He stands over Snoke’s dead body, toeing it with his boot.
“You never should have stood between us.”
He takes the blade and draws it slowly across his flesh, watching in detached fascination with his unmasked eyes as the blood beads, perfect red pearls that coalesce then lose their cohesion as they slide down his pale arm. This, the fresh rush of pain and control. He does this. It is his choice. He alone elects the pain, now. It quiets the noise in his head; it wipes Han Solo’s face from behind his eyelids. It leaves him open and able to feel her, so perfect, so clean. He is a blank canvas and she paints such vivid, beautiful things across him.
She still won’t have anything to do with him. It is infuriating, but he is dauntless in his pursuit. Someday she will see, she will understand.
So he closes his eyes and remembers her; remembers every single detail. Her hair, pulled back so tightly. He knows that her mane is meant to be wild and free, like her. He remembers her eyes, such an intoxicating blend of green and brown with flecks of gold. Like light glinting off the water in a stream. They are so very alive. Her skin … he knows it will be so soft under his fingers. How he wishes he had taken off his gloves and touched her flesh just once … just once.
Sometimes, when he is gentle, when he soothes along their Bond, she will speak to him. It’s always fruitless, always difficult. She wants to hold him to account. But it is worth it for that blissful feeling of her.
He is cleansed; the sting of the blade has opened him up and he’s feeling bold. He softly, almost kindly, whispers to her.
He feels a pulse of interest.
“Rey … Let me in.”
Oh, he can feel her … she’s letting him feel her.
“Rey … Please, oh please. Do not deny me.”
“What do you want?” growls across the Bond.
“Simply to talk.”
“Talk. I heard about the massacre on Lenn. I do not want to talk with you.”
“That was necessary.” His voice is clipped.
“You always say that. I don’t believe that murdering people in cold blood is ever necessary.”
“I see. Then Starkiller was only filled with evil people?”
“I’m not getting into a discussion of ethics with you,” she says snidely.
“They were in league with the Resistance. As I said, necessary.”
“Oh, but you only just let me in. Please stay a little while.” He’s not ready for the distance again. He never is.
She gasps. “Your arm, what … I thought you didn’t do that any longer.”
“Do not concern yourself.” He has no wish to discuss that.
“But … you promised.”
“I did not. I said I would consider what you said. Why do you care, anyway? You’ve made it perfectly clear you wish me dead. What is a bit of blood when you’d have it all spill on the floor?”
She has nothing to say to that.
Finally she says, “You know how this will go. One of us will become enraged and retreat and I’ll block you again.”
“It doesn’t have to be like that,” he says gently, his tone coaxing.
“Oh yes it does. And you're delusional if you think anything else.”
“Perhaps I simply have a broader point of view.”
“We both know your focus is very narrow.”
He thinks he may have to concede that point. Now that Snoke is gone he has only one goal. Has had only one goal since he first heard the words ‘The Girl’.
“Tell me where you are,” he pleads.
“No, don’t even start with that. I’m leaving. This is a mistake. This is always a mistake.”
“I tend to think it is destiny, but you may deny it all you like,” he says with an almost airy tone.
“You … I just … Goodbye.”
“Just a little longer, it’s been such a long time.”
“No, I’m not … I don’t know why you talk as if we have something. That we’re … it doesn’t matter, I’m leaving.” And with that he feels her shut him out.
He sighs heavily. It never goes the way he envisions it. He closes his eyes in frustration. Then he opens them and picks up his blade.
He’s poring over the latest reports, hoping the analysts have missed something. The stars streak by behind him. Though he has ascended through death to the position of Supreme Leader, he maintains his position on the Finalizer. He prefers to be mobile, able to seek her. He knows she is out there. He’s tried to sway her, but he knows it is of no use. Now … now he will simply have to find her and take her. She’s made this choice, forced his hand.
He hears a throat clear at the entrance to his private office. Hux. It must be Hux. If he is frustrated and irritated, it is Hux. He doesn’t even look up, just says, “What is it, General?”
“A new dispatch that might … interest you. Your … special project.”
His head snaps up at that. His modulated voice asks, “Yes?”
“Sector 5 thinks they’ve found something. A remote planet, thought uninhabited. But it fulfills the specifications you provided. An ocean world, ancient signs of civilization but nothing modern. It’s called Ahch-To.”
He holds out his hand and pulls the datapad to him with the Force. It is a lazy display of power, something he often does now. Hux lingers. Ren is not sure why.
“Was there something else?”
“It is said you plan to lead this mission yourself. Do you think that is wise?”
“It is my intention, yes. As you know, this ... project is of great importance to me. I won’t leave it to anyone else.”
