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What We Do in the Firelight

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Her hands are scraped with scrambling up the rockface out of the heaving, stomach-churning pool beneath the island, seething and sickening with its greasy sheen. Thin skeins of blood leak along the cracks in her palms, flowering like delicate red threads. She fists her hands, and her nails skid. But the pain is good. It jars away her mind from that subterranean chasm. From its reflections of the fogged glass.

The mirror.

“Show me my parents.” My past and my future, she’d pleaded. But when mist had cleared from the shape before her, she’d seen only herself. Her face. Freckled and pale with cold. Lips bitten. Eyelashes stuck together with saltwater. She’d seen nothing.

Loneliness bursts in her chest as she climbs from the cave, clinging to the salt-crusted rocks, up towards a storm-rent sky darker even than the pitchy cavern she leaves behind below. It quakes through her ribcage, a tidal wave more powerful than the restless ocean currents thundering through the seaweed-slicked grotto. Contracting and pulsing, alien and familiar, it hurts. So much. It hurts more than her fiercely aching hands, than the bone-deep cold paralyzing her muscles as she struggles to climb, to heave up her wet and leaden body. Nothing. It’s nothing, a phantom, and it’s killing her. It will shatter her if she doesn’t release it, purge it from herself with screaming against the storm battering the wind-torn, skeletal island. Scream as she’s screamed for days of sandstorms on Jakku, howling in misery and desperate, relentless loneliness...

A furious, exhausted push of calves and shoulders, and Rey finally heaves herself over the cavern’s lip, panting too hard to cry out.

But then she drags herself to her knees, to her feet, and she runs. Even before she can breathe again, she runs. She can’t outrun this thing inside her, but she runs just the same. Runs up the treacherous, rain-slicked steps where she’d followed Master Skywalker, begging him with silence and persistence to teach her. Show me my place in all this. But he’s given her nothing. Nothing real. Nothing to clutch and hold onto when she’s shattering, a black hole devouring her from the inside out, her chest caving in between her breasts so that she’s almost surprised to see her wet nipples pebbling through her tunic when she glances down in panic.

Nothing.

She runs. The island melts into mud beneath her pounding feet. She runs for what seems like hours, while lightning crashes around her, jagged slivers of silver and screaming white shredding the thunderclouds. Is she screaming now? She can’t hear herself over the lowering thunder, shaking the island’s very foundations.

It’s coming apart, and so is she.

But she runs up another set of rock-cut stairs, half-falling down the other side, because that’s all she can do. There’s no one here—the Jedi has cut himself off from the Force, he won’t help her, no one has ever helped her, no one has ever listened to her, there’s no one—and she runs until she’s circumnavigated the entire island. Gripping her knees against a searing stitch in her side, she’s come full circle, back to the caretakers’ huddled stone huts. The Jedi’s dented metal door is closed against her.

Like always.

She’s alone.

Defeated and exhausted, everything that makes this bundle of flesh and bone Rey disintegrating like a badly sewn garment, she drags herself into the hut she’s appropriated for her body and her things. Not hers. She knows this. Clumsy with cold and pain, her hands shiver while she struggles to strike flint into fire. Her sopping hair drips into burgeoning sparks in the firepit, extinguishing them. She tries again. Again. And again, until at last, light catches and pushes back the howling, spitting darkness inch by inch.

Victory.

It’s hollow. The fire’s tiny bloom of warmth can’t reach the empty ache in her chest. It would be better if she hadn’t lighted it at all. Just lost herself to the dark side, like Master Skywalker thinks she will. But Rey can’t summon up the will—or is it courage?—to snuff the flames she’s coaxed. Instead, she wraps herself in a nubbly, homespun blanket from her satchel, and she sits. She stares at nothing in the shifting, blue-hearted fire, her mind an empty, echoing blank.

Nothing, nothing, nothing...

