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[A Mountainous Forest Planet – Unknown Reaches – Late Autumn]

Rey couldn’t believe her ears. Her Master was actually considering it, a truce with his nephew. Luke’s eyes were narrowed, his posture as weary as it had been the day she’d met him on Ahch-To.

The boy, the monster, her would-be teacher, was equally tense. His face bore no love for his uncle. This was business. This armistice would not last.

But it was agreed upon. Kylo Ren removed one dark glove, and fleetingly shook his uncle’s hand to seal the promise. It was better to destroy the enemy together. Against that amount of sheer power, there was safety in numbers. The maniac was a menace to both the Resistance and the First Order, to the very fiber of the galaxy.

So their party gained a new member. An enemy of a greater enemy was less of an enemy, for the time being.

It was in that instance, as Luke turned to return to their camp, in the rush of disbelief, that Rey made one of the most foolish mistakes of her young life.

She dropped her un-ignited lightsaber. Luke had told her, sternly, to guard the weapon with her life, and she dropped it, recklessly. The weight of the moment, the astonishment, had caused it to slip through her sweaty, shaking palm. In slow motion, the horror hit her, as it fell to the forest floor.

The dark figure before her could kill them. His word was worth little to her. Despite his family, he had surrendered to darkness. He had killed his father. Nearly killed Finn. He was cruel, despicable, heart less.

Now, foolishly, she was weaponless before him. He could turn at any moment. Despite besting him in battle, and her continuous training with Luke, the villain would know how careless she could be. As a nobody, she still struggled with doubt.

Before she could react, he was in motion. Falling to one knee, he slid his hand and grasped the weapon. She watched him inspect it, turning the hilt with silent curiosity. His eyebrows rose slightly. Seemingly content with the lightsaber’s soundness, he held it, his long, powerful fingers outstretched, for her to take from him.

Now she didn’t believe her eyes.

He would return the weapon without a word? For her, his eyes lacked malice. There was no triumph in her folly. He was not proud of her mistake. The casualness in which he held the weapon made it seem trivial. She might have dropped a handkerchief, a scarf, or, if she owned any, a piece of jewelry. With his hand wide before her, the action seemed ordinary, and the offer appeared honest.

But his haunting eyes were simmering.

They bore into her and almost through her, causing her to lose her train of thought entirely. She could not hold his untamed gaze for long. Focusing on another area of his face, she instead, watched his lips lift ever so slightly. It wasn’t quite a smile. But something told her he was enjoying their interaction. The word honored formed in her mind. He was honored to assist her.

Now he was putting words in her head.

She shuttered and reached to grab the hilt.

As she did, his fingertips brushed hers during the transfer. Her heart fluttered. She froze from the surprising intimacy. She had never touched another force-user’s hand before. Other than Finn, she had never touched a man’s hand before. And Finn was, mostly, still a boy, in attitude and maturity.

To be so masculine in size, Kylo Ren’s fingers were surprisingly warm and soft. They seemed to say something.

Her consciousness formed a solemn warning: Be very careful.

He didn’t have to tell her twice. She would never make the same mistake again.

Chapter Text

“He might want some,” Luke handed Rey a bowl of his famous stew, Yoda’s recipe, across the fire and motioned his head towards his nephew, who had pressed his back against a tree, just outside their camp.

The light cast by the flames danced over his distant face. He appeared to be meditating. Did the dark side ponder such things?

“We can fight together,” Rey acknowledged, before adding dryly, “But you don’t have to feed him.”

“Rey,” Luke sighed as he served another bowl of food. She knew he intended the bowl for Kylo Ren.

“After every thing he’s done,” Rey started, prepared to list his many unforgivable crimes.

“We have an agreement,” Luke reminded her.

“Doesn’t the First Order provide him with sufficient nourishment? We have to share our meager lot?”

“He’s our guest, Rey. Pause and feel the conflict in him. It wasn’t so long ago he was sitting here as my apprentice. He remembers, and it pains him. He believes he’s gone too far to turn back. That I wouldn’t welcome him. Our kindness might be his way back to the light.”

Rey sucked in a breath. She couldn’t argue with her Master on that. The pain was oozing from the villain’s being at a distracting level. The inner turmoil was disturbing the Force.

Luke passed Rey the second bowl. “Take it to him.”

“Me?” She stared into its steaming contents.

“Good practice in humility,” Luke explained evenly.

“But, Master, you’re the one he wants to rejoin!”

Luke looked from Rey to his nephew and back again, “Act as my ambassador.”

“He won’t accept it.” She held the bowl for Luke to take. “Not from me. I told you, I’m the reason Snoke sent him here. He took me instead of the map.”

“I think that proves,” Luke narrowed his eyes and focused on his distant nephew again, “that it would mean more coming from you.”

“Me?” She repeated, unbelieving, and shot a glance in Kylo Ren’s direction. He was still seemingly oblivious to their conversation.

“I forget how young you are,” Luke muttered, “You don’t realize the effect you have on him.”

Rey parted her lips to protest again, but Luke’s gaze told her to do as he asked. It was her duty as Padawan.

The bowl was warm in her hands. The food would be just right. She lifted from her seat on the ground and marched towards the lone figure until she stood directly over him. She hoped Luke was watching and realized how committed she was to being a Jedi, especially when the role including being nice to vile, contemptible persons.

His nephew remained very still against the tree. Rey only observed the slightest flicker of his dark eyelashes, as an acknowledgment of her disturbance.

“Thank you,” he breathed, without moving or opening his eyes.

She decided quickly she was glad he was almost ignoring her through some dark meditation. His eyes were two distracting abysses. Piercing and other-worldly. The less she looked into them, the less she would be under his simmering scrutiny.

“You still hold me in disregard.” His statement was curious, but bitter. When she refused to answer, he added, “Can you really loathe someone you don’t understand?”

“Take it,” she held the bowl in front of him. Her feelings towards him hardly mattered. They had a mission. Afterwards, most likely, he’d be on the wrong side again. From legends, she knew people didn’t return from the dark side. Vader was the exception. Luke’s opinion was skewed. Of course he cared for his nephew and wanted him to return to the light, even if the odds of that happening were slim to none.

Breaking from her judgmental reverie, Rey watched as he held his palms open to receive the gift. Clearly, he refused rise or move an inch forward. She would have to place it in his waiting hands. As she stepped closer, he locked his eyes on her. Once again, she observed the strange energy behind his gaze. Energy that, in Rey’s limited experience, she could not place.

As she sat the bowl in his hands, he, without warning, transferred it to a single hand and grabbed her wrist.

“Let go of me!” She instinctively snapped at him and pulled away.

The bowl in his left hand tilted, spilling some of the hot liquid over his fingers. He twitched his hand, but his hypnotic eyes never left her.

“We’re not so different, you and I.” He gently released her.

“I hardly believed,” she crossed her arms in disgust, “the words, you and I, would ever be used in the same sentence.”

His eyes moved over her body and his face filled with an odd fascination. Finally, he quietly mused, “The darkness in you is remarkable. Such biased contempt.”

Rey pursed her lips, suppressing the need to shout. She realized perhaps he was right. In this moment, she was not embracing enough of the light. But unlike him, she could control and correct her feelings. Luke was teaching her how to remain calm. When she finally became a Jedi, she would be serene forever. Compassion would be second nature. Until that day, she had to practice. Apparently, even harder.

“It must be cold out here, alone,” she motioned to the forest, forcing a thin smile, “You’re welcome to sit by our fire, as you clearly haven’t made a camp of your own.”

There, she felt proud. That was the Jedi way.

His lowered lip dropped ever so slightly. He had not expected her to fight back, with benevolence, however unnatural. He regained his composure and cast his eyes towards the fire. She felt his conflict and more bitterness.

“I didn’t become Master of the Knights of Ren by charity,” he muttered.

She imitated Luke’s acknowledging Jedi head nod, “If you change your mind, by all means.”

Rey turned to leave. Back at camp, Luke was sipping his stew, although his eyes were on Kylo Ren. Rey felt relieved to see her Master had watched the exchange. Her assignment in humility was done.

Until Kylo Ren changed his mind.

“I might be seduced,” Kylo Ren spoke suddenly.

She halted to listen. But couldn’t force herself to look at him. Not after the dark, low way he ejected the statement.

“I might be seduced,” he continued, “if I could claim the place beside you.”

She froze in place. Such daring words didn’t seem real. He wasn’t supposed to change his mind.

Luke’s observation danced through her mind, “I forget how young you are. You don’t realize the effect you have on him.”

Her Master couldn’t have meant seduction. Seduction meant…

“May I?” His commanding voice left chills down her spine. It demanded an immediate response.

Feeling her heart hammer, she couldn’t answer. Shocked and speechless, she didn’t understand exactly what he was implying. The very thought of it was forbidden. Claim? Claiming sounded like a marital vow. She had never been a silly, daydreaming girl, unlike some of the friends she had encountered over the years. Her situation on Jakku had allowed her no such luxury. Survival was working with one’s hands, not waiting on the hands of a nonexistent man. However, she couldn’t escape the feeling her master’s nephew was admitting he admired her.

Not that he was asking for her hand, by any form of imagination. Though, strangely enough, he had touched her hand twice. Purposefully.

“Is your invitation open?” His voice seemed heavier as he added, “May I take my place?”

Rey swore he was intentionally soft with his words. Place? There had never been a place beside her. Her place was working. Today, her place was training to be Jedi. There wasn’t a place in her life to be had. A Jedi claimed the space beside no one.

“Surely, there’s room at the fire,” he breathed, slightly impatient.

Fire. It was fire he wanted. Not her.

Thank the Force.

“Yes,” she stammered, almost wanting to laugh at her folly, “There’s room.” What delusions of grandeur. In another moment, she might have convinced herself he wanted to confess an unyielding passion for her.

She heard his boots click together and shuffle as he stood. Then she felt him draw near. When he was upon her, he paused, and finally, she dared to look at him again.

The fire in his eyes was soft. The darkness in him lifted. He almost seemed like a different person. For a moment, a young Han Solo was beside her. Frightened by the specter, she took a step back. In the same instant, his eyes became fresh with pain. Rejection. His lips tightened, and he looked from her to Luke, bitterly.

“Lead the way,” he demanded.

Chapter Text

In the morning, things were not any clearer.

Rey woke first, and as the cold nipped at her feet, she struggled and rose to restart the embers of the fire.

Kylo Ren stirred under his dark thermal tarp. As Rey warmed her hands, she watched him rake his fingers through his tangled locks. His eyes open and filled with the light of the new day. He threw the tarp from his body, revealing his stark white torso.

She involuntarily gasped. He was practically half nude in front of her, with no shame. She had never beheld such a sight before. How was he not cold? Didn’t he know better? And, why, why couldn’t she look away?

On Jakku, such lack of clothing meant horrid sunburns. It wasn’t something that one did until sunset, and then only in the privacy of one’s makeshift lavatory. How dare he be so bold?

She blinked, still staring, the sight magnetic. She had nothing to compare him to, save for herself. Where she was curvy, he was flat. His ribs didn’t show, but his muscles did, everything about him looked hard and strong. By comparison, he had an odd tuft of hair between his pecks and a strange dark trail starting under his navel and disappearing at the edge of his pants. Rey couldn’t see, but she was sure it continued even further down. Perhaps leading to the part of him that was male, whatever that looked like.

She stopped herself from wondering. It wasn’t proper. Moreover, impure thoughts were off limits. She shouldn’t be so curious about him. She shouldn’t be gawking. Luke had taught her enough of the Code to know such notions were human, but they, too, could be controlled.

Of course, before she could stop, he noticed. His face beheld her, catching her examining eyes with his own.

To mask her embarrassment, she quickly asked, “Aren’t you cold?”

He purposely took in a deep breath and exhaled, letting the warm vapor from his mouth hit the cold air and steam. “Yes, but it’s invigorating.”

Rey furrowed her brow. If he found the cold so enjoyable, he should have slept away from the fire, next to his tree outside of camp. She turned away and moved to their pack of supplies, having better things to do than talk to him. The puny breakfast packs that remained would not heat themselves. Their number would dwindle sooner, thanks to their dark, distracting guest and his hard, defined, but hungry stomach and its mysterious hair trail.

“I won’t take from you,” he suddenly informed her, his tone as brisk as the air. “I told you, I don’t need your charity. I’ll kill something to eat.”

Once spoken, he reached into his thermal tarp and pulled his tunic, inner jacket and outer robe from their resting places. With thinly veiled anger he dressed and to Rey’s horror, ignited his lightsaber. Shooting her a seething glance, he stalked his way into the depths of the forest. Leaving her alone once more.

Except for Luke, who coughed but didn’t stir. As usual, he wouldn’t awaken until his food was ready.

She tore open one of the breakfast packets. So much for compassion. Or keeping her master’s nephew firmly on their side.

Chapter Text

When breakfast was done and eaten, Rey took her leave. Her small bag of toilettes in hand, she walked further into the forest.

Luke continued to warm his cold hands next to the fire’s coals. His mind mulled over the battle ahead. But together, he felt assured they could defeat the enemy.

However, getting to that moment was an entirely different kind of struggle.

“She’s gone,” Luke called to his nephew, who was purposefully keeping his distance at the edge of their camp. Luke knew the boy was merely tormenting himself over Rey’s feelings. He could still feel the conflict and the bitterness following through his former Padawan. Ben had contempt for the Jedi and for Rey a yearning that both confused and vexed the boy.

Luke considered the possibilities. The future could play out so many ways. Rey and Ben apart, Rey and Ben together. But it had to be for the right reasons. He had to stress the idea and plant it into Ben’s stubborn mind. Yet, knowing Ben’s sensitive nature, every subject relating to his person had to be approached with great care. Luke decided his first objective was to appeal to Ben’s logic.

“She’s too young for you,” Luke called. He frowned to make it serious.

“Your meaning?” Ren called, matching his uncle’s sternness, but uncomfortably shifted his boots in the leaves.

“Ben, I don’t need the Force to know, I see how you look at her. But she’s young, and by that I mean innocent. Pure.”

“And you judge that’s something I wouldn’t desire?” His nephew was almost amused despite himself. “All the better,” he called back, “Who are you to tell me what I want?”

Luke held his fist to his forehead fighting a sharp pang. This time it was real. “Ben…She could live out the rest of her life as a Jedi and be content! You would ruin her if you didn’t love her! You’re my nephew, my blood, the nearest thing to a son! I would see you happy. I would see you settled with her, if only you returned to my teachings!”

