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the long road back

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Finn’s sitting on his bottom bunk when she gets back to their room, looking concerned. He’s clearly stress-cleaned the entire room in her absence, and she wonders if it’s really been that long. It feels like everything took all of forty seconds, not over an hour. He wrings his hands and looks up at her, eyes wide. “Is it true?” he asks, and he’s really trying not to sound scared. Rey grimaces, walking over to the bunk and sitting beside him. “Is it really him? He didn’t get to the Gen-” and he notices the blood on her knee, standing and reaching for her in one swift motion. “You’re hurt-“

“That’s not my blood,” Rey replies, waving him off. “I’m fine, I’m fine. He was wounded, and yes, it’s true.” She sighs. “I tackled him in the doorway. I thought you were right behind me?”

“I was, and then you were doing all that ..Jedi stuff, and I couldn’t keep up.” He shrugs, awkwardly shifting and pacing in front of the bed. “And there were so many people in there, I couldn’t get anywhere close. No one really knows what’s going on.” It occurs to him suddenly: “–You.. tackled him in the doorway?”

“Yes..” She bites her bottom lip. “No, he didn’t hurt the General, and it really is him, and he’s… He was kneeling, when I tackled him.”

“You tackled a kneeling, bleeding Kylo Ren and he didn’t hurt you.”


“Wait, kneeling?” Finn asks with a clear what the hell was going on in there tone. “Back up, back up. What was he-“

Rey waves her hands, a little overwhelmed, and cuts him off. “He was kneeling because he’s surrendered. To the-“ She leans in conspiratorially, her voice a whisper. “To General Organa herself.”

“Surrendered?” asks Finn incredulously, and she feels a little better in being shocked now. At least it seems just as unbelievable to Finn, too. “He’s- Really?” There’s a tinge of panic to his tone. “Isn’t he Snoke’s right hand man?”

“I don’t really know what’s going on besides what Leia told me, and what I saw,” Rey replies, shrugging slightly. “But she’s very much convinced, and I don’t think he could hide any ill intent from her.”

“Yeah?” Finn regards her for a moment. She stares back, raising an eyebrow. Finally he licks his lips. “You’re learning the Force, right? You can … feel, things, too, right?”

“Yes, of course.” Rey frowns, confused.

“Well. What’d you feel on him? Yknow?” Finn shrugs. This is so simple for him; to him, it’s a skill, something highly specialized, yes, and something one has to be born with, maybe, but a skill nonetheless. He’s always had faith in her abilities. He makes it sound so easy. She’s been training, she’s powerful as it is. There’s no reason she shouldn’t be able to tell, too, as far as he’s concerned. “If he can’t hide it from her, maybe he can’t hide it from you, either. Doesn’t Lu- mm-“

“Master Skywalker,” Rey interrupts, as always.

Without missing a beat, “Master Skywalker say you’ve got a lot of potential?”

Rey considers this for a moment. What had she felt on him? She feels a little embarrassed that she didn’t think of it first; this is exactly the sort’ve thing Master Skywalker would’ve asked her himself. She closes her eyes and breathes out slowly, clearing her thoughts and trying to remember.

Finn waits patiently for her. It’s pretty common that Rey disappears into whatever Force thoughts she’s having, into whatever calm place she needs to go to center herself. He toys with his fingers, glancing around the room, and taps his foot now and again as he waits.

It doesn’t take her more than a few moments to come to the answer, and she opens her eyes. “It felt like…” she starts uneasily, frowning off into some distance Finn can’t see. “He feels like…” Rey looks back at Finn, her face set into a hard mask. “Resignation,” she says. “He feels like he’s resigned to it.”

“..Resignation? That’s… weird,” Finn replies, frowning at her. That was nowhere near what he’d expected. When he’d left the Order, he’d been scared, nervous, thrilled, shocked it’d been so easy. It wasn’t an option, to him. It was something that had to happen. He hadn’t felt resigned to it. “That’s weird, right?”

Rey nods at him. “Yes, it is. It’s almost like he doesn’t want to be here. What’s the point of surrendering if you don’t want to?”

“Maybe Snoke’s making him,” Finn replies quietly, dread in his voice. “Maybe he’s supposed to get close and go all ..Jedi-killer on us.”

“The General trusts him,” Rey all but whispers in reply. “If she trusts him..”

“We should too. Yeah.” He nods, looking away. Ren was the terrifying unknown of the Order, the creature that would destroy entire rooms by himself without difficulty. There were rumors the troopers had about him that weren’t to be repeated anywhere near where he could hear, stories of Jedi younglings cut down in the middle of the night, of staring Luke Skywalker down and surviving, of being able to kill stronger, larger, older Force users with half the training. He’d himself seen the man hold a blaster shot in midair, almost forgotten. It wouldn’t shock him if Ren could kill everyone on the base without even half a thought, and now here he was, nearby, with a plea for help.

