Kylo heaved his body from the hard-packed snow and watched the planet rip apart between them. His eyes met Rey’s as the icy wind whipped elegantly around her. The lightsaber bathed her face in an iridescent blue causing it to shimmer in the shadows. For a single heartbeat, Kylo wished she would stay. The look in her eyes gave him hope that maybe she could find a way over to him. That dream soon shattered as Rey deactivated the lightsaber and ran into the darkness of the forest.
The snow soothed his burns, but it was short lived relief as hands seized his shoulders and dragged him away. He didn’t even bother to acknowledge the Stormtroopers that carried him away. His focus remained only on the space where Rey once stood. Then he noticed a twinge of concern filter its way over to him from the other side of the chasm. He could no longer physically see her, but he knew somewhere in the blackness she was looking back, searching for him. Lights flickered in the distance, and a silhouette of the Falcon lurched upward from the trees. A strange feeling of relief pervaded his heart, sending his senses into chaos. The disorientation of it all blinded him to the commotion centered around him. He hadn’t noticed the time lapse from the medical pod to the medical bay on the Finalizer. He could barely register the droids until they began cutting away his clothes and picking at his wounds. He winced in pain as a disinfectant was sprayed into his shoulder. Kylo’s eyes roamed the room until they found a human face he recognized. Hux lurked in the corner, sneering as if the smell of burnt flesh that permeated the ship's medical bay offended him on a personal level.
“Fix him,” Hux ordered the 2-1B surgical droid. “The Supreme Leader wants him whole.” Kylo recognized the hatred and spite fused in Hux’s words was a bit more intense than usual. Kylo said nothing as he watched Hux turn on his heel and stride toward the exit, knowing that this wasn’t the end of it. As Kylo expected Hux abruptly stopped just before crossing the threshold. “Except for the face, leave that unattended.”
Kylo knew then he was being reprimanded, and that the punishment would not end at this. He had failed at taking the girl back to Supreme Leader. Even worse, he had offered to teach her without permission from his master. But his Snoke would be pleased with- no, he couldn't think about that now. He bit his lip in defiance drawing blood, the familiar alkaline taste filled his mouth, but it was not enough to sway his thoughts elsewhere.
“No...” he murmured, but the image of his father’s face flashed before him. He could almost feel it, the phantom brush of his father's fingertips across his now burning face and the light in Han’s eyes. Finally he realized that his father had given him a final gift, forgiveness. The feeling of regret, shame, and grief was more than he could bear. Tears pooled, filling his eyes until everything blurred. The medical droids poking and stitching didn’t even register the violent war waging inside him. Leia’s face materialized in his mind. What have I done? Han had been hiding just arm lengths away. Kylo had just decided to keep walking, praying he would make it over the bridge without having to confront him. This hadn't been at all what he wanted. Why couldn’t his parents just let him go? Kylo teetered between labored pants and silent sobs. He clenched his fist, yanking hard against his restraints until his wrists began to bleed.
“Why!” he screamed.
The observation window exploded into tiny shards and covered everything in sight. Vials of Conergin and Kolcta burst on the table next to him causing the crimson and cobalt fluids within them to create an indigo splatter across Kylo’s chest. A loud clunk, emanated from the far corner of the room “followed by a whoosh.” The bacta tank broke open evacuating its contents all over the floor. Ventilator couplings moaned as they were ripped apart, releasing the attached tubes with a vicious, hiss. The medical droids crumpled to the ground as they were squeezed into piles of twisted gears. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of a gray-haired male human doctor run into the room. Kylo twisted in the restraints that wrapped around his arms and legs. Unable to break free, he flexed his hand, bringing the old man’s neck into his grip. As the doctor struggled to breathe, he held a syringe in one hand and somehow managed to draw up a sickly yellow colored liquid into it. Kylo felt the sharp prick and then the burn as the injection spread throughout his body. Kylo looked wildly around the room as everything began to sound distant, and hollow. Finally, he released the doctor's neck; he could hear the old man gasp for air as he fell to the ground. They had sedated him with the strongest tranquilizer they possessed, Tranqarest. Kylo recognized it by its particularly invading bitter aftertaste and the deadening of the Force within him. It had often been used when he first joined the First Order. No longer willing to fight, he finally let go, and his mind drifted.