...except that her mind isn’t empty. Deep in the furthermost pit of her skull, a minuscule, trembling lance of heat rises. She closes her eyes, too tired to fight that flowering warmth. Not even wanting to. Surrendering, she lets it grow and blossom, vibrating through her mind and flesh. She waits until every neuron hums with proximity, with danger, with something—and then she raises her eyes again.

He’s here. Seated across from her, like he’s perched on a carved wooden cask she’s been using for a makeshift table. He isn’t, she knows. He’s not here. He’s not sitting in this Ahch-To hut just beyond the flames she’s conjured. His black eyes are not golden as topaz in the firelight.

She’s alone.

Somehow, she tells him this. Because what does it matter? He’s not really here. She tells him about the cave with a voice in her mind that isn’t a voice. Thrumming along this...bond that binds them closer than any shackles. She doesn’t have to speak aloud. She doesn’t have to speak about her own face materializing through the fog, some revelation that she neither wants nor understands. She offers the sharp visions to him in an outpouring of exhaustion and despair, and he watches her, unblinking.

Words, images—they flow on, a riptide dragging them from her until she’s empty, even emptier than before, she’s nothing, and she has to speak aloud now, to remind herself that she’s anything but the darkened nebula flamed out of existence that she feels in the hollow of her chest...

“I’d never felt so alone,” she whispers.

He looks back at her. He hesitates. And he says, with his soft, broken voice and his golden eyes, “You’re not alone.”

Those aureate irises—she witnesses herself reflecting in them. Somehow, impossible. She eclipses the fire and sees herself there within his mind.

Within his loneliness.

So lonely.

“Neither are you.” Suddenly, she’s desperate for touch—her desperation or his, Rey doesn’t know. So lonely. I’m so lonely. Me. You. Us. And please.

Slowly, half-terrified, the pouring rain seeming to drum through her skin, through her very soul, replacing her blood with seething water and her bones with ground-trembling thunder, she releases the corner of the blanket she’s clutched across her chest. Her fingers unfurl from their tight clutch, a single bloodied rose in her palm from the stone-scraped skin. Rey extends her hand. Flames warm the underside of her wrist. She trembles, and the fickle firelight paints her skin.

Ben’s eyes flicker down, skimming over her offered hand. Again, he hesitates. Waiting for her. Asking. She holds his gaze when it returns to hers. Answering. Please.

Ever so slowly, even more slowly than she’s opened herself, he draws off a single black glove. It falls from his fingers to another floor, a million light years away from this moment. Delicate grooves from the leather have marked the back of his hand. Tiny lines of scarring trace his knuckles. His skin is pale, almost paler than the scarred snakes patterning his fingers and wrists from countless breaks and burns. Pale as bone, so different from Rey’s own sun-bronzed body. Pale as the moon, a point of brilliance in the night’s most perfect darkness.

Ben.

His fingertips hover a breath from hers over the fire, a fine current of air whispering between them. It speaks, this wind, murmuring a language that Rey doesn’t know. It urges her onwards with a seraphic, aching sound, almost like music. She wants to understand its meaning. So badly. Understanding will fill the void in her chest, the hollow pit of her stomach, will fill them both until they flame more brightly than the moon, than the fire, even than the sun. Iridescent and perfect.

Yes.

In that sweet, keening moment, their fingers brush.

Rey’s lips part on a gasp. Oh. Oh. She sees. Ben Solo. Herself. The cave’s greasy green mirror. Everything. Together. A kaleidoscope of color and sound rushing against her ears and her irises, imprinting on every cell in her body. Too swift to recognize, too certain to mistake. The shape of it—a future. His. Hers. It’s...theirs. A tiny hand. How, or when...but she knows.

A tear glides down her cheek with her longing—painful and pleasurable. Nearly delirious. Mine. Everything.

She wants it. More than she’s ever wanted anything. Rey wants this.

“Ben,” she says, and it’s a plea.

He speaks her name—the first time, or a murmur she’s heard on the edge of waking for all her life. His other hand raises, denuded of its glove somehow, and his thumb swipes over her cheekbone, catching the tear on his finger’s callused pad. Awkward, her skin rough with sun and his with fighting.