Ren laughed, darkly. Annoyed but intrigued by his uncle’s plea, he wondered, “Are you giving me permission to tempt your Padawan? In the name of the light?”

“Ben, there’s a reason I never forced you to follow the Old Code. I wanted you to have the choice, the opportunity to love. But look where it got you…,” Luke forced away his regrets, “I’m trying a different approach with Rey. But if you loved her, and she chose you, in the name of light, the Force would bless your union.”

Ren spat disdainfully, “Union? I’m incapable of love now. I have no interest in your light, your teachings, or your Resistance. My attraction for her is beyond notice. So, don’t fear, she’ll face no harm from me.”

“I doubt that,” Luke released a grievous sigh.

“It still pains you,” Ren tilted his head curiously, “How fate, destiny, separated you from your love?” When Luke made no answer, Ren stepped out of the trees, and moved for his helmet, still resting in his thermal tarp. “It’s why you threw yourself into the Code. Even though there’s no one left to implore you. It’s why you fear for your Padawan.” He lifted his mask in his hands, “You compliment me, Uncle, that you believe, in my darkness, I could make her love me…enough to pain her a lifetime. Enough to hurt her, forever.”

“Ben, she’s only a girl!”

“Yes,” Ren breathed, latching his helmet as he turned to leave, “That fact hadn’t escaped me.”

Chapter Text

Gazing at her from afar, he was decided. He had struggled with it and against it. Impulsively, he had captured her instead of the droid, carried her in his arms, and watched her as she slept. Regardless of his mission, he had tried to be gentle with her. Tried, ultimately, to inspire her to join him.

But now he was certain, despite her rebellious ways and foolish allegiance, he wanted her innocence.

He couldn’t see much as she cleansed herself, a typical morning routine, but he had seen enough to be stricken with intense desire.

He hadn’t meant to find her alone and indisposed. In his vexation against his uncle, he had sought to quickly distance himself, less he break their treaty in his anger. Preoccupied with his bitterness, he had sensed and then noticed her too late. It had been a mistake, an accident.

Yet, as the ache hardened through him, he considered maybe it was destiny.

He would destroy and be the only heir to the Sith. He would finish his training and earn Snoke’s everlasting approval.

However, until that day, he would seduce his uncle’s Padawan.

He needed to turn away and quell the passion rising in his body. It was a struggle, as he couldn’t recall ever wanting a woman so intensely. Soon he would show her a man’s hands could touch, cleanse, and caress her delicate flesh as well.

Finally winning the battle to turn away and return to camp, he took a step forward.

Only to take a step back as the blast from the ship set the forest on fire.

Chapter Text

Rey clutched her washcloth tighter as the blast shook the ground. She grabbed a tree to steady herself. Its bark scuffed her palms as she tried to hold fast.

When the forest was still again, she quickly pulled the straps of her bralette back in place. But before she could grab her bag from the forest floor and run, the ship circled, and another round of blasts fired. This time closer. She threw herself down and covered her head.

The lasers that hit the dry underbrush sparked and spread into flames that raged with alarming speed. Without warning the unnatural fire was out of control, the smoke clouding its way through the trees. Birds cried out, rushing to the sky, escaping the scene.

The enemy knew they were close. Rey had to get back to Luke. If she could only find her way through the reddening blaze. She covered her face with her hand, struggling to breathe. No, she decided, she couldn’t go back to camp. Not yet. The fire was too high, and soon, if she didn’t move, it would be too late. She had to find the power to run the other way, further into the forest, down to the narrow river, and out of the fire’s reach.

Her eyes were burning. For a moment, her heart stopped as her nightmarish dream returned once more. Through the blaze, Kylo Ren, masked in all his dark glory, was coming for her. The smoke and flames billowed around him. Now that the enemy was in sight was the armistice over? Would he destroy her now, like Han, or Finn? Did he mean to finish their fight, and win, and her without her lightsaber?

But instead of killing her, he rushed to her side and unlatched his helmet.

“Put it on, hurry!” He demanded, pushing the mask into her hands and rushing her against him.

She started to cough, “Where’s Luke?”

“I have no idea,” he yelled, “Come on! There isn’t time!” Panicking at their odds of survival, he grabbed her around the waist and lunged her over his shoulder.

Rey accidentally gasped in a fresh puff of smoke. It was only the second time a man ever held her. This man. The first time in her underclothes. This was a fine time to die, pulled close to his body with his hands all over her.

As he moved downhill through the chaos, she finally pulled the helmet over her face. Suddenly, she could see why he had forced her to take it. With it over her head, she was able to breathe almost perfectly. There was a filter, a purification system. He cared. It hit her like a ton of scrap after a long day’s haul. He was trying to rescue her.

She shut her eyes as he ran through the trees, her stomach knotting with every step he took out of the dangers of the fire. They were going the right way. Together they’d make it to the water. He was succeeding. They would survive.

But she still needed to find Luke! Why hadn’t he raced to find her with his nephew?

“Master,” she muttered through the mask, tapping into the Force. She could feel it all around her, life and destruction. Through it all, she found his familiar presence. He was alive, somewhere, for now.

“Go on,” he replied from far away, “Follow the mission as planned. Take care of Ben. We’ll see each other again, Rey, I promise.”

Rey fought the bile in her throat. She had a bad feeling about this.

Chapter Text

“Oh, put me down…” She moaned and pleaded again through her dizziness, hating how the helmet muffled the sound of her natural voice. “We’re out of danger now.”

“No,” he said plainly, still trudging through the knee-high water. He had carried her upstream for what felt like hours. Before long, it would grow dark. In the distance, there was still a red gleam in the sky from the fire. She knew they had to keep moving. But she was far from helpless.

Compassion, she reminded herself. She needed to apply more compassion with him. Especially in her words and tone.

“Aren’t you tired? As I said before, I can walk.” She tried to sound friendly.

She felt him tense.

“No.” He repeated. Just when she thought he would give her the silent treatment again, he explained, “You’re cold, barefooted, and unclothed. The water is cold, the terrain is uneven, and we must travel further before nightfall. You want to die?”

“It could freeze tonight. We haven’t any supplies. We have to make a shelter. Soon we won’t be able to see.”

“Perhaps, you’re right,” he admitted and stopped abruptly. Rey, for one, was thankful. He took a moment to survey how far they had come, and resolved, he stepped to the opposite side of the river, up the bank, and back into the underbrush.

However, to Rey’s annoyance, he walked among the trees tirelessly, for what seemed, all the day after, into twilight. He was searching. Stopping only to tilt his head curiously, which shook his board shoulders and her by proxy.

When he finally, gently, sat her down, she saw the wonder of his discovery. It was large fallen hollow tree. Moss and other small vegetation had long ago claimed its bark. In a few more years, it would return to the soil forever. Shaped like a natural den, the tree was most likely a home for some animal.

Rey shivered. Without proper clothes, her body had been cool against her Master’s nephew. Now, in the absence of his warmth, she could feel the temperature dropping. By the Force, she needed a means to keep warm. The space would be a tight crawl, but it was better than facing the elements.

“How did you?” She started.

But he seemed to read her mind, “The Force wants us to survive.” He would not admit he had asked his grandfather to show him the way. Instead, he added, pulling his lightsaber from his belt, “I’m going to create a lean-to to cover the entrance. I need you to clear as much brush as you can and make a bough bed inside. The leaves and straw will help keep us warm.”

“Together?” She sucked in a surprised breath.

He studied her head to toe and his lips lifted, ever so slightly, into a cocky expression.

“What are you afraid of? That I’ll ruin you on the forest floor?” He sounded amused, but solemnly added, “You’ll be thankful for body heat tonight. I need to secure our shelter. I haven’t got time to ravage you.”

Ravage! Rey clenched her jaw. How dare he! Her mind had never imagined it going that far. But her brain tripped over the word, unable to suppress the mental picture forming in her consciousness. Coiled against each other in passion, he’d kiss her. On Jakku, she’d seen people kiss in town. Some of her giggling friends had even whispered that babies were made from kissing all over.

She halted her imagination. No, that definitely couldn’t happen! She racked her brain and as self-punishment, mentally asked, “Master, forgive me. Abiding your nephew feels like another trial.”

There was no answer. She ran her fingers over her goose pimpled arms. Why hadn’t she grabbed her bag, clothes, and held on for dear life?

“You’re shaking. Here,” he started to undress.

By the Force! No, it was happening!

“I’ll be fine until tonight!” She waved her arms in panic. She didn’t need to see him like that again. Shirtless. Distracting. Pale and oddly mesmerizing.

“Would you calm down?” His tone was harsh as he removed his inner and outer robes. He threw them at her. “It’s all I have. Take it. Cover yourself.”

She easily caught the clothes and was surprised to find they weren’t the least bit wet from the river. Water-resistant. Either, he, the First Order, or both, had thought of everything. Feeling the thickness of the dark material, he didn’t have to tell her twice. By the time she donned his clothing, he was busy slicing through limbs with his lightsaber, the muscles in his arms guiding the unstable blade. Its light shone through the quickening darkness. Slightly hypnotized, she forced herself to look away.

As she knelt to gather an armful of leaves, his long sleeves slid over her hands. Cloaked in darkness, she shuddered. On her, the attire was like a long, oversized black dress. Never in a million years would she have ever guessed she’d be covered in his monstrous garb.

But it was warm, she admitted. Right now, it was all that mattered. Other than reaching the Temple. And getting back to Luke.

She paused to reach out to Master Skywalker again, “We’ve made camp further up the river. We’re going the right way. How do you fair? Did you see him?”

Faintly, his drained voice reached her, “He’d follow me to the sea and back. He believes I already have it. You have to find it before he realizes I’m the decoy.”

“I won’t fail you,” Rey promised, dreading the battle ahead.

Tirelessly, she worked until she had created quite the nest inside the tree. Ren dumped a final armload of tree limbs next to their future lodge. He sighed, ignoring her. She watched as he closed his eyes and opened his hand. Before she could ask what he was doing, a rock the size of his palm flew from some distance. He placed it on the ground she had cleared and called another.

He means to make a new fire ring, she realized. Rey frowned, knowing it was necessary, but at the same time, feeling weary of more fire.

Wanting to be helpful, she allowed the Force to flow over her until connected with the nature of the planet once more, she, too, called a stone to her hand.

“He’s taught you well,” Ren admitted.

Rey accidentally knelt at the same time he did and awkwardly reached for the same spot in the semi-circle of stones.

“Sorry,” she allowed him to set his rock down first, and agreed, “Of course. He’s a good Master.”

Ren drew in a breath as he stood. Rey thought it had less to do with her praise for Luke, and more to do with her apology. He always seemed silently irked by her behavior, even when she was trying to be kind.

He closed his eyes again, “I regret there’s nothing to eat.” He clenched the new stone in his hand. “I have no qualms killing something, taking from this forest, for my dinner. However, I have no doubt that my uncle is raising you according to the dietary restrictions of his Code.”

Rey felt her temper. As always he chose his words very carefully. He had purposely made her sound like a child. Raising, indeed.

“I’m 20,” she threw her new rock into place, “And on Jakku I ate whatever I earned for that day.”

“A woman of the world, the galaxy,” his tone was not mocking, but satisfied. He sat his latest stone down, and calling another, he saw that with Rey’s newest addition they had enough to complete the circle. His lips lifted, “I guess dinner’s on me.”

Chapter Text

Rey picked up, what she assumed, had been a leg. It could have fit in her palm, but smelt appetizing enough.

Ren was watching her, and it caused her cheeks to burn. Would he fly into a rage if she didn’t like it? He obviously cared a great deal. She noted how he labored over the right height and length of the makeshift rotisserie spit, and the cut and bark of particular trees to fuel the fire.

She took a bite. It was, well, different. Soft, but not bad. She had eaten much worse on Jakku. She nibbled until she reached the bone and threw it into the fire.

Ren appeared content. He reclined a little on the forest floor, knowing she had eaten the whole piece without complete disgust.

They had been silent often, but having eaten his meal, the silence became awkward. Rey had the strangest feeling she should say something encouraging, but given the circumstances, nothing seemed appropriate. Yet, he had assisted her, again, voluntarily. With her, he always offered the oddest form of kindness. Perhaps, the only kindness his darkness allowed him. She was beginning to sense, overlooking his lewd comments, she could trust him. Yes, he was still on the wrong side. But maybe she did affect him. She couldn’t be certain if it was an unknown familiarity, an applied camaraderie, or attraction. Right now, it didn’t matter. He was helping her survive.

“Aren’t you going to eat?” She offered, genuinely concerned. With his tall, athletic build, he was no stranger to protein. On Jakku, a person of his stature usually ate as much as a happabore.

“Had enough?” He eyed the food, indeed hungry.

“Yes,” she lied.

He breathed a soft, silent laugh, “You’re horrible at deceit.” He pulled at the fingertips of his right glove and removing it, reached to pull a chunk of meat from the center of their meal. He divided it in his palm and held it out to her. “This is the best part.”

She nodded, grateful that he was still willing to share. She took half the meat and slowly ate. He was right. It genuinely tasted tenderer than her first bite. It was strange, how fresh and different it seemed from the dried packets she had known the majority of her life. As she finished and swallowed the last morsel, she saw he was still holding the other piece out to her. As hungry though she was, she couldn’t accept it.

“No, please eat something,” she turned her head away.

“I’ve gone without food longer than this,” he became angry, remembering, “both with your Master and in the field with my Knights of Ren.”

“You don’t have to be cross about it!” She shot at him and almost immediately regretted it. “Of course you have! It’s only that I wouldn’t want you to suffer because of me. I know what hunger is, and I wouldn’t cause you anymore more pain.”

He lowered his hand and tensed, “A far cry from your conversation with Skywalker last night. Doesn’t the First Order provide me with sufficient nourishment? You have to share your meager lot?”

“You heard that?” Rey raised her voice, forgetting herself.

“Angel, I hear and feel a great many things.”

“Angel!” Rey stood, incredulous, and pulled her hands to her hips.

“You’d rather I call you dove, sunshine, or perhaps something less amorous, like clarity, vengeance, rebel, or simply, what you are, Scavenger?”

“Amorous!” She bared her teeth, brow tightly knit.

“My parents called each other sweetheart. But I doubt you would answer that call,” he pursed his lips, all the while staring at hers. He blinked, and his face turned sour when she didn’t react. “Scavenger it is then,” he added with distaste.

