Chapter 1: A Light, Extinguished
The problem with the Force, Rey concluded, was the absolute certainty a loved one had passed that hit long before official news of their death arrived. Waiting to hear what you knew to be truth – while at the same time desperately hoping you might be wrong – was a kind of agony that made even Supreme Leader Snoke’s psychic assault pale in comparison.
Rey was in the Falcon’s forward cargo hold, doing battle with a shield generator that had recently decided it liked nothing less than generating shields when a wave of loss struck her. Staggered, the powerful emotion drove her back into a crate of EL-16s that fell to the floor with a thud loud enough to wake-
Arms wrapped around her middle, Rey tried to choke back the scream of rage tryng to escape her as the closest thing she’d ever had to a mother was torn from existence, thousands of lightyears away. Tears burned her eyes and splashed heavily onto the steel floor at her feet.
Across even greater distance, Rey felt another surge of power. An echo of the first, it dragged across her heart so heavily she was certain it left a permanent groove. The sorrow was so like her own Rey might have thought it was her own, had it not come with an unmistakable howl of despair in a voice she would recognize anywhere.
Their pain, so profound words could not convey its depth, drove Rey to her knees. Palms against the cool metal, she fought to sever the tie that connected them. It was a struggle because, although she loathed to admit it, Rey didn’t want to mourn alone. She didn’t want to face this awful, life-changing, mammoth thing all on her own. Didn’t want to bottle it all up inside and pretend to know nothing about what would greet them when they joined back up with what was left of the Rebel fleet.
But she’d made herself a promise.
That day on Crait, as she watched the boarding ramp slide shut on Ben’s stricken expression, Rey told herself she would never again give into the connection between them. She’d done such a good job, too… Rey had sealed her mind up tight against Ben, even though it left a hollow feeling in her chest nothing seemed to fill. When the tentative brush of his mind against hers came in the dead of night, she had learned to slam a mental door against him so hard it left them both feeling bruised.
And, if she cried herself to sleep afterward? As long as no one saw, well, Rey could live with that.
What she couldn’t live with was the look of betrayal on Ben’s face when he had realized Rey could never truly be with him. It had been like looking into the eyes of a child cruelly abandoned by the only companion they had ever known, and it broke her. If Rey had to look into that face, into those eyes, too long or too often…
She didn’t want to think about the weakness curled deep in her soul, begging her to turn to the darkness – to do anything – if it meant standing by Ben’s side once more.
Angry at herself; angry at Ben; angry at any universe that would snuff out the last ray of hope in the galaxy, Rey balled her hands into fists and slammed them down on the cargo bay floor. Pain, blissfully physical, burst to life in her knuckles and raced up her wrists, into her arms. The agony in her hands brought her back to the present. It gave Rey the focus she needed to finally severe the connection with Ben. Or, so she thought.
She could feel him calling her, desperately reaching out to her across space. Could feel his need – not just for comfort, but for her. The child-like fear in his voice nearly destroyed Rey’s resolve. Nearly.
Rey brought her fists down against the floor again, giving her desperation voice in a strangled scream that brought Chewie to the cargo bay. The door wooshed open and the Wookiee stuck his head into the room with a rumble of concern.
“I’m okay, Chewie,” Rey lied without looking up. “I- got a zap from a faulty coupling in the generator. We really should replace that useless old thing,” she added fighting back the wave of sadness that struck her when she remembered Han saying the same thing, punctuating each word with a swing of a wrench at the cranky machine.
Was her whole life to be nothing but loss?
Grunting something about old not being the same as useless, Chewie disappeared back into the hallway. Rey didn’t move until the door slid into place behind him. Then, twisting so her back was against the fallen crate, Rey gathered her knees to her chest, buried her face in her hands and let herself cry. Just this once.
The taste of grief was sea and blood, tears mixing with the blood running freely from the shredded flesh at her knuckles. Rey let herself feel all the suffering there hadn’t been time to feel when they lost Han because there had been a battle to fight; when they lost Luke because they had been running for their lives. She released the little girl who had learned to hide the pain of losing her parents because crying was weakness and, in a place like Jakku, weakness meant death.
And, buried beneath it all – running through it all – the pain she couldn’t afford to feel for the man she could never let herself love.
When there was nothing left, Rey picked herself up, cold and empty, and returned to her work. What else could she do?
Chapter 2: A Spark, Discovered
Funerals happen quickly during wartime, even funerals for high-ranking generals.
They barely made it back to the base in time. She’d had, at least, a full night and day to come to grips with Leia’s death. It hit Chewbacca, who’d known the general so much longer and who’d already lost so many friends, harder. Rey watched helplessly as the news brought her companion to his knees with a wail of despair.
Chewie’s mournful cries broke Rey all over again.
“I know, buddy,” Poe said as he wrapped an arm around the Wookiee’s massive shoulders. Finn, who’d been all but joined at the hip to the pilot since their daring escape from Crait, gave Rey a knowing look.
The former stormtrooper had barely begun his training but even Finn, new to the Force as he was, must have felt the severing that tore through it with Leia’s passing. Rey gave him a small nod of acknowledgment.
Who would take over Finn’s training, now that Leia was gone? Who would finish her training? Who would lead the Rebellion? Who would be the light that-
Rey clamped a lid down on the bubbling pot of doubt that was her mind. Finn wasn’t the only one around who might pick up on her emotions, she reminded herself. Force-sensitive Maz was undoubtedly around somewhere, among others. All Rey could do was hope they were too wrapped up in their own grief to focus on hers. She had to appear strong.