Tender.

Uncertain.

If he’s seen what she has, then he must know how she...but he hesitates for the third time, his fingertips brushing against hers, his thumb hovering over her cheek. So Rey leans forward into the curve of his palm. Force, his hands are large; he cups her jaw from chin to temple. They should terrify her, those hands.

But she’s not alone. And she isn’t afraid.

Ben’s breath hitches. His fingers curl, nails parting strands of damp, loosened hair spiraling over her ear. They skitter against her scalp. Rey shivers.

Something inside me has always been there. Now it’s awake.

“Ben,” she says again.

But I’m not afraid.

Rey slips her hand forward until her palm is flush against his. She closes her fingers over Ben’s wrist.

His glorious golden eyes—she’s seen them laughing now, seen them wet with wonder without knowing the how or why, but she’s seen—flicker down at the deepening contact between them. His mouth trembles, ruddy and full in the flamelight. Every mole on his cheeks and forehead, every eyelash—damp, like her own—is bared. Without his mask, he’s laid open to her. Beautiful.

Mine.

“I…” His breath catches again. His lips fold in against themselves. Desperate and wary, his eyes meet hers.

“Don’t be afraid,” she whispers. “I feel it, too.”

His own words. Her words now. Theirs.

Rey fastens her grip over his wrist, exerting the slightest pressure, like she’s trying to coax a live wire free from a sand-sunken Star Destroyer without sending electricity spitting through her skin. He yields to her, softly, easy as falling.

“I’ve never…”

“I know.” She hasn’t, either. But it doesn’t matter. Previous experiences would only taint this moment between them with shadows of others. There is no one else, and they are not alone.

Rey has seen the ways that men and women grasp each other with mouths and hands and greedy tongues. Alleyways. Holovids. She knows what to do. If she’s clumsy, she’s equally eager and determined, breaching the distance between them in a headlong rush. Their noses bump, jarring a sudden pressure over the ridged cartilage and through their cheekbones.

But she finds his mouth with hers.

Ben’s lips are warm. She can feel him swallow. She’s off her balance, leaning precariously over the firepit with flames heating the undersides of her breasts through her tunic, the rough fabric hot almost to the point of pain. He doesn’t move. Startled. Half-wary, though it’s she who’s risked her pride to come to him, chasing what she wants. What she needs.

He’s very still.

And...aroused.

Rey holds her position.

After an eternity—a single breath—his mouth shifts against hers, lips parting. “Help me.”

Pleading with her.

Rey nods. She withdraws, brushing the stinging heat from her tunic’s cloth with her palms. Ben’s eyes follow the pattern of her fingers across her belly, her breasts. She slows her gestures, leaning into her hands. As a seduction, it’s ungainly and ungraceful. But she doesn’t care.

Neither of them know any better than what they have right here. Right now.

Whatever she does, it will be right.

The blanket falls from her shoulders, slithering over the curve of her back to the hut’s uneven stone flooring. She leaves it there. Unmarked, vanished, like Ben’s gloves. It doesn’t matter. She approaches him now, her tunic thin with dampness from the cave’s pool and nearly translucent in the fay firelight. Her nipples have pebbled once more, but not with cold. Ben’s eyes fasten upon them. Again, his lips roll.

Something low in her belly tightens, a warm coil nestling between her thighs at the sight of his folding mouth. She tucks her fingers under her trousers’ waistband. The fabric clings to her skin, but she’s persistent, dragging it down over her hips. She meets an impediment in her boots, which requires an awkward moment of unbuckling and kicking, but finally she steps free, bare-footed. Her tunic is long enough to cover her upper legs and the curve of her bottom, but she feels the heat from the flames so much more strongly now. It ghosts along her calves, over the backs of her knees, quivering up her thighs to her hemline. And beyond.

