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Smugglers Redemption

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"Chewie, tell me something good!"

The Falcon let out a series of beeps, red lights flashing as far as the eye could see. The wookiee made a sound; something between a whine and a roar.

"Didn't I say tell me something good?"

A tall man with dark hair came skidding into the cockpit and began mashing at a series of buttons, muttering to himself.

"Fuck!" He slammed his hand into the data pad beneath him. "We need to bring her down Chewie" - another agitated moan from the wookiee. "Yeah yeah, I know. Does it look like we have a choice if we want to make it out of this pile of junk alive?" Another roar, this time more defeated, and the wookiee slammed a button, immediately pulling them out of hyperspace.

"Let's just hope we don't jump straight into a Rancors lair" the man mutters, pulling himself into the empty pilots seat. As the dust began to clear before them, the lights slowly ceased flickering and the beeping gradually died down until the cockpit fell silent. Ahead of them was a vast desert, one that looked almost empty aside from littered mechanical structures.

"Looks like we're coming in pretty fast, let's see if we can slow it down a little." They began manoeuvring the ship through the structures, although even the best of pilots would struggle to land smoothly with the speed they were going at. They approached the surface through a clearing with a loud thud, and the ship skidded and skipped ahead in the sand. The Falcon came to an abrupt halt, throwing both pilots back violently against their chairs. But before either could breathe a sigh of relief, the beeping and flashing started again.

Both pilots let out disgruntled moans. Chewbacca began making a series of agitated whines, before the young man put his hands up in surrender. "Alright, fine I'll take a look this time. Come on, you're not that old." The man pulled himself up from his chair as the wookiee mumbled to himself, making his way out of the cockpit towards the hangar bay. He reached out to a data pad on the wall, pressing buttons until a map appeared, racing through a series of numbers and locations until it stopped suddenly.

"Niima Outpost. Jakku. Outer Rim - that's great, just great." He slammed a hand into a button adjacent to the pad, and the door flew open, revealing a gap between the ship and the surface. "Even better, the ramp is jammed". The man rolled his eyes before leaping from the ship, landing crouched on the sand below.

He dusted himself off, and took a few steps back, assessing the damage. The ship was well and truly busted, he thought to himself, no denying that. He headed closer, working his way around the ship and calculating the potential cost it looked to set them back by. That was, if they could even get the parts they needed to make the repair work. The desert they'd landed in looked just like that - a desert. Not a sign of life to be found for miles.

Suddenly, he heard the sound of metal bending and cracking. He sped up, turning the corner of the ship to see a masked figure hunched on the roof of the ship, pulling off chunks of metal and throwing them down next to a speeder that lay below.

"Hey! What do you think you're doing?" The figure looked up, clearly startled. They let go of the metal in their hands and jumped down, landing with ease on the sand below.

"You can't just take apart people's ships like that!"

The figure moved forward suddenly, raising their hands up apologetically. They moved gloved hands up to their face, pulling the mask down and placing goggles atop their head to reveal a woman, barely in her twenties. "I didn't realise the ship had passengers! I was just salvaging scrap, I didn't mean any harm".

As the man moved closer, he looked again at the scavenger. She really was young, her skin smooth despite a life presumably spent in the fierce desert sun. A cluster of freckles spread across her face, and he detected a hint of sadness in her eyes.

"How could you not think there were any passengers, we just landed!" The man threw his arms up in frustration as he moved closer to the woman.

"Is that what you'd call it, landing?" She raised an eyebrow. "That pile of garbage came down pretty fast, I was sure anyone on board would have already ejected or perished."

"Garbage? This ship made the Kessel run in...nevermind, it doesn't matter." He waved his hands. "What does matter is that you can't just steal whatever you see, okay?" He sighed, exhausted by the rough landing and the stress of the whole situation, running a hand across his temple.

"That's just how it is on Jakku. It's the only way to survive." The girl moved towards her speeder, removing a set of tools from the bag at her belt and dropping them in a holster at the front of the speeder. She turned back again, and taking a step forward, she removed her glove and extended a hand.

"Rey. My names Rey."

He stared, letting her hand hover for a moment, before abruptly turning away. "I'm not in the habit of keeping company with thieves." He heard a sharp intake of breath that sounded suspiciously like a huff.

"Fighting words, coming from a smuggler."

He stopped abruptly, and turned to look at her, rage filling his gaze. She smirked.

"Just because you think I'm from some backwater planet, it doesn't mean I don't know a smuggler ship when I see one. No need to act so high and mighty."

The man walked towards her, teeth gritted. "I don't appreciate the attitude, 'Rey from nowhere', and I certainly don't take kindly to strangers trash talking me or my ship. Now, is there something else you want to say or are we done here?"

Her gaze met his, firm and confident. "You look like you could use some parts. I can help you get them."

"And what's in it for you?"

"A favour."

He frowned. "A favour? What kind of favour?"

"Not a big one. Don't worry, I'm not trying to make you gamble away your ship or anything like that. Just something small. I'll tell you once I've got you the parts."

Another frown. "You don't make a particularly compelling offer, Scavenger. Surely bargaining should be one of your strengths? I'm sure we could find a way to get parts on our own without needing your help."

"I'm a mechanic too!" she suddenly lurched forward as he turned to walk away again, grabbing the sleeve of his shirt. "I'm good at fixing things. At fixing ships. I can help you find the parts and I can fix up this hunk of junk in no time." Noticing she was still gripping his shirt, she let go abruptly.

He stared at her intensely, a look of disgust and contempt crossing his brow. He turned again to leave, walking back to the entrance of the ship.

Defeated, Rey let her shoulders dip and her posture loosen. Resigned, she began packing her remaining tools back into the holster, when she heard a whistle.

She turned back to see him, stood at the ships entrance staring back at her.

"Are you coming, Rey from nowhere?"

Her face lit up, and shoving the last of her things into the holster, she ran, almost stumbling, towards the Falcon's entrance. By now he'd pulled himself up into the hangar bay, and as she approached, he extended a hand down to her. She ignored it, and instead gripped the edge of the door and hoisted herself up with ease, propelling herself into the ship.

A little taken aback, he stood up, brushing himself down. He turned towards the corridor, and immediately walked into a giant wall of fur.

"Chewie! How many times have I told you to look where you're going?" The wookiee made a mixture of jumbled sounds. "So, uh Chewie, meet Rey, Rey this is Chewbacca." Another grumble. "Rey is going to help us fix our ship".

Rey walked over and reached an outstretched hand to the Wookie before her. Without warning, the wookiee pulled her into a strong embrace, making a series of cheery grumbles.

"Oh! It's nice to meet you too! I've met a lot of wookiees before, but I can't say one has ever greeted me with a hug."

The dark haired man stood, aghast. "How can you...?" his voice trailed off.

Rey turned back to him, and there was that smirk again. "You pick up a few things when you're out in the desert."

Chewbacca loosened his grip, and headed over to his co-pilot, mumbling a series of low sounds and the man whispered in response "I don't know Chewie, I mean it just sort of happened. I guess I felt bad, her being out there on her own." He sighed, and turned to walk in the opposite direction.

"I've got a few things to sort out. Chewie, why don't you show Rey around the Falcon until I'm back. Seems like you two are fast friends already." He raised his hand to wave, before disappearing through a door that shut abruptly behind him.

Rey turned back to look at Chewie, a look of bemusement on her face.

"So what's his deal then?" Chewie shrugged. "Didn't even tell me his name..."

Chewbacca let out a hollow bleat in response.

"Ben. Hmm. I just assumed he'd have something more dramatic to go with that uptight persona."

They headed off in the direction of the cockpit.

Chapter Text

Ben let his shoulders slump as the door closed behind him, pausing briefly where he stood. What was he thinking, inviting that girl onto the Falcon? It wasn't like he and Chewie couldn't repair the ship themselves.

He made his way to one of the private cabins and closed the door behind him gently. Finally, some privacy. He slumped onto the bed, running a hand through his dark hair. He was a jitter of emotions, filled with frustration at himself and their situation, a wave of anxiety spreading through him. Ben had never quite been able to 'gel' with others, and the prospect of having a new face on the ship filled him with unease. At least until they could get the parts, he'd have to work through it. Why had he been so reckless and invited a total stranger onto their ship?

He reached for a data pad at the side of the bed and sat up, typing in a series of numbers until a hologram sparked into view.

"Ben. Have you made the pick up yet?"
A man appeared through the flickering holo. His stern, haggered features betrayed a hint of uneasiness at the face before him.

"We had a problem with the Falcon, the hyperdrive activated without warning. Chewie pulled us out as soon as he could, but we're stuck in the Outer Rim until we can get some repairs done."

"Crap. Kanji Klub are not gonna be happy." the man sighed. "How long until you're up and running again?"

"A couple of days at most. We're heading into the nearby town - if you can call it that - to get the parts we need, so I should have a better idea if we can get those soon."

"Whereabouts are you?" asked the man.

"Jakku."

"Ouch. A backwater planet if there ever was one." Ben looked away from the man momentarily, and decided it best not to mention their temporary visitor.

"I'll let you know once we know more."

"Fine. I'll see what I can do to dispel Kanji Klub for a few days."

"Ha, good luck." Ben chuckled dryly.

"Laugh it up kid, you're the one who put us in this mess! You'll be grovelling to them too when you get there."

Ben sniggered again. "Yeah, yeah, okay. Talk later, Dad." He put his hand up, and with a wave the hologram disappeared.

Ben leaned back, resting his hands behind his head, pondering for a moment. He was thankful that his father had encouraged him to join the smuggling business, and he enjoyed the freedom it gave. He was glad he didn't have to travel with his father and was instead paired with Chewie - he knew it was so his father could still keep a close eye on him without smothering him. Han and Chewie were old friends, partners for many years. Thankfully, the old Wookie acted less of a childminder and more like an old friend to him too.

His father was impatient and often hot-headed, and Ben couldn't count the number of times they'd come to blows. But beneath that there was a certain sincerity, and it got to a point in Ben's early teens when he noticed a slight shift in his attitude towards his father. Han had become more patient, and slowly but surely became more open with him. He suspected his mother had something to do with it. Nonetheless, his relationship with his father could have gone in a very different direction, and he was satisfied that they could at least get on together, even if they weren't terribly close.

He sighed, putting his hands on his knees before rising to his feet, opening the door and heading towards the cockpit. As he grew closer, he could hear muffled voices and laughter.

As the door shot open, the laughter suddenly stopped. The girl, Rey, looked up quickly, a gentle smile spreading across her face. "Hi Ben!" She was sat in the pilots seat of all places, with Chewie in his usual chair.

Ben nodded, his face calm and expressionless. "We should head into town before it gets dark. We need to make a start on the repairs first thing in the morning."

"Well, I wouldn't go as far to call it a town, but sure." Rey rose to her feet from the pilots seat, giving Chewie a gentle pat on the shoulder as she did.

"Chewie, stay here and guard the ship. I've spoken to Han and he's aware of what's going on, but if he calls let him know we've gone to get the parts." Chewbacca nodded, letting out a croaky howl. "Rey, let's go." Ben beckoned with his hand, opening the door to head back out into the sweltering desert.

Chapter Text

"So what's the plan?" Rey skittered forward to catch up with Ben, his long strides carrying him ahead with a sense of urgency.

"I was hoping you could help with that. We need to find someone who can get us the parts we need. That hyperdrive needs some major tweaking. I was also hoping we could use your speeder, I assume we're not within walking distance."

"You've got that right." Rey jumped down from the Falcon onto the sand, and Ben followed, brushing the sand off his clothes upon landing.

"It's not far by speeder. Unfortunately your best bet is Unkar Plutt. I can't say he's trustworthy, but he knows better than to try and rip me off. And I know how to push his buttons." Rey mounted the speeder, pushing her goggles down onto her face. "Hop on!" She beckoned Ben, patting the space behind her.

"I was hoping I'd be driving..." Ben muttered to himself as he approached the vehicle, sitting behind her and adjusting himself to sit more comfortably. This definitely wasn't built for tall drivers.

"Hold on, this thing goes pretty fast." She motioned to her waist. Ben gingerly moved his arms forward and placed his hands delicately on her waist, a small blush rising to his cheeks. If he was more like his father, now would be a perfect time for a suggestive wisecrack. But Ben was not his father, and possessed none of his confidence or swagger. Instead he remained silent, his gaze moving to his feet.

Rey twisted a switch and kicked at the side of the speeder, which shot ahead with a jolt, taking Ben by surprise as he instinctively dug into her waist to hold on tighter.

They completed their journey in silence. Ben had never been much of a talker and he assumed Rey was the same. The silence didn't feel uncomfortable, it felt natural. Ben relished the chance to relax and have a moment to zone out without having to think about mechanics and trade deals.

Before long they arrived at a small clearing filled with makeshift tents and tables. People selling their wares, others simply browsing, and another group sat at some dusty looking tables cleaning what looked to be ship parts. Rey parked the speeder beside a junkyard of crumbling ships.

"This way." She motioned forward, Ben following behind. He couldn't imagine living here. There was literally nothing.

They approached a stand, a little larger than the others. As they grew closer, Ben could see a large orange figure, possibly a Crolute although he couldn't be sure. As they grew closer, he noticed the indistinguishable frown falling across his brow as he spotted Rey.

"We need some parts for a ship. He'll tell you more." Rey thrust Ben forward so he was face to face with the surly faced creature, who eyed him up and down with a look of slight curiosity.

"He'll pay you. In coin." Rey interjected before Ben had the chance to speak. Plutt sat up, his expression changing to one of pleasure, a smile spreading across his face that made Ben instantly wary. Ben could feel the attention of passers by perk up and gripped tighter and the holster on his belt.

As he ran through a list of parts he needed, he could see Rey pacing from the corner of his eye. She'd clearly noticed the change in mood too, and was walking back and forth, glaring at passers by. She was clearly more receptive than he'd first assumed.

Plutt turned to pull from a selection of parts behind him, the jangling of metal ringing across the small expanse. He placed a selection of grubby parts onto the counter and began scribbling on a scrawl. He turned the sheet to Ben, jabbing at a number.

"This will cover everything you need. I can assure you these parts are the best we've got, of the highest quality."

Ben snorted. "You've got to be an idiot if you think I'm paying that much. Try again."

Plutt huffed. "I can take it down by fifty. No lower."

Ben rolled his eyes and leant forward, placing his arms on the surface before him, looking the trader directly in the eye.

"Look pal, you're going to give me these for a reasonable price. You're going to let me pay half of what you've offered. Understand?" Ben maintained his intense glare and Plutt's face began to change. He noticed Rey peering over with interest, watching their heated interaction.

"I will give these to you for a reasonable price. I'm going to let you pay half of what I've offered." Ben saw Rey's jaw drop and smirked. Yup, still got it. He'd always had a natural knack for persuasion. He may not be a smooth talker like his father, but he never had much trouble persuading people to come around to his way of thinking.

Ben flung a series of coins in the creatures direction, grabbing the parts and swiftly walking away as Rey trailed behind, still aghast. "H-how did you do that? A few words and he just agreed! Plutt isn't exactly one to barter."

"What can I say, I guess I have a knack for the art of persuasion." Ben shrugged his shoulders. "I think we drew a little too much attention though so I suggest we get moving quickly."

"Yeah, I didn't like the way Plutt's cronies were eyeing us up..." Rey quickened her pace, peering over at the selection of parts bundled under Ben's arm. "You'll have to show me. How to be more persuasive, that is." She looked up at Ben, who's brow wrinkled slightly.

"I'm not much of a teacher."

"I'm a quick learner." Rey shot him a lopsided smile before turning back to the path ahead as they made their way back towards the speeder. Ben bundled the parts into the holster before hopping on.

"I'll drive." He pat the space behind him. "Hop on."

Rey rolled her eyes, choosing not to protest. If he wanted to keep his masculinity in front of the locals then so be it. She was perfectly confident she was the better driver anyway, no need to kick up a fuss. She'd learned to pick her battles a long time ago. It was clear Ben was someone who didn't get a lot of chances to exert his authority in front of others.

She jumped onto the speeder and they sped off into the vast expanse of the desert. Rey savoured the moment - it wasn't often she got the chance to relax and enjoy the views around her, not that there was much to see. A stray Imperial ship here and there, her AT-AT, a droid...

"Wait, stop! Stop!" Ben pulled the speeder to an abrupt holt. Before he had the chance to ask, Rey was sprinting towards what looked to be a scuffle in the distance, shouting in a language he didn't recognise.

Climbing off the speeder, he headed towards Rey and the gathering. As he grew closer he saw a figure riding an ugly looking creature, and noticed Rey removing a series of nets from a round looking droid as she muttered under her breath. The droid made a series of aggressive beeps and was admonished by Rey, who continued to shout at the rider, pointing her staff at him. The figure mumbled, dejected, before pulling at the reigns and retreating in the opposite direction without the droid.

