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10/28/35 ABY: The Supremacy

 

“Chewie’s helping me set it up. I don’t think the Resistance is too keen on it, but…” Rey’s not sure what to tell Kylo about what his mother is doing. Not sure how much he wants to know. Not sure how much is a violation of the Resistance.

“You teaching new… Force users isn’t part of the master plan to take down the First Order?”

“Apparently not.”

Rey’s in the bath, with Kylo, sitting in his lap, talking about today. He did scrub her back for about a minute, but neither of them is in any particular need of scrubbing, and her shoulders are yelling at her for the huge pile of rocks she moved today, so getting them rubbed is winning out over scrubbing.

Kylo’s never rubbed anyone’s shoulders before, but it’s not that hard. Grab, squeeze gently, repeat. Keep doing it in the spots where Rey makes happy noises, do it a lot more gently when she jumps like a fish out of water. Poke tender spots with his thumb, and then hold his thumb there. He’s probably not good at it, but she’s also never had her back rubbed before, so it’s a learning experience for both of them.

Mostly though, he’s just happy to be holding onto her, real, live, here-in-his-arms, her, while they talk.

Usually the end of his day means silent meditation, and the chance to have a real conversation with someone, without having to guard every word, fear that he might be offering up a chink in his armor, or let too much slip, is proving to be significantly more relaxing than he’d expected.

He’s watching his hand on her shoulder, seeing how his palm spans from her neck to her shoulder, and her neck, how easily it fits in just one hand, aware of how small she is next to him, and just sort of drifting along.

She’s paused, and he can feel he’s supposed to say something, but he wasn’t exactly paying attention to the last few lines.

“Uh…”

“Kylo!”

“What?” He’s trying not to sound annoyed, but his voice is sharp… he can feel her wave of annoyance aimed at him for not listening, and his immediate response to any hot emotion directed toward him is to hit back with it, usually multiplied by a factor of ten.

“You weren’t listening to me!” She’s turned around, facing him, glaring, a little. She’s annoyed, not angry.

There’s an instinct to lash out, to hit her with something like, ‘If it’d been interesting, I’d have been paying attention,’ lift her from annoyance to anger, because anger makes him feel alive and real and… But, some little voice, maybe the child who felt his parents argue, a lot, squashes that response, flat. “I was paying attention to your shoulder and neck.”

“It’s just a neck.”

“It’s yours.” He touches the string of the token. “And it’s my turn for that.”

She blinks, and then takes it off, handing it to him, placing it over his head. “Apparently, it a token in a game.”

He nods. “Junjan. I’ve played it.”

“Were you good at it?”

He shrugs his shoulders. He always had more ‘talent’ to bring to the game than anyone else. “Enough. Even as a child I could make the token spin faster, better, longer, than anyone else.”

“Oh.”

He nods again. “So, what did I miss by watching your neck and shoulder?”

She settles herself in his lap again, this time facing him. “Your name… I was thinking about what I’m going to call,” she touches the token on his chest, “this. I’ve got nothing. How did you come up with your name?”

He runs his fingers through his hair, and sighs… “That was a long time ago.”

“When you were a child?”

“No. I was an adult, young one, eighteen, nineteen, something like that. Still with Luke. It’s not silly or embarrassing, just not anything I’ve thought of recently. Kylo. I wasn’t Ben. I never was. And never was going to be. It started to chafe, feel really wrong about the time he was beginning to consider if I was ready for Master. ‘Master Ben.’ Imagine, if you will, six Padawans calling me that. I could only take it for a year. I changed my name before I left him. But I’m still a Skywalker, and a Solo, for better or for worse. So, Kylo. And Ren just sounded good with it. Probably some part of me liked it because it rhymed with Ben.”

“Familiar but different.”

He inclines his head a little. “Remembering where I came from, but changing where I was going. Does that help?”

“Deji?” She winces before he shakes his head, but only by a second.

“Diej?” He shakes his head at that one, too. “It’ll come.”

She nods, wrapping her arms around his neck, holding him close. In his lap, they’re face to face, lips to lips, and she kisses him, smooth and easy.

He smiles into the kiss, hands falling to her hips, keeping her close. She wraps her legs around his hips, rocking against him.

“Eager?”

“Yes!” Since they’ve been sitting around talking, she’s hit a second wind, and feeling a lot less tired, she’s got some interests that’d like to be satisfied.

Just hearing her say that makes his body rise. And with it, a niggling memory of some mostly asleep thoughts from the morning.

His hands close on her hips, holding her still, so he can keep thinking with his brain.

“Are you on a preventative?”

She’s looking at him like he’s speaking gibberish, and a slow, and horrifying though crosses his mind, no school, no family, no close friends… No conversation about this before… He’s got no idea if she even knows that sex makes babies. He almost chokes on it.

Now she’s gone from looking at him like he’s speaking gibberish to utter confusion. She’s more than close enough to feel his mind whirling around fast trying to figure out how to digest this and what to do next, but she doesn’t know the context.

Finally she says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He nods, briefly. “I could feel that…” He rubs his face, afraid that he’s about to make a fool of himself, or worse, her, and then says… wincing at having to do it… “You know… this,” he rocks his hips a bit, getting across what this he means, “can… make babies, right?”

And yes, that gets her looking at him like he’s a blathering moron. She licks her lips and says, dryly, “I’ve heard some rumors to that effect.”

He just looks at her, and sees it snap into place in her mind. “Oh… Preventatives. Scum sacks…” Her mouth opens into an O as she gets what exactly that means. Yes, she knows the basics of where kids come from, and… She’s putting together what she swallowed the night before, with scum sack and… “Oh! I’d… heard of them…” She thinks a bit longer… Some of the traders had them… They didn’t much seem to value them, but for the women at Niima Outpost, they were worth almost their weight in water. She knows the women bought them, but… She overheard more than a fair share of gossip while cleaning her different finds, so she also, sort of, she hopes, knows how they work. She just… didn’t quite know how men worked. “Wait… Why would you ask if I was using one? Aren’t they for you?

“That’s a temporary option,” he’s assuming a scum sack is what local vernacular to the Supremacy refers to as a slick. “They’re a one-time thing. And yes, they’d be for me.” He’s sure he’s blushing, but he keeps going. “There are longer term options. They’ll last for years, and make it impossible to make a baby unless you want to.”

“And you don’t want to?”

His eyes are very dark, searching hers, and his voice serious as he says, “Not now. If it happened…” he can only feel his life and hers, but he also knows that they won’t know for sure for a while.

She catches the faint hint of disappointment as he only feels two lives. The sense of something desired, deeply, intensely, passionately, even though it’s not right or good, now. She feels the part of him that wants to burn all of this and just cuddle into her and a family and the part that wants more. The part that knows there isn’t a version of this where the two of the just run off and shed the wider galaxy. The part that knows that if he’s going to get that family, he’s got to secure a time and space for them, and the only way to do that is to get through now. She gently strokes his face, and lets him feel a similar confused disappointment. Then she nods. “If it happened… Otherwise, no, not now.”

He kisses her shoulder. “I have some slicks… scum sacks… that’s a terrible name.” He’s seeing a whole new light on the idea of calling someone rebel scum, and is wondering if that’s what Hux meant by it.

She shrugs. That’s just what they are, in her world. “Why slicks?”

“You can see in bit?” He’d rather show than explain that they’re lubricated, hence, slick. He’s also realizing that for anything longer term, he’s either got to get to a medical droid, or she does. And he’s thinking it’s unlikely she’s going to find a first class medical droid in the middle of whatever planet she’s on right now. And it’s even more unlikely that he’s going to take her through the Supremacy to the infirmary.

Which means he’s got a trip to the infirmary, soon. “For right now, the slicks will do, and in the next few days, I can get something better, longer lasting, and… um…” He’s absolutely blushing now. “Uh… more comfortable…”

“They hurt?” She’s rethinking what she knows about how they work.

“No! They’re just… not as good as without one.”

“Oh.”

“You’ve got to stop and put them on, and they don’t taste or smell very good, and you can’t feel as much through them.”

She traces his lips… “Why use them then?”

The not-having-babies-when-you-don’t-want-them-thing seemed self-evident to him, so he’s not sure what she’s asking.

Then she leans closer and nibbles his bottom lip, laying a long, wet lick along it. As she’s kissing him, she takes his hand in hers, and gives his fingers a gentle squeeze.

And suddenly he gets what she’s asking.

She pulls back, looking at him, a glint in her dark brown eyes. She stands up, water streaming off of her, and looks over to his bed. “I kiss you, you kiss me, and your slicks can… stay wherever it is you keep them?”

And that sounds like the best damn idea he’s ever heard.

He stands up, fast, and scoops her up, hoisting her over his shoulder, and she shrieks at it, half-surprised, half-delighted, and he almost slips in the pool, because she jerks a little when he does it, but between his own balance and Force control, he keeps standing.

From her position over his shoulder, she’s got a great view of the whole of his back, which she hasn’t seen all the much of. She’s never given much thought to the backsides of men in general or Kylo in specific, but watching him walk, naked, dripping wet, gleaming in the soft blue-gray light of his rooms, stepping out of the pool and then across his room, is hypnotic. His ghost pale skin, and the light gray shadows of each muscle flexing with each step is something she could watch for days.

Her eyes are drawn to his bottom, and the little sway with each step. And for the first time ever, she’s thinking how much she’d like to get him to lie down and let her just stroke, pet, and kiss every inch of him.

Twice.

At least.

He plops her in the center of the bed, not very romantic, but fairly efficient, and stands at the edge of the bed, looking. He likes looking. At all of her. He feels like he could stay here for weeks, staring at her skin, the shape of her body, all of her curves and straights.

She wriggles a little, a tinge uncomfortable at him just looking but he lets her feel how much he enjoys it, and that tinge fades.

“You’re so beautiful…” he gets the sense no one’s ever said that to her, at least, said it and didn’t have a threat behind it.

 

 

He lifts her ankle to his lips, laying a gentle kiss against it. She leans back, weight on her elbows, watching him nibbling along her leg. Her eyes dance over his skin, from the width of his shoulders, to his narrow hips, the ripple of his stomach as he breathes, and his shaft rising between his legs, to his huge hands against her calf, the flex of the muscles of his arm and back as he shifts weight, shifts his hold, and kisses her calf.

“You are, too.”

He smirks a little, deflecting that. “No, I’m not.”

“I get to decide what I consider beautiful. Not you.”

He nips her leg.

“None of that. I like looking at you,” Rey says, eyes dragging from his knees to his eyes.

He tries smiling this time, and again lays his lips to her leg, just at her knee.

They hold eye contact, as he lightly licks along the inside of her knee. Rey feels her breath speed and her heart pick up to go with it. She rubs her lips together, and says, “So beautiful. Beautiful Kylo.”

His eyes slide shut at that, and he hisses he inhales so fast at it, but she knows that’s the sort of hiss that goes with pleasure, not pain.

“You like hearing that.”

He kisses a little higher up this time, midway up her thigh. “Don’t you, beautiful Rey?”

She smiles a little, she does like hearing it, but it’s not the same visceral reaction he had to it.

He’s kneeling on the floor, between her legs, realizing he likes talking to her. Just having another voice, and the moans make him happy, but… He wants words, too.  “What do you call this,” he says, smiling at her, palm resting on her delta, cupping the whole thing.

 

 

She blinks, not expecting that. “Uh…”

“Local slang. Something nicer than scum sack, hopefully?”

He wriggles his fingers, gently combing them through her hair. “Delta, that’s more or less the whole thing. Muff…” he gives her hair just a gentle tug… “That one was popular when I was young.”

“Uh… Maomao…”

“What’s a maomao?”

“They’re…” she’s blushing… “little desert creatures. Some people keep them as pets. They eat the littler creatures that get into the food. They’ve got a long tail and pointy ears, and are soft and furry, and if you pet them right, they purr.”

He grins, liking that, a lot. He kisses her delta, and says, “Maomao,” between kisses. “If I pet it right, will you purr?”

She smiles at him. “Try it and see.”

He does, palm of his hand gently pressing against her while his fingers ripple.

She does offer up a little purr. He lowers himself, nuzzling along the line where leg becomes pelvis, stroking his hand over her delta. That gets a louder purr.

He purrs back, enjoying having her laid out before him, making happy noises at something he’s doing.

“What’s a muff?”

“Uh…” that stops him dead in his tracks. He looks up at her. “It’s…” He’s thinking hard, it’s got to be something else, right? “I don’t actually know. Maybe it always meant this.”

She sits up, pulls him to join her on the bed, and flips around, so they’re facing each other, but tops to tails. She props herself on one elbow, and strokes his shaft. “Shaft, joystick, wankwand, buggerstick, pocket rocket, old one eye…”

“You’ve got a lot of names for this.”

“The traders tended to call each other versions of it, a lot.”

“Soldiers do that, too.” He drags his own fingers up himself. “Shaft, usually. Tool sometimes. ‘Get your tool serviced…’ ‘I’ve got the tool you need…’”

She sniggers a little at that. “Have you ever actually said that to someone?”

“Not before five seconds ago.”

“Good.”

Her fingers ghost after his and he shivers slightly at it. Then she circles the tip. “This bit?” She’s looking intensely at it. “It changes. I mean… it all changes, but… when you’re soft, it covers the whole top, and right now it’s only got most of it, and last night it was… gone… but it can’t do that, right?”

He grins. “Cap or cowl.” He takes her hand in his, and gets a firm hold and slides her fist down him, and it pulls back with the friction. “It moves. Now, and when I’m getting hard, you can slide it up and down. When I’m really enjoying it, close to spurting, it tends to stay down.”

“Does it feel good? The sliding?” she’s gently rubbing her hand up and down, watching it creep over the head of his shaft.

“Yes.” He doesn’t exactly whisper, but there’s a breathy quality to his words. “The tip… head… is really sensitive, so sometimes it’s nice to feel it through the cap.”

Her finger slips over the naked tip. “Is this okay?”

His eyes are closed, and he’s breathing a little heavier. “It really is. Just… like last night, slow, gentle, wet, get to know it, and we’ll get to harder and more force.”

She giggles a little at that. He takes her hand, dragging it down, further, so it’s cupping him. “Stones, balls…” He’s looking at her, waiting for her to add her own words, and she shakes her head.

“I can’t.”

He can feel that even the idea of this word scandalizes her. “Why not?”

“It’s a really bad word. You only say it when… when things are…” She shakes her head again. “You don’t ever call anyone that. They’ll cut you for it.”

Kylo’s certainly run into some serious cursing over the years, but he can’t think of any one word that would get that sort of result. “Really?”

She nods.

“Well… what would you call them if you… didn’t want to start a fight?”

It’s clear that’s not an idea she’s ever run into before. “Why would you need to?”

He’ll admit it’s not exactly something that comes up in daily conversation, especially if you don’t happen to personally have a set of them, but… He’s holding her hand and shows her how to give them a very gentle little tug. “Because touching them feels good.”

“Oh.” She gives him another gentle little tug. “Kissing them, too?”

His mouth opens as just the idea of that stutters through him electrically. “I… don’t know… but I bet it would.”

She shifts down a bit, and lays a gentle, closed mouth kiss against the right one. It feels nice. The little lick that goes with it feels better. When she opens her mouth and lightly sucks it, he just about levitates off the bed.

She grins at him as she pulls back. “I’d say that felt good.”

“Good doesn’t begin to…” he lifts her leg and scoots closer. Her body’s spread out before him, wet and pink and open and fragrant and… Gods, it’s everything he wants. And right now he wants to feel good touching her and feel good with her touching him. He trails his finger over her lips, keeping the touch light, reveling at how slick she is against his skin.

“Lips.”

She makes a little mmmm… sound. Apparently not much caring one way or another what he calls any of this.

He strokes up to where they come together, and then gently presses, the pad of his finger just above her jewel, and rubs over it. “Jewel or pearl. Pink pearl, sometimes.”

She moans at that. “I don’t care what you call it, just keep…” her voice stutters as he rubs again. Then he stops, waiting for her.

“I don’t have a word for it. The whole thing is a maomao! That’s just it.”

“The whole thing is beautiful, it, you, and I want to…” he bows his head, laying wet, open mouthed kisses all over her.

She groans, enjoying it, enjoying the feel of him doing it as a matter of physical sensation, and the feel of him doing it in his head. How much he’s enjoying the taste and the feel of her wet against him.

And she knows what would make it better.

Shallow, easy, just get to know it. She paid attention last night and starts with licks, getting everything wet, tip to stones, and hears him hiss again, and feels the jolt of pleasure through him.

He licks back, faster, tongue sliding against her, and she shudders as he gets her right there.

She closes her mouth around him, sucking gently on the tip, hand cupping his stones, and he groans, loud.

Her hips jolt as one of his fingers slowly eases into her, adding a welcome stretch to go with the wet glide of his tongue.

It’s almost too much sensation all at once. She’s a mouth sucking, and that’s one set of feelings. Smooth, so smooth, hard shaft, sueded-velvet on her lips and tongue… The feel of kissing, good kissing, wet and slick against her lips. She’s a maomao being licked, wet and slick and electric, the glide of his tongue and the fullness from his fingers and the grind of her hips looking for more. Balancing between those two points is difficult enough. But she’s not just feeling it through her body, her senses, she can feel it through his skin, his mind, too.

She can feel him slip between her lips, the gentle press, wet and tight lips around him, and then breach, hot and shuddering wet all over. The drive to thrust, to bury her--himself between her lips, seeking hot and wet and sucking. The feel of her body around his fingers, hot and cling, the taste of herself on his lips and tongue, and wet and slick against his lips, and more motion, wet, gliding, friction, slippery seeking more touch more motion more more…

His tongue is right right right right there and there and…

And where she ends and he begins is slipping away, melting into two points of pleasure, blending outward…

And like last time, she’s growing tight and unraveling. Muscles tighter, faster, less coordinated as her mind and senses spin outward, loose and eager.

She doesn’t know where the wave starts, her, him? Doesn’t matter. It starts, a long, slow swell building like a sand dune, and crashing down, fast, hard, jolting through both of them, again and again and again.

He’s laying with his head on her thigh, body still twitching slightly, blissed out and extremely pleased that she had this idea. His voice is soft and low as he says, “We should do this, a lot, too.”

She gently kisses the tip of his shaft, licking the last little drop of spurt off, and says, “Sounds good to me.” And then yawns. “Later.”

“Later is good.”


 

 

 

Later, he wakes up, and she’s on top of him, rubbing, wet and slick against him, and all he wants to do is cant his hips just a little, go from her rubbing on him to him rubbing in her.

He groans at the feel of it. “More?”

 

 

“Yes.” More a heavy exhalation than a word.

He swallows hard, and rolls over, opening the first of the drawers under his bed. He feels cold with her body not right on top of his, and he’s missing the sweet pressure of her body on his, but he's fairly sure that once is safe enough, but twice is just spitting in fate’s face and daring it to slap you.

He doesn’t keep much in the drawers under his bed. Mostly protein bars. Some vitamin mush. Extra data pads. And a few slicks. He grabs one, and rolls back onto his back, cracks the pack, pulls it out, tosses the pack aside, and rolls it down. He hasn’t done this often, only once in the last year, but enough he’s got the moves down.

Rey’s pulling at him, trying to get him on top of her, but he’s sleepy and dreamy and really liked what she was doing before. “You on me,” he says.

He sees her get what he’s saying, that what she was doing before works… he shudders, the feel of her on him slithering through him as she slides onto him… almost exactly the same.

Almost… She keeps pulling off every few strokes to glide her pearl on his shaft, and that’s good for her, but not as good for him.

It takes him a moment to figure out a solution, so that the part of her that most wants to be touched, and the part of him that most wants to be enveloped, both get what they want.

He worms a hand between them, pressing it to his pelvis and low belly, and then she can glide and grind on his fingers and he can keep his shaft in her and very soon they’re both having an excellent time.

After, when he’s got to extricate himself from the slick, he remembers a lot of what he doesn’t like about them. She’s blissfully asleep again before he’s gotten the damn thing all the way off, tied, and thrown… hopefully, into his wastebasket.


 

  

The rumors begin, as they often do, with the cleaning staff.

Kylo was not, on any level, expecting there to be any gossip. Droids, if programmed for secrecy, cannot tell what they know, so his secrets, like his tendency to vanish from the Supremacy, or his nocturnal guest were safe with C8.

Likewise, the medical droid who will set him up with a long-acting preventative later that afternoon, could not, even if it wanted to, (though it also couldn’t want to) tell anyone about the two small injections to render him sterile for the next three years.

What Kylo did not take into account is that all of his servants are not droids.

And that, even very discrete human interactions leave certain… telltale signs.

Every day, when Kylo is in his throne room, dealing with whomever or whatever needs to be dealt with, a very trusted, highly-cleared member of the janitorial team empties his trash.

Every day, he removes three protein bar wrappers, two tubes of vitamin mush, and nothing else from a sleek black wastebasket that sits next to Kylo’s bed.

Today, he removes three protein bar wrappers, two empty tubes of vitamin mush, two used slicks, and two slicks packs. He mentally chuckles. After all, it wouldn’t do to make noise. He also says to himself, No wonder the bastard’s been in such a good mood recently.

 

Chapter Text

 

11/1/35 ABY: The Supremacy

 

Kylo holds two mockups of his new badge. One, for non-citizens, looks pretty much exactly the way it did before. The rays extend all the way to the center, though if he had to guess he’d say they’re emanating out of the center instead of leading into it, but all in all he’s pleased. It doesn’t put him in mind of a giant mouth about to eat anything in it’s path any longer.

 

 

The second one has a wide silver band around the white of the circle. The mark of a citizen. He nods at that, still pleased. It’s quite visible, but doesn’t take away from the complete design.

His Designer, (Captain Frakes, C8 tells him) looks at him, a little nervous, but proud. He’s satisfied with the job, and he thinks Kylo will be, too.

Kylo nods. “The helmet?”

“I have sketches. If they look right, we’ll get the prototype up.” He passes over the sketches. Frakes must have incredible visual memory. Kylo wore the mask, he built it, and he’s not sure he could sketch it that well from memory.

“This is good.”

“Thank you, My Lord.”

“Put the badges into production. How long to have enough of them ready to switch everyone over?”

Frakes thinks about it, and then pulls out a datapad, doing some calculations. “Probably a month. Depends on how many we need with the silver piping, and if I can get enough of the silver thread. If I can’t, two months.”

“And another two weeks for the helmet.”

“Ten days.”

“Even better.”

Frakes is fiddling with something in his pocket, and Kylo can feel that he’s not sure if he should bring it up.

“What?”

He looks away, and if it weren’t for the fact that Kylo’s danger sense isn’t triggering, he’d assume an attack was coming, but… whatever it is, it’s not dangerous.

“You… didn’t ask for it… and…” He’s looking at Kylo’s everyday command blacks. “I know you don’t wear the First Order uniform, but…” He pulls another badge out. It’s the citizen’s badge, but the hexagon is in silver as well as the circle. “I thought… maybe… a mark of office for you, too, My Lord.”

Kylo looks at it, and nods, seeing how this fits in. He was never part of the First Order, intentionally. He was Snoke’s personal enforcer, on his own, special missions. He was given command privilege, and the leeway to use those privileges to do whatever he needed to accomplish his tasks, but no rank. The only ranks that have ever mattered to him, Master of the Knights of Ren, and Supreme Leader are the ones he bestowed upon himself. The ones he’s earned with his blade.

But if he is to lead something, it would make sense for him to be a member of it, wouldn’t it?

“I like it.”

Frakes leans forward, and lightly touches Kylo’s left sleeve. “We all wear our badges here, I can start adding them to your tunics, if you like.”

Kylo chuckles a little at that. “You could, but the tunic doesn’t have sleeves. It’s the shirt under it that has the sleeve.”

Frakes looks down, blushing, and stammers, “I’m sorry, My Lord…”

“It’s nothing to worry about. Yes, a set of shirts with the badge on them would be good.”

“Yes, sir. Do you want command stripes?”

“No. I don’t need them.” 

Frakes eyes him, looking at not just the man in front of him, but the image of him as well, and nods, slowly, seeing an image of The Supreme Leader. “No. You don’t.”

Frakes looks like he’s expecting to be dismissed, but Kylo’s got another thought in mind. If he’s going to have a coronation… He might as well have a coronation.  “Did you see General Hux’s last speech?”

“Not in person.”

Kylo doesn’t say, “I daresay not, otherwise you’d be a cinder,” he does say, “I’m thinking of a similar rally, and I’m going to need new accoutrements branded with my symbol.”

“Flags, banners… things like that?”

“Yes. Can you set something like that up?”

“Yes, my Lord!” His eyes are gleaming. Kylo doesn’t know what his grand vision looks like, and then, as he gently brushes against his mind, he does. It’s here, inside the Supremacy, all in gleaming black walls and cool white pillars. Long, flowing banners of black with the same symbol that Kylo’s holding in his hand now, his personal symbol and colors, draped from ceiling to floor. Every person who can be spared from his duty is standing, in perfect formation, rank after rank of white armor and dark uniforms, all of them staring up at a podium, also draped in Kylo’s symbol, waiting for whatever their Supreme Leader is about to say to them.

Kylo nods. “That will be beyond acceptable, Major Frakes.”

Frakes eyes go wide. He swallows a huge smile. “Major?”

Kylo nods again. “Major. I have a feeling that I will need someone with an eye for the look of things, likely quite often, in the next few years, and so far, you are proving to be…” Snoke would have said, ‘barely adequate’ or something like that, “more than I expected. Eventually, we’ll put the new symbol on all of our gear. I have the feeling we’re going to need a lot of stencils.”

“Yes, sir! I will see to it.”

“Thank you, Major Frakes.”

 

 


“You enjoyed that,” Rey says, appearing from behind him, and then stepping over to lean against the desk he’s sitting at. She looks around. He’s in his private office right now, and it’s a space she’s never set foot in. Like his private chambers, it’s black. Black walls, black floor, black desk, black. It’s a room that feels like it eats light, never letting a ray of it escape.

The one wall that’s entirely window is nice, though. She can see several of his other ships keeping pace with the Supremacy, uncounted stars, and three large planets, one with a wide ring around it.

“You weren’t here, were you?” he asks.

“No. I could feel you weren’t alone, so I didn’t come through. I could feel you enjoying it, though.”

“I did.” He holds up the badge. “Kill the past, step… Whatever this is.”

She takes it from him, looking at it. She personally prefers more swoopy, organic shapes, but this is certainly better than the old version.

“Will you rename it?”

He nods. “Yes. I want to set myself apart from Snoke. I want a clear line between me and him.”

“But you still want people to know where you came from?” She puts the badge on his desk. “After all, the shape is similar.”

“Perfected?” Though looking at it, he can feel it’s not right, not yet. Getting there, but… Not yet.

He pushes his chair back from his desk, and pats his lap. She comes over to sit with him. He kisses her hello, and she kisses back. Her look lets him know she’s still interested in where he was going with that idea. He touches the badge. “Even I wasn’t angry enough to sign up for a group just to burn the galaxy down. And I wasn’t angry enough at my parents to join the First Order just because they stood against it. The First Order was supposed to be about Order. There was supposed to be a great structure, a rise of law, and power wielded intelligently. None of the eternal civil wars, backstabbing, and scrabbling of the New Republic. When Palpatine fell, every member of the Empire who had a rank above Major grabbed everything he could and set up his own little kingdom, and then fought with everyone around him to hold and expand it. Most of the ‘newly liberated’ planets spun into… anarchy. Some of them… Once the Empire was gone, they had no jobs, no infrastructure, no… anything. They needed a leader, and anyone with a big enough gun who showed up got to be it.

“Some had strong laws and traditions, they slipped out of the Empire right into a Republic and barely even blinked. And as soon as they were part of the New Republic they started jockeying for power and attacking each other.”

He shakes his head at that. “Snoke had the biggest gun. And he had it in system after system. And with every system he added, his gun got bigger. Then he turned it on the Senate, and they tried to play each other against him and all the rest of them.” He’s got a look in his eyes she’s never seen before, wry and jaded. “After all, she was General Organa of the Resistance not the New Republic. She couldn’t get enough backing in the government she built herself to be a legitimate commander defending the democracy she herself set into motion.”

“But he couldn’t get enough of them to support him, either.”

Kylo shrugs. “Hux wanted them dead. Snoke wanted… Luke dead. He wanted to be the greatest Force wielder in a galaxy on their knees begging him for… I don’t know. Hux wanted them calling his name, worshiping him, and anyone who didn’t toe their line had to go.”

“So the Hosnian system…”

“Hux thought that was a good way to completely destroy what was left of the Republic and the Resistance. He wasn’t wrong. He destroyed Hosnian, all of my mother’s men went after him, he got the whole Resistance out in one place, tagged their ships, and by the time the fight was done everyone on your side still alive fit in the Falcon.”

“I take it he didn’t anticipate losing Starkiller and Snoke in the process?” her voice is dry. Talking about Hux makes her feel squirmy on several levels.

Kylo smiles dryly back at her, keeping to her tone. “He certainly appeared to be surprised by that turn of events.” He touches the badge again. “One unified system. Moving together toward a better galaxy. One at peace and functional. Snoke had the ideal, but not the follow through.”

“And you have the follow through.”

He crooks an eyebrow, looking out at the ships and planets. Then he touches the badge again, finger dragging over the silver hexagon. His silver hexagon. “I guess we’ll see.”

 


Sometimes rumors are true. When the orders for new badges begin to filter through the manufacturing section of the Supremacy, and when those badges being to show up in the laundry division, rumors spread like fire through the oxygen producers.

Long before the first sewing machine passes a needle through one of the new badges, there’s talk of a change coming.

 

Chapter Text

11/4/35 ABY Lirium

 

“Balance.”

Rey stares at the transteel pieces hovering above her.

Chewie brought them yesterday. Supposedly, if you put them together correctly, they form a dome twenty-five meters across, fifteen meters high, clearer than glass, stronger than steel, and lighter than either by a factor of a thousand.

Supposedly, if she’s got them placed properly, and balanced correctly, when she lowers them the last few centimeters, all twelve of them will lock into place, and her chapel to balance will have a dome.

If…

She’s been holding them up there for a good minute, minutely adjusting the plates. If any one of them is so much a five millimeters off, all twelve of them crash to the ground, instead of locking to place with one another, forming a watertight seal.

So, far, she’s successfully spilled them all to the ground five times. Her floor, that she’s spent so long placing swirls of light gray and dark gray rocks on, has been violently rearranged by transteel plates to the point where she feels like she's going to have to start from scratch on it.

So, each additional crash makes balancing, keeping calm and centered and focused that much harder.

She gently eases them down just a hair more, and then readjusts again, and another hair down, from here, on the inside, she can see the plates just barely, almost, not quite touching the carefully leveled plastcrete base she spent all of yesterday and the day before setting into place to support the dome.

No matter how wet or muddy or frozen or whatever the weather might bring here, the ground under the plates won’t be able to shift enough to take the roof down.

Rey walks around under the dome, looking at everything, studying it, checking again and again.

“I hit a three meter target going 90 kpm blind by feeling it. Just relax and feel it, Rey,” Luke says, staring up at the pieces of her dome.

She rolls her eyes. “I did that. It collapsed. It’s felt right several times. That didn’t keep it standing. Now, I’m checking.”

Luke doesn’t look even remotely shocked when she releases her hold on the Force, lets the dome settle, and it collapses again.

“Feel each piece, Rey. It’ll tell you where it goes.”

“They’re numbered.”

“Of course. You’ve got directions, and a manual, and numbered pieces. Obviously, that’ll work.” He pointedly looks around at the fallen pieces of dome.

“You know, no one says how sarcastic you were when they talk about you.”

“Because I didn’t used to be sarcastic. Watching every dream you ever had come true while being lauded as a hero and a bringer of a new golden age doesn’t make a person sarcastic. Seeing them all die, betraying yourself and everyone who ever mattered to you, does. Back to building. Feel them. They’ve been in transit for a long time, their balance has shifted.”

She grits her teeth, and tries to feel what’s around her. Lumps of empty metal.

“I don’t suppose you’d use your great Jedi Mastery to do this for me?”

“Nope.” He smirks at that. “Though I’ll give you a pointer, use your hands and actually feel it this time.”

“This from the man who whacked my hand when I ‘felt’ with it the first time.”

“You weren’t building a dome that time.”

She picks up the first piece. It’s not heavy. It is huge and unwieldy. It feels like… thirteen meters of transteel trying to catch the wind and sail away from her.

She sees Luke smirking, and gets a flash of what he’s thinking. “Oh.”

He smiles. “Jedi and domes. I don’t know what the attraction is, but I collapsed eight of them before I got the first one up at my own temple.”

She laughs at that.

“And if Chewie got this from the same place he got mine… Those instruction manuals are basically just suggestions.”

She picks up the next one, pulling it away from the center of her floor. The weigh is different, and the feel a little off.

He sees her feel it and nods. “I think the guy who makes them was a friend of Lando. Probably a better gambling buddy than engineer.”

She continues picking them up, and begins to move them around her chapel. The order they were numbered in certainly was a suggestion, and not a good one. By feeling, literally feeling them, she can feel what the problems are, among other things they aren’t all exactly the same shape.

“It’s funny, if this had been a ship part, or a… mechanical problem… the first thing I would have done was pick them up. I’d have felt this.” And she would have. She’s always been good at laying hands on a problem and just fixing it by how it felt.

Luke nods. “But you saw a problem you wanted to solve with the Force, so you used it.” He saunters over to her, and lays his hands on hers. “It’s all feeling, and it’s all the Force.”

“That’s what you mean by floating rocks is a trick?”

“Part of it. Most of the skills the Force has given you, or sharpened for you, you use every day without even noticing it. Don’t rewire what works so you can ‘magic’ something.”

Rey nods.

 


On her seventh try, the dome of the first chapel of the… whatever they are… goes up, and stays up.    

 


She’s excited about it, pleased to see it finally up, and sends a Come, see! to Kylo, before going back to setting the floor back into place.

She gets a sense back from him. He’s busy, but will come by, with food, as soon as he can.

Food… Her stomach growls at her, and she sends back. Soon.

Soon.

 


Protein bars are fast. Food, real food, produced by his cooking staff, is not. He’s started asking for real food, for both of them, breakfast and supper. One plate, with a large portion of whatever the chef is making for himself. He has C8 scan it, make sure there’s nothing in there that isn’t food, and then he and Rey eat it.

The first few times they did this, C8 pointed out higher than optimal levels of fat, sugar, and salt, but… Turns out that’s apparently part of what makes a lot of food taste good, so he’s not exactly regretting that.

Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it isn’t. But it’s different, and new, and… He likes the… pleasure of it. There’s something really nice about sitting down with her, and real food, and exploring it, together.

But real food takes time.

Kylo’s been dealing with minutia all day, and just wants to get away from it. He grabs a few protein bars, and shifts over to Rey. He’s barely a meter away from her, looking up at what she’s built. For a second, he’s appreciating the dome, seeing what she’s excited about and then a smell hits him, and his adrenaline spikes, hard, and he’s springing towards her, looking, frantically, for what’s wrong, for how she’s hurt, before either of them know what’s happening.

 


“Kylo!” Not that Rey’s particularly bothered by getting jumped by Kylo, but his isn’t erotic or affectionate, he’s… touching everything, pushing her clothing up, a string of fast, worried words spilling out of him. She finally grabs hold of him and stops him. “What?”

“What! You’re bleeding!” His eyes are wild, and he’s still patting her down, looking for the wound. “Are you in pain? What’s…”

Her eyes close, and she mentally growls.

He jerks back, worried he just made everything worse, and she pats him, “I’m not growling at you.  Just… Yes… I’m fine… I thought the back pain” She grabs his hand, because he’s about to start putting pressure on her back to stop whatever bleeding must be going on. “was because I was bending over, fixing my rocks.” She glares at the lake, too. Sometimes there’s something to be said for a functional bathroom.

Which she doesn’t yet have.

“You mind if we go back to the Supremacy?”

“If it gets you to an infirmary, I’ll bring the Supremacy to us.”

“I’m fine. I don’t need a doctor.”

“You’re bleeding. I can smell it.”

She’s suddenly understanding that moment in the bath when he was having a fast and somewhat astounded mental debate about preventatives, because she’s having one of her own right now about menstrual cycles. However, since she’s shifted positions, and is no longer lying on her side, lining up little rocks, gravity is adding its own effect to the situation, so she’s got to figure out how to have this conversation a lot faster than he did, or else she’s going to have some serious laundry issues, too.   

“Give me five minutes, I’ll explain everything. I’m not hurt, not dying, nothing is wrong. Just… let me get to your bathroom.”  She darts to her tent, and then flashes back to his rooms on the Supremacy.

 

 


She says she’s fine. She’s acting fine. At least, she’s not nervous or worried or scared or anything like that, so… That’s helping. That’s the only reason why Kylo has not burst into his bathroom to find out what’s going on. He is, however, pacing, fast and agitated around his room.

Okay, not the only reason, but the main one.

And honestly, if it’s for her, he can stuff the fact he doesn’t much like blood.

Another two minutes later, he hears water rushing, and a minute after that she’s out and sits next to him, looking calm, and he can’t smell anything besides her now, so…

 

 


He’s staring down at her, with a very obvious, That was terrifying, so how about you put me out of my misery and explain it, please, sort of look.

Rey’s still not exactly sure how to do that. Her mouth opens a few times, and closes and… Finally… “You remember us talking about preventatives, right?”

He nods.

“Well, this is how I know we didn’t make a baby.”

He blinks at that. “Oh…” Then he winces a little, feeling stupid. “Blood… It’s blood…”

Now she’s staring at him… “Kylo?”

“Apparently sexual education with Luke left something to be desired. ‘And if the egg isn’t fertilized, at the end of the cycle the lining of the uterus sheds.’”

Rey supposes that’s true, but… “That’s not very descriptive.”

“Apparently, he didn’t think we’d need a more in depth one.” Though he’s supposes it might be possible that that’s all Luke knew on the subject, too.

“Didn’t you have some very surprised girls at his school?”

“Maybe they got a better lesson?” Kylo shrugs. “He’d talk to the boys when we got to twelve. I was the only boy my age, so I got a one on one conversation, and after an embarrassed half hour, where I asked exactly no questions because it was clear he wasn’t comfortable talking about it and didn’t have any practical experience to answer my questions with, we were done.”

“So… what did you think happened? Like… snakes shedding skin?”

He looks embarrassed, but, that’s actually a pretty accurate description of how he thought it worked.

“Oh…”

He sits next to her, and then takes her hand in his. “So… you’re okay?”

“Yeah.”

“You said your back hurt…”

“It does… Backache on day one, cramps…” she realizes that’s probably not specific enough, “abdominal cramps day two, and three and four are fine.”

“Four days?” He’s looking, and feeling, horrified at that.

Sheds didn’t involve a duration?”

“NO!”

She’s looking up at him, feeling his mind and slow curdling sensation in his gut, and she starts to smirk. “You’re squeamish!”

“No! I’m…”

“You don’t like blood! The single most terrifying man in the galaxy gets sick at the sight of blood.” She can’t help it; she starts to giggle, flopping onto her side on his bed, curling around him, and laughing.

 

 

“I...” he glares at her. “I can take it when I’m fighting or angry. It doesn’t get to me then. But… There’s a reason for the lightsaber, beyond it being a good weapon. It cauterizes wounds as it creates them, so you don’t usually bleed with them.”

“So, you can lop off body parts and it’s fine, but blood gets to you?”

He rolls his eyes and shakes his head, and then hands over one of the protein bars. “You’re hungry, right?”

YES!” She pounces on it and tears into it. “I eat everything in sight the first two days, too, and tend to get annoyed easily the two days before.”

He nods, and puts that into things he should probably know, and answers her question as she gobbles the bar. “As Luke and Snoke taught it, there are light side skills and dark side skills and some that are in between. I’ve always been at best, mediocre, at any light skill, and probably the top of the light side skills heap is healing.

“I was working with Tash M’Gll.” He holds up his hand, takes off his glove, and pushes down his sleeve. His arm is just sitting there, looking like an arm. “Not a blemish or scar. She was good at it. She was good at any sort of light skill.” Rey can feel he still resents how easily Tash could do whatever Luke asked of her. “We cut ourselves, and she healed me up” he snaps, “like that. She could hook into her calm, feel the energies, and get them moving properly. A minute later the skin knits itself shut, and I’m fine. She cut herself, probably deeper than she meant to, and… she was really bleeding, and… I’m not good at calm in the best of circumstances, and it hurt more than she thought it would, so her panic bled into me. I took the cut no problem, because dealing with pain, at least the way I do it, is a dark skill, and I had that down better than anyone in my year, better than anyone at the school, so she probably wasn’t expecting it to hurt because when she worked on me, I didn’t appear to be in pain. But it hurts. She’s starting to cry, and bleeding all over the place, and it’s all over my hands and our robes, and I can smell it, and then she’s sobbing, because I’m trying to get it fixed, but my hands are clumsy and slick and I’m hurting her worse, and I can’t get it stopped let alone the skin back together, and… Eventually, Luke took over, and got her fixed up, but… I don’t like blood.”

Rey can see how that might put a person off blood. She squeezes his hand. “I was still living in Niima. I’d felt off for a few days, thought I was getting sick, which was weird because I never get sick. I just don’t.”

“Light side. Your body takes care of you without even having to think about it.” He pulls her sleeve down and double checks… “When the guard got you, here,” his thumb rubs gently over the spot, “I felt it. Just the flash of it hit me.” He kisses her arm. There’s a tiny white line, and if he had to guess, he’d say it’ll be completely gone in another year or two. “Barely a scar.”   

She nods. “It was… ten years ago… eleven… something like that. I’d gone to bed feeling off, and woke up covered in blood, and thought I was dying. I think I screamed, because a few of the other women came, and told me what was happening, got me set up to deal with it.”

He looks at her. He can’t see anything different, but he can’t smell blood any longer, so obviously she’s dealing with it.

“How… do you deal with it?”

“A little, soft plexiplastic cup.” She holds her fingers apart so he’s got an idea of the size. “You fit it inside of you, and it collects the blood. Pour it out before you go to bed and when you get up in the morning.”

He squirms a little. “There’s enough to pour?”

“The first two days. No so much the last two.” She finishes the first bar, and eyes the one he’s holding and not eating. He hands it over, not hungry. “How’d you smell it? I’d barely started when you got near. I didn’t know I was bleeding, yet.”

He half shrugs at that. “Defense mechanism. Certain smells, motions, emotions… They set my danger sense off. That’s one of them. Sometimes someone will try a stealthy attack. Creep up behind you, take out the guard silently. Sometimes they’ll succeed. Make no noise at all. But I’ll feel it. Smell the blood, feel the guard’s fear when he notices what’s up.”

“Oh.”

They sit quietly while she munches down the second bar.

When she’s done, he says, though he doesn’t have to, neither of them have felt the spark of new life, but it feels like the kind of thing he should say. “You’re not pregnant, then.”

“Yeah. That’s what that means. And you… took care of a long term preventative?”

He nods. “Med droid said it’d take two months to make sure no living sperm are lingering in my system. So, come New Year’s no more slicks.”

“Good.” She’s starting to understand why he’s not a huge fan of them. They aren’t horrible or anything, but without seems better.

He strokes his hand down her back, gently. “Can you… during…”

She arches an eyebrow at him. “I thought you didn’t like blood.”

“I don’t feel sick when I’m fighting, the emotions of the fight block it out. I imagine sex would work similarly.”

She laughs at that. “Not day two. Everything hurts on day two, and I don’t know about the rest of it.”

He kisses her shoulder. “Experiment tonight?”

“Sure, and if it hurts or you can’t take the smell or… whatever… we do something else?”

He wiggles his fingers at her. “Always an option.”

She smiles at him.

 

 


Every piece of fabric on the Supremacy is tagged with a day and its owner. That’s the only possible way for the laundry service to even get close to getting everyone the right bath cloths, bedding, and clothing.

And every day, the laundry service picks up anything with the correct tag on it, and sends it into the labyrinth system that is the Supremacy’s laundry rooms.

Kylo Ren and his cloths are no exception to this rule.

Because every piece of fabric is tagged, the laundry service is able to quickly, and easily, sort, pre-treat, and then launder everything, because, most of the time, laundry requires the same cleaning every week.

So, two bloody hand towels in his bath cloths, and his sheets, which are, suddenly, in significantly less tidy condition than usual, get some conversation because the usual treatment (toss with the rest of the black laundry) isn’t going to work.

The sheets get some smirking. Apparently the Supreme Leader has been enjoying himself, and from the looks of it, someone else, recently.

The hand towels get some worrying. That’s a lot of blood.

For a while, the laundry workers wonder if Supreme Leader Ren had somehow damaged himself, but there are no reports of that. (Granted, the infirmary has no human workers, because that way there is no gossip from them.)

And then they wonder if he damaged someone else… There’s not a lot of blood on the sheets, but some. And, especially among the people who used to do Hux’s laundry, that gets a lot of gossip.    

Some of the staff, female members, have a different take on the story. Kylo Ren’s looking to make a baby Ren, otherwise his lady friend would be on a suppressor. After all, who menstruates if she doesn’t have to?

 

Chapter Text

11/6/35

 

Done? Rey thinks to Kylo. Normally around now, she’d flash through to the Supremacy. Sometimes he comes to her, often if he’s had the sort of day where he wants to do something physically hard after, he’ll show up and help move rocks by hand. Moving rocks is boring, but it’s hard, and helps him burn off the jittery, got-to-move feeling he tends to get after long days of dealing with minutia.

But, on normal days, going to him works better.

She’s used to living rough, and she does have a tent and bed roll here, but having not done so for more than a year, she’s starting to appreciate things like climate control, and beds, and pillows.

And a functional bath/shower. Yes, she’s got the lake. The cold lake. How it could possibly be this cold she doesn’t know. It doesn’t get below 30C here, but the lake feels like it’s barely above 4C.

Normally, when she thinks at him like that, he responds quickly. Like they’re just talking across a room, but she’s not getting any response. That brings up a quick spike of fear, but a moment of feeling lets her know he’s busy and frustrated, but not in any danger.

Another moment later she hears him in her head. I wish. The R’Leah have offered us a compromise.

Are you going to take it?

She feels the wave of frustration. That’s what I’m talking with my commanders about.

Ah.  

We’ll be talking late.

Okay.  She feels his mind ease away from hers.

 

 


He knows all of his commanders’ names by now. Kylo supposes that’s moving forward. More than half of them are new to him in the last year, having either recently been promoted or moved to the Supremacy to join his general staff. And, at any given time, he’s starting to feel… safer… about the situation. Some of them still want to kill him, but he’s got the sense that they’re getting less enthusiastic about it. 

Or they’re getting better at hiding it.

He’s laid out the issue, and is just letting them talk. Twenty voices have narrowed down to the eight with the most concise opinions.

“If we take the deal, other systems, more important ones, will start to test us, too.”

“We need the credits, my Lord. Offering us half of the taxes they owe, on the condition that we don’t cancel the contracts with the other companies they do business with is better than nothing.”

“And how many other systems will try to weasel out of their tax burden if we go along with this?”

“How many other systems will flat out attack us if we can’t keep producing weapons, which we’re not going to be able to do for all that much longer without income? Those droids we’re buying aren’t cheap. Some of the slavers are actually dropping old and infirm slaves on us to get new droids. Fuck, I got a report of out of Jurlgan IV that some idiot was trying to get us to take old livestock, claiming his dried up milk cow was a slave.”

“Tactically speaking, it’s a small enough system that we can dominate it militarily. It wouldn’t take more than fifty strategic hits with the city killers to destroy the civilian government, but keep a decent amount of the manufacturing in place.”

“And what do we do with it after we’ve dominated it? The idea is we want more resources, not to spend a huge pile of them keeping down a population that doesn’t want anything to do with us, and really won’t want anything to do with us after we’ve blown their capitol off the map.”

Kylo knows he can’t allow himself to show any weakness, but all he wants to do right now is drop his head into his hands and rub his temples.

It’s been about two hours since C8 told him the message had come through, and once he got it, he called his generals and admirals together, and they’ve been doing this ever since.

The offer is simple. R’Leah remits half of what they owe. The First Order maintains its boycott of R’Leah, and drops its boycott of anyone who does any business with them. They both get about half of what they want, but no one gets everything.

And Kylo’s got literally no idea how to handle this. Everyone around him is making good points, and…

And he can’t afford to look weak.

And he can’t afford to lose credits.

And he doesn’t want… well, he knows he shouldn’t, just blow them out of the sky.

And he’s grinding his teeth so hard his head is aching.

 

 


People who think rain is romantic are maniacs.

At least, this is Rey’s current opinion on the matter. And this opinion may be informed by the fact that she’s outside, camping in the rain. (Yes, she could be under the roof in her chapel, which would be dry, but the floor is a mosaic of small stones, so it’s hard, lumpy, and distinctly uncomfortable. Chewie’s due in a few days, and he’s bringing some pre-fab cottages, which will mark the beginning of the end of camping on Lirium.)

At Orlac’s school, there were wishy-washy little romantics that liked to wander about in the stuff, getting bedraggled and damp, and then go inside, dry off, put on dry clothing, and write or paint or sculpt about how moving the whole experience was.

But really, it’s just wet.

Cool and wet.

Cool, and clammy, and dripping through the fabric of her tent, making little puddles on her diner plate, running in a distracting rivulet down her back and across her cheek, and… It’d be one thing if she thought she might get something important out of lurking around in the rain, but all she’s getting from this is wet.

She does it before she even really thinks about it.

Kylo’s room might be light-eating black, but it’s dry.

It feels a little odd to be in there without him, and she’s half-thinking about letting him know she’s here, but… She doesn’t want to distract him. Even without intentionally brushing against his mind, she can feel his frustration.

Somehow, I didn’t want to be wet, doesn’t seem to be on par with I don’t know what to do about this stubborn system trying to goad me into a war. 

So, she pulls off her clothing, grabs one of his towels and dries off, and then settles into his bed with Orlac’s library. Time for her own frustrations.

The physical work of building her settlement is tiring, but good. Every day she’s a little closer to where she wants to go, and can see real, tangible improvement. Even if, like today, most of what she did was dig a drainage ditch so that her nicely laid floor doesn’t get washed to the far side of her chapel. (Yet, another reason she’s not a huge fan of rain. The stupid bloody stuff gets everywhere. Longer term, if it keeps raining, she’s going to have to dig the damn floor up again, lay plastcrete down, and then put the rocks in it, because she’s fairly sure that if the ground gets saturated, it’ll get saturated under her dome as well as around it.)

But, at some point, theoretically, there will be other people here, and she’s supposed to have something useful to teach them.

So, part of every one of her nights is at least an hour reading about balance and the Force, and other religions and… Searching for a map, and if there isn’t a map to where she wants to go, at least locating the maps that lead to where she doesn’t want to go will be useful.

Maybe inspiration for the right path isn’t in Orlac’s books, and a lot of what she reads makes her feel that way, but she can at least see where not to go, and that has to matter for something.

 

 


“They want an answer in twenty-six hours.”

“We can have our entire fleet mobilized in twenty.”

“What about the ones on the border with the Unknown Regions? You can’t be suggesting we pull them out, can you? That’s something we’re doing people actually like.”

“Something they pay for, you mean.”

“Same thing.”

“What would mobilizing everyone cost?”

“As opposed to not mobilizing them?”

Kylo takes a breath. “We’re not mobilizing anyone or thing unless they actually attack us. Just not paying taxes isn’t enough.”

It’s the first thing he’s said in an hour, and it takes his commanders by surprise. They’d gotten to the point where they’d almost forgotten he was there. Actually batting around plans for an attack with some level of free range and orders beyond obliterate everything in your path is refreshing to them.

But, having reminded them that he’s there, they all react to it, pulling back a bit, looking at each other, desperately trying to figure out which of them should risk his neck by talking. Finally, the oldest of the bunch, General Kinear, says, respectfully, “My Lord, economic warfare will hurt us just as badly, if not worse, than a physical attack. If we allow them to behave like this, and do not offer some level of response, the entire galaxy will decide that they can starve us into submission.”

Kylo’s shoulders do not slump. Because that would be showing weakness and that he doesn’t know what to do next. That said, inside his head, he’s half hunched over and rubbing his temples, because he doesn’t know what to do next.

Kinear catches the eyes of each of the rest of the general staff. He served under the Old Republic, Palpatine, and now the First Order. He is, as best he knows, the last officer left who’s military experience pre-dates the Clone Wars. He’s not, officially, the highest ranked person in the room besides Kylo, that’s Grand Admiral Schiff, but he’s got enough respect as a professional and a survivor that the others take his hint and shuffle out, allowing him a moment alone with Kylo.

Kinear, who’s ninety if he’s a day, maybe 1.6 meters, and possibly, soaking wet 55 kilos, bald above the largest, hairiest, whitest eyebrows Kylo’s ever seen, waits for them to leave, before standing up, striding over, pulling out the chair next to Kylo and settling himself down, facing Kylo.

His posture goes very informal. He’s relaxed and easy in the chair, but his voice stays polite, aware of Kylo’s rank. “My Lord, I understand not wanting to be Snoke. All in all, I think that’s a wise course, but this will cascade. The systems with the kind of wealth to remit the taxes you need, are wealthy enough they don’t need what we can offer them. They can and will secure themselves. Or they’ll band together with each other to stand up against us. If you let one of them off easy, the others will flee, too.”

Kylo closes his eyes and bites his upper lip. “And if they go?”

“We can’t afford to keep flying. Not long term. We’ve got credits flowing out, but we’ve got to get them coming in, too.”

“And how much can they keep paying us if we attack them?”

“Enough. Spoils of war, my Lord. We take whatever we want. Strip those planets bare, drain the coffers of every business we don’t destroy, lay a levy on each person.”

“Give the Resistance another recruiting slogan and all 13 billion people who live in the R’Leah system.”

Kinear tilts his head, acknowledging that. “Or fight them with your purse. They’re trying to get you to bend on the boycott… Maybe it’s pinching enough. Maybe they’re close enough to the edge they’re offering this as a hope of saving face and getting some of what they need.

“But if they aren’t… This has to end, sir. Not today or tomorrow, but it can’t go past this week. The rest of the galaxy is watching, and they will act accordingly.”

“What would you do?”

Kinear thinks on it. “What do you want to get out of this, in the long run?”

“Credits.”

“Just credits?” Kinear’s not exactly being disrespectful, but Kylo can more than feel the stop lying to me in that question.

Kylo blinks at that, too.

“We could have credits in minutes. You’ve heard us, we can mobilize enough of our fleet to beat them into submission before the end of tomorrow. Blow up one of their secondary planets, destroy their fleet, ring their home world with city killers, and in minutes they’ll transfer you every credit you could want. You’ve already said no to that. So, what do you want out of this? All of us will do a better job as commanders if we’ve got an idea of what you’re trying to do with us.”

Kylo supposes that this is the sort of thing that would normally annoy him, but he’s tired enough right now, and honest enough with himself that… He needs the advice.

Kinear seems to sense it and offers him a bit of a smile. “If I may…”

Kylo can feel that Kinear’s attempting to offer him good advice without getting smacked for it. Kylo nods at him.

“Give it a night, sir. Get some sleep. Do… whatever it is you do… to clear your mind, and think on what you want out of this. You had a reason for taking over the First Order, and it had to be more than freeing slaves and revitalizing our weapons and tactics.”

Kylo doesn’t exactly smirk at that, but he has a feeling that Kinear would trip over his tongue if he said, “There was this girl…”

But there was a girl, and the Force, and a balance and…

“Snoke rose to stop the chaos, but he only made it worse. Instead of laws and order and a universe that worked… he just… killed people as it pleased him. It’s been chaos since Palpatine fell.”

Kinear smiles at that. And Kylo has the sense that he wants to call him child or lad as he says, “Sir, chaos is inevitable. I’ve lived through four regimes, you are my fifth, and chaos is always there. We can manage it, maybe tame it, hopefully use it to our advantage, but we’ll never banish it.

“Take your time, sir, and think on it. What are you doing?”

Gritting his teeth, that’s what he’s doing.

Kinear waits, patiently, and Kylo realizes he’s waiting to be dismissed. “Tell your men to be ready to mobilize, but not to do it, yet.”

“Good, sir.”

“Dismissed.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Kinear’s almost out when Kylo says to him, “General, why are you here?”

“How do you mean, sir?”

“You’re… ninety? Served with three masters before me… How did you get here?”

“Ninety-three. Here specifically, the New Republic wouldn’t give me a command when the civil wars heated up because I was too old. Snoke didn’t care if I was old, so here I am. Here in general, by being excellent at one thing, and only one thing. If you’ve got a problem, and it can be solved with an army, I will solve it.”

Kylo stares at the old man in front of him, feeling bleak. “Can I solve this with an army?”

“Aye.” Kinear says with a smile, and a hint of warmth in his eyes. Kylo doesn’t know what accent just slipped out of him, but it’s not the one he normally uses. “You can solve any problem with an army. Make a whole mess of new ones, and if you’ve got enough army, you can solve them, too. Question is, should you, and I don’t know the answer to that. That’s not part of what I’m good at.” Kinear shakes his head, a little, and Kylo knows he’s lying, at least about not being good at it. He is, or at least he thinks, he’s telling the truth about the rest of it. “Figure out where you want to take us, and I’ll plot a course for you. I did it for the Senate, and Palpatine, and Snoke, and I can do it for you, too. Just give me the lay of the stars, and I’ll chart you a map.”

 

 


What are you doing?

There was a girl, and she mattered.

There was a father, and he’d killed him.

There was a master, and he was a liar.

There was the Force, and it screamed out, begging for balance.

And those four things came together in the touch of two hands, a voice in an elevator, and in front of the Master, and the ghost of a memory, and the truth out of lies, and the need for balance all lit up in her eyes and…

And that’s not a fucking plan and it’s not a way to rule a galaxy and he’s been playing catch up for a year trying to figure out what the fuck to do with this fucking mess that he fucking grabbed a hold of because he couldn’t bear to see the light go out in another set of eyes that mattered.

Because there never was a plan, not beyond the whisper of a vision of both of them, together, in a throne room, ruling side by side.

Just the ghost, the shape of it, solid, but not fleshed out, a painting, daubs and blobs of color wild and blurry, but the shape was there. Him, standing slightly behind her, her seated on what had been his throne, now theirs, Lord and Lady Ren, together.

 

 

  

 


He looks to his bedchamber. He could meditate. He could try to quiet his mind and seek out some sort of guidance or plan.

But he knows what will happen. He’s too hot, too angry for it. Right now the only plans that will come to mind are the ones that have been surging in the back of his mind since he got this missive. Crush, destroy, kill.

He could do it easily. Not as easy as with Starkiller, but… He has the forces. He has the power. He can level the R’Leah. Take them out of the galaxy completely. He can show off his power, and make the rest of the galaxy understand in one strike that they would be well advised to not challenge the First Order. He may be more humane than Snoke, but he is not to be trifled with.

You do what you do, and I’ll abide, or not, as I can.

He can feel her on the far side of the door and is glad she’s there. His hand rests on the plane of metal, about to hit the first of the spots he needs to touch to unlatch it.

He pulls his hand back. She wouldn’t abide this. It’d be one thing if they attacked him. If he were to utterly crush them as a matter of defense that’d be fine.

He turns on his heel, fast, and stalks off toward his training gym. Meditation, thinking, everything has always worked better for him if he could hit to go along with it, and this likely won’t be any different.

 

 


As a Jedi, fight training was painfully dispassionate.

They trained mostly against droids. The focus was primarily defensive. Use the training batons, and then, as Luke built more of them, lightsabers, to whack away little jolts of electricity.

The point of the Jedi’s physical body was to move the saber around in a defensive sort of way. And though they worked on both strength and flexibility, on the ability to move fast and easy, their bodies weren’t weapons.

The saber, a thing distant from them, was the weapon.

When he was thirteen, he and a few of the others convinced Luke to let them fight each other. The training droid was too predictable, too much a tool for a novice. And, as Kylo-who-was-Ben knew, training against the droid didn’t sharpen their skills at reading an opponent’s fight.

Fighting against people did.

There weren’t a lot of Jedi skills Kylo-who-was-Ben picked up readily, but lightsaber was one of them, and any opportunity he had to get better, he’d grab with both hands.

Here, now, in his training gym, he puts his lightsaber down. There are times for it. When flame and force and Force combine in a perfect symbiosis of rage and attack. Times like that are beautiful, and he loves them unreservedly. Those are the moments he’s made for. This isn’t one of them.

When he joined Snoke, his fighting style changed. Kylo didn’t have to try to shove himself into a Jedi-shaped mold of dispassionate fighting. He didn’t have to distance himself from his weapon. He could be what he was, what’d he’d always been, and likely always will be, the weapon.

His saber is just an aspect of that, an extension of his will to destroy.

He unfastens his tunic, hanging it up, and pulls his shirt over his head. For a moment, he wishes he had something to tie his hair back. It’s getting stupidly long, and he’s either got to do something with it when he fights or get it cut short again. Something else he doesn’t really have time for.

And since he doesn’t wear the helmet, keeping it short doesn’t matter that much.

C8 can likely locate some hair ties for him.

The training droids, something he can actually fight, as opposed to little electric currents he can swat away like so many annoying gnats, aren’t ready yet. Soon supposedly.

Soon is too long away.

He goes to the punching bag. It’s old and heavy, made of thick leather and filled with… Whatever. He doesn’t know or care. It’s sturdy enough to take a punch, even one, or especially one, thrown by him.

It’s a good hit, jarring, satisfying. He feels the thrum of it all the way to his shoulder, feels his power, his dark, calling to him, begging to be released.

So he does.

Fist and foot, elbow and knee. No Jedi ever fought like this. There’s no serene elegance here. No distancing blade. Just a man and his rage and his dark, channeled into strikes that can shatter plasteel should he desire, though tonight he doesn’t. He’ll have to stop when he breaks the equipment, and he doesn’t want to stop, not yet.

He knows he’ll hurt when he stops, but he doesn’t care about that, either.

Hitting, hit hard, hit fast, hit deep and dark and bitter. Hit long enough and the problems don’t go away, but they don’t matter. Hit until he’s shaking, sweat dripping down his body, hair soaked. Hit until he can burn enough of his dark away to see…

Anything…

Any solution that doesn’t result in his enemies looking like the remains of the punching bag, broken and scattered across his gym.

 

 


He’s tired enough when he’s done he’s fairly sure he can sleep.

At least, that’s what he wants to do. Stagger off to his room, drop onto his bed, and not move until C8 reminds him of his first appointment of the morning.

He can tend to niceties like a shower, or taking off his boots, in the morning.

Except, as he’s about to flop boneless into the black bed that’s in his all black room, his unlit, black room, he feels the presence in there, and knows that there’s already someone in his bed, who may be somewhat irked to have 89 kilos of him just flop onto her.

His shoulders slump. If he gets a shower or undresses or… pretty much anything but collapses, his brain will start working again, and sleep won’t come.

If he doesn’t… He looks like a whomp rat who died in a swamp six weeks ago and, worse, smells like one, too.

He can’t see her in the dark. He’s got good dark vision, but even he can’t see someone in an unlit, black room. But he can feel her there, sleeping, but even in her sleep, welcoming, waiting for him to come join her.

 

 


Water. Hundreds of liters of it streaming down around him. Probably one degree shy of burning him. He didn’t bother to turn on the light, so he’s in the dark, feeling it pour over him, feeling sore muscles and joints thank him for doing this, even as they beg him to go lie down.

They all shriek in horror as he yanks the temperature to cold. And the only reason he doesn’t give voice to that yell is that he’s had decades of training of not allowing himself to show his pain.

He yells loud enough inside his head that he feels Rey wake up, though.

“Kylo?” she can’t see him, but she can feel him.

“Shower.”

The steam around him is rapidly clearing, taking the soft murk away from the dark, giving it clearer edges.

He hears her moving around, feels her placing her feet tentatively. She doesn’t turn on the light, and he appreciates that. His body’s unhappy enough with the shock of the cold water, adding searing light to it would just be punishment.

“Are you alright?”

“Enough.”

He senses her near, and feels the door to the shower open, followed by her hand entering and then a yelp. “Why is it cold?”

“Helps with bruises and swelling.”

“Why are you bruised and swelling? I thought you were meeting with your commanders?” He can hear the fear on her voice, both at what might have happened, and that, just a room away, she slept through it without coming to fight beside him.

“Training. I can focus the Force to hit hard, and it prevents most of the damage from doing so. No broken bones, for example, no torn ligaments, but I still end up bruised.”

“Oh.”

There’s a moment of nothing but dark and cold and the feel of warm, moist air running away from the bathroom as quickly as it can.

She doesn’t ask, but the opening to talk is there.

And it’s not the throne room of his vision, not the shape, not the feel, but he’s got the sense that it might be a step in getting there, so he lays it out, all of it, and, for the first time in… possibly ever, he opens up a problem, all of the problem, from R’Leah to the wider galaxy, to keeping his position and image among his officers, and explains what his options are, and asks for help.

 

 


She can’t see him, but she can feel that this sort of thing is easier in the dark. Easier to just be two voices, two minds, floating along in shapeless black. Rey takes the time to think about what he’s told her, and finally says, “Kinear’s right. What are you doing with this? None of the pieces will be shaped right if we don’t know what the whole looks like.”

She feels his sigh and hears the, “Buggered if I know.” But he does know, on the most basic of levels. “Surviving. If I screw this up too badly, they’ll kill me, and that’ll be that.”

That’s a squirm inducing thought. “You said you joined the Order to battle chaos… You’ve given your people the possibility of citizenship… Where does that go?”

His head is leaning against the side of the shower, and his body is all but numb now, so it’s likely time to step out, but… This is easier in the dark. Easier without his body being part of the situation. He slowly lowers himself down, sitting back against the wall of the shower, and lets the cold water continue to stream over bruised skin.

 

 

“C8 asked me why citizens… What it’s supposed to be… And all I’ve got right now is that it’s a way to get the Resistance off my back. It…” She can feel the way he’s working his lips, like his body actively fights letting these sorts of words and thoughts out. “buys me time.”

“To do what?”

He exhales, deep and ragged. “Get this in order. Take men like Hux out of the equation.” His voice drops, quieter, more thinking the words than saying them, “Get secure enough I can sleep at night without having to work myself insensate.”

She doesn’t move to touch him. He’s still in the shower, under icy, falling water, but he feels a gentle brush of her Force against him. “You don’t always have to guard your own sleep.”

He snorts at that, and she sees Luke looming over him.

“Not again, Kylo.”

She feels the little dismissive turn of his head. Ten years of fear don’t go away with a few words and weeks. So she moves onto a problem they might be able to solve sooner than later. Rey inhales deeply, thinking… “Buy yourself time…” Like any of Plutt’s scavengers, she was bound to him, could only trade her finds with him, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t see the other trading going on around her. Didn’t mean she doesn’t understand that the first offer is generally just there to feel the person out. “Did their 50% offer have a time frame?”

“No.”

“And why do they pay taxes to you?”

“It’s protection money. Theoretically: we protect them from anything that might cause problems. Practically: we don’t attack them if they pay us.”

“So you’re protecting them from yourself?”

“More or less. If something were to attack, we’d blow it out of the sky, but it’s a stable system in the core. No one’s so much as raised an eyebrow at it since the fall of the Empire.”

“Okay…” She’s still thinking.

He’s thinking, too, about where, supposedly, he’s taking all of this. “You told me about freeing slaves… Where did you want to go with that? Why even tell me about it? Just to see if I’d do it?” he asks.

That takes her by surprise. “I… I was thinking about balance and… How to sort out balance from permission to do any shitty thing you wanted to do. The Jedi path is easy. You’ve got a code, you know what to do and how, and you don’t have to worry about the implications of each act. As long as you’re in the right mindset when you do it, it’s fine. And… balance doesn’t give you that. So, where’s the line between good and evil and… And what do you do with power… And…”

“And you came up with something you’d do with power?”

“Yeah. Or, more importantly, I came up with the idea that if there’s a shot of you fixing a problem, you can’t just sit on your butt and not fix it. That, that’s a difference between… whatever I am and the Jedi. So, problem. And, at least through you, I had a shot of fixing it. So, I asked.

“I don’t have any… grand vision of this… It was just, something that could make life better for a lot of people.”

“Maybe…”

“Spoken like someone who’s never been a slave,” her voice is sharp on that.

“Spoken like someone who’s aware of how many half to two-thirds starved, infirm, or near-dead people are being tossed on my doorstep. If I’d just ended it… They’d be begging on the streets, likely dying there.”

“Oh… I didn’t realize that’s what you’d meant.”

And again she feels his little dismissive gesture. She spends another moment thinking, sitting back against the bathroom wall, feeling her way through the dark. “What do you think they’re hoping to get out of this?”

“The R’Leah?”

“For right now, yes. Your officers are probably a different conversation for another night.”

He thinks about that, too, and realizes that’s a bigger question than one answer. “Ultimately, or by this offer?”

“Either, both… Why do this in the first place? How much are you charging them?”

“Enough so that it matters to their balance sheet. Not so much they’re in danger of going broke from it. Snoke’s accountants figured out how much a system, on average, given its size and danger level, would spend on its own military protection, and then set their tax rate at ten percent above that.

“The First Order would show up, destroy their local military, take over ‘protection’ duties, and then they’d pay us for it. It’d keep them complacent, and make sure that most of the systems he controlled couldn’t get into fire fights with each other, or go up against us.”

“So, you think they’re looking to save money?”

“Maybe. Or get out from under us. Possibly both.”

“And what do you get out of this?”

“Not so much that losing just them will break me.”

“Losing everyone who sees them walk away is the problem?”

“Yes.”

“And, ‘Okay, you can go, just don’t tell anyone what you did,’ isn’t going to work.”

He almost laughs at that. “I’d be extremely surprised if it did.” She feels him shrug. “I also don’t have anyone I can use to give them that offer. Not only would the entire outside galaxy have to not know about it, but somehow my people couldn’t find out about it, too.”

“Your commanders would read it as a sign of weakness.”

“Yes. Some of them are keen on diplomacy, about half of them think the answer to everything is kill whoever causes problems.”

“And they get irked when you suggest diplomacy?”

“That’s one way to put it.”

She keeps feeling, him, them, this situation. “Are you… looking for my permission to attack them?”

Yes. But he doesn’t say it. “It would certainly make things easier,” comes out of his mouth.

“I’d rather you didn’t.” Please, don’t.

He can feel there’s a lot of depth to that. Not only would she, just as a matter of course, prefer him to come up with a different response, but that she wants to stay with him, she cherishes this time, and doesn’t want to lose it.

But there was a girl, and a balance, and if she goes along with something like this, the balance starts to tip.

“I know.” I won’t.

Rey asks, “What happens if you take the deal they’re offering? I mean… with your men. Not the wider galaxy.”

“They go along with it, and instead of two of them plotting to kill me, I think I end up with three. Maybe a fourth when more of my systems revolt. Again, screw this up too badly, and sooner or later, one of them will keep his thoughts tightly reined enough to kill me. Or… worse, I suppose, he’ll gain enough support that they just won’t take orders from me anymore. Even if I could kill my entire command, which is unlikely, I can’t run the damn thing without them.

“And if I keep my men in order, but enough systems revolt, I’ll end up having to fire on them, because sooner or later one of them will decide to take back what they’ve paid and then some. But I’ll have to make that attack with fewer resources and less chance of success than if I’d put the first one down and kept up my tax revenues.”

They’re both quiet for a long moment after that, then Rey says, “Do they have something you need that they don’t value as much as credits? Raw materials or… Something they can give you, so you get goods if not income, and they save face by you making a deal?”

Kylo thinks about that. He needs practically everything to keep his empire flying. A system would be hard pressed to not have something he could use. “Maybe. I can find that out. Is that what you’d suggest?”

“A counter offer of some sort. That’ll buy you time. Take… ships or… food… or… whatever. Make them pay for your recruiting stations.”

“And if Kinear’s right about them being on the edge of collapse because of my boycott of their suppliers… That’ll increase the pressure on them, but I’m still negotiating with them…” He lets himself feel that, and decides that, at least for right now, for this moment in time, it will work.

He hefts himself up, and shuts off the water. Maybe he doesn’t yet have an answer for his bigger question, but at least for a moment, the smaller one can be satisfied.

He hears Rey move, still can’t see her, but senses her in front of him. He feels her call a towel to hand, and knows she’s offering it to him.

He dries himself off, gingerly. He’s long past the endorphin rush of his fight, and even with chilled skin everything is still sore.

“Come to bed, Kylo.” Her fingers find his. 

 

 


When he was with Luke, sometime around the age of sixteen, some of the other young Jedi began bed-hopping. Kylo-who-was-then-Ben wasn’t the oldest of the lot, M’Gll was six weeks older than he, but that put him at more than close enough to the oldest of the lot.

But, for the boys, Ben was the oldest of the lot, so whatever “stages” the Padawans were going through, he went through them first. (Generally speaking, the vagaries of puberty were just as vague for Luke’s school as they are at every other school.) And Ben never went through a bed-hopping phase.

Like every other non-asexual human male, Ben hit puberty and more or less turned into an erection on legs for the next few years. And he literally, figuratively, and metaphorically did everything he could to beat those desires into submission hard as he could. Sex was, at least according to Luke, an invitation to the kind of emotions that thrived in the dark, so it was the province of only the most accomplished masters, fully and truly grounded in their light. And of all Luke’s students, he was the one who could least afford a dalliance with the dark. So, he behaved, and kept to the rules, and slept in his own little cottage, by himself, and generally did a fairly good job of not being a walking erection much past the age of fifteen.

But not all of the other Padawans did.

And like most young people forced into unwanted chastity, they had an extremely strict and limited definition of sex that covered, basically, nothing of the feast that is sex, and allowed them room to play. Maybe all of the Padawans were technically virgins, but that technically involved stretching the definition of what constituted ‘not sex’ to the snapping point and then just a hair beyond.

And thus, bed hopping. It either didn’t occur to Luke to do bed checks, or he knew what was going on and figured that some level of blowing off steam was necessary to keep his students from exploding. Kylo doesn’t know the truth of that.

Ben wasn’t anyone’s best friend. The other Padawans rarely confided in him, but he wasn’t stupid, and he wasn’t deaf, and they’d still whisper and talk, and gossip and…

Anyway, all of this has been the ‘round about way of explaining that, sometime around his seventeenth birthday, Kylo-who-was-then-Ben had more than heard the rumors about how nice it was to sleep with someone else. 

And, as someone who wasn’t much past the walking-erection stage of life, he could understand, in hot, red, shameful, do it fast, get it done, and then feel bad about it later sorts of way, how nice it would be to have someone touch you. That part of the bed-hopping he understood on a visceral level, and very much didn’t want to. But, the sleeping part…

He didn’t get the sleeping part. It seemed… claustrophobic, really. Too much, too close, too little space, and, of course, at Luke’s school, it was just as likely that you’d end up with visitors in your dreams if they got too close and… And he didn’t get it.

But right here, right now, in a black room, after a long conversation, and no sex, he’s starting to get it.

He’s tired. He’s sore. He wants the comfort of another body, another soul near his. And for once, his mind is quiet enough that he’s fairly sure sleep will find him, without him having to hunt it down and kidnap it. For the first time in a long time, Kylo slips into sleep without hours of meditation, or the soporific of orgasm to lead him there.

 

 

 


In the morning, he sends the R’Leah a counter offer. Seventy-five percent of their taxes this year, fifty next year, thirty the year after, payable in credits or raw materials. At the end of three years, they’ll reassess the value of the tax base. A piece of prime, already developed real estate of at least three hectares square, with an assessed value of not less than 6.5 million credits in each of their cities with a population of more than 5,000,000, for recruiting stations. Full title and sovereignty to two of their uninhabited, undeveloped, extreme outlier planets. And for all of that, they’ll end the boycott on both R’Leah and anyone they do business with.

He gets word back, practically before he sends the deal out, that it’s been accepted. Details of where and how, pending.

And when he tells his commanders about it, more than half of them, including Kinear, seem to think he made a good decision.

 

Chapter Text

11/1-30/35

 

“If you don’t like it, why do you do it?” Rey asks as Kylo starts his morning shave.

He’s feeling rather grumpy. He’s finally, sort of, most nights, sleeping for more than three hours and his body has responded to this by begging him for more sleep, and now when he wakes up he feels dead on his feet, eyes and joints glued shut, and loathing any and everything that pulls him out of his bed. So, right now, just about everything in the morning annoys him, and having to rasp a blade over his face is just the top of the pile of his morning shit list. So, he’s annoyed about having to shave, and not looking forward to the rest of morning, where he gets to go to more meetings and try to somehow make this fucking regime work. “You don’t have to comment on every thought I have,” snaps out of him.

 

 

Meanwhile, right little Rey of sunshine is looking up at him, insufferably perky in the morning, because she gets to go do fun stuff today.

“Well, if you weren’t thinking about it so loudly, I wouldn’t have said anything.”

She’s leaning against the sink, cleaning her teeth, as he’s standing in front of it, holding his razor, about to shave. He glances at his razor, and then glances back at her, and back to the razor, which he doesn’t really like at all.

“You’re the man in charge now, it’s not like you’ve got to make yourself look a certain way to please anyone else.”

He sighs. That’s not why he shaves, even though he doesn’t enjoy doing it.

She reaches over and lightly touches his chin, which is rough with stubble. “It doesn’t stay that rough, does it?”

“No. It’ll get fairly soft. Not like my hair, but, softer than most beards.”

“You’ve grown it before, then?”

“A master could have a beard. That was… part of the look.” He rolls his eyes viciously and begins to shave, almost taking a chunk out of his chin before he makes himself focus and calm. “But it doesn’t come in all that well other than my chin and neck and mustache area.” He taps his cheek between his ear and jaw. “Five long, scraggly hairs there does not a beard make.”

She gets a flash of him, impossibly young, younger than he was when Luke attacked him, trying to make himself look like Master Ben. Trying to be Master Ben. 

“I shaved it off when I changed my name.”

“Oh.”

 


If asked, Kylo is aware of the concept of poverty. He knows it’s a thing. He knows that a decent number of people joining the First Order are doing so to get out of it. He’s just… sketchy… as to what’s actually involved in being poor.

It’s not anything he’s ever really seen or felt or been near beyond say, walking through a poor town, or being told that not everyone has enough to eat, so…

He just doesn’t know.

And it’s not even anything he’s ever given much (any) thought to until his third or fourth real meal with Rey, the first one that required cutlery, when he notices that she doesn’t know how to use a fork.

It’s not that she can’t stab her food and shove it into her mouth. It’s that that’s exactly what she’s doing. She’s got her hand wrapped around the whole of the end, it’s in her fist, and she is stabbing her food with it.

And this is when it occurs to Kylo that no one ever taught her how to use one, and that it’s entirely likely that she may have never, before her time where the books were, ever had a meal that required one. And that’s where the vast, gaping chasm between anything he may have ever imagined poverty to be, and what it actually is, becomes achingly clear to him.

He reaches out to gently show her how to hold it, and she glares at him, hard, before he gets his fingers halfway to where she is. So he stops, raises his hands in a peace gesture, very much does not sarcastically think something along the lines of if you want to eat like a savage, more power to you and she very much does not think something like fuck you and your fancy manners, your lordship. And he doesn’t almost smile at that because it reminds him of a moment of his… joking with his mother, irritated, but not angry, because he didn’t know something that was second nature to her.

But the next few days, he eats carefully, and slowly, and she picks up his table manners, which are more formal and finicky than most, but that’s what happens when the person teaching you to eat was trained to flow through political circles from her girlhood and expected him to be able to do so, as well.

 

 


It’s probably their twentieth meal together, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less.

Breakfast. C8 knows to leave a tray, with coffee, whatever breakfast is (He tells the chef to just give them a large portion, say 2000 calories, of whatever he’s making for himself for breakfast and dinner, and at least as of this point, it’s been something different every day.), and a datapad with whatever he’s got on his schedule for the day at his door.

Today it’s coffee, porridge of some sort of grain with spices and dried fruits, and eggs next to it cooked with a smoky-salty meat mixed into it. Normally, they eat from the plate together.

He rather likes it, and it looks like Rey does, too. And she does normally eat less than he does, but she’ll normally get almost half the plate and he’ll usually wrap up the rest of it.

But today she’s had about a quarter of the food on the plate.

“Don’t like it?” he asks.

“No, it’s fine. I’m just not hungry.”

He nods and continues on with his breakfast.

A moment later, he’s staring at the food still on their plate. He’s eaten his ‘comfortable’ amount, and she doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to eat what’s left, so he does what he’s been trained to do since he was a child, and keeps going, working on finishing the plate.

He’s about three bites into what she hasn’t finished when Rey says to him, “Why are you still eating?”

He’s staring at her like this is blatantly obvious. “There’s food on the plate.”

“I know. But you aren’t hungry.”

He doesn’t have to dig deep into her mind to find a million memories of clawing hunger. “You’re going to tell me to waste food?

“Uh…” She blinks, and then pokes a little in his, because she can’t relate how both of them, full, on a ship, secure in not just the next meal, but the one after that, and after that, and after that, fits with eating beyond feeling full. She does have to dig a bit to find a series of nannies lecturing a young Ben about how some people don’t have enough to eat so he should always clean his plate. She sniggers. “Spoken like someone who’s never been hungry. Like someone who’s never looked at a person with enough fat on them to jiggle when they’re just scraping by. Eating when your body doesn’t need it is wasting it.”

Kylo blinks, he’s never even begun to think of it that way.

Rey takes the plate. “I’ll take it back with me, eat it as a snack, or add it to the compost pile. Something that needs the calories can have them.”

 


At meals they don’t just learn about each other, but also about themselves. For such a long time, neither of them really ate. Kylo had his collection of protein bars and tubes of vitamin mush. Rey had her portions. Same thing, every night, every day, over and over and over.

The portions kept Rey at just a hair above the amount of food she needed to keep going. Any less and she’d have been losing weight. Kylo ate exactly the amount of calories the med droids said he needed to keep his body in the shape it was in, and not a bite more. Eating involved indulging his wants and he may have been allowed to do that with Snoke, but he still had the feeling that indulging any want beyond anger and violence was a shameful thing, so, whatever the minimum amount of food he needed was, he ate it.

So, neither of them actually know what they like to eat. And each new meal is opening up not just the idea of food as something with interest and variety, but also a source of pleasure beyond sating a need.

That said, unlike sex, where they’re fairly in sync on what constitutes pleasure, food is different.

Tonight the chef has made them a mix of vegetables and broth and… Rey has no idea, whatever those things are, they do not live on Jakku. It’s some sort of ocean-going creature. It had eyes and wiggly bits, and all of those eyes and wiggly bits are very much eyes and wiggly bits and are not, in any way, camouflaged into the rest of the meal. Each one is about the size of her thumb, and they’re awfully tasty, and she’s happily slorping them down with a little sucking sound because they’re kind of squiggly and soft, and a few little hums of pleasure, because they just taste good, and Kylo actually bolts out of the room because if he watches her snarf down another eyeball on a stalk while grinning at him because they’re so yummy, he’s going to be sick.

Apparently, blood is not the only thing that makes him squeamish. Which, not only did she not know about him, but he didn’t know about him, either.

They learn that while Kylo will eat meat, and fish, and honestly, just about anything put onto a plate in front of him, he would deeply prefer not to be able to identify what creature it came from just by looking at it. (Rey finds it amusing that he’s got enough empathy for their dinner that if he can imagine it alive, he doesn’t want to eat it. He glares at her, and pushes his half of the frennian game hen to her, pulling her potatoes to him.)

Rey meanwhile will happily eat just about anything, looking at her or not, but she does not like anything that’s too spicy-hot, and whatever that herb is that makes everything taste like soap. (The only reason Kylo believes her about the soap thing is that he can share how it tastes to her. She’s rather jealous about the fact that it does not taste like soap to him.)

If there is meat in a meal, Kylo prefers it well-done. (He does not like his food to jiggle. Likewise he’d prefer it not squish between his teeth. That texture just puts him off.) Again, this is an area where Rey doesn’t have much preference. It’s possible there will be a time when a texture gets to her, but so far, it hasn’t happened.

If it were entirely up to Kylo, most of the food would likely be vegetarian. (Properly cooked vegetables do not jiggle or squish. And while he may not like everything the chef makes, it’s always properly cooked.) Rey would prefer that at least some meat show up in every meal. It’s satisfying in a way veggies and synth-protein just aren’t. (And, again, if it weren’t for the fact that Kylo can literally feel it’s true, he wouldn’t believe it, but… It is true. She can go longer between meals if there is real meat in them.)

They’re halfway into their thirtieth or fortieth meal together, and his fork is halfway to his mouth as he’s digging into a vegetable and nut mix with lots of noodles in a sweet-sour sauce that they both like, really enjoying it, when Rey asks, “So… no meat?”

“Not in the house I was raised. It wasn’t forbidden. My—he ate meat. My mother probably did, too, when she was away. But it wasn’t part of Alderaan’s culture, so my mother’s staff never kept it in the house. Then Luke’s: eggs, dairy, the occasional cock, usually cooked into a stew. All of the animals were worth more as milk, eggs, or fiber producers than as meat. So, we rarely ate them.”

“We’d get portions. That’s what Plutt’d call them. One portion was about a full day’s worth of food. Maybe a day and a half if you were small. They came in little packs. You’d rip them open, dump it in a mug, mix in your water, which you also got paid in, and then it’d bubble up and cook itself. One lump of food. Sort of halfway between your protein bars and bread.”

“What did they taste like?”

Rey has a hard time answering that. She knows what it tastes like, but translating it… She lets the flavor, smell, and feel of it fill her head. He nods, letting the sense of it fill his own head. It’s not bad, but he wouldn’t want to live on it. She smirks at that. “That’s how I feel about your protein bars.”

 


Women are different.

He feels a little stupid to just be figuring this out at the age of thirty, but… He’s never had what anyone could come even close to calling an intimate relationship with one before.

The eight years he lived with his mother… near his mother… sometimes. She was gone more than she was home, and that’s not an intimate relationship.

Training, on and off, for four years with Phasma did not an intimate relationship make.

And his two female knights spent just as much time, if not more, swathed in black, and hidden behind a mask as he did. The mask made it easier to live with having failed at being Master Ben Solo, after all, if he ever caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror or window, he didn’t have to see his own face. He imagines they found a similar solace in their masks, too.

He wonders if that’s part of not begrudging Rey the scar she left on his face. He never glances at himself and sees Ben, not anymore.

But he does glance at her, a lot, and see this person, who’s just different.

She’s so small. As they spend more time together, just in the same place, and touching, he gets a vibrant sense of her body against his, and casual things, like when he’s spooned up behind her, that that tip of his elbow can rest at the crest of her hip, and his fingers can wrap around the top of her shoulder, hammer home how small she is. Her whole torso fits into the length of his forearm.

She smells really different. And, yes, Rey’s a person, who often does really hard work, outdoors, in the hot, humid summer sun, so she doesn’t always smell good. There have been more than a few days where getting into the shower is the first thing on the list of what they’re doing. But she always smells different. When he’s been working hot and hard and sweaty, he feels like he smells like something that died in a hot, humid place. She just smells sharp and sour. And when she’s clean, or they’ve been taking an easy night, or touching each other, she smells like herself, sometimes stronger, other times fainter, but it’s a very right smell. He likes how, if he doesn’t get a shower in the morning, he can smell her skin on his throughout the day.

And she’s smooth. Not her hands and feet, they’re rough with callouses, but the rest of her… Her skin, her hair, it’s all so smooth. He’ll spend hours, often when she’s asleep, just stroking her skin, feeling it under his fingers, and how he’s never touched anything this smooth before. Not anything alive, that is. He’ll spend moments, when they’re awake, trailing his lips and cheek and tongue against her skin, just reveling in how smooth it is. 

And stroking her skin leads him to another difference. She’s curvy. The round of her breast, the jut of her nipples, the dip of her solar plexus curving into the gentle swell of her belly. Her hips curve out into a line that feels like it was just made for his palm, swell into the round of her bottom, dip down into the long convex plane of her thigh or slip up to the concave line of her back.

And for as much as he’d prefer that his food not jiggle, he could happily watch all of her curves jiggle all day long.

And if said curves are jiggling, say with the extremely pleasant sway of her body on top of or under his, he finds himself contemplating how soft she is. How his hand can squeeze around one of those curves and feel the soft, gentle give of her flesh. There’s hard, taut muscle under all of those curves, but her hard strength is covered over with a soft, smooth layer on top, and though he’s not nearly philosophical enough to enjoy this sort of thought while he’s squeezing one of those curves, later, when she’s sleeping next to him, he knows that her body is a metaphor for her spirit, a strong, solid core with a soft, gentle, golden-flushed layer on top. He wonders if that means his spirit is pale, and hard, and scarred. (And, though it’s a thought he won’t allow himself at any time other than when he’s almost asleep and his guards are down, he wonders if there won’t, perhaps, be a time where that’s not true.)

And later, when they’re lying together, when their bodies have cooled, and she’s asleep, she fits against him so perfectly. The back of her and the front of him, and a smooth, gentle line of breath and touch… He hasn’t written anything in years, but it almost makes him wish he had his calligraphy set, if for no other reason than to trace that curve onto paper, and then tuck it into his tunic, worn against his chest, keeping it close to his body at all times.

 

 


Women are different. He’s enjoying learning that immensely.

But they’re also not that different.

“Why don’t you have hair here?” he asks a few days later as they’re lying in bed together, and he’s gently stroking his fingers over her underarm. They shower together almost every day, and he’s never seen her shave, and he can’t imagine she waits to shave until she’s on Lirium and her near-frozen lake. Not when he’s got uncountable liters of hot water here.

She rolls her eyes a little at that. “Hair on Niima is… problematic. Mites. Little insects eat skin cells, and live in dark places, and their eggs stick to hair. I got a bad case of them when I was younger, and had to take everything off to get rid of them.”

He winces at that.

“Once the hair’s off, they don’t have anywhere to lay eggs, so all you’ve got to do is kill the ones on your skin, and you’re free of them. It takes about ten days.”

That gets a harder wince as he imagines shaving his entire body every day for ten days. In a desert. With no water. “Everything?”

“The only hairs on my body were my eyelashes. And in really bad cases, people will take them off, too. Otherwise you might go blind.”

Kylo’s almost thinking that destroying Jakku was worth it just to eradicate those bugs. He traces his fingers across her underarm, and gently rubs her leg with his knee. “So, you shave? I’ve never seen you shave.”

She shakes her head vehemently. “You don’t shave in a desert if you can avoid it. I built a laser device. It zaps the hair off. Keeps it off for a few months.”

He perks up at the idea of that. Because if he could take care of his face once every few months… “Could I…”

“Sure. If you want. It stings a bit.”

“What’s a bit?”

“You try it and see. A bit. Enough I do my underarms and legs, but nothing too sensitive.”

“Why’d you keep doing it after you got rid of the mites?” He doesn’t have a lot of experience with female bodies, but the few he’s gotten close to had their body hair, or most of it.

“It feels nice. So much of Jakku was harsh and rough, and… this isn’t.”

He kisses her underarm, and her ribs, and hip, and then along her leg. “It does feel nice.” He shifts up a bit and kisses her muff. “Not so nice here?”

“No, the zap’s too strong for that. And you have to shave at least once, otherwise the hair on top of your skin catches fire.” He feels a flush of horror at how she must have learned that. “And if you shave there…” She thinks about it. “Have you ever gotten sand in your shorts?”

“Thankfully, no.” Though the idea of it makes him squirm.

“It’s an experience I could have skipped, too.”

 

 


He’s looking at the little plexicup. It’s been sitting in its bag, on the shelf, in his bathroom since Rey finished with it, and he’s just… curious… about it.

She sees him eyeing it as he’s brushing his teeth at the end of the day.

“You can look at it. It won’t bite you.”

He half shrugs.

She goes, takes it out of the bag, grabs his hand, and dumps it on his palm. “See, just soft, clear plexiplastic. Poke it a little, it’s squishy.”

He does, feeling like this is probably the single most surreal experience of his life. But, it is kind of squishy, and the rim is a little firm, and it’s bigger than he thought it’d be, but still fairly small and… “Can you… feel it… you know…”

“Sometimes. Depends on the cycle. Some of them are really annoying and everything is sore, and, yes, I can feel it then. Other cycles, no.”

“So… it’s not the same, each time?”

She shakes her head. “It’ll generally last about the same amount of time. And it’ll generally come every twenty-sevenish days, but that means anywhere between twenty-five and thirty. I usually know when it’s getting close by how I feel. But each one has different feelings.”

“Physical or emotional?”

“Both. I didn’t get my usually crabby and annoyed right before this last cycle, but my breasts were tender.”

He pokes it again, and looks at it. “How do you get it out?”

She touches the little nub at the bottom, and pinches it with her thumb and forefinger. “It’s easier if you squat. Same with putting it in.” She shows him how she folds the rim. “And in it goes.”

He’s still looking at it like he might have to drop it fast so that it doesn’t attack him. Then he looks at her, and she feels him sort of mentally blush all over.

“You’re thinking loudly,” that seems to be a good way to indicate she knows what he’s thinking, and he can ask, without, like she had before, just picking the thought out of his head.

