a quarter hour now. It wholly didn’t matter that he had managed to hold her hand for almost that entire time, and treasured practically every second of it. At least Ben had bought himself some dramatic timing with the cool statement “I’m here to offer a proposal, ” but the moment had officially stretched from dramatic tension to cringing awkwardness.

Karabast, he was supposed to be Prince Ben Solo here. But if there wasn’t something about the (admittedly smoldering - with anger ) woman in front of him that rendered him incapable of comprehensive thought in the absence of onlookers… Ben drained the rest of his wine, setting the glass upon a planter. He needed to go for the kill before he completely lost all sense of what he even needed in the first place.

“I have never lied to you, Rey. I’ve been completely honest in everything I’ve told you, even from our first encounter on Takodana.” Why wasn’t there more wine? “So before I offer you anything, I’m going to ask you to answer me with equal honesty - did you break your promise to me?

Rey, whose face was already flushed with indignity, took on an even redder hue. “I - I don’t have to answer that, Ben. In fact-” Rey tipped back an impressive gulp of her own wine- “After this - this whole stunt you’re pulling right now, I don’t owe you anything, let alone honesty!”

Ben felt the change come over him, as perhaps yet more wine went into his system - he was now able to affect the tone he wanted to use (Stars , he hoped he sounded confident). “Oh, I’d say I’m owed plenty, Rey.” he rounded on her, his ever-closing presence now finally forcing her to sit on the bench he had been directing her toward from the beginning.

“I’m owed insight on whatever passages you’ve read since last I saw you. I’m owed the private thoughts of Ben Solo that you saw fit to indulge in without me. I’m owed…” Ben now kneeled before Rey upon the bench, taking her foot in his hand. He slid off her shoe without a second thought, his thumbs seeking out the heel of her foot, soothing where he knew she must be experiencing discomfort from standing all evening. “I’m owed wherever your thoughts took you after I saw you last, in that moment. Because despite what you may have told yourself, those were my words that brought you there.” he whispered, still rubbing her foot.

 

Ben chanced a glance up toward her eyes as he continued his ministrations. Her eyes had softened somewhat… But her face was still crimson - and livid .

“I - I don’t owe you a thing, you pompous ass!” Rey snatched her bare foot back from him, breathing heavily. “After what you’ve done, after what you said to - to my friends, I don’t owe you anything, Ben Solo!”

Clearly, he had misstepped somewhere - but seeing her so flustered was charming. Not one to be deterred so easily, Ben tried a different tack, maintaining his kneeled position. He didn't want to scare her off.

“What if I told you that you could have everything you wanted? That all of the visions of the future you’ve seen could come to be as you’ve hoped?”

Rey sneered, clearly disbelieving - but there was a small look of hope, as well. “I’d know you’re lying. Or-not, not lying, but at least withholding some of the truth - you’ve taught me well, Master.”

Kriff, he knew she meant it sarcastically, but if hearing her say that in the flesh didn’t work for him on so many levels... Now is not the time! “I’m not lying, and I never have. And I’m being completely upfront with you - we should both know at this point that deception is useless between us.” He gave her a meaningful look, and, amazingly, Rey finally had the grace to look somewhat ashamed.

“I know as well as you do that you kept reading my journal after you promised you wouldn’t. I can hardly blame you - literal insight straight from the enemy’s head, all within your grasp? I would’ve done the same in your position, but then again…” He smirked, watching how her face was affected- “ I admit my connection to the Dark.”

Rey now pointedly looked at her feet, her shoulders hunched and shifting. He knew she at least felt guilty, now. Though he was still inwardly terrified at what, exactly, she had managed to read without his knowledge. “I’m willing to overlook this - this trespass upon my person, if you’d hear out my proposal.”

She glared down at him, still looking somewhat abashed. “You know I’m not going to agree to... whatever it is you have in mind. You’re clearly trying to set something up here for you to win.”

Ben allowed a small smile to cross his face as he twirled her shoe on his finger. “You’d think that. But for you, Rey, I’m willing to give you everything.”

He could hear Rey’s breath hitch as she stared straight at him, then darted her eyes away. Keep talking, you idiot! “As you know, I’m well aware that you’ve come across some, ah, antiques of Jedi knowledge. I’m also aware that those are particularly… frustrating volumes, are they not?”

As he spoke and had her distracted, he had gone about stealing her other shoe to resume massaging her foot. Inwardly, Ben was 100% aware that this was the wine giving him this sort of bravado, but he wasn’t exactly doing anything to stop himself from touching her.

 

And she wasn’t exactly stopping him.

 

Rey looked torn between remaining mad at him or finally finding someone to sympathize with. She took a liberal swig of her wine, then unleashed hell. “Yes , they’re just so… So obtuse, and just - just dry as all get out! Kriff, I thought I was a moron at first, I’ve never had problems translating anything, but these books… It’s like - I know they never actually spoke out loud like that, or else they’d hear how kriffing dull and long-winded they are!”

Ben snorted. “You’d be surprised.”

Evidently not done with her rant, Rey continued. “Stars, I truly thought I was going mad there. I was - I was reduced to looking at the pictures. I was getting more wisdom and knowledge from illustrations than I was anything else, until-”

“Until you found the one with my notes.” Ben finished quietly, pressing his thumbs one last time into the heel of her foot, then putting her left shoe back on.

Eyes shining, Rey looked down at Ben, fully meeting his eyes for more than a few seconds for the first time. “Ben, I’m - I’m sorry. It was wrong of me to go back on my promise-”

Ben waved his hand dismissively. “Like I already said, I hardly blame you. When I was in your position, I would have done the exact same thing. But I can offer you better.”

 

Rey leaned forward, intrigued. Kriff, kriff, kriff, stay calm. Clearing his throat, Ben continued. “As Supreme Leader-” Rey squirmed slightly, but didn’t lean away - “I now have access to untold amounts of information, specifically about the Jedi, the Sith, and the Force itself. The Jedi Archives are long lost, but my esteemed former Master kept an entire library of records of his own. Including…” Pause for drama here, Ben reminded himself “... holocrons.”

Rey’s face was utterly blank. Crushed, Ben’s shoulders sagged. “You know, holocrons? The most valid source of Jedi knowledge and lessons, recordings straight from the sources themselves?”

Blinking rapidly, comprehension seemed to dawn on Rey. “Oh! Well, those do sound very useful.”

Ben ran his fingers through his hair, frustrated. It was difficult to bargain when your target had absolutely no sense of the value of what you were offering. “Yes, Rey, they’re incredibly informative. Useless to me, but for you, the last Jedi…” he darted his eyes toward her face to gauge her reaction. “Infinitely more useful than, say, my notes in that journal.”

Rey looked - confused? Hurt? That couldn’t be right. “But - but I like what you wrote.”

 

Kriff. His heart.

 

“What I’m offering you is so much more, Rey. You can’t grasp how important these holocrons are - all of them could be yours if you’d just simply give me my journal back.”

Her indignity returned with a vengeance. “What makes you think I’d do something that stupid? Those, those holocrons or whatever might be useful, but obviously, whatever’s in this journal is way more important to you. I know how to bargain - why would I ever give up your journal?”

He was losing her. Back to the foot massage. “Because I know that having the journal without reading it is eating you up on the inside - you’re too curious and too noble. I know that the forbidden angle of it is all too tempting, and it makes you feel as though you’re being driven to the Dark.”

Rey looked taken aback - he knew she had felt guilty, but he hadn’t expected that much remorse.

He went for the kill, resuming rubbing her foot with one hand as his other trailed up her calf- “Honestly, I’d be doing you a favor, taking it away. I’m offering you so much more here - you don’t need my journal to understand the Jedi, you just want it. And I know that you’re still protective of your find, Scavenger. In fact, I’d wager you have it on you right now -” it was almost too easy, as her eyes darted to her right leg, where his hands were already creeping up her calf, soothing her sore muscles as he went - “Because you don’t trust its safety anywhere else. I admire that.”

Ben realized, in this moment, that Rey was utterly vulnerable - her mind was not focused enough to resist him, both from the drinks and from how swept up in the moment she was; honestly, he was not in too different a state. Not too long ago, a voice in his head would have been right there for him- ‘Do it. Take what is yours, she’s exposed and trusting, just a few more inches up her leg and you can claim your prize-

 

But that voice was no longer with him. He had loftier goals than simple control now. This whole situation proved that he was on the right track toward… something. Besides, wouldn’t it be more fun when it was willingly given?

 

Ben brought his hands back to rest at the delicate arch of her foot, giving one final press- “I realize that I have stolen you away from your comrades. I apologize. If you’ll consider it…” He picked her shoe back up, delicately bringing it back over her foot, tying the straps as he went - “Go back inside, and tell your friends that you’re safe. Tell them that I truly want nothing more from you than to discuss the Jedi journal. And then you can come back here…” He returned her foot to the ground, still kneeling before her.

“Well, quite honestly, you can come back here with some more wine as a starter, and then we’ll discuss how you can come away from this night with everything you want.”

Rey’s pupils had blown wide at some point; despite all her finery, she looked utterly feral in this moment. Somewhere, Kylo Ren was threatening to burst forward and take what was so clearly right before him - but Ben Solo was patient. Ben Solo also knew damn well that he was making this up as he went along. Unblinking, Rey nodded, and made a motion to stand. Ben, still kneeling, gracefully took her hand, guiding her up and back toward the gala as she walked on seemingly unsteady legs, looking back at him more than once as she went.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Inwardly, Rey knew she was drunk.

Of course, by coming to terms with that so easily, she knew that she must be quite drunk - but stars , if Ben Solo didn’t have his charms - and know how to get under her skin. ‘Everything she wanted,’ eh? That boy was about to eat his words.

Clearly, he had some sort of plan, and thought they could reach a compromise. And as intriguing as Ben’s offer of Jedi holo-whatevers was, Rey knew that there was more to be gained here if he truly wanted her to give up the journal - only an idiot offers his best asset at the beginning of a negotiation. He was withholding something, something that he was sure would make her give him the journal (which was not happening, Rey reminded herself - she just wanted to know what he had up his sleeve). She either needed to be stone sober or more drunk for this kind of bargaining. A tray of wine passed her, and the answer was immediately obvious. She snagged two glasses, and was about to head right back out to the balcony-

 

“Rey! You’re - you’re okay, thank the Maker…”

A bedraggled looking Poe and Finn had clearly just sprinted to catch up with her, with a blithe and amiable-looking Rose distantly behind them, armed with a particularly ludicrous, fruit-encrusted drink.

“Of course I’m okay.” Rey’s brow furrowed, confused.

“You - you went with-” Finn glanced around, dropping his voice to a whisper before Rose got there- “-Kylo Ren! We thought for sure that he would have done something horrible!”

“Rey, I - I know what he’s capable of. We all do, in our own way. We can get you out of here, you don’t have to keep us safe.” Poe supplied somberly.

Rose finally caught up with the group. “Rey! I can’t believe you - you scoundrel, you’ve made every single lady from the Elder Houses furious! Just scooping up Ben Solo like it’s nothing, making him follow you like a puppy... Rose cackled, then took on a slightly more serious face. “You’d better look out though, Rey - some of these women are scary.”

Poe patted Rose on the shoulder, seemingly glad to have found support where he didn't expect it. “She’s right, Rey. You should be careful. You should stay here with us .” Poe implored, looking desperate. “You shouldn’t go looking for trouble when you can stay safe right here.”

“Poe’s absolutely right.” Finn rounded on her, glancing quickly toward Rose. His next words were very deliberate. “I know this must seem like an… opportunity, but you don’t need to sacrifice yourself, Rey. You’re too important.”

“Yes, yes - it’s not worth the risk, Rey. Stay here, with us, where it’s safe.” Poe agreed.

Though clearly inebriated, Rose managed the most skeptical eyebrow Rey had ever seen. “Woah, guys, calm down. Maybe the lady just wants to get to know the Prince better. I cannot say I blame her.”

Rey nodded emphatically, pointing at Rose with a glass. “See, she gets it. I know what I’m doing. We’re discussing… It’s Jedi business, you wouldn’t understand. It has nothing to do with-” Rey attempted to gesture at the entire event, wine sloshing somewhat - “ This . I’ll comm you all later when I’m back at the penthouse. We all have to be civilized here, including Ben Solo. I’ll. Be. Perfectly. Safe.” Rey bit out with more confidence than she actually had.

Rose shouldered her way to stand in front of Poe and Finn, pinning them back from stopping Rey while still sipping at her massive cocktail. “That’s right, Rey! You go get that boy to fight on our side!”

Inexplicably, Rey felt tears come to her eyes. “Dammit, Rose, I will. Thank you.” Rey sniffled, armed with her two wine glasses as she waddled back out toward the balcony, becoming less steady on her feet with each step.

 

She had nearly made it to the door when she spied a whole bottle of wine abandoned on a table absolutely filled with delicious-looking sandwiches that were clearly meant to be cut up into small, finger-sized servings. Rey looked at her full hands, the door she would need to kick open, and the dress she was wearing - there was a clear solution here.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

As soon as Rey stumbled back inside, Ben let out a long exhale, seating himself on the bench. He knew he was taking a risk here, sending her back to her friends - but the only way she was ever going to agree to his offer was if she felt that she held some power in the situation.

He had been as noble in this pursuit as he could be, and the compromise he was about to offer was equally noble. No threats, no kidnappings: just brutal, honest truth, and an offer of untold riches of Jedi knowledge. He had already amended the deal several times in his head, and hoped that he found a middle ground she wouldn't be able to say no to. He was going to do this the right way - she’d come to him, willingly, and in the end, she’d thank him. At least, that’s what his inebriated thoughts told him.

Ben started vividly imagining just what Rey’s thanking could look like when he heard his comm go off in his jacket. Irritated, he lifted it to his ear. “What?

“Supreme Leader, we’ve been stuck here for three hours now. That whole balcony has got a shield over it that could block hits from Star Destroyers. If someone wanted to kill you, they’re not doing it from out here. Can we go until you actually leave this event?”

Of course it was Enoch Ren, with that flanging whine of his. “I wouldn’t think you so eager in abandoning the protection of your Supreme Leader, Enoch Ren. I expected more from you.”

“Kriff, Kylo, I’m stuck here with Shartom and Obaan. Shartom hasn’t shut up since we got here, and Obaan is… Well, you know how she is. It’s creepy.”

Ben sighed. He could sympathize, Shartom Ren was incredibly talkative, and the youngest of his Knights, barely beyond a youngling when he followed Ben out of the Academy. And ‘creepy’ was a massive understatement when it came to Obaan Ren, by far the oldest among them, and the last person Ben had expected to join him. Ben supposed he could be convinced, for Enoch’s sake.