“You have new responsibilities now … Supreme Leader.” He hears how difficult it is for Hux to use his title. He finds he likes it; likes how it grates on Hux. Knows that the general had always thought that he himself would finally win their little contest of wills. But no, it has been nine months since Starkiller and Kylo Ren has become something more. The light still pulls at him from time to time but after the price he has paid, he has been relentless in his pursuit of the dark. And then when Snoke had dared stand in his way, tried to take Rey from him … new power had been born that day. Black and deep. The endless abyss that is Kylo Ren in love. He had not known what it was at first, this strange feeling she had planted within him. But he knows it for what it is, now.
“I am aware of my … responsibilities. And this is the single most important step the First Order could take.”
Hux looks incredulous as he says, “All this, for a girl?”
Ren’s head swivels to Hux at this, his attention focused on the general. He lifts his hand and gently squeezes, not so hard as to cut off Hux’s air, just enough to remind him. Remind him that to live and to serve are one and the same. There will be no more questioning of him, no more games of one-upmanship. Ren has won and Hux must remember that.
“My apologies, Supreme Leader.”
Three days to Ahch-To. He’s standing on the bridge, his gloved hands firmly behind him, watching the blue of hyperspace, lost in thought. He’s remembering how he came to be standing on the bridge of what is without a doubt his ship. They’re all his, now. He shouldn’t enjoy how much this vexes Hux, but he does. He’d always planned to arrive here; he’d known that he was of limited utility to Snoke. He simply had not expected it to come so quickly.
But Rey had changed everything. Everything. She’d reached into his life and altered its course, like a great river being redirected. One might think the act of killing Snoke was one of disloyalty, but that would be wrong. He has always had his own code, his own view of right and wrong. Snoke had simply moved to the other side of the ledger.
He’s remembering when he began to realize there was an … issue with Snoke.
After Starkiller and his absolutely humiliating performance, he’d been summoned. He’d found himself in front of his master, kneeling, fighting to hide the pain in his side and the burning ache that went along his face and straight into his heart.
“Kylo Ren.” Snoke had been quiet for a very long time. Kylo had kept himself in check, stemming the memories of previous … punishments.
“Clearly I have failed you, my Apprentice,” Snoke had said sadly. Kylo had been wary, uncertain of what to think or say. He had expected chastisement, not this nearly paternal tone.
“Obviously there is a flaw in your training for you to come to me slashed open, beaten, your shame written across your face with such garish clarity,” Snoke said derisively. Now that – that had made sense. Snoke would often mock him. He would tell himself that it didn’t matter even as it always did.
“No Master, no! The fault is mi-” he’d said on instinct.
“Silence, boy.” He’d been filled with fear, then. That was the moment he’d understood how very angry Snoke was. “You will speak when I ask it of you and not before.” Snoke had radiated fury. Kylo had known no sound would come from his lips no matter what was done to him. Not until Snoke bid him speak.
“You let this girl, this lowly scavenger from Jakku, best you? What am I to do with you now, hmm? You have failed, oh so spectacularly. And yet, and yet, you did succeed in ridding the galaxy of the last of the Solos. Do you see my quandary?” Kylo had only nodded sharply.
“We should be celebrating you, Kylo Ren, for your triumph over your unfortunate origins was impressive. But somehow, instead of bringing her to me, as I instructed, you allowed yourself to be overtaken by a slip of a girl, just over half your age. It is a predicament.” Kylo had simply stayed on his knees, his head bowed. He’d closed off everything the name Solo stirred within him, knowing he needed to focus. His master had been even more intimidating in the flesh; he could feel the power when he was near Snoke. He had found he preferred the massive hologram.
Snoke had drawn very close then, his tall frame looming over Kylo. He’d reached out his long, skeletal hand and used one finger to tip Kylo’s face up to him, trapping Kylo in his cold, insect-like gaze. He’d felt the tendrils of Snoke seeking. Normally, he would only find what Kylo wished him to find – Kylo had learned long ago how to protect his softest places. But that day … that day he had been in pain and distracted, the embryonic Force Bond already weaving itself through his body and mind, soul and heart. His heart … oh he’d really had no idea what was coming.
And so he had faltered and felt as fleeting images and feelings from his battle with Rey were pulled from his mind. He’d felt Snoke linger on that moment in the snow-covered forest when their sabers had crossed. He’d been mesmerized by her face, offering to teach her, to show her things. Anything to sway her, to keep her. He had felt as Snoke had pulled out one particularly damning thought, “Beautiful …”
Snoke had then lifted his head, as if he were a predator scenting the air for his prey. “You let her live! I told you bring her to me, and instead you allowed her to escape! She should be here or dead,” Snoke had thundered. “Explain, Apprentice. Now,” Snoke had said, menace wrapped around every syllable.
“She is so strong in the Force that I had hoped she would prove useful to us. It seemed wrong to simply strike her down. I know I should not have let her get the upper hand, but properly trained she could be formidable!”
“Ah, I see … while my Starkiller was being destroyed you allowed yourself to fail because you thought she might be useful.” Snoke’s voice had been full of scorn.
“I … I want to train her, show her there is a better way.”
