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The Moon, the Sun, and the Star Inbetween.

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Part I

The Black Rock in the Sea

 

The island is, in some ways, more of a desert than Jakku ever was. A blue desert, but empty all the same. Instead of a jagged horizon of yellow sand, a perfectly level horizon of ocean stretches so wide without interruption that she could even see the curvature of the planet. There's no fresh water on the island. Instead, a condenser that looks like it was fashioned partly out of stones sits behind one of the huts, drawing a few pales of water out of the air every day. When Rey asks Luke how a Jedi Master could build such a thing out of rudimentary parts, he just smiles in a sad, wry sort of way and says, “I used to be a moisture farmer.”

And Rey used to be a scavenger, but that seems such a long time ago now, though it has barely been a month since she was haggling for portions over rusting circuitry. Luke hasn't promised to train her and won't even look at the lightsaber anymore, let alone touch it. At least he gave up trying to make her leave. Rey's natural born obstinacy came to some use at last, but she doesn't know what to do if Luke Skywalker never takes up the lightsaber again. She came to this tiny rock in the middle of nowhere to meet the most powerful jedi master in the galaxy – the only jedi master left, but there is hardly anything of the jedi left in him at this point, or at least not as she understands it.

During those long cold nights on Jakku, she'd heard stories from every civilisation, but all peoples had stories about the jedi. They were universal. And the universal story was that the jedi were noble knights who flew to battle forces of evil with their lightsabers and exerted immense power few could understand. The last, and the best, had been Luke Skywalker before he'd vanished into legend.

But here he was, little more than a grumpy hermit who watches the sea and lives off seaweed and banfish. He faces the horizon and meditates for hours each day, and speaks little, and despite Rey's persistence, he has little to say about the jedi order or his own past. All she can draw from him are comments like, “It was such a long time ago, it hardly matters anymore.” Though sometimes he sighs as she recounts the great tales she heard and remarks, “It's a shame the jedi are remembered only as warriors and little else.”

A warrior he may be no longer, but he is still undeniably a jedi. So Rey does only what she can, and does as he does. When he rises, she rises. When he meditates, she meditates – or tries to. When he cooks, she assists. When he tells her to fetch water, she brings it without complaint.

She wonders if she will ever make any progress with him, until the day of her vision.

It happens while she sits meditating one morning, with a low swooping feeling in her stomach that she hasn't felt since Luke's lightsaber called to her. When she opens her eyes and staggers to her feet, attempting to wake herself, it's already too late. It is not the green island and blue sea she sees, but a monochromatic landscape that stinks of sulfur and smoke. Blunt, black buildings litter the landscape like rotting, broken teeth, sitting on spikes of red earth as dark as old blood. Unfamiliar feelings well within her. She feels splintered, like finely cracking glass. She looks down at her hands – too large, encased in black, fingers clenched spasmodically like talons. They aren't her hands. These aren't her eyes.

The moment she realises this, she feels him realise it too. His thunderous presence roars up, reacting to hers with the same fury and fear she felt the last time she touched his mind. She tries to retreat, just as she feels him come howling through their connection, as if he could break into her – fill her head and obliterate all that is there. Rey gives a cry of panic and throws herself backwards. Her elbow smashes against rock and her back grazes the moss. She puts her hands up to fend off attack, but all she sees now is milky white sky and blue sea.

“You cry out in your sleep like that sometimes,” Luke remarks from somewhere behind her. She turns to see him standing near an ancient obelisk worn faceless with time. “Who have you seen?”

So she tells him. He already knows about Kylo and he sensed what had happened to Han long before she arrived to tell him. And like before, when she mentions the name of his former apprentice his face seems to fall into lines and shadows with pains too private for her to enquire about.

“I had visions of him before I ever met him,” she explains that evening as she stokes the fire and builds it up. Focusing on the flames and anticipating the way they dance and when they need feeding or airing gives her a much needed clarity outside of her jumbled thoughts. “Now and then, I get such a strong sense of him. Is what I'm seeing real? If I can see him like that, can he see me?”

Luke is silent with thought for so long that she is almost convinced he has no answer for her. As she throws another heap of driftwood onto the fire, he stirs.

“Your fates must be tied together profoundly for you to have had visions of him before meeting,” he says, his voice rough as if he isn't used to using it much. “When I knew I would have to confront my own father, I had visions of him too. Feeling a connection through the force is not usual for our kind, though proximity is usually required. Ben always was... unusually sensitive to the force. He didn't manifest his powers until quite late, but he could do things with the force that I had never seen before.”

“Is he so strong?” Rey asks hopelessly.

“Strong? How could I define that? He could sense the ebbs and flows of the force in a way that I could not. He could sense the truth of people's words and read their thoughts, which is more than I could ever do. But this was not the kind of strength that interested him. When he came to me he was a gentle, intensely lonely boy fighting his nature. He never got along with his father. Han loved him, but he never understood Ben, and the boy blamed himself when Han abandoned them to return to his old ways. He thought if he could be the kind of son his father wanted...”

Luke looks down at his own freckled, veined hands and sighs. “But I am not blameless either. I felt the weight of thousands of years of history weighing on me to preserve and continue the jedi order, and I passed it all onto the thin shoulders of a young boy who was already struggling to live up to the expectations of an absent father and a royal mother who feared his abilities. I pushed too hard. I expected too much. When I said he needed to be stronger, he heard that I wanted him to be tougher. When he asked me who the strongest jedi was, I told him it was my father, for however deep into the darkness he had been pulled, Anakin Skywalker managed to find the light again. But all Ben knew of Darth Vader was that he had wiped out our order and built an empire whose power spanned most of the known systems. When Snoke found him... he had plenty to feed off. Hate, anger, insecurity, fear, powerlust... these are all things that lead to the dark side. I fear Snoke has done much to cement his control over Ben since then, but Ben went willingly in the beginning. I thought I could save him once, but I'm no so sure now.”

Rey shudders as she remembers the savage light of the saber slipping through Han's body. “He's a monster.”

“He was not always so. When he was not much younger than you, he was like any young man. Full of uncertainty and passion, and rather too much of his mother's tongue, but his smile – rare as it was – could cheer anyone up.”

It's hard to imagine someone like Kylo Ren ever smiling. Rey imagines he's probably forgotten how to smile by now, along with how to to be human. When she broke into his mind in the interrogation cell, she felt all the things Luke talked about – the hatred, the anger and insecurity – but she had not seen much else. While Kylo had sifted through her memories of Jakku and needled at her loneliness and her dreams, by comparison his past was closed off to her, like a locked door he never opened for anyone, including himself.

But if she wants to understand how Snoke exerted his control over Kylo Ren, she doesn't need to wait long for answers.

It is pain. Pain so creeping and unending that it infects her dreams and makes it difficult to wake. It isn't her pain, but she feels it just as keenly all the same. As she sits up in the pitch darkness of her stone dwelling, she casts about, searching for the pitiful creature who needs her help. All she can sense is that they must be nearby.

“What's wrong? Why are you hurting?”

A now familiar presence reacts to her whispered words, but like a wounded creature he flinches away and draws a veil between them. Rey blinks, alone amongst her blankets, slow to realise that it is Kylo's pain she felt from so many worlds away.

“He's being tortured,” she tells Luke.

“Pain makes him more powerful. Or at least that is what Snoke has taught him to believe.” Luke seems more tired than ever, as he regards the stars above that are slowly fading away behind the morning light. The nights are long here, and dawn itself takes several hours.

“It didn't feel empowering,” Rey mutters into her knees. “It felt pitiful.”

After a long moment, Luke rises to his feet. “You need to break the connection. If you can feel his emotions and his whereabouts, then he can do the same to you. Once his training is complete, he will come for you.”

Rey flings herself up too, shocked. “Why?”

“Snoke is determined to acquire all the remaining jedi in the galaxy and exterminate those who refuse to bend to his will. Kylo Ren is his instrument, and from everything you've told me, you are the next acquisition. If you don't sever the connection with him, you'll make it rather easy for him to find us when the time comes.”

“But how do I-”

“Isn't that why you came here? To learn?” Luke manages an irritable look, as if annoyed that she has finally forced him to depart from his passive indifference. Which is exactly what she has done. Torn between elation at her success and the concern of his warning, she follows him up to the summit of the island where they usually meditate. It's too cold this early in the morning, but Luke doesn't want to waste time.

“When did you first feel the connection to him?” he asks her, after they have settled into even breathing and opened their minds to the Force, something Rey does like a child dipping her toes into a vast ocean she can barely comprehend.

“It was when he interrogated me on the starkiller base,” she says, remembering it as she speaks. She begins to appreciate how the meditation and the Force gives her a clarity of recollection she does not usually possess. “He... he pushed into my mind, he took things he had no right to.” The memory makes her burn with fury and humiliation.

“Let go of it,” says Luke. “He saw the truth of you. You have no need to feel shame, and he is not worth what the anger will cost you.”

It is easier said than done. She cannot forgive the violation, but she lets the heat inside her drop away to continue examining her memory with a detached calm. “When he reached out to me, it was like touching the plating on a ship without being grounded. Like a snap of electricity arcing from his mind to mine. I felt his shock, and then I knew I could push into him the way he pushed into me.”

“And what did you see?” Luke asks.

He's asking her to translate her experience of a mind that was not her own, and Rey struggles to put it into words. To read a mind is not to hear thoughts spoken in words or sentences. It's a dizzying rush of images and sensations, often in no order and without context. Kylo Ren was a fearful men. A black feeling underscored so many connections in his mind, and they all linked to one person he had no memory of. Just a name. A name that terrifies and exhilarates him. “I saw his obsession with Darth Vader. He's afraid he'll never match up to him.”

Luke looks grim, as if this no surprise to him. “And what else?”

Rey searches her memory. She had been in such a panic and a rush of adrenalin, that she had not dug deep. She had not needed to. He wore his hopes and fears so close to the surface, they were almost visible on his too-expressive face. But now she has time to pick apart the experience at her leisure, she realises Kylo Ren is not good at hiding things. It is why he wears a mask, she thinks, in part to imitate his grandfather, in part to intimidate, for his face is treacherous – the moment she saw it, she knew that. He can hide nothing. Emotions chase across his face the way even the slightest breeze can send ripples across a still pond, reflecting the turbulence within him that Rey sampled only for a moment. But it was enough to learn so much. She felt his obsession with Vader, yes, but also the father he adored and cursed, and the mother who buried him in a mire of guilty feelings. She felt the contempt he held for a man with red hair, and the fearful respect for a hooded creature that loomed indistinctly in the deepest wells of his mind.

And she also stole a glimpse of how he saw her. The curiosity, the delight he'd tried to suppress when the spark had jumped between them. The compulsion he'd felt to impress her. To attract her. To own her.

Rey nearly loses her serene concentration. She knows Kylo Ren is drawn to her in the way of a lonely creature meeting one of his own kind at last, for she couldn't deny that she felt the same way when the spark flew between them. It is magnetism that defies common definition; it is an attraction born of the Force. “Don't be afraid,” he had told her. “I feel it too.”

But she suspects now that it is more than that. The feelings that came with the images of her face, her hands, her lips. That attraction has nothing to do with the Force. It is the oldest and simplest kind; the attraction of a man to a woman.

She searches her feelings, looking for the revulsion or even the flattery of such a revelation, and she thinks perhaps this is not really a revelation at all. She did not need to read his mind to see his attraction to her. She felt it in his closeness and his oddly gentle eyes, and the way he had held back even when she'd been hacking away at him with every intention of ending his life. She did not care for it, so she had ignored it until this moment.

At Luke's curious look, Rey shrugs guardedly. “Nothing of consequence.”

“Be mindful of what keeps your connection to him alive,” he warns, and she thinks Luke might be able to read her mind after all. “However insignificant it might seem, you must unwind not only his grip on you, but your own grip upon him.”

“I do not grip him,” she says indignantly.

“You do. You will. You must fight the temptation to manipulate this link in your favour, for however strong you may be, you are treading in territory Kylo Ren knows intimately and he has every advantage.”

She understands what he means after a fashion when she sometimes catches herself wondering if she can tug on the link and peek into Kylo's world. It's an alluring thought that she could steal secrets from him. Could she learn something to help the Resistance? But fear prevents her. Just because they are worlds apart does not mean he cannot harm her, as more than once she has felt the way he snatches at her mind when he catches her wandering too close, with the certain knowledge that if he were to seize hold of her, she would surely be as good as dead.

But she is learning how to close him out. Luke teaches her the mental barriers he forged against his own father. She knows how to slam down those barriers and empty her mind; how to make herself a rock against any onslaught. She's glad of it. She knows its only a matter of time before he attempts to bridge the gap and use their link against her.

It comes when she's at her most vulnerable, when she has gone down to the tiny cove at the foot of the black island with a soap crystal in her hand and an empty pail under her arm. Did he wait for this moment? Spying on her while she was unaware? Or had it been a coincidence that he struck when she found herself separated from Luke, alone and unclothed in a pool of icy water, with nothing more urgent on her mind than to scrub the black marks from the soles of her feet.

She feels a shadow fall over her mind, as if someone has stepped between her and the sun. Her skin prickles in warning, the fine hairs rising at the sense of impending danger she does not understand until he's upon her. Her limbs falter and freeze just as they did that day in the forest when she'd first seen him.

Then a moment passes and she is plunged down, as if a large hand has shoved her head down into the water, and she flails in panic and disbelief.

You are a nuisance, she feels him tell her. It's not words she hears, but his intent. He wants to excise her, the way she wants to be rid of him too. The difference is he seems to think the best way to destroy their connection is merely to kill her.

Rey is quite affronted, for the thought of killing him this way has never crossed her mind. It's low, despicable, and exactly what she should have expected from him.

She senses he overhears these thoughts and for a fraction of a moment he hesitates. Is he stung, that she thinks of him as low and despicable? Yet it is all the slack she needs to slam down her defences. I am a rock, she tells herself, withdrawing inside herself where nothing of the outside world can get in. He can hammer all he likes, but her mind is her own domain. He will not catch her unawares again.

Only when she feels him begin to retreat does she dare relax.

Stay out of my head, is his final, parting shot.

Rey breaches the surface of the water and takes her first breath in several minutes. Was it a serious attempt he just made on her life? Or was it just a warning? Rey is not comfortable with either question.

She does not tell Luke about the encounter. She thinks he will only lecture her, or worse, insist that she no longer goes anywhere alone, which would make bathing difficult. Not everyone wants to be a stinky space hobo like Master Luke. Besides, she knows to guard herself now. She refuses to live in fear.

 

Chapter Text

 

The Green Moon.

 

Despite her determination to keep away from Kylo Ren's mind, it is not something she can always resist. It is not even her fault. He pulls at her, perhaps without even knowing it, drawing her into his orbit with a terrifying gravity that catches her out in unguarded moments. She thinks it happens when he thinks of her. In which case, isn't it really his own fault?

It happens as she scrubs her hands red raw in a pail of cold water and dirty clothing. Suddenly she is seeing double, watching soap scum drip from her chapped fingers the same time she is seeing a red saber flashing before her, slicing through people like a knife through meat. She shuts it out before he can sense her, but she is queasy and shaken. And it is happening more frequently. Often enough that she is beginning to build a sense of his movements and plans. She suspects he is up to something, though she dreads to think what. Luke may have stepped up his efforts to prepare her, but he has been burned by students before. His teachings are slow, intended to pry out weaknesses before bestowing strength. And he still won't touch the lightsaber... and she begins to think he would not lift it even to save his own life at this point.

He allows her to use it instead, but only sparingly. “Your quarterstaff has been your third arm all your life,” he tells her. “You should stick with it. When it comes time to build your own lightsaber, you would do well to consider fashioning it as a staff.”

It is the first time he has ever acknowleged that Rey is or will be a jedi, and her heart soars with delight. The joy is punctured just as quickly with a stab of derision.

You were better off as a scavenger.

So he is spying on her. Or does he end up inexorably pulled into her life the way she is into his? She shoves him away, as hard as she dares, and wonders at his cheek. For someone so protective of his own privacy, he sure has no compunctions about invading hers.

The next time she falls into his mind is when she sleeps. He is sleeping too, and the result is a cacophonous crash of nonsensical imagery that has her twisting fretfully beneath her blankets. There are her own memories of a ship glinting in the sunlight, climbing away from her into the blue, blue sky, and it blurs with another memory of a different shuttle ascending above the trees, carrying away her mother – no. Not her mother. His mother. She feels the anguish of abandonment as if it is her own, because it is her own. She knows that feeling so well. But there are feelings she doesn't know too, like the warm touch of a father's hand on her cheek. The love shining in his face. There is nothing she could do that would ever make him stop loving her. She doubts even death can stop love that strong.

She forces herself awake, wretched tears rolling down her cheeks. These aren't her feelings. These aren't her tears. But they are now hers to cry because Kylo cannot.

The day Luke shows her how to build her own lightsaber is one of best in her life. “You still have so much to learn,” he warns her, “but you more than deserve this.”

The crystals she needs to complete the double-bladed staff can only be found on certain planets. Luke is oddly reticent as she loads up the corvette the Resistance graced her with. She wonders if he's finally grown to appreciate her company and asks if he intends to miss her.

“You made me remember what hope is,” he tells her. “Of course I will miss you.”

She is stunned by his oddly serious response. “I'll be back before you know it,” she reassures him.

“Don't rush.”

She should have known he was hiding something from her. She should have known he had found a perfect excuse to get her off world, knowing the excitement of her assignment would blind her to the clues. She scrabbles through subterranean caverns and tunnels on a planet she never knew existed, with little else on her mind than finding the best crystals. Her years of scavenging serve her well, and she feels no fear as she descends into the darkest depths of the planet to find the choicest crystals. Luke told her to let the Force guide her, and she lets it in. She passes over dozens of flawless crystal formations until one in particular feels right in a way she can't describe. This is her pair of crystals, the Force tells her, and she almost vibrates with excitement as she chips away to free them from their rocky bed.

A whisper runs through her as she holds her prize in her hands. The crystals flare and glow, and then change colour. Luke warned her this would happen. When she found the right crystal, it would absorb her energy and be altered forever. She expects blue or green, but the crystal can't seem to decide. One moment it shines sky blue, then the next it bleeds a pulsing red. She almost drops the crystal in horror, for it reminds her at once of the vulgar, crackling saber wielded by Kylo Ren.

When the colour finally evens out, it's a pale yellow that bathes her hands in soft golden light. But Rey hardly attends. The thought of Kylo Ren has opened a door in her mind and she looks up as if she can see through the layers of rock, earth and atmosphere, through the layers of countless planetary systems to where Kylo stands upon the bridge of a cruiser. He knows she is with him, but rather than chase her out, he invites her in, allowing her to see through his eyes.

For he is looking down upon the planet she has spent the last few months calling 'home'.

“Luke...” she breathes.

You led me right to him, she hears his soft gloat.

Rey shoves the crystals into her sack and races back to the surface. Perhaps it's not yet too late? Throwing herself into the corvette, she fires up the engines and brings the nose up into a direct ascent that strains the engines and rattles the cabin. The moment she breaks the atmosphere, she hits the hyperdrive, catapulting herself across the stars.

Luke! She tries to reach out to him the way Kylo can reach out to her, but she feels no sense of the man... not until her boat decelerates and skuds across the outermost atmosphere of his planet. Her radar fills with pings. Kylo Ren did not come alone, and she counts dozens of ships closing in on the planet. Many are already landing.

Luke, she pleads again, but the response is faint. Luke is resigned. He does not intend to hide. He does not intend to run.

I have to face my mistakes, she hears over the pounding of her own heart. But you must go.

“No,” she says to herself, her hands trembling over the controls, not knowing what to do. On the radar she sees a ship has disengaged from the rest and is zeroing in on her. It's fast. She cannot outrun it now, even if she tried.

You are a jedi, Luke tells her. Don't forget it.

A jedi is collected. A jedi is serene. A jedi faces calamity with a raised chin and reacts like a leaf on the wind, shifting and adapting to any change. Rey realises that Luke is already lost to her. To go in now is to merely hand themselves over to the First Order as a pair. His only hope is if she makes it back to the Resistance and brings the full force of General Leia's fleet down on Kylo Ren.

She spins the controls and jams the throttle into the highest, tightest position as she rockets away from the planet. The cruiser is almost on her tail, and she is defenceless. But it does not shoot her down.

Because Kylo Ren is aboard.

Why run? The question echoes in her mind, put to her by one already assured of his victory.

You do not know me, she responds, and drops into a steep turn that the larger, bulkier cruiser cannot match. His ship is faster, but hers has the maneuverability, and she has no qualm in lining up her guns and emptying her blasters.

Of course any ship with Kylo Ren would have shields, but she's only interested in buying time. There are still a few minutes left before the hyperdrive can fire again, and Rey must stay alive and free until then. Kylo knows this. The cruiser is firing now, aiming disabling shots at her engines, but Rey weaves between the blasts and soars as she punches in the coordinates to the Quadara system and uploads a subspace transmission to warn the Resistance.

So that is mother's new hiding place.

Too late, she realises her mistake. “Get out!” she screams, pulling up every defence she possesses to keep him out of her mind, but he already knows. The Resistance has been compromised. She has just handed the coordinates of their base to the biggest monster in the First Order!

A shot lands on corvette's nacelle, spinning her out. A warning light begins shrieking in Rey's ear, but a quick glance lets her know the hyperdrive is still functioning and only moments away from engaging. Her mind races. She has to kill Kylo Ren. It's the only way to save the Resistance now and undo her mistake. To save Leia. To save Luke. To save Finn and Poe and all the people she has come to regard as her family.

So she drops her mental guards and reaches across the void to take hold of Kylo's mind. You came here to capture me, she says, feeling the confirmation of her suspicions unfold in her hands. So come and get me.

The hyperdrive throws her into motion and spits her out above one of the moons of Quadara system's gas giant. The new base is on Palamoor in the outer rim, transferred there after the D'Qar base was compromised months ago, but Rey heads away, aiming for the lush moon below. She watches her sensors and notes with grim satisfaction the ping of the cruiser breaking into range behind her.

As she punctures the moon's atmosphere, her console flickers and spurts. If Kylo Ren has any sense, he'd turn back now, but she senses his obsession. She senses the all-consuming need that drives him. She is too close now, he won't let her get away from him this time, even if it means dropping his ship right into the middle of a geomagnetic storm. Rey tips the corvette down into the perfect nosedive just as her instruments finally flicker and die. The radar disappears, but she doesn't need it to feel the cruiser still in pursuit. But it isn't built to withstand such electromagnetic forces.

Rey reaches up to clasp the manual release. When the moment is right, she will pull the lever and eject herself with the emergency parachute. But Kylo's ship will crash and burn and anyone aboard will die. Even now, as the plating on his ship begins to burn and melt, he is more preoccupied with her capture than his own impending death.

You're clever for a junk rat, she hears him say, though he is no longer gloating. But even rats know when they're cornered. Give up.

“Bit late now," Rey breathes. “Oh well. Goodbye, Ben.”

The green surface of the planet rushes up to meet her, and Rey yanks hard on the lever. It's the last thing she remembers.

 

Chapter Text


A Truce

She wakes in a meadow of tall yellow grass. She's still strapped into her flight seat and half draped in a florescent orange parachute. How long she's been there, she can't say. It might have been hours or it might have been seconds. Her shoulders and knees hurt but she suspects that is nothing compared to the aches she'll have by tomorrow. But she is alive. She is alive and Kylo Ren is not. She reaches out, searching the Force for his presence... but there is no answering response for the first time in almost a year. She is truly alone with her thoughts once more.

Rey shakes off the oddly melancholic feeling this brings out in her.

Trudging in the direction of the smoking remnants of the corvette, Rey picks up the odd heated scrap of destruction. Sometimes it's hard to turn off her old impulse to collect and hoard the random junk she finds. Odd to think that on Jakku, coming across a crash like her own would have been a goldmine of fresh parts ripe for picking. Now she has to forcibly ignore the shiny reticulated engine manifold that would have fetched some five or six portions. She picks through the wreckage until she finds her sack of crystals and what was left of her quarterstaff, for the latter is broken in three places. The sight of it almost makes her cry.

But not as much as the little flicker on the edge of her senses.

“No!” She gasps and shores up her mental defences. If by some heinous miracle Kylo Ren has survived, she will not let him sense her.

Hiding her things in the long grass, she creeps along through the trees in the direction she sensed that tiny flicker. She smells the acrid stench of burning metal and carbon. At the edge of the trees she looks down and sees a burning husk of what remained of the First Order cruiser that pursued her. Rey frowns. At the speed it had fallen, it should have been obliterated to tiny pieces before it had ever hit the ground. She has seen many wrecks on Jakku, and this one looks like a low-speed impact.

“I used the Force.”

Rey spins, almost flattening herself to the ground in panic. Kylo Ren stands there, his mask dented and his clothing frayed and burnt. “H-How?” she stammers. “How could the Force have saved you? You should have burned up in the atmosphere!”

“After all this time training, you still have yet to taste even a fraction of the true power the Force can provide.” He sways, and she notices how he presses a hand to his side, where is clothing is wet and sticks to him. “What has my uncle taught you? How to meditate? How to do handstands? What a waste of you. You should have come with me while you had the chance...”

Rey's teeth clench. She is all too aware that she has no weapons. “Your uncle is ten times more powerful than you will ever be.”

“Yes,” his modulated voice creaks. “That's why he's in a holding cell, on his way to the domain of the First Order, where he will be made to pay for his... dissidence.”

“He is your uncle!” she shouted at him. “Your blood! How could you?!”

“After Han... everything is easy.”

But she feels the deceit of his words. Han broke him. He thought murdering his own father would finally sever what was left of his humanity, but it remains within him, tortured and screaming and so desperately repressed. Rey nearly laughs. Kylo Ren is his own worst enemy. Nothing she can do will ever hurt him as much as his own actions have done.

“You... will come with me.” Kylo says as he takes a swaying step towards her.

Rey twitches her feet aside, just in time to clear room for his body as it hits the leaf mulch between them. After a moment of utter stillness, she scrambles forward and steals the hilt of the lightsaber from his hip. In a viscious crackle it ignites to air, and she angles it threateningly down toward Kylo's neck.

It would be so easy to kill him now, to end the pursuit and find peace of mind once more. One swipe was all it would take and he wouldn't even feel anything.

But she can't. Her hands tremble and her heart quakes. A jedi would not strike a fallen man. Rey would not kill someone so defenceless, however much of a nuisance he was. With a growl of frustration, she puts the lightsaber away and resigns herself to the preposterous notion that she is about to play nurse to the most loathesome man in creation. Luke is far more deserving of her help, but there is nothing Rey can do now. The Resistance would have received the distress signal she sent out, and what became of it remains to be seen. For now, she has to concentrate on her own survival.

By Nightfall, she has fashioned a shelter between the trees from scraps of the corvette, enough to keep off the rain, and the parachute even provides some insulation against the cold. The distress beacon won't transmit until this particular geomagnetic storm abates, which could be hours, days, or months away. Rey fiddles with the beacon, boosting the signal strength with parts she's salvaged from Kylo's cruisers. There were seven other bodies in that ship of his. Rey thinks he's the only one who survived, and that appears to have been a fete of sheer willpower.

He's still unconscious beneath the shelter of the parachute. She removed his mask and stapled his side, but she is no doctor, and if he has any injuries beyond the ones she can see, he is on his own. Rey tries not to think about this, as she sets aside the distress beacon and turns the red lightsaber over in her hands. It's simpler than Luke's. Cruder. The red crystal within is cracked and tainted... just like its owner. She could cannibalise it, replace the crystal with her own and tinker with the plasma conduit until it produces a fine blade of smooth light.

He would hate her. He already hates her, but somehow she knows it would be unforgivable. Instead, she sets about mending her quarterstaff. Some of it is salvageable, but it is a good third shorter than it once was. Rey eyes her work for a long time, calculations ticking over in her brain as she keeps stealing glances at Kylo's lightsaber. The parts aren't so unusual, after all. A plasma conduit can be pulled from the hyperdrive cooling circuit, after all. And she already has the crystals. Luke already told her how to meditate on them to make them compatible...

When she's finally too tired to tinker, she checks in on her patient. His hasn't moved in hours, but he still breathes shallow breaths and for better or worse, his condition is unchanged. Rey watches his face curiously. The scar she gave him is horrific. It bisects his face like a lash of red, destroying his looks. He has looks too, she's willing to admit, though the virtues of his appearance are more evident when his face is not twisted with hatred and rage. There is much of Han Solo in him. But his eyes are all Leia, dark and expressive though he has non of the mischief Rey glimpses often in his mother.

Leia would want her to save her son. No matter what he had done, she would want him to come home. After everything the woman has suffered, perhaps Rey owes it to her to at least try. So with a sigh she picks at the gauze wadded against Kylo's side and changes it for fresh dressing. She thinks she should sleep but she is almost too afraid too. Should Kylo wake while she is asleep, she would be at his mercy.

In the end she decides to tie a string of chromium shards to his wrist. Should he rise, the noise will wake her, or so she hopes. She sleeps with his lightsaber in her hand nontheless and keeps twitching awake with every slight rustle of grass or sigh of the wind.

Rey in the Mask, by NiimaJunkDealer on tumblr.

By morning, when the sun rises and the gas giant dominates the sky, Kylo Ren has gone. Panicked, Rey clutches his lightsaber close and searches for tracks, but she cannot read this green landscape the way she could read the sand on Jakku. All she knows is that her patient has vanished and she can no longer feel him nearby. Perhaps it is for the best, she thinks, returning to her pile of scrap. At least he is without weapons, and he even left his masked helmet behind. Rey picks it up and tries it on, and for the next few minutes entertains herself with bleating Jakku nursery rhymes through the mask's modulator.

She decides after a few days that Kylo must have died of exposure or starvation, for she has all the rations from both crashed ships to herself. It is either this or he is proving very good at hiding from her senses through the Force. Could it be that the geomagnetic storm interfered with the Force the way it interferes with electronics? She prefers to think he is dead. She will not miss him. However much of a curious creature he was, the galaxy was better off without one such as him.

Rey concentrates instead on monitoring the invisible storm and fashioning the ends of her staff into recepticles for her crystals.

By day five she is running low on fresh water, and so treks down into the valley, letting the Force guide her until she hears the wonderful splash of a river that sounds like bells to her ears. There are fish-like creatures in the river, but Rey decides not to experiment on catching them until she has truly run out of rations, for people who eat strange animals on strange planets do not always live long.

It is as she if filling her third canteen of water that she hears the movement behind her. She surges up, but by then he already has her fixed and frozen in place, half turning, half reaching for the lightsaber. He moves into her line of sight and she would have gasped if she'd had the freedom to. Kylo is hanging by a thread. His face is drawn and devoid of colour, and his hair has lost its tamed definition. His injuries may have healed somewhat, but the cost is etched in the tightness around his eyes.

The problem is that pain gives Kylo Ren strength, and right then Rey can tell he's in a lot of pain. No matter how she fights at the Force gripping her entire body, she cannot break free.

“That... is mine.” He wrenches his lightsaber from her hand. At the same moment he releases his grip on her, and she tumbles to the ground. She twitches, as if to rush him, but the crackling blade swings to focus on her, holding her in place as surely as if his power still held her immobile.

“If you intend to kill me, get on with it,” she says, feeling brave because she knows he won't do it.

“You're my captive. Your value alive outweighs the convenience of your death,” he tells her.

“Your captive? And what do you intend to do? Construct a prison out of branches and reeds?” She narrows her eyes incredulously at him. “If you haven't noticed, you and I are stranded here. Maybe I'm your captive, or you're mine, but none of that matters while there's nowhere to go. I already redirected the distress beacon from your craft. When the storm passes, only the Resistance will come for us.”

Kylo Ren winces in irritation. “What need have I for a distress beacon? I have a tracker wired into my heart. Supreme Leader Snoke will have sent aid to my last known location the second my life readings vanished.”

Rey's chin remains jutted, defiant. “That doesn't change that your arm is going to get very tired of pointing that thing at me, and then what? We both need to eat. We both need to sleep. I'm the one with the rations, remember?”

“They're mine now,” he says simply.

“So you intend to deprive me of food? I thought you wanted me alive?”

“You propose we share.” A faint lift of a sneer shows what he thinks of this idea. “You expect me to trust you.”

“If I was going to kill you, I had my chance. You don't have to trust me, but I expect you to be rational. We can decide who is going to be the captive when reinforcements arrive, whether that's your people or mine.”

“And if its your people, do you expect me to come quietly?” he asks softly.

“About as quietly as I would go with yours,” she retorts.

There is an understanding there, occupying the space between them though both are wary of its existence. She sees Kylo Ren blink slowly, like a man resigning himself to something unpleasant, but his weary arm drops and the lightsaber hisses into dormancy. He accepts her terms. For now.

It's odd, walking back to what she has begun to think of as her camp, with Kylo Ren walking ten paces behind her. Odd to be in his presence without being in a fight for her life. Odd to heat the water and pour in the rations, and hand him a meal of protein gruel in a bowl she fashioned from the broken piece of her corvette.

There is no thank you. No appreciation. She can see he is simmering with barely concealed resentment, precisely because he needs her aid. His only words to her while they eat are viscously critical. “You eat like a primate.”

She has been told this before, and Finn regularly teases her about how fast she eats with no regard for table manners or choking hazards, so she ignores him as if he has not spoken. She suspects the only way to cope with each other's presence is to pretend the other does not exist. He eats mechanically, she notes, as if he has no choice. He has virtually no strength left after days without food, and she doubts he has had much sleep either, for he falls asleep sitting up, the empty bowl dangling from his hand.

She steps forward to remove it, but the second she grasps it, his hand snaps around her wrist and his power rolls into her, through her. He is only startled, reacting out of instinct, but Rey feels deafened and battered under the onslaught. It is just like being back in the interrogation cell, feeling him ripping through her mind layer by layer to break her down. So she meets his force, just as she did back then, and pushes back with all her might.

The spark jumps. Her force balances out his, opposite and equal, and there is that same feeling as before, as if she has just touched upon something unbearably familiar. She feels Kylo Ren relent as he quickly comes to his senses and drops her wrist as if she scorches him. Rey is silent and moves away, rubbing her wrist as she tries to sort through the confusion inside her.

“You do feel it,” she hears him say behind her.

Yes, she feels it, but she does not know what 'it' is, or even what it means. Something inside her reacts to him in a way she can't control or understand. It's alien and alarming, and so she pushes it out of her mind and tries not to think about the way her skin tingles where he touched her.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The Fate of Two

She sleeps on the far side of the camp from him, keen to keep her distance lest she accidentally startle him awake again. By the time the morning light coaxes open her eyes, he is already up and he's watching her.

“You need to stop doing that,” she says acidly, hating the thought of being watched while she sleeps.

Kylo Ren turns away, and she realises he has picked up her modified quarterstaff.

“You put that down!” she scrambles to her feet and closes the distance, but he wards her off with his hand alone. She doesn't want another blast of his Force powers.

“I see what you're attempting,” he says, regarding the staff with an expression that swims with nameless emotions. “It's impressive, really. Trying to build your own lightsaber from spare parts. You're truly a scavenger.”

After a moment a contemplation, he tosses the staff to her. “It won't work though. You may have the parts but you can't build a lightsaber without instruction.”

Rey glowers between him and her incomplete weapon. “Luke would have instructed me,” she says pointedly.

“Luke had no intention,” he says evenly, glancing her over. “He took advantage of your misguided obsession with becoming a jedi, knowing it was the only way to get rid of you. To protect you from capture. He failed. As usual.”

“I'm not captured yet,” she reminds him.

After a long pause, Kylo chooses not to retort. “You need to line to chamber with chromium. It reflects the light and radiation into-”

“I do not need your help!” she explodes angrily. She would rather never have a lightsaber than accept this man's help in building one. But that is not the sole reason for her anger. It's not the first time he he has tried to help or teach her. It's unnerving for a patently monstrous enemy to keep making these overtures. Does he forget they are on opposite sides of a war?

Unable to stand his presence any longer, she snatches up her sack of supplies and stalks away from the camp. At least he does not give chase. There is nowhere to go, after all. Once safely alone she looks up at the sky, searching for some sign that the solar storm hammering the upper atmosphere would end soon. If there is a ship up there waiting to rescue them, she cannot tell. She just sincerely hopes that Kylo Ren is not right, and that it is not his people she will finding waiting once the storm clears.

Another day passes. Then two. If its possible to fall into routine with an unpredictable psychopath, that is what happens. Rey makes the food. Kylo can't or won't. She tinkers with her staff and determinedly ignores any advice he offers, at least until she is certain he is distracted, then she does indeed slide chromium into the crystal chamber, or switch the copper wires for fibre-optics as he suggests.

She does not care for the way he looks at her. It's like being stranded in a cage with a wild gurrcat who watches her with a calculating mistrust in equal parts to hunger. The Force connection between them has never been so quiet, and Rey fears broaching it. She does not want to know what Kylo is thinking when he glares at her across the fire in the evenings. Does not need to know what he is thinking when she catches him looking over her body.

She needs to make a plan of escape for when the storm ends. If it turns out that its a First Order cruiser in orbit, then she has to make herself very scarce, at least until the signal from the distress beacon is received by the Resistance and they come to her aid. If they do. If they can.

Kylo will anticipate this. She senses the way he is tensed, ready to spring if he thinks she will try to escape. Even though she nursed him and prepares the food, he clearly believes he is her captor. He might not have even considered the possibility that it will be him who needs to flee.

By the third day of their truce, the tension is close to breaking. Kylo paces restlessly by the trees, as he is prone to do, and Rey fiddles with her staff with increasing irritation. It should activate. It has everything it needs but it seems dead in her hands.

“What am I doing wrong?” she whispers to herself, ready to tear her hair out.

The crackle of lightsaber energy behind her is all the warning she gets. She throws herself aside as the red blade slams down through the earth where she had crouched. Rolling to her feet with her staff in her hand, she glares at him in outrage. “Have you gone mad?!” she demands.

His answer is to swing for her again, forcing her to duck and dodge. He won't relent. He forces her back towards the trees and she feels herself being cornered. One wrong move and he'll cut through her, and she has no way to defend herself.

He strikes again, and a tree slides in half. She tries to twist away but the trunk pens her in. The next strike will hit her. In desperation she raises the staff and puts all her willpower and hope into begging for a miracle.

Yellow light slices through the air, stopping the red blade dead.

Neither of them move, locked in an embrace of flicking light and heat.

“The first time is always the hardest,” he says, over their locked blades. “Sometimes extra persuasion is required.”

She's galled at his recklessness, but she can't deny how amazing it is to hold her own lightsaber at last. It's rough, unrefined, but the twin blades are true and the weight is almost perfect. But if she expects Kylo Ren to back off now, she is mistaken. She feels the pleasure he takes in this, at testing her. He strikes again and she blocks. Another slash; she knocks it aside.

She wants to protest, yet she's too busy fighting for her life. Kylo doesn't move the way he once did, and the Force can only help her to a certain degree. He is stronger than he was, and he's eager to prove it. Rey has no choice but to defend herself. She stays on the move, trying to keep the trees between them, arcing her staff to keep him at bay and knocking back his attacks. This isn't the first time they've fought in a forest, but it feels so different. Kylo is focused, even gratified, and she is the one burning with anger and indignation.

“You should hold onto those feelings,” he says, as their connecting blades send a shower of sparks over over. “They make you stronger. They make you human! Why deny it to yourself!”

She tries to master her emotions. It's difficult around such a man as this. He terrifies her. He infuriates her. He attracts her in a way she can't define. The heat of the anger makes her feel strong, it's true, but it's an illusion. It masks her clumsiness and mistakes, makes her strike hard and waste energy when she should temper her movements and watch his feet.

Is it really a surprise then, when she miss-steps and thrusts when she should parry, and Kylo's blade slices neatly up and breaks her staff in two. In a split second the halves tumble from her grip and the golden light disappears with a final hum.

“No!” She throws her hand up, ready to ward off his next attack, and throws all her power at him. She's never tried it before and she feels the power fighting its way out of her. She sees him stagger, and raise a hand of his own, fighting back. Her raw power is the far more overwhelming of the two, but he knows what he's doing. It seems like he is a blade that cuts right through the wave of power she blasts at him, deflecting it to either side, while pushing inexorably forward with his own. He takes a step toward her. Rey tries to focus on him – just him – anything to keep him away from her. She's deathly afraid of what will happen when he reaches her, for she knows something will.

Kylo Ren takes another step.

“Keep away from me!” she shouts, but it sounds almost like a plea.

His hand is almost level with hers. The battle of wills roars in her ears. His power sounds low, broken, a grinding growl like a feral animal while her own pulses in time to her heartbeat, clear, but too fast. Too afraid. She feels his power preceding him, touching her, entering her mind. She quakes under the force of their connection. It's far beyond the control of either of them.

“Why do you keep closing your eyes to what is in front of you?” he asks her, his voice breaking. She looks at him and sees he is not unaffected by the violence of their whirling, battling powers. “The Force speaks to you as it does to me – but you refuse to listen!”

She doesn't understand him.

“Don't pretend you haven't felt it – I see the truth in your own mind!” He twists his hand and his power changes, battering her anew like a gale changing direction. He takes another step, and his fingers are inches from her face. “Why do you think we share such a connection? Why do you think we ended up here, alone? Why do you suppose this storm refuses to abate?”

He's talking nonsense. She pushes futilely at him, trying to keep him at bay, but in those crucial seconds he closes the distance and she feels the cool touch of his fingertips on her cheek.

At once the battle of force powers is over, and a new, far deadlier once is beginning. Rey feels their connection opening. She has tried to deny it for so long, and tried to ignore the things it shows her, but the contact of his skin on hers is an anchor. His mind opens to her, as hers does to him, and there's no hiding from each other now.

“The Force has a will of its own, don't you see that?” he says. “Everyone has a destiny and it won't be denied. We are each other's destiny.”

“No,” she whispers. She cannot – she will not believe that.

“You can't fight fate. You can't fight the Force. You can run, but it will just keep bringing us back together.”

She sees the vision in his head, sees the way he has interpreted the things the Force whispers to him. She sees herself in black, beautiful and terrible, her eyes burning with devotion to the dark side. To him. He wants her as a partner, and he reaches out to her, the way Vader reached out to Luke. But more than that, he wants her. He thinks the torment will end if he has her. She also feels his fear that she is becoming another weakness to him, just like his father, one that he will need to cut from his life one way or another.

Listen to it,” he hisses. “Tell me you hear it!”

Shakily, she listens, because there is nothing else she can do. She wants him to be wrong, but if she were honest with herself – and she has not been honest in a long time – she already knows what he speaks of. The compulsion. The curiosity he breeds in her that she can't shake. The feelings when she looks at him and wants to feel contempt and revulsion, but all she feels is attraction.

It's not the usual attraction. She knows what that feels like. A lonely teenage girl on Jakku doesn't find a world of opportunity to explore the opposite sex, not when she can count her human acquaintances on one hand. After a while, even the slightly balding middle-aged traders that docked at their yard began to seem appealing. But there was Finn – young and vital – and she had understood attraction then. Attraction to his warmth, attraction to his body and the way he looked at her. The kind of attraction that made her want to smile at him, please him, and straighten her hair and check her breath. Then Kylo had cut him down and torn all that vitality away.

She shouldn't be attracted to him, but she can't deny something pulls her toward him. It doesn't want to make her smile. She doesn't want to please him. She can't care less if he thinks her hair a stringy mess or her breath isn't as sweet as it's supposed to be. The attraction is elemental, something that goes deeper than the human skins they occupy to exist on a level as intangential and powerful as the Force itself.

“I'll never be yours,” she whispers. “I will never wear black or be your devoted little apprentice, least of all a wife. I will spend my life opposing you in any way I can until one or both of us is dead.”

She sees a bitter breath escape between his lips. “You think I haven't tried to fight this? Do you have any idea what I have done, to try and keep my thoughts off you? To keep your image from tormenting me each and every night?”

His fingers clench and shake, curling along her jaw and under her chin. She sees how he fights it. He has fought it far longer and harder than she has, and he is far weaker, but no less a victim to a bond that enslaves them both.

She reaches out her hand, intending to push him away, but her fingers tremble and bump against his jaw. She's amazed at the way he inhales sharply. It's just the tiniest intoxicating taste of what it feels like to hold this power over him. He has tried hard to hide the fact that she could have him on his knees in an instant if she ever realised for a second what she did to him. Her fingers drag over his lower lip and his eyes close as his breathing changes.

Rey's fear of him fades. He seems so vulnerable now. She could break him easily.

In a flash he snatches up her hand and presses his mouth to her palm and lower, to her wrist. His breath is hot and his lips are soft. What a contradiction, but that is Kylo all over. There's a groan in his throat, like that of a parched man who is tasting water for the first time in weeks. And he is parched. She can sense that he has not felt the touch of a human hand since his father fell from the walkway-

Rey breaks her hand free, only to twist it in his hair and wrench his head back. She feels like she's on fire. The adrenalin rush of their fight hasn't faded, it has simply become something else. The desire to attack him remains, but not with fists and angry words, but with teeth and lips. She wants to grab and tear and consume. She leans forward and presses her face into his throat. Then she bites.

Kylo throws her to the ground then and pins her there. The look in his face is one of dazed confusion tinged with anger. He thinks she's feral. She probably is. He can't understand why a dirty little scavenger who bites could make him so desperate, but Rey is beginning to understand. She is listening to the whispers of the Force and it fills her head with noise.

“Do it,” she goads him. “Just do it.”

He seems to resist for a moment, but then a beat passes and the restraint is gone. One hand tears the shirt from her shoulder and he descends on her bared skin, mouthing and kissing, tasting her sweat and breathing in her scent. His other hand is between their legs, pulling and tugging at their clothes.

There's no real warning. There's no hesitation or pretense that this could be soft and loving. In moments he's inside her, and they both cry out in shock at the mingling pleasure and pain. He moves. Savage and deep, and he's so much larger than her. She fights against the grip of his hands pinning her arms to the ground, because he knows she'll scratch him and tear at his hair till he bleeds. She doesn't want him to stop though. Their bodies strain together, and her hips shift restlessly, receiving each powerful thrust as deeply as she can.

This is unlike any experience she's had before. She always approached sex with tenderness and a little shyness. She doesn't recognise the person she is now, who hates the man above her as much as he captivates her. She wants to inflict pain, feel pain, purge the guilt with the kind of pleasure she thought was only achievable alone. No man has ever brought her close to what she feels now. She doesn't credit him with any particular skill, she knows this pleasure is entirely dependent upon their link.

It doesn't take long. The pleasure crests in moments and makes her shake and scream as lights burst behind her clenched eyes.It's barely begun to ebb when she feels him jerk against her and smother his heaving moans into her shoulder.

There's a strange peace in the aftermath. The weight of him suddenly seems odd, indecent. Wrong. She pushes him off and launches to her feet, hastily correcting the clothes that have been pulled out of shape. “Now that's out of our systems,” she says, with a briskness that rings hollow. In truth she feels like she is reeling in bewilderment. A glance down at Kylo Ren proves he is similarly perplexed, for his face has always been an open window into his thoughts.

Unable to rationalise or explain any of what just happened, Rey opts to pretend it hasn't happened. She picks up the pieces of her staff with as much dignity as she can muster and heads back to camp.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The Sun and the Moon

The lightsaber is broken, but it's only the carbon fibre shaft that has been split. The tech is intact. Rey searches her shrinking supply of junk for something to fashion into a gasket will bind the two pieces together in the short-term. In her mind she begins to make a list of her plans for this weapon. Once she has access to all the right tools and equipment, she can strengthen the shaft, get the weight and balance fixed, and-

Kylo enters the camp, rather interrupting her efforts to ignore his existence. He seems irritable and restless, and the tension between them is worse than ever. What they did has relieved nothing between them. It has only amplified the problem tenfold. He's been gone for so many hours that she was beginning to hope he was just too embarrassed to face her again.

“I'm hungry,” he says.

“The rations are right there,” she gestures to the fireside without looking. She can almost feel his helpless, plaintive look, like he's never had to make his own food before.

After a few moments she relents. If she is going to pretend that nothing has happened, she had best stick to their routine, and she quickly gets the fire glowing again and nestles the heatproof cantina in the ashes to bring the ration 'stew' to a simmer. Kylo sits beneath the shelter of the parachute, glaring out at her as if he blames her for any number of his problems.

When the gruel is as hot as it will ever get, she scoops some into what she now thinks of as Kylo's bowl and moves across to the shelter to hand it to him.

He regards the proffered bowl blankly for a moment, then with a violent flick of his arm, he knocks it flying from her hand.

“Hey!” Rey barks. If there is one thing she cannot abide, it's the waste of food. On Jakku, a meal like that would have cost a full day's work.

Kylo seizes her arm and drags her down into his lap. His hands are around her face and pulling her into a kiss. Rey is shocked, but not disinterested. So this is this what he meant by hungry? The desire is flaring again, and she realises this is all so much easier than tense silence and bitter, passive aggressive circling. This is simple. Just two bodies communicating without the need for words or thoughts. It was almost easy to forget that they are enemies.

Before long she is arching in his lap, holding his shoulders as she drives herself down on his length. When its over he doesn't let her up. He rolls her onto her stomach and knees her legs apart, and then it begins all over again. He prefers her like that, she feels. Pinned and subjugated, as if he has defeated her and she's his prize, even though its her eagerness for him that he revels in. She loses track of the time. She loses track of how many times she has come apart. Somehow night creeps up on them and by then she is too tired to stir. She lies on a bed of her own clothing, warm and buzzing, with Kylo's body stretched out beside her, an arm possessively left looped around her waist.

He's fallen asleep. She feels his even breathing against the back of her neck, and she wonders if she is insane. He's her enemy. But now she must also call him her lover. She has at least got a few good scratches in this time, she thinks, looking at the red lines all over his arms and shoulders. He deserves far worse, and yet she just wants to kiss and lick away any pain she has inflicted on him.

I am mad, she sighs inwardly.

None of it changes anything. She will not be any kinder to him when they wake tomorrow, and he will be just as contemptuous as ever. She would still have to escape him, and she would more than happily hand him over the Resistance if the opportunity were to arise, just as happily as he would throw her in an interrogation chair once more should the First Order catch them first.

But the rules of the real world don't seem to apply right now.

The next day Rey goes down to the river to wash and scrub the grime from her hair. She's not surprised that Kylo follows her and watches her broodily from the bank. As she dries and pulls on her clothes, she gives him a sideways glance. “If you want me to ever touch you again, I suggest you do the same,” she says.

She's not shy of her body. It is what it is and being one of the only human females in her settlement on Jakku, she had little to compare herself with to ever worry if she was attractive or not. But Kylo is shy. His reluctance to disrobe is almost amusing, until the robe and the suit beneath comes off, and she sees that his body is covered with scars. They aren't battle scars. They're the scars of torture and punishment.

Feeling sick, Rey leaves him in peace and heads back to camp to resume her daily task of tinkering. As she sighs over her mended (and rather wobbly) staff, a blinking light catches her eye. The distress beacon is armed with a tiny red light up top to indicate it is activated, and for a moment Rey is dismayed to think the power source must be failing.

But the blinking light is rhythmic and consistent. It's a pattern. After a few seconds she starts as she realises it is actually talking to her in simple droid code.

“BB-8,” she breathes, recognising the manner of speech.

The droid is relaying a message from Poe. She says the storm is passing and will end by the early hours of tomorrow morning. She's quite frantic that Rey must know there is a First Order battle cruiser orbiting the moon, but that Poe is being clever and sneaky and keeping to the other side of the moon outside the range of their sensors. He will come for her, she says, by locking onto the signal of the distress beacon, but Rey must be ready. The First Order will be coming too.

The message begins to loop, and Rey quickly yanks out the red bulb. It will do no good if Kylo sees the message too. She has one chance to escape this moon with her freedom, and she cannot take any chances.

When Kylo returns she has mastered a perfect veneer of nonchalance, as if nothing unusual has happened in his absence.

“Did Snoke do that to you?” she asks almost casually.

He knows to what she refers. “My training has its prices.”

She looks at him coolly. “Well, now I'm just glad I never took you up on your offer to teach me.”

“You would not require the same... encouragement that I required to overcome my weaknesses.”

“Encouragement?” She sits upright, furious. “Is that what you call it? I've seen scars like that before on runaways on Jakku – you've been lashed to the bone!”

He doesn't care. “It made me strong.”

His warped thinking disgusts her, even though it is nothing new. She knows he is damaged, not just physically but in his mind too. Brainwashed, his mother called it. That had seemed too generous in Rey's opinion, for she was sure Kylo knew exactly what he was doing when he abandoned his family, and even when he murdered his father. Still... she was sure there was more purpose to torturing Kylo than merely to make him 'strong'. She had seen how abuse had been used on the more rebellious workers at the junkyard. The rule of the owners was to strike with the right hand and stroke with the left. Brutalise someone long enough and any ounce of kindness you then showered upon them was ten times more effective at eliciting cooperation. Kylo was no better than a slave who had been broken a long time ago.

With that unhappy thought, she sets about making food. Rations are running low but it doesn't matter. One way or another, it will all be over by tomorrow. She eats fast to disguise her anxiety, and mindful that Kylo is watching her with that faint sneer of revulsion, she makes sure to lick the bowl clean and suck noisily on all her fingers while holding his gaze.

“Are you trying to seduce me or irritate me?” he asks.

Rey waggles her eyebrows, surprised by the suggestion of wit in his question. “You're the one with a thing for primates,” she retorts.

And it happens again. One minute he's looking at her like something he has found on the bottom of his boot, the next she's writhing on the ground beneath him as he takes her ear into his mouth and shoves his hand into her underwear. She's not even fighting it anymore. She knows abstractly that she should be questioning her sanity more rigorously and maybe examining all her training to figure out the jedi's guidelines on the ethics of allowing a sith to feel her up. She much prefers to forget it all and just concentrate on the consuming need to have him inside her, filling her, and enjoy an intimacy she has never experienced with anyone. Ever.

By nightfall they've worn each other out once more. She wakes around midnight and takes stock of her situation. The beacon and her staff are propped against each other on the other side of the camp, and she is once more tangled up in an embrace with her sworn enemy. His arms enclose her close to his chest as if he has the right to keep her there.

Rey knows she'll wake him when she moves, but she is running out of time. She begins to rise and feels the sudden tightening of his arms as he starts awake.

“Would you get off?” she asks impatiently.

“Where are you going?” His voice is full of sudden suspicion.

“Sometimes a lady has to take care of business,” she says cryptically. When he releases her reluctantly she rises slowly and pulls her clothes on loosely. “Cold tonight,” she remarks vaguely, in case he thinks she's putting on too many clothes for a nip into the woods to relieve herself.

She slips away, and prays to any higher powers listening that he doesn't notice how she scoops up her staff and pockets the beacon on her way into the woods.

She passes the latrine she built days ago, and continues on. When she's certain she is far enough away, she breaks into a run and takes flight. The gas giant in the sky casts plenty of light to guide her way, and she bolts between the trees, through meadows, across rocks and over rivers. Sometimes she thinks she feels the hairs on the back of her neck prickle, as if someone is following her, almost right on her heels, but whenever she stops to listen, no one is there. If Kylo has figured out by now that her bathroom trip has taken too long, he won't easily recover the distance between them.

Something flashes across the sky like a slow moving star. She hopes that its Poe, but something tells her it isn't. When the shooting light is joined by several others, she realises the First Order is making their descent.

There are several languages that are good for cursing, and Rey runs through at least a dozen of them as she dashes for the cover of the trees. She reaches them just as she hears the thunderous exhaust of engines rocket overhead. She decides the best course now is to run in the opposite direction to wherever those shuttles were heading, and sets off towards the cliffs.

The low hum of an engine breaks the peace of the night once more, and Rey ducks down, suddenly terrified one of the First Order's cruisers had spotted her after all. She feels the blast of air as a small craft nimbly overshoots her and touches down upon the edge of the cliffs as gracefully as a dancer.

Only one person she knew could fly like that.

“Poe!” She rushes forward as the X-wing's canopy pops and a man in an orange flightsuit jumps down.

“Thank God! Rey!” They meet with a fierce grasp of arms and laughter. “We weren't sure you'd get the message – we were so terrified you died in the crash!”

“I'm alright!” When she hears the squeal of excitable beeps from the rear of the X-wing, she laughs again. “I really am, BB-8 – now that you're here.”

“The skies are crawling with the First Order,” Poe said. “I barely squeaked under their sensors, so I'm not sure how safe it is to take off yet. What the hell is going on here, Rey?”

A terrifying bellow rents the night.

“REY!”

She flinches around. He's there, a hundred yards away, and she can feel the heat of his rage now. Even Poe's face drains of colour, for he is now looking at the man who once tortured him. He seizes the blaster strapped to his shoulder and raises it.

Rey splays a hand against his chest, urging him back towards the X-wing while not taking her eyes off Kylo. “No – we have to go!”

Poe believes her, and they scramble into the waiting cockpit of the fighter while BB-8 utters soft pips of fright. No one can prime an engine faster that Poe, but it's all unbearably slow. She feels better once the canopy hisses and seals shut, but through the glass she sees Kylo striding toward them, unhurried.

“It's ok, BB-8,” she reassures the droid, though she's trying to reassure herself too. The engines roar to life and the craft begins to hop and rise.

“We're good!” Poe calls, his hands flicking across the controls of his console like a virtuoso. If anyone can get them out of here, it's Poe, she tells herself.

The fighter rises and the force of the engines lash the vegetation on the cliffside. Below is Kylo, his hair and clothes whipping about. He lifts his hand.

Poe tugs on the steering column and pumps the pedals. A frown digs into his brow. “Something's wrong.”

Rey hears it in the strained hum of the engines, and the shudder of the fuselage as if they are passing through turbulence. But the craft hangs in the air and rises no further. “Poe!” she calls with rising dread.

“I can't move it! I don't understand-” He looks desperately around the cockpit for something he might have missed. “Are we caught on something?!”

“You know, I think we might be...” She looks ahead at Kylo. He raises his arm and the craft lifts further, nose pointing towards him. She can see the determination in his pale face, and the vibrations of his Force power wrapping around the X-wing, fighting the enormous power of the engines to a standstill.

So this was how he had survived the first crash. His control of the Force is now so strong he can hold an entire ship up in the air, though she can see he struggles to keep his grip on them. The fighter dips and wavers in the air, like a wild horse tethered by a fraying rope.

Rey reaches out to him with her mind, letting her cool, calming Force slip between the strands of his power. Let me go.

She feels his answer in the twisting grimace of his face and the tightening grip on the graft that makes the metal plating groan.

She could fight him, but it might just tear the craft apart. She swallows hard and tries to remain calm. Let me go, Ben.

You're mine, is the answering throb of power.

You know that will never be true, she tells him. You have to let me go.

The engines scream and whirr and the shaking of the fuselage has reached alarming levels. She feels like the fighter is going to break apart at any moment and BB-8's frightened squeals have reached a pitch.

Kylo's fist closes and drops.

“Whoa!” Poe grabs at the controls as the X-wing rears up, suddenly freed. Rey feels her stomach flip flop as they spin out of control for a moment, then they're in such a steep ascent that her head bows under the pressure of the geforces. Poe has hit the throttle with everything he has. The plan to sneak out beneath the First Order radars has been thrown to the wind as they go supersonic, hurtling out into space.

“We're going to jump,” Poe warns her as the shaking fades and the atmosphere falls away from them. “I know you're probably eager to get home, Rey, but Palamoor is on lock down. The presence of the First Order so close to the base triggered the highest security protocols. They can't know how close they are to finding us.”

“It's fine, just get us out of here,” she says.

BB-8 whistles a warning.

“I see them,” Poe agrees. “Cruisers coming in on starboard... jumping in three, two, one-”

Rey feels the swoop of sudden acceleration, and suddenly it's all gone. The moon, the cruisers, the First Order, the feeling of Kylo Ren... they're all left behind her and getting further away with every parsec.

“I thought for a minute there we wouldn't make it,” says Poe, beginning to relax. “He could have forced us down, I could feel the engines stalling... I wonder why he let us go.”

“Maybe he couldn't keep it up,” Rey says vaguely, watching the stars blurring and flashing by.

“Yeah... maybe.” Poe doesn't sound convinced, and soon they're dropping out of hyperspace into the wider orbit of a planet Rey has never seen before, but the space teems with ships and stations. An easy place to disappear into the crowd. A good place to hide for now.

As they power down the engines and drift, Poe fills her in on what she's missed. Her stomach churns to learn that the Resistance wasn't in time to rescue Luke. He is still alive, as far as General Organa can tell, but the woman was beside herself when she found out. They had feared Rey had been taken too until traces of her distress beacon had been picked up. “But we didn't know if you'd crashed, or you were injured, or even if you were still alive.”

BB-8 cheaps.

“Don't listen to her,” Poe says to Rey, “She sounds calm now, but the whole time you were missing she was throwing herself around the base like a ball-bearing in a spin-cycle.”

Rey is hardly listening at all. She stares out through the window, wondering why none of this feels quite real yet.

Poe looks at her through the mirror angled above his head. “You're safe now, Rey,” he says. He doesn't ask what she's been through or why Kylo Ren was there with her on the moon. Poe can be tactful. If there's something Rey wants to say, he will let her say it in her own time, and for now he just fills their cockpit which light chatter, and tells her what Finn had to say when Leia wouldn't let him come along on the rescue mission. “She said, 'unless you want Rey sitting on your lap on the way back, let Poe handle it,' and let me tell you, I don't think that was a good way to dissuade him.”

And things begin to feel more normal at last, and Rey finds herself relaxing in a way she hasn't done in weeks.

She swipes tears from her eyes and laughs along as BB-8 and Poe argue about who deserves most of the credit for this rescue.

It's hours before they receive a transmission from Palamoor, informing them that it's safe to return. Finn wraps her in the tightest hug when they reunite. “I wanted to come for you. I would have held on to one of the wings if they'd let me,” he tells her. Their other acquaintances and friends close in around her to welcome her, genuine relief and pleasure on their faces to see her alive and well. It's a good feeling. Two years ago, Rey could have taken a fall while spelunking through shipwrecks and died, and there would have been few who would even notice her passing, let alone mourn it. Now she is surrounded by people who care, and it's a feeling she never wants to lose.

Kylo would not have this. She has a feeling more of his people will dread his return rather than celebrate it. Perhaps unwisely, she tries to test the link between them, looking for a glimpse into his mind.

But there is nothing. There is not even the feeling of running up against a wall she sometimes feels when he is deliberately keeping her out. It is as if he's not there... like she's standing at the end of a bridge that leads to nowhere and nothing.

Perhaps that is for the best, she thinks, and relaxes into the company of her friends.

 

Chapter Text

Part II

 

And the Star

It's years before she sees Kylo Ren again. He's so far away she can barely make him out even with the macro-binoculars she lifts to her eyes; just a distant figure in black that passes briefly into sight on the gangway and then disappears into a ship, followed by four of his knights.

She crouches behind a rock with Finn, and hears him sigh in regret that he didn't think to bring his sniper rifle. But neither the ship nor Kylo Ren is their objective. Rey hadn't even expected him to be here, and the sight of him so unexpectedly after so long stirs a frightening feeling inside her that now realises she has not come to terms with. An ache that is always there that she can sometimes ignore, but now it builds again. If their connection still existed, she would have been forewarned, yet it has been years since she could tap into the thoughts of that man, hear his thoughts, share his feelings and see the things he saw.

Now he's just a dot on the horizon and feels no different to her senses than any of the others. If he senses her, he does nothing about it, for their mission continues smoothly and there is nothing to say anyone every knew she and Finn were there, collecting a defecting officer to bring to General Brance.

Brance is a good man, but it's General Organa she seeks out when she returns to Palamoor. The woman only truly involves herself in the Resistance from a distance these days. Han's death hit her hard, and the day the Force rippled with Luke's death, was the same day she retired. She said there were more important matters in life to attend to, but Rey has the distinct feeling that as respected as Leia is amongst the top brass of the Resistance, there were doubts that she had the conviction to deal with an enemy so close to her heart.

“I fought my own father for years, and they think I can't handle fighting my own son?” she said once to Rey. “Do you believe that? I spanked that boy once. How many Resistance Generals can claim to have done the same?”

There is something more frail about Leia these days, though her spark hasn't gone, and Rey was quite unprepared for how much she has come to depend on the older woman. Luke may have been her mentor with the Force, but Leia is her mentor in all things.

“I saw him,” she says to Leia now. She doesn't need to elaborate who, for they both know.

They sit out on the balcony of Leia's apartment. It's unfit for a General, let alone a princess, but they've all had to make sacrifices in comfort. Palamoor is a planet covered in a thick sheet of ice, and across its surface runs deep fissues. It's within these fissues that the Resistance hides itself, literally clinging to the steep sides of the ice chasms, living on platforms and buildings and narrow walkways embedded into the ice walls. Leia's balcony offers a view of the barracks on the other side of the chasm, and if one were to look down, they would see a deep drop into black oblivion. For this reason, Rey avoids getting too close to the railing. Heights do not scare her, but the dark abyss beneath their feet gives her an ominous feeling, like she is looking into the dark heart of the planet itself.

“I see him all the time,” Leia confides in her. “Every time I see a young man with dark hair, I think, 'Oh, there's Ben,' and then he turns around, and I realise what a foolish old woman I am. I assume you saw the real thing, since there's nothing wrong with your eyes.”

“He was so far away, but it was him.” Rey pulls her fur-lined tunic more snuggly around her. “I used to be able to tap into his mind no matter how far away he was. There's no way if our mental link still existed that he would have taken me by surprise like that. I didn't feel his presence on the planet. I didn't know he was there until I saw him, and I doubt he ever felt me.”

She rubs her chest, feeling an old familiar ache that she can never reach, never ease. Like some piece of her is missing and she left it behind on that green moon.

Leia looks at her, watching her closely. “That's good. That bond did you no good, Rey. Luke wanted you to end it, and you did.”

She should agree and be glad, but she couldn't take credit for it. The link had run its course and dissipated like the rain after a storm. In its absence Rey feels like a shadow. For a time, something much bigger and powerful than herself had slipped into her life and tossed her about like a leaf in a storm. Then it had dropped her, draining away as if it never was. Years on, she was still struggling to adjust.

“You have to move past it,” Leia says, perceptive as always. She never trained as a jedi, but Rey has no doubt that its from her that Kylo Ren gained his cruel power of reading and controlling minds. Perhaps this is why she never trained. It is a terrible power, and easy to abuse.

There seems to be nothing more to say about this matter, so Leia moves on. “How long will you be staying home this time?”

“I don't know,” Rey says with a shrug. “Brance is already suggesting I join the Republic president's escort. He wants nothing short of a jedi protecting his presidentialness.”

“Tell Brance to stuff it. You need to be home for a while.”