He could hear Rey chatting to the droid, only catching a phrase - "I'm waiting for someone too."

Before he'd made his way to them both, Rey waved her arms at him. "He's coming with us!" Ben stopped in his tracks, before nodding and turning back to the speeder. Great. Another stray.

Rey hoisted her new mechanical companion into a holster on the side of the speeder, tugging at a wrap to clip him into place.

Ben hoisted himself back onto the speeder. "No more stop-off's." Rey responded with a quick smile before putting her arms his waist as they sped onward.

Chapter Text

"Chewie, we're back!"

A loud twang rang out as Ben planted the rounded droid down onto the ships floor. Right on queue, Chewbacca let out a howl as he poked his head round a corner.

"We brought back this droid, BB-8. He was being harassed for his parts." Rey began telling the Wookie about the events at the outpost and their last minute stop off. Meanwhile, Ben began rummaging through the parts they'd acquired from Plutt, pulling at wires and tinkering with circuit boards.

"Rey, can you give me a hand getting these parts fitted?"

Rey looked up, a grin spreading across her face. "Sure."

"Chewie, start plotting our course out of here. This shouldn't take long." The two walked away, Rey patting BB-8 on the head as she passed through the door.

Ben lowered himself to the floor next to a panel and began unscrewing it, lifting it open to reveal a mess of wires.

"So what brought you to Jakku?"

"My family." Rey's smile falters; only for a moment, but Ben spots it nonetheless. Her fingers fiddle with a set of wires as she speaks. "They left me here. I always thought they'd be back someday."

"And do you believe that?" Ben's voice was gentle and low as he spoke.

Rey paused, thinking for a moment.

"I try to. When things get really bad, I try to remember them. I always imagine reasons why they might have left me..." A small smile spread across her lips.

"Perhaps they were Resistance fighters off to save the Galaxy. Or secret Royalty, thrown into hiding for their own protection. I like to think there's a big reason behind all this, behind me being left here, even if it's not true. It makes the tougher days on Jakku a little easier."

Ben furrowed his brow, and thought for a moment before speaking.

"It doesn't matter who they were, not really. You shouldn't have to imagine who they are and what they're like because they shouldn't have left you. To leave a child alone like that in such an unforgiving world..." Ben clenched his fists, and felt the anger rising as it so often did. "They were wrong to do that. You deserve better. So much better."

Rey looked up and met Ben's gaze. He wondered if this was the first time someone had acknowledged her worth, because from the look of shock and awe on her face it damn well seemed like it. That thought alone made the rage begin to rise again, but he let out a deep sigh and pushed it to the back of his mind.

Rey smiled and looked away before beginning work on circuit board. "What about you? What's your family like?"

"They're...different. My dad is my boss, so that comes with it's own complications" he barley suppresses a snigger "And my mother is something of a politician I suppose. They've always been outlaws of some sort, so we always moved a lot when I was growing up."

Rey maintained eye contact, willing him to continue, so he did. "Not that it was a bad thing. I've seen places across the galaxy, experienced so many things but sometimes I wish I'd just been able to settle in one place. Make friends, have a sense of normality."

Ben felt himself rambling. It wasn't often he got to have a ordinary conversation with someone other than Chewbacca.

"Chewie has always been family, him and my dad go way back. I ended up working for dad's smuggling business and here we are."

"You seem to have a knack for it."

"I suppose." Ben smiled - it was small, but just enough for Rey to notice it and she smiled back. They continued working in comfortably in silence for a few minutes before Ben spoke again.

"You know, you could always come with us. If you want to, that is. We're always looking for a spare pair of hands." Ben continued to stare intensely at the tools in his hands, refusing to look up. He could feel Rey's gaze on him, her hands motionless while he spoke.

Ben cleared his throat before speaking again. "You're resourceful. And you're good with mechanics. All the while we've been talking you've done double the installments I've done." He motioned at the almost empty bundle of parts - he'd barely noticed how quickly Rey had worked while he'd spoken.

He let the silence fill the air for a moment.
"Just...think about it. We won't be leaving until the morning anyway."

"Okay."

Ben looked up to meet her gaze, noticing the fierce firey glow in her eyes as they caught the light seeping through the view point.

Despite his insistence that she stay on the Falcon for the night, Rey made her way back home for the evening with BB-8 in tow. Home, he would later discover, was a crumpling AT-AT unit. Resourceful indeed. She'd promised to return in the morning to see them off, but she needed to head into Niima Outpost first to trade in some parts. He reminded her of the favour he owed her and offered to buy her portions, but she staunchly refused.

Ben's sleep was restless that night, but when wasn't it? He'd experienced mild insomnia since childhood, when the voices in his mind nagged at him and poked at his weak spots. The voices had since faded but the lack of rest remained - he always avoided looking at his own reflection, knowing he'd be troubled by what he saw. A pale complexion and deep, dark eyes etched with bags that rested underneath permenantly.

He lay awake, looking up at the stars above him through the viewfinder, and wondered if Rey was looking at them too. Did she wonder what lay beyond Jakku, the multitude of planets and worlds she'd never seen?

A sudden jolt hit him and he sat up. The room was light - he'd managed to get some sleep after all. That didn't happen often. It was then that he realised a loud beeping had woken him up, a dim red glow emitting from his right side - he pulled himself out of bed and tapped at the communicator on the shelf.

'FIRST ORDER TROUBLE ON JAKKU, TIME TO GET OUT OF THERE. STAY SAFE. - DAD.'

Ben moved like lightning, shaking Chewbacca awake on the bed opposite - of course that furry giant had slept through the whole thing. He threw the communicator at him as he pulled his boots on and sprinted to the exit. Jamming his hand at the button as though it would make the ramp open any faster. He ran again when it opened, jumping off the ramp before it had even made contact with the sand below, only stopping when he spotted figures running towards the Falcon.

Rey ran towards them, accompanied by the droid and a man he didn't recognise, speeder discarded in the sand behind them.

"Long story, I'll explain later" she shouted across to him. "Can yo-"

"Get on the ship, we need to get out of here fast." Ben interjected before she even had the chance to ask. Rey smiled as his hand motioned them to board, everyone running up the ramp as the sound of blasterfire filled the air.

Chapter Text

As they clambered onto the ship the sound of blasterfire filled the air.

"Chewie, we're fast tracking our exit, we need to get out of this system fast!" The Wookie bleeted a hollow howl as Ben sprinted to the pilots seat.

Rey hovered awkwardly at the edge of the cockpit and was thrust back into reality by the sound of her name being shouted.

"Rey, I'm gonna need you on the blaster, we've got Tie's incoming." The ship jolted forward suddenly and shot rapidly upwards. Rey gripped the door frame to steady herself as the ship took to the air.

"I've neve-"

"I know. No time for lessons, just do what you can." He threw her a headset. "Attack bay is at the far end of the ship."

Well, time to adapt she supposed. She gave a quick nod before skidding out of the cockpit. "You two stay here. You might want to hold onto something." Rey motioned to no surroundings in particular as she sprinted past their two newest companions. The man looked positively shell-shocked. No time for pep talks, she had to get to that blaster.

Throwing herself down in the seat and putting on the headset, Rey rest her hands on the controls, trying to familiarising herself. Talk about a baptism of fire.

"Rey, we've got incoming!" Ben's voice flooded through the headset.

"Got it!"

She took aim and immediately fired, sending a tie-fighter hurling out of the sky. And another one, and another.

She could hear Ben's rasped breathing through the headpiece. "You sure you haven't done this before?"

"Beginners luck." She smirked before taking aim again, bringing down another tie as it followed them through a deep cavern. One she knew all too well from her Scavenging. This was an old Imperial ship, and she knew it like the back of her hand.

"Keep going straight, you'll come to a bend as you reach the rear of the ship, then fly straight up, there's a gap in the roof" She continued firing as she spoke. "It'll be a sharp upwards turn but we can make it!"

"Okay, on it!"

Rey could feel the adrenaline rushing through her veins as she fired at an incoming Tie. This did feel natural. She'd always been good at picking up new skills and adapting, something that helped her survive and set herself apart from the tough competition at Niima Outpost. But this wasn't Scavenging, and they'd long since left the outpost.

She knew they were approaching the bend and braced herself for the sudden sharp turn, and looked down just in time to see the remaining fighters crash into the wall of the Imperial wreck, bursting into flames.

"Yes!" she shouted, her fists flying upwards, and she heard cheering from the other side of the ship. She braced herself as they jumped to lightspeed and once the approach settled she made her way back to the cockpit.

She was met with pats on the back from the man she'd met at the outpost, and Ben spun around on the pilots chair. "Not bad for a rookie." Chewie howled in agreement. The smirk was noted, but despite it Rey could sense that Ben was genuinely impressed.

"Now, more importantly." Ben stood up and made his way towards the man who had boarded the ship earlier. Rey gasped as Ben pulled a blaster from his holster and pointed it at the man's head. "Where the hell is Poe?"

Chapter Text

The imposter looked at him with genuine terror in his eyes, a look Ben knew all too well. When he didn't immediately respond, he cocked the blaster and began walking closer.

"Did I stutter?" Ben's voice drawled, his anger clearly rising. "Where. Is. Poe?"

The man put his hands up in protest and began waving them frantically, babbling and struggling to get his words out. Ben's gaze didn't falter.

"I-I h-helped him escape a First Order base, then we crash landed on Jakku, I couldn't find him but I found his jacket, and it was kinda cold so I put it on and that's when I ended up in that town to see if I could find him and these guys just started shooting at me-"

"Okay, okay, you need to slow it down." Ben lowered his blaster but it remained gripped tightly in his hand. "Start again. From the beginning. And maybe try to breathe between words this time?"

The droid, BB-8, made a series of sad sounding bleeps before rolling out of the room suddenly.

The tension was still thick in the air, but the man continued to tell his story of escape from the First Order. He'd partnered with Poe, who had been captured and they commandeered a Tie Fighter that crash landed on Jakku. Rey helped fill in the gaps of their brief introduction at the Niima Outpost before First Order reinforcements arrived.

The man, who was named Finn, had attempted to intervene when Rey was hassled by some of Plutt's henchmen - but evidently she didn't need saving. Ben chucked to himself when he heard that - of course she didn't. That girl defied expectations at any opportunity.

"Wait, so how do you know Poe?" asked Finn. "Are you with the Resistance too?"

"The Resistance?!" Rey interjected as a huge grin spread across her face. "You're with the Resistance?"

"Well, not exactly..." mumbled Ben awkwardly, looking away from the group. "My uh, my mother, and a few other family members have some connections there."

Chewie growled proudly, and Rey's eyes grew wider. "Your mother is Leia Organa?! Which must mean your dad is...and this ship is..."

"Yeah okay, my dad is Han Solo and this is the Millennium Falcon. For a girl who grew up in the desert alone you seem to know an awful lot about the Rebel Alliance." There was a wave of hostility in his voice.

"I just..." Rey's voice trailed off, the hurt clear in her eyes.

"Hey man, c'mon now, everyone knows those stories, no need to get touchy." Finn took a bold step forward, carefully eyeing the blaster still firmly in Ben's grip.

Ben took another step forward until he was just inches away from Finn. He towered over the shorter man, an advantage he was keen to use in his favour.

"Most people don't expect strangers to know their entire family history. Now the question remains - where is Poe? Am I expected to just trust what you've told us?"

"I don't know! I told you already, I looked for him in the wreckage but then it exploded! All I could find was his jacket, if he was there I would have known it. I'm not lying. Poe was the only person in the world to ever trust me. So I'm asking you now, to trust me like he did."

Ben huffed, his brows furrowing and his gaze growing dark. "Well I hope you're telling the truth, for your sake. Because we're on our way to the Resistance right now, and if I find out that you laid so much as a finger on him I swear I will hurt you in ways you cannot imagine." He stuffed the blaster back into his holster before storming out of the room.

An uncomfortable silence filled the air before Chewbacca howled, raising his arms in the air in exasperation, before returning to the cockpit.

"You're not wrong Chewie." Rey responded, taking a seat on the lounger behind them.

"What the hell is his problem?" Finn relaxed his shoulders before sitting opposite Rey. "I have no reason to lie."

"Yeah, I get the feeling trust is something Ben doesn't give out often." Rey leant her head back and let our a deep sigh. "He'll come around. He's just worried about his friend."

"Sorry, Rey was it?" She nodded. "Rey, he kind of seems like an asshole and I only just met him. He didn't even want to listen to what I had to say."

"Well I only met him a day ago, so..."

"Wai-so you've barely known him longer than me and you're giving him a free pass for how he acted? I mean, aside from him pulling a blaster on me he wasn't exactly nice to you either."

"He was hurt. He'll apologise."

"You don't know that."

"I do. He's easy to read." Rey shrugged.

"There is no way that guy is easy to read!" Finn snorted, shaking his head. He let out a long exhausted sigh before speaking again. "What brought you here then? You looking to join the Resistance?"

"Maybe." Rey shrugged. "I wasn't sure I wanted to leave Jakku in the first place." Rey explained the events of the last day to Finn, and the two bonded over absent parents and difficult childhoods. She discovered he was previously a Stormtrooper with the First Order and his encounter with Poe was his first chance to get out. Rey could see immediately that Finn was a kind, trusting individual (perhaps too trusting), and for someone who had spent all of his life training to be a soldier he was surprisingly warm.

"Do you think you'll join the Resistance now?" she asked.

"I don't know." Finn shuffled in his seat, staring off absentmindedly. "Not sure they'd want someone like me anyway."

"Don't say that! I'm sure they would."

"Nah. I'm a coward. Don't forget I used to work for the First Order too. As far as they're concerned I'm just a First Order drone."

"And that is exactly why they would want you on board! You're not a coward. You've seen first hand what the First Order can do. Your knowledge will be useful to the Resistance."

Finn's face warmed a little at Rey's words and his voice grew a little more confident. "Maybe. Yeah, maybe. We'll see when we get there I guess."

Rey stood up and patted him on the shoulder. "Get some rest. You deserve it. We'll be there in a few hours."

Finn nodded, stretching out his arms and letting out a long yawn. Rey made to leave the room but Finn spoke up before she left.

"Hey Rey? Thanks. Its good to talk to someone about this stuff."

Rey didn't turn back to face him, but smiled. "It's okay. Rest up Finn." She continued out of the room as Finn laid down on the lounger. She head out across the hall, passing a small room, before backtracking and stopping in her tracks. Ben was in there. She could feel his anguish. Well, time to be the bigger person, she thought as she knocked gently on the door.

Chapter Text

"Ben, I'm coming in." Rey pressed a button and the door to the room slid open. Ben was lying on his back on a bunk, beginning to lean up on his elbows upon seeing her enter.

"You ever heard of asking permission before barging in on people?" he grumbled, rubbing his temple. He swung his legs over the bed and perched on the edge as Rey pulled over a chair to sit before him.

"You owe me an apology. And Finn. And probably Chewie too, I get the feeling he's fed up of dealing with your outbursts."

"I'm sorry?" Ben looked up, clearly irritated, his expression turning into a scowl.

"You acted out of line to all of us. So apologise."

"I thought people were supposed to apologise on their own, not be forced into it."

"Well, I'm asking you. And I'm not most people." Rey crossed her arms, her expression firm.

Ben went to open his mouth to speak, but was interrupted. "And make sure you mean it." Rey's expression remained firm.

He let out a long sigh, ruffling his hair before speaking.

"I'm sorry. I am. I was going to wait until my head cleared before speaking to you." he fretted his hands, looking down at them uncomfortably. "I shouldn't have snapped at you. You don't deserve to be talked to that way."

"Okay." said Rey, her expression more at ease.

"I just get so frustrated when everyone knows everything about my history, my family" he started, bending his legs to stand and pacing across the room towards a shelf filled with old books. "Everyone who finds out always acts surprised. Telling me I'm nothing like them. I'm tired of living up to their expectations, to their standards. I didn't choose my history, I didn't choose to be the son of legendary Resistance heroes. I'm just me. That's all."

Rey remained silent, waiting for him to continue. Meanwhile, Ben began flicking through a book absent-mindedly,  discomfort radiating from him.

"I'm sorry. There's no excuse. I didn't mean to unload, you're here for me to apologise, not to be my therapist." He put the book down suddenly, and moved back to the bed to sit down.

"Its okay. Thank you." said Rey. Her voice was earnest, sincere.

"What will you do now? You didn't get a chance to choose whether or not to come with us. I'm not sure its safe for you to go back to Jakku now."