Ben leaned against the doorway of a small dwelling with his arms folded at his chest, completely and utterly bored. His master, Luke Skywalker, held a Jedi testing screen with the image of a cup on his side of the display. A young girl around the age of four, with her hair tied into three small buns stood opposite of Luke. She held her hands behind her back as she rocked forward onto her toes and then back to her heels.
The little girl thought for a moment, wrinkling her brow, “A cup.”
Satisfied with the testing, Luke put the screen down on his lap. “She is gifted.”
“Will she be a Jedi?” her mother asked anxiously.
Luke smiled. “She is too young, but we will come back for her in a year.”
“Are you sure you can’t take her with you now?” the girl's mother inquired, her tone shifting. “I thought Jedi are taken from their families at a very young age? With all the kidnappings lately, I’m afraid that-” She stopped, realizing her daughter would hear her. “The First Order, if they find us, her, you know what they will turn her in to,” she whispered.
“I assure you we will come back for her. It's true the Jedi were trained at very young age. I run my academy a little differently than the old ones. I feel that she needs her family until she’s at least five. You know how to get in touch with me if you know of a credible threat. In the meantime, nurture her abilities, keep a close watch.”
As his master continued to converse with the young girl's mother, Ben walked outside of the small dwelling. He was accustomed to Yavin-4 having spent many outings here with his parents. It was a welcome change from the Academy on Tatooine, where the heat was unbearable at times. He took a seat on a small wooden chair that sat against the little home. He was not interested in the testing of children, his mind wondered to his parents. What podrace was Han in and was the team doing well? Was Leia in a meeting with the Senate, and would her newest treaty pass? It had been a long while since he had seen them, nearly a year and he hated to admit it but he missed them terribly.
Ben took his hand and waved it at the ground making circular motions and twirling the dust, making it whip into a small whirlwind with the Force.
“How did you do that?” asked an excited little voice next to him.
Ben hadn’t noticed the little girl watching him. He smiled at her, “I use the Force.” She continued to watch in amazement as he levitated a small stone up into the air and made it spin. Her eyes widened with wonder, as she squealed excitedly. She beamed up at him, and Ben couldn't help but to smile back.
“Why are you sad?” she asked suddenly, unknowingly striking a nerve with her entertainer.
“I’m not sad,” Ben assured, not knowing who exactly he was trying to convince, himself or her.
"You're all alone.”
“Sometimes I just like being alone," he answered softly.
“I hope that I'm good Jedi like you one day."
Ben smiled a little bigger. Somehow this little one had lifted his spirits ever so slightly.
“Do you want to see more?” he asked raising his eyebrow.
Her large hazel eyes lit up, and Ben continued to show her that he could freeze a piranha beetle in midair. The little girl clapped with glee at the trick and Ben found himself chuckling at her laughter. He hadn’t laughed in a long while. At fifteen, he was a bit old for childish games, but he needed a distraction, a reason to forget the seriousness and protocols required of Jedi.
“Check this out!” Ben held up his hand toward the nearest Massassi tree as if he were searching for something unseen. The little girl watched closely, mesmerized by his abilities. A Whisper bird appeared from the tree and glided majestically toward them, perching itself upon Bens arm. “Would you like to pet it?”
She nodded excitedly and began to stroke its golden feathers. Ben watched the amazement fill her eyes, and for the first time in a long while, he felt content.
“Ben,” Luke called to him, breaking his concentration, and amusement.
Ben sighed, “I have to go little one.” The Whisper bird silently flew back to its roost.
“Awwww, will I see you again?” she sulked, with a pouty lip.
