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 “Join me.”

The throne room was littered with the bodies of the Praetorian Guards that Ben and I defeated together, like flecks of blood from the bisected corpse of their not-so-Supreme Leader Snoke. I was trembling and panting, covered in sweat, flooded with adrenaline.

And there was Ben, one gloved hand outstretched toward me, also still reeling from all we’d done together. He was scarred and battered; not the same pristine Sith Lord I had met hardly a week ago. His clothes were torn from the fight and his black hair was tangled and plastered to his forehead. He looked like a feral animal that had finally been freed from its chains.

The Force Bond had convinced me that I knew Ben Solo better than he knew himself, yet standing there in front of him, I realized that he was an even deeper paradox than before.

I stared at his trembling hand and my gaze flickered up to meet his dark, pleading eyes. He swallowed hard and shifted closer to me, like I was a rabbit that might flee from a sudden step.

 “Please,” he whispered.

My heart was thundering in my chest. The stench of death swirled around us in hazy gray wisps of smoke and soot. I couldn’t make this decision. Not here. I was so confused by my Force vision, how it had been right and wrong at the same time. How was that possible?

My lower lip trembled as I fought back a sob. “My friends need me.”

 “They don’t!” Ben snapped. His face was contorted by the flash of rage and I felt the darkness in him brush my light. He squeezed his eyes shut, centering himself, and tried again. “I need you. We need each other. The Force wills it.”

You’re nothing. But not to me.

 “I can’t go this way.” I shook my head, backing up. Don’t cry, Rey. “I can’t follow you down this path, Ben. I… I can’t blanket the galaxy in darkness.”

He took a jerky step forward and rocked back. It was desperate—frightened. I could feel pungent fear emanating from him and I couldn’t let it suffocate me. He would snuff out my light. I was inexplicably drawn to him and repulsed at the same time. He was lucidity and ambiguity.

 “Rey,” he said sternly, struggling to keep his voice steady, “that’s not what I’m asking of you. We’ll search the galaxy…” He paused, Adam’s apple bobbing, fingers straining for me “…together—and find answers. Don’t you want to know why we have this connection? Why the Force chose you… a scavenger.”

I clenched my fists. “Protecting my friends is the only thing that matters right now. I’ll find my place in all this on my own, when they’re safe.”

The fire around us was swelling. The Resistance escape fleet was being picked off one by one, and my chest constricted painfully at the thought of Finn being on one of those ships. I had to get back to Chewy and back where I belonged: with my friends, in the light. Darkness had created Kylo Ren. It had corrupted him and poisoned the legendary Luke Skywalker.

Ben’s fear twisted into black, abyssal anger. I was abandoning him, betraying him like Leia, Luke, and Han. I didn’t need to read his thoughts: our Bond spoke through the soul. It was intimate and agonizing and every step I took backwards threatened to tear me in half.

I didn’t want to leave him. I felt like I belonged beside him, even if I wasn’t sure in exactly what capacity. I’d been so lonely my entire life, and I thought I found that sense of oneness with Finn and my other friends—but when my Bond with Ben was established, I realized how wrong I was. But it was tainted. His path was at odds with my own. I couldn’t stay with him.

 “I’m sorry,” I choked out. “I’m so sorry, Ben. You’re going where I can’t follow.”

He pressed his quivering lips together. “We are extensions of the Force, Rey. Our concerns are beyond the First Order and the Resistance; beyond good versus evil. We have a much greater cosmic role.”

 “You’re wrong. That’s all there is.” I wiped my eyes with my forearms, shaking my head. “Goodness, like love and friendship. There’s nothing else that matters. I have to go back to the Resistance.”

 “The Resistance is dead.” Ben slowly dropped his arm. He exerted the full force of his tormented gaze on me, flaying me with guilt. “The First Order must die, too, and a new order will rise.”

Death and rebirth. A brief memory of my training with Luke on Ahch-To flickered in my mind but I was too overcome with fear to consider it. My friends were in moral danger; the only family and belonging I had ever known. I had to do what was right.

Fueled by my terror, I abruptly reached out, both with my hand and the Force, willing the saber back to me. It tore free of Ben’s hand but he had been expecting my move. He furiously resisted, sinking into the same posture I was in, growling and fighting to keep his family heirloom out of my grasp. The saber trembled in midair, equidistant between us, and I clawed with the Force for it, shouting from the strain it exerted on my body. Ben did the same and I squeezed my eyes shut.

 “REY!” he shouted. “DON’T DO THIS!”

A metallic shriek echoed through the burning chamber seconds before the saber was violently ripped in half. My eyes widened in shock and the last thing I saw was a brilliant flash of blue light.

Chapter Text

The lightsaber tearing in half sounded like an agonized scream—like the weapon had a human soul inside it. It rang in my ears; an echoed memory, a fragment of a distant nightmare. But it had been real, no matter how badly I wished it wasn’t, or how badly I wanted to be aboard the Falcon with Chewy heading back to the Resistance. The shrieking lightsaber woke me with a terrified gasp.

I flew upright in bed, thrashing out of the sheets, but pain lanced through my head and I fell right back into the pillows. I moaned and curled into a ball as stars erupted under my eyelids. Ouch. This was worse than the hunger headaches I had all the time on Jakku; maybe even worse than the throbbing wound on my arm from the Praetorian guard. I gritted my teeth and tentatively groped along my arm for the scar to see if it was still bleeding… and my fingers drifted across medical tape.

  “You hit your head after the blast.”

Ice slithered down my spine. I cracked on eye open to see Ben—no, Kylo Ren—sitting across from me on a bench, gazing off into the distance. He was still decked out in black and had his gloves on and his hair was a tangled mess. I stared at him for a moment before slowly sitting up to take in my surroundings. Black and silver; palatial. I was on a First Order ship.

 “Where am I?” I demanded. “Is this the Supremacy?” I turned in bed to gaze out my window, pressing my palms to the glass, to see dark, endless space.

 “Snoke’s escape pod.” Kylo ran a gloved hand across the wall, still not looking at me. “Though it’s really more of a ship. We’re en route to Jakku to procure a new one that won’t attract attention.”

I climbed out of bed and shivered when my feet touched the cold, sterile floor. My tattered, grimy clothes were still on, but Kylo must have taken it upon himself to bind my wound from the Praetorian guard. I swallowed hard and clutched my head when it throbbed painfully again.

 “The Resistance!” I staggered forward a few steps and collapsed to my knees, at the mercy of my headache. “Did they escape?! I… I have to get back to them!”

 “Most of them did. They’re on the salt planet, Crait, and the First Order is now leaderless. Both factions will need to regroup before pursuing one another again—or searching for either of us.”

No… no! I scrambled to my feet just to fall on my behind yet again. Kylo finally turned his dark eyes on me and rose to his feet, even more imposing now that he was so disheveled. He swept his tangled black hair over his head and nodded towards the door.

 “I found some clean things for you,” he said. “There’s a refresher down the hall if you’d like to wash up.”

Then he left without saying anything else. I stared after him, still sitting on the floor, wondering what exactly he had in mind. I had to get a message out to Finn and Leia so they knew I was okay. When we landed on Jakku, I would barter a flight to Crait, or try to get in contact with Chewy. But what would they think when they found out I’d deliberately shipped myself to Kylo? What if they found out about the connection he and I had?

The reek of fire and death on my clothes made it hard to think. I managed to get to my feet and wandered down the hallway to the ‘fresher, where clothes were neatly folded and waiting for me. Black… of course. I frowned at them but figured it was better than wearing singed things.

After a sonic shower I was feeling better, but still deeply concerned about Kylo’s plans. I folded up my dirty clothes and opened the door, hardly paying attention, and bumped right into Kylo Ren himself. He didn’t move an inch and smelled faintly of fire and blood and sweat. We stared at each other for a minute before I cleared my throat and brushed past him.

 “Thanks for the clothes,” I said. “I need to get a message out to the Resistance so they know—”

 “It’s better if they think you’re dead, Rey.”

I stopped dead and spun around to face him. He was still standing in front of the ‘fresher, gazing off into space again. What had gotten into him? He looked so… lost.

I scowled. “No. They need to know I’m okay. They’ve all been through so much… especially Leia.”

Her name seemed to spark something in Kylo. His dark eyes widened, jaw tight. He hesitated for a brief second before whirling around and punching a hole in the ship’s wall. I jumped back in surprise.

 “Han Solo was a worthless husband and a worthless father!” Kylo snarled, pointing a finger at me. “I did both of us a favor by killing him!”

 “You are a monster!” I retorted. “I don’t know what I ever saw in you—or what the Force even wanted me to see!” I backed away, heading for the cockpit. “I’m going to Crait to help the Resistance in any way I can, Force visions be damned!”

 “You’re not going to Crait, Rey! You and I have a greater purpose!”

The crawling sensation of Kylo trying to use the Force to immobilize me crept up my legs, but it didn’t work anymore, not since my awakening. I shook it off as I reached the cockpit and felt him trying a different approach, probing the outer fringes of my mind. Furious, I spun around to reach out a hand and do the same thing to him.

Kylo was trembling and had a deep furrow between his eyebrows from the strain of our evenly matched fight. I gritted my teeth and kept trying to breach his defenses, anyway, determined to show him that he had no chance of overpowering me. He screamed in frustration and turned to punch the wall again, severing our connection—but I could feel his fury deep in my bones. I was angry, too.

 “My friends are my purpose!” I shouted, tears streaming down my cheeks. “The war will be won by protecting the people we love, not trying to figure out what the Force wants!”

Kylo instinctively lashed out with the Force again. It was the only thing he knew. The Dark Side used strong emotion and pain to bolster their power, and he was full to the brim with it. His anger was hot and bright like a flame and I feared it would consume me.

He paced back and forth and ran his hands through his hair, squeezing his eyes shut. “What do you think I’m doing, Rey?! I’m protecting you!”

The fire died back, and for a brief moment, I could see everything inside him again: sadness, guilt, regret, and beneath it all, the bedrock: his fear of being abandoned again. I saw a flash of Leia kissing him goodbye, Luke’s hand on his shoulder, and him waiting desperately for Han… It was Ben Solo.

Kylo abruptly shut me out. I gasped and sagged against the doorframe, hand over my heart, and he dropped to his knees on the floor. My light flickered back, strong and bright. I was overcome with a desire to comfort him and dispel all the anger and fear in his heart. Light was the only path. Darkness created people like Kylo Ren and led to nothing but torment.

His dark eyes were glazed as he stared at the floor, panting. “The coordinates are locked into the autopilot. You cannot change course.” He swallowed hard, then rose to his feet, quivering, but upright. “I… I’ll be back.”

 “Ben,” I called, “wait!”

But he was gone, into the ‘fresher like I had been. I stood in the doorframe for a few minutes, once again left digesting a confusing encounter with Ben.

Chapter Text

It was quiet in the escape pod after that. I knew that following Ben wouldn’t help anything, so I sat in the cockpit and turned back and forth, watching the flickering lights on the dash. I couldn’t send out a message to let Chewy or anyone else know that I was okay, and the autopilot was definitely locked. If only Finn were here… He could help me crack through the First Order tech.

But no one could help me solve the puzzle of Ben. I chewed my clean nails and opened a port to survey the wiring, trying to stay occupied. Luke wouldn’t help me; he refused to leave Ahch-To, and no one understood the connection Ben and I had—not even Luke Skywalker. I fingered the wires and leaned over to peer deeper into the darkness. Ben and I were alone together.

 We’re almost to Jakku.

I jerked upright in my chair, almost spilling out on the floor. The connection had flickered back to life and Ben’s thoughts were seeping into mine like a cold, trickling creek. He felt hesitant. Nervous.

I cleared my throat, nodding sharply. “Fine. Unkar Plutt will get us a different ship.”

 We’ll need to change our clothes as well. General Hux will scour the galaxy for us.

 “Sure.” I looked around but couldn’t see Ben like usual. I rubbed the rough fabric of my tunic between my fingertips. “Feeling any better?”

His anxiety grew but his voice didn’t betray it. …Yes. Did I frighten you?

 “You did,” I admitted. “But… it’s okay. This is new for both of us.”

Ben was afraid to speak to me directly, but our feelings couldn’t be hidden through the bond. We poked and prodded each other, searching for the unspoken meaning in the words, silently trying to understand what was happening. Ben was nervous; very, very nervous. And guarded. I felt the same way. We had both been betrayed and abandoned and this was almost painfully intimate.

 I’m at sea, I’ll admit, Ben said. Snoke is not on the fringes of my thoughts reading each passing morsel. The privacy is unsettling.

I drew back from his mind. “Oh, sorry. Do you want me to leave you—”

 NO! His voice was so loud and forceful that it echoed in my skull. His anxiety flashed maroon for a moment, like it turned possessive, then shrank back, reticent. No. Stay, please. Even if you don’t want to speak to me. I’m… I’m not used to the quiet.

I was used to the quiet, but I hated it just as much as Ben did. I widened our connection again and he sank into me like I was a warm bed. He wasn’t intrusive, just lingering around the edges of my thoughts, processing simple passing things like the temperature of the cockpit and the color of the dash lights. His tension eased, and the typical crackle of his emotions lulled to easy silence.

My thoughts wandered to when our fingertips touched, and the Force showed both of us the same vision with a different outcome. Ben had been nervous, then, too, but he reached out to me, anyway. I closed my eyes and took a steadying breath. I’d learned a lot from him.

The dash beeped at me to signal we had arrived in Jakku’s airspace. Ben’s consciousness snapped and yanked away from mine and I knew he was coming to the cockpit. I sat up straight as the desert planet came into sight and the vague scent of shampoo preceded him sitting in the chair beside me. He clicked around on the dashboard and I noticed he was wearing his typical full-body black garb. It was clean.

 “How do you propose we convince Unkar Plutt to give us a ship?” I asked.

Ben glanced at me. “With my lightsaber.”

 “You can’t go around threatening everyone to get your way.”

We were landing on the surface of the planet, dust flying around the ship. Ben got up without saying anything else and left the cockpit with a flutter of his cape. I followed behind, throwing the broken lightsaber and my dirty clothes in a bag before leaving the ship. My pulse pounded. I hadn’t been to Jakku in a while, and I hadn’t exactly left on good terms.

Ben looked down at me as the exit door opened. “Stay close, Rey.”

The overpowering heat of Jakku blasted into the ship. Ben walked off first and I coughed as I followed him, wishing for the harsh rains of Ahch-To. Junk traders were already crowding around the ‘escape pod,’ which really did look more like a small ship, but they scattered at the sight of Kylo Ren. His saber was clipped to his hip and his cloak shrouded most of his body as we headed for Niima Outpost.

 “We stick out like sore thumbs,” I whispered, watching the thieves watching us. “They’ll send a message to the First Order before we get to Unkar.”

 “What transpired on the Supremacy has not reached Jakku yet. We should be able to leave before rousing much suspicion.” Ben turned his dark eyes on me and tugged my hood over my head. “They’ll recognize you, though, and I’m sure Plutt wants his best scavenger back.”

I laughed a little. “Thanks for the compliment, Supreme Leader.”

Ben came close to smiling.

We walked through the busy market, attracting more glances, until we found Unkar’s compound. I remembered clambering there to beg for food with my scraps not even a fortnight ago. The heat didn’t seem to bother Ben, even in his long cape and black clothes, but I was starting to sweat. I glanced about for a merchant selling clothes and tugged his elbow.

He stopped dead and looked down at me like I’d slapped him. I rolled my eyes and pointed to the merchant, then gestured at our ostentatious attire.

 “Clothes,” I said.

Ben eyed my fingers on his arm. “Ah… Sure. Meet me in the compound.”

Splitting up—probably not a good idea. I nodded and turned to barter with the merchant for things that wouldn’t make us stand out. He was a native, all gnarly and warty, and offered me some grey robes that were similar to what Luke wore. I took them and he didn’t ask for anything in return. Right. The First Order clothes I was wearing. They wouldn’t dare question me.

I asked for a couple extra sets in case ours were burned or lost. It all fit neatly in the duffel bag I’d found on Snoke’s escape pod and I followed the familiar path to Unkar’s compound. It was a relief to feel the sting of sand and oil in my lungs again. What I’d always known…

 “Canteens?”

Another merchant was calling out to me, rattling around leather canteens. Ben and I would need plenty of supplies for the trip, and there wouldn’t be many on the ship. I sidled over to get some basics, like a medikit and toothpaste and… canteens. This time I traded my badge from the First Order and the merchant happily chattered with her neighbor about the acquisition. I smiled and continued on to Unkar’s compound to meet up with Ben.

He bumped into me just outside and turned me in the opposite direction. I grappled with my bag of supplies and frowned up at him, matching his fast pace.

 “Did you get a ship?” I asked.

 “Yes.” Ben glanced over his shoulder, scowling. “Hux has already transmitted my betrayal.”

 “Jeez, that was fast!”

We swept past tables and I noticed a pair of Unkar’s goons hot on our tail. I wasn’t scared anymore, and briefly, I considered stopping and showing them how powerful I had become.

Seconds later, Ben whirled around in a flutter of black and his lightsaber snarled to life with a hungry crackle. His face glowed red, sneering at the weaker beings, and he raised the weapon up to draw it across their throats. I stared in dumb shock. I had influenced him.

The saber freed their heads from their necks in a spurt of green blood and that was enough to send the merchants running off in a panic. Ben grabbed my hand, once again like a cornered animal, and we raced through the marketplace while everyone screamed and fled from us.

We ran back out into the oppressive desert heat as blaster bolts flew over our heads. I looked over my shoulder to see more of Unkar’s thugs pursuing us on luggabeasts but Ben yanked me closer and pointed to a ship we were rapidly approaching. It looked a lot like the Falcon.

 “Get on!” he commanded, igniting his lightsaber again. “Start up the engine.” He turned to face the goons and came close to smiling again. “I’ll get rid of them.”

 “I can defend myself!”

Ben twirled his red saber to deflect blaster shots with ease. “You need more training. Go!”

Ugh! I opened the stairs and darted up to the second floor to the cockpit. Simple enough—it had to be a relic from the Rebel Alliance. I flicked switches and the engine came to life with a dull roar. Beaming, I peered out the window to see Ben easily dispatching the beasts Unkar had sent after us. He threw a few of them with the Force and drove his blood red saber through the others until the dirt was stained with gore. I leaned back in my seat and shook my head. Necessary death.

Our connection tingled in my head and I knew Ben was on the ship. I lifted off from Jakku, once the only home I’d ever known, and headed into the deep unknowns of space. Now I could get a distress signal out to Leia so she knew both Ben and I were okay. I flipped up a keypad and dialed in a message just as the cockpit door hissed open. They all needed to know I was still alive. I sent it off to Chewy.

Ben collapsed beside me in the first mate’s seat. “We have a stop to make at Chandrila.”

 “Um… I don’t know the coordinates.”

He leaned past me to click them in and I was stricken again with the urge to wrap my arms around him. I held my arms up and smiled when he sat back. His face was unreadable as always.

 I was born there. Ben was approaching me over our bond again, gazing off into the distance beside me. There may be some answers in physician notes or hospital records.

 “Oh. Yeah.” I twiddled my thumbs and eyed his gloved hands. “Aren’t you hot?”

 No.

I raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

Annoyance wavered across our bond. I looked out the windshield again before spinning my chair to face his, and he started like it surprised him. We had new clothes. The gloves had to come off.

 “Your clothes are in the duffel bag,” I said matter-of-factly.

 I know.

I spun his chair to face mine, frowning. “We’re literally sitting right next to each other. Can’t you talk to me like a normal person?”

…No.

The irritation came from me this time. I snatched the tips of Ben’s gloves and yanked them off before he could protest, tossing them into a dark corner of the cockpit. His fingers trembled and he gave me a dirty look, but didn’t get up to find them.

 “I need to be fully covered,” he snapped.

 “No, you don’t.” I dragged the duffel bag over from the corner with the Force and unzipped it. “That’s the way of the Dark Side, and you’re not there anymore. Right?”

Ben’s jaw tightened. “We’re both between the dark and the light, Rey.”

 “I’ll take that as a yes.”

I threw him his new undercover clothes and gathered mine, too. He watched me set the autopilot and leave the cockpit to find the single refresher on the ship. We had a small bed in one room, which I assumed Ben would insist on using. This ship would be our only home for a long time.

 “Rey!”

I turned, sensing the desperation in our connection that Ben was trying to suppress. His gray clothes were in his huge hands, and he swallowed hard. I cocked my head.

 “…Thank you,” he muttered.

He left for the bedroom, and my heart swelled happily. Thank you. Progress.

Chapter Text

The new clothes were kind of scratchy, but clean and unassuming. I folded the black outfit Ben had given me and wandered out of the cockpit to put it away in a closet. Drab grays and browns would blend in anywhere in the galaxy; black was associated with the Dark Side, and everyone would be looking for Ben in particular. I was more comfortable in earthy tones, anyway.

It was quiet in the ship—named Daybreak—and I could only hear my own footsteps rattling the grates. I found a storage closet to stow the clothes and explored the rest of the ship to see where everything was. It was a light freighter, YT-1930, with a more open design than the Falcon. The gunwell was right in the center of the ship and engineering was out in the open. One ‘fresher, multiple escape pods, and two enormous storage areas that were full of junk.

I touched the walls as I made my way up the opposite side of the ship back to the cockpit. The last time I’d taken a ship from Unkar, it was the Falcon, and it kicked off my journey through the galaxy. Daybreak was the beginning of something different.

One of the doors to the crew quarters slid open just as I passed it, and Ben stumbled out into the hallway. He was wrestling to get the shirt on but had thankfully already put on his pants. I blinked in surprise before rolling my eyes and walking up to help him.

 “Haven’t you put on a shirt before?” I asked sarcastically, reaching up to pull it down.

Ben jerked away from me like I’d tried to set him on fire. His arms were caught in the sleeves and his dark eyes were guarded and cold. His mind was shielded from mine, but I didn’t need to feel his thoughts to know that he was afraid of being touched. How long had it been since he’d felt another person’s skin? Our encounter on Ahch-To might have been the first time in years.

I let my hand fall back to my side and took a steadying breath. Darkness would be dispelled with light.

Tentative, I reached out to Ben with the Force, brushing his defenses with my pure intentions. I’m not going to hurt you. It didn’t have to said—the Light was warm and inviting, and it drew him in. The wall around him wavered and began to fade.

He swallowed hard, eyeing me. What is this?

 “I don’t know,” I said, searching his wounded gaze, “but is it helping?”

Ben hesitated before nodding once. I smiled a little, trying to be encouraging, and pressed on through the weakness in his inner wall to the icy, bleak turmoil beneath. It was painful; suffocating. I didn’t know how he lived with it whirling around inside him. I trembled as I moved deeper and tried to flood all the misery and cold with peace and warmth, but it was like thawing Hoth.

I took a step closer. “Can I help?”

 …Please.

The anguish in him raged on as I closed the distance between us and grasped the hem of his shirt. I pulled it over his head, briefly brushing his warm chest, and he took a sharp breath. The storm shuddered within and abated, all at once mirroring the calm within me, then flickered back at half the ferocity from before. I turned the shirt right-side out and laughed.

 “It’s backwards,” I said. “Here—you wear it this way.”

Ben bent over a few inches and I leaned up on my tiptoes to pull the shirt over his head. His black hair was soft, no longer matted and plastered back. We were so close together, separated by a single shift forward or even a breath. I adjusted the shirt around his waist and felt something else lazily drift across our bond; it prickled like hot electricity, like when I shocked myself gutting ships on Jakku.

I was afraid to look up. His breath was warm on my scalp and he didn’t smell like blood and fire anymore. Now I could smell shampoo and mint and the vague scent of the sun-drenched Jakku desert. It was the scent of home and comfort, and I wanted to wrap my arms around him and sink into it.

Tittering from a nearby control panel severed our connection. Ben cleared his throat and took a step back to finish adjusting the top of his robes, and I turned away to see what the ship was warning us about. My heart was racing and against common sense, I wanted to feel the fury inside him again.

 “We’re halfway to Chandrila,” I said, keeping my gaze averted from his. “Fuel supply is sufficient but we’re going to need more when we get there.”

 “Good. We’ll land outside the city and check the records department. I doubt we’ll be there longer than a day.” He walked past me, heading for the cockpit. “Then we go to Mustafar.”

I quickly acknowledged the message from the ship and trailed after Ben. “Mustafar? Where’s that?”

 “The Outer Rim. If we’re searching for answers about the Force, they won’t be located anywhere in the Core Worlds or the Colonies. We have to travel far and wide; visit places that haven’t been mapped. The Jedi and the Sith were protective of their secrets.”

The Outer Rim?! That was a lawless place, not to mention extremely far from the Resistance. I followed Ben down the hall to the cockpit and sat next to him in the copilot’s seat.

 “We can’t!” I exclaimed. “What if… What if someone needs us?”

Ben reached up to flick a switch for better fuel consumption and glanced at me. “The Resistance will escape before the First Order makes its way to Crait. Your friends are safe.”

I crossed my arms. “And your mother.”

He ground his jaw and nodded tersely but didn’t say anything. I was worried about my friends, but I knew Ben wouldn’t sugarcoat the truth. They’d be okay. They’d regroup, and I’d come back with Ben in tow and he’d turn to the Light and help us defeat the First Order. Our connection meant something. The Force was using me as a conduit to bring Ben back to the right side.

 “I sensed darkness in you on Jakku.”

I frowned, and looked over to see him staring off into space again. His eyes were brighter now, not dull and lifeless, and he was close to smiling again. He must’ve been talking about that moment when I wanted to turn and attack Unkar’s thugs—and Ben did it instead.

 “I was afraid,” I said curtly, picking at my shirt.

 “I know.” His dark eyes turned to me and for the first time ever, he smiled. “I felt it, and saw a flash of what you wanted to do. And I did it.”

No… I didn’t want to kill them. I just wanted them to stop chasing us. I sat up straighter in my chair and looked away from Ben, out at the stars racing by.

 “Acting on impulse isn’t a good idea. Remember when Luke acted on impulse?”

Ben nodded, fiddling with dials on the dashboard. “He was foolish to read my heart while I slept. Hearts are fickle things, prone to change. I hadn’t made my decision, which he couldn’t have known, because he couldn’t read my mind.” He cocked his head and smiled furtively. “But I can read yours.”

I stood up abruptly, clenching my hands into fists. “Thoughts pass by just as fast. That’s how you betrayed Snoke, right?”

 “It is.” He turned in his chair to look up at me. I thought I’d enjoy him smiling, but it was unsettling. “But you don’t know how to protect your mind yet. I know what I see is the truth.”

 “I was scared,” I insisted.

Ben rose to his feet, tall and imposing, and rested his hands on both chairs. “Did Luke tell you about Master Yoda? He was a Jedi Master, ancient and powerful, and a strict adherent to the Light. One of his famous tenants Luke ingrained in padawans was that ‘fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.’”

I could feel him initiating contact over our bond this time, icy tendrils drifting against my mind. Goosebumps puckered along my arms and the hair on the back of my neck stood up as if an arctic chill breezed through Daybreak. I spun on my heel and scurried off to settle into my quarters for the second half of the trip without saying anything more.

When I sat down on my bed, fitted with red sheets, I sensed him slithering through cracks in my defenses like a fog. I struggled to shut him out and patch up the leaks but our bond was widening, and I knew soon there would be no barriers between us.

I crawled under the sheets and curled into a ball as Ben’s deep, whispering voice echoed in my head…

 …Fear leads to the Dark Side.

Chapter Text

 “How could you, Rey?”

Crait—a planet I had never visited, let alone seen—covered in corpses and gore. The salt had scattered in blood red clouds that obscured the massacre, but the smell of decay couldn’t be hidden. It was a slaughter. I could tell by the tattered flags and shattered helmets that the Resistance was dead.

Trembling, I stared at my blood-caked leather gloves, encrusted with white salt, and saw Finn lying on the ground near my feet. His spine had been torn and exposed to the elements, just like when Kylo Ren attacked him—but he wasn’t going to make it this time. His tears had coagulated in ashen trails down his cheeks and the mirthful light in his eyes faded into the abyss.

I staggered back and saw I was wearing black clothes just like Ren’s and had a red lighter still ignited in my grasp. Horrified, I managed to choke out a small scream before I felt a hand on the small of my back, and I knew… Kylo was right behind me. I dropped the lightsaber like it was venomous and tore off the gloves to cast them away. He leaned closer and his arm wrapped around my waist.

 “A New Order,” he whispered into my ear.

I woke with a terrified gasp. No. NO!

There was no time to think. I had to get away from Ben. I scrambled out of bed and bolted out of my quarters to the escape pods. We could’ve been anywhere in space, but I didn’t care. The Force showed me what would happen if I stayed on Daybreak and I couldn’t risk—

 “REY!

I glanced over my shoulder to see Ben pursuing me, sans shirt, with a desperate look in his eyes. He was almost a foot taller than me and much faster, even with all my running I did on Jakku. But I didn’t care; I was convinced of what I saw, and I had to get to Crait to make sure they were all okay and to keep that future from coming to fruition.

I’d just reached the door to the room of escape pods when Ben caught up to me. My eyes bugged out of my head when he grabbed me around the waist and swung me away from the door, and I screamed and thrashed in my futile attempt to escape. He let go and I fell in an ungraceful tangle of limbs.

Ben hesitantly reached for me, then backed up to protect the escape pods. “I saw your nightmare.”

 “It was a vision!” I snapped. I stood up and clenched my fists. “Move.”

 “You can’t leave. We’re in the middle of nowhere right now, and… you have to stay.”

My fear and anger were white hot, just like during the fight with the Praetorian guards. I blistered with rage that felt justified but uncontrollable. Righteous fury—I was right, and he was wrong, and I would do whatever was necessary to get to Crait because it was what needed to be done. I was light and warmth and conviction and I would burn away anyone in my path; whoever tried to shade themselves… from…

Something like a cool mist was sifting through the ever-expanding cracks on my mental barrier. I glared at Ben, knowing full well what he was trying to do, and stormed off to the cockpit to try to override the navigation system. But my fire was waning under the dampening influence of Ben as he whispered through my blistering heat like an icy drizzle.

 They’re safe, Rey. It was just a nightmare.

It cleared my mind a bit, but I was so thoroughly shaken by what I had seen that I still wanted to turn the ship around. I reached the cockpit just as I sensed Ben’s intention to grab me again.

I swung around with my leg out to kick him and he seized my ankle in midair, making me stagger backwards on my other foot. I was used to physical fights, though—Jakku wasn’t exactly an easy place to live—and I twisted back in the other direction to free my leg. Ben was tall and broad-shouldered and I normally could’ve used that against him by ducking and parrying, but I couldn’t give up the cockpit.

He splayed his hands and tried to cool me down again through our bond. “I can feel the darkness in you again. It’s… strange.”

 “It’s not darkness,” I said. “The Dark is cold and…” I trailed off, realizing where my sentence was headed.

 “Angry,” Ben finished. He cocked his head and frowned. “Your emotions feel hot and raw, like a band of Dark in the Light. Or… corruption of the Light.”

Corruption? I wouldn’t be corrupted. I shook my head and stepped back as the roiling emotions in me slowed to a halt. The Jedi controlled their emotions and stayed calm to avoid the Dark Side, so that was what I had to do. I sat in one of the cockpit seats and closed my eyes, breathing steadily, trying to reign myself in. Think clearly, Rey. Don’t let your emotions control you.

 That won’t help.

 “Then why were you trying to do it?” I asked, keeping my eyes closed. “I could feel it. Like rain.”

 …I’m not sure. I was compelled to do it.

By the Force, just like it compelled me to warm the ice inside Ben. But the Dark Side was supposed to be like ice and cold and grief, and the Light Side was supposed to be like fire and warmth and love. They were opposites, after all, to balance one another out. They couldn’t blend together.

Ben lowered into the chair next to mine, just as perplexed as I was. I didn’t have to look. I could feel it, like sensing the sun on my skin. The Force was fracturing the distance between us.

 “What does this mean?” I whispered. “I… I don’t understand.”

 Neither do I. He timidly trickled through my mind again like a thawing creek. But we’ll find out—together. You’re not alone, Rey.

I opened my eyes to find him gazing at me like he had in the hut on Ahch-To, when our fingertips touched and we saw our future together. I smiled with tears in my eyes and let my warmth emanate around him and for a brief wrinkle in time, Dark and Light mulled together in a soothing haze.

 “Neither are you.”

Chapter Text

Chandrila was near. Ben and I were in the cockpit with me piloting and he had mercifully put a shirt on. I struggled not to let my thoughts wander back to his bare chest because I knew he would pick up on it. His mind was lazily linked to mine at that moment, basking in my warmth, and I found myself enjoying his cool drizzle. It didn’t make sense, but I was quickly learning that the galaxy rarely followed logic.

He was drowsy. I could feel the heaviness in his eyelids and limbs; the lolling of his head as he halfheartedly fought the urge to fall asleep. I could feel more than I wanted to, private flickers of memories and thoughts that I wanted to let Ben keep to himself. Snoke had left furrows in his apprentice’s mind that were now gaping, seeping holes of pain, soaking up whatever they could. Ben was like me. He didn’t want privacy—he hungered for something deep and unconditional.

Yet we were still both afraid of feeling the pang of rejection and abandonment again, and we held back somewhat. It was healthier that way, anyway, even if it felt like the Force wanted to blend us together.

I frowned, glancing at Ben. “What did you mean about me needing more training?”

His countenance shifted, and he raised an eyebrow, but didn’t look at me. “You’re a natural with a lightsaber, a capable pilot, and a skilled fighter. Only your Force abilities need to be honed, which can take many years.”

 “Didn’t Snoke say that I’m your equal in the Light?”

 “Yes—and you are, but your awakening only recently occurred. Deflecting laser blasts with the Force is not an innate ability.”

 Neither is this, I said pointedly across our bond.

Another smile graced Ben’s lips and his dark eyes roamed to me. True, but this is beyond the experience of most Force-sensitives. I’ll teach you how to defend yourself with the Force when we reach Chandrila.

Luke had given me some basic instruction regarding the Force itself, but no combat skills. I smiled back at Ben and settled into my chair. There was more to it than moving rocks and catching him shirtless.

 You keep reflecting on that encounter, Rey.

My cheeks flooded red and I cleared my throat, fiddling with the dash. “Maybe you should roam in your own mind for a bit, hm?”

 I could, if you’d like some privacy, but I’m… Ben paused, and his Adam’s apple bobbed. You’re warm and calm, and I haven’t felt it in so long.

 “Fine,” I muttered. “Bet you’d be dwelling on a memory of me without a shirt on, though.”

A rather accurate image of me stark naked abruptly flashed in Ben’s mind and he violently cut off the connection. But it wasn’t completely closed off anymore and I could see little things drifting back to me, like his embarrassment, and that electricity from when I helped him with his shirt.

Ben stood up suddenly. “I’ll go prepare for landing.”

I smiled furtively in the pilot’s chair. Good. He could suffer with me.

We shortly entered Chandrilan airspace, but Ben didn’t come back to advise me for landing. But I was a ‘capable’ pilot and drifted through the fluffy clouds in the atmosphere until I found a nice flat meadow to land in. It looked like a paradise, with rolling green hills and tapering valleys that fed into gurgling rivers. Beautiful. Not the type of place where you’d think the most powerful Dark Side user in the galaxy would be born.

 The air is breathable, Ben said tersely.

I was excited to explore and ignored his unfriendly advice. I jumped out of the pilot’s chair and rushed to the steps to go down to the surface and feel grass beneath my feet.

A swell-smelling breeze whistled through my hair as I took my first steps on Chandrila. I closed my eyes and drew in a deep breath, beaming, and stretched my arms up towards the two suns overhead. My shoes were on, so I couldn’t feel the cool grass, but I could taste it on my tongue.

I laid down under the shade of Daybreak as Ben stepped off the last stair. He touched the belly of the ship as the stairs closed and had a serious, suspicious look on his face.

 “Why did you ever leave this place?” I asked, running my fingers through the blades of grass.

 “My mother shipped me off to Luke Skywalker, and my father didn’t care.” Ben stepped out into the sun and winced from the light. “We’re close to my home but far from Hanna City. Some Senators from the Republic may still be lingering here.”

A blurry image of the Republic being obliterated by Starkiller Base wavered in Ben’s mind. I sat up and wrapped my arms around my knees, gazing across the beautiful landscape.

 “Why don’t we go to your house first?” I suggested. “Maybe your parents left something there. We can visit Hanna City after.”

Ben looked away. “…Sure.”

There was no one around, so we left the Daybreak unattended. I didn’t have my staff or a lightsaber, so only Ben had a weapon. I laughed watching him trying to find a place to hook the saber to his new outfit as we set off across the dreamscape of Chandrila, hopefully to find the answers we sought.

 “Where’s Hanna City?” I asked, turning in a circle while I walked. “I didn’t see anything on our way to the surface.”

 “It was the birthplace of the New Republic after the fall of the Sith and needed heavy protection. It’s fortified on all sides by mountains.”

 “Oh.”

I clasped my hands behind my back and closed my eyes as the breeze ghosted through my hair, tickling my scalp. I wanted to do a cartwheel and stretch out in the soothing sunshine like a cat. What did the water taste like? Jakku’s was gritty and had a musty smell, and water from the different ships I’d been on tasted like cold steel. The rain on Ahch-To was earthy—so what would water right from a stream taste like?

Ben suddenly stopped and unclipped his lightsaber. Concern fluttered through me as bloody red light smeared the gentle rustling grass, but he turned away and started down a small hill. I frowned and followed, startling some butterflies resting on tall, curled, purple flowers. They scattered in a small cloud and I could see Ben standing near a small creek when they dispelled into the sky.

He outstretched his long arm, twisting his fingers, and my eyes widened in shock as the water in the stream shivered and floated into the air. Water dripped back to the earth as Ben continued turning his fingers, winding the water into a perfectly spherical ball. My mouth fell open as he swung the lightsaber in his grasp and inserted it right into the water, instantly drawing steam and making it hiss and bubble.

It was taking a toll on Ben. I could see his arm trembling and his forehead beaded with sweat as he took out his canteen and flipped open the lid. His jaw tightened as he drizzled the water into the canteen and he took a deep breath when he was finished. I stared up at him when he turned and offered it to me.

 “Water from the ground has to be boiled or you’ll become very ill,” he explained. He sheathed his lightsaber and started walking again. “Give it a little while to cool down. You’ll like the taste.”

I clutched the canteen, mystified. He saw my vague, disparate thoughts and did something nice for me. And… how did he lift water?! I slung it across my chest and hurried after Ben.

 “How did you do that?” I asked, jogging to keep up with him.

 “Practice.” He slowed a bit and nodded toward the canteen. “The Force is a bond between everything—it’s uses are endless, if you can find out how to see the bonds. These connections are easier to manipulate in larger, solid objects, like rocks and other people. They are more fluid and numerous in liquids and gases, and it requires a great deal of concentration to even see them.”

I loped in Ben’s path and touched his chest. “Can you show me?”

He stopped, dark eyes zeroing in on my small hand, and I felt his heart beat a bit faster. His skin was warm, and I realized the clothes I’d bought were on the thin side. Our gazes met and I quickly stepped back, curling a stray strand of hair behind my ear.

 “…Other skills have to come first,” Ben said after a long pause. He studied me and I felt the chill of him sweeping against my mind. “You need a strong foundation to build on—Padawan.”

I snorted and folded my arms. “We’re equals. I’m not your Apprentice, and you’re not a Jedi, anyway.”

The corners of his lips twitched in a small smile. “No, I suppose I traded that mantle for ‘Jedi Killer.’ Isn’t it poetic justice that I’m now training the Last Jedi?”

 “There’s no poetry in death.”

 “But there is, Rey.” Ben stepped closer to me and leaned over, only a few inches from my face. “There is no life without death or light without dark. You’ll see.”

Then he brushed past me without saying anything else. I stood there and looked up at the two suns overhead, shielding my eyes. Ironic, yes. Poetic justice? No.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t much farther to the old home of Ben Solo and Leia Organa. Han has mostly been off doing what he did best, smuggling, leaving the two of them alone in the little house in the foothills of Chandrila. Leia was gone more and more as Ben aged, leaving him in the care of sitters or on his own until she decided to send him to Luke.

The house was two floors of stone and brick and had a water wheel stagnant in a creek. But it was still in good shape—all the windows were there, undamaged, and the red front door didn’t show any signs of a break-in. I cocked my head and smiled at the structure. It looked peaceful.

Ben wasn’t as impressed. He glared at his old home and brushed back his black hair. “We didn’t live here long. Han insisted on the solitude but he was never around, and Leia had increasing duties as an important Senator, so we moved to Hanna City. It’s probably full of dust.”

I shrugged and brushed past him. A veil of sadness hung across the house and grew stronger the closer I walked, until I touched the door handle and heard the vague sound of a child crying. It was like a memory, similar to what Anakin’s lightsaber showed me. The lock clicked open without me even having to consider using the Force to do so.

It was dark inside and indeed layered with dust. Some furniture remained, covered in white sheets, but the place was almost totally empty. I walked up to the fireplace to draw my finger across the mantle and rubbed the dust between my fingers as I turned in a circle to look around the room.

Ben bent a little as he stepped inside, touching the doorway, wary dark eyes scanning the house. He reached out to me across our connection, seeking reassurance. I smiled to myself and let the heat emanate from within me to him and strolled to the stairs.

 “What do you think we’ll find here?” I asked.

 “Leia kept a journal, and I’m sure Han hid some of his plunder around the house.” Ben tapped the wooden floor with his boot, shrugging. “I’m not entirely sure if there will be anything of use. Mustafar will likely have something and we’ll continue to scour the galaxy for Mortis.”

 “Mortis? What’s that?”

Ben started up the stairs and as always, I scurried after him. They creaked under our weight. It didn’t seem like the type of house Leia would live in but was well-suited for Han. I thought of a small, happy Ben rushing downstairs to go play in the sunshine and playing with his parents.

 “A planet that may or may not exist,” Ben said as we stepped onto the second floor. “I read about it in an ancient Sith text. Supposedly it is the origin of the Force itself.”

I gasped and grabbed his arm. “That’s the place we need to find, then!”

 “It would be convenient, but like I said…” He glanced at my hand and raised an eyebrow. “It might not even exist. It’s all conjecture.”

He was relishing in my Light and I figured that touching him was an even exchange. I stepped closer, excited about this mysterious planet, and electricity buzzed across our bond again. Ben’s eyes traveled a few centimeters down to my lips as I spoke then flickered back up to my eyes and he abruptly ripped out of my mind. I caught a faint thought of the way I smelled to him: like a warm beach and saltwater.

I took his arm in both hands and squeezed excitedly. “We could find our place in all this, Ben! Why the Force decided to connect the two of us and what it wants.”

 “Possibly, yes.” He awkwardly nodded toward the hallway, averting my eyes. “For now, let’s continue, since we have no idea where Mortis is.”

Fair enough. I sighed and released his arm to continue down the hall, peering into the first bedroom we passed. Ben tentatively slipped back through the cracks in my mind and settled in the warmth again as he followed me inside to a room that looked like it had been frozen in time.

There was a small twin bed with blue sheets that had been mostly eaten by vermin next to an empty bookshelf. I turned and saw a dresser with the drawers pulled out. The closet door was open.

 My room, Ben said through the bond.

 “Oh.” I walked over to the window to look out across Chandrila. “Looks like your mother kept it up for you. Did you ever intend on coming back?”

He didn’t respond, but I sensed that he didn’t. I traced a line through the dusty window and wished I had a home to go back to. Jakku wasn’t exactly a comforting place.

 Let the past die.

Ugh. I rolled my eyes at Ben’s thought and turned to look up at him, still standing by the door.

 “Moving on from Jakku doesn’t mean I never have to find a place to call home. Besides, I have the Resistance.”

He wanted to say more, but opted not to, and left the room without another word. I touched his soft bed sheets on the way out to the hall.