Rey smiled sheepishly. "I'd already made my mind up anyway." She stood up suddenly and made for the door, but turned back to face Ben, whose eyes softened at her admission.

"I don't expect you to apologise to Finn yet. I know you want to wait until we find out what happened to your friend. But I believe him."

She turned again to leave, shouting back from the corridor as she left. "Make sure you talk to Chewie!"

Ben fell back down onto the bed, resting a hand on his forehead and closing his eyes, letting out a long sigh.

He wasn't used to someone being so direct. But she was right. It was refreshing to talk to someone who was so honest.

Ben smiled to himself and sat up. Time to talk to Chewie.

Chapter Text

As the Falcon made its descent towards Takodana, green flooded the cockpit as they skimmed above a sea of trees and passed over an expansive lake. Rey was practically glued to the window, her eyes glimmering from the thrill of seeing a world that was brand new. "I didn't know there was this much green in the whole galaxy" she breathed, a smile spreading fast across her face. Ben looked back at her, the edge of his lips pulling up just slightly.

Takodana was a stop off - Ben explained that they needed to ditch the iconic ship for something away from the gaze of The First Order. Chewbacca would stay behind to meet Han, and they would be meeting an old friend of his father's to find something new to continue their travels in.

Chewie stayed behind on the ship, looking sheepish and oddly uncomfortable as everyone else made their way down the ramp and through the trees to an old, almost crumbling building decorated with flags in a rainbow of colours. Once they made their way inside it was clear from their dimly lit surroundings that they were in a bar - a roguish one at that. Rey and Finn stared at every passer by, fascinated by the host of scoundrels passing through, Finn's face etched with worry while Rey looked simply enamoured.

They'd barely set a foot through the door before a booming voice echoed across the room followed by the clanking of glass.

"BEN SOLO!"

"Oh for fu-"

Before Ben had time to react, a small old woman scuttered towards them with more energy than expected, parting waves of clientele with her hands as she moved forward, stopping abruptly before Ben.

"Let me take a closer look at you, boy." She looked up at him, frowning slightly until Ben bent his expansive frame down to crouch at her height.

"You haven't been here in over five years and you have the nerve to show up here now?" She began prodding at his face, pulling at cheeks, poking at his chest before patting him on the cheek a few times to indicate she was done inspecting him. Ben simply rolled his eyes.

"My, how you've grown. Where is your father? And more importantly, where is that Wookie of mine?!" she snapped her head back and forth to look for the absent mess of fur.

"He's on the ship sulking. Look, Maz I need to ask a favour. Well, a few favours." The woman rolled her eyes, and waved her arm frantically, motioning them to follow her back to the bar. They each took a seat, with BB-8 rolling back and forth by their feet, making a series of dissatisfied beeps.

She clambered over the stools and onto the bar, jumping across the other side with surprising agility before pulling three brown bottles from under the counter, sliding them across to Ben and Finn. She paused, taking a closer look at Rey. "Are you even legal?" she muttered under her breath before planting a bottle in front of her.

"C'mon Maz, you never cared how old I was when you served me." Ben remarked as he took a swig of drink.

"Psh, I had your father's permission. Chop chop Ben, aren't you going to introduce me to your friends?" Maz pulled her almost comically large glasses up to rest on her head as she squinted, eyeing up Finn and Rey.

Ben sighed. "Rey, Finn, this is Maz. Maz, this is Rey and Finn. More importantly, I need you to let me leave the Falcon here and get us a ship. Something small, subtle."

"I didn't think subtle was your style" she scoffed, leaning in closer, her voice just a whisper now. "Problems with Kanji Club?"

Ben shook his head. "No. First Order problems."

"Ughhhh, of course. Its Han all over again. I thought you didn't get yourself involved in all that nonsense!"

"He was helping us, we're the ones in trouble." Rey piped in, motioning to herself and Finn.

"It's a long story." Ben followed. "Can you help us?" A brief pause filled the air before Ben spoke again. "Chewie will be staying behind with the Falcon."

"I like that Wookie." Maz hummed to no-one in particular, before nodding. "Alright. But you still owe me Solo."

The three continued to drink at the bar as the old woman pottered away to talk to some patrons.

"So I think this guy is all 'I'm the scariest bounty hunter their ever was' with his mean old eyes, but really he's a big old softie who lives with his 'ma and still grumbles about doing the dishes." Rey scoffed laughing at Finn's impression as they eyed a patron in the distance, swatting her hand at his arm before adding her own theory.

"No, no, I think he lives alone, musing about a lost love and that's why he's got that grumpy scowl on his face. I bet-" she chuckled "-he even writes poetry!" her voice far too loud to be considered whispering.

Ben glanced over at the patron in question as the two howled with laughter, and was met with the face of a sullen looking Quarren, nursing a drink alone across from the bar.

"Y'know I think Rey's onto something" Ben mused as the two fell silent. "Although I bet that 'lost love' of his wasn't a romantic one. I think it was actually his pet Rancor."

Finn and Rey looked at him with a look of shock and awe on their faces before bursting out into laughter again, and Ben's usually sullen expression turned into the smallest smirk.

"And I bet-"

"Solo, a word." Maz placed a gentle hand on his shoulder before he could finish and he stood from his stall abruptly, following her away from the bar.

Ben looked back at the giggling pair, locking eyes with Rey before giving a curt nod. Maz led him down narrow spiralling stone steps - despite all his years visiting, this was the first time seeing them - and led them down an empty corridor into a small room. Once inside, he noticed the room was mostly barren, with no windows or furniture, just a large wooden chest in the corner of the room.

"Ben" Maz started as she opened the chest. "Where did you find that girl, and why did you bring her with you." It was less of a question, and Ben sensed she already knew the answer.

"In the Jakku desert. She was alone."

"Hmm, I can see that." She continued to rummage as she spoke. "But you misunderstand. Why did YOU bring her with you?"

Ben's brow furrowed before he answered. "She's a skilled mechanic, and an assertive negotiator. She was wasted in that desert."

"No other reasons?"

He could sense her tone and knew best to be upfront with the wise old pirate.
"She was so lonely. I sensed...a kinship between us. As though I could understand her....and she could understand me. I didn't want to leave her in that god-forsaken desert to die." His expression was firm, his will absolute.

Maz nodded. "I understand. You and I both know that she's special, just like you. Moreso than you both know." She grasped a small parcel wrapped with grey cloth. "Your destiny lies with her, and hers with you. You were always going to meet one another, despite the path you took." Ben's brow raised with curiosity, but Maz did not indulge him with an explanation.

"I cannot tell you more at this time, you must both follow your own paths. But I do want to give you this." She placed the small parcel in his hands. It felt light, but Ben sensed the cold feel of metal through the fabric. "When the time is right, you'll give it to her."

"How will I know when the time is right?" he asked.

"That I cannot say. But you'll know." Maz waved her hand again, ushering them out of the room. Ben looked at the small bundle again before placing it in a drawstring bag attached to his holster.

They returned to join the others, and the group made their way to the shuttle, saying their goodbyes to Maz and Chewbacca. The Wookiee seemed to be trying his hardest to keep his distance from the old pirate.

Ben stood back from everyone as they said their goodbyes, hugging and exchanging pleasantries. A strange feeling had overcome him, an unusual heat rising and tightening in his chest that he couldn't explain. Before he had a chance to question it, he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"I'm not sure why, but I think you're feeling what I'm feeling." Rey's words were hesitant and gentle. "I can't explain it, but I feel like I've been here before. With you."

The tightness in his chest constricted again, and Ben moved a hand up to rest where the feeling hovered. "I feel it too."

"Hmm." Rey mused, removing her hand from his shoulder before shrugging gently and making her way towards the ship. Ben stood, frozen in place for a moment, before following the others onto the freighter ship. He couldn't describe this feeling, so no use trying to.

Chapter Text

Ben was the first to exit the ship as they landed on D'Qar, but he was quickly overtaken by BB-8 who whizzed ahead with surprisingly urgency.

"BB-8? BB-8, buddy!" An enthusiastic voice rang out, and the sound of the droid skidding to a sudden halt and squealing with delight filled the air. Ben's expression changed, and he began striding briskly towards the voice.

"Dameron!" Ben swerved behind an X-Wing fighter jet to see a man with dark curls of hair fussing the droid with affection. The BB unit almost purred at the attention until the man stopped and looked up.

"Ben Solo, as I live and breathe." He stood suddenly, making his way to Ben and pulling him into a tight embrace. Ben's arms remained at his side as though in shock, before he raised them to pat the man on the back.

"I thought you were dead. That trooper had your jacke-"

"Wait, Finn's here? Finn?" The man abruptly let go of Ben, crossing to the other side of the fighter as Finn walked towards him, grinning from ear to ear.

"Poe! Man, I thought you were a gonner!" The pair embraced, and Ben's features softened as he looked on. He turned back to glance at Rey who was stood a few metres away, clearly unsure of what to do with herself.

Poe and Finn shared enthusiastic pleasantries before Poe turned back to Ben. "So what brings you to the Resistance? I can't believe you came all this way just to see me."

"Not a chance." Ben's smirk spread from ear to ear. "Although I was under the impression you'd possibly died, so I figured I should check that."

"C'mon Solo, you must know by now I'm invincible! You gonna introduce me to your other friend?" he motioned his head towards Rey, his eyebrow quirking up ever so slightly.

"Ah, yeah, uh...Poe, this is Rey. Rey, this is Poe. He's a friend. We go way back." He quirked his head towards the man with about as much enthusiasm as Rey had come to inspect from the smuggler.

"Hey, best friend I'll have you know!" Poe interjected animatedly before gripping Rey's hand and pulling her into a tight hug. "Good to meet you, Rey!" he exclaimed, before his voice lowered to a whisper. "I can see you've been keeping an eye on Ben. I appreciate it." He pulled away, patting her on the back.

"I wouldn't go that far." Rey quirked a smile, her voice low.

"Next time you're planning on bringing a pretty girl along Solo I expect a fair warning, I would have dressed up a little!" Poe shouted, winking back at Rey as Ben's cheeks turned a gentle flush of pink and his face turned into a scowl.

"It's not like we had much notice. You're lucky I didn't beat this punk into the ground - he turned up in your jacket for Kriff's sake." Ben moved towards Finn, whose expression bore the slightest smirk, aswell as a hint of nerves. Ben looked him straight in the eye, before giving him a hesitant pat on the back.
"I'm, uh, sorry for doubting you kid."

Finn shrugged, letting out a small huff, but choosing to take the apology for what it was.

"Finn saved my life back there, helped me to escape the First Order ship" remarked Poe as he moved towards the pair, putting his arm around Finn. "But I appreciate the concern Ben. You're not usually one to worry."

"I wasn't worried." Ben huffed, folding his arms. Poe glanced towards Rey who mouthed 'he was' back at him and rolled her eyes.

"Enough chat - as much as I'd love to catch up with you all, we do have some pressing business to attend to. Han filled us in on some of the details so you're all best staying with us until this blows over." Poe quirked his head to a man walking towards them, and Rey immediately noticed Ben's shoulders tense up ever so slightly.

"Hey, kid." Han didn't possess Ben's towering stature but carried himself with a confidence and swagger that Rey found oddly charming. His silver hair was cropped short and he was dressed in a worn brown leather jacket that had evidently seen many years of misadventures. His eyes held an intensity and purpose that reminded her instantly of his son.

"Alright, we'll leave you to it. Ben, let's catch up later okay?" Poe nodded to Ben, and leant down to pat BB-8 on the head. "Finn, you should come with me. We've got a lot to talk about." Finn glanced across to Rey anxiously, and she shot him a lopsided grin - he smiled back, and followed Poe and BB-8, leaving her with Ben and his father.

"So you must be the scavenger he picked up on Jakku." The man cocked his head towards her as she took a nervous step forward, gripping his hand as he held it out.

"I'm Rey."

"Good to meet you, Rey. Thanks for looking after Ben for me." Rey didn't miss Ben roll his eyes at the remark.

"Dad." It was less of a statement and more of a warning.

"I heard you're a decent mechanic" Han continued, ignoring the dagger glare from his son.

"I like to think so, I tried to learn what I could. You had to find something to keep you entertained on Jakku." She shifted uncomfortably, resting her hands at her sides. "I'm a pilot too."

"You are?" Ben interjected, sizing her up before shaking his head gently. "Of course you are." Rey couldn't quite read Ben's expression, but she sensed a mixture of surprise and pride. "She did a number on the Tie Fighters who came after us."

"Not bad, kid" Han nodded, clearly impressed. "Ben's not one to throw out compliments. You really must be good." A small blush rose to her cheeks and her mouth spread into a huge grin. Ben felt a knot tighten in his stomach. This girl was so new to hearing praise that it was impossible for her to hide her pride whenever it was given.

"Rey, do you mind if I have a private word with my son?"

"Of course." She nodded, turning to head across the hangar away from the ship they arrived on. Once she was a suitable distance away, Han spoke again.

"Ben."

"Dad." He frowned, then his eyes softened. "I'm sorry about the shipment. I know how imp-"

"Kid, I don't care about the shipment" he raised a hand to stop him talking. "I'm just happy you're safe." Before Ben had time to react, his father pulled him into a swift hug. Ben let himself melt into the embrace, so unusual was the unashamed affection from his father. "I should have been there Ben, what if something had happened? The First Order are monsters, what if they'd captured y-"

"I'm fine Dad, seriously." He pulled away, resting a hand on his shoulder.

"I'm so proud of you for doing the right thing, even if it put you in danger. You get that from your mother."

"And you." Ben interjected, a smirk gracing his lips.

"Huh, I guess so" Han mused, patting his son on the arm affectionately. "Well, I'd better head back to the Falcon. Who knows how much that old pirate has been bothering Chewie."

"I'd wager a lot." Ben chuckled. "Is mom here?"

"Yeah, she asked to see you once we'd talked actually. I'm pretty sure she wants you to bring the girl along too." He motioned to Rey and winked at Ben with the least subtlty.

"It's not like that." Ben shifted uncomfortably, looking away.

"Sure kid, sure." He put an arm around him and led them towards Rey, who had been busying herself looking at the ships in the hangar with a look of awe and excitement across her face.

"It was good meeting you kid." Han reached a hand out to shake Rey's.

"Likewise" she smiled back.

"Keep an eye on this troublemaker while I'm gone will you?" He winked at her and she chuckled, Ben's face turning a subtle crimson as his brows furrowed. "I'll see you two around." He walked away, waving a hand in the air as he went.

Once he'd turned a corner and was out of sight, Ben let out a sigh and ran a hand anxiously through his hair. "I'm uh, sorry about him."

"Don't be." Rey smiled. "I really like him. A lot, actually." She looked up at Ben and quirked her head to one side just slightly. "He reminds me of you."

Ben shuffled his feet uncomfortably, crossing his arms and turning away, but not before Rey noticed the lightest blush spread across his cheeks. "Well it sounds like you'll be meeting the whole family because my mother wants to speak with us." He began striding away in the opposite direction, and Rey jogged across the hangar to catch up with him.

"Is everything okay?" she asked, glancing up. Ben continued to look directly ahead as they walked, although she sensed he was mostly interested in not making eye contact rather than looking at where he was going.

A moment of silence passed before she continued. "Your friend, Poe. You really thought he was dead, didn't you?"

Another pause before Ben spoke. "I'm not sure. I think deep down, I knew he was okay."

"But you had that nagging thought in the back of your mind that he was hurt and you weren't there to help him."

Ben came to a sudden halt, and turned back to Rey, his brow furrowed in confusion. He didn't speak, so once again she continued.

"You felt guilty that you hadn't seen him in a long time. And..." she paused, as if musing the thought over in her head.
"... He asked you to join the Resistance, didn't he?"

Ben's jaw fell. "How...how could you know that?" he stuttered, taking a step towards her.

"I don't know" she puzzled "I just...felt it."

"How is it that you can read my thoughts so clearly like that?"

"Well, can't you read mine?" She met Ben's gaze, a look of confusion furrowing her brow, as though she had asked the most simple question in the world. Did she not realise that other people weren't like this?

Some other people. But not him.

He closed his eyes for a moment, letting out a shallow sigh, before taking another step closer to her until they were just inches apart. He reached a hand out to her, resting a palm gently on her forehead, eyes still closed.

"You're...you were so lonely." He breathed, his expression darkening. "So afraid to leave." He opened his eyes to meet hers, her gaze soft and welcoming. Feeling encouraged, he closed his eyes again.

As he did, an image flashed in his mind briefly before becoming clearer. "I see it. I see the island." Suddenly, he jolted back, pulling his hand away and opening his eyes.

"You see it too" she breathed. Ben simply nodded, and Rey's eyes narrowed. "You know it." He simply nodded.

