Somewhere in the Atlantic - 1655
Rey had spent what seemed like all of her young life dreaming of freedom; of breathing in the briny air from the deck of a ship, the wind whipping through her hair as it filled the sails, but here in this moment, she would do anything to go back, to unlearn all she has learned to be able not to know this moment at all.
She stifled a scream, listening to the wet rasping noise the sword made as it left his body. She fought the urge to vomit when his body crumpled to the deck with a dull thud, and then suddenly his killer turned, eyes on her. It had been nearly ten years since he had stumbled back into her life months ago. When she had first lost him, he had barely been a man, and now he was a monster.
Oh, yes, how she wished she could go back.
London - ~1642
Rey lived in a corner of a warehouse along the docks of Port London. It wasn’t always this warehouse, and it was never home, but it was always dry and safe in the middle of the night. She thought she was eight, maybe nine; numbers were hard and following years was even harder. She could hear the calling of the gulls and rolled out of her nest of blankets to sneak her way back out onto the streets.
It took her minutes to make her way to the baker’s and use her leftover halfpence to broker a trade for bread. He was a nice man, an old man, who didn’t ever shoo her away like all the other people Rey had ever met always did. She bumped into a sailor on her way out, dipped her hand in his pocket without notice, and came away with a shilling. Quickly stuffing the coin into the inner pocket of her shirt she made her way down to the docks to watch the morning commotion.
Watching her town wake up was the best part of the day. There was always a minute where all was quiet, save for the lapping of the Thames against piles of the docks and the hulls of ships. The accompanying cries of the seagulls that flew overhead and then the swelling noise of bustle as sailors appeared, and fishwives, and all of the dockhands as well as various other merchants with their wares. Everyone was calling to each other and no one ever noticed Rey as she slipped through the crowds like an eel, pilfering pockets as she went.
Around noon, she spent some time trying to get the constable off of her tail. He would throw her back in a home. She hated the homes for children. They were sad and miserable and people were always sick. She was better out here, on her own for the most part, only Unkar Plutt to answer to. Rey didn’t know much about him, just that he had avoided the hangman's noose on more than one occasion, and spent his time lying low and teaching others like her what he knew.
He had a veritable network of little thieves all over the city. Rey had seen a few of them in passing at dusk, when she made her way to Plutt’s apartments to deliver what she had. Tall boys with gangly limbs and gap-toothed smiles, disarming lads who, while grubby, most people wouldn’t spare a second glance.
Rey always made sure to tug her cap down low over her ears, keeping her hair covered. It wouldn’t do for any of them to find out she wasn’t a boy herself. Once, when she was younger, she asked Unkar what he needed the money for and he had leaned in close and whispered ‘information’ then tossed her her share and shooed her from the room so someone else could file in. Rey didn’t know what he meant, but as she got older she thought it best she never know.
It was nearing dusk now, and she knew she would need to find her way to Unkar’s soon, but she had been watching a ship dock for the past few minutes and wanted to try for one last score before she quit for the day. She wondered where they sailed from, and what it was like, wherever they had been. She could hear a dog barking over the cacophony of sounds in the port and she shot onto her tip-toes to try and see where it was. Rey grunted as she was jostled by a fishwife before swinging up onto an overturned crate to better see.
There it was. A shaggy brown thing bouncing excitedly on the gangplank of the ship she had been watching. A tall man reached down and ruffled the fur on its head before he turned back to shout something at someone she couldn’t see. He had a nice smile and a sea-weathered face. Maybe she would be allowed to pet his dog if she asked nicely. Her eyes roamed over the deck and rails before staring, perplexed, at the figurehead. It was a large bird of some sort, it’s wings splayed back, curving around the bow while its mouth was opened to screech at the sea.
Her eyes flashed back to the man and his dog, they hadn’t moved. Good. Every other ship in the port had a woman or an angel or some sort of warrior decorating their prow. She decided she liked it, this giant bird.
They were moving now, and Rey moved with them, hopping from her perch to head them off on their way out of the docks, where the foot traffic was less. She tripped into the man at a run, her fingers filching something from his pocket. “I’m so sorry!” She squeaked, stumbling back in a practiced almost fall. “I didn’t want to miss you. I was hoping - could I pet your dog, sir?” The man’s hands shot out to steady her, his smile even wider and roguish up close. Rey fidgeted for a moment, bouncing on the balls of her feet as she glanced down to the dog. He was much larger up close, coming up nearly to her chest.
The man laughed and Rey decided it was a nice noise and regretted stealing whatever it was that rested against her palm, which she quickly pushed up into her sleeve. “Sure kid. Just be careful he doesn’t lick your face off.” He laughed again at Rey’s wide-eyed expression and then held a hand out to the dog. “His name is Chewie,” he told her as the dog licked at his hand. Rey lifted her arm and the dog immediately shifted focus, his nose nudging her palm before licking it as Rey brought her other hand up to run her fingers through his fur and over his soft ears. Chewie took a step closer to her and made a move to lunge at her face, but the man grabbed him gently, pulling him back. “Easy there, big guy, let's not knock over everyone we meet.”
Rey let out a small laugh and looked up at the man. “It’s okay. I’ve never seen a dog like him before! Thanks so much, mister.”
“Sure thing, kid.” He eyed her shrewdly for a moment and then placed a heavy hand on her shoulder, swinging her around to stand beside him. “Come with me.”
“I-I’m sorry. I can’t. I have somewhere I need to be.”
He looked down at her, as though he didn’t believe it. “My name is Han. Captain Han Solo. I’m on my way to a warm meal, and you look like you could use one too.”
“No! No. That’s okay, I don’t want to be a bother, and really, I need to get back.”
“Listen, kid.” He said dropping his voice low. “You can come with me, share a meal, and we work out a deal where you give me my lucky coin back, or I can find the dock constable right now.”
Rey let her shoulders fall. “A meal sounds great,” she mumbled.
Han laughed again, the sound filling her with a kind of warmth she didn’t know she had been missing. “Don’t sound so put out about getting food. What’s your name?”
“Rey.” Chewie was trotting beside her now as they walked, the familiar sounds of the port fading away, taken over by the noise of horseshoes and wheels on cobblestones. Suddenly Rey was farther from the port than she ever remembered being and Han was striding up to a stately home, nestled along a well-kept street. Rey was well and truly lost. “Shall I just wait out here, sir?” she asked with a small voice as he pounded on the door.
“Of course not!” he replied and the door swung open, revealing a tall, older, well-dressed man as Chewie darted into the hall.
“Captain Solo!” Rey watched as the butler masked his surprise, letting a professional smile grace his features. “Welcome home. It is truly so good to see you. Lady Leia and young master Ben are in the lounge, we were not sure when exactly to be expecting you and - oh! You’ve brought a guest?” The man asked in a gentle tone, his gaze soft as in landed on Rey. Rey who knew she shouldn’t be here. Would be chased from this area if anyone caught her here. Would most assuredly be caught and found out as a thief. Rey who was dirty, with stains on her clothes that she couldn’t get out. Rey who was no one; maybe even less than no one to someone with a high status.
Han nodded. “I did. This is Rey. Come on.” Han waved a hand at her and stepped into the house. Rey was bewildered. This was his house? She nervously walked up the stairs and into the house, the butler stepping aside as she did. She glanced up at him and he gave her a small smile as he closed the door. Rey could feel the tears building up behind her eyes and a tightness in her throat.
She spun in a slow circle. This was, without a doubt, the most beautiful place she had ever seen. “May I take your coat?” the butler asked after a moment, making Rey jump.
She curled her arms tightly around her chest. “No, thank you.” She told him with a tone she hoped sounded dignified. The man made a sound of distress at her refusal, but she was already stepping away from him and further into the hall where a tapestry was hung. It was beautiful, and her arm twitched, wanting to touch, to feel the silk under her fingers, but she knew better than to ruin it. She smiled softly, a lovely tree done up in numerous shades of greens and reds and browns. For half a minute Rey thought it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
Han came back around the corner, bringing two people with him - family. Her mind screamed at her. She turned on skittish legs and dipped into an awkward mashup of a bow and curtsey. A few coins clattered out of her coat and onto the floor. Rey released an embarrassed noise while Han started laughing and Chewie bounded over to sniff at what had fallen. Blushing, Rey scrambled to pick up the scattered coins and shove them back in her hidden pockets. She shook her arm and let Han’s coin fall into her hand before handing it over. “Here,” she said with a small voice, her face feeling hot. She glanced over Han’s shoulders and met the piercing gaze of what had to be his son. He was as tall as his father, and Rey quickly decided his eyes were even more stunning than the tapestry, even if the rest of his face looked like it still needed growing into.
“Leia, Ben, this is Rey.” Han gestured to her and Rey fought off the urge to bow or curtsy again, instead giving a small bob of her head. “Managed to get my lucky coin off of me, so I figured I at least owed him a good meal.”
Rey coughed. “Her.” A small burst of pleasure coiled through her as she saw the shocked looks on all of their faces, and the butler behind her made another noise of distress.
“A girl?” Han finally asked, disbelief ringing in his tone.
Rey doffed her cap and let her hair tumble down around her shoulders. “A girl. And I shan't be taking my clothes off to prove it!”
“Oh dear heavens!” The butler cried. Han erupted into more laughter while his son looked stricken and his wife seemed slightly amused.
“I’m even more impressed,” Han coughed lightly, flipping the coin in his hand.
“I don’t see why you should be,” Rey countered. “Girls can do everything just as well as boys. Sometimes better. I knocked three teeth from Jemmy’s mouth two moons ago after he bet me I couldn’t run fast as he could,” she huffed and crossed her arms. “I punched him after I beat him in the race,” she added quickly.
“Sounds like he deserved it,” Leia said, stepping towards Rey. “Why don’t you come with me. We can get you cleaned up a bit before dinner, and maybe see if we can find a bag to put your money in.” She held out her hand and Rey eyed it for a moment before reaching out and grabbing on.
Water was brought and Rey marveled, she had never had a bath before. Once she stepped into the harbor, clinging to the piles under the dock, the river water lapping against it and her. She didn’t like it. It was cold and smelled even worse up close, debris swirled around her. This was something different. The water was warm and Leia smiled, telling her she came at a good time because all of the kitchen fires were lit. Rey methodically emptied her pockets and stripped down to nothing before stepping into a small tub. A maid dumped some water over her head, and Rey sputtered before hands were in her hair, scrubbing at it as the delicate scent of lavender swirled around her. They went through three large buckets of water before all of the dirt was gone from her person and Leia was pleased with her appearance.
A large blanket was wrapped around her and she was told to wait as Leia left. So Rey waited, shivering and hair dripping, trying to dry herself off. Leia was back in moments and she settled Rey on a small stool before her fingers began winding through her hair, twisting, pulling, pinning while Rey waited, teeth chattering as she rubbed the blanket over her limbs. When all was said and done Rey was in what she thought had to be an old pair of Ben’s trousers and an ill-fitting shirt while her hair sat atop her head in a mountain of braids to rival Lady Leia’s.
“Now then.” Leia said with a nod, smoothing her hands down her skirts. “To dinner.”
Somewhere in the Atlantic - 1655
She scrambled back, falling on the stairs to the quarterdeck as he advanced on her. She could hear someone yelling for her in the distance, but she couldn’t make out where it came from, her every sense narrowed onto him. Her fingers curled around a step and she hauled herself up, moving quickly for the higher ground as she unsheathed her sword.
His smile was feral as he stood glaring up at her from the deck. “Hello again, Rey,” he spat, his body poised to move quickly.
“Ben.” She let the broken whisper escape, even as her body tensed for the inevitable fight.
So, I am going to try to be as historically accurate, where appropriate, as I can, but in broad strokes. I will be fudging some timelines of actual historical events/people to better fit the narrative in places. I will also not be leaning to heavily into old-timey speech. Where it works, yes, but over all, no - that's exhausting to read as well as write.
Thanks for reading!
London - 1645
“What is that?” his voice came from over her shoulder and Rey turned, looking up at the looming figure of Ben Solo.
“I’m practicing my letters.” She mumbled, frowning down at her parchment and studying it.
“Your tutors are shite.” Ben said, pulling up a chair next to her as she laughed. “Don’t tell my mum.”
“Are you not allowed to say the word ‘shite’?” Rey asked, dipping her quill in ink and moving on the the letter ‘G’
“No, and neither are little ladies in training.”
“Ah, well, when I see one, I’ll be sure to let her know.” She quipped, making Ben laugh. “You’re dressed fancy today.” She observed after a few minutes of quiet.
“I’ve got my orders. I will be at Admiral Ackbar’s command. My mother knows him, and Uncle Luke also serves on his ship. I’ll be in good hands until I return.” Ben puffed up, preening with assumed importance.
“How long will you be away?” she asked, quickly inking over her botched letter ‘K’. “Lady Leia is already fretting over you being gone. Keeps saying it’s not proper for future Lords to go off to sea.”
“A few months, we’re only going to Spain, what’s the worst that can happen?”
Somewhere in the Atlantic - 1655
“Hello again, Rey.” he spat, his body poised to move quickly.
“Ben.” She let the broken whisper escape, even as her body tensed for the inevitable fight.
“You know that’s my name no longer.”
“Nay, tis the name of a man I now know to be truly dead.” She could hear it again, someone calling for her, as though it were through a fog.
“Do you mock me?”
“Can any mock the great Kylo Ren?” She shifted forward, moving her arm to pull her sword across her body. She could feel tears of frustration well in her eyes and she had to concentrate on not looking at Han, his body laid out in a macabre display even as his blood seeped into the decking with the sea water that washed over the rails. Where in the seven hells was the rest of the fleet and crew.
“You cannot hope to strike me down.”
“Do you mock me now, monster? You have always underestimated me.” The ship listed under their feet suddenly, sending them both flailing for a grip to stay upright. By the time Rey found her footing again, Kylo was advancing up the stairs. They met at the top, the clashing of their swords causing a brief spark to flare between them. He was ruthless in his advance, and Rey found herself retreating more often than not as she parried his blows.
Her back hit the railing and she grunted in surprise as Kylo lunged towards her, sword arcing through the air and mist. She met him, the guards of their weapons grating against each other, as her arms trembled with the effort of holding him off.
“Han can’t save you any longer.” Kylo spat in her face, making Rey look up into his eyes. “You need someone to show you your place in all of this.”
“What?” She asked bewildered.
“There is still so much you don’t understand, my little scavenger.” His tone was quiet, reminding her of days spent in studies and gardens, and mutanies over mince meat pies, and even more recently of Tortuga.
The roar came from someplace deep inside of Rey, that place that told her she could survive when she was a child in London during winter with no shoes or food, that place that told her she could survive when she was running away while getting caught stealing, that told her she could survive when she fell into the river Thames when spring was just beginning. She had been fighting to survive her whole life, and she would absolutely survive this shadow of a person she once knew trying to kill her.
She pushed back, her leg lifting high enough to catch him in the gut and send him stumbling away from her as she finally started to advance, thrusting her rapier at him, catching him near his shoulder. He shouted in surprise as she withdrew from him before he darted back into her space, gripping her wrist to try and wrestle her weapon from her. Rey grunted and mirrored his action, pushing his own arm down and away from her. She strained against him for moments before pushing against him jostling him hard in the shoulder, his shirt already blooming red. He released his grip and Rey brought her sword down and around in an elegant arc, that she pulled back on at the last second. She still caught him, right across his face. She gasped even as he fell, his sword clattering to the deck as he let out a roar of pain.
‘Finish it’ a voice whispered in the corner of her mind. Rey lifted her weapon to do just that when Kylo forced himself up onto his elbows, looking wearily at her as blood streamed down his face. She knew the lines of his face the way she knew the stars, and had thought him to be dead until several months ago and for a moment wondered if it wouldn’t be so bad, to be sure he was, but Rey would just as soon cut off her own arm as she would kill Ben. She stepped towards him and brought the pommel of her blade down, knocking him unconscious. Turning quickly she mounted the the steps to the helm and cut the tiller lines, ensuring the ship could no longer be steered.
She rushed to the Captains cabin and stuffed everything important or valuable in a satchel before fishing out the heavy pair of manacles Han kept hidden in his desk. Striding back onto the deck with purpose she marched up to where Kylo was still lying, unconscious, and secured the manacles around his wrists, weaving them through the railing spokes, so he couldn’t run. Then, with a wry smile tied the key too far out of his reach, but perfectly in view. With a heavy heart she trudged back down to the main deck and wrestled a spare sail out from its storage place under the stairs. There was a ship on the horizon now, and hoped it was one of Han’s. Finn and Poe knew where they were headed, but if it was them, it was a miracle they found her as they had strayed off course hours ago. They were all stretched so thin anymore, after acquiring another ship and then thwarting a mutiny. They had a minimal crew on this ship, and Kylo had dispatched them all easily. How long had he been waiting, hiding, she wondered. Sneaking around below decks, watching them as they worked. They had made port three days ago, but no one reported anyone coming aboard that shouldn’t have been, but that had to have been it. It made no sense; what business does a dead man have in Port Royal?
She set about at unfurling the sail and with effort, dragged Han onto it. With trembling hands she withdrew his lucky coin and put it in her own pocket before trying to arrange his features so he looked peaceful. “It’s just me now, old man.” She whispered, leaning down to kiss his forehead and smooth back his long, shaggy grey hair. “I’ll keep your coin safe, until I can get it back home. I never had much use for praying, and I doubt you did either.” she sighed. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t do it. A life for a life, it’s what you always told me, but I couldn’t do it, at least not like that.” She arranged his arms across his chest. “I hope she welcomes you home.” Her voice trembled as she gazed out towards the setting sun, waves cresting leisurely and slapping against the hull of the ship. “I hope you find Chewie again, wherever you end up; if you’re still nearby, tell him I miss him still.” She let her tears fall as she pulled the heavy fabric of the sail over his body. “I hope you get to fly free, truly free now. Thank you. For everything. I’m so glad you caught me trying to steal from you all those years ago. My life was better for knowing you. I’ll see you soon.” As she covered his face she could swear she heard him say ‘Just not too soon, kid.’
Rey gave herself a handful of minutes to cry, head resting on his chest over the sail, her tears soaking the rough fabric beneath her cheek. With effort she pushed herself away from the man who had taken her in and taught her what he knew when she ran away from the prospect of being presented at court and stowed away on his ship. She gathered rope and tied him at the ankle and neck before working his body to the starboard side of the ship and with a great breath pushed him over and into the sea. Rey stood, hands wrapped tightly against the railing as she watched the bright white of the sail disappear beneath the waves. The wind picked up, curling about her, throwing her hair up around her face, and she pushed it out of the way, letting her gaze drift up to watch the ship nearing her position. She recognized it, the figurehead made in Leia’s likeness, at Han’s insistence, was just discernable at this distance. Her body, strung so tight, sagged with relief at the familiar sight. The whisper came again, just her name, hazy, almost like the wind was carrying it. Turning she glanced up and found Kylo watching her, his expression dazed and angry.
“Don’t worry about me!” he called, making her scowl. “I can’t be killed.”
Rey huffed, swiping at her cheeks. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” She turned back around and swung herself up into the rigging to wait.
“We’ll see each other again, Rey. You can’t run from this.”
She turned back. “There’s nothing here for me to run from.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t feel it. It’s destiny. I’ve seen it.”
“You sound like I hit you pretty hard in the head.”
“I already told you, there’s things you don’t understand. I can show you, Rey.”
“I don’t want to see you ever again.”
“The world is small, we will meet again.”
Rey shook her head and began to climb, bag on her back and rope over her shoulder. The Rebel was sailing up next to the Falcon now and Finn was standing at the helm, looking frantic. She looked over one last time at Ben, Kylo, and felt only the slightest ripple of guilt that her abandoning here would finally lead to his death. She didn’t waste any more words on him, instead tossing her hook and rope towards the rigging of The Rebel, giving it a hard tug when it caught, and let herself fall, swinging towards the other deck where Poe was waiting to catch her.
London - 1645
Leia began pacing the halls with increasing regularity after two months passed and no word had come from her brother or son. Rey took to spending more time in the study, working on more letters and struggling through reading prayer books. The household staff skirted around their Lady when possible, and tried talking to her in soothing tones, which seemed to make her more upset, but none of them listened to Rey when she told them this after sneaking into the kitchens for dinner.