“Fine. Take your leave, but you three had better be available the second I send for you later - is that understood?”

“Yes, Supreme Leader.”

 

Ben pocketed the communicator, his fingers brushing against his journal - Kylo Ren’s journal. Giving the balcony another glance to make sure he was truly alone, he pulled it out, thumbing through the pages.

Unlike Ben Solo’s journal, the contents of this book were known to him. But knowing didn’t make seeing it again any less painful. It was so obvious to him now, looking at these pages - the desperate writings of a man trying to cling to something - just how much of a stranglehold Snoke had over his life then.

Ben closed the book, exhaling deeply. How much of his life had already been laid out and decided for him? He knew that Snoke had been part of his existence as long as he could remember - and clearly part of a lot of things he couldn’t remember. What did Snoke stand to gain from such absolute control over him?

Well, obviously he didn’t have as much control as he thought, Ben reminded himself with a grim smile. Because from the moment there was someone else in his head - someone who wasn’t Snoke, someone who looked at him and saw him-

 

Like she was doing right now.

 

Ben quickly stowed the journal away, walking over to help Rey. His naughty little scavenger had clearly just sloppily used the Force to open the door, since she was weighed down with two very full glasses of wine, an entire unopened bottle tucked under arm, and a massive sandwich stuffed in her mouth.

She should have looked ludicrous. But Ben met her glance, and kriff , if his heart didn’t beat faster as he could practically see the smile in her eyes.

 

“Found what you needed?” Ben took everything but the sandwich, leaving her to figure that one out on her own.

Rey, hands free, gave an enthusiastic nod as she proceeded to absolutely inhale the sandwich in her hands. Ben wasn’t sure if he had ever seen anyone eat so fast in his entire life - she had finished the whole thing before they even made it all the way to sit at the bench.

“So.” Rey snatched a glass from Ben’s hand, taking a long gulp. “You seem to think that you’ve got some - some deal where I get everything I want. Let’s hear it.”

He hadn’t expected her to be so blunt, but was grateful for the opportunity. “All I’m asking is for you to join me-”

“Absolutely not.”

Kriff , Rey, you have to let me finish talking!” Ben shot back half his glass of wine in one go.

“Not when you start with that!”

Ben slowly counted to three, breathing deeply. “I’m asking you to join me in a neutral location. Away from the Resistance, away from the First Order - just you and me, like we are right now.”

Rey looked deeply suspicious. “And why would I agree to this?”

“I would give you access to everything I have about the Jedi. You would give me access to my journal. As one of the last people in this galaxy trained in their ways, I’d be there to help with any questions you have concerning the Jedi. When we’ve gotten everything we want, we part ways. Simple as that.”

Rey leaned forward, closer to Ben’s face than she had ever been. He could feel a very inebriated attempt to probe his mind in the Force, which he let her do. She seemed taken aback at first, but fumbled through the thoughts in the forefront of his mind. Ben tried very hard to stay completely still, letting her come closer and closer to him.

“And what…” She swallowed, her cheeks growing pinker. “What would you be expecting to get out of this, Ben?”

 

CRACK

 

Rey yelped, clutching her arm in pain. “What - what the-?” She lifted her hand away, revealing a deep gash across her upper arm.

 

CRACK

 

This time, Ben was ready. The second he heard the noise, he pulled Rey close to him, pushing out all around them in the Force. He heard a small, metallic clang of something hitting the pavement in front of them. Still shielding Rey, he pulled the object toward him - it was a cruel, sharpened metal barb. It was tiny, but had it found its mark, Rey would be dead.

Ben was livid. He reached out around them, seeking where the shooter was -

A short flurry of blaster fire rang out instead. Snarling, Ben was ready for this. He fully swept Rey behind him, freezing the three shots midair, all three aimed directly at Rey’s chest. Concentrating on the direction the shots came from, he pulled.

There was a pained screaming that slowly got louder as he continued to pull. Good. But when the target finally came into view - evidently, the shooter had been hiding among the rafters of the building, judging by the wooden shrapnel now sticking out of him - the shooter was wholly not what Ben had expected.

It was an older man, his clothing revealing him as a member of the Church of the Force, his eyes glazed over and panicked as Ben held him aloft. Ben stepped aside, letting Rey stand next to him to see the man. A few drops of rain had begun to fall, the man flinching every time one hit his many open wounds caused by pulling him through apparently more than a few pieces of wood.

“Rey, are you familiar with this… this person ?”

Rey, eyes wide, shook her head as she clutched at her arm, shaking. Casually as he could while holding a person and three blaster shots with the Force, Ben handed Rey a handkerchief from his pocket, which she immediately wrapped around where her arm continued to bleed.

“All right, Rey. This is as good a time for a lesson as any.” Ben winced, realizing he had revealed a bit too much in that moment, but his mind was fairly occupied. Rey didn’t seem to notice his slip, so he continued. “Reach out to him, Rey. Concentrate. Use that pain and fear, and make him talk.”

Rey faltered, still trembling both in fear and from the now steady, cold rain. “I - I shouldn’t-”

“Rey, this man just tried to kill you in cold blood. Are you honestly saying that you’re not justified in making him reveal why?”

A flash of anger went over Rey’s face, but she still looked unsure.

Ben was getting impatient. “Would you rather I do it? I don’t think you want to see how I would handle this - this filth.” Ben bit out.

“No! I’ll - I’ll do it.” Rey sounded more confident now - or perhaps she just didn’t want to entrust this man to Ben’s… Delicate touch.

 

Rey breathed, centering herself. Eyes closed, she reached her hand out toward the man’s face, concentrating. “Who are you?” Ben practically shuddered at the power he felt in her voice, but could feel that she was still holding back.

“I’m - I’m no one-” the man choked out - perhaps not helped by where Ben was cutting off his air.

“Why did you try to kill me?” Rey’s gaze now bore directly into the man in front of her. She had never looked more beautiful than she had in this moment, soaked in the rain, with the Force surrounding her like a divine aura. Her voice seemed to come from deep within her, drawing upon her fear and hurt - but in a way wholly unlike anything Ben had seen before. When he interrogated, he turned that fear upon his target until they’d confess, but Rey’s voice… Implored, and would surely beguile even the most jaded man to tell her anything.

“You will corrupt everything the Jedi stood for! Your very existence is an abomination in the Force! You do not deserve to even touch the sacred texts-” the man squaked, face turning purple.

“Ben!”

“Sorry.” Ben bit out through gritted teeth, easing up some pressure on the man’s windpipe.

Ben suddenly became aware that this was no longer a private confrontation - seemingly dozens of gala attendees had now gathered by the windows, probably able to piece together what had happened from the frozen blaster shots and Prince Ben Solo holding a man in midair. Predictably, two of Rey’s companions burst out the doors and into the rain.

“Rey!” FN-2187 shouted.

“Stay back, I’ve got this.” Rey called out to them, not breaking eye contact with the man still held in midair, his body dripping both water and blood. She stepped closer, fingers now gently grazing the man’s forehead. She was clearly rifling through this man’s thoughts when she blinked, cocking her head at something. “These… These are not your words, are they. Someone told you…” Rey now practically caressed his face, understanding in her eyes. “Who did this to you?”

The man’s eyes seemed to lose their dull glaze, blinking rapidly as he wept. “Please-

 

CRACK

 

The man’s head slumped forward, and Ben felt his life immediately slip away in the Force.

“NO!” Rey shouted, grasping the man’s shoulders. Blood seeped down his head from where a very obvious barb had traveled straight through his temples.

Ben looked up, infuriated. The angle of the wound made it clear that someone had shot straight through the open door from inside the gala itself, but the now hundreds of onlookers would make it impossible to find the shooter. The brilliance of such an archaic weapon now struck Ben - the sound was one that would dissipate, making it difficult to tell where it came from, and a weapon with no charges in it wouldn’t tip off even the most advanced of security.

Lowering the man’s body to the ground, Ben concentrated on the blaster bolts - they were in Coruscant, he couldn’t exactly just let them fly. He breathed to calm himself, shutting his eyes as he focused on using a technique he hadn’t used in… Well, it had been a while. He pulled the raw energy of the blaster fire toward himself, letting the power travel through him, harmlessly dissipating it as it went.

He opened his eyes to see Rey standing right before him, drenched, but with a look of wonder on her face. “Ben, you - you just…”

“I know.”

Everything around them fell quiet. If all it took was using just a little of the Light for her to look at him like that… Ben swallowed thickly. He could do better. “Let me see your arm.”

Puzzled, Rey angled her wounded arm toward him. Ben gently took her hand in his, using his other hand to slowly trace its way up her arm.

“Focus on me, Rey.” he quietly commanded.

Rey stared straight into his eyes, biting her lip. “Feel this, and remember it. Focus on your target…” he pulled her even closer, shielding her from where he could feel hundreds of eyes watching them. “Focus on the feeling - not just compassion, Rey. Emotions are not the poison the Jedi want you to believe. Emotions let us do… this.” he breathed deeply, and let the Force flow from him and into the source of her pain, taking it away in a hitched breath.

He pulled away the cloth from her arm, revealing smooth, unblemished skin, the rain quickly washing away any blood.

It could have been the rain, but Ben swore he saw tears in Rey’s eyes - “Ben…”

 

Rey! Are you all right?”

As if he needed more reasons to have homicidal tendencies toward her friends...

Rey blinked rapidly, facing FN-2187 - but didn’t leave Ben’s grasp. “I’m fine, Finn. I’m - Ben… Ben helped me.”

The ex-Stormtrooper looked bewildered. “What happened?”

“There was a security breach. Someone tried to assassinate Rey.” Ben bit out, furious. “I told you earlier to keep her away from these events, and this is exactly why. I will take her to safety.” Ben bent to scoop up Rey into his arms, carrying her back inside.

FN-2187 and Poe Dameron followed as the crowd parted for Prince Ben Solo carrying the Jedi girl, a constant buzz of whispers around them. The pilot actually held a door open for them that took them down a hallway away from the prying eyes of the crowd, a look of shock seemingly stuck on his face.

“Dammit, Ben, put me down, I can walk-

“No.” He was making a straight line for the exit, doormen clearly already hailing a cab for them as he approached.

“If you really just think we’re going to let you carry her away-”

Ben glanced down at the two men, incredulous. “And you’re going to do what, exactly, to stop me?” He could feel indignant anger rise from where he held Rey in his arms. He supposed he could be… Civil. “I will escort her back to wherever your Resistance deemed adequate for her, and determine if it’s safe. You have my word.”

“And why should we trust that?”

“Because, FN-2187, it’s as good as you’re going to get.” Ben lowered Rey to the ground, assisting her inside of the waiting airspeeder. He turned to face her companions, stony. “Tonight has proven that your… Your lot does not understand just how important the last Jedi is. She has enemies you could have never anticipated - I should be the least of your concerns. You can’t keep her safe. You are not worthy of her.”

For once, the pilot spoke up. “There’s no way we could have anticipated - hell, you didn’t even anticipate what happened tonight-”

“Well I suppose it’s a good thing I’m here, isn’t it? We have found a common enemy tonight. They will come after her again.”

“We’ll keep her safe tomorrow, they’ll definitely crack down on security-”

Ben let out a cruel laugh. “I will keep her safe tomorrow; I’ve already proven to be the only one capable. You can go off and make your little deals, while I will be helping assure the legacy of the Force. Tonight has proven that enemies of the Jedi are already among this group. We will root out the source, and crush it-”

 

“Ben? Can we leave? I’m really cold.” Rey called out from the cab.

“Of course, Rey.” Ben took one last threatening step toward FN-2187 and Poe Dameron. “I expect your full cooperation tomorrow in assuring Rey’s security. I will be escorting her. We will eliminate this threat. Is this clear?”

Dumbstruck, they nodded. Ben returned a curt nod before ducking into the airspeeder with Rey.

Rey had evidently already told the driver where to go, because the speeder took off as soon as Ben shut the door. Finally able to breathe a sigh of relief, Ben allowed himself to relax a little-

“Ben? My scalp is killing me - can you unbraid my hair?”

...Kriff.

Chapter Text

“Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.” -Song of Solomon, 4:11

Rey’s temples throbbed.

She wasn’t sure if her headache was more brought on by how much she had to drink, or the fact that she had just so extensively used the Force in unknown ways this evening, or perhaps simply that her soaking wet, heavy hair felt like it was pulling her scalp in all directions. There was no going back on the drinking at this point, and if her use of the Force was to blame would remain a mystery - there was one clear solution she could try. Groping blindly, Rey immediately became aware that she could not tell where this particular arrangement of braids began or ended, much less how to go about dismantling it.

Giving a defeated sigh, she took a swig from the bottle of wine that managed to find its way into the cab with her. “Ben? My scalp is killing me - can you unbraid my hair?”  

There was an awkward silence - Rey turned to face Ben, who stared back at her, cheeks flushed and eyes wide. She had seen many sides of him this night - the haughty Prince, a thoroughly terrifying Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, and even a trace of the Jedi he had once been.

But here was Ben Solo - dishevelled, wet, blushing, staring at Rey with an intensity she had never quite seen in a man, much less directed at her. Squirming a little, she had to admit it was… intriguing.  

“Um.” He offered charismatically.

“Seriously, could you please help me? I don’t know what your cousins did here, but I feel like I’m going to rip my hair out if I try.”

“Cousins?” Ben’s voice cracked slightly. It truly was hard to believe that this was the Supreme Leader, who, only moments ago, had wielded the Force with such precision and power. “Cousins. You - you mean…” he gulped, looking incredibly uncomfortable as he scratched his head. “It was Divyya and Meghana, wasn’t it?”

“Um, yes? They did the braids, that is.”

An inexplicable look of fury seemed to cross Ben’s face for a moment, before he swallowed hard. “Did - ah - did they explain any of... Anything about your, um, hair?”

Rey was genuinely confused. “No - I know they had a whole list of specifics from the General…” she mumbled, knowing that Ben was still sensitive on that issue.

Ben seemed to actually wince at that statement, his fingers moving to pinch at the bridge of his nose, squinting his eyes shut. “Stars, Rey, I shouldn’t… I mean, someone should have explained- my damn cousins, they knew what they were doing...”

Completely lost and unable to bring herself to care, Rey took another swig of wine. “Kriff, it’s just hair, Ben. All I wanted was for you to unbraid it.”

She could have sworn she heard a muffled moan out of Ben.