He bites his lips, rolling them together, not really sure if he wants to ask, but… He knows where it goes, so… “Does putting it in feel good?”

“Doesn’t feel like much of anything…” She tries to think of any experience he might have that’s even remotely similar. “Like… when you shake it off after you pee. That doesn’t feel good, right?”

He quirks a fast smile, handing her the plexicup back. “Generally, no. Though there was a joke that used to go around the boys at Luke’s school. If you shake it more than twice, you’re playing with yourself.”

She giggles a little about that, but feels there’s some tension in that line.

 

 


In bed, she asks him, “Did you used to… play with it… a lot?”

It’s dark, so even if he weren’t curled up behind her, she wouldn’t be able to see his face, but she can feel his expression, that tense, lip rub he does when he doesn’t exactly want to say whatever it is.

“What’s a lot?”

She’ll admit that’s not the focus she was aiming for with that question, but… “Uh… I’d do it every night or so, so… more than that?”

“Every night?” He’s stunned at that.

“It’s good for going to sleep. Or… I mean… It works that way for you, right?”

He’s still trying to wrap his mind around every night. “Every night?”

“Well. Not every single night, but… most of them, yes.” She rolls over to face him, and then catches what he’s thinking, and… “Oh. Uh… No one ever told me not to. It was just… a way to go to sleep, nicely.”

He blinks, slowly, and his lips rub together again. “It’s not that… The… sex part… wasn’t that big of a deal. I don’t think Luke cared much one way or another if we… But we were trying to be calm and serene and passionless and… We weren’t supposed to want things. Masters… well-grounded in the light… could ‘physically commune together in mutual accord and affection,’ but...” He places her hand on his shaft, right now it’s just lying between them, not doing much of anything. “For a few years there, it was more or less always hard, always wanting, and it was… annoying, really. Anything… anything could set it off, and… it didn’t matter what I was trying to do, there’d just be this constant, clawing want and… And we’re not supposed to give into our wants. We’re supposed to meditate, and calm ourselves, and control our desires, master them, and… And all it wants is to fuck. All the time. Anything even vaguely female and human. And, of course, everyone around me can feel my desires because just about the time it woke up and decided what it wanted, my ability to keep my feelings hidden also went to shit.” He rolls his eyes. “Luke said that was a normal part of puberty, but,” he shakes his head. “And the others got there sooner or later, but I was the oldest of the boys, so I got there first. Then, the others start to catch up, so it’s not just me. There’s three other pubescent kids, and that’s a lot of wanting flowing around, and... of course, just like they could feel me, I can feel them, so now it’s not just my wants, I’ve got all of theirs sloshing around and… And Luke’s telling Yoda about it. He’s laughing, and Luke’s muttering about how his hair is turning gray and he’s not training anyone under twenty ever again.”

Rey’s trying not to laugh, because living through it wasn’t funny, but, like Yoda, she’s sniggering a bit.

Kylo rolls his eyes again. “So… not a lot, not by your scale, but it felt like I was doing it a lot more than I should have.”

She kisses him. “I’m sorry.”

That gets an eye roll, too. “Uh huh.”

“Hey… I can think it’s funny and still wish you didn’t have to go through it.”

He accepts that. They’re quiet for a moment. Then he says, “So… you just… did it whenever you liked?”

“Pretty much. I lived alone, so it’s not like there was any reason not to. But… I generally didn’t want to unless I wasn’t doing something else.”

“I’d have had an easier time if that’s how it worked. I could have kept myself distracted. But… Making dinner, cutting up peaches, doing fine, paying attention to the knife and the fruit, talking a little, then… wait… The peach is ripe and soft and juicy and… Gosh… it feels good against my fingers and in my hand… It’s got a nice, soft, supple give to it… And… It’s about the size of M’Gll’s breast, and maybe I could steal off and pick one later, and… Now everyone else is staring, including M’Gll, perfect, calm, serene, never, ever wanting anything, M’Gll, and I just want to die because apparently I just blasted that feeling to everyone near me. And now, not only am I randy, because my shaft still hasn’t gotten the go-back-to-sleep message, but I’m also boiling with shame, and I’m angry because she’s glaring at me, and they’re all staring, and I just want to curl up and vanish or kill all of them, and, wait, yes, that feeling also just went thundering through the room, so half of them are terrified now, ready to run away, and…  It’s a mess.”

Rey winces. “Ouch.”

He nods. “Yeah.”

“Did she… like you?”

He laughs at that. “No. Never. She was afraid of me at first. And I didn’t… like her… I didn’t. I really didn’t. We had no common interests and mostly just annoyed each other. But she was female and my age, and the only one of the girls who had any sort of… body… visible under her robes and… I didn’t want to be having thoughts like that about her. She was too… light, to hate anyone, but she pitied me for being dark, and honestly, that was worse. I can take hate, but, ‘Luke’s poor nephew, just can’t help it, doesn’t belong here…’ not that. And that was what she told herself to get over the fact she was afraid of me. Eventually she got over her fear, but she was never easy around me. She marked me as an enemy the first time we met, and that was that. And me being the fruit-fucking maniac thinking of her naked didn’t do anything to improve her opinion of me.”

“Wait… did you… with a peach?”

“Does that… shock…” she can feel the word he’s thinking is disgust “you?”

Rey thinks about it, not shocked, not in a bad way, mostly just curious, not exactly grasping the mechanics of how it would work, likely because she’s a bit vague on what, exactly, a peach is. “Did it feel good?”

Kylo’s very relieved that she’s not disgusted. “Better than I expected. It’s got to be really ripe, though. Not the sort of thing I could do often. They’re only that sort of ripe for a few weeks.”

“How… Like…” She knows peaches are round, and about a handful, and apparently somewhat soft and juicy, and has a mental image of him just rubbing against one, but she’s sure that can’t be right.

“Take a spoon, scoop the pit out, hold it in your fist, and… it worked.” He flashes her the image of the hollowed out peach. That makes a lot more sense. “Messy… but it worked.”

And like that, she can imagine it does work. She leans up for a moment, taking the pillow from under her head, rolls over again, so she’s back to him, and folds it in half, stuffing it between her legs. “I’d rock against it, do it until everything feels good, and fall asleep hugging it.”

He strokes her back. “Were you thinking about anyone when you did it?”

“Not usually. Just how it felt.”

“Usually?”

Her turn to roll her eyes a little. She puts the pillow back and turns again to face him. “Over the years I’d sometime see someone who would catch my interest. But… I wouldn’t let myself get to know them or like them or… anything that might make it harder to leave. It’s… easy not to have little attachments if you’ve got one really big one.”

“I was thinking about every girl I saw or read about.”

“Just girls?” She’s curious about this. Until… she had the bad time, she used to think about both.

He’s curious, too. Girls think about boys, right? “Just girls. Weren’t you thinking about boys?”

“Before… I thought about both. After, if I was thinking about someone, it’d be a girl.”

He spends a moment contemplating that before saying, “Someone safe?”

She nods. “Someone soft and gentle and… There weren’t a lot of people like that, girls or anyone else, at Niima.”

“The kind of place that steals the soft and gentle from you?”

“Yeah. Some of the traders looked nice.”

He snuggles in against her, making his very not female, soft, or gentle body as pliant as it can be. She feels what he’s doing and kisses his collar bone. “Did you ever… get to do anything more than think about the girls there?”

“No. Not until I left Luke. I was twenty-six the first time I kissed someone.” Which is both true and misleading. He was twenty-two when he joined the First Order, almost twenty-three, and he did visit the pleasure specialists within the first month of getting there, because he could finally do it and he was more or less rebelling against any and every rule anyone even remotely like a parental figure had ever offered him. He liked it. A lot. He didn't like how Snoke responded to him liking it, so he kept his desires clamped down, hard. Three years later, Kammun, one of his knights, finally convinced him to try letting one of the pleasure specialists touch more than his shaft. He liked that, too. He really didn't like how Snoke reacted to that. That kept his relations with pleasure tightly in check.

“You’re my first kiss," Rey says. 

He smiles at that.

“You like that.”

“Yeah. I probably shouldn’t, but… yes, I do.”

“Was I your first good kiss?”

He smiles, a little chagrined… “Um… the way you mean it, yes, but… Not exactly.”

She raises an eyebrow, and he can feel she’s curious about it.

“It’s hard to train here. At least, at my level. You don’t want anyone to know your weaknesses and flaws, and I’m too big and dangerous for most people. Snoke would…” he doesn’t fill in the details of what Snoke would do, but she feels hot, electric pain shatter through him at the memory, “if I ‘damaged someone valuable,’ and… Anyway, Phasma and I were well-suited for each other. I had no interest in anything she ruled. She had no interest in anything I ruled. We weren’t competing for anything, which helped, a lot. We could fight to fight, not fight angry or jealous. We were the same height, and if she had her armor on, she outweighed me by a kilo or two. She used a quicksilver baton which is a good match for my training blade, and her armor was tough enough to take a good solid hit.

“So, we’d train with each other. She’d knock me down. I’d knock her down. We’d go until one of us couldn’t get back up again.”

“You kissed Phasma?

“Only the one time.”

He can feel this shakes her. He could have fucked a whole orchard full of peaches without getting this sort of a reaction from her.

“Phasma? Two meters tall, covered in chrome, killed people at a whim, tortured new recruits, Phasma?”

“Let me tell the story.” She’s still beyond skeptical, but he can feel why. All she’s got in her mind is blinding chrome and danger. His voice is gentle as he says, “She was a person, Rey. Just like… All of us. There’s a person… or maybe a monster… but most likely a person, behind every mask here. Your Finn, he was one, too. They all are. And Phasma was a person with her own likes and dislikes and sense of humor and voice and…

“And we weren’t exactly friends, or got on all that well, or shared a meal, or had conversations involving more than fifty words that weren’t about our duties, but… we could fight. And that was worth something.

“And I could feel she was pissed at Hux. That’s one layer of red between them. There’s another one, deeper, surging. They were… fucking each other. She was his second-in-command. I don’t know if it ever went deeper than that. I honestly don’t think he could go deeper, and I’m not sure what she got out of it. But she was pissed at him for something, and I’m game to fuck with Hux if the opportunity arises, because he’s just so… fuckwithable. He was like a great, big, ginger kick me sign. Always so stuffy and perfect and…”

She’s looking very disturbed by this. And also realizing that if M’Gll was everything Luke wanted, Hux was probably everything the First Order wanted, but by the time Kylo got here, he had enough power to do something with it.

“You want the one who wasn’t actually a person, it was him. Just a bright orange ball of scheming hate stuffed into a perfect uniform.”

She’s still looking disturbed, and not sure if he’s complementing her theory or ignoring it.

“Anyway. I’ve got her pinned. And neither of us is in our armor for this one, so I outweigh her by a good twenty kilos. Hands on her shoulders, knees on her thighs, she’s down. And Hux is lurking, watching us. I can feel he’s pissed at her, too. Maybe they liked fucking angry. Maybe she liked fucking after training. But… she’s under me, and I know she’s angry at him, and I can feel he’s angry at everything, and I’m looking to stir the pot, so I raise an eyebrow at her, and think hard about what I’m going to do, and she nods. So I leaned down and kissed her, and kissed her good, and then next thing I know I’m on my back and she’s on top, because she flipped us, and that is fucking hard without the Force, and then she’s kissing me, and… Hux is about to explode. I can feel his rage spike, and her lips are warm, and… uh… yeah…” He smiles a little. “That was a good kiss.”

“What did he do?”

“Clench his fists. Fantasize hard about stalking over and kicking me in the ribs until they shattered under his boot, then going after my face. He had a really vivid image of breaking my teeth and crushing my face under his boot, but he knew I could stop him dead if he tried. Eventually she stopped kissing me, got up, smirked at me, gave me a quick salute, sauntered off, and he followed her. She had bite marks on her arms and shoulders the next time we trained, but… I mean… If she didn’t want him biting her, she wouldn’t have gotten bitten. Hux was a killer, not a fighter, so if she had marks on her, it was because she let him put them there.”

Rey swallows hard, not sure how to deal with that. Kylo’s just matter-of-factly explaining the world he used to inhabit and… It mostly makes her want to curl up and hide.

“What did you do?”

He blinks.

“After…”

“Oh… Uh…” He hasn’t thought about that kiss for years, and about after that kiss ever. “Got a shower and supper and meditated and read reports and… just a normal night.”

“So, you didn’t…” She trails a finger down his shaft.

“No. Like I said, it wasn’t that sort of good.” He kisses her, soft and easy. Good. “I’m not saying, that in the right circumstance or mood I wouldn’t like it, but as of this point in time, I prefer not fucking angry. Or sad. Or loathsome. Or hating myself and my desires and the person I’m with. Or feeling broken and weak and inadequate because I have desires.” He kisses her again, lips grazing over hers as he says, “I like this. I like being able to want… things and feelings and sensations. I like soft and gentle and together and talking and seeing the same body more than once and getting to know all of your bits and you learning mine and…” His hand skims along her skin. “Maybe it’s too much Jedi training, but… I like physically communing together in mutual accord and affection.

She wraps her leg around his hip, and holds him close with arms and legs. “Me, too.”

 

 


It is a well-known fact that the fastest, easiest way to take out a modern sky-borne armed force is its kitchens.

At least, it is now.

Once upon a time, there was a General in the First Order, and he was in charge of the system that would eventually bear his name, and create the largest, most order-following force of soldiers the galaxy had ever seen.

That man was Brendol Hux.

He had a son. A bastard he got upon a serving woman who wasn’t exactly interested in having a child with him, but she was significantly less interested in what happened to the women who didn’t go along with his wishes.

And when the child was born, he disposed of her.

And he began to test his theories.

He didn’t use all of them upon the boy. That would be counter-productive. He needed the child pliable, capable of great cruelty, and able to serve any whims his master may have. That he was intelligent, paranoid, good with technology, and utterly devoid of empathy were just cherries on the sundae as far as he was concerned.

The ones he did use proved to be successful, and his son rose high and fast among the First Order, in danger of outranking him by the time he was twenty-seven.

And that would not do.

He was contemplating what to do with that when he ate what appeared to be a lovely bowl of stew, and was dead before morning.

It was then that Colonel Armitage Hux sent a report to the Supreme Leader, showing him how easily his kitchens could be subverted, and with just a few drops of the correct, slow moving, chemical mixture that their entire ship could have been murdered.

Said report also offered the steps necessary for a state of the art upgrade of the kitchen services, along with a suggestion that perhaps a generous promotion for the man who ordered said report would be useful. (And it didn’t outright state, but it certainly suggested that if that promotion wasn’t forthcoming, the antidote to said chemical compound wasn’t going to be finding its way into the food supply, either.)

Thus it is, now, that almost the entire kitchen staff of the Supremacy and any other First Order ship is made of droids. Droids to not use the restroom and forget to wash their hands. Droids do not get lazy and forget to properly sanitize their tools. Droids do not go to work with a cold and sneeze on the food. Droids cannot be bribed into looking the other way while a few drops of a specific and rare chemical compound find their way into a bowl of stew. Droids can cut costs by always making portions the same sizes and minimizing waste by always using the most efficient cuts.  

In fact, the only things droids can’t do is smell or taste or hunger.

And, while Snoke wasn’t going to be getting the Boss of the Year award, he was fully aware that hungry soldiers make stupid mistakes, but well-fed ones had an easier time obeying orders and doing what was needed when it was needed, so he thought making sure the food was good mattered.

That said, there are people who work in the kitchens to make sure that things taste good. There is a Chef of the Supremacy, and his rank is about the equivalent of a general. These days most of his job is logistical, making sure that enough food of the right type at the right time gets to the right places and then fed to the right people. These days he’s making sure that 2.3 million people are fed at least three times a day and snacks are available, too. He hasn’t actually cooked anything in a decade.

He has a herd of sous chefs, and they actually do cook things. Making up recipes and menus from everything they get in, keeping the rotation fresh and varied, making sure the supplies don’t just sit in storage and go bad, and programming the army of droids to make the actual meals.

So, when he gets a request from C8 to keep a standing order for strawberries open for the Supreme Leader, he’s got someone to talk to about it.

They find the request for strawberries amusing. Apparently the Supreme Leader has something of a sweet tooth, and getting them isn’t horribly difficult. They stop near planets that produce them at least once a month, so… Sure.

Sweet cream. That one’s also easy enough.

Chocolate… The Supreme Leader has bizarre eating habits. All he appears to want is… dessert?

Coffee… Every day… That gets them talking like mad. Every day. When he first asked for it, they only had a few ounces of it on board. Getting more took a little while, but… If the Supreme Leader wants coffee, the Supreme Leader gets coffee, and the accounting department can deal with how much it costs.

Finally, a week into this, the Chef gets a request for a large portion of whatever it is he is personally eating for breakfast and dinner.

So, he does that.

After the first breakfast he gets back a note saying More.

So, he adds more to dinner. The Supreme Leader is a big man after all.

And after dinner, C8 sends him another note, saying More.

The next breakfast is bigger, yet. And this one gets another note saying, More.

So for the next dinner the Chef just piles it on. And that one gets a note saying, Good.

Which is what causes this conversation: “Have you ever seen the Supreme Leader?”

His top Sous Chef, the one who is actually cooking all of this, shakes his head. “Only pictures.”

“He’s got to be huge.”

He shrugs a little.

“I mean… that’s got to be what, forty-five hundred calories a day?”

He nods again. "Plus lunch."

“No one needs that much food. I don’t care what you do, you do not need that much food.”

Another quick shrug. The Sous Chef is not about to add any voice to this conversation. You never know what the droids around you are picking up.

“You think he’s…” He makes a quick gagging himself gesture.

The Sous Chef puts down his spatula and says, voice very low, “My buddy in laundry says he’s got a companion.”

And that’s when the Chef gets it. A huge smile spreads across his face. And the next bowl with strawberries that finds itself in one of the delivery droids also has a collection of edible violets arranged in a very pretty spray nestled among them, fresh mint leaves, a bowl of not just the sweet cream, but also one of melted chocolate.

Kylo certainly didn’t ask for that, but it doesn’t mean he, and Rey, didn’t enjoy it when it showed up.

And that got a note of Appreciated to go with it.  

 

 

Chapter Text

 

11/1-30/35

          

A life without sun is unsettling to Rey. She appreciates Kylo’s bed, and the fact that his room on the Supremacy is significantly more comfortable than her tent on Lirium. But there’s no sun.

Sun comes up, day begins, get up and do stuff. That’s how she knows it’s time to move, but on the Supremacy, her body keeps waiting for a signal to get moving that never comes.

Which makes sleeping bizarre. She’ll wake at odd times, well before he does, or occasionally well after. And she supposes that’s her body just letting her know when she’s done being tired, but…

It just feels weird.

 

 


A life without color feels… flat, to Rey.

It’s a black room with black furniture and black accouterments and black bedding built around a man with black hair and almost black eyes who wears all black. If it weren’t for his pale skin, which, when they’re not playing or sleeping, he keeps almost every inch of covered, he’d blend into the room.

 

His room isn’t dark so much as smothering. It eats light.

“Did you design this, yourself?” she asks one night, as they’re eating.

“No. It was here when I got here.”

She flashes him a curious look.

“This isn’t my first command. I had rooms on the Finalizer, and a space set aside on Starkiller, but moved here when I took full command. Why do you ask?”

“I was trying to figure out if you were smothering any hint of light, or if Snoke did.”

He half smirks. “The whole ship is black or gray with a little red. The outside of the ship is black. You saw his throne room, that red was pretty much the only color he allowed in the place.”

“So, it wasn’t just about you?”

He doesn’t know if that’s true or not. He didn’t care much about a space for himself, beyond a functional lock on the door, and a quiet place to meditate. “I suppose the others have their quarters decorated however they like.”

“Have you never been in anyone else’s quarters?”

“Not on this ship. I was in Hux’s once, on the Finalizer. It was… austere and functional. Gray mostly.”

“Sounds like a lot of the First Order.”

Kylo shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe. The more I get into this, the more I see that Snoke didn’t like spending money on things he didn’t have to. Austere may have been more about keeping credits in the bank, or turning them into weapons, than any real aesthetic.”

She half-inclines her head in response, and then takes a bite of their supper. It’s some sort of eel, fried crispy with what she considers a tasty sauce, and a collection of green vegetables. He’s been picking at his.

“Don’t like it?” She knows the flavor is likely fine for him, but the edges of the eel is crispy, and the inside is soft and squishy.

He shakes his head a bit, and begins moving the eel to her side of the plate, and more of the vegetables to his.

He’s chewing, just because he doesn’t like it doesn’t mean he won’t eat it. He won’t order it again, but he always eats his part of whatever shows up on their plate. “Does it bother you?” He glances around at his all black world.

“Not for the amount of time I spend here awake. Not with the window,” because he does have one full wall of his quarters made of transteel, and when it’s clear, like it is now, he’s got what feels like a view of the entire universe. But when he sets it to closed, and turns off his lights, his room is black in a way she didn’t know existed when she still lived on Jakku.

“But you wouldn’t want to live here?” he finishes her thought.

“No. I need a world with some color in it.”

He nods, and continues chewing. She can tell he’s just aware of what she’s saying, not making any plans to do anything about it, but not not making plans, too.

“Do you have a favorite color?” he asks a moment later.

She blinks. That’s a question she’s literally never thought of. “Uh… No. I like them all.”

He nods.

“Do you?”

He raises one eyebrow and glances around. If he had decorated it himself… Well… No, he wouldn’t have bothered. Taking time to do things like decorate isn’t part of who he is. But he does like black.

“Oh.”

He shrugs. “Green. I liked green as a child. My room at my parents’ house was light green and brown, and there were trees, like Kashyyyk, painted on the walls.”

She gives his hand a little squeeze.

 

 


She does like living in a world of books. She doesn’t always like what she’s reading, but she likes the breadth of it.

When the Force first started shoving them into each other’s conscious, Kylo had mentioned how busy he is with running the First Order. What she didn’t realize is that, these days, for him, busy means reading.

Most nights, she finishes up her work. Because for her work means physically doing something, like building more drainage ditches, or moving more rocks, or… She goes to the Supremacy, and he’s often done for the day by then.

They’ll have supper, talk about the day, play with each other, and that eats up a few hours, but not all of the evening.

After playing, usually feeling calm, and comfortable, they’ll sprawl out across his bed, and read. He gathers up his pillows, props them into a ramp, lays on his belly, and pulls a data pad to him. Some nights, she sits against his headboard, Orlac’s library in her lap, others, she’ll lay across the bed, head resting in the curve of his low back.

She’s against the headboard, when she feels him looking at her pad, not his.

“Kylo?”

He shakes his head. “The one’s crap.”

She doesn’t have to put words to the question in her mind.

 

 

He looks up at her. “The first, sixth, and nineteenth chapters are likely genuine, but the rest of it was heavily redacted during the Council of First Knowledge in 6753.”

She flashes him a very curious look.

He hits her back with one, no idea what he just said she didn’t understand.

“6753?” she asks.

“Since the founding of the Jedi. All of their history is done on that system.”

“What’s that translate into Imperial Standard?”

He’s got to think about it for a moment. “About 2000 Before the Empire, give or take a bit. Their years aren’t the Imperial Standard 360 days. They work off of a 100 day year, but those days are a lot longer because day and night weren’t the same on Jeddah as they were on Coruscant. I’d need a calculator to get it exact.”

“Okay. So…” She runs that from Imperial to New Republic. “So… 1956ish BBY?”

“I hate that.”

Again she’s curious, but this time she takes a stab at what he meant. “BBY?”

“Yes.” He rolls his eyes. “So fucking pretentious. They won one battle, nineteen years into a twenty-four year war, and picked that as the start of their calendar. It’d be one thing if it was Before Battle of Endor, or After the Concordance, or In the Year of the New Republic or… But, no Battle of Yavin. That’d be like me resettling the calendar, again, based on six years ago because I slapped Hux silly when he was being a twit.”

She’s not entirely sure the scale of those things line up. Hux was, from everything she’s heard, both from Kylo and Finn, a truly horrible person, but… He wasn’t a Death Star.

He’s following her thoughts and says, “A Death Star by itself is useless. Let it drift off into space, and it’ll just sit there, doing nothing. You need a man who’s willing to use one. That was Hux. You could drop him naked on an uninhabited planet, and in a year or two, he’d figure out how to start hurting people. He wasn’t a fighter, but he was good with the tech stuff, and if there was a way to hurt people with the tech, he’d figure out how to do it.”

“Twit doesn’t sound like the word I’d use to describe that.”

“Likely not, but… The time I’m thinking of, he really was being a twit. His valet didn’t shine his boots bright enough, and he was in a snit about it, so I hit him.”

Rey thinks about that, and then says, “What does snit mean?”

“Had the man tortured, but Snoke wouldn’t let him execute him. First Order rules, everyone was allowed one mistake, and that was his one. Hours later, he was still complaining about the subpar job. There was one tiny smudge on the heel of the one boot, and he just kept going on about it. I told him to shut up, and he told me I didn’t get to order him around, so I hit him hard enough he dented the wall where he hit it. And then he shut up.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway,” and Kylo’s back to her book, “Manalevan’s thoughts on the nature of service to the Force were too seditious to be allowed. He and his followers broke off, started their own branch, and then vanished. No one’s sure, or at least willing to tell, what happened to him.”

Sometimes, she forgets that he did this. Studied to be a Jedi, that he obtained the rank of Master. That he spent years reading this sort of thing, and that… That there was a dark-haired boy who spent hours with books, reading and learning. Sometimes she forgets there was a dark haired man, hidden behind a black mask, and he lived in a world where people got tortured for not shining boots properly. And somehow, he found a way to thread himself through both needles.

He’s continuing on, “You’ll see it when you get to chapter two, suddenly, instead of reading like something someone might actually say, it starts to feel like a droid with only partially functional verbal processing attempting to explain something complicated.”

“Oh.”

“Of course, by the time a hundred years had passed, the attitude toward what constituted proper service began to shift, and Manalevan became less of a pariah.” He taps her pad. “They tried to put his work back together, which is why you’ve got this, but it’s so badly chopped up that it’s useless.”

“Was there… a lot of that sort of thing?” She’s asking about torturing valets.

“I’d say yes, but…” He shrugs a little. “Unlike you, I never read about any other religions. Maybe they’re all like that.” He answers about Jedi infighting. And she’s not sure if he’s intentionally ducking her question or staying on his current set of thoughts.

“Maybe.” She looks at her pad and decides to stay with Jedi. It’s likely there’s no answer about living in the First Order that’s going to make her happy. “I’ve been avoiding the history and focusing on the philosophy so… I get stuff like this in a vacuum. Just the ideas, none of the politics.”

He kisses her thigh. “Probably the best way to do it. Everything’s ugly when you look at the politics.”

She realizes that’s his answer not just to Jedi infighting, but also to her question about the First Order. She strokes his hair, and looks at his pad, mostly numbers. “What are you slogging through?”

“Spot checking my supply contracts. We buy supplies for the First Order as a whole, and each command ship also orders supplies for its own needs. I’m checking to see if the numbers are in order.”

Her eyes skitter over the column of numbers. They are, for the most part, similar. “What am I looking at?”

“Cost of bacta per liter.”

He’s already got the number highlighted, so it’s easy to find. “And…”

“That’s the Arcadia,” he replies.

“And the Arcadia is spending three times more per liter than anyone else.”

“That’s how it looks to me.”

“And you intend to find out why.”

“That’s the plan.”

She thinks about it for a moment. “Is there a why that might not get the quartermaster killed?”

He half inclines his head. “I’d imagine there could be a reason for why this is so expensive for him and only him. And I suppose there could be a reason why he doesn’t just place an order from us for it in order to avoid the cost. I just don’t happen to know what it might be.”

That doesn’t bode well for the Quartermaster. “So… what do you do next?”

“Look at his books, see if he’s just spending too much on Bacta, or if he’s spending like this on everything. Check his location. It’s possible if he’s off in the middle of nowhere that just getting things to him is expensive. Maybe it’s a very small, very safe ship, and they just don’t need much of it. The less of it you buy, the more per liter is.”

Rey finds that comforting. Then she looks at what he’s doing. This doesn’t seem like the job of the Supreme Leader. “Don’t you have people who do this?”

“I have auditors. They do this.”

“Then why are you doing it?”

“Every day I have C8 get me something, somewhere to check. I can’t watch everything, but I can check enough things at random to keep people nervous about not getting away with not doing their jobs.”

“And today it was bacta expenses?”

“Today it was bacta expenses. Tomorrow it may be how many uniforms we go through. Or ship maintenance schedules or… How many rivets we’ve got. It’ll be something. I’ll look at it, poke around, and spend a few hours on it.”

She’s not sure if that’s a good use of his time, but since he doesn’t exactly have a trusted second-in-command, she supposes it’s necessary.    

 

 


She thinks morning Kylo is her favorite Kylo.

He’s not a very good sleeper in the sense of falling asleep easily, or staying that way. She’ll often wake in the night and find him lying on his side, back to her, using his body to shade her from the light of his data pad, reading, usually with a hand or foot touching her.

He tells her that he’s always been the kind of person who prefers to go to sleep long after the sun, if there were one, sets, and stay asleep well into morning. Kind of moot here on the Supremacy, but she can see that being true about him.

However it works, when the part of her brain that’s aware of the idea of morning tells her it’s time to get up, he’s often asleep.

There’s a softness to him when he sleeps. She assumes that’s likely true for everyone, though, aside from those days when the Falcon was stuffed full of people who all had to sleep, and none of them had enough room for it, she hasn’t really ever seen anyone else sleep.

He likes to snuggle in close, spooning up behind her when they’re falling asleep, but generally, at some point in the night, they’ll roll onto their backs, and end up side to side.

So, by the time she wakes up, assuming it’s at a time when he’s sleeping, he’ll be on his back, spread out, taking up… more room than he seems like he possibly could, and given how big he is, that’s a lot of room.

She wonders if this is part of why he’s a bad sleeper. Once he’s fully out, all of his defenses just melt away. He’ll lay there, totally open, completely relaxed.

The man who woke to the green glow of a lightsaber a bare meter from his face can’t afford to do that. And absolutely nothing she’s learned of life in the First Order has done anything to suggest to her that that lesson wasn’t re-taught over and over and over.

She likes the fact, that on mornings like this one, where she’s woken before him, she’s got a chance to… not erase the past, but… complement it, maybe. Offer him the chance to wake up to something other than heart pounding terror and abject rejection.

She does know that if she moves slowly, and gently, and doesn’t do anything too fast or rough, her soft man will lay there, still sleeping, and she can play with him. She can feel how much he enjoys this, being half in dreams, just enough awake to know it’s real, just enough asleep to be utterly careless, to have no existence beyond the sensations she can rise in his body.

She thinks he knows how much she enjoys this, space, where she can just explore him. Where she can fit his physical body, and all of its curves and plains, it’s puckered scars, tiny moles, fine dark hairs, into a psyche that found this form at least unsettling, if not outright dangerous, for almost a decade.

Kylo is male. There’s nothing even vaguely androgynous about him. And it’s true that he doesn’t set her danger sense off any longer, it’s also true that that danger sense is still there, and she doesn’t exactly enjoy having it. She doesn’t want that little part of her brain that still clenches a bit when something big and male gets too close.

And she hopes that mornings like this, where he gets to wake up to someone who’s touching him with joy help with his past, that getting to play with him, touch him, explore and taste and look, will help her with hers.

They’ve both got too many nightmares, and maybe waking with sweet dreams will help with that.

He keeps his rooms on the Supremacy comfortably warm. A touch cooler than she’d like, but that’s because her idea of comfortable was set on a desert. So, while it’s true that she appreciates the blankets on his bed for a little warmth, she knows that he has them there more as a matter of defense. So he’s not completely open when he sleeps.

But that’s not part of the game right now, and she slowly, and gently, pulls the blankets up, just a hair at a time, so there’s no fast rush of cool air, and then, when they’re hovering above them, she places them down on the floor.

And in the dark of his star-lit black room, in a time that is likely something like morning, she lays out next to him, resting her hand on his belly, ready to explore.

 

 


She knows he finds it somewhere between unsettling and inconceivable when she tells him he’s beautiful.

And she supposes that maybe, in the grand scale of things, he’s not. She doesn’t really know; beauty not being a thing she’s spent any great deal of time contemplating. At Orlac’s school, though, they talked a lot about beauty and what it was, and from what she could tell it ranged from extremely symmetrical people with perfectly even features, which, of course Kylo not only doesn’t have but likely never did, to very abstract concepts of color and line and textures bleeding across canvas or clay.

From whatever she could tell, just about anything could be beautiful. Pretty had a stricter definition, and Kylo certainly isn’t pretty. Handsome likely had a similarly strict definition, and he’s probably not handsome.

But he is beautiful.

 

 


He has fewer scars than she would have thought.

There are the three she put on him, though she didn’t remember getting him in the leg until she saw the mark. That, like much of that fight, bled into a long blur of mostly feelings, and few images. The only really clear image she has of that fight is his eyes, centimeters away from hers, and their sabers reflecting in them.

The line along his side, a thin pink line now, she knows that’s from Chewie’s shot.

There’s the kiss of a lightsaber against his right shoulder, where Finn hit him. It’s only a few days older than the mark the Praetorian Guard put on her. Both of them are about the same size, and shape. But on her body it’s a white mark fading into nothing, and on his it’s still a dark pink.

There are older marks she doesn’t know the stories behind. Several of them faded to white. But not nearly as many of them as she would expect.

She knows he thinks he’s terrible at healing skills, and maybe he is. Or maybe he’s just bad at it the way Luke taught it. Couldn’t do it because it took a lot of light work. Maybe. But if he’s not good at healing, he’s good at something… Preservation or hardness or… something.

She’s seen him after his training fights, feels the amount of force he can put into a strike, and there’s no way, just as a normal human, that he could do that without crushing his hands, breaking his wrists, and shattering his arm.

Human bodies just can’t take that sort of hit.

But his can. And has… His hands are fine right now. Long, thick fingers, resting and relaxed against the sheets, skin pale and unbruised.

And sometimes hasn’t. She knows his nose, and jaw, and both legs, and ribs, and… There are a lot of healed breaks along his body. He can dish out that sort of hit, but not, from what she can see, just take one. Or maybe he can, and whatever hit him was so much harder than what she’s trying not to imagine, that it still broke him.

She closes her eyes, feeling rather than looking, and she can see why this works the way Luke talked about it. If she just lets herself feel it, she can sense little currents of energy flowing around and through him, and there are snarls, tight spots, places where the energy gets dark and sluggish, spots where he doesn’t glow.

She knows some of them are physical. There’s an almost rock hard snarl on the bridge of his nose, an old break that didn’t heal quite right, and the energy petrified into stasis there. There are tangles and sluggish whorls in his head and heart, too. Part of her wants to lay her hands on him, and unpick those threads, untangle them, get them flowing the way they were meant to, but…

He wouldn’t be Kylo after.

If that energy is going to shift, and if he’s still going to be him after, he’s got to do it himself, or at least ask her for help. It can’t be something she just does to him.

 

 


She supposes it’s big.

The men at Niima used to joke or brag about how big they were, but she didn’t care to ever find out. The ladies would occasionally talk. They seemed less interested in how big the men were, beyond telling them that they weren’t nearly so big as they thought they were. But, wherever they were on the big scale, it certainly seemed to matter to them.

Kylo as a whole is big, so… It’s probably big.

Sleeping on his thigh, cuddled up in its little cap, it doesn’t seem big so much as right. And, if it’s cuddled up against his leg, instead of standing tall, that means he didn’t sleep through the night. When he sleeps straight through, it’ll rise up to greet the day. Mornings like that, he’ll often wake first, and she’ll wake with him wrapped around her, gently rubbing against her rear.

A lot of them have been good mornings. One of these days she’ll ask why it can predict how well he slept, but for right now, she’s content to just know that it does.

She enjoys this part of the morning, and his parts, how she can just, lightly, stroke the little cap, or gently lick it, just a slight graze of wet tongue on soft, soft skin. And it is so soft. Nothing about Kylo, especially awake Kylo, looks like it should be soft, besides his hair, but this little tip is so soft. She likes the feel of it under her fingers or against her tongue.

She likes the smell of it, and the taste, especially now, in the morning. Later, at night, if they haven’t gotten a bath, and he’s been doing something physical and hard, it can get a bit overpowering, and not in a good way. After the bath, he just smells like soap, and it’s nice soap, but it’s not him. But now, when all they’ve done is play and rest… This is good.

She likes the way, especially when she’s being very gentle with him, like she is now, that it’ll start to wake up slow and easy. The head fills out first, then the bottom of the shaft, and eventually the middle catches up, and it’ll creep its way from his thigh to his belly. Eventually, it’ll stand up, looking to meet her lips and fingers, asking for more.

By that point, the little cap’s grown tight around him, and just a hint of pink peeks out.

It’s a shaft, so it can’t exactly have a personality, but it does. It likes to tease, barely peeking out at her, calling her closer, to come and get to know what’s hiding below.

If she’s gentle, and careful, and keeps her tongue and fingers wet, it’ll stay that way, just peeking at her. He’ll shiver, a little, even in his sleep, and make a tiny mmm sound when her tongue glides over the pink.

If she’s rougher, holding it in her hand, stroking firmly, the cap will slide back, and all of his pink will be exposed, flushed to the air, to her gaze, damp and waiting. He doesn’t make any noise at that, but the muscles in his stomach and thighs tense, eager.

He’s not really asleep now, but he’s not exactly awake either. Probably in that sleepy space where everything is soft and loose and easy, aware of the world around him, but not caring much about it, maybe still dreaming a little, adding a layer of fantasy images to the world around him.

She slips her tongue over him, her mouth around him, sucking gently, her pink on his. His eyes are moving fast behind his lids, but he doesn’t open them, doesn’t move his hands to touch her, or guide her.

She’s playing, and he’s surrendering, enjoying, passively accepting pleasure.   

She can feel his tension building, though he’s not really moving. His hips and thighs are still fairly loose, but not for much longer. The muscles of his low belly are starting to clench up. His hips start a slow, easy rock.

A few more strokes, and he’ll spurt.

She’s moving a little faster, still keeping things gentle, not wanting to jar him too quickly into full awake, and the thought that occurs to her is that she’s never seen him spurt.

Felt it, likely on a more intimate and intense level than anyone who isn’t Force sensitive can. And felt it on the more common level of it happens inside of her, so she’s felt it. But never seen.

His thighs twitch, a little. If he were more awake, she knows he’d be thrusting, hard, but his body’s not up to much right now. So, just a little twitch, and tiny roll, and she pulls back, crouching between his legs, just stroking with her hand, and watches.

It’s so flushed. Pink and red toward the tip, and wet, shining, and so hard. The veins are standing out, purple-blue against pink skin, and the cap’s nowhere to be seen, having pulled back as he grew longer, seeking release.

His face is starting to look tense, chest tight, nipples hard, fingers starting to draw into fists, and he’s breathing faster, so close. She rubs just a little faster, feeling it slip through her fingers, slick and hot, and then he twitches all over, twitches in her hand, too, and it puts her in mind of a break in a hydraulic lift. One fast spurt, fluid shooting out, arcing high to hit his belly and chest, and then a few smaller ones, dripping over his belly and her hand, as the pressure lets off.

His skin is pink, flushed all over, not just his shaft, and his breathing is slowing down. She calls a towel to hand and gently wipes both of them off, before laying on her side, next to him, watching.

 

 


She knows he’s awake, fully awake, has been since about a second before he spurted, but he hasn’t opened his eyes, yet, he rolls over to face her, and then he does. Slowly. And they stay at only two-thirds open. Sleepy eyes. He gazes at her, and there’s no other word for it, this is a gaze, it’s not a look or an ogle or anything else, it’s a gaze.

He doesn’t smile, but she can feel he’s warm and content, and that sensation is new and frightening for him.

He doesn’t reach for her, not touching, but his eyes are intense, and she can feel his emotions open to her. “I feel you here. Even with my eyes closed. I know I’m not dreaming. But I always take a breath before I open them, just to stretch that moment out a little longer, because it’d be so horribly disappointing if you weren’t here when I opened them.”

She takes his hand in her, kisses it, and smiles at him.

He half-smiles back, and she can feel the litany in his head: Don’t ever leave me. Don’t let me wake alone. Don’t reject me. Don’t decide I’m not enough. Don’t break me. She can feel the moment he woke in Snoke’s throne room, alone, save for the person he least wanted to see at that moment, Hux.

But he doesn’t say it. So she doesn’t respond to it.  

Both of them know, that some things, even if they can feel them, still belong in privacy of their own heads.

 

 


Rey likes sunlit Kylo.

When he does come to her, he’s usually just in time to catch the sunset. At least the second of them. The green sun lingers longer in the sky, waiting an hour or so to join its sibling, and as it does so, it casts everything in an orange-brown glow.

He’s got that jittery edge to him that goes with too many details and not enough running around or hitting things.

Lucky for him, Chewie left today, and left Rey with four new pre-fab cottages. All the comforts of home, albeit a small one. Each one is a main room and a tiny bath area. They clock in a 150 square meters, and rumor has it, can be put together by one person with three tools, a modicum of technical talent, and a spare afternoon.

Or so the instructions say.

She didn’t outright ask Chewie if he got these from the same guy who sold him the transteel dome, but she’s got the sinking suspicion, in that she’s got all three of the necessary tools, significantly more than a modicum of technical talent, and has been attempting to get the first two walls locked into place for three hours, (with both said technical talent and her Force skills) that just possibly, these things are not quite as spiffy as advertised.

They are, however, cheap and these days, when she’s living more or less off of Chewie’s kindness and whatever scraps the Resistance can kick to her, that counts for a lot.

So, right now, she’s got work, heavy, demanding, move big things around, work. (Part of why this is possibly taking her more than three hours is that she’s just not tall enough to get some of the higher bits fitted together. Or maybe they just can’t fit together. Either way…)

It’s warm today. Warm in the way Jakku just never got. It got hot there, but there was no moisture in the air, so it didn’t feel so thick and slow. And, yes, Chewie said it was winter on the coast, but it can’t be winter here. The grasses are alive and happy, waving about in what little breeze there is, sagey-green-gray. There are tiny flowers that grow on and through them. This has to be summer, or maybe late spring. Winter can’t be the season where everything is alive.

But, whatever season it may be on the equator of Lirium, a kilometer from a transteel dome, a few hundred meters from the edge of a lake, it’s hot. Fortunately, Chewie’s never been fussed by naked or mostly naked humans, so she didn’t feel odd about stripping down to just her shorts and undershirt as they unloaded the buildings. 

Hours later, after Chewie’s left, Kylo arrives and intensely notices her in just her undershirt and shorts. She feels a little self-conscious when he looks her over, and smiles, licking his lips. She rolls her eyes at that, she’s sweat soaked, hair ratty, and covered in smears from the oil that’s supposed to let the wall pieces just slide into each other.

He pulls off his tunic and shirt, and stands beside her. “What are we building?”

“Hopefully, a cottage.”

“Yours?”

“Maybe. For a little while, at least. If I can get this together, I might take two of the other ones,” she nods to the boxes of cottages that Chewie left behind, “and make a bigger one for me.”

His eyes flick to the packaging, and he can see the specs on this indicate it’s about half the size of his bedroom. “Don’t want to be constantly tripping over me?”

She gives him a little shove with her hip. “It’d be nice if it were big enough for both of us. And… I kind of like the idea of having a separate place to sleep from where I eat and work.”

“I certainly do.”

They get an hour to work, before the light is too scarce to see what they’re doing. And though the cottage refuses to come together without some serious re-tooling of the joints, she’s not too dismayed.

She spent an hour, in the sunshine, with her Kylo. The Supremacy doesn’t just eat light, it eats color. The Supreme Leader has almost white skin. He has black hair, and black eyes, and wears all black. The First Order bleached all of the color out of him, and dyed the bits that may have had some life in them black.

 

 

Sunset Kylo, on a grassy plain, in the orangey-brown sunset light, has brown eyes. They’re dark, and always will be, but they’re brown. Warm brown, a color that makes her think of slow moving, succulent liquids. Something she hasn’t yet tasted, but is looking forward to. His skin is pale. Between keeping every inch of him below his chin covered all day, every day, and the artificial light of the Supremacy, he is pale. But in the sunset, he’s pale peach. His hair is black. That’s true of him no matter where he is, but like the rest of the planet, it gets a layer of slightly brownish sunset highlights here. His lips and nipples are still pink, but unlike on the Supremacy, where they contrast sharply against the pale of his skin, here they’re just a warmer, redder compliment to his skin.

For an hour, she got to see him bright, in color, not black, or gray, and work with him on building something, together.

 


She notices, and thinks about, after, in the shower with him, as they scrub off the smears of oil, and humid sweat of too hard work on a too hot day, that he really enjoyed that.

He’ll often do something hard and physical just to do it. Move rocks, run around the lake until he collapses, beat his punching bags into tatters, train with his saber until his arms shake. Something, anything physically difficult, and though his body sings from the endorphins, she doesn’t get the sense that he really likes it.

It’s a means to an end.

But… He was smiling as they kept trying to get the bits together, laughing a little, though they were both frustrated. At one point, rather than putting the walls down so they could get to the top easily, he picked her up, settled her on his shoulders, so she could see where the joint wasn’t meshing properly.

It was fun.

 

 

 

Her, and her boy, building something, in the sunshine. Almost, achingly close to the shape she saw of… at the time she thought it was Ben’s future, but now knows it’s Kylo’s, when their hands touched for the first time.

“You really liked that,” she says to him as he’s rubbing shampoo into her hair.

He doesn’t exactly respond, but she can feel the agreement.

She turns around, facing him, water streaming down her back, suds flowing over her. She lays her hands on his chest, just below the token that he’s wearing today, and she can feel it all through her. “It’s not enough to kill the past, you’ve got to replace it with a present, and a hope for a future.”

His fingers trace over hers, and she can tell he’s not quite sure where she’s going to take this. If it’s a condemnation or a commendation.

“You tear things down, but you’re doing it so you can build anew. You’re not destruction for the sake of destruction, you’re destruction for the sake of creation.” She feels the flash of that, how he took out the Jedi, destroyed their place, and how he destroyed Snoke’s idea of the First Order. How he’s cleared and is clearing the ground for something new.

That pleases him. He doesn’t smile, but she can feel how much he likes that.  

She can feel him take that flash, that re-framing of the past, and run with it. “No Jedi, no Sith, no New Republic, no First Order… Tear them all down and start new.” She feels it turn in his head, too. “But I still don’t know what new is.”

She strokes his shoulders and arms, and touches the token. “We’ll find it.”

 

Chapter Text

 

11/14/35 ABY

 

Kylo’s very happy to see the first of his training droids show up. It’s bright, shiny black, articulated like a human, walks a lot like one, and the man from the company who makes them puts it through what looks like an impressive demonstration.

At least, against him it looks good.

But Kylo knows he’s a better fighter than the man. Everything they’re doing is basic combat.

The man is panting a little, tired, pleased. “Does it meet your needs, My Lord?”

Kylo shucks off his cloak, and strips out of his tunic, too. It had done well against the man from the company, so he strips off his shirt, too, hopeful this will at least result in a decent workout if not a good fight.

“We’ll see. Hardened selenium-steel plate armor?”

The man nods. “Like you requested.”

That means he should be able to hit it a few times with his saber without destroying it. He has a training saber, a light, flexible baton that allows him to hit, but not destroy, but he prefers to work with his lightsaber. The flame can hurt him just as easily as someone else, and training with something else might dull his own edge.

He extends his saber, and moves into his usual defensive half-crouch.

The Droid has one of their execution axes. A more than formidable weapon, and its electro-blade can deflect a lightsaber hit. It extends it, blade glowing, and gives it a few testing swishes.

Kylo watches the actions. Basic, starting up, day one of armed hand-to-hand martial combat training moves.

“Do you want any protective gear?” the sales rep says.

Kylo shakes his head. He’s still wearing his gloves, and they’re flame retardant, and have a thin layer of plexiplast, enough to give him an extra second or two of protection against his blade, or the droid’s. They’re enough. If this thing manages to lay a hit on him, he’ll be shocked.

“You have to tell it to attack.”

“What if I want to be surprised?”

“E4, attack at will.”

E4 waits for a few more breaths, and then springs. It’s fast. Kylo will give it that, but it’s planning an attack based on the idea that he’s a new recruit with a standard list of potential counter attacks. Kylo dodges out of the way, bends back, spins, lunges, whips his saber into play, three fast, hard hits while he sweeps down, leg extending, kicking it’s knee joint, hard, stabbing up with his saber again, and then springing up, elbowing it right where it’s chin would be.

By the time he’s stopped moving, there’s a pile of expensive hardware, with sparks streaming out of its midsection, crumpled on the ground, two of its limbs no longer attached, and the axe is buried in the wall behind them.

The manufacturer winces. “I’ll be back with a better one.”

Kylo stares at him long and steady, until he feels the fear rising in the manufacturer. “Do so.”

Kylo looks at his elbow; it’s bright red, and he’s got the feeling he may have bruised himself by hitting the hard surface of the droid’s face.

“If you could make the outside more human, that’d be good, too.”

“It’s doable. Uh…” The manufacture swallows… “The… pleasure droids… are extremely… lifelike… on that level.”

“Teach one of them to really fight, and bring it to me.”

He can feel the manufacture wondering if Kylo wants it to have all of its functions in addition to combat, but he decides not to ask. Instead he says, “What would you like it to look like?”

“I couldn’t care less.” His look makes it clear he intends to kill the thing, not fuck it, and the manufacturer’s knees buckle with fear at that misstep. “I won’t be able to tailor whomever attacks me to suit my preferences, so I don’t expect that to be true of the training droids. Get one that works, if it’s satisfactory, make a selection of them in a variety of shapes and sizes. At least some of them should be bigger and stronger than I am, but beyond that, I don’t care.” He pulls his shirt back on. Didn’t even break a sweat. Disappointing. 

“On it, my Lord.”

“Good.”

 

 


“Would you like company, my Lord?”

Kylo eyes the commander in front of him. TF-478. Major TF-478. He’s been part of the Officer corps for fifteen years and is, Kylo guesses, five years younger than he is. A Hux method graduate, but because of his IQ and facility with quantum problem solving, he was shunted to the ‘officer’ path early on.

They’d been talking about his navigator training program. Namely, they need more of them. Especially as he moves away from larger craft to smaller ones, he needs a navi team for each one and… And that takes time, and training, and effort, and even the best computer needs an equally good person at its helm to figure out where it needs to go.

Kylo’s given him the go ahead to increase the training program by a factor of three, or basically, everyone in their collection of sub-adults, new recruits, and officer corps who have the IQ and quantum processing test scores to do it, and everyone else he can beg, borrow, or bribe out of every other transit corporation or sky navy.

And he’d been hoping to go beat his punching bag and a few other of his training tools into a pulp because now he’s got to figure out how to pay for the equipment, teachers, and replacements for the people he’s shifting into those positions.

Right now a chance to really pound something or better yet, someone would help, a lot.

And when TF offers, for a second Kylo thrills at it.

And for a second, he goes cold, wondering what TF’s motivation is, but… he’s not feeling any malice here. There’s no alternative plans, no getting to know how he fights so he can use it later to his advantage. Actually… There’s almost a sense of a kindred spirit. Kylo’s got to shift funds around to cover this. TF’s got to find the equipment, teachers, and recruits to train, none of which are readily available.

Just because they’ve come to an agreement that something has to happen, doesn’t mean that getting that thing will be easy.

“I’m rated on every standard weapon the First Order uses, sir, and it’s been a few days since I’ve had a good fight.”

Kylo blinks. TF’s not very big. He’s… nose high on Kylo, slender, likely wiry under his uniform. Kylo’s going to flatten him in three hits. And if he’s not speed of light fast, those three hits will happen less than a minute into the fight.

“And I’ve always… kind of… wondered… how a lightsaber works.” There’s actually some excitement there.

Kylo’s not sure if he should welcome that or not. He finally says, “You’re not wearing armor.”

“Would I need to be?”

“I don’t play fight, Major, even when I’m training. If you aren’t blindingly fast and wearing armor, you’re going to lose limbs if you train against me while I’m using my saber.”

“Hand to hand?” He’s looking up at Kylo, excited he’s managed to get this far into the conversation. TF was sure he’d be turned down flat long before now.

“Do you enjoy pain?”

“I enjoy a good fight, and you look like you’d be one.”

Kylo thinks about it, feeling an itch to get to really, truly hit someone, and then nods. “I am.” He looks back at TF. “But not for you. You’re too valuable to risk damaging.” He thinks about it for a moment longer. “I should have some decent training droids eventually. When they finally get them right, you’re welcome to work on one of them near me.”

TF smiles. “I’ll enjoy that.”

 

 

 


A week later, the Manufacturer is back, with a second droid.

It may be an improvement. At least, it’s certainly closer to what Kylo asked for. It looks like a person. Somewhat.

It’s about the same size as Kylo, maybe a little bigger, intentionally gender neutral, with light brown skin, and light brown hair, and light brown eyes. Actually, aside from the coloring and lack of breasts, it puts him in mind of Phasma.

Except, it doesn’t.

Phasma was, no matter what, alive. Even if, coated in armor as she was, you couldn’t tell just by glancing at her.

And this thing… Kylo’s got no idea how desperate you’d need to be to have sex with one of them. The body is perfectly human-shaped, he assumes the skin probably feels perfect, though he’s reticent to touch it, because its eyes are dead, it’s room temperature, and there’s just no life there.

Though, he supposes that if you couldn’t feel the life in something just by feeling maybe they wouldn’t be so off-putting.

As it is, he’s finding looking directly at it disconcerting. He’d almost rather go back to fighting the armored droids and just deal with the bruises.

But he’s not about to allow that to show up on his face.

“More to your liking? These have been modified so that the outer flesh is as close to human as possible, and we’ve set the bone strength at human level, too. You’ll be able to hit this the same way you would a person, with similar results.”

Kylo puts his lightsaber down. This thing’s not wearing armor, and if he hits it with his saber, that’ll be the end of that.

He reaches for his training blade, calling it to his hand. The Manufacture goggles to see it fly through the room. It’s the same weight, and a similar balance to his lightsaber. It can’t be exactly right, after all, it has to have a blade so he can make sure he hits, while the blade of his light saber is light so it doesn’t weigh anything. Likewise, there are heated spikes on the side of this, sharp and hot enough to keep him aware of them, but not nearly as dangerous as the heat vents on his own blade.

“Same commands as before?” he asks.

“Just tell it to attack at will, and it’ll come at you when it sees an opening.”

Kylo crouches into his defensive stance, blade out, waiting. “E4 attack at will.”

This one is armed with a baton as well. Just a training fight.

Kylo keeps waiting, and for a long minute E4 appears to be watching him, judging what to do next, and then it springs. It’s still very fast, and its attack plans appear to be getting somewhat better. But it’s focused on the training blade, and in three quick moves Kylo’s got its baton from it, and has whacked it with his elbow hard enough to have snapped its neck.

“Somewhat stronger skeletal system on the next one,” Kylo suggests.

“And a more rigorous fight algorithm.”

Kylo nods, looking at the electronic corpse on the floor. Then he says, voice low. “Make sure the next one is right.”

The Manufacture blanches. And nods. And stammers, “Yes, sir.”

 


“Who’s next, C8?” Kylo asks, toweling off, fast, before pulling his shirt back on. He’s found that if he has an especially frustrating meeting, which his last one was, that taking five or ten minutes to go to his gym and just whale on something makes for much more productive meetings for the rest of the day.

He’s really hoping the next iteration of the training droids are up to his expectations, because at this point he’s killed his punching bag more times than he can count. He’s wary of fighting with anyone else on his staff, they’re either too useful to him to risk hurting them, or too dangerous to him to risk letting them get a good idea of how to plan an effective attack against him.

There are several reasons why he never trained with Hux. But that was the biggest of them. He never, ever wanted Hux to know any of his weaknesses. He’s sure that if Hux ever found one, the blade he wore on his arm would be through it before Kylo could stop him.

It occurs to him, that he’s hated, deeply and often, but Hux is likely the only man, only non-Force wielder he ever feared.

That’s the thing about rabid curs, only an insane man rests easy with one at his back.

The man entering his training room is about as not Hux as it’s possible to be, though they both have a similar build and coloring. Tall, slender, pale skin, though Frakes is blonde, but Hux, even Hux standing still, looked dangerous. Assuming he slept, Hux probably looked dangerous when he was asleep, though he never thought to ask Phasma if that was actually true.

Nothing about Major Frakes inspires fear or hate or for that matter, even an inkling of a dangerous mind. He wears his command grays easily, like they were made for him, but for all Kylo knows, they were. It’s possible that Frakes is part of the team who designed this uniform, made sure it looks the way it does.

And given how well it looks on him, Kylo’s thinking that’s likely. He pulls his tunic over his shirt, and begins to fasten the hooks and eyes. “Major.”

“My Lord.” He has a box in his hand, and a sketch pad on top of it. “If this is a bad time, we can reschedule.”

“No. It’s good. What do you have for me?”

Frakes puts the box down, moves the pad to the side, and opens it carefully. Kylo’s breath hitches a little as he lifts the first piece out and offers it to him.

Kylo takes it in hands that aren’t shaking, but feel like they might, if this were a different audience. It’s his mask. Perfect. Down to the damage on the face plates. It’s exactly the way it was before he shattered it. It feels the same in his hands and the tiny motion of his thumb to unlatch it makes for a familiar hiss.

Frakes is watching him, eyes bright, waiting to see what he does with it.

Kylo looks at it, strokes his hand over it, and then gently places it down. He’s not trying it on with an audience. That’s a moment for him, and his ghosts, alone.

“Thank you, it looks perfect.”

Apparently, Frakes can read his gesture well enough to not ask him to try it on and make sure it’s right. He pulls out a piece of black fabric, that, as he unfolds it, Kylo recognizes as a shirt. With his mark of office on it.

He takes that, too, fingers on the badge.

“The mark of the Supreme Leader,” Frakes says.

Kylo stares at it, and he feels another moment of how he’s about to change things, how he’s going to shift his world. “No, Major, no more Supreme Leaders.” His fingers graze over the badge. “This is the mark of a Master.” He can see, and feel, that Frakes is a little confused at that, but he doesn’t much care.

He’s not Snoke, and he doesn’t need to be Snoke, and… And he’s killing the past, not retooling it to make it fit him.

Though he supposes calling himself the Master of the Order, and suddenly he just knows that’s what he is, is retooling the past. After all, there was a full year in which he was Master Ben, and then one more as Master Kylo, but it’s an older past, it’s a past that was supposed to wear tan and brown robes and wield a blue lightsaber, and serve at the will of a Republic.

He’s undoing his tunic, letting it drop to the floor, pulling his shirt off, ready to try this on, to feel the shift that goes with it. And it’s good. It goes on smooth, readily slipping onto his skin, onto his self.

Master Ben Solo was supposed to serve.

Kylo Ren, Master of the Order, rules.

Master Solo took orders and shaped the universe to fit those orders. He was a tool of the will of… He doesn’t know. His mother and her cadre of politicians.

Master Ren will offer his people a voice, he’ll hear their call, and secure them the future they want.

Master Solo had no ego, no will, no skin in the game. He was a means to an end.

Master Ren will shape the game, make the rules, and then allow anyone who wishes to join him to play.

One whole wall of the gym is mirrors. Ostensibly to make sure that one keeps their form properly aligned, though Kylo usually ignores it. It’s been decades since he was at the stage when he still needed to look to see if his form was off. But he’s not ignoring them right now. He’s looking at himself, new mark on his sleeve, nodding slowly.

“This is excellent, Major Frakes.”

Frakes is beaming, genuinely pleased at this, excited, too. He nods to his pad. “Come, look. I’ve got ideas for your rally set.”

Kylo joins him, sitting next to him on the benches against the training room wall. “Usually, in this sort of thing, the man talking shares the stage with other important people, but… We’re not doing that. This is about you, and your place in the galaxy, and you’re not sharing it with anyone. We’re putting you on a raised stage, because I want everyone to be able to see you, though there’d be a certain poetry to just having you at floor level, and letting you just loom over everyone with your natural height… But, too many people for that. I want the back row to see you just as easily as the front.”

The sketch Kylo is looking at is him, at a podium, on a stage, huge banners with his symbol hanging down behind him, and on the podium, around him, stretching through the entire flight deck of the Supremacy is every man who can be spared from work. He knows their current complement is close to 850,000 men, and if he had to guess, Frakes intends to have half a million of them on the deck for this.

He flips to the next sketch. “Instead of putting the other high and mighty up with you, they’re going down here.” He’s got a place for ‘honored guests’ but it’s clear that they are not, literally, not, on his level. They’re at least two meters below his feet. “We’ll make them feel important by putting them up close, and assigning someone to make them feel taken care of, give them nice staterooms when they’re here, but we’re going to make it clear that they aren’t your equal.”

Kylo nods at that, liking it, and then another idea hits. “How many seats is this?”

“Two thousand, do you want more, sir?”

“Yes, make it five thousands. I want my five thousand longest serving members here. I want the silver marks of citizenship already on their arms.”

Frakes grins, understanding that. “I like that.” He takes his stylus, and then makes a box around the seats behind the front ranks. “High and mighty back here.”

“Certainly.”

“Two thousand of them?”

“Uh…” He doesn’t know if he even knows of two thousand high and mighties to invite to something like this. After Hux destroyed the Hosnian system, the galaxy has been a bit low on high and mighties, and lower yet on ones likely to trust an invitation from him. “I’ll have C8 give you a final count.”

“That will be fine.”

“What’s the timeframe on this?” Kylo asks.

“Ten weeks. We’re still scouring the galaxy for silver thread. You’d think it’d be easy to find, but we’re burning through thousands of kilometers of it getting things ready, but by the time we’re done, every mark will have been re-done. Caps, jackets, coats. We’ve got the stencils cut, and are waiting for a few days to do a massive, get all the ships changed over at once push.

“Set the date for this, not less than ten weeks from now, and I’ll make sure the entire First Order is rebranded in time for you to set foot on that stage.”

“Good. I’m also going to need pamphlets.”

That throws Frakes for a loop. “Uh… sir?”

“We were slaves to the First Order, but we’re going to be citizens of The Order, and I have a feeling I’m going to need to spell out what that means.”

“I imagine that would help.” It’s clear on his face that Frakes has never conceptualized the idea that they were slaves to the First Order, but thinking about it, and how they get their youngest members, he’s starting to think of it that way, and he’s not comfortable with that thought. “But… I’m not the one who does pamphlets. You have a publishing department and they’re the ones who handle all of the regs, keeping track of them, making sure everyone can find them, stuff like that.”

Kylo nods, making a mental note to ask C8 to set up that meeting, and then says to Frakes, “Major, your own mark, will it have a silver band?”

“Yes, sir. I’ve been with the F—Order, for ten years.”

“Good.” He taps the sketch. Front row, far right of the section right in front of the stage. “That one is yours.”

 

       


He shows Rey the shirt later that night.  “Kylo Ren, Master of the Order.”

She touches the mark on his shirt, and nods slowly, liking yet another sign of him killing The First Order.

He’s pacing around, ideas flowing fast and free. “We were slaves. Many literally stolen from their homes. Executed for disobeying orders or making mistakes. A successful graduate of the Hux method had his will literally beaten out of him. No more. We’re going to be volunteers, and citizens, and we’re going to make something great.

“My mother and her politicians and rebels, what did they want? A republic, that’s what they kept asking for. But who got to vote, and who got represented? Politicians and planets. Fuck that! People. Any person, any species, anywhere. Put your five years in, and get your voice.” He touches the wall behind him. “This was the best idea Snoke ever had.”

Her eyebrows scrunch together.

The Supremacy. He never bound himself to a planet. He didn’t care about ground. It was pretty much useless to him. I’m keeping that. We’re not going to send Stormtroopers all over the galaxy to conquer planets. We’re going to collect citizens from everywhere, and who cares where they are? Anywhere, anyone, they’ll have a voice with me.”

“And if they decide they want to speak to their local planet, maybe you’ll help them find their voice,” Rey adds.

Kylo smiles at that. “If enough of them want to, if they vote for it, yes. They’re going to come to me, Rey, I’m not going to take them, they’re going to give themselves to me, because I’ll give them something they can’t get otherwise!”

 

 


It’s two more weeks before the manufacturer is back. And by this point Kylo’s itching to fight something. He’s almost ready to take T8 on that offer, risk to his best navigator be damned.

This time the Manufacturer has three different droids with him. They’re all still more or less human looking but…

“We diversified. Part of the problem was we were trying to give you a droid that could do everything. And it could, just not to the level you needed. So, instead of that… E4 is a bladed combat specialist. E6 is for hand to hand. And E9 is for when you’re feeling up to a challenge.”

Kylo nods. It’s been much too long since he’s had a real fight. “E9 it is.”

E9 is another head taller than he is, and likely has thirty kilos on him. He’s wearing armor, and has a club and some sort of electro-bladed weapon, but he doesn’t know what sort yet.

“Metal skeleton?”

“Hybrid, three times as strong as human bone. You won’t hurt yourself too bad, but you won’t be able to break him too easily.”

“Good.”

Kylo strips out of his tunic and shirt again, keeping on his gloves. He ignites his saber.

“Attack at will E9.”

And before he’s even in his defensive crouch, E9 is on him. He’s honestly not sure what happened, other than it hurt significantly more than he was expecting, and it’s a good thing E9 never pulled his blade.

He calls time when he’s aching from head to toe, dripping with sweat, and already half covered in dark purple-black bruises from where the club’s crashed into his body.

He’s panting, dizzy from a few hits to his head, and thrilled. He hasn’t had a fight this good in more than a year, and for as much as it hurts, his body is zinging from the endorphins, and his mind is whirling with new attack plans.

“Make me a lot of them in all sizes! Armored and not.”

This time, The Manufacturer leaves with a smile on his face and a spring in his step, and an invitation to what isn’t being called a coronation, after all, republics don’t have kings, though they may have a Master.

 

 


“You’re hurt,” Rey says, voice quiet, looking at the bruises all over Kylo’s chest, shoulder, and arms. He’s usually in his office when she shifts through, but today she’s coming through to his bed, where he’s laying, very still, covered in about a dozen ice packs.

He shrugs, slowly, gently. During the fight is excellent. Right after the fight, he felt amazing. Right now, he’d consider death to be a blessing. “The training droids finally showed up. It took them a while to get all the kinks really worked out.” He looks at the purple black lines crisscrossing his arms. “These ones…”

“Unkinked?” She sits gently next to him, not wanting to jostle, or touch him too much.

“Unkinked. I haven’t been this sore in…” He doesn’t have to finish that. She was at the last fight where anyone managed to actually hit him. “They fight like humans. Good humans. And they don’t have brains, so I can’t feel what they’re going to do next, so… It was a learning experience.”

“Good one?” She keeps looking him up and down thinking that maybe he didn’t need quite that many lessons at one time.

“I think so.” He rolls his eyes a little, shifts, grunts with pain. The medical droid mended the broken bones, but they still ache and will for a few days, and the bacta gel took care of the cuts, but his bruises just heal on their own. He could have pain medication. It’s available, but he refuses to take it. At best it makes him feel loopy, at worst it’ll open him up to visions he’s not interested in having. “I might not actually be a good fighter, just good at feeling what’s coming my way. Take that away, and I don’t know how to read the fight. I could only block one out of three hits.”

He can feel she wants to kiss him, but she’s not sure if she can touch him without hurting him. His tongue darts out to his bottom lip, feeling the sore, swollen part where it split when E9 hit him in the face. “Tomorrow or the day after.”

She nods and carefully lays her fingers on an inch of unbruised skin on his shoulder. He feels her mustering her own Force skills, and though she’s never intentionally tried to heal anyone before, her touch is a balm. He’s not suddenly healed, but he’s better for it. The full body toothache sensation recedes, and though his eyes are closed, he guesses that the bruises are a little less black and blue.

“By the time I kill these, I will be a good fighter. Force or no.”

Rey supposes that’s a good thing. “You want to spar with me?” It’s been a long time since she’s done anything with her lightstaff more complicated than mow grass, and cut prefab plates that don’t quite fit each other.

“Maybe when I heal up. Your lake is cold, and right now, a soak in hot water will just make everything worse. Go for a cold soak with me?”

“I’ll sit on the bank and keep you company.”

She takes him through to Lirium, and does sit on the bank while he dips himself in the lake, shrieking when it hits his skin, and then settling into the cold, feeling it numb everything down.

 

 


There are whispers about the disk.

The several people who have seen him train more than once have noticed that The Supreme Leader appears to be wearing a child’s toy, on a leather thong, around his neck.

The Manufacturer for example. His children enjoy that game, and he’ll admit there’s something very soothing about watching the little disk spinning around in the junjan bowl.

He has no idea of the significance of it, and isn’t about to ask, but he does mention it to several of the other owners of Epherium Inc. who are intrigued by the idea of it, but also aren’t about to ask.

After all, it doesn’t do to ask a man, The Supreme Leader, who just thrashed two or three training droids with his laser sword, why he chooses to, sometimes, wear a toy on a string.

 

Chapter Text

12/17/35

 

The Falcon landing on her plain is getting to be a familiar sight. Rey puts down her wrench, and smiles at it. She could probably finish this if she worked straight through, but…

Visitors are more fun than plumbing.

And she’s got a feeling, quickly confirmed when the Falcon’s ramp drops and three familiar faces meet her gaze, that she’s going to especially enjoy this visit.

She runs up to meet them, and greets Chewie with a hug, and Finn with an even bigger, more enthusiastic one, it’s been too long since she saw him last, and then hugs Rose, gently, just because she doesn’t officially know doesn’t mean she doesn’t know. She certainly can’t see any sign of Baby Tico under Rose’s coveralls, but she can feel the glow of another life along for the ride.

“Where did you find them?” she asks Chewie. She leads them toward her settlement. Her own cottage is still in process, but she’s got three of the basic ones set up and ready to go. “Are you staying?”

Found ‘em round Tyccho IV. Chewie looks at them. Are you staying?

Finn’s got his arm around Rose’s shoulders, and they’re both looking around. “This is starting to look a little bit like a town.”

Rey laughs at that. “It looks a bit like a… prefab cottage showroom maybe.”

Rose sniggers at that. “It looks like a new settlement. Which is what it is, so that makes sense. And staying… I think that depends on if you’ve got a place for us—“

Rey points to the cottages. “Pick one. Pick two.” She points to the unopened boxes. Chewie brought her eight of them, and five are currently in production or put together. “I’m working on getting two of them cobbled together for me.” She points to her “cottage.” The outside is done, and watertight, but the inside is still rough, missing most of the internal walls, and unfurnished. “We can do it for you, too.”

“And… if Chewie was serious about that job offer back when we first met up,” Finn finishes, looking up at Chewie.

Chewie nods. An extra set of hands, or better yet, two, especially since one of those sets is a good mechanic would be more than useful. Chewie’s a good mechanic, but he’s also a Wookie, and some things are just easier for those little, tiny human hands to do.

“We’ve got stuff to talk about, don’t we?” Rey says. “Come on, I’ve got… Well, not much, but you’re welcome to share it,” and she leads them to the cottage she’s been storing her stuff in, and hopes they don’t notice that there’s no bed in there.

“I can make tea, and I’ve got some… well…” protein bars from the Supremacy that she can’t dare to offer them. “fish. I have to go catch the fish first, but…”

“Tea’s great,” Rose says. 

Rey turns to the cooker, and ladles water from her cistern into her pot. “I’m working on the plumbing. I’ve got the sink in my main cottage up, but the rest of this is just sort of haphazard. So… how’d you get here? Last I heard, you were teaching what was left of the PsyOps department how to infiltrate the First Order and you were just slightly tweaking design specs.”

“And we were,” Rose says, a smile forming on her lips, and Finn is grinning, wide and steady. “But… things changed or… well… I guess you can say I noticed a change and… We don’t want to be apart anymore so…”

“We’re having a BABY, Rey!” Finn almost shouts, so excited and happy and just bubbling over with it. He jumps up and spins his friend around. “I’ve been DYING to tell EVERYONE that!” He kisses his wife. “We’re having a BABY!”

Chewie roars his congratulations as Finn hugs him, too.

Rey feels herself grinning and laughing with them.

“And we don’t want to be light years apart, and Leia’s fine with us going underground for a while, so…” Rose continues.

Finn looks to Chewie, “Do you still need someone to help out and watch your back?”

Chewie’s affirmative yowl echoes through the tiny room.

“Good, because we need a job with each other.”

“And a place to land when the baby comes, right?” Rey says.

“That’s the hope,” Rose replies. “I mean… We’re not… Intruding, right? This isn’t just a spot for Jedi, right?”

Rey shakes her head. “I don’t know a lot about what this is going to be, not yet, but I do know this won’t be a place for Jedi, period. W—I’m changing things. It’s… about balance, and the Jedi don’t balance. Not the way we need to be. So… Anyway, yes. Please, come. It’d be nice to have neighbors.”

 

 


After tea, and catching the fish, (which Chewie takes over on the preparation of. He’s a much better camping chef than the other three of them, and it’s possible he knows that Rey doesn’t really look like she knows what she’s doing when it comes to cooking the fish. Not the way she should if it were a main part of her diet.) they start unloading the new goodies Chewie’s brought for her.

Mostly furniture for her cottage. A bed and table and chairs. A cooker and cooler. Bedding and sheets and towels and all the things that Rey didn’t really think about, but would certainly miss if they weren’t there. Stupid little bits, like spoons and cups.

She’s unpacking them and putting them in the cottage with a sense of wonder, really.

Her downed AT-AT had things she could grab and scavenge and repurpose, and she made do with what she had or could find, but this is… different. It feels like a treasure hunt, opening each box and finding places for things and…

“You look like it’s HihLo Feast, and your birthday, and the New Year all at once,” Rose says to her as Finn’s inflating her mattress, and she’s unpacking her sheets.

Rey doesn’t exactly know what that means. And it looks like Finn doesn’t really, either.

Rose has a smile, but it’s a little sad, as she looks at the windows, and says, “Curtains. It’ll be too bright otherwise.” She takes one of the sheets, and starts cutting, and then says, “Holidays. HihLo… That was the day we’d honor our dead. Get together, tell stories of the people we loved, and have a big party. Before the First Order came… feast days were easier then. We were still poor but not barely scraping by. The hunters could take a day or two off from the mines and go find young, plum frathens, and we’d build pits and fill them with wood, burn it down to embers, and then put the frathens on spikes and turn them over the coals for hours. They’d be crispy and brown and succulent, smokey and delicious. We’d put uccas and omlents into the coals, let them roast slow. My grandmother would spend all day, for three days, cooking, and my mom and sister and I would help. And when it was ready… Everyone in our town would gather for the party. New Year’s… We’d give each other little presents.” She nods to Rey sitting in front of a box, pulling out towels and pillow cases, appreciating each one as she unwraps it. “That’s probably what got me thinking of this. And New Year’s was in the cold part of the year, so everyone would stay close to the hearth. There’d be a huge cauldron of soup going on the cooker, so thick with grains and meat it was practically a porridge and…” Rose’s voice cracks. “Oh…” She blinks, hard, sniffing, putting the scissors and sheet down, sitting on Rey’s mattress, and wipes her eyes. “Sorry, everything gets to me now.”

Finn sits next to her rubbing her back gently. He and Rey share a look, neither of them grew up in a world with holidays.

“We could do that, here,” Rey says. “Something to honor the people we’ve lost but not forgotten.”

Rose sniffs again. “It was always a party. A celebration. The first HihLo to pass after you’d lost someone could be sad, but all the ones after that were meant to be fun.”

“When was it?” Finn asks, and Rey can feel him understanding that Rose didn’t get a HihLo for her sister, and that he’s damn well going to do everything in his power to fix that. 

“The shortest day of the year. We’d start the celebration when the sun went down and party until it came up again.”

“It’ll take a while to figure out when that is here, but we could do that,” Rey says.

“We will do that,” Finn adds.

What are you four conspiring about? Chewie asks, bringing another box in.

“I think little one is a tad young to be conspiring,” Finn says, huge grin on his face at the fact that Chewie counted their child as one of them here, now.

“Holidays. Did you have any special celebrations on Kashyyyk?” Rose asks.

He sets the box down, and decides to “test out” the chair Rey’s tucked into what will be the corner of her main room, once she gets the wall to divide it from her bedroom up. It’s wider than any chair she’s ever seen before, but not quite a sofa. It holds Chewie just fine, so it should have no problem with her and Kylo.  A few. Most of them won’t work here. Can’t celebrate your home tree in a place with no trees. He smiles at Rose and Finn. Got one you might like. Might come in handy in eight or nine months. When our children were born we’d have a naming ceremony for them. Sort of a ‘welcome to life’ party. The child’s parents were assumed to be tired and busy, so the rest of the town would put together a party for them, usually about a month or two after the child was born. And that’s when they’d show the child off to everyone and tell everyone outside of their immediate family its name.

“Good food and drink and music?” Finn asks.

Absolutely. Presents, too. Nappies and bum salve at the bare minimum, and usually promises of lessons in whatever that person specialized in. Apprenticeship offers. Make sure the newest member of your forest had options for life outside of the nursery.

“We are definitely doing that!” Rey says. 

 

 


A bit later, when it’s just Rey and Chewie, she quietly says to him, “Next time you come, can you bring me more packaged food?”

Chewie glances at her, and she’s suddenly very aware of the fact that she’s gained a little weight. Not much, she stops eating when she’s full, but some of the hollow and sharp edges from years of just, barely, not quite enough, are fading away.

I know he’s not letting you go hungry.

“No! Of course not. But… I can’t exactly offer you guys protein bars stamped with the First Order logo, can I?”

Protein bars? There’s withering derision in Chewie’s expression. Tell me he’s doing better by you than that. If he’s not, I’m going to shoot him in the other side.

Rey laughs at that. She knows enough about Wookie culture to know that not feeding your mate is a gross dereliction of husbandly duties, and if said husband doesn’t provide, his wife has the right to not just divorce him, but to shave his head, too. She’s never much contemplated what a bald Wookie looks like, but Chewie was so appalled at the idea that it’s got to be horrible. (She also hasn’t much contemplated if this means Chewie’s divorced. As best she knows, he hasn’t seen his wife in decades.)

“That’s just what I have here. Breakfast and dinner is on his ship, and yes, it’s real food.”

Chewie nods, slowly. Apparently, satisfied that Kylo’s doing at least the bare minimum job he’s supposed to do. Good. What do you want?

“I don’t know. What’s… appropriate to feed people who just happen to stop by?”

I’ll get more of what I keep in the Falcon for you.

“Thanks.”

 


By the time they’ve got everything into her cottage, and put together, it’s getting late, and it’s hot.

And the lake is cold.

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m getting a swim!” Finn says.

“It’s going to be cold!” Rey calls out.

“That’s the point!” he says back, stripping out of his shirt and trousers.

“Really cold!” Rey adds, smirking, enjoying how she knows this is going to go.

“How cold?” Rose asks.

Chewie starts to laugh.

“I’d take my boots off and—“ And that gets cut off as a naked Finn goes streaking across the stone beach, diving into the water, and screams as soon as he hits it.

“Oh FUCK it’s COLD!” he yells, more or less bouncing out of the water a bare second after he hits it.

“-put a toe in,” Rey finishes. Both she and Rose start to laugh as Finn comes tearing back out of the water to rub himself down as fast as he can. Chewie’s all but rolling around in the grass, he’s laughing so hard at this.

“Oh… it’s liquid ice.” He’s shivering. “How can water be that cold on a day this hot?”

Rey shrugs. “All I know is I don’t swim in it.”

Finn turns his back on them as he pulls his shorts on, and Rey sees the scar down his back, long, jagged. Faded to a dull pink, but not the white of an old scar, not yet. Though, it occurs to her that she’s never seen an old scar on a dark-skinned person before, and she doesn’t know if it’ll go white or brown or… whatever.

Unlike the scars she left on Kylo with her lightsaber, Finn’s scar isn’t a thin line. She wonders if that’s because of his jagged blade, or the different medical services available.

Or… the scar bisects is spine. Or it’s likely they had significantly more important parts of Finn to fix than his skin, so his skin got a lot less attention than his spine.

She reaches a hand toward his back, and then says, “Can I try something?”

He looks over his shoulder, and Rose who’s been watching the way Rey’s looking at Finn says, “What sort of something.”

“Healing is supposed to be a Force skill. I probably can’t make it go away, but… maybe I can make it better?”

“How does it work?” Finn asks.

“Uh…” Rey rubs her lips together. “I can… feel… your energy. Everyone sort of flows, and in places that aren’t healed right, the flow gets sluggish or tangled and… maybe I can untangle it some?”

“You don’t sound very certain,” Rose says.

“I’ve… only read about it,” Rey can see the level of interest Chewie’s got in this, likely thinking of another scarred man he knows who has access to Rey. “And… I think it only works if the person you’re working on wants it to. But… maybe… I mean, if you don’t want to, I completely understand. I wouldn’t be volunteering to hand my body over to someone who’s never actually done anything like this before, so…”

“Sure. Just, stop if I say stop, okay?” Finn replies.

“Okay.” She sits down and pats the grass in front of her, and Finn sits in front of her, back to her.

She trails a finger down the scar. “That doesn’t hurt, does it?”

“No. I’ve got no feeling there, at all. The scar, and a lot of what’s under it, is numb. And when it’s not numb, it’s itchy, but the kind you can’t scratch. Deep inside itchy.”

Rose has come to sit next to Rey, watching this with interest.

Rey lays her palm in the center of Finn’s back, and just feels it. Then she puts Rose’s hand on top of hers, and Rose gasps a little at it.

“Oh… That’s…” A wide grins spreads across her face. She’s hooking into what Rey’s feeling, going along through the flows and whorls and… “That’s amazing. It’s all blue and glow-y and…” She kisses Finn’s shoulder. “So pretty, love, so pretty.”

Rey keeps feeling, and finds the slow, dark, thick and sluggish spots.

“It’s like an electric current trying to get through a bad conductor. Like it’s been zipping through hasmian smelt and suddenly finds itself in a cheap copper compound. It’s all diffuse.”

Rey has no idea if that’s right or not, but she doesn’t see any reason to argue with it. She’s also not entirely sure what to do with it. It’s not tangled, just slow.

“If you were a ship, or a machine, I’d know how to fix this just by holding it. I can feel the problem, but… I don’t know what to do with it.” She lifts her hand off of Finn’s back. He turns to look at her. “Everything is going where it’s supposed to go, it’s just slow. If it were knotted up or tangled… I’d be able to get it moving right.”

“I guess it was worth a try,” Finn says, reaching for his shirt, and then shaking his head. It really is too damn hot for it, and no one here cares if he’s naked or not.

Looks like it was patched up right. You can’t fix it because there’s nothing to fix, Chewie adds. It just needs time.  

 


They’re eating yet another meal of tea, and fish, seasoned and perked up with some freeze dried supplies that Chewie had in the Falcon. The blue sun has set, the green one is hovering over the horizon, and they’ll break up for the night soon, but right now, sitting on the grass near the lake, a small fire keeping the bugs away, it’s really pleasant.

Rey wishes that Kylo could be here for this. Actually, she doesn’t. Because she knows how that would work. Chewie’s made it clear he won’t hurt Kylo, but he also won’t voluntarily be anywhere near him, so he’d stalk off to the Falcon. Finn would have his blaster in hand and firing before he could think. Rose would be up, back to back with him, fighting, too. Kylo would stop the bolts and have his saber out and… These days she’s sure Kylo wouldn’t start a fight with her friends, but she’s not at all certain he wouldn’t end one.

So, she doesn’t wish Kylo were here. That’s a disaster.

She wishes for a time when he could be here, peacefully.

And her heart aches at that, because she doesn’t feel it coming anytime soon. He can talk about killing the past all he likes. He can change the present. But that doesn’t mean everyone else’s past is going anywhere anytime soon.

And thinking of that makes something else come to mind… She should, probably, because she’s technically part of it, ask how the Resistance is resisting, or something like that.

She and Chewie don’t talk about it. He knows who she sleeps with and understands that she’s significantly happier not knowing because she doesn’t feel like she has to tell anyone anything about what’s going on. But…

“How’s Poe doing?” that seems like a safe way to nudge the topic.

Finn rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “Bored. So bored. He’s technically Admiral Poe now, but he thinks that’s worthless. ‘Can’t be an Admiral without a fleet.’”

“He’s not wrong,” Rose replies. “And there’s no fleet. They’re up to…”

“Four ships. Three fighters. One cruiser. He tells me he’s on the verge of sweet talking a baronet in Canto Bight out of enough credits to buy another fighter.”

“Didn’t Leia get a pile of money out of the Ygrines?” Rey was there for that, so…

“Yes, but…” Rose says.

Chewie adds the rest. When your force is small, you only buy the things you need. She doesn’t know what the next attack is, so she’s not buying anything until she knows what she needs for it. Mostly she’s paying off her debts, making sure that when the time comes, people will be willing to loan her money again.

Finn nods. “PsyOps is talking about putting people into the First Order. He’s—“ She hears it, knowing that Kylo and the First Order are synonyms in Finn’s mind. “got those recruiting stations, so fake a few slaves, send them in, and then sabotage from there. That just needs people, not ships.”

“You don’t like that plan,” Rey can feel how disgusted the idea makes him.

“I don’t. Unless he’s completely revamped the training process that’s just…” he shakes his head. “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t make Ren go through First Order training. I wouldn’t make Phasma go through First Order training. There’s no one in the universe I hate that much.”

“The PsyOps guys are fairly sure that Finn’s a one of a kind.” Rose says. Proud of her man, dismaying of this plan. “Most people aren’t that stubborn, and unless they can find the right people, and even with them, putting them through First Order training is likely to just make more First Order soldiers.”

“Leia likes your plans,” Finn says to Rose. “She’s been moving through the First Order suppliers, just, slightly tweaking the alloy mixes of a few of the components.”

Rose grins. “Those Citykillers he’s building.” She laughs. “They’ll make big explosions all right, just not where he wants them. It’s amazing, just up the amount of carbon in a mix by a few milligrams per kilo and suddenly… boom! Too much heat and the metal shatters. I break in, find the specs, and then just barely change the numbers. Usually just find the lowest 3 on a decimal and shift it to a 6. That way if someone is really checking the numbers they’ll think it’s a typo. But once someone fires one of those puppies…” She smiles, imaging the destruction that will happen when the superheated laser of a Citykiller come in contact with the wrong alloy.

Rey grins, too, but it’s only on her face. She’s feeling a gnawing sensation inside, not sure what to do with this. “How’s Leia?” she asks, trying to get away from sabotaged Citykillers.  

Rose and Finn both start off on how amazing Leia is, and how she’s keeping everything together, and how she’s working hard and planning away and—

Tired. Chewie cuts them off. He looks at the other two who are, honestly, more than a bit star struck by Leia. She’s tired. Too much job, not enough money or people, no idea what to do next, and Ren’s not making it easy for her because he’s not attacking anything so her he nods to Rose sabotages aren’t doing anything.

Both Finn and Rose look horrified at that. “She’s doing the best she possibly can!” Rose says, indignant.

Yes, she is. It’s not enough.

“Chewie!” Finn is horrified.

Chewie smirks at him. She’s Han’s mate, so I’ll help out and fly her around to the end of time if necessary, but that doesn’t mean I’ve got to pretend she’s on the verge of winning anything or that the Resistance is in any sort of decent shape. I am not required to lie about the nature of reality for her. That was never part of the deal.

He looks to Rey, and she understands what he’s saying to her.

Ren’s doing okay.

Finn’s so horrified by that he can’t speak.

He’s not worth resisting right now, and I think that’s a lot of why she doesn’t know what to do. It’d be easy if she could sweep in and sabotage an attack on a civilian population, or shut down a raid to steal children for the First Order, or destroy a weapon’s test before he fired it, but… He’s not doing anything like that, so she doesn’t have anything to do to him.

Rey doesn’t know if Chewie can feel her thoughts. But she tries message received. As long as Kylo plays by ‘the rules’ he’s not going to have any active trouble from the Resistance. At least, not trouble from his mother, not when she’s got barely two ships to rub together.

 

 


“Chewie again?” Kylo asks when she shifts through to his rooms, quite a bit later than usual.

She nods, watching him. He’s already in is bed, reading. His tunic’s hung up, but he’s still in his black shirt and trousers. Bare feet, though. And he hasn’t pulled his hair out of the knot he’s been wearing it in recently. She knows her balance spiral is around his throat today, though tucked under his shirt, she can only catch a bit of reflection on it when he shifts in the light.

“Trouble?” he can feel her thinking, hating what she knows, and that she’s got to do something with it.

She slowly closes her eyes, and then opens them, looking at him, taking the leap of faith. She already trusts him with her life, now she’s trusting him with everyone else’s. Trusting that if he’s going to use his weapons it’ll be for a good reason. He can feel her do it, and for a moment looks really pleased, if a little concerned, and then she says, “Your next spot check. I don’t know where exactly the problem is, but… The alloys on your Citykillers are off. They won’t fire properly now, and… You can’t make a big deal about knowing they don’t fire properly. Fix it, but silently.”

He realizes what she’s telling him, and how she must know, and nods, slowly. “I can do that.”

“Thank you.”

“I take it you didn’t just have Chewie visit, then?”

She sits on the side of the bed. “Rose and Finn, too, with good news,” she thinks about it, trying to remember if she already told him this as she takes off her boots before kneeling a little in front of him. She’s known since the wedding, but… “I haven’t told you she’s pregnant, yet, have I?”

“No, and yet?” he puts his datapad down, wrapping an arm around her, kissing her forehead.

“I could feel it at their wedding. Tiny little life glowing away.” She smiles at that. “They’re ecstatic.”

She watches Kylo feeling that, not entirely sure what’s going through his head, which is odd, because she usually has a very good read on him, and then comes to the conclusion that he likely also doesn’t know what’s going through his head right now.

Eventually he comes up with, “Congratulations?”

Rey laughs a little, snuggling up close to him. “I’m going to be Aunt Rey.”

“When?”

She thinks about it. “Seven or so months, I think.”

“Are they… staying?”

“Eventually. They’re flying with Chewie now, and… Oh.”

He nods slowly. Part of why he didn’t know what was going on in his mind is rapidly clearing for him. If she’s suddenly got Finn and Rose living next door, will he still be able to visit? Will it still be a space for them? He’s been aware of the idea that new students would be moving in, but both of them had been thinking of children who… actually… well…

Fuck. I’m the most recognizable man in the galaxy.

“You’re thinking loudly,” she says, voice gentle, hoping maybe he’d talk about what he’s thinking.

“I remember you saying that you were fairly sure Chewie wouldn’t kill me on sight.”

“He won’t.” She shakes her head a little. “He thinks you’re my Han, which is… I don’t know, probably more than I needed to know about how he feels about your Dad, but…”

Kylo thinks about that for a good ten seconds before deciding that he is neither physically or mentally capable of even attempting to untangle the emotional complexities of that sentence, and goes back to Finn and Rose, who he thinks he can parse.

“I don’t remember you ever getting close to suggesting that Finn or Rose would have any reservations about that.”

She inclines her head a little, not exactly wanting to say that he’s dead right about that, but not going to lie, either. “They might decide that trying to capture you is a better plan. Hand you over to-“

“My mother.” He nods. His voice is achingly dry as he says, “My opinion of being drugged into a truth spewing mass, tortured, and then executed for war crimes hasn’t improved since we last talked about this.”

She strokes his hand. “That’s not happening.” She’s thinking that right now Leia’s keeping things at detente, but… if she had Kylo… Even if she wanted to…

But Kylo’s moving on from there, not following her thoughts because he’s deep in his. “Only because I can literally teleport my body away from a fight with them. And you can, too.”

“Me?” She’s not understanding why she’d need to port away.

“You think they wouldn’t try a move against you if they thought it would bring me out of hiding?”

“Finn and Rose? Kylo,” she shakes her head, “just… No. That’s not how the game is played. Not on this side.”

He rolls his eyes, expression sharp. “Spoken like someone who’s never actually seen them play the game. A hopeless, dangerous, near-impossible, suicide mission in which an inordinately stupid number of the Rebellion and then Resistance troops get killed to take out one big target is the only play in their book. That’s how they took down both Death Stars, and Starkiller, and the Fulminatrix, and got the plans for both Death Stars, and… I spent most of my childhood hearing stories about how my parents and their friends died or almost died in daring attacks against some big target. Rey, I’m the biggest target left in the game, and yes, they prefer volunteers for the hopeless, dangerous, near-impossible, suicide mission, but to take someone like me out they may decide to not be too picky about volunteers.” Left unspoken is how if they go against her, he’s going to personally kill every single member of the Resistance, making sure that an attempt on her is the biggest, stupidest, highest costing mistake they ever make. She can feel his dark flaring, both in protection of her, and wanting that sort of fight. Him against everything else in the service of protecting her. His skin, his Force, his mind are all singing at the idea of it.

Rey licks her lips, and makes the gamble. She’s betting on Kylo to be good, now she’s laying those same odds on her friends. It’s based on nothing but feelings, hope, and the memory of a few moments on a beach when two people she adored knelt in front of each other and promised to build a life, together, for the rest of their days.