It was late, Rey tossed and turned in her bed. She had been living here with the Organa-Solo’s for two years now, and some nights she still found the softness of the bed uncomfortable, opting to slink down to the floor and build a blanket nest to sleep in. She could hear Leia, awake and pacing the hall, Rey suspected even if she had been sleeping, she would have heard the frantic pounding at the front door.
There was a burst of noise as the household quickly roused and Rey snuck out of her room, just in time to catch the train of Leia’s dressing gown disappear down the stairs. It was the sound of a broken cry that drey Rey to the top of the stairs, and as she took in the scene, she knew immediately what has happened, doesn’t even need to hear the words ‘all souls lost’.
“It’s not proper for future Lords to go off to sea.” Rey whispered to herself as she watched Leia collapse against Cecil's chest, and he frantically shooed the maids and kitchen staff away. Rey sunk down to sit on the top step, curling into a ball to watch Leia’s grief. It consumes her. Rey chewed on her bottom lip and realized this is the first time she has ever known someone who has died. A part of her knows she should cry too, at this loss of her only true friend, but her eyes stay dry.
At some point Rey ventured downstairs, and followed Cecil as he ushered Leia into the living room. Leia reached for her, and Rey moved quickly, settling next to her on the settee.
“Rey.” Leia’s voice, a whisper against the crown of her head.
“Lady Leia.” Rey swallowed thickly. “I am - I am so sorry. Tell me, please, what can I do?”
“I’ve told you to stop calling me that, Rey.”
“A letter will need to be sent to Han. Arrangements will need to be made. I need you to be strong for me, Rey, because I fear this pain could be the end of me.”
“You shouldn’t say such things.” Rey whispered.
“I have lost my heart, dear one.” Leia’s hands ran over Rey’s hair.
Eastern Atlantic - land spotted 1655
Rey awoke, coughing, rolling from her bunk and scrambling for the door, needing the fresh air from the deck. She kept dreaming she was drowning. Every night for a week now. It was the same dream every time. The ship she was on was sinking, her ankle wrapped in rope and she was being dragged down, down, down. She was flailing, and panicking and when she took a breath in, water flooded her lungs. She reached down, fingers fumbling at the rope, but then for a flickering moment the fingers weren’t her own, and then she was awake, her body spasming to expel water it didn’t actually take in.
“What are you doing awake so early, Rey?” Finn asked, as she stomped her way up to where he was at the helm. “Had another bad dream again?”
“Yes. We’re due to make port today?” she asked, sinking to the ground and leaning against his leg as she withdrew a necklace from beneath her shirt, brushing her thumb along the edge with a shuddering breath.
“If all goes well, should be sometime forenoon.”
“Good. I want to get this over with.”
“Are you going to tell her?”
“Not all of it. This is such shite. I hope I can at least sleep once I’m on dry land again. I never thought I’d see the day where I thought I had been at sea too long.” She laid back, stretching her limbs across the cool wood of the decking and sighed. “I always thought I’d do this until I died, but now I’m not so sure anymore.”
Finn glanced down at Rey and adjusted their heading minutely. “You just need sleep. Honestly, Rey, you look like terrible.” He flinched when Rey shot a glare at him. “You know I mean that in the best way. I care about you, you’re my family, and I just want you to be well.”
“I keep dreaming I’m drowning.” She muttered, after a few moments of quiet, only broken by the crying out of the seagulls as they pass overhead. “I wake up before it happens, but there’s a part of me that worries if I don’t wake up, I will drown.”
“Seems foolish. Dreams can’t kill people, Rey.”
“I know.” She scrubbed her hands over her face and watched the darkness of the sky, there’s a lightness coming from the east. The sun was coming up, and the smattering of stars still scattered across the sky twinkle down at her. “I don’t know how to explain it though. It feels weird. As though it’s already happened before. I’m reliving my death.”
“You aren’t dead, and you need sleep. Gods, please don’t talk like this to the lady, she’ll lock you in the house and you’ll finally see your day in the Queens court.”
Rey let a bubble of a laugh escape her lips “That can never happen. Can you imagine me in a dress every day? That night in Tortuga was enough to last me years. I’m also positive being tan is not fashionable.”
“You could start a new trend.” Finn suggested, leaning bodily against the helm.
“Or I could just not do it. They would hate me.”
“That’s not possible.” Finn argued before nudging her with his foot. “You should try and get some more sleep. I’ll wake you when we get to the Thames, and you can fix your hair or something, so you look less wild when you go see Lady Leia.”
“I don’t know if I can sleep again.” Rey sighed, rolling to her front before pushing herself up. “You’ll come with me later?”
“Of course, Poe said he would meet us at the house after dealing with the manifests and alerting the proper people. He seems to think transferring the title to him won’t be a problem, and with the haul we’re sacrificing it shouldn’t be.”
Rey sighed again, thankful for the Spanish treasure that resided below decks. Their original plan had been to spend it all as quickly as possible, but with the loss of Han, plans changed. If it weren’t for Leia and the respect the entire crew had for her, they would have stayed west and probably never come near this miserable country and city again, but here they were. Banking their lives on Han’s status as an official privateer, and proof they were good for their word. They were all risking the hangman's noose to come back here to deliver this news. Rey tapped her fingers over Han’s lucky coin in her pocket as she made her way back to her cabin, she hoped its luck hadn’t run out just yet.
Terms of note:
Quarterdeck (which I think I missed last chapter): The raised deck behind the main mast - typically where the captain commanded from, sometimes the helm would be here, depending on the size of the ship.
Rigging: Ropes that support the ships masts, and also the ropes the crew would use to scale the masts for various jobs about the ship.
Helm: It's where you steer the ship from. That classic spoked wheel on ships.
Forenoon: 8:30AM - Noon
I think thats all of them, but if you have any questions about one I might have missed, let me know and I'll answer and add it!
Next chapter should be up in 2 weeks on Friday - I'm hoping to make that my regular update schedule for this as long as RL allows it. I'm really excited for where this is going to go, and I really appreciate the comments and kudos on my first chapter. Thanks so much!
Big thank you again to merimut for the beta.
Also, a huge thank you to everyone who has read this, left kudos, commented and subscribed! I apologize for the longer than anticipated wait - this chapter was honestly never in the plan, but it begged to be written, and I hope you'll agree with me in thinking it was worth it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Atlantic Ocean, desperately close to the coast of Spain - 1645
The rain pelted down, coming at them sideways in sheets as the wind roared. Kylo slipped across the deck even as he pulled at the sail lines, trying to secure it. His uncle was shouting something at him, but thunder rumbled so loudly he felt it echo in his chest as lightning forked across the sky.
“Luke!” Ben called back across the deck, lurching forward towards him moments before a wave rose up and crashed over the deck. Ben screamed even as the wave hit him, pushing him back and down. He came to coughing, his back aching from where he had been pushed into the rails. “Uncle Luke,” his words were rough, still coughing up water as he frantically searched for his uncle. He staggered to his feet, pushing his hair out of his face, tripping forward as the ship listed sharply towards the starboard side, swearing when the dark of the ocean was suddenly viewable in front of him. He turned, falling onto his stomach, grappling for anything to hold on to as his slid across the deck, swearing when the ship listed suddenly in the opposite direction. Scrabbling around his fingers caught on rope wrapped around a barrel and he pulled tight, twisting the rope around his arm as he went before finally finding safety under the stairs to the quarterdeck.
Distantly he could hear people screaming, a body was twisted up high in the rigging while another kept lurching back and forth across the deck with the sway of the ship, whoever it had been, their face had met the end of one of the swing guns. Ben vomited, the remains of the hardtack and salt pork he had eaten on his lunch making a reappearance on his shirt and coat. He moaned, not looking forward to how difficult it would be to clean, before dissolving into hysterical laughter. He was going to die. He was going to fucking die and the last real conversation he had was with the ship’s surgeon who had laughed himself stupid when he found out Ben was a virgin before offering to take him somewhere to get his dick wet when they next made port.
They were a day and a half away from Santander, ahead of schedule, much to the Admiral’s pleasure. Lightning lit the sky again and this time the sound of thunder was accompanied by an ear splitting crack and a groaning boom as lightning stuck true and hit the main mast. Ben lunged around the stairs to look, eyes wide as he watched the topsail yards and the two above it teeter precariously for a moment before toppling over into the sea, as debris from the mast rained down from where it had splintered into pieces.
“Young Lord Solo!” Ben found the Admiral himself shouting at him and Ben sagged with relief. Surely the Admiral had survived worse, would know what to do. Ben’s hand found Admiral Ackbar’s and he was swiftly tugged toward him, towards what Ben hoped would be safety; but the ship was hit by another wave instead.
The water was colder than Ben thought it would have been as he sank. Ben twisted frantically, pushing his arms through the water, trying to find the surface. His face met air and he took in deep breaths before shouting in alarm as he was dragged back under. Air escaped in a stream of bubbles as he screamed more.
Not like this. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. He kicked out uselessly before reaching down, his hands finding rope. He pulled frantically, trying to heft whatever it was up with him before he fumbled uselessly at the knot around his ankle. When that failed he tried to get the boot off completely, but the rope was pulled too tight, and he was sinking quickly.
No - no - nononononono. Please. No. I don’t want to die. His thoughts were frantic and he knew this was it. He thought he might be crying. He would miss his mom, and dad, and gods he would miss Rey too, with her eager curiosity and terrible habits. A laugh escaped in the form of bubbles. He would even miss Cecil, their worrywort of a butler. He was too young to die. He didn’t want to die.
Beneath the Indian Ocean - 1655
Ben Solo had been dead for nearly ten years, a fact that had never bothered Kylo Ren until he had spotted her in an unlikely place wearing a beautiful, if slightly ill fitting dress. When he had devised his plan to finally buy his freedom from this hell he had been living he had failed to account for her. Why would he? When last he knew she was safe and warm across the sea, safe like his mother. They never would have known.
She wasn’t even supposed to be on the ship. He had been tracking his father and his crew for several months, and when they left Port Royal she was supposed to be on The Rebel, plans had apparently changed, but his couldn’t.
He had never seen anything more beautiful. She was an avenging angel with fire burning in her eyes as she swallowed her grief to fight him. Kylo ran his fingers over the wound now slashed across his face, it didn’t hurt, not the way it would have if he were mortal, it just felt cold. He had been sure she wouldn’t hold back from him, would let her fury and love for his father fuel her to end him, or at least try to, because he hadn’t been lying, he couldn’t die, not anymore. She didn’t though, he had watched the shock filter across her face as she realized she would be possibly cleaving his head in two, had watched her body shift as she pulled back in hesitation, and now he would bear the mark of her failed attempt at killing him for eternity.
Now he stalked through the streets of Tion, the realm of Snoke, a city beneath the seas, a veritable Atlantis at a glance with its tall buildings shaped from coral and evenly paved streets, while its trapped souls almost seemed to dance in the dappled light of the water. At a closer look though, buildings were crumbling, the coral had long since lost any color it may have once had, and the streets were littered with bones from creatures of the deep. To the east of Madagascar, shrouded from the eyes of the living and guarded by a legion of vampire squids is where Snoke has established his domain when the titans fell. He was a bitter, twisted being, never seeming to be satisfied, and all too happy to say one thing while meaning another. There were whispers of a Snoke who wasn’t so twisted, of a Tion that wasn’t so grim, but Kylo had yet to find any proof. Somewhere, overhead, a kraken drifted by, it’s massive body blocking out the sun for a minute, exposing the true reality of Tion.
Ignoring the cries of the undead around him as he walked, Kylo moved with purpose towards the decrepit palace. He had been one of them once though, sad, pathetic, begging for the death they had begged to be spared from; until he had been chosen.
Snoke laid claim to all souls lost at sea, but the ones who begged for life, well, he liked to keep them close. Ben had been kept close, watching, waiting for an opportunity. They didn’t come often, as Snoke was a deity prone to whims. He had an elite group that surrounded him, kept him safe, but mostly settled any scuffles he had with the other gods; when they weren’t off doing Snoke’s dirty work they were pitted against each other in combat to keep them sharp. If ever any of them lost - A killing blow in Tion meant you were truly gone for good, a soul once trapped gone from all planes, but it also meant Snoke was looking for a new knight to champion his cause.
Time in Tion passed slowly, if you would have asked Ben Solo when he was pulled from the masses to become a fighting tribute to Snoke, he would have answered he had been down there for a century. Kylo Ren would find out it had only been two years since he had died.
He already knew how to fight, and he won handily before being awarded a new name by the god of Tion himself. Kylo Ren. He rose through the ranks steadily until he became their leader, never bested by the other knight tributes in combat, and cunning enough to diffuse situations when other gods came to visit and exact justice for a wong Snoke had committed against them. His primary job though was to ferry the souls lost at sea on his ship The Supremacy. He hated it.
“Ah, so the prodigal son finally returns to me.” Snoke’s voice rang out, echoing off the walls of his royal chamber. Vaulted ceilings rising high with columns built from the bodies of the dead, small fish darting in and out of rib bones and empty eye sockets. “The deed is done.” Snoke sighed, an almost smile twisting his ruined face.
“It is.” Kylo replied, sinking to one knee before the imposing deity.
“You have been wounded.” He frowned, leaning towards Kylo from his throne.
“It’s nothing,” Kylo was quick to to answer, teeth worrying the inside of his lower lip as he avoided Snoke’s gaze.
“Hmm.” Snoke’s frown remained, but he leaned back, fingers clenching tight into fists on his knees. “The mighty Kylo Ren. I saw what all masters dream to see: raw, untamed power...and beyond that, something truly special. Your true potential, to rise above what you were born into.” He stood from his throne slowly, “now, I fear I was mistaken.”
“I have given you everything. Everything I had to give -” Kylo spluttered, watching Snoke’s feet as they tread closer to him.
“I always suspected, but now I know - you have too much of your father’s heart in you, young Solo.”
Thrice in one day now, Kylo had been called by a name long dead to him. “I killed Han Solo, just as you wished of me. When the moment came, I didn’t hesitate.”
Snoke was before him now, and Kylo risked a glance up at him, saw the disappointment in his gaze as a finger traced the scar across his face, Kylo flinched away from the touch. “And look at you. The deed has split your spirit to the bone. You were unbalanced, reckless, bested by a waif of a girl. You failed.” Snoke sneered, and Kylo, enraged, lunged at him. His guards were quick to move, but Snoke moved faster, blasting Kylo onto his back across the hall with an easy manipulation of the water around them. “You are weak, a child, and your soul is still mine Kylo Ren.”
“We had a deal.” Kylo shouted, eyes scanning the ready defense of the guard as he scrambled to his knees. “Han Solo’s soul for my freedom.”
“Alas, the terms have changed.” Snoke sighed, settling down in his throne once more. “Any soul that can beat the formidable Kylo Ren, is a soul that I want, very much. Bring the girl to me.” Snoke sat inspecting his nails for a moment before Kylo saw him roll his eyes. “You’re still here, boy? I said bring me that girl, so get out of my sight. Don’t misunderstand me either, I want her brought here, do not run her through with any sort of weapon.”
“Sir?” Kylo stood slowly. “She’s a mortal.”
“Ignorant fool. Any mortal can be brought here if I will it.” His eyes flicked to Kylo once more. “I wish to pull the soul from her body, and you will stand by and do nothing but watch. Do I make myself clear?”
“Of course, sir.” Kylo mumbled, swallowing hard before turning to leave before Snoke could find some other way to be displeased with him.
“Still here, Ren?” Hux called out as Kylo pushed through the doors to the antechamber.
“Piss off.” Kylo grumbled, shouldering past the man he unfortunately tolerated as his first mate. Hux had the nerve to laugh and Kylo rounded on him, pushing him bodily against the wall, and for a moment, a flicker of fear passed the over the pasty gingers face.
“Turns out killing dear old dad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be is it?” He drawled. “Shame, we wasted so many months tracking him down too. Resources, wasted.”
“I am still your Captain, Hux, and you would do well to remember it as I’m not loath to snuff out your existence entirely.”
“Always such promises from you, but never any delivery, it truly is no wonder you managed to somehow muck this up for yourself.” The self satisfied smile that was growing on Hux’s face was quickly wiped away when Kylo shoved at him again, knocking his head against the wall before releasing him and stalking away.
The decision to sacrifice his father had been an easy one to make, but a difficult one to execute, and now this. Han at least would have a peaceful existence here in Tion, or as relatively peaceful as one could have, he hadn’t begged for help in the end, and so he would be free to roam. He had hopes Luke would find his father, he dreaded the things his father would learn about him if Luke did find him, but he couldn’t worry about that now. Snoke wanted Rey, wanted to replace him with Rey. Kylo entered his rooms in the palace and slammed the door shut, collapsing back against it. He just wanted to be free, to find peace, and it wasn’t supposed to end like this.
He tugged off his boots before removing his belt and shirt, moving through his room to settle on his bed. He should have been free now, but instead, Snoke ripped it all away from him. He fell onto the pillows, grim thoughts circling through his mind before calming. Kylo Ren knew what he had to do.
Santander - a port city on the northern coast of Spain
Tion - while I made up the details of the city, I've pulled the name from Star Wars. A mostly ocean planet located in the Outer Rim
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“What’s this?” Rey asked quietly almost reverently as she gently lifted the item from Ben’s hands.
Ben laughed. “It’s a sextant.”
“But what do you do with it?” Rey frowned, perplexed, turning the unusual item over. She could hear the muffled voices of Han and Leia coming from upstairs. Supper had finished not that long ago, and Rey had snuck outside to sit on the small porch that led to the garden behind the house.
“It’s for navigation. Here.” He shifted to move in front of her and took the sextant from her before holding it up to demonstrate, gently tipping her chin back so she could see the stars and placed the instrument at her eye level. “Uncle Luke gave it to me.”
“Looks like a bunch of blurry stars.”
“Ah yes, Ben Solo, a bastion of patience we should all look up to and aspire to be like. You ran home from church the other day just to sneak food because you knew luncheon wouldn’t be ready.” Rey grumbled, lowering the sextant to shoot him a glare.
“I see new tutors have been hired for you.” Ben chuckled, adjusting something under her hand and then lifting it up again. “Now, typically you need to find a celestial body to navigate with, like the sun, or the north star. Then you need to bring it to the horizon.”
“The horizon being the rooftop of Lord Abernathy’s home?”
“Well we aren’t at sea, are we? I thought you’d still like to see it.”
“I think I’d much rather learn to use it in its proper place.” Rey turned to him, surrendering the sextant with a sigh. “It’s quite fascinating though, it feels as though you could get dizzy using it, with the two views of the world.”
Rey laid out on her back in the lush grass of the gardens. It was late, that time of day that started to border on early, and the world was mostly quiet around her. Her reunion with Leia had been painful. Cecil had opened the door with his usual greeting and general surprise before his face dropped when he saw Han wasn’t with them.
“Lady Leia suspected as much.” He said after a moment's pause, before continuing right along “It’s always a pleasure to see you Lady Rey, and Master Finn, so good to see you again. Come in! Come in! Lady Leia is out, but will be returning before supper.”
They were ushered in and up to their usual rooms. Finn gave her a smile before pushing open the door and falling face first into the pillows. “Wake me when she gets home?” He asked, his voice muffled.
“Of course, sleep well.” Rey took a moment to saunter in and pull off his boots, laughing when he grumbled and unhelpfully tried to kick them off before shutting the door softly behind her. She paused at the door to Ben’s room, before pushing it open, taking it in. Everything was as he had left it, as far as she could remember. His calligraphy set still laid scattered across the desk, as if he could come back at any moment to finish what he was working on ten years later.
“Rey.” Her name came like a whisper on the wind and she sat up quickly, eyes darting around the small space of the yard, her heart drumming in her chest. “Rey.” Getting to her feet she stumbled towards the back of the yard where a tall fence covered in ivy separated the house from the small alley they shared with the Abernathy house.
She shivered as the temperature dropped quickly, a strong wind tore through the space, the plants shuddering, as leaves went tumbling past her. As suddenly as it had happened it stopped, the temperature rising to what it had been. The shadows rippled and he appeared.
“A dream,” she muttered to herself with a small nod before stepping closer. It was Ben, not Kylo. Ben and he was decidedly whole, no fresh, ghastly mark across his face, no blood on his clothes, and she realized with a start that he was wearing the last thing she saw him in when he left on that voyage, never to return. His jacket dark and pristine, the silver buttons glinting in the barely there moonlight, hair cut short once more, just falling far enough to brush the ends of his ears. “Ben, what? Why are you here?”
