With her head firmly wrapped and her body covered in her new and grey practical garb, Rey brought her goggles down to cover her eyes. Deft fingers secured the cable around her waist and she nimbly began climbing down into an old abandoned relic of the Empire. The small light on her goggles was not really enough to light the way, but she could feel her way just as easily. She didn't want to think about the reason why that was.
Her voice had been earnest in its conviction. "I won't fail you. I'm not afraid."
They were the foolish words of a foolish girl, and as soon as she had uttered them, she had felt disingenuous, as if those words belonged to another. However, that was Rey's fate; scavenging things that belonged to others, even their very words, it seemed. Haring off against all advice from her Jedi master had been anything but prudent. However, Rey was hanging everything on a feeling. Such feelings had always kept her alive before.
She had received no borrowed words in return. It punctuated her guilt and made it seem like a personal failing on her part. She resented it. She could admit that to herself, at least.
A niggling, yet resolute, push had encouraged her to move forward. It was slow, but it was consistent. The feeling was overwhelmingly maddening in its compulsion. To even entertain the notion only served to increase it. It frightened her in its intensity. Her light was small and it only punctuated the maw of the dark beneath her feet.
The vast chamber echoed around her as her feet finally touched ground and she disengaged the cable from her waist. The faint taste of methadrine was suddenly on the tip of her tongue, the very memory of it causing bile to form in her throat. She had never told anyone about the time she had used it to keep her hunger at bay, and how pathetically desperate she had been. To Rey, it felt like more of a warning from the Force than the actual substance lingering in the air, and that was a worry in and of itself. She closed her eyes and stifled the urge to gag on the acrid taste. One could never stave off such hunger. It was always futile in the end.
Reaching her hand out in a desperate effort to steady herself, she touched the cold metal of a control panel. It was familiar. It was Imperial. She was used to Imperial relics. They had been the only consistent things in her life. The idea of such cold comfort was a disturbing thought, but she found herself letting out a sigh anyway.
Blue lights and static noise suddenly illumined the darkened chamber.
Rey flinched, her eyes quickly scanning to the center of the room. Her heart rate increased and she could feel her blood pounding in her own ears. She had triggered the machinery. She fought the urge to scoff at her own pathetic response.
The lights flickered and then filled the chamber, coalescing into a holo that was larger than any she had seen before. It was life sized. Perhaps it was larger than life. Despite herself, Rey was intrigued. She ripped her goggles off to get a better look. How often had she wanted to, just once, see an intact and working remnant of the old Empire?
A woman's voice rang out in the chamber. It was the perfect Coruscanti accent. "This Empire Day, declare your loyalty to our Emperor and the Galactic Empire by joining the Imperial military…"
A man behind the cockpit of a TIE fighter, looked up from his navigational check. "This is my Empire."
A smiling woman looked up from a holopad. "This is my Empire."
A man in an Imperial uniform, engaged in talking to his subordinates stopped, turned towards the camera, and smiled. "This is my Empire."
A man in dark robes that covered most of his face, save for a twisted grin, leaned forward in a chair on a raised platform, hands gripping the armrests. His voice was an eerie sibilant hiss. "This is my Empire."
Rey's very heart leapt into her throat and she angled her body away, ready to run. It felt as if the holo of the man, the Emperor, was looking right at her. Her breathing turned heavy as if she could never get enough air again. Was it her imagination or did she hear a respirator fill the room, keeping time with her own respirations? Placing her hand on her hip, she fingered a cylinder of metal resting there; the lightsaber she had once ran from as soon as she had discovered it. The irony that it was now the first thing she clung to when she felt threatened wasn't lost on her.
«Rey, these are your first steps.»
Those words, that tangible audible memory of her Force vision, did nothing to take away the ominous feeling that threatened to choke her in that moment.
However, the lost relics had moved on, and Rey could see that this was truly only a piece of Imperial propaganda. It was, she silently admitted, impressive. Even she was awed by its ability to inspire. It inspired fear, but also other feelings she wasn't willing to delve into either. It must have been truly effective in its day. She had never seen the like.
Stormtroopers, slick uniformed officers, sleek ships, genteel manners covering an iron fist, and impressive military march music—it was darkness personified. It was—Rey didn't know what it was. Rey knew all too well what it was. It was tempting. She was only lucky such an Empire no longer existed for her to be tempted by. Rey shook her head in an effort to clear her thoughts. Leaving her training had come with numerous warnings about the dark side. Not surprising, considering Master Skywalker had never taken a real shine to her in the first place, only reluctantly telling her anything of the Force at all.
The holo coalesced into a tall dark man in a mask. It was another monster. Darth Vader. He was the one Kylo Ren allegedly looked up to. The figure ignited a red lightsaber and pointed it at her in challenge.
The vocodor hissed at her in a deep tone. "I have brought peace, freedom, justice, and security to my new Empire."
No longer certain if it was a vision or a holo, Rey was determined to ignore the creature's words. She had never known such things in her own short life, yet she craved them. The very thought that any words from such a creature could remind her of it made her angry. The fleeting thought that her unfortunate life had only been lived during the time of the New Republic was treason itself.
The holo abruptly shut off, leaving her swathed in the darkness. Rey shivered, thoroughly unsettled. For the first time in her life, Rey did not think about exchanging these intact and working relics for rations or for even more rare credits. Despite her growing fear, Rey bared her teeth and fisted her hand tightly around the weapon at her side. She ignited the blue blade into the darkness, its hum buzzing loudly through the air as it made contact with old, useless relics.
Rey looked out as the public transport ship she was on used its repulsors to ease itself into a courtyard landing field. She wasn't quite sure how she felt about the view—it had once been the site of the Jedi Temple—though all that allegedly remained of it was five skyscraping spires that had become the pinnacle of a large sprawling group of blocked edifices with sloping facades. No—what remained here was undeniably the Sith monstrosity that was once the Imperial Palace. She had great difficulty imagining this area as anything the Jedi could have ever inhabited—especially after having been to Ach-To.
These days the site served as a museum—to the Jedi—to the Republic—to the Sith—to the Empire. It was meant to inspire the inhabitants of the galaxy to not repeat the worst mistakes of the past. The entire complex was meant to be an elaborate warning.
Rey disembarked with the rest of those onboard. It was this place to which Rey was drawn after having come across Imperial artifacts in some of the lower and abandoned levels of Coruscant earlier. She briefly closed her eyes to shut out that episode and her disturbing behavior during it. Though she was currently playing the part of the tourist, even going so far as to join a tour group, she could not shake the ominous feeling of anticipation that had been plaguing her since she left Ach-To. It was only growing stronger.
Following after a school group that was comprised at the end of its line of two giggling younglings, a Human and a Twi'lek, Rey was suddenly struck by the idea of Jedi younglings walking this space. They entered the main doors and were suddenly in an impressive reconstruction of the Main Hall of the Jedi Temple. The tall columns and sculptures were intimidating and it would almost have even been convincing, if not for the absolute feeling of wrongness Rey felt upon viewing it.
Suddenly, a humanoid in golden brown robes and an identity concealing mask stepped in front of them—igniting an imposing lightsaber pike, which was a thick double-bladed weapon that produced a yellow blade. The anonymous sentinel was a Temple Guard.
The students squealed in excitement and started muttering amongst themselves in hushed tones.
For half a second, Rey had felt an urge to ignite her own lightsaber at the implied threat. However, it quickly became apparent to her that the creature in front of her was only a museum employee acting a part. He or she was not Force sensitive in the least, as far as Rey could tell.
Prying her hand off of her concealed lightsaber, Rey reluctantly followed the group, the false Temple Guard letting them all pass to enthusiastic applause from the public. It made Rey sick to her stomach.
The ensuing tour was interesting, but enough to make Rey doubt her own feelings. She felt that perhaps she had been too hasty and foolish in listening to what she felt was the stirrings of the Force. Master Luke would surely have preferred for her to stay on Ach-To instead of haring off on an ill-conceived scavenger hunt. Everything Rey had seen thus far was only museum displays punctuated by a guided tour. There was nothing that would warrant leaving her training, such as it was, to investigate.
Just like the Jedi Temple Guard they had seen, the sudden sight of two red clad Imperial Guards at the end of the corridor they were in served to intimidate. Their crimson cloaks and full face masks were intimidating enough, but their height, their utter stillness, and their Force pikes sent Rey's heart racing. The Force pikes had black handles and were long staff-like melee weapons with a vibro-edged head. Like the Temple Guard's lightsaber, Rey was certain these weapons were also real.
While passing between the two sentinels into the room beyond, the entire tour group was disturbingly silent, as if everyone present acknowledged the oppressive feeling such guards obviously inspired in all who saw them. The room they entered was as expansive and soaring as the corridor preceding it; however, it was darker with the walls and plinths left unadorned by art or statuary. In fact, the only thing in the entire room was an unassuming chair on a slight dais.
Rey let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding, her voice a mere whisper. "The Emperor's throne room—"
The red glow of a lightsaber ignited behind them, and more than one of the younglings in Rey's tour group whimpered and jumped in fright. Rey whirled around only to spy a double bladed red lightsaber with a circular hilt, spinning mesmerizingly in front of the wielder. The person was obviously a woman, wearing an all black Imperial uniform with a helmet that covered her face.
An eerie distorted voice echoed from the masked woman. "Hello, younglings. None of you would happen to be Force sensitive, would you?"
Emphatic denials rang out all around.
Rey was hardly paying any attention to the rest of those in her group. Despite her best effort, Rey felt a ball of dread form in her stomach. She suddenly felt as if her heart had stopped. This. This was—familiar. Angling her body away slightly, Rey felt the cold dread coil within her and spread outward. She felt as if she couldn't move or breathe properly.
The red lightsaber suddenly shut off and the woman laughed disturbingly. "An Inquisitor's weapon. Would anyone like to hold it?"
The younglings seemed reluctant and some of the other adults in the group tried, unsuccessfully, to urge a few of them to hold the weapon. Their grins and teasing had some of the younglings claiming they weren't afraid, though they still eyed the weapon dubiously.
The false Inquisitor stopped directly in front of Rey. Her voice sounded mocking. "How about you? Would you like to hold it?"
Even though the Force was blaring a warning to her, Rey, hardly being aware of her own actions, reached out a hand- much like she had when at Maz Kanata's- and lifted the curious lightsaber from the woman's hands. Immediately, Rey found herself in the midst of a vision.
The woman in front of her was suddenly someone else, though dressed much the same, with her face revealed. She was a Mirialan woman with light green skin, glowing yellow eyes, and a cruel smirk. "Well, who doesn't want to be a mother?" She quipped before resuming a fight with a female Torgruta with twin white lightsabers.
It had to have been a memory of the one that had owned the lightsaber she held. However, within the span of an eye blink, Rey was on Jakku, her surroundings so clear, she was certain she was actually there instead of experiencing a vision.
Taking stock of her surroundings, Rey found herself on top of a dune overlooking the village of Tuanal. She never approached them or wanted anything to do with their ways. Trusting that many strangers was folly on Jakku. However, they did always seem to be a cheerful lot. It was that which often drew her as close as she dared, cheerfulness being something in which Rey was often lacking. The experience felt more like memory than vision, though she could not remember experiencing any of it, she was left with a feeling of certainty that she simply must have repressed it.
"They are a bunch of fools."
The voice belonged to an old man Rey had seen before. His robes were black and his face looked haggard and weary.
Rey chose to say nothing but continued to stare down on the village. She did not necessarily disagree though.
The man continued conversationally, clarifying his topic. "The Church of the Force—"
At this, Rey let out a snort. "The Force!"
The man's voice turned sharp. "It's real, girl. However, it is pointless to learn of it from those that do not have it."
Feeling censured, Rey side eyed the man. Her tone was slightly apologetic. "I hear they talk of Luke Skywalker. I think he's a myth—"
The man's voice was slightly gravelly in its derision. "Oh, he is real enough. Another fool, that one—"
Rey shook her head slightly in disagreement. "Assuming he exists, how is it foolish to help others as the Jedi do?"
Though she could hardly conceive of the notion herself. Helping others on Jakku generally wound up with the helper being killed. She was slightly disgusted at the awe in her voice, as she had said the word 'Jedi'. It betrayed her youth in a way nothing else could.
The old man noticed and looked at her seriously. 'Where are the Jedi now, girl? For all of their power, what did they do with it?"
Studiously avoiding eye contact, Rey didn't have an answer to that and was silent for a long moment. She focused on the village and its goings on with more attention than would normally be the case. When she looked back, the old man was gone. Her interest in Tuanal was suddenly diminished. She needed to get back to her AT-AT anyway.
In the next moment, Rey was in yet a different place. With great regularity, Rey found herself at the site of the Inflictor. The ship still served to inspire some twenty-nine years after the Battle of Jakku. To Rey though, the items she found within the wreckage were more useful as a means of trade for her very survival.
Today, Rey was there and was now securing said items to the net in her speeder when the old man's voice rang out from behind her.
"The remnant of a once great Empire, reduced to the pickings of a scavenger—"
Rey's shoulders tensed. She had thought she was alone out here today. "Perhaps they should have managed it better then—"
His voice sounded slightly amused. "Perhaps. Tell me, girl, why are you here—"
At this, Rey turned to look at the man. He was looking at her affably, but there was something about it that set her on edge. It was like he was testing her. She didn't like it. She thought about deliberately misinterpreting his words but then thought better of it. "What's it to you? My family—they'll be back—"
The old man sported a look of pity on his face, but didn't spare her, his voice spiteful. "They're dead. You know it. They were nothing. What I mean is if you have ever wondered what more you could be—about your destiny?"
Rey had been living too long on Jakku to believe the old man to be sincere about her welfare. Rey shrugged noncommittally.
His smile could be deemed friendly, but it had a quality to it- a biting edge. "Maybe you could be another Gallius Rax—"
At this Rey shook her head and let out a bark of incredulous laughter. Everyone on Jakku had heard of Gallius Rax- the slave that escaped, met an Emperor, and helped rule an Empire. While Rey had idolized the Resistance, Gallius Rax was a legend on Jakku that every scavenger wished they could be. His story was one in a million. She thrust her spear into the netting. "Maybe you're delirious!"
She turned around to glare at the man, but he was already gone. It was typical Jakku. Rey thought nothing more of the encounter.
Suddenly Rey found herself at yet another location on Jakku. More often than she'd like, Rey would go to Niima Outpost. Standing in line to see the Blobfish- only to be denied a proper amount of portions- served to punctuate her desperate circumstances.
"I can feel your anger from here."
The old man sounded entirely too delighted by the prospect.
Rey turned and gave him a glare. "You'd be angry too if you were cheated, yet again."
His eyes were hooded under a cowl, but his voice was abrupt. "Indeed. You could learn to use that anger constructively—"
Rey gave the old man a dubious look. "Really—"
Rey was now back in the throne room, the room entirely empty except for the figure of the old man seated upon the throne. He was looking directly at her. She felt rooted to the spot. "I'm looking forward to completing your training. In time you will call me master—"
More borrowed words from Luke Skywalker came to her lips, but Rey was not anything like the Jedi had been in temperament in that moment, sharing none of the dispassionate composure he had once exhibited in similar circumstances. She snarled in indignation, tears coming to her eyes. Her voice was venomous and full of hubris. "You're gravely mistaken. You won't convert me—"
The old man, whom she undeniably recognized now as the Emperor, sat forward in triumphant mockery. "Oh no, my young Jedi. You will find that it is you who are mistaken about a great many things—"
Rey's eyes snapped open in horror and she gasped for breath. With shaking hands she looked down at the lightsaber in her hands.
The woman in front of her spoke in a concerned tone. "Hey- are you alright?"
However, Rey wasn't listening to her. No. No, she wasn't all right. None of it was real. None of it. Every bit of it was a lie. It had to be. However, what she just experienced had felt more real than her having been on Coruscant, akin to waking from a dream only to find herself back in the unpleasant reality that had been her existence for the majority of her life. She had met the old man many times, though she had thought nothing of it. He had simply been a crazy old hermit to her. How was it even possible though? The Emperor was dead. Yet, hadn't Master Skywalker told her of his experiences with Force ghosts? Is that what she had experienced? Closing her eyes briefly she shook her head. She was fine. She swallowed thickly, bile coming to her throat. She had to get out of there. Clenching the lightsaber in a death grip, Rey took a step back.
The false Inquisitor was suddenly not so friendly. "Hey! Give that back! That's museum property!"
Rey turned and ran from what she knew was the truth. She fled through the halls of the Imperial Palace paying no attention to those that were yelling and chasing after her.
The false Temple Guard was in her direct path, lightsaber ignited, the double-bladed yellow glow meant to deter Rey from her course out of the building.
Desperate in her attempt to leave, Rey instinctively ignited the double-bladed weapon she was carrying, the twin red blades punctuated by a hiss and then a loud hum, going into an offensive position. She ran at the Temple Guard and brought one of the blades down from a high swing, which the other individual was barely able to block.
The Temple Guard backed up slightly, only to come back at her with a stabbing motion.
Rey pushed the creature away with a clash of her blade and angled the hilt so that the other blade grazed its arm before coming back into a perfect defensive stance.
It hissed in pain and clutched its arm.
The tourists in the museum were applauding as if she was part of a demonstration, but the museum employees were attempting to edge into Rey's line of site to cut her off from the exit.
Rey knew she needed to leave immediately. Extinguishing the double-bladed lightsaber, she took a running leap over the Temple Guard's head and was out the main entrance like a blaster shot. She ran quickly across the courtyard and into the first open door that she could find on the other side.
The room was a cafeteria full of tourists, where all of the workers were wearing Jedi robes. It was a jarring site to see so many people wearing Jedi robes when the only other person she'd ever seen wear any had been Master Skywalker.
Rey abruptly stopped, breathing hard, and placed the rounded lightsaber hilt into the pack that rested against her hip. Why she insisted on keeping it, she didn't know, but to her it was much the same as keeping the other lightsaber she had found in such a way. It was significant enough for her to hold on to at any rate. She walked quickly through the crowd inside, dodging tables, and made her way to an exit on the other side of the cafeteria.
Looking back, she noticed that she was no longer being followed. Either they were lying in wait or had assumed that she had already escaped the premises altogether. Rey was going with the latter conclusion. Most would assume she would have already left, which is exactly what most people would attempt to do anyway. Regardless, the population of Coruscant was such that it would be practically impossible to find her without putting in a real effort, or so she hoped.
Rey needed to find a way out of the palace complex but it was massive. She paused before another entrance that looked a lot swanker than the cafeteria had. It proclaimed itself to be the Imperial Officer's Club. If it was truly as upscale as Rey was hoping, she was certain it would have an entrance to the outside of the complex because the wealthy didn't necessarily want to mingle with tourists.
Upon entering, Rey immediately felt underdressed. The décor was just as fancy as she had thought it would be and the lighting was darker and more intimate. The patrons were all dressed in expensive clothing, even the ones that had made an effort to seem more casual- a sartorial affectation Rey had only ever seen certain wealthy individuals pull off successfully- not that she came across such people on a regular basis. Her own clothing didn't necessarily scream desert scavenger anymore, or even a Jedi vibe for that matter, but her new grey garb definitely evoked a more natural and earthy vibe that was out of place in not only the establishment in which she found herself, but on Coruscant altogether.
Rey weaved through the crowd self-consciously, her clothes drawing what she considered the wrong kind of attention. However, she felt that she had few options at this point. With only a slight hesitation, Rey lifted her chin and strode purposefully toward the bar. There had to be an exit somewhere and she was determined to find it.
Literally everyone stopped what they were doing to stare at her as she walked by.
Rey repressed the urge to shiver. 'They're beneath you, Rey,' she told herself. 'You're the dangerous one.' The thing was, Rey didn't feel so dangerous at the moment. She felt vulnerable.
The barkeep was looking at her snidely from his place behind the bar. "May I help you?"
Sauntering directly up to the bar, Rey gave the barkeep a coy smile and leaned forward as if confiding a secret. She felt like sneering, but instead, lowered her voice and hoped to whatever deity was out there that it sounded sultry. "Where is—"
It was at that moment a bunch of holo-screens activated around the establishment with Rey's face prominently displayed, followed by footage of her using a lightsaber. "Attention! If anyone has seen this woman, report her to security immediately. She is armed and presumably dangerous."
Everyone in the establishment began muttering and some were pointing at her. However, the barkeep became flinty eyed. "I need you to stay where you are—"
Rey chose to do the only sensible thing in such circumstances; she turned and ran.
Dodging startled patrons, Rey ran fast towards what she hoped was the back entrance. Instead it led straight down a corridor that housed the extremely fancy freshers-which she had discovered after trying all the doors. In frustration, she headed back in the opposite direction; however, she could tell there were others up ahead. She dodged behind a giant decorative plant that was placed strategically next to a decorative curtain that framed the entrance to the corridor itself.
Rey's heart became lodged in her throat when she noticed a Human male standing at the entrance to the corridor. Quickly assessing him, she noticed that he was clad all in black and was tall with thick dark hair and dark eyes. He had definitely noticed her. Those eyes arrested her when they looked directly into her own.
Ever so slowly, he ran his eyes over her body before coming back to stare at her intently in the eyes.
Rey had never experienced such a blatant display of whatever this was by anyone. It made her feel exposed. Her whole body suddenly felt heated. She lifted her chin defiantly. Every instinct Rey had told her that this man was dangerous.
The barkeep came running up to the man along with what was obviously a security detail. "Sir," the man panted, "you haven't seen a girl have you?"
The man seemed to reluctantly turn his head to face the newcomer. Tall, dark and dangerous was sure to give Rey away, however, his response surprised her. "What girl?"
The barkeep looked at the dark man incredulously. "The one that stole the lightsaber! The one in the footage! It's only been all over every holo-vid in the vicinity!"
Whatever look the dark man gave the barkeep had him backing up quickly. "However, no worries. You've obviously not seen her. Would you like me to seat you?"
The dark man sounded nonchalant. "No. I think I'll take my business elsewhere tonight—"
The other man trembled in fear and dissembled. "Ah- very good sir. However- we'd be more than happy to offer a drink on the house if you change your mind—" At whatever look he received, he took off quickly before waiting for a response.
As the dark man turned around again, Rey caught him mid smirk. He raised a brow questioningly at her. "Are you coming?"
Staying frozen to the spot, Rey looked at the man incredulously. However, he had already turned and was walking away, in a completely different direction than Rey had come from before. As if waking from a stupor, Rey regained her senses and ran after him demanding, "Why did you do that?"
Shrugging, the man simply replied, "Did you want to be caught?"
Rey frowned. "Of course not—but—"
The man waved his hand dismissively. "But nothing. Listen, I'm hungry. I don't feel like hanging around here. Do you have a speeder sitting around out there?"
Rey shook her head slightly. "Well, no—"
He shrugged in her direction. "Then you can either come with me or stay here. It doesn't matter to me either way- it's your choice- but I'm leaving now."
He was far too blasé to be serious about her not going with him, in her estimation. Upon further assessment, Rey noticed that the man had a very distinctive blaster rifle that she'd seen before- from when Han Solo had stolen the Millennium Falcon back from her and Finn. It was strapped to a thigh length leg holster in an almost arrogant fashion. Rey didn't trust the man before her at all and was wary. "You're not with Kanjiklub, are you?"
The man smirked at her. "No. But the fact that you're familiar with Tasu Leech's 'Huttsplitter' here has just made you even more interesting. Do you have a Kanjiklub problem in addition to stealing lightsabers?"
Rey glared at him. She deliberately ignored his quip about lightsabers. "Had a Kanjiklub problem. Not that it's your business. And they didn't really have a problem with me- per se. I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anyway- I can take care of myself—"
Now the man looked genuinely amused. "I'm sure you can—"
He was infuriating, Rey thought idly.
He threw open a discrete looking door and then they were outside of the temple complex.
It was approaching dusk. The view was breathtaking, if Rey was being honest. The sight of the endless city that was Coruscant was captivating, and Rey couldn't help but take it in for a moment. The traffic, the bright lights, the impressive architecture of the upper levels, and staring down where the city went on endlessly below her- she could almost believe they were back in time. This city didn't sleep and moved on no matter the state of the galaxy. It was reassuring in its own way.
Rey's eyes followed the man as he kept walking until he approached and sat on a speeder-which technically wasn't a speeder at all- but a swoop bike. To Rey it seemed to be a very dangerous choice for riding around on Coruscant. However- those bikes were rare and very nice looking.
Rey could not help but be impressed by the sleek, black mint condition swoop. She was certain her eyes showed her envy. The things she could have done with such a swoop on Jakku! Her voice was a cross between awe and derision. "That's a Mobquet Zephyr-G—"
The man motioned to the space behind him and patted the seat, making it clear he expected her to sit there. He looked at Rey in obvious challenge. His voice was lofty. "And she knows her bikes—"
Rey glared even harder at his audacity, curled her hands into fists, and then came to an abrupt decision. She was likely going to regret this. She let out an annoyed huff and crossed over to the bike and sat down roughly behind him, practically throwing herself onto it. She gripped the seat beneath her defiantly and put as much space between them as possible.