We moved on to the only other bedroom in the house, across from a gutted refresher. It was bigger than Ben’s room and completely empty. He went back to tapping the floorboards with his foot and I slid down to the floor near the door. I picked dirt from under my fingernails for a moment before I remembered my stream water and eagerly popped the cap off my canteen to take a sip.

It was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. Earthy, like rain, but with a vague metallic taste and remnants of heat from Ben’s lightsaber. I greedily drank half of it before I felt his amusement.

 “What?” I asked defensively.

He smiled at the floor, still tapping. You’re becoming a water connoisseur. 

I capped the canteen again and folded my arms. “Just find the stuff.”

Serendipitously, Ben’s next tap echoed in a hollow tone. His dark eyes flickered to mine and I crawled over as he knelt by the loose floorboard to rap it with his knuckle. He outstretched his hand to use the Force, but I cleared my throat to catch his attention.

 “I want to try,” I said.

Ben sat cross-legged on the floor, gesturing at the spot. “By all means.”

I copied his pose, the way Luke taught me to tap into the Force, and took a steadying breath. Ben rested his chin in his palm to watch me as I raised my arm and focused on the energy between the boards to rend them apart. It wasn’t like lifting rocks. The panels were tight together and I had to shatter the bonds between them before I could lift the one I wanted to.

 Slice them. Don’t concern yourself with being gentle.

But Luke taught me—

Ben rolled his eyes. Precision use of the Force requires a different approach.

I breathed in deep again and instead of trying to do what Luke taught and using patience, I violently cut through the minute connections in the Force. The board ripped free and flew across the room, slamming into the opposite wall and shattering with a loud bang.

It sure shocked me. I covered my eyes and peered through the gaps at the splinters of board on the floor, then looked over at Ben. He reached into the hole in the floor to take out a small black book and waved it at me.

 “That’s the Dark Side of the Force,” he said. “Impulse. Aggression. Power.”

I marveled at my hands. The Dark Side sure seemed stronger than the Light. Ben ran his fingers across the journal for another minute before handing it to me.

 I don’t want to look, he said. …She’s my mother.

 “It won’t be that bad,” I laughed, opening up to the first page. “She probably talks about what a weird kid you were and how… Han…”

There was nothing I could hide from Ben with our connection open. He could see what I read; hear it reverberate in my head. The first entry was from Leia detailing discovering her pregnancy, and how excited she was to start a family with Han.

 He’ll stay home with us, she wrote. I think we’ll name him Ben, after Obi-Wan. Maybe he’ll follow in my footsteps and become a Senator one day, or a Jedi like Luke. Anything but smuggling.

Ben quietly shifted across the floor to sit beside me and leaned over my shoulder. His hand was planted behind me and I could feel his warm breath. He was still connected across our bond and I shivered. It was a lot of… closeness.

 “Ben is growing bigger,” I read out loud. “I’ve started seeing his thoughts sometimes, like small flickers of light. He thinks of me… he recognizes my voice, and Han’s. He moves often, and the doctor said it’s a good sign that he’ll be a healthy baby.” I swallowed hard. “Han is excited to meet him.”

 “Keep reading.”

I turned to the next page, becoming a little emotional. “Ben will be here soon. He’s a band of light and he likes when I sing to him. But… there’s something else.”

Ben grasped one side of the book and turned the page. It was blank for a bunch of pages, until…

 There is darkness in him, Ben read in his head. Brief flashes that I barely noticed. Luke visited and listened to Ben, and he thinks someone is trying to manipulate him. Ben doesn’t want to hurt me, but he moves even more, like he’s scared. I wish I could hold him. I wish I could find the monster violating both of us and free him from his torment.

Someone had been after Ben before he was even born. He was frozen in place, staring at the page, and I turned to the next one with a trembling hand.

 “Luke will take Ben when he’s old enough. He can keep his heart from turning.” Tears brimmed in my eyes and dripped on the pages. “I hope I’m doing the right thing for him. We can’t find the person corrupting him, but perhaps my work as Senator will draw them out. Han is terrified of damaging Ben even more and he hasn’t visited in weeks. I just want Ben to be happy and safe. I don’t want him to suffer like my father did.”

We both paused. Snoke had been violating Ben since his conception.

Our bond was suddenly blown wide open, and I was barraged by a blizzard of guilt and anguish and pain. I gasped and grabbed Ben’s thigh to keep from collapsing on my side, but the electricity didn’t jolt across our minds. He was trembling, staring with wide eyes at the journal.

Even the fire in me had a hard time burning through the ice in Ben at that point. I wrapped my arms around his neck and held on tightly, wincing as I struggled through the storm.

 BEN! I screamed. BEN, YOU DIDN’T KNOW!

I could feel his soul bleeding from reopened scabs, drenching his inner storm in red. It… it was too much for me. I couldn’t fix Ben Solo, even if I wanted to. Why had the Force made me responsible for saving him? Why was such an enormous responsibility to heal a traumatized, brutalized soul thrust upon me? I was just Rey of Jakku, nothing more.

It was like my doubts ignited the flame inside me. It waned, then waxed into a consuming inferno that swept through all of Ben, melting the ice, cauterizing the wounds shut again. Light emanated through him like a beacon and he suddenly came back to life with a wild gasp.

Sweat poured down his neck, where I had nestled my face. I was crying and the salt mixed together and dripped on my lips. Ben gulped for air and to my great surprise, he returned my embrace and pulled me into his lap. He was quivering. I felt tears on my scalp.

The fire withdrew back into me, but left smolders inside Ben. He prickled with cold and hugged me tighter, burying his face into my hair. Neither of us said anything. We didn’t have to.

Chapter Text

Ben recovered after a few minutes and refused to stay in the house any longer. I hid Leia’s journal in my robes to give it back to her when I returned to the Resistance and hurried after him, still sensing turmoil in his heart. He swept out the front door and I called for him to stop. The suns were starting to sink lower in the sky and the temperature on Chandrila was dropping.

 “Ben!” I called. “You were a baby; how could you have—”

Then he spun around on his heel and reached a hand out towards the house, and I almost bumped into him. His dark eyes flashed with anger and regret and I couldn’t get through to him in our connection. His long fingers twisted like talons and I turned when I heard loud groaning behind me.

The house was trembling on its foundation. Metal screeched, and part of the roof collapsed inward with a hollow boom. I gasped in horror and grabbed Ben’s arm to stop him, but he shoved me away with his shoulder and curled his fingers in to crush the rest of the roof. He was dark inside, raging like a winter storm again, and I couldn’t see through it.

 Let the past die.

Sweat beaded on Ben’s forehead and he gritted his teeth, shifting focus to destroy the water wheel. It shrieked like it was in terrible pain and crumpled as if it were made from aluminum. He abruptly dropped his hand, panting, face contorted with rage and eyes filling with tears, then took an aggressive step forward and reached a trembling arm for his childhood home again.

 Kill it, if you have to.

There was a dull rumble as the windows on the second floor began rattling. Ben clenched his jaw and bellowed in agony from the strain of using the Force for such an immense task. The walls around him crumbled; he couldn’t even keep the standing any longer from channeling everything he had into tearing the house down. The windows shattered, blanketing the grass in glass.

I could feel his heart hammering in his chest. He was going to kill himself if he didn’t stop.

Horrified, I tried to use the Light like I had in the house, but he was beyond it’s influence. I clutched my head and winced in pain. I could hear everything. Memories of Han’s laughter, him ruffling Ben’s hair; the smell of Leia’s perfume, the look in her eyes when he hovered in his TIE silencer outside the Resistance ship and how he couldn’t bring himself to kill her. I dropped to my knees and screamed in agony when I felt his soul split down to the bone after he killed his father.

 Ben, sitting alone in the dining hall at the New Jedi Temple, too homesick to eat. The other Padawans stay away from him. They whisper: ‘Only a Sith has that kind of power.’

It was a horrible barrage of screaming rage and pain. I’d been so alone on Jakku. I dreamed of seeing my family again, and I had to scrape and scrounge and fight to stay alive. But the storm inside Ben dwarfed what I felt. Ben Solo was the Dark Side in human flesh, and it was tearing him apart.

I dragged myself to him, clenching dirt, and grabbed his thigh when I was close enough. His dark eyes were narrowed in focus and he was taking long, staggered breaths, not paying attention to me. I panted and pulled myself up to hang on to his arm again like it was a raft in a furious river before snatching the front of his shirt to stand in front of him. He didn’t blink.

Now drenched in sweat myself, I swallowed hard and reached up with quivering fingers to take his face between my hands. His skin was clammy, and my thumb brushed the scar I had torn across his tear-streaked cheek with his lightsaber. I wasn’t crying but my face was smeared with tears from the sheer agony of feeling Ben’s memories.

Determined, I glared into his dark eyes and clawed through his memories until I stumbled across a blinking light. I squeezed my eyes shut and seized the glimmer before it could disappear in the storm, then ripped it out and into the open.

It was like a cork in a pool. All the thoughts were sucked inside, freeing both me and Ben from them, and the little flicker wriggled free of my grasp and plugged them back up. The cold in him remained, but it seemed like the worst parts were back where they belonged.

We both gasped and I hurriedly withdrew from Ben’s mind, feeling strangely raw and uncomfortable. His wide eyes flickered down to me as he struggled to catch his breath and he shook free of my hands like he couldn’t stand to be touched. He dropped to his knees a foot or two away, and I sank down to sit cross-legged and leaned back on my hands.

I glowered at him, furious. “What were you thinking?!

Ben wouldn’t look at me. He swept his hair back and stumbled to his feet, shoulders still heaving, and started heading west. I gawked after him for a minute. The audacity! To just get up and walk away like nothing had happened?! To not explain himself?!

I staggered to my feet and hammered against his walls. HEY! I’M TALKING TO YOU!

 “Night is falling,” Ben snapped, spinning around to glare at me. “We have to get to Hanna City.”

 “You could’ve died! What were you doing?!”

He turned and walked off again. “Using the Dark Side.”

We didn’t talk much on the way to the city. It wasn’t very far, and Daybreak wouldn’t have a hot meal for us. But as far as I knew, neither of us had credits to use for a hotel.

Soon we came across towering mountains with enormous doors built into them and guards stationed outside. I caught up to Ben and nodded towards the simply dressed soldiers.

 “What should our story be?” I asked.

Ben gave me a pitying look. “We don’t need a story, Rey.”

We approached the guards just as the suns were starting to set beyond the mountains. They both stiffened and looked down at us, particularly Ben, and he stared back at them.

 “You will open the gate and allow us inside,” he said.

The Force wavered, and the two guards exchanged a glance before stepping back and opening the gate. I looked over my shoulder at them as I followed Ben inside. Oh. Right. Jedi mind tricks.

Hanna City was enormous, all towering buildings and busy streets. A dome-shaped building was clear in the middle and I assumed that was where the Rebels began building the New Republic. I turned in circles while we walked, eager to see and hear everything I could, and Ben roughly yanked me closer to him.

 “You look like a tourist,” he said. “Come, there’s a hotel this way.”

 “And you—” I snatched his lightsaber with the Force and waggled it before hiding it in my robes— “need to hide things that normal people don’t carry around.”

 …Fair enough.

We slipped into a small hotel wedged between two large buildings. It was warm inside, with a crackling fire, and surprisingly lavish décor. I smiled at some of the alien patrons, who were interested in Ben once again, and reddened with he grabbed my hand and pulled me back to him.

 “How did you survive on Jakku?” Ben muttered, raising an eyebrow at me.

 “I like making friends. Other beings are interesting, and sometimes they can help you.”

The clerk at the desk was human and she smiled when she saw Ben and I. He didn’t have to wave his hand to influence her—I saw her eyes widen and she blinked, smile fading.

 “You will give us a room and two hot meals,” Ben said dully, like manipulating people’s minds was second nature to him. “You will tell no one that we are here, and we have already paid you.”

Her smile came back, and she handed us a card key. “Enjoy your stay!”

We went upstairs to the second floor. The hotel was very simple and had more touches like in Leia and Han’s old home than the modern and sleek designs found throughout most of the galaxy. Ben led the way to our door and I rolled my eyes when he turned the lock with the Force instead of the key.

The room was small. A solitary small bed was pushed against the wall under an open window and the vague sounds of the Chandrilan people milling around outside drifted through. A cool breeze brushed against me and I stretched, happy to feel it on my sweaty skin. We stood there for another long minute, and I realized Ben was still holding my hand.

I shook my hand free and went to the ‘fresher. “I can sleep on the floor.”

I shut the door, and Ben immediately slithered into my mind. Desperate again. Shivering in the cold. I shuddered but ignored the intrusion.

 The bed is too small for me. He projected an image of himself scowling, both feet hanging off the foot of the bed and arms nearly touching the floor.

I laughed within my head and felt a wisp of satisfaction from Ben.

 I’m sure they have more sheets, I said. I began peeling off my robes and tossing them into the steam cleaner. They’d be clean when I was done, and I could rearrange them as pajamas.

Ben prodded closer. I’m sorry I frightened you, Rey. The Dark Side is what I know, and where I draw my power from. He hesitated. It was not… cooperating. I dug too deep to find more pain to fuel it.

 Not cooperating? I echoed.

 Tearing down a house should not require that much energy. Ben reflected on the day we met in the Tokodana Forest, when he first touched my mind. I suspect because the Dark is turning Grey.

 Grey? Does that mean…

The cold burgeoned in him. No. He was still aligned with the Dark Side. But there were bits of Light.

The refresher had a real shower with water, not a sonic one like Daybreak. I stepped in, eager to wash my hair and clean the sweat from my skin, and found Ben was still lingering in my mind. He drifted about aimlessly while I scrubbed my scalp, and my skin tingled.

 I can feel the heat, he said. Moisture… The first time you saw rain was on Ahch-To. The shower reminds you of it.

 Uh… Yes. Jakku only has sonic showers.

Ben idly thumbed through my thoughts like they were magazines. The soap smells like pine needles, like Starkiller Base. A breeze whispered through me and I shivered. Do you remember the snow?

 …Yes.

 I drew on my rage to ignore the pain. The Dark Side. He drew nearer and the fire in me shrank. It has many uses. I can teach you.

 You still haven’t taught me how to stop a blaster bolt, I said pointedly. I edged away from him, concerned that he could view all my senses if he felt my touch and smell.

 True. It’s a technique aligned with the Light Side—passive resistance, instead of brute force. Ripping apart floorboards requires the Dark. Manipulating water is a combination. Both sides have their uses.

I cleared my throat and washed off the soap. No thanks. I prefer the Light.

 As I prefer the Dark.

 Seems like the Light has helped you quite a few times, I said tersely.

It amused him. Ben swirled within me, a shadow in a bright room. I stepped out of the shower and dried myself off while he continued lounging around in me like he owned the place.

 It has, he said. Peace and serenity—soft, safe warmth. He thought of us hugging in the house, and I felt prickling heat. I enjoy it.

I glanced up at the mirror and both of us saw the same thing—me standing there, thankfully in a towel. I was mortified but Ben flushed warm. He withdrew from my mind, leaving behind a trace of embarrassment and happiness. I glared at the ‘fresher door.

It took me a couple seconds to get dressed and I burst out of the ‘fresher. I couldn’t see Ben anywhere and I clawed out for him through the Force to find him sitting down right next to the door, head lolled back on the wall and a small smile on his face. His eyes were half-lidded, delirious.

 “Quit picking around in my head!” I snapped.

He blinked like he was surprised to see me there, then scrambled to his feet. “Ah… Sorry.”

Then he slipped into the ‘fresher before I could say anything else, and I slammed our connection shut.

Chapter Text

That night I went to bed with a full stomach and a full heart. Ben arranged some pillows and sheets near the side of the bed, and I climbed in the rickety thing to finally go to sleep. Chandrila had slightly longer nights than days according to the Galactic Standard, so we would get some extra sleep.

I looked down at Ben’s thick black hair, now damp from his shower. He was finally peaceful. I was curious to know his dreams, but I didn’t want to invade him like Snoke had. I sighed and laid down on my back and gazed out at the enormous moon. Maybe Ben was turning to the Light. If the Resistance got my message in time, they could even meet us on Chandrila.

Sleep took me over.

…And I slipped into Ben’s mind.

Heat, moisture. He’s standing in the shower, rubbing his fingers through his thick, black hair, staring at the wall. I’ve already started eating and our minds aren’t connected. He glances at the ‘fresher door and dips his head under the stream of water, neck bent. Soft, safe warmth.

His mind wanders to the brief glimpse of me in my towel and he swallows hard, running his hands over his face. He’d been taught not to let his thoughts wander in that direction. But Snoke is dead now. Ben has freedom, and he wants to use it.

Trembling, he reaches down, and I desperately try to get out of the memory. But it’s playing is his head and I’m trapped. He braces one hand on the wall and shakes his head, but does it anyway. I draw back but I can feel pleasure coursing through his veins and feel his breath catch. He’s done this before, back when he was a Padawan, after a game with some of the others.

But right now, he’s thinking about me in my towel, and the image he conjured up of me naked. He thinks about me wrapping my arms around his neck, and touching his face, and touching his hand in the hut on Ahch-To. It’s not much to go off, but he relishes it. Every small touch is monumental.

He grits his teeth, stifling a groan. “…Rey…”

 “Mmm… Rey…”

I finally ripped free of Ben’s dream or memory or whatever it was, gasping in shock, flushed pink. He also sat bolt upright on the floor and looked around wildly until he saw me sitting up in bed. We stared at each other until I felt a buzzing heat across our bond from Ben.

He tried to throw up a wall, but the Force wasn’t having it. I could feel the raw desire from him, and my relatively small curiosity reflected across it. Ben’s lower lip trembled.

 “It was a dream!” he exclaimed. “Not a memory. Dream.” He ran a hand through his hair and I saw his cheeks turning red. “All imagined, not real.”

I nodded spastically. “Yeah, I know, I understand. Let’s, uh, go back to sleep.” I turned over in bed and squeezed my eyes shut. “Long day tomorrow!”

But it kept leeching across our bond. Ben fought it, suppressing his urges. I gritted my teeth when we both saw the image of me half-naked again, and little things that he had created slipped through. Me licking my lips, draping into his arms on Tokodana, him hovering over me in my bonds on the Supremacy. They were fantasies, I realized.

That was the way of the Dark Side. The Light was celibate and serious. I resisted my desires, too, and tried to burn through Ben with the Light. He groaned and rolled on his back, covering his face with his hands, then sat up straight. I kept pulsing heat against the cold, but it seemed to make him worse.

 “It’s nothing,” he snapped. “I don’t need help.”

 “I don’t want to think about it, and you can’t stop!” I sat up, too, and glared down at him. “So, what do you suggest?”

He scratched his head, still fighting to keep our minds wedged apart. “I’ll meditate.”

I’d never learned how to meditate unless it involved the Force, so I settled for flopping back down in bed and burying my face in a pillow. Ben tried to clear his mind and I could see flashes of white as everything else began to pour out, but the serenity quickly shattered, and we were both shown a glimpse of another Force vision.

It’s clearer than the one from Ahch-To that drove me to seek out Ben. We’re in a sunny meadow, both aware that we’re in a vision, and we blink in surprise at our grey clothes. I feel a tug on my robe and I glance down to see a girl with jet black hair and blue eyes smiling up at me. Ben has a boy clinging to him who looks like he’s the girl’s age, but he has blonde hair and dark eyes.

 “What are you doing, mama?” the girl asks.

We both briefly tore free of the vision, but the Force dragged us back in.

 “The Republic needs you.”

We’re sitting at a plain wooden table, me heavily pregnant and Ben protectively touching my stomach. I’m not inside myself, just watching from afar with mixed fascination and confusion. I’m wearing a dress, of all things, and Ben and I are again both in grey. His hair is pulled back and he has a beard.

 “That’s not our purpose,” I say.

It’s… Poe? I haven’t met him, but I know who he is. He looks older, more serious. He also looks annoyed.

 “You’re going to hide here forever?” he snaps. He’s not mad. He’s scared. “We need you both—Light and Dark. It will give the people hope while we fix the damage from the war.”

Ben flashes with anger but I cool him like it’s second nature. He shifts closer to me, glaring at Poe.

 “You heard my wife.” He’s draped over me like he’s afraid I’ll disappear. “That is not our purpose.”

The Force finally set us free and I fell off the bed. Ben had somehow turned even paler and I realized that our connection had been mercifully closed again. It was different, though… more pliable. Every day the wall was weakening, and I feared never having my own thoughts to myself again.

Ben stood up, angrily pacing. “Why does the Force keep showing us these snippets?” He ran a hand through his hair and clenched his jaw. “It doesn’t make any sense!”

He swept his hands down and all the furniture in the room rattled. I was too shocked by the vision to offer much help in the thinking department. Clearly the Force itself wanted Ben and I… together. But why? Why us out of the billions of people in the galaxy? Plus, he’d killed his own father, not to mention tons of my friends in the Resistance. We weren’t having kids, let alone getting married.

 “Not our purpose,” I muttered. “Helping the galaxy isn’t our purpose?” I frowned, chewing my cheek. “Of course I’d help rebuild the Republic.”

 “It’s another trick, like the vision on Ahch-To.” Ben rubbed his jaw, then sat down on the foot of the bed. “It was accurate, but not what we’d expected. We’re deliberately being pushed together.”

I rested my chin in my hand, yawning. “Guess the Force has a will of its own.”

 “It seeks balance when the galaxy has turned too far to the Dark or Light; nothing more.”

 “Those visions don’t seem like they’re helping balance anything. Just making me a bit sick.”

Ben twiddled his thumbs and stared at the floor. Our connection was still mostly closed, but I could feel a pang of hurt in him. The cheek I could see, with the scar, was flushed pink. He was practically an open book to me, but I wasn’t as curious about his thoughts as he was about mine. I was afraid to look deeper within him. I knew what I would find.

“It’s… probably a metaphor,” he said. “You and I are equals in the Light and the Dark and it wants us to work together. That’s all.”

 “Why? And how?”

 “Balance.” He glanced at me, still sitting on the floor. “The Resistance is essentially destroyed, which is the extreme faction of the Light. I assume the First Order will be next. No Sith, no Jedi. It’s resolving Light and Dark with Grey.”

 “So… we’re supposed to destroy the First Order?”

Ben was quiet for a minute, brow furrowed in deep thought, then he gestured for me to sit beside him. I hesitated but slowly rose from the floor and sat a few inches away from him, hands clasped in my lap. His hands were likewise draped in his and he clenched his fingers before turning his palm face-up and holding it out to me. It was like when he asked me to join him.

My heart quickened at the memory as I swallowed hard and accepted, slipping my fingers around his so we were loosely holding hands. Our grips tightened when another Force vision barreled through us.

 “We have to find Rey.”

It’s Finn, and he’s beside himself with grief. A pretty girl with black hair is sitting next to him, and he’s talking to Leia and Poe. They all look worried.

 “I agree,” Leia says. She looks sad, eyes glazed. “…Kylo Ren is unpredictable.”

 “Where would they go?” Poe is tapping his fingers, looking at the coordinates I sent.

The girl—I hear her name whispered in my mind: Rose. She looks nervous.

 “They’d need a new ship so the First Order can’t track them,” she says. “The best place to get one would be Jakku, from Unkar Plutt’s stash.”

Everyone starts talking amongst themselves about going to Jakku to ask Plutt if Ben and I had asked for a ship, when Leia suddenly frowns and looks up. She narrows her eyes and smiles a little.

 “I know where they are,” she says. “I know exactly where Ben would go first.”

They know we’re on Chandrila. They’re coming.

We both pulled out of the vision, and Ben looked at me like I’d slapped him across the face. Our bond is open again and I can feel the betrayal and anger coursing through him.

 “They can help!” I blurted to his hurt stare. “They can help us—”

 “They’ll separate us. They’ll tear us apart.” He squeezed my hand and I felt the possessiveness in him again, green and prickly, and fear, like ice. He was… afraid of losing me. He needed me.

I held his hand in both of mine, turning towards him, emanating soothing warmth. “Ben, it’s going to be okay. I’m not going to abandon you. I know we need to find our place in all this—together.”

 We have to leave. He was in my mind again, rooted in to keep from being pushed out. He was terrified and I could barely keep it at bay. Come, Rey.

I wanted to wait for them to find us, but I couldn’t force Ben to stay in the room any longer. He pulled me off the bed and gathered our few belongings without letting go of my hand. I kept illuminating him with Light, trying to calm him down, but abandonment was his deepest fear. And mine.

Chapter Text

We swept out of Hanna City and into the dark wilderness before I knew it. The guards were suspicious but didn’t say anything when we came running out of the gate. I had a tough time keeping up with Ben’s long strides and I squealed in shock when he swept me up bridal style.

 “Excuse me!” I snapped. “I have legs!”

 We’re almost to Daybreak. We’ll go to Mustafar. They won’t follow us there.

We crested a hill, and my heart both swelled and fell through my stomach. Oh no.

Daybreak was surrounded by the four people we’d seen in the vision. Finn was there with Rose, the woman the Force showed me, and I saw Poe, too. Leia was gazing at the sky, and she turned first to look up at us. They all gradually turned, pointing. Ben flickered with fear.

Finn started running. “REY!”

Ben set me down on my feet and unclipped his lightsaber, taking a sharp, angry step forward to ignite the snarling blade. Red stained the grass and reflected in his dark eyes. The fear surged in him and he dug down to rip it out to fuel his power as Finn just kept running towards us.

Panicked, I did the only thing I could think of, and reached out towards Finn with the Force to paralyze him at the foot of the hill.

He went stiff, muscles twisting, and I saw the pain in his eyes. I could feel it, too, and it drained the Light in me. My eyes welled with tears and my arm trembled as I tried to keep my best friend from running to his death. I’m sorry, Finn. Please forgive me.

Poe started towards us and Leia stopped Rose when she screamed and tried to run, too. I couldn’t stop all of them, and I was drawing from the Dark Side. It was unnatural—painful. I gritted my teeth and looked at Ben, tears running down my cheeks.

 “Stop!” I begged. “Don’t hurt them!”

 “They’re going to take you away from me!” He wasn’t being vicious. He was scared. His eyes looked like they had when he found Luke standing over his bed.

 “You don’t own me, Ben!” I winced as the Light moaned in pain. “That is not the way this works!”

I released Finn; I couldn’t stand it anymore. He dropped to his knees and Rose squirmed away from Leia to check on him. Poe slowed down at the foot of the hill, glaring up at both Ben and I.

Ben was still poised to attack, and I knew touching him forged the strongest connection, so I grabbed his hand and drew up all the Light I could muster. His emotions were so wild and violent, but I found I was getting more and more control over them. He couldn’t control it on his own. If I was there to calm him…

He tried to jerk back, like I’d burned him, but I held firm and stared up into his dark eyes. The fear and paranoia shrieked as heat and light washed over them, permeating further than ever before. If I pushed a bit more… maybe I could dispel all the darkness.

 “It’s going to be okay, Ben,” I said. My voice was suddenly calm and melodic, like a song. Light. “Put the lightsaber away.”

He stared back at me and nodded slowly. The weapon hissed into its sheath, and Ben handed it to me without looking away or blinking, and I clipped it to my back. His mind was all bright and white, but it didn’t feel right. He looked hypnotized, and I realized I had pushed too far. Too much Light was blinding. We all needed a dark space to shield our eyes.

I withdrew from his mind and he blinked like he’d just woken up. He stared down at me like he was seeing the sun for the first time.

 I see now, he said.

Before I could ask what he meant, Poe had cleared the hill and grabbed Ben by the front of his robes. The once mighty Kylo Ren just hung there, impassive, gazing off into the distance. What had I done?

 “I’m saving the first punch for Finn,” Poe said, tightening his grip. He glanced down at me and offered his hand for a shake, grinning. “Well, hello, Rey.”

Rose helped Finn up the hill and I ran to him, relieved he was okay. He embraced me so tightly that my lungs felt like they’d burst, and I could feel a small tremor running through him. He was in one piece, thank the Force. But where was the rest of the Resistance?

 “Still on Crait.” Ben.

Finn loosened his hold enough that I could turn and look at Ben. He was staring at me.

 “…The base moved,” Finn said after a pause, glancing between Ben and I. He held me at arm’s length, wiping away tears. “I’m so glad you’re okay, Rey.”

 “Finn, I’m so sorry—” I squeezed his arms, lower lip trembling. “I had to stop you.”

 Both sides have their uses.

Incensed, I tried to force Ben out of my mind, but he was stuck there like a bur. His thoughts were disparate and dreamy, not sharp and cunning. I had a horrible feeling that I hurt him.

Then I sensed another powerful Force-sensitive, and I turned to see Leia had made it to the top of the hill. She looked tired and worn, and she paused there and stared at Ben without saying a word. He stared back over Poe’s head. I unabashedly probed his mind for any wisps of ill-will, but he was stupefied by the Light.

Poe noticed her and stepped aside, but didn’t go far. Leia shuffled closer, leaning heavily on her cane, not looking away from her son. Finn touched the blaster on his hip.

She stopped two feet away and neither of them said anything. The sight of his mother was drawing back the Dark in Ben, which was a mixed blessing to me. He roiled with regret and anxiety but I didn’t move to comfort him. The consequences of his decision to kill Han were his to bear.

It was unforgivable, and I wouldn’t blame Leia for never letting go of it. I still hadn’t, but I knew the depth of his guilt and agony, and I was trying to trust in the will of the Force. I glanced at Ben, making sure he knew I was tracing his intentions. I would do what I had to if he attacked Leia.

 “Mr. Dameron, Finn—give us a moment,” Leia said after a long minute. “Rey, come here.”

Poe started to protest, but Leia shot him an icy glare, and he walked away with Finn and Rose. I hesitantly walked up to stand beside Leia and Ben, both of whom were still staring at each other.

Leia reached up to touch Ben’s cheek, giving nothing away. “There’s still Light in you. Even after all you’ve done.”

I wished I could show her how deeply wounded Ben was from killing his father. But I stood quietly, glancing between them, keeping tabs on Ben. He was swirling with grief.

 “Oh!” I exclaimed, shattering the tense moment. I reached into my robe and handed Leia her journal, sheepish. “We found this at your old home. We were looking for… uh… answers.”

She smiled and took it, brushing her hand on the cover. “This old thing. Did you find what you needed?”

 “I did,” Ben blurted. His Adam’s apple bobbed when Leia looked back up at him. “But I have more searching to do.”

 “Ah. I suppose you do, Ben.” She tucked the journal away and frowned at me. “What about you, Rey? Are you coming back to the Resistance?”

I looked up at Ben, but he was still focused on his mother.

 “Soon,” I said. “Turns out the Force has big plans for us, and with Snoke dead—”

 “Snoke is dead?!” Leia interrupted.

Oh, right—we hadn’t communicated that to anyone yet. The First Order was possibly still leaderless, too. We had left straight from the throne room and been gone a few days already.

Ben nodded. “The Force sent Rey and I a vision. I killed him.” His gaze drifted to me. “For a new future.”

 “He’s really oversimplifying,” I said, laughing nervously under his stare. “We thought Snoke had created a Force bond between the two of us to get me to the Supremacy, but it was the Force—”

Leia held up a hand to silence me and shook her head. “Force bond?”

 “It’s not like the bond you have with Luke,” Ben said. “Rey is my equal in the Light. The Force is trying to bring balance back to the galaxy.”

 “It tried that before with your grandfather.” Leia leaned on her cane, sighing. “Well, if the First Order is a bunch of sitting ducks right now, we’d better assemble the Resistance. Rey…” She took out a homing beacon like the one from before and handed it to me. “If you ever need me, don’t hesitate.”

Poe was pacing in the background. Leia rolled her eyes and gestured for him to come back. She turned to Ben and reached out to take his hand in hers. I felt his heart pounding.

 “You’ve taken the right first steps,” she said, “but I can’t forgive you yet. No one can. The road ahead will be long and hard. I would tell you to keep Rey safe, but she’s quite capable of that on her own.” She smiled faintly. “I’ll tell the Resistance what you’ve done. It will help.”

Ben’s lower lip trembled, and he nodded. I hugged Leia just as Poe came back and wedged himself between her and Ben, glaring up at the latter like an overprotective guard dog. Finn was chatting with Rose, who was beaming up at him and laughing. She seemed like a nice woman.

The cheeriness died away when they all came closer to Ben. He looked less intimidating in his grey clothes, but still had an air on malevolence about him.

 “It seems we have a bit of an advantage,” Leia said, turning to face the core of the Resistance. “Snoke is dead, and the First Order is leaderless.”

Finn touched my arm. “Rey, how did you—?”

 “Not Rey.” Leia gestured to her son. “Ben did. Now, let’s go. We have a lot of work to do.”

She started off down the hill again, but the other three remained behind and stared at Ben. It made him uncomfortable and I calmed him with warmth. Was that the purpose of the Light? To keep the Dark at bay? Luke told me the Dark Side had more brute strength, but burned out fast and was hard to control.

Finn was still touching me, and it was annoying Ben. But I didn’t care about that. It wasn’t the Dark Side—he was just being childish.

 “Are you okay?” Finn asked. “You seem… different.”

 “I’m fine.” I smiled back at him and nodded towards Leia. “I have a homing beacon, and I’m sure we’ll be back soon and see each other again.”

Poe guffawed. “You’re leaving with this psychopath? And Leia is allowing it?” He frowned, then hurried after her. “She must’ve hit her head on Crait—Leia! Wait!”

I knew it didn’t make any sense to them, and I knew they’d be angry. But I had to go with him. The Force was sending more and more visions, and if it wanted us to bring balance… we had to. Plus, someone had to make sure Ben didn’t sink back to the Dark Side again.

 We have to fix Anakin’s lightsaber first, Ben said. You need a weapon.

Finn was shaking his head. “I don’t understand. You’re… leaving with him? He killed Han!”

 “I’m sorry,” I said, voice cracking. I took his hand in mine, blinking back tears. “I have to go. We’ll see each other again soon.”

 “Rey, you can’t—”

Ben’s lightsaber snapped off my hip and he caught it, staring down Finn. “She can, and she will.”

 “You’re not helping.” I glanced over my shoulder and raised my eyebrows at Ben, nodding towards the hill. “Go wait on the ship.”

 …Fine. But I’m keeping my lightsaber. Ben twirled it in his fingers and walked off down the hill.

Finn looked shocked when I turn back to face him, and I squeezed his hand.

 “I’ll explain everything soon,” I said. “It’s very… very…” I sucked in a deep breath, widening my eyes. “Complicated. But I’ll be back soon and we can talk, okay?” I smiled. “Rose seems nice. I can’t wait to learn more about her. Stay safe, Finn.”

I had to find my purpose in the story. I apologized again and pulled away from him to follow Ben down the hill to Daybreak, clutching the beacon. I’d come back soon.

Chapter Text

 “The Dark Side of the Force brings nothing but pain and torment.”

I blink, rousing in either a dream or a vision. I’m wearing white robes and I notice a hand wrapped around mine. Ben is staring at a line of people talking, and he’s wearing black. He glances at me and smiles, squeezing my hand a bit. We’re almost completely in sync. Push and pull. Yin and yang.

Are we… in a court? I look around and see Poe, Finn, and some others sitting in the stands, leaning forward and watching the proceedings. Finn waves and points to Rose, who’s wave is more spastic and excited. Poe looks ready to jump out of his seat and fight someone.

 “You cannot deny the will of the Force. This is necessary for balance.”

I turn back, and see Leia standing in front of the row of strangers. She’s dressed up in grey, and she doesn’t look happy. Ben is buzzing around in my head with nervous energy.

The person sitting in the middle leans back, scowling. “Kylo Ren caused a wound in the Force, Senator Organa. His assistance destroying the First Order can never heal it. Some would say the Dark Side is merely a corruption and need not exist at all.”

 “Yes, and when the Jedi destroyed the Sith, they simply sprang back from the grave. Darkness will always exist.” She gestured to Ben and I and the scowl on her face vanished. “Rey and Ben—not Kylo Ren, your Honor—reconcile the Light and the Dark. They will travel where they’re needed to restore balance as the sword and shield of the Force itself.”

Ben suddenly jumps to his feet, too anxious to keep sitting. “I will submit to punishment for my crimes if you allow my wife to go free.” He had briefly let go of my hand and grasps my shoulder like he can’t stand on his own without me. “She cannot be corrupted.”

 “Sit down!” Leia hisses.

 “Ben.” I don’t know how, but I know what to do. I ebb into his mind and his fear fades. “Sit. Everything will be fine.”

He does, without a word, and leans into me. I’m… peaceful. Too peaceful. I barely feel anything, except a strong attachment to Ben. I’m almost blind from the Light.

 “Maybe that’s why we didn’t want to get involved with the Republic.”

My eyes flew open and I scrambled up in bed to find Ben sitting across the room in a chair, head leaned on the wall and eyes closed. He was speaking out loud but picking around in my head again. I pulled my sheets up around myself and glared at him, letting my annoyance flash red.

 “Why are you in my room?” I demanded.

 Why not? He was thumbing through my thoughts again, looking for something. You invaded my dream last night. Remember?

 “That was an accident!” I scrambled to cover up my own embarrassing memories. Light, Light; the Light is celibate and calm, Rey… Think about… Jakku? “Get out!”

I projected an image of the sandy desert in my head to throw Ben off the trail. It was easier for me to hide things from him; maybe because the Light Side was more defensive and stoic. He frowned and looked at me from across the room, raising an eyebrow.

 Hiding something, Rey of Jakku?

 “…No. Just homesick.” I sat up straighter and pointed to the door. “Get out, Ben. I’m serious.”

He prickled inside my head. Let me in.

I shook my head stiffly. “No. There’s nothing. Just lots of sand.” I thought about sand instead, even though I hated it. Gritty. Awful. Always getting into equipment.

 …Fine.

Ben rose from the chair and crossed the room in two strides to sit next to me on the bed. My pulse quickened when he took my hands in his, interlacing our fingers, and this time I couldn’t hide behind a picture of Jakku. I yanked back, furious. This had to stop. My thoughts weren’t a book for him to read.

He brushed through my mind like a cold breeze and picked up on what he wanted—a memory that had been pushed down and locked away.

I’m not like Ben. I don’t know what to do with what I’m feeling, what with growing up in a desert with no human contact. The Light helps control the urges that overwhelm him, but I’m still curious.

I’m eating in the hotel room and he’s in the refresher showering. I glance at the door, slowly chewing, and purse my lips. He’s taking a long time… maybe I should check on him. Quickly, of course. I roll my eyes, thinking of him seeing me in my towel. Men are strange.

I slip into his thoughts without making him aware of my presence. He’s distracted. I probe his senses; feel the hot water and smell soap. Everything seems in order, until I feel a pulse of electricity. It’s raw and hungry and makes me even more curious, so I ease deeper into his thoughts and feel it again. Hm. That’s strange. Maybe he—

 “… Rey…”

I blanch as all the physical sensations rush through me. Pleasure and relief and longing. He’s breathing fast and hard, trying to stay quiet. I shouldn’t be here.

…But, I want to know more, and I’m not hurting him. I hesitate, but remain out of sight, drinking in everything I’m feeling. I’ve never done this before, but Ben has. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and I can see shifting images of me rotating through his mind. Some of them are so routine that I don’t understand how it arouses him, like me fast asleep in the pilot’s chair.

The electricity leaps and snaps between both of us. I feel like I should withdraw as it intensifies, and he swears under his breath, shaking his head. He wants the real thing. It’s frustrating him.

He leans his forehead on the shower wall, bracing himself with his free hand, and I feel the same thing he does. The tension coiled in him suddenly bursts and he bites his lip to stifle his groan, drawing blood, squeezing his eyes shut. It quivers through me, almost overwhelming, and I have to yank out of his mind before I give myself away.

My heart is racing and I’m panting. I stare in shock at the ‘fresher, then go back to shoveling food in my mouth. No. That was wrong. The Light swells and gleams, taking the memory with it.

We stared blankly at one another for a minute as the memory faded away. It was an equally humiliating revelation that Ben couldn’t really hold over me. Neither of us knew what to do. We were both still too timid and unsure to act on it, and our relationship was shaky at best. I was a scavenger from the desert and Ben’s path hadn’t given him much experience, either.

 “…Okay then,” Ben said after a long awkward silence. He carefully placed my hands back in my lap and rose, rubbing the back of his head.

I sank below my sheets, slowly pulling them over my head. “Sleep tight.”

He hesitated by the door. “We’re going to stop on Tatooine. Supplies, to fix the lightsaber.”

 “How much further?”

 “We should be there when you wake.”

I snuck one arm out of my fortress to give him a thumb’s up and he left without another word. He wasn’t even trying to hang around in my head, and our connection was blissfully quiet.

But I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned for a while before lying on my back and staring up at the ceiling, twiddling my thumbs. This was bad. The Resistance was the only family I’d ever known, and they wouldn’t take me back if they knew what was happening between Ben and I. But it seemed like both of us couldn’t stop it, and neither of us wanted to, anyway.

 I felt the serenity of the Light when you stopped me from attacking on Chandrila.

Oh—hi, Ben. He wasn’t sleeping, either. He was thinking about Leia, dissecting everything she’d said to him. Cautiously hopeful.

I turned on my side. I was worried that I’d brainwashed you.

 It’s a state of transcendence that Jedi Masters once hoped to achieve. Knowledge and inner peace, for the price of earthly attachments and emotion. The extreme expression of the Light.

 That’s how I seem in the Force visions, I said. Calm, but… empty. Wonder how that’s balanced.

Ben chose to reflect on the image of me pregnant out of all the representations the Force had shown us. I looked dreamy, like I had a handful of death sticks, but I smiled and left the haze when he touched my stomach. He tentatively projected the mutually humiliating memory from before, which the Light had suppressed. It was earthly attachment—and passion. Too much emotion.

 And of course… He showed me our short fight after my nightmare. When you tried to roundhouse kick me. But that was tainted Light, not the extreme.

We lulled into silence. Ben drifted around in my warmth, but didn’t try to delve any deeper into my thoughts again. I figured he’d learned his lesson about that. Yet there was nothing we could do to stop the slow melding of our minds, and awkward moments of seeing intimate moments would get more and more common. We had no choice.

 “I wanted to find my place,” I whispered, “and it turns out I never had a choice. Everything was already set in place and decided for me.”

 You can always walk away. He said it, but he didn’t mean it.

 “I don’t want to. I just… I thought I’d be relieved to have everything spelled out. It’s all I ever wanted my entire life on Jakku.” I closed my eyes, thinking of all the ships I’d gutted alone, all the nights I couldn’t sleep and cried until the sun cracked my tears in the morning. “I wanted to be someone. And… now I’m more than I could’ve dreamed, but…”

Ben’s mind went to the confusion I felt hearing both sides of the story of his fall to the Dark. Ignorance is bliss. I was born great—you had greatness thrust upon you. There will be more more choices.

I’d been running from the freedom of my life on Jakku, and Ben had never had freedom. We were so similar, yet utter opposites. Our destiny together would not be a choice, though. Our bond was too deep and powerful to be ignored. What if one of us fell in love with someone else? There was an entire galaxy of possibilities. The Force had made us choose each other.

My musings bothered Ben. He went quiet for a minute, and I worried I’d offended him. It was just conjecture. I… wasn’t against it. I reached out for his thoughts just as I heard my door slide open.

I sat up quickly to see Ben standing there in a thin white shirt and grey pants. He was touching the doorframe, hesitating, until I gave him a small nod. The electricity buzzed between us again as he slowly approached through my dark room like a specter to stand beside my bed. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but I knew having him beside me would give us clarity.

Ben’s dark eyes searched mine as I wiggled back in the back and lifted the sheets. He pressed his lips together like he was chewing on a thought, then crept into the bed to sit halfway up beside me. Neither of us moved for another moment until he lifted a trembling hand to touch my cheek. His palm was cool and soothing, and I felt a dark, tempting jolt.

 I’d choose you. Ben’s presence waxed in my thoughts, dark and consuming and passionate. In a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you, Rey. I was sure of it before the Force visions, and I’ll still be sure of it if they end, even if you choose someone else.

