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By your side

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When you were here before

            The only reason he’s here is because this is his job.

            The woman’s eyes fixate on him while little drops of sweat form on her forehead. He doesn’t know if she gets to see him during these last agonizing moments and, truth be told, he doesn’t really care.

            The crying that is heard then is like a knife cutting the tension. The woman smiles even when he’s about to pass out, and the little bloody bundle that is placed upon her chest just won’t stop crying.

            The doctor is a good man (one can tell by his kind gaze), and doesn’t know what else could he possibly do but just watch the dying woman and her last moments of happiness.

            “Rey,” whispers the woman.

            The doctor nods and takes her hand.

            “Your daughter’s name.”

            He wishes he could give some words of sympathy to the woman, but he doesn’t know what he could possibly say.

            He doesn’t love, nor is he loved by anyone. The bond between a mother and her daughter is beyond his comprehension.

            The doctor stays by her side a long time after she’s already stopped breathing.

            But he doesn’t know this.

            He has already left, the woman’s soul on his shoulder looking back over and over again, concerned about leaving her daughter.

            “Will she be okay?” asks the spirit fluttering around him. 

            He lies, because no one has ever made him tell the truth:

            “Yes.”

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Couldn’t look you in the eye

            The next time he sees Rey, she is five years old.

            The old dog she has known all her life has given its last breath, and she’s the only there to witness it.

            He kneels by the still-warm body and doesn’t recognize her at first: she’s a child now, although her hazel eyes and her brown hair don’t say much when they belong to a body that could only be described as scrawny due to malnutrition.

            He only looks up to see her tears when he hears one of the other children calling her.

            “Rey!” The boy runs towards her. “Bring Chewie and let’s play, why are you taking so long?!”

            This time he has no option but to drag the dog’s soul —it doesn’t want to leave the child, no matter the consequences.

            He doesn’t quite comprehend this, but he finds it more admirable than the simple fear of leaving —the love to stay.

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You’re just like an angel

            This time, it’s a coincidence.

            Rey is fifteen, and she’s checking out her reflection in the glass of a café window. Her hair is almost waist-length now. She looks particularly concerned about her lips, which she presses with her fingers. He realizes she’s no longer that malnourished child from before —surely her new family feeds her well.

            He doesn’t have anything to do with her —his business is in the hospital a block from there.  

            Nonetheless, he stares at her for a long time.

            (He’s early —he’s never late to his appointments).

            At last, Rey enters the café and takes a seat. Minutes later there’s already someone seated in front of her: a boy of bright brown eyes.

            “Did I make you wait?” he asks with an inflection he recognizes as flirty.

            (Is this one of the human courting rites? They go over his head).

            She smiles and replies:

            “I never wait for anyone, Poe. Ever.”

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Your skin makes me cry

            He first suspects something is wrong when his chest hurts at seeing her cuddling with the boy.

            They’re both naked under the sheets of her apartment (she hasn’t been living with her foster parents for a while), and the sadness is almost physical.

            The boy is sad (he knows this) because his father has just died.

            She is sad (he guesses this) because the boy is sad because his father has just died.

            He is sad (and he cannot believe this) because her sadness is caused by her love for the boy.

            He knows he shouldn’t wish for anything, no matter how heavy his chest feels.

            He also knows his wish is unattainable and silly.

            His wish: that she didn’t use her body as a means of comforting her friend.

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You float like a feather

            In his spare time (because he actually has spare time, which doesn’t depend on human time), he reflects on his situation.

            Truth be told, he doesn’t have many memories, and the ones he has are blurry: there is him, as a kid, angry and deadly. Death and destruction around him.

            An early, violent death for him.

            And a sort of new life as a soul collector, his anger taken away from him to some place he cannot come back to.  

            His lord has decided so.

            And it is fine, he cannot complain.   

            It’s just, when he thinks about her, he feels a tug inside his chest, a sensation along the lines of some lost thing’s echo he cannot even discern.

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In a beautiful world

            It’s annoying that this pains him, too.          

            Engine oil leaks over the asphalt (or maybe it’s the boy’s blood?).

            The final grimace on the boy’s face is grotesque and, even if it doesn’t actually faze him, he thinks about Rey and feels a huge, emphatic heaviness all over again.

            He kneels besides the boy. His eyes are still brown, but they lack the brightness he knows they possessed before.

            He wants to get angry at him. It’s an anger that burns, that scorches.

            Even when Poe Dameron cannot hear him, he reprimands him:

            “Why did you have to drive so damn fast?”

            But he knows this is part of what Rey loves (loved? Does love stop for things like this?): the indomitable temper, that foolish belief in the immortality of youth.

            He knows he’s about to do something stupid, yet he’s unable to stop himself as he presses a hand against Poe Dameron’s dead chest.

           

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And I wish I was special

            When he finds her crying and calling the boy’s name between sobs (“Poe” over and over again), he refrains himself from placing his hand on her shoulder.

            This is a rule he cannot disobey, a rule he still respects: not to interfere with the living.

            She suddenly quiets.

            And he doesn’t know if he wishes to tell her something, if he wishes she could actually hear him.

            Rey looks up.

            Outside, the morning is sunny.

            Her smartphone rings, but she doesn’t take it. 

            “Take the call,” he wishes to say. “Take it —it is a gift.”

            Finally, trembling fingers push the green button.

            “It’s a miracle, Rey!” The boy’s mother’s voice can be heard clearly. “Poe’s alive! For a moment there, they thought his heart stopped, that it was too late, but somehow…”

            Rey breaks down in tears again —tears of relief and happiness, this time.

            He clenches his fists.

            He tries fiercely not to think about the mother of two children who has suffered a sudden heart attack mere meters from the place of the accident.

            Because of him.

 

 

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You’re so fuckin’ special

            Now back in this world, Poe Dameron swears he has seen the strangest vision of all. Or so he tells Rey the day they’re sitting by each other in the Dameron’s living room.

            “I know it makes no sense, Rey, but I swear to you —I died that day.”

            She raises an eyebrow and crosses her arms.

            “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but —you aren’t a ghost, Poe.”    

            He shakes his head.

            “No, it’s just… I vividly recall a… supernatural presence… A man in black, with black hair… I cannot remember his face, but his presence was… was…”

            Rey rolls her eyes.

            “Your imagination is too much for me.”

            Poe sighs and concedes:

            “Maybe it was the shock, right?”

            Rey only laughs and kisses him until Poe forgets all about it.

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But I’m a creep

            He tries very hard not to break any more rules.

            Tries very hard not to see her.

            Nevertheless, he always ends up back in her life: when cancer claims Poe’s mother, when Rey’s father dies of a heart attack.

            He always ends up seeing her again, and there’s no way to avoid it.

            This is why he sees her being hugged by Poe in her father’s funeral. Rey doesn’t respond aggressively, yet neither does she concede —she just gets away from him.

            “Rey…” mutters Poe, as if with that he could persuade her not to get away from him.

            Rey shakes her head.

            “You’re with her now. And it is fine —I understand. Don’t do this out of pity, Poe.”