She takes his hand in hers, laying her light against his dark. I’m here. I’m safe. His fight doesn’t exactly retreat at that, but it does calm, some.

“I didn’t see it. I was in the Falcon, with Chewie drawing your fighters away. And I don’t know if you saw it, because you were focused on running the attack, but… When you brought the battering ram canon in on Crait, Poe, and Finn, and Rose, and a half dozen other members of the Resistance, anyone who had any chance of keeping one of the little fliers they had going in a fairly straight line, all lined up to go on a big, stupid, let’s get us all killed on the off chance one of us can take out the big target run against the battering ram canon.”

“Your men shot down most of them, and Poe, having finally learned that the big, stupid, let’s all get killed to take down a massive target style of attack likely wasn’t a good plan, called off the attack. Do you remember that?”

He blinks, thinking back, but… “Not really. I’d given the order to get the little fighters out of the way, and was paying attention to the Falcon. I could feel you up there, and half of me wanted to see everything burn, all of it, all of us, all at once, let it all die in fire, and half was begging you to fly fast and hard and get away.”

“Did you hate me then?”

Very much.”

She nods. She felt it then, too. “It was killing me when you didn’t stop the attack. You killed Snoke, and I just…” She swallows at the memory of her hope freezing, withering, cracking, breaking with her heart. “And then it all fell apart.”

“Because you wanted Ben.” There’s a lot of heat in that word, a lot of disgust, and shame, and a history of not ever being what people wanted him to be, of never being good enough as he was, as Kylo. “Wanted a wayward Jedi you could take home to Luke. Wanted him to suddenly just pop up and end the attack and…” The aching disappointment, both of theirs is still raw, and that’s not a moment either of them want to spend to long thinking about. Kylo takes them away from that moment. “Anyway… you were saying…”

“Finn was the lead fighter. He was the one with the good straight shot, right at the battering ram canon, and he had it. Fly right into the beam, ram the ram, and blow it up.” She smacks her fist into her palm. “And he was going to do it, resigned, ready, and then Rose crossed the beam and knocked him out of the way, crashed both of them.”

Kylo blinks. He snorts a quick laugh. “That’s the most sensible thing I think I’ve ever heard of a member of the Resistance doing. Flying into the ram would have burnt Finn to ash long before he could have hit the condensing crystal.”

Rey smiles a little at that. “She told him that they weren’t going to win by killing the things they hate, but by saving the things they loved.” She strokes his hand again. “We’re building. Homes, and lives, and loves. And we’re going to win, all of it, the future, our families, your Order, all of it, we’re getting it by dedicating ourselves to cherishing and enriching what we love.”

He lays his hand on her thigh, and kisses the top of her head, then pulls back to look her in the eye. “And would you have me there, in the open, your lover, for all to see?”

She winces, hating what she’s going to say, but saying it anyway, because she knows her balance is tenuous, and Kylo Ren, Supreme Leader of the First Order will tip it out of alignment. “Not yet. Three years. Let them see that you’re not—“

“Me?” his voice is sharp, and she’s not sure how much of the cut is directed at her or at himself.

“Snoke. Let me have enough time, so when I say, ‘he’s not The First Order’ they’ll believe it.”

“They’ll never believe it. Some things cannot be forgiven.”

She strokes his face. “Am I sitting here next to you?”

He rests his forehead against hers, eyes closing, like he can’t stand to look at her right now. She can feel his anger, both at him, for being Kylo Ren, and at her and her friends. She touches it with her calm, flooding him with how much she wants and values him, and for a moment they both breathe. And in another moment, she feels him relax and believe her feelings. This is a pause, not a rejection.

 

 

She gently squeezes the back of his neck, and says, “We ripped each other’s hearts out and we’re here now. Give me time, Kylo. Time to let anger cool and memories fade. And yes, there will be a day when I kiss you in front of everyone in the galaxy who ever mattered to me. There will be a day when you are in my home, in my town, in my life and everyone will know.” She rests her hand on his chest. “And there will be a day when it will be our home, our town, and our life.”

He inhales, hard, shaky, eyes hot and intense on her, and then nods, slowly, before saying, voice tight, “Three years.”

“Three years.”

 

Chapter Text

 

1/1/36 ABY: Lirium

 

Rey’s hideout among the plains is starting to look vaguely settlement… ish.

The fact that it’s only her is part of why it looks not quite right. It would take the casual observer more than a few minutes to figure out what’s wrong. The collection of tidy cottages, a small, straight dirt road, and further back, on a small rise in the ground, a clear dome near the lake, all of that looks fine.

It’s just the complete lack of people that makes it look wrong.

Rey’s north of her town, on the plain, moving rocks. The Falcon has landed several times, and each time they’ve run into the same problem, a problem that Rose, now that she’s on the Falcon, has gotten serious about. Namely, if they want to keep the Falcon in good shape they can’t keep landing it on uneven, boulder-strewn, fields.

Every time they lift off, she’s got a new chunk of landing gear to fix.

And these days, where she falls asleep if she’s standing still for too long, and irritable from the pregnancy sickness, she’s not fixing anything she doesn’t have to. Which both Finn and Chewie think is a perfectly acceptable response to being ten weeks pregnant.

Which means Rey is north of town, levitating rocks away from a field, and then moving them to the perimeter of the field so that the clear zone is easily visible.

Kylo finds her out there, a little earlier than normal. She raises an eyebrow at him, seeing that he’s got not just food (which he often brings) but a bottle of something, too.

He looks around. “You want help finishing this, or shall we eat while it’s hot?”

“There’s only a few minutes of good light left. Let’s get this done.”

He nods, and begins to move rocks as well.

“You know, if you had told me this time last year that 90% of starting up a settlement was moving rocks, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Rey says.

He’s raising one of the further back ones, and carefully dumps it several meters away, on the line. “If you’d asked me this time last year, what was involved in starting up a settlement, I wouldn’t have had an answer for you.”

They’re both learning that making a place for people to live, even sincerely uncomplicated people with fairly simple needs, is involved. Unfortunately, it mostly involves making rough things smooth, bumpy things flat, and rocky things somewhere else.

They don’t talk much after that. It’s easier to do, even for them, if they don’t split their concentration. But after a few moments, the green sun does sink, and they find themselves in twilight.

It’s been a week or so since he’s come to her here. “Is it getting dark earlier?”

“A little. I think this might be turning to autumn.” They both know that there shouldn’t be too much variation between night and day here, no matter season it is.

“Do you think it’ll get cold?”

She shrugs. “Rainy maybe. It shouldn’t be too different than summer.” He takes her hand in his, and they walk through ‘her town’ to her cottage.

Part of him not having been here recently is that she only finished it yesterday. Part of it is Chewie, Finn, and Rose left yesterday.

That said, she’s eager to show him her first ever, real, home.

And Kylo’s got food, so… her first real meal in her first real home.

She presses her palm to the sensor, opens the door, and shows it off with real pride. “What do you think?”

He’s looking around, then steps in, and can feel the pleasure bubbling off of her, so he’s pleased, for her.

“Look around!” she says.

There are three rooms. He’s walked into the one that’s half of the house. There’s a workbench against the one side. It’s covered in tools and the bits and pieces she’s working on. On the other, there’s a cooker and a cooler and a sink. She’s put up shelves, and there aren’t a lot of supplies on them, but for someone who got paid by the meal for most of her life, having a week or so of food stored up feels like unimaginable wealth.

She goes to the sink and turns it on. Water come sputtering out. “I’m still getting the plumbing set, but… Look! Water!” He knows she’s been fighting with that, the pump from the lake is stubborn, and tetchy, and older than she is, so it’s not in the greatest shape. He pulls her into a close hug and kisses the top of her head and tries his best to feel really pleased and enthusiastic about this.

There’s a table and benches, a big soft chair in the corner, the sort of thing that’s big enough for her to sit across, or for both of them to sit side by side, and a rug on the floor, and she’s made a wreath out of the grass and put it on the door.

He pokes his head into the next room and finds a snug bedroom. The bed takes up most of it, and he smiles at that. He’d been hoping she’d get something big enough for both of them. And dreading that Chewie might bring her a tiny cot, with barely enough room for her. The blankets look soft and nubby. He smiles a little, the top one is tan, but the sheets under it are green. The room is filled with browns and tans and some gray-green from another of those grass wreathes. There are a few pillows, and they seem poofy enough.

“Is it comfortable?” he asks, sitting down on it, bouncing a little.

“I think so. Haven’t slept in it, yet,” but he knows that. She hops into his lap, grinning at him. “Gonna test it tonight?”

He doesn’t have to fake any enthusiasm for that. “Yes!”

She’s got a window that looks out on the lake, and he can feel this is one of Rose’s touches, a set of curtains. Given that at some point other people may live here, he’s appreciating the curtains. Right now, if the mood strikes him, he’ll walk around the lake naked, but he can’t imagine that will be an option all that much longer. Sooner or later someone will move here. Finn and Rose plan to be here fulltime in not more than six more months, and she’ll go looking for new… whatever they are going to be called… or someone will bring her one.

The days of it being just her, just them, are numbered and dwindling.

There are hooks on the wall it shares with the kitchen/work space. The clothing she’s not wearing now is hanging from it.

On the other wall, there’s a door leading to the third room.

“Refresher?”

“Soon.” She glares at that room, and then opens the door so he can see. It’s basic, but has everything: sink, toilet, shower, clothing washer. “I’ve got basic plumbing. The shower isn’t exactly doing the job, yet.”

“Which job?” (Though he doesn’t mind if it never works, because that means more time with her in his shower.)

“The get-water-to-come-pouring-out-of-the-top-and-not-out-of-the-pipes-in-the-wall job. And it’d be nice if some of that water was at least vaguely warm.”

“Ah.” He’s heard how the water heaters that come with these pre-fab buildings leave something, by which he means, everything, to be desired.

Still, it’s a house. And she’s never had one before, not one that was hers, and she’s excited, so he smiles at it and hopes she doesn’t work too hard to feel what’s under the smile.

She leads him back to her main room and nods to the food on the table. “What’d you bring?”

“Do you know what a rabbit is?” he says, pulling the bench back enough for them to sit.

“No.” She says, sitting down, for a moment, before remembering they’ve got to get the drink out of the bottle and into something else.

“I don’t either.” He sits down. It’s a good bench, sturdy, doesn’t creak or complain about his weight the way some have over the years. And it, and the table, are big enough he doesn’t feel like his knees are brushing his chin. All in all, it’s good. “I’ve been told they’re tasty, and it’s cooked into some sort of pie.”

“Chef’s choice, again?” she says, over her shoulder, looking through a drawer for something to open the bottle. He supposes he could use his lightsaber, but that’s likely asking to start a fire.

“Not this time. C8 tells me this is traditional.”

“For what?”

“This is a meal eaten for good luck on the first day of the New Year.” He touches the bottle, too. “Plum brandy. Good luck meal for a good year.”

“It’s a New Year?” She hasn’t been watching the calendar too closely.

“Thirty-six years after the Battle of Yavin.”

“Oh.”

“Year one of The Order, soon.”

That gets a smile from her. She’s heard his plans for this, been helping with them, some, and knows they’re getting close. The next step of Operation: Kill The Past is to literally kill the First Order. New symbol, new name, new… Orders. “Ready?”

“Getting there. Frakes tells me the badges are all ready to go and the banners are coming along, and then...”

“How are you doing with getting high muckety-mucks to come?”

He shrugs. “I’ve given my top twenty commanders five more days to each come up with a hundred names.”

“So, you don’t know who you’re inviting?” She finds the bottle opener, and wiggles it at him. She’s got a bottle opener, and just having one makes her happy.

“Or care for that matter. For me, it’s about the show, not so much the people who see it.”

“How do your commanders feel about that?”

“Palpatine’s men are licking it up, carefully building lists of everyone they’ve ever wanted any favor with, or who may do us some good. Snoke’s men are bored and can’t believe I’d even pull a stunt like this. So, I’m making Palpatine’s men cut their lists down to a hundred, and poking Snoke’s to think of a hundred people to invite.”

She opens the bottle, pulling the cork out, and gets a mug, and then two. He sees how proud she is to have mugs plural. Not just one cup that everything goes in. She pours one for him, handing it over, and one for her, and takes a sip, and then chokes on it. “Ughl…” She shudders and coughs. “Do people drink this on purpose?”

After that reception, he’s not sure if he wants any, but he does take a sip. It’s strong. He honestly couldn’t tell you if it was made from plums or paint stripper, all he can taste is ALCOHOL.

He doesn’t drink much, because he doesn’t, generally, like the way it makes him feel. (Like with painkillers, at best it makes him foggy and at worst he ends up in visions he’s not interested in seeing. He only accepted the bottle because the chance to drink here, somewhere he could get a little foggy in the head and not have it be an issue, was involved.) So when he does, he prefers something that genuinely tastes good.

He takes the mugs, gets up, and pours them into her sink, and then pours them water. Not exactly a rare or expensive vintage, unlike the brandy, but even with the strong mineral flavor, it’s preferable to the brandy.

He takes a drink, and hands her a glass, once she’s drunk, he says, “Here’s to the first year of The Order.”

She offers him a bit of a smile and looks up at him. He knows what she’s asking for, silently, and fishes the token from under his tunic, and hands it over. She places it over her head.

Then… he does something he’s never done before… Not, since he’s been an adult, not in someone else’s home. It may be verging on autumn out there, but it’s still more than warm enough inside her home. He doesn’t need the clothing for warmth, and it’s not like he’s got to project any sort of image here, so he takes his tunic off, hanging it on one of the posts in her bedroom (noticing that she has, apparently, a post just for him and his clothing), and puts his boots next to her door.

She watches him doing that, wiggling his toes against her rug, making himself at home in her home, and smiles.

He looks around and decides that they likely need plates and forks and… stuff. He shakes his head. “You know, I used to do this every meal.”

“When you were a child?”

“No. My mother’s house had servants.” His voice turns a bit sarcastic. “Senator Organa, Princess of Alderaan, for all of her I’m-just-like-everyone-else, didn’t cook or serve her own meals.”

Though having said that, he feels her memory of Leia making sure everyone had their meal bars in the Falcon, handing them out, brewing tea, offering cups to everyone.

Kylo rolls his eyes. Of course she did it for the Resistance. But not for him. “She didn’t ever do it at our home. But, meals were communal at Luke’s. We all cooked, and all served, and all cleaned up.” He fetches them forks and plates, laying them on the table efficiently, then sitting next to her. “That’s not how it worked with Snoke. Entire divisions were assigned to mess work. Command officers, even though I wasn’t officially one, I had the privileges of one, never set foot in the kitchens. You could eat in one of the canteens, or have them bring you a meal, but if you got near one of the kitchens you better be on orders to arrest someone. That’s a rule I’ve kept.”

 

 

That seems really off to Rey, and he can feel she’s stumped by that rule.

“Two reasons, first off, kitchen hygiene,” he says, cutting the pie. “If your entire force is on ships and you are the biggest gun in the galaxy, the biggest threat to your men isn’t another fleet, it’s food poisoning. Some idiot hits the ‘freshers, doesn’t clean up properly, handles the food, and next thing you know an entire division is down. Second of all, advancement through the ranks isn’t always about merit. One of his generals was poisoned by a different one…” He shrugs, everyone is dead now. There’s no one he can hurt with the story. “Hux, he and Phasma poisoned his father, who was another of Snoke’s men. After that, only kitchen staff were allowed in the kitchen, and I got wary of accepting meals I didn’t make, or at least open, for myself.”

She looks at the pie, and the plate she’s holding out for a piece of it, and suddenly isn’t so sure she wants to eat it, or give it to him.

He reads that from her. “C8 scans everything before I take a bite of it, or offer it to you.”

She’s never actually seen C8. He lives, mostly, in Kylo’s throne room, though he spends some time in his office and personal chambers. Just, not when she’s there.

He takes his fork, scoops up of a bit of the pie, her piece of it, and chews it, thoughtfully.

“Good?” she asks. She tried the brandy, he gets to be the test subject for the pie.

He shrugs.

She tries a bite. Rich, savory, a little sweet, a bit meaty. She’s had things she liked better, but it’s not bad. “A billion times better than the portions I used to get.”

He nods. “And protein bars.”

They continue eating, and she spends a moment really sensing him. “You’re off.”

He shrugs a bit at that.

“It’s the house… it’s… what?”

He’s sure she can likely get enough of it just by feeling him, but sometimes she likes to hear him say words. Maybe it helps make things clearer in his mind, or hers, or…

“It’s a good house, and I’m glad you built it and love it and…”

“And…”

He looks around, and lifts one shoulder, and chews his pie. “And it’s you, and it’s something you want and…” and some things are hard to lend voice to, some things just don’t want to escape his lips, but he’s thinking it very clearly, and there’s so much more I’d give you if you’d let me. He shrugs the one shoulder again. “But you don’t want more. You want this, so…” He looks around at her tidy, modest cottage. “This.”

She nods. “This.” She stretches, and her back pops audibly when she does it. “I think about… more, sometimes. Because I know you… can… or would… And it’d be easier. And part of me would like easier. Especially this afternoon when I turned on the shower and instead of water coming out of the faucet, it was rushing inside my wall. I would have really liked easier then.” He has the image of her cursing away as she pulled back the inside layer of the wall, water spraying everywhere before she got it turned off, and then the hours of cleaning everything up before being able to start fixing the problem.

He smiles a little, at that.

“But it’s not just that this is me… I feel like this… building it. Literally putting it together with my hands, is important. So much of this work is just… mindless moving… that it gives me time to think, and I need that. This is part of… learning whatever it is I’m here to learn.” She thinks for another moment on how to put it into words. “I think better if I’m doing something. That was true at Orlac’s” she’s said it before she realizes she’s not supposed to, and winces a little.

Kylo shakes his head, letting it float past him. He can think about his wayward cousin… or, given where he ended up compared to Orlac, perhaps he’s the wayward cousin, later.

“I need to be doing something with my body and hands, otherwise I just get bored or jittery. I can’t think if all I’m doing is sitting around.”

“I know.” And he does. He can sit and study for hours because he spent years learning how to do it, but he also needs to carve out time to run around and hit things to keep himself able to do that. They’ve both got big questions with no easy answers, and they need the space to find those answers. “But if you ever…”

“Trust me, you’ll know.” She spears a piece of her pie. “You said you weren’t ever going to be a monk teaching children to meditate. I’m never going to be one of those fancy ladies spinning through ballrooms and making small talk.”

He laughs at that. “And do you see a version of this with me in a fancy ballroom making small talk?”

“That’s what rich and powerful people do, right? That’s what you’re going to do with your High and Mighties, right?”

“Not in my experience. It’s certainly not part of what I’ve got planned for the thousands of them my commanders are going to import.”

“Uh huh,” she gives him a gentle shove with her shoulder. “Master Ren.”

He gives her a little shove back. “Mistress Rey.”

 

 


It’s a good bed. Granted these days, Kylo’s primary definition of good concerning beds is: “Is Rey located in it?” If the answer is yes, it’s a good bed.

That said, it’s also comfortable, the sheets feel nice against his skin, the pillows are big enough his head feels supported and firm enough he’s not going to be smothered in them.

It’s a good bed.

But, mostly, Rey’s in it. And they’re going to test it out.

 

 


He’s about to reach over for the slick when two thoughts occur to him. One: the drawer under his bed with the slicks in it is currently conveniently located on the other side of the galaxy, and yes, he knows he can get himself to them easily, he's not exactly interested in going anywhere other than where he is right now, and Two: it’s the New Year. Which means they don’t need them anymore.

She wasn’t sure about his sudden hesitation. He’d been doing that thing, where he kisses along her breast and shoulder and arm, which lets him slip over far enough to grab the slicks, but not have to stop touching her, and then he stopped dead about the time he got his lips to her elbow. She sees his grin and catches the feel of it.

Then she grins back at him, and flips them so she’s on top.

“You were on top the last time we did this skin to skin.”

He likes her on top just as much as he likes him on top, so he just smiles up at her and wiggles a little, and then groans, loud, when she slides down him.

He can feel it’s not that much of a different sensation for her, skin to skin and skin to slick feel about the same from her point of view, but it’s distinctly different for him.

He’s holding very still, not wanting to spurt, yet, sure that if he gets through this moment, he’ll be fine, but it’s so… intense. It’s so… real. So… her. His jaw is clenched and he’s biting his lip, holding her hips, keeping her still, too, because he can feel she wants to start rocking on him.

He kisses her, hard, deep, tongue moving fast, the way she wishes his hips were, and projects how this feels to him. How wet and plush and snug and silky and gloriously her this feels and it’s deeply satisfying to hear/feel her moan all over at it.

Another moment, and the need to spurt now eases off, and he can move, and let her move, and from there, they glow.

 


His fingers drawing down her back in a long, slow pull. Fingertips barely brushing over her skin, lighting goosebumps all along her.

She rocks against him, her skin gliding over his, hair brushing his chest and jaw, breast dragging, just the tips against his chest.

If you’d asked him about it, just when he and Rey were starting up, or, at least, when he was beginning to think that their relationship might at some point involve actual physical sex, what he expected, this would have never have even crossed his mind.

Gentleness. Not just that he’s capable of it (though that surprises him, too) but that he loves it. That being softly stroked and petted and loved on lights him up inside. That the touch of his hand, light and soft, skin to skin, or tongue, or shaft, or any of him, just gliding against her makes him feel good, in his heart and head and body.

During that half-hour long conversation where Luke talked about ‘physically communing together in mutual accord and affection,’ and how it wasn’t forbidden, and was, for Masters, secure in their devotion to the light, encouraged as a way to gain knowledge of themselves, each other, and another layer of the light, Kylo-who-was-Ben could tell that A: Luke had no idea what he was talking about. He’d never communed so this was a purely theoretical conversation on his part, and B: Kylo-who-was-in-the- walking-erection stage of life was sure that calm and serene sex was more or less fiction. Calm and serene didn’t come into play when he was touching himself, and he couldn’t imagine it coming into play touching someone else.

Luke didn’t have the feel of it to add to the power of his words, and Kylo couldn’t imagine it.

He can now. And, better, he doesn’t have to imagine it.

He never expected that. None of his previous experiences had ever even attempted anything like that. And he’s not sure if he could have let himself enjoy it before, even if one of his companions had tried to be gentle with him, but now that he can…

 

 

He’d lay here for hours, happily rocking with her, soft fluid motions, slowly building each other up.

Fast and hard will come, eventually. He’s not sure he can finish without that, but getting there… Especially when she’s lying on him, head tucked under his chin, both of them barely moving, just breathing together and feeling, it makes him happy in a way he never thought himself capable of.

She’s holding his hand right now, and he’s got his senses on it, feeling her fingers between his, and how tiny she is next to him. One of his fingers makes up almost two of hers. Her hands are rougher than his. She doesn’t wear gloves every day. He can feel callouses from years of work, and a few jagged nails that got caught on something recently. He lets his fingers slip between hers, mirroring the soft, easy motions of their hips, and feels her skin still sliding against his. Different, rougher, drier, not sexual, but real and here and now and lighting him up.

He can feel her breath against his sternum, and her hair on his chin, and the soft weight of her on top of him, and it’s freeing and anchoring all at once. It’s a space he never thought he’d get to inhabit, a thing he needed but never knew to want.

There are things he wants to say to her, words that feel frozen, not just on his lips, but in his head, so he traces them across her skin, and kisses them to her shoulders, and runs them through her hair with his fingers, and maybe, with enough of these soft, light touches, his words will unfreeze, and maybe, one day, he’ll say them.

She doesn’t tell him he’s thinking loudly, though he knows she can feel the words that won’t form, and how he’s trying to touch them to her, how he’s trying to let them sink directly into her skin, and pass from whatever soul or life or light he has to hers.

He feels them back, in the softness of her hand on his shoulder, and the glide of her lips against his throat. Feels them in her skin as she begins to move a little faster, and her thighs as they wrap around him.

Love you. It breaks out of him as they begin to move faster, as he slips from her embrace to thrust back into it, harder, deeper, urgent. Love you. It pours out of him, cracking through old, armored plates flaking off of his skin. Love you. It rises up to meet him, her mind joining his. Love you. It shudders through both of them as they cling to each other, bodies slick and pulsing. Love you. It gets soft, and quiet, exhaled between one sets of lips and kissed back to the other.

Love you.

 

 


“There’s no lock,” Kylo says.

He’d been three quarters asleep, snuggled up behind her, arm wrapped around her, drowsing, in an extremely good mood, very pleased at how comfortable her bed is, feeling the brush of her breath against his wrist when the thing he didn’t do jolts through him.

The first thing he does every night, when he shuts the door to his chambers behind him, is secure the lock.

His eyes go jolting open, and he’s standing before he’s even given it any real thought. There’s no lock on the door to her bedroom, and he opens the door, looking through the cottage. There’s no lock on any of the doors.

“Come back to bed,” she’s basically asleep, and can’t understand what he’s talking about. “Morning.”

Kylo does go back to bed, but he’s tense. He’s not a great sleeper at the best of times, and… It’s stupid. He knows it’s stupid. They are literally the only two people on the planet. But someone could come. Chewie doesn’t exactly call ahead of time, and right now he and Finn and Rose could just walk right in, and… And there may be animals, she’s found some really big tracks, and…

He’s lying there, tense, staring at the ceiling of Rey’s cottage.

He feels like he’s been doing it for hours, though it’s likely only been a few minutes. Then he’s up. He pulls on his pants, grabs his saber, and goes to her chapel to meditate. That’s normally how he deals with the nights when sleep won’t find him.

Inside the chapel isn’t much different from outside the chapel. Not on a night like tonight. The dome is fused trans-steel. It’s clear as air, a thousand times lighter than glass, and a million times stronger. He’s got a view of the night, stars scattered across the sky, only one moon visible right now.

He kneels. The river rocks are smooth and round and hard under his knees and the balls of his feet. Not the most comfortable place he’s ever done this.

On several levels.

The night isn’t exactly quiet. There’s some sort of creature making a lot of little noises, and there’s a bit of a wind moving across the plain, rustling the billion blades of grass. The Supremacy isn’t ever silent, either, but it makes the kind of noises he’s used to, mechanical ones. The rumble of the engines, the vibration of a billion plus tons of steel and electronics shifting through space.

Out here it’s the chirp of some sort of animal and the rustle of grass and the susurrus of wind…

And the last time he lived somewhere with things like grass and animals he learned, the hard way, that he always needed a door that locked. And a lock that couldn’t be slipped silently.

There’s not a lock devised that a well-trained Force user can’t slip. All the codes, all of the electronics, all of it just exists to make sure that a piece of metal latches into another piece of metal, and if you can shift that with your mind, the rest of it doesn’t matter.

So, for Kylo, a lock isn’t there to bar an intruder. It’s there to give him warning. It’s a ward, not a wall.

The next time someone tries to creep up on him in the middle of the night, he’s going to be waiting, blade extended. The next set of eyes peering at him with hate and rage in the dim night will be seen through a red glow.

Thinking on that is not helping to settle his mind.

Of course, his traditional meditations were never designed to settle his mind, either. They were there to give him strength, power, rage.

Cataloging every sin ever pressed against him was a mantra. It wasn’t exactly calming, but it was focusing.

Whose sins are left?

Only his mother.

Everyone else, every other slight that mattered, every ounce of real pain or anguish… They’re all gone.

And most of them are dead by his own hand.

He can feel the darkness in him, clamoring for a fight, looking for something to get angry at. He could go yell at Rey for not having a lock. He can feel it. It’s burning in him, the desire to kick at her just to kick. He’s breathing a little faster at the idea. She’d kick back, and hard.

And he’d deserve it.

Whipped and beaten for being dark.

Shunned for his nature.

Marked for his transgressions. More scars, more sins to recount in the middle of the night.

The token is around her neck, but he’s sitting in the middle of a much bigger mark, dark gray and light gray swirling into each other, and he can feel the dark, feel it surging through him, feel it seeking to overbalance anything and everything else.

It’d be so sweet. He could just sink into it, rage, let it all out, and she’d punish him for it, send him reeling away, and he’d sink back into black, and she’d raise to white, both of them going hard and rigid and…

And hate is power. Hate is armor. Hate means no fear, even if he can’t sleep in a room without a lock on the fucking door.

And that’s where it cracks.

Kylo Ren, Supreme Leader, soon to be Master of The Order, the most powerful man in the galaxy, the man who destroyed every one of his enemies, save the one who gave birth to him, cannot sleep in a room without a lock on the door.

Because hate doesn’t banish fear, it just masks it. He took the mask off his face. Time to take it off his feelings.

He returns to Rey, quietly, not exactly calm or steady.

She’s sleeping, curled into a little ball, calm, steady, easy breathing. His presence doesn’t cause her to stir.

Bad things happened to her in the night. From the flashes of it he’s seen/felt, worse things happened to her in the night. That didn’t cripple her ability to rest near people.

Then he looks around. They’re the only people on this planet. She exiled herself, maybe with good reason, hiding is important, getting this started without anyone trying to kill it matters, but… besides the few months with Orlac, (He rolls his eyes at that, he should have known that’s where they’d send her. Never let anything outside the family, if they can avoid it.) she’s never lived anywhere with people.

She doesn’t lock the door because she made sure no one else could come.

He lays down next to her, scooting in close, and shifts them back to his room.

Maybe, one day, he’ll sleep in an open room, but not yet.

 

 


It is known that when the Supreme Leader retires for the night that he is not to be disturbed for anything less than a full scale attack.

There are rumors that the Supreme Leader cannot be disturbed once he retires. The man who designed the lock on the door to his private chambers would, of course, never speak of it, but… he’s not the only one who’s ever seen the lock.

There are no sensors, no keypad, no… anything. It’s a sheer expanse of black, identical to his wall. Those who know how to use it know which parts of his door to press in which order to get access. Unlocking it properly requires hitting the door at least four times, in exactly the right place, in exactly the right sequence, with the right count between hits. Doing it with the Force results in a loud clacking sound.

It’s not an unbreakable lock, but there’s no way to sneak around it.

Chapter Text

1/12/36 ABY: Lirium

 

“You found eight of them?” Rey asks Poe, eyes wide, as eight children, ranging from just out of toddlerhood to gangly adolescent, and six… things… come galumphing out of the cargo ship he just landed near her… town.

He keeps his voice low. “No. I found one of them. Remember, I told you about how I had someone you needed to meet?”

She nods, remembering that from the wedding. That was the last time she talked to Poe. He was heading back to Canto Bight, looking for more funding, more ships, more people.

“That one,” he points to a boy of nine or ten, “Marrok, he’s the one I wanted you to meet.”

She nods at that, too, she can feel his spark of the Force, recognizing it easily.

“Here’s why I’ve got him and his seven best buddies, and their six faviers: The First Order has recruiting stations up all over Canto Bight. The Powers That Be don’t like that. They’ve got slaves galore, and they’re running away in droves, but they got to be the Powers That Be by selling weapons, and there’s exactly one guy in the galaxy who’s still buying them in bulk, and they want to keep him happy, so they won’t ban his ‘recruiting stations.’” He nods to the kids. “None of them like the First Order, but no matter how bad the First Order is, it’s five years and they’re done. Their owners on Canto Bight aren’t offering that sort of deal. And it’s not exactly like we’ve got recruiting stations for them to run to. They’d gotten a plan to get away, slip the slave catchers, and get to a First Order recruiting station, but it took all eight of them. If I took just Marrok, he’d end up leaving them in the lurch, so I either had to grab them all, or they were all going to join the First Order.”

Rey sighs. She understands that sort of logic, but… “What am I going to do with eight kids and…” She looks at the huge things grazing between the cleared off places where she intends to put some more cottages. “What are those?”

“Faviers. They wouldn’t go without them, too.”

“Great. What are they, pets?”

“Racing animals. I’d bet they’ll pull a cart if you hook one up to them.” Though he doesn’t exactly look like he expects to win that bet if he made it.

“There’s something, I guess.” She watches the kids exploring. “Did you bring food for them? I’ve got enough for me, but…” In the sense that she eats at least one meal a day from the Supremacy’s kitchens, she’s got enough food for herself to last a week or so. Chewie makes sure to show up at least that often, but she’s not exactly equipped to feed an additional eight people for a day, much less the three or four days between now and Chewie getting here.

“I’ve got food, and medical supplies, and some clothing.” He looks at her feet. “You need new boots.”

“I can get myself boots,” she says it before she’s even really thought about it, but Poe’s looking at her like she’s half-crazy.

“From where?” He looks around at endless grass plains, and waves toward a gentle roll in the grass. “A market open up over the next hill that I don’t know about?”

“Chewie and Finn and Rose should be here in a few days…” She covers. And, as she thinks about it, she’s going to have to ask them for some boots, because if she starts wearing a pair of First Order standard work boots, Finn will recognize them.

She looks out at the kids, who are racing around, and the faviers, who are exploring, all fourteen of them looking like they’ve never seen so much space. “What am I going to do with them?”

Poe shrugs. “What were you going to do with the Force sensitive one?”

“I…” It’s one thing to say you’re going to teach the Force and balance and all the rest of it. It’s another thing entirely to do it. “I guess, for right now, we’re going to build. You think they can help?”

“They all had jobs. It’s not like they were just laying around and I kidnapped them. At the very least, they know how to take care of the faviers.”

Rey sighs, feeling a little overwhelmed. “That’s a start. Well, introduce me.”

 

 


There were children on Niima Outpost, just not a lot of them. Sometimes a trader would come through with a family. But most of the people who lived at Niima Outpost just couldn’t afford them. And most women likely didn’t get enough to eat or enough rest to carry to term. On top of that, Rey didn’t spend much time with them, either. Not when she was a child, or as an adult.

So, standing here, in front of eight of them, all of them looking up at her, skeptical vibes coming off of all of them, because… Okay, Poe’s a good guy and all, but… really… who feeds you just for going to a place to learn?

“This is…” And Poe runs headfirst into the idea that he’s got no idea what title Rey wants.

“Rey. Just Rey.”

“This is Rey. And she’s building a town here for people to learn how to be Jedi,” Poe says. He’s got the basic idea of what she’s doing but apparently missed a lot of the details. “Rey, this is Rugh,” he points out the youngest of the children, a little girl of… maybe four years old. She’s right next to, “Halee, her older brother,” who’s likely nine or ten. With them is the boy who can use the force, “Marrok, and his cousin,” another boy with sandy hair and greenish eyes, this one is older, twelve? “Blane. Over there we’ve got Magiit,” the oldest of the group, a girl just starting her teens, she’s holding the hand of a little boy, “Colin,” he’s just a bit older than Rugh. “And the twins, Opal and Torine,” who both appear to be about eight-years-old.

The idea of Jedi training has resulted in some very excited children. Eight little guys light up like a saber extended in the dark. And a skeptical Rey, because, at the very best she could teach one of them to be a Jedi, and she’s got seven others that will never, no matter what, ever, be Jedi. Plus, even if it was just Marrok, she wouldn’t be going to teach him how to be a Jedi, either.

“We’re going to learn to be Jedi?” Opal is very excited by this idea, speaking with her voice high and words fast, and two of the others are pretending to levitate rocks, and another three are having a mock lightsaber battle.

“No, Opal. You’re not learning to be a Jedi,” Rey says.

All eight of them are disappointed by that. Of course Poe’s spiel was too good to be true. They’re glaring at him. Even the faviers seem disappointed by that. Their ears droop a little when she says it.

Rey stands up, and spins her staff in a defensive arc, extending the blade as she does it, all of them gasp at the red haloed blue blade. “I’m not a Jedi, so I can’t teach you to be one. But… I can teach you about the Force, and why I’m not a Jedi, and eventually, you’ll learn enough to plan your own path. Maybe one of you will chose to be a Jedi, but, maybe not.”

She figures that’s broad enough to include all of them, and… In a flash she gets it. They all need to be here. The galaxy isn’t all made up of just Force users, and anything she comes up with has to be valuable for non-Force users as well as Force users, otherwise she’s just throwing the balance off.

The galaxy isn’t just light and dark. It’s not just about people who can use their will to float rocks.

The balance is for everyone.

She can see the kids like the lightstaff. She can feel eight little sprogs who all want one. And, it’s occurring to her that Finn could use a lightsaber almost as well as she could, so there’s no reason, other than her current complete and utter lack of kyber crystals, that all of them couldn’t build their own sabers or staffs or… whatever, eventually.

“Okay, all of you, sit down, get comfortable, close your eyes, and feel…”

They do as well as they can. She knows only one of them is really feeling it, but it seems like a good idea for the other seven to get the idea of this being how everything works.

“Grass below you, sky above. Warm suns, cool dirt… The wet of the lake on the wind… Feel it?”

“Is that the Force?” Magiit, the oldest of them, asks.

“No. It’s… how you know the Force. You know the Force by what you feel. And all around you, at all times, there’s everything. All of this life and light and death and dark. Hot and cold, solid and fluid. Just close your eyes and feel what’s there…”

She gives them two minutes. That’s as long as the littlest and squirmiest of the kids can go.

“It’s all in balance. You feel that? Everything has a counterpart, somewhere. Maybe you only see the suns right now, but you know night is coming. And it’s warm here, but if you go north or south, you’ll find the cold. There’s a light for each dark.”

“That’s the Force?” Halee, a boy about nine, asks.

“The Force is what balances everything. It’s the energy and the tension, the web… that allows everything to exist and move.” She holds out her hand, above her head, and places the staff on her extended index finger. It wobbles a bit, and she’s got to move it a little, but she finds the balance point. “That’s the Force. That’s what balances everything and lets our universe spin. Take that balance away, and instead of perfect spin, it’ll fly apart.” She gives her staff a little spin, and over her head, on the balance point, it spins just fine. Then she moves the staff, so it’s off-balance, and not only can’t it spin, it can’t stay on her finger, and falls off, bonking her on the head on the way down.

“Ow!” she rubs her head and the kids laugh as she calls the staff back to her hand.

“The Jedi use the Force!” Marrok adds.

“Yes. They did. But they weren’t the only ones.”

“How can you use a balance?” Blane asks.

“If you can find the balance point, you can move anything, do anything,” Rey says.

“All of us?” Halee’s asking.

“All of you, in one way or another. Not everyone can float rocks, but everyone can find their destiny and make it happen. Maybe I can float a rock. Maybe you can pick it up. Maybe one of you can build a lever. Maybe one of you gets the faviers to move the rock. Maybe one of you can organize everyone into a rock moving team. But we can all move the rock.”

“Why aren’t we going to be Jedi?” Marrok, the only one of them who could be a Jedi asks.

She lights the staff again, and again balances it on her finger. “Light side,” she points to the glowing flame. “Dark side,” she points to the other end. Then she starts floating little rocks to the light side along with a few big ones, resting them on the handle of what used to be a lightsaber. “The Jedi were dedicated to the light. So dedicated they sought to banish every trace of darkness.” More rocks, and the staff is tipping, rocks are falling off, her blade singeing the grass. “But the Force seeks balance.” She stabilizes the staff, and floats a big rock over to the dark side, to balance the little rocks on the light.

“Kylo Ren!” Marrok says.

“Before him. Emperor Palpatine.” She adds one more, smaller, but still big rock, to the dark side. “Darth Vader.” She knocks most of the little light side rocks off, and eventually, there are just two. “Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda.” Right now, the staff balances.

“The dark side rocks got heavier, but the Force seeks balance.” She adds another rock to the light side. “Luke Skywalker.” She lets her staff tip a bit to the light. Then she knocks another rock off. “Seeking balance, Kenobi falls, and Luke grows stronger, and out there, unknown to her, another almost Jedi rises.” She adds a pebble to the light side. “General Organa.”

“General Organa’s a JEDI!” That gets a very excited squeak and a wave of excitement.

“No. She isn’t and never was. But she’s part of the Force seeking balance. We all are. And maybe, someday, she’ll come here and talk to you about the Force, and not being a Jedi. But the dark side was getting stronger, and the Force seeks balance.”

She knocks another rock off the light side. “Yoda falls, and Luke grows stronger.”

“Too much weight on the dark side,” Torine says.

“I know, and what happened?”

“Luke Skywalker killed Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader!” a tiny voice chirps. Rugh’s staring at the staff with big eyes, and a very excited air about her.

Rey knocks both rocks off the dark side. “Now what? The staff can’t fall, the Force won’t let it.”

“Snoke!” Opal says.

She nods, putting a big rock on the dark side. “And what does Luke do after the war?”

“More Jedi!” Marrok says.

She nods again, and starts to levitate more rocks onto the light side.

“Kylo Ren!” Blane says.

She nods, adding Kylo to the dark side. And then she wipes Luke’s Jedi off the light side. “Now what?”

“You?” Rugh asks.

She nods.

“And you killed Snoke! And Kylo Ren killed Luke and now you’re the only two left and—“ Marrok is saying, voice high and excited.

“Hush, child. I didn’t kill Snoke. Kylo did.”

Sixteen huge eyes are staring up at her. And one set of equally huge eyes are looking across at her. Poe’s never heard this version of the story, either.

“And Kylo didn’t kill Luke. Luke sacrificed himself, gave himself up to the Force, so what was left of the Resistance could escape.”

She knocks all but two of the stones off of the staff.

“Now, what happens if I train new Jedi? If we go off and dedicate ourselves to the light and nothing but the light?”

“The Force raises new Darklings.” Halee says.

Rey smiles; she likes ‘Darklings,’ and is privately thinking she might, at some point, if she could keep it in her own mind, call Kylo that. “Exactly.”

“So… we don’t ever learn to use the Force?” Marrok sounds disappointed.

“No. We learn that the Force is the balance. And we learn that we are, all of us, dark and light, and we learn to use both sides of our nature to do what we were born to do.”

“If we aren’t Jedi… What are we?” Marrok asks.

It’s out of her mouth before she can think of it, “Maji. We are the Maji, and we are the protectors of the balance.”

“But… if we learn to be Maji, and if Kylo Ren is still out there… doesn’t that mean there has to be a Jedi somewhere to balance him?” Magiit says.

That one is smarter than she expected.

“I balance him, and he balances me, and you… you balance yourselves. We’re the last of the old generation, and you’re the first of a new one.”

“How do we do that?” Opal asks.

Rey gives them a lopsided smile. “I’m not entirely sure, but we’re going to find out. First things first, let’s get you guys settled in.” 

 

 


Poe finds her later, in her cottage, after they’ve set up two more huts, (between Rey having more practice at it now, and several extra sets of hands, it’s a much faster operation than when she was doing it for herself) and the children have gone out to fish in the lake. Poe brought food, but if they can supplement that with fresh meat, it’ll last a lot longer.

“Ren killed Snoke?”

She nods.

He’s staring at her, very intently. That’s not the story he heard. Though, as he thinks about it, that’s a story she’s also never told. She was content to let them think whatever they wanted to. “What happened?”

She’s at her workbench, where she’s working on setting up a control panel for one of the cottages. “I thought I could turn Kylo back to Ben—“ This would be when Rey realizes that who Kylo Ren was isn’t common knowledge among the Resistance, either.

He’s staring at her, looking like he’s at least twenty chapters behind her in the story. “Ben? Ben what? Who’s Ben?”

“Solo,” she says, voice low. Poe’s eyes just about fall out of his head as he digests that. “Solo… Like… Leia Organa-Solo…” he whispers it.

Rey nods. “Yeah.”

“Leia’s son? We all thought he was dead.” Poe looks gut punched.

He sits at one of the benches at her table, and glances to the bottles on her shelf. “Tell me you’ve got something stronger than water to drink.”

She winces a little. “I do, but…”

“I don’t care if it’s rocket fuel, pour me one and leave the bottle.”

So Rey does, and he knocks the first shot of it back like it’s nothing and pours himself another. “Where’d you get Andorrann Plum Brandy?” Then he shakes his head. “I’m distracting myself. Kylo Ren is Leia’s son?”

“Yes.”

“We’ve been at war with her little boy?”

“If you can call what we’ve been doing since he killed Snoke, war, sure.”

He’s staring into his drink. “Leia’s son. How does Leia’s son go that wrong? I think that’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.” This time he takes a sip, rather than shooting the brandy back. “Really? Leia’s son?”

She’s nodding. “Luke Skywalker’s nephew. I tried to turn him back to the light side. He tried to turn me to the dark. Snoke and the entire Praetorian guard died in the process.”

His mind is whirling, and he’s trying to speak, but he doesn’t know what to say. Finally… “When did this happen?” comes out.

“While you were evacuating to Crait.”

“What? We’re… And you’re… And… How?”

Rey half shrugs. Looking at it through Poe’s eyes, it does sound like an utterly inconceivable story. “It seemed like a good plan at the time.”

He goggles at her.

“I’d been with Luke, and… He’s his nephew. And when he was young, he went to train as a Jedi with Luke. It didn’t work out, but… I was sure I could… But I couldn’t. And, by the time it was done… I could feel it, he can’t be turned. I can’t, either. I mean… no, it’s not physically impossible, but if either of us turns, a new one will just pop up to balance the Force again.

“As long as it’s just the two of us, and as long as I don’t load up the light side with these little guys, things will stay… stable.”

“And if there’s some monster rising in the Unknown Regions?” Poe says.

“If I’m right about how it works, there won’t be. Unless I go dark, in which case the monster will be another Luke, or Kylo goes light, in which case, anticipate a new Snoke.”

Poe’s lip curls in disgust. “So… we have to just… leave him there?”

Rey shrugs, trying to look impassive about this. “Leave him there, or roll the dice and hope the next one is as interested in not running the galaxy into the ground as Kylo is. I… He’s not doing a terrible job. You know it. When was the last time you found an actual recruit for us?”

Poe glares at her. He’s been coming up dry again and again.  It’s been almost a year without a real attack, and most the people he runs into just want to get on with their lives. And the ones who don’t are generally more trouble than they’re worth. “You’d think after he—“

“Snoke.”

“It’s all the same, Rey. Anyone wearing that mark is responsible.”

“Like Finn? Is he responsible for anything that the First Order did before he turned? He was at the massacre of Tuanal and didn’t stop it.”

He knows she knows how he feels about Finn. How, given that Finn is not only married now, but about to be a father, he’s trying very hard not to feel about Finn. “That’s a low blow.”

She shakes her head at him. “No, it’s not. Kylo didn’t give the order to take out the Hosnian system.”

“He didn’t stop it.”

“He killed the man who gave the order, and the one who put him in power to do it.”

“After they did it…” Poe’s eyes jerk up to Rey’s. “Wait… Ren killed Hux? That was… months… after Crait. How do you even know this?”

She sort of rolls her eyes, and tries to feel about it the way she did when the bond between them was new. “I just do. The Force… I’m not kidding about the balance thing. I know… Stuff I shouldn’t.”

“Oh.” Then he looks horrified. If she knows… “Does that mean…”

“It’s part of the reason I’ve been staying away from planning meetings and the like. I mean… I know… I can feel, he’s not interested in the Resistance any longer, but, better safe out here, than all of us being sorry, right?”

He nods slowly. “Should I stay away?”

“Poe,” she gently touches his hand, “you’re so far down on his list of concerns. You can dance naked here, shouting ‘I’m Poe Dameron, Second in Command of the Resistance, Destroyer of the Fulminatrix, The Man Who Led The Attack On Starkiller, come and get me!’ and I don’t think he’d even blink, let alone send a ship for you.”

Poe slumps at that. “That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard. Years. Decades. I took out a dreadnaught. I ran the attack that took out Starkiller. I--”

“Lost the war. We all did. He’s moving on. The question is, are we?”

He stares into his drink, shaking his head.

“Poe… No bravado, no hopeful lies, no… talking for the recruits, how bad is it?”

He sighs and rubs his forehead. “A corpse on life support, too damn stubborn to die, too damaged to live.”

“What kind of people are you getting?”

His teeth grit. “Psychopaths. People with a hard-on for vengeance. People who don’t care if they die as long as they hurt as many guys in a First Order uniform as possible before they go. People like I used to be, too damn stupid to back away from a fight if winning it’ll hurt worse than retreating.

“There used to be reasonable people willing to join us, but between the slave thing and the fact that he’s shifted his weapons platform from bigger, badder, and harder to smaller, more maneuverable, and well-tested, most of the kind of people we used to recruit from freely are gone. Instead of the First Order rolling in, kidnapping the entire local population, tossing them in chains, working them to death, and then using whatever’s left of the planet to test its weapons on, his people show up, set up ‘Recruiting stations’ promise everyone who does five years a pile of goodies, and then ships them off to wherever they’re going. He’s not ripping babies away from their families anymore. His new weapons…” Poe sighs, staring at the ceiling of Rey’s cottage, frustration bleeding off of him. “New’s the wrong word. It’s tested technology. And it’s fucking terrifying. Did you see the battering ram cannon?”

“Heard about it, saw it on the ground for a second, but I didn’t see it fire.”

“Miniaturized Death Star tech.” He shoots back more of the drink. Dealing with this, trying to come up with tactics for it has been haunting him, Leia, too. It’s not just they don’t have enough of anything, it’s that they don’t have anything good to do with what they have. “They’re designed to kill hardened targets, or to do things like take mountains out of the way. On the ground, they’re a mess. You only bring them in if you’ve got to flatten something the size of a cliff because they’re huge and have the maneuverability of an asteroid field. He’s got three manufacturers stuffing them into ships the size of a small bomber. In orbit, it doesn’t matter how big or heavy the thing is because gravity and air resistance aren’t issues anymore. One hit’ll take out a decent sized town, and any ship smaller than a mega-dreadnaught, and he’s flying the only one of them in existence. He’s building thousands of them per dreadnaught.” Poe pours another drink.

“I can’t fight that. Not… without an equal, if not greater, number of pilots. Anything with them is dogfighting, and I can train the best fucking dogfighters you’ve ever seen, but… he can, too. And he’s got the money to pay ‘em and the ships to train ‘em in.

“You can do a suicide run to take out a dreadnaught. Maybe it’s stupid, but you can do it. You can’t do that here. For every one of them I take out, he can take out one of mine and…”

“And you don’t have the people.”

The look on Poe’s face is heartbreaking. “I don’t. Just to break even, I’ve got to take out something like ninety of his for every one of mine. And I don’t have the recruits to get to the point where I can even take a shot at him. I can train a fish to fly, if the fish loves flying. I can’t train a person to fly, if the only reason that person wants to fly is because he’s living on hate.”

“So…”

He rubs his temples. She can feel he doesn’t want to be saying any of this, but it’s also a relief to be able to finally say it to someone. “Captain… Admiral. I’m officially Admiral Dameron now, goes down with the ship. As long as we’re fighting, I’m in. I’ll scramble around, play a lot of sabbac, win us money and ships, and…”

“Waste your time.”

“Don’t say that.” He looks so hurt at that idea.

“Am I wrong?”

“Just… don’t.”

Rey can feel this conversation, this moment, them in her cottage is happening for a reason, and before she knows what that reason is, “How did you know Marrok was Force sensitive?” has fallen out of her mouth.

“Mmm?” He didn’t follow how her thought got there, and honestly, she’s not entirely sure, either.

“You knew he had talent. How?”

“Uh…” Poe rubs his eyes, trying to remember. “Um… Gambling. I support myself gambling and the occasional ‘cargo’ run. The faviers race, and betting on them is big in Canto Bight. I got one of the high muckety-mucks to invite me to the stables, and noticed the kids. I’m always on the lookout for kids like them, they’ve usually got families, and… that’s generally where the good recruits are.”

“But these children are orphans.”

“Or if they aren’t, their parents are gone. Something about him… I don’t know what I saw, but I kept looking and… Eventually, he flashed me the Resistance sign, and we got talking about what I was doing, and how they could help, and…”

“So, he found you?”

“We found each other.”

“Could you do it again?”

Poe doesn’t immediately understand that. But Rey does. She’s seeing a part of the plan she hadn’t before, something she absolutely has to have to make this work.

“If I’m teaching them here, I can’t leave. I can’t be out scouting the galaxy looking for little Force users while teaching the ones I’ve got.” She touches the token on her chest. “You gave this to me. You’ve got a feel for it, and I need someone who can travel and has that feel.”

“You want me to recruit for you?”

“Yes. Help me bring life to something new, instead of clinging to something that’s dying.” She touches the token again. “The Force is in and through and with, everything. That’s… another place where I think the Jedi went wrong, they sequestered the ideas of light and dark to only those who could ‘use the Force.’ But, we’re all using it, all the time. Maybe I can do flashier things with it. Luke called them tricks. Okay, I can do some spiffy tricks. And maybe you can’t, though I’ve heard about how you fly, so it wouldn’t shock me if you’re not pulling from the Force, somehow, maybe not the way I do, but… somehow.

“But we’re not Jedi, we’re Maji. You and—“ she almost says Kylo, but Poe’s buzzed enough he doesn’t notice her trip over her word and say, “me. And those children. And anyone else who wants to be part of the balance.”

“Give up the Resistance?” his voice catches on that. He’s been Resisting since he was fifteen.

“I don’t think recruiting for me and the Resistance are mutually exclusive conditions. I think you can do both. Do the one and keep an eye out for the other. I just think one of those two options is going to continue long into the future, and the other is, as you said, dying.”

They hear a commotion outside, followed by voices growing distinct, “Rey, Rey! Look!” Her door slides open and the kids are crowding around, holding a massive, thrashing fish. “This is a fish, right?”

It’s almost as big as Rugh. “That’s a fish.” She looks over to Poe. “Think about it. Okay you guys, lesson one, how to clean a fish. I have a friend, and you’ll get to meet him soon, named Chewbacca, and Chewbacca’s a great cook. I’m not as good, but he taught me how to cook a fish, and I’ll show you. Let’s go get this thing close to the lake again.”

“Why?” Blane asks.

“Because we’re going to cut its head off, and take its guts out, and if we toss that back into the lake, some of the other creatures will eat it. We don’t waste food here. If you don’t like it, compost it, give it to someone who does, or the animals.”

 

 


It takes longer to get the fish cleaned, and cooked, and portioned out, and fed to the children than Rey was expecting. When Chewie does it, it takes about three minutes. He just does it, and suddenly all the bones are gone and he’s got a lovely fish steak.

She and the kids spend what feels like hours pulling bones out of this thing, and at the end of it, they’ve got a collection of fairly ragged and shaggy looking fish parts.

But they’re edible.

And the kids do seem to like running around looking for brush to build a fire with. They like cooking the fish over the fire more.

And they’re… not entirely enthusiastic about eating it, but they’re hungry, and it’s food, and it rounds out the portions that Poe brought along.

And while they do that, Rey doesn’t see Poe. He’s… off… thinking maybe. Drinking maybe. As the blue sun starts to sink low, she sees him on the bank of the lake, looking for something. She doesn’t know what he picks up, but he grabs, something, from the stones of the lake, and heads back into her cottage.

They all hear him shout out, “FUCK!” several moments later, but he doesn’t come out, and Rey can sense that he’s startled but okay.

As green sun is sinking, it’s getting fairly close to when she’d go to Kylo, or he would come to her. She flashes him the sense that she’s got people around, and gets a sense back of waiting. Impatient waiting, but resigned impatience.

She sends him a little smile, and the feel of the night a few days earlier, when he was up late with his generals talking recruitment targets.

She feels his answering smirk.

The children are milling around the bank of the lake, and Rey’s not entirely sure what to do with them. “What do you normally do after dinner?”

“Feed the Faviers, rub them down, make sure they’re settled,” Magiit, says.

“Okay, go take care of them. When Chewie gets back, we’ll make up a list of what we need to keep them happy.”

“They’re happy,” Opal says. “It’s been a long time since they’ve had grass under their paws, and they’ve missed it.”

“Good. I’m going to go talk to Master Poe, and then I’m turning in. Tomorrow, we start working on the piping.”

Torine says, “Is that it?”

Rey looks a little concerned. “Should there be more?”

“We can do what we like between now and the morning?”

Rey nods. “I’d suggest sleeping, but… Sure. Pick which of the huts you want, unpack whatever you brought, and then rest. Attaching the plumbing on the huts to the lake is hard work.”

“What kind of hard work?” Blane asks.

“Digging, moving rocks, laying pipes. We’re going to be sweating tomorrow.”

The kids don’t exactly look enthusiastic, but… It’s not grooming Faviers and being treated like dung by the people who bet on them.

 

 


When she gets into her cottage, she sees Poe at her work bench. His finger is bandaged, so she’s guessing that’s what got the loud cursing.

He’s using her fine cutting laser and has one of the lake rocks, a small one, about the size of the token. It’s streaked with light and dark gray, and he’s carved the swirl from her token into it.

He doesn’t look away as he says, “I should know better than to try things like this drunk.”

She nods. “Finger still in one piece?”

“Enough. It’ll heal.” It wiggles the way it’s supposed to when he holds his hand to up her and flexes his finger. Then he returns to the stone. He finishes drilling a hole into the top of it. “Got a string or something?”

Rey nods. “I do.” She roots around in the drawers of her workbench and finds a spool of leather cord. It only takes her a minute to get the stone threaded, and one more to get it knotted.

She loops it over Poe’s head. “Poe Dameron of the Maji.”

He rolls his eyes a little, and then says, “I should go sleep this off. It may seem like a stupid idea sober.”

“I won’t hold you to it if seems that way in the morning.”

He staggers out to his ship, and Rey closes up behind him, tidies up her work bench, and then shifts herself through to Kylo.

 

 


“I found our name,” she says to Kylo later that night.

He kisses her shoulder. These moments, when they’re lying in his bed or hers, spooning, talking quietly, they’re… almost (he’s more than a bit fond of what they were doing before lying quietly) the highlight of his day.

“What is it?”

“Maji.”

He kisses her shoulder again, snuggling closer. “Rey of Jakku, First Mistress of the Maji.”

“Not Rey of Jakku. Just Rey. Rey of the Maji.”

He touches the token that’s around her neck today. “Am I Kylo of the Maji?”

She rolls over to face him, nodding. “Kylo of the Maji.”

He smiles a little. “I like that.” He touches the token again, and she slips it from her neck to his. His fingers land on the token, warm from her skin. “Will I wear it openly, one day?”

“I hope so. If I teach balance, then anyone. Even you, even me, can be a Maji.”

 

 


Slowly, one conversation at a time, most of them started by a glib-tongued pilot, pretending to be just a traveler, seeking to take cargo from one port to the next, the word Maji begins to spread.

And slowly, the population of Lirium begins to grow.

Chapter Text

1/15/36

 

If you were to ask Rey what she was working on, and building, and gathering together, and studying for, she’d tell you about reimagining how the Force works, and she’d get that bright and excited look in her eyes, explaining how it’s not about dark and light, and it’s not about creating some exclusive enclave of super-powered Force Warriors bound in rigid codes of behavior, pining away for some forgotten and likely fictional past of perfect peace, harmony, and balance, with balance defined as only the light side gets any sway.

On that level, not only can she, but she also will, happily, chatter on long past the point where anyone but Kylo wants to keep listening. (And, in all honestly, he’s really only listening at that point because it’s Rey talking, and would have tuned out hours ago had it been anyone else. He had twelve years of formal Jedi theology lessons, and three years of independent study; that was more than enough according to him.)

She’s got ideas, and yes, some of them are nebulous and some of them she seems to be yanking out of the air based solely on this feels right with a big helping of and I spent a while studying that, and I know that’s wrong.

So, on the most basic level of what she hopes to teach, she’s been making leaps and bounds and feeling her way around and is on nice, firm, stable territory.

But… See… A school is not only a place where one has ideas. It’s a place where one conveys those ideas, to people, who like people everywhere and through all time, are rather tetchy and have their own opinions of how things are supposed to work and what the nature of reality is, and all of these thorny and sticky bits and bobs of reality that are, on several, levels biting Rey in the tail end.

 

 


First and foremost, it’s becoming abundantly clear, on the day Poe leaves to go off in search of more Maji, that Rey has never, actually, attended a school.

Now, on the upside, none of the children suddenly in her care have, either, so they at least aren’t comparing her to any previous experiences, but…

She just doesn’t really know what to do with them.

They, on the other hand, are not confused at all about what they want to do. There are eight of them, and between the eight of them they want to do at least twenty things, none of which involves digging channels for pipes to set their cottages up with running water; baths being something none of them are particularly in favor of.

They do want to learn how to use a lightsaber, or barring that, a lightstaff, or for that matter, pretty much any sort of weapon she might be willing to allow them to bonk each other with. Bonking each other with weapons seems to be nine/tenths of what they expect to learn, and they’re not wildly enthusiastic to hear that’s not going to be nine/tenths of the lessons.

Granted, bonking with weapons appears to also be nine/tenths of what they think the Force is useful for and what the Jedi did, so… it’s not an unreasonable expectation.  

Half of them want to get on the Faviers and just ride around. “Scout the terrain,” as Magiit said. (Once they get some homing trackers, Rey’s fine with that, but for right now, she wants them staying within sight of the dome.)

Opal and Torine are watching the sky, hoping Poe will come back soon, because they’re starting to think this was a bad plan. (Lack of weapons to bonk with, too much fish, this strange woman who wants them to dig trenches and think about balance are all taking a toll.) Rey certainly is feeling some sympathy for that.

Rugh wants to help do whatever Rey is doing, which is great, but she’s four, so “helping” often translates into making whatever it is three times more difficult, and in one case, cleaning the mess up means she got less done than if she’d spent the day on the Supremacy, laying around in bed, waiting for Kylo to get done with whatever the hell it is he’s doing today, which the more she thinks about it the better it’s sounding and…

Yeah…

But… This is the job. Develop ideas, convey ideas, make sure little people get those ideas and then are prepared to leave this planet and go off and do things with those ideas.

So…  “Okay, come on. I know you find a lot of this boring, but… We’ve got to have clean water. If your waste ends up in the lake, we all get sick, and none of us want that. We need to get the insides of your cottages set up. We need to stake out a place for the Faviers so they don’t just wander off. All of this has to get done, how do we do it?”

“This doesn’t sound like learning about the Force,” Blane says.

“We’ll do that while we work. Hands and bodies busy, minds calm. I don’t know about you guys, but if I sit still too long, I get antsy.”

They all look around, and it occurs to her that it’s unlikely they’ve ever had enough time, awake, to just sit still to get antsy.

Well, before a deserter came and found her and the droid that befriended her, she never had either, so… She looks around, they’ve got channels to dig and pipes to lay, and that’s likely the most important of the jobs. They’re going to be in a world of hurt, though she’s suspicious that if she can’t use the Force to fix it, that she could likely get medicine from Kylo to help, but… If they get their waste or the Favier’s waste (the real reason they can’t just go roaming around) into the water supply, they are going to get sick.

(She sighs. They’re going to need something to clean the water soon, which means more plumbing, which is, as of this point in time, her least favorite chore, ever.)

“So… Digging. We want the pipes deep enough that they can’t get dug up by something else and they won’t be tripping us up, but shallow enough that if they leak, we’ll see the wet spot, so let’s call that fifteen centimeters.

“We’ve got four cottages for you guys, and mine, and the three that I’ve got set up for when Chewie and Finn and Rose come visit.” Which is two of the cottages. She hopes, though she assumes said visit would be difficult on some levels, that Leia will come, too. But, last she heard, she was still scouring the galaxy for First Order targets they could attack without getting themselves killed. Last she heard was Finn and Rose’s visit, and she doesn’t mind being outside the chain of what’s happening next. That way she doesn’t have to juggle any sense of responsibility to Kylo, or to his mother. “We’ve got the main line of pipe through here.” She gestures to the line that leads between their cottages. “So where do you think we should put this line, and should we just add onto the main line, or start a new one?”

She’s not just asking to ask. She’s curious to see if any of them have learned any of this sort of stuff, or have any kind of mechanical aptitude.

What she learns is that half of them couldn’t care less, and the other half have three very different, very strong, opinions on the matter.

Magiit’s, the best of the lot, is the most work, and the one they likely won’t take. Namely, she’s under the impression that they’re on the wrong bank of the lake, and if they went to the other side, sixteen kilometers away, they’d be at a lower grade than the lake, and they’d have to use less energy to get the water to their cottages, and any waste matter that isn’t properly contained would drain away from the lake. This is both correct and probably useful, but Rey wanted her chapel on the high ground, and her town close to the chapel, so…

“If we ever get enough people here to make it worthwhile, we’ll certainly take that into account. In the meantime,” she looks to Blane, who’s been arguing about how they need to dig a separate line, mostly because if they ever spring a leak, it won’t end up taking out the water for the whole town. “That’s a good idea, too.” Blane smiles at that.

Opal, who along with her twin Torine, ended up working on Canto Bight because they were sold to cover their parents’ debts, looks at the bit of trench that’s already dug. “You sure you want it this close to the surface?”

Torine nods at that. “It got cold once, really cold, back home on Huiit, and the pipes that weren’t deep enough burst.”

“It shouldn’t get that sort of cold here,” Rey says. “This is the equator, so all the seasons should be about the same, maybe a little wetter or drier, or a little cooler or hotter, but it shouldn’t ever get that cold.”

They take Blane’s suggestion, and lay another line. So that means digging a new trench all the way to the lake. In the big scale of things, it’s not that difficult. Any of them can walk the distance in less than two minutes. But digging and walking are not the same thing.

“Come on, let’s get some shovels, and get going.”

 

  


“Let’s see how it goes.” Rey throws the switch and the pump chugs to life and for a good thirty seconds nothing happens, or everything happens exactly the way it’s supposed to, and then they start seeing little fountains of water shooting through the air at various joints that aren’t quite together.

“We failed!” Torine says.

“Eh…” Rey says, though she’s disappointed, too. “We’re learning.” She turns the pump off and the water begins to drain out. “Every day we’re learning new things, and right now, we’re learning about focus.”

“We failed because we didn’t focus?” Marrok asks.

“Nah, we failed because this is a job that takes time and practice to get right, and it even takes me a few shots to get the solder in right. First time I turned on the water in my shower, it was pouring out of the joints into my wall.

“So, no we didn’t fail because of lack of focus. I want us to think of focus like it’s the pipes. Our minds, our energy, our ability to do things, that’s the water. And most of the time, it wants to go all over the place.” She shrugs a little at that. “At least for me, that’s true. I can have so many ideas all bouncing around in there at once, getting down to just one or two of them can be tricky sometimes.”

They follow her to the first of the leaking joints, and she pulls the pipe up, and begins unthreading it. She hands it to Opal. “We need to make sure it’s dry and really clean. If it’s got dirt or water on it, it won’t seal right, and we’ll just have to do this again.”

Opal starts wiping it. Rey wiggles her fingers at Opal, letting her know to hand it over, and shows her how to do it. Scrubbing grit off a pipe thread, that’s something she knows how to do.  

“Anyway, the pipe is our focus, it’s the way we channel our ideas, and get them going where they belong. Part of what I’m hoping we’re going to learn here is good focus. It’s easier to do anything when you can get all of yourself doing it.”

And, okay, she’s not feeling like a total failure with that. That’s a good save out of water spraying all over her trench and having to pull muddy pipes out of the ground and trying to get them together, right, this time, but…

How do you teach someone to focus?

Of course, she knows someone who went to school, specifically to learn exactly this sort of thing. All she has to do is ask.

 

 


Asking about each other’s pasts tends to feel like walking blindfolded through a field seeded with landmines.

They both caught bits of it the first time their minds touched. He, apparently, caught a view of her parents and when they left her. She got his fear of not being Vader. An image, stark and cold, of a younger Kylo, in tattered, singed robes, standing, then kneeling, before Snoke, and feeling his triumph shattering as suddenly the entire map under his feet shifted.

He’d expected to be welcomed as a champion, as the scion of Vader reborn, and what came next was even more of a shock than waking with Luke about to strike him… or not… down. (She wonders if it’s possible for both versions of the story to be true at the same time, and feels that it likely is. She also wonders, more deeply, that if Snoke could get that far into Kylo’s mind, if he wasn’t also pushing Luke out of his normal path. Not that she’s known Luke well, but… The idea that he, too, was being manipulated seems more likely than he just woke up one night in a murderous rage.)

She’s caught other pieces of his past, both when he’s spoken of it, and sometimes when he dreams. Sometimes the words stop, but she can still feel, or ghost along in the back of, his images.

She knows he’s gotten views of sand and scrounging, of red pain and black fear, the taste of scorched air without a hint of moisture, the eternal gnaw of low grade hunger, and the smell of cleaning solvents off of her.

“You’re thinking loudly,” he says to her as she’s not looking at him, but not exactly seeing the plate of noodles and vegetables they’re sharing.

She’s noticed that’s a shorthand they’re developing, too, a way to make it clear that the option of talking about those thoughts is available, but not prying them out of each other’s heads without regard to the idea that sometimes some thoughts should stay private.

Finn and Rose never have this problem. Their brains stay nicely in their own heads, and sometimes she envies that. But, having acknowledged that he’s aware of where her thoughts are, she knows it’s okay to bring them to her lips.

“I’ve never been to school. I don’t know what to do with them, Kylo.”

“What did you do today?”

“Dug a trench, put a pipe together, three times, and finally got it working, and then buried it. Then they showed me how to ride the Faviers. We caught some fish, cleaned it, cooked it, I made sure they ate, and then came here.”

“Doesn’t sound like a bad day to me. Granted, I did tax reports and recruiting targets today.”

He pushes his chair back a little, and undoes his tunic, not taking it off, just… getting comfortable, she guesses. There’s a wash of putting something together, the image of Ben, of loose robes without a lot of structure, light, warm colors that wrapped around him… All banished by stiff, structured, tight, black.

He inclines his eyebrows a bit, letting her know that’s not something he ever consciously thought about, but it’s likely right. 

He pulls the image to the front of his mind, and shares it with her. A small boy with dark, unruly hair, most of it just long enough to brush the nape of his neck, but he had a little braid hanging down on his right side. He wore tan trousers, an ecru shirt that wrapped around him and tied at his waist, and a darker brown jacket, with the same wrap around styling. In the image, his hands and feet are bare, and he’s reaching out… calling something to him.

“A book. The first thing I successfully, intentionally called to my hand was a book.”

“A good one?”

“Back then, any book I hadn’t already read fifty times was a good one. There weren’t a lot of things I liked doing that didn’t make the adults nervous, but reading was one of them.” He thinks back, and Rey can feel the weight of the book in his hands. It’s a slim volume, just as thick as one of her hands, bound in smooth leather. “Poems about the Force. Somewhere between prayers and songs. Luke liked them.”

Kylo shakes his head. She gets a view of Luke watching, encouraging him, and the few other children with him, telling them to clear their minds and really feel whatever it was they were trying to move. “He’s only a few years older than I am now in that memory.”

“What did you do? In school… What was an average day like?”

He doesn’t smile at the memory, but she can feel he’s… not at peace with it, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. “The school was self-sufficient. The only things Luke bought were things we just couldn’t make for ourselves, mostly structural metals, wires, plasteel, transteel, things like that. He split the days into even and odd with different schedules for each. Every day started with chores. You’d either be on food prep or taking care of the animals, and we all did all of it, so it was just a matter what day it was. I had food prep on even days. Half of the time you’d be steeping tea, and making porridge, toasting bread or frying eggs, and the other half you’d be feeding and milking the sheep, feeding the hflers, and collecting eggs from the ugandos. Once morning chores were over, we’d have breakfast. Communal meal, everyone eats together, everyone cleans up together.

“After that, even days are lesson days: Reading, writing, math, geography, history, an hour of each. That was the morning session. Lunch break, again, communal, this time though everyone cooks, eats, and cleans up. Recess. We’d have an hour to do whatever we liked. Afternoon session: The Church of the Force. Holy doctrine, philosophy, theology, history of the church, history of great Jedi. That’s another four hours. Supper break. Like breakfast, half of us are taking care of the animals, half of us are cooking, then all together for the meal and clean up.

“After supper, an hour of quiet study, whatever interested us, but quiet. That left two hours of the night to ourselves to do whatever we liked. Then to our cottages and lights out.”

“What did you do the other day?”

“Meals and taking care of the animals stayed the same, we just switched what we were doing. Morning session was physical Force work. Go at it rested and calm and well-fed. That would be everything from levitating things to lightsaber practice to one-handed handstands to… all of it. We’d all be exhausted, hungry, and sweaty by the end of that. Again, lunch. Instead of a free hour, we’d spend that time on keeping up the property. Fixing things, tending the gardens, stuff like that. Later afternoon, making things. And that covered everything from learning how to shear the sheep and hflers, clean their wool, spin it, and then weave it and sew our clothing, to building lightsabers.”

“You sew?” She has a hard time imagining that.

“I even knit.” He flashes her an image of a much younger version of himself with a ball of tan yarn, and four knitting needles in a square, fingers moving fast and easy, working on what she assumes is a sock, while he reads something. “I can make butter and cheese. I built my lightsaber. I’ve put up cherry preserves, and installed windows, and helped to patch leaking domes, and built comm systems, and weeded gardens, and… I wasn’t very good with the animals. They didn’t like me all that much, and the plants weren’t a whole lot better, but anything that took quick hands, an eye for detail, and precision, I was great at.” He shrugs a little. “Luke grew up on a self-sufficient farm. That’s what he knew how to do, so that’s how he build his school.” Then he sighs a little, thinking of what happened on the odd days after supper.

Rey feels the tension in that sigh. She sends him the sense of tell me more. Rey more than knows that Kylo has enough sarcasm for a good six people stuffed into his skin. And when he lets it go… He could cut plasteel with the scorn in his voice as he says, “Then dinner again, and after that meditation time. Sit quietly, focus down, and find your nice, calm, peaceful, light side center.” His voice is sharp, and she can feel he’s quoting Luke. “’Feel the Force, let it lead you to a deeper communion with the light inside you. Let it help you to release your dark feelings. They’re a prison, looking to capture your spirit and trap your will, so just sit comfortably, relax, open your minds and’…” Sarcasm, scorn, anger, aimed at Luke, she feels that, and it’s probably a good ninety percent of the dark in him right now, but there’s another ten percent simmering under there, aimed at the boy who was Ben, who just couldn’t master those skills, who couldn’t let it go. “And next thing I know ‘Vader’s’ in my head telling me about how useless all of this is and how I was meant for the dark and denying my true self is a betrayal of everything that matters and…” His tone goes normal again. “Then two more hours on our own, and bedtime again.”

“Luke just… let him play in your mind?”

That gets a sigh, too. An annoyed one. He pokes the noodles with a fork, but doesn’t lift a bite to his lips.  “Not exactly. He tried walling my mind off. Unfortunately, he only seemed to have two levels, completely cut off from the Force, or not nearly enough to keep Snoke out. The only thing more troubling than a voice talking in your head is a voice you can just barely hear. Little non-distinct whispers in the back of my mind for weeks until he gave that up. He tried teaching me how to do it. But, I didn’t want to shut out the only voice telling me I was just fine the way I was.”

Rey can understand that. She knows what she would have given to have had a voice pet and praise her. Someone to tell her she mattered.

Another though springs into her mind, unbidden, Han saying that one of the students killed all of the other ones.

This time Kylo doesn’t wait to respond. He looks up from the supper he’s not eating, making sure he’s got eye contact as he says, “Not all of them. Not even most of them, though I assume that’s likely the story their parents were told. Likely the story their parents wanted to hear.”

“What happened?”

“I may have been the only dark student there, but I wasn’t the only one with some dark tendencies. All four of us who weren’t pristinely light had a difficult time there. And when he attacked me, I blasted him back, shattered my cottage with the force of it, buried him in the rubble. I wasn’t exactly calm or unmoved by the experience, so I was screaming at him about attacking me in my sleep, attacking the stones above him with my saber. And that attracted the attention of the other students. They ran to us.

“I knew he wasn’t dead, but M’Gll didn’t.

“She was my age, the only other Master, and she was not, on any level, dark. She was… what they’d hoped I’d be. Poised and calm and steady. Passionless and easily centered. Good. Always so easily good. And what she loved more than anything was the idea of righteous justice. She adored the stories of the great Jedi Knights, the warriors of the Old Republic, who hunted down and destroyed the Sith.

“She found me standing in the rubble, blade extended, screaming about killing him, and between that and the fact she’d always been aware of my dark, her blade was out, and she’d rallied most of the school to her side to take down the baby Sith in their midst.

“Three of the other students joined me, and we won. Eight on four, and the youngest one was fourteen. Luke had long given up on finding small children at that point, thinking the training worked better with older students. I only fought M’Gll. By the time we were done, the rest of the students were, too. I burned the school, burned the library, burned the barns, burned everything. I marked their faces with ash. The Jedi didn’t want us, but I did. So they were mine. The Knights of Ren. Kammun could fly, so he got us out of there, and I knew where we needed to go.”

“You knew Luke was still alive?”

He nods. “Yes. Unconscious, wounded, and buried, but alive. I wanted him to feel just as betrayed when he woke up as I did.”

“The ones who joined you… What happened to them?”

There’s a tiny quirk to his lip that could be a smile if it weren’t so sad. “The Knights of Ren. We trained with Snoke for several years, and for several years our main job was the destruction of any Force sensitive person he could find. He didn’t have a hard time convincing us that any new Jedi was a mortal threat to our continued existence. Though through the years we found two more who also became Knights.”

“And now?” She knows he is, or was, the Master of the Knights of Ren, but she’s never seen a Knight of Ren, and he doesn’t exactly talk about them.

“Four years ago, I had my final test proving that I’d overcome any last thread of light. I knelt there and let him kill them in front of me. That’s why he was so sure he couldn’t be betrayed. If I didn’t break for comrades I’d known and fought with for decades at that point, what was the value of a stranger?”

Rey doesn’t know what to do with that. Part of her is revolted at the idea of him kneeling there, letting it happen. Part of her, like Poe, feels like this is the saddest thing she’s ever heard. Part of her wants to go find Snoke and kill him all over again, just to do it.

Kylo nods. “Add in grief on top of that, and good helping of self-loathing, and that’s about right. He told me to remember that feeling, all of the grasping black tendrils of it, and that through it, I’d be stronger than anyone who ever came up against me.” His voice is sounding detached as he says, “And from that day on, I didn’t lose a single fight, except for training matches against Phasma, until I went up against you.

“The last thing he said to me, before I went to find you the first time, was ‘Even you, Master of the Knights of Ren, have never been so tested…’ He’d rub it in, remind me of it, call me Master, when he wanted that extra jolt of hate. Make me that much more dangerous, steep myself in that much more loathing.”

She gives his hand a gentle squeeze.

He’s not looking at her as he says, “The job of the Master is to lead and protect his charges. I led them, but didn’t protect them.” Then he does look at her, shuddering all over, before saying. “School.” He rubs his lips together. “Uh… make sure they have time to run around. That’s the thing I found most useful. If you’ve got time to physically do stuff, whatever you’re doing with your brain’ll stick better.”

“Okay.”

“Um…” He blinks, thinking. “You don’t actually know how to read… I mean, not in a way you can teach someone else, right?”

She thinks about it, and comes to the conclusion he’s likely right about that.

“And you’ve only got the one copy of your library…”

She nods at that, too.

“How many, total, do you think you can handle? What’s the largest number of students you’ll take?”

“As many as Poe brings me?” That there might be a limit on this wasn’t something she’d considered.

He shakes his head at that. “Set a top number. Eventually you’ll hit a point where it’s just too many of them, unless you get more adults.”

“Okay… Uh… Thirty.”

“Tomorrow.” He eats a bite of the noodles. And she realizes she’s also been ignoring the meal, so likewise lifts a bite to her lips. “I’ll get you thirty primers and thirty blank pads. You’ll have copies of your library so everyone can read at once, and something they can learn to read from.”

“You can…”

“We’ve got tens of thousands of children on this ship alone, and the First Order makes sure they can all read and write and do basic math. Can’t be good soldiers if they can’t do that. Getting equipment for your sprogs will barely put a dent in a rounding error in our equipment levels.” 

She thinks about that, and then says, “Kylo, are they First Order primers?”

He inclines his head a bit, not sure what she means by that. Obviously, they’re First Order primers.

“Are they filled with short, easy stories about how amazing Snoke is, and how the Resistance is evil, and…”

He winces, remembering how all of those stories of the Jedi heroes shaped his past. “I’ll check. If they are… I’m sure C8 can find thirty, basic, non-First Order primers.” He sighs at that, too, and then shakes his head. “Kill the past step seven thousand fifty-six, if they’re First Order indoctrination documents, I’ve got to get rid of them anyway.”

She takes another bite of the noodles. “There’s your ‘random spot check’ for tomorrow night.”

 

 


After that conversation, neither of them are feeling especially playful or sexy. So dinner wraps up, and slides into bath time, which helps some, and from there both of them are looking for a bit more time between those memories and anything approaching erotic touch, but it’s getting later.

Rey’s checked the chronometer six times in the last twenty minutes.

“You’re worried.”

“They’re all alone there. And unlike you, I don’t have a comm if something goes wrong.”

“Do you want to go back to your cottage?” he looks disappointed at that.

“I want us to go back to my cottage. You installed the locks yourself; you know they work. How about you try sleeping there again?”

“Just sleep?”

“Not necessarily. Our usual evening, just, at my place.”

He thinks about that for a moment and then says, “What if they hear?”

She looks amused at that. Yes, they make noise, but besides their first time, she doesn’t recall him, or her, ever shouting. “How loud are you planning on being? They’ve got their own cottages, not sleeping on the floor in mine. I just want to be closer if they need an adult.”

“What if the Force sensitive one—“ he pauses for that child’s name.

“Marrok.”

“Senses me?”

She can feel he’s looking for excuses to stay here. “Have you met him before?”

He flashes her an irked look.

“Then if he sense you, all he’ll know is that I’ve got a friend who comes to visit at night.”

“A dark friend?” his voice is sharp.

“Is the stress on dark or friend?” She can feel he’s dealing with both of those words.

“Both?”

She rests her palms against his chest. “My dark friend… lover… mirror… mate… man… balance… The dark gray to my light?” She kisses him. “What would you have me call you?”

Husband arcs through him, and she feels it, but he doesn’t give it voice. “Friend is fine.”

She holds out her hand to him. “Come home with me, friend.”

 

 


For weeks, the Supremacy has known that changes are coming. Whispers of new badges and new stencils and preparations for a huge rally have been galloping through the halls and canteens.

Where the rumors haven’t been stirring, much, was among the children and sub-adults. They go about their days as usual, training, learning to be effective members of the First Order.

And then, one day, the lessons in their pads suddenly changed. The basic content was the same. The Aurebesh, basic math, fundamentals of grammar, colors, shapes, and species all of that was the same, but the stories of the glory of the First Order all vanished overnight. The series of Adventures of Hux, featuring a young Armitage Hux, illustrated with soft edges, fluffy red hair, and big blue eyes, overcoming all challenges for the glory of the First Order ceased to exist. The Captain Phasma Comics, illustrated stories aimed at the girls of the First Order, making sure they all knew that just because they were girls didn’t mean they couldn’t be just as strong and useful as the boys, evaporated overnight. The tales of First Order soldiers bravely fighting against the Evil Republic were suddenly replaced with tales of fluffy animals and cute robots. Evil Jedi plotting behind closed doors to corrupt the Force and ensorcel the unwary fled to the ethers. 

Their teachers were just as shocked as the children to find their lesson plans suddenly irrelevant as the texts they were teaching from disappeared.

But all of them were more than bright enough to know that while computers can glitch, this isn’t the sort of thing that happens as the result of a glitch.

And three days after the change, when they got the official command, from Supreme Leader Ren, explaining how they were getting out of the propaganda business and into the teaching business, those murmurs turned into a full out chorus of curious voices.

They could understand getting rid of the Adventures of Hux and Captain Phasma Comics, both Hux and Phasma were gone, but… The rest of it? Why get rid of the history of the First Order? Why stop teaching what made the First Order the First Order?

Something’s coming all right, and everyone is talking about it.

Chapter Text

 

2/4/36 ABY

 

There are some rumors that Kylo wishes to explore deeper.

For example, he is aware, in the sense of he’s heard people, soldiers, talking about what they intend to do with their ‘friends’ or the pleasure specialists, so he knows there are more ways to have sex than him on top or her on top. (Though so far, he’s enjoyed those options quite a bit.) Or with their mouths.

He’s just… not entirely sure what they may be.

Because that’s pretty much all he’s ever done.

He’s sort of remembering them on their sides the first night, but at this point he’s not entirely sure if that actually happened or if he dreamed it. (Though he’s thinking that if he can dream it, he can do it… Probably. One of these mornings they’ll linger in bed long enough to try that again, because he’s thinking that’s going to be a very good way to wake up.)

And, she’s sat in his lap, grinding on him, so… That’s likely an option. Maybe even in his pool. (The idea of which he likes quite a bit, too.)

But that’s pretty much where his imagination peters out.

He’s got the sense though, that there’s probably more.

 

 


He knows she has books. Any time he goes to Lirium, and it’s pouring down rain, which is happening more often now that it’s fully autumn, he finds her in her cottage reading something.

He also knows not to ask where she got the books. Wherever her cottage was before, he knows he’s not supposed to know. It’s a place. Orlac apparently runs it. She was there. He let her read. Now she’s not there. But she seems to have a very well-stocked data-pad.

He’s never poked at it before, but… People write books about things they like. He can’t imagine he’s the only person in the galaxy who likes sex and wants to learn more about it.

And, worst comes to worst, he tries, and there’s nothing there.

They’re wrapping up dinner. Since the children have moved in, they’ve taken to eating and… anything else they’d really prefer not to be interrupted at… at his place. The kids are curious, and have a tendency to hang around her when they aren’t at their work, but are pretty good at letting Rey have a few hours a night to ‘meditate undisturbed.’ But with the children there, she prefers to sleep nearby. If there’s a problem in the night, she wants to be close enough to do something about it. 

It’s… he supposes it’s a lot like living in a place where you have several different rooms. The home he was born in had a dining room, and his bedroom, and a room for his parents, and a reading room, and a bathroom, and some other ones he didn’t spend any time in. So, sometimes he’d be in one room, and sometimes he’d go to another, and that was just… life.

Just, some of their rooms are on a ship in the middle of the galaxy, and some of them are in a cottage on a planet in the middle of nowhere.

As he’s tidying up their plates, he says, “Do you mind if I read your data pad?”

She’s startled and a little surprised by that. He does read. A lot. He’s got data pads coming out of his ears, all stuffed with reports and plans and more reports and other plans and…

“You want to read my pad?”

He nods. “I… have an idea. I want to see if I’m right.”

She shrugs and then says, “Early night at my place?”

They have sex most nights, but just snuggling up to read and sleep is always an option. Even Force wielders have long days and get tired.

He shakes his head, and lays a kiss on her throat. “I hope not.” Then he’s gone. A moment later, he’s back with the pad. It lives next to her bed, and he’s seen her use it enough to know the code on it.

He tosses it on his bed, and takes off his tunic and gloves, leaving him in his shirt and trousers. Then he flops onto his stomach, grabbing a pillow, folding it up and tucking it under his chest before reaching for the pad.

She comes closer, undoing her belt, taking off her bracer, crawling onto the bed, and settling herself on his back.

 

 

She kisses his shoulder, and he turns his face, pressing against her hers, feeling very content for a moment, before grinning at her, then, making sure she’s reading along with him, he finds the search feature and types in SEX.

He feels her gasp, and the wave of curiosity that goes with it. “I never thought to look.” The datapad spits back 34,968 responses. “We’re going to be here all night, and not in a good way,” Rey says, noticing that all of the titles on the first screen are all about the biology of sex, sex differences, mating habits in various creatures, and not what Kylo’s looking for.

FUCKING

That gets three naughty poems, two dictionaries of slang, a novel, and a play.

“That’s more of a library than I was expecting,” Kylo says.

“Still not what you’re looking for, right?”

He rubs the back of his head against her chin. He’ll read the poems later, and the novel if he ever gets an entire afternoon free again. “Not exactly.”

He’s tapping his finger against the pad, trying to think of another search term. She reaches down and types in NUDE.

That pulls up… “Oh!” Kylo says, feeling his skin heat up.

Rey wriggles a little on his back.

Of course Orlac’s library would have books of nudes. He runs an art school for the Force’s sake! Lots of them. Beautiful ones. Erotic ones. Scary ones. Black and white and color and everything in between. All different shapes and sizes and sexes and genders and races and species and… Anything that might like looking at naked versions of itself or others has pictures in there.

Kylo narrows it with HUMAN NUDES, and that gets it more into the sort of territory they’re interested in.

Rey leans over his shoulder and adds EROTIC to it.

And that’s where the good stuff is. Close to 200 titles pop up.

Her lips are touching his ear as she says, voice low, “What’s got you thinking about this?”

“You… Things I want to do with you…” He looks away from the pad and the list of titles they haven’t clicked on, yet. She’s looking down at him, and he half shrugs. “Everything I’ve mastered, I trained for. Studied. Learned. Practiced. I know I don’t… know much about this, and… It seems like the kind of thing I’d like to learn more about.” He gives her a quick kiss. “With you.”

“You’re good at this.”

He smiles at her. “Maybe I could be better?”

“Feels good to me.”

He kisses her. “Good.”

He feels some doubt creep into her mind. “You think it’s good, too, right?”

He holds her up with the Force and rolls over so he can face her easily, and kiss her without straining. Then gently settles her against his front. He’s already hard, and rubs it against her a bit. “If I don’t think it’s good, nothing happens.”

“Nothing was happening. I was on your back.”

“My back likes you on me, and I like the idea of looking at pictures like this, with you.”

That takes her by surprise.

“And I like the idea of you looking at them, picking something out, and having me try it with you.” He kisses her again. “And I’ll probably want to try just about everything I see with you. I want to try everything I can imagine, and I want to be able to imagine even more, and…” and he’s not sure how to say he’s had sex with ladies who weren’t terribly interested in if he was any good at it, because the sex part, specifically if they got anything out of it, wasn’t the point of it. And he doesn’t want that, with her. And he thinks they’re good, but maybe better is out there. And he’s never been good at much of anything, not without studying, and this might be like with the training droids, where the only reason he’s good is because he can use the Force, and he’d like to be good in his own right and… it might be fun.

She kisses the tip of his nose. And then his forehead. “It’s complicated in there, isn’t it?”

 

 

He shrugs. “Look at some pretty pictures with me?”

“Sure.”

He props the pillows up at the head of his bed, and then scoots up, back against the headboard, legs spread in front of him. She settles between them, back to his chest. He holds the pad, and she’s in charge of flipping from picture to picture.

She clicks at one of the book more or less at random. The names of the artists don’t mean anything to either of them.

They’re charcoal sketches, more the suggestion of bodies than anything explicit. Kylo can see enjoying drawing something like that, the feel of the charcoal on paper, and swoop of the lines is probably pleasing, but not necessarily looking at them. Rey’s fairly indifferent to them, and they flip through, fast.

The second book is male nudes, also drawings. Rey’s vastly more interested in them than he is. They’re all… very… male. Extremely male. He gently bites the crest of her ear and says quietly, “I’ve seen literally thousands of naked men in the showers over the years, and none of them have those proportions.”

She’s intently looking at the extremely fit gentleman in front of them, and then says, “What would you do with that? I mean, I don’t think it would fit... anywhere.” She’s looking from her hand to the picture and back to her hand, and he can feel she’s fairly sure she can’t wrap a hand around that, let alone anything else.

Kylo laughs at that, feeling a bit goofy. “Strut around and let people look at it. Not much good for anything else. You’d pass out from low blood pressure if it ever got hard enough to use.”

She giggles at that, and flicks to the next picture... Apparently, at least in the world of those drawings, it can get hard without knocking out its owner, and there is a place that fits, which it’s owner seems quite pleased by, and it’s not a place either she, or Kylo, had ever imagined fitting something like that.

They look at each other, somewhat scandalized, shake their heads, and Kylo flicks to the next book. 

This one is much more to Kylo’s liking, and he feels Rey’s breath catch at the first image, so it seems to be working for her, too.

They’re photographs, black and white, elegant, sensual, and if he hadn’t already been hard, his shaft would have sprung into action at the sight of these.

The first one… It’s a person. He thinks it’s a woman, but from the angle he’s not sure, and doesn’t much care. He can see a hip, and the dip of a low back, and she… he… has nicely toned muscles, but nothing much to distinguish which sex it may be. The person kissing the top of her/his buttock is male. Strong jaw, full lips, a bit of stubble, gentle brush of lips on skin.

It’s making Kylo squirm, because seeing it, he can imagine doing it to Rey. Her standing, naked, before him, and he’d kneel, run his lips from the crest of her hip to buttock, and down the inside of her leg, sucking soft pink marks into her skin.

The next shot doesn’t have any faces in it. A couple, spooning, from shoulders to knees. This one is definitely male and female. Kylo wonders if they look like that when they’re falling asleep. Probably. The male’s a lot bigger than his companion, and he’s wrapped around her completely.

And in the next shot, his hands are roaming. Her legs are flush to each other, but he’s cupping her delta in his palm, and again, there are no faces in the shot, but Kylo’s got a good sense from the arch of her back, and the way she’s gripping his wrist, that she likes what he’s doing.

And apparently she wants him to do it with his tongue, too. There’s a shot of the woman, straddling the man’s face. Her back is bent, head back, mouth open, eyes closed. She’s not classically beautiful of face. He doubts he’d look twice at her if she were one of his officers, in full uniform, but the expression is captivating. It’s shot from above and behind, so they can’t see much of the man, just that he’s got one hand extended, cupping her breast.