 “Ben…”

The Dark swirled but it wasn’t ominous like usual. It crackled like a thundercloud as Ben leaned forward and kissed me chastely on the lips, just to immediately draw back.

We stared at one another in silence until I bridged the space between us to kiss Ben just a few moments longer. I sat back, wringing my hands, flushed a nervous red. He smiled, cupping his long fingers around my jaw, and he stroked my lips with his thumb.

 “It seems we’re both a bit voyeuristic,” he murmured. His gaze lingered on my mouth and I could feel the Dark creeping into me, drawing heat from the Light like a parasite. “You’re so curious, Rey. I can teach you.”

The ship suddenly twittered to alert us Tatooine was nearby. The Dark withdrew in a flash, restoring my mental clarity, and I scrambled out of bed. Ben turned to look at me by the door, cocking his head and smiling smugly. His influence was gone from my mind but there was a permanent mark left behind.

 “Tatooine,” I blurted. “Dangerous. Better go to the cockpit.”

 Ah. Yes.

Ben rose and casually approached to stand beside me, tilting my chin with two fingertips so I looked up at him. I didn’t hate it, I was just terribly anxious and unsure, and I wasn’t used to being in that state. The darkness was deep, unsettling. I didn’t understand it.

 Don’t be afraid. His voice echoed in my head, soft and sinister. I feel it, too.

I swallowed hard. “This isn’t the time, Ben. We have other responsibilities right now.”

He was emboldened now. This wasn’t the Dark stain of death and pain; it was raw passion; another wellspring Ben could draw from. He smiled again, knowingly, and kissed my forehead. I rolled my eyes and left for the cockpit without saying another word.

Chapter Text

Life on Jakku made me well prepared for the visit to Tatooine. The two desert planets were eerily similar, though Tatooine was much more densely populated and had a stronger criminal network. I felt at home under the hot suns with the sand under my feet, but Ben recoiled from it.

 “Mos Espa should have the metals I need,” he said, squinting up at the sky. “The kyber crystal in the lightsaber is still intact, so I just need to repair the hilt.”

Daybreak closed behind us as we walked towards the mesa city. We’d left the lightsaber behind since Ben would need some time to fix it, anyway.

I stretched my arms towards the suns, sighing. “What about yours?”

 “…What about it?”

 “The crystal is cracked. It screams in pain when you ignite it.”

Ben raised an eyebrow. “Kyber crystals are naturally affiliated with the Light; I had to bend it to my will and it ended up breaking. Perhaps that’s why you can hear it.”

Euugh. That was unpleasant. I frowned and shuddered at the thought of torturing something into submission. That was why Ben’s lightsaber crackled like fire and wailed.

 “Can it be healed?” I asked, looking up at him. “I hate the sound it makes.”

We were strolling into Mos Espa now, and attracting attention. Both of us had our hoods up to try to obscure our faces, but the First Order likely had a bounty out on our heads. I pressed closer to Ben as we walked towards the junk shop to find our supplies.

 “It can be healed by the Light, yes,” Ben said tersely.

 “I should try. Doesn’t making it suffer bother you?”

 “My power is drawn from suffering, Rey.” He glanced at a small group of aliens whispering to one another. “Healing a kyber crystal is an advanced technique, anyway.”

We’d arrived at Wald’s Parts and Ben opened the door for me. I sighed in defeat and stepped inside, sliding back my hood. Sooner or later I’d try to heal it. I didn’t like the shrieking.

The shop owner was a Rodian named Wald, who was friendly and eager to help us. His enormous black eyes kept studying Ben’s face, and I noticed Ben was deliberately avoiding looking at him. I wandered around the shop with curious excitement, examining all the odds and ends they had for sale. Some of the parts I recognized from the Imperial and New Republic ships I’d gutted.

 “See anything you like?”

I turned to find Wald standing nearby, watching me curiously. I smiled and touched a transponder that would’ve fed me for two days not too long ago. Ben was organizing the parts into a small bag—I hadn’t felt him use a mind trick to convince Wald to hand them over for free.

 “All of it,” I laughed. “How do you get these?”

 “Trade, of course.” His head twitched like a bird’s. “I recently acquired a very rare item you may be interested in.”

 Let’s go, Rey, Ben called across our bond.

But I wanted to see more. I followed Wald back to the counter and he leaned over to unlock a large black crate. Ben rolled his eyes at me and slung the bag over his shoulder, looking unimpressed until Wald set down the empty black hilt of a katana.

I nodded, kind of disappointed. “…Wow. Well, that’s very—”

Ben snatched up the weapon and stared at it in shock. “Where did you get this?”

 “Ah, you must be well-versed in the lore of the Force.” Wald clasped his claws on the counter. “Han Solo discovered it during one of his many trips throughout the galaxy—but I’m sure his son would know all about that. Wouldn’t you, Ben Solo?”

Ben’s hood fell back, and his lightsaber was drawn before I could even blink. It screamed to me again, like it was begging me for help. I winced, more and more repulsed by the bloody color.

He turned the hilt. “You won’t live to collect your bounty.”

Wald shook his head and waved his hands, chirping with laughter. “I have no interest in turning you over to the First Order, Ben. I simply recognized your eyes. They’re like Leia’s… and Anakin’s.”

 “Anakin?” I echoed.

Ben studied Wald for another moment. I sensed him feeling around with the Force, trying to figure out if Wald was lying, before he stowed his weapon again. Okay, how did this random junk trader on Tatooine know Anakin and Leia and Han?

 “My grandfather Anakin was born here.” Ben turned the strange weapon over in his hands and glanced at Wald. “Wald and Anakin were close friends growing up, and he assisted Leia and the Rebellion.”

 “The descendants of the Skywalker family are always welcome at Wald’s Parts,” The Rodian chirped.

I had so many questions to ask, but the weapon Ben was holding suddenly burst to life. I jumped away at the sight of a shimmering, thin black blade, with a line of white light around it. It wasn’t shaped like a lightsaber and looked like a katana, but I could hear a crystal humming within it. It seemed to draw in all the light around it like a black hole and whined like a bell.

Ben turned it in his grasp and the weapon whistled, also unlike a traditional lightsaber. “I thought this was lost long ago.”

I picked up on murmuring within the crystal and listened closely. It was pleased to be near Ben, but not so happy with me trying to communicate with it, and spurned my advances.

 “What… what is it?” I asked, mystified.

 “The Darksaber.” Wald rearranged some things behind the desk, faceted eyes watching Ben. “An old Jedi relic stolen by the Mandalorians. Consider it a gift.”

I touched Ben’s arm. “It doesn’t seem to like me, but it’s happy with you. Can you hear it?”

 “I can.” The blade vanished back into it’s sheath and he marveled at it, looking at it like he had at me when I flooded him with Light. “I’ve never heard one speak before. Thank you, Wald.”

 “I’m happy to help. But I suggest the two of you leave Tatooine quickly.”

The two of them shook hands again and Ben slipped the Darksaber into his robes. I was kind of offended that it didn’t like me, and I’d never heard such a loud voice from a lightsaber before. Anakin’s was a quiet whisper and Ben’s was always screaming in pain. This one was almost fully sentient.

We stepped back out into the sunlight with our hoods up. There were still other supplies we needed, like more food, but we both could sense danger around us. Wald was right. We needed to leave.

 “Naboo is nearby,” Ben said quietly. “We’ll go there to repair the saber and figure out our next steps.”

I glanced at an encroaching Bith. “I don’t think we’re going to leave quietly.”

 “Unlikely. You’ll have to use my lightsaber.”

The thought of it was borderline revolting to me, but the Darksaber was more disturbing. I swallowed and nodded as we reached the edge of Mos Espa and a small group of bounty hunters stepped in our path. Ben kept his head down and I nearly reached to my back for my staff.

One of them stepped forward, a human male with dirty robes and a blaster. “Is this the mighty Kylo Ren?” He barked a laugh, twisting his weapon in his hand. “You don’t look like much to me.”

Someone grabbed my arm and I instinctively drew Ben’s lightsaber to me, igniting it to sever the offending arm. The small crowd drew back with nervous murmurs as the Rodian who’s hand I’d cut off shrieked in pain and felt to his knees. My hood fell back, and I twisted my palms around the hilt, gritting my teeth. The crystal inside was crying again, calling out to me.

Ben drew out the Darksaber and it hummed to life with a songlike whistle, casting no shadow and sucking up light like a black hole. The bounty hunters held out their weapons as he straightened up and pulled back his hood, glaring down at them with contempt.

 “If you leave now, we won’t harm any of you,” Ben said. “Otherwise…” He exerted the heavy presence of the Dark in him over the thugs, truly trying to make them leave. “We will be happy to continue liberating each of you from your appendages.”

They must’ve thought I was weaker, because a human woman charged out of the group with dual blades, heading right for me. I shouted like I had during our fight with the Praetorian guards and met her halfway, swinging Ben’s heavy lightsaber to protect myself from the daggers. I heard the Darksaber whistling through the air behind me and twisted on my heel to stab one of Ben’s attackers and kick mine square in the chest. The Force sent her flying about ten feet and she jumped right back up.

It descended into a brawl. Ben and I were even more synchronized than before, now easily predicting the other’s movements through our bond and parrying accordingly. I was more offensive, swinging and chasing, and Ben would pause and consider the situation before striking.

 Rey… You’re hurting… me…

I swung the saber up the front of the first attacker and she collapsed in the sand in a puddle of blood. A small, sad voice reverberated in my head, like a sobbing man. It startled me so badly that I almost had my head cut off by a Bith. I flexed back so it whistled past and spun around to drive the snarling lightsaber straight through its chest.

The voice screamed in agony this time. IT… HURTS…

 Rey, what are you doing?! Ben popped in, oblivious to the other voice. He glared at me over his shoulder, severing the head from the first human male. Pay attention!

I was horrified and held out the lightsaber, staring at the fiery red blade. “I can’t. The crystal…”

Ben pulled his saber from me with the Force and threw me the Darksaber. He parried a blow and again I heard the shriek of pain, like there was someone standing right next to me. I stumbled back when one of the last two thugs attacked me and ignited the Darksaber.

It didn’t feel right. I slashed through the bounty hunter and practically threw the thing away from me when he fell, revolted by the Dark within it. Ben finished off the last of them and likewise gave his own lightsaber a strange, sickened look, then dropped it in the sand.

 “We have to heal it!” I said, rushing over to pick it up. I cradled it like a baby, examining the hilt.

Ben was panting as he pulled back the Darksaber and nodded. “I can’t wield it any longer. It’s rejecting me, like Anakin’s did. But this…” He inspected the weapon in his hand. “I can hear it. It called back to me when I threw it to you.”

Our fight had sparked a mob in Mos Espa. We sheathed both sabers and ran back to Daybreak, fleeing into space and to Naboo for the next leg of our journey. It seemed like we were finding more questions than answers.

Chapter Text

Daybreak had a small room to do equally small repairs. Ben set the coordinates for Naboo and we both retreated to the repair room with the lightsabers to do some inspections. I practically ran there with Ben’s lightsaber, horrified by what I had heard. The crystals were sentient, to a degree, and his was in perpetual agony. I had to figure out how to heal it.

I collapsed in my seat and turned the black hilt over in my grasp. “You have to get it out of this thing.”

Ben sat down next to me, much more at ease, and set both the bag of supplies and the Darksaber on the table. Anakin’s was also there, lying in two pieces, blue crystal humming with life.

 “If I do that, you won’t have a weapon until I fix my grandfather’s.” Ben popped the kyber out and offered it to me, inspecting the two broken halves of the hilt. “The crystal can be purified, but we’ll have to find a vergence in the Light, so the Force can guide you. Devaron houses a Jedi Temple, as does Spintir, but Spintir is much closer.”

 “Then let’s skip Naboo! It’s in so much pain, Ben, I can’t stand listening to it!”

He glanced up at me. “I don’t have all of the equipment I need to fix this on the ship. Theed—Naboo’s capital—will have what I need.” He dusted off some shards from the jagged edges and nodded towards his lightsaber. “Bleeding a kyber involves filling it with emotion from the Dark Side. I’d imagine it works in the opposite manner to heal them, so start there.”

I shoved the lightsaber in his face, scowling. “Then I’ll go unprotected. Take it out of here.”

Ben blinked in surprise, but took the thing with an annoyed mutter. “It took months of research to make this, you know. Mandalorian design from the Scourge of Malachor, when Revan and Bastila Shan—”

 “History lesson later, kyber crystal now.”

He puffed indignantly through our connection but did what he was told while I watched. Anakin’s crystal gradually grew louder, too, giggling to me in a young, female voice. I turned it over in my fingers. They were small droplets of the Force and had the same deep connection that Ben and I had to it.

 “Padawans used to travel to the planet Ilum to construct their own lightsabers.” Ben carefully twisted out coils one by one. “It’s how I created mine, though on the planet Christophsis. They were supposed to call to you, but none spoke to me, except this one in a small whisper. Each is colorless until it aligns with a Jedi. The Force would entrance you to build the lightsaber.”

I squinted at the blue kyber, intrigued. “Huh. So, they’re sentient. What colors are there?”

A panel joined the pile of gold coils on the table. Ben clicked his tongue, thinking, and picked up a small blowtorch. I blanched, oddly afraid of the kyber being burned.

 “Blue and green are most common,” he said. “Purple, orange, and yellow were quite rare. Sith either corrupted the crystals or created them. Maul had four in his saberstaff.”

 “Maul? Saberstaff?”

Ben was practically talking to himself as he eroded away some metal. “Darth Maul, a Sith Lord. He used a double-ended lightsaber, which…” There was a quiet click and he smiled at me. “May be a useful design for you, too.”

The bloody, broken red heart of the lightsaber glowed faintly. Ben popped it out, indifferent, and dropped it into my palm with the blue kyber. They quietly clinked together.

 Ah… Thank you… Rey…

It was the voice again, still distressed but now a more ambiguous gender. I closed my fist around them as Ben went back to working on Anakin’s lightsaber.

 “I can use that one,” I said, gesturing to the shards.

 “You will, but you’re used to a staff. I can repair this one, and on Spintir, you will have the supplies to create another half using the Force.”

 “…Oh. And purify this one?”

 “If the Force wills it,” Ben said.

I hesitated. “The crystal thanked me. Am I insane?”

He smirked and cracked off part of the saber. “No. Like I said, they’re sentient, especially when they’ve chosen a Jedi. It only ever whispered to me, so maybe it was waiting for you all along.” He sighed, shaking his head. “Once again I’m a means to an end.”

I rolled my eyes and went back to watching Ben working on the saber. He didn’t mind when I slipped into his thoughts to read exactly what was happening. It was complicated, even by my standards, but I was eager to learn. The knowledge osmotically trickled into my head.

 We’ve begun exchanging skills, Rey. Isn’t that interesting?

 Yes. I leaned closer, eyeing his work. Are you using the Force at all?

Ben nodded and turned the saber so I could see down the tube, filled with a network of wires and a small chamber. It guides you, but there’s still a certain degree of skill required.

 Which I’m permanently borrowing from you. I laughed and picked up the other half, following his thoughts. Thanks.

We were both quiet for a while, Ben idly drawing from the Light like usual and me focusing intently on my work. For now, we were stripping the damage; Ben would finish putting it together on Naboo. We’d get another hotel and some more hot food. I was used to hunger. I could go days with nothing.

 “You’ll never go hungry again.”

My eyes flickered up to Ben’s. He was eyeing my hands; maybe not even aware he’d spoken out loud. He frowned and touched the half I was working on. I stared at him and my heart skipped a beat.

 “Did I break it?” I asked.

 “No… you’re just very fast.” He sifted through my skills in dissecting hardware, drawing from them. “I’m impressed—Padawan.”

Ben’s dark eyes shifted back to me and he was smirking, amused by his not so subtle dig. I didn’t have a good comeback but I didn’t need it, anyway. His smile vanished as he kissed me on the lips again, this time more urgently. The Dark seeped into me as I dropped the broken half on the table and grabbed the front of his robes to pull him closer, scraping his chair on the floor.

He dropped his part and cupped my cheeks to deepen the kiss. I squeaked in surprise when I felt his tongue in my mouth but went along with it, gladly taking his lead. Typically, I was the one in control, dampening his raw emotion and power with soothing light—but the roles shifted. Dark, groaning hunger ebbed into my thoughts and I couldn’t think of anything except getting closer to him.

Ben growled under his breath and pulled back, still touching my cheeks. He took a short breath and clenched his jaw. “I won’t take advantage of you.”

I grasped his wrists, bathed in the Dark. “You’re not.”

 “Rey.” He gazed at my mouth and I felt his thoughts twist down a darker path. “You have no lightsaber. You’re not entirely my equal yet. And… how old are you?”

 “…Thirty?”

 Liar. Ben released me and rose from his chair, running a hand through his black hair. I’ll teach you—but it will be gradual. I don’t want to… manipulate you into agreeing.

I jumped up, swirling with desire. “I’m fine! Really.”

 I can sense when you’re too far to the Dark, like you can sense when I’m too far to the Light. Remember how terrible you felt, flooding me with Light? It will be the same if I flood you with Dark. Unnatural.

 “But—”

 “I’m not trying to deny you,” he said. He backed away, going to the door. “I… have to do the right thing. You’ll understand soon.”

It didn’t make any sense to me. I sat back down when he left, folding my arms angrily. He was leading me on; making me suffer like he did. Unbelievable.

Chapter Text

I’d visited so many planets in the past few days: Chandrila, Tatooine, and now Naboo. It was the space adventure I’d dreamed of on Jakku.

We arrived in Theed, the capital of Naboo, after dark. There was a jetport for us to land in and Naboo had been traditionally friendly to the Resistance, so we weren’t searched much by the guards. It was a beautiful, lush green planet, like Takodana and Chandrila. I followed Ben from the landing pad and thought of something from Tatooine.

 “How did you pay Wald?” I asked.

 “I drew credits from different purses.” He glanced down at me, reticent. “It was necessary. I didn’t want to steal from him.”

 “Oh.”

It was a bustling city like Hanna, but quieter after dark. Ben grabbed my hand and laced his fingers through mine, leading me down some streets to a larger hotel than before. I still had the two kyber crystals clenched in my hand. The red one cried when I set it down.

The hotel was larger and more modern than the one on Chandrila. There were a few clerks at the front desk as Ben and I approached, and I sensed their trepidation. Ben leaned over and took two of them, clearly expecting me to assume responsibility for manipulating the last man. He was frowning at Ben before looking at me, and I swallowed nervously.

 It’s okay, Rey. It’s necessary.

I smiled at the clerk, heeding Ben’s private reassurance. “We were never here. You will listen to your coworkers, and ignore our presence. And… send extra food.”

The Force echoed in his mind and his smile faded. “Okay.”

I’d done it before to a Stormtrooper, but it didn’t feel right on anyone else. Ben took a key from one of the other two and led me to the elevator, which we took to the third floor. It was all white and blue and shiny; definitely not a place we could afford.

 “This is wrong,” I muttered outside our door. “We can’t keep stealing from people.”

Ben slipped the card key in the lock. “It’s not stealing, Rey. It’s for the good of the galaxy.”

We went into the room, which was much bigger than our last. The floors were beige carpet and we had a sitting room outside the bedroom with white couches and chairs. I sat down at the kitchen table and wrapped the two kyber crystals in a towel to keep them safe.

 May the Force… bless you… Rey…

 “They’ll be bringing food soon.” Ben set the Darksaber down on the table, too, and cleared his throat. “Would you like to shower first?”

I stared at the crystals, mystified by the small voice, and shrugged. “Um, it doesn’t matter. Is the Darksaber… talking to you?”

 “On and off. It’s normal, Rey. Don’t worry.” He took the two halves of the other saber from his robe to set them down, too. “I’ll fix this in the morning. We should be able to leave by midafternoon.”

 “And go… where?”

 “Spintir. It’s a civilized place; very peaceful. I’d intended on visiting Mustafar as well, but I think Korriban will yield the answers we seek.”

 “Have you been to all these places?” I asked.

Ben nodded, sitting at the table to tinker with the broken lightsaber some more. “I’ve been all over the galaxy. Korriban was the ancestral home of the Sith.” He looked down the hilt and glanced at me. “The species, not the group. They had a symbiotic relationship with the Dark Side.”

 “Shouldn’t we go to a balanced planet? What about Mortis?”

 “That would be ideal—if we could find it.” A shard of metal rattled in the saber. “Until then, we will travel to different vergences and planets to achieve a closer connection to the Force.”

I shrugged and headed for the ‘fresher. “I don’t know how much closer we can get.”

It was bigger than the one on Chandrila, and more modern. I peered into the shower, excited to see it used water, too, and started stripping out of my robes. There was another set on Daybreak, but I wanted to wait until mine were too torn up to be used any longer. I threw them in the sonic cleaner.

 There is Oneness with the Force.

Ben’s voice was so loud in my head that I jumped in surprise and shrieked. He drew back, apologizing, as I fumed at him across our bond. What the… Seriously?!

 “Are you kidding?!” I hissed.

 I’m sorry! Ben swirled in me, anxious and apologetic. I didn’t realize it—I thought I was still speaking out loud to you.

I grinded my jaw in annoyance and started the shower. “Fine. Just don’t pick around in my head again.”

Ben’s presence waned and he was quiet for a little while. I checked the temperature of the water before stepping in, relieved to be able to even take a shower. They were rare on Jakku, even with the sonic showers. I had warm food, a safe place to sleep, and all the water I could want. It was paradise for a desert scavenger like me.

I scrubbed my hair and reached out to Ben. “So, what’s Oneness?”

My Dark counterpart hesitantly trickled back. Becoming a vessel of the Force itself. It cannot be accomplished in the Dark Side, only the Light, and it is exceedingly rare. Luke and Anakin accomplished it, and our situation does raise some curiosities about the same occurring with you, Rey.

 “I’m not curious at all.” I rinsed out the soap, relishing the smell of a fruit. “You’re curious about a lot of things happening. I just want to know what the Force wants.”

 …That’s been spelled out very clearly. He thought of us at the small wooden table with Poe, me pregnant, Ben draped over me. But I suppose why it desires that is another matter.

 “Maybe it isn’t about us,” I mused. “It could be about our—uh—kids.” I reddened and scrubbed my skin with a loofa. “But I guess it doesn’t matter, anyway.”

 Why not? I found them charming.

 “We won’t be able to have any children if you refuse to touch me,” I sniffed, still irritated by his polite rejection.

Ben was quiet for a while. I finished washing and stepped out of the shower to put on a white robe with the hotel’s logo on the back, squeezing out the water from my hair. Fine, he could ignore me, but if we were destined to marry and have two children, he wouldn’t be able to for very long.

 You know how powerful your influence is over me, correct?

I hesitated, cleaning up water on the floor. “…I guess. All I do is calm you down.”

 Which is appropriate, and necessary. Ben paused and recollected his thoughts before continuing. Dark and Light are not equal, Rey. The Light qualms the Dark. Darkness is… different. It suffuses you in emotions that are not always easy to control. I do not want to snuff out the Light, and with how corrupting and powerful Dark is… I worry I will.

He wasn’t wrong. I’d felt the influence of the Dark Side on more than once occasion, and it was tempting. But I was supposedly the Light Side in the flesh. I could resist it.

 “If that’s how you feel, I understand,” I said. “We have to have mutual respect if this is going to work. But I hope you’ll at least think about it, Ben.”

 I have, Rey. A lot. I believe I will always be affiliated with the Dark Side but can reconcile some parts of myself with the Light. We’re both a bit gray.

I walked out of the refresher to find Ben still sitting at the table with the lightsaber. He was trying to keep himself occupied and stay from the deepest thoughts I had. His dark eyes flickered up to me and swept down the robe to my legs, then quickly shifted back to his work. The Dark pulsed.

There was a knock on the door and Ben jumped up to answer it. I went to lounge on the couch and watch the television, a rare piece of equipment in the galaxy. It mostly projected First Order propaganda and I quickly grew bored as a hotel employee rolled in our dinner.

Food! I dug in without hesitation and Ben did the same. He wasn’t as hysterical as I was, but we were both really hungry. We went through the extra portions, too, different fish and vegetables from far off corners of the galaxy. I’d never tasted anything like it. Was this how most people ate their food?

Ben left without another word to take a shower. I wandered into the bedroom to arrange the sheets—either I’d sleep there, or he would.

He shifted into my thoughts, tentative. We could share the bed.

I raised an eyebrow, fluffing the pillows. “Isn’t sharing against the teachings of the Dark Side?”

 I’ve committed many acts contrary to the Dark Side.

 “…True.” I tugged back the sheets. “I guess I can allow it.”

His thoughts twisted for a moment before returning to innocence. Good.

Then I was left alone again, arranging the bed. No big deal. We’d just sleep, like normal people. The Force was shoving Ben and I together, but we didn’t have to be all over each other. There were so many mysteries to solve, and he needed to find his way back to redemption.

I was about to go get my robes when Ben knocked on the door. He hesitantly opened it, peering inside before coming in, and hung by the wall to watch me bustle around.

 “I’m here,” he said awkwardly.

 “Yeah, I gathered that.” I brushed past him to go to the ‘fresher for my robes. “Don’t make it weird.”

Who was I kidding? Of course Ben would make it weird. I changed into my robes in the ‘fresher and took a deep breath before walking back to the bedroom. It would be fine. We’d just sleep. The bed was a lot bigger, so we wouldn’t be right on top of each other.

Ben was sitting halfway up when I slipped into the room. He had his hands clasped in his lap and was looking around until he saw me enter. His jaw shifted as he watched me walk up to the bed.

 “Are you going to sit up all night?” I asked, sitting down on the edge of the mattress.

 No. He grudgingly slid down under the sheets, glowering at me. I didn’t allow women to sleep in my bed when I was done with them.

I laid down beside him, wrinkling my face in disgust. “Lovely.”

 I didn’t like being touched, and they’d served their purpose. Something like a laugh echoed in my head. It was early in my training and nearly drove Snoke out of my thoughts. Like all things I enjoyed, he put an end to it.

 “So, you’re not as naive as you pretend to be,” I said. “Is that for my benefit, or yours?”

Ben’s thoughts reduced to a quiet buzz for a moment as he turned over my question. I’m trying to shield you from corruption, Rey. I am not naïve in… that sense; no, but I am emotionally naïve. He was terribly uncomfortable but continued. I always have been and my training with Snoke worsened it.

Another duality between us. Despite my isolation on Jakku, I was still comfortable around other people and found talking to them to be easy. I furrowed my brow, staring at the ceiling. Ben and I were two pieces of a bizarre puzzle.

 “You don’t have to worry about that with me,” I said. I looked over at him to see he was gazing at the ceiling, too, and laughed. “I already knew you were weird.”

Ben frowned sourly. Thanks. He turned his head to meet my eyes, but quickly averted them. It’s much easier for me being able to speak this way. I’m not used to vulnerability.

My eyes were getting heavy. I yawned, attracting his gaze again, and nodded sleepily.

 “Don’t worry,” I mumbled. “I won’t hurt you.”

 And I won’t hurt you. Ben paused, then turned on his side, facing me, and studied my profile. Ah… you fought well today.

 “…Thanks.” I turned my back to him, blushing. Weird. “Goodnight.”

We were both quiet for a while. I fell asleep faster than Ben and drifted in and out of his consciousness, seeing snippets of what he was feeling. At one point he reached out to rub the hem of my robe in his fingertips, reluctant to move closer and do what he really wanted. My mind wandered deeper on its own and Ben didn’t seem to notice.

 “You’re thinking of the girl again.”

Ben is kneeling in front of Snoke, head bowed. It’s not soon after our fight in the Takodona Forest. He’s raw, confused, physically brutalized. He’s trembling.

 “A mistake,” Ben says.

 “No—deliberate.” The Supreme Leader leans back, studying his pupil. “I thought I had purged you of these desires, but I see more work is needed.”

He tears into Ben’s mind without warning and Ben bites back a scream of pain, collapsing on all fours. Snoke claws through the thoughts of me, little moments Ben kept carefully stowed away to reflect on when he was sad. They’re ripped up and twisted into images of Ben running me through with his lightsaber and my face contorting in agony; of Ben snapping my neck.

Ben holds back tears as Snoke hammers in horrible thoughts of him shoving me down in the cold snow and ripping off my robes and forcing himself inside me. He wrings the interrogation into a similar scenario, Ben choking me with the Force until I’m blue and violating my body again. I want to vomit and fight to leave the dark place I’ve found.

 “If you want her so badly,” Snoke croons, “you will take her like a Sith.”

 “STOP!” Ben screams. He’s yanking on his hair, crying now. “Please—I made a mistake!”

 “And you will pay dearly for it, whelp.”

Snoke moves on to Ben’s private moments; real memories, not just hopeful, happy musings. Most of it is already heavily damaged, graphic depictions of him assaulting the different women he was with and screaming at them to leave when he was done. He’s warped Ben to the point where he doesn’t know whether he truly did what Snoke carved into his memory.

It’s vile. Ben vomits and collapses on his side, curling into a ball, as Snoke finally, painful draws back from his mind. It’s red and raw and swirling with screams and sobs.

 “Pathetic.” Snoke gestures for the Praetorian guards to collect Ben. “Return this sniveling rat to his chambers. If he continues to sob, beat him. I will snuff out the Light soon enough.”

I woke up screaming at the top of my lungs.

Chapter Text

We were both hysterical; I couldn’t even think of calming Ben down. He was sitting up, cheeks streaked with tears, clutching his head and rocking back and forth. I was crying, too, horrified by what I’d seen. It throbbed in my mind like a gaping wound and the Light decayed from the intensity of the Dark. I couldn’t bear it. I wanted to throw myself out the window so I never had to think of it again.

The balance was almost entirely tilted to the Dark—and we had another vision.

 “Ben, lunch is ready!”

I’m standing in the simple house again at the front door. It’s a beautiful sunny day and a breeze rustles the grass and flowers as Ben tumbles through it with the two children from the earlier vision. They’re shrieking with laughter and hang on his arms when he stands up. His hair is in a ponytail and the paleness is gone from his skin.

Leia steps up beside me, sighing. “Just like Han. Jacen, Jaina—come see grandma!”

They’re small, maybe four years old. Jaina’s black hair is wild in the breeze and her blue eyes sparkle as she smiles at me. Jacen has his hair cut short and his dark eyes eagerly watch Ben’s face as they come back to the house. I lean my head on the frame and smile.

Leia and I turn back into the house where we made a soup together. I’m not much of a cook, but Ben is, and he likes foraging with the kids. I spoon it out into dishes and she places them on the table.

 “How are the healing sessions, Rey?” she asks.

 “Good!” I beam and touch my stomach. “Han likes the Light. I’ve purified most of Ben’s memories, but there’s still some work to be done.”

Ben’s arms wrap around me from behind and he kisses the side of my head. He slips a hand over my stomach and the baby inside turns excitedly, humming with Light. We can both feel him.

 “Don’t turn my grandbabies into hooligans,” Leia says as she sits at the head of the table. “They need to listen to their mother.”

 “I always listen!” Jaina says cheerfully, mouth full of food.

Ben and I don’t speak much—we don’t have to. Our communication is through feelings and nudges. We’re almost the same person, but distinct. I lean my head back on his chest and look up into his eyes and we both smile. Balance.

We were released, both still sitting up in bed. The vision helped us get a grip on ourselves, and Ben in particular looked much better. He was breathing fast and trembling, but the Dark had receded from me and I could think clearly again. I swallowed and ebbed into his thoughts, shining Light on the fear, and reached out to touch his arm.

 “Ben—”

His dark eyes were wild. He slapped my hand away and stumbled out of bed just to fall on the floor. Ben scrambled to the wall and leaned on it, watching me with wide eyes. He kept his hands splayed out and shook his head. His thoughts were oppressively black.

 “I can’t,” he choked. “I’m a monster, Rey. I’ll poison you.”

 Ben. I whispered to him across our bond, suffusing him in Light. Come back to me.

His lower lip trembled and looked at his quivering hands. How could I ever touch a child with hands that have killed so many innocent people? The Force is torturing me with a future that will never come to fruition as punishment for what I’ve done. He ran his hands through his hair, squeezing his eyes shut. And the women… What I did to them…

 That wasn’t real, Ben. Snoke implanted false memories in your head. I pressed forward with Light and warmth, struggling to soothe him. Come back. I… I love you. No matter what.

He glanced at me, head still bowed. I smiled even though my heart was racing, trying to show that I was calm and comfortable. It was true, but nerve-wracking saying it out loud.

Ben swallowed hard and slowly got back to his feet. The fear abated somewhat when I opened my arms to him, and he staggered back to the bed, collapsing into me. I wrapped my arms around him and drew my fingers through his tangled, thick hair, and he squeezed until my ribs stung. He buried his face in my neck and fresh tears dripped on my skin.

We were sitting up and it was sort of uncomfortable, but before I could think of asking Ben if we could move, he pulled me down. We were side by side and he was clinging to me like he’d die if he let go.

 I don’t deserve you. He nuzzled closer, anyway, basking in the Light. But I’m too selfish to let go.

I gently worked the knots in his hair free. “You deserve to be happy. You’ll find your way.”

Being so close was making our bond almost painfully open. Ben relished in it, hungry for the Light, but the Dark in him was uncomfortable for me. I winced and focused on other things, like his warm breath on my collar bone, and his fingers pressing into my shoulder. His hair was still damp from the shower and smelled like cucumber.

Ben shifted closer and the sheets rustled. I wound my hand around to his ribs, frowning, then took a sharp breath when he kissed my throat. The Light waned.

 “I want to make you happy, Rey,” he whispered. He kissed my collarbone this time, and the muscles tightened in his arms as he strained me closer to him. “How can I make you happy?”

 “Well… Um…” I curled my toes when he kissed the edge of my jaw and felt my cheeks turning red. “W-Well, you see, the thing… the thing is…”

 Don’t worry. I can see what you want.

He cupped my cheek and kissed me deeply like he had on the ship. His hands were so big that his fingers curled into my hair. I grabbed the front of his shirt, eagerly slipping into the darkness with him. I could see what he wanted, too, and the electricity crackling from each passing thought. His mind shifted faster through different scenarios and I shivered with excitement.

Ben broke away, groaning, and pressed his forehead to mine. The sight of his half-crazed dark eyes just made it harder for me to think straight. The Dark was like a breeze raising the hairs on the back of my neck; like the cold sweat of excited anxiety. I searched his stormy eyes and tried to kiss him again, but he yanked down my robe to kiss my shoulder and groaned again like he was in pain.

 “I’m already overwhelming you.” He twisted my robe in his grasp and rolled on his back, rubbing his face. “It shouldn’t be this way.”

 “It’s fine,” I insisted.

 “I can’t, Rey; I can’t dominate you when you don’t understand what’s happening.” He gestured vaguely, blushing. You’ve never even touched yourself, have you?

Was that supposed to be a joke? I glared at him and sarcastically patted my cheeks. “Um, hello! What am I doing right now?”

Ben stared at me dumbly. Rey... You don’t even know what I’m talking about. He thought of when I saw him in the shower; all the moaning and pleasure. That’s what I’m referring to. You’ve never done it. Which means… that’s the first time you’ve felt…?

I snorted like that was ridiculous, but my thoughts betrayed me. “How could you even… No!

 Oh no. Ben covered his face like that was horrifying to him. I’ve already corrupted you.

 “It’s not corruption; it’s what normal people do.”

 You’re not a normal person. You’re… He trickled through my mind, shivering. Flawless golden Light, and warmth. I defile it when I touch you.

I slipped out of bed, fuming. “I’m not a lizardnun, Ben, and I’m not the paragon of innocence. I’ve killed other beings, you know.” I crossed my arms and glared out the window. “It was in self-defense, but I’ve done it. I’m not fragile and I don’t need you to protect me from myself.”

The Dark gathered in Ben as he got out of bed. “Out of all the horrible things I’ve done, adulterating the physical incarnation of the Light Side would be the worst. It could be the final nail in my coffin. Can you appreciate the situation I’m in?”

 “I can ‘appreciate’ that you’re being overdramatic,” I snapped. “You were more than happy to indulge me on Daybreak before we reached Tatooine.”

 “Yes, and now I’ve had time to think about the consequences of my actions. The Dark is impulsive so it’s important that I—”

The sting of rejection and perceived insult to my dignity washed me over in cold darkness. I spun around to face Ben, standing a few feet away, and the words came out like burning vomit.

 “You didn’t consider the consequences when you murdered your father!”

His calm demeanor vanished, and the Dark rumbled. I swore I could hear ominous laughter within the cloud of rage consuming both of us, and Ben clenched his jaw, scowling.

 “Rey,” he said through gritted teeth, “I’m trying to help you.”

 “I don’t need your help,” I hissed. It was like someone else was speaking through me. The Light dulled.

Ben’s scowl deepened, and he pushed back his black hair. “…Fine. I’ll give you what you want.”

The Dark swelled. Ben grabbed my arm and shoved me into the wall, kissing me so brutishly that our teeth scraped together. He held my head in his hands and I tangled my fingers in his hair and tugged, drawing an irritated growl from him. I wasn’t thinking straight, just drawing off every passing emotion and whim and letting it take me over.

He dragged me out of the bedroom to the refresher and pushed me inside when I tried to turn and kiss him. I flared with anger and forced him against the closed door, leaning on my tiptoes to kiss him, and Ben seized my jaw in one hand to squish my cheeks together. I glowered up at him.

 If you want to be sullied… Ben walked forward, forcing me back until I sat on the edge of the bathtub. He reached past me to turn on the shower and leaned over to look into my eyes, still holding my jaw. You’re going to need a shower.

His voice was louder than before, reverberating in my head. He let go and left the ‘fresher without another word, leaving me even more agitated and confused. I rose from the tub to continue our argument when I suddenly felt Ben’s presence in my thoughts, cold and domineering.

 What did I say? The Dark pulsed, menacing. Get in the shower, Rey. Now.

I started to peel off my robe and Ben snapped at me to slow down. My hands trembled with dizzying excitement as I slipped out of my things and he greedily slithered into my senses to experience it. He was dark and heavy and drew my mind into his so I could see he was reaching down his pants. The Light was too weak to resist—not that I wanted to.

The water was kind of cold but my Dark counterpart flashed with ire when I tried to make it warmer. I shivered and goosebumps prickled across my body.

 Is this what you want? Does this make you happy?

 “I’m kind of cold…”

 I know you are. He tingled through me, into my fingertips. All good things have a dark side.

Through our bond I could feel the flickers of pleasure again and heard him groan. My cheeks reddened and the Light began to glimmer back, but Ben seemed to sense it and exerted more pressure on me. I gasped and slapped a hand on the wall of the shower to stay upright as tension coiled in Ben. He whispered to me, encouraging my fingers between my legs.

I swallowed hard as my warm flesh parted, and the icy shower drizzled down my back. I shuddered and my breath hitched. Ben was listening to me, drinking in the sensations, encouraging me to keep going. I slouched against the wall when I found a spot I liked and massaged in small circles.

 I don’t have to protect you from yourself. Ben drew up an old memory from the night after we had our first encounter over the Force bond. He fantasized that night about binding my wrists and forcing me on my knees, watching me beg for a while before taking me between his black sheets. I have to protect you from me.

The tension in Ben suddenly snapped and it dragged me in. I whimpered and struggled to stay standing as the same rush of pleasure jolted through me and made my legs quiver. He groaned and I could feel it pulse through him and cover his hand in something thick and sticky and warm. The Dark squirmed in me, struggling to stay rooted in my mind, but the Light erupted back from the brink, disintegrating all the rage and hurt from our argument.

I gaped for air like a fish and hurriedly turned off the freezing water, quickly coming back to my senses. Ben had withdrawn from my mind in the presence of so much Light.

My head swam as I clambered out of the shower and dried off. I was shivering and ashamed of myself. I’d been so nasty to Ben and pushed him into doing something he didn’t want to do. He was trying to help both of us and I let the darkness overwhelm me. Had I even really wanted it?

There was a slam from the other room and I flung open the ‘fresher door to find Ben had left the hotel room. I tried to reach out through our connection but he had successfully blocked me out with a black wall of anger. I rushed back to rearrange my robes and noticed Ben had taken the shards of Anakin’s lightsaber and the Darksaber. I grabbed the other two kybers before hurrying after him.

Chapter Text

Theed was enormous and it was the middle of the night. I kept probing for Ben with an apology, but he refused to connect and listen to me. The streets weren’t crawling with people like Hanna City, yet I still couldn’t find my way around and wandered through alleys calling for Ben. He wouldn’t go back to Daybreak and leave me behind.

I paused near a parts shop and used the Force to feel around the immediate area for another Force-sensitive. There were some, but none were beacon like Ben and I were.

 “Come on,” I muttered. “Where are you?”

Then I stumbled across a dark depression in the Force and knew it had to be Ben. I frowned, homing in on the spot, and found it was in the shop right beside me. It suddenly vanished, just to flicker forth again, like he was trying to hide it. I rolled my eyes and headed to the shop to confront him, but found the front door was locked. Annoyed, I cracked the lock with the Force and headed in.

There were grating sounds and I saw the flicker of fire. It was otherwise empty and dark; clearly Ben had decided to let himself in. He stopped trying to hide when he picked up on my presence and I turned into the workshop as I trickled Light into his mind.

 NO! Ben furiously resisted my attempt to calm him. No mind tricks, Rey!

He was standing by a table, welding the two halves of the lightsaber together with thick leather gloves. I could feel his glare across the room at me even through his goggles. I drew back from his mind and sat in a nearby chair.

 “It’s not a mind trick,” I said, miffed. “I’m trying to help.”

 “Sanitizing my emotions is not helping me.” Ben beckoned with his first two fingers and the blue kyber crystal flew out of the towel into the hilt of the lightsaber. “Now do you understand the danger the Dark Side presents to you? It poisons the mind… drowns you in emotions you don’t fully comprehend.”

I twiddled my thumbs. “I’m sorry. I was just hurt by what you said, and—”

 “You were afraid of what you wanted, which led to anger from my refusing to indulge you, which led to you dredging up Han.” Ben held up the two parts of the saber with the Force and continued welding it together. “To complete the cycle, we’re both now suffering. Poetry.”

 “…Well what happened wasn’t suffering for me.”

 “I heard you thinking of whether or not you wanted it.” Ben swallowed hard and the torch flared. “That was my suffering.”

I was completely at sea. “You didn’t do anything that I didn’t want. I’m just… overwhelmed.”

The saber was fused together. Ben dropped the torch and ignited it, inspecting the hilt for any flaws, then tossed it on the table carelessly. He was fuming. He was mad at me, mad at himself, and mad about our deep and complicated connection.

He yanked off the goggles and gloves and dropped them on the table, rubbing his face. “I know. It’s because I took advantage of you.”

 “Ben—”

 “You said you understood and you’d let me think about it. You either lied, or you’re more naïve than I thought.” Ben snatched up the lightsaber and brushed past me. “It’s done. We’ll head for Spintir.”

He had every right to be upset, and I didn’t know what else to say. I silently followed after him, keeping my distance from his mind. I didn’t know what was worse: throwing Han’s death in his face, or idly musing on whether or not I’d wanted what had happened in the shower. I was positive that it was what I wanted, but Ben was right that I didn’t ‘appreciate’ it.

The Dark was overpowering when I let my guard down. Hopefully I could find a way to combat it on Spintir instead of brainwashing Ben every time his temper flared. Otherwise, we would be constantly unequal, and being in bed together would always devolve into a game of domination. I knew I was sometimes struck by an urge to purge the Dark Side from Ben. Did he feel the same about me? When emotions ran high and the Dark waxed, did he want to extinguish the Light in me?

 Yes.

I glanced up at Ben’s back. We were almost to Daybreak, since we had everything from the hotel, and he was eerily quiet. I furrowed my brow but didn’t say anything.

Both of us were exhausted. Ben set the course for Spintir and we went to bed without speaking to one another again. I had a lot I wanted to say, but I didn’t want to invade his space. I climbed into bed and curled up under the sheets, feeling terribly guilty about all I’d done. Using my Light couldn’t fix every single problem I had. Ben’s feelings were legitimate.