            Displeased, Poe just presses his lips together until they form a flat line.

            He thinks about Rey, fatherless, all alone, if it weren’t for her foster mother.

            All alone, if it weren’t for him. 

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I’m a weirdo

            Rey isn’t what could be called “a problematic girl” —she’s strong, she’s determined, she’s a very capable person.

            She’s the number one student at her university, and she graduates cum laude in Astrophysics.

            Just tonight, as a way of celebrating, she goes out to drink and dance with university friends.

            He watches her only because he’s early to his appointment —there are still many hours left before he has to collect some woman’s soul.  

            He walks by Rey and pretends she dances with him. He pretends he isn’t a mere shadow that no one sees standing in the middle of the dance floor. 

            He pretends he takes her hand, he pretends he presses his nose against Rey’s nape and inhales her citric perfume, he pretends his hips collide against hers and that her eyes look only at him...

            It’s a foolish fantasy, just a little break before he’s back to work.

He dances with her (unknowingly to Rey) all night long.

            When barely an hour is left before dawn, she bides farewell to her friends and gets into her car. He gets in beside her (even though she doesn’t see him) and tries to commit Rey’s face to memory for the entire duration of the trip. 

            Rey is tired and he’s distracted, so neither of them notices the wooden planks in the middle of the road.

            The nails of the planks pierce through the car wheels, and Rey screams at the same time she tries to maneuver to avoid an accident: she crashes against a column and, even though she didn’t get anything but a scratch on her forehead, her breathing is agitated.

            He looks at her with a distraught heart.  

            He recognizes the alley in front of them, and he knows exactly what will happen when he sees two men running towards the car.

            She doesn’t see them ―only notices them when they’ve already opened the door and dragged her out, the hand of one of them covering her mouth.

            He watches helplessly and walks automatically towards the blind alley now that only minutes are left until the designated hour.

            One of the men kicks Rey in the leg and she lets out a whine. The other one throws her onto the floor and forces her to raise her head by pulling at her hair bun. This compels her to look at him.

            “Shut it, bitch, shut it. If you behave, we promise nothing will happen to you. Just let us have some fun, will ya?”

            He knows these words are meaningless —either they’re lying or Rey will anger them enough to bring an awful dead onto herself.

            It is written —he has read it.

            He just hadn’t known it would be her.

            He’s painfully aware of what’s going on: one of the men is now trying to rip off her t-shirt, and she bites his hand. The man yelps —now he’s angry.

            Now is when they kill her.

            And he isn’t ready to take her away, not when her eyes flash with the fury of a yet unlived life that doesn’t seem able to end (although he knows it isn’t like that at all), with all the anger and determination a girl who loves the stars can muster, a girl who oh please wants to keep on living to keep on loving them.

            He doesn’t know what he’s doing, he tells himself, but the truth is he does know.

            He knows what he’s doing when he kicks the back of the man grabbing Rey, when he forces him to fall down onto the floor, almost on Rey’s legs, and this only irritates him more, and this is why he grabs him by the hair and drags him.

            Let’s see if you like this.

            A kick in the head is all he needs and, somehow, he knows there will be no random death this time.

            He has exchanged, with his own hands, Rey’s life (the Rey that watches him surprised and fearful) for this thug’s life.

            Rapist. Murderer.

            Anyways, even though Rey watches without quite comprehending what’s going on, her expression doesn’t compare to the other man’s surprise —the man who doesn’t look at him, but at his partner, whose neck has just been broken

            “Gh… Ghost…” babblers the man, and it’s the last thing that leaves his mouth before he runs away.

            Rey frowns, but he understands what’s going on: he has broken a different rule this time. When he brought back Poe Dameron, he had been already dead —there wasn’t any reason he would be interfering with his life (au contraire, he was alive thanks to him so, if anything, it could be said he had been interfering with his death).

            But tonight, he has prevented Rey’s death from taking place, and he has done so by killing a man.

            He has interacted with the living actively.

            And this is why Rey (and only Rey, and perhaps the man he has killed, had he survived) can see him.

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What the hell am I doing here?

            This is why he cannot look at her.

            He doesn’t know how to talk to humans. He doesn’t know what to think, what to expect, what to… say. He feels Rey’s gaze fixated on him, and he’s reasonably conscious of the fact that he just broke a man’s neck in front of a woman who just went through a traumatic experience.

            (Caused by said man, sure, but even so there’s no way a human being can keep calm in a situation like this one).

            If he could, he would simply stay there, still and wordlessly, with his gaze piercing the floor.

            (He doesn’t dare, after all, to leave her alone, yet he doesn’t really know how to face her).

            Rey cleans out the dust (he can see this out of the corner of his eye) and walks towards him. It’s dawning, and he’s completely aware of the fact he doesn’t even know how does he look: is he clean? Is his appearance agreeable to human beings?

            Is he… handsome? He wishes she would find him handsome, but he’s certain someone like him couldn’t possibly be considered that.

            He doesn’t even know about human canons of beauty.

            He just knows Rey is the most beautiful person between all of them.

            “You saved me.”

            Rey puts a halt to all his thoughts with those words. He raises his head and looks at her. It’s the first time his gaze is actually reciprocated, after more than twenty years of knowing her.

            He wishes he could answer something sound —to tell her he knows her since she was a child, to tell her he knows about Tito, about Poe, about her father.  

            To tell her that he wishes he could have taken her hand and comforted her all those times.        

            But he only has here and now, and he’s a stranger to her.

            “I couldn’t let them hurt you.”

            It’s the truth —the only problem is that Rey doesn’t understand the hidden layers of his declaration.

            She must think she’s a nobody to him, someone he coincidentally crossed paths with.

            But she isn’t that to him.

            At least she smiles, shaking as she is because of the whole ordeal.

            At least she sees him.

            And since he has nothing else to say to her, he leaves silently.

            Rey doesn’t stop him nor questions him.

            It’s a tacit agreement that they won’t ever talk about tonight.  

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I don’t belong here

            At dawn, he finally dares to look at himself in the mirror.

            He’s completely dressed in black: black boots, black coat, black gloves.

            His dark hair and his dark-brown eyes are completely forgettable. His thick lips don’t work well for a man like him.

            (He is a man, right?).

            Even worse: a mean scar crosses his face.

            It’s a miracle, he tells himself, that Rey didn’t run away the moment she saw me.

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I don’t care if it hurts

            “I cannot believe I found you at my boss’ father’s funeral!” whispers Rey with a big smile. Quiet hushes are heard behind them, and Rey’s cheeks light up with red. “Okay, maybe I shouldn’t get excited about something so grim…”

            He’s there, yes. And he feels as if he could disappear right now.

            Apparently, there’s no way to undo being seen by a human.

            However, he knows that Rey is the only one capable of seeing him as of now.

            This means that, to anyone else, Rey is talking to herself.  

            “Do you want to go get some fresh air?” he stutters the words as fast as they come to his mind.

            It’s even laughable this necessity of protecting her from the most banal.