He ignored her, stepping forward and looking up at the house. “How is mother?”
“Oh, are we both going to be asking pointless questions tonight?” Rey grumped. This dream was shaping up to be as terrible as the drowning ones, less traumatic though. She tapped her feet on the ground, and was at least grateful for it being a solid surface beneath her. Ben canted his face towards her and quirked a brow. “How do you think she is?”
“What did you tell her?”
“Not the whole truth,” She grumbled, breathing out heavily as she crossed her arms and glared up at Ben. “I hardly believe what happened, how do you even want me to begin explaining that to Leia. Finding out about you the first time almost broke her. There was no way I could try to explain you’ve been alive this whole time.”
“Am I though? I thought I already told you I can’t be killed.”
“And I told you it sounded like I hit you too hard in the head.”
“Yet here I am,” He replied, spreading his arms wide and turning his body to face her fully now.
“This is a dream Ben, you could manifest as anything. You’re here as you were.”
“As I am.”
“I don’t remember you being this insufferable.”
“Nor I you.”
Rey snorted. “Liar.” Ben’s lips twitched and Rey stepped closer to him. “Why are you here, Ben. Oh no,” she gasped, “am I going to be haunted by you in my sleep because I left you for dead.”
Ben lowered his head, his forehead almost touching Rey’s. “I told you about that already.”
“You aren’t being very cryptic for a dream that’s supposed to be telling me something. The drowning dream on the other hand-” she trailed off with a shrug.
“You’re having dreams of drowning?” Ben asked, his voice turning hard as she stepped closer, his chest bumping her own, and Rey gasped in shock at the feel of him, her hands lifting to touch him. He was solid and tangible and nothing was dreamlike about this anymore. “Tell me about them.”
“What is there to tell. I’m drowning. They started after I last saw you,” she said quietly, fingers running lightly over the cool metal of the buttons.
“Rey.” Ben’s hands came up and gripped her own, thumbs tracing her frantic pulse at her wrists before he let them go to gently cup her face, tilting it up just enough to look her in the eye even as she flinched. “I’m sorry, I’m out of time.” Rey’s brow furrowed but Ben merely brushed his lips against her forehead and then he was gone the way he came, melting into shadows.
Rey blinked as the temperature fluctuated again and the wind tore through the yard. The sounds of birds chirping filled her ears and she could hear the rumbling of a cart out on the road. It took her a moment to realize that she wasn’t laying down at all, and was very much awake, she brought her hands up, brushing her cheeks. He had been warm.
She gave herself a few moments to try to settle her breathing before she darted back into the house.
“Oi! Luv, where have you been so early?” the cook called to her from over by the woodstove that consumed the half of the wall that wasn’t the giant fireplace in the kitchens.
“I couldn’t sleep, was just in the yard,” Rey sighed, slumping against the countertop, being careful to avoid active work spaces.
“Well, take a seat, I’ll fix you a drink, you look like you’ve seen a ghost - pale as you are. Heavens alive, Rey, I’ve never seen you look so. Are you sick?” The old woman tottered over to Rey and gave Rey a quick once over before touching her gently with the back of her hands.
“I’m alright, I promise, I truly just couldn’t sleep.”
“Fine, fine, I’m sure you’re still shook up over the events that you’ve just recently gone through, what with losing the master at sea, and then having to be stuck without him the entire journey home. It will be good to have you back.” An elegant cup of mulled wine was placed in front of Rey, “drink up, and then wash up, breakfast will be served soon.”
Rey could do nothing but dutifully nod and sip slowly at the warm drink as the staffers worked around her to cook up a breakfast for the unannounced guests. They didn’t seem to mind, chattering away as they worked and Rey couldn’t help but feel a small pang of grief for the life here she had left behind. She had spent numerous mornings down here, watching, trying to help, getting in the way, but it felt like a lifetime ago. What were the things she had seen to people who didn’t know life outside of this bustling, stinking city? Nothing. With a grimace she stood, making her way from the kitchen and using the servants back stairs to make the trek up to her room.
The curtains were drawn, letting the soft morning sun filter into the room, highlighting the dust motes that floated through the air. Her room was her room, but lacked all the personal touches of Ben’s room. The wardrobe still held her dresses, but everything else was different, because it wasn’t hers, had never been hers. Rey came to them over a decade ago with nothing, and left with nothing but the necklace with the rough blue stone Ben had gifted her once Christmas and the outfit she had stolen from one of the stable hands, knowing there was no need for the fancy dresses Leia had had made for her on a ship.
She pulled open the wardrobe doors and stared in at the copious amounts of fabric preserved there, drawing out a dark blue one embroidered with stars at the hem and neckline. It had been her favorite once upon a time, worn repeatedly until it started to fray at the edges and had to be taken away for repairs. It had apparently come back after she left.
“Rey,” Leia’s voice came from the open doorway and Rey turned to face her, letting go of the dress. “That dress was always lovely on you.”
“Thank you,” Rey replied, finding a surface to put her cup down on as Leia came into the room, pushing the door shut with a gentle hand.
“Are you alright?” she asked, stepping towards Rey, cupping her cheeks in the same way her son had done maybe an hour before. “Have you slept at all?”
“A bit, I suppose,”
“I could hear Finn snoring from down the hall,” Leia huffed, making Rey laugh quietly. “Rey, something happened out there, more than what you’re telling me, didn’t it?”
Rey could feel her mouth opening, but no words were forming, so she quickly snapped it shut, nodding once, quickly, feeling tears well in her eyes before spilling over. “I’m so sorry, Leia, it’s all my fault.”
Leia’s voice was sharp as she cut in, “Never, blame yourself Rey. I knew this could happen one day. In a way it is my fault, for falling for a man like Han, every year he came back home was a blessing and a gift, I knew it probably wouldn’t last.”
“This wasn’t fair though,” Rey nearly sobbed, letting Leia pull her into her arms, “it never should have happened, not like this.”
“I know it, dear heart, I know, but Han would have wanted this, to die at sea, his first mistress.” And Rey sobbed all the harder, fingers reaching up and clutching hard around the swirling blue and white stone that rested between her breasts. Leia didn’t know, she didn’t know, she could never know, ever.
Distantly Rey was aware that she kept chanting ‘no, no, no,’ as Leia tried to calm her down.
“Come with me, Rey, that’s it.” she let herself be led blindly and Leia deposited her on the bed. “Look at me.” Leia insisted, clutching tightly at her chin. “Look at me, Rey.” Rey’s eyes traveled the room quickly before settling on the sad yet intense gaze of the woman who let her call her mum. “Good, breathe in deep now,” Rey felt her lungs obey, expanding with breath before Leia told her to breath out slowly. “I never, ever want you to blame yourself for what happened, do you understand? Han wouldn’t want that for you, and you know it.”
“I know,” Rey sighed, sinking fully against Leia when she sat down next to her. They sat like that, hands clutching one another, finding solace in their shared grief until the sound of Finn’s snores suddenly stopped.
“How long are you staying?” Leia asked quietly, turning Rey before working at braiding her hair with practiced ease.
“Not long, I suspect. We need to resupply, but the longer we stay-”
“The more dangerous, yes, I understand. Thank you, for coming home, one last time Rey. Ah, don’t you move,” she admonished quickly when Rey tried turning to look at her, “and don’t you dare try to contradict me. I can feel it - that this is it for us. I wish-” Leia sighed out a sad laugh, “well, I wish a great many things anymore, if I’m being honest. Rey, I want you to live a long and happy life, I don’t care where it is, though I know it isn’t here. No, you’ve had too much in you since long before we ever met, for you to be satisfied with the kind of life I have led. Promise me, wherever you go after this, whatever adventures you go on, that you’ll do it for you, and when you find a place to truly call home, you won’t settle for anything less than happiness,” Leia finished speaking as she tucked the final braid up into the crown now resting around Rey’s head.
“I- I promise,” Rey stuttered, feeling drained.
With hands on her shoulders, Leia turned Rey back to face her, “let me see you,” she said, brushing a missed strand behind Rey’s ear, “beautiful,” she whispered, smiling gently at Rey.
“I don’t know about that,” Rey said, laughing into her hand, well aware of how blotchy her face was from crying.
“I do,” Leia assured her, “I don’t want a scene when you leave soon, and I fear I haven’t said it enough, but you are my daughter, and I love you, so much.” Her hands settled tightly around Rey’s, before uncurling them from around where she was clenching the blankets, “Please, keep this, I want you to have it, Han would have wanted you to have it too,” Leia told her, Han’s lucky coin in her hands.
“Leia, no, I can’t, this belongs to you.”
“And I’m giving it to you.” She smiled softly, reaching up to pull at the chain around Rey’s neck, “you have this piece of Ben with you, now you can have all the people who love you with you, no matter where you go. Take it.” She held it out again and this time Rey took it with shaking fingers, gently turning it over and then over again as they lapsed into silence.
“I love you too, you know,” Rey spoke up after a few moments, where they heard Finn and Poe greet each other in the hall before stomping down the stairs,
Leia pressed a gentle kiss against Rey’s temple, “I know, dear one, I know.” She squeezed Rey’s fingers tightly before letting go to stand, “come, we should head down before those boys take everything good.” Rey was quick to follow, tucking the coin in her pocket as she went.
The day passed quickly, in a hazy cloud of grief. People Rey had never met before stopped by the house to pass on their condolences, and she had forgotten how fast word traveled in this crowded city. By the time Rey fell into bed that night, body feeling light and warm from numerous drinks, all she could think about was getting out.
She dreamed of the sea when her eyes fell shut. She dreamed of a home, far from anywhere she had ever been, and she was happy, before the dream changed. The deck of The Falcon was slicked with blood, Han’s blood, and she could smell it, the metallic scent mixing with the salt of the sea.
“Don’t you see, Scavenger? You did this,” Kylo whispered in her ear from behind, and Rey did see.
The fall from her bed woke her, and she had just enough wherewithal to bite back a scream upon startling awake.
“No, no, nonononono,” she muttered, tears welling as she gasped for air, brining shaky hands up to her face in the darkness to see. With clumsy movements she stood and then frantically wiped her arms off on the blankets before lifting them again. Pulling them closer she smelled one before tentatively licking it. Clean.
“It’s okay, you’re okay,” Rey whispered to herself, trembling as she sat back down. It all seemed to real, the solid body of Kylo behind her, an arm wrapped tightly around her waist, while her hands were plunged into Han’s chest. He was so warm, the last beats of his heart thumping out between her fingers. “I didn’t do it,” she insisted, flopping back onto the mattress, “it wasn’t me.” With jerking movements she pulled the blankets back up over herself and then pulled the coin out from beneath the pillow to roll it across her knuckles. She’d rather dream of drowning.
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An Island Cove - 1649
She was beautiful, Rey observed, watching her frolic in the small cove. She had thought they weren’t real, that she was dreaming again, but she pinched herself and nothing happened. The mermaid’s fins disappeared beneath the water and Rey frowned. Her tail was the color of purple gems sparkling in the sun, transforming into a deep translucent blue at her fins - Rey hoped she could see her again.
Rey gazed out at the horizon, slightly put out that no one would believe her if she went back and said she saw an actual mermaid. Well, Finn would, but only out of sympathy. She wriggled her toes in the wet sand as gentle waves swept up and back, cresting over her feet where she stood.
“You look sad,” a voice came from beside her, and Rey jumped, scrambling away. “Don’t be frightened! Please, it’s not often I get to speak to humans.”
The mermaid was back, having silently crept from the sea while Rey’s gaze was diverted elsewhere. She lounged easily on her back, propped up on her elbows while her tail stayed in the water, languidly swishing from side to side. She was even more mesmerizing up close, with long black hair woven through with shells and skin that looked like it had been kissed by the sun, where it existed on her body. Her fishtail went further up her torso than Rey would have imagined, ending just below her chest in a fading smattering of scales. There was a wide swath of skin before they resumed again on her neck to encompass the sides of her face, growing thinner around her milky white eyes, standing out against the black of her hair. Her eyes, Rey quickly decided, were the most unsettling part of her. They didn’t look like hers at all. Sure, they had a human shape to them, but the white encompassed everything within it.
“You’re real,” Rey gasped, trying to keep her eyes firmly on the face in front of her and not the blatantly displayed breasts. It shouldn’t be that shocking; what use did someone who lived beneath the sea have for clothes? And besides, Rey had a pair herself. Granted, they weren’t that - “I’m Rey!” she nearly shouted, dragging her eyes back up to catch the creature before her smiling, teeth pointed and menacing-looking behind a deceptively pretty pair of lips.
“I go by many names, but you’ll find it easiest to call me Rose.” She wiggled her fingers in Rey’s direction, tipped with sharp nails and small webbing between them to match her tail catching the light of the sun. “You are a female human, yes? I have never met one before.”
“I am. Do you live near here?”
Rose tilted her head back and laughed, the sound cutting through the air like a resplendent symphony, and Rey understood how the stories had started. “I live far from here, but the sea is still my home, no matter where I am.”
Rey shifted, sitting cautiously next to Rose, but out of reach.
“I believe you understand, yes? You came on that great ship.” Rose waved behind them, to the other side of the small island, and Rey smiled.
“I did, and yes, I understand. What’s it like? Beneath the sea?” Rey asked, sticking her own legs into the surf as they both stared out at the water.
“Beautiful and dangerous,” she murmured after a moment, before turning to look back at Rey, sharp teeth flashing. “Like me!” she laughed again, and Rey leaned towards her until she stopped, and Rey shifted away. “Sorry,” Rose said, almost sheepishly. “I forget what my voice can do to you humans. Others like to take advantage, but I just enjoy traveling, learning, sometimes rescuing baby dolphins when they get caught where they shouldn’t be. What do you do? You’re a pirate, a sailor? What’s it like having legs?”
“Oh!” Rey kicked them in the surf, lifting one to wiggle her toes above the surface. “I’ve never really given it much thought. Normal, the way I imagine you having a tail is. Sometimes they can break, and if the break is bad enough, you can lose the leg.” Rose gave a small gasp at this, and Rey nodded sagely. “I am a pirate though, I guess?” Rey twisted, peering through the palms and foliage that grew in the sandy terrain to look at The Falcon. “I ran away from home, and now I’m learning to fight with a sword.”
“That sounds fun, fighting with a sword. The rest-” Rose cut herself off with a displeased noise, sinking her hands into the sand. “You humans sound very fragile.”
Rey bristled, but her defense was cut off with a gasp from behind. They turned to find Finn there, before he lost his grip on the low palm frond he was pushing out of the way. Rose laughed when it swung back and thwaped him in the face. Rey plugged her fingers in her ears and laughed too.
“You - you are a-”
“Mermaid,” Rose supplied with another sharp smile. “You are a man.”
Rey sniggered as Finn puffed out his chest. “Yes, I am,” he declared, taking a few steps towards them.
“He wishes,” Rey whispered, louder than needed, and Finn let out a squawk, moving quickly now to stand between them.
“Hello, I am Finn, and oh, wow.”
Rey leaned forward to watch him, covering her mouth with her hand as she saw where his gaze had landed.
“You are- wow. Yes, very pretty. Beautiful.”
“You are quite lucky that you are more adorable than you are eloquent.” She withdrew a hand from the sand and gently trailed her nails up the exposed skin of his leg, stopping to gently tug at the frayed ends of his pant legs.
“Yes,” Finn said with a nod, and Rey did laugh at that, which finally seemed to snap Finn out of whatever thrall he was under as he turned to look at Rey. “A mermaid,” he sighed dreamily as Rose’s fingers trailed across his toes. “Captain wanted to see you, Rey.” His voice was still filled with wonder, eyes huge when he looked at Rey as she stood, brushing off sand from her body.
“Course he did. No eating him, Rose,” Rey told her sternly, while smiling.
“I told you, I do not eat people,” she laughed, tilting her head back, before leveling her gaze back at him and licking her lips. “Perhaps just a nibble.”
London - 1655
For two weeks Rey remained at the Organa townhouse with Finn, while Poe spent his time running back and forth from the docks to the shops and back to the house again. One night he didn’t come back to the house at all and showed up the next morning with bite marks littering his neck. Even Leia was unable to hold off from teasing him over their morning meal.
When she finally stepped outside the house, bag slung over her shoulder, she put on the bravest face she could as Cecil closed the door behind them. Fingers of sunlight stretched across the street as the sun rose, cutting through the morning fog as they walked, Poe leading them back to the harbor.
“A new dawn,” Poe declared, taking a deep breath and then coughing.
Rey wrinkled her nose in agreement while Finn laughed. Summer was clearly here, and the smells swirling around them in the early warmth of the morning left a lot to be desired.
“I’d forgotten,” Rey mumbled, trailing behind them both across the docks, “how terrible it could smell.” She jogged to catch them up at the gangplank to The Rebel, thumb tracing a pattern across the surface of Han’s lucky coin in her pocket. It felt good to be home, she thought, boots making purchase on the surface of the deck.
“Me hearties!” Poe cried, fist knocking at the main mast, turning to the crew with a smile. “Prepare to set sail!” A cry went up amongst the men and they ran off to their tasks as Rey ambled into her cabin, shucking her boots before making her way back out to join the chaos.
Crossing the Atlantic - 1655
“Strike the colors!” Poe called from the helm, hand shielding his eyes as he gazed up at the flag dancing in the wind above. With a small smile, Rey shifted from where she was repairing the rigging to watch one of their newer crewmen rush to do the captain’s bidding. They’re nearly a week out to sea and haven’t seen another ship in three days; it was past time to lower the flag. The day was already hot, the morning sun beating down on Rey’s back, and while she was grateful to be doing easy work in this heat, she found herself jealous of the men on the deck working without shirts.
With a sigh Rey got back to her repairs, a job that should have been taken care of while they were still in port, but with all of the chaos, it was easily overlooked. Humming along softly to the shanty the crew was singing as they mopped the deck below, a slow, satisfied smile crept onto her face as she checked the tension of the rigging. Pleased with her work, she climbed up to the next fraying section, settling carefully, legs and ankles twined around the rigging to hold her in place. She took some time to stretch and gaze across the sea before resting her chin on the rope, fingers blindly braiding the spare strands from the pack at her hip together, starting at the fraying knot. Over, under, and over again. Steady. Repetitive. Soothing.
When the watch bell finally tolled, Rey was quick to maneuver down the ropes, dropping to the deck with a soft thud and making her way to the galley to grab some food. Watch shifts were an organized chaos: four hour turns at tasks, sleep and eat when you’re off watch, and then back to it. It wasn’t glamorous, or easy, but Rey enjoyed the structure of it. There was always a job that needed doing, and when she fell into her cot for her few hours of rest, it was almost always well earned. She strived to be sufficiently exhausted now that the drowning nightmares had come back in full force, trying in vain to be so tired her brain couldn’t conjure up horrors from the depths. It rarely worked. Usually, her bleary eyes were staring up, studying the grain of the wood above her head when the sunlight filtered through her small window.
Two weeks back at sea, and the dreams were relentless. Two weeks back at sea, and she was ready to do what they depicted. Just fling herself into the depths, weighted down with something, anything. Then at least she would be free. Two weeks back at sea, and she wished she had run her rapier straight through Kylo’s eye, because she didn’t know how, but this was somehow his fault.
“Finn? What’s wrong? What happened?” Rey asked, jerking awake from a fitful sleep and sitting up quickly. She sat rubbing at her eyes, watching as Finn quickly shut the door to her cabin, a small candle clutched in his hand.
“I’m not sure, but it’s Poe.”
“Did you two have a fight again?” she asked, sinking back onto her mattress as Finn perched against the desk built into the wall.
“It wasn’t a fight, he just...” Finn sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face. “He refuses to tell me where we’re headed. He won’t even tell me enough to adjust course accurately. He keeps muttering about Han and some job, and I’m a little worried about him.”
Rey stared at Finn, frowning.
“You don’t know anything, do you? Han didn’t say anything before-”
“No,” Rey cut him off with a snarl. “No, I’m sorry. Poe was his first mate-”
“Before we split up, then it was you,” Finn insisted.
“I don’t know anything. I just took everything from his cabin before I left, even the stuff he had hidden away.” Finn gave her a hard look, and Rey pulled her thin blanket up around her shoulders.