“Well, I suppose I’ll do it myself- OW!” Rey immediately regretted her instinct of grabbing the first length of hair her fingers found and yanking, the pain spreading across her whole scalp, since evidently the braid had gathered pieces from all across her head. Her vision blurred with tears from the unexpected pain.

 

“Don’t do that…” A long-suffering sigh came from the seat next to her. Ben gently pulled her fingers from where they had tangled themselves mid-braid. “Rey - do… Do you trust me?”

“Huh? Yes?” Rey blinked away tears, finding herself automatically responding without even considering another answer.

 

Did she trust him? Her response was so quick, it was clearly instinctual.

In these last few days, she had already relied on Ben more times than she’d want to admit, and he had been there for her. His journal had already revealed so much about the boy he was, helping explain the man he had become. Sure, when it came to matters concerning the Resistance, Rey trusted him about as far as she could throw him - without the Force.

But with her?

Well, much like the many, many alcoholic drinks throughout the night, the answer had spilled right out of her, it was so obvious.

 

Rey locked eyes with Ben, whose face was absolutely crimson now. “Turn - turn around.” he said in a somewhat choked voice.

Privately, Rey reminded herself to ask Divyya and Meghana what, exactly, was the deal with people from Alderaan and hair. She was about to ask Ben, when an indelicate moan escaped from her-

“Stars that feels better.” Rey groaned as she felt Ben draw out a series of sharp hairpins she didn’t even know were in there.

Ben remained quiet as he ran his long, precise fingers along the parts in Rey’s hair, using a delicate grip to loosen the hair somewhat. Though she couldn’t see what he was doing, Rey was able to feel the quick movements of his hands unbraiding as the pressure on her scalp lessened more and more. His hands were warm and reassuring, and made her feel… Safe. It was insane, it was illogical - some distant part of Rey not warm with drink and attention reminded her These are the hands of a killer, they shouldn’t make you feel this way! But the much larger, touch-starved part of Rey countered darkly These are the hands of Ben Solo, and I don’t care.  

There was a brief moment where Rey felt all of her wet hair loose around her shoulders - she was about to turn to face Ben and thank him, but his oddly shaking hands held her shoulders firm.

 

“No.” was his only quiet explanation. His hands became busy once again as he quickly gathered all of Rey’s hair into a loose, singular braid, tying it off at the end and resting it over her shoulder.

Finally permitted to face him, Rey ran a hand over the deceptively intricate braid - “Well, um, thank you? You didn’t have to do this, you could have just left it down.”

Still red-faced, Ben was very deliberately avoiding Rey’s eyes as he stole the bottle of wine, tipping it back dramatically. Between long swigs, Ben mumbled some mostly incomprehensible words, but Rey decidedly caught “wouldn’t be proper.”

Emboldened, Rey scooched down the seat to lean directly over Ben, grasping for the bottle of wine in his hand. “Well, I wouldn’t know the first thing about proper,’ I’m just a Scavenger, after all - oh!” Rey squeaked as the skycab suddenly rounded a sharp corner, knocking her over in a tangled pile of limbs and voluminous dress.

 

She didn’t even know how it happened - somehow in the fall, Rey went from leaning heavily over Ben to being caught in his arms, staring up into his eyes.

“I - I seem to be having a lot of problems with staying upright around you.”

Ben had a cocky grin Rey had never seen. “Lucky I’m always here to help.” He braced her to sit upright, but held her so that she was now sitting across his lap, forcing them to look directly into each other’s eyes.

Something about his smile made Rey’s heart pang, and her breaths came heavier as her thoughts turned somber. “How long, Ben? We can’t keep this up forever, something has to change - you can’t help me when we’re… I mean, how long can we pretend that we’re…” Rey couldn’t bring herself to say it aloud - how long could he pretend to care about her when they were on opposite sides of this war?  

He seemed baffled by the question. “I’ll always help you, Rey. And there’s nothing ‘pretend’ about what’s between us.”

A thrill shot through Rey at those words. “And what - what is between us, Ben?”

Ben bit the inside of his lip, clearly considering his next words with care. “Rey, you read my journal, you know that I saw… I may have forgotten a lot, but I’ve always known there was something between us, even if it was just in my dreams. I - I just never imagined that it would... That we would - actually find each other.”

He kept chewing on his lip, and held Rey a little closer, who was making a very conscious effort not to tremble for reasons she didn’t quite wish to investigate too closely. “I don’t want you to feel… I don’t want to be a burden to you Rey, but the reality is that I’ll always be with you no matter what side of the war we’re on, the Force saw to that."

 

Inwardly, Rey knew that this outpouring of confessions was almost certainly due to how much Ben had to drink - but she certainly wasn’t going to stop him at this point. “I know this… situation isn’t ideal. That’s why I offered you what I did, and I suppose I have to accept your answer for now. If just glimpses of each other’s lives is all you want from this, then I have to accept that as well.” He locked eyes with Rey, his stare intense and burning. “But I want more.”

 

Rey’s ears felt like they were on fire, her pulse was racing, and her mind was now only occupied with a single, mad thought: I should be the one biting that lip.

 

So she did.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

There were many, many ways that Ben Solo had imagined this night going. Ever the pessimist, most of them ended with variations on him being found out and getting blown to bits. He even allowed himself the indulgence of a few scenarios where he managed to do the right things and get his journal back, but the night would invariably end with Rey furious at him, somehow managing to sever their connection entirely, leaving him a broken man.

He had never allowed himself to fantasize about anything going well, and perhaps he should have - that way, he could have been a little better prepared.

Ben Solo currently had the literal girl of his dreams strewn across his lap, he had just confessed more to her about how he felt than he would have ever admitted sober, and instead of her recoiling in horror, she felt compelled to seize his shirt and bite his lip. He was quite convinced that he had never, in his entire life, had so many things go right .

Rey had finally released his thoroughly bitten lip, a sharp look in her eyes and a pleased grin across her face. She had still not relinquished his shirt, fingers twisting in the neckline.

Still shocked, Ben only managed to stutter out - “What - what, exactly, was that ?”

She shrugged, a spark in her eyes. “You said you wanted more. I figured that was a start.”

“Was… Was that supposed to be a kiss?”

Rey’s smile was now absolutely predatory. “I told you, I’m just a scavenger. I don’t know the first thing about being proper. I suppose…” Rey now bit her own lip, flushing brightly as her eyes met his. “I suppose you’ll have to teach me.”

 

In the space of a moment, Ben had a million thoughts. He should be noble and restrained - despite his confession, he knew Rey was young and naive, and it was hardly princely (or Supreme Leader-y, for that matter) to give into this… temptation. At the same time, Ben’s mind argued, he wasn’t exactly… Worldly in anything like this, either. He was going to mess this up. No matter what, this was going to go wrong. Panic began to set in as he realized some ‘Master’ you are - you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, either!

It was with this thought that Kylo Ren came roaring back to the forefront of his mind, quashing any lack of assurance - Kriff it, you are the Supreme Leader and you have waited 29 years for anything like this, figure it out!  

 

With far more confidence than he actually had, Ben traced his fingers slowly along Rey’s jaw, angling her face toward his. “Very well, Apprentice. Consider this your first lesson.” Hesitating, he gently kissed her on the cheek, pulling back to assess her reaction.

She was practically pouting. Kriff, kriff, kriff, I really did ruin everything-

Rey sank her fingers deep into his hair, yanked his head toward her to stare directly into his eyes. She moved her knees and layers of her dress to straddle his lap, ducking her head to prevent it from hitting the roof of the cab. Ben wasn’t entirely certain how much longer he was going to be able to keep this civil. His hands remained resolutely on her hips, trying to avoid the temptation that was the expanse of her bare back.

More.” Rey practically growled, echoing his earlier statement.

He couldn’t be held responsible for the moan that escaped him with that word. Ben, still trying desperately to maintain his composure through the haze of alcohol and lust, angled himself to hesitantly kiss Rey on the lips-

For a few blissful moments, she returned the gentle caress with hesitating, firm kisses that gradually softened as they figured things out - then she bit his damn lip again.

Please.” she whined. There was a sudden, devilish glint in her eye as she continued running her fingers through his hair. “Please, Master-

Well, apparently that was the line. He couldn’t hold back anymore. Ben caught her mid-word with her mouth still open, sealing her mouth to his. Now her lip bites were positively delightful, as she licked and traced the inside of his mouth with hers. His fingers seemingly had their own plans as they trailed up Rey’s hips, his hands easily encircling her tiny waist. He ran his thumbs down her ribs and toward her navel-

Rey’s hips surged forward, moaning as she ground against him-

 

That’ll be 15 credits.” a businesslike voice interrupted over the comm channel within the cab.

 

Evidently, the skycab had stopped. Ben, however, had no plans to stop what had begun in there. Without breaking contact with Rey, he flung a credit chit worth far more than the fare owed at the discrete tray that had opened, and began blindly grasping for the door handle. He eventually managed to get it open, and Rey made a move to stand up.

No.” Ben stated firmly.

Rey, pupils blown wide and panting, still managed to look puzzled. “No?”

Ben scooped Rey into his arms as he stepped out of the cab, utilizing her massive dress as a much-needed cover for an increasingly impolite situation in his pants. She continued kissing and biting at his neck as he positively bolted for the entrance to the building.

They managed to make it into the blissfully empty elevator, Rey finally back on her feet as they continued working out the finer points of putting their tongues in each other’s mouths. They had traveled up several floors before a distant part of Ben’s brain assessed where, exactly, they were - this… This was the elevator to his place.

 

He went very still, mind racing at the implications as he braced Rey in his arms, pulling her back slightly.

“Rey, much as this is, what I mean to say is, you - ah -” she had stood on her toes to bite him on his ear, evidently as punishment for talking instead of kissing. “That is, I don’t want you to feel pressured-”

She stumbled backwards, looking thoroughly confused. “Pressured? Into what?”

Kriff , of course she looked a perfect image of debauched innocence in this moment, with her kiss-stung cheeks and wide, questioning eyes. Ben now knew that they needed to stop, before one of them did something they regretted the next morning. He was 29 years old, dammit - if he could wait for a more opportune moment to get his journal, he could wait and do this right. Ben had to take several deep breaths to center himself. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to do anything here, Rey. I said I’d see you back to where you’re staying safely, and I’m going to do that.”

Rey’s lip trembled, and she swayed on her feet slightly. “D-did I - did I do something wrong?”

“No!” Ben was desperate to keep this night from ending in tears. “It’s - it’s just - I want to make sure we’re not - I mean, stars, Rey, first you ask me to unbraid your hair, then you take me back to my room-”

Your room?”

 

The ding of the elevator arriving at the floor for the Organa apartments seemed to punctuate the awkwardness of the moment.

 

Ben was grateful that Rey seemed as red-faced as he imagined he was.

“I - I should have never assumed-”

“Wait, what did you think-”

“This wasn’t what I thought-”

“Kriff, Ben, I assumed you were just walking me home!”

“So did I!”

They had been progressing along the hallway, finding themselves at a quiet impasse, caught between the door leading to Leia Organa’s main quarters, and Ben Solo’s separate entrance.

Sniff...

Ben’s shoulders sagged as he braced himself for the sight before him - Rey, clearly distressed, tears streaming down her face.

“I- I always knew I’d get this all wrong , that’s why I never-”

“Rey, you never got anything wrong.” Ben breathed deeply as he braced Rey’s arms. “I want… Kriff , Rey, I want more than anything to continue what we were just doing. But we’ve been drinking. Someone tried to kill you just now. We’re in this whole… situation . I think that we might just need to take it a bit… slower.”

“S-slower.” Rey gave a dramatic, phlegmy sniff. “Is - is that what you want?”

Ben felt a pained groan escape from him. “What I want isn’t what matters right now, Rey. I need you safe. I need us to make sure we’re doing the right things. I need you to feel like whatever is between us isn’t… A burden.”

“Oh.” was all Rey could softly respond with.

Ben looked at the doors beside him. They seemed to be slowly drifting away and toward each other - and he finally realized that he truly had too much to drink to make any kind of rational decisions.

He shook his head, attempting to regain some semblance of sobriety. “Rey, you’re going to go to… whatever room you’re staying in. You’ll contact your friends, and tell them you’re fine, and everything is safe. And then I’ll see you tomorrow - is that okay?”

Rey looked downward, and her shoulders slumped in sad resignation as she shifted her weight uncomfortably. “I - I guess that’s fine.”

Ben couldn’t hold himself back. He pulled Rey into his arms, enveloping her small form completely, and resting his chin on her head.

“Rey, I want… I want more than anything to have this all figured out between us. I want to know everything I’ve forgotten, I want to guide you in learning the Force, I want you to understand me - but that’s just not something that’s going to get so easily done, and… Well, quite frankly, not something we can do when we’ve had this much to drink.”

Ben tilted Rey’s head to face him, wanting to meet her eyes. “But I want you to know that - despite the war, despite everything that’s happened - we are going to figure something out for us .”

He sighed as he stroked her cheek. “Rey, I -”

Rey stood high on her toes to meet him in a slow, sweet kiss. “That’s - that’s all I needed to know for right now, Ben.”

She shuffled back awkwardly, keying herself into the main entrance of his mother’s apartments. Ben was still sure he had managed to ruin everything, until he saw Rey bite her lip with a deliberate smile-


“Good night - Master.”

Chapter Text

 

“Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women.” - Song of Solomon, 2:2

 

Rey felt like death warmed over.

The first thing she was aware of was how dry her mouth was. Next, how bright the room was. Then, the absolutely pounding headache.

Having squinted her eyes shut against the light, Rey blindly groped around her. Being in such a massive, squashy bed was already disorienting enough, and the hangover was not helping matters. Her hand eventually found her private comm, which she brought close to her face, squinting one eye open.

 

Oh. Oh, dear.

 

1:51 F - Are you safe?

1:51 F - I swear, if he laid a finger on you...

1:52 F - WHERE ARE YOU????

1:55 P - Please let us know if you’re actually safe, or if we need to send out a rescue party

1:58 F - Why did you think this was a good idea?????

2:01 R - AM GREAT

2:01 R - ORGANA APT. SUPER SAFE

2:02 F - Good to know. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??

2:02 P - Comm channel not safe enough to discuss, but we definitely need to talk

2:03 R - BEN FINE. HAVE A PLAN

2:03 R - IT’S A GREAT PLAN.

2:04 R - BED NOW

2:05 F - Please tell me he’s not staying there

2:11 F - …

 

Well, that could have been… worse. Rey blushed as fragments of last night started coming back to her; no, Ben didn’t stay in her room, but he certainly did more than lay a finger on her.

