Supreme Leader Kylo Ren allowed no one access to his private quarters, for the same reasons he wore the mask: to promote fear and keep others at a distance. Though few in the galaxy had tasted his true power, most feared him thanks, in no small part, to that mask. It helped, of course, that no one knew anything about him. He had no confidants, no companions, no one who could claim so much as a passing acquaintance – and that was the way he wanted it. By shutting others out, he avoided attachments, which only ever led to weakness.
Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong.
He could practically see the impatient look on his former Master’s face. Could hear the exasperation in his uncle’s voice. Luke had known the truth of it.
Ben – he’d stopped thinking of himself as anyone else when he was alone (a dangerous habit, to be sure) – was hiding.
Hiding from the pain of rejection. From the fear of failure. From everything that drove him into the tutelage of the universe’s most powerful Sith lord. Even under Snoke’s guidance, Ben hid himself behind the persona of Kylo Ren. Now, though, the name fit like too-large clothing. It hung off him, making him feel small and exposed.
Snoke had sought him out, found the lonely boy and played on his feelings of inadequacy. It hadn’t taken much to convince Ben that he was unwanted. With his parents away living their separate lives, and his uncle treating him just like every other padawan, Ben believed Snoke when he said that he was alone.
But he also believed Snoke when he said, if he gave himself to the dark side of the Force, Kylo Ren would never need anyone else again.
The occasional bouts of loneliness that characterized his childhood were nothing to the all-encompassing and absolute desolation that became Ben’s life after embracing the dark side of the Force. Absolute, except…
Except the times he spent with Rey.
Kill the past, he’d told Rey. He’d meant, of course, that she should kill her past. That she should join him, regardless of the consequences.
He’d been selfish. Selfish, blind, and foolish.
Months of trying to reach Rey through their bond hadn’t changed Ben, not really. Months of trying – and being rejected. Then, standing side by side at his mother’s coffin, something had changed. Something had changed him. As he’d reached out to take Rey’s hand, something… bigger reached inside Ben and took hold of him. It changed him from the inside out, altering every fibre of his being, irrevocably.
Ben stared in disgust at the white walls surrounding him. He no longer felt like the Supreme Leader of the First Order (if he ever had.) He felt like a prisoner, trapped in a position he didn’t know how to escape – because that was the only way he could ever really be with her, the complete destruction of everything he had built. Was it even possible? Could he do what so many others had failed to do?
I'll help you.
There was a tingle in the Force, warning Ben that he was no longer alone.
Ben spun around. His heart thrilled at the prospect of seeing her again – but it wasn’t Rey standing behind Ben in his private quarters. He stared, open-mouthed, at a man who wore several days’ worth of stubble, a dusty old jacket, and a crooked grin.
“Never thought I’d hear that again.” Hands on his hips, Han Solo walked around the room, taking in the sharp lines and military detachment with a gaze that missed nothing.
Ben knew what his father saw. The sterile room was a far cry from their comfortable family home on Chandrila, though maybe not so far from his spartan quarters at his uncle’s temple. He’d considered the room his sanctuary but, seeing it through his father’s eyes, Ben realized how empty it was.
How empty he was.
He was a shell, incapable of being, only reacting. And his reactions…
No one had ever accused Supreme Leader Kylo Ren of being reasonable.
Ben’s emotions, which had always been both intense and overwhelming, spiralled out of control at the sight of his father. His dead father.
Who he killed.
“You didn’t pull the trigger, kid,” Han said, as if he could read Ben’s thoughts. “We both knew my death was on the cards the moment the Falcon landed on that frozen hunk.”
Reminding Ben that he hadn’t had the strength to light the sabre to kill his father didn’t make anything any better. It didn’t matter if Han had pressed the button, or if Ben had. Either way, his father was dead, and it was his fault. Not for the first time since that horrible day, guilt tore at Ben.
Han stepped directly in front of Ben. He rested a ghostly hand on the younger man’s shoulder. Ben could feel the touch only through the Force, but it brought a fresh tear to his eye.
“I made your mother a promise,” Han continued, “and it was the only way to keep it. There was nothing you could have done. You have to stop blaming yourself.”
“Mom,” Ben choked out. He couldn’t bring himself to say it, that he had been responsible for not one parent’s death, but both.
A look of pain crossed Han’s weathered face. He nodded. “I know.”
Ben could barely breathe around the lump of searing pain in his chest. As a child, his parents had been busy, influential, important. They were gone more often than not but, he realized finally, were never more than a comms away. How death changed things…
“I’m sorry.” It didn’t begin to encompass the regret he felt, but what else could he say?
Han shook his head. “You can’t change the past,” he told Ben.
Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.
“But you can change the future.” He caught Ben’s eye and held it, suddenly intense. “You have to change it, Ben. Change it for the better,” he implored.
An invisible hand squeezed Ben’s heart. If he didn’t know better, he’d think his father had used the Force on him. But no. Han Solo was as Force-sensitive as… as… His gaze swept the room. Well, as that chair. The pain in Ben’s chest was good old-fashioned fear.
“I don’t know how,” he admitted in a small voice.
I'll help you.
Han smiled, his eyes full of affection and something else. Full of… hope?
“You’ll figure it out.” With a small nod, Han turned to leave.
Ben wanted to beg him to stay but knew it was impossible. Knew his father’s time on this plane was limited. Still, he tried to scavenge what little time there was.
“How did you know…?” Ben started, feeling foolish before the words even left his lips.
Han quirked one eyebrow up as he gave Ben a knowing look. “That I’d go to battle against the whole damned galaxy for her?”
A furious blush crept up Ben’s neck. “Yeah, that.”
The look his father wore might, on a less roguish figure, be described as “wistful.”
“The moment I laid eyes on her,” he answered.
Ben thought back to the first time he saw Rey, in that forest on Takodana. Did he know then? At the time, he’d felt the pull toward her, knew there was something between them he couldn’t explain, but had dismissed it as yet another challenge to be overcome. Snoke told them that he had created the bond between them, so that Ben could destroy Rey, but Snoke was long gone and this… whatever it was, was still there.
You know what it is. You’ve always known.
You've just hidden it away. Say it.
It all became clear to Ben, in a blinding flash of certainty. He and Rey weren’t connected because of the Force. The Force didn’t pull them together. They connected the Force – light and dark – through the power of their love. Neither completely one side or the other, together, they joined the Force in a way no one who came before could.
It was so obvious! Through the generations, Jedi had been forbidden from forming attachments, much as the Sith were. Both sides had been forced to remain isolated. Could never know the true power of unity. The history of the Force changed irrevocably in that instant – and Ben couldn’t have cared less. All he cared about was finding a way to be with the woman he loved.
“Dad,” he said excitedly, “I… oh.”
He was alone.
For a moment, Ben’s heart sank. Having his father there, even in spirit, had comforted him in a way he couldn’t have expected. With Han gone, Ben felt his loneliness more intensely than before.
But, he vowed, not for long. Whatever it took – even if he had to go to battle against the whole damned galaxy – Ben would earn Rey’s love.