Give your heart something to focus on, and your mind will forgive.
At least, that's what he remembered his mother had said when she once caught him eavesdropping on her ongoing fight with his father. Only it wasn't eavesdropping, really, if truth be told, since the throes of their combined wraths echoed throughout the Falcon as the whole family was travelling from one of Leia’s diplomatic visits in Naboo. Chewbacca had not been able to deter fifteen-year-old Ben from investigating the commotion because he was busy piloting the ship to their home world as his parents argued on and on.
Ben winced at hearing the biting words and curses filling the air, and his mind started to fill with worrisome thoughts.
Would this be the time that they come to blows? It wasn't far-fetched, with them having the unpredictable nature of a raging volcano.
After all—perhaps—it seemed—maybe, Ben pondered morosely, as he stayed by the edge of the door, Love didn't seem to be enough anymore.
He eyed the scenario through his lashes, tears prickling at the way his father's tone was filled with such anger, such misery... such pride. Deep down, he understood this had always stemmed from having the reputation of being a smuggler – of being condescendingly looked down upon by other senators and members of the Galactic Aristocracy every time he entered the room. Han rolled his eyes at the pursed lips that wanted to but could not say, Wretched bantha fodder, you are not of our kind, get out, you do not belong here.
Ben understood this very well, and he wanted to comfort his father – he really did, but the universe is cruel, and instead of helping give more warmth and appreciation to Han, all he felt was the sinking, maddening feeling of shame for being known as the son of a smuggler. Not even his mother's aristocratic line, something that should have been given much respect, served to aid him in his youth.
Crown prince of Alderaan, my arse. Didn't that planet die already? his classmates used to taunt him, their laughter mocking and hands pulling at his always too-large and oddly-shaped ears.
He felt nothing, really. He hadn't always cared about what they said because at least he had parents. A family. A warm one. Someone he could turn to when he didn't understand what this old man said, or what that child did.
That's how it used to be, at least. Before the Force saw it fit to manifest within him in stronger and lengthier waves. Until bed time lullabies ceased when he was ten, and he felt like he would burst from feeling everything. Until flying lessons kept getting moved for another time once he got to thirteen, and the screams in his head became vivid images of people falling, dying, and crying in his dreams. Until it was only the rare conjunction of his mother's political excursions, his father's 'outbound trade missions', and his summer vacation from the Galactic University of Hanna led them all to meet in one place at the same time.
Will it always be like this? he wondered, seeing his mother's tense features suddenly render a veneer of calm.. Her voice softened, becoming more placating as she noticed his stricken visage by the glass window of the door.
Ben knew his mother had always been sensitive to the stirrings of the Force, and it did not surprise him that she re-evaluated her tone once she felt his presence. What hurt him was that it took her that long to register the despairing plummet in his energy. But she did, and maybe that should have calmed him enough when she eyed his father pointedly, and they both breathed deeply in contemplation together. And that had been when she said those words.
“Give your heart something to focus on, and your mind will forgive.” Her tone was earnest, seeking forgiveness in the morose pulses of her husband and son.
He waited for his father's reply with bated breath, but Han took so long in responding that he felt his soul roughly being torn apart. Shaking his head, he slumped away from the scene, feeling betrayed by the tears that kept flowing freely.
The voice in his head was right.
Love won't save you. Not you. Not your family. Not even those who will claim to love you.
Flicking his wrist, the light in his room wavered until all that surrounded him was the immense cloak of the sorrowful night.
So he learned to hate.
To crown sorrow upon another sorrow with the heat of his hatred.
Until his mother spent more time on the endless filibusters at the court sessions in the New Republic halls. Until his father chose to go back to the only thing that he was good at – smuggling along the Outer Rim worlds. Until his uncle, the legendary Luke Skywalker rose him from his sleep with the blinding emerald light of his lightsaber as he poised to kill him, and until fear was all that throbbed in the space between his heartbeats. Until all that was left of his soul felt so alone, and at long last... stirred no more.
And the name that fell from their lips in utter terror when they saw a young man draped in the midnight shade, armed with a blade of red became Kylo Ren, Jedi-Killer.
Your family failed you. Come to me, and I shall show you belongingness.
To power. To strength. To glory.
This was the path he had deigned to follow, and it had not given him anything less than it promised. He was reborn, unbound from the wreath of familial worship and archaic ideology. Kylo Ren is who he was supposed to be.