Hands already on the controls, he looked over his shoulder at her with a raised brow. "You're going to actually need to hold on to me—"
He revved the engine and sped off. The bike was angled in such a way as to free-fall at least a mile down, cutting across established traffic lanes.
Her stomach dropped and she was terrified. Rey had no time to retort before she was forced to bring her arms around his torso and hold on for dear life, leaving absolutely no space between the two of them. She felt his body heat and beneath her hands that were fisted tightly in his garments, she felt the hardness of his abs and could even smell his scent. Rey blushed red; glad the man in front of her couldn't see her mortification. Other than Finn constantly attempting to hold her hand back on Jakku- this was the closest Rey had ever been to another being since before she could remember. Her heart was beating madly. She closed her eyes tightly to ward off these unexpected feelings she was suddenly experiencing, but it did her no good.
Even though he didn't say anything, Rey somehow knew he was amused. It was like she sensed he knew what she was experiencing and she hated it; however, the compulsion she had to follow the Force was still strong. She was meant to be here as terrifying and mortifying as it was.
Down, down, down they descended. Even with the Force, Rey was so disoriented she could likely never recall exactly where they were on the planet any longer. One thing was clear; this level wasn't as well to do as the top levels, yet it was far from the worst the planet had to offer.
After feeling as if she had been falling forever, Rey was aware of them slowing down, before the man finally came to a stop and parked the bike on an active street full of cantinas, diners, and clubs.
Her heart was still pounding and Rey was struggling to regain her equilibrium, her breathing also uneven. The ride had not been exhilarating so much as it had been completely terrifying, with her short and lonely life having passed before her eyes. She scarcely contemplated that her hands were still clenched in a death grip on the man seated in front of her, when he gently pried one of her hands away from his person.
Still holding on to her hand, he gave her a smug grin over his shoulder. "You can let go now—"
The skin-to-skin contact had her gasp at the feeling, and it was confusing in that it was not unpleasant, as she usually could not stand such things. Rey pulled her hand back out of his grasp quickly, further mortified to notice that it was shaking uncontrollably. She opened her mouth to express her outrage, only to discover that her voice was tremulous. "Are you insane? You could have killed us—"
The man momentarily stilled as if the touch of their hands affected him also. However, his response was to bring attention to the fact that she still had a death grip on his person with her other hand- by grabbing it and pulling her smoothly off the back of the swoop. Tugging her along gently, the man's eyes seemed to soften even as he teased her. "You'd think a girl that dealt with Kanjiklub and stole lightsabers wouldn't let a ride on a swoop bike get to her—"
Rey almost tripped over her own feet. She could feel her pulse quicken. She quickly looked away from him, certain she was blushing again. She let him drag her along a second longer before disengaging her hand from his with a huff. He was incorrigible.
A pounding bass rhythm sounded from a darkened cantina next to them.
Rey's eyes immediately turned to it, the only thing she could see from the entrance being lights of different colors illuminating the place sporadically, multiple beings dancing, and the smell of death sticks wafting outside. Despite herself, she brought herself closer to look. Jakku did not have places like this. Even Maz's was not like this. Entranced, she moved closer and soon found herself standing just inside the entrance. There were beings that Rey did not even know existed here. However, there were enough that she did recognize, and many were dressed scandalously to Rey's eyes. They were moving in ways against each other that evoked more carnal activities, which Rey was certain should not be public. Her feet moved her further inside before she knew what she was about.
The crowd pulsed around her in time with the music.
Rey was not used to music, but the bass sound was oddly mesmerizing even though the music itself was much too loud for her taste. Her senses blared a warning to her even as a blond Human male around her age came up to her and started pushing against her in a gross parody of a dance that had her backing up quickly. Her disgust was palpable and she immediately grabbed the blaster at her side that Han Solo had given her and pointed it right between his eyes, her survival instincts kicking in. She growled at him in warning. "Get away from me—"
The man stopped and held his hands up in surrender before snarling at her. "Crazy schutta! You'd better watch yourself. Think a blaster will help you down here?"
He started coming towards her again.
Rey was now angry. She backed up warily. "I mean it. I'll kill you if you try anything—"
She backed right into a solid and tall presence. At first, she thought there was another person that meant her harm, but then she had an immediate reassurance from the Force that it was the man that had saved her at the Temple.
Her companion was glaring evilly at the other man. He looked very angry and intimidating.
Now the man that had pushed himself onto her looked nervous. He immediately backed off. "Hey- man- I didn't know the girl was with someone—"
Suddenly- he looked as if he was being strangled and couldn't get enough breath. He was gagging and holding a hand up to his neck as if to ward off an unseen attacker.
Rey could not understand such behavior, but she could not believe it to be normal, limited though her interactions with others had been. She felt her lip curling up in disgust. "Ugh—what's he doing?"
The man behind her didn't answer, but he did put a hand on the small of her back. He spoke softly into her ear. "Come on—let's get out of here. This isn't where I wanted to take you—"
Dropping her arm and holstering her blaster, she let her companion continue to guide her out of the dodgy establishment, with his hand on her back the entire while. She felt tingles go up her spine at the contact. She felt his direct stare. He was intense. She titled her head to the side shyly. She didn't try to pull away from him this time.
The establishment was quiet, Rey thought as she looked around curiously from her seat in a corner booth. Dark paneling adorned every wall, and the bar was the most ornate thing in the room, evoking a sense of antiquity stretching back thousands of years, with its ornate mirrored back reflecting the most light to be had in the place. It was a true Corellian style pub, if Rey had the right of it. It was mostly populated by Humans, which was a novel experience for someone used to being one of only a few of her species around.
Rey was eating the daily special of bantha stew and drinking her first ale, but trying hard to pretend like she did it all the time. Nothing could be further from the truth. The simple fare was better than any meal she had ever had in her life, though the ale would take some getting used to.
Her companion was seated next to her, intent on his own meal for the time being; however, she had the distinct impression that he was hyper aware of her every move.
Rey was used to silence- yet, she was beginning to think that this particular silence was becoming intolerable in that it was awkward. Fishing for something to ease the intensity of the situation, Rey mentioned what was on her mind. “Thank you for all you’ve done for me today—though I can’t imagine why you would do it—“
This was true. Rey simply could not imagine his motivations. Jakku was not exactly populated by altruistic beings, and her recent interactions with those outside of Jakku had left her feeling that altruism was only a myth. Finn, Han, General Organa, and even Luke Skywalker had all had their own motives for what they did, and no matter how friendly (or hostile in Luke’s case) they had seemed, Rey would almost rather deal with the honesty of the ruthlessness of the planet on which she had survived rather than be disappointed again.
Her dining companion looked up at her then. He also looked momentarily uncomfortable by her words but then looked back down again to his food, just as quickly. His voice was a murmur. “I have my reasons—“
Rey nodded. She had expected as much and it put her at ease that at least he was honest about it, despite his vagueness. She let out a little laugh. “It may sound crazy, but the entire reason I’m on Coruscant is because I simply felt like this was the place to be—“
Her voice trailed off. She had tried to make it all sound more wizard than it really was. She was half afraid that she only sounded pathetic. She couldn’t exactly tell him the Force wanted her there.
The man gave her a considering look. With one elbow resting lazily on the table, her companion picked up a tumbler of something acid green that smelled incredibly alcoholic and took a leisurely sip. Then, lifting his index finger from the tumbler, he pointed in her direction. “Me too—“ His lip twitched. “Except—I’m not here to steal lightsabers—“
Rey gave the man the stink eye. She huffed and blushed simultaneously. “I wasn’t here to steal a lightsaber. It’s not like that—“
He smirked into his tumbler. “Then how is it? If anything, I should be worried. I’m eating with a girl that is involved with gangs like Kanjiklub, steals lightsabers, and pulls blasters on people that want to dance with her—“
This man was ridiculously irritating. Rey clenched her teeth and hissed. She would not give him the satisfaction of yelling and causing a scene. “That—was—not—dancing—“
As if realizing his effort at teasing her was backfiring his demeanor turned serious. He held eye contact. “You’re right. He was scum—“ He was silent for a moment. His voice was almost hesitant when he next spoke. “Can I see it?”
Rey didn't want to talk about the lightsaber…any lightsaber. They only seemed to cause her more trouble than they were worth. Talking about lightsabers with anyone was a dangerous thing these days. She felt her face go blank, her expression closing off. She looked down at the table, suddenly finding it very interesting. “That’s a bad idea—they’d really catch me then—“
He looked as if he wanted to say something, then shrugged and leaned back. “Alright. I still want to know why you felt the need—“
Rey quickly cut him off, her nerves suddenly flaring up. It really was dangerous to talk about this. The Force wasn’t exactly a conversational topic for dinner with a stranger. Most people didn’t want to talk religion anyway. Her voice carried a hint of steel. “It’s complicated. I don’t want to talk about it if you don’t mind.”
His eyes flashed with barely contained violence. His jaw was clenched- but then- just as quickly- he relaxed. “Fair enough—“ He looked lost for a moment and then his eyes gleamed. He leaned in closer to her. “Do you know what today is?”
Well, it was a Centaxday in 34 ABY, for starters. She knew he wasn’t on about that though. There were no holidays on Jakku. Every day was as hopeless as the next. The closest thing that planet had to a holiday was the Battle of Jakku itself- because it assured a way of survival for her ilk- though Rey never had the luxury of keeping track of anything except her abandonment on that Sith forsaken planet. She rolled her eyes. “No- but I have a feeling you’re going to tell me—“
His eyes searched her face, looking for something. His voice was a whisper. “Empire Day—“
Despite herself, Rey’s eyes met his. Her interest was peaked, and her voice betrayed that interest. She sounded too eager- practically breathless almost. “Really?”
Whatever he had been searching for in her expression, he must have found it, because he looked absolutely satisfied.
Rey could have kicked herself. This topic was even more illicit than speaking of the Force. The New Republic had absolutely no love for the Empire it had defeated- and she wasn’t supposed to have any love of it either. However, a lifetime of scavenging Imperial tech left her with more than a passing appreciation. Rey lowered her own voice and looked around. She didn’t know why she was telling him this. A tinge of excitement colored her voice. “I came across the most amazing Imperial holo propaganda earlier—it was made for Empire Day—do you know how rare it is to find something that intact?“
His body angled toward hers, he gave a brief nod of confirmation. “I do know- and it sounds impressive—“
Rey cleared her throat, suddenly nervous. “It was—but it’s practically treason to talk about this—isn’t it?”
He gave her a reassuring look. “Not here it isn’t—“
Rey looked around again, attempting to suss out what he meant by that statement. Her voice belied her disbelief. “You don’t mean this place is associated with the First Order—and I’m pretty sure it’s treason no matter where we are—“
He placed a hand on her thigh.
Perhaps he meant it to be soothing, but it only served to increase Rey’s rate of breathing.
His voice took on a mesmerizing quality. “Relax—you know—it isn’t often I come across others that are like-minded here—“
Rey stiffened and then angled her body away slightly, displacing his hand from her person in the process.
Rey narrowed her eyes at him. She disagreed very much. “We aren’t like-minded—“
His expression was one of amusement, his tone one of disbelief. “If you say so—“
Rey pursed her lips. Her voice was emphatic. “I do—“
He gave her a knowing look. “So what are your political views then—“
This man was literally setting Rey on the very edge.
Rey curled her upper lip as if she smelled something rotten. “Not First Order affiliated ones—“
The man gave a little laugh, apparently not offended. “Do you even know what the First Order is about?”
Rey curled a fist in her lap. “I know enough—“
He leaned in again as if confiding a secret. “What you likely know is Resistance propaganda—“
Rey suddenly couldn’t deny that maybe he had a point. It was this that made her hold her tongue. She gave him a questioning look.
The man’s eyes sought out hers. His voice was emphatic in its earnestness. “Never forget that the Empire was the legitimately elected government. What the First Order is doing is attempting to restore that government back to its rightful place—“
She looked to the side in contemplation. Rey could also not deny this, though she wanted to badly. Her voice sounded unsure of itself. “They say the Empire was corrupt though—“
He pitched his voice low, going in for the kill. “Don’t you think it’s strange that you’re willing to support a group that isn’t even legal to the current government?”
Rey was confused and looked at his face. “What?”
He narrowed his eyes. His gave a guttural sound of repugnance. “The Resistance—they work outside of the New Republic—completely ignoring the Military Disarmament Act—“
She hadn’t really thought about it, actually. Rey looked away from him, suddenly very uncomfortable with the topic. He was making her think about things that she, perhaps, ought not to. She not so subtly changed the subject. “Look—you said you had your reasons for helping me—I’d like to know what they are—It isn’t that I don’t trust you—it’s just that—I don’t trust you. I don’t trust anyone—“
He gave her a barely perceptible, but completely charming smile. “Another thing we have in common—“
Rey huffed in irritation. She would not let on that he was affecting her in any positive manner. “Come on—“
He gestured towards her earnestly. His voice was intense. “I’m serious. You want to know my reasons, well here they are. I took one look at you and I knew—I knew we were meant to meet—I knew you were like me—I knew—you know it too—“
It was like he knew about the Force. Rey closed her eyes briefly. The Force! She would not listen to it now—not even if he was part of what it wanted—no—she would not. Rey shook her head and gave a derisive laugh. “You don’t even know me—not even my name—“
His voice sounded so intimate. “Who are you?”
Rey opened her eyes and deliberately looked at him blankly. “Nobody.”
He glared at her as if her self-deprecation and evasiveness was a personal affront. “Maybe so- but you don’t have to be— it’s who we decide to become that matters—not our past.”
That was a nice piece of sentiment right there. Total Sithspit, but nice. It was like those resolutions she heard people often made at the turn of the year on some planets. However, the past would always come back to haunt someone. Rey ignored him to go on with her own narrative. “Too many bad holo-thrillers start this way. Dodgy bloke leads poor, innocent girl to her doom—“
Not that Rey had ever had the opportunity to watch holo-thrillers bad or otherwise, but her point stood.
It was his turn to roll his eyes. “Please. There are just as many bad holo-thrillers where the innocent girl is anything but—“
Rey tensed her shoulders. The look she gave him showcased her irritation. “You know—I’m thinking politics is another topic we shouldn’t discuss—“
The man held his hands out in a placating gesture. “Hey—I’m not your enemy here—I don’t have to be anyway—you can talk to me about anything—“
Rey angled her body towards him this time and leaned into his personal space. Her voice was sarcastic. “Because we know each other so well—“
Suddenly, he covered what little distance that was between them and invaded Rey’s personal space in return. They were so close they were almost touching. The look he gave her was downright—fervent—perhaps? Rey didn’t know and she wasn’t going to find out.
Rey backed away quickly, almost falling back into the booth in her haste to move away from him. Another trope that Rey had been assured was a part of bad holo-thrillers was when a girl decided to end a bad date by going to the fresher and not coming back. Not that this was a date. Tall, dark and dangerous would just have to be disappointed in not meeting his First Order recruitment quota for the month. She stood up decisively. She picked up her bag and draped it over herself cross ways. “I need to use the fresher.”
He gave her a questioning look. “With your bag?”
Rey searched for any excuse at her disposal. “I am experiencing my menstrual cycle—“
That was a thing, right? Most women controlled it with modern galactic medicine- however- on Jakku if one was lucky enough to even have a menstrual cycle it was dealt with the old fashioned way. Allegedly every male in the galaxy wished to avoid such topics. She was counting on male ignorance regarding these things.
The man choked on his sip of acid green alcohol. “Then by all means. You’ve got a lot of candor—“
That the fresher actually had a window was a stroke of luck. He had watched her avidly enough that Rey had no choice but to go inside. She wasted no time in heaving herself through the opening and tried to look casual in her escape once she reached the street. However, Coruscant was used to odd scenes and scum, so what was one girl crawling from a window to them? It quickly became clear that there were no reliable public transports to be had out of the area- until her eyes landed on the swoop.
She shouldn’t. She’d be no better than half the scum on Jakku if she did. However, Rey was nothing if not a survivor, and wasn’t this situation about that too? The Force was literally blaring at her; however, whether or not it was alerting her to fight, flee, or stay wasn’t something she was even going to consider. She didn’t want to know, not after the events of today and what listening to the Force had brought her thus far. She simply wanted to do what she wanted to do, and what she wanted was to leave quickly.
Half in a daze and half in a panic, Rey seated herself on the swoop bike and lifted her hands to the controls. It really was a beautiful thing, she thought idly, her hands ghosting over the controls and revving the repulsorlift propulsion engine. A low buzzing sound erupted from the bike and Rey felt its vibration through her whole body. She could get used to this. Rey smiled to herself.
With barely a hint of warning from the Force, Rey felt a presence behind her. Turning her head to look over her shoulder- she recognized tall, dark and dangerous whom she had just left sitting at the table. To say that he looked upset was a bit of an understatement.
His look was fierce. “We’re not done yet.”
Rey’s shoulders tightened in anticipation. Oh, they really, really were. Despite her nerves, despite the sheer terror of being caught in that moment, despite the absolutely deadly look on his face, she couldn’t help herself. Rey winked at him. Then, she pulled up on the throttle and started racing down the street. However, she did not get far.
The swoop was suddenly idling and not going anywhere.
She pulled the throttle all the way up but it did no good. Rey cursed. “Blast!”
A pair of arms slid around her waist, followed quickly by a torso resting against her back and long legs on either side of her.
Rey’s eyes widened dramatically and she let out a yelp.
His voice was a low growl. “If you wanted to ride my bike, all you needed to do was ask—“
The timbre of his voice and the fact that it was right in her ear sent shivers down Rey’s spine. Her skin erupted in gooseflesh. To Rey this unacceptable response of hers was only a cause for anger. She raised her chin defiantly. She pitched her own voice into a growl. “Get off—you absolute di’kut—“
Rey was about to elbow him in the abdomen when he growled in her ear again. He tightened his hands around her in warning. “Don’t you dare—“
He brought his hands up to rest on top of hers on the controls. His voice sounded disdainful. “If you’re through acting like a complete scavenger—“
Rey gritted her teeth and seethed. “I am a scavenger—“
He ignored her and spoke over her. “—Then there’s something else I wanted to show you—“
Sirens were blaring in Rey’s mind. This could go a few ways—most of them not good for her. However, she knew her course of action even still. Rey was already cursing herself for carrying through on yet another foolish act. The Force was obviously not her friend. She was just making one bad decision after another of late, wasn’t she? Rey pursed her lips and glanced over her shoulder at him. “How do I know this isn’t a trap of some sort?”
He gave her a dark smirk. His tone, however, was blasé. “You don’t—but life is full of risks—”
Rey muttered under her breath. “Let’s get this over with.”
For all that her hands were also on the controls, she was not the one in control of the swoop. It was, possibly, worse than before because she could see everything from the front row seat, so to speak. Her companion was enjoying himself. She knew he was. Every accidental gasp on her part had her feeling the smugness on his end. She didn’t know the Force worked that way- but it apparently did. It was intolerable.
They finally landed.
Rey looked around, completely unimpressed. This was just getting better and better. Her tone was dry. “This is a docking bay.”
Her companion responded in an equally dry manner. “Oh, well done. What tipped you off? Was it the ships?”
Upon closer inspection, Rey noticed that they were in front of an upsilon-class command shuttle. She had a bad feeling about this. It had a distinctly First Order look to it, at any rate. However, it did look quite impressive and Rey was rather hoping that was the point of this little adventure—to impress her. She was desperately hoping she wasn’t about to be shanghaied.
It was only when she turned around to face the man who still had her caged within his arms on the swoop, that she noticed another ship across the docking bay. Rey bit her lip and groaned before slumping against the man next to her in frustration, before she even realized what she was doing. “Oh, Maker—what’s he doing here?”
Her companion stiffened in surprise before putting his hands on her shoulders and pushing her back slightly to look at her face. “What’s who doing here?”
Rey spoke darkly with a glower on her face. “He’d better not be here to keep tabs on me—“
“Again—whom are you talking about?”
Rey’s voice was one of woeful resignation. “Han Solo—“
Her companion stiffened next to her again before getting off the swoop and looking around almost wildly before his eyes finally settled on the Millennium Falcon. He ran a hand through his dark curls and swore. “Stang!”
He turned to her incredulously. “You know Han Solo?”
Rey’s bad feeling got suddenly worse. She gave him a shrewd look from her seat on the bike. “Looks like I’m not the only one—“
A blaster bolt whizzed by Rey’s head and hit some storage cubes next to the swoop.
Rey jumped from the bike and whirled around to face the Falcon. Her heart was pounding erratically. Someone had just tried to kill her. Her entire body was shaking. Rey reached for the blaster she had strapped to her side, but had to jump back as another bolt came soaring towards her. She dropped the blaster with nerveless fingers. She flinched back, her eyes wide in fear. She would have to move, she thought frantically.
The bolt stopped in mid air right in front of her.
Rey could feel the blood rushing into her ears as she heard the distinctive snap hiss of a lightsaber from behind her. She heard the subsequent hum of it as it was brandished around and the faint ozone smell assailed her nostrils. Turning her head to look over her shoulder, she saw a wicked looking red cross-guard blade as unstable as its owner was reported to be. From behind the blade she recognized the man she had managed to spend her entire evening with. Tall, dark and dangerous indeed, she thought. He looked livid. Luckily, his expression was not leveled at her.
Across the docking bay, Rey spied their shooter. He was wearing all black leather and was holding up a percussive cannon. He yelled to them in his lilting accent. “I’ve come for retribution—Scavenger!”
From behind her a dry voice commented. “You didn’t tell me you also had a Guavian Death Gang problem—“
Rey spoke in annoyance and not a little fear. “I didn’t realize I still had one—I assumed the rathtars took care of it—“
It was good to know that even his voice could crack.
Rey tried to put on her best negotiator face. How the Guavian Death Gang even knew about her- she’d love to know. She gave a wan smile. Her voice sounded way more nervous than she wanted. “You know—Bala-Tik was it? I don’t actually work for Han Solo—I stole the Millennium Falcon off of Jakku—“
The voice behind her sounded resigned now. “Of course- you did—“ His voice was directed straight into Rey’s ear this time. It sounded bitter. “Do you know Luke Skywalker too?”
Rey clenched her jaw and hissed at him. “Now is not the time—“
Bala-Tik yelled back. “Your lies won’t save you now- girl—“
Her companion had never let his guard down for an instant- lightsaber at the ready. His voice was terse. “If I were you, I’d get ready for aggressive negotiations—“
The Guavian Death Gang’s red and black helmeted goons started popping up all over the docking bay, each heavily armed.
Rey reached into her bag and pulled out the hilt of the double-bladed lightsaber she’d taken earlier. She ignited it, the dual-blades sizzling into a beautiful red glow with a hum and took a back-to-back defensive stance with the man next to her.
Her companion side-eyed her with a serious expression. “Do you know how to use that thing?“
Rey let a haughty expression pass over her face. “Well enough—“
His smirk was deadly. “It looks like you’ll get to dance after all—“
A volley of blaster bolts assailed them.
Her blades attracted more fire, and a second volley hit her position hard.
Rey held up her lightsaber defensively and was almost thrown back under the weight of the assault. Yet, it seemed that at least it was good for one thing. More than a few bolts were deflected back to her enemies with it. She swung it experimentally and almost gave the lightsaber a look of wonder. It was working!
Her dark companion had already spun out and was engaged in hacking through those foolish enough to meet him. They fell quickly under his red blade.
Her momentary distraction turned out to be a mistake, as Bala-Tik came from seemingly out of nowhere and had her at the end of his percussive cannon at point blank range. He had already fired before she even had time to think about defending herself by conventional means.
Time itself seemed to slow down and Rey watched with wide eyes as the blaster fire came ever closer. Her life would not end here like this, she decided. Abruptly holding out her hand, Rey willed it to stop as she had seen done earlier. That it did somehow came as no surprise. She was in control here. With a snarl, she twirled her blade in a sweeping arc and cut straight through the man in front of her.
Bala-Tik fell face down in front of her in two distinct pieces.
Rey was still angry and she was breathing hard. Her lip curled in disgust at the scene in front of her. She fought the urge to gag.
The hangar was suddenly quiet save for the hum of their lightsabers.
Her eyes darted to the figure that had slowly moved to stand before her, red lightsaber still held aloft. Rey’s eyes were drawn to his and she was surprised to see how fierce and intent his expression was. She forgot to breathe. She couldn’t look away if she tried. Rey felt frozen to the spot. She literally felt his gaze upon her and it was disconcerting in the extreme. Rey got the distinct impression that those dark eyes missed nothing, especially considering he had started trailing them slowly up and down her body. It almost felt like a physical caress. Such actions had always disgusted her from others, but this time her reaction was something else altogether, which caused her disgust to be directed inward instead. Her heart rate increased at this and she was quite sure she was blushing.