She had to be strong.
It became harder and harder to be strong as she followed the others to the long marquee that had been erected for the occasion. Several heads turned their way as the group passed. Rey fixed her gaze on the end of the aisle lined on either side with as many Resistance members as the tent could hold. She couldn’t bear to meet anyone’s eye; couldn’t stand the look of pity they gave her.
Yes, in their short time together, Leia had become like a mother to Rey. Mother. It was the wrong thing to focus on. Leia might have been the only mother figure in Rey’s life, but she couldn’t forget that the woman had a child of her own – one Rey tried her best not to think about.
Impossible at such a time.
There was a familiar ripple in the Force, then he was there. Rey didn’t have to see Ben’s dark waves or haunted eyes to know he was with her.
“Rey, I…” It didn’t take Ben long to realize where he was. She couldn’t see his surroundings but the strangled gasp he gave told Rey he could see hers.
She felt the air shift as he moved to stand beside her. For a long moment, they stayed that way, silent. What was there to say? What could be said?
Poe squeezed Rey’s shoulder as he stepped around her, surprising her. She’d forgotten anyone else was there. Ben had that effect on her.
At least no one else was aware of his presence. There would be chaos if they had. Although… Finn did give Rey a quizzical look as he stepped around the seemingly empty space Ben occupied. Chewie hung back, staying near the entrance, as if seeing his old friend lying in state was simply too much.
Rey knew how he felt.
“I can’t do this,” she whispered. It was a plea in disguise. Please, don’t make me do this.
Ben, whose struggle had to be infinitely worse than Rey’s, offered his support. “Yes, you can.”
He didn’t have to whisper the way Rey did, yet Ben’s voice was low, reverent. It touched her that the scourge of the galaxy, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, could be so considerate. So supportive. So… caring?
You know there’s more to him that that, Rey scolded herself.
Yes, she knew. She just didn’t want to see it. She needed him to be the villain, to justify turning her back on him when he begged her to join him.
Except, at that moment, Rey needed him to be something else; she needed the man she knew Ben could be.
“Will you…” she felt cruel saying the words after pushing him away for so long, “…come with me?”
His sharp intake of breath told Rey she’d surprised Ben as much as herself. She dared a glance in his direction. A muscle jerked in his strong jaw.
“Yes,” was all he said.
Together, Rey and Ben made the agonizing trek to Leia’s sleek, black coffin. In unison, they peered through the clear, glass top at the woman they loved. Even in death, Leia looked both elegant and powerful, royal to the last.
“I never wanted this,” Ben told Rey, his voice heavy with regret.
She could have pointed out that it was a ship from his fleet that had fired the killing blow, but the turmoil Rey felt through their bond held her tongue. Guilt beat at him. It wasn’t enough to garner forgiveness, but it was something.
“I feel as though the last flicker of light in the universe has gone out. I shouldn’t tell you that,” he admitted, “shouldn’t feel that, but it’s true.”
Ironic, that the one who had brough so much darkness to the galaxy could say such a thing, could feel such a thing, but his words were true. They – Rey, Ben, the Resistance – had gathered to say goodbye to more than just one person; they were saying goodbye to the brightest light in the galaxy. Their greatest hope.
What hope did they have without Leia? What did they have without hope? What hope did they ever really have? The First Order was too big, too powerful. They didn’t stand a chance. They would be-
Rey was falling, hard and fast, into an ocean of despair. As the first wave broke over her head, she struggled to stay afloat. Hope. There was no hope…
Then, a hand slid into hers, anchoring her in place. Rey closed her fingers around Ben’s larger, softer ones, and held on for dear life. She turned to give him a grateful look and was surprised to see a single tear slide down his cheek. Her heart broke all over again, this time for the man who couldn’t even attend his own mother’s funeral in person.
They were both so damned lost.
A least, for that one moment, they didn’t have to be alone. Tomorrow would be another story… No. Rey would take the comfort Ben offered. For now, she would take it and she would give it back in kind. Tomorrow…
Well, they would deal with that tomorrow.
As they stood there, clinging to one another like frightened children, there was movement inside Leia’s coffin. The Force swelled as, inn the ancient way of the Jedi, Leia’s spirit left to body to join the ones who’d come before, and the one’s who would come after.
Ben’s grip tightened. A sob caught in Rey’s throat. General, princess, mother, hero, leader, legend... Gone. They were on their own now. If they wanted light, they would have to make it themselves.
Rey lifted eyes full of unshed tears to look up at Ben, heedless of the many curious gazes she was getting from the other mourners. Unlike her, Ben wept openly, his expression more unguarded than she had ever seen it. There was something more than grief, remorse, and pain in his gaze – something that didn’t scare Rey the way it should have.
For a moment, she thought Ben would kiss her.
For a moment, she wanted him to.
But Ben didn’t kiss Rey. Instead, he lifted one corner of his lips in a small smile. Then, he disappeared, letting the Force pull him back to his present. Rey closed her hand into a fist, already missing his touch.
Would he come to her again, as he had so many nights before? Did she want him to? Did she… hope he would?
She smiled, even as tears streamed down her cheeks. No, hope was not dead. It burned like a tiny sun, deep in her heart. With one last glance at the now-empty coffin, Rey turned and left the marquee.
Chapter 3: A Flame, Ignited
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.