He would have done well forever, and he has, hasn't he? Along with his Knights?
But why did his eye twitch when he finally donned the mask, and why did his hand shake when a life he slayed a life with a trifle of his blade? It is normal to be weak first as you are still yet to become acclamatised to the life of Darth Vader, the nebulous voice rasped its offer.
No, this isn’t what belongingness means. Once bound, you become a slave to the manipulation of someone weaker, someone whispered softly in his heart and in his mind. A fair-haired man who once shaped the threads of the galaxy looked upon him with warmth and worry. In the end, that's what all I became again—a slave. I do not want you to fall to this unfavourable tale. Not again.
And as gentle as it had come, so sudden had the whisper gone. He wanted to chase it, something in his veins knew that voice, but where he had heard it, Kylo can no longer recall. Nor can he parse if it came from one of those antediluvian holos he used to listen to before sleeping, or if it was simply just the other side of him that he had tried to bury beneath the many layers of who he had to be, and after all—perhaps—it seemed—maybe, he was right.
It doesn’t matter anymore, really, he gritted his teeth, readying for another mission on the “rain-graced” and somber planet of Jabiim. He was far too gone with this farce of an identity, and he had only himself to rely on.
So Kylo forgot about that fair-haired youth – if it really was someone else, and it appeared only blurry from the many folds of his dreams – from the throes of his sleep, and he carried on. After all, he had his Knights, and they answered to him. That would have to be enough.
Until his eyes chanced upon the sight of a girl.
Kylo was exploring the plains of Jobreth while simultaneously trying to temper the quarrel between his younger Knights – Yolras and Eponja who were arguing about how peripheralised the Outer Rim worlds were from the wealthier Core systems – and it was an interesting discussion he agreed with truly, but that is not the point of the mission, so he drew his hand swiftly to silence them both. Once they nodded at the sight of his glare, he withdrew his raised fingers and urged the rest to continue traversing through the location.
“We can table that discussion for later,” Kylo offered with a wave of his hand, and the two nodded more quickly, placated with the idea of debating after the mission. “After all, that topic is something I am of the same opinion on.”
It had been quiet from there on then, with a few interruptions from Roche with his commentaries on how they could have fought more aggressively in Corellia, some annoyed utterings on the part of Viri every time Casca made faces at the couple’s mental political segues – at that point, Kylo just gave up on trying to still their excitement – but thank the Maker, truly, that there was at least one introspective person like him among his Knights.
Throughout all these exchanges, Guts remained quiet, his eyes darting from one side to the other as he mentally catalogued the ore minerals from the Hyber Canyon so they could take it for the FO.
Good assessment, Knight of Ren, Kylo mentally commented to the still conservative youth he had become friends with after that fateful night with Skywalker. It is much appreciated.
Guts merely bobbed his head, the slight tug of his helmet the only indication of accepting his compliment.
Kylo had then instructed his Knights to split and cover more ground in search of any Force-sensitives they could train, but the sudden crescendo of a deafening sound made him pause.
And there was she.
A girl was eyeing him with thinly-veiled fear, as if she was living in a nightmare. Her brows were contorted in confusion, and his eyes marked how her hands were fisted, as if she was ready to fight no matter how messy it would be. Her hazels soon beheld him with a feral grimace that made him step back a bit. However, she nearly tumbled into him, and he was about to grasp her thin yet sinewy arms draped in various shades of dust-weathered clothing, but before he could, she with the three-pronged hair buns – whoever she was – suddenly disappeared.
Gone too fast, like that vision telling him not to fall into this unfavourable tale.
“Lord Ren?” Viri called out in his deep voice, noticing how their master became rooted to the spot. “Is something the matter?”
Beneath the mask, Kylo Ren blinked before shaking his head in response, and ordered them to continue and report on their progress once the night falls in this perpetually drenched world.
He needed to breathe and think. He didn’t understand what had happened. Who was she? Why had she appeared so frantic? Yet angry at the same time? And to wear clothing recognizable from terrestrial systems with desert climes? People from Tatooine particularly didn’t favour draped clothing, as the women there preferred more textured and coloured garments, in spite of the barrenness of the place. Rhommamool was heavy on the mining industry and rife with slave drivers, so there were more variations in apparel, so it couldn’t be—
Kylo balled his fists, moseying towards the Hyber Canyon with Guts at his heels. Gritting his teeth, he derided himself once more. Why am I getting so worked up with an illusion again? It is futile to hope—to think that that vision or that voice were of any help to him. I rarely matter, anyway. “Not even worth a residue of attention,” he sniffed softly to himself.
