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the long road back

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The news travels fast, because it has to: Kylo Ren and what looks like his right hand are storming the command central, and word has it he’s out for the General. She had been sleeping, but when Finn comes and wakes her, Rey wastes absolutely no time in moving; she can’t. She simply can’t afford to hesitate. She starts to run, and the hilt of her saber hits her hand the second her foot hits the floor and she’s gone, weaving through the throngs of people rushing to the General’s aid. Before her, in the copse of trees that surrounds the command base, she can see people flying into the air, clearly pushed by the Force. She grits her teeth, and runs faster.

 

The General cannot be talked into leaving. She stands, waiting, listening to the screams and saber slashes outside the door, patient and cool. She seems to almost get bigger, her back straightened and her hands folded calmly before her, and the entire room waits on her cue. The sounds stop, and there are more screams, and then everything inside and outside the command room goes silent. The dull sound of boots thudding on the dirt comes closer and the double doors open so slowly, revealing Kylo Ren, silhouetted and terrible.

He steps into the room, the click of his boots reverberating off the walls, filling the dark room with his menace. Behind him, light spills in in direct contrast, showing that there’s only one person and a curious lack of bodies on the ground. The person, most of the people within command recognize, is General Hux, the supposed second in command of the First Order, directly below Supreme Leader Snoke. He seems stressed, looking rumpled to a point, his sharp uniform dusty and his hair just only slightly out of place. His eyes dart nervously about the room and he stays close to Ren.

The Knight himself looks worse for the wear without question. His tight black clothing looks burnt, seared, to people close enough to notice, and as he passes it’s clear he’s shaking slightly. His mask, usually so formidable, has a sharp crack across it, and his face, lit by the mask’s internal lights, is bright red but barely visible through it. His heavy breathing can be heard through the room. He walks, sporting a slight limp, his side clearly tight and wounded, until he’s almost in the center of the room, and it’s clear his sights are set on General Organa. She stares him down from her post, appearing no more stressed than before, though her lips tighten ever so slightly. Behind him, General Hux stands in parade rest, watching the knight closely.

“I have come,” he says, and the voice modulator is as horrible as ever, but clearly damaged, a slight distortion to the words. He almost sounds breathless. “I have come here for you.”

She nods at him once, and says nothing. The palpable energy of the room is thick, the entire room’s breath is bated. Those who know the feeling recognize it for what it is: the Force, hanging around them, clinging to both mother’s and son’s bodies and just waiting to be used. Leia Organa nods again and steps down, walking down from the raised platform until she’s standing before him.

His hands raise, and he slowly removes the mask. The face of Kylo Ren is almost shockingly young, and everyone seems to recoil from the odd gentleness of it. His eyes, intense and dark, are centered on the General, never once wavering from her. He doesn’t seem to notice their reactions. He doesn’t seem worried by the yelling behind him, the ever-louder presence of the forces coming to remove him. He looks tired, and worse yet, he looks beaten.

He reaches for his saber. Everyone in the room tenses.

 

“Move!” Rey screams as she runs, and before her Rebellion forces dive out of the way. The wicked yellow double-sided saber opens behind her as she runs, lighting her way as she runs and jumps towards the outer door. “Don’t be dead, don’t be dead, please don’t be dead,” she hisses to herself as she goes.

 

Kylo Ren pulls the weapon’s hilt off his belt with a loud jarring metal sound and holds it aloft, almost as if he’s offering it to her. They’d all heard the story: this was how Han Solo died, how he was goaded into believing Ren would give the saber to him once and for all, and everyone in the room immediately reaches for any weapon they have near them, or tenses instead, ready to run for help and safety the moment it’s run through the General. She hears this, they both do, and she holds up her hand, a silent order. Wait.

So they wait, they watch.

Shaking, Ren turns his hand over, holds his arm out beside him, and lets go. The lightsaber slowly sinks to the ground, clearly cushioned with the Force, until it quietly hits the ground. Then, even slower, Ren sinks to one knee, never once looking away from the face of Leia Organa. She seems to relax somewhat, reaching out and placing her hand on his shoulder.