 I’m mostly concerned that I hurt you.

I blinked, surprised by his voice. He was hovering near the fringes of our bond, hesitant.

 “You didn’t.” My mind yawned open for him to browse through, so he could see the truth.

 I was wrong, too. I can control my sway over you, to a degree, but… He paused, thumbing through my thoughts until he was satisfied. I was angry, and I wanted to punish you.

 “It’s okay.”

 No, Rey. It isn’t. I can’t depend on you to keep my emotions in check, and I let them get away from me. Spite, lust, anger. Placating me is not your responsibility and bearing the brunt of my inability to restrain myself is not your burden. You’re allowed to be hurt—but we both let it go too far.

Tears welled in my eyes and I nodded like Ben could see it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it—especially about Han. It was like word vomit.”

Ben ghosted closer, bathing in tendrils of light. We all say cruel things when we’re angry. I am not trying to control you or manipulate your desires. But I know what I am, and what the Dark Side does when it finds a source of Light. Until we learn more, I cannot languish over each encounter hoping I didn’t overwhelm you into complying with what I wanted.

 “I understand,” I said. And I did. It was overwhelming.

 Good. He slipped back into my mind again like normal. Move over.

 “Wh—?”

The door opened and I sat up just in time to see Ben crossing the room to my bed. He was about ten feet tall so it was too small for both of us, but he nudged me aside and got under the sheets anyway. I squirmed against the wall but Ben pulled me tight against him, resting his chin on my head.

 Much better. He purred like a cat and curled closer to me.

I stared blankly at his chest and frowned. “Um… I can’t really breathe.”

 Use the Force, Rey.

 “That’s… not the way the Force works.”

Ben’s rather large hands obscured half of my back as he squeezed the air out of me. Don’t question your Master, Padawan.

We were equals in most everything, but my Dark counterpart was physically stronger. I wriggled furiously, and he suddenly let go so I flung myself into the wall. Ben caught my wrists when I battered his chest with my tiny fists in retaliation and his rare smile turned into a laugh for the first time… ever.

 “So you do know how to laugh!” I gasped, disingenuous.

 To be fair, that could make anyone laugh.

 “Or make them cower in fear. I’m intimidating, you know.”

 With a lightsaber—yes, you are intimidating, he said.

Ben curled into a ball to nuzzle under my chin. He rested his head on my chest, warm breath seeping through my robe, and held me firmly around the hips. I yawned and my eyelids drooped as I rested my cheek on top of his head. His hair was soft and still smelled faintly of soap.

He was basking in the Light, letting it lull him to sleep, and I was doing the same thing with the Dark. It was like a quiet blanket snuffing out the constant radiance in me. I began to doze off…

 You’re sure I didn’t hurt you?

Groggy, I cracked one eye open. “Huh?”

Ben was thinking of me in the bathroom, shivering cold and bewildered. You’re sure?

 “Yup,” I mumbled. “Go pick around if you don’t believe me.”

 No, I trust you. He was tempted to look through my memories but opted to believe I wasn’t lying. …Did you like any of it?

 Liked all of it, I slurred in my mind, too tired to keep talking out loud.

 Are you sure?

I groaned and stretched out, trying to squirm away so I could sleep. “Why would you think I wouldn’t like it?”

Ben inched closer, shuddering anxiously across our bond. It wasn’t… conventional. He rubbed my robe between his fingertips and drew back shyly in my mind. I went too far for your… ah… amount of experience. I’m sorry. If you have any questions—well, I know you must be confused about all of it—

 “Only the last part,” I interrupted, desperate to end the conversation. I really was okay, though I appreciated Ben constantly checking. It was sweet. But also annoying.

His thoughts spun for a moment as he tried to remember what I was referring to, then his anxiety grew when he figured it out. Me kneeling on the floor of the Supremacy while Ben circled me like a vulture. I drew my fingers through his hair so he looked up at me and I could feel his heart pounding. He swallowed hard when I raised my eyebrows expectantly for an answer. His cheeks were red.

 An old memory, he said. I was angry and confused.

 “Oh. Wasn’t it like what we did, though?” I blinked innocently. Maybe if I made him uncomfortable, he’d drop it and let me go to sleep. Plus, he was adorable when he was nervous. Was that mean?

The red spread to Ben’s ears. Well… I mean… His jaw shifted and his lower lip trembled like it always did when he was unsure. That was—

 “Is that what you like, Ben?”

The small prompt sent his thoughts back to the hotel, to me shivering under the icy water, slumped on the wall. He enjoyed telling me what to do; bending the Light to his will. He did like it, but he didn’t want to hurt or scare me, so he tried to keep it under wraps.

I smiled smugly at him and Ben quickly ducked back under my chin, clearing his throat.

 “We should go to sleep,” he muttered.

Yes—finally! I yawned and closed my eyes. I’d respect what Ben wanted—but that didn’t mean I couldn’t tease him a little.

Chapter Text

 Ashla…

I was in the middle of a nice dream about tasting all the different varieties of water in the galaxy. My consciousness lazily shifted towards the unfamiliar voice, assuming it was Ben trying to wake me up.

 Hmm? I mumbled back.

 You must… travel… to Mustafar… with the Bogan…

Bogan? The strange vision made me furrow my brow and groggily open my eyes.

The steel bottom of the bunk was overhead, white sheets visible through the rungs. I couldn’t move my neck down but could feel Ben’s hair right under my chin. He was almost completely on top of me and his long arms were locked around my shoulders, restraining me. My cheeks turned hot and I flew into a panic for some reason. I tugged on the back of his shirt and squirmed underneath him.

 “Ben!” I hissed. “Wake up!”

I poked around in his mind, accidentally catching a snippet of a dream about an army of porgs, and managed to wake him up. Ben yawned and his thoughts shivered back into mine, like he had been outside in the cold too long. He nuzzled into my neck, yawning again, and unwound his arms from behind me to grasp the head of the mattress and stretch. I tapped my fingers with impatient embarrassment and glanced at the muscles bulging in his arms.

His mind slipped back into a drowsy stupor and he wrapped his arms around me like I was a stuffed animal. I coughed and protested across our bond and Ben kissed the side of my neck, still half asleep, drawing more red to my cheeks and more ire to my thoughts. His consciousness slipped deeper, like he was in a dream, and he groaned.

 “…Porgs,” he mumbled. “I… hate porgs…”

Ben shifted forward to bury his face in my hair and I suppressed a laugh when I saw his porg army had turned against him. His nightmare twisted in him like a stormfront and I was mesmerized by it until I felt hard pressure on the inside of my thigh. I blanched.

He’d noticed the scent of my hair and it scattered his porg nightmare. His mind was drifting back to awareness and he dimly sensed me underneath him but was still asleep enough to not realize it wasn’t a dream. I clenched my jaw when he hummed contentedly and pressed his groin against me like a cat in heat. If he didn’t wake up in two seconds—

 Oh, I’m already awake, Rey.

My eyes widened and I shrieked furiously, pounding my fists on Ben’s back. He laughed into the pillow and tightened his arms around me when I tugged on his hair. I flailed my legs uselessly for a minute before giving up, panting and full of rage. If I could use the Force on him, it’d be a Force choke.

 “You’re digging your own grave, Solo,” I seethed.

 Revenge for last night. He exerted more weight on me when I tried to escape again. We arrived on Spintir a few hours ago, but you were sleeping like a little Jedi angel.

 “You never said teasing you was off the table. And thanks for watching me sleep. How long have you been awake, you creep?”

 I woke up during the porg dream and wanted to see how long it would take you to panic. I’m surprised you let me go for that long. He kissed the shell of my ear and I could swear I felt him smile. “Is that what you like, Rey?”

Hearing his voice out loud was unsettling. I pinched his ribcage and Ben leaned back as far as he could without hitting his head off the top bunk, laughing again. What a smug little jerk.

I pressed a foot to his chest, glowering. “Watch your back.”

He grabbed my ankle and raised his eyebrows. “So… you like feet?”

The self-satisfied look on his face was bugging me. I narrowed my eyes and pounced on him, but Ben obviously saw it coming through our bond. He seized my hands and shoved me right back down in the bed, kneeling between my legs and hovering above me with an impish smirk at the corners of his mouth. I ground my jaw and wrapped my legs around his waist, then pushed back on his hands and used the momentum to roll both of us off the bed.

Ben fell on his back and I pinned his hands next to his head, straddling his hips, victorious. His dark eyes were bright and I could sense his excitement as he planned how to wrestle me back to the ground.

But he sighed, trying to play it off. “Okay, that’s enough. We have work to do.”

 “…You’re right.” I leaned back, eyeing him suspiciously, and got to my feet. “Did you have a dream about Ashla and the Bogan?”

 Yes. It called me Bogan and said I had to bring the Ashla to Jedha. Ben sat up and kept pretending to be defeated as he stood up, too. So… You’re the Ashla, I’m assuming.

 “Yup. It told me to bring the Bogan to Mustafar.” I took a step back, clasping my hands behind me. “So we better hurry up here and—”

I saw a flash of Ben’s intent to grab me before he could do it and bolted out of the room. He caught me in front of the next crew quarters and I squealed when he swung my around by my waist. We stumbled into the room and he dropped me back to my feet and was suddenly kissing me. I leaned up on my tiptoes to kiss him back but he impatiently scooped me back up around the waist and staggered forward. I knotted my fingers I his thick black hair and drew my thumb over the scar on his cheek.

The Dark in Ben was pulsing as we somehow made it to yet another tiny bed. He grabbed the top bunk for support, holding me up with one arm and still kissing me. I struggled with the overwhelming dizziness as he lowered down to the floor on his knees and pushed me up over the edge of the bed. I was lying on it the wrong way and he couldn’t get on top of me. I pulled on his shirt, tugging his lower lip between my teeth, and tried to wriggle the right way.

Our thoughts were way too flurried for either of us to speak through them. Ben briefly broke away from me to wrap an arm under my waist and reposition me with my head in the pillows. He moved on to kissing my neck instead, panting against my skin and wrestling down occasional ominous tendrils of the Dark. I was beyond reason and kissing whatever skin I could find while hiking up his shirt.

Then I heard it—a faint sound, like bells. It pulled on the Light like a magnet, and I paused to look around, frowning. What the… heck?

Ben hesitated, too, and fixated his dark, hungry eyes on mine. “…Something wrong?”

 “Did you hear that?”

It rang again, louder this time. He shrugged and shook his head and I could see flickers of the different things he wanted to do to me. Ben went back to kissing my neck, yanking down the shoulder of my robe to leave a trail across my collarbone. My fingers brushed his back and I felt a few knotted scars.

 “I don’t want to be rude,” I breathed, “but didn’t you just tell me last night that you didn’t want to do this?”

 …Different… Ben’s thoughts were vague and disparate; he was more focused on playing scenarios in his head. …Just kissing. Not upset. An image of me bent over the bed as he pulled down my robe drifted by, and he groaned and bunched my robe in his fist near my hip.

The Dark was creeping inside me again, but it wasn’t as confusing and strange as before. I pressed my fingers to his ribs, swallowing hard as Ben’s fingertips slipped just past the edge of my robe, brushing my hip bone. He gnashed his teeth together near my ear and panted into my neck.

 Do you want more? The darkness crackled, suppressing the Light. Ben was deep in my mind. He used the sensation from the shower to sway my decision. I can give you more.

I nodded spastically and tried to pull off his shirt again, when the bells chimed in my ears. Something tugged on another edge of my mind and I drew back from Ben’s influence. What was that?

Ben wasn’t as distractible and tried to drag me back into the Dark. It’s okay, Rey. I’m not going to hurt you. Relax—it’s okay. Goosebumps rose up my skin as cold, prickling, electric desire blanketed the Light. It’s okay, my love. You’ll like it. He pulled me deeper, rumbling like a stormfront.

 “…Bells,” I mumbled. I took a sharp breath when he pressed hard, hot pressure between my legs.

 Mhmm. I know. He grabbed the head of the mattress again like an anchor and twisted his hips in small circles, drawing a small whimper from me. The Dark inched deeper, consuming the Light. Good girl. Why don’t you tell me more about the bells, hm?

 “It’s…” I wriggled underneath him, digging my nails into his back.

 Go on. Ben kissed the side of my head and his hand slid down my thigh. Tell me.

My eyes rolled back and I bit my lower lip, now meeting his slow movements with desperate squirming. “I… I don’t…”

 I know, my love. I’ll take good care of you.

The tugging on my mind became more frantic and once again freed me from Ben’s influence. I jerked upright, hitting my head off the bunk, and Ben had to roll off me onto the floor. Bells chimed again as I rubbed the head and winced in pain.

 “Thanks!” Ben snapped from the floor.

 “Shh!” I slipped out of bed, following the tugging sensation. “I have to go… somewhere. Something is calling me.” I paused to smile impishly at Ben. “Seems like you don’t need to think about it anymore.”

He laid down flat on the floor and covered his face, groaning. “I’m a weak hypocrite.”

I went to the refresher to clean up before hurrying off the ship with Ben. I brought the newly repaired lightsaber and the cracked kyber crystal, not admiring the landscape like I had on Chandrila. It was very similar, but I was running through tall, swaying blue grass towards an enormous building on a cliff.

Ben’s thoughts were frustrated but I didn’t care about them at the moment. The pulling feeling got stronger the closer we came to the building, peaking when I was climbing towards it.

Rain drizzled down when Ben and I stepped up over the edge of the cliff. He stood next to me and cocked his head, eyeing the enormous, dilapidated building. Now I knew what was calling me—Light. It was warm and calm, drawing me inside the dark recesses within. A symbol of the Jedi was etched into the tall spire and the rain started coming down harder.

 “The Dawn Temple,” Ben said. “Jedi would come here to reconnect with the Light, but it’s been abandoned for some time. This is a vergence of the Force.”

I didn’t respond. I was mesmerized by the strength of the Light. I’d never felt so much of it before, and it was intoxicating. Ben uncomfortably followed me inside, sticking close by my side.

The temple had fallen into serious disrepair. Hallways leading off from the main room were sealed off by fallen boulders, and the platform under a skylight was cracked. It was all white granite and stone and the Light grew stronger the closer I walked to the platform.

 “This is amazing,” I said, turning in circles to drink it all in. “Look at all the Jedi symbols!” I pointed to the platform, etched with what looked like a flower with sparks inside it. “What’s that?”

 “The symbol of the Light Side.” Ben touched the Darksaber and looked around suspiciously.

 Rey… the power of healing… is here…

The cracked kyber called out to me from my pocket. I brushed past Ben to the platform, which hummed and radiated suffusing Light, and sat down with my legs in a pretzel. Ben hovered near the edge, too uncomfortable to step on the platform with me.

I took out the crystal and cupped it in both hands, taking a deep breath. The Light was so powerful that I hardly had to think of reaching out for the Force before it was flowing through me. Ben said healing a kyber crystal was an advanced technique, but I felt like I could do anything at that moment. My worries slipped away from me, and I redirected the tranquility towards the crystal.

 Ah… the Ashla. Welcome back. Return to Jedha to complete your rebalancing with the Bogan.

My mind flooded with piercing Light and I felt Ben recoil from it, tearing away to keep from being burned. It inundated the red kyber crystal with heat and cauterized the wound within it, stitching up the crack itself and reflecting rainbow light through the facets of the stone. I took a deep breath and for a moment, never wanting to leave the soothing Light again.

 Balance, Ashla. Balance.

It withdrew, along with the strange voice speaking to me, and I opened my eyes.

Ben was cowering behind a large boulder a few feet away but peeked out when I shakily got to my feet. He braced the overwhelming Light on the platform to help me stand up, flinching but making sure I stepped away without falling over.

 “Ben!” I gasped, grabbing his arm. “It was amazing!

 “I heard the voice tell me to bring you to Jedha again.” He nodded towards my closed fist, furrowing his eyebrows. “The crystal?”

It had fallen silent, but I could feel peaceful energy flowing from it. I slowly opened my hand, both Ben and I bent over it curiously, and we both stared at it in surprise.

The kyber crystal had turned pure white with a black edge around it—just like the Darksaber—and the space around it rippled. Ben had to look away after a moment, but it didn’t bother me like the Darksaber and I cradled the crystal, mesmerized. It was beautiful.

 Rey. The voice was male and much stronger than before. Proceed to the Caves of Light and Dark. Reunite me with my sister.

I looked up at Ben. “I know where we have to go next.”

Chapter Text

The sky had opened up when we emerged from the Dawn Temple. Another mystery was pulling me deeper into the mountains, through waist-high blue grass and past crags of gleaming black rocks. I was brimming with power from the Light vergence and used the Force to create a barrier above Ben and I that kept out the rain. He blinked up at it, then back at me.

 “I see you’re using the vergence,” he said.

 “Yeah, I guess.” I squinted through the downpour and pointed to a particularly ominous path, twisted with gnarled trees. “That way. We have to go to the Caves of Light and Dark.”

We trekked through Spintir’s wilderness and saw the vague outline of the capital city through the sheets of rain. Ben was quiet along the way, prodding around with the Force to sense any potential threats. The planet was crawling with mammals but they could sense us and avoided our presence. Ben was like a suffocating shadow and I was a blinding beam of light. Wildlife was not interested in us.

The path opened up to a small clearing with an ominous cave looming ahead. It had vines draping gracefully across it’s mouth like a lure for prey. It seemed hungry. I frowned and turned in circles, looking for the other ‘caves.’ Just one. Hm.

The strength of the Light faded somewhat as Ben and I approached, and he touched the entrance to the cave with a suspicious look on his face.

 This doesn’t seem promising, he muttered. He turned to glance over his shoulder and his dark eyes settled on me. But, the Force works in mysterious ways.

I took a hesitant step inside, letting the shield fade. “The crystal told me to come here. I think it’s where I can fix the lightsaber.” I rolled the white crystal in my palm, puckering my lips. “It said it has to be reunited with its sister—does it mean the Darksaber?”

Ben touched the weapon clipped to his hip, furrowing his eyebrows, then shook his head. My sources say no. It must mean Anakin’s kyber.

 “So, you inherited Anakin’s stone, then found this one…” I held up the white crystal. “This one just whispered to you when you found it on Christophsis. Maybe it knew we’d meet.”

 Probably. Kyber crystals are attuned to the Light Side. Interesting that it is hewn from the same original crystal as Anakin’s. It all comes together in the end.

It was dark and humid in the cave. Ben used the Force to soak up some of the moisture so we had somewhere dry to sit, and I set down Anakin’s lightsaber and the white kyber beside one another. I clasped my hands in my lap and politely waited for something to happen.

Ben rolled his eyes. “Rey, you have to meditate on the Force.” He folded his legs like a pretzel and balanced the back of his hands on his knees, touching his index fingers and thumbs together. “Was Luke too incompetent to teach you basic meditation techniques?”

 “He was… busy,” I snipped, copying Ben’s pose. “…Drinking raw milk.”

 Sounds about right. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Think of nothing but the Dark—I mean, the Light. Let it flow through you and the Force will guide your actions.

Sounded easy enough. I closed my eyes, too, and took a less graceful gasping kind of breath. Ben shivered with amusement across our bond and I shooed him away so I could focus. Light, Light. Warm, bright, shiny. Golden. It could burn away evil and coldness and brighten even the darkest places. I thought of it trickling through my arms, warming the cold cave floor beneath me…

 Ashla. We meet again.

I frowned. Who are you? And my name is Rey, not Ashla.

All I could see was light gray mist. It felt like I was floating out of my body, but I couldn’t discern who I was talking to or where I was.

 You are Ashla—the Light. Your human name is Rey, yes, but you are the embodiment of Ashla itself. The voice laughed a bit, like a bell. I see you have taken on some of Bogan’s attributes.

I turned, and felt my stomach drop like I was about to fall. I’m guessing Ben is Bogan, and he’s the Dark Side, right? Tell me who you are.

The gray mist rippled like water. You are correct, Ashla. I am Bendu, the Gray, and I guide both your path and Bogan’s. I wanted to speak with you about your next mission on the path to balance.

For some reason, I couldn’t feel Ben’s presence. It made me extremely uncomfortable and I almost dropped right back into my body but fought to stay and listen to Bendu. Weird name, weirder entity.

 Do you know what we’re supposed to do? I asked. Because we’re sort of wandering around at this point and we’re both very confused by this Force stuff.

Bendu sighed, shimmering like a diamond. You and Bogan are unbalanced. First, you must journey to Mustafar with Bogan, where he will meditate for six days and six nights for six weeks. You will be tempted three times, Ashla, with materialism, egoism, and hedonism.

Wait—none of this made sense. Meditate almost every day for six weeks?! Ben and I had suspicions that we were deeply related to the Light and Dark, but nothing like this. I tried to speak but Bendu overwhelmed me, laying out exactly what I was supposed to do.

 If you resist Bogan, Bendu continued, you will travel with him to Jedha, and you will meditate for seven days and seven nights for seven weeks. Your meditation is without respite and cannot be interrupted. Bogan will protect you during this process, and upon its completion, you will be balanced again.

I shook my head, bewildered. How am I supposed to eat? Use the ‘fresher?

 You will require none of those earthly things. You represent the perfection of detachment, Ashla, and Bogan represents the imperfection of attachment. You cannot waver during your meditation. If you fail to reach Jedha when Bogan completes his task, he will be too powerful for you to control any longer. It is imperative that you achieve enlightenment. Bogan must have a perfect equal.

 But… we thought we were Gray, I said. We share characteristics.

 Perfect duality is impossible. Some dark exists in light, and some light exists in dark. Small shifts are to be expected, and you, Ashla, will almost always be in a slight position of power over Bogan.

 What about the Force visions? I swirled around in the Gray, bursting with questions. Why were Ben and I chosen? Are there others like us?

Bendu rippled again. In time, Ashla. Leave for Mustafar with your weapon and heed my warning. You must complete your meditation immediately after Bogan. He will destroy you if you are too late.

Then I was suddenly back in my body, cross-legged in a dank cave with a complete saberstaff in my hands. I stared blankly at the wall as Ben leaned forward to touch my hands, brows knitted in concern.

 “Rey?” He touched my cheek. “I couldn’t feel your mind. You completed the saber and your eyes looked white. Did something happen?”

Bendu hadn’t spoke to my Dark counterpart. I wasn’t sure why, maybe because my Light Side powers were stronger due to the vergence, but Ben could easily read my thoughts. I nodded and swallowed hard, letting him rush back into my mind. He was shivering again. He always did when we were apart.

Ben browsed through the memory while I got to my feet to check out the saberstaff I’d created in a trance. The metal from Anakin’s hilt had been stretched out to accommodate twin thin hilts that were thin and light like my old staff. I twirled it in the air and found they disconnected with a simple nudge from the Force, and I could activate them in the same way.

Each half burst to life. One was white and one was blue, and both shimmered like the Darksaber with a black, wavy edge. I spun them in my hands, happy to have a weapon again, and reattached them to make a staff. The saber whirred and the two colors twisted around one other, humming. I separated them and they crackled, reverting to their separate colors. 

 “Fancy!” I chirped. “Hey Ben, check it out!”

 This trip to Mustafar does not sound appealing.

I looked over my shoulder to see Ben still sitting on the ground, chewing the inside of his cheek. He glanced up at me and gave a lukewarm appreciation for the saberstaff.

 “Bendu said we have to go.” I stowed my weapon, shrugging.

 “What will you do, Rey? Nap? Mustafar is an inhospitable place and may be crawling with First Order troops. They expect us to go there.”

 “Well, the swirling gray cloud I hallucinated told me that we have to go there.”

Ben gazed into the recesses of the cave. He was less enthusiastic than I thought. “…We’ll have to get supplies. Food, water, extra fuel.”

 “Aye aye, captain!”

I was beyond excited to have my own saberstaff. Ben watched incredulously as I spun around with it on our way back to Daybreak, slashing at logs and rocks. The encounter with Bendu and the trip to Mustafar didn’t seem like a big deal. I was brimming with Light and felt invincible.

Spintir’s capital was Reles, a city crawling with both wealthy merchants and extremely poor people. We attracted stares as we walked through the streets, and I stuck close beside Ben with my hood up while we purchased our supplies. I drew credits from the most ostentatious merchants and furtively slipped them into the pockets of the downtrodden lying on the cobblestone.

Ben raised an eyebrow as we headed back to Daybreak. “Are you Robin Hood?”

 “I like to think so.” I smiled up at him, shifting the packs of dehydrated food in my arms. “Not all of us have a porg army at our disposable, Supreme Leader.

 “…Stay out of my dreams.”

It was dark when we arrived back at the ship. We stowed all the supplies, hopefully enough to keep us both alive for six weeks on a volcanic planet, and I started the engine. Ben typed in the coordinates for Mustafar and we lifted off of Spintir, on to the next leg of our adventure.

Chapter Text

Reality began to sink in during the flight to Mustafar. Ben and I sat quietly for a while in the cockpit, sharing our mutual apprehension without saying a word. We did have a purpose beyond the First Order and Resistance—something huge and incomprehensible. Soon we’d be stepping into a destiny that was murky at best and would change every aspect of our lives.

I twiddled my thumbs. “…I’m glad you kidnapped me from the Supremacy.”

Ben looked over at me sourly. Oh, no problem, Rey.

 “I’m serious.” I glanced at him, shrugging. “I wouldn’t have left on my own. I was blinded by my devotion to the Resistance. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.”

We descended back into silence, only broken by the small beeps and clicks of Daybreak. Ben drifted around in the Light, maybe more anxious and unsure than I was, and shrugged.

 I knew there was a reason we were connected. Ignoring it would bring more strife.

 “Guess so.” I pressed my lips together, then rose from the pilot’s chair. “I’m going to bed. Hopefully we don’t run into the First Order on Mustafar.”

Ben abruptly stood up, too, then leaned on his chair and tried to play it off. Yeah, I’m tired, too.

Neither of us said anything for a minute and quiet settled across the ship again. We both knew what we wanted, now that Ben and I were equals, but I thought of Bendu’s warning that I had to resist Bogan. That was just during the meditation on Mustafar, right?

I looked up into Ben’s eyes. “Isn’t that convenient?”

Another heartbeat passed. His lower lip trembled and he shrugged, barely obscuring his thoughts from me. He was thinking of how we could both fit in one of the small beds. I didn’t care what the hallucinogenic gray cloud said—Ben and I were equals, and I wanted him. I shrugged back and averted my gaze to the dashboard.

 “The captain’s quarters—”

He grabbed me around the waist and we stumbled back, kissing deeply with no further pretense. Ben pushed me against the dash first, then thought better of it and lifted me into his arms to stumble out of the cockpit. I wrapped my legs around his hips and threaded my fingers through his hair, straining to draw his mouth as close as possible to mine.

We were even more frantic than the last time. Ben shoved me into the wall halfway to the chambers and our teeth scraped as I yanked on the front of his shirt. He groaned in my mouth and grinded his hips into mine, breaking our kiss to draw wet trail up my throat.

The Dark swelled, engorged with prickling desire, but I didn’t care anymore. Ben pushed away from the wall and carried me to the next room, grasping the doorframe on the way in, and set me back on my feet when we were inside.

I swallowed hard and searched his eyes as he tugged his shirt over his head. His body was almost perfectly untouched, a testament to how powerful he was, save for the scar I had torn up his abdomen and across his cheek. The wound in his shoulder remained, and the one from Chewie’s blaster.

 Ashla… You and Bogan are unbalanced…

Ben tentatively touched the hem of my robe. I won’t hurt you, Rey.

 “I know.” I brushed my fingers down his stomach and shook my head a bit. “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

Alarms suddenly went off across the ship.

I snapped to attention before Ben and rushed out of the room to the cockpit to see what was going on. What we had dreaded was happening—TIE fighters were pursuing us, shooting blindly and dangerously close to hitting the ship. We were almost to Mustafar.

Ben stepped into the cockpit and watched them fly past, swearing and pulling on his shirt. “I’ll go to the guns.” He huffed irately. “The universe apparently doesn’t want us sleeping together.”

 “It might not,” I muttered.

The fighters roared past and blasted a hole in the side of the ship. Red lights flashed through Daybreak and I turned on life support, struggling to spin away from the attack. There had to be a mothership nearby and we did not have the fire power to resist an onslaught.

Ben came right back to the cockpit with life support masks for both of us, shaking his head. “We don’t have a droid to fix the damage—we have to land.”

 “On it,” I said through gritted teeth. I switched on another shield and glared at the fighters howling by again. “I’m sure Hux is waiting for us.”

Mustafar was in our sights—a small red planet with a thick atmosphere. I twirled past TIE fighters and barreled through the dust and soot towards the volcanic surface below. This was nothing like Chandrila or Spintir or Naboo. An ominous pressure hung over me the closer we got to landing. The Dark Side was at work on the entire planet. It was like a heavy blanket.

It was clear where we needed to go. Darth Vader’s castle towered above the landscape like a black tuning fork, jutting into the fluffy black clouds swirling overhead. Ben leaned forward.

 “That’s it,” he said. “I need to go there.”

 “Oh really?” I asked sarcastically, passing a gush of lava. “I didn’t think you’d need to go to the nexus of evil on the most evil planet in the galaxy!”

Ben didn’t look at me, mesmerized by the castle. Not evil. Just Dark.

We flew into the open jetport towards the top of the castle and the TIE fighters broke apart. Ben was out of his chair and off the ship before I could wrestle off my seatbelt and I hurried after him with my saberstaff. The Dark was horribly heavy and I didn’t know how I’d last for six weeks.

I saw Ben standing near the open port when I stepped off the heavily damaged Daybreak. Smoke and fire swirled outside and he watched the TIE fighters swoop by again, searching for an entrance to attack us. I touched the belly of the ship and swallowed hard, reaching out for my counterpart in the Dark through our bond. He was deep in shadow; not reaching for me at all.

 “Ben!” I called. “We have to hide!”

He glanced over his shoulder at me. “No, we don’t.”

The Force shifted and I watched Ben’s shadow on the steel floor ripple like water. It crept away from him in eerie tendrils, devouring light wherever it was found and whispering ominously. I stepped back unsurely and Ben continued to stare at me as the darkness drowned out the roar of the TIE fighters and began to enclose us and the ship in an enormous circle.

I looked up as it branched overhead, knitting together, suffocating the orange glow of the flames outside. The Light died back in me and I shrank towards the door of the ship. This wasn’t right. I had to get out here. We both needed to get away from the oppressive darkness.

 Ashla… You will be safe in your ship…

 “Safe?” I echoed out loud. Bendu offering random advice again. I frowned and looked towards Ben again. “Do you hear that… Ben?”

My heart skipped a beat. He’d turned to face me. His eyes were flooded black. He blinked once, head twitching to the side, like a hungry predator.

 Ashhhhla…

A cold, sinister voice, slippery and hoarse. His mind was not the same. I couldn’t feel any bits of Ben anymore. It was unreadable. Alien and unsettling and borderline nauseating.

I stared back at him and groped along the belly of the ship to reopen the door as the beast in Ben’s body jerked towards me, blinking rapidly. My heart was pounding into my throat as he continued teetering towards me and broke into a wide smile.

 “Ben,” I said, trying to laugh, “just… calm down.”

 You’ve withered, Ashla. His mouth opened wide, too wide, and he hissed. I will consume you.

The door popped open and I ran up, slamming it shut just as the monster reached me. A flash of light emanated from my mind and I staggered back and fell on my behind, gasping in shock. Ben?!

 “Hey!” I shouted, scrambling back to my feet. “This wasn’t supposed to happen!”

Bendu was closer than before, maybe because we were at a vergence of the Dark Side. I could hear the creature scratching at the door and snarling in frustration.

 The Bogan is deeply corrupted, Bendu said. He must meditate to realize the truth of the Dark Side—and he will, when he has realized he cannot devour you. I will protect you until he has regained his senses.

 “But…” I rushed to the cockpit to look out the window and saw Ben pacing back and forth, glaring up at me. My heart twisted in pain. “What did you do to him?! He loves me; he would never hurt me!”

 Be calm, Ashla. He feeds from your fear.

I spun around furiously, clenching my fists. “How am I supposed to be calm when Ben is prowling around like a hungry saber cat?! Turn him back to normal!”

Daybreak suddenly rocked forward and I almost fell into the dashboard. I turned to see Ben squatting on the front of the ship, both hands pressed to the glass and black eyes boring holes in me. I screamed in terror and fell on my behind again, spilling into the hallway outside the cockpit. He clawed at the glass and it flickered and singed his fingertips.

I drew back, staring at him in horror. This wasn’t what I signed up for. I never wanted to see any of this. I thought Ben and I were just two twin souls in a huge, terrifying galaxy. He jumped off the front of the ship, no longer able to tolerate being burned, but I could hear him snarling outside.

My eyes brimmed with tears and I covered my mouth. I wanted Ben back. We just wanted to leave it all behind and be happy.

 Be still, Ashla, and he will return to you.

I burst into tears and wrapped my arms around my knees. I was alone on Jakku all over again.

Chapter Text

The first six days were horrible. Ben eventually calmed down and went to sit with his legs bent across one another and fists pressed together in his lap, eyes closed. I couldn't stand to take my eyes off him and slept in the pilot's chair, fighting sleep to make sure nothing happened to him. The snarling monster faded away as the hours dragged by, then the days.

Tendrils of darkness radiated from Ben, but he never moved. Sometimes I'd see his eyebrows twitch and his forehead would bead with sweat, and I desperately wanted to check on him. Bendu advised me to stay on the ship until the first two weeks were through.

I cried until my tears had all dried up. Ben's mind was closed off in darkness and I felt raw and naked without his cool reassurance in my thoughts. The Light waned in me. I hardly ate, merely picking at loads of water bread and ignoring taking a sonic shower. I spent the days staring at Ben and coming back to life when I saw even a small flicker of what was happening within him.

Bendu assured me it was part of the process of balance—that Ben and I had to learn to live together and separate at the same time. But it was agonizing. I missed his lower lip trembling when he was nervous, and his long, unnecessary history lessons. Ben. Come back.

The seventh day came, and Bendu gently woke me. Ashla. The first cycle is complete.

I scrambled up in the pilot's chair to see Ben woozily getting to his feet outside. His eyes flickered between black and brown, and he clutched his head, groaning. Elated, I jumped out of my seat and rushed for the door, fully intending on hugging him until I had to let go.

NO, ASHLA.

"Oh, shove it up your butt!" I snapped, pausing by the door. "He needs food and water!"

Ashla—

I couldn't care less about what Bendu wanted. I went to the storage room to gather some food and water for Ben and rushed off the ship without a second thought.

He had collapsed to the ground on all fours and glanced up as I approached. The whites of his eyes were still smattered with some black and he just stared as I sat in front of him, beaming. I laid out the supplies and gestured towards them, ecstatic to be reunited with him.

"Hey," I said, breathless. "Um, I figured you'd need some things. Do you want to shower?"

Ben didn't say anything. He stayed on his hands and knees, staring at me, unblinking. The same uneasy feeling trickled through my limbs but I fought it and rearranged the food.

"Bendu told me not to come out here," I said, shrugging, "but I knew you'd need me like you always do. What's been going on the past few days?"

He jerked forward so abruptly that I fell back on my elbows. Ben loomed over me, pinning my shoulders to the ground, and searched my eyes. He was strong, even after nearly a week of starvation and thirst, and his eyes were wild and… hungry. But not for food. Oddly, he didn't smell weird. But the Dark rolled off him in waves and I felt like I couldn't breathe.

His mind was loud and I flinched.

I've seen everything. The truth, and the lie. I thought of you. Ben was kneeling between my legs, eyes wide. And now you're here.

"Ben—"

He violently ripped into my thoughts, scattering the fading bits of Light left within. My back arched and I screamed in pain but Ben wasn't there to care. His eyes narrowed and he pressed onward, tearing gouges in my mind like Snoke had done to him, twisting and manipulating memories while I writhed and sobbed underneath him. He gorged himself on my agony. It hurt… STOP!

That's ENOUGH, Bogan!

Ben was tossed off me by an unseen force—Bendu. I wiped the tears from my cheeks and scrambled away, running as fast as I could back to the ship.

The door slammed shut underneath me and I laid on the floor, trembling, not doing anything for a few minutes. Then the tears came and I broke into sobs, covering my face in horror.

The wounds will heal on Jedha. I'm sorry. Bendu again. Hovering around.

I didn't move for a long time. When I wandered back to the cockpit, I saw Ben had consumed everything and fallen asleep curled up in a ball. I sat down in the pilot's seat and cried all over again.

"I hope he's this upset when I go to Jedha!" I spat, glaring at Ben dozed off on the ground.

He won't be. Your test is to resist attachment. Bogan's is to resist detachment.

"Well his is easier!"

Bendu shivered like he was sighing. No, Ashla. It isn't.

The day dragged by and Ben returned to the meditation posture when night fell. I was angry and finally took a shower, refusing to sit in the chair and keep an eye on him. But I tossed and turned in Ben's room for a couple hours before slinking back to the cockpit to do just that, gathering his blankets and clothes around me. I curled up and watched him until sleep overtook me.

Six more days went by. My mind hurt from Ben's attack but the Dark was too strong for me to meditate and heal. I grew angrier and more resentful as the days went by and wished I'd never met him. I could go back to Jakku and forget all of it. The galaxy didn't matter to me.

The darkness around Ben became more controlled. Less menacing tendrils jutted from his shadow, and his expression didn't change as much. The seventh day rolled around and I watched as his dark eyes opened, no longer polluted in the whites by blackness. I glared at him through the windshield as he looked around and stretched his arms.

Bendu wavered in my thoughts. The first test, Ashla. Materialism. Go to him.

"No thanks," I snapped.

You will be happy with his progress. Go—but don't forget my warning.

Hmph. I went to the storage room to get Ben some food and water and hesitantly stepped off the ship, watching him suspiciously from afar.

He was sitting and rubbing his face, and I could finally feel some consciousness from him. He noticed me and the Dark burgeoned in excitement as he staggered to his feet just to fall back down. I rolled my eyes and walked over with the supplies to sit a couple feet away.

"Here," I said tersely, pushing him water bread and water. "I was told to give you this."

Ben eagerly shoveled everything down his throat in record time. I crossed my arms and started to get up to go back to Daybreak and let him go to sleep.

"Rey."

I stiffened, turning to look down at him. "What?"

Ben smiled and gestured for me to return. "Sit. Let's talk."

It had been two weeks of near constant loneliness, so I did what he said and sat a foot or two in front of him. Ben looked at his palms, then his dark eyes flickered to me.

"I'm getting stronger," he said.

"You're just getting more control over yourself."

He peered up at the shadows overhead. "We could leave now. Destroy the First Order and rule together and bring peace. No more wars, no more confusion. We can make our own future."

It wasn't like Bendu had to spell it out for me. Materialism.

I rose from the ground, untrusting of the version of Ben sitting there. "No. You have more meditation to complete."

"Rey!"

Maybe it was because I was so hurt by what he had done, but I had no problem ignoring Ben. I returned to the ship and slammed the door shut.

Excellent, Bendu crowed. The first temptation is complete.

I sat in the cockpit, glaring at Ben. "Give me a real challenge."

The flesh and blood Dark Side returned to his meditation that night. I softened a little but was still annoyed. What was harder than the person you loved ripping up your mind?

Six days passed—Ben roused, and ate, and barely spoke. I became less distressed as time wore on, and before I knew it, we had reached the end of the fourth week. I showered daily now and made sure I ate enough food and practiced with the Force and my saberstaff. Bendu came closer than ever and we would discuss the nature of the universe itself.

I watched Ben from the window as he stood up and yawned. My next trial was egoism.

My heart pattered happily when Ben loped up to me outside and scooped me into his arms. I laughed and hugged him, burying my face in his neck. He still didn't smell weird. Hm.

"I missed you," he said, kissing the side of my head. "How have you been?"

"Eh, it's ok. I'm good friends with the cloud I hallucinated." I inhaled the scent of him and tears welled up in my eyes. "I miss you so much. I'm glad this is almost over."

"Me too."

His mind was nearly back to normal. There wasn't a monster prowling within, waiting to traumatize me. Ben and I sat on the ground and he held me in his lap, humming happily and nuzzling into my collarbone. I kissed his hair and ran my fingers through it. Ben, Ben. My Ben.

"We should leave now, my love."

I drew back from him, still smiling. "You're almost done."

His eyes were sparkling with tears, too, and he shook his head. "I can't bear it anymore, Rey. I hate being separated from you." He took my face between his hands, searching my eyes. "Please, let's just leave. We can forget it all; go find our simple life and have our twins. I don't want this."

Those were my thoughts from four weeks ago. I just wanted to forget it all and abdicate my responsibilities and run away with Ben to some abandoned planet to raise a family. We would always have each other, and I would always love him. We'd have Jaina and Jacen and… and…

I stared into his pleading eyes and shook my head. "I don't want it, either. But we have to do it for the good of the galaxy."

"No, we don't." Ben had tears running down his cheeks now. "We've both suffered enough. Please take me from this place. I love you, and that's all that matters."

"…No, it's not," I said, trying not to cry.

It was awful, but I squirmed out of Ben's grasp and turned back to the ship. He called after me, crying now, and tried to follow.

"Rey! Rey, please!"

I shut him out.

Bendu quietly comforted me while I cried in Ben's bed. …Egoism. The second temptation is complete. Only one remains.

I buried my face in Ben's clothes and blankets as he returned to meditation. One more.

Chapter Text

You have done very well, Ashla.

Ben was mediating outside, entering his fifth week of near constant connection with the Dark Side. Sometimes I would hear his thoughts, but they were still mostly a mystery. I was sitting the cockpit with his blanket and waiting for my final test—hedonism.

I swallowed hard. "Bendu, what happens if I fail this one?"

You will not proceed to Jedha to achieve realization. Bogan will overpower you, enslave you, and the universe itself will be plunged into darkness until you are reincarnated.

"…So, no pressure."

Bendu shivered with laughter. There is possibility for redemption. If you fail, but escape Bogan, you can still proceed to Jedha to meditate for seven days and seven nights for seven weeks, but you will be unprotected. He will be too powerful for most beings to combat.

If this final test involved what I thought, I would have a tough time passing it. I chewed on my nails and watched Ben's near-peaceful expression as he continued to align with the true Dark Side.

"How will he enslave me?" I asked.

Well… I'm sure I don't need to entirely spell it out for you. Bendu showed me the deep desires Ben had, and his natural inclination towards power and domination. He will try to break you, which will be impossible, as you are the Ashla, but you will suffer immensely. Resist him. Remember your ultimate purpose for the good of the galaxy and those you love.

"I love him." I sounded guilty.

I know. But you must realize the threat he poses to you and the universe itself. Bogan unchecked will unleash unmatched suffering. Succumbing to the desires of the flesh alone does not make you imperfect, Ashla, but you must redeem yourself to achieve detachment. Lives will be lost in the process.

I put my feet against the dashboard and folded my arms. "I should've gone to Jedha first."

The Dark must balance before the Light. Self-actualization must be achieved before enlightenment.

The fifth week passed, and the sixth came. I paced and prepared everything for our departure from Mustafar, and repaired Daybreak. The First Order lurked outside, desperate to figure out how to get to us, but there was no way. I washed the sheets in the ship and started sleeping in my own bed again.

Day seven of week six arrived. I opened my eyes, sensing a shift in the Force.

Bendu stirred. Rey. It's done.

Ben's mind was open to mine again, no longer shrouded in abyssal darkness. The torment was over. I had him back again, but he was… different, somehow. I stumbled out of bed and worked on getting dressed to meet him outside, when the door to my bedroom opened.

I glanced up, still half naked in just bindings, and met Ben's dark eyes. He was still in the gray robes and only slightly thinner than before. His Adam's apple bobbed and his mind tenderly brushed mine.

Hi, he said, as awkward as ever.

I shrieked in excitement and jumped on him, wrapping my arms around his neck and burying my face in his robes. He staggered back, laughing, and returned the embrace. The Dark prickled forth into the Light like usual and though it felt less menacing, it was kind of ominous. I could feel the change in power Bendu had mentioned. Ben could overwhelm me if he wanted to.

