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Hand of Fate

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              Ben stepped toward her, gloved hand outstretched. “It’s time to let all things die. Snoke, Skywalker, the Sith, the Jedi. Let it all die. We can rule together and bring a new order to the galaxy. Join me…”

              His words twisted her guts and a wave of nausea rolled over her.

              No, no.

              She was so close, she felt the conflict inside of him. She couldn’t let him choose this path.

              Echoes of a writhing pain twisted down her spine, even as Snoke’s body grew cold on the throne room floor. Aftershocks of his torture continued to course through her, though he lay forever silenced, sliced in two by her own lightsaber – but not by her own hand.

              She looked into Ben’s eyes. His unwavering gaze had been locked on hers since he’d killed his former master and offered her a place at his side. He was waiting for an answer. Waiting for an impossible decision.

              If she refused, she would lose him.

              If she accepted, the Resistance would be destroyed.

              Everything she’d done to this point, since leaving Jakku had been for the Resistance. She believed in the ideals of the cause.

              But Snoke had shown her what remained of those who dared to rebel. The whole of the Resistance fleet had been destroyed and the few that survived were fleeing. But maybe there was another way. A way to change the First Order from the inside. Now that Snoke was gone, Ben would surely take the mantle of Supreme Leader. If she could only continue to help him see the light inside of himself. She’d seen it flare when he struck down Snoke. She was sure there was good in him and maybe, if she stayed…

              Ben’s eyes grew wide and pleading. He had impossibly expressive eyes, deep brown sadness and regret. It was how she’d known, even when he’d first captured her, that he was conflicted. The scar she’d given him, cutting across the right side of his face, only magnified that sadness. Now she could understand that despair and she wondered how no one else had seen it. Through their bond she’d experienced it. He’d felt betrayed by his master, unsure of his place, uneasy about the darkness that was swirling within him.

              Rey, too, had felt that darkness on Ahch-To and Master Skywalker had looked at her with fear. She knew what it was to be conflicted. But that didn’t make her evil and she believed Ben was the same.

              He took another step toward her, removing his glove and stretching his hand out to her.

              Her heart thrummed louder than the persistent cannon fire echoing from somewhere on the other side of the ship. The steady beat of her own pulse drowned out everything around them. A reminder that she was human. And she needed him.

              She closed her eyes, relaxing her shoulders into a deep sigh, reaching out to the force to find a feeling, a clue about which path to choose. But all she could feel was him. His warmth filled the space between them. He was passion, anger, and light all at once. But he was real and he was here. And she was going to try to do what she could. For him and the Resistance.

              A half-smile claimed her lips as she took a step forward and clasped his hand.

              He cocked his head, as if he was surprised she’d actually chosen this partnership. Then he squeezed her hand and pulled her into his arms. She felt the hardness of his muscular frame against her, like an anchor keeping her firmly grounded in this moment.

              She rested her cheek on his chest as they stood in silence amidst the dead guards.

              But the moment didn’t last. She heard shouting in the distance and footsteps approaching down the corridor.

              “Now what?” Her voice was too loud in her ears as she pulled back to look at Ben again.

              A chuckle rumbled in his chest and she realized, she’d never heard him laugh. A real laugh.

              “Now, we figure it out,” he said. “Together.”

              He opened his mouth to say something more, but voices grew closer and a moment later, General Hux stomped into the room, black boots slapping the floor. His mussed red hair and dark circles gave away his true emotional state, despite his attempt to appear in control. He froze, throat bobbing with a hard gulp when he saw Snoke's remains near the throne.

              Recovering quickly, he stepped toward Ben, puffing his chest out, posturing like some kind of rutting animal. “What is the meaning of this?” He said, gesturing to the bodies strewn about.

              Ben looked to her, a brief glance, but she felt him through their Force bond. Trust me.

              And General Hux dropped to his knees, holding his throat as he gasped for air.