Not that I minded, Rey recalled with a shiver.

She punched past the group message to find that there was another message from an unknown sender. Curious, she pulled it open.

 

6:42 [unknown] - Water and painkillers on the table outside your room, though a little hair of the hound might not hurt either. Stay where you are, will be back at 5 to get you. -B

6:43 [unknown] - Also you looked stunning last night, and I hope you didn’t think me too forward. I don’t regret a thing. Put that dress somewhere safe.

 

Rey felt a girlish flutter in her chest at those words - blunt as they were, she had never had someone…

She wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that particular message just yet, but acknowledged that her last drunken exchange with her friends was probably not ideal.

 

11:17 R - Totally fine here, guys. Bit of a headache is all. B not in my room. If I remember from yesterday, D + M are supposed to come start getting me ready at 1? Is that right? I thought this thing wasn’t until tonight.

11:20 P - Good to hear you’re fine. There’s usually dinner and drinks before these bigger events. We’ll come there early to plan this out.

11:22 F - Yeah, where you are is closer to where this thing is tonight, so we figured everyone would meet up there around 5.

 

Social arrangements were something new to Rey. People, times, meetings - there was a unique feeling of ice sliding down her insides as her mind slowly realized that this was setting up to be a potentially catastrophic series of events - again.

Only Poe and Finn knew that Ben Solo was, in fact, Kylo Ren. So far as Rey could tell from last night, everyone else, including all of the members of the Resistance who were here, remained blissfully oblivious that the General’s prodigal son also happened to be the Supreme Leader. His Force-sensitivity was at least something that was public knowledge, and not necessarily something that explicitly tied him to Kylo Ren. People like Rose only knew him as a sort of urban legend. As much as Rey found honesty in his declarations last night of only wanting to ‘figure things out’ between them, and claiming that he was only here to discuss terms of ownership with his journal, she knew that it was ludicrous to assume Poe and Finn would trust his intentions.

Draping her arm across her eyes, Rey tried to piece together what she knew so far from the beginning in cold, hard facts that left no room for interpretation. There would be no other way to explain this to Poe and Finn.

 

She had found an ancient Jedi text that belonged to Ben Solo, which was filled with his personal thoughts, observations, and writings.

The Supreme Leader, Kylo Ren, had evidently deemed its contents important enough that he diverted the entirety of his time and talents to track down… Her. This was already verging on the border of unbelievability.

At this point, he had dozens of easy opportunities to take advantage of her and get what he wanted. He could have taken the journal last night when he had her in a number of compromising positions, but… he didn’t.

He could have eliminated effectively half of the Resistance and the last Jedi, but… he didn’t.

He could have even avoided doing a great many things last night - being (relatively) civil to her friends, rescuing her, using the Light, escorting her to safety the way he did...

Objectively, Rey knew this would all look highly suspicious to her friends. But the one thing that would explain so much was the one thing she really didn’t want to fully reveal - the nature and depth of the connection between her and Ben.

 

A painful throb in her head made Rey realize that she was in no condition to be thinking on this just yet. She sat up suddenly - a decision she immediately regretted as she swayed on unsteady feet. Taking assessment of what she was wearing, Rey concluded that at least she managed to take off the dress and her blaster when she went to bed. Apparently she slept in only her slip, Ben’s journal still strapped to her thigh - which, after the events of last night, now seemed incredibly intimate.

She staggered toward the door that lead to the hallway, hoping against hope that Ben’s message was accurate, and painkillers were waiting for her on the other side of the door-

 

He did one better.

 

An absolutely beautiful, crystal-clear pitcher of water shone like a beacon in the nearly-afternoon sunlight streaming down the hall. Rey completely ignored the empty glass next to the pitcher, opting to instead greedily drink straight from it. The painkillers got thrown in her mouth between gulps, and Rey practically choked upon noticing a beautiful pile of fruit-covered pastries, which she immediately began to devour.

Mid-mouthful, Rey noticed a small, handwritten note. Her heart panged at the familiarity of the writing - the last thing she had read of his was in the shaking, deteriorating scrawl of Kylo Ren - but this note, despite being written casually, had the confidence and flourishes of Ben Solo.

 

To my nosy Scavenger -

I meant every word I said last night about figuring something out for us . However, until we’ve come to an agreement, please attempt to refrain from reading any more of the journal - I’d like to be able to account for some of my more… Imaginative entries. If you found my writing too tempting to resist, I’ve left something a bit more recent that may lend some more insight, if that’s still what you’re actually looking for.

Yours,
B

 

Rey was caught between being flattered at the sweeter words, and offended at his lack of confidence in her self-restraint - though perhaps that was not without precedent. She may have been a bit… ambitious in her “research.”

It was his own damn fault for writing such interesting things, though.

Rey unfolded the sheet beneath the note. It was on thick paper, and was something carefully scripted - she already felt guilty for touching it with a crumb-covered thumb. As she licked off her fingers, she began to read, eyes widening as she slowly realized that this was very much written by Kylo Ren.

 

Only change is unavoidable,

A brave new chapter is getting closer again,

Without a shroud of doubt he walked the road so long.

One dream, now gone.

 

Nightmares return again,

There’s no way to make amends.

His heart and the battlefield are alike, 

Silent and empty.



What are you more afraid to find:

Something to live or something to die for?

In the end, how will you fall:

As a hero or a warrior without a war?



Memories, ruthless like old guilt

Accept the choices or be haunted.

The past means nothing.

This very moment is all there is.



Why do you withhold the pain, but need those scars?

Is it courage to let go or drown with a sword?

How will you face your final dawn?

As a hero or a warrior without a war?



The one who is now forgotten

Carries the weight of a mountain.

No one can see how solemn

Is the burden of the fallen.

 

Well, then.

That was… Eye-opening.

Rey carefully re-folded the paper with the note, and slowly shuffled her feet on her way back to the bedroom. All of this called for a long soak - an indulgence she had only learned about yesterday. She started shucking her slip off on her way to the bathroom, finally ending up with nothing on except where Ben’s journal was still strapped to her thigh. She unclasped the garter, and weighed it in her hand. Such a small thing, yet so much had occured because of it.

With everything that had happened, it had become so easy for Rey to see the Ben Solo from her vision of the future - the Ben Solo she wanted so badly to bring back. But the fact was that she could not neglect that he had spent many years (and was still seen by the rest of the galaxy) as Kylo Ren.

But now that she knew Ben Solo a little better… She could still see him even here, in what was clearly a writing from an extremely conflicted point in Kylo Ren’s life. Rey wasn’t sure she wanted to know when, exactly, this was written - she had a feeling it was… recent.

Still, though - she hadn’t expected to find that Kylo Ren-

 

-was staring right at her.

 

Rey froze.

Ben’s eyes widened to a comical degree. He didn’t look away, though - his gaze very blatantly traveled the length of her body before snapping back to meet her eyes.

“S-sorry!”

“I was just-”

“I didn’t mean to-”

“Are you-”

Ben apparently chose this moment to both physically obstruct his gaze with his own hand and turn away from her.

Rey wasn’t sure if she should feel relieved or offended.

“I - I’m so-”

“It’s alright, I know we don’t have any control-”

“I mean, stars, I couldn’t stop myself, but there you were-”

“It’s - it’s fine. Just - give me a minute, here.” Rey grumbled as she started running the water in the tub. Ben still had his gaze resolutely obstructed with his own arm, but his crimson blush was evident all the way to the tips of his ears.

He wasn’t clad in the garb of Prince Ben Solo anymore - these were very much the clothes of the Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, black from head to toe. Whatever he had been doing, apparently it required that he looked the part. Rey’s concern grew. They may have had heartfelt connections and interactions the previous night, but by the cold light of - well, mid-afternoon - she was still a Jedi with the Resistance, and he was still resolutely the Supreme Leader of the First Order.

“Is - is everything… Kriff, Ben, what are we even doing?”

“Well, quite frankly, Rey, right now I’m concentrating on not making an ass of myself.” Ben’s voice was somewhat muffled when coming from behind his arm.

“I got your note.” Rey mumbled, shuffling her feet awkwardly as she willed the tub to fill up faster.

“Oh. ...good.” Ben replied without enthusiasm. “I may have still been drunk when I wrote that… sorry?”

“No! No, it was - it was fine. More than fine. Thank you for your help.”

Ben scoffed. “I don’t know how much you’ll want to thank me. You know, I’ve had to give up a lot information to cover our asses here.”

“What - what do you mean?”

“...You do realize how suspicious all of this looks, right? The leader of the First Order can’t just disappear without having something to show for it.”

Rey’s heart dropped - of course, she had been so stupid , so naive to expect otherwise, but still, she had hoped…

Ben was apparently able to follow her thoughts. He turned to completely face away from her, running a hand through his hair as he gave a frustrated sigh.

“Dammit, Rey, what did you expect? That the First Order would just stand idly by while the Resistance is so blatantly gathering military forces? Even if I hadn’t found out you would be here, it was only a matter of time before word got around - at least my presence here has spared you for now. The only reason that you and every single one of your friends haven’t been put down like animals is because I was able to give my officers the names of the double-dealing weapons manufacturers. You should be grateful that’s all I’ve told them.”

Hiding in the bath was now forgotten. Rey stalked directly toward where Ben still faced away from her, crossing her arms over her breasts. “Grateful ? I should be grateful that we haven’t been executed?”

Ben glanced over his shoulder, meeting Rey’s eyes directly. “You should be grateful that I’m foolish enough to prioritize your safety over a swift victory.”

A thrill ran through Rey again. There it was, so blatantly put - and something Rey was never going to be able to explain to the Resistance. But he had just admitted that their… particular situation wasn’t one so easily explained to the First Order, either. Maybe he had a better way of reasoning this out in his head?

Rey hesitantly reached toward his shoulder, turning him to face her as his eyes never left hers. “And - and why is that, Ben? Why would the Supreme Leader risk so much to protect the last Jedi?”

A small, sad smile came across Ben’s face. “Well, that certainly wasn’t always the case. Let’s just say…” Ben reached toward Rey, tucking a stray hair behind her ear. “I’m assuring the legacy of the Force.”

Rey felt a blush spread down her whole body. Ben’s fingers traced the shell of her ear, continuing along her jaw as he gently lifted her chin to face him. “Rey, I-”

 

And then he promptly vanished.

 

Rey staggered forward slightly. Well, that was… Incredibly frustrating. On many fronts. Kriff, and she hadn’t even managed to tell him about the impending disaster of both him and the Resistance all apparently planning on showing up at the same time…

Glancing wearily at the nearly-full tub, Rey was at least thankful she had this to look forward to. She placed Ben’s journal by the counter, and slowly sank into the blissful, warm depths of the water.

The headache seemed to be receding. She’d rest her eyes - just for a bit-


“Rey? Rey!”

 

Rey sat up, wide-eyed with a shuddering gasp. Kriff, she was freezing, where - what?

Oh. Apparently she fell asleep. In the tub. Some time ago, if the water temperature was anything to go by.

“I - I’m in here!” she replied to the voice shakily, teeth chattering.

A concerned-looking Meghana burst into the bathroom. Her face quickly turned to relief, and then a wide smirk. “Found her, Divyya. Looks like she fell asleep in the tub.” she called out, shaking her head as she approached Rey. “You had us worried for a minute there!”

“S-s-s-sorry.” Rey shivered.

Meghana rolled her eyes, turning the tub back on. “Let the water out, now we’ve got to start from scratch. You look absolutely pruned.” She quickly set to work dunking Rey’s hair under the beautifully warm stream of water as Rey felt the cold start draining away.

Meghana was brutally efficient, filling Rey in on what was going on as she scrubbed her hair, yanked her out of the tub, and wrapped her in a towel. From what Rey could gather, Meghana and Divyya had only been given very basic information about what happened last night - and they had no idea that Ben Solo had shown up. This was probably for the best, Rey concluded - the fewer people involved in this increasingly difficult predicament, the better.

Apparently, Divyya was off searching Leia’s closets for what promised to be the “perfect” outfit for the evening, after the impression Rey left at the gala last night.

“Your friends were pretty tight-lipped about whatever happened, but it sounds like you stunned those manufacturers, that’s for sure! Tonight, you’ll be able to get whatever you want.” Meghana assured Rey as she towel-dried her hair.

Rey wasn’t sure what to make of that - but something from last night occurred to her that she could ask about - especially as she felt Meghana’s hands begin meticulously parting and separating her hair. “I - I actually had a question - about my hair?”

“Oh?” Meghana replied loftily with a raised brow. Rey watched her carefully in the mirror, trying to gauge just how much she could reveal here.

“Just that someone - someone I met last night - implied there was something… something about my hair? I couldn’t quite tell what he was suggesting-”

“Ahh,he? is it?” A Lothcat-like grin spread across her face. “Divyya owes me 50 credits.” Meghana slowly pulled a comb through Rey’s hair, her brows knitting together slightly as she clearly chose her next words carefully. “To an Alderaani, hair is… significant. And a lot of the traditions we uphold are shared by other noble families, but for us, it means a little more. Still, though - I wouldn’t be surprised if someone from one of the Elder Houses approached you about it last night.”

“So what does it mean?”

“Oh, just that you’re courting and single, it’s traditional for a woman your age. So you’ve found yourself a nice nobleman, have you? Is he cute?”

Rey had the acutely embarrassing experience of actually seeing her cheeks turn pink in the mirror. “Um, yes, I suppose - um…” Rey squirmed, reddening further. “I - I don’t imagine there’s something you could do…”

Why was this so embarrassing? Just ask!


“Something with my hair… that conveys - I, um… have someone?”

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“Dark am I, yet lovely, daughters of Jerusalem, dark like the tents of Kedar, like the tent curtains of Solomon.” - Song of Solomon 1:5

Ben’s day had started out strange, and only got weirder from there.

There was a certain disorienting effect that comes with sleeping in a room you’ve known since childhood, even when you’re well into adulthood. Waking up somewhere so painfully familiar, yet so very far removed from everything that had happened in the last decade - Ben was amazed he managed to make it out of that room at all. There were echoes of lost memories here, a lot of them ones he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be fully ready to face.

So many sleepless nights in this bed. So many hours spent waiting, hoping in desperation for his mind to be quiet . So many slammed doors, fights - though Ben supposed that was normal in the house of any adolescent. But most teenagers don’t start telepathically exploding priceless antiques when they’re breaking down. He had been just so… alone.

Ben was never in the penthouse apartments on Coruscant for very long at once - his mother’s position brought them back here frequently, but never for more than a few nights back-to-back. Then again, that was most of Ben Solo’s life - shuffled along with the always-mobile New Republic from planet to planet, nanny to nanny, tutor to tutor. Never long enough to make any real friends, but just long enough to get comfortable before he was inevitably moved along to yet another capital planet.