It was suspect at best.

Rey feels just as uncertain and worried as he is, and he holds out a hand, fingers outstretched. She curls her pinky around his, the familiar gesture only taking some of the stress away. “I’m going to try,” she says, looking at Finn, who glances back at her. “I’m going to trust in General Organa.”

“You know how this goes, girl,” he says lightly, even if he doesn’t feel very light. “I go almost anywhere you go.”

“Almost!” she gasps, amused, mock shock and betrayal on her face.

“Cliffs, Jedi and Stormtroopers don’t mix,” Finn replies sagely, nodding.

“Oh, well. I’ll be sure to tell the next Stormtrooper I see, then,” returns Rey, just as lightly as he had been. Finn gives her a wide, genuine smile, the brightest thing in the room.



General Leia Organa is summoned to Kylo Ren’s prison cell within the hour of his being placed there by a very harried looking medic. “He’s not allowing medical care,” the medic huffs as she stalks down the hallway at Leia’s side. “It’s clear he’s bleeding heavily and is in pain, but he won’t allow us anywhere near him.”

Of course he is. Of course he won’t. The damages Snoke’s done to him are even heavier than she’d realized. She turns into the room to find three equally scared looking medics standing on one side and Ren on the other. Standing at his full height, with wild eyes staring down his attackers and his wild hair, he looks downright terrifying. The Force stands between them in a palpable wall; she wonders if they can feel it too, and supposes they must. His fury and fear is strong enough that it’s almost visible in the air, crackling around him. Almost.

Leia steps forward in front of them, blanketing everything around her in equal amounts of calm, and the four medics almost huddle behind her, watching. “You need to let us heal your wounds,” she says quietly, not raising her voice, not inflecting any emotion at all. “You could die from that,” and she nods at his side.

“No medics,” he hisses under his breath, and he sounds so weak. His face is paler than it should be. “I don’t-“

“Doesn’t it seem foolish, to surrender yourself, under what I’m assuming is the will to survive, and end up dying from easily treatable wounds?” Leia interrupts, her voice only the slightest bit louder. “You came here to live, did you not.”

He blinks in response. “I-“ and she can hear him, hear his desperate I didn’t want to come here. The underlying I don’t want to live that doesn’t even need to be said, thought, felt. It hurts her more than she’d like to admit, but at least it gives her the key.

“What would your General say?” she interrupts him again. “What would he say? What would he expect from you, in this moment? Because I’m pretty sure if we brought him in here he’d give you the same speech,” Leia delivers the final blow with the same unaffected even tone. Ren physically winces in response, and she feels a curious mixture of victory and guilt. He’s practically bleeding fear into the air; she wonders what he has to be afraid of. “We’re not going to hurt you,” she adds. “You can make this easiest for everyone and allow them to sedate you, if you wish. All we ask is you allow us to heal your wounds.”

He stares at her, panting, for a long moment. She can almost hear his mind working, but her final hit made it clear he was giving away too much and he’s pulled his thoughts back in, tight, around himself. The pressure in the room seems to dissipate a little, and he shifts, pressed up against the permacrete.

“Fine,” he finally croaks, “but no sedation. I don’t-” I want to know what you’re doing to me. It takes a low breath and pursed lips to keep Leia from wincing. “I don’t need it.”

The prospect of being touched, of his wounds being revealed and made real, is terrifying to him. Watching the medics peel off his armor with careful, shaking hands makes that abundantly clear. Ren stares at the floor without once looking up, obeying every command the medics quietly murmur to him. All the rage in him has become shame, embarrassment, and though it dampens the room it lacks the same sharp taste of danger. He feels defeated.

At their insistence, he lifts his arms with difficulty, letting them remove the top pieces without much fuss. His chest is a mess; there’s what appears to be a blaster hit in his shoulder, something older than when he’d come to the base, and still bleeding sluggishly. There’s enough blood streaked across his body that it had originally seemed a side wound, and she’s still not sure it’s the only wound.

Leia and the medics all share the same grim silence. His shame and embarrassment are louder than ever, and she wonders what he possibly has to be ashamed about. Anyone in his situation would not be able to storm anything, certainly not a Resistance base; they wouldn’t be able to fight, let alone move as much as he has. That is an impressive handle on pain, and an equally impressive ability to weather such violence and keep acting as if he were fine.

Years of abuse, she realizes. Years of torment. The prevailing idea that he needs to or be seen as something lesser.

It chokes her. She quietly backs out of the room, taking a moment to breathe in the hall before she sets off. It’s time to get some answers.