Ren’s eyes were suddenly trained on hers again, his dark gaze full of greed and hunger. “So, you’re the girl I’ve heard so much about—“
Rey let out a shaky breath she didn’t realize she was holding. As if he didn’t know! Her first reaction was to express her anger at his words. He was being intentionally provocative. Rey decided she would be the bigger person and not react to it. She wasn’t as successful as she wanted to be. She narrowed her eyes at him and practically sneered. At least her voice sounded haughty. “That depends on what you’ve heard—and you just thought you’d leave the whole Kylo Ren part out of your introduction, did you?”
Kylo Ren actually managed to sound somewhat offended, though he was obviously not sincere if his facial expression was anything to go by. “Well, you didn’t give a name either—“
Rey gave Kylo Ren a glare that would curdle milk. “Kriff you!”
The look Kylo Ren gave her was downright suggestive. “Are you offering, sweetheart?”
The man barely had time to bring his lightsaber up to block Rey’s first blow.
Rey hissed through her teeth. “I will end you—“
Kylo Ren’s delighted tone was at odds with the dark glare he was giving her. “And she’s violent—“
He spun his lightsaber almost arrogantly and it came down towards her in an overhead swing.
Rey blocked the swing with one of her blades, before spinning out and fluidly sweeping the other blade back in his direction, going for his legs.
He met her blow effortlessly, shoving her away, and then held out one of his hands towards her with his eyes narrowed in concentration.
Suddenly, Rey couldn't move at all. Everything odd she’d seen and experienced all evening was beginning to make perfect sense. To Rey he looked like an absolute madman.
The red glow and hum of Kylo’s lightsaber came to rest near her neck. The heat of the blade was practically burning her skin.
She felt a slight niggling of something push into her mind- barely perceptive- but there. Rey did not like this and instinctively pushed back with her face set into a snarl.
The Force hold he had on her abruptly disappeared.
Like a marionette with its strings cut, Rey had to resist the urge to fall to the ground. She felt Kylo move away from her and walk back towards his ship. Rey spun around incredulously, her mouth agape, following Kylo’s progress with her eyes.
When Kylo got to the ramp, he turned back towards Rey and looked at her expectantly. “Well?”
For her part, Rey was sure she was still doing a good impression of a Jakku sand fish. Her voice sounded strained and she could have kicked herself. “What?”
Kylo’s eyes never left hers, his gaze intense. He raised an eyebrow in challenge. “Do you want to see my ship or not? Please—be my guest—“
Her instincts told her to run, but the Force was encouraging her to stay. Rey was quickly coming to hate the Force. She extinguished her lightsaber. Steeling herself, Rey forced herself to follow him into his ship.
After walking up the entrance ramp, Rey’s heart just about stopped.
Kylo Ren was standing in front of her and leaning casually against the durasteel wall like he had no intention of going anywhere.
Rey walked as close as she dared and also leaned against the durasteel wall. She hugged her upper arms to herself and shifted somewhat awkwardly, looking to the side, suddenly unable to bring herself to look him in the eyes. In an effort to mask her insecurity, Rey spoke. “Hey—“
He was suddenly a lot closer to her, with one arm propped against the wall near her head.
Rey could feel his gaze traveling over her face and neck with the slight ghosting of his breath heating her skin in his perusal.
His voice was soft next to her ear. “Hey, yourself—“
She chanced a glance up to his face.
Kylo’s pupils were blown wide and his gaze was downright predatory. He brought his other arm to rest on the other side of her head and drew closer. “What’s your name?”
Without warning his lips descended on hers.
Rey was overcome with sensation. The pleasurable feeling radiated to her very core. She had never experienced anything of the like. Her entire body was quivering in response. She closed her eyes.
Kylo drew back from the kiss slightly.
Rey panted. “Oh, stars!”
Kylo kissed her again with a groan, bringing his entire body into contact her own, his hands grasping at her waist, and stepping between her legs.
Hardly being aware of her actions, Rey brought her arms up around his neck and kissed him back, her lips moving languorously with his. She was burning at his ardent actions, tingles moving throughout her body like a supernova with every move of his mouth and every caress of his hands. The heat of him and the hardness of his body felt exquisite. Rey literally whined when he pulled away, the lewd sound finally breaking through her senses and leaving her acutely aware with whom she was engaging in such lecherous acts.
The look Kylo Ren gave her now was positively smoldering. His voice sounded ragged and he looked slightly disheveled. “I want you to come back with me—“
Disheveled was a good look for him, Rey thought. Despite this new yearning Rey had for the man in front of her- she pushed him back slightly- and rested the back of her head against the wall with tears of frustration in her eyes. “I can’t—I need to figure things out—Where my place is in all of this—“
Kylo gave her a rather dominating stare that just oozed smugness. “With me—obviously—“
Rey used the Force to shove him back and crossed her arms in irritation. “You are not helping your case—“
Suddenly serious, Kylo took pity on her. “You’re conflicted—I feel it—“
Rey was not used to being this open or vulnerable in front of anyone. Her body language signaled for him to stay away. She bit her lip in uncertainty and looked to the side as if remembering the ghosts of her past. Everything came tumbling out before she could stop herself. “It was easy on Jakku—survive or die. It seems like—nothing—has been easy since then—Han Solo offered me a job once—then he took it away—took me right to his wife—said he was sorry but—anyway—they sent me off to be a Jedi—and I wasn’t even sure I wanted that—I thought they were a myth—I was terrified of it to be honest.” Rey looked as lost as she felt. Her voice turned harsh. She gave a bitter laugh. “Not that that even mattered—oh no—the great Luke Skywalker didn’t want anything to do with someone like me—not really—I don’t even know why I felt bad for leaving—“
He looked as if he wanted to pursue the Luke Skywalker line of questioning and then thought better of it. Kylo’s tone was practically hesitant. His eyes betrayed his eagerness for this outcome. “I can be your teacher—“
Rey gave him a shy smile. “I appreciate the offer—but like I said—I need to figure this out on my own—“
Kylo looked slightly flustered. “I—what is your name again? I can’t just call you girl or scavenger all the time—“
Rey gave him a smirk. Perhaps, she had been a little too coy in withholding that information. “Rey—“
Kylo looked like he was savoring it on his tongue as he said it. “Rey—“ Then he snapped out of his stupor and pulled a hand through his dark curls with a sigh. “I’m sure you know the First Order doesn’t have a habit of letting anyone like you get away—“
She knew he had been up to no good. “So you were going to shanghai me—“
Kylo shrugged unrepentantly. In the next second he looked like he had come to a decision and he wasn’t happy about it. “Kriff it—fine—figure things out—but don’t wait too long—do that and I’ll have to come after you—and I really don’t want to be your enemy- Rey—“
Rey’s heart fluttered at his words, and she wasn’t used to that sort of thing at all. She really didn't want to be his enemy either.
After she had left the ship- Rey reflected on what she needed to do. She had to confront Han Solo. She needed to go back to the Resistance. She needed to see if that was truly where her beliefs and destiny were pointing. She needed distance from Kylo Ren- for all the wrong reasons-if she was honest. She should have felt ashamed of herself. She didn’t really feel anything.
Kylo Ren called to her, his voice almost sounding desperate. “Rey!”
Rey twirled around and could see him standing at the top of the ramp of his upsilon-class command shuttle. She couldn’t help the teasing glint that came into her eye as she flirted with him shamelessly. “Yes- Commander?”
He was staring down at her, a slight breeze blowing his hair into his eyes.
The slight blush on his cheeks may or may not have been her imagination.
Kylo tossed a small object at her. His voice was barely audible over the engines of his ship coming to life. “Just in case—“
Rey caught the object deftly with one hand. Hesitantly, she looked down only to see a ring glinting up at her. In her confusion she slid her eyes back up to meet his. “Just in case, what?”
The ship’s ramp was already closed, with Kylo Ren already gone from her sight.
Stepping through the carnage they had wrought on the Guavian Death Gang earlier, Rey made her way over to the Millennium Falcon and let herself onto the ship. She could break into anything. She sat down at the holo-chess table and waited. Taking out the ring, she discovered that it was hiding plenty of secrets, not the least of which was that it could be opened to reveal the Imperial crest. Interesting that it wasn’t First Order. Rey hummed in contemplation, pocketed the ring, and sat back to wait for Han Solo’s return. She had a lot to think about.
A di'kut is a jerk, by the way.
Rey was completely calm considering a blaster was trained on her person. Han Solo and Chewbacca had both finally returned to the Falcon. Han looked tired and even older than he did when she first met him, and it had only been a few days. His grey hair was tousled and his clothes looked rumpled. Chewbacca even looked tired, his fur a bit more matted than the Wookie was usually known for. The blaster was lifted away from her just as quickly, to Han Solo's credit.
Han looked momentarily surprised and then resigned. "Kid—was that Bala-Tik I saw in pieces back there?"
Rey shrugged and looked down at her one-person holo-chess game. "It was either the Guavian Death Gang or me—I chose me—"
If Rey thought for one second that Han Solo would fault her for killing off an entire gang of ne'er do wells, or question anything about it, then she was wrong. He took it in stride, like it was normal to kill an entire group of heavily armed men, and maybe, to him, it was. If half the stories from his younger days were true, then Han Solo likely belonged in a New Republic prison somewhere. However, it seemed that whatever crimes he had committed during the time of the Empire were swept under the rug.
Chewie roared and Rey nodded in agreement. Yes, Han should cut back on his risky ways. Rey worried for him.
Han rounded on Chewie and pointed at the Wookie with a finger. "You stay out of this—"
Chewie waved him off with a rude gesture.
Han looked back at Rey with a sigh. "Look, kid—I'm sorry—I didn't realize they'd come after you too—"
Rey narrowed her eyes at him. "What if I hadn't been here?"
Han shrugged as if he hadn't a care in the world. "Chewie and I would have made out like we always do—"
Rey snorted. She wasn't fooled in the least. Bala-Tik was right about him. Han's game was old and he had swindled too many people in the galaxy. "You should listen to Chewie more—your lucky streak won't last forever—"
Han ignored her. He fixed her with a serious look. "What are you doing here, Rey?"
Now it was Rey's turn to be nonchalant. "Can't I come and visit my one-time almost employer?"
Han gestured to her in frustration. "I meant here on Coruscant—what happened to Ach-To—being a Jedi?"
Rey nodded her head towards the Wookie. "Chewie didn't tell you?"
Chewie roared an affirmative.
Han shook his head as if to clear it. "Chewie said you didn't even last three days there before you had him drop you off on D'Qar—said Luke wasn't exactly the guy we remembered—"
Rey chewed her lip in contemplation. Rey had to know. "Did you know I was here?"
Han sighed, obviously caught. "Leia may have mentioned something—asked me to keep an eye on you—make sure you were okay—"
Oh, Rey just bet that General Organa asked him to keep an eye on her! She did not trust that woman's motives in the least.
Rey peered at Han seriously. "And instead it worked out the other way—"
Han held his hands up in a placating gesture. "Look, kid—I know you're still upset I took back the job offer—"
Rey lifted her chin. Her voice was prim and to the point. "You certainly have the right to choose to hire who you like, but I would at least have liked to have had a choice about whether or not I had to go to Ach-To—"
Han rubbed his chin in a gesture of unease. "I admit—I wasn't comfortable with that either—but Coruscant?"
Rey lifted one shoulder in a casual shrug of disregard. "Why not? Isn't Coruscant the place to be? Maybe I felt the need to see more of the galaxy before dedicating the entire rest of my life to the Jedi Code—"
Of course, Rey was going to get nowhere in pointing out that General Organa should not get to decide who was going to become a Jedi anyway, so she kept her mouth shut on that score. Leia Organa wanted the old Jedi Order back even if Luke Skywalker hated the very idea these days. Han seemed to get the message if his barely perceptible flinch was anything to go by. Good, he should feel guilty.
Han Solo and General Organa were both a bit hypocritical, considering they seemed to do an awful lot of gallivanting around the galaxy on this whim or that over the years, as far as Rey was concerned.
Han looked at Rey with an incredulous expression. "So-what—you left Ach-To and the Resistance to go clubbing?"
Rey crossed her arms. Her voice was a little too hasty and shrill for her liking. "Of course not—don't be ridiculous—I went on a tour of the Temple—the one club I went to was full of scum—"
Like a rathtar on a ship full of anything else alive, Han pursued this new trail of information. His voice was deceptively casual. "Yeah—and how'd you get to this club—"
Rey could actually tell him the most basic of information, she decided. As long as she left out the whole Kylo Ren part she'd be fine. In fact, she'd deluge him with pointless details. "On a swoop bike. It was a mint condition Mobquet Zephyr G- by the way. It even had a prototype accelerator—"
Han was sitting back in a chair now, hands behind his head. He whistled in appreciation. "Nice. So- we have a ride on a swoop bike—was there dinner involved at any point?"
Rey rolled her eyes. "Of course I ate dinner—at the pub next to the club—"
Han was still doing his casual act. "Was there dancing involved at all?"
Rey thought back to what Kylo had said before they slaughtered the Guavian Death Gang. Rey muttered to herself. "Well, he called it dancing—but I don't see how—"
Han sat up straight and looked at Rey in genuine surprise. "He? Kid? Did you go on a date?"
Rey was defensive. "It was NOT a date—"
Dates were prearranged situations, not random scenarios that ended with—well. Right?
Han looked unconvinced. "Swoop ride? Dinner? Dancing? Conversation?"
Chewie added his own additional question.
Han raised a questioning eyebrow. "Yeah—was there kissing?"
Rey maintained a blank face that wasn't fooling anyone, especially since she was also blushing.
Han gave Rey a little smirk. "That's what I thought—"
Chewie started laughing- his fur shaking everywhere in the process.
It was odd to Rey that Han considered her being on Coruscant to be more dangerous than being part of the Resistance. When she first met Han Solo, she almost considered him to be a father figure, and though he still seemed to fill the role in a very superficial capacity, she could not trust him any more; especially not after he sat back and let General Organa take over her life. Han Solo was not reliable in the least in the ways that counted to someone like Rey. She still couldn't help but like him though, sad as it was.
The trip back to D'Qar was frustrating. Trying to have a truly serious conversation with the likes of Han Solo was practically impossible. He tried to make a joke of everything. Rey finally gave up and decided to go with it.
As D'Qar came into view, Rey spied its lovely green landscape, lakes, and mountains wistfully. However, once the grassy bunkers came into her line of site she couldn't help but feel on edge. Something felt different.
Leia met them as they landed, waiting stoically on the tarmac.
For all that General Organa wore trousers and the colors to blend in with the others around her, she was one of those that pulled off the effortlessly casual look of the wealthy. Rey could not help a stab of envy at the sight and immediately felt ashamed of herself. Leia had only ever been kind to her, after all. She had completely steam-rolled over Rey's own non-existent plans for her life, but at least she was kind about it.
Leia ignored her estranged husband and looked at Rey shrewdly. "I don't know what you did, but leaving Ach-To was finally the thing that got Luke to get off his ass and back in the fight."
Han quipped dryly from behind Rey. "I missed you too."
Leia sighed and gave Han a look. "I'll talk to you later—"
Han's tone was innocent. "I'm just saying—"
General Organa grabbed Rey's arm and tucked it in her own. "Walk with me, Rey—"
It looked like Rey wasn't being given a choice. She almost tripped in her haste to keep pace with the older woman.
Rey was confused. "I don't understand—"
Leia led Rey along the tarmac, passing grass-covered bunkers along the way. Ships, transports, and uniformed personnel were all around.
General Organa nodded at an ancient ship that a rather large group of people were making over near them. "See that x-wing over there? It showed up right after you left. Luke said he felt the Force at work and it just so happens he has sensed some other Force sensitives—"
She patted Rey's arm. "He's decided to re-build the Jedi Order—"
The gesture could have been taken many ways, Rey reckoned, but it only came off as slightly patronizing to her. She wasn't even sure General Organa realized.
Again, Rey was confused. The Luke Skywalker she met was rather anti-Jedi, quite a bit curmudgeonly, and not at all interested in teaching Rey much of anything at all. In fact, she got the impression he didn't like her all that much. Rey's voice was weak. "What?"
Leia shook her head in wry amusement. "I mean—he's not like he used to be—that's for sure—but at least he's finally come to his senses about the whole thing—"
Rey couldn't help but sound skeptical. "Really—"
General Organa's tone suddenly turned more hesitant, more motherly. She turned to face Rey fully and grabbed her hands with an earnest expression on her face. "Did you know that the Jedi only used to train younglings? It never made sense to me. It was only when I was older than I understood why. I get it now.
"I get why you'd want to leave your training—believe me—I understand more than you know. Luke did once too—hard to believe—I know—but Rey—I learned the hard way that sometimes the struggle between the light and the dark is also one of having to make sacrifices—it's hard—I'm no stranger to it either—
"I guess I just want you to know that the thing that counts is that you're here now—you came back—and we're grateful. I'm grateful—we need someone like you—
"And you know—if you ever want to talk—you'll always have a willing ear with me—"
Rey smiled to cover up her discomfort. That was simply not going to happen. Rey was not the type to indulge in heart-to-hearts. Then there was the clear case of manipulation here, but Rey was already on to General Leia Organa. If Han Solo was a superficial father figure that didn't really fit the bill, then Leia Organa was much less suited to fill the role of a superficial mother figure for her. Rey had very little in common with anyone privileged, wealthy, and entitled.
Despite her feelings, Rey had difficulty arguing with Leia as she would Han or even Luke. This is why Rey allowed the General to monologue without interruption. It was much easier and less stressful to simply tell the woman what she wanted to hear and be done with it. "Right—of course—thank you, General—"
General Organa gave Rey a warm smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. She squeezed Rey's hands hard before walking off. "Call me Leia. Welcome back, Rey—"
Rey was left standing there, watching the General's retreating back. Why did that last squeeze feel like a warning?
She didn't know what to think anymore. Luke Skywalker was there on D'Qar. There were, apparently, other Force sensitive individuals he was going to find to train in the ways of the Jedi. She could only hope that he had somehow undergone a personality transplant for the better. The entire thing felt surreal. Rey sighed and decided to explore her surroundings- and by surroundings- she meant the verdant green of the outdoors surrounding the base.
Rey felt his presence before she saw him. She almost turned and walked back the way she came but restrained herself. Taking one look at him it was apparent that the only thing that had improved about Luke Skywalker was that he sported a new haircut, a neatly trimmed beard, was now wearing new and clean Jedi robes, and had been outfitted with a new cybernetic hand. His presence was as unpleasant as ever.
Luke Skywalker managed to sound incredibly annoyed and resigned all at once as he looked at her. "So- you decided to come back after all—"
Rey crossed her arms and gave as good as she got. She snorted in amusement at her own wit. "So- you're finally done playing the guru on the mountain giving three valuable lessons- like in all the stories? I meant to ask before if you knew the sound of one hand clapping—"
Luke's eyes were piercing. "The real question is if you learned anything—I'm thinking not—if Han's story was true—"
Rey repeated what she had told Han Solo. Her denial was just as emphatic now. "It was NOT a date—"
Luke looked at her like she was a detonator ready to explode. His voice was incredulous. "I'm talking about killing off the Guavian Death Gang, Rey!"
Rey's stomach dropped. Oh, that. She couldn't exactly tell him about how she had had help from Kylo Ren, but she didn't feel that she should have to explain herself for defending herself either. Rey raised her voice in frustration. "Should I feel upset about finishing off a bunch of monsters like that? They deserved it—and they attacked me first!"
Luke looked angry and he sounded angry. "You could have showed restraint! You could have just incapacitated them! Jedi never kill unless there is no other option! You have a power they don't—you have a responsibility—"
For some reason, Rey didn't feel like she could look Luke in the eyes anymore. She clenched her jaw and spoke quietly, her hands in fists. "There wasn't another option! You weren't there—you don't know—"
Luke shook his head, his voice taking on a tone of disgust. "Like I said—straight to the dark—"
Rey stared at a place on Luke's chin. He was making her feel like some kind of naughty youngling and Rey hadn't ever had the luxury. She resented it. She defended herself. "You're paranoid—"
Luke wasn't through yet though. His voice was mocking. "And you're still as wrong as you were when you first came to Ach-To. 'The Force is a power that Jedi have that lets them control people and makes things float!' Remember that? Your actions speak loudly—"
Rey hugged herself. She felt very vulnerable right now. She had only been following the Force. How was that wrong? Her voice was soft. "Well, I'm back now, aren't I? I still need to learn how to control this—I still need help—"
Luke still didn't let up. His words were meant to cut. "It's impossible to teach a student that cuts class. I'm one to learn from my mistakes—I don't want a repeat of what happened to my nephew, Ben Solo—"
Rey flinched. Despite herself, this made Rey livid. Luke Skywalker had only ever offered her three lessons and told her to leave numerous times. Yet, when she had decided to take his advice and followed through on it he had acted as if she was doing the wrong thing. She blew out a loud breath to calm herself and tried to be rational. "Yeah—you never explained that—"
Luke huffed. "No? Maybe I should have—"
Rey's self-hug turned to a defiant arm crossing. Her voice dripped sarcasm. "It would be shocking to find out that he left due to your charming personality—"
Luke went still and leveled a serious stare at her. "Ben struggled with the dark too—he wound up trying to kill me—he did kill my other students—they call him Kylo Ren now—"
Rey's mind blanked out. The only thing she could think of was the one thing that she voiced. She was in shock. "What?"
Kylo Ren was Ben Solo? Rey shook her head as if to clear it. This explained his reaction to seeing the Millennium Falcon but it raised so many questions. Oh, Maker, had she gone on a date with Ben Solo? Well, it was immaterial because there had been no date, but still—
Luke had crossed his own arms. His tone was still sarcastic. "Oh—do I have your attention now? If you're serious—if you don't want to be a danger to everyone around you—you show up—you do things my way—you listen—you learn to meditate—It appears my schedule is at your disposal after all—and you'll have to be a good example for the younglings when we find them—"
Rey looked up at Luke with a lost expression on her face. She sounded like she was choking. "What?"
He shook his head at her. "We start tomorrow morning—"
Luke Skywalker stormed off like he couldn't get away from her fast enough.
Rey knew that for every wreck that the desert revealed there was also quite a bit buried under the sand; and while she did not feel as if Luke was lying about Kylo Ren, she had the distinct impression that he had left out quite a bit too. This information made her more conflicted. She had been right to not trust Kylo Ren; however, she also felt that she was right in not trusting someone like Luke Skywalker either. Time would tell who was right, and until then Rey would bide her time. Rey was a scavenger. She'd take the useful teachings that Luke Skywalker had to impart and leave the rest. Yet, she also couldn't help but think that if even Luke Skywalker was afraid of the Force and what she could do with it, then her own fears of this power were perhaps justified. It was a thought she did not want to contemplate.
It was much later when Rey decided it was time to once again rejoin the rest of the base. Her growling stomach was the only thing that could encourage her to leave her exploration of the surrounding area. She found herself hesitant at joining so many others in the canteen as she was hardly used to any company save herself most of the time.
The food was barely a step above rations, but she was hardly in a position to complain, so she joined a line, picked up a tray, and then turned to find a place in which to sit.
She spied Luke Skywalker sitting next to General Organa and Han Solo. Luke's gaze was rather unwelcoming, but it appeared that he was giving off that vibe to everyone else too, so Rey deliberately chose to sit elsewhere.
Her eyes scanned the canteen until she came across a group on the far end, and it was one individual that caught her attention. It was a man with dark hair and an infectious smile, and he was likely the most conventionally handsome man Rey had ever seen.
As if noticing her stare, the man looked up into her eyes and smiled. "Hey—you can sit here if you like—"
He certainly didn't make her weak at the knees like Kylo Ren had, but there was nothing wrong with admiring someone, was there?
«He's a distraction.»
Rey's shoulders tensed. For a moment she almost thought it was her own inner voice. However, there was no mistaking the disdainful tone of the old man. She had hoped to never hear it again. Except she now knew he was much more than that. Just to spite the specter of the Emperor, Rey sat down at the space the man indicated for her at the table. It would not do to dwell on this new development now.
The dark haired man cheerfully introduced himself. "Hi—I'm Poe Dameron—"
And Poe Dameron was very charming and charismatic. He introduced Rey to everyone and she quickly learned that he was the pilot that had helped Finn to escape. For half a second, Rey agreed with the Emperor. Poe was definitely a distraction. But why was that even an issue?
Dropping his voice and looking around as if trying to be discreet, Poe looked at Rey. "How's—you know—the Jedi thing going?"
Rey's smile turned brittle. "That's to be determined—"
One girl at the table, a Rose Tico, looked at Rey in excitement. "I heard you and Luke Skywalker had an argument—it's the talk of the base—"
Rey shrugged in embarrassment. She wasn't used to being the center of attention. "We had a difference of opinion—he wasn't happy that I went to Coruscant—"
Poe looked at her with a serious expression. "I can see why. Coruscant isn't safe these days—it's full of Centrists and First Order sympathizers—"
Rey truly did not understand why being a Centrist was such an issue. If anything, her own political views fell more into line with the Centrists. They were a valid political faction to belong to in the New Republic. Rey's nose wrinkled in confusion. The question was out before she could stop it. "What's wrong with being a Centrist?"