“I'm not sure I can-”

“Rey,” Leia cuts her off, and there's a note of warning in her tone. “You need to be here. Don't make the same mistakes I did. If you're not careful, one day you'll come home and he won't remember who you are. It's not a good feeling, trust me.”

Rey looks down at her hands. “Is he sleeping better?”

“Never mind that. He needs training.”

“So soon?” Rey looked up at the grey sky, eyebrows tilting in pleading. “He's too young-”

“There is no such thing when it comes to the Force, and I have never felt the Force so potent in anyone since Darth Vader.”

A chill rushes through Rey. “Don't say that-”

“You can't ignore it in the hopes it'll go away,” says Leia. “I tried that, and look what happened. And certainly he's stronger than Ben ever was at the same age.”

“You must be wrong.”

“You've been gone a while... go see for yourself.” Leia nods to a circular doorway inside the apartment. Rey hesitates a moment, before standing stiffly and moving out of the cold into the relative warmth of the sparse grey apartment. She pauses before the round white door, almost afraid to brush her fingers against the security panel, and she silently berates herself that she can face down a platoon of stormtroopers without a worry in the world, but the prospect of facing her own son fills her with a dread so deep it makes her ashamed.

The door swishes open with the softest sigh and the room inside is dark. It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust to the gloom as she moves towards the round bed and the small bundle tangled in the sheets there. Dark hair curls on the pillows, and she hears the soft sighs of a sleeping child.

There is something else in this room. A low pulsing that she has never felt before. After years of meditating on the Force, she recognises that it ripples in this room, the way an island draws waves to its shores even in the calmest ocean. With a sinking feeling, she realises Leia is right. In the months of her absence, he's grown. Changed. The Force has come to him as she always knew it would.

The bed dips under her weight as she sits down on the edge. She doesn't want to wake him. She just wants to watch him, but she can't resist reaching out to stroke the soft curls around his ear.

Dark eyes slide open and his face turns towards her, blank with confusion. For a moment Rey fears Leia's warning has already come to pass and he no longer recognises her. Then a second passes and his face brightens with pleasure. He's so expressive.

“Mom?” He sits up. “You're back.”

“I told you I would be, Tam.”

“I was having a dream. You were on the Falcon with Finn, and you were docking in the hangar, and now...”

“The Force was showing you I was coming home,” she says, stroking his cheek.

Tam looks at her, confused, then something darkens in his face. “You're leaving again, that's why you woke me-”

“No, love, no,” she reassures him. “I'm staying. It's time... you need training.”

Tam launches himself at her, his arms catching tight around her middle. In her surprise, Rey almost freezes, then her arms fold around him and hold him close. He feels small and warm, and all hers. At moments like this it feels like her heart could burst with all the love she feels for just this one person, and she's left shaken by the certainty that she would do anything, even die, just for him. But then he sits back and their eyes meet, and she feels the shadow of someone else in him. The older he gets, the stronger the resemblance. There's something of herself in the shape of his face, she thinks, and Leia insists he reminds her of Han, but Rey doesn't know anyone else with such dark, beautiful eyes. They're a mirror of his father's, but where Kylo's eyes reflected unutterable pain and sadness, Tam's eyes blaze with the simple uncomplicated joy of a happy child.

“You're really staying this time? We'll be together?” She realises he doesn't care about jedi training as much as he just wants her to be home for good. It breaks her heart that she has done to him what her own parents did to her, and abandoned him over and over again, each time leaving him wondering if this time is the time she won't return. She pulls him into an even tighter hug.

“We'll always be together, sweetheart.”

It's an impulsive promise, and she senses in the moment that it is not one she will always be able to keep.

She does not realise it will be broken quite so soon, for she is not the only one to sense the awakening of her child.

The training begins as soon as she can secure a release from service. No one protests, for she has never asked to be relieved from duty before, even when she was a new mother. She takes him up to the ice fields where there is peace and relative tranquility and begins to teach him the way Luke taught her – with meditation and internal reflection. She thinks it will be difficult making a six year old sit still long enough to achieve a meditative state, but he takes to it faster than she ever did.

Rey only begins to understand the incredible depth of his power when he opens his eyes one day in the middle of meditation and looks about confused.

“What happened?” he asks her.

Rey, who has noticed nothing, blinks at him. “What is it?”

“I felt something... like something just tore, really far away. Don't you feel it? Something's making the Force go all-” he shakes his hands up and down, for lack of a better way to describe it.

Although she feels nothing from the Force, she knows better than to dismiss his intuition.

Hours later, all the signal boards of the command tower light up as the Resistance is bombarded with transmissions and messages from thousands of sources. Out of the confusion and chaos, the shocking revelation emerges: Snoke is dead. Kylo Ren has seized power and the First Order is threatening to schism between its new Supreme Leader and General Hux.

Rey looks at her son and realises he sensed it all. “Tell me,” she says, once she takes him aside. “Have you always been able to sense the man who died today?”

“Yeah.” Tam looks relieved that she understands, and he tells her something he has been holding back. “He's always been there, so far away, but he's always been looking away. But it's scary, because a while ago I felt like he... saw me. Like he sees me the way I see him. And then he was just... gone.”

“And the man who killed him. Do you have a sense of him?”

Tam's face closes up. “No.”

He's lying. Rey stares at him, not understanding why he would.

“Welcome to parenthood,” Leia says when Rey shares her concerns. “Children lie to their parents, that's what they do. Wait till he's a teenager. One day they're playing music too loudly in their room and pulling faces when you ask how their day went, the next thing you know, they're running off to join a dark cult and murdering all the people you care about.”

Leia's humour can be quite acerbic at times, and Rey realises its a way to disguise the pain she lives with. If she can't make light of the things that haunt her, she would have suffocated long ago.

But it does nothing to reassure Rey. She has worked hard for nearly six years to keep Tam's existence a secret from his father. She's fully aware of Kylo Ren's devotion to surpassing his grandfather, and the fact that Darth Vader was brought down by his own son is not a fact that escapes her. Should Kylo Ren ever learn he has a child... Rey does not imagine a man who murdered his own father would hesitate to murder his own child.

The last thing she wants to do is frighten Tam. He has sometimes asked about his own father, once he was old enough to notice other children had two parents rather than just one. When he was very young, he had simply believed Finn was his father, and Rey had hardly discouraged the idea. Finn was the closest thing he would ever have to a real father in this life, where Rey had spent a life time learning that family was the word for the people who stood by you, not just the ones you shared blood with.

She hadn't been able to avoid the inevitable questions forever. She had thought about telling him any number of lies – that his father was a good man, but he was dead. That his father was lost in uncharted space and no one knew how to find him. That he had no father, and he had actually been conceived by the Force. But she knows she won't be able to keep the truth from him forever, so she once sat him down and told him the truth, or at least in terms he would understand.

“Your father was a man named Ben Solo. He was your grandmother's son. But he's gone now, Tam. He isn't dead, but he's gone. He murdered two great men... your grandfather and your grand uncle. He's not... he's not someone to waste your thoughts and feelings on, do you understand? You have people here who love you so much – me, your grandmother, Finn, your uncle Poe. We're your family. You don't need anyone else.”

And Tam had been quiet for a long time while he thought about this. He looked like he was close to tears, for it was not the answer he had been hoping for, as all fatherless children dream that their sire is heroic, brave, handsome, and just absent for reasons beyond their control. Rey had once had the same dreams. No child wants to hear their father is a murderer.

“Is that why Nana keeps calling me Ben whenever I'm naughty?” he asked after a while.

“Your grandmother thinks all the naughtiest boys are called Ben,” she had told him, smiling slightly at the memory of the time General Organa had seen a silly young recruit tuck an unsecured blasterpistol into the back of his pants and shouted across the hangar for everyone to hear, “Ben! You're going to blow your ass off, you stupid boy!”

That the recruit's name had indeed been Ben was a matter of pure coincidence.

She had not gone as far as telling Tam that Ben Solo was Kylo Ren's old name, and that his father and the man the Resistance was fighting were one and the same. She was sure he came by that knowledge on his own. It was hardly a secret on a Resistance base. It was even growing increasingly difficult to keep Ben's parentage a secret, as more than once Leia informed her angrily that 'some fool parent' had stopped their own child playing with Tam, apparently knowing full well that he was the child of Kylo Ren. Rey didn't know how that secret had gotten out, or if it was just Tam's resemblance that was betraying him, but she knew that once the secret got out, it was only a matter of time before the knowledge reached the man himself.

Then everything Rey fears comes to pass in one night.

She sits, laughing with Finn and Poe in the officer's mess. It's late and they've all had a drink, as it's one of those rare times when the planets have aligned and they're all together on the base at the same time. Poe is almost always away these days, and Finn is teasing him that he makes no time for women, and that the closest thing he has to a girlfriend is BB-8, and Poe is laughing nervously and awkwardly, and Rey is smothering her sniggers into her hand, because it's been six years and Finn still hasn't figured out what 'confirmed bachelor' means.

Poe is casually throwing the spotlight back on Finn's own dismal record with women when Rey feels a flutter of panic crash into her mind.

Mom!

Rey leaps up so fast her chair clatters to the floor and her two friends stop to stare at her. Moments later the lights in the mess hall flicker and dim as they switch over to generators and the power is redirected throughout the base. The long, rising note of the air siren begins.

“I don't remember there being a drill planned,” says Finn.

“It's not a drill, buddy,” says Poe.

They're under attack, and a kind of finely organised chaos begins to unfold as everyone in the Resistance rushes to their stations. Poe disappears in the direction of the hangar. He's had three beers and he's still the best pilot on the base. Finn runs to the barracks to arm up; he has his own division to lead now.

Rey grabs her lightsaber and charges through the base. She pauses along a walkway that connects one side of the trench to the other and looks up. First Order ships are descending quickly and she sees the X-wings rising to head them off, but they're outnumbered. Rey closes her eyes and searches, casting her senses along the Force for something – someone in particular.

There. Faint, but strong.

“Rey!” Leia sees her. She's being escorted to the command tower, for a retired General cannot stay retired while under attack.

“He's here!” Rey shouts back.

“I know!” Leia says grimly. “Find Tam – he's being evacuated with the civilians! Do not let Ben find him! You know what he'll do!”

Rey knows. Horrible visions fill her mind and made her heart squeeze, and she rushes on to the narrow ice tunnels where every non-essential person is fleeing. She hears explosions and the sounds of blaster rifles. The enemy has already landed and she can't find her son.

There are so many passages in the ice, some leading to the suface, some leading down to deep caverns out of harms way, but there are never any guarantees of safety in a place like this. A crash rocks the tunnel ahead of Rey, and she sees people in glossy white armor pour into view, shooting anything and everything that moved, not caring that the people they shot down were unarmed.

Rey ignites her double-bladed lightsaber and rushes in. She doesn't feel fear like she used to when she fights. After years, her lightsaber has become as familiar as any other part of her body and she flows like water, deflecting blasts cutting easily through her opponents. Finn has sometimes described her as an army of one, as she has no trouble flicking between phsyical attacks, and tossing foes aside with her Force powers to dominate fights even when she is outnumbered ten to one.

When the last stormtrooper lies unconscious at her feet, she runs on. She calls her son's name, both shouting it down the tunnel and across the plain of the Force. But she hears no answer either way. She tries to let the Force guide her feet. Perhaps it works, for before long she runs across a mother with her two daughters who seems to recognise her.

“Your boy went that way,” she says, pointing to one path where the tunnel forked. Rey thanks her and hurries on, following the tunnel as it slopes upward toward the surface.

There is a blizzard on the surface. She steps into the full force of the bitter winds and razor sharp shards of ice and snow that catch at her clothes and hair.

“Tam!” she shouts, searching the white horizon for some irregularity, some shape of her son. She can just about see the First Order ships hovering overhead, see the smoke rising from the trench half a mile back. The sounds of dog fighting are almost lost in the howling wind, and she flinches away as some craft strikes the ice not far away, bursting in an explosion of noise and fire.

Tam! She reaches out across the Force, pleading and searching. No child can survive out in this blizzard for long.

As if the Force takes pity on her, the wind drops for a few seconds and her vision clears.

A shape forms through the haze of whirling snow. Tam! But he's heading away from her, walking towards the masked figure with the outstretched hand.

“NO!” Rey howls with only the rage a mother can feel when her child is threatened. She runs faster than she ever has in her life, and the cold hair makes her chest burn with pain and the wind has closed in to fight her once more, but Rey doesn't stop.

In moments she streaks past Tam, and hurls all her speed and strength at Kylo Ren. He reacts at once, meeting her yellow blades with his red one, deflecting the flurry of impossibly fast blows she rains down on him.

“Tam – run!” she shouts, as she rams a foot into Kylo Ren's diaghram. She feels like she's kicking a wall.

With a flick of his hand, he sends her tumbling through the air. She hits the ice and slides, but she's up again in seconds and resumes the attack. With the mask, he's impossible to read. He doesn't seem to react when the tip of her staff slices deeply into his calf, and something like blood and black oil drips and freezes on the ground. Cybernetics? It might explain why he can still move while rey is feeling herself stiffening with cold, where only the fire burning inside her keeps her moving. Another force push, sends her staggering, and with almost no purchase on the ice, he can send her sliding far. Her lightsaber skids from her grip.

She looks up and sees Tam has not moved. His face is white with fear and confusion. For a moment she thinks Kylo has frozen him with his power, but Tam is moving... he just isn't running.

A black hand closes on the front of her white tunic and lifts her straight up off her feet. He's going to throw her again, physically this time. She feels his muscles bunch and in that second she reaches out. Her staff snaps back into her hand and she spins it.

She almost takes his arm, but he is quick to release her and knock the attack aside. Moving between him and Tam, she twirls the staff, waiting for his attack.

The mask tilts towards her. “Do you still wish to kill me?” he asks her.

“You don't give me a choice!” she shouts across the screaming wind. “Either I kill you, or you kill me! I won't let you hurt him! Not while there is breath in me!”

He straightens, reacting to her words. “We'll see!”

His fighting changes. He's faster, more brutal, and Rey's arms threaten to buckle under the power of his blows. She's faster. He's stronger. She sees her opening as she blocks a blow aimed at her head, and his body is wide open. All she needs to do is turn and slide the end of her staff between his ribs.

The red saber flashes down. Rey's staff falls away.

So does most of her left arm.

Her mind goes white with shock, too much pain to process at once, and she hits the ice, struggling to breathe.

With a wrench, Kylo Ren tears off his helmet and she sees his face for the first time in over five years. It's a harder face now, where once it was almost boyish, and the scar she gave him has turned into a white line that divides his brow and cheek. If she had seen this face before, she might have thought twice about taking him on.

He's going to kill me, she thinks and looks at Tam's white tear-streaked face. She doesn't want him to see this. That's all she can think through the mire of pain.

With a snap Kylo's blade disappears and he tugs off a glove. Rey isn't prepared for the feel of his warm, bare fingers on her face. For a moment she expects their connection to blaze open again the way it used to, but nothing happens. It's just the feel of his hand on her cheek and the grim face above hers. The pain in her chest intensifies so much it's almost worse than the pain in her arm.

“Your lightsaber is beautiful,” he says, holding her gaze. “I was wrong to ever think you belonged in the dark. You need the light. You flourish in it.”

His gaze falls on the burned stump of her arm and his expressive face shifts into something she might almost call regret. Then he rises to his full height and steps over her, moving toward Tam.

Rey catches his cloak in her remaining fist and holds on for dear life. “Don't!” she chokes out.

He looks down at her blankly. “Let me go, Rey.”

“No-”

“You have to let me go.”

He only needs to tug gently, and he's free of her grip. Rey watches in horror as he reaches Tam and leans down to take the boy's hand. Tam is terrified, but he won't take his eyes off Rey.

Somewhere above, she hears the dull roar of an approaching engine.

“We used to have a connection, you and I,” says Kylo Ren, looking at her. “I knew it pushed us together for a reason. I always wondered why, but now I know. You shouldn't have tried to hide him from me.”

“Please don't hurt him,” she whispers.

“I have no intention. This is a child born of the Force... he needs to be raised for purpose. He needs the training that you can't provide because of your blind obedience to the light. You would squander him. I will make him great.”

A command shuttle touches down on the ice behind him

Kylo Ren slips on his helmet and tugs Tam towards the descending gangway. The boy looks back at Rey, but he's too frightened to do anything but obey his father.

“Don't be afraid,” she calls to him, trying to keep her voice level. “I will come for you. Wait for me, Tam, I will find you!”

The wings of the craft descend and it glides away. Rey lifts her hand and attempts to stop its flight with the Force, as Kylo Ren had once tried to stop her. It doesn't even wobble in its escape. She is too weak now, and perhaps she will never know how to use the Force the way Kylo can.

Dropping her head to the ice, Rey feels the temptation to give up, to let the cold claim her and take away the pain in her heart. Another voice that has Luke's irritable growl reminds her that she can't die yet. She has to keep her promise to Tam. She cannot let him be another victim to the dark side.

So she hangs on. She listens to the fading sounds of battle and counts the time in the beats of her heart. Only when she hears the sounds of motorised skis and the beige uniforms of the Resistance surrounding her does she finally let herself drift off.



 

Chapter Text

Back to the Beginning

 

It is Leia who knows where to find her. For the first time in twenty years she heard her son reach out to her through the Force, and all he had to say was, she's on the ice field.

Rey comes to in one of the training halls that has been converted to an emergency hospital. Finn, with a bloodied nose, is sitting at her side with his head in his hands. “I should have been with you,” he says. “We could have stopped him together.”

She feels woozy and strange with all the painkillers she has been given, but she still has enough sense to point out, “The last time you two fought, he filleted your spine.”

“And now he's slicing bits off you too.” Finn looks at her. “What the hell did you ever see in him, Rey?”

It's a rhetorical question, because he asked the same thing the day she told him she was pregnant. Her answer hasn't changed. “It's complicated, Finn.”

“Oh, right. 'The Force made you do it',” he says sneeringly. He has never really understood how the Force works and she can tell he thinks sometimes it's a joke everyone is playing on him.

She had once indeed blamed the Force for her attraction to Kylo Ren, but these days she wasn't so sure. Especially not after seeing him again. Feeling him touch her face stirred all the old feelings she had once decided weren't real, and she could no long blame them on a mental link that no longer existed. What lay between them now was entirely of their own making. He could take her arm and take her child, and she could hate him to the ends of the earth, but she would never be rid of her weakness for him.

Rey looks now at her arm, or what is left of it. Some considerate soul has bandaged the stump where it ends a few inches above where her elbow should be, and not even the haze of painkillers can entirely stop the terrible burning she feels. The only reason she is not dead is because the lightsaber cauterized her flesh immediately.

“They can't save your arm, Rey,” Finn says flatly. “Cybernetics will get you a new one, but if I were you, I'd go to Coruscant and fork out for something that isn't made of old tin cans and rusted screws.”

Rey nods. She needs the best arm she can get. “I need to leave here, Finn.”

“We all need to leave here,” he says. “The base is compromised. If we don't leave, they'll just come back for round two. Whoever ratted us out is going to pay.”

Rey says nothing, because she has an awful feeling that it was Tam. There was a reason he tried to hide his knowledge of Kylo Ren from her. If they were communicating behind her back, there was no telling what kind of things Tam has given away to the enemy without realising.

“I have to leave,” she says again. “I have to train. I have to be stronger. I have to get Tam back.”

“How?”

“The first jedi temple on Ahch-To,” she said, realising it as she spoke. “Where I found Luke. There's no one left to teach me, so I have to do it myself and go back to the beginning.”

“No, Rey, we have to get Tam back now. We have to launch the offensive while they don't expect it-”

“They expect it.”

“-before that madmen hurts Tam or worse!”

“He won't.”

“He killed his own father because he thinks family makes him weak – he'll do exactly the same to his son!”

“He won't hurt him,” Rey says with certainty. “Not yet. He thinks our son is born of the Force like Anakin Skywalker was. He won't kill him if he thinks he can mould him in his own image.”

“Over my dead body. Tam wants to be Poe Dameron when he grows up. He told me.”

She sits up, but she feels half-undone and off balance with only one arm. “We can stop Kylo, but we have to do it properly. Going in guns blazing will get us nowhere. He's Supreme Leader Kylo Ren now. He's the most protected man in the galaxy.”

“You sure know how to pick 'em, don't you?”

Rey glares at him.

“I'm just saying, couldn't you have aimed slightly to the left of the megalomaniacal evildoer and maybe settled for an only vaguely evil librarian or something? Getting Tam back from a librarian would be super easy.”

“I'm not going to dignify that with any kind of answer,” she grouses.

“I think you just did.”

“Help me up. I have to see Leia.”

Leia is in pieces, but as usual she hides it well. Her grandson has been kidnapped by her son, and she stuffs her fear and rage into a ball and uses it to energise the arrangements of a total evacuation. “How does Kalboth sound? You like tropical jungles? I think I'm pretty tired of ice and snow, myself,” she says when she sees Rey, and the only reason Rey knows something is wrong is because Leia doesn't seem to have noticed she has no arm. “This is going to be a logistical nightmare but someone has to do it. Brance insisted on getting a piece of shrapnel in his brain, after all. It's alway the old women who have to clean up after the mess the young ones make.”

“I'm going to get Tam back,” Rey tells her. “I promise.”

“You had better,” says Leia tiredly.”Kill Ben if you have to, but bring that boy home safe.”

Rey frowns. No matter who Kylo has killed, Leia has never wished for anything more than her son's redemption. Has this one act finally pushed her too far? “Do you think he's fallen too far into darkness?”

Leia doesn't look at her. “Han knew what he was risking. So did Luke. But Tam... he's just a child, Rey. If Ben does anything to him, I'll never forgive myself. I shouldn't have left him. I shouldn't have...”

She trails off as much lieutenants come running, demanding her time and attention for the evacuation, and Leia disappears, quite forgetting Rey in an instant.

Rey herself is of no use. With only one arm, she can't even assist in shifting supplies and cargo. She hears Poe is planning an emergency run to Coruscant to pick up medical supplies from sympathisers and she joins him in the Falcon, even though – as Finn rightly points out – he's most likely still running on the fumes of last night's beers. He still shot down around eleven TIE fighters, so Rey isn't going to start asking him how many fingers she's holding up.

He's red-eyed as they take off, and he gives her an awkward sideways look. “You're much calmer than I thought you'd be, I mean, when I heard...”

He doesn't need to finish and Rey knows what he means. She's even surprised with herself. But for her, there is nothing short of absolute determination. The fear is something waiting for her at an indeterminate distance, and all there is now is clarity.

She closes her eyes and searches along the Force, but all is quiet. She knows Tam is strong, that he could sense Snoke and Kylo Ren at any distance, and perhaps he can sense her now the same way. Although she cannot see him, she sends out all her love and comfort. It may feel like shouting into an empty void, but perhaps he will hear her.

On Coruscant, Poe's attention is fixed on his mission, and Rey slips away unnoticed. She ignores the puzzled, pitying looks that people tend to give a one-armed woman who seems to have wandered out of the poorer districts. Clinics for cybernetics and prostheses are as common in the medical district as bars in the nightside areas. She looks about and sees signs offering 2 for 1 deals and discounts for those willing to donate biological limbs.

Rey heads into one of the less seedier establishments and puts her case forward.

“I need an arm,” she says.

The receptionist's many eye stalks swivel in the direction of her stump. “So you do,” he says. “Our basic line of human prostheses is very reasonable-”

“I need the best you have.”

He looks at her torn, stained tunic that had once been white. “They can be a little pricey,” he says diplomatically.

“Money is no object,” she says, infusing her words with the Force.

A subtle change comes over the receptionist, as if he's just realised she is bedecked in jewels and the finest Thanick silk robes. “Of course. We can book you in for three months-”

“You will clear the schedule and see me now.”

“Of course.” The receptionist behaves as if this is the most reasonable request in the world. “How does an appointment in three minutes sound?”

Rey ponders the morality of what she is doing, but being a jedi does not pay well – or at all – and she does not have three months to waste. She feels slightly better when she turns down the surgeon's offer of adding features such as retractible blades and a blaster canon. She just wants an arm. She even turns down the option of adding real skin, as the process of taking samples from her and growing it in the lab would take another week.

“How did this happen?” the surgeon asks conversationally as she works. “Not often I see laser cuts like this. Industrial accident?”

The anesthetic makes Rey a little more loose tongued than she is used to. “No. The father of my child did this.”

“Ah,” nods the surgeon in perfect understanding. “Divorces can be messy things. Say no more.”

In the end she walks out with little embellishment on her new metal limb. And although it has been specially weighted to feel natural, it feels like the most alien thing in the world, cold against her side and ungiving. There is stiffness too, but the surgeon promises it will wear off. She doesn't care, as long as she can still wield her lightsaber and do what needs to be done.

Poe has been pinging her on her communicator since halfway through the surgery. Rey answers at last, holding it to her mouth.

“Where are you?” he sounds impatient. “Everything's packed up – we need to go.”

“I'm not coming.”

“What do you mean? Rey, I can't delay take-off any longer. If you're not here in the next minute, I have to go.”

“Then go. Tell Finn he has to look after Leia. But I need to do this alone.”

“Rey...” He sounds disapproving, but there's little he can do. The Resistance needs him and the medical supplies and he can't delay his mission for her.

She switches off the communicator and heads to the junkyard dealership. If there's one thing she knows, it's junk, and she surveys the vehicles and ships on offer by the eager pedlers carefully, before she bestows her attention on a creature who reminds her of Unkar Plutt. He's a devious cheat with no morals, and Rey doesn't need the Force to tell her that. He directs her towards a small ship he claims has been refurbished to all the latest part numbers. It's a clear lie, and worth not even half of his asking price, but it's space worthy and has a hyperdrive, even if its one of the earliest models. When she says she'll have it for free, a confused look passes over his face, but he seems pleased, as if he's closed on a good deal.

Her communicator pings a few more times before she reaches the outer atmosphere. But once the hyperdrive is engaged and she's speeding away across the stars, it falls silent.

 

 




Ahch-To is exactly as she remembers it. There is no sign of violence on the island to suggest Luke Skywalker ever gave much of a fight when the First Order came for him. His condenser is still behind the hut, drawing moisture from the air, though the buckets beneath are overflowing. His blankets are still folded in the corner of the stone hut, though they are rather brittle and damp when she picks them up. Beneath is the Luke's lightsaber. Rey looks around in dismay. It's not for the first time that she regrets not being here to defend him, for he seemed so unwilling to defend himself.

“You were untrained then, there's little you could have done.”

“I'm untrained now.”

“Isn't that why you came here? To learn?”

Rey looks around, but there is no one. Stepping out into the sun, the island is silent but for the sigh of the waves and the wind that whistles around the jagged rocks as it has done for millenia. But Rey doesn't feel alone. Flexing her metal hand, she takes her lightsaber and heads to the clearing where she once meditated with Luke.

So little has changed, she's filled with an intense nostalgia as she sits down, legs crossed, and faces the sea. She lets the noise in her head and her heart drop away until it seems like all that exists is the sigh of a sea that ebbs and flows, always in motion and filled with mystery. It is so much like the Force that she understands how this black rock became the birthplace of the first masters of the Force.

Then a whisper begins. At first she thinks it is nothing but the wind and ignores it, until it grows into a hiss that compels her to open her eyes and look towards Luke Lightsaber. She has felt this before, back when she first met Maz, when she was first awakened to the possibilities of her nature.

She knows what will happen if she touches that lightsaber, and this time she is only curious rather than fearful. She reaches out and clasps it in her hand and lets the visions flow through her.

It's a confusing reel of images that chase through her mind without consideration for her comprehension. She thinks she sees Luke, here on this island, watching the ships of the First Order descend, then the memories have chased on, and he's somewhere else, holding the lifeless body of a young woman – a young jedi – and she sees the pain in his face as he looks around at all the other bodies, at everything he has lost and the blame he takes into himself. Rey feels tears prick her eyes, but already the vision has spun on with neck-breaking speed to a happier time, as Luke reaches out to grasp the hand of his young nephew. “Hello, Ben.” But Ben doesn't smile. He looks lost and confused and so alone.

Soon the visions show her things she does not know, faces of people she has never seen and may be long dead. A man with a white beard hands the lightsaber to Luke – a Luke who is so young and amazed at everything. “Your father wanted you to have it.”

The same man, but younger, picks up the saber from the ground as fire and lava fumes swim in the air. He's taking it from another man who lies burning, wretched and screaming hate and curses and is barely human anymore.

But he wasn't always so, the vision shows her. Once he was a man, the 'Chosen One', handsome and young and smiling, in love with a beautiful woman. But too in love. Too ready to destroy his own soul for the chance to save her.

The lightsaber drops from her hand and Rey reaches up to wipe the tears from her cheeks. She flinches at the cold contact of her metal fingers, and for a moment she looks at her metal hand, disorientated.

“You will get used to it.”

She looks up and sees Luke sitting opposite her. It is almost as if she has been transported back six years and they were meditating together once more. But Luke is changed. The light bends around him with a blue hue, and he is so insubstantial she can see the ocean through his form. More than that, he looks younger and neater than he ever did when Rey knew him. His beard is short and his hood is back, and she thinks he looks like he is finally free of the burdens he carried in life.

“Leia warned me about ghosts,” Rey says hesitantly, as if speaking might break this illusion she sees. “I'd hoped... I didn't know if I would ever see you again.”

“You're the one who called me,” he tells her with a faint smile. “I knew you would, when you needed me again.”

“I've needed you so many times,” she protests shakily. “Luke – Kylo Ren came. He took Tam. He took my boy and-”

Luke holds up his hand. “I know. And you have come seeking the power you need to defeat him.”

“Yes.”

“You are already more powerful than he can ever be. Kylo Ren reaches the limits of his power, but you have barely begun to scratch the surface of your own.” He looks at his old lightsaber. “But I see you are beginning to understand.”

“Is there something special about this lightsaber?” she asks him. “It shows me things... I can't possibly know.”

“It's just a weapon,” says Luke. “Like any other. It has a history, but then, you could touch any rock in this place and witness a history far richer. But that's your power, not the power of an old lightsaber.”

“And... is that a common jedi ability?” she asks.

“Not at all.”

Rey contemplates this quietly. The visions she has seen are all limited to memories of those who wielded this lightsaber, and once upon a time it even showed her glimpses of her own future. If such an ability could be controlled...?

“I'm sorry I let you down, Rey.”

She looks up, startled. “You never let me down, what are you talking about?”

“You came to me for training once, and I was so wrapped up in my own guilt that I left you unprepared.”

“You didn't leave me... Kylo Ren killed you,” she says flatly.

He shakes his head. “Ben couldn't... he wouldn't. He fights the light, but it overwhelms him. Snoke struck me down, and if my death made Ben waver from the path of darkness even slightly, then it was not in vain.”

“I'm not so sure...” she says dubiously. “Everyone calls him Supreme Leader Kylo now. He just led an attack on our base... who knows how many are dead because of him.”

“I don't know what to say to you, Rey... you must not give up hope.”

“You think I hope he is reformed? I hope he dies.”

“How do you expect to fully understand your powers if you can't even begin to be honest with yourself?”

Rey quietly fumes. “How do I switch you off? Make you go away?” This was not how she had hoped her reunion with Luke would go at all. She considers flapping her hands at him in case that might literally blow him away.

“If you don't think you need me help, then so be it. But you know as well as I do that Ben has the advantage. I trained him for eight years, and thereafter he was under Snoke's tutelage. I trained you for less than a year... you still need a teacher.”

“You can teach me even if you're dead?” she asks, surprised.

“To a degree. I hope I will not need to, if you can learn to control your ability...”

“I don't understand.”

“Rey, you have the ability to see into the memories of an object, and you are sitting in what is the oldest jedi training temple in the galaxy. You're going to have teachers. You're going to have thousands of them – the greatest men and women ever known to history.”

Her eyes go round. “Oh,” is all she can say.

“Do you still wish me to leave?”

“N-No. You can stay. Just no more stupid stuff about Kylo Ren, please.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Black and White

When Rey sleeps she sees Tam. She sees him as he was, as an infant, when he was dark-haired and shy and he had started to talk while she was away. She remembers all her hopes for him – how desperately she had hoped that he would be normal. Just another child.

She sees him as he was on the ice – so white with terror. He'd been staring at her arm – the one lying near his feet like a piece of meat, and his thoughts were mess. He believed it was all his fault. He'd called this man here. He'd called him and now everyone was dying.

She sees him as he is now. Alone. So intensely homesick. The walls are black stone and slope in a claustrophobic way. He misses Leia more than anyone, for she is the one who raised him. She caught him when he took his first steps, greeted his first words, and held him when he cried every time his mother went away yet again.

She sees Kylo Ren as he must look to a child – as tall as the trees and black as the night, more of a monster than a man.

“Why do you waste your sorrow on such a woman?” he asks, and his voice is as gentle as a caress. “She would have abandoned you eventually, just as she abandoned me. Just like your mother abandoned you over and over.”

“Mom says you're a murderer. You're a bad person. That I don't need you.”

“And did you know your mother is a liar? That she is a thief?” His voice remains light, but his words are clipped and ever so slightly unhinged.

And Tam is still too young to do anything but take things at face value. “What did she steal?”

Rey wakes with a deep sense of foreboding. Kylo will try to turn Tam against her, and in time he could succeed. Rey knows she has left Tam vulnerable, giving him any number of reasons to grow to hate her. That he misses Leia more than he misses her is a sting she tries to ignore as she throws herself into training.

Luke is a far more dedicated teacher in death than he was in life. Teasing knowledge out of him was once like trying to tease laughter from a stone, but now she realises how much he held back. He tells her about his own training, his own mistakes and assumptions, and how much he'd had to figure out for himself once he realised he was the only jedi left in the known galaxy.

He'd spent his life tracking down the jedi archives his own father had spent his life destroying. There was so little knowledge left, but enough to bring jedi teachings into a new age, excised of the outdated and dogmatic beliefs the jedi order had acquired the way any bloated, aging order is prone to do.

“The jedi's purpose should be to protect the balance of the force,” he tells her, “and perhaps there is no harm in feelings of anger and fear and passion, so long as they exist in balance. We can be angry over injustice, fearful of the harm of abusing our power, and passionate in defense of what is right. Perhaps telling someone they should not feel anger or fall in love has driven more into the arms darkness than it has saved?”

“Is that what you told Ben?” she asks carefully. “That he should not feel anger or love?”

“I tried to teach him control, that is all,” Luke's ghost sighs. “His emotions were too strong. He loves too deeply. He fears too much. His anger boils into fits of violence too easily. There is no harm in emotion, but he had no way to control his feelings. A defect of birth, exacerbated by all the expectations he could not meet... his fate was sealed.”

“He made his choices,” Rey tells him.

“His choices were... restricted.”

Luke is too forgiving in Rey's opinion, and he is too determined to make Rey as generous in her estimations of Kylo Ren's character. She doesn't like it, so she does her best to ignore it, and focuses instead on the teachings themselves, and his chosen methods of honing her ability.

He leads her to an obelisk she has seen many times before and explains that it is the grave marker of a jedi, from a time before the order was known to the galaxy. This ancient jedi holds secrets no one alive knows.

“And what do I do with him?” she asks Luke.

“Dig him up and see what you make of him.”

Rey balks. “I can't do that! That's just – he'll definitely curse me and haunt me! Jedi ghosts are real, you know!”

“The jedi are not terribly precious over their remains, Rey,” he tells her. “And I will be asking you to bury him again when this is done. And perhaps by then you will know his name enough to mark it on his gravestone once more. I think he'd appreciate that more than being forgotten to time.”

Still quite certain that another blue ghost is sure to pop out of the ground and start yelling at her, Rey does as he asks and begins disassembling the ancient pile of stones below the obelisk. It's hard work, and reminds her of the day on Niima trading post when Unkar Plutt had made her cart bars of lurinium back and forth between two freights when she was about eleven years old. The stones are large and heavy, and once she has moved them aside, there is still another several feet of black gravel to excavate.

“It's a pity ghosts can't help move things,” says Luke, which was only rubbing it in really.

It's a day and a half before Rey gets through the layer of gravel to the softer sand and grit beneath, with her right hand bleeding and bruised and her left one fast in danger of losing its new metal shine. She scoops up the sand, handful by handful, until her fingers brush something hard, like petrified wood.

With a soft whisper of apology she hopes will placate the owner, Rey digs into the sand and pulls what looks like a human femur from the sand.

She glances up at Luke.

“Mm. Try finding the skull if you can.”

If Rey doesn't know any better, she would guess he is treating this like a training exercise in itself. Suppressing a sigh, she scrabbles through the sand in the rough area where she thinks the skull must be in relation to a leg, and after a few minutes, finds something large and round.

But when she pulls it from the sand, it promptly shatters into three pieces.

“Oh, kriffing hell!” she shrieks, darting a worried look about for that vengeful ghost.

“Nevermind.” Luke doesn't seem so concerned. “Just take a piece and we'll make do with that.

So Rey selects the largest piece of the skull, which is mostly what is left of the right eye socket and some teeth, and very carefully carries it up to the meditation grounds. Luke tells her to meditate on it, and Rey is only too happy to finally have something of a relaxing sit down after all that tiring work. So tiring, in fact, that she falls asleep sitting up.

Hours later, when a cold wind pitches across the summit of the island, Rey blinks awake. “Did it work?” she yawns.

“Maybe you should try again, this time without falling asleep?” he suggests patiently.

So she tries again, opening herself to the sound of the sea and the feel of Force. She tries to feel how the Force interacts with the fragment of the skull, the way she felt it react with Luke's lightsaber.

It begins with whispers, just as it did before. Beckoning so quietly she almost cannot hear them. She opens her eyes and looks at the fragment and skull and feels it has something to tell her.

So she reaches down brushes the grey-white surface of the bones with the tips of her fingers.

Her head fills with images of a life, of a time when this island was home to dozens, all human, all speaking a language Rey does not understand but does not need to, because emotion is universal. The rounded stone houses are new and the people dress in black, and person whose eyes she sees through is regarded as a great seer. She can move the tides, move the earth, see the future, see the past, and she sees Rey just as Rey sees her.

Rey snatches her hand back and looks at Luke.

“Well?” he asks.

“Your great jedi was a woman named Hasta,” says Rey. “She founded the temple here.”

Luke nods in satisfaction. “Keep meditating on Hasta... learn all you can from her, and then we shall see what remains of this temple.”

Hasta, Rey learns, was a very old woman by the time she died – hundreds of years old by Rey's estimate. She was clearly a very talented jedi, but also a prolific mother with at least twenty-five children, which leaves Rey a little awed since Tam's birth was more then enough of an ordeal for a lifetime. Hasta is a natural teacher, patient and wise, and charismatic. She teaches hundreds of students in her long life, and just before she dies, she knows she will have one more, for she sees a vision of Rey pulling her bones from the earth in search of answers in a time when jedi teachings are all but lost. Hasta is more than willing to share everything she knows and she shows Rey exactly how to do this.

Go to the temple, padawan, she says in her strange melodic language. Ask the stones.

The temple is deep within the island, its entrances buried under thousands of years of erosion.

Rey thanks her, and places her back in her grave. She makes sure to scratch Hasta's name anew on her marker when she has put every stone back where it belongs.

Then she goes down to the place Hasta showed her in her vision, shifts into one of the stances Hasta taught to her students, and calls on the Force to move the earth. It takes a few attempts, and a while it feels like the Force slips through her fingers like sand and the ground does nothing but churn and shake.

Something clicks in Rey's mind at least, and she seizes the force as if it is a real, physical thing, and lifts. So too does the ground lift. Heavy rocks, gravel and thick wads of turf and moss come away, revealing a narrow stone doorway buried in the hillside. Rey lets the earth drop into the sea and follows her curiosity through this doorway into an equally narrow passage. Perhaps people were smaller on those days, she thinks, cracking her head against the low ceiling several times before she emerges into a dark chamber.

Rey feels as if she has walked into a tomb for how quiet and dark it feels. There is no light here, but that seems wrong. She looks up and sees a rough ceiling high above that does not match the rest of the room. It was put there to bury this place and hide it, but the temple in her vision was open to the elements. It was its most important feature.

So Rey takes hold of the Force again and lifts with all her might. Her arms shake with the effort, but she feels the earth accept her request and part. Light pours in, and Rey keeps pushing and coaxing until the circular ceiling is open completely to the air once more and she feels the temple stir, as if it is waking from a long slumber.

Luke is beside her when she's finished. “This is the history of our people, Rey,” he tells her, and she sees how awed and reverent he is to finally be in a place he searched for in life.

“Hasta told me to 'ask the stones',” she says.

“Then ask them.”

Rey looks about the chamber. The floor is perfectly flat and the walls have been carved with patterns and symbols of the ancient language spoken in Hasta's time. She's surprised she recognises what a few of them mean now, but her attention lands on the two tall stones that emerge continuously from the stone floor on opposite sides of the chamber. A hole had been bored into the top of each stone, roughly at eye height, and as wide as Rey's wrist.

“Ah, and Un,” she tells Luke, running her right hand over one of the stones. “One is for life, one is for death. Lightness and darkness, always together. One is meaningless without the other.”

“And what do the stones tell you?”

Rey grasps the stone she thinks represents the light and concentrates hard. She looks for the whispers and catches hold of them, pulling them into herself so she can hear the memory of the stone.

It's a mistake.

There are thousands of years of memory in these stones. They've seen thousands of combat drills, heard thousands of lectures, seen countless philosophies born and destroyed, carved into the walls, then overwritten with new ideas and new thinking. So many faces. So many lives. So many times when the Force has been strong in this place, and other times it has all but vanished, along with the people. There have been prophesies written in this place. So many 'chosen ones'. Every thousand years someone is born to the Force, someone whose destiny is great but almost always bloody. They are the great flood, the cleansing hand of the Force searching to reassert its balance. The final child of the Force comes, and with it the stones remember nothing but blood and darkness until the moment Rey's hand touches it.

Released at last, she drops to the hard ground but doesn't recall feeling the impact. She wakes to the taste of copper in her mouth and the crackle of dried blood under her nose.

Luke's blue visage hovers over her like a concerned parent. “You're alright. Come on, up you get.”

She wishes he were real, so that she might take his hand and find her feet. Alone, it takes her several minutes to find the strength to roll to her knees and then finally stand. “How long was I out?”

“Most of the night,” he says. “And before that, the stone had you for most of the day. I suggest a break.”

“I can't take a break,” she says, wobbling towards the stone that represents the darkness. “Kylo has Tam. I need to have the strength to find them and save them.”

“A few hours won't hurt-”

“Luke, he was right. Kylo was right. Tam is a child of the Force, like Anakin. If Kylo really gets his claws into him, he could make him into a true monster. I've seen it, Children of the Force... they're born to purge. I have to stop... stop...”

She sags to her knees before she can reach the next stone and begins weeping in earnest.

Luke's weightless hand reaches out, and for a moment she thinks she feels his comforting touch.

“Go back and eat. Sleep. You are exhausted.”

He's right of course, and he reminds her that terrible things happen to apprentices who defy their masters. In a way she is relieved that he is forcing the issue, as she arrives back, so deathly tired that she tastes none of the raw fish she chews on mechanically before she falls on the blankets and effectively passes out once more.

Tam fills her dreams once more. His babyish gurgles the first time she held him, when she felt like her heart was tearing in half with the love and despair. She hadn't wanted a child. She hadn't wanted his child. She had tried to pretend it wasn't happening, right up until the birth contractions started, and to her shame, she thinks that perhaps she went right back to pretending he didn't exist within no time at all. She left him to Leia, returned to her missions, and went weeks without thinking of the tiny life she had left behind on Palamoor.

That he loved her at all is more than she deserves. That his face lit up whenever she returned with some cheap gift to mollify his pain over her absences was a crime. If he knew how much she had tried to avoid him, it would have broken his tiny heart, and he had always been too young to figure it out for himself.

It had taken her years to accept Tam into her heart, and it had happened when he stopped being a baby and became a child. When he sat at the table with her and chattered away about his day, speaking at great length about the things he found interesting – something he had found on the ground, or how the laces on his shoes would not stay fastened. She did not always know how to speak to him in return. But she had begun to feel that he was his own person... not just a remnant of a hateful man.

Her dreams show him a little older, how he sees the trepidation in his grandmother's eyes the day she catches him using the Force to make his toy soldiers move in formation across his bedroom floor. Sees how he's so attuned to the Force that he has always known where Rey is at any moment, whether she is in the next room or on the other side of the galaxy, he has always waited for her.

He's waiting for her now. Sitting alone in a dark room with sloping walls and red strips of light around the door. He can feel where she is and he's scared. Something is going to happen. Something that reminds him of the fear he felt when he saw his father slice off her arm. He pulls the blankets over his head and thinks of Leia.

Then she dreams of things that have yet to pass. Of a man who shrouds himself in black and lives behind a mask to distance himself from the blood that covers his hands. There is no one left that remembers his true name was once the one she gave him. They're all dead, gone, forgotten, and he's alone.

Rey wakes and sits for a long time the next morning, contemplating her vision, pulled down into a dark mood. Is it just a dream or a premonition she sees? She feels no hunger but she eats nontheless and rubs cool water over her face in the hopes of chasing away the darkness of the dreams. She heads back down to the temple where she finds Luke pensively awaiting her.

“Do be careful,” he tells her.

She wants no repeat of the last time she touched the stone, but she is resolved to face the worst as she reaches out for the stone that represents the darkness.

When the memories come, she is surprised that the dark side is the gentler, cooler of the two. It washes over her, showing her the small things where the light was concerned with the great things. She sees people meditating, speaking prayers, shaving the heads of the children, teaching the children to be one with the Force. There are disciples of the light and disciples of the dark, always in equal number, always in equal respect. There is a boy and a girl, and the boy is called to the light and the girl hears the whisper of the dark, and they grow and become a man and a woman, and their children all hear the light. So do the other children. The disciples of the darkness dwindle in number until they are shunned and chased away, until the day a child is born with no father, and she is darkness embodied. Her followers tear into the light, and the balance is restored with violence and maintained in tit-for-tat bloodshed. It's not supposed to be this way.

But the memory of this stone does not end with the long darkness that the other stone remembers. It continues on. It sees her standing beside it, but there is another too. A masked man waits in the darkness, reaching slowly for her neck.

Rey releases the stone and spin around.

“How... how did you find me?” she demands, backing away in her fear.

Kylo Ren ignites the lightsaber and advances on her. Luke is nowhere to be seen now, and Rey reaches clumsily for the staff strapped to her back. She glanced anxiously at her metal arm, wondering if it will be able to keep up.

Without a word he swings, and Rey blocks, her whole body jolting with the force of the strike. They circle each other as Rey tries to master her fear. “Where is Tam?” she demands, the raises her staff to absorb another heavy blow.

Don't give in to fear! something whispers to her as she steps through a shaft of light from the ceiling.

Stay calm, whispers another voice as she moves back into the shadows. Listen to what your fear tells you.

Rey swallows and watches Kylo Ren carefully. If he's not in the mood to talk so be it. Perhaps he has finally decided to finish her off, to remove the competition for Tam's soul once and for all. Everything about his appearance has been tailored to intimidate, and his blade twirls in one hand, staying in steady motion, ready to fluidly move into any opening it finds in her defence. She cannot wait for the strike. She feints a lunge and quickly switches to a lower swipe that sends Kylo into retreat. Sensing her advantage, she presses it, striking fast, desperate to open up that gap in his defence.

Use the Force, warns a voice in her ear

You hear it better than he does, agrees the other.

Rey hears the sound of the ocean and the vibrations of the Force around her, feels the way it ripples in reaction to movements that haven't been made yet, to thoughts that are only half-formed. He's going to thrust his saber into her head. Rey doesn't block him. She simply shifts aside and feels the heat of his blade crackle past her ear, and in that split second, his body is unguarded.

She slides the end of her staff home through his heart.

Kylo Ren doesn't drop straight away. His lightsaber crackles into silence, and he touches his chest, as if in disbelief, then sinks slowly to his knees.

“I'm sorry,” she finds herself saying.

Absurdly, he reaches for her, but not in the way of an enemy who cannot concede defeat. His palm is up, his fingers tremble, beseeching. Rey, in her pity, kneels beside him and lets him fall in her lap. He grasps her hand and holds on, as if for dear life.

She cannot stand his mask anymore. She grips the edge with her fingers and pulls it free.

Dark brown curls fall over her arm and she looks down into a face that so resembles her own. All except for the eyes. They're all his father's, and now they swim with pain and betrayal.

“Tam...” she breathes, tears springing to her eyes unstoppably. “No - no! What have I done? Please, no!”

The body she clutches to her chest is no longer a man's, but a boy's, so small and lifeless. It's not real, she tells herself over and over. This does little to stop her tears, because it's everything that terrifies her right here before her eyes.

Don't give in to the fear, the quiet voice reminds her.

Learn from it. Understand it. Understand yourself.

Rey gently lowers Tam's body to the ground and stands. Her voice is broken when she speaks. “This will never happen. I will not allow it.”

Then you need to be stronger.

“Then please... teach me. Help me.”

Rey isn't sure who she's speaking to: the ghosts of jedi past, the stones themselves, or even the shades of the Force they represent. It doesn't seem to matter. She knows they listen and consider her, and their answer carries the weight of all the ages.

Yes.







 

Chapter Text

Part III





The Importance of Junk

The next time Rey sees Kylo Ren, it is at a distance. She has found one of his knights and tracked him across three systems to an outpost built on the swamps of a small moon. She isn't sure what she expects when her shuttle touches down on waterlogged moss. She is looking for clues and leads, and so far she has been following a string of them. The Knight of Ren is the latest. She's watched him from afar as he moves from one place to another, collecting from his contacts and bullying his way from city to city. He's wiley and cautious, and Rey should have lost him a dozen times already if not for the Force. The only reason she knows he will come to this marshy outpost is because she picked up a credit chit he left behind with a trader on Noss, and it showed her just enough to tell her where he would be heading next.

When she crosses the marsh to reach the outskirts of the base, she's taken aback to see the black dagger-shaped wings of Kylo Ren's command shuttle on the cosmodrome field. She sees figures moving across the paved expanse of land.

The last time she glimpsed him like this, she stayed hidden with Finn behind a rock and let him fly off. But Finn isn't here to inject her with common sense this time, and Rey has grown in desperation over the last few years. Where once she had run from Kylo Ren and felt his pursuit for her span the galaxy, now she is the one chasing him down, and this is the closest she has been in a long time.

Taking up her staff, she rises from the marsh and heads with purpose towards the gathered ships. As she gets closer she recognises the tallest figure, and he's already heading back to the command shuttle, his business concluded.

“BEN!” she shouts, as she breaks out into a run.

A faint pause. She sees his mask turn briefly in her direction, then he makes a gesture to his knight and proceeds on to his ship as if this is a matter beneath his notice. The Knight, the same one she has been tracking, doubles back to intercept her.

“Now that's just rude,” she mutters under her breath, extending the light blades of her staff.

She listens to the force and weaves between the Knight's defenses. He aims his cudgel down on her, and there's a loud metallic clang as she deflects it her with her false arm. He's taking up too much of her time, and Rey is losing patience. She jams her hand against his chest and released the strongest force push she can.

She does not stop to watch him land. Instead, she is looking back at Kylo Ren's command shuttle as it begins to rise.

Coward, she thinks. He can't even face her anymore.

Lifting her hands into the air, she forms fists and takes hold of the shuttle as surely as if she grips the wings themselves. She watches it slow and tip, waving like a kite whose string she holds. It's not easy. Sweat tracks down her brow as she feels the powerful engines fight her, and it's not some heap of junk forty year old X-wing she holds, but a vessel easily twice the size and weight. The soles of her boots slide across the gravel, as she's pulled along by the straining craft, but she digs in her heels and holds fast.

Something hot and red flashes past her head. Rey's concentration is momentarily broken as she glances away, back to where the Knight of Ren is rising to his feet, blaster raised and ready to take another shot.

Seeing no choice, she releases the shuttle. Nothing sounds worse to her ears than the whine of its engines as it rockets away, rapidly climbing out of reach as she faces the creature to blame for this. She runs at him, swipes off one of his mechanical legs before he can even swing his cudgel. Knocked to the ground, his struggles cease when Rey places one foot on his chest and levels the golden glowing edge of her saber to his throat.

“You missed me on purpose,” she hisses. “Why?”

The Knights of Ren have always been notoriously immune to the influence of the Force, and though she's infusing her words with a thrum of compulsion, she's not sure if she can trust he's telling the truth when he says, “We're not allowed... no one's allowed to kill you.”

Rey narrows her eyes. “Is that Kylo Ren's command?”

“One of them.”

“Why did you meet him here?”

“To give my report...”

“He didn't give you anything?” she asks with increasingly desperation. “Anything? Money?”

“We're not paid.” He sounds affronted.

“Then where do I find him?” she demands. “Where's his base? Where's my son?”

“C-classified.”

He doesn't know, in other words. She has found that before. Kylo Ren has grown even more secretive over the years, and she imagines that is how supreme leaders manage to stay alive, hiding from their enemies as much as they own followers.

Rey knocks the Knight out with a flick of her hand and a twitch of the Force and looks about just as she hears the first blaring shouts of a siren going off in the outpost. The field will soon be swarming with soldiers, so she heads for the nearest ship – the Knight's own.

None of the cannons fire upon her as she flies the sleek black craft out into space, which makes her think the Knight really might have been telling the truth about Kylo's command. There's so little interest in pursuing her, in fact, that she cuts the engines and floats free to run intensive scans in the hopes of picking up a trail.

Kylo thinks he's gotten away, that is why they intend to ignore her. Rey taps her fingers in frustration against the panel of her stolen ship, wondering if he could be right. All she can sense are the radiation trails of a recently engaged hyperdrive and some space debris.

Something clicks then.

It was Finn who had once told her that First order protocol was to dump waste before engaging the hyperdrive. The little dots on her radar, rapidly dispersing, are all objects that were, up until a few minutes ago, part of the command shuttle she is tracking.

It's not the most glamorous thing she has done in this endless game of cat and mouse, but Rey is not above chasing space trash. The tricky part is catching it in the traction beams and bringing it aboard, and she has to make her choice carefully, as the debris is quickly scattering and will soon be out of reach.

In the end, all she acquires are some squares of foam packaging and the end of what looks like some kind of broken tool. Rey, unimpressed, surveys her haul. Plutt would have given her no portions for this calibre of junk.

But its all she has, so she kneels in the back of the shuttle (a relatively clear and tidy place, which makes her think the Knight is a fastidious owner) and falls into light meditation as she weighs the objects in her right hand.

The foam, as she suspected, is useless. It is too new, too porous. It cannot hold the memory of anything, even recent memories.

She turns her attention instead on the broken piece of metal. Although metal is not a great conductor of memory, it at least retains more than foam. Rey rubs her fingers over its buffed surface and fingers the rough edge where it has snapped off something larger... some part of a dolly perhaps, to move cargo?

Yes, the metal seems to answer. She has the faintest impression of nervous, sweaty hands holding this metal. Snatches of conversation. Clipped off swearing as something falls and breaks.

None of it seems useful, but she persists, reaching as far back as the broken handle will allow. The further back she presses, the fainter the images she receives, but Rey knows well now how to focus and tease out mysteries buried deep.

She sees more clearly now that this piece of dolly was responsible for moving countless things. So many trips back and forth down the gangway of the command shuttle, to so many different places. Collecting supplies, dropping them off, collecting more. She sees the shuttle door open on one particular place more than others... some sort of internal hangar. She sees a vague impression of the black cloaks of Kylo Ren sweeping down the ramp, into the hangar, meeting a waiting retinue.

This is it, she thinks, with growing excitement. This has to be the place he calls home. Where is it?

That she's asking a piece of junk to reveal one of the greatest secrets of the universe would have made Finn laugh if he'd known. Such is Kylo's intense secrecy and paranoia that she has been reduced to such means, but trust Kylo to overlook the importance of junk.

And slowly... she begins to get a feel for the places this piece of junk has been. The hangar in her vision is far away, far on the other side of the Maiden's Hair nebula. Further out into the uncharted territories than she has ever spared a thought for. Kylo hides at the edge of known space, in a system that orbits a black hole.

She's offered no convenient co-ordinates for her trouble, but when Rey pulls up the galaxy map she has a good idea of where to look.

After careful consideration, she narrows it down to one likely area, though heading there will be like taking a flying leap into a dark pit without a guaranteed set of numbers to guide the navigation system. Rey has to trust herself. Trust the Force. If she is ever to see her son again, she thinks, she cannot let fear of the unknown hold her back.

Rey closes her eyes. She takes a deep breath. She engages the hyperdrive and prays she is not about to emerge in the middle of a black hole.

She only dares to breathe again when the ship decellerates into normal space, and nothing untoward seems to happen. There are no intense gravitational waves tearing her ship and herself to molecular dust, so she can only assume she must have missed the black hole.

Something pings on her radar. She looks down. In amidst all the warning lights letting her know she is far, far out of the range of charted space, a comet is passing nearby. Her readings show a thick tail of ice and black rock, but little else of note.

Yet Rey can't shake the feeling that her readings are being deceived. She turns the ship and flies closer, avoiding the chunks of ice that accompany the comet like a sea of icebergs. Her readings show nothing, but Rey is peering through the glass screen of the shuttle, and she's quite sure ordinary comets don't have radar dishes.

Settling back into her seat, she tries to calm her thumping heart. She opens a broadcast on all frequencies.

“First Order vessel,” she says, hedging her bets. “Please respond.”

The radio is silent for a long time, but Rey can sense more now. There are people here. A familiar presence is among them, but she cannot make out if it's Kylo Ren she feels or Tam.

“Who is this?” demands the radio suddenly, with little sense of formality.

“Rey,” she says.

“Rey who?”

Rey has never been anyone but Rey. This is apparently not enough for the grunt on the other end of the line. “Rey... of Jaaku. Rey the Jedi Knight. Why don't you ask Kylo Ren, I'm sure he'll tell you all about me.”

Another long silence follows, and she can only imagine the hasty scramblings of someone trying to figure out what to do. He was probably contacting his supervisor right now. Rey took the opportunity to fly around the comet, carefully inspecting its craggy black facade that was thickly encrusted with ice.

It was all quite the perfect disguise, if not for the hangar door only partially hidden beneath.

“You are to disengage and leave at once,” crackled the radio, “or we will be forced to fire upon you.”

The First Order didn't give warnings. If they were going to shoot her, they would have done so already. This was merely bluster to chase her off. Rey sniffs and sets a course for the hangar bay. “Please be advised that I am landing,” she tells the radio.

“Negative, negative,” is the hasty response. “The force field is up, you will be incinerated.”

“Then I suggest you lower it,” she tells him.

“Please disengage.”

“Please inform your Supreme Leader than I am going to land this damn shuttle, or I am going to die trying.”

The line goes dead then. Rey worries her lip between her teeth, but she doesn't change course. The hangar is drawing nearer and from here it looks just as it did in her vision. There is no way to know if the force field has been disengaged or not... at least not until she burns up on impact.

But just as she suspected, the shuttle passes through the entryway smoothly and is pulled into an automatic docking sequence. Rey rises. With her lightsaber in hand, she waits by the shuttle's exit.

When the doorway peels open with a hiss, she finds herself staring down the barrels of at least a dozen blasters, each held by a nervous looking stormtrooper.

“You're to come with us,” one says.

“I want to see Kylo Ren,” she says in return.

“You are to come with us,” repeats the stormtrooper, and though they all wear helmets, she can see by their body language that none of them are convinced they could make her do anything against her will.

She has already come this far, she thinks. There's nowhere left for him to run. So she takes pity on the men and allows them to escort her away.

The corridors they take her through seem oddly familiar. In her dreams of Tam, she saw sloping black walls like this, as if the complex itself has been chiseled out of the comet itself. Tam must be here. She feels it not just in the Force, but in her bones. She's so close.

The room they finally lead her to is an interrogation cell. Rey takes one look at the reclining table within and rears back. She has no intention of being strapped to one of those contraptions ever again.

But it seems like no one is going to force the issue.

“You are to wait here,” says the stormtrooper, who braves pushing her further into the room before sealing the door shut behind her.

Rey resists the urge to pace. To be thrown in a room so like the one in which they first met face to face is not coincidence. He wants to unsettle her. She's barged through each of his carefully laid defences and now he'll do anything to reassert his control. Part of that power game will be to keep her waiting.

So she kneels on the floor and settles into a pose of meditation to pass the time. She knows Kylo well enough that although he knows how to play the game, he won't have the patience for it. He craves the confrontation. So does she, in a way. And she knows Kylo is not used to resisting his cravings for long.

She should be impressed that he waits as long as an hour before the door to the cell hisses open. She watches him stalk inside, masked and hooded, and rather than rise to greet him she remains kneeling. From what little she can tell, he seems unchanged from their last meeting. There is a kind of restlessness in his movements, but this is because she has put him on the backfoot with her sudden appearance. He stalks around her like a panther, looking down at her, judging the best angle of attack.

“Do you like the room?” he asks after a while. “I thought it might bring back memories.”

She ignores his attempts to needle. “Memories of a time when you were so desperate to have me, you crashed your ship into a geomagnetic storm in your pursuit,” she reminds him. “What changed, Ben?”

He moves restlessly. “What need have I to chase you these days?” he asks lightly. “When you are so eager to find me? And to think, there was once a time when you swore you would never be my captive.”

“You know what I've come for.”

“Perhaps you come seeking the old bond we once shared?” his masked head tilts. “Or is it a taste of the old pleasure?”

He's trying to make her angry, and very nearly succeeding. “Where,” she grinds out slowly, “is Tam?”

Kylo turns away and resumes circling her. “There is no one of that name here.”

“You're a liar,” she all but snarls. “I can feel him.”

He swoops into a crouch before her so that their heads are almost level. “What you feel is irrelevant. You want what you can't have, Rey.”

“Show me Tam-”

“Is that all you came for? A boy that by all accounts you didn't want in the first place? You must get used to disappointment. There is a lot of it in your near future.”

Rey glares at his featureless, impersonal facade. “Take off the mask, Ben.”

“Only if you take off yours.”

A small frown dints her brow. “What's that supposed to mean?”

“You are a liar, Rey,” he says gently. “Rey, of Jakku. Rey the 'Jedi Knight'. Rey, Queen of the junk heap. Rey, the thief who steals ships from real Knights, who steals lightsabers that don't belong to her, who steals children from their fathers-”

She flinches as if his words have struck her. “You stole Tam from me!” she cries out. “Don't you dare twist this!”

“And before that you are the one who stole him from me for five years,” his voice rises, and the modulator turns it into a furious growl. “You are a thief. You are a liar! You have no idea what you ripped from me the day you left me on that moon.” His fist slams hard against his own chest. Once. Twice. “The hole you left! You dare accuse me of stealing – I only took back what was rightfully mine! I took back what you never wanted! You should be thanking me!”

He rises with a roar, physically throwing the interrogation table across the room. Rey stays perfectly still. “Your temper is as bad as ever,” she remarks.

His breathing is harsh and heavy, and his back remains to her as he reins in his control.

Carefully she rises to her feet, as one might when they were trapped in a room with a dangerous creature. “Don't you accuse me of not wanting Tam. Is the fact that I am here not proof enough of that? Did you not see how much I wanted him, when you had to cut my arm off to get to him?”

He spins, claw-shaped hand stretching out as if reaching for her cybernetic arm. Then at the last moment he seems to change his mind and he forces his hand down. “You gave me no choice,” he says, though he has not mastered his temper yet, “You were determined to kill me. As if I was nothing to you but a monster, you tried to pierce my heart with that yellow blade of yours.”

“You tried to take my child,” she says, her voice low and throbbing with fury.

“And now you are here to take him from me?” The question he poses is so soft, it almost feels like a trap. “Is that it?”

“Let me see him at least. I need to know he is safe and well... you can't deny me that.” She looks at him beseechingly. “Ben. Please.”

“And once you see him, I presume you will be staying here. Or else do you believe I will be letting you walk out of here with the boy?”

Rey swallows and remains silent. There is no compromise to be had here, and they both know it. He will not Tam leave, and she will not leave without him, but damned if she is going to let him use Tam against her as a way to trap her here forever.

Short term goals are what she needs to make him see. Something even he can't refuse. “Let me see Tam. Please.”

He stares at her through his mask, then advances so close she has to resist the temptation to step back. He looms over her, taller than ever. “You are so changed,” he says, and she feels like he could be looking right through her. “Older, wiser... you're strong. Stronger than you've ever been. But you're also at your weakest. I can see a pain in your eyes that you try to ignore, but it's always there inside you. Like an open wound. It's never going to heal.”

The hard tip of his finger presses slowly against the point where her ribs meet, level with her heart. It's not a gentle touch, but he's right. It's nothing compared to the ache beneath.

“And here too,” he says, tapping her forehead. “You intellectualise it, but you feel lobotomised and you don't understand why.”

He's not reading her mind. He just knows, and she can guess why.

“I feel another pain too,” she says, pointing to her neck. “Just here. Only seems to happen when you're around though.”

After a beat of silence, Kylo turns away in a flick of black robes and vanishes through the doorway. Perhaps she went too far. But his words and his touch had started hitting far too close to home. She has not come to discuss old pains and pick at scabs the way he wants to, and she knows he only does it to unsettle her. He's worked hard to keep her away for a long time, and now that she's here, he'll do anything, say anything to regain to advantage.

Rey returns to her kneeling position and prepares to wait once more. He may have her locked up tight and isolated, but they both know who is really in control here.



 

Chapter Text

The Three-Sided Table

The door slides open a moment after Rey senses it will, and she's already on her feet as a silver protocol droid stiffly hobbles in, carrying something in its arms.

“The Supreme Leader requests your presence,” it says in its impeccably polite female coded tone. “You are to be showered first, however.”

Rey blinks in surprise. “Am I not clean enough for His Supremacy?”

The droid doesn't know how to answer, but since Rey is not so proud as to pass up a shower, she follows along to what seems like a communal showering facility. There are no armed guards this time, she notices, just the droid. It is as if Kylo Ren has realised she is not interested in escape, or that she might just have something to say about having a squad of stormtroopers watching her shower.

The droids are bad enough, for even though Rey knows every wire and line of code that goes into making a machine, she has never been able to shake the feeling that droids have souls. They usually have opinions, at the very least.

She scrubs herself down thoroughly and steps under the blast of lukewarm water, and watches the surprisingly mucky water drain away. How long has it been since she last washed? She's neglected everything but the chase for so long that she honestly cannot remember. Was it in a washroom three weeks ago when she was still stalking the Knight? Has it really been so long? After one droid hands her a towel, she looks about for the clothes she left in a pile on the floor. They're now gone. “Hey,” she says irritably to the silver droid who appears in the doorway. “Where are my clothes?”

“Your new clothes are here.”