“Of course you will, when you come to the Academy. I look forward to seeing you become a great Jedi.” Ben patted her on the top of her head and walked away.
As he and Luke walked up the ramp of their transport, he looked back at the small girl waving to him. Her concerned mother stood behind her.
“Master, why could we not take the girl now? Surely you can feel they are in danger, her mother senses it. I sense it,” Ben pushed.
“She is far too young, although her abilities exceed any youngling I have ever tested at that age. She needs to be with her family until she is old enough,” Luke assured.
“You would be wise to learn your place my young Padawan. My decision is final.”
“Yes, master,” Ben waved back at the little girl and walked on to the ship.
Six standard months had passed since Luke and Ben visited the small village with the little girl. Ben returned to training and had nearly forgotten the matter altogether until a hologram came through while he was on rotation in the communications station. A mostly dull and boring task, he had been tinkering with his droid when the static and hardly transmittable holo-message projected before him. Ben recognized the woman immediately, it was the girl's mother.
“Master Skywalker, we have been tipped off that they are coming. They are attempting to jam our communications as I send this to you. All outgoing transports are being boarded and searched. I fear that we can’t get out without assistance. Please, hurry.” The woman's face faded as the holo ended.
Ben quickly ran down the hall to Luke’s quarters and alerted him to the problem.
“Stay here,” Luke commanded in a notably odd tone and quickly walked to the communications room shutting the door behind him. Soon after Luke reemerged and motioned for Ben to follow him to their usual transport. Luke programmed their coordinates without saying a word. Ben thought back to the mother's persistence that they take her daughter for safety reasons, although Luke had insisted she was too young. They were far from their system; even with the best hyperdrive, it would take four standard cycles to reach their location. After a long four torturous days, the ship slowed as they entered the atmosphere. There was no longer a blockade and Ben felt his stomach sink. Smoke was rising as they descended to the ground. Luke drew his lightsaber as they exited the ship and quickly realized that there was no need for a weapon. Luke pulled his hood from his head and looked at the horror before him. Ben could feel the terror his master was projecting, even though Luke was doing his best to conceal it. They searched the village for some time, but they found no one. The houses were empty, plates still sat on tables prepared with food, now rotten. It was as if everyone had vanished. Off in the distance, they could see a small plume of smoke. Ben ran towards it first.
“Ben wait!” Luke called after him, but Ben ignored him, pulling out his lightsaber and readying himself for a fight, hoping they would find survivors and the little girl. When Ben stepped into the small clearing, a mound of burned bodies lay still smoldered, emitting a foul odor of burnt flesh. Ben’s heart sank into his stomach as he dropped to his knees. Bile began to lurch at the back of his throat. He had never seen anything so vile and evil in his life. Luke finally caught up to him and stood quietly behind him. Ben thought back to the story Luke had told him about the Empire and what they had done to his aunt and uncle. Luke had only been a few years older than him. Ben couldn’t have been angrier with his master. He knew that Luke understood that this could be have been a reality because Luke had lived it and still he left the girl unprotected. It was now that an old feeling brewed inside him. Rage overwhelmed him, and he wanted to fight someone, something, or anything. His mind raced with thoughts of revenge, and the little girl's big hazel eyes. If I had been more convincing, perhaps I could have changed Luke’s mind. His hands clenched into fists as if he was trying to crush his fingers. He was aware Luke sensed his anger, but he didn’t care, Luke could lecture him later. He walked back to their ship and sat alone. He tried to meditate to calm his anger, but then something happened that hadn't occurred in long, long time. A strange, gruff voice spoke to him.
“You are right to be angry. You warned him, foresaw it, sensed it. Luke didn’t believe in you. No one has ever believed in you,” it hissed.
Ben felt a chill run down his spine as he attempted to shrug it off. This voice was eerily familiar, it reminded him of the nightmares he had as a young child. Perhaps he was imagining it because of the horrible sight he just witnessed. Luke entered the ship and interrupted his thoughts. Ben watched the regret wash over Luke’s face, and his anger faded to grief.