“Pardon, Lord Ren?” Guts turned to him, ceasing his steps as his helmet tilted to the side in confusion. “Were my calculations of the ores not accurate?”
He swallowed, but did not face the dark-haired youth as he continued walking. “Ah, no, I was speaking to myself. Don’t let it disturb you. Your assessment is correct. Please do lead us there. You know the coordinates better than I do.”
He felt the Knight stare at him for a second longer than usual before nodding and finally resuming his walk. Kylo let him go ahead, feeling a stir of conflict arise in him once again.
In his mind’s eye, he saw the face of that girl again, and he recalled how she looked at him – as if he were a monster, and for some unknown reason, his heart hurt a bit.
He took a deep breath.
It’s nothing, he tried to assure himself as he hunched his shoulders and marched on to meet Guts at the foot of the Canyon.
I deserve it, anyway. I should just die.
Really? You should just die? That’s not how you continue legacies, that fair-haired youth’s voice in his head suddenly commented – sarcastically, if he might add, six standard hours after their successful mission in Jabiim. Guts had been able to garner at least three tonnes of iron ore for the Order while Eponja and the rest were able to recruit two disgraced Nightbrothers – the one with the scarlet visage was known as Lamora, and the other one with darker and more articulate markings on his face called himself N’Doru – for the next generation of the Knights of Ren.
His jaw tensed, and he took his helmet off, striking it on the blinking cracks upon the walls of the turbolift. Then why am I still feeling the pull to the light? This was how Vader fell. Through temptation. That was how he failed to finish what he started. Am I, then, a slave to both sides of the Force?
The fair-haired youth shook his head, and in his mind’s eye, he wondered if this man was the sort to smirk and tsk at seeing the mistakes of other people.
You will find, as I did, that belongingness lies in the meeting of your heart and soul. To be able to find truth, you must focus in the centre. In balance, the man patiently replied with a curl on his lips. And it shall come to you, as the Force is always with you, and as I am with you.
I don’t understand what you’re trying to—he meant to say, but alas, the voice had gone away again, and he was left alone as the turbolift reached his floor, and the doors opened to reveal a hallway where he chanced to see Roche, who saluted him immediately upon sight.
The boy had taken off his helmet, as he was wont to do after excursions, and Kylo was once again reminded how young and how innocent the Knight had been when he followed him to the dark side. Roche had been eight then, and now he was fifteen, and it showed with the attention the child gave to him – like he was an older brother, and he was his little one, and so craved for his affection.
His thoughts were disrupted when Roche lifted a brow and gestured to his broken helmet. “What happened there, Lord Ren?”
“I lost my sense of control,” he said, pursing his lips in discomfort before eyeing the child. “Perhaps, you could mend it with Casca?”
The boy blinked before regaining his senses and excitedly taking the ruined helmet from him and running away towards the other end of the hallway. “Certainly, sir!”
Kylo shook his head, and took a deep breath once more before walking the path towards his room.
Footsteps guided by lightning, he returned to sleep thinking of the girl and the words of that man once more, and a certain sense of serenity washed over him, warming him, in spite of the biting kiss of the cold, cold night.
The next time his mother's words travelled to the forefront of his mind was when the girl with the stars dusting her steps and the song of the universe in her spirit let her heart break in two in front of him.
“You're not alone,”' he found himself saying, and he was surprised to learn that he wished she would hear the sincerity in his tone, and not turn him away, and leave him at the mercy of the ash-woven air of a dying city. More so, he despaired greatly to realise that he desired to provide her comfort, to take away her tears, to heal the break in her ever morose soul.
The dusk of her lashes were wet from the falling of her tears when she eyed him, and he felt the rise of their glorious sorrows slowly wash away their fear of each other.
One to the other, their eyes met and stayed, a radiant mystery blooming and forming tendrils of a rapturous resonance in the depths of their beings.
Softly, her voice made the whisper in his soul clearer.
“Neither are you,” she said, and the song in his heart, carrying the sound of a million mornings, started to take flight. Something about giving your heart something to focus on, and letting your mind forgive.
Something about learning to remember who he had forgotten.
Her—those words—these were not labyrinthine, it was real. And as tears pricked his lids, he eyed Rey as she looked at him with a song of tomorrow.