Rey doesn't spare them a glance. She knows another power game when she sees it. “I don't want new clothes – I want my clothes. Go and get them.”

“I apologise, but that is quite impossible. They've already been incinerated.”

The shower was merely a ruse to force her into clothes of his own choosing. Rey bristles, but ultimately snatches up the pile of fresh clothing, knowing her only other option would be to stalk to this meeting in the nude. It would serve Kylo Ren right if she did, but the man has her son, and for now she knows she has to play by the house's rules.

At least the clothes are quite ordinary – a simple pair of culottes not unlike her old pair, and a short-sleeved tunic with a belt, along with a long shrug for extra warmth. All are pristine and white. She's surprised he hasn't take the opportunity to make her wear black, for although she has nothing against the colour (except that a life in the desert taught her to avoid it), she has never been able to forget that she once saw how Kylo Ren desired to see her draped in black like an obedient wife. Perhaps he realises that. Or perhaps his desires have changed?

Either way, the complex is not a warm place, and she pulls on the layers with a degree of relief for the protection against the chill. She tries to ignore that the clothes themselves are rather too similar in cut and shape to Kylo Ren's. Regardless of what game he might be playing, she has to accept defeat and follow the slow droid as it minces down the corridors.

People in black uniforms she has not seen before stand aside as she passes. Their eyes are wary, a little unfriendly, but they are not part of the First Order as far as she can tell. In fact she's not sure the comet cum ship is a First Order vessel. She sees stormtroopers and some similarity in the uniforms, but this place feels different. Most of the personnel she sees are just droids.

Her own droid escort comes to a doorway, not much different from any other, and its arm whirrs as it gestures for her to continue inside. The panel slides up as she approaches and enters a poorly lit room with a long line of windows that look out on the glittering ice particles that shroud the comet.

She notices Kylo Ren first, seated tensely at a table with fingers fisted against his mouth. His face is bare, scarred, and tight. His eyes flick up when she enters, then slides to a figure standing by the windows. “Here she is. Whole and unharmed, just as I said.”

Rey looks at the boy by the window just as he turns sharply to see her. He's tall now, for a ten year old, and dressed in dove-grey. There's uncertainty on his face as he looks over her, before his gaze lands on her arm. Then recognition flairs in his dark eyes.

“Mother.”

She cannot get over how much he has grown in her absence, but it's still him. It's still Tam. It's still his impossible mop of tousled curls, even if its been chopped short in some attempt to bring it into order. It's still his smell when she walks forward and puts her arms around him. Even though he hesitates for a few seconds, she feels the relief in him at least when he leans into her shoulder, absorbing her embrace.

“Tam, are you ok?” she asks, pulling back to run her hands over his shoulders and look him over carefully. “Have you been treated well?”

But she can see that he has. He's straight-backed and strong and there's a healthy flush to his skin, but most of all she can tell by his eyes. They gaze back at her, steady and clear, and though not as expressive as they once were, she detects something steely and willful.

“I thought you'd never come,” he says.

“I tried, love, I came as soon as I could.”

Tam's gaze shifts away from her, back to his father. Kylo is watching their exchange jealously, and now he rises. “Your mother will be joining us for supper.”

Rey opens her mouth to protest, but Tam is already smiling and moving to the table. When he pulls a chair back for her, she has no choice but to sit in it. She can't make a scene, she realises. That's what Kylo wants. If she shrieks and shouts and spoils Tam's pleasure, suddenly she will become the unreasonable one.

It's an oddly triangular table, made for more intimate settings like this. As she sits looking at Tam, greedily taking in the sight of him at last, she feels Kylo is looking at her just as closely. Tam keeps shooting looks at Rey's arm as droids file in with their food.

“Does it hurt?” he asks her.

The last time he saw her, he had watched it being severed. As the last memory of his mother, she can only imagine how it has haunted him. Rey glances at Kylo and sees a muscle twitch in his jaw. “No, sweetheart,” she says, extending the arm to Tam. “Not anymore.”

“Altan. Why don't you ask your mother how she got here?”

Rey's eyes flash back to Kylo. She cannot stop the splutter of outrage that escapes her lips. “Altan?” she repeats. “His name is Tam.”

“It's fine,” interrupts Tam before Kylo can respond. “I don't mind, Mother. How did you get here? Not even the First Order can find us.”

“Are you hiding from the First Order?” she asks lightly, trying to conceal her surprise.

Tam looks once at his father, as if asking permission to speak, then answers. “Most of the Order answers to General Hux. He's been trying to purge the Knights of Ren since Snoke fell.”

“So how did you find us?” Kylo asks. There's a plate of food before him, but he has yet to touch it.

“I can't give away all my secrets now, can I?” she retorts with a coy smile. “But perhaps you should watch where you litter?”

As she watches Kylo's gaze drift away as he tries to figure out what this means, Tam is eager for his mother's attention again. “I have my own lightsaber now. Would you like to see it later?”

“Of course,” she smiles, though she's not sure she will like any weapon he's made under Kylo's influence. “You must show me all the things you've learned from your father. Like... force choking, and invading people's minds, or how to terrify your underlings into obedience-”

“You will be civil,” Kylo Ren snaps, his fingers tightening around the glass he holds to his lips.

“I will be civil when I am around the civilised,” she retorts. “For all your mother was a princess, you have no manners.”

Tam looks between them, and is quick to intervene. “How is Nana? I can't feel her through the Force as well as I used to-”

But this is the wrong thing to say. Rey flinches as Kylo Ren suddenly slashes the air with his arm and all the food, plates, and glasses go flying and shatter into the far wall. He slams his fist against the table and glares at Tam. “Why must you speak incessantly about that woman?” he demands.

Rey is ready to fling herself between them, feeling her own ire rise that Kylo would speak to her son like that, but Tam has barely flickered an eyelid. “Now what are we supposed to eat?” he asks, ignoring the question.

If Rey had ever feared for Tam's soul, she now realises she has worried in vain. His resemblance to his father stops with his face, for he has the enduring patience and calm of a saint. She supposes the way he has learnt to deal with his father's temper is to let is slide off him like water. It seems to work. Kylo sits back, clearly irritated, and the boil has returned to a low simmer. He looks at the silver droid. “Bring the last course. And clean that up.”

“How long will you be staying?” Tam turns to ask his mother as if nothing unusual has happened.

“Oh, I'm not sure,” she says, thrown by the question. “Not long.”

Tam's smile fades a little.

She reaches out and clasps her hand over his. “Wouldn't you like to come with me? See Nana again?”

Kylo sits forward sharply.

But Tam's expression is reluctant. “Why can't you stay here?” he asks her.

“I think I'd just be a nuisance, sweetheart,” she says. “Your father might chop off my other arm if I'm not careful.”

She's not surprised or sorry that Kylo rises so suddenly and angrily that she's certain the food is going to go flying again. Tam looks at her reproachfully. “You know, you're just as bad as each other,” he says flatly, and looks away before he can see how stung Rey is by this indictment. “May I be excused?”

“Go. Work on your forms,” Kylo says, never taking his eyes off Rey.

She's sorry to see Tam go, especially when it feels like she was the one who might have chased him off. It's Kylo's fault, of course. She can barely keep her temper around him, though one look at him suggests she isn't alone in that.

“Do not talk to me through him,” he says once they are alone. “He's not an infant, he knows what you're doing. And you're not taking him anywhere.”

Rey picks at her food, popping lumps of sweet bread into her mouth. “I'm not sure you can stop me,” she says.

“I've stopped you before,” he says, flicking a glance at her arm.

“That was before. This is now.” She looks at him hard, hoping to put this in terms he might at least respect. “If Tam is a child of the Force, you can't keep him swaddled in darkness. He needs the light. I had barely begun to train him when you took him from me.”

“There is nothing you could teach him that I cannot,” he says dismissively.

“You have no idea the things I could teach him these days,” she says, looking down at her plate, and only beginning to realise how hungry she has been all day. She runs the bread around the salty sauce and sticks it into her mouth, making sure to lick her fingers clean. “For a start I could teach him how to be wary of strange men who dress all in black.”

Kylo Ren moves around the table toward her.

“I've studied the First Jedi. I know the myriad of ways they manipulated the Force, and how unlimited that power can be in the hands of the gifted. I know the ways of jedi who can use the force to heal, to calm thousands of soldiers before battle, and even how to destroy whole worlds. I could probably teach Master Luke a thing or two if you hadn't captured him and gotten him killed-”

His hand snatches hers, holding it still as she is about to take a bite of another lump of bread.

“You know all that and yet you still eat like an animal,” he says softly.

Rey meets his gaze and while his skin is pressed against hers, she uses the moment to test her abilty against him. She meets no resistance, no reaction to show he feels her siphon off just a little impression of his mind. A black edge, she senses, but not like it was ten years ago. His fears have evolved, but they press on him just as strongly, perhaps even more oppressively than ever. Although she wants to dig deeper, she consciously pulls her hand away from his before she gives into the temptation.

“If you want to teach him, you're welcome to,” he says, and she's certain he senses nothing of what she just did. “But you will have to do it here.”

“That's not acceptable,” she says.

“Then you can leave by yourself,” he shrugs, “via your stolen shuttle or the airlock, you can take your pick.”

Rey gets to her feet. He still towers over her, for all the good it does her. “Would you really space me?” she asks, watching him carefully.

He hasn't changed. His face can't hide a thing; the tightening in the corner of his mouth, the slight flare of his nostrils, and the way his eyes track down her face to her lips. “Do not tempt me to describe the things I wish to do to you,” he says.

Her eyebrows flick up, wondering if the suggestiveness of his words is intentional or not. “Oh please, I've just eaten,” she replies.

His mouth thins again, and he moves back to where his masked helmet sits upon a sideboard. “Do you know what a Force Bond is?” he asks her.

Her training in the First Temple has taught her a dizzying amount about how people once used the Force, including the special bonds it made between two compatible users. “Of course,” she tells Kylo. “It's a link between two people sensitive to the Force. It makes you share thoughts, feelings, power... often whether you want to or not.”

“So you know what happens when a Force Bond is broken?” he asks.

Her gaze shifts down. This she is less clear on, for her understanding is that it almost never happens without involving death.

“Breaking a Force Bond is said to feel like your very heart has been torn out of your chest,” he says, moving back toward her with the mask between his hands. “There's no words to describe that kind of pain. It doesn't fade. It doesn't change. If it feels like a piece of your soul or your mind has come loose, that's because it has. No one ever recovers from that.”

Rey swallows against the hard lump that has risen in her throat. “Is that what you feel, Ben?”

His eyes search her face as his own remains oddly blank. “And I suppose you don't feel like that, Rey?”

Every day. Every moment of every day. She blinks slowly and shrugs. “My arm was cut off once. That hurt quite a lot. I wonder if it feels like that?”

Kylo Ren pulls on his mask and looks at her one last time. “Liar.”

He stalks out, leaving Rey alone with her thoughts and the remnants of three people's half eaten dinner.




 


When the droid informs her that she has been granted a security chip that will give her near free-reign of the Celestial Lance, Rey is surprised to the say the least. She was sure it was only a matter of time before Kylo Ren remembered to send someone to escort her back to her 'cell', but the only place the Droid wishes to take her is to a spartan set of guest quarters.

Rey doesn't look around or try to make herself at home. “Where is Tam?” she asks the droid.

Its circuits whir and click. “I do not understand this query,” it says eventually.

She sighs inwardly. “Altan. Where's Altan?”

“Master Altan Ren is in his training suite,” says the droid obligingly. “Deck fourteen, starboard wing.”

“Thank you.”

Rey sets off, determinedly ignoring the sideways looks of the personnel she passes in the corridors. It takes her a while to find an elevator, as there seems to be no order or sense to the layout of the complex, and she doesn't like to ask for directions. The starboard wing of deck fourteen isn't terribly large, and most of it seems to be comprised of empty, disused rooms. When she pokes her nose into a room roughly the same size of the average classroom back on Palamoor, she finally spots a lone figure sitting in the middle of the floor, slowly rotating a ball above his head in a bored fashion.

“Tam?”

He looks around in confusion, though she thinks he's reacting more to the sound of her voice than his name. The moment he recognises her, he's rolling to his feet with a smile and the ball bounces away, forgotten. “Did you come to see my lightsaber?”

She has actually come to save him, but she supposes that could wait a minute. “Let's see it then.”

“I only just built it on my last birthday,” he says, running to fetch something from the grey jacket he's dumped at the side of the room. Rey's mind has turned quite blank at the notion of Kylo not only knowing his birthday but observing it. “Here!”

She's gearing herself up for something odious, like his father's blade, when Tam activates it in a whoosh and dashes a few figures of eight in the air, leaving a trail of white light.

Rey blinks. “But it's white,” she says in surprise.

“Yeah,” he says, looking crestfallen. “Kylo Ren says crystals usually change colour for their owner, but mine never did. I wish it was red!” Then he seems to remember himself and looks guiltily at Rey. “O-or yellow. That's neat too.”

She can't help but smile, appreciating the concern for her feelings. “Why do you call him Kylo Ren?” she asks.

“He doesn't like being called 'father',” says Tam, swishing his lightsaber happily. It's shorter than average, just the right size for him. “I think it's because he killed his own dad. It makes him unhappy.”

Oh, my heart bleeds, she thinks dryly. “And does Kylo Ren train you himself?”

“Oh, yes!”

Rey looks at him closely. She's fully aware of Kylo Ren's philosophies about the relationship of pain and strength. One of her deepest worries over the last few years has been the idea that Kylo would inflict upon Tam the same training methods he himself had endured... things that were hardly much different from torture and mutilation. Tam doesn't look troubled, as he practices his moves in a one-handed style that resembles Kylo's.

“Tam, come here a moment,” she asks, holding out her hand to him. She has to know.

“It's weird being called that again,” muses Tam, obediently putting away his saber to come to her. “Everyone just calls me Altan here. Did I ever have a last name?”

“No, sweetheart.” She places one hand on his shoulder and ruffles his hair with the other, smiling, as she gently probes him with her ability. She's almost hesitant to look for fear of what she'll find... some memory of violence or abuse. A training regime of pain, perhaps?

Kylo's physical agonies had been etched on his mind like scars, lining his thoughts with black. By comparison, Tam's mind is like a clear river. There are pains there, she's certain, but that sensation is linked to vague, half-forgotten images of Rey herself, the day he saw her fall on the ice when her body went one way and her arm went another. That experience left an indelible impression on him... but his associations with his father are not feelings of fear or pain. He likes training with Kylo.

He is only, she realises suddenly, intensely lonely.

“Mom?” He looks at her, confused at her silence.

His eyes are not so like his father's, after all. Kylo's eyes are so expressive he hides behind a mask to maintain simple privacy, but Tam's gaze tells casual lies. They look happy and honest, but she senses his heart is in turmoil.

“You're the only child here, aren't you, Tam?” she asks.

He shrugs.

“Don't you miss Palamoor? Your grandmother so wants to see you again, Tam. So does Finn and Poe.”

Tam's face is carefully neutral, like he's trying to be polite. “I miss Nana too, but...”

“But what?”

“I never liked Palamoor.”

“What?”

“It was so cramped and boring, and none of the other kids wanted anything to do with me because they knew my father was...” he trails off. “I love Nana, but that's all I remember. I don't know remember much else. I don't know anyone named Poe.”

“But...” It was only four years ago, she wants to say, before she realises that for Tam that is nearly half a lifetime ago. Most of what he knows is this place, the Celestial Lancer. Taking him away from all this is just another kind of abduction all over again. “But the Resistance has moved, Tam. They're on a nice tropical planet now, with sandy beaches and everything. You're older – things would be different. Finn would teach you how to use a blaster. He's the greatest marksman in the Resistance, you know? And Poe? You must remember him and BB-8. Poe's a pilot. You wanted to be a pilot when you grew up, once upon a time. Poe could teach you, now that you're old enough-”

Tam isn't smiling anymore. “I want to be a Knight.”

“... a Jedi Knight?” she asks hopefully.

“A Knight of Ren,” he says, as if there is no other kind.

Rey steps away from him, running her hands over her hair. “You're just saying this because Kylo Ren has been filling your mind with darkness for so long-”

“That's not true,” Tam protests.

“You belong with your family, Tam, your real family! The one that loves you and holds you and kisses you goodnight!”

Now he just looks embarrassed. “Kylo Ren is my real family. You can't take me away from him again.”

“He doesn't love you!” she bursts out. “He's just using you because of what you are! Because he can flatter his grandiose ideas about himself by making a Child of the Force in his own image!”

Tam almost certainly doesn't understand most of this. He understand only one thing. “He does love me,” he says with a steady fierceness that reminds her of herself. “Just because he doesn't hold me or kiss me goodnight does not mean he doesn't love me! That's just what he's like – he can't help that. You're the one who lied.”

“Tam-”

“You didn't love me at all! You hated Kylo Ren so much you hated me too when I was born – that's why you always left me with Nana!”

Tam!”

“I'm not going anywhere with you! So leave me alone!”

He runs from the training suite before she can stop him, and she presses her hands over her face, trying to steady her breathing. She makes her way slowly back to the guest room she has been designated, and doesn't notice enough to turn on the lights as she enters. She heads to the washbasin in the corner of the room and runs enough water to rub into her cheeks.

The cool water mingles with her tears, and she presses her cold fingers over her eyes in the hopes of chasing away the hot pressure behind them. Then she sits on the hard bed and stares at the slate-like wall without any awareness of the passing time.

Four years she has searched for him, only to find he doesn't want to be rescued. I could leave him here, she thinks, but then she would never forgive herself. She could take him by force, and perhaps one day he might forgive her. He's rejecting freedom like a bird that has been caged too long. Or maybe he's just rejecting her.

Her thoughts are interrupted as the door slides open, and Kylo Ren's formidable shadow fills the entryway.

Rey tenses immediately, but does not look at him. “Congratulations,” she says bitterly. “You turned my own baby against me. I'm sure you're insufferably smug under that kriffing mask.”

He strides forward in his usual direct way and drops a piece of paper onto the bed beside her. She wants to refuse to acknowledge it, just to spite him, but she catches the markings in the corner of her eye. Confused, she spreads the paper over her lap.

It's a crudely drawn picture of a stick figure in yellow paraffin crayon standing next to a smaller figure rendered in blue. It's utterly meaningless to Rey for a moment, until she recognises the taller yellow figure is holding a long stick with yellow bits on either end.

“Is this supposed to be me?” she asks. “I hope you didn't draw this.”

“He drew it last year,” says the modulated voice of the mask. “He doesn't mean what he says.”

Rey's eyes flash up to him angrily. “What is this – pity?” she snarls. “You filled his head with lies and made him hate me!”

“I told him the truth.”

“It's not the truth!” she says, feeling a lump in her throat that threatens to choke her words. “I love him – I love him so much this kills me! I may not have been the greatest mother and he deserved better than that, yes – but I love him. And you're hardly a model father!”

She looks down at the picture in her hands. “Even though you keep his pictures...” she adds sullenly.

Kylo Ren draws himself up fractionally. “Altan is an excellent artist.” He sounds like he actually believes it too.

“His name is Tam.”

“You'll find he signed it Altan.”

So he had. Rey's finger traces the waxy name. “Where did he get crayons from?” she asks.

“He wants for nothing.”

“Except people his own age. People who will touch him with affection.”

“Then if you care about him, perhaps you should consider staying with him.”

“I don't seem to be the one he wants to stay with,” she points out.

“Children love their parents, however incredibly flawed they are. I know that, at least.” He turns away and stalks out the door, tossing only one further comment behind him. “Keep the picture.”

She does. She props it on the shelf above the bed and looks at it, comforted that the boy who drew this thought enough of his mother to make her so large and bright and strong, as if the smaller blue figure depended on her. She was not so comforted that Kylo had given it to her, for the gesture was almost... kind.

And that was not a word she ever thought she would associate with Kylo Ren.

 

Chapter Text

 

Rey and Kylo by Niimajunkdealer

Sentinels

 

Rey meditates most of the night and into the next day, with little to show for the passing time than the changing numbers on the computer panel beside the bed. Breakfast arrives at seven, delivered by a black droid today.

“Thank you,” Rey says automatically, wondering just how much of this complex operates solely on droid labour.

After her breakfast, Rey takes a tour of the complex, determined to try and map out the general layout. Her security chip allows her passage into most places, with some notable exceptions; the lift refuses to take her any higher than the third deck, where the bridge is located. She also can't get into the main power core, and so is limited to looking longingly through the glass doors at the massive turbines within that remind her of a star destroyer. But there are no engines as far as she can tell. The comet's own momentum and the gravity of the black hole is enough to keep it in motion. Yet there is a hyperdrive. It's a massive thing, taking up most of the space in the core, and Rey has never seen its like before. Oh, what she would give to have a good rummage around those kinetic converters – but there is a turret droid on the other side of the glass door who has its aperture fixed on her, and so Rey slinks away.

Occasionally she runs a hand over a wall here and there, searching for a sense of the history she now walks through. There's dark, heavy feelings etched into the black stone. Times when this complex was far busier, full of fear and power; all of it centering on a man-creature who plucked at the Force like a spider sitting in the middle of a web.

This was Snoke's seat of power once, she realises. She searches for the truth of what happened to him, but the walls do not know. He was just there one moment and then gone the next, and then an exodus began, as the complex emptied and people ran for their lives. Ran from Kylo. Ran from fear that the First Order would retaliate.

Rey is puzzling over the contradiction of a 'Supreme Leader' who is on the outs with his own Order, when a now familiar silver droid clatters up to her.

“Master Jedi, you are invited to dine with-”

“Is this going to be a regular thing?” she interrupts. When the droid just clicks in confusion, she sighs. “Nevermind. And no – I'll show myself there. You don't have to lead the way.”

She inevitably arrives late, having gotten lost on the sixth deck. She admits to herself she probably should have let the droid escort her, for she walks in on Kylo and Tam already half-way through their meal. She expects Kylo to be annoyed – one of his default emotions, but he is more surprised than anything.

“I was beginning to think you planned to sulk in your rooms,” he says as she sits down to a plate of unidentified vegetables and what looks like quinoa.

“And miss your charming company?” She looks at Tam, but he is looking hard at his food. Her heart sinks, realising he is probably still upset with her.

They eat in silence for a while, and Rey feels the awkwardness creeping over her like a hot flush. She tries to be on her best behavior. She even uses the knife and fork provided in an attempt to eat normally, though she must still be doing something wrong, because Kylo's still glaring at her anyway.

Then something happens under the table. If she doesn't know any better, she would say Kylo has just moved his foot and kicked Tam, for Tam has suddenly sat up like he's touched an unearthed power cable. He looks guiltily at Rey. “I'm sorry for what I said yesterday. I didn't mean it.”

He has so clearly been told to say this that Rey looks at Kylo. The man, however, pretends he hasn't noticed and is looking at something out the window.

“You don't have to apologise,” Rey tells Tam. “We were both upset. I said things I didn't mean as well.”

This seems to go a long way to mollifying Tam. At this point he begins to perk up as he responds to her gentle probing questions about his day. She finds out he's been training mostly, though he also finished reading his book.

“Which book?” she asks.

“Kavock and the Hoppers,” he tells her, and just like that, all is forgotten and forgiven and he's chatting away happily as if they never said a cross word to each other.

“Do you like to read then?” she asks him.

“I've read two hundred books!”

That is more than Rey has read in all her twenty-nine years of life. In fact, she can probably count on her hand how many books she has read, and most of those were ones she read for Tam when he was very small. “Do you remember the book we used to read...? It was about a Sumian cublet with a spot on its back, and it used to do things like get so muddy no one knew it was the same cublet.”

“Spot! Yes!” Tam laughs. “I always wanted a cublet because of that book.”

“Every boy should have a cublet,” says Rey. “Everyone knows they're a humanoid's best friend. I think you're old enough now to look after one-”

Before Tam can fall off his chair in delight, Kylo Ren sets down his glass. “There will be no... cublet,” he says, and he trips over the word as if he's never been forced to mention something so cute before.

“I thought he wanted for nothing?” Rey points out, eyebrows arched.

“A facility like this is no place for a pet,” he says. “It would need walking, it would need air and grass and-”

“I see, so it's too cruel to keep an animal cooped up in this place, but your son doesn't get the same consideration?”

Tam looks at her pleadingly. “Mom-”

“He is safe here,” is all Kylo Ren says.

“Yes, I imagine Snoke thought it was perfectly safe until the day you murdered him.”

“I didn't realise you were so attached to him, I would have sent you a condolence letter,” Kylo answers loudly.

Rey bites back her retort, but only for Tam's sake. She can see how miserable he gets whenever an argument breaks out, so she returns her focus back to their conversation. “What's your favourite book, Tam?”

Sentinels of the Golden Empire!” Tam recites without hesitation, and begins to tell her how its all about the Jedi, back in the Order's golden age, back when Jedi were pure-hearted and respected as wardens of peace and defenders of justice. Rey is faintly surprised that Kylo Ren has allowed him to read such positive representations of Jedi, although she can see from the shadowed expression on his face that he's not entirely pleased with the subject of discussion.

Rey feels her heart squeeze with longing for those days when he would curl up against her side in bed and listen to her reading a bedtime story. He had always fallen asleep before the end, like clockwork, even when he insisted he wasn't tired at all.

“The best part of coming home,” she tells him, “was when I used to read to you at bedtime. I'm sorry I... I'm sorry I never got to read to you after we were parted...”

Tam glances at his father, as Rey isn't the only one to sense Kylo's hand has fisted on the table. “It's ok,” Tam says sheepishly.

“Well, I suppose you're too old to read to now,” she says with a somewhat forced laugh. “You're better read than I am now, I think!”

“Perhaps-” Tam starts to say, then blushes and falls quiet.

“What is it?” she asks.

“Maybe I can read to you?” he asks hopefully. “You'd like Sentinels of The Golden Empire, because you're a jedi. Every time I read it, it makes me think of you.”

There is nothing Rey wants more. “I would love that, Tam, thank you.”

After the supper is cleared away, Tam disappears out the door in a hurry to fetch the book, leaving Rey alone in Kylo's company once more. He makes no move to leave, so she can only assume he intends to stay for this recital.

“I didn't realise you were such a big fan of jedi adventure stories,” she says coolly, wishing he would leave.

“The last time I left you two alone together, you made him cry,” he says simply.

Rey's mouth drops open in mingled shock and outrage.

“So, yes, I will be staying.”

Tam returns with a holopad in no time at all. There's no where particularly comfy to sit, so Rey reclines against the wall beneath the windows and holds out her arm in invitation to Tam. He hesitates, still not quite used to her yet, but he doesn't refuse and is soon sitting beside her with her arm looped around his shoulders.

“Chapter One,” he begins, “In the system of Rhu, in the days when such things as deep-space krakens still existed and pirates only ever stole from the rich, there existed a noble race of mystical warriors...”

Tam reads well, without much fumbling or pause as he scrolls through the text. Rey tips her head back against the wall and lets the words of the story spin around them, and she feels almost like she's at peace. It is a surreal way to feel, given Kylo Ren sits at the table on the other side of the room, a holopad of his own in his hand and a scowl on his face. Rey assumes he's working, though what he does, she's not sure. He doesn't seem to realise or care that Tam would probably like him to listen to the story as well. She squeezes her arm around her son's shoulders and feels him lean into her.

“...disillusioned with the cautious, pacifistic ways of the Order, the great and terrible Revan revolted, leading a sith army against those he once called his friends. But the beautiful savant, Bastila, graced with immense power over the Force, captured him after a fierce battle and even managed to capture his heart...”

The comm link on the wall lights up, interrupting the flow of the story. Kylo Ren rises and answers it, giving curt, low responses to the person on the other end. When the call ends, he simply walks out with no explanation.

Tam watches him leave, expressionless.

“Go on,” Rey encourages, “I'm enjoying this. So what does Bastila do now that she has Revan?”

Tam continues the story.

Rey listens, surprised that she does indeed enjoy the story, and the way Tam makes her chuckle when he puts on a low gravelly voice when he speaks like Revan, and a high-pitched squeak for Bastila's parts. When he takes a breath between chapters she asks him. “Wouldn't you like to be a jedi? Like Bastila?”

He thinks for a moment. “Revan is both. He's like a Sith and a Jedi.”

“Is that what you want to be?” she asks carefully. “Both?”

“Kylo Ren wants me to be a Knight of Ren, but you want me to be a jedi and I-” he sighs. “I don't know.”

“You don't have to choose,” she says quickly, “You're still young – when I was your age I thought I would be scrubbing junk parts forever. I didn't know or decide what I would be until I was fully grown. You don't either, Tam. But you should have the tools to decide. Your father's teachings are important, I'm sure, but it's important to understand both sides before you make a decision. Don't you agree?”

“I guess,” he concedes. “Are you saying you'll train me?”

“There's nothing I want more.”

He flushes with pleasure until he remembers something. “But you want me to go away from here to do it...”

“We can train here,” she says, “for now. But, yes, I want you to come home with me. At least for a time. If you ever want to return to Kylo Ren, I wouldn't stop you.”

Tam looks at her, and though she thinks this is a very generous concession on her part, he still doesn't look happy. “Why can't you be together? Like normal parents?” he asks.

Rey lifts her metal arm. “I don't think normal fathers chop off the mother's arm, usually.”

“Yeah, well, you cut his face in half,” says Tam. “He doesn't go on about it all the time.”

“Yes, but that's different,” she says, although for the moment she can't elaborate how or why.

“You could just stop fighting with each other all the time,” says Tam, with a tired sigh.

“It's not that easy.”

“Why not?”

“We don't love each other, for starters,” she says.

Tam's brow creases in a frown. “But Kylo Ren loves you.”

Rey stares at her son. “What?” she asks, wide eyed. “Did he... did he tell you that?”

“Oh, no, he says you're basically a homeless criminal with no morals who behaves like an animal,” says Tam quite easily. “But he doesn't need to say it. I know it.”

“You can't know that.”

“When Kylo Ren taught me how to use the Force to read minds, he made me practice on him.” Tam's gaze wanders up to the ceiling. “Like, a lot of his mind is just about you. He thinks you're quite nice, really. He's just scared of you too.”

Rey doesn't like the idea of innocent young Tam digging through that madmen's mind. “You shouldn't mindread, Tam,” she says flatly.

“But-”

“Your mind is your only true privacy, Tam. If you wouldn't want people looking at your real thoughts and feelings, you shouldn't look at others. I know Kylo Ren gave you permission... but I don't think he would be happy knowing you were telling me things he wants to keep to himself.”

“But he does love you.”

“That's not the point. It's not ethical.”

“You did it to me,” he argues.

“When did-”

“Yesterday, in the training suite. You were looking at my feelings-”

How on earth had he detected that? “That's different,” Rey says again, wondering why parenting so often felt like two parts hypocrite and one part teacher. “I needed to know you were ok, that Kylo Ren has never hurt you.”

Tam looks amazed. “Why would he ever hurt me?”

“Someone hurt him very badly a long time ago. Sometimes people like that grow up thinking hurting others or being hurt is normal.” She sighs, never happy to make excuses for someone like Kylo Ren. “I promise I'll never go into your mind ever again, Tam. I should have just asked you.”

He seems quite glum now, so she squeezes her arm around him again comfortingly. “Let's get back to the story, shall we?”

Tam carries on reading, but now Rey can barely attend to what he's saying. Did Kylo Ren actually love her? Or was this Tam's young mind unable to comprehend the kind of thoughts and feelings that man held for her? She was quite sure he thought her to be loathesome. But you could dislike someone immensely and still be attracted to them – she knew that from very personal experience. An obsession didn't translate to love, except only in the mind of a young boy who did not understand such concepts yet. Yes. That had to be it.

Soon Tam's reading is slowing down and keeps being broken up by yawns. Rey takes the holopad from him and when he protests that they're only just getting to the good part, she says she will read to him now.

When Kylo Ren returns, he finds Rey reading to herself, as Tam has been slumped, asleep, with his head on her lap for at least half an hour by now. Kylo looks tired and drained, and the sight of them only seems to drain him further.

“He should be in bed,” he says.

“I didn't have the heart to move him,” she whispers. It has been so long since her little boy slept in her lap. He has no idea what this moment means to her.

He proves that much when he crosses the room and scoops Tam into his arms with such quick, smooth ease that Tam barely stirs. Rey, feeling somewhat deprived all of a sudden, follows closely behind as Kylo carries the boy through the corridors.

“I'm not going to drop him,” Kylo says with faint irritation.

“I want to kiss him goodnight,” she says obstinately.

Tam's room is a simple one, but far better furnished than any other room she has been in so far. The bed is regulation, but there's a desk, and a shelf of books and holopads, and it's almost like a normal ten year old's room, just one that is unusually tidy and devoid of colour.

Kylo deposits Tam on the bed the way some people might drop off a carpet. It's up to Rey to pull off his shoes – just like she used to do – and pull the blankets up to his shoulders. Tam comes awake a little at this and regards her sleepily as she leans down to stroke his curls.

“I'm glad you're here, Mom,” he says.

“I'll always be here for you, love, as long as you want me,” she says, and presses a kiss to his forehead. Tam grips her arm tightly. No one has kissed him in years. No one has tucked him in since the day he was taken from Palamoor. For a moment Rey can't bring herself to move away from her own son, a boy so starved for affection that he clings to her like he's afraid to let go.

Then his eyes slide shut and he's falling back asleep.

Rey straightens and steps out of the room. As the door silently slides shut she looks at Kylo who seems to be having trouble meeting her eye. “You need me here,” she says evenly. “There are things he needs that you cannot give him.”

“Like love?” He almost smirks.

“Like love.”

“My father used to kiss me and hold me, but he never gave me what I needed,” he says. “All I ever wanted was his presence. Even when he was around, he was always elsewhere in his heart. You're right, I don't know how to love him the way you do – with soft hands and kind words, but I can be there for him. I can protect him the way my father couldn't.”

“That's a noble sentiment from a heartless monster,” she says.

“You don't think I love him?”

“You think you love him. But I'm not sure you're capable of it.”

He takes two strides toward her, grasping her wrist firmly before she can edge out of reach, and pulls her hand up to his head. “Then read me. See the truth in me. You know how.”

Rey tugs her hand free. “I don't go wallowing in mud and filth if I can help it,” she says cuttingly. “And the only thing you seem to be protecting Tam from, as far as I can tell, is me.”

She can see the muscles in his jaw work and his mouth tightens. He sweeps past her. “Come with me.”

Rey considers just shrugging and going her own way, but she senses this may be important. She follows Kylo at a safe distance down the narrow corridor to a room at the far end. He goes inside while Rey dawdles on the threshold. “What room is this?” she asks, making out what looks like a bed in the darkness.

“My quarters,”

“Kriff this,” she mutters, and turns around with every intention of walking away very quickly. She can only imagine the rollicking Finn would give her if she was to willingly walk into Kylo Ren's bedroom.

“Don't be a fool. You'll want to see this,” he says shortly. “It concerns your son.”

She can't ignore that so easily. Wondering if this is some kind of trap, she inches back into the dark room – so bare and spartan, it's sad really – and joins Kylo at a computer panel in the wall. He brings up a document that is watermarked with the First Order's emblem.

“What is this?” she asks.

“An internal command signed by General Hux a few years ago, shortly after Snoke's death,” he says.

Rey squints and reads, skimming over what seems like a lot of pompous waffle about how the legacy of Supreme Leader Snoke is theirs to continue and strive towards his ideals. When she gets to the actual substance, her mouth drops open.

Kylo Ren watches her face closely. “The day Snoke learned of Altan's existence, he perceived it to be a threat. He ordered me to seek out the boy and kill him. He claimed that he would be responsible for my demise, the way Luke Skywalker brought down Darth Vader. I reasoned that my grandfather's mistake was that he tried to recruit Luke too late, that a boy taken young could be moulded and formed into a powerful ally.”

“That sounds like something you'd say,” says Rey darkly.

“Snoke forced my hand. Either I killed him or a five year old boy... so I killed Snoke,” he says. “I lost my left leg and most of my left hand is now cybernetic too. I thought that it would be over. But Hux is a fanatic. Although the ascension of the apprentice by killing their master is something the Siths of old and the Knights of Ren understand and respect, he viewed it as an act of high treason, and as you can see, he has made it his own personal mission statement to wipe out the remnants of 'superstitious mysticism' from the First Order. He led the attack on Palamoor four years ago. He wanted to crush the Resistance and capture you and the boy, only Altan called to me and I was able to reach him before the First Order. Hux wants me dead, he wants the Knights dead, and he most definitely wants Altan dead too.”

Rey looks at Kylo uncertainly.

“You do not believe me?” he asks.

Kylo is not, in her limited experience, much of a liar. It is not much of a stretch to believe either, and explains why he hides here in a comet with a skeleton crew of those who didn't switch allegiance to General Hux. “I believe you,” she says slowly. “I question your sense that Tam is safer here, as opposed to with me on a Resistance base. From what I've seen, you barely have any defences here. Your power has been shrinking over the years, and the Resistance has been growing stronger. We have three bases, two fleets, and – why am I telling you this?” she breaks off with a growl. Leia would throttle her for casually divulging such information to an enemy.

“Because you know I have never had any interest in the Resistance. You forget that I knew you were on Palamoor for years and did nothing. I never shared Snoke and Hux's grudge against the Republic. It never gave me pleasure to see the Hosnian system burn.”

“Do you want a pat on the back for that?” she asks. “The death of billions should never have given you pleasure. It should have horrified you to your very core that you belonged to the people who committed that atrocity.”

His eyes narrow faintly at her. “How nice to be so self-assured in your own righteousness. Do you really think everything is so black and white? In the last thirty years of Republic rule, do you know how many worlds suffered through famines, slavery, and genocide – billions of people who had been safe under the rule of the Empire, who lost that protection under the ineffectual 'democracy' of a Republic who can't agree enough to organise the changing of a lightbulb, let alone agree to resolutions that save worlds.”

“You're talking about tyranny,” says Rey bleakly.

“I'm speaking of peace.”

“At any cost, is that it? Until 'peace' demands you sacrifice your own son, then all bets are off, I see.”

He looks at her. “Would you rather I had killed him? Or are you just determined to find fault in whatever I do?”

“It's very easy, when you have so many faults to choose from.”

Kylo's fist hits the computer panel, and it flashes and dies. Rey wonders if he's broken it. “Why must you always fight me on everything?” he grinds out.

Rey suddenly feels like they're standing too close. “You backed yourself into this corner, Ben. You chose this. You chose this when you walked away from your family, when you chose your idea of bloody, violent 'peace' ahead of those who loved you – ahead of your own father-”

“Don't talk about that man!” He's trying to intimidate her, jabbing his finger at her.

Rey knocks his hand down. “Shall I talk about your mother instead?” she asks. “Your mother who still sees you in every little boy she sees? You have a child of your own now, so one might hope you understand what it means to have that child taken away from you-”

“You are unrelenting-”

“Why shouldn't I be? Don't get angry at me because you're ashamed. You. Chose. This. Life.” She prods his chest with each word for emphasis.

“What choice did I have?” he explodes. “What choice is there when you are being slowly crushed to death by people who do not understand you, who want to mould you into something you cannot be, who look at you with pity and disappointment in their eyes every day, and then someone else opens a door and says 'come, you are perfect as you are.'”

He's unravelling again, his fist trembling as much as his voice. “I know there is something wrong with me. I know. I was born this way. I thank god that Altan takes after you and not me.”

Rey looks away, because she thinks there are tears in Kylo's eyes, and she can't bear how sorry she feels. She bites her own lip, trying to fight back her own tears. Not for him, she tells herself. Tears are just contagious, like yawns, or laughter. When she glances back at Kylo, he's leaning his forehead against the fist pressed to the broken panel, his eyes closed. Rey thinks she preferred him more when he was just angry.

Against her better judgement, she reaches out, attempting to take the hand dangling at his side. “It's not too late, you know. You could come home with me and Leia would take you in. You know she would.”

Kylo snatches his hand out of her reach, looking at her with bewildered hostility as if she has just pulled a knife on him. She remembers that face. He gave her the same look the day she told him his greatest fear was that he would never be as strong as Darth Vader.

“Get out,” he says, softly at first, before his voice rises to a shout. “Get out!”

Rey holds up her hands in an imitation of surrender and quickly walks out. After the door slides shut behind her she thinks she hears the sound of something heavy hitting it from the other side, followed by the unmistakable sound of things being smashed. As she's passing Tam's room, the boy pops his sleepy, mussed head out the door.

“What did you say this time?” he asks her.

“Nothing,” she says crossly. “Does he do this often?”

“Sometimes. He'll stop soon.”

“He needs to learn to control his temper.”

“He can't.” Tam yawns so wide his jaw clicks. “'Night, Mom.”

He vanishes back into his room and Rey, with little else to do, retreats back to her own suite. The noise of destruction fading away behind her until she can no longer hear it.

 

Tameron


 

Chapter Text


Uncompromising Position

 

It has been a long time since she dreamed of the green moon. Ten years ago, it had been a constant landscape at night, on the few occasions she had been able to sleep as she fought the symptoms of a broken Force Bond without realising it. Sleeping and waking, Kylo Ren had filled her thoughts in various forms – her enemy, her patient, her lover. She'd dreamed of him holding her close and making love to her almost as often as she'd dreamed of him murdering her.

The distance of time had dulled her recollection eventually. Feelings and touches that had once felt burned into her skin were lost to a hazy blur of memory. The way his weight had felt above her, and the way he'd felt inside her... these were things she could not recall. She might even have doubted it had ever happened if not for Tam himself offering incontrovertible proof. Sometimes she could not even be sure what he looked like. If she dreamed of Kylo Ren at all, he was masked and distant, more of a shadow or a silhouette than a real person.

But perhaps the newfound proximity to him has awakened sensations she thought were buried and gone. They're not memories, that's for certain. Kylo Ren was never as gentle with her as he is in this dream. She wakes with some reluctance, swearing she can still feel the ghost of a hand stroking her back. But Rey is clothed, her room is dark, and she is alone. That's not a new feeling. She has been alone for ten years now.

She had not felt poorer for it until this moment. Remembering – or imagining – what it feels like for a man to touch her with tender desire sparks an ache for something she thought she had disregarded as distracting and unnecessary. Sometimes she can understand why the jedi swore off such things.

But it fades, as dreams do, and by the time Rey has risen, dressed and washed, it is all but forgotten, though an odd impression lingers in the back of her mind. She's tired of fighting. Exhausted, in fact. She just wants to be with Tam, so she goes to meet him in the training suite, just as promised.

“You're going to teach me combat?” he asks her, when she announces their first lesson plan.

Rey looks across the training suite at her son, noting his perplexed expression. She continues shrugging off the cumbersome white cloak and begins searching among the training apparatus for a light-weight staff her own size. “Is there something wrong?” she asks.

“No...” he says slowly. “But – well – Kylo Ren already teaches me combat, and he's pretty strong. So I thought training with you would be like channeling the force, or something, like what you used to teach me.”

“Learning combat isn't just about learning how to fight,” she tells him, selecting a staff for herself and a wooden stick approximately the size of Tam's white lightsaber. “It's about learning your body. Once your body and mind move as one, understanding how to manipulate the Force follows. Theoretically.”

That sounded suitably confident, though Rey would be the first to admit she has never felt like a natural teacher. When she'd first started training Tam, she had been stumbling along, trying to teach him concepts and abilities for which she had no words. She knew so much more these days, but she still doesn't know if she has it in her to be a good teacher.

She tosses him the stick, and rests her own staff against the crook of her arm. “I want you to show me what you've learned,” she tells him. “Attack me with everything you've got.”

“Ok...”

Tam falls into his opening stance, probably the one he uses most often. Already Rey can see the similarities with Kylo Ren, as he draws back his sword arm and extends his free hand with his palm towards her. Like Kylo, his one-handed style is deceptive, for while he wields a blade in one hand, he uses the other to wield the Force as a second weapon.

Rey opens her senses to the way the Force moves around her son, just enough to anticipate his movements. He's faster than she suspected, and though he lacks precision, that's more due to his young age. He's still growing fast, his body changing faster than he can master it, and no child can gain perfect coordination until adulthood. She parries his attacks firmly, but feels her borrowed staff quiver under the weight of blows that should be beyond him. Already he has figured out how to pull the Force into him, using it to create the strength and speed that he lacks, though whether he does it knowingly is questionable. Rey had once done the same without thinking, the day she'd fought off a man twice her size in a snowy forest, when she had still been little more than a half-starved junk rat running on adrenalin fumes.

At one point Tam's aim is too high, and their sticks meet at his weapon's weak point. His wrist wobbles. Rather than press the advantage and knocking the stick from his hand, she let's him recover and continues blocking his attacks until he suddenly lifts his hand toward her-

Then hesitates.

“What's the matter?” she asks.

“I nearly threw you,” he says. “Sorry.”

“Try it. We'll see what happens.”

Looking ever so uncertain, Tam lifts his hand again and unleashes a Force push. Rey divides it with her hand and lets it flow around her, but the energy is still enough to send her staggering a step backwards, as if hit by the shockwave of an explosion. “Was that as strong as you can make it?”

“I can go stronger,” he admits.

Rey isn't sure she wants to know what that would look like. “I'll take your word for it,” she says. “That was very good, Tam. You're far stronger than I was at your age.”

Tam's face glows with unexpected pleasure, and she realises he doesn't receive much praise usually.

“What do you call those forms you use?” she asks.

“Uh, Control, Anticipation, and Reaction,” he says, listing them on three fingers. “Kylo Ren says I'm weak on Anticipation.”

The names are unfamiliar to Rey. Although Kylo Ren had the benefit of Luke's training, she wonders if this is something passed down from Snoke's teachings. “The way you move... it resembles one of the Jedi forms. It's a powerful form, but without the proper foundations, you leave yourself vulnerable. But there is another Jedi form you can learn. It's purely defensive, but I think you need it.”

Tam doesn't look convinced. “Defensive? Isn't it better to learn how to strike hard and fast before your opponent can retaliate?”

“That's fine, until the day you meet someone stronger than yourself, then suddenly a lack of defensive knowledge is your undoing. Ask your father again how he got that scar on his face.”

“I'd rather not.”

“Then take my word for it. No one who has ever mastered this style has ever been defeated, Tam,” she says. “When you grow up and go out among the stars, I'll sleep better if I know you can defend yourself.”

Like all children who are convinced of their immortality, Tam just rolls his eyes, but he seems to like the sound of 'undefeated', so he doesn't protest when she comes over to show him the opening stance of this new form. “Two hands on the saber, please,” she says. “The key is to conserve your energy, move only as you need to. You want to outlast any opponent and turn their own power against them.”

“How do you know Jedi forms anyway?” asks Tam as he unsteadily follows her advice. “I thought the last jedi who knew the old forms was Obiwan Kenobi, and he died like a million years ago.”

“I have my ways,” Rey says, tapping her nose. It's easier than explaining that she has spent much of the last four years watching and studying ancient memories of every kind of jedi master.

“Kylo Ren says they're outdated,” he says.

“Maybe they are. But they were refined over the course of thousands of years by people who saw more warfare than you and I. You can trust them to know how to swing a lightsaber. Now, keep your weapon up. Watch me carefully and block my staff – we'll go slow to begin with, ok?”

With a few corrections along the way, Tam is a quick study and before long he is moving with more confidence. Just in case he gets too cocky, she sometimes taps his stick aside and pokes an undefended flank, and every time she does, his determination to improve makes him quieter and more focused.

But when Kylo Ren walks in, flanked by two stormtroopers, Tam loses his concentration entirely. Rey raps him smartly on the knuckles with her staff, “Don't look at him. Keep your eyes on me.”

Tam does his best, but his movements have now become self-conscious and awkward. Rey sympathises. Kylo Ren's presence is off-putting at the best of times, and even though she studiously avoids looking at him, she can feel his judgmental gaze crawling over them. From the corner of her eye, Rey sees him pacing slowly along the edge of the room. The stormtroopers remain by the door.

When Tam fumbles with his stance for the third time in as many minutes, Rey steps back. “Would you like a break?”

Before Tam can reply, she hears Kylo's voice behind her. “You're too soft on him.”

Rey ignores him. “Five minutes,” she says to Tam, taking his training saber. “Go have a drink.”

Once Tam has padded away to the edge of the room to get his water bottle, she turns to Kylo Ren. “You're distracting him. Go away.”

“I don't want you diluting his training with outdated forms,” he says. “Teach him the ways of the Force if you must, but leave combat to me.”

“You were always weak on defense, and you're passing it on to Tam,” she warns him.

“Weak...?” creaks the mask.

There's a sharp tug on the Force, and the wooden saber rips from her hand and sails clean into Kylo's. That's all the warning she has before he strikes out, as fast as a viper. But she's prepared, and she blocks the blow with a crack of wood that echoes around the chamber. Tam looks up, eyeing his parents warily.

Rey doesn't protest. If Kylo feels he has something to prove, then certainly she does too. The last time they fought he'd left her barely conscious on an ice field, and she's spent the last four years preparing herself for a rematch. This isn't precisely how she'd imagined it, in a training hall of bright white lights, soft floors and fake weapons. But even though their weapons are only wooden, an unchecked strike could still shatter bones, so she circles with Kylo cautiously, keeping her staff lowered to widen her guard. His weapon isn't long enough to make contact at this distance, but one wrong move on her part and he'll slide right up close, and once there, it'll be over. That was how he'd taken her arm. He tests her defense for weaknesses, snapping the stick against her staff, looking for the opening he needs.

Rey listens to the Force. It's so easy these days it has become just another sense, like her sight or her hearing. She knows Kylo Ren feels it too, but he can't manipulate it the way she can. He can anticipate her moves just as easily as she can foresee his, but he cannot coax the Force to fib the way she can.

It's subtle. Barely a pulse of intent to make him think she is going to strike at his shoulder, then she swings at his leg. Kylo barely keeps up, and their weapons clack together again as his raw strength meets her cleverer, fluid style. She wishes she could see his face. She almost doesn't need to when his body radiates irritation, and he retaliates with a series of brutal strikes intending to wear her down. Tam follows it all with his eyes, hardly breathing.

Kylo finally breaches her circle of defence, sliding his sword across and past her staff, but Rey steps lightly out of reach once more, feeling herself begin to smile the angrier he gets.

“Do you see the value of defense, Tam?” she calls out. “Notice how he's already out of breath. By keeping offense to a minimum and limiting your movements, you can shift the advantage to yourself in a matter of minutes with a good defense.”

Kylo straightens, although rather than heed her words, he moves to attack once more, and Rey can feel her staff beginning to bend and wobble under the power. Like Tam, he pulls in the Force to make his wooden saber almost as penetrating as a real saber. It won't do to make him too angry, she thinks, and decides to end it.

Stepping into a gap between his attacks, she brings the staff up and behind her, aiming for his neck. Kylo reacts just as fast. With a final crack of splintering wood, the top third of her staff breaks off and spins away through the air.

But it doesn't matter. The splintered remainder is already pressed firmly against his neck, just under his helmet.

“If this was a real fight, you'd be dead,” she whispers.

“So would you.”

Only then does she notice the flat of his saber is laid against her waist, where a real lightsaber could burn her in two.

Something jumps between them, like a static shock that makes her stomach flip unpleasantly. She knows he feels it too, for he steps back with a hand lifting to his helmet as if suddenly struck by dizziness.

He's about to say something when the training suite entrance slides open and the silver droid inches inside, making urgent noises. Kylo Ren drops the training sword with a clatter and goes to intercept it.

Still a little bewildered, Rey turns away quickly, searching for Tam who crouches by the wall, little more than a bundle of anxiety and awe.

“Let's continue,” she says briskly.

He seems a little more enthusiastic now, having seen that perhaps his mother is a little stronger than he'd previously appreciated. He takes up the fallen wood saber and resumes the defensive stance, ready to cycle through the moves she showed him earlier.

Rey reaches out to correct the height of his elbows, when she hears the unmistakable ignition of an unstable lightsaber behind her. She turns, just in time to see the blade dash through the air and the silver droid falls to the floor, split clean in two.

“What are you doing?” Rey shouts, dashing over to kneel beside the panicking droid. Some old scavenger instincts take over as she assesses what can be salvaged.

“I can't feel my legs!” it keeps bleating in surprise.

“Hush – he missed your motor centres. A little soldering and you'll be fine-” She's cut short as a strong hand seizes her hard around her arm and pulls her back to her feet. It jerks her around abruptly until she finds herself nose-to-mask with Kylo Ren.

“What,” he enunciates slowly. “is this?”

It takes her a second to realise he's holding something in his other hand. It's tiny. Barely more thicker than a translucent sticker with imperceptible circuitry etches into its surface. She knows almost every kind of tech from almost every corner of the galaxy, but she doesn't know this, and her silence seems to confirm some kind of guilt to Kylo Ren.

“You will tell me now why a First Order tracker was found on the hull of your shuttle,” he says, his grip squeezing even tighter.

“It must have been there when I stole it,” she says heatedly, struggling to free her arm.

He catches her other arm just as tightly. “Don't lie to me!”

Rey leans in. “Get your hands off me!” she all but roars in his face.

“Kylo!”

She sees him flinch and look to the side. Tam stands there, staring defiantly at his father, his hands twisting nervously around the wooden stick. “Kylo, don't hurt her,” he says.

“Continue your training,” is all Kylo says, and without releasing his grip on Rey, he drags her from the room into the corridor outside. The two stormtoopers begin to follow, but he raises a hand to them. “Go to engineering. Tell them to prime the hyperdrive. We're leaving.”

Great. Now he's gotten rid of all the witnesses, and whatever he plans to do with her, it's something he doesn't want Tam to see. Rey allows herself to be dragged only so far as the next corner before she channels enough of the Force into her muscles to finally break free of his hold on her arm. When he turns to her again, reaching for her other arm, her fist snaps out to clock him soundly in the side of the head. It doesn't seem to do much more than make him angry. Suddenly Rey feels the air leave her lungs in a winded rush as she's slammed back against the sloping stone wall, Kylo's hands pinning her wrists.

“It'll take two days to prime the Hyperdrive, and that tracker has been broadcasting our location ever since you arrived! The First Order may already be on their way!” he hisses.

Rey's mind races. The comet has some innate defense of being mostly space rock, but it cannot withstand the assault of a First Order fleet. “Let me take Tam out of here,” she says. “I can get him to safety at least-”

His fingers squeeze hard enough to leave bruises. “You planned this,” he accuses her. “You want to bring the First Order down on my head so you can take Altan and run.”

“You're paranoid!” she cries out. “I had no idea there was a tracker on that shuttle! Why don't you ask the Knight it belonged to?!”

He doesn't believe her. She realises as much when he splays his hand over her brow and she feels the sharp beginnings of an intrusion into her mind. “Don't you dare!” she grinds out between her teeth. It's a fair warning, but he ignores it, determined to push past her defences to the truth.

So Rey gathers up her mental wall and slams it down on him. It's like bringing down an axe on reaching fingers, and Kylo Ren recoils so hard he physically reels away, fumbling desperately with the clasp of his mask, as if its suddenly suffocating him. It hits the metal grating of the floor and Rey watches him gasp for breath, a thin stream of blood running from his nose and smearing across his cheek.

“Don't you ever do that again,” she shouts, standing over him. “And listen to reason! Since when have I been on friendly enough terms with the First Order to be using their tracking devices? Think! They've been my enemy far longer than they've been yours.”

“If I find you had anything to do with this-” he begins.

“You won't. Because I don't.”

Rey glares at him, waiting for his next move. She watches him straighten slowly, wiping his bloody nose with the back of his glove. And maybe she's won this one, because he only gives her one last contemplative look before he turns his back on her and strides away down the corridor.

“What about Tam?” she calls after him. “He can't stay here if the First Order is coming.”

But he ignores her. She watches him leave, rubbing her bruised wrists distractedly, then heads back in the direction of the training suite to finish their lesson.

 

 


 

 

When the time for supper comes and goes without the usual invitation, Rey wonders exactly how pissed off Kylo Ren must be with her now. She meditates in her room, her mind's eye on the Force, testing it for a disturbance. In a way, it stretches out like a spider's web, and should anything pluck at its distant edges, she will feel it. For now, everything seems calm. If the First Order is coming, there is no sign of it yet.

She's disturbed eventually by the arrival of a black droid, who announces a belated supper.

“How is your silver friend?” she asks it.

“G-O-Four is in maintenance and will be back on duty within the week,” it replies politely.

“She should get a nice long holiday for having to put up with Kylo Ren's tantrums,” she says tiredly.

“Holiday?” repeats the droid, horrified.

Rey makes her way down to the room with the three sided table. It's typically dim when she enters and as always, her eyes are drawn to the sparkling corona of ice beyond the windows. When she sits down at the table, she belatedly notices someone is missing.

“Where's Tam?” she demands, looking at Kylo with narrowed eyes.

“He's in bed. Where do you think?”

Rey thinks for a moment, then rises and makes as if to leave.

“Sit down,” Kylo snaps.

“The only reason I tolerate our little dinners is to be with my son, because it makes him happy. I see no reason to keep up a pretense when he's not around,” she says, more coldly than the ice crystals shining outside.

Kylo Ren doesn't meet her eyes. “You're still angry that I accused you of conspiring with the First Order,” he says. “I apologise for it.”

Rey inhales sharply, more in shock than anything. An apology was the last thing she ever expected to hear leave this man's lips.

“And for those too,” he continues, glancing at her arm where faint purple marks have developed on the softer parts of her flesh.

“So you want me to sit here and play nice?” she asks.

“Is it so hard? We shared food once, a long time ago.”

“Out of necessity,” she reminded him. Yet despite herself, she finds herself sinking back into her seat and looking at the plate of food before her. There's some sort of shredded cabbage and a protein steak of unknown origin. Rey slowly reaches for the fork and lowers it to her plate... then uses her thumb to push a pile of cabbage onto the prongs and shovels the result into her mouth. She looks across at Kylo. He's chewing slowly, staring at her hard. He probably can't decide if everything she does is calculated to annoy him, or if she is simply annoying.

To distract herself, she picks up the wine and begins to gulp.

“I'll be taking Altan away.”

Rey's wineglass hits the table. “What? Where?”

“Why should I tell you? You're the one who compromised his safety.”

“You are not taking my son from me again.” She's just about ready to throw her dinner in his face.

“It'll only be for two days while the hyperdrive primes. Once the Celestial Lancer is relocated to a new system, we'll return. You can stay here or you can leave. It's your choice.”

Rey doesn't trust him one bit. The last time this man took her son away in a shuttle, it took her four years to find him again. “Why don't I take him? Give me the rendezvous coordinates and we'll meet you there. It makes no sense for the Supreme Leader to leave his command in the face of a likely attack.”

The corner of his mouth lifts. “If I let you fly out of here with Altan, I'll never see you again.”

Rey lifts one shoulder, hardly able to deny it.

“Then we remain at an impasse, and every moment we fail to trust one another, Altan's life remains in danger.”

Rey jams another forkful of protein into her mouth and studiously says nothing. She is already formulating her own plans. Kylo Ren has to sleep some time. When he does, she'll take her security chip and reprogram the permissions to give her access to the hangar bay. All she then has to do then is put Tam in a shuttle and fly away, solving all her problems. She doesn't want to make Tam unhappy... but if Kylo refuses to bend, then she must break him.

The thing is, she doesn't want to do this either. Because she's quite certain that if anything will break Kylo Ren, it will be by taking his son away. He might not have much of a heart, but whatever's left of it beats for Tam. This is a boy for whom he killed his dark mentor, threw over a philosophy he had built his life around, and the reason he hides at the edge of space when he had once imagined himself ruling all.

But if he gives me no choice, she warns herself, I have to be ready to do what needs to be done.

“There is always another way, of course.”

Rey's gaze is drawn back to Kylo's, and the intense way he watches her makes an odd feeling begin to crawl up her spine, raising the fine hairs on her skin. “And what would that be?” she asks, wondering why she dreads his answer.

“If we were to awaken our Force Bond again, there would be no cause for distrust. There would be no-”

The screech of Rey's chair cuts him short as she rises abruptly. “No. Absolutely not. You're crazy.”

She aims for the door, but suddenly Kylo is also on his feet, blocking her with his much larger body. “Why does it scare you so much?” he asks, searching her frozen face. “When we were bonded, there was only truth between us. I would not be able to hide from you, and you would not be able to hide from me.”

“There can be such a thing as too much truth sometimes,” she retorts. “And I don't want you knowing where I am all the time! You used that once to capture Luke Skywalker – never again!”

“That was a long time ago. Our goals are not so different now. We share an enemy. We share a child. This would be a Bond of our choosing, not one forced upon us by fate-”

“And I choose no.” She tries to step around him, but he's quite effectively backed her up to the table.

“Your heart screams out for it.”

“My heart doesn't scream,” she denies furiously. “And if it did, it would not scream out for you.”

“The only one you're fooling is yourself.”

Now it's Rey who wants to scream in sheer frustration. “Look – even if we were to entertain this possibility – you can't force a Force Bond. It's just something that happens! Neither of us know what triggered it or what caused it to break, but the fact is, you can't just say 'let's be Force Bonded' and expect it to happen.”

“It triggered the day I delved into your mind for the first time,” he says. “There was a moment, when I reached deep enough, that I got lost and it seemed like our minds were one and the same. It follows that if we were to replicate this-”

“Replicate it and you'll regret it,” she hisses at him. “How can you even be suggesting this? That Bond drove us mad! The second we were bonded there was no way to know what was real and what was just the influence of the Force. It made us do things...”

“A Force Bond can't make anyone do anything,” he all but sneers at her. “It can only reveal what is already there. It made you honest with yourself – something you have been unable to do ever since!”

“It wasn't real!” she protests. “Whatever you think you felt – it wasn't real!”

“Shall we test that?”

His bare fingers touch her face. The warmth of his skin is so much, she almost feels like she's burning. She can see what he intends; he's going to go diving into her mind again – force a Bond into being with the same ruthlessness with which it first appeared. Rey reaches behind her, grabbing the discarded fork from her plate. She raises it – she'll give him another matching scar on the other side of his face for this.

Then suddenly his mouth is on hers and Rey's mind has gone quite blank. He hasn't shocked her this much since he cut off her arm, and this is arguably more pleasant.

Her instinct is to retreat and turn away, but the indefatigable table is there and Kylo's large hand spans her jaw and chin, holding her in place. He's only kissed her once before, and it's such a long time ago that she no longer remembers what it felt like. Now she discovers it all over again. The surprising softness of his lips, the hint of wine on his breath – or is it hers? He's only tasting, testing, waiting for her reaction, and when he finds no resistance (Rey tells herself she is in too much shock), he presses forward, deepening the kiss until he's filling her senses. He's all she can feel, touch and see. His distinctive scent of soap and metal fills her nose. But it's when she hears the low noise rumble in his chest that reminds her she may indeed be dealing with a kind of wild animal that she comes to her senses. She breaks away, leaning back with her hand braced against his chest. Her fingers fist in the thick cloth of his tunic, and for now she's not sure if she wants to push him away or draw him closer.

“If it isn't real, why are you trembling?” he asks, his hand stroking down to lightly span her throat, gauging her pulse and the quick breaths she takes.

“That could be anything,” she replies quietly. “Cabbage doesn't agree with me.”

His dark eyes flick to the hand with still grips the fork tightly. He takes her wrist and tries to push it down, but she resists. “Put the fork down,” he commands her.

Rey is frightened of what will happen if she does. He already has her bent over the table, all but standing between her legs. If she gives in now...

The door slides open, flooding the room with light, and there's Tam in the doorway. Whatever the boy wanted to say is forgotten before he's even opened his mouth as he takes in the sight of his mother backed into a table, a fork raised in self-defence as his father stands over her, a hand on her throat.

Rey suddenly realises how it looks. “Tam-”

Kylo is less patient. “Get out!”

Tam doesn't move away. “Get away from her!” He breaks into a run, intending to throw all his inconsiderable weight at his father.

Rey pushes Kylo aside and catches the boy around the middle, “Calm down!” If he thinks those small fists would ever hurt a full grown man, he has more bravery than sense.

“You promised you wouldn't hurt her!” Tam shouts. “You're going to make her leave again! You want her to leave!”

Kylo just turns away with a faint roll of his eyes, as if his son's anger is beneath him. Rey takes Tam by the shoulders and forces him to look at her instead. “He wasn't hurting me, and I'm not going anywhere.”

Tam's eyes are filling with tears anyway. “I saw him!”

“Oh, sweetheart, we were just... playing,” Rey says, her voice rising at least two octaves on the terrible euphemism. She pulls him into a tight hug and rubs his back as his unshed tears turn to sobs. “Come on, let's get you in bed.”

Kylo Ren whirls around, his hand gripping the edge of the table as if he's a moment away from flipping it. “We're not done,” he says forcefully.

“Yes, we are.” With Tam leaning against her side, she ushers him toward the door.

“Come to my quarters when you're finished.”

Rey pauses and looks back at him, her lips parting in surprise. She looks away quickly, because she knows what he's thinking – what he wants – and she's not sure she's ready to accept defeat just yet. She hurries out into the corridor with Tam and tugs up a clean corner of her white cloak to rub his eyes.

“I told you, we were just playing,” she tells him again, since his tears seem to show no sign of abating.

“I know,” he sniffs, before his face crumples all over again and he hides his face in her arm.

He was a lot easier to placate when he was small. Tam hadn't been a child prone to tantrums, and the few there had been were usually diverted quickly with the offer of a sweetie. Now that he's older, Rey isn't quite sure what to do. She doubts waving an ice cream under his nose will distract him the way it had when he was a toddler, even if such a thing as ice cream existed in a dark-sider fortress. She settles for rubbing his shoulders and trying to reassure him, though it occurrs to her that Leia's wisdom about how children's tears were rarely what they appeared to be about might be true in this case.

Once in his room, she sits him down in the bed and kneels before him. “Come on now,” she says, trying to sound stern. “You're fretting over nothing. If you think Kylo Ren is ever going to scare me off, you have another thing coming, mister. You can't get rid of me that easily.”

She smiles at him, but Tam just looks even more miserable than ever. “You're leaving,” he whimpers.

“No, I'm not!” She pushes his hair back from his face and wipes away the fresh tears that fall. “I don't know what to say to you to convince you that I'm not going anywhere! I made a promise-”

“I saw it,” he interrupts. “I had a dream.”

Rey looks at him carefully. “Sometimes a dream is just a dream,” she says slowly.

“It wasn't that kind. It feels like the kind of dream that comes true.”

“Do... do your dreams often come true?” she asks.

He shrugs desolately. “Sometimes. I dreamed once that your arm fell off, and then it did. I thought it was my fault, because I'd dreamed it. And then I dreamed that you would come here all in white, and you did. And when I dream like that it feels different from other dreams. And this one felt like that too.”

“What did you see?” she breathes.