"We need to find Leia."

Chapter Text

The pair walk in silence to meet Leia, neither quite sure what to say after their shared experience. Rey finds herself shocked, but not surprised that Ben could see the island too. She knew deep in her heart that they were both the same - that only he could know the things she knew. She had only met him a few days ago but somehow it felt as though they had been acquainted all of their lives. 

She glanced up to look at Ben as they walked, his eyes looking straight ahead with their usual intensity and purpose. There was something unspoken between them that Ben was holding back, but she supposed he could be waiting to share whatever revelation he'd experienced when they met Leia. 

Rey had never been one for making connections with others. Living life in relative solitude sans crossing paths with the occasional passer by at the Niima Outpost had taught her to rely solely on herself. Which is why her meeting with Ben and Chewbacca had been so out of character. She had at first mentally scolded herself for her instant trust in them - trust was something seldom found in the Jakku desert - but she could feel that they would not harm her. She had instantly felt the same upon meeting Finn and BB-8. How rare it was, for so many trustworthy individuals to cross paths with her in such a short period of time. 

Her heart welled with anxiety when thinking back to her little home on Jakku. She recalled the days spent scratching metal into the wall, counting down the time like it was nothing at all. She was so reluctant to leave her small world - her parents could return any time now - but leaving the desolate expanse of Jakku had introduced her to world's she couldn't even imagine. Of course, when this was all said and done she would have to return, but for now, she would choose to embrace what these new places and these new people could share with her. 

"We're here." Ben's deep voice rang in her ears as they approached a large open bay housing numerous control units. The control bay was dark, lit only by the gentle glow of the screens and occasional flashing lights as individuals worked furiously at their stations. As they approached, Rey spotted a lone figure stood atop a elevated ledge in the centre of the room - she was short in stature but her pose immediately radiated that of someone very much in control. Plaited braids rest across her head like a crown and she was cloaked head to toe in a regal deep crimson gown that gently skimmed across the floor. The fabric shifted as she turned to face them, her firm gaze resting upon them both and softening ever so slightly upon seeing Ben. 

"Ben. Its good to see you. Its been too long." The older woman stepped down from the ledge to meet them and stood before them. A warm, sincere smile spread across her face as she turned to Rey. 

"You must be Rey. My name is Leia Organa, I'm the acting leader of this Resistance base."

Rey bowed her head just slightly at the woman - something about her demanded respect on a level that seemed almost royal. "A pleasure to meet you. Thank you for letting us hide out here until things calm down." 

The woman's expression shifted into the slightest frown. "Well I'm not sure if things will ever calm down, Rey. It's best you take a seat. Both of you." She led them towards a secluded corner of the bay, motioning them both to sit on a lounger nestled behind a stack of crates. She sat opposite them, her expression still troubled. 

"I must apologise now if any of this information comes as a shock - especially to you Rey. This will be a lot to take in, for both of you." Rey glanced across to Ben whose expression remained calm, before looking back to Leia, willing her to continue. 

"Ben, when you were very young it was clear that you possessed powers that you didn't fully understand. Powers that built the Skywalker legacy of old since long before I was born. Our family has always been strong with The Force." Rey glanced back to Ben again, who was now looking down at the floor absentmindedly. 

"We chose not to send you to train with my brother Luke. We wanted you to make your own choices when you were old enough to understand them, rather than pushing the Skywalker legacy on you. Luke is experienced in training others powerful in The Force, so he will be able to guide you." Ben nodded. 

"I'm sorry, but I'm a little confused." Rey interjected quietly. "The Force? Powers?" 

"The Force is the name given to the energy that is around us - I can't claim to have the best understanding of it as its more my brothers area of expertise, but it is an ancient power worshipped and followed by the ancient Jedi religion." 

"I thought the Jedi were just a myth" Rey rasped, her voice hushed. "I heard stories about them as a child." 

"Many consider them to be - it's been a very long time since the Jedi moved across the Universe freely. They were persecuted and cast out, and the few who remained lived in exile to escape the Empire of old." Rey listened intently, shifting forward in her seat ever so slightly.

"The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. My brother has it. I have it. My son...has it." Rey's eyes widened as Leia nodded towards Ben, before shifting her gaze back to her. 

"You have that power too." 

Rey's eyes grew wider. She lent back in her seat, feeling Ben's intense gaze on her, but chose not to meet it. 

"I think you must be confusing me with someone else. I don't have those powers." 

"But you do, Rey. I can feel it. Ben has sensed it as clear as day, I can see that much. The Force radiates from you so brightly, it is a natural part of you much like breathing." She stood slowly, moving toward her. 

"There are things you can do that few can. Perhaps you are so used to doing them that you never questioned how unusual they were." 

"She could read my thoughts, without even trying." Ben interjected. "She had a vision of Ahch-To." 

"That is...interesting." Leia pondered. "As I thought. It is time. I always knew there would be a day when I had to send you to train with Luke, but Ben I will not make you go - I will not make either of you go - unless you choose to. Destiny is your path to carve, not mine." She moved away from Rey now to sit back down opposite them. 

"Training with Luke will be hard. You will no doubt have to face things you wished never to face head on." Leia's troubled glance toward Ben did not go unnoticed to Rey. "But you will be together. Training as a pair will allow you both to help one another and to teach one another, to support one another. You will develop skills you could not learn alone, and it is clear the two of you already share an intuitive bond through The Force. Such a thing is rare, and very powerful."

Leia paused briefly to allow them to take in her words before continuing. "You both must choose which path to follow."

"I will go." Ben spoke firmly and with confidence. 

"You don't have to come with me." His voice echoed gently in her ears and as she looked him in the eye she realised his lips had not moved when he spoke. It was more of a burst of feeling, a soft voice reverberating in her head. She was confused, but Ben's eyes looked back at her with a gentle affection that calmed her. 

"I will go too." The words left her mouth almost involuntarily before she had the chance to think about voicing them - as though her choice had been made all along. 

"I want to." Rey spoke gently across their bond, and Ben returned a small smile - he had heard her. She was curious to explore this new development further. 

Leia looked across at them both with affection. "I'm glad to hear it. You'll be boarding a small ship to Ahch-To this evening. I'd advise grabbing some warm outerwear and any other essentials you'll need from store room, there won't be much room on the ship but you could be away for a while. Now, I must get back to my duties - I'll come to see you both off before you leave."

Leia rose slowly to her feet, giving a gentle nod to Rey before walking away, her hand resting affectionately on Ben's shoulder for a moment as she passed.

The two sat in silence after Leia's exit. Rey wasn't sure how she could even begin to process the monumental bombshell that had been unceremoniously dropped on them. She suspected Ben had his suspicions before they spoke with Leia as he seemed oddly calm - although she could sense a stirring of emotions in him, feelings of conflict and gentle waves of anxiety beginning to seep into his subconscious. She pat a hand on his knee before slowly rising to her feet.

"Let's go."

Chapter Text

The pair rummaged through the store room, pulling what they needed into the standard military grade satchels the Resistance provided. Rey wasn't used to owning much, and a life on Jakku had left little room for fashion outside a need for practicality, so she paid little mind to the clothes she threw into her bag. Ben took a little longer, measuring pairs of slacks up against his legs and holding sleeves up to his arms - oh to be tall, Rey thought. At least she could easily find things that would fit her.

Ben noticed her rummaging slow as her hands traced across the curve of an X-Wing pilot helmet. He smiled as she picked it up, running her fingers along the markings with curiosity and affection as though she'd forgotten he was even there. She came back to reality fairly quickly, placing the helmet carefully on a shelf in front of her before continuing to pack.

They agreed to meet up at the ship in an hour to allow them to say their goodbyes while droids worked on fueling and inspecting the ship before launch. Rey decided she would seek out Finn - during their short time together they'd formed a strong kinship, and she hoped to say her goodbyes to him in person rather than through word of mouth.

She found him conversing with a group of young rebels, still donning the jacket that had caused him so much trouble. He caught her eye mid-conversation and shot her a delighted grin, before excusing himself from the conversation and making his way over to her with a gentle jog.

The pair walked together through the base, catching up on the days activities. Finn explained with excitement that Poe had asked him to join them at the Resistance and he'd accepted. He wasted no time gushing about the pilot, his admiration was clear although Rey sensed something else under the surface. It was clear he'd found his rightful place here at the Resistance base, he was welcomed with open arms despite his First Order roots. He also shared a little about the strategy going forward to tackle the First Order. His background as a soldier had proven useful, and his awareness of their tech as well as localised knowledge was invaluable to the Resistance. He also explained that their droid tag-along BB-8 held encrypted information on some of the enemy's weapons development programme, so a number of recruits were analysing the data to find what they could.

Rey filled Finn in on her upcoming trip with Ben, although she remained vague on the specific details, unsure how Finn would react when she'd barely had time to process the specifics herself.

"Well, whatever it is you're doing I know you'll be amazing at it!" Finn shot her one of his winning grins and pat her affectionately on the shoulder. "Seems like we both got pulled into this whole Resistance adventure pretty quick, huh!"

Rey quirked an eyebrow - it did seem that way. Even so, she couldn't forget her place on Jakku. She would go back, when she was able.

"Just promise me you'll be careful." Finn's voice was calmer now, more reserved. "I know you trust this Ben guy but I still have this funny feeling about him." He reached a hand behind his back as though massaging a knot in his spine.

"You don't have to worry about me, I can look after myself just fine."

"Don't I know it!" he laughed, recalling their first interaction at Niima Outpost. "Just...look after yourself, okay? You know I'm only a holo away if you need to talk."

"Thanks Finn, I will." Rey's lips spread into an earnest smile.

"Just promise me you'll take me with you the next time you go on a mysterious secret intergalactic adventure!"

"I bet you'll be going on plenty of those yourself now!"

The pair embraced like old friends, before departing in opposite directions, and Rey began making her way back across the hangar bay.

On the other side of the base, two men were perched on some wooden containers laughing together.

"Seriously man, it's good to see you again." Poe snaked an arm around Ben's broad shoulders, giving him an affectionate shake.

"I'm sorry I didn't come to visit sooner."

"Hey, you've been busy. We both have. You still enjoying the smugglers life?" Poe quirked a suggestive eyebrow.

"I'm not joining the Resistance if that's what you're asking." Poe let out an over-exaggerated groan and leant back.

"But you'd be so good at it! With your background as a pilot you'd make an excellent X-Wing bomber."

"Not my scene."

"I know, I know." Poe reached across to pat him on the arm. "I just think you're wasting your potential by doing dodgy trades with gangsters, y'know?"

"Actually, I have some news on that front." Ben lent forward, resting his hands on his knees. "Leia's sending us to train with Luke."

"By us I assume you mean you and Rey."

Ben nodded, and Poe searched his face for some kind of emotional response, before thinking better of it and continuing. "She's can use The Force too?"

"Much more than I can. More natural, untrained. But it's instinctive to her, and she's been sitting on these abilities without even knowing it. Kriff, if we hadn't crashed on Jakku she may have never truly known."

"I don't know how much I buy into destiny and all that, but it sure sounds a lot like fate to me." Gone was the playful smirk - Poe's expression was calm, earnest. "That's how the The Force works, right?"

"Sort of." Ben shrugged his shoulders before leaning back against the crates behind him.

"Well if Leia is in charge of it then it must be true." Poe's face was aglow with pride and affection.

"Alright buddy, she's my mother for Kriff's sake." Ben teased, rolling his eyes at his friend who ran a hand through his hair sheepishly. Ben knew full well how much Poe respected Leia, they'd talked at great length about it. Growing up together, Leia had nurtured and guided Poe when his parents passed, and it was her who encouraged him to join the Resistance. Poe was a stern believer in the cause, a righteous force for good who naturally rose through the ranks despite his youth, and he was trusted and respected amongst his peers. Sometimes Ben envied him - to Poe, communicating with others came so easily and he was a natural social butterfly, so it was easy to see how he'd found himself a home with the Resistance.

"Hey, don't start brooding now, I can see it in your eyes." Poe poked Ben, snapping him back into reality. "Tell me what's on your mind buddy."

Ben paused for a moment, letting the question hang in the air before speaking.

"You remember what happened when I was younger. If I couldn't control it then, how will I control it now?"

Poe's eyes cast downward to his hands, and his expression softened. "Honestly, I don't know enough about The Force to give you an answer to that. But if Leia thinks you're ready, then she must have her reasons."

Ben scowled, and moved a hand up to his head, his expression showing frustration. He'd done his best to remain calm around Rey, but he knew he couldn't lie to his oldest friend. If anyone understood the conflict he was feeling, it would be Poe.

"Look, everything that happened - its in the past. You've been in control ever since. Hell, even Han's let you on missions without him and you were sure that would never happen!"

Ben murmured quietly and nodded.

"You've learned so much on your own - I'm sure training with Luke will give you even more clarity on your own abilities. Besides, Rey will be there too. Having someone else to go through this all with is gonna be great for you. Trust me."

Ben looked back at Poe, and let out a long sigh, leaning forward and relaxing his shoulders. "You're right."

"Always am." Poe punched his arm playfully and shot him one of his characteristic smirks. Ben couldn't help but smirk back.

"Don't get too cocky. I've seen into your mind, I know there's nothing much in there."

"Hey!" Poe punched him again, much less playfully now and Ben put his hands up in mick defence, letting out a hearty laugh that Poe couldn't help share, even if he was frowning.

"I'd better head back." Ben leaned down to grab his satchel.

"Let me walk you over." The two rose to their feet and made the walk back across the hangar in the direction of a row of plain looking ships. Ben could already see Rey outside one, perched on a ridge at the edge of the ship with the bag swinging by her legs.

The pair stopped a few metres away, Ben turning towards Poe and placing a hand on his shoulder.

"I don't know how long I'll be gone. Try not to get yourself blown up."

"I'll do my best. Don't go turning to The Dark Side now alright?" Ben's expression darkened and worry filled his pupils before Poe gave him a light hearted shake. "I'm kidding, Ben. I know you well enough to know that will never happen. You've got too much good in you, even if you can't see it just yet."

Ben's expression softened, and he glanced across at Rey, whose eyes lit up with recognition when she saw him.

"Time to get going lovebirds!" Poe laughed, and before Ben had a chance to protest the man pulled him into a quick hug. "Seriously, take care of yourself. You know where I am if you need me."

"Thanks, Poe." Ben murmured back as they parted. Poe shot him another grin, before saluting across to Rey and giving Ben a nod before heading back across the base.

Ben's eyes followed Poe as he walked away, reluctant to turn around. He knew the moment he turned around this all became very real. If he could just hang onto this moment, the support of his oldest friend, before facing the reality that absolutely terrified him. All of the fears of his youth, his anxieties, his greatest nightmares, had led him to now, to this very moment.

Ben shook his head gently, before turning on his heel and walking towards the ship.

Chapter Text

"Tell me about Poe."

Ben's head jerked up suddenly, pulling him back from his absent minded daydreaming. Rey was looking across at him from the seat opposite him in the cockpit. They'd taken off without incident, his mother sending her well wishes and leaving them both with a traditional 'may the force be with you'. It was brief, but Ben had never been one for big displays of affection - he appreciated his mothers presence regardless.

They'd made the jump to lightspeed not five minutes before, and the room had filled with a comfortable silence since then. Chewbacca was never much of a conversationalist and neither was Ben, so he was a little taken aback when Rey spoke.

"What do you mean?"

"I'd like to know more about him. How you met. You seem close." She glanced across at him with genuine curiosity. He sensed this was new for her, trusting others and forming friendships. It was strange, as she seemed to be so natural at it, but he could feel a hint of anxiety crossing her mind as she raised the question.

"Poe has...he's always been my closest friend. Since childhood." he started, unsure of where to begin. Their history was long and in places turbulent, and he wasn't totally sure he felt comfortable telling Rey about certain incidents in his youthful years just yet.

He paused, thinking for a moment, before a wave of inspiration hit him. Of course. He hadn't tried this in years, but he supposed it couldn't hurt given their upcoming training.

"I can show you."

"Hmm?" Rey looked up, perplexed.

"The Force. It can allow us to show others things. Our thoughts, our memories." Ben wouldn't be showing her his thoughts. Those he left closely guarded, and he knew he would need to use some strong willpower to keep her focused on the path she needed to be on."I've not done it in a long time, so it may take me a moment to adjust."

Ben rose and moved towards Rey who remained in her seat. He crouched on the floor to meet her gaze. "May I?" he rose a hand gently to her head and she nodded, her expression calm but eager to discover.

"It won't hurt, in case you're wondering. It may feel strange at first, but if it's too much just tap me on my shoulder and we'll stop." He took her hand and placed it on his shoulder preemptively, and was sure he spied a small blush rise to her cheeks. She nodded, not breaking eye contact, her expression determined if not a little nervous.