“See, you knew where he hid things. You should know something.”
“I didn’t look at anything,” she insisted. “I was in a hurry, and then, well, you watched me hand everything over to Poe.” Rey huffed when she saw Finn’s mouth drop open to speak again. “Finn, please, just drop it. I cannot help you.”
“I’m worried about him,” Finn finally spoke into the quiet room, and Rey looked up at him, at the way the candlelight danced over his dark features and sad smile. “I know it’s been hard for all of us, but, Rey, I feel like he’s becoming someone I don’t know.”
“Would you like me to talk to him? I have second bell. He’s been on watch with me for it the whole journey thus far.”
“Yes,” Finn confessed, whole body sagging in relief. “Please.”
“Anything for my favorite brother,” Rey teased, stretching her leg out and poking his thigh with her toes.
“I’m your only brother,” Finn huffed, smiling at her now.
Rey rolled her eyes. “Now get out so I can sleep. You know second bell comes early.”
Finn reached out and ruffled her hair, laughing quietly when she swatted him away. “Get some sleep. Come find me if you have any weird dreams again.”
“And have to snuggle with you and Poe? No.” Rey smiled as Finn shut the door before leaning back against the wall and pulling her knees up against her chest with a long sigh. Sleep wouldn’t be coming again anytime soon, she knew.
It was so commonplace now, the gentle rocking of the ship, that she truly had to focus to feel it. So she closed her eyes and focused, hoping the gentle motion would lull her back to sleep.
She startled awake at the clanging of the bell, hitting her head against the support beam that ran from the hull to the deck when she jerked into awareness. Knuckles rapped at her cabin door a moment later.
“Rey!” Poe’s voice filtered through the wood, and she grunted in acknowledgement. “Got you breakfast,” he called when he heard her moving.
“I’ll be out,” she grumbled back, sliding out of the bed and rummaging in the dark for her pants. She heard his footsteps traveling down the short hall before they stomped up the few steps to the deck, took a moment to breathe and then stood, fingers finally alighting on the rough-spun fabric she had patched together while still in London. With a quick hop, her pants were on, and she yanked open the door, grabbing her belt from the hook it was on and makes the trek up to the main deck.
“You’re late!” Poe called, and she turned to glare at him through the inky darkness of early morning. She could just make out his smug grin from where he was leaning over the quarterdeck to look at her. “Breakfast,” he said, tossing a small bundle to her.
She caught deftly, unfolding it to find a small rasher of bacon wrapped around hardtack tucked inside. “Thanks,” she said, bounding up the stairs to meet him and roughly biting into the food. “Orders?” she asked, glancing back at the helm where their second mate, Snap, was waiting to be relieved.
“Eat,” he told her, glancing sideways at her before pulling out the sextant in an attempt to take advantage of the last vestiges of darkness and stars that remained. “Take the helm, Rey.” He spoke once she had eaten everything she had.
Licking her fingers, she walked over, giving Snap a short nod. He gave her a quick pat on the shoulder, and she watched him go before focusing on Poe, where he stood, sextant still pressed against his eye.
“Starboard,” he said, pulling the instrument away from his face to glance back at her.
“So, how long until we’re back in Tortuga?” she asked, gripping the handles and slowly rotating the wheel. She watched as Poe turned back to face the bow and track their course, halting when he held up a hand before resting her chin against the tip of the closest handle to watch her captain.
“We aren’t heading to Tortuga,” he finally told her, which didn’t surprise her in the least. “We’re headed to the Isle of the Unnamed.” Rey could only make a short noise of surprise before Poe was turning to her, a wild gleam in his eye. “It’s uncharted.”
“Remember that thing you filched from Tolomar?”
“It was a map - of sorts.”
“Of sorts,” she huffed, stepping around the helm to stand in front of him. “What does that mean?”
“It’s not so much a map as it is clues to where to go, but you need something to show you the way.”
“Captain. And I know that this sounds crazy, Rey, believe me I know, but Han risked his life to protect this.”
“What do you know about what Han did or did not do?” Rey seethed.
“You told us it was some spy, or assassin, sent from The Supremacy to kill him, more than likely for this!” Poe’s face was grim as he held aloft a small rock. Dark, glittering in the lantern light, and she stepped closer to get a better look, but Poe was quick to tuck it away. “I imagine the Kanjiklub tipped them off, desperate to still get a cut of the riches,” he grumbled, and Rey watched his hand cover his pocket. “This will lead us to where we need to be.”
“A rock,” Rey drawled, an eyebrow arching in disbelief.
“Not just any rock, Rey, but the Devil’s Heart.”
“Didn’t know he had one.”
“They say,” Poe went on, ignoring her, “that to hold the Devil’s Heart, is to hold the key to The Cavern of Lost Voices.”
“You sound like a mad man, you know that, right?” Rey scoffed.
“No one knows what’s down there. some say immortality, others the secrets of life itself, riches beyond measure. Just imagine it, Rey.”
“Could just be an empty cave,” she shrugged, stepping back to the helm, firmly unimpressed and determined to be the only one on deck with sense.
“Someone on The Supremacy wanted this, wanted to be able to get there. Why else would they go through all of that trouble? Captain Kylo Ren himself is looking for this. That’s how you know-”
“Captain Kylo Ren doesn’t know shite about your stupid rock, Poe.” Rey’s hands clenched tight around the handles of the helm, feeling the tears beginning to well in her eyes. “He doesn’t care,” she said in a shuddering breath.
Lies, so many lies. She watched Poe turn from her, watched his shadow stretch across the deck as the sun rose behind them, watched his chest move as he breathed and drummed his fingers on the balustrade in front of him.
“What do you know about him?” Poe finally asked, glancing back at her.
“Not much,” Rey shrugged. Another lie. “I heard he’s dead.”
“Where did you hear that?” Poe turned to face her.
“A false tale from a scared man, no doubt. Now, what else have you heard?” He waved a hand at her to continue as he turned back around to help navigate.
“I had barely heard of him before Finn and I saw his ship in Tortuga. They say his ship leaves bodies in its wake.”
“They do say that. They say he is ruthless, too, that once he has decided he wants something - his relentlessness knows no bounds. We are lucky to have escaped.”
Rey only grunted in acknowledgement, but she knew Poe was wrong. Ben -Kylo- had watched her take it from Kanjiklub, had let her go.
She stewed on it for the next few days. What it could mean. He knew they had it, probably could have easily taken it from her in Tortuga, but no, he was just as shocked to see her as she was to see him. He could have taken it when he killed Han, could have easily killed her too, and gone after it. No, something else was going on with him.
She was still thinking about it in the middle of the afternoon when she heard a splash that startled her back into her work. She heard it again, though, and darted over to investigate.
“Rose?” Rey yelled, leaning over the railing on the port side to peer down into the ocean.
“Hello, Rey!” Rose’s musical voice called up with a sharp-toothed smile. “I have news- oh! Hello, Finn. Can I come up?”
Rey glanced over at Finn’s beaming face, and they nodded together before throwing over the ladder.
Rose spilled onto the deck with her usual lack of grace, but it was always outshone by her sheer excitement to watch the activity on board. “I can’t stay long,” she laughed, repeating her oft-used greeting. A creature of the sea had no place on board the ship, and the effort she expended to visit with them cost her every time. “I just needed to pass on a message. Amilyn has had a vision.”
“Amilyn?” Finn cut in. “Who is Amilyn?”
“My queen,” Rose replied primly. “She has had a vision, and Rey, you were in it.”
“Oh,” Rey breathed, sinking to her knees before Rose, barely aware of the chatter of the crew around her as they finally took notice of Rose.
“She says you need to trust him, and I need to give you something.”
“Trust who? Poe?” Rey asked, twisting around to frown up at the captain.
“I do not know. She is honor-bound to never tell others the true nature of her visions, only small things that can help. I am sorry I cannot tell you more. You know how I wish to help, always.”
“You do help, Rose,” Finn interjected. “We would have been caught in that storm off the coast a few months back if you hadn’t intervened.”
“Thank you, Finn, I am truly glad to know I do help, but Rey.” Rose turned back to her and reached up, gripping either side of Rey’s face. “I have something I need to give to you.”
“Then, please, give it,” Rey hissed, unable to flinch away from Rose’s nails as they dug into her scalp. Before she could blink Rose was surging forward, pressing her lips against Rey’s. Beside her, Rey heard Finn release a noise of shock while the crew erupted into a slew of whistles and lewd remarks. Rey breathed in through her nose in surprise even as her eyes fluttered shut, lips returning the kiss.
Rey blinked slowly as Rose pulled away from her. “It can be a lot, I know,” Rose told her gently. “The feeling will fade, but its protection will not. I must go.” She turned and smiled up at Finn, quickly yanking him down and pressing a kiss to his lips as well. “I know how you get jealous,” she teased, musical laugh dancing through the air as she took in both of their dazed expressions. “The Supremacy is coming,” she told them lowly. “Be safe.” Then she turned and dove back into the sea.
“That was-” Finn started, and then trailed off, staring at the place Rose had just been.
“Yeah,” Rey agreed, grabbing his arm and hauling herself back to her feet once more. “Did she say The Supremacy was coming?” Rey asked, still feeling dazed as she licked the taste of salt from her lips.
“She did, yes,” Finn agreed before he jolted. “The Supremacy,” he said with urgency, before turning and bolting to the quarterdeck to warn Poe.
Rey trailed after him, swinging out to punch Mundi when he asked if he could kiss her next. She took the steps two at a time, fingers brushing lightly over her lower lip before she pulled up short. It was too late. There was no mistaking the dark ship on the horizon, its course set straight toward them and clearly gaining steadily.
“Orders, sir?” she asked, hating how soft her voice sounded.
“We can’t outrun them,” Poe muttered, gazing through the telescope. “Prepare the cannons, wet the sails, and hoist the colors.” Poe’s voice lifted to shout the order to the crew while Finn rushed to the bell to sound the alarm.
Light and agile on her feet, Rey’s task before altercations was to be high above the ship, wetting the sails as the buckets were lifted up and up from the ocean through the chain of crewmen stationed strategically in the rigging. Stationed atop the mizzenmast, she had a perfectly unobstructed view of The Supremacy. Grasping a rope, she leaned toward it, hand over her eyes to block out the sun. They were still far enough away that she couldn’t make out any details, but close enough that she was able to see them strike their colors, white flag being lifted in its place. Rey dropped down to the boards resting on the crosstrees above the topsail, heard Poe shout to strike their own colors and raise the white flag as well, and felt dread coil in her gut.
Scrambling down the ratlines, cursing Poe as she went, she made it back to the deck in record time to find Poe, Snap and Finn in a hushed conversation. The crew around her had settled into a tense silence, most remaining in the position they had been holding, watching The Supremacy approach with no intent to fight displayed. One of them, Greer, had his knuckles wrapped tight around the handle of a slowly dripping bucket, paused mid-climb up the main mast.
Moments later Snap nodded and broke off, trotted down the steps and disappeared, the door to the captain’s cabin slamming shut. Rey began pacing the width of the quarterdeck, practically shaking in fury as they waited. Finn and Poe watched her with carefully guarded expressions, even as she watched The Supremacy gaining on The Rebel with ease from over their shoulders.
“You can’t be serious, Poe,” Rey hissed, staring at him from the other side of the helm.
“It’s captain, now, Rey,” Poe responded, turning his head to stare at The Supremacy and the flurry of activity that was occuring on deck as they prepared a dinghy for travel between ships.
“Oh, spare me, please. This will not end well.”
“I know what I have to do, Rey. There’s no other choice. They wanted a parlay, and you can see how quickly they are approaching.” He turned, shoulders tense as he watched the enemy approach.
“This could very well be a ruse,” she pointed out, kicking at the helm’s platform to release some anger. Finn gave her a look of sympathy, but no one said anything, and before Rey knew it, The Supremacy was pulling up alongside them, a dinghy at the ready to traverse the space between the ships. “We can still fight,” she grumbled, hand tightening on the hilt of the dagger at her hip.
“Captain,” Snap said, appearing beside Rey and interrupting whatever rebuttal Poe had. “Everything has been set up in your quarters, sir. Any further orders?”
“Unbelievable,” Rey hissed, throwing up her arms and stomping back across the deck before hopping down the stairs two at a time, only to pull up short as that ginger idiot she had been propositioned by in Tortuga stepped foot on her ship. The sense of relief she felt when he barely spared her a glance was short lived, though, as she caught sight of the second crewman of The Supremacy who would be parlaying with them.
The first time she saw him after so long, she had considered it a fluke; the second time she saw him, it was hell; and now Rey was convinced she had been cursed as she watched a clearly, unfortunately, not dead Kylo Ren climb aboard The Rebel.
Thank you so much for reading! Can you all guess where we go next? I'm super pumped about it - it was originally my oft touted chapter 7, but I changed some things around, and now its gonna be 6.
Things of note, and if I miss anything you're curious about, please let me know, because I basically eat, sleep and breathe this stuff right now:
Strike the colors - to lower the flag - at this point they had been flying the flag of England, and even though this is early days of the golden age of piracy, and pirate flags weren't really a thing yet, I HC them as having one, but they wouldn't be running around raising the jolly roger at sea either - that's just asking for trouble - so is an unmarked ship, but its more fun that way!
Ratlines - just another word for rigging
Ship bells- this is the way they kept track of time and watch. There are several versions of this, and I chose the classic one. They rang every 30 or so minutes in cycles of 8 bells per section of the day.
Hardtack-super simple to make (flour, water, salt if you were lucky), lasts a long time, and tastes like you're eating paper, but was a logical, if uninspiring staple of all pirates and sailors diets
Bacon- Bacon did exist at this time in history, not as you or I would recognize it now- as it simply meant any kind of pork, but it was there. and Bacoun as it was called back then was actually pretty popular with pirates, they would roast it over open fires on deck.
Mizzenmast- on large ships - like The Rebel you had 3 different masts, more if the ship was larger, but the mizzenmast is the most rear-stationed on the poopdeck.
crosstrees - situated at the top of every sail they're super important in helping keep things steady and spread the rigging evenly.
Massive thanks to reyofdarkness for betaing this chapter. Also many, many thanks to everyone subscribing and bookmarking this story. Huge thank yous go out to the lovely beings leaving comments on this story...if you came here from tumblr, you know what's up, but if not, I hope you stick around until the very end of this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tortuga 1655 - 5 months prior
“You’re telling me nary a one of you fools have any issues untying a corset, but none of you can figure out how to lace one up?” Rey groused, waving the item in question at the crew as she paced the deck in nothing but her sturdy boots and chemise.
There was a plan, and the plan was quickly going south. She was supposed to be in this ridiculous dress Han had scrounged up from who-knew-where to help somehow. She wasn’t really clear on how it would work and was doubtful that it would. “New plan,” she decided, knowing it was almost time to meet Han at the agreed-upon tavern. “Finn, you’re taking me to a brothel.” There was an immediate outcry of alarm from all of the men in front of her. “Oh, come off it. None of you can help. One of them can.”
“Is it really proper for you to be there?” Poe interjected.
“Oh, I don’t know. I certainly look like I belong there.” She waved an arm down at her body. “No one is going to look twice. No one would look twice anyway. This is practically the capital of debauchery. We do not have time for this. I need to get into this dress.” She hefted the heavy pile of fabric into her arms and turned, marching down the gangplank. “Finn, please. Or I’ll go in on my own.”
“Run, man. We let that happen and the captain will keelhaul us all,” a voice that belonged to Snap called, and Rey smothered a laugh as she heard Finn’s boots pound after her.
“This is a terrible idea,” Finn said, coming up next to her.
“I told Han that. I mean, honestly, what if something happens? I have no way to quickly get to a weapon. Oh, I should have cut holes in the skirts.” She sighed. “Too late now. Woah.” Her voice trailed off into an awed whisper as they passed by a massive black ship in the harbor.
“The Supremacy,” Finn supplied. “Captained by Kylo Ren.”
“Never heard of him. Oi! Come on!” Rey turned and tugged at Finn’s sleeve, noting he had stopped to stare up at the ship. “We can gawk later. To the brothel!”
“Say that louder, Rey,” Finn laughed.
Rey smiled crookedly up at him and opened her mouth to do just that before Finn slapped a hand over her mouth. “No!”
They walked for several minutes, Rey finding herself balling up the dress as it started slipping from her grip more than once. They passed by several other brothels on the narrow streets before stopping in front of one that seemed less to Rey. Less dirty, less obvious somehow, she mused, staring up at the wooden sign, its paint faded and the words illegible.
“So, do all of you frequent this place?” Rey asked baldly as she let her eyes roam over the front of the building, listening to the low rumble of noise coming from inside.
“Ah, no, not everyone,” Finn said with a cough. “Come on, best get this done.”
“Feel free to stay once I’m in my dress,” Rey teased as he opened the door. The smell hit Rey first; it was musky with tones of burning spices and melted wax mixed in, while underneath there was the smell of sweat. Rey wasn’t unfamiliar with odd smells, she lived on a ship with a minimum of 40-odd men for months at a time, but this was something altogether different.
The next thing Rey took notice of was that people were draped everywhere. In various states of dress, and a handful were completely naked. She must have made some kind of noise because Finn was turning to her, gently gripping her elbow before following her gaze. An older man was lounging on a nest of pillows, his shirt missing and trousers open just enough to free his cock, where a woman had her mouth wrapped firmly around it, bobbing up and down. The man shifted, pushing his hands into the woman’s hair, and Finn finally jerked her around to move into the hall.
“Rey-” Finn started, but she held up her hand and shook her head. Finn plowed on. “Please, don’t tell Han about this.”
That made Rey laugh. “I truly do not think he will care. That is not the first man I’ve ever seen.” She could feel herself blushing. “Although that is the first time I ever saw that.” She pitched her voice in a whisper, and Finn gave her a small smile. “Wait, where are we going?”
“To see a friend,” Finn said, tugging her along before stopping at a door.
“Is this even allowed? No, forget I’ve said anything,” Rey said, shaking her head as the door pulled open, revealing a petite woman, her dark hair in an intricate style Rey had seen Leia use more than once while her body was wrapped in a light blue robe that, while elegant, looked like it had seen better days.
“Finn,” she stated cooly. “And friend? That’s extra, luv.”
“Oh no!” Rey shook her head frantically. “I need help.”
“So just you, then?” She gave Rey a once-over and smiled. “Alright, you seem like you could be fun. And it will be a nice change of pace from all of the cocks around here.”
“No, let’s start over.” Finn waved his hands frantically at them. “Jess, this is Rey, Rey, this is Jess. Jess, Rey needs your help getting into a dress.”
Rey hefted up the dress as proof, enjoying the brief look of shock that flickered over Jess’ face.
“Well, that’s not something I have customers come to me for, but alright. Come on in.” She opened the door further and stepped back, allowing them entrance.
Finn immediately sauntered over to the bed and perched on the edge of it as Jess lifted the ball of fabric from Rey’s arms and placed it over the changing divider before turning to back to find Rey with the corset gripped in a white-knuckled fist. “That first then,” she said with an easy smile. She pulled it gently from Rey’s hands before holding it out for Rey to slip her arms into before walking to her back and pulling the fabric together. “So, tell me how you got out of this and can’t get back in? Seems like a good story.”
“Well, I was never in it.” Rey lifted a shoulder but otherwise stayed perfectly still as Jess worked the laces through the eyeholes.
“Oh! Oh, this all makes more sense, you’re Rey. Finn’s told me so much about you. Failed to mention she was a beautiful woman though.”
“I’m not paying you extra for false compliments,” Rey groused, making Finn snicker before immediately looking away and trying to look very interested in a pillow when both women turned to glare at him.
“Luv, I’m not charging for getting you dressed, it be t’other way around. So if you change your mind about getting into this, please let me know,” Jess practically purred, pulling the laces taut and bringing her chest in contact with Rey’s back. “Plus, I’m not in the business of lying to a fellow woman. Now. Tell me what it’s like?”
“It’s a bit tight, but that’s how it’s supposed to be, from what I recall. It’s been years.”
“No, silly. Being a pirate. Finn never tells me anything really fun, just the trouble the two of you get into.”
“I’m surprised he has much time to tell you anything at all,” Rey quipped, making Jess laugh and Finn lean down to bury his head under the pillows before she continued on. “It has its moments, but it’s a lot of long days of hard work before much really happens.” Finn sat up and shot her a look, making her scrunch up her nose in annoyance. “Boarding another ship is probably the most exciting and stressful thing that you can do.”