 

It was no wonder that the voice in his head - Snoke - had managed to gain so much traction as one of the few constants in Ben’s life. After all, he had been right all along. About the Dark in him. How his family had lied. How no one else would ever understand him, and certainly no one would ever love him who didn’t feel obligated-

 

Stop. He’s gone. It’s just you now. Just you…

And Rey.

 

Rey. Stars , last night she had been… Everything. She was sharp. She was furious. She was beautiful. She was so strong. She was… well, she had been fairly drunk at the end of the night there, to be quite honest.

 

Eventually, it was worrying about Rey that finally pulled Ben from remaining mired in thought and broken recollections. She - well, really, they - had been an absolute mess last night. Ben wasn’t sure how much experience Rey had in waking up after that kind of night, but it wasn’t a first he’d wish on anyone.

He finally managed to extract himself from a bed that managed to be both too small and too comfortable. Yes, he was so drunk the previous night, he had gone and done the one thing he’d sworn not to do the moment he landed on Coruscant, and slept in his old room - right down the hallway from Rey. He staggered his way through cleaning himself up, putting out some things to help Rey (she'd figure out that he stayed there soon enough), and, in a last-minute decision he’d fret about for the next several hours, leave her a note and a page from his old journal.

 

He had a lot to get done before 5:00. But everything just felt… off - and it wasn’t just the hangover.

Maintaining the persona of Ben Solo, along with still being Kylo Ren and all that entailed - it was getting to be a bit difficult, not to mention exhausting , with all that he needed to get accomplished. Rey was the only person for whom he didn’t have to constantly keep up a facade of increasingly complex lies - and he still had to withhold certain… thoughts from her.

 

Such as the fact that she had been, at the ripe age of 29, his first real kiss last night.

And - of course - what, exactly, had been going through his mind when he saw her completely naked earlier.

 

Kriff, he needed to withhold those thoughts from himself if he wanted to keep being productive. Seeing - well, everything - and so blatantly! Ben had honestly tried to do the right thing, but that brief second where he had indulged in a glance at her bared form looped over and over in his head. His gaze had traveled down from her delicate clavicle directly to her small but beautifully shaped breasts, then along her slim waist that flared to her wonderfully wide hips… Rey hadn’t even seemed ashamed of her utter lack of clothes, just startled at best.

Something about that unabashed nature, her honest beauty, was just… startlingly attractive.

But then, she became so crushed when he revealed what he had to do to keep them protected. Ben didn’t particularly enjoy facing the fact that Rey was being turned into the very symbol of opposition to everything he represented... The cold, hard fact was that they were on opposite sides of this very much ongoing war. But then, that absurd, enchanting, wonderful look of hope in her eyes returned when he touched her… He had been so close. So close to telling her…

Well, it didn’t matter now. The right time would come, and everything would be right.
He had already gotten most of his goals for the day accomplished - he had even written a running checklist for what each of his personae needed to get done.

It had been a sane thing to do.

Completely not weird.

 

 

 

 

 

✓ Buy something for R (B)

    Flowers? ✓ Food.

    ✓ Pick up at bakery

✓ Message R (B)

✓ Check in w/FO, buy more time (K)

✓ Bribe OWT security (B)

✓ Threaten OWT security (K)

✓ Replace OWT security (K)

✓ Inform S/E/O that they are now OWT security (K)

✓ Find something suitable to wear (B)

   Pick up R (B)

 

All in all, it had been a productive, but strange day. Certainly not one he had ever anticipated experiencing in his entire life. But he had set up things for tonight about as well as he could, all things considered.

 

Hux, while initially furious when his Supreme Leader announced that he’d be gone for a fourth day, had been not just pacified, but delighted when he was given a list of the double-dealing weapons manufacturers - along with the prices they were offering the Resistance. Hell, he practically begged for Ben Solo to continue putting on these public appearances, since this particular bit of espionage had already proved far more productive than any counterintelligence gathered by the First Order in months. Ben assumed that any moles or leaks they had once had within the ranks of the Resistance had been lost when their number was effectively cut down to a dozen.

When the Orphans of War Trust proved to have far less than satisfactory security, his Knights were more than happy to be promoted from covert protection to an outright hired security detail. They didn’t need to know that he reassigned them for Rey’s safety, and not his own. Obaan Ren alone would be able to sense out the slightest of murderous intent of any kind at the event well before anything was acted on, and Shartom and Enoch were more than capable of eliminating anything that escalated into a real threat. They would still have to keep their distance, none of them were particularly… suitable looking for an event like this one. Besides, Ben didn’t need them catching on to the fact that he was more or less... Colluding with known members of the Resistance for the sake of Rey’s safety, rather than spying on them as was his stated intent.

That was his story, and he was going to have to stick to it - after all, his Knights had some Force sensitivity to them - they’d sniff out a bad lie instantly. Ben would have to make the Knights truly believe that the Resistance members were utterly clueless as to his dual identity, and that the Resistance only knew him as Ben Solo. That this was something to be handled delicately, and that the war could be ended swiftly with the information he obtained here.

 

Well, at least it was a half truth. Those were always easier to keep up.

 

Sighing, Ben checked his comm. It was a little before 5:00 - he didn’t want to seem overly eager, but at the same time, his feet had already automatically brought him back to the main entrance to the Organa penthouse. He could enter through his own room, but figured that Rey at least deserved the opportunity to invite him in, rather than him rudely just showing up - though it was tempting, just to see how off-guard he could catch her.

 

He cleared his throat nervously, straightening the lapels of his jacket, feeling sweat already forming pretty much everywhere. Kriff, why did he have to wear something with a cravat? Double-breasted and white, no less, though the black and gold Alderaani accents did wonders. The tailor had assured that it was perfect for Prince Ben Solo, and he had to agree that the effect was dramatic - dramatic enough that Ben had opted for a calf-length grey coat to cover most of it up for now. No need to put the princely attire on full display just yet.

 

...but maybe for Rey…?

 

It was already too late to change his mind.

 

The door opened suddenly, and Rey’s beautiful face peeked out from the shadows inside. Her expression quickly transitioned from puzzlement to delight, then immediately into panic. She slammed the door shut. Ben’s heart sank to his feet in the space of a half-second before he heard Rey calling back out down the hall that connected all the rooms of the Organa apartments - ‘It’s just someone with a message from Divyya and Meghana, I’ll settle it!’

 

This time, the door opened slowly. Rey’s eyes were wide as she carefully stepped over the threshold, quietly closing the door behind her. And now that Ben could see all of her...

 

He wondered if there would ever be a time that her very appearance wouldn’t stun him speechless. Again, she had clearly been masterfully prepared for the evening, but this night’s look was far… Darker. She was clad in all black, and while her dress had a high neck and long sleeves, all lines of the dress drew the eye to a completely bare waist, sternum to hips! As she moved closer to him, her kohl-lined eyes looking inexplicably irritated (Ben’s brain couldn’t quite function at full capacity just yet), he noticed… Stars, her legs! They looked like they went on for miles, with the utterly obscene slit in the dress letting him see halfway up her thigh.

This was a deliberate ensemble, and his very reaction was living, breathing, throbbing proof of the effect she’d have at the ball tonight. She’d get whatever she wanted in any negotiations the Resistance hoped to make tonight. Every male eye would be on her (and maybe a few female gazes as well), the thought already causing a smoldering rage to start building in Ben’s mind…

 

Then he saw her hair. The smoldering anger exploded to an inferno; Ben didn’t care if Rey almost seemed to flinch for a second, the Resistance was going to pay, for this offense he’d become Kylo Ren again, dammit-

STOP IT! YOU’RE SCARING HER!

Now that was startling. Never in all of his life did Ben think that Kylo Ren would be his voice of reason. The anger vanished, and rapidly fell to a soul-crushing, hollow sadness. He knew what he had to do. What he had to say. His hand slowly reached toward her loose hair curled around her shoulders, only pinned back by a single braid acting as a headband - he couldn’t quite bring himself to touch her.

 

After all, she was someone else’s now.

 

“So, who is it? I understand, this is war, we all make… Choices. I - I won’t get in the way…” He ran his fingers through his hair, still fighting down the anger. “Kriff Rey, I thought we had…” Ben swallowed thickly as his eyes burned, finding himself unable to form words. He continued in a quiet, quavering voice- “I hope you get everything the Resistance wanted from whoever you’re promised to, maybe this war will end quickly. Stars, you may as well just-”

 

Rey apparently decided to cut him off with a kiss.

 

Well this was… An unexpected turn of events. Ben stared wide-eyed and motionless for a good five seconds as Rey’s kisses turned more desperate; he couldn’t help but be persuaded to join in the heady, breathless embrace. She didn’t seem to be letting up, surely she understood-?

He had to pull her away as he struggled to find sanity in the tumult of emotions - he had gone from utter fury to crippling despair to surging arousal in the space of a minute.

 

“Rey, I - I don’t understand… You - surely you asked at this point, your - your braid - or someone explained when the deal went through - or did they not even tell you?”

“Ben, there isn’t any deal with anyone-”

“No, it’s okay, those absolute scum haven’t even told you what they’re planning, but I can explain - Rey, on Alderaan, a woman would only wear her hair like that-”

“-for her intended?” Rey finished softly, her fingers grasping at the lapels of his jacket as her twinkling eyes met his. She had that same predatory smile from the cab, the smile that did things to Ben. He was having problems formulating… words.

“Oh.” he finally replied dumbly. “So… so what you mean to say - erm - that is-”

“There is no one else, Ben. I - I asked your cousins…” Now even Rey seemed almost embarrassed, though the slight flush of her cheeks was nothing compared to the brilliant red that Ben was sure reached from his ears to his neck. “I asked them what I should do if I didn’t want to be seen as - ah - courting . I didn’t want anyone at this… thing tonight to assume anything, or to come between... “ Rey cleared her throat a little, looking away. “Us.”

 

She was perfect. Rey was perfect, and Ben was a moron. Much as he feared the Resistance wanted to use her for their own gain, he neglected to recognize that she had her own motives, desires, and wishes here - and if her actions so far proved anything, it was that she was very much invested in - well, them.

Ben couldn’t stop the presumably stupid grin that slowly came across his face. “So, you-you meanMMMMF-”

 

Rey had rather rudely clamped her hand over Ben’s mouth, and roughly shoved him beside the door, her eyes wide and worried. It made sense almost immediately, as the door to the apartments suddenly opened - fortunately it opened facing opposite the wall where Rey had pushed him. Ben had been so fixated on Rey, he was utterly unaware that someone from inside was approaching.

“Rey? Everything all right out here?” It was that horrid pilot, Ben could tell from his overly-casual manner with Rey.

“Yes! Everything totally fine, here. Completely normal, nothing unexpected. I, um, I just wanted to get this message back to Divyya and Meghana.”

“Huh. Where did the messenger go?”

“Uhh-”

Nothing’s out of the ordinary. He should go back inside. Ben helpfully supplied.

“It’s fine, Poe. Nothing’s wrong. You should head back inside, maybe grab me a drink?” There it was again, Rey’s soft, coaxing persuasion with just the slightest touch of the Force. Ben shuddered at the thoughts of just what she could convince him to do with that power in her words.

Of course her charms worked wonders on the weak-minded fool. “Sure thing, Rey - don’t be too long, okay?”

“All right - be right there!”

The door mercifully closed, revealing a weary-looking Rey. Ben approached her with a grin as his hands found her waist, eager to continue where they left off before they were so rudely interrupted. Rey appeared to give herself a shake, then positively rounded on Ben.

 

“You - kriff, this is exactly why - what are you doing here, didn’t you get my messages?!” She spluttered, pointing an accusatory finger right in his face from the embrace of his arms.

Well. Maybe this was why she looked so mad at first. Ben pulled her a little closer so she’d stop pointing in his face, a single one of his fingers going to twirl a loose strand of her hair. “I’m sorry?”

“I got your message on my comm, and I replied! I told you not to come here until later!” Rey held her arms stiffly at her sides, clenching her fists.

“You - you replied. To a message from an unknown sender.” Ben deadpanned, continuing to twist a lock of Rey’s hair through his long fingers.

“Yes, Ben, it’s not like I didn’t know it was you!”

It was so easy to forget that Rey never had the experience of what Ben assumed every adolescent went through - including knowing how to send covert messages to your ostensible crush. Or enemy. Or both. Whatever. Ben smiled gently and pulled Rey even closer to him, who was at least looking less cross at him now.

“Rey, that’s… That’s not how comms work. I never got your message, I sent mine from a proxy - I can hardly leave evidence that the Supreme Leader’s got access to the last Jedi’s personal comm channel, can I?”

“No, I - I suppose not…” Rey muttered, her head hanging somewhat sheepishly. “Wait, just how did you-”

 

”Shh!” Ben interrupted, listening intently. There were distinct voices echoing up from the nearby elevator - they could come out at any second.

Rey’s eyes widened in panic, pulling away from Ben’s arms to hear better. “That’s - that’s the rest of the Resistance! They can’t see you here!”

“Why not? It’s my damn apartment!”

“It’s - it’s too hard to explain right now, and it’s the General’s-”

“Got my name on it.”

“Kriff, Ben, this is not the time for a lesson in property ownership!”

I’ll give you a lesson in property ownership.”

Rey flushed at the blatant suggestion in his tone. “That’s - it’s not-”

“I’m not leaving.” Ben crossed his arms stubbornly.

“Stars, why must you be so difficult?!”

 

Rey cracked open the door to the apartments, quickly peering inside. Her arm reached behind her to grasp the sleeve of Ben’s jacket, and Ben found himself yanked forward as Rey hauled him into the hallway behind her. Ben followed along without a fight - since he got what he wanted anyway - smiling at the surprising strength of the small woman in front of him.

Stopping suddenly, Rey looked around desperately before pinning Ben against a door with a glare. “Do not make a sound until I come and get you. Got it?”

Without even giving him a chance to respond, Rey opened the door and shoved Ben right inside. He actually stumbled a bit, and by the time he had recovered, the door was already shut, and he could hear Rey greeting what was presumably the rest of the Resistance at the front door.

 

Weirder and weirder, Ben reiterated his earlier thought about how this day was going.

 

Of course, he had no intention of standing by idly for long while the Resistance cooked up whatever ill-fated plans they had for tonight - not after that practically-outright declaration Rey had given him earlier. His head had pretty much stayed in the clouds after she said the word “us...” Regardless, the Resistance could only remain under the delusion that they had control over tonight’s events for so much longer. Or control over anything, for that matter. He would be with her tonight, he would assure her safety, he would come out the victor.