Poe looked flummoxed. "What's wrong with being a Centrist? Are you seriously asking? She's seriously asking. They're bad news. It's the Centrists that are at the root of the problem here in the New Republic—"
Rey looked at Poe Dameron with a guileless expression. "Why?"
The question rang uncomfortably in the air. The mess hall went silent and Rey immediately wished that she could recant it. Apparently Poe's surprised response had been a bit too loud. Asking such a question was always dangerous, even among idealists- especially among idealists. In this case, directly questioning whatever Populist ideals Poe held dear, Rey had wondered why it was considered better. From what she had learned, the Centrists had, at least, got things done. Populism sounded wonderful on flimsiplast, but reality was much harsher than such idealism ever accounted for. Rey had never seen the benefits of it on Jakku.
Looks were exchanged and some appeared as if they were gearing up to argue. Some were already beginning to mutter angrily. Poe looked genuinely surprised that Rey would disagree, which only served to make Rey feel guilty somehow, though she was certain she had nothing to feel particularly guilty over.
Poe's incredulity was tangibly written on his handsome face. "Why? What do you mean why, Rey?" He looked around as if expecting someone else to have an easy answer to such a preposterous question. "Because—"
General Organa's authoritative alto cut through Poe's poor explanation decisively. "Because, when the people in authority don't have to answer to the citizens of the galaxy, the result is tyranny."
When the General had arrived to stand at their table, Rey didn't know, but she wasn't accepting this answer either. Who was to say the Centrists were against those in authority not having to answer to anyone? It seemed too convenient an answer. Too pat. Not all of the Centrists had been for the First Order. Rey's skepticism was obviously evident on her face. Her jaw was stubbornly set and her posture was a little too straight. However, she knew better than to argue with the General.
Leia Organa smiled sadly at her. "Well, it's all somewhat moot right now, isn't it? Let's defeat the First Order before dividing ourselves into political factions again, okay?" Leia's voice turned teasing. "Besides, as a Jedi, you're supposed to be skeptical of politics."
Rey gave an uncomfortable smile of her own and canted her head in acquiescence. She was no Jedi. She had only reluctantly begun the training- and Luke Skywalker didn't want her there anyway. She could voice none of this. "Yes, of course, General."
She didn't need to turn her head to search for Luke Skywalker. His Force presence was already gone.
The warning was heeded for what it was and the ice was broken. Everyone else went back to talking, with Poe immediately changing the subject to something less controversial and more upbeat. However, Rey was not exactly oblivious to the wary looks she received from some of those around her.
What did it say about her, Rey wondered, that she didn't find herself agreeing with the Populist talk around her at the Resistance base? Wistful stories about returning the New Republic to its days of glory were all around, but Rey couldn't get excited about it anymore. The Centrists made more sense to her. General Organa had been the only saving grace for the Populists, if the stories were right. Nevertheless, the more she learned, the more she was convinced the New Republic was a form of government perpetually doomed to failure. It had failed everyone on Jakku anyway. None of this meant that she was for the First Order though.
Suddenly, someone flopped down next to her on the bench, his back resting against the table as he sprawled out casually.
He pointed to her with his Corellian Ale bottle and began talking. "Well—you just learned an important lesson—"
Rey side-eyed the man. She did not feel like being lectured by yet another person today. "Who're you—"
He was wearing a long, brown duster, had deliberately mussed hair, and had fingerless gloves. "Name's DJ. I'm a slicer—anyway—it's like I've always said—partner. Live free, don't join—"
Rey looked at him with narrowed eyes. She didn't like him. "Why're you here then—"
He smirked. "I lend out my services to anyone that pays—"
Rey huffed and looked down at her meal. She mumbled. "I can't believe they let you come here—"
DJ shrugged. "I can't either—but they're keeping an eye on me see—they're always having me watched—not letting me around droids or any tech at all—"
Rey's voice turned sharp. "You could give away where the base is once you leave—"
DJ hummed in acknowledgement. "The First Order already knows where it is—and the Resistance knows it—they're in a cold war—"
Rey hissed through her teeth. She knew his sort. "The fact they even hired you is disgusting—you'd probably sell your own mother for drinking money—"
The man took a sip of ale. "Smart girl—I warned 'em about me—that's what I like about you though—you don't try to convince yourself I wouldn't sell you out—or that I haven't taken money from the other side too—it's what I do—"
Rey shook her head in disgust. "I'm used to your sort—I'm from Jakku—"
DJ nodded at her in approval. "So you don't trust anybody—"
Rey stabbed her synth meat with more vigor than necessary. He looked like a drunk. "Especially anybody that's looking for drinking money—"
As if used to such things being said about him, DJ ignored her and kept talking like she hadn't insulted him at all. "Say—what do you know about old Imperial tech—"
Rey should have ignored him but she couldn't help herself. "Quite a bit—why?"
DJ took another sip of ale and shook his head slightly. "No reason—ever heard of a numbers station? Real low tech—uses old radio frequencies low tech—but they're dead useful—impossible to decode or slice into if you don't have the one-time decryption code—"
Finally, Rey turned and looked at him. "Why are you talking about this? And no—I haven't—"
He glanced at her with an innocent expression. "Just making conversation—there's this one though—it's infamous really—they call it "Piett's Revenge"—'s been broadcasting continuously since the day after the Battle of Endor—"
He had her full attention now. She'd never heard of anything like this. Rey couldn't help the tone of interest that crept into her voice. "You know—that is actually interesting—"
DJ nodded in agreement. He continued his story, obviously into it. "Always a topic of interest for me because even I can't slice it—but this one—always the same—has the same recording and then a set of numbers—sometimes—the numbers change—but it's always the same recording—a buddy of mine tracked the frequency down once—tried to jam it—but it seamlessly moved to a new frequency—same broadcast transmission—different location—when he got there—it was an old abandoned Imperial outpost—"
Rey held back a shiver. This was like hearing some of the interesting tales from the rare off-worlders that came to Niima Outpost. "Really? That's—kind of creepy actually—"
DJ gave her a look of agreement. "You'd better believe it—it spooked my buddy quite a bit—officially nobody has ever proven what they're used for and the Empire never acknowledged their existence—but it's pretty obvious it's to give instructions to spies—amongst other things—"
Intrigued, Rey added her own thoughts. "Yeah—but if that's true then how did they get their decryption code—"
DJ side-eyed her. "Rings—"
Rey looked to him in absolute surprise and not a little confusion. "What?"
He shook his head as if he couldn't even believe it. "Honest to Maker decryption rings—that's what they say—"
Rey froze and went white. Her heart stopped beating.
DJ suddenly stretched and waved his now empty ale bottle in resignation. "Well—you know—as interesting as this conversation has been—I'm being glared at—so I guess I need to get back to my escort—think I need a new drink anyway—"
Rey didn't even notice him leave.
Rey found herself drifting away in her own thoughts. Rey knew that she was given to too much quiet introspection for other people's comfort. Her time since Jakku had changed her. She wasn't so certain that it was for the better. The myths and heroes she had eagerly and naively clung to had long revealed their flaws and she was only left with a constant search for serenity, which was all the harder after discovering that there were more things in the galaxy than the loneliness and survival of Jakku. With the expectation that she would eventually become a Jedi dogging her steps, Rey found it even more difficult than her upbringing afforded to maintain normal interactions with others.
In lieu of her failure to engage those around her without offending them, Rey turned toward the bag at her side and pulled out the one artifact she had kept after the events on Coruscant. The one thing she could not bring herself to destroy. In some ways, her scavenging ways would never leave her.
General Organa's voice washed over her as she came to sit by her side, sitting where DJ had. Her perfume was light and sweet. "What do you have there?"
Rey shrugged, looking at the Imperial holo-vid she had come across, before handing it over to the older woman for her review. "I found it earlier."
Curiously hefting the slight weight of the disc in her hands, the General looked at it for a minute before handing it back to her. "Huh. I bet it contains exactly the kind of ostentatious bantha shit the Imperials favored—"
Rey shook her head in amusement. "Yeah." It was more than that, she knew. It had been something she had taken to remind her that she wasn't crazy, that it happened. She wanted something to remind her of everything she had experienced- and of all of the things she hadn't. It was exactly why she took it.
The General gave her a look. "You alright? You know, I wish you'd just go to Luke, Rey. Whatever you're going through, he can help you—"
Rey couldn't look her in the eye. She focused back on the holo-vid in her lap. She swallowed thickly with tears in her eyes. "I do appreciate the offer—but I can't think about anything related to being a Jedi right now. You'll recall I did have a job offer doing something I would have been good at—"
The General reached out and covered one of Rey's hands with her own. "I'm sorry. I know I'm to blame for Han retracting his offer. However, I couldn't live with myself if I let a promising young woman get swept into a life of smuggling. You were in a bad enough state after that Stormtrooper broke your heart and abandoned you—I couldn't stand the thought of you getting caught up in my husband's shenanigans too—"
Her hand felt clammy on Rey's skin. "Perhaps you're right." Rey looked up at the other woman with a tremulous smile. "And it's not that I'm not grateful for you letting me stay, but I just need some time to myself tonight. I'm not saying I'll never talk about everything with Luke, I just don't want to right now. He told me we start tomorrow anyway—"
Leia smiled and immediately released her, pulling her hand back to pat Rey on the cheek. "That's all I'm asking Rey—that you give it a chance. And—if it doesn't work out with my brother—I'll give you a job."
Despite herself Rey couldn't help giving the General a hopeful smile. She could have kicked herself for seeming so desperate. "Really? You mean that?"
General Organa shook her head ruefully. "Don't be a nerfherder, Rey. Of course, I'll give you a job." She gestured to the holo-vid in Rey's hands. "Oh, and you might want to keep that hidden. Not everyone around here would understand—"
Rey laughed and gave the General a mock salute. She feigned a depth of feeling she currently couldn't muster, because she only felt numb at the moment. She did it because it was expected of her. The only thing she truly felt was an obligation to not let the General down. When she saw the tension visibly lift from Leia Organa's posture at her response, Rey knew then that she could not be herself with the older woman.
Rey reached into her pocket and clenched the ring that Kylo Ren had given her with a death grip. She didn't even notice when she lost the feeling in the hand altogether. Rey did not fit in here.
Later that night, Rey sat in her assigned room and looked at the piece of equipment sitting innocently in front of her with trepidation. Placing the earphones on, she began adjusting the dial, searching for frequencies. She found quite a few, but none felt right. Just as she was about to give up, the Force nudged her.
The station had quite a bit of static and then it came through loud and clear.
"Do they have a code clearance?"
Rey held her breath. There was no mistaking that voice. It was Darth Vader. She could hear the respirations and the ominous vocoder as if the Sith Lord was in the room with her.
Then there was another voice. "It's an older code, sir, but it checks out. I was about to clear them… Shall I hold them?"
It was Admiral Piett. It had to be. She had found the station. Rey had found "Piett's Revenge."
Darth Vader's voice came in again. "No. Leave them to me. I will deal with them myself."
Piett's voice came in again. "As you wish, my Lord. Carry on."
A clipped and clear male voice with a Coruscanti accent then chimed in with a string of numbers. "Eight, zero, two, four, six, eight." There was a pause and then the numbers were repeated. "Eight, zero, two, four, six, eight. End of Transmission."
A line of static followed. Then the entire transmission began again. "Do they have a code clearance?"
With a shaking hand, Rey pulled the ring out and looked at it. Her breath was uneven and her heart was beating fast. She had never felt so nervous. She briefly closed her eyes to calm herself and then opened them with determination. Before she could question herself, Rey opened the ring.
Number stations are an actual thing.
Rey looked at the screen before her in disappointment. After using the ring to decode the message from the transmission, it had only referred her to a role-playing forum on the HoloNet. There was a main page that detailed the rules and then listed pages upon pages of various role-playing games one could choose to join. Truly, she shouldn't be disappointed at all. What she had been doing could be considered treason. Telling herself that it was merely a case of insatiable curiosity wouldn't have worked if this endeavor had turned out to be real. She was lucky it hadn't been.
Rey let out a long breath. Her case of nerves suddenly vanished. It was an insane course she had been on and— all for what—because she was upset over having some fundamental disagreements regarding religion and politics with a few people—with a few being the entire Resistance? When she put it that way, it didn't seem so trivial. Rey shook her head. It was best not to think like that. She was being dramatic and irrational.
Rey looked at the screen in consideration. Well, since she was here, it wouldn't hurt to look. Perhaps she'd play a game. She could use the distraction. There were so many to choose from. One could even choose sides of various conflicts. She randomly clicked on a link for a game called Imperial Intelligence.
Words appeared on the screen.
You have just entered a room that has a table with a chair on either side.
Rey was intrigued. With sudden vigor she typed her own message.
Guest: *glances around and decides to sit in the chair facing the door*
More words appeared.
Adjustments Agent: *enters room and sits down* Who is this? What is your operating number?
Rey smirked and then typed.
Guest: *gives the Adjustments Agent a look* What's yours? You could be a rebel for all I know.
Adjustments Agent: *smirks* I used to work Interrogation. We're not like the ISB here. If you don't want to tell me your operating number you don't have to.
Truthfully, Rey loved hearing about past organizations such as this.
Guest: So, I take it you don't like the ISB?
Adjustments Agent: They have their uses.
That was exactly what she'd expect someone in Imperial Intelligence to say. Rey was intrigued by the discussion but had to admit she didn't know a lot about Imperial Intelligence.
Guest: What's an Adjustments Agent?
Adjustments Agent: *gives another smirk* Ah, maybe you're the rebel here. If you were one of us you'd know. I suppose you could say we're black-ops. We clean up a lot of messes for the Ubiqtorate.
It would be more fun to play the part of someone that wasn't Imperial here, just to see what they'd do.
Guest: You know, I don't have a number.
Adjustments Agent: I'd already figured as much, but thank you for being honest. Mind telling me how you got here? People usually don't find themselves in the clutches of Adjustments unless they go searching for trouble.
For some inexplicable reason, Rey decided to be completely honest. Anyone in the game wouldn't know the difference anyway.
Guest: I listened to a transmission someone told me about. It just so happens I was able to decode it.
Adjustments Agent: Mind indulging me by telling me how you were able to do that?
Guest: A ring.
Adjustments Agent: Thank you. If you don't mind, I'd like for you to speak with one of my superiors.
Suddenly, Rey felt nervous. Perhaps this was a mistake.
Guest: Maybe I don't want to.
Adjustments Agent: You don't have to. No pressure or anything. I just think he'd be interested in this information is all. He takes a personal interest in this sort of thing.
Despite her hesitation, Rey didn't see the harm. It was all part of the game and she was being silly for being nervous.
Guest: Well, I guess that would be okay. You're making me nervous though.
Adjustments Agent: No need for that. I'll be right back. *leaves room*
Truth Officer: *enters the room*
Adjustments Agent: *re-enters the room*
Truth Officer: Dismissed, Lieutenant.
Adjustments Agent: But, sir, the General—
Truth Officer: *glares at the Adjustments Agent* You. Are. Dismissed. Lieutenant.
Adjustments Agent: Yes, sir. *leaves room quickly*
Rey was completely amused by their exchange. It's just the sort of thing one might imagine from Imperials.
Guest: I take it you weren't who the Adjustments Agent was going to get?
Truth Officer: *sits at table*
It was slightly unnerving that he didn't answer. She just knew it was a he. His title also wasn't fooling Rey in the least. She typed.
Guest: *laughs* Nobody expects the Imperial Inquisition!
Truth Officer is now the Grand Inquisitor: *jarring chord sounds* Our chief weapon is surprise—surprise and fear—fear and surprise—our two weapons are fear and surprise—and ruthless efficiency—Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency—and an almost fanatical devotion to the Emperor—
Rey found his humor reassuring. She grinned.
Guest: *laughs uncontrollably*
Grand Inquisitor: Why are you here?
Rey decided to play along.
Guest: *refuses to answer just to be difficult*
Grand Inquisitor: *gives evil laugh as Guest is suddenly strapped to an interrogation chair* Again. Why are you here?
Guest: *answers immediately out of a sudden sense of fear* Insatiable curiosity.
Grand Inquisitor: *smirks* That's the best kind.
This was actually rather fun, Rey decided.
Guest: *glares* You will remove these restraints.
Grand Inquisitor: *uses threatening tone* What did you say?
Guest: *gulps nervously* You will remove these restraints—
Grand Inquisitor: *sneers* I'll tighten those restraints, rebel scum—
Guest: *gets Jedi mind trick right this time* You will remove these restraints.
Grand Inquisitor: *shakes head condescendingly* Your mind tricks won't work on me. So, you're a Jedi, are you?
Despite herself, Rey decided to go with the truth again. It was kind of freeing to tell the truth to some anonymous stranger while playing a game that strangely mirrored her real life anyway.
Guest: *pouts* No. I'm the worst Jedi apprentice in the galaxy, apparently.
Grand Inquisitor: Padawan. And, I doubt that. There were worse ones. Tell me about your master.
Guest: *gives defiant glare* You'll get nothing from me, monster!
Grand Inquisitor: *gives the pretty little Jedi Padawan a considering look* You know, I can take whatever I want.
Rey felt her heart beating faster. He was being very flirtatious. Rey decided to call him on it.
Guest: *raises eyebrow* That sounds kind of kinky.
Grand Inquisitor: *smirks and moves even closer to Guest* I know. So, tell me. How are you the galaxy's worst Jedi Padawan?
Guest: *gives a woeful sigh* My master thinks I'm too susceptible to the dark side.
Grand Inquisitor: *gives Guest a serious and hopeful look* Are you?
Guest: *tries to shrug but finds it difficult being as she is in RESTRAINTS* I've never even thought about it. It's all just the Force, isn't it?
Grand Inquisitor: *says this next bit very seductively* Oh, there is definitely a dark side to the Force.
Rey was actually blushing.
Guest: *blushes* And a light side—and a balance—allegedly—
Grand Inquisitor: *nods* Yes. It's my job to get you to join us. That's what Inquisitors do. I sense that you're powerful. I could train you if the Emperor agrees.
The Inquisitorius were an interesting organization to be sure. Allegedly part of Imperial Intelligence, but under Darth Vader's command. To even pretend to consider joining such a group was kind of exciting.
Guest: *gives an excited look* Ooh! Will I get an operating number or a code name then?
Grand Inquisitor: *smiles indulgently* If you like.
Guest: *bites lip in thought* Thirteenth Sister has a nice ring.
Grand Inquisitor: *looks longingly at Guest's lips* Whatever you want. Personally, I think you're more of a Seventh Sister, as the old one is long dead. There are six Inquisitorius besides me.
Rey's entire body froze in shock. This was a little too close to the truth of her vision and there was no way anyone could know about it. The lightsaber she took had belonged to the Seventh Sister. She knew it.
Guest: How did you know this?
Grand Inquisitor: *gives Guest a questioning look* Know what?
Rey felt a chill go down her spine. She needed to know.
Guest: I'm serious. How did you know about my Force vision?
There was a long pause before the response.
Grand Inquisitor: I'm sending you an encrypted file so you can contact me via comlink. I'm trusting you with this. Don't give it to anyone else.
Rey worried her lip in confusion and not a little fear. There was no way she was going to contact him. The file he sent was probably full of corrupted data or lewd things. Rey hesitated for only a second and then did the unthinkable. Stars help her, but she was going to download it to her personal drive anyway.
Guest: Why would I do that? I don't even know you.
Grand Inquisitor: *looks around fondly* But we've gotten to know each other so well in this cozy little interrogation room.
Guest: *snorts* I'd bet on the Imps building a third Death Star before I'd bet on me contacting someone I just met on the HoloNet. I don't trust you.
There was an even longer pause this time.
Grand Inquisitor: I know.
Suddenly, Rey got the impression that maybe she did know who this was. However, she liked keeping herself in the dark. She had already promised herself she wouldn't cross this line. She was done with this.
Guest: *uses hereto unknown and really wizard Jedi powers to escape from interrogation chair and leaves room before the Grand Inquisitor can do anything about it*
The response was immediate.
Grand Inquisitor: REY-07. That could be your operating number if you want.
Since she hadn't logged off she was still able to see it. Oh, Maker. Kriffing hell! Rey stared at the screen and felt her stomach twist into knots. It really was Kylo Ren. She had half wondered, but now she knew for certain that it was. She had been beyond stupid. She closed her eyes and attempted to control her breathing. Rey swallowed hard and with shaking hands erased the role-playing site from her data pad. She couldn't let herself do this.
Unfortunately sleep didn't find her that night. It was all she could think about. The morning found her in a worse state.
One look at Luke Skywalker had Rey wondering if he could read her mind. However, he did not seem to have that ability after all.
Luke Skywalker sat down next to her with his breakfast.
Luke side-eyed her skeptically before picking up a glass of blue milk. "Why do I get the impression you're not going to take training seriously today?"
Rey let out a large yawn. "I couldn't sleep—"
Luke wasn't even looking at her, intent on his own meal. "Did you try to meditate?"
Rey's shoulders slumped. She murmured into her reconstituted eggs. "No."
A fork was pointed in her direction in admonition. "Meditation should be your first recourse."
Rey felt vaguely horrified at this news. It must have shown on her face.
Luke turned toward her and raised an eyebrow. He acted as if he knew the answer to his question. "Ready to quit already?"
Rey steeled her shoulders and looked up at Luke Skywalker seriously, practically hissing through her teeth. "Never—"
Luke narrowed his eyes at her. "It's that sort of aggression that speaks to the dark side—"
Rey bit her tongue and nodded instead. "I'm sorry—I'll try harder—"
He shook his head before setting his fork down and looking at her in exasperation. "It's not about trying harder. It's about letting go of the conflict that is plaguing you—it's about learning to become one with the Force—becoming passive—learning patience—letting go of everything—you either do it or you don't—you must release everything into the Force—"
Rey complained. "That makes no sense—"
Luke's voice turned calm and methodical. "Jedi serve others—the greater good—you must lose your ego—"
She turned in her seat to face Luke. "I do want to help others—but I'm not sure I can do all of—" Rey waved her hand. "That—"
Luke looked at her seriously. "You must—if you don't want to fall to the dark—you must—"
Rey clenched her teeth in frustration. "Then teach me how—"
Luke pursed his lips in disagreement. "I thought I was trying to do that—you're not listening—"
Rey sighed in frustration. She didn't have time for philosophy here. She needed action. "When can we get to the lightsaber training? There's a war on, Master Skywalker—I have to be able to help when the time comes—"
Luke narrowed his eyes at her. "Keep it up and we'll never get to the lightsaber part—without meditation you have nothing—and that's exactly what we're going to do today, tomorrow, and every single day until you get it through your head—what's going on in the galaxy shouldn't concern you—Jedi aren't here to change the galaxy to suit ourselves—we're here to only act out of duty for the greater good—"
Rey bowed her head as if compliant. This sounded like absolute Sithspit to her, but what did she know? She was no youngling to be lectured to like this. She followed Luke outside and sat in the greenery where he indicated. She closed her eyes when told to do so. She breathed in and out as instructed. She told him of whatever she was seeing when asked.
Every time her mind wandered, he brought her back to the act of meditating. Rey was absolutely restless and Luke was absolutely relentless. He knew she didn't like it and he sadistically extended their session for much longer than she would have liked. It was only when she finally seemed to find a sense of calm that he called an end to the meditation session.
Rey opened her eyes only to discover that it was practically dusk on D'Qar. Rey looked at the sunset dully. Her voice was monotone. "I've spent all day meditating—"
Luke shook his head. "No—you spent only about one hour meditating—the rest of the day was you trying to fight the very idea—"
Rey sighed in frustration. She would not get mouthy. She wouldn't. She was one with the Force. She was.
Luke bowed in her direction. It seemed somewhat mocking to her eyes. "Go eat—we're doing this tomorrow too—try not to let your disappointment show too much—being a Jedi isn't all about lightsabers and Force tricks—it takes discipline—"
Rey stood and her entire body resisted from being in a constricted position all day. Rey bowed back, barely going through the motions. She was mentally wrung out from this. She stalked back towards the canteen, leaving Luke behind. She said nothing to him in return.
Even though Rey was as fond of her Jedi master as he was of her, she chose to sit next to him in the canteen in an effort to avoid Poe Dameron's crowd of friends. It was mostly out of self-preservation, as no one would dare say anything to her with Luke Skywalker around. He didn't talk to her but she had nothing to say to him anyway. Leia and Han weren't there. Rey was glad of it. She was in a very anti-social mood.
As much as meditating had mentally tired her, her plans for sleep were interrupted when she returned to her assigned room and saw her data pad. Her conflict suddenly came raging back ten-fold.