Rey closed her eyes, and Ben closed his, moving a hand to her forehead and placing it gently there, before focusing his energy on passing his thoughts across the expanse of their minds.

Rey felt herself jolt back, as though being pulled by an invisible rope, until she landed suddenly in an expansive room decorated in what she assumed to be a classical style. She gazed down from the crimson walls and as the fog began to clear from her vision she spotted some figures up ahead - a woman, crouched down beside two young boys, both with heads of wavy black hair, one dressed in beige and brown tones bearing an expression filled with nerves and apprehension. The other was clear Ben; despite his age, his drawn out features made him indistinguishable. His wavy ebony hair grew down to his ears, the tips poking through well groomed tufts of hair. His hands were in his pockets, and like the boy she assumed to be Poe, he was also filled with anxiety but he masked it with an expression of disgruntlement and irritation.

She was pulled back across the expanse again, and landed in another room, this one lighter with a large floor length window allowing light to feed into the room. The two boys were sat cross legged on the floor, prodding at a mess of wires and parts of indistinguishable design. She moved closer as she heard the mumbling of young voices.

"See, you need to pair this with the blue wire, like this." Poe's voice was eager, the nerves beginning to fade as confidence radiated from him. He moved wires and connected a series to some ports on the device, as Ben's eyebrow raised ever so slightly with interest. He watched as Poe continued to pull parts together, muttering away as he explained the process. After a few minutes, he lifted the object - a miniature craft with wide wings.

"Now we should just be able to press this button here and she'll be in the air!" Poe grinned eagerly, pressing a button as they both looked at the object eagerly. He nodded towards the object as nothing happened. "I uh, I'll try the button again." he muttered timidly as he pressed the button again, eyeing the object in confusion and disappointment. Even from her relative distance, Rey could see that one of the wires wasn't connected as it should be.

Ben could clearly sense Poe's frustration. "Can I have a look?" his gentle voice piped up, and Poe looked at him, nodding. Ben took the small craft and moved it around in his hands, peering through the mess of wires before letting out a gentle 'ah', connecting the two wires. He placed the craft down and pressed the button, and it promptly began floating upwards.

"Yes!" Poe yelped, punching a hand in the air with enthusiasm. He grinned across at Ben, who couldn't help but share a timid smile back, the rays of sun through the window lighting up his expressive eyes.

Rey felt herself pulled back once again before landing in a grassy field surrounded by low trees. She spotted the boys instantly, both a few years older now. Poe was taller now, but Ben still remained as he was, although his features were beginning to fill out. As the two passed through the trees and across the wide field, she followed them down a hill to a small river bank, where they both sat down, continuing to chat away eagerly.

"What do you think you'll do when we finish school, Ben?" Poe asked, looking across at Ben.

"Hmm, not sure. I'd like to be a pilot like my Dad."

"I wanna be a pilot too!"

"Really?"

"Yeah! Hey, we should learn together!"

"Yeah, that sounds fun."

Poe pat the shy boy on the shoulder as a broad grin spread across his face, before falling suddenly. "But how will we learn? They don't teach flying in our class."

Ben glanced across at his young friends disappointed expression, before the smallest smirk spread across his face. "I have an idea."

Rey was pulled away again now, landing inside what looked to be a large garage. The metal door shot open, with Ben and Poe emerging from the other side, the former holding a key on a rope in his hand. He pulled the door closed behind them gently, as Poe ran across, looking at the ship before them in wonder.

"This. Is. Awesome!" Poe breathed.

"Shh, we've gotta be quiet, we're not supposed to be in here" Ben scolded through a whisper "My dad will kill us if he finds out!"

Poe nodded, before moving closer to the ship, running his hand along the smooth metal edges.

"It's just a basic model, so we should be able to use the training module that's built in." Ben explained, pressing a button hidden in a panel on the underside of the ship as two ladders fell on either side of the vehicle.

They both climbed up and planted themselves in the two seats side by side, as Ben began eagerly pressing buttons on the control panel. "I've seen my Dad do this loads of times before so it should be easy" he mumbled as Poe looked at him with sheer admiration.

"Yeah, let's do this! Poe yelped a little too loudly, and Ben shot him a deathly glare. "Sorry!" he whispered sheepishly.

"You ready?" Ben shot him a smirk, and Poe nodded, gripping the front of the windshield just as Ben pulled back a lever, making the small ship burst forward suddenly. The automatic garage door flew up, the bright sunlight hitting their faces as they sped forward. Ben steered the ship, doing his best to remember the actions of his father when they went on late night drives when his mother was away. His confidence building, he steered them around a corner and down a narrow alleyway, the sharp sound of metal grinding against the walls as the ship shakily shot ahead. They emerged from the alley into the expansive field Rey had seen them in not long before, the blades of grass whirring against the underside of the ship.

"THIS IS AMAZING!" Poe screamed across at Ben, whose smirk only grew wider. Turning the wheel at a sharp angle, he pulled them down to the small river, speeding across the waters surface, splashing them both with droplets as they both howled with laughter. Ben pulled the ship up again, this time steering back to the field and slowing them down, finally landing semi-smoothly onto the ground.

"Your turn." Ben jumped out of the drivers seat and motioned to Poe, who spent no time skirting across to replace him. Ben leant on the dashboard, explaining the buttons to Poe. Before he had the chance to jump into the passenger seat, Poe sped off, as Ben half-heartedly chased after him. "Hey!" he shouted, stopping for breath in fits of giggles as the sound of Poe hollering enthusiastically filled the air.

Rey smiled at the scene before her, watching as the two experimented with the small speeder, taking it in turns to drive. As the sun began to set, they made the shaky drive back to the garage. Their excited chatter grew silent as they grew closer, noticing a lone figure stood outside the garage entrance with arms crossed. Han.

Suddenly Rey was transported to a room, the sound of a woman's shouting piercing through the air. As she grew closer she recognised the woman as Leia, a little younger than she'd looked when she had met her. She was shouting at Ben, who sat shirking on a stool in front of her as she pointed fingers and screamed. Han was stood a few metres away, his expression sullen and deep in thought.

"I can't believe you'd put yourself in danger like that! And Poe too! That boy has been through so much, the last thing you should be doing is pulling him into your messes."

"We just wanted to practise." Ben's voice whispered quietly.

"You're only 8 years old for Kriff's sake, what made you think you could steal your father's speeder and drive alone without supervision? You could have got yourselves killed, I thought you were more sensible than this." Small tears pricked her eyes before she shook them away, looking down at her son with an expression of disappointment and genuine terror.

"Leia, why don't you go for a walk." Han spoke softly, moving forward slowly and placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"But-"

"Let me talk to him." he interrupted, meeting her gaze with a look of tenderness that began to sedate her exasperation. Leia let out a deep sigh, before raising her hands in the air in frustration and walking briskly out of the room.

When the door slammed shut, Han glanced towards his son with an almost blank expression, before taking a seat on the stool opposite him.

"Look, kid. I'm not gonna tell you that what you did was wrong, because you know that already. Hell, I was doing the same thing when I was your age." He ran a hand through his hair, shifting slightly on the seat. "Ben. Why didn't you tell me you wanted to learn to fly?"

"I thought you'd tell me it was too dangerous." Ben chirped, his voice still quiet, but more self assured. "I thought you and Mom would say I was too young."

"You are too young." Han remarked. "Too young to be learning this stuff on your own. Don't make the same mistakes I did, you'll end up in all sorts of nasty scrapes." A small smirk spread across his face, and Ben glanced up to look his father in the eye, his expression softening ever so slightly.

"Look, your Mother is upset and rightfully so. You could have got yourself killed, Poe too."

"Poe wanted to learn too. We want to be pilots!" Ben's gaze hardened, his face confident as he crossed his arms, expecting the move to make him look more mature than his eight years. Han just smirked back at him, letting out a small huff of amusement.

"Kid, I'm not saying you can't both learn. But you've got a perfectly capable pilot right here. Chewie too. If you want to learn, I'll teach you both."

Ben's mouth spread into a wide grin, and he jumped off the stool to wrap his arms around his father.

"I'm sorry" he muffled, the slightest tremble in his voice. "I didn't mean to upset you and Mom. Or put Poe in any danger."

"I know kiddo." The smuggler raised a gentle hand to Ben's head, patting him sympathetically as he felt the tears begin to flow and soak through his thin shirt.

"Your Mom will need some time to adjust, so don't say anything just yet - and don't tell Poe. She'll have to agree, but she'll come round eventually. Now, you owe her a proper apology."

Ben raised his head and nodded through tears, pulling a hand up to wipe them away, before removing himself from his father's embrace and running across the room and out the door to find his mother.

The room darkened once Ben left it, and Rey once again found herself jolted backwards past a blurring landscape until she stopped on a sandy landscape, very similar to her home on Jakku but much more populated. Crowds were gathering and cheering, and as she made her way through the seas of people she spotted a much older Ben alongside Poe.

Ben had finally had that growth spurt, and he now towered above the other man. They looked to be in their late teens, with Ben sporting the tiniest bit of awkward facial hair. Poe had grown into a handsome man, his welcoming expression closer to the cocky confidence she recognised when she met him. Ben looked good too, beginning to grow into his awkwardness but still having an air of slight aggression that seemed to leave passers by a little anxious. While Poe wore a cheeky grin, Ben's expression was all frowns and sharp edges.

The two were stood by a lean looking speeder, painted in a vibrant yellow that Rey was certain couldn't have been Ben's choice. They were surrounded by other cars, and ah, this was a race! She realised suddenly. She knew pod racing had been a popular sport on the outer regions of Jakku, although she'd never seen one herself. This looked a little different to how she imagined those to be, a bit more refined and organised, but still with the air of the forbidden. She had a feeling this wasn't exactly legal, judging from the shifty looking characters collecting coin from the crowd.

A warning whistle blew, and the two men jumped into their seats in the speeder. Han clearly hadn't taught them well, she thought - neither were wearing helmets despite being in an open top racer. She shook her head and let out an exasperated sigh.

Someone began counting down, and suddenly they were off, a stream of vehicles speeding ahead leaving a trail of dust in their wake as sand flew into the faces of the crowd closest to the starting line.

Poe was in the pilots seat and Ben the passenger seat. She hadn't realised you could do races with two participants per vehicle, but it soon became clear why.

"We've got Skur coming up on our right!" Ben shouted, his head craned back as his hair darted madly in the wind. He turned back to Poe, who stared at the road ahead with a fierce intensity.

"That bastard again." Poe muttered under his breath. "Just keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn't pull any tricks like last time."

Ben nodded in agreement, leaning down to pull a blaster from his boot, cocking the weapon and holding it firm in his grasp before turning back to look at the silver speeder coming up fast behind them.

"Watch yourself Skur! Remember how this went last time!" Ben shouted at the rapidly accelerating speeder, whose drivers scowl became clear. He muttered what Rey assumed were insults in a language she wasn't familiar with.

Poe let out a sharp laugh. "This guy doesn't have a clue."

"I've got a feeling he might - bombs coming in fast! " Ben shouted, just as the passenger started hurling round metallic disks towards them.

"Shit!" Poe accelerated, making a series of sharp weaves through a rock formation. "Solo I could really use some help here, preferably now!"

"Alright, I'm working on it!" Ben spat back, shooting wildly at their opponent as the speeder darted from side to side. "Please tell me we're nearly there."

"Don't worry buddy, plan is almost in motion" Poe's mouth spread into a confident smirk, and Ben twisted back to face the oncoming series of rock formations that curved upwards, his knuckles white as he gripped the dashboard. "Okay here we go!"

The speeder darted up suddenly, the metal reverberating with a loud whirr against the rocky surface as they staggered upwards. Ben pulled a round object from his belt holster, twisting it in his hand until it made a resounding click and a red light began blinkering. As they rounded the top of the curve, Ben let his arm drop, throwing the device to the ground. "Now Poe, let's move!"

Poe was thankful he'd kept his hair cropped short, seeing Ben's eyes barely peeking through the long locks of hair as they hung upside down, making their way down from the 360 curve, with Skur and his partner following closely behind them. As they rounded the final bit of the vertical curve, Ben clicked a button on a small detonator in his hand, and the ship jolted forward as rocks began crumbling from above. Ben twisted back to look behind them just in time to see the entire rock formation crumble onto their adversary. Ben grinned, turning back to Poe, who shot a confident smirk back at him.

"Okay, let's finish this!"

It was clear the trap they'd laid for Skur didn't just immobilise their immediate advesary; they were sharply in the lead with other ships following behind darting wildly to dodge the falling rocks, and stuck behind piles of rubble blocking the route to the rest of the track. As the two skidded across the finishing line, they screamed wildly, punching their fists in the air as the crowd roared.

Rey couldn't help the grin spreading fast across her face as she watched the two men jump out of the speeder and pass through the celebrating crowd, shaking hands as they went. They were both scoundrels and dirty cheats for sure, but she was happy to be able to share this personal memory with Ben. She shot back once again, being pulled into a lively bar that she recognised immediately - Maz's Tavern on Takodana. She spotted the two winners sitting at a wooden booth in the far corner, the table littered with empty glasses and both of them with a drink in their hands as they chatted animatedly.

"You should have seen Skur's face when he realised what was happening!" Ben snickered as Poe pounced the table with his hand, letting out a hearty laugh.

"Gotta go out with a bang, haven't we?" Poe chuckled, downing the rest of his drink before wiping the foam from his lips with the back of his hand.

"...go?" Ben murmured, and Poe's smile fell instantly.

"Yeah, I was meaning to talk to you about that. Ben." Poe shifted forward in his seat, his eyes meeting Ben's as his voice grew quieter. "I'm leaving. I've uh, I've joined the Resistance."

"What do you mean? Did my mother pu-"

"No, no, it's not like that. This was my choice. I just feel like it's time to be doing something with my life. I always knew I wanted to follow in my parents footsteps when I was old enough, and now I am. Han teaching us made me realise that being a pilot - it's in my blood. I just needed to wait until I was old enough for them to agree to take me on."

"I see." Murmered Ben, his gaze shifting away from his friend into the remaining liquid in his glass as he swirled it around in his hand.

"Look, nothing is gonna change, not really! Okay, so we won't be able to keep doing these races but I'll still see you, we'll still talk." Poe worried his hands across the back of his head as he spoke.

"I know, it's just sudden." Ben muttered. "I'm not angry. I'm just, so used to you being here, hanging out. What if it happens again and I...?" His voice trailed off.

"It won't." Poe shot, his voice firm. "You're in control now. You don't need me for that. And if you do, you call me - any time, any place. Don't ever forget that."

Ben glanced up, his eyes lost and full of uncertainty. "You haven't asked me to come with you."

"Because I know you wouldn't want to." Poe's voice grew softer. "I know you too well, Solo."

"You do." A small smile played across Ben's lips. "What are we doing moping around for anyway? We should be celebrating!"

"Damn right! Now that's the Ben I know!" Poe cheered, raising up his empty glass in victory. "Go get us some more drinks Solo, I'm parched!" The man held at his throat mockingly, pretending to struggle to breathe.

"Alright, you're lucky we're friends, asshole." Ben rolled his eyes as he stood up, making his way across to the bar.

Rey felt her heart sink in her chest. She could feel Ben's emotions radiating off him so clearly. He was filled with anxiety and indecision as he slowly made his way towards the bar. As he moved closer, the room froze, and Ben turned back to face her as Rey's eyes grew wide in shock.

"He did ask me to join the Resistance, eventually" he spoke, looking her straight in the eye with an intensity she had come to know over the brief few days they'd known one another. "He always knew I wouldn't want to join, because of my mother. I was so worried that I wouldn't meet her expectations - she'd been involved in the Rebellion since her youth. I've never been totally sure where exactly I stand in all this anyway."

"I understand." Rey replied.

"He called me, a few months after joining. I could see how happy he was, so filled with purpose. And he asked me to join, knowing what he does about me. He told me I'd love it, I'd find my place there."

"But you knew you didn't belong." Rey whispered sadly.

"Had he already forgotten so much about me, in those few months since he'd left?" Ben sighed, a look of deep sadness crossing his brow.

"He just wanted you to be happy." Rey returned softly, glancing across the room to where Poe sat, frozen in place, a cheerful grin still spread from ear to ear. "He found his place there, and he hoped you might too. It was coming from a place of good, even if he was too focused by his own happiness to see that you wouldn't feel the same."

Ben nodded in agreement. "I think it's time you woke up." He moved forward suddenly, placing a hand to Rey's forehead, and her eyes shot open.