            Rey smiles at him and nods —they sit on a bench under a tree. She is, of course, the first to talk:

            “I’m going to say something stupid, but please don’t laugh at me, okay?”

            Her smile is huge, and he can only nod his agreement and fixate his eyes on his boots.

            “Although everyone may say this sounds macabre, I love being at the graveyard.” She thinks about it for a little while and rephrases. “I mean, it’s not that I like being at the graveyard, oh, no, God, that sounds like I wish I were dead, it’s just…”

            A pause. He uses this opportunity to look at her.

            “After that night… You know, that night… Well, it was a close encounter with death, you know? To me it was like that. And you may think I’m exaggerating, but I felt it so very real… As if death itself had been there, somewhere in that alley, waiting for me.”

            He cannot bring himself to talk. He cannot explain it to her, cannot tell her that, literally, death is always near her.

            Death follows you everywhere, he thinks to tell her, but decides against it.

            Instead, he just says, with a voice not quite accustomed to human intonation:

            “I’m glad I was there.”

            Rey stops looking at the leaves of the tree to turn towards him with a new smile.

            “I’m glad you were there, too.” A brief pause and “I didn’t get to tell you that night, but… thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

            He weights the possibility of taking her hand now. He thinks about it but, obviously, he doesn’t bring himself to it.

            Taking her hand at a graveyard, being who he is, is asking for trouble.

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I want to have control

            When he’s turning a corner on his way to the house where a kid plays dangerously with matches, someone crashes into him.

            He stays stills, because if he hasn’t been able to go through this human…

            “Would you believe me,” Rey’s voice is muffled due to his clothes against her mouth, “if I told you that I can actually recognize your smell?” She gets away with a smile (ah, he shall never tire of that smile) and dusts off his clothes, as if to clean him of herself (as if!). “Or would that be too creepy?

            He cannot help it —he smiles, too, though he misses the sudden warmth that is gone now that she has taken a step back. It’s a shy smile that seems to show more pain than joy (he can feel it on his face), but Rey seems okay with that.

            “I’ve always thought I don’t have any particular smell.”

            “Don’t be silly!” Rey laughs. “All of us have a particular smell.”

            He frowns, baffled.

            “Yet you know nothing about me.”

            She opens her mouth to retort, but seems to reconsider.

            “Well, you’re right. So, let’s start with your name, if that’s alright with you?”

            He has a name —the one he was given in this life.

            In this occupation of his.

            “Kylo,” he replies. “Kylo Ren.”

            Rey raises an eyebrow.

            “I’m sorry, but that sounds like you’re part of some weird cult or something. No need to make up such a ridiculous name if you don’t want to tell me yours…”

            He chuckles and, from someplace forgotten inside his chest, the words surface:

            “Ben Solo.”

            For a moment, they’re both perplexed. He has surprised himself. This name feels good, and it fits, indeed, but he doesn’t really know…

            I don’t know if Ben Solo still exists.

            Rey, however, has already recovered.

            “Oh. Ben, then. That’s better.” She offers him her hand. “A pleasure, Ben: my name is Rey Kenobi.”

            Kylo stops himself just short of saying “I know” and shakes her hand.  

            To Rey, he’s now an acquaintance.

            To him, she’s, somehow, all he has ever known.  

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I want a perfect body

            The both of them crossing paths at the local coffeeshop isn’t, for a change, a coincidence.

            Kylo (Ben?) has decided to come here on his own, well aware of the fact he would find Rey working on her most recent investigation.

            When she sees him, her eyes light up. Kylo cracks a shy smile and sits in front of her.    

            “You always know where to find me,” she rejoices, because there’s no other way to describe it; she’s happy. “For someone who hasn’t even given me his cellphone number, this is incredible.”

            Kylo finds this funny. He knows this is the way Rey asks for information.  

            However, this time, he is unable to grant her wish.

            “I don’t have a cellphone.” It’s the truth, no matter how shocked and unbelieving Rey appears. “It’s a bit… invasive, in my opinion.”

            Rey places her head against one of her hands and ponders his words. 

            “Hm… I guess so, but… not even one for corporate use? How do you know if there’s an emergency at work?”

            My work is nothing but a never-ending procession of emergencies, he thinks. Emergencies that don’t end well.

            “I just know.”

            For a second there, Rey is taken aback.

            “Woah. What a… mysterious man you are, Mr. Solo.”

            Kylo shrugs nonchalantly.

            “Hard to explain.”

            Rey licks her lips. Kylo is not well-versed in human conventions, therefore he doesn’t know he shouldn’t stare so openly at the movement.

            (Or maybe one could say he doesn’t recall said conventions, depending on whether is Kylo Ren or Ben Solo the one doing the staring).

            “Look,” Rey suddenly says, and Kylo’s gaze goes back to her hazelnut eyes, “this may sound dumb, but I think you’re a complete mystery.”

            Kylo merely nods.

            “Now, I barely know your name, you have no cellphone and, well, I’ll confess I looked you up on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but didn’t find any trace of you.”

            Kylo doesn’t know what a feisbuk, an istagrem and a tuitah are, so he doesn’t quite get why Rey looks so ashamed.

            “The thing is… I’m afraid one day you will simply disappear into thin air and I won’t be able to ever find you again.”

            This draws a smile on Kylo’s face.  

            “At this point, I don’t think that’s possible.”

            Rey has a smile of her own plastered on her face now, and so she goes on explaining:

            “You say that, but one day you’re there, and then it takes month before I see you again and… Ah… I don’t know how to put this…”

            Her cheeks are a delightful red now, and he refrains himself from extending his own hand to touch one of the hands she’s hell-bent on pressing against her face.

            “So, the thing is… The thing is… would you like to come home tonight?”

            Kylo tilts his head slightly. He registers Rey’s dilated pupils, her blush and a light trembling of her hands.

            “I wouldn’t want you to walk out of my life as if nothing had ever happened,” Rey concludes.

            He pretends to think about it. He pretends to weigh the matter until he reaches a decision and finally replies: 

            “Tell me the address and exact hour. I’ll be there.”

            Rey lets out a breath Kylo didn’t know she was holding.

            “Okay, do you want something to write…?”

            He shakes his head.

            “Just tell me. I’ll remember,” he promises.

            Rey’s lips curve into a smile.

            “It’s a Street called Burntwood, number 2515, apartment 503.”

            Kylo acquiesces to this and then stands up ―he has come to understand human conventions enough to know that, in moments like these, staying would turn things awkward.

            “Ben!” He stops before going through the door. He turns to her, and sees her waving him goodbye with a smile (yes, one of those he never can get enough of). “I’ll be waiting.”

Chapter Text

I want a perfect soul

            Rey’s apartment is on the fifth floor of a downtown building.      

            “I’m glad you made it. Aaaand frankly impressed ―you managed it without writing down the address and without GPS.”

            Rey hugs him at the threshold, and Kylo allows himself to close his eyes and hug her back. It’s a human gesture that isn’t his place to neither give nor receive, yet here he is, stealing whatever he can from the time Rey should spend with someone else.