Letting out a frustrated growl, Rey turned to leave. She made it just past the entrance of the fallen tree before Ren’s arms encompassed her.

“So,” he pressed her flush against his body, “You’re going to walk all the way to the Temple, alone, in the cold, dark?” Rey felt his lungs expand as he added, “Your Master wouldn’t allow it. I’ve had my piece, as you insisted. Now come to bed with me.”

Rey drew a labored breath, knowing she shouldn’t like the warmth of his body. “And how do you know what my Master allows?”

“I was his Padawan for longer than you’ve been alive. Another thing,” he forced her to face him, “He wants me to take care of you. Bid me ensure you come to no harm.”

“He told you that? When?” She demanded, refusing to peer into those eyes.

“When you left camp,” he put his hand on her cheek, asking her to look at him.

Rey pushed his hand away, “Stop touching me. Since when do you do as he requests?”

“Of course,” Ren released her from his embrace and stepped away, “You witnessed our agreement. I never betray my word. Forgive me if my closeness disgusts you. Know that it means nothing, other than warmth. We’re both exhausted. We will survive tonight. We’ve come this far. Tomorrow we’ll find the Temple, as your Master wishes and finish the mission.”

Rey took a deep breath. She felt a wave of relieved that he was merely cold, and perhaps, vexing her out of fatigue.

“No more jokes at my expense,” she demanded, as she relaxed, “I have a name. And you’ll use it properly. How would like me to make up some ridiculous name for you?”

“You can call me anything you like,” he turned and began adjusting the limbs of the lean-to, apparently to give them room to crawl inside.

“Ben?” The name Han Solo uttered defiantly escaped her lips.

He stiffened. Rey felt a twinge of ire course through him. He dropped one of the limbs fiercely, intentionally allowing it to bounce and roll on the forest floor. For a second, she expected more aggression. But, again, he did not do what she thought he would do.

He moved to warm his hands by the dying fire. Rubbing them together and blowing, he then pulled the other drumstick from their meal. Bringing it to his mouth, he finally admitted, not masking his bitterness, “I’ve not, willing, gone by that name in a long time.” He chewed in frustration.

“It’s a strong name,” she picked the limb off the ground and considered if she should add it to the fire. “I like it.”

He swallowed and pulled the bone from his lips, flinging it carelessly into the dark forest. “You may,” the words carried a sense of pain, “Call me that. If,” he turned back to her, “you’ll allow me to hold you.” As she stared at him, he quietly added, “For warmth.”

“You’ve never asked before,” she held the limb over the fire, but he grabbed the opposite end to stop her.

“Regrettably, no more fuel. Let it die down. We don’t want a repeat of today’s events.”

Rey pulled the limb away from him, “Alright. So, who crawls in first? Do I crawl in first?”

“Go ahead,” he agreed.

But she second-guessed the amount of room, “But you’re large. Perhaps we should see if you’d fit first.”

“As you say,” he stood, almost secretly smiling to himself again. “Turn around a moment.”

“Why?” She clutched the limb defensively.

“If you want to protect your innocence,” he mused, “It’d be better if you didn’t watch me relieve myself on the fire.”

“Oh,” she gasped in shock. Blushed as she turned, and then fought the urge to throw the stick deep into the forest. He was impossible, not only dark but also unpredictable, callous, oddly sensitive, gentle, then without warning vulgar and irksome. As she covered her ears to block out the sizzle of the fire, she knew it was going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

“Sweetheart, you’re still shivering,” Ren whispered.

She’d been asleep, regardless of the cold. Nestled against his chest, she was vaguely aware of him rubbing his hands up and down her back. It was debatable if he was trying to warm his hands or trying to warm her.

Unable to feel her nose, she buried her face into him and allowed her warm breath to move across them both. She wanted to drift away again, pass the night unaware until the sun warmed the planet once more. But with his stirring and labored breath, she couldn’t find the lull she had once known in his arms. Couldn’t he sleep or stay still?

“It means nothing,” he rasped in the dark, “but I’m going to kiss you. Increase blood flow to our skin. Don’t take it personal.”

“Kiss me?” Through her drowsiness, she couldn’t believe what he was saying.

In his agony, Ren only heard her words as a command. He couldn’t find her lips in the darkness, so he found her temple and trailed his kisses down to her face, until, as she trembled, he made contact with her neck.

He couldn’t tell if she gasped from shock or pleasure. Either way, she wasn’t telling him to stop. His mouth was heating, and the soft, flowery taste of her skin only fed his desire.

Rey leaned her neck towards his lips, tilting her head to give him room. By the Force, it was working. She was warming. Everywhere. It could have been summer. It could have been Jakku. Moreover, it felt beautiful and relaxing. Through her heat and his heat, she could feel herself drift away to a serenity as calm as sleep, if not for the steady drumming of her heart. His lips became as furious as his temper. Suddenly he was burning her, making her ache in curious places. But was glorious and pleasurable. Her mind fought to realize this was why people kissed all over.

“Ben,” she struggled.

“Yes?” He lifted his lips but didn’t stop pressing her close.

Rey swore if he held her any tighter, they were going to melt into one.

“If it doesn’t mean anything,” she sucked in a breath and exhaled, “You have to stop. I’m warm now.”

He made incoherent noises as he tilted his face away from her. His muscles felt tense, and save for the heavy rise and fall of his chest, he seemed petrified.

Rey gathered the sense that he was fighting against something, an inner anguish she could not place.

“Aren’t you warm, too?” She returned her ear to his chest, noting, too, the hammer race of his heart. “We have to sleep. I don’t know how far it is to the Temple. But I have this bad feeling…maybe we should have kept walking.”

A long time passed before he finally mumbled, “Yes, angel,” and hugging her, he added, “Sleep, Scavenger.”

“Ben?” She groaned against him.


“I told you not to call me that.”

She was almost sleeping by the time he softly whispered, “Yes, Rey.”

Chapter Text

“Ow! Damn it to hell!” Ben hissed, stirring, shaking her again.

Sunrise had hit the planet. As Rey opened her eyes, she took in the early morning hues of orange and blue. Nearly as quickly, she realized, an animal was assaulting them.

The pig-like creature had rooted its way through the limbs of the lean-to and was content to snort in Ben’s already tangled hair. It nibbled. Apparently, content to see if his dark locks were edible.

Ben rammed his head left to right, trying to shoo it away. He was all but writhing against her.

She couldn’t help it. She filled with mirth and couldn’t hold in her laughter. “I was wondering whose home we’d stolen!”

“I suppose this is hilarious,” he started to crawl out, “Not half as amusing as turning the foolish thing into breakfast!”

“Oh,” she was forced to move with him, knocking over the rest of the limbs and reaching the outside. As he pulled his lightsaber from his belt, she cried, “Leave it alone!”

He turned and looked at her. Seeing the disappointment on her face, his vengeance softened. The longer she stared he became self-conscious. He deactivated his blade and disgusted with himself, violently rummaged his hands through his matted hair, raking it with his fingers. “Its layers could feed the whole division for a week,” he quietly muttered.

“There isn’t time for breakfast,” she assured him, “We need to start moving towards the Temple. We escaped the fire, but there’s a dark pull on the planet. I know he’s landed. I can’t escape the feeling that something bad is about to happen. Have you felt it?”

“Yes,” he stroked his hair, again, considering, “He’s not as strong Vader. Or myself. Not yet.”

“Well, that’s one thing,” Rey managed to be kind, although she knew the darkness in their enemy was much greater than the darkness in Ben.

“Rey,” Ben paled, eyes wide, his face stark with a primal fear, “Don’t move! Don’t turn around.”

Raising her eyebrows, Rey listened but searched his face desperately for an answer to the sudden change. He gave no clue, except to quickly raise his arm and throw his power forward. His lightsaber flew from his hip once more and anger flashed through his teeth. Her heart pounded. Yet, the sternness in his eyes told her to stay still. Without warning, he stormed past her, and in an instant, she heard the blade make contact with a solid mass. Through the confusion, the air was filled with the shrieks of the pig-like creature, the rustle the leaves, and a feline roar cut that through the trees and died away.

“Ben!” She could take the mystery no longer.

“It’s done,” he sighed, turning off his blade.

She turned and saw the corpse of a large toothy predator at his feet. Its claws extracted. Its pink tongue hung limply over a fang as large as her hand.

They had stolen its home. In return, it had sought to make her pay with her life.

It was time to leave.

Chapter Text

“You’ll be envious of me when you’re famished,” he struggled to keep his voice even and failed, allowing the air of authority fill his tone once more, “You don’t know what lies ahead.”

Finished with the quick task of reigniting the ashes and field dressing the predator via a few turns of his lightsaber, he threw the creature’s fur over himself, inside out, like a cape.

“I have to keep moving,” Rey pulled her arms close around her body. As she stared at the fresh hide adorning his shoulders, she grieved that she had taken the majority of his clothes. He was probably every bit as cold he was last night. It was all the more reason to reach the Temple and find help among friends. “I feel it. I need to arrive at the Temple before night falls again.”

Kneeling, Ben busied himself with adding strips of meat to a flat stone in the center of the coals. She had spent enough time close to him to realize he was tense. But he would not speak his mind. Instead, he spoke softly, “You must do what you feel is right, of course.”

She nodded, although she could tell he didn’t agree. As a means of gratitude, she added, “Luke said it was due north, before the mountains,” in case he wasn’t aware. As curious as it seemed, she felt uncomfortable that he was not prepared to leave with her this instant. Luke had asked her to look after him. It was part of their treaty. It was the Jedi way.

Yet the daylight was wasting, and she might not be fortunate enough to find another vacant tree. Even so, a borrowed night’s rest had its price. Although her stomach churned from the smell of the meat, she knew her Master was not resting. She could only know comfort when the mission was complete.

“Enjoy your meal, then,” she turned to start her journey, “Your welcome to catch up if you like.”

As Ben watched her walk away, a fresh misery filled him. He couldn’t endure it. Not after the taste of her skin, the smell of her hair, and waking again and again in the night to find her safely pressed against him. “Don’t leave.”

She halted. Her own emotions conflicted by the request.

“I can get you to the Temple by nightfall, “ he assured her. “I only need my strength. Wait. And if I can’t fulfill that oath, I’ll carry you in the darkness, destroy the enemy, if need be.”

The smoky aroma of food was making her weak. She wanted to fight it.

“Luke needs me to keep moving. At any moment, the Sith could realize he doesn’t have the crystal and attack the Temple. If it fell into his hands, there’d be no stopping him.”

Ben stood to his full height, “Your Master needs you to arrive safely. And, although I don’t doubt your capabilities, the fact remains, you are unarmed.” At his side, he made a fist, “If you were to be injured, from my lack of vigilance, he would consider the truce over.” He became bitter once more, “I don’t want to kill Skywalker.”

Rey turned, especially interested in understanding his last declaration.

Again, her mind hummed with Luke’s statement, “You don’t realize the effect you have on him.”

Two days ago he had seemed entirely hostile. Today, he was making amicable, and almost, loyal oaths. Could he return to the light? Would he stay on their side?

“You don’t want to kill Luke?” She took a step towards him.

He knelt again and with his gloved hand flipped the strips of food on the stone. As Rey’s stomach growled, he answered her with more questions, “Destroy such power? When it could be used to serve the First Order?”

Rey exhaled and felt her first impression flee. He was still firm in his loyalty to the Supreme Leader. But not wanting to kill her or her Master, that was a point to their advantage. One, perhaps, she could work with. She allowed the Force to flow through her. Feeling its calm, she decided to be patient and see if she could influence him further.

She watched as he stabbed the meat with a stick. He took a bite and swallowed. “It’s not bad.” Taking a second bite, with a grimace, he added, regrettably, “It’s edible.” By the third bite, he spat it out and frowned, “Needs to cook longer. If only I had spices.”

Her eyes fixed on his rich, puffed lips as he chewed. Had he burned them? Were they as hot as their touch had made her feel last night?

A day ago she wouldn’t have believed. She was waiting for him, and taking the place by his side.

Chapter Text

All the day after, they walked, exhausted, but determined.

“There,” Ben stopped and placed his hand on her shoulder to halt her as well. He pointed to the east. Through the trees, there was clearing, a cliff. “The Temple.”

Rey who had walked the great distance without shoes, and refused any more of Ben’s heroics, such as the offer of his too large boots and the pleading he could carry her again, was sorely glad. It was a beautiful sight. Aged stone rising into the sky like a shiny new Star Destroyer.

Ben remarked it looked like a castle. Indeed, Maz would have been envious.

Best of all, they could be easily reach it before nightfall. The mission was halfway finished. Beating the would-be dark lord to the destination and obtaining the crystal was half the struggle.

“Thank the Force,” she managed to smile.

Ben, notwithstanding his peculiarities, had been oddly quiet since their makeshift breakfast. As he slowly slid his hand off her shoulder, his face remained stern. Once more, Rey felt a silent agony churning within him. The conflict within him ceaseless.

They walked for several moments, the rising Temple in view, before Ben plainly stated, “After we reach the Temple, you will part with me.”

Rey, who felt lucky for having survived the fire, the night, the predator, and the many miles behind them, had not spared it a single thought. Undoubtedly, she would need to deliver the crystal to Luke or recover her own lightsaber. Thinking of weapons, she wondered if Ben’s conflict reflected a silent warning.

“You mean, the truce between you and my Master will be over?”

“No,” he said bitterly, “The agreement between myself and your Master stands until after the death of Danros Loiron.”

Rey shuddered at his name. Ben noticed and paused to lift her over a twisted plant thick with thorns.

“I can manage,” she protested.

Reluctantly, he sat her back on the ground. Agony forcing him to clarify, “What of the truce between you and I? I feel such restlessness in you. Will you accompany me back to Skywalker? Until after the destruction of the false Sith?”

On the ground once more, Rey shrugged, “I suppose I am an extension of my Master’s agreement.” For a second she wondered if she should tell him, but saw no harm, “He wanted me to look after you.”

“Did he?” Ben’s voice flickered with amusement, and something akin to curiosity. “Then you’ll stay with me?”

“For the time being,” Rey agreed.

She watched his face turn solemn once more.

Chapter Text

Soon, the monks who kept the Temple sacred spotted Rey and Ben in the distance and were in assembly to greet them at Temple’s gate.

Although Rey had assumed she would be among friends, the stern looks on their faces gave her room for concern.