The next shot is the close up of her breast, and his fingers, lightly stroking a hard nipple.

Kylo’s squirming harder, because he definitely wants to do that with Rey now. Wants her kneeling above his face, rocking against his lips.

And she’s rearranging them, so she’s straddling his legs, not between them.

Her hips roll at that next image, the couple, standing, her leg crooked over his hip, his hand cupped under her bottom. His mouth on her collar bone, her face pressed to his temple, her hand in his hair.

Kylo licks her ear and says quietly, “Standing.” That triggers a memory of what may have been a dream or maybe the Force bond or… He’s not sure, but he was standing in the pool, he remembers that now. That picture though… he doesn’t think the way it is in the photograph is an option, not for them. He’s too tall and Rey’s too short, but he can pick her up and…

And the next picture’s more or less exactly what he was thinking. She’s climbed her companion, arms around his shoulders, legs around his hips, and he’s holding her up. She’s high enough up that he’s looking up at her, and she’s looking down at him, and between the position, and the naked bodies, and the facial expressions, Kylo’s not sure if he wants to stroke himself to this photograph or hang it up on his wall as art.

He definitely wants to do this with Rey.

He’s also realizing that he does not, in fact, need two hands to hold the data pad. One of them could be holding her, and as soon as that thought goes wandering from the back of his mind to the front, his hand is worming its way into her shirt, looking to find skin.

She moans, softly, when his fingers find her breast, and arches into his touch, rocking her hips, too.

It’s not one of the pictures, but it’s occurring to him that if her pants were located anywhere other than on her body, and his pants were likewise not on him, she could just slip onto him, the way they are now, and he could touch her all over, and instead of the sweet, diffuse pleasure of her butt rocking against him, he could be feeling the sharp, concentrated joy of her body on his.

That hand goes wandering down, looking for the top button on her pants.

She flips to the next picture. 

He feels it thrill through her, and it’s working a treat for him, too. They’d only have to shift a bit, and get rid of all of this clothing. If they ever do this again, and he really hopes they do, they’re doing it naked.

He undoes the button on her pants, pulls down the zip, and she rubs her maomao against his palm.

“That one?” he asks.

“Yes.”

He kisses her shoulder and neck and jaw, “Yes…”

The lady’s on the bed, on her stomach, spread out, and this is the first of the pictures where everything is on display. Her companion is kneeling over her, hands and knees, his legs between hers, his hands on the bed next to her shoulders. He’s kissing his way down her spine, and his shaft is a hair away from touching her, slipping in, and Kylo’s thinking it’s a good thing he didn’t know pictures like this existed when he was a teenager, because if he had, he would have done nothing but look at them and stroke himself.

In a second, she’s up, turning, ripping off her clothing, and he is, too. She’s already mostly undressed, so it doesn’t take her that long.

He on the other hand…

“Did the person who made these not like you, or something?” Rey asks as she’s fighting with Kylo’s pants. “These things are ridiculous. Why do they have so many buttons?”

Kylo would have to admit that’s a question he’s never asked, but as he’s thinking about it, perhaps he doesn’t need trousers with a fifteen button fly.

“Says the girl with the sleeves that take ten minutes to put on.” Though it’s taken all of ten seconds to pull them off.

“On! When have you ever complained about me staying longer?”

“Good point!” He just yanks the fabric apart, and the remaining three buttons go flying. “I’m getting a fucking kilt. You could just flip it up.”

That makes her laugh as she’s pushing off his pants and undershorts. “You’ve got bony knees.”

“I’ll strike terror through the galaxy in a black kilt, with my pale, white, bony knees!” He poses for her, hands on his hips, chest puffed out, shorts around said knees, standing on his bed.

They’re both laughing at that.

She yanks those shorts down, and grabs him by the back of the knee, taking him down onto the bed, then she pounces on top of him.

He wriggles under her, enjoying the feel of her body on top of his, her lips on his, and all of her sweet, sweet skin making his skin sing.

“You keep,” he says between kisses, “doing this,” and more, “and we’re not” another kiss, “going to get to that picture.”

Then she’s off of him, spread out on her stomach across his bed, and for a moment he’s just got to look.

For a moment. Then his fingertips find her skin, and he trails them over her shoulders and arms, down the lines of her back, across her buttocks, between them, fast and light, finding her wet and slick and waiting for him, and then down the insides of her legs.

He doesn’t know how the man in the picture felt when it was being taken. He does know how he feels, hot and tense and powerful and primal.

He’s already on the bed, so he can’t exactly stalk her, but he can feel the idea of it. She’s sleeping, having an excellent dream, a sexy one, spread out because it’s warm and she doesn’t need any blankets, and he’s moving across the room, silent, slipping up on her, knees between hers, stretching out a bit, hands supporting him as his lips find her neck and back and that contact makes her moan, a soft, ragged, needy sound.

Hearing that is rushing through him, making him even harder, tenser, more ready to pounce.

Rey cants her hips a little, brushing against his tip, and that’s all the invitation he needs.

 

 

He arches forward, sinking into her with a loud gasp. His arms come to rest under her shoulder, his hands cupped around them, and his lips find her back.

She’s moaning, too. He’s at a really good angle right now. The one that hits that spot and makes her body light up.

 

 

Her head rears up and he’s laying soft kisses and sharp little nips up her shoulder and neck while rocking his hips slow and steady.

She’s flexing up to meet him, liquid and hot, and as long as they keep going slow and easy, this works.

This is good. It’s sending sparks up his legs and shaft and balls and he really likes it… But, it’s not enough. He could probably do this all night, and mostly just get an extremely pleasant workout out of it. And he can feel from the way she’s moving, that frustrated roll of her hips, that she’s in the same ship.

Can’t go too deep like this. Can’t pull back too far or he slips out. He can’t really get to her pearl. But… he could be on his knees, and she could be on her hands and knees, and they could probably go really fast and deep like that, and the idea of how it’d feel and look flashes through him, with a rush of hot pleasure.

He pulls back, kneeling, and takes her hips in his hands, pulling her up, too. She’s a few inches off the bed when she freezes, and he feels her go cold, and a flash of red fear and pain. He knows, too late, that there are some bad memories associated with this position.

He lets go and stops, dead. “I’m… we don’t… Not…”

She raises herself onto her hands and knees. “I want to… enjoy this… too. Just… keep talking to me.” Make me know it’s you. Keep me out of the memories.

“You sure?” We really don’t have to do this.

“Yes.”

“Okay… How about.” He’s holding himself by the base, and just touches her with the tip of it. “You move onto me. I’m going to stay still, you just, come to me. Set the pace, do it how you like it, okay?”

“Okay…” And she does, slowly, easing back.

 

 

He keeps his hands gentle, soft, stroking along her back and hips… Talking… Shit, he’s got no idea what to say, and he doesn’t want her to stop or get lost, but there are basically no words in his head right now, and…

Uhnh! It’s not exactly a word, but it’s heartfelt. She’s right up against him, and the angle is sweet and... He rocks against her, a little, nothing too hard or fast, just a bit more friction, roll of his hips.

Her head drops, and a strangled “Kylo!” pants from her lips.

“Yeah… It me… Just keep moving, love, keep moving… make us both feel sweet.”

She does, rocking all the way forward, and all the way back, and both of them are gasping at it.

“Oh… It’s good… so good… oh fuck!” His eyes are closed, head back, focusing himself in and down to the feel of her on him, and controlling his desire to thrust hard and fast and deep. “So sweet…” He swallows hard. She’s all the way back again and grinding against him, looking for an angle that sparks through her, and he feels her shudder when she gets it, the one where he hits right there.

“Feels good?”

She groans, which he takes as a yes.

He opens his eyes, watching her move against him, and that pulls him even higher, harder. “It looks so good…” He swallows hard, seeing her body sliding against his. “I’m never closing my eyes again.” It’s just so… “Beautiful…” She’s wet and glistening and clinging to him on the outstroke and enveloping him on the instroke and he’s a liar by another two strokes because if he keeps watching he’s going to spurt, hard, now. Soft, needy sounds keep panting out from between his lips, and none of them are words, but it’s voice and… he licks his lips and says, “I’m getting a mirror… Next time we do this, I want you to see how good this looks, too.”

“Good?”

“So good…” his eyes open again and it’s just… “So good…” His eyes slide shut and he gives himself a hard squeeze to slow himself down.

She pulls all the way off of him, giving him another few breaths to get under control before easing back. Another low groan pours out of his mouth. “Oh…” exhaled on each breath as his hips roll against her. He doesn’t think he could be still right now if his life depended on it.

“Kylo!” her voice, up a few octaves. That roll’s doing good things for her, too.

“Yeah… Oh love… feel me… feel me…” It’s so intense. Probably because he’s only touching her with his shaft and fingertips. Everything’s focused down to one, long, shuddering slide.

He’s breathing faster, rocking harder against her, hips and thighs and butt flexing, and he wants to grab her by the hips, pull her against him, bury himself in fast, hard thrusts.

His hands fall to her hips and he chokes out, “Can I?”

“YES!”

Her head is back, back arched, hips and butt flush to him, and he’s squeezing hard, pulling her closer, himself deeper, rocking faster. “Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck…” it’s a mantra, punctuating each thrust.

 

 

He’s so close; his motions are getting jagged, and his fine muscle control is shot. He’s just hanging on long enough to feel her start to twitch and… “OH FUCK!” she does, shuddering around him, and he’s gone, everything in his body releasing at once as he pulls her against him hard, burying himself for a good long pulse, and then a few sharp thrusts, and then quiet, both of them awash in pounding hearts and heavy breaths.

He drops to his hands, his chin against her shoulder, and kisses gently, though mostly he’s just resting, his lips against her.

When he feels like his joints are working again, he reaches down, cupping her maomao. He kisses her ear, and says, “Me. Just me. No fear or pain or bad memories. Just me.” He’s still hard enough for another thrust, gentle and easy this time. “Just us, and just this, sweet, sweet this.”

Her hand finds his, and gives him a gentle squeeze.

 

 


Uhnh!

“Kylo!”

The first and least desirable job of a new recruit to the First Order is cleaning staff. And, while it’s true that there are droids that can move through the Supremacy cleaning things, it’s also true that for a lot of the new recruits, some sort of simple task that allows the higher ups to see how good you are at following orders, the kind of job you’ll do while following those orders, and the kind of information you may ferret out by following those orders, is vitally important to figuring out where you’ll go next.

It is also true that, for security purposes, Kylo’s private chambers have one door. That door is off of his office, which is behind his throne room.

Because he is never, simultaneously, located in his office and his private room, and because no one else is ever in his private room when he’s in his office, Kylo is woefully unaware of how bad the sound-proofing in his private chamber is.

Each night, new recruits, in teams of two clean his office. They sweep the floor, dust his desk and conference table, take out any trash there may be (there never is), and tidy any messes. Other than occasionally having to go after bloodstains and similar human detritus that the janitorial droid may have missed, there are rarely any messes in Kylo’s office.

So, on most nights, cleaning his office takes a matter of minutes.

And on most nights there’s nothing to hear while the janitors are there.

But sometimes…

The cleaners share a look, and a smirk. The Supreme Leader is having a very good time tonight. Someone in the officer-eat-officer world of the First Order will pay well for this tidbit of information. It’s just a matter of finding the right ear.

 

Chapter Text

 

2/8/36 ABY

 

It’s been a long time since Kylo last did this. He’s standing in the bay overlooking the flight deck, a sheet of transteel between him and the now empty, at least of ships, hangar. He thinks of the last time he was here, he was waiting, not sure what was coming, just knowing, somehow that he needed to find a spot to be alone for a moment.

A good plan, because after that moment, he wasn’t alone. He was looking at Rey and she was calling him a murderous snake.

The difference a year and a half makes. He shakes his head, rechecking the notes he made for his speech. Year and a quarter. Sixteen months can change a lot. He tucks the speech into his tunic. He knows the words, knows what he wants to say.

He looks out, seeing his troops filing in. Just about all of them who could be relieved from duty are here. Any he could afford, in the sense of spare from their duties, have been shipped in from his other commands. Rank after rank after rank of them. Stretching almost beyond what his eyes can see.

If they’re moving into place, that means half an hour to go.

Kylo squares his shoulders, then slips the helmet into his hands. He closes his eyes and settles it over his head. It seals on with a slight hiss. He touches the helmet, gloved fingers stroking over hard metal. After more than a year without it, it feels alien, strange and heavy. In retrospect, it always did. The thing he liked most about it was not that it was right, not that it was an extension of him, but that it hid him and any reaction he may have been having. Only another Force user could feel what was behind the mask, and that gave him an automatic air of deathly calm, which many men find unnerving.

Which gave him an automatic upper hand.

It commanded the respect that a tall, lanky, twenty-two-year-old who wore every feeling in his eyes, who had never won, let alone fought, a real battle couldn’t get from his face.

But he’s not twenty-two any longer.

And he’s won a position that demands respect.

He drapes the cloak back slightly, leaving his left arm visible. His previous shirts never had a mark of rank on them, because he was not actually a member of the First Order. The privileges of rank without the rank. He often thinks Snoke did that just to annoy Hux. To show him that a man didn’t need a uniform or marks to be obeyed. Unlike Hux, people followed his orders by the feel of his power alone.

 

 

His shirt bears a mark, now. His new symbol, a silver hexagon edging a black field, surrounding a silver circle, around a white circle with sixteen black rays connecting in the center.

He’s the only one with the silver hexagon. All of his citizens will have a white hexagon. His citizens will get the silver circle on their new badges. His troops will just have the white circle. But all of them are getting the new mark.

His commanders will keep their stripes.

But the Supreme Leader… No, not a Supreme Leader, not after today… The Master needs no stripes. He needs no blaster. He has no guards. When he walks, he walks on his own, cloak billowing behind him, lightsaber on his hip, shoulders back, back straight. With the right mindset he can amp his power. His troops, his commanders, the ‘dignitaries’ he’s invited to this, they’ll all feel it in their guts and bones. Just being near him should make them want to kneel.

He smiles behind the mask, looking at the rally set out before him. More and more people are flowing in. Soon, he’ll stride out of there and make the first official, visible step of putting his mark on the First Order. Taking ownership of it. Stripping it of the past and making it his.

He feels the presence to his left, slightly behind, and then next to him, looking out. The satisfaction, and desire, and glee at the sight of this is palpable, even from the shade.

“This is what we were meant for,” Hux says, a grand smile on his face. It was rare to ever see a look of unfettered joy on Hux’s face, but it’s there right now. He always did love a rally.

“You and Phasma, perhaps.”

He smirks at Kylo. “Don’t give me that, Ren. You feel the thrill of it, too. Hide your face behind that mask if you like, keep it to yourself, but you still feel it.”

Hux inhales, sharp, slightly shaky. Before Rey, he didn’t know all the layers of that look, it was just hot and red. He understood, in theory, what he was seeing, in the sense he could name it, but not, on any real level understand. Now Kylo knows that’s the way he looks at Rey when she takes him in hand, licks her lips, and meets his eyes, just about to take him into her mouth. Now he knows how that feels, in his guts, and bones, and shaft. Again, a lot can change in sixteen months.

Hux’s jaw is tight, breathing a little fast, looking at rank upon rank of what he still considers his men. Kylo’d seen him do that in life, too.

And maybe he does feel a thrill at this, but… not like that that. Not even close. “Not the way you did… do. I don’t have to tape it to my thigh to keep my tunic hanging properly at one of these.”

Hux glances away from the men filling the hangar. “Don’t be crude, Ren.”

“Crude? You’re dead, and I can feel the heat pouring off of you.”

Hux is nonplussed by that. He is or was what he is or was and likes what he likes and this… he likes this. “We were meant for this. Why fuck a woman when you can fuck a galaxy? You want crude… There it is. Take them out, march them through… anywhere. Conquer. Spill the blood and watch them beg. I know you’ve felt it. I know you gave orders for it. You’ve listened to the screams of innocents and felt it stir your blood. You’ve seen them on their knees, pleading, and your body thrilled at it. Maybe not the same way mine did, but you felt it. Your skin sparked at it, your heart raced.” He looks out at the rally. “And you feel it now.”

He turns to Kylo, those pale blue/gray/green eyes, Kylo was never entirely sure what color Hux’s eyes were, other than cold, literally glowing blue now. “It’s about power, and always has been. That’s why we get hard. And this… It’s the biggest fucking shaft in the galaxy, and you get to have everyone kneel and worship it. You like this, Master Ren. That’s where you want them, on their knees, before you, prostrate to your power.”

He looks at the saber on Kylo’s hip. “You took every title you’ve ever claimed with that. And you’ll keep them with that. You’ll throw them bones so you don’t have to use it as often, until you get bored with it. Until the training droids and the desert cunt can’t keep your interest. Until you crave the fight so hot that your blood boils.”

Hux rests his hand on the glass overlooking the rally. And Kylo tries his best to banish the fears Hux just named.

“We were not born to be politicians, Ren. We were not made for long-winded negotiations or compromise.” He sneers just at the idea of it. “You can pretend your fight isn’t there, hide it behind the image of the Master, but you know it’s there, and one day, it’ll come out.”

Kylo swallows at that. “You would have lived longer if you’d been this perceptive before.”

“I’d have lived longer if you’d stayed unconscious a few more seconds.” Hux nods to the rally. “Enjoy your victory parade.”

Kylo closes his eyes behind the mask, straightens his shoulders again, and forces his mind to calm.

 

 


Time to go.

He knows this is being recorded, played across sixty-thousand planets and tens of thousands of ships. His troops, his subjects, his people, they’re watching, or they will be.

He strides across the flight deck of the Supremacy. Walking tall, proud, each footfall echoing through the otherwise silent chamber. He gets to the podium, and faces his troops.

The podium is black, with his symbol draped over it. Snoke’s black on red flags fly behind him. The splashes of blood red look garish in the cold light of the Supremacy flight deck. Last time this happened, it was Hux, standing in a similar space on Starkiller, shouting about the ascendancy of the First Order and the power, blah, blah, blah.

But Hux is dead. Even if he does come to visit from time to time. And so is that version of the First Order. Today he’s officially giving it its death blow. And it’s not coming back.

And neither is the image of Kylo that Hux summoned.

He hopes. He wants to touch the token around his neck, under his shirt, warm against his skin, but doesn’t. It’s supposed to be Rey’s day with it, but he just… wanted it, for this.

Kill the past step six million: Past Kylo had no home. Present Kylo has one, and that small disk of metal, warm below his throat is the symbol of that home, and what he’s doing to earn his place there.

He looks over his crowd for another moment. He channels the Force, and uses it to make everyone in the room feel his power. The ones closest to him look like they want to drop to their knees. Like it’s only the order to stand that’s keeping them upright.

Kylo smiles at that. He’s not sure if he should be ashamed of it or not, but he loves the feel of this.

Then he reaches behind him and flicks the little clasp that undoes the mask. In the held-breath silence of the Supremacy’s flight deck, the tiny hiss echoes.

He takes it off, setting it on the podium, and he can feel the shock wave through his troops. Whatever they expected behind the mask, a young man with dark hair and a scar across his face wasn’t it.

He keeps his voice quiet and calm, though whatever sound magic Jon has done amplifies it without changing the tone, allowing the front row, twenty or so meters from him, to hear just as well as the back row, close to two kilometers away. “I believe you know me, or at least of me. I am Supreme Leader of the First Order Kylo Ren. Sixteen months ago, Supreme Leader Snoke proved himself dangerously unsuitable for the job of ruling the First Order. He allowed his second-in-command, General Armitage Hux, a free rein, and Hux loved nothing more than death and mayhem.

“This resulted in the unfortunate destruction of far, far too many lives.

“In the days following the destruction of the Hosnian system, I set into motion a plan to remove Snoke, Hux, and many of the officers they relied upon from their positions of power. Thus ending a frightfully unstable element in our galaxy.” He pauses for a beat, watching the crowd, feeling their curiosity, with some sparks of disbelief, and a few veins of shock.

“Instability is the mark of the last three decades. Thirty-one years ago, a group of blood-thirsty terrorists turned a functioning Empire, a system legally enacted through the democratic process, into anarchy through a series of bombings and assassinations. In the years that followed the destruction of the Galactic Empire, we saw not one single day of peace. Somehow, somewhere, someone was at war in what used to be the Empire.

“Snoke saw the chaos, and knew something had to be done. He knew that the galaxy cried out for Order. For a rule of law.

“Unfortunately, for Snoke, law meant that he got to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, however he wanted, to whomever he wanted, and everyone else would just… cope.

“That definition of law attracted others who enjoyed the idea of a galaxy full of shivering slaves awaiting the next command in terror.

“Like I said, they’ve been dealt with.” A flick of his finger drops Snoke’s First Order banners. He gives it a beat, allowing them to flutter to the ground, and then, with one more motion, Kylo’s Order banners, long sheets of black, with the white circle, and sixteen rays surrounded by the white hexagon, fall in their place. “But Snoke was not entirely wrong, the galaxy does call out for Order. It does need a rule of law, but a rule of law dedicated to protecting its citizens from the dangers of chaos.

“Thus from the ashes of The First Order comes The Order.

“And The Order will exist to be what it is. Order. A stable, predictable system of governance dedicated to allowing any person who joins it to flourish.

“For a system of governance to work, it has to provide some advantage to its citizens, not just its leaders. No system can long survive on terror and pain alone, though Snoke certainly sought to test the limits of how long it could endure.

“That ends, now.” He touches the badge on his sleeve. “Anyone who gives five years’ service to The Order becomes a citizen, and so will their children. If you already have your five years, as of today, you and any children you may have are now citizens. Anyone who can get to a recruiting station will be accepted into The Order. No one will be turned away. All citizens will have a collection of basic rights, including free association and free travel, the right to keep and hold any honestly gained property, legally enforceable contracts, access to a system of courts and justice, and in time, a vote. In seven years, all citizens will be offered the opportunity to vote in our first galactic elections. Every hundred thousand people will have their own representative, whom they may pick from any Citizen of The Order. The representatives will gather, discuss what would benefit the people of The Order, decide on which paths to follow, and vote on them. They will send those votes to me, and if it can be done, or should be done, I will make it happen.”

Kylo can feel the wave of disbelief aimed at him. No one expected this. They figured they were here to see him crown himself, and he’s doing it all right, but no one expected him to take up this mantle. He’d like to smirk at that, but knows he can’t, not now, not when everyone is watching.

“We’ve lived in a galaxy of chaos, power-hungry warlords, terrorists claiming to be ‘for the people’ who slaughtered them indiscriminately, and megalomaniacs with death fetishes who worshiped pain.

“No more. I’ve ruled for the last year, and in that last year, this galaxy has had its first real taste of peace. There have been no major conflicts since Snoke died, and I intend to keep it that way.

“We need to focus on growing, on becoming more, and better. We need to build homes, lives, and businesses, not weapons for destroying those homes, lives, and businesses.

“Today, we start anew. Today, the past dies. Yesterday, I was Supreme Leader of the First Order. Today the First Order is gone, and there will be no more Supreme Leaders. I am Kylo Ren, Master of the Order, for those of you who wish to join me in building a bigger, better, glorious galaxy of dazzling lights and myriad wonders, welcome. It’s time we got to work.”

He offers a slight bow to the hundreds of thousands of troops and officers arrayed around him, and then strides off.

 

 


“I think that was good.” He feels flushed, jittery, nervous, but… not. The physical sensation of nervous without the mental uncertainty. He’s not sure if he likes this sensation or not. He feels an amused smile in the back of his mind along with Rey’s voice. You’re excited, Kylo.

C8 nods. “You hit every point you intended to.”

Unfortunately, lacking emotional responses means that C8 doesn’t exactly have the map of ‘good’ Kylo would find useful in this situation.

He knows who would, and aches to see her, feels her answering longing, but right now, he’s about two minutes away from a wave of officers in need of instruction and dignitaries wanting to know what happens next.

He knows that his troops are getting their new badges. All of them are getting the new image, and about three quarters of them have more than five years of service, so they are getting badges with the silver circle on them.

His officers will be getting quick primers on what it means to be a citizen. It’s not too detailed, yet, but at least the basics are down.

And anyone with more than twenty years of service are getting a pamphlet suggesting they look into retiring. He’s not going to mandate it, but he’s hoping the more of his men from the days of Palpatine and Snoke he can remove, the more the Order will be his, and the less it will be theirs.

 

 


Upon suggesting that they invite people to this, it became immensely clear to Kylo that Snoke and Palpatine were not, on any level, interested in the same things when it came to ruling. Beyond, of course, the most basic level of being the most powerful being in the galaxy, if not the universe.

Palpatine’s men more or less jumped up and clapped at the idea of this. Palpatine had no problem annihilating anything that didn’t want to go his way, but he preferred to at least attempt to get along diplomatically. He enjoyed working behind the scenes, setting up layer after layer of deals to move people into positions that best benefited him.

Snoke worked under the technique of asking, nicely, once, and if he didn’t get the answer he liked, he’d kill everyone involved in giving him the wrong answer, and most of the people near them. (And, sometimes, even if they said yes, he’d kill everyone near them, just to hammer home the point of what an eventual no might result in.)

But Snoke is gone, and his men grudgingly allowed that there might be some purpose to this, but really, they’ve got a big enough fleet, so wasting time meeting with people sounded boring. (And Kylo could feel them privately thinking that if he needed his ego petted by having diplomats fawning at his feet, that he wasn’t suitable Supreme Leader material.)

Palpatine’s men pointed out that this was a way to show all of those people out there exactly how big and dangerous the fleet was without having to risk any of it to enemy fire, which made Snoke’s men feel a little less grudging about the whole thing, but really, they’d rather be fighting than meeting. (Still, a few of them are slowly coming to the conclusion that there may be battlefields beyond a literal battlefield, and maybe it’s worth learning how to fight on them, if for no other reason than to make sure Palpatine’s men don’t take them out when they aren’t paying attention.)

So, slowly, they did come up with two thousand dignitaries to invite, and close to six hundred of them accepted the invitation. So, they came up with another two thousand to invite. Which got the total up to close to fifteen hundred. And another two thousand, and that finally got them over the two thousand mark.

For some reason, likely because no one from the Raclan Bank was ever seen again, most heads of state weren’t terribly interested in visiting Kylo, for fear that they, too would find themselves engaging in ‘involuntary displays of exuberant patriotism.’ They sent polite refusals that didn’t exactly say outright none of them would ever be insane enough to get within gun range of Kylo, but more than hinted at it.

The ones who did send emissaries sent what appears to be the second or third rank of their diplomats. The son-in-law of the third son of the Prince Consort: people they’d prefer not to lose, but are, all in all, disposable.

Kylo supposes that’s logical.

And he supposes this part of it matters. He’s here, and they’re here, supposedly because he’s changing things but… He’d pretty readily skip this part.

Major Frakes tells him that this is the important part. These people came to meet him, not just watch him take a mask off, so he’s got to meet them.

What the hell he’s supposed to do as he’s meeting them, he doesn’t know, but… Meet dignitaries. Okay. He can do this.

They’re in his throne room, though he’s not using his throne. Honestly, he hates the damn thing. It’s the least comfortable chair in existence, he can’t have a decent conversation while he’s in it, and apparently in his all black, looming above the people who come to petition him, he’s so unnerving to the average person that it takes at least five minutes of them stammering and trembling before they can even get to why they came. And yes, the first few times, he rather enjoyed that, but as he’s spending longer trying to do things, he’s getting less patience for people coming into his presence and immediately curling into a terrorized ball of no higher level mental functioning.

So his throne is empty, and he’s at the door, supposedly greeting people, and thanking them for coming, and on some level, answering minor questions about who he is and what he’s doing. Mostly, he’s feeling how curious they are about him, and Frakes is right, if he’s going where he hopes to go, these people need to see him. Literally, lay eyes on him, and as they get more interested in him as a… celebrity, he guesses, they may be willing to work with him, later.

He’s been at it for an hour when he runs into the first real issue, beyond how to make, “Hello, nice to meet you,” interesting after the third time, let alone hundredth. The man in front of him is sticking a hand out at Kylo, waiting, staring at him expectantly.

Kylo’s looking at his hand, wondering what this is.

Take his hand!

Kylo jerks his head, looking around, and sees Kinear, who is staring at him, intently. He knows the man doesn’t have Force skills, but apparently, when it’s important, he can think loudly.

Why?

It’s polite. Take your gloves off, first. You take his right hand in yours and give it a little squeeze.

Rather than get into a discussion of why anyone would ever do this, he just does it, and takes the man’s hand, giving it a little squeeze.

The man squeezes back, harder.

Once they’re touching, Kylo can feel this is some sort of dominance game. The man who can squeeze hardest wins.

Apparently, Kinear feels or sees it, too because as he’s moving up to stand next to Kylo, DON’T BREAK HIS HAND! echoes hard and sharp in his head.

However, he’s not thinking loudly enough for a non-Force sensitive person to pick up on it, or the man in front of him just doesn’t care, because he does not appear to be getting the don’t break his hand message. He’s doing his best to see if he can crack Kylo’s hand.

Kylo shakes his head, done with this, and both the man and Kinear wince, hard when they hear the crack. There’s enough conversation going on that no one else hears, and the man’s eyes go wide in shock and pain as what just happened really hits him, and a tiny “Oh!” hisses out of him.

Kylo lets him go, and turns his attention to the next one in the line, tugging his gloves back on, fairly certain that he’s not going to get into stupid hand holding games again, polite or no.

The next person in line, and the one next to her, and the one down from that, also all saw what happened, and are very hastily killing any plays they may have had of offering Master Ren a hand, too.

 

 


There are facets of this he wasn’t expecting, at all.

The questions. He knew they were going to ask him things, because that’s part of meeting people, but… Where are you from? (The core.) Is that really a lightsaber? (Yes.) Did you build it yourself? (Yes.) Are you a Jedi? (No.) Why did you kill Snoke? (Because destroying an entire system on a whim is inappropriate.) Did you write his speech yourself? (Yes.) Is that your only scar? (Long unblinking stare along with a vague sense of discomfort.) How did you kill Snoke? (Touches lightsaber.) Is there a Lady Ren? (Longer, even less blinking stare with a heightened sense of discomfort.) What do you mean by myriad wonders? (Give it seven years, and let’s see where the Order wants to go.) How old are you? (Old enough.) How about we slip off somewhere private and get to know each other better? (He got asked versions of that four times, by two women, a man, and one he wasn’t sure about, and offered the same flat, “No” to each one.) Your accent is… (“Non-descript.” The correct answer is Chandrila with a layer of Alderaan on top and a few Tatooine inflections intentionally smoothed out over a decade in the First Order.) Where do you intend to set your capitol? (We’re standing in it.) What does your symbol mean? (Order moving forward, leaving the past behind.) Why free slaves? (Because I can.) Don’t you worry about upsetting the galactic order? (No.) What happens if a system bans your recruiting stations? (None of them have, so far.)

And they roll on and on and on. And at no point does he ever feel easy doing this, and it’s significantly more tiring than he was expecting, but… There’s something to it.

Most of them are looking at him with curiosity.

Some of them are angry or afraid.

Some of them are intensely watching him, desiring him, and not just, though there’s a level of this, too, sexually. Some of them want to see what comes next, where he’s going to go, the idea of the possibility he represents heady in their minds.

He’s never felt that before, the sensation of being watched hopefully, and it’s appealing. He can see how some of Snoke’s men fear that he might keep doing things to try and get more people to look at him that way, but… That’s not how it works for him. He wants that appreciation for doing what he’s going to do, not for doing a good job of twisting himself into the shape they want.

He spends four hours at it, which he feels is as long as anyone can take standing around meeting people, before he withdraws. They’re all still milling around talking to each other, doing whatever it is diplomats do.

Spreading rumors likely, talking about what they asked and what he said, and guessing what he could have meant, where he might be from, and where they may be going.

 

 


“Did you get to see it?” he asks as soon as Rey comes through.

“On what?”

That’s a good point. She has communications software, but because she’s ‘hiding’ what she has is the ability to call out and receive information only from people she’s called. She can’t just monitor broadcasts because she doesn’t have enough antenna or a satellite for it.

“We should fix that.”

“Later. You have a copy I can see?”

He thinks about it, and then fetches a datapad. “Probably.” He messes around with it, and locates a broadcast. “I’ve got it.”

She pats the bed, and when he joins her on it, she snuggles into him… “Show me.”

He wraps his arms around her, and rests his chin on her shoulder, and then clicks on the video.

She smirks at it as he walks in tall and proud, cape billowing behind him. Then she pauses it. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you? There’s no wind on the Supremacy, you used the Force to do that.”

“I was just walking.”

“Uh huh.” She’s skeptical about that. He unpauses it, and they both watch.

She nods as he takes the mask off. “Your hair’s getting too long for it.”

He shrugs. “I haven’t gotten it cut since… before I broke the first one.”

She strokes his hair, these days it rests on his shoulders, and is another few centimeters longer in the back. More than half of the time he wears it pulled back in a tidy queue. Today it’s long and loose. She prefers it that way, but certainly understands how impractical it is to just let your hair hang.

After a few lines he says, “Do I really sound like that?”

“Uh… Volume’s low, but… Yes. Isn’t that what you sound like to you?”

“No. I think my voice is deeper.”

Rey’s eyebrows shoot up at that. “Deeper?”

“That’s how it sounds to me.”

“It’s awfully deep, already.” He sends down Snoke’s banners, and she nods at that. Nods a moment later when his fall open, and from the angle of the camera he can see people react to that in a way he didn’t when he was speaking. There’s a shifting in the crowd, an almost eagerness to see what comes next.

They listen to the rest of it, and at the end Rey says, “It’s good, Kylo.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

 

Chapter Text

1/1/1 Year of the Order

 

“Well, that was interesting,” General Kinear says to his associates as they slowly meander from the rally to Ren’s throne room. They nod and murmur in agreement, all of them well aware of the fact that they are going to be gathering to talk about this, later.

They’ve known for a while now that something was coming. Something big.

You don’t get to Kinear’s level and not have an almost supernatural ability to feel the shifts in the political currents before they happen. You can’t get to Kinear’s level and not have a wide and thorough group of whisper listeners scattered all throughout the organization. So, yes, he and they knew something was coming, and having gotten advanced copies of both the “Rewards for long and valued service” document, and the “Citizenship and You!” pamphlet, he’s had an idea of where they were going, but…

He nods, looking old and amiable to the passersby. Yes, they are going to talk.

 

 


It has always been true that the First Order… The Order now… has had factions.

When Snoke began his mission, he didn’t have enough professional talent available to him, solely loyal to him, to do what he wanted to do, so he scooped up any member of the Empire willing to work for him. Since all but a handful of them had been shut out of the New Republic or were actively being hunted by it, he found recruiting easy.

A General of split loyalties and an army is more useful than no Generals and no armies. And an Admiral with a fleet of ships at his command is of much greater use than no Admiral and no ships, even if said Admiral is only hanging on to find a better position from which to maneuver his own career higher.

Snoke took what he could get. After all, he had significantly more in the ways of tools at his disposal to make sure his men behaved in a manner he approved of than the average warlord.

But, by twenty years into his rise, he’d developed his own officers, loyal to him and the First Order.

This annoyed, to no end, the Imperial Officers. For several reasons, first of all, once Snoke had men he could fully depend on, he started shoving them into less and less desirable positions. And second of all, the new officers were bleeding insane.

Whatever else was true about the Empire, it was an Empire. It was huge. It spanned the entire galaxy, not the threadbare quarter of it they barely inhabit now. It had a long tradition, reaching well back into the days of the Republic of professional, sensible, functional, bureaucratic governance.

Meaning: A: Things worked. B: Yes, there were religious fanatics, Vader chief among them, but fewer than one in a thousand of them ever came within a light year of him. C: The vast size of the Empire meant most of them were comfortable in their own commands, doing their own things, never ever having to deal with anyone higher than they were on the food chain. D: Okay, sure, there was a war going on, and those Rebels could be annoying, but many of them could go entire years without ever seeing one. And E: They were trained to be professional military men, but in most cases ‘professional military man’ meant provisional governor who made sure their section of the galaxy functioned smoothly.

Then Hux Sr. got into Snoke’s good graces and what had been a perfectly functional officer corps turned into… Land of the fanatical maniacs on a near religious crusade to purify the First Order of ‘weakness’ and spread it’s tendrils into every centimeter of the galaxy.

A properly-trained officer, one who had gone through the Imperial Academy had, among other things, enough of his brain left to make good decisions on a decision by decision basis, and they could still weigh pros and cons of a decision and render a functional cost/benefits analysis, on the fly, when and as needed and retool their plans, mid-play, if need be.

Men who went through the Hux method had all of their subtly, middle gears, and ability to function on a non-attack level stripped away.

The Empire’s men were politicians and bureaucrats. They understood that sometimes a blaster is the political tool of choice, but that words and compromise worked just as well, if not better, in most cases. Hux’s men were crusaders. They saw compromise as weakness and words as only good for rallying troops. 

And the Emperor’s men knew there were uses for ‘graduates’ of the Hux method. Any attack that required just that, an attack: a show of blistering, overpowering, make-a-man’s-knees-buckle-from-the-sheer-fear-of-what’s-coming attack, they were amazing at. And any attack where every, single step had been planned out, and the plan actually worked, so each step could be followed in order, they were fabulous. No one followed orders like a Hux man.

But they couldn’t, and wouldn’t, retreat to save their lives. (Unless directly ordered to do so.)

And they were worth bugger all at medium and long-range tactical thinking.

And none of them knew how to build an alliance. ‘Do what I say or die’ summed up the entirety of their ability to compromise.

What they excelled at was killing everything in their path and taking orders, assuming said order was, ‘Kill everything in your path.’

Which, basically, was the only reason the Emperor’s men didn’t poison more of them as they started coming into command positions. There are times and places where that’s necessary, and as long as they were the senior officers and Hux Sr.’s men were the junior officers all was fine.

And then it wasn’t.

There’s not a man alive, left from Palpatine’s day, who doesn’t remember waking up and finding out that the spawn of Hux suddenly outranked them all, and that his pet, the chrome encrusted terror standing by his side, was watching his back.

And a year after that, a new black-clad ghoul in a mask showed up, with a fucking red-lightsaber by his side, and… Suddenly all of the bad things of the Empire, of what happened if you had the dumb fool luck to actually be located near the Emperor were back, and…

The ones who could leave, did. General Kinear, for example, suddenly developed an acute case of border raids upon his territory that desperately needed his immediate and personal attention, and he got the fuck out of the way. Send glowing reports of how well everything is going and stay 50,000 light years away from the Supreme Leader was Kinear’s technique for a long and successful career. Many of the officers currently walking from the rally to Ren’s throne room employed similar techniques.

Many of the ones who didn’t or couldn’t, died. Snoke had no intention of keeping men who may not have been entirely loyal to him a minute longer than they were necessary.

Hux Jr., who made his father look like a calm and reasonable man, took more of them out, or sent them on missions where it was clear their job was to die bravely for the cause. And he kept putting his own pets into positions of power, and within five years the officer corps had gone from 75% Imperials to 33% Imperials, and dropping.

For all the Hux method destroyed long-range tactical planning skills, it either didn’t work, or wasn’t fully used on Hux Jr. He had plans. Detailed plans. Carefully set up, step by step, plans. Snoke may have been, as best as any of them knew back then, immortal, but that didn’t mean Hux Jr. couldn’t get into a very comfortable second-in-command position.

Which he did.

With Snoke’s blessing, he moved to become the “Face” of the First Order. Snoke knew he wasn’t much to look at. He’d go years without letting anyone see him, but Hux was young, and strong, and handsome, he looked good in pictures and on broadcasts, and had a nice voice to go along with those classic good looks, so he could be the ‘image’ of the First Order.

And with his black and silver masked commanders behind him… He set exactly the right tone to keep people compliant and terrified.

Kinear remembers finding out that Starkiller had been destroyed, and praying to his god, the Force, and any and all other possible deities that might have been listening that Hux went with it. He and the rest of the Imperials who were left were fairly sure they could take care of the rest of Hux’s officer class, because they could out-think and out-flank them, as long as they got rid of Hux Jr., who had the damnable combination of being a complete sociopath and paranoid and good at planning.

Sheer buggeration he didn’t manage to die there.

And less than a week later the entire universe flipped over and suddenly the black clad ghoul with the lightsaber had named himself Supreme Leader Ren, which caused a new tizzy of consternation because none of them knew anything about him other than he apparently worshiped Vader and thought Hux was stupid enough to believe that the girl captive he’d brought in had disabled him, killed Snoke, and the entire Praetorian Guard, by herself, and then escaped, and just happened to leave a nifty little power vacuum for him to step into. So, other than a sigh of relief that Hux Jr. hadn’t stepped into the Supreme Leader role, everyone remained nervous.

And then nervous turned into shocked whiplash. Less than three months after that, Hux was gone along with many of his supporters and the Ghoul had a name and a face, and was turning the First Order around so fast many of officer class just stood there, stunned and silent.

And now, they’re mingling, in a large room, with diplomats and the Ghoul, who’s vastly younger than he has any right to be, and his name is Kylo of all silly things, is standing there, talking to people about building a new fucking republic and…

And it’s time, for the professional, responsible, adult members of the Order’s officer class to make a plan.

So plan they will.

 

 


Kinear’s been watching Ren all afternoon. Actually, he’s been watching for months, since he decided that it was time to cease his interest in his border raiders and get closer to what’s going on. Ren’s decision to move from Starkillers to Citykillers intrigued him, got him interested in what might have been under the mask.

Among other things, there’s some level of tactical training, and the understanding that bigger isn’t necessarily better. Though if some of the rumors about the S—Master are true, he would have learned that lesson at his Mama’s knee. Because if anyone wrote the lesson of how to do more with less, it’s the Master’s mother.

Watching him attempt to work the crowd, it’s clear the boy has big dreams, and no idea how to get to them.

Which surprises Kinear, and leads him back to those rumors. The sort of rumors one wouldn’t ever repeat, especially not anywhere within earshot of anyone else in the Fir—Order. Namely, there are whispers, that when Kylo Ren suddenly appeared, with three of what would eventually be the six Knights of Ren, before he encased himself in head to toe black, that he was dressed in the browns and tans of a Jedi.

And, it’s known, among the kind of people who do things like set spies in important places and actually listen to what they had to say, that General, though back in those days she was still Senator Leia Organa-Solo had a son, who was being trained as a Jedi.

And some people, who were extremely well-paid to be exceptionally discreet about certain things, could be, if enough time had gone by and they were even better paid, cease to be discreet about certain things. They had hinted that Master Ben Solo had more dark in him than anyone was comfortable with, and by the age of eight had been personally responsible for five nannies and seven tutors more or less running away from the Organa-Solo household, and as a result had been sent off to his Uncle to train as a Jedi because that was the best hope anyone had of him not killing someone before he reached the age of ten.

Kinear doesn’t actually know if those rumors are true. He knows he paid good money for them, though.

And he knows that when the Ghoul in back appeared, and called himself Kylo Ren, that Snoke made it capital offense to call him anything but. Once upon a time, Kylo Ren had a name so well known that even uttering it was high treason.

Now, maybe, in a galaxy as wide and diverse as this one, there were two Ben Solos. It’s probably a common enough name. But after that, the odds of the continued similarities get awfully low.

Until today, he’s never doubted those rumors, though seeing Kylo attempt to swim in these waters, he’s boggled at the idea that the son of Leia Organa, who was nothing if not a competent politician raised by competent politicians, engaging in competent politics, doesn’t know how to, among other things, shake hands.

 


As a member of the Officer Corps with more, much, much more, than twenty years of service, Kinear’s gotten the, “Maybe now’s a good time to retire, don’t let the door slide shut on your ass on the way out,” pamphlet.

It is, of course, significantly more polite than that, but he knows the writing on the wall.

He also knows that officers who’ve even got a shot of attempting to do the sort of thing Kylo wants to are already outnumbered, and will be leaving in droves if they take this pamphlet seriously.

Kinear, watching Kylo attempt to make small talk, and blanch visibly when one of the attendees asks him if he’d like sex, sends out a discrete communique to twenty-five hand-picked members of what used to be the Imperial Officer Corps.

No matter what, we don’t retire. Unless he flat out orders it, we’re staying. Pick you best men, spread the word. We don’t leave.

He knows they’ll talk more later, about what, exactly, they’re going to do with this, but this is the closest they’ve been to a functional government of any sort in longer than Kylo’s been alive, and he’s not about to flush that away like last night’s waste.

 

 


In the good days, which Kinear would define as Empire Day to about seventeen years later, when everything was going well, they had the Senate, and the Emperor, and the Army and Navy of the Empire, and it’s true that things were often rough around the edges, but…

But it worked. For the majority of people on the majority of planets in the majority of systems, it worked. In most of the galaxy, the Empire was, like any good government, practically invisible. Things got done on time, everyone was secure, businesses thrived because they could work with each other across a concrete system of contracts, the monetary system was solid and stable, an Imperial credit was good everywhere, and for the most part things were good.  

He’s old enough he remembers the fall of the Republic. He remembers the last thirty years of the Republic. And maybe, once upon a time, long before his great-grandparents were born, because that’s as far back as ‘living’ memory goes for him, there was a magical age of justice and peace, of prosperous traders living in harmony and everyone well-off and flourishing.

But if such a thing existed, no one he’s ever spoken to saw it.

He saw a Republic grown stagnant. A fancied up debating society incapable of doing what Ren said, offering benefit to the people who lived under it. It was there to make the Senate, and the various diplomats and politicians happy. It kept them employed and busy, and to a lesser degree it kept the heads of systems content in their own power. Beyond that, the galaxy spun around it, falling apart.

Palpatine believed that it was spinning out of control, (or at least he gave speeches indicating he believed that, what he actually thought on the matter, Kinear has no idea; he made of point of never actually getting within a thousand kilometers of Palpatine.) because there was no one steering the ship. The Republic was adrift, unable to go anywhere because it had no captain.

And for seventeen years, he was the captain, and, at least to Kinear’s way of thinking, everything was significantly more effective when the Senate was married to an Emperor.

Then Palpatine went crazy, too. Or his crazy finally came out. (The Death Star was always a warning sign that he wasn’t quite right in the head.) And he divorced himself from the Senate, blew up an inhabited and peaceful planet, tarred all of them with the stink of genocide, and that was the final push necessary to turn what had been a nuisance “Rebellion” into a fully functional Civil War.

Kinear developed a case of border raiders then, too. Those pesky Hutts. (Okay, yes, he was paying them out of his personal accounts to raid his border. It was a win/win situation. He got to get as far away from the rest of the Empire as possible, and Drogan The Hutt had a financially lucrative way to get rid of his annoying cousins, step-siblings, and business rivals. They’re still on splendid terms to this day, and often send each other useful tidbits of information as they find them.) As long as he kept his head down and kept sending in reports about taking care of those raiders, he was able to keep out of pretty much everything that followed the dissolution of the Senate.

He kept himself so far out of the fight that he was actually granted immunity from prosecution by the New Republic. Just being a member of the Empire couldn’t constitute a war crime, not when it’d been democratically enacted, and no one had any proof of him violating the Republic’s rules of war.

Then they generously offered him a retirement package.

And he spent an entire year retired, while the wars kicked up all around him. He tried to volunteer for the New Republic, but they decided that between his previous service and his 61 years of age, that he wasn’t for them.

So he joined Snoke. He didn’t care much which side won, as long as someone figured out how to run the damn thing.

He’ll admit, but only to his wife, when he’s in his own personal quarters, on his own personal command ship, and it’s been scanned for bugs in the last hour, that maybe that wasn’t the greatest idea he’d ever had.

But watching this new Master, he’s thinking maybe there’s a chance to salvage this.

Assuming this man with a child’s manners can be taught.

Though, if the rumors about his relationship with Snoke are correct, Kinear wouldn’t be shocked if Ren never wanted another teacher again.

That said, until the Jackass from Berruiin decided to up the stakes in the handshaking contest, he was at least willing to take instruction…

From someone who wants to see him succeed.

 

 


There are perks to being the Master. After four hours, Ren can leave.

Kinear and the rest of the commanders are to meet and mingle and talk to the people they invited all night.

So he talks, and mingles, and shares drinks, and acts older and drunker than he is, and… he pays attention to the guests around him.

They’re intrigued. No one knows what to make of this new Master.

The Supreme Leader certainly promised law and order and a galaxy at peace. Palpatine did, too. So did the Republic, Old and New. Everyone promises peace and prosperity. Getting it is a different story.

His feel for the room is that most of the dignitaries fall into three main camps. A third of them are sticking around for whatever the shortest possible amount of time considered polite is, and then running home, and doing everything they can to make sure Ren doesn’t notice them, and hopefully never puts one of his recruiting stations on their planets. It’s fairly clear they do not want him upsetting their status quo, and they do not want to try and fight him on it. They know they’re massively outgunned, so their best hope is to hide.

A third of them see a young idealist who wants pretty rallies and people chanting his name with reverence. They assume he can be easily manipulated with flattery and the right charming words. They’re sure they’ll be able to bend him to their will and are happily plotting away, looking for how to use this new tool in the galactic political drama. Kinear has the feeling they are going to be sorely disappointed.

The final third are sure this is the same old song and dance they’ve seen before. Pretty pictures put on the same pile of shit. Kinear thinks this is possible, but he’s got the sense they’re wrong, too. He’s afraid this may be pretty pictures put on an entirely new pile of shit, but he’s fairly sure this won’t be the same old song and dance.

A few of them, like him, are recognizing they’re on the cusp of real change. It’s maybe ten percent of the group, and of that ten percent half of them are terrified. They already understand where this might go and how it will topple the power structures on a planetary level, which will ripple up the command chain, something neither the Empire nor the Republic sought to do.

Hell, as he thinks about it, even the Rebellion didn’t try this. Instead of a bottom up change, they took the bottom and then tried to take out the top with it. With varying levels of success. If Ren keeps doing what he’s doing with his recruiting stations, he’ll just take the bottom, use it for his own purposes, and leave the top to figure out how to function without it.

The final five percent, of which he considers himself one, are seeing that this is the chance many of them have been waiting for. This might, actually, finally, be someone who can really, truly rule this galaxy. Someone with big ideas to guide the ship, and a willingness to marry that to the power that comes from billions, if not trillions of voices agreeing to go there.

Kinear’s not drunk. He looks it, and often does at gatherings like this, people will tell an amiable drunk things they wouldn’t normally, but he hasn’t been drunk in decades, though the almost giddy feeling that goes with the idea of what they could do with this does feel a bit like it.

 

 


First watch is wrapping up when the ‘reception’ finally dies.

Eight generals and six admirals, all the members of Kinear’s chosen twenty-five here on the Supremacy, gather together at the end, wandering to a quiet bit of the F-Deck.

It’s not exactly a park. Parks aren’t a thing on the Supremacy, but it’s as close as one can get. It’s an open space with benches and courts for squammath games. There are a few trees, and some planters with flowers in them.

Two of them fall into a game, heatedly, and under a vigorous and rowdy discussion of which one of them can take the other, a half-unspoken conversation about the future happens.

Hopefully, out of the earshot, and eyes, of the First Order loyalists.

Kinear starts it with, “This is it, our chance to get the Empire back, are we taking it?”

The debate lasts the length of three games, and the end result is a list fifty First Order loyalists/Palpatine’s men who were too enthusiastic about things like Death Stars and think Senates and voting are passé who are going to have accidents in the next few months. Likewise, a list of ‘retired’ warriors, has been drawn up. They’re coming back, enlisting, and as soon as they’re through basic training and into their commands, those hand-picked recruits are going to be promoted. Fast and high.

And if a year from now, the Officer Corps looks a little grayer and less trim in their uniforms, well, they are old. But they aren’t dead, and they’re not maniacs, and… Kinear doesn’t know if that’ll be enough to let Kylo succeed, but they’ll at least take some of the hurdles out of his way.

He does know though, they’re only giving him half of the battle. They’ve got to find someone who can gently nudge Kylo into appropriate social behavior, or this is going to fall flat before it gets off the ground, and as of right now, none of them know who that might be.

Or, as General Ritter put it, “Does he have friends? Let alone one suitable to whisper something like this in his ear?”

They all exchange looks. They’ve heard the rumors that he has a companion who visits him at night, but… None of them know who it may be. And as for friends, the sort of person you may take a meal with or shoot the breeze with on a long watch… None of them have heard so much as a whisper.

Kinear says it, voice low, “Well, be friendly if you get the chance. Pretend he’s one of your grandsons. He’s taken direction from me when I’ve hit him with it right. He might from you, too, just make it clear you’re actually solving one of his problems, not trying to get him to solve one of yours.”

It’s the sort of thing they all used to do. Back in the day of the Empire, step one of getting anyone to work with you was explaining why it was in his best interest to do so. There’s a little heady thrill that goes with this. Maybe, just maybe, the days of politics are back!

 

Chapter Text

1/1/1 Y.O.

 

Leia turns off the transmission and sags back into the co-pilot seat of the Millennium Falcon. Her breath pours out in a long, ragged sigh. And she’s honestly not sure if it’s relief or regret. The tears on her cheek make her think its regret. The sense of lightness in her heart may be relief.

He stood up there, took off the mask, an announced to the galaxy his intent to be the dark mirror of everything they’d ever dreamed for. A republic. Rights for people, not planets. Citizenship that anyone could claim. All things they wanted.

The way he talked about it, a vote, a… protector to enact those votes… That’s Alderaan’s system. Almost. But it is a mirror. The shape, the goals, the image is right, but backwards, reflected in polished obsidian. Dark and grayed out, color erased by the smooth, black glass reflecting it.

In her world, law is a function of justice, citizenship a birthright granted to any sentient being by nature of their sentience. And in his, citizenship will be a mark of service, and law will be an end unto itself.

She’s known for a long time that Ben is gone, but every reminder of it hurts. And this… the shape of Ben, clear and perfect, but without any of the light she dreamed of for him… Again, a mirror image. It’s almost like the Force is taunting her, giving her the inverted shape of everything she’s been working for.

Chewie pats her hand, and howls.

She nods. “You’re right, it could be worse.” So much worse. There were nightmares of Ben, too, and this is much better than that.

She nods at his reply, too. “I know. Send out the call. We’ll gather at Lirium, on the beach. If he… does it. If it’s not just a show… Then the Resistance is dead.” Men will fight and die to battle grave injustice. But little petty bits? If he does this, that’s all that will be left. If he does it, they just got more than eighty percent of what they were fighting for, and she doesn’t see any way to rally them to fight for the remaining twenty. Not with guns and ships. Not if they can win with a ballot what they’re trying to obtain with guns.

He howls again, and Leia’s lips curl into a wry smile. “No, Chewie, I’m not about to run as a Senator again.” She sighs. “If he’s really cleaning house, and our spies have suggested he has, then he’ll be looking for us, too. I’m probably the top name on the list of bloodthirsty terrorists.” After all, she left the New Republic to run the Resistance, not the Army of the Republic. Hux had been right about that, when he called them out right before destroying the Hosnian system. Technically the Republic was ‘neutral’ and trying to seek peace, and offered mediation between the First Order and any system it tangled with, so Leia wasn’t ‘officially’ a member any longer, but they were winking at her, trying to have it both ways. Get rid of Snoke and keep their hands clean.

Things like that kept the First Order in recruits, and the Resistance, too. People will join a group, right or wrong, if it offers a clear, easy, black and white version of reality. And whatever else was true about the Republic, the only black and white bits were campaign slogans and policy speeches designed to make whomever stood against the policy look like a monster.

More howling from Chewie.

“I’m sure you’ll be on there, too. He wouldn’t forget you.”

He adds a few more sounds.

She shakes her head, looking at the frozen image of her son, standing tall, in front of his own empire. The empire he’s opening to anyone who wants to join him. She has an inkling of a feeling, something he didn’t say, but she senses, knows from his eyes and his history: this will be an empire of allegiance, not conquest. “I don’t know. I’ve been doing this my whole life. If there isn’t a government to fight, or a government to build… I don’t know.”

Chewie replies.

Leia snorts a laugh. “Sounds like something an old person does. Retire to a school and teach children how to… What? Not like I ever learned how to float rocks. Only thing I was ever really good at was lost causes and hopeless fights.”

Chewie makes sure she’s looking at him, not the holovid of Ben before saying, Then teach them how to preserver, and when to fight to the last man, and when to retreat for another go at it.

Leia nods, and squeezes his hand. He’s not wrong, but the lesson she needs now, what to do when there’s nothing more to persevere for, when the last man is spent, is something she never learned.

 

 


They hurtle though the sky, getting closer and closer to Lirium. And as the Falcon eats up the light years, she feels her will leaching away.

She felt it when Han died. Felt his light go out, and knew why it did. She felt Luke fade back into the Force. She felt it when Wedge died. When Mon Mothma’s final echo went silent, she felt that presence leave the back of her mind. She knew the day Lando’s light went out. She watched Holdo flame out to protect them. She felt Ackbar’s silent scream as all of the air went pouring out of his lungs and his body depressurized. She’s been bound to these people since she was young, and fate may have spread them far and wide, but it never severed that bond.

Not until death severed them, snuffing out their light.

She closes her eyes and sags a little, feeling like her light just went out, too.

If he really does let them choose for themselves… If he gives them a republic that really represents them...

That’s it. There’s nothing left to fight for.

Her whole life has been spent working to this moment, and her son is delivering it, and instead of triumph, she wants to curl into a ball and cry.  

 


1/3/1

They’re the first ones on the beach. Chewie and Finn set up camp. Rose is working on her unending battle to keep up with the maintenance on the Falcon, muttering about how the only thing worse for the ship than sand would be to land in the middle of the ocean.

Leia wanders through the dunes. Tomorrow, the next day, they’ll all get here. But tonight it’s just the four of them.

Really though, tonight is just her. She doesn’t much want company, and her companions understand that.

Maybe. She doesn’t want their company.

She sits on one of the dunes, and looks at the ocean, seeing the green sun sinking below the horizon. She feels him behind her, and off to the left. “Why do you never pop up in front of me?”

“I did it on Crait.”

“I suppose.”

Luke sits next to her. “I told her it wouldn’t work out the way she expected.”

“She told me that, too.” She has the image of the Master of the Order in her mind. “It’s not what I was expecting.”

“I know. I wasn’t expecting this, either.” He wraps a glowing arm around her. She can see it, but not feel it. “Maybe we should have. We both felt it, before he was born.”

“Not like this.” Of all the possible futures of Ben Solo, this wasn’t one either of them saw.

“No. But maybe we should have. When was a ruler, let alone a great one, ever part of the Light?” At least as the Jedi taught it, the Light was about service, not ruling.

Leia looks so tired. “Luke, there’s not supposed to be a ruler. He wasn’t supposed… It’s supposed to be—“ Too many dreams, all whispering away.

Luke shakes his head. “That’s not what either of us saw for him.” Darkness, light, greatness, power. They saw that, saw a lot of it. Where it would go? There was always a sense of dread with that, and as the last few years showed, that dread wasn’t unwarranted.

Though it may have been a low period in a much longer arc than either of them imagined.

She closes her eyes and turns away from him.

“We knew he’d be great. How could he have not been? You, Anakin, Han… how could all that mix together and not be great? But we never knew how.”

Luke isn’t wrong about that. “Great is a double-edged blade.”

Luke nods. Leia’s right about that. Palpatine and Vader were undeniably great, too.

She looks up at the stars starting to peek through the second twilight of Lirium. She feels it now, and has a sense that this time, it will work out the way she expects. This time, the lines, the futures, are clarifying, coalescing. “He’ll do it. It’ll be Palpatine all over, but... Palpatine without the Dark rotting his brain. He’s not light…That was lost to him decades ago, but his dark is leaching away, too. I can feel that. He’s… balancing… I guess.” She sighs, still not liking the idea that balanced Force means light and dark. Dark is the enemy. Dark killed her world. Killed her birth mother, killed the mother who raised her and the planet she called home, and her friends, and her loves, and her husband, and the dream of her son, and… Dark… Asking her to accept Dark is the bridge too far. “He won’t be evil enough for anyone to muster a fight, but he won’t be good. What he builds… It will last, until one of them kills him and steps into his place, and we’ll…” She shakes her head, feeling that future line snuff out. “He’ll build it up, make it strong, kill us off by being good enough to not fight. No one sacrifices themselves over tax policy and import duties…” She’s staring off into the ocean, feeling other future lines coming together. “They won’t kill him. They’ll try, but he’ll have the advantage of being able to feel the danger coming. So he builds it up even stronger, and the one after him, maybe he keeps to it, but the one after that…” She can feel it, a hundred years, at least. “Sooner or later, one of them will let the power to go to his head, and there’ll be nothing left to stand up against him and…”

“I know, Leia.” And he does. He can feel it, too. This will last, but not forever. “Your great-grandchildren will rise up, and tear down what he’s building when the wrong person gets control of it. But you won’t see it, and I’ll be gone by then, too.”

“The Old Republic lasted a thousand generations.”

Luke rolls his eyes. Yoda and Ben have had some things to say about the Old Republic over the years. “The Old Republic was always fighting itself. It lasted because no one could gain too much power.”

“That was the idea, Luke! Always shifting alliances making sure no one could fully take over. Balance, real balance, none of this… dark shit. Balance among people and power groups. Not, seeking a treaty with evil.”

He supposes that could have been the design instead of a flaw. “I guess.” Balance that didn’t actually make anything different or better.

She rolls her eyes at that, feeling her brother’s thoughts. The politician and the philosopher, unlikely to ever see eye to eye on this.

She looks away from him, stares at the sunset with longing.

Luke glares at her. “None of that.”

“Why not? Everything I’ve ever lived for just vanished. My fight is over. My loves are dead. Everyone I sacrificed over fifty years, fighting to build, preserve, and then build again, a galaxy based on justice and respect and… It’s over.” She swallows hard at that, feeling her voice go ragged. “He’s going to replace justice with law,” That’s an open wound. It’s the actions of everything they valued, without any of the spirit. “and most people can’t tell the difference between them, and the ones who can… They’re not going to fight and die for the difference, not when they can put their heads down and just abide, live peacefully, and get along well-enough.” She looks to Luke. “You faded off into the sunset when you were done, why not me?”

Luke looks at her, eyes dark, searching, “Tell me what you feel, what you really feel. Are you done?”

“I want to be,” her voice is harsh, and there’s a timbre Luke’s seldom heard from her in it, fear.

“I know.” His face is kind. He knows all about wanting to be done, but not being done. He spent years begging the Force to take him, and for years it wouldn’t. “But are you?”

“No.” And she knows it. Feels the bitter herb in her mouth. Tastes the regret and resolve. They were born the day the Rebellion began, and she’s not done until this fight is done. And it’s not done until she’s done the one thing she’s never been willing to before. The one thing that scares her more than anything else. Concede defeat.

“So, no letting go until you’re done. We’re not going anywhere. When you’re actually done, we’ll be waiting.”

 

 


1/5/1 Y.O.

They drift in slowly, over the course of two days.

Leia’s got the feeling that part of going slowly is that they all know they’re going to a funeral, and maybe if they go slow, they can pretend what’s dead isn’t dead. But eventually all 36 of them who’d survived Crait, and close to 150 of the new recruits have gathered. As many as could or would come.

Finn’s asked if they’re going to get Rey, bring her, but Leia shook her head at that. “She’s already left this path for her own one. We’ll leave her to it. And maybe, after… You and Rose and Chewie can keep helping her with it.”

Finn’s eyes are bright at that. “Rose, and Chewie, and you, and I.”

Leia doesn’t respond to that. She stands up, surrounded by fires and friends… well… strangers, actually. She hasn’t even met more than two thirds of them, but they’re all looking at her like she’s the hero in a myth come to life. Like she can come up with some rousing speech and give them… something… A villain, a true, black as midnight, villain to fight. A new Snoke wrapped in Palpatine with a coating of Vader on top of him. A foe to righteously vanquish.

And all she’s got is… Kylo, and reports of citizenship and freed slaves and voting rights and recruiting stations.

They go quiet when they see her standing there, and wait, breath held.

Her eyes are burning. “I’m not going to order any of you to stand down, but… we’re beaten.” There’s a roar of disbelief at that, and she shushes them. “We fought to restore the Republic, and if he’s really going to do it…”  She’s crying as she says it. “Then what are we fighting for?”

It doesn’t look like that’s the sort of thing any of them have ever thought of. Looking around further, besides Chewie, she’s the oldest person here. Oldest human. Again, besides Chewie, none of them, herself included, even remember the Old Republic, and almost all of them were born after the New Republic began to shatter.

Most of them don’t know what they’re fighting for, other than to hit, and hit hard, the First Order.

“That was the goal. That was what we took up arms for. To restore a galaxy of rights and laws, ruled by the people, for them. If you’re not in the system, it’s time to enlist, get your five years, get out, and then vote. Run for office. Become the leaders we wanted, inside of the system, and shape it to our liking.”

A lot of them do not like that suggestion, at all. They want to raise up arms and tear the system down, not build a new one, especially not one helmed by anyone who had anything to do with Starkiller or the First Order.

“My father, Bail Organa served in the Senate under Emperor Palpatine until he was murdered in the genocide of Alderaan. He was the conscience of the Senate. He could always be relied on to vote for justice, for tolerance, and for a better galaxy.” She sniffs, voice breaking. “And he stayed in, because, like it or not, Palpatine was the voice of the Republic. He was elected. And he swore, when he became a Senator, to play by the rules of the game. But he was a realist, too. He knew Palpatine was trouble, and he knew that there would be a day where inside the system wouldn’t be enough, but for outside the system to triumph, it would need people inside it.

“We are being offered a new Republic. And if we can be citizens, instead of subjects, and have a voice in our own governance, without having to fight to do it… We’re honor bound to join. Otherwise, we are terrorists.

“And, if the shiny new Republic we’re being offered isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, if we have members inside it, we’ll be better placed to fight it, later.

“We know what we fought for,” though she’s fairly sure she’s saying that for herself, and Chewie, two droids, and the slew of ghosts behind her, “we have a peaceful route to get it, and as long as that is true, we can’t not take it.”

Her lips are trembling as she says it. “On Crait, Admiral Poe said we are the sparks that will light the fire that will burn the First Order down. Kylo Ren took the First Order down himself. So, it’s time to start new fires. Extending citizenship. Putting limits on what Ren can do. Increasing the power of the senate. If he won’t work with us, we can take up arms again but…” She inhales, sharp and shaky. “But I’ve known him from before he was born. I felt him grow inside my body, and if there’s one thing that’s ever been true about Ben Solo… or…” her voice cracks, “Kylo Ren, as he calls himself now, he will always do what he says he’s going to do.”

That revelation causes silence to fall throughout what’s left of the Resistance. Besides Chewie , two droids, and Poe, no one knew what had happened to Ben Solo. Of course, beyond Chewie, two droids, and Poe, almost everyone left in the Resistance hadn’t been with it long enough to remember a time when Leia talked about having a son.

Leia swallows hard. “I am officially disbanding the Resistance. I’ve been honored to serve with each and every one of you, and… no matter where you go from here, may the Force be with you.”

She sits down, and the arguing begins, loud, angry, shocked, mourning, after a few moments, Leia withdraws from it, going back into the Falcon, sitting in the cockpit, staring at the bonfires, letting confused and angry voices blur into the background.

Luke comes again to sit next to her. She inhales a shaky breath, and looks out over the beach. “They’re just going to squabble, and then go their separate ways.”

He nods.

“And I can’t stop them, and I can’t lead them, not any longer. I was fine with being a rebel, but I won’t be a terrorist.”

He nods again.

She sets up the communication, her own code, and in her own voice, broadcasts, “This is General Leia Organa, Commander of the Resistance. As of five days ago, Master of the Order, Kylo Ren set in motion a plan to restore a Democratic Republic governed by the will of its citizens. That is all the Resistance has ever fought for. As of today, The Resistance is officially disbanding. May the Force be with us all.” She hits the button, and from the Millennium Falcon her words spread through the galaxy.

She blinks, eyes hot, tired. She extends a hand to her brother, and he takes it. “I’m done now.”

He smiles at her. “Yes.”

And Leia fades into the Force.

 

 


A thousand meters away, Chewie sits on the beach, wondering what to do next.

He and Leia never exactly loved each other. They both loved Han, and when things were going well, that was enough.

They both hated the Empire, and when things were going badly, that was enough, too.

But when it came to just the two of them… They were fairly indifferent to each other.

She was the person his favorite human adored. He was willing to put up with, and fight beside, and support her because Han loved her. But he wasn’t heartbroken when they went their separate ways. And he wasn’t exactly thrilled to get pulled back into this shit, again but… She always made sure he got paid first, and he couldn’t spit on Han’s memory by not offering her help when she needed it.

And since Crait, she’s needed it.

And now, on the beach, months after when he would have called it quits, he can feel that she doesn’t need his help any longer. Doesn’t need anyone’s help anymore.

And he doesn’t know how to feel about that. The only other person, because while droids never forget, they also never understand, who remembered Han, in all of his Han, who knew the man under the veneer, and who loved him anyway, is gone.

He howls, low and mournful, over the ocean.

 

 


Two thousand kilometers away, Rey looks up from the plasteel wall she’s setting into place with the Force. Her eyes close, and she nods, feeling it, and like with Luke, she can feel a sense of deep peace.

But knowing Leia Organa went easily into the Force doesn’t stop the tears from forming. The children around her want to know what just happened, but Marrok can feel she’s very sad, and he hushes them.

 

 


A thousand light years away, Kylo Ren drops his training saber, an aching thrill coursing through his body, leaving his fingers and toes numb. The droid he’s working with strikes him. The power of the next hit, where Kylo slams it into the wall with the Force, destroys it, scattering broken, sparking electronics across his training gym.

A moment later, C8 hurries in with five of his top generals. “Master Ren… There’s been a communication. It’s genuine, the codes check out. It’s… important, sir.”

Kylo blinks; he already knows what’s about to play.

He forces himself to calm, forces his eyes to stay dry, and his face to stay stoic. He nods, and C8 plays the message.

He inhales sharply, listening to his mother’s last words, and he knows in his heart and bones, that that’s what he’s listening to. He can feel the hole in the Force, where Leia Organa’s energy belongs, and is now empty. His eyes close, and he bites his lip, hard, before grinding out, “Leave me.”

C8 would be confused if he could be, but he’s well-programmed and doesn’t linger, asking questions. His generals are confused, but they can feel that they are not needed here, not right now.

As soon as they’re out, Kylo’s knees go out from under him. He collapses to the floor, and he starts to sob.

A moment later, a pair of hands are on his shoulder, and a soft body is behind him, holding onto him as he cries for everything lost by winning.

“Shhhh…” Rey whispers to him. Not trying to quiet him down, just looking to make a soothing noise.

He curls into her, and she gently rocks him, letting him sob for all of it. For every burnt, hot, sad, lost, envious, abandoned feeling left in him. For the victory he didn’t want to win. For the death he knew would happen during his lifetime, but he hoped he’d never know about.

“She’s gone!”

She kisses his forehead. “I know, love. I know.”

 

 

 


There are rumors, that when the Resistance surrendered, that Master Ren took the news in silence, and then barred himself into his private room for three days, seeing no one, taking no food.

It is a fact that when he was seen next, there was a certain sharp, hollow quality to his interactions with everyone around him.

But any experienced commander knows, when you’ve fought long and hard against an enemy, winning can leave you feeling a bit lost and hollow. They don’t poke him about it. And no one suggest any sort of victory celebration.

After all, it doesn’t do to gloat.

Besides, this new Order is about moving forward, and the Resistance is the past, not worth their time or attention, not anymore.

Chapter Text

1/5/1 Y.O.

 

Rey takes Kylo back to Lirium, where he can be as loud, and as destructive, as he wants to.

Without having to worry about what his men think.

Without having to make decisions. She takes the comm he wears on his wrist off of him, and turns it off, trusting in the Force that the Order isn’t going to implode if he’s out of contact for a few days.  

For right now, the only thing he has to do is mourn. And that’s enough.

 


There are some small people who are very curious about the crying they can hear coming from her cottage, but she tells them that her friend lost his mother, and that he needs a place to be sad for a little while.

Half of the children don’t remember their mothers, but the ones who do go solemn, nod at her, and make sure the other ones don’t poke her friend.

 


The first night he sleeps. He cried himself out with Rey, and she didn’t press or try to stop him when he left, after the suns set, and found a pile of rocks to break. Too much sorrow, too much anger, too much to bear without lashing out. By the time he drug himself back to her cottage, he was spent.

She rubbed the bruise salve she has on his hands, and bandaged them up, letting her light slip through him, helping to mend crushed capillaries and torn skin, and kept close enough so that he had a gentle touch when he wanted one.

He hit the bed and slept like the dead through what was left of the night and much of the next day.

 


“Rey… If the people we love are never really gone… Why does it hurt so much when they go?” Magiit asks.

Every day Rey makes sure they get an hour or so in the chapel, just thinking and talking. Any and all questions are open for discussion. This is probably Rey’s favorite hour of the day with the children. And they seem to like it, too, because she’s happy to listen to their answers, and never makes them feel too young or too stupid when they come up with something.

(Though, sometimes, with some of the more long-winding answers that the little guys come up with, there is a general sense that maybe getting to a point sooner rather than later might be of value. But when the point eventually comes, it won’t be blown off.)

Rey feels that question, and the structures it’s based off of.

“Our loves are always with us. In our heads and spirits, and in the case of our parents and grandparents, in our literal skins. But… when they die, they’re gone, too.

“When you’re desperately lonely, the feel of someone isn’t enough. You want them, there, in front of you, breathing with you, taking up your space. You want their touch and smells and sounds. And memories just aren’t enough.”

She offers Magiit a weak smile and looks to the other children.

“There’s a dismissive side to ‘they’re always with you,’ too. Sometimes people will say that as a way to deflect how you feel. Or they’ll use it as a way to try and manipulate your feelings, to try and make you put your hurt and longing aside. Sometimes they’re trying to be kind to you. They see you sad and want you to not be sad. So, with the best of intentions, they try to shape the story, and use that to shape your feelings.

“Sometimes it’s selfish. You’re sad and lonely, and that makes them uncomfortable. They don’t want to deal with you being sad and lonely, so they try to make you not be sad and lonely around them. They tell you there’s no reason to mourn, because, after all, no one’s really gone.

“And that’s… bantha fodder. People leave. Your loves will, sooner or later, leave you. That’s just part of being mortal. And the promise of forever, the feel of their memories, their ghosts… It’s not enough. Not when the burn of loss is fresh. Eventually, there’s peace, and the wounds heal, and memories and ghosts will be enough. But not at first.”

“We’re… meant to be sad, then?” Halee asks.

Rey nods. “I think so. Sadness, pain, anger… If we weren’t meant to feel these things, we wouldn’t feel them. The Force doesn’t make mistakes. It doesn’t give you feelings you aren’t meant to have. Dealing with them, understanding them, learning how to feel them and not be swallowed alive by them, learning to be in them, and then go through them, that’s what we’re doing, but no one has any right to try and take them from you, or tell you you shouldn’t feel them.”

 

 


When they finish that talk session, and the children are working on making sure the faviers get their afternoon exercise, she heads back to her cottage, and curls onto her side, back tucked against Kylo, feeling him, here, and now, and real.

And tries not to imagine a time where he’s just… not. She doesn’t succeed in that, because in the end, there’s always, always an end. And one day, they too, will end.

 

 

But she doesn’t wake him up, so that feels like, maybe, a partial victory.

And if it’s clear she was crying when they reconvene to make dinner, well, right now, her home is a home that mourns, and tears are a common occurrence in such situations.

 

 


Kylo wakes up in time for supper, but doesn’t eat. Food feels like ash in his mouth and tastes of death.

The suns drop. He hasn’t done anything all day. He’s not tired, at least, not the sort of tired that results in sleep. When full night comes, he pulls on his clothing, and heads out again, a dark-edged shape in a starlit night.

He feels pulled to Rey’s chapel, so he goes, settling himself in the center, kneeling, trying to quiet his mind, trying to find his peace again.

Ben… You can’t do that. Ben, you musn’t… Ben, that’s bad… Ben, we have to go… I’m sorry, Ben… It’s important, Ben… I know, I wish I could be home, too, Ben… Ben, you have to fight it. Ben, you can’t let it win. Ben… Your Uncle Luke will know what to do…. Ben…

It doesn’t work. Hasn’t for a while, but today… His mantra, his liturgy for a restless mind, his focusing charm, the words that made anger go from a wild rage into a tight flame… Today, they’re useless.

He built it up over the years, condensed it down, made sure the voices that disapproved, the ones that sought to shun him, or hurt him could ring out over and over. And now they’re all gone.

Every single one of them rendered silent by death.

Through victory I gain freedom… That was a mantra, too. And maybe there was truth there. He won. Won all of his battles. And now… his hate is leaking away. It’s not there to power him, not there to guide him, or carry him, or…

And maybe that’s freedom, but it’s the freedom of a drifting ship out of fuel.

 

 


“Ben…” he can hear her voice so clearly.

There never was a Ben… But that’s not true. There never was a… whatever it was they wanted. That version of a person: the kind, light, good Ben… He never existed.

But there had been a child, and he answered to a name, and that name was Ben.

And that child loved his mommy and daddy, and he wanted them to love him. He wanted to spend time with them, and he wanted them to approve of him, and he wanted them to look at him with smiles and joy and…

And he knows it happened, sometimes.

He knows there were good times.

In eight years, he can remember… four or five times when all three of them were together. Swimming at the beach, and they went to Lando’s wedding, he remembers that, and… There were some good times. Some really good ones.

But he remembers fear. And he remembers goodbyes. And Ben, don’t cry. We’ll be back, soon, sweetheart.

And eventually he didn’t cry. When they could see. But the better he got at not crying, the worse he got at not scaring them, and everyone around him.

And eventually Ben… You have to learn to control this. You can’t give into it. Uncle Luke can help. You’ll learn to be a Jedi and… this… will just be a learning experience.

He kneels on the floor, in the center of the spiral, feeling the stones digging into his knees and feet. There’s no solace here. No peace. His repetitions were, if nothing else, familiar, and familiar brings comfort, but not today.

Nothing touches it, today.

 

 


He feels her, senses her presence, sees the light in the chapel shift, glow blue, and looks up.

Then he stands up, pads across the chapel to her, and looks down… She’s more than a head shorter than he is. His eyes close, and he feels the tears starting.

It’s stupid, but real, and it’s out of his mouth before he can stop it. “You were taller than I was the last time I saw you, in person.”

“I know.”

“Was it worth it? Did you get what you wanted? Build your important things?”

“No.” She’s looking up at him, eyes tracing the face she hasn’t seen since Crait, and not for almost a decade before that. “Did you need to hear that?”

“Yes.” His voice cracks on that and he nods. “I did.” That comes out shaky, and he’s got to sniff, hard after saying it.

“I am so sorry.”

He’s crying harder. “Good.”

Ghosts can’t touch, but he has the sense of her hand against his face, and he leans his cheek into it.

“Why did you come?”

“To look at you, and truly see you, at least once.” Her eyes are still searching his face.

He’s staring down at her, eyes dark, hair wild, scar catching the shadows, deepening in the dim light of the stars and his mother’s glow. “Am I the monster who kept you up at night? The future you didn’t want to think of?”

 

 

“Not anymore.”

He nods at that, too. Inhaling, deep and shaky. He bites his lip, hard, but he has to ask.  “Have you seen him?”

She nods.

“Tell him…” He doesn’t know how to finish that. So much of all of his hate for Han has leaked out of him over the last year. So much of all of his hate is leaking away.

“You’ll tell him yourself, when you’re ready, Kylo. He’s always around, somewhere.”

Kylo nods, and Leia fades away from him.

 

 


There was a boy, and he had a name, and that name didn’t fit him. He tried to make it fit. He pulled it and stretched it and squished it and… And it was never right.

So he pulled himself, and stretched himself, and squashed himself, and it still didn’t fit.

And every time he tried to shift himself, the name fit less and less, and the more angry he got about having to fit that name.

And his mother loved that name, and she feared the name he’d take for himself.

And his father hoped that, if he was let to run a little wilder, he’d eventually burn off the name he’d choose for himself and settle into the name that didn’t fit. But his father also had a name that didn’t fit, General, and he too was uncomfortably trying to shove himself into a mold made for someone else.

And kneeling on a hard stone floor, filled with the memories of the boy, he can see his rage, remember it, but he can’t feel it. 

There is a saying that you aren’t truly dead until the last person who remembers your name is gone. He’s not sure about that. He remembers, but he can’t feel it, know it, not any more.

Kneeling on the hard stone, Kylo Ren knows that not only is Leia Organa gone, but so is Ben Solo.

 

 


“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.”

He kneels on a hard stone floor, (when he finally stands, his knees will be bruised) staring up at the sky on a planet he doesn’t even know the name of, wearing the token of a religion he’s the second ever member of, on his sixth day as the Master of a new government.

The past is dead. He’s killed it, literally and figuratively.

Before him, there’s only future.

 

 


He rises, legs stiff, limping a little because both of his feet are asleep. The green sun is just starting to crest the plain as he moves through Rey’s town.

He hasn’t seen too many sunrises. It’s just not a thing on a ship, and when he sleeps somewhere with a day/night cycle, his body rapidly shifts into sleeping through the later part of the night into the morning.

And he’s fairly sure he can’t see too many of them, not here.

Not now.

Here, now, he’s a feature of the night. A dark shape in a dark space. But the sun is coming for him, caressing over his skin, a warm green that he’s not exactly used to, but doesn’t find unpleasant.

Maybe one day, he’ll greet the sun openly, here.

Maybe one day, he won’t fear showing his face to Rey’s town, friends, family…

Maybe.

 

 


He touches the door to her cottage, but of course, it’s unlocked. He’s the only one who ever locks it, and he only locks it to keep the outside from coming in, when he’s in there.

He knows her day is starting soon, but not yet. He quiets his moves, because she’s shifting from deep sleep to waking sleep, and he doesn’t want to startle her. It doesn’t take long to pull off his clothing and boots. Then he carefully slips into bed with her, snuggling up behind her.

He should have known it wouldn’t work. Her eyes don’t open, but she asks, “Did it help?”

He bows his head to her shoulder, inhaling her morning scent, and feeling her hair against his face. “I don’t know.”

She squeezes his arms, and presses back against him. “Did it hurt?”

“Yes.”

“Good hurt?”

“Probably.” No one knows better than the man who trained in both the dark and the light that, sometimes, you need to go through pain to get to something important.  

He cuddles her, looking at the sunlight stretching across them, dimmed by the curtain, but not shut out. He feels her skin against his. Since they’ve been sleeping together, neither of them has found any reason to wear pajamas. He feels the shift of her breath, the slight thrum of her heart, and the glow of her life.

He’s rarely given much thought to his own life force. It’s just a thing that is. Something he takes for granted, though he assumes, that like everyone else, he’ll one day find himself without it.

Right now, though, he’s very aware of it, feeling his own breath, own pulse, and own glow, dim though it may be.

And right now, lying in bed with her, he’s very aware of the future, and how this, here, his body and hers, combine to create that future. How their literal, physical lives combine to shift and form the vague images in his mind.

His shaft rises against her, and he’s almost confused as to why, this isn’t sexual... It’s a morning cuddle, both of them with solemn hearts. She’s not in his arms, calling his name or stroking him. So, it’s not sex… Except it is. It isn’t erotic. It is sexual because that’s how his body understands life. Rising against her, that’s how his body seeks the future and more life.

She notices he’s poking her, for the first time in a few days, and rubs against him, encouraging.

He smiles against her shoulder and gives her a little rub, too.

She shifts her leg, scooting back against him, and he rocks his hips, adjusting a bit, and then slips against her. He’s not entirely hard, and she’s not especially wet, so for a bit they’re just rocking against each other. Eventually though… Slow, easy, gentle, a centimeter at a time. His body seeking hers, seeking life and a future and… more of this glow of living. And he knows it can’t happen, the preventative takes care of that, but his body doesn’t, and he’s content to go with it. The motions feel good. The desire for it is real.

His body, hers. His life, hers. This motion, this slide and glide. And not today, but one day, this will be real, and it will result in a life, and a future, and another glow.

 

 


A rumor spreads across the settlement at Lirium, one child to another, that when Rey’s friend went to the chapel to meditate, it glowed blue.

 

Chapter Text

1/6/1 Y.O.

 

“Now what, Admiral Dameron?”

Poe’s heard versions of that question more or less non-stop since Chewie started howling, and everyone realized no one had seen Leia for hours, and then they found the pile of clothing in the co-pilot’s seat, and…

“Stop calling me that,” he snaps. The only what he wants right now is the time and space to go cry until he can drink, and then drink until he can’t remember why he’s crying, and then, and only then, deal with all of these people who expect him to lead them.

Leia is gone. He’s been with her for almost twenty years now. Seventeen-year-old hot shot newbie pilot assigned to her security detail back when she was a senator. That’s how they met. He was star struck for a few minutes, until she opened her mouth and told him a wicked joke, and all of the tension and nervous and am I good enough for this melted away.

When she left the Senate, he went with her. When she began calling people to arms, he was the first one by her side.

He’d have flown to the end of the galaxy for her.

He mutinied against the only thing that mattered to him because he was sure Leia wouldn’t approve of what Holdo was doing. 

And now she’s gone, and he’s never, ever, felt less like a commander. But he’s got followers, who are looking for a leader and… He doesn’t exactly like Leia’s plan. He loved her; he didn’t always love her plans, though over the years he noticed that she tended to make good ones. But, enlisting if you can and then running for office sounds like something he could never do. Even if he weren’t, now, the highest ranked living member of the Resistance, and therefor probably on the top of the Order’s shoot on sight list. Hell, he was bad at following orders for a group he wholehearted agreed with and believed in. Doing it for The Fir—Order, as if that’ll make much difference, sounds like being asked to gouge his own eyes out.

He rubs his forehead, eyes finding Finn, imploring him. Maybe… if he had the two of them… Finn half inclines his head back, and then looks to Rose, and both of them shake their heads. They are, for the foreseeable future, out of the Resisting business. And that’s enough. He’s not doing this on his own.

“You heard the lady, we’re done. You want to hear the truth, that’s it. We not only can’t win at this point, we can’t even muster a decent attack. The most we can do, and have been doing, is minor sabotage, that’s proving useless because Ren’s not attacking anyone, so his equipment isn’t failing in the middle of a big battle with someone else, letting them win.

“The last sabotage, the last good one we got in, busted up when he put them through their training paces, blowing up asteroids, and then he had the entire line checked, found the problem, and got it fixed. And since then he’s had his security so damn high on all of his production lines, there’s just… nothing we can do!”

Rose doesn’t growl, but it’s close. Dumb fucking luck, or the Force, that he took the Citykillers to an asteroid field to put them through a thorough training run, and three of them broke up in maneuvers. Months of going undercover burned to cinders in ten minutes among useless chunks of rock.

“We’re fucked. That’s the way of it. We’ve been recruiting for a good solid year, and you’re it. Officially, we’ve got 450 members, and this is everyone who could be bothered to come to a meeting. And if an actual fight broke out, less than a quarter of you would be any use, except…” Poe hates this. He wants to rip his hair out just having to say it. “We’ve got three fighters, one bomber with no bombs, and hand to hand weapons for twenty-five people, so I can’t even put a quarter of you into a fight. And I can’t hide you properly, either. We’ve got two fully set up hideouts, a dozen decrepit ones. And I can’t pay you, the paycheck after next, I’ll have burned through what’s left of Resistance’s accounts, and we’re out of cash.

“I’ve got nothing. If Ren blows up another planet, we will have cash and recruits and people will give us ships to fight him, but he’s not doing that, so… This is it. We’re done. It’s time to go our separate ways and find whatever peace we can. The war is over.” He blinks, hard. Somehow, this hurts less than admitting it to Rey, but it still hurts. “We lost.”

 

 


It takes two days for all of what used to be the Resistance to drift away from Lirium.

In the end, it’s Finn and Rose, Chewie and R2D2, Poe and BB-8, and C3PO.

And though all seven of them are sad, six of them have a plan for what happens next. Once the rest of the Resistance is gone, Poe takes the small token out from under his shirt and explains what he and BB-8 have been up to, in addition to looking for Resistance recruits, for the last few months.

And eventually they notice that C3-PO hasn’t said anything, not about the past, or the future, or anything, in days.

In fact, he’s been out among the dunes, staring off into space, and... mourning.

 


 

There’s a reason, beyond just the normal vagaries of personality, that most people do not order or create droids with emotional processing centers.

And C3PO is sitting on the beach wishing that whomever made him hadn’t been so cruel as to do this to him. His mind, his circuits, his body, not only are they all well-nigh immortal, but he can be uploaded, copied, and put into new bodies until the end of time.

And that’s not true of his people.

Who are, now, all gone.

He parted ways with Master Luke shortly after Endor, and though he didn’t want to say goodbye to Master Luke, he understood there wasn’t much need for him where Luke was going. He and General Solo never exactly got along, so he didn’t mind too much when he left. And he hates the fact that it’s true, but he was afraid of Master Ben, even as a toddler he could go into tempers that would fry the electronics of anything near him, and twice that included the loyal protocol droid who worked for his mother.

But General Organa… though that’s not the name he thinks of her as… Princess Leia… His princess… He worked for her father and could remember her as a baby and growing up and bright and strong and…

And his lady, his reason for being, his purpose is gone.

 

 


R2 slowly ambles his way out there after another day. He’s not exactly built to traverse sand easily, and it’s been years since his little hover rockets have worked properly, but it’s not like they’re in a rush. Eventually, he gets there.

Lost?

“Yes.”

I know. I felt that way when Luke left.

Threepio doesn’t look to R2. “And would you suggest a decade long nap to take the edge off?”

I can guarantee it won’t hurt.

Neither of them can roll their eyes, but the feel of C3-PO’s derision is strong. “She won’t be there when I wake up. She won’t ever be back.”

I know. He’s gone, too. Han is. They all are. That’s our real lot in life. What did you say, we were made to suffer?

“I was complaining about sand, not… this.”

I know, but you weren’t wrong. Unless something happens, we outlive them. So… find new humans, his visor turns to direction of the Falcon, currently out of view, where some of the new humans are, wipe your memory, or shut down. He extends his dataprobe. I’ll take care of you, if you want me to.

Threepio thinks about it, for a long time.

“And do you have a theory of some new humans who need me?”

Chewie’s got a suggestion, and Poe thinks it would help, too.

“What?”

A few thousand kilometers from here, Rey’s building up her school. She needs someone who can teach people.

“Children?”

Children.

“And what do they need to learn?”

From what Poe’s saying, pretty much everything. Girl never went to school herself. She can read and fix most anything. She’s good with the Force, but that’s pretty much it. So, history, politics, protocol. Whatever. Sing them lullabies and tell them stories of the world that came before them.

“The last human I did that for broke me four times. Twice before he was old enough to pronounce my name properly.”

Well, he’s not going to be there. These are different humans.

Threepio doesn’t sigh, but it’s clear from his silence and the way he’s watching the ocean he’s not comforted by that statement. Babies with serious Force powers are not anything he’s comfortable with.

We’re going there. Bring word, drop off supplies. Come with us, check it out, see if it looks like something you want to do.

“I don’t want to do anything.”

I know. R2 scoots a little closer. He was supposed to come back with us, you know? Supposed to come back with me. He turned me off, left me for a decade, one minute I’m in the wreckage of his school, next minute Kylo’s running the First Order and Luke’s in hiding because of him, and he gave me this shit about how I couldn’t understand, didn’t even try to explain, didn’t come with us, and then just up and died on me. Bastard!

Threepio nods at that. Then he says, “Kylo?”

He changed his name before everything went wrong. 311 days before. Did they not tell you that?

“No. Master Luke came, and he spent a long time talking to General Solo and Senator Organa. General Solo and Chewie left. Gen—“ But they’re dead, all dead, and he never liked his title, anyway. “Han was so mad when he left that room he was shaking, cradling his hand, I know he had a few broken fingers, and I didn’t see him or Chewie again until a few days before you woke up.” He doesn’t pause to take a breath, because he doesn’t breathe, but… he does pause before he says it, “Leia” her name, alone, by itself, an intimacy he never allowed himself when she was alive, “didn’t say anything about it when she and Master Luke left that room, but she was hurt, in her heart, and Master Luke, he was bleeding. Three missing teeth, a broken jaw, and black eye. I think Gen—Han punched him. But they never talked about it. And we put you in a closet and hoped you turn on again, sooner or later.”

Fucking humans.

Threepio almost sniggers at that.

The new ones’ll break our hearts, too, but it’s better than oblivion, probably.

Threepio starts to get up, slowly. He can sit, but it’s not exactly easy. “Probably. Take me to Rey and her school.”

Good.

 


It’s more hospitable than Tatooine. That’s pretty much the only thing going for Rey’s settlement, at least according to Threepio.

It’s her, eight kids, an almost dozen structures, none of which are ideally suited for him, a dirt road, also not ideally suited for someone who’s not really good in mud, no robotics workshop, no oil bath, limited tools, though Poe says that can be fixed, and Chewie backs that promise up, the power supply is iffy (Though Chewie knows a guy who knows a guy, and Finn’s been sweet talking him, so… maybe soon they’ll have a lead on a few shipstones.), and there isn’t a proper classroom.