“You leave... everyone leaves. You're going to be get so angry with me, and you'll leave and I never see you again. Because it's like with Snoke...” Tam's eyes squeeze shut. “When Kylo Ren dies, everyone will leave.”

“Kylo will...” Rey stares at her son in disbelief. “Are you certain, Tam?”

“I saw it,” he says again. “He's going to die. Something really bad is going to happen, and he's going to...”

Tam can't finish. He presses his fists to his eyes and begins to cry again, his body shaking with the sobs. Rey tries to pull him into another hug, but he resists, preferring to throw himself face down on the bed instead where he can cry in earnest. Rey stands helplessly, her heart breaking for him.

“It's just a dream,” she tries to say, but she's not sure she believes the sound of her own words. “Tam?”

There's nothing she can say or do to alleviate this. Rey feels horribly lost for a moment, before she quickly realises what she needs to do.

Striding out, she follows the corridor down to the master suite at the end of the hall and punches the release button for the door.

She interrupts Kylo as he paces within. He looks up as she enters and something like relief passes over his tense features. He starts toward her, his hand reaching-

“Stop that,” she says sharply, stepping back. “Your son is in his room crying because he thinks you're going to die. Would you please go to him?”

Irritable suspicion settles over his face. “What have you been telling him now?”

“Nothing! He had a dream – he thinks it's a vision. Go tell him right now that you're not going to die!” She points at the door, emphasising her point.

With one last vexed glare, he brushes past her. She follows at a distance and hangs back in the doorway to Tam's room as Kylo sits down awkwardly on the bed.

“Stop crying,” he says, in his typically uncompromising tone.

By some miracle, Tam stops crying.

“What have I told you about visions?” he asks.

“That they're like trying to make out a picture puzzle with only one piece,” recites Tam. “That I should just ignore them because most of them are self-fulfilling anyway.”

“Exactly.”

Tam throws himself upright. “But you're going to-”

“No, I'm not,” he says impatiently. Then he seems to realise how short he sounds and repeats himself more gently. “I'm not. Do you remember when I told you about the vision I had of your mother?”

Rey looks at him, faintly surprise.

“Before I ever met her, I saw her in a vision, but I thought it was telling me that she would come to the darkside as my partner. But she never did. Visions can be misleading.”

“It's true,” Rey adds quietly. “Before I met your father I had a vision of him as well. I thought I was being warned about some faceless creature in a mask who would kill me. But I was wrong.”

“I never wanted to kill you,” says Kylo.

“Oh, yes, that too. But mostly the vision failed to warn me that beneath that horrible mask lurked the most beautiful hair I'd ever seen.”

This seems to cheer Tam up, and he ducks his head against his knees to hide his giggle. Kylo sighs, as if he feels like he might have just lost a shred of dignity. He reaches out to clasp Tam's shoulder. “Visions are more of a nuisance than anything. If you have any more, tell me, but don't let them rule your thoughts or actions.”

“Ok.”

“Good boy.” He releases his shoulder – and that's the end of the most affectionate gesture Rey has seen him offer Tam. “Now go to sleep and dream of better things.”

“I will.”

Once Rey has dropped a kiss on his forehead and tucked the blankets around him, she steps outside with Kylo and can't help the grudging appreciation she has for his simple way with Tam. “That was all remarkably wise,” she says. “You really did make him feel better.”

Kylo's dark eyes move past her. “Altan's visions have always been incredibly accurate, more so than the kind of visions you or I might have. It's quite likely I will be dead soon.”

He frowns in thought at the floor and drifts away down the corridor. Rey can only stare after him mutely, wondering why the thought of his death doesn't please her the way it might have done once upon a time.





 

Chapter Text


The Oncoming Storm

 

Rey isn't sure what wakes her up. It might have been a sound of a vibration, but something brings her back to consciousness with a yank that sets her heart fluttering. Sitting up, she looks around her dark quarters, wondering why something feels wrong.

A flash of red fills her small window, and in seconds Rey is on her feet, leaning into the deep porthole to look out. For a moment she sees nothing but empty space – literally. Her window faces the black hole around which the comet orbits, and all it looks like is a terrifying gap that has eaten all the stars.

Something flashes past the window. She sees it only for a split second, chased by more flashes of red and a deep thrum that vibrates through the walls and floors as the Lancer's defenses fire on the small craft.

Rey pulls on her shrug and charges out of her room to go find the elevators. She punches in the code for the command deck and breathes a sigh of relief that the computer doesn't argue. Half a night tinkering with the permissions of her security chip seems to have paid off, and the doors spit her out on the causeway leading to the bridge.

“Hey!” Two stormtroopers moves to intercept her, but Rey fends them off with a hand.

“Let me pass.”

“Let her pass,” says one, waving her on.

Rey marches on, her eyes fixed on the hooded figure leaning over the central console as workers line the pits around him.

“The target has been destroyed, no signs of life,” says a woman stationed at the radar.

“Resume scans,” says Kylo Ren.

Rey slows as she approaches him. “Are we under attack?” she asks tensely.

He doesn't turn to her or answer her question. “How did you get access?” He sounds tired, as if he's not even surprised.

“A toddler could hack your damn security chips,” she says impatiently. “Are we under attack?”

“Who is responsible for the security chips?” Kylo Ren asks his pit of underlings, as gently as death itself.

After a terrible pause, someone stammers. “E-Ensign Cehro, sir.”

“Tell Ensign Cehro to report for disciplining-”

“Alright, enough,” interrupts Rey. “It was difficult as all hell, but I'm just that good and you know it. You don't need to go disciplining anyone. Now was that a First Order TIE fighter or not?”

“A scout,” he says, finally turning to her, his mask shielding him from her gaze. “There have been a few already, though most have overshot and gone beyond the event horizon of the black hole. We have indeed been tracked, it seems. If this one had been allowed to escape, it would have reported our location exactly, but the First Order will come looking for their lost fighter soon enough. There will be more scouts soon, and should we allow a single one to escape, our location will no longer be a secret. When will the hyperdrive be ready?”

“Ten hours, twenty-three minutes, sir,” reports an engineer.

“Ten hours and twenty-three minutes,” he repeats, just in case Rey missed it the first time. “That's a ten hour and twenty-three minute window for the First Order to find us, and knowing General Hux as I do, he'll be bringing no less than a fleet.”

“You annoyed him that much?” she asks.

“Mobilizing an entire fleet to eliminate the 'Supreme Leader' and end the schism is worth it for him.” He turns to a stormtrooper with a red pauldron. “Lieutenant. Call in all our ships, and transmit our location to the Knights. Have my command shuttle prepared.”

“Yes, sir.”

Kylo Ren turns and stalks down the causeway with Rey hot on his heels. “You have to let me take Tam away,” she says, hurrying to keep up with his wider stride. “This is far too dangerous.”

“The matter is already settled. Should we be fully compromised, Knight Scorpus Ren will take him ahead to the new safe zone.”

“You are not handing my son over to one of your blasted Knights!” She follows him into the elevator. “I am his mother! I am the only one you can trust to keep him alive!”

The doors slide shut and the chamber jolts as it begins a swift descent. Kylo Ren seems determined to ignore her in the narrow space, so she seizes his shoulder in an attempt to turn him to face her. “You can at least answer me!”

Kylo's hand clamps on her own shoulder, driving her back against the side of the elevator. “The only reason we are in this situation is because of you and your carelessness,” his mask hisses. “If I hand Altan to you now, you'll take him straight to a Resistance base.”

“Of course I will.” She won't deny the obvious. “You'd be free to visit us there any time.”

“Where I would be summarily captured and executed. You are infuriating,” he practically growls. “If I can keep everyone alive for the next ten hours and twenty-three minutes, I will be doing well.”

“On the bright side, it's more like ten hours and twenty-one minutes by now. So far so good.”

The mask staring down at her is utterly silent. Not for the first time she wishes he wouldn't wear it, for she never knows what thoughts are going on behind that metal and carbon facade. It's usually a good bet that she has annoyed him in some way. She can feel the irritability radiating off him now... but perhaps something else too. She notices how the fingers squeezing her shoulder flex restlessly, almost sweeping down her arm but not quite. He's also gone rather a long time without saying anything, far beyond what would be polite without stepping away. Rey wets her lips nervously, and infinitesimal movement of his head makes her sure that he is now staring at her mouth.

Suddenly, Rey is very conscious of the fact that she is wearing little more than her sleep-wear. It's modest enough, but suddenly a little too intimate to be wearing in this man's presence.

“Why didn't you come to my room last night?” he asks her.

Rey's heart skips a beat. She wasn't expecting such a blunt question, and she hasn't prepared an answer. Why hadn't she come? Fear, mainly. Fear of so many things, most of which she could not give form to. Mostly it was fear of how tempted she was when every iota of sense rebelled against the idea of surrendering any fraction of her heart or body to someone she has waged an exhausting war against for so long.

So she tells as partial lie. “I was busy.”

“Busy,” his deadpan voice repeats. “Busy hacking my security it seems.”

“And I thought you might have things on your mind,” she says, and this at least is more like the truth. Learning Tam had envisioned his death could not have been a comforting revelation, and she had been sure that it had pushed all other thoughts out of his mind for the night.

But it looks as if she has underestimated the single-mindedness of the male brain.

Rey's stomach flips, though its only because the elevator is slowing down. The door sweeps open on an empty corridor leading to the hangar bay.

“This looks like my stop,” she says, even though it doesn't. She attempts to slide out around Kylo, but his other hand hits the metal panel beside her head, blocking her in. Now she is definitely regretting her decision to follow him into an enclosed space. She glances nervously up at him, then notices he is reaching to undo the clasp of his mask.

“Oh, no, please don't,” she tries to say, suddenly regretting ever wishing to see his face. “You don't have to-”

It is exactly as she fears. The heavy helmet bangs against the floor and Rey is treated to just a small glimpse of glossy black curls before his mouth takes possession of hers.

Once more he's an assault on her senses, blotting out the rest of the world like an eclipse. His lips ply at hers, soft and inviting but with just enough ferocity she expects from Kylo Ren. Her hands flutter against his chest, and she wonders why she hasn't pushed him away yet.

“Kiss me back,” he whispers against her mouth, almost begging.

She does. Slowly at first, not quite trusting herself. She feels his hands sweep down her sides, settling around her waist to pull her into the solid wall of his body. It's silly, she thinks abstractedly, how she has to stand on tip-toes and he still has to bend his neck, and she isn't wearing any shoes. She barely even notices that the the doors of the elevator have slid shut, until she feels her stomach flip flop all over again as it begins to rise.

“Ben,” she sighs, trying to let him know that someone has called the elevator.

But saying his name in that breathy way only makes matters worse. He surges forward, trapping her body between him and the wall. Rey can barely think anymore. She feels his hand on her thigh, pulling her close into him as he begins to attack her throat – there is no other word for it. She never knew how sensitive her neck was until she feels the press of his mouth and the scrape of his teeth.

It feels like something is building inside her. She remembers that old desire, to hold him close and dig her nails into him so hard he bleeds. He brings out those feelings inside her, where the line between desire and hatred disappears and she's left reeling, losing control of herself.

As hard as she dares, she shoves her hands against his chest, “Stop,” she pleads. “You're making it worse!”

He eases back only a fraction, and his hand slides up to cover her heart. “It hurts here, doesn't it?”

She nods, lashes lowered. It's not a physical pain that lies under his hand, but it feels like he's touching it even so.

“The longer we're near each other the worse it gets,” he observes. “We're like starving people faced with food that just makes us hungrier.”

Rey doesn't appreciate being compared to an actual piece of meat. “This isn't like starvation,” she says, “this is much worse.”

“I suppose you'd know.”

The elevator slides open again, and a little droid with a squeaking wheel begins to tootle in. It changes its mind very quickly for some reason and reverses out into the corridor, perhaps deciding to take the stairs instead. Rey is almost embarrassed, but Kylo has never given droids much thought. He keys in a new floor and retreats to the other side of the elevator, putting as much distance between them as possible. He doesn't look at her, just scowls at the ticking floor numbers while Rey hugs herself and stares wretchedly down at her toes.

When the doors finally open once more, Kylo glances at her. “It's still early. Go back to bed.”

Her chest almost shakes with pain, but she forces herself to step out. She only glances back once, just long enough to glimpse him rubbing his temples as if his head hurts, before the doors slight shut, leaving her alone in the long corridor.

Rey passes by her own room. Something compels her to keep moving onward until she reaches Tam's door. It's still too early for him to rise, but she needs to see him. To look at him and know he's safe.

Inside, his room is dark, but the light from the doorway and the sound of her entrance stirs the boy from his deep sleep. But he just grunts and rolls over, probably thinking she's on the droids come to wake him up. Rey crosses to his bed. He's almost as cute as an ewok, buried in his tangle of blankets and curly hair.

After a moment of watching him, she climbs into the bed with him.

The movement is enough to rouse him properly this time? “Mom?” he croaks. “Is it time to get up?”

“Not yet. Go back to sleep.”

She doesn't need to tell him twice, and after little shifting so her arm is beneath his head, he's fast asleep as if nothing in the world could disturb him. Rey holds him close and feels the pain in her chest begin to ease.

Not for the first time, she wonders if the bond that existed between her and Kylo exists on in Tam. It broke, she thinks, the moment he was conceived and only when she holds him close does the senseless pain and loss seem to fade.

His vision frightens her. Is it possible that they will be parted once more, despite her determination never to leave his side? And if Kylo dies... what happens then? It all reminds her of her own dreams that had plagued her on Ahch-To, of seeing Tam grow into a creature more heartless than even Kylo Ren. She could never tell the difference between nightmares and visions, but the vivid images of the man he could grow to become makes her pull him closer. Whatever else, she has to protect him from that. Nothing else in the universe matters. Worlds could burn and billions of people could perish for all she cares... such is the dark side of love Luke Skywalker warned her about.

She falls asleep once more, but it seems like no time at all before Tam's morning alarm jolts her back awake. It's still as dark as ever, and she remembers why she hates living on ships. She's never thought she would miss sunlight, after all those years of Jakku of cursing it.

Tam is already awake, fiddling with the tips of her hair. She gives him a sleepy smile, but he doesn't return it. She can see he's still worried about the vision he had. Nothing scares him so much as the thought of being left all alone.

“What were your parents like?” he asks suddenly.

For a while Rey's mind draws a blank. It has been so long since she thought of her old family. Most of what she remembers are the things she used to recite to herself during the long nights on Jakku, afraid of what she would forget. “My mother had a soft voice and hair that went all the way down to her waist,” she says, though she cannot be sure anymore if this is just a figment she dreamed up. “I don't remember my father at all. I don't think I ever knew him. But I had aunts and uncles and heaps of cousins.”

“Were they nice?”

“I think so. My mother used to sing to me and brush my hair, so I think she loved me very much.”

“Even though she left you on Jakku?”

Rey's gaze turns distant as she tries to think back to a time she's not sure she truly remembers. “She must have had her reasons.” Sometimes she thinks she remembers her mother whispering, I'll come back for you, sweetheart,and other times she's sure that the person who handed her into Unkar Plutt's meaty hands was male.

“Does it upset you?” Tam asks, watching her face carefully.

“Not anymore, no,” she says, smiling gently. “I have a family. I have you. I have Finn, and Leia and Poe.”

“And Kylo Ren.”

She narrows her eyes at Tam, detecting something half way between earnestness and cheek. “Are you trying to vex me?” she asks.

“He's not so bad,” Tam tries to insist. “If you just give him a chance-”

“Enough now,” she says, reaching up to tweak his nose. “I don't want you getting your hopes up for something that may never happen, Tam. Just because two people can end up in a situation where.... where they can make a child, doesn't mean they're right for each other.”

Tam looks suitably deflated, so Rey pecks a kiss against his forehead, tells him to brush his teeth, and returns to her own room to prepare for the day ahead.

There's a tension in the air as she moves through the complex. The personnel seem to move at twice their usual speed and sometimes she hears the pulse of cannon fire. It happens once at least every hour, and at that rate, the odds that a First Order scout will slip through and report back safe coordinates for a larger fleet only rise.

As she trains Tam, she notices he is distracted and pale. She's not even sure he's listening to her sometimes. He's so hopeless with the defensive combat that she tells him to sit down and meditate with her instead, though even this proves too hard. Every time the cannon fires he flinches and loses focus.

“The worst is when they get sucked into the black hole,” he shudders. “Then they just become nothing. Not even the Force can exist in a black hole.”

Rey tries to distract him instead. “In the olden days,” she says, “there used to be jedi who could influence the outcome of a battle by using the Force to inspire confidence in their allies and doubt in their enemies.”

“That seems useful,” says Tam. “Can you do that now?”

“It's a rare ability,” she tells him. “I've seen it done, but it's not something I have the power to duplicate. But perhaps you might be able to one day? Or maybe your talent lies elsewhere. Over the millenia, jedi figured out many different ways to use the force.”

“Like how?” he asks.

“Healing, that's always a useful one. I've seen some jedi slow their perception of time. Some could even communicate with animals.”

“Ooh.”

“Yes, I thought you'd like that one.”

“What about shooting lightning from your hands? I want to do that.”

Rey frowns lightly. “That's a dark-sider ability.”

“How come?”

“Because there's almost no other purpose to it save for grievously injuring or killing someone,” she says. “Wouldn't you prefer to learn healing? You'd have way more friends that way.”

“Yeah, I'd have even more friends than I do right now, sure.” Tam, bored of the conversation, flops onto his back and stares at the ceiling.

As Rey wonders how to salvage this, the doors to the training hall peel open and two masked men in black saunter in. She's on her feet in less than a heartbeat. The last time she saw the one of the left, he was shooting a blaster in her general direction.

“Master Altan,” says one.

Tam doesn't sit up. “Oh, hello Scorpus,” he answers gloomily.

“And this must be your mother,” says the Knight of Ren, looking at Rey. “I see she found you after all of Kylo Ren's best efforts.”

“I thought for sure she'd be in the brig,” says the other Knight.

“The Master has gone soft,” says the one called Scorpus. “It was bad enough we weren't allowed to kill her, now he has a jedi running around free on his own ship.”

“It's ok, she's cool,” says Tam.

Rey glares stolidly at the two men, feeling like she might just bare her teeth if they step any closer. A feeling pours off them, like a stink, oozing as thick as black tar. Rey has never trusted anything less. If Kylo intends to hand Tam off into their care, she will blow them out the side of the comet with a single force push, compromise be damned.

“Cool, is she? Did you forsake you jedi ways, woman?”

“Once a jedi, always a jedi,” says the other.

“Ha. Be seeing you around... jedi.”

The way he said it made it sound like the foulest of insults. Rey feels her lip almost curl and is only too relieved when they turn around and leave.

“I don't like them,” says Tam plaintively once they're gone. “When I become a Knight, I think I'll kill those two first.”

Rey looks at him sharply. “Don't say that.”

“What?”

“You're a nice boy, you shouldn't... you shouldn't think like that.”

Tam shrugs, but he doesn't really understand what it is he shouldn't think like.

It's all Kylo's fault, she seethes inwardly. Isolating her son in this dark place, surrounding him with malevolent types like the Knights of Ren who exist to hunt jedi. It's easy to forget when Tam seems like such a normal child most of the time that the reason his father brought him here was to cultivate a darkness in him that would define him as an adult. He's been here too long, she frets. More than ever she knows that she needs to get him out. She needs to get Tam back among the living, among people with good hearts before he loses his own.

“Your father intends to send you away with Scorpus Ren for a while,” she tells Tam, watching him for his reaction. “He says its for your safety.”

Tam looks green. “Urgh.”

“Tam,” she begins meaningly, “you know, you only have to say the word. If you don't want to go with that man – if you'd rather come with me, just say it. I'll create a distraction and we'll both sneak away.”

“Kylo Ren would be really angry,” he says slowly.

“Let me deal with that,” she reassures him. “He won't blame you.”

“That's what I mean... he'd blame you.” Tam looks a little queasy. “I'll just go with Scorpus.”

Rey presses her lips together. “If that's what you want, sweetheart.”

After the training session, Rey prowls the halls like a caged wildcat. He's ten, she tells herself. She doesn't want to make him unhappy, but appeasing a child is not always the answer. A child must go to bed when its told, even if they throw a tantrum and cry until they collapse with exhaustion. A child must also be rescued from the heart of darkness, even if that child believes its his home. But Rey feels herself quake inside.

Sometimes she feels so lost, being a mother. When was motherly confidence supposed to set in anyway? All too often she feels like little more than a child herself, wishing her own mother was here to give her answers. Wishing Leia was here to tell her what to do.

Leia would tell her to bundle Tam in a carpet and get him away from this place, kicking and screaming if necessary. Rey is not entirely sure that would be wise, but she doesn't know how else she will get Tam away. Kylo will simply not allow her to ever step off this comet with Tam, and Tam will never go against his own father...

Another set of blasts shake through the hallway and Rey suppresses a growl and stalks back to her room. She needs to meditate. Leia's motherly wisdom may not be here, but the force is, and rarely has the force ever steered her wrong.

Except that time it steered her into Kylo Ren's arms, but otherwise it's had a good track record.

There is a disturbance, she senses, once she has settled into the lulling rhythm of slow breathing and opened her mind. The Force vibrates like a wire rattling in the wind. Something akin to a storm is coming, and Rey has a good idea of what it is.

But when to act? If she were to take Tam now and fight her way out, would they be safe? She searches the Force for an answer, but it's not so simple. The living Force is the uncanny side of nature but it can no more communicate its knowledge than a sea could tell her what secrets lie in its deepest depths. All she can do is trust her own feeling of right and wrong, and she suspects that if taking Tam now was the right thing to do, she wouldn't be questioning it; she would have already done it.

Rey forces herself to relax a little. When the time comes, she will know what to do.

The door to her room beeps once, alerting her to a visitor. Rey glances at the clock; it is still too early for a call to supper. “Come in.”

The black droid totters in with a small silver plate which it deposits neatly on the bedside table. Rey stares at it curiously, noticing that in the middle of the plate is a tiny white bead. “What is that?” she asks the droid.

“A gift from the Supreme Leader,” it says, making its way to the door.

“Yes, but what is it?”

“A type of Human female birth control, if I'm not mistaken.”

“WHAT.”



 

Chapter Text


Games

 

The droid has wisely disappeared, and Rey is left seething at nothing. She seizes the plate and has to resist the urge to hurl it with all her strength at the wall. Trust the Force, she thinks. She will know when the time is right. She storms out, pulling a thunderous cloud of blazing anger with her, and follows the corridor around. She passes Tam's room and heads straight for the largest suite, because she knows this is exactly where he'll be, because in his sad little fantasies he expects her to come in a fluttering swooning rush to prostrate herself at his feet.

The door opens as she approaches and she sails in, arm cocked back and ready. He's in a chair by the row of windows, a holopad in his hand. There's that moment of rightness from the Force. Rey throws the plate directly at his head and there's an almost a satisfying clap as it hits the hand he raises to defend himself.

“You presumptive ass!” she shouts, before the plate has even finished rolling across the floor. “How dare you! You can stick it down your on craw for all the good it will do you, because I absolutely guarantee you that there is no point in me taking it!”

“I didn't realise you wanted siblings for Altan so much,” he says, rising from his seat. “I can't agree it's a good idea, but if that's what you wish.”

Rey's rage is transcendent. “You're unbelievable! There will be no more children because you are never to come near me again – do you hear?” The gravity of this declaration is spoiled by the fact that he is walking toward her. Rey backs quickly towards the door and finds, when her back hits it with a thump, that it has sealed behind her. “Open this door right now!”

“It'll only delay the inevitable,” he says.

“Inevitable? You deluded lunatic!” She turns away to begin hammering at the controls for the door. When this fails, she simply tries to jam her fingers into the gap to pry open the sliding panels. She freezes when a large hand comes to rest on the door beside hers.

“You seemed willing enough this morning.”

“It's called pity.”

“Pity made you gasp my name like that?”

She can practically feel the heat of him radiating against her back. “Step away from me, or I will hurt you.”

“Do you promise?”

That almost sounds like a joke, but she's not sure Kylo Ren does jokes. She spins around, hand raised warningly, and maybe it would be as futile as a kitten batting at a wolf, but she's certainly angry enough to try.

Kylo's liquid gaze slides from her hand to her face. “Go on. Do it.”

A crack splits the air as the flat of her hand meets his jaw non too gently. His head whips to the side with the blow, and when he turns back to her she sees a dash of red on his lip. She feels a stab of remorse as he licks at the blood, but when she notices the look in his eyes she has to turn her head away. Of course he likes pain.

He leans over her, forearm resting against the door above her head. Save for throwing herself out the window into the cold vacuum of space, Rey is utterly trapped.

“When was the last time you were touched by a man?” he asks, emphasising his question by lightly trailing the tip of his gloved finger from the bottom of her ear down her neck.

There's something intoxicating about his presence this close. She tries to ignore it but even the lightest touch on her throat makes a warmth stir in the pit of her belly. “This morning,” she says, because she knows that's not what he's asking. “And last night too.”

Her caginess won't deter him. “And before then? It's been ten years... surely you've had men since that time?”

“Oh, dozens. Hundreds. So many I've lost count. Men, women, calamari, I've had half the Resistance in my bed.” She raises her chin, waiting to see what he makes of that. Of course he won't believe it, but if he thinks for a second that she is going to admit that he was the last man she ever slept with, he can think again. Gods only knows what such a confession would do to his ego.

She doesn't quite expect the indifference with which he regards her. “Maybe the traitor. Whatever was his name? F-N? The one Altan presumed was his father. Perhaps because you gave the traitor the rights to you his real father should have had.”

“You've no right to me,” she says icily.

“It doesn't matter. Whoever and however many you've taken, you've always belonged to me.”

Rey knocks his hand away from where it traces her collar bone. “I belong to you?” she scoffs. “Why? You were never my first. That honour belongs to a scrap merchant who gave me thirty portions for it. You weren't the best. The only reason your clumsy fumbling gave me any kind of pleasure was because you had the help of an ancient cosmic Force. I had your child, but all that proves is that I was nineteen and stupid and no one had ever told me how it all worked. The only person who ever educated me was your mother, and by then it was too late. Even she told me to terminate.”

His eyes harden a fraction. “Why didn't you?”

Rey doesn't speak for a moment. It's not something she liked to think about, especially at the time when it was actually happening. She had not realised she was pregnant for several months after returning to Palamoor, or at least, that was what she believed. She had been nauseous and aching and her monthly cycles had stopped, but she had not been educated enough to know what that meant, especially in conjunction with the symptoms of the broken force bond – the nightmares, the insomnia, the lack of appetite, the wildly fluctuating emotions and weakened powers. It was Leia who had figured it out long before Rey.

She had been very well-meaning, kindly taking her aside to point out that she would have to start wearing much baggier clothes if she hoped to keep people fooled much longer. Rey had broken down like a child, confessing to everything like some kind of criminal. She remembers how still and pale Leia had become, how afraid she'd been that her son had done something far worse than she'd imagined, and even when Rey had explained that it was a mutual encounter, Leia had still urged her not to have this child.

It would have been easier. She would not have had to tell Finn, and watch a disappointment come over his face that has never really gone away. She would not have had to endure the sideways looks and whispers people always give a pregnant woman with no father in sight. She would not have had to go through two days of painful labour pains, and most of all she would not be here. By choosing to have Tam, she'd tied herself inexorably to Kylo Ren in a way far more real and unbreakable than any Force Bond.

So why had she done it?

All she can offer Kylo is a shrug. “It was too late,” but that's not the entire truth. She's not sure if it was a mixture of ignorance, denial, or the absence of the bond had made her want to cling desperately to preserve whatever remained of that fading link.

Kylo's gaze skims across her face. He picks at the glove of his left hand, easing it off, and for the first time she sees his bare hand. His thumb and forefinger are still organic, but the rest of his hand is a mesh of carbon and metal alloy ligaments that form a ragged seam with rest of his scarred, rippled flesh. It looks like in his fight with Snoke, most of it was literally torn off. When he turns his hand and brushes the back of his metal fingers over her cheek, it's exactly as cold as she expects.

“We both made sacrifices for that boy,” he says, as his warmer thumb follows the line of her lower lip. “That's why we belong to each other. No one else in this universe will ever understand you like I do. No one else knows how much darkness there is in your heart.”

Rey's hands fist at her sides. “You bring out the darkness in me,” she says, her voice escaping in a hiss of emotion. “It isn't who I am. I don't like who I am around you.”

An almost-smile lingers on his split lip. “And what's so bad about the darkness?”

“You're in it for a start.”

“It's part of you. Why don't you try embracing it?”

She cocks her head. “That's rich coming from you. I know how the light eats at you. If you weren't so tempted by the light, you would be ruling the First Order and half the galaxy by now. It weakens you. But you're just as afraid to commit to it... that's why you hang on here at the edge of space unable to move forward, when you could have come home years ago.”

She watches his eyes tighten and his jaw twitch as his face lowers close to hers. “I can never go back,” he says, his tone as hard as flint.

“And I cannot stay,” she says, just as firmly. “So how can we belong together?”

His metal finger pushes her chin up. “Do I need to show you again?” he says, moments before his mouth touches hers. She tastes his blood and feels an answering longing so bone deep she feels the pain flare anew in her chest.

“Don't.” She turns her head away.

“I know, I feel it,” he says, almost tenderly. “It'll hurt so much more before it begins to feel better.”

“It's not right,” she tries to say.

“According to what rules?” He captures her mouth again, and this time she tastes blood and intent. He's tired of games. He's wanted her since the moment she stepped aboard, or longer perhaps, and he's done waiting. His grip on her chin is almost punishing, determinedly keeping her in place as his half-hand reaches to span the small of her back.

The pain in her chest is as intense as ever, but it's a bittersweet kind of pain. It makes her want to cry and laugh and kiss him sweetly or rake her nails down his throat. It's what he does to her. She's tired of trying to make sense of it or stow it away like a shameful secret. If this is what darkness feels like, then she has become it.

Winding a hand up into his thick hair, she presses closer. His arms come around her, warm, enclosing, safe. Too gentle. She bites his lip hard. Her back hits the door once more with a thump and she looks up to see Kylo dabbing his lip as fresh blood runs once more. The dark look he gives her shows that he understands.

The next thing she knows, his hand is wrapped loosely around her throat as pulls her belt free with a series of sharp tugs. There's a snap as he rips his other glove off with his teeth, then his hand is sliding beneath her tunic, running a trail of electricity over her stomach and down – shoving aside the fabric of her undergarments to slide right between her legs. Rey's chest rises in a gasp of shock at the suddenness of the touch. She seizes fistfuls of his black surcoat as the side of his face presses to her own.

“Excuse my clumsy fumbling,” he grinds out, pressing his fingers into her.

She feels his teeth nip at her ear, a soft bite at odds with the gentle slide of his fingers. Her breath catches. The fact that she's already wet betrays how much his proximity alone affects her, but it doesn't seem to matter now. She's beyond pride or embarrassment. Her eyes drift shut as he strokes her, driving up a shivering pleasure that makes her knees shake.

Suddenly he stops, removing his hand to splay it over her hip, and removing the pleasure with it. She frowns up at him to see him watching her face. “You're not doing a very good job of convincing me you were only attracted to me because of a Force Bond,” he comments.

A shuddering sigh escapes her. “I hate you...”

“That rings true, at least.” Kylo's fingers drive up into her hair, disturbing her neat bun to bring a silky coil of walnut hair over her shoulder. He presses his nose to it, breathing in her scent as his hand works back between her thighs, setting off a powerful tremor that races through her body.

“Do you despise me?” he asks quietly, stroking quick enough to make her lips part in a soft moan.

“Yes,” she all but whimpers.

“Do you loathe me?”

“With all my heart.” She can't help the way her hips move against his hand, chasing the sensations he draws out.

“Then why don't you resist?” he asks, his mouth brushing her ear.

“I can't,” she gasps. “Oh, I can't.

He steps away from her so suddenly, she has to grip the edge of the doorway to keep from crumbling to her knees. She gives him an accusing glare. His face is tense and flushed, and with a jerk of his hand in the air, she feels the door slide open behind her.

“You can go,” he says shortly. “I won't stop you.”

She stares at him in bald confusion, absently tugging her tunic straight.

“Or start removing your clothes right now.”

Ah. Now she understands. Rey glances over her shoulder into the bright corridor, a nice large window to freedom that she can run through and never look back. She looks back at Kylo and he's waiting for her decision, hands clenched into anxious fists.

She really does understand him better than anyone else in the universe, she thinks, though his painfully honest face makes it easy. She watches that face closely, as she reaches down to pull free the belt that he'd loosened and drop it to the ground. She sees the relief he tries to school, the way he relaxes and sharpens all at the same time.

There's no point trying to be sexy. She doesn't know how even if it occurred to her. She shucks off her cloak and tunic with the unceremonious efficiency with which she undresses every night. She kicks off her boots and pushes her culottes to the floor, though she keeps her eyes on Kylo's face, watching his anticipation and the greedy way he looks at her. Once her breast band joins the pile of clothing on the floor, she straightens, unselfconscious beneath his gaze.

“Are you going to shut the door?” she asks. Anyone happening past is about to get an eyeful.

Distractedly he raises his hand and the door seals shut once more. “Get on the bed,” he tells her.

She glances at his bed – naturally clad entirely with black sheets – and considers for a moment. “Alright.”

But she doesn't make it as far as the bedside before she feels his large hand clamp around her upper arm and drag her against his body. The rough cloth of his coat feels even harsher against her bare skin, though its hard to think because he's kissing her again. His hands stroke down her back, gripping and pinching, pulling her closer until she can hardly breathe.

Then just as suddenly, he pushes her back and she lands on a bed that has hardly more give than a plank of wood. She's about to point this out when she notices he's standing over her, one knee on the edge of the mattress and undoing the fastenings of his trousers.

Rey plants a foot on his chest before he can get any closer. “And the rest,” she says. It's only fair that he take all his clothes off too.

Kylo's response is to seize her ankle and drag her closer, pushing her thighs apart. She can see he intends to take her like that, on the edge of the bed like he's too impatient to do anything else.

For some reason it's too easy. Too tame. And she doesn't like that he's ignored her suggestion to get undressed. She shoves her foot against his chest again, breaking his grip just long enough to give her time to scramble to the other side of the bed.

He's on her in seconds, fingers wrapped tightly around her wrists and wrestling her onto her back. She fights him, throwing all her weight and strength against his grip. He has trouble keeping her left arm pinned. The mechno limb is far stronger than a normal flesh and bone one. She hears its tiny motors whir in protest as she grips his arm and pushes back, forcing him over until she's straddling his stomach, arms trembling with the effort to keep him down. He could probably throw her off him – throw her across the room if he wanted to. But that's not part of the game, for that's exactly what it is.

Perhaps it's odd, that this wrestling and grappling and riled temper is one of their more benign interactions. She releases his arms to tug at the belt around his waist, but she can do little more than unhook the metal clasp before he shoves her off, rolling her roughly onto her front and covering her with his weight.

They're both panting and out of breath, and Rey has no purchase to throw him off unless she draws on the force. She hates to lose, especially to Kylo Ren, but she's done with the fight. She wants the weight of him, the unyielding touches and if he doesn't do something about the ache he created between her legs, she may actually scream.

No words pass between them as he shifts, his knees bracketing hers. There's just the brush of his knuckles against her inner thigh, and then he's pushing into her, so suddenly and so deeply that Rey cries out and reaches up to slap his ear until pins this arm too. It stings. Her body isn't used to this kind of fundamental male intrusion, but she embraces the pain and the incredible sense of fullness – she needs both.

And she can't blame anyone but herself. There is no mental link between them, the Force feels inert around them, as indifferent to what is going on as ever. Her need for him is all her own, its all her own pleasure that she takes in his hitched breaths and the bitten off groans in her ear. He covers her completely, and her body jolts with the force of each deep, slow thrust. She can't see him. She can only hear and feel him. If she looks to her left she can see his half metal hand clamped around her entirely metal wrist. If she looks to her right, she can see make out his hand clasped tightly around hers, their fingers linked and holding tight.

It feels too good. She can feel herself clenching around him sweetly, invitingly, and hears how he feels it too as he whispers a curse and his pace changes. When his left hand releases her to slide beneath her hip and stroke her sex, they both groan as her body quivers and tenses.

“You're mine,” he tells her, pressing deeper into her.

How he still has the capacity for speech is beyond her. Rey barely feels like herself anymore. She's more of the very animal he often accuses her of being.

“Say it,” he grunts, stroking faster. “Say you're mine.”

She shakes her head, mostly because she knows how it'll infuriate him. True enough she feels the actual growl reverberate deep in his chest as he begins to move harder, more punishing, and with the unrelenting stroke of his fingers she feels herself begin to slide towards climax.

Blackness creeps into the edges of her vision as her senses narrow and the pleasure begins to crest in waves so strong so can't stop from crying out. She pushes back against him, desperate for more contact, more of him, more of anything.

And just for a second she feels a rush of emotion so strong, she knows it doesn't belong to her.

As the sensation ebbs and Rey sags, drained of all energy and breath, she becomes aware that Kylo is still above her, still hard and tense and his fingers dig into her hips.

“I really wish you hadn't thrown away that pill,” he says, voice strained and ragged.

Rey rolls her hips experimentally against him and is rewarded with tightening fingers trying desperately to keep her still. As much as the idea of tormenting him more thrills her to no end, she decides to put him out of his misery. “What do you take me for?” she asks languidly. “I've had an implant since Tam was born.”

“All those lovers, I suppose,” he remarks.

“Something like that.”

When he begins to move inside her once more, Rey revels in the power of his body and how quickly he starts to come undone. Ten years had dulled her memory of their last time together, but she always remembered how he finished, how the intensity of it surprised her, coming from a man who battled so hard every minute of every day to be utterly controlled. His climax was one of those occasions when he became different, someone freer and instinctual. It's when she feels him tremble, hears his voice break, and he reaches for her like she's his lifeline.

His hand slides up her throat, urging her head up. “Kiss me,” he says.

Rey obeys, twisting just enough to meet his mouth and sink her fingers into his soft hair. She feels him reach his limit at once, his body snapping hard against hers in shuddering thrusts as he moans against her lips. The unbidden thought that he's actually rather beautiful like that crosses her mind, and Rey feels a flush of embarrassment. Observations like that just makes her stomach do flips in a very unhelpful way.

They sink to the bed, Kylo rolling away to leave a space between them. Rey is quite grateful. He's a heavy guy and rather too warm to stay pressed together. She eases onto her side, contemplating the dark corners of the room and the new wetness between her legs.

Gradually all those thoughts that she managed to keep at bay come creeping back. All the reasons why should very definitely should not have done what she'd just done. She chews her lip quietly, thinking about what Finn would say. He'd barely forgiven her for sleeping with Kylo the first time, she can only imagine how he would now write her off as a lost cause. Leia would be disappointed. As much as a mother must love her son, Leia can't imagine why anyone else would bother.

She hears a soft rustle behind her as Kylo turns toward her. After a moment, she feels his warm hand begin to trace a path along her spine. It's such a gentle touch. Undemanding. Just touching for the sake of exploring her skin.

Rey is struck by a strange feeling of deja vu that she cannot place, moments before his hand stops over her ribs.

“I saw this in a vision once,” she hears him say, as if unsure.

Rey rolls over carefully to face him.

“Yes, just like that.” He's frowning at her as if he's never seen her before. “Before we ever met, I saw this moment.”

She blinks at him, tucking her hands under her chin. “Your visions are as presumptuous as you are,” she says.

“And yet here you are,” he remarks, and there's something possessively triumphant in the way his fingers stroke across her ribs and over her breast.

“It would have served you right if I'd just walked out the door,” she says.

“Before or after you took off your clothes?”

That's one of his almost-jokes. Rey is still generally bewildered that he possesses any sense of humour at all, though the rare glimpses she sees reminds her of Leia, in that mostly he seems to employ it to cut others down with varying degrees of viciousness. She wrinkles her nose and tries not to smile.

“What else did your vision show you?” she asks him as she reaches out almost casually to touch the edges of the ragged white scar that mars his cheek.

“I've forgotten most of it, I thought it was so far out of the realm of possibility when you left me on that moon.”

She detects the faint note of accusation in his tone and her finger pauses on his jaw as she's caught up in her own memory, of seeing his face through the glass of the X-wing as the ship struggled to escape his grip. He'd been breaking apart. He hadn't been able to deny her plea for freedom, and he'd lost her before he ever released Poe's fighter.

He'd raged for days, he'd destroyed countless pieces of equipment, he'd choked an officer for looking at him askance, and his pain had been so intense it had become a crippling physical thing until Snoke had intervened. He'd done something to Kylo. Frozen something. The pain had eased but then he'd been able to feel nothing; no anger, no pleasure, no grief and no mercy. What little light existed inside him had been pinched out.

She used you, that horrible soft voice of darkness called Snoke had whispered to him. She never cared. Like all children of the light, she is vacuous and fleeting and looks down upon the darkness without understanding its depths. Do not harbour desire for such an incomplete creature.

Rey jerks her hand away from his face, belatedly realising these memories do not belong to her. Sometimes her ability bleeds through unexpectedly, but... she's not quite sure that's what it feels like.

“I had to leave,” she says faintly, having never spared even a thought to how it must have made him feel, and how the broken bond would have affected a man already barely in control of himself. “You would have turned me into your prisoner. You keep forgetting that we were enemies. We are enemies.”

“Even now?”

She thinks for a moment. “In a different way. I may even be your prisoner anyway.”

Kylo taps a knuckle against her wrist. “I don't see any chains.”

“Chains don't have to be made of metal to tie you down just as surely,” she points out.

He sits up on his elbow, his eyes narrowing. “You came here of your own choice. I didn't force you.”

“You have my son.”

“And your search for your son led you into my bed? You were quite eager to get under my clothes, but I don't think you'll find I've hidden him there.” He scowls incredulously and picks up a lock of her hair between his fingers. “Admit it. You came here for Tam, but just now... you came for me.”

Rey has to press her lips together very hard to keep from smiling. “That's the second slightly witty thing you've said in as many minutes. You should get laid more often. It seems to make you almost charming.”

“No, that is just the way you make me,” he says, his gaze trailing over her body. “You may despise how I make you feel, but in many ways... I prefer the person I am around you. I feel steadier when you are with me.”

Rey looks away from him, a hard feeling rising in her throat. That is not a responsibility she wants. “Is that why you are so desperate to own me?” she asks with a hint of frostiness.

“I think it is more the other way round. Maybe you already own me?”

“Hmm.” Rey raises her eyebrows at him. “My goodness. Owning Kylo Ren? But what on earth would I do with him?”

“Maybe you could-”

“I'd order him to be quiet for a start.”

She's faintly amused when he says nothing further, and she suspects she's being invited into another game. She shouldn't indulge it, but she's growing to like the way he looks at her, like no one else ever has.

Sliding over, she draws her leg over his to straddle him, gripping his shoulders to push herself upright. Automatically his hands come up, stroking over her hips and belly and tracing the old surgical scar from when Tam was born.

“Who said you could touch?” she asks. With a strained sigh he removed his hands, fisting them beneath his pillow instead.

“I should ask you to take your clothes off,” she says, realising what she wants more than anything is to stretch out alongside him and feel nothing between them. “But you'll take too long. Maybe later.”

He's already hard when she takes him in her hand, and when she sinks slowly down onto him she watches the expressions chase across his face. He breaks the rule not to speak when he gasps her name, but Rey so likes the way he says it that she doesn't punish him too harshly. She just places her fingers against his lips as his brow furrows and his hands spasm against the need to touch her.

The slick, steady movement warms her blood but it doesn't compare to watching him struggle against his own nature to take control, to dominate warring with his desire to be dominated. When his control snaps and he seizes her hip, trying to make her move faster, she roughly pushes his hand down beside his head and wraps her hand around his throat. “Don't,” she whispers, warning him of all the punishments she can inflict on him in that single word.

She feels the flush of excitement roll through him. Or is it through her? For a moment she doesn't know, and she hesitates, a little afraid of what that means.

Kylo seems to guess this isn't part of the game. “Don't stop,” he pleads.

Perhaps she imagined it, for the feeling fades, and her sense of self is alone again. She tightens her hand on his throat. “Then don't talk,” she warns, and begins to move in a way that makes the issue moot; she doesn't think Kylo could speak even if he wanted to.

When the computer panel above the headboard lights up and begins emit loud, shrill beeps, Rey gives a cry of surprise and nearly falls of the bed. Beneath her Kylo growls in frustration and slams his hand against the panel. “WHAT?” he all but shouts.

The sudden change from semi-playful lover to tyrannical overlord is so astonishing, she wonders if its the same man.

“Sir, two TIE scouts just exited hyperspace,” says the panel. “We destroyed one, but the other...”

Kylo sits up forcefully, no longer all that aware that Rey is in his lap. “Are you telling me you've let one escape?” he demands.

“I-It just jumped, sir. We winged it but-”

Kylo silences the panel with a thump as Rey quickly climbs off his lap and hurries to her pile of clothes. “Go get Altan,” he says, refastening his clothes with sharp tugs. “Take him down to the hangar. I'll meet you there.”

Rey hops on the spot as she pulls up her culottes. “You're going to hand him to Scorpus Ren? I told you, let me-”

“Don't argue with me,” he says shortly. “For once just do as you're told.”

He grabs his mask from its place by the window and slides it over his head. Already he's fully dressed and Rey is still fighting to get into her undershirt. He strides for the door, but pauses as he passes her. “We'll continue later,” he says as evenly as if all that was interrupted was a professional meeting.

“Ha!” Is Rey's retort, bordering on a hysterical sort of sound. A First Order fleet may be minutes away, he's handing her child over to the scum of the universe, Tam has foretold his death, and instead of thinking about all that, he's thinking about sex still. “You're something else, you know that?” she says, and she doesn't mean in kindly.

But because Kylo is still thinking about sex, he says, “Thank you.”

And then he's striding out, leaving Rey to fume silently as she struggles on the rest of her clothing.

 

 

Chapter Text


The Storm

Tam is at his desk when she enters his room, kicking his heels against his chair as he scribbles away at something with all the intensity of a genius working on their magnum opus.

“Tam,” she calls, “Come along. Kylo wants you in the hangar.”

“I drew something for you,” says Tam, raising his work for her to see.

“Very nice! Come along.”

He scowls at her. “You're not even looking!”

“I'm looking!” she protests, and crosses to the desk to take a proper look, if only to appease him so they can get moving. “Oh, that's lovely. You drew a spider”

“That's Kylo Ren,” he says impatiently. “Look, and that's you, and that's me in the middle.”

The spider did seem to be holding hands with something she had assumed to be a fly, and the fly in turn seems to be attached to something on its other side which looks like an upside-down broomstick with arms and legs.

“It really is lovely,” she lies sweetly, tucking he picture into her tunic. “When we get back, we'll frame it and send it to Kylo.”

Tam looks at her seriously. “Where are we going?”

“I told you... your father wants you to go with Scorpus Ren for a while.”

“Oh.” Tam's face closes up and turns oddly blank. “Ok.”

“Come on. And don't forget your lightsaber.”

He let's her take his hand, but it's quite like leading a freshly wiped droid through the halls.

“Why are we bringing our lightsabers?” he asks her flatly, when she pauses at her own room to fetch her saberstaff.

“A jedi never leaves the house without their lightsaber,” she tells him. “It just completes your outfit.”

She doesn't tell him that the hairs standing up along the back of her neck are warning her that the storm is almost upon them. The second it comes, she wants to be as well armed as possible.

The elevator lets out onto a long corridor, striped with long windows that look down onto the hangar below. She sees several new ships she assumes must belong to the Knights of Ren, and she brings Tam to a stop when she sees three of the knights gathered below.

“Let's wait here for Kylo,” she says, having no desire to go down and 'mingle'. “I wonder where the other Knights are...”

“Scorpus is with Kylo,” Tam says with certainty.

“You can feel him?”

“He's the only Knight that has the Force,” says Tam, placing his chin on the lip of the window as he watches the people and droids moving about the ships below. “He's not trained though. Like Nana.”

“I'm surprised Kylo hasn't trained him...”

“He says that's 'asking for trouble'.” Tam looks up at her. “How long will I have to go away with Scorpus?”

“Not long, I'm sure,” she says tensely. “Tell me, how many Knights are there these days?”

“Just those three down there and Scorpus. And Kylo Ren, obviously. There were a couple of others, but we think they were killed by the First Order a while back. It's weird seeing them here...”

“Why?”

Tam appears to think carefully about his answer. “Well, normally they're not allowed here. Kylo Ren says he's been leading them for, like, twenty years, and that's the longest anyone has ever been leader of the Knights... and I dunno, he said something once about how wheels always turn and I'm not sure what that means, because no one uses wheels anymore.”

“It means people who rise to the top inevitably return to the bottom again,” Rey explains, sighing inwardly.

So Kylo doesn't even trust his own Knights anymore. How desperate is he to turn to them for help now, she wonders

It's not long before the elevator behind them opens once more, and Rey turns to see Kylo stepping out with the white-masked Scorpus just a step behind him. Rey stamps down the odd thrill in her stomach at just the sight of him and squeezes Tam's hand tightly within her own.

“Come,” is all he says as he sweeps past without sparing either of them a glance.

Feeling a wave of trepidation she cannot ignore, Rey tugs on Tam's hand and follows on behind the two Knights. Something is not right, and as much as she wants to avoid trouble, now is not the time for obedience.

Rey lifts her hand slightly and curls her fingers, tugging on the Force just hard enough to detach a pouch from Scorpus Ren's belt. It clatters noisily to the ground, making him pause and turn, but Rey – who is ever so helpful – quickly snatches it up and offers it back. “Here, you dropped this.”

She makes sure to hold the pouch in such a way that the Knight has no choice but to brush her fingers as he takes it from her. He doesn't even say 'thank you', but Rey doesn't care, the touch is just enough to tell her all she needs.

Anger. Anxiety. Disgust. Fear. Determination.

It's all just a fleeting impression of the Knight's current mental state. Rey falls back into step and watches the back of Kylo's hooded head. It's not easy without the easy openness of their former Bond, but she reaches out and directs her thoughts at him with a whisper she feeds directly into his mind.

He's going to betray you.

Nothing about Kylo's demeanor changes to indicate he's heard her.

He's masking his feelings from you, but I can sense it. Don't trust him.

There is still no reaction. If he cannot hear her, Rey wonders how else to warn him without tipping off the Knight. Most of all, she needs to keep Tam safe. She looks down at the boy, offering him a smile. But Tam doesn't return it. He only looks at her curiously with a faint frown.

Can you hear me? She wonders, watching her son.

Tam nods ever so slightly.

Tell Kylo that Scorpus will betray him. Quickly.

She watches Tam's eyes flick to his father and he chews his lip the same way Rey does when she's concentrating. After a moment he glances back at her. He says he already knows.

Wonderful.

They follow the corridor down a set of stairs that leads into the open hangar. Rey can see the lines of TIE fighters being prepped in their bays, and formations of droids specialised for battle clip along in a state of readiness. The three Knights of Ren watch their approach, hands resting with casual lightness on their weapons.

Ever so subtly, Rey pulls Tam in so that he's almost walking behind her.

“You know your orders?” asks Kylo, coming to a halt.

Scorpus takes a few more steps before turning to face him. “Of course, Master. Though I do not understand why you do not simply give us the new coordinates of the Lancer. We could deliver the boy back to you easily enough-”

“We are in this situation, because one of your number was careless enough to allow himself to be tracked,” Kylo interrupts in a cutting tone. “The eyes of the First Order are on the Knights of Ren, believing you will lead them to me. You know this.”

“As you say,” says Scorpus, affecting a deliberately slow nod of acquiescence.

Rey feels Tam's small hand tugging at hers. “Mom...”

“The arrangement will continue as before,” continues Kylo. “Do you wish to object?”

Scorpus' pause is too long. “Not at all.”

Kylo is staring at him very hard, and Rey notices how the other Knights shift uneasily. It feels like a shadow is passing over the hangar, like a cloud blotting out the sun, though nothing on the surface appears to change.

“Mom,” Tam tugs more urgently.

“What?” she looks at him sharply, just as red lights flare and flash overheard. The low baritone of a siren begins its ascending wail of warning.

“The First Order are here – let's go!” shouts one of the Knights.

“Master Altan,” Scorpus holds his hand out to the boy. “It's time to go.”

Tam begins to move, but Rey's grip on his hand tightens, pulling him back. Scorpus' mask twitches toward her in irritation. “Bloody woman.” he surges toward them, ready to rip Tam from her very hands.

His path is halted by the snap and flare of the red lightsaber. It cuts through the air before him, forcing him back.

“You do not guard your thoughts as carefully as you believe,” says Kylo raising his hand slowly towards Scorpus. Rey detects the tremor in the Force, the low almost animal-like rumble of power as Scorpus begins to gasp and stagger. “Your malice pours off you like a stink. Did you really think I wouldn't notice? We've tolerated each other for over twenty years, and you choose to strike now? While the First Order attacks? Coward.”

“You're the one who changed,” grunts Scorpus. “Sheltering that woman when we once agreed – her kind needs to be wiped out! You're nothing but a jedi-lover!”

Kylo clenches his fist with a jerk and Scorpus crumbles to his knee.

Around them a deep shiver passes through the complex. The first missile strikes have landed and the hangar fills with deafening swoops as the first squadron of TIE fighters are launched. People are rushing to their stations, and on the battle droids have turned and taken notice of the situation unfolding with the Knights of Ren.

Tam's hand is clammy and rigid in Rey's, but she has to let go. “Go take cover, Tam. Now.”

But the second the boy leaves her side, she sees one of the Knights look over and lift his heavy blaster.

“No!” she screams, the same moment he fires.

It seems like chaos breaks out in that split second. Kylo's attention on Scorpus breaks, and with a speed she can't fathom, he reaches out. The searing ball of plasma and light that was streaking towards Tam freezes in the air, but at the same moment, Scorpus lashes out with his barbaric sword. She sees Kylo jerk. Flecks of warm blood splash across Rey's face.

Rey no longer makes sense of what happens. With a scream of anger she ignites her staff and charges, spinning in perfectly savage arcs of gold light as she slices through Scorpus' sword and slashes his arm. The other Knights are firing at her. The droids are clattering forth, firing too. The Force wraps in a tight ball around her rage, and she unleashes it with a blast that sends one of the Knights flying, hitting the hull of his own shuttle with a sickening crunch. The Knight with the heavy blaster hesitates, and in that opening Rey hurls herself at him, sliding across the black mirror-like floor to bring her staff hard against his legs. As he falls, she raises the staff, aiming to stab him clean through the back-

A horrible shock lances through her body, making her jerk and shake. It lasts only a moment, but it's almost like all the energy is wiped from her in a single moment, leaving her panting on the floor, teeth and fingers aching while the stench of burning hair fills her nose. It takes her a moment to realise its coming from her.

Above her is the third Knight, a large, crooked baton in his hand that crackles and sparks with electricity. He raises it above his head, and Rey just doesn't have the energy to deflect it. She raises her hand weakly, bracing herself for a blow that is sure to shatter her skull.

In a moment it changes. The red shaft of a lightsaber suddenly sprouts from his chest. She watches his limbs drop like a puppet cut from its strings, and when he falls across her feet, the only one standing there is Kylo.

Her grabs her arm and pulls her to her feet, and Rey sways there, waiting for the feeling to come back into her limbs. She looks around – Scorpus Ren seems to be in several different pieces by the looks of things. The battle droids pick through the parts, blaster pistols drawn.

“None of them hit anything,” Kylo grinds out, glaring at the droids, clearly thinking about melting them all down.

“Tam?” Rey calls dizzily. Her vision isn't so clear, and when she sees two small heads pop out from behind some steel drums, her brain takes a second to consolidate this image into one. “Oh, thank goodness...”

“Mom!” Tam runs straight into her arms, almost bowling her over on her wobbly legs. “Mom, you smell smoke.”

Another tremor shakes the base, and the only reason Rey understand it isn't just her own trembling body is because another siren begins screeching in warning.

Kylo looks away. “I need to be on the bridge.”

“Let me take Tam,” she says.

He whirls, seizing Tam's arm. “You will not-”

“It's not safe!” she shouts, refusing to release her hold on her son's other arm.

Tam looks petrified. He stares at the floor, which is slick with blood and sprinkles of ash.

“Ben!” she says again, pleadingly, as another rumbling explosion makes the lights shiver and dip.

He glances away from her, his hand dropping away from Tam's arm, leaving a handprint of red. “Then go.” His voice is hard and cold, and then he's walking away without a backwards glance.

Relief floods Rey as she begins to pull Tam in the direction of one of the Knight's shuttles. Yet Tam stares after his father in shock. “Kylo-” he shouts, reaching out futilely to his retreating form. “Dad! Dad, don't go!”

“Tam!” Rey is already at her physical limits, and walking is difficult enough with her son actually fighting her grip. “Tam, we have to go!”

“But-”

“No! Get in the shuttle!” She pushes him ahead of her up the gangway and limps to the controls to seal the door. The shuttle is similar enough to the last one she flew, so she eases down into the pilot's seat, focused on firing up on the engines.

Tam inches into the co-pilot's seat.

“Put your belt on,” she says, and he obeys automatically, his face as white as chalk.

“Mom, he was really hurt,” he says quietly, looking at the bloody handprint on his sleeve. “All that blood on the floor... it was his.”

Rey's face is frozen as she links up the engines and brings the craft up. “I know,” she says tightly. The can feel the blood splatter cracking on her face. She can taste it on her tongue. Scorpus cut him deeply. So deeply she can feel a hand of fear clenching around her heart. “Kylo has survived worse, I promise. He'll be ok.”

Tam says nothing more.

There's a whir and a clang as the legs retract and Rey guides the shuttle out into the black emptiness of space. The comet is surrounded by a field of ice and rock and she cannot engage the hyperdrive until they're clear. Rey tries to keep her mind on this task to the exclusion of all other thoughts as Tam leans about looking through the windows.

“Is that them?” he whispers.

Rey glances once in the direction he points and feels her heart plummet.

The First Order fleet is still distant, but it's enormous. She counts three star-destroyers alone with the naked eye, each almost as large at the Celestial Lancer, and countless other vanguard ships. General Hux is not sparing an expense. He wants Kylo dead, and in that moment she is quite certain that there is no other outcome. The Lancer doesn't have the defenses to withstand even one star destroyer.

Another volley of missiles slam against the comet's surface, shattering its icy, outer surface. Rey has to bank hard to avoid being struck, and with a spurt of speed she clears the corona and begins to pump the hyperdrive.

“They're going to explode it!” Tam cries out.

Rey says nothing, because to say otherwise would be a lie.

“We have to go back or Kylo Ren will die!” he begs her.

“If we go back, then we die too!” she shouts, her heart breaking for too many reasons to count. “I'm sorry, Tam. We have to leave.”

She reaches to engage the hyperdrive at the same time Tam lifts his hand.

For some reason she can't flip the switch. Her hand trembles and shakes as she tries to bring it down, but it feels like a terrible strength holds her in place.

She looks at Tam and sees him staring back with wide dark eyes full of fear. When he moves his hand, hers moves too, drawing away from the console.

“What are you doing?” she gasps, “Stop that at once!”

Some part of her mind refuses to believe what she's seeing. He can't really hold her in place like this, she thinks. He's only ten. Not even Kylo could put her in a freeze her these days. She tries to focus herself and shift past the control, but when she does, she feels it wrap around her all the more tightly.

“I'm sorry,” he whispers, utterly terrified. “I'm really sorry, please don't be angry.”

Rey can't even move her mouth to speak now. Out of the corner of her eye she sees him unbuckle his harness and step towards her. His shaking hand touches her brow almost hesitantly, and she feels the beginnings of an intrusion into her mind.

Tam, don't-

And then she can't even think, for he's young and clumsy and he slices through her thoughts like a knife, cutting right through her defences to rip through her thoughts. If she could have screamed, she would have. He doesn't know what he's looking for, but he pores through her mind with the destructive recklessness of a desperate child.

He finds the thread of memories belonging to her training, and pulls hard. All the things she saw, all the things she learned, he hunts through and discards. Healing? No. Absorbing memories through touch? No. He spins through her teachings, looking for something he can use, something he doesn't know will be right until he sees it.

Rey valiantly tries to redirect him, head him off before he reaches the worst, most destructive abilities she promised herself she would never speak of. Things that the universe was right to forget. But Tam senses her evasiveness and cuts right to the heart of the very thing she tries to hide from him.

She had once told Kylo that she knew the ways of jedi who could use the force to destroy whole worlds.

Now Tam holds the knowledge in his hand and a change comes over his face. “That's for me,” he says, as if he's found his name on it.

No!

Still prying open her memory, he raises his other hand, palm out toward the oncoming fleet. His eyes drift shut and his chin drops to his chest, and she can tell he's meditating. She tries once more to wrest back control of her body, but she remains encased in ice and she can see no weaknesses in his grip.

She watches him struggle and focus, drawing on her memory as if it is his own, fingers trembling with the strain. Rey wonders how long it will be before the enemy TIE fighters notice them drifting here like sitting ducks. One good shot and they'll be dust.

“Ah!” Tam flinches upright again, staring in the direction of the fleet. “I did it.”

At once feeling rushes back through Rey's body and she sags, holding her hands to her aching head. “Tam, you shouldn't have done that,” she whispers.

“Look!”

She lifts her eyes to the window slowly, and watches in dread as a thin, feeble streak of blue appears at the heart of the fleet. It's so far away she can barely make much out. It looks like a trick of the light almost, twisting and slowly growing, whipping around like smoke in a funnel of air.

Something happens to the fleet. It's uniform approach begins to break and scatter, then inexorably draw together again towards the whirling, blue vortex that grows with each passing moment.

“Do you realise what you've done?” she asks him, staring at him through eyes that feel hot and glazed moisture.

“I've saved us,” he says, moments before the first star destroyer tilts sharply and begins to explode. “I hope Hux was on that one.”

Rey's mouth goes dry. “Stop it, Tam.”

“Why?” He watches the fleet closely, with evident satisfaction as the vortex widens and sweeps up half the ships on the left flank of the fleet.

She grabs him around the shoulders, turning him hard to face her. “The Celestial Lancer doesn't have engines, Tam – it can't maneuver and you've put a Force Storm directly in its path!”

Tam shifts his gaze back out the window, not quite so pleased anymore.

“Make it stop,” she says, giving him a shake. “You have to stop it!”

“I can't,” he says quietly. “I don't know how...”

A flash of light bleaches the surrounding space for a moment as the last two star destroyers ignite and break apart. The vortex swallows them whole like a greedy mouth, its edges spreading out like a widening smile – a jagged split in the fabric of space more deadly that the black hole beyond it.

Rey hastily draws up the communication panel, hailing the Lancer.

Please answer, please answer, she prays to herself, wondering if anyone on the bridge will even notice the hailings of a tiny shuttle at a time like this.

Suddenly the holoscreen flickers and fills and a grainy image of Kylo Ren's mask fills it.

“Why haven't you gone?” he demands imperiously.

“Listen to me – you have to evacuate the base,” she says. “There's a Force Storm up ahead- I can't explain it, there's no time – just get out of there!” Then she adds almost uncertainly. “I'll... I'll wait for you on Ahch-To.”

The image cuts out too soon and she wonders if he even caught her last words. She swallows and looks at Tam, who continues to stare at the widening vortex that has begun to take on the true scale of a storm for which its named. It roils and cracks, moving fast and erratically. Some of the Order's smaller ships at the edge of the fleet have escaped its reaching tendrils, but there are so few left now.

“We should go now,” she says quietly.

“But what about Kylo-”

“We can't wait around. Do you know what a Force Storm is, Tam? It's like a fire. It's easy to spark, but it will consume everything. If we don't go-”

She's cut off as a streak of blue flashes overhead, so close it nearly struck them.

“-something like that will happen,” she finishes with a mutter, reaching out to cycle up the hyperdrive again. “Jumping in ten seconds... strap in, please.”

As Tam hastily fastens up the harness, Rey watches the Celestial Lancer as it continues its unstoppable path towards the storm. It's speed and trajectory has probably been undisturbed for hundreds of years... but is it faltering now? The comet's tail seems to be misaligned, as if the comet has begun to turn, falling towards the inexorable pull of the Storm.

“Five seconds,” she breathes.

A moment later, the vortex whips out, crashing directly into the comet.

“NO!” screams Tam, throwing himself against his harness.

Rey has only the fleeting impression that the comet is shattering and blasting apart before she feels the familiar lunge of the ship slipping into hyperspeed.

Everything is oddly quiet. The stars stream past as blurring lines beyond the wormhole, and Rey watches them without thought. Tam is shivering almost uncontrollably in his seat, but she cannot look at him. She just stares unseeingly into the distance with no perception of time until the ship slips back out into normal space and the vast turquoise planet fills their vision. It's a vision of peace and stillness compared to what they left behind.

Rey doesn't do anything for a long time until the radio frequency crackles.

Unknown shuttle, please identify yourself. You have entered restricted space.”

She gazes at the communication panel as if she's not sure what it does.

Unknown shuttle, respond. If you do not identify yourself, it will be taken as a sign of aggression.”

Rey reaches out and compresses the callback button. “It's Rey,” she says flatly, her voice cracking. “I'm with the Resistance. Passcode... Falcon's Rest.”

After a few seconds, the radio crackles again. “Welcome back, Rey. You're cleared for landing.”

She finally looks across to the co-pilot's seat where Tam has gone still. Tears streak silvery lines down his cheeks. “Are you angry with me?” he asks in a quiet voice.

Rey cannot trust herself to answer. She blinks back her own bitter tears and takes the steering column in hand again, steering the ship towards the Resistance base on the planet below. Leia would be down there waiting for them. So would Finn and Poe and BB8.

She has missed them all so much but right at that moment Rey dreads the impending reunion with all her heart.

 

 

Chapter Text

fanart by Verauko

 

 

Part IV

 

The Falling Star

It's the pain that wakes Rey. Or the heat. She thought that Jakku would have prepared her for any kind of oven-like climate, but Kalboth is a humid heat. It clings impossibly to the skin and not a night goes by where Rey does not wake drenched. Everything sweats here, even the trees and the buildings. It does not help that she also wakes in agony.

With an unhappy groan she gropes around beside her palet for the small bottle of tiny pills the field surgeon gave her. They had worked once, letting her sleep through the night at least, but these days the painkillers don't seem to last more than a few hours. Rey washes one down her throat with the bottle of water she keeps with her, and rubs her shoulder patiently while she waits for the drug to take affect.