Their leader, an elderly man, with a long braided beard and narrow eyes, raised his hand to halt them.

Clothed in pristine white robes, he looked the pair over inquisitively. His brow creased with a tired, but quiet air of disapproval.

He spoke to Ben in a blocky, hasty tone using a language unfamiliar to Rey. Seemingly fluent, Ben spoke back. She tried to follow the conversion visually, recognizing only her own name, Kylo Ren, and Skywalker, who was mentioned several times. By the fifth exchange, Ben made a fist, and Rey quickly concluded, by the gleam in the eyes of the elder monk, that the conversation was not going well.

Rey couldn’t be sure, yet she assumed, as the monk’s gaze darted between her and Ben, he was uncomfortable with Ben’s lack of a shirt. Perhaps, even, her bizarre getup. Clad in Ben’s black inner and outer robe, but no pants and shoes, she looked worse for wear. She hoped, but doubted, Ben was explaining about the fire.

Ben shook his head and threw his hands up, gesturing wildly over her. The doubt in her mind was growing by the second.

The monk was unimpressed. He folded his arms and spoke in a decisive huff.

Without warning, Ben started to laugh and couldn’t quite to stop himself. Unlike the few times before, the sound rang out without malice and shook his entire body. Its cadence almost reminded Rey of his father: free, spirited, and lacking darkness.

“Skywalker,” Ben shook his head and cursed over and over in Basic.

Anger rose in Rey’s chest, but she curved the urge to show her full rancor in front of the strangers. She shot him a sharp look.

Without warning, he ducked his lips against her ear.

“Scav…Rey,” Ben acknowledged, before explaining curtly, “It seems we have a problem. There are certain ceremonies that have to be performed before they’ll allow the two of us into their precious Temple.” His eyes narrowed, but Rey swore she witnessed the light dance within them as he asked, “Are you opposed to taking my hand?”

Chapter Text

Rey kept her hand on top of Ben’s as the elder monk huffed his coarse, foreign words at them. Ben kept nodding in agreement. Rey looked between them, unsure if she should nod, too.

A second monk, with a tranquil face and bald head, approached carrying a small length of rope. Rey flinched ever so slightly as he tied the cord into a knot over their joined hands and walked away.

“When he looks to you, say my name,” Ben instructed in a whisper.

Rey nodded but felt their customs most bizarre.

The head monk acknowledge Ben again, and in their native tongue, Ben gave what was no doubt a long, but impressive speech, which all in attendance seemed to approve with foreign mumbles.

Finally, the monk looked to Rey and nodded his head. Ben twitched his fingers underneath hers as a gentle reminder of her cue in the ceremony.

“Ben,” Rey looked hopeful to the elder, whose face remained cold. She prayed her single word would be enough, and soon they would have the item they sought.

Unfortunately, there were more utterances. Until, at last, those in the gathering were turning and motioning, in good fellowship, for their brothers beside them to return to the Temple. A high spirit song broke out, with every monk joining in the unique but divine tune.

Rey, still tied to Ben, followed the joyful crowd through the gate, pass the ancient, brittle Temple foyer, and into a length of twisting stone corridors as confusing as any maze. It remained a far cry from the simple, primitive Temple on Ahch-To, which lacked any surprise. Here Rey felt completely lost. She followed and soon forgot the way.

After many turns, the elder monk paused outside a wooden door and ceremoniously cracked it for Ben and Rey to enter.

Was this the room that housed the crystal of legend?

Rey watched as the monk nodded and Ben nodded back. The elder’s face was still pinched, but he seemed oddly appeased. Subsequently, Ben, her linked companion, led her by the elbow into the room. Rey barely had time to take in the modest chamber, a wooden table, bed, dirt floor, and tall dipping candles, before the monk closed the door behind them.

Rey looked to Ben, not understanding. It was fine to be a guest at the Temple, but there wasn’t time. Had he explained the urgency of their mission?

“What’s this?” She demanded.

Ben leaned in close enough to kiss her. His eyes were wild with their uncontrollable simmer. His smile almost genuine as he peered into her.

“We’re married.”

Chapter Text

“What?” Rey lost herself. She yelled. Panicking, she unknotted the rope, threw it to the floor, and stalked away from him.

“Calm down!” He demanded. “It isn’t legal! There isn’t a court in the galaxy, the First Order, or the Resistance, that would recognize it.”

Rey balled her hands into fists, “Legal? That’s what you think I’m worried about? I’m a Padawan! I just engaged in a spiritual ceremony by monks of a Force Temple without any knowledge! Is this a game to you? This is what I believe!”

“If you care so much about these people, listen! Speak softer. You’ll insult them! You want the crystal housed here just as much as I do! We all want Danros Loiron dead. This was the only way.”

“Marrying you the only way? You’ve ruined me. How am I to be a Jedi now?”

“Sit down,” Ben threw his arm to the table, “Eat with me. Let me explain.”

Rey shook her head bitterly, refusing to listen.

Ben sighed and raked his hand through his hair again, “We are so much alike, you and I.”

Rey shot him a look.

“We were forced together," he held stern, "Your Master bid you to come to this Temple, with me. Circumstances being as they are, that trial had already failed. Those monks, outside, were never going to let us into this Temple as an unmarried pair. It’s forbidden! It’s what they believe, Rey! They asked if we were married, and not liking the answer, were ready to reject us. I did the only thing I could do to get you the crystal, so we can kill the false, weak fool who thinks he’s a Sith.”

Rey slumped her shoulders, hardly believing the situation.

“Blame me if you will. Better yet, hate me! Give into your darkness and join me. Else, understand that they believe they have saved you from destitution. Traveling, barely clothed with a brute like me.” Ben shook his head, “At the very least, eat with me. Then we’ll make our excuses and look for the crystal.”

“Look for it,” Rey furrowed her brow, “You mean they won’t give it to us?”

“I’m tired. Hungry. Your beloved people were very insistent and excited for us to come consummate our union. I didn’t have a chance to inquire. I could barely get a word in.”

“Consummate?” Rey didn’t understand the word, having never heard it.

Ben rubbed his forehead. Seemingly ignoring her, he sat himself at the table and bit into a hunk of their modest flat bread. His eyes widened. “It’s good,” he muttered and took another huge bite. “Eat,” he stuffed his face, “Then I’ll teach you the facts of life, Scavenger.” He swallowed and corrected himself, “Rey.”

Chapter Text

Rey finished her last bite.

Ben suddenly stood and moved over her, his fingers touching the delicate area of her neck that he’d kissed.

“If we were to consummate this marriage,” he began, “I would start by kissing you. Your mouth, along here,” he slid his fingers indicating, “Which, as I showed, would heat the both of us. It’s a chemical response, beckoning when a couple wants to merge.”

“Merge,” she still didn’t understand, although her cheeks were burning. Was that a chemical response, too?

“I would take you to the bed and fully unclothe you. And unclothe myself,” he eyed the small bed.

“More kissing,” she muttered, wanting to show she wasn’t completely naïve.

“Yes,” Ben agreed, “And I would touch you in sensitive areas, and this, too, would heat and excite you. Then I would take the part of me that is male and merge into the part of you that is female. The place you have your monthly.”

She started to tremble with embarrassment.

“Look at me,” he moved his hand to her shoulder, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not your fault no one was there tell you.”

But she couldn’t look at him. When she had gotten her first monthly, she had thought she was dying. She had gone to a friend, and the friend’s mother had told her a little. But clearly, not nearly enough.

“During consummation,” Ben swallowed, “the first time we merged, you might experience pain, as you’ve never coupled before. But, I would be very gentle. And you’d also experience pleasure from my moving in you.”

“Pleasure?” Her face was burning, and she forced herself to stare into the melting candle on the table.

“Did you feel nice when I kissed your neck?”

“Yes,” she admitted, “Aching.”

Ben sucked in a satisfied breath, “Pleasure stops the ache.”

“How does a man move in a woman?” It didn’t sound possible.

Ben breathed and rubbed her back, thinking, “Have you ever seen a scomp link on a droid? It’s a little like transferring data, in and out.”

Rey tensed. How could she have been so clueless? Naïve! The rest of the galaxy knew what consummation meant. Yet it didn’t explain why the monks wanted the two of them to do such a deed.

“Why did they bring us here…to do that?”

“Sex is apart of marriage,” he took a deep breath, “Consummation shows a couple is committed, decided. It’s a celebration. A way to express love, give another pleasure. And a means to produce children.”

Rey started to cry. She covered her burning face. Kissing all over, indeed!

“They have to know, you have to tell, I don’t speak the language…that we can’t be married. That we won’t be doing…that. Thank you for explaining. But I’m a Padawan. And if they think I’m doing that with you, I can’t be a Jedi.”

“Is your Master’s permission stopping you?” Ben took a chair and sat down in front of her. “He’s tried different tactics with you…due to his mistakes in my training. But what if I told you, just the other day, he encouraged me to embrace the light and be with you? I know you feel the connection between us. He said if you chose me, we could do as we like.”

Rey wiped her moist cheek, “I don’t believe you.”

“Then don’t believe me.” Ben stood again, pacing the floor. “You can ask him later. My whole life, it was his great hope that someday, I’d wed a Force-sensitive girl. Together my wife and I would be Jedi and carry on the Skywalker legacy through our children. If Anakin Skywalker hadn’t denied the Code for his wife, your Master wouldn’t be here. Skywalker only self-imposes the Code to punish himself. He had to give up someone he cared about once…I never have figured out who she was or what she did to him, but he thinks such a sacrifice is noble penance.”

“Sounds like a tall-tale.”

“Then ask him!” Ben balled his fists. “Reach out through the Force. Ask why, just yesterday morning, he said he’d see me settled with you! You, Rey, if I returned to his teachings! Told me the Force would bless our union. Search your feelings. I have no reason to lie. I’ve brought you this far. Why would I endanger our truce?”

Rey couldn’t believe him.

“If you wanted me,” he brought one fist to his chest, “you could have me, Rey. If you decided to consummate this marriage, there’d be no one to stop you. These monks, the Force, even Skywalker, wills it! Say the word and have me.”

“You’re assuming I’d want to consummate with you!” She stood at last. “I didn’t know we were getting married!”

“You weren’t protesting my kiss in the forest.”

“We were trying to stay warm! You said it meant nothing!”

“To me,” he agreed, “Did it mean something to you?”

“I was asleep! I wanted to stay warm!”

“Then see how you like it with the evening’s clarity.”

Ben swooped down and kissed her lips feverishly. Rey gasped but eased against him as the sensation was new and pleasant and wild. His lips were soft, warm, and searching. He tilted her head and suddenly deepened their kiss until his eager tongue tasted her mouth. Rey had never experienced anything like it. In his arms, she went limp against his caress. His touch felt like serenity, harmony, the very virtues of the Jedi code.

“Tell me you don’t like it!” His eyes momentarily burned into hers. He kissed her again, breathing, “Tell me to stop. Use your Jedi trickery. Tell me to go away.” He went deeper into her mouth and for a second Rey swore they were already one. She couldn’t decide where he began and she ended. She had no wish to make the feeling stop. His arms gave her a security she had never known. His lips were a mixture of delight and excitement.

When he moved to her neck, she found the words to mutter, “You want me to lie?”

As he trailed his tongue over her collarbone, he growled, “I only want you to lie if you want to lie!”

“I-I, can’t lie,” she stammered.

“Then don’t,” he said triumphantly, moving her into his arms and then onto the bed in an instant. It was small, never intended for two people, much less what he had in mind. But it was enough and the perfect size for her, and she was all he needed.

Chapter Text

Rey was heated again. Burning. Was the room spinning? He was trying to remove his clothes from her. He could have them. He’d made her too warm. She was going to pass out if she didn’t find relief.

He’d most likely laugh if she did. He was on top of her kissing her, making her ache all over as his mouth and hands worked some ancient spell. She’d almost welcome the relief of fading into darkness. The sensation was too much. Consuming her skin. Making her soul cry out from the very core.

His keen hands swirled over her breasts. The impact of his touch caused her a fresh wave of blissful agony. Moving like a madman, he finally decided to relieve her of the sullied bralette, stained with the dirt and sweat of their journey.

Rey watched in shock as he sought to kiss and lick both peaks.

“Those are for…,” she tried to explain through her misery, but rather thought he should already know.

“I assure you, they’re for me, too,” he smiled and delicately sucked one of her hardened buds.

She cried out from the white, hot sparks rushing through her body. In response, he began rolling the opposite bud between his long, dark gloved fingers. He was driving her mad. She couldn’t stand it.

“Ben,” his name desperately escaped her lips.

“Tell me you like it,” he savagely teased.

“Ben,” was all she could breathe.

“Yes,” he rasped through his own harsh delight. He moved his hand to squeeze and tug at her equally addled panties. “Do you want me to show you what consummation feels like?”

Rey couldn’t believe it could feel any better than this. Pleasure? Wasn’t this pleasure? And still, she ached for me. She wanted to know what he would do, all the while still craving the touch of his mouth on her skin.

“Keep kissing me,” she commanded.

He smirked with satisfaction and dipped his tongue between her lips. As he caressed her tongue with his own, he slowly pulled at the tips of his gloves, until both were removed and fell haphazardly to the dirt floor below. Forgotten.

Then, while his tongue obeyed her request, he gently slid his bare hand under the ruined, but dainty material of her panties. He stiffened, but didn’t halt his kiss, as he felt across her intimate curls, slowly reaching the outside of her already wet, delicate core.

He lifted his lips and stared at her, cheeks red, lips swollen from his kiss. She couldn’t keep her eyes open, overcome by the desire he had caused. His own breath labored. Ben had imagined this moment a hundred times since meeting her. But never in his mind’s eye had it ever been this pure, this astoundingly beautiful. She was his now. Damn the galaxy, Skywalker, the darkness and the light. Kylo Ren. Ben Solo. He was a monster. But elementally he was a man. And he had found his match.

He almost swore she was pouting from breaking their kiss. But perhaps that was his own delusion of grandeur. He let the feeling pass and instead lean to her ear, “This,” he stroked the outside of her center and gently claimed her inside with his finger, “is what consummation would feel like.”

She moaned and writhed against him. As easy as he could, he moved and sought to please her, going deeper. Feeling as her body responded wet and eager until he could take the throes of pleasure that blossomed across her face no longer.

He had to know her.