General Hux is sitting in an interrogation room in perfect silence, his cuffed hands folded neatly on the table in front of him. He’s still rumpled, of course, though he has apparently pushed his hair back into place, as much as it could be. When General Organa enters, he raises his head high, as if she’s just walking into his office to give him a report. He has a cool calmness to him, his mind curiously silent in that practiced manner of someone used to dealing with Force users. He feels like a man convinced that his actions are right, always.

Leia sits in front of him, looking him over with one raised eyebrow. He doesn’t flinch, doesn’t back away in his gaze, instead staring back at her, straight on.

“General Hux,” she says, inclining her head slightly.

“General Organa,” he replies, voice smooth and clipped all at once, not a syllable too long.

“I have it on good authority this was your idea,” and she leans forward, folding her hands on the table as well, cocking her head. “Is this true?”

“It is,” he replies, and there isn’t an iota of regret in any of him. He almost seems at ease here, staring the enemy’s General down and in cuffs.

“Can I ask your reason?”

He’s silent for a few seconds, and she can almost feel him trying to think of the best way to phrase it. “I…” Hux begins, raising an eyebrow, toying very slightly with one of his fingers. “Recently became aware of the truth of what Kylo Ren was being subjected to at the hands of Supreme Leader Snoke.”

“You expect us to believe you left your post as the head of the First Order because his apprentice was treated poorly?” Leia asks, genuinely surprised at the response.

Hux snorts. “I don’t expect you to believe anything. You’ll believe what you want regardless of what I say. I have no doubt there will be a thousand reasons for my defection in this camp’s rumor mill by sundown.” He leans back. “That is my reason. Would it surprise you less to know we’ve been sleeping together for several years?”

She ignores the odd sting that produces, never once showing her reaction. She’s careful to sound almost uninterested, her face neutral. “I guess I just have a hard time believing you’d want to abandon your post when by all accounts it’s all you’ve ever wanted, especially for someone we’ve been made to understand makes your life actively harder. Wouldn’t it just be easier to abandon him to his fate?”

“Yes, it would,” Hux replies easily, another sting to ignore. “But that’s not going to help me in the long run. That isn’t the answer to the greater problem. I believe, with the right application of force, Supreme Leader Snoke can be destroyed, and Ren can be instrumental in this.”

“Is that so?” Leia raises an eyebrow. “But that doesn’t answer my question. If you think you know how to destroy Snoke, why wouldn’t you stay?”

“Under no circumstance would I be here if I thought it was possible that we could destroy Snoke ourselves, where we were, at this point in time,” and there is such a conviction to his words that Leia is almost awed by. He truly believes in everything he does. “I have investigated every possibility, I have played through every scenario, I have imagined every outcome. There is no way, ever, that we would be able to get to the point that Ren would strike him down in his current state. Even if he didn’t see us coming, even with the most careful planning, even with Ren standing above him triumphant, he would sooner strike me down than Snoke. His control over Kylo Ren is almost absolute. If we are to overthrow Snoke- if he’s to be stopped –we need your help.”

“I see,” Leia returns, sitting back, somewhat lost for words. He’s a natural leader; his charisma is obvious, and he speaks in such a way that she could see how easy it would be to follow his orders. “What do you propose?”

“Ren must be put right before he will ever be able to stop Snoke.”

“And you believe surrendering to us is the way to do it?”

"Yes. I know this is the way,” Hux murmurs, and there’s a guarded softness to his words. Leia can feel his carefully quiet mind shift, and she wonders if it’s calculated. There’s a genuine feeling behind all the smoke and mirrors, something she can’t quite put her finger on. Perhaps he’s trying to show her, trying to make her understand why he’s here. At the very least, she can say he’s telling the truth. “The things he has been forced to endure under the guise of training are absolutely the same methods one would use to break a torture victim. He must be allowed to heal, and to make his own decisions, and the only way to allow that is freeing him from Snoke’s hold.”

"You could have gone anywhere in the galaxy,” Leia counters, leaning forward again. “Anywhere but here. Disappeared into the furthest reaches, never been heard from again. Why did you come to us?”

"Well.” Hux leans back, and there’s the littlest ghost of a smirk at the corners of his lips. “Practically speaking, he needs to be surrounded by Force users that aren’t going to tear his mind apart. He’s spoken about the scavenger more than once; I believe whatever power he needs to believe in may reside with her. Emotionally speaking, this is the best route for him; with you, the Resistance fighters he knows and Skywalker nearby, it will be much harder for him to continue ignoring the considerable damage that has been done to him. If he cannot hide from you, he cannot hide from what needs dealt with.”

“I see,” Leia says, pursing her lips.

“Tactically speaking,” Hux continues, voice silkier than ever, “in order for any of this to work, I need you alive.” His voice lowers ever so slightly. “And if we know where you are, so does he.”