Luke took a breath and laid his hand on his young nephew's shoulder, “Do not mourn the dead, Ben. You should rejoice, for now, they are one with the Force.”
Ben jerked his shoulder away from Luke’s grasp. “Sorry if I don’t feel much like celebrating. Master Yoda’s sayings are of no comfort to me.” He could tell Luke wanted to push the talk further but had changed his mind.
Kylo awoke slightly dazed, as the dream faded into the abyss. At first, he couldn't remember what had transpired until he struggled to roll to one side. A sharp pain shot through his torso and then his face. Realization hit hard nearly taking his breath. He remembered- her. Rey was the little girl from the Yavin-4 village all those years ago. Kylo detested thinking back to the days when he was Ben Solo. his former. However, today as he lay confined to his quarters, he was haunted once again by weak boy he once was and more importantly, Rey. It was her. He touched gash across his face, it was still warm to the touch. Why did I offer to teach her?
Rey’s words haunted him. “You... you're afraid, that you'll never be as strong as Darth Vader.”
That had made him feel naked and exposed. He would not allow that to happen again. Rey had made him weak and somehow pulled Ben Solo back into existence, albeit, briefly. Kylo tried not to dwell on his encounter with his father. He had instantly regretted his decision to kill Han but had pushed that feeling down deep within him the moment he had seen FN-2187’s face- the traitor who put the entire confrontation with his father in motion. The side wound began to sting and he recalled how Hux had deliberately ordered the medical staff not to bacta his wounds. Only basic cleansing of the wounds and bandages was allowed, but his face- that remained raw, uncleaned, and unbandaged. The pain was welcomed, it was all that he had left.
Rey stared at the cloaked man holding out his lightsaber in her hand, urging him to take it, but the way he looked at her sent chills down her spine. Luke seemed haunted, or guilty perhaps? For a long moment, neither of them spoke.
“How long do we have?” Luke asked softly.
“What?” Rey answered a bit confused.
“Until Ben finds us?”
It felt odd for Rey to hear the monster called by the other name. She shrugged, “He didn't get the map." Rey lowered the hand that held the lightsaber, realizing that Luke was not about to take it from her.
Luke narrowed his eyes down to the lightsaber, “Where did you get that?”
“Maz,” She shrugged timidly.
“Humph,” Luke grunted as he walked past her.
Rey trailed after him, “Wait, don’t you want it?”
Luke did not answer but stopped abruptly at the edge of the stone stairs. Chewie and R2-D2 still stood just where Rey had left them.
“So, it's true then, Han’s gone.” It wasn’t a question as much as a confirmation. He rubbed his eyes with his fingers, but there were no tears. Luke sighed and shook his head, “Come, there's much to discuss."
Chewie gathered driftwood for the fire, while R2 beeped excessively at Luke. R2 was not at all happy with his master. Luke had been away for too long and was he was not about to let him off easy. R2 bumped into Luke’s shins and continued with his series of rather surly beeps.
Finally the old Jedi turned to his droid hands raised, “Alright R2, I apologize.”
It was only then that the droid was slightly satisfied.
Once the fire was burning, they all gathered around it. Luke passed around a kettle full of an earthy tasting stew, and they each took a bowl. The hot liquid warmed through the wooden bowl, soothing Rey’s cold hands. The winds of Ahch-To were frigid, whipping up from the vast ocean around them. Rey hadn’t adjusted to the climate, well- anywhere. The heat of Jakku was usually brutal, but the cold was proving to be just as ruthless. Rey looked up and gazed at the millions of twinkling stars and wondered how far away her home planet was. Subsequently, her thoughts shifted to Finn and Leia. She hated leaving Finn behind, but she knew deep down that he would recover. But Leia, she had lost her son and Han in the most tragic way possible. How could anyone be okay after that?
“She’s tough,” Luke acknowledged. Rey’s brow furrowed in confusion. How did he hear?