Pecking her lips, he lifted from the bed and struggled with his belt. Although he was only away from her for a second, it felt like a lifetime. He returned to her in his red briefs, needing, as he had tenderly put it, to merge.

He would ask again, but only once more.

He kissed her navel, wishing he could go lower and squeezed her ribs.

“Do you want me, Rey? Do you want to consummate our union? Let me stop your ache and you, mine?”

She trembled as he nibbled the soft skin of her navel. Involuntarily jerking her hips, she wept, “I’m dying.”

“Let me save you,” he caressed the edge of her panties. “Merge with me. Let the Force bless this union.”

Rey pulled on his dark curls, compelling him to look at her. Her eyes told him everything. She was too far-gone for him to stop. He had won. The seduction was complete. There was a plea in her soul to finish it. Give her the final fact. Make her a woman.

Rey felt him remove her panties, her last barrier. For the first time in her life, she was barren, completely unclothed in front of a man. She knew he had awakened some mystical feeling, as she craved the return of his lips to her mouth, the spark of his touch on her breasts, and the quick plunge of his fingers. She had never needed relief quite as uniquely as she needed it now.

But he had halted. For some reason, he was drinking her in, eyes wide, but pleased. He seemed to be memorizing her, lost in details. Yet, she was in anguish! Perhaps she should have been pleased that he liked her, but it had never mattered before.

When their eyes met again, he bit his lip, and slid away his last barrier as well. Though she was sodden with his spell, her eyes doubled as he sprang forth.

There was no other means of describing it. He sprang forth, large, solid, erect, and proud. His baffling trail of dark hair led to a literal tower. Never in a million years would she have guessed it looked like that. However did he walk with an object akin to a lightsaber hilt between his legs? One thing was for certain, there was no way it, the male part that had remained a mystery to her for so long, was never going to fit. His fingers were large and long and had barely found their way into her hollow. There would be no moving, no data transfer. She was going to languish in torturous agony forever and die young against his beautiful pale skin.

If only kissing all over was an option!

He bit her navel again and growled, reading her mind, “Angel, it is!”

Without warning, he spread her hips and drove his face into her center. Kissing, licking, she couldn’t tell, save to shriek his name. He jolted his head at the sound and worked faster. Before she knew what she was doing, she was pressing her body in unison with his buried, wicked, face, begging, pleading for him not to stop. Urgently. She was doomed.

Before it was over, he was darting his tongue into her core and rubbing her sensitive place with reckless abandon. She was soaring against his face until his fingers stuck a unique ripple of bliss. She couldn’t contain the slam that hit her. Her cry broke and echoed over the room.

He licked until the ribbons of satisfaction rolled through her nerves and ceased. Until it was too much. Tickled. She tore her body away. He groaned, and for a moment, she wondered if he would have kissed the lower half of her body all night. He seemed to revel in it. Crave more. He wiped what she believed to be a profuse amount of saliva from his mouth on his forearm and moved above her.

Sliding his finger into her again, he brought his eyes flush to her face. Fingering her harder with the abundance of wetness, he pressed his warm, hard member against her hip. Aching deep in his bollox. Dying as she had put it.

As tears of virginal pain and pleasure tore through her again, her hollow convulsed. As the rest of her body trembled, he removed his hand and held it up to find a trace amount of blood.

Rey thought, perhaps, he had killed her. Her monthly wasn’t due for several more weeks.

Without warning, he was wiping the tears from her cheeks, positioning himself over her, and searched deep into her eyes. He kissed her and smiled through his whisper, “Scavenger.” His eyes were calming again, filling with warmth and compassion. The simmer replaced by dilated pupils she could drown inside of, as she saw her own innocent but desperate reflection. “I’m sorry it had to hurt. I can ease it again. Angel, I need you.”

His wicked hand took hers and allowed her to feel his hardened member, the link desperate to know her. She felt him shudder as her hand moved over the tip. She was just beginning to understand the power she had over him. That such a brush left him spiraling and needing more.

“You’re enormous,” she squeezed.

“Am I?” He laughed softly, and started to kiss her as he guided her hand to stroke him up and down. She mimicked the motion perfectly.

He quaked and released a deep groan that radiated through his chest. She stopped, her face breaking into a fear she had hurt him.

His eyes were sodden, but kind, “You won’t hurt me.” He kissed her. “You can touch me however you wish. It gives me pleasure. I’m not in pain.”

She nodded, and with nervous fingers she continued to please him. Looking into his face, for once, his eyes were closed. Yet, his eyelashes were flickering in same far-off manner she had witnessed during his meditation. She had never imagined he could be so handsome and vulnerable at the same time.

Suddenly, he slid his hand over her wrist to stop her. “Not yet,” his voice became serious, demanding something new. He released her wrist to place both his hands on her face. He kissed her deliberately and slowly.

Raising his lips, he softly muttered, “Stop me if I hurt you.” Then he continued his kiss, moving carefully closer. He touched her hollow, but only for a second before steadying himself with his hand and merging his huge, hard member into her.

In shock, Rey couldn’t sustain his kiss, the tender exploration of his tongue. As she gasped from the shocking impact, the first sensation of being completely filled, he tightened his embrace. With his strong arms he held her in their sharp duel-agony. She trembled as she felt his full size, suddenly, a virgin no more. He ached, wanting to show her everything. Wanting, desperately to dive into her, feeling her quake and scream under him.

Yet, in this forbidden moment, he was under trial. Given a day’s clarity, she would scrutinize his lovemaking. He wanted it painless as possible. He wanted it rapturous. He wanted it to stay in her memory until her dying day. Meanwhile, he wanted her to come to him again, seeking, needing, wanting him and only him.

“Angel,” he moved his hips ever so forward. Through his torture, he managed to rasp, “You feel good?”

Course, he could easily know. But on the verge of ecstasy, he couldn’t fully concentrate on the Force right now. In this moment, the power came and went, coursing over him wildly as it pleased.

“Y-yes,” she said through quivering lips. She shocked him, adding, “The Force…?” She seemed confused, “You’re trying to concentrate?”

He gritted his teeth. So she had read a fragment of his mind? Now? Like this? He’d never considered through uniting with her it would be possible to intensify their strange connection. To be so intrinsically close to another spirit, both body and mind. Darling, Scavenger, he thought.

Even joined together she was besting him. Throwing the power back at him.

He’d show her the best.

Give her the Force.

Try something new.

He pulled back and cocked forward. “Scavenger,” he groaned, trying to control his pleasure, “We are in a Temple. The Force dwells here. You feel it, too?” He drank her mouth, and then violently tore his lips away, concentrating. “I need…,” he paused to whisper his soft supplication, “the crystal. I need to defeat my enemies. And I need,” his fingers twined in her hair before he rocked forward, “I need you, Angel.” He pulled back and returned, rasping, “I need Clarity.”

She cried out from the shock. How could it simultaneously hurt and yet feel so intrinsically wonderful? With every reach he was going deeper into her and freeing sensations she never knew capable. Never wanting him to stop, her hands pressed into his back, feeling him tremble with every intense move forward and back.

“I need Vengeance,” he growled, slamming non-stop, driving himself closer.

“Are you mine? Rebel? Scavenger?” He reached, recklessly quickening the pace. Nearly losing himself.

“Y-yes,” she moaned as a cascade of ecstasy hit her. She shouted uncontrollably, reeling against him for a final time.

Her thoughts floated through the air.

“Ben stay with me. Always.”

“Scavenger,” he suddenly halted, unable to control the pressure a minute longer. His muscles tightened as he convulsed inside her. His body shuttered. As he gasped with satisfaction, he slowly lowered shoulders against her on the bed.

“Rey,” he said as he noticed and wiped away another one of her escaped tears. He kissed the hot, wet trail on her face. Before she blacked out, she thought she heard him whisper, “Angel, the Force is with us.”

Chapter Text

Rey woke as light poured in from a small, circular window, high out of reach on the outer Temple wall. Twisting, she wished the bright beam had not arrived so very early. She had not slept in a warm bed in several weeks, much less, soundly. The bunks on the Millennium Falcon were old, uncomfortable garbage. When Chewie sold the Falcon to Luke for credits to return to his homeworld, Kashyyyk, she wished Luke had updated the ship for their long-term travels.

Suddenly a terrible panic filled her. She bolted upward, her eyes trying to adjust to the room, as her mind raced: their mission, the journey, the crystal! She knew her Master had no luxuries, a warm bed and blankets, while trying to escape Danros. Luke could be in danger, fighting for his life, this very moment. Had he made it to the sea? Even if he had, she desperately needed time to obtain the crystal from the elder monk and return! This very second, their enemy could draw near, wild and murderous as ever.

Feeling foolish, neglectful, and unprepared, she threw the blankets back. Taking in her stark naked state, her thoughts shifted to Ben. Wonderful, glorious, mystifying Ben Solo, who had suddenly become her husband in every sense of the word. It had been the oddest circumstance. Luke would most likely rebuke them. But, she couldn’t worry about that right now.

Yet, it didn’t change the fact, Ben was missing.

“Ben?” She unconsciously called for him audibly, although, by now, she could see every corner of the small room. The table, the basin, plates, even the chair he had tossed her clothes, actually his clothes, his inner and outer robes, remained perfectly untouched.

But his pants, belt, and boots were gone. She noticed Kylo Ren’s helmet, the infernal, menacing mask, had vanished as well. The dark gloves he had dropped, no longer sat abandoned on the dirt floor. The animal skin he had worn like a cape against the elements was all that remained. Forgotten in the corner.

He had left her, without even a single word.

On top of her growing concern for Luke and their mission, she suddenly felt incredibly lonely. She hadn’t been so wholly by herself in a very long time. She forced the feeling away, along with the memory of all the days she had counted on Jakku.

She left the bed and rushed to don his clothing, her only option. The material smelt of smoke and ash and the forest. Yet, pulling the cloth over her face, it still held the cologne scent of his body. A scent she knew intimately. Covered by his too large garb once more, she rolled up the dark sleeves with a deep sigh. She inhaled and released. What had happened between them had been world shattering. If only there was more time, if things were different.

But there was no time now. She rushed through the door into the empty Temple corridor. Natural light from more small, circular windows illuminated the path where candles and torches had the night before. All was silent. Rey could sense no one and quickly got the feeling this part of the Temple was mostly unused by the monks. She assumed it was the reason they had swept her and Ben in this direction. Privacy. A momentary, makeshift paradise for two.

She turned her thoughts away from passion. She had to find Ben and the elder monk. Perhaps it wasn’t too late to retrieve the crystal and avoid a conflict. Focused once more, she clasped her hands together and sought Luke’s immediate place and status.

“Master,” she reached through the Force, seeking him across the great divide of the planet, “We’ve reached the Temple. Where are you? How do you fare?” Waiting for his reply, she followed the light down the corridor until she reached an ancient stone staircase. She could only go up from here.

Directly, his calm, reassuring presence filtered into her mind answering, “The sea, alive and well, as I promised. Have you found the crystal? He’s headed your way, Rey. Warn Ben. Be ready for a fight.”

“No,” Rey struggled to keep her concentration on the cool, large steps. She halted, pressing her palms into the stone for support as a pang of guilt and dismay transformed her worst fears, “No, Master Skywalker, I haven’t. But I’ll find the crystal, I promise you.” Unable to bear her feelings of failed obligation, she added, “Everything’s happened so quickly, so very strangely.”

For a second there was no answer. Rey pulled her palms to her face in sheer frustration. She had failed Luke, in more ways than one. In their shocking rush of bliss, she and Ben might have doomed the entire galaxy. She wasn’t strong enough to fight Danros alone. Without Ben, there was no weapon.

From the far off reaches of the sea, her Master sensed her conflict. Luke’s answer rang with an alarming sternness, the likes he rarely used with her, or anyone, except their enemies. “Do you love him, Rey?”

Rey’s face widened in immediate fear. She forced herself to have a seat on the step, needing a moment of composure. Skywalker’s question echoed in her mind.

What was love? Had she ever stopped to consider? Now hardly seemed like the time. Danros was worming his way closer. But Skywalker’s tone demanded an immediate answer. Shouldn’t it be simple?

Rey knew, as her Master had observed on many occasions in the past, she often lacked the Jedi virtue of compassion. Yet, now in regards to her feelings towards Ben, after what they shared the evening before, she couldn’t escape the sentiment of attachment. Now that he was gone, she felt an entirely new sense of seclusion. The only remedy, she felt, was to find him and be in his presence again. He was different. He had saved her, cared for her, seemingly without conditions. Although, others had done the same, and while she cared for them a great deal, love had hardly ever entered her mind. No, Ben’s essence was a separate feeling. As he had explained to her, she felt an ache, desire, and pleasure, feelings she had only felt for him and with him. She had been anxious around him. Marveled at his features and physique. She had been drawn to him, strangely, as she had been drawn to no man before. When he laughed, he seemed like someone else entirely, and her heart swelled with a strange peace. He had taken her hand. They had been bound together.

Yet, that wasn’t quite love. Wasn’t love a different sort of emotion? Unconditional?

Having known him better, could she treat Kylo Ren with unconditional compassion?

Her heart and mind warred over variations of yes. Although she was lonely here in the present, she could almost see a future with him mapped out ahead. They could defeat the enemy. The truce could go on. He could stay with them. Perhaps, like Vader, he could return to the light and Luke’s teachings. It had been possible once. Perhaps it could be possible again.

She loved the idea. Loved the dream she could be with him always.

“I believe I could,” she answered honestly, her mind lingering on inner hopes.

“Well, that’s one thing,” Luke’s voice filled with ease, “A small victory for the light side of the Force.”

Rey’s heart lifted. “You’re not revoking my apprenticeship?”

“Not if you love him. Ben told the truth,” his tone was soft, “Find the crystal, Rey, and bring Ben back to me.”

“Yes, Master,” Rey vowed and rose to her feet, continuing the journey up the stairs.

When she reached the top, Rey looked left to right and allowed the Force, in its wisdom, to choose her path. In a matter of moments, she rounded the corner and met face to face with the bearded elder monk and two of his bald followers. All at once Rey wanted to speak, but remembered the language barrier. Rey cursed her lack of education. She was only fluent in Basic, the standard language of the galaxy.

Thinking fast, she felt, surely, if she said Ben’s name enough, they would understand she sought to find him.

“Ben?” She met each man’s wrinkled gaze. Repeating, the name a second and third time, caused them to look at each other with uncertainty, but did little in the ways of non-verbal communication.