            When he pulls apart, he sees just what he expects, the reason why he’s here: Rey’s unconditional smile.            

            “I didn’t know what you like to eat, so there’s a home-made pizza waiting for us,” she informs him at the same time she invites him inside and shows him to the sofa so he can sit while she finishes the preparations. “I mean, I think everyone likes pizza. Unless you’re Italian…”

            Kylo raises his eyebrows at this.

            “Italians don’t like pizza?”

            Rey cannot help but laugh.

            “Are you listening to yourself? Italians, not liking pizza? No, no, they love it… It’s just, any Italian would think my pizza is mediocre compared to an authentic one (meaning, Italian pizza).”

            He doesn’t know what to say to this. Rey sighs while she brings the meal to the table.

            “Don’t mind me, alright? It’s just a silly stereotype…”

            He shrugs and takes a sit at the quadrangular table. Rey sits in front of him and starts to cut the smoking pizza. Eventually, Kylo is taking his first bite, and it is then his expression completely changes.

            “This is… is…”

            “It’s really good, huh?” Rey helps him with a sloppy smile that doesn’t cut it for her mouth full with food. “I used tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, a bit of ham and garlic. It also has a little bit of oregano.”

            Kylo emphatically nods. Rey is unaware this is the first time he eats in ages.

            Literally —forever.

            The night goes on normally: they eat, and Rey dries off the silverware Kylo washes in thanks for the delicious meal. The clean smell mingles with Rey’s underlying aroma at the apartment and soothes his senses. He feels normal, even if nothing about him is normal.

            When they’re done cleaning, Rey invites him to the living room so they can watch a movie and have a glass of wine ―wine Rey has forgotten to pour at dinner.

            “Okay, I must warn you: it’s a bit of a long movie, but it’s my favorite one, so we can’t really be friends if you don’t watch it and, well, as I said before, I can never find you, so…”

            He rolls his eyes (another human gesture he has learned from her).

            “Just get on with it, Rey.”

            “Right away!”

            The movie is a bit complicated but, of course, he comprehends the plot as it ramifies into less complex sub-plots. As the movie is quite long for human standards (two hours, maybe, or perhaps it lasts a bit longer?), Rey ends up drinking a whole bottle of wine almost by herself.          

            (The occasional cup for Kylo doesn’t mean anything, as Rey has forbidden him from getting drunk enough not to understand the movie).

            Almost at the movie’s end, when Sixsmith goes after his lover, Robert, and Robert hides from him, Kylo cannot avert his eyes from the screen ―it’s amazing, this human way of telling stories.

            This is when Rey plops down onto his legs. He looks at her face ―Rey stares back at him from his lap, and then mutters the same words that he can hear coming from the TV:

            “Finished in a frenzy that reminded me of our last night in Cambridge. Watched my final sunrise. Enjoyed a last cigarette. Didn’t think the view could be any more perfect until I saw that beat-up trilby. Honestly, Sixsmith, as ridiculous as that thing makes you look, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful. Watched you for as long as I dared. I don’t believe it was a fluke that I saw you first.” She stops, because the movie is now focusing in another story. Rey’s hand finds a place against his cheek, and Kylo thinks about Sixsmith and Robert, and about their love. He thinks about Rey and the stupid thing he’s doing right now, right here, yet he doesn’t really care. Then, Rey goes on: “I believe there is another world waiting for us, Sixsmith. A better world, and I’ll be waiting for you there. I believe we do not stay dead long. Find me beneath the Corsican stars, where we first kissed. Yours eternally, Robert Frosbicher.”   

            He can’t do anything else than smile and place his own hand over Rey’s, their fingers intertwined as it was the most natural thing in the world.

            Rey closes her eyes and succumbs to the peaceful sleep resulting from alcohol and trust.

            He watches the rest of the movie in silence.

            He doesn’t leave until he has carried a safe, sound (and very asleep) Rey to her bedroom.

            He kisses her forehead.

            And vanishes from her life.

Chapter Text

I want you to notice

            The truth is this: he’s playing with fire.

            So better run now, disappear while there’s still time, before he messes up things for worse. He knows Rey cares about him, he knows he means something to her, one way or another, and that spells trouble.

            Almost as much trouble as what she means to him.            

            So he disappears for months, he avoids her “to death”, pardon him the irony.

            That is, until the accident.

Chapter Text

When I’m not around

            Maybe because he is who he is, he has never stopped to consider Rey’s undeniable bad luck.

            Her mother’s death.

            Her dog’s death.

            Poe’s death.

            Poe’s mother’s death, his father’s, her boss’ father’s…

            Her own dead, though she doesn’t know this.

            Try as he might, she always crosses paths with him.

            He wishes he could skin himself alive when he sees her cradling the head of the man that has been run over by a car. Tears stream down her face, and her arms offer a useless comfort to the inattentive pedestrian that will no longer notice a single thing.

            He approaches them because he hasn’t got any option left.

            Rey looks at him with trembling lips and mumbles:

            “He won’t make it, will he?”

            It’s a question any human could guess, yet they wouldn’t be able to answer it as certainly as he can. So he doesn’t reply ―he only kneels by this dying man’s side, just as he had done with the orphanage dog and Poe, when the time was right.

            “Ben?”

            Kylo ignores her. He’s doing his work and, really, how many duties has he forsaken because of this human girl?

            The man’s soul rises and climbs over his shoulder. Rey watches all of this, but Kylo doesn’t look at her. He doesn’t know how much she can see, and he probably doesn’t want to know, either.

            “Ben…? Ben, what’s happening…? Ben?”

            He stands up.

            “Ben… Ben, where are you going?”

            And he leaves her there, all alone.

Chapter Text

You’re so fuckin’ special

            Kylo knows what they say about Rey ―he has watched it on the news while waiting for his next appointment at the hospital.

            “Woman speaks to herself while assisting man who was run over.”

            The footage shows what humans see ―Rey talking to someone that isn’t there, a man who isn’t the one that’s dying, either, since she isn’t looking in his direction.

            That’s Kylo, and no one knows about him.             

Chapter Text

I wish I was special

            Surely, with Rey’s bad luck, he ends up with an appointment at her building.     

            He tries (really tries) to go unnoticed, to simply walk to his designated appointment’s place…

            His appointment in the apartment just next to Rey’s.

            And there she is, looking for her key, the grocery bags patiently waiting on the floor.

            He doesn’t get to hide in time.

            Her expression isn’t as it was before: there’s no smile, no joyful, confortable expression for him.

            The only thing she says in an almost unintelligible whisper is:

            “Are you… real?”

            Kylo knows he should ignore her, but between knowing the right thing to do and actually doing the right thing there’s a distance he is yet to know how to circumvent.

            “Would you believe me if I told you I am?”

            To this, Rey has no answer.

            Kylo simply walks towards his destination.

Chapter Text

But I’m a creep

            Rey is sleepless most nights.

            That’s to say, how could she possibly explain her neighbor’s death exactly after her encounter with Ben on the building? Certainly, she was already an old lady, and the autopsy revealed she died painlessly from old age…

            But what about the man on the street?