Rey had things she wanted to say to Kylo Ren. She at least needed some type of closure. She needed to know why he had tried to kill his uncle and killed the other students. She did not need to know why he rejected the Jedi teachings—because she was having no trouble imagining anyone giving them up after today—but she would like to hear his thoughts about them—she wanted to know what he perhaps had to offer that was better. She let out a long breath to steady herself. She couldn't believe she was about to do this. This was even more dangerous than listening to old radio frequencies and going on the HoloNet. This was actually making contact via comlink.
In the short time that Rey had been on D'Qar she had quickly amassed an amazing array of tech in her room. It was junk others hadn't wanted—outdated things—but she would fix them and modify them for her own as something to do.
Rey picked up her newest project, which was a discarded comlink that had a holo-projector function. This was a newer piece of tech that someone had trashed after it malfunctioned. Rey could not abide to see such waste. The Resistance member it had belonged to had readily given it to her, thinking it beyond saving. She fingered it delicately.
She bit her lip in indecision. If she were caught now, it would not be good. Rey wasn't quite sure what would happen, but she knew it would not be pleasant. This was not committing to anything. This was not really making a choice. This was simply seeking out answers. Trying to find answers was never a wrong course of action. Right?
Besides, if DJ was right, the First Order already knew where the Resistance base was, so there was no harm in contacting them, and she knew nothing critical to accidentally give away to them anyway. She was being careful. Kylo Ren had given her an encrypted code. Nobody in the Resistance would be able to trace this call to her and they wouldn't be able to decode it either—well—not without considerable work. The chances of them monitoring for this sort of thing was low, at least that was her hope. In fact, it seemed like Kylo Ren was taking the greater risk here in giving her this.
What Rey should do was to march out of this room and immediately turn over everything to General Organa. She knew she should. That's what loyal Resistance members did. However, her curiosity was winning here. Perhaps she wasn't all that loyal.
Before she could talk herself out of it, Rey turned on the device, even the holo-projector, and put in the encrypted code that she was given.
The holo activated and an image of a woman appeared. She had dark hair and was wearing a black uniform and an intercomm headset. "This is the Finalizer—Identify yourself—"
Rey was stumped. This was really happening; however, she was suddenly a bundle of nerves. She couldn't think of what to say. She stammered terribly. "Um—may I speak with Kylo Ren?"
Immediately, the holo of the woman turned to someone off screen. "Lieutenant—"
Rey distinctly heard the man respond, "What is it, Chief Petty Officer?"
Suddenly, the holo showed a Human male in a First Order uniform. He was even wearing the hat. He looked quite smart in it. "This is Lieutenant Mitaka of the Finalizer—Who is this? What is your operating number?"
Rey laughed nervously. "That's what the Adjustments Agent said in this game I played—"
The Lieutenant seemed to pale. "Hold just a moment—"
Rey's screen went to static for a moment. When it cleared, there was a holo of a man with red hair before her, also in a First Order uniform. "This is General Hux of the First Order. Who are you? How did you get this communications code?"
Rey was seated in a chair at the desk in her room and she was nervously moving one leg up and down, while rubbing her palms on her thighs. She was a little intimidated. "I'm Rey—Kylo Ren—he gave me this code—I think—"
General Hux looked annoyed. "You think Kylo Ren gave you this communications code?"
Rey nodded in confirmation. "Yes—I'd like to speak with him—please—"
General Hux looked off-screen. "Lieutenant—send Captain Phasma to my office—" He looked back at Rey. It was obvious that he was walking. "I don't know who you are—or what game you think you're playing—but I will get to the bottom of this—"
"I've already told you. My name is Rey and—"
"You want to speak to Ren—yes—you've said. The thing is—Ren doesn't accept calls—"
Rey was now frustrated. "Then why would he give me this code? I'm pretty sure it was him because he gave me a ring—"
There was a choking sound. "Don't tell me you're Ren's fiancé!" The general looked absolutely disgusted by this idea.
Rey spluttered indignantly. "First it's people insisting it was a date and now I'm suddenly engaged!"
The general gave Rey a dubious look.
The holo suddenly held another person in addition to the general, except this person was wearing silver armor and a helmet. "You asked to see me, General?"
The man nodded his head. "Yes, Captain. You can take your helmet off—"
Upon removing her helmet, Rey could see that the captain was a rather handsome and formidable looking woman with blonde hair. She had the look of a warrior. This woman was obviously a survivor, like Rey.
General Hux continued speaking. "Captain, this girl somehow got the communications code to the Finalizer—she claims Ren gave it to her—"
The blonde woman looked at Rey seriously. "General, permission to speak freely?"
Hux nodded. "Granted—"
Phasma kept looking at Rey even as she asked her question. "Did she give an operating number, sir?"
Hux was also looking at Rey. "No—she did not—"
The woman never took her eyes off of Rey. It was very disconcerting.
Rey looked to the side. Before she could stop herself it was out. She spoke quietly. "Kylo did give me one, he said I could use it if I wanted to—"
The woman spoke authoritatively. "Look at me, girl—"
Rey looked back up. She looked the other woman in the eyes and straightened up.
The blonde woman nodded in approval. "Better. The question you need to ask yourself right now is if you want to use the operating number—"
Rey felt as if she wasn't getting enough oxygen all of a sudden. That really was the question. It was a question that could change everything. "I—I haven't decided yet—"
The general was sitting at a desk, leaning back and letting the captain question her. However, he seemed very interested in the exchange.
Phasma looked contemplative. "Yet you called—"
Rey nodded. "I need answers. I can't be expected to make a decision without enough information—"
The general gave her a shrewd look. "You won't be getting any information to give to the Resistance from us—"
Rey shook her head. "That's not what I mean—it's just—when I met Kylo—he talked about the First Order—and I—I'm not exactly fond of it—you destroyed Niima—but—I've been thinking about what he said—"
Captain Phasma cut her off. "You're from Jakku?"
Rey squared her jaw and lifted her head slightly. If they thought she was ashamed of it, they had another thing coming. She was proud of how she was able to survive on her own for all those years. She may have been nobody and she may have come from nothing, but at least she had that. "Yes—what of it?"
Phasma looked at Rey in amusement. "After the Imperial Remnant left—what did the New Republic do for the people of Jakku?"
Rey clenched her jaw. She answered stiffly. "I believe you know the answer to that—"
Phasma nodded in confirmation and continued on matter of fact. "Any education?"
Rey immediately went on the defensive. "I'm not stupid—"
Phasma stayed very calm. "I didn't say you were. However, do you have any formal education?"
Rey ignored her. She dared anyone to say she wasn't good enough. "I can read—I'm good at maths—I can fix anything—salvage anything—pilot anything—"
Phasma did not react to Rey's continued outburst. "Answer the question, please—"
Suddenly, Rey felt tears come to her eyes. This shouldn't bother her because she had no control over it. It didn't mean she was lesser. "No—"
Phasma's expression, thankfully, did not contain pity. She spoke softly. "Would you like a formal education?"
Rey froze. The words that came out of Phasma's mouth stopped Rey in her tracks. Such a concept had only ever existed in her dreams. This offer was shocking to her. It may as well have been said in a language she'd never heard. "What?"
Phasma patiently explained her offer. "The First Order—like the Empire—believes in educating its people. Free education for everyone in the galaxy—opportunities for anyone that wants to join—"
Though the expression on General Hux's face was one that said everyone was wasting his time, he nodded along with Captain Phasma in agreement.
Rey had recently thought herself very fortunate to have been offered a job by a smuggler, short-lived though it was. She was grateful that General Organa had let her stay on D'Qar and went along with the Jedi thing and the offer of another job if that didn't work out because such offers never happened to people like her. But receiving a formal education? Rey could hardly believe it. The thought briefly crossed her mind as to why Finn would ever want to leave such a thing, but she squashed it. She could not- would not- think of him. The hope in her voice, oh, how she hated it. "Really? You mean it?"
This was so different from the New Republic. Each planet was allowed to control itself, and with such a disorganized senate, plenty of things fell by the wayside. The rich stayed rich, the poor stayed poor, and meritocracy didn't really exist, no matter what the Populists preached.
Phasma gave a short and perfunctory nod. "Of course. Think it over—the offer stands—you just have to decide whether or not to take it—"
Rey swallowed hard. This was truly tempting. It took everything in her not to accept right away. "Thank you—truly—I don't think you understand how much that means to me, Captain—"
Captain Phasma looked at Rey like she could see her very soul. It was the look of someone that truly understood. "I think I do—"
Looking at her, Rey could believe it. The Captain seemed very sincere.
Phasma's gaze was piercing. Her tone was direct. "What's holding you back?"
The question floored her. Rey wasn't sure how to answer. She wasn't used to even being asked questions because answers to questions could reveal too much of a person, and nobody ever cared for the opinion of a scavenger anyway. "I need to ask Kylo Ren a few things—personal things—about the Force—"
General Hux suddenly sat forward. "Are you a Force user?"
That was—very direct. Rey was not prepared for it, though it was an obvious question. It was dangerous to talk about this. Rey was suddenly even more nervous.
Rey's anxiety must have been obvious because Phasma intervened. "Calm down, girl."
Rey looked to the side. Her voice was tremulous. "Yes—I just found out recently—"
General Hux huffed under his breath, but Rey still heard him. "Well—that explains Ren's involvement—and why he's meeting with the Supreme Leader right now—" He looked at Rey again. He sounded accusing. "You're with the Resistance, aren't you?"
Rey's eyes found his in alarm. "I—yes—but it isn't like I had much of a choice—" Rey trailed off. That sounded more damning towards the Resistance than she meant it to. She didn't know how to put it into words. She willed him to understand. "They've been so kind to me though—even though they did get upset with me when I questioned their Populist views—"
General Hux waved a hand. "Of course they got upset. They're a terrorist organization bent on starting war on behalf of the New Republic—or what they think it should want. They don't like the fact that the Centrists are what the galaxy wants and that the Centrists want the Empire back—I believe you'll find that their kindness means nothing in the grand scheme of things—even you discovered they'll turn on you quickly if you disagree with them—truly the kindest act is remaking the galaxy into what it needs to be—"
The General was quite good at rhetoric. He also made an inordinate amount of sense to someone like Rey. Even still, one could argue that the First Order was also a terrorist organization; one dedicated to bringing back what Kylo Ren called the legitimate government—which was still a valid point—she had to concede, but if the Resistance was right then the First Order was dangerous. However, she could not disagree that the New Republic was weak and ineffectual; it was so obvious to Rey. It could not last, nor should it. It desperately needed to be reformed.
To Rey the whole thing sounded like an action that would actually achieve something. Not all change was bad. Stagnation meant death. Rey asked the questions on her mind. "For the greater good? A central government that reforms all of the current problems and actually gets something done for once?"
Hux nodded decisively in approval. "Exactly—"
A ruckus suddenly erupted and the door to the general's office opened with a whoosh. A dark clad figure in a mask stalked into the room and into Rey's holo-projection.
The general was not having it. "Ren, you can't just barge into my office—"
General Hux was ignored by the Knight of Ren. Captain Phasma looked as if this was a usual occurrence.
Rey felt his Force presence. She didn't know it was possible. They weren't even in the same room or likely even in the same part of the galaxy. With her face scrunched up in confusion, Rey hesitantly leaned forward. "Kylo?"
With the vocodor effectively masking his true voice, Kylo Ren immediately honed in on her. "Rey. I didn't think you would call—"
The vocodor was not an effect she liked coming from him. He sounded like a deranged droid. Her nervousness suddenly gone, Rey recalled her reasons for calling in the first place. That mask was horrible. She steeled herself and hissed. "Take that thing off. I'm not talking to you if you're wearing that. You look like some kind of ridiculous— monster or something—"
Phasma smirked before pasting a blank expression on her face.
Instead of arguing, Kylo reached up and pulled his mask off before setting it down with a loud thunk on the general's desk, to the general's displeasure. He gave Rey a blank stare and his voice was dry. "Happy?"
Rey matched Kylo for expression and tone. "Thrilled—"
Kylo's tone was light. "Then why do you look like you want to kill me?"
General Hux opined. "I know the feeling—"
Rey slapped the table before her for emphasis. "Listen—you owe me some answers—"
Kylo quirked an eyebrow at her. "You owe me answers as well—such as how you know about Starkiller—"
Rey tilted her head in confusion. "What are you talking about? I don't know anything about a Starkiller—but you certainly seemed to know about my Force vision—the whole thing with the Seventh Sister and that lightsaber being hers—"
Kylo glared at her. "I didn't—"
Rey narrowed her eyes at him. "Were you in my head?"
Kylo held up one finger for emphasis. "That was one time—and you pushed right back—don't forget—" Kylo stopped as if something had dawned on him. "Kriff—"
Rey suddenly felt panicked. "Kriff? What do you mean, kriff?"
Kylo's voice took on a singsong tone and he pasted an innocent look on his face. "Nothing—"
That did not help Rey's nerves in the least. If anything, his response made things worse. She shook her head. "Oh, no—you can't just say kriff like that and then say it's nothing—"
Kylo shrugged and gave a little smirk. "I'll have to talk to the Supreme Leader about it—I'll get back to you on that—"
Rey made a strangled sound to cover her scream of frustration.
This caused Kylo's smirk to widen.
Rey took a deep breath and composed herself. She was an adult. She could do this. Rey spoke to herself but she didn't particularly care that she was saying it out loud. "I meditated today. I should be calmer than this." She looked at Kylo and suddenly needed to know. Her eyes were pleading. "Please tell me there's more to being a Jedi than endless meditation—"
Suddenly Kylo looked as if he understood. "Ah- the whole let it all go into the Force spiel—I'm sorry to break it to you, Rey—but it's mostly a lot of meditation—"
Rey was gutted. "I was afraid of that. I'm not sure I'm cut out for that—"
Kylo gave her a brief nod. "There are other types of meditation—useful ones—I could teach you—"
That was actually very tempting, but Rey needed to know the answers to her other questions. They were questions best asked away from prying eyes. She cut her eyes to General Hux and Phasma. She looked back to Kylo with a pleading expression. She leaned forward. "Kylo—I need to speak with you. Alone—"
Kylo leaned back against General Hux's desk like he owned it. He crossed his arms. He had eyes only for Rey and his gaze was intense. He pitched his voice low. "Rey—it would be an absolute pleasure—"
Rey had never heard her name said quite like that. She couldn't have looked away from him if she tried. The disturbing part was that she wasn't sure she wanted to. It was like she was an object caught in his gravity. The look he was giving to her too! Stars! And with others in the room! He really was incorrigible. Rey felt herself go hot all over.
Kylo's voice sounded in her head. «I told you we weren't done yet.»
Rey swallowed hard. Perhaps, this was not going to go the way that she thought it would at all.
Monty Python quotes anyone?
Rey stared at the holo of Kylo Ren for a long moment and didn’t say anything. The others were gone, having left the general’s office.
Kylo was still staring back at her, but his earlier flirtatiousness had dissipated like a sudden sandstorm.
This may have had something to do with Rey’s own attitude. Rey had no idea what Kylo was thinking and how much of what she saw from him was sincere at any given moment. As if understanding that, he had dropped all of his facades. The man didn’t actually need a mask as far as she was concerned.
Rey held her head between her hands with her elbows resting on the desk before her. Her face was weary. She sounded lost. “What you need to understand is that I have no idea what I’m doing—“
Kylo’s face gave away nothing of what he was thinking. He seemed unmoved at her plight. “You said you have questions—“
Rey’s voice was measured, as if testing the impact of what she was saying. “Luke said that you killed his other students—that you tried to kill him too—“
Kylo’s expression became angry. His voice was cutting. “That doesn’t sound like a question— did he tell you why?”
The anger Rey saw in him, it was real in a way nothing else may have been. It was as reassuring as much as it was terrifying. Rey’s tone matched the weariness on her face. “In Luke’s world, struggling with the dark side is all the motivation one needs—“
Kylo glared through the holo at her, his anger still palpable. “Luke Skywalker is a fool. So, is that it then, Rey?” He leaned forward slightly with a sneer. “Did he send you to save my soul?”
Rey moved one hand to prop up her chin, while she dropped her other arm down to rest on the table. The very thought was ludicrous to her, because Rey was no-one’s savior. She couldn’t be one when she needed one herself. Rey scoffed at his stupidity. “Really? Do you think my master wants me to go anywhere near you? No—I’m not here for that—I’d be the goddess of utter ruin and destruction—you’ll not find your salvation with me, Kylo Ren—“ He looked as if was going to say more, but Rey stopped him. “Look. We both know that simply struggling with the dark side isn’t a reason for anything—“
Somehow this was a truth Rey was certain of.
Kylo looked bitter and shook his head. “Would you even believe me if I did tell you—or would you doubt—don’t deny it I can see it in your eyes. You don’t trust me at all—“
«I trust your anger,» Rey wanted to say.
Kylo’s eyes snapped to hers with more interest than before. He’d obviously heard Rey’s thought. It was all the encouragement he needed. The man was literally seething. His hands were fisted tightly, all barely restrained violence. “If you want to know so badly, Rey—maybe I’ll show you.”
Rey gave a laugh of disbelief, dropping her casual stance from before. She shook her head. “What? No—“
Kylo’s face took on a determined mien. “Let me show you, Rey—“
Jaw set stubbornly, Rey denied him. “No. You’re delusional if you think—“
Kylo leaned forward and became even more demanding. “It won’t be like last time. I can promise you that—“
Rey was incredulous. Last time he had pushed his way into her head. It was a short intrusion to be sure, but he had done it without her consent. Now he knew things he ought not to know. She laughed. “There’s no way in Malachor I would ever let you—“
Kylo scoffed. “You don’t know a thing about Malachor—and when did I say that I’d be the one doing it?”
That stopped Rey cold. “What do you mean?“
He looked at her in challenge. “Don’t insult either of us by playing dumb. Take it from my head. Or, are you conveniently forgetting that you pushed back?”
His insinuation that she was to blame for breaching his mind when he had initiated said event was infuriating. Rey had to nearly swallow her rage at such at thing, her face red from the effort. It was only at the absolute feeling of frustration of someone accusing her and mentioning repeating an action so vague and ludicrous in the undertaking as if it was as easy as breathing that Rey simply reacted. Just how she did it she’d never know- but Kylo was suddenly looking like the man in the club- like he couldn’t breathe.
Kylo put a hand up as if to ward her off.
Rey’s own will superceded his for a brief moment- and her rage suddenly took focus from strangling the man to taking what he offered. The Force eagerly bent to her intention and plucked the memories straight from Kylo’s mind.
Waking to find Luke Skywalker over him, lightsaber in hand.
Rey’s lip lifted in a sneer, her concentration undaunted by Kylo Ren’s struggle.
Knowing, knowing, the Force confirming it, that the man—his uncle— had meant to kill him in his sleep.
Rey narrowed her eyes in concentration as he started pushing back.
Seeing the other man’s—Luke’s— horror and guilt.
She was gritting her teeth, jaw locked.
The righteous anger that surfaced—the thought that he would destroy everything—kill them all—any that didn’t side with him.
A trail of sweat—or was it a tear—was running down Rey’s cheek.
The feeling of absolute betrayal—
The images were damning enough—however—the feelings were her undoing. With horror, Rey slumped back panting hard. She may as well have been the strangled one.
The look on Kylo’s face was one of dark rage. His voice seethed in her head. «I. Burned. It. All. Down—»
What she’d seen was damning. However, what Rey found more damning—Kylo’s actions or Luke’s—was something she didn’t want to dwell on. However, how could she condemn Kylo Ren when she could see herself doing exactly the same thing now that she’d been in his head? It was as if she had been him. Rey whispered, the words coming to her. “Jedi Killer—“
Kylo might have flinched if he were a better man. Rey had hardly sounded accusing though. Instead he gave her a dark smile and touched his throat with one hand. “Not that you need to worry—you’re no Jedi—are you, Rey?”
The severity of her actions suddenly came crashing around her. Rey’s conscience pricked, edging back towards her as if testing its welcome. The look she gave Kylo now had nothing to do with either his actions or his uncle’s. She was horrified at her own actions. It was unsettling how easy it must truly be to become a monster. Whatever else she had wanted to know was now irrelevant to her. With a shaking hand, Rey reached out to the comm and cut the connection, the blue light of the holo fading into darkness.
Kylo Ren’s memories were burned into her retinas. Rey stayed awake long into the night.
That morning Rey came to a decision, and when she had found Luke Skywalker she expressed what was on her mind. She’d double down on the Jedi Padawan thing. For all that Rey had meant this sincerely, at least she told herself that, it came out sounding like dry sarcasm. “I pledge myself to follow your teachings, master—“
Maybe it had something to do with the scowl on her face and her crossed arms. Perhaps it was her lingering anger at herself for acting as she had last night. She had engaged in one large mistake last night, hadn’t she? Anyway, Luke Skywalker was not impressed with her.
Luke barely glanced at her, but his own voice matched hers. “Too bad I’m not a Sith Lord—you only forgot the falling to your knees part—“ He turned away from her, picked up a bag, and threw it at her. “Change of plans today—we’re going on a mission—“
Rey caught the bag deftly, hefting its weight in her hands cautiously. “Mission? No meditation?”
Luke smirked. “Oh, no. There will be meditation—you’ll just be doing it on the ship—“
Rey huffed in frustration. Here she was trying to do the right thing and he was mocking her. Despite herself, she followed Luke as he went striding out towards some nondescript ship that looked like some kind of older civilian pleasure craft.
Luke called over his shoulder. “What? No- thank you- my master?”
Rey called back to him. “Oh- I don’t know- Master Skywalker- I think you’re doing a pretty good Sith impression right now—“ She followed him up the ramp of the ship grudgingly. “What kind of mission is this anyway—“
She was confronted with Poe Dameron standing before her.
Poe Dameron winked at her. “We’re going to Canto Bight. You feeling lucky, Rey?”
Whatever it was that Poe Dameron was insinuating was completely lost on Rey as she stared at him in confusion. She turned to look at Luke, but he was busy making sure that whatever supplies he’d brought were secured. However, it was the other occupants of the ship that garnered Rey’s attention. Three women that had been part of Poe Dameron’s group of friends were there; the Tico sisters and a girl called Jessika Pava. Well, this was going to be just great, she could tell already.
Jessika Pava, a pretty girl with dark hair and dark eyes, looked at Rey critically. “The casino city? You know on Cantonica?”
Rey shrugged. She didn’t like the way the other girl looked at her. “Never heard of it—“
Pava gave her a smirk. “Luke didn’t tell you?”
Rey just stared at her blankly. She really did not like this Jessika Pava at all.
Pava huffed and turned away, giving Poe her full attention. Rey didn’t care.
Rose Tico piped up, her demeanor one of excitement. The girl was almost bouncing she was so happy. “We’re finding another Jedi!”
Paige Tico shook her head in amusement. “Calm down, Rose! We’ve talked about this. It’s not gonna be easy—“
Rose sobered up and nodded. “Right—it’s Canto Bight—“ She smiled again quickly. “But another Jedi—Paige!”
Instead of responding to their antics, Rey turned away and started exploring the ship.
As the rest of the crew went about their business, Luke called Rey over to sit in the common area. The seats were rather comfortable. If Rey had the right of it, it was a rather old and heavily modified Nubian cruiser. She’d love to know how the Resistance got hold of such a thing.
Luke answered her thoughts. “Leia—“
Rey scowled at him. She was beginning to not like anything to do with reading people’s thoughts and feelings. It was too intrusive and entirely too easy. She glanced up at the cockpit, where Jessika and Poe were, with suspicion. “What are we going to be doing, master?”
Luke shook his head, obviously exasperated. “I wasn’t lying about the meditation, Rey—“
What felt like hours later, Luke released her from her misery, and informed her to find the other women in order to get ready.
Rey had wondered what she was getting ready for. She fingered the blue lightsaber at her belt and felt the weight of the blaster Han had given her at the holster on her thigh. Rey was always ready for a fight. She’d had to be.
As it turned out, getting ready meant something entirely different than what Rey had imagined. Her horrified look at having to play dress up had sent Poe into hysterics and Luke only shook his head, his look one of restrained amusement.
Rey approached the cabin the other women were in with trepidation. She could hear them talking and laughing from the other side as she edged closer down the narrow corridor.
Pava’s voice floated to Rey’s ears. “—An odd one—don’t you think?”
Rose responded. “Well, a little, but, I’m sure she’s nice—“
Pava responded immediately. “Come on, Rose! You’re the nice one. Sometimes, you’re too nice—“
Paige spoke this time. “Jess is right, Rose—she’s a little too—“
Pava supplied her own terms. “Dark? Intense? Unfriendly? Not like a Jedi? Likely a Centrist sympathizer?”
Paige agreed. “Yeah—all of that—“
Rose sounded doubtful. “I don’t know—“
Pava responded again, her voice taking on a sage tone. “You’re only saying that because you revere the Jedi, we all do, but it shouldn’t be blind reverence. That, and you’re afraid of what she can do to you—“
Rose spoke again, sounding half convinced. “Maybe—“
Rey hesitated a long time before she knocked on the door. It slid open with a hiss and Rey stood there awkwardly, looking at the others. She cleared her throat. “Master Skywalker told me to get ready.”