Once its reached a more manageable level, she glances at the time. It's still an hour before dawn, but since she's wide awake now she sees little point going back to sleep. She slides out from beneath her thin sheets and pads through the small pre-fab home. There's not much in the way of windows or doors. Screens keep the worst of the insects out, but on a night like this, the jungle presses in close, often literally intruding by way of some roots creeping up between the floorboards, or waxy leaves leaning in through the netted windows. The sounds of the outside world are just as near, and when Rey stops to listen, there is an almost deafening symphony of sound – chirping insects, whooping avians, and more distant songs of things the Resistance has taken to calling the 'Night Warblers' which resemble primates with dinner-plate eyes that taste pretty good if ever one gets fed up of the nightly inharmonious hooting.

It has to be said that these days Rey is getting used to the noise and has begun to tune out the noisy world. Though she's not sure she will ever get used to the heat.

Pulling on her day clothes, she pads silently through the house. It's a little too quiet. She stops outside another bedroom and gently pushes the door open, mindful of its squeaking hinge. Inside she's greeted by the sight of an empty bed, blankets strewn around the floor.

“Tam?” Rey whispers, feeling a rising note of panic within her as she steps inside and looks around, checking the dark corners.

She doesn't panic just yet. His shoes are still here, so he can't have gone far. Rey quickly heads out to the open porch and peers up into the trees that tower over their home. Each is so wide it would take six people holding hands to encircle them, and each is so tall it sometimes makes her dizzy to look up. She seeks one in particular, where spikes of timber have been wedged into the trunk to form a crude kind of staircase up into the branches.

Sure enough, there is a bare foot dangling from one of the higher branches. Rey swallows down her anxiety. If he were to fall, he would seriously hurt himself. But every time she points this out, it only makes him climb higher.

“Tam?” she calls up to him.

There's a long, empty silence for several seconds. “My name is Altan.”

Rey's heart drops a little, but she pushes past it quickly. “I need to head down to the base,” she says. “I'll be back later. Leia will be over for breakfast, so don't go wandering, ok?”

He says nothing.

“Ok?” she asks again.

“Ok!” he grunts back, sounding annoyed.

Rey wants to throw up her hands and growl, but somehow she tempers the feeling. She goes back inside to jam on her boots and grab her saberstaff, then heads out, following the narrow rut carved through the jungle that leads down into the sheltered valley below.

It's a long walk. By the time the base comes into sight beneath the golden and green canopy of trees, one of the suns has risen and the sky is a pale blue. This is about as close as she is permitted to live near the base, and the generals think they're being quite generous, all things considered. They had initially put her up in the barracks with the other families when she had first arrived, but as the specifics of the battle they had been fleeing came to light, she was politely asked to consider removing herself and her monstrous spawn to a location that wouldn't upset the other Resistance members and their families.

Rey thinks they're being quite irrational. If Tam summons another Force Storm, six miles isn't going to protect them.

The base is just beginning to wake up as she arrives. People are gathered at the water pumps and milling around the shower stalls. The earlier risers head in groups down to the mess hall, which is less of a hall, and more of a clearing where giant tree stumps have been turned into odd, circular tables.

Rey spots Finn emerging from around the corner of the barracks, his arm wrapped loosely around the shoulders of a woman in the fatigues of a pilot. When he sees Rey, his face brightens. He turns to say something to the woman at his side and they share a kiss. It's so full of simple warmth and tenderness that Rey has to look away, because it makes something inside her feel dangerously close to breaking.

“You're up early,” he greets her as he jogs over. “Are you here for the general assembly? I think it's at nine.”

“If there's time. I wanted to catch Doctor Horridge while he's freshly dosed with caffeine,” she says, falling into step beside him.

“You still in pain?” he gives her a puzzled look. “Don't go to Horridge. He'll just amputate your other arm, even if its only a hangnail. You should go to Thralk instead.”

“Thralk is worse!” she protests. “Last time I went to him with back pain, he didn't really seem to know what a spine was.”

“Well, sure, he's better with the invertebrates,” Finn shrugs. “But he hands out painkillers like candy. When Poe got that whiplash, whatever Thralk gave him made him high as a kite for three months straight. It was great. You haven't lived until you've seen Poe Dameron try to feed carrots to BB8.”

Rey manages a half-hearted smile that only seems to worry Finn even more. “You look really tired,” he points out.

“Thank you.”

“Well, you know...”

“I know.”

“How is Tam?”

Rey keeps her face carefully neutral. “He's still not really talking to me. And it's Altan now,” she says, with enough exasperation to let him know exactly what she thinks about that.

“I can come by later,” he offers. “Blaster practise always used to cheer me up when I was his age. We can have some man-to-man time. Shoot some warblers-”

“No – no killing anything,” Rey says sharply.

“Alright, we'll just shoot mushrooms, whatever.”

“Maybe you can bring Hanna?” she suggests. “It might be good for Tam to be around other kids.”

“Yeah, maybe.” He looks away, his tone evasive.

Rey stares at him. “What? Why not?”

“Well, Hanna's still pretty little and Fiona thinks we should wait for things to settle down before we start doing the 'playdate' thing.”

“What?” she frowns at him, horrified. “You're acting like Tam is dangerous or something.”

“Rey,” he says loudly. “He destroyed a First Order fleet with his mind.”

“Oh, like you've ever understood how the Force works! You're just as bad as everyone else!” She shoves past him angrily, ignoring the way he calls her name like she's some kind of errant child. Ever since he became a father himself, he's perfected the 'dad tone'. Rey inwardly fumes by how easy it comes to him. No one is going to steal his daughter from him. No one is going to fear her. His wife is strong-minded and loving – she's never going to run off and join the darkside. She just flies X-wings with a kill streak that's fast approaching Poe Dameron's record and makes preserves and cakes on her down time-

Ashamed of her bitter envy for such a simple life, Rey marches across the base to the clinics. It's been months since the last serious engagement with the First Order, and the clinic is comparatively quiet. “Where is Doctor Horridge?” she asks one of the nurses, who points to a ward tucked away at the back of the clinic.

Rey finds the man sipping coffee and reading headlines from a holopad. He looks up with an expression that lets her know that he's not exactly pleased to have a patient so soon. “Rey,” his tone is professionally pleasant. “How can I help you?”

“I need stronger painkillers,” she says simply. “What you gave me no longer works.”

The doctor frowns. “You're still in pain?” he says. “Your injuries should have cleared up by now...”

“I just need a new prescription-”

“Of course. But not until I've examined you.”

Rey almost rolls her eyes. All he needs to do is sign a piece of paper and she will be able to sleep a full night again, but it seems he takes his job far too seriously. If she has to jump through flaming hoops, so be it. She lets him direct her to a table where a scanner on swivel arm hangs overheard.

“Has the pain changed?” he asks her.

“Yes,” she says tersely, still raw from her encounter with Finn. “It's worse. It used to just be in my shoulder... it came and went. Now its all the way across my chest. And it's always there.” Sometimes it felt like she could hardly breathe the pain was so bad. On the worst nights when it woke her, she would look down at herself and expect to find herself covered in blood, the pain was so fresh and cleaving.

But as usual, there is nothing to see. Not even Doctor Horridge peering through his scanner at her could see any cause for the pain. “You were electrocuted, I believe?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“It could be nerve damage I suppose...”

He'd said that the last time he had scanned her, wearing the same kind of dubious expression.

“I just need a higher dose, and I'll be fine,” she says.

“You have a progressively worsening pain with no physical cause I can see. I don't think you appreciate how very serious this could be,” he says reproachfully. “Besides, I can't give you a higher dose. In fact, it's best if you discontinue the medication I already gave you.”

“What? Why?” she demands.

Horridge raises an eyebrow at her and swings the scanner to face her. Rey looks at the screen, but it might as well be ancient hieroglyphics for all the sense she can make of it. Only when he guides her gaze to a trembling line with his finger does it begin to dawn on her what she's looking at.

Then all she can think to say is, “Oh.”

“I'll requisition some alternate painkillers, but it could take some time. I'm sorry.”

Rey leaves the clinic, feeling cold despite the sweat that rolls down her skin. She doesn't really notice that the patterns of movement around the base have changed, as she wanders against the flow of people with no real course in mind.

Something bumps gently into her leg with an inquisitive beep.

Rey looks down. “BB8...” She blinks at the spherical droid. “You're looking very shiny.”

The droid chirps proudly. She says Poe gave her a polish only yesterday and she is under orders to avoid all muddy puddles. Then she asks why Rey isn't coming to the assembly?

“Assembly?” she echoes vaguely.

And wherever BB8 is, Poe Dameron isn't far behind. “You coming, sweetheart?” he asks, hand scooping up her elbow as he passes.

“Am I?” she says. She has no real desire to attend any official assemblies, but Poe Dameron has a charm that's hard to resist. With his arm behind her back, he guides her along with the crowds heading for the outdoor amphitheater where most meetings are held. “Let's sit together and make everyone jealous,” he says, pulling her onto the bench beside him. Ordinarily Rey might have quipped that the only one likely to get jealous is BB8, but her mind is elsewhere. She sees Finn take a seat with Fiona on the opposite tier of seats. He catches sight of her too and gives a lifts his chin in greeting, clearly hoping they're friends again.

Rey looks away. It's not that she's still angry with him... but looking at her happy friend hurts worse than the sting in her shoulder. Poe leans over. “You had a tiff with our boy?” he asks her.

“Sort of, not really...” she whispers back, feeling another wave of shame. When did she become this sort of person, she wonders. Someone who could no longer stand the happiness of others. Suddenly it feels too hot, and her shoulder's ache intensifies as the pain creeps down and across her chest in a diagonal path. Rey presses a hand to her stomach and focuses on taking even breathes.

Then someone sits down on her other side. He's tall, broad shouldered, and smells faintly of soap and metal. Black robes brush against her thigh.

Rey freezes, not daring to look.

“Let us begin!” calls General Banner, stepping into the centre of the ampitheater as an obedient hush falls over the gathered personnel. “I'm sure some of you may have already guessed why this meeting has been called. At two hundred hours this morning, the probes we have been sending to the Oberon system are finally beginning to report data.”

Rey's attention sharpens on the General. Oberon is the new designation of the supermassive black hole around which the Celestial Lancer orbited.

“The storm of wormhole vortices that previously made the region too dangerous to survey have finally abated,” continues the General. “Our scouts have now confirmed the extensive wreckage of the primary fleet of the First Order, as we suspected. We have also located the remains of a comet believed to be the base of the Supreme Leader.”

Excited murmurs break out among the attending members. The General waits for it to die before delivering his verdict. “We can now confirm at last... there were no survivors. This morning the President of the Republic made the announcement that General Hux and Supreme Leader Kylo Ren are confirmed to have been killed in battle-”

The rest of the General's declaration is lost as savage whoops of joy fill the air. People get to their feet. It seems like everyone is clapping and cheering. Rey looks around at all the smiling, beaming faces. Even Finn is on his feet, clapping someone else on the back and grinning. At her feet, BB8 gives a cheerful little wobble, and Poe applauds politely. Rey knows if she wasn't sitting beside him, he would be cheering harder than anyone.

Only the man on her right does not clap. He does not move. Rey inches her gaze to his black clad knee, where a half metal hand rests. Something is dripping from his wrist. Blood so dark its almost like tar has begun to pool around his left boot, expanding until its almost flowed over the toes of her shoe.

Rey bolts upright so suddenly, Poe looks at her in alarm. “Rey,” he cries, as she stumbles into him in her haste to get away. She shoves aside the clapping hands and elbows through the hugging groups of friends. She hears the General wearily calling for some decorum, saying something about the threat of the remaining fleets and hidden bases of the First Order, but its quickly lost behind her as she barrels into the trees and falls to knees, emptying her stomach amongst the roots of a Goa tree.

When there's nothing left to heave up, she sits back on her ankles, sweat running in absolute torrents down her face. She opens her eyes for a moment but has to close them just as quickly. There's a body lying just a few feet away. Mangled, bloody. His black surcoat is shredded and his eyes – she doesn't want to see his eyes.

Rey has never hated a place as much as she hates Kalboth. Not even Jakku during the times she'd gone without food for days. Not even the damn comet. She cannot escape the heat here... it chases her, suffocating her like her darkest thoughts that will not “...leave me alone!”

“Are you alright?”

It's Finn's voice she hears. She whips around dizzily, hand over her mouth. When she looks at the body, but of course its gone. It was never really there.

“I need some water,” she croaks.

“Sure...” He kneels down beside her and offers her the water canteen that all the soldiers carry. It's quite good of him, she thinks, considering she's just thrown up.

After a few gulps of relatively cool water, she does feel a little better; in the sense that wretched is a slightly better way to feel than absolutely desolated. Finn rubs her back compassionately, and she's sorry all over again for how ugly and petty she is over his happiness. “You're my oldest, truest friend, you know,” she says.

“Not that old, come on,” he jokes.

“It's true,” she says. “Don't ever let me forget it.”

He gives her an odd look. “I think you need to go home.”

“I think so too.”

“Come on, I'll give you a ride on my hopper.”

Even on the best of days, Rey hates the hoppers, especially the way Finn drives them. “No, I'll walk. I need to be by myself for a while.”

She offers the canteen back, but he pats her wrist. “You know what? Keep it.”

The walk back to the house in the forest feels three times further than before. Most of it is uphill, which Rey has barely noticed until now, when ever step she takes is a battle in a war to keep moving. By the time the familiar tin roof comes into view, she feels like she has crossed a continent. She heads into the cool kitchen opens the refrigerated compactor. There's a pint of chilled milk there, and though she absolutely hates the stuff, she takes it and swigs down as much as she can stand. She leans there for a while, just absorbing the coolness of the compactor and perhaps thinking in passing that she's not sure what animal this milk comes from.

“Tam?” she calls. Then thinks twice. “Altan?”

Only Leia's voice answers. “He went for a walk.”

Rey heads into the main living space where she sees Leia sitting on the cool side of the porch, looking composed. She seems to be the only thing on this planet that doesn't sweat. “He left you alone?” she asks, affronted. “I told him-”

“It's no bother, Rey,” she says. “Boys will be boys.”

Rey eases down onto the porch beside Leia. “I hate that saying...”

“You look like you've had a fight with a wampa,” Leia says.

“I don't know what that is...” Rey will assume it's not a compliment. “There was an assembly.”

A small fracture appears in Leia's calm expression and the older woman glances away into the forest. “General Banner warned me not to go. He told me everything last night.” She seems to give herself a shake. “Well, it's what we all knew anyway. No surprises.”

Rey rubs her hands over her face, still seeing all those cheering people... just so happy he was dead.

“General Praxis approached me yesterday,” says Leia. “She even wanted to hold a ceremony and give Tam a medal for his actions.”

A cold feeling sweeps Rey, as if she might vomit all over again. “That's sick.”

“That's what I told Praxis. Though I might had added some other words too...”

“They're like vultures,” Rey says, feeling her lip curl. “Crowing over corpses and taking credit for something they didn't even do.”

Leia looks at her sadly. “Don't be so hard on them, Rey. General Hux and Kylo Ren hurt a lot of the people here... directly and indirectly. You can't expect them not to celebrate. That battle did more to galvanise hope in the Republic than anything we have done in ten years. And you should be careful...”

“What do you mean?”

“No one really expects you to do a victory dance, but you shouldn't appear to grieve. People will think... well, they'll think Kylo Ren turned you.”

Rey stares at her. “Is that what people are saying?” she asks.

“Some are suspecting it,” Leia's wise eyes examine hers carefully. Rey suddenly realises where Kylo got his eye colour from. “I'm not the only one who has noticed how you've changed. You left here prepared to kill him. Then at some point you got soft. How many times did you go to Ahch-To looking for him?”

More times that Rey cared to count. “I feel anything but soft right now,” she says in a low voice. “And if people are so grateful that Tam killed his own father, the least they can do is let him near the base.”

“They're afraid of him,” says Leia. “Someone who can destroy fleets with a thought should frighten anyone. And when that person is a child who does not yet know right from wrong-”

“Tam isn't dangerous,” insists Rey.

“Even you're afraid of him,” Leia points out quietly.

“I'm afraid for him,” she retorts. “What if he – what if he becomes like Ben? Like Kylo? What if he has that same thing inside him that drove his father mad? He's already so powerful... I wouldn't be able to stop him. I wouldn't be able to help him.”

“There is a darkness in him,” Leia says. “But there's a darkness in you too. Even Luke carried a darkness in his heart when he was young. It's a battle people like us have to face. It's why I could never train. I would have succumbed to the dark side in a heartbeat.”

“You?” Rey refuses to believe it.

“My father murdered my entire race. He destroyed my planet, killed the people I knew to be my parents, my brothers and sisters and everyone and everything I loved. All I knew how to be after that was angry. That's where I found my strength. You think Ben got it from Vader? He got it from me. Time will tell if Tam has it too.”

Rey gazes into the forest, considering this. “I could just imagine you, all in black, waving around a red lightsaber.”

“I was young and beautiful once too,” says Leia, drawing herself up. “I would have made a terrifying sith. All five feet of me.”

Rey's lips quirk up in smile. “Well, we know at least Ben didn't get his height from you.”

Leia looks at her in polite confusion. “Hm?”

“Well... I mean, he's so tall and you're so short.” Rey watches Leia's eyebrows draw together in a pained expression and thinks maybe the only one allowed to joke about her stature is Leia herself. “Sorry.”

“Is he tall?” Leia asks.

“Of course,” Rey looks at her in bewilderment. “He's like... up here.” She sketches a height roughly a foot above her own head. “You didn't know?”

“I've not seen him since he was eight years old. He was only this big,” says Leia lifting a hand somewhere around the height of her elbow. She stares at the space below her hand, looking back into her past at a boy that was no longer there.

Rey's hand drops and she regrets raising it, for its set of a fresh wave of pain across her shoulder and collar bone. She rubs distractedly as she thinks back on their exchange... and how they speak of Kylo Ren as if he is still alive. Rey isn't sure Leia has noticed.

Leia does notice her discomfort however. “That pain is still bothering you, isn't it? Did you get a higher dose off Horridge like I said?”

Rey doesn't answer for a long time. She considers lying, but somehow it doesn't seem fair to Leia. “I saw Horridge,” she says, speaking to her knees. “He won't give me anything more for now, and he told me to stop taking the other stuff.”

“Is he mad?” she scoffs. “Did you tell him you can barely sleep because of this pain?”

“I can't take it because I'm pregnant again.”

There. She'd said it. The truth is out in the open and if the adage is true, it will set her free. She fiddles with the linen hem of her shirt and waits for Leia's response which is slow coming.

“How far along?”

“Three months almost,” she whispers.

Leia seems to be about to say something, then changes her mind as a frown draws over her features. She leans her head on one side and looks at Rey very closely. “Exactly how soft did you go on Ben?”

Heat begins to fill Rey's face, and she looks up into the canopy of the trees so that Leia might not notice how red her cheeks have turned. “You don't have to lecture me. I know I shouldn't have, but it's like... when he's near me, I can't help myself.” This isn't helping her embarrassment, so she decides to stop talking.

“But you had an implant. We discussed this,” says Leia.

“Yeah, well, apparently they stop working if you get electrocuted.”

“Ah... the Knight of Ren...”

“And the million times before then, every time I've been struck by a stormtrooper control baton,” sighs Rey. “And that time I crossed those wires on the Falcon's core while it was active.”

“You went flying,” Leia reminisces. “Chewie had to give you mouth-to-mouth. You were coughing up fur for days.”

Leia begins to laugh, lifting a hand to her mouth in a poor attempt to stop it.

“Well, I'm glad someone's laughing,” says Rey bleakly. “I feel so stupid. I thought I was done being stupid – I'm not nineteen anymore.”

“You're still so very young from where I'm sitting,” says Leia, finally fighting down her amusement. Her eyes are a little over-bright which Rey doesn't think is caused by the laughter. “What will you do? Will you keep it?”

“I don't know,” Rey says, but then almost immediately adds, “Yes. Yes, I'm keeping it.”

Leia's stiff hand closes over hers, squeezing it tight. “I'm glad. I'm glad.”

The brightness in her eyes is definitely tears now, Rey thinks. She closes her fingers around Leia's just as tightly, a little confused at her reaction. The last time she'd been pregnant, Leia had been horrified.

“I know it's selfish of me,” says Leia. “I've watched my family shrink and disappear for so long, and now it's just you and Tam. Please forgive an old woman for being glad of another chance. He can't hurt you anymore. He can't hurt this child.”

Rey's heart breaks little for Leia, and she quickly leans across to enfold the older woman in a close embrace. “He isn't... he wasn't like that, Leia. He didn't have it in him to hurt his own son. He gave up everything for Tam.”

When she draws back, Leia's face is weary and troubled. “What was he like?”

“What do you mean?”

“The only word I ever got of him were official reports. Poe was the first person to meet him and survive to report back, and all he described was a monster in a mask. Rey, you're the only one who knew him. I've been so afraid to ask, but I need to know... what was my son like?”

Rey doesn't know how to answer. She wants be to truthful and fair, though she's not sure she's the kind person who can be objective about a man like Kylo Ren. Nor does she want to upset Leia with too much brutal honesty, or be so vague as to be of no help whatsoever.

“He was tall,” she begins, perhaps redundantly. “He had a strong look of Han, I think, but eyes more like yours. Not at all intimidating, really... even with the scar.” She traces her finger over her forehead and down her right cheek. “There was so much darkness in him. He thought he was in the right, that it would be worth it in the end. But for as long as I've known him, there's been a light inside him. It's only gotten stronger over the years, but it pulls him apart. He's so full of doubt and insecurity and shame and anger, but I think he loves more fiercely than anyone else I know. He doesn't know how to show it, but Tam changed him. He loves Tam more than he loves himself.”

She blinks and sits back slightly. “He loved Tam,” she corrects herself.

“And did he love you?” Leia asks quietly.

Rey can only shrug. “I don't know if he loved me, or he just got obsessed with the idea of owning me like a trinket, like Luke's lightsaber... or if he just wanted to be loved, and I was the closest thing to a lover.”

“I've never fooled myself that he might be a good man,” Leia says heavily.

“He might have been. At the end. He let me take Tam and go, even though he knew I would never bring him back. He could have refused... he could have forced us to stay and we all might have burned together. All things considered, there were worse choices he could have made.”

It might have been the most generous thing she'd ever said about him. She was surprised by how she meant every word, too. She listens to the ringing of life in the forest, of distant snaps in the trees and rustles of unseen creatures passing through the undergrowth.

“It's not sunk in yet,” Rey says softly. “I still feel like he's near.”

“He's gone, Rey,” Leia says. “I feel it in my bones. He's not out there anymore. From the moment he was born, I've always felt him. He was a part of me, how could I not? But now he's nowhere.”

Rey thinks she understands. Even when Tam had been taken from her, no matter how far away he'd been she had always been certain he was alive, and certain that she would know the very second he was not.

Kylo is different. She has never truly been able to feel him the way she once did when they shared a Force Bond. She has no sense of him now... she knows only that the pain of the broken bond has finally gone. It stands to reason that only the death of one or the other would ease that ache.

But thinking of Tam has reminded her that the morning is growing older and he will be getting hungry soon. “He should be back by now,” she says, leaning back to check the time on the wall clock. “He hates staying out in the midday heat.”

She rises to her feet and brushes a red insect from her lap. The interior of the house is far cooler than the porch, and she makes her way to her son's bedroom shut door which she could have sworn was open when she arrived back not long ago. She cracks it open to peer inside and isn't surprised to see a somewhat pink-faced boy stretched out on his palet, staring at the ceiling.

More than anyone, Tam suffers with Kalboth's heat. He was born and raised on ice planet where the temperatures never rose above freezing even in the hottest seasons, and for the last four years he'd been living on a comet encased in ice. Rey turned the coolest room in the house into his bedroom, but he still spends too much time lying around listlessly. She's not really sure it has much to do with the heat, but she doesn't know what else to do.

“I didn't hear you come back. Why didn't you say hello?” she asks.

“Hello.”

Rey resists sighing. “Do you want food?”

“No.”

“No?” Rey frowns. “You're not hungry?”

“No.”

“Did you even have breakfast?”

“Probably.”

Rey glances back at the kitchen. There's no new bowls or cutlery to clean away, and since Tam never clears up after himself, she can only assume he did not in fact have breakfast. “Are you on some sort of hunger strike?” she asks him.

“No.”

“Tam-”

He pointedly rolls away to face the wall.

“Altan,” she corrects herself. “I'm going to make soup. I'll put some on one side for you if you want it later, ok?”

He doesn't answer. Rey's gaze drops to the floor, wondering if there is something else she could say. If she was Kylo, she would just tell him to stop moping and he would promptly obey. Then again, if his father was here, he would not be grieving. In amongst the blankets and clothing strewn about the floor, she notices a crumpled piece of paper half buried under a pair of socks.

At least he's drawing again, she thinks, reaching down to pick it up and straighten it out.

But it's not a new picture, she realises. It's the same one he was drawing the day they left the Celestial Lancer, the one where he drew himself holding hands with both his parents. She's still partly convinced that it was drawn more as a piece of propaganda than out of true innocence, but Tam has since added a new addition to his masterpiece that makes her heart clench.

In red pencil he has struck a diagonal line through Kylo's image, with violent red lines he must have gone over again and again.

Rey quietly puts it back down and shuts the door again. Later, as she sits watching a pot boiling on the stove, she has a flash of terribly clarity.

This is my life now, she thinks. Exiled to a decrepit house in a jungle, with one child who wouldn't speak to her, and another on the way. She's the last jedi, twenty-five thousand years and the heritage of millions of individuals rests on her, and she's just making soup.

She hasn't had such a withering feeling since she was nineteen, when she looked across her work table on Jakku to see an old woman scrubbing scrap parts, and she had realised that if something didn't change soon, Rey would be that old woman one day.

By the time the soup is finished, Rey has decided that she cannot stay on Kalboth. She cannot just be the pet jedi of the Resistance who will always keep her at arm's length out of fear of her son. She cannot be just a mother. She has to finish what Luke started. She has to mend what Kylo Ren broke. She has to give her son a chance to be the person he should be, and make sure the next child knows belonging right from the start.

By the time she falls into bed that night, her shoulder is a stiff and aching. It takes her a long time to fall asleep, cursing the pain, the heat, and the warblers who have set up a chorus very close to the house tonight. It makes her want to reconsider Finn's offer to use them as target practice.

The humid bedroom blurs into dreams eventually, though its always the same dreams. The utter blackness, darker than the deepest most remote part of space, and the mangled body on its back, hand stretched out, reaching for something she cannot see. Something that will now always elude him.

Rey tears her way out of the dream, but she runs straight from a nightmare into hell, as she feels blue vortices shivering and yawning around her, twisting and heaving like storm clouds, pulling her apart. Pain lances down her shoulder right through her chest as if she has been slashed in two, and with a cry, she jackknifes off her palet.

Just for a moment, she thinks there's someone else in the room with her, someone crouched in the shadows, watching her. But when she looks again, all she sees is a stain on the wall from last month's roof leak.

Pressing shaking hands over her face, Rey takes a shivering breath. “Why can't you be the nice kind of ghost?” she demands of the empty room, but her voice sounds so loud in the night that she quickly covers her mouth and looks anxiously at the door. She doesn't want to disturb Tam.

With the pain in her shoulder now a steady blaze, sleep seems quite impossible. Rey slides out of bed and pads to the kitchen in search of a glass of water while she waits for the lingering feeling of wrongness from her dreams to fade.

The night is quiet now. It takes her a while to notice the absence of the usual forest noises, a sure sign that rain is coming. The house is quiet too, and the sense of wrongness only intensifies.

Rey sets down her glass and heads to Tam's room, just to reassure herself that all is well. She eases open the door and peers through the gloom.

His bed is empty.

“Altan?” she calls softly, stepping further inside, peering around in case he might have fallen asleep at his desk again. Her foot steps on something crinkly, and Rey bends down absently to pick up the drawing she left there earlier.

As she looks at it, she can't help the way her ability causes sensations to bleed from the paper into her hand. A terrible feeling of dread builds in her, rising from the bottom of her stomach to drown her, not least because now not only has Kylo Ren been crossed out, but so has Tam.

 

Chapter Text

 

Rising Moon

The steady drumming of rain fills the air with a hiss, drowning out all other noise, even even the pounding of her heart. Mud and water splashes up her legs as Rey barrels between the trees and slides down mossy slopes as she rushes headlong into the outskirts of the Resistance Base.

“Slow down!” shouts a patrolling soldier, as she nearly careens into him. But he can't help her so, Rey dashes on without a word. Water is running is near torrents, forming rivers along the pathways between the rows of resistance housing.

“Finn!” she shouts, slipping against door eight-seven. She batters away at it with her fists. “Finn, please!”

The lights come on, not just in apartment 87, but several others too.

“What's all the noise?” calls someone who leans out their window.

In moments the door before her yanks open and Finn is standing there in his underwear.

“What the hell, Rey?” Behind him she can see Fiona leaning out of the bedroom door.

“Tam's gone!” Rey blurts out, her hand clenching around the sopping wet picture he left. “He's a mess – he's so unhappy and it's all my fault, and now I've made him run away and I don't know where he is! Finn, you have to help me!”

“Wait, calm down,” he says, taking her by the elbows. “He's only got little legs, he can't have run that far.”

Rey gasps at his foolishness. “He's going to stow away on a ship – he's probably already off world by now! He left hours ago!”

“Ok, hold on, let me just,” he dashes back toward the bedroom, where his wife is already there, pushing clothes into his hands. “Bless you,” he says.

“I'll radio Dameron,” she calls after them.

Finn is still buttoning up his pants as they hurry through the rain. “How do you know he's going to try and hitch a ride on a ship?” he asks her.

“I just do,” she says, not feeling like explaining how Tam unwittingly embedded his feelings and intentions in the very picture she's holding, because even she barely understands how her ability works sometimes.

“Look, kids do this sometimes. They have it rough, and they run away, but they never get far,” he tries to reassure her. “Kids were always running away from the First Order academy, and we always got caught in the end.”

“Tam isn't running away from a tyrannical regime – he's running away from me!”

“Same difference, Rey. It's the middle of the night. Not that many ships are outbound, if he was on one, we'll find it fast enough. We'll find him.”

Although there's plenty of reason in his reassurance, Rey can't help the hammering of her heart against her ribcage as they head to the control tower. The night crew is small, but as word spreads of a missing child – particular one with savage Force powers – the base begins to come awake. General Banner is sent for. Rey hangs over the shoulder of the lieutenant scrolling through the record of tonight's flight list.

“There've been six outbound ships already taken off already, the rest are now grounded.”

“Can they be called back?” Rey asks anxiously.

“Uh, four are already out of range, the other two have docked at Station Toska.”

“Toska!” Rey repeats. Station Toska had been one of the first places she'd visited as an agent of the Resistance, and she still despises it. The station was so large it formed a complete ring around the moon it orbited, and parts of it were so old that catastrophic decompression events happened weekly as rusting bulkheads gave way. Despite this, it was one of the busiest free ports in the galaxy. Millions of ships docked and departed each day from all corners of every system; traders, merchants, slavers, and even the First Order operated openly there. “If Tam is already on Toska, I've lost him forever.”

“Rey, most of these ships are far too small for a stowaway to hide on,” Finn reminds her. “There's only one cargo freighter that he would have a chance of getting on board unnoticed. Where's that one heading?”

“It's an undercover operation to Haven Prime,” says the lieutenant awkwardly. “It's a known First Order stronghold where they train recruits.”

Rey looks urgently at Finn who winces. “Let's hope he's not on that one,” he says.

"It's all my fault, Finn," she says, her voice shaking.  "He loved his father, and he blames me, and now it's happening all over again. It's Ben all over again. He's gone and I'll never see him again, and he'll be grown up and I won't know what he looks like-"

“Rey!”

She spins around as Poe Dameron charges into the control room, rain dripping from his dark curls. “It's ok, we've found him,” he announces, “He was asleep behind the cargo in Bay Six. Jess is with him. Come on.”

Rey's heart is in her mouth as she follows Poe back out into the rain. The floodlights have come on in aid of the search, though now things are beginning to calm. She spies a group of people coming across the airfield from hangar bay six, a small person in their midst. Rey overtakes Poe in her rush, splashing through the puddles until she slides to her knees, her arms tight around Tam's small frame. He's soaked through and trembling, and the bag over his shoulder is full of food and clean underwear.

Pulling back slightly, her hands grip his arms tightly. “Why did you do it?” she shouts through the roar of the weather.

Tam's eyes won't fix on her face. She wants to shake him, somehow jolt him back to the boy he used to be. Instead she presses the soaking picture into his hand. “What did you mean by this? Tell me!”

The resistance members around them move on, knowing this is a private moment now. Tam glances at the paper then looks down.

“Tam, just talk to me, please! Why were you running away-”

“Because you don't want me anymore!” he shouts, exploding with emotion he has suppressed for too long. “Because you're always scared of me! Because you're going to have a baby and you don't need me anymore!”

“That's not true! None of that is true!” she tells him fiercely, realising he must have overheard most of her conversation with Leia. “I will always want you-”

“You hate me, I know it!” he cries miserably. “Because I killed him and made you sad. I killed him and I don't know how to make it better.”

Hot tears rise in her eyes, mixing with the rain. Her throat hurts as she speaks. “It wasn't your fault...”

“He's dead because of me!” he shrieks, suddenly fighting against her grip.

Rey pulls him hard against her, clamping her arms around him in an embrace that's as much to restrain him as protect him. “Listen to me,” she begs, holding the back of his head. “Nothing you did mattered, Tam. Your father was going to die whether your summoned that Storm or not. The First Order's fleet was too powerful. He knew it.”

“You're a liar! You blamed me! I felt it!”

“I did, I know, but I was wrong to,” she says to him. “I don't blame you, and I'm not angry. I swear it. I love you – I will always love you! There's nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you!”

Tam's sobbing into her shoulder now and even Rey can't keep her composure as shaky breaths wrack her chest and hot tears streak down her face. “Don't ever leave me, Tam! I've already lost one, I don't know if I could live if I lost you too.”

She holds him close until his sobs subside. She keeps holding him even then, until she feels the weight of Poe's leather jacket settle around her shoulders.

“That's enough excitement for one night, you two,” says Poe. “You're all coming back to my place for towels and hot chocolate, ok?”

Rey is grateful that there will be no long trek home tonight. She lets Tam climb onto Finn's back, and Poe's hand on her shoulder steers her in the direction of his apartment.

“Where were you going to go anyway, little buddy?” Poe asks Tam.

“I hadn't thought that far ahead,” admits Tam gloomily.

The hot chocolate is precisely what everyone needs, though Tam and Rey remain a little subdued. Poe and Finn seem to take it upon themselves to talk as normally as possible, but Rey can tell from the glances Finn keepe shooting her that he might have overheard Tam's comment about the baby. But Rey doesn't want the inevitable argument, and for now at least he'll keep his comments to himself. She watches Tam instead, noticing the moment his red, puffy eyes begin to slide shut. Poe shows her to a spare room with a free bed just large enough for her and Tam.

“Mom, you're hugging me too tight,” Tam complains as she settles down with him on the mattress.

“Sorry,” she loosens her hold a little, but not entirely. She's still so frightened that if she let's go of him, he might just disappear again when she falls asleep.

Tam doesn't really seem to mind, and rests his head comfortably on her arm. He reaches up and sleepily plays with the tips of her hair as he fights the way his eyelids droop like they're too heavy for him.

“You can sleep, it's ok,” she says, smoothing his damp hair.

“I don't want to,” he says tiredly, but the fatigue is deeper than just his lack of sleep. “I don't want to have those dreams anymore.”

“What dreams?”

“Of Kylo Ren.”

Rey sighs sleepily. “I know it's hard,” she says. “I dream about him too.”

“What do you dream about him?” asks Tam.

“Oh...” Rey doesn't want to upset him with the truth, that all she ever sees in her dreams are grizzly images of death. “I dream that he's still around, telling me I have terrible table manners and barking orders at people.”

Tam looks solemnly at her hair. “I keep seeing him in the command shuttle,” he says. “There was some kind of explosion. He's always on the floor and he's reaching out for an oxygen breather, but he's lost too much blood from where Scorpus Ren cut him with his sword. There's blood all over his chest. I think it's how he died.”

A chill runs through Rey's veins, because she knows with terrifying certainty that she and Tam have seen the same thing. “It's just a dream,” she whispers.

“It feels like one of the true dreams,” he says, though he seems unfazed by it now. “I just don't know why I keep dreaming it. It hardly ever changes. I wish it would stop...”

“I'll teach you a little trick I learned on Jakku that kept my nightmares at bay,” she tells him, and feels him shuffle closer. “First you have to relax your whole body, even your toes and your ears and your fingernails. Then you have to think about your happiest memory. You have to think about it and relive it, moment by moment. Then you'll have good dreams.”

“When Dad showed me how to make my lightsaber,” Tam says drowsily.

“That's perfect.”

“I was happy, because I knew you would be coming soon and I wanted to have it finished before you arrived...”

“Think about that then.” She tucks his head beneath her chin and strokes his hair. It doesn't take him long to fall asleep, as she feels him relax and his breathing evens out. She doesn't know if he will have good dreams, but now she knows that Kylo was right. His visions have an accuracy her own lacked. She had seen his body, but Tam had seen his body in his shuttle.

Rey's shoulder aches and throbs, but she doesn't dare move in case she disturbs Tam. But this pain, she thinks, is not unlike the pain of being sliced open with a sword.

Even when Rey closes her eyes and tries to think of her happiest moments, she cannot find sleep.

 


 

“I think he's still alive.”

Rey hates the veil of pain that passes over Leia's face when she says this, especially when a moment ago her face was full of pleasure. They are sitting in the mess at one of the tree stump 'tables', watching Tam dash between the other stumps, playing a game that's halfway between hide and seek and tag with a three year old Hanna. Even though Tam looks half exasperated, Hanna seems to think he's the moon and the stars.

But now Leia turns to her, all joy banished from her demeanour. “We've been over this,” she says tiredly. “It's been three months, if he was alive, we would know by now.”

“I don't know how to explain it,” says Rey, biting her lip. “But this pain in my shoulder isn't going away. There's no physical reason for it. And all I can think about... is that when we parted, Kylo was struck by a blade. It ripped open half his chest and his shoulder, and I think the pain that I'm feeling is his.”

“Rey,” sighs Leia.

“If he was dead, why would he be in pain? Why would I be feeling it?”

Leia is shaking her head. “That makes even less sense. An injury like that would have killed him, and if by some miracle he survived that disaster and that injury, he would no longer be in the level of pain you are right now.”

“I told you I can't explain it. I just feel it's true.”

She looks down, noticing that her fingers are twisting together uneasily, her knuckles so tense they have gone white. Leia reaches out to cover her hands with her own. “If he is alive,” she begins very carefully, “you should think very hard and ask yourself, if he's not better gone... there must be a reason he never came to Ahch-To. His death is the Resistance's greatest victory. Is it right to undo that?”

“And what if he needs help?” Rey asks her. “Do we just abandon him because that's more convenient?”

“He's my son, you know I wouldn't suggest it lightly. But why should it fall on you to save him?”

“Because there was a Force Bond between us once, and I think,” Rey presses a hand to her chest,“I think I feel it again. I feel his pain because we're bonded. But something is wrong... I should feel more, like where he is and what he's thinking, but something is preventing it. That's the reason he never came to Ahch-To. And if someone needs help, does it matter what they've done, shouldn't they be helped?”

Leia looks away, back at the children, listening to Hanna's squeal of delight as she finds Tam crouched behind a bench. “That's something Luke would say,” she says absently. “You must be a very moral person. Or you really do care for him...”

Rey shakes her head. “It's the right thing to do.”

“I think you're wrong,” says Leia. “If he was alive, I would feel it. But I know you too well, and I doubt I can stop you now that you've set your mind to it.”

“I just need a shuttle,” Rey insists. “One trip. If I'm wrong, so be it. But I need to know.”

“A shuttle is easy enough, providing no one knows your purpose. Someone like Banner or Praxis could get awfully upset if they found out you're trying to resurrect an enemy.” Leia nods at the children. “And what about Tam?”

“I can't take him... it'll be too dangerous. Will you look after him for me?”

“Just like the old days.”

“I hope not.”

Leia is still reluctant. Rey can see she is only being humoured, the way Leia humoured all her fruitless trips to Ahch-To. There is no one more practiced in grief than this woman, and she wants only closure. She wants to move on. Rey feels awful for getting in the way of that remote chance of healing, but if there's one thing she's learned in life, it's that no one should be left behind. No one should be abandoned.

Not even him.

“If this is what you need,” Leia says.

No one will question the request of a retired General, so Leia handles the arrangements. Rey doesn't want to keep things from Finn and Poe, but she knows that if they knew she was setting out on a rescue mission for one Kylo Ren, they might just sit on her to prevent her from leaving. The only one she tells is Tam.

“But you mustn't tell anyone else,” she says firmly, as she fastens up her boots. “What I'm doing borders on treason, you know. You don't want your poor mum put in prison, do you?”

Tam's face is unusually schooled, but she knows him well enough by now to see his turmoil. He's a mixture or elation and despair, but the latter is what is winning out.

“Can't I go with you?” he asks.

“Absolutely not,” she tells him, stroking his cheek swiftly. “Have you ever seen the state of a battlefield after a battle? It's no place for a child.”

“But how will you find him?”

“I don't know yet,” she says, giving him a wan smile. “But please don't get your hopes up, sweetheart. Even if I find him, I don't know what state he's in... and this may all be for nothing. Do you understand why I have to go?”

“Yes,” he says reluctantly. “But you shouldn't.”

She pauses in slinging her saberstaff over her shoulder and looks at him. “I will come back. I won't be gone long, I promise.”

He holds her hand far too tightly all the way to the airfield, and when she stoops down to give him a farewell hug, he has trouble letting go. She thinks she hears him begin to cry as she walks away, and she has to stop herself from turning around and running back to him. At least he has Leia, she thinks. Leia will be there to hold his hand and put her arms around him, and he won't really be alone. She's not abandoning him.

Or at least that is what she tells herself.

The Oberon system has only been accessible for the last couple of days, so strong was Tam's Force Storm. There are still a few remaining vortexes, but they are small, stable and shrinking. The second Rey slips out of hyperspace into the very same battlefield she'd fled three months ago, a queer feeling sets in. Most of the debris has moved on, pulled along in the orbit of the black hole, and at first glance there is little to see of the enormous scale of destruction that once took place here.

But there are different dangers now than just the lingering flickers of the Force Storm. Rey watches her radar, noticing that this has become a rather busy region for what had once been the most secretive corner of space. Scavengers have moved in. She recognises them by the way they gather like flies around the largest pieces of wreckage in ships that are themselves little more than salvage held together with gum and spit. But the First Order is here too, picking over the remnants of their greatest fleet. They'll be looking for information, hunting for answers... they don't care about scavengers, but should any ships get in their way, Rey doesn't expect they'll have much patience.

Rey keys in a flightpath for the largest field of debris and wreckage and begins to scan. She has the pattern for the class of Kylo Ren's command ship. If any part of it is out there, she will find it. Unfortunately, it's a matter of patience and methodical searching, and given how far wreckage can spread in three months, Rey realises a thorough search could take days. Weeks.

In all honesty, it could take years.

Closing her eyes, Rey lets the scans continue to run as she dips into herself for a different kind of search. Her shoulder still aches, but no more so than before. If the Force Bond exists, she cannot see along it or through it. A wall of nothingness meets the reaching fingers of her senses.

Above her head the proximity alarm begins to beep. Rey sits forward, coming awake instantly and realises a ship with a First Order signature is scanning her. Under her breath she runs through every curse she knows as she tries to remain calm.

Identify yourself,” barks her radio, with all the blunt aggression she has expects from the First Order.

“I'm a scavenger vessel, sir,” she responds, wincing.

Registered?”

“With Niima Outpost, sir. Of Jakku. I work for Unkar Plutt.” Rey's mind races. “Uh, would you be interested in purchasing some Zed-Nines? I have about fifteen here, all pristine and fully charged.”

Ripped from the hulls of our own ships, I'll bet.”

“It's legal, sir. By galactic law, wreckage may be claimed by anyone regardless of the original owner-”

She's cut off as the radio goes dead. The First Order ship slides on and away, dismissing her as nothing more interesting than yet another insect buzzing around a carcass. Rey releases a breath she didn't realise she was holding. She adjusts her course slightly, not keen to cross paths with the same ship twice.

Up ahead she can make out one of the largest segments of one of the shattered star destroyers. It's roughly a kilometre long, its enormous ion engine still mostly intact. Rey can predict this is where most of the scavengers will have set up even before they pop on her radar.

Her impulse is to avoid them. Having been a scavenger, she knows precisely that they are not to be trusted. The few times she ever tried to depend on her fellow workers on Jakku, she'd had her hand bitten for her efforts – sometimes literally.

Then again, no one else around here will be as familiar with the pickings of the battlefield as these people. Her instinct is to leave no stone unturned, so Rey opens her communication panel and begins to hail the scavenging ships.

Most simply ignore her. It's a while before one responds, and Rey is half surprised when her screen fills with the distorted tentacles of a Twi'lek. “What do you want?” he demands in Twi'leki. “We've claimed this strip. Find your own.”

“I'm not after salvage,” she says patiently. “I'm not a scavenger.”

The face looms closer on the screen as the twi'lek leans closer to his own monitor. “You look like a scavenger to me.”

Rude, she thinks, but keeps her face blank. “I'm looking for survivors.”

The twi'lek just cackles at her. Rey waits for him to stop. “This space only became safe enough to enter a few days ago,” says the scavenger. “Anyone unlucky enough to survive the strange storm is long dead by now.

Rey feels her heart sinking, but she will not give up hope just yet. “I'm looking for one ship in particular,” she says, her fingers dashing across the console as she uploads the pattern of Kylo Ren's command shuttle. “Have any of you or your team seen it?”

The twi'lek disappears out of frame, but she can still hear him clucking away as he looks at something, discussing it with someone else. Another laugh. Rey drums her fingers with increasing impatience.

“This ship we've seen, yes,” he says when he reappears, laughter still in his voice.

“Tell me where-”

“Wobo team spotted it yesterday. Mostly intact. Good haul.”

“There was a man aboard – what happened to him? Where is he?” she demands, her heart clenching. She knows well how sometimes scavengers will finish off any survivors they find in order to lay claim to the salvage, and she's known people to kill over less valuable tech than an intact command shuttle.

“He's gone, certainly.”

There's a swooping sensation in Rey's stomach. “He's dead?”

“Possibly. As good as.”

Rey is tiring of his short, confusing answers. “Where is he?”

“Still on the shuttle I suppose, but it won't do you much good. It's nice haul but it's inaccessible. It entered the violet band months ago.”

“Violet band...” Rey repeats, baffled.

The twi'lek laughs again; a horrible sound that reminds Rey of a dying rattler serpent. “We will give you the coordinates. This is very generous – giving you the location to one some of the most valuable salvage. Worth at least five hundred credits, yes?”

Rey's hand waves impatiently. “You will give me the location for free,” she says.

But either the twi'lek is immune to jedi mind tricks or the distance between them is too great. “Five hundred credits for the location of a ship that is worth millions is more than fair.”

Five hundred isn't all that much, but it's still more than half of her life savings. “I could find the shuttle myself for that price,” she says.

“Maybe. Or maybe your friend will be dead by then.”

“Three hundred,” she says.

“Five hundred.”

“Four hundred.

Five hundred.”

Rey screws up her face and feels the urge to kick something. Or maybe she'll save that kick for Kylo when she finds him. “Fine,” she says heatedly. “I'm signing you over the credits – but if you don't give me what I want to know, I'm blowing you out of the sky before you can spend them.”

It's big words considering her ship has no weapons, but maybe the twi'lek doesn't know that.

He ponders this, evidently waiting for the credits to finish transferring. Then he tents his fingers. “We are transmitting the coordinates to you now.” There's still an edge of mirth in his tone that Rey doesn't like.

She sees why, the second a new point appears on her local chart.

It's like the wind has been knocked out of her. She sits back limply, no longer so certain of her mission. “So that's the violet band.”

“It's a pity,” agrees the twi'lek. “Most of what was left of the comet lost its stable orbit and fell into the gravity well of the black hole. Anything in the green band can still be rescued, but virtually nothing can escape the violet band. A few more centuries and that shuttle will be atomised. But on the bright side, at least from your friend's perspective it will be a quick death. For him it has only been minutes since the comet exploded.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Setting Sun

Rey sits on the edge of a black hole, her head mostly hurting as she tries to wrap it around the situation she faces.

For there is Kylo's shuttle. She can see it, almost, a distant blurry spec to the naked eye, hanging in space like a frozen moment. Because that's what it is. She could sit here for a thousand years and Kylo would still be on that shuttle, slowly falling to a crushing death. And it's thoughts like that which makes her brain ache, because she will die of old age long before he ever dies of his wounds.

I could go back and get help, she thinks. He's certainly not going anywhere. But then who would help her? The Resistance would only offer to help push him further toward the event horizon. The First Order, under the leadership of new generals, would almost certainly do the same. Not even his own mother was that keen to bring him back. The only other person in the universe who even likes Kylo enough to want to save him is Tam.

Rey folds her arms over the console and drops her aching head into the cradle they form. The violet zone isn't totally inescapable. He hasn't drifted past the point of no return yet, and enough engine power might just break a ship free of the gravitational forces. Rey's own ship is hopeless here. It's a simple cargo shuttle made for longevity and reliability rather than power.

But Kylo's shuttle is one of the finest the First Order ever built. For its size and mass, its ion engines would be considered overkill, and Rey herself has felt their power firsthand the day she tried to hold it in place using the Force alone to prevent Kylo escaping her. He'd gotten away then and it looked like he might do so again. Going after him would mean consigning herself to the same dilation of time. Every minute she spent trying to help him would mean a month going by back on Kalboth, and that's another month of leaving Tam alone.

Would Kylo do the same for her?

Rey bites her lip, because she does not know the answer. Sure, he allowed her to escape with Tam, and that was a miraculous act of generosity, and Rey doesn't know if she's thinking about risking her life and her future for a man who wouldn't do the same for her.

That's not the point, she half-heartedly scolds herself. You always go back for people, whether they'd return the favour or not.

And no one else will do it.

She goes over the calculations with the ship's computer and estimates that in the time it would take to reach the command shuttle, reactivate its engines and fly it free, five months would pass in normal space. Five months is not so much to sacrifice if it means Tam will have his father for the rest of his life.

But one cannot simply abscond for five months without explanation, Rey thinks. She prepares a beacon, one that will sit in a stationary orbit, transmitting to anyone using Resistance frequencies. She touches the recording button and takes a steadying breath.

“This is a message for the Resistance, for my son Tam, General Organa, Colonel Finn Yevin, and Brigadier General Poe Dameron. This is Rey. If you've found this message, then perhaps you already know where I've gone. In terms of distance, I won't be all that far from where you'll find this beacon, but it may take me some time to get back. By the time you hear this, I will still be attempting to rescue... a-any survivors of the First Order Command Shuttle. If I should fail...”

Her voice cracks and breaks and she takes a second to clear her throat. “Whatever happens, I want Tam to know that I love him. That I am here, and I will always be here even if we cannot speak to each other. Look after Leia until I get back, Tam. And Finn, I know you will look after my son, and so will Poe and BB8. I love you all, and I will be home soon. I promise.”

Her last words come out in a rushed exhalation that ends with her hitting the recording button a fraction too early, in the hopes that it will not record how close her voice is to a sob. For a moment she wavers. She could delete the message and just return home... leave Kylo Ren to his fate.

But Rey, as much as she loathes it, does not have the capacity for such brutal sense. She deploys the beacon and then sits up, her spine a rod of determination. Without further hesitation, she engages the engines and powers up the thrusters to full speed. She will need to be as fast as possible. Any wasted second is as good as a wasted day.

Various warning lights flash, signalling her entrance into the green band. There's still time to turn back around. Rey shuts them off with a snap of switches and fixes her sights on the shuttle ahead of her. With every minute it grows closer and closer. The intensity of the gravity increases, trying to pull her one way as her ship struggles another.

It's an odd feeling to watch the motionless shuttle gradually begin to move, as if coming slowly back to life. The closer Rey gets, the faster she realises it's travelling, hurtling along at a break-neck speed she must match if there's any hope of boarding. Though she might not be able to match Poe Dameron when it comes to X-wings, Rey could probably give most of the fleet a run for their credits. Banking hard, she swerves to match the black shuttle's trajectory, firing her thrusters at full power to fight the pull of gravity. She's so close. She spots the emergency docking port on top of the shuttle and closes the distance, lining it up with her own port.

When she hears the telltale hiss of a successful connection, she almost wants to whoop in delight, but there's no time even for this. She grabs her saberstaff and runs for the escape portal. Her arms ache as she forces open the stiff mechanisms to allow her to drop down into the dark, much larger cabin of the command shuttle.

The first thing she notices is how thin the air is. She can tell from the high-pitched whine of gas that carbon dioxide has been slowly filling the shuttle for minutes. Oxygen breathers have deployed. Rey plucks one from the wall and holds it over her mouth as she looks around. Two stormtroopers are lying on the floor near the flight console. She turns them over, and though their bodies are still warm, there's no pulse beneath her fingers. The sparking, crackling flight console that looks as if it might have recently exploded is probably the cause.

Then Rey looks up and sees him.

He's exactly like he is in her dreams every night. On his back, huddled against the wall as if he has been thrown against it. His hand is reaching out... and now she can see the fallen breather that Tam saw. For a moment Rey does not move. He must be dead, she thinks. No one can lie that still in a pool of so much blood and live.

Then the pain blazes afresh in her shoulder and she knows she is simply wasting precious seconds.

“Ben,” she whispers as she rushes over, kneeling down beside him. Her fingers shake as she snatches up the other breather and presses it over his mouth and nose. His skin is cold to the touch. “Ben, can you hear me? Kylo?”

There's a pulse. It's so faint she can hardly feel it, and when she pulls her hand away it's caked with thick, dark blood. Rey can see his injury clearly now, see the divide in his clothes and the white flash of bone beneath. She swallows hard. How could he have just walked away from her with an injury like that and she'd never known?

“I'll be right back,” she whispers to the unresponsive man, and hurries to the pilot's seat. There's another dead stormtrooper occupying it. She goes to shove the body out the way when it gives a very irritable groan that makes her jump back three feet.

“Hey!” She pulls the stormtrooper upright again, giving the woman a shake. “Snap out of it!”

But the woman is so oxygen deprived, she's barely lucid. Rey struggles to pull off her white helmet and slides another breather over her face before she loses consciousness again.

“Listen,” she says, as the woman's eyes begin to regain focus. “This shuttle is falling headlong into a blackhole - you have to get us out of here.”

“What?” The woman moves slowly, frowning in confusion. “There was an explosion... some... fragment hit us and then...”

Rey has no patience left. “Nevermind that now. Point this ship away from that blackhole and give the engines everything! Quickly!”

“Yes, sir,” says the stormtrooper dizzily.

How many minutes has it been now? How many months?

Rey tries not to think about it, instead focusing on finding the first-aid supplies. They're hidden in a discreet panel in the wall, where the First Order has placed them as an afterthought rather than out of consideration that they might ever be needed or used. Rey finds wads of gauze, sealant strips, a heart prober and even some bandaids. She takes the whole lot over to Kylo and begins tearing the sliced gap in his clothing wide to get access.

“Are we moving?” she calls over to the pilot.

“There's a shuttle docked with us,” answers the woman slowly.

“Eject it, it's dead weight,” she calls back, and is relieved to hear the clunk above as the locks disengage. It means at least the pilot is beginning to recover enough. “Now please just get us out of here!”

She turns back to Kylo. His skin is so deathly white, her hands seem brown and ruddy by comparison as she slaps on the sealing strips over the wound. They weren't made to deal with injuries this deep, and they'll only stem the blood for a short while. He's lost so much it may already be too late anyway.

“Hateful man,” she whispers angrily to herself. “Don't let this all be for nothing.”

He stirs then, as if detecting that he has been insulted. His head shifts and his hand reaches up to push at the breather on his face. He's in danger of knocking it loose, so Rey slaps his fingers away. “Don't touch that. I'm not having you suffocate before you bleed to death at least.” What would she give for a good staple-gun right now. It would be the only thing that had a hope of holding him together.

He says a word. She's not sure, because all she really sees is his throat working and the steam gathering under the breathing mask. She leans closer to hear better.

Rey...

“Yes, it's me.” She's relieved he at least has enough wits to recognise her.

“...came back...”

“Yes.”

“...stupid...”

“You've lost a lot of blood, so I'll let that pass,” she tells him, packing more gauze against his wound. “Though I should like to point out that I am risking my life and a hell of a lot more, so a simple 'thank you' wouldn't go amiss.”

She waits, but Kylo seems to have lapsed into unconsciousness again.

“Are we moving yet?” she calls to the pilot.

“We've slowed – but I can't break us free...”

“What about the atmospheric fuel?”

“That's only for take-offs-”

“Use it! Vent the cargo hold if you have to!”

She turns her attention back to Kylo. Most of the wound is covered, but there is still blood steadily leaking where his shoulder muscle has been bisected. “I'm sorry,” she mutters, and lifts his shoulder to wrap more gauze against it. He takes a shuddering breath at the same time a fresh wave of pain washes through her own shoulder. This is part of a Force Bond Rey isn't sure she wants. Then again, if not for this pain, she never would have known to look for him.

“That's better,” she whispers. She eases him back down and rummages through the rest of the medical supplies for something – anything else that would help. There's a syringe and a bag of saline. It's not ideal, but it will do. Rey tears his armoured sleeve up past his elbow and begins hunting for a vein.

It isn't easy when there is sweat in her eyes and a breathing mask blocking most of her vision. Not to mention the shuttle keeps shuddering violently as the pilot burns through another tank of fuel. Rey focuses. Her hand stops shaking. The needle finds its vein and Rey breathes a tiny sigh of relief as the saline begins to flow. It will buy him a little time, she hopes, even if it isn't much.

“That's all the ballast dropped!” shouts the pilot. “We don't have anything left and we're still falling.”

This is not the news Rey wanted to hear. She heads to the co-pilot's chair and looks over the controls, looking for anything else they can drop. But it seems like the pilot has recovered her wits and has done everything short of venting the cabin they're in. Rey tries diverting extra power from the weapons to the engine, but the read-out hardly changes. The shuttle is simply not powerful enough to escape the infinite draw of the black hole.

“I was so sure..” she whispers, looking out at the stars that seem almost supernaturally bright and numerous. She has ever seen so many stars in her life. “I thought it would work.”

How many minutes has it been now? Fifteen? Twenty? She's been gone for at least two years now.

I'm so sorry, Tam.

Somethings stirs at the edges of her sense and she turns to see Kylo has regained consciousness and is once again trying to remove the mask from his face. Rey goes over and takes his hand in her own, holding it still as she kneels down. Kylo's dark, glazed eyes open fractionally and slide over her.

“Told you to go...” he croaks, his eyes drifting shut as a shudder of pain grips him.

“I did,” she says, shrugging off her outer cloak to bundle it beneath his head. “I came back.”

“But Altan...”

“He's safe,” she says, feeling hollow.

He forces his eyes open again, and she can see the confusion and even suspicion in his gaze. “Then why... come back?”

“Tam wouldn't forgive me if I hadn't,” she says.

Maybe he believes this explanation, or he is simply too tired to keep his eyes open. He relaxes back onto his make-shift pillow, fighting for her breaths. “Liar,” he gasps with a degree of satisfaction.

“You don't have to look so smug,” she accuses softly. “We're careening into a black hole, you know.”

“I know.”

He seems so calm about the idea that she frowns. “Don't worry or anything,” she says.

“Why should I worry... when... you're going to worry enough for... the both of us,” he has to pause to catch his breath. “Worse ways to go.”

“Pulled apart atom by atom isn't my idea of pleasant,” she tells him.

“Radiation... will kill us... long before then.”

“I think your injury will finish you off first.”

“... just a nick.”

“Of course, what was I thinking?”

He lapses into pained silence, exhausted from the effort of speaking. Rey tucks back the stray hairs sticking to his cold, damp forehead. Beneath her knees, the shuttle finally shudders into silence and stillness. She looks at the pilot.

“That was everything... the ion coils have burned out,” the woman says, and then doesn't seem to know what else to say. Rey thinks she might be praying.

Then that is that. How many minutes has it been now? It feels like an hour has passed at least. How many years has passed on the outside? How old is Tam now? Did he ever miss her? Did he ever find out what happened to her?

None of this seems real yet.

“He'll be ok.”

Rey blinks down at Kylo. Is he reading her thoughts?

“He's strong,” he says.

“He shouldn't have to be strong,” she says, feeling her throat tighten with emotion. “I should be there for him.”

“He takes after you... and you grew through adversity like a flower in the desert. He will be ok.”

Rey closes her eyes. That might be the closest thing to a compliment he's ever given her, so of course he must be close to death. She squeezes his hand and does her best not to cry. He probably wouldn't appreciate it. But when she thinks of all the things she will miss out on, her heart breaks. She had so wanted to see him grow up. To see him find friends. Find love. Become a man. Become a good man. Now his life is ticking away without her.

Unshed tears fill her eyes as she looks out the panel of viewports at the stars again, so bright that there is hardly any black between them. It's a beautiful sight. But they must be closing in on the point of no return, as strange clouds of gas flicker past, and odd blue light flashes by.

Kylo shifts to follow her gaze, but the movement sends a shooting pain through both of them. He notices her wince, and after a moment of confused scowling, his expression clears. “You feel it too.”

She nods unhappily. “Our bond came back while you were sleeping, Ben. I've been carrying your pain for months.”

“Why now?”

Her gaze shifts away from his, finding it hard to meet his eye. “I think... because it would only come back if I wanted it enough. It's like it was waiting to be invited.”

“So you admit... we do belong together.” He's dying of blood loss and his heart is barely hanging on, and yet he still manages to be insufferably triumphant.

“We're going to be crushed into a singularity together, I don't think we have much choice,” she sighs.

“Worse things.”

“I'm just going to go ahead and imagine them, just to cheer myself up.” She waits for his response, but when it doesn't come she realises he's lapsed into unconsciousness again. Perhaps for the final time.

And maybe that's for the best.

Rey eases herself around until she's sitting with her back against the wall. This way she can lift Kylo's head in her lap and still apply pressure to the wound. He can't object. Another shudder of turbulence rattles the shuttle and Rey looks up to see the pilot watching her guardedly.

“You have a way with him,” the woman remarks. “I thought only Master Altan could talk back to him.”

“He's not as tough as he pretends,” says Rey, keeping her hand on Kylo's chest, to reassure herself that he still breathes. “What's your name?”

“AN-241,” she answers.

“Is that what people call you?” Rey asks, remembering what Finn has said about stormtroopers.

“Some people call me Twofer,” says the pilot quietly, as if she doesn't want Kylo to overhear.

“Twofer, how much time do we have left?”

In dismay, the pilot looks at the readings on her console. “The sensors can't read much, but there's radiation ahead. We'll enter it in less than an hour, I think.” Then she adds, “It'll probably be quick. You'll just feel sick and then you'll lose consciousness.”

Rey already feels sick, but she suspects that's just nerves. “It wasn't supposed to be like this,” she says, more to herself than Twofer. “I was going to start a new academy. I was going to take Tam away from the Resistance, take him somewhere safe where the darkness wouldn't reach and he could grow up knowing people like himself. Then when the baby was born, he'd have a little brother or sister... maybe having someone who looked up to him would have kept him grounded. But it's already too late.”

“You're pregnant?” asks Twofer, looking aghast.

Rey's response is cut off as the shuttle jolts, almost like it has clipped something. Another flash of blue streaks past the screens.

“Probably just gas clouds...” says Rey with uncertainty.

“I don't like those blue things. They disappear too fast to make out, but now there's more of them,” says Twofer, just as another blue flash blots out the light of the stars and the shuttle tips again. It lasts half a second longer than the others, and just long enough to burn its impression onto Rey's eyelids.

“That's a wormhole!” she cries out.

“It can't be,” says Twofer.

But there's no mistaking the whirling blue of the vortex, flickering in and out of existence like popping fireworks. When one yawns open and holds its shivering form for several seconds, even Twofer balks. “That is a wormhole!”

“It must be what's left of the storm...” Rey says. The Force storm may have abated in the system, but if it had spread as far as this part of space where time had slowed to a crawl, perhaps it still raged.

Another flash and the ship tilts sharply as if its wing snags something. Rey pulls Kylo close, trying to keep him from sliding across the floor like the medical supplies.

“Those things tore apart the Order's fleet, and now they'll tear us apart,” says Twofer tightly.

“Maybe...” murmurs Rey. She thinks it hardly matters anymore. The radiation will kill them soon. Kylo will die of blood loss before then. Even if they survive this, they're be ripped apart, atom by atom, by the intense gravitational forces closer to the blackhole. The threat of being pulled apart by wormholes is one that barely registers now.

But Rey looks out curiously at the flicking blue tears that open and close around them. The longer she watches, the longer they seem to stay open.

“What would happen if we were to fly into one?” Rey asks Twofer.

The pilot furiously shakes her head. “They disappear too fast – and black holes pull in everything. Light, mass, and hyperspace tunnels. Jumping into a wormhole here would, in most cases, just lead right to the centre of the black hole.”

“But not in all cases, right?” At Twofer's stupified look, Rey adds, “We're going to die anyway, why not take a gamble?”

“And how are we supposed to do that?” askes Twofer. “That's like trying to catch lightning.”

“That's not as difficult as you think,” Rey says. Very carefully, she lowers Kylo's head back to the makeshift pillow and wipes her bloody hands on her tunic as she heads to the co-pilot's chair once more. “You only have to anticipate where it will strike.”

“That's the problem-”

“Let me worry about that.” She takes the secondary controls in hands and checks the systems. There's still enough impulse power to maneuver even if the main engines have burned out. “This could work... but you have to do exactly what I say.”

Twofer doesn't really have a lot of choice and she seems to know it. Even though she looks at Rey with an edge of worried pity as if she thinks their situation might have driven her mad, she engages the lateral burners and waits, hands poised on the control column.

Rey leans toward the viewport, watching the strange world beyond. The stars are brighter than ever on one side, more of a wall of burning white light that bleeds into darkness as her gaze turns to the black hole. The blue flashes are happening less often, she thinks, but they're staying longer, getting closer, much more identifiable as the openings of wormholes even if they disappear too fast to reach them. She watches them carefully, listening to the ripples in the Force – not an easy task since she feels how even the Force can't escape the pull of gravity. Like everything else, it drains away, not so much a deep calm ocean here but a rapid river churning towards a bottomless waterfall. Casting her senses about is not unlike throwing a stick into the rapids and hoping it will stay in one place.

But gradually she begins to see the patterns. The whorls that appeared in the streams of the Force moments before a vortex twists itself into existence. Some are too small. Some are too far away. Then Rey feels a terrific pull on the Force somewhere to her left.