"Ben!" I squealed. "You're back!" I kissed all along his face and pushed back his hair, elated. "You don't feel as torn anymore. Tell me how you feel—how was it?"

"Bizarre, surreal…" He kissed the side of my head. "Lonely. Also, surprised I'm not filthy."

I squirmed out of his grasp and led him through the ship to the cockpit. "I cleaned everything, and the ship is ready to fly. We go to Jedha, then I'll activate the beacon so we can find your mother, we'll find the splinter cells of the First Order, you'll teach me more Force stuff, and—"

"Rey, Rey." Ben tugged on my hand to stop me, laughing again. "Relax. Take a breath." He cupped my face between his hands and I felt the darkness surging over me. "I missed you. I thought of nothing but you. We'll never be apart again."

I touched his wrists, beaming when he kissed my forehead, basking in his presence. He was all I wanted.

"Well," I said, pulling him along towards the cockpit again, "don't forget that I have to meditate, too. It's kind of lonely but Bendu keeps you company."

"Does he?"

I nodded eagerly. "We talked about quite a bit, like the Dark Side not being evil, just an exercise in the self and strength, and the Light not being good, just an exercise in altruism and passiveness."

Ben stopped me again outside the cockpit, brushing back my hair and searching my eyes again. "Neither is better than the other—it's about what you want." He raised his eyebrows and stepped closer to me. "What do you want, Rey?"

What did I want? Him. But it didn't matter, because something bigger was happening. I shrugged and opened the door.

"It doesn't matter," I said.

Of course it does. Ben's mind was strong now, no longer trembling in sight of the Light. What you want matters more than a galaxy full of strangers. He picked through my thoughts like it was second nature, before I could even think of shutting him out, and smiled. Ah… The house on Chandrila… and children. I can give you both of those things.

I stepped back, hesitant. "Ben… We have work to do first."

It can wait for a while. The darkness probed my mind, whispering, and he touched my hand. You've suffered so much. You deserve respite. His fingertips drifted to my robe and he overwhelmed my thoughts with all the interrupted intimate moments we had. Even if it's just for the night.

"I… I have to go to Jedha."

Why don't we relax here? Just for tonight.

"But—"

Ben interrupted me with a kiss, slipping his tongue in my mouth, and wrapped his arms around me. I grasped his biceps and teetered back on my heels and he lifted me into his arms. He wasn't unsure or tentative this time and carried me into the captain's quarters, where he used one arm to lower me to the bed and tugged his shirt over his head.

He crept on top of me and I squirmed back into the pillows, trembling with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Ben placed his hands on either side of my head and smiled.

We already have a home, he murmured, intentions twisting around his mind, so what's next?

I blinked owlishly. "…Jobs?"

He laughed and shook his head. I missed your naivety. Again he breezed into my mind and I could hardly resist. The tables had turned. Let me show you.

"Ben—"

"Rey—fuck!"

I'm on top of Ben, and I almost draw out of the fantasy when I realize he's inside me. But he holds me there, making me absorb the scene before us. I squirm uncomfortably when I heard my voice moaning and watch Ben arch up, pushing deeper into my body. We both want it as he finishes and his dark eyes roll back and he bites his lower lip.

It shifts. Now he's lying across my front and his breath is in my ear. I'm pinned underneath him, whimpering and balling gray sheets in my fists. Ben is moving slow and steady and I can feel each tantalizing shift as he rocks in and out of me. I'm nervous but he whispers encouragingly in my ear and refuses to let me up. I whimper. Now I'm unsure.

"Good girl," he croons. "Stay quiet, or they'll hear you."

"Please… please…"

It's the fantasy from a few nights ago. Ben is circling me in his black garb and I'm kneeling on the floor with my wrists bound behind me back. He touches my chin, drawing my teary eyes up to his.

"I'll do anything," I sob. "Don't… don't hurt them."

Ben tilts his head. "Anything?"

I nod, lower lip trembling. He seizes my jaw roughly in one gloved hand.

"All this from some scavenger." He shoves me onto the floor. "Strip."

It wavers and returns to him draped over my back. I'm half-conscious, too exhausted and in too much pain to keep crying or fighting. Ben grunts in my ear. He's already taken me three times.

Fingers curl around my throat. "You're mine."

I violently drew back from the intrusion. Ben was already kissing my neck, rolling his hips into mine, and I had to take a few gaping breaths before I could even speak to him.

"Ben!" I gasped, clutching the hem of his pants.

"Shh. Relax, my love." He pressed his forehead to mine and flexed between my legs, drawing a whimper from me. That's how we'll make our family.

"Please, I don't—"

His tongue swept through my mouth again and he worked on pulling down my pants before his. There wasn't much there, since I was almost naked already, and I presently felt hard heat grinding between my thighs. He was moving faster than before, desperate and hungry.

Shhh. Ben's fingers crept up to the strips holding my breasts in place and tore through them with no pretense. Why don't you tell me which scenario you liked the most?

"I mean… I…"

I'll look for you.

Ben probed deeper inside my mind, pushing aside my resistances with little effort. I mewled like a pained kitten as he forced himself into my deepest desires and the Light couldn't hold him back anymore. He thumbed through things I wasn't even aware of and drew them to the forefront of my mind like their privacy didn't matter.

Ah… he mused. He injected a disparate thought; the awakening I had when we first met on the Supremacy. The Dark swirled over me. That's what you want.

Ben's fingers locked around my wrists like manacles and he widened in my thoughts, making me gasp and writhe underneath him. The darkness filled up my vision and I was vaguely aware of both reality—Ben rubbing himself against me—and fantasy.

"It's just us now."

I'm on my back, restrained to the table. Kylo Ren has already tried to interrogate me and I'm beading sweat, terrified and confused. He unclips his cape and it drifts to the floor with a quiet flutter. I swallowed hard and yank on the restraints, desperate to escape.

"Get away from me!" I hiss.

"I don't think that's what you want."

The table moves back and he runs a hand through his black hair, eyeing me smugly. Tears roll down my cheeks and I fight to yank my sweaty hands from the cuffs.

"I'm warning you!" I shake my head, eyes widening when he idly closes the door with the Force. "I don't want to hurt you, but—"

He slams his hands on either side of my head, raising his eyebrows. "Or what, scavenger? Hm?" Fabric shifts and he steps closer and his dark eyes mesmerize me. "What exactly will you do?"

Kylo Ren, before I knew him. He climbs on top of me and has his way with me and I can't do a thing. It's the easiest way for me to reconcile my attraction to him with what's right. If he forces himself on me, I won't be blamed for what happens. It's out of my hands. All I can do is lie there and twist my wrists and cry and moan as he engorges within me and snaps insults in my ear.

The thought ended. I trembled underneath Ben and he laughed, like my memory was hilarious. He was still moving against me and his long fingers brushed my breasts. It wasn't the time. I had to…

"It's okay," he purred. "What else do you want?"

"Nothing!" I squirmed and clenched the sheets, fighting the Dark pressure. "Ben… Jedha!"

That's right. Beg me for what you want.

I was close to giving in. Ben tugged on his pants and prowled around in my mind when a powerful jolt suddenly interrupted him.

We broke apart and stared at one another in surprise. There was a disturbance in the Force. Something horrible had happened, and I had a feeling I knew what.

"Leia," I whispered.

The lust in Ben vanished in an instant and he flew out of the room to the cockpit. I scrambled after him, heart racing. Gashes like that only happened when a very powerful Force-sensitive was injured or…

Daybreak was already humming to life when I came in the cockpit. I belted in next to Ben, reeling from our encounter. The Dark was spinning like a hurricane.

You must proceed to Jedha. Bendu, warning me again. You have passed the final test, Ashla. If Bogan abandons your purpose, he may overwhelm you.

I don't care! I snapped. That's his mother!

Ashla, this is another test—

Enough tests. I glanced at Ben and focused on the horizon, frowning. I have to do what I want.

Chapter Text

We followed the wound in the Force straight to the First Order base on Crait. They'd taken over where the Resistance intended to rebuild, complete with TIE fighters and a new mothership called Fatal. We weren't attacked on the way into the atmosphere, which was surprising to me, but Ben didn't care. He landed the ship a few yards from an enormous, towering metal gate.

It was like my vision from a week ago. The white salty surface scattered, blushing red underneath. Ben and I stepped off Daybreak with our lightsabers, me dressed in gray and Ben in black again.

First Order fighters were waiting for us. I glanced up at Ben as a breeze rustled our robes and swallowed hard. He didn't look down at me. The Dark in him was powerful and without equal. We should've gone to Jedha, but we couldn't ignore Leia being in pain.

Ben ignited the Darksaber. "She's inside—along with the other core members of the Resistance. She's alive, but grievously wounded."

"We'll free all of them." I drew my saberstaff out, twisting it in the air, and it erupted into its white color with blue twisting up, bordered hazy black. "Then we go to Jedha."

He started towards the base without saying another word, and I had to follow. The ground-based blasters fired on us immediately, and I braced myself, but Ben held out a hand and created a flickering black barrier that deflected the lasers. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before and I gazed up at him in shock as we proceeded towards the door.

The Dark bulged as Ben clenched his fist and drew it up towards the sky, uprooting the blasters and sending them flinging through the sky. He hadn't even used his saber yet. He brushed aside a battalion of Stormtroopers like they were made of dust and reached out for a TIE fighter, crushing it in his hand with hardly any effort.

Ben turned to the Stormtroopers, making a slapping motion to send them down into the salty ground, and a spray of blood erupted into the sky. I slowed in horror as he continued his path of destruction, tearing apart troops who approached us and never breaking a sweat.

"Ben!" I called, lagging behind. "Stop!"

He came upon the ground troops hidden in foxholes. Ben's mind was beyond my help as he lifted the earth to crush them all underneath, sealing people in tombs to suffocate and die. He strode past them like a man possessed and I stopped there to create a hole in the ground and free them. I watched with increasing terror as Ben smashed TIE fighters that roared past and swung the Darksaber.

"GENERAL HUX!" he bellowed. "COME FIGHT ME, YOU COWARD!"

The troops I freed thanked me as I pulled them out of their salty tomb. I watched Ben swing the saber around again, smacking it on the ground, and he stretched a hand towards the barrier.

"BEN!" I screamed. "DON'T DO IT!"

The Light sucked out of me as Ben exerted all his power towards crumpling the fortress. The Dark howled and shrieked inside him as he twisted his fingers like he had on Chandrila, struggling to destroy the entire structure. I gasped and collapsed to my knees and First Order soldiers touched my back and called to one another that I needed help. We were all the same. We were scared.

I struggled to fight back when I felt the Force waver again and sensed a familiar presence.

"Ben."

All of us looked up to see Luke Skywalker himself standing between ourselves and Ben, who was still struggling to crush the gate. Luke looked younger and had a green lightsaber and he was standing very still. I stared at him in stark shock. How did he leave Ahch-To?

The horrible drain from the Light died off as Ben turned to face his former Master, Darksaber drawn. I thanked the soldiers as the helped me to my feet and reignited my saberstaff, splitting it in half with a loud crackle. Light and warmth buzzed down the hilt and I staggered forward to stand beside Luke.

He glanced at me, smirking. "Hello, Rey. Long time no see."

"Ben is…" I struggled to catch my breath, gesturing with the white saber. No time to ask questions or bring him up to date. "Leia!"

"I know," Luke replied. "I felt the disturbance, too." He watched Ben approaching us and tilted his head. "I sense more darkness in him."

"We were supposed to go to Jedha—balance and stuff—but we sensed Leia—"

Ben took an aggressive step towards us, swinging the Darksaber. "Rey, come here."

The troops scattered behind me to hide. I shook my head, eyes brimming with tears, and twisted the sabers in my grasp. It was the throne room all over again.

"We have to go to Jedha!" I called. "Luke can help your mother, Ben."

I didn't want to leave Leia, either, but now I could see how wildly uncontrolled Ben was, and I knew we had to go. It wasn't fair. Why was doing the 'right' thing been so hard?

"No, he can't!" Ben snapped. "You trust him?" He pointed to his uncle with the Darksaber, scowling. "After what he did? People like him interfere with our happiness!"

I brushed him with the Light but there was no response. "Come with me," I pleaded. "You'll feel better after we're done."

Luke wasn't a moron; he knew he needed to stay quiet. His blue eyes flickered between me and Ben as I approached the latter and sheathed my sabers. Ben's expression hardened. I couldn't read anything happening in his head and the silence was deafening.

"No." He reached for me, scowling. "You will come with me."

We'd never been able to use the Force on one another, but I was dragged across Crait and right to Ben. He curled an arm around my waist and turned to redirect our power towards the wall again. He was draining the Light from me and there was nothing I could do but shriek in pain and yank on his shirt. Luke started towards us.

Incredibly, the immense door blockading the base groaned and cracked under the pressure. I sagged against Ben in an agonized torpor as he tore a small hole in the door. It was an amazing and terrifying display of power and now I understood why we needed to be balanced. Ben could rip apart the entire galaxy if he wanted to, and no one could stop him.

Luke didn't attack—the Light side waited and watched, and that was why it was weak. Ben dropped me to the white salt and I spluttered there until his uncle helped me back up.

"Please," I cried, grabbing Luke, "we have to go to Jedha!"

His blue eyes were sad and unsure as he watched Ben walk away. "I'll do what I can, Rey."

Troops erupted from the hole and Ben raised a hand to smash them into the ground, staining the salt with blood. A wound was being torn in the Force and I could hardly feel the Light. I shook my head and stumbled away from Luke, drawing my sabers again.

"STOP!" I screamed. "You don't have to do this!"

Ben arched his fingers into claws and ripped a wider hole in the door. The stormtroopers backed away from him and ran into the dark recesses and I rushed after my Dark counterpart, slashing down stray enemies who tried to attack me and ignoring the rest.

I ran after Ben into the fortress and used my saber to illuminate the darkness. He had run up stairs, following his mother's weak Force signal, and Luke stepped up beside me.

"She's not going to make it." Luke pointed with his green lightsaber. "Hurry, Rey."

We were halfway upstairs when I heard the distinct cackle of General Hux. I stumbled and fell on the metal and darted up to the small room overhead, sliding inside with Luke behind me.

Leia flickered like a dying ember. She was lying on the ground, blood trickling from her mouth, and Hux was standing over her with his blaster still drawn. She smiled at her brother.

"A bit too late," she rasped. Her gaze moved again. "Ben… I love you."

The wound in the Force tore open in a gory hole as Leia Organa passed from the galaxy. All of us stared in stunned silence until Ben screamed.

The Dark erupted from him like never before, shredding apart the Light in both Luke and me. Luke grabbed me and twisted around the corner of the room to hide behind the wall, but it hardly mattered. I shrieked in agony as I shared Ben's torment and sank my nails in Luke's forearms, drawing blood. His jaw shifted but he ignored the pain and kept me safely in place. I felt tears on my neck.

I wailed and clawed at Luke until I could escape, turning back to find Ben kneeling on the ground with his head clutched in his hands. Hux was leaning on an ancient control panel, grinning, and I wanted to kill him, too. I panted furiously and drew the blue side of my saber, twirling it in my hand.

"REY!" Luke called. "FIGHT IT!"

The darkness called me. I staggered towards Hux's sneering smile and screamed for Ben, who was too traumatized to move. I'd protect my Ben. I didn't care about anything else.

"I knew that would draw you out of whatever hole you were sniveling in." Hux aimed the blaster at Ben's head, arm trembling. "Traitor."

Hux glanced at me and his blue eyes widened for a fraction of a second as I sliced off his self-satisfied head with a single swipe of my lightsaber. It lopped off and plopped on the array panel, and his body dropped to the floor.

Ashla… You have failed.

Ben defrosted from his trauma, sobbing, and crawled across the floor to his mother. He pulled her into his arms and rocked back and forth and screamed again like a wounded animal. I sank to my knees, quivering as the Dark ebbed away from me. I failed? How did I fail?

"No, NO!" Ben cradled Leia's peaceful head, touching her cheek to wipe the blood away. "Don't leave me. Please don't go where I can't follow."

I stared at them in dumb shock as Luke stepped up beside me to put a hand on my shoulder. A heavy stillness hung in the air. The Dark Side.

"Rey," he said, grim, "you should leave."

"I can't." I shook my head, wiping my eyes. "I have to stay with him."

"He won't recover from this anytime soon. Go to Jedha."

Ben suddenly seemed to remember we were in the room and his dark eyes snapped to mine, wide and pouring tears. His gaze flickered between Luke and I and he tightened his grip on Leia, lower lip trembling. For all his strength and sheer size, he looked like a small, frightened boy.

I covered my mouth. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, Ben."

"Ben," Luke said firmly, "there was nothing you could do." He flinched, like he was in pain.

Ben looked back down at his mother, just staring, unable to cry anymore. "All this power… and I couldn't save her." He stroked her cheek again and shook his head, lips trembling. "I never should have let her go back to the Resistance."

"No one could make Leia do anything she didn't want to do." Luke squeezed my shoulder and nodded towards the stairs. "I can bring Rey to Jedha if you—"

I jumped back in surprise when Ben ignited his saber, but Luke looked like he expected it. Ben gently lowered his mother back to the floor and kissed her forehead, then rose to his feet. His cape shrouded him as he glared at his well-meaning uncle. My heart skipped a beat.

"Rey is mine." He was a black hole in the Force, sucking in all the light and warmth.

"No one said she wasn't," Luke replied calmly. "But she needs to go to Jedha, and you want to be with your mother. Let me help you."

Ben slashed the Darksaber into the control panel, sending up sparks. "NO! You're just trying to take her from me like you took me away from my mother!"

"Ben!" I admonished, shaking my head. "Calm down!"

Luke ignited his lightsaber. "You're upset, Ben. Don't do something you'll regret."

"I regret not killing you when I had the chance!" Ben spat. He pointed the Darksaber at Luke, arm trembling and eyes searing with rage. "You took me from my mother! You… isolating me in your damn 'academy,' turning a blind eye to Snoke molesting my mother and I—you're a monster, Luke Skywalker!"

"Ben!" I stood up, angry now. "Stop it!"

"I'm sorry," Luke said. He was… fading. He winced and I realized he wasn't truly there. "I'm so sorry, Ben, for all the mistakes I made. I did my best. I tried to do what was right."

Ben paced back and forth like a caged animal. "LIAR! You tore away everything I had so I could be just like you—a beast devoid of emotion and attachment who strangles the minds of frightened Force-sensitive children until they feel nothing at all! You think your Light Side is so PERFECT, but it's POISON!"

Luke touched my shoulder again. "Rey… I'll be with you again…" He looked at Ben, sad. "I could feel the darkness in you, and I didn't know how to stop it."

"Ambition and change aren't evil things." Ben brushed back his hair and clenched his jaw. "Taking children from their parents to brainwash them is the true evil—and it ends here, with you—the last Jedi."

I couldn't grab Luke's hand. He sighed and closed his eyes.

"See you around, kid."

We both watched Luke Skywalker vanish into thin air, leaving us alone in the control room. Ben's scowl deepened and he screamed in rage, throwing the Darksaber through the space where his uncle had stood, whistling just past my shoulder.

I stood up and drew the Darksaber to my hand, furious. "What did you think you'd solve by murdering him?! You're ripping a wound in the Force!"

The Dark erupted from Ben again as he tore the saber back from my hand and it clipped to his belt. He reached out towards me and my body tingled before I was paralyzed in place, leaning forward. My eyes widened as he approached, every bit the monster I had met in Takodana Forest.

"We're not going to Jedha," Ben said, looming over me. "I won't lose you to the Light, too."

He forced me to the floor on my knees and the Light wavered like a dying flame. We'd slipped out of balance. Ben tightened his grip and I fell unconscious.

Chapter Text

"Rey? Please tell me you're okay."

Fingers brushed my cheek and I realized I was lying in a bed without Ben's ominous presence around me. I blinked and moaned, slowly coming back to consciousness. What happened? Was it all a nightmare? Were Ben and I on Daybreak heading to the next destination?

Beware, Ashla. Bendu? Bogan is near.

Finn was hovering over me, brown eyes tight with fear. He laughed and gathered me into his arms when I smiled back up at him. I nuzzled into his neck and burst into tears. Finn was okay and that was enough for me for now—but we'd lost Leia, and none of us would ever be the same.

Poe was also kneeling beside my bed next to Finn, brown eyes teary like mine. He'd be really close to Leia. Losing her had to be even more painful for him. I didn't know him well, but I gestured for him to join our hug and we all just sat there in silence for a few minutes, holding on like the other two might disappear. We were all in one piece. That was worth something.

The bed shifted and I glanced up from between Poe and Finn to see Rose was sitting on the end of the bed. I laughed at how ridiculous we looked, motioning for her to come over, too, and the giggle was infectious as we tried to squeeze her in. We were all that was left, save for the few Resistance members back on the new base.

"How did he find you guys?" I asked, wiping my eyes and sitting up. I looked down to see I was no longer wearing the gray robes but was now dressed in an oversized black robe that draped past my fingertips. I frowned, waving my arms.

"We were being held downstairs on Crait." Poe pulled over a black chair to sit on it backwards, clenching his jaw. "Hux found us in the Outer Rim. The others escaped, but we wouldn't leave Leia behind. He was half-crazed trying to find Kylo Ren."

It was obvious we were on a First Order ship, with all the black and silver trimmings. The sheets were dark gray. It looked like a medical bay but I wasn't attached to an IV or anything. So if we were on a First Order ship…

My heart sank. "Where is he?"

Finn sat next to me on the bed, grim. "No one could say no to him, Rey. He offered us clemency, and after the troops all saw what he could do… the First Order reassembled with him as the Emperor."

I felt sick. I shook my head, horrified, and clambered out of bed, stumbling towards the door. Poe caught me before I fell on my face and I kept shaking my head.

"No, no!" I looked back at their defeated faces. "We… We traveled all over the galaxy! We went to Jakku, Chandrila, Tatooine, Naboo, Spintir… Mustafar. He was better. He trusted me!"

"Try to rest, Rey," Poe said, turning me back towards the bed. "You've been unconscious for almost three days."

"I have to find him! We have to go to Jedha!"

Rose leaned forward, twiddling her thumbs, when I sat between Finn and Poe again.

"What's on Jedha?" she asked.

I rubbed my forehead, stressed beyond belief. "It's a long story, but I have to stay there for seven weeks and meditate, and then Ben and I will be equals, and I can control him. If he's unchecked for too long, he could destroy the entire galaxy. But even if I get there, he can attack me and it's going to be really hard to finish meditating."

"I've never seen anything like it," Poe said, running a hand through his hair and gazing at the wall. "He collapsed in the entire base after we were all out. It's unnatural." He glanced at me again and clasped his hands in his lap. "So we have to escape and get you to Jedha. Should be fun."

"We've gone through worse." Finn smiled at Rose and took her small hand in his. "And we have an expert in disabling security systems."

She beamed back at him and they kissed chastely. I raised my eyebrows at Poe and he rolled his eyes and made a sarcastic kissy face. Awww. Meanie. They were adorable.

We'd hardly begun speaking again when the door abruptly slid open.

Two Stormtroopers dressed in black stepped inside, blasters draw and on their arms. They nodded towards me but didn't come any closer. I clenched my fists, wanting to fight back, but knew there was no point. Besides, I needed to talk to Ben and knock some sense into him. I stood up and the others did, too.

"Just the Empress," snapped one of the Stormtroopers. "You will be relocated, Rebel scum."

Finn stepped forward angrily. "We're not leaving her alone with you."

"No, we're not," Poe said.

I touched Finn's arm as I walked up to the Stormtroopers and smiled encouragingly over my shoulder. "Don't worry. It'll be okay. Just… be careful, guys. Okay?"

They didn't look convinced and I honestly wasn't, either. I followed the two guards out of the room, anyway, robe drifting across the cold steel floors. I was wearing slippers instead of my boots and felt terribly weak, like a pampered bird in a gilded cage. I wanted my saberstaff and dirty gray robes.

Staff passing us paused and gave me a small bow and rolled my eyes. I didn't want people to worship me. I didn't even want to rule in any capacity. I would be happy to have a quiet life on Chandrila, helping regular people with their regular problems; maybe travel a few times a year to new places to meet new people. Simple. No bowing and wearing dresses.

We passed through the ship, called Fatal, to yet another enormous black door. The Stormtroopers turned to guard it and gestured for me to go inside as it groaned open.

It was eerily similar to Snoke's throne room, with red walls and a single black throne in the center of the room up on a platform. There were no guards, though; no one else at all in the room besides me and Ben. He was leaning his temple on his fist, sagging in the throne with his eyes closed. His black hair was matted and obscuring half of his face as he torpidly opened them to watch me. Our sabers were resting on both of the armrests.

I crossed the room without hesitation, scowling, trying not to trip over the robe. Ben sat up straighter and stared without showing a flicker of emotion as I reached out with the Force to bring my saberstaff back to me. It flew into my palm and erupted in a flash of blue and white and I pulled it apart with a crackle, twirling the hilts in both hands.

"Did you get what you wanted?" I demanded. I slashed the sabers down to drag them across the black floor and it shrieked as it tore apart. "Is this what you wanted, Emperor?"

Ben casually drew the Darksaber to his hand and rose with a flutter of his cape, glaring down at me. "I don't want to fight you."

"TOO BAD!" I shouted.

We met near the platform in a clash of black and blue; a bruise. Our lightsabers moaned and snarled when they met, humming through the air between strikes. I was outmatched but I didn't care. I drew from the Light Side and refused to ever use the Dark again, relying more on avoiding him than outright attacking like usual. I slipped under his arm and kicked him from behind and he stumbled but whirled around and almost slashed through my middle.

We paused, glaring and panting, and I swung my sabers and screamed. Ben took an aggressive step towards me and screamed back as I drew my saber back into a staff. It crackled again and I twisted back into attacking, trying to use both sides to gain the advantage.

Our dance continued for a few more minutes before Ben tripped me and I fell back on the stairs, unarmed. He stood partially over me and drove forward with the Darksaber and I called back the white half of mine just in time to hold it near his throat.

Ben ripped my saber out of my grasp and leaned close to my face. "This is what I want, Rey—if it means I can protect you."

He went back to sit on the throne, calling back the other half of my saber and snapping it together. I scrambled back to my feet and glowered at him from the stairs.

"You're going to imprison me to protect me?" I asked. "That's ridiculous. I have to go to Jedha, Ben."

"My mother died because I let her wander the galaxy without me." Ben tapped his fingers on the throne, stroking his chin. "I won't make the same mistake twice. And you're not going to Jedha. The Light has already tainted you enough."

I went up a stair. I was trying to be compassionate but so furious and betrayed that I almost didn't care. Leia was gone, yes, and it was awful, but it didn't give Ben an excuse to slide right back to the First Order. All that hard work and progress…

"Ben," I said, "I know you're upset, but… think of everything we went through! We worked so hard to get to Mustafar, and now you're giving it all up because you're paranoid. What is this going to accomplish?"

"You'll be safe from the Light, and I can rule, as I should."

"Safe from the Light? Do you know how insane that sounds? You can't rule without an equal."

He shrugged, becoming oddly passive again. "I have no equal—and I won't allow you to go to Jedha."

"We'll see about that," I retorted. I turned to leave, calling my saberstaff back.

"I'll show you right now."

My legs prickled and I was violently forced down on my knees, fighting the entire way. I held my saber until my knuckles turned white as Ben took it from me again. My back was facing him, but I heard him rise from the throne and cross the room to me. I gritted my teeth, resisting the paralysis until it spread into my arms and pulled my back straight.

The 'Emperor' circled around to the front of me, shrouded by his cape. His eyes were dark and distant. I could feel the pain emanating from him but could no longer hear his thoughts of touch him with Light. He was above and beyond me; too powerful for his own good. I didn't know if he'd end up destroying the galaxy first, or just himself.

"You saw Luke," Ben said, raising his eyebrows. "Jedi trash. They would scour the galaxy for innocent Force-sensitive toddlers to brainwash—the older they were, the harder they would be to indoctrinate." He squatted in front of me and tilted his head. "Little babies, manipulated into making a lifelong commitment they had no hope of understanding."

"Let… go… of me."

"Rey." He smiled a bit and touched my cheek, searching my eyes. "You'll understand one day. We drifted too far to the Light and look what happened to my mother. It's toxic."

I swallowed, struggling to control my anger. It couldn't control me. "I know you're confused and upset, but this is not going to bring her back, and it's going to drive me away. The Jedi made mistakes, just like the Sith. We have to be balanced—bits of Light and bits of Dark."

Ben straightened up again and summoned the lightsabers. The tension released from my limbs and I slapped my palms on the cold floor as I fell forward. I glanced up to see he was offering me my saberstaff, and my gaze rose to his dark eyes watching me expectantly.

"If you want balance," he said, clipping the Darksaber to his hip when I took mine back, "you have to stop running away from the Dark Side." He held out a gloved hand to me, reflecting to the throne room yet again. "Let me help you understand what you're so deeply afraid of."

I looked down at my saberstaff. Bendu wasn't speaking to me and I didn't know how to reach Ben anymore. If I refused, I could be putting my friends at risk—or the entire galaxy.

Trembling, I took Ben's hand and he pulled me to my feet. He wrapped an arm around my waist to tug me against him and kissed the crown of my head, sighing like he was relieved. I leaned my head on his chest as the cape swept around us like a thick, scratchy blanket.

I'd get to Jedha one way or another.

Chapter Text

'Emperor' Ben drew a dramatic reaction from the staff of Fatal as we passed. The Stormtroopers dressed in black hung behind us as people in uniforms saluted and bowed and stumbled over themselves to show some form of respect. Fear flashed in their eyes, and I thought of how fear was a powerful motivator with unpredictable outcomes.

I didn't intend on staying on the ship for very long. Ben couldn't breach into my mind, either, so my plans to escape were perfectly safe. It was bizarre walking next to him; sort of like following a stranger around. I could feel the Dark Side in him, the subtle shift of emotion, but nothing else.

We came upon another door where the two Stormtroopers stopped outside and Ben nodded to them, touching the small of my back to usher me inside. I hesitantly padded forward in my slippers to find a much larger space with a sitting room and two other doors. No kitchen—there were people for that—probably a 'fresher and a bedroom. I frowned and watched Ben walk past me.

"How did the Stormtroopers feel about you murdering their comrades?" I asked, crossing my arms. "They must be delighted to be answering to you. And…" I tapped my lips with my index finger, feigning confusion. "Don't you hate brainwashing? Because I think that's exactly how Stormtroopers are made. We could always go ask Finn."

"They don't care. They're Stormtroopers." Ben shrugged out of his cape and draped it over a chair. "The ones who are already here have no other purpose, and I've ended the program. Whoever is on this ship is here of their own volition."

I pressed my lips into a tight line. Hmph.

"I don't want to be here," I said.

Ben glanced at me over his shoulder and smiled. "Yes, you do."

I tightened my grip on my saberstaff. He was being too cocky for my liking. I wanted the awkward, socially inept Ben back. This one was too confident. Was that because of the meditation calming the storm of darkness in him, or because he knew no one could stand against him?

"Where are you keeping the others?" I asked, changing tactics.

He took off his belt and dropped it with the Darksaber on the couch. "Not in filthy jail cells, if that's what you're wondering. They're in comfortable rooms." He tugged off his gloves to add them to the pile, smiling at me. "I can't read your mind anymore, Rey—but I can read theirs."

My spine prickled. I hadn't thought of that—dammit! I'd have to come up with the escape plan on my own or Ben would just pick it out of their heads.

"You better not hurt them," I said coldly.

Ben took off his vest, now just in a long-sleeved black shirt and his pants. "I have no reason to. Unless… they try to help you get to Jedha." This time he turned the sarcastic frown on me. "You weren't planning to escape, were you?"

He knows… it's a test…

Bendu again, just in a whisper. I knitted my fingers loosely in front of myself and my heart skipped a beat. It was obvious, anyway. I wasn't exactly the type who sat down and shut up.

I raised an eyebrow. "Of course I was. Don't you know me?"

"…True." Ben casually pulled his shirt off and threw it in the pile of clothes. "You can shower if you'd like. Your friends will be joining us for dinner."

"Why?"

There was no movement; no gesture. I was dragged across the floor to Ben and he tipped my chin on his index finger, cocking his head.

"I want to be crystal clear about how I expect them to conduct themselves."

I wriggled away and pushed him back, heading for the 'fresher. "Fine, but they don't follow orders very well." I glowered at him over my shoulder. "Neither do I."

Oddly, Ben had nothing to say after that. I went in the oversized refresher and squirmed out of the robe and kicked off the slippers, huffing angrily. I'd get up in the middle of the night and steal an escape pod. He couldn't watch me all the time. If he wanted to an Emperor, he had other duties, too.

I was happy to find it wasn't a sonic shower. I stepped inside and shivered, turning up the heat, then leaned back my head to run the water through my hair. If I couldn't leave in the middle of the night, I'd have the others try to distract the Stormtroopers so I could slip through. They might even be able to come with me. I'd find a way to meditate on Jedha, with or without Ben.

When I was done and dressed again in the uncomfortable robe and slippers, I opened the door to see his royal highness standing not three inches in front of me. I bumped into him and he silently offered me a silken dress with purple accents. My blood boiled at the sight of it.

"I'm not wearing that," I said. "You're not going to dress me up like a doll." I ruffled up my oversized robe and pushed past him. "Find me some pants."

"…Fine."

Ben was wearing the same outfit he always wore—I wondered how many versions he had—and we walked down the hallway to the private dining room. I was stuck in the oversized robe until the next day, when new ones would be made, and I puffed indignantly the entire walk to dinner. People bowed and whispered and hid around corners when they saw us approaching.

Finn, Rose, and Poe were already seated at the table when we walked in. Ben again motioned for the two Stormtroopers to wait outside and escorted me to one end of the table, pulling out my chair so I could sit. I wanted to puke. What happened to stuffing our faces in hotel rooms?

Ben sat at the other end, fluttering his cape, and took the seat on the other end. There were already plates of salad and again, no guards in the room. He didn't need them.

"Well, this is nice," Poe said sarcastically. "I think wearing cuffs would make it even classier."

Finn shook his head quickly, eyes flickering to me. Rose was sitting still as a board and white as a sheet, watching Ben with thinly veiled terror. He tugged off his gloves and a waiter appeared from quite literally nowhere to take them.

"You will all be dropped on Iego," Ben said. "If you try to leave, the Angels will kill you. That should prevent you from reassembling the Resistance and remove my obligation to deal with you."

Poe stood up angrily. "Iego?! That's on the fringes of the Known Galaxy!"

"It is." Ben started eating and nodded towards me. "Eat, my love."

The other three's heads snapped around, eyes wide. I had been in the middle of shoveling lettuce in my mouth and paused, glancing between them guiltily. Uhh…

Finn blinked. "Rey?"

Ben leaned back to pat his mouth with a napkin, now smiling smugly. "It seems like you all have a lot of catching up to do. Don't mind me."

Poe sat back down and stared at my owlishly. "You two are…?"

"No!" I managed. I swallowed, wincing, and waved my hands. "Nope! I mean, we made out once or twice, but I think it was altitude sickness messing with my head." I tapped my fingers and went right back to eating. Maybe if I kept my mouth full I wouldn't keep shoving my foot in it.

"They were alone together for a long time," Rose interjected. "It could happen to anyone."

Thankfully she seemed to placate Finn and Poe and I offered a grateful smile. She beamed back, then caught Ben's eye and shrank down in her chair.

Poe let out a heavy sigh. "I figured. You're way out of his league, anyway—and he's probably a virgin."

Everyone froze. Ben kept eating, pretending to ignore the jab, but I knew it would get to him. If Poe was trying to be cheeky, he was going a bad route. I shook my head and widened my eyes along with the other two. Now was not the time to make jokes.

He leaned on the table and winked at me, grinning. "Lucky for you, I'm currently available. Once we get out of here we should go out somewhere. I fly the ship, you use your laser sword. Unstoppable." He sipped his water and nodded towards Finn. "Hey, double date! Your friend Kylo Ren here will be too busy having temper tantrums to—"

Ben lashed out with the Force and I was able to draw him away for a minute or two. He glared at me, hardly using energy, and I was beading with sweat trying to fight back. His focus shifted to me and I was dropped to the floor, curled into a ball, flinching.

"Let her go!" Finn shouted.

No… no! I gritted my teeth and dug down past the Light in the Dark; the pain and torment and loneliness. It wasn't worth fighting if I would have to suffer. I dredged up what I could and used it as fuel, twisting Ben's power back against him.

His hold was broken and I gasped, climbing back up to my chair. Ben drew back but watched me with interest as I took my seat and Finn touched my back.

"I'm sorry." Poe brushed some fibers off my robe, upset. "I didn't know he was that sensitive."

"It's okay. I can handle it." I glowered at Ben and ate my salad.

Dinner continued without anymore drama. I explained the situation to the others, about the Ashla and Bogan and Bendu, and how I was supposed to meditate to balance with Ben. I told them about where we'd been and what we'd experienced and why it was so imperative that I go to Jedha. Ben didn't say anything, opting to eat his chicken and pretend to be disinterested.

Before I knew it, dinner was over. The Stormtroopers came back to escort the Resistance back to their rooms, but not before I gave them all a hug. I watched them disappear around the corner.

We went back to the room. I tried to go to the couch, but Ben touched the small of my back to redirect me towards his bedroom. I folded my arms and hovered by the door when we walked inside, eyeing the black sheets with distaste. What was with all the black?

"I'll sleep on the couch," I said.

"No—you'll sleep here." Ben began the arduous process of taking off his clothes again. "Or you'll be wearing dresses for the foreseeable future."

I ground my teeth and went to the bed to flop down right in the middle, spreading my arms and legs to cover as much space as possible. Fine. I'd make it impossible for him to sleep there. Ben went to the 'fresher in his bedroom to shower and I turned over on my back to glare up at the ceiling. If he was naked and distracted…

I leapt out of bed and ran to the door, giddy with excitement. Ben wasn't there to stop me. I could sneak down to the escape pods and grab one before anyone noticed. I opened the door and stepped out.

The two Stormtroopers were standing there, watching me. I stared back and tried to use a mind trick, but it didn't work. I scowled. I could go get my saberstaff but I didn't want to attract attention. My escape had to be quiet.

"You guys are the worst," I grumbled.

They didn't respond.

Defeated, I went back to the bedroom and crept under the sheets. I crossed my arms and waited for Ben to come out, glaring at the 'fresher door. I'd escape. Somehow.

Ben emerged in just a towel and I slid further under the blankets to cover my head. My pulse pounded in my ears as I listened to him bustle around the room before crawling into bed beside me. He moved closer, dragging me to him when I squirmed in the other direction.

My hands settled on his bare chest just as he started kissing me, slipping his tongue in my mouth. He rolled on top of me, hiking up my irritating dress, and grasped my thigh. Annoyed, I jerked back and put my hands over his face to push him away. He blinked at me like it was surprising that I wasn't in the mood to make out with him.

"No thanks, Emperor," I said, dripping venom when I said his title.

"I love you, Rey." He gently rolled his hips into mine and pulled my hands away from his face to nuzzle into my neck. "I won't hurt you."

"You already have!" I squirmed underneath him, twisting my wrists in his grasp. "Get off me!"

Ben drew a wet line up my throat to my jaw. I shifted again as he flexed his hard arousal into me and he groaned into my skin. It was all I wanted a few days ago, but now I didn't know what to think. I'd passed the final test, but Bendu still told me I failed after I killed Hux. Was it because I didn't go to Jedha fast enough and the balance was too severely upset?

"Please…" He groaned, burying his face in my neck. His fingers tightened around my wrists. "Something. Give me something. I love you… I have to have you."

I shoved Ben off me and slipped out of bed, pacing angrily. "No! You—you imprisoned my friends and me! I'm not doing anything with you until you let all of us go!"

He rolled over on his back, curving an arm behind his head, looking just as annoyed as me. "The three of them will rebuild the Resistance if I let them go back to the Core Worlds."

"There's always going to be another Resistance. You can't stop it by keeping them prisoner or abandoning them on some planet at the fringes of the galaxy. Someone else will take up the mantle and the war will never end until dark and light find balance."

Ben glanced at me. "We'll see."

I crossed my arms and his dark eyes traveled down my robe, lingering on the sash around my hips. I was glad we couldn't read one another's thoughts anymore, because I knew what would be in his. Whatever happened on Crait that I had failed had severed the bond.

"Do you have amnesia?" I asked. "Or were you not listening to everything Bendu told us?"

"I don't care. I won't lose you."

"UGH!" I stomped my foot furiously and turned away from him, clenching my jaw. He was making me so mad! I was strong enough to take care of myself; I didn't need protection!

The sheets rustled behind me. "You don't understand the nature of the Light Side, Rey."

I bristled, whirling around to face Ben again. He was sitting halfway upright and I could see all the way down his abdomen to the v-shape leading into his underwear. I averted my gaze, now embarrassed and mad, and tapped my foot.

"Yes, I do," I said. "I am the Light Side."

"Come to bed. Let me tell you what I've seen of it."

"I will if you put on some pants."

My legs prickled and I was dragged back to the bed without another word. Ben wrapped an arm around me to hold my back against the front of him. I squirmed but he held fast, burying his face in my neck. I felt hard pressure against my behind and the red in my cheeks spread to my ears.

"The Jedi did not acknowledge a Gray area in the Force," Ben said. "There was black or white—evil or good. If you fell outside of the 'good' in any capacity—which, by the way, included marriage—you would be expelled. They fiercely resisted change, and that led to their downfall. Anakin was immensely powerful, and they feared him, and forced him to submit to their traditions. The Dark Side offered him the freedom and individual attention he needed.

"The Light does not allow mistakes. It doesn't allow us to reach our full potential for the sake of virtue and detachment. It is stifling and weak; too rigid to withstand a blow without shattering to pieces. Compassion and tradition that suffocates ingenuity and growth. The Light will strangle you, like it did Luke, and Anakin, and the High Council years ago."

Ben's lips drifted across my neck, brushing my skin, and his fingers wrapped around my hip. "I won't suppress you, Rey."

"You think I'm weak, then. You're wrong."

"Not weak—misguided." The arm curled under my neck shifted so he could grasp my jaw. "I'll show you the right path, and we'll be unstoppable. Neither of us will be alone ever again." He kissed the arch of my jaw and squeezed my hip, gently rolling himself against my tailbone.

My eyes fluttered, and I fisted the sheets. "I'm not alone. I have… my friends."

Ben murmured in agreement. "You do, and another man would undoubtedly fall in love with you. But they don't know you, and he won't understand you—not like I do."

"But…"

"Shh." His fingers crept to the sash and tugged. The robe loosened, and he slid his hand down my thigh, quietly shifting fabric. "I love you. I'm not going to hurt you."

"I… I have to go…"

"No, you don't. You belong right here."

His fingers slipped between my legs and I whimpered, nervously pressing back against him. Ben's hand left my jaw to brush my hair from my face and he kissed my temple. He drew a sharp breath as his fingertips stroked through wet folds and I again pushed backwards. We didn't have the bond anymore, so I didn't know what he was thinking or feeling. It felt… lonely.

Ben kissed the side of my neck. "Do you like this?"

I nodded stiffly, and he laughed under his breath. He moved his arm under my head again to curl his fingers around my throat, making my heart skip a beat.

"I can tell." His middle finger slipped inside of me and I mewled pitifully. "Good girl. Tell me you like it."

That seemed redundant to me, and I frowned but did what he asked in a small whisper. If he could tell I liked it, why was he asking me to—

"Now beg me."

I furrowed my brow, genuinely confused. "…For what?"

Ben's hand tightened around my throat and he exerted his weight across my back so I was lying halfway underneath him. "For your friends." His breath was warm on my ear and I swore I could hear the smile in his voice. "I think I'll kill the Stormtrooper first."

My eyes widened. NO!

I tried to get away but Ben was too heavy. He pushed down harder on me and squeezed my neck as I panicked and shrieked.

"You can't!" I cried. "Please don't!"