Rose Tico looked extremely guilty, Paige Tico was standing close to Rose in a protective manner, and Jessika Pava looked defiant.
Jessika Pava picked up a bulk of fabric from the bunk she was standing next to and tossed it to Rey. “Here—“
For her part, Rey held it up questioningly. “What is it?”
Pava waved a hand airily at the fabric. Her face was sporting a look that said that Rey was stupid for even asking. “Your dress—“ At Rey’s blank look, Pava shook her head. “You’re looking like you’ve never worn a dress before—“
Rey hadn’t. She lifted her chin defiantly. The lie was out before she could stop it. “Don’t be ludicrous—“
At Jessika Pava’s distrustful look at this information, Rey merely lifted an eyebrow. Her stomach was in knots though. Lying about things wasn’t like her in the least, but she had to wipe that horrible look off of Jessika Pava’s perfect face. “Are there shoes?”
A box was tossed her way almost like Pava was aiming for her head. Unfortunately, for her, Rey used the Force to slow its ascent so that it rested on top of the dress she held in her hands.
Rose started forward slowly and timidly placed another bag on top of the shoebox. She sounded shy. “Makeup—”
That was obviously Rey’s cue to leave. She nodded her head at them. “Thank you—“
Jessika Pava had already turned around, holding up her own dress for inspection. Her voice was one of dismissal, like Rey was an underling or something. “Thank General Organa—“
Soon enough, Rey found herself once again on the other side of the door. She heard them giggling almost immediately.
Pava’s voice was a stage whisper. “I hope she does something about that hair—“
Rey was oddly self-conscious as she stood in front of the mirror in the fresher. Their opinions shouldn’t matter to her, but she was, Force help her, hurt by their view of her. She was hurt, but she was even more resentful of them. Who were they to say anything about her? None of them would have lasted ten seconds on Jakku.
Rey knew nothing about dressing up. She had never had the luxury of even considering it. She lifted her chin. She could do this. Force help her, she would. They would regret their remarks. Rey lifted her hands and undid her buns.
Some time later, Rey strode into the common area where everyone else was already gathered. Ignoring them, she crossed her arms and looked at Luke. “Master—what is the objective here?”
For his part Luke Skywalker was reading a data pad and acting like he couldn’t be bothered. However, Poe Dameron was staring at her with the oddest expression on his face. The rest were glaring at her even more, if that was possible.
Rey looked at Poe suspiciously. “What? Why are you staring at me like that?”
Jessika Pava snorted loudly. “Please—“
Rey turned a glare on the other woman. She was getting rather sick of Jessika Pava. She’d not had a lot of experience with other female Humans around her own age, but she was not impressed with her recent experience, over all.
Poe recovered from his ogling quickly. He flashed her another charming smile. “Wow, Rey! You look great.”
Rey was not used to this kind of attention in the least and it made her uncomfortable. Well, Kylo Ren had certainly been interested, but she was not thinking about him anymore. He was history. The past. Rey was moving on. Despite herself, Rey blushed. “Um—thanks—“
It was then that Rey noticed that her dress, makeup, and hair were not like the others’ in the least. Whereas, the rest had their hair up and their makeup was more sparkly and obvious, Rey’s hair was down and curled at the ends, while her makeup was more understated. Where their dresses were short and colorful, Rey’s was long and in a dark midnight blue. It was a halter style that was quite modest in the front and went up to tie at her neck, but went all the way to the floor, with a slit up one side, and it was completely backless, almost scandalously so to her own eyes. Even their shoes were different. The others had stilettos where Rey was wearing more sensible heels.
Luke Skywalker saved the situation. “All of you are going to be on the lookout for any threats while I find our Force sensitive. I’m fairly certain it’s a youngling—“
Rey nodded. She was determined to be ready for any threats. She already had her blaster strapped to her thigh. She had tried to find a way to do the same with the blue lightsaber, but could not find a way to adequately conceal it. The red one was still hidden in her bag, for obvious reasons. Though, now that Rey was thinking about lightsabers and how to conceal them, it wouldn’t hurt to ask. She turned to Jessika Pava. “Hey—did General Organa leave us any evening bags?”
Luke saw right through her. He narrowed his eyes. “The lightsaber stays here, Rey—“
Rey narrowed her eyes right back at him. “How are we to deal with any threats without weapons?”
This was, literally, the stupidest plan Rey had heard of yet. The others agreed with her assessment if their looks were anything to go by. She was sure that she saw Jessika and Paige share a look before surreptitiously adjusting their cleavage. Rey smirked. They had hidden blasters there, she was certain of it. Poe adjusted his own jacket and she was quite certain there was a blaster there too.
Luke rolled his eyes. “I’m dealing with children—“ He rubbed his eyes tiredly. “They will check for weapons. They aren’t allowed.”
Rey was now determined. No matter what Luke Skywalker wanted, Rey would keep the blaster on her person. She’d use Jedi mind tricks, she’d figure it out, but she wasn’t going anywhere without a weapon of some kind. She looked at Luke’s garments. He was still in his Jedi robes. Rey raised an eyebrow. “What will you be doing?”
Luke raised an eyebrow right back. “You don’t think this youngling is going to be out in the casino areas do you? While I’m looking- the rest of you will be looking for potential threats and distracting them—and I have no doubt there will be threats—If we know to look for a Force sensitive child, do not doubt for a second that the First Order won’t also be looking—“
Apparently, it fell on Rey to be the voice of reason. “They could have blasters—“
Luke pursed his lips. “They won’t. Canto Bight caters to everyone—and even the First Order isn’t foolish enough to ruin that—“
This entire venture seemed ridiculously vague, to Rey. “How long are you expecting this to take, Master Skywalker?”
Luke gave a little shrug. “As long as it takes—Leia got rooms for us—“
Poe whistled. “No kidding! So—how are we doing this—do we split up—stay together—“
Paige Tico chimed in. “I think we’ll cover more ground if we split up—“
Rose shook her head. “Well, I think we’ll look less suspicious if some of us stay together—“
Pava nodded. “I agree with Rose. We need to split up, but we also should at least have a partner—I call dibs on Dameron—“
Poe waggled his eyebrows at her. “Damn, Jess—how can a guy say no to that?”
Rose immediately chimed in again. “I’m with Paige.”
Poe turned back to Rey. “That just leaves Rey—she can come with us—“
Rey shook her head. There was no way she was going to spend more time in the company of Jessika Pava than absolutely necessary. “That’s unnecessary. I’m accustomed to keeping my own company—“
She did not care for the suspicious looks this garnered from the other women. Nor did she particularly care for Poe’s look of pity. Kriff them all, anyway.
Luke gave Rey a brief nod. “It should be fine—just don’t leave the main casino unless there is an emergency—if you sense anything unusual—let me know right away—that goes for all of you—“
Nobody had told Rey that it was a desert planet. The thought of placing such a resort for the ridiculously wealthy in a desert seemed incongruous to Rey. Yet, the juxtaposition of the familiar with the exotic was a bit disorienting. Perhaps they meant it to be seen as an oasis, however, Rey had the sense that this place was more dangerous than it seemed at first glance. Yes, she was definitely taking her blaster.
As their ship landed deftly in the designated port, it was dusk. The lights of the casinos were bright and welcoming, drawing one in. Rey didn’t trust it.
It was an older city of mostly stone construction and rounded edges, with the tech seamlessly woven in. Rey followed the rest, save Luke, into a rounded doorway. It was lit up around the edges, the glowing keypad a direct contrast to the fancy looking glass of the door itself. This was Rey’s worry. It was likely that this was the security measure that would detect her hidden blaster.
While the others had abandoned their blasters at Luke’s behest back on the ship, Rey had not. With intense concentration, Rey held out her hand and pushed with the Force. She had no idea if it was going to work, when the door itself suddenly shorted out. Luckily for her it did so after having been opened. Rey walked through and didn’t look back, hoping to get lost in the crowd before she was ever suspected.
The inside of the casino was rather impressive, Rey had to admit. She spied Poe and Pava ahead of her, the other woman clinging to his arm, as they laughed and walked around. The Tico sisters had gone in the opposite direction, to what Rey could only assume were slot machines.
Rey had other ideas. Gingerly, she made her way down the stairs into the casino proper, carefully stepping so as not to step on the hem of her dress or to trip in her heels. She fisted one hand tightly in the fabric of her garment, as she tried not to outright gape at the scene in front of her. These beings were undeniably wealthy and it made her uncomfortable. She was not used to this and felt out of her element. Once she had descended into the main casino, which was a large domed room with an impressive window overlooking the city, she edged around the room, not quite knowing what to do with herself.
As Rey approached a side room, she veered inside, grateful to be out of the main casino. She still wasn’t used to being around so many beings at once. The room in question was, obviously, a bar. Behind the bar was a semicircular stained glass window of green and yellow. The bar itself was obsidian and gilded which glamorously supported taps and flasks of various alcoholic substances, mostly of a red variety. On an adjoining wall was another stained glass window of red, green, and yellow, depicting fathiers racing. It was eye-catching.
Drawn in, Rey walked to the far end of the bar nearer to the eye-catching window, and leaned against the bar wondering exactly what she was meant to do here.
A man came to stand next to her and leaned on the bar in exactly the same way she did.
He looked at the green skinned Twi’lek male behind the bar and nodded his head towards Rey. “A Sith scorcher please—and a Dark Side Daiquiri for the girl—“
Rey narrowed her eyes and turned to face the man. “Not interested—“
He was wearing all black, with a jacket that was open over a shirt that was loose and showing quite a bit of skin on his chest. He was wearing boots that had laces that went all the way up to his knees. He had fingerless gloves, black lacquered nails, kohl around his eyes, and his hair was quite short and blond everywhere except for the fringe, which hung in his eyes and was dyed black.
He winked at Rey. “Don’t worry, darling, you’re not my type.” He leaned in towards Rey and nodded his head to a man across the room. “He’s my type—“
Rey looked over at the aristocrat on the other side of the room he had indicated and then back at him skeptically.
The man laughed. “What I need is a wingman, or woman, as the case may be. I figure that if they don’t fall for you—then they would obviously go for me—“
Rey snorted. Truthfully, she didn’t have a clue what a wingman was, but it was obvious that he wanted her help in finding someone for the night.
The man looked slightly affronted and waved a hand at himself. “What? Who wouldn’t want a piece of this?”
Rey shook her head in amusement. He was definitely trouble, she could tell. “Anyone who can tell you’re likely more trouble than you’re worth—“
He placed a hand to his breast in mock concern. “Ooh—that hurt—so—what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”
Rey couldn’t help it, she laughed. “Do you often spout clichés to random strangers?”
Their drinks appeared in front of them and Rey picked hers up and took a sip of the red concoction. It was sweet. She rather liked it much more than the Corellian ale she had had before.
The man gave a little smile. “I knew you’d like it. I have a knack for this sort of thing—“
Rey could concede that. The daiquiri was good. “Other than needing help picking up men—what’re you doing here?”
He clicked his tongue at her in disapproval. “I don’t need help picking up men—I’m just passing the time while waiting for a friend of mine—“
She quickly responded in kind. “I’m doing the same—“
The man gave her a look. “Not to sound rude or anything- but you don’t really seem like the type that has friends—“
Rey didn’t know what to make of that statement. Surely it couldn’t be that obvious? Rey had absolutely no idea what to say to that. However, she decided to go with the truth. “I’m waiting for my companions then—“
The man gave her a charming smile and pointed between the two of them. “We could be friends.”
Rey gave him a dubious look. “Hmm—“
He took a sip of his own drink before waving at her. “Girl—I’m serious—I bet we have loads in common—“
Rey picked up her drink and moved away from the bar. “This is me leaving now—thanks for the drink—“
The man took his drink and followed her. “Come on then, let’s take a turn around the promenade—“
He held an arm out to her expectantly.
Rey stared at him incredulously. Was he serious? This man was very pushy. For all of that, she couldn’t help but like him though. He didn’t feel like a threat. Coming to a quick decision, she sighed and took his arm as if put upon. Being on the move would give her a better vantage of the goings on around the casino anyway.
He waved his drink around with his free hand. “Like I said—I bet we have loads in common—For one—ooh—we’re getting all kinds of admirers—“ He stopped and preened shamelessly before turning back to Rey. “For one—we’re both ridiculously good looking—“
Rey muttered under her breath. “You’re delusional—“
It was obvious he heard her, but he ignored her. “Also—I bet you play sabacc—”
Rey snorted. She’d only ever seen sabacc being played. She had watched Unkar Plutt cheat at it often enough. “I’ve never played sabacc in my life—I do know the rules though—I used to watch sabacc tournaments all the time back home—“
He nodded along enthusiastically. “I knew it—I bet you’d be good at it—I’m pretty good at sabacc myself—in fact—why don’t we play?“
Rey stopped walking, utterly flummoxed. “What? No—“
The man wheedled her and pulled her along. “Come on—it’ll be fun—you can’t come to Canto Bight without playing at least one game of sabacc—“
Rey shook her head. “I’m thinking I could—“
The man huffed dramatically. “If it’s credits you’re worried about—I’ll front your fee—you don’t even have to pay me back—“
Rey thought about it. If he was offering to pay her part of the pot, then she had nothing to lose, unless he had an ulterior motive, which was not out of the question. “Maybe—“
He flashed her a genuine smile. “Fantastic—you won’t regret it—you don't even have to split the pot with me if you win—and thirdly—we’re both wearing blasters—“
Rey scoffed. “How could you possibly know I’m wearing a blaster?”
A cheeky grin was her response. “I didn’t—but you just told me—you look like the type anyway—so—“
Rey glared at him. “Are you kriffing me?”
He clicked his tongue at her again. “Language—and lastly—ah—we’re at the sabacc table—“
They were in another room- much like the bar- but this one had doors that could close. Rey immediately felt on edge. Something was going to happen. She knew it. In the center of the room was a sabacc table with an automated sabacc dealer droid placed in the center. Two men were seated on the other side and they were wearing black—but it almost had a military look—a First Order look. Rey backed up a step and released the man’s arm.
He nodded at the others at the table and took a sip of his drink before setting it down on the table and sitting at the armed chair nearest to him by throwing his legs over the side in a casual manner. He pointed at the chair next to him, indicating that Rey should sit there. “Everyone this is—“ He stopped and looked at Rey questioningly.
Rey hissed through her teeth in annoyance. “Rey—“
He nodded at her approvingly before continuing on blithely. “Everyone this is Rey—Rey this is everyone—well—almost everyone—name’s Bast by the way—pleasure to meet you—“
Rey wasn’t feeling this at all now but didn’t want to seem rude. She took a deliberate sip of her Dark Side Daiquiri and clenched her jaw. “Likewise—“
Bast looked like he loved the attention. “And she’s going to play sabacc with us!”
The other two men exchanged long-suffering looks. It was obvious they knew Bast.
Bast waved a hand at them all. “Anyway—I was telling Rey—“
Rey stood there with a death grip on her Dark Side Daiquiri. She looked at the men across the table. “Is he always like this?”
One man nodded in affirmation.
The other muttered woefully. “Unfortunately—“
Bast was looking at his lacquered nails now. “Anyway—I was telling Rey here that she and I should be friends because we have a lot in common—“
Rey narrowed her eyes at him. Since when did people suddenly decide they were your friends? It didn’t work that way, did it? “There is a lot we don’t have in common—“
Bast pointed at her accusingly. “You can’t take my friendship away—I won’t let you—anyway—Rey—I was going to tell you that we know some of the same people—“
Rey raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Do we—“
Bast waved one lacquered nailed hand around dramatically. “It’s like we were destined to be besties or something—“
The door hissed open behind her.
Suddenly, Rey felt him. His Force presence was unmistakable. From behind her, Rey, literally, felt his eyes roam over her figure appreciatively. Rey’s body went rigid in anticipation. Her heart quickened and she felt pooling warmth deep inside.
Finally Rey’s mind caught up with the rest of her. This response of hers was completely unacceptable. Honestly, she should have known, should have expected this even. Distract, distract, distract. Rey didn’t just need to be distracted from Kylo Ren and his affect on her; she needed to be the distraction here. This was bad. This was really bad. At this point, Rey needed to keep Kylo Ren away from Luke Skywalker and the Force sensitive youngling. Nothing else mattered. She’d be the good Jedi Padawan and follow Master Luke’s orders if it was the last thing she did—and it just might be.
Luke wasn’t wrong. The First Order was, apparently, after the Force sensitive youngling too. No matter how Rey felt about Luke Skywalker, or the Jedi, or even the Resistance, she didn’t want any unnecessary violence or bloodshed tonight.
This was absolutely not how she anticipated this evening going. Rey briefly closed her eyes and then took a fortifying drink of her Dark Side Daiquiri. Then she slowly turned around and faced him, one arm crossed, whilst the other was holding up her drink, with her hip cocked to the side. Rey raised an eyebrow and slowly looked over Kylo the way she knew he had looked her over—and attempted to seem as if she was completely unaffected by his presence. Kylo Ren looked really good. His jacket was black, but it looked formal almost, with black on black brocade. It was an unnecessary extravagance, but a very effective one, to Rey's eyes. For all that she tried to channel her inner Jessika Pava, she wasn’t sure she was all that successful. “Kylo—what a pleasant surprise—“
Kylo’s look was fierce. Also, he was much closer than she had anticipated. He leaned in towards her, his voice a whisper. His voice was snide. “Still playing at being a Jedi, I see.”
To Rey he sounded so smug, so self-assured, as if her being a Jedi was merely a phase or a game that she was playing. Her temper got the better of her. “That’s right. I’m a veritable paragon of dispassionate compassion for the karking greater good—at one with the kriffing universe—“
Kylo’s eyes- they looked so self-satisfied. Though his facial expression didn’t change, it felt like he was smirking to Rey. “Keep telling yourself that.”
He was so close she could feel his breath against her face. She wanted to scratch his face to take the smug look away. Rey lifted her chin defiantly. “I will—thanks—“
Kylo’s eyes traveled over her face, even as he lazily demanded things of her. “Now that you’re here—we can finish our conversation—“
Rey leaned forward to emphasize her displeasure with this particular topic. Her eyes flashed. “No. That conversation is over—I ended it—“
Kylo’s own eyes flashed in anger, but then he shrugged nonchalantly. He was definitely smirking now. “If you say so—“
Rey took another fortifying sip of her Dark Side Daiquiri. The fact that he was showing self-control when she knew he wasn’t the type to usually do so sent a chill down Rey’s spine. He was up to something. “I do—“
Kylo leaned in closer to her. “What are you doing here—Rey?”
They were too close to each other now, as far as Rey was concerned. She spoke lightly, almost coquettishly. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m here to play sabacc.”
Before Kylo could respond, Rey flounced over to the chair Bast had saved for her and set her drink down. She looked at the glowing pyramid shaped droid in the middle of the table and then to Bast. He was holding a credit chip in his hands- and she snatched it out of his hands and quickly hit the button that would alert the droid to deal her in.
Bast raised his glass to her in a salute. “Told you we knew some of the same people—“
Rey turned towards Bast and then picked up her drink and downed the rest of it- forgoing the little straw altogether this time- and then waggled the empty glass in his direction before slamming it down on the table. “More of these, Bast. Keep them coming—“
Bast actually shot her a worried look. “Rey—“
When a karking Knight of Ren- and that’s exactly what he was, Rey had no doubt- was warning her against doing something and was concerned for her well being, Rey had to be in an alternate universe. She would not be dissuaded however. She slapped the table. “Keep. Them. Coming.”
She heard Kylo sit down in the empty chair on her other side. From the corner of her eye, Rey saw tall, dark, and dangerous deal himself in.
The suspension field on the table came to life.
Rey looked over at Kylo only to see him moving a pair of six-sided dice over and between his fingers repeatedly like he did it every day. He wasn’t even using the Force. He was looking right at her. “Corellian Spike?”
Everyone else voiced their agreement to Kylo’s suggestion.
Oh, stars! If Rey was going to do this, then she needed to be good and decidedly not sober. She braced herself. She knew it was coming. She didn’t even need the Force to tell her.
Kylo’s voice literally slid over her, sounding low and intimate. “Rey, how about we make this more interesting—raise the stakes—“
Rey couldn’t bring herself to look away. She couldn’t give up now. She leaned in closer, pitching her own voice low, and smirking at the look on her opponent’s face, showing more bravado than she actually felt. “State your terms, Kylo Ren—“
It was just then that Rey remembered all the stories of Han Solo winning the Millennium Falcon in a game of sabacc- and how Leia Organa was also known for her skill in the game. The chances of Kylo Ren not knowing his way around this game was next to nil. She was kriffed.
As if sensing her apprehension, Kylo gave a dark smirk of his own.
Yep, Rey was definitely kriffed.
Bast Ren just happened. He wanted to be a thing.
Rey looked at the items on the table in front of her. One was a code cylinder, she was sure of it, and the other was something with which she was entirely unfamiliar. Kylo had placed them down on the table without comment and sat back to watch her reaction. Gingerly, she picked up the code cylinder. She had never actually seen one before. The metal cylinder was cold against her hand and she rubbed her thumb over the pocket clip. Her voice was hesitant. “A code cylinder?”
Kylo’s dark eyes sought hers and he nodded briefly. “We call them access cylinders now, but it’s yours—“
Rey looked from his eyes back to the object in her hand. It was a huge risk to gamble something like this. Not only did it contain information regarding the person it belonged to, it granted secure access based on rank. “If I win or if I lose?“
“That entirely depends on what you consider winning or losing, doesn’t it?”
Rey ignored his statement and almost reluctantly set the cylinder down to stare at the other object that was sitting on the table. It was a palm-sized dodecahedron that appeared to be comprised of a crystalline material and brassy hardware. She reached for it hesitantly.
Kylo’s hand darted out and he grabbed Rey’s wrist before she could touch it.
Rey tried to pull away from his grasp, a protest half formed on her lips.
With his other hand, Kylo picked up the object. He placed it gently in Rey’s palm and closed her fingers around it.
It glowed. Rey could feel it. A gasp escaped her. It was mesmerizing. She couldn’t look away from it. Her voice a mere whisper, she was acutely aware of how awed she sounded and she didn’t even care. “What is it?”
Kylo started rubbing his thumb over Rey’s inner wrist, his eyes only for her. His voice was a murmur. “It’s a Jedi holocron—they’re very rare these days—“
Rey was all too cognizant of the feeling that Kylo’s touch was evoking in her. No one had ever touched her like this before and Rey had the distinct impression that he knew it. However, she almost felt frozen at his touch because, Force help her, she actually liked it. The combination of his touch and the feel of the holocron itself was a heady experience. Her voice was breathless. “A holocron—I thought they were myths too—“
Kylo was, apparently, not unaffected by this if his stare was any indication. His adam’s apple bobbed, as he seemed to swallow almost nervously himself.
Someone cleared their throat loudly. It was Bast. “You know—I’m suddenly feeling like some appetizers—especially those little pastry things with that spicy meat and cheese in them—and we all need more drinks I think—I know I do—“
Rey pulled back from Kylo with a blush on her face, disengaging her hand from his as she did so. She sat the holocron down and looked around in embarrassment.
The other two men had been watching, but had schooled their faces into polite disinterest. However, Bast, the bastard, was looking back and forth between Kylo and Rey and smirking slyly.
For his part, Kylo only glared at Bast’s interruption.
Bast was still smirking unabashedly as he summoned a serving droid. “Excellent! Appetizers and drinks it is—“
While Bast was otherwise occupied and the other two men started a quiet conversation, Kylo took the opportunity to ask Rey the question of the hour. “Rey—if you had to choose right now—“
Rey hastened to interrupt him with a desperate look on her face. “Don’t—“
What Rey wanted and what she had been told she should want were two very different things. Unfortunately, she was currently in the position of having to go with the latter, purely for reasons of keeping violence and bloodshed off the table for the evening and for nothing else. Her reasons were so flimsy, but it was the right thing to do, wasn’t it? She wasn’t even sure.
Kylo looked at her like he had the answer to his question anyway and that he expected this outcome. He nodded towards the two objects and then looked at her seriously. His voice was measured and methodical. “You win—you walk out of here like you were before—no strings attached—go back to the Resistance—follow after a dead man walking—be a good little Jedi Padawan—You lose—well—if you lose—you have permission—“
Rey went still, her shoulders tense. Her palms felt suddenly sweaty. Her voice sounded nervous as if she had been caught at doing something. “Permission? Permission for what?”
Kylo Ren’s eyes seemed to see into her very soul. “To do what you really want to do in the first place—without other people’s expectations getting in the way—“
Rey suddenly couldn’t breathe. Was she that transparent? She couldn’t hold his gaze any longer and looked away. How could he know? It was like he saw what tempted her most. Her voice was skeptical. “You’d really just let me walk out of here with these if I lose? Back to the Resistance?”
The Force rang with the truth of the simple statement.