            And the man Ben murdered in front of her? Even if Rey had said that his accomplice had been the one responsible for the murder (“he owed his partner money, something along those lines, didn’t quite get it”) and covered up for Ben, she doesn’t doubt for a second he was the one who killed him.

            And, indeed, the fact that no one, absolutely no one, knows about his existence and his absence from the recording where she seems to talk to herself.  

            What’s going on with you, Ben?

Chapter Text

I’m a weirdo

            Two years pass, and they don’t meet again.

            Rey is now twenty-five years old and has been in a relationship for almost two years.

            Rey is happy, so she makes up her mind: perhaps Ben doesn’t exist. Maybe he’s actually a figment of her imagination.

            Those were stressful times, he tells herself. It’s possible I made Ben up, as he was exactly what I needed at the moment.

            The rational part of her mind is somehow satisfied with this explanation.

            Even so, if she pays attention, she feels a tug at her chest that reminds her that something isn’t right.    

            Rey decides to go on with her life without paying any attention to this.

            Even when Finn kneels in front of her and procures a velveted little box with words that are maybe too sweet.

            Rey smiles at him, says the word with three letters his boyfriend has been wanting to hear since forever, and tears of joy run down her cheeks.

            This is the beginning of something good, she tells herself.

            At last, at last, happiness will stay in her life. 

Chapter Text

What the hell am I doing here?

            She and Finn are happy. Yes, really, they are: he’s a simple mechanic and she’s a scientist, but this doesn’t stop them. Their passions barely intersect, yet she adores listening to him talk about cars, and he could spend hours listening her words about stars and galaxies from far away.

            Finn is the love of her life, and the little house they share miles away from the city, the more resembling thing to paradise.

Chapter Text

She's running out

            However, there are always little bits of sadness.

            Like her mother’s death.

            Rey cries and hugs Finn at the funeral. He stays by her side and helps her with everything he can.

            He’s the best husband in the whole world.

            From afar, sheltering beneath a tree which shade he once shared with Rey, Kylo watches them.

            And he’s happy for them.

Chapter Text

I don’t belong here

            Kylo, once again, couldn’t help it: he broke one more rule.

            Minutes before her death, she touched the woman who looked through the window’s shoulder. The woman was startled for a mere second, but nothing else.

            Maybe people approaching the sunset of their lives don’t really fear death.

            “Have you come for me?” the old woman had asked.

Chapter Text

She’s running out again

            Kylo knows he won’t find any physical trace connecting her to Rey, but maybe this unperturbable calm against life’s blows is the legacy this old woman will leave the daughter that doesn’t share her blood.

            “Yes,” he acquiesces and steps back. “In a few more minutes.”

            The woman grunts slightly in agreement (everything must hurt at this point) and gestures towards an armchair behind him.

            “I guess you can sit for a few more minutes, then.”

            He does so.

            “I never thought this would happen,” she mutters with a thoughtful expression that soon wrinkles. “Is this something all of us about to part face?”

            Kylo shakes his head.

            “Normally there’s no warning.” He suddenly realizes he has just informed a person she’s about to die. “I’m sorry. I don’t want you to be afraid.”

            The old woman shrugs.

            “At my age, that’s no surprise… I had been wondering when would you come… I didn’t know you actually had a specific shape, though. I thought you were more like a concept.”

            “Most think that,” he agrees. “And they are not mistaken. I’m more of a messenger. Not the final destination.”

            “But, then… why are you here?”

            Kylo presses his lips into a thin line. It’s now or never. Just a few minutes left, fewer than before.

            “Your daughter… Was she happy?”

            The woman frowns.

            “That sounds like you intend to take her away.”

            Kylo is shaking his head even before she finishes her sentence.

            “No, no. I should have, before. But…”

            The woman is smart, and has years’ worth of experience about human emotions Kylo may possess, but doesn’t recall.

            “You should have, but you didn’t.

            Kylo keeps to himself. Even now, to admit his crime out loud is hard.

            “You broke the rules. For her.” Her voice doesn’t accuse, but points to him.

            Kylo wishes it didn’t. 

            “To your knowledge, is she happy?” he tries again, picking better words, his eyes hopeful, his fingers fidgeting against each other.

            The woman’s eyes are kind, and Kylo thinks he doesn’t deserve this gaze any more than he deserves Rey’s.

            However, mother and daughter gift him this without hesitation.

            “She’s happy. Immensely so. The happiest person of all. She loves her husband, her work, and they surely will have lots of children that she will also love, and deeply, at that.”

            Kylo nods, and although his smile betrays his pain, he can’t deny he still feels somewhat happy about it.

            I did something right, no matter how many rules I’ve broken.

            “I don’t know which rules did you break,” says Rey’s mother, and Kylo wonders if she can read minds. “But, from the bottom of my heart: thank you for giving her more time.”

            Kylo stands up.

            “Time is up. Will you please come with me?”

            The woman opens her mouth to answer, but doesn’t make it.

            Her soul escapes from between her lips.

            All the same, Kylo is able to hear the last thing she intended to say.

            “Thank you for loving her so much.”           

Chapter Text

She’s run run run run

            “We should have a child.”

            Rey freezes right where she is. She lowers the antique book she has been reading, and looks up to Finn, who’s standing in front of her.

            “I beg your pardon?”

            “A child, Rey.” He takes a sit beside her before continuing. “A child. Haven’t you ever thought about it?”

            Rey searches for words. Yes and no. She has thought about it, but… But…         

            “There are just so many things…” she stutters. “My mom passed away just a few months ago, the black hole investigation requires me to give my very best, you’re busy with work, too, and…”

            Finn takes the book from her hands, drops it on the couch and takes Rey’s hands in his.

            “Rey, honey…” he tells her then. “There will never be a perfect moment. You cannot wait for a perfect moment, it just won’t come. So, everything comes back to a simple thing: do you want this, or not? Because if you don’t, I will understand. But if you do want it…”

            Finn leaves the guess, the dream of a life together, floating in the air. Rey closes her eyes for a second, and conjures up the image of the same house, their same lives, but with two or three children running all over the place, two or three children reciting the name of the planets and fixing little toy cars with toy tools as Finn watches them lovingly.

            She smiles, because there’s no other possible reaction, and opens her eyes.

            “Yes, Finn,” she says, leaning in for a kiss. “Let’s have a child. There’s no point in waiting.”

            No, Rey has never wanted to wait, she has never waited for anyone.

            Except, maybe, for a figment of her imagination she doesn’t quite recall.  

Chapter Text

Whatever makes you happy

            The sound Rey makes while weeping is awful.

            It’s a fair contrast: if her smile is beautiful, her weeping must be the most awful thing in the universe.

            Or so appears to Kylo.

            He doesn’t remember having heard her cry like this ever.

            “Please, help…”

            Her pleas for help don’t even question his sudden presence at her house. Rey, the most logical person he knows, doesn’t question the fact a man from her past is suddenly at her yard now that her husband has fallen from the roof trying to save a stuck kitten.