"I can and I will." He withdrew his fingers to force me down on my stomach, darkness emanating from him. "What will you do to save them? Will you lie here quietly and let me take you?" He rubbed himself against me and I was on the verge of tears. "Beg me, filthy scavenger."

Outraged, I again drew from the fear and now the lust as fuel. How dare he? How dare he threaten to hurt my friends and treat me like a weak little prisoner? The disrespect—the slight to my dignity. Power coursed through my veins like a freezing jolt and I screamed and threw Ben off me.

I immediately called my saber to my hand, kneeling in the bed, and ignited it in two halves. Ben's hand popped up over the side of the bed before he did, but his dark eyes were bright and excited. I panted and glowered back at him. For a split second, I thought of killing him.

He brushed back his hair and smiled. "Now do you see? That's the power of the Dark Side, Rey. No hesitation, just impulse and emotion and power." He stood up and crept back into bed, eyes searching mine. "You wouldn't have been able to overpower me with the Light. Think of all we could accomplish if you use that anguish as fuel."

"That was an experiment?!" I snapped. The sabers were still ignited and I tightened my grasp. "Are you CRAZY?!"

He eyed the weapons and reached out to cup my face in his hands again, Adam's apple bobbing. "Do you see now? Do you understand?"

I didn't. I felt sick. I sheathed the lightsaber, reattaching the hilt, and squeezed it. Ben's eyes were wild and excited and I grew more and more upset the longer I looked at him.

I slapped him hard across the face, tears welling up in my eyes. He touched his cheek and blinked at me as I hurriedly got out of the bed, clutching my lightsaber. I stepped into my slippers and kept shaking my head as I backed away from his confused stare.

"All I see is a monster," I choked, "and all I understand is that I was completely wrong about you."

"Rey, pain is part of the process—"

"It's not a process that I want to be a part of." I opened the door and my lips quivered. "You're breaking my heart. I told you before that I can't follow you down this path, and I still refuse to. I'm… I'm sorry, Ben. I love you, and I hope you can find the belonging you seek, but I can't drown with you anymore."

Ben didn't say anything, just lowered his eyes as I walked out the door. I separated the hilt of my saberstaff and wiped away the tears with my shoulder. I was the Ashla, and I had a purpose.

Chapter Text

The Stormtroopers in black were waiting outside and I slashed my sabers out to decapitate both of them. I didn't want to start a massive panic on Fatal. The other staff walking through the halls scattered at the sight of me until I grabbed one by the collar before he could get away. I held my blue saber close to his throat and the light danced off his wide, terrified eyes.

"Where are the Resistance prisoners?" I demanded.

"D-down the hall, elevator to the basement!"

I dropped him without another word and swept down the hallway. Ben couldn't sense me, but he knew where I'd be going, and after he recovered he would follow. My lower lip trembled again and I bit back the tears and hurriedly wiped away a few stray traitors that ran down my cheeks.

Ashla!

Bendu's voice abruptly bounced back and I staggered in shock. "Bendu?!"

Ashla, you resisted your earthly attachment for the greater good. This is the true nature of the Light and has reopened our connection. Hurry to Jedha—I will protect you from Bogan.

"If all I had to do was tell Ben off, I could've done that ages ago." I reached the elevator and clicked the button for the basement. "You can protect me?"

I shouldn't, but I will. Bogan is deeply disturbed and he will destroy everything if we do not make haste to Jedha. It may require me to reincarnate, but don't worry. This is the natural order.

Stormtroopers were waiting for me downstairs. I hadn't learned how to deflect laser blasts but I did steal the technique from Ben's thoughts, and I danced in a circle to keep them at bay. I lifted them with the Force to throw them out of my path, preferring not to cause anymore bloodshed. Bendu praised my restraint as I closed in on the rooms where my friends were being kept.

I paused in the middle of the hall and waved my hand to lift all the doors at once. All three of them peered outside and ran to me, cheering and elated. Poe gazed at me like he was seeing the sun for the first time as I pointed down the hall with my white saber.

"We have to hurry," I said. "Bendu will protect us when we get to Jedha."

"How did you get away?" Finn asked, hurrying to keep up with me.

Poe laughed and took out a blaster, cocking it. "Better question is, how did he get away from Rey?"

Rose shot a stray Stormtrooper and I swept another group of them out of our way, sending them careening into walls or up to the ceiling. Poe's eyes just got wider and wider with each use of the Force, and he was admiring the saberstaff on the elevator. I glanced at him and smiled back.

The Light was blooming in me again, delicate, but present. I could feel Poe's anguish from losing Leia. She was like a mother to him. I gently reached out to brush his consciousness and scattered some of the darkness. He was mostly Light, just like Finn and Rose.

"You know," Poe said offhandedly, "some men can't handle powerful women—but I can."

Finn sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Poe, this is not the time." Alarms went off across the ship, bathing the elevator in red. "Besides, this guy seems psychotically jealous, and he can strangle you without batting an eye."

Poe's blaster clicked and he winked at me. "Eh, I'll take the risk."

We emerged on the ship bay and met even more resistance. My connection to the Light and Bendu was rapidly opening back up, and I could sense whispering on the fringes…

Rey… Rey… I'm sorry… I love you. You can't leave me.

The others scattered behind the walls to hide and I took the center of the hall to rejoin my staff with a crackle and spun it with one hand to deflect the bolts and used my other hand to shove the Troopers out of the way. It was so easy, and I hadn't meditated yet. I wondered how obscene power would feel.

"That one!" Rose said, pointing to a small shuttle. "We can still travel at lightspeed and get to Jedha before the First Order can track us."

We rushed over, dodging attacks, and somehow reached the ships. Rose worked on getting one unlocked while Poe and Finn shot back at the Stormtroopers. I cast them aside where I could, then felt a sudden flash of darkness and flinched.

You're not going anywhere.

The fighting suddenly stopped, and the dust began to settle. I squeezed my saberstaff.

Ben appeared from the cloud, stalking past Stormtroopers who cowered from his presence. His cheeks were streaked with tears and he had the Darksaber ignited and ready. He was dressed in black and his cape billowed out behind him. His hair was matted and carelessly pushed back from his face.

I tore apart my saber and stepped around Poe to approach him. Poe grabbed my hand, shaking his head and mouthing 'no,' but I just smiled and squeezed his fingers.

Ben jolted angrily into my mind. You… the pilot?! He swung the Darksaber and took an aggressive step forward. "I'll KILL HIM!"

"I'm going to Jedha," I called, "and you can't stop me, Ben." I didn't even give his delusions about Poe the time of day. I took a few more steps forward so I was fully in his view, glaring at him.

His jaw clenched in rage and he reached out for me, flooding my mind with darkness. "You're not going anywhere! You're staying here and I'm going to keep you safe!"

My legs prickled but the influence didn't go any further. Bendu was there, combatting Ben with his own darkness like a shield around me. Ben's eyes widened and started tearing up again and he shook his head, taking another sharp step to dig into his fear and anger.

"You can't leave me," he sobbed. His fingers arched like claws and he kept shaking his head. "Please, Rey, PLEASE. I love you; I won't hurt you!" He strained his fingers towards me and staggered forward, dark eyes wide and pouring tears down his cheeks. He looked… possessed. "Come back!"

A fleeting memory brushed through my mind: Unkar Plutt restraining me while I screamed for my parents to come back, confused and terrified. I probably looked a lot like Ben.

Go, Ashla. Quickly. If you turn back now, you will never escape.

I didn't say anything. I didn't know what to say. I took a few steps back, then turned and ran to the last remnants of the Resistance as they were boarding the shuttle. Ben screamed behind me and the shuttle trembled as he turned his rage on it, but Bendu again intervened, twisting the Dark and turning it back on Ben. He was forced to stop or continue tormenting himself.

Finn stared out the window. "Why aren't any of them firing on us?"

"He wants her back, not dead." Poe was piloting, flipping switches and starting the engine. "Alright, who knows where the hell Jedha is?"

"I do," I said, leaning over from the copilot seat. "Bendu showed me the coordinates a while ago."

We lifted off into space and I turned before lightspeed kicked in. Ben was kneeling on the floor, staring up at us. I touched the window pane and felt our connection shiver and snap back to both of us. Darkness crept into my mind again, and I unsurely turned away as we took off at lightspeed.

Poe blew out a deep breath. "That was fun." He glanced at me, then swiveled his chair to face me. "Kylo Ren seems extra crazy nowadays."

"He misses his mother." I put my feet up on the array panel and eyed my slippers with distaste. "If I had gone to Jedha first, and we were balanced, I could've helped. Thankfully we'll be there soon and I can correct it before he does something really stupid."

I'll kill the pilot.

It was a strange comfort hearing Ben's voice in my head again, even if he was dangerously hysterical. I flinched from the intrusion and my three friends frowned.

"It's Ben," I explained. "He's DELUSIONAL!" I shouted the last word so it ricocheted through Ben's head, stunning him for a moment.

He better not try anything, Ben snapped back.

Finn raised his eyebrows. "…Anything we can do?"

"You're acting like a child!" I was caught up in my argument with Ben, talking out loud like I usually did with him. "I'm not following the path that turned you into a psychopathic megalomaniac. And if you ever attack me in bed like that again—"

That's what you WANT! Ben trickled into my thoughts to siphon through memories until he found the ones buried deep down, the things he'd seen a few days ago before we left for Crait. And it gave you the push you needed to truly utilize the Dark Side.

The three of them glanced between each other as I got to my feet and paced out of the cockpit.

I ran a hand through my hair, furious. "You can't just pick things out of my head and assume they're what I want!"

Ben's presence waxed—he was annoyed, too. Then why are those thoughts in your head if you find them so repulsive?

"That's not the point."

Then why don't you get to the point?

"Thoughts are not words. Seeing some vague thought I had two weeks ago isn't the same as speaking to me like a normal person and asking permission."

It's the pilot, isn't it? Ben totally ignored me and went rummaging through my mind again, searching for Poe. He's a cocky little whelp.

I sank down to the floor, holding my head in my hands. "Ben, I barely know him. What is your problem?"

He's the embodiment of attachment and is only attached to you, and it's driving him mad. Bendu swirled into my thoughts, as random and helpful as always. It will abate during your meditation. If you had turned back, I assume you would be chained in a cell. Bogan is deeply possessive and selfish without any Light to show him the way.

Ben didn't react to Bendu, so I figured it was a private conversation. I could feel Ben analyzing all my short interactions with Poe, and Finn, and even Rose.

I leaned my head back on the wall. "Bendu, all the Force visions were wrong. Leia is… gone."

The visions follow your current trajectory. Each has a kernel of truth and or a hint of idealism. You are the truth of the Force, Ashla, and Bogan is the idealist, so the visions were created to appeal to both of you. It is unfortunate about Leia Organa. Her brother mourns her.

"We miss her here, too." I twiddled my thumbs. "So who made the visions?"

That I do not know. You, Bogan, and I are aspects of the Living Force, which draws from the energy of all living things in the galaxy, and together we feed the Cosmic Force that binds the very universe together. The Cosmic Force is beyond our reach—it can only be sensed. Perhaps it created them to ensure its own survival, as it would cease to exist without the three of us.

Ben's voice filtered through. Rey… Come back. I'm on my way to Jedha now with Daybreak.

He'd calmed down a bit, but I knew he was volatile. I lazily turned my head to see Poe peeking around the corner watching me talk to myself. The image flashed in Ben's mind, too, and he prickled irately.

"Mysterious Force things?" Poe asked, smiling and sitting across from me.

"Don't you sit and mutter to yourself for fun?" I looked to the cockpit to see Finn and Rose were talking and closed my eyes. "So… The First Order won't last much longer, and the Republic will need a leader. Finn told me Leia wanted to pass the mantle to you."

"Yeah, she did. But… shouldn't you take over? Y'know, with all the Force stuff?"

Look how short he is—I could step on him.

I ignored Ben and shook my head, looking at Poe again. "You bled and sacrificed for this war. That's who people will want as a leader, not some scavenger from Jakku. Ben and I played our part."

"Still, you could be a good symbol of hope for everyone." He waggled his fingers, grinning. "The Ashla."

"…Maybe."

Poe's smile faded and he rested his arms on his knees. "You should rest for a while first."

"I fully intend to."

With me. Ben nudged my mind, irate. Say with me.

"Without Ben," I added acidly.

Finn and Rose stepped into the hall as Poe laughed. Ben stewed bitterly in my thoughts but I ignored him and stood up, yawning.

"I'm exhausted," I said. "Wake me up when we get to Jedha."

It was weird being around them. I'd missed Finn to death, and I was happy that Poe and Rose were keeping an eye on him, but something was different. I was different. I'd traveled across the galaxy and come to shoulder a huge responsibility, fallen in love, and looked deeper into myself than I ever thought possible. Ben was right when he said no one else would ever understand. It was isolating.

Don't be sad. The Dark was there, soothing and tempting. Ben, the Dark. They were the same. I will never leave you.

I was too tired to keep fighting him. I shuffled into one of the small crew rooms with a cot and collapsed on it, eyes heavy and prickly from sleepiness. Ben crept along the fringes of the Light, no longer finding comfort in it, and I could feel the deep fear of abandonment front and center. I curled into a ball and closed my eyes. Everything would work out soon.

"Rey."

I was sleeping, but Ben's voice wakes me. Groggy, I glance to my left to see what I expect: his dark eyes watching me, but it's not there. I frown and shiver a bit in the cold and glance down.

His ear is pressed to the small bump between my hip bones and his eyes are bright and excited. I am not as excited to be woken up. I run my fingers through his hair with one hand, using the other to cover up a yawn. He does this a lot.

"What?" I mumble.

Ben gently places his hands on my stomach, obscuring half my body, and closes his eyes. "I can hear her through your mind. She had hiccups." His smile fades and he looks up to me, nervous. "Is that normal?"

I stroke his head and yawn again. "Haven't you read that baby book like ten times?"

"Fifteen." He narrows his eyes, lips puckered, deep in thought. "Could be hiccups… or something else."

Ben crawls back beside me and grabs the baby book off our nightstand that he constantly refers to. He flips through a few pages, using the moonlight from the window to read, then slips his arm under my head so I can doze back off on his chest. His fingertips brush through my hair while he reads and murmurs to himself, and I fall back asleep.

Chapter Text

Ashla. It is time.

I swallowed hard before opening my eyes, steeling myself for what was ahead. Meditation for seven days and seven nights for seven weeks. Hopefully it would drift by like a dream.

Bendu kept talking as I slowly sat up in bed. Your friends must leave. I cannot protect them from Bogan, too. They may take their ship. I will create a barrier around you for as long is as necessary, and you will meditate without pause for exactly seven weeks. If it is interrupted, you must begin again.

"Okay," I mumbled drowsily. "Can I keep my lightsaber?"

You may—but meditate in the full lotus position. He showed me an image of Ben when we meditated in the Caves of Light and Dark. Jedha's tower was destroyed years ago, so you will meditate amidst the rubble. This will give you the strongest connection to the Light.

It seemed impossible, but I had watched Ben do it. I went to the 'fresher to wash up and decided to wear the black robe and pull my hair into my old three-bump ponytail. I stared at my reflection in the mirror and smiled weakly. I could do this.

The influence of the Light was immense. It hummed through my veins and seemed to be keeping Ben at bay. I stretched towards the ceiling as I walked to the cockpit to meet the others.

"Hey!" Finn said, beaming. "Ready when you are."

I smiled at all of them. "Thank you so much for helping me get here. I couldn't have done it without you. But… it's not safe. Ben is volatile right now. Bendu told me it's best if you guys leave."

Poe frowned. "You'll be stuck here."

"Ben will come around when I'm done." Thankfully my tears were all dried up, so just my lower lip trembled. "It's going to take seven weeks. I'll find you all as soon as possible."

"No way," Finn said. "We're not—"

A roar outside caught our attention. We rushed to the window to see Daybreak had arrived, and that meant Ben was here, too, probably still half-insane. I turned back to the three of them and looked into their terrified but determined eyes.

You will be safe, Ashla. I will protect you.

"Go!" I demanded. "Meet me on Chandrila in seven weeks. Understood?"

None of them looked very happy about it. Finn and Poe exchanged a glance and the prior pulled me into a fierce hug. I squeezed him back and pulled Poe and Rose into the embrace. It wasn't going to be easy, but I had to do it. Doing the right thing was sometimes the hardest thing in the world.

"POE DAMERON! COME FIGHT ME!"

We all broke apart and Poe furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. I double-checked my saberstaff and rolled my eyes.

"He thinks you've got a thing for me," I said.

"Poe has a thing for everyone he meets." Finn cast his friend a shrewd look.

The pilot grinned and rubbed the back of his head. "Can't argue with that."

I waved to all of them again and tried to keep a mental image of the group as I stepped out of the shuttle and onto the final planet in my journey. It started up as I walked towards Ben, who was swinging the Darksaber around like a maniac. I ignited mine.

Bendu piped up. The ruins of the temple are not far. Try to distract him or edge the battle towards them. When you've entered the hallowed grounds, I will begin exerting my power to protect you.

"Got it," I said. The ruins called me, pulling like I was on the other end of a leash.

Ben staggered towards me and slashed his saber through the air. "Why did you block me from your thoughts?! What are you hiding?!" He pushed back his hair and I saw he was crying again. "You're going to leave me again and have your perfect life with the PERFECT PILOT!"

Hurry, Ashla. His deepest fears have consumed him. He is beyond reason.

"Looks fine to me," I muttered sarcastically. I raised my voice to call to Ben across the sandy plain. "I couldn't hear you on Mustafar, either, Ben. I'm not hiding anything from you."

"LIAR!" He lashed out with the Force, trying to choke me, but Bendu deflected it.

I didn't want to meet him in combat—both because I knew I was outmatched, and because I didn't want to hurt him. He was scared and spinning out of control without an equal to keep him in check. It wasn't Ben who was screaming and having a mental breakdown. It was the Bogan.

My slippers stumbled across rubble and I glanced back to see the temple ruins were maybe fifty feet away. I turned and Ben was much closer than I expected and closing fast.

"All of you say you won't leave!" he shouted. "But you're all afraid of me—even my own father feared me when I was a child! Every time my mother looked at me she thought of him, until she couldn't stand to be near me anymore and sent me to her brother. And Luke. He detested me the most. There was nowhere else to abandon me, so he thought killing me would solve the blight of Ben Solo!"

I split my saber just in time to catch Ben's over my head. He pushed forward, trembling with rage and pain, and I could feel it all moaning and screaming in my mind. My stabilizing foot slipped back a few inches and I slashed the Darksaber away to turn and run for the temple.

"GET BACK HERE, REY! YOU'RE NOT LEAVING ME, TOO!"

Run, Ashla! His intent has turned murderous!

Terrified, I risked looking over my shoulder to see Ben chasing after me. My heart leapt in my throat and I let the pull of the Light bring me where I needed to go. It murmured comfortingly to me, turning into a soft song, bathing me in tendrils of warm as I drew closer and closer.

Bendu didn't have to tell me where to sit. I knew. It was like a magnet. There was a soft patch of grass and I quickly assumed the full lotus position, balancing the back of my hands on my knees and touching my middle finger to my thumb. Ben had stopped about ten feet away and had his arm cocked back, ready to hurl the Darksaber at me.

I closed my eyes, trembling. Everything would be okay.

The Light erupted from me like a solar flare, forcing Ben to turn away and cover his eyes. It was the last I saw of him as hexagons of white rapidly clicked together in my shadow and hummed overhead, encircling me in a cage of light. My eyes were closed but I could see it—all of it. Warmth flooded my body down through my spine and rooted me to the spot.

It was overwhelming and terrifying but absolutely amazing. All my exhaustion and fear evaporated under the intense, comforting heat, and I sighed. This was where I was meant to be.

Good luck, Ashla. May the Force be with you.

Bendu's voice faded away as I ascended beyond the heat and light into something else.

Nothing.

It was unsettling. I couldn't see, or hear, or speak. All was black. I tried to move to get my bearings but found the gravity was intense and forcing me to stay where I was. Memories trickled out of my mind; even things I wanted to keep, emptying into the nothingness and swirling around me. My emotions were drawn out in the same manner until I was an empty husk. No—give them back!

It felt like an eternity in that state, just sitting there with nothing happening in me or around me. I was uncomfortable at first and wanted the parts of me back, but gradually began to accept it. It was peaceful. I let go of my attachment to them and embraced the emptiness.

Right View.

The blackness around me lightened a bit and my feelings and memories returned.

"Rey—come back!"

Ben crying and kneeling in front of me. He's trying to sway me. He wants me to join him and conquer the galaxy. It's not my purpose, and it's not what I want. I bring peace and compassion.

I don't flinch. "I can't."

"But… I love you." His dark eyes search mine and he grabs the hem of my robe. "Don't you love me?"

"This is not my path. It's yours."

Right Resolve. Right Speech.

The dark turned a lighter shade of gray. I still couldn't use any of my senses. How much time had passed? I flickered with sadness at the sight of Ben but fought to control it.

"Rey, we could really use your help in the upcoming war."

Something that hasn't come to pass. Poe is talking to me; we're sitting at a table. He wants me to use my power to slay his enemies. I have no enemies. This is an abuse of my gift.

I stare evenly back at him. "I won't interfere. This is your fight."

"But…" Poe sits up straighter, trying to convince me. "Think of what's going to happen if you don't. You could take out half their army without batting an eye."

That fact gives me no joy and no motivation to help. Taking sides in the endless wars of the galaxy is not my purpose and I will not help—until it upsets the balance of the Force.

Right Conduct.

The scene around me had turned evenly gray. I felt increasingly in control, like nothing could evoke an emotion in me. Even thinking of Ben wasn't having much effect. The scenes occurred in bursts and I sank back into the nothingness again when they ended, digesting them, considering what they meant.

Ben and I are on Chandrila in our small house. We don't have much, more or less living off the land, but it's simple and easy. I lean my head on his shoulder and watch our daughter tumble through the grass. Our influence and strength don't come with a price—but they are rarely available to others. Ben kisses the top of my head and touches my hand.

Right Livelihood.

It was like I was being shown how to live correctly and use the Light the way it was meant to be used. But I had some influence during the scenes, so it was also a test.

The scenes stopped, and I was left alone in the quiet, hazy gray again. I thought of nothing for a while, then my mind began to wander back to Ben and what he was doing. I quickly drew away from those thoughts, tempting as they were, and let my mind become empty again.

Right Effort.

My senses returned. I could hear the Light tingling like a bell all around me, but I didn't open my eyes. The void was almost white now. I didn't feel angry anymore, or nervous, or unsure. I knew I had to trust in my meditation—and I did. The Light would show me the path I needed to follow. It had all been so confusing before and now it made perfect, transcendent sense.

Right Mindfulness.

Ben appeared to me again, reaching for me, trying to pull me back to earth. I was free from the bonds of my emotions. Empty. If I wanted to, I could float up into space and never come back down. Nothing could bother me anymore.

My earthly tethers were broken, and I drifted up and away from him.

Right Concentration.

All traces of darkness were gone from the light. It began to shine brighter and brighter and soaked into my skin. The purpose I'd been searching for my entire life was right there in front of me, and it wasn't Ben, or the Resistance. It was the Light—and somehow, that made perfect sense.

I knew my test was over and the sense of peace and tranquility lingered behind. I took another deep, steadying breath, and slowly opened my eyes to see the world anew.

Chapter Text

Ben was sitting a few feet in front of me with his fists pushed together, the same pose he meditated in on Mustafar. He had a beard coming in and was wearing the gray robes again instead of the black. The Darksaber was in his lap and his facial expression was peaceful. I could feel his mind—quiet, unassuming, no longer a raging void of misery and pain. It linked with mine, suffusing me with the strong emotions I’d lost during my meditation.

But I could resist them. They didn’t overpower and frighten me anymore. I reached into Ben’s mind to see if he was still half-mad and found myself drifting through his peaceful state.

 …Rey?

His brow furrowed, and he opened his eyes.

We stared at one another for a full minute before Ben jumped on me, pinning me to the rubble of the temple floor. He kissed all along my face and I shrieked with laughter and wrapped my arms around his back. One of his hands slid under my spine and he leaned back to hold me in his lap, burying his face in my neck. He squeezed me until I spluttered and kissed whatever skin his lips could find.

The dark, ominous pressure was gone. I wrapped my legs around his waist and nuzzled under his chin, elated. Ben. I had Ben back.

 Rey, Rey, Rey! He kissed me passionately on the lips, bending me backwards and threading his long fingers in my hair. I don’t know what to do with myself—I love you. He kissed a circle around my face again and down my neck, trembling. I love you. I’m so sorry.

 “…So, how’s it going, Rey?”

We looked up, me guiltily, to see the three friends I had sent away were standing nearby. I cocked my head in confusion as Ben went back to kissing my neck and tendrils of Dark sought out tranquility in the Light. He was overwhelmed with emotion and wanted relief; I was stoic and wanted to feel everything. We pushed and pulled in sync, drawing what we needed from one another.

 “…Hey,” I said awkwardly. “I’m glad you guys are okay.” I blushed when Ben nudged under my chin and touched the back of his head.

 They came right back, Ben said. I started to regain control of myself within a few hours, but they kept their distance and watched me. It’s not in their blood to run from a fight.

Finn rubbed the back of his head. “Yeah, we turned right back around. There was no way we’d leave you here alone. We’d take shifts leaving the planet to get food and stuff.” He smiled and shrugged. “I guess Rebels don’t take orders very well.”

 “It is kind of our thing,” Poe laughed, clapping Finn on the back. He gestured towards Ben, who was dozing off against me. “This one was wandering around you like a lost puppy—so if you ever want a real man, I’ll be on Chandrila rebuilding the Republic.”

Ben stirred. I still don’t like the pilot. He shifted, still with his head under my chin, to glare at Poe.

 “Okay then, Poe.” Rose dragged him back and pinched his cheek. “That’s enough out of you, huh?”

 “We are going to Chandrila, though,” Finn said. “The First Order kind of imploded after you started meditating. No leader, and most of the troops left after Ben had his… uh… episode.” He offered Ben a nervous smile and continued. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but all sides are willing to cooperate. We were hoping you and Ben could make an appearance—just to inspire some hope.”

Just showing up wasn’t intervening or taking sides. I shrugged and nodded, stroking Ben’s hair.

 “Sure,” I said. “But that’s all we’re doing.”

 “We’re taking a damn vacation first,” Ben mumbled into my neck.

I smiled and kissed the side of his head. Agreed.

It was difficult, but I managed to extricate myself from Ben and hugged my friends, elated to see them all healthy and happy. Ben rubbed the back of my robe in his fingertips while I talked with everyone. He stayed close to me like a shadow and didn’t say much.

Finn, Rose, and Poe went back to their ship to head for Chandrila. Ben and I watched them disappear into Jedha’s atmosphere, leaving us alone on the abandoned planet.

Ben squinted up at the sky. “…Where should we go?”

I turned to go back to the ship and he quickly took my hand in his, pressing close to my side.

 “We should stay away from Chandrila for a while—let them settle things.” I smiled at Ben and leaned my head on his arm while we walked. “Spintir was nice.”

 “Yes, nice and quiet.” He kissed the top of my head and cleared his throat. “…I’m sorry, Rey. After Mustafar, and my mother… I lost control of myself. It got worse and worse and I didn’t know what to do.” He squeezed my hand. “I was afraid I’d lose you, too.”

 “It’s okay. I knew you’d come back to me.”

 “But Rey, I’m really—”

We were near the ship. I stopped and turned to face Ben, taking both of his hands in mine, and his Adam’s apple bobbed. He was deeply upset about everything that had happened, but he didn’t need to apologize to me for the rest of our lives. It was all in the past and I wasn’t holding onto it.

 “It’s okay,” I said again, searching his eyes. “We love each other, and that’s all that matters.”

 I still don’t deserve you.

 “Of course you do.” I leaned on my tiptoes and he instinctively dipped his neck so I could kiss his forehead.

At least one of the Force visions had been accurate—Ben was practically attached to me at the hip. He kept my robe between his fingertips when I walked onto the ship and followed me into the cockpit to type in the coordinates for Spintir. I didn’t mind, but I swatted him away when I went to use the ‘fresher.

I changed into one of the extra sets of robes I got back on Jakku and Ben was right outside when I opened the door. He again followed me into the cockpit and sat next to me as I lifted off Jedha, and I gave him a pitying look.

 “Were you a little lonely?” I asked.

 How’d you know? Ben leaned past me to turn on the autopilot. I couldn’t hear you, and the other three were terrible company.

I raised an eyebrow. “Finn might’ve been having flashbacks to you ripping open his spine.”

 You ripped open half of my torso and face. It’s a sign of affection.

 “Oh, I see.”

We were finally alone, finally equal, and all was right in the world. We stared at each other for another minute, then I practically jumped out of my chair into Ben’s lap.

He wrapped an arm around my waist and kissed me deeply, groping the dashboard to stumble to his feet. I ran my fingers through his hair and hooked my legs over his hips as he staggered out of the cockpit and grabbed the top of the doorframe to keep from falling over. I didn’t know if we’d even make it to a bed and I didn’t care anymore.

Ben managed to open the nearest quarters and staggered inside. He set me on my feet and I hurriedly helped him pull off his shirt, frequently interrupted by more kissing.

 “Small bed,” he panted.

I shook my head and hooked my fingers over his pants. “Don’t care.”

 “Good—me neither.”

We were both kind of worried about being interrupted again and rushed to get his clothes off first. Ben’s thoughts rapidly shifted between all the times we’d already fooled around and the fantasies he made up for himself and the present moment. He groaned, rolling my lower lip through his teeth, and hesitated to press his forehead to mine and look into my eyes.

 Too fast? he asked.

 “No.” I shook my head spastically and glanced down his body, trying not to linger like a creep. Hot—definitely hot. Nerve-wrackingly hot. “Nope. Definitely not.”

Ben turned to lowered me on the bed and knelt between my legs, sliding his hands up my shirt and leaning across me to kiss my neck. His fingertips brushed across the bindings over my breasts and he tore through them without hesitation. I took a sharp breath as he cupped one mound in his rough palm and rolled his thumb across my nipple. He panted into my hair and tugged desperately on my shirt until I managed to push him back so I could take it off.

I giggled when he leaned back down on top of me. “Ben, I need clothes, so please don’t tear them.”

He layered kisses down my neck and across my collar bone and reached blindly past me to grab a rung from the bunk above us. No point in wearing anything for the next few weeks. His mouth moved across my breasts and his dark eyes flickered to mine as he gently tugged my nipple into the wet warmth.

My cheeks flushed pink and I averted my eyes to his arm above my head. Still shy… Who figured I’d still be shy? I focused on the cords of muscle running through his forearm and his knuckles turning white with each attempt to control himself and make the moment last. Snippets raced by faster; he was switching to random things now, like a cloudless sky and an open plain.

Ben sat up again, crouching to keep from hitting his head, and shimmied my pants just past my hips. He hesitated and I saw his jaw clench as he pressed his thumbs into the protruding bones. I had some bruises and scrapes and scars, but so did he, so that wasn’t what was stopping him.

I blinked. “Something wrong?”

 Savoring the moment. He covered his face with both hands and sighed. …And we have no protection.

 “…Protection from—” I started my naïve question, then gasped in realization, remembering the many Force visions where I was pregnant. “Ohh. That.”

Ben nodded and peered through his fingers. I had seven weeks to prepare and it didn’t even cross my mind. And I more or less spent the entire seven weeks thinking about it. He closed his fingers, groaning.

 “Well what are the odds it’ll happen the first time?” I asked, eyeing the scar I’d drawn up his body. “And even if it does, that’s what we both want. Right?”

 …Yes, but maybe not right now.

I sat up to pull his hands away from his face and swallowed hard, half-crazed with lust. “Ben, we’ve been pretty much winging it since we met. No point in stopping now, right?”

Both of us fell silent for a moment and it was broken by the twitter of a new message on the com. I frowned and looked towards the door. Who would be—

Ben shoved me back down on the bed and shook his head, kissing across my face and neck. No, no; probably not important!

I squealed and laughed when his beard tickled my skin. “We have to check!”

 Rey, I will tie you to this bed!

He rolled off easily enough when I squirmed out from under him but tried to tug me back by my hand. I squeezed apologetically and pulled free to put my clothes back on. Ben watched with an arm across his face and growled irately under his breath. His arousal was obvious through our bond and I awkwardly turned away from the… physical part of it.

 “Someone better be dying!” he snapped as I left the room.

I rolled my eyes and rearranged myself, all flustered from our latest interrupted encounter. Maybe the universe really didn’t want us sleeping together.

In the cockpit I replayed the message from Poe: First Order remnants reported on Chandrila. They hadn’t arrived yet but said they might need our help. I pursed my lips and leaned back in the pilot’s seat, thinking about whether or not I could intervene. The First Order destabilized the Force—so it made sense that Ben and I would extinguish them completely. Right?

Ben plopped down in the copilot’s chair and folded his arms to mope. “Well? Who’s dying?”

 “No one yet. There’s a splinter cell of the First Order conveniently on Chandrila and the future leader of the Republic would like our help.”

 “Dameron,” Ben hissed. He leaned forward to enter the coordinates for Chandrila, scowling. “I should’ve squashed him when I had the chance.”

I absently patted his arm. “No squashing people, please. We have to get… things, anyway, so it’s actually kind of a good thing!” I nudged him, beaming. “Right?”

Ben sat back and kept pouting, crossing his arms and tapping his fingers on his biceps. “Shouldn’t have said anything. Should’ve just let you keep thinking that babies drop out of the sky. ‘Why am I pregnant, Ben?!’ ‘Don’t know, Rey, the Force works in mysterious ways!’”

 “Hey! I know how that stuff works! I just forgot for a second.”

 “Sure, you did.” His irritation petered out and he smiled and leaned over to peck me on the cheek. “I love you, my little Rebel.”

I smirked at the dig. “Love you too, Emperor.”

Chapter Text

 “Have you heard Bendu at all?”

We’d landed out in a field on Chandrila and were getting our lightsabers before leaving the ship. Ben shook his head and handed me my saberstaff.

 Only briefly during your meditation. Like I said, I regained control of myself fairly quickly and he didn’t have to keep protecting you. He could be gone because we’ve achieved balance.

 “Yeah…” I frowned, clipping my saber to my belt. “I miss him randomly popping into my head.”

Ben raised an eyebrow. Odd, but not surprising.

We stepped off Daybreak into the familiar dreamscape of Chandrila, complete with a sweet breeze and warm sunshine. I stretched my arms towards the sky and smiled as Ben stood beside me and fingered the edge of my robe. It was nothing like our first visit, when we still had no idea what we were searching for or where to look. So much had changed in such a short time.

He looked around and absentmindedly kissed the top of my head. “If I don’t see First Order troops in the next five minutes, Poe Dameron is going to feel my wrath.”

I shielded my eyes with my hand, squinting across the rippling grassy field. “They’re probably in Hanna City. No reason to wander around out here.”

Ben threaded his long fingers through mine when I dropped my hand back to my side. We trekked across the field towards the towering mountains that led into Hanna City, quietly enjoying one another’s presence. I didn’t feel the constant need to calm him down and could slip into the depths of his emotions without worrying about drowning in them. It was peaceful—the right order of things.

I peered up at him. “What did you do for the seven weeks?”

 Not much. He shrugged and watched butterflies flutter past us. At first I kept pacing around you and driving off the other three when they came too close. I spent a few days planning where we would go when you were done, and for the last week I mostly meditated and hoped I’d hear you.

 “Oh. I mostly floated around in nothingness and had to learn how to be detached.”

Ben nodded. That’s going to be very difficult.

 “You think?” I asked, cocking my head. “It was mostly just about not interfering or letting you sway my decisions.”

 The entire galaxy will learn about us sooner or later—and every one of them will want our help. We’ll inspire extremists, attract sects. It won’t be simple and staying detached will be almost impossible. We have to be careful of when to interfere and remember to use a light touch when we do.

Light touch… That would be easy for me, because the Light was defensive and passive, but the Dark was aggressive and passionate. Then again, if my friends were in trouble, ignoring it would truly be impossible.

I wound my arm through Ben’s and rested my head on his arm. “What happened during your meditation?”

 I thought of you. He squeezed my hand and vague snippets of me laughing and smiling floated lazily about in his mind. How to stay attached—to see the forest for the trees instead of concerning myself with the galaxy as a whole. Keeping the balance in small ways and not allowing my passion for change and growth to become megalomania, helping keep you from stagnation.

 “Stagnation? How so?”

He showed me a memory from his meditation. Me, interfering in the natural order of change by preventing normal scuffles between factions out of my hatred of death and bloodshed. I couldn’t concern myself with small things like Ben did. I had to check the bigger insults to the Force, like the First Order razing strife and destruction across the entire galaxy, obliterating entire planets.

 “I don’t want any more wars and death,” I said.

 I know. But it’s the natural order, my love. You preserve life and I preserve death.

We came upon the same gate from our previous visit to Chandrila, but there were no guards outside. Ben narrowed his eyes and watched black smoke curling from within Hanna City.

 “Speaking of death…” he muttered. He unclipped the Darksaber and ignited the black blade.

 “REY!”

Finn, Poe, and Rose were jogging up to us from their ship. I beamed and gave Finn a side hug when he stopped beside me, and heard Ben hissing to himself about Poe when he decided to hug me and lift me off the ground. Rose whispered to him about not poking the bear and Finn pointed to the city.

 “They sent out a distress call,” he said. “There’s not many of them, but they mentioned a guy dressed in black who could use the Force, so we figured we’d call you.”

 One of the Knights? Ben looked towards the city and narrowed his eyes.

 “Ben thinks it’s one of the Knights of Ren,” I said without missing a beat.

Poe rolled his eyes. “There’s a whole boyband?”

Ben shot him a dirty look and I hurriedly stepped in to diffuse the situation before it spiraled.

 “They’re former students of Luke’s,” I said. “They don’t have lightsabers, but they can use the Force. We’ll deal with him and you guys take care of the First Order remnants.”

 “Got it.” Poe cocked his blaster.

We all headed to the city and both Ben and I felt a pulse from the Force near the gates. We exchanged a glance and brushed our fingers as I ignited the saberstaff.

 “Together,” I said.

Ben nodded. Together.

The city was in a state of panic. Stormtroopers had broken into and flooded through houses and were chasing people through the streets. It wasn’t the peaceful, bustling city Ben and I had visit a few months ago. I winced, pained by the death all around us, but it didn’t affect Ben. He caught a blaster bolt mid-shot and reversed it back into a Stormtrooper’s helmet and seized a group of three with the Force to send them flying into a house.

 “Focus on protecting people!” Poe called to Finn and Rose.

They all nodded to one another and broke apart to sweep down the streets and clear out the Stormtroopers. I swallowed hard, overwhelmed by all the violence, and found myself trailing behind Ben as he swept troops out of our way and ran through stragglers with the Darksaber when they got too close. His power waxed between us and soon I could feel a dark depression in the Force.

 Up ahead, Ben said, pointing to a bell tower. I know who it is.

 “How did they get all these troops?” I spun my saberstaff and shoved the blue end through a Stormtrooper chasing a woman.

 The First Order splintered after I left. Various people are picking up the pieces.

We picked off what troopers we could and saw Finn, Rose, and Poe as we arrived at the bell tower. They were almost done liberating the city; the group of troops hadn’t been huge and they were poorly organized. I followed Ben through the wooden door into the bell tower and peered up the staircase.

Blaster fire rained down on us and Ben again caught it with the Force to send it back up. He jerked his head towards the stairs and I followed, splitting my staff in half with a crackle.

It was a short walk to the top. We passed by two fallen Stormtroopers in black and emerged on the top floor, ringed by wide open windows and whistling with a cool breeze. Blaster fire from outside was slowly dying away and there was no other sound with in the tower.

A man in black was standing by one of the windows with a long, curved sword touching the cobblestone. He had a helmet on with holes in the front like a beehive and a thick, long cape draped across him. He turned slightly to face Ben and I, combat boots clicking on the floor. Ben twirled the Darksaber.

 “Hello, Kylo.” The voice was mottled and deep by the helmet.

Ben tilted his head. “Shivu Ren. What brings you to Chandrila?”

Shivu scraped his sword off the floor and pointed out the window with it. “I heard you had aligned yourself with the Resistance and knew they would rebuild here. I had to see it for myself.”

 “And where are the other Knights?” Ben asked.

 “I’m not sure—but they’ll be looking for you.” Shivu spun his sword and turned it on me. “Is this the girl? From the visions?”

I frowned and looked up at Ben. “You had visions of me, too?”

 Yes—several times before we met. He nodded to Shivu.

The Knight swept his sword over his shoulder, bouncing the blunt end. “Hm. Interesting. Darkness rises and light to meet it. Why haven’t you killed her?”

I blanched. Uh…

Ben laughed and took a step forward. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m weak, like the Supreme Leader always said.” He spun the Darksaber again and it hummed through the air. “But I can still kill you.”

 “We’ll see about that.”

It wasn’t a fair fight. I didn’t think Ben and I would be able to have a fair fight with anyone in the galaxy again after our meditation. We were too powerful to be killing individuals like the Knights, who were evil, but beneath our purpose. I grabbed Ben’s arm before he could swing the saber and both he and Shivu paused with their weapons raised.

 “Did you bring the Stormtroopers here?” I asked.

 “No.” Shivu gestured towards the window. “As I said, I knew the Republic would rebuild here and followed a group of Stormtroopers. The two you killed had come to kill me.”

 “This would be an execution,” I said, stepping in front of Ben. “We can’t go around slaughtering people like we’re gods.”

Ben glanced over my head at Shivu. “We are gods.”

 “Ben.” I tugged his shirt to make him look down at me again and raised my eyebrows. “Light touch. Remember? Killing him is not a light touch—especially if he isn’t the source of the skirmish.”

Shivu sighed loudly. “I did swear to follow you anywhere, Kylo, and I suppose if you’re still aligned with the Dark Side, my fealty stands.”

 “He is,” I said, turning to look at Shivu. “But not in the way you think.”

 “We could discuss this elsewhere,” Ben said. “We need to clean up and rid the city of the Stormtroopers.” He pointed the Darksaber at Shivu. “Don’t think of trying to flee. I will find you.”

 “Oh, I won’t. I’m much more interested in seeing this power of yours than running away.”

Ben and I descended back downstairs to meet up with the other three. Shivu followed behind, lurking just out of sight, and leaned on the bell tower as we all came back into our group. There were dead Stormtroopers and civilians everywhere and some people were starting to come out of their homes to survey the damage. I wanted to vomit being surrounded by so much death and suffering.

 “Help is coming from Naboo,” Poe said. “They’re sending medical supplies along with their Senator. Coruscant is sending aid to help rebuild and clear out the Stormtroopers with their Senator. It looks like we got them all, but…” He nudged one’s arm with his foot. “The bodies have to be dealt with.”

 “I’ll start gathering them.” Ben clipped the Darksaber back to his belt and kissed the top of my head. “Be safe.”

I watched him walk away with Shivu. Finn frowned at their backs as Ben began easily drawing the limp bodies together to put them in a pile.

 “Is that the Knight?” Finn asked. “Looks just as creepy as Kylo Ren.”

 “We’re giving him a chance.” I turned to face them and sheathed my saberstaff. “I’m going to see if I can heal people. I’ve never tried it before, but… I don’t want to stand around and wait. Rose, Finn, do you mind giving me some help?”

We went around Hanna City finding the injured. Finn would help prop them up and Rose would comfort them while I tried my best to use the Light to heal their wounds. It was difficult with how heavy the Dark hung over the city, but I drew from my endless wellspring and focused on knitting together the gashes and broken bones. Some things were too complicated but I could seal the goriest wounds enough to give them a fighting chance until help arrived.

We sat in the middle of the city near the fountain and people brought their injured family and friends. Finn and Rose scoured houses for more and Poe joined in, too. It was nauseating seeing how mutilated some people were but I refused to give up. I pulled and pulled from the Light and the group of healed civilians around me slowly grew larger.