“Three hundred degrees, go,” she says to Twofer. “Go!”

Twofer swerves, and in the fraction of a moment when the blue vortex appears, they slip into it. It's like taking half a step sideways out of the universe and into hell.

Rey gives a cry as the terrific jolt throws her from her seat. The few lights remaining snap into darkness and sparks spray across the consoles. There's a feeling, almost like they're in freefall. The world beyond the viewports is a blur of light and darkness that Rey cannot make sense of, and for split second she wonders if this is what it feels like to fly straight into the heart of a black hole.

Kylo is lying not far from her. As the shuttle spins madly out of control, he begins to slide – Rey launches herself across the floor to pin him down. If the bandages come loose now, he'll bleed to death in minutes. It's absurd to worry about that now, she thinks. There's a deafening roar that fills the air – or her head – and it sounds like death. She's sure of it. She's so sure of it, she presses her face to Kylo's chest and waits, counting down the seconds to the end.

One second becomes two, then three, then Rey loses count in her terror and begins again. Maybe its an eternity, or it really is only a few seconds, when all the noise and flashing lights cease and her stomach gives a familiar roll as if the shuttle has just left hyperspace.

Twofer, who was already buckled sensibly into her seat, tenses and swears loudly. “BRACE.”

There's nothing much else Rey can do but hold onto the grilling for dear life. She can feel the shuttle plummeting, not through space but with the queasy gravity she associates with air. And where there is an atmosphere, there is usually a ground. It will be the worst kind of luck, she thinks, to have done the unthinkable and escaped a black hole, only to crash.

But the crash never comes.

Their descent slows – quickly enough to make her feel like her stomach has gone on without her, but not so fast to throw them around. In moments the shuttle is back under control, easing down gently until she feels the telltale crunch and shudder as they touch down on the ground. Rey listens to the earnest groaning of strained bulkheads settling uneasily under their own weight.

“Well done,” Rey whispers to Twofer in the subsequent silence. She doesn't think even she could have wrestled the shuttle back under control in freefall without the main engines.

“That wasn't me...” says Twofer.

Rey lifts her head and looks tentatively up at the viewport. The palest blue sky meets her eyes, skudded with rolling clouds that fill her heart with an searing kind of nostalgia. Aching and dazzled, Rey lifts herself off Kylo. There's more blood on her right hand now, but this time its her own – she held the grilling on the floor so tightly that her fingers have been cut to ribbons. But Kylo is still breathing and that's all that matters.

“Where are we?” she asks.

“I don't know, our star charts are out of date,” says Twofer quietly. “It's an aquatic planet with a breathable atmosphere, as far as I can tell.

Rey rises carefully to her feet and stumbles to the viewport to look out. Craggy black rock covered in moss and seaweed greet her, and beyond that.... an endless grey-blue sea that for just a moment she thinks she can smell.

“I don't believe it...” she whispers. “We're on Ahch-To.”

“Where?” Twofer is nonplussed.

Rey rushes to the panel to wrench the lever for the gangway, regardless of Twofer's spluttered cautions. The outer door creaks open, but only partway before it jam. It's enough for a blast of crisp salty air to wash over Rey's face. She tugs off her breather and inhales deeply, feeling as if she hasn't tasted real air in years.

“Wait!” Twofer shouts, as Rey climbs through the gap and down the ramp.

Her feet land on the strange crystallised shore she remembers from her years of training here – the hexagonal columns of black rock that rise in undulated patterns, like steps. Waves lap at their edges and Rey crouches down for a moment to dip her hand into the icy, foaming water, partly to wash the blood from her fingers, but also so that the sting will convince her that what she's seeing is real.

Why here, of all places? She had not really thought much about where the wormhole would take them, but this is the last place she expected.

“It's because this is where I found you.”

Rey turns, startled at the intrusion of a man's voice. Close to the shuttle, a figure sits upon the black rocks, swathed in a faded black cloak. A mask of tarnished silver covers his face.

Here is the man from her visions... her worst nightmares. Rey cannot move and she can hardly breathe. The sound of the ebbing waves seems to grow louder, ringing in her ears as she looks at the creature before her. He is real. As real as the the cold sea. As hard as the rocks. As present as she is herself, and yet Rey no longer feels grounded, as if her sense of reality has been torn free and she is afloat without anything to hold onto.

“Tam,” she breathes eventually, feeling sick to her stomach.

“No one calls me that anymore,” he says.

Rey's hand folds over her mouth as her vision blurs with tears of grief. Her boy – her beautiful boy and his beautiful smile is gone. He's as good as dead. She shakes her head, everything within her screaming in rejection that the man before her is all that's left. “I shouldn't have gone,” she gasps. “What's happened to you? What have I done?”

The feeling has gone from her legs. She sags hard to knees, shaking hands over her face, no longer able to face this terrible mistake she's made.

Softly gloved hands ease around her wrists, bringing her upright. His hands are so large. He towers over her, though Rey is hunched and shaking, unable to lift her head.

“I never realised how young you were,” he says, and his voice is the same as his father's, though he's lost the corellian accent they once shared. “But you can't despair yet. Look. They're coming.”

She hears the distant thunder of engines breaking the tranquil peace of Ahch-To's atmosphere. Even though her eyes are streaming, when she looks up she can make out the shape of a shuttle accelerating fast along the horizon.

“Tam is on that ship, waiting for you.”

Rey shoots the man before her a startled look. “But-” Was she mistaken? She suddenly seizes his arms and searches him with the Force, almost before she can think to stop herself. He slams down his internal walls, shutting her out with finality, but not before she has a strong enough sense of him to know that he is Tam. She knows it in her heart the way only a mother could know it.

“I'm sorry it took me so long,” he says. “It took me years to master a Force Storm powerful enough to defeat the gravity of a black hole, and then longer still, to find a way to lead it back to where you belong.”

“I don't understand,” she whispers.

“No one can truly reverse time,” he explains. “But the universe never runs at the same speed everywhere. You travelled back in time, in a sense, when you crossed the violet band to reach a shuttle that was still experiencing the moments after a collision that took place three months before. And there are places yet where time runs fast, where from a certain perspective, crossing into 'normal' space is a trip into the past.”

Rey stares. “I really don't understand,” she says again.

“You never do. You'll always complain it gives you a headache just thinking about it.”

“Take off the mask, Tam – I need to see you.” She reaches up, to grasp the edges of his mask, but he stops her gently.

“There's nothing for you to see. I am not your Tam.” He lifts his head, watching as a Resistance shuttle shoots overhead, descending toward to the flatter high-ground of the island above them. “He will be here soon. We must say goodbye.”

“Tam-”

“I am not Tam.”

“Then who are you?”

She feels the whispers through their touch. Worldeater. Stormbringer. There's death on these hands, just as she feared. So many deaths. “You have to find out for yourself. One day,” he says. “Or maybe it will be different this time?”

The engines of the Resistance shuttle power down, and Rey knows it will only be moments before whoever has arrived will appear over the crest of the hill.

“I'm glad I got to see you again. Like this. It was worth it.” He releases her hands and steps back.

“Sweetheart,” she whispers, reaching after him as she feels her heart beginning to break.

A small boy suddenly leaps clear of the mossy hill above, careening down the hill. “MOM!”

“TAM!” Rey tears toward him – she has to – he's going to fall and break his neck on the damn rocks at the speed he's going.

They crash together in a tangle of limbs and land in the damp moss, laughing. She keeps chanting his name because it's true and real and it's him.

“Mom – you were gone so long!” he cries out.

“How long?” she asks, pushing his curls from his forehead.

“A whole week!”

“A whole week!” She almost screams and smothers him in the tightest hug. “Tam, you're so clever! You clever, clever boy! How did you know where to find me?”

“I had a vision-”

“You and your visions!” She's half exasperated, half laughing, and she begins to tickle him viciously until he's rolling in the moss, giggling for mercy.

“Rey!”

She looks up and sees Finn climbing down the slope at a more careful pace. He's carrying his blaster with him. Rey untangles from Tam long enough to pull a surprised Finn into a hug. “What's this about?” he asks. “You weren't gone that long.”

“I think I might have been, for a while at least,” she says, feeling so teary and happy and Finn was already one of her most favourite people in the universe, but now she wants to never let go of him. But she does, because as happy as she is, she knows there is still a matter of urgency to attend to. Turning back toward the shuttle, she is only slightly surprised to find that the masked man has vanished. It is almost like he was never there.

“Where is he?” she wonders.

“Who?” Tam asks, sidling up to take her hand.

She was sure Tam must have seen him, but her son only looks at her, puzzled. Perhaps he had only shown himself to her, or he'd never really been here. What if she'd imagined the whole thing?

Someone appears at the top of the gangway. Finn reacts at once, raising his blaster.

“Hey! Don't move!”

Twofer freezes, eyeing them all warily.

“Finn – no. She's with me.”

That is a stormtrooper,” he says, refusing to lower his blaster.

“Yes, and she's under my protection, so no shooting her,” Rey says firmly, then looks at Twofer. “Under the circumstances, I think you should come with us. I'll make sure you go free, but you'll have to play nice with the Resistance for a bit.”

“For a bit,” she says uncomfortably. “I can manage that.”

Tam tugs on her hand. “What about Kylo? Did you find him?”

Rey bends down with a smile. “I did, love. He's very weak, but I found me.”

“Argh,” sighs Finn, lowering his blaster with a hopeless look at the heavens. “I was hoping that bit of the vision wasn't true.”

Rey looks at her friend. “We have to get him back to the base on Kalboth. He needs a bacta tank-”

“Don't be crazy,” Finn says flatly. “It's not a hospital. You can't take a sworn enemy of the republic to the Resistance and expect them to treat his injuries-”

“They won't turn him away. They can't.” Rey sounds certain, even if her heart is mired with doubt. “Finn, he needs help or he's going to die.”

She watches him open his mouth to form the word 'good!', except at the same moment he notices Tam is looking at him. It's one thing never to accept Rey's choice in men, but Tam at least has no choice in who his father is. Even Finn can't bring himself to deny help to a man while his son watches.

“Fine, but this is on your head, not mine.” He says.

“I'm prepared for that, Finn.”

“Come on then.” He grips her shoulder tightly, like the comrades they are. “Let's get him on the shuttle.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Asterism

Rey wakes for the first time without pain. She moves her shoulder tentatively, waiting for the ache to set in, but not even a twinge remains. She sits before the mirror, brushing out her hair, flick after flick as she watches her own eyes. Ordinarily Rey is not the kind of person to give much thought to her appearance, and typically never so much as glances in a mirror before she sets out for the day. She'd never thought there was anything more to it than that, until she'd begun to live with Leia during Tam's earliest years. She'd noticed how each morning Leia took to her dressing table and went through a studied ritual – cleansing her face, applying powder to her skin, scent to her wrists and her throat, and spending even more time coiling her long hair into styles she claimed had been out of fashion on Alderaan even when she was young.

Rey doubts she will ever have the patience or foresight to take on such rituals. Her skin will always be patchily tanned and freckled, and her hair will always fall in and out of messy buns, and she will smell of whatever basic soap was to hand or whatever the laundry droids have put in the detergent. It's probably not what a mother should be. She should probably have a body of soft curves that invited cuddles rather than one of hard angles. She should probably smell of faint perfume and make-up like Leia.

Absently, she smooths a hand over her stomach, feeling the gentle rise that is still barely noticeable. For a moment she has a shiver of panic as she wonders how she is supposed to cope with another child when she's not sure she has even succeeded in raising the first. The image of the man in the tarnished silver mask still lurks in the recesses of her mind. It wasn't some phantom of the imagination, she thinks... it wasn't a coincidence that a wormhole appeared and pulled her and Kylo to Ahch-To of all places. It was Tam.

Rey turns her gaze to the reflection of the bed, and the sleeping boy still huddled up to the pillows. She had often tried to imagine what he would be when he grew up, but she shuddered to think he would ever become a creature known as little else but a 'worldeater'. Was that still in his future? Or was that just the fate of a Tam without parents?

Leia steps into view in the doorway of the bedroom. “I'm ready,” she says to Rey quietly, who understands the true gravity of her words.

She is ready to see her son for the first time in thirty years.

“What about Tam?” Rey whispers, loathe to part with him.

“Let him sleep in. It's the first good night's rest he's had in months,” says Leia.

Together they slip from the apartment quietly and head along the covered walkways to the military clinic. It seems to be a quite ordinary day as far as Rey can tell. The rain is pouring again, as it almost always does, and she sees groups of personnel taking shelter, talking and chatting, nodding in respect to Leia as she passes.

“No one knows,” comments Rey.

“It's being hushed up,” Leia agrees quietly. “If he hadn't already been under the care of the doctors before General Praxis found out, she would have ordered him to be buried on the spot. She still would, if not for the medical oaths outranking her orders.”

Rey was not looking forward to that confrontation. But as blissfully ignorant as the wider base is, as they begin their descent into the underground sections of the clinic, the mood changes. Rey notices the sideways looks. The extra guards posted along the walls. How a turret droid – the most advanced kind the Resistance possesses – clicks along the corridor leading to the bacta chamber, a corridor that is otherwise deserted of actual medical staff. The droid's large red eye scans Rey as she passes, almost judgmentally.

Rey is so distracted that she almost doesn't notice that Leia has stopped. She reaches the door and looks back, expecting to find the woman still at her side, but Leia is now leaning with a hand on the wall.

“Are you ok?” she asks.

“I just need a moment,” says Leia. But Rey is worried. She has seen Leia barge her way through almost every crisis that has been thrown at her, and she has never heard her utter the words 'I need a moment'.

“You don't have to...” Rey begins to say.

“I think I do.” Leia straightens, once more the General she was. “Let's get inside before this bucket of bolts gets trigger-happy.”

It's a facade, but at least it's a good one. Rey opens the door and stands aside to let Leia enter.

It is darker and noticeably cooler as they enter the bacta chamber, as the eponymous bacteria thrives only within a narrow temperature range. There's a slight scent of sweetness, like melted sugar. It is the first time Rey has been here, for Kylo was whisked away from her grip barely moments after landing by a trauma crew who had not the faintest idea who their patient was. It is the first time most here will have ever seen his face.

It is certainly the first time for Leia.

Rey watches her as she scans the line tubular tanks that line the walls of the circular chamber. Each is filled with a viscous blue liquid that bubbles away, tended to by a batch of medical droids that quietly move from tank to tank. Some of the them have a patient. Rey spots one with a woman who seems to be in the process of being treated for terrible burns. Another contains a man, deep wounds to his torso and face.

Then there is Kylo.

Rey glances to Leia again, and sees her looking between the two men. For a horrible moment, she does not know which is her son.

“He's here, Leia,” says Rey quietly, drawing her to the tank where Kylo hangs, suspended and unconscious in the liquid like a curiosity in a jar.

Rey has never seen him so unclothed. Aside from the white briefs intended for modesty, his body is completely bared to her eyes for the first time, and she is struck mute once more by the history of savagery that has been carved into his skin. His left leg is gone. Whatever prosthesis he used has been removed, perhaps because bacta doesn't react well to metal and electrics, and all that's left is a stump that ends mid-thigh, wrapped in a kind of plastic like his left hand. What else is left of him is a pattern of scars. There's the ugly reconstruction of his midriff from when he was hit by Chewie's bowcaster, and the long burning scar she herself left him along his throat and shoulder. She'd punctured his left shoulder too, but she only remembers now that she sees the deep, red scar that lies inches from the fresh one left by Scorpus Ren's blade.

There are so many others too, old silvery ones that he must have brought with him from childhood. All the pains Snoke inflicted on him are there to see. Leia's face has turned into a cracked mask of stone. And the worst part is that she still cannot see her son's face, as it's hidden by the hefty breathing apparatus that wraps around his head. She can only see the life of pain her child has endured in her absence.

Suddenly Rey regrets bringing her. She already knows the haunted feeling of seeing your son as a damaged man, and knowing the blame for his state lies with you.

“You're right. He's tall,” says Leia after a fashion. It takes her a lot of effort.

“He seems to be almost healed,” Rey remarks, eyeing the red line that travels from his shoulder to the edge of his ribs. The bacta is still working on it. She can see the telltale fizzing around the wound that fills the liquid with tiny bubbles. He won't even have a scar by the end of this treatment, though it's a shame bacta won't work on his old injuries.

“The patient's treatment cycle will be finished in precisely three hours and forty-two minutes,” supplies a helpful medical droid.

“And what then, I wonder,” muses Leia, although she seems to be lost in her own world of thought.

Rey thinks she hears the beginnings of a commotion out in the corridor. Raised voices deep in argument grow louder, approaching, until she turns in time to see the door thrown open and General Praxis and Banner enter with a great deal of an entourage behind them.

“I heard you were here. I should have known you would have something to do with this!” declares Praxis when she sees Leia.

“Astute as always,” murmurs Leia with perfect restraint.

“This is insupportable, even for you!” says Praxis, jabbing her finger at them.

One of the medical droids wheels forward. “May I remind visitors that for the safety and comfort of patients, the maximum permitted volume of noise in the bacta chamber must fall below fifty decibels-”

“Quiet!” shouts General Praxis. “I am to understand that this man was as good as dead, but you went behind our backs to retrieve him? Out of weak, familial sentiment? Do you know what you have done by bringing him here?”

“You can't blame Leia,” says Rey. “It was my decision and my actions, and if you're going to hold anyone responsible, it will be me.”

Praxis is just as happy to round on Rey. “Don't even get me started on you – this is already the last straw where you are concerned. Sleeping with the enemy was only a saying before you arrived.”

“Now, now,” interrupts General Banner. “This is an unfortunate situation, I think we can all agree, but it already is what it is and so far it is contained. As far as the Republic and the First Order are concerned, Kylo Ren is dead and he will stay that way. This man here is Ben Solo.”

“Semantics,” sneers Praxis.

“If we wish for the momentum of our victory to continue, these are semantics we must adhere to,” says Banner.

“Call him whatever you want – this is one of the most dangerous creatures in the galaxy and you,” she jabs her finger at Rey again, “have brought him amongst us. How, pray tell, are we supposed to contain him when he awakens?”

“Taking his leg was a good start,” says Leia darkly.

Rey privately agrees. There's no way even Kylo would get far with only one leg. “As I said, I'm responsible. If you wish for him to stand trial then I will be his guarantor-”

But General Banner is already shaking his head. “There won't be a trial,” he says shortly. “Ben Solo will be questioned, and at a time his information is deemed to be no longer useful to us, he will be executed. No one will ever know he was here.”

Rey blinks at him, ice flushing through her veins.

“These are not the values I built this Resistance upon,” Leia says softly. “Reconsider-”

“We are at war, or have you forgotten? And you have always been blind when it comes to your own family,” says Praxis. “The decision has already been made.”

As Leia puffs up and sets about reminding everyone why she was made a general in the first place, Rey feels an awakening begin to flicker within the part of her senses that she has come to associate with the Bond. She glances behind her at the bacta tank, where Kylo hangs in suspension, as utterly still as ever, but Rey knows this won't last long.

“He needs more sedative,” she whispers to the medical droid tending to his obs.

“The patient's readings are within normal parameters,” says the droid.

“Trust me, you're going to need more sedative in a moment.”

As she says this, she notices that Kylo's hands are beginning to move, his fingers twitching and clenching, his head beginning to shift like someone searching for the source of a sound.

“-and I will remind you,” continues Leia, quite resistant to Praxis' attempts to interrupt, “that had I accepted that seat on the Galactic Senate, this Resistance would not be standing today. It was my intiative, and more importantly my funds which ever gave us a foothold, so do not question my loyalty or commitment to this cause when I have given up so much already for it.”

“Um,” says Rey, who is now not the only noticing that the man in the tank is waking up. The droid wheels away to find more sedative, but it might already be too late. Rey sees his eyes slide open, and feels the sting of his confusion and fear. He doesn't know where he is. He doesn't really understand what has happened. He reaches for his apparatus wrapped around his head and for a moment Rey thinks he's going to tear it off.

Don't, she warns him.

In a second his eyes snap onto her, recognising her at once. Then his gaze rakes the rest of the room, taking in the sea of Resistance uniforms, and she feels his anger begin to build. She feels his sense of betrayal. He raises his fist and brings it down against the glass with such force a spider-web of cracks appear. Those closest to the tank take a hurried step back, and all argument ceases.

Rey swings herself up to balance on one of the clamps holding the tank in place, splaying her hands against the glass. Calm down! She doesn't feed him the words precisely, just lets her feelings bridge the gap between them, countering his volatile, fluctuating state with her steadier presence. His eyes flash up to hers and his hand smacks hard against the glass again, but without the same force as before.

“Don't look at me like that,” she says. “I had to do it. You would have died.”

Kylo's eyelids droop and his head nods low. Rey glances down to see the medical droid has already administered extra sedative into the air filter and for a moment she shares the prickling sensation in his lungs as he gasps and thrashes, attempting resist its affects before it swallows him in darkness and he goes still once more.

Rey steps down, out of the way of the droids that now zip forward to mend the cracked glass before the damage spreads any further. She notices that Leia has gone white, and General Praxis' fury has hardened even further.

You brought him here, so you will take responsibility for him,” says Praxis. “If we're going to get any use out of him, he will need to be kept under control. That is your job now.”

Rey's brow furrows at the general. “Before you put him down like a dog?”

“We will show him the same curtesy he has shown our people in the past, and don't you ever forget that.”

Eye for an eye, Rey thinks in disgust. When was that the policy of the morally superior? She watches the General stride quickly from the room, followed hastily by the others. No one really wants to linger to see if Kylo will succeed in smashing the glass next time he wakes up. The room empties and soon its just Rey and Leia, looking almost anywhere but at each other.

“A fine thing, to save a man just to kill him,” says Leia with a heaviness of spirit. “Let me deal with the generals. I may yet talk sense into them, but for now, obey them. Stay with Ben. Make sure he gives them no cause to... to...”

Leia can't finish. She shoots one last look at her son before she too leaves, and Rey has only the company of the droids.

“Would you like a chair?” asks one.

“No,” she says, far too occupied with wondering how she is going to unpick the mess she has created.

“But my readings indicate you are currently incubating a small human and may be feeling symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, mild abdominal cramps, and pain of the lower back-”

“I'm quite alright,” Rey says impatiently. “But maybe a chair will be nice.”

If they're going to turn her into a kind of watchdog for Kylo, she may as well do so in comfort. She makes sure to message Finn, asking him to check in on Tam. He reports back that he's already taking a personal day to take Hanna fishing and Tam can come along. When he asks her exactly how much trouble is she in, Rey can only message him back one word. And it's not polite.

True to the medical droid's word, the remaining treatment is finished by midday. By then, there is no sign that Kylo was ever so grievously injured, as barely even a blemish remains on his skin. The Generals may have told her to keep a close eye on him, but privacy is something even enemies of the Republic have in a hospital, and Rey is made to wait while Kylo is removed for cleaning and dressing.

She's beginning to wonder if something has gone quite wrong, for it seems like hours pass before a man in uniform of a colonel approaches her.

“The prisoner Ben Solo has been taken directly to interrogation,” he tells her. “General Praxis wants you present.”

“Of course she does,” says Ray tightly, and follows the man through a series of underground corridors Rey never realised existed, linking the hospital up to the more clandestine parts of the intelligence centre. These are parts Rey has never had cause to visit. She dislikes the rough cut stone passages where puddles of condensation have gathered like cold sweat. Everything stinks like mould.

The room she's taken to is a simple one, down another corridor filled with guards – and possibly the same turret droid that had previously been standing guard outside the bacta chamber. “You're earning your salt-lick today, aren't you?” Rey says to it as she inches around its great round bulk, and hears it's low blark of agreement.

When a set of reinforced steel doors grind open to reveal another plain stone room, she's almost shoved inside like she too might be some kind of prisoner.

Kylo, seated at the table within, looks up at her, just as the door seals shut once more.

For once, he strikes her as very ordinary. The ceiling is high and little more than a square of harsh light that makes him look pale, and the clothes they have chosen to dress him in are ludicrously white. He notices her assessment and props his chin on his palm. “What do you think?” he asks.

“I think they're trying to dress a wolf as a lamb,” she says.

He seems to like that conclusion. There's a sharpness in his gaze as he watches her take one of the chairs opposite him. Rey looks about, wondering which wall is the false one, behind which everything they do and say will be recorded.

“Are you here to interrogate me?” he asks suddenly.

She meets his eye, and leaves him in suspense just for a moment longer than necessary. “No. It would only amuse you.”

“Then maybe you can answer some of my questions.” His left hand moves restlessly, almost convulsively, sliding the metal tips of his fingers along the metal table surface. “Just where are we?”

“Kalboth. The primary Resistance base.”

“And I'm to understand you brought me here?”

“I did.”

His hands fist and his jaw clenches. She wonders if he's going to lose his temper and smash his fist against the table. “I told you I could never come back,” he manages to say in a tone that almost sounds calm.

“Well, you're here now... I had to bring you. You were badly hurt.” She frowns at his blank look. “Do you remember?”

“The last thing I remember is ordering an evacuation,” he muses, scanning the room as if it contains clues to his own memory. “There was a collision... AN-241 pilots like a poorly trained ape.”

“Is that really all you remember?” she asks.

“I remember ordering you to get out of there, but your obedience still leaves something to be desired.” Rey has to look away from him, as the way he says this combined with the look he gives her makes it clear what he's thinking of. A heat stirs in her blood as she remembers how he held her down on his bed and demanded her total submission, body, heart, and soul. For him, that had all happened as recently as yesterday.

“I did leave. But I came back,” she tells him.

“Only you.” He almost sneers.

“Yes. Only me.”

His expression softens slightly as he watches her face. He sits back as if he's been chastised, and his hand resumes its strange movement. He's anxious. She can feel it. The fear he tries to keep at bay at all times is dangerously close to the surface, and she realises now how much of that fear is tied to this place. Not Kalboth specifically, but to the Resistance; fear of capture, fear of facing the people who would make him answerable. Fear of-

It's hard to keep from intruding through their Bond, and Rey shuts herself out deliberately. Kylo is already too easy to read, and the Bond makes him an open book to her. He should be horrified by the lack of privacy between them, but he only looks at her frankly, unperturbed at how much she can delve into him at will.

“I remember the black hole,” he admits after a while. “Am I to assume... some time has actually passed?”

“Three months.”

“Is that all?”

Rey shrugs. She's quite sure they were trapped for more along the lines of thirty years, but that's something she can't even begin to explain. When she thinks about it for too long, she starts getting rather anxious that there is another Rey out there still, falling slowly into a black hole while she sits here wringing her hands.

“Time enough for our Bond to return,” he remarks.

Their eyes meet across the table and she feels a warmth from him, his pleasure at their connection. Rey can't even feign indignance, because it's the first time she's truly been comfortable in his presence. The painful itch of that broken thing that lay between them like the remnants of a devastating argument has clicked back into place, and it's not the unpleasant, invasive thing she once feared it to be. It's comfort. It's companionship and understanding. She's still not quite sure she even likes him, but some things go far deeper than mere like and dislike.

“A pity you went to so much trouble to save me, only to bring me here,” he says slowly. “You realise there are people behind that wall discussing the best date to execute me?”

Rey glances at the wall he indicates, swallowing. “Why don't you try changing their minds? Give them a reason to spare you? Tell them you've changed – that you're willing to help the Resistance-”

“You think because they have taken my clothes and my name, I've changed?” His head tilts and his lip lifts in a smirk that says he thought she was smarter than that. “I owe the Resistance nothing.”

“I think you owe Tam more than that,” she reminds him. “He needs his father.”

“Oh, I don't intend to die. I just don't intend to prostrate myself to liars and hypocrites.”

But he's the liar. She can feel how scared he is, how vulnerable they've made him simply be taking his clothes. The fact that his arms are bare makes him almost as unnerved as his lack of a left leg. His hand drums a slow rhythm on the table, watching her closely, like he's waiting for her to say – or do – something in particular.

“They're going to come in here and interrogate you any minute,” she says, leaning forward. “For Tam's sake, behave at the very least.”

His hand stops drumming. “You realise I was an interrogator for Snoke for twelve years?”

Oh dear. He was going to take this as a personal challenge. “Behave,” she says again, because she can feel the door is about to open and she's run out of time to caution him.

In walks a man she has never seen before, as plain and unassuming as any of the support crew staffing the resistance. Trailing alongside him is an observation drone, little more than a floating ball of monitoring software. It will detect everything; heart-rate, sweat, pupil dilation, but Rey knows that it will also carry a dose of Curica radiation, a substance that has no known use except to cause pain and loosen tongues.

But regardless of what she thinks of this, it is not her place to intervene. She is only here to stop Kylo lifting his hand and casually choking to death the man who takes his seat beside her. She can tell just from the way Kylo is looking at him that he's already considering it.

“Ben Solo,” he begins, and he's already off to a bad start. Rey sees the way Kylo's eyes narrow. “Son and murderer of Han Solo. Nephew and murderer of Luke Skywalker. Murderer of Lor San Tekka, Yvis Ulani, Lucy Raker, Armin Tull, Kovok Gnu, and Sesha En Vallis.”

“If you say so,” says Kylo evenly.

Rey wishes she was anywhere but here. She knows his crimes. She knows this is probably an already redacted list of the people whose deaths he is responsible for, but that doesn't make it easier to hear.

The interrogator moves on, reading from a file upon which he scribbles notes with a pencil. “You were the apprentice of Supreme Leader Snoke, but curiously was never granted a rank within the First Order. Why was that?”

Seconds tick by and Kylo simply looks at Rey, as if inviting her to notice how well he is behaving. “I was his right hand,” he says, sliding his gaze back to the interrogator. “Hands move more freely when unconfined.”

“And what does a right hand do?”

“What does yours do? It takes, it gives, lifts... crushes. Snoke was a decrepit clone. His power came from wielding others. I was raised for purpose.”

Kylo looks back at her, and she sees its her approval alone that he seeks.

“And during this time-”

“This is dull,” Kylo interrupts. “Do you want the locations of the seven remaining First Order bases or not?”

The interrogator blinks at him, and despite his unassuming demeanour he hides his surprise well. “Why should we suppose you have such information? You've said yourself that you operated outside the First Order structure. I doubt you were privy-”

“I know because General Hux knew. I know them for the same reason I know your name is Jona Berson, that your wife left you six months ago with your two children and she even took the cat. A ginger one. You liked it better than the children.”

Rey feels the low grating purr of his power, and raises her own. “Ben,” she says warningly.

He glances at her. “Ben?” he repeats, slightly surprised. “I killed Ben Solo once. I buried that sad scared child in the darkness with all the others. Do you think that's a metaphor? I actually did it. I went to Luke Skywalker's temple with the Knights and watched the children fall one by one, and my face was among them. I ran him down, and cut him apart... so he would never be scared again. He'd never be weak.”

Something like a memory unfolds in Rey's mind, a scared boy sliding through the mud, raising his arm over his head just a second before an unstable red sabre slams through him. Rey stares at Kylo. Whatever else, it isn't a lie. He really believes what he saw.

“But... you are Ben,” Rey says, confused how he could believe he'd killed his own self.

The interrogator clears his throat. “So you claim to know the location of the last seven-”

“Be quiet,” says Kylo, flicking a distracted hand at the man with a thrum of power that leaves him speechless.

Rey glares at him. “Don't do that.”

“He irritates me,” says Kylo. “He's going to get up now and leave this room.”

“I'm going to get up now and leave this room,” agrees the interrogator.

“And then he will go hang his worthless carcass from a tree somewhere.”

Ben!” Rey snaps, and grabs the hand of the interrogator as he begins to rise. “You will do no such thing, you are going to live a long and happy life.”

“Even without your beloved cat,” adds Kylo.

“Stop it!” This was exactly the sort of thing Praxis expected him to do, and why did Rey ever fool herself for a moment that Kylo could refrain from terrifying people for more than three straight minutes. It's far too dangerous now for the interrogator to remain, however, so Rey releases his hand. “You'd better go.”

The dazed man leaves the room, leaving behind his file. Kylo begins to draw it toward himself but Rey slams her hand down on it. “You're not even trying,” she accuses heatedly. “If you pull something like that again, they will definitely kill you.”

“I suppose this won't be completely without value,” he says, summoning the pencil into his hand with a deft twitch of the wrist. “The First Order has been a thorn in my side for too long now, so it's only fair they get obliterated. Only the Resistance has the power to do that. Give me the file.”

Frowning suspiciously, she slides it across to him. His handwriting is tight, uneven and meanders across the blank side of the file's cover. Co-ordinates to unknown regions, succinct descriptions of size and strength, and one word 'STAR-BREAKER' is underlined several times. “Tell them they'll probably want to get a move on and destroy that one first. I'm sure it'll be nearing completion over the next few years.”

“Is this real?” she asks.

He just looks at her. “When have I ever lied?”

She looks at the scrawling marks he hands to her. “This could bring you your freedom.”

“Bring me my leg, then I'll find my own freedom.”

“Don't say things like that. You know they can hear you.” She glances at the monitoring droid that still hovers at the edge of the room.

“I don't care.” He raises his chin and gives her a speculative look. “You're the one who has things to hide. Rey. Such a perfect little jedi angel of sweetness and light. Everyone here is half in love with you. Do they know you, really?” He leans closer. “Do they know the things we did together? How you fought by my side? How you were a most honoured guest aboard my ship? How many times you came to my bed?”

“Twisting the truth is no better than lying,” she reprimands him as she fights the flush that climbs up her chest and over her face. “And it was once.”

And once was enough, she thinks.

The taunting half-smile he wears fades back into perplexity. He tilts his head and squints at her, as if he caught a glimpse of something he's not sure what. “What else are you hiding, I wonder?”

Rey rearranges her composure. This is neither the time nor place for such a conversation, and the truth is that she is also... nervous. She doesn't know how he'll react. There's also that small, petty part of her that doesn't want to tell him. Sharing one child with him is exhausting enough, she's still not sure how a life with two will proceed.

“Later,” she says curtly. She senses someone is coming and is glad for the distraction.

Kylo senses it too. “Is our Jona back for more? What shall I do with him this time? Make him swear allegience to me or just ask him for the code to the door?”

“You're unbelievable,” she mutters, because quite suddenly she knows it's not Jona.

The door scrapes open and Kylo's gaze flicks with disinterest over the woman in the blue gown who enters. “Sending old women to do their dirty work now?” he sneers.

Leia takes the seat next to Rey. “Hello, Ben.”

The recognition is not immediate. Why would it be? He hasn't seen her in thirty years, and his memory is that of a child's recollection. He has forgotten her face, but he cannot forget her voice, the way a mother says her son's name, and watches the slow realisation creep across his face as derision stiffens into shock.

Not much about his outward appearance changes, but Rey feels such a surge of anxiety, her chest contracts. Everything comes down to this woman. All the fear that lines his mind traces back to a flashpoint that surrounds his nebulous perception of a half-forgotten mother. This is why he could never come back. Not because he feared the law or punishment, but because the only person he would ever be answerable to was now sitting across from him, looking at him pensively.

His mouth opens but it takes him a moment to find words. “You look awful,” he says flatly. “Are you sure we weren't trapped in that black hole for a hundred years?”

Leia doesn't deserve his contempt, even though Rey knows this is more like the desperate snapping of a cornered rat. She looks away from him and carefully walls herself off from their connection, determined to avoid his attempts to draw her in, to give him any cover to hide behind.

And he has to know that cutting words won't work on his mother. He's dealing with the Queen of acerbic put-downs.

As expected, Leia hardly reacts. “Time has a tendency to creep up on us. You've been gone thirty years, Ben. Another thirty, and we'll see how much of you is left at the rate you're going.”

With a huff of stricken laughter that Rey has never heard before – indeed, she has never heard him laugh – Kylo breaks eye contact, his gaze sweeping the room the way others might search for an escape route. His hand is tapping again. An electrical malfunction or something else, she's not sure.

“Who's idea was this?” he demands suddenly, still refusing to look at her.

“Mine,” says Leia. “I would be remiss not to visit my own son when he drops by.”

“Oh,” he breathes, drawing out the sound uncomfortably. “Now you visit.”

There's something terribly, deeply bitter in those words. Rey has seen his anger in most of its forms, but this is something new and dangerous. So when Leia turns to her and says, “You can go now,” Rey wants to ask if she has a death-wish.

“She's not going anywhere,” says Kylo, pointing at Rey.

“You've used her as a crutch too long. Let her go,” Leia tells him. “This is between us.”

After a moment of awful silence, Rey begins to stand.

Sit down!” snarls Kylo.

“No, she's right,” she says, meeting his furious glare stolidly. “You don't need me.”

He wants to argue, but that would be admitting that he does need her - pitifully and wretchedly. He would never admit that in front of Leia. So he says nothing further as Rey takes the file and heads for the door, even though she can practically feel him battering at the walls of her mind. She ignores him. She doesn't even glance over her shoulder as she steps into the corridor until the door crashes shut behind her and she comes nose to nose with General Praxis.

“Give me that,” says the General as she unceremoniously swipes the document from Rey's hand, then bundles away down the corridor through a doorway further down. Rey follows sedately, suspecting that no one will stop her. The room she finds is the one adjacent to the interrogation cell, filled with far more people than Rey anticipated. Most of them – generals and other higher ranked officials – are conducting some sort of argument now over the very file Rey has handed over.

“But Star-Breaker base was just a rumour – I'm certain of it.”

“This could be a trick.”

“Well, it's simple enough to test if we just send a probe there-”

Uninterested in their squabbling like cats over a fish-head, Rey turns her attention to the panel set in the wall. It's practically a window into the next room, with a grainy kind of film where those on the other side would see only a wall. Rey steps toward it curiously despite herself. How strange to see Kylo and Leia when they cannot see her. She feels like the worst kind of spy, even though she can't hear a word that passes between them. Their body language tells everything she needs to know anyway. Leia is straight-backed, her hands folded in her lap and she does not take her eyes off Kylo. By comparison he's evasive; he speaks but he doesn't look at her. His hands move sharply, emphatically, and he keeps running a hand through his hair. She's never seen him do that. She's never seen him so uncomfortable in his own skin.

It's like watching him regress into a teenager. She sees Leia say something, gesturing to herself. Kylo's fist slams soundlessly against the table and he leans toward her, his face white with fury. Where were you? Where were you when I needed you? She's not sure if those are the words he speaks, but it's what she hears in his heart. It's what he means.

Only a few eyes are turned warily toward the window, those keeping a watchful eye on their favourite General. The rest continue to bicker, in deep disagreement over the trustworthiness of the information source.

Leia is shaking her head, never one to back down from a fight. It doesn't matter that Kylo is twice her size and weight with half her restraint, he does not scare her. Her eyelashes don't so much as flicker in the face of his rage, even as his voice builds enough that not even the soundproof wall can prevent her from overhearing. You have no right to use that word! You washed your hands of me when you sent me away!

The unbidden memory comes to Rey, of a childhood so unlike her own. So full of people, and none of them have the time or the patience for him. The mother, with her morning ritual that he watches from beneath the bed, as she pins up her hair and touches perfume to her wrists, then leaves with her assistant for the rest of the day. The father who is always looking past him and over his head, who is so full of charm and laughter, but when he finally looks down at his strange, solemn child, there is a gulf between them that neither knows how to bridge. Then he too is gone. Gone for so long he often forgets to miss him.

Then there's the voice. The silky smooth touch of cold hands that stroke his hair. The whispers filled with all the promise of love. Not clever enough to interest your mother. Not brave enough to interest your father. But I see you. I see your cunning. I see your power. You are a marvel, and they do not realise it. You have the blood of your grandfather... and you will be as great a man as he ever was.

When he heeds the voice, there is pleasure. It fills him with a euphoria. But sometimes the voice asks too much, asks him to do things that scare him, and when he tries to refuse his body is wracked with a pain so intense his endless parade of interchangeable nannies tell his mother that he is ill. That there is something wrong with his mind. That the boy hears voices and talks to things that aren't there, that the other children who had once fawned over him for his status will no longer go near him. The final straw comes when he crushes the throat of the pet cublet his father gave him – an attempt to appease him for his long absences - and then tries to hide its body in the laundry. The nanny shrieks and screams and calls him a monster, but he had only been trying to stop its incessant yapping, and the voice would give him no peace until he silenced it.

Rey pushes away these snatches of memory uncomfortably. She knows they're not things Kylo wants to share. They're things he ordinarily buries so deep even he hardly ever thinks about them anymore, but facing his mother had brought it all up, and brought with it all the pain and anger embedded in those memories. To him, being sent to Luke wasn't a rescue, it was a betrayal. He went from a life of no boundaries to an exile of regimented rules, and still his own uncle bore him no particular affection, no more so than for any other initiates under his tutelage. Ben was a problem to be fixed, not a child to be loved, but no punishment could correct him for nothing compared to the pain of the Voice, and no reward moved him when the Voice's approving euphoria was all he needed.

Snoke's love is a constant. It's a warm, secure blanket of darkness where the light burns and scorches him. Snoke thinks he is perfect, and he's the father Ben always needed but was never there. He's the loving maternal embrace he never had. He knows obliquely that the more he lets him in, the less room he has for himself, but Ben never liked himself much anyway.

Rey dashes away a tear that tracks down her cheek. She can't keep him out of her head. His emotions are too wild. But Ben is dead and gone, according to Kylo, and she sees him tell Leia so. You are not my mother.

It's inevitable, and Rey knows it will happen, that Leia's face will fill with pain as she says the words that have been lying dormant for too long. And what about Han? Was he not your father?

The reaction is instantaneous. Kylo's hands hit the table hard enough to make it bounce. “Han Solo was a crook! A thief and liar!” His anger is loud enough to penetrate the window. More people in the observation room glance over. But Rey hears something else too. He was a threat. He made me weak. I could only have one father. I had to choose...

And no one more than Kylo knows the depth of that mistake and the error of his choice. Nothing scares him more than the grief in his mother's eyes, and the knowledge that he is the one who put it there. He wants to cower and hide, and without anywhere to run, he lashes out harder, angrier.

“Shouldn't you be in there?” asks a flight commander close to Rey's ear.

“He won't hurt her,” she says with some certainty.

At least that is what she thinks until she sees Leia's lips form the word 'coward'. Then something snaps inside Kylo. Rey feels it – practically hears it – and the last precious shreds of his control tear away. There's a pulse of power so strong it forces everyone in the observation room to rock back as if they've been shoved. The interrogation table flies up and hits the wall with a deafening crack, and even the pencil that had been lying so innocuously on its surface shoots up like a bullet, slicing through the window to embed in the ceiling above Rey's head.

But Rey's heart has almost stopped, because Leia has been knocked back and is falling.

“Oh no,” she breathes, and runs from the room. She dives past the oblivious turret droid and skids to a halt before the interrogation cell. She hammers on the steel panels. “Open the door! Open the door right now!”

It grinds open too slowly for her liking, but when it finally splits and lets her inside, Rey stops dead.

Leia is sitting up, and though the skin has been sheered off her elbow, she doesn't seem to notice. Kylo has thrown himself at her feet, reaching out but too afraid to touch her. All Rey can hear are his whispers. “I'm sorry... I'm sorry, I'm sorry...”

“Ben...” Leia shifts to close the distance and take his hand. “Ben, I'm ok.”

More people are arriving behind Rey, weapons at the ready. She spreads her arms over the doorway, holding them back.

As Leia's hand gently brushes over his a head, a shudder seems to go through Kylo as he presses his face to the ground. “None of it matters anymore,” says Leia. “There's nothing you have done that ever made me stop loving you. My Ben never died... I've been keeping him safe right here with me all these years, waiting for you to come home.”

His shoulders are shaking. The fight has gone out of him and all is quiet in his mind. Rey backs quickly from the room, gathering everyone else with her. “It's fine, everything's ok,” she says quietly to reassure them as the doors slide shut once more. There isn't much in the way of privacy here, but she thinks Leia and Kylo deserve as much of it as possible.

The officers and personnel slowly drift away, their minds already back on more pressing matters. The file is in Praxis' hand still. Rey sees the woman turning away, speaking quickly with Banner as they head away. “We'll keep him for a few more days and see what else we can get out of him,” she is saying. “But we have to find a way to dispose of him. No one can know he was here.”

She doesn't seem to know or care that Rey has overheard. Drawing to a halt in the emptying corridor, Rey glances back at the steel doors. It doesn't really matter what he says and does after all, she thinks, his execution is guaranteed. Even if he could hand them the First Order on a platter, there's no way to save him now.

It's not fair. It's not right.

And Rey cannot allow it.

 

Chapter Text

The Break

“When can I see him?”

“Soon, sweetheart. Very soon, I think.”

Rey strokes her son's hair until he falls asleep. They might argue sometimes, or forget how to get along on the darkest days, but she hopes they will always be able to forgive each other. That they will always be close enough that they will never forget what the other looks like, or end up screaming at each across a table.

Leia had returned from that interview more pale and tired than Rey had ever seen her. She had turned into bed without bothering with supper and without uttering a word about what had happened after Rey had left her alone with Kylo. So Rey did not pry. Leia was not the kind of person who needed or wanted to talk about her troubles. Anyone naïve enough to try and invite themselves into her confidence would be treated to a very special glare that could wither even the most well-meaning soul.

Just in case Tam tried to pester his grandmother over the topic of his father, Rey took him away for the rest of the evening, off to the Millenium Falcon to play a game of Dejarik. Tam always loved the Falcon. He loved the crawl-spaces that were excellent for a game of hide and seek, and he loved finding clumps of wookie hair in the wall panels, and odd mementos from a grandfather he'd never met. He never seemed to get tired of asking Rey about its chain of previous owners, and nods along as she recites the list that has become almost like a poem or a bedtime story in itself by now. “Well, it belongs to me now, who inherited it off your grandfather, Han, who stole it from me and Finn, who stole it from Unkar Plutt the junk dealer, who stole it from the Irving Boys out of Tatooine, who stole it from Ducain of Cloud City, who stole it from your grandfather Han again. But he originally won it in a game of sabacc from Lando Calrissian who inherited it from his brother, who I believe bought it from a couple of Tanak salvagers, who almost certainly stole it from Corellian merchants, some time after it was used by the Omani railroad to smuggle out slaves from Imperial labour camps, which probably wasn't that long after it was built by Corellian traders for racing.”

Now Tam is tucked into one of the spare bunks in the common area, lost within an expanse of pink blankets. Once she is certain he's soundly sleeping, Rey checks the time. It's pushing well past midnight, and the third moon will be rising soon. She grabs an old canvas bag from a locker filled with various essentials, and heads down the gangway to the open airfield, trying to look for all the world as if she simply has some late night business to attend to. A rainstorm would be very handy about now, as the night is clear and quiet. Even her footsteps across the the runway seems loud to her ears. She trots past a group of laughing pilots enjoying their downtime with some beer, and heads for the field hospital.

Although there aren't many people about at this hour, no one gives Rey a second glance as she slips with unassuming ease through the dim corridors and down into the even more secluded recesses of the complex. She follows the signage for the cybernetics department, beginning to feel a prickle of guilt as she approaches the restricted surgical theatres and storage rooms. Each door has a circular little window that Rey can peer through if she goes up on her tiptoes. Having only been to this part of the clinic a few times to get her arm recalibrated every now and then, she only has a vague idea of the layout, but she knows for sure that there is a room where detached prosthetics are kept for testing or storage. And if Kylo's leg is going to be anywhere... surely it will be there.

At least that is what Rey hopes. It has crossed her mind that Praxis might have destroyed it, or is keeping it locked in a safe under her bed to stop Rey doing from precisely what she's trying to do now.

“What are you doing?” asks a voice behind Rey.

She whirls innocently to face the technician who has just stepped out of one of the sealed rooms. “Nothing,” she says automatically, before remembering her cover story. “I have an appointment about my arm.”

“You're a bit... early?” He looks confused but mostly disbelieving.

“No, I'm... late.” She bites her lip and quickly waves a hand at him. “You're going to walk away and forget you saw me down here.”

The technician gives her a peculiar look. “I... I'm going to walk away and forget I saw...”

He seems to forget halfway through the sentence, as he turns away and continues on down the corridor in a dazed sort of way. Rey puffs out a relieved breath as she watches him depart. Quite a tall man really. Practically as tall as-

“Hey, wait!” she calls suddenly, dashing to catch up with him.

“What? Who are you?” The technician turns to her again. “What are you doing down here?”

“Come with me a moment,” she says, grabbing his elbow to drag him into the nearest room, which seems to be some sort of antechamber to another surgery. Once she's reasonably certain they're out of the way where no one will stumble across them, she turns to him awkwardly. “I'm really sorry about this, but at least it's a warm night. I need you to give me your clothes.”

“What?” The technician looks outraged. “You shouldn't even be down here, let alone asking people to remove their – I'm reporting this.”

“No, you're not,” she says, carefully loading her words with enough compulsion to make his face go lax. “You're going to take off your clothes and give them to me. Then... you're going to go to sleep in that corner over there.”

The man takes a moment to process this. “I'm going to take off my clothes and give them to you,” he says flatly, and reaches to begin unfastening the clips of his dark blue tunic – the colour belonging to all the mechno medical staff. He hands it to Rey, along with his undershirt, slacks and his boots. Rey picks up the footwear skeptically, having her doubts that they're a large enough size to fit Kylo's feet. When she looks up at the technician again, it takes her a moment to realise he's also holding out his underwear.

“Oh... thank you, but you can keep those,” she says, looking very carefully at his face only. “How about you put them back on and go take that nap?”

“Sounds good,” says the technician.

Rey hurriedly stuffs the clothes into her rucksack and pauses long enough to make sure the man is bedding down obediently in the corner before slipping back out into the empty corridor. She moves quickly now, crossing to the door from which the technician had first appeared. Resistance technology has always been a good twenty years behind the rest of the galaxy, and even though advancements have been made more recently with growing support from the remnants of the Republic, there are still old throwbacks, like security doors that require only a swipe-card. It's far easier to get round than the security chips used on Kylo Ren's base. Rey fumbles around in her rucksack, searching the pockets of the clothing she has just acquired until her hand closes around the thin metal card. She swipes it with a dash and pushes her way inside when the light flashes green.

Inside is a mechanical abattoir of arms hanging from hooks on the ceiling, hands of different sizes and species lining the wall, and legs of different lengths sitting in racks of stirrups. Rey is staggered by the number. She looks around her, realising that if nothing else, she could always grab any old leg. But like everything else on the base, most of the tech is dated and clunky.

Except the leg at the end. Unlike the rest, it's formed of black carboneel compounds with an exterior that moulds to the shape of a leg whereas the rest are varying forms of steel rods and gears. Rey doesn't really need to ask the Force who it belongs to, though just to be sure, she runs her fingers over the brushed plating and draws memories from it. She feels the volatility of its owner, the way the metal seems to hum with the sense of him, of the weight of him, and the feel of his hand when – in moments alone – he presses his fingers to the unyielding metal where real flesh should be and considers it the price he paid for freedom. That memory links straight back like an arrow through time to the day it was installed, when the metal remembers blood and pain and the fear of the technicians around him as they struggle to operate on a man still shouting orders. Find Hux! Bring me his head!

Everyone is too terrified to disobey, because for once the Voice in Kylo's head has fallen silent, and he's alone with himself for the first time since he was eight. No one knows what kind of leader he will be. Kylo doesn't even know what sort of man he is.

Rey releases the memories and heaves the leg up onto her shoulder. It's not as heavy as it looks, since it's been weighted to perfectly match a real leg, but it's still quite cumbersome. There's no way she can simply hide it in her rucksack. There's also no hope of doing much sneaking with a very large prosthetic. But as Poe has always told her, the effectiveness of looking purposeful is a far better disguise than any actual disguise. As long as she generally looks like she knows what she's doing, there's still hope that she might pull it off.

This plan is foiled at the first hurdle, when she meets the pair of guards hanging around the entrance to the internment tunnels.

“Just where are you going with that?” says one, looking like he's about to laugh. They know exactly who she is, which is perhaps the only reason they haven't shot her with the rifles they're carrying.

“I'm returning it to our prisoner,” she responds with absolute honesty.

“Are you now?”

“Praxis has cleared it, you can ask her.” This is perhaps less honest.

“Why would she do that?” asks the guard.

“Because...” Rey wracks her brain. “According to the Republic's convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, it's illegal to deprive prisoners of dignity by removing mobility prostheses, and so she has asked me to return this leg so that we won't be, uh, contravening that law.”

“That doesn't sound like Praxis,” muses the other guard.

“No one actually obeys that convention,” agrees the other guard. “I hate galactic correctness. If he gets that leg, there's no way to stop him just walking out of here.”

Well, that's kinda the plan, she thinks, refraining from rolling her eyes. She contrives instead to give a sigh of fatigue and pulls a face. “I know, I think it's silly too. Besides, my doctor said I shouldn't be lifting heavy things in my condition, but Praxis was adamant that I'm the only one who is allowed to interact with him-”

“Oh, let me,” says the guard, understanding the universal code for pregnancy. He steps forward to take the leg from her shoulder.

“You're such a dear, thank you,” Rey smiles sweetly at him, watching him sling his blaster over his back in order to hold the leg in his arms.

“We will have to verify this with Praxis, of course,” says the other guard, reaching for the communicator on his belt.

“Of course, go right ahead.” She reaches out almost casually, as if to brush a lock of his hair out of his eyes, but as she sweeps her hand over the crown of his head she seeks out that part of his brain responsible for consciousness and turns it off with a snap. It's not something she has ever done before, but the instinctual knowledge is there in the part of her mind that she's not sure belongs to her. Considering it's Kylo's speciality, she wonders if the Force Bond might have something to do with it. The guard's eyes roll up and he crumples into a neat heap. By the time the other guard has the wits to react, his arms are too full of Kylo's leg. He can't drop it fast enough to get to his blaster up before Rey snatches at his head too.

With two unconscious guards at her feet, the guilt is finally beginning to set in with earnest. This isn't me, she thinks, taking them by the feet and dragging them just out of sight into the tunnel. This is just me... for now.

She picks up the leg once more and continues on, beginning to rely on her connection to Kylo to lead the way. He's strangely subdued right now. She can sense him, but he's so passive compared to when she faced him earlier that she wonders if he's asleep.

When she comes to another corner, Rey slows and peeks around. There's another guard, leaning against the wall and picking his ear as he looks at something on his communicator. She can't simply waltz up to him like the other two... she is now in deeply restricted areas of the base, the kind of areas where 'shoot trespassers on sight' is enforced. Rey looks past him, further down the corridor. There's some pipes running along the wall close to the ceiling. She twitches her hand, giving one of them a little tug with the force, only intending to make it creak.

Unfortunately the pipes down here are so rusted that the entire thing pops free. There's a loud crash and a splatter of water, and Rey ducks back around the corner as the guard leaps away from the wall. The next time she glances round he's peering hard at the pipe, searching for the valve to close off the water.

Seeing her moment, Rey rounds to corner, silently creeping up behind him. Soon he too is on the ground, lying in a widening puddle of water.

Kylo can't be far now, and there will be no other guards, she's sure. Praxis will be keeping any organic personnel far from his cell, as they're too easily manipulated with mind tricks. Droids, on the other hand.

Rey descends another staircase and feels with deep certainty that Kylo is directly ahead. But so is the turret droid. The giant clanking ball of high powered weaponry will be the last line of defence, armed with a shocking array of blasters, a kaber crystal canon that will blow through pretty much anything, with reflexes faster than even she could react to.

But it is not a droid programmed with a particular need for intelligence, and she is quite certain it has been given one target and one target alone.

Taking a deep breath, Rey marches down the narrow hallway as if she has every right to be there. She sees the droid pause in its noisy patrolling and swivel its red eye toward her, watching her approach. It must know she alone is cleared to visit the prisoner – that is, after all, the job Praxis assigned to her. That she is also carrying a prosthetic leg should not strike it as particularly important.

“They still have you working tonight?” she asks it.

Blark, it agrees, and then it's eye swivels away, off to continue its patrol. It doesn't see the way Rey rolls her eyes up and mouths a silent 'thank you' to whatever higher power might be showing her some mercy tonight.

She heads quickly to the door of Kylo's cell, just in case the droid has enough time to think about why she might be down here at such a late hour. There's a key pad, demanding a code Rey has not been granted. It's no problem. She only has to press her fingertips against the panel for it to show her all the many hands which have touched it in the past twenty-four hours, all punching in the same six numbers in the same order. Rey punches them in too, and the door snaps open on a very dark cell. It's an isolation chamber really, and until the moment she opened the door she realises that anyone sitting inside would hear nothing and see nothing.

Kylo, sitting upon a bench cut into the wall, blinks against the light and presses his fingers to his eyes. “I was wondering what you were up to... I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this,” he says. He sounds tired and worn down. Perhaps Leia was not the only one left emotionally exhausted by their encounter.

“One day you will just learn to say 'thank you',” she says. When she steps into the cell the door snaps shut once again, sealing them into darkness. Rey supposes she should have expected that. But the problem of how she will get out again is one that will have to wait, for now, she sets the leg down and rummages in her magic rucksack once more for a torch. With a click it turns into a lantern that casts a pale gloom around the dingy cell, just enough to give her light to see what she's doing.

“I wondered if I would ever see you again,” he says.

“Oh?”

“You'd manoeuvred things perfectly,” he says, staring at the wall opposite. “You had your son back. You'd delivered me into the hands of the Resistance. You had a clear conscience. Wasn't that what you always wanted?”

“Do you want your leg back or not?” she asks, making a gesture as if she intends to leave with it.

He flicks an indifferent look at the prosthetic. “If you give me back my ability to walk, I will be gone. There's nothing left that would stop me.”

“Why else do you think I'm here?”

“Another crisis of conscience?” he guesses. “If I'm executed, it will be partly your fault.”

“No, it would be entirely your own fault,” she says, getting to her knees in front of him. “People have been executed for things far less heinous than what you have done. They owe you a trial, but the outcome would still be the same... there's no changing what you did.”

“So why help me?” He sounds genuinely curious, and she senses him feeling along their connection, searching for answers more directly.

“Because Kylo Ren is already dead. But Ben Solo hasn't even begun to live yet.”

He looks at her, gently amused. “I am exactly the man I was yesterday, whatever name you use. The same as I was last week, the same as I was last year.”

“Maybe, but you're not the same man you were four years ago. Five years go.” She pushes up the hem of his trousers, revealing the stump of his thigh and the titanium sockets installed in his flesh. “You chose to make a change the day you killed Snoke to protect Tam. I think that's a man worth saving.”

“I don't think many would agree with you,” he points out.

“What they think doesn't matter,” she says with a soft huff. “I saved you from a black hole, your life is basically mine. Besides... I'm a little worried that if you die, Tam will one day become a creature called a worldeater, which is stressing me out a little bit.”

“What?” Kylo is completely nonplussed.

“I'll save that story for later,” she says, lining up his limb to the prosthetic. “For now, we should hurry, and brace yourself...”

Connecting nerves is never a pleasant experience without any numbing agent. She's heard perfectly stoic men scream from the agony of re-connection before, but when she thrusts the prosthetic back into place, Kylo only jerks and bites off a moan of pain. His tolerance is staggering. Even Rey, doing her best to block their connection still feels an ache somewhere above her left knee. But the worst is over. Rey settles between his knees and draws the lantern closer. The leg needs to be calibrated before he can truly walk, and the pin-head sized dials are all located beneath a panel on the inner thigh. Bending her head, she gets to work.

“I hear the celebrations regarding my death were extraordinary. All-night parties here, fireworks on Coruscant...” He winces as she fiddles with the dial for touch sensitivity. “Not a soul in this universe would have been willing to save me me the way you did.”

“Then maybe you should think on that,” she murmurs. “Try straightening your foot out.”

He does, and she adjusts one of the dials fraction by fraction until the action becomes smoother and more natural.

“How many people would save you if your life was in danger, I wonder?” he wonders. “FN-2187 would, I'm sure.”

“His name is Finn.”

“My mother would send an armada after you too. She thinks of you as her own daughter.”

He's gleaned that directly from Leia's own mind. As touched as Rey is to learn how well Leia regards her, he's wrong to be resentful. “It doesn't mean she cares for you any less.”

“I know,” he says, rather tiredly. “It would be better if she didn't care at all. And even if you're wicked enough to break the rules for me, she wanted to leave me stranded. I know that much.”

“Do you blame her?”

“No. Love is funny like that, isn't it? Sometimes it means letting someone die is the greatest kindness you can think of.”

“Then clearly I'm not very kind. But I'm not wicked,” she grumbles, twiddling the dials until he can smoothly bend his knee. “This is a temporary moment of taking the law into my own hands... I'll make up for it later.”

“But I quite like you like this,” he says, and she feels the slide of his fingers through her hair. It makes her wonder if she's referring to her lapsed morality or her position between his knees. She clicks her tongue impatiently and bats his hand away. This is not the time for that.

“And then there's me, of course,” he says.

“What?” she asks distractedly.

“I would have saved you, if it had been you falling into a black hole. I would have come for you.”

She pauses to glance up at him, eyes widening a little.

“I remember you were wondering if I would do the same for you,” he says. “And I would. Of course I would. Because even though you may have a fleet of friends who would lay down their lives for you... you're the only one I've got.”

“And Tam,” she says quietly.

“He's a child. He doesn't know any better.”

She looks away from him, unsure of what to say. She tentatively taps their connection and senses no deceit. With one last twist of a dial she rises to her feet. “Can you stand?”

He pushes himself upright, suddenly so very much taller than her. “It'll do,” he says, always faint with his praise as he tests his weight on the limb.

“I've brought you clothes as well,” she tells him, reaching into her rucksack to dump the pile of clothing into his arms.

Unfortunately, while the technician had been close to him in height, the shirt and tunic sit far too tight around his chest. It's not enough to restrict his movements, but certainly it's... distracting. Rey has to look away, because his knowing smirk is far too irritating.

“We still have to get out of here,” she says, examining the door. “There's no keypad on this side, and I'm pretty sure it's made of phrick... not even a lightsaber could cut through this.”

“A slight inconvenience,” he says, and he's about to say more except he's just stuck his foot into his new boot and there's a pause as he goes very still and grimaces.

“What?” she asks.

“...moist.”

She wrinkles her nose in sympathy.

He gives a great sigh, that he should ever have been lowered to such depths. With a jerk he zips the boot and straightens, rolling his shoulders to ease out the tightness of his new tunic. Then he holds out his palm, hand up. “Well?”

Rey regards the outstretched hand hesitantly. “You have to promise me something...”

He raises an eyebrow.

“You're not to kill anyone,” she says, fixing him with her most stern stare that leaves no room for compromise. When he begins his inevitable protest, she cuts him off with a raised finger. “This isn't negotiable. These people are my friends and my family. I will not let you hurt them, just as I will not let them hurt you.”

Kylo's hooded eyes consider her carefully, and she knows he does not care for these terms. Sentimentality is not something that naturally occurs to him. “We're more likely to be maimed or killed with a rule like that.” When he sees this makes no difference to her, he sighs again audibly. “If you insist. I will... try.”

“You'll do more than try, or I'll take back the leg.”

“I will not harm a single Resistant hair on a single Resistance head. Even your droids will be safe from me,” he says impatiently. “Now take my hand. If we're going to get out of here, I need your power.”

She understands as he says it, on that primitively instinctual level of their Bond. When she places her hand in his, she feels the way their connection opens the way it only ever does through touch, and they flow into each other in a rush that leaves her almost dizzy. He can pull on her power this way, adding it to his own. He could touch an object and read its memory the way she can if he chose, but for now he just raises his hand toward the door of the small cell and flexes his fingers.

The metal groans and dimples, leaning outward as he leans in. The panels begin to split and cave – panels that could probably withstand head-on blasts of canon fire. Rey's pulse jumps as somewhere far off a siren begins to wail. No doubt the door was wired.

Then she hears another sound that gives her an ominous feeling.

Blark.

“Oh, no,” Rey moans.

“Can I destroy this one at least?” asks Kylo.

No.”

He grunts irritably and with one last heave, the door comes loose. It doesn't fall. Still holding up the thick, crumpled panel of impenetrable phrick, he steps through the hole he has created, leading Rey after him. The turret droid bleets alarmingly and Rey hears its magazines click into place, ready to fire – shortly before Kylo slams the door against it. The droid's pincer-like feet screech against the concrete as its pushed back. It fires everything it has, but each round strikes the door and surrounds it in a cloud of smoke and scorching metal.

As Kylo shoves it steadily away, Rey hears the clatter of boots closing in from the other end of the corridor. Her hand squeezes convulsively around Kylo's as a whole platoon of Resistance soldiers bursts from around a corner, blaster rifles lifting to fire.

“Ben!” she shouts apprehensively.

“Deal with it!” he grinds out, indicating he's a little busy.

The first line of soldiers go down on their knee, and Rey senses with certainty that they are going to fire. She lifts her hand, drawing Kylo's energy in through one palm and out the other. Her fingers twitch the same time a dozen triggers are pulled, but then the hall falls still and silent. Blaster shots glitter and crackle in the air like smeared teardrops of light, hanging before a frozen platoon of soldiers.

Behind her she hears the frustrated whirr of a turret droid's canons overheating and falling silent. Kylo suddenly whirls past her, tugging her after him as they run toward the frozen soldiers. Rey wants to stop and stare in amazement as they duck between the blaster shots and then between the motionless men and women.

“See what we can accomplish – together?” Kylo calls to her. He sounds different, vitalised and... even happy. She understands the intoxicating feeling, of just how unstoppable she feels right then. It unsettles her as much as it pleases Kylo.

She senses more soldiers ahead – and Kylo's anticipation of exercising his magnified powers on them – when she pulls him to a door with a keypad. “This way,” she says firmly, determined to avoid confrontation as much as possible. With one touch she has the code and punches it in. Through their linked hands, Rey detects the credit chit drop for Kylo, as he finally figures out how she found his base on the Celestial Lancer. “You have object memory...”

“Come on.” She pulls him into the room and off through an interconnecting labyrinth of other labs and offices. They have only recently been evacuated as far as she can tell, which gives her an idea.

“Not many people on this base even know what you look like,” she says to Kylo.

“And?” She can tell he already doesn't like this plan.

“Anyone looking at you would just assume you're a mechno technician...”

“Then let's go correct that assumption,” he says.

“No – you're going to play up to it, or we're never going to get off his base in one piece.” She brings them to a stop beside a door to a corridor, sensing the movement of many people on the other side. “Just pretend to be a normal person being evacuated, ok?”

She glances back at Kylo and notes his blank look. “You can pretend to be normal, can't you? Just do what I do.”

“What, and toil pathetically with the rebel scum-?”

With a roll of her eyes, she cuts him short by opening the door and thrusting him through it. They enter a fast moving stream of human traffic, and though no one gives them a second glance, Rey feels Kylo tense up. She keeps him ahead of her, one hand on his back. It's as much to keep an eye on him as keep him moving, for he isn't used to being jostled by people. Normally people throw themselves out of his path long before he even notices them.