Soul of my soul, I will not part with you, her eyes seemed to say, as a crown of warmth ensconced them, weaving them to the infinite threads of the universe. You are mine, and I am yours, and our song will shake the stars into birth.
And everything felt lighter. A little easier. And there was a sublime yet simple yearning for truth.
Then at last, across the stars, she sought him under the infinite skies.
As their fingers collided under a horizon of starlight, he saw her breath hitch in her throat. It would have felt perilous to him being had he not seen a vision of the future. A future entwined with hers.
He stood by her side, his eyes carrying no more sorrow and holding hers as if nothing else existed in the space between their heartbeats, and wait, that was what was happening now, wasn’t it? He was unsure where that vision ended and this reality with her eyeing him softly began. But of him belonging with her and to her, of that he was certain.
And he could not – could not – look away.
Ben, her heart whispered, and he heard it from the folds of her mind, and his eyes flickered to hers, the embers of the fire between them enlightening her similarly tear-stricken visage.
Her lip began to curl fondly when he blinked at her slowly as she gradually let her fingertips move towards the expanse of his palm. It was a touch, at most, but the savagery in his heart knew it as a caress. He swallowed, his mouth pursing, and he wanted to say something but he chose not to, because he feared he would ruin their… this, whatever it was, it was theirs.
Instead of letting words fall from his lips, he resolved to let her keep grasping his hand until she reached his wrist. Soul of my soul, he thought, the emptiness he felt before being replaced by the warmth of belongingness.
He struggled to breathe before he sought her hand and clutched it softly between his. She watched it all carefully, and he tried not to let the knots in his stomach make his knees weak even as they were sitting comfortably on the ground.
How glorious to be held by someone who values warmth in the shape of you and your everything – and something made him plead not to want her so, so much – not to please, let my soul be yours as you are mine across a million of stars.
But he did, and when her eyes raised to meet his again, he knew it, solid and clear as the Force was connecting them that she felt the same as they rose to near each other.
Rey, he said in her head gently, and she gasped softly, the viridescence in her eyes becoming more apparent with the light of the fire.
Finally, the words fell from his lips, “Soul of my soul… you are mine as I am yours.” His voice deepened, and he no longer cared if he sounded vulnerable as he dared to keep his eyes locked on to hers as he continued, “And together… we shall shake the stars into birth.”
He could not help the rapid beating of his heart when her eyes focused on the way his lower lip trembled, and he heard her think, Oh, this is all too much, if I can grasp you as you can grasp me across the stars, I cannot bear it any longer.
Rey let her hands fall from his hold, and for a second, he felt troubled, conflicted, and hurt all at the same time. Did I say things wrong, again?
Oh, stars, no, he heard her say in the folds of his mind, feeling her fingers slip through the dusk-woven threads of his hair as his lips followed her sweet caress. Then he opened his mouth, and softly nibbled on her lower lip, and but, oh, I am wrecked, utterly wrecked by the shape of you.
His breath hitched once more when she did as he had and bit him softly, and his other hand resolved to explore the expanse of her lower back. She followed suit with a gasp – a gasp he stole with his tongue inside her mouth.
She slowly reached his marred cheek, and he wanted to break away from her until she caressed it while she graced his dusk-woven hair with her fingers, and he decided to still her with an imploring kiss. His hands wove across her waist, beckoning her nearer to him, and she followed, kneeling between his legs as his tears fell on her cheeks.
She ended their kiss gradually, sensing the wrong in him. Her eyes traversed his troubled countenance once more. He took his time being silent, and grasped her hand lightly against his chest.
He shook his head, resting his forehead on hers. It’s nothing, he tried to assure her, as the rippled waves of his hair fell to his lashes.
Her lids fell as he pressed a soft kiss on her forehead and then on each of her eyelids. She gasped softly as he ran a finger over the side of her neck, and his voice dipped as he whispered, ‘Runi be ner runi, bal an te Ka'ra at ni.’
Rey opened her eyes and met his gaze, and he was once again shaken by the sheer intensity of her stare. She lifted her hand to caress his cheek once more before replying in the lilting tones of a much loved language he tried to speak in, whenever he deigned to be affectionate before.
‘Ben, gar cuyir Pal'vut, bal Ni cuy' sa'yo ni,’ she replied, lips curling, and the sight of warmth across her visage before her lips broke out into a soft smile filled his whole being.
And it feels like breathing.