One marveled after I repaired a broken finger and knelt beside me, seizing the edge of my robe. His blue eyes were wide and welling up with tears.

 “Ashla,” he whispered. He turned to the others who hadn’t left yet and were staring at me with mixed wonder and fear. “Ashla! The Tythan legends—they were true!”

I laughed uncomfortably and waved my hands. “I’m just a Force-sensitive—”

 “Yes!” A woman stood up, nodding and pointing at me. “See how she shines? Like a beacon! No normal Force-sensitive could heal such grievous wounds in so many people!” The woman turned to address the small crowd, who were murmuring amongst themselves. “She is an avatar of the Ashla—the Light Side of the Force!”

The line of people waiting to see me gasped and gradually, everyone in the vicinity began to kneel. I jumped to my feet and kept hysterically waving my hands. Poe, Finn, and Rose glanced between one another and back to me.

 “Don’t kneel!” I pleaded, trying to pull the man beside me back to his feet. “I don’t want you to worship me; I’m just doing what’s right!”

 “We don’t deserve you.” The man grabbed my hands and bowed his head, trembling. “Are you here to lead the Republic, Ashla?”

 “Rey?”

Ben appeared from my left with Shivu trailing behind him. The latter had his sword sheathed on his back and looked out across the crowd of kneeling Chandrilans.

I tore my hands free from the man. “Ben, they know what I am, and now they’re all kneeling!

 “Let them. You can’t control what they choose to do.” Ben nodded to Poe. “It’s done. The Stormtroopers are in a pile and we laid out the dead to be identified. Rey and I need to leave before the Senators arrive from Naboo and Coruscant and this—” He gestured to the crowd “—gets out of hand.”

 “You can’t go yet!” Finn protested.

 “Finn,” I said, “we shouldn’t even be here. Shivu was the only reason we came, and if the Senators find out who we are, this will get a lot more complicated.”

A chant began in the crowd. Ashla the Mother… Ashla the Truth… Ashla the Light…

Ben took my hand. You shouldn’t have healed all those people. Some of them were meant to die.

 “I can’t just watch people suffer,” I snapped.

He rubbed his face and started to talk again when we saw figures emerging from the dust.

A Togruta female led the group, wearing a long, flowing red gown. She had dark orange skin with white facial markings and blue and white Lekku and montrals and appeared middle aged. Troops followed behind her and a human man in a slightly simpler style of dress was just behind her to the left. I didn’t know where they were from, but I heard Poe mutter ‘Coruscant.’

Her blue eyes assessed all of us and her grey lips turned up in a small smile. “Well this is interesting.” She raised an eyebrow. “Do my eyes deceive me, or is that Ben Solo?”

I stared blankly at her and felt a bit of anxiety from Ben. He was trying to shuffle behind me to hide but the Togruta wasn’t having it. She raised her long fingers and the Force rippled as he staggered back into view. He could’ve resisted it but let her pull him forward a few feet, where he stopped and kept avoiding her gaze.

 “…Hello, Ahsoka,” he mumbled.

I blinked rapidly, getting more and more confused. Who was this Force-sensitive Togruta, and how did she know Ben?

Chapter Text

Ahsoka made a lazy motion upwards with her hand to flip Ben’s hair out of his face. “I hardly recognized you behind that mop, Ben—but you still have Anakin’s eyes.” She joined her hands in her sleeves again and an emotion I couldn’t place flashed across her face. “Or should I call you Kylo Ren?”

Poe picked through the crowd of people who were still kneeling before me as medical help emerged from Ahsoka’s group. I got annoyed and used the Force to jerk the guy next to me back to his feet. Others began to follow suit as help arrived to finish tending to their wounds, but some still wouldn’t stand up. Ahsoka smiled at Poe and her blue eyes flickered to me.

 “It’s good to see you, Ahsoka.” Poe awkwardly bowed to her and gestured to the crowd. “We cleared out the Stormtroopers and… I guess that one over there is with Ky—I mean, Ben.”

 “Ah. We regret our inability to intervene during the battle with the Supremacy, but the welfare of the people of Coruscant comes first. We will gladly work to rebuild the new Republic and destroy the remaining remnants of the First Order.” Her gaze swept across the crowd. “Why are these people bowing to this child?”

Ben grabbed my arm to pull me back in front of him like a shield. “This is Rey. She’s… from Jakku. I found her in Takodana Forest. And kidnapped her.” His thoughts swirled around, crackling with nervousness. “…I realize that sounds bad, but then I made her cry a few times. Kidnapped her… again… more crying… We kissed once or twice, and I tried to kill her—”

 “Okay, Ben!” I laughed, wriggling out of his grip. I walked up to Ahsoka and copied Poe’s bow. “My name is Rey, and I am from Jakku. I’m no one, just Ben’s counterpart in the Light.”

 “Force stuff,” Poe offered.

Ahsoka raised an eyebrow. “Are you? Last I heard, Ben Solo murdered his father in cold blood. Why would a being of the Light be within such proximity to a being of the Dark?”

 “It’s very, very complicated,” I said.

 “I have time.” Ahsoka gestured for the rest of the group to disperse to help the civilians. “I’m sure there’s an operational hotel in this city. Let’s go have food and drink and discuss things. Naboo is sending a Senator, yes? Hera Syndulla, I assume. We will all need somewhere to stay.”

We made our way through Hanna City to the portion that hadn’t been touched by the Stormtroopers. Ahsoka traveled with two guards but nothing else, and when she stepped into the hotel, I noticed a lightsaber on her hip. My eyes widened and I grabbed Ben’s sleeve before we went inside.

 “She’s a Jedi?!” I whispered urgently.

Ben shook his head. “She hadn’t been for a very long time. She was my grandfather’s Padawan but was framed for a crime and ejected from the Order.”

I started to ask another question when I felt an odd tremble in Ben’s mind. His face blanched but his cheeks turned red as I moved deeper into his thoughts and saw some images of Ahsoka that he had from his youth. Her dancing and laughing, the sensation of her lips when she kissed his forehead, her smiling and talking to Leia, and the scent of her perfume. The redness spread from his cheeks to his ears.

For the first time ever, I felt jealousy. I glanced at Ahsoka’s retreating form and scowled up at Ben.

 “Well,” I said tersely, “isn’t that nice?”

 Rey, I was a teenager, and—

I stomped up the stairs into the fancy hotel and suppressed his thoughts. Maybe it was juvenile, but I didn’t care at that moment.

We were all given rooms but went directly to the meeting room to discuss everything. Hera arrived from Naboo with her own forces and came into the hotel with nothing more than her own blaster. She clapped excitedly when she saw Ahsoka and gave her a hug.

Hera was a Twi’lek; typically they were slaves, renowned for their long lekku and various skin colors and beauty. She wore pants and a pink shirt that contrasted starkly with her green skin. She shook hands with everyone else but hesitated when she saw Ben.

 “…Ben Solo?” she mused. “Interesting.”

I sat in a chair and glared across the table at Ben, immediately dipping into his thoughts to see how he felt about this strange woman. Ben sat ramrod straight as Ahsoka and Hera sat on either side of him. Finn and Poe sat on either side of me and Rose sat beside Finn.

Ben swallowed hard and squeezed his eyes shut.

It was similar for Hera. She was younger than Ahsoka but still far too old for Ben. He had vague memories similar to the ones of Ahsoka: dancing, polite kissing, the scent of her. But Twi’leks were unfortunately usually slaves, and Ben had one carefully constructed fantasy about her dancing for him in chains, her long lekku drifting in green spirals across her back.

I fumed. Are you KIDDING?!

 I was fifteen and I only ever met the Senators who visited to see my mother!

 What else is in here?! I hissed.

 “So, Rey.”

I jerked out of Ben’s mind and smiled awkwardly across the table at Ahsoka. She was probably three times my age but ten times as beautiful, and a Force-sensitive, and she was Anakin’s Padawan.

Ahsoka gestured to Ben beside her. “Explain what’s happened. I have been so busy on Coruscant trying to protect my people—I’d like to know more.”

 “Well…” I shifted and cleared my throat. “Ben and I are avatars of the Dark and the Light Sides. The Force connected us a few months ago and we met a being named Bendu who sent us to Mustafar and Jedha to meditate. Things happened and now we’ve meditated and ascended to who we’re supposed to be. We aren’t supposed to be involved in things like this.”

 “Ascended?” Hera echoed.

 “We’re… the Ashla and Bogan.” I shrugged. “The Light and the Dark. We’re supposed to keep balance across the galaxy.”

Hera frowned. “Like the Tythan tale? Hm.” She leaned over Ben to speak to Ahsoka. “What do you think?”

Ahsoka tapped her fingers on the table, then took Ben’s hand without another word and closed her eyes. He stiffened even more and stared at me in terror as the Force rippled around them. She was trying to sense how powerful he was and I could feel it across our bond.

The Dark murmured and hissed inside Ben and even I could feel the overwhelming pressure. Ahsoka’s eyes widened and she drew away from him in shock.

 “Ben certainly is powerful,” she said. “It reminds me of Darth Vader.” She looked at me and extended her long, graceful fingers. “Rey? Do you mind?”

I shook my head and grasped her cool palm. Her presence was a flicker, like Leia’s, and I was hardly bothered by her checking the Light in me. She had barely brushed it when she drew back, both through the Force and physically, and she put a hand on Ben’s shoulder.

 “It’s true,” she whispered. “The two of you… You’re abnormally powerful.”

 “Sure are.” Ben lowered his shoulder away from her touch and stared at the table, trying to let it permeate his thoughts.

 “But we can’t intervene,” I said. “We’re supposed to be objective, especially me.”

Hera pushed her palm flat on Ben’s cheek like she could sense the Force, puckering her lips. “I dunno, he still feels like the same weird kid I met twenty years ago.”

 “Can the two of you help rebuild the Republic?” Ahsoka asked.

Ben is lying in his bed. He’s shorter, but ten times hornier. He’s watching Ahsoka and Hera dancing together in the middle of his room and his pants are down. He gestures for them to approach, stroking himself and groaning, and they crawl into his bed…

I stood up so fast that my chair clattered back on the floor. Ben hung his head.

 “No,” I said in a clipped tone. “We can’t intervene.”

I left the room without another word and Poe took over the discussion. Ben also jerked to his feet and muttered an excuse before hurrying after me.

The Force was a godsend—I used it to shut the elevator doors before Ben got there. I leaned on the wall, unsure of how to deal with the envy I felt and ended up pacing all the wall to the third floor. He tried to contact me through our bond but I shut him out. We could do that again, much to my surprise.

I unlocked the room and stormed inside, tossing the card key on the mini-kitchen counter. He stumbled in after me and followed me to the ‘fresher.

 “Rey, let me explain!”

He shoved the door open when I tried to shut it. Irate, I tried to use the Force, but Ben pried it back open and stumbled inside. The refresher was all white granite and stainless-steel accents. I was too annoyed to pay them much attention.

 “Get out!” I snapped.

He turned to push me into the counter. I squirmed under him, turning pink, and grabbed his jaw. His beard tickled my palm.

 Don’t be a child, Rey. How I felt about them doesn’t matter. He pried my hand away from his face and pinned it to the counter. I’m ten years older than you and I’ve been across the galaxy. I’ve been with and thought of other women.

 “You’re a child!” I retorted.

Ben seized my other hand to pin it to the counter, too, struggling to keep me from escaping. I realize this is difficult, but you’re what I want. You’re the only woman I’ve ever loved.

 “Only if I have lekku, right?”

 Don’t be obtuse.

I narrowed my eyes and hopped off the floor to wrap my legs around Ben’s hips, then maneuvered my knees forward and pushed to unbalance him. He blinked in surprise and his grip slackened enough for me to slip away and bolt out of the ‘fresher.

He caught up to my halfway across the sitting room and I managed to turn and trip him. But he grabbed my ankle before I could get away and I fell on the soft beige carpet, hissing and spitting like an angry cat.

Ben dragged me backwards and I tried to dig my nails into the carpet. He was stronger but I was an expert at squirming away from people and he struggled to keep me pinned down. I clawed for freedom as he wrestled my hands above my head and used his weight to finally flatten me to the floor.

I panted furiously, cheek scratching on the carpet, and Ben used his free hand to brush my hair from my face. His breath was on my ear.

 “You think you’re the only one who feels jealous?” He growled when I jerked upwards and his fingers tightened around mine. “What about you and the Stormtrooper? And the pilot?”

It was such an odd thing to hear that I didn’t respond for a minute. I frowned and laughed when I realized he was being serious.

 “Finn?” I asked in disbelief. “And Poe, who I barely know? Finn is like a brother and Poe is… kind of an ass.” Was the avatar of Light allowed to swear?

 I see the way they look at you.

 “…I sure don’t.”

The Dark prickled in Ben as he pushed harder against me. I squirmed and reddened when I felt stiff pressure on my… behind. Avatar of Light, avatar of Light; pure thoughts…

 No—you didn’t notice it when I looked at you that way, either. His thoughts gave way to different glimpses of me, back from our very first meeting in Takodana Forest, to when Anakin’s lightsaber chose me, to his stare after we finished off the Praetorian guards. Desire. Want.

 “That’s ridiculous. Finn doesn’t—”

 Oh, but he does. Dameron does, too. You’re a powerful, magnetizing woman, Rey. Ben kissed the arch of my jaw, lingering there. …Beautiful, too. Sweet and naïve, but confident. His long fingers wrapped around my waist, pressing under my body to my hip bone. And you’re mine.

 “You think so?” My voice rose in pitch and the intimidating tone was lost.

Ben kissed the corner of my mouth and flexed his hips against my butt, holding my hip to keep me from squirming away. I would be happy to prove it to you.

I wriggled a bit to show I was still fighting to get away. My pulse pounded; mouth went dry. He trailed his lips along my jaw to kiss the side of my neck, shifting forward again to remind me of my compromising position. I tried to swallow and dug my fingernails into the carpet. Maybe this could be worked to my advantage… If I didn’t accidentally say something weird.

 “I don’t think you can,” I mumbled. “And… Poe said something about getting dinner later?”

Ben paused, then let go of my hands to tug down the shoulder of my robe, kissing down from my neck. Did he now? I made another half-hearted escape attempt and Ben pinned one of my arms with his, curling his hand to seize my jaw. Ah, ah. You’re not going anywhere.

I was dizzy with excitement. I smiled a bit and swallowed, unable to move my head. His hand eclipsed my entire jaw and two fingertips pressed into my throat.

 “But I’ll be late,” I said, trying to whimper.

 You’ll forget all about him when I’m done with you. His fingers slithered down the front of my pants and I squirmed as they slipped through my folds. But why don’t you try asking me nicely?

 “…Please?” I was quivering now, nervous and elated, but mostly nervous.

The Dark swelled in Ben and spilled over into me. It couldn’t overwhelm me anymore and I could finally enjoy the icy chill up my spine and the jolt of desire in my belly. His thoughts were becoming disjointed, flickering primal impulses, driving the darkness in him and drawing a groan from his throat. His fingers stroked between my legs and I whimpered and tried to move but he held me in place.

 Beg me. His voice was a sinister whisper in my mind, like a frigid trickle of water from a dam about to burst. Apologize for teasing me.

I strained against the hand holding my jaw. “Please… let me go…” My eyes rolled back and I panted, grinding into Ben’s fingers. “I’m sorry I… teased you.”

His hips moved in restrained thrusts and I arched my back to give him better access. I could feel the pressure at my apex and was getting lost in Ben’s increasingly erratic thoughts. He wanted to yank down my pants and take me right there, but he didn’t want me to regret it. He buried his face in my hair and swallowed, trying to keep the thoughts at bay so he could plan the next move.

I stared at the wall ahead and took a steadying breath. I was ready. I wanted it.

 “Do it,” I whispered.

 What? Ben’s mind went haywire again with random snippets of me. He briefly became overwhelmed by the slick moisture on his fingers between my legs and his breath caught. “Do what?”

I pushed back against him suggestively and his fingers shifted closer to my throat than my jaw. He could see it in my mind. So much for me being obtuse.

Ben’s breath was hot on my ear. “Say it,” he snapped in a low, commanding tone. His long fingers curled around my throat and one between my legs pushed inside me. “Say it.

 “Ah…” I lost my voice for a second and my head spun. “I… I…”

 Tell me you want me to fuck you. He squeezed my throat. Tell me you belong to me. You’re my little drop of sunshine—my Rey of light. Mine.

I flushed pink with embarrassment. “Ben, I—”

He abruptly stopped and dragged me to my feet with him, then scooped me up in his arms to slip his tongue in my mouth. He struggled with the bedroom door for a second before breaking it open with his shoulder and stumbling inside.

Ben dropped me on the bed—white sheets—and slammed the door shut with the Force before peeling his shirt off. I did the same as fast as I could.

 You are not leaving this bed until I tell you to. He got naked faster than me and crawled on top of me in bed, grabbing my hips to move me up into the pillows when I took too long to scooch back.

I laughed a little as he yanked my pants off. “You can’t tell me what to do, Emperor.” I liked saying it with a sarcastic inflection to get his blood boiling.

He leaned back, looming over me, dark eyes slowly taking in my naked body. My mirth faded away as I did the same, looking down the length of him and across his broad shoulders. I’d thought his body was flawless but it was riddled with scars, just like mine. He drew his calloused fingers down my ribs, across aged sunburns and freckles and moles. Calloused—just like mine.

Ben’s mind slowed somewhat but he didn’t say anything. He tilted forward again and I met him halfway in another passionate kiss, running my fingers through his hair and bringing him to me.

Our essences quietly melded together in our minds as Ben pressed his forehead to mine. I could feel him, hot and urgent between my legs and his dark eyes were bright. He cupped my cheek to kiss me chastely on the lips again and the other slid down to my thigh to hitch it over his hip. His mind buzzed and neither of us spoke as he shifted forward, rustling the sheets, and gently pushed inside me.

I arched and bit back a whimper, afraid he’d stop if he knew it hurt a little, and Ben went stiff. He kissed the side of my head and panted into my neck, thoughts whirling again, and made small, tentative thrusts to take each elastic inch of flesh. I kept one hand in his hair and wrapped the other around his back. My nails bit into his skin without me realizing it. Ben didn’t mind.

 God… dammit, Rey. He groped blindly for the headboard and curled a hand over it, kissing down the length of my throat and shaking his head. The other was under my head and his fingers tugged on my hair. Ah… FUCK!

He abruptly thrust all the way inside me and I squeaked in more surprise than pain. It felt good—really good, like a satisfying sense of fullness and pressure. I wrapped both arms around his back as Ben picked up his pace and squeezed my butt. A low murmur went through his head…

 …Korriban, Naboo, Chandrila, Tython— It stopped when I moaned and bucked my hips against his. Ben clenched his jaw and his other hand seized the headboard. …Ah… Coruscant, Tatooine, Jakku, Alderaan…

 “Are you listing planets?” I whispered into his ear, smiling.

Ben nodded into my neck. I’m sorry. I have to. His thoughts were stormy and echoed with my moans and different laughs and me saying his name. It’ll be easier next time.

I could use the Light to help him calm down, but it seemed inappropriate, like the ‘sanitizing’ he’d mentioned back on Naboo. I eased back and closed my eyes, rolling my hips in a way that felt good, and Ben’s mind continued to churn. He pulsed inside me.

 This is… really difficult. Ben thought briefly of flipping me on my stomach and slapping my butt—rude! I can see and feel so much… what I want; what you want… It’s overwhelming.

 “Should we stop?”

Ben jerked back like I’d suggested he try setting me on fire, rapidly shaking his head. “No, no!” He turned on his back and pulled me on top of him so I was straddling his hips. “We’ll try this way.”

He lifted me as if I weighed nothing and gently guided me as he slipped back inside me. I gasped and grabbed his wrists, terribly shy about being so exposed, and Ben murmured encouragingly. He held my hips loosely as I experimented by rotating my hips then sliding up and down. His Dark eyes took it all in and he calmed down a bit.

 Good girl. Does it feel nice?

I nodded, panting. “Y-yes. Yes!” Tension. The coiling sensation.

 Louder. Ben leaned up to wrap an arm around me and was almost sitting up all the way. His hand twisted around my hair and pulled. And say my name, scavenger.

 “…Ben?” I said in a small voice like it was a question.

 Louder! he barked across our bond.

The tingling feeling prickled between my legs as I grinded my hips into Ben’s, and it snapped through me like in the shower on Naboo. My eyes widened and I managed to moan his name but was still too nervous to raise the volume of my voice. I could feel him inside me, both across our bond and physically, as the sensation throbbed until it gradually ebbed away.

Ben abruptly flipped me over on my stomach. I was utterly spent, lolling about in the soothing mixture of Light and Dark, and heard him laugh behind me.

 Tired?

He yanked my hips up and pushed inside me with more urgency than before. I mewled and fisted the sheets, torso still flat, and only managed to agree with him in my mind. Ben kept his fingers curled around my hips and moved at a fast and almost punishing pace. I didn’t hate it.

 You’re mine. He squeezed my butt again and I knew he wanted to smack it. Fuck… I love you.

I smiled lazily at the wall. “I know.”

The animalistic thoughts in Ben’s mind reached a fever pitch. He leaned across my back to push my head into the pillow, and I could hear vague reassertions that I belonged to him. It all gnarled into a ball of Dark, then I heard Ben’s panting crack into a guttural groan and his fingers tightened on my hip. The thoughts crackled like fire and I felt it all rush through me like a wave.

 Fuck! he hissed in his head. He knew he should pull out of me but couldn’t resist the primal urge to stay right where he was.

Ben slowed and throbbed inside me. He made a few short, uneven thrusts and was much less shy about moaning my name in his deep, penetrating voice. I squeezed my eyes shut in a blink and rocked forward as he finished with another lazy flex of his hips.

We were both quiet for a minute, trying to catch our breath. Ben quickly let go of my head, trembling, and leaned back. I blinked at the wall and winced when he slipped out of me and got out of the bed.

The world shifted, and I yelped in surprise when Ben scooped me up in his arms bridal style. He kissed me deeply and waved the door open, carrying me to the ‘fresher, where he set me back down on my feet. I shyly folded my arms over my chest.

He gestured with his fingers to turn the water on and took my face between his hands, stooping slightly to look me in the eyes and smile. “Did you like it?”

I nodded, fidgeting, and averted my eyes. “Yes. It was just… a lot.”

Ben flickered with concern. Too much?

 “Oh, no!” I shook my head quickly. “I liked it, but you know, I have to kind of digest it all.”

He tested the temperature of the water. Of course. He was quiet, then: It was exactly what I wanted. I don’t think I could be happier than I am right now.

I smiled up at him. “Me too.”

Ben led me into the shower. I leaned on his chest under the water while he washed my hair, humming something under his breath that drifted through our bond and resonated in my head. I closed my eyes as his heart thrummed under my ear and wished we could stay frozen in that moment forever.

Chapter Text

Ben went back downstairs to explain that I was drained from the day and needed to rest. We would meet again with Ahsoka and Hera in the morning, and more Senators wanted to visit and meet us. It was the exact situation we’d been trying to avoid. Ben insisted we couldn’t intervene, which Ahsoka countered with insisting they just wanted to know more about us.

It gave me some time alone to digest what had happened. Our minds were no longer constantly pouring into one another. We could have privacy. I assumed it was because we had rebalanced the Force during our meditation and the two polar opposites needed to be able to separate from one another. What would’ve happened if we never went to balance at all? Would we have fused into one mind?

I shook my head free of those thoughts and rolled over on my back in bed, chewing my nails. We’d finally had sex and I’d definitely enjoyed it, but our relationship was forever changed. It was an extremely intimate experience. Our bond made it deeper than I’d imagined, and it was my first time—and it was with Ben.

Just a few months ago I was a scavenger on Jakku. Now I was balancing the galaxy with the redeemed Ben Solo… And sleeping with him.

I glanced to my left, where Ben was passed out on his stomach with his arms around the pillow. Dreams rolled gently around in his mind as he unconsciously sorted his memories from the day. His toned back rose and fell with each quiet breath. I wanted to run my hands through his soft black hair but I couldn’t interrupt another bizarre porg dream.

My silence worried him. It was just how I had to be to come to terms with such an enormous change. We also hadn’t used any protection and I didn’t think I was ready for kids yet. Neither was Ben. He was better now, but still deeply damaged from what he’d been through.

I turned on my side to look at the wall and sighed, closing my eyes. There were herbs in the village that could prevent pregnancy for several months. I’d get some in the morning.

 …Rey.

My eyes lazily opened to the whisper of Ben’s voice in my head. I was on my back and blinked up at the ceiling, then lowered my gaze when I felt his lips on my skin.

He had my hips in both hands and was kissing my hip bone. His dark eyes flickered up to mine and his fingertips hooked over the edge of my panties as he slipped beneath the comforter and pulled them down. I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was actually awake and shifted nervously when his lips left a wet trail across my thighs. Ah—Ben!

 Shh. I want to show you something. He leaned up, dropping the comforter off the edge of the bed with a soft flutter, and tucked my panties in the hem of his pants. He was still fully clothed and I was… not.

I fisted the sheets and squirmed as his mouth drifted lower, ghosting across my skin, and my cheeks heated up when I felt his tongue at the apex of my thighs. The Dark drifted into my mind to stir me, twisting my trepidation into prickly excitement.

Ben hitched my calves over his shoulders and I arched when his tongue drew a wet line up my slit. A small squeak escaped my mouth and he shushed me again, just because he wanted to.

 I had a dream about you. He kissed my inner thighs, drawing shivers from me. Did you see it?

I shook my head, swallowing hard. Ben’s mouth went between my legs and his tongue slipped torturously slow through my folds, lingering around the top.

He grasped my waist, hands almost eclipsing my whole body. Let me show you.

Part of me was morbidly curious as Ben unfettered his mind and suffused me in the memory of his dream.

We walk in from a meeting or some other form of drudgery. I’m a few months pregnant and starting to show but I refused to stop wearing pants. Dresses are horrible. I can’t fight in them.

Ben moves to push me against the wall, but thinks better of it, considering my stomach. He’s high on knowing the baby rolling inside me is his. He touches my belly constantly, listens to her vague, disparate thoughts, obsesses over every bit of food I put in my mouth. His possessiveness of me has extended to our unborn child and he relishes every second of it.

The hormones drive me crazy. I giggle when I feel him change his intentions and he leads me into the ‘fresher, turning on the water. He kneels in front of me and kisses my stomach while taking off my pants, then his lips are between my legs again. I lean on the counter and tangle my fingers in his hair until he yanks me into the shower.

He kneels again and looks up at me, dark eyes glittering. “I love you, Rey.”

I pulled back from the dream and realized I was on the edge. Ben’s face was buried between my legs and I felt awkward, but my lower lip trembled as I snapped under him. I whimpered and swept my fingers through his soft hair as the tension burst and crackled through me like fire. He greedily drew from the sensation and I felt his growl of appreciation across my thighs.

It left me torpid again as Ben crept up my body, dark eyes wild and hungry. He didn’t bother taking off his shirt or pants, just shimmied them down past his hips and roughly turned me on my stomach. I moaned when he sank inside me and pressed his body flat against my back.

 Is that what you want? His voice drifted through our bond again. Do you want to have my children?

I nodded stupidly, too tired to do much else. Ben grasped my jaw in his hand again and thrusted with harsh, punishing movements.

 You want me to fill you up, Rebel scum? Betray your friends?

 “…Y-yes.”

 Yes what?

 “Yes, please.” I hesitated, then smirked to myself. “Emperor.”

It did what I intended and drove Ben crazy. His fingers curled around my throat and he pressed his face into the back of my head, inhaling the scent of my hair.

 “Call me that again,” he whispered.

 “Call you what, Emperor?” I asked innocently. I arched my spine, giving him better access. “I… I don’t understand, sir.”

He tightened his grip over my throat to make me get up on my hands and knees and kissed my cheek. “Yes… Call me ‘sir,’ or “Emperor,’ or ‘Supreme Leader.’ You’re all mine, scavenger. I’m going to fill you up with cum and you will have my children.”

I nodded and smiled into the sheets, trying to hide it. “Yes; yes. Whatever you want.”

Ben pushed my head into the pillows again and slapped my butt. Good girl.

He swelled inside me and I buried my face into the sheets as he pulsed. I pushed back on Ben’s hips as he bucked and grunted while achieving completion. His voice broke for a second as the hot, sticky fluid coated my insides, but I wasn’t worried about it.

He didn’t collapse on top of me and tried to keep his weight off my back. I swallowed and my eyes roamed back, trying to find him, then widened when he shifted his hips again.

 You need more. Lie still.

It continued; Ben flexing into me, stroking between my legs and groaning in my ear. I unwound under Ben’s fingers and panted desperately as he filled me with his essence again, further digging our unprotected grave. He kissed the side of my neck and I made the uncomfortable realization as the sticky wetness leaked from between my legs.

 “Ben…” I squeezed the pillow. “I could get pregnant.”

 I know. His breath was on my ear, warm and insistent. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”

My eyes widened but the doorbell interrupted my confusion. Ben growled irately but kissed the side of my head and withdrew from my body. I flipped over in bed, stupefied from what had happened, and scrambled to find my clothes.

Ben dressed and left the room to see who was requesting us. I struggled to tuck in my shirt and trailed behind, brushing my hair away from my face.

The door opened and revealed Ahsoka Tano without her guard. She was dressed more simply in beige robes but still had her lightsaber clipped to her hip. I stumbled out of sight to put myself together more as Ben leaned on the doorframe to talk to her.

 “Hello, Ben,” she said. “I apologize for visiting in the middle of the night, but I need to speak with you. Could we talk for a little while?”

 “Sure, sure.” Ben glanced at me over his shoulder. “Do you mind?”

I was still reeling from our most recent encounter and just managed to shrug. Ben smiled and stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him.

 “Okay,” I muttered, teetering back. “Guess I’ll go shower.”

Hours passed. I was too tired to stay awake and wait, so I crawled back into bed after another shower and felt asleep in the mussed sheets. The sun was rising and birds were chirping when Ben returned to the bedroom as I yawned and started to wake up.

I blinked blearily and smiled. “Hey. How’d it go?”

He tugged off his shirt and I crawled back into the pillows as he crept into bed on top of me, dark eyes burning hungrily. Ben tugged the sheets over us and loomed over me.

 I missed you. He tugged down my pants to my calves and pressed his hard, hot arousal between my legs. I love you.

 “Ben—”

In the next moment he had pushed inside me and I hissed in pain. He kissed the side of my neck and rocked forward as I scrambled to find a grip on his back. It hurt, but I didn’t want to say no. I strained closer and tucked my face into the crook of his neck as Ben groaned. His fingers dug divots into my hips.

It felt… weird. He’d just returned from talking to Ahsoka. I tried to find the courage to confront him about it, but he’d already gleaned it from my mind.

 Not her. Ben thrusted faster and opened his thoughts to me, where I just saw myself. You. I want you, Rey.

I moaned and squirmed and finished underneath him. He did the same, panting in my ear, and kept moving as I dozed off in the pillows. He was practically insatiable.

 “Ben,” I yawned, “I’m sleepy.”

 I know. I did warn you to not bother wearing clothes for a few weeks. He kissed my jaw and stiffened inside me again. One more.

We fell asleep together, Ben’s arm slung across me and his chin on the crook of my neck. Neither of us moved for hours and I could drowsily feel his essence slipping out of me. I was half-pinned underneath his weight and couldn’t have moved if I wanted to—which I didn’t.

Knocking on the front door finally stirred us. Ben yawned and stretched his arms towards the ceiling until they cracked, and I slipped out of bed to get into my robes. The knocking became more urgent and I hurried to the door alone while he lazily put his own robes on.

Finn, Poe, and Rose were there. I staggered and reddened and tried to act natural.

 “…Hey, guys!” I chirped.

Rose smiled first in an eerie, wide way. “Hi, Rey. What have you been up to?”

 “Doesn’t look sick to me,” Finn muttered to Poe.

Ben’s hand slithered around my waist as he stood beside me. I smiled up at him and my heart skipped a beat when he smiled back.

 “Are the Senators here?” he asked.

 “Yeah, and they’re requesting the two of you.” Poe’s brown eyes flashed up and down my body and he gestured down the hall. “And they’re impatient.”

We agreed to hurry and shut the door. I turned to talk to Ben and he kissed me deeply, shoving me into the wall. How would we get anything done if he couldn’t control himself?! I finally pushed back the heavy, swirling darkness with light and he frowned.

 “Ben,” I panted, “we have to go.”

He pushed his arousal between my legs and smiled. “Do we?”

Bendu’s warning about me having to control Ben rattled in my head. I waxed the Light to drive off his passion and desire against my personal wants and slipped away from him.

 “Yes,” I said, “we do.”

 Are you upset because I spoke with Ahsoka? I had a crush on her as a teenager, Rey; nothing serious and certainly nothing either of us would’ve entertained.

I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms. “She’s twice your age and way out of your league. I’m not upset about that, or anything. We have to go downstairs and at least tell these people who we are. I can’t stay holed up in this room having sex with you whenever the mood strikes.”

 Why not? He stepped closer, smiling, and tilted my chin with his fingertips so I looked up into his eyes. Don’t you want to start our family?

 “No.”

He blinked in surprise. …But you mentioned it a few days ago. And last night.

 “Well I considered the consequences and I think we should wait.” I pulled away from him again and called my saberstaff, clipping it to my hip. “There’s still a lot to do, and I’m just turning twenty this year. I’d like to explore the galaxy.”

 But—

I brushed past him to the door. “I’m not the conduit for your Skywalker legacy, Ben Solo. I have wants and needs beyond yours.”

 I know, I just thought this was what you wanted. He called the Darksaber and shrugged, miffed. It’s what I want.

 “I do, someday. Just not right now.” I touched the door handle, then turned around to face him. “I mean, we only met a few months ago. We hardly know each other.”

Ben’s face didn’t give anything away, but I could feel the sting from my words. I wasn’t trying to be mean. It was true.

He clenched his jaw. I didn’t realize that our bond meant so little to you. It’s probably best for you to keep your options open.

I shook my head and laughed a little from how ridiculous he was being. “You know that’s not what I meant. It’s the small things, like Ahsoka—”

 “Stop bringing her up!” Ben snapped. “I knew a lot of people before I met you, Rey. Inconsequential people who have no bearing on my life now. I was the son of a Senator; I was a Skywalker and a Jedi. Having a life before I met you doesn’t mean you ‘hardly know’ me.”  

 “All I saw was the scorching desert and Unkar Plutt sneering at me while I scrounged for scraps to feed myself. It’s different for me. You had this huge, complicated, amazing life and I had nothing.” I bit back tears and shrugged, looking at the floor. “I might just be a scavenger from Jakku, but I don’t want to get swept up in your legacy and lose who I am. I want to be remembered as Rey—not the mother of the next Skywalker.”

We were both quiet for a few moments. Ben fingered the Darksaber and cleared his throat.

 “I’m sorry that you feel that way,” he said, “but I can’t change my lineage. I wish I could.”

I shrugged and shook my head again, sniffling. “All that doesn’t matter, anyway. Neither of us are ready to be parents. I’m too young and you’re too—”

I stopped before I said the word but it still flashed in Ben’s mind. His dark eyes turned angry as they snapped to mine and he clenched his hand around the hilt of the Darksaber.

 Damaged? he hissed across our bond. He took a sharp step towards me, looming like an ominous cloud. You think I’m damaged?! Like—like I’m an appliance?!

 “Ben, come on! You’ve been through a lot and you need time to heal!”

The Dark howled into a maelstrom of rage and disbelief as Ben continued to glare down at me, beginning to tremble. He felt betrayed.

 And what—you’re perfect? You’re the angel who’s going to save me from myself? He clawed into my memories, through me alone on Jakku, crying and denying the truth of my parents, to the moment I killed General Hux. You think the Light Side makes you any better than me? You’re just as ‘damaged’ as I am, Rey. The only difference is you labor under the delusion that you’re anything more than a clingy, needy scavenger from some hellish wasteland who will never stop trying to forget it!

I slapped him across the face without a second thought.

We both stood there without moving, silent. Ben touched his cheek after a few moments and my eyes welled up with tears. I groped the door handle behind me and left without another word.

Chapter Text

 Rey—I’m so sorry!

I wiped my tears on my sleeve and gathered myself as I walked down the hall to the conference room. Ben kept trying to apologize and explain himself through our bond but I didn’t care. He couldn’t talk to me that way and think an apology would fix it in the next five minutes. I thought he was just playing around in bed but maybe he really did think of me as nothing more than a nameless scavenger.

 I’m so sorry. I don’t think of you that way. And… And I’ve been too rough with you. You went along with it so I thought you liked it, but if I’m overwhelming you—

 “Shut up!” I snapped out loud, pausing in front of the room. “You know exactly what you’re doing! You know I’m inexperienced; you just want the power trip!”

The door opened and Finn peeked his head out. “Uh… Rey… We can all hear you.”

I blocked Ben out of my mind and rearranged my hair. “Sorry. Ben is coming.” I brushed past Finn into the room. “Maybe.”

There were six others besides Ahsoka and Hera. I knew the species thanks to gleaning knowledge from Ben’s head. One was a female Miraluka (Qi’Ra) with a hooded purple robe and a metal band across where her eyes would be. There was also a male Chiss (Baldarek), female Mirialan (Yalla), a human male (Armitage), a Cathar female (Sylvar), and a male Iktotchi (Cognus). They all had highly varied appearances and I was a bit mystified as Ahsoka introduced them to me one by one.

Ahsoka touched my back. “This is Rey—the Ashla.” She glanced back and frowned. “Ben should be along soon. He’s the Bogan.”

Qi’Ra walked right up to me and I could feel the Force shifting as she prodded my presence curiously. She didn’t need to touch me to see how powerful I was. Miraluka were extremely Force-sensitive.

 “I wasn’t sure if I believed you, Ahsoka,” Qi’Ra said in a quiet, melodic voice, “but the Light around this girl is… blinding.” She inclined her head to me. “My people will be pleased to hear of you, Ashla. We are deeply spiritual and believe in two separate but equal sides of the Force.”

Finn, Poe, and Rose were standing by the wall, watching the other beings curiously. Shivu was lurking in the corner in his Knight garb. Qi’Ra drew back to allow the others to greet me and Yalla also lingered in my presence. Cognus was a Force-sensitive as well, but Sylvar, Armitage, and Baldarek were not. They were less convinced of who I was.

The door opened and Ben stepped in, fully dressed in black robes with his hair messily brushed back. He glanced down at me and leaned over to whisper in my ear when we both heard a loud gasp.

Qi’Ra practically materialized in front of Ben. She reached up to touch him, then drew back and shook her head. He pressed closer to me and tried to weasel through the wall I threw up between us.

 “Bogan,” Qi’Ra whispered. “The Dark in you… it’s overpowering.” She turned to face the others. “Ahsoka is right—these two are avatars of the Living Force.”

 “There’s no such thing,” Yalla interrupted tersely. “The Force is a pool that ripples. It would never take a physical form in the galaxy.”

Cognus shrugged. “Anakin Skywalker was immaculately conceived by the Force. Perhaps this is how it tries to bring balance.”

 “Shmi Skywalker was merely trying to explain away an accidental pregnancy.” Armitage was speaking now, stroking his jaw. “I see nothing impressive about these two.”

Ben’s temper flared and I quickly slipped into his mind to calm him down. He clenched his jaw and glared at the wall while I tried to keep my own mouth shut, too. At least none of them seemed to realize he was Kylo Ren. Maybe because he always wore the helmet?

Baldarek leaned on the table, clasping his hands. “There is a very easy way to resolve this. We see what capabilities they have.” He nodded towards Qi’Ra. “Force users can only accomplish so much—correct? If these two can go a step further, there must at least be a kernel of truth in what they claim.”

Sylvar nodded. “I agree. That will convince me and I can confidently bring news to my planet.”

The others gradually swayed to ‘testing’ us. It didn’t sit well with me.

 “We’re not here to prove anything to you,” I said, annoyed. “We came to clear the First Order from the city.”

 “Yeah maybe this isn’t a good idea.” Hera was at the table, looking bored. “What difference does it make, anyway?”

 “The dual sides of the Force are of great importance to the Miraluka,” Qi’Ra said, studying Ben and me. “If the Living Force has taken physical form as two humans, pilgrims will cross the galaxy to meet them and meditate in their presence. The Force moves through all things—it binds us all together. Interacting with such a tremendous power is transcendental. Life-changing.”

Yalla pressed her lips tightly together. “And if they are what they claim to be, it will cause great strife for the Mirialans. This is not the way we interpret the Force.”

 “Is that… Ben Solo?” Armitage interrupted.

All eyes in the room turned up to Ben’s face. His lower lip quivered and I subtly threaded my fingers through his as panic bloomed in him like a toxic flower.

The room erupted into an argument. Ben tried to pull me behind him but I stepped in front and touched the hilt of my saberstaff. They were all understandably furious and demanding to know why Ahsoka was in cahoots with Kylo Ren, who had probably brought terror into most of their lives.

 I’m so sorry.

I shrugged, more concerned with keeping tabs on the situation. I have nothing to say to you.

 I do like the power trip. I always have. He tentatively touched my elbow. I want you so badly—in such a bizarre, unnatural way—the two don’t mix well, and you seemed like you enjoyed it. But I don’t want to hurt you. You’re young and I should know better.

 I don’t care about that. I’ve known your… proclivities… for a while. Admittedly, you were way too fast in exposing me to them, but I’m not mad about it. I widened my mind to him; the last words he said before I left the room. That was extremely insulting and downright cruel. It has nothing to do with the Dark Side, either. You were just being a huge jerk because you didn’t want to hear the truth. It’s childish.

Ben gathered my robes at my waist in his fist and I felt his nose in my hair at the top of my head. The Dark felt desperate again like when we first started traveling together. He was afraid of me abandoning him, not just because he didn’t want to be alone, but because he was inexorably drawn to me. And he called me needy—ha!

The argument was still happening but we were both a million miles away. Ben stepped closer and pressed his cheek to the side of my head, shifting his jaw. Maybe he would always need me more than I needed him. Maybe our feelings about one another weren’t quite the same.

Qi’Ra left the bickering Senators and slowly approached us. I pushed back into Ben, twisting my fingers over my saberstaff, and she laughed and waved her hands.

 “Oh no, Ashla,” she said. “I don’t want to harm you. Let’s go outside.”

That seemed like a good idea. I turned and reached past Ben to open the door, then roughly shoved him into the hallway. Shivu maneuvered around the Senators, as did Finn, Rose, and Poe, and we all headed to the lobby to get away from the pointless politics.

 “They have every right to be angry,” Ben said as we all stepped outside.

 “We’re not even supposed to be here. They’re all just planning how to manipulate us to suit their needs.” I glanced at Qi’Ra. “…No offense.”

 “None taken, Ashla. The Miraluka’s interest in you is purely spiritual. We would never seek to weaponize the Ashla or the Bogan.” She clasped her hands loosely in front of her, slowly descending the steps beside me. “But I will admit that I would like to see your power.”

Shivu leaned on a pillar at the base of the steps. “So would I.”

I shrugged, stepping onto the cobblestone street. “I guess I could… lift something?”

 “Moving water is extremely difficult.” Ben glanced at Qi’Ra. “Would that suffice?”

 “Of course, Bogan. Whatever you prefer.”

 “There’s a lake just outside the city,” Ben said. “Get the other Senators and tell them this is the only time we’ll provide their ‘evidence.’”

Qi’Ra made a polite bow and turned back to the hotel. I followed after Ben with the other four, still fuming from his rude words. He was just as sick of being treated like a curiosity from a pawn shop, though, so I was willing to do what he said if it meant we could finally leave Chandrila.

The others could obviously sense the tension between Ben and I. They were quiet on our short walk to the lake and we passed through the different aid groups helping the civilians. Some gasped as I walked by and knelt down or bowed their heads. I pulled up my hood.

We stopped by the shores of a pristine clear blue lake. It was ringed with cattails and weeds and a gentle breeze rippled across the glassy surface. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath of the clean, cool air and gently trickled into the water with the Light to feel the fish and other wildlife swimming around. They were little bright drops and some of them were drawn towards my presence.