Chapter Text

Rey slowly opened her eyes and found herself back on the ship, Ben crouched before her. She loosened her grip on his shoulder, suddenly realising her nails were digging in a little too tightly.

"You okay?" he asked, and she nodded. He rose to his feet, throwing himself back into the pilot seat.

"That was amazing" Rey breathed, leaning forward in her chair. "How did you learn to do that?"

"When I was a kid. Me and Poe were messing around and it just came to me." Rey felt the discomfort radiating from him and decided not to press the subject any further.

"Thank you, for showing me." Her smile was earnest, and Ben felt the flush rise to his cheeks before turning away from her gaze without a second thought.

"I always wanted friends, on Jakku." Rey mused. "You couldn't really trust anyone. The few times I tried it didn't work out."

"Would you tell me about Jakku?" Ben asked gently.

"There's not much to tell. My parents left when I was very young, and I was left to work for Plutt. I never found out why they left, and he would never tell. I always assumed they would come back eventually, but since this whole thing started...I don't know." Rey's voice trailed off.

Ben was silent for a moment, his brow furrowed, before speaking. "It doesn't really matter if they come back now. Nothing excuses what they did. As your parents, they should have been there to look after you, to protect you-"

"It's okay." Rey interrupted, rising to her feet and holding a hand up to stop him as his voice grew deeper and darker. She could feel the anger rising in him, a prominent scowl crossing his brow, his pupils sharp.

"No, it's not okay!" He shouted, the anger taking her aback. "No-one should be treated like that. Like they're nothing. Rey." He rose suddenly and took a step forward until they were just inches apart, his head craning down meet her gaze. "Let go. Let go of thinking they'll be back for you. You don't know if they'll ever come back and even if they did, they don't deserve you. Set yourself free. Now is your chance to make a path for yourself that isn't ruled by their negligence."

She could feel his shaky breath on her face as he spoke, his voice assured and firm. Rey felt the corners of her eyes well, but willed it away - growing up on Jakku had taught her there was no use in crying. She broke away from his intense gaze, looking away.

"What if there was a reason? A reason they left me behind?" She stammered.

"No reason could ever be good enough." His voice was lower now, cascading across to her in gentle waves.

Still a little shocked by the intensity of it all, she turned to sit back in the co-pilots seat, pulling her knees up and wrapping her arms around them. "Maybe" she hummed quietly.

"Just...think about it. You have people who care about you now. The Resistance would take you on in a heart beat I'm sure. And if that wasn't what you wanted, you always have a place here."

Rey raised her head just in time to see Ben's expression falter before he continued. "My dad is always looking for extra help, that is."

Rey smiled. This time it was a full one, rosy cheeks and teeth and all. "Thank you, Ben."

"It's nothing." he mumbled, busying himself with the control panel. "We've still got a way to go. Luke was pretty adamant about hiding himself away in the outer regions. The ship can run on autopilot from here, so we should probably get some rest."

Rey nodded, feeling the gentle pull of her lids, realising just how exhausted she was.

"Can you wake me up when we're near? I want to see it." Rey stifled through a yawn.

"Sure. Get some rest."

Rey carried herself away towards one of the rooms, leaving Ben to sit in the pilots seat, staring ahead across the vast expanse of space. She wondered if he would get any sleep at all, although he struck her as somewhat nocturnal - the heavy lids of his eyes always looking a little too heavy. She planted herself on a bunk, pulling a loose cover over herself before drifting off quickly to sleep.

--

Ben finds himself on an endless beach, black sand dunes running endlessly for what seem like eternity. The only break in this bleak landscape of monochrome is the gently lapping water at his feet. As he raises his gaze, he notices that the gentle water is in fact a sea, dark waters spreading across further than the sands. He feels empty in this bleak landscape of greyness, until he notices a figure some distance away.

Moving slowly through sand as he feels the sharp crunch against his boots, he draws closer to see the figure draped in black. Closer still, he notices they are crouched low to the ground, arms draped around something lying still on the ground. Ben could hear the slow lapping of the water against it, the sound screaming into his ear drums.

When he finally made it a few mere metres away, he stopped abruptly. Taking in the crouched figure, it all seemed so familiar. Dark robes were shrouded in an equally dark cloak, the figures raven hair falling down in messy waves. He realised then that the figure was sobbing, a gloved hand raised across their face barely masking an indistinguishable scar.

A body. The water was still swarming around it as the waves began to pick up ever so slightly in the distant sea. Ben continued walking, trying to get a closer look at the body, curled up in a ball, the knees tucked in.

A sharp intake of breath escaped his throat as he realised the body was Rey, the soft waves of her hair falling across her pale skin. He began running towards the figure, who suddenly looked up, removing the hand from their face. Despite the distinctive scar, the face was unmistakable - it was his own. He could feel his grief, his regret, his guilt as though it were his own - and it was his own, although he didn't know why. Frozen in place, unable to move any closer, Ben watched as the figure - him, but he couldn't quite understand how - rose slowly to their feet, turning and moving to walk away.

Desperate to move so he could go to Rey, his muscles were solid and unmoving despite his best efforts. Using all of his strength, all he was able to do was let out a desperate, agonised scream.

The figure paused, and turned back to face him, reaching out a gloved hand.

"Join me" the voice rasped, their desperation and longing screaming back at him. But it was not his voice, and he lifted his head to look at the source. Gone was the body - and now it was Rey who stood before him, hand outstretched. She was clad in all black, in robes similar to the ones he had just seen on his double. A deep scar spread across her face, from her lower cheek across her eye and moving up to the bridge just above her nose. The freshness made him flinch, a pang of intense pain ringing across his brow as he reached a slow hand to his own face.

"Please." Rey pleaded, a slight quiver in her tone. He looked up, almost doubting the image he saw before him, needing another look to confirm it. It was Rey - but this Rey seemed so different to the one he knew. Her expression was harder, her lips pursed into an almost angry scowl, her eyes dark as though they had witnessed - and actioned - the deepest cruelty.

Ben found himself shaking his head gently, and her expression was unmistakably one of anger now. She turned sharply on her heel, beginning to pace away.

"Rey!" he shouted, although it came out much more like a whimper. She stopped, and turned on her heel again to face him.

"Ben?" Her voice was so gentle now, and gone was the darkness he had seen moments before. Now Rey was clad in beige and brown camo gear, what looked to be the standard Resistance uniform, noticing the familiar patch on her shoulder. He notices a blaster held firmly in her grip, and she motions for him to follow her.

He is thankful his limbs are his own again, and he walks slowly behind her, moving towards the sandy expanse for what feels like an eternity until they approach a row of raised mounds in the sand. Each crude pile of rocks has a pile of twigs laid gently across the top.

Rey made her way through the mounds, moving in complete silence. Until they grew closer to a series of dirt mounds that felt different, although Ben couldn't fathom why. Rey motioned with a hand to one, and a sharp image pierced across his consciousness - Mother.

Rey continued to point a limp arm to each grave - oh maker, these were graves - as face after face shrieked across his vision with piercing purpose. His father. Chewie. His uncle Luke. Finn. Poe.

They reached one final grave, this one still a little different to the others. Ben walked to stand beside Rey, noticing as little wet pools fell into the dirt as tears streamed down her face. He instinctively reached for her hand, but found himself met with nothing but air. She was gone, and he realised that this grave, this grave was hers.

--

Ben awoke to the sound of screaming, before quickly realising it was his own. He stopped, but the sound continued - Rey. He threw himself up from the pilots seat instinctively, launching himself down the corridor and barging through the door where he knew she would be. Rey. Rey.

He found her curled into a tight ball, her eyes still closed. She was still screaming through her stifled sobs. Through the devastating sounds, he heard her call his name.

He reached out to her across their minds, tugging at her subconscious and repeating her name over and over. Rey. Rey. Rey.

"I'm here." he breathed through shaky breath, his eyes stained with tears as he cupped her face with his hands.

"Ben..." she murmured as the sobbing began to subside, her face strunched together in confusion as she slowly opened her eyes, sitting up to dangle her legs from the edge of the bed. Ben was crouched below her on the floor, and he placed both hands on her upper arms to steady her.

"Did...did you see it to?"

"I did." He replied, his voice barely a whisper.

"What was it?"

"A vision. I've had these before. The Force, its warning us." Dreams like this - visions - he was all too familiar with. But not like this. Never like this.

"Warning us of what?" a look of sheer terror falling across her face.

"...I don't know." He stammered, loosening his firm grip on her arms to place his hands at his side.

The air was filled with a deafening silence, until Rey spoke.

"Ben, I'm scared."

He could feel the unbearable pain in her voice as the words left her mouth, her eyes still filled with terror.

"Hey, it's okay" he pulled himself up to sit beside her on the bed, pulling her into a swift embrace "It's okay" he murmured against the soft skin of her neck as he felt her pull him in closer.

They stayed like that for a moment, until he felt Rey pull his body down to lay on the bed, her arms still wrapped around him as she burrowed her face into his chest.

"Stay. Please." She murmured through the muffled fabric of his shirt.

"Okay" he rasped, running a gentle hand through her chestnut hair as she hummed contentedly. And just like that, Ben found himself drifting into sleep.

Chapter Text

When Rey awoke, her eyelids sore from dried tears, she found herself alone in the bunk. She reached a hand across the empty expanse to find the space Ben had occupied still warm - he couldn't have been up long. She slowly sat up, rubbing her eyes and feeling heat rise to her cheeks remembering the previous night - as well as a deep anxiety seeping in through the pit of her stomach.

She rose, and gradually made her way to the cockpit, where she found Ben.

"Ah, I was just about to wake you." She could see the pain in his eyes, he still looked troubled by the night before. "How are you feeling?"

"Nervous." Rey answered honestly as she lowered herself into the co-pilots seat.

"Hmm." Ben murmured to himself as he pulled them out of lightspeed. They found themselves approaching a cluster of small moons, growing ever closer to one in particular.

"What's he like? Your Uncle." Rey asked, her voice echoing across the heavy silence that had filled the ship.

Ben thought for a moment, trying to find a way to word his feelings on his Uncle in the most diplomatic way.

"You can be honest." Rey interjected. A small smile played across Ben's lips.

"Honestly? He's a little cranky. I've never really been under the impression that he liked me - or trusted me. I couldn't say why." He shrugged. "But he's knowledgeable. Wise. A little sarcastic, sometimes too much." Ben found he couldn't help but roll his eyes. "But he is kind, underneath it all. I think in a lot of ways, he's a product of his environment. He was pulled headfirst into this world of the Jedi - much like you have been - without much say. His whole world changed within a few hours."

Rey listened intently as Ben continued.

"My mother speaks of him a lot. He used to be so filled with hope and purpose, but I think once the dust settled and he started to find out more about the Jedi he became lost, disillusioned with it all. He ran a training academy for a long time, but one day he just closed it and left. He told my mother where he was going at least, said something about studying the origins of The Force, and he's been a bit of a hermit since then."

"He sounds stubborn."

"He is." Ben agrees. "But he knows a lot about The Force - he's had years to teach it and study it. You can't find anyone else alive with his experience. Well, not in the Light at least."

Rey quirked a brow slightly. "The Light?"

"Well, there's the Light side - the side of good. The old Jedi, they were in the Light. And the Sith - with the Dark side. The Force is strong in my family, and it hasn't always been good." Ben's expression darkened as he continued. "Not everyone strong with The Force wants to do good in this world Rey."

"So they're with The First Order?"

"Not necessarily. Although I don't doubt that some are. It's part of the balance of this world - powerful dark, powerful light. You cannot have one without the other."

"That doesn't make sense." Rey mused. "Surely the world isn't that black and white? No-one is ever just good, or just bad."

It was Ben's turn to raise an eyebrow now. She'd instantly tapped into the doubts that had plagued his mind for years - one of the reasons he'd chosen to distance himself from The Force since what happened.

"It's not that simple. Those who channel the Dark Side do so for selfish reasons. They're motivated by greed and power, and they use their abilities to cause suffering."

"That's not what I'm saying." Rey interjected. "You'll always get people like that, wherever you go. I saw my fair share of them on Jakku. But sometimes people's motivations are more than that. Desperation. Loneliness. Anger. Fear. Those feelings aren't inherently evil."

"Fear." Ben mused. "Luke always used to say this phrase to me, about fear leading the path to the Dark Side."

"But fear is natural. Everyone feels fear."

"Yes. But it's how we react to that fear I think that defines us. Do we run from it, do we feed it? Or do we fight it, do we learn from it?"

Rey's brows were furrowed, deep in thought, and she shifted in her seat so that one leg was bent upwards, her lower thigh grazing her knee. "That makes sense. But I still don't think people can just be one or the other."

"I agree." Ben rose to his feet suddenly, as though a thought had only just occurred to him. "Can you keep watch for a moment?" Rey barely had time to nod as he strode out of the room, returning a few moments later with a bundle in his arms. He sat back down, resting it gently on his lap.

"I wanted to give you this. I wasn't sure if... Well, it seemed a bit..." His voice trailed off for a moment. "Anyway." He lifted the object from his lap, and handed it to Rey. She took it in her hands cautiously, and moved it around with curiosity. She peeled back the loose cloth wrapped around it to reveal a Resistance X-Wing pilots helmet. Her eyes lit up, and she shot a look at Ben - curiosity and wonder.

"I saw you looking at one back on the base, and it seemed like you were really fascinated by it, so-"

Ben was cut off as he felt a weight hitting him suddenly - Rey had flung herself forward, throwing herself at him and pulling him into a fierce embrace. "Thank you." she muffled, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck, her fingers gripping tightly into his skin - although Ben couldn't say he minded all that much.

"It's okay." Ben muttered as she pulled back, her eyes still on him with a look of sheer awe and gratitude, as she returned to her seat, moving the helmet around in the palms of her hands.

"I had one of these, on Jakku. I found it on one of my first scavenger runs." Rey let her fingers gently caress the curves in the helmets edges, tracing along the painted lines as she spoke. "I found it inside an old X-Wing unit. Everything of value was long gone, all the parts already pulled from it - not much of a first scavenge really. But I kept it." Her voice was softer, a small smile playing across her lips. "I used to wear it and imagine I was a pilot. It was the reason I was so interested in learning. I thought, once my parents came back for me I could go off and be a pilot with the Resistance. Even before you came, I still had it, still wore it sometimes when I needed some time to dream."

"You could still be a Resistance pilot. I could talk to Poe, I'm sure he could arrange something when we're back." Ben couldn't help it as the corners of his lips spread wider as he took in Rey's delighted expression.

"I'd like that." She smiled back. "I'd like that a lot."

Ben nodded, mumbling to himself before turning back to the controls as they approached the planets surface. Rey turned in her seat to watch the planet as it began to come into focus, letting the vast blue hues fill her vision. As they grew closer she could see it was water - so much water. She assumed this was a sea - although she'd never seen one before. Her fingers gently caressed the helmet as it lay on her lap.

They descended towards an island that Rey recognised instantly from her dreams, and the pair brought the ship down on a rocky expanse at the very bottom of the steep hill, landing with a rough thud - this ship definitely wasn't the Falcon, that much was clear. Rey peered across the viewing port, noticing a lone figure stood at the edge of the cliffside a few feet away from where they'd landed. She couldn't make out his features fully from where she stood, and his face was mostly shrouded in a deep hooded cloak. Ben had clearly spotted him too, but instead busied himself with the ships controls, as the engine whirred gently to silence.

Rey had heard so many stories about the Luke Skywalker of old, much like she'd heard them about Han Solo and Leia Organa. These stories had always served a purpose of lifting morale in the outer regions, which is why she was so surprised to find out they were true. The Luke she'd heard so much about had been a symbol of hope against the Empire, a powerful nobody from a dead end planet who held unspeakable power. Was this to be her fate now too?

Ben found himself tensing up at the sight of his uncle waiting for them at the cliffside as they pulled in to land. What he'd told Rey had been true - although he sensed more than just a hint of distrust in his uncle. For as long as he could remember Luke had been hesitant and distant with him, and as he grew older Luke's attitude to him only grew colder and more distrustful. He'd never brought it up, and his parents had never asked. He could see how much his mother deeply cared for Luke and chose not to pursue any potential conflict. It wasn't like he saw him that often anyway.

The pair made their way down from the ship to meet the old Jedi. His features were firm - not necessarily a reflection of his personality, Rey thought, but the face of someone who had spent years learning some difficult truths and their face bore witness to them. Deep set wrinkles spread across his skin and he had the eyes of someone who had seen too much - but despite this Rey noticed he looked surprisingly limber and in good health. One hand was missing, its place instead taken by a mechanical exoskeleton - Rey wondered when that had happened, making a mental note to ask Ben later. He was dressed in what she assumed were traditional Jedi robes.