“I’ve come to surrender,” and everyone in the room hears his deep voice, even if it’s barely above a whisper. Behind him, General Hux slowly sinks to one knee as well, bowing his head slightly to Leia, though he too never takes his eyes off her. In the doorway, backup forces have stopped in shock at what they see. “We’ve come to surrender ourselves to the Resistance.”

 

MOVE!” Rey howls, and the soldiers do until they don’t anymore, because for some reason they’ve stopped in the doorway. They part as best they can, but she’s forced to push some of them out of the way, lightsaber flurrying about her. When she gets in the door, she sees Ren, and her first reaction is to fight; the double-sided saber becomes two in her hand, thanks to the clicking mechanism Luke had helped her design, and she’s in the air without thought. There’s a man she doesn’t recognize that dives out of the way, and General Organa backs away shouting something, and Ren turns to meet his doom head on, staring up into her furious eyes.

She collides with him, pressing him hard to the ground, sabers crossed over his neck to keep him down. He hisses but says nothing, swallowing and leaning as best he can from the blades. “Rey!” someone says, but she ignores it.

“You,” she hisses, and he actually looks scared.

“Rey, stop!” and this time she hears it like it’s the only voice in the world. Her head snaps up and Leia sighs, clearly not angry but not exactly happy, either. “Rey, please. Get off of him. He’s already surrendered.”

“He’s- what?”

“He’s already surrendered, Rey. Please, he’s wounded.”

Please? Wounded? She looks down at him and realizes he is; he looks devastatingly tired, with blood smeared over his lips and against the line of his hair. Her knees have him pinned and she realizes one of her knees is starting to feel damp from the blood lacing across her trousers. Awkwardly, she stands, her sabers disappearing into their hilts. A quick flick of both wrists and they’ve reconnected into one; she stands back and holds out a hand. It’s a long moment before he takes it, letting her help drag him off the floor. The rumpled diver from earlier is suddenly at his side and Ren pushes her away.

“He’s already surrendered,” Leia repeats slowly, getting Rey’s attention, “but you’ve done excellent work. That was exactly what you should have done, and I’m grateful that I have you to rely on.”

“Thank you,” Rey murmurs in response, watching Ren limp a step or two away, muttering to the man. “I’m… sorry, General, but I don’t think I understand. I thought-”

“He is still our enemy,” Leia interrupts, “and he is still a threat. But he has come here peacefully, he’s surrendered his weapon and he’s vocally insisted he means no harm. There’s no reason to hurt him until he gives us one. We have to stick to our rules or they mean nothing.”

“I don’t want to wait until it’s too late,” Rey replies, and the snap behind her words remembers a dark walkway and Han Solo’s last moments. Leia grimaces slightly, nodding.

“Don’t worry. I know him better than anyone else, even now. I’ll know before he does, and if I need you, I’ll call you.”

Rey doesn’t agree, but it’s best not to argue when Leia has that she’s already decided, it’s not an order yet but it will be, don’t push your luck tone of voice. Rey slightly bows her head and stands back, watching Ren allow himself to be cuffed. It seems so silly, knowing his ability with the Force, to waste one’s time cuffing him. She realizes suddenly it’s a show of faith as another cuffs Hux and they begin to be lead away.

“Wait,” Ren’s voice comes, and he almost sounds panicked. “Wait, wait. Let us be roomed together.”

“I’m afraid we can’t do that,” Leia responds when the equally panicked man holding Ren’s arm turns back, eyes pleading for an order. “It’s not wise to room two prisoners together, I’m sure you understand.”

“I’ve already-“ but he stifles this line of thought, and flashes a desperate look at Hux, who shakes his head almost imperceptibly, still silent. The two men are lead away, and Rey lets out a slow, shaky sigh.

What a week it’s going to be.