“I can hear you through the Force. You project your thoughts rather loudly. But, that's why you’re here isn't it- to learn how to use the Force?” Luke asked.
“Yes, I think so? I don’t know. Everything just happened. I don't know how exactly to put it into words," Rey sighed.
A smile crept across Luke's face, “No, the Force called and you embraced it. Or else you wouldn’t be here on this island." His brow furrowed slightly, "How did you find me by the way?”
“Can’t you use the Force and find out?” she asked. It was a genuine question.
“The Force doesn’t work like that. I can’t predict the future or seek out information,” Luke affirmed.
Rey raised her eyebrows at that. That’s not what I experienced at all when Kylo got inside my head. Although she had fought him on it, it was easy to assume that someone who wasn't Force sensitive would not stand a chance against him.
“What he did, was not what I taught him,” Luke interjected, interrupting Rey’s inner monologue. “Ben used the dark side. It isn't something a Jedi would do.” Luke kept his eyes on the fire. He seemed distant and present all at the same time.
“But it is the Force?” Rey pressed. She wanted answers as to what she felt, and how it was used against her.
“Yes, but a Jedi never uses it for malice,” Luke explained. Rey took a breath, unsatisfied with his answer.
“I’ll tell you everything I know,” he continued as he stoked the fire with a stick. Embers flickered in the darkness like tiny comets.
Luke began with the stories of the old Jedi and the information he had uncovered over his many years. He explained both the dark and light sides of the Force as well as their users, such as the Sith. The fall of Anakin Skywalker and his redemption as Darth Vader, a complicated tale that captivated Rey. Chewie chimed in at times, highlighting their adventures with Han and Leia. Rey giggled at the trash compactor story, imagining how the scenario played out between the three of them. Even R2 spoke up at times, revealing that he had been the one to save them all. They all chuckled at that. Luke told Rey about Obi-Wan Kenobi, his old mentor.
“Old Ben, that’s what they use to call him, Han thought he was crazy,” Luke chuckled.
“Is that where Ben got his name?” Rey asked. The mood instantly deflated around her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...” she stammered.
“Well, would you look at that, the Suns are almost up. You better get as much sleep as you can. Tomorrow I have a few things I would like to show you.” Luke noted as he stood dusting his robes and stretching his arms.
“Oh...okay,” Rey answered cautiously.
Rey and Chewie made it back to the Falcon and R2 opted to stay with his master. It was safe to bet that Luke would not get out of R2's sights for a long time. Rey climbed into the bunk Chewie had laid upon while injured when they first met. She thought back to that day, how Finn had tried to help Chewie and nearly lost an arm. She snickered to herself and then wondered about her friend yet again. Had he woke up yet? Would he be alright? A little bit of guilt washed over her as she rolled side to side trying to get comfortable. Then her thoughts meandered where she knew they ought not to. Was Kylo Ren in recovery as well? How long would it be until he found them? Should she have killed him? But Rey knew Leia wanted him brought back to her, even though Kylo Ren had committed the most unthinkable evil. Leia believed against all hope some light still remained- Ben was all she had left of Han.
That night Rey dreamed that she was back on Jakku. She was sitting inside her AT-AT when she heard a distressed voice call out for help. Only this time, it wasn’t the beeping of a droid. It was a child. She grabbed her staff and rushed outside, dashing over the sand dunes but there was nothing.
“Who are you?” A small voice asked from behind. Rey whirled around to find a little boy who appeared to be five, maybe six years old. He looked up at her with wide dark tear filled eyes. Rey knelt on one knee in front of him.
“It’s alright," Rey attempted to soothe him. "Where is your family?”
“They're gone,” he murmured, lowering his head. “They're always gone." His small feet began kicking sand around slowly.
“Do you want me to help you find them?” She smiled reassuringly.
The boy nodded wiping the tears from his rosy cheeks.
Rey pushed herself up with her staff and held out her hand, “What’s your name?”
“Ben... Ben Solo,” he answered.