“I’m looking for Ben! Ben! Oh, if only you understood Basic,” exasperation filled her voice.

“You speak Basic?” The elder monk tilted his head in wide-eyed confusion. His accent thick, “We thought you spoke very little at all.”

She could hardly believe her ears. “Little at all? Of course, I speak Basic. I’m from Jakku. I’m Luke Skywalker’s Padawan!” Taking a deep breath, she calmed and observed the ceaseless bewilderment on their faces. Something was off. Peculiar, and it gave her a very bad feeling. “Why did you assume I spoke very little?”

The elder monk spoke slowly and never lowered his skeptical brow, “Your husband implied as much.” He paused to lift his hand to his chin, feeling his beard. We understood…” he struggled to find the correct language syntax, “He asked to marry you.”

“He asked?” Rey felt a tug at her heart, accompanied by a sinking feeling. “I understood we couldn’t enter this Temple without being married!”

“Couldn’t enter this Temple without being married?” The elder stared at her clearly, puzzled. He repeated it again, his foreign accent trying to deliver the pronunciation correctly.

Rey became lightheaded. Her already conflicted heart betraying her. He had lied to her. He claimed he never lied. Why would he create such a falsehood? She moved against the corridor wall for support, wanting to drop to the floor. It was impossible!

“Where is Ben?” Rey sank.

“Ben is gone,” the elder drew near, placing his hand on her shoulder with concern. “He left.”

“He left,” Rey fought the urge to cry. Although she had only known him for a short time, he had promised to be honest with her. He promised to return her to Skywalker. Too much time had passed already. Danros Loiron drew nearer every second and Kylo Ren had vanished. She thought she had sensed…something more between them. Water welled in her eyes. How could this be? Yet, the truth was staring her in the face. From the beginning, she had been wary of the truce and trusting him. Her Master had been so certain of his nephew.

“He spoke,” the elder monk encouraged her to rise, “saying you stay here.”

“Stay here in indeed,” she frowned, but straightened her back, “Where is the crystal? The one you keep sacred?”

“Crystal?” The elder looked at her blankly, “There’s no crystal here.”

Chapter Text

Ben had waded through some swamps in his time, but never in the cold, darkness, and never alone.

Of course, the crystal wasn’t inside the Temple. That would be too easy. The monks, the humble fools, knew very little of their own history. Even when he probed their weak, innocent minds.

Yet, standing at the gate, being wed to Rey, he noticed a familiar but ancient Jedi symbol on the Temple’s cornerstone. It translated, roughly, to the word “beneath.” Which led him to realize, there had to be a way under the Temple.

The crystal existed. It was here. He could feel the draw of the sheer amount of power.

And it was easy to see why Danros Loiron had mistaken Skywalker for the crystal. Both, though one was organic, possessed such remarkable potential for the dark side. Ben knew the difference. But he could only accredit the understanding to his familiarity with his uncle.

Luke had always been there. Patient, kind, and quick with friendly advice, Skywalker had been his mentor. As time progressed, he had also been his Master. Even to this day, he owed his life to Skywalker’s skilled training.

Yet, he was certain, someday, he would owe his death to it as well.

Circling the base of the Temple, appeared easier said than done. The small stream under the Temple’s gate turned into a bog, which led into a swamp. Too late, Ren realized, the swamp was more ominous than it first appeared.

Treading the mud became a struggle. His boots, normally comfortable, sank, stuck, and filled with water with every step. Worse, the silt smelled of rotting material, which quickly coated and splashed every exposed inch of his flesh. His helmet saved his face and hair, although the outside of the helmet itself was becoming contaminated by the muck. He felt as vile as he looked.

Sweet Scavenger would hate him when she saw him again. But it would be worth it to obtain the crystal. When Danros Loiron was dead, Kylo Ren would have no equal. No other threat from the dark side, save himself. He needed its power. With it all would be perfect, all would be right, as Vader had long ago intended.

Fighting forward with what little moonlight the Force had granted him, Ren found no door. Having nearly treaded the entire outside base, he paused at a crack in the Temple’s foundation. He removed his glove and hovered his long fingers over the space. A slight draft touched his skin and he knew and sensed something existed there. If there had been an entrance before, perhaps time or someone fearful, had sealed it. But they could not hide what was rightfully his.

Ren lowered his hand to reach his lightsaber, just as he felt a tug. He might have blamed it on the swamp, if not for the sudden, tight squeeze around his entire ankle. As his lightsaber flew to his hand, he felt the sharp stab of a large barb cut his flesh.

The painful hold wrenched him backward. As his shoulders hit the mud, he was sliding, and for an instant, struggling to perceive in the darkness, that which was sky and that which was ground. Infuriated at the painful setback, he felt the anger course through his veins. He propelled his dark power forward, towards the madding pull of the mysterious creature.

The pull immediately ceased. Ren took a deep breath through his mask and pushed his arms and shoulders against the muck to lift his torso. Seated, but sinking back into the filth, he lifted his leg and struggled to bend his knee and pull his ensnared ankle forward for examination. Finally, he saw the long barbed tongue that held him, its owner frozen under his power. He cut his ankle free and through his wrath, hurled his lightsaber into, what he knew, was the creature’s skull hidden deep within the mud. When he withdrew his blade, he clenched his fist and heaved the corpse of the amphibious goby deeper into the swamp.

He hoped, if there were others, its corpse would serve as a prelude to their fate.

He couldn’t be sure if the sting spreading through the wound was from the rotten silt or from a fresh poison injected by the beast. Either way, he didn’t have an instant to lose. He would need a bacta tank for it to heal properly. The likes of which, did not exist on this remote planet. But for now, the hindrance had to be endured.

Ren limped his way back to the crack in the Temple’s foundation. With his lightsaber still drawn he carved himself an entrance. He held his lightsaber like a torch as he bent to enter the dark, long forgotten passage.

Lifting his swelling foot to explore the tunnel, he knew it was going to be a long, tedious night.

Chapter Text

Rey held the ancient, glowing holocron higher as she examined the cube. She thought, yet again, how her Master never failed her. He had described the complex, palm-sized knowledge-keeping device perfectly. She took a second to marvel at its crystal-like facets.

If properly cleaned, it would be beautiful. The poor, forgotten object, had sat on the Temple’s altar for decades, growing cloudy with dust. Rey, turning it over in her hand, was thankful Darth Vader hadn’t destroyed them all. It seemed ironic, how often his father’s faults, saved Luke’s life. Hers, as well.

She’d show wicked Kylo Ren the shortcomings of the dark side. But, first, she had to find the crystal and avoid Danros Loiron. The holocron was key. The crystal had to be housed in the Temple. Even though she wasn’t strong enough to feel the crystal’s power for herself, she believed in her Master’s ability. Danros Loiron and Kylo Ren wouldn’t have journeyed all this way chasing the ghost of an object that didn’t exist.

Next to her, the candles on the altar flickered and filled the high ceiling with soot. Rey inhaled the smell of smoke and sweet candle wax. The monks who surrounded her in a small circle were silent, but wide-eyed with pique curiosity. In their lifetime, none of them had met a Jedi.

Although she was still a Padawan, the holocron responded to her Force-sensitive touch.

As desperate as it sounded, she found herself muttering, “Please, I need the crystal.” The villain could be here at any moment. She had no doubt that Kylo Ren had left her to join him. Perhaps he sought the knowledge of the Sith, however distorted from its true origins. She assumed it was the only logical reason he would leave without the crystal. Perhaps survival and mastery of his grandfather’s twisted sect had his plan all along. She had been a toy, an amusement, to bide his cruel time.

Though her heart was breaking and her nerves were shot from the brutal lesson of a broken truce, a moment’s pleasure, and the unwanted morning-after, she had to keep going. The light side of the Force would always vanquish the darkness. Never again would she intertwine with the dark side. No matter how dazzling the eyes, the touch, or the raw energy of her fraudulent husband.

She took another deep breath. Now was not the time to think of him. Although banishing him from her thoughts proved difficult. Memories of his kiss and touch haunted her. She struggled against them. Attachment. Sentiment. Even, possession. For a moment she had convinced herself he truly wanted her. Especially after the words he spoke, the way he looked at her.

Rey broke from her internal trance as the holocron slowly answered her with a riddle:

“What can start a war or end one?
What can give heroes strength or leave them powerless?
What can be snared with a glance, but by no force is compelled to stay?”

Her immediate thought was the obvious, The Force. But Rey held her words tight. She couldn’t be sure how many guesses she had to unlock the answer. Certainly, there had been wars started and ended without the Jedi. The Force was in-born. The power never left its users. Sometimes even after death.

That couldn’t be the answer.

If it wasn’t the Force, surely it was a weapon. A lightsaber could be moved with a glance. Yet the weapon had no mind of its own. It would stay at its Master side forever.

Rey exhaled and calmed herself as her Master had taught her. He was always lecturing her on lacking humility, patience, and compassion. Right now, he could add wisdom to the list. As she mulled over Luke’s own wisdom, the thought struck her that this holocron, an object long associated with training padawans, was most likely trying to teach her some lesson as well. The answer would be a Jedi virtue.

Humility and patience didn’t fit.

Compassion seemed ill fit to start a war, however perhaps it could in the defense of the weak.

“Compassion?” She spoke clearly, and held her breath.

She waited. There was no answer or movement.

Time was wasting! She had killed enough time already love-making with Kylo Ren! Love, indeed. He had snared her with his simmering glance and left soon enough.

The idea dawned on her with an ache in her chest. Would the holocron mock her? Hadn’t it been programmed at a time when love was forbidden?

But she was out of hope and ideas.

“Love,” she uttered the bitter word, trying not to think of Luke’s question or her promise to bring Ben back with her.

The holocron’s inner mechanisms turned and suddenly it projected a map. Rey’s eyes quickly searched it, recognizing Temple’s level with the altar, and seeing for the first time a hidden room under the altar’s floor. What’s more, the room was the start of a path that led deep under the Temple, turning into a maze of corridors, all which eventually converged into a large arena.

“Thank you,” she filled with gratitude. Eyeing the map for a second more, she stuffed the holocron into Kylo Ren’s overly large pocket.

Without asking, she marched to one of the tall candelabras, blew out the candles with three puffs of air, and lifted it by the pole. Quicker than the monks could protest, she slammed its base against the ancient brick, until it gave signs of collapse. As it cracked and fell away, Rey stepped back, unsure how much of the dusty floor would give to the space below.

In a frenzy, monks formed a new circle to her side. Some knelt in wonder, examining the bizarre reveal. Others began arguing in their native tongue, apparently confused by her demolition. Some appeared to defended her, others accused her, all while the elder monk made his way from his silent perch in the back of the room.

“Basic, please,” Rey put the candelabra aside, and tried to keep her expression reassuring. She mimicked her Master’s calming Jedi head nod, “If the crystal’s here. I believe it’s in this hidden room.”

“It is true…” the elder craned his head over the opening. With a wave of his arm, one of his brothers rushed to drop a synthetic light into the mysterious cavity before them. It fell, bounced, and rolled onto the lower surface of hidden room. The outline of chests and trunks of simmering treasure became visible.

Eyeing the drop carefully, Rey realized it would be an easy climb downward. She had descended from much greater heights in her young life. The fallen Star Destroyer on Jakku came to mind. For the first time in the past several hours, she felt the crystal was within reach. The path was clear. She would not fail her Master.

Rey searched the crowd, “Could anyone fetch us a rope?”

Several of the monks ran to oblige her request.

With the rope tightly secured to her waist, Rey rappelled to the dust-covered floor of the hidden room.

She barely had the synthetic light in her hand, before the elder called, “What do you see?”

Raising the light high above her head, the room was a treasure cove of lost Jedi relics. Marble and gold statues. Portraits and busts. Ancient books. Ornamental dwarf trees strong in the Force. Hundreds of ornate chests with deeply carved Jedi symbols. Luke would have a field day. If they ever started a proper academy, this very room, contained more history than the two of them knew put together.

“Relics from legends!” Rey felt the excitement rise in her voice.

Cautious not to disturb the frail chests, Rey’s eyes darted around their daunting number. How would she ever find the crystal, without being able to feel it?

She looked past an open crate of similarly designed holocrons, and noticed a chest eerily similar to the one at Maz’s Castle. The hair on her neck stood on end. The Force drew her to it. Surely, this was what she sought.

Lifting the latch, Rey was immediately disappointed. Instead of a crystal, the chest contained a lightsaber. The handle was curved. Having never seen the likes of it, she found it entirely odd. The designer was a very eccentric Jedi.

But she would need a lightsaber. The crystal would do them no good without one. Perhaps the Force, in its wisdom, was showing her the way. One small step at a time.

With slight apprehension, she touched the hilt, mindful of the Force vision she had once received. She was not eager to relive the memories attached to a strange blade. The experience had drained her, and today, time, as well as, emotional clarity, escaped her.

With the weapon firmly in her grasp, Rey relaxed, realizing that the unusual lightsaber held no shocking nightmares for her. Perhaps, because its owner was long deceased, its recollection of the past had faded entirely.

Just then, the synthetic light, given to her by one of the monks, blinked and slowly faded. She shook it, yet it would not glow to life again. The battery within had died.

Needing a light in the darkness, she turned on the lightsaber. As the blade came to life, a chill spread through her. In her hand, it glowed a menacing Sith red. Why had such a wicked object been placed in this Temple? To whom had it belonged? She’d never held an artifact belonging to the Sith. Unable to fathom keeping such an item, while struggling to ignore the goosebumps rising on her arms, she deactivated it. Instantly, she dropped the weapon and twitched her hand in a swell of revulsion.

“Rey,” a haunted voice soundlessly called. With the Force flowing over her, she felt a pull, an impulse to move deeper into the Temple’s underground.

Instinctively, she thought of Ben. Had she created a disturbance upon touching the horrid Sith artifact?

It was the least of her worries. She couldn’t see.

Rey tilted her head to the small square opening above. For a mere second, she found it odd that the monks were no longer straining their necks to see and marvel at the lost treasure. However, perhaps the novelty of the situation had sent them into some deep prayer. The Force bid monks to remain calm as well.

“Is anyone there?” She projected her voice. As no one stirred, she cupped her hands to her mouth, hoping the echo would carry further. “Do you have another light?”

All at once, Rey heard a foreign shout. Followed by a painful cry. She didn’t believe her eyes as the body of the elder monk dropped through the opening and fell like a limp doll. Although Rey heard his body make impact with the chests and dusty floor, she did not hear him call or shout.