But there was darkness, too. Animals consuming each other; bones underneath the cold muck and grime at the bottom of the lake. I pulled away, unsettled.

 There’s no light without darkness.

I shot Ben a dirty look. Thanks, Confucius.

 “What do you two plan on doing?” Rose asked, gazing across the lake.

 “I’m not doing anything.” I sat cross-legged in the grass and folded my arms. “I have nothing to prove.”

Ben rolled his shoulders and glowered at the lake like it was challenging him. “I’m going to part the water. That should be dramatic enough for them.”

He reached out a hand, hardly thinking about it, and the water split with a loud splash. It jolted down to the bottom of the lake in a split second and Ben quickly drew back, stumbling a foot or two. It washed back into place and sent up an icy spray.

Poe laughed and leaned on a tree. “Performance issues?”

I rested my chin in my hand and watched Ben clench his jaw as Finn and Rose tried not to snicker. Curious, I reached out with the Force to brush the water.

It was a less dramatic response. I swept my hand lazily back and forth to make a small wave that attracted minnows to the surface, maybe thinking it was food. Ben had such a hard time moving water before but using the Force was almost effortless now—second nature. I rolled my wrist to gather a bubble of water and raised it a few inches over the surface of the lake.

 “How are you doing that?”

Ben sat beside me, embarrassed that his attempt didn’t go quite as well. I shrugged and dropped the water back into the lake.

 “Restraint, I guess.” I brushed a passing fly into the water for the minnows. Something you would know nothing about.

 It’s not really in my nature. Ben stretched his fingers out again and the water splashed back like he’d driven a knife through it. He flickered with irritation.

I rolled my eyes and grazed across the Dark with Light. Just relax and you’ll be able to do it.

He took a deep breath, drawing from my wellspring, and it helped give him clarity. He tentatively lifted his hand again and the water rippled and began to churn, but he swallowed hard and restrained the burgeoning darkness. The water slowed as Ben twisted his wrist and managed to lift a small, trembling orb from the lake.

 “Guys—the Senators are here,” Finn said.

The ball dropped with a dramatic splash. We both got to our feet as the group approached to stand a few feet away. Ahsoka was leading them and smiled at Ben and me.

 “Ben, Rey,” she said. “The Senators have agreed to your proposal. I assured them that we spoke in depth last night, Ben, and I will vouch for your change of character.” She turned her palms up, reticent. “However, my word does not heal all wounds. I hope you understand.”

He nodded. He’d never be accepted in the Republic—at least, not for a very long time. They all silently stared and I awkwardly cleared my throat.

 “Okay,” I said. “Well, we don’t know the full extent of everything, so… here goes.”

I turned just a bit to raise my hand towards the water, repeating the same idle movement from before. The water stirred and whirled into a circle and I slowly drew a column out of the lake to twist into a ball. I heard some gasps and murmurs and separated the ball into smaller pieces, making small, delicate motions with my fingers to keep them up in the air.

They burst and drizzled back into the lake in a fine mist and I turned to face the Senators. Yalla was beginning to show some surprise and she leaned over to whisper to Cognus. Qi’Ra had her hands clasped and lips slightly agape in awe.

Ben was anxious—he prickled into my mind like ice crystals and made the same motion with trembling fingers. The lake gurgled again, bubbling like it was boiling, then a column of water erupted into the sky. He panicked at the sight of it and I felt the Dark churn ominously, so I grabbed his free hand and slipped into his mind to bring it under control.

It didn’t hurt like it used to, but it was harder than I thought. I strained my fingers towards the water spout that was quickly growing and tried to slow the writhing darkness. The twister shifted away from us out towards the middle of the lake and I drew from Ben, too weak to control it on my own. We were both too focused to talk through our bond, but I felt him realize at the same time I did that we were completely in balance for the first time. It wasn’t effortless—but it felt right.

Ben was raw power and impulse; I was passivity and restraint. I’d known that for a while, yet we hadn’t seen it in action quite like this. We glanced at each other and I couldn’t hide my smile.

The column sank back into the lake with nothing more than a small wave. I searched Ben’s eyes before I remembered I was supposed to be mad at him and tried to pull away. He squeezed my hand and tugged me closer.

 I’m sorry, he said again.

 “How could this be?!”

The Senators all looked pretty convinced now, but not exactly happy. Qi’Ra was still clasping her hands and was now nodding and Yalla was covering her mouth. Ahsoka and Hera seemed pleased.

Armitage pointed at Ben. “This… This is the second coming of Darth Vader! They both have to be destroyed!”

Qi’Ra rounded on him, stepping protectively in front of us. “You will incite the anger of all Miraluka across the galaxy, as well as our allies. It will mean war, Armitage.” She turned her head towards Yalla. “And you? Will you allow the Force to insulted in such a way?”

Yalla drew her hood up. “I must return to my people. Ahsoka—I will be in touch.”

She left, as did Sylvar and Cognus, who wanted to bring the news back to their planets. Armitage, Qi’Ra, and Baldarek remained.

 “I will bring news to the Outer Rim,” Baldarek said. “This will inspire mixed reactions. Rey, Ben—I suggest the two of you stay far away from the Core Worlds for now.”

 “News has already reached Coruscant, of course.” Ahsoka knitted her fingers together and sighed. “The galaxy will be in turmoil again.”

I clenched my fists. “That’s why we didn’t want you to tell anyone!”

 “Both of you will be welcome on Alpheridies,” Qi’Ra interjected. She took a step towards us and bowed her head. “We would be honored to host you. It may be the best course until the galaxy has adjusted to the news of your existence.”

Ben ran a hand through his hair, grinding his teeth, and whirled around to slap the water away in a huge wave. “This isn’t what we wanted! We’re not supposed to be involved!”

Qi’Ra nodded in agreement. “Yes, Bo—Ben, and you won’t be on my home planet. We have no political interest in either of you. You may leave whenever you wish, and we will devote ourselves to your protection. Our planet is quite difficult to reach and cut off from the rest of the galaxy.”

We exchanged a glance. Maybe that would be a good idea, even if it was just for a little while. The Miraluka would appreciate us coming to see them and we could finally be free from the political discourse. It would give us time to think and let the galaxy deal with the fallout.

Armitage angrily shook his head. “We will extinguish this abomination before another Skywalker tears the galaxy apart!” He glared at Qi’Ra. “This will be viewed as an act of war.”

 “So be it,” she said. “Others will come to our aid, and we will protect the Ashla and the Bogan.”

 “Armitage, don’t be rash!” Ahsoka exclaimed. “The galaxy is still reeling from one war—why start another over two simple wanderers?”

 “The grandson of Darth Vader is not a ‘simple wanderer.” He stalked off down the hill and Ahsoka followed, trying to be rational.

Baldarek offered a polite bow and left as well, leaving us with Qi’Ra, the three last vestiges of the Resistance, and Shivu. A cold breeze raised goosebumps up my arms.

 “Qi’Ra,” I said, “we don’t want to create problems for your people.”

 “They will be elated to meet both of you.” She smiled and gestured towards the mountain-circled Hanna City. “Come, let us make haste to Alpheridies.”

Finn, Rose, and Poe were staying to help with the rebuilding of the Republic. Hera left with them for the city, and Ben instructed Shivu to help them however he could. He also bowed, clearly impressed by Ben’s display of power. We followed Qi’Ra down the hill but insisted on taking Daybreak.

I went straight to the cockpit to type in the coordinates for Alpheridies. Ben silently sat in the copilot’s seat and twiddled his thumbs. I didn’t know what would help me forgive him. I’d already overlooked so many things… it was getting exhausting having to brush aside flaw after flaw. Maybe I was being too easy on him. He was trying, but at what point was I being unfair to myself?

Then again, people said stupid things when they were angry. I did when I brought up Han’s death. Ben had let it go easily enough, so… I would do the same.

I powered up the engine. “You’re forgiven.” Lights flashed to life and the ship whirred and I crossed my arms. “And you’re the needy one.”

Ben wrung his hands and abruptly jumped out of his seat to grab me and we sank to the floor of the cockpit. I protested and squirmed but his arms locked around me, leaving me puffing and irate and holding back a smile. He nuzzled into the crook of my neck and tugged until I was kneeling between his thighs, back bent awkwardly.

 I know. He squeezed and I felt wetness on my collar bone. I know that you don’t need me like I need you, but I can’t help it. I can’t bear to be more than five feet away from you, Rey. I need you like air in my lungs and it’s terrifying and humiliating but I love it—I love you. I lashed out to make myself feel less vulnerable and tried to convince you that we’re the same, but we’re not. You’re better than me.

 “No, I’m not, Ben.”

 You are. It’s just the way it is. He drew back, looking up at me with tears streaming down his cheeks. You’re beautiful and flawless and perfect, and I’m not. But I want to be, and I never will be, so I’m afraid I’ll spend my entire life trying to catch up to you.

I stared back at him and slowly shook my head.

 “I’m not better than you. Just different.” I cupped his face between my hands and tried to stroke the tears away with my thumbs. “I don’t want you to be perfect. I just want you, flaws and scars and all. That’s what I crave—you, Ben; your passion and strength and devotion to me. Sometimes I feel like I could float away, and you bring me back to the earth. Be vulnerable, and awkward, and impulsive, and I’ll never stop wanting it. You’re perfect for me.”

Ben’s lower lip quivered and he nodded once, more tears rolling across his scar. I laughed and kissed his forehead and cleaned my tears in his hair as his dripped down my neck. Two weirdos in the galaxy—and it was good, and it was exactly what we both needed.

Chapter Text

The flight to Alpheridies would take a while. Ben and I regained our senses and left the cockpit to go to bed in one of the awkward, small cots, but neither of us cared. I led him down the hallway, broad shoulders hunched, and into the cramped but less obtrusive pilot’s quarters.

 “It’s okay,” I whispered. “I won’t hurt you.”

Ben leaned into me, hooking his chin over my shoulder, and held my waist. It was a dramatic shift of dynamics but I didn’t mind. I kissed the side of his throat and ran my fingernails up his back and felt goosebumps bloom across his skin. He nuzzled closer and slowly dropped down to his knees to kneel in front of me, grasping my hips and burying his face in my stomach.

 I’m so tired, he whispered into my mind. I want to be free from this pain.

I ran my fingers tenderly through his hair, working the knots out without tugging. “I know. I can help.”

He touched my palm and followed me to the bed. I hesitantly strained towards Ben with the Light and he hungrily latched on, crawling under the red sheets beside me and worming his head underneath my chin. I flexed outwards and he didn’t protest the warmth and slid his fingers up the back of my robe. I could feel vague desires from him. He almost wished he could crawl into my skin.

I wriggled down to look into his dark eyes. “What’s wrong, Ben?”

 I’m so overwhelmed. I just want to sleep.

A weird thought passed through my head. I remembered the previous night, when I’d woken up to Ben kissing my thighs, and had an idea. He was too upset to pay attention to my thoughts.

I turned over so I was lying on top of him and he blearily blinked up at me. Emboldened by the calming influence of the Light, I hooked my fingertips over his pants and pulled them down past his knees. Ben didn’t respond much, just cocked his head curiously.

I suffused him in Light to help him relax as my fingertips blindly brushed the base of his manhood. Ben’s eyes widened and he blinked and his body stiffened. It was too dark to see much else besides his eyes.

 …Rey?

Hesitant, I wrapped my fingers around him and felt a thrill through me when he groaned and bucked his hips. He turned hard almost instantly at my touch and I drew my palm across stiff, warm veins and flesh. Ben thrusted again and his back arched a few inches.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I figured biting him was a bad idea. I ran my tongue over my lips while he watched with lidded, hungry eyes, then shifted back a bit and tentatively licked the tip. Clear, salty fluid dripped on my tongue.

Ben covered his face with both hands and groaned. Please don’t look at me that way. Then he paused and peered through his fingers. …Are you sure you want to do this?

I nodded and licked my lips again, then slowly took him into my mouth. It was a weird sensation, but I was surprised that I liked it, heat and salt and all. Ben panted and squirmed underneath me.

It was easy and enjoyable and I quickly sank into it. He curled his long fingers in my hair and whimpered my name, and I pumped with my fist and drew my tongue up his shaft. Ben’s thoughts whirled into a lustful maelstrom and he struggled to hold back as I moved faster and kept deliberately turning my eyes on his. I smirked at his frustration.

Images leaked from his mind. He’d obviously imagined this plenty of times before, and he liked me being in control of it. He panted and tugged my hair, fighting to restrain himself.

 “I’m—I’m going to cum in your mouth,” Ben choked as he tried to pull me away.

 Is that what you want? I drew from the Dark, flickering my hazel eyes up to his. Or somewhere else?

 “Inside you.”

I stopped, lingering on the head of his manhood. Do you?

Ben nodded spastically, rolling his hips in restrained circles. “Yes… Yes!” He hesitated and swallowed, and his lips trembled. “…Please?”

How could I refuse that? I leaned up and Ben grabbed me around the waist to tug my pants off. He took my shirt as well and yanked his over his head, throwing it all in a pile on the floor.

He crossed his legs and firmly grasped my waist to lower me into his lap. I curled my legs behind his hips and held his shoulders as he slowly pushed inside me, watching every emotion that passed across my face. He wound his arms around my back and helped me shift in his lap while kissing under my jaw and down my throat.

Random images flashed through his mind again. He thought of essentially anything but me and panted into my chest. He couldn’t move much but tried to slow and control my pace by wrapping his hands around my waist again. I tried not to laugh when I saw more porgs and kissed the crown of his head.

 “You’re quiet,” I whispered.

Ben nodded and groaned, low and guttural. Trying not to… His words faded and I felt him throb inside me, thoughts going haywire.

 You can finish. I rested my cheek on the side of his head and closed my eyes. I want you to.

His hands slid down to my hips. Are you sure? I know you’re worried… about… Again his mind whirled into a frenzy and he growled in frustration.

 It’s okay, I reassured. I want you to.

The tension in Ben snapped; it echoed in my mind like always and I panted into his hair. He buried his head under my chin and whimpered and my heart skipped a beat at the soft, desperate sound.  

We sat there quietly for a few minutes. Ben’s embrace tightened and he trailed kisses down my neck and across my shoulder, sighing into my skin. I shifted in his lap to rest of my chin on his shoulder and leaned my head against his. My eyelids were heavy and I could feel the drowsiness in Ben, too.

 …I’m tired, Rey.

I yawned and nodded, closing my eyes. “I know. We can go to sleep.”

Ben was quiet, then wrapped an arm around my waist and stood up in one fluid motion. He pulled back the sheets and lowered me down before crawling beside me to drape over me like a blanket. His head was right under mine and he strained closer, nuzzling into me and tucking us into the sheets again.

 I don’t mean that way. I don’t know how to explain it.

 “World-weary?” I mumbled.

He lifted his head to look at me, dark eyes knitted in puzzlement. Yes—exactly. How did you know?

 “I know almost everything that’s going on in there.” I ran my fingers through his hair and across his scalp and smiled torpidly. “And you’re not as complicated as you think you are.”

 No?

 “No. Not to me. You’re just impulsive.”

Ben stared at me for another quiet moment before speaking. I don’t think I can see as much of you as you can of me.

I frowned. “How so?”

 There are parts of your mind that I can’t get into. I know you can see all of mine, so… He cocked his head and searched my eyes. Are you shutting me out?

My pulse quickened. I shook my head but the truth whispered deep in my mind, beyond the barrier I wouldn’t let Ben through. It was instinct to keep it up—it was where I suppressed the truth of my parents and other things I didn’t want to think about. I had to protect myself. No one else could.

 “Of course not,” I lied.

 …Ok. Ben smiled and kissed my cheek before snuggling under my chin again.

I stroked his hair and his bicep wrapped around my ribs. It wasn’t a big deal. Ben kept things away from me, right?

No. He’s an open book. He’s always been an open book. He trusts you—so why won’t you offer him the same courtesy? You’re taking advantage of him and you know it’s wrong. You’re treating him the same way everyone else did.

Ben was already passed out and I managed to stuff the thoughts back down where they belonged. I swallowed and shifted underneath his weight. I loved him, and I trusted him. That didn’t mean I had to give him full disclosure to my entire mind.

We fell asleep until the ship alerted us that we’d entered Alpheridies’s airspace. Ben groggily groped for me when I slipped out of bed and I leaned over to kiss his temple. He tried to grab my waist and drag me back but I squirmed out of his hands and laughed as I put my clothes back on. He grunted irately into the pillow and yanked the sheets over his head.

Alpheridies came into view. It was lush like Spintir, with vast green continents and expansive blue oceans and swirls of white clouds in the atmosphere. I flew towards the beacon Qi’Ra had sent for us to one of the largest settlements on the planet. There was no capital.

Ben shuffled into the cockpit and rubbed his eyes. “This has been a terrible vacation so far.”

 “Yeah, and I’ve never even had a vacation. But we’ll make nice with the Miralukas. It means a lot to them and we’re not really interfering with anything.”

 “…Except the war Armitage mentioned.”

 “We can’t please everyone,” I said. “And the Miralukas don’t want our help with a war or anything; they just want to see us for the spiritual aspect. Shouldn’t we respect that?”

He sighed heavily. “I suppose.”

Daybreak swept down towards the surface, covered in teal grass, and I glanced at Ben.

 “We need some kind of birth control, anyway,” I said. “Right?”

Ben leaned his head back and nodded. “There should be herbs or pills. Miralukas are near-human.” His dark eyes roamed to me. “Unless you want condoms?”

 “Um… I don’t know. What’s the difference?”

 “We’ll get some so you can see how unpleasant they are.”

I carefully touched down in a field and saw a group of Miralukas already waiting for us, led by Qi’Ra. Another planet, another adventure.

Chapter Text

The Miraluka were all dressed differently but most were in robes that were pulled up. They all had masks across their eye sockets with a variety of materials, like steel and simple cloth or an elongated hood. There was a group of about twenty with Qi-Ra standing in the front. She drew back her hood when Ben and I left the ship and opened her arms, beaming.

 “How lovely to see you again, Rey and Ben!” she said. She gestured to the crowd behind her which was now rippling with murmurs. “This is a small group of our people; religious leaders who were eager to meet you. We hope you enjoy your stay on Alpheridies.”

I didn’t really know what to do, so I made an awkward bow with my head. “Yes—thank you, Qi’Ra. We’re really excited to—”

One of the Miraluka swept past Qi’Ra and made a beeline for Ben. It was a tall male with a brown cloth obscuring his vestigial eyes and brown robes with the hood pulled up. Ben stepped behind me and slipped his arms around my waist, eyeing the Miraluka suspiciously as he paused about two feet away.

 “Ah… interesting.” He offered a graceful hand for a shake and smiled. “My apologies. I was quite taken with the darkness radiating from your friend. My name is Jerec. It is an honor to meet both of you.”

 “No problem,” I said, smiling back and accepting the shake. “And thanks! We’re just trying to help wherever we can.”

 I don’t like the staring, Ben muttered. I know they don’t have eyes, but I can still feel them staring.

Qi’Ra gently chastised Jerec and they both laughed and invited us to follow them. Ben took my hand and soon we were in the middle of the throng and they were all whispering to one another while we walked. The teal grass swayed around my calves and the shifting motion sounded just like the Miraluka. I leaned my head on Ben’s arm and heard a chorus of poorly stifled gasps.

He felt annoyed. This vacation isn’t looking promising, either.

 Be polite. They’re really spiritual so this means a lot to them.

We came upon a small settlement that was much simpler than Naboo or even Chandrila. The houses were made of stones and logs and various livestock roamed the streets with Miraluka guiding them. There were stands with fresh vegetables and I only saw one small parts and repair shop as we strolled down the cobblestone streets. Most of the Miraluka stopped and turned towards us.

Okay, it was a little creepy. Ben tugged me closer as we came upon what looked like an enormous old church and Qi’Ra ascended the steps to the top. She gestured for us to join her and we passed through the crowd to do just that, awkwardly standing together one step below her. She put a hand on either of our shoulders as an increasingly large group of Miraluka gathered below.

 “Brothers!” Qi’Ra called in a surprisingly loud voice. “My journey to Chandrila was a success—the Ashla and Bogan have indeed taken human form and now grace the galaxy with their presence. They are our guests for as long as they please and would like to rest after their long journey.”

The mumbling turned into excited cheers and the crowd shifted towards us, chanting: Ashla, Bogan; Mother, Father; Truth, Ideal; Light, Dark! Ben was nervous but it drew me in for some reason and I slipped my hand from his to walk back down the steps to the exuberant crowd. They reached for me and some guards tried to stop them, but I shook my head and let the throng take me in, mesmerized.

Miraluka clambered to get closer to me and put their hands on any part of my body they could reach, but they didn’t harm me in any way. Some dropped to their knees and started praying and some cried when I smiled at them. I turned in a circle and laughed and let them kiss my forehead and hands. Children hid by their parents’ legs and shyly watched, reaching to touch the edge of my robe as I passed.

It was intoxicating being loved by so many beings. The Light waxed, fed by the positive emotion, and I was driven to use it to help in some way. I turned to see a frail woman being supported by her husband and I could feel the sickness in her like I could feel the darkness in Ben. I tentatively took one of her trembling hands in mine and redirected the Light towards the illness tearing her lungs apart.

She gasped, straightening and covering her mouth. Illnesses were on the Dark Side and I no longer felt the sick pressure in her body. I wanted to do more. I wanted to save all of them. I turned as the woman wept and kissed my knuckles and now Miraluka were offering me their sick relatives.

 Rey.

Smiling, I found Ben had pressed through the crowd and was standing behind me. The Miraluka had a less elated response to him and some began to whisper and murmur and draw back. I took a crying infant in my arms and cocked my head at my Dark counterpart.

 “This is great,” I said, enraptured.

The infant squirmed and the tears abruptly stopped. His mother covered her mouth and started crying instead and I could feel the sickness coming from his heart. I pressed my fingertips to the swaddle over his chest and the Light trickled inside to knit together the damage and burn away the darkness. He hiccupped and waved his tiny arms for me and I beamed and craned my neck so he could grasp my cheeks. He chortled and broke into a smile.

His mother was beside herself so the father took the infant back and his lower lip trembled.

 “He’s cried constantly from the moment he was born,” the Miraluka said, voice cracking. “Bless you, Ashla. I didn’t know if I believed the tales, but I certainly do now.”

I just smiled and rubbed his wife’s back. “I’m happy to help.”

Ben grabbed my arm and yanked me closer to him, scowling. You’re interfering with the natural order again. You have to stop.

 But they love me… And they need me. I was on cloud nine. I wanted to cure all of them and leave the planet in better shape than when we’d arrived.

 The Force will balance life and death with or without us. Every person you heal will ensure the death of another. You can’t defy it.

I rolled my eyes at Ben and squatted in front of a little girl who had a black rash all over her pale skin. The alternative is letting babies and children die or making them grow up without a mother. I’ll take my chances. I’m the Ashla, after all.

 Yes, and I’m the Dark Side, and every time you heal one of these people I can see a flicker of who will die instead. You’re not solving anything, you’re just prolonging the inevitable and shifting fate to an innocent person.

When I ignored him and healed the rash on the girl, Ben dragged me to my feet and pulled me through the crowd back to where Qi’Ra was waiting at the bottom of the church stairs. The Miraluka kept calling for me but Ben kept leading me along through the streets to the hotel where we’d be staying. It was small and simple, like the first one we stayed in on Chandrila.

Qi’Ra brought us upstairs and clasped her hands to bow. “I will be available in the church if you need anything. The staff will bring your supper this evening—otherwise you will not be disturbed until you are both fully rested.” She smiled at me. “Thank you, Ashla, for curing our sick.”

 “Of course!” I chirped.

She inclined her head again and shuffled back down the hall, quiet as a shadow. Ben looked and felt annoyed as he opened the wooden door and yanked me inside behind him.

It was cozy in the room. We had a place to eat and two doors that I assumed led to the bedroom and ‘fresher. There was a space to sit and read books with two plush tan couches and lamps. The floors were dark wood with ornate red and brown rugs. It felt like someone’s home.

I waved my hand to set my saberstaff on the rustic table and raised an eyebrow. “Calm down, Ben. Helping a few sick people isn’t going to make the universe implode.”

 “You can’t save everyone, Rey.” He flicked his hand and the Darksaber clattered to the table. “You’re not supposed to. Going around curing every sick person is not a ‘light touch.’”

 “Well I won’t watch people suffer.”

Ben groaned and ran a hand through his hair, turning away from me. “Didn’t we just talk about this? I’m having deja-vu.” He took a deep breath and turned back, steepling his fingertips. “We cannot intervene. You shouldn’t have done it on Chandrila and you shouldn’t have done it here. Light touch. We’re supposed to concern ourselves with the galaxy imploding on itself, not some sick babies.”

I bristled. “That was before I started meeting people who needed my help.” I set my hands on my hips and narrowed my eyes. “Bet you’d want someone to cure your babies if they were sick. Right?”

He briefly considered making a sarcastic comment about how I didn’t want to have babies with him but it passed like a shadow, so I let it go. Ben clenched his jaw and waved me off, pushing his shoulder into the ‘fresher door as he opened it. Fine. Be that way.

The bedroom was small, too, but I loved it. I opened the dresser to find some black and white robes inside as well as similar colored sleeping garments. It would be rude not to wear the robes out in public, and the material was soft and silky. But I was exhausted and had no intentions of going anywhere but under the puffy red comforter on our bed, so I took out the pajamas instead.

 Rey. Ben slipped into my mind and I could feel humidity and warmth. Come.

I rolled my eyes at the command but gathered my things and slipped out of the bedroom to join him. I needed a shower, anyway—but we also needed some form of protection before we slept together again. My heart still skipped a beat at the thought and the Dark in Ben rippled with excitement.

It would be weird to knock, so I nudged the ‘fresher door open and peeked inside. Ben, impatient as always, yanked it open all the way and pulled me into his arms to kiss me passionately. My palms alighted on his bare chest and he reached past me to push the door shut and pushed me against it. I dropped my pajamas carelessly on the floor and wound my arms behind his neck, arching on my tiptoes to get as close as possible to him.

Humidity hung like a dense cloud in the ‘fresher and it beaded on my skin as Ben hitched my thigh on his hip, gently rolling himself between my legs. We broke apart for a moment and I eagerly nibbled kisses across his throat and collarbone. His throat bobbed against my lips.

 Found something. His thoughts were shifting and disparate. He tried to reach behind him for something but couldn’t without letting me go. Ah… Hang on, Rey.

I sighed dramatically as he stepped away from me to grab a small white pill off the counter. He offered it to me on his fingertip and I cocked my head and held it up to the overhead light.

 “Is this…?” I began.

 “Yes. It works for three months or so. I’m not sure why there’s a bottle of them in the cabinet—maybe the Miraluka are trying to tell us something.” Ben smirked and glanced at the pill. “Unfortunately, it takes a week to start working…”

A week?! The disappointment must’ve shown on my face because Ben nodded in somber agreement. Well… we could do other things until then. It wasn’t worth taking the risk anymore. The galaxy was huge and amazing and I wanted to experience it all with Ben before slowing down to take care of a baby.

 You know, he mused, the roles are usually reversed in this situation. You’re supposed to be pestering me for children and I’m supposed to refuse to ‘slow down.’

I shrugged and swallowed the tiny pill without any water. “As if either of us is normal in any capacity.”

The bathtub was full of steaming water and bubbles behind Ben. He agreed with me in his head and knelt in front of me to nuzzle into my stomach. I combed my fingers through his hair and smiled.

 You’ll be a good mother, Rey. He pushed my shirt up to kiss my stomach and grasped my hips in his hands, looking up at me through his long eyelashes. You are the Mother, after all.

 “No pressure, then?” I giggled when he nibbled just below my belly button and leaned on the counter. “You’ll be a good father, Ben. We won’t repeat our parents’ mistakes.”

His mind hummed with happiness and he stored my words away to reflect on later. Like selling them or shipping them off to their uncle?

I gasped and took his cheeks between my hands to make him look up at me. “Exactly! Who would’ve thought either of those things were a bad idea?”

Ben hooked his fingers over the hem of my pants and went along with my sarcasm. Well look at that, we’re already perfect parents! He raised his eyebrows and tugged my pants down past my hips. Though we could use Jakku when we ground them. A week there should be enough to keep them in line.

It felt so natural talking about our kids. I’d been hesitant before but the thought of starting our family was becoming more and more tempting. Ben and I were both powerful enough to protect them and they could come along on our adventures when they were a bit older. It would give us an excuse to settle down on Chandrila and ignore the complicated problems in the galaxy for a while.

I’d been so caught up in my thoughts that I didn’t notice Ben’s had stripped me from the waist down. He licked a wet line along my slit and lingered near the top. His hair had fallen across his face and I brushed it back so I could look into his hungry dark eyes. His tongue traced deeper through my folds and I whimpered and gripped the counter so tightly that it bit into my palm.

 You seem torn, Ben murmured, curling his hands around the back of my thighs.

I nodded and swallowed hard. “A little bit, I… guess.”

 You’ll be such a good mother, my love—and I won’t expect you to slow down. He moistened his soft lips and kissed me and used his tongue and it felt so good.

 “But… I’d have to…”

Ben gently tugged my hips closer to his mouth, buried in me. You don’t have to do anything. I’ll watch them and stay home with them if you need me to. I know you need your independence and I don’t expect you to be barefoot and pregnant. I’ll be whatever you need me to be.

He thought about us having kids quite a bit. He’d have dreams about it and it crossed his mind when we had sex and he finished inside me. They were wistful thoughts hardly influenced by the natural possessiveness of the Dark. Ben just really wanted to have a family with me.

 “I don’t know,” I mumbled. “I’m scared.”

Ben rose from the floor and pulled my shirt over my head, licking my essence off his lips. He took off his pants and led me towards the bathtub and I was mesmerized by his smoldering eyes.

 Of what? he asked in a soft voice. He was treading carefully, afraid he’d break the spell if his voice was too loud.

 “Messing up… or dying.”

He laughed and drew me into the lukewarm water with him. Neither of those things will happen. I promise.

Easy for him to say: he wasn’t the one who’d be pregnant. Plus, childbirth was painful. Really, really painful. I nestled between his legs and Ben drew a loofa to his hand and began tenderly washing me and brushing his fingers along my shoulder. He kissed the side of my neck and I gradually relaxed into him.

Ben’s mind took a casual look at the Force visions that showed our possible children and longingly paused on the images of me in various stages of pregnancy. He was an open book to me like always. I could feel the yearning to take care of me and watch my belly swell week by week. Our meditation must have cemented those earthly desires that he wanted so badly but I was less passionate about. I drifted off amidst his fantasies and felt small prickles of an empty ache in Ben for more of me in whatever way he could get it.

 Rey… Wake up…

I blinked and found I was dry and naked in bed with Ben kissing along my thigh. It was like deja-vu from the other night—apparently he liked waking me up in the best way possible.

It was dark and I could hear a fire crackling nearby. The window was open a bit, letting in a cool breeze and the sound of crickets. His warm breath drifted between my legs and he traced a slow, tantalizing line across my slit, murmuring appreciatively when I whimpered. It wasn’t like the other times we slept together (few as they were). He idly brushed his fingertips along my thighs and goosebumps prickled up my arms. I shivered.

 I love you, Ben crooned. I want all of you.

His tongue slipped deeper and his soft lips teased me. I whimpered again and squirmed.

Then Ben’s thoughts shifted in a different direction than usual. Slower. He wanted to go slower and take his time as practice. He’d have to be more and more careful the further along my pregnancy went and we’d have to keep our voices down if the kids were sleeping a few rooms over. The Dark shivered with pleasure at the thought of us in bed together late at night, suppressing our giggles and shushing each other; or his ear pressed to my bump to listen to our baby move and feel the pulse of the Force in him.

And Ben did go slower than normal. He didn’t snap things at me or call me a good girl or a scavenger, instead whispering in my ear about how much he loved me and how beautiful I was. The room was much quieter than normal and it felt deeply intimate only hearing Ben’s deep voice mingling with the rustling sheets and the crackling fire. A breeze chilled the beads of sweat on my skin.

I became so relaxed that the deep barrier in my mind swayed and weakened. Ben was lazily thinking of the way I moaned his name but noticed the change and curiously inspected it. I didn’t care. He was leaning across my back and moving inside me in slow, long strokes. I’d already finished a few times and didn’t think I could again so I just laid there and enjoyed the closeness.

 You do trust me, Ben mused. He could sense negativity through the barrier and let it be.

I nodded and smiled. “Mhm.”

Ben turned me on my back and pressed his forehead to mine, groaning and squeezing his eyes shut as he slowly pushed back inside me. Desire snapped and flickered in him and he dipped into my neck to kiss me and distract himself from the sensation of our bodies shifting together. But it had been a long time—hours, maybe—and he was fighting the overpowering urge to finish until it finally unraveled.

His breath caught in surprise and he quickly moved to pull out of me but I tangled my fingers in his hair and sank my nails into his rolling shoulder blades. I panted and my head swam as I wrapped my legs around Ben’s hips to keep him inside me and he took the hint and didn’t stop. He grunted into my neck and made a guttural gasping sound and I felt him pulsing inside me, finishing with a few lazy thrusts.

Maybe we could leave it up to chance. Maybe?

Ben panted into my neck and swallowed before kissing my cheek. “Fuck—I’m sorry. It snuck up on me.” He took a few more staggered breaths and tried to slip away from me.

But I tightened my grip, resting my cheek on the side of his head and inhaling the soapy scent of his hair. He hesitated, unsure of what I wanted, and probed into my mind for answers.

 Rey…?

I closed my eyes and squeezed him. …Stay.

He was confused but did what I asked and moved his hips forward to stay inside me. Something reignited the desire in both of us; maybe our silent intent to let pure chance make a major decision that would change our lives forever. Then Ben was stiff inside me again and we both lost interest in contemplating exactly why we were both so reckless. The long, quiet night drew on.

Chapter Text

Rain pattered on the windows in the morning. My eyes rolled open, lazy and sated, and I glanced over to see Ben still passed out beside me. His mind was aflutter with dreams of our kids playing with porgs and he had a small smile on his swollen lips. I squirmed closer and nuzzled under his chin but the dreams remained. Ben was deeply asleep, only vaguely aware of my presence.

Neither of us had left the bed since we fell asleep after… er… making love. I reddened and kissed his collarbone, reliving the much slower and gentler way we had sex earlier in the night, and Ben sighed sleepily into my hair. We did it a few times in sequence until he was too tired to keep going and didn’t bother using a condom or worrying about my birth control. My heart pattered at the memory of him swelling and pulsing inside me and groaning my name into the pillows.

It was honestly all I wanted. I loved it, and I loved him.

The Dark crept towards me, seeking serenity from the Light, and I was more than happy to oblige. I relished his roiling, passionate emotions and helped draw him back into a quiet sleep. Ben purred in his sleep and his long, powerful arms held me tight to his chest. I beamed and nibbled his ear and blinked in surprise when I felt him stiffening against my thigh. O… kaaaay.

His breath caught and he rocked against me. His dream shifted towards us in bed in a small house, again giggling to one another and trying to keep quiet under the sheets. Ben rolled half on top of me and kept rolling into my thigh until I laughed and tried to angle myself in a better position. His black hair draped across his face as he panted and was suddenly inside me.

I panted in surprise but I didn’t hate it. It kind of hurt but I was absolutely not considering refusing. Ben groaned and leaned his weight fully on top of me, shifting the sheets quietly, clearly following the dream that told him to stay quiet. He was stuck in it somehow but I didn’t mind. I smiled and hitched my calves on his hips as he thrust deeper through my moist, waiting flesh. All his cum from earlier was still inside me so it gave extra lubrication that helped Ben slip deep inside me.

He panted in my ear and partially came to consciousness. “…Shh. Quiet, Rey.”

 “Oh, it’s not me we have to worry about,” I whispered back, smirking. “Does this happen often when you dream?”

 “…Not dreaming. Kids are asleep.”

I fought back laughter and nodded, drawing my nails down his muscular back. “Oh, yeah. You’re right, my love. Better keep your voice down.”

Ben rocked in rhythm and nodded in agreement. He whispered in my ear again about how much he loved me and how beautiful I was and I smiled and whispered the same things back. I held his hips tight as I climaxed, moaning into his ear, but Ben hurriedly covered my mouth and chastised me under his breath. He finished not soon after with a deep grunt into the pillows and struggled to keep the bed from making creaks of protest. I whimpered as he twitched inside me.

It brought him back. His dark eyes blinked open and he turned white as a sheet, trying to apologize, but I beamed and kissed him until he shut up. Ben eagerly rolled on his back and pulled me on top of him, grasping my hips to guide me up and down on his cock. He lit up and grinned when I did.

We passed out again until someone knocked on our door in the morning. Ben kissed my temple before slipping out of bed to check on it and I drifted off under our warm sheets with our scents mingled together. He murmured to someone in the other room and the scent of warm food wafted through the bedroom when I felt his presence returning. I sat up, stretching my arms and yawning.

Ben set a tray of food on my lap. “This is kind of a vacation. I like the Miraluka.”

It was full of different fruits and vegetables and meats. I eagerly dug in, still only used to waterbread from Jakku, while Ben smiled and ate more slowly beside me. He kissed my naked shoulder when I was done and guzzling back water and I kissed his cheek while he chewed. I loved him so much. Could I love anything else as much? Nope.

 “Qi’Ra would like us to visit the Temple of Dark.” Ben shrugged, eyeing me. “If that’s okay?”

 “Of course!” I brightened and licked my plate clean.

Ben smiled back. “Oh, good. I didn’t know if that was a place you wanted to be.”

 “I’ll follow you anywhere, Ben.”

We finished eating and went to take a shower, which of course immediately turned into having sex again. He pushed me into the tilted wall and easily held my weight up just outside the stream of water. I wondered if we’d be able to accomplish anything from now on as Ben groaned into my neck. Probably not—but it didn’t matter. We were above and beyond petty concerns.

He pressed his forehead to mine, dark eyes searching. “Do you still feel the same way you did last night?”

I nodded, unblinking. “Yes, Ben. I do.”

 “Good. Good, good.” His black hair was plastered back from the water. He nibbled my ear, slowly rocking inside me. “I love you, Rey.”

 “I love you, too, Ben.”

We dressed in the off-white robes provided for me and the black provided for Ben. Both of us called our lightsabers and laughed at the contrast between our clothes. Light and Dark, but we were more or less the same exact person. Ben kissed my forehead and we left the room with our fingers linked together.

Qi’Ra was waiting outside in a purple robe. She beamed, bowing to us, and motioned for us to follow her through the streets. People gasped as I passed and craned their necks and Ben grumbled in annoyance. I smiled and touched their hands when they offered them to me until we arrived at a building with foreign runes on the outside. Ben pulled me inside while more Miraluka bowed to me.

It was all gray and black inside. The walls were made of mottled granite with tall arches and spires that led straight to an altar with the symbol of the Dark Side hovering above, carved into the stone. The candles along the room were illuminated with black flames, which I didn’t know existed, and a stained-glass image of different Dark Siders throughout the ages. I knew them via Ben: Darth Vader, Darth Sidious, General Grievous, Darth Revan…

Ben studied them, smiling ruefully. “I suppose my history isn’t as pleasant as yours, Rey.”

 “You’re not them.” I leaned my head on his shoulder and he relaxed. “And none of them were us.”

 “Ben!”

We turned to find Ahsoka approaching us through the Temple. Qi’Ra bowed politely and I began to until Ahsoka chose to bow before me. She was wearing pants and a shirt now, much more practical than a dress, and had her double-edged saberstaff on her hip. I touched mine and awkwardly bowed until Ben yanked me upright, slipping a hand around my waist.

 “I had to make sure the two of you were safe.” Ahsoka looked up at the stained-glass image of Darth Vader and her jaw tightened. “I’m glad to see you are.”

 “It is quite safe here,” Qi’Ra said tersely. “May we provide you a hotel room, Senator?”

Ben flickered a bit in his mind. “That would be best. Is this a comfortable place for you, Ahsoka?”

I buzzed, a bit jealous. It was a temple, not Mustafar.

 “I’m fine.” Ahsoka ignored him and went to me, brushing my hair back. “Rey—the galaxy is aware of your existence. Be careful of where you wander. I’ve managed to hold back Armitage and the others for now, but news will spread. Different factions will call upon you.”

 “We won’t answer,” I said tersely.

Ben touched the edge of my robes as I drifted away. “Rey and I have bigger concerns.”

 “Of course.” Ahsoka nodded, clasping her hands. “I understand. Just a bit of warning.” She glanced at Qi’Ra and smiled. “Take me for another tour, my friend. I do love this planet.”

They left and I was alone with Ben in the Temple. He wandered away from me towards the altar and stepped up, gazing upon the images of different Dark Siders. Ahsoka didn’t travel all the way to us to give a warning about what we already knew. I watched Ben from afar, trying to let him have his peace before broaching the subject.

He turned in a circle, cocking his head. “What do you think, Rey? Have they all been wrong?”

I shrugged. “The Dark Side is more susceptible to corruption, but the Jedi made plenty of mistakes, too.”

 “True.” Ben paused to look up at Darth Vader’s statue and cocked his head. “Is it wrong to feel bad for him?”

Darth Vader had an arm extended, long fingers gracefully outstretched, cape billowing in an invisible breeze. A statue of Anakin Skywalker was on the opposite side in the same pose but they both had the same ancient, sad expression on their faces, and I couldn’t even see Vader’s.

Ben’s gaze turned to Anakin. He didn’t have a happy beginning, a happy middle, or a happy end. He was a slave from the start and a slave to the end.

 “He died free of Palpatine, though,” I offered.

 …He did, yes. I hope he’s with Padme—I hope he can finally be happy. Ben turned to look at me and I saw the same ancient sadness in his eyes. I can empathize with him. If something happened to you…

The Light balked but I climbed the steps to stand beside Ben and threaded his fingers through mine. The black fire flickered along the walls as we turned to face each other, flanked by the statues of the tragic Skywalker legacy. It wouldn’t end in tragedy, though. Ben was the final link and I would do whatever it took to ensure his happiness.

I smiled. “Nothing will happen. We’ll always be together.”

He craned his neck to kiss my forehead and breathed in the scent of my hair. Always.

We left the temple to find a small group of Miraluka waiting outside. They were dressed in the darker colors and gasped when they saw us and Ben began to roll his eyes, but one of them hesitantly approached him instead of me. Jerec, the Miraluka we met when we landed.

 “We’ve done our best to honor you, Bogan,” Jerec said, clasping his hands. “Is it satisfactory?”

Ben blinked. “Ah—yes, it’s… it’s very nice. The statues of my grandfather are impressive.”

Another Miraluka popped up from the group and approached, smiling. Female, with dark purple robes and a white shock of hair.

 “Um… those were carved by me, Bogan.” The girl reddened and dropped to her knees to bow. “Apologies! My name is Sabla.”

I beamed. “You’re so talented! Did you do the stained glass?”

Sabla nodded from her spot on the ground and I nudged Ben so he would ask her to rise. He did so awkwardly and Sabla popped back to her feet, shifting nervously beside Jerec. Ben pressed closer and slipped into my mind for support but I tried to edge him out. The Dark Side wasn’t inherently evil and I was hoping Jerec and Sabla could explain that to Ben better than I could.

Jerec read my mind. “We honor both sides of the Force, Bogan.” He gestured to the small group and smiled. “If you’d like, we can explain further. Ashla is welcome to come along as well.”

I waved my hands, smiling. “No, Ben should go on his own. I want to find Ahsoka and chat with her, anyway.” I arched on my tiptoes to kiss Ben’s pale cheek. “Go, my love. I’ll see you tonight.”

Ben briefly thought of blowing everyone off and going back to our hotel to have sex all day and I reddened and smacked his arm. He sidled into my mind as I walked down the steps to search the city for Ahsoka and I let him hover around in the warmth. We both needed to learn more, and I had a feeling that Ahsoka didn’t visit just to say ‘hi.’