Her naked feet make no sound on the stones as she crosses to Ben. His hands are flattened against his legs, fingers shaking as she comes to him. He makes no move to touch her. But for those shivering fingers, he doesn’t move at all. Only his eyes flicker, darting and almost frightened.

So Rey reaches out to him instead, fingers finding the frogging on his black, quilted surcoat. Her nails catch against his throat where the collar is fastened nearly to his chin, a severe, restrictive garment that seems to choke him while she works. He trembles, eyes closing. He doesn’t ask her to stop, and she doesn’t. Moving lower, she parts the coat over his chest, exposing a thin black undershirt and the straps of suspenders. These contraptions hook into the high-waisted trousers she’d glimpsed when the Force bond had opened unexpectedly between them, offering a view she’d not wanted of him standing bare-chested before her, making her breath catch and her cheeks flame under her freckles and tanning. Her fingertips skim against his waistband, but then she turns her attention to tugging the surcoat back over his shoulders, freeing his arms.

Liberated from the coat, his wrists dangle awkwardly at his sides. Unsure of what to do.

She seems to know his garments better than he does, easing the suspender straps over his shoulders after the surcoat and drawing the undershirt over his head. It catches beneath his chin and on the curves of his enormous ears, but somehow, his hair emerges unscathed by Rey’s abrasive tugging.

His chest—bared. A circular burn from her saber marks his left shoulder. They’d fought in that snowy forest, all rage and desperation, hurting each other. Not knowing. The scar from her slash across his face traces down his cheek, along his neck, meandering in a poorly healed line over his right pectoral. She hovers her fingers over it, drawing the scar’s pattern. Barely not touching him.

Words burst from him then, from his stillness. Babbling, as frantic as his speech to her in the forest. “Touch me. Please. Please, Rey. Touch me.”

Lowering her fingertips to the curve of his neck, she does. She curls her fingers across his clavicles.

Ben draws a ragged breath. “Oh.”

Leaving behind a tiny thread of blood from her shredded cuticles, she dips deeper along his chest, still only just grazing her nails over him…

All at once, Ben’s head snaps up, topaz irises boring into her. His hand flies from his thigh to cover hers, spreading her palm and fingers against him. Full contact. Rey shivers.

He’s burning.

And she only now realizes how cold she is.

Rey pushes her other hand into his shoulder, too. Both hands, leaning her weight into them, into his heat. To keep his balance on the wobbly little cask, or whatever he’s sitting on, light years away aboard the Supremacy, Ben’s fingers find the fire-warmed backs of her thighs. But Rey’s still too cold. She shifts closer, more of his searing palms spreading to shelter her skin. Nestled between his knees, her own knees bumping his chest. Ungainly. Mine.

For once, she towers over him like this. Powerful. She makes a choice. Or follows through on a choice made hours ago; she doesn’t know. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that she braces a palm against his shoulder while she fumbles herself free of her twice-wrapped belt. And then she rips her tunic over her head.

Naked. Unembarrassed. Glowing.

He freezes again. Shame. Desire.

“Ben,” she calls him. Rey reaches back for his wrists and slides his hands up her thighs, over her bottom’s curve, to the small of her back where two dimples cup his gigantic fingers. Home. She remembers this. Forward-remembers. His hands. This way.

Perhaps he also does, because his fingers soften from their stiff posture. They stroke through the dimples, fluttering over her skin. Rey’s eyelids flutter too at the sensation. “Oh,” she echoes him.

Her pleasure grants him courage; she feels it. A heady rush passes through him as he realizes that the sounds she makes are for him. That he’s called them from her.

He tugs her closer until his mouth can catch at her peaking nipples, hands folding her into his naked chest. His lips are tentative at first, pressed against her breasts in a mimicry of holovids and witnessed embraces rather than passion—so unsure—but then an accidental or experimental brush of his tongue wrings a shudder and a cry from her. A still moment, while they listen to the echo of Rey’s mewling little gasp against the hut’s acoustic stones. Processing it. And then Ben dips his head again to her breast, coiling his tongue against her nipple, edging his teeth around it. She bucks into him, hands clutching his shoulders, working up to tangle in his hair.