She sensed it. The elder monk was already gone. Someone had broken his neck before lifelessly tossing him into the hidden room. The cold she had assumed radiated from the Sith lightsaber, grew and spread through her. A fresh chill nipped at her skin.

Fighting the fear, she called the vile Sith blade to her hand. Any weapon, even an evil one, was better than none.

With a sharp sneer, Rey met the glowing, pierced, orange eyes above her.

Danros Loiron’s blue humanoid figure came slowly into view. His oily and unkempt skin and hair hanging long on his stout, heavy frame. Coming closer to the edge, gripping the stone with spiraling fingernails, he blocked out the remainder of the light.

Seeing her against the red glow of the Sith lightsaber, his wild, unhinged laughter rang from above. He shook uncontrollably from mirth.

“I heard that Skywalker had a Padawan once again,” he gave a twisted, rotten tooth smile as his eyes danced over Rey’s petite figure. “I wrongly assumed that his sniveling bastard nephew cried his way back to the light. Never dark enough for Vader’s legacy, that one. Pity,” he spat. His grin widened. “Instead, I find a sweet little chit. You hold that blade with such contempt. I have nothing to fear from you. Give me the blade, girl, and the crystal, and I promise your doom from me will be swift and painless.”

Rey took a step back, eyes never leaving the villain. Luke had trained her well, but she had to admit, here Danros would have the upper hand. Without looking away, she could sense a fight in this room would not be to her advantage. She wasn’t strong enough yet. Danros could lift the statues, block her path, or even choose to entomb her entirely. He had the high ground.

Luke’s combat training echoed in her mind, “Always seek and wait for the high ground. Be patient with your foes. Give them time to make a mistake.”

On her own, she had bested Kylo Ren. However, her skill was at its greatest in nature, on an open plain.

The arena, she remembered the map. That was to her advantage. Through the maze of chests and treasure, she felt for the corridor. It waited with a cool draft to her left.

“You should have heard the elder monk! He said there is no crystal here!” Rey shouted the truth, from a certain-point-of-view.

Danros’ dark laughter rang and echoed over the Temple walls again, “Lies become you. But your thoughts betray your deceitful little mouth. You know I feel its power. You know I would not chase a ghost. The legends are real.”

“So they say!” Rey shouted and broke into a run. While dashing for the drafty corridor, she propelled a chest of holocrons upward. As she ran, she heard Danros growl as the cubes swarmed him, followed by another madding cackle of wild amusement.

Ducking into the dark corridor, she called on the Force to guide her through the twisted underground.

Chapter Text

As Rey navigated the turns in the pitch-black, dank maze, she could almost hear Danros’ footsteps behind her. She certainly heard the echo of his haunting, unhinged cackle. He felt her presence, knew her fear. Calming her panic, she breathed, and chose corridor after corridor, feeling the correct pull from the Force. Her plan depended on staying one sure-footed step ahead.

Finally, she turned to the gateway of the arena. Her heart was racing and her sides hurt from trying to catch her breath. She couldn’t stop. This had to work.

Instantly, a set of hands grabbed her, covering her mouth and waist, pulling her backward. She dug her heels into the slippery ground but was rushed flush against a muscular, tall male body. A body and embrace she knew intimately. He smelled of rot and blood.

He kept his glove over her mouth as he kissed the back of her hair. Remembering, Rey struggled and tried to jerk away. She wouldn’t give in and doom the entire galaxy! He only held her tighter.

The sound of his voice calmed its way into her head, “Don’t be afraid. Danros is close. I can destroy him. But we have bigger problems. There’s a large creature alive down here.”

A chill ran down Rey’s spine as he tangled his long fingers through her hair and softly kissed the nape of her neck. It felt like a final farewell.

Rey’s mind reeled. His touch seemed to beg, “Remember our truce. Trust me, until Danros is dead.”

This close, she could feel his heart race with the anticipation of battle. Hers was a near match. She ached, knowing his heart had drummed just as intensely during their passionate brush. Conflict settled in her mind. She tried to push it away.

Directly, Danros’ thunderous laugh echoed closer. In a second he would round the corner, and the fight would begin. Kylo Ren pressed his hand firmer against Rey’s waist and released her mouth. With his free hand, he drew his lightsaber up and ignited the angry red hue. Rey shuddered against him. From shock instead of fear. Ren’s blade had completely changed, altered from the time she had last seen the weapon ignited in the forest to defend her. Although the color still glowed a menacing bright red, the blade no longer maintained a ragged, unstable appearance. Once, the energy had raged with a volatile anger. Now it glared solid and sure. She could feel the tremendous power flowing from the inside. As his strong forearm flexed against her waist, she realized he had found the legendary Kyber crystal. Sometime in the night, he’d reconstructed his entire lightsaber to house it. She knew from her own lightsaber construction such dedicated meditation would take hours.

Danros would not be pleased. And she was sure, in the end, neither would Luke.

“Danros,” Kylo Ren called out to the false Sith with disdain.

Recognizing Ren’s voice, Danros answered with another predictable cackle. He turned down their illumined corridor, then halted, raising his own dark red blade. His orange eyes widened. He felt the pull of the power, too.

“Kylo Ren. You would be the one to find it,” he drooled and spat. “Still following Snoke with mealy mouthed dedication? Parading with those pathetic Acolytes? Living in the shadow of both Skywalker and your grandfather?”

Ren clenched his arm against Rey, but tilted his head and glared at Danros. His anger was rising. “You know as well as I, shadows were a Sith’s strength. I am the heir of the darkside.”

A burst of laughter shook Danros’ gut. “And, yet, you are not a Sith. You have been misled in your history lessons. Leave Snoke.” He made a fist and smiled through his rotten teeth, “Kill the clit now and join me.” Danros’ eyes loomed on Rey’s familiar proximity against Ren. Quickly registering they were lovers, the smile on his face fell. “Surely you know her, and her distractions are fleeting. Worthless. Kill her, and together we can hunt and destroy Skywalker.”

Fuming, Rey tore from Ren’s embrace and ignited the strange curved hilt she’d found. She took her favorite stance, lightsaber above her head, ready. She’d show the fool she’d not die easily. Here in the open, she had a chance.

Ren’s eyebrows rose, questioning her mysterious red blade an instant before his lips lifted in firm approval. It was Ren’s turn to laugh at Danros. “Never,” he muttered. “The two of us will go on long after you, and Snoke, and Skywalker are dead.”

“Always arrogant,” Danros bit his tongue, “So like your mother. Shame, really, to stomp out such a legacy for darkness. But if I must…” He sighed with true disappointment.

Feeling Danros’ distraction and seeing an opening, Rey leapt forward, angling her blade for Danros’ neck. Quicker than he seemed, Danros rotated his wrist blocking her. Their blades crashed with sparks of energy, two red sabers in the darkness. His brute strength was nearly too much. Rey struggled with both hands to keep him from pressing her blade backward. She was slipping and could feel the heat off her mysterious blade warming her torso as Danros gained the upper hand, leaning their sabers ever closer to her body. Wrenching her fingers around the hilt, she knew she had misjudged his raw power. For one so round, he was strong and quick. He would have to be outsmarted.

Joining the fight, Ren lunged, despite his serve limp, slashing for Danros’ middle. In the blink of an eye, Danros anticipated the strike. He Force Pushed Rey back, causing her to slam against the wall of the arena, scraping her skin against the hard stone before landing on the wet earthen floor. In the haze of red light, she struggled and steadied herself, and watched Ren lock blades with the sneering villain. Her chest tightened. She could feel her would-be husband’s ire and injury. Something had happened. He wasn’t his usual self. Despite the all-power crystal, a slow spreading poison hindered his speed and strength.

“The power of the crystal is magnificent!” Danros filled with awe as he retreated from Ren’s repeated strikes. Although Ren drove him back, Danros was quick as he sidestepped on the defense.

“Too bad,” Ren jeered confidently through his pain, “Vader intended it for me, the grandson he foresaw.”

“If you still believe that, boy, your pride will be your downfall.” Danros parried Ren’s sharp striking motion. For a split second, Danros’ glowing eyes darted to Rey as she rushed forward to back Ren and end the fight. Suddenly frantic, sensing his own cornered doom, Danros threw up his crawl-like nails and shot a stream of lightning from his fingers. The snaking, snapping branches of lightning hit and shocked Ren’s entire being, illumining his bones and singeing his ivory flesh. He cried and involuntarily curled and collapsed to the floor with a weak shout. The pain left him utterly open and helpless. Despite the hum and glow of his improved lightsaber, with the legendary crystal, Ren writhed and then was completely motionless.

Rey couldn’t make her feet move fast enough. Rushing to his side, she saw the vapor rise from the burns on his mud covered body. She lowered her hand to check his blistering flesh, but had to draw back from the intensity of the heat. He was alive. Her mind knew that she would sense his death. Sense it painfully, as she knew she cared, despite how he’d left her. Despite the darkness. Despite everything.

Rey drew herself up, eyes tearing through her silent rage.

“Furious clit,” Danros spat. “No wonder you interest him. Give in to your darkness, girl. Give me a little challenge, before I destroy you as well.”

“R-rey,” Ren muttered as he struggled to lift his head. The weight and the pain proved too much. He winced on the stone floor, unable to rise.

Rey spared a moment to turn back to Ren, mindful, her senses feeling and watching Danros.

“Take it,” Ren’s blistered hand tried to raise his improved crossguard. His breath fell in broken rasps, “It’s yours.”

“Wrong,” Danros growled and hurled his lightsaber at Rey.

Before Rey’s eyes Danros’ weapon flew through the air, whirling like an angry red disc. She stood her ground, ready to block, and attempt to deflect it away.

In the midst of distraction, Danros slid to Ren. Always laughing, the villain crushed Ren’s wrist under his stocky boot. As Ren cried out, his crossguard flew to Danros’ hand.

Fearful and draining, Rey caught Danros’ blade in her own hand. Although two lightsabers were better than one, they would not hold for long against the powerful crystal and improved cross-blade.

Danros’ laughter grew wild and unhinged once more. He held the crossguard high in the air like a prize. Triumphant, his face widening with complete power. He knew he had won. The struggle for the crystal, and against the light and dark in the galaxy, was over. His eyes glided back to Rey. A wicked idea sprang to him. His teeth formed a toothy grin as he moved the tip of the blade between Ren’s shoulders. He would kill Kylo Ren slowly and make her watch his suffering.

“Any final words for your lover, clit? Before I make him beg to be sent to Vader?”

“R-Reeey,” Ren convulsed under Danros’ boot. Laughing all the while, Danros began carving an ancient Sith symbol into Ren’s back with the tip of the blade.

Before Rey could blink, Ren’s voice was in her head, “RUN!”

She couldn’t. How could she leave him to die and not attempt to kill Danros? It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. If she didn’t go down trying, if she didn’t sacrifice her self, then the galaxy was already doomed. Luke would never forgive her for not trying. She would never forgive herself.

But then, she felt it.

The creature, the one placed to guard the crystal, was coming.

Ren had been holding it frozen with his power, but exhausted and broken, he could hold it no longer.

The creature, too, was angry. It had failed its sole purpose and would never forgive itself, either.

The Force bore into her skin, urging her to go.

She answered.

She turned and ran.

Immediately, the creature crashed through the stone wall behind her. The giant predatory arachnid lit the corridor with the glow of its biofluorescence tail and claws. The spot where Rey stood seconds earlier collapsed into a pile of debris. In the chaos, Rey slid to the floor, avoiding being crushed. Disobeying the pull to escape, she lifted and turned her head in time to watch Danros dart away from Ren. Surprise and terror crossed the villain’s face as the arachnid hissed through its mouth parts and raged forward seeking the lost treasure. Stepping over Ren’s broken body, its sole focus locked on Danros and the crystal.

Danros scrambled for a mere second, but then remembered himself and the power he wielded. He halted and took a defensive stance. The sneer returned to his rotten mouth. When the creature’s tail lashed at him, he bellowed with glee and whirled the blade with delight.

Rey watched the mad struggle. The creature’s poison tail and the claws nearly reached Danros. Danros fought and slashed into the long legs of the arachnid, removing them one by one. Before long, unable to walk, the broken creature continued to lash its tail at Danros. It would die to have the crystal returned.

Rey knew she could end part of it now. Still holding Danros’ blade and the mysterious curved one, her mind dreamed of stabbing Danros in the back. Could she climb over the rumble and move fast enough?

“LEAVE!” Ren’s plea was a scream in her mind. With the last of his reserve he demanded, “GO BACK TO SKYWALKER!”

Rey felt her anger all around her. Ren was dying, and something inside her was dying, too. The search for the crystal had brought them together. It had torn them apart. Now it would claim his life. She couldn’t leave. She needed vengeance. It wasn’t fair! She cared! Despite it all, she cared!

She stepped forward, visualizing how she could slice Danros in two.

Her thoughts betrayed her and Danros felt it.

In the blink of an eye, he threw Ren’s lightsaber at the creature and turned to Force Freeze Rey. As immobility hit Rey, her heart hammered in horror. Was this her destiny? To come this far, only to perish in a temple she held sacred, with her lover and a screeching arachnid?

From Danros’s hand Ren’s crossguard flew through the air and buried itself deep into the arachnid’s large abdomen. The creature thrashed with pain, desperately pinching and stinging into the air. It reached again and again, but nearing the end of its life, the creature stopped and gave into suffering.

Meaning to celebrate his near victory Danros stepped forward.

“I’ll carve into you like I did Vader’s pathetic grand-spawn! How does feel, vermin? Knowing it’s mine?” He wiped his drool on his sleeve.

“I believe I’ll keep your eyes as my trophy. I’ll begin carving them out now,” he drew close to retrieve the blade with another bout of unhinged laughter that rocked his frame.

Without warning, the tail of the creature swung forward, with all of its effort, a final time. It stuck Danros square in the shoulder blade.

In swift agony, Danros fell to his knees, the spreading poison turning his limbs numb. He dropped Ren’s lightsaber, allowing it to roll away. A goose-egg pocket of venom boiled on his shoulder. He coughed and licked his lips, unwilling to believe his mistake. It was over. He crawled on the floor in pain.

Rey barely had time to process her good fortune. She couldn’t be certain if Danros released her of his own free will or due to his failing strength. She didn’t take a moment to consider. She rushed to Ren. Rolling him over, she desperately felt of his chest and searched for a heartbeat.