            The kitten is safe.

            Finn isn’t.

            “He isn’t… isn’t breathing…” 

            Kylo knows he doesn’t. And he also knows he could bring him back now, now that his body is still warm, but…  

            Rey frees a hand to sink her fingers into his coat.

            “Please, Ben… Please, take us to the hospital, let’s… Let’s do something, I don’t know!”

            Kylo wishes he could help her, but there’s a problem: the principle of equivalence.

            There’s no one for miles around.

            If Finn were to wake up now, the only possible replacement would be…

            It would be…

            “It’s too late,” he confesses, and he feels like crying. “It’s too late now, Rey. It’s too late…”

            “Help him!” she implores, and he closes his eyes. “Help him, bring him back!”

            Perhaps at an instinctive level, Rey comprehends what he’s capable of.

            Nonetheless, she doesn’t understand everything, and that’s why…

            That’s why…

            “I can’t, Rey.” His voice breaks because she’s in agony, he’s in agony, and Finn’s soul is begging for release at the same time it pleads to stay with the love of his life. “I can’t this time, Rey… I can’t this time…”

            Rey collapses into his arms and Kylo hugs her, because there’s nothing else he can do.

            Finn’s soul kisses his wife for the last time ―a chaste kiss on the forehead.

            And it goes to him.

            But he doesn’t go anywhere ―he stays by Rey, who just won’t stop crying, all the time it takes.

Chapter Text

Whatever you want

            Officially, Rey has no one.

            She’s a twenty-eight-year-old widow with no children, twice orphaned and a brilliant astrophysicist that cannot bring herself to get up from bed.

            Kylo breaks the rules for her again: it’s him who takes care of her, it’s him who feeds her.

            (It’d paint a funny picture, if Rey’s home wasn’t permanently under a black cloud: the vision of a man completely dressed in black trying his best to decipher how to make an electric oven work).

            This is the way things go: burned pancakes, tasteless soufflés and insipid soups, apart from Rey’s forlorn silence.

            It’s all the best he can give her, and never before was he shown in such a blatantly, painful way how hopeless he is at trying to provide something better for her.    

            However, no matter his hopelessness, and even though he still has his obligations and must disappear from time to time, half a day doesn’t go by without him reappearing to make sure Rey has eaten.

            Rey, who can’t get up a week after the funeral, wishes she were dead.

            And that’s something Kylo simply won’t allow.

Chapter Text

You’re so fuckin’ special

            Rey goes back to work two months later and, little by little, she recovers. Time passes, and it’s slow, but Kylo notices the improvement in Rey’s light smiles while cooking dinner for two (an unthinkable occurrence two months ago).

            He’s still there because Rey hasn’t questioned him and neither has she asked him to leave, so he steals one more night to spend by her side.

            It’s in one of those nights he finds himself listening to the quiet song she hums and cannot help but smile.

            Wonderful creatures, these humans. They overcome anything.

            If Rey were to disappear from his life, he knows he wouldn’t be able to take it.

            That night, they talk about many things.

            “I’ve been thinking, and I believe it would be nice to harvest my own vegetables,” Rey informs him while they sit at the table to have dinner (a pizza, a nostalgic flavor from ages past). “It’ll help my budget, but mostly it’s a good hobby… It’s something Finn had planned for when we had our family and, well, that will no longer happen, but… I don’t know, it’d be some sort of memorial for him. Would you like to help me with that, Ben?”

            “I’d be pleased,” he assures her as he bites into the pizza.

            “But we’ll have to do something with your clothes,” she warns him, her fork pointing at him. “You cannot go outside, under the burning sun, dressed in black, Ben.”

            Kylo shrugs.

            “As long as no one finds out.”

            Rey snorts and then giggles.

            Kylo laughs along with her.  

Chapter Text

I wish I was special

            The first harvest takes place at the dawn of the day Finn would have been thirty.

            Rey and Kylo go out to inspect it. Both wear light shirts and straw hats to protect themselves from the sun.

            “It’s like a gift from life, isn’t it? Or maybe a gift from Finn, wherever he is…”

            Kylo just continues picking carrots, its leaves peeping out from the soil. He’s so focused that he doesn’t notice Rey approaching him.

            “Ben,” she whispers, and he instantly stands up. The sudden movement causes his hat to fall to the ground.

            “Yes?” he replies, solicitous, because whenever she calls him, he comes.

            Rey smiles and places a hand against one of his cheeks. Kylo stills ―he doesn’t understand the meaning of Rey’s actions.

            Until she speaks.

            “You’re a gift life has given me, too.”

             And taking maybe half a step, Rey tilts her face and presses her lips against Kylo’s.

Chapter Text

But I’m a creep

            Kylo kisses her back helplessly. It’s an unknown and somehow frightening sensation (even for someone like him), but whenever Rey is involved, he will simply follow. Rey loses herself into his arms and he places his hands around her waist, wishing for this moment to never end, to never be parted…

            Until he remembers who he is.

            He parts from Rey softly and tries to come up with a pretext.        

            “My hands are dirty,” he justifies himself while backing up and showing her his fingers covered in dirt. “I wouldn’t want to make you dirty…”

            Rey bites on her lower lip, trying to suppress a laugh, and then replies:

            “Your excuses are so dumb, Ben.”

            And before he can defend himself, she kisses him again.

            This time he doesn’t allow the kiss to last enough to lose himself; he takes a step back and the contact is lost. Rey looks at him with something he identifies as bewilderment and disappointment at the same time.

            Kylo realizes this is the moment it all will break between them.

            And it will be painful for both of them.

            But it’s the right thing.

            “Rey, I… You don’t even know who I am.”

            Kylo can feel his own frustration latent on his voice. He hopes Rey feels it as well, that she doesn’t mistake this for a prank or a game.

            Rey presses her arms against her sides and looks up at the sky.

            “You’re mistaken,” she mutters, as if she was talking to the sun.

            “No, you’re the one that’s mistaken. You have no idea about…”

            “I do know who you are, Ben Solo. The man who has been by my side. My friend, that’s what you are.”

            Kylo shakes his head and this gets Rey’s attention back.

            “No, I’m not.” He looks at his hands again, all dirtied and with some traces of carrot leaves. “And my hands are dirty.”

            Rey approaches him again with a small step and Kylo doesn’t know whether to run or stay put.

            This time, her voice is firmer and her words sound deadly serious. 

            “I do know who you are, Kylo Ren.”

            He stays still, words refusing to come to him. Meanwhile, Rey takes his hands and places them at the sides of her face without hesitation.

            “And your dirty hands don’t scare me.”

Chapter Text

I’m a weirdo

            Rey pours him tea and makes him sit on the sofa at the living room.

            The vegetables lie outside, forgotten, and Rey assures him there will be time for that.

            “We need to talk, Ben.”

            Kylo keeps silent. Unexpectedly, he feels… vulnerable, if such a word can exist in his vocabulary.

            Rey takes a seat in front of him, and Kylo notices she carries a book in her hands.

