Barely a day passes before Rey feels the same stillness run through her veins. It is a quiet she will never grow accustomed to, the anticipation before he bursts into view and destroys what little she has left.
She braces herself with a sigh before forcing herself to look at his face. The circles under his eyes are darker than she remembers and the scar cuts deeper into his skin. The denial of a victory has done little in the way of making his features any more agreeable and she’d take pleasure in it if she weren’t so damned eager for him to go.
Kylo Ren nods his head as though they are old friends and she reaches for the saber that no longer lives on her hip. The blaster she finds is a lacking substitute, cold and unfamiliar as she aims it at his head, but it serves its purpose as he steps back, retreating even further into the darkness.
"Get out," she snarls. "Now."
She can't say his name. She doesn't know what it is anymore.
"No," he says matter-of-factly. “We both know I can’t.”
So instead they stand in silence like they are strangers, letting each second slowly pass them by. He stares at her like he is owed an answer, like he is owed an explanation for why she destroyed his fleet, and her thumb darts closer to the trigger.
He opens his mouth just once, slack jawed as though he's on the precipice of speech.
Before she can shoot him, he disappears.
That should be it, she thinks, now that Snoke is dead and gone. The last hurrah of a misguided era, over and done with nothing left. The thought is a comforting one and she feels more herself than she’s been in weeks.
The hours that follow are nearly euphoric and she basks in every solitary second while she does her best to help out on the makeshift base the Resistance has cobbled together. Each minute is filled with purpose and she looks forward to the day where Kylo Ren is only a memory.
It is three days later when she feels him prodding into her mind. Any attempts at resistance are overwhelmed by the fervor storming in her blood, the primal delight that comes with the ties between them growing closer.
With her luck, Rose will open the door to their room and find her blathering madness into the air. With her luck, the few friends that remain to fight for the galaxy will see how she has been tarnished.
Her intruder looks unsurprised to see her, his face still and his shoulders poised as though he has waited for nothing but this moment to arrive. Rey sees his saber jutting from its hilt and she feels its energy thrumming through the air, calling her to summon it once more.
"You killed Snoke," Rey says through gritted teeth. "The bond should be dead. Just like you.”
“If you wanted me dead,” Kylo Ren says. “You’d have killed me before you left.”
Rey spits on the ground between them and he lets out a snort through his stupid nostrils before rambling on.
"Snoke only created the bond," he tells her, speaking like she’s the dull-witted child he seems to think she is. "It's only this strong because of you. You’re the reason it thrives.”
"This is not my fault," she sneers.
"You're the one who touched me. You took my hand and let me hold yours," he says abruptly. "You wanted this to grow."
There’s a smug expression painting every corner of his face and she’s never missed Luke’s saber more. Kicking him wouldn’t be enough to satisfy, but it sounds so appealing.
"I wanted to help Ben," Rey says. "Not you."
"We're one and the same,” he tells her, slowly, each word deliberate. "You're usually pretty clever for a scavenger. I’d have thought you can put two and two together and realize that I never left.”
The hand on his saber falls to his side but the rest of him keeps still as he takes advantage of their forced cooperation.
"Are you still with the traitors?" Kylo Ren asks. “Or did you go back to wherever Luke was hiding to scavenge what’s left of my inheritance.”
"That's none of your business,” she snaps but he is undeterred.
"Isn't it?" He says, eyebrows raised. "The Resistance draws closer to death with every passing hour. If you're foolish enough to keep with them, I'll have no choice but to kill you when the time is right.”
"I'm sure that'll be hard for you," she says. “Killing me when all you’ve done since we’ve met is destroy everything you touch.”
"It's not what I want,” he insists with a fire in his voice.
She can feel his eyes, deep and demanding, boring into her skin. It is easier to ignore them, to focus only on the void surrounding him.
"I don't care about what you want,” she says.
"You made that perfectly clear when you left,” he snaps. “You were too afraid of having what you deserve…”
“I deserve a life without you in it,” she says. She can almost taste the anger coursing through her veins and she thinks briefly how disappointed Luke would be to see her sinking so low.