The Ewok village was more sophisticated than this place.

But there’s eight children, and Rey’s technically an adult, but the way she lights up at the idea of history and politics and protocol, and even how to read (Apparently, she’s got some sort of Force thing going where she can understand printed text, any printed text, but she doesn’t know her letters.) puts him in mind of a child, and…

And it’s something to do. It’s people who need him. 

So, he says yes. And they set up a cottage for him, so he doesn’t get rained on and has a flat floor under his feet, and in the morning, he has his first class, recent history, the rise and fall of the Rebellion.

And all eight of the children, and the one adult with the childlike eyes, all know about a princess who would eventually be a general, but they all seem to enjoy hearing the story, told by someone who loved her.

And it’s not running a government, or helping with a Rebellion, or Resistance, or making sure his Lady knows the correct way to address a foreign dignitary, so that he feels comfortable and sociable and is willing to donate a good-sized pile of money to whichever cause they’re fighting for.

But it’s not oblivion. And he does get to tell them about the things and people he loved.

So, for now, it’s enough.

 

Chapter Text

 

1/1/1 Y.O.

 

A trio of bankers, three of five of the ruling members of the Ygrine family, look at each other as the broadcast of the newest ‘Master’ of the galaxy comes to an end. They had the opportunity of attending this ‘rally’ in person, and chose not to. The last time the newly titled Master of the Order invited a collection of bankers to his lair, they didn’t make it home.

“He’s… younger than I was expecting,” Myrton says.

“Much,” Bellie replies.

Andromeda stares at the screen, where the image of Kylo is frozen. “He’s not unattractive. At least, not so much his power won’t cover for it.”

“Young men have needs…” Myrton says. “And… an Order… likely needs an heir. He didn’t say anything about them voting him out of power.”

“He did not.” Andromeda replies, still eyeing the frozen image of Kylo.

“Six daughters between us…” Bellie says, tentatively. “Three sons, if he leans that way. Perhaps… With General Organa having taken our money and run… Maybe we could… Assure his goodwill?”

“He’s a Jedi… or something like that…” None of them missed the lightsaber on his hip. “And we all know they’re…” Andromeda says. They share a look about Jedi being known for bizarre attitudes about sex.

“I can make a few… delicate inquiries… See if… there’s a pool to dip a toe into?” Myrton says. That seems a circumspect way of putting it. 

 

 


1/5/1 Y.O.

A trio of bankers sit in the main conference room of their corporate headquarters.

They’d just finished listening to a communique they weren’t really supposed to have access to.

“Do the codes check out?” Myrton asks.

Bellie nods. “They do.”

“So much for that investment,” Andromeda adds.

“We didn’t lose that much,” Myrton adds. “Though I’ll admit I’d hoped to gain more.” Shifting more of their assets into droid manufacturing was doing a fine job of offsetting their losses from slave dependent industries, but… and none of them had expected this, the weapons market is starting to go soft, and with the Resistance just bowing out, it’s about to go softer than an overcooked noodle. They’ve got to find something to cover that.

His sisters nod.

“It’s time to readjust our strategy then,” Andromeda says.

Myrton nods.

Bellie adds, “Were you able to find out… how best to approach him?”

Myrton wiggles his hand from side to side, indicating he has something, but he’s not sure how good it is. “My contact says that he’s not celibate. He’s been known to have a few discreet encounters over the years. Nothing long term. Nothing open. Probably nothing that lasted more than a night or two. This changed recently. They think he has a friend now, for at least the last four months, but no one has ever seen her.”

“Is it a her?” Bellie asks.

“That could explain going from discreet to secret,” Andromeda says.

Bellie adds, “It could. Granted, Snoke never cared about that, and even if Ren plays by the Empire’s rulebook, now that he’s the top of the heap he could… swing in whichever direction most pleased him.”

Myrton adds, “My sources think it’s a woman. They, obviously, cannot be certain, but… There are signs suggesting it’s a woman.”

“Signs…” Andromeda’s voice trails off.

“What man uses a preventative with another man?”

The ladies nod. “No need for that, true.”

“Granted, because no one’s seen her, we’re also not certain she’s human. She’d have to be close enough to need to use a preventative, but…” Myrton adds.

Both of his sisters look at each other, sharing a mild sense of disgust. Mixing between the humanoids happens, but it’s also something that’s generally looked at with, at best, irked tolerance, and at worst, both people and any offspring they may have are lynched. “That would be a reason to keep an affair secret,” Bellie says.

All three nod. But that doesn’t get them any closer to what they hope to do.

Andromeda breaks the silence. They have finite resources for this plan, so they may as well fly ahead and put it into play. Worst comes to worst, they fail and have to come up with another plan. “So, which of our girls?”

Myrton sips his chai. “The affairs he’s had in the past don’t offer any help. He’s not particular in regards to looks.”

“Did they have anything in common?” Bellie asks.

“They were all officers and eager to rise. He hasn’t visited a pleasure specialist since he’s had rank enough to attract women without paying them,” Myrton says. “So, apparently he likes at least the illusion of them being interested in him.”

“Or he’s cheap.”

“Kitchen staff tells us he eats well, has a standing order for fresh strawberries, and has a cup of coffee every morning…”

Both of the ladies exhale at that. “Not cheap then. He’s certainly willing to pay for his pleasures,” Andromeda adds.

Myrton nods. They live on a planet where strawberries grow, so getting them fresh isn’t too difficult. In space… That ups the price by at least a factor of 100. And coffee… that only grows in a few places on a hundred or so planets, and even on those planets it’s expensive because trillions of people want it. There’s nowhere in the galaxy that isn’t an extremely rare luxury item.

“Good manners, breeding, taste, a bit of naked ambition. Keiligh or Celia, I’d think,” Andromeda says.

 

 


1/20/1 Y.O.

 

“We’d like to see about seeking an alliance.”

Kylo wonders, idly, how this works for people who can’t sense the motives of those around them. He knows that by seek an alliance they mean, shield us and our power. He assumes that anyone they’d hit with this pitch would know what they’re seeking and why they’re here, but…

The game bores him.

The twist, the two girls who don’t actually belong here, is somewhat discomforting. They are both very pretty. Soft hair, one blonde, the other brunette, falling in long delicate waves. Big, expertly made-up eyes, the blonde has blue ones and the brunette green. Bodies of exquisitely maintained curves and hollows, both of them dressed to accent them as much as possible, while still keeping everything he’d most desire to see hidden. He can feel himself respond to them, even though he doesn’t much want to.

He can feel the way they’re watching him. A challenge to be conquered. They’ve cataloged his net worth, probably down to the individual credit, and have extrapolated the power he commands as a factor of both money and manpower. The older one is bored, she’s been dangled in front of princes who’ve had more money and men to bring into play, more conventionally attractive ones, too. The younger one is vaguely interested in him, and taking her time to actually look at him. Both of them know that if they can manage to win him, they’ll win with their family, as well. The extra status they’ll receive from catching him has their interest focused.

That shuts down a lot of his interest. But not all of it.

Part of Jedi training is the banishing of strong emotions. And for a school filled with teenagers and young adults, desire, specifically for sex, is prime among those strong emotions Luke was trying to help them to banish. With… varying results. Though Kylo doesn’t think on this often, these days, since he is happily having sex on a regular basis and seeing how it effects his temperament and mood, he’s thinking part of why he was even able to raise the Knights of Ren is because he had three somewhat celibate young adults who very much didn’t want to be somewhat celibate young adults.

The guilt alone for ‘giving in’ to their ‘emotions’ was probably enough to fuel a good third of his strike.

Training with Snoke was similar, but from a different direction. Snoke didn’t care if he or the Knights sought out release, he just preferred they got it through killing people. He thought it was valuable to channel those desires into their fight, and how it would make them more effective in combat. 

As a result, Kylo learned to shut his desire for sex down, he went more than a decade rarely even seeing the women around him, as women. In his later years with Luke, he’d only really notice they weren’t men when he’d get wound up enough to take care of himself, and then fantasize about them, or, with Snoke, seek one out, and then, pretty much whichever one landed under his gaze first took care of whatever it was, and then he could shut his desire down for another year or so.

But, an unexpected consequence of his time with Rey is that the part of his mind/body that notices things like attractive women has woken back up. And having spent most of his adult life hibernating, it’s significantly more eager than he’d like.

This works out wonderfully, when he’s with Rey. She can shift a little, or brush against him, or just… be her, and his body is more or less leaping to attention and looking to get rubbed against her. And it’s rather bothersome when he’s not. Unfortunately, he hasn’t found a way to shut it down when he’s not with her, and then wake it up again when he is. He tried, got it shut back down again, and then it took three days to wake up. Not his greatest plan, ever, because he then had to explain why his body suddenly wasn’t leaping to attention when she was happily squirming about in his lap, and why he thought this might have been a good idea in the first place.

He supposes it’s a good thing that Rey thought it was funny, as opposed to treasonous, that he’d like looking at other women.

So he’s looking, and doesn’t want to be.

He can feel that the longer the younger one looks at him, the more interested in him she becomes. She thinks his nose is too big, and oddly shaped, somewhat off-center. She thinks the scar is dangerous and somewhat sinister looking, but compared to the soft, polite princes she’s met before, a reminder that he’s actually fought appeals to her. She likes the idea of a man with some edges, and she thinks he’s a cut diamond of edges. She’s aware of his shoulders and hands and is wondering if the rest of him is equally large. She thinks his eyes are pretty, and his lips are enticing. She’d like to suck on his bottom lip, see if she could make him smile by doing it. See if she could make him want her.

Rey did that last night, and this morning and… yes it made him smile and then some, and the idea of it happening again soon is also having some pleasurable effects and… And he does wonder, vaguely, how it would feel if the girl did it. The same? Different? She’s softer and rounder and curvier than Rey and she’d fit against him differently, and her light brown hair brushes her low back, so it would drape over him if she was on top, and he can almost imagine the soft brush of it and the honey highlights of it against his pale skin, and her breasts look big enough to really fill his hands, and… He really needs to stop thinking about that.  

He smirks at the younger girl, looking to set her off foot, too. “It’s always been big. I’ve broken it three times. Twice in training. The third time I needed to get back to the fight quickly, so I set it myself. I did an… okay job of it. That’s why it’s slightly off-center.”

Her eyes go wide and she tries to vanish behind her older sister. She understands that if he could follow her thoughts that closely, he knew what else she was thinking, too.

He then looks to Myrton. “If you’d like to seek an alliance, seek one. What do you propose?”

Myrton blathers on about the value of consolidated power and how things can be handled more efficiently if they’re all done in house and doesn’t manage to come up with a single tangible plan. Kylo knows the only reason he’s there is to dangle the girls in front of him, hoping for a different sort of alliance.

About twenty paragraphs into the glories of unity and the power of blending military might with money he eventually gets around to the fact the Ygrith system is a heredity monarchy ruling seventeen planets united through a wide, incorporated financial empire.

And then he lets it dangle.

Kylo adds just a little pressure to Myrton’s throat. Not enough to strangle him. Not enough that he’s sure something is happening from the outside, but enough that he starts to fidget with his collar.

“You still haven’t suggested an alliance.”

Myrton tries to loosen his collar, and Kylo tightens the grasp again, just a little.

“When we were still the First Order, when the New Republic was in office, the Ygrine family were firm backers of the Resistance. When Palpatine was in office, the Ygrine family backed both him and the Rebellion. You’ve always played every side of the game, and as of now, you’ve made out well doing so.” Kylo leans forward, looking Myrton in the eyes. “If you wish to ally yourself to the Order, ally yourself. There are recruiting stations all over the galaxy. Get yourself to one of them, and enlist. At the end of five years, you’ll find yourself a citizen, and as such any honestly gained property will be protected from Order levies.

“You’re older than ideal, but we turn away no one. I’m sure there’s something you can do for us. I have a fleet of accountants, and I always need people who are good with money. In the meantime, your sisters can run your kingdom, and as long as they manage not to irritate me before you gain your citizenship, I won’t bother with you.”

He releases his grasp on Myrton’s neck, and Myrton, shocked to have heard that, says, “But… we can bring close to a hundred billion people into your service.”

“You’re going to demand that every one of your subjects enlists in the Order?” Kylo’s both amused and horrified at that idea. If Myrton actually tried, it’d break him. He’s got no way to take care of that many people.

Myrton blinks. Fortunately, he’s also horrified by the idea of sharing custody of even one of his subjects with Kylo. “No. We would ally with you and they’d be--”

“Nothing. There are two ways to gain citizenship in the Order, and that’s to enlist or be the child of someone who enlisted. You cannot buy citizenship for yourself or your people. They’ll join up or not as they see fit.”

“You don’t care if my kingdom supports you or not?” It’s clear that this is not how the game is played, and Myrton’s been thrown for a loop.

“I’d certainly appreciate your support, for example, I know you have both money and some level of military power, and I’d find a non-aggression treaty useful, but this is a government of people, not systems, so I do not seek your support in the sense of a formal binding of my power to yours. That would be limiting in a manner that does nothing for my future.”

Myrton’s stuck on government of people. “If you don’t control planets, what are you going to do with citizens?” Kylo can feel that Myrton is genuinely stumped by that idea. In his mindset, you control ground, that’s the point of a military, to control and hold ground and whatever happens to live on said ground is yours.

Kylo half-smiles. “I imagine, when enough of them end up in one place, they may decide to call on my might for help turning their planets into representative democracies, too. After all, the point of a republic is to allow people to have a say in their own governance.”

Myrton goes white at that. Kylo can feel that he just uttered the most dangerous idea Myrton’s ever heard. A “properly managed” republic, one from the top down, doesn’t discomfort him. He’ll thrive just as well in one of those as he does in his own kingdom. A bottom up one, though… “We’ll ban your recruiting stations.”

Kylo looks at him, eyes dead calm, and uses his power to make Myrton feel nervous, jittery. Then he says, voice, low and quiet, “You may, of course, try.” Then he smiles again, wide and cold. “But as someone who backed both the Resistance and the Rebellion should know, it’s difficult to prevent people from joining movements that better their lives.”

Myrton’s fuming. The girls are just staring at Kylo. The older one is shocked. No one has ever spoken to her father that way. The younger one is, and he gives her a little, genuine smile because of this, intrigued.

“Do you still seek an alliance?” Kylo asks. “You don’t bother my recruiting stations, and I promise not to bother your planets?”

Myrton’s more than annoyed, but he also knows that this is a useful deal, for now. He nods. “I’ll have my people write a contract up.”

“Excellent. Set it for a five year time frame.”

Myrton doesn’t like that. He thinks for another moment, and really doesn’t like it. Five years means the contract evaporates before the elections. Meaning Kylo’s citizens will be free to do whatever they wish. “Ten.”

Kylo felt Myrton think his way through it, and decides he can deal with ten. He nods slightly. “You may leave me.”

As they’re leaving, the younger girl, summoning up her courage says, “Is that why you started wearing the mask?”

He hasn’t so much forgotten her as shifted his focus to the point where he’s got no idea what she’s talking about.

“To protect your face.” She stares at his scar and nose, and reaches, about to touch, but he stops her dead with the Force, freezing her arm, and then steps back, well past her arm’s length.

He shakes his head. “No, my Lady.” And then releases her. “Don’t try that again.”

He can feel the shock coming off of her, and she’s looking at the floor, completely unbalanced, no idea what to do next. “I’m sorry, my Lord.”

“Master. I’m no one’s Lord.”

“Master Ren,” she says with a nod.

He nods back, and speaking directly to the younger girl says, “If you wish to ally yourself with the Order, ally yourself. Join me.” He catches the eyes of Myrton and his older daughter, “But not like that.”

 

 


When Myrton returns to his sisters, he says… “A different tactic will be needed.”

“A boy?”

He shakes his head. “He likes women. He responded favorably to both of the girls, as girls. But not as a possible partner. We need someone… less blatantly interested in his power. He can read minds. I could see him feel the girls sizing him up, and designing their wedding gowns and futures as Mistress of the Order. It left him cold. He wants to be liked, loved for himself.

All three of them sigh at that. Gods save them from hopeless romantics.

The ladies share a glance. Then one more aimed at him. That’s the thing they don’t think they can find among their offspring.

Myrton inclines his head, nodding. “In the meantime, I’ve secured a ten year non-aggression pact. Hopefully. Our lawyers will natter with his, and by the time they’re done, who knows what this will look like. That said, I think we need to gather with several friends. He has… problematic ideas for what his citizens might do.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

2/5/1 Y.O.

 

“Okay, everyone got a rock?”

The eleven children in front of Rey all have their rocks.

In the last month, Poe’s brought her three more. A family. Elias, Muni, and Ostrae. Two of the three of them, Elias and Muni, have some level of Force talent, the third, the youngest of the lot, has a different father than the older two, which probably accounts for the difference in talent.

No matter, all are welcome at the School of the Maji.

“Great.” Rey sits comfortably in front of them, and gestures for them to all settle down, too. “Comfy?”

They nod and respond.

“Close your eyes. Reach out, feel the rock. Feel the Force. Feel the air and the wind and the balance between them. Gather all of that together, find the point of balance, and just, shift it, a bit, and move the rock.”

She knows only three of them, Marrok, Elias, and Muni can move the rock, so that’s only part of the lesson.

After ten minutes of trying, there are three levitating rocks, and eight rocks stubbornly sitting on the ground refusing to move. Which is exactly what she expected, though it looks like several of the children were expecting different results. And of those several, two of them are distinctly disappointed.

“Okay, good job, all of you.”

“Even us,” Opal says, pointing to her and her twin’s rocks, both of which are still on the ground.

“Yes. Even for you who didn’t move the rock. Today’s lesson isn’t about floating rocks. Master Skywalker told me that floating rocks is a trick. And it is. An impressive one, but a trick. And we’re not here today to learn tricks.

“Now, here’s the real lesson. Every day you will run into tasks. Some of you will find them easy. Some of you will find them hard. Some of you will work desperately, you’ll do everything right, you’ll be perfect, and it still won’t happen. No one can do everything. You will fail. I’ll fail. Everyone fails.

“Coping with failure is not a trick.

“Now, what do we do with failure?”

They look at each other, but don’t seem to want to respond. (Though the disappointed children are starting to feel a little better about not floating their rocks.)

“A lot of things. But let’s put them into two main groups. Light reactions. You failed, but maybe your friend didn’t. So, you feel happy for them, and tell them they did a good job. Dark reactions. You failed, so you feel bad, feel worthless, and maybe you start to hate your friend because they could do it and you couldn’t.” Rey moves around, between the kids as she’s saying this. Sensing eleven variations on the feelings she’s talking about.

“That’s normal. Most people, most of the time, have a lot of feelings about things. Your job is to feel them, and understand them, and decide how to use them.

“The Light feelings… If you use them to make your friend feel good, if you compliment him or her, that’s constructive. But if you leave it there… Nothing happens. Your rock is still sitting on the ground. You’ve made the world outside of you better, but you’ve done nothing with yourself, and you didn’t solve the problem.

“Dark feelings, if you cut off your friend or say something mean, you’ve made the world outside of you worse, and again, the rock is still on the ground. If you let yourself feel worthless, then you’ve made you worse, and your rock is still on the ground. Maybe you do both, yell at your friend and make yourself feel bad about your failure. That’s the worst possible outcome, you’ve hurt your friend, hurt yourself, and didn’t solve the problem.”

“Does that mean those feelings are bad?” Torine asks.

“The feelings aren’t. What you do with them might be. Example, if you use those feelings to motivate yourself to find a different way to do it,” Rey uses her staff as a lever and flicks one of the rocks into the air, “You’ve made yourself better. You’ve found a way to solve your problem.

“Find the balance. It’s in there, waiting for you. Find how to use your light feelings and your dark feelings to make yourself, and your world, better.

“Motivation comes from all sides, so use it, but balance it. Not all you and no world, and not all world and no you. Too much light and too much dark can paralyze you, leaving you feeling too content to do anything of value or too hurt to move. Stay in the middle.”

She stands up. “Okay, rocks. We’ve got a ton of rocks here, and we want rocks on our road. If we want Threepio to be able to move around easily, we’ve got to build him a real road.” Her town is up to nine cottages, a workshop, her chapel, a communal kitchen, and a classroom now, and they walk around enough between them that the grass has worn away, so the path is getting muddier and muddier with each rain, which, since it’s full on autumn now, is every other day. So, it’s time to add some cobblestones. “So, let’s move some rocks. Any method you can find to move the rocks is great. Do it yourselves. Do it in teams. Find ways to move them as easily as possible. Use your light feelings and dark feeling to get those rocks moving!”

Eleven children get up, and they get moving. Some of them are carrying rocks. Some of them figure out how to get the Faviers to carry rocks. Eventually, they come up with a system where the Force users float the rocks into carts that the Faviers carry to the street, and then they dump them out and everyone helps spread them around.

Rey feels like that’s probably as good as they’re going to get, and everyone feels like they’ve done something useful.

All in all, one of her better days of developing, and teaching them, the way of the Maji.

 

 

 


It’s late.

There’s knocking at Rey’s door. She drags herself out of her bed, and opens the door.

“Rey, I had a bad dream…” The voice is very small, and the child attached to it is even smaller. Rey’s exhausted, and doesn’t want to move, let alone walk said child back to her bed in her cottage on the far side of the town.

“Okay,” she goes back to her bed, lifts the blanket, and Rugh scrambles under the covers.

It’s only when, “Rey, did he have a bad dream, too?” comes out of Rugh’s mouth that Rey remembers there may be a reason to not let little guys into her bed.

Of course, by now, Rugh’s cuddled up right against Kylo, who is dead asleep right now, and it’s really dark in her room, and Kylo’s tossed an arm over her, pulling her close, and… “Shhhh…” Rey whispers. “Just sleep.”

She’s fairly sure Kylo will be gone before the girl wakes in the morning.

 

 


“Who’s your friend?” And variations hit Rey over and over the next morning.

“More building and less gossiping,” she says, hoping her voice is properly stern. “Rocks aren’t moving themselves.”

This would be when it occurs to her that A: The children know she has a friend who visits at night. B. They have, apparently, caught the occasional glimpses of him when he goes to the chapel to meditate at night. C: Said children did a pretty good job of not peppering her with too many questions when Kylo was actively mourning. D: Rugh would not come to her if she had a bad dream; she’d go to her brother, whom she shares a cottage with. E: Those little boogers set this up to find out more about Kylo.

On the upside, apparently all Rugh can tell them about him is that he’s big, warm, has dark hair, his stubble can be tickly, and he smells good. (Which Rey agrees with wholeheartedly.) And they’ve all been giggling, somewhat scandalized, to hear that Rey and her friend don’t wear pajamas when they sleep.

She glares at them, teeth gritted, and they all look at her like the picture of innocence.

Apparently, they are taking her lesson of working together to heart.

Though this was not the goal she’d hoped they’d choose to tackle together.

 

 


“You’ve got a naked sleepover friend?” Poe asks, eyes sparkling with pleasure at the idea of this, as he drops off yet another child.

She rolls her eyes, and glares at her charges, who are suddenly utterly fascinated by the rocks they’re moving. She knew this was going to happen, sooner or later, but… She’d been hoping for later.

“This your boy from that school? The one who crashed Finn and Rose’s wedding… The one you just couldn’t go along with? He change his tune and decide to go with you? Do I get to meet him?”

Rey glares at the children again, but they all look up at her with big, innocent eyes, none of them could possibly have told Poe about her friend. Rey supposes it’s possible they asked Threepio and he asked Poe. There’s not much gossip here, but that droid is a gossip hound, and any and every bit of it, he’s up to the second on.

She sighs. “Yes. No. Yes. Not exactly. Sort of. And absolutely not.”

Poe blinks, trying to remember exactly what order he asked the questions in with no luck. But he knows what the last one was.

“You afraid I’ll scare him off?”

She laughs at that. “If Chewie didn’t, you won’t.”

He lights up. “Chewie knows him! Oh… This is serious… Or… Wait…”

She can feel his thought and jumps on it. “Every Force user is welcome here, and not all of them are children.”

“Chewie found one.”

Rey nods. That’s true… from a certain point of view. “He’s got a job. Mostly just here at night, and… Really, he’s here for me, not to learn, but some of it’s rubbing off, too.”

Poe snerks. “Oh, I’ll bet there’s some rubbing off.” Magiit and Elias, the two oldest children, thirteen and fourteen respectively, catch that joke, too, and start to snigger as the younger kids ask what the joke was.

Rey elbows him in the side at that one. “What’d you bring me besides nosy questions?”

Poe lights up. He’s been really enjoying his quest to build up this settlement and the Maji. After more than a year of doing everything he could think of to help the Resistance, and getting bugger all results from it, this kind of work, that results in real, tangible progress, makes him very happy. “I’ve got some goodies you’re going to love… Structural steel, eight metric tons of plastcrete, a decrepit speeder that you can likely beat into shape without too much effort, and a small print forge.”

“Oh… you know what I love!” There have been a lot of small tools that she would have liked in the last few months that she just doesn’t have, and can’t cobble together, but a print forge can make just about anything she can code into it. That’s getting pride of place in the cottage that’s currently doing duty as a workshop for their village.

“I saved the best for last,” he pulls a small, dark crystal out of the pocket in his flight jacket. “I don’t know what color it’ll glow, dark purple or green maybe, but I have a feeling you’ve got a use for it.”

Rey nods. “Oh, I do!” A grin spreads wide across her face. The kyber crystal is small. She doubts she could make a full lightsaber with it, but right now, none of the people she’s seeking to train need a full length lightsaber. It’d be much too long, even for Magiit or Elias. But a light short-sword… That’d be just right.

 

 


Rey and Poe are lugging crates out of his cargo ship, putting them into carts to be pulled by the Faviers, when he notices she’s not wearing her token.

He thinks about it. Since he made his own, he’s felt no desire to take it off. Sometimes he wears it under his shirt, sometimes out where everyone can see it, but he feels naked without it. Once he slipped it over his head, he just felt right.

But with the way Rey’s shirt comes together, there’s no possible way she can wear the token and have it not be visible. The little bit of her chest where it lies is always visible, so the token should be, too. Which means she takes it off.

And he just can’t imagine she’s any less attached to hers than he is to his, so… He does a quick headcount. Him, her, and twelve children. Assuming they’re all Maji, that makes fourteen, total.

She’s not paying too much attention to him right now, she’s making sure the print forge gets settled in the cart carefully.

“Rey, there’s what, fifteen Maji now?”

“Yeah,” she says, not even thinking about it.

Poe nods. So, not only is her ‘friend’ a Force user, but he’s one of them, too. He’s got to meet this guy!

 

 


They eat dinner together in her cottage, and he notices she’s getting edgy as he intentionally drags dinner out longer and longer.

“Looking forward to your nightly meditations?” he asks, with a big, stupid smirking grin.

The children have told him that Rey’s friend does seem to spend the night every night. She goes to her cottage and “meditates,” and while she’s doing that everything is silent. (“Because she’s not here,” Marrok says, and Elias confirms.) Then she and her friend come back and spend the night.

They’ve never seen him in the light, but, some nights, Rey’s friend will go to the chapel to meditate. He likes to kneel in the center and watch the sky. One time, while he was there, the whole chapel glowed blue! (They’re very excited to tell him about that.) The kids tell him Rey’s friend is tall, and big, with long, wavy dark hair. They sent Rugh in for more information, but forgot that a four-year-old isn’t the best gatherer of information, especially late at night. So, they’ve got confirmation of big and dark wavy hair, and added no pajamas and doesn’t snore to the list of things they know about Rey’s friend.

So, for the time being, Rey’s boy is a mystery, and if there’s one thing Poe loves, it’s flying, but if there’s another thing he loves, it’s solving a mystery.

“Yes,” Rey replies, voice sharp.

He gets up, stretches. “I’ll help you wash the dishes, and then you can get to them.”

“Thank you.”

He stretches out the cleaning up, taking a long time, washing slowly, and drying even slower, while telling her a complicated story. She glares at him, annoyed, not angry, yet. They both know what’s going on, he’s just trying to get her to admit she’s got a date.

As she’s about to boot him, literally, from her home he says, “Come on, at least tell me his name.”

She glares at him, and he feels himself pushed, with the Force, out of her place.

“I’ll find out, sooner or later!” He yells to her, chuckling.

 

 


“Kids are little shits!” Rey says, by way of hello, once she finally gets to Kylo. “And Poe’s a big one!”

Kylo goggles at that. He’s never heard her curse before. He gives her a quick hello kiss before saying, “What happened?”

“I’ve got a dozen children, all of whom are wondering your name,” Rey says, settling onto his bed, and he comes to sit next to her, gently stroking her back.

“Weren’t there eleven this morning?”

“Poe showed up with a new one today. An older girl, Savarah.”

“Force sensitive?”

“Yes. You’ll sense her when you get there, she’s got a nice glow to her. But, like the other eleven of them, as soon as she heard there was a mystery about my ‘friend,’ she was all over it. And they don’t shut up about it, and then they ask Poe if he knows who you are, so now I’ve got him hanging around wondering who my ‘boy’ is.”

Kylo just looks at her. He’d slept through their companion joining them (and he’s not sure if he should be relieved that he can sleep through someone joining them, or horrified that he did sleep through someone entering his bed), but did notice the tiny lump under the blanket between him and Rey in the morning. (Especially because said tiny lump had some very sharp, pokey knees, one of which was wedged into his bladder in an extremely unfortunate manner.)

She catches the image in his head, and the simultaneous curiosity, and softness it inspired. Seeing it from his view, her with a tiny person snuggled up next to her in the dim, almost dawn light, she can see there is something… desirable about it. Something that’s resonating with both of them. “They want to know who my friend is, and if he has nightmares, too.”

His lip quirks a tiny bit at that. “Not recently.” Which is when he realizes that’s true. He hasn’t had a nightmare in months. As best he can tell that’s a record for him. He’d spend more time thinking about that, but he can feel that nightmares isn’t the main point of her question. Names… That’s where she was going. “I take it you’d like to have something to refer to me by?”

“Yes. Master…”

He thinks back, remembering more about the little lump with the tiny hands and dark hair. “Didn’t the… is it a girl or boy?” It was fairly dim, and nothing about a four-year-old in a shapeless sleep shirt mostly covered in blankets screams boy or girl.

“Girl. Rugh.”

“Did Rugh just call you Rey?”

“They call me Rey… I don’t feel like I’m Master… Mistress… Teacher… They’re all wrong. I’m just Rey.”

“And you’d like them to have something to call me?”

“Yes. Not Kylo, obviously. You aren’t Ben. Skywalker, Organa, Solo, or Ren and anyone, even four-year-olds, will know what’s going on…”

He thinks back, looking for any other name he can legitimately claim. A sliver of memory hits. “Padme. Master Padme.”

“Who’s that?”

Kylo sighs. “I believe it’s my grandmother. Anakin’s woman. I don’t even know if that’s a first name or a last name or a pet name. He told me it was fitting for the grandson of a slave to free them, and I said something like, ‘My grandmother?’ and he replied, ‘No, not Padme.’ That’s the only name I have any claim to that’s not widely known.”

Rey nods. She’s feeling a faint spark of memory at that, but can’t place it. Not yet. There’s something else, though…

“She didn’t recognize you, because it was dark, and you were sleeping, and… naked… but…”

“Do you want me to not come?”

“No!” And she doesn’t. The idea of Lirium being just her and the children, Threepio, and the occasional adult visitors feels empty. The idea of him not snuggling up next to her every night feels worse. It makes her ache in her heart and bones. “No. I want you there, every night!”

“But what you want and what’s wise may not be the same thing?”

She nods, and feels how that hits him. “That’s not what I’m thinking. I’m just acknowledging the larger point.” Then she snuggles into him, and flicks the collar of his tunic. “Do you have any… less… Master of the Order clothing?”

He thinks about that for a moment, wondering why she’d ask and then gets an idea of it. “You think putting on a pair of blue trousers and a white shirt, or something like that would make me less recognizable?”

“Wouldn’t hurt. The images of you are all in black and white. Throw some color in there, and…” she strokes his hair… “Maybe pull this back.” Here, on his ship, working, he wears it back most of the time now. Taking the hair tie out is pretty much the third thing he does every night, after locking his door and taking off his gloves. But in every pictures she’s seen of him (granted, not a lot) he’s always been wearing the mask or had his hair down and been covered in chin to toe black. “If they saw me walking around with my companion, at night, they wouldn’t immediately recognize you.”

“Would you walk around with me, at night?”

“Stroll hand in hand around the lake… Been a while since we’ve done that.”

“Since the children showed up.”

She nods. “Join you at your meditations?”

That fills him with a palpable flush of pleasure, one he wasn’t expecting.

She feels the flash of it, and nods to him. “The ones who’ve mentioned Kylo Ren all have an image of the mask in their head. If Master Padme shows up, I don’t think they’d recognize you.”

“The children, at least.”

She shrugs. As Poe bunking in his ship proves, not everyone in her town is a child. And she’s got no idea if or how Threepio could be fooled. “People see what they expect to. If Master Padme looks like a trader stopping by to keep me company, and maybe work with the Force some…”

He can feel that’s not completely wrong. Almost anyone who might be in her town would likely fall for it. Almost… If her town weren’t a stopping point for every living member of the Resistance who’ve seen him up close… Let alone the home of a droid who’s known him since literally the day he was born. Granted, said droid almost never leaves his cottage at night, but…

“When it’s just you and the children,” he says. No set of new clothing or hair tie will blind Finn or Poe to who he actually is. Let alone Chewie. But a group of people who are under fourteen… Who’ve only seen images of the Supreme Leader from afar, or wearing his mask…

It should work.

And if any of the little boogers are too observant, he can take care of that with a flick of a finger and a few words.

 

 


Poe doesn’t normally do this. Usually, when he stays at Lirium he stays in his ship, eats there, and then joins the rest of them when they’re up and about and doing stuff, but… He’s just curious. So, bright and early, he’s got muffins. (Okay, not great ones. They’re freeze dried and reconstituted, but he lives on a ship, and that’s pretty much the extent of his cooking skills. Besides, they’re sweet, and the kids he’s been shuttling around like them.) So, he’s off to Rey’s place to ‘drop by’ and ‘be neighborly’ and offer her some breakfast.

He knocks, and waits. Eventually, he hears feet padding across the floor and the sound of a lock unlatching. He doesn’t miss that she’s got the only door that locks on the planet, and he really doesn’t miss that it’s locked.

“Poe?” He also doesn’t miss the sound of the door to her bedroom shutting behind her. She’s in her robe, with her hair loose, and looking fairly sleepy.

He holds up the muffins. “Breakfast?”

“Uh…”

“You told the kids you wanted to get started nice and early. Magiit, and Opal, and Muni want to take their cottages apart and put them back together into one bigger one, so there’s room for Savarah in there, and I said I’d help with that, so… Breakfast?”

He heads in and puts them on the table. He can feel there’s someone else here. Even if he couldn’t see the pair of boots by the door, there’s the sense of another presence here.

He glances at the boots again. The kids aren’t lying, or mistaken because they’re all little, Rey’s friend is big, if those boots are anything to go by.

She shrugs, and nods to the muffins. “You want coffee with this?”

Poe’s eyes go wide. “Real coffee?” He can’t imagine where she got a taste for coffee, let alone laid hands on the real stuff. It only grows on a hundred or so core worlds and it’s expensive as sin.

Rey looks over her shoulder at him as she’s reaching for the jar the coffee beans live in. “As opposed to what, imaginary coffee?”

Which means not only does she not know what she’s offering him, she’s obviously not the source of it. “Your friend has money.”

She blinks.

“He brought that, right?” Poe nods to the jar of beans in her hand. His eyes caress over the little dark morsels inside. Not only is it real, it’s fresh, not freeze dried crystals made of a second brewing.

“Yeah. He likes it. I do, too. It’s good with breakfast.”

Poe whistles at that. This isn’t just some one off treat for them. This is a regular part of breakfast.  There’s a least a kilo of beans in the jar Rey’s measuring from. “That’s worth more than the entire rest of the settlement, including my ship, and the Falcon, combined.”

She almost drops them, and then very carefully measures a scoop out to put into the machine that makes it into a drink.

Poe looks at the boots. “Good boots, too. The leather’s expensive. And at his size, those are custom made for him.”

Rey rolls her eyes.

“Shy?” he raises his voice a little when he asks that. He’s sure the man in question is on the other side of the door to Rey’s bedroom, but he doesn’t come out when challenged.

Rey glares at him.

“You’re wearing your token today.”

She shrugs. “Those better be amazing muffins.”

He grins, and then shakes his head. “Nope. You weren’t yesterday.”

“I don’t wear it every day.”

“I know.” Poe stares at her long and steady. “Your boy wears it the other half of the time, doesn’t he? You swap or something.” A grin spreads over his face.

“Do we have to do this?”

“Yes!”

“Fine. When he’s here, his name is Padme. Yes, he’s Maji. Yes, we share the token.”

“Awww…” Poe thinks that’s the most darling thing he’s ever heard and he lets it show on his face.

“Stop that.”

“It’s cute!” She glares at him, and looks like she’s about to call her staff to hand just to swat him with it. “So… what’s he do… how’d you meet… Was the story about the school a complete lie, or just mostly one?”

Rey rolls her eyes extravagantly. “Mostly. Probably just about as true as your girl on Canto Bight.”

Poe smirks. He didn’t then, but he does now, know better than to lie to a Force sensitive Maji. Then he notices something Rey said.

“What do you mean, when he’s here?”

“He…” she glares again, not sure if she wants to do this, but commits to it, “this is secret, got it? For my safety and his…”

“I’ve been keeping secrets since the dawn of time. Spill.” He gets up to grab the coffee. It smells so good. He got one cup of the real stuff in Canto Bight, and this is… Gods… He inhales deeply. This is better than what he got there. He’s pouring it very carefully, not wanting to waste a molecule, and then carries it over to her.

She looks up at him, and says, quietly, “He’s with the Order.” And Poe suddenly gets where the boots, and the coffee comes from. This guy’s snatching it from one of the Order’s ships! Poe laughs at that, very much liking the idea that Rey’s man is funneling away the good stuff to them. “I met him the same way I met you, fighting for the Resistance. And it’s a good idea if not a lot of people know what face that name goes with, got it?”

Poe raises both hands. “Completely. I’m not going to screw that up.” He can remember the one time Kylo Ren interrogated him. The only information he could have kept from Ren was information he didn’t know. “I don’t have to know anything more than that.”

“Thanks.”

He inhales the coffee, savoring the smell, and shakes his head. “He’s got to have balls of steel to go undercover in the Order as a Maji. Let alone go undercover and do this,” he caresses the cup, “Back in the day, Ren and company killed every Force user they could find.”

“Why do you think he’s there?”

“Oh. Steel.” Poe thinks about that. “What’s he doing… now?” Since there’s no Resistance left? Since Ren stopped the execution of Force users?

She sighs. “The same thing a lot of the rest of you are, trying to figure out what to do next.”

 

 


What Kylo is attempting to do next, in fact, instead of in theory, is lay his hands upon some non-black clothing. As soon as he heard Poe’s voice, and realized he wasn’t about to go heading off, he slipped back to the Supremacy, and went about getting his day started.

Which kept him decently busy until mid-morning, when a half hour of free time opened up, leaving him time to think.

He’s aware of the fact that markets are a thing. He can tell you how they work and why, though he’s never personally been to one. He’s aware of the fact that people shop. That’s part of how markets work. He’s even, vaguely, aware of the fact that there are markets on the Supremacy and that most of the people on this ship do not, every minute of every day, wear their uniforms.

He’s just awfully sketchy as to how to put those things together.

The fact of the matter is Kylo has never gone shopping. It wasn’t anything he needed to do as a child. Luke’s temple was in the middle of nowhere, so it wasn’t like he could just meander down the road to a market. What they needed, they made or grew for themselves, and Luke was in charge of making sure the things they needed to do that were available. And, once he joined Snoke, his status meant whatever he wanted or needed was given to him as soon as he expressed the want or need. Occasionally, before he expressed it. (Of course, as someone properly trained by Luke, he was beyond reticent about expressing wants.)

The other fact is, he has a closet. There is clothing located inside of it. It fits. It’s clean. It’s black. There’s always enough of it. He has a dresser. There are socks and underwear and pajamas in it. Like his closet, it’s always clean and ready. When he first came to the Supremacy, once they finished treating his wounds, he was given a set of rooms, and there was clothing, very much like he’s wearing now, sitting in the closet, waiting for him.

For all practical matters, his clothing situation is basically magic. He puts used clothing in his hamper, somehow it magically gets cleaned and pressed and put back into his closet or dresser. If it gets ripped up or destroyed, new clothing magically replaces it. He has no idea where it comes from, or how to get more of it, should he so desire.

He’s pondering the question between meetings, and says, “C8, how to people get clothing?”

C8 cannot be surprised, but Kylo’s fairly sure this pause is its way of debating what Kylo’s actually asking.

“How do you mean, sir?” And apparently it gave up.

“If I wanted some new clothing, how would I get it?”

“Do you not have clothing? The laundry service brought in fresh clothing two days ago. I can call for more.”

“I have clothing. What if I wanted different clothing?”

“Why would you? Is your current outfit insufficient?”

Kylo’s fairly sure that he’s thrown C8 for a considerable loop with this request, after all, as a droid the idea of clothing is fairly sketchy for it, too.

“My current outfit is fine. But, if I wanted to wear something else.”

“Why?”

“Buggered if I know,” he says under his breath. “Sometimes people like to look different from day to day.”

“You’ve worn the same uniform for the last 211 days, as long as I’ve been here.”

“And most of the time I will continue to do so. Just… If I wanted something different. How would I get it?”

“I honestly have no idea. Speak to the laundry service? I could call one of their droids and see if they know.”

Kylo’s never been in contact with the laundry service, but he can’t imagine they bothered to spend the kind of money necessary for those droids to have awareness of anything besides how to take care of clothing. “I’ll ask someone who wears clothing.”

“Thank you, sir. General Hapian will be here in a minute.”

Kylo nods. He lays his lightsaber on his desk. “Good. C8, alert the janitorial staff that they’re going to be needed in about three minutes.”

“I take it you are displeased by the General.”

“He’s been a bit too friendly with a few heads of state who’d prefer I weren’t one.”

“Ah.” C8 cocks his head. “He’s here. I’ll show him in.”

“Thank you, C8. And, while you’re out there, could you call up Major Frakes? I have a feeling he knows where to find pants.”

 

 


“Major Frakes,” Kylo actually smiles at him.

Frakes looks ready to pass out. Whatever it was he did to get to Captain, it did not appear to be the sort of thing that often resulted in having to be present when the janitorial staff was removing parts of a body from a room.

He makes a little “Ungh!” sound when one of the droids removes an ear from Kylo’s wall.

“General Hapian decided to put up a fight.” Kylo’s in a fairly decent mood from that. The man actually could fight and had three hidden blades on his person. It took him close to three full minutes to dispatch him, and the experience was invigorating. If he hadn’t been so stupid as to allow himself to think of what he was going to do as the Supreme Leader (none of this Master of the Order stuff for Hapian) in Kylo’s presence, he might have had a chance of actually pulling off the coup. Alas, not only did he think of that, he also thought of his conspirators while Kylo was dispatching him. C8’s sending out the orders for their immediate arrests.

Frakes swallows, hard, and musters up the courage to say, “Yes, My Lord.”

“I need to ask a… probably silly question… If I wanted to wear something other than my command blacks, how would I go about getting it?”

“Sir?” Frakes is still staring at the cleaning droids who are scrubbing… he doesn’t want to even guess what that is, off of Kylo’s wall, and between his terror and the mundanity of Kylo’s question, he’s having a very hard time coming up with an answer.

“If I wanted to wear something other than this… how would it happen?”

Frakes slowly pulls his eyes away from the cleaning droids and what they’re doing. He blinks, equally slowly, licks his lips, swallows, and then says, “What kind of clothing? Formalwear? A new uniform?”

It occurs to Kylo that he likely does need some sort of formalwear, too. He keeps getting invited to ‘formal’ things and C8, and several of his generals, have suggested, gently, that it might be a good idea to expand his concept of allies from ‘enlist and serve me’ or ‘how about we just don’t kill each other for a few years’ and that doing so might involve some sort of mingling and fancy dinners, and that ‘looking the part’ is part of this.

He’s been skeptical as to the value of this, but they keep hinting that it might be a good plan. Something about ‘letting people see him’ and ‘getting to know potential allies.’ Apparently, this isn’t the sort of thing one does just once and then never again. (And if he realized he may have been signing up to do this over and over again when he set his Master of the Order rally, he would have thought significantly longer and harder about doing it.)

“Formalwear, and informal wear.” (And apparently decided to do it anyway.) “My command blacks are fine.”

Frakes blinks again, and half turns so that the droids are outside of his line of sight.

Kylo stands up. He’d been sitting comfortably behind his desk, enjoying the glow of a good fight, but it’s becoming clear that if he keeps Frakes in here, he’s going to have some sort of mental breakdown, and that will not get him any closer to a pair of non-black trousers. He heads to his door to his private quarters, opens it, and steps into his room, waving for Frakes to follow him.

“Come.”

And Frakes does. He looks nervous about being invited into Kylo’s home. Kylo shuts the door behind them with a wave of his hand, and Frakes blinks one more time, looking around Kylo’s private room. “Would you like to sit?” Since he and Rey have been eating actual meals in here, he’s added a table, with chairs, to go with his bed, workbench, and bath.

Kylo sits at the table, and a quick gesture of his hand pulls out the other chair for Frakes. He sits, gingerly.

“You’ve never seen a dead man before, have you?”

“Just my grandfather, at his funeral, in the coffin.”

Kylo nods. “And he was…”

Frakes swallows. “In one piece, among other things.”

“I will not summon you again, when there might be… disturbing imagery around. Can you continue, or do you need to be excused?”

Frakes squares his shoulders. Kylo can feel he’s not about to disappoint him. “No, no sir… Um… Formalwear… And casual… Like… pajamas?” He’s looking around, seeing Kylo’s bed, the black walls and black furniture, the black bath, the cold, blue-gray lighting system, the complete lack of soft edges, besides his pillows and mattress.

“I’m fine on pajamas and underthings.” Kylo hasn’t worn pajamas in months and is rather pleased by that. “Casual like…off-duty wear.”

Frakes can’t stop himself from asking, “Are you ever off-duty, sir?”

“I’m not discounting the possibility of it happening.”

“Ah… Okay. Well… Most of the time, if you wanted formal wear, you’d have it made for you. You’d find a tailor, explain what you want it to look like, and get measured for it. Then they make it for you.”

“Okay, and casual clothing?”

Now Frakes is looking at Kylo like he can’t believe he has to explain this, but… “Have you ever been to the F-deck?”

Kylo shakes his head. The Supremacy is huge. It’s sixty kilometers across. It’s larger than several major core-world cities, and at its height, before the attack on Starkiller base, held 2.3 million people, and had capacity for 22.7 million more. Before Starkiller, this was Snoke’s main base of operations, and it was built to hold everything. He knows that the F deck stretches all the way from wingtip to wingtip across the Supremacy and houses a large expanse of dormitories and apartments for his officers. He’s aware there’s a similar section on the C, D, and E decks for his enlisted men. But he’s never been there. Just like, if you ask someone if they’ve ever been to a part of town that holds nothing for them, they’ve likely never been.

He can feel that Frakes is genuinely stumped by the idea of an adult person who’s never wandered over to the part of the ship that offers things like food and entertainment.

Still, he continues on. “There are markets there, where, if you wanted, you could buy just about anything you might like. That’s generally where we go to get things like off-duty clothing, or books, or food, or… whatever.”

Kylo nods, and then tries to imagine striding over to the F deck and buying clothing.

Frakes is already ahead of him on that. “I know. Not for you. Everyone would talk and you don’t like that.”

Kylo inclines his head. He doesn’t think he’s ever said anything along those lines, but Frakes is attentive enough to have figured out things he’s wanted just by being near him before.

“I’m an awfully good tailor, sir. Clear an hour or so, and I can get you measured and design some clothing for you.”

“Thank you…” He pauses, not sure what Frakes’ first name is.

“Jon, sir.”

“Thank you, Jon.”

 

 


Kylo is not, by any stretch of any imagination, rare, in ordering some non-work clothing. Many officers and enlisted members of the Order wear whatever they like during their off hours. There is, however, some gossip when Major Frakes personally measures him for a collection of… ‘lounge wear’ that just happens to include a few pairs of low-waisted trousers in gray, tan, and blue, a collection of white, gray, and ecru shirts, a brown leather jacket, and tan boots.

The addition of a blaster and holster, worn low, on his left hip, just feeds the rumors.

 

Chapter Text

2/23/1 Y.O.

 

Rain. More rain. Some days Rey’s sure Lirium is trying to drown her settlement off of the map.

It was luck, or the will of the Force, that she decided to not put any of the buildings on the rocky shore of the lake, because that shore is getting smaller and smaller every day.

And cool. Not cold, but it’s getting to the point where she’s remembering Ahch-To. Poe’s supposed to be bringing warmer clothing for them, and more blankets, and cloth and leather and yarn, and sewing and knitting stuff. Some of the kids are growing so fast that just bringing in new clothing won’t keep them dressed, so she needs the stuff to make clothing.

Not that she’s ever done that before, but… Worst comes to worst, she’ll ask Kylo how to do it, and if they all look like a bunch of little Padawans because that’s the only outfit he knows how to make, well, they’ll look like Padawans.

Though… Thinking about it… She checks her library, and yes, there are books on sewing and how to make clothing. It can’t be that hard, can it?

She can feel Kylo sniggering in the back of her head as she’s pondering that thought. Apparently, he’s looking forward to hearing about her adventures in clothing manufacture.

 


Cool… Way too cool. If this were dry cool, she’d be okay. Jakku got below freezing most nights, though between the dry air, and the fact that it got well above blood temperature during the day, things like the metal of her home soaked in the heat and stayed fairly warm.

But this… It’s like a cool, wet, blanket that clings to her skin, and permeates her lungs, and she can’t scrub it off, or wrap up in enough blankets to keep it out. It doesn’t seem to bother the kids. Most of them come from places with things like cool, rain, and humidity. Savarah’s actually under the impression that this is what high summer feels like, and Rey very much never wants to set foot on her homeworld if that’s true.

Chewie’s going to be bringing them more heaters for the cottages. They’re designed to stay comfortable in a range between 15-35C, but she’s starting to wonder if the lake’s so cold because it gets cold here.

Rey’s been watching the suns, when they deign to show themselves through the clouds, and like she expected, because they’re at the equator, the green sun has been spending about the same amount of time in the sky each day. The blue one is setting earlier and rising later, and… They may actually have some sort of winter here.

She wonders if there’ll be a day when the grass vanishes under snow. Wonders what it would be like to actually appreciate snow, get to look at it and play in it. If she’d been doing anything else on Starkiller, she’d have wanted to explore it, because she’d never seen it before.

Later that night, Kylo tells her, “If it does, I’ll show you how to make a sled.”

“What’s a sled?”

“Some sort of flat, plate-like thing you use to slide around on the snow. There’s a bit of a hill between the chapel and the lake, you could slide down it.”

“Why?”

“It’s fun.”

She’s not sure how sliding about in cold and wet snow might be fun, but he kisses her forehead, and lets her see a few memories of being a small child on Chandrila. They had snow there. And Han had gotten them a sled. It’s big for Kylo alone, but he and Han fit on it just fine.

“How old are you?”

“Four or five. It didn’t snow a lot on Chandrila. Once or twice a year, tops. They weren’t home most of the time there was snow on the ground.”

She gives him a little kiss.

 

 


She looks up, watching rain spattering on the dome of her chapel. With any luck this is winter. Potential for sledding aside, she’d rather prefer this is as cold as it gets. Even better if spring is coming soon.

And with any luck, they’ll get through the rest of this lesson easily.

It’s ‘focusing’ time. She supposes it’s meditation, or sharpening their senses, or awareness of the Force, but… since not all of them can do all of those things, she calls it ‘focusing’ time.

Everyone can sharpen their focus, can learn to spend longer and longer bits of time concentrating on something.

It’s a fairly simple… ish… exercise. They’re all sitting on pillows on the floor, as comfy as they can get, and have picked one rock. The goal is to just pay attention to it. And nothing else. Just the rock. Look at the rock, feel the rock, think about the rock, just the rock.

It’s okay if they get distracted. Rocks are boring. And Rey intentionally picked something that was boring to do this with. After all, it’s easy to focus on interesting things. But, if their minds wander, it’s their job to bring it back to the rock.

And… She’s doing it, too. Her mind wandering away from her rock to the rain. The steady drumming of tiny patters all over her dome. For some reason that’s a magnet for her mind, and the little black-gray stone in front of her isn’t.

Back to the rock. If she’s going to make them do it, she needs to do it, too.

It occurs to her, that part of why she’s not Mistress Rey, or Teacher Rey, or… anything other than Rey, is that she hasn’t earned the title.

She’s teaching herself as much as she’s teaching them.

 

 


An hour is more than long enough contemplating rocks. The kids are edgy and jittery and looking to do something.

She sends them out to go play in the rain, which if they hadn’t just been sitting around contemplating rocks, they’d complain about, but right now, the chance to run around, even in the rain, is welcome.

From inside the dome, she can see the whole settlement, and it’s clear that they need some sort of place for small people to run around and be rough and rambunctious that’s also dry and warm.

Another dome, probably. Big one.

That gets a sigh. A place to run around dry and warm is much lower on the list of things they need than, say, microfarms, or a water processing plant (though Chewie says he’s got a lead on one) or something to store feed for the Faviers in, or the feed, because if she’s right about it getting cold, they’re not just going to be able to graze. And… good lighting for the workshop. And if this sewing thing is going to be part of what they’re going to need to do, she’s going to need space for that, and more lights and…

How can one settlement with fewer than fifteen fulltime people need so much stuff?

 

 


She notices Savarah and Elias, her two oldest, and newest Maji, lingering by the door of the dome.

She waves them over, and they come.

Savarah is unique among the Maji children. She knows, to the day, how old she is. Fifteen in two months. Most of her life, she had parents, a family, people who cared for her. And then a plague went through her town. Bad water they said. After that, she took any odd job she could find in town, until, one day, serving drinks, she ran into a pilot with a smile in his eyes and a spiral on a stone around his neck.

Elias doesn’t know how old he is. Fourteen-ish. Probably. Old enough that he’s getting taller, fast. Young enough to only have a little bit of downy, brown bunny fluff on his upper lip.

“Rey?” Savarah asks, tentatively.

Rey nods at her, interested in what the two of them are conspiring about, what they want to talk to her about without the rest of the children nearby.

Elias is looking at the swirl beneath their feet. “Are you… sure… about this balance thing?”

Savarah nods, intensely. The Church of the Force wasn’t a thing in the neighborhood she grew up in. They were members of the Holy Cyclindia of Eternal Starlight, worshippers of the stars, and this is not what she learned in her weekly devotions. “It… feels like you’re saying it’s okay to be evil.”

Rey grabs the pillow she was putting back, and gestures for them to grab their pillows, this isn’t a two minutes and done conversation.

They settle in, and Rey takes a moment to just feel it. Both to get her own thoughts settled and to figure out how to convey this so it makes sense to them. Finally she says, “What’s evil?”

They both, in their adolescent certainly of a world of only black and white, look like that’s the most appallingly stupid question, ever.

“No, I’m serious. How do you know when someone’s evil?”

“They kill people,” Elias says.

“I’ve killed people. Master Poe has. Master Finn, he killed a lot of them. I’m not sure about Mistress Rose. Chewie’s killed lots of people. Does that make us evil?”

“You did it in the war!” Savarah says, shutting that down fast. Rey isn’t evil. The very nice people they’ve met since they’ve been here can’t be evil. Wrong or misguided, that’s possible, but not evil.

“Yeah, that doesn’t count!” Elias says.

Rey smiles at them, amused by how quickly they’re shutting that idea down. “Okay. What makes a person evil?”

“Killing people when you don’t have to?” Savarah tries.

“Better. But I can tell you, just about everyone who’s killed someone thought they had to do it. ‘Have to’ is very subjective. And, again, let’s look at Master Poe, he made some bad decisions that got a lot of very good people killed when they didn’t need to die, but he was sure that he had the right answer. Is Master Poe evil?”

“NO!” Elias, who idolizes Poe, and wants to be him when he grows up, says, certain, and Savarah, who’s a bit less taken with Poe, but quite fond of him nonetheless, is nodding vehemently in agreement.

“Okay. I don’t think Poe’s evil, either. I think he made some bad decisions. And he thinks he does, too. Wishes he made some different ones. But in that one moment, he was sure he had to do it.

“How about this, my friend… he killed someone he didn’t have to. Everyone in the galaxy is probably better off with him is dead, but he didn’t have to. He could have just stayed put, knelt in place, and let him do what he was going to do.”

“Was the person he killed going to hurt people?” Savarah asks.

“Yes, a whole lot of them, me among them.”

“Then he had to do it,” Elias says.

“No child. He chose to do it. He chose to kill another person, and that one… if he lived… he would have likely killed other people, but not me or anyone I cared for. Did he have to kill him?”

“No?” Elias doesn’t sound like he likes that answer. Or many of the thoughts Rey’s planting in his head.

“No. He didn’t. He made a choice. I think it was a bad one, and these days he thinks it was a bad one,” though she realizes, because she and Kylo have never talked about Han, that she doesn’t actually know that, “too, but he made it. And when he made it, he was sure he had to do it.” Rey pats the swirl under their pillows. “I hope this isn’t an excuse to be evil. I’m afraid it may be used that way, but… The old way… If you stayed in the light, just about anything you chose to do would be ‘good.’ And… I don’t think that works.

“I think it’s about each and every choice. I think it doesn’t matter which set of emotions you use to get to where you’re going, as long as where you go makes things better.” Rey smiles at them. “Now you ask me what better is.”

“What’s better?” Elias asks.

“I don’t know. That’s the hard part. That’s where balance gets tricky. We can all look back and point at something and say, ‘Oh, that was a bad decision,’ but… In just about every case, the person who made that decision thought they were making a good one for good reasons.”

“That’s not comforting,” Savarah says.

“I know. But it’s true. Mostly… I want you to be able to use your powers, your skills, your feelings, all of them, to get what you want and need. I think, if you look for things that build connections, accord, communities, and lives… I think that’s mostly where good lies. I think the things we work on together, making us more connected to each other… I know that can be used for evil, but, I think that’s where the core of good lies.”

“What do you think evil is, Rey?”

She half shrugs. “Intentionally hurting someone, against their will, for your own gain or pleasure. But… I think that’s an action. I don’t think people or things can be evil, they can act evil, but not be evil. Palpatine did a lot of evil. He did it right and left and throughout the entire galaxy. But his rule made for a stable platform where most of the people in the galaxy enjoyed happy, functional lives.” She sighs a little. “Someone, somewhere, benefits from every possible decision made. Knowing that, understanding it, and applying it to the people around you is part of growing up.”

Rey trails her fingers over the dark swirl. “Maybe this is self-serving. I don’t have a lot of dark, but it’s there. You both have your own dark, too. Poe has his. My friend, he’s got his. And… I feel like we’re better off if we learn how to use it, than trying to shove it into the back of our minds and pretending it’s not there.” She pats her lightstaff. “I hope the dark is like this. It’s a tool. And you can use it to defend and build and protect, or you can use it to tear down and kill. And it’s just about what you chose to lay your will and energy to.”

They’re thinking about what she’s saying, and look a little disappointed.

“Would you like it better if I just gave you a long list of rules?”

They glance at each other. “It’d be easier,” Elias says.

She smirks at that. “I agree, it would be. You know where the library pads are. If you want, you can go work on your reading. I can promise you every list of rules you could ever imagine is in there. If you find a handy list of them that apply to every circumstance, feel free to show it to me, I’ll want to read it.”

That gets some stink eye aimed at her. Neither of them much likes reading, or for that matter, long lists of rules.

“So, we… just make our own rules?” Savarah asks

“Everyone does. They may say that God or the Force or the Sages handed them down and made them holy, but, really… We make our own rules. My hope is you learn how to make good ones from your time here.” Rey thinks about that for a moment and adds, “Lists of rules… They tend to be very straight and rigid and unbending. Do this. Don’t do that. Never do this other thing. But, look around you, feel around you, nothing in nature, nothing in the Force, is a bright straight line with a big DO NOT CROSS sign on it. Everything flows and meanders and wanders. So, I think, instead of looking for rigid rules, it may be a better idea to get a feel for the flows around you, and see which ones lead you to places you want to go, and which ones pull you away from that. That might be more useful than rules.”

“By contemplating rocks?” Savarah asks, looking at the floor.

“Eh…” Rey shrugs a little. It’s not like staring at rocks directly leads to wisdom. “The ability to focus on boring things will come in handy no matter what you do next. We good?”

They glance at each other, and then nod.

“Good, go run around some. We’ve got more lessons in an hour or so.”

“More rocks?” Elias asks.

“Nope. Math.”

They groan, but head out to play in the rain. 

 

Chapter Text

3/2/1 Y.O.

 

Kylo feels it when the first one sets foot on the Supremacy.

He supposes it had to happen sooner or later. They’re recruiting fast and hard, and new Force sensitives are born or awaken every day.

So, sooner or later, one of them had get swept up into his orbit.

He has the girl brought to him. She’s thin, slightly hollow of eyes and cheeks. Even after a few months with the Order, she’s not recovered fully from whatever they had her doing before. She’s afraid to meet his eyes. That’s also fairly common among the ones who used to be slaves. Though when she does glance up, he sees they’re deep brown-black, like his, going along with her black hair and deep tan skin.

She’s afraid of him, too. Unsure of what she could have possibly done to have the Master call her to his chambers. Afraid of what he might want her to do. He thinks she’s twelve or thirteen. Young enough she likely wasn’t of much interest to most of the men around her, old enough to know what they wanted with the older girls.

Old enough to know he’s one of them, and to be wary of what he may want, especially after asking for her to come to his personal room.

He can read that fear off of her, and winces internally at it.

He kneels in front of her, moving slowly, doing his best to make it clear he’s going to move before he does, so she doesn’t flinch away from him. He tries to keep his thoughts and feelings calm and nonthreatening. She’s not trained, but it’s likely she at least sense what’s in his head.

On his knees, he can look her in the eye.

“What’s your name, child?”

“TR-4487.”

He shakes his head, having wanted her real name. She winces a little at that, fear nipping at her heels, making her knees feel soft. Doesn’t do to displease the master, any master. His teeth grit.

She was a slave or a runaway or homeless, some sort of person who joined the Order. None of the children kidnapped by Snoke as toddlers are allowed to get this thin, so she has to have a name.

“Your real name. You still remember it, right?”

She nods. “Cassandra Andor. I was named after my great uncle.”

“It’s a good name.” Kylo nods, remembering a few stories his mother told once or twice, and making a mental note to put a stop to forcing the people with names to give them up, and then he looks over to his table and chairs, makes sure she looks, too, and crooks his finger, pulling a chair toward them.

She stares at it, and then looks at him, eyes wide. It’s clear she’s never even heard of someone else being able to do it.

“You can do it, too, can’t you?” he says, voice quiet.

“I…” she looks down… “Sometimes. It doesn’t always…”

“And you can feel things… other people can’t?”

She nods. “You’re very angry at my previous owners.”

Only owners. No one will ever own you again.

She blinks. He doesn’t know if she understood the words, but she certainly got the idea.

“I am. But that’s… Not the point, right now. Would you like to go somewhere and learn how to do it, always?”

He can feel she can’t believe such a place exists.

“It does. There’s a woman there, her name is Rey, and she teaches people like us how to use the Force.”

The child blinks, and looks up at him, eyes bright and fierce. Then she says, “Will I still get to be a citizen after five years?” He can feel how much that word matters to her. She’s never had the chance to be anything before, and she wants it.

He nods. “Yes. I’ll make sure your time with Mistress Rey counts towards your Order service, but you can’t ever let anyone know how you got to her.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not… very popular in some places. Can you keep the secret? Just one day Master Padme found you, and brought you to Rey?”

“I can do that.”

He smiles at her, says, “Wait here.” He goes to his closet, grabs his Padme clothing, and rapidly comes to the conclusion that he can’t exactly change in his bedroom, because she’s just sitting there. He goes to his refresher and changes in there. Kylo glances at himself in the mirror before he goes to the girl. He looks like a rogue. Brown boots, brown trousers, the belt is unique to him, blaster holder for the left hip, lightsaber clip for his right, white shirt, brown leather jacket, brown leather fingerless gloves, and his hair pulled into a little bun, like Rey does.

 

 

He wonders, idly, if this was his father’s idea of Ben Solo. Wonders what he’d think if he saw this, and is suddenly flooded with a sense of approval.

He shakes that off; there’s work to do, and woolgathering in front of the mirror isn’t doing it.

He returns to the girl. “Where are you from, Cassandra?”

“Fest.”

He kneels before her again, waves his fingers, and says, “Master Padme found you and brought you to Rey, to learn the Force.”

Her eyes are hazy, unfocused. “Master Padme found me.”

“Good, child. Let’s go meet Rey.”

Kylo takes a moment to get a feel for where Rey is. By the side of the lake, and then thinks to her, Meet me in the chapel. Then he takes Cassandra’s hand, and in a second he’s at Rey’s. “Go off and play. Go meet the others. Let me talk to Mistress Rey.”

She scarpers off, and a moment later, Rey joins him, watching the girl strolling over to where the other children are, on the bank of the lake, working on catching supper.

Rey raises an eyebrow at him. There’s camouflaging his look so he can pass as just another trader, or spy, at night, or, like he is now, several hundred meters away from everyone else, and then there’s grabbing a child off the Supremacy, in his command blacks, and bringing her here.

He sees her understand what he’s done. “She thinks Master Padme found her. The lie won’t hold, not if she sees me in my blacks. She’s too smart for it, but for right now, it’ll do,” he says to Rey.

“You found one.”

“And I’m sure I’ll find more. You do want me to bring them?”

She swallows, hard. This is the first of the acid tests. Then she nods. They’re borrowing trouble, and she knows it. Sooner or later, one of them will know Kylo Ren, and not Master Padme, brought them here. The trick Kylo worked builds feeble memories, poke them, even a little, and they shatter.

But if she means what she teaches… “Every Maji is welcome here, and if that means we get some from the Order, we get them from the Order. I told Poe… well, made him believe, you’re a Resistance member in the Order, not sure what he’s doing next. If you’re our scout there…”

He nods. “I told her her time here would count for her five years of service. Apparently, in addition to money,” Kylo says, dryly, he’d been amused listening to Poe try to figure him out, “Master Padme is high enough ranked he can get someone ‘transferred’ long term, without having it effect their service time.”

Rey chuckles at that. “Handy skill to have.” Then she nods to the children. “Here they wear no mark but that of the Maji, but I’m fine with her time here counting for her time with you. Here we’re all Maji. When she leaves, she can go back to the Order or whatever comes next for her.”

“Good.”

“What’s her name?”

“Cassandra Andor.”

She glances back to the children, a few of them are watching them, though they’re mostly working. She shakes her head and decides to do it anyway. She kisses Kylo quickly. “Tonight. Now, I’ve got to get Cassandra settled.”

He kisses back, squeezing her hand, enjoying this, them, together, in daylight, being seen by other people, even if they are at a distance. “Tonight.”

As she’s stepping out of the chapel, she says to him, “You look good.”

He rolls his eyes and flashes back to his ship.

 

 


Apparently, it’s a day for visitors at Lirium.

“Chewie! Rose!” Rey takes Rose in her arms, looking at her. “You’re huge!”

Rose glares at her. Seven months pregnant, in a ship, with the gravity set to .7 Gs is lovely. Stepping onto Lirium, with its full G, is like suddenly gaining a full body suit of iron. “Don’t remind me.” She’s rubbing her back. “I hate gravity.”

Finn gently hugs her, and then wraps Rey into a bear hug, swinging her around. “Hello!”

Rey smiles, very pleased to see them. “Hello back! I’ve missed you.” And she has. Getting them back to visit is one of the highlights of her time here.

Chewie’s looking ahead, seeing the ungainly cargo ship that’s parked next to the Falcon. Who’s flying that pile of shit?

“I am!” Poe says, jogging up to them. He’d been helping to build another cottage (Their eventual ‘sewing room,’ because apparently, if you’re going to make clothing, you need space to lay fabric out, cut it, and good light for putting it together. At least, when he got done laughing, Master Ren suggested that the lack of such things may have been why they were having such a hard time getting any two pieces of fabric the same size. Rey rolled her eyes at him, but did notice when they moved into the chapel and spread out, it was easier. So, sewing room went onto the list, because even the kids don’t like cutting fabric on the floor.) when the Falcon came slipping down. It took a minute to get everything properly secured before he could leave. Then he looks from Chewie to the Falcon. “Also, really?

Chewie replies, and Poe says, “Well, I suppose it does take one to know one.”

Chewie laughs at that and so does Poe.

“Also, as much as I’d like a sweet little flier with tight action and more guns than I can count, they don’t exactly have cargo space. With this girl, BB-8 and I can take pretty much anything, or anyone, anywhere.”

Chewie nods at that. The shape of the game has changed, significantly, for Poe over the last six months, and so has what he flies.

“What’s got you down here?” Rey says. “I wasn’t expecting you for another few weeks.”

Leia’s will got settled. Remember those funds the Ygrines ‘gave’ her? Chewie asks.

Rey nods. “The not exactly willing transfer of funds.”

Yes. She didn’t have a good plan for what to do next, when they gave it to her, so she paid people off, clearing the Resistance’s debts, but didn’t buy anything new. There was some left, and apparently, I’m her legal next of kin, so…

“So we got a med droid and a modular clinic, and we’re bringing it here to set it up!” Finn finishes. Rey can feel that as Rose is getting bigger, Finn’s getting more and more nervous about them floating around in the middle of space with no access to good medical care. Everyone with the Resistance had to be a decent jackleg medic, but there’s a big difference between cauterizing a wound and slapping a bacta-infused pressure bandage on it, and delivering a baby.

“And a house for you, I hope,” Poe says. “I’m fine crashing in my ship, but you three are going to need a home soon.” He elbows Chewie. “You don’t want dirty nappies cluttering up your ship, right?”

Compared to Waldo and his mates, a baby human won’t be that annoying. It takes them a year or so to start chewing on everything, and their teeth aren’t sharp enough to do any damage.

Rey can tell that Chewie’s looking forward to being a grand-wookie. And that he’s sad that said baby isn’t going to be staying on the Falcon with him. If they’re setting up the med clinic here, it’s because Rose and the baby are going to be staying here, too. For a while, at least.

“Waldo?” Poe asks. He’s hasn’t heard this bit of the story before.

“One of the Porgs,” Rose says. “He and his ladies live with us, and keep us in eggs, which is nice, but they like to chew on everything, which isn’t.”

Poe’s nodding. He knew about the Porgs, just didn’t know one of them had a name. “Waldo has a name but his mates don’t?”

“They look exactly the same,” Finn says, exasperated. “It took me three months to figure out how many of them there were. They’d never all be in the same part of the ship at the same time. I had to catch each one, stow it in our berth, and then search around for another one. The only reason we know which one Waldo is is because he’s half again as big as the ladies.”

Poe laughs at the image of Finn chasing around after a bunch of Porgs, who are, apparently, curious about Lirium, and starting to hop down the ramp of the Falcon to do a bit of exploring.

The eggs are tasty, Chewie adds.

“Good, we’re looking for tasty here. All fish and packaged food leaves something to be desired,” Poe says.

Maybe this time, they’ll decide to stay. The Porgs always like to go and explore, swim in the lake, catch some fish, but they also, always, seem to know when Chewie’s gearing up to leave, and when he does, they’re back on the Falcon.

“Nah, Waldo’d miss you if you left without him,” Finn says to Chewie. 

Chewie grunts and shakes his head.

“Yeah, you’re right. We’ve still got a few hours of light. Let’s get as much as we can unpacked,” Rey says. “Though, you know, if you decided to not eat all the next batch of eggs, I could see us having a use for some chicks here.”

 

 


“The Med Droid is still in a box?” Rey says to Finn.

“Boxes,” Finn replies. “They’re 50,000 fewer credits if you put them together yourself. Between R2 and BB they can get him put together, and 50,000 credits buys a lot of medicine.” He glances around; it’s just the two of them in the Falcon’s rear cargo hold. “She hates it when I say anything or look worried, but… That’s part of why I want to be here, now, not weeks from now like we planned. If we can’t get him working properly, we’ve still got time to go find a planet with a decent medical set up that won’t ask too many questions or check our IDs too closely.”

“Are you still wanted?”

Finn nods. “Last I checked, I was still listed as a deserter. Rose isn’t on their lists, but… I don’t want to have to leave her at a hospital alone for fear that some random camera might get a shot of my face and let the Order know where I am. And Chewie… He’s on the Order’s lists, right behind Leia and Poe as the third most wanted member of the Resistance, and he’s wanted in at least two hundred other systems for his various adventures with Han or on his own.”

Rey winces at that. They both remember what Han and Chewie were doing when they met up, and not only did that sort of thing get them in trouble with different organized crime groups, it also put them on the criminal list of most systems they worked in.

Finn sighs. “I like this. This is fun. We’re flying fast and free, going from job to job, picking up whatever people want to move. I get to fast talk and make deals, and skirt the law and…” he’s grinning. “It’s fun. And I’m good at it. I mean, really good at it. Chewie says I’m a natural born scoundrel.” He sighs again. “But it’s not safe. We took fire on the last two jobs before the Falcon got to hyperspace.”

“Not a place for a baby,” Rey says.

“No. And Rose hates that I feel that way. If it’s safe enough for me, it’s safe enough for them… And… I don’t know. I guess she’s not wrong, but… The idea of them out here knots up my guts, and not in the way they knot up when I’m in danger.”

“Stay here. We need people. We need builders. There’s only so much I can do, even with thirteen children. Just adding Poe to the mix increases our productivity by close to a hundred percent. Some things are just easier with grown up muscles and attention spans. You and Rose and Chewie… We’d get so much done.”

He rolls his eyes. “I know. And I’ll stay for… as long as I can. But Chewie needs a partner, too, and you, and this settlement starve if we don’t keep bringing you goods, and we can’t afford to do that if we don’t take risky jobs. Not enough profit on the boring ones.”

Rey doesn’t like the way that feels, because, of course, she has someone who could make it unnecessary for anyone to do anything even remotely risky to support her settlement. Someone who has specifically said he’d give her pretty much anything she could possibly want here. Someone who… is possibly making their job significantly more dangerous. “You’re smuggling from the Unknown Regions?”

“No!” Finn raises his hands, almost warding off that idea. “Risky, not suicidal. You try to break the blockade The Order has on that border, you better be sure they never see you, otherwise you’re dead. So, no, I’m talking about just their patrols. Ever since the Order got that…” Finn looks like he wants to curse, “hyperspeed tracking device, we skirt way around them. At the first hint of one of their ships, we’re gone. Rose has our scanners set to maximum, boosted that, and keeps them constantly looking for anything with an Order call sign. But that’s about not getting caught as a deserter, terrorist, and their ‘friend.’ The people shooting at us are the keepers of whatever local laws we’re trying to break.”

That eases up on her feelings, some. But a system’s fleet of ships can kill you just as dead as the Order’s.

Finn feels what she’s thinking, and nods. “Come on, let’s get this unloaded.”

 

 


The children really like it when the Falcon crew comes.

Not only do they bring goodies, (Chewie made sure to bring several crates of fresh citronin. Most of the children have never had one before, but they’re all happily peeling off the orange skins and slorping down the bright red-purple sour-sweet fruit inside.) but they have stories.

So, like most nights they come to visit, they set up bonfires, roast up the fish, and settle in for story time. Not all of the children understand Chewie’s roars, but C3PO can and often does translate.

She can feel Kylo wondering where she is, what she’s doing. Normally, she finishes up with the children and goes to her cottage to “meditate,” but that wouldn’t do for a night when they’ve got this many visitors.

She lets him feel what she’s doing, and why she won’t be suddenly appearing in his ship.

 

 


Bonfire night.

Kylo rolls his eyes and grabs yet another data pad, slamming it a bit too hard on the table next to the dinner that’s supposed to be for both of them, but will apparently just be for him.

It’s not that he begrudges her time with—Okay, it is. He begrudges the fuck out of it. Getting done with his stuff, shoving it aside, and then seeing her is the highlight of his day, and just sitting around, with too much dinner for just him, getting colder by the minute, though he stabs at it with a fork and gets to it, because she’s off having roast fish with a bunch of other people while they laugh and tell stories is…

Shit! It’s absolute fucking shit!

He grabs the datapad and slams it into the wall, and the sound of it shattering into a billion pieces is somewhat satisfying, but… he sighs, annoyed. Now he’s got to get copies of what was on that damn thing, because he’s still got to read it. Because his work doesn’t just go away when it’s inconvenient.

Kind of like hers.

He growls quietly, aware of the fact that things like bonfire night and telling stories and teaching are part of her job.

And, okay, no, he doesn’t exactly want to spend a few hours with Finn and Poe and Chewie and Rose and the droids. That’s not a recipe for a good time for anyone, but…

He does. Or, at least, he wants the idea of being able to relax with her, with other people around, and for them to have some sort of… life… outside the confines of his quarters and hers. He wants to be able to sit next to her on the edge of the lake and join story time. Okay, he’s probably not good at telling stories, he’s never tried, but he can damn well listen to them.

Then come listen to them sounds in his head.

And get shot at? Start a brawl?

I’m not suggesting marching on up and sitting next to me in your full command blacks and mask, but… No one says you can’t listen.

He vividly sends her the image of him rolling his eyes extravagantly. I can hide in the background. No, thank you.

He feels an answering sense of longing from her, and the image of him sitting on the ground, palms behind him, leaning into them, one leg extended, one bent, foot on the ground, and her sitting between them, back against his knee as the party rolls on.

But they both know that’s not how it would work, and right now, with as fragile as her set up is… She’s not willing to burn any bridges or lose any friends. But, gods as soon as he sees it, he wants it.

How late will you be? He picks at another bite of what’s supposed to be their dinner. It’s good, or would be if he was sharing it. Somehow roast mushroom pasta loses a lot of its savor when he’s eating it alone.

Chewie’s telling us about—He feels her pause—taking out Jabba’s pleasure ship.

Another eye roll. He knows that story is the rescue of Han Solo, and if it’s Chewie’s full version of it, which encompasses everything from Vader capturing Han to the two years they spent planning it, to the year it took them to get everyone into place, to the actual rescue, they’ll be up for hours.

I’ll take tax revenue reports over that.

He feels the sense of her kiss, and sighs at that, too. He sends one back to her, and then makes himself eat his supper, and summon another copy of the reports.

 

 


When he’s sitting at his desk, reading yet another report about some bit of idiot minutia that goes into running a functional government, he thinks that Hux was onto something.

He wasn’t meant to be a politician.

He’s probably not meant to be a ruler.

Trying to make himself care about stuff like this is just… exhausting.

But if he doesn’t care about it, if he fobs it all off onto his underlings… Well, he does, a lot of it, but he spot checks things more or less at random to keep them on their toes. No one has the brainpower to keep a galaxy-wide system going strong in his own head, so he doesn’t even try, but just keeping up with the spot checking makes him want to grind his teeth into dust.

He feels like he runs into something on every report. Which means meetings with the people who are supposed to be in charge of these things, and then more meetings, and maybe it gets taken care of, or maybe he’s just found the tip of some conspiracy, or one of his men trying to build his own little empire in the middle of the Order, or…

Usually, this would be about the time Rey would put her hands on his shoulders, kiss him on the back of the head, and then turn the damn datapad off and tell him to come to bed.

And usually, he would, and they’d spend an hour or so playing in his bed or the bath, before shifting back to hers to sleep.

He lets his mind wander to hers, and the stories are still going on. Likely because a quick check at his chronometer tells him it’s only been an hour.

“Fuck it!”

He strips out of his command blacks and yanks on Padme’s clothing. He pulls his hair back, doing a haphazard job of it. But it’s late, enough, and if Padme actually had some sort of job that involved moving around more than shuffling datapads, his hair could fall out of its knot.

He makes a mental note to make sure he gets at least an hour, better yet, two, with the training droids tomorrow. Today, yesterday, and the day before were pretty much all sitting around days, and he can feel that’s part of why he’s so edgy. He needs to move around, hard, fast, dangerous, at least every other day, or he starts to shift out of balance, and everything starts getting to him.

A moment’s concentration brings him to Rey’s cottage.

Another moment of… he’s not exactly pulling up his courage, but… steeling himself, maybe, before he leaves. From the space in front of her door, he can’t see them, but he can hear them, and see the glow beyond the cottages near the lake.

He closes his eyes and focuses. As he was trained, both times, there are skills that fall more readily to the light side of things, and skills that more easily fall to the dark, and skills, like rock floating, that have no alliance to a side.

Fighting, attacking, destruction, deception, raising passions, and sewing discord are all, broadly, dark side skills. And he has a fairly easy time with all of them.

Calming, healing, soothing, negotiating, seeking accord… Those are all, broadly, light side skills. And he could, broadly, fail, at just about all of them. He thinks part of why Luke was so frustrated with him was that he had no talent for most of the light side skills, and even expending a lot of energy, could only get to mediocre at them. Though he wonders now, as he’s finding himself stumbling around with some of these skills, and not being horrible at them, though he’s certainly rough and untrained, if part of continually, always failing at them was Snoke’s fingers tangling through his skills.

There was one light side skill, though… It’s not exactly a deception skill, though it’s close, which is likely why he could do it. It’s actually the light side version of a deception skill. Anyone who’s done any level of Jedi or Sith training knows there will be times when it’s just easier to not be seen. Kylo can’t make himself invisible. (Or if he can, he’s unaware of it.) He can however, make the people around him not look where he is. If, for some reason, a person managed to actually point her face in his direction, she’d see him, and remember him, but, if he’s using his ability to do this, she wouldn’t turn to him.

He was always good at that one. Not invisibility so much as don’t see me.

It won’t work on another Maji, not one who’s any good at sorting through her feelings and sensing what’s around her. In that case, it’ll actually draw attention to himself, because she’ll feel him manipulating the Force. Rey, for example, will feel him from a kilometer away doing this. And he’s sure some of the other Maji will have a sense of something off, but none of them are well enough trained to focus down onto what. But for the average person, she’ll just never notice him.

He cloaks himself, and then starts toward the light of the bonfires.

It is a party. He can feel the enjoyment from two hundred meters away. He can’t make out distinct voices yet, but he feels Rey sense him and offer him welcome… As long as he stays in the shadows beyond the firelight.

He pulls closer, sees where she got the idea of the two of them at the party. Finn’s on the ground, sitting with Rose between his legs, rubbing her back and hips, listening to the story with interest.

He’s still well in the dark when Chewie stops talking, and looks up, suddenly. He’s staring around, searching, but he can’t find Kylo. Kylo rolls his eyes at himself. Chewie can smell him. Probably smell him well enough to hit him with the bowcaster if he allowed the bolt to hit. But he doesn’t yell, and when Poe and Finn ask what’s up, he says nothing, and goes back to telling the story.

Apparently Rey isn’t wrong about Chewie not wanting to kill him. One growl, and this party would have gotten interesting.

Even at a party, even on a mostly deserted planet, Chewie, Poe, and Finn are wearing weapons, and Rey has her staff near her hand.

He shakes his head, joining in is silly. He’s still outside. Eternally outside.

No, you aren’t.

You really want to see how exciting this will be if I crash this party? He can feel a little thrill at the idea of the fight that would ensue. He’s wearing a blaster and his lightsaber. The blaster is just part of the image he’s projecting. He’s fired one maybe ten times, and isn’t a particularly good aim. But he also doesn’t need to be. His fingers stroke the hilt of his blade.

She feels his image of it, and he gets the sense of disappointment from her. But it’s not just aimed at him. She can feel how fast the balance she’s trying to build would tip out of alignment if Kylo popped up here. She knows that Kylo’s not the only one who would enjoy a no-holds-barred, drop-down, drag-out fight between them.

He also gets a shape, a flash, of a future. He thinks she’s seeing it, but he may, too. A time where he will be able to join her at a group like this.

Not eternally. That’s her voice in his head. You want me to make my excuses?

Yes, but he doesn’t think that at her. He’s feeling… something. No. There’s…

Her presence in his mind is suddenly very gentle, soothing. I feel it, too, love. If she’s thinking at him that tenderly, it’s important. Go to it.

 

 


He turns away from the firelight, feeling pulled, out, past the chapel, to the field where the ships wait.

Seeing it, he inclines his head, feeling a wave of of course.

The Millennium Falcon.

His father’s one true love.

Like usual when it’s parked, the ramp is down. Anyone could just walk in. So, he does.

There are memories here. A lot of them. While it’s true that it was rare for both of his parents to be with him at the same time, they certainly tried for at least one of them to be around as often as possible. Unfortunately, at least according to the child who was Ben, as often as possible worked out to slightly less than a quarter of the time.

In his mother’s case, that was likely more often than she would have liked. It wasn’t so much that she didn’t want to be with him as it was that every other minute, she, too, was finding some sort of stupid little glitch in her reports and flying all over the galaxy to have meetings and try to fix them.

He supposes a perk of being the Master, as opposed to being a senator, is that his meetings come to him and he sets them to suit him.

Han probably spent more time with him than he liked. Mostly because it was a good excuse to avoid all of the minutia he was supposed to be dealing with.

Instead of sitting around listening to diplomats blather on, Han would come home to visit, and ‘fix up the Falcon.’ Kylo’s still honestly not sure if the Falcon is just a terribly designed ship that requires constant, un-ending attention to keep it in the air, or if his father was just a terrible mechanic. (Or some combination thereof.)

Standing at the foot of the ramp, looking up, it’s occurring to Kylo that the ship isn’t nearly as big as he thinks it should be. Of course, most of his images of it come from his childhood, and once, on his knees, looking up at Rey.

Inside, he’s shocked by how familiar it is, and how different. The shape, the smell, the feel of it is the same. He could be six-years-old, sitting by one of the floor plates, handing his father tools.

But it’s not the same. The colors are different. The details… Chewie, Rose, or Finn have been playing with it some, refitting the storage chambers… Re-doing the upholstery? He’s almost certain the cushions on the seats in the center lounge weren’t that color before.

There are parts of… He smiles a little; he doesn’t know what it is by looking at it, but he can feel the attention, and dreams that have been going into it, and that lets him know it’s the start of a crib. Finn and Rose have been working on it together, building a place for their child to rest. And bits of it are scattered through the central lounge area. He touches a piece, carefully, not wanting to move it. It’s wood, satin smooth to the touch, and hours of patient sanding and shaping have gone into getting it that way.

He startles away from his thoughts when something… he assumes this has to be a porg, trills at him in a disturbed sort of way. It’s angry at him, apparently it knows he doesn’t belong here. “Shh… I’m Rey’s friend.”

It yells louder and two more of them join him. All three are glaring up at him, tiny pointy teeth bared.

He’s never been any good at this, but… “Shush, Waldo.” (One of them has to be Waldo, right?) And then he lays down a gentle bit of Force, hoping to calm them. And, unlike every time he’s tried this before, Waldo and his friends calm down. They’re still wary of him, but they aren’t yelling.

He bends down, reaching out his hand, and stops a few inches away from the biggest one. Waldo cocks his head, eyeing Kylo, but decides to hop a little closer and get his neck rubbed.

Rey’s right, stroking one of these things, and feeling it purr, is actually pretty nice. Waldo’s crooking his neck, trying to get Kylo to pet him properly, so Kylo kneels, and in a moment, he’s got Waldo in his arms, purring at him.

“Well, at least I can please someone on this damn ship.”

“That’s not fair.”

Kylo’s eyes close, and he rubs his lips together. He doesn’t turn, but he knows the voice behind him. That’s why he’s here after all. He bites his lip again, before saying, “Isn’t it? I certainly never found anything that made you happy.”

He turns to face Han. He’s just as old as he was the last time they met, though he’s much less upset looking. Kylo has to assume that’s true of himself, too.

Han looks him up and down. “I like this.”

Kylo scoffs. “A costume?”

Han rolls his eyes, and Kylo suddenly knows, feels, where he got that from. Because he never really knew his parents as an adult, he’s never internalized them, as adults. So, he’s never felt the bits of him that mirror them, though he is, right now.

“The costume’s nice, too.” Han says with a patronizing smirk. “It’s too neat and tidy and expensive, but it’s nice, for a costume. It’s clear you’re slumming. You don’t have the posture for it, and you’ve got the blaster on the wrong side, too.”

Kylo doesn’t glare at him, but he does say, voice painfully dry. “My saber goes on the right.” He shifts his right arm and Waldo, offering his father a clear view of his preferred weapon. “I don’t go out unarmed, but if someone had taught me how to shoot, the way he promised to, the blaster could have been on the right side.”

A lot of Han’s bravado slips away at that, and more of the real man is visible under the image of Han. His voice is regretful when he says, “I know.” He looks at the blaster, and the ship, and says, “I meant to. All of it.” He sighs again, and nods to Waldo. “You remember that… what was it? Linus… You called it Linus.”

It takes him a minute to remember what Linus was. “My pet zeefir?”

“Yeah. You remember what happened to it?”

Kylo blinks. He had a pet. He knows that, but the memories of it are blurry at best. He was young, four, five, not yet six. He has much clearer memories, from when he’s older, seven, eight, asking for a pet, and both of his parents being very nervous, and then saying no. But thinking back, looking… Linus… It was small and round and fluffy, black and green, with short silky fur, and he’d feed it lettuce and grapes, and it would curl up in his hand and let him pet it. His eyes shut, and he swallows, hard. He’d picked it up too fast, not gentle enough, startled it, and it bit him, hard, tiny teeth cutting into his finger, and he thrashed out, hard, with his body and power, and killed it. It was accidental. He knows that. He hadn’t been trying to… Well, he had. It hurt him, so he hurt it. He just didn’t understand what he’d done to it until he picked it back up and found blood coming out of its eyes, ears, and nose. And when he did, he got so upset he blew all the electronics in their home.  

Han looks at the cradle parts all around him. “We were scared, Ben. You’re right about that. You used to break things, hurt people. You didn’t have the control to not do it accidentally, and you didn’t have the wisdom to not do it intentionally, and… And we didn’t know what to do. And we didn’t want to give up on you, but…” Han’s biting his own lip now. “We were running a race against time and you, trying to find… anything… to get you off that path before you killed someone. Remember that tutor… Master Symns? You choked him so bad… The only reason he didn’t die is you thought you killed him when he passed out so you stopped. No one…” And Kylo can tell he means Leia and Luke, “thought it was a good idea to let you play with the dark. You had enough trouble dealing with it when it was forbidden, and that letting you dabble with it…” Han’s ghost still wears his own blaster. He touches it. “This, the Falcon, flying around, playing fast and loose with the law, making deals that weren’t technically legal. We thought that’d just… invite you to go wild.”

Kylo just feels exhausted at that. Like his joints have gone weak after too many years of running full out. He sits down, slumping into the sofa behind the dejarik table. For a moment, he just stares around the Falcon, and then finally manages to say, “How much worse could it have possibly turned out?”

Han’s face is old, his eyes tired, when he says, “You think I haven’t been beating myself with that for years now?” Han shakes his head. “When Luke told us what happened… I didn’t talk to your mother again for eight years, and I hit Luke hard enough I broke his jaw and knocked out three of his teeth. I never spoke to him again. I still haven’t. He’s out there, I can feel it, but… I let them have you because it was supposed to work. I gave you to them because it was supposed to prevent you from…” His voice is shaking at that. “You could have stayed with me, ended up the most vicious pirate to ever fly a ship, and you wouldn’t have done a tenth the damage you did as Snoke’s right hand.” 

Kylo blinks. He hadn’t known any of that. “You… left her?” Their marriage had always been either hot or cold, and usually it was also spread out over a few hundred light years, with each of them in a different quadrant of the galaxy. But it was always there.

“Left her, left the Republic, left it all. Chewie and I got back in the air and went back to what we were best at. I saw her for a few minutes, before… The last thing she ever said to me was to go get you, bring you home. I told her that Luke, who was supposed to know it all, failed, rubbed it in, and she told me Luke was a Jedi, and I was your father. Closest I ever saw her get to admitting she’d been wrong about something.”

Kylo knows what happened next in that story.

Han sits next to him and, cups his face. Kylo can’t feel it, but he knows what he’s doing, the exact same gesture he did right before he killed him. And he knows what Han’s feeling as he does it, because it’s all right at the top of his mind.

“Twenty-two years… You thought I…”

Kylo swallows, hard, biting his lip… “Thought? You left me. You dangled a life in front of me. We were going to learn to fly and shoot, and I was going to be the best pilot in the galaxy, next to my Dad, and then you snatched it away, and you left me! I begged you to come, and you didn’t rescue me. Luke would tell the story of you showing up in the nick of time to rescue him, but you never came for me.” His voice cracks. “You killed the dark creatures trying to shoot him, but you left me flying alone.” Tears are easing down his face.