            “Tell me, Ben… Do you have any memories from your childhood?”

            He shakes his head. He hopes she won’t demand any explanation, for he’s unable to provide them. Rey, however, just nods, apparently satisfied with his answer.

            “My dad,” Rey explains now “believed in a lot of paranormal bullshit, you see. He had a book and all.” She shows him the book from her place in front of him. “See? Dictionary of mythological creatures. A copy that made it from the seventeenth century to this time. Who would even think about it? The answer is: of course, my dad.” Rey snorts, amused.

            Kylo keeps on being silent. He doesn’t know where’s she going with this.

            “So, as you should know, weird things start to happen in my life: every single time someone dies (or, well, almost every single time), I cross paths with a stranger in black that seems to be always around me. But, oh, surprise! No one but me can see the stranger.”

            “Have you ever thought about running?” Kylo interrupts her, his eyes fixated on her.

            Rey tilts her head slightly and offers him a smile.

            “Maybe, if he hadn’t saved my life, I would have. But would have I been able to really escape?”

            Kylo lowers his gazes to his strained fingers. He’s flustered and he doesn’t know why.

            Wasn’t this level of understanding what he had wanted? Rey understands, somehow, she does understand.    

            “It wasn’t until I was married that this book found its way back to me,” she informs him. “A book that has a lot to say about creatures you couldn’t ever imagine, sometimes with words written in undecipherable or made-up languages. A lot of them foolishly told, impossible deeds, things that just can’t happen…, except for one of these creatures.”

            “The Ren,” Kylo offers, and Rey’s smile is meek.

            “The Ren,” she confers. “So, it seems this stranger that has helped me so much is some sort of spirit that is in charge of guiding other spirits into the afterlife. A long time ago, Ben Solo was a child who died a violent death and, instead of hurting people, he decided to show the way to the souls of the people who were as afraid as he was. In exchange, he forgot all the suffering he went through while he was alive and when he died.”

            Kylo glances at the illustration on the page: a man dressed exactly like him, but blond, raises up his arm and points towards the horizon, as a light-blue fog heads towards the signaled place.

            “Dont you find it noble?” Rey probes in a whisper.  

            Kylo shrugs.

            “It seemed the only viable alternative at the time. That’s what I remember.”

            “But you broke the rules.” There’s no blame in her voice, yet her eyes betray something along the lines of pity. “You actively interfered with a human life and… said human was able to see you.”

            A pause.

            “That night. I know what you did. I’ve known for a while, now.”

            The words escape him before he can stop them:

            “That was a mistake.”

            Rey arches her brows, taken aback.

            “You would have rather let me die?”

            “I didn’t say I would have changed the way things are,” replies Kylo. “I’m just saying it was a mistake.”

            “A mistake you would have made again?”

            He should lie, yet he doesn’t.

            “A thousand times.”

            Rey straightens (she had been curving her back while talking to Kylo) and leaves the book aside.

            “Ben, I don’t know how to make this work, but…”

            A pitiful whimper is heard, and it takes him a second to comprehend it has originated from his throat.

            “That’s not my name. And you don’t know what you’re saying.”

            Not letting her say anything else, Kylo stands up, crosses the door and flees.  

Chapter Text

What the hell am I doing here?

            Or so he tries, because Rey goes after him so fast that she doesn’t need to yell the words to make them reach him under the ardent midday sun.      

            “I know what you did for Poe. And I know you couldn’t do it for Finn.”

            Kylo halts, because she has done the equivalent of placing a leash around his neck so he can’t escape.

            “Don’t do this.”

            “I know what you did, spirit. I know you broke the rules.”

            Kylo turns around. He can feel himself breaking down into despair, but she’s determined.

            He can see it in her eyes.

            And he runs to cover her mouth with his hand before she can continue.

            “Rey, do not call him,” he pleads. “He will want to rectify my mistakes, he will want to… kill you.”

            Her hands can barely push apart his.

            “And he won’t kill you?” she asks in a barely intelligible whisper.

            “Surely,” he recognizes. “But I don’t care about that part. You, however…”

            “What about me? Why is it always about me?” Rey asks mercilessly. “Poe died, so you brought him back. For me. I died, so you brought me back. Finn died, and you didn’t do the same only because it would have costed me my life.”

            Kylo whimpers again, as if the situation physically hurts him. The human in him is rusty, it doesn’t know about conventions, and the supernatural in him doesn’t understand why has he put himself in this situation at forsaking his duty.

            “What’s the reason for all this, Ben?”

            For a girl that should have died years ago.

            For the most important person to us.

            “It doesn’t make any sense, the fact you keep on doing this to yours-…”

            Nonetheless, at the end, both halves, Ben Solo and Kylo Ren, finally agree.

            “I have done it for you Rey,” Ben Solo and Kylo Ren confess at the same time. “Because I love you.”

            And the memory of the smile she gives him when he takes her in her arms, pulls her against him and kisses her, will last forever.

Chapter Text

I don’t belong here

            Rey has experience; he doesn’t.

            (And if he does, he doesn’t recall).

            But it’s fine, because her honest body doesn’t keep anything from him: it reveals to him, completely unafraid.            

            Her blush and her burning gaze don’t lie, and her back is a curve he can’t believe he gets to explore with his hands while she kisses him over and over again.

            “Are you nervous?”

            Rey’s whisper sounds like some kind of secret between two people, as if raising her voice beyond this would shatter the fragile bubble of the moment they’ve build together.

            “Maybe,” he admits with a shy smile. “I don’t think I’m able to properly name everything I’m feeling”.

            He closes his eyes as Rey kisses his neck and nibbles at the white skin her teeth have found. 

            “The most important thing you have already named.”

            They agree on that.

            Kylo makes her back drop on the bed and gets on top. This time, he is the one that doesn’t stop kissing her. Rey curves her back backwards, and he takes the opportunity to grab her hand with his and intertwine their fingers together.

            “You’re more beautiful than whatever I can name.”

            Rey envelopes him with her arms and her smiles, and the slow night witnesses the two lovers that have just started to get to know each other, no matter they have known each other since forever.

            The night witnesses, too, Rey’s last words before she loses herself into everything that is Kylo.

            “I love you, Ben.”

Chapter Text

I don’t belong here

            Rey:

            I’ve found a way. I’ll be back at dawn, if everything goes right.

            If it doesn’t…, I just want you to know I love you.

            And that I wouldn’t trade any single second I got to spend with you for anything in the world.     

Ben

            As the graveyard ground parts under the light of the full moon, and from there an uneven breathing is heard, Kylo stays still on his knees, in a position of absolute reverence.

            The almost completely black shadow watches him attentively. 

            The Lord of the Ren.

            “You called, Knight of Ren?”

            Kylo lowers his head even more.

            “I did, my Lord.”

            “Speak then, Ren…”

            Kylo raises his head and clenches his fists. He inhales deeply, and just when he’s about to start…

            “Or, perhaps, should be I the one to speak?”

            He doesn’t know what else to do but closing his mouth and lowering his gaze once again.