“You’ve fought people?!” Jess asked, pulling the last bit of laces tight before tying a bow.
“A few. It comes with the territory,” Rey sighed, watching Jess as she retrieved the dress.
“Oh, this is really lovely. Hold this,” she said, handing the bodice to Rey as she shook out the skirts.
Rey finally took a good look at the dress Han had tossed her that morning, and she had to admit, it was really pretty. A beautiful shade of green, with gold embroidery making floral patterns as it went, and more layers to the skirt than Rey thought any dress had any business having. It was a little bit big, but Rey was sure no one would care or notice, since she was going to a tavern and would be the most sober person there. It split open at the front of the skirt, revealing a layer of cream that had even more gold embroidery on it.
“Here, let’s get you into this now,” Jess said softly, holding out the bodice so the two of them could repeat the same process that had occurred with the corset. “There we go, luv, all finished. You look good enough to eat.” She tilted her head as she surveyed Rey. “Let me do something with your hair. It looks nice, but with a dress like that, it needs a bit more, I think.”
“I really haven’t much time. I’m sure I’m already late.”
“I’ll have it done quick, then. Sit next to Finn, and I’ll sort it right out.”
Rey did so with a heavy sigh, hiking up her skirts to her shins and practically falling onto the bed. She tried not to flinch at the feeling of someone else’s fingers in her hair and didn’t quite manage it, but Jess said nothing, just began to hum a quiet song.
“There we are,” she said not long after, and Rey shot to her feet before turning to face them both. “Maybe don’t scowl so much?” Jess hedged gently.
Finn laughed and stood, pulling a dagger from his boot before passing it to Rey. “Just in case,” he told her, gripping her hand tight as he looked her over from head to toe. “You look acceptable. Punch anyone who tries anything.”
“You know I will. Uh, you two have fun?” Rey mumbled, making her way to the door.
“Oh, we will,” Jess cooed, coming up behind Finn to drape her arms over his shoulders. “If you ever change your mind about things, you can always come work here! Or maybe just come to play.”
Rey made some sound of acknowledgment before making her exit from the room. Striding out to the main room, she found it much more crowded and full of a more generous portion of skin. Decision made, she kept her eyes locked firmly on the exit and made her way there with purpose.
Drawing in deep breaths once she was back outside, she sagged slightly with the relief of getting away. She slid the dagger carefully into the sleeve of the dress and took a quick look at her surroundings before heading left, back towards the docks.
Rey felt her skin flush as she let herself finally acknowledge the things she had spied out of the corner of her gaze as she was leaving. Naturally, she had heard everyone talk about it and had been, on a good day, party to more than one lewd conversation, but she knew Han was careful and had also probably threatened more than one crew member with bodily harm if they ever touched Rey in a more than familiar way. There were apparently way more ways to have sex than she had previously thought. She was also confident more than one of those women in that brothel were putting on quite the show for whoever they were with. Some of those noises didn’t sound natural. Then again, one tended to be quiet on a ship when you wanted some time to yourself, so she could be wrong. She would ask Poe about it later. He would laugh about it, but at least he would give her an honest answer.
She was so caught up in these thoughts, she didn’t notice when she made it back to port until she almost tripped on the uneven decking. She cast her gaze out to the ocean; almost dusk. She would be on time. It was as she drew close to The Supremacy that a voice called out.
Rey’s brow furrowed, and she glanced about, but she was the only one there. She glanced up at the ship, lifting a hand over her brow to block the sun and better see the person who was apparently propositioning her.
“Yeah, you. In the dress.” Maybe Rey would have a drink later after all. “It’s just me on board, and I could definitely show you something you’ve never seen before.”
“I highly doubt that!” Rey called back. He was tall, whoever he was, and hard to make out, the early evening sun making him a shadow.
He pulled off his hat and leaned over the railing, and Rey could see his face split with a smile as the sun glinted off of red hair. “I’ll let you touch the wheel!” Rey snorted at this. “Normally only the captain and I do. It’s quite the honor.”
“How often does this situation work out for you?”
“You aren’t interested?”
“In touching the helm of a ship? I should think not!”
“How about a tour then? Show you the captain’s cabin.”
“You have the subtlety of a flintlock to the face. You can kindly fuck off, sir.” Rey felt satisfaction curl through her as his face dropped in shock before she turned and rushed off, pulling her skirts up to better run through the port.
Maz’s Place luckily wasn’t far off, but she had already been cutting it close before that interaction with that pathetic man on The Supremacy. Rey burst through the door with less grace than she intended and drew several stares before they turned back to their drinks, leaving Rey to search for Han through the haze of smoke. She sighted him quickly at his usual spot and made her way there.
“Knew I picked a winner,” he said when she finally drew up next to him. “Who did you get to help you?” he asked, bringing a mug of ale to his mouth to take a drink.
Rey smirked. “Finn took me to a brothel.” She wanted to laugh when Han spit the drink out in shock, but she crossed her arms and lifted a brow. “Everyone on the crew informed me they’re much more adept at taking off dresses so they couldn’t help.”
“I’m gonna kill them,” Han growled after taking a moment to drag his sleeve across his chin. “Finn first.”
“It was my idea. None of them agreed, so I left to find one on my own and forced their hand.”
Han gave her a smile as he leaned back in his chair, kicking his feet up onto the corner of the table. “That sounds like you. Fine, but only since I know you’re fond of the boy.”
Rey ignored him to lean against the wall. “Anything yet?” she asked, letting her eyes take in the scattered patrons.
“Nothing, but they should be here soon. No making a scene this time, yeah?”
“That guy deserved it, and you very well know it,” she huffed. “Maz took my side.”
“And told you not to let it happen again.”
“Everyone’s so dramatic. You throw one guy into a table and suddenly it is a scene. I am going to say hello to Maz and wait at the bar for the signal then. I still do not see why I need this,” she grumbled, pulling at the skirt.
“You look more unassuming. They’ve yet to see you in a dress, besides, being a barmaid gives you an excuse to get close enough to grab what we need.”
Rey rolled her eyes but moved towards the bar at the far end of the tavern, taking a circuitous route that strayed closer to the man playing the piano to better avoid any potential wandering hands.
Maz’s Place had been the first place she had ever been here in Tortuga. When Finn had found her stowed away on the ship eight years ago, they had quickly formed a bond, and he swore not to tell Han. A foolish plan from foolish children. Han found out and spent weeks pacing the deck in anger and exasperation before finally coming to terms with Rey being on his ship. Once they docked he had dragged her here in the early light of morning to give her a stern talking-to out of earshot of the crew before making her write a letter to Leia. Maz, a short woman with an easy smile and a sharp pair of eyes, had overseen the whole event and had brought them breakfast before perching on the bar to watch them with a smile. It was her favorite place on the island; it felt like home almost as much as the ship did.
“You wait too long between visits, mtoto,” Maz called down to her from the other end of the bar, and Rey gave her a helpless smile. “I shall be there in a moment.”
Rey took her time to lean against the bartop after kicking a chair out of the way of her voluminous skirts before turning to glance back at Han. He was still alone, still nursing his drink.
“Now, this dress. Explain,” Maz said, waving a hand at Rey when she appeared. “And tell me where you’ve been. I miss having you and the boys around.”
“I’ve never heard anyone say that about the boys before,” Rey laughed. “Han’s meeting with Kanjiklub,” she offered, which made Maz slam a few mugs down on the surface of the bar harder than she should. “He says I look unassuming.”
“You look like the distraction,” is all Maz offered as she pulled out more mugs.
Rey merely smirked in response. “How many drinks do you think we might need?”
“More than this,” Maz grumbled, “If there’s another fight, I never want to see any of you in here again.”
“You wouldd miss us all too much.”
“You? Maybe. Your captain? Never,” Maz countered, staring at Rey before the two women shared a laugh. “Now tell me, tell me. Where have you gone this time?”
“Nowhere special. We had a run-in with Captain Morgan. Han played a game of cards to get out of that one.” Rey winced before she glanced back again and noticed there were finally more people at the table, Han catching her eye and spinning his mug around, rings catching in the light.
“They can wait.” Maz leaned in conspiratorially. “There have been whispers about darkness; they be saying the seafolk are restless. You need to stay safe, mtoto.” Then she was pulling away and whirling around to the kegs to fill mugs with cheap grog.
“A pretty thing like you should not be over here all alone,” a voice rumbled in her ear. Whoever they were, they were close enough for Rey to feel their breath on her ear, and, oh, she was going to burn the dress once the night was over.
She turned quickly, spitting venom as she did so. “I am more than capable of taking care-” The look of him pulled her up short, and she quickly lifted her left hand to her opposite wrist to catch the dagger from being fully revealed. She was sure her face was mirroring his complete shock as she took a rattling breath in. Maz was back, the drinks now balanced on a tray for Rey to carry. “I am so sorry, you look like someone I once knew. I have to go!” Rey moved quickly, picking up the tray and giving Maz a weak smile.
She blatantly avoided the man who had come up to her and strode away with a deep breath and all of the confidence she could while her heart beat a frantic tattoo against her ribcage. It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be possible. He was dead. His body long gone, a meal for whatever came upon him off the coast of Spain, or wherever they truly wrecked. She knew that face, though, knew those eyes. He was taller now, and broader, finally filling out the body she had once found adorably awkward with how gangly his limbs looked; his hair was longer now too, down past his shoulders and a beard to boot. She glanced back near the bar when her line of sight finally allowed it, and he was still there. Watching her, his expression now closed off. There was no doubting the truth before her eyes. It was Ben.
She stepped quickly in front of Han, biting her lip as she set the tray down, watching as the mugs were quickly taken.
“Another round, sweetness,” one of the men of Kanjiklub practically shouted. She shot a quick look at Han, who gave her the briefest of nods before she pasted the fakest smile she had in her arsenal on and tittered some sort of passing-for-agreable noise at the man.
Once her back was to the table, the smile fell, and she moved smoothly through the chaos of men, tables and chairs to the bar. He was still there. She wanted to avoid him. If she didn’t talk to him further, she couldn’t truly confirm if it was or wasn't him. She wasn’t sure which prospect terrified her the most, but he was there and talking to Maz, and there was no way she was going anywhere near Teedo and his gang clustered around the other half of the bar.
“Ah, you are back so soon? Those men are so greedy, eh?” Maz gave her a thoughtful look. “Though I dare say it is best you are not at the table.”
Rey growled as she put the tray down. “Delphi knows better after last time. It’s Tolomar that’s going to be trouble tonight.”
“You still owe me for that table.” She tapped her temple. “I never forget.”
“We’re square on the table. I think I actually owe you for the wall repair,” Rey supplied, glancing over in the direction of a rather large and awkward patch job.
“Bah, you are right. I am not so young as I used to be. I’ll be back with drinks.” She nodded with some finality and wandered off to do that and tend other customers at the bar.
Rey stood rigidly next to the man masquerading as Ben Solo as he stared at her and did her best to ignore him. He broke the silence anyway. “What are you doing here?”
“Getting drinks, maybe some food. Same as everyone else in here, I would imagine,” she answered, turning to look at the man playing piano. “Is that not why you are also here, sir?”
“I was, but now I’m wondering what a pickpocket from Londontown is doing all the way in Tortuga.”
Rey’s shoulders sagged with grief and relief before coiling back up in anger as she turned to look at him again. “That is none of your business, but I would imagine it’s not too hard to suss out. You always were smart, Ben.” He recoiled as if she had slapped him, and she wished she had. “I also think I should be the one asking what you are doing here. Because last I heard, you were dead,” she hissed, leaning in towards him and keeping her voice as low as she could while still being heard.
Ben didn’t say anything to that, and Rey rolled her eyes, leaning back to cross her arms over her chest and glare at him. He just kept looking at her, which was unnerving, but Rey finally opted to ignore him, turning to face the room and watch the table with Han.
“I should have known he would bring you into this mess,” Ben sighed, still facing the bar.
Briefly she wondered if he was avoiding looking at his father. Rey felt the corners of her lips twist into a smirk. “He didn’t. I ran away and hid on his ship. It took ages for them to find out. You need to leave.”
“You don’t get to give the orders here.”
“Oh, sorry, are you a captain now?” He gave a quick nod, and his mouth popped open to speak, but Rey cut him off, “Good news, captain. We aren’t on a ship, and I’m not part of your crew. I owe you nothing. Just get out of here before Han sees you, because I’m tired of cleaning up the messes you have apparently deliberately left behind.”
He opened his mouth to say something, but Maz was finally back, and Rey pulled out a handful of coins from the coinpurse tied at her waist and snatched up the tray, giving Maz a tight smile.
The table was more subdued when she returned, laden with two drinks for everyone, and relief surged through her to see that Poe and Snap had finally arrived, which was her cue. Once the tray was clear, she lifted it in one hand and turned to leave, but suddenly she was falling and found Tolomar’s grip digging in at her waist, her hands, with the tray awkwardly pressed into his armpit, settled against his chest.
“Steady on, girl,” he laughed, and so Rey laughed too as she thanked him and apologized. Then she was gone, leaving the tray on an empty table before rushing as casually as she could through the front doors and into the twilight.
With a quick flick of her wrist, her dagger dropped into the palm of her hand before she twisted it, keeping the blade tucked up against her while her other hand quickly stuffed what she’d lifted from Tolomar’s pocket, a small piece of paper folded around something hard, between her breasts and down to rest uncomfortably against her ribcage. At least no one would get it there. Not unless they wanted to lose some part of their person.
She focused on staying alert, but still, she missed him until he was on her. His hand was tight on her wrist as he pulled her around to face him even as he dragged her into the narrow passageway that existed between the nearby buildings, but she was quick and had the flat of her blade pressed high on his thigh.
“Rey.” Her name was a sharp inhale of surprise on his lips as her eyes met his. He shifted carefully, his grip going slack but remaining against her arm. “Rey, put the weapon away.”
A growl came from the base of her throat before she reluctantly did as he asked. Ben shifted even further away, watching her with sharp eyes as she speared the weapon through the fabric wrapped around her waist. “Well?” she asked, crossing her arms and leaning back against the wall closest to her.
“You stole something.”
“You aren’t dead.”
Ben’s face pinched in frustration, and Rey fought down a smile, remembering the look well from when they were both younger and his patience had run out in teaching her anything. “Rey, you’re playing a dangerous game. The Kanjiklub-”
“Are a bunch of idiots.”
“They will come after you.”
“Your concern is touching, but honestly, you are ruining my getaway. This isn’t the first time I’ve stolen something and gotten away with it.” She held up her hands between them in the dim and narrow alley. “They’ve only gotten more nimble,” she proclaimed, waving her fingers.
Ben grabbed them quickly, letting his own fingers explore hers. “So rough.”
“Is this normally how you compliment women?” Rey teased. “Leaves a lot to be desired.” Ben dropped her hands as if burned, and Rey sighed, tracing her own fingers over the scars and calluses that now marred her hands. “You said you were a captain?” Rey hedged, desperately wanting to know more.
His head bobbed. “Of The Supremacy.”
“You’re Kylo Ren?” she asked, incredulous.
“Ah, so you have heard of me?” He perked up slightly at this, leaning towards her with a roguish smile.
“No,” she snorted. “Finn has. We passed by your ship on the way to the brothel earlier.”
“A brothel?!” he hissed, and Rey tilted her head back and actually laughed.
“I wish you could see your face right now.” She swiped at her eyes, wiping away tears. “Yes. I had to get into this ridiculous thing somehow. Anyway, it’s none of your business where I go. Perhaps I enjoy visiting brothels.” She scratched her neck as Ben coughed. “Ben.” She stepped towards him, the skirts of the dress brushing up against the toes of his boots. “You’re supposed to be dead. Why didn’t you come home?”
He rolled his jaw and turned his head to look out at the now bustling street. “I couldn’t.”
“I’m telling the truth.”
“Why couldn’t you?”
He turned back to her, his eyes steely and bright in the light of the setting sun. “It does not matter. Now leave it.”
“God, you really are thick. You’ve been gone for ten years.” She sucked in a deep breath, ready to rail at him before she changed course. “You know what? I shall just pretend this never happened. This is nothing but a dream. See you around, Kylo.” She turned and stormed back into the street, ignoring him when he called after her.
She knew he was following in her wake, knew it by the way men she would normally have to barrel her way through plunged out of the way for her - for him. With a curse she fisted her skirts, hiking them up to her knees, but doing nothing more than revealing her boots, before stomping across the small dirt road that led to the docks.
“Rey!” he called from behind her, closer than she would have liked, judging by his heavy steps. “Just wait,” he pleaded, coming up beside her.
Rey glanced at him from the corner of her eye and exhaled heavily through her nose. “What do you want?” she sighed, conceding defeat for the moment.
“I just want to talk, please. I have so many questions,” he pleaded, voice gone soft even as he swaggered along next to her.
“You have until I get to my ship,” she told him, dropping the skirts to pull fruitlessly at the corset, careful not to dislodge the trinket she had stolen. “It’s like they think we don’t have fucking lungs,” she grunted, surprising a laugh out of the man next to her. She turned and glared at him, stifling a snicker as he quickly sobered.
“How did you get here?”
“A ship,” she replied. “That one,” she continued, pointing towards where The Falcon was moored.
“That isn’t what I meant, and you know it.”
“Hmm, mayhaps you should specify next time.”
“Rey,” he said, reaching out to gently grasp her wrist.
She twisted away, ignoring the way her stomach tightened when his fingertips just barely brushed the inside of her wrist. “You’re running out of time, captain,” she said, taking a step sideways to distance herself further from him.
“Eight, just shy of nine years gone, now.”
Rey grunted, twisting toward him and hooking her foot around his ankle. With a quick tug, he toppled backwards, exhaling heavily as he landed on his back, staring wide-eyed up at her.
“Your mother is alive and well. Fruitlessly attempting to mend a broken heart for ten years over the loss of her only son.”
“Ah, but how it must have shattered her heart when you willingly left.” His face is twisted with anger, and for a moment Rey is scared, having never seen this side of Ben before, but she takes a breath, knowing she is different now too.
“Yes, I do.” He shifts, propping himself up onto his elbows, dark smile just barely showing his teeth. “A son lost at sea is one thing, but to lose the daughter she had always wanted and gained by luck? You broke her heart, same as me.”
Rey’s lip curled in a snarl as she bent over him and watched his eyes fall to her chest.“You absolute cur,” she growled.
“Why did you keep it?”
“What are you talking about?” she asked, frowning down at him, trying to figure out what kind of twisted game he was playing with her.His hand stretched up, and she was quick to slap it away. “Just what do you think you are doing?” she hissed, growing even more upset when he rolled his eyes at her, trying again. “Oh,” she whispered, when she felt a gentle tug at the back of her neck as his fingers grasped the blue-white rock at the end of the leather. She watched him eye it for a few moments longer, and then he released it with a hiss. “It was a gift.” She swallowed, eyeing his hand for a moment before looking back at his face. “From someone I cared about.”
“Rey-” he began, blinking up at her as she straightened.
“I have to go,” she told him, watching him quickly move to stand as she backed up.
“You said I had until you reached your ship,” he growled at her back.
“I have changed my mind!” she spat, glancing back at him as he stumbled after her. She was so close.
“Stop running from me, Rey!” Rey jolted as his voice growled in her ear. He moved fast. “I have more questions.”
“No. Why should you be the one asking the questions?”
“Fine, ask me whatever you want,” he surrendered, spreading his arms out wide.
“How are you not dead?” she asked, narrowing her gaze at him.
“Who said I was not?” he countered and Rey growled, lifting her skirts to stomp on his foot. “Bleeding hell, woman. What is your problem?”
“I am not here to play whatever stupid game you’re attempting to play. Go back to your ship, enjoy the company of that ginger fool and leave me alone.”
“Hold on, how do you know Hux?” he asked as she swerved away, down the long dock that would lead her to The Falcon.
“Goodbye!” she said, stepping foot on the gangplank and turning to glare back at him once more, ignoring the way the shock on his face reminded her of Ben when he was younger. “Goodbye,” she said again, softer this time. Then she tore up the gangplank and across the deck of the ship. She wasn’t even in her cabin before she had the dagger out again and was slicing away at the bodice of the dress.