They follow the stream of workers as they ascend a stairwell passing by soldiers who wave them on, soldiers who have no idea what is going on or who they're looking for. Praxis' decision to cover everything up is finally working in their favour.

But of course it can't last.

As they're heading down the final stretch of corridor to a widening doorway to the night, Rey notices the soldiers gathered there. They're talking on their communicators and scanning the faces in the crowd. Even if they don't know what Kylo looks like, they certainly know her. The game is up the second one man catches sight of her and twitches up his pistol. “Stand down!” she hears a shout, almost certainly aimed at herself.

Kylo lifts his hand, palm up, and Rey watches in astonishment as the soldiers disappear – tugged up as if they've been yanked by ropes into the sky.

Panic descends in the corridor as people turn and run back the way they came. Kylo's hand on Rey's tightens, and when one man barges past him, for a moment she thinks Kylo will kill him.

“We need to get out of here,” she says, pulling his attention back to her. The haze of dull anger clears from his eyes and suddenly they're moving again, heading out into the night. She looks up to see what became of the soldiers, and finds them dangling in the air, arms and legs flailing like drowning things. They seem to be alright, so Rey refrains from criticising.

“Where?” asks Kylo.

“Hangar Bay Two,” she says. “There's a ship-”

Kylo knows exactly which ship she means. He stops dead. “No. Any ship but that one.”

“Tam is already on it – that's the one we're taking.” She understands his dread but there is simply no time for it.

Yet he doesn't budge an inch when she pulls on his hand.

“I am not getting on that ship!” He cuts the air with his hand to emphasise his point – then ducks as a spray of blue blaster shots fly past.

“Then you can stay behind!” Rey shouts, releasing his hand to cast aside her rucksack and draw the saberstaff from her back. She ignites it with a jerk and whips it in an arc, deflecting the shots of the platoon that has taken cover behind the nearest building.

Most of the base will be converging on their position now, and if they don't get moving, not all the Force in the galaxy can protect them. Rey pushes against Kylo, urging him on, and feels him relent. His hand goes to his hip automatically and she knows he keenly feels the absence of his own saber. So instead he sweeps up his arm, flinging a large shipping container in the direction of the soldiers. It misses them by a good few metres, but its enough to scatter them, and in those precious few seconds of respite, Rey and Kylo turn and flee into the relative cover of the warehouses edging the airfield.

It's Rey's instincts to keep to the shadows, to stay out of sight as much as possible. But she has not counted on Kylo's remarkable talent for picking the path of most resistance. Hiding is another concept that doesn't occur to him naturally. He strides ahead in the open without much regard for sense, happier to overpower anyone who gets in his way than avoid them. A hapless soldier rounds a corner and all but runs into them. Kylo freezes him on the spot and divests him of his blaster rifle, but when he catches sight of Rey's disapproving glare, he sighs and tosses it.

They come to a stop when Rey finally draws Kylo into the shadow of an old fuel tanker. She points across the open airfield ahead of them. “There's the Falcon,” she says. It's only a few hundred yards away, but between them and the ship is a swarm of people. Soldiers, pilots, support crew, all have rushed to their stations.

“Now what would you have me do?” asks Kylo. “That's an awful lot of people to get past without hurting anyone.”

“Fortunately for you, this isn't the first time I've staged an escape,” she says, ducking down to pull a slim button from her boot. “And past experience has taught me one should always have a few explosives prepared.”

“Don't tell me you're going to blow up all those people,” he says, looking impressed.

“See those trees?” she asks, nodding to the distant black shapes against the night's sky on the far side of the base.

“Trees,” he repeats flatly, no longer so impressed.

“Watch.” Rey clicks the button and waits.

Three flashes light up the night, as clouds of smoke and fire rise from the between the giant trees half a mile away. The dull concussive booms follow soon after, rattling the tanker they crouch beside. Everyone on the airfield stops to stare for a few beats. Then just as she hoped, they are drawn away, like moths to a flame, as soldiers alter their patrols and support crew run to man the water transporters.

In just a few minutes, their side of the airfield has emptied considerably.

She looks up at Kylo triumphantly.

“Your conniving never ceases to amaze,” he says.

It's not really a compliment, but she'll take it. Grabbing his hand, they charge out into the open heading straight for the gangway of the Millenium Falcon. Once again she feels Kylo's encroaching reluctance trickling over her like a bad mood, but she pushes it out, pelting on with only one goal in mind.

But the airfield is not totally deserted. It's a matter of seconds before one of the pilots sees their movement and raises the alarm. “Hey! Stop there!”

Rey just runs faster. They're almost at the gangway when a volley of blaster fire rains past them. Rey turns bringing up her saber once more to shield them. She feels Kylo hesitate beside her, but he has no way to defend himself. “Go!” she shouts. “I'll follow!”

She's glad he doesn't argue, that he dashes on ahead while she draws and deflects the fire. She walks backwards slowly, grunting as she swings the saber hard, knocking away the shots and keeping her eye on the field. The base has been fully alerted now. There's perhaps only seconds before they're completely swarmed.

Behind her, she hears the engines of the Millenium Falcon begin to whine as they activate. The gangway is just a few metres away... she could make a run for it.

“Rey!”

She flinches. Finn is in the distance, dashing pell mell across the runway, his shouts barely audible over the growing roar of engines. He's far away but she can see his face is fractured with disbelief. He's waving his arm, ordering a ceasefire, but only a few of the soldiers have heard him.

Rey steps backwards onto the gangway, but hesitates, transfixed by Finn's face.

“Rey.” Kylo's large frame fills the entrance above her, a shadow against the light within. He's holding his hand out to her. “Rey.”

With one last glance at Finn, she closes the last few metres and slips her hand into Kylo's, letting him pull her up into the Falcon. The gangway slams shut behind them and Rey rushes to the pilot's seat, already hearing the pings of blaster fire on the hull. Pushing down the turmoil churning beneath her breast, Rey concentrates on the console, hands dashing across the controls as Kylo slides into the co-pilot's seat.

“They'll shoot us down,” he warns almost casually. “This old wreck can't take many hits.”

“Shut up.”

The Falcon is as responsive as ever, lifting like a kite caught in an up-draught, away from the hangar, away from Finn. Alarms chirp in her ear to let her know that the ground-to-air missiles have locked onto her, and she banks hard to evade the enormous shots that slice past the nose of the ship. Kylo closes his eyes, knuckles turning steadily white where they grip the sides of his seat.

“Falcon to Control,” Rey shouts into the radio, “there is a child aboard! Do not fire!”

Perhaps it works, as no further missiles launch and the alarms cease their shriek. She begins to pull the nose of the Falcon up, straight toward the stars above. Some part of her is wracked in disbelief at all that is going on. She wasn't sure what the point of no return was, but she thinks it might have been seeing Finn's face. There's no going back now.

Kylo suddenly opens his eyes. “Rey-” he begins to warn.

She feels it too, and she swerves to avoid the X-wings that dart ahead of her like arrows, cutting right across their path. Only one pilot is crazy enough to lead stunts like that. She curses as the Falcon spins out and loses altitude.

“Mom?” Tam staggers into the access tunnel from the communal area.

Kylo turns sharply. “Why aren't you strapped in?” he demands angrily, unbuckling his own harness to go grab him, even as Rey continues to struggle to keep the ship level wile being buffeted by air currents. He doesn't seem to notice Tam's astonished expression as Kylo grabs him and hauls him into one of the passenger seats. “And don't think I don't know exactly what you've been up to. Putting your mother in a freeze and stealing her training – what possessed you? She might coddle you like you can do no wrong, but the second we land this thing, you are going to hand me your lightsaber and you are not getting it back until I've decided you can be trusted with it again, which may be never. Do you understand?”

Tam just smiles and nods.

“And that's if your mother doesn't crash us anyway,” he adds, strapping Tam into his chair.

Rey finally brings the Falcon screaming into level flight. “Your mother is the best pilot you'll ever see,” she grinds out.

Kylo slips back into his seat, leaning forward to look out the viewport. “I think he is better,” he says, watching the lead X-wing keeping pace with them, blocking any further ascent.

The Falcon may be the faster ship, but there's only so fast it can go in an atmosphere. Poe has pinned them at the edge of the stratosphere, taking advantage of the thinner air above to outpace and outmanoeuvre them. There's no way Rey can see to get round him.

“Ram him,” suggests Kylo.

“Ram yourself,” she grunts, and attempts to execute a half flip to slip around the X-wing.

Poe reacts almost at the same time, swinging to block her once more.

The radio crackles. “Rey, don't do this! Turn back now and we can sort this out!” Poe's voice beseeches her.

“Get out of my way, Poe,” she says, trying to keep her voice steady.

“It's not too late – just go back, please.”

Rey looks at Kylo and finds him watching her carefully. “I can't go back,” she tells Poe. “They'll kill him. I can't allow it.”

“You're not thinking clearly,” he says.

“This is my family, Poe! You would do the same for yours!” she shouts, impassioned. “You can't ask me to give them up - now get out of my way!”

She throws the Falcon into a sudden nosedive, surging hard towards the trees far below. Only at the last second does she pull up, hearing the noise of the top-most leaves brushing the belly of the ship. Tam sways unsteadily in the seat behind her. “I feel sick,” he groans. Even Kylo looks a little unnerved, head bowed by the g-forces as she raises the Falcon into a perfectly vertical ascent. They rocket up ever faster than they fell.

Poe is still on course to block them.

“Get out of the way!” she shouts into the radio. If he wants to play chicken with her, it's the wrong day to test her. They're on a direct collision course and Rey isn't sure she can stop the Falcon anyway. "I'm not playing around, Poe!"

Kylo sighs and lifts his hand. “You'll owe me for this,” he says, and she feels the familiar purr of his power as it stretches out toward the oncoming X-wing.

But before he can gently nudge the X-wing off course, Poe breaks away, slipping past them in a flash that misses them by mere inches. There's now nothing between them and the open sky and quickly the rumble of air fades away as they rise higher and higher into the upper atmosphere. The sky darkens to true black and space enfolds them in its quiet, peaceful embrace.

Rey feels utterly sick. “The hyperdrive...” she says to Kylo.

He reaches up for the priming lever above his head and pulls it. “Where are we going?” he asks.

“I don't know. Anywhere. Just get us out of here.” Rey doesn't care anymore.

“Station Toska is near enough,” he says, keying in the co-ordinates. “We can rest and resupply there.”

And then what, she wonders. She hasn't really thought that far ahead of her escape plan and now she feels curiously empty, as if she's left something behind on the ground of Kalboth. The hyperdrive engages and she braces herself against the stomach-churning jump.

“Kylo,” says Tam as he sits examining the wall panel beside his chair. “Someone wrote your old name here.”

When Rey looks over her shoulder at her son, he's tracing his fingers over an old word scratched into the panel near his knee. There's so many dents and scratches in these old walls that she has never had cause to notice that beside the small passenger seat, the word 'Ben' has always been there.

Kylo doesn't seem to want to respond at first. Then he stirs himself and says heavily, “That's because I used to sit there, Altan.” He stares straight ahead.

Some of this emptiness she feels is not all her own then, she realises. For Kylo, being back on this ship is like walking back into his past. He's displaced; neither entirely present nor lost either. “And Altan,” he continues, “you mustn't call me Kylo anymore. We have to keep a low profile, and that will be easier if no one realises Kylo Ren is still alive.”

“But... what do I call you?” Tam wonders.

This time Kylo gives no answer. Rey doesn't think he knows the answer. He doesn't really know who he is or should be. She sighs inwardly as she sets the navigation to auto-pilot and unfastens her belt to stand up. “He's your father,” she says simply. “Just call him 'dad'.”

“Dad...” says Tam experimentally.

With a snap, Kylo unfastens his belt and strides away down the access corridor. Tam's face falls. “Did I-”

“No, it's nothing you said,” she reassures him. “Let's just leave him be for a while, ok? Back to bed with you.”

Once Tam is settled into the extra bunk in the common room, Rey follows the noise of soft thumps and banging along the circular corridor. She passes the engineering station and pauses, seeing Kylo ahead of her, half hanging from a ceiling beam as he reaches up through an old panel Rey had no idea could be removed. He pulls something out of this secret little hiding place, and it drops to the floor at Rey's feet, unfurling slightly to reveal a dusty old jacket.

“How long's that been there?” she wonders aloud, picking it up to shake it out.

“Thirty years,” says Kylo flatly. “It was Han Solo's favourite jacket... so I hid it. I guess he never found it, after all.”

It even smells like Han still.

“You were a bit naughtier than Leia let's on,” she says softly, looking at the jacket wonderingly for a moment before she realises Kylo has walked off again. She casts aside the jacket and follows along, curious if he's going to find some other old time capsule from his childhood, but he's only disappeared into the main crew quarters. She arrives in the doorway to find him stripping off his too-tight clothing and boots. Awkwardly, she begins to turn away, intending to give him privacy.

“Stay,” he says steadily.

She bristles at his commanding tone, but turns to face him again. He goes to the sliding door of the closet, even though he has to know most of the clothes in there are her own and the rest are too small anyway. “We'll find you clothing on Toska,” she says.

“I know you sacrificed a lot to free me,” he says, looking into the depths of the closet without really seeing. “Thank you.”

“You don't... really need to thank me.” Her voice is quiet and low, because despite all her jabs, turning on her own friends is not something she wants to be thanked for.

Kylo's eyes snap onto hers. In two steps his hands are around her elbows, drawing her into the room. “It will be worth it. I promise.”

“Will it?” She hates how uncertain she sounds. The question really should have been; was he worth it?

Rey has traded in certainty and solid ground for a man... she's not really sure who he is at this moment in time. She might have set free a monster or a reformer, and staring into such an unknown is a daunting feeling. As his warm hand settles on her throat, she realises that whatever else he could be, he's still Tam's father. He's still her lover. The soft touch of his lips against hers and the answering warmth that rushes through her are proof enough.

“We belong together,” he murmurs, “Stop worrying about tomorrow and just be together with me. Now.”

Rey always had trouble denying him. That sense of belonging is all she has ever craved, and so it is only the most natural thing in the world to slip her hands through his hair and draw him down into another kiss.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Star Crossed

 

I'm sure he was here, she thinks to herself as she looks around the quiet cargo bay. All she sees are old storage containers and hears the quiet gurgling of the life support systems.

“Tam?” she calls softly, thinking she hears footsteps. She follows the sound through the freight elevator into the communal area. Someone has left the dejarik table running mid-game, and she turns it off with a click. The bunk where Tam normally sleeps is empty.

A movement in the corner of her eye makes her turn, peering down the interior corridor. “Tam? Come on, it's time for a shower. You can't hide forever!”

She pads silently out into the corridor, following it round, past the crew quarters and the engine room, round past the rear cargohold, until she's standing in the junction between the laser cannon chamber and the access to the cockpit, looking ahead into the communal room once more.

“Where is everybody?” she breathes, beginning to frown.

A clatter of a panel hitting the floor behind her makes her yelp and spin sharply. A dusty boy is clambering out of a vent in the ceiling, feet first.

“Tam, what are you doing?” she groans, dreading to think how many decades it's been since that shaft was cleaned.

He seems to be pretending not to hear her, and when he finally drops down in front of her, she realises her mistake. It's not Tam at all. He's smaller, scrawnier, haunted marks beneath dark, shapely eyes, and though his hair is a mess of dark curls, they are too dark to belong to Tam. Those narrow bleak eyes glance around and look right through her, and then he suddenly flinches, as if startled by some unheard noise.

Rey hears a new voice, coming from the direction of the cockpit. “I know, it couldn't be helped. If we take the Hibek route back, we should be able to avoid the worst of the patrols. If we reach Luke by eight we can head out by nine, and we can still make good time before traffic gets too heavy. I'm sick of Sebuoi breathing down my neck about this shipment.”

Then a ghost strolls through. It has to be. For there is Han Solo, young and handsome, with thick brown hair swept back off his face with a dashing hint of stubble. Leia was right. There was something heart-stopping about his heavy-set, roguish features. The boy steps out of his way, but Han doesn't seem to notice him. He's too busy talking to someone else, a black man who walks beside him, who, after a few steps, stumbles on the fallen ceiling panel.

Han collects it, surprised, and then looks up at the gap where it belongs. When he looks around and notices the boy standing there, he blinks, as if only just realising he was there. “Pulling apart my ship, kid,” he grunts, unsettled by the stolid emptiness of the boy's gaze.

“He ok?” asks the other man.

“Yeah, he's... always like that.” And everything in his tone conveys the heaviness of his disappointment and resignation as he jams the panel back into place and moves on, forgetting the boy the moment his back is turned.

Rey looks back at the boy who inches silently forward, peering after his father. “Ben...?” she whispers.

The boy twists his head, searching the corridor. “Who's there?”

He still does not see her, and he moves past her, tugging on his ears until they turn red. “No one, no one,” he whispers to himself, crawling onto his hands and knees to check under the dejarik table. “Are you there?”

He's just a scared little thing, how can they not see it? How can they not understand this is more than an inclination to the darkside? There is a worm in his head, and it's slowly devouring him while they look on and shrug. Rey wants to reach out and take him into her arms as she would her own child, but when she takes a single step, he spins around, eyes wide. “Who's there?!” he cries out, wildly searching for something he cannot see.

Is it her? Is her presence doing this? Rey stands still, staring at the child in bewilderment.

Then a red hand settles on Ben's shoulder and the world tips into darkness.

Rey feels pitched sideways, and when she scrambles back to her feet, the Falcon is gone. Ben is gone. All that remains is the man with the red hands. A black robe flutters soundlessly in a void of no air, surrounding a tarnished silver mask that catches no light. There's a black slit where the eyes should be.

“Tam!” she screams, horrified. “What have you done?! Where is Ben – what have you done with him?!”

“He's gone. He was weak. So I killed him.”

“No – that is not you who you are! This isn't who you're supposed to be!” She reaches out, wanting to pull him into her arms, but she cannot move.

Behind him is someone else. Someone blazing with light and white fire, someone whose shouts she cannot hear, but she sees the pistol in their hand, raised towards the man in the mask.

The pistol goes off with a crack that jerks Rey awake.

Rey holds herself very still for a moment, her startled brain unable to process where she is and why everything feels so strange. It takes a few seconds to recognise the layout of the crew quarters and that the weight around her is an arm, attached to the very large man that spoons her from behind.

It's a wonder she hasn't toppled out of the bunk, as there's barely enough room for one person let alone two. She groans sleepily, and slips carefully out from beneath the arm that loosely pins her. He doesn't wake. By some miracle, Kylo has become a much heavier sleeper over the years, or else he is still suffering the after effects of a traumatic injury. Contrary to common sense, a dip in a bacta tank under sedation is not a restful experience, and this might be the first time he's slept in a somewhat proper bed since before the Celestial Lancer blew up. Even by his body clock, that was several days ago.

She looks down upon his sleeping face and sighs. Her dream is fading quickly, but she still has the impression of a small, angular face with bleak eyes. The resemblance to the one she strokes now is fleeting. He grew into his skin eventually, she thinks, and he does not look quite so haunted. Even comparing how he looked when she first met him, she finds there is something steadier now that wasn't there before.

It's well into midday by galactic standard time, but for those operating on Kalboth time, it's still the middle of the night. Rey rises and dresses quietly. There are errands to run while she has time to herself.

Stepping out of the airlock, she makes her way down in the central terminal of Station Toska. It's a stinking, thriving place and on this side of the station at least, humans are a minority. There is little chance of being recognised as she flows through the crowds of travellers and daytrippers, heading down to the markets on the lower level to pick up some sorely needed food supplies and other assortments.

It's not long before she comes across the clothing stalls. There are rows upon rows of sellers flogging counterfeit brands, but Rey is not interesting in fashion so much as finding something that will fit Kylo.

She spots something somewhat appropriate after a few minutes of hunting.

“Fifty credits,” says the emekian trader, holding out three of his hairy paws to Rey.

“I only have twenty,” she insists.

“Fifty,” he repeats. “This is the finest emeki cloth – woven by the smallest and daintiest slave-girl hands, with fibres that grow only in the Emperor's own gardens-”

“Do you take me for some core planet newborn?” Rey demands, plucking at the fabric. “Emeki cloth is hardly worth the dye its dipped in – this is mass-produced tosh made by drones, if ever I saw it.”

“Then you don't have to buy it,” says the trader, drawing the robes back toward him.

“I'm just saying I will give you ten credits for it – and that's still overpaying, and you know it.”

The trader sniffs, as if she has abused his goodwill, but she knows he's perfectly happy with that price. “You take advantage of a poor old man,” he says, handing her the robes as she transfers the credits to his device.

“That's rich,” she grumbles. Between the cost of refuelling and the docking charge, there is not much left to buy clothing and food. The Resistance wasted no time in cutting her access to the credit allowance she was given as one of their agents. Now everything must come from her own pocket, and there was precious little there in the first place.

With her parcels under her arm she heads back to the docks. There are thousands of gates here, and Rey has to push her way through the crowded halls to reach hers, but once she steps through, peace descends once more. She traipses up the catwalk and through the Falcon's airlock.

The ship's lights are low. Tam is still sound asleep as she unloads food into the communal galley. A light is steadily blinking on the communications console, signalling the arrival of messages. When she left there had been fourteen; there are now twenty-six. Just looking at the number gives her a cold, queasy feeling in her stomach and she turns away, taking rest of her parcels to the main crew quarters.

Kylo hasn't stirred much since she left, and he doesn't even wake when she sets down the clothing on the floor. Rey slips off her cloak and sinks down onto the second bunk opposite the one filled by Kylo. Corellian freighters were never really built for luxury and comfort and with space at a premium, bunks are little more than padded capsules in the wall that feel claustrophobic even for her. Certainly Kylo does not fit, as he sleeps with one arm dangling down and a foot hanging in the air. And if it barely fits him, then it definitely does not fit two people, as much of the previous night was spent discovering.

Shucking off her boots, she lies back in her bunk with a soft sigh. Her back is beginning to ache more these days, especially after long periods on her feet. It was the same when she was pregnant with Tam. There are scant few other signs of her condition, though she knows it won't last long. It was in her fourth month with Tam that she had truly begun to show, quite rapidly. A few more weeks and Rey knows she won't be able to hide the truth.

Kylo finally stirs beneath his thin blanket. He pushes his unruly hair away from his face and scowls sleepily across the room at her. “Did you go somewhere?”

He really had been deeply asleep. “I got you clothes,” she says.

“Are they white?”

“No.”

“Are they fluorescent green?”

No.”

“Then they'll be fine,” he grunts. “Why are you all the way over there?”

“I didn't want to disturb you.”

His scowl deepens. “Come here.”

There's that commanding tone again, the one which simultaneously irritates and excites her. He's far too used to giving his commands and being obeyed and he has to learn she is not a subordinate to be ordered around. So she shrugs and turns her gaze up to the roof of her little capsule-like bunk. “Why don't you come here if you want something?” she retorts, locking her fingers over her stomach while she waits for his response.

It doesn't take long. All remaining sleep is banished from his gaze as he throws his legs over the side of the bunk and stands. The blanket falls away. Rey keeps her eyes on the padding above her, though she is acutely aware of him in the periphery of her vision, making his way to her bunk. Completely naked of course. His metal foot taps on the grilling with every other step until he's standing beside her.

She doesn't grace him with a glance until he goes down on his knees. “What do you want?” she asks, contriving to sound haughty.

“I want you,” is his guileless answer.

His simple, brutal honesty is quite effective at puncturing her conceit. She lets her gaze roam over him and down to his lap. “I can see that,” she murmurs. “But you've already had me twice and I'm sore...”

“So am I.” The fact doesn't seem to be bother him. “I can help with that.”

“Oh?” She looks at him curiously, wondering what he has in mind.

When he hooks a hand around her knees and draws her to the edge of the bunk, she has a vague inkling. She doesn't protest as he unfastens the buttons at her waist and drags her culottes and underwear down in one motion to throw them behind him. They've been intimate many times now, but with her legs spread before him like this, it is perhaps the most exposed she has felt. He presses a heated kiss to the soft skin of her inner thigh, working his way higher, and suddenly she understands what he wants. “Oh,” she whispers, a second before his mouth closes over her and his tongue strokes her in precisely the spot that makes her knees tremble. “Oh!”

Any lingering soreness is eased away, and Rey's head falls back as she relaxes under his attentions. It's easy to forget about all the messages blinking away on the communications console, and forget about how the uncertainty of their future is a chain around her happiness. This at least is easy. It feels as natural and simple as breathing, to have him between her legs, pinning her hips with his arm as he coaxes her into a mindless pleasure. She might doubt what kind of person he may prove to be, but she at least cannot doubt the way he feels for her, the way he wants her like nothing else in existence.

She doesn't even need to show him guidance. When she needs him to go higher, he is already there. When she needs something inside her to ease the building ache, he's already sliding his fingers into her. This is the strangest part of their connection. He can feel her pleasure, know exactly what she wants even before she's fully aware of it herself, just as she can feel him. It's not as strong on her side, or at least not until he finally jerks her forward, pulling her from the bunk and onto his lap. Rey gasps as he enters her roughly. It's not just the shock of the sudden fullness that makes her tremble, but that she can feel the pleasure coursing through him. She can feel the exact sweet clenching low in his belly that makes him dig his fingers hard into her hip like he can barely control himself.

It would be too easy to lose herself to his stronger, overpowering desires; to forget how to distinguish what comes from her and what belongs to him.

"But I was enjoying that," she pants, writhing against him as she tries to adjust to his girth.

"I can't-" That's all he can manage to say. He wants to fuck her hard, to be as savage and passionate in this as he is in every other facet of his life, but below that she senses his need to be tempered. He's always been searching for someone stronger than him, someone who can bend him to their own velleity and give order to his chaos.

Rey has to resist caving to his ferocious will in order to remember her own. She reaches up to cradle his face between her hands. “Gently,” she whispers, rolling her hips slowly against his. “Be gentle.”

She feels him rein himself in, but his body still shakes with barely constrained power. He begins to move inside her, carefully, deeply enough to make her quiver and moan. She braces her elbows on the bunk behind her and arches her back, chasing the fragments of pleasure that race between them, winding tighter and tighter.

Some of his violence bleeds through as he seizes the front of her tunic and wrenches it apart to expose her chest. She hadn't bothered with her binding just for a quick trip to the trader's market. If he's observant enough to notice any of the subtle changes in her body, he doesn't show it. He simply shoves his hands inside her clothes to cradle her back, lifting her and holding her in place.

They're almost there. She just needs something more. Biting her lip, Rey reaches down between them to touch herself and draw up the climax she feels welling inside her. Kylo feels it too. His thrusts turn hard and arrhythmic just as she feels herself begin to lose control.

She contorts with a cry, driving herself against him as his body snaps against hers. For a moment she really can't tell them apart. She feels him pulsing inside her at the same time she can feel herself through his own senses, trembling around him, how warm and wet she feels, how small she feels in his hands. She's trying to stifle her groan, but it takes her a moment to realise the groan belongs to Kylo.

As good as it feels, losing her sense of self is a strange and frightening feeling. Kylo doesn't share that fear. He's spent most of his life with Snoke in his head – it is even a comfortable and nostalgic feeling to blend with another mind. But he knows her discomfort, and for a while he holds her tightly, waiting for the shivering aftermath of their shared orgasm to subside. She does not know who it belonged to, or who reached their peak first, only that they had experienced it as one and the same thing.

“You'll get used to it,” he whispers, as she finally begins to feel like herself again.

“No, I won't,” she says contrarily. She can't seem to stop shaking.

Gathering her against him, he slumps back onto the floor with Rey lying above him. All the energy has left him and he makes one last half-hearted attempt to snag the blanket to cover them before he sighs. Rey looks at him.

“Don't go to sleep,” she warns.

“Why not?” he mumbles, eyes already closed.

“We need to talk-”

“Shh. Later.”

It's already too late to object – by the time her mouth moves to form a response, she's quite sure he's already asleep. Typical. She's effectively trapped in his arms now, but he's not exactly the most uncomfortable thing she's ever slept on, so she lays her cheek against his chest. She listens to his slow, steady heartbeat and the rise and fall of his breathing. Like this, he's no different from any other man; the same arrangement of bones and organs and skin that is as vulnerable as anyone's. He still needs to breathe, he still needs to sleep, and he still needs to eat. 

Rey closes her eyes and tries not to think about how good it feels just to lie with him, skin on skin, listening to his body. How long ago it seems... that the mere sight or thought of him filled her with abject fear, when she thought of him not as a man but a shadow with no human features. Now she feels safer here, in his arms, than she has ever felt anywhere before.

A crash from the galley breaks the moment. Beneath her, Kylo groans and covers his eyes. “He's found the food,” he grunts. “Go stop him before he eats everything.”

“Hm?”

“Altan.”

“Oh. Yeah.” She levers herself up and heads to the sink in the corner of the room to give herself a cursory wash before pulling on some clean clothes from the closet. As she's shrugging into her old grey jacket, she glances back down at Kylo who hasn't exactly moved. “Do you eat breakfast?” she asks a little hesitantly.

“Don't worry about it,” he answers.

“Fair enough,” she sighs. “But don't laze around all morning.”

She heads off to find the common area, where Tam is attempting to climb the cupboards in the galley to reach the breakfast boxes on the topmost shelf. “Oh, get down before you break your neck,” she says, shooing him out of the way. She reaches up and brings down his favourite blend of rybeck.

“I hate being short,” Tam moans, slumping over the counter as he watches her fill a bowl for him.

“You won't be short forever,” she says, thinking uncomfortably of the way the man in the mask had towered over her on Ahch-To. “You could be as tall as your dad one day.”

“No, I'm going to be a shrimp forever,” he says in despair.

“Well, with that attitude maybe.” She hands him his breakfast with a smile. “Wait for it to hydrate, sweetheart, or you'll choke on it like last time.”

“Yes, mom,” he drones with a roll of his eyes and heads to the table to eat.

Rey leaves him stirring his breakfast impatiently as she heads to the communications console. More messages are flashing, and her stomach gives another unpleasant roll that feels an awful lot like panic. How many are from Finn or Poe or Leia? She can just imagine some of them must be from Praxis too. She doesn't dare open any of them... but one flashing priority alert is hard to ignore. She taps on it in dread, and suddenly the screen is filled with a rotating image of herself. She's wearing a slightly puzzled smile and recognises it at once as the holo-image that was taken of her the day she officially joined the ranks of the Resistance.

Except now above this picture are the words, 'arrest warrant'.

There won't be a bounty hunter in the sector who is not now looking for her.

Rey is still sitting frozen in shock, chewing her thumbnail, when Kylo wanders in. He's wearing the new robes she bought him, and she glances over just long enough to determine she chose the correct fit. He suits the blue tabard and cream tunic, but he looks vaguely disgruntled. “I would have preferred black.”

“That's exactly why I didn't choose black,” she replies tersely, turning back to the communications console. Putting Kylo Ren back in black seems like asking for trouble, even though she knows the colour of his clothing is not what makes a man.

Kylo's eyes drift to Tam. “What are you eating?”

“Rybreck,” answers Tam with his mouth full, so it sounds more like 'eye-behk'.

“How much sugar is in that?”

“Loads! It's great.”

“Why do you let him eat rubbish?” Kylo asks Rey.

“I would have killed for rybreck when I was his age,” she says, “Let him enjoy it.”

Kylo doesn't want to get into a competition of 'who had the worst childhood' so he turns back on Tam. “Your lightsaber. Hand it over.”

“What – why?!” Tam is clearly hoping he'd forgotten all about that.

“You abused your power and hurt your mother. Hand it over.”

“But it's mine-!”

“Not anymore.”

“You just want it because you don't have one anymore!” argues Tam.

“If you think that, then I'll break it into pieces,” Kylo says sharply. “Do you want that?”

Tam stares sullenly into his breakfast. “No,” he mumbles.

“Then hand it over and we'll say no more about it.” Kylo holds out his hand expectantly, and after a moment of glum dithering, Tam slowly plucks the saber from his belt and passes it over. He watches like a hawk as his father secretes it into his own sleeve.

“But how am I supposed to defend myself?” Tam asks.

“I heard you destroyed a whole First Order fleet and nearly killed me. I'm sure you can manage,” says Kylo dryly.

Tam turns red and resumes picking at his breakfast, but Kylo will not relent, “You're not even going to tell me how you did it?”

“You already know,” Tam moans.

“I want to hear it from you,” he says.

Rey half listens to Tam's halting explanation of everything that has happened since their shuttle left the Celestial Lancer. His recollection isn't particularly good, but he talks far more easily about what happened now than when he thought Kylo was dead. Rey watches Kylo's face as he in turn watches Tam. They might be quite different, this father and son, but Kylo understands Tam. There is no uncertainty or disappointment in his face as he looks at the boy the way Han once looked at him. He gives him undivided attention, frowning as he considers what the boy tells him.

At the console, Rey holds up half a headset to her other ear and begins to play the messages.

The first voice she hears is Finn's. “Rey, what have you done...?”

“-and then the Resistance bosses said we couldn't live on the base anymore, because they thought I might suck everyone up in a big wormhole storm.”

“You should have sucked them all up in wormhole storm,” says Kylo mercilessly.

“Yeah, well, Nana lives on the base, so no,” says Tam, as if the thought had otherwise occurred to him.

“And how is it you were able to do this, Altan?” his father asks him. “How did you summon it?”

Tam shrugs. “I don't know,” he says vaguely. “I just saw how the olden people did it in Mom's memory, and I just knew... I knew I could do it, like I was supposed to do it. Like I was-”

“Born to do it,” Kylo finishes for him. “You are a Child of the Force, Altan, and all such children have a purpose. Perhaps this is yours? We'll find a way to hone this ability, a way to use it safely. An ability like that could devour whole worlds-”

“Don't fill his head with such nonsense,” Rey cuts in sharply. “Tam is not to use that power again. Isn't that right, Tam?”

Tam blinks between her and Kylo, unsure who to side with.

“You want to just squander his potential?” asks Kylo lightly. “This is the most intuitive use of the Force this galaxy has seen since-”

“Since what? Darth Vader?” She gives a humourless scoff and turns away, hunching over the console. “Some things never change with you, I guess.”

Rey doesn't look to see how her mark has landed. There is just quiet in the room behind her, except for Tam asking his father, “Do you want some of my rybreck?”, so she jams on her headset and continues to endure the messages.

Praxis has called in everyone who knew you for questioning,” says Poe. “She's even trying to question your doctor. It feels like guilt by association... and I'm in the neck for letting you pass like that. What the hell is going on, Rey?”

By far most of the messages are from BB8. She wants to know where Rey has gone, when she will be coming back, and if they have done something to make her angry with them. BB8 promises to electrocute anyone who upset her.

Another of Finn's messages begins with a leaden tone she hasn't heard since she told him she was pregnant the first time around. “Rey, they're issuing a warrant for your arrest. I can't stop them. Praxis says you have too many valuable secrets... but really you just made a fool of her and the other generals. I think you've kinda made a fool out of all of us, to be honest.”

Rey's head sinks into her hands. She can't bear any more messages, and she slides the headset off to let it drop back into its retainer.

“Mom?” Tam asks hesitantly.

She forces her head up to look at the pair seated behind her. Kylo is finishing off Tam's breakfast with a contemplative frown while the boy in question rests his chin upon the table. “Are we going to be living here from now on?” he asks.

“For now,” she tells him tiredly. “Money is a little tight, sweetheart, so we have to make do.”

“If you're worried about money, there's no need,” says Kylo. “There's an account in the Coruscant Foundation Bank that has several hundred million credits in it. I can give you the codes for it.”

Rey balks at him. “You... have... how much?”

“It's not mine. Besides oration and genocide, one of General Hux's talents was embezzlement. He set up a few fake accounts throughout the systems and paid himself millions, and he thought he was very clever about it. No digital trail at all. He forgot I can read minds.”

“So it's Hux's money?”

“Money he stole from the First Order, yes. He was building himself a very nice retirement fund, but I doubt he'll have much need for it now.” Kylo pushes away his empty bowl and looks about. “It would probably cost a few million just to bring this wreck up to standard. It would cost less to buy a new one and sell this one for parts.”

“But I like it,” Tam protests.

“It's filthy,” retorts Kylo.

“That's ok... as long as I get my own room. I don't want to share with a baby.”

“A baby what?” Kylo looks at him as if he's gone mad.

“I'm not sure how I feel about using embezzled money,” Rey says loudly, trying to divert the conversation back on course. “Especially First Order money.”

“It'll just sit in the bank gathering corruption,” says Kylo with a shrug as if he doesn't care one way or another. “But you are a fugitive now, so you'll have to stop being so uptight about where you find your bread and butter.”

“Yes, I suppose you know all about being a fugitive,” she grumbles.

He doesn't deny it. “I had fifty-six bounties on my head at one point. Although most have defaulted, I imagine.”

“I've got two,” says Tam proudly. “One Hux put on me, and then there was that 'death cult' that wanted my blood for some sort of Force ritual. Wasn't there?”

“Yes,” Kylo says, with the faintest of smiles. “But I dealt with them, remember? Either way, it seems to be a family tradition.”

“We need better traditions,” Rey says with strong feeling.

“What's your bounty price?” asks Kylo.

Rey shifts uncomfortably. “Three thousand credits. Alive only.”

He gives a dismissive nod. “You'll be fine. The good bounty hunters don't come sniffing unless it's at least ten times that. It seems like you're not worth that much to Resistance, after all.”

“We could use some of the money, maybe,” says Rey, relenting. It seems like one illegal deed inevitably spawns more. “But the rest should go to charities.”

Kylo bears a look of patient suffering. “Charity?”

“We won't spend it on the ship, that's just indulgent. But starting a new life won't be easy.” Rey rubs her fingers anxiously together as she looks between Kylo and Tam. There's probably no better time to say it so she might as well just spit it out and see what happens. “There's... there's a moon that I know of. It's not on any star charts or maps, but when I was studying the temple on Ahch-To, I learned about it. It's where the second age of the early Jedi Order began, called Lin-Sen. There's a couple of temples there... I'm sure Vader never found it, so it must still be there.”

Tam looks intrigued. “What's it like?”

“It's beautiful,” she tells him warmly. “There are turquoise lakes and oceans with round green islands everywhere like you're looking at the ridges of a giant sea monster. In the morning, golden mist fills the valleys, and the Temple of Sen is carved into the side of a mountain above a waterfall. The bay is so clear you can see right to the bottom, and in the middle is a tiny island with a little tree that the jedi back then used to think of as a physical avatar of the Force. You'd love the beaches. It's not cold like Palamoor or even Ahch-To, but it's not hot like Kalboth. It's just right.”

“Can we go?” asks Tam eagerly. He's only ever read about beaches in books. “Do you think there'll be fish?”

Rey looks from Tam to Kylo and some of her pleasure fades as she notices the rigidity that has crept into his face. “A jedi temple?” he says softly. “And what do you intend to there?”

“Make a home,” she says honestly. “Even if they hadn't forced my hand, I would have left the Resistance eventually. For a long time now, I've thought Lin-Sen would be a good place to continue what Master Luke began.”

Kylo's gaze flickers. “You intend to restart the jedi order,” he says.

In the silence that follows, Tam looks between his parents, then begins to slide down from his seat. “There's a thing in the cargo hold that I need to...” he mutters and vanishes from sight through the blast door on the other side of the room. He's known his father long enough to detect the first sign of trouble, and Rey half wishes she could scuttle out of sight so easily right now.

Instead, she swivels her chair around to face him fully, chin up. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“Do I have problem with that?” he repeats, fingers curling into fists. “Do you not remember what happened to the last attempt to revive the jedi order?”

Her jaw locks. “I remember just fine,” she says in a low tone. “What are you saying? That you'll stop me?”

“I might.”

Rey bolts to her feet. “Don't even joke about that,” she snaps.

“Why this? Of all the things you would want to do – why?” He gets to his feet too, and she's quite glad of the table between them.

“What else would you have me be?” she demands, gesturing to herself. “A docile little wife to raise your children in exile? Someone who only uses the Force to cook or clean a house? I am the last Jedi! That is not a responsibility I want – I cannot be the last! I have to do this.”

Within Kylo, disbelief crashes with betrayal, and Rey feels it spreading from him like a miasma. “Is this to spite me?”

“It's not about you!” she shouts, furious. This is not how she'd hoped for this conversation to go. “This is about me. This is about what I need to do!”

“And that's all that matters, I suppose!” He strides out from behind the table and begins to pace. The common room is one of the largest on the ship, but he still makes it look cramped and small with his size. “It doesn't occur to you that this is a foolish, naïve venture that could do untold harm! You were not there at the last academy. You do not understand how power corrupts – it's inevitable.”

“You mean you?” she scoffs.

“I mean the others! They could not resist interference. They wanted to thrust themselves into politics and abuse their power to manipulate events to their liking – Luke could not control them. They wanted a return of the old days – of a jedi council at the heart of the Republic, pretending to be neutral while sticking their fingers into every conflict-”

“So you killed them all! For doing exactly what you went on to do for Snoke!”

“I never involved myself in his wars! My only purpose was to wipe out the Jedi – eliminate every trace of their existence! My purpose was to restore the balance of the Force and make sure none like the Jedi could ever corrupt it again!” He stops ranting to whirl and jab a finger toward her. “If you bring back the Jedi now, it will happen again! The dark side will always war with the light and it will always end in slaughter! There is no place for the jedi in this age!”

Rey shakes her head. “It will be different this time. I know the old way of the order – the truth Luke was reaching for but never managed to find in time. I know what this order was conceived to be and what it needs to be.” She watches his jaw clench and twitch. “You're wrong. You're so wrong if you think there is no place for the jedi anymore – the Force needs us. We're supposed to bring it into balance.”

“Balance requires equality, a synchrony between the light and the dark and the jedi never accepted that. They push out the darkness and try to crush it from existence, and then are surprised when it fight backs and overwhelms them. The only balance then is for the absence of both.”

Rey says nothing for a long time. She watches him warily as he turns away again, pacing to the wall to lean his arm against it, as if he's too angry to face her.

“I have to do it,” she says quietly.

There's a tug on the Force, a violent explosion of anger from within Kylo and she's sure he is about to lash out and smash something. But he hardly moves. The seconds pass and the feeling retreats once more. “I thought you understood,” he says, rubbing a hand over his face. “That we belong together.”

“Ben...”

“You're taking a path I cannot follow, Rey.” He turns to her again, and there's something a little broken in his eyes. “You cannot build a new order beside the man who slaughtered the last.”

This, she realises is the real truth of the matter. He does not feel so strongly about the jedi as he pretends. He is no longer the zealot he was in his youth, and she wonders already how much of that was Snoke's influence. 

“Kylo Ren destroyed Luke's order,” she says.

I am Kylo Ren!” he explodes, thumping his chest.

“You are who you want to be!” she shouts right back, marching up to him before he can turn away. “You have a choice! I didn't save you because I wanted a simple little life with you, but because I wanted you to have that choice! For the first time in your life! You could let Kylo Ren die and move on if that is what you want. But if you want to put on black robes and hide behind a mask and tell the galaxy that Kylo Ren is still alive then go ahead! Go back to your damn crusade against the jedi – carry on obliterating the temples and burning the artefacts and tracking down anyone who attempts to revive the old ways! I'll come for you one day or you'll come for me and then we can end it once and for all!”

He backs away from her, brows knitted in scorn. “You want me to be Ben Solo,” he sneers. “Ben. Ben! That's all you've ever called me. Redeemed and blameless, and devoted to the light. I can't be that man for you. I can't turn away from the darkness no more than you can turn from the light. That's who we are.”

“No, it doesn't matter to me what you are,” she says, withdrawing. “I've already decided my future. I know my purpose. I'm not going to build my life around you, and I will not wait around for you to decide who you are.”

Her eyes have started to feel hot and gritty and there's a lump in her throat that she can't seem to swallow. “I'm going to have a shower,” she says suddenly, knowing there are only seconds left before the tears start to fall. She turns and stalks quickly from the room, and hears a thunderous crash behind her as Kylo finally gives into the temptation to punch something.

How did it all go wrong so fast? Rey slams into the fresher and turns the shower on full blast before the first sob can work its way from her throat. It's an ugly sound but at least he can't hear her over the hiss of water. She rips off her clothes and throws them into the corner with all the frustrated violence that makes her hands tremble. It doesn't seem to help. At least when she steps under the spray of water, it sheers away the evidence of her tears and for a long time she just stands there, holding her eyes shut with her fingers as her chest shakes with breathy sobs.

The door to the fresher suddenly screeches open, and a blast of cold air sweeps around her.

“Get out!” she snarls at Kylo.

He wedges himself inside the fresher – already barely large enough for one person – and slides the door shut. “We're not finished,” he says.

“I think we are,” she bites out and turns away, arms folded tight across her chest.

When she feels the touch of his hand on her shoulder, she shrugs him off violently. “I don't want to fight anymore!” she cries out. “Just go away!”

“I don't want to go away,” he says. Then he's stepping under the water with her and pulling her into a tight embrace.

“I just bought those clothes-!” She begins furiously, but they're already soaking wet.

“Shh.” He pulls her head against his chest, his large hand easily covering her hair.

It's hard not to lean into him, to breathe in the smell of him and feel comfort in the warm wall of his body. She still trembles with anger and indignation, and all sorts of feelings she can't even begin to sort through.

He shifts slightly, bringing his mouth closer to her ear. “Why didn't you tell me you were pregnant again?”

Rey screws up her eyes. She ducks her head, but his hands catch her jaw and turn her face up to his. Water drips from his curls and tracks down the angles of his face. In his eyes, she sees only hurt. “You still don't trust me,” he says, and it's a statement of fact, not a question.

She doesn't want to reach into him and see his thoughts, but she can't help it. He's trying to hide them, bury them deep where she can't reach, something he almost never does, and she understands why at once as she catches a hint of it before it slips through her fingers.

He's disappointed. 

He doesn't want another child.

Rey buries her face against his chest, feeling like ice has crept through her heart and brought it to a stop. She grips his wet tunic tight between her fingers. "I'm sorry," she whispers. 

“Please... just reconsider,” he whispers. “Let's just go somewhere, anywhere. Let's be together and be a family.”

“You'd hate it,” she says. “As much as me. It wouldn't last.”

“I would make it last,” he says, as if he can simply bully the future into obedience. “I don't care what we do, but if you go to Lin-Sen... you know I can't go with you. I would never be tolerated anywhere near a new order.”

“I know,” she says softly. “I know you think that.”

“But you're going to do it anyway?”

He can't change her mind, so she says nothing.

Ever so slowly, his arms loosen and he lets her go. His back slides down the side of the stall until he's sitting on the wet floor, hands bunched in his hair. She sinks down beside him, her hands on his knees.

“But you agreed, we belonged with each other,” he says, looking confused.

“We can't even stop arguing for even five minutes,” she says. “Maybe we don't.”

“We're not arguing now.”

“Yes, we are,” she sighs.

“Only because you're so stubborn.”

“And you're obstinate.”

He looks up at her for a moment. His hand slides behind her head to draw her in for a kiss. She doesn't resist. She braces herself again his chest for balance, and let's his touch roam possessively over her sides. “And this?” he murmurs, kissing her again, tasting. “Tell me you don't like it.”

“I like it,” she whispers against his lips. “But you can't think I'll trade my life for a kiss.”

His hand eases between her legs.

“Not for that either,” she says with a little shiver.

With a groan, his hand's fall away from her. “Don't leave me,” he says, and it sounds awfully close to begging. “I've only just found you.”

“I'm going to Lin-Sen,” she says with finality. “And before that, I'm going back to Kalboth.”

His head drops back against the wall. “It gets worse.”

“I have to face what I did. I can't just abandon my life and my friends or live with a bounty on my head. Maybe that's fine for you, but I would never be happy like that.”

“You'll be put on trial,” he says.

“If that's what they wish.”

“They might execute you.”

“They won't execute me.”

They fall silent for a while. Kylo's gaze searches the ceiling and maybe its the water from the shower, but his eyes seem as damp and red-rimmed as her own. “A few more days at least,” he pleads. “Just leave it a few more days.”

What does it matter? He won't bend and neither will she, and perhaps the complication of this second child is not so much a complication... if he doesn't want it anyway. The break will be so much cleaner that way.

Vaguely she nods. “Alright. A few more days. Then I'm going home.”

 

Chapter Text

 

The Well in the Desert

There's a gloom that hangs over the Falcon for the next few days. Each morning the communication console fills with more messages, and Tam looks between his quiet mother and moody father who seem caught in a limbo between affection and resentment. They hardly speak, and barely look at one another, but sometimes when Tam glances over, he sees his father's hand resting on his mother's nape, or sees her leaning into his side. It's a strange kind of argument, he thinks, not knowing what to make of it. Mostly they just seem sad.

He doesn't know if he prefers it to the times when it boils over into a real fight, such as on the final morning when his mother approaches the comms, but his father gets there first to rip the seat right off its bolted feet and slam it into the console, smashing it dead in a shower of sparks and smoke once and for all. Tam has to slither off to go play in the cargohold again, heart pounding, but there is nowhere on the ship to truly escape the shouting.

“-you're the one who is running away!”

“-I'm not running anyway! You know exactly where I'm going – you just refuse to come with me!”

“-we could do anything – there is no power left in this universe that could stop us – and you want to do the ONE thing I cannot do!”

“-you decided that, not me! Don't blame me because you're afraid!”

“-I am not afraid of anything!”

“-you are the most scared person I have ever met! You're so scared, even a comm system frightens you so much you have to attack it!”

“-because all you do is sit there and listen to the whining of people beneath you!”

“-beneath me?! People like your mother?!”

“-don't bring my mother into this!”

Tam claps his hands over his ears. He considers all kinds of drastic and ultimately childish things to do that might distract his parents from fighting. He could always run away again. Maybe he could even fake his death. That might make them see what's truly important here: which of course is himself.

But before he can put any of his dubious plans into action, the fight is over and his father strides past the cargohold doors. “Your mother is leaving for Kalboth tomorrow.”

“But you can't go back there – they'll put you in jail again!” protests Tam.

“I'm not going.”

Some part of Tam is relieved. At least if they're not together, they cannot fight. “What about me?”

“You're coming with me,” says his mother, slamming a pot down onto the griddle in the galley.

“I don't want to go to Kalboth, I want to go to Sin-Len.”

“It's Lin-Sen,” she corrects sharply. She pours water into the pot with as much rage as it is possible when pouring water. “We'll go there after Kalboth, once we say goodbye to everyone properly.”

“What about Dad?”

“He's going to stick his stupid face into another stupid mask and make another stupid mistake. So who am I to stop him?” She turns around with a jerk and her elbow knocks a pan lid down to the floor with a crash. “Stupid man!

“I can hear you!” comes his answering shout from the crew quarters.

“I know you can hear me!” she shouts back. “Would you like to hear me even better?!”

She marches off, quite forgetting the pot of water and rations sitting on the stove and thus a new fight begins. Tam sits with a sigh at the dejarik table and plays a few rounds by himself. At some point the sound of arguments dies down, but it's a long time before his parents emerge from their quarters. They're more subdued now, a little dishevelled, and back to simply looking as if their favourite toy has been taken away.

His mother returns to the stove while twisting up her hair that has mysteriously fallen out of her buns. “Oh,” she says, looking at the rations that have now been cooked beyond all edible purpose. “That was all we had.”

“We'll go out and get something on the station,” says his father, sliding past her, and just for a moment their hands touch and their fingers catch, like spies trading a secret message.

His mother glances back at Tam. “Is that ok, Tam?”

“Yes!” he says happily, because although he loves his mother dearly... she cannot cook.

 


 

Rey keeps an anxious eye on Tam as he dashes ahead. The promenade is busy enough that a small human child could easily get lost in the crowds, and it never leaves her mind that Station Toska, for all its vaunted freedom, is home to those who take advantage of its lawless state. Slavers and traffickers are never far away on a station like this, and even though this district is one of most respectable, Rey doesn't take anything for granted.

Kylo is less concerned. He already loathes being out in public already, and she senses how much of his tension comes from the exposure he feels without a mask.

“I don't know why it bothers you so much,” she says, craning her neck to see where Tam has gone now. “You have a nice face.”

“That's not the problem,” he says.

“I know. I was just complimenting you.”

He doesn't respond, except to draw his arm around her back to rest his hand on the back of her neck. “What do you want to eat?” he asks.

“Anything,” she says ravenously. “Anything with meat.”

“Aren't you a vegetarian?”

“Not when I'm pregnant,” she says. “I'm just following my nose.”

Her nose leads them to one of the more expensive places, it has to be said, where little dishes of food travel on a conveyor belt along a counter. “Yes!” hisses Tam, jumping onto a stool and grabbing the first dish that reaches his hands. Rey takes the stool beside him while Kylo, hesitantly, takes the seat on her other side.

“Where's the cutlery?” he wonders.

“It's finger food,” Rey says, picking up a dumpling in her hand.

Kylo seems lost. “I can't believe there are restaurants just for people like you,” he says, and refuses to eat until he's flagged down a waiter and imperiously demanded a fork.

“This is the best!” Tam says around a mouthful of grilled banfish. “Why can't we have stuff like this at home?”

“What do you mean? What's wrong with the food I give you?” she asks him.

Tam's gaze wanders away. “Nothing.”

She looks at Kylo, who is less tactful. “Inedible, comes to mind.”

“That's rich!” She laughs in disbelief and turns to Tam. “This is a man who is so inept at cooking, he couldn't even hydrate rations! After we crashed into that moon, he literally sat in the woods starving for five days before he admitted he needed help.”

“Because you had hoarded all the rations, if I recall,” he says coolly. “And if I hadn't come to you, Tam would never have been born.”

“He doesn't need to know that bit,” she says between her teeth.

“How did that happen?” Tam asks.

“What?” She looks down at him once more.

“Babies. How do they happen? Like, how do you make them?”

“Well...” Rey feels herself growing quite pink as she suddenly has no idea what to say.

“Don't fall for it,” warns Kylo, looking hard at Tam. “He knows exactly how they're made. As soon as he watched that education holotape, he went around asking every adult he could find how babies were made just to watch them squirm with all the follow-up questions. They only ever cottoned on once he pushed it too far and asked what a penis was.”

Rey coughs as some of the food manages to go the wrong way down her throat.

“Captain Barbika told me babies get dropped off in boxes delivered by space angels,” says Tam. “I had to tell him what intercourse was. He didn't seem very clever.”

“Captain Barbika was exceedingly clever,” says Kylo, forking a cube of meat, “although probably dead now.”

Tam goes quiet and picks at his food. Most of the time Rey thinks he doesn't really care how many people died because of the storm he created, until he remembers at least one person he may have been fond of. She doesn't want him to be destroyed by guilt, but she is hopeful to see he is not entirely indifferent to the loss of lives other than his own father. She heaves an inward sigh as she guzzles down the rest of her juice, then remembers one of the other drawbacks of being pregnant.

“I'm going to find the 'fresher,” she says, sliding off her stool.

“I'll go with you,” says Kylo beginning to stand

“No, you'll stay with Tam,” she says, pushing down on his shoulder. “I'm not infirm, I can get there without someone holding my hand.”

He looks disgruntled. “I know that. But you're too reckless. I can't believe you broke me out of prison in the state you're in. People were firing at you, and if I'd known-”

“You, what, would have chivalrously knocked me out and left me somewhere safe while you took all the risks?” she asks, narrowing her eyes at him. “I can see your thoughts.” He forgets that he needed her power to escape, that she needed to make sure he didn't kill anyone, and that life doesn't stop for her just because her birth control failed.

Maybe Kylo knows all that, but he still detests the whole situation. A bitter resignation crosses his face as he turns back to his food. “I should have left you, for all it mattered.”

They can't start this argument again, not here, not in the middle of a restaurant while she desperately needs to pee. Her hand slides from his shoulder and she walks away, lips pressed together as she weaves between the other patrons to follow the signs for the refresher. Feeling eyes on her, she glances around and notices two young twi'leks watching her, though both quickly glance away when their eyes meet.

Odd, she thinks, and disappears round the corner of the building into the fresher. When she returns, snapping sanitized water from her fingers, she sees the twi'leks again, this time right outside the doorway. She passes them, keeping her eyes straight ahead, but hears them fall into step behind her.

I don't need this! Rey changes direction casually, away from the bar where Kylo and Tam sit. She heads outside through one of the side-doors and into the alley beyond. There, she waits, standing amongst the filth of restaurant discards and other kinds of waste.

When the twi'leks emerge from the doorway, Rey is ready. She clocks one around the head with her staff, knocking him to the ground and herds the other against the wall as she stands on his friend's neck.

“Why are you following me? Who sent you?” she demands, igniting one end of her staff in warning. “Are you bounty hunters?”

The one against the wall looks ready to wet himself. “B-Bounty hunters?!”

“Why are you following me?!” she repeats, twisting her fist into the front of his shirt.

“M-My friend just wanted to ask for your numbers!” the twi'lek whimpers.

Rey looks down at the one on the ground, who is still struggling for breath. “Why would you need my numbers?” she asks suspiciously.

“He th-thought you were cute! For a human...”

With a twist, she turns off the saberstaff and steps back, staring between them. “What a pair of-” She cuts herself off and starts again. “Don't go following women around like that! Get out of here before I cut your tentacles off and feed them to you!”

It's suitably savage enough to terrify, and the two young men scramble up and away with only a few backward glances to make sure she wasn't following. Rey glares after them and takes a moment to breathe deeply and calm down. Only when she's sure her face is smooth once more, she heads back into the restaurant and returns to her seat.

Kylo looks at her. “What was that about tentacles?” he asks. Perhaps she had not guarded her connection against him as closely as she should have.

“Bounty hunters,” she grumbles, shoving a parcel of fish into her mouth. “Green ones.”

“It happens,” he says, unconcerned. “Or maybe they really did want your numbers?”

“Ha,” she says without humour. She's not so naïve about being followed into alleys by heavily armed men, and it unnerves her. This is just the first time. There will be a next time. There will always be a next time while there is a bounty on her head. Even if the bounty specifies her life is to remain intact, she knows the hunters are not so careful about collateral damage. What if the next time she's approached, Tam is at her side?

Kylo must sense some of her discontent, for his hand settles on her thigh. It's a possessive, protective gesture, but perhaps his hand is a little too high. She looks at him and notices a subtle heat in his gaze that sparks an answering flutter low in her stomach. It's maddening how much she wants him sometimes, that all it takes is one look to make her insides turn to liquid. She has to look away from him to keep from staring at him like a mopey teenager, but she places her hand over his, enjoying the touch of their knees beneath the counter.

Tomorrow she will go home to Kalboth. She's already deferred it too long, and the longer she delays, the worse the arguments will get, the more danger there will be, and the bigger the mess she will have to unpick. Kylo senses the direction of her thoughts and once more he turns cool, his hand sliding out from beneath hers.

“We're done, aren't we?” he says.

Is he talking about the food or themselves? Rey nods, as both might be true. There's a bell that she presses and when the waiter returns, her breath hitches when he tells them the cost of their meal.

“But we already paid,” says Kylo, holding the waiter's gaze.

“So... so you did,” the waiter agrees, with a confused smile. “My apologies.”

Not again! Rey groans and grab's one of the emekian waiter's furry arms to prevent him from leaving. “No, our mistake, we haven't paid. Here,” she signs over the owed credits while Kylo simply waits, amused.

Once the waiter has departed, she glowers at him. “You'll teach Tam bad habits. And that stunt put me right into the red!”

“Money is an illusion. Isn't that one of the jedi teachings?” he asks, in the tone most calculated to annoy her.

“Poverty isn't an illusion,” she rebukes.

As they head back to the Falcon, an odd, hard feeling builds in Rey's stomach. She considers the fact that this may be the last time they both step into the ship together, for tomorrow a separated existence will begin. It's not what she wants. It's not what he wants. And yet there is something fundamentally incompatible in their natures that makes it impossible to be together. She reaches out and holds onto Kylo's arm as they walk. He looks at her but says nothing. They both feel that trepidation, and the regret that however much they try... they cannot change.

By the time they board, it's time for Tam's evening shower and bedtime. Rey rounds him up, ignoring his protests about cold drafts and grimy water and not being tired, even though he can hardly keep his eyes open once he's lying in his bunk.

“Are we leaving tomorrow?” he asks.

“Yes. First thing.”

“And Kylo?” He corrects himself quickly. “Dad, I mean?”

“He'll be staying here on the station for a while I suppose.”

“Will he be ok? I don't think he's ever really been on his own before...”

She smiles faintly, because Tam is too young to understand that his father has been alone his whole life. “It's what he wants.”

“He... doesn't want me around anymore?”

“No, he does, of course he does,” she says quickly, reaching out to stroke his curls. “But we've agreed that for now you will stay with me, then once things have settled... in a few months, you'll go to him, and we'll alternate like that. How does that sound?”

Tam says nothing, which means he hates it. But Rey can see no other solution. “I'm sorry,” she whispers. “I want you to be happy Tam, and I'm... I'm really trying.”

“And what about the baby?” asks Tam. “Will she come with me when I go see him?”

“She...?” Rey echoes in faint surprise. “Tam, did you have another dream?”

“Only a little one,” he says, as if it might get him into trouble.

“Perhaps don't tell your father about it,” she tells him quietly. There has been no further conversation about what to do with a possible second child. Kylo seems intent on leaving the matter – and the child – to her in its entirety. “And let's not worry about all that yet. You just get some sleep. Tomorrow we'll go see Nana, and you can see Finn and you can play with Hannah again.”

“Great,” says Tam, in the same way most people would swear.

Rey lowers the lights and leaves him to sleep, wandering into the routine of pre-flight checks for tomorrow. Her path takes her first to the cockpit, to download the system log onto a holopad. She finds Kylo already there, sitting in the cockpit, staring out past the lines of other docked ships to the stars beyond.

“Brooding, are we?” she asks lightly, scrolling through the list of fuel-line errors.

He doesn't answer, which is a sure sign she is correct, and so she shrugs and heads off to the engineering bay. The hyperdrive is in working order for once, but the connections in the sub-light engines have loosened again. They'll need new plugs in time, but for now, Rey digs through her box of tools and leans between the slug tanks to tighten the aging connectors.

She feels rather than hears Kylo enter the bay behind her. If he's gearing up for another argument – one last ditch attempt to get her to abandon all her responsibilities and purpose while thinking that his own concession of not simply building a vast new dark empire is enough, he can go hang. She is not in the mood.

“If you're going to skulk, make yourself useful and hand me the laser-cleaner,” she says over her shoulder, holding her hand out.

The small tool lands in her palm and she returns to her task, carefully letting the concentrated beam of light burn away the excess residues gumming up the engine parts.

“You should wear gloves,” she hears him say.

“That's sweet, but I don't need a mother,” she retorts. Finally the last connector is clean and she can tighten it with ease. With a sigh, she leans back, dabbing her brow with her arm. That's one job out of the way, so she stands and reaches for the holopad, looking for her next task.

Before she can pick it up, a hand reaches past her and closes around her wrist. When did he get so close? Rey half-heartedly tries to shrug him off, but his grip only tightens.

“What do you want?” she asks, feeling the heat of him radiating along her back.

“You,” he says simply.

He's always clear on that point at least. If that's what he wants, then it's simple enough – the only simple thing they have. Rey tugs her hand free and sets down her tools, then reaches down to begin unbuttoning her pants with the same dispassionate efficiency with which she fixed the engine.

But she doesn't get far before Kylo catches her hands once more and moves them until they're resting against the warm top of the tank in front of her. His fingers linger over the back of hers for a moment before sliding up her arms, a feather-soft touch that brings her skin up in sensitive bumps. His hands continue up to her hair, and Rey feels the gentle tug as he removes the pins keeping it up and drops them on the floor one by one. It's almost unbearably tender. Rey squeezes her eyes shut as his fingers thread through her loosened hair, tucking it over one shoulder before she feels the touch of his mouth against the side of her exposed neck.

A thrill curls low in her belly, a warmth that radiates out to the tips of her fingers and toes. Their connection blooms open, as it always does when they touch, and Rey's senses widen until she can smell her own skin the way Kylo smells it. She tries to reach up to touch the side of his face, but once more she finds her hands firmly placed back against the unyielding edge of the tank.

“I think you need to be reminded of a few things,” he says, fingers tightening ever so slightly in her hair.

“What is it you think I've forgotten exactly?” she asks evenly, tilting her head with his hand as he presses his lips to the tender patch of skin below her ear. A shudder rolls through her frame and she leans back unconsciously.

“That I know your greatest weakness.” His murmur sets her skin tingling, and all he has to do is skim his hands gently down her sides to make her breasts tighten.

“I don't know what you're talking about,” she says.

“I think you do,” he tells her, slipping his hands up to lightly stroke the beaded nipples beneath her shirt. “I could make you say or do anything I wanted. You wouldn't be able to go against me.”

She flexes forward to feel more of his touch, but his hands remain elusive. “You wish,” she sighs.

“I warned you...”

Suddenly he catches the soft lobe of her ear between his teeth, biting and nosing gently the same time his hand slips down beneath the waist of her pants to stroke directly over her centre. Rey gives a strangled moan, torn between grinding her hips against him and trying to free her ear from the dizzying assault. He had found this 'weakness' only two days ago. She hadn't even realised her ears were so sensitive until then, and she should have known he would find a way to abuse this knowledge sooner rather than later.

“No, no, no,” she begs, unable to keep from laughing as she tries to twist free. “Too much!”

In his greatest act of mercy yet, he releases her ear and lets her bend forward, but his fingers do not cease their gentle teasing and coaxing between her legs. Rey grips the edge of the tank, her breathing turned shallow as she feels herself growing slick with need. He's not unaffected either. Pulled back into the cradle of his hips, she can feel how hard he's become, and the lines along which his thoughts travel.

“Here?” she asks, faintly surprised.

“Why not?”

Rey wants to point to the wide open bay doors and mention that their son is sleeping right down the corridor, but Kylo is already pushing down her pants and unfastening his own. He mutters something crude, probably a compliment about her naked behind, seconds before she feels the hot, blunt pressure of his arousal against her entrance. A moment of resistance, and then they both groan as he slides deep, fitting into her as if one was made for the other.

As he begins to move, Rey has to clamp one hand over her mouth to keep quiet as she holds onto the tank in front of her for dear life. He strokes deep, almost too deep, where the sensation dances between pain and fulfilment, and still his fingers draw circles around her bud to make her clench and squeeze. She's certain her knees will give out.

He likes her like this – beneath him, submissive, and trembling. It lends him the illusion of control, something that he's lacked for a while now. He cannot undo the destruction of the Celestial Lancer, he cannot take back the power he once had, remove the pain from his mother's eyes, or make Rey bend to his wishes. But he can bend her over and fuck her until she's biting on her own knuckles to keep from crying out.