Oh. Oh.

Wetness steals between the soft, clustering curls at the apex of her thighs while Ben’s tongue works over her, moisture gathering as her pleasure mounts. Pleasure, yes, but she’s aching, her belly tight and her hips cramped with the effort of remaining upright while his mouth—yes—yes—Rey’s knees buckle.

Ben catches her as she collapses so that she falls across his lap, rather than onto the jarring stone floor or into the ashy firepit. It’s uncomfortable for a minute, with her elbow digging into his ribs and his forearm making a crick in her neck. Still, it gives them both the incentive to get Ben off his stool and over to the sleeping shelf where Rey’s spread her bedroll. She leads him to the meagre blankets with a fierce insistence, then pushes him down onto them, angling herself upon him to straddle his hips. The Force could close their bond at any time, separating them, and she can’t bear that—not now—so she’s rough and fast when all she wants to do is savor...But Ben slips on the water-slick stones where Rey has dripped all over the threshold from when she’d first entered the hut from the deluge outside; he thuds down on the bedroll lower than she’s expected. Instead of landing over his waistband, her thighs end up clutching him halfway along his chest, almost to his shoulders.

A pause at this new development, both searching for reference points. This isn’t something she’s seen in holovids. Clearly, Ben hasn’t either. But he jerks his chin up and fastens his hands over her hips. Decisively, making her swallow at his sudden command: “Come here.”

Under his urging hands, flushing with uncertainty and greed, Rey inches up his chest. She stops, legs over his shoulders.

“Higher,” he says.

Oh.

She obeys as she’s never obeyed him before, settling her core directly over his lips. She feels...clumsy, a little ashamed of her wetness spreading across his mouth. But then Ben’s lips part, his fingers tighten on her hips, tempting her closer, and his open mouth laves her sex.

A shudder tears through her, sparks igniting in her bloodstream. Rey whimpers.

Ben hums at her keening sound. The vibrations nearly unseat her as she thrashes in a sudden bloom of primal joy shooting from her sex and through every vertebrae on her spine. Her body sings. This is better than food when she’s starving, better even than life-giving water when she’s delirious with thirst—but then Ben’s tongue parts the folds of her core, dipping into her, and she stops thinking at all.

Fingers knotted in his hair.

Hips canting to the rhythm of his lips and tongue, to the shivering nip of his teeth.

His breath hot on her sex, breathing her in, swallowing her wetness with moans of satisfaction.

Her chest full, overfull—she’ll never be empty again, just so long as he doesn’t stop ever, ever

Putting her back together, healing with every swipe from his tongue, sealing over the cracks in her, soothing and filling—

When the pleasure takes her, an exploding nebula in the pit of her stomach, shattering her into a million brilliant, naked edges, she’s not afraid to break. He’ll make her whole again. She knows it. She cries out her ecstasy while his tongue flicks over the sensitive, overheated nerves at the apex of her thighs, while one of his hands eases down from her hip and a finger glides into her slick, warm passage, urging her over a devastating, glorious precipice. Falling. Flying. A summit, a peak higher than any she’s ever known—

This.

O-oh...oh oh oh oh oh oh...oh...

Boneless through the aftershocks, she slides sideways onto the narrow sleeping shelf. Again, Ben catches her as she collapses, gathering her into his arms. Her head falls back against his shoulder, into the cavity from her saber burn. Nestling. A resting place. Somehow, perfect. Tilting his chest under her cheek, he opens his mouth over hers, lips wet with Rey’s own pleasure. His mouth is parted, devouring, no hint of hesitation now, and she tastes herself. Maybe this should be embarrassing, but the flavor wakes her groin again, even as her muscles are still spasming with little shivers from their release. Eyelids flittering, humming into Ben’s mouth with her tongue darting over his lips, she rolls her hips with renewed vigor against the sparking pleasure at the base of her spine. Her pelvis grinds into a hard length throbbing through Ben’s trousers.