Quick notes before I just start yelling. Again, if you have any questions, let me know. Mtoto - Swahili for child (Maz has a very long and complicated backstory, but she's originally from Kenya - I'm sure you can deduce some of the details) Th stunningly beautiful artwork is by the talented PandaCapuccino. This scene is one of the first I imagined for the story, and getting it down and finally coming back around to it has been so much fun and a trial in patience, made worse once the art was completed a while ago.
Also, check over on my Tumblr for the full resolution of that amazing picture
Tortuga - later
Nights spent in the crows nest were her favorite: nothing but her breathing and the steady sounds of the ocean cresting below her and the creaking of the ship as she cut through the waves. Sometimes she perched on it, legs out over the rail, a dangerous game, but one that left her feeling alive. Other times she settled down, leaning against the mainmast as she stared out into the inky darkness that stretched for miles, the stars reflected on the water, making them seem even more infinite if she tilted her head and squinted just right. There were some places on the ocean where the haze that surrounded them made making out the horizon impossible, made it look like they really were sailing through the stars; she learned quickly how dangerous that was. How easily you could fall into some other place in time. Rey had never put any stock in anything beyond what she could see and touch, and then she had stowed away on a stolen ship to run yet again from the life she had made for herself, and it was there, on that ship that she learned that anything was possible.
She had seen a ship consumed by a kraken, could still hear the panicked screams of its crew as they echoed across the waves, even as the people around her vibrated with a tense silence that permeated the air around them for the long hours after they had escaped. She had traded trinkets with mermaids who seemed to be far more pleased with the shiny baubles than with their lives. She had seen the green flash on several occasions and been close enough to touch St. Elmo’s fire while in the crows’ nest a time or two. Not that she ever did, too afraid of what might happen.
She had never heard of someone coming back from the dead though. Not like this, not whole and perfect and fine. It was only her shock that kept her from truly reacting, that and the severe limitations the corset put on her breathing. Up here though, safe in the crows’ nest, free of the dress and away from the questions, she could breathe. She could see his ship just fine from up here, could make out a lone figure pacing the decks by the lantern light and knew, without a doubt, that it was him. She could hear the rowdy and drunken voices of the men littering the town’s streets and wished she could run farther away than to the top of this ship.
Her fingers trembled as they traced the now smooth lines of the brilliant blue rock she wore around her neck. She had touched it often over the years since Ben had given it to her; it was her own version of Han’s lucky coin. Always with her, and never far from her reach if she ever removed it from her person.
The Organa-Solo country manor - Wiltshire 1643
There was a pounding on her door that only made Rey burrow her head further under her pillows before she heard it flung open.
“Why are you still abed?” Ben inquired, managing to hit a tone just walking the line of aghast and amused.
Rey wriggled down in the bed, allowing her face to appear as she rolled to glare at Ben. “Sun’s not up yet,” she slurred, wiping the back of her hand across her mouth to gather up drool that rested at its corners. “Why are you not in bed.”
“It’s the first day of Yule.” Ben dragged the words out even as he leaned casually against the doorframe.
Rey grunted before gathering the blankets around her, rolling to face away from him.
“Oh, no you don’t.”
She could hear his muffled steps on the rushes and pried open an eye to look up at him.
“Come on, it’s going to be great. We feast for days. All of the tenants come, and there’s dancing and songs, and food.” He pokes at Rey’s side at this and laughs when she wriggles away. He leans in, letting his fingers drum against her side, and she lets out a squeal of laughter before rolling off of the far side of the bed.
“Tickling is not allowed,” she declares before leaping back onto the bed and vaulting at him. She smacks into his chest, and he makes a show of toppling to the floor, much to Rey’s delight. She laughs when Ben sits up and bits of lavender cling to his hair.
“You know,” he drawls as Rey plucks the dried buds from his person, “there’s also presents.”
“Yes, like a gift, something for you, a small thing.”
She pushes at his head. “I know what a present is, you dolt.” She sighs. She is ten she thinks. Maybe. She has celebrated one birthday since coming here, declaring herself to be nine when they asked, and so a big fuss had been made upon her turning ten. She had an extra sweet on a Sunday in the spring time to mark the occasion. And last Yule, her first, they had let her eat as much as she wanted and gifted her a wardrobe worthy of an heiress and a book of poetry for her to learn to read with. It was the best day. “I didn’t know I would get more presents; there were so many last year, I don’t think-”
“I know you don’t think!” Ben teased, cutting off her worries. “Come on, there’s bacon, and of course the presents.” he added almost as an afterthought, but he knew Rey, was aware that the allure of food was more of an enticement than any physical gift she might receive.
The first day of Yule was shaping up to be her favorite day. Small, just the family in the morning before all of the tenants truly started to show up for the feasts. She stumbled around her room and threw on her dressing gown and the pair of slippers Ben handed to her before racing from her room, Ben following along at a more respectable pace.
“Oh! Rey, good morning!” Leia exclaimed when she rounded the corner into the dining hall.
“Happy Yule! I heard there’s bacon?” she asked, scrambling up into a chair while Han laughed into his drink.
“There will be, yes. Good heavens, dear, there was really no need to rush,” Leia told her, frowning at Ben as he finally entered before standing and coming around to try and tend to Rey’s wild hair.
The day was long and Rey received more dresses and shoes dyed to match and a beautiful fur lined cloak as well as a beautiful set of combs for her hair and a prayer book, now that she was getting better at reading.
She was escorted to bed by one of Leia’s ladies’ maids, who made quick work of getting her ready to sleep before leaving the room to return to the festivities. Rey did her best not to pout as she laid in her bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the celebration continue downstairs without her. She felt wide awake.
She heard footsteps out in the hall, but thought nothing of it until her door slowly creaked open.
“Pssst, Rey, are you sleeping?” Ben’s whisper reached her, and she rolled over to smile at him.
“With the way you stomp around? No.” She giggled into her hands and watched him step fully into the room, quietly shutting the door behind him.
“I can’t see,” Ben laughed, stumbling to fall on her bed.
“Why didn’t you bring a candle, you dummy?” Rey chided, reaching towards her bedside table where a little candle sat. With practiced movements, she struck a match and the flame sputtered to life. “There we go,” she said, holding it to the wick until it caught and then blowing it out. “Why did you leave the festivities?” she asked, turning back to Ben and tugging her blankets around her shoulders.
“Well, I have to go back, but I wanted to make sure you got your present.”
“I already received more presents than I deserve, Ben.”
“Yes, but those were from mum and dad, weren't they? This one is from me.” Rey watched him puff up with pride as he presented a small bundle, carefully wrapped in a kerchief. “Don’t worry, it’s new,” he teased, when he noticed Rey hesitate.
“I’m not afraid of boogies,” she declared, snatching the gift from him, making Ben laugh. “What is it?” she asked, turning it over in her hands.
“You have to open it, come on!”
Carefully, she did so, unfolding the carefully tucked corners until it lay open in the palm of her hand. “Oh,” she gasped, hoisting it up closer to her face. “It’s beautiful.”
“You like it then?” Ben asked, shifting onto his knees to share Rey’s view, a lopsided smile coming onto his face when Rey beamed up at him, nodding. “Dad brought it back from his trip. Says it can only be found in the Dominican. It was a gift, to him, from an old friend he saved once.”
“And he gave it to you? I shouldn’t have it, then.” Rey held her hands out towards him.
“No, it’s yours. Dad’s given me all kinds of baubles over the years, but this one, I thought you should have it. I made it into a necklace, see?” Rey did see. “I can help you put it on?”
“Yeah, okay. Thank you. I really love it.”
She caught sight of the man that had propositioned her earlier in the evening, Hux, talking to Ben on deck, before he made his way down the gangplank. Rey twisted to watch him disappear into town, his red hair standing out in the darkness of nightfall. She leaned her head back until it made contact with the mast and sighed heavily before tucking the necklace under her shirt. He was still there, and pacing, she observed, shimmying over to the small opening in the nest and swinging down into the rigging.
Her hair was still up in the style Jess had put it in, but the rest of her was back to normal, and that would have to do, she mused as she slipped back into the well-worn boots awaiting her at the base of the mast. She slung her scabbard around her body, tightening it as she walked across the deck and back down to the docks. She debated turning back more than once, but the soles of her boots landed lightly on the gangplank to The Supremacy before she realized it, and it was really too late to turn back around without at least trying. She crested the tall deck quietly, and found him still pacing.
“Are you aiming to wear a hole right through the main deck? Or are you just aiming to look brooding all alone on your ship?” she asked, hopping across the gap to fully come aboard.
Kylo whirled around, looking for all the world as though he’d seen a ghost. “Rey.” He choked out her name in a whisper and stumbled slightly in his haste to reach her.
Rey adjusted her stance, widening her feet and bracing one hand on the pommel of her blade. He looked unarmed, but Rey knew all sorts of places to keep secret weapons on her person, knew Kylo knew them all too.
He stopped two paces from her and just stared. Eyes roaming over all of her, and Rey, for the first time in a long time, felt exposed. “You came back.” He was frowning at her now, sounding stupefied. She knew the feeling well.
“Aye, I did.”
“Aye, surely you didn’t think I was working on a ship in a dress.”
“Well, no. You look different, like when Han first brought you home, but more.”
“You say one thing and speak another.” She drew in a breath and leveled a stare at the man who went by Kylo Ren. “You asked your questions; I think it might be time I ask my own.”
Somewhere in a tavern along the docks, a door swung open, releasing the sound of drunken song and laughter with it. Kylo’s eyes cut over Rey’s shoulder and nodded after the sound faded again. “You can have three questions.”
“Three? I’ll ask as many as I want after the way you have acted tonight.”
“Me? You are the one who knocked me flat on my ass, pulled a blade on me and stomped on my foot, which hurt, by the way!”
“Oh, are you keeping track?” she asked, striding around him and hopping up onto a large barrel, letting the heels of her boots drum against it as he glowered at her. “You sound like a child.” He always was so easy to goad into a reaction. She watched him spin and pace away from her, digging his fingers into his long hair. Rey tilted her head as she watched him.
Back in that dark alleyway she hadn’t had the opportunity to take in anything about him, other than the fact that he was taller than ever and broad to match. His hair was as long as, or maybe even longer than, hers, and he had a beard now. When he spun back to march up to her, she couldn’t help thinking that it suited him in a way. Her head tipped back to keep his gaze as he approached, an easy smile on her lips so as to not give away the game and show how torn up inside she was over all of this.
“Ask your questions, then.” He glowered down at her as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“Back up,” she hissed, lifting a leg to push her foot gently at his stomach, forcing him to take three steps back. “First that comment about my hands, now you are practically trying to inhabit the same space I am. You should have come home; you know nothing of being around women.” Rey placed her palms on the lip of the barrel behind her and leaned back. “Since you refuse to tell me why you couldn’t come home, how did you come to find your home here?”
She watched in the low light of the lanterns nearby as Kylo rolled his jaw before speaking. “They found me.”
“Then they kept you?” she asked, kicking a leg up to cross one over the other.
A smile, slow and languid, stretched across her face. “Tell me how you came to be captain.”
“You haven’t heard the stories?”
“I’ve heard barely a mention of Kylo Ren before today.”
“How is that possible?”
“Your delusions of grandeur are truly inspiring. As mad as I am at you, I missed you. The world may be small, but it is not that small.”
“A trial by combat,” he eventually confesses, breaking eye contact with her. “After a mutiny, I won.”
“That is not how a typical mutiny works. Two of you were vying for captaincy?”
“Nay, it isn’t, and no, there weren’t. I fought the prior captain.”
“And your current crew? They like the way you run your ship.”
“The crew doesn’t have a choice,” he growls, and Rey’s brows lift in surprise at the vehemence in his voice.
“Why Kylo Ren?”
“Your questions are far more invasive than mine were.”
“You are free to not answer them,” Rey replied with a shrug. “I’m more intrigued by the one you refuse to answer.”
“You will never get that answer.”
“Very well.” She hopped down from the barrel.
“How do you know Hux?”
“He shouted at me earlier, tried to buy my time, I believe in your cabin.” She rocked back on her heels and flashed him a small smile.
“He did what?”
“I told him to fuck off.”
“You said what?”
Rey chortled. “Please. You were constantly bothering me about the type of language a little lady should or should not use. This should hardly be a surprise.”
“Rey.” He was frowning at her again as she stood in front of him. “You should not have come here.”
“Perhaps not,” she sighed, turning to look at The Falcon. “But you meant something to me once, Ben. You could still come home. You understand I needed to at least try.”
“Aye, I understand, but Rey-” he cuts off sharply when her fingertips touch his chest before her hand splays across it. “What are you doing?” he hisses, stepping away from her and her touch.
“I wanted-” she cut herself off abruptly and tilted her head, chewing at her bottom lip as she studied him. “You are cold,” she whispered, and he took another step away from her. He watched her glance around them, watched her chest heave on an inhale of the briny, balmy air. He shouldn’t have let her get so close, not when it wasn’t on his own terms. “Do you need warming up?” he heard her ask, eyes wide and head cocked slightly to the side.
He felt his jaw drop. And here he had been worried over her inquisitiveness. “Rey,” he rasped, frowning when she started to laugh.
“Maybe you could show me the wheel, eh? Your boy Hux seemed to think that was showing a girl a good time.” She was still laughing, and if Hux weren’t already dead, he’d gladly rectify that situation. On second thought, maybe he would just dismember him and strand him in Tion until he recovered; with a little luck, he might grow a new brain. “Perhaps that was just his way of asking-“
“Rey, I am begging you, please do not finish that sentence.”
“As you wish, oh captain,” she teased, still laughing. “I have more questions,” she informed him before he watched her take the stairs to the helm two at a time. “Oh wow, this is really impressive. I’ve never seen one so big.”
“Fucks sake,” he grumbled, clambering up after her. “Don’t touch it!” he cried, hurrying towards her and yanking her away. “Please, do not touch it.”
“I cannot believe you are superstitious,” Rey said, allowing herself to be pulled aft. “But fine, as you wish.” She escaped from his grasp once more and then vaulted up onto the railing, treading carefully on it, hand catching on a line to keep herself steady before she stepped up onto the cleat and turned to look down at him, balancing on one foot.
“So, tell me about the great Captain Kylo Ren.”
“There’s not much to tell.”
“Not what you would think.”
“So you aren’t filthy rich?”
“Is any pirate?”
“Well, no, I know our crew is out spending their share now.”
“Yet, you are not,” he observed.
“Well noted, sir. Nay, I find little pleasure in getting blindingly drunk. I still find ways to lose my money.”
“Perhaps by throwing a man through a wall.”
Rey grunts, spinning on her toes. “It was one time, and I paid her back.”
“First, how did someone of your stature throw a man through a wall? Second, how did he earn your fury?”
“I’m stronger than I look, and sometimes men like to put their hands in unsavory places, and sometimes those men are used to doing those things to women without consequence, and that night I was more than happy to show him the consequences. Idiot thought it would be easier to touch me since I’m not tied up tight in a bodice.” She rolled her eyes, completely missing Kylo’s quiet fuming. “So he went through a wall, and that was that. Wasn’t fool enough to try it again tonight, though. Oi, you alright?”
“I’m fine,” he hissed through clenched teeth.
“You know, for a man who hasn’t seen me in as long as you have, you sure are acting pretty territorial about some things that do not concern you.”
“You infuriate me,” Kylo bit out. “Of course - how you could even think such - ever since Han brought you home and you took off that ridiculous cap. Rey-”
“No, I think I should go,” she interrupted, hopping back down onto the deck. “I came over to... I’m not really sure what I came here to do. Mayhaps to prove this has not been all a dream. Or to try and have a rational talk with you, one where I don’t have a dagger at your bits.” Kylo made a noise in the back of his throat as Rey continued. “I had questions, and I knew if I didn’t come speak with you again, I would never forgive myself that folly.”
“Are you pleased with the answers?”
“No, but I have come to accept that some things in this life will be unsatisfying.”
“Rey,” he began when she made to disembark. She turned back to him quickly, his eyes catching sight once more of the necklace he had given her so long ago. “I hope you can find it in you to forgive me, for what's been done, and things-” He faltered, not knowing how to speak the words that would unveil him.
“You can keep your secrets, and I have my own to keep. Perhaps fate will see fit to reunite us once more and you’ll be more willing.”
“It might very well be your fate that causes our paths to cross once more, but it shall be mine own destiny.” He watched her nose and forehead crinkle at his words. He had forgotten that she did that, how endearing it had been, and still was. Truly another lifetime. How much had he forgotten? How many little things had he taken for granted when he was still in her life?
Her voice crossed the distance between them, penetrating his spiraling haze of thoughts. “What happened to you, Ben?”
“Naught that you need concern yourself with,” he informed her, wishing he could will her to leave his ship. Could she not see that she was fracturing him? His soul might be gone, but bleeding hell, he still had a heart buried somewhere deep in his chest. He hated it. “You should be going. It won't do for the lady of the ship to be missing.”
She scoffed. “Hardly. Besides, what I do with these hours of freedom are my own.”
He watched her take a deep breath, rocking back on her heels and up onto her toes before settling again.
“I’m still upset, but I do forgive you.” she smirked at him. “Perhaps the next time our paths cross, I’ll let you buy me a drink.” She laughed when his jaw dropped, and truly she was doing far too much laughing at his expense tonight.
In a move he would come to regret in the minutes after she left his ship to return to her own, he crossed the deck to her in three quick strides, lips seeking hers out and cutting off her laugh. It was over almost as soon as it began when he pulled back, ready to accept whatever retaliating move she had planned this time, but she only stared, wide-eyed, up at him.
“Oh!” she whispered. Then she shifted forward into his stiff embrace, pushing up on her toes just enough to capture his mouth, and he let her.
If he hadn’t been damned before this, he would be now. He relaxed minutely, hand splaying against her back instead of holding her shirt tight, and Rey’s hands, for the second time tonight, willingly sought him out, one sliding up his forearm where he’d grasped her elbow, while the other curled around the back of his neck.
He would drown all over again to keep having this. He would keep her here with him if he could, map her body with his hands and mouth for infinite lifetimes. He would be hers and she would be his and sailors would pray for the mercy of Captain Kylo Ren and his fearsome queen. She pulled away from him with a shuddering breath, and for a moment, he chased her before blinking.
“I really do think I should go,” she confessed, hands drifting back down to her sides.
“I think that would be best.” The words ‘this was a mistake’ never came, from either of them. He couldn’t find it within himself to say it, not when she was looking up at him like that, breathless and thoroughly kissed. He let his arms drop, and he watched her mount the gangplank before hesitating.
She turned back and winked. “Until next time then, I suppose. We make port here almost every three months.”
It was an invitation. One he should have shot down immediately.“Until next time,” he agreed, even though he knew the next time they saw each other it would destroy her if she ever found out he was the one responsible for the impending demise of Han Solo. He retreated to his cabin as soon as she was on the docks, and when his crew returned to find his cabin in shambles, they were all smart enough to say nothing of it.
Rey retreated to her own cabin as soon as she was back on The Falcon. She kicked the remains of the dress aside and collapsed face-first into her bed with a scream. She had only wanted to go over and try and clear the air, and instead she had kissed him. It didn’t matter if he did it first, she had still kissed him.
“You’re an idiot,” she grumbled to herself, rolling onto her back and kicking off her shoes while her hands worked at untying her belt. “You pulled a weapon on him hours ago, and now you’ve kissed him. No one can ever know about this.”
Sleep refused to come easily. She heard a handful of the crew stumble belowdecks in the early hours, rowdy and singing, and she laughed, hand jumping up to cover her mouth to ensure they didn’t hear her. She shivered at the contact, pulling her sorry excuse for a blanket tighter around her with a frown. She exhaled through her mouth onto her hand, suddenly remembering how cold Kylo had been. Every point of contact she had made with him was chilled, as if she had spent too long outside on a late fall evening. Dawn was coming though, and she was exhausted. She was probably just imagining things.
A kiss? A kiss. Thank you all for your comments and kudos and subscriptions, you're all the best!
It's been so long! Took a bit of time just to kind of finish up and then post all of my RFFA fic, and then try to get ahead on this again. Many, many thanks to meritmut for continuing to put up with my half assed eldritch piracy attempts and helping me make things look better.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Crossing the Atlantic - 1655
“Captain,” Snap said, appearing beside Rey and interrupting whatever rebuttal Poe had. “Everything has been set up in your quarters, sir. Any further orders?”