It takes only seconds to grab her staff and the thud it makes against his temple is the purest sound she has ever head. She expects a fight, nearly craves one, but he remains woefully unmoved, even with the bruise starting to purple on his skin.
"I will suffer through this bond until I can end it," she says, keeping the staff aloft. "Until then I have nothing to say to you."
There is nothingness once more and she’s never been so glad to see only the inside of her rooms.
She meditates. Or at least, she tries.
Rey sits each morning with legs crossed, her eyes closed as she searches for answers.
Luke's voice rings through her head, guiding her toward a light that she desperately craves. He is patient and he is wise but each word retreats further away the more she aims to listen.
The darkness is still there, stronger even now than it ever was, pulsing with blood and sweat and rage, as she climbs slowly toward the light. There are answers there too, she can feel them rattling through the air, but what little restraint she has left goes towards ignoring their siren call.
The cold of the dark cuts through her bones like a blade, setting every nerve on fire as she tries desperately to rise above its chokehold. But it is not the cold that fills her dreams
The ghosts of parents who never wished to know her are all but forgotten, replaced by a shadow she knows all too well.
It is a shadow that has no names and two. It is the phantom whose face she will never forget.
She retreats from her thoughts, drenched in sweat, and retreats to the most luxurious part of the new Resistance camp.
Poe had made it very clear that the freshers were terribly out-of-date, but she savors the three minutes allowed in her daily shower as though they will be her last. She lets the water, hot nearly as blood, dance over her skin. It’s nearly as wonderful as the rain storms had been on Ahch-To and she savors each drop until the water abruptly stops.
Her hair is heavy with water and the scent of standard-issue shampoo but Rey lets it air out as she rummages for the towel that has wormed its way toward the bottom of her bag.
She’s just grabbed it when she sees him standing just a few feet away, clearly amused. She lets out a string of curses and he smirks as she throws the towel over her exposed front.
"If this is your way of severing the bond,” Kylo says as she tightens the towel around her waist, “then you are doing a horrible job.”
"I’m working on it,” she hisses as she wraps the towel fully around herself. She holds it tight against her frame, ignoring the drip of her hair on the tile floor. “But I don’t harass you when you’re naked. You should work on returning the favor.”
"I wouldn't be offended if you did," he says with a shrug of his shoulders. "I have nothing to hide from you."
There's a fire growing in her cheeks, but it is easy enough to ignore as she grabs the comb from the top of her rucksack and throws it at him. He dodges it all too easily.
"Not all of us are bloody exhibitionists," she mumbles and his lips curl into something like a smile.
“Your body is a vessel for the Force, just as mine is,” he says. “There is no shame in it.”
“I’m sure that’s easy for you to say,” she mutters, glaring enviously at his cowl. And his boots. And his trousers. The only skin she can see is his face, pale and freckled amongst a sea of black and she’s never been so envious of anyone.
“I can undress too if you’d feel more comfortable,” he says. Something in the lilt of his voice reminds her of a smuggler she used to know and she’d laugh if he were capable of making jokes.
“Don’t,” she tells him but her entire face burns by the time he pulls off one of his gloves.
“I don’t mind,” he says, reaching for the second. He pulls it off with a great flourish and she lets out an indignant squawk, something more Porg than human, and he nearly smiles again as he starts to reach for his belt.
“I mean it, Ben,” she says. “Please.”
The plea escapes her before she has time to appreciate the magnitude of what she has said and his hand stops, frozen in surprise.
“I’m Ben again?” He asks, eyebrows raised.
“It was a mistake,” she says hurriedly. “Just like everything else about this. Just pretend it never happened.”
His body stiffens, disappearing just as quickly as he arrived, leaving her to dress in silence.
The thought of him half-dressed and waiting hangs heavy in her head and it is nearly impossible to ignore it.
She sees him each day that follows but he is just as silent as she had demanded.