“I know.” Han’s voice is shaking. “If I’d had the weapon to shoot what was haunting you, I’d have shot it, a million times over, but I didn’t. And trust me, we tried.” A flood of images of Han and Chewie looking for any attack they could try against Snoke pour over him, but there was never an attack that they could get in clean on. Never one with a chance of working.

They’re in almost the same position as they were on Starkiller. Sitting instead of standing, and Kylo’s still holding Waldo, instead of a saber.

Han’s looking into his eyes. “And I tried to atone for it. Last thing I ever did was for you.” He half smiles, but it’s a sad gesture. He leans back, clears his throat, sniffs, and then looks Kylo up and down, and he half-inclines his head. “Rey’s done more. Nothing like a pretty girl for that, but… I didn’t fail you, not in the end. That was the crack she needed to work her way in.”

Kylo can remember Snoke saying that killing Han had ripped his soul apart. He knows that’s not actually true. Whatever soul he has or had was more or less the same. It ripped his illusions apart. It let him see that anger wouldn’t make things better. It was the first real moment of doubting Snoke. He’d done as he’d been told, proven himself again and again, but the promised relief didn’t come. It never came. Test after test after test, and he passed them all, but it never came.

And when Rey was looking up at him, and Snoke was droning on, he knew another kill on his list wouldn’t give him peace. It wouldn’t let him settle, untroubled into the dark.

Because dark wasn’t what Snoke wanted for him.

Snoke wanted evil. And Rey can talk about evil being actions and not people, but… Snoke wanted to turn his dark to evil, he wanted evil soaking through his every muscle and nerve. He wanted evil to define every aspect of his life, because he knew every strike, every hit, every jolt, every pain, all of that just increased his dark.

Raw, untamed power.

And that old fucker was using him as a battery, pulling strength from his torment.

Kylo’s a creature of the dark. There’s no two ways about that. He always has been dark and always will be dark. It calls to him, and he can feel it burning in his blood and skin anytime a fight gets near or an insult is offered. Dark requires very little effort from him, which isn’t true of light.

And so was his father. He spent his whole life dancing between the light and the dark, a lot of it on the dark side of things. Even when he was on the “good” side, he certainly wasn’t doing it from a place of calm, serene agape. He was in it for his friends, for his love, for his money, to save his own ass. He fought by and for his attachments, his passions. No high, lofty political goals. No love for the Rebellion or the ideal of Republic. Just his emotions. His hate for the Empire, his love for Chewie, and Leia, his attachment to them.

And if he’d had the chance to go off with him… Kylo wipes his eyes and looks around the Falcon. “I would have been a good scoundrel.”

Han half laughs at that, and then nods. “Probably. It’s not too late, you can still find out.”

Kylo sighs, makes a sound that could almost be called a laugh. “I’ve kind of got this other job…”

Han smirks at that. “That’s your mother.” Then he shakes his head… “You are such a mirror. Vader’s darkness. Leia’s light.” He winks. “My good looks.”

Kylo rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “Your jokes were always terrible.”

Han grins. “Your son will think the same thing about yours.” Then he grows more serious. He pats Kylo’s face again. “And if the time comes, you’ll have learned from my mistakes.”

Kylo nods, solemnly this time. “And your sacrifice.”  

“Good. Unless you want to explain to Finn why you’re in here, it’s time to get moving. They’re breaking up.”

Kylo blinks, and Han is gone. He puts Waldo down, and leaves the Falcon, quickly.

 

 


Rey’s already back in her cottage when he gets there. But she didn’t beat him by much. She’s only got one boot off.

“Aren’t there still three hours left in the thrilling tale of Luke’s idiot plan?” he says as he slips in.

She just looks at him.

“Come on, I’ve heard that story fifty times. Luke’s plan gets dumber every time I hear it. ‘And then I decided to give the droids to Jabba, because I had the feeling I’d need them there. R2 of course knew what was up, but Threepio was bad with secrets, so I had to keep him in the dark, and…’” He rolls his eyes. “Lando had a plan, too. Get in, get back against the wall with Han, set up a dampening shield, toss the bomb, blow everything up, and then walk away from the rubble with him still frozen, then thaw out nice and easy later. If some bits of him shattered in the explosion, well, the Rebellion had a perfectly good medical cruiser, and Luke was doing fine with a prosthetic arm.”

Rey doesn’t want to admit that as plans for a rescue goes, it does seem to be an absurdly complicated one. Though… she supposes that Luke may have, just possibly, known what he was talking about when he said not to ‘magic’ something just for the sake of ‘magicking’ it. “Rose was half asleep, and the younger kids were getting drowsy. Chewie’ll tell the rest of it tomorrow night.”

Kylo nods, pulling off his boots and jacket.

Rey’s watching him, waiting to see how his part of it had gone.

He doesn’t shrug. He does finish taking off his boots and jacket, and snuggles up next to her on the extra-large chair in her main room. For a moment. Then he gets up and grabs the extra blanket from her bed, the one that used to live on his bed. It’s getting cooler every day, cooler yet at night, and in his Padme wear, once the jacket is off, he just has trousers and a light shirt.

She stands up, waits for him to get settled, and then snuggles in on his lap, wrapping the blanket around both of them. He’s still not talking, so she says, tentatively. “You don’t feel angry.”

“I don’t. Not sure what I feel right now, but not angry.”

She rests her head on his shoulder, and he kisses her forehead. He’s thinking and feeling, trying to put the last hour or so into some sort of perspective.

“You asked me why I hated him.”

She’s gently stroking his chest, taking advantage of the v-neck on his shirt to just pet him skin to skin. “I like this. You not covered from chin to toes.” She gives him another little stroke, touches the Maji pendant on his chest, and he kisses her, not minding the digression. Some things are easier to go at sideways. But she does get back to the point. “And you said you didn’t. I didn’t believe you then, and I still don’t.”

 

 

He half inclines his head, and rests his chin against her for a second before saying, “I didn’t just hate him. If I’d just hated him… I don’t know… Maybe I wouldn’t have killed him. Hate is… hot and bright and steady and easy. It just is. It expects nothing and leads to nothing and there’s just power and pain.”

“Doesn’t sound easy to me.”

“Probably not.” He looks away from her, across this small room to the kitchen table, trying to imagine a future here, with little kids, with the son who thinks his jokes are terrible. He doesn’t see it, because the image of a small child, with dark unruly hair, and too much nose, two feet on his foot, arms tight around his knee as he thumps around with him overwhelms it. It doesn’t shift, but his perspective does, and he becomes the boy, because he was the boy.

“I wanted to be him when I was little. Before I knew what a Jedi was, or who Uncle Luke was, or why my parents were rarely around. I knew he was the best pilot in the galaxy, and he’d fly around far and fast, and I was going to be just like him.”

“I saw that memory. You on his lap, in the Falcon.”

He nods. “Yeah.” He rubs his face against the top of her head. “It never went away, you know? It’s not like one day I said, ‘No flying for me, I’ll become a Jedi.’ I got to work in the Falcon when he was home, but we didn’t go joyriding in it. I’d probably been begging for years, and I finally get to fly in the damn thing, but he’s dragging me off to Luke, where I don’t want to go.” He closes his eyes, wincing. When he got upset, he’d blow the power on things, fry the electronics. That’s why they never went joyriding, why Han didn’t have him up in the air practically before he could walk. He didn’t want to risk taking him in a ship unless it was absolutely necessary.

He slumps a bit more as he adds, “And he didn’t teach me how to shoot. He was supposed to. He promised to.” But, again, don’t want to play with guns with the kid who can’t be trusted to hold one without hurting you. Not enough control to avoid doing it accidentally. And Ben had lots of accidents. Not wise enough to not do it on purpose. And Ben had a temper that was always simmering away. If someone hit him, emotionally, literally, or metaphorically, he always hit back and hard.

“And we didn’t go over how to plot a course without a navi computer. He could do that in his head, you know? If the computer in the Falcon was going too slow, and he needed to get out of there fast, he’d just punch it, finish the calculations while they were in hyperspeed, and update it on the fly, because he could do it.” He bites his bottom lip, remembering an argument. “It was so fucking dangerous, and she hated him doing it. Hated him talking about it, even. Didn’t want him encouraging me, but… It saved their lives a few times.” But Ben never did get good enough at math to do that. To even do it slow, on a pad. Luke didn’t teach much math, probably didn’t know how to do that sort of calculation himself, and he certainly wasn’t messing around with math texts on the Finalizer.

“We didn’t get to simple math, like how to figure the price on a trip, taking into account the fuel costs and where you were coming from and going to. Like, you could offer a lower price if you could pick up something worth moving at the end spot, but if it was just a barren rock, the cost had to cover the trip back…”

He stops talking, looking far away, not really seeing the room around them. A million goodbyes, that’s what he’s seeing, cast over and through the last one.

“You were disappointed?” Rey says, tentatively.

He nods. “Yeah. And envious. He got the life I wanted. He got to fly the skies and go wherever he liked, join whatever he liked, live however he liked. He made his own rules and didn’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations.”

She hugs him a little tighter.

“I hated Luke. I would have killed Luke if I’d had the chance. For a heartbeat there, I thought I had. That was the best fucking second and a half of that month. I hated Hux, and I ran him through with my lightsaber while holding him up by his neck, and then snapped it with my own hand. I hated M’Gll, and I took her head off the day I left Luke’s school. There are more; the list is longer than it should be. And I’ve given exactly no thought whatsoever about those kills after them.

“Just things I did. Like swatting a fly…” He shrugs a little. “More like scratching an itch. Something that satisfied a need, but wasn’t worth a second thought.

“But I still think about killing him, and Snoke.”

That she wasn’t expecting.

He snorts a little, self-deprecating. “Ben’s father and Kylo’s. I killed them both. They both disappointed me. They both told me lies about the life I would have with them. They both lived a life I wanted.”

She strokes his chest again.

“Hate burns bright and vanishes. Once you’re done, you’re done.” His eyes close, and he curls in against her. She can feel the thought he doesn’t give to words. Disappointment is forever. “I would have rather hated him. We’d be done if I’d hated him.”

Rey doesn’t know what to do with that, and Kylo doesn’t either. They spend a moment just sitting. Feeling.

“You’re hopeful, and afraid.”

He nods. “Tiny little spark of it. Like maybe this time, he won’t disappoint me.”

“He won’t.”

“Likely, because I don’t need anything from him anymore.”

She kisses him, deciding not to call him on the lie.

 

 


Well? Chewie asks when the Falcon is quiet and Finn and Rose have gone to bed.

“No new holes in me, so given our track record, I’d say it went well,” Han replies, his ghost settling in next to Chewie in the cockpit.

He listens to Chewie’s response and says, “Yeah, I know. My expectations are so low they’re in danger of melting from the heat of the planet’s core. I’m just saying, it could have gone worse.”

Chewie snorts at that.

“Look, I’m not asking you to make nice with him. Still, I’m the one he stabbed, and if I can get past it…”

Han nods at Chewie’s reply. “Well, yes, I do have more of a vested interest in it than you do.”

Chewie sounds off for a long time.

“I know that, too. We did the best we could, with what we knew, and it wasn’t enough. Maybe there was nothing that could have been enough. We’ve known enough drunks over the years to know sometimes you’ve got to break before you can change. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel like I should have done more. And this… Maybe there’s finally a chance for more.”

Chewie doesn’t say it; he just looks at Han.

“Yeah, I’d hug you, too, if I could.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

4/7/1

 

Kylo’s standing at Rey’s workbench, staring at the fundamentals of a light short sword. Unlike Rey, he built his lightsaber, instead of inheriting it. So, he’s done this before.

And, he’ll have to admit it tickles him to no end when she finally asked him for help putting one together. She’s never run into a technical problem she can’t just fix. And especially with her staff to build off of, she feels like this should be fairly easy.

She can see what all the parts look like, and how they should work, so the fact that all she can get is a small fizzle, or one time, the tip of the sword burst into flame, is frustrating her to no end.

So, he’s standing there, next to her, looking at the assembled case in her hand, the power device on the bench, and the crystal in his hand, feeling fairly smug. The first thing he says is, “Part of it is this is a dark crystal.”

“No, it’s not.” It’s not Dark. It is dark.

 

 

“I mean it’s a really dark color.” He lifts it to the light, letting it hover above his palm, but he still can’t see through it. “Whatever this is, it’s going to take a lot more energy than a light crystal, like the one in your staff. Even my crystal isn’t this dark.” Once upon a time, his was one solid piece, and blue. It’s not anymore. It cracked shortly after he left Luke, blooming red and jagged, and burned through most of his original casing. The one above his hand is almost black, and he’s never heard about a kyber this dark, so he’s got no idea if it even can be used for this kind of work. It does have a somewhat pleasant thrum to it, the feel of the energy buzzing through his hand makes him feel like he’ll get along well with whatever weapon this makes.

Granted, as of this point, he’s never met a blade, not even M’Gll’s, that didn’t seem to like being in his hand. Any kyber capable of being set to this sort of work gets along well with him.

“Isn’t the one in my staff your original saber?”

He blinks at that, and then remembers, he’d told her that saber belonged to him. “No.” And he realizes she’s seen that fight with Luke, so she knows he had a blue saber at one point. “That one is mine by right. Vader took that with Luke’s hand, and as his protégée...” It sounds stupid to him, now. “But it’s not my original one.” He lays his saber on the workbench. “Most of this is my original saber. The crystal changed along with me. Got more powerful, cracked, became less stable. I had to add the heat vents to the sides to deal with the amount of energy a cracked crystal lets off. But I built the skeleton of this when I was fourteen.”

She glares at the pieces in front of her. “So, you’re saying I can’t manage to figure out technology a teenager could handle.” She’s gritting her teeth.

He looks at the light saber hilt she’s opening. It’s attractive. The colors are nice. But he knows metal and whatever this is… It’s not going to do the job. “I don’t think anyone could do it with this. Your alloys are shit. Melt point is too low. Too brittle. It’ll turn to slag or shatter before you can get a decent blade out of it. And that’d be for a light crystal. The kind of energy you’ll have to pump through this one…” he looks at her energy source, sitting on the charging disk… “And this sad little thing could barely coax a blade out of a clear crystal, it’s not going to do it with this one.”

Rey’s gritting her teeth, harder. He can feel her frustration. She’s got the best alloys she could scrape together, without scavenging from the Falcon or Poe’s ship. Same with her power source. She doesn’t want to tell Chewie or Poe to go looking for better stuff, because it’s so expensive.

He figures that if he’s giving her bad news, he might as well get it all out. “And you don’t have the tools for it.” He glances at the mini-welder in her hand. Her ungloved hand. If she can hold the welder in bare flesh, it’s not hot enough. “This thing can’t get the kind of heat you need to melt the solder that can stand up to the heat of your blade.”

She glares at her tools. He doesn’t have to say it. Her mini-welder is more than hot enough to melt the solder she’s got, which means part of why her short swords keep falling apart is her solder keeps melting.

“Tomorrow night, bring the crystal with you to the Supremacy. I’ve got the tools and materials you need in my bench.”

“Of course you do.”

He touches his saber, feeling very close to Han for a moment. “It’s an old design, kind of tetchy. I spend more time fiddling with it than I should have to.”

Rey offers him a little smile at that, also feeling his sense of the connection there.

 

 


The next night, standing at his workbench, watching her fiddle with the design, which is coming along a lot better now that she’s got first rate tools and materials, Kylo’s thinking about how little this costs him.  

And he knows that she wants to build her settlement herself, so he hasn’t dropped a troop of Order engineers on her settlement, along with a freighter of supplies, and had them build her a first class colony. But it would take him less than twenty minutes to make sure that everything she could ever possibly need or want ended up on Lirium.

Except of course, the need to do it herself. That’s the one thing he can’t do for her.

He’s watching her carefully set the crystal, and begin shaping a casing around it. With good tools and good materials she’s whipping through this, fast and elegant. If she’d grown up on any core world, she’d have been an amazing engineer.

She snaps the case shut, and says, “Test one.”

He grins at her, and steps back. The first time he lit his own saber, he just about took his eyebrows and bangs off. His field was significantly less contained than he was expecting. “Don’t point it toward your face when you light it.”

She rolls her eyes and flicks the switch.

They both hear it hum, but… There’s no visible blade. Kylo almost has an urge to pass his hand over it, but he’s awfully certain that’s a bad idea. He can feel it’s doing something. Rey’s just staring at it.

“You can’t see it, can you?” he asks, as he watches her stare.

“No, but… You feel it, right?”

“Yeah, it’s doing something.

“Get the lights, and the window, okay?”

He does, and as soon as the transteel window goes opaque, he sees it.

“Wow. I didn’t know…” He can feel the way she’s staring at it. He’s staring at it, too. It’s… he doesn’t have words to describe it.

 

 

“That’s a… black light,” Rey says.

He turns the lights back on, and it goes back to invisible. “That’s a black light, all right.”

She turns it off. “I don’t think this is the sort of thing I can train children with.”

“No. They’d need to see the blade.” He’s grinning, picking it up, feeling it solid and real in his hands. “A master though…”

“Hey! I made it.”

He’s still grinning. It’s not his saber, but if feels awfully right in his hand. And he can dual wield… “But you’ll let me use it, right?”

She kisses him. “Yes. Feel good in your hand?”

He’s holding it, swishing it around a little, unlit. “It really does. Smaller than anything I’d normally use, but, especially for an off-hand weapon, it’s good.”

“At your size, it’s practically a lightdagger.”

It’s not that small on him, but it’s certainly smaller than anything he’d normally use. However, there’s something to be said for expanding your routine. “It’s not a bad plan to have a hidden weapon.” He tests it, and yes, it’d fit well against his forearm, on his sleeve if he needed something like that. He hands it back to her. The hilt fits better in her palm than in his, but he’s got the sense that he gets along better with the crystal than she does.

“You know… you can’t really dual wield with a staff.”

That gets an arched eyebrow from her.

“Just saying, that’s a two-handed weapon. My saber’s a one-and-a-half-handed weapon.”

She knows what he means by it, but it’s a term she’s never heard.

“Use it one-or-two-handed,” he expands on the concept of one-and-a-half-handed.

“You really want this, don’t you?”

He pets the casing again. “It just… feels right.”

She turns it on again, and again, in the light, the blade is invisible. But the feel of it… She’s sure it’ll cut through things that her and Kylo’s main weapons struggle with. “It’s got a lot of power to it.”

“That’s probably why I like it.”

“Not that it’s black?”

“That helps, too.” He gently strokes the back of her neck, and she places it back on the bench.

For a few minutes, they work on tidying things back up. Kylo’s picky about his tools. He likes them kept in pristine condition and put back in the right place, every time. They’re good tools, master’s tools, worth more than half of her settlement, and they deserve that sort of respect.

He can remember the feel of her frustration at the cost of good materials…

He could help with that.

It wouldn’t be doing it for her… Just… helping her do it herself.

“Would you take credits from me?”

She looks up from tidying and blinks, startled. She’s usually at least partially aware of what he’s thinking, especially if they’re standing less than a meter away from each other, but she’d been so concentrated on cleaning up and enjoying having mastered the blade, she’d lost touch with any of his thoughts.

“You took it from my mother, and from Chewie, and from the rest of the Resistance, why not from me?”

Put that way, Kylo’s offer of money makes a lot of sense.

“How balanced can this place possibly be if all your funding comes from one side?”

And that makes even more.

“And you’re barely making any progress. You need money!”

More or less hammers it home. And, of course, she wants to keep Finn and Chewie safe, and the less money they need to bring in, the less danger they have to be in, so… “Okay.”

Kylo was gearing up for yet another reason why she should take his money, and the okay, that fast, surprises him some. He’d been figuring it’d take at least a few more reasons before she got to admitting that maybe he had a point.

“Okay?”

“Okay.” She nods. Though they can both feel she’s unsure about this.

“How much do you need?”

“Ten thousand?” Rey has two issues on this. She’s not entirely sure what things cost, in terms of credits, and she’s not entirely sure what she needs to keep moving forward.

He rolls his eyes. “Think bigger.” Kylo’s also not exactly sure what things cost, because he doesn’t buy things, but he does get reports on the Order’s expenses, and he knows ten thousand credits does pretty much nothing. “That’s one earth moving machine, or a barely functional speeder. Don’t tell me what you need to get tomorrow’s job done, tell me what you need to finish this.”

“I…” she turns so she’s back to the bench, leaning against it. She can’t explain why the idea of asking for more than that makes her so uncomfortable. Beyond, of course, the most obvious level of having to explain where she got it.

Kylo steps in front of her, resting his hands on her hips. “Rey, I have everything I’ve ever wanted or needed, and all I have to do is ask. And a lot of the time, I don’t even have to do that. Just noticing I need something seems to conjure it. They’ve been paying me a salary, not a huge one, but a salary still, since I joined Snoke. But I don’t buy things. I pay no rent. I don’t shop for food. Clothing just appears in my closet. My medical care is taken care of. Even fripperies, if I say I want something, it just appears.” He looks over her shoulder to the bench behind him, half-covered in first class tools and materials. “I didn’t even have to ask for that. It was just here when I started using these rooms. I’ve got nine years of income just sitting around and nothing to do with it. Let me transfer you the credits.”

It’s completely rational, so she says, “Okay,” but she’s still feeling a little off by having done so.

He decides to do it first, and then deal with why she’s so unsettled by this. He turns, crosses his room, finds one of his personal datapads, and is opening his account as he walks back to her, standing next to her, hip to hip, he then looks at her, expectantly.

She looks back at him, blankly.

He groans. “You don’t have a bank account. Of course not.”

She shakes her head. “All in currency.” She hops up, so she’s sitting on the workbench, and he wraps an arm around her, tucking the datapad into his pocket.

“Why don’t you want my money?” he asks, kissing her shoulder. “Because it’s the Order’s?”

She shrugs a little, and decides this isn’t a good place for this conversation. This is a face to face, not side to side conversation. She hops down and pulls him to his bed, and nudges him, so he’s sitting on it. Then she sits in his lap, facing him, hands on his chest. Her lips open a few times to start to talk, and then on the third try she puts it together. “You and I have always been equal. I help you. You help me… We balance. I’ve always been able to offer as much as I take. And for this… I can’t. You’ll never get this back. I can’t repay it. I can’t offer you anything of commiserate value. I can’t… trade… for it. Chewie, Poe, the rest of them, I’m building them a place to hide. None of them are ever intending to be upright, law-abiding Citizens of the Order, or anywhere else, so they’ll need an off-the-charts hideout. But I’m not building anything for you, not there.”

He stares at her, not saying what he’s feeling, You’re building my home, and the safe, secure, surrounded by people who love them home, for my children. The place where they can grow up far away from this. The place they’ll never be dragged away from.

She feels it, and nods.

He looks away, breaking the heaviness of that moment, and then pulls out the pad, tapping it. “You don’t have another name, do you?”

“Just Rey.”

“And you’re not in any system… You wouldn’t be.”

She shrugs at that. It’s possible the same people who sold her for drinking money could have registered her birth, but they likely didn’t. “I can’t imagine I am. Or if I am… learning that would likely cause trouble. I don’t want to put my retina or finger pads into a computer to see who comes up.”

He nods at that. “Do you want a name?”

She touches the token hanging from his neck. Her eyes drift to his as her finger lingers on the disk. She wants him to know she understood, and agreed with, the value he feels coming from what she’s building. “I have one, and when the time is right, I’ll claim it.”

He understands what she’s saying by that, smiles at it, kisses her, and replies, “Ren or Padme?”

 

 

She smiles back at him. “Ren.”

He shudders with pleasure. It shouldn’t still get to him, but it does. It always does. Every time she uses his name, every time she does something like this, accepts who he chose to be, it just floods him with warmth and approval and belonging.

His hands stroke over her arms, and he kisses her, warm and happy.

When she pulls back, she says, “Speaking of names, when you said Padme, it triggered a faint memory. It took me a while to hunt it down, and a while longer to find the links, but… I was reading a theory on the fall of the Empire, and it talked about a senator from Naboo, Jar Jar Binks, and how he was the one who ushered in the final vote giving Palpatine supreme power. He had a co-senator, one who did not agree with the War Powers act, and who was actively fighting against the rise of Palpatine, Padme Amidala.”

He feels a thrill of right all through him at that name.

“She was the elected queen of Naboo, and after that, was a senator in the Republic, and was known for being closely allied with the Jedi.

“She died within days of the Jedi purge, pregnant, unmarried. Her child died with her. No one knew who the father was, or at least, not in what I could find. It was considered something of a scandal at the time, Naboon culture frowning on that sort of thing.”

Kylo feels the sense memory of that. The Force pulling him back to a blurred image of a woman with dark hair, a beautiful face, and so, so sad, drowning in sorrow, letting it squeeze her heart and steal her breath. He yanks out of that memory, fast, feeling that if he lets it, it will choke him, too.

“Amidala…” he’s almost tasting the name. “That’s… right. The child… children, didn’t die, obviously, but…” And he has a flash of that, too. Fear, the need for protection. He doesn’t know who’s feeling the fear… Soft, gentle hands, sorrow, the sense of very calm, very deep Jedi power… Holding… his mother… The hard, cold knowledge that the threat was out there, and stronger than whoever was holding her. “They needed to be hidden away. Palpatine would have had them killed if there had been even a hint of them.”

That’s another heavy topic, and he feels it settle around them. He can feel the memory, but he can’t focus on his grandmother’s face. She has one, it’s in his view, but it’s a blur. There’s just feelings. “He said I have her eyes.”

Rey shakes her head, not disagreeing, just indicating that she doesn’t know. “There weren’t any pictures.”

He inhales, deeply, searching the line of feelings back through his mother, but there’s not much there. What does a baby know of its mother? Warm and red, a blurred face, and apparently, sorrow. “I have access to what’s left of Palpatine’s records. He kept intelligence on… everyone and everything. Maybe he has something.”

She shrugs at that, no idea what Palpatine may have had, or has left.

She feels the flash of resolve through him, before he moves. 

Kylo takes the pad out of his pocket and clicks on it, moving through pages, reading, moving more, clicking, and then looks up at her. “Kylo Ren was added to the register as a person nine years ago. He’s not attached to the Ben Solo person, not a name change or an alternate persona, though I suppose if you put my prints or retinas in, both would come up. Like everyone else in the galaxy, just a few clicks changes a name.” He clicks something and then types, and clicks again, presses all five of his right fingertips to the pad’s screen, and lowers his eyes to the camera for a retina scan. “Unfortunately, I’m sure at least a hundred people are watching any and all changes to Kylo Ren.” He looks up at her. “On this ship alone. Ben Solo though, has been sitting there for nine years, doing nothing. Snoke forbade anyone from ever using that name again, but he didn’t have it erased from the register. So, legally… Ben Solo is still a person, with retina and finger marks on file.” He hits one more button, and presses all five of his right fingers to it. “But today…” Kylo clicks once more, and then looks up at her, “he officially became Ben Amidala. Adding a person to the register takes a few moments.” Kylo puts the pad into her hands. Then he looks at her, eyes hot, intense, feeling the hot slither flush of the words he’s about to say, “Would you consent to be Rey Amidala? Join the register as my wife? Let me name myself your husband?”

 

 

She feels the lump in her throat, and knows that any sound she tries will come out as a croak. So she nods, vigorously, and then scoots forward and kisses him, pushing every emotion into that kiss. 

He knew she would say yes, but he still thrills at the feel of it. A wife. A family. A person who knows him inside and out and chose him anyway.

His hands tangle in her hair, and she wraps her arms around him, and for a breath they break the kiss, just looking at each other, feeling this moment, the thrum of now and right building between them.

Then they rush to each other again, lips caressing, bodies grinding.

Too much clothing… Too much distance between them. A wisp of silk a micron thick would be too much distance, right now.

There’s tugging and shoving and pulling, and eventually their clothing is gone, and she’s back in his lap, and there’s the rush, the need for now, for more touch and more skin and more glide and… She slips onto him and they both groan, loud, at that, and there, settled, together, her body wrapped around his and his body supporting hers, they can slow down.

From there there’s the supple glide and the wet slip of a gentle rocking thrust. There’s the wet graze of his teeth against her breasts, and the dull pull of her fingers through his hair.

There’s building friction earned one stroke at a time, one long, shivering pull or push or pull again as she rises and falls against him, and his hands cup her thighs, pulling her up, and slowly lowering her down, both of them working together, keeping the glide as effortless as possible.

There’s the sound: counterpoint moans, his deeper, hers higher, broken by fast, deep breath, and the wet glide of skin on skin and lips on throat.

His head falls back at the tug of her hand in his hair, and she lays her own line of kisses down his jaw and throat and chest, tracing the mark she branded him with almost two years ago now. Neither of them knew it then, though they do now, that that’s the day she marked him as hers. The day her light began to seep into him.

 

 

His hand tightens on her shoulder, on the ghost of the mark the Praetorian guard left on her, when they fought back to back, protecting each other and their future, and though neither of them knew this day was coming, they’d both seen hints of it in the shape of things to come.

He’s not kneeling, can’t be, not for this position to work, but when she finishes her line of kisses, he’s looking up at her, hair wild, eyes dark, face entirely open to her. It calls memory back to another day, kneeling on the floor of an empty Rebel base, looking up at her, eyes still begging her to join him. The day his darkness caught her.

Their lips meet again, eyes closing, sight vanishing and feeling taking over. Glide and burn, stroke and tension, rising pleasure, rising passion, the need for more. More speed, more touch, more pleasure, more kisses, more each other.

Like often, when they commune deep and present, the line between his mind and hers falls away, and both of them find it difficult to know who’s feeling what, but right now, it doesn’t much matter. There’s motion, and pleasure, soul-deep pleasure suffusing each muscle, each nerve, each breath, and love, so much love.

It gathers and swells, rises, seeking to crest, but not… quite… lulling, slow, waiting for ripeness and fullness, kisses passed from lip to lip, soft words unspoken but felt, and then rising again, higher, and again, and again, he’s not even sure if they’re still moving, or just riding the wave, swell and pulse, breath and moan, and once more, higher, yet.

And when the wave crashes, it leaves both of them limp, collapsed, breathless, stars dancing behind closed eyelids, contentment quieting any nagging voices that could even dare to think of disturbing this moment.

 

 


Later, before sliding out of the Supremacy to her… their home on Lirium, for a well-deserved sleep, Rey presses her fingers to the pad, lets it scan her retinas, and registers herself as Rey Amidala.

 

 

Billions of people are added to the official register every day. No one, outside of the people who registered them, and their friends and family, care much about any given new one.

She presses her fingers to the pad once more, as she registers again, as the wife of Ben Amidala.

And Kylo presses his fingers against it, too, registering himself as the husband of Rey Amidala.

So no one notices, or remarks, when Rey Amidala: Birthdate: 3/8/23 Years Before the Order, Parents: Unknown, Hair: Brown, Eyes: Brown, Skin: Light, Birth Place: Niima Station, Jakku, Husband: Ben Amidala, officially becomes a person in the electronic records of a galaxy wide system of head counting.

But they know, and for right now, that’s enough.

Chapter Text

4/8/1

 

It’s been more than eight months since Kylo first set foot on Lirium, but the green light of early morning still seems off to him. Probably because he was born on Chandrila, so his idea of morning involves golden-yellow light. Green, yellow, whatever, it makes the backs of his eyelids glow red, and wakes him up enough to enjoy being wrapped around Rey.

His wife. He feels that tingle through him.

He’s not sure if anything’s different, though it certainly feels good.

Thinking about it, he’s not sure if any of this has been a change per se, instead of him, and her, taking yet another step on the way to where they belong. The great DESTINY that Luke or Snoke would speak of. The mythical feeling of knowing what comes next and where you’re supposed to go and all the rest of those words that so often felt like platitudes spoken by someone who already figured their life out. Though given how both Snoke and Luke ended, Kylo’s extremely doubtful that either of them knew much at all about their own personal destinies.

She makes a soft “Mmm?” sound. The sort of thing either of them will do when they’re not entirely sure if the other one is awake.

He kisses the back of her neck, and stretches, feeling soft and lazy. “The little boogers will miss you if you don’t get up soon, won’t they?”

She nods, and he feels her hair brushing his cheek. “C8 will go searching for you if you don’t ask for a cup of coffee in an hour or so…”

He sighs at that, wrapping his arms around her, kissing her shoulder. “What would be involved in us getting a day or three to just lay around in bed with each other?”

She laughs. “Crippling illness.”

“Let’s not do that.”

His arm is around her waist, hand nestled between her breasts. She strokes her fingers over it, down his arm, and makes a soft purring sound.

He kisses her ear, smelling her hair, feeling her body against his. Part of him, the part that’s usually up and interested in some touch first thing in the morning, is looking to move this out of sleepy snuggles into something more active. Another part, namely his brain, is actually thinking about how to get them a full day or two where they’ve got nothing to do but sleep, eat, and play with each other.

“If we were to just lay around… You’d want another adult here, right?”

She nods. “Chewie or Poe.”

“Finn and Rose are here all the time, right now,” Kylo says. And they are. They’ve gotten their cottage mostly set up, and the medical droid more or less working, and right now they’re all working on getting their med center set up. It’s slower than they’d like, but faster than it would be if it were just Rey working on it with the kids.

“And expecting a baby any day. They may be a bit busy soon.”

“So, Chewie or Poe, and Finn and Rose. At least one adult who can be paying full attention to the children.”

“Mm hm.” She rubs against him a bit, rocking her bum against him, encouraging the bit that’s poking her gently.

His hand shifts to her hips, stilling them. He’s appallingly bad of thinking about anything but sex when he’s having sex. “Shhh… Trying to think here.”

She takes his hand in hers, kissing his palm, and gently sucking his index finger, then leading it down her body to slip between her lips. “Later, your brain can work later.”

He groans against her neck, and surrenders to his body and hers.

Slick, wet glide, soft, languid friction, and sun dappled morning. He’s woken up to considerably worse in the past.

He’s kissing her neck and shoulder, sliding his finger over her again and again, finding that long, firm glide that lights her up. She’s rocking against him, teasing him, making him rise harder, fuller.

It’s just a little twist of her hips, and a little shift of position, and the teasing is over, and the low, dull itch of wanting slides into the glorious satisfaction of all over scratching.

There are many things that Kylo appreciates about his current life, and myriad aspects that he could have never guessed at. This is one of them.

Sex has flavors, or colors, or variety, or… whatever. He hadn’t been expecting that, at all. Previous to his time with Rey, sex came in exactly one flavor: desperation. He’d go as long as he possibly could, shutting his desire down until he just couldn’t anymore, and would then get off as hard and fast as he possibly could with whomever was available, to then ignore it again until he just couldn’t ignore it anymore.

The first few times they got together, he thinks of those as starvation sex. They were both so hungry for touch, for pleasure from someone who mattered, for another body to cherish your own. He knows that getting touched regularly after so long without certainly changed him. It changed her, too. Though, like many things with them, the change manifested in different ways. He’s finding it easier to keep himself emotionally less volatile. She’s becoming more comfortable letting people touch her, not just sexual or romantic touch, but little things like when Finn hugs her, or one of the children leans a head against her. She doesn’t immediately try to yank away when someone tries to make contact. She no longer automatically sees touch as a threat, and he’s becoming less threatening.

But neither of them are starving anymore. Right now… soft, easy, slow and lazy, appreciating the glow of morning with a person you adore, this is snack sex. He’s not staving off hunger, just having a bite because he likes the taste.

There’s spirit sex, like last night, where their bodies are certainly present, and a lot of the fun of it, but their minds lose their edges and they blur into each other. He knows his body enjoys it, but he’s fairly suspicious that it’s much more about what’s happening in his head than in his shaft.

There’s meal sex, which is most of the sex they have. Happy bodies enjoying each other. And maybe it’s not always great, but it’s always enough. And for someone who’s been on starvation rations, knowing there’s a meal coming in the next day or two matters, a lot.

Laying with her, calm and sated, having enjoyed their snack, he’s thinking that a day or three of just them and just this… together… would be… He’s not sure. A bit of all of it, probably… Banquet sex. Any want, any need, and time enough to explore and satisfy them all.

He really likes that idea.

 

 


Later, in her shower, which does, these days, produce hot water on demand from the shower head, he’s rubbing soap against her.

“What would you need?” she asks.

“Mmm?” he replies, rubbing her shoulders and back. (Not necessarily doing a very good job washing her off, but enjoying touching her quite a bit.)

“To take a day or two off. I need someone to be here with the kids. And a good reason to leave. ‘Bye, Poe, have fun with the kiddos, I’m off to have a lot of sex,’ isn’t going to fly.”

He laughs out loud at that. “Maybe not, but it sounds good to me.”

She turns to face him, water rising off her back. Then up on her tiptoes to kiss him, followed by a turn round gesture.

He does, and sits on the floor of the shower. It’s not anything he’s ever sought out, but he’s found he really, absolutely, ridiculously, adores getting his hair washed. Three-quarters of him not having chopped it all off as it’s gotten longer is he loves having her wash it. He’s tall enough that she has a hard time doing it if he’s standing, so down he goes. Her shower is just big enough for him to do it and not end up with his knees right under his chin. In his bath, he’s got plenty of room, so they usually do it there. (But for some reason his hair is a bit sweatier and messier than usual this morning and really needs a wash.)

 

 

He sighs, leaning his head against her hip, as she reaches for the shampoo. He hears the click of the bottle, and leans his head forward, so she can get everything easily. For a moment, he relaxes, feeling her fingers rubbing through his hair, making firm circles against his scalp, and he purrs.

Then he attempts to figure out what he’d need to do to be able to leave for a few days.

He did it before, when his mother died. He just left. But he’s got the sense that was what most people would refer to as a 'special circumstance.’ The war was, as much as it could be, over, and for a few days there just wasn’t all that much that they needed him for.

Right now it feels like as soon as he opens his door, and C8 brings in that cup of coffee, new people wanting something from him will come streaming in, as many as he’ll allow.

Allow being the operative word.

“I think I’d just have to tell C8 to clear my schedule. And keep the comm near so that if something major blew up I’d be able to get back.”

“Would we stay here, then?”

It occurs to him that’s a reasonable assumption. If they weren’t on the Supremacy, then they’d be here, right?

That’s just… not what he was thinking about by ‘able to get back.’

“No?” He twists his head, looking up at her, water streaming down both of them, suds draining away across his shoulders and back.

“No?”

“People travel. For fun. I know it’s a thing people do.”

“Not a thing I’ve ever done.” She’s looking down at him, curious.

“Me, either. But… it’s a thing we could do.”

Curious is intensifying, and he can feel that this is very interesting to her, in a nebulous sort of way. “Where would we go?” she asks.

He’s completely out of his depths on that. It’s not like he’s got years of vacationing experience, or for that matter, is widely traveled in the sense of actually going to places instead of orbiting above them or visiting one, specific, area in a place, to do a job (break things, capture people, kill them, put the Fear of the First Order into the local populace: most of the places he’s been he either can’t or shouldn’t go back to), and then leave.

She can feel he’s literally clueless on that, so she tries another angle. “How would we get there? I don’t have a ship, and I’m thinking Chewie isn’t going to loan me the Falcon for a day trip.”

Kylo chuckles at that. “Getting there isn’t a problem. I’ve got transportation.” Technically, he’s got an entire fleet of transportation. Locating something that can get them from point A to point B shouldn’t be that difficult. “Just have to figure out what to aim it at.”

 

 


C8 cannot be incredulous. It’s just not in his programming. But for someone who’s not capable of it, he’s got an awfully convincing impression of it. Part of his programming is an extremely complex learning algorithm, and sometimes Kylo wonders if C8 is just learning emotional responses from the people around him. Or at least learning to mimic them.

However it’s working, C8’s face is, as always, blank, but he’s developed this little head tilt that goes with when Kylo says something he wasn’t expecting.

“You want me to empty your personal account and transfer the credits into… currency?” C8 says.

“I just said that. Was something about that unclear?”

Again, C8 cannot be incredulous, but he’s definitely puzzled by this request. It’s clear he wants to say something like: Have you developed a glitch in your programming? Instead, “The reason why you’d want to? Currency is… bulky and heavy and usually only good in the system you got it. Why would you want it?” comes out.

Kylo is actually aware of all of these things. He’s also aware that he can’t stare C8 into submission. “I just do. Can you arrange it?”

C8 thinks for a moment. “It will take some time. The entire store of ‘petty cash’ on the Supremacy is only 411,874 credits, and there’s 517,987 in your account.”

He’ll admit that’s not an obstacle he was expecting. He knows he gets paid. He didn’t think his salary was much beyond the average officer’s. He’s having a difficult time wrapping his head around the idea that he’s got more money in his account than the Supremacy keeps on hand. Then it occurs to him, it’s not the amount. It’s that he wants actual currency, which apparently, the Supremacy rarely uses. Getting physical money into hand is the issue, not how much he’s been paid. “How much petty cash do we go through in a month here?”

“About 250,000 credits.”

“Then leave that, and set an order to go find more currency for me.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Who am I seeing today?”

“This morning, the generals keeping up the border with the Unknown Region want to meet and talk about setting up shipping lanes instead of ship registrations.” Kylo remembers reading the report on that. They’ve fired on ships that had been properly registered because it took too long to get confirmation they had been registered, and they’ve let others through because they’d faked registrations. If everyone who had legitimate business went through a few lanes, that would speed things up and make it easier to tell smugglers from legitimate business.

“You’ve got Major Frakes this afternoon.” He knows that means his formalwear is close to done, and supposedly needs to be fitted again. He’s uncertain why it needs to be fitted multiple times. His casual clothing didn’t, but everything Frakes has made for him has fit well and been quite comfortable, so he’s not going to begrudge him the twenty or so minutes it’ll take to handle this.

“After Major Frakes, you’ve got Admiral Schiff, and a meeting about the state of the fleet.” Kylo nods at that, too. That’s a standing one. Every month they talk about how his ships are doing, where, and what’s hit the point where it basically can’t be fixed again and needs to be scrapped and replaced. Every month that one makes his teeth grit. So many of their ships are floating wrecks. If Snoke had put half as much into the fleet as he did Starkiller… Apparently that was his great gamble. If he could build the biggest, baddest weapon around, it didn’t matter if he let the rest of the fleet get threadbare.

Kylo supposes it worked, to a degree. In less than a week, Snoke took out the Republic, and what was left of the Resistance, handing Kylo victory, but setting him up to try and hold that victory with fewer than half of his men, no Starkiller, the Supremacy literally holding together by will power and steeltape, and every other ship in his fleet months, if not years, behind on maintenance.

So, far, he’s been lucky, or blessed, enough that no one’s been willing to try to tangle with him. He knows his citykillers are more than set to go up against a planet, or a star cruiser class or larger ship. If more than 200 people fit onto it, he’s ready to blow it from the sky.

Small though… His fighters are… woefully understaffed. Snoke had more than a million of them, fully crewed, spread across the galaxy. He’s got 600,000 fighters, 500,000 that are fully crewed, and only 300,000 of them are in good shape. His own star destroyer and larger classed ships are… ranging from falling apart to serviceable, depending on how much action they’d seen, and how many resources they’ve been able to scavenge.

And since he’s not raping every planet that falls under his sights, the money and materials needed to fix everything is coming in more slowly than his men would like. Everything is better than it was the day he took over, for example he’s got the Supremacy back into better condition than it was before Starkiller fell, but the Order is not as better as it would be if Hux were in charge.

He knows Schiff will again suggest that there are a large number of mining colonies they could just take, and if they were to do that, within a year, he’d be back to full strength.

Kylo figures that he’s got about three more meetings with Schiff before he mutinies, likely taking most of his flight command with him, and goes after those colonies on his own, trying to get the materials to get his ships fixed. He’s honestly not sure what to do with that. He wants that kind of man in charge of his fleet. That level of dedication makes Schiff very good at what he does. And that level of dedication to the fleet means that Schiff has real support. This isn’t the sort of thing Kylo can take care of by just spattering Schiff’s entrails about his office. If he does that, Schiff’s second, third, fourth, fifth, and so on, in command, will eventually lead his own ships against him.

That said, he doesn’t want to go back to using the First Order’s playbook. 

“C8, every time Schiff and I meet, he gives me a list of mining colonies.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Go over the list, and find me the five of them most willing to join the Order.”

“Join how?” C8 asks.

He’s not exactly liking this, but they all keep suggesting things like this matter and would help. “The ones that belong to people who might want a formal alliance with us. Who’d be willing to fob off a colony or two for one. Or the colonies most willing to ally with us if we give them better terms working for us than their parent planet.”

“I will do that, sir.”

Kylo rubs his forehead. “C8, do we have diplomats?”

“No sir.”

“Of course not.” Neither Snoke nor Hux ever saw any need for a bargaining chip beyond, Do what I say or die.

Kylo takes one last sip of his coffee. The cup’s empty. Time for his day to begin, for real.    

 

 


When he meets with Frakes, Kylo’s in a fairly decent mood. Setting a good price for access to the ‘free trade’ lanes in what’s going to be the border to the Unknown Region, and changing their policy from shoot on sight to disable, capture, use or sell anything attempting to cross the border without permission should bump his coffers up a bit.

Not quite as lucrative as just grabbing entire planets’ worth of stuff, but it’ll help.

He can feel Frakes before he enters his office. The door is shut, and Frakes is afraid of what might be behind it.

C8 opens it, and Frakes does his best not to sigh out loud when he sees Kylo sitting at his desk, by himself, no ‘disturbing imagery’ about.

“Jon,” Kylo gestures to one of the seats at his desk, and sees that Jon has a soft cloth bag filled with what he assumes is formalwear.

Given that he’s supposed to be trying this on, Kylo realizes sitting around his desk probably isn’t the right plan, so he stands, and then opens the door to his personal room.

“My Lord,” Jon nods, and follows him.

Once inside his room, Kylo says, “You can call me Kylo.”

Frakes looks at him, purses his lips, eyes wary, and says, “I’m not sure that I can, sir.”

Kylo can feel that truly is honest. The idea that Kylo has a first name, let alone that he’d about allowed to use it, is boggling to Frakes. “Master Ren or sir, then.” My Lord, is what he called Snoke, and he doesn’t exactly enjoy hearing it aimed back at him. Especially not out of the mouth of anyone he respects.

Frakes nods at that.

“Do you prefer Major Frakes?”

“Whatever you like, My—Master Ren.”

He supposes this is to be expected. The last person he dealt with here who felt comfortable calling him Kylo was…no one. That never happened. His knights called him Ren. Phasma called him Ren. Hux would call him Ren or go out of his way to avoid using his title. Mostly because Hux refused to admit that Kylo was the Supreme Leader of anything, let alone him.

“What do you have for me, Jon?” Maybe if he uses his first name enough, he’ll eventually start to feel like he can do it, too.

That gets a satisfied, if slightly nervous, look out of Frakes. Kylo can feel he’s proud of what he’s made, that it’s good, and afraid that Kylo won’t like it anyway.

He lays the bag out on Kylo’s bed, and opens it, showing off what’s inside. “Two outfits. One’s full on, affairs-of-state, FORMAL, the other one is the step between your command blacks and that.” He lays the pieces out into two separate outfits.

“Semi-formal. Black trousers. You’ll note these are just plain, black ebanthal wool. Warm, very soft, people who know fabric, and that’ll be most of them at a lot of these things, will know this is expensive and rare.

“Shirt, gray sand-washed silk, v collar, pinned cuffs.” Kylo’s not entirely sure what those things mean, other than the shirt is very soft looking, with an almost velvety texture, and that there are little holes in the cuffs that he assumes the ‘pins’ go through. It’s shaped quite a bit like his usual shirts, aside from the pinholes and lack of texture on the sleeves. “Cuff links.” He shows off a set of small disks, they’re some sort of silvery metal with the Order’s symbol embossed on them, and set in black lacquer.

“Band collared black jacket, also ebanthal wool.” This one looks a lot like a combination of his tunic and shirt. The shape is about the same. Thigh length, collar that comes together just below his laryngeal prominence. The sleeves are part of it, and embroidered in silver silk on the left arm is his personal symbol. There’s a thin bland of black embroidery at the collar and cuffs, black on black, with the embroidery just a bit shinier than the black of the wool.

“It goes with this belt, worn at the waist, outside the jacket.” And again, this is similar to his command blacks. It’s not quite as wide, the leather is glossy, and the hook for his lightsaber is gleaming lacquered black. “And these gloves.” Again, similar to his command blacks, just shinier and more expensive.

“Cloak. More of the ebanthal wool. The lining is the same silk as your shirt.”

Kylo nods. He’s fine with more visible gray in his outfit.

“With this one, you wear your hair up or down. If it’s up, a black tie, like you’re using today, will work just fine.”

Kylo nods, looking at it. It’s his command uniform made of more expensive material with a bit more gray, and some expensive details, like the thread and cuff links. Shinier and more expensive, indeed.

Kylo nods at it. “You appear to have grasped my aesthetic.”

Frakes smiles, pleased at that. “Okay, onto the formal wear. Same basic trouser, with a silver satin stripe down the leg.” That’s a little flashier than Kylo would normally go, but he also wouldn’t normally attend something requiring an outfit like this, so he figures it makes sense for this to be outside his normal boundaries.

“The shirt, black silk, high band collar and pinned cuffs.” This is more what he thinks of as silk. It’s got a bit of sheen to it, while looking decadently smooth to the touch, and unlike the v neck, which just pulled over his head, this one opens in the front. Like many of his tunics, it appears to close with a line of hooks and eyes.

Jon touches an expanse of steel gray silk with a thin silver pinstripe. “Vest. This goes over the shirt and under the jacket.”

Kylo’s seen vests before. His father was fond of them. He liked the fact that they were an easy way to stick extra pockets into an outfit. But this is nothing like the vests he wore. This is fancy. The silk almost shines in the cold light of his room, and the silver pinstripe does. The buttons are black, and there’s black silk banding around the edges.  

“Why?” Kylo understands why you wear a shirt under your jacket, warmth and ease of cleaning. He doesn’t understand why you’d put a vest on top of that, unless it’s some sort of armor, or like his father’s, you use it for extra storage, but as best he can tell this is just silk.

“You’ll see when you put the jacket on. For now, just trust me on it.” Jon touches the jacket, which is when Kylo begins to get an inkling of why you’d wear a vest under it. Unlike the rest of his tunics/jackets, this one doesn’t come together in a band collar. He doesn’t think it fastens at all. He’s not seeing any buttons or hooks and eyes. “Wool silk blend, silk lapel, silver detailing.” Like the trousers, the silver embroidery framing the lapel and on the cuffs is flashier than Kylo would normally go, but not painfully so, and he’s intrigued by the silk of the lapel against the wool silk of the body of the jacket. They’re both black, but the different textures add something to the look.   

“No cloak for this. Don’t want anything to take away from the line of the lapel or the detailing on the jacket.”

Kylo can see that. There’s got to be a full day, if not more, of embroidery on the jacket, so you wouldn’t cover that with a cloak.

Jon gently touches the embroidery. It’s a thick line of silvery-gray thread whirling into a complex knot of sharp twists and turns. Through it twines a thin silver-white line of looping swoops. “I wasn’t sure how you’d like something like this to look.”

Kylo’s also not sure how he’d like something like that to look, too. But he’s not put off by what’s in front of him. “It’s fine.”

Jon nods and moves onto the next bit of the outfit. “Cuff links.” Just two silver bars, about as wide across as his thumb. “Last piece,” Jon’s holding it out on his hand to Kylo. It’s a… he’s honestly not sure. It’s a band of silver, about as long as Rey’s pinkie finger and twice as wide, with some sort of clasp under it. “For your hair.” Frakes pantomimes using it to clips his hair back. “If you’re wearing it back, you’ll use this to hold it in place.”

“No mark of the Order?” At least, Kylo’s not seeing one.

“If you’re wearing this, no one is going to be mistaking you for anyone else. This is for when you’re hosting or attending as a guest of honor.”

Kylo can feel that Frakes is trying to tell him something, and he’s not getting it.

Frakes swallows, looking at each outfit, thinking, feeling somewhat nervous.

“Jon, I’m not going to get angry at you for telling me something I need to know, and” he gestures to the clothing, “this is the sort of thing I know almost nothing about.”

Frakes takes another breath, and says, “Okay. This one,” he points to the semi-formal clothing. “This is for the sort of thing where you’re representing the Order.” He’s still thinking… “Let’s take a step further back… Uh… Do you know the difference between a palace and a castle?”

Actually, he doesn’t. Until thirty seconds ago, he thought they were synonyms. In fact, outside of books, he’s never even run into either, and on top of that, he’s not sure what that might have to do with clothing. “No.”

“Okay…” Frakes nibbles his upper lip. “It’s about how you display your power. A castle is a place where the ruler lives, works, rules, but it’s fortified. It’s protected by walls studded with guns, armies shelter there, ready to attack, weapons are its defining feature. It projects power by accumulating weapons and strength in one place, and making sure that anyone who comes near knows an attack would be suicide.” He touches the belt, and the hook for Kylo’s lightsaber. “The Supremacy is a castle, and this is an outfit for a warrior king. For the man who displays his power as a visible threat. It may be subtle, the way you walk around with just the saber and no guards, telling everyone who gets close enough to notice that you know you’re the most dangerous man in any room, but it’s there.”

Kylo’s following that well enough, and figures that fits.

“A palace is also a place where the ruler lives, works, rules. But it’s not fortified. There may be guards, but there are no walls, no large weapons systems, at least, not visible ones. It’s the symbol of a ruler who projects his power by letting everyone know that he knows that by attacking him, they’ll damage themselves.

“It’s the mark of a man who knows his power benefits everyone around him. The man who knows that what he offers is more valuable than what anyone could get by taking him out. The man who knows he’s the key feature of an indispensable system.” Kylo can feel that’s where Jon wants the Order to go. That’s his hope for a system of laws. Part of his reason for joining up in the first place.

Jon touches the semi-formal outfit. “This is now. You don’t need to try this on. I know it fits. You know it fits. It’ll feel like another skin, and you’ll wear it without a thought.”

He looks to the formal one. “This is the future.” He looks at it again, stroking the silk of the vest. “Honestly, you haven’t earned this, yet. You haven’t built your palace. And there’s no mark on it because… This’ll sound stupid, but… You haven’t put your mark on the Order, yet. You’ve taken it away from Snoke, but it’s not yours, not yet. You’ll get there, but… not yet.”

Jon looks at him, blue eyes bright and eager. “One day, you will be the Order. You won’t represent it, which is what you’re doing now, you’ll be it. People won’t have a line in their mind between the two of them. You won’t be the Master of The Order, you’ll be The Order, the embodiment of all the good the Order does, and when that’s true, this is what you wear to show that off.”

Jon pauses again, a breath of uncertainty and fear, and then squashes it down and commits to it, “When you’re ready for this, you will be ‘My Lord.’ Master… that’s what, a teacher? Sir? The greenest ensign on his first day answers to that. Hell, they call me sir. This is the outfit of an Emperor, secure in his Empire, and you’ll wear it to things where you wish to convey that.”

Kylo nods, thinking, liking this idea, and then says, “Thank you.”

Jon nods, too. “I’d like you to try this one on, though. I’m not sure about the silver piping or the silver pinstripe. We might want to go just gray, or pewter. I want to see it on you, get a feel if it’s too flashy.”

“Okay.”

Kylo feels a little odd stripping down to his underwear to try the outfit on, but… Jon measured him for it in the first place, he’s placed his hands all over his body, and he’s already in his own room, so…

Jon looks away while he strips down to his underwear and socks, which Kylo appreciates, though he feels silly for appreciating it. He routinely trains in only a pair of trousers and his gloves, but for some reason he’s feeling significantly more naked right now than he does when he’s doing that.

That idea spurs another one, so as he’s pulling on the new trousers (very soft, a bit tighter than he normally wears them, but not uncomfortable) he says, “Speaking of warrior kings. My command blacks, besides the gloves, have no armor, and the gloves only give me a few seconds of heat protection against my saber.”

“Do you want a suit of armor?”

“I don’t think my fighting style would mesh with Storm Trooper style armor, but some sort of armored blacks would be of value. I haven’t been in a real fight in quite a while, but I’m sure it will happen again, and these days, it’s important that I return from the fight.”

Jon nods, looking at Kylo now, seeing the body under the clothing, and the disk against his chest. There’s a flicker of recognition, and Kylo can feel him thinking that whatever it is he’s wearing on the necklace, that’s the direction he needs to go to put his mark on the Order.

“Let me know the next time you train, sir, and I’ll watch. By the time you’re done, I’ll have a good idea of what your armor should look like so it can move with you.”

“Thank you.” He pulls on the vest, slipping it over the shirt. “I like this.” He feels odd liking it, but he does. Snoke would accuse him of being his father’s son when he was mad at him, but… Well, he is.

Jon glows at that. Then he thinks of something else. “How is the off-duty wear working for you?”

“Quite well.” Kylo says with a little smile, remembering Rey liking it.

Jon glows brighter at that.

“Is the jacket too small?” Kylo asks when he finds that it doesn’t actually close.

“No, it’s supposed to do that.”

Kylo feels like he should be done, but he’s noticing there’s a belt and two little bottles on his bed. He pulls the belt to him, and then stares at it. If the jacket doesn’t close, he’s not sure where to put it. “Uh…”

“Through the little loops at the waist of the trousers.”

“Under the jacket?”

Frakes nods.

He can do that, though it takes him a moment to figure out how to feed the belt through the clasp, and then the metal tongue through the hole in the belt, and then shoving the leather back through the clasp to fasten it. (A ridiculous design if you ask him. All of his other belts have a latch, press side A into side B, and they fasten together.) It feels odd to have a belt just hiding under most of his clothing. Doesn’t seem to be much point of it if you can’t see it, or hang a weapon from it.   

But maybe that’s the point of it, there’s no weapon hanging off of it. It’s just sitting there, kind of useless and expensive. It’s got to be expensive, it’s good leather. He can tell that just by the feel of it.

“Do I want to know how much this costs?”

“Maybe.” Jon shrugs. “Probably much less than you’d expect. For an average person, this is a few months of income. For you… Many of the people who make these fabrics will donate several meters of them in multiple patterns, just to have them seen on you. That takes the cost down considerably.”

“Oh.”

“I paid for the wool, because I needed a lot of it for the trousers, cloak, and jacket. The rest of it… I just had to say who it was for, and it, and several other versions showed up, gratis, on the hope I’d use them for you.”

“People will give you things, on the off chance I may wear them?”

“Yes, sir. If you do, it’s good advertising for them. If you were anything approaching a common size, they’d be sending pre-made outfits. As is,” he looks up and down Kylo, “I’m not putting you in anything off the rack. It won’t fit right, and no one’s better off with you looking shoddily dressed.”

Kylo’s got no idea what to do with that.

Frakes is looking him over, eyes critical… “I’m still not sure about the silver.” He’s looking up and down Kylo, making him feel naked in a way he’s never been. Dissected, but not threatened. It’s a unique sensation, and Kylo’s not sure he likes it. “Maybe pewter… Maybe black satin…” He’s slowly walking around Kylo, occasionally touching the clothing on him. “The shirt’s good… Trousers hang right… You need different underwear for this… briefs, not shorts… Vest… maybe black, silver trim, silver buttons…” He nods again… “Black satin trim on the jacket and trousers. Just hints of light, not too much of it.” He chews his bottom lip. “Black satin… It’ll reflect light the way silver does, but only when the light hits it right… Yeah…” Then he stops roaming around Kylo. “This is close. It’s not quite there yet.”

Kylo thinks of the token on his chest. “I’d like it if you kept some gray in it. Maybe not the silver, but… definitely gray.” 

Frakes thinks about that, circling Kylo again.

“What are the two little bottles?” Kylo asks. Obviously, he’s dressed enough that Frakes is circling him, watching carefully, so whatever they are, they aren’t part of the outfit. But he brought them, so… maybe they are?

“Cologne. I’ve noticed you don’t wear it, and wasn’t sure if that’s personal preference or just something you weren’t aware men who wear the kind of outfit I’m fitting you for tend to wear.”

“The latter.” Cologne and perfume are things Kylo knows exists, but doesn’t come into contact with on any regular basis. Though, as he’s thinking, he remembers Rey in the scented blue bath, and that unknown floral wafts through his senses and his body responds, lengthening, which is when he realizes, comments about taping it down notwithstanding, he normally has on a tunic that comes to his mid-thigh which is more than heavy enough to keep any exuberances his body may wish to display pointing discretely down, and his current outfit consists of trousers snug enough Frakes wants him wearing different undergarments, and an open jacket made of a much lighter cut of fabric.

He shifts out of that mindset, fast, banishing the image and scent of Rey. He catches the tail end of Jon saying, “…on your wrist, and then rub it on your throat.”

Kylo nods.

Jon’s still circling him. “Do you own shoes? Not boots, but actual shoes?”

Kylo shakes his head. 

“These trousers go with shoes. They don’t get tucked into boots.”

Kylo supposes that’s probably why they don’t narrow below his knee.

“We’ve got your boot size on file. I’ll make sure to get some shoes with these.”

“Thank you.” Kylo does something he hasn’t, not yet, and walks across his room to his mirror. Staring at himself, seeing the first draft of an image Frakes is trying to bring to life, Kylo gets it. He can feel another piece of where he’s taking the Order shift into place.

 

 

He has power, in the sense, as Hux so crudely put it, of having the biggest damn shaft in the galaxy. Hux got off on beating people with it. But… stretching the metaphor to the breaking point if not slightly beyond, the point of getting hard is to create something, not smack someone in the face with it.

Creation is supposed to feel good. He was literally designed through a billion generations of evolution to create things. Specifically more humans, but… he’s feeling washed in a flow of both the physical and metaphysical all blending together into a somewhat jumbled, but clarifying sense of where this is supposed to go.

“Jon…” He rubs his lips together, feeling like he’s standing on the edge of something, about to get closer to it. “I normally take my lunch alone, but… would you be willing to take a few days, think more about castles and palaces, and then have lunch with me, and just, talk, about how you think this works?”

Jon looks startled at that idea. He’s still staring at the suit, debating maybe making the silver accents just a bit thinner, or maybe damping down the sheen, or… Once he realizes what he’s been invited to do, a flush of pleasure bursts through him, and he blushes slightly.

“Yes, sir. I’d be honored.”

 

 


He runs later than expected with Frakes, but Kylo’s satisfied with how that worked out.

Later than expected means Schiff, who is already expecting yet another meeting that doesn’t get him what he wants, is grinding his teeth to nubs.

Kylo feels the wave of frustration off of him well before C8 escorts him into his office.

Before Schiff can say anything else, Kylo says to him, “Five. Pick the five colonies you could do the most with.”

“You’re giving me permission to take them?” Schiff is so pleased at the idea Kylo’s almost loathe to squash it.

“No. And I will not be doing that, either. I’m having a list drawn up of the five I’ve got the best shot of coming to a diplomatic accord. If there’s any overlap between your list and that one, those will be the first ones I move on.”

Kylo can feel this spark Schiff’s interest. “Diplomatic accord, how?” He’s eager, but wary. Like he’s afraid to put too much hope into this idea, but it’s still there, a tiny spark, begging for fuel.

“We have things of value to offer in exchange for materials.”

And that apparently killed it. “Sir,” Schiff’s eyes have narrowed, and he’s speaking like Kylo is especially dense, “if we could pay for this, I would have already done so. I understand you wish to… distance yourself from Supreme Leader Snoke, and in most cases, I approve of it, too, but we cannot get what we need, in the quantities and speed we need it, if we keep playing nicely.”

Kylo nods. Again, that puts Schiff off balance, that tiny spark flares. It’s the first time he’s granted Schiff his point, and that seems to be helping to get him to listen to what he’s going to say next. “While I should have more credits to direct your way, soon, that was not the value I was thinking. Our fleet is not in the best shape ever, but it is still bigger and more imposing than anything else in the sky. We can offer security. There has to be someone who values that, and if not, then we can use that fleet and our troops to offer the people on the ground enough security to have a minor or major insurrection and come over to the Order if they so desired.”

Schiff thinks about that. For a good long minute he’s silent, turning the opportunities over in his mind. Kylo feels it when the spark flares into a flame. A tiny flame, but a flame nonetheless.  “It’ll be your recruiting stations, big scale.”

“I hope we can take them without having to—“

Schiff shakes his head. “No. The ones that produce enough to be worth it for us, produce enough that it’s worth it for their home worlds to protect them. They’re state-of-the-art facilities, colonies their home worlds spent money and time setting up. They aren’t going to give them up for protection.”

“Then we’ll start with the smaller ones.” Kylo smirks. If he learned anything from his parents, this is it. “Setting up a functional insurrection takes time. We might as well see what we can get by offering security to the small ones, and seed insurrections on the big ones.”

Schiff smiles at that. This is better news than he was expecting.

“That said, how are we doing?”

Schiff gives him a tired look. “Better than I’d expected, not as well as I wished. We’re within 80% of our target for flight crews.” Kylo knows that Schiff set those targets low, not expecting to be able to find what he needed. Pilots, mechanics, flight engineers are worth more than double their weight in gold right now. Not only did Snoke destroy the Hosnian system, which held the capitol of the Republic, it also held three of the four largest deep space/hyperspeed flight training programs in the galaxy. (That’s part of why the capitol was there. They moved it to stick it near most of the high density military training programs. The theory being they’d need to defend their training programs, so might as well stick the capitol there, too, and not dilute their forces. That was before anyone knew Starkiller was a possibility.) Kylo controls the fourth, but even he doesn’t have the capacity to make sure he’s got enough pilots. Everyone is hurting for pilots right now.

Kylo listens to Schiff’s report, making the occasional note for himself, and nodding along. At the end of it, as Schiff is about to leave, something he said to Rey about transportation springs to mind. “If I wanted a small ship, with hyperspeed, no Order markings, able to comfortably transport two people, can you get me one?”

Schiff grins widely at that, figuring a ship like that, actually several of them, is step one in Mission: Foster Insurrection. 

“Give me a week. How many do you want?”

Kylo, able to feel what Schiff thinks he’s doing says, “Start with the one. I’m sure if we need to, we can expand from there.”

 

 


The fact of the matter is, The Master of the Order does not need money. Not on the scale that’s being presented here.

His treasury people are extremely interested in why the man who can have whatever he wishes, just by naming it, would want three boxes containing… of all things… hard currency. When they got the message from C8, they actually double checked to make sure it wasn’t a joke or something.

It took some time and effort to hunt down currency. The records say they have it, but… Locating it is a different story. It takes more than a week to just track it all down.

Who even uses currency? They have literally trillions of credits in their hands, but…

If the Master wishes the equivalent of a mere two hundred and eleven thousand credits in assorted currencies (as much as they could safely muster without going into the petty cash they actually need)… Then the Master gets (eventually) three boxes filled with various circles and triangles and squares, and bits and bobs of a multitude of precious and semi-precious metals and papers.

Maybe he’s running a secret mission of some sort? Very secret. And that, combined with his request for a non-Order marked transport capable of hyperspeed, and his sudden interest in new clothing, gets even more gossip started.

This is the first of the rumors to come to Kylo personally. General Ritter, his commander in charge of a third of his inner rim territory, pulls him aside and says, quietly… “Master Ren, I… Don’t wish to intrude in that which I’m not supposed to know, but… there is conversation… suggesting you are thinking of a mission, and… I’d like you to know that if you ever need an extra set of hands, mine are at your disposal. It’s been a few years, but once upon a time, I was very good at things like this.”

Since Kylo does not, in fact, have any such mission, because he was not, on any level, thinking of personally visiting any colony in an effort to rally support for the Order, this very discrete and polite inquiry throws him for a loop. If he’d been wearing his mask, General Ritter would have never caught the look on his face, but because his face is naked, and because he’s got nothing, at all, percolating along those lines, he sees the confusion.

“You don’t have a mission in the works,” Ritter says, looking like he’s about to die of embarrassment.

“What conversation?” Kylo asks.

Ritter swallows, hard, because now he’s got to open up about how closely they all watch him, and the level of talking they do. “Master Ren…” He inhales, fast, wincing. “It hasn’t escaped our notice that you appear to be gearing up to… infiltrate something, perhaps. The clothing, the currency, the blaster, the ship…”

Kylo’s face is a mask of perfect stone, now.

“I’m sorry, Master.”

Kylo nods. “Perhaps more time managing your own affairs, and less on mine, would be warranted?”

“Yes, Master Ren.”

As Ritter is trying to vanish, and is working his way out of Kylo’s office, Kylo can feel that he’s got a whole new level of gossip about to start spewing, namely, if there isn’t a mission, what the hell is the Master about to do? Run away? Not a lot of currency for that, but unlike credits, it is untraceable and…

Kylo sighs. “Vacation. I’m planning on taking a few days and not being the Master of the Order.”

That startles Ritter to the point of stopping him, and his thoughts, dead in his tracks. “Oh. Yes, sir. That’s…” deeply surprising to him. The idea that Master Ren may do things like relax is utterly foreign. Snoke never, as best as he knew, took a day off. But… many of the rest of the officers do, at least on occasion. Especially now that they aren’t actively fighting a war. “May I ask where you’re planning on going?”

Kylo still doesn’t know. “No, but you’re welcome to offer suggestions if there’s a place you think is particularly nice.”

Ritter shrugs. “Nice for what? Do you want a city, or beach, or space port, or… what do you like to do?” And, again, it’s clear that the idea that Kylo might like to do things is also utterly alien to Ritter.

Kylo doesn’t say, that’s part of what I’m attempting to find out. “Some place big enough I can just blend in.”

Ritter nods. “The clothing. That’ll go a long way. There’s nothing like taking the uniform off at the end of the day. My wife says I’m a different person when I’m wearing it.”

That’s more than Kylo ever guessed about Ritter, or the nature of uniforms.  

He’s thinking about where to go to blend in. “Imperial city. More than a trillion people there. What’s one more? No one will notice an extra ship.”

Kylo nods. “Coruscant.” It doesn’t feel right, but it’s certainly possible. He nods again. “Would you want to go on a mission that involved going under cover?”

“Very much, sir.”

“Noted. There may be one in the near future.” Much to Kylo’s displeasure, “diplomatic” channels are much slower than military ones. C8’s still trying to set up meetings with half of the systems he’s interested in.

“Thank you, sir.” And Ritter leaves him, looking quite pleased.

 

Chapter Text

4/22/1

 

“If I wanted to leave for two or three days, could you cover me here?” Rey asks Poe.

He looks away from the fuel conduit they’re trying to get fixed on his ship. The damn thing is just not doing the job right. It’s supposed to be able to move 25cc of fuel per second, and if it gets more than 23 he’d be shocked. But, as of yet, he can’t find any blocks or narrowing in it.

“Yes, but on the condition that you tell me why you want to leave. You and Padme looking for a tryst?”

That’s actually exactly what they’re planning on doing, but it isn’t exactly what she wants to tell Poe. Her blush, on the other hand, apparently speaks louder than any words she was hoping to say.

He smirks, wide and brilliant, and she can feel he’s genuinely pleased for her. “About time. You know people take time off, right? Not everyone works every single day of their lives.”

“Where I come from, if you don’t work you don’t eat.”

“Well, you’re not there, now. Go, I’ll watch the sprogs for a few days. Bring me back some juicy stories.”

Rey rolls her eyes and hands him a roll of steel tape. There are some smears of fuel along a few of the joints, so it might be leaking a bit. A little tape’ll help with that. “You never tell me juicy stories from when you go away.”

“It’s been a while since I’ve had one to share. Your break should be more interesting than: I got drunk, went dancing, got tuffed, went home, took a shower, slept it off, and did it again when I sobered up,” he says as he pulls a length of tape off the roll and wraps it around the conduit. “This isn’t going to hold long term. I do need to get away long enough to get a replacement for it.”

That’s what you do when you’re not here?” Rey’s not sure if she’s horrified or feels sorry for him.

“Well, not all of the time.” He looks a little sheepish, and she can feel the first bit was supposed to be a joke that got out of hand and leaked truth all over the place.

She puts the conduit schematics down and wraps an arm around him. “You’re so lonely, aren’t you?”

He sighs. “Always was.” And he smiles, a little, “Maybe always will be. Having something to do,” he gently knocks on the board the conduits are welded to, “helps.”

She’s a little uncomfortable saying it, because he’s never admitted it, but, she’s been able to feel it since Finn and Rose’s wedding, so… “You know you could bring a… friend… or lover… here. The Empire’s been gone for a long time, and… I wouldn’t enforce their rules.” She figures that’s the safest way to say that she knows he likes boys, and that she’s okay with it.

He smirks at that, too, though this time it’s neither wide nor bright. “Leia told me that, too. Alderaan was always relaxed about things like that. Holdo and I apparently had only two things in common, and the Resistance was the other one.” He sighs. “Turns out the Empire had an easy time enforcing that law over most of the galaxy. Apparently, it’s really common to believe the only right way to have sex is whatever way you personally happen to like to have it, and everyone else is a deviant in need of prison or death. A lot of us find it just easier to keep things like this quiet.”

“Okay.” She’s not going to push. “But if you ever don’t want to…”

He shoots her a bit of side-eye. “How about this, I’ll bring one of my boys’ round for dinner about the time you and Padme host one?”

She nods. He’s got her on that.

“So, where are you going? When?”

As of this morning, Kylo’s been able to secure three days at the end of the month where he’s got nothing on his schedule. Where is still the question. “End of the month, and we’re not sure where, yet.”

“What’s your budget, and what do you want to do,” Poe’s eyes are mischievous, “besides each other?”

Rey shifts that arm around him to a headlock, and he laughs.

“There are good places for that, too, you know?” Again, he’s joking, but there’s some truth leaking out, because that’s not the sort of thing she knows and he figures she might want to.

“What’s Naboo like?” She kind of likes the idea of learning more about Amidala, and that would likely be easier on her home planet.

“I’ve only been there twice, and the human settlements, both times. The lake district is pretty. Lots of nature, rolling hills, waterfalls and lakes. Really, not all that much different than here, other than you can rent a cabin, and you’re a short hop on a speeder to a town. Or you can find a little town on a lake. Theed… the capitol, I was there once. It’s nice. Stuffy, big on proper dress and behavior, but pretty and the food is good.

“You could do a lot worse on a vacation.”

That sounds good to Rey.

 

 


A year ago, Kylo Ren could not have envisioned this moment, though, with each passing month, it’s becoming a more and more regular event.

A year ago, after he’d worked himself to tired, he’d eat, meditate, and then go to bed, assuming he could sleep. If not, he’d sit comfortably, meditate more, pulling up as many as his dark memories as he needed to keep himself going.

It’s been months since he’s done that.

He still meditates on nights when sleep won’t come to him, though those nights are becoming fewer and further apart, and his meditations are becoming less and less useful to him, because he hasn’t yet found a new pattern to focus himself. His past is dead, and his present hasn’t yet found the route to the future, not on that front, anyway.

What has replaced that pattern, often, is eating with Rey, talking about what they’ve been doing, sex, and then slipping from the Supremacy to Lirium. Quiet time. Sometimes they just go straight to sleep. A lot of times, neither of them is sleepy yet, so they read.

He’s always got more reports to go through, more information to handle, more people to order around. And tonight’s another night where, sated and comfortable, but not tired, they’re in her bed, with their respective datapads, reading away.

He’s reclined, back against the headboard, legs stretched out across their bed, hacking his way through the nuts and bolts of a report on his manpower levels, and how his plan to get his longer-serving members out is biting him, massively, in the ass because apparently it takes years to get people like master sergeants, good mechanics, and competent mid-grade logistical officers trained properly.  

She’s laying on her back, head pillowed on his thigh, reading hers. Right now, she’s cramming everything she can find about microfarms into her head. It’d be nice if they weren’t relying solely on imports and the lake for food, and… Well, 211,000 credits coming her way as soon as she wants them, so… Time to find something to do with them.

 

 

They’ve been at it for an hour when Kylo puts his pad down. There’s only so long he can read reports like this without feeling like he wants to go kill people. He lays his head against the wall, and closes his eyes. He breathes deeply, easily, trying to quell the desire to just destroy it all, though right now, his mental images of burning the whole thing down are quite satisfying.

She squeezes his knee, rolls to her side, and kisses his thigh. “Frustrated?”

His teeth grit. He doesn’t have to say yes, she can feel it pouring off of him.

“Skills vacuum. I pull Snoke and Palpatine’s men out. That lets me put more of my mark on things, and cuts down on the number of people I need to kill because they’re plotting against me or behaving inappropriately, but now I’m getting low on things like mechanics, pilots, and master sergeants.” He rubs his eyes. “Apparently, it takes five years to train a combat pilot if you don’t start with someone Force sensitive.”

Luke didn’t train him how to fly. Han didn’t, either. Under Snoke, he picked it up in less than a year with what he thought was a large amount of practice and effort, but he’s now realizing that was a scandalously small amount of time. Apparently, how he did it, wasn’t common.

“Mechanics, good ones, take longer.” He strokes her hair. Apparently just being able to pick up a piece of whatever it is and just know how it works also isn’t common.

“A third of my logistics officers thought retirement sounded good. Which is great in the sense that they aren’t just taking whatever they need whenever they need it,” Under Snoke no member of the First Order ever went hungry, because under Snoke if food ever got scarce, whoever was in charge of making sure there was enough of it just took it from whomever had it. Kylo hasn’t hit the point of any of his men missing meals, yet. But if he can’t get better control of this, he will. “but not so great in the sense that my men aren’t getting what they need.”

“Fewer weapons?” She knows he’s spending a lot of money on them. Cutting back, or dropping down just to replacement levels would free up a significant part of his budget, which might get food flowing better.

He groans at that, too, shoulders slumping. That’s actually another problem. He’s not just got to make sure the stuff ends up in the right place, at the right time, but he does have to pay for it, too. “Probably. As soon as I stop ordering them in bulk though, I’m sure it’ll get out, and I’m going to end up having to use the ones I’ve got.” He can feel that as soon as they realize he’s not the hardest target in the galaxy, someone is going to try to hit him.

“That’s why you’ve got them, right?”

He exhales, long and low at that. “I guess.” He flexes his feet, wriggling his toes, and looks at the wall, past her. “Castles or palaces…”

Her eyebrows knit together, so he explains the conversation he was having with Jon. She follows along, listening, nodding, thinking, adding bits and pieces she’s been reading about the history of the Old Republic. “Jon doesn’t know who you were, right?”

“If he does, he’s never let on. Not a single stray thought of it in his head. Why?”

“Sounds like he wants you to rebuild Alderaan.”

He sighs at that, too. “That worked out so well for them, didn’t it? ‘But Alderaan is peaceful!’” He mocks his mother’s voice. “Boom!’” He slides down, curling onto his side, facing her, resting his cheek against her thigh, and rubs his forehead again. She strokes his face, and he feels the headache start to slide away.

 

 

“They lasted for tens of thousands of years, and it ended when the Force had gotten so far out of balance, and so concentrated that it’d narrowed down to five sets of hands. If this,” she touches the Maji symbol, “works, that means we’re it. The last of the great powers. Maybe… it’s time to build palaces again?”

“Maybe…” He kisses her thigh, enjoying the feel of her body, and her calm, against him. “Or maybe you don’t have to be a Dark-side-mad Force-monster to blow up a planet. Hux would have done it in a heartbeat, just for fun, and he had about as much Force skill as a rock. Maybe, since the plans are out there, and it’s been done before, just plain, old human cussedness’ll take care of it?”

She kisses his thigh, silently acknowledging that he’s just as likely to be right as she is on this one.

His hand seeks out hers, and he says, voice quiet, “How do I add enough value to his universe to become untouchable, if I can’t even keep my people fed?” 

She squeezes his hand, no good answer for that. Then she shifts around, so they’re face to face, and she kisses his lips.

She taps her datapad. “I’ll read up on palaces, and the places that had them. You shift your resources. If Jakku was anything to go by, people will do a whole lot to protect the man who feeds them.”

He rolls his eyes, because he can feel her image of Plutt. “That’s not exactly who I want to be or where I want to go.”

She winces a little. “Bad example. The base point is still true. You’ve got several million people who are invested in making sure you succeed at this. They’ll keep you going if you hit a rough patch.”

“Or slit my throat.”

She shakes her head. “No.” Her eyes are on his. “And you feel it, too. You’re getting rid of the people who’ll do that, replacing them with people who want to be with you.”

He’s not convinced. She lays her palm against his chest, feeling how he’s stuck in his own dark, and having a hard time feeling anything else. “Feel it, love. It’s there.”

His eyes close, and he inhales deeply, pulling off of her own sense of the future. It’s clear and sharp and in her view, glowing, bright and steady.

Her flashes of the future, the shapes and sounds, are always like this, lighter, brighter than his. Light side versus dark, he supposes. His are likely better for seeing the pitfalls, the traps in the plan. Hers are better for the grand plan, the sense of how things could work out.

She kisses him again and then says, “Naboo. We’ll go there. Spend a few days, relax. You’re worn to a nub and need the downtime. And we’ll learn about palaces, because it was one, too, and…”

He kisses her, stopping that sentence for a moment. “And we’ll just be people for a few days.”

“Yeah.”  

 

 


When the orders for Citykillers trickle off, and when the orders for Tie fighters and Dreadnoughts drip down to just replacement rates, a susurrus of gossip begins to fly through the galaxy. No one knows what Master Ren is planning, but they all have speculations.

 

Chapter Text

4/25/1 Y.O.

 

“And he’s leaving for three days?” General Kinear asks General Ritter. They’re both in their off-duty garb, Kinear prefering the flowing tunics that were considered casual wear when he was young, and still lived on Coruscant, Ritter in the more structured garb of the H'Lathnians. Just two old men, taking a bit of a stroll around the central market square of the F-deck, having a bit of a chat.

 

 

“That’s currently the plan. He’s vacationing,” Ritter sounds and looks amused by that. “And it looks like he’s willing to let me try my hand at undercover work again.”

Kinear smirks at that, eyes lit with amusement. “The last time you went undercover Palpatine was still sane.” He pauses for a moment, wanders to one of the vendors, buys a bag of roasted, salted nuts, and then returns to Ritter offering them to him.

Ritter takes two, smirks, a little, munches them down, and says. “I told him it had been a few years.”

Kinear laughs, a deep, rich sound. He doesn’t eat the nuts, doesn’t personally like them, he’s just got them for show. Part of blending in. “Decades you mean. Schiff tells me he’s bending on resource acquisition.” Kinear’s feeling very pleased by how this is working out. They’ve been gently encouraging Kylo to try more in the way of diplomacy and it looks like he just, might, possibly, be about to attempt something along those lines.

“Schiff also tells me that he may have a friend.”

Kinear’s excited to hear that. “Who?”

“Major Frakes, Tactical Design Corps.”

“Bill Frakes’ boy?”

Ritter gestures, indicating he’s got no idea. “I wouldn’t know. Maybe.”

Kinear’s eyes light up. “Force be with us! If that’s Bill’s boy…”

“Who’s Bill Frakes?” Ritter asks, puzzled.

“He was a logistics officer on the second Death Star, good man. Steady. Not particularly brilliant or inspired, but he didn’t have to be. He just had to make sure anything loaded onto the Death Star got where it needed to go before it needed to be there.” Both of them know how big of a job that was. “Better, and more important than that, he was an Empire man through and through, and so was the rest of his family. I had him under my command for about five years when he was fresh out of the Academy.”

Ritter looks like he’s tasting that, getting a feel for what they can do with it. “Schiff saw him leave while he was waiting to go in. He’s young… About Ren’s age. If he’s who you think he is, he had to have been born within a year of the destruction of the second Death Star. But Frakes has a name, so… he can’t be a Hux graduate, right?”

“In something specialized like design, Snoke likely preferred they weren’t.” They share a moment, understanding the limits of the Hux-method grads. Kinear thinks about his uniform, scanning the crowd seeing more than a hundred people wearing one within eye range, and sighs. “Granted, it looks like they just dusted these off and slightly re-tooled them, so… maybe not. What is he doing with Ren?”

“I don’t know. Designing something? Maybe he’s decided he finally wants a uniform? Tactical Design… That’s…” Ritter spends a moment thinking, trying to remember. Most of the people in the Order are in one of eight main divisions, and he knows them, their organizational structure, their up and comers, and old faithfuls by heart. But about ten percent of the people handle the other approximately 97,000 jobs that a functional empire needs, and he’s significantly less familiar with them. A moment of thinking finds what he’s looking for. “Uniforms, armor, our symbols, the look of the Order. Whatever it is Ren’s getting, it’s the third or fourth time they’ve met. Ren keeps calling him back, and, apparently, calls him by his first name.”

Kinear eyes the banners with the Order symbol on them hovering above them. “I bet he designed that.”

Ritter nods. “Likely. And he was talking with Schiff about maybe doing some subversion. Maybe he’s looking to get gear set for that. Schiff had the appointment after Frakes, and heard was that they were going to have lunch together after Ren gets back.”

“Good. I’ll poke around Frakes some, get a sense for who he is. See if we can use him to help steer Ren. Are we set for the Master’s vacation?”

Ritter grins. “Oh yes. I’ve got it set. You know he took out four of the fifty on our list on his own, right?”

Kinear nods. “Hapian always was an idiot. If he’d had the sense of a lump of clay, he’d have gotten out of Ren’s view before he started plotting.”

“How’d he survive Snoke?”

“He was an idiot, but not so big of one to stay where Snoke could notice him. Like a lot of us, he got to the furthest extent of his territory and sent in glowing reports of whatever it was Snoke wanted to hear.”

It’s clear on Ritter’s face that he sympathizes with that technique. “Ren’s leaving on the 27th. First watch on the 28th, the forty-six who are left are going to get the same notice, at once, calling them to Resource Processing to immediately complete their retirement pages. I assume they’ll be there in about two minutes, half-asleep and deeply upset about said mix up. Everyone who’ll be in Resource Processing is ours. We’ll make sure they get everyone settled in conference room B8, complain about the computers glitching, head off to ‘fix the problem,’ and then gas the room. We’ll take out the lot of them at once, space their remains, and the paperwork will show that they all resigned at once and took transport to Coruscant. And if anyone checks, a ship will go, it will land on Coruscant, and from there the trail goes dead.”

Kinear smiles. “Excellent. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I suppose we need to start working on the next list?”

“Schiff’s already on it,” Ritter says. “And we’ve got eight of our own re-enlisted. Another ten are getting everything in order and will be joining up soon. More problems though, they’re starting to go through training, and… We’re going to have to make sure that lands under his eye soon, or we’re going to get fucked sideways on that.”

“How bad?” Kinear asks. His personal training was so long ago that he was a trainer for the Republic’s Clone Army. So, he’s at least five generations of techniques out of touch.

“Most of his training officers are Hux grads.”

Kinear grits his teeth. “Wonderful. Let’s make sure his vacation goes as smoothly as possible. If we’re lucky, he’ll decide on another rest in the not wildly distant future, and we’ll take advantage of that.”

“And, if not, maybe we can get him to go on some sort of diplomatic visit or something… Go see a newly freed colony, maybe,” Ritter says.

Kinear nods along, seeing it in his mind. “That would be good. If we can raise some of them, and have them join us, having him show up and ‘rally’ them, welcome them into the fold… They’d like that. He might, too.”

“I think he would,” Ritter says. “And even if he’s not much of a fan of it, it’d be good for morale in the new colonies.”

“Make them feel like they’re part of something big and important. Make them feel valued. Might want to see if we can get him to visit each of our capitol ships, too.”

“Snoke went years at a time without letting anyone lay eyes on him. Ren shouldn’t,” Ritter says, looking around at all of the people milling about. He guesses most of them couldn’t identify the Master if he wasn’t wearing his mask.

“Nope.” Kinear looks at Ritter. “Are you old enough to remember Palpatine before he became Emperor?”

“Barely. I was eleven when he took over.”

Kinear half inclines his head, men his age who aren’t firmly entrenched in their dotage, or firmly entrenched in their tombs, are few and far between. “Before he was maimed, he used to make sure to go visit his supporters, meet with them, make sure they had the image of a personable, useful, powerful man who would work with them to achieve their goals.”

Kinear sighs, remembering that version of the Emperor, though he was the Chancellor then. That was a man who knew how to rule. Who knew how to make the people around him want his rule. But, he doesn’t have anyone like that to work with, and, really, never did. That version of Palpatine’s been gone for decades, and no one even remotely like him has come about since.

“That might be trying to get more out of the Master than he can give,” Ritter says, seeming to be thinking along the same lines.

Kinear thinks about it. Given the Master’s family, assuming those rumors he’s been able to collect are true, he should have some natural talent for this. Deeply buried.  “Maybe, but… We’ll never know if we don’t try, and if we set it up right, have him meet with people who want him to do well, because they’ll do well because of him…”

“Baby steps.”

“Baby steps. He doesn’t seem averse to learning how to do this, so we might as well work on making sure he gets the lessons,” Kinear says with a smile, and plans.

“Do you think any of the decorum teachers they used to foist us onto are still around?” Ritter asks.

Kinear laughs. “There’s a memory.” Just like being several generations out of date on his training techniques, he also predates what Ritter’s talking about, but he remembers it.

Palpatine had an idea of his officer corps. Polished, genteel, good representatives of the Empire. They could go anywhere, deal with anyone, ruffle no feathers until feathers needed to be ruffled. After all, Palpatine preferred to use diplomacy. He had a very definite idea of an iron fist in a silk glove. His officers, especially the higher up ones, were supposed to be able to negotiate, to soothe unhappy temperaments, to seek accord for the greater good of the Empire, and then, if such methods didn’t work, they were expected to utterly flatten anyone who didn’t take the easy route.

They were governors as much as soldiers, and as such, they were expected to have manners.

No one, no matter how useful in his or her respective field, got above Major without proving they had manners. And if they didn’t, Palpatine made sure there were lessons available. Ritter’s young enough he likely went through the decorum classes. Kinear’s old enough that he’s one of the ones who rubber stamped the idea and took his officers out of the line long enough for them to take the classes.

“If you can remember any of their names,” Kinear says, “you might as well hunt them down. I don’t know if we can get him to agree to it, but if there’s a chance of it, let’s have someone ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

“I’ll check my records. And if I can’t find the ones we used, there’s got to be someone who does it.”

“Someone…”

Chapter Text

 

4/27/1

 

It’s a bizarre sensation. In the, as best as Rey can tell, twenty-fourish years she’s been alive, she’s never had a day like this, one where all she has to do is… nothing.

She just has to be. She’s got nothing to build, no plans to work on, she’s not studying hard to try and fill in the blanks of where her life is supposed to go, there’s just… Sitting in a shuttle, waiting to get to where they’re going and then… playing.

Kylo’s aware enough of what she’s thinking to say, “I was eight. The last holiday I went on with my parents.”

“What’d you do?”

“Just stayed home.” He smiles, a little, remembering it. “They were pretty much never both at home at the same time, and I was always at lessons. Math and engineering, and at least half a dozen languages, and I had to be able to read them as well as speak them, and civics, and history, and…” He shakes his head. “Anyway, they both came home, and we laid around, and went swimming in the pond, and had picnics on the beach, and…” she can feel him falling back into the memory, “we made a little X-wing. It even had a tiny R2 on it. Dad wanted it to be radio controlled, but that was boring, and I could make it fly with the Force, so… We built it up and painted the little details, and I flew it around the pond…”

“That sounds good.”

“It was.” He nods, staring out at the stars.

 


 

For Kylo, the bizarre sensation comes a few hours later, once they’ve landed at Ulinada on Naboo. It’s a small city, or a very large town, between two lakes, about two thousand kilometers from Theed, and supposedly popular for beaches, old-fashioned charm, good food, and decent hotels.

It’s a nice place where people from the capitol and bigger cities go to get away for a few days.

Rey figured that was pretty much everything they’d need, and Kylo… or Ben Amidala… booked a place. And it’s true that all of that felt a bit odd, but this moment, right here, is just downright bizarre.

It’s a vacation. And he’s being just a person. And putting on Padme’s clothes and packing them up, and looking like a trader going off for a few days felt a little odd, but… It’s not like he’s never done it before, and each time he slips into colored trousers and a light shirt and the leather jacket it feels more like him… or at least a legitimate version of him, and less like he’s wearing a costume.

But there’s one part of this that’s giving him pause and has him staring with longing.

If he’s going to be Ben Amidala off on vacation with his wife for a few days, Master of the Order Kylo Ren’s lightsaber cannot come with him. So, like the boxes of currency that’s mostly not any good on this planet, he’s got his saber locked into a hidden storage bin under one of the seats.

When he finally realized he couldn’t bring the saber, when he was tucking all of his Padme clothing into the sack they’ve got their gear in, he’d thought maybe he could bring the light short sword, substitute it for his usual lightsaber, but, as Rey pointed out when he was hooking it onto his belt, he’s trying to not remind people of Kylo Ren, and swapping out one laser sword for another isn’t likely to have that effect.

He almost brought the blaster, but… This is supposed to be a peaceful town. It’s not a hangout for scoundrels and villains and scum. This is supposed to be the sort of place where the only people who carry weapons are local law enforcement.

Rey watches him staring at the seat where he’s enclosed the currency she’ll be taking back to Lirium and his saber. She lays her hand in the middle of his back, and nods to him.

“I don’t think I could leave without it,” she says of her staff. As long as it’s not lit, it just looks like a fancy walking stick, and it’s definitely going with them. 