He’d give them the benefit of the doubt for a few more minutes, before Prince Ben Solo would make a dramatic appearance. As always. For now… Ben took stock of the room Rey had shoved him into - evidently, there was snooping to be done.

 

Ben wondered if Rey was aware that she’d shoved him into her room.

She hadn’t even been here a whole day, and already, the previously pristine, tastefully decorated guest bedroom of the Organa complex had been distinctly… Scavenged. Ben’s attention was immediately drawn to where the desk was covered in the ancient Jedi texts that he had seen her reading - stars, it seemed so long ago, with all that had happened, but in reality, it had only been five days. The bed’s sheets, blankets, and pillows had all been twisted and gathered into a small, twisted ball directly in the middle of the mattress - apparently, Rey had some… interesting sleeping habits. Clothes, datapads, bits of what appeared to be lightsaber parts were strewn everywhere . It was an utter mess.

It suits her, Ben thought as he took off his coat, dropping it on the bed. But what caught his attention more than anything was by the vanity - clearly, where his cousins had been helping her get ready.

 

She had kept his note from the morning - the page from Kylo Ren’s journal was gone, but the quick note he had jotted down was left out. But what he found far more interesting was that she had added on to it.

Apparently, Rey had taken a charcoal pencil meant for mascara and turned it into a writing tool. At the bottom of his note, there were several beginnings of sentences, all scratched out beyond legibility. It was hard to tell if she was trying to write a reply, or composing something of her own - after all, the scratched out lines appeared to be in stanzas. Whatever she was writing, it was evidently not what she was trying to communicate.

 

Instead, she had drawn. And, apparently, Rey drew beautifully.

Several small, confident sketches of hands ran across the bottom of the page. Folded hands, limp hands, grasping hands - but what shook Ben to his core was the largest, most detailed sketch of an outstretched, imploring hand, reaching toward the viewer. Ben’s knees went slightly weak, as he sank to sit on the bed. This drawing, this hand, it was clearly-

 

“P-Prince Ben Solo?!?” a voice squeaked from the doorway.

 

Ben quickly pocketed the piece of paper, rising to his feet in an instant.

 

Standing in the doorway, shellshocked, was the girl from the Resistance Ben had seen Rey with briefly the previous night. Just like then, she had a glass of wine firmly grasped in her hand, and, judging from her reaction, had no idea who he actually was.

Caught alone in Rey’s bedroom, sitting on her bed - his name may have been on the deed to the property, but the optics were… Not good. How was he supposed to play this?

Apparently, this woman thought similarly. “I - I’m so incredibly sorry, I was - um, bathroom, Rey said hers - uh, I mean-”

So Rey didn’t realize what room she tossing him in after all. Interesting. He strode over to meet her at the door, turning on Prince Ben Solo as hard as he could - judging by this woman’s flustered reaction, this could prove… advantageous.

“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to startle you, Miss…?” He took her hand, bowing slightly over it - this immediately had the intended effect, as she gave a nervous giggle. Ben barely even had to brush her mind with the Force - between the wine, being startled, and being an apparently very honest and unusually not-horrible person (for a member of the Resistance), Ben was able to get what he needed almost immediately.

“R-Rose! Rose Tico, uh - you- your highness.”

“Please, ‘Ben’ is just fine for any friend of Rey’s.”

“Oh, I could never - are - are you a, ah, friend of Rey’s as well?”

“Well.” Ben gave what he hoped was a winning, mysterious smile. “I certainly hope that she considers me as more than a friend.”

Rose pratically squeaked. “I knew it! You - you two, you were just perfect last night, so awesome, so strong, the way you guys just stopped that crazy man-”

“Ah, yes, that. I think we drew a little more attention to ourselves than Rey wanted to. In fact…” Ben tried very hard to let a look of concern cross his face, instead of the smug grin that so desperately wanted to come out - this really was working out beautifully. “I think Rey really doesn’t want anyone making assumptions, or really to know about, ah, us, but I know you’re her friend-”

“Of course! Of course I won’t tell anyone I found you here, your secret is safe with me. But I’ve got to know - you two already knew each other, right? She was freaking out when she first saw you last night, how long have you two been…?”  

The smug grin could no longer be contained as Ben circled Rose, who was clearly hanging on to his every word. He was glad she appeared to be slightly tipsy, she’d ask fewer questions and see fewer gaps in the story - she had now become critical to his plan.

“Together? Not too long, and the last time we saw each other in person, we had a… bit of a disagreement. But we’ve known each other for months. My family was... well, it’s been a sore spot between us, I won’t bore you with the details. I’m sure you know that I - ah - went off the radar for a while, so to speak?”

Rose nodded eagerly, moving closer to him, enraptured by the performance. Ben was thoroughly enjoying spinning this mostly-true tale - from a certain point of view.

“I wasn’t in a good place. When we met, I - I wasn’t the man she needed me to be. Rey thought that I’d never come to her side - but truly, I’ve been hers longer than she will ever realize.” he finished wistfully - he didn’t even need to oversell his emotions there.

Rose actually clutched at her heart, eyes shimmering. “Oh… wow… It’s - it’s so beautiful, it’s like destiny - like the Force brought you two together!”

Ben’s eyebrows raised slightly at that particularly insightful comment. “Well, you’re not wrong.”

 

Rose suddenly grabbed Ben’s arm, eyes wide in desperation. “You’re coming tonight, right? To - to the horrible thing?”

“If by ‘horrible thing’ you mean the OWT ball, yes, unfortunately.” Ben gave a long-suffering sigh that was only partially exaggerated. “Last night proved that Rey needs better protection, and I won’t be risking her safety. She’s too important to lose to something as idiotic as attending a dance.”

Rose nodded in emphatic agreement. “Yes, I completely agree, I hate - I hate all of this, it’s just…” she let her hand drop, her face now somber. She glanced around, as though afraid of someone listening in. “I understand why we’re here, why we have to do this - but it all just seems so wrong, it’s just the same horrible people doing horrible things to each other over and over.” Rose gave Ben a long look, smiled, then tipped back the rest of her wine. “At least we get to eat and drink pretty well for a couple of days.”

It was now decided - Rey needed to become much, much better friends with this woman. Rose clearly understood what was important, and could give Rey some perspective. And then, as though she couldn’t be any better in this moment-

Ben! I mean, Prince - your Highness - you should come with us tonight!”

Ben raised what he hoped came across as a skeptical brow. “Oh?”

“Yes - it’s - it's perfect!” Rose exclaimed, gesturing wildly with her empty glass. “I’ll bring you upstairs - no one will ever know what-“ she issued a drunken giggle before recomposing herself- “What you two were up to, I’ll just tell them you were dropping by - I mean, this is your place, isn't it? It’ll be so normal, no one will suspect a thing. And then, tonight-” here, she actually giggled “-tonight, you can show everyone what you two can be!”

 

Immediately, Ben was too drunk on visions of this beautiful, shining, golden future to realize that he wasn’t the only one to have long-term designs on its outcomes.  

“Come on!!” Rose pulled Ben toward her and out of the room eagerly.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be the one to suggest it - then you - you and Rey-” Rose covered her mouth, giving a delighted squeak “You two can have a proper date! And then, at the ball-” Rose sighed dreamily, looking heavenward.


“You’ll show everyone - they’ll all see - what matters.”

Chapter Text

 

"My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening; my heart began to pound for him.” -Song of Solomon, 5:4

To Rey, the moment all hell broke loose was when a beatific, practically glowing Rose Tico re-entered the main sitting room of the Organa penthouse, accompanied by an incredibly-pleased-with-himself Ben Solo, whose smile was decidedly more sinister than Rose’s.

Rey thought that she might need to go into a dark, quiet room and yell at something for a while. Maybe break a few things. Because this situation was now officially out of hand - and it was already bad enough.

 

Even before Prince Ben showed up, it was a mess.

 

Earlier, Rey had undergone even more prodding, plucking, and painting from Divyya and Meghana, and then had been strapped into an utterly obscene dress. They had also found some downright torturous, tall heels that Rey somehow was actually able to walk in, much to her chagrin.

Then, most of the loud, rowdy Resistance group who had come to Coruscant gathered in the sitting room, already enjoying more wine than they probably should.

Moments ago, an incredibly handsome near-disaster by the name of Prince Ben Solo had already been averted and neatly tucked away just seconds before the rest of the Resistance arrived.

However, even before all of that, a soberingly necessary, painfully awkward, and seemingly never-ending secret conversation had taken place.

As soon as they had arrived, Finn and Poe had finally cornered Rey about Ben. And she told them what she knew.

 

Sort of.

 

Not really.

 

In fact, the more Rey thought about it, the more nervous she got as she realized just how much she didn’t tell them.

Their questions were completely valid, and only highlighted the insanity of the position Rey was in.

 

“Why is Kylo Ren not trying to murder you?”

“How are we not all dead right now?”

“Why is Kylo Ren even here?”

“Why is he bothering with the whole ‘Ben Solo’ thing?”

“Why was Kylo Ren so insistent on helping you?”

“Why was Kylo Ren protecting you?”

“Did Kylo Ren, in fact, pick you up and haul you away, and you, for some reason, didn’t slap him?”

 

Rey had stuck to facts:

  • She had something incredibly, personally important to Kylo Ren that was of no interest to the Resistance at large. This was true, his journal really held nothing of use to the Resistance, but certainly had plenty of... valuable information for Rey.
  • Kylo Ren, in turn, had unique knowledge and resources about the Jedi that she desperately needed in order to continue her training. While Rey still had no real idea what holocrons were, her casual mentioning of them made Poe’s eyes practically bug out - clearly, this was the kind of reaction Ben was initially looking for.
  • Rey truly had no idea how exactly Ben knew to find her on Coruscant. However, to her, it was obviously something he worked out from their bond - and hardly something she could reveal.
  • Each of them had something the other was in dire need of, and they agreed to work together to accomplish their individual goals.
  • They were in the process of negotiating an exchange when someone attempted to assassinate her.

As to why Ben was so eager to protect her, and help her grow stronger… Rey gave what she knew to be an incredibly lame answer, but it was the best she could do, given that she was trying to keep the bond a secret. “Uh - I think... It’s like something Luke said - it’s about balance? B-Kylo mentioned ‘assuring the legacy of the Force,’ that has to be what he meant. But I can tell… I can sense - he definitely doesn’t plan to kill me.”

Poe and Finn had exchanged a Significant Look. It was worrisome. Rey barely had to skim their thoughts to find out that Ben had used the exact same phrasing when he spoke to them last night, and it greatly alarmed them then.

Finn apparently just found the statement extremely creepy, but Poe had a little more insight that had Rey panicking - ‘Of course he doesn’t plan to kill her with the looks he was giving her… ‘Legacy of the Force’ my ass, if that means what I think it means - it’s a good thing Rey’s so naive. Once we find out who’s trying to kill her, we are getting Rey away from him before he-’

 

“I had a vision!” Rey blurted.

 

She had finally cracked. But she needed to distract Poe with something before he finished that particular thought. Rey clung to the hope that a Force Vision was just mysterious and inexplicable enough to buy her out of this horribly awkward situation.

Rey told a very edited, but true version of her vision that she had (what felt like a lifetime ago) on Ach-To. That Ben Solo was still within Kylo Ren, and that she was the only one who could help him turn. Waving off Poe and Finn’s immediate skepticism, Rey assured them that while the vision may not completely come to be, enough of it had come true that she was certain Kylo Ren wouldn’t harm her. That she truly believed he was only here to trade valuable, non-First Order/Resistance-related information with her - and that the more he was distracted from running the First Order, the better.

They were clearly still unsure, but had let the subject drop for the moment. Poe had muttered something about contacting the General, and Finn just continued looking somewhat shocked. Rey was just glad that it hadn’t gone worse.

 

Then, almost right afterwards, Ben showed up without any kind of warning - because of course he did. After a near-disaster with Poe, Rey had hid him away until she could be sure the coast cleared. With that confrontation taken care of, Rey was sure she had things under control for now.

 

She should have known better than to make such wild assumptions.


“And just look at who I found, knocking at the door of his own place! I think we all owe this guy a big thank-you for saving our Jedi and drinking his family’s liquor cabinet dry!”

A huge laugh erupted in the room as Rose raised a cheeky toast to Ben, an action mirrored by most of the Resistance. Prince Ben gave a cocky grin, sort of half-bowing his head with a princely flourish as he was guided into the room. For a woman so small, Rose somehow managed to effortlessly herd Ben over toward Rey.

That was the moment Rey feared the glass in her hand might explode. She needed to go tear some ridiculous decorative pillows at the seams. Most certainly, Ben Solo needed to be thoroughly shaken and asked just why he was out in the open when she so deliberately hid him away? Maybe she should punch a wall - where were these thoughts coming from?? - because this evening was already completely out of control, and it hadn’t even started yet.

I was only explicitly told not to make a sound. I haven’t said a word.

Rey knew she had to look a little manic, eyes wide and staring straight at Ben as her hand trembled with the effort of not breaking her wine glass.

What the HELL are you thinking?! You were supposed to stay-

In your room? Where you put me? Where you apparently also sent your friend here?

 

“Kriff!” Rey actually blurted out loud as she lost control of both her temper and the Force. The wine glass absolutely shattered in her hand, which was fortunately far enough from her dress to not drench her. The floor wasn’t as lucky.

Rey bent to clean up the mess, mind racing to catch up with how this happened. Earlier, Rose had asked Rey where the nearest washroom was. Rey, completely distracted by seeking out a way to drink away her problems (most of which went by the name of Ben Solo), offhandedly told Rose to just use her room, down the hall toward the entrance, second door on the left.

Rey assured herself that she put Ben in the second door on the right… When she was facing the other way. Kriff , she still wasn’t used to navigating indoor spaces!!

“Oh no! Here, let me help-” Rose immediately bent to ostensibly help Rey, but then quickly whispered in her ear “Okay, I have got to go to the bathroom for real this time - but way to go , Rey!” She gave Rey a giddy thumbs-up, then hurried away, calling over her shoulder “I’ll bring a towel!”

 

What.

 

While still trying to process what Rose meant by that, Rey found herself distracted by the tiny shards of glass floating gently in front of her.

“So. You have some interesting friends.” Ben stated casually as he loomed over Rey. He gave a lazy twitch of his fingers, and the crushed glass swirled up and around his hand. He bent to offer his opposite hand to Rey, who very deliberately ignored it to stand upright on her own power. Kriff, these shoes hurt her feet, but she was thankful for every extra inch they afforded her - she was by no means short to begin with, but she was now almost eye level with Ben Solo.