Rey was desperate. She looked at him accusingly. “The holocron—it’s a Jedi holocron you said—“
Kylo looked at her patiently. “One that has lightsaber forms—useful things—we don’t overlook any knowledge, Rey—take what you can, what you want—“
He was giving her something she could destroy him with if she lost. It made no sense and every bit of sense. “But the cylinder—aren’t you worried I’ll turn it over to the Resistance?”
A slight smirk on his lips preceded his next statement. “At the end of the day I guess I’ll just have to trust that you won’t—“
Rey gave him a harsh look. He was a liar- either that or a fool if he decided to trust her. “I won’t do anything that will get anyone killed—“
Kylo leaned forward slightly. “I’m not asking you to—it’s your prerogative—but perhaps you’d help us keep some of our people alive—“
Rey was so emotionally strung out that she was not as careful or as shrewd as she ordinarily would have been. Instead of coming up with her own terms, she decided that she would agree to Kylo’s terms, win the game, and then get the heck off of Canto Bight so she could put this whole business behind her. Rey gave him a blank look and held out her hand. “Fine. Agreed.”
He simply stared at her before reaching out and slowly taking her hand in his own. He didn’t shake it.
Rey was quickly becoming annoyed. She felt you could tell a lot about a person by the way they shook hands. They were meant to be firm and decisive, not limp like a fish of some sort. Her lips formed into a sneer and she started to pull back.
Kylo tightened his grip slightly and pulled her hand forward before bringing it up to his lips and gently kissing it, his dark eyes boring into her all the while. “Good—“
She felt his breath ghost over her hand and his lips felt soft on her skin. Rey’s own breathing was tremulous. She felt stuck in slow motion, like how she imagined it would be moving through water, and only managed to pull her hand back out of his grasp as she saw her new daiquiri placed down next to her.
Rey looked at Kylo challengingly, even as she toyed with the stem of her new glass. “So, are we playing or not?”
Kylo nodded towards the already activated suspension field. “Of course. But, Rey? You have to play to win—I’ll know if you don’t—“
Rey’s lips thinned and she canted her head in a haughty manner. It wasn’t like she was going to intentionally lose. That wasn’t like her. In fact, she had every intention of winning. “I always play to win—“
Everyone at the table had already contributed to the sabacc pot, though it was possible to still add to the pot at each round. Spinning into action, the dealer droid quickly dealt cards to everyone at the table. Rey knew its photoreceptors and processors were keeping track of every card it dealt. With that and the Force, it would be impossible for anyone at this table to cheat.
Rey looked down at the cards in her hands, which were small electronic devices with a display panel covering one side. She looked on as the droid running the game shifted the cards before her eyes. A Two of Coins, a Four of Flasks, and an Ace of Staves were in her hands.
The droid indicated that one of the men on the other side of the table should go first in the drawing phase. He had to roll the dice, which indicated whether or not he could draw or had to hold. With a look of barely concealed frustration, he discarded one of his cards and picked another. He did not look pleased.
His companion, for Rey thought of them as a set, gave a little laugh. The dark skinned man looked at his friend when his turn came. He took the dice and threw them down. He smirked wider. “I’ll hold—“
Bast fluttered his lashes at the other man, even as he picked up the dice. He blew on them and then threw them with a flourish. “Now, Zax—you know I can’t resist when you go all evil on us—“ He rubbed his hands together in anticipation before discarding a card and picking up a new one. “Excellent—“
Then it was Rey’s turn. She had twenty-one. She needed twenty-three. She picked up the dice and immediately threw them. The dice indicated that she wasn’t allowed to draw anyway, not that she would have. She was as close as she dared at the moment. She kept a blank look on her face the entire time.
Finally, Kylo had his turn. Calling the dice to his hand with the Force, he threw them down and then discarded one of his cards only to pick up another. His face gave away nothing.
The droid called on them all to show their hands. The first man’s hand was actually not that bad. The second man, Zax, however, had an abysmal hand.
Bast laughed. “Deceptive, Zax—I like it—“
The first man smirked at his friend and took a sip of his drink. “Well, Zax, looks like you’re going broke tonight—“
Zax shook his head and gave a mock glare to the other two. “Shut up, Grant, you know I could kick your ass if this was Empress Teta Preferred—“
Bast’s hand showed that he had twenty-two and he looked very pleased about it. “Look and weep schuttas—“
Rey sighed and looked at Bast dryly before showing her hand.
Bast made a kissy face in Rey’s direction. “It’s okay, darling—I’ll keep buying you those drinks you like—“
When Kylo’s hand also came up twenty-one, Bast laughed and gave him a wink. “I’ll even buy you drinks if you want me to—“
Kylo merely huffed, not upset in the least. “Kriff off—“
Then they were betting again. However, Bast was all about appetizers.
Rey had just set her drink down after taking another sip when it happened.
“Re-eey open your mouth for me—“
She turned towards Bast in confusion. “Wha—“
He stuffed an appetizer in her mouth.
Rey could hardly be mad at him because she started chewing and the taste was absolutely phenomenal. She spoke with her mouth open and the half masticated food had to have looked disgusting, but it was just so good. She briefly closed her eyes in ecstasy. “Oh, Maker—what is this? It’s fantastic—“
Bast just laughed. “I know—right?”
However, it was the feeling of being intensely stared at from Kylo’s side that had Rey blushing. The way he was looking at her! He was too intense and it was doing things to her. Rey took another sip of her drink.
They kept playing. By the next round, Zax was officially out. Then it was Grant’s turn to feel the crush of defeat.
By round four it was only Bast, Rey, and Kylo in the game.
Rey had officially lost track of how many Dark Side Daiquiris she had had by this point. However, she was not the only one consuming massive amounts of alcohol. The rest were keeping up with her, and getting quite chatty, though Kylo was still doing his stoic act.
Bast’s sabacc face was pretty good. He kept up his chatty demeanor no matter what his hand was like. “Saw do-gooder Dameron out there earlier—forgot to mention it before—“
Rey half-heartedly defended the pilot. “I like Poe. He’s nice enough.” «So long as he keeps his mouth shut about Populism—»
Apparently, at this stage of the game, Rey was in no position to keep her thoughts to herself. It was more than obvious by the looks on their faces that Kylo and even Bast had heard the part she had intended to keep to herself.
Kylo snorted. “Dameron was always a tool—“
Bast gave a sly smirk and looked at Rey. “My dear, men like that just need to look pretty. There are ways to keep their mouths shut—maybe I’ll give you a few pointers later—“
The feeling in the room suddenly became hostile as Kylo gave Bast a death glare. “Not if you value your life, you won’t—“
Bast quickly back-peddled, having realized he’d gone too far. “Wasn’t serious—you know that—“
It was time to show their hands and Bast lost the game with a twenty-one. He wisely kept his mouth shut. Kylo won with twenty-two and Rey had negative twenty-two. Kylo had one up on her at this point overall. The next game would decide everything.
Rey wasn’t having it. The Dark Side Daiquiris had made her less inhibited. Her only goal at the moment was to get back at Kylo for trying to dictate to someone what they could do when it came to her. She reached out to pat Bast’s arm consolingly. “It’s okay, Bast. You can show me whatever you’d like—“ She looked scathingly at Kylo. “You’re right anyway. Dameron could be a nice little distraction—“
Kylo leaned forward towards Rey with a clenched jaw. “The hell he will—I’ll kill him if he touches you—“
Rey leaned forward herself. She poked him in the chest with a finger. Her words were slurred. “Don—think you—can tell me whadda do—Ky-lo Ren—“
He growled at her. “I’m not telling you to do anything—I’m just telling you what will happen if other people do anything—“
Rey waved a hand at him. She felt more than a little floaty at the moment. “Se-man-tics—“
Just as it looked as if Kylo would keep the argument going, Bast intervened. He discretely pulled Rey away from Kylo and back properly in her chair. “You all going to play the last round?”
Rey gave Bast a happy smile. “Yes! We’re going to play! One. More. Round!” Rey looked around. She couldn’t find her drink anywhere. “Bast! Hey—Bast! Where’s my drink?”
Bast shook his head. “Rey, dear, I’m afraid I’ve cut you off. You and Kylo both—“
Rey actually pouted. “You can’t do that!” She turned to Kylo. “Kylo? Can he do that?”
Kylo had a death grip on the last of his whiskey. “No—I’ll buy you another drink if you want one—Rey—“
Bast had his arms crossed. He looked at them in disappointment. “There is something seriously wrong in this galaxy when I have to be the responsible adult—“
Soon enough, she and Kylo were playing again.
Rey looked down at her cards. She had a Commander of Sabres, a Five of Flasks, and a One of Coins, giving her only eighteen. She rolled the dice, and it was lucky for her that she could draw a new card. She discarded the one and picked another. Before her eyes she watched the display of her new card show that she now had a Six of Staves. It was a perfect twenty-three. Rey gave a smirk even as she showed her hand. “Pure sabacc. Well, gentlemen, it’s been fun—“
Kylo’s voice was quiet, and he made sure he had Rey’s complete attention as he spoke. “Not so fast—“
Kylo placed his cards on the table and he couldn’t have looked more like his father in that moment had he actively tried. He then placed his hands behind his head and lifted his feet up on the sabacc table as he leaned back in his chair, the very picture of smug superiority.
Bast and the other two men made a fuss. Bast whistled. “An Idiot’s Array! I can’t believe it!”
Rey couldn’t believe her eyes either. Kylo’s cards did indeed show The Idiot, worth zero, a Two of Sabres, and a Three of Sabres. His hand trumped hers. She narrowed her eyes at him. Rey stood up unsteadily and moved closer to Kylo. “Better not’uv used a skifter—or the Force—“
Kylo raised a cocky eyebrow at her. “I don’t need to cheat and stack the deck to win—sweetheart—I’m just that good—“
Rey looked from Kylo’s smug face back to the cards on the table. She went to pick them up to gauge for herself if the cards had been tampered with. “We’ll see abou-tha—“
However, as Rey wasn’t used to wearing heels and was actually experiencing the novelty of being drunk, she overbalanced and started to fall backwards. She would have fallen had Kylo Ren not caught her.
Kylo’s hands were on her hips and Rey found herself suddenly sitting in his lap. He had quickly dropped his feet to the floor. He huffed out an amused laugh. “You really are drunk—“
Rey couldn’t help but settle herself more comfortably against Kylo. He was quite warm. It never even occurred to her to get up. She lifted her nose at him. “No—I’m not—“
Kylo adjusted his grip to accommodate her better. He slid one hand up her bare back in a caress. His lips were right next to her ear. “You really are—but it’s okay—I don't mind—“
Rey’s breath hitched. Her skin erupted in goose flesh at Kylo’s touch. It felt electric. It felt good- great even. She, literally, could sit there all day and let him do whatever it was he was doing. She practically melted at the feeling of his hand moving its way up to the nape of her neck and then down her back again. She felt his lips as he started to kiss her jaw. She sighed.
Loud throat clearing could be heard again. It was Bast...again. “Get a room—“
Rey blearily opened her eyes, which she hadn’t realized she’d even closed. She was reclining in a bed. From her vantage point, she could tell that said bed was in a very nice looking room with a vaulted ceiling. The bed felt like heaven. She lifted her head only to immediately flop back down. It felt like a herd of faithers had run over her. “Ow—“
She turned her head slightly to the right and noticed that there was a balcony and that she was in the midst of a large beam of sunlight coming in through the gauzy curtains. She closed her eyes again. That beam of sunlight was a crime against the galaxy at the moment. Unfortunately, Rey didn’t know where she was or why. She brought her hands up to gently massage her temples. “Why can’t I remember? Right—the last I remember was—“ Rey bolted up in the bed and looked around in a panic. “Oh, kriff!”
“I have a room—somewhere—“
There was a laugh in her ear, another kiss against her jaw. “Do you? You want me to take you there?”
“Yes—I do want you to take me—“
This time there was a growl that sent delightful shivers down her spine and the next thing Rey knew she was lifted into his arms and was being carried.
She put her arms around his neck. “I can walk just fine—you can put me down—“
He nipped her ear. “Don't think I will—“
Hardly noticing or caring that he went straight through the casino, Rey berated him. “Why’re you always so difficult—“
Then a room—her room—and it was dark with only the moonlight coming in through the balcony. Rey’s back was suddenly against the door and his lips were on hers. She kissed him back and then he used his tongue. Oh stars—his tongue! Rey was lost in his kisses and she hadn’t even cared.
A whispered declaration made its way to Rey even as he slowly dragged a hand to her thigh, parting the slit of her dress. “You’re so beautiful—“
Lips worked their way down to her jaw, then her neck, then her breasts, not caring that the thin fabric of her dress was in their way. He suckled and nipped at her before going lower, dropping to his knees, and lathing her stomach with the same attention. One hand gathered the skirt of her dress and lifted it up and to the side, while the other lifted her left leg over his shoulder.
A finger traced around the blaster she had strapped to her thigh, and Kylo, honest to Maker, looked up at her with dark and fully blown pupils and smirked before bending back down and biting her right on the thigh above the blaster, before bracing her right leg over his shoulder too.
The finger that traced her blaster encountered no material resistance when he reached up further. Kylo groaned even as his lips joined the foray. “Maker, Rey! I’ll give you the galaxy—you absolutely deserve the entire kriffing galaxy—“
For her part, Rey was practically overcome by the new sensations she was experiencing; nor did she realize that most women did indeed wear underwear of some sort under their dresses, which she had forgone as it wasn’t provided with the rest of her ensemble. She was not concerned about this as she was too busy making noises and not particularly caring how it sounded, so long as Kylo Ren kept doing what he was doing. She had been ready to tell him she didn’t want the galaxy, but when he proceeded to actually lick her, she could not find it within herself to gainsay him. Instead she found herself saying things such as, “Oh, yes! Please! Give me the damn galaxy, so long as you keep doing that!”
The rest truly was a bit of a haze. She was still dressed for all that it mattered in the end. She vaguely recalled being carried to the bed. There also might have been a moment when Bast arrived because Rey distinctly may have recalled him saying, “I know they say that what happens in Canto Bight, stays in Canto Bight—but damn—Kylo!”
None of it had been a Force vision, Rey he was certain of it. It all really happened. She was so very, very kriffed, wasn’t she?
Rey looked over at the bedside table for the chrono, but was distracted from this when she spied the code cylinder and the holocron. Kylo had been quite clever in making this the thing she had to accept if she lost. She had already half convinced herself that the Resistance was the right side and that her views on morality and goodness must have been irretrievably messed up from her childhood on Jakku. However, Rey had her own code of honor that she followed, and Kylo Ren well knew exactly how to play into that. Not that she was complaining. When she finally did look at the chrono she realized that it was still early. She heaved a sigh of relief.
There was a knock on the door.
Hesitantly, Rey made her way over to it and opened it a crack to peek into the corridor beyond. It was Poe and Pava. This was just adding to the perfect start of the day, overall.
They had already changed into more casual clothing and looked far too awake to be healthy for the hour.
Rey must have looked a sight because Poe eyed her from head to toe incredulously. “Rey—what in stars name have you been doing?”
Rey reached up to smooth down her hair, which was sticking up in the back. It was always best to stick with the truth as much as possible. “Err—playing sabacc?”
Poe, who certainly should not have been a stranger to such shenanigans, looked at Rey as if seeing her in an entirely new light. “All night long?”
Rey shrugged awkwardly. “It was a long game?”
Jessika Pava’s arms were crossed and she looked disgusted. “You smell like a distillery—So—Rey—the Jedi apprentice—played sabacc all night and got drunk—while the rest of us kept the FO off our tail?”
Rey crossed her own arms. It was entirely too early in the morning to be put through this. She didn’t owe that schutta anything. “It’s Jedi Padawan and what do you want, Pava? Did Luke get the youngling or not?”
Poe took over, sensing that it was in everyone’s best interests to keep the two women away from each other’s throats. “He’s still working on it—told us to meet back on the ship around thirteen-hundred hours—“
Rey nodded along in annoyance. “Great—will do—see you then—“
Rey slammed the door on Pava’s glare and turned around to find a change of clothes and the fresher.
Despite her headache, it was the best shower of her life. Rey only lamented her lack of time to luxuriate for hours in the stream of water. She could do this all day. The novelty of true plumbing and not having to worry about conserving water for once felt hedonistic.
Rey changed into the first set of clothing she came across in her bag. Why General Organa had gone with a very unimaginative color scheme when it came to her clothes had briefly crossed her mind but, overall, Rey was simply grateful to have multiple sets of new clothing at all. The only thing different about this outfit and the other grey outfit she had worn was that this one was a darker charcoal grey. She was hardly complaining. She pulled her hair into her signature three buns out of habit. Whatever Pava thought, she thought it looked fine. She boldly strapped her blaster to her leg. She wasn’t planning on going into any casinos today.
Stepping out of the fresher was a surprise. Bast was sitting on the edge of her bed and holding two disposable cups with lids in his hands. He looked the worse for wear. He held one of the cups out to her.
Rey took it hesitantly. It was still hot. She sniffed it delicately before sipping it. “What is it?”
He looked at her in surprise. “Caf. It’s caf, darling.”
Rey took another sip. “Really? I’ve never had any before—it’s good—“
Bast nodded. “I can’t imagine a galaxy without caf—“ He stood up. “Okay—time to go—“
Rey looked at Bast searchingly. “Go where?”
Bast looked at Rey like she was crazy. “Brunch. Kylo’s waiting in line for us—it’s supposed to be one of the best brunch places in Canto Bight—“
She grabbed her bag and stuffed everything in it before pulling it over her head. Despite herself, Rey was worried. She hoped Kylo didn’t regret anything, and she suddenly felt anxious. She hugged her arms around herself. Rey snorted. “Really?”
Bast nodded solemnly. “Yes—it’s a miracle he’s even up—was surprised myself—“ He looked at Rey with a serious expression. “He’s completely besotted with you, you know—I’ve never seen him like this—“
Rey was rather worried about how their next meeting would go after last night. Bast’s words hardly allayed her fears. Bast led her out of the hotel and down the street towards the bay. Soon enough Rey found herself confronted with Kylo again.
Kylo looked just as tired as she did. He was sitting on a bench and holding his own cup of caf. He held a little device in his hands out to Bast. “Wait is forty-minutes.”
Bast sat on the opposite side of the bench and sprawled out with his head back.
This only left Rey with the option of sitting between the two of them, which she did gingerly.
Kylo immediately stretched his arm out behind her on the bench and moved closer to her so they were touching. He looked out at the crowd that was waiting in line around them. “You okay?”
Rey nodded and bit her lip. “Yeah—you?”
Kylo nodded absently and his lips lifted into a half smile.
Rey let out a breath she didn’t even know she had been holding.
Bast spoke from his side of the bench, staring up at the sky. “I’m doing great, thanks for asking. After getting you two settled I wound up with what’s his name—that little aristocrat I showed you—Rey—“
Rey turned towards Bast. “Yeah? You alright?”
Bast sat up and looked sullen, suddenly finding the cobblestones interesting. “I’ll be fine. The wanker snored—he had to go—can’t stand that—“
Rey nodded in understanding. That did sound annoying. “Right—totally understand—“
They all took a sip of caf almost simultaneously.
Despite their collective subdued mood, this entire situation felt right to Rey in a way nothing else had in her life up to this point. She was more at ease, felt more accepted than she ever had. So, of course it couldn’t last; it simply wasn’t the way her life worked.
Rey’s comlink went off. She pulled it out and answered it. She didn’t bother turning on the holo function. “It’s Rey—“
Luke’s pleasant voice floated to her ears. “Where are you?“
Rey huffed and glared at the comlink. “It’s good to hear from you too, master. It’s not thirteen-hundred yet—“
Luke sounded like a scolding parent. “Poe and Jessika had an interesting tale to tell—“
Rey sounded bitter. “I bet they did—“
Luke sighed in exasperation. “What were you thinking, Rey?”
Rey practically hissed through her teeth. “I was thinking I was doing exactly what you told me to do—“
Except for the whole informing Luke if she encountered the First Order, she did exactly as he told her, at any rate. She was exactly the distraction he had wanted her to be. Perhaps he hadn’t thought of how it would turn out, but she did her duty.
Luke immediately sensed that there was an issue. “I sense the truth there—but you are also being deceptive—“
Rey ignored his statement. “Did you achieve your objective, master?”
Luke‘s voice was resigned. “Yes—but Rey—the Force urged me of a great danger—and we’ve been compelled to make some changes to our plans—“
Rey didn’t like where this was going. “What? What’re you talking about?”
Luke continued. “I’m sorry—Rey—but we had to leave—the Force willed it—“
Rey’s stomach dropped and felt like ice. “You left me here on Canto Bight?”
Luke sounded stern. “We have someone coming to get you—“
Rey’s hands were in fists now. Her voice was demanding. “Who? Who did you send?”
Luke was silent for a minute too long.
This infuriated Rey. She didn’t want to hear anything else he had to say. She turned off her comlink in a huff and threw it in her bag. How dare he treat her like this?
Kylo looked livid, but his voice was very level. “At least his Force sense was working this time—I was planning to kill him after brunch—“
Bast snorted from his side of the bench. “Shame it didn’t happen. Can’t stand him—“
Rey didn’t know what to think. Luke Skywalker abandoned her here because of the Force, but Kylo and Bast were a bit too murderous for her tastes at the same time. Master Skywalker didn’t care about her welfare at all. Rey leaned her head against Kylo’s arm and glared out at the world. Rey had resolved entirely nothing. She thought she had resolved everything, but it was more than obvious that she was still just as lost and conflicted as she had ever been.
Two shadows fell over their bench.
Rey looked up. Her eyes widened dramatically and she sat up. Her heart jumped into her throat. She defended herself nervously. “This isn’t what it looks like—“
Han Solo had his arms crossed. “I dunno, kid. I’m thinking it’s exactly what it looks like—“ He looked the three of them over with a wary expression on his face before stopping on Kylo with a sad expression.
Chewie let out a roar.
Han nodded in agreement. “Three Knights of Ren—three lost souls—“
Kylo looked up at him with a sneer. “You don’t know anything, Han Solo—you never did—“
Rey had a bad feeling about this.
Rey bit her lip nervously before coming to a decision. The thought of anything escalating was not a good one. She looked intently at Han and Chewie, her voice monotone. "You will forget that you saw us and return to the Falcon—"
Han, who had still been staring at Kylo, turned to look at her.
The Wookie's presence alone had been enough to cause anyone lingering near them to make themselves scarce, Rey noticed. At least they wouldn't have an audience for whatever would occur- not that anything would occur because Rey was sorting it. Maybe.
Rey sat forward slightly and waved a hand for emphasis. Her voice became more insistent as she repeated her instruction. "You will forget that you saw us and return to the Falcon—"
Kylo had fully turned to face Rey and was now staring at her incredulously. Bast made a strangled sound and brought a fist up to his mouth.
Han stared straight into Rey's eyes and raised an eyebrow. "I will forget that I saw you and return to the Falcon?" He shook his head. "Not today, sister—"
Chewie huffed and shook his head in agreement.
Bast was extremely amused. His face was red and he wiped away a tear. "Rey—you're the best, darling—you really are—"
Rey crossed her arms and leaned back on the bench with a petulant huff. Slightly embarrassed that she was so untrained as to not be able to pull off a simple mind trick, her cheeks reddened under the morning sun. "It was worth a try—I didn't see the rest of you doing anything—"
Even Kylo was amused, if his slight smirk was anything to go by. "I was handling it—"
That was not a reassuring thought. It seemed to Rey that Kylo's version of handling things was to look murderous and make threats. Suddenly restless, Rey stood and rounded on Han Solo. "So—first it's General Organa that sends you after me and now it's Luke Skywalker—"
Han gave her a disappointed look. "Looks like they were right to worry, kid—"
Rey shook her head incredulously. Yeah, Luke worried so much that he left her there. The concern was overwhelming. "Are you listening to yourself? I haven't done anything wrong—"
Han nodded his head toward Kylo. He gave his son a dubious look. His voice was dry. "Yeah—you hooked up with a real group of philanthropists here—"
Kylo, who was still sprawled on the bench, slowly brought up a hand and made a very deliberate rude gesture in Han's direction. If looks could kill, then Han Solo would have been dead a million times over.
Rey ignored Kylo in lieu of giving Han a scathing look. "Better than getting involved with Kanjiklub or the Guavian Death Gang—which—you're welcome, by the way—sorted that for you—didn't I?"
Despite herself, Rey recognized her desperate need to please a father figure, and it rankled. There she was attempting to explain herself like a youngling to someone that cared, but Han Solo was not that person as far as she was concerned. She was not blind to her faults, and she very much considered wanting parental figures at this late stage to be a fault. She didn't need them. She had survived just fine, no thanks to anyone else. She had had no formal education, no one to care if she lived or died, and her own parents had sold her off for a drink. She should have had no place in this story of the galaxy, yet she was thrust into it anyway. Rey had no one but herself in the end.
As if finally deciding he couldn't get anywhere with Rey, Han looked at Kylo again. "Ben—"
Kylo sneered at him. "I don't think so—"
Bast looked around in mock confusion as if searching for another person. "Who?"