Each time, he turns his head from her and focuses on the oppressive quiet. There are no attempts to wheedle her into conversation, no desperate commands to follow orders, or impassioned defenses of an order that would see her body deep beneath the ground
She tries to enjoy the silence, to delight in a bond that will surely end any day now. But when she is finally tired enough to sleep, only flickers of guilt linger and ebb deeper into her mind.
When she dreams, he is always Ben, and she wakes up biting her tongue.
It is after the twentieth of these silent visits that she asks about a child-sized cot stored in the back of the Falcon, something too rusty even for the trash heaps on Jakku.
She does not mention Han and neither does he, but he admits it was the most uncomfortable bed he’s ever had, and she takes pleasure from the thought of little Ben Solo, curled up underneath the covers with his eyes tracking the stars.
The visits are not painful now, but they are hardly conversations between friends.
She uses all her strength to cut the connection when he attempts to divine the Resistance’s plans. He is hardly any subtler each time she asks about the First Order’s hierarchy, stone-faced and bitter each time she tries to unravel which of Snoke’s plans still present a threat to the people she loves.
So instead they uncover one another, talking of everything and nothing. He pretends to care about Jakku, listening to her drone on about the flight simulators she had worked so hard to find. She wheedles him into talking about his first times controlling the Force, focusing only on the boy and not the family she knows was there by his side.
It is the most she’s ever talked with anyone and it scares her how much she looks forward to even a few minutes of conversation.
When Rey is not with him, she does whatever she can for the Resistance. There are always supplies to fetch or droids to repair and she can’t complain about the company, not when everyone is good and kind and just. But Poe spends each hour at General Leia’s side, learning all he can while there is still time. Finn is shadowed by some of the younger crew, their eyes wide as he tells them about how Rose, still walking with a cane, was brave enough to save them all.
The First Order has been silent for weeks. Rey is not vain enough to believe such a reprieve is for her.
"Have you told Leia about us?" Ben asks after two months. “I can’t imagine she’d approve.”
"We’re only talking,” Rey says, a bit too fast. “Don’t make it sound inappropriate.”
He’s not quite as distant as he was in the beginning, but he still stands nearly a foot away. If they were anyone else, it would be nothing but appropriate.
"Are you sure?” He says, eyebrows raised. "Skywalker looked like he was about to rip my arm clean off when he saw us together. That hardly seems ... appropriate.”
The memory of his hand pressed against hers rears its ugly head and she fails utterly at ignoring it.
"He was... worried,” Rey says and Ben looks almost pleased with himself.
"Worried that I'd steal you away?" he says. “You’re the one he should have worried about. You're the one who came to me."
Something heavy hangs in the air between them and Rey takes a step that feels like a lifetime. His shoulders tense and though she sees his hand curl around the hilt of his saber, she also sees it fall once he no longer worries about the threat of her retribution.
"Would you have come to me?” She asks quietly. "If I told you where I was hiding, would you have stolen me away?”
"Yes," he says without a moment’s hesitation. His face is heavy with solemnity and his eyes meet hers.
"And would you have brought me to Snoke?” she asks, voice even lower.
There is a pause, but he nods his head, suddenly unable to speak.
"Did you know he wanted to kill me?” she says, daring to go one step closer. “Did you know he wanted my blood on your hands?”
She could count each freckle that paints his face, could keep her tally with her hands if she truly wanted.
“It doesn’t matter now,” he says. “He’s dead. That’s all that matters.”
“It matters to me,” she insists, her head tilted to better meet his eye. “You said you had nothing to hide. Prove it.”
"I need to go,” Ben says gruffly and then suddenly he’s gone.
Ben disappears, and she pretends not to miss the time they spend together. She fills her days with every errand she can volunteer for, but the quiet hours in bed are an entirely different matter.
She thinks of him, no matter how hard she tries not to. She dreams of him and pretends to have only nightmares whenever anyone asks.
A week later, Finn and Rose make an announcement to what's left of the Resistance, standing at the edge of a too-large table that should be holding so many more. There’s a ring on Rose’s finger, shining almost as bright as the pendant on her neck, but not quite as bright as the smile on Finn’s face.