He nods back, and sighs a little. “I can stop blaster fire mid-air, I can kill a man with a thought, but this feels…” He bites his lip. “I’ve never gone anywhere I couldn’t call a weapon to hand in a moment since I’ve been an adult.”

“I know.” And she does. She really does. “Come on. Sooner we’re out there, the more normal this will feel.”

He inclines his head, indicating he’s not sure of that, but he shoulders their bag, and lowers the ramp, getting ready to explore Ulinada.

 

 


It’s a very pretty little city on the shores of two moderately sized lakes. In the background, they can see high cliffs with waterfalls streaming down them.

The buildings are what Kylo thinks of as old-fashioned. They put him in mind of history lessons from his childhood.

For Rey they’re entirely new. She knows wood is a thing. She’s heard about it. She’s seen pictures of it in some of Orlac’s books. She’s seen the cradle that Rose and Finn have put together. She remembers the forest on Starkiller and when she first met Kylo, but… This whole town is made of buildings with wood and…

 

 

 

“Half-timbering,” Kylo says. “It’s old. Wood frames, plaster walls, more wood for details.”

“No plasteel?”

“Predates it. Though by now the insides are probably modernized, and the outsides look like this because it’s pretty.”

“You think it’s pretty?” She’s not sure if she likes it or not. It’s really different.

He looks around… Half-timbered buildings, some of them white plaster and dark woods, others tinted bright pinks and blues with lighter woods, most of the windows have little boxes with flowers growing in them. He’s guessing the roofs are supposed to look like tile or slate, but he can’t imagine anyone still uses that. The street below their feet is carefully maintained cobblestone. He can see two crossroads from where they are, and both of them have burbling fountains in them.

It’s a city, supposedly, but he’s got the sense it was designed for foot traffic. There are likely bigger, more modern roads further out, but this area right here is supposed to be quaint, or something.

He thinks about it for another moment, and then answers her question, “Yes.”

 

 


Their hotel, which takes them about half an hour to find, is supposed to have ‘Old-fashioned charm.’ And they aren’t exaggerating. It’s ancient, or at least a good replica of it. It’s three stories of pale plaster, dark wood, a slate roof, and at each window there’s a box overflowing with pink and purple flowers.

There’s an actual door.

Made of carved wood.

With hinges.

Rey’s never seen one before, and it takes him a moment to remember how to use a doorknob. (He presses his palm to it, gives it a gentle pull, and is a little startled when the door doesn’t open. After a few seconds, he remembers these things have to turn.)

Once inside, there’s a small open area, with a few sofas around a fireplace, though, since it’s summer, no fire is burning, and on the far end, there’s a check-in counter and a set of stairs leading up to the second floor.

They glance at each other, and head for the desk.

A middle-aged lady smiles at them, looking them over with more interest than Kylo would have expected, and says, “Amidalas?”

Kylo nods, feeling it’s the name that’s got her attention, and Rey says, “Yes.”

“Great, just sign in and we’ll get you your room key.” She taps the register as she turns to root around in a drawer behind the desk, probably hunting for the key.

The register is an actual book, of paper, with neatly lined spaces, and a pen. Kylo looks at it and almost goggles. He has a signature, a very nice one. Technically speaking, he’s got two very nice ones, actually. Luke thought calligraphy was a good way for young Jedi to learn fine muscle control and meditate, and because there was nothing particularly light about making pretty letters on a piece of paper, Kylo was actually good at it from the first time he held a brush, but neither of those nice signatures is Ben Amidala.

He realizes as Rey’s staring at it, that she can’t write. She’s never seen a pen before, never learned to form her letters. That’s not rare, not in any world that lives and dies by digital, but it is something he didn’t know about her.

“Aurebesh keyboard?” he asks, figuring he’s better off acting like they’re both from a part of the galaxy that doesn’t use pens.

The desk clerk pulls one up from under the desk, and Rey looks at it, but doesn’t touch it. That’s when it hits Kylo that Rey can’t write, period. Whatever it is the Force does that allows her to read has not resulted in the ability to make letters or arrange them into words.

He takes the keyboard and puts in her name: Rey Amidala. Reserving the rooms for Rey and Ben Amidala was uncomfortable enough, he’s not about to type it now if he doesn’t have to.

Fortunately, Rey Amidala brings up their reservation, and from there getting their key is easy and slick.

The check-in lady, noticing both of them staring at the key like they’d never seen one before, because neither of them have, decides to walk them up to their room.

“Getting a quick break from the capitol?” she asks.

“We’re from further afield than that,” Rey replies.

Kylo didn’t miss the desk clerk’s interest in the name they gave, so he adds, “Family history trip. We’ve tracked the name back to here. Hoping to learn more about where I come from.”

“Oh.” She holds up the key, and shows them how to put it into the door knob, and then turn it to the left. “Opens the lock.” Then she turns it all the way to the right. “Locks the lock.” She returns it to the neutral position, pulls it out, and hands it to Kylo.

He gets the lock unlocked, and she nods, satisfied that he knows what he’s doing, and then says, “Good luck on your hunt.”

He offers her a little smile. “Thank you.”

 

 


It’s a nice room, bright, lots of coral colors and summer sunlight streaming through gauzy curtains. And once inside, it’s a lot more modern looking than the outside of the building or the public room downstairs. The bed is comfortably springy. There’s more than enough closet space, granted neither of them brought much clothing. Everything they’ve got with them is on their backs or in the one sack Kylo’s carrying. They’ve got their own bathroom, with a tub and shower and lots of towels. It’s everything they could possibly need for a night.

The chronometer tells them that by local time, it’s morning.

And it only took two hours to get here, so it’s not like either of them is tired.

They look at each other and…

“Explore?” Rey says.

“Sure.” He opens the bag, digs through it, finding the credit sticks, and hands one over to her, before tucking his into his pocket.

She puts their bag into the closet, and calls her staff to hand. He takes her other hand in his. And then they’re off to see what’s here.

 

 


It’s probably, not in the great scheme of things, a huge market. Like most of this city, it’s bigger than anywhere Rey’s ever been, or anywhere Kylo’s ever lingered, but it’s not, even by the scale of Naboo, big.

It’s the main market in a second tier city on an edge of the middle rim planet.

Experienced travelers would likely find it “quaint.”

It’s still more stuff, by a factor of at least a thousand, than Rey’s ever seen at one place at one time. They spend hours roaming through it. The food stalls alone take up the whole morning. Neither of them have ever seen this many different types of fruit and vegetable and fish and meats and little cooked snacks and… And everything that looks or smells interesting, they’ve got to at least try.

The merchants love them because neither of them knows to bargain with them. They say a price. Rey hands them her credit stick. And off they go, nibbling on something new.

Kylo notices that maybe one out of five people really look at him, startled, so he keeps waving his hand and muttering, “Not him” at the ones who stare.

It works well enough, but after two hours of wandering, he and Rey sit down on a bench at one of the fountains, sharing a crispy pastry filled with frozen melon mush, and work their way through figuring out how to work the spell so he doesn’t have to keep redoing it. They settle on shifting his do not look to do not recognize. (Kylo mutters under his breath: This is not the Master you’re looking for. And Rey sniggers a bit, because she’s heard that story, told by Threepio, too.) After all, he wants to keep wandering and shopping, and that won’t work if they don’t look.

They’re not sure if it worked, but for the rest of the afternoon, no one stares at him beyond the cursory gaze given to a customer, so… probably.

 


Beyond the main market are streets lined with shops, and with nothing set to do, they continue to roam.

He feels her looking at it, and his eyes trace over to it, too. It’s a dress, in a shop window, pretty and green and unlike anything else she owns, or has ever imaged owning. Apparently, local women’s fashion involves a lot of flowy fabric in bright, pretty colors. Some dresses are long, covering the feet of the person wearing them, and some are short, just barely brushing thighs, but they’re all in dresses.

Rey in her tunic and trousers and armwraps doesn’t exactly blend here. He can feel her thinking that maybe she’d like to blend.

He smiles at the idea, and leans down, almost kissing the words on her ear, “Go buy it.”

“It’s probably expensive.”

He shrugs. There’s more than 300,000 credits in his account because his accounting department is still scouring the Supremacy for currency. And it might be expensive, but it’s not six years of his income expensive. “So? You want to wear it, and I want to see you in it.”

She chuckles at that. “Come with me.”

So he does.

 

 


The first one is too big. She figures she’s about medium-sized so a medium-sized dress should fit.

It doesn’t.

And she knows it doesn’t before she steps out of the dressing room to let Kylo see it. Among other things, the top is supposed to stay up over her bust, not pool around her hips. She tosses it over the door to him and says, “Small.”

So he gets one.

 

 


The fabric between his fingers is sinfully soft and smooth. It’s pine forest green, a mix of bright, sharp greens on a darker, softer, black-green background.

He can’t wait to see it on her, and wants to take if off of her even more. Or maybe just push it out of the way. It’s a dress, it’s not like it’s got to come off…

Well… it might not, but she has underthings and they’re… He remembers what Frakes said about different underthings to go with different trousers. The dress in his hand should likely only come to her mid thighs, and she usually wears little shorts under her pants… and the top doesn’t have anything that goes over her shoulders, and her normal undershirt has straps, so…

She probably needs different underthings, too, and the idea of getting them makes him glad he’s carrying a dress in front of him. His trader outfit is decidedly lacking in anything that hangs down in front of him.

He bites his lip, coming to the conclusion that he may decide that he actually likes having money to spend on things, or at least on Rey, if it could buy… things… maybe little… lacy… things… for her. To put on, and look at, and maybe, let him take off… or… he shivers a little at the idea… rip off of her.

He looks around the shop as he’s wandering back to the changing area, but he doesn’t see anything that looks like underclothes, so… not here apparently.

He knows which of the changing rooms she’s in, so he slips the lock and steps in. It’s tight quarters for the two of them, just a little bigger than her shower.

“Kylo!” She doesn’t cover up or anything. It’s not like she’s shy about being in her shorts in front of him. He appreciates the view, her, no undershirt, hair down, body soft and tan in front of him.

He bites his lip again, teasing her, teasing himself, reminding himself of the feel of her teeth on his lip, and then holds out the dress.

She holds her arms up, smiling at him, apparently deciding that if he’s going to come in he might as well help her dress.

He’s got to take a moment to think about how to get it onto her, but apparently it’s just a soft tube of fabric, so he gets it settled. There’s a small bit that goes around her neck, and she turns around, lifting her hair, exposing the back of her neck to him.

His hands shake a little as he hooks the fabric shut, setting it smooth and green into a snug embrace around her throat.

He bends, kissing just above the collar, and just below, before stepping back enough to see the dress on her.

It’s fairly loose, save for a gather of tighter fabric around her neck. The rest of it gently flows over her, covering her from just about where the token would land if it weren’t around his neck, to mid-thigh. It’s very soft, and pretty, and he’s staring down at her, thinking that what he might like better than interesting lacy underthings is knowing there aren’t any underthings between him and her and… It’s not particularly cool in here, but her nipples are hard, and he can see them through the dress and… Gods, this is probably so horribly inappropriate, but all he wants to do is unbutton his trousers and slip into her and feel that dress under his fingers as his body slides into hers.

He can feel her smirking at him, see it, too, along with a sense of not here.

Soon?

Yes. Now get out of here before I decide to change my mind.

His turn to smirk. You know, that’s not terribly motivating to get me out of here.

 

 

She trails her fingers over the front of his trousers, cupping him gently, and his eyes slip shut as his hips rock forward. I know. Maybe I don’t really want you to leave.

In a heartbeat, less, she’s in his arms, crushed against his body, and he’s reveling in the feel of her soft body under that fabric.

He’s aware enough of the fact that they’re in a shop in the middle of the day, with other people around that he doesn’t groan, though he does lay his lips against her shoulder and let her feel the moan in his mind.

She’s rubbing up against him, deliberately, also enjoying the feel of him through the silk. It’s smooth and slippery, but not wet, and feels different but good, and… Still this is the first nice thing she’s ever been in danger of owning, and she doesn’t want to ruin it before she even gets it paid for.

And that’s the thought that stops her cold. She’s already wet, and the dress is right against her, where his thigh is between her legs, and if she soaks her shorts, which is certainly possible, or if he does, which is certain if this goes where they both want it to…

It’s an act of tremendous will power, but she puts her hands on his hips and pushes him back.

Let’s pay for it before we wreck it.

He mentally whimpers at that idea. Then he makes himself step back, and she can feel him forcing the control over himself. Another moment, with his eyes closed, and his shaft won’t be leading the way out of the changing stall.

“Okay,” he says, calm and in control again.

“Okay,” she looks up at him with a grin, and then wiggles her fingers at the door, knowing that this will go a lot easier if she takes the dress off without an audience or help.

And, with nothing to do for a few moments, Kylo wanders around the store, gathering up three more dresses, all of them fairly similarly shaped, but in different colors. Right now the idea of her in flushed pinks, and vibrant blues, and one color that he doesn’t know the name of, but it’s halfway between pink and orange, and he thinks she’ll look like a sunset, the way he thinks sunsets are supposed to look, in it.

Maybe it took gray for them to get together, but he’s thinking maybe part of where they’re supposed to go is a world, galaxy, with color. He tries to imagine what Jon would do it he said he wanted some outfits, for Master Ren, in something other than black or gray. Probably have a stroke. Still… might be amusing.

The lady who runs the place is apparently no stranger to somewhat turned-on husbands roaming around her shop, so when he heads to the counter with the dresses, she smirks at him. “Having fun?”

He nods.

She chuckles. And then glances at Rey in her street clothing as she joins them. Apparently, she looks far enough out of her normal element that she asks, “Honey, do you have sandals to go with this?”

Her boots are thick, sturdy, practical, and apparently, not the sort of foot gear that goes with this. The shop lady nods at that, takes a card out from behind the counter, and writes two addresses on it. “Go visit both.”

 

 


He can’t read the card. Unlike him, this woman does not have a neat, tidy, formally trained in proper Aurebesh calligraphy script. She’s got some local version of the letters that look, maybe, sort of, like the ones he learned.

Fortunately, he knows someone who doesn’t have to actually read the words to know what they say.

He hands it over to Rey, and she has no problem with it.

As they’re walking to the first of the shops, Rey says, “You can do this, can’t you?”

He raises an eyebrow at her.

“Write? I mean, by hand.”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you sign us in?”

“Because putting Kylo Ren into the register would have raised more than a few eyebrows.” He can feel her not understanding. “Signatures are different than other words. Anyone watching would know that I don’t sign Ben Amidala the way I should. I’d have to actually think about it to make it look right.” She’s looking at him curiously, still not exactly getting it. “The first thing I learned to write was Ben Solo. The first thing most people learn how to write is their name. I can do it with my eyes closed. Kylo Ren is just as easy. So, I could whip through the Ben with no problems… other than I don’t like writing it… and then have to remember how to put Amidala together because I’ve never written that before.”

“Oh.” She thinks about it. “Was it hard to learn?”

“I didn’t find it so. I don’t imagine you would, either.”

She nods at that. “If we see a pen and ink, I’d like to get it.”

He smiles at that, and another thought springs to mind. “Brushes.”

“Brushes?”

“They’ll be more fun.” 

She doesn’t know what he means by that, and he’s fine with it. A little smile on his face.

 

 


Kylo doesn’t find shoes nearly as inspiring as dresses. And Rey’s not nearly as interested in them, either. The first pair of sandals that fit are the ones she grabs, and then they’re out of there, hunting for the second place on the list.

 

 


The second shop makes Kylo wonder if the lady in the dress shop had some Force skill or was just really good at reading people. Or maybe, like Jon, she just knows how the underthings are supposed to look based on what the outer outfit is doing.

It’s a place that sells underthings, for women.

He also decides that if he goes into this shop, they aren’t getting out of it without him getting into her, so he gives her a long, wet kiss, holding her close, and then says, “Surprise me,” before going off in search of something to amuse himself for a while. 

Specifically, he goes off looking for a calligraphy set.

 

 


There are things that most people learn, more or less on their own, through trial and error, usually during their teens and early twenties.

Among these things is often a personal sense of sexy.

An idea or ideal of how one goes about looking and being attractive, not just in the conventional appreciate me as an appealing person sort of way, but in a get over here and jump my bones sort of way, too.

This would be something that neither Rey nor Kylo ever managed to do. Between lack of opportunity or interest, it’s just not something either of them had ever given much thought to.

Being both Force sensitive and trained in how to use it, Kylo was at least aware of how people looked at him, but when with Luke, doing anything to encourage anyone to look at him with anything other than platonic, friendly love was frowned upon. Add in the fact that half of the students were at least mildly scared of him, he did his best not to spend too long aware of what they may have been thinking about him.

With Snoke, where he could have explored that space, he didn’t. He kept the mask on most of the time. The first four women he had sex with never saw his face. (Or really, any of him except his penis. Kylo Ren hadn’t sunk into his bones at that point, and he wasn’t about to take him off just to get sucked.) They thought he was ugly or disfigured, and he didn’t much care. For the first three years, he made sure everyone who got near him felt fear, and by then, if he noticed someone interested in him sexually, he stayed away from them. The First Order tended to attract or make people who liked to fuck monsters. He had no use for them. Eventually he rose high enough he began to attract people for his power, and they interested him more. By then, Kylo had sunk into his bones, and he was comfortable taking the mask, and the rest of his clothing, off. Most of them were pleasantly surprised when they saw that he was not, in fact, ugly or disfigured.

And he was pleasantly surprised to see that they liked his body. Apparently he’d grown into it sometime between putting the mask on for the first time, and then taking it off.

For Rey, becoming sexy was a weapon, one aimed at her throat. She didn’t welcome it, and did her best to hide it. By the time her period started arriving regularly she was quick, and strong, and fairly good with her staff, but even quick, and strong, and fairly good with a staff wasn’t a match for several grown men. The second time it happened, she moved out of Niima Station, to the downed AT-AT.

Drunk men didn’t have a problem risking getting a broken jaw or hand to grab her and hold her down. But they weren’t willing to walk three miles into the desert to search for her. Not when there were other girls and boys closer.

And that was, until Rey had Chewie drop her off at the Supremacy, the sum total of both of their experience with sexy.

If you were to ask her, Rey would tell you that the reason she got a shower, took most of her hair out of its buns, put on a nice clean outfit, located some lip balm in the Falcon (she doesn’t want to think about how old it was) and put it on, before stuffing herself into a shuttle pod to be shipped to Kylo, was that it was more comfortable. Laying with your hair in buns makes your head sore. Clean skin and clothing feels nice. And the air cycling on those things is just murder on your lips, they dry out really fast, and she didn’t want them cracked and bleeding, and that was that.

It had nothing to do with being attractive.

And if it just happened to sort of… work… well… sheer luck or the Force at work.

And, if feeling her come, sensing her drawing nearer, Kylo just happened to get a shower, hunt down a clean tunic and shirt, and spent some time brushing his hair, and almost started to shave again before he decided that was complete overkill that was just… killing time. He had to do something to fill the two hours it took her to get there. And okay, the handcuffs were not exactly his idea but he knew they had to be part of this so he got the most comfortable looking ones he could find, and maybe he spent a little extra time deciding if he wanted the cloak or not, but…

It wasn’t like he was trying to look good or anything.

Not consciously.

In retrospect, he probably made Snoke laugh. At least the fucker got one good chuckle before he cut him in half.

But here, on a pleasantly sunny summer day in Ulinada, there are no knives. No monsters. Just him, and her, and a flavor of playtime neither of them have ever explored before, and the idea of it is intriguing.

So Rey finds some pretty, little underthings to put under some pretty, little dresses. And Kylo finds that calligraphy set, and eventually, they find each other.

 

 


When they find each other again, he’s very interested in seeing what’s in that bag of hers.

She catches his interest, heady, like a scent on the air, and blushes, a little, and then looks to his bag. “You found a pen?”

He nods. “That, too. Brushes, ink, paper, pencils.” He rolls his eyes a little. “Maybe one day Master Padme will teach the little boogers to write.”

She smiles at that idea. “I thought you said you weren’t going to be teaching children to meditate.”

“It’s not the same.”

She looks up at him, amused. “Of course not.”

He nudges the bag with the dresses in it. “What was that about fancy ballrooms?”

She shrugs, and then an idea hits. “Do you think there are places to dance here?”

That stops him mid-stride, getting him thinking in a different direction. “Probably.” He hadn’t been thinking much past getting Rey into one of those dresses, admiring it and her, taking it off of her, and then showing her what he can do with a calligraphy brush, but… Going out with her… He’s got an image in his mind of her in one of the dresses, knowing that his words are written on her skin under it, and it’s flushing through him, hot and urgent. “We should do that.”

Apparently he projected that image, because she’s looking up at him, and this time it’s her intrigue that’s wafting about like a scent on the air. “You want to write on me?”

He nods, swallowing hard as the idea continues to solidify in his head. “Yes.” He licks his lips. “I think it’ll feel good, and I know it’ll look good.”

They’re both, without really noticing it, moving back toward their hotel.

“What would you write?”

He’s not entirely certain, yet, but he’s got a feeling he won’t be low on inspiration if she’s stretched out naked in front of him.

“Is there anything you wouldn’t want me to write on you?”

Turned back at her, she’s thinking about it. “Would other people be able to see it?”

“Only if you plan on taking that dress off with other people around.”

She chuckles at that. “Can I draw on you?”

That thrills through him, too. “As much as you want.”

 

 


“You really used to do this?” Rey asks, watching him lay out the calligraphy set once they’re back in their hotel room.

He smiles, a little, dipping one of the brushes into a glass of water, and then dripping it onto the cake of black ink. “Until I was sixteen, this is what I was best at.”

“Writing?”

He half-shrugs. “It’s not a light skill. I was always better at meditating if I could move while doing it, and this took control and concentration, but not a particularly calm or peaceful heart. Even angry, the letters still look good. Look better, actually. I could write whatever I liked. Maybe we were supposed to be writing down Jedi sayings and whatnot, but in my own cottage, practicing on my own… I could be as angry on the paper as I liked.”

That makes sense to her, except for the age part. “Why until you were sixteen?”

He rolls his eyes at that. “I got my growth late. For a while, we all assumed I was just going to be short, like Luke and Mom. I was strong for my size, and most of the rest of my… grown up bits… were grown up. I was shaving once or twice a week, but I was still smaller than you are until I was sixteen. By seventeen, I was as tall as Luke, and by eighteen I was half a head taller. And by twenty I had the reach and muscle to outfight everyone there. Luke kept saying size didn’t matter and the best lightsaber wielder ever was Yoda, and he was barely a meter tall, but from everything I can see, if you are practicing against other people who can use the Force, too, it helps to have a good long reach, and once I had more reach than Luke did, I started to beat him.”

Rey laughs at that, and gently bumps him with her hip. “You didn’t beat me.”

That gets an epic eye roll from him followed by a somewhat harder bump back, enough to push her a half-step back. He’s not angry, just snarky, and looking to put into perspective exactly how much bigger he is. “Yeah, you beat me. I’d just killed my father, and been shot in the side, and slashed in the right arm, slashed in the leg, and stabbed in the shoulder, sliced through the face, the planet we were on was ripping apart, so more than a million First Order men were panicking, and Snoke was screaming in my head, and so were you, and I was trying not to hurt you, so, yeah you beat me. Try it again when I’m not dying inside, and see how it goes. Luke’s teachings on that were wrong, size does matter.”

She sticks out her tongue at him, but doesn’t challenge that, because, honestly, no she hadn’t forgot that, and having seen him go up against the Praetorian guard, she knows that in a straight fight, both of them at full strength, she can’t take him down… or at least, she can’t keep him down. Like on Starkiller, she could probably knock him down, but he’d keep getting back up. She’s not sure if he’s a better fighter than she is, but he can take more pain then she can. Chewie shot him, Finn got him in the right arm, she got him in the leg, and then through the left shoulder, and he was still strong enough to almost fight her to a standstill before she dropped him with the cut to the face. And he was getting back up for another round when the planet spit apart between them.

He’s got the training to pull off of his pain, use it as fuel, and she doesn’t. And if it ever came to straight fight between the two of them, that’s where he’d win.

He nods, feeling satisfied to see she’s not challenging that, and then picks a little ink up on the brush, and begins on the paper, fingers deftly slipping along. It’s been a while, but this still feels good, familiar. Under his brush, black swathes begin to form, and Rey can see what he means about even angry the letters would look good. They’re made for fast, deft strokes, and calm or not, they’ll work.

He fills the paper fast, not really thinking too much about the words, just the feel of the brush in his hand and on the paper.

She’s seeing the marks on the paper, actually seeing them for once, before switching over to reading. Apparently, this is him thinking about what he liked about this.

As a Jedi, we never created anything. We were there to ‘preserve’ the Force or the ‘balance.’ To protect the light. The First Order was supposed to create, but it didn’t. Action was about pain and tearing things down. But this, brush in hand, is about creating something, even if it is only black ink on white paper.

She moves around to his left side, and kisses his left shoulder, so as not to bump his right.

“Creation comes about in the balance.”

He nods. “Can I put that on you?”

She’s pulling off her belts. “Yes.”

Tunic, pants, and shorts follow quickly. She’s about to take off the arm wraps, but he shakes his head.

“You want me to keep them on?”

He nods. “It’ll look good.”

She’s not sure about that, but doesn’t mind indulging him. She’s standing next to the bed and looks from him to it and back again.

“On your stomach.” He’s working the water into the block of ink, wanting the liquid extra black, and a little thicker than normal, and then taking most of it off the brush. He’s not sure how long it’ll take to dry on skin, but he doesn’t want a wet, drippy mess. Then he pulls off his shirt, knowing he's likely to get some ink on it.

Rey settles on the bed, laying on her belly, looking over her shoulder at him. She wiggles her hips at him, saying, “Coming?”

His eyes are warm as they trail down her body. “Yes!”

 

 

He sits next to her, his fingers lightly stroking the path of her spine. The dress covers the nape of her neck, bares her shoulders, and then covers from just below her shoulder blades to mid-thigh.

He starts at the crest of her left hip, and follows the line of it, across her buttock. His letters are tidy and flowing, sliding across her skin, and he can feel the way Rey wants to wriggle at it.

He lays his lips at the bottom of her spine, kissing lightly before saying, “Too tickly?”

“No. It’s… wet and intense and… different.”

“Good different?”

“Good different.”

His brush isn’t made for fine detail work. The Aurebesh glyphs don’t need that, and, to his eye at least, look better with a fuller stroke. So, with this brush, he can’t do a proper symbol of the Maji. He can’t trail the white and black into each other, lines thinning into gray. He can curl his black ink into a dot, and then pull the ink into a thinning tail, spinning it around the same shape of negative space. It’s not perfect, but given what he’s got to work with, he likes it.

“Circles?”

He nods. “Might be easier if you just watch through my eyes.”

He feels her shift, the sudden presence in the back of his mind. And then he’s alone in there again.

“Problem?”

“Looking at myself through you is just… weird.”

He smirks at that. And then strokes her right hip… “What goes here?” He lightly strokes the blunt end of the pen across her hip, and she wriggles at that, too. His lips follow, light nipping kisses. Then he writes: Life began in the gray on her other hip.

He blows gently across all of the words, working on drying them.

She moans at that, and he grins. 

He shifts around her, so he’s facing her feet, and begins just above his not quite Maji circle. Luscious, gorgeous, delicious Rey, spreads up her spine, and she does her best not to shiver while he’s writing.

He lays his pen on the holder, and blows on her back again, laying soft kisses between black words.

He’s feeling a little naughty, a little playful, so he gently bites the soft curve where left butt cheek becomes leg, and then writes nip and matches it with kiss on the other side.

“What did you just write?”

He smirks, giggling a little. “You know, if you don’t look through my eyes, you’ll have to use a mirror. I wonder, can you read backwards?”

He feels her roll her eyes, and then gasp, as he gently strokes the insides of her thighs, between his latest words. “According to you, I can’t read at all.”

“I’ve never said that. Just that whatever it is you do with your books, it’s not reading.”

She doesn’t feel like that’s much different, but his fingers caress a little higher, just barely brushing her muff, banishing that thought. She rocks her hips at that, spreading her legs a little wider apart. He blows lightly on her back and legs, hoping this is helping it dry faster. He wants her on her back, wants to trail more words all over her skin, wants to trail his skin all over hers.

He blows again, and she squirms against it, arching into the sensation.

He smiles, enjoying this, a lot.

One of his fingers stretches out, gently rubbing the last senth in kiss. It doesn’t smear. “Flip over.” His voice is lower than normal, softer, and he likes it that way. Likes all of this, gentle touches, teasing strokes, soft sounds, pretty, pretty, pretty Rey spread out before him covered in his marks.

He’s hard, probably has been the whole time, but he knows this is way more in his head than in his shaft. Everything about this makes him happy, and his body’s going along for the ride the best way it knows how.

He sets the brush down, and kisses from her jaw to her hip. Light, gentle caresses of his lips against her skin.

“Going to mark each one?” Rey asks.

“Nope.” He shifts again, knees against her hip, and calls the brush to his hand. He touches it, just the tip, to right above her delta, and writes, “Leth, isk, forn, ekt,” in a curving half circle up to her navel, and then on the other side, mirroring it back down, “Leth, osk, vev, ekt.”

“Life and love?”

He gently lays his lips in the center of the circle, looking up at her, eyes warm and playful. “One day?”

She strokes her fingers through his hair. “One day.”

His lips slide into a wide, exultant smile, and he kisses her again. Then he’s up on his hands, kissing her lips, and she traces her thumb across his chin, smiling at him. “You’ve got some ink on your chin.”

He starts to laugh, giddy, bubbly feelings pouring out of him.

Joy he writes that on her hip, wild vibrant letters, his hand loose and easy. He spent so long in the dark, that bright feeling like these are still alien, foreign territory to be explored, but as he traces peace across her ribs, and ecstasy below it, he feels like he’s starting to get the lay of the land.

Lady Ren he teases that across her belly.

Beloved circles her left nipple.

“Kylo.”

It takes him a moment to realize she’s telling him what to write next, not just getting his attention. That flushes through him, like any reminder of her seeing him, as he truly is, and accepting it.

“Where?”

She touches her naked breast, and he glows with the idea of that.

“Krill, yirt, leth, osk.” The letters are swift, fluid, well-practice and elegant on her skin.

“And if I wanted my name on you?”

He hands her the brush. “Pick a spot,” he says, pulling off his trousers and shorts.

She kisses his upper thigh, thinking that looks like a fine spot to have her name. He gently rolls the brush in the ink, blotting off the extra and writes it, saying, “Resh, eskt, yirt.” He’s doing it upside down, wanting it right way up for her, so this isn’t quite as fluid or well-practiced, but the easy swipes of black ink on pale skin look nice.

She blows on his skin, helping the ink dry a little faster, and then takes the brush from him. “Do you mind if I can see it even if you’ve got a shirt on?”

“No.”

“Good, lay back.”

He does, and she takes his right hand in hers, stretching his arm to the side. She’s not sure if she wants to start at his shoulder or his hand, and spends a moment stroking her fingers up and down the inside of his arm.

He can, to a degree, feel what she’s thinking, so he says, “Elbow. You’ll have an easier time spacing it out if you start in the center and work your way out.”

Then he closes his eyes and relaxes as she settles next to him. The brush is, of course, cool and wet against his skin. Even wet, he can feel the bristles are soft, but that’s intentional, he always preferred a soft brush to a stiff one. It’d give him less control, but more expression on the page.

It tickles a little, especially as she moves up his arm, closer to his armpit, and he’s having a hard time not wriggling around.

She gently nips his shoulder. “Uh huh… Yeah, staying still is hard.

He laughs at that, and looks over to see what she’s doing. He can’t tell by feel. Just long wet strokes up the inside and outside of his arm.

It’s an organic shape, curving and flowing across his skin. A vine of black ink creeping toward his shoulder. And while his calligraphy has a supple fluidity to it, it’s very obviously the creation of the hand of man. This could have grown along his arm. A statue, hand out, slowly being reclaimed by the plants around it.

He absolutely adores it. “I’m never putting a shirt on again.”

She laughs at that. “You’d distract your men.”

“Probably.” He grins up at her. “It certainly distracted you that first time.”

She rolls her eyes, kisses his left nipple, and then shifts around, so her hip is next to his shoulder, and starts to work her way down his arm. She makes a little half-sigh, half-exasperated sound, and then presses her toes against his palm. “You are huge.”

He laughs at that, too, also realizing his arm is a centimeter or two longer than her leg.

He drifts through her doing the lower half of his arm. Soft, wet touches, the dry heat of her breath, occasional bits of conversation, mostly though he’s just feeling… both the physical of his body, and the contentment in his head. 

She kisses the tip of his middle finger, and says “Done.”

He holds his arm up, and gazes at black vines tracing from his chest to his nail on his right middle finger. “It’s beautiful.”

He’s not entirely dry yet, so she doesn’t touch, but she’s looking, eyes hot, at his arm and the words he’s covered her with. “It feels good. Seeing you with my marks on you.”

He half smiles, sitting up, wrapping his legs around her kneeling body. “You see that every time you look at my face.”

She strokes the scar. “Maybe I want to mark you without pain, or anger, or rage.”

“I’d like that. Wear you on my skin every day.” He strokes his words on her skin, now dry. “Do you… Is…” He’s not sure how to form the question in his mind.

“Yes.” But she feels it, that he wants some claim on her, something tangible, visible. “I liked… having the desk clerk see us together, and the shop keepers, and walking with your arm around me, and… just… being married.”

He leans in and kisses her. “Me, too. You know there are people who do this every day?”

“Us?”

“We’ve got a ship and 200,000 credits in currency. We could leave here and start over… be… anything.”

They both hold that idea for a moment, knowing it’s not going anywhere. Amidala, Padme… they’re just sounds to blur reality for a bit, a way to shift scrutiny and give them space to enjoy being with each other.

Ren. That’s reality. Her fingers trace over Kylo and Lady Ren. His eyes follow them.

Burn his black, shred her tans, shed the skin of gray holding them together, and join together in color… It’s not going to happen, but for a moment… it’s a golden idea, and for a moment, they share it, and then drop it.

“Did Finn and Rose do something to mark being married?” he asks, going back to the main idea.

Rey shakes her head. “Not really. Not physically. He added her name, and she’s pregnant, but, that’s not what you mean, or at least that’s not what I’m thinking.”

“No.” He strokes the black ink on their skins. “Something more like this.” He touches the Maji token, on his throat today. “Or this.”

“Did your parents have anything?”

“If they did, I don’t remember it.” He thinks back, trying to remember married people. He knows it’s a thing. Knows it happens. Knows that if he or she had had anything even remotely approaching a normal life, they’d both know scores of married people, but normal life was stolen from him before he was born, and from her shortly after.

“Lando… He and Annilie… They gave each other rings at their wedding. It was a tradition from her home world. They both wore them… as best I know… for the rest of their lives.”

Rey rests her hand against his. “I could wear a ring.”

He smiles at that. “So could I.” Then he kisses her, soft, easy, playful. There’s heat there, hiding behind playful, and after this morning, after painting each other, it only takes a moment or two for the heat to overtake playful.

She twines her fingers in his hair, pulling him closer to her, straddling his legs.

He nudges her up a little, so she’s kneeling above him. His hands find her bosom, squeezing, softer, then harder, as his lips and tongue find her nipple. He’s careful to avoid her artwork, and more careful to get the kind of touch she likes. The soft, wet, dragging sensation, his lips and teeth just sliding across pink skin, lighting a shower of sparks across her nerves, drawing her body high and tight. 

He can feel her smile, feel her hand tightening in his hair, hear her moan.

She lifts his face to hers, scooting herself down, flush on his lap, and kisses him again. Lip to lip, her sucking on his bottom one, as his tongue flicks her top one.

She breaks the kiss. “I thought you wanted to see what was in my bag.”

He groans, a lot of skin-heating images in his mind, but that’d involve her getting up, and… “Later.” He grinds against her, and she rolls her hips against him.

He kisses her shoulder, brushing her hair out of the way, and then kisses her neck and notices…

She makes a little surprised squeak when they both hover a handful of centimeters in the air, twist a little, and then slide over a few more centimeters. “Kylo!”

He nods toward the wall. They’re in front of the mirror now. They can see each other in front of each other easily enough in any position, but now, with a quick glance to the side, they get another view. Her in his lap, arms around his shoulders, naked save for her arm wraps and his black ink. Him, sitting with his legs spread out, his hands cupping her bottom, his arm and chest covered in her black ink, flexing each time she rocks against him.

“It was too pretty not to share,” he says by way of explanation for moving them.

She kisses him, still rolling her hips, and when her lips move back she says, “A picture for one of my books.”

He grins at that. “Might have to get a camera, too.”

Her eyes go wide. “You’d…”

“Love to take pictures of this.” His hand cups her bosom again, and he lowers his face, tucking it in the crooks of her neck and shoulder. “Look at us, Rey, can you imagine how gorgeous this would be in black and white?”

 

 

She tugs his hair, lifting his head so he’s face to face with her. “Only if you don’t hide your face like you just did.”

He feels the smile spreading across his lips. He hadn’t realized that’s what he was doing, but… as soon as she said it, he knew she was right.

He spans her head with his hands, tips of his fingers resting from her temples to the nape of her neck, and looks up into her eyes. “How about this.”

She’s smiling back down at him. “Almost.” She rolls her hips again, canting them just enough, and he shifts his hips just a bit, knowing what she’s looking to do without breaking the contact of her hands on his shoulders.

His jaw clenches, and he pulls in a swift, shivering breath, but his eyes don’t close, and hers don’t, either, as she slides down on him. “There. That’s what I want a picture of. You looking at me like that.”

 

 

He nods, knowing his voice isn’t going to be solid enough to make a coherent word. 

Her lips find his again, and again, and again as their bodies’ rock against each other. Not a lot of motion between them, not this time. Soft, easy, little gestures. Her body, rising and falling slow and languid in his lap. His hips, curling a little with each stroke.

The wave between them builds slowly as afternoon slips into evening. One stroke into another and another as the light stretches and shifts, yellow to orange to dying sunset pink. It crashes down, washing both of them in tumbling, clenching pleasure, as pink bleeds into twilight gray.  

In the artificial light of the bathroom, after a long cuddle, and a short nap, they wash the ink away. Most of it flows around them, draining out of the shower, but ghosts of the marks linger on their skin, even after soap and water.

Chapter Text

4/27-28/1

 

On Naboo, in Ulinada, summer nights are long. The planet warms because it’s closer to its sun than it is in the winter, but on this part of the planet, night comes early and lasts long. Fifteen of the twenty-two hours in a day are full dark. Warm dark.

Playtime dark.

In Ulinada, as the sun sinks, the lights come out. Strings of tiny lights spread from building to building. They highlight the lines of roofs and doors. Spotlights stream up and out from the fountains. Gaslights, actual flames in glass cases, stand tall at each crossroad. Cafes and clubs open their doors, food, music, and people taking to the streets to enjoy a world lit by small, flickering flames. On the shores of both lakes, people burn bonfires, and go for late night swims and picnics on the beach.

It’s into this, that Kylo and Rey prepare to go.

For the first time.

For him, getting dressed works about the same way it always does when he’s putting Padme on. Though, enough of the ghosts of Rey’s ink is still visible on his arm that instead of grabbing his usual v-neck shirt, he finds the one with buttons. He leaves the top two buttons unbuttoned, and rolls up his sleeves, showing off the marks on his forearm and hand.

She’s smiling at that, enjoying watching him dress, as she gets her own clothing out, though she doesn’t start to dress herself.

She’s still sitting on the bed, watching him, having gotten no closer to dressed, and he’s starting to wonder why. He flicks an eyebrow at her, as he pulls up his pants.

“You’ll get distracted if you watch me.”

He smiles at that. “I really hope so.” He finishes with his pants and then pulls on his boots. She stands up, nodding at him, approving of this, and strokes his naked forearm. It’s a little thing, and it’s not like she’s never seen his arms before, but there is something erotic and… intimate, though she guesses that’s likely the wrong word. Everyone who sees them tonight will see him, but… This is the first time she’s ever seen him get ready to step out in front of other people, not covered from neck to toes.

She pulls the bag to her and says, “Pink, blue, or green?”

His eyes light up at that, and he says, “Green.”

She roots around in there for a moment, and pulls out a tidy little roll of something. It’s wrapped in thin, crinkly paper, and as she unwraps it, he watches with interest.

A little, “oooo” sound slips out of him as she pulls a pair of… he doesn’t know what they’re called. Not shorts. They are very much not shorts. It’s… two triangles… maybe… that just cover her delta and a little bit of her bum, and… Gods… He’s already breathing hard and having a difficult time not unzipping his pants.

She’s smiling wide and happy at him, and removes the second bit. It’s a tube of fabric that goes around her bust, but… he doesn’t know how it does it, but somehow it sort of… pushes them up and together a bit, and he swallows hard, because he really likes that. Really likes all of it, and…

And her grin is even wider. She stretches onto her tiptoes and gives him a quick kiss. He’s about to pull her flush to him, grind into her, and then flop them both back down on the bed when she steps away, much too fast for his liking.

She grabs the green dress, and tosses it to him, turning her back on him. “Help me?”

He does, lowering the dress over her, saying, “You’re killing me, you know that, right?”

“Poor Kylo Ren, Master of the Order, most powerful dark Maji in the galaxy, murdered by sexy underwear.”

He laughs at that, rubbing against her. “Of all the ways to go…”

She leans back, brushing her rear against his front. “That doesn’t feel dead to me.”

He groans, running his hand through his hair, and then grips her hips, pulling her flush to him, fast, and grinds, hard, into her. He bites gently on her shoulder and says, “I’d have to be dead not to react to this.”

She wiggles against him again, and he groans once more. He bites a little harder on her shoulder, and places his hand in the center of her back, gently pressing her down toward the bed. His touch is light, getting across where he wants her, but completely aware that this sort of position can be tricky for her.

Today it’s not, she’s happy to lean her weight onto her hands, and look over her shoulder at him. She winks at him and wiggles again.

He stares at her, eyes hot, fingers tracing down her back, luxuriating in the heat of her skin under the softness of that fabric, and makes sure she watches as he pops the button on his trousers, and undoes the zip, slow, steady, eyes never wavering from hers as he pulls himself out. Then he flips her dress up, gives those… “What are these called?” he asks as his fingers trail over the satiny green fabric. And his eyes lap up the way it hugs her butt and delta.

 

 

He’s never, ever wanted to be a piece of fabric so much in his life.

“Panties.”

He nods, hooks his finger in the hem of them, letting his knuckle brush over her maomao, and then yanks them down.

Rey standing there, leaning into her hands against the bed, panties around her knees, dress up on her low back, looking back at him, makes him throb.

The ghost of kiss and nip are still on her skin, so he does exactly that, before standing up, getting a solid grip on his shaft, positioning himself, and sliding into her in a long, shivery, rush.

She arches back to meet him, and this time, there’s nothing slow. Fast, hard, deep, his hands curling into her hips, pulling her back onto him, her back arched, her body taking him to the root. He can feel the tingles starting in less than a minute, and forces himself to slow down, just a little, a few strokes slower, deeper, grinding his pelvis into hers, waiting a few breaths for her to catch up to him, and as soon as she does, he’s moving fast and hard again, watching their bodies sliding together, her pink glistening against his, until she clenches against him, his vision grays out around the edges, and his body tightens, spasms, spurting hard into her. 

 

 


On their second attempt at getting out of the hotel, Kylo’s in new trousers. (He didn’t quite push them far enough down before, and they’re in need of some washing.) And Rey, having gotten dressed a little faster this time, (now in the pink undies) managed to get into her clothing without getting him out of his. 

For all her musing about Kylo stepping out not covered from his chin down, it’s Rey who feels a bit nervous about to step out of a door in nothing but a little dress.

Finn and Rose’s wedding didn’t trigger this sensation, but maybe that was because she knew everyone there. Or maybe it was because she had a good, strong pair of stompy boots and knew that if need be, she could kick a bugger into next week.

But today, she’s in a light, floaty green dress, the kind of fabric that moves with her every time she steps, the hem dancing against her thighs with each step, each breeze, and light little sandals, that look nice, and keep her from being barefoot, but offer no real strength or protection.

Plus, this time, she’s leaving her staff behind, too.

Or it could be, when she was at Finn and Rose’s wedding she was wearing a borrowed dress. It was basically a costume for a nice night. But this clothing is hers and it’s a sign that things about her are starting to change.

For example, maybe she is the kind of person who puts on nice clothing, and goes out to dinner, and dancing, with her husband.

And maybe, just maybe, the feel of whisper-y fabric, and her hair soft and loose, both of them fluttering about with every warm breeze, and his hand on her back as they head out into a fire-lit night, neither of them carrying a weapon, is the kind of thing she might like.

 

 


 

Food is easy to find, and for some reason they’re feeling more than a bit hungry. They wander, following their noses, and locate a street where every third building is selling something to eat.

The popular local treat appears to be some sort of sausage cooked over an open flame, chopped up fine, and mixed with bright sweet-sour vegetables, all wrapped up in a flatbread.

They get four of them, different types of sausages and vegetables, and share them.

Rey’s looking at the one he’s more or less inhaling, which is fine with her because she doesn’t much like it (She doesn’t know what a torble is, but would prefer they never end up in her food again.), and says, “Two years ago, I never had enough food to even think of turning something down because it didn’t taste good.”

He looks at the sausage wrap in his hand. “Two years ago, I didn’t eat anything I didn’t personally take out of the package myself, because it might be poisoned.”

They share a look, neither of them sure what to do with that. Eventually, he takes a bit of one of the sausages they haven’t tried, and offers it to her, holding it between his fingers.

She’s about to take it, see how it is, and then an idea hits. Instead of taking it with her fingers, she leans toward him and nibbles it from his hand, kissing his fingers.

Out here, in the dim of fire-lit night, they’re just a couple sitting at a table on a patio in front of a café. There are probably ten other couples just like them, at least, just to look at them, within twenty meters. No one looks, or stares, as he offers her another bite, and she kisses his palm, leaning in against him.

Two years changes a lot, and they’re both wondering where two more years will find them.

 

 


Food was easy to find… Music and dancing… Less easy.

A map, or datapad, or… maybe, asking someone for directions likely would have helped, but part of the fun of this is just wandering, going where they feel pulled. And since both of them are feeling like they’re supposed to be going to the same place, it’s easy enough to go with it.

And eventually, they hear music. Loud thumping, heavy beat, dancing music.

His arm is around her shoulders, and she squeezes his hand as they draw closer to it.

The only reason it’s not the seediest place either of them have ever been is because he’s been sent to plenty of seedy places over his years with Snoke and seedy was what the best place in Niima Outpost aspired to be.

It’s a dive bar on the far bank of the lake. It’s fairly clean, ish… as long as the lights are low, which they are. No one gives either of them a second look when they enter, though his order of one rum and strawberry nectar (something he knows will taste good) for the two of them does get a raised eyebrow. It’s mostly strawberry juice with a splash of rum, and costs probably three times more than it should, but that bothers neither of them.

She’s a lightweight by the nature of her size, and he is by the nature of not building up any tolerance. By the second one, they’re both feeling gloriously toasted.

They do hover for a few moments, finishing the drink, staring at the dance area. People are bouncing around, flailing about in concert with the beat. They certainly look like they’re having a good time.

And Rey can feel her body responding to it. Her hips just start a little bounce to go with the beat pounding through the bar, pounding through them.

And Kylo’s not much of a dancer by nature, his body doesn’t feel any particular urge to move around because there’s loud music thrumming through the air, but it does feel an urge to follow Rey as she slides her way into the crowd, bouncing around, enjoying the beat.

 

 


This is not how he learned to dance. Granted, he didn’t so much learn as he danced with his mom and dad at Lando’ wedding a few times. And once Luke let them have a dance at his academy, but he rapidly came to the conclusion that letting a bunch of horny adolescents who were trying to banish their passions dance with each other was a splendidly stupid idea. Kylo thinks it lasted half an hour before Luke shut it down muttering about how he wasn’t cut out for this.

Dancing with his parents is actually one of his better memories. He was seven, so big enough that for some of the dances, he’d stand in front of Leia, put his hand on her back, take her hand in his, and she showed him the steps. And he was little enough that for some of them, Han picked him up, and both of them held him as they danced with each other.

He guesses that was the best few days they ever had together. Four days, all together, in Cloud City. Chewie was there; he brought his wife, even. (Though he had the sense that after so many years apart they didn’t much like each other.) Lando was having a blast, showing off his home and his bride and the life he was building, both of them so pleased with each other and the future.

Luke didn’t come. He was working hard on the Jedi school, and sent his regrets. Kylo could feel the other adults had mixed feelings about that. A sense that they liked having Luke around, but that, especially since he got really serious about the Jedi stuff, he tended to put a damper on parties. So, they missed him, but didn’t exactly mind that he’d bowed out.

This, however, is nothing like either of his previous dancing experiences. (Though, had Luke not stormed in and turned the music off while he and the rest of the Padawans were still getting over their jitters and just starting to move toward each other, it’s fairly likely the Jedi school one would have gotten here.)

This is hot and fast and everyone is close and bouncing around and touching, so much touching, all over touching, and Rey’s pulling him into it, though it’s not exactly taking a lot of coaxing to get him to go because he’s all in favor of situations where he gets to rub up against her as much as he likes.

And apparently, rub up against your partner to the beat is the name of the game here.

And he’s ready to play.


 

 

 

She’s got her hand around his wrist, leading him into the fray feeling… Just… good. More than good. Feeling like firelight flickering against water, reflected and shimmering.

Light and gold and bright and warm.

It’s hot in here, and she’s glad for the dress. She’d been a little shy about stepping out of their hotel room in it, a little shy about anyone but him seeing her like this, but right now, he’s looking at her like she’s the flame that’ll pull him through the night, like she’s the glow that gives him life…

Like he really fucking wants to dance.

She grins up at him, backing into the crowd, knowing he’s got her back, and lets the music take over.


 

 

 

Kylo cannot follow the beat to save his life. He is perpetually landing a second or so off the rhythm of the music, and by the time he’s got each new song down, they switch to another one.

And he knows why. Same damn reason he ended up a huge bruise the first few times he went up against his training droids. The music is from a stereo system. If there were a band, if someone were playing it, he’d have no trouble because he could hook into their feel of how the music should work.

But this is just canned sound coming from a machine.

He could probably follow the crowd, but... actually they’re part of the problem. If it were just him and Rey, he’d be fine. Hell, if it were just him and Rey and maybe… oh… eight Praetorian guards, he’d still be fine, but there’s at least fifty people here, plus everyone at the bar, and that’s just too many different minds all hearing the music slightly differently, all reacting slightly differently, and it’s just too much.  

She pulls his hand into hers, instead of the two of them just brushing against each other as they bounce out of synch against one another. (Though, honestly, he’s not minding that, either. The drag of her body, fast and close against his is nice.) There’s the sweet spot. He can read the beat off of her, and maybe they aren’t still perfectly in synch with the music, he’s at least in synch with how she’s hearing it, so that’s something.


 

 

Okay, yes, he said he was a bad dancer when they were at the beach during Finn and Rose’s wedding. And she said he wouldn’t be with her. Because, well… that’s the kind of thing you’re supposed to say, and well… there wasn’t any music and they were going slow… it worked.

But… Kylo’s a bad dancer.

She doesn’t know how he can be a bad dancer. The man fights like he was born for it. He moves like… actually… As she’s thinking about it he’s not all that graceful when he moves. There’s power in how he moves, tons of it, and he’s really good with his lightsaber. He can whirl that baby around until the end of time.

But, actually, his fighting style is wild and overpowering, and not all that graceful.

He fights like the Falcon flies, hard and fast and dangerous, wild, but the wildness of someone who’s already run the odds in his head, and decided to throw the dice anyway. But the only elegance is the elegance of something extremely dangerous moving very fast.

After the second song of him going zig when she goes zag, she takes his hand in hers, and suddenly, things get a lot better.

And suddenly, she knows what part of the problem is, he’s got way too many minds all thrumming along, close and loud, and it’s clouding his focus.


 

 

He doesn’t exactly know what to do with his hands. Hips and knees and feet are okay. They bend and bounce around with the beat. Shoulders and hands… Okay, one of them has to stay on Rey, or he falls out of beat with her. The other one… Hanging limply at his side doesn’t feel right, but flailing it around like the rest of the party seems off, too.

An insult to his dignity or something.

Wrapping it around her waist is good. He likes it there. She likes it there.

The song shifts, gets a bit slower, a little deeper. She moves closer to him, his leg between hers, hers between his, and he finds that his hand on her thigh, fingers just an inch below the hem of her dress bare skin to bare skin works just fine for both of them.

 

 


The third drink, and he’s suspicious this one may have had a tad more than a splash of rum in it, split between them, takes care of any concerns of where his hands may be going. As well as any concerns about following the beat.

He’s dancing with her, and that’s all the following he needs to do.


 

 

She’s flushed pink. Dancing, alcohol, good time, all of combining to make her skin rosy. Her head is back, hair wild from moving fast, and she’s laughing. He’s got both of his hands around her waist, his hips flush to hers, and is looking down at her.

He’ll remember this moment for the rest of his life.

 

 


He undid a button of his shirt because it’s hot and they’re dancing hard.

She undoes another one because… well, she could.

Neither of them knows which of them did the third.

Or the fourth.

And by that point his shirt is pretty much open, so he might as well just untuck it and undo the fifth.

And her hands are on his chest, and his are on her hips, and maybe this isn’t a dance so much as making love… well… fucking, standing up, dressed, but it’s fun, and it’s not like they’re the only one’s doing it.

 

 


They’re back to front, and he’s right up against her. Rey likes that just fine.

Then it gets better. It’s that little roll he does with his hips. It shouldn’t be fucking legal. She knows exactly how that feels when he’s not wearing pants and she’s not wearing a skirt and that little roll followed by a longer, deeper thrust and… And he’s got his hand almost, just on her delta. It’s low on her belly, teasing her with where it could be, and his other hand is tracing down the inside of her arm, to just, lightly brush against the side of her breast and…

She tilts her head back, moaning, softly, as she licks her lips.

 

 

He spins her around, strokes her face, and her lips seek his finger. She sucks it for a moment, before sliding her teeth over it, and he groans, loud, grinding against her, his thigh between her legs, and his pelvis against her hip, and really, they need to get out of this fucking bar and back to their hotel, probably ten minutes ago.

 

 


He’s feeling a little self-conscious leaving the press of dancing bodies. There, in the melee of soft touch, he was more or less covered. Out here, leaving, there’s nothing blocking anyone’s view of his body, which is standing tall and proud, happily leading the way, hoping to get somewhere private, and into Rey, as fast as it can.

Though, as he looks around a bit, he does notice he’s not the only man leaving the place in this state.

And that actually, helps.

Rey giving him a gentle squeeze along with, “Let’s put that to good use,” banishes what’s left of any self-consciousness.

After all, he is standing proud for a reason, so… it’s appropriate.

Though he thinks it’s possible that the amount of rum drinks in his system might have something to do with why he thinks this is appropriate.

 

 

 


They’re lost. Every bloody street in this bloody town looks like every other street in this bloody town and the last thing either of them wants to do is wait another second, almost running down another street, not finding their hotel on it.

Rey sees the alley, and catches his eye. His desire sparks hot at the idea. He’s already ridiculously turned on from dancing and being out with her and… In public, where they could get caught… Okay, no not them, but… the idea of it is still burning through his mind.

He raises an eyebrow Sure?

She nods at him, pulling him into it. They’ve made it into a less seedy part of town, so it’s clean enough, and there’s no lights, so it’s not exactly easy to see into, but as he’s pulling her to him, he casts his do not look, and she bumps it, adding her own layer of the Force to it.

As long as they don’t make too much noise, they shouldn’t attract much attention.

He pulls her hips to his, grinding against her, and she’s on her tiptoes, sucking his tongue like it’s the best candy ever, and the loud rip of her panties in his hands more or less kills any intentions he may have had of being quiet, but her answering flare of arousal shatters any concern he might have had about doing it.

The feel of silk shredding between his fingers, and her skin hot and wet against them has him leaking, and she’s undoing his trousers, pushing them down around his hips, and he’s pulling her up, into his arms, her legs wrapping around his hips, and a long slide and…

Both of them groan, loud.

She bites his shoulder, muffling the sound a little.

He’d back her against the wall, but her dress doesn’t cover that much of her and the wall looks rough, so that’s not happening. There’s only so fast and deep they can go like this, but he’s remembering the way she was watching that little roll of his hips, remembering how it felt, and he can do that right here, right now, all fucking night long if she likes.

And she does. He feels the vibration of her moan though his shoulder. He turns his face to hers, kissing her cheek and ear, and she gets the message, meeting his lips with hers.

 

 

Her legs tighten on his hips, and she adds her own little roll, coaxing a groan out of him.  

They may be doing an okay job on invisible, but they’re doing a piss-poor job of silent.

But it’s too… everything… to stay quiet. Too good, too now, too intense, too… Feelings like this weren’t meant to be kept inside, shuttered behind still lips and tight jaws.

He can’t see them, but he can feel his words on her skin, and her pictures on his, and he’s murmuring it to her with each roll of their hips, “Love you, love you, love you…” And her head’s back, mouth open, soft, gasping pants punctuating his mantra.

His hands squeeze under her thighs, lifting her higher, getting more friction, making both of them louder.

“They’ve got to be around here somewhere!” freezes both of them dead and silent. There’s a constable, or something like that, searching up and down the street. He doesn’t look into the alley, their spell holds, but he’s muttering about stupid fucking kids making a racket.

Both of them breaking into a completely different set of vibrations, body shaking, silent giggles adds another layer of delight of the embrace of her body around his.

When they stop laughing, they share a look, he’s asking if she wants to stop, and she rolls her hips against him again, a very clear no.

He smiles at her, very happy with that response, and kisses her deep and wet, rocking his hips back against hers, building their fire up again.

This time he’s thinking it, letting it burst out of him in feelings, if not words, Love you, love you, love you…

She’s rocking back against him, meeting him stroke for stroke, hands in his hair, eyes on his, Love you, Kylo, love you.

He stiffens at it, his hips snapping, faster, harder, taking them higher. Maybe there will be a point where her using his name won’t get to him, but right now… every time she does, especially in moments like now, where she makes it clear she’s chosen him… It just thrills him.

She leans back, taking him deeper, taking them higher, again and again…

Their rhythm goes choppy, staccato, deeper, faster, seeking release.

There… right… there… It’s a hard, shuddering thrust, and a deep grind of pelvis to pelvis, and they’re both gone, tingling from head to toes, shaking with the force of it.

She clings, limp and breathing hard, against him for a few moments. He’s panting, breath and heart slowing down, head against her shoulder.

When he puts her down, they realize that ripped panties don’t exactly go far when it comes to cleaning up, and there’s not a towel for… kilometers. At least not one they can get.

He takes his shirt the rest of the way off, and hands it to her, figuring their do not look will extend to him wandering around without a shirt.

She giggles at it, takes the ruined panties off, tidies herself up, and tucks as much of the shirt as will fit into his back pocket.

He wraps his arm around her shoulders, and they start back to their hotel, a much slower, more relaxed pace, this time.

As they’re ambling along, she takes his right hand in hers, and kisses his palm. “I like this.”

“Walking around with me half-naked and covered in your marks?”

“Yes.”

He grins at her, feeling just wonderfully wicked and playful. “Walking around half-naked and covered in my…” he licks his lips, looks her up and down, and she feels the word he’s thinking, it’s a naughty one, and it’s not the one he says, “mark?”

She bops him with her hip, and snuggles her head against his shoulder. “Yes.”

He slips his arm around her shoulders, and kisses the top of her head. “Good.”

 

 

 


Everyone loves a good bit of gossip, and Naboo is no exception to that rule. The cheap, flimsy scandal sheet that claims to have pictures of the Master of the Order dancing in a bar with some floozy sells like mad for a few days.

And, the pictures… sort of… maybe… kind of look like him. Someone was getting pictures of himself and his date, and caught the “Master” in the back of his photos, and sold the video to the scandal sheet. It’s definitely a large man with black hair, dark eyes, and a scar across his face. The focus is blurry, and the clothing is utterly un-commanding, and the body art is… peculiar, plus the expression on his face couldn’t be less Master Ren if he tried and… It’s a cheap, shitty bar with bad drinks and lame music, and... He’s a kind of spastic dancer.

Which, for the people who think it is Master Ren, just makes the story all the better. But, most of the readers just think it’s a couple in love, with a somewhat goofy, probably drunk, guy trying to impress his date with some tragically bad dance moves.

 

Chapter Text

4/28/1

 

Kylo’s not a stranger to pain. He’s felt more versions of it in any given year than most people do in a lifetime. That said, waking up with his head throbbing, the room spinning, and his stomach violently attempting to go galloping out of his body is an entirely new flavor of pain, and he’d really like to never, ever feel this again.

He does make it to the bathroom (though he trips over his own feet on the way) before he starts to retch.

A second later, Rey’s behind him, stroking his back and shoulders, and her touch, along with her calming, healing light side Force eases the rolling in his stomach and the thudding in his head.

He gingerly stands up, swishes out his mouth with water, and then carefully sits on the bathmat with his back against the tub. “Thank you.”

“What was that? Did you get poisoned or something?”

He winces; her voice is not exactly a gentle or dulcet tone right this second. He slowly lowers himself to his side, and rests his head on her thigh, putting her hand back on his head, and says, quietly, “Yes. Your light is taking care of you. My dark doesn’t lend itself to automatic hangover cures.”

 

 

She gently pets his hair, and as she’s doing that, he feels the all over muck of… Force… Okay, he can remember at least five of those drinks, and they did split them, and the first few didn’t seem to pack any punch, but after that… He’s thinking more and coming to the conclusion that she wasn’t really drinking them after the third one, and that just possibly he may have ordered a sixth one that he had all to himself and…

Wincing, he says, “This is why I don’t drink.”

She kisses his temple, and he feels another wave of her magic easing through him. “Better?”

“Getting there.” And he is. He’s not immediately hoping someone will shoot him to put him out of his misery.

She gently strokes his forehead, brushing his hair back, and looks around. She can’t see a chronometer, but its morning, it has to be, though the light it still gray and dim. She kisses his temple again. “First full day together.”

He gently squeezes her thigh and gives it a little kiss, before trying to see if he can muster any of his own Force skills to help his body feel better faster.

“This is not how I was intending to start it.”

 

 


Later than either of them anticipated, they’re packed up and on the move.

Next stop, Theed, where, hopefully, the Great Library has a book or two about a certain former Queen of Naboo.

And, maybe, someone knows a place where one could locate rings.

 

 


Ulinada is, all things considered, a fairly small place. About 50,000 people live there full time, and another twenty-or-so-thousand tourists are there at any given time. On the scale of places Rey’s been, it’s mammoth, but, really, it’s a small city between two lakes that people like to go to to get away from a real city.

Theed is just such a ‘real’ city.

It’s the human capital of Naboo, and the largest above ground settlement. Sixteen million people call it home, and other than a soul deep aversion to being anywhere with this many people for any long bit of time, Rey can see why.

It’s the most beautiful place she’s ever imagined.

They take two passes over it, before getting cleared to land, which is more than enough time to see the elegant domes, in all shades of copper, from turquoise patina to screaming new orange. The buildings under them all seem to be made of the same pastel coral stone, and all of it stretches out along a cliff blessed with tumbling waterfalls at the edge of a wide green plain.

“Why would Palpatine ever leave?”

Kylo shrugs.

“Everything you could want is here. It’s beautiful!”

He smiles a little at that. He’s piloting, so both of his hands are busy right now. He cocks his head a little, a touch me, here sort of gesture. She rests her hand against his cheek, and he lets her feel his dark and the niggly voices that live there.

She does, sensing that gnawing need for more.

“Not everyone has enough light to smother that voice. I doubt he ever had a day of his life where he was content.”

She strokes his cheek. “Have you?”

He half-shrugs at that, too, looking like he’s focusing on bringing the craft down in their allotted space. He’s certainly had moments, maybe even stretching into complete hours when he’s been content; he’s not sure about an entire day, though. So he focuses on landing the ship, though they both know he doesn’t need to concentrate that hard on landing the craft.  “It’s better than it used to be.” He shrugs at that, too. “I’m building and securing right now. A lot to keep myself occupied and feed that need. If I’m ever really secure… I don’t know how it’ll work.” He’s intensely watching the spot they’re going to land, intentionally not meeting her eyes, “He kept the Empire stable for a good seventeen-eighteen years, maybe he was just biding his time, waiting for the Death Star to get finished. He was patient enough for something like that. Or maybe he hit the point where the challenge was getting stale, so he started to blow things up to make himself feel alive.”

She kisses his cheek, feeling how scared he is that that’s the path he’s standing on.

 

 


They’ve got two hours before they can check into their hotel, so the library is their first stop. It’s a temple to information, soft peach stone rising up before them, capped off with a pastel greeny-blue dome, high, wide windows in violet and gray stained glass, and huge beaten copper doors.

Rey hadn’t been entirely sure about Ulinada, but this, this she likes.

He can feel her appreciating the feel of the place. “Maybe it’s a Jedi thing. Luke loved this sort of look. His temple was built like this, smaller scale, not as expensive, but, arches, domes, big windows… He’d have been happy here.”

The doors open for them, sliding back, allowing them entry. “He may have been born here.” Rey rolls her eyes. “For all I know, I was, too.”

Kylo shakes his head. “You don’t have the accent for it. Whoever taught you to speak was from a core-world.” They walk through an open, empty area, floors gleaming white marble, sofas and tables with people reading, and a main desk in the center with several people, very quietly, talking to a few others.

“Doesn’t mean I wasn’t born here.”

He inclines his head, about to respond, but they both feel the Librarian glaring at them. Apparently, this is a place of silence. No one else is talking in their normal voice, and… as they look around, it’s fairly clear they’re also not dressed like the locals.

Rey’d moved up to the local dress for Ulinada, deciding that since they were still on vacation, she could keep wearing her fun, little dresses, but apparently that’s freakishly casual by the standards of Theed, or, at least, it’s library. Kylo’s still in his Padme clothing, which is vastly more casual than his blacks, which are about a thousand times less ornate than the robes the men around them are wearing. Everyone around them is covered from head to toe in expensive, ornate, jewel-bedecked outfits of splendorous wealth.

She glances up at him and thinks, Poe said they were kind of stuffy here.

Kylo bites back a quick laugh.

The glare intensifies. Not only are they not dressed for it, but apparently this isn’t a place where people laugh.

Looks like your pilot was right about that. I haven’t been glared at this hard for stepping over the line since I was eight.

What did you do?

Mis-remembered my nine times tables.

She nods. Tragic.

Pretty much.

They’ve made it to the main desk, and Rey decides that this is a job better handled by her than Kylo. “Excuse me, we were wondering where books on the Queens of Naboo would be?”

The Librarian, an older woman, in rich brocades and the most elaborate hairdo Rey’s ever seen, eyes both of them, making it clear they don’t really belong here, but she’ll deign to help them, probably because she approves of what they wish to learn more about, and then gestures behind her. “Nine rows back, seven down.” Her voice is hushed, and Rey wonders if she’s ever spoken at full volume.

“Thank you.”

 

 


They’ve found the right set of shelves. He’s scanning book titles, and she’s supposed to be scanning them, but really she’s watching him, crouched down, reading through one of the lower shelves.

His hair is pulled back in a tidy knot. He’s left the leather jacket back in their ship; it’s too warm for it. His lightsaber is back at the ship, too. He’s in a simple white v-neck shirt, dark blue trousers, and brown boots. There are still the faint ghosts of her marks on his right arm as his fingers glide from book to book.

Maybe there never was a Ben, but she’s got the sense that this is what he was supposed to look like.

Tan. Lots of tan. He thinks at her without stopping looking at the books.

She smirks at that. She sits next to him, cross-legged, and rests her head against his shoulder. Was Ben supposed to be a scholar?

He shrugs. He was supposed to know things. Be deep and wise. Not sure if anyone ever took the time to think about how Ben was supposed to get that information. Or how ridiculous it is to expect a twenty-year-old who’d never been anywhere other than his home or a school, never met more than fifty people, to be wise.

Did you do a lot of this with Luke?

We only had a few hundred books. I read them all the first three years.

Rey tries to imagine ever saying only to go along with a few hundred books. Even with Orlac’s library in her possession, the idea of a few hundred books still feels like more than she’d ever imagined. Did you like reading?

He sits back, back against the stack behind them, and pulls a book toward them. It’s not the right one, just the first one that caught his attention. He cradles it between his hands, and gets comfy. Ben would have happily spent ages here, or with his calligraphy brushes.  

If the little voice that wanted more didn’t keep calling to you?

He inclines his head at that, and kisses the top of her head. Maybe. He sighs and looks around. No books for you?

No. She looks around. That’s not strictly true. Well, not like these. Technical specs. Instruction manuals. Scavengers grab whatever might be valuable, and if you know how things work, you can make them more valuable. So… you raid a downed Star Destroyer, and if you can find not just the power couplings, but the specs for them, too, it’s worth more. If you keep the specs, you can fix the next coupling you find, and that’s worth even more. I’m sure I saw books like this; there were personal quarters, and I raided them for clothing and bedding and whatnot, but books didn’t fetch anything of value, so I never brought them back. They weren’t worth the sweat.

He kisses the top of her head again. Books were a way for me to have more, without having to deal with my failings and flaws. In a story, you’re whoever the story is about, and even Luke’s library had stories. Jedi heroes of old. Men and women who were effortlessly calm and centered, capable of finding their peace, always using their power the right way. Warriors who ferreted out the dark, inside themselves and outside, too, and destroyed it. He doesn’t say it to her, or put the thought to words, but there’s a reason why the first thing he burned at Luke’s Temple was the library.

She gives him a little hug.

The heroes didn’t scare their classmates when they got frustrated because all of the ‘good’, ‘light’ things didn’t come easy to them. He rests his cheek against the top of her head. Did you ever want more?

She sighs a little. I wanted my parents to come back. I wanted it to be a mistake. I wanted enough food to eat and to feel safe at night and… I’d tell myself stories, that they were great, important people, people who were in grave danger, and they’d dropped me in Jakku to keep me safe, because no one would ever look for me there, but they’d come back for me. I couldn’t leave because they’d come for me, sooner or later, and if I wasn’t there, then we’d never be together again, and never go on to do the great things we were meant to.

He rubs his cheek against the top of her head again. They were great, important people. And there was real danger. Every other week someone new was trying to kill one of them. And they were trying to keep me safe, from their enemies, from the monster in my head, and the monster they were afraid I’d become. He kisses the top of her head. And it didn’t fucking matter at all. Even Darth Vader seems great, if he actually gives a damn and pays attention to you and tells you you’re good enough and meant for something important.

 

 

She rests against him, and he rests against her, and for a moment, they just both feel it.

Then he reaches up, and puts the book back. Come on, let’s find the right one, and go to our hotel.

 

 


“Think this is it?” he says, looking at a title a few moments later, speaking in a quiet whisper.

“The Queens of Naboo: Padme Naberrie Amidala… I think that’s it. How long is it?”

He flips through the actual pages. “Three hundred pages. So… Most of the rest of today.”

“Think they’ll let us take it?” There are signs about how to get a library card, but they don’t actually live in Theed so…

He flashes her an are you kidding me look.

“Oh.”

He nods. “Maybe not let, but we’ll make sure they get it back, okay?”

She smirks a little. “Okay.”

 

 


There’s nothing old-fashioned or quaint about this hotel. It’s about ten minutes past modern and as slick and comfortable as the capitol city of a capitol world could make its top-ranked accommodations for honored guests.

In fact, it’s so high ranked, and so comfortable, and lush, and rich, and plush, that the desk clerk spends a good five minutes ignoring them because they aren’t dressed like the usual high-muckety-mucks who go to places like this.

Kylo’s staring at the man, thinking about what’d he do if he showed up in his full blacks and gave him this exact same gaze, and Rey is holding his hand making it very clear that she’d really appreciate him not choking the jerk.

He’d wet his pants if I used my real name. He can feel she’s vaguely amused by that idea, and there’s a tiny little spark in the back of her mind that wants to see him try it, but the “better” part of her nature jumps on that and pushes it down.

No.

She whacks the tip of her staff against the counter. Not a hard hit, but enough force to make a loud crack. The desk clerk jerks at it, finally deigning to notice them.

“Yes?”

“Seven minutes it a long time to wait when you’re doing nothing else,” Kylo says.

“We’re booked.”

“Lovely. We have a reservation.” Rey replies, “Amidala. Ben and Rey.”

That startles the desk clerk more than the crack. He looks from Kylo to Rey and back again. His eyes linger on Rey, really looking at her, not sure if he’s seeing a ghost or not. He eyes their clothing. They’re either not rich and powerful enough to be here, or so rich and powerful they don’t care if they blend or not.

And with that name… “What brings you to the Theed?”

“Learning more about my grandmother,” Kylo says. “She lived here. Died here about fifty-five years ago. You’ve probably heard of her.” He puts a hint of the threat he could put into that sentence, not wanting to annoy Rey, too badly, but not wanting to just let that twit just be.

The desk clerk swallows, hard. His eyes skitter down to his register, which is completely digital. “Amidalas, Ben and Rey, yes, we have you on the list.” He ducks behind the counter and comes up with two key cards that he runs through the register. “Room 1687. Do you need help with your bags?”

Rey glances at the one bag over Kylo’s shoulder, and the one bag she’s carrying. “I think we’re fine. All we needed was someone to pay attention.”

“Ah… yes…”

 

 


“So…” Rey asks when they get into their room, and put their bags down.

He’s already digging out the book. “Reading?”

“Sure. Food, too.” She’s hungry.

He looks around the room and eventually finds what he expects. A menu. “I can’t be the only person who has food brought to him.” He tosses it to her, and then flops onto the bed, ready to start reading.

“Do you want to eat?”

His stomach’s still a bit off, but it’s been hours since he had a piece of dry toast and a cup of tea for breakfast, so food is probably a good idea, even if he’s not feeling enthusiastic about it. “Yes, but I don’t much care what. Something bland. I want to get into this.”

“Okay.” She figures out what to get and places the order, as he pulls off his boots, and takes off his belt.

She smiles a bit at that, deciding they likely should keep their clothing on until the food gets here, but… as soon as it’s here, off it’s going. A lazy afternoon nibbling, reading, resting, and just laying around with each other sounds awfully good to her.

 

 


Rey’s listening to him read. It’s interesting, and she’s enjoying this history of Amidala. She sounds like the kind of lady Rey’d like to meet. And though the prose is precise and passionless, she’s getting hints of Kylo through Amidala, or maybe seeing shadows of her through him, bits of stubbornness and attachment to shaping the world the way she wanted it.

How she ended up with Vader… or Anakin… that’s still a mystery. As of this point in the story, she’s just been elected Queen. Rey knows some people fall in love young, and she supposes that might be what happened, that fourteen-year-old Padme met fifteen-year-old Anakin, still on the light side… or something like that.

But that doesn’t work. Luke and Leia were born more than a decade from where they are in the history.

Doesn’t mean she didn’t just meet a young Jedi. After all, that likely wouldn’t be in the official history. And, as he keeps reading, they eventually hit the point where she’s coming into contact with the Jedi, but… neither of them know who Qui Gon Jinn is. She makes a note to go look him up, see if there’s anything interesting about him, but later.

She’s laying on her side. Kylo’s on his stomach, pillows propped under his chest, book in front of him, reading away. His voice is soft and low, and she watches his eyes skittering across the page, feels him gravitating to another line of family.

She kisses his shoulder, feeling his ties to Vader, to the idea of welcoming dark, and enjoys how rapidly he’s sinking into Padme’s light.

He’s all spread out, taking up even more of the bed than he seems like he should. He’s big to begin with, but something about a bed and a good book makes him seem to melt to expand and cover the whole thing.

 

 

She lays a finger on his shoulder, tracing lines between his freckles and moles, brushing his hair to the side to connect the one from the top of his shoulder to the one just below the nape of his neck. He’s got a lot of them on his face, and not so many on the rest of him. Still enough of them to draw pretty patterns on his back and hips, though.

She gets up, finding his brush and ink. He looks up from the book, sees what she’s doing, and smiles, and goes back to reading to them.

He’s going back to the Order covered in little ink drawings, and both of them like it.

He purrs a little, stopping mid-sentence as the brush traces over his back. She’s not sure what she’s drawing, there’s no conscious intention there, but eventually, she can see the design starting to come together.

She kisses, gently, above it, making sure not to smear it, then finishes it off, and sends the brush and ink back to the top of the dresser.

He looks over his shoulder to the mirror behind him, and says, “A…” he stares at it, not sure what it might be. “That’s not a bird, right?”

“It’s a moth.” She blows on it gently, and tests, rubbing her finger over one of the lines. It’s dry.

“Oh.”

She wonders if Anakin was like his grandson, a moth. A dark creature that loves the light.

“Moths get burned by the light,” Kylo says, turning his face away from the book, toward her, followed by, “You’re thinking loudly.”

She gently touches the scar that marks where she stabbed a lightsaber through his shoulder. “Do you think you didn’t get burned?”

“I didn’t die.”

She kisses that scar. “True.”

He rolls over, onto his back, and stretches his arms above his head, somehow taking up more of the bed. “What light creatures love the dark?”

She shrugs at that, snuggling into him, resting her face against his chest, feeling/hearing the thrum of his heart. Then she thinks back to some of the artwork she saw at Orlac’s school. “Girls. Human girls.”

He laughs at that, petting her hair. “I think you’re onto something. Do they get burned?”

She thinks about how Padme Amidala, youngest queen of Naboo, with her bright, bright future, and glorious reign ended up. “Probably.” That’s grim, and closer to them than either of them finds comfortable.

His hand strokes down her head and back, fingers trailing over her spine. He’s not sure if this is real, if it’s a memory, or a feeling, or him just… hoping, but he says, “I don’t think she knew she was getting a dark creature. I think she fell for Anakin, good, light, Jedi Anakin. She didn’t know what was under there. Maybe he didn’t, either.”

She kisses his chest, and lays her hand over his heart.

He kisses the top of her head. “And you saw me on my worst day, at my darkest hour, and walked into the dark, eyes open, knowing what was there, and took it up anyway. I think that makes a lot of difference.”

  

 


She takes over reading. She’s sitting, back against the headboard, and he lays in the bed, head on her thigh, listening.

From Qui Gon Jinn, they find a familiar name, Obi Wan Kenobi. Apparently he and Amidala worked together on several missions over the years, and he was her personal security for a while.

There’s even a picture of the two of them. It’s the only picture in the book where Amidala’s wearing no makeup. The only one where they’ve got any sense of her actual face, instead of a mask of white and red. They spend quite a while looking at it, and… Rey can somewhat see the idea that Kylo has her eyes. They’ve both got dark brown eyes, though the shapes are quite different. The rest of him though, that’s all his own.

She can understand why the clerk kept looking from him to her. She’s got more of Padme’s looks than her grandson does. She doesn’t know how last names move among the Naboon, if they’re patrilineal or matrilineal, but for a few heartbeats he was wondering which one of the two of them had the name first.

And for as much as Kylo’s looking at her, he’s also studying the man next to her. Ben. His namesake. Eventually, he closes his eyes and looks away from it. Then he says, “That’s what Ben was supposed to look like. Tan and brown, a blue lightsaber, deep and calm. The kind of man you trust to protect a queen. The kind of man who shows up to rescue a princess…” He shakes his head at that, too. “She never met him, you know? Saw him for about a minute. Watched him die at Vader’s hands, but… He was a friend of her father, and Luke… He was General Kenobi to her, a figure from history, not part of her life. He was Ben to Luke, and Luke really only knew him for two days.”

She strokes his hair, waits to see if he says anything else, but he doesn’t, so she turns the page, and keeps reading. 

There’s no mention of Anakin Skywalker, and when they get to the end of the chapter the book veers off to talk about intra-Naboon squabbling between the humans and Gungans.

After a few pages of that, Kylo says, “He was Kenobi’s apprentice, so… that must be how they met.”

He tries to feel back, through the memories of his bloodline, but… there’s nothing.

And then it’s there. It’s an avalanche of anger at Kenobi and Padme, hard enough he jerks at it.

“Kylo?” Rey’s really disturbed, dropping the book, and grabbing his shoulders.

He’s choking on how hot this hate is. His hand is clenching, hard, crushing a throat that isn’t there, and the desire to strike out at everything is overwhelming. It’s hate, rage, on a level he’s never felt before. He didn’t think this kind of emotional fire even existed, let alone could be survived.

And then it’s gone, and Rey’s looking exhausted.

They’re both breathing hard, him from the onslaught of the emotions, and her from cutting him off from them. Both of them take a moment to regroup themselves.

Eventually he can sort through the feelings enough to figure out what they were. “Everything was on fire. Hot… Glowing red. All over hot. The last time he saw her, she was with Kenobi… He thought they’d both betrayed him, personally, politically, romantically... His best friend… mentor…” neither of those words feel right, “brother and his wife were fucking each other and had just came to kill him.” His head is throbbing from how hard that memory hit. “He choked her to her second to last breath and fought Kenobi to what was supposed to be the death. Kenobi was better with a lightsaber, and he won the fight, otherwise they all would have died there. Her, him, Luke and Leia. If he’d won, he’d have ended himself, too. The whole of them would have vanished in flames.”

She takes a few, deep, calming breaths, just touching that anger left her shaking. Then she strokes him again, feeling the ache through him, too. “He turned when he met Luke. When he really felt that…”

Kylo nods. “That whatever happened with Padme, it didn’t involve Kenobi. She’d been true to him. On that level, at least.” He can’t really see it. Just feel the echoes of it, but… that was enough.

 

 


The last chapters of Padme’s life are… politics. Lots and lots and lots of politics. Padme put everything she could, and then some, into making sure that Palpatine never became Emperor.

And she failed.

Palpatine out-maneuvered her and the Jedi, and the senate, and… And everyone who didn’t directly benefit from him taking over.

Her last chapter it vague. There’s no mention of her being pregnant. The author isn’t entirely sure when she died, or how, just that it happened around the time of the Jedi purge.

There was a full, state funeral. The Naboon offer their dead back to the rivers that gave them life. Cremate them, and return their ashes to the water, but even that isn’t certain for Padme Amidala. On the orders of the new Emperor, within days of her death, construction on a mausoleum began. It was finished within a year, and there are pictures of a beautiful, solemn place. The author of the book doesn’t know if it was just a memorial, or if her body was, contra their traditions, interred there.

Rey’s voice goes quiet as she finishes reading that, and Kylo’s looking out the window of their rooms, a thoughtful expression on his face. It’s fairly late. The sun is long past set, but after finishing that story, he’s not exactly tired, and she’s not, either.

He glances away from the reflection of their room in the windows, and says, “Would you mind going with me?”

She shakes her head. “Let’s get dressed and go.”

 

 


It takes them a while to find it. It’s not exactly a tourist destination, and this late at night, there aren’t too many people to ask for directions. So, they likely don’t take the most direct route, but Kylo’s feeling pulled to his grandmother, and eventually they find her mausoleum.

During the day, it’s likely solemn and pretty.

At night it’s beautiful and haunting. Two eternal flames burn at the head and foot of a sarcophagus graced with the symbol of the royal house of Naboo, lighting a small gray chamber with a shifting, orange-yellow glow.

Before them, a stained glass window glows from the streetlights and moon behind it. Adding a purple/blue shift to the light.

They both have the feeling that no one, save them, has set foot here for years, maybe decades. Though, since there’s no dust, someone has to come, at least to clean.

 

 


Most children grow up with two grandmothers. Technically speaking, Kylo had three, though growing up, he’d only known of Breha Organa. Both his mother and father’s birth mothers’ were question marks.

Leia was adopted. He knew that. She and Uncle Luke had been born, raised apart, and were thrown back together by the Force nineteen years later.

Leia, with that little ironic look in her eyes, would say that the day she lost everything in the world that mattered to her, her home, her family, her sense of purpose, the Force saw her despair and gave her a new family.

Literally. “It was less than five hours later. I’d been in the cell, wallowing in…” He could feel the pain there, real pain, heart-deep pain, constant, motivating, shaping pain, but she didn’t like to ever acknowledge that. Pain, that was part of the dark, so people died, loves were lost, the world stopped turning, literally, halted on its axis and shattered to a billion pieces, and she kept it covered with sarcasm and a little bit of genuine humor, “it, and then in walks this guy pretending to be a Stormtrooper, badly, and he whips off his helmet, and says, ‘I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you.’ It took us a while to figure out he was your Uncle Luke, but we did, and the pieces slid back into place.”

He didn’t think to ask why she’d been adopted, and she never brought it up.

He wonders if that was part of her staying away, keep her past from slipping out. Not like it finally did slip out, rumors and gossip spread wide across the galaxy, (Though by then he already knew the real name, or at least what it claimed was the real name, of the voice that came to visit in his dark.) but how it too easily could have slipped out, her just thinking too hard about it. He could have pulled an image or feeling from her.

He often did.

He doesn’t think she ever knew her mother’s name. He’s not sure if she ever wondered who would have made babies with Vader. Then a bit of life slots into his head, something his mother likely understood, but, even with Rey in his life, wasn’t anything that he’d ever considered: Women don’t always consent.

There’s nothing in the book suggesting she ever fell in love. Not with Anakin, not with Obi Wan, not with anyone, ever.

And there’s nothing, anywhere, to ever suggest that Vader would have cared if a woman consented or not.

Kylo had been so lonely, so longing for anyone to approve of him, take an interest, encourage him to just be, that it never occurred to him to wonder about Vader’s lady. Obviously, if Vader was his grandfather, there had to be a grandmother, but… He gently touches Rey’s wrist. It wasn’t until he had an actual grasp on love and sex and how children get made, beyond a barely theoretical understanding of the technical details, that the idea that there had to be more than just Vader ever occurred to him.

He looks at Rey, who’s quietly feeling this space, looking at the stained glass and the mausoleum, and wonders about Anakin and Padme. Did she see her dark knight and fall in love with him? Was the taste of danger sweet between her lips?

Did he see her light, feel it warm him, get burned, and in turn burn everything he touched?

Did he just take what he wanted? Did he ever bother to care about her?

Did she join Kenobi to take him down as an act of revenge?

No… maybe… no… Wife. He felt that. Brother… Vader… Anakin… had words for them. That was there, solid, real… If anyone in the universe mattered to him, it was Padme and Kenobi. It wouldn’t have hurt that much if she’d just been a warm body offering a moment of release or if he’d just been a teacher.

His eyes slide shut and he feels that last moment, walls in place so it won’t hit so hard, but… It’s there, from both sides this time. The boiling rage and hate, that’s Vader, and under it, to the side, sorrow… such abysmal sorrow. That’s Padme. She loved him, and stood there, watching him lay waste to every hope they’d ever had. And when he was done, when he’d betrayed her, them, their children, and the light, the weight of breathing became too heavy, and she let her light go.

He lays his hand on the cold stone of an ornate sarcophagus with the symbol of the royal house of Naboo on it. There are echoes here, memories… He can feel the pressure of the stone against his palm, but not the feel of it. But a prosthetic limb would only feel the pressure. Texture, smooth, hard, silky, those sensations are denied neural networks made of synthnerves.

“Vader was here, at least once.”

“To gloat or cry?” Rey asks.

Kylo slides back, through his bloodlines, feeling wary, afraid that he may want to jerk out of this, fast.

He feels Rey’s hand on his wrist. She looks up at him, eyes warm. “I’ve got you. Go feel it.”

His eyes slide half-shut, and he pulls the memories from around him. The image is very clear, the man covered in black armor, breathing labored, chest full of cobwebs and acid, kneeling here, mask pressed to the stone. “Cry. It wasn’t until he met Luke that he knew he didn’t kill Padme and their children. He never recognized Leia, never felt her. Only knew she existed for a few moments, and never knew it was her.

Rey touches the sarcophagus. “Did he love her?”

“As much as he could. For whatever that was worth.” He looks around, half expecting the blue glow of the past made alive again, but nothing with voice deigns to visit them, or disturb this place.

 

 


“Why didn’t you kill me?” she asks in the dark of their room.

They don’t, haven’t talked about the fight in Snoke’s throne room. Around it, on occasion, but not about it. Somehow… It feels like too much happened to possibly fit into words. But he can more than understand her thinking about that right now.

He is, too. He answers her question with one of his own. “When we touched hands, the first time, what did you see? You said you knew I’d turn, but…”

She’s on her side, wrapped in his arms, the top of her head tucked under his chin, and her back to his chest. He can’t see her expression, but he can feel it. She doesn’t mind him taking the conversation here, knowing its part of getting to where she wants to go.

She thinks back on it, and he can feel her calling that flash of a future, though he doesn’t get a glimpse of it. Whatever it is, the Force has decided it’s for her, and if she wishes to share it, she can, but it won’t let him just see it.

“There’s no real detail. It’s not a picture, more a feeling. Or… sounds maybe… Like reading the story. You don’t literally see the pictures in your mind, there’s no concrete image, but you still see it, right?”

He understands that.

“We were building something, together.”

“Like your cottage?”

“Like it, but not it. There were children with us.”

“Ours?”

“I don’t think so. Some of the Maji. It was bright, and sunny. That was clear. Sunshine. You and I and sunlight. And I knew we had to get off the Supremacy for that to ever happen, so…” She doesn’t say anything for a moment, and then finishes with, “And I knew that if I didn’t leave, we’d never get off that ship. I could feel it when you offered me your hand, that glimpse of the future was dying in front of me as you begged me to stay.”

“I didn’t beg.”

She laughs at that. “Had it been ten full years at that point since you’d said please, or only eight?” She can feel his answering eye roll. She turns in his arms, and then strokes his face. “It’s a good thing you did, because that’s part of what convinced me you could still be saved. Part of how I knew that future wasn’t dead. I woke up before you did, remember? There was time to finish you.” She rolls her eye. “Hell, I didn’t just leave you alive, I left you with your saber. I wanted the chance of that future.”

He strokes her face. “It was an image. No sound, no story, and not particularly clear. The outline of a messy sketch, maybe. But it was us, together. You were wearing a gown, and… Obviously, that wasn’t the past. And you showed up in the escape pod and… I’d been rather hoping to have had more time to plan it out, kill him without having to do it on the fly and fast, but that was likely the only way it could have succeeded. Otherwise he’d have the same edge I do against people trying to hurt me.

“But, I knew we’d never get to that future if I did what he wanted. I just… didn’t plan to get there that way.”

“Was that gown a wedding dress?” Rey asks.

“I don’t think so.” He feels her think about that answer. And about what she did to keep her vision of the future alive, and what he did, and said, and offered.

“Lord and Lady Ren?”

He closes his eyes. He doesn’t exactly like admitting this, because she’s made it awfully clear that this isn’t where she wants to go… But she told him of him building with her, so… “Yes… Ruling together. My lady, empress, wife, and equal.” He kisses her. “The light beside my dark. Both of us, in my throne room.”

She nods, eyes solemn, and then says, “Do you feel like that’s still… where were going?”

He inhales, a little shaky, not sure what to say to that. “Do you still sense your vision?”

“Yes. It still feels real, possible. Now you.”

He closes his eyes, and feels the vision of it, seeing it clearer. “Yes.”  

 

 

 


Kylo knows he’s asleep. He knows his body in lying in a comfortable bed, wrapped around Rey. He often cuddles up behind her when they’re falling asleep, but once asleep, they tend to settle onto their backs, side to side, flanks touching. Since they left Padme’s mausoleum, he hasn’t wanted to let her go. Keeping skin to skin contact matters right now, in a way it normally doesn’t. So he’s asleep, lightly, still on his side, still wrapped around her.

He knows he’s dreaming. That’s always been true about him. He can’t remember a time when he didn’t know the images around him were dreams. That never made his nightmares any less terrifying, it just made him angrier when he woke up because he allowed himself to be scared by figments.

He’s not sure if knowing dreams are dreams is a common thing for Force sensitives or not. When he’s awake, everything around him is alive, and he’s always aware of that. In his dreams, he can’t feel that.

So, he knows he’s dreaming. And he knows for Force sensitives dreaming is a nebulous concept. Just because it’s a dream doesn’t mean it’s not, also, on some level, real. What he can’t tell is if the ghost before him is real.

It’s the same barely post-adolescent twit he remembers from the visit to his rooms, but this is a dream, so he’s got no good feel for if he’s actually talking to a ghost or if he’s just imagining this.

The twit is on a balcony, back to Kylo, overlooking a lake, watching the sunrise or sunset, he doesn’t know which. He knows they’re on Naboo, but it’s not anywhere he’s ever been. He’s deeply skeptical that his mind would conjure this from nothing, so…

“Real then?” Kylo asks.

“Enough,” Anakin replies, turning toward him. He looks around. “This is where I remember her… us… The best moments of my life were spent here, and I wasn’t even supposed to be here. It was supposed to be Obi Wan. He was supposed to be here, as her security. But Kamino heated up, and he went off to investigate, and left me with her.”

“And you fell in love?” Kylo asks, looking around. It’s, romantic, he supposes. If he were here with Rey, he’d likely find it so.