“Finish it, miserable clit,” Danros yelled through his agony.

Rey felt the Force and remained calm. She shook her head. “It is finished!” To prove her point, she hurled his lightsaber into the darkness, hoping it would never be seen again.

“Damn you and the planet you came from, girl,” he growled. He let out a series of expletives, all directed at her. The boil on his shoulder popped and ran with a steaming, putrid swell of blood and infection. Again, Danros spread his long, crawl like fingers over the floor trying to focus. “If I’m to die, I hoped it’d be by the hands of a Jedi. I’ll settle, sweet apprentice. Kill me. Seal my fate. End my suffering!”

“You sealed your own fate!” Rey yelled. She felt it. Soon the poison would move to his heart. She ignored him and turned her focus back to Ren.

Danros choked on his laughter. “Useless fool! You think he needs you? You’re no Jedi. Look at you, Kylo Ren’s whore. I don’t need vision to know how that will end!”

A sliver of anger pressed into Rey’s better judgment.

“Why waste your time? Naïve clit!” Danros scratched the flood with his nails again, “After Skywalker and Ren use you up, you’ll be back on the cursed rock they found you. I see the future clearly…you’ll be crawling, begging, slaving away. A Jedi? You’re an insult to the history of their entire Order!”

His insulting, bitter words crept into Rey’s soul.

She had come so far. Counted so many lonely, miserable days.

Rising, she stomped forward, tired of Danros’ mouth. Tired of his cruel laughter.

He knew nothing.

He’d done enough.

In her anger, she swung her red blade in one fluid motion and sliced off his head. His body fell as his face tumbled away over the ground.

She took a deep, ragged breath, feeling icy but content.

She’d done it for herself, but the galaxy would be grateful.

The creature gave a low whimper, bringing Rey back to her full awareness. She moved an arm’s distance away from its glowing eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “You failed your Master as much as I failed mine.” She moved to touch it, but suddenly drew back. She could feel its suffering. Unlike Danros, it deserved better. “Be at peace,” she whispered and swiftly ended its misery. Allowing tears to fill her eyes, she pulled her blade from its still body, and walked away.

Clipping the mysterious curved hilt and the crossguard to Ren’s outer robe, which still covered her like a too large dress, Rey knelt over her lover once more. She instinctively kissed his unresponsive lips and wept over his scorched body. The rational thing to do was end his misery as well. There was no ship. His had crashed. Theirs was several days’ march through the forest. She knew a bacta tank was his only hope. Here his only hope was null. He’d never make the journey.

The Force was flowing over her racing mind as she gave into despair.

“Oh, Ren! There isn’t any hope!”

Chapter Text

“Here! He’s here!” A deep Force sensitive call sounded through the gateway of the arena.

Rey rose for an instant, not moving far from Ren’s broken body. She worried fear had overtaken her tired mind with delusions. She couldn’t place the mysterious voice. It wasn’t Luke. The elder monk was dead. She sensed the rest of the Temple’s brotherhood, whose who had not perished alongside their leader, had fled further into the snow capped mountains.

“He’s here!” Somehow she knew the voice spoke of Ren.

Clanking footsteps echoed, drawing closer. Instantly synthetic lights blinded Rey before they lowered, revealing an old nightmare before her tear soaked eyes. In the fading glow of the dead fluorescence arachnid, the Knights of Ren drifted towards her and their Master like solemn phantoms. Rey had seen them once and only once, in her vivid, haunting Force vision. There they had been merciless in their command to slaughter. In this incredible moment, she feared she had dreamed them into life. New villains, content to destroy!

Forgetting everything but the sudden impulse to survive, Rey ignited Ren’s crossguard. If they wanted a fight, Rey knew she had an improved chance with the crystal. Ways to defeat them rapidly played over her mind. Perhaps, if she could deflect back the blasts from their varying weapons simultaneously. She sized them up one by one. They weren’t her normal desert raiders of Jakku. Their armor appeared heavier than a stormtrooper’s. Exhausted and emotional, Rey was not keen to face another fight. She intended to hold Ren’s hand as he passed into the next level of existence. She’d barely had a moment to regret her anger in killing Danros and lament the death of poor arachnid. Regardless, she’d come too far to die now.

Without a word, the knights surrounded their Master, halting before Rey. Abruptly, the knights did not do as she expected. Ren’s second-in-command bowed his head and shoulders obediently. His companions on either side knelt respectfully at her feet.

The second-in-command’s voice was deep but muffled through the Force. Pressing his hand to his chest in reverence, he silently pleaded, “Allow us to serve you.”

Rey only had a second to blink, before they were on their feet, moving over Ren’s body. Then Rey saw what they intended to do. This was, foremost, a rescue. With utmost care, it took three knights to lift and move Ren’s long, tall frame across the arena, through the gate, and down the dark corridor. The knights who quickly carried him made no point to stop. She sensed they thought they could save him, though time was working against them. Suddenly, she felt a twinge of hope restored. Rey allowed herself to believe, since Danros’ first mark across his flesh, that Ren could survive. Stunned and but grateful, Rey was powerless to do anything but watch.

Breaking Rey from her thoughts, the knight in command approached her again, bowing, “Our Master will wish to speak to you when he has healed. You’re to be his guest on the shuttle.”

“How did you know where to find us?” Rey immediately demand. She held her breath at yet another unbelievable circumstance. She wondered how they knew? Had they sensed her conflict? Her cry of desperation? The thought angered her. It shouldn’t have, but the emotion rose. Where had they been the entire time? Why had they not fought at their Master’s side? They were strangely Force sensitive. They could have recused him sooner! He had crash-landed, fought against the planet’s elements while stalking her and her Master. They might have saved them from the fire. They might have brought them to the Temple!

The knight shook his head very slightly, and answered vaguely, “I cannot reveal Ren’s ways.”

“I can’t go with you,” she tensed. She still couldn’t believe the strange occurrence. As much as she cared about their Master’s fate, there was no telling where in the galaxy they would take her. These knights were loyal to Ren, but in all likelihood, they were also loyal to the First Order. As ill prepared as she felt to face the end, the time had come to part ways. As long as Ren survived, as long as he had a chance at life, Rey knew she could live with little regret.

The lead knight returned to his full height and seemed to sense her hesitation. “Would knowing we are sworn to return you to Skywalker influence your decision?”

Rey paused. It might be a lie or even a trap. Ben had sworn he never lied. But he had deceived her about their ceremony, left her without a word, and nabbed the crystal for his own. She wouldn’t go back to being a prisoner. Danros was dead. The truce was over.

“There’s no time to waste. We must leave.” The knight implored her.

She was still contemplating how to reply when she felt a sudden stab through her heart. Suffering.

From somewhere in the underground, as the knights carried him away, Rey could sense Ren struggling to come to in the deepest throes of pain. He fought against the pain, the burns, both electrical and carved into his body by Danros, as well as, a vengeful struggle with the desolation of his emotions. Possession. Separation. Through his flickering consciousness and the Force, he cried out to her. His howling screams, his sharp repeated roar of the word “Scavenger,” stopped her breath for an instant and haunted the secret corners of her mind. The intensity made her yearn to be by his side.

She wanted to rush to him. Her heart ached and would break a million times knowing what they had shared. Luke had asked, and she knew, knew her feelings were true. If given the full desire of her heart Ren would return with her to Luke and his teachings. Their ceremony, as strange as it had been, wouldn’t have to be a sham. She could make this a victory for the light. As his agony bore into her, she knew she at least had to try. She couldn’t move forward with her heart in the past, second-guessing the possibilities between them. How could she make the journey, through the forest alone, back to Skywalker, never knowing the outcome of his rescue? No. If she said good-bye to Ren, it would be to his face. She’d not leave him in the night.

She remembered his words on their journey, before the ceremony, “What of the truce between you and I? Will you accompany me back to Skywalker?”

Back to Master Luke. She vowed she would go that far. No further.

Her attention returned to the lead knight, to her once childish nightmare. With her emotions soaring, she wasn’t afraid anymore. They were sworn to return her to Skywalker. With Ren’s crossguard in her hand, she’d see that they did.

Giving in to her feelings, she agreed with a careful nod of her head, and followed the knights to their shuttle, waiting, hovering over the deep, murky swamp.

Chapter Text

Rey’s first evening on the shuttle did not go as she expected. She had hoped to stay at Ren’s side. Her hopes were quickly dashed.

By the time she arrived onboard, the shuttle’s medbay door stood sealed and locked, separating her from Ren in the cold, quiet corridor. Although she couldn’t see or hear through the shiny metallic door, beyond her soiled reflection, she could feel the buzz of activity over Ren’s damaged body. She felt his fighting presence. The medical droids were accustomed to the wounds, even an occasional detached limb, but it had been ages since they had used an entire tank of bacta mid-flight. As the healing gel poured over him, Ren’s life inched from danger to restoration.

Rey bit back her frustration over their separation. She pressed her hand to the door, steadying herself against his pain. For an instant, she considered drawing Ben’s crossguard and demanding her way into the far corner of the medbay. She had a feeling, a pull, to be at his side. A need to see him heal with her own eyes.

The thought was too impulsive. She had been too impulsive with Danros’ death. He had taunted her, and she had caved to her anger. Her Master had readily accepted her complicated dalliance with his nephew. However, he would not allow such disregard for the Jedi virtues. She had to remember the ways of the light.

Rey buried her face in her hands. She had skimmed across a dark path. She vowed not do so again. She would return to Luke with Ren, as she promised her Master. Then she would bare her soul and hope Ren would leave with them. They could be together, if only…

However, first, he had to live.

Without a sound, she heard Ren’s second-in-command deeply acknowledge, “He’s survived far worse.”

The strange, vague statement sank over her. Somehow, Rey found it oddly reassuring. She lowered her hands and stared at the still silent phantom.

He stood several paces down the hallway. His head remained bowed with utmost, although eerie, respect. With a courteous and hospitable tone, he offered, “You must, for his care, allow him to heal without distraction. Your room is being prepared. Our Master would rather see you rested and fed, than contemplating in the corridor.”

Rey’s stomach betrayed her at the mention of food. Waking without Ren, after such exhausting passion, and desperately needing to find the crystal, she hadn’t eaten a morsel all day. She turned back to the door, giving herself a reprieve from looking upon the dark figure whom somehow knew traces of her thoughts.

How could she retire to some private room when Ren’s healing, their conflict, wasn’t finished? Time was of the essence. She needed time to speak with him. She had to make him see. Make her feelings known. She needed to understand his intentions the moment he was able. Else, their time together was at the fleeting end.

“Heartache does not become you, my lady."

With her eyes wide, Rey spun her gaze back to the mysterious figure. Who was he, that he knew so much, and felt entitled to be so bold in statements concerning her emotions?

”It is only a momentary separation. He will come for you the instant he is able.”

“How do you..?” She began, showing her vexation.

Just then, a dark BB unit rolled around the corner with a tray of food in its mechanical arm. The sound of its spherical body whirling across the ship’s floor broke Rey’s train of thought. The dark unit halted in front of Rey, beeped loudly for a second and tilted its head, implying an insistent attitude. Rey knew at once the unit intended for her to follow him. Reacting to the sight of food, Rey took a tiny step forward, away from the medbay door. Content that she would follow, the droid passed her and the knightly figure, continuing down the corridor with its mechanical mind set on its task. Even as the unit rolled away, the smell of hot baked bread, cinnamon icing, and freshly cut citrus fruit lingered in the air. Rey took in the delightful scent. Her mouth watered. Such items were the very best Luke’s Jedi Code allowed. They knew. Someone knew her diet.

Did they know everything about her?

She stopped herself from following the tray of food, knowing she shouldn’t be too trusting. She had to keep careful vigilance against the followers of the First Order. Else she’d be lured into a false sense of comfort. Her business was with Ben Solo and Ben Solo alone.

Defiant, she seated herself against the door, content to meditate until they allowed her into the medbay. She closed her eyes, dismissing the quiet phantom with a firm, “I prefer to stay.”

“Of course, my lady. Though I would warn you not to neglect yourself. We arrived ahead of the First Order, but they are well on their way. General Hux rarely shows any degree of mercy.”

Rey opened her eyes. The knight had mysteriously gone. He might have turned the corridor. Or he might have vanished into thin air.

Immediately, she returned to her feet. Her heart began racing. Whether she liked it or not another battle soon loomed before her. She needed to prepare herself. If the Knight could be trusted, General Hux could arrive at any moment. She wouldn’t play into the First Order’s hands and be brought before Snoke, the galaxy’s greatest deceiver. She wouldn’t be tempted to undo all the deeds her and Master had achieved for the light side of the Force.

Her Master!

Even a Jedi needed forewarning against an incoming army.

Rey was sure Luke had sensed Danros’ death and knew Ben’s suffering. Did he already know the crystal was safe? She placed the crossguard in her hands for reassurance and dipped into a trance-like state, searching the planet for her Master.

With some effort, Rey found him extraordinarily worn and tired. Rain off a recent storm had soaked through his traveling clothes and cloak. Mindful of the electricity in the air, he’d only managed to travel a few miles from the sea. The howling winds would be disorienting to the average man. Still Luke pressed on, trying to return to the Falcon.

“Master…”, she struggled to begin, “I’m with the Knights of Ren. The First Order’s on the way. I have the crystal! I’m going to bring Ben back to you. We have to form a plan!”

His voice in her head was ragged, “Rey, listen to me. Listen, very carefully. If I don’t make it back to the Falcon in time, I want you to leave without me…”

She immediately argued, “We’ll find you and leave together!”

“Rey, you have all the power you need inside you, but you’re not yet strong enough to face an ancient dark side user like Snoke. Not alone, Rey! Promise me you’ll leave!”

Feeling the need to argue more, Rey accidentally severed her reach. She found herself utterly alone again, still clutching Ren’s lightsaber.

Worse still, the smell of fresh bread made her stomach betray her with a fierce acid-churning growl.

She couldn’t fight the First Order like this. Not weakened by pangs of intense hunger. Even if they reached the Falcon and avoided a direct ground conflict, she needed her wits about her to fly the Falcon through the storm. In a worse case scenario, she would have to outrun TIE Fighters.

Ben, she reached out, her energy and resistance against hunger nearly gone. “I won’t be far,” she promised.

Resolved to return to the medbay door after she filled her stomach, Rey followed the smell of bread in the direction the BB unit had turned.