Sadly, he seemed utterly undeterred by her new height. In fact, Ben seemed quite happy to be taking a long, slow look up her partially-exposed leg.

“You - you and - Rose saw you… In my bedroom.” Rey stammered out.

“Obviously.” Ben drew out the word as he continued lazily twirling the shards of glass in a sparkling trail winding between his fingers. His eyes kept darting to their unwanted audience in the form of the rest of the Resistance stealing glances of the two Force-users.

“Does she - what does she know?” Rey just hoped there weren’t any lip readers in the room.

“Enough. Certainly not who I am, but seeing as where she found me - where you put me - she was able to figure out us pretty quickly. She may have even read a bit more into it, not that I particularly mind. It seems like she can keep a secret, though, if it really concerns you that much.”

“Of course it concerns me, Ben! Kriff, if Finn and Poe find out-”

“If Poe finds out what?”

 

Of course. Of course that’s exactly when an extremely concerned-looking Poe Dameron chose to insert himself into the conversation.

 

“Nothing.” Rey bit out through gritted teeth, glaring daggers at Ben, who clearly had seen Poe on his way over and chose to say nothing.

“I wouldn’t consider your safety tonight to be ‘nothing,’ Rey.” Ben smoothly admonished, redirecting without missing a beat. He turned to face Poe, genuine concern on his face. “We discussed this last night, Dameron. There is an obvious threat which we know nothing about - I will be accompanying Rey tonight.”

“I don’t recall much of a discussion.” Poe snapped back. He glanced around the room, making sure they weren’t being watched too closely. “We have things under control, and we don’t need your help. Rey will be perfectly safe with m-”

What was previously nothing more than the shrapnel and glitter of crushed glass slowly moving in midair suddenly solidified into a jagged glass shiv pointed directly at Poe’s throat. Ben had managed to stand in such a way that his broad shoulders blocked the view of this particularly aggressive threat out to anyone else in the room.

“Clearly,” Ben hissed, glaring down at Poe as the shard moved closer to his skin “-we have different views of last night’s events. I saw a very real, and very capable threat. I saw a man who had obviously been manipulated with the Force. I saw Rey inches and milliseconds from dying. And I will not allow them a second chance.”

“Ben!” Rey whispered furiously.

 

Apparently, that was all she needed to say. Ben actually looked somewhat admonished as the dagger of glass dissolved back into a harmless powder and returned to his hand.

Poe glanced back and forth between Ben and Rey, obviously trying to figure out what, exactly, was going on here. Not a man to mince words, he came right out and said it - “Don’t assume I disagree with you about how real this threat is- but if you think I’m going to just let you take Rey away after what I’ve seen…” Poe shook his head in disbelief. “Tell me, ‘Ben Solo’ - just what, exactly , are you after with concerning Rey?”

“Oh, she’s just part of my great, big, evil plan, don’t you know?” Ben rolled his eyes. “Rey and I have business, and it doesn’t concern you. Look, Dameron, don’t take it for granted that our interests align right now. You, Rey, and the Resistance only stand to benefit from the gift of my protection.”

 

“If I might possibly have a word in all of this? Seeing as it concerns me?” Rey cut in icily.

These two, particularly Ben, were just getting ridiculous; she half expected the fate of the Resistance versus the First Order to be decided right here in a testosterone-fueled fistfight.

At least both men had the grace to look cowed.

 

“I’m still not trained enough to deal with a lot of - well, all of this. I think it’s best if Ben came with us-” Rey could practically feel a blast of smug, vindicated energy from Ben - “-with all of us as a group.” Rey clarified. Now she was slightly concerned - Ben did not seem at all deterred by this proposition.

Which probably meant he had been planning on this outcome all along. Kriff.

Poe frowned, scratching at his chin. “That’s… I guess it could work - we could all-”

 

“Oh good, so you told them about the plan for tonight, Ben?”

Rose had apparently returned from the bathroom, handing Rey a towel for her still wine-drenched hand as she grinned ear-to-ear - a smile that seemed to be earnestly shared by Ben.

“Prince Ben and I had a little chat earlier - I brought it up, and I think it’s a great idea to have him along with us tonight! He and Rey were all anyone could talk about last night, anyway - it’s got to help us for recruiting, right?”

“Of - of course .” Poe replied slowly. He glanced between Rey and Ben a few more times, a small smile coming to his face. “Rose, you’re absolutely right. This is just the sort of boost the Resistance needs right now. And of course, the General is going to be thrilled when she hears about this - the prodigal son home at last, right?” Poe leveled a long glance at Ben, clearly gauging a reaction.

Not even a twitch from Ben. Rey was stunned. He just smiled placidly, giving a shrug. “I’m happy to help tonight, but then I’ve got some… personal matters to take care of. Before I’m ready to face her.”

Rose nodded sympathetically. “General Leia can be a little… intimidating at the best of times, can’t she?”

“Try having her as a mother.” muttered Ben.

“So! It’s settled then, right? We should get going pretty soon - it’s just a bar, but we’ve still got a table reserved. It shouldn’t be a problem to add on a fifth person, right?”

“Not a problem at all. You should go find Finn, update him on the situation. I’ll get everyone else cleared out of here, and I’ll get our plan together for tonight.” Poe advised.

Rose casually saluted him with a wine glass as she left. Poe gave Ben and Rey another long, odd look, before shaking his head slightly, heading off to address the rest of the Resistance.

 

“Alone at last.” said Ben softly. Without an audience, his entire demeanor changed, and Rey already found herself less irritated now that she wasn’t stuck with Prince Ben Solo - this was just… Ben.

“Stars, Ben, what have I gotten myself into?” Rey gave Ben an awkward, sidelong look. “I’m sorry that you had to cover for me with Rose earlier, but kriff, you haven’t exactly been making things any easier with Poe.”

“If it’s any consolation, I do have things under control. By the end of tonight, we should be able to figure out who tried to kill you, eliminate the threat, and come to an agreement about what we’re going to do.”

“How can you say that after - after all that?” Rey gestured toward the rest of the room where, thankfully, Poe had everyone distracted with a plan outlining which arms dealers they’d be negotiating with tonight. “Kriff, I don’t even know how we’re going to get through dinner, much less this ball.”

Ben snorted. It was not a noise Rey ever expected to hear out of him.

“Sorry, it’s just - something my dad told me once.” Ben’s eyes had a faraway look to them, and he had a sad smile. “They - they weren’t together around me often, but he always told so many stories where Mom would roll her eyes, or call him out on exaggerating. But there was one story...” he actually chuckled now.

“Even Mom said it was true - she was there after all. If my parents managed to make it through dinner with Boba Fett and Darth Vader, I think we can make it out of this all right.”



 

Shots weren’t fired, and blasters weren’t stolen with the Force. While it may not have been the most awkward dinner and drinks in the history of the galaxy, it certainly was a frontrunner, at least on par with a certain dinner involving quite a few Organas, a Tarkin, and far too much Alderaani wine.

Ben was simply thankful that the bar had been incredibly loud, and full of others who would also be attending the OWT ball - the stilted, awkward conversation was at least excusable, given the noise. He was also glad, for Rey’s sake, that they went somewhere as casual as a bar. Every time a new plate of food came out for the group to share, Rey was visibly restraining herself from grabbing at the food immediately. She had also been taking very careful notice of how everyone around her was grasping her utensils, and looking flustered as she attempted to emulate them.

He was painfully reminded of the visions he had of her as a starving child, and swore then and there that he’d make sure she never felt ashamed when she had struggled so much.

 

Now, all trapped together in a skycab on the way to the ball, things were… tense.

Rey’s friend Rose chose by far the most fun solution to the tension - to get drunk enough that she was completely oblivious to it. She was at least one bottle of wine in after dinner, and clearly having a fantastic time. Rose had pushed Rey and Ben to sit together in the back of the cab, dropping a massive wink before turning around to face her companions - Ben really had to wonder how much she was able to figure out on her own versus what Rey had may have told her. Between this and her comment about the Force bringing him and Rey together, the woman was scarily intuitive.

Ben wasn’t sure as to the exact nature of Rose’s relationship with FN-2187, but Rose’s casual comfort around Ben clearly irked the former stormtrooper. It probably didn’t help that Rose had kept whispering incredibly licentious comments about Rey to him throughout dinner - Ben was fairly positive that his ears were now permanently red after Rose assured that he and Rey were going to have the most beautiful children.

While FN-2187 was fuming, Poe Dameron was oddly reserved and contemplative, given his earlier reactions - Ben had his suspicions that perhaps Dameron had made some sort of contact with his mother. Ben wasn’t going to risk reading his mind with Rey there, and from the looks Dameron kept giving him, he was fully aware of Ben’s restraint. After all, Dameron knew better than anyone except Rey just how easy it would be for Ben to breach his mind.

 

By the time they finally arrived, everyone seemed fairly desperate to get out of the crowded skycab, with the possible exception of the blissfully-oblivious-to-the-tension Rose. In a gesture that was second nature to him, Ben escorted Rey from the cab, taking her arm in his as they followed Dameron.

“I didn’t need the help...” Rey mumbled in a blatant lie. She was already struggling with the stairs leading to the entrance; Ben made sure to walk quite slowly as Rey took tentative steps in her ridiculous shoes, leaning on his arm heavily more than once. At least she now had a coat to shield her from the chilly winds of Coruscant, though he wasn’t looking forward to yet more gazes upon her once they got inside, especially with the dress she was wearing.

Ben briefly wondered if Rey even understood the concept of something as ridiculous as a coat check, and almost laughed.

“See? I told you!” Ben heard Rose whisper slightly behind him, and glanced over his shoulder. She had been elbowing FN - Finn (kriff, he could not slip on that one out loud), who stared wide-eyed at Ben and Rey before quickly collecting himself, taking Rose’s arm in a similar gesture.  

He really had to stop himself from smiling at the sight. Maybe it was something about being around Rey, or perhaps being away from the First Order as long as he had been now - Ben hadn’t felt this… jovial in - kriff, maybe in his entire life. That was a sobering thought.

 

The massive, ornate golden doors leading into the event space for the night were not so much impressive to Ben as they felt foreboding - even with all his planning, he couldn’t help but feel as though they were walking into a death trap. Ben felt inside his jacket for both his comm and Kylo Ren’s journal - he should have everything he needed, but it was best to make sure.

There was a wait once inside the doors, and Ben was quite pleased to see that his extremely specific instructions (threats) to the OWT about security checks did not go ignored - there were metal detectors and very public pat-downs occuring, much to the horror and indignation of many of the more “aristocratic” guests, who thought themselves above such treatment.

As predicted, Rey was completely baffled by the thought that she had to leave a personal possession in the care of someone else for the night at the coat check. Ben didn’t exactly relish the thought of her being so exposed either, but took comfort in the fact that she would be arriving on his arm, her very appearance declaring to anyone who knew to look - she is taken.

He better stay beside me, so they know he’s with me.

Ben shot Rey a somewhat startled glance - he was almost positive that she didn’t mean to let that particular thought out. They made their way into the main ballroom, and Rey seemed completely distracted. Somehow, she had already gotten a hold of what looked like a glass of straight bourbon (Ben immediately suspected Rose’s involvement), but her mind was positively buzzing with something decidedly not alcoholic. Rey drained her drink by an appreciable amount, glaring ahead of her.

Apparently, Rey wasn’t aware that she had been broadcasting her thoughts, and Ben was glad that the focus of her apparent rage wasn’t him, or at all Force-sensitive - he followed her murderous stare to a group of young noblewomen from the Elder Houses, who all had similar looks of fury plastered across their faces as they looked back at Rey.

Ben decided then and there that jealousy was a very good look on Rey. He had doubts about how Rey would react to what he fully realized were often overprotective feelings (that only increased the longer they spend in each other’s company), but now… Not that he ever intended to be the cause of it, but to know that someone was so fiercely territorial of him...

He glanced around. Rey’s friends were distracted, and seemed to be moving away from them. The noblewomen were still watching, and Ben noticed that they had now caught the eye of quite a few other members of the Elder Houses, wearing faces that ranged from bafflement to downright disgust at the sight of Prince Ben Solo of House Organa with a lowly, nameless girl.

Well, there was no time like the present for a nice scandal.

Ben pulled Rey to stand in front of him, facing away from him and toward the other women. He slowly pulled her loose, unbraided hair off of her shoulders and behind her back, stroking the singular braid with relish. Rey was apparently still too distracted to notice what Ben was up to - that wouldn’t do. He started by bending forward to kiss the very top of her head, using the opportunity to look straight down at the group of women with a cold smile. Ben let his fingers trail down Rey’s sides, coming to rest at her waist. He pulled her even closer, kissing her neck, then her ear.

“Care to dance?”    

The heat in Rey had precipitously shifted from rage to downright lust - there was his girl from last night. But then, hesitancy-

“But, Ben - I - I have no idea what I’m doing.” Rey whispered breathily.

“Don’t you worry, it’s my job to make you look good.” He placed his hand at the small of her back, guiding her toward an open parquet dance floor currently only utilized by the usual suspects this early in a ball - old couples, and people who knew how to dance.

Ben definitely counted himself among that number. It had been… A very long time, but there were certain things he practiced endlessly a lifetime ago that he’d never forget.

“Wait! Seriously, I have no - what are you doing - no , no-no-no- no - Ben!” Rey frantically whispered in protest as Ben positioned her hand on his shoulder, and took the other in his.

“Hush, and just let me guide you.”

Rey practically squeaked as Ben wrapped his other arm around her back and pulled her against his body, securing her tiny waist in his hand.

“This - this can’t p-possibly be appropriate.” Rey stammered out, blushing.

“Look around, Rey. It’s fine, it’s expected.” She was so incredibly lightweight, it took almost no effort at all to get her to move the way he needed. More than a few times, he could feel the beginnings of a trip, a hesitancy, or a just plain missed step - he never let her stumble, never let anyone see anything less than her perfection.

 

After all of the times he felt so full of doubt, so awkward being, well, anything around Rey, it was freeing to be in a position where he had poise and confidence. Not only that, but to be able to so publicly hold Rey close to him, while she had to rely on his guidance and expertise? It was… thrilling, empowering - arousing; best focus on the situation at hand.

“Now then, Rey, I didn’t just want to show you off in front of all the Elder Houses. We have business to discuss.”

Rey nodded slowly, her eyes clearly fixated on her feet, where she seemed to be concentrating very hard.