"Luke." Ben spoke first, moving forward hesitantly, outstretching a hand to his uncle who took it and shook it.

"Ben. I assume your mother sent you. Who's this?" Luke's attention immediately moved to Rey, taking a side step towards her.

"I'm Rey."

"Good to meet you Rey." He moved a hand forward to shake hers, and she took it reluctantly, her eyes hardened and hesitant as she eyed the man before her. "You hungry?"

"Always." Rey smirked, and Luke led them to the top of the hill to a cluster of small clay huts. Luke motioned for them to enter one, building a small fire before placing a line of meaty objects just above it to roast.

"Look, I should tell you both now that I don't teach anymore." Luke started, rubbing his hands together before placing them in front of the fire.

"I know - we were just told to come here with urgency, so we know probably as much as you do..." Ben rambled, his voice trailing off momentarily as Luke eyed him intently. "I met Rey when we crash landed on a planet called Jakku."

"Yikes, Jakku. Went there once, can't say I was a fan."

"Most people aren't." Rey interjected.

"Reminded me too much of where I grew up. Too much sand." He shot her a knowing grin before poking at the fire with a stick.

"To cut a long story short, we got chased out by First Order tie's and Rey came with us. She's strong with the force."

"I can see that." Luke mused, his expression unchanged.

"We have, some kind of...connection." Ben started, struggling to find the words. Rey could tell how nervous he was - it wasn't something she liked seeing. Luke maintained his long stare at Ben, never breaking eye contact but making it perfectly clear he wasn't especially invested in his words.

'Let me' Rey spoke gently through the bond, and Ben stopped, turning to look at her, his eyes wrought with concern.

"Look, I don't know much about The Force. Anything really, for that matter." Rey interjected, her voice rising. "But whatever this connection is - it's powerful. Powerful enough that your sister felt it was vital to send us both here immediately - even though they're in hot water with the First Order and could use all the help they can get."

Luke's expression changed ever so slightly, his eyebrow raising just a little. "Look, kid, I'll tell you what I told his mother years ago. Teaching Ben is a bad idea. I'm getting the distinct impression teaching you would be too."

"...Mom asked you to teach me?" Ben murmured under his breath, his pupils sharp.

"Yeah. And I said no. Told her it was better for you to stay with your parents. You were troubled, kid. You didn't need a teacher, you needed a family. So you stayed."

Rey placed a hand gently on Ben's clenched fist, feeling his knuckles release their tension ever so slightly. He brushed her away, straightening his arched back, his gaze firmly on Luke.

"Don't misunderstand - I didn't come here because I wanted to. I'd much prefer to be anywhere but here right now." Ben almost spat the words, the intended venom in them clear. "But my mother sent us here for a reason. I won't pretend to understand it, but clearly something is inside us - and whatever it is, it's awake. And we need help."

Luke lowered his gaze for a moment towards the flames, muttering something under his breath.

"I know you don't want to do this, but there is no one else who can." Ben rose from where he was seated, making his way to the door. "Sleep on it. We'll be back in the morning." He motioned to Rey who stood, abruptly following Ben from the hut. She paused at the door for a moment, before turning back, grabbing the stick of freshly roasted meat straight from the fire as Luke looked up in astonishment, and retreated again.

They both made their way back down the hill in silence, the air filled with the crunching of chalk beneath their feet as they descended from the rocky cliff side. Rey had begun helping herself to the meat, biting large chunks straight from the skewer. She mumbled an offer of food to Ben through her chewing, who only lifted a hand - the skewer suddenly flying from her grip and into his hand - before taking a bite himself.

Rey stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes growing wide in wonder. "Woah. You need to show me how to do that!"

"I will. We can practise until Luke let's us know his decision tomorrow morning." Ben replied, before taking another bite and tossing the stick back to Rey. "Mm. Its good."

Chapter Text

Leia found herself pacing back and forth across the dining room, her heels resounding across the marble floor. She was stressed. Leia didn't do stress. Didn't have time for it. She would just will it away, focusing her energies on more important things - like solutions.

But this whole situation had thrown her a curveball. Ever since becoming a mother, everything had changed. She was certain she wouldn't be one of those people - one of those women who did a personality 180 the moment they had children. Leia was strong, and she was fiercely independent. In many ways, she was still the same. Still driven, and her politics hadn't taken a backseat even when the action had. But now she worried. And worry was not a feeling she was totally familiar with.

The sound of the door opening made her jump, and her brother stepped into the room. Had it really been so long since they had seen one another? It had. Luke's face was beginning to show the signs of age, deep seated wrinkles resting above his brow, but his eyes still bore the curiosity and sincerity she'd always known.

As he had grown older he'd grown crankier, yes (she liked to think it was a Skywalker trait - she'd always been irritable and sarcastic), but he still had that youthful shimmer in his eyes whenever he was being micschevious.

"Leia. It's good to see you." The pair embraced, before taking a seat at a small glass table overlooking the stunning fields their home was surrounded by. "Now tell me what's so important that you called me all the way here."

Leia rolled her eyes. "Isn't it enough for a sister to want to see her brother?" Luke let out a huff that once perhaps would have resembled a laugh. "Okay, fine, I called you here for a reason. I need to talk to you about Ben."

Leia's eyes fell as the words left her mouth, and she turned her glance towards the landscape before her, letting out a shaky breath.

"So talk." Luke gently urged.

"He's been having...problems. His anger. He gets these rages, where he won't speak to us for days, sometimes weeks. I can feel it - he feels so isolated, so alone."

She began to fuss the fabric cuffs of her dress sleeves absentmindedly. "He wasn't always this way - there's been a change. I don't understand it, and he's not willing to talk about it. But I'm scared. There was an...incident, at the school. He said a voice in his head told him to do it."

Luke's eyes narrowed as he considered his sisters words, his brow tensing.
"Has he said much, about this voice?"

"Not much. I know Han spoke to him about it, and I think he may have been more forthcoming with him - Ben has always talked to him about what's troubling him." Luke nodded. "Han's with him now if you want to talk to him about it."

"I will." Luke replied. "But first I want you to tell me why I'm here. What is it that worries you so much?"

"The anger, mostly." She admitted. "It's been building for a while, but this...this time it was something else. I'm afraid for him, and I'm afraid of him. Maker, a mother being scared of their son, what a thing." She laughed gently, the nerves coming across in a jitter.

"Say it, Leia." Luke urged.

"I'm worried he may turn. His powers are becoming so much stronger, but he struggles to stay in control. I wonder if that's where the anger comes from. But he says these things that I don't understand - makes these accusations as though he's filled with this deep paranoia, as though he doesn't trust us. And I worry, what with work and the travelling, that we're only feeding it further."

"What exactly are you proposing?"

"He needs discipline, structure. A strong moral compass to guide him."

"You want to send him to train with me." Luke breathed, sounding as though the air had been pulled from his lungs involuntarily. "Leia, I can't."

"Why not?" Her voice rose, the pitch rising slightly.

"Its hard to explain...." he started, pursing his lips as though unsure how to best phrase what he was about to say. "I had a vision, of sorts."

"Of Ben?"

"Yes." Luke whispered, his voice low. "It was more of a premonition really. If he comes to train with me, it will only lead him onto a darker path."

"You're sure?" Leia croaked, trying her best to hold in a sob as she clasped a hand over her mouth.

"Certain. But all hope is not lost. There are solutions." He reached a hand out, placing it over Leia's. "He needs to be here, with you and Han. I can't stress this enough - being with his family, here, with their support is crucial in putting him on the right path."

Leia nodded, wiping away the stray tear that had fallen down her cheek.

"You'll need to be here more - both of you. I know that's a big change to make, but his isolation will only grow otherwise. Talk to him, honestly, and support him. Listen to him when he tells you things, even if they seem absurd. And one day - when the time is right - I will train him."

"How will I know when the time is right?"

"You'll know." Luke smiled, giving her hand a supportive pat before pulling it away.

"Okay."

Luke left to speak with Han, and Leia found herself once again alone in the room. Her brother had spoken with such certainty - but what it he was wrong? What if it wasn't enough? She found herself worrying and mentally scolded herself - no use fretting, you know what to do. She flipped open a communicator, dialing a number before a regal woman with lilac hair popped up.

"Amilyn, there's something I need you to do."

--

"He's asleep, let's go somewhere private." Han pulled the door to Ben's bedroom closed behind him carefully, motioning for Luke to follow him into another room.

"Tell me about these voices."

"Look, I'm gonna be straight with you Luke. I don't understand this force stuff, you know that. But this seems serious." He ran a nervous hand through his hair - Luke had never seen the Solo's this anxious.

"He said it started a few years ago. Just a voice in the back of his mind. I don't think he thought anything of it at first, guess he just assumed it was his concience. But then the voice seemed to take on more of an active role in suggesting things to him. Ben said its been telling him that we don't care, that we don't love him, things like that."

Han found himself putting his face in his hands as he spoke shakily.

"He's such a good kid, and I hate to say it but...I'm scared. This...this 'thing', it's feeding his anxieties and creating ones where there aren't any, like it has an agenda. Kriff, it even told him his name."

"What's the name?" Luke asked tentatively.

"Snoke." Han murmured "His name is Snoke."

"Shit." The old Jedi cursed under his breath.

"You know of him?" Han snapped, his voice raised.

"In a way. Not much. But he's been on my radar for a while. Cropping up where he ought not to be, holding influence in places he shouldn't. I knew he was powerful, but breaking into someone's mind - the mind of a child - clearly I should have been more worried about him. I've been keeping a watchful eye, and it's not been my place to intervene - I can't stop every ill-intentioned power-hungry maniac that crops up - but this is way beyond what I thought he was capable of."

"What should we do?" Han croaked.

"I've told Leia I won't take Ben. He needs to be with his family. And if he wants to train with me, it needs to be his choice. Ask him, if you like. If you give him a choice, I guarantee he'll refuse. When the time is right, I will train him. But now, he needs the support of his family. Let me deal with Snoke."

Han nodded, patting his brother in law on the shoulder. "Thanks Luke. I mean it."

Luke only nodded. "Go to Ben. He needs to know that you both support him. But don't tell him the specifics - comfort him, help him, but do not tell him what I've told you. Its best he doesn't know any real details."

Han nodded firmly in agreement. "Do you want to stay for the evening?"

"I need to get going. There is much to be done." Luke nodded, before swiftly exiting. Han hovered for a moment before making his way back to Ben's bedroom.

With a gentle knock on the door, he entered after hearing a murmer of acceptance from his son, and he found him curled under the covers, hugging at his knees. It was clear he hadn't slept - his eyes red with tears and pupils wide with terror. Han took a seat beside him on the bed as Ben sat up.

"How are you feeling?"

"Tired." Ben admitted, wiping at his eyes with his arm to brush away the stray tears. "Was Uncle Luke here?"

"He was." Han confirmed. "He's gone now though. Important Jedi stuff or something like that." Ben nodded.

"Look, Ben. We need to talk about this - about what happened. But it doesn't have to be tonight. I know its difficult, so take your time. But when you want to talk about it - I'm here. Your mother too. You know how much we both love you and care for you, right?" Ben nodded quickly, sniffing a little. "Good, because things are gonna change around here. From now on, no more long missions. I'm gonna be here, and so is your mom. We're gonna fight this together, the three of us, okay?"

"Okay." A small smile spread across the young boys face, a tinge of red spreading across his cheeks.

"C'mere kiddo." Han opened his arms, and Ben fell instantly into them, gripping the back of his shirt tightly. "If you hear that voice again - you tell us, alright? Tell us what it said, and we'll talk about it. But most of all, I want you to ignore it. I know its hard. But you're strong, Ben. You're the strongest kid I've ever known, and I know you can do it."

Ben stifled a sob against his father's chest, and Han pulled him in closer. "You don't have to be alone anymore. I know you're scared, but we're gonna help you through this and fight it together from now on. Does that sound okay?"

"Yes" the boy murmured, squeezing him tighter.

"Okay. Now, it looks to me like you're not very tired at all!" Han pulled away, giving his son a scrutinising look. "What do you say - should we get up and go for a drive?" Ben's grin grew wide as he nodded, letting out a resounding yes as his father grinned. "I thought so. Get your shoes on then, let's get going before your mother finds out, she'll kill me if she knows we're going off on our night drives again."

Ben jumped from the bed and started quickly pulling on a pair of boots, almost falling over he was so eager. The two left the room together, creeping out through the living room past Leia, who was fast asleep on the lounger. Han planted a quick kiss on her head before putting a finger to his lips, reminding Ben to stay quiet. Father and son made their way into the night, a stream of glowing neon billowing away from the speeder as they followed the road into the night.

--

"So you just centre yourself and envision it?"

"That's right. Try again."

Ben had spent the last few hours teaching Rey the more basic side of the force - or 'lifting rocks' as she liked to call it - from the warmth of the ships small dining area. She'd picked it all up relatively quickly - it seemed as though she learnt best by watching first. Ben suspected there was something more to that skill and wondered if that would help her tap into other abilities in similar ways.

Rey's eyes were closed, an arm outstretched when she was shifted out of her focus by a loud clank, opening her eyes. Luke was stood in the doorway of the room, his hand resting firmly on the doorframe. Ben's eyes grew wider from where he sat, surprised that neither of them had sensed his approach.

"I'll teach you both. We start tomorrow at dawn." He glanced at them with a firm stare, and then he was gone again.

The two looked at one another for a moment, before Rey shrugged her shoulders. "That was quicker than expected."

Chapter Text

"Now, before we start with any of the fun stuff, I need to teach you two how to look after yourselves. I'm an old man, I'm not interesting in spending my time babysitting so you'll need to work together to scavenge food and resources while you're here."

Ben couldn't help but scoff.

"Is something funny, Ben?"

Ben shook his head, a smile still spread across his cheeks as Rey spoke. "I think we can look after ourselves."

"Oh really?" Luke rolled his eyes, and motioned for them to follow him to a sharp cliff edge. With agility surprising for a man of his age, he took a step forward across the cliff and jumped across the gap whilst gripping a long stick that made its way down the edge and into the water. He landed firmly on a ledge, turning back to smirk at the two students. Using the stick, he grabbed the end and slammed it down, pulling it up to reveal a fish half his size, which he promptly hoisted over a shoulder.

Clearly this show of arrogance had rubbed Rey the wrong way, because with a petulant huff she removed a rope and some tools from her holster, setting herself up a makeshift pulley system before throwing herself down the crevice, using two sharp hooks to grip into the rock when she was about half way down. Leaning back from the edge, one hand gripping the hook and her feet firmly planted against the rocks, she reached a free hand down and scooped up something from a small crevice to her right. She bundled the find into a small cloth, tying up the edges and attaching it to her holster before unhooking from the wall and pulling herself back up the rope.

She walked immediately to Luke, opening the small cloth to unveil over a dozen eggs, eyeing the old man with a smirk.

"Hm. Not bad."

Feeling satisfied, she re-wrapped the parcel, handing it to Ben to inspect.

"Aw. And I was so excited to practise my fishing skills." Rey sniggered at Ben's remark, returning the eggs to her holster.

"What's next?" Rey called.

They spent the morning getting a rudimentary tour of Ahch-To, although there was little to see. Besides the surprisingly inquisitive Porg's and disgruntled Caretakers who made themselves scarce, the island was relatively quiet, and Rey couldn't understand why someone would choose to live in this kind of solitude. At least Jakku had lots of old junk to explore and other scavengers to talk to if she chose. Luke talked about the ecosystem of the island and what to eat and not eat - although Rey suspected she could have worked a lot of it out for herself anyway. Ben listened intently, nodding his head occasionally.

Next, they focused on hand to hand combat - something Rey felt fairly confident in. Luke emphasised the importance of practise - and insisted they spend at least an hour each day sparring with one another. Rey found she enjoyed sparring with Ben immensely - not only was he skilled (and clearly well-practised) in combat, but he didnt hold back. He was also just as competitive, if not moreso, than she was. Luke felt it was important for them to improve hand-to-hand combat before learning more about the Force - something about 'being strong in the Force doesn't automatically make you good in a fight'.

Clearly she'd spent too long in a daze because she found herself pulled into a headlock by Ben, his head tucked next to hers. "Ah. Got you." he whispered low in her ear, and Rey felt a shiver run down her spine at his closeness. She lifted her leg and swiftly kicked him back, his arms falling loose as he fell.

"Nice try." she mocked, brushing herself down.

Luke frowned from a distance. "I think that's enough for today. I want to show you both something."

They followed Luke up the mountain further than they'd previously been, and he led them through a narrow gap in a tall, twisted tree, until they found themselves in a dark corridor. As they grew closer, they spotted a small light peeking through a crack in the ceiling, illuminating a small ledge covered in markings. Ben found himself moving closer intently, placing a hand on what he found. Brushing away layers of dust and dirt, he lifted the object.