Anakin shrugs, and turns to look back over the water. Kylo joins him, notices he’s about eight centimeters taller than Anakin, and the image of larger-than-life Vader shatters just a bit more. “We met the first time when I was nine. She was the most beautiful woman… ever…”

Kylo doesn’t say, “How could you tell under all that makeup and clothing?” Somehow that feels too impertinent, even for a dream.

Anakin feels it, rolls his eyes. “You never had any business dropping the Solo from your name.”

Kylo glares at his grandfather. “He’s not the only person in the galaxy to have ever mastered sarcasm.” He shakes his head. “And if you’d ever spent any time with my mother, you’d have known that was just as much her as him. Luke was the eternally, painfully earnest one of the two of them.” He looks at Anakin. “You felt Luke. I’ve heard that story, but not her… Why?”

Anakin looks annoyed. “Why does the Force ever do what it does? It didn’t deign to let me sense her until it was too late.”

Kylo sighs, no argument against that. “Why are we here?”

“Willingly… That’s what you wanted to know. Did she come to me willingly?”

Kylo nods, and Anakin looks at him, hard, feeling him. And for a second, Kylo gets a feel for the power of the man next to him, the sense of something colder, darker, and deeper than he’s ever imagined. Something that reminds him of Snoke, the same scent but a different flavor, perhaps. Something that makes him want to step away, far away.

Anakin smirks at that. “You’re strong in the Force, very strong. And wild and dark… but not that strong.” He smirks a little more, and Kylo understands, intensely what that strong means. “If I tested your blood, you’d likely come up at the high end of the normal range for Jedi Midichlorians, call it 19,500. A lot of raw talent, but not off the charts, not even genius level.”

Kylo blinks at that.

“And that was gobbledygook. Don’t worry about it. The best thing the fall of the Jedi brought about was getting rid of that. Your Rey has the right idea, the Force is for and in everyone, not just those with enough power in their blood to levitate a stone.”

Kylo raises one eyebrow. None of this seems connected to what they’re talking about.

“I was nine and she was fourteen the first time we met. She was glorious, a queen in her full power. I was a little boy who barely caught her interest. Obi Wan was on the verge of becoming a Master. He was older, stronger, handsome.” Anakin snorts. “Charming. He was always effortlessly charming. She liked him.” Anakin looks down at himself. “I’m nineteen now, a Padawan. She’s twenty-four, a senator. Obi Wan is in his mid-thirties. He’s a master, in his full power, and she wants him. In all the ways a woman wants a man, and with full understanding of what those wants entail. He wants her. He shouldn’t, he does his best not to, and I know he’d never act on it, but I can feel it in him. That’s part of why he’s willing to let me act as her guard, he’s aware of what might happen if it’s just the two of them together for hour after hour, day after day. He’s afraid it’ll move beyond physical desire, which is of course, excusable, assuming he doesn’t let it get out of control, into full on romantic love… into attachment, which is forbidden.

“She was adorable… loveable… So easily enchanting… Any man would want her.

“I want her too, but I’m the idiot tripping over his tongue and feet trying to impress her. But I want her. I want all of her. I want her body, mind, soul, love, desire… I want her more than I ever wanted anything. And there’s more power in me than any other Jedi before or since. The test didn’t have numbers high enough to read where I landed on the Midichlorian scale. Just by being near her, I can bend her to my will. I’m not even doing it intentionally. I want her so much that my will shifts her, changes her, and she wants me.”

He touches the banister. “We married here. In secret. It was too good to be true, and I knew it. As long as I stayed close to her she kept wanting me, because I wanted her, but if I went away for too long, or she did, she’d start to shift back to her normal feelings. Start to wonder why she’d gone along with this. Start to look at Obi Wan again, enjoy his calm and peace and charm.

“The Council kept sending me away. Or Naboo kept needing her to do things for them.

“I hadn’t seen her for several days… And then she was there, with Obi Wan… They were there to end me. Maybe she wasn’t, maybe that’s not why she thought she’d come, but… that’s how it was going to work out. If I gave myself up, Obi Wan would take me to what was left of the Council, him and Yoda. They would have executed me if I didn’t take care of it myself. And he would have helped her raise our children.

“I saw that flash of it, him free of the Jedi, living with her and our children. Her looking up at him, eyes warm, face soft, flushed, genuine desire… Desire from her own heart, not just mine reflected back at me. I had a mirror shaped like her, and he would have had her.

Kylo can still feel the anger simmering through Anakin at that idea. “And you almost killed her.”

“Better dead than that,” Anakin says, all but spitting the words.

Kylo spends a moment thinking about that, aware of Rey still in his arms. “I’m not…”

Anakin snorts a laugh. “You aren’t that powerful. You could have Midichlorians oozing out of your pores and you still wouldn’t be able to turn Rey. You two are too equally balanced for that. Padme wasn’t my equal in the Force. If she had been… It would have worked out differently.”

Anakin leans against the railing, looking out over the lake. “You asked if we fell in love here. Love requires choice, and I didn’t give her that. Love puts the needs of your beloved before your own… And if my will shaping hers was unavoidable, if just being near her would do that, what I did with it wasn’t. I knew what she wanted. I knew the shape of the galaxy she was aiming for. I had the power, and access, to do something about it, and I didn’t. She begged me, told me I was breaking her heart, and I didn’t drop to my knees and vow to put it back together.

“I wanted her more than anything, wanted her more strongly than any man has ever wanted a woman, but no, I never loved her.” 

 

 


Kylo shifts back to awake. He doesn’t open his eyes, doesn’t need to. Rey’s still in his arms. She’s dreaming, too, he can feel that, though he doesn’t delve deep enough to see what she’s seeing.

He breathes deeply, aware of her scent, the feel of her hair against his forehead, the steady in-out of her breath, and the thrum of her heart.

You’ll never be as strong as Darth Vader.

He never knew Darth Vader. Never knew Anakin. He knew an image, projected from the twisted mind of Snoke, of an idea of power, Snoke’s power. He took a boy, and painted a picture for him, of a dark prince, resting easy in his dark, reveling in his power. He dressed it up in a black cape and mask, gave it a name and a hint of history, a sense of belonging, and deep, complete purpose. He wrapped it in approval, offering praise and accomplishment, until after he’d burned the Jedi Temple, and there was no back for him to return to.

He never saw the face of Snoke until Snoke owned him.

And Snoke owned him by toying with his wants. Giving him all the effortless approval and encouraging his dark he could possibly want. But his wants weren’t necessarily needs. And they weren’t taking him anywhere he needed to go.

He was strong enough to feel the difference between a need and a want when something… someone, he needed finally came around.

He sees her, at the top of the ramp to the Millennium Falcon, sees the pain etched on her face, feels himself on his knees. She didn’t say ‘You’re breaking my heart,’ that would have meant making an admission neither of them was ready to say, but he felt it.

And changed.

 

 


Theed has jewelry stores. When they ask the desk clerk, this one a rather helpful man, he points them to an entire street covered in the things.

So, the problem isn’t lack of choice, it’s too much. How anyone picks one ring out of the multitude, let alone the right one, Kylo doesn’t know. He’s half-thinking of suggesting just getting some metal and making them themselves. He’s got tools. They’re both handy. And a simple circle shaped to fit a digit isn’t that difficult to make.

But made themselves won’t be on their fingers today, and seeing them, shop after shop filled with pretty little sparkly things meant to wrap around a person you love, he’s feeling more and more like this is important.

Like this is right.

She nods to the door of one of the shops, more or less at random. This one seems to have a lot of rings, and fewer necklaces and bracelets, so there’s that going for it, but it’s really not all that different from the one next to it or the one next to that. It’s probably ten meters on a side, and inside there are myriad display cases.

Some of them have plain bands of metal. They call to him. Both of them are far too active with their hands for the kind of ring that has flashy stones or little filigree bits, waiting to get snagged on something. But a simple circle of metal… That would fit the lives they live.

Even the bands aren’t necessarily plain though. Every color and pattern he can imagine, from thick braids of beaten copper and white gold to thin wires of something silvery woven into intricate designs to simple circles of just one metal polished to a sheen, or sanded to a satin matte.

He’d been looking for about ten minutes when he sees the one that feels right. Though he’s not sure if it is. She’d likely want something prettier, or more… less… black, but he’s drawn to it, and to the promise he intends to make with it. So he touches it, and raises an eyebrow at her, and the simple band of blackened metal. “This one?”

It’s smaller than she was expecting. “I don’t think it would fit.”

He smiles a little at that. It’s not shocking that he might be looking at the ring for him. After all, it’s just a band of shining black metal. But she’s right, he could probably get it to the first knuckle of his left pinkie finger, it absolutely won’t fit him. “For you.”

“Oh…” She looks from him to the black band and back, and gets a sense of what he’s thinking, and why that color matters. “Oh.” She presses close to him, and rises on her toes, kissing his lips. “Yes.”

He takes her hand in his, testing each finger, until he finds the one it fits on, her left middle finger, and then kisses it, making a silent promise to himself, and to the life they hope to live.

I will not be Vader.

 

 

 


She spends longer looking through the selection. Part of it is that he’s got large fingers, and finding something he can wear takes a bit of effort. Part of it is finding something right. She could get him a black band that matches the one he just put on her, but that’s… lacking… something. She wants something with the feel of the Maji, with that intent of balance, and the idea that there’s something solid, tangible, real that they’re building, with and through each other.

That there’s a better galaxy… or at least life… that comes through this.

She snorts; that’s a lot to ask a piece of metal to do.

Finally though, she finds something. It’s gray, which is probably fitting, with a grain of darker and lighter grays, tightly meshed together. “What is it?”

“Wood, originally,” the jeweler replies, “believe it or not. There was a time when the grasslands had trees, and in some places, the trees fell and were covered by bogs. The acids in the water preserved the woods, making them very hard, very strong, and as you can see, this unique gray color.”

“Ky—Ben…” It feels very odd, and wrong to call him that, but he’s on the other side of the store, looking at something small and sparkly, and it’ll look odd if he just comes over without her saying anything to him. However, calling for him isn’t helping, either. He doesn’t realize she’s talking to him until she adds, Kylo, in his head to get his attention.

He comes over, and looks down at it, curious. She wiggles a finger at him, and he gives her his right hand. It doesn’t fit any of those fingers well, so she tries his left, and finds its home on his middle finger. “Do you like it?”

He’s holding out his hand, looking at it, and nods, slowly. “Yes.”

 

 

“Good.”

She kisses his hand, where she placed the ring, It was alive once, grew in the sunshine. She squeezes his hand.

His eyes shut for a second and he pulls her close, his lips to her forehead, holding her close for a good minute, until the jeweler, no stranger to lovey couples looking for pretty things, clears his throat.

“I take it you’ve found what you wanted.”

“Yes.”

“Excellent. Let’s get this paid for, then.” The jeweler gets everything totaled up, and Kylo looks at the bill and rapidly comes to the conclusion that they don’t have enough credits left on either of their sticks, or together for that matter. Not if they want to do things like get some lunch and pay for the parking on his ship.

“Can you do a straight account transfer?”

The Jeweler nods. “Prefer it that way, actually.” He takes the bill back and knocks 3% off the price. “The credit company doesn’t take its cut with a straight transfer.”

Kylo takes the datapad, stares at it for a moment, unlike most of the customers, he’s got to actually read the options to find what he wants, but does, and then sets the transfer into place. 

“Would I be right in assuming you don’t want boxes?” the Jeweler asks after Kylo hands the pad back.

Rey shakes her head, sure that this ring isn’t leaving her finger ever again. “No.”

He smiles back at both of them, and says, “I hope they serve you well.”

Kylo rubs his thumb against the ring on his finger, and glances to the one on Rey’s. “They will.”

 

 


There is exactly one man on the planet Naboo who, if he deigned to read flimsy scandal sheets, though he doesn’t, could confirm a certain story about the Master of the Order and his lady friend. Or, at least confirm the fact that said story isn’t outright impossible.

But he doesn’t read that sort of trash, so he doesn’t know that rumor.

He does know, two months later, when he’s tidying up his accounts, making sure that all of his transfers have gone through properly, and he’s been paid for his goods, that a name pops out at him, because it’s a very important name, and he just about swallows his tongue when he reads it, because obviously the man had to have been in his store and bought… He checks his records… the black platinum and the bog wood rings… Marriage bands, though those words were never spoken, he’s been in this business too long to not know what he sold.

The Jeweler’s not sure what to do with that. Part of him wants to slap a sign on his store, pointing out the Kylo Ren bought his marriage bands there. That would be good advertising. Part of him thinks that since Kylo Ren is not, as best he knows, publicly married, that said sign could get the sort of attention he really doesn’t want.

He tells his wife about it, and she mentions it, with pride, to her sister, who tells her best friend, and eventually whispers of Lady Ren start to pass from one set of ears to another through the right circles on Naboo.

 

Chapter Text

4/29/1

 

“Think I still rule?” Kylo says as they return to his ship, ready to go “home.”

“I think we’d have heard if a coup broke out while you were absent.”

He shrugs. If he, or any other marginally competent officer, were planning one, it’d be dead silent on the Supremacy until after they shot him out of the sky when he attempts to return.

He decides that instead of flying back, he’ll leave the ship with Rey and teleport himself back. Just appearing in his office should go a ways toward reclaiming his command if he’s lost it.

He can always fetch the ship at a later date.

She shakes her head at him, as he opens the hatch. “They aren’t going to overthrow you.”

He snorts a laugh at that. “There are better than even odds that at least a quarter of them would shoot me in the back if they could.”

“Well, this time last year, it was all of them, so things are getting better. Besides, they have to know you’re the only thing holding this together right now, and if you go, so does their power.”

He sighs, sitting in the passenger’s seat. She wants to fly out, so he’s fine with that. “You’re likely right about that.”

 

 


Once they’re in hyperspeed, hurtling toward Lirium, a thought hits Rey, one she’s been working hard on not having. Namely, part of what she’s coming back with it currency. A lot of it. Way more of it than she should have.

And she still doesn’t have a good story for why.

“I suppose Master Padme stole it wouldn’t exactly go over?”

He looks up from his data pad. He’s already getting back into working mode, checking over his reports. “I’d imagine that depends on if you intend to tell them I’ve robbed the Order blind and then ran away. There’s no way anyone walks out of the Supremacy with that sort of cash without permission, unless they’re never setting foot on it again.”

She shakes her head. “I don’t think so.” They’re both quiet for a moment. “So… what’d we do to get 200,000 credits over two and a half days?”

“They know where we went?” Kylo asks.

“Naboo. Not exactly where.”

They both think about it, very aware of the boxes of coins and paper tucked under one of the bench seats.

For some reason, an image of Lando pops into Kylo’s mind, and then he smiles. “Gambling. Games of chance with people who can manipulate probability and read minds are likely lucrative.”

Rey feels the smile spread across her face. “Gambling… Okay, so… what are popular games?” 

 

 


They land, and Kylo knows it’s time to get back to being Master Ren. He kisses Rey, holds her close, and she snuggles into him. “Tonight.”

“Tonight.”

It feels odd saying goodbye. It’s not like they don’t do this almost every morning, but… That moment holds, and holds a bit longer, until Rey catches sight of Poe heading toward the ship.

She gives Kylo one last, quick kiss, and he slips out of the ship to his rooms on the Supremacy.

His hand is on his saber, his body is ready, his senses on high, but… At least in here, everything is as he left it. Black and tidy. He lets his mind spiral outward, to his office and throne room beyond, and… Nothing seems out of place.

Only one way to find out for sure, and that’s to explore.

He changes out of Padme, feeling a… flush of pleasure at not taking the ring off, of having a tangible mark of her that’s not a mark of anger, or hidden away in front of the wrong people or… He pulls Master Ren back onto his skin, and almost leaves the gloves off.

If he were certain he wasn’t about to walk into a fight, he’d likely keep them off, just to be able to show off his hands, and the ring.

He banishes that as silliness. His life here is vastly too dangerous to be wandering about without his protections.

Though maybe, depending on what he finds out there, he might get to the point where he doesn’t have to keep every inch of his body covered.

He thinks about the outfits Jon made for him. The Warrior King has gloves and a belt designed for a lightsaber. The Emperor has neither. The Emperor lives in a palace, with his Empress, and they rule a galaxy at peace, and…

And she asked if he still felt that future, and he does, but he also knows they aren’t ready to get there, not yet.

But maybe the path is getting clearer. 

 

 


“This is sweet!” Poe says, heading up the hatch of Kylo’s non-Order-branded transport ship.

“Thanks.”

Poe keeps looking around, dissecting the ship with a practiced eye. “Your boy knows his way around a ship, I’ll give you that.”

Rey half-inclines her head. “He’s a pilot.”

“He steal this from the Order and wipe it clean?” He’s checking a few places where ship ID numbers are normally located, but they’re clean.

Rey decides this would be a good time to distract Poe, so she grabs the first of the boxes, hands it to him, and takes the lid off.

“Rey!” Poe’s mouth open and closes as he sees what’s in the box. “How…” He’s goggling at the amount of money in front of them. “What did you two do, hold up a bank?”

She smirks. “Nothing like that. Don’t gamble against a Maji. Especially not when two of them are at the table.” She winks at him. “Still think giving me a few days away was a hassle.”

“Good, gods… There’s… what?” He’s staring at the boxes.

“Two hundred and eleven thousand credits worth of currency. I wasn’t sure what kinds you’d need, so…”

“You bring that kind of money back, you can leave as often as you want! Watching the sprogs isn’t that troublesome.”

She smiles at that. “Not sure when we’ll get away again, but it will happen. Meantime… we need things, and I don’t really know what they cost.” She gently presses a toe against the box of currency and nudges it to Poe. “I think you’ve got some shopping to do.”

He’s grinning at her. “Oh… And if Chewie’s willing to go with me… No one slicks a deal like Chewie!” His eyes are sparkling. “A library and a school room. I know you want something like that for the kids. No… that’s the next box. There will be another one, right… We can’t… Oh… God… You read minds!” His eyes go even brighter. “You control motion. Roulette. Oh… 64 to one odds if you bet on one number. You’d have to lose, a lot, for a while, to sell the con. Can’t just plop down money and pull it all in in one throw, but if you had enough seed cash, you could spend a few hours losing, and then… One big hit. Or better yet, you lose for hours, we win a little each turn, and then you have one big one. Oh… Rey… The library, the school, real houses, not these prefab things, a good irrigation system… Greenhouses! Enough seeds to figure out what the hell grows here! Hell, we could get a droid to do that. Get a few of them, one to cover teaching formal subjects, one to figure out what to plant, some sort of weather monitoring thing-“

“We know what the weather’s going to be, rain.”

He shakes his head. “Frost yesterday morning.”

She sighs. It felt like autumn had moved into winter and hopefully they were getting ready to ease out of it to spring. Apparently, they’re easing out of autumn all right, but into winter.

“There has to be summer eventually. It didn’t rain every single day when we moved here.”

He shrugs. “Who cares if it does? We can build a real gym, a space for the kids to run around inside, so they’re not going bonkers trying to stay dry…” He can’t contain the grin. “Every casino. There are literally millions of them scattered through the galaxy. One night, maybe two a month. I can’t believe you didn’t think of this sooner! We’ll get real ships, we’ll teach ‘em how to fly. We’d be able to build a real city here!”

To say that Poe is excited by the potential of Maji gambling is an understatement. He’s delirious at the idea of it. He’s singing about how the lean days are done. He’s giddy.  

And when he pulls Finn into it, and the possibility of going to Canto Bight to play hits… Okay, he looks around, double checks because Rose isn’t a fan, but… “We are so doing that! The odds on some of those machines…” He’s grinning wide and easy. Then that grin gets even bigger. “She’d be fine with it. We’re going to cheat. We’re going to break them from the inside!” He leaps up, running toward their cottage, eager to share the news. They hear him calling his wife’s name, and Rey wonders if she didn’t just get way in over her head.

Poe nods to the bag that’s got new stuff in it. “Got something to wear to a fancy place in there?” he says with a grin. “Maybe something to go with the ring?” He gently bops her with his hip. “It’s not nice to elope and not invite at least a friend or two.”

“We didn’t elope on vacation, and… are rings common? Rose and Finn don’t have them.”

Poe smirks. “You didn’t… uh huh…” He’s not buying it, but she’s not exactly lying, either. “And not exactly common but not rare, either. It’s a thing on about a quarter of the inner rim worlds. Anywhere settled by the G’Ranthans, and they spread through the galaxy like spores on the wind. So, it’s just… pretty?”

“No. It’s not just pretty. But we didn’t hunt down a registration official and elope, either.”

Poe’s aware that she just made a very specific statement with some serious wiggle room to it. He nods, and it’s clear on his face that he knows that something is up. “A token of Padme’s affection. Good. I want to get drunk and dance at your wedding, too.”

Rey tries to imagine that, and she can… sort of… or maybe, more accurately, she can fantasize about it. The potential for it to be real still seems small. She does say, “I’d like that. Also…” She lifts the bag with her dresses in it. “Uh… I don’t know if it’s fancy enough for something like Canto Bight. It’s nicer than anything else I own, but… We went to Theed, and it’s not fancy by their standards.”

“Told you they were stuffy.”

“And you weren’t wrong! The desk clerk ignored us for seven whole minutes because we weren’t dressed right!”

He sniggers at that and then grabs one of the boxes, puts it on top of another one, and she grabs the third. They’ve got to find a place to put this until they can use it.

“Threepio’s cottage?” Rey asks, sensing what he’s thinking.

“Not like he really needs the space. So… come on, juicy stories. Besides get a ring, what’d you do?”

 

 


“Ah, you’re back. Splendid.” C8 looks exactly the way he always does. “I’ve kept today’s schedule free of meetings, not knowing exactly when you’d be back, though you do have a good number of communications in need of your attention.” He nods to the stack of datapads on Kylo’s desk. “I know it’s later than normal, but would you like your usual cup of coffee?”

Kylo looks at the stack of datapads representing people who want his attention. It’s a big stack. “Yes.”

“I’ll be back in a few moments.” C8 heads off, and Kylo sits down, pulling the first of the pads to him. His eyes start to scan over the document, and apparently, there is a system that’s willing to offer him a mining colony in exchange for a formal mutual non-aggression treaty.

He’s still reading, nodding slightly, aware of the fact that it’s, as Schiff would likely say, a shit colony, small and badly run, but he can likely do something with it. Just getting good equipment into it would likely make a difference.

He reads further and purses his lips as he gets to the poison pill. He can have the colony and the planet it’s on, as long as he agrees to put no recruiting stations anywhere else in the system. He also notices that the rest of that system will, once he’s got that colony, more or less cut off all contact with it.

He puts the pad down, thinking. Apparently, this thing he’s trying to do is terrifying to a certain class of people.

The question is, is he scaring them into behaving, into building a world of palaces, or is he scaring them into attacking, setting into motion a future where he’ll need to defend himself even more than he currently does.

He has the unsettling sense that both are true, just for different parts of the future that’s coming.

 

 


“Two hundred and eleven thousand credits…” Rey says.

Finn and Rose share a look. Poe nods. Rey’s sitting at her table with the three of them. If Chewie were on-planet, he’d be here. Threepio’s standing beside the table. The kids are outside, taking advantage of a somewhat sunny, though chilly, day to just run around outside and play.

They’re working on the list, figuring out what they really need.

“First and foremost and non-negotiable, we’re paying Chewie back. I know he’s sunk a lot of his own money into this, and that comes first, okay,” Rey says. “And Poe, you figure out what you’ve put into this and take it.”

“Rey… I wanted to do it,” Poe says. “You don’t need to pay me.”

“I know. But I want you to be able to keep doing this, you and Chewie, so… call it your rainy day fund or whatever, and take it.”

The others nod.

“Food,” Rose says. “That’s probably the most important thing we get with whatever’s left. If we’re ever going to really live here, we can’t just depend on one lake and the Falcon for food. We’ve got to have some way to feed ourselves.”

Rey nods at that, and Poe agrees, too.

“Like the cottages, there are modular greenhouses and small food farms you can buy,” Threepio says. “Many ships use them for longer term voyages. Tantive IV had one whole deck dedicated just to producing fresh food for the crew.”

“What do you need to run one of them?” Finn asks.

“That, I do not know. I never interfaced with it. I’d assume that it’s just a matter of buying the parts and putting them together, but I’ve never done it,” Threepio says. “When Chewie gets back with R2, he’ll likely have more information than I do. Actually… he’d be a good one to ask. When Luke left to set up his Jedi school, R2 went with him. I know they took on an almost empty planet and built the settlement from scratch.”

“Okay, so, modular food farms,” Poe says. “Say… enough to keep… thirty people in fresh food? Fruit, veggies, and grain. How many more kids can we take here without adding more adults?”

“Not many. I’m about at as many students as I think I can handle. I’m thinking three or four more, and that’s it,” Rey says.

“Could Padme do this? You’ve mentioned he’s Maji, too, and…” Rose adds.

“He’s finding me new people.”

“That you can’t handle without another teacher, and we’re really low on teachers right now,” Poe says. “He’ll be useless as a scout in a few more students, so… Maybe he can teach, and I’ll spend more time scouting. It won’t be the same, but… I can’t teach them how to use the Force, and he could, right?”

“He wouldn’t have to hide any longer if he were here all the time. Once he leaves the Order, it’s not like he’s got to worry about getting outed, and we could double the number of sprogs. That’d be doing something good, right?” Finn says. “Maybe not as exciting as infiltrating the Order, but… We’re not fighting them, so it’s not like we need spies, and once we’ve got as many kids as we can take, it’s not like he can be rescuing them any longer, so… why stay?”

Rey doesn’t have a good answer to that. “We’ll… talk about it. So… okay, modular farms, and… Animals, maybe. Something for milk and something for eggs and maybe some sort of meat animal?”

“More protein would be good,” Rose says, accepting that Rey’s gone as far as she can, for now, on getting Padme here full time. She looks to Threepio. “Do you know if they had modular animal farms?”

“Vat-grown protein?” Finn says. “The First Order had some ships equipped for that. It’s some sort of yeast, and if you give it enough sugar solution it’ll make you… well, it’s edible, and it’s protein.”

“That’s a ringing endorsement,” Poe says.

“It’s not bad… It’s not much of anything really. Just white and bland and squishy. It’s fine mixed into things, but you don’t exactly want to eat it by the spoonful on its own.”

Poe writes that down. “Maybe one of them and some sort of… do you know what a chicken is?”

Finn shakes his head. Rose nods. Rey knows what a chicken is after it’s been cooked, but is a bit fuzzy on the before side of it, because she’s only seen pieces of them on a plate on The Supremacy.

“They’re avians, found on many of the core worlds. Bred for meat, eggs, and feathers. They require little in the way of care, and are often used to keep insect populations in check,” Threepio adds.

“Sounds right.” Rose says. Her settlement always had chickens. “They’re tasty, and could probably survive on the bugs around here. Build them some coops, and we’re in eggs, and once the eggs start to hatch and we figure out which ones are roosters, we’ve got meat.”

“What do you do with the feathers?” Rey asks.

“Pluck them off, throw out the stiff ones, use the fluffy ones to make warm blankets and clothing,” Rose says.

“With the right equipment, you can denature the proteins and then reconfigure them into a lightweight plastic.” Threepio says. “Those plastics can be used for anything from clothing to rope to building materials.”

“Chickens,” Poe writes down, and then looks at their list. Three things, after paying himself and Chewie back. Not much of a list, but, realistically, especially if they’re looking for good stuff, that’s all 211,000 credits, if not a bit more.

He sighs again, and crosses out vat-grown protein

Rose raises an eyebrow at him.

“We need seed money to gamble with. This should keep enough behind for us to put a few of us in, lose some, and then have Rey hit big, once, for each of us. Spend the rest of the night on the card tables, round it out by staying a bit ahead, and maybe we can turn 15,000 credits into 500,000 credits.”

Finn whistles. “That wouldn’t be a bad night’s work.”

Rose is grinning. “No, not bad at all.” Her hands rest on her belly, where Baby Tico is squirming around. “Little one is looking forward to making some rich people cry.”

Finn’s grinning now, too. “Oh, they will! When they see us cut through those casinos… Threepio, where do the well-off, well-connected, obscenely rich like to play?”

Poe holds up his hands. “Just remember, that’s not where we’re starting. It’d help if we really knew how to play, first. And second of all, if we’re going where the stakes are high, we’re going to need the kind of seed cash where we can invest hundreds of thousands in the right clothing and the right transport yacht to get us there, and then lose a few million before we win it all back. That’s not where we’re going first.”

“But we’ll get there,” Rose says, eyes sparkling. “We’ll light some new fires, all right.” 

 

 


When they’ve broken up for the night, and Rey is getting ready for dinner, Threepio is still in her main room, looking… he can’t actually look pensive, or maybe he always looks pensive, but…

“What’s wrong?”

“General Solo used to say to me, ‘Never tell me the odds.’ Many humans don’t find the odds comforting. So I am wondering, would you like the odds of keeping your secret all the way to the end of the year, or the year after, or would you rather just go into it blind?”

Rey blinks.

“Humans remember and recognize based on patterns and associations. Change someone’s clothing and hair style, see them from behind, or far away, or at night, or in the wrong place, and they won’t be able to associate the image to the pattern. I do not work that way. The odds that your Padme just happens to be the exact same size and shape as Kylo Ren are 1 in two hundred forty-five billion—“

“You’re right, I don’t want them.”

“The money is from him.” Threepio says, looking at the black blanket on the chair and the black cutlery that’s wandered from Kylo’s room to their home.

“Yes.”

“He’s been coming here the whole time I’ve been here. I’ve seen him around in his… Padme costume?”

She nods. “Been coming here the whole time there’s been a here.”

“Two years ago, he had an army aimed at us and was shooting our people out of the sky.”

Rey makes her voice stay calm. “And now he’s not.”

“I noticed.” Threepio says, and then he spends a moment thinking. Rey can’t read him, not the way she reads the humans around her, but if she had to guess, he’s feeling a sense of… duty maybe? Finally he says, “If Leia herself had somehow gotten charge of the First Order, it would have looked very similar to what he’s doing with it, which is why I haven’t said anything, and why I will, as long as that’s true, continue to not say anything, but… What do you think you’re doing?”

She shakes her head. “Hoping that if enough time goes by, they’ll see him and not Snoke’s shadow.”

“Have you ever heard the expression ‘having your cake and eating it, too’?”

“No.” Hell, the year before last, she didn’t even know what cake was.

“Think about it.”

She does for a moment, and goes, “Oh.”

“Yes. They will find out. The only questions are: when, and if you’ll be able to rebuild their trust after.”

Rey knows that, cold and hard in her belly. She knows something else, too. “Threepio, what are the odds of them not blaming him for everything Snoke did? Today, I mean. He’s had the Order for almost a year and a half, and he’s changing it. Deeper and faster than anyone else would have ever expected, but… Would they see that? Would they care?”

He doesn’t say anything for a moment. And another one. And finally, “Bad.”

 

 


Kylo’s still staring at the treaty in front of him. He could more than use the materials on offer. Yeah, it’s a shit colony. But it’s an iron-rich XO planet. Good stores of uranium, too. Ice on it, so maybe water, too. He’s got more than a few things to do with that. It would probably take his people about three months to suck everything of value out of the place and leave a hulk of frozen rock behind.

There’s thirty-thousand people on it, now, and from what he’s reading the Polnians expect him to take custody of them, too. They’re part of what he gets with the colony.

He needs people, too.

He told Rey that he was looking for people, not planets, not systems. But if he takes this deal, he’s cutting off his access to people to get a planet.

He’s feeling it. People. That’s the important part. He could have a planet, a system, full of raw materials, covered in all the mineral wealth he could want, but without people he can’t do anything with them. They’ll just sit there, useless.

That feels right, important, but what to do with that, how to apply it…

How does he get what he wants?

He spends another ten minutes staring at the stars and planets whirling around him through his window.

People.

He takes the contract back, and adds a paragraph. He won’t put any recruiting bases on Polnia’s planets. He won’t demand free travel or trade between the colony and its home world. He does add a ten year right of return to the home world for any of the colonists he’s about to take charge of.  

Scoop them up, treat them right, do well by that colony, and in five years when all 30,000 of them are his citizens, he’ll send them back to Polnia, and make sure that they can get people to him. Recruiting stations have their place, but they’re things, and he’s investing in people.

And if he does right by them, they’ll get him more people.

 

 


About an hour later, as they’re sitting down to dinner, Rey says to Kylo, “Apparently, I’m going to have to learn how to actually gamble. Poe just realized this is the fastest, easiest way to finance everything we want to do.”

Kylo chuckles at that. “I suppose there are worse ways to make money. Want to hear about my gamble for the day?”

“Sure.”

So he tells her about hoping that he can get people and then seed them into Polnia, and then have them bring him new people, or demand access for him.

He can see she’s going along, nodding, listening, but not really caring, or paying much attention.

“You’re distracted.”

She pokes her food. “Yes.”

He waits, letting her fill the silence. And eventually, she does, filling him in on the Padme conundrum. How there’s not much need for him to be part of the Order if he’s not rescuing children for her. He’s not really sure how to respond to that.

The part of him that doesn’t much care for her ‘friends’ is more than comfortable with just showing up in full daylight, in his command blacks, and hitting them with an “It’s me, take it or leave it,” sort of thing.

But the more he thinks of it… Caring about her friends or not, that’s likely the right, best, whatever, way to handle it. He’s not going to ever be anyone other than himself, and they’re unlikely to ever think, “Oh, that Ren’s a great guy, I’m so glad he’s around,” so…

But they matter to her, so…

“I could have told you your parents were traders. That they got sick, and desperate, and gave you to someone to keep you from catching their illness… I could have told you they traded you for medicine, hoping to get better, but unfortunately they died from it. It would have been true, sort of, if you squinted. Would you have preferred that?”

Her eyes are sad, but she’s looking dead at him, not evading it. “Probably. People like the lies that keep them happy.”

“Then I won’t press you to stop lying about me.”

 

Chapter Text

 

5/4/1

 

Babies show up when and as they please. This is one of the inalienable truths of the galaxy as a whole. Often, when they please will not be when their parents please. This, though said parents are often unaware of it, being focused on waiting for said baby to arrive, will eventually be good training in the sort of patience and emergency coping skills necessary for the rest of the adventure that is parenting.

Thus, it is… approximately seventeen months past when Finn (to a lesser extent) and Rose (to a much, much greater extent) would like Baby Tico to get moving, that Baby Tico finally decides that it is, indeed, time to move.

 

 


All of the Force sensitives on Lirium feel it when Rose goes into labor.

It’s a… unique sensation. The last few days there’d been a sort of urgent swelling, a ripening, a feel of getting ready, and then it burst in a sort of tingly glow.

(Rose will later report that she would have preferred the Maji got the contractions and she got the tingly, bursting glow, but… That’s not the way it works.)

 

 


The thing is, readiness and tingly, bursting glow aside, babies take a while to get themselves out.

So, yes, there’s this very intense wave of now and life and new all throughout the settlement at Lirium, but… Especially if you aren’t Rose or Finn, there’s just not all that much happening.

 

 


The other thing is there are, now, eleven Force sensitive children, and nine non-Force sensitive ones, and they’re all really curious.

The original eight of them, who worked the stables, are at least familiar with how babies get out of their mums and are happily telling everyone else who wants to know, in somewhat gory detail, of how baby Faviers get into the world.

And some of the children remember the births of their younger brothers and sisters, so they add those stories.

Rey listens with interest, because this is an area where the children know more than she does. Women at Niima Station rarely had babies, and she never witnessed it. And she certainly didn’t feel it, not the way she feels this.

 

 


“Rey.” Halee, Rugh’s older brother, who generally isn’t all that talkative, comes over to her. She can feel how nervous he is.

“What’s wrong?”

“Rose is going to be okay, right?”

“Of course.”

He’s looking up at her, serious, eyes wide. “Do you know that? Feel it, like with the Force? Do you know?”

“Uh… No. I don’t.” Though thinking and feeling about it, she’s… pretty sure… not certain, but better than nine out of ten odds, that things are going to be all right. She figures that’s as good as anyone ever gets, and focuses more on Halee. She feels why he’s so nervous. His mum didn’t make it through Rugh’s birth. She reaches out to him. “Come here,” she puts her arms around him, and though he’s generally not too huggy, he accepts the comfort.

“Da said she’d be fine. The doctor knew how to help, but they’d have to leave… Get to the Doc. He came back three days later with Rugh, but Ma wasn’t fine. He took us away. When she was two, he left us. He didn’t want to, but he’d killed the Doctor when Ma died, and they finally tracked him down, so… That was that.”

She hugs him a little tighter, and kisses the top of his head.

She knows he can’t feel the life energy thrumming around them, not the way she does, so she holds his wrist, and lays his fingers on his pulse.

“Feel it?”

“My heartbeat? Of course.”

“Okay, good, now focus on it, really feel it. That’s your life, thrumming around in your body. That’s your Ma and Da, and their moms and dads, and on and on before you to the beginning of time. That’s stardust given breath by the Force, set free to walk the universe, experience it, stretching a billion years before you to a billion years past.” She lifts his hand from his wrist, and lets his fingers hover above his hand. “Feel the heat, the glow? That’s you, here, now, and all of your ghosts, and every drop of love they had for each other, forever alive in your skin, and they’ll live in the skin of your children and their children.”

He looks at his hand. “It’s hard to feel her. I… don’t remember what she looked like anymore.”

Rey nods. “I don’t remember my parents anymore, either. I thought I did, but…”

“But it’s like a story. You heard it so many times, you don’t know if it happened or if you just heard it.”

“Yeah.” She holds his hands. “But they’re still here. Whether we feel them or not, they’re literally, here. Your body, your soul, your life… It’s them, together, melded through the Force, combined into something new and wonderful, you.”

He gives Rey a little hug. “I think you’re pretty wonderful, too.”

“Thanks.”  

 

 


Supposedly, walking around is good for labor. It helps get things moving in the right direction, and eases the pain, and it’s just something to do. Dancing is supposed to be good, too.

Rey doesn’t want to be snooping, but she can feel the dance. The high buzz of anticipation. The low pull of centering pain. The slow, easy rock, similar to, but different, from how Finn and Rose got to this moment.

She can sense the touch. Rose’s life doing what it’s meant to do, get this new life out into the world. Finn’s supporting hers, lending her his strength, his body to lean on when she gets tired.

And both of them, together, surging one contraction at a time, toward a new life, a new consciousness.

She supposes it makes sense how this makes her feel, though it also takes her by surprise. Hour after hour of being submersed in this deep, heady thrum of life. Of course her body would react to it. Of course it triggers a deep, needy ache, a pull to life, to more life, to existence continuing on and on beyond her and them.

Of course.

After another hour of it, she just can’t take it anymore.

Not alone.

 

 


Your room, now!

Are you hurt? Alarm flashes through Kylo as he hears Rey in his mind.

I’m really not. Please!

I’m making my excuses.

 

 


“Hello to you, too!” Kylo says, very happily surprised, as he finds himself with two arms full of a half-naked Rey, her legs around his hips, hands in his hair.

She dives in for a fast, hard kiss, while reaching between them, pulling at his trousers.

He’s not sure why this is happening. Well, he understand the general level of why, obviously she’s wanting sex, but not the specific this-particular-second-in-time aspect, let alone the RIGHT NOW aspect of it, but… Compared to his quarterly budget meeting… Okay, no, he has to do that, too, but he can damn well take a ten minute break from it!

 

 


There is not a single member of Kylo’s general staff who is not aware of the rumors that he has a “friend.”

In fact, not having enough of a coterie of spies and whisper-listeners in place to have gotten said rumor is the sort of thing that should disqualify a man from being on the general staff.

It’s true that none of them are sure how said friend gets onto and off of the Supremacy, because no one’s seen said friend come or go, and s/he… No, that voice is certainly a she, so it’s clear that she doesn’t live in that room, but… Anyway… Apparently, she is here now.

They all know, but… There’s knowing, and then there’s hearing because apparently the sound-proofing between Kylo’s rooms and office is awful, and there’s hearing and then knowing that, in a matter of what it likely to be minutes, judging by what they can hear, they’re going to be facing a man who can fucking read minds and is extremely unlikely to be aware that they can all hear him in his room with his friend who is apparently of a mind that right now is an excellent time for a quickie.

And Kylo appears to be enthusiastically agreeing with her assessment as to the appropriateness of this endeavor.

Kinear’s smirking his ass off, and very quietly says, “It’s good to be young.”

Which gets some quiet chuckling and sniggering from several of the other members of the general staff, none of whom are in any danger of passing for young.

Again, quietly, Kinear says, “Gentlemen, I’m thinking this is a dandy time for you to go find something else to do for an hour or so.” After all, being embarrassed is normal, it happens, but if you can contain it, you should. So, the fewer people The Master has to face when he gets out of that room and realizes that they all heard what he was up to…

They all glance at each other, and decide that Kinear’s likely right, and then shuffle out.

 

 


Kylo’s heart is beating a million times a minute as the last pulse of his spurt fades into a very pleasant memory. Rey’s in his lap, his face against her shoulder, her lips against his ear, tiny, harsh breaths slowing down against him. He can feel the last few twitches of her body on his, as she comes down from her high.

He lifts his head, slowly, and gently kisses her, following that with, “Not that I minded that, at all, but…”

She smiles at him, and gently kisses him back. She’s never just popped up in the middle of the day and jumped him. “Rose is having her baby, and… It’s very intense and real, and we were talking about life and…” She gives him a little squeeze and feels him twitch, slightly, inside of her in response.

He smiles all over at that, lips, eyes, spirit all brightening, at the idea that she’d seek him out, needing him now, not willing to wait the four hours until tonight, at the feel of that.

She makes a little mmm… sound, snuggling close to him, and then says, “I don’t want to leave.”

He kisses her, and then swallows. He doesn’t want to leave, either. He’s feeling exceptionally relaxed and boneless and right now would be an excellent time to just drop back onto his bed and get a nap with her.

That said, there are twenty men on the other side of his door, waiting for him.  “You don’t have to, but I do. There are twenty of them out there, and…”

“You were in the middle of a meeting?”

He nods.

She’s halfway between a laugh and a cringe. “I didn’t know.”

He smirks, kissing her once more. “Apparently, there are some things I’m willing to ditch… or, at least, pause, a meeting for.”

She stands up, giggling, legs shaky, and calls a towel to hand, cleaning up. “For a moment or two.”

He checks his trousers, they look okay. Down around his knees, they weren’t in danger of getting anything on them. His tunic on the other hand… She already had her pants off when she leapt into his arms, and there are some marks of her… enthusiasm… for this. He starts to strip that off. She hands him the towel and he gently wipes himself off, too.

She pulls her shorts and trousers back on, and he gets his own clothing changed.

“Here,” she says, undoing his hair tie, and then quickly pulling his hair back in the tidy queue he normally wears it in when he’s out there. “I pulled some of it loose.”

He smiles at her, at that, at all of it. He pulls her close, and cups her delta, “Any day, any time, you want to do this for real, and I’m ready. Takes about a month for the preventative to dissolve, and…”

She stands on her tiptoes and kisses him again. “I know.” Love you.

He blinks, and kisses back. Love you, too.

 

 


It’s an odd sensation, and one that Kylo doesn’t often run into. As the top of the heap, he almost never finds himself in a situation where he feels like he’s been caught doing something he ought not to. After all, he’s the man who makes the rules.

The last time he felt this, he was… He’s not entirely sure. Either on the Supremacy, intensely aware of a small hut lit by fire, sitting on a comically small stool, or he was in the fire-lit hut sitting on the comically small stool, just, barely having touched Rey for the first time, to feel a storm of incensed Force aimed right at him as the hut then exploded around them.

And then he was, certainly, on the Supremacy.

He still remembers how he responded, looking over his shoulder, caught.

By Luke.

Of course.

Because it’s not like he doesn’t have 200 other memories of being a teenager and getting caught by Luke doing… a whole slew of things he wasn’t supposed to be doing, ranging from using his lightsaber to work his anger off, instead of letting it go, to yelling at one of the younger students when he was the one “in charge” of breakfast and she burned the porridge, to the second time he had his hand on himself and Luke came in for... Force alone knows what… And… that time he was meditating, and was supposed to be keeping what Luke called the Dark Voice out of his head, but wasn’t… And…

It happened more than often enough that he’s got a deep sense of shame hardwired to just being near Luke. 

But Luke’s gone. And he’s Master of not only a ship, but a political dynasty, and all of that’s fading away as he’s facing a room with just Kinear in it, and he can feel the smirk that’s not making it to Kinear’s face and all of it’s crashing back onto him.

Because he is CAUGHT!

Kinear nods, apparently able to read that off Kylo’s face, and then says, “For the next few minutes, we’re going to forget about rank, and position, and who you are, and who I am, and we’re going to have a little chat. An old man to a young one. And when we’re done, I’m going to forget we ever had this chat, and with any luck, you’re going to remember it.”

Kylo bites his lip, but sits at the conference table, and nods.

“First of all. Always make sure you control the sound in a room.”

Kylo nods, slowly. “You heard…”

Kinear smirks, but it’s clear that he apparently approves of this, and that makes his next line a little easier for Kylo to take. “Like you did it in front of us.”

But only a little, Kylo full body winces.

“Second of all, there’s not a man alive who hasn’t, at least once, ended up with his stones flapping about stark naked in the breeze, metaphorically if not literally, so, learn to suck it up, act like you intended it, and then back to business. You can get away with anything if you act like you planned it and you aren’t ashamed of it.”

“You sound like my father.” Han was the champion of pretending that whatever happened he was in control of, and planned it that way.

“I wouldn’t know; I never met him. But if I do, it’s because he was giving you good advice when he said that. Looking like you meant to do whatever it was, and you’re not ashamed of it, will get your further than you can imagine. No shame. No fear. Keep those off your face, and you can get away with almost anything.”

Kylo’s eyes narrow a little at that, because he’s not entirely sure if Kinear’s saying he knows who his father is specifically, or if it’s a general statement that’s true regardless of who Kylo’s father might be. And either way, Kinear’s moving on, fast, from that line.

Kylo’s got the sense that Kinear spent more than enough time around other Force sensitives to know that one of the best ways to not get your mind read is to make sure you never stop on any one thought for any real length of time.

“Third of all, everyone on this ship who matters knows you’ve got a lady friend and have for most of the last year if not longer. It’s normal. Three quarters of us on your general staff are married or have a companion and sometimes both, occasionally with someone else on the side. Even the Emperor had a collection of mistresses. Also, all of us were your age at one point or another, and yes, memory dims the details, but not so far down we don’t remember it. Occasionally skivving off for a pretty girl will, assuming you don’t leave something important, get smirked at, because a lot of us have done it at least once or twice, too. No one expects you to be an asexual monk, so you don’t have to act like one unless it pleases you to do so.”

Kylo nods.

Kinear shifts a bit, gets more serious. “Finally, and this one really is just for you and I. No one on our level is stupid. Greedy, sure. Ruthless, of course. Morally flexible, definitely. But not stupid. Absolutely no one believes that a girl just happened to show up on this ship, and you just happened to take her to Snoke, and she somehow, by herself overpowered you, killed the Praetorian Guard and Snoke, and then just, on her own, skipped away from the ship and vanished, leaving a pretty little power vacuum for you to step into. No one believes that story. No one, ever, believed that story.

“If Hux hadn’t been so damn scared of you, he would have laughed when you tried it.

“None of us cared, Snoke was too unstable to keep in power, and if you had to bring in help to take him out, no one cared. Even Hux was fine with it, because he knew he couldn’t take out Snoke on his own.”

Kylo blinks. He knew that Hux didn’t believe that lie. He didn’t know that it had spread that far.

“Most of us, who know about your lady friend, assume she’s the same woman who helped you win your throne.”

Kylo nods at that, too.

“Good. You’ve cleaned a lot of the house. We’ve got your back and are cleaning up the rest. Give us a bit more time and you can show your lady’s face here, safe in the knowledge that she’ll be as much of a hero for taking out Snoke as you are.”

That’s several levels of information Kylo didn’t have, and he takes a moment to sift through and figure out which one is the most important. “You’re… cleaning house?”

“From the top of the spire, it can be hard to see the cracks in the foundations. Though you are doing a very good job with the top levels. We’re taking care of the bottom ranks for you.”

Kylo rubs his lips together for an entirely different reason. “How are you cleaning house?”

“By removing the people who don’t want to go where you’re taking us.”

Kylo nods, slowly, and just as slowly says, “And have they… noticed… your efforts?”

Kinear laughs, truly, genuinely amused by this. “I survived The Old Republic, Palpatine, The New Republic, and Snoke. No one notices if I don’t want them to. If you didn’t look like you had a shot of actually doing something useful, you’d have never known I was even on your staff.”

Kylo tilts his head, acknowledging that’s likely true, he’s got close to 1800 generals, and if Kinear had kept his position lurking about in the middle of nowhere, and done his job properly, he would have never noticed him. “And you’re telling me what you’re up to.”

“Yes. Like I said, tell me where you want to go, and I’ll plot a course. I know you don’t have the full view of it, yet, but you’re working on it, and I’m going to make sure you get there.” He pats Kylo’s shoulder, standing up, ready to go get the rest of the general staff. “With your lady friend.”

Kylo swallows, and spends a moment just feeling Kinear. The offer is genuine. Self-serving. Like Rey said, he knows that his fortune is tied to Kylo doing well, but that doesn’t make his advice any less useful.

“Peace. I don’t care if we’ve got to scale down to get secure. We’ll grow from there. But… peace. A galaxy where they realize that what I’ve got to offer is valuable, so they come of their own accord. Snoke took. He conquered anything that came under his gaze. Not me. I don’t care about land, couldn’t care less about systems. I want people. Get enough of them, and we don’t need planets. The entire universe works because the right people are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. I want those people wearing my mark, working for me. If I don’t have land, I’ll put them in ships, and scatter them across the galaxy, and… We’re changing the game. It’s going to be about alliance and association and ground is just dust. We’ll take it when it falls in our laps because we got enough people in one place who want us to have it.”

Kinear exhales long and slow, he sits down, slowly, and nods, pleased. “That’s a goal, alright.”

“Can you plot me a course?”

Kinear looks excited. “I can damn well try.”

 

 


Twenty minutes later, the rest of the general staff is assembled. Admiral Schiff, who’s more of a smartass than he needs to be, and more valuable than any two other men at the table, decides he’ll be the one to stick his neck out and test the waters.

“Did you have a refreshing break, sir?”

There’s a heartbeat where Kylo’s feeling like he’s transgressed, stepped out of line, but… He’s the man who draws the damn lines. He can feel a third of the men surrounding him just tensed, afraid of what he’s about to do to Schiff. Another third are expecting him to have a fit, they’re already planning their escapes from the room, looking for the most direct route between them and the door that doesn't involve getting within two meters of him. Schiff’s just staring at him, challenge in his face, daring him to… succeed at this.

He and Kinear didn’t talk about it, he can feel that. Not… in the last hour, but… they’re of a mind and trying to move him to something. Trying to… humanize him.

Snoke was alien. He was a nigh-eternal monster in an ornate robe. He was… a dark god bent on domination and pain. And right now Schiff and Kinear are… Kylo can feel it… They are trying to make him distinctly different from that. Men will pledge their lives, service, minds, and wealth to another man they respect.

And this is part of building that. Part of being worthy of their respect.

He looks Schiff right in the eye and says, “Yes, quite. I’ve often found a quick break to work off tension helps focus the mind. General T’Chandra, I believe you were up.”

Kylo can feel about a quarter of his staff really approves of this. They’re happy to see him do things like that. The third that was getting ready to sprint out, they all relax. Maybe they don’t care as much about him getting his kicks or being the kind of man who has kicks to get, but they do need a leader who they aren’t constantly terrified of.

Kinear and Schiff both seem especially pleased by how he handled that.

He supposes that’s the sort of thing he could actually talk to Kinear about. He supposes that’s the sort of thing he also should talk to Kinear about. Or… maybe Jon…

Snoke was more than a thousand years old by the time Kylo first heard his voice in his head. He’d had literally eons of time to learn everything before he even thought about moving in the direction of trying to rule.

Kylo’s not quite 31. He told Rey about how ridiculous it was that he was supposed to be wise at twenty. It’s less ridiculous now, or would be if he were still Master Kylo, Jedi. But he’s also expanded the sort of thing he’s supposed to know about so widely, that it’s probably more ridiculous than his attempted mantle of wisdom as a brand new “Master.”

But he can borrow it. He can ask for help and advice.

 

 


Eat at home? Kylo’s voice in her head.

Sure. Uh… why? Normally, they eat on the Supremacy.

Tell you when I get there.

And a moment later he’s with Rey, standing next to the table, a bowl of mango salad in one hand, and some sort of curry over minced taro in the other. He sets them down and sits on the bench next to her.

She’s looking at him, curiosity all over her face.

He takes a second to feel the… Rey’s right, it’s very present and really intense and not exactly sexual in an erotic sense, but… erotic and life are of course bound to each other in any animal with sexual reproduction, so he can feel how it’s not going to take long to slide over that line, and it’s just… “Oh… That’s…” he doesn’t exactly have words for it. “Nice.”

She smiles. “Yes. Wanted to get here before it ends?”

“I hadn’t thought of that.” And he hadn’t, but he’s glad he’s here and able to feel this. He assumes people have to have babies on the Supremacy but… Between the fact that it’s ten thousand times bigger than Rey’s settlement, and that he’s here, feeling the glow of Baby Tico refracted through almost a dozen Force sensitive minds, too, it’s likely more intense than it’d ever be there.

Rey’s still looking up at him, curious about why they’re here and not in his room.

He feels a little blush on his cheeks. “Uh… Apparently… There’s… uh… no soundproofing between my office and room.”

Rey blinks, slowly, then rubs her lips together, a light pink flush lighting her cheeks, and… “Your office with the twenty members of your general staff in it?”

He nods.

She makes a little, “Eeep!” sort of noise.

He nods again.

She nods back, that pink deepening into red, and then she starts to giggle uncontrollably. Kylo, out of the view of his staff, decides that, yes, all in all, it is fairly funny, and he joins her laughter.

Eventually, she can talk and says, “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah… Maybe next time call me here?”

“Next time?”

He starts to spoon the salad and curry onto plates for them, and then sits down, on the bench next to her. “Well, I didn’t mind.” He flashes her a naughty smile. “And… it led to an interesting conversation with Kinear. And… Schiff wanted to see how far he could push me, so he set a toe past the line by asking if I’d had a refreshing break, and… I told him yes, and that I could focus better after one, and… actually, I could. I’ll usually make sure I’ve got some time to go beat on the training droids between bad meetings, but this was just a boring one. Still… I was much more present for the second half of it.”

She lays a hand on his shoulder, and kisses him. “Are you telling me you think you’ll be a better ruler if you get tuffed regularly between meetings?”

He gives her thigh a gentle squeeze and grins at her. “Your pilot’s a bad influence on you, that’s an awful word.”

She raises an eyebrow. “Do you have a better one?”

He cups his hand around the back of her neck, drawing her over, and gently licks her lower lip before saying, “I’ve always liked fucked.” His voice caresses over it, and his tongue caresses over her lip again. “If you’re old enough to do it, you’re old enough to use an adult word for it.”

In a heartbeat she’s in his lap, rocking against him, hands on his chest. “And tuffed,” she rolls over him, rubbing just right, “isn’t?”

He’s undoing her belt. “Tuffed is a word for spotty-faced boys giggling with each other, telling lies about the girls they haven’t actually fucked.”

She undoes his belt, taking it off this time instead of working around it. “Uh huh. And you would know?”

He pulls off her belt, and begins undoing her jacket. “I was one, once upon a time.”

She nibbles his lip. “Do a lot of lying about girls you didn’t fuck?”

He smirks, kissing her neck and shoulder as she’s undoing the hooks and eyes on his tunic. “I heard a lot of it.”

His hand finds her breast, worming its way under her shirt, and she pulls his face up to kiss her lips, rocking against him deliciously, moaning softly at the feel of him against her, and his hands on her breast. But rocking is only going to get them so far, and both of them, sitting at her kitchen table, kissing and petting, want more. “Unless you let that go, I can’t get your clothing off.”

He pushes the bench back, and she stands up, quickly, he does, too, both of them stripping down. A moment later, she’s sitting on the table, food pushed to the side, her feet on his thighs, and he’s on the bench, running his hands over her back and hips as he sucks a nipple. Her fingers stroke over his hair. He purrs a bit at it, and gasps as she pushes off the table and slips onto him.

It shudders through both of them. The feel of sex and life slipping through both of them in shivery light and supple dark.

“Fuck! You weren’t kidding about this being intense,” grinds out of him through clenched jaws.

She’s shuddering all over, at the stretch of him in her, at the thrum of new life around them, at the feel of how all it comes together, spinning into eternity, both before and behind them, and…

They’re moving fast, grinding against each other, seeking, needing more.

“Yes!” her voice, higher, breathy.

His hands grip her thighs, and hers grip his shoulders. Lips meeting, stroking.

“Yes!” his voice, deep, ragged, panted between heavy breaths. He hasn’t prayed in decades, not… the way he was trained to. Not slipping into the flow of the Force and letting it carry him, secure and cradled by it. Not allowing himself to open all of his needs and wants to the Force, letting himself experience them and offer them up.

But he is now.

Commune together in mutual affection and accord.

He can feel her with him, her body tight with pleasure and life and the feel of the Force and love coming with him. He can feel his body, poised, flush with pleasure and growing tension, and needing and wanting and almost… there… with her.

Communing together.

They were meant to praise the Force as the giver of all life. That’s what most of the prayers boiled down to. That which turned stardust into life. That which turned life into consciousness. That which rose consciousness into discernment.

And he feels all of it right now, present in her body and his, rushing toward both physical bliss and mental contentment and joy, sublime, restful, easy, joy.

They’re so close. The line between her mind and his melted minutes, hours, seconds… he doesn’t know which… ago. But this time the line between his/their body/life and the eternal, that’s also slipping away. The line between them growing thin and translucent, bleeding away in vibrant color-feels of emotion and motion and sensation and they’re not even sure if they’re moving anymore, and it doesn’t matter if they are or not.

Transcendent. Glowing together. Luminous creatures… that’s what Luke taught them, and right now, they really, truly, are.

 

 

 


It takes them a long time to untangle from that. Pull their mind back into their body, and then into their own individual forms and from there to let go of each other, though they don’t break physical contact for the rest of the night.

Lying in bed, stroking her hair, he says, “I don’t think that was ever on offer to the Jedi.”

She stretches languidly, purring, rubbing up against him like a content maomao. “Why do you think that?”

“Because you can’t experience that and not want. Can’t feel that and not dedicate yourself to getting back there again, can you?”

She nuzzles against his chest and chin. “We’ll get there again. And maybe that was the idea, give up all of your little wants, seeking the one big one?”

“Maybe…” He’s skeptical, but honestly, feels too damn good to fuss with this. “If it was, it got lost in translation. I read almost every book Luke had, and I don’t remember anything about this in there.”

She smirks a little. “Maybe that one got stuffed into a locked trunk. He probably didn’t want you guys just off fucking each other, looking for it.”

Kylo smirks back at her, kissing the top of her head. He could certainly see Luke doing something like that. Then he smiles. “In a trunk Yoda locked a millennium ago. He probably wanted the Jedi to do something other than each other.”

She giggles at that. “Lucky for us we’re Maji.”

He kisses her. “Lucky.”

 

 


 

 

 

"Whooooo!"

Kylo’s up, standing on the bed, over Rey, naked, in his defensive crouch, saber lit when the second bit of the loud, exuberant yell that just echoed through Lirium, and pulled him out of deep sleep and his saber to hand without any actual thinking, hits. “She’s here! She’s here!”

He extinguishes the blade and flops back onto their bed, heart galloping, as a fist pounding at the door joins the happy yelling.

“She’s here, Rey! She’s here.”

Rey gets up, giving Kylo a quick glare for singeing the bedspread, before pulling on a night shirt and robe, yelling out, “I’m coming, Finn!”

She closes the door to the bedroom behind her, but Kylo can hear, “She’s here! Paige Liria Tico is here! She’s a bit over three kilos, fifty-two centimeters, she’s got her mama’s eyes and my hair, and she’s the most beautiful girl, ever! Come on, come meet her!”

“How’s Rose?” He can hear her pulling on her boots.

“Fine! Great! Sore and tired, too, but… The droid says that’s normal. They’re both asleep, so I came over. Come on, I want you to meet her!”

He can hear Rey laugh. “In my robe!”

Finn does something, Kylo guesses he’s looking at himself, because he then says, “I’m in my pjs, too. Come on!”

 

 


Kylo lurks in the back of Rey’s mind. He knows he’s not invited to close, intimate family moments, especially not for the Tico family.

But he does want to share the feel of this with Rey. He can’t see the scene, but he can feel her reactions to it, feel her understand it.

The child is, as newborn babies tend to be, tiny. But there’s knowing they have to be tiny, and holding one for the first time and really feeling the sensation of an entire person fitting in your two hands.

She’s wrapped into a little bundle, and Finn’s showing her off like she’s the most precious jewel in the galaxy.

And to her daddy, she is.

He lets Rey hold her, and the soft, warm weight of her against Rey’s shoulder feels… more intense than he was expecting.

There’s a visceral wanting that goes with it.

And he’s honestly not sure if it’s his or Rey’s or both of theirs.

The little girl starts to cry, and that startles Rey. She doesn’t like not knowing what to do about it. Finn’s still besotted with everything his girl does, so he gently takes her from Rey, and coos to her, “Hungry, baby? Let’s get back to Mama.”

He can sense that Rey’s following Finn, and the shock of seeing Rose, who is apparently several levels beyond tired. What he and Rey know, combined, about babies could fill an especially small thimble, and apparently said thimble is woefully inadequate when it comes to what happens as said baby goes from being inside her mom to outside.

He can feel her swallow the desire to say, “You look like you got run over by a bantha,” as Rose takes Paige back, and slowly, gently, gets her settled for a meal.

Finn’s sitting on the bed, with them, holding both of them, still beaming. Rose is dozing against him. And Paige is slorping away, as her daddy strokes her face.

“Can you get a picture of this?”

He assumes Rey does it. She’s not really thinking about it, just going through the motions, focusing on the family in front of her.

Finn’s voice is quiet as he says, “Makes you want one, doesn’t it?”

He feels the flush of pleasure at that idea, through her, and his own echoes it.

“Don’t deny it. I saw that look.”

Rey still isn’t saying anything.

“She’s gonna need a best friend, someone to watch her back, and go on adventures with,” he’s staring up at her with a big grin. “A little brother or sister, by love if not blood.”

“Finn!” Rose stirs enough to poke him for that. “Lay off. We haven’t even met Padme, yet. Stop planning their family for them.”

Rey gives Rose a gentle squeeze. “Thanks.” Then she looks to Finn. “One of these days.”

Yes! pounds through Kylo at that.

Finn strokes his daughter’s face again, and kisses his wife. Then he looks to Rey. “You want this, right?”

“Yes.” It’s a small word, but it doesn’t feel that way.

“Then why haven’t we met Padme? Poe says it’s been at least a year. Why do we only catch glimpses of him, from the back, at night?”

Rey shakes her head.

“Is this the double agent thing? If they catch Chewie and me, they’re not going to be asking about Padme. Ren’s not going to grab me and interrogate me personally. They don’t even seem to be looking for Resistance members any longer. The price on my head’s down to a few thousand, and the bounty on Chewie’s higher on the local level than on the Order’s scale.”

“You’ll meet him when you meet him.”

Finn’s eyes narrow at that. Kylo feels the wave of protective surging through Finn right now. Protective towards the people he loves, all of them, including his friend. “There’s something wrong with a man who doesn’t want to meet your family. He won’t show his face to the people who love you, he’s not for you.”

Kylo can tell she smiles at that, but it’s sad. “Chewie’s met him. Leia did, too.”

Finn sighs at that. “There’s something, then. Bring him to her naming celebration.”

“He works, a lot.”

Finn doesn’t say it, but Kylo feels the wave of bantha shit coming off of him. “Even soldiers in the Order have downtime. Twelve off for every twelve on, unless they’re actively fighting. And they aren’t.”

“Finn. Stop it,” Rose says. “She’ll share him with us when she’s ready to. When she’s sure that we can’t give him away.”

“Thanks, Rose. And I will, Finn, but not yet.”

Rose yawns.

“You’ve had an exciting night, and I’m going back to bed. You three rest, okay?” Rey says.

“Okay,” Finn starts to get up, but Rey waves him off. There’s no reason for him to jostle everyone by getting up. She leans down, hugging him, kissing Rose’s cheek, and laying another kiss on Paige’s head.

 

 


When she’s back in bed, lying against his side, Kylo says, voice low, “I have a feeling that showing up for her naming ceremony would involve significantly more excitement than they’d appreciate for the day.”

She nods against his shoulder. 

He kisses her forehead. “I’d go if that weren’t true.”

“I know,” she says, lips against his shoulder. He’d go strolling through town in the middle of the day in is command blacks if it wouldn’t upset her. They’re not hiding for him.

He rolls over to face her, his forehead against hers. His hand falls to her belly. “Another year?”

“Two, tops.”

 

 


Some say the sky glowed red when Paige Liria Tico, the first child born on Lirium was announced to the settlement by her daddy.

But that’s the stuff of omens and fairy tales, not real life.

Though the three children who share the hut across the street from Rey’s cabin swear it’s true.  

 

Chapter Text

5/7/1

 

 

It’s not, by a long shot, the first time Kylo’s trained with other people around. He’ll often multitask by fighting and talking to his generals, two of them have even asked if they could train with him, and though he won’t fight against them, he’s fine with them also going up against the training droids. When he was with Luke, he had at least six other Padawan with him, and they’d fight with each other. And after he took his Knights from the ashes of Luke’s temple, they trained, exclusively, together, until Snoke killed them.

And after that, until he killed Snoke, he trained alone, or with Phasma.

All of that said, Kylo’s never had anyone watch him fight the way Jon is watching him now.

The first moment, when he shucked off his tunic and shirt, Jon’s eyes flicked to his chest, looking for the necklace. But it’s on Rey’s neck today. He’d put it on her right before flashing back to the Supremacy.

 

After the second moment, he’s dissecting Kylo again. Taking apart each joint and tendon, seeing all the angles, and he just keeps doing it as Kylo fights. He doesn’t think anyone’s ever watched him that closely. Rey doesn’t watch him like this, and she’s the only person he knows who thinks he’s pretty and likes to watch him.

It’s almost distracting how thoroughly Jon’s seeing him.

Almost.

He’s not about to do a bad job fighting in front of an audience, though. When three of the droids have been scattered to smoking chunks of wreckage, Kylo stops, and says, “Enough?”

Jon nods, eyes tracing over Kylo from black boots to sweaty hair, and nods again. “Yes.”

Kylo nods, pulling a towel to him, and blots his face and hair. He feels a little jolt when he realizes that Rey’s not the only one who thinks he’s pretty. He’d blink at that, unsure of what to do, but his eyes are closed and he’s got a towel to his face.

Jon’s not flustered at all. He’s completely unaware that Kylo caught the way he was being looked at, because, of course, Kylo’s eyes are not only closed but located on the far side of a towel and currently incapable of making contact with Jon’s gaze.

By the time Kylo’s put the towel down, Jon’s started sketching, and his mind is completely on how to design armor for him, totally professional.

“Are we still on for lunch?” Jon asks, not looking up from the body, Kylo assumes it’s got to be his, that he’s laying out on his pad.

“Yes, I’d like that.”

Jon looks up at him, smiles a little, and nods. “Good. I’ll have these ready for you.”

 

 


Good as his word, he does. They’re in Kylo’s room, at his table, sketches laid out, along with drinks and sandwiches.

Kylo checks the first sketch. It looks almost identical to his command blacks. The only main difference is that the boots are thicker, the cloak is gone, and the belt has been narrowed and set lower on the hips, giving him easier access to his saber.

“No cloak… or cowl?” Kylo asks.

“Do you want one?” Jon asks between bites of his sandwich.

“It looks imposing.”

Jon nods. “It does. How’s it work with your fight? From what I was watching, it looked like it’d get in the way.”

Kylo rolls his eyes a little. “It’s too hot, screws with my visibility, the only reason I don’t trip over it is my control of the Force, and if anyone got too close, it’d be an easy handhold.”

Jon nods, and taps the sketch. “No cloak, no cowl. You’re already larger than real life, you don’t need to look like a nightmare on top of it.”

“Palaces and castles again?”

Jon inclines his head. “Yes.” He drums his fingers on the sketch, and takes a sip of his tea. “Why do you expect to be fighting?”

“Because I will.”

Jon inclines his head, not understanding.

“I can feel it.” He touches his saber. “There may be a time when I won’t need this, but it isn’t here, yet.”

“Okay.” Jon takes a bite of his sandwich. “When you see yourself out there, blade glowing red, head to toe black, are you fighting to conquer something, or protect something?”

It’s not something he’s thought much about, but when it comes down to it, he’s not terribly interested in conquering much of anything. He wants people, planets, and systems to join him because they want to be with him, not because he held a blade to their throats. “Ideally, protecting what’s mine.”

“And that’s why you don’t have to look like the ghoul in someone’s terrors. Honestly, if the mask wasn’t so iconically yours, I’d redesign that, too. It puts people too much in mind of Darth Vader, and that’s not who you want them thinking of.”

Kylo raises an eyebrow.

“The Emperor was justice. Vader was his executioner. Do you want to be the hand that wields power, or the blade that enforces it?”

That’s something else that Kylo’s never thought of. “Both?”

Jon looks like he’s tasting that idea. He doesn’t seem to think it’s a bad flavor. “Supposedly there was a time when the man who made the laws executed them…”

“Where are you from, Jon?”

“Imperial City.”

Kylo nods. One of the Empire’s core supports.

“And you’re… how old?”

“I was born in 24 AE.” Jon’s use of the Imperial dating system tells Kylo all he needs to know about that. He thinks quickly and decides that 24 AE is 5 BBY, or the same age Kylo is.

“Born and raised for the Empire?”

“My future as an officer planned out from the day my oldest sister was born, and then the next one, and the next, and the next, and finally me. My father was a major. He worked logistics on the second Death Star.”

Kylo winces.

Jon nods. “Yeah. The Empire fell, and on Coruscant…” It’s clear from his voice he resents it not being Imperial City any longer, “things got rough if you were branded ‘Imperials.’ Which we were, but… my mom’s famous. She’s the best dressmaker in the galaxy. The economy fell to shit, the Rebellion with their ‘Republic’ was disrupting everything, but rich people still got married, so my mom never had to worry about work.”

Kylo takes a bite of his own sandwich, and nods to the sketch. “She taught you this?”

“Unwillingly. Men don’t… do this sort of thing, in Imperial City. They especially don’t design pretty dresses for rich ladies, but the Empire was gone, being the son of a Major wasn’t a bragging point anymore, and I didn’t exactly have the sort of job prospects they thought I’d have. Making up sketches, sewing, and pretending it was my sisters’ work was better than starving.”

Kylo knows something about not exactly living up to the future others designed for you. “Did you like it?”

Jon offers him a sharp smile. “Yes, actually. I’m good at it, too. Not as good as my mother, but no one is. Once Snoke showed up, and I had options beyond her dress shop, she more or less booted me out.”

“Oh.”

Jon can read Kylo’s look and he shakes his head a little. “It’s not… bad… just…” he lets that trail off.

“Do you still speak to her?”

“Not every day, but enough. She’s still my mom.” Jon shakes his head. “I’m sorry, sir… blathering away. Let me guess, you and your mom get on fine?”

Kylo doesn’t actually choke on his drink, but only because he knew Jon was going to say it a millisecond before it got out of his mouth. Apparently, his shock is clear on his face though, because Jon says, “Or maybe not.”

It’s an impulsive blurting, a need to let the secret out, just to say it, at least once. “My mom was Leia Organa.”

The only reason Jon doesn’t choke on his drink is that he wasn’t drinking. His eyes all but bug out of his head and he just stares at Kylo. Finally, he says, “The Leia Organa.”

Kylo nods.

Jon keeps staring for a long moment, and then crumples into hysterical laughter.

Now it’s Kylo’s turn to stare because whatever the joke may be, Jon’s not bringing it to him.

After a few moments of breathless laughing, Jon finally calms himself down enough to say, “Everyone says kids rebel against their parents. Your mom is the Rebel. She overturned and entire government, threw the galaxy into chaos, broke the entire system, and you didn’t just join the other side, you run it.” He’s chuckling. “That’s the stone-cold balliest fucking move I’ve ever heard of.” Approval is beaming off of Jon. “I thought not becoming a combat officer was giving my mom a big fuck you,” he sniggers for another moment, “but I’ve got nothing on you.”

Kylo rubs his lips together, and then smiles, a little. “I suppose that’s one way to look at it.”

“Why are you asking me about government stuff? Didn’t you learn this sort of thing as a sprog?”

“Like you said, she was off rebelling. I was home learning half a dozen languages or how to,” he levitates his cup. “How to do… this…” he gestures at the ship, but his meaning, everything around them, is clear, “wasn’t part of it.”

“No. Let me guess, in her ideal world, there are no people like us? We’re all, what, equals, and power isn’t a thing, and we all get along happy and kind.”

Kylo doesn’t exactly roll his eyes, because he’s fairly sure that’s what Leia wanted. He’s also sure she knew she’d never have that. “I never got the sense she was that naïve.”

Jon’s eyes widen. “Past tense… Oh… I… shit… I’m sorry.”  

Kylo shrugs. “Like you said, I joined the other side.”

Jon sighs. “She was still your mom, right?”

“Yes.”

“It hurts, no matter how far apart we drift.”

Kylo feels that, the sympathy aimed at him, and nods, allowing himself a moment to feel it, too. “Thank you.”

Jon looks at him curiously.

“The only other person who knows about this empathizes as much as she can, but she lacks the frame of reference to really understand it.”

Jon nods, and gives Kylo’s hand a little squeeze, which Kylo stares at in amazement, before saying, “So, no cloak, no cowl, you’re not up there to terrorize people, you’re up there to protect them. The black and red works wonders for putting the idea of righteous rage into people’s minds, but you don’t need to go any further than that. It’s enough for them to know that they don’t want to bring about your wrath.” 

Kylo figures that’s about as much of an opening as he’s ever going to get, so… “If I wanted to work some colors into my Emperor-wear… How would you suggest doing that?”

Jon doesn’t have a stroke, though he does blink.

“Not red,” Kylo adds.

Jon nods, slowly, and then pointedly looks around them. They’re in a black room, at a black table, with black chairs. The plates are gray. The cups are black. Kylo’s desk is black. His bed is black. His walls are black. The ship they’re flying around in is black.

 

“I’d keep your clothing black, silver, and gray. We can maybe toss some midnight blue and forest green in there, just a bit, on the vests or detailing, probably. But, unless you want to rebrand the whole thing again, those are your colors. You wear them on your body, because you are the Order.” He looks around, sighing… “That said, not everything around you has to be black.” He shrugs a bit. “The Supremacy is a castle. It’s designed to be imposing. Every inch is about instilling fear and subservience. Humans are designed to fear the dark, so Snoke built the biggest, blackest ship to ever traverse the galaxy. If you wanted to add color, this is where I’d do it. Make your home look more like… anywhere else.”

“Make it look like anywhere else, or make it anywhere else?”

Jon shrugs. “That one is up to you. Uh… My friend… She’s one of your tactical officers. She… thinks you’re onto something with scaling down the weapons systems.” Jon’s face hardens. “Do you know how I got to this rank… well, the rank before this one?”

Kylo shakes his head.

“That…” Jon pauses, and when the word comes it’s the vilest curse Kylo’s ever heard, even though the word itself isn’t anything special, “bitch flew her fucking ship through the design center among other things. I was off-duty. Worked a double the day before and took sixteen instead of twelve off. Decided to have a lay in, sound asleep, having a fairly nice dream, and next thing I knew two thirds of my coworkers and all of my commanding officers were dead.” He grits his teeth. “Everyone used to be too damn scared of Snoke to ever say anything like this, but… Hell, even I… a design officer, knows enough tactics to know you don’t put everyone in one ship. That’s just asking to get killed.

One fucking hit. She took out a quarter of this ship and a good half of the destroyers behind us, and… And now that she’s done it, anyone else with good-sized ship, no fear of death, and a hyperdrive can do it, too.”

Kylo doesn’t shiver at that, but he suddenly feels it. Ships like the Supremacy are too big to maneuver well. They go in a straight line well enough, and gentle curves are fine, but anything else, like getting out of the way of a destroyer aimed at them, is a hassle. And if someone really wanted to take him out of the skies, about two Star Destroyers would do it. One cut him almost in half, and if they’d had anything to hit him with after that, that would have been the end of him.

Jon nods at him. “It’s a race, sir, isn’t it? You’ve got time, right now, to make yourself so valuable they don’t go and try and blow you out of the sky, but if you’re too slow, someone will build up enough, and they’ll have had the last fifty years of fighting to learn from.”

Kylo nods at that, too.

“So… be useful. Stick floating palaces all over the galaxy. This baby,” he taps the floor beneath their feet with the toe of his boot, “will always have a place. There’s something to be said for dropping out of hyperspeed in this right next to someone who dares to challenge you and blowing them out of the sky yourself, but it’s likely a good idea that not all that many people or things are in here. Plus, it looks way more imposing if this pops up and all of your other ships are next to it, instead of in it.”

That’s giving Kylo an idea of how to disperse his power. “Use the Supremacy as a floating battle station. As a floating target. Keep ships around to go after whatever attacks it, but strip it down to build new things, and keep the important stuff off of it.”

Jon nods. “I like that.” Then he shrugs. Kylo notices that he’s rubbing his fourth finger on his left hand. Like the rest of the officer class, Jon wears gloves, but if Kylo were to guess, there’s a ring under there, or at least used to be. “But I would. My husband kissed me goodbye. I was half asleep when he did it. I woke up a widower because Snoke kept his designers on his flagship, which was also his base of operations, which was also his primary battleship, which a maniac flew through at lightspeed.”

Kylo feels that like a punch. This time it’s his sympathy that comes into play, because just the idea of it makes him want to be sick. “I’m…” his lips open and close and he can’t even begin to put into words how deeply he feels the horror of that.

Jon watches him with interest. “I wasn’t expecting that you’d understand that. You’re not just imagining it, you feel it, don’t you?”

“In my nightmares.”    

Jon doesn’t nod, he’s looking out, at the stars beyond them. “Sometimes you wake up, and realize the nightmare is real. It gets better, and easier, but… You still beg the universe when you go to sleep, to not wake up again, to go back to your dreams.” Jon looks back to Kylo, “Your love…”

Kylo can feel what word Jon’s looking for, so he supplies it, “She.”

“She’s not here, is she?”

“No.”

Jon nods. “You know it then. Feel it in your bones even if it hasn’t worked its way into your brain. You don’t put everything in the world that matters to you in one place. Not when people like to shoot at you.”

Kylo also looks out at the stars beyond them.

There’s a sensation, a memory, clawing its way to the front of his mind. The feeling of a hard, rock hard, harder than flesh and blood could ever be, because, of course, it’s not flesh and blood, hand on his shoulder, the feeling of trying to get free, of begging the Force, the Universe, everything, to make a moment in time stop. But time didn’t stop, it kept marching forward, and suddenly everything in the universe that mattered all died at once.

“That’s how my mother felt.”

“Not even rebels are always wrong.”

 

 


It’s hours later, after lunch, after his afternoon meetings, when he’s got a few moments to look out over his galaxy.

He sees her reflection in the glass behind him, glowing blue in his black room.

He doesn’t turn to her as he says, “I understand.”

She swallows, and nods, a little smile on her face.

He’s looking at the reflection of her. “Did you need to hear that?” he asks.

“Yes.”

He nods, still looking at her reflection, not turning to face her. “I still disagree, though.”

He sees her reach to rest her hand on his right shoulder, step up beside him, and lay her temple against his left shoulder. “I don’t need you to agree, just understand.”

His eyes close, and he exhales a shaking breath.  “Obi Wan hid you and Luke. You had Luke hide me.” He shakes his head, and rubs his thumb against his middle finger, feeling the ring under his glove. “That ends here.”

She doesn’t reply to that, though she doesn’t let go, either.

 

 


When Master of the Order Ren scaled down his weapons purchases, that got a lot of discussion in certain quarters. When he began talking with his engineers about designing a ships with the maneuverability of a star destroyer and the carrying capacity of a dreadnought, those discussions began to bloom, again.

No one knows what to make of this, but some people, a few very astute ones, realize that by going smaller, he’s making himself harder to hit.

And that makes them nervous.

 

Chapter Text

5/19/1

 

 

 

“Major Frakes…”

Frakes turns, looking down slightly, at the smaller man… he reads the command insignia, General seeking his attention.

He snaps into perfect attention and says, “Sir.”

“Relax, Major.”

He does, marginally. “What can I do for you, sir?”

“Are you Bill Frakes’ boy?”

Jon nods, a bit confused as to why anyone would be asking that. “Yes, sir.”

The general smiles at him. “I thought so. You’ve got the look of him. Not the coloring. He had dark hair, but the shape of your face.”

Frakes nods again. Then says, “I’m sorry, sir, I wouldn’t know.”

The General shakes his head. “He was on the Second Death star. You never got the chance to really know him, did you? I’d forgotten that. Flaming shame, that. He was a good man.”

“So I’ve been told, sir. I’m sorry, sir, you have the advantage of me.”

The general smiles at him. “Kinear. Pat Kinear.”

“General Kinear. May I be of any service?”

“You may be. I’ve been told you’re the one to see about making things look right.”

“Whoever told you that has been very kind.” Jon says, manners perfect.

Kinear smiles up at him. “Take advice from an old man who outranks you by a kilometer, don’t downplay your victories, lad. That’s how you get your stripes.”

“Yes, sir.” Frakes waits patiently. Eventually the old man will get around to whatever it is he wants.

“I’ve gotten word that we’re going to be taking possession of a few new colonies. I’m thinking it might be valuable to have some sort of… reception… A welcome to the Order party. Back in my day when you got your stripes, the other officers would have a party, let you know you belonged.”

Jon doesn’t make a comment about how those days were likely under the Old Republic. “You’d like us to… extend a warm welcome to our newest colonies?”

“Something like that. Invite the people who more or less run things, put them at ease, liquor ‘em up, see what they think is going on when they’re feeling relaxed and open. It’ll be easier to see who’ll work well with us if they’re not afraid we’re about to kill them all.”

Jon doesn’t have a comment on that. “Does Master Ren know about this? He usually speaks with me directly about things like this.”

“He doesn’t, yet. He’s… sometimes a bit more shy about things like this than is optimal. I was hoping I could get you to come up with the sketches and the costs. Once we’ve got that figured out, I’ll hit him with it.”

“If we do this for every colony, it’ll get expensive.”

Kinear grins at him. “That’s the right attitude, lad! We’re going to do this a lot. And, at least right now, I’ve got credits, and I’m in a giving mood.”

“Sir?”

The old general’s looking up at him, eyes bright. “Do you feel it? That we’re on the verge of something great? That we’re finally moving to where we’re supposed to go? We’re building alliances and spreading a system that benefits people. This is important, lad, and it’s time we start putting everything we can to it.”

“Yes,” breathes out of Frakes.

Kinear smiles at him. “That’s worth celebrating, isn’t it?”

Frakes smiles. “I’ll design it for you, sir.”

“Thank you, Major.”

 

 


“Well…” Admiral Schiff says to Kinear a few hours later.

“He’s young, enthusiastic, loves our Master, completely dedicated to the mission, and not smart or jaded enough to know not to trust me.”

“So, you’re saying he’s perfect,” Schiff replies.

“He’s perfect,” Kinear says with a huge grin.

“And what are we doing with our perfect boy?” Schiff asks as they stroll through the busy hallways of the F deck.

“Right now, I’ve got him planning a state dinner.”

Schiff nods at that. “Does Ren know you’re planning him a state dinner?”

“Not, yet. I told Frakes I wanted it sketched and priced out first, and then I’d hit Ren with it.”

“And, whom are we feting at our state dinner?” Schiff asks.

“We’ve got the colony the Polnians are flogging off on us, the two we’ve taken possession of in the R’Leah system, I think the G’Rnders are going to give us one, and the Ygrines are on the final draft of the non-aggression treaty. Might as well get ‘em all in one place and have a ‘Yay us!’ party.”

“I’m thinking we leave the Ygrines out for now. We can have a separate gathering of them and other people we want non-aggression pacts with. We’re likely better off if we keep the colonizers separate from the colonists.” Kinear nods along with that. A sensible plan. “That said, I can think of three other systems non-aggression pacts would be valuable for.”

“Two parties then, I can get Frakes to plan out both for us,” Kinear adds.

Schiff pulls a datapad out of his pocket and makes a note for himself. “How’d Frakes take the idea?”

“He’s worried it’ll be expensive.”

“Smart boy. We do enough of this sort of stuff, and it will get expensive.”

Kinear waves that off. “This may pinch our purses some, but…”

“But we’ve both been known to make the occasional prurient investment when it’s warranted.”

“Exactly.”

Schiff looks up from his pad to Kinear. “You know, there was a rumor that once upon a time, you’d intended to go into politics when you got out of the Emperor’s army.”

Kinear smiles. That’s an old rumor, and an old wish, one that he thought died a long time ago. “You always were good at this, Josh.”

“You, too, Pat. How many of your grandkids will be running?”

“All six and one of the great-grandsons looks interested, too. You?”

“Four.”

Kinear looks around them, at the bustle of the F Deck. Other than the lack of sky, they could be in any busy town. “He tells me he wants to do away with geography. Planets, land… just dust.”

Admiral Schiff grins. “Music to my ears. He’s talking to the designers about scaling down.”

“How far?”

“Dreadnoughts.”

“Thank the Force!” That makes Kinear feel significantly better. Of all of Snoke’s stupid ideas, this behemoth is the worst of the bunch. “How many?”

“Looks like seven of them.”

“He’s going to need an Admiral and General for each of them.”

“Yes, he will,” Schiff says.

“You already making your list?”

“Of course,” Schiff replies with a smile.   

Kinear sighs. “Do you miss Canaday right now?”

Schiff shakes his head. “Peavy, too. What they would have done with this…”

“Indeed. So, seven new dreadnoughts.”

“Assuming we can get the materials for them.” Schiff's eyes are dark, tools, people, dry docks, all of that's harder to lay hands on since Starkiller went up.

“Are we going to scrap this hunk?”

“No. He’s decided that if we’re going to fly into battle, having a huge, mostly empty ship shooting at whomever we’re fighting, attracting their attacks is a good plan,” Schiff says. He agrees with that. A big target in the middle of the fight that attracts attention away from his actual weapons, that's just fine by him. “We’ve got three destroyers that are ready for the rubbish heap. Might see what we can salvage and repurpose.”

“That’s… half a dreadnaught?” Kinear is a general. Give him a chunk of ground, or even, the inside of a ship, and he can plan a battle down to the number of batteries he’ll need for the blasters. What goes into building a dreadnaught is a mystery to him.

“Something like that. It’ll take time to get his plans into motion. Five years probably before we can get the first two ships out of the docks. But it’s a plan, and we can do it.”

“You know people in the building trades?” Kinear asks. He knows people in the weapons trade, and people in the logistics trade, and people in the armor trade. Schiff has to have similar contacts, right?

“Before Starkiller blew we had most of it in house. That’s part of why we’re scrabbling to keep up our maintenance. The Rebel scum took out our mechanical training base when they destroyed Starkiller. I can get tools and droids, but replacing my mechanics and engineers… Since Starkiller, I’ve had to outsource most of it, and…” Schiff almost growls, but that wouldn’t be fitting, so he doesn’t.

“Let’s get a bunch of them together, see who we can schmooze into working with us on the cheap for goodwill.”

“That’s a high-demand trade. They’re going to want credits,” Schiff says.

“Then get me a list of building docks that might decide they don’t particularly like their current overlords. And we can schmooze them. This choosing your own leader thing might be catching.”

Schiff grins wide and steady. “And if we don’t go that far, we can put recruiting stations all over them. Maybe The Master will allow us to offer a bounty on skilled trades. Three years’ service leads to citizenship for mechanics and machinists.”

“We can certainly pass that by him.”

Schiff glances around them. On F Deck everyone nearby is an officer or the family of one. Most of the people around them are significantly younger. And a lot of them have numbers, not names. “Speaking of passing things by him, how is letting him know about the condition of our training program going?”

Kinear sighs. The training program is the reason why his grandkids aren’t getting ready to run, yet. He’s not letting any of them set foot in it the way it is now. He’s sure Schiff’s aren’t enlisted, yet, either, for the exact same reason. “It’s going. I know for a fact that it’s in one of the datapads on his desk. He’s just got to pick it up.”

“Good.”

 

Chapter Text

Normally, I’d tuck a note like this into the next chapter, but the next chapter is already 25 pages long, and I don’t want to distract away from it. (Oh, it’s a GOOD ONE! Huge grin over here!)

One of these days, I should just write the Kinear saga, where a young(ish) (Kylo’s age) Pat Kinear has just left Coruscant’s Police Force: Urban Pacification: Department Level: Under Dark to join the new Army of the Republic as a Clone Trainer. He and his wife (we’ll meet Ellie soon) fight their way through the political/personal battleground of the turbulent fall of the Republic, maintaining their position, moving on and up as supporters of unification under the Emperor. We’ll see them fight, backstab, sweet talk, be in the right place at the right time, and more importantly not be in the wrong place, while also raising a few kids, making a home, and keeping ears to the ground (or maybe eyes to the skies) as the universe around them shifts. By the fall of the Empire, General and Lady Kinear will move on, trying to re-establish themselves among the New Republicans, but the New Republic has the same problem as the Old Republic, massive instability, and a brand new problem, every third officer of the Empire above the rank of Lt. Colonel is off trying to carve his way into a new Empire for himself. Add in a new force, one that’s gaining strength in the Unknown Regions but moving closer and closer to the borders of the Rim worlds, and things are going to get interesting. Perhaps the then retired General Kinear begs the Senate to build an army, to get moving, to do something to try and maintain what was won (in this case, he and Senator Organa will be allies) but he’s old, and an Imperial, and they don’t listen. (After all, the last time an old guy with white hair told the Senate to build an army, he took over the damn thing and named himself Emperor.) That new force, under Snoke, is spreading, and under Snoke, things are stabilizing, an iron fist is better than anarchy, so he changes sides. It won’t take him long to decide that wasn’t the greatest decision he’s ever made, and to scarper off to the furthest edge of Snoke’s space, and just hide out, sending reports indicating that he’s doing a perfectly competent job.

I guess this is me saying, I like Kinear. I have a great time writing Kinear. But… I also like anti-heroes. I like morally ambiguous characters who are smarter than everyone else in the room. I like the men who stake out a bit of territory, and decide to defend it with their life, smarts, will, ambition, and will let nothing stand in their way. (Hmmm… who else may I be writing in that vein?)

Kinear loves his wife. He loves his kids, and his grandkids, and his great grandkids. He loves his life. He’s the only member of the Army of the Old Republic still alive and on duty. He has survived four regimes and is on his fifth, and through all of that he’s kept his loves alive and thriving. (Alive *and* thriving.) He intends to see that continue, and as long as Kylo is good for the continued fortune of the Kinear clan, he’ll have an extremely powerful ally who knows every trick in the book, where all the skeletons are buried (and yes, he’s personally responsible for a bunch of them being in the graveyard), and the experience to see the lay of the land and know how to navigate it.

If any of you have spent any time in the Game of Thrones books, he’s a variation of Tywin Lannister, Hand of the King, this version allowed to grow old with his beloved wife at his side. For those of you who liked the Godfather, look at Kinear and see shades of Don Corleone, Vito, not Michael. He is the man who survives everything that comes his way, and will do anything that needs to be done for his family, and he is absolutely the man you want at your back.

But he if ever decides your back isn’t a good place for him and his… Well, Kinear survived Palpatine and Snoke. He’s beyond smart enough to know he can’t take out a Force sensitive leader, but he certainly knows how to get him and his out of their way.

So, as long as Kylo is moving toward a functional, stable system where the currently living four generations of Kinears can thrive, Kinear is utterly, completely, and perfectly trustworthy. In the sense that he can, and will, always be counted on to do whatever needs to be done to keep said system moving in the “right” (meaning good for the Kinears) direction.

Thus, if you ever wonder if you need to fear Kinear, watch Kylo, and decide if what he’s doing is amenable to the rising fortunes of the Kinear clan. As long as it is, Kylo will never have any issues with Kinear.

Chapter Text

6/8/1

 

“Am I seeing this?” Kylo asks C8.

“That would depend entirely on what this is, sir.”

“Do I have fewer people under my command this month than I did this time last quarter?”

C8 checks the report. “That is accurate.”

Now Kylo’s checking, fast. “We should be getting more than replacement level new troops each month.”

“We are.” Those two words chill Kylo. “At least, we’ve had more new recruits each month than the month before, but we’re losing them fast, too.”

“Losing them fast, how?” He’s flipping through the report on his datapad while C8 checks their internal numbers.

“Of the people you are losing, eight percent are dying, twenty percent are retiring,” that one doesn’t bother Kylo, he’s trying to get them out. “Twenty-two percent are being dismissed. Fifty percent