“Look at me, Rey. I’m not going to let you fall.”

Rey’s eyes slowly rose to meet his, and she held onto him a little tighter. Good.

“I want you to look very carefully. I’m going to show you a few people, and you need to make sure you’re within eyesight of at least one of them all night, all right?”

Ben dipped Rey slightly, then spun her slightly so that they faced out the same way, ostensibly showing her off to the onlookers, while giving him the same vantage point as hers.

“Look up to the second floor, that overhanging balcony. There’s a shorter man with blonde hair, wearing a black tunic. The only one here with a rifle.”

“A rifle? I - I mean, I see him, but-”

“The OWT made a few… Concessions on my behalf, as far as security. That’s Shartom Ren, he’s our eyes in the sky tonight. Give him a wave.”

Rey meekly made a tiny waving gesture, which Shartom returned with a slight bow, then a casual salute toward Ben as he skulked around the perimeter of the balcony.

“All right, let’s see…” Ben pulled Rey back toward him and scanned the room, navigating the floor with casual ease while still managing to make it look like they were dancing. “Over there, the Weequay talking with one of your friends - that’s Enoch Ren. He’s our plainclothes security, since he’s the most… normal. And that’s still a stretch.” Ben exchanged a nod with Enoch over the heads of the Resistance, a knowing smirk spreading across Enoch’s face at the sight of Rey - who he winked at.

 

Ben had to let on a little bit more to his Knights concerning Rey, more than he’d ever tell anyone in the First Order proper. He only had to exaggerate slightly in telling them he sensed the attempt on Rey was a threat toward all Force users - themselves included. It had to be phrased very carefully, so the Knights simply thought Ben was using Rey to draw out the would-be assassins, as well as gain information about the Resistance from her.

He even told them a half-truth - that he felt Rey could be turned, a prospect that definitely seemed to spark interest from all of them. Enoch, much like Rose Tico, clearly read a little more into what Ben meant when he said that. That could be… problematic.

 

“Lastly… She’s going to be hard to find, she’s definitely out of place here, and we had to make sure she was somewhere central, but hard to see…” Ben practically had to squint to discern her. “There. Near that hallway, sitting in the shadows. That’s Obaan Ren. You probably won’t see her move around too much, she’s not young, as she has enjoyed reminding all of us for the last decade. She should be able to sense out any threats toward you before anything even happens, possibly before even you or I sense anything.”

“Ben - who - who are these people?”

“They’re my Knights. They were originally here as my security, but that protection has now been extended to you.”

“What exactly did you tell them about me?”

“That you’re the last Jedi, and currently very misguided in the ways of the universe. That by protecting you, we protect the future of the Force. That you need a teacher. That I’m very well on the way to seducing you to my wicked ways.” Ben grinned.

Rey blushed, looking away. “They can’t possibly believe that after they’ve seen me with the Resistance. Kriff, I’m practically their mascot.”

Ben gazed down at her, his eyes dark and brow furrowed. “If your people had any sense, any concept of history and its implications, they wouldn’t be using you the way they are. You wouldn’t be on their side at all. You shouldn’t be.”

Rey looked back up at him, shocked.

“Oh, yes. I know , Rey.” He pulled her closer to whisper directly in her ear - this was definitely something that he couldn’t risk being overheard. “I know even what Skywalker discovered and came to know - if you’re truly the last Jedi, you would learn from their failures. The Jedi should never take sides in anything, particularly warfare on a galactic scale. They should have remained as they were for generations - advisors, protectors, counselors - never warriors.”

Rey pulled away slightly, glancing all around them to make sure no one was listening. This dance had taken a turn for the dramatic, apparently. “Look Ben - I’m not going to pretend that I have some great wisdom or knowledge about our current situation. But what I do know is that what you - what the First Order represents and upholds - is wrong.”

Yes .” Ben breathed. He dipped Rey, his gaze never wandering from her eyes. “The New Republic, the Resistance, the First Order - they’re all wrong, Rey. Even the Republic, the Empire, the Jedi and the Sith - all of it has only led to more war and suffering on larger scales with every generation. No one’s ever gotten it right. But, you and me? We could.”

Now Rey looked completely lost. This was much closer to what he had tried to tell her back on the Supremacy so long ago… Maybe he finally found the right words. A thought occurred to him-

“You should talk to your friend Rose about this sometime. Ask her what she thinks about the direction the Resistance is taking, and what this galaxy needs right now. We don’t need more organizations and people burned to ground - we need to build. Leave behind what hasn’t worked, and forge anew. Together.”

“But Ben, I - I can’t just - kriff, you’re the Supreme Leader of the First Order, neither of us is exactly in a position where we can just - just take off and - and do whatever this is you’re suggesting!”

“You’re right, we’re not. And we won’t be able to until we’ve both done our part, and gotten enough people on both of our sides to listen to reason, and understand that we have to stop this cycle.”

Ben looked into Rey’s wide, dumbfounded eyes - perhaps he had revealed a bit too much here, but at least she wasn’t trying to run away this time. Yet. He sighed. “I don’t expect you to make any galaxy-altering decisions now, Rey, I just want you… I just want you to keep your eyes open. Always .”

 

Finally escorting her away from the dance floor, Ben guided Rey toward the Resistance. “I’ve kept you away from your friends for too long. But just listen to the language they use tonight - or better yet, just consider the company they’re keeping. Every one of these people has sold weapons to the First Order, and will probably continue doing so for as long as war continues to be profitable. Anything that happens here tonight will only result in more suffering.”

He kissed the back of her hand before releasing her, gently guiding her toward a positively delighted- looking Rose Tico.

 

Ben sank back into the crowd, keeping an eye on Rey from afar. Apparently, Rey had taken him up on his suggestion, because she immediately had pulled aside Rose, who now looked quite concerned.

Snagging a glass of wine, Ben resorted to his oldest method of avoiding socialization by messing with his comm, all the while watching where Rose and Rey were apparently having a very deep, alcohol-fueled heart-to-heart. He responded to a few messages from the First Order command while barely paying attention, then fired off messages to his Knights to make sure they hadn’t noticed anything yet. Shartom and Enoch responded immediately, but there was nothing from Obaan yet.

Glancing around, Ben saw that Rose and Rey were actually heading in Obaan Ren’s direction, so perhaps she was just keeping an eye on them. Shrugging, Ben returned to his comm, where Hux had already managed to send a needlessly long reply that Ben just did not have the patience to deal with at the moment. He was just about to pocket the comm and resort to - shudder - small talk -  when the comm buzzed in his hand-

 

O: Possible trouble. Get over here.

 

Ben’s head snapped to attention, looking around wildly. He concentrated, sensing all around him - Obaan was apparently picking up on more than him, but he definitely felt something… Off. He moved over to her location as quickly as he could without raising too much attention.

He was mostly successful - ever diligent, FN-2187 had picked up on his sudden movement. “I don’t like the looks of this, what’s going-”

“Shut up, Finn, and follow me. Something is wrong.”

There was a brief second that Ben was able to appreciate the completely shocked look on the former stormtrooper’s face when he was called by his new name.

Obaan Ren had emerged from the shadows, and looked furious. “It just happened - I should have caught it sooner, but I sensed… Someone was just taken against their will. It wasn’t the Jedi, she just went down that hall.”

 

Almost simultaneously, a thought practically panicked its way into Ben’s head.

 

Someone just took Rose. They took her into a room and now I don’t know-

Stay where you are, I’m coming as fast as I can, Rey

There’s no time, I’m so scared, they had a knife - stars, this is all my fault…

Just stay calm Rey, I’m coming to you right now.

I think I know where they took her, I’m going in-

No, REY!

 

It all happened so quickly. Ben felt a surge in the Force, then… Nothing. The place where his connection with Rey usually held a calm, reassuring presence in his mind was now just... empty. It was as though someone had torn at his mind and ripped at his heart - but it wasn’t broken.

There was no time for fury or calm. All Ben knew was to run, as fast as he could, to where he felt Rey last. Shouts of surprise and alarm followed him, it seemed that FN-2187 and Obaan Ren were tailing after him in a group that must have looked incredibly strange to any onlookers.

Ben knew the Force was guiding him as he ripped a door open, following a narrow corridor through a few turns, then opening yet another door. He was not prepared for the sight before him.

 

Two cloaked men were bent over Rey’s prone, limp form on the floor. One held her wrist and a syringe, the other a ceramic knife positioned just below her vulnerable, bare shoulder blade, where two tranquilizer darts were lodged. Whatever happened in here had obviously made extensive use of the wickedly jagged knife that did not need metal to be lethal; the air smelled of panic and blood. Kriff, ceramic blades - if well-concealed, even the best security in the world would never have caught these. Ben was able to numbly register several long slashes along Rey’s wrists and hands, all of them bleeding freely.

Rose Tico was being restrained by a third cloaked figure who had a similarly lethal-looking blade to her throat, tears streaming down her face. She looked relatively unharmed, but clearly not completely unscathed.

Ben had entered just in time to hear one of the men exclaim “It’s not enough, she’s coming out of it! Get another dose!”

 

Lashing out on pure instinct, Ben pushed the two men as far from Rey as he could, freezing the one restraining Rose.

“Rose, get behind me.” Ben managed to growl out, a powerful, black fury finally building in him as he managed to free himself from running on pure adrenaline.

One of the men idiotically made a motion to throw his dagger - not at Ben, but directly at where Finn had just burst in the room. Ben didn’t even have to think, he immediately flung the dagger away from him, shattering it into a thousand tiny shards of porcelain. Finn looked at him in amazement, then-

 

It was as though all of his hatred, power, and Dark ebbed out of him in a painful pull. He almost doubled over, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened-

 

Before he saw the most glorious sight of his entire life.

 

Rey was awake. She was alive, and she was livid. Dark swirled around her beautifully, the pain of her wounds effortlessly becoming power in her body as she rose from the floor. Her right hand shot out before her, twisting cruelly as she dragged the three assailants across the floor toward her, crushing them to the floor with her power.

“Which of you was it. Who hurt her. Tell me. A powerful, commanding voice issued from Rey - Ben swore he heard in its echo… Kylo Ren.

This was it, what he always suspected - she was drawing power straight from him, from his Dark. For now, it was exceptionally effective, but Rey wasn’t trained enough to know how to temper the power. Ben just hoped that he would be able to draw on her Light, if it came down to that. He hoped it didn’t.

Rey’s head snapped to one of the three men - apparently, his thoughts betrayed him.

“You. Confess.”

The man trembled. Rey’s patience had apparently already run out as the man was suddenly held aloft, scrabbling at his throat. She staggered toward him, dripping blood as she pushed harder, the Dark around her practically palpable.

Rey was shaking with the effort of pushing through the assailant’s mind. She had let up on his throat enough to allow a series of pleading babbles through, which Rey cut off immediately.

“Do not beg. Tell me, are there any more here?”

He shook his head wildly. “It’s - it’s just us here, no more, no more-”

“Who sent you?”  

She was going too far, the man’s mind would break, and she would never forgive herself if she kept pushing like this. He intimately knew that, in this moment, all it would take was the slightest push from someone to douse her Light completely. Ben exhaled slowly, centering himself - he knew he had to step in.

The man’s eyes had rolled to the back of his head, he was clearly almost gone. “Mortis… Mother, please!”

He couldn’t concentrate on those chilling words for now. Rey was in danger. Ben reached out, placing his hands on her shoulders as he spoke softly, as though calming a wild animal. With a twitch of his hand, he rendered the man unconscious, so he could fully concentrate on Rey.

 

“Rey, it’s all right. Everyone is safe. You’ve done so well - now let me take over.”

Rey trembled, tears running down her face. “I - I almost - I can do it-”

“Shh, Rey. It’s all right.” Ben ran his hands down her arms, pushing Light back toward her. He captured her hands in his, healing the deepest cuts where she had apparently grabbed a knife by the blade.

Now it was Ben’s turn to shudder, a blissful sensation passing through him as he quietly held Rey. Her Dark into him, his Light into her - Rey gasped slightly, eyelids fluttering as she slightly came back into herself.

“B-Ben?”

“Rey.” he replied with a smile.

“Finn?” Rose asked shakily.

“Look out!” Finn shouted.

 

One of the guards on the ground apparently chose this moment to wake up and finish his mission - Ben had been too distracted to see the man crawling toward Rey, knife poised and ready to slash at her calf-

 

Finn tackled the man to the ground, immediately putting a knee to his back and restraining his arm at a painful angle.

“All right, I don’t know how the Force works, but someone needs to get these guys better secured.” Finn muttered, straining to keep the struggling man down.

“Obaan. Make sure they’re all completely out, then get Shartom and Enoch to restrain them and put them on my shuttle. They’re coming back with us for further interrogation.”

Obaan Ren nodded jerkily, giving a casual wave of her hand that made the only conscious man drop like a stone. “They’re already on the way.”

“Good.” Without letting go of Rey, Ben turned to face Finn, who had moved back to hold the shaken-looking Rose, who was clearly stunned by what she had just happened both to her and around her. “Finn - you saved - you - thank you. Just - thank you and… I’m sorry.”

Finn nodded slowly, not saying a word. Ben returned the nod jerkily, watching them as they slowly made their way out of the room, presumably to tell the rest of the Resistance what had just happened. Ben refocused his attention on Rey.

 

Well. With the look she was giving him… Perhaps she still hadn’t quite balanced it all out yet, the Dark was still clearly with her. Ben supposed he was still feeling a bit more forgiving than usual, and-

“Ben I - I want - I need-” Rey practically whined, grasping at his jacket, pressing against him. “What’s - what’s wrong with me?”

Kriff. Ben assumed it was only his weakness, that seeing Rey using the Dark was… Well, it worked for him. Perhaps the inverse was true as well?

He took Rey’s hand in his, running his fingers over the shallower, less dire cuts that ran down her wrists as he called the Light to heal. It was an experiment, that was all-

The moan that issued from Rey shot right down his spine, yet it was her hips that jerked forward. Her fingers caressed his face, and he felt her mind invade his as he practically panted at the beauty of the Dark as she used it on him.

We are leaving. You are going to - to help me. With - this… thing.

 

It was almost cute, the way she had such power in the Dark, but utterly no confidence. He’d teach her how to use it properly, but for now, she needed… A firmer hand.

Or mouth.

Ben held her chin, smiling gently, but turning the Dark back on her as she groaned, melting into his arms. This steeped in the Dark, he knew what she wanted - what she needed to hear.

 

Oh, Rey. I’m going to do more than help you. I’m going to ruin you, and you’re going to thank me.