“Unbelievable,” Rey hissed, throwing up her arms and stomping back across the deck before hopping down the stairs two at a time, only to pull up short as that ginger idiot she had been propositioned by in Tortuga stepped foot on her ship. The sense of relief she felt when he barely spared her a glance was short lived, though, as she caught sight of the second crewman of the Supremacy who would be parlaying with them.
The first time she saw him after so long, she had considered it a fluke; the second time she saw him, it was hell; and now Rey was convinced she had been cursed as she watched a clearly, unfortunately, not dead Kylo Ren climb aboard the Rebel.
Rey stood there stupefied, even as Poe cut across the space between them, she couldn’t look away. The jagged scar cut across Kylo’s face, angry and red, puckering at the edges from his brow line down across his cheek, only interrupted by a black eye patch. He glanced her way for the briefest of moments, but it was enough to draw her out of her trance and make her finally look away from him.
“Captain Ren,” Poe greeted, acting for all the world like they were old friends, and his ship had not just been boarded by one of the most ruthless men now sailing the sea.
“Captain Dameron,” he turned here and looked directly at Rey, Finn was by her side in an instant. “Hello again, Rey.” Kylo’s lips twisted into a smirk and gods, Rey would truly run him through with her blade this time if it managed to scrub the kiss they shared in Tortuga from her mind. Perhaps even that fanciful dream one in London, too.
“Oh-ho!” The redhead—Hux, if Rey remembered corrected —piped in. “The wee terror, I remember you.”
“Aye? Is that so? Then you shall be happy to know that the sentiment still stands, and you can kindly fuck off.”
“Rey!” Poe nearly wheezed in horror. “What is wrong with you?”
“You dare-” she began, before Finn clapped a hand over her mouth.
“Perhaps we can adjourn to my quarters, to further discuss your terms?” Poe asked, finally showing some sense of diplomacy after all of these years.
“Yes, perhaps that would be for the best,” Hux replied amicably, even while glowering at Rey. Poe gave a short nod, turned back to fix one last glare at Rey before leading them away.
“Finn, are you coming?” Poe asked, hand resting on the handle of the ornate door that led to his quarters.
“Aye!” he called over his shoulder before leaning down towards Rey, “What was that about?”
“It’s nothing, just go,” she hissed at him after yanking his hand from her mouth, his hand lingered, squeezing hers tight, “I promise ‘twas nothing, now go, before Poe demotes you. Can you imagine, Snap as first mate?” It was enough to tease a smile from the man as he reluctantly left her presence.
Kylo was there, next to Poe, towering over everyone, gaze locked on her as they waited for their fourth member. Taking a breath, Rey arched a brow and slowly lifted her arm, until her fist rested in front of her face, then with a smirk to rival Han’s slowly lifted the first two fingers in the shape of a ‘V’ at him. She took delight in the way his mouth fell open in shock before he finally found sense and retreated into the captain’s cabin.
She stared after him long after the door closed. Ben Solo—Kylo Ren—with all the love in the world for Leia, had to be the luckiest son of a bitch she’d ever met. How many times could one person die, or almost die and keep coming back. He was either part cat or made some kind of deal with a devil.
“We know you have it, so there’s no point in trying to pretend otherwise,” Hux broke the silence that had settled within the cabin as the door shut behind them. Captain Dameron and his first mate—Finn, Kylo recalled—had quickly retreated behind the large table while he had leaned back up against the wall as Hux strode up to the table to rest his fists upon it.
“I assure you, we don’t know what you’re talking about,” Finn practically shouted and Kylo grinned as he watched Poe sigh.
“I’m sure you don’t,” Kylo taunted, making Finn bristle as Poe’s arm reached over to settle him.
Poe rocked back on his heels and gave a short nod, “I heard you might be looking for it.”
“Is that so? Might I ask who, so I know to remove their tongue when our paths cross again.”
“A bit excessive to remove the tongue of a dead man, even for you.”
“You know nothing of me, Dameron. Now, tell us where the Devil’s Heart is, or I’ll be sure to rip yours out as a fair trade.”
“Over my dead body,” Finn declared, stepping in front of Poe now. Oh, they were too easy.
“That can certainly be arranged,” Hux nearly purred, fingers sinking into the pocket of his jacket.
“I don’t think that will be necessary, but your enthusiasm is noted. As stated, we know you have it, so just do the right thing, and hand it over.” Kylo tried once more.
“No. We need it.” Poe glared at him, and oh, it wasn’t often that he came up against someone not willing to back down from him. Just Rey, though he was starting to see where she firmly developed the nasty habit.
“A pair of idiots like the two of you wouldn’t know the first thing to do with it, don’t be foolish.”
“I know exactly what to do with it, and I will not be handing it over to the likes of you.”
“Heard of me, have you? Smart then. Or you truly do wish for death. It would be so easy to give the order for no quarter, you know that right?” Kylo finally stepped forward to stand next to Hux.
“You would run the risk of losing it then, would you not.”
“Just tell us where it is, we know you stole it from Kanjiklub on Tortuga, so just hand it over, or we will find an alternative way to get you to do so.”
“Hmm, yes, I believe that delightful young woman you all keep around might make an excellent first choice. How long until your bird sings?” Hux asked, already backing away towards the door.
It took everything he had to not react, but the way Finn cut his gaze across the cabin to him, brow furrowing with an unasked question, he knew he had failed. “That will also not be necessary, we’re all gentleman here. I’m sure we can reach some sort of accord.”
“No. No deal, no accord, this parlay is over.” Finn adamantly proclaimed, shaking his head.
“Oh? Captain Dameron, you let your man speak for you?”
“I don’t, no, but I don’t think he’s wrong.”
“Come now, we all know we could have boarded this ship and rounded you all up for execution before you even realized what happened, yet we didn’t.” Kylo pointed out. The preferable route, he thought truly, but with Rey on board as well as the Devil’s Heart, their normal tactics weren’t going to work.
“How do you know her?” Finn cut in once more.
“Rey. You know her. You greeted her by name on the deck, and then when your man mentioned hurting her,”
“We’ve met before, yes, she’s also clearly met Hux.”
“Yeah, old pals, those two. Tell us how you know her,” Finn demanded on a growl.
“I think this is something I’d also be interested in hearing about,” Poe added, sinking into the chair.
“You know, Ren, I do believe this is a story I would like to hear too,” oh, yes, Hux was definitely losing a limb for a while after all of this Kylo thought while glaring at his first mate.
“How I know the girl is of no concern to any of you.”
“Perhaps I should just go get her, I’m sure she’d be willing to let us know, eh?” Hux asked, turning slightly to face the door.
“You’ll not be fetching any of my crew.” Poe frowned, “now get on with the story. Perhaps we can come to some sort of compromise.”
“For a story?” Kylo asked, incredulous.
“Tortuga.” Finn interjects quietly, staring off into the distance. “That’s how she met Hux, on the way back from that brothel.” Poe rolled his eyes at this and Kylo felt the muscle under his left eye jump. “We walked right by your ship. I remember I had stopped to look at it, but we didn’t have time.”
“Then what happened?” Poe asked
Finn shook his head. “Then we continued on our way, and I stayed behind while Rey went to meet up with Han at Maz’s.”
Poe hummed and kicked his feet up onto the table, “she was already there when Snap and I arrived, so clearly something happened after. Kylo, any input?”
“We spoke at the bar,” Kylo finally confessed. There that was simple enough, vague enough. “While waiting on drinks from Maz.”
“Ah, well, that solves that then. Ren, you have an abysmal way with women, I’m sure you said something to offend.” Hux laughed.
“Really? Because as I recall, she complained about you offering to show her to my quarters.” Kylo spat, lunging for Hux.
“It was a joke!” Hux cried, voice rising several octaves in fright, “I would never take-” his voice cut off with a wheeze as Kylo wrapped thick fingers around his throat and squeezed.
Kylo leaned in close and growled, “if I find out that you’ve been bedding women in my cabin I’ll scatter your body across every sea.” He loosened his grip and dropped his voice even more, “how long do you think it will take for Snoke to pick you back up and piece you back together again?” Hux coughed as Kylo finally released him, sinking onto the floor, face slowly fading from purple, to red, to his normal shade.
“Do the two of you need some time to parlay, privately mayhap?” Poe asked as Kylo turned back to face him and Finn. Kylo’s eyes swept over the scene, Poe had a pistol out, now perched on the table and Finn had drawn a dagger at some point to hold it loosely near his thigh. The fact that they thought they could attack him - do him any sort of harm was laughable.
“No. Armitage knows better than to truly incite my wrath, this was merely a hiccup.”
“Think you might be wound a bit too tight, mate,” Finn tried for easygoing, but the wavering in his voice betrays him.
“I would like to reach an accord. Soon. If an accord cannot be reached, I will be forced to send you all to the locker then have my crew ransack your ship before burning it to nothing more than ash and memory.” Kylo growled. He wanted off this bloody ship, wanted to be on his way with the Rebel left far behind on the horizon.
“I’m not giving you the Devil’s Heart, Ren,” Poe began, lifting a hand quickly when Kylo made to interrupt him. “But perhaps, as you said, an accord can be reached.”
“You have what I want, and I tend to get what I want.”
Poe mockingly pouted, “did mummy dearest never teach you how to share?”
The muscle under Kylo’s eye twitched again, and gods if this wasn’t why they just killed everyone first and asked questions later, “You propose to share the Devil’s Heart? That we journey together to the Cavern of Lost Voices. Are you mad? Give me one damn good reason I should do anything with you.”
“You’ll never get the stone.”
“You think we cannot torture it’s location out of you?”
“Very well,” Kylo sighed, “name your terms,”
“Captain,” Hux began, “should we not just, our orders-”
“I provide the orders.” Kylo growled, fists clenching at his sides, “now, what are your terms.”
“You don’t touch the stone. Ever,” Poe says, standing up now, “you don’t get access to the map, and when we near the island, you can pick two people to go, as will I, one of my crew will have the stone, the other the map to navigate the channels to the island.”
“What if I wish to go?”
“Then you go.”
“What’s to stop me from killing your men once we reach the island?” Kylo asked, not liking the smug expression crossing Poe’s face.
“I don’t think it will be a problem, now, whatever we find, we split, then we go our separate ways.”
“If we find nothing?”
“We still go our separate ways.”
“That still leaves you with the Devil’s Heart.”
“A useless stone to nothing if that’s what we find. If, after all is said and done, you let us all go, and never set your sights on my ship again, you can have the bloody thing.” Poe finally conceded with more than a hint of exasperation, “now get out of my bloody cabin, and don’t harass my crew.”
Kylo stared at Poe for a long moment before turning on his heel to stride to the door. Hux yanked it open before he even reached it, he ducked down and passed through, stepping back out into the sun. The general chaos on this ship pauses for a moment when they emerge, but Dameron’s crew quickly gets back to work.
“Which one of these wretches do you think he’ll saddle us with?” Hux asked, keeping his voice low.
“Hopefully only the competent ones. It will be difficult enough to make it to the island without a pair of bumbling fools tagging along.”
“Indeed,” Kylo sighed staring across to where Phasma paced the deck of the Supremacy. She relaxed minutely when she caught sight of them. “You’re coming with me, Hux.”
“You truly think it’s wise to take both of us. I am your first mate.”
“Your argument isn’t giving me any kind of confidence that you won’t make off with my ship.”
“As if I could sail anywhere that you would be unable to find us. Snoke would be much displeased if I did such a thing.” Hux sneered at a passing cabin boy and sighed, “fine, fine, take us both. There’s no arguing with you.”
“Good. Once Dameron has chosen his men I want to be off,” Kylo stated, turning around to face Hux and take a better headcount of the crew of the Rebel, and hopefully to get another look at her
“Are we close?” Hux asked.
Kylo stared blankly at him. “How the bloody hell would I know, when the fools on this ship have the damn map.”
“Right.” He nodded and Kylo had to fight the urge to not just fling him backwards and into the sea. Saddled with an imbecile of a first mate, courtesy of Snoke, he could only hope all things went according to plan so he could be rid of the fool, be rid of all of it.
Dameron emerged from his cabin, Kylo watched his eyes swing around the deck before he shouted, “Rey!” Finn emerged behind him, looking furious as he crossed the main deck and disappeared behind the door leading to the crew’s quarters. The slam of it echoed around them and both crews stopped what they were doing to watch what might happen next.
“Where on earth did they even find this girl?” Hux wondered aloud as Rey’s head appeared from beyond the prow of the ship.
“A mystery, to be sure,” he replied, expression stoic, but he was thoroughly amused as she clambered up and over the railing onto the forecastle deck.
The entire crew seemed to be watching her as she strode to the stairs there and stopped, hands on her hips, “what do you want?” she shouted at Poe.
“Keelhauled. Mouth like that?” Hux muttered and Kylo pressed the heel of his boot down onto the top of Hux’s. Wishing he would keep his damn mouth shut for once.
He watched Rey’s mouth pop open when Poe just tried to wave her down, but her gaze fell on him and her mouth snapped shut again. She glowered at him for a moment, and if he weren’t dead, he’d be more than a little concerned that the expression she leveled him with alone could drop him. The muscle under his left eye twitched as he watched her descend the stairs to meet Poe. Perhaps he should have seen this coming, with the way everything had been going since Tortuga. Beside him Hux muttered something and Kylo grunted in annoyance. The captain of the Rebel had just unwittingly complicated matters.
Things of note - I think just Keelhauling. So! Contrary to popular belief and the ever present influence of Hollywood - walking the plank wasn't actually ever a thing. KEELHAULING though. Oh man. Probably the most severe form of punishment, and graphic, and I would say 99.9% certain to result in death. A rope would be dropped into the water somehow looped under the width of the ship and then a person would be sent down to make that same journey. So assuming drowning doesn't get you, the barnacles on this ship would. I've heard tales of people being sent back for seconds - how true that bit is, I don't know. So yeah! Super awful. Do not recommend.
And I have a lot of feelings about all of it.
Poe huddled next to Rey at the front of the dinghy, facing forward and clutching at the black rock like a lifeline that could somehow save them all. Hux sat in the middle, rowing and grumbling about it as Kylo navigated them through the small passageways at Poe’s directions.
“Almost there,” Poe muttered and Rey grunted, kicking out her feet, not apologizing when she caught Hux in the knee and made him shout in surprise. “You can’t kill someone with your eyes, Rey.”
“Yeah, well, I’m gonna try, aren’t I?” she grumbled, steely gaze fixed firmly on Kylo.
“He said the two of you spoke at Maz’s? That’s clearly not the end of that story, though.”
“No. It isn’t,” she replied through clenched teeth.
“Well, do you think you can not resort to fisticuffs on the beach when we land?”
Rey rolled her eyes, finally turning to look at Poe. “I will make no such promises, but I assure you, I shall try not to punch him so hard he becomes useless to us should the situation arise.”
“I will accept that, but really, look at him, with that scar? The last thing he needs is a black eye from you to go with it. How d’you think he got it?”
“Does it matter? I’m sure he deserved it.”
“Rey. I’m counting on you. The entire crew is.”
“Ah, so it’s don’t fuck it up, is it? Don’t you worry, captain. Everything will be fine.”
“The two of you have until the tide rises; at least that what I’ve been able to gather from these shoddy instructions. We will wait until dawn, if you haven’t returned by then...”
“I’m as good as dead. I get it, Poe.”
“Well, also we can’t be having two ships linger suspiciously off an island like that either. We can sail back in a few days if you aren’t back by dawn.”
Rey frowned, chewing at the inside of her cheek. “I find it suspiciously convenient that the weird map suddenly indicated only two could make the journey, but fine.”
“Good girl,” Poe told her, patting her gently on the cheek, making her reel back.
“I will push you off of this boat, Poe,” she growled, and, when Hux snorted in amusement, she sat up, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees and glaring at the red-head. “You first though, eh?”
“What did I do?!” Hux cried, paddles slapping against the water.
“Would you pay attention!” Kylo grumbled, leaning over just far enough to cuff the back of Hux’s head.
“Piss off!” Hux cried, swatting Kylo’s arm away, and Rey sighed as she watched the paddle slip into the water.
“Oi, nice going there, Hugs,” Poe taunted, rolling his eyes and turning back around to keep an eye on where they needed to be going now that the commotion was over.
Rey absolutely smothered her laugh with a cough when Kylo leaned over and pulled the paddle from the water, smacking Hux in the head with it as he handed it over.
The small boat scraped along the jagged corals that lurked beneath the surface several times, making all of the passengers wince and hold their breath until the moment passed.
Poe jumped from the ship several feet from shore, tow rope in hand as he pulled them up the beach. Rey disembarked as soon as she felt sand against their hull; alone, she made her way out of the ocean to take a brief look at the island. The sand stretched out on either side of her, dazzlingly white as the sun reflected off of it before the shoreline curved out of sight, giving way to the crystalline blue waters breaking onto the beach. Beyond the dunes, trees rose in dense clusters, giving way to out-of-place grass and craggy mountains. With dread settling into her stomach, she felt she could wager a guess at the direction she and Kylo would need to be heading.
“Rey,” Poe spoke, coming up beside her. “Two dawns, then Hux and are I going back to the ships, and we’ll have to try to circle back within the week.”
“It’s going to be fine, Poe,” she told him with false bravado.
“Right. Of course it will be,” he agreed quickly before carefully handing over The Devil’s Heart and the map. “Don’t let them out of your sight, no matter what, Rey. You cannot let Kylo get them. I do not trust him.”
Rey bit her lip to keep from laughing as she took the items and tucked them carefully away.
Poe’s mouth opened, looking like he wanted to say more, but his eyes flickered over her shoulder, and the sound of sand shifting beneath booted feet gave Kylo away. “Soon,” Poe said, clapping her on the shoulder before he moved over to help Hux.
She glanced briefly up at Kylo, and he gave her a short nod.
They stood stiffly next to one another, watching as Poe and Hux pulled the dinghy further onto shore and began making a small camp. “Well, captain, let’s be off,” Rey sighed, turning away from a bickering Hux and Poe to look up at Kylo, her thumb tracing the edges of The Devil’s Heart.
She saw Kylo’s head bob in a nod, lip curling. “Lead the way, Rey.”
Poe paused in his work long enough to give her a quick wave of farewell, and then she turned away, trekking over the small stretch of sand and plunging into the underbrush and palm trees. He was quiet behind her, and she was grateful for that at least, but it was unsustainable. It was inevitable that he would speak to her, and her hand clenched tight around the stone at the thought.
Rustling came from the branches above her, and Rey tipped her head back to see if anything could be seen. A brilliant pink plumage was visible flitting through the treetops, a loud call accompanying it as it took off in flight.
“Please tell me we aren’t traveling through the trees the whole time,” Kylo grumbled from behind her, and Rey stopped walking to turn and face him with a frown.
“No, I’m trying to get through because what we need is on the other side of the island. If you want though, we can,” she told him cheekily, falsely bright smile on display.
“Give me The Devil’s Heart,” he growled instead, holding his hand out towards her.
“No!” she cried, clutching it close to her chest. “The deal was for after.” He opened his mouth to speak, but she stuck out a finger, jabbing it into his chest and he flinched away. “I know the deal, Kylo, so don’t even try to deny it. Now, let's go. I want to get home as soon as possible.”
She pulled out the paper that functioned as a map and frowned down at it. “Looks like we need to head over there,” she told him after a moment, pointing up at a rocky ridge. “This island makes no sense,” she muttered to herself, looking around. The island lacked all of the typical tropical flora and fauna, the sand dunes giving way to lush grasses sloping up the hillside, spare trees scattered here and there.
“We should travel on the beach,” Kylo supplied, looking over her shoulder at the map.
Her body tensed before she gave a quick nod and started striding off to the east.
“So we’re just going to do this the whole time we’re here?” he asked after walking for a while in silence.
“That was my plan, yes. Why are you here, Kylo?” she asked wearily.
“Why are you?”
“Because my captain commands it, because he thinks for some reason this is what Han would have wanted.”
“As if that fool would know what my f- what Han would have wanted,” he scoffed before reeling back as Rey spun, lunging into his space.
“You do not get to say his name. Murderous snake,” she snarled, fists clenched at her sides, The Devil’s Heart biting into her skin.
“Yet you are not denying it.”
“I do not know what he wanted this stupid thing for. He never mentioned it again after the night I stole it. Only asked to be sure I put it in the proper place.”