“I—” he stutters.

Eyes flying open, Rey fixes him with a look.

She can do this. She remembers how. Or remembers the future. However.

Ignoring buttons and clasps, Rey hauls the trousers over his waist. He struggles to help her, kicking his knees and ankles to rid himself of the oppressive fabric, but he doesn’t release her as much as a centimetre while they wrestle with the garment. She’s pressed so close in his arms with her hands around his hips that when he’s liberated at last, his cock is immediately poised at her entrance.

“Are you—” he gasps as her wet folds begin to flutter and part around him.

“Yes.”

Rey hooks a leg over his hip, spreading her sex, opening her body for him. He’s already been deep inside her, felt the sweet shocks and pulses of her pleasure, but she wants him this way, too. All of him.

Ben’s fingers find the dimples low on her back. He eases Rey closer. Already leaking with arousal, his cock’s tight head slips into her body’s sheath with a soft, moist sound. There’s a slight pinch of discomfort, a stretch almost to the point of pain...and then a quiver, a yielding deep within her core. Tension eases from Rey’s belly, the fear that Jakku women have been taught to carry of this act for the first time draining away. She’s enough for him. She can hold him as he needs to be held. She fastens a hand on Ben’s hip and guides him deeper into her, her body accommodating his length and girth as though she’s been fashioned precisely for him.

Restless and eager, he shifts against her. Ben turns onto his shoulder so that they roll with the force of gravity, bodies locked and grinding together, until Rey is pinned beneath him on the bedroll.

“Ugh,” she grunts involuntarily when his full weight presses down on her, stealing her breath in an unseductive noise.

Ben hastily braces himself on his forearms on either side of her head, muscles in his shoulders quivering with his restraint. “Sorry, I’m—”

“Ben.” She quiets him with his name, breathing deeply so that the peaks of her breasts skim his chest. “It’s fine.”

He hesitates, then nods. Ben leans forward to bury his face against the curve of her neck, inhaling her scent, breathing with parted lips while he begins to thrust his hips again at a deeper angle. His teeth scrape against her pulse point. Rey whimpers. Catching on through the desire she feels wracking through him, he licks her tender skin and then breathes hot upon the moisture before biting. Marking her with tongue and teeth. She’ll have a bruise to explain to Master Skywalker in the morning, but—but—She gasps and clutches Ben’s hips for balance when the planet spins out from under her, gripping hard to avoid being flung apart before she’s ready to release him and herself from this sweet torment. She leaves dried blood on his sweat-slicked skin from her abraded palms, but her hands don’t hurt anymore, not when—when—

The sudden pressure from her fingers has him delving even more deeply into her than before, adding friction against a bundle of nerves hidden within her passage that makes her squirm and moan when he thrusts. Rey arches her spine and cants her hips, managing to lock her ankles around his waist, heels pressing into the well-muscled curves of his backside. Ben catches her earlobe between his teeth. He suckles.

Rey’s keening whimper becomes a full-blown wail as pleasure sparks from the edges of his teeth against her skin, down through her chest, to the point of her sex grinding down on his cock. She’s the flames shivering in their firepit, she’s the howling tempest beyond the hut screaming against the stones for a way in, she’s the life and death, the peace and the violence of the island and ocean, everything, all at once, splitting open to the Force so that she’s not Rey, and he’s not Ben, they’re just two halves of a single whole, uniting at last, a whirling vortex of light and dark blurring into each other, melting, inseparable—

Too much—too much, too soon, she’s only beginning to understand what she’s seen, what she knows deeper than conscious thought in her body—but Force she wants this, wants him—she wants this moment to last forever before they return to hating each other, the Jedi-to-be and the Jedi Killer—if they can—she’s not sure, but how can they not? Stay in this moment, always

But her walls are contracting, fluttering, gripping Ben’s shaft and urging him deeper, deeper still, holding him inside her with delicious power—mine, mine

His breathing is strangled against her neck, thunder in her ears, a groan welling up from the pit of his chest, shuddering over his tongue, through his cock, and he’s crying out—a curse, a prayer, her name—his body seized in almost painful ecstasy as he grips her shoulders hard and thrusts himself to the hilt, to the very core of her, quaking while his pleasure spends inside her. His explosive, unmitigated joy provokes her own—twin sensations, twisted together—and she follows him, her body drawn after his, obeying his command.