Han waved an accusing finger directly at Bast. "Don't think I don't remember you either—"
Rey huffed and crossed her arms. This was completely ridiculous. "If you want any kind of relationship with him, you may as well call him by the name he goes by—"
The moment Han Solo decided to actually take Rey's advice showed on his face. For the briefest of moments he looked as if he was going to argue the point but then he sighed. He looked pained. "Kylo—" He ran a hand through his hair. "Kid—you and I both know I'm the worst father in the galaxy—and I don't deserve your forgiveness—"
Kylo was watching Han with narrowed eyes. "You're so right—you don't—"
"I deserve that. Ain't got no idea what I'm doing—I never did—it's no excuse—but you know how your mother is—"
Rey certainly knew how Leia Organa was. She was practically nodding along with Han in agreement on that point. Leia Organa told other people what to do all the time, and Rey could only imagine how the woman tried to handle Han Solo and her own son. Han being Han, he wouldn't have put up with it for long. He was too much of a free spirit. The less said about what happened with Kylo the better.
Kylo's hair was in his eyes and he looked up at his father with a bored look on his face. "Where is this going exactly?"
Han's expression was at odds with his words. "Your mother wants you to come back home—"
Rey knew that Han wanted Kylo back just as much.
Kylo's voice was dry. "To the Resistance?"
Han sighed. "You know as well as I do that she practically leads the Resistance—"
Kylo's question was deceptively light. "And Luke will be there?"
Han gave Kylo a flat look.
Kylo gave a disturbing smile in response. "Just checking—it might actually make up for everything if you did take me to him—I didn't finish the job I started the first time—and I fully intend to see it through—"
Pure confusion crossed Han's face. He looked at Kylo as if lost. He asked the question, the only question he could think of, and it asked so much. "Why?"
Kylo went completely still and then sat up straight. He had the look of a man that had a sudden revelation. He looked at Han Solo in bewilderment. "He never told you—" He ran a hand through his hair and stood up in shock. "He actually never told you—"
It had not occurred to Rey that Han Solo might not know about how Luke tried to kill him in his sleep. She should not be surprised considering Luke had even told her a very abridged version of the incident that conveniently left out that detail. Now that she was thinking about it, wouldn't his parents be livid about it if they knew? Rey twisted her hands together and looked to Kylo worriedly. Rey projected her thoughts to him. «Considering what Luke told me, it's very likely he didn't.»
Kylo acted like he'd never heard her. He looked at Han accusingly. "Yet you were more than willing to simply believe whatever he did tell you—"
Han looked worried. "Never told me what—what are you talking about—"
Kylo clenched his fists and looked as if he wanted nothing more than to take his lightsaber and start hacking at everything around him. Kylo looked like he could barely breathe. He looked away from his father and growled. "That kriffer tried to kill me in my sleep—"
Han shook his head in denial and shock. "That's not—he wouldn't—"
Rey shook her head at Han seriously. "It's all true—I've seen it—"
Han cut his eyes to Rey and looked at her to gauge the truth of her words. His voice was gruff. "You're telling me that Luke Skywalker tried to kill my son in his sleep. My son."
Han closed his eyes. When he opened them again they were hard. "Screw that lightsaber shit—if I get to him first—it's a blaster shot right between the eyes—"
It wasn't the complete truth, but Rey would give this to Kylo. Luke had had his chance at the truth and told an edited version. Han finally deserved to hear Kylo's side and if it brought the estranged father and son closer, then who was Rey to say anything about their murderous intentions? She couldn't promise she wouldn't have done the same if her own circumstances were different.
For his part, Rey could tell that Kylo was affected by his father's concern for his well-being. However, in typical Kylo fashion, he resorted to anger first. He practically growled at Han. "Don't think this changes anything between us—"
Han looked disappointed, but didn't disagree. "I understand—"
The buzzer went off.
Bast held it out. "Our table is ready—"
Kylo snatched it out of Bast's hands and stalked towards the café. He was obviously in a foul mood. He glanced back at Han with a dark look. "Just stay out of my way—"
Bast followed after him rather quickly, glancing back meaningfully at Rey.
Rey stood there awkwardly and looked at Han and Chewie in indecision. She settled on looking towards the bay, still unused to seeing bodies of water. She wasn't sure what she should do right now, if she was being honest.
Han gave Rey a considering look. "So, you and my son, huh?"
Rey wrapped her arms around herself. The bay was suddenly more interesting than before. "It's not like that—"
Han rolled his eyes. "Sure it isn't. You met him on Coruscant, didn't you? Went on a date—"
Rey opened her mouth to protest.
Han held up a finger in her direction. "Don't say it—"
Rey huffed in annoyance. She didn't know what it was between her and Kylo. She didn't exactly have any experiences that she could compare it to. All she knew is that her feelings for him were definitely complicated and that it scared her more than a little bit. She changed the subject, not even attempting to be subtle. "I don't know if I can go back to the Resistance—"
Han's voice was insistent, his eyes searching. "Because of him?"
Rey shook her head in denial. "No. I was questioning everything before I ever met Kylo." She let out a little bitter laugh. "I'm not even a Populist—"
It was time she fully acknowledged the truth of that at the very least.
Han snorted. "Don't ever tell Leia I said this, but kriff all that political crap. Kid, I've lived through a few different governments, and they're all rotten. Only thing that's gotten me this far is a good blaster at my side, my mad sabacc skills, and the Falcon—"
Chewie roared in protest.
Han gave Chewie a smirk. "I was getting there, fuzzball—"
Rey was a bundle of nerves. She quickly blurted out what was on her mind before she could stop herself. "I was thinking of joining—the First Order that is—"
He didn't look surprised so much as disappointed. There was a kind of grim acceptance there. "Why?"
Han Solo was getting good at asking the all-encompassing critical question, wasn't he? His estranged wife may have been part of an important bloodline, but he wasn't. Han Solo would always be a smuggler that had loved a princess. He'd been a nobody like Rey. For that reason alone, Rey felt that she could talk to him.
Rey felt as if she had been shuffled like chattel from one thing to another. It had all been about destiny and fate and going with the flow and reacting to her circumstances. However, she was being given a choice by one side and she had the option of walking away if she didn't want what was offered. Rey had no doubt that there might be consequences to her actions, but the fact that she was being given a choice was clear. It was not assumed nor was it expected that she would do as they asked her to. It mattered to someone like her. It mattered a lot. It meant pretty much everything. Yet, even still, Rey felt that such choices as she had been given were nothing more than a play at manipulating her. It was the way of Jakku and it was the way of the galaxy, apparently.
She finally felt confident enough to look Han Solo in the eyes. "They've offered me a choice—a chance for a real education—I find myself wanting that—" Rey looked around briefly before lowering her voice. "Their vision for the galaxy has to be better than what we've got now—"
Han gave Rey a look of pity. "They want to use you—"
Rey's response was biting. "And the Resistance doesn't?"
Han didn't look as if he disagreed with her statement. He gave Rey an earnest look. "Snoke has his own agenda. He just wants power. He twisted my son and he'll do the same to you—"
That stopped Rey in her tracks. She hadn't thought about Supreme Leader Snoke's role in any of this. Perhaps Han had a point when it came to Snoke. She'd have to investigate the matter before coming to a firm conclusion. "If what you say is true, then I'm at a loss. If I decide that I can't go to the First Order and since I refuse to return to the Resistance, then there isn't much for me. I won't go back to Jakku."
Rey had long since seen the folly of trying to deny the truth of her situation- and persisting in her old delusion of two dead drunks coming back for her did her no favors.
Han spoke hesitantly. "There's a third option—you might not like it—"
Rey had a feeling that she knew where this was going. She pursed her lips. "Don't tell me you're going to offer me a job again—that worked out so well the last time—"
"You won't be with me and Chewie on the Falcon—I was just going to let you borrow another ship of mine—and you'll be able to do what you want in between runs—"
Suddenly intrigued, Rey gave Han her full attention. "What kind of runs—"
Han looked evasive. "Ones I can't do on my own anymore—"
Rey narrowed her eyes at him. "In other words—dangerous and probably not legal—"
He held his hands out in a placating gesture. "Hey—you'll get a cut—but I'm warning you now, kid—it's best not to ask too many questions—even I don't ask them when it comes to this kind of thing—I just take jobs—"
Before she could second-guess herself, Rey nodded. "Maybe—"
Han looked at her suspiciously. "Well, that was easy—"
Rey gave a little shrug. "I said maybe. If I do this it will give me time to figure things out. You're right—I don't know what I'm doing—but at least it's something—"
Han gave a sheepish look. "You can't tell Leia—she won't like it if you don't go back to the Resistance and the Jedi thing—and she doesn't know I've been doing those kinds of runs again—"
Rey kept her thoughts on that part to herself. She wouldn't be surprised if Leia knew exactly what Han was up to. "So long as you don't mention anything about Kylo and the First Order—any of it—"
He pursed his lips in disagreement. "Rey—his mother deserves to know—"
Rey felt spiteful. She could see Leia knowing what Luke did and forgiving him because she feared what her son was becoming as she held her ideals more highly than blood. "Shouldn't he get to decide that? Do you really want to see Luke right now anyway?"
Han was obviously done with their conversation. His expression closed off. "Go eat, Rey—meet up back at the Falcon when you're done—"
Making her way into the café, Rey spotted Kylo and Bast in a corner booth. She walked over towards them.
Kylo's eyes immediately sought out hers and he stood up so that she could slide in and sit near the window. He wasted no time in sliding in next to her. His voice sounded derisive. "What did you and the old man talk about?"
Rey refused to look at him and instead focused on Bast, who was seated across from them. He appeared to be engrossed in the menu. Following his cue, Rey picked up a menu as well. She sighed. "He offered me another job—"
Kylo was glaring at the table and idly playing with his silverware. He gave a huff. "Consisting of criminal endeavors no doubt—"
Rey knew he was right. She was still unsure about her course of action, but it seemed the best option until she could figure things out. It seemed like it would be as dangerous as anything else though, but she was used to that sort of thing in her life. She spoke softly. "I was told that it was best to not ask questions—"
Kylo pursed his lips and glanced at her seriously. What he said wasn't a request so much as it was a demand. "You should come with us—"
Rey gazed down at the table as if it could give her the answers she was seeking. She could feel Kylo's and Bast's full attention on her. Suddenly nervous, Rey felt her face grow hot. She was not used to sharing her feelings, plans, or the details of her life with anyone. "Well—I told him that was my plan—and then he mentioned Snoke—and I realized that I couldn't truly make a decision until I knew more about him."
Kylo turned to face her fully. He spoke hastily and with no little fear. "The Supreme Leader is wise—"
Setting the menu back down, Rey finally looked at Kylo. She frowned. "In what way? I've heard he's ancient, so I wouldn't be surprised if he knew a lot. But if he's only consumed with lust of power, that can't be good for the rest of us, can it?"
Kylo clenched his jaw in annoyance. "You don't know what you're talking about—'
It then dawned on Rey that she had pretty much ignored something critical in one of their previous interactions. It all came together in a sudden revelation. She lowered her voice and leaned closer to him. "This Starkiller thing—that wouldn't actually be a third Death Star—would it—"
Kylo glared at her, his voice a growl. "You need to tread carefully, Rey—"
Rey's eyes widened. She was truly surprised. Her voice was a hissed whisper. "Are you people insane? That right there is all the proof that your Supreme Leader has become unstable. If he can't have the galaxy, no one will, because he'll just destroy it, is that it? It's not even original. Do you have a way to replace him if things get too out of control?"
Kylo almost sounded petulant. "He wouldn't do that—"
Kylo was like the First Order version of Poe Dameron. She had Kylo fanatic-to-the-cause Ren in front of her, didn't she? Rey rolled her eyes. She let her tone convey her disbelief. "Sure—and the X'us'R'iia is just a little bit of wind—nothing to worry about at all—"
Completely dominating Rey's personal space, Kylo seethed. "It's treason to talk about the Supreme Leader this way—"
Rey almost felt sorry for Kylo. Almost. Something was wrong here. Perhaps Han was right that Snoke had twisted him somehow. Rey placated him as much as she could. "Don't get me wrong, Kylo—the goals of the First Order—I get it—this galaxy needs some massive changes—and if a military junta can produce the results—then I say—let you try—but there at least needs to be a galaxy in the end—"
Kylo snarled at her, ready to say something scathing no doubt.
Rey cut him off. "It's the one thing General Organa said in her argument that I thought made it invalid—but perhaps she had a point. Sometimes you have to have leaders you can replace—It was my belief that it went without saying—it was her belief that certain groups would never allow it—"
Mentioning his mother had Kylo shutting his mouth with a frown.
Rey's look turned sly. "You know—you could be the Supreme Leader—I'd even help you—"
The thought had just occurred to her, but she was serious. If he wanted, she would help him there.
Kylo looked intrigued by this, but quickly schooled his face into a blank expression. His voice was still a low growl. "Would you—he'd kill us both before we ever had the chance—"
Rey nodded emphatically. "He'd try—but—old and wise doesn't mean invincible—you know—" Rey smirked. Her voice was teasing. "If you're not up to the task—maybe I'll do it myself—Empress has a nice ring—"
Where had that suddenly come from? Rey was surprised at herself.
Rey was suddenly kicked under the table. She looked at Bast in annoyance. "You have anything to add?"
Bast nodded. "In fact, I do—we should order—I'm starving—"
Rey took the hint and dropped the entire line of discussion. However, now that she was thinking about it, perhaps she wasn't joking at all. She may have been a nobody from nowhere, but maybe she could run the galaxy better than anyone. She certainly couldn't do a worse job. She shook her head ruefully. Entertaining delusions of grandeur did her no favors.
«You lack agency.»
It was the Emperor again. His shade had the worst timing.
Rey sat there with her back ramrod straight. She was furious and terrified all at once. Why did he always turn up? What was the point? Would she find herself haunted from here on out? Even so, she could not resist. «What do you want with me?»
Rey set her face into a snarl. She felt him in the Force and he was still powerful. «Is the afterlife so dull that you need to amuse yourself with haunting me? You had your chance. Your day is over.»
For all of the talk of a light side and a dark side and of an alleged balance, there was a reason the two sides of the Force called to so many for so many countless centuries; likely since the beginning of the universe. True balance was likely nearly impossible to achieve for anyone except in transitory liminal moments. One could be dark with shades of light or light with shades of dark, but true balance? Rey thought it unlikely. Irreverent sarcasm came to her mind. «Can a dead Sith even have an apprentice?»
His voice was hostile in a way that promised things worse than death. «I do not concern myself with what is possible until after I do it. You will turn, girl. I will have you as my last and greatest apprentice. I have foreseen it.»
It almost sounded like an odd restatement of something Han Solo once said. The Emperor spoke of agency on one hand and then spoke of the inevitability of her fall to the dark side on the other. Rey clenched a fist. Not if she had anything to do about it. Rey did not much like the Force.
Kylo's hand came to rest on her right thigh with a squeeze. His voice was low. "What did you see?"
Jolted to awareness, Rey gasped for breath. The sounds of the café suddenly washed over her, whereas they had been completely absent before. She was still staring straight at Bast and had apparently been looking through him in an unsettling way, if his worried look was any indication. A ball of dread formed in her stomach. She spoke nervously. "It wasn't—anything—"
Kylo's gaze became assessing. "I felt it—the dark side—you had a Force vision—"
She still didn't want to think about it. Rey closed her eyes. "It happened before, on Coruscant—"
His voice was demanding and soft at the same time. "Tell me—show me—"
She felt his breath right in her ear. Eyes still closed, Rey's breathing hitched. She sounded desperate. "No—"
His voice took on a pleading tone. "Rey—"
Kylo Ren almost sounded as he had the night before. That was a dangerous turn for her thoughts to take. Rey opened her eyes and shook her head in disagreement. "I said no. I'm not entertaining this. It didn't happen."
Kylo was so very close to her. He murmured in her ear. "All right. You don't have to tell me- but don't lie to yourself. You can't keep running away from your destiny—every little thing that makes you uncomfortable—"
Rey's voice was breathless. She didn't sound a bit convincing, even to herself. "I'm not running away, Kylo—"
His eyes were now roving over her neck more than anything. He looked like he was debating kissing her jaw. "Keep telling yourself that, sweetheart—"
Had she not been boxed in with their seating arrangement, Rey would have done just that. She felt on edge- too exposed. She must have looked like a girl ready to run.
Kylo gave her a knowing look. His hand was still on her thigh and he only reluctantly removed it and moved back away from her to place his order with the serving droid.
Allowing herself to be drawn into Bast's sudden need for meaningless conversation was as frustrating as it was nice, Rey thought. Eating new foods was even better. It was likely for the best that Rey did not have regular recourse to such varied cuisine. She could not afford to become spoiled.
Soon enough their meal was over and Rey was no closer to any answers or a course of action. She felt torn in multiple directions. In truth, she wanted nothing more than to go with Kylo and Bast, yet she was wary over Snoke and this Starkiller thing. She also didn't particularly wish to truly become some sort of galactic criminal- and even Han Solo wasn't too excited to see her take his new job offer. No doubt, he would rather she go back to the Resistance, all things considered.
The moment Rey dreaded was upon her. She had to leave. She had to make a choice. She felt as if she needed more time. They were outside of the café now and it seemed as if they both expected her to go with them to wherever their ship was. She walked with them as the Millennium Falcon was sure to be docked in the same area.
As the Millennium Falcon came into view first, Rey came to a stop. She felt a ball of dread form in her stomach.
Bast was blithely still continuing on, none the wiser, but Kylo, he was ever attentive to Rey's every move.
He stopped too. The look Kylo Ren gave Rey was one of betrayed resignation. His voice was flat. "So, that's it then—"
Bast caught on and also stopped, turning to look at Rey in dismay. "You can't, Rey!"
Rey swallowed thickly. She felt so raw and emotional. This was going to be harder than she thought. Her voice was tremulous. "I just need more time—I'm not going back to the Resistance—"
Bast was suddenly right in front of her, bracing his hands against her shoulders. "Darling—while I appreciate your need to be sure of your convictions before committing to anything—I don't want to see you swept into a life of crime in the meantime—that's not the way—"
Blinking through tears, Rey responded with a little laugh. "I don't know anything, anymore, Bast—"
Bast squeezed her arms in reassurance. "Then take your time—I think we can wait a bit for you to get it together—"
At this, he glanced over his shoulder at Kylo with a meaningful look before turning back to Rey and pulling her comm unit of our her bag. He messed with it a bit before placing it back in her bag without Rey's consent. "Now you'll be able to contact me directly if you need to—and I expect you to do so regularly—"
Bast didn't give Rey a chance to say anything before giving her a charming smile and setting off towards his ship.
Rey was left alone with Kylo.
Kylo Ren didn't look happy in the slightest. In fact, he looked angry. His arms were at his sides, clenched into fists. "You're better than that, Rey. Becoming criminal scum isn't your destiny and you know it—"
Rey shook her head defiantly. Her heart was in her throat. "That's not—Kylo—that's not what I'm doing—"
Kylo glared at her. "That's exactly what you're doing, Rey—"
Rey's eyes felt wet. "It isn't! I just need time!"
Kylo sneered at her. "Why are you so intent on being my enemy, Rey—"
Rey hugged herself. "I'm not your enemy, Kylo Ren! This is—hard for me—I want to go with you—I really do—but I need to be sure—"
Kylo's expression turned into something else. It was softer somehow? Rey wasn't sure.
Rey looked awkwardly to the side. She suddenly didn't know what to do with her arms, so she let them hang limply at her sides like some kind of idiot. She didn't even know what to say. This whole thing felt wrong and she didn't have the social graces to make it any better. "Well—I reckon I'll see you around then—"
Kylo stood there in front of her with an assessing gaze. He wasn't saying anything.
Rey could feel the tension. Why wasn't he saying anything? His stare was becoming too much. She suddenly felt nervous. She chanced a glance from beneath her lashes and was suddenly struck speechless. "I—"
Kylo Ren stepped closer to her, holding her gaze all the while.
Rey resisted the urge to back up. He looked absolutely determined and intense to her eyes. Her hands were slightly shaking. She swallowed thickly. Her voice was breathless. "I still need to figure things out—"
Kylo was so close to Rey that he cast a shadow and was blocking out the sun.
This was the Kylo Ren that Rey had first met; the one that was dangerous in the most enticing way, the one that encouraged her to run and stay all at once. Rey's heart rate increased at his proximity. She began babbling. "I'll comm you though—"
Kylo reached out a hand and cupped Rey's face.
Rey's breath hitched. Her entire body stiffened in anticipation. His action startled her but she didn't pull away. His hand was warm against her cheek, his fingers ghosting against her ear. She fought the urge to close her eyes and lean into his touch.
Kylo brought his other hand up to rest against her neck and closed the remaining distance between them.
Rey barely had the time to process that he rubbed his thumb in a caress on her neck, when he tilted his head to the side and placed his lips on her own. His assault was gentle, yet demanding.
Rey didn't pull away. She inhaled sharply, her hands coming up to grasp desperately at his clothing.
Kylo pulled back slightly with a smirk, his eyes showing his hunger, before immediately going back and claiming her lips again.
Rey was slowly being coaxed into returning his fervor. She heard herself make a noise that was halfway between a moan and a whine. His name sounded like a prayer on her lips. "Kylo—"
Kylo swallowed her desperation. He gave off the aura of one that was more than willing to indulge in his passion. His tongue began to gently find purchase in her mouth.
Tentatively, Rey let him show her how to reciprocate his attentions. She felt consumed.
Desperate hands still cradling her face, Kylo walked her backwards.
Rey found herself up against the side of the Millennium Falcon. She really didn't care either. In fact, she felt the sudden compulsion to pull him closer, wanting to feel the length of him against her. She buried one curious hand in his curls. His hair was soft, she idly thought.
Kylo eagerly obliged with a growl. One of his hands grasped Rey's hair and pulled her head back slightly, so that he could move searing lips against her neck and jaw.
Being on the receiving end of such avaricious attentions had Rey panting, on the edge of being undone. Rey felt feverish, her body frantic for something more. A gentle nip on her neck sent an explosive jolt through Rey's core. The action left her struggling for breath. She fought the urge to writhe against him in abandon.
Kylo's wicked lips found her ear. He whispered to her hotly. "Bet you're wet for me—"
His words were shocking to her. What would ordinarily anger her at the sheer audacity, only served to amp up her own desire. She was wet for him. Her attempt at chiding him only came off as flirting, especially with the noises she was involuntarily making. "You're—a—degenerate—"
He was attempting to mark the skin of her neck, with sucking, biting and licking. His own breath was coming in pants. "If you stuck around—you'd see just how degenerate—"
One hand moved from her face to grab her ass and pull her flush against him.
Rey definitely felt all of Kylo Ren this way. If he tried to take her right here, she was certain that she would let him. Her heart rate increased.
Kylo's look was smug and knowing. He claimed her lips again. "You like that?"
Far from being dissuaded by his smug look this time, Rey was only vaguely aware that she found it to be pleasing. She found herself wanting to tell Kylo Ren anything he wanted to hear, and in this case it happened to be true. "Mhmm—"
Han Solo's voice cut through their haze of lust. "I'm pretty sure public fornication is illegal even on Canto Bight—"
Kylo pulled away from her slowly and reluctantly. He didn't look at Han Solo at all. He kept his dark and lustful eyes on Rey the entire time. He addressed his father, the threat implicit. "If anything happens to her—"
The sudden loss of contact had Rey almost falling over. Her legs felt like they couldn't hold her up. She leaned against the Falcon in a daze. She wanted to feel upset at Kylo Ren's implications with that last statement on a variety of fronts, but she found herself unable to muster the energy to do so. Instead, she found herself incredibly flattered that he cared enough to want to resort to violence on her behalf, and that possibly made her as sick as he was. She should not like even the idea that he felt possessive over her; however, nobody had ever defended her in such a way before either. Rey suddenly looked away from him with a blush on her face. She was being absolutely ridiculous.
Rey's dazed state was obvious and it was obvious through the Force that Kylo Ren was more than pleased with himself. Rey's blush deepened as she hurriedly and awkwardly made her way past Han Solo and up the docking plank into the ship proper. She hadn't realized Han had witnessed anything. That was more than slightly embarrassing. Before she could stop herself, she looked over her shoulder at Kylo Ren.
Kylo leveled a rakish smirk at Rey. «See you around, sweetheart.»
With a weary sigh and a disapproving glare at his son, Han Solo hit the button to close the ramp.
It took all of Rey's considerable will power to keep standing exactly where she was. She closed her eyes and gave a sigh of her own. The Force hated her, didn't it? One way or another, Kylo Ren would be the death of her.
Sorry for the delay in updating. I'll be honest, I was simply depressed. I've had to deal with too much death recently for my liking. Anyway, I hope this chapter makes up for the delay. I hope y'all are still with me here. I appreciate everyone that has read and stayed with me thus far. I still have my vague direction in which I want to go with this story and I'm slowly getting there. Please let me know what you think.