The look he leveled at her was calculating, smirk flirting with his mouth as he took her and her rage in. “I would wager he knew a fair bit more than Dameron. Who is under the delusion that there’s treasure to be found here.”
“I do not care.” Rey rolled her eyes before pushing through the last of the palms and emerging back out into the sun on the sandy shore of the far side of the island.
“Did he teach you to navigate?” Kylo asked, trying yet again for conversation that Rey ignored in favor of searching for the path they next needed to take. “I would wager a guess you are valuable to have around. What with actually knowing how to read and write.”
“Your guess would be correct, sir,” she grumbled before turning and shoving the map at him. “We’re here.”
His hands flew to his chest, scrambling to grasp the paper before frowning down at it and then looking around at their location. “No? There’s no- ah, I see.” He nodded. “So here we are.”
“Aye. So let’s get this over with.”
“Rey, please,” he beseeched her once more to stay behind, “you can’t, there are tales of this place. Do you not know them?” he asked, arms folded over his broad chest as they faced off across the small stretch of sand that butted up against the craggy rocks of this part of the island, revealing a small trail that led to the underground.
“Of course I know them,” she replied, eyes raking over his figure before she turned on her heel and stalked off down the path that, as long as the map was true, would lead towards their destination.
“Then you’ll know you can’t!” He sounded frustrated, and Rey smothered a laugh as she tightened the belt at her waist, springing lightly from rock to path, back to rock again before it leveled out to reveal rough-hewn steps leading steeply down the cliffside.
“Rey, please listen.”
“I still owe you nothing, you wretch.”
“Good; then you won’t have to worry about killing me yourself.”
“I would never - Rey.”
“Spare me your pathetic lies, Kylo. I watched you murder your own father, and now you expect me to believe you wouldn’t do the same to me?”
“I could have killed you, back on that ship. I still could, right here, right now.”
Ahead of him, Rey scoffed. “Nothing is stopping you other than that voice in the back of your head telling you I will beat you again,” she taunted, waiting for the trail to level out and away from these cursedly awkward stairs. Why Kylo failed to respond, she carried on. “You know, I’m confused. You’re worried about me dying from jumping into this hole, but yet you’re telling me you can kill me. You either want me dead or you don’t.”
“I-I don’t want to see you die by something I could prevent.”
“No? You’d rather be the cause of it? What a charmer you are. And to think I always wondered why there was no lovelorn maiden weeping over the loss of your pending betrothal when you died.”
“You cannot do this,” Kylo finally muttered after a few paces of silence; Rey liked to imagine the pout on his face as he stalked behind her.
“And I cannot trust you to not go back on our bargain, so as loath as I am to spend more time than necessary in your delightful presence, I find I have no other choice,” she declared, short-lived relief flowing through her as the stairs ended. Before her stretched a broad swath of dark rock; she couldn’t tell if it was naturally black or if the water that washed over it merely gave it the appearance of the color.
“This will kill you, Rey. It’s not an easy journey.” She heard him sigh heavily before he continued slowly. “One - one must be what I am,” he told her, ridiculously ominous as always.
“Hmm, yes, something you still haven’t explained to me yet,” she mused, feet crunching over red seaweed as she approached the gaping maw that led to the depths of the Cavern of Lost Words. “How far of a fall do you think this is?” she wondered out loud, dropping a stray pebble down. When she finally heard it plop quietly into the water, she turned slowly to look at Kylo. “And you’re sure there’s a way out that doesn’t involve attempting to climb back up to here?”
“I’m sure,” came Kylo’s reluctant reply from where he had trudged up beside her. “I still can’t let you do this.”
“You are exhausting, Kylo, trying to tell me what you think I can and cannot do. You think the fact that we kissed once, that I lived with you for a handful of years entitles you to any semblance of control over my actions. That was a long time ago. I loved your family. They became my own, even when I did not deserve them.” She stared down into the pitch black beneath their feet, reaching for her necklace and taking a deep breath. “And I loved Ben Solo, but you are not him.”
“Twice,” he blurted, like a fool.
Her footing faltered on the edge as she turned to look at him. “What?”
“You said we kissed once. It was twice,” he muttered and Rey felt as though she could rip her hair from her head in anger and frustration, but instead, screamed with her mouth held shut, teeth clenched as she paced away from him. “You will die,” he told her plainly before she could say anything to refute his statement.
“Insufferable git,” she muttered. “When I come back from this, I will delight in telling everyone that the fearsome Captain Kylo Ren was concerned for my safety; perhaps his heart is not as black as the tales say.”
“I know the stories, and I am not afraid. I am going; you cannot stop me.”
“You cannot hope to make the journey safely. I told you, you have to be what I am.”
“But there’s another way, is there not?” she asked, facing him, lips turning up with a feral smirk.
She watched him gape at her before swallowing with a hesitant nod. “There is one other way,” he said gruffly. “A mermaid’s kiss.”
“Good, then we both have the means,” she said. “I’ll see you at the bottom.” And then she jumped.
Thank you so much for reading, and for all of the kudos and subscriptions and lovely comments you've been leaving. I know one on one Reylo time has been slow in coming, but I hope the pay off in this chapter...and the next!...make it worth it.
I was challenged months ago to fit the word 'fisticuffs' into something I was writing, and lucky me I was writing something that lent itself to its use. With origins sometime in the 1600s I couldn't not use it (you better believe I looked it up), and I loved using it so much it's gonna show up again.
Rey felt like she had been falling for longer than was reasonable, but when she finally hit the bottom and splashed beneath the water, it was all she could do not to inhale. It was freezing. Kicking, she pushed herself to the surface and spun in a slow circle, listening to the way the water splashed against the rock walls of the cave.
Kylo splashed down moments later, sending water into her face again.
“Are you alright?” he asked as soon as he surfaced.
“Never better,” she said, teeth beginning to chatter as she squinted in the darkness trying to see him. Kylo began swimming closer to her; she could hear it in the way he displaced the water around him, which only made her try to tread backwards to avoid him. “Don’t,” she hissed, barely dodging his hand. “Let’s just find whatever we need and get out of here.”
“Fine,” he growled, clearly offended, but Rey didn’t care. It was easier when he was mad; Ben slipped through his cracks less often that way. “It looks like there’s a spot over here.”
“You can see down here?” she asked, incredulous, barely able to make out his amorphous form in the dark. High above her, looking as small as the moon from down here, was the hole they had jumped through.
“Yes, now come.”
She let him take her hand this time. She pulled herself up onto the slippery rock, teeth still chattering, her whole body shuddering. “This isn’t right,” she sniffed, wrapping her hands around herself, rubbing up and down her arms trying to get warm. It had been so hot she was sweating on the island, and now, now...
Cold. The kind of cold that immediately steals the breath from your lungs. The kind of cold that plunges her into an almost forgotten memory.
A grey sky, with low and heavy clouds, the scent of snow on the air. Winter was early. The excited chatter of her fellow pickpockets, the general din of life beyond them. Feet carefully sliding over ice. A crack, a breath, a fall.
“Rey - Rey?” Kylo was in front of her suddenly, and she jumped in surprise. “What happened? Where did you go?”
She hopped a few times and glanced around. “I was thinking about that time...” Her voice wobbled, teeth still clacking together. “Th-the time I f-fell into the Thames in w-winter.” Then she laughed. “I remember th-thinking that was the end. P-poor little pickp-pocket, couldn’t even swim. F-fuck. I should have died then.” She sniffed, wiping the back of her hand under her nose. “I m-might die now anyway, and isn’t that just a laugh. An entire ocean away.”
“I will not let that happen.” His voice was hard, and Rey could just make out the black of his eyepatch in the pale surface of his face. He was staring right at her. “Strip.”
“I beg your pardon!”
“Ah-ah,” he drawled, catching her fist as it came at him. “I believe you promised Poe no fisticuffs.”
“To hell with what Poe wanted with a suggestion like that.”
“Why do you always insist on being so bloody stubborn? Fine.” He released her, and Rey pulled her arm back towards her chest. “I’m trying to keep you safe,” he grunted, and Rey’s ears strained to hear what he was doing because he had turned away from her now, and he was just a black void among the darkness.
“What a crock of shite,” she huffed, turning away from him and stuffing her hand into her pocket, breathing a sigh of relief when she found The Devil’s Heart still tucked away.
“What?” Kylo asked, and Rey’s eyes widened, ears pricking at the sound of something hitting the ground.
“You said my name.”
“No? What do you mean ‘no’? You just whispered it - you just did it again!” she accused, spinning back around, and oh, she could see him now. “Ben, what the hell?” She slapped a hand over her eyes.
“You need to get out of your wet clothes, they’re not doing you any favors. You won’t get dry. And I have not said your name.”
“So, what, I’m hearing things? Making it up?”
“I do not know, but Rey, please.”
“Fine,” she huffed, pulling her hand from her pocket, and oh, that was new. A soft yellow light was now emitting from the very center of The Devil’s Heart, pulsing faintly.
Her name came again with a small blooming of the light.
“What are you doing?” Kylo asked, coming closer as she held the stone up to her ear.
“I think it’s the stone,” she whispered.
“That’s ridiculous. Stones don’t speak.”
“I heard it before!” she gasped in realization.
“As I said, it wasn’t me, but-”
“No, on the ship. Shhh,” she hushed him, still holding it tight to her ear, but nothing else came, and she sagged. The prideful part of her wanted to refuse to comply with his idea, but deep in her gut she knew he was right.
She waited, counted to ten, feeling rivulets of water snake down her legs into her boots and the way her soaked shirt clung to every part of her skin, and then finally conceded. “Fine, clothes off, but the first time I feel your little snake, I’m chopping it off,” she conceded, numb fingers quickly working at her belt.
“I would hardly call it little,” Kylo scoffed and then cleared his throat at the glare Rey shot in his direction. “As you wish.”
“No looking,” Rey told him, thumbs tucked into her pants, ready to push them down. She waited for him to turn and then quickly disrobed. “Now what - do not turn back around.”
“We have to touch, Rey.”
“Then you can die down here.”
“I hate you.”
He didn’t speak for some time, and Rey took a hesitant step in his direction. When his voice finally did come, it was slightly melancholy. “It has been noted, but I appreciate the reminder.”
“Good. Now what?” she asked, nearly upon him now.
“I - uh, well, you, we need to lay down.”
“We need to touch, and before you get mad, I don’t mean,” he cleared his throat and his voice almost dropped too low for her to hear, “like lovers.”
“What do you mean then?”
“We will get warmer if we are touching.”
“Fine,” Rey huffed. “My front to your back.”
“That-” She watched his shoulders heave with a breath. “That is fine.” Then he sank down to the ground, and Rey inched closer to his body before sinking to her knees.
“Don’t look,” she hissed when he rolled slightly.
“You absolute knave,” she grunted, easing down to lie next to him.
“I’ve been called worse,” he sighed.
“Now what?” Rey asked, staring at the broad planes of his back.
“Get closer; we have to be touching. Wrap your arms around me.”
“I truly dislike this,” she grumbled before getting it over with quickly, pressing her upper body flush against his back and throwing an arm over his stomach. She shivered at the contact. “You’re freezing!” she cried, trying to pull back, but he had her arm now and held her fast.
“As are you. Just give it some time, you’ll warm.”
She grunted in displeasure but laid there, stiff and as still as she could be while still shivering. It took some time, but gradually she began to warm, and she hated that he was right.
“Did you see anything? A path to take at all?” she whispered eventually.
“No,” he grunted. “What about the map?”
“The map only gets you to the cave.”
“Well, it worked.”
“The Devil’s Heart,” she said. “That’s the key.”
“Well, when you find the door, let me know,” he groused, and behind him, Rey rolled her eyes.
“You are supposed to be dead,” she spoke up again after another long stretch of silence, and Kylo sighed. “How did you escape?”
“I spoke true, there is so much you do not understand. I could show you all of it.”
“What does that mean?” she hissed, her anger beginning to warm her. “You said that to me before, and I-”
“Rey,” he whispered, interrupting her building tirade, and she flinched against him. “Rey, I cannot be killed because I am already dead.”
“Is this some kind of joke to you?” She reeled back from him, wishing her sword wasn’t so far away.
“No.” Rey let out a small yelp when he rolled over to face her, her hands moving to cover her chest. “Shh, Rey, please, I want - I need to look at you when I tell you this.”
She took in the earnest expression on his scarred face and sighed, “fine. Tell me.”
“Rey. I died before we ever even reached Spain.”
She knew this. In her heart and soul she knew this. She could vividly recall being there when the news finally reached the Organa-Solo home. The sounds of crying late at night Leia tried to keep quiet, the hell that had broken loose when Han finally returned home. A wound not nearly healed enough, ripped open all over again.
She sucked in a sharp breath. “What?”
He reached out and settled a palm high on her chest, carefully avoiding her breast. “I can feel your heartbeat. Here, feel.” And he dragged her hand, clutched tight around the stone still, to his own chest. She pressed her fist there and choked back a sob. There was nothing.
“You were cold,” she whispered, “when we met again. On Tortuga, you were cold.”
“After, when I went back, I couldn’t get warm.”
“Death lingers,” he whispered into the quiet, and Rey shivered, hearing his voice echo around the cave.
“I don’t understand. You’ve aged.”
“A little, perhaps.”
“How, how are you still here?”
“Can you break it?” she asked. “What would happen if you did?”
“That’s why I’m here, Rey. There’s no physical treasure down here. No spoils you can take back to split amongst your crew. That’s why I did not want you to come.” His hand moved, sliding up to cup her face, pushing back her wet hair. “You should not be here.”
“Aye, well, I find I end up in a lot of places I shouldn’t,” she scoffed. “If I die down here-” she began and then cleared her throat, “if I die down here, will I end up like you?”
“No. Not here.” He spoke softly, and Rey breathed a sigh of relief before jolting when she heard her name again, this time coming from behind Kylo, who tensed against her.
“You heard it that time!” she accused, punching lightly against his chest.
“No, I heard my name.” He rolled away from her and stood. “Follow me.”
“Rey,” he growled, and she huffed, standing too and following behind him.
Louder and faster her name came, drawing her deeper in, away from the water and she hoped towards answers. “A dead end,” she sighed, drawing up next to Kylo.
“Not a dead end; look closer.”
It happened between one breath and the next. One moment she was in the dark cave, and the next she was somewhere other. Endless images of herself stretched before her, and when she turned, there she was, infinite. She lifted a hand, turned it this way and that, and watched in awe as every image did the same. Hesitantly, she snapped. It was like an echo but somehow not, the sound speeding away from her only to come up and catch her from behind.
Rey. There was that damn voice again, and she spun around looking for something.
“Hello?” she called. “Kylo...Ben?” She took a steadying breath. She could do this, whatever this was. She’d dealt with weird, she knew weird. In her hand The Devil’s Heart began to vibrate. Slowly unfurling her fingers, she and all of her copies gasped, or maybe it was just her own voice, echoing in this endless place. It sat, looking deceptively innocent as the light within it continued to bloom and pulse.
“What do you want, stupid thing?” she hissed, willing it to spill its secrets into her palm. The light grew brighter, vibrating faster, beginning to bounce gently in her hand now. Quickly, she clasped her fingers tight over it, not wanting to lose it. With a steadying breath, she met the stare of her own reflection. It had been some time since she had seen herself in a surface that wasn’t rippling water, let alone all of her. In some far part of her mind, she knew she had grown, had seen the evidence in the way filched pants became short, the way she grew into and then out of her boots, the way she no longer struggled with climbing the rigging. She was aware of it in the way she barely had to shift onto her toes when she had kissed Ben all those months ago, the way she had been able to hold her own against him in that fight.
She had none of the softness to her body Leia did, or any of the ladies of society. Her body was one that had seen work, and sun, and violence. It looked strong, but she could still see that starving pickpocket she had once been. Taking two steps closer, her breath ghosted across the reflective surface, obscuring her face for a moment before it dissipated.
The voice calling her name was silent now; only her own echoing breath could be heard. This was some sort of trick, it had to be. “Show me,” she whispered, raising a shaking palm to the smooth surface. “Show me the way.” The Devil’s Heart finally stilled as her fingertips gently touched the strange rock in front of her before she pressed her entire palm flat against it. Immediately, all of the copies of herself flickered out of existence, but there, moving through the darkness behind the wall, was something. A shadow, drifting closer, a looming, shapeless thing, gradually morphing into more. A man.
“Ben!” she gasped when the shape finally became solid. His own hand dwarfed hers on the other side of this strange mirror glass. He opened his mouth to speak and then was swept away like a wisp of smoke.
Rey reeled back feeling the sting of tears in her eyes and yelped when she was caught by a pair of strong arms. Scrambling, she turned, fists at the ready, only to come face to chest with Kylo.
“What are you playing at?” she growled, head tilting back just enough to level the force of her glare at him before pushing wildly at his chest. “Let go of me!” He did so immediately, arms falling to his sides, and she took a step out of his space. “What was that?” she asked, voice trembling as her lungs raced to pull in breath.
She watched his mouth open and close several times before finally snapping shut, jaw rolling. Rey brushed past him quickly, chest now heaving with quick breaths. If she could focus on one thing, she thought desperately, maybe she wouldn’t cry. Her shirt was still wet, closer to damp than dry, but she quickly tossed it on. It fell down to her thighs, and she took several more steadying breaths, pressing the heels of her hands against her eyes and willing herself not to cry. Not here, not now, and not in front of him.
“What. Was. That,” she demanded, spinning to face him once she felt composed enough to do so. He had been, well, Ben, in the mirror. The Ben that might have lived on the country estate, who would have married a beautiful woman and had beautiful children. The Ben who had an easy smile and kind eyes and hid his ears that he never grew into behind long hair, neatly trimmed.
Her eyes raked over Kylo’s form, her eyes finally adjusted to the light. He was all tightly corded muscle and surprisingly pale skin, maybe not so surprising now that she knew what she did. His one good eye was hard to get a read on, and his lips were always set in a grim line. So far removed from the image she had seen that it made her heart ache.
“What did you see?” he asked, not shying away from her blatant perusal of his form. Brave, for a man whom she had threatened not that long ago.
“Where did you go? Did you see something?”
“There’s strange magic down here.” His voice rumbled before echoing around the cave. “I have only heard whispers of it, never paid much mind to it, much less thought it to be true.”
“You thought it wasn’t real? You, who are some kind of magic himself? Kylo, please.”
“I am not magic.” His voice was hard, and Rey flinched at the anger in his tone. “I saw you.” If the cave didn’t magnify and echo everything he said, she probably would have missed it. His words stayed there suspended between them, and she wanted to know more but sensed he wouldn’t give it.
“I saw you too, for only a moment,” she finally confessed, voice just barely able to be heard. “I asked for the way out.”
“Did you get your answer?” he asked, turning back and pressing his hand against the wall.
“No.” Her teeth were chattering again. She could hear Kylo pacing the length of the far wall as she sank back to the ground and pulled her knees tightly to her chest. Slowly, she revealed the rock again, still and unmoving as a rock should be, but glowing.
She slept but had no memory of drifting off. She came gasping awake with tears in her eyes and a memory just out of reach.
“You were dreaming.” Kylo spoke quietly into the dark, but his whisper echoed around the chamber like something from a nightmare. “What were you dreaming about?”
Belatedly, she noticed she was tucked against his side, her head on his unmoving chest. “You’re cold,” she whispered instead and felt his hum of an answer rumble through his chest.
“I no longer dream, nor do I sleep. I merely exist. I suppose I do daydream from time to time.”
She clenched her jaw to keep from asking what he daydreamed about because she didn’t care. She would tuck this lie safely away and deny it as long as she could bear it.
Instead, she rolled away from him onto her back, staring up, wondering what the hell the answer to this puzzle was.
“Why?” she croaked, hand reaching up to grasp at the necklace.
“You’ll have to be more specific, Rey,” Kylo groaned, and she watched him sit up from the corner of her eye, his pale alabaster skin bright in the darkness, her eyes able to trace the lines of the scars littering his bicep and chest.
“Why did you kill him?”
Silence stretched between them, only broken by Rey’s rattling breaths and the sounds of water hitting the rocks. Beside her, Kylo sighed. The silence stretched on.
Thank you, all of you beautiful readers out there, for reading, and leaving comments and kudos.
Told ya fisticuffs would make another appearance...