“I thought about waiting until the war was over,” Finn says determinedly. “But someone made me realize there’s no time to wait.”
He smiles down at Rose and Rose smiles back at him.
There are cheers and General Leia beams in a way that makes her seem decades younger.
“Love is rarely convenient,” she says. “But give me a few hours to give you two a proper celebration.”
There are no decorations and the only music is procured by C-3PO but it is the wildest party Rey has ever attended.
To be fair, it is the only party she has ever been to, and the only thing that makes it a party is the impressive amount of alcohol the pilots were able to find on such short notice.
Rey’s cup is never empty and though its contents burn her throat, she can’t deny the pleasure that comes with numbing her senses. The thought of her parents giving into this decadence should be enough to leave her lips dry, but she supposes this is the closest she’ll ever get to them, sneaking sips from a bottle and hiding from the world.
She watches from across the party as Rose adjust Finn's jacket collar. He leans into her touch with a contented sort of look. They kiss in a familiar gentle way, practiced and automatic, and her skin runs hot as Finn's hand curls around Rose’s waist. They are in one another’s space so easily, like it was as easy as breathing, and she’s never been so jealous of the boy who saved her from life on Jakku.
She slinks out without a word as the drinking continues, bitter and untouched.
Despite the days of silence, Rey calls into the void until she knows her demand will be answered.
To her chagrin and delight, Ben appears, standing only a few inches away. His arms are bare and she can see the ripples of muscle lying dormant.
“Ben,” she says happily, letting the name linger on her tongue. She rocks a little on uneasy feet but otherwise all is well.
If he looks surprised, he hides it well, but she beams when a half-smile sneaks its way onto his lips.
"Have you been drinking?” He asks in a voice that already knows the answer. “I want to know if I’m going to be hungover tomorrow.”
"It's none of your business, Ben.”
She staggers forward, almost stumbling against his chest, but she catches herself just in time.
"If you insist," he says amusedly. If she were in her right mind, she’d tell him off, but it’s clearly past that point.
"I was at a party,” she tells him and he lets out a snort. “My friends are getting married.”
"My only example of wedded bliss is Han and Leia," Ben says dismissively. “I can only hope your friends are smarter than they were about it.”
"Your father and mother loved each other,” she says. “Leia talks about him all the time.”
Chewie had told her all about the old days, back when the General was a princess and Han was young and full of life. Luke had even been happy to reminisce when he wasn’t so desperate to ignore her, but Ben is the one being in the galaxy who takes no pleasure in these memories. His wary amusement fades into something bitter and the air around her suddenly grows cold.
"Han and Leia spent my childhood developing a mutual resentment made all the sweeter by my failings as a son. If there was a time when they were happy, then it was a time before I was unfortunate enough to witness it," he says sharply. "I'm not sure what Leia had told you but loving each other was the worst thing they ever chose to do.”
Silence shrouds them both once more and her body gravitates towards his without any prompting. He doesn’t take a step back and it feels like a victory as she moves within striking distance.
"You’re wrong,” Rey tells him. “Nobody chooses to love.”
She doesn’t know if it’s the light, but his eyes are brighter than she ever remembers them being, almost amber instead of black. He’s closer now than when he had her in chains, as though he were only a moment away instead of a galaxy.
"You choose to let it destroy you," he says quietly, sounding unsure in a way that he so rarely is in her presence. "Somehow that's far worse."
She cannot name the look on his face no matter how familiar it seems. She only knows that it must match the one on hers.
He reaches out, each movement of his arm almost timid, until his hand is near her temple.
Her breath comes out shaky and though her entire body is still, her heart races as he tucks an errant hair behind her ear.
"You should go to sleep," he says gently. “Then this will just be another mistake.”
His fingers, ungloved and calloused, are soft and her lips part in anticipation of something she has only ever imagined.
Her eyes flutter closed but the entire room shifts.
He's gone before she realizes it.
The sear of his touch is still hot on her skin.