“Train her.” Snoke had moved to the massive throne in the middle of the room and had regarded him for a very long time. “I think, Kylo Ren, that your feelings are much more base.”
“No! I was only thinking of the First Order,” he had rushed to answer.
“You know that I am aware that simply is not true,” Snoke had sneered.
“I admit, she is … tempting, but I would never put such things before your interests. I promise you, she is important.”
“It is moot, as you did not succeed in procuring her,” was all Snoke had said. He’d dismissed him then.
He’d removed himself, thinking quickly. He had revealed far more than he’d intended, far more than he’d really been aware of himself. Having the image of her delicate face brought so forcefully forward had … done something to him.
As he’d walked back to his quarters on Snoke’s ship he’d felt the first true whisper of the Bond. He’d felt her; felt her thinking about him. Wondering if he’d survived. He’d known then what this was and he’d been terrified.
Pulling himself back into the present, he continues to stand, watching the galaxy move past the viewscreen. It is time to call his knights together. Though he’d seen each of them within the last few months, his instincts are telling him to gather them near. It has been too long since they have all been together and there is still the issue of Skywalker. He hopes that when he finds Rey he will find the Jedi as well, but he will not split his focus. His knights, however … they could be quite helpful in handling that little detail.
Once he’d killed Snoke he’d moved quickly to solidify his position, ensuring his place as leader of the First Order. He’d toured all of the Resurgent-class Star Destroyers, making sure he was seen and that none doubted his power, checking on each of his knights in turn.
He currently has them stationed on Star Destroyers throughout the galaxy. While the dynamic has some … issues, he finds he likes the idea of his most loyal followers shadowing his generals. The knights had always had a slightly different agenda than that of the First Order. It was important to maintain that balance. And of course, it infuriated Hux to have the military subverted in this way. He knows it is petty to still delight in tormenting the supercilious ginger general, but he has so few amusements. Soon, he thinks. Soon he will bask in her and will have no need for any of this.
He’s certain that Ahch-To is it. That this is where she is training. He knows it is a water planet, with many islands. He’s seen flashes, glimpsed the blue and the green of the place. There have been other planets, but this is the one he’s sensed most frequently. Oh, my love … I am coming for you.
He’s back in his quarters on the Finalizer, knowing he should sleep, just as he knows he won’t find rest easily. He’s too excited; too ready for what he’s sure will happen next.
He will find her on Ahch-To, find her and bring her back here to her new home. She will fight him, of course, but he is prepared for that. He will show her, gently, that she has nothing to fear from him. She will learn to accept him. He remembers how he’d felt, with those first tentative touches through the Bond fluttering against him. It had been almost erotic. He’d felt her confusion at the constant thrum of him through the nascent Bond. Four days after Starkiller, he’d been the first to reach out. He remembers.
“Rey?” he’d called out across the vast distance between them.
“What? Who is this?”
“I think you know who this is,” he’d said softly.
“How are you doing this? Get out of my head!” She’d been panicked and had been desperately trying to hide this fact from him. But when the Bond had first been formed, she could never hide her feelings from him, not like she could now. She’d learned quickly. He wishes she hadn’t.
“I’m not doing this, we did this. Together.”
“I never did anything – you’re lying.” She had started to sound fearful, then.
“I have never lied to you. I will never lie to you.” He had been so careful, so cautious. He hadn’t known such gentleness lived within him. He knows now that she brings out so many things that he’s certain only she can.
“What … what is this?”
“I believe we have formed a Force Bond.”
“I … I don’t want it.”
“It is done. We are Bound, Rey.” He’d felt her terror. It had hurt him.
“Please get out of my head, please. I don’t want this.” He’d been conflicted, wanting to know more of her, wanting to delve into her mind and know everything. Wanting to comfort her. His … fascination was turning quickly, even then.
“This doesn’t have to be a bad thing; you could learn so much from me.”
“I’ve learned enough from you.”
“You did manage to gather quite a bit when you were in my mind, didn’t you? Wouldn’t you like to know more? More about this power that swirls inside you? Imagine mastering it, bending it to your will. You can do so many amazing things, Rey.” He’d felt her curiosity. About the Force … about him. That feeling--that sense that she wondered about him, wanted to know more despite herself – it has sustained him through these nine long months of hunting and constant disappointment.
He’d felt her trying to push against him then, not unlike how she’d managed to fight him off on Starkiller. He’d withdrawn quickly, not wanting to give her time to learn how to block him. He’d known it was only a matter of time and he wasn’t willing to help her with that.
He remembers sitting in his quarters after that first heady contact, reveling in the feelings she’d inspired. He’d never felt anything of the sort and he’d had no place to put them, no words to describe the excitement, the want, the high. He knows now what she had kindled in him, but at first he’d simply wanted to have her. He hadn’t been able to even fathom what he would do with her once he did, not like he can now.
Because now … now he knows exactly what he wants.