His fingers dig into her hip. “Prying again...?” he pants.

“I can't help it,” she gasps. “Like this, when you're inside me, I'm inside you too.”

“Because we're two part of one whole,” he says, slowly his thrusts to stroke a hand down her curved back. “You're in my skin, like a mark. You have been there for ten years. No matter where you go we'll always be linked. You're mine.”

She shivers as he thrusts hard into her once more. “Say it. Say you're mine.”

“Yes!” she cries out.

Kylo goes still. “What?”

“Yes, I'm yours. There's only you, there's never going to be anyone else who will ever... you know that,” she says, panting as she clings to the tank. “And you're mine. I saved your life and you gave me Tam, and you cut off my arm and I still loved you, so there. I'm pathetic. I know you're pathetic too, for falling for a girl who cut your face in half. We deserve each other.”

At once Kylo steps back, and Rey finds herself spun around and pressed against the tank. The kiss he gives her is one full of passion and intensity, like no other he's given her. When he finally breaks it, he continues to hold her close. “Then stay,” he says, his breath fanning over her cheeks. “Stay with me.”

“Come with me to Lin-Sen,” she tells him. “Stay with me.”

Nothing has changed. Anger dims the light in his eyes, and that is that. He carries her as far as the bay partition, shoving aside her box of tools to lay her flat on the raised surface, then steps back between her legs. When he thrusts back into her it's hard enough to make her cry out before she remembers to cover her mouth. His lovemaking is fast, tinged with an edge of desperation, as if he can change her mind with his body. If he just holds her a little closer, kisses her a little harder...

She knows his thoughts and the turmoil within him. They blend with her own as he drives them to the place where their differing natures find unity in physical sensation, and her hands scrabble for grip on the smooth tabletop before he pins her wrists with both her hands.

It builds fast after that. Rey feels it coming like an unstoppable wave and bites off a cry when he spills inside her. A blissful feeling empties her mind of all but the feel of him and the way her muscles flutter and spasm around him, drawing him deeper, milking him.

She returns to herself, glowing with sweat and trying to catch her breath. Kylo's still pinning her wrists, still pressed inside her. He wears a curious expression, as if he's tried to commit her aspect to memory. There's a tightness in his fingers, the faint and almost imperceptible warning that he could hold her there as long as he liked. He could stop her from leaving.

“Don't go to Kalboth.”

She shakes her head. “I'm going,” she says.

His grip finally eases, and she sits up slowly, body aching and thrumming sweetly even if her heart feels like lead. “I can't just walk away from the people who love me. I'm not... I'm not like you.”

Kylo steps back as if slapped. “And my love is not worth as much to you as theirs?”

“That's not what I meant!”

With abrupt movements he refastens his clothing and storms out, leaving Rey to struggle pulling her own back into place. She thumps the partition with an angry growl and then stops to breathe, because thumping things and growling is what Kylo Ren does.

When she finishes the last of the engineering bay checks, she heads to bed. It's no surprise to find that Kylo is not there... she has the sense that he's gone back to the cockpit, either to sleep or brood, and Rey is too exhausted to follow. She falls into the bunk with a miserable sigh and holds a hand over her belly. Is she really going to have a girl? A daughter? Does it make a difference if he doesn't want it, if she'd already thought she would be raising it alone had Kylo indeed been dead?

She tries to sleep but her whirling thoughts make it hard to relax. She doesn't really know if its minutes or hours that pass, only that eventually the door to the crew quarters slides open and a large body crowds into the bunk beside her. “Stop thinking and go to sleep,” Kylo orders gruffly, pulling her back against his chest. Evidently, her fretting has kept him awake too.

Somehow she manages to obey, slipping into a deep sleep within the confines of his warm embrace. Her dreams aren't restful, but perhaps not important. When she wakes some time later she only has the vaguest fleeting images of being back on Jakku and walls full of scratched days, waiting for someone who isn't coming.

There are noises coming from the galley again. Tam is finding his own breakfast once more, which means the day has already arrived. Rey feels no inclination to rise. She knows Kylo is awake and has been for a while, but he hasn't moved either. His arm is still looped around her, his hand resting on the soft curve of her belly, his thoughts so unguarded they weave between her own.

While he looks at her metal walls full of marks, she sees his own thoughts are drawn to the past too. Back to a time when he was a numbed, half-alive thing, still struggling beneath the blanket of apathy with which Snoke had smothered his heart to protect him from the symptoms of the broken Force Bond. Still. After six years, the light inside him is a smoking candlewick, the remnants of a flame long extinguished. Until he hears Snoke's breathless whisper.

There was a child.... did you know?

It means nothing to him at first. When Snoke suggests he kill it, snuff out the danger before it becomes a man, he feels indifference. He had never wanted children – he had actively hated the idea, knowing too well the point of children was to replace their parents. But the flame caught that day. It took a while to grow, for the true meaning to hit him. A child. A boy. A son. When he reaches out across the Force in curiosity, he is astonished to feel the child reach back. It's so desperate for a father, so ready to please. Kylo realises at once what Rey needed years to understand... that the boy carried the power of the Force Bond, and that with the boy at his side, there would be no more need for Snoke's interventions; he would be whole again. The desperate agony he felt for a woman who loathed him would no longer cripple him. His need for a master he had outgrown would no longer shackle him.

Love comes later, stealing in unexpectedly as he grows used to the boy's presence until one day he realises too late that he is evading Rey not because he fears she will take back a useful tool, but someone he has come to cherish.

But he's not complete. It took years to accept just two people into his heart and he's not sure he has room for another.

Rey suddenly twists to face him. “Don't think that!” she says fiercely. “That's not how love works.”

It takes him a moment to focus on what she means. They haven't spoken much about this child she's carrying, as some problems are simply too big to speak of, even if they are presently small. For now.

“Love isn't like a well in a desert that you have to ration,” she tells him. “There's no limit to it. If you could still find love for Tam while a creature like Snoke held your heart hostage, you have more love in you than you think.”

“Everything's very simple for you, isn't it?” he rebukes.

“You overcomplicate things, that's all,” she says.

He's about to say something more when there's a hammering on the door of their quarters. “Are we out of rybreck? I can't find the rybreck,” says Tam's muffled voice.

The day won't wait for them much longer. Rey disentangles herself from Kylo and the bunk and goes to help Tam find the stash of breakfast food she's hidden in one of the secret compartments. Sh watches him eat, shovelling down the cereal like he hasn't been fed in days, and wonders where he puts it or if he's going to have a growth spurt soon. She hears a sound behind her and looks around to see Kylo is dressed, with an old bag looped over his shoulder.

Her stomach swoops low. “You're leaving now?” she asks.

He can't quite meet her eyes. “Why delay the inevitable?”

Rey turns away, struggling to think of something to do or say now that she's caught off balance. He takes this as his dismissal and moves past her, heading for the airlock. Tam abandons his breakfast at once, following after his father.

“Where will you go?” he asks him.

“Somewhere?”

“For how long?”

“Some time.”

“Will you miss me?”

“Not at all.”

But Rey witnesses the way he reaches out and touches the back of Tam's head, ruffling his hair in a gentle gesture she's never seen before. He turns to the boy. “You have to behave for your mother now. No more Force Storms,” he says, then leans down to whisper something Rey still catches, “at least until we see each other again.”

Tam nods unhappily, but he's accepted the situation, and his chin only trembles a little bit to say goodbye.

Kylo looks at Rey once more, then begins to turn for the airlock.

“Wait!” She rushes away, tearing off a hidden panel in the wall of the corridor to reach inside for a hidden safe few know of. She punches in the code and extracts a precious parcel wrapped in cloth and carries it back to Kylo. “Take this. It's yours.”

Curiously, he plucks the cloth away to reveal the gift. For once his face is unreadable. Luke Skywalker's old lightsaber rests in his hands, aged but well cared for. “No...” he says, uncertainly.

“It's yours,” she says again, feeling he's about to hand it back. “Luke wanted you to have it. He... he always wanted Ben to have it. So take it. Besides, I think you'll need it since I'm pretty sure Praxis had your old one melted down.”

“I had wondered,” he admits lightly. He holds the saber as if its heavier than he expects, before clipping it to his belt. “And I uploaded the codes for the bank account to the computer. It's your choice if you want to use it.”

“I guess we'll see.”

“I guess,” he echoes. "And if you see my mother... tell her..."

Rey watches him closely, sensing his uneasiness. 

"Tell her I forgive her."

"She'll slap me for sure," Rey protests, wondering at his cheek to think Leia needs his forgiveness.

"Please. Just tell her that."

Rey looks down at her feet, not sure what to say next. All she knows is that she really does not want to say goodbye. “I... I can give you the coordinates to Lin-Sen if you ever change your mind-”

“I think we've said all that can be said about that,” he interrupted, not unkindly. “Why speak when clearly words are not enough anymore?”

If it's possible for Rey's heart to fall any further, it does so then. She nods numbly and averts her gaze once more, for fear that if she looks directly at him, she will not be able to keep herself from crying.

Kylo steps in close, his hand enveloping hers to pull her gently forward into a kiss. Stunned, Rey can only stand as stiff as a board for several crucial seconds until it occurs to her that this may be their last kiss. She leans into him, winding her arms around his neck to deepen it, wanting to commit every last moment to memory. It's only Tam's dramatic hurk noise as he flings his arms over the railing on the boarding ramp, as if in serious gastric distress, that breaks them apart. They step back, but Kylo's hand still lingers on her cheek.

In that moment, he uses her own ability. She's sure of it. She feels the faintest of tugs as his bare finger draws down her jaw, stealing a thought. Stealing a memory. She doesn't know what it is he has taken, but it makes him smile, and it's not often that she sees that. His smiles are almost always sardonic, mean, or arrogant, but this is a rare smile of pleasure, and it changes his face. Just for a moment, he's beautifully ordinary looking.

Then it fades.

“Goodbye,” he says.

“Goodbye,” she replies.

With one last look at Tam, he steps through the airlock, and is gone.

The Falcon is suddenly so much bigger and quieter in his absence. Tam stares at the sealed doors and then turns to Rey. Whatever he's about to say, she cuts off. “Come on, it's time to leave,” she says abruptly, and heads for the cockpit, dashing something treacherously wet from her cheek.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Lin-Sen

 

When Rey steps off the boarding ramp of the Millenium Falcom, she's greeted by the muzzles of countless blaster rifles. She pulls Tam tightly behind her, forming a shield of her own body. In the twilight of Kalboth, all she can really see is the dazzling flashlights aimed into her eyes.

“Stand down, for crying out loud!” She hears Finn's voice before she sees his shape shouldering through the ring of rifles and lights.

“Finn!” she cries out, desperate for the familiar face of her oldest friend, but scared too. She's certain he is furious with her, that she's about to get the ticking off of a lifetime.

The second Finn reaches her, he pulls her into a hug that almost sweeps her off her feet. There's no hesitation there, no anger, just relief. Rey flings her arms around him just as tightly and feels her eyes grow damp.

“You came back,” he says, sounding bewildered.

“I don't leave my friends behind,” she says fiercely. “You know that.”

A madly dashing ball suddenly skids across the runway, knocking aside even more flashlights and rifles, and rolls demandingly between Finn and Rey with a squeal.

“BB8!” Rey bends down to tweak the unit's antenna in greeting, listening to the rapid-fire bleeping of the droid's happiness. Anyone would think she'd been gone a year rather than just shy of a week, according to BB8's welcome. Although the droid swears that Finn cried more than anyone.

“What's she saying?” asks Finn suspiciously, as he doesn't understand much droid-speak outside of a few words and his own name.

“She's just glad to see me,” says Rey, straightening.

“Ma'am.” One of the flashlights raises to reveal a colonel. “We have to take you in now. Praxis' orders.”

Finn steps protectively in front of Rey. “Years of loyal service and this is what she gets? Praxis needs to get her head out of her-”

“It's ok, I knew this would happen,” says Rey, placing a calming hand on his back. “Would you look after Tam for now? I hope this won't take long.”

Finn looks at her oddly. “You've got that face on,” he remarks, a little concerned. “What are you up to?”

“Just look after Tam. Please.”

He sighs. “Alright. Tameron, you're with me. I bet you're ready for bed, huh?”

“I only had breakfast an hour ago,” answers Tam.

Assured that her son is in safe hands, Rey allows herself to be led across the runway and into the labyrinthine passages of the intelligence centre. There's a half-hearted attempt to get her to part with her saberstaff and fix some lasercuffs around her wrists, but when Rey points out that neither of these things is likely to stop her if she chooses to escape, they relent. They don't really have much choice. At least she is known to them. Whatever charges are held against her, no one really believes she is dangerous. They place her not in one of the deep interrogation rooms, but a simple room that looks more like an average waiting room than a cell, lined with chairs along its walls. One resistance soldier even offers to fetch her a tea while she waits in the detention room.

“Perhaps some yellow tea,” agrees Rey, “and perhaps you could also bring General Banner?”

She waits with her staff balanced over her knees, listening to the soft eddies and ripples in the Force. It's weak on Kalboth, but the Bond let's her see further, to a point in the distance that she would never otherwise feel. It's vague, like looking through fog, but it's there, both far away and buried within her heart at the same time. His thoughts are not on her. If they were, she might be able to see more than his indistinct aura.

The door to her plain room clicks open and General Banner steps through. He dismisses the soldier with a wave of his hand and takes a seat in the chair near her own. “You're in a lot of trouble,” he says, in such a way that it's like being scolded by a disappointed father. If he'd added 'young lady' to the end of his remark, she would not have been surprised.

“Thank you for coming,” she says.

“I'm a little surprised you didn't ask for General Organa,” he says.

“I'd like to see her too, of course,” says Rey. “But I'd like to understand our situation.”

“I received your message from Station Toska. It was... interesting. I'm not sure I approve at all.”

Rey shrugs. “Do not feel obligated... though I suggest it would be in the best interests of the Resistance if you were to agree. My situation aside, I should like to help.”

“You set free a very dangerous man the Resistance has been fighting for sixteen years,” he says carefully. “What situation do you think you're in?”

Rey keeps her face expressionless. “Will there be a trial?”

“Praxis is already setting one up.”

Ever so carefully, Rey feels around the edges of his mind, gleaning what is freely given rather than prying in a way he would notice. The way he uses Leia's title, despite her being retired, but not Praxis' title is quite telling, she thinks. “But not an open trial?”

“Closed, I'm afraid. Praxis doesn't want your charges to become public information, or else the galaxy at large will come to realise Kylo Ren isn't dead. You'll be tried in secret.”

“That's fine,” says Rey.

“Is it now?” he sits back surprised, hands on his knees. “Well, I hope we don't inconvenience you. You clearly have things in hand!”

Rey smiles. She has not had many opportunities to speak to General Banner over the years as he'd mostly been deployed in the Regis system for most of his command, but she thinks that overall she likes him and he likes her.

“Why did you return?” he asks.

“I don't like loose ends or bounties on my head,” she replies.

“I told them the bounty was a mistake,” he says. “No two-bit hunter would ever bring in a Jedi, and all it's done is get people speculating exactly what you did, which of course we can't reveal, so the whole thing is a mess. We look like buffoons.”

Rey smiles gently.

“Perhaps we can sort this mess out now you're back,” he says.

There's a knock at the door and he looks up. The next person to walk through is Leia. Rey's placid facade breaks and she surges out of her seat to throw her arms around the older woman. She briefly remembers Kylo's comment that Leia views her as a daughter, and she suddenly knows that's true, for how tightly Leia grips her.

“I thought I'd lost you too,” Leia croaks. “Foolish girl!”

Banner makes his excuses and leaves them alone, and it's a long time before Rey can step out of the tight embrace to see Leia's actually smiling. “Why didn't you tell me what you were planning? I would have helped you!”

“Then it's a good thing I didn't tell you anything – I don't want to get you into trouble too.” Rey pulls her into a seat. “I wasn't even sure if you would have helped-”

“Of course I would have! Rey, you saved my son. I wasn't sure before but after I met him and looked him in the eye, I knew he could be saved. You gave him that chance.” Leia pulls her into another embrace. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Rey sits stunned for a moment, never thinking Leia would be so pleased about what she'd done. It reminds her of something else. “He... asked me to tell you something,” she says, tensing up in preparation of a strongly negative reaction. “Ben says he... forgives you.”

Leia freezes. “What?”

“M-maybe I misheard,” Rey adds, “he really should be begging for your forgiveness-”

“He has my forgiveness. I told him so,” interrupts Leia distantly. “I asked him if he forgave me for not being there... for being so oblivious to his suffering that I couldn't stop it. He wouldn't answer me then, but is it true? Did he say that to you?”

“Yes,” says Rey earnestly. “Word for word.”

“Where is he now?” Leia asks.

“I'm not sure,” Rey admits, staring down at her knees. “You know how I said I wanted to rebuild the order? Well... he freaked. He didn't like that. He clings so closely to the dark side still, he won't go anywhere near a new order.”

“No wonder...” breathes Leia. “A new order would never accept him either.”

“But I can't... just give up everything and make myself miserable to make him happy,” says Rey. “I can't let Luke down like that. I can't sacrifice tens of thousands of years of history because of his crimes.”

“We can only follow our hearts,” says Leia. “No matter how much Han and I loved one another, we had different paths to take. Perhaps the same is true for you?”

That is hardly the best relationship to model her own upon, but Han and Leia's mistake had been in letting their son fall through the cracks between them. Rey will never let the same thing happen to Tam.

Yet, still the masked man lurks the back of her thoughts whenever she wonders if she is doing enough for her son.

It's not long before Leia has to excuse herself. She has been called upon to attend Rey's hearing which Praxis is already putting into motion. “She's a little gleeful about it, if you ask me,” gripes Leia.

Rey looks at her. “Would you be terribly disappointed if she went away?” she asks mildly.

Leia lowers her chin to look sternly at Rey. “You have been hanging around my son too much.”

“I'm not hearing a 'no'.”

“If you want to clear your name, you will behave,” reminds Leia, looking only slightly worried as they part company once more.

The next time Rey sees her, it is as she is being led into a small hall, shaped like an amphitheatre with a circular raised stand in the centre. Rey is deposited in the middle of this stand, and with strong lights burning down from above, its difficult to make out the faces in the stands around her. A railing rises to lock her into her small, round pen. There aren't many present, true to Praxis' desire for a closed court. A line of uniforms belonging to the generals faces her, and she's sure she hear's Finn's voice breaking the awkward silence with a cheer of, “Lookin' good, Rey!”

“Quiet,” calls a voice that sounds rather like General Praxis. Rey sees one of the uniforms in front of her stand. “The court is in session! We are here today to hear and consider the charges against Rey of Jakku, accused of treason, theft, as well as aiding and abetting a war criminal, compromising our intelligence operations, and endangering the people of this base as well as untold numbers across the systems. We will be deciding whether or not to go forth to trial.”

It certainly sounds impressive, and Rey squints as she tries to make out who else is sitting around her.

“The evidence has been gathered. The testimony has been recorded. Observe,” says Praxis, as the holo-emitters around Rey flicker and project blue-tinged holograms in a circle around her stand. Her view of her audience is further obscured with surveillance footage of her running between frozen bodies of soldiers, and hunkering down behind fuel tankers with Kylo. It's resoundingly damning.

“Do you accept these charges?” asks Praxis.

“No,” says Rey.

Although the room remains perfectly silent, Rey can tell everyone has taken a collective breath.

“What are the charges you wish to dispute?” asks Praxis, her voice as thin and precarious as a sheet of ice on a bottomless black lake.

“Theft, first of all,” begins Rey. “What is it I'm supposed to have stolen? Also I don't believe I compromised a single intelligence operation, and I worked extremely hard not to endanger any member of the Resistance.”

“As to the matter of theft, the Millenium Falcon-”

“Is mine,” finishes Rey.

“The Falcon belonged to Han Solo, bequeathed to Leia Organa and the Resistance upon his death for Resistance use,” says Praxis.

As Rey sucks in a breath to passionately deny that, the diminutive shape of Leia rises in one of the witness stands. “I gave the Falcon to Rey. It's what Han would have wanted. What the hell was I going to do with it anyway? And I do not recall this ever being an issue until this very moment, so perhaps if you had objections to Rey using the Falcon you should have raised them years ago?”

“Perhaps it would never have been an issue, until the defendant used Resistance property to abscond with a deadly criminal,” says Praxis, smoothly moving on. “Which brings us to the most serious charge: treason. Do you dispute this?”

“Yes,” says Rey.

The inhalation of her small audience is quite audible now. She thinks she hears Finn muttering something despairing behind her.

“Oh?” Praxis' voice practically purrs with delight. “Do explain yourself then. Perhaps it was your identical twin who freed the criminal Kylo Ren?”

Rey's mouth sets in a thin line. “I do not dispute the facts. Yes, it is me in those holotapes. Yes, I helped a man escape detention, but only because he was being denied the trial that you have so graciously given me. But I did not free Kylo Ren. That man is already dead, as you yourselves so adamantly insist.”

That is your defence?” That sounds like General Banner.

Rey's gaze sweeps the line of generals, wishing she could see the faces of her judges. “If I am convicted for freeing a man that is already dead, how do you plan to explain yourselves to the systems? To the Senate?”

“That is a subject for later consideration,” says Praxis dismissively. “Our larger problem is what to do once Kylo Ren returns to his old ways and demoralises the Resistance's efforts.”

“He won't,” says Rey firmly.

“How would you know this?”

“Because I know him,” she says. “He has no love for the First Order. He handed over vital information to you, didn't he? He was more than willing – it was to his own benefit. He's hunted by the First Order just as much as he's hunted by the Resistance. He does not have the influence he once had, so there is very little danger.”

“You are biased,” Praxis condemns. “You are his lover and the mother of his children. Is it not true that by Jakku custom, you would be considered his legal wife?”

“Jakku's customs are not relevant,” Rey says, feeling a prickle of embarrassment raise the fine hairs on her skin. “I am not his wife. He is not my husband.”

“But you do love him?”

“Love does not alter my judgement,” says Rey. “And I would never love someone I did not believe in. He is no danger to the Resistance or anyone else.”

“He almost convinced our head interrogator to hang himself.”

“He was just joking...”

Praxis is silent for a moment, just to allow that comment to sink in for everyone. Rey grimaces mildly, realising how terrible it sounds.

“Regardless of semantics, or what we wish to call this man, you committed an act of treason by freeing him,” the general continues.

“I beg to differ. The Resistance was founded on the principles of equality, fairness, and peace, and I saw none of that in the decision to execute a man without trial.”

“It is not your place to judge which course of action befits the principles of the Resistance. Your only prerogative is to obey.”

“And with all due respect, my actions may have saved many lives. There is no way a man like Kylo Ren would allow himself to be executed, and there's no way the Resistance could have truly prevented his eventual escape. He would have broken free, it was just a matter of time. The difference was that I prevented casualties.”

Praxis raises her voice. “That is irrelevant.”

“Furthermore,” says Rey, ignoring her. “I do not accept the Resistance's authority in matters of the Force. Dark-siders have always been the responsibility of the Jedi. The day he ever poses a threat to anyone, I will be there to stop him. That's my duty. Not yours.”

“And how will you make Kylo Ren answerable to his crimes?” Praxis asks. “The crime of the murder of Lor San Tekka, for instance? Or the murder of General Solo?”

“Justice is not always achieved with punishment, but with penance. Someone who is alive to repay their debts is doing more good than a dead man. As a Jedi, I will always try to restore balance rather than make blood pay with blood.”

“And you are speaking as a Jedi, are you? And not, as we've established, an enamoured wife?”

“I am not anybody's wife,” Rey grinds out.

“I think we've heard enough,” interrupts General Banner. “We are here to decide on whether to move forward with a trial, and there are other matters we must consider first. The feasibility of carrying out any subsequent sentence, for instance.”

“The sentence for treason is death by firing squad,” Praxis feels the need to remind everyone.

“Which is unsuitable for an expecting mother,” replies General Banner. “And as we've established, imprisonment is unlikely to last. The jedi have been gone for so long that we no longer possess any means of effectively holding a force user.”

“There is always carbon freezing,” suggests Praxis.

“No!” cries a small voice from the stands. “Please don't freeze my mom!”

Rey searches the stands for Tam, but cannot see him. She decides to give Finn a good clip around the ear for bringing her son to this hearing.

“Carbon freezing is not an effective deterrent,” says Banner, “and extremely dangerous. I cannot condone it.”

“We will withdraw to discuss this,” says Praxis, at her most prickly. A tone rings out to announce the end of the session and the generals rise as one to begin filing out. The railing around Rey remains. She is not going anywhere, it seems.

In the interim, Finn drops down from the stands to climb up the railing. “Are you ok?”

“I'm fine.”

“Look, when this thing goes to trial – don't worry about a thing. I know people. Law people. They're so good they could even convince everyone that Kylo Ren is a sainted pacifist,” he says.

Rey smiles. “It's quite alright. Everything's fine, Finn.”

“Fine?” he echoes. “Did you not see Praxis? She's on the war path. She wants you dead.”

Tam climbs up beside Finn. “Mom? Do you need me to break you out? Because I can do that.”

“You'll do no such thing, and you shouldn't even be here,” she says, looking pointedly at Finn.

“I can't say no to a kid who can suck me up into a wormhole,” says Finn, ruffling Tam's hair absently. “But you seem a little too confident, Rey...”

She squeeze's her friend's arm. “Just trust me,” she says.

It's not long before the generals file back into the room and the tone rings out to announce a new session. Whatever decision they have reached, it seems to have been an easy one. Once everyone had returned to their seats, Rey squints to make out the general who now rises to their feet.

“Having heard the defendent's testimony,” begins the man who sounds like General Banner. “It is the decision of this panel that an act of treason has almost certainly been committed, one which we cannot ignore.”

Rey's head drops and she hears the hiss of disappointment from Finn.

“We are satisfied that the criteria has been met to move ahead with a full trial, but... it is our judgement that this will not be necessary,” says Banner, as Rey's head rises sharply. “We do not wish to risk the morale of our movement with an execution of such a prominent figurehead for our cause, nor do we have the facilities to contain you. We will, however, exercise the right to banish you from this base, and all Resistance bases. I say this with a heavy heart, for all your years of loyal service. You are no longer welcome.”

“If you exile her – then you'll have to exile me too!” shouts Finn, rising to his feet.

“Finn, no!” Rey says sharply. “Don't be stupid!”

The irritable voice of Praxis cuts through the interruption.“Silence!”

Finn subsides and Rey turns her gaze back to Banner, who continues. “From this point on, you will no longer be entitled to the aid or cooperation of the Resistance. You have until tomorrow to collect your belongings... and thereafter, you will be a stranger to us, and should you step foot in Resistance territory, you will be treated as a trespasser. Do you understand?”

Rey nods, her tongue feeling thick in her mouth. “I understand.”

“Do you accept this judgement?”

“I do. But my son...?”

“Your son is a child, he does not share your crimes,” Banner says, his tone almost kind. “He will always be welcome amongst us as the grandson of our most venerated General.”

“Thank you,” says Rey quietly.

“Then our business is concluded.”

Another tone rings out and the burning lights snap into darkness. The rail lowers, freeing her. Though her vision is swimming with sun spots she can finally see the generals before her, and her gaze fixes on Praxis, whose eyes are full of flinty indignation. This was not a ruling she agreed with, but the other generals have outvoted her.

Banner in particular, has outvoted her.

Before she can be swamped by her friends, Rey steps down and crosses the amphitheatre to extend a hand to General Praxis. “I'm sorry I ever let you down, General,” she says, suitably demure. “I will never give you cause to hear my name again, I promise.”

Praxis regards her extended hand like a dead thing, giving every indication that she would be within her rights to ignore it. With unnecessary reluctance she accepts the gesture, giving her hand one limp, awkward shake, before quickly withdrawing. One final cold look, then she sweeps away.

Rey spares the rest of the generals a similar handshake and watches them sail out, all but for General Banner who lingers on. When he steps down to Rey's level, he looks at her with mild expectation.

“Is it true General Praxis was promoted because of her actions on Chankatu?” she asks.

“That's what they say,” he says curiously.

Rey hums, nodding her head slightly. “You should probably ask her subordinates about that and look at some money desposits she's been making to them for the last ten years.”

General Banner extends his hand with a slight smile. “Thank you. Perhaps I will.”

His hand is warm and large and when she skates the surface of his memories, she thinks that here is a mind more worthy of leading the Resistance than some she can name. Then he too walks out, and it is finally over.

“Rey, don't worry about a thing,” says Finn, coming up behind her. “We can get the generals to reverse their decision – I'm sure we can.”

“Let's just go home, Finn,” she says, smiling at him. “This might be my last night here, and I just want to spend it with my friends.”

 


 

Perhaps an impromptu party is not quite what she expects, but that's what somehow unfolds the moment Poe finds them, and once he's done half berating her and half praising her for her death-defying stunts with the Millenium Falcon, it's back to the barracks to crack open the kegs of Surilla beer.

“To our newest traitor,” says Poe, toasting Rey. “And perhaps the imminent demise of our dear General Praxis.”

Rey looks around at her friends; these people who have wordlessly forgiven her and welcomed her back without a thought. She sees a rosy-cheeked Jessica Pava on her third beer, leaning close to listen to something Fiona is telling her, while Finn watches them suspiciously. She sees Tam reaching for a drink – which she casually moves out of his reach – as Poe chats up Leia and the former General smiles indulgently back at him. There are others too, like Snap, Ematt, Corra and Liv Livella, those he might be forgiven for keeping their distance, but each of them greet her and want her to know she'll be missed.

Once Finn finds Poe's music player and begins to demonstrate the dance moves he learned from a species known for being boneless, the tone of the night is sealed.

Rey feels a touch on her shoulder and turns to see Leia. “I suddenly feel my age,” she says wryly, “I think I'll turn in for the night.”

Obligingly, Rey walks out into the warm night with her, where they can hear themselves think. “Finn will do himself an injury,” warns Leia.

“Only by beer number eight,” says Rey.

Leia is quiet for a moment, watching the transquility of the base around them. “You're not really upset that you've been exiled, are you?”

“I expected it,” says Rey.

“You did more than that. You damn well bribed General Banner to ensure it.”

“You could look at it that way,” says Rey with a shrug. “Are you going to tell me that Banner wouldn't make a better leader than Praxis?”

“Banner was my protege... so I suppose I won't complain, if you think Praxis came by her power dishonestly. Can't say that surprises me.” Leia sighs as she turns her gaze back to Rey. “But you wanted to leave, didn't you? The Resistance doesn't suit you anymore.”

Rey nods. “I was planning on it,” she admits.

“Where will you go?”

“To Lin-Sen. You... could come with me.”

“Will my son be there?”

Rey feels a prickle of dismay. “No.”

“Then perhaps I will, in time... when I'm sure these idiot generals no longer need me,” says Leia. “Although I don't know how much I'll like being around a jedi order. They always gave me the heebies, although I never dared tell Luke that. He took it all so very seriously.”

Rey feels a grin break out across her face. “The offer will always be open. And I think it will be good for Tam to have you around still.”

“Oh, certainly, just what every ten year old boy wants – a sixty-five year old woman to hang out with.” But Leia is smiling and doesn't look quite so grey as she once did. She clasps Rey's hands and gives her a wink. “Go back to your party, Rey. You're still young.”

Rey watches her slide away into the darkness, always full of grace whatever the situation. When she turns, she finds Finn has emerged too, standing in the light of the doorway to Poe's apartment. From the look on his face, she thinks he might have overheard most of her conversation with Leia.

“So you planned all this, huh?” he says a little coolly. “Get yourself exiled so you can have a nice little holiday?”

She rolls her eyes at him. “Rebuilding a jedi order isn't going to be any kind of holiday,” she tells him, “and I've been wanting to do it for some time.”

“And he won't be with you? He's put two kids on you and he won't even help now?”

“It's not so simple,” she says, feeling a heavy lump form in her stomach. “Our ways are just too different...”

“But you love him,” says Finn, frowning at her. “You said as much at the trial.”

Rey bites her lip gently.

Finn blows out a sigh and reaches to take her elbows. “Look, Rey, I don't really care who you love. I know we can't always help that. The only thing I've ever wanted is that you be happy. I thought he took that away from you forever when you came back from that moon. Whatever else he did, I couldn't forgive him for that. But if loving him is what makes you happy, then you should love him.”

“Are you giving us your blessing?” she asked, looking up at him in bewilderment.

He winces. “I still kinda hope he dies being torn apart by gundarks... but I think I realised a long time ago that you walk a strange path, Rey. I don't think 'normal' will ever apply to you. Whatever you choose to do, you know I will always have your back.”

The sting of hot tears in her eyes is sudden and overwhelming, and she springs forward to wrap her arms around his shoulders. “I love you,” she says, as tears drip down her cheeks onto the shoulder of his jacket. “I don't want to leave you!”

“Hey, hey!” He pats her back consolingly. “You won't be so far away – a couple of hours by hyperdrive, right? I'll visit you and Tam can visit us, and we'll see more of each other than we ever did while we lived on the same base. You can't get rid of me that easy, Rey.”

Her only answer is a soft, strangled sob.

“We better go back in before Fiona gets suspicious. And seriously, you're getting snot all over my clothes.”

“I'm sorry,” she says, wiping her nose. “I didn't mean to.”

“Well, you've been though a lot, so I might forgive you.” Finn throws an arm around her shoulder and herds her back inside. The music is even louder now and the party is in full swing now that Fiona has found snack food. “It's almost like they're pleased you're leaving,” remarks Finn.

Then Poe sweeps her into a dance, his arm around her waist. “Promise me you won't forget all the things I taught you,” he says.

“What things?” she asks.

“Oh no, already?” Poe sighs, and dips her until her tears are almost gone and she's mostly just laughing.

As her final night among her friends as a member of the Resistance, it's not a bad time. Without touching a drop of alcohol, her spirits are high and her cheeks tinged with pink. She has a sneaking feeling that she was not entirely successful in keeping the drinks out of Tam's hands as by midnight the boy is curled in a corner, fast asleep despite the rowdiness of the adults. When the party finally begins to wind down and her friends admit that they might have overdone it, Rey scoops up her son and carries him to the spare bedroom.

She herself cannot sleep, however. Whether because of the excitement of the day, the party, or the space lag, she sits up beside Tam, searching the Force for the gravity of her other half.

The moments when he thinks of her are crystal clear, when something jumps across the void between them and she catches a glimpse of sight through his eyes, of his large hands moving across a console, hearing the solitude he has wrapped around himself. She extends her mind, silently asking how he is, but she feels him draw away from her. He is still sore, she thinks, over their parting. It might be a while before he is really willing to speak to her.

Rey lies down beside Tam and wills herself not to dwell on him, for she could spend the rest of her life making herself miderable in such a way. Tomorrow her new life will begin. Tomorrow she will take the step she should have taken many years ago.

Come morning, her friends are back to see her off, fighting various levels of hangover. Now it's Finn's turn to leave some snot and tears on her shoulder, and she hugs him the longest, even though they promise each other that they'll see one another again. Poe manages to keep a straight face, though he confides in her for the first time that he has always regarded Rey as his little sister. Then he gives Tam his helmet, and Rey has never seen such an awed look on the boy's face.

“But you need this!” says Tam.

“So do you,” replies Poe.

Leia is subdued but she is not as dismayed as the others. “When this next child comes to be born, I will be there. So make sure you have a bed for me when I arrive.”

“Of course,” Rey holds her tightly, and realises that she will never need wonder what it is like to be embraced by her mother, since Leia has been hers for so long now.

There are no more goodbyes to be said, no more things to be packed. She does not look back as she ascends the ramp into the Falcon and straps Tam into his seat.

“Are we going to Lin-Sen now?” he asks, his large new helmet wobbling precariously on his head.

“Yes,” she says.

Tam kicks his heels against his seat with a hum of pleasure, and leans up to wave exuberantly to the people below as the ship begins to rise. Rey lifts her hand too, casting one last farewell to her friends before she loses sight of them entirely, and her field of vision is filled with blue sky.

“You know, it's been thousands upon thousands of years since anyone saw Lin-Sen,” says Rey. “I'll feel awfully stupid if it's not actually there anymore.”

“I'm sure it will be,” says Tam, adjusting the microphone on his helmet.

“Should I ask why you sound so certain?”

“Nah.”

Rey gives him a small smile, and as they break from the atmosphere and enter into the darkness of space, Rey sets the co-ordinates that have been lingering in the back of her mind for a long time since she discovered them on Ahch-To. The hyperdrive whirrs and tenses, and the ship plunges forward, streaking between the stars.

“Will I get my own room?” asks Tam.

“I should think so.”

“A big one?”

“I don't see why not.”

“What are we going to eat when we get there?”

“We have some food supplies for now, but we'll grow our own in time.”

“Are we going to be farmers?”

“Jedi.”

“Jedi farmers?”

“Are you going to ask questions all the way?”

“Will that annoy you?”

She sighs. “Sometimes you just have to wait and see, Tam. The future is not set in stone, even for you.”

Tam contemplates this quietly for all of three minutes, before he sets in with more questions. Will there be computers? Will there be animals on this planet? Will he finally be able to play outside without worrying about freezing to death or overheating? As they draw closer to their exit point, he gradually quietens down, sitting forward in his chair to watch with rapt attention for the first glimpse of their new home.

It's a green sphere, streaked with blues and the white swirls of cloud. Rey breathes a faint sigh of relief at the sight, but feels something else too, as if she has remembered something long forgotten. She knows she has seen this place before in the memories of others long dead, but perhaps it goes back further than that even.

The feeling only grows as she guides the Falcon into a descent, swooping over rounded mountains carpeted in green that rise from pure lakes. She follows instinct now, to lead her to the Temple of Sen. It rises, an island in an ocean, so verdant and clear she realises she has seen this place her whole life, in her dreams in Jakku, and perhaps even earlier.

There is the tree in the bay, clinging to its rock, except now, thousands of years on, it's no longer a trembling sapling but a towering red thing of ancient angles, casting a long shadow over the water.

“I see fish!” shouts Tam.

The temple itself blends so seamlessly into the mountain that if Rey did not know it was there, she might have missed it. A cave mouth high up beckons her, and she guides the Falcon inside to land on the smooth platform within – too even and level to be a natural formation.

“Are we here?” asks Tam, excited.

“We're here.”

He dashes off first, reaching the boarding ramp before she has fully powered down the engines.

In the ancient rock hangar, things are not quite as she 'remembers'. The broad-leafed vines are new, growing over almost every available surface, and almost blocking off the wide trapezium shaped doorway at the back.

Tam races off to invesigate, but Rey calls him back. “It might be dangerous.”

“I don't think so!” he argues, vanishing through the doorway.

“Tam!” she calls, exasperated. Thousands of years of neglect does not make for a safe playground and she dreads to think how much work this place might need before it is fit to live in. She hurries after Tam, entering a long cool corridor of smooth yellow stone that undulates like a snake through the mountain. There are rooms and chambers and other branching corridors. Some are collapsed, some have fallen in and are filled with light and vines while others are almost as pristine as if they had only been abandoned yesterday.

The corridor eventually opens into a wide chamber, its red patterned floor covered with dust and more plant-life bursting between cracks in the rock. This is where she catches up with Tam, who looks up towards the ceiling of the chamber, where a wide circular hole fills the room with natural light.

“Just like the temple on Ahch-To,” she says. “But bigger.”

And just like in Ahch-To, there is a smooth stone rising in the middle with a hole worn through it. But there is only one here, rather than two. This temple was built only to service the Sen. The Light.

“This is an important room, isn't it?” says Tam.

“Yes.”

“Can I have it as a bedroom?”

She playfully pushes his head with a snort of laughter and crosses to the stone standing in the circle of light. “Now let's see,” she whispers to herself, brushing her fingers lightly over the ancient rock. She is no longer an amateur at this, and where once touching such a stone might have sent her into a kind of shocked trance, now she knows how to temper what the stone shows her. She knows what to let in and what to keep out, and she glances fleetingly over memories so rich it would takes years to truly study them. Then all the stone remembers is peace and loneliness, a solitude lasting thousands of years until-

Rey takes her hand away with a gasp.

Tam looks at her. “What is it?”

She barely hears him, looking around wildly instead.

There! Footsteps in the dust, leading away through one of the many branching doorways off this chamber. Rey sets off at a run, following them along a new passage that is half exposed to the elements on one side. The footsteps fade as the dust does, obliterated by the open air and wind, but Rey follows her heart now. She rushes on, leaping over a pile of rubble and through a doorway into one of most intact rooms she's seen yet.

She slows, giving Tam time to catch up with her.

“What's going on?” he asks, looking around the empty room, where things resembling ancient furniture lie in collapsed heaps upon the floor.

But beyond this room is another, or is it more of a balcony? It's filled with light, sheltered from the elements, with balusters cut out of the stone where one might stand and view the magnificent mountains and lakes beyond.

Perhaps Rey will take a moment to admire it later. For at this moment there is a man standing in the way, his hip perched against the stone ledge as he peers below. When he turns to look up at her, he doesn't seem even half as surprised to see her as she is to see him.

“What are you doing here?” she asks, eyes wide.

Before he can answer, Tam hurtles past her.

“Dad!”

Tam slams into his father so hard, Rey has a moment of sheer panic that the will both fall over the barrier. But somehow he recovers his shock quickly, and pats the boy on the back in an almost natural sort of way, before Tam remembers himself and steps back. But nothing can diminish the glee in his young face.

Rey considers throwing her arms round him too, but something holds her back. “How did you find this place before me?” she asks, not quite daring to believe what she's seeing.

“Your object memory is very useful,” he says. “I took the coordinates from your thoughts... in case I might need to find you.”

“You changed your mind then?” she breathes.

His shrug is almost heartless. “It will take you a while to set up here... I imagine I can help with that much at least-”

“You hated being alone. You couldn't stand it for even a day,” she says, a smile curving on her lips.

“That doesn't mean I was wrong,” he says with dignity. “Whatever you hope to build in this place... I can't be part of it.”

Rey feels her heart beginning to sink as he looks away from, back to the view of the world below. “If this is the Temple of Sen, where is the Temple of Lin?” he asks.

She walks forward until she is standing so close to him, her leg is touching his. A warm feeling of belonging seeps through her body, strong enough she closes her eyes. Lifting her hand, she points to a distant peak of an island barely visible on the horizon. “Over there.”

“Hm. Yes.” He nods, as if deciding something. “I'll have it.”

“You'll have it?”

“If this will be your temple, then that will be my temple.”

Your temple?”

“Please stop repeating everything I say.”

Rey stares at him. “Are you saying you're going to start your own order?”

“Why not?”

“Y-you're a darksider!”

“And you're a lightsider. Someone has to keep you in line.”

Her mouth drops open in protest, before he presses a single finger to her lips, silencing her more effectively than with any use of the Force. “I've been gazing into the stones too,” he says. “You said yourself you know the old ways or the Order, of the balance it maintained between the darkness and the light. You need me here. If there is truly to be balance, we need each other.”

Rey pushes his hand aside. “Sometimes you do say sensible things,” she says grudgingly. “I'm not sure I like it...”

“Neither do I,” he says. “But do we agree at least?”

“I think we do.” She lets a slow smile touch her lips and sees his answering one, and the sight of it makes her heart do flips in her chest.

“Besides, this place will take a lot of work just to making it fit for living. You definitely need help with that, and who knows how long that will take. We might be on our third child by the time this place is ready-”

“Third! Don't even joke!” She punches his shoulder with a laugh, but she's alarmingly close to tears, the kind of hysterical burbling kind that come with sheer relief and happiness.

Tam leans on the stone barrier beside them. “Does this mean you're staying with us, Kylo?” he asks.

The man looks at him with dark eyes that run clear as the waters below.

“It's just Ben now,” says Ben.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Epilogue:

Balance

Everything is coming along well, Rey thinks. She surveys the plants that fill her solar, the ones surging from trays and tumbling from bowls suspended on hooks, all crowding out her sunny balcony. She probably has too many. Every time she goes an an excursion into the hills she can't resist bringing back a new specimen to foster, and whenever the others head off-world on a supply run or o bring in a candidate for assessment, it has become a worrying joke to find the most bizarre, alien plant to bring back as a gift for Rey.

This reminds her to snip the heads of the budding flowers of the latest 'gift', knowing they have a tendency to snap at fingers once in full bloom. She moves on to inspect a succulent in case this too needs pruning. A rustle in the plants behind her draws her attention.

“Anicca, that's probably enough water,” she says. “Not all plants love to swim as much as you do.”

A small child, who is perhaps more bushy black hair than girl, turns to face her, water still streaming from the watering can in her hand. A puddle spreads across the stone floor in front of her. “But they're thirsty,” she insists.

“Come over here and have a look at this,” says Rey, hoping to distract her from any more well-intentioned destruction. When Anicca obediently trots over, Rey lifts her up onto her hip to show her the succulent that has formed the shape of a miniature tree. “This was one of the first plants I got when I came here. It's exactly as old as you.”

“It's six?” asks Anicca, reaching out a sticky paw to grab one of the leaves. Rey moves her out of reach, knowing she will snap the leaf off given half the chance.

“Your father gave it to me, I think,” says Rey, casting her mind back. “We'd had a fight and it was his way of apologising without having to say sorry.”

This is all ancient history as far as Anicca is concerned, and might as well have happened around the time of the first Jedi. In her eyes, the six year old plant has always been there, her family has always been on Lin-Sen, and her parents have always argued. Rey notices that her daughter's attention has wandered, but also notices something else. “You have sap in you hair, sweet,” she says.

Anicca clamps her hands protectively over her hair, knowing what is coming next. “No-!”

“Let's get the hairbrush,” says Rey.

“No!” Anicca wails in despair and commences vicious wiggling as Rey carries her back into the room to the bed and the hairbrush Rey keeps on the nightstand.

“Sit still!”

“You pull too hard!” she cries.

“Then you shouldn't let it get so messy,” says Rey heartlessly, dragging the brush through the tangle and ignoring Anicca's exaggerated yelps of pain.

Anicca's hair vexes her on the best of days. She isn't sure where it came from. Although she shares her colouring with her father, even his hair isn't quite so thick, and it bears no resemblance to her brother's pleasing curls that makes some of the younger initiates sigh in a dreamy sort of way. It is more like a bird's nest of frizz that grows in whatever direction it feels like. Brushing it can make it behave for a few minutes, but Anicca will almost certainly find a way to undo any and all careful styling the moment Rey turns her back.

When the worst of the sap has been brushed out, Rey works on the rest. “Would you like me to plait it?” she asks, noticing that Anicca still looks brutalised. “Like your grandmother's?”

“Yes,” says Anicca sulkily.

Rey gets to work, but she hasn't gotten far when the door to her suite chimes. “Come in!” she calls, the same moment Anicca unholsters a toy blaster from her belt, ready to take aim at any intruders.

A young togruta man enters, skin the colour of cobalt with pale stripes along his montrals. Rey smiles in greeting. “Tanaan.” He was one of the first students she had taken on and by far her best.

“Master,” he says, inclining his head as he eyes Anicca warily. “The darksiders have set off and will be arriving soon.”

“Thank you,” says Rey. “Could you show them down when they get here?”

Tanaan hesitates so pointedly that she looks up at him again. “What is it this time?”

“I really think you should be the one to greet them, Master,” he says with such a carefully neutral expression that she isn't fooled for even a moment.

“His bark is worse than his bite, you know that,” she chides him gently. Anicca giggles and gnashes her teeth at Tanaan.

“Yes, still, I don't wish to be subjected to either, and his communication was already a little... terse,” says Tanaan.

Rey lifts her eyes to the ceiling as she shifts her senses beyond the room, along a path well worn by now. She catches a hint of something, not unlike the smell in the air before the stormclouds begin to gather on the horizon. “I see what you mean,” she sighs, looking at the lopsided fluff of hair before her. “Alright. But you'll have to finish this for me.”

“But I want to come!” protests Anicca.

“Not until you've let Tanaan sort your hair out,” Rey responds, handing the hairbrush to the stunned man. Although she's not concerned about the hair as much as Ben's patience for Anicca in his current mood.

“What am I to do with this?” Tanaan asks, with growing alarm.

“Brush it through her hair until it looks nice.”

“Won't that hurt her?”

“Hair has no feeling – and don't let her bully you! I believe in you Tanaan.” She pats his shoulder. “View it as another lesson.”

“Like how carrying your furniture up three flights of stairs was a 'lesson'?” he asks.

“Exactly like that!”

She leaves her apprentice and her daughter glaring at each other mistrustfully in a duel of wills, and heads off through the stony passages of the temple.

It's quite a different place from what it was when she'd arrived, when it had mostly been filled with dust and rubble and encroaching plant life. Much has been done to retake the temple back from nature, and although some sections may never be cleared, the rest has been restored to almost resemble its former glory.

Rey strides along corridors that are light and airy, and filled with activity. She is sometimes surprised by how fast her little community has grown in just a few short years. She steps around a pair of maintenance droids and nods to a group of scholars from the Church of the Force. Though they are not force sensitive, they were eager to join the new Order in a supportive role once they heard about it, and it is through them that Rey found her first students like Tanaan. Now things have grown so fast, she realises she couldn't do without them.

Once she had been worried about the difficulty of finding potential Jedi, but these days it seems like not a week goes by without word reaching her of a new candidate in need of assessment.

Rey avoids the central training hall. It's meditation hour for the younger initiates and they have trouble focusing enough without her stomping through their midsts. She makes her way up the winding paths of the temple to the hangar on the sheltered side of the mountain where the air is coolest, and there she waits, tugging her white robe a little closer around her shoulders for warmth.

At least she is not kept waiting long, after all the journey to the Temple of Lin is not a long one. Soon she hears the growing rumble of engines disturbing the peace as a sleek black shuttle breaks the perfect blue of the sky. It lands with a whisper, displacing air that whips at Rey's hair and clothing, and before the craft has properly settled upon its feet, the port door slides open and a tall figure jumps down.

“Tam!” she calls out, beaming.

But Tam's face is blank and pale beneath his freckles and though he strides toward her and accepts her embrace, Rey can tell he is patently furious. “What's the matter?” she asks, peering up at him.

“I've had it. I've really had it,” Tam whispers, barely moving his lips. He shoots a meaningful look back at the shuttle that is powering down. “ He can tell you himself.”

Uh oh. Rey inwardly sighs as she watches him storm off, as if he can't stand to linger even one moment more. In the shuttle's port door, another figure appears, though this one waits for the ramp to fully unfold before descending.

Ben has always had a naturally severe look about him, and today his general demeanour of icy contempt is in top form. Though the moment he catches her eye, it softens a little. He's in black, as usual, high-necked and appropriately intimidating, but it amuses her to see a flash of a white sleeve when he lifts a hand to run his fingers through his hair.

She gives him her vaguest smile. “Dare I ask?”

“No. We will only row,” he says shortly. “Where did he go?”

“Probably to present himself to his admirers. He can be a real nuisance, you know. The focus of the female initiates goes right out the viewport when he's around.”

Ben just grunts. “Well, you invited me here for a reason. Let's get on with it.”

“How do you know I didn't invite you to enjoy your effervescent company?” she retorts.

His dark gaze sweeps over her and Rey doesn't need a Force Bond to know exactly what kind of company he's imagining. “Later, perhaps,” he says.

She tucks her hand through the crook of his arm. “This way, love,” she says, leading him away.

“What's her name?” asks Ben as they walk.

“Maia,” Rey answers. “She's a human from the one of the outer rim territories... Mygeeto, I think. She's only young, not even fifteen yet, but she's had a hard life. She was dropped off here by people calling themselves her 'owners' because her force abilities manifested and they found her too troublesome. Go easy on her.”

“That hardly seems productive.”

“I mean it. Things were ok for a while, she's tried hard to fit in. But... last week she knocked one of the boys' teeth out for laughing too loudly, and things have only gone downhill from there.”

“I'm not a school for the unruly,” he reminds her archly.

“If it were as simple as that, I wouldn't have sent for you,” Rey says.

As they walk, a small group of scholars step aside for them. Normally they would smile and greet Rey, but while Ben is in her company, they remain silent and avert their eyes. While most of the younger initiates don't know or care about the history of Ben Solo, those old enough to remember the height of the First Order's terror remain wary. But while Rey's hand remains tucked into his arm, they will say nothing.

“Here,” says Rey, bringing them to a stop outside the archway leading to one of the dormitory rooms. Twelve beds line the room and it is otherwise empty, except for the girl attempting to meditate by one of the bunks. Rey sighs. Maia should be down with the others in the training hall, but she's been secluding herself more and more lately.

“Maia,” she calls softly, alerting the girl to their presence.

Dull blonde hair whips around as the teenager turns to face them, looking somewhat hunted, like a half wild animal. “Master Rey,” she says, scrambling to her feet to perform a bow. When her eyes land on Ben, her bow freezes.

“Do you know who I am?” asks Ben

“Master Solo,” she mutters. “You're Tameron's father... head of the Order of Lin.”

“Among other things,” he says, moving further into the room to circle her. “Master Rey seems to think you would be a good fit with my order.”

Maia's eyes dart to Rey's. “Because she thinks I'm a darksider. She thinks I'm damaged.”

Rey winces. “I don't think you're damaged, Maia,” she says soothingly, though it does little good. She has never really managed to see eye-to-eye with this girl. Anything she does and says always seems to be taken wrong.

“But she is a darksider,” says Ben, coming full circle to stand beside Rey once more to look speculatively at the girl. “It pours off you... though you try to fight it. Why?”

“The dark side is evil,” whispers Maia, staring at the ground. “When I feel it, it's like it suffocates me. I can't see. I can't think. I heard Denny's laughter and I just... I just wanted to kill him, because I knew he was laughing at me. I was so happy to see his blood on my hand. It should be horrible to think that, shouldn't it?”

It hurts to see someone so young feel such things. Rey wants to look away, but she feels Ben take her hand in his own and hold his other out to Maia. “May I?”

Maia hesitantly lays her fingertips over Ben's palm, and Rey feels him draw on her own ability, to sample the soul within the girl. As he sees it, so does Rey. The girl is dark... almost as dark as him, but she is in fragments, caught in a war with herself, grasping for the light so hard she is in danger of snuffing it out. It's not Rey who thinks she is damaged beyond repair; it is Maia herself who believes this to be true.

“Your experiences did not create this darkness,” says Ben, letting his hand drop. “The darkness is your defence. It's what gave you the strength to survive. Embrace it, and it will make you sublime.”

Maia stares at him, though she does not seem at all convinced. She looks to Rey instead. “I know what I did was wrong, but I can do better. I promise. I-I won't hurt anyone else. Please don't send me away-”

“I'm not sending you anywhere, Maia,” says Rey. “If you want to stay, you will always have a place here. But I worry for you, that I can't help you the way you need. The only one I know who has found their way through darkness is Ben. I know that if you let him, he can help you.”

“I need to think...” says Maia quietly, now looking at neither of them.

“Of course, you don't have to make any decisions. I just wanted you two to meet, so you might know there are other ways.” She looks at Ben and nods. “We'll leave you now. Remember... sabre practice after lunch has been moved outside. I'll see you then.”

It is only once they are out of earshot of the dormitory that Rey glances up at Ben and raises a quizzical eyebrow, silently asking his thoughts.

“She's a mess,” he says. “She wants to control others like they once controlled her. If she isn't properly taught how to channel those urges, she'll be a nightmare one day. Your order is good for herding the docile sheep, but she's something else... you're right. She needs help.”

“I don't want to push her. That might do more harm that good.” says Rey.

He shrugs. “It's fine. She'll get restless and want more power, they always do in the beginning. She'll be begging you to let her join my order soon enough.”

“I think that would bring your grand total of students up to three, wouldn't it? Twenty more, and you'll have as many as me,” Rey says lightly, as they walk between the bars of sunlight that stripe the corridor.

“It's not a competition, you know,” says Ben with a sigh.

“That's exactly what a loser would say.” She laughs and sidesteps the gentle swat that's aimed at her backside. He's smiling too when she moves back in to loop their arms together. It's not such a rare expression on his face these days, but she still enjoys the sight nonetheless. Lines have appeared at the corners of his mouth in recent years, evidence of his more frequent smiles, just as his skin is darker, browned by the sun and freckled while the colour retreats from the hair at his temples. Rey loves each and every one of these changes.

They reach a section of the corridor that looks out onto the flat plateau on the mountainside where many of the initiates spend their free hours sparring and training. Although today there is somewhat of a commotion, as Rey spies Tam among their number, holding court among the handful of young initiates. He already has one point in his favour, of being the eldest son of the resident Master, but it has to also be said that Tam was treated very kindly by puberty. Already taller than herself, he is well on his way to becoming something of a heartbreaker, and Rey suspects Tam knows this, the way he teases and flirts with four girls at once.

She glances at Ben who is merely scowling in the direction of their son. His easy smile has vanished like a drop of water on the sands of Jakku. “Now perhaps you can tell me what's going on with Tam?” she asks.

“Altan,” he says deliberately, “wants to join the Resistance.”

Rey's chuckle is low and throaty, before it ripples into true laughter. “No wonder you look like someone's spat in your oats,” she sniggers. “This is Finn's influence, I fear.”

“It's not actually funny,” he says with such utter despair that Rey's laughter only gets louder.

“Oh, come off it! The Resistance is pretty harmless,” she says dismissively. “Tam always wanted to be a pilot. You momentarily distracted him with your romantic Dark Knights, but I'm glad to see sense has borne out. You should know he has my total blessing, and if you don't want to lose his trust, you'll support his decision too.”

“Getting involved in galactic politics and war is precisely what destroyed the old jedi orders,” says Ben with irritation. “And they exiled you, remember? That speaks to the quality of their judgement.”

“That was your fault, remember?”

“Oh, yes,” he grumbles. “But he's sixteen. That is a very stupid age.”

She can't disagree there. When Ben was sixteen, he was running off to join fascists, and Rey was refusing opportunities to leave Jakku, still telling herself her family was coming for her. “Well... if it's the wrong decision, it's the wrong decision. He has to find out for himself. The important thing is to make sure we're there to catch him if he falls.”

Ben takes a deep breath and lets it go with a sigh. “When you say it, you make it sound so simple and easy. Perhaps you're right.”

“Of course, I am,” she says blithely. Then a new thought occurs to her. “Oh dear... he's already a nuisance with my girls, it'll be a hundred times worse if he becomes a pilot.”

“What?” Ben merely looks confused. “How is he a nuisance?”

Rey can only roll her eyes at his perpetual obliviousness. Below she sees Tam look up and catch her eye, so she waves to him, beckoning. He reluctantly disentangles himself from conversation and comes slowly up the narrow stairs to meet them. Faced once more with his father, he's back to looking dour and sulky.

“Your father has something to say to you,” says Rey, giving Ben an imperceptible nudge through their connection.

Tam looks warily at his father who clears his throat mildly. “I am absolutely categorically opposed to you joining the Resistance,” Ben begins, “but it occurs to me that perhaps you are old enough to make the decision for yourself, and you must do what you feel you need to. And as your mother reminds me, we will always be here to catch you when you fail.”

“Catch you if you fall ,” Rey amends quickly, giving Ben a real nudge this time. “Which you won't do, because you'll be a splendid pilot, I'm sure.”

A look of relief breaks out across Tam's face. He looks gratefully at his mother, knowing perfectly well that its down to her influence alone that his father has relented. “Well, I wouldn't really be joining as a pilot,” he says, instantly back to his more easy-going self. “They want me on a new task force that will be heading up attacks on First Order bases. They've even given me a codename already: Stormbringer.”

All the blood seems to rush from Rey's head at once. “What?” she whispers faintly.

“Ludicrous,” grunts Ben.

“Well, I think it sounds cool,” says Tam defiantly. “And no one asked you.”

“This sounds dangerous,” says Ben.

“Oh, don't start,” sighs Tam aggressively, at the same moment a ball of black frizz leaps around the corner of the corridor, toy blaster aimed directly at his back.

“Zap! Zap! I got you! You're dead, Tammy!” shouts Anicca.

Tam turns around distractedly. “No, you missed. I'm fine.”

“I did not!” Anicca lowers her gun to glare at him angrily. “Mum! Tell him! Tell him he's dead!”

Rey says nothing, because she can barely hear their voices over the roaring in her eyes as her mind fills with a memory of a time and a place she cannot name. A memory of Tam, only that isn't his name anymore... and behind him stands someone else. Someone smaller and lithe, blazing with white light and a rifle in her hands-

“Rey?”

Ben's voice breaks through the noise and she switches her startled gaze to him. Through their bond he has sensed something is wrong, though he doesn't know what. His hand holds her elbow as his eyes warm with concern.

Perhaps it is just a dream she once had that means nothing at all. Rey tries to push it from her mind, but the word... stormbringer. It's enough to bring back old fears she thought were long buried. She looks at her son, bickering so pointlessly with Anicca, and feels her heart like a lump in her throat.

Seeing her distraction, Ben moves to intervene. “Your mother and I are going to the solar to take tea.”

“I'm going to go train some more,” says Tam, although what he really means is that he's going back to talk to the girls again.

“Go on then,” says Ben, dismissing him as he turns a contentious frown down at the small girl at his feet. “And what are you supposed to be today? A space pirate?”

Anicca looks up at him stolidly. “ No . I am a princess ,” she says reproachfully, then raises her blaster to take aim at him. “Zap.”

Ben blinks at her. “I have the force; you can't shoot me.”

With a stomp of dismay that everyone insists on making up their own rules for her game, Anicca whines, “That's not fair! I don't even have the force at all!” And because tears are already standing out in her eyes and the bottom lip is giving the quivering signal of impending tantrum, Ben scoops her up.

“I think Her Highness is overtired,” he says, settling Anicca on his hip with ease which goes a long way to mollifying her now that Rey usually complains she's too big to carry.

“I am not tired!” protests Anicca.

“What happened to your hair?” Ben touches one of the lumpy braids hanging down her back. “You look like a twi'lek.”

“Tanaan did it.”

“Tanaan...?”

Rey follows along quietly as Ben leads the way back to her suite. She needn't have worried that he would not have the patience for Anicca, as he's always been gentle and even affectionate with his daughter. Far more than he ever was with Tam. She doubts it is because he loves one more than the other; it is simply that when Tam was a boy, Ben was still figuring out how to be human. Now Anicca has the benefit of the lessons Tam imparted on their father, and so will never understand how momentous it is to be picked up and held just as any other child should be. Rey will never cease to be amazed at just how far he's come, from a time when the only touch he could tolerate was her own.

Although, she thinks, as she watches him deposit the sleepy child on her bed, perhaps Anicca has managed to wrap him around her little pink finger in the way only a daughter can. Perhaps it's because she doesn't have the force the way they rest of the family does, which may be both a blessing and a handicap. But as fond of her as he is, Ben confided to her once that if any of his children kept to the family tradition of patricide, it would most likely be Anicca. “I must stay on her good side.” he had said grimly.

Despite her protestations, the girl is already limp with sleep by the time she's laid down on the blankets. Ben shakes his head at her strange hair stylings and follows Rey into the plant-filled solar, where a stone bench waits for them.

“Something's bothering you,” he says, guiding her to sit beside him, close enough for their legs to touch.

“Do you remember what I told you about the Worldeater?” she asks him.

He makes a vague face. “I think you dreamed most of that up,” he says slowly.

“You were the one who was out of their mind with blood loss – I was fine, and I know what I saw.” She sighs, looking down at her hands folding restlessly on her lap. “I worry about Tam... what if letting him go to the Resistance is what puts on him on that path? What if stopping him is what causes it? Will it happen whatever I choose to do?”

“So you don't want him to join the Resistance?”

“I don't know. I don't know what's right.”

His large hands cover her own. “I fear he would go either way. He has your bullish stubbornness. I've been telling him all week he cannot go, and it has just made him all the more determined,” says Ben.

“More fool you,” she retorts.

“Rey, whatever happens to him will happen. The difference is that we will be there for him. Whatever else happened to that Worldeater you met, he didn't have us. We will catch him should he ever fall.”

She scowls at him. “That's what I told you,” she says, noticing he has now claimed this bit of wisdom as his own.

“Are you going to argue with your own advice?” he asks her.

Instead of answering, she lifts their joined hands and kisses his knuckles. The corners of his mouth crease in the crooked smile that made her fall in love with him twice, and she can't help but answer with a smile of her own. “How long will you stay this time?” she asks.

“The night, at least,” he says, looking at her in the way that makes her feel warmth radiate across every inch of her.

“I'd like that,” she says. When his arm comes around her shoulders she leans into the wall of his side. “What about Tam?”

“He's going to stay on here. He wants to see his grandmother when she comes.”

“You could see her too, you know,” Rey reminds him. She always reminds him, but he almost always finds a reason to be elsewhere. They've met a few more times over the years but it is mostly awkward. It would exasperate Rey more if she didn't know that they maintained a simple written correspondence, where perhaps it is easier to say the things that need to be said when being in each other's presence is too painful. It seems to suit them both.

So it does not surprise her when Ben says, “I know,” and then nothing more.

She squeezes his hand. “You could take Anicca back with you,” she suggests.

“She would scream the temple down. She's too attached to you.”

“She is a hysterical drama queen,” Rey concedes. “Just like her father, I suppose.”

“Oh, I see,” says Ben, withdrawing his hand from hers, and doing a wonderful job of proving her point.

“I wonder who the next one will take after?” Rey muses aloud.

“What?” His voice is as sharp as his gaze.

“Do you remember when we went to Serica a few weeks ago to assess the tribes there?And do you remember how we ran out of protection on the third day and you said, 'don't worry, I'll just pull out' and then you didn't-”

“That was not my fault,” he interrupts, colour dotting his cheeks. “There are turrican death huggers whose grip is easier to break than yours when you're in the throes of-”

“Yes, well, accidents happen, I suppose,” she says, waving a hand dismissively. “I’ll just tell you now that I will be naming this one. I’m still annoyed that Anicca stuck when I wanted to call her Luca . If you do that again, I will blow your temple out of the water from orbit.”

“I'm sure eight months is enough time to come up with a good name,” he concedes. “Better than ‘Luca’ at any rate.”

“I'm not joking, I've had a Harbinger canon modded to the Millennium Falcon, and it needs some target practice,” she says, watching his cheek dimple. She traces that dimple with her fingers lazily. “Tell me you're happy, Ben.”

She doesn't really need to ask. She can feel the thrum of joy through their connection and he still does a poor job of masking his expressions. But she wants to hear the words form on his lips. “I'm happy,” he says, his nose brushing hers. “You never stop finding ways of making me happy.”

His hand spreads across her belly and Rey smiles as she tucks her head beneath his. A feeling of warmth and peace fills her breast, and though it might have taken a long time to get here, the journey was worth it. Sitting in the sunlight with her plants, surrounded by her family and her order, and held by her contented lover, Rey knows the feeling of belonging. 

And she knows Ben feels it too.