Yes.

Ben doesn’t withdraw his softening cock from her sex as they collapse together in a tangle of limbs and sweat-glowing skin, heaving for breath in unsteady gasps that somehow align in a perfect rhythm. She knows his desire to remain close to her, holding her, part of her, for as long as he can. For as long as the Force and Rey will let him.

And she lets him.

It’s not long enough for either of them when their bond hums, its frequency fading from a high, sweet thrum within their flesh, almost a second pulse, to a noticeable jolting. A warning. Sweat has cooled on their skin, leaving them naked and exposed to the chiseling wind finding its way between the hut’s stacked stones. Cold. But rather than seek out blankets and clothes, they’ve clung together instead, glowing and caressed with flamelight. Not talking. Just being. Together. But now the bond threads between them, unknitting them from each other like unpicking a tapestry, plucking and teasing until they begin to fade in each other’s arms, no matter how tightly they hold on.

“Rey—” Ben’s voice cracks over her name, desperate and suddenly afraid as their hands grow translucent upon each other. They’ve known that this moment will come; the bond always closes eventually. But there’s always hope...Rey’s core folds in upon nothing. “Remember—you’re not alone. Remember—”

“I know,” she tells the ghostly shape of Ben Solo. “And I’ll come for you, Ben. I promise.”

She’s crying, tears stealing down her cheeks, reaching for the hand he’s extending to her even as they’re torn apart, when the hut door flies open in a wash of rain and thunder.

Master Skywalker, stern and furious, eyes swiveling from Rey spreadeagled on her bedroll with the evidence of Ben’s pleasure smeared across her thighs, to the wraithlike figure of his nephew faded to almost nothing beside her.

NO!

The hut breaks. It’s as though each stone in the walls has developed a terrible urgency to fall after centuries of standing, exhausted and angry with the burden it’s endured for too long with too much silent patience. The roof flies apart and collapses. Rain douses the fire. And Rey is left alone before the terrible Jedi legend, with only a wash of terror from Ben left to her.

“Rey!” Master Skywalker is shouting her name, advancing on her with the Force refracting off him, more brilliant and deadly than the lightning. Unstable. Unharnessed. He’s cut himself off from the Force, she knows, but there’s no true way to do this—it’s why she’s desperately needed a teacher, to avoid being consumed by it—and now the Force is breaking through the Jedi in its raw, awful glory.

But Rey stands unmoving before this terrific onslaught. Naked. Furious. She’s unafraid. She’s not alone. “Will you kill me like you tried to kill him? To murder Ben Solo?” she shouts a challenge through the thunder and hail to the grey-haired man with the frantic, lightning-burnt eyes.

“Rey!” he bellows her name again, striding forward.

Rey holds her ground, staring him down. She won’t fail herself. She won’t fail Ben. Rain spits against her defiant face, runs into her eyelashes. She refuses to blink.

“Do you know what you’ve done? You’ve opened your legs to the dark side for a pair of pretty eyes!”

“I opened myself to Ben Solo!” she corrects her erstwhile teacher. “There’s still conflict in him, Master Skywalker! And I’m going to him. Because if I go, Ben Solo will turn.”

“This isn’t going to go the way you think! I—”

What she’s seen, what she’s felt, what she keeps of him in her body—mine. “No. It’s going to go exactly the way I think.”

She’s promised: she’ll come for him. As many times as it takes.

With pleasure.