            “I’m aware of the rules you’ve broken,” the Lord of the Ren accuses him, and his breathing is not unlike what one would heard from a man on his deathbed. Perpetually on his deathbed. “I’m aware of the boy and the girl that you brought back. What can you say about this?”

            Kylo makes up his mind (it’s now or never) and talks from his place in the dirt.

            “She loved the boy.”

            “And so have countless others, and yet they have died, but I do not recall anyone standing on the way of-”

            “And I love her.”

            The Lord of the Ren pauses. Kylo is pretty sure no one has ever dared before to interrupt him.  

            Except for him.

            Maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but Kylo is certain he’s doing the right thing, even if in a clumsy and a little bit unplanned way.

            “I’m in love with her. I want to share my life with her.”

            The Lord of the Ren seems to ponder his words before speaking.

            “I remember you, Ben Solo. You were but a child when you became one of us.”

            “I’m no longer a child.”

            “No, you are not,” The Lord of the Ren seems to laugh, although Kylo wouldn’t assure it. “But you grew up in a way that reminds me of one. With no real rules (because the ones you’ve known, you have broken), with no real limits. And now, you desire to form part of a world you know nothing about?”

            Kylo remains prostrated. 

            “If so my Lord allows.”

            The Lord of the Ren emits no sound for what seems to last an eternity. Kylo doesn’t move a single muscle.

            Finally, the most unexpected sound is heard: a deep sigh.

            Kylo raises his head just in time to see the Lord of the Ren plop down on the trunk of a tree fallen a long time ago.

            “You can stop pretending. I know you’re fully aware of what you’re doing. Stand up.”

            Kylo obeys and keeps his gaze forward.

            “How did you know about this?”

            “I read it in a book. Well, Rey read it in a book, but she didn’t understand the words written in the language of the Ren.”

            The Lord of the Ren nods.

            “This is a bit painful,” he admits then, and Kylo thinks he’s listening to the true Lord of the Ren: a simple old man, too old for all he has to burden, and yet an old man that doesn’t stop walking. “When I first created the Order of the Knights of Ren, thousands of years ago, I did it with a sole purpose: to shelter those who were deemed unwanted. Those that suffered unspeakable atrocities and now harbored nothing but a thirst for revenge. Those who would have gutted a man were they to remain without a purpose in the afterlife. That’s why I took their anger with me.”

            A brief pause.

            “The anger you felt, young Solo.”

            “That’s true and noble,” Kylo agrees. “But it’s not my case anymore.”

            “So I can see.”

            “Then…?”

            The Lord of the Ren gets on his feet once again. He’s almost as tall as Kylo, but he won’t be intimidated.

            “I shall tell you my name, knight of Ren.” And he talks like this because these aren’t empty words: they’re a rite, a prayer, an ending. “And you shall guard it with your life. You will guard it from those unloved, like me, and from those who are loved, like you. And when the time comes, when the sun sets at your door at the end of your new life, it will be me who will come to take you and the name I’ve offered you as payment for the one you surrendered to me all those centuries ago.”

           Kylo gets closer to the Lord of the Ren and awaits the end.

           “My name, knight of Ren, before I was Lord of the Order of the Knights of Ren, before I was Darth Vader, my name is…”

           A terrible thunder is heard then, and the stars disappear from the night sky.

           Only a young man is left, on his knees, at the mercy of the raindrops.

           A common, ordinary young man, like any other, with all the memories from his past.

           An orphaned boy that was mistreated, hit, humiliated.

           A young thief full of rage, a quarrelsome man, a bloody corpse on the roadside.

           An angered soul that wasn’t ever offered kind words, a soul no one ever loved.

           An apathic spirit in charge of guiding those who had lost their way.

           Yes: a common, ordinary young man, like any other.

           A common, ordinary young man that loves and is loved by a simple human girl with stars in her eyes.

           The common, ordinary young man that cannot help the tears that stream down his cheeks right there where he is.

           Ben Solo. 

Chapter Text

            Rey waits anxiously at her home’s living room, her nails all helplessly bitten. Then, when the door opens in the middle of the storm and raindrops and furious wind enter her residence, she can see none of this comes alone.

            He’s at the door, and she runs to hug him.

            “Ben! Where were you?! Are you okay?!”

            Her fingers seem not to be able to feel enough of the man in front of her. It’s like she’s afraid of him suddenly disappearing.

            (Something he hasn’t done for a long time now.)

            “I’m fine,” he reassures her as he wraps his arms around her in what can only be called a warm embrace. “I’m fine. Everything went fine.”

            Rey keeps silent at the same time she tries to swallow her tears.

            That’s when she realizes…

            “Wait. If everything went fine, that means…”

            She pulls away from him as if trying to look for a change. He just takes her hand, places a kiss on it and presses it against his face.

            “The neighbors will no longer think you talk to yourself.”

            Rey slaps his shoulder as she giggles.

            “Really? That is… That is…

            “Actually, they might or might be not calling the police right now,” he warns her. “I think Mrs. Organa saw me. She’s probably telling the police about a man dressed in black that just broke into her neighbor’s house as we speak…”

            “HOLY-”

            Rey frees her hand from him and runs to take her cellphone. He cannot help but laugh loudly as he watches Rey calling Mrs. Organa to explain everything about her “new boyfriend” and “oh please do not call the police there was an emergency that’s why he’s here at this hour and with this storm.

            Rey ends the call and sighs. Then turns around to face him.

            “Mrs. Organa sends you her regards, her apologies, and says you’re a ‘very handsome young man’ that she would love to invite for afternoon tea one of these days.”

            He smirks with a “what a surprise!” face that grants him another slap on the shoulder.

            “Don’t mock her!”

            “No, no, it’s just I’m surprised by how forward human women are…”

            “She could be your mother! More so: I think she probably wants to adopt you or something, she’s that kind of person, I just see it in her eyes.”

            He rolls his eyes.

            “And anyways,” Rey accuses him, “we know you like human women and how forward they are, isn’t that right?”

            “Hm,” he pretends to consider the idea. “It could be. Perhaps if…”

            However, Rey is already throwing herself into his arms, and he reacts quickly enough to catch her and sweep her off her feet as she wraps her arms around his neck.

            “Shut up and kiss me, Ben,” she giggles. “I won’t wait forever.”

            For a moment, he considers to argue (“you have waited for me before”), but he finally opts for simply doing what Rey asks.

            He kisses her over and over again, no matter the raging storm outside. Rey laughs and cries tears of joy.

            Because, at last, after Poe, after Finn, after the incommensurable love of both for her and her love for them, Rey is exactly where she ought to be in that moment: in the arms of the man that saved her, in the arms of the man she loves.

            And Ben Solo?

            It won’t be easy: he has his memories and his pain back, he has a whole new world to discover and a lot left to learn about human relationships.

            But it will be fine, really.

            It will be fine.

            Because…

            “At last…” Ben cannot help the tears of joy, either. “At last I’m beside the one who got my life back to me, Rey… At last, I am…

            By your side.