"The old Jedi texts." he breathed with wonder, lifting one of the books in his hand and beginning to flick through. "Is this why you came here?"

"It is." Luke replied, and Rey moved closer to inspect the old books.

"What do they do?" she asked curiously.

"They're books. They don't 'do' anything." Luke rolled his eyes before continuing. "They're sacred books from the Jedi hayday. They teach of the rules of old and a time before the Jedi were ostracised. There's a lot to be learnt from their teschings."

"This doesn't even look like it's written in basic..." Ben mused as he ran through the pages, peering closer at the text.

"These books are pretty old. We've lost a lot of the language from them in time, so they take a lot of studying to understand. I want you both to work on studying these texts between our lessons."

The pair nodded, as Ben lifted the remaining books, brushing off the remaining dust.

"There's something else I want to show you." And with that, Ben and Rey found themselves following Luke further up the hill until they came to another small opening. This one took them into a large hollowed out room, with mosaic artwork adorning the floor. "This is the first Jedi temple. Not much is left now, but it's still an important step in your journey."

He led them further to an opening that led them back outside, taking them to a ledge overlooking the sea below. "We're going to practise some meditation. Ben, as you're a bit more experienced you'll be going first." Ben nodded, moving towards the ledge and sitting down cross-legged. Rey smiled to herself - there was something very sweet about this tall, brooding man sitting with his legs crossed to meditate.

"Close your eyes. Now reach out. What do you see?"

"Hmm." Ben mused, his eyelids flickering slightly. "I see the island. The sea. Its cold, and it can be cruel."

"Yes. Go on."

"I see the life the island gives. The life it takes away. Everything returning to the soil in time and feeding the life to come."

"That's it, Ben. Now - open your eyes." Ben's lids flickered, glancing down at the sea below. "You picked up on the balance. The Force is all about balance. Powerful light, powerful dark. One cannot live without the other in order for our world to thrive."

"So darkness is natural?" Rey chirped in.

"Well, not necessarily." Luke replied. "Everyone has a bit of both. Some moreso than overs. To be overtaken by feelings of anger, greed, desire...these can lead to the darkside. You must be able to balance all of these feelings without letting them rule you - your emotions are a powerful tool but they must be used wisely. Your turn, Rey."

Ben rose from the rock as Rey took his place, centering herself and crossing her legs, letting her palms rest on her knees.

"Now, relax. Just breathe. And reach out with your feelings. Tell us what you see."

Rey closed her eyes, allowing herself to become engrossed in the island. She found herself following her natural instincts, pulling her across the island.

"I see light. Dark. The creation of new life. And the destruction of it. But the death, it feeds into life, allowing new things to come."

"That's it Rey" Luke encouraged.

Rey's expression soon deepened, her brow furrowed. "I see something else. Something more..." She felt something call to her, something deep within the ground. It's tendrils wrapping gently around her, beckoning her to continue.

"Rey..." Ben started, taking a step forward.

"No, wait. Its calling me. Its calling my name."
Luke's eyes widened as he watched the ground beneath them begin to shake. Before he had the chance to intervene, Ben had shot forward, kneeling down beside her and placing a hand on her shoulder.

'Rey. Come back.' He whispered soothingly through the bond.

'But I need to see what's there...'

'Not today. The darkness is too strong.' He tightened his grip on her shoulder, giving it a slight squeeze of encouragement. 'Please, Rey.'

And with that - Rey awoke, her eyes shooting open as she took a sudden gasp of air. The ground ceased shaking, and she instinctively slammed a hand on the ground to steady herself.

"You went straight to the dark..." Luke breathed, his voice low and his eyes darkening. "You didn't even hesitate."

"She didn't know..." Ben started, raising himself from the ground to walk towards his uncle.

"I did know." Rey interjected, her tone irritated. "I knew, and I wanted to know more. What's the harm in looking?" She too rose to her feet, taking a step towards the men.

"Your instinct pulled you straight to the darkness and you followed it without a second thought!" Luke roared.

"But you said yourself that everyone has a balance of the dark and the light?"

"Both Rey! They don't go running straight to the darkness above all else."

"This is ridiculous!" Rey threw her arms up in frustration. "Your teachings contradict themselves. How can you understand the balance if you don't explore both? Surely by understanding what's there is what allows us to control it!"

"We understand it because we observe it, we can't just flit back and forth between the two without question!"

"Perhaps we should take a break." Ben advised, moving forward suddenly to wedge himself between the two who were growing closer. He could see the fire in Rey's eyes and she wasn't backing down. He knew his uncle well enough to know he wouldn't either.

"No, I think we're done." Luke snapped, before storming off. So much for Jedi balancing their emotions, Ben thought. They watched as the old Skywalker made his way back across the temple and disappeared from sight.

Rey turned sharply to move towards Ben, her eyes filled with frustration. "Why did you do that?"

"You were both angry. Luke will come around." Ben shrugged his shoulders. "It's best not to fight with him about the semantics."

"You agree with him?" she retorted, her mouth curving into a deep frown.

"No, no I agree with you. But he's stubborn, and he'll never see it any other way. Surely you can see that. Why are you so against everything he says? You know he will never change his mind."

Rey's shoulders slumped, and she turned away from his gaze, her voice low. "I see how he looks at you. Like he doesn't trust you. And I don't know why. But I don't like it." She scowled, looking away towards the sun as it set across the horizon, basking them in a soft orange glow.

"Rey." Ben's voice rasped, and he moved closer until they were just inches apart. "You don't need to worry yourself with what he thinks of me. I already know. But." He dipped his head low, placing a chaste kiss on her cheek as she froze in her place. "Thank you."

And then he was gone - swift motions and rapid steps carried him across the temple and before Rey had time to process it she was alone on the cliffside. Moving quivering fingers up to hover across her cheek, she delicately placed them on the spot where lips had grazed her.

Ben was just expressing his gratitude. There was nothing more to say. But if that was all it was, why did her heart ache so much?

Chapter Text

Ben awoke with a sudden sharp jolt. His chest felt numbed in its agony, an intrusive feeling of unexplained guilt passing through his core. Before he had a moment to process the feeling, he could hear Rey calling his name from the adjacent hut.

He rose from the bed, making his way outside to find Rey stood outside, the door to her hut ajar. Something had roused her too, her eyes barely open as she rubbed them with the back of her hand. "Did you feel it too?" she murmured.

Ben nodded. "What do you think that was?"

"Something is very wrong." A low voice murmered from behind them, and they turned to see a dishevelled and deeply concerned Luke. "You both felt it too?" Rey and Ben both nodded.

"A great many lives have been lost tonight. Almost as though they were snuffed out in an instant." His expression darkened as his brow creased.

Ben could see that both were deeply concerned, the smallest of tears pricking the edge of Rey's eyes. Luke's eyes looked glazed as though he was struggling to maintain his composure as he puzzled over the feeling.

But Ben. Ben felt guilt. Gut-wrenching guilt.

"I'll contact Leia. She would have felt it too, and she may know what's happened." Luke abruptly turned on his heel before pausing momentarily and speaking softly. "Get some rest, both of you." He gave Ben a curt nod before returning to his hut.

They both stood in silence for a moment, attempting to process the strange feeling. "What do you think happened?" Rey asked. "I felt this sudden flash of pain and suffering and it was gone. I've never felt that before."

Ben was silent and solumn for a moment before he spoke. "Can we talk? Somewhere private?" Rey nodded, her gaze filled with concern, and he led them away from the huts and down the steps until they reached the waters edge where the shuttle was parked. Ben lowered himself slowly to the ground, his knees bent and his arms crossed, his hands wrapped tightly around his legs. Rey moved to sit beside him, her legs dangling from the edge of the rocks.

"Tell me what's troubling you." she soothed, turning her head to look at him. Her and Luke had felt a deep sadness, but what Ben was feeling seemed so much more intense. There was a distance in his gaze as he looked across to the angry sea, the waves smacking against the rocks below.

"I'm not sure where to begin" he murmured, biting the inside of his cheek before continuing. "I think I know what happened."

"You do?"

"I do." They sat in silence for a moment, looking across at the waves hitting the shore for a few moments before he continued. "You and Luke felt it. But I saw it. As clear as day. As clearly as I see you now." His gaze met hers. "I was there. I'm not sure how. But I saw it happen."

"Tell me." Rey whispered.

"I was on a large ship, watching from a distance across the galaxy. A red light shot across from the distance. I'm not sure what it was, a weapon of some kind? But I felt as though I knew what it was. It didn't surprise me. I didn't flinch." His voice broke just slightly. "I didn't flinch as the beam shot across space and blew a planet away. A whole planet. Rey..."

She heard the cracking of his voice as he spoke and move instinctively. She wasn't sure when they'd moved so close to one another during their brief time conversing, but she was now close enough that she could reach over to pull him into an embrace as his breathing hitched.

It had been so long since he'd had one of these visions - although this one was real, it happened just as he saw it. Much like the ones he'd seen when he was just a boy. It scared him in ways he didn't know how to describe, terrified him. But Rey pulling him into an embrace somehow allowed him to let go of a little of that pain. He could feel himself on the edge of an attack and the frustration and humiliation was about to consume him, yet all it took was this girl to hold him in silence for him to begin to see through the fog.

She caressed the soft whisps of dark hair as his fingers gripped the back of her tunic. She began massaging her fingers through the roots, gently grazing her nails along his scalp in rhythmic timing. "Its not your fault Ben" she whispered as he gripped her tighter. "You didn't do this. It's not your fault."

Her soothing voice sent ripples across his soul as the fog continued to subside. He felt her pulling him down gently onto the ground, never breaking the embrace and continuing to run her fingers through his hair.

As they lay there in silence, his breathing started to settle and he found himself feeling present in himself again. And before he knew it, sleep consumed him as the gentle rays of the sunset rained across their embracing forms.

- -

Rey awoke suddenly to find herself alone, in her own bed. She reached a hand instinctively across to Ben to find he was gone - it seemed they had made their way back to the huts at some point, although the last thing she remembered was falling asleep in each others arms. She blushed furiously at the thought, and recalled a vague memory of being carried in Ben's arms up the hill, into her hut. This man would be the death of her, she was sure of it. Before she had time to consider it further, she found herself drifting off to sleep again.

--

When Rey finally rose, taking a step outside to get some air, she spotted Ben perched on the edge of the cliff side, looking across at the vast ocean. His emotions flew across her in waves - he was still deep in thought, still troubled, but calmer than he had been. He turned instantly to meet her gaze, giving a small nod of acknowledgement to her presence. She sensed he needed a few more moments alone, so returned to the hut to gather some things before the day began.

Today Luke was the one who came to them, arriving at the huts with news from the outside. He'd successfully made contact with Leia, and gravely informed them that what they had felt was indeed a great loss of life. The Resistance didn't know the full details, but what they did know was that it was a First Order weapon - one of great magnitude. A 'planet destroyer' they called it. Ben felt his heart plummet in his chest when his uncle confirmed his greatest fears - that his vision was indeed true.

Rey reached across to him through the bond upon hearing Ben's words, passing across his subconscious in soothing waves. She didn't say anything, but just her calming presence was enough to stop Ben from being engulfed by his shame. He glanced across at her, and she smiled in acknowledgement.

Luke's voice pulled Ben out of the haze.

"Unfortunately there's not much we can but continue to train. The Resistance will handle this for now. So let's begin."

Chapter Text

"Ben, stay focused."

Ben snapped his eyes open and found himself sat cross legged on the same spot behind the Jedi Temple. He wasn't quite sure at what point in his meditation he'd started drifting, but he found himself hovering a rock over the edge of the cliff with precision.

Luke rolled his eyes. "I know that you know how to do this so perhaps it seems boring to you, but it's still important for you to continue practising. You've never formally trained in your skills. I'm going to show you how to do things the right way."

Now it was Ben's turn to roll his eyes. He hardly considered his uncles brief stint training on Dagobah 'formal training' from the stories his mother had told him.

'Just humour him' he heard Rey murmer through the bond. Clearly she'd sensed his lack of interest too. She was sat a little further away, perched on a rock, observing from a distance. Luke had insisted they learn their skills individually before practising side by side - but he still felt it was important for each to watch the other to continue their learning. Mostly Rey just found it boring, like Ben. She was itching to get started on the real training.

"Better." Luke hummed as Ben began to settle. He focused his energy on the Force surrounding him, drifting into a state of calm. He tried to keep his thoughts in check - to avoid thinking about the conflict he'd witnessed in his mind the evening before. Rey had helped calm him, but he was still deeply curious about the nature of his vision - what did it mean that he could see these events as though he was there?

"Rey, I'd like you to try now. Ben, please continue as you are."

Rey took a few steps forward before sitting on the ground to the right of Ben, closing her eyes and opening herself up to the Force. She too was troubled by Ben's vision - why had he seen it when she hadn't? So many of their other encounters with the Force had been mirrored, and she was keen to know why this one didn't play in her mind as it did Ben's. She hoped focusing her energy in meditation would provide some answers - she was concerned for Ben's wellbeing, and didn't want him facing these mysterious torments alone.

She found her mind wandering once again to the dark pit beneath the island that Luke had scolded her for exploring. His closed mind was endlessly frustrating - Rey tried her best to not let it bother her, but a teacher refusing to learn puzzled and frustrated her. Wary that Luke was observing, she pulled her thoughts away - something to explore later.

Ben noticed Rey's presence in the Force instantly - it wasn't common for someone to 'switch off' from the intuitive nature of it, but something about their mirrored meditation pulled him into focus and clarity. The feeling was strange and new - perhaps this is why Luke had chosen for them to meditate separately before introducing this collaborative process. Rey at first seemed troubled, as though deep in thought. He wondered if her mind was preoccupied from the events of the previous night like his had been. He found himself reaching out across their bond, offering a soothing wave of certainty and focus. Rey reacted almost immediately, her feelings pulling into focus and responding with her own wave of gratitude. Without words exchanged, they could still share feelings and support.

Clearly a great deal of time had passed, as Luke encouraged them to come back to the present moment. "Much better. What did you notice was different when you meditated together?"

"A sense of togetherness." Rey replied. "I can't fully put it into words, but it felt powerful."

"Good. We can learn much by working with others. Which leads me onto your next task." He rose from where he'd been perched on a cluster of rocks, brushing down his robes before heading back through the temple and motioning for the pair to follow. He led them back to the old tree.

"There is much to be learned from the Jedi of old. I want you both to spend the rest of today studying the texts. They're not exactly page turner's, so I suggest you work together to uncover some of the mysteries they hold."

"Where do you suggest we start?" Ben asked.

"Let the Force lead you to where you should begin. Spend the rest of the day looking at these, I'll be making dinner after sunset if you both wish to join me." And without another word, he was gone again. Ben got the feeling that Luke wasn't one for shared company, remaining noticeably absent during a lot of their training - so his offer to join him for dinner was a surprise. Ben hoped this was him trying to let down his walls.

Rey picked up a pile of the old books, blowing the dust from their aged covers. Planting herself firmly on the ground with legs crossed, she started flicking through pages at random, squinting at the occasional passage before continuing. Ben joined her in sitting, picking up a book from the pile to do the same. But nothing grabbed him, and he could see the same was true for Rey, who let out a frustrated huff.

"How are we supposed to use the Force to choose what to focus on?" she scoffed, continuing to turn the pages hastily. "It's not even written in basic."

"Perhaps we're going about this wrong" mused Ben, closing the book in his hand and placing it on the ground. "If we work out what we want to learn, what we need to learn, maybe the Force will guide us."

"Worth a try." Rey agreed, closing her own book with a little too much enthusiasm, nearly throwing it on the ground before smacking her palms down onto her knees. "Any suggestions?"

Ben let his thoughts wander for a moment. Above all, he was curious to learn more about their bond, but perhaps it was too early to dive into that particular mystery. "Maybe we start simply. The more basic Jedi rules, the code they live by."

"Okay." Rey nodded, closing her eyes as Ben did the same. Ben felt his hand instinctively move towards the stack of books, feeling for the one that lay at the bottom of the pile. He removed it, beginning to flick through before stopping on a page and opening his eyes. The words 'The Jedi Code' were written at the top of the page in intricate script, followed by a series of phrases. Rey nodded her encouragement, and he cleared his throat before reading the words.

"There is no emotion, there is peace.There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.There is no passion, there is serenity.There is no chaos, there is harmony.There is no death, there is the Force."

"That sounds a bit much" Rey scoffed. "No emotions? And no death? How can that be?"

"The 'no death' I think I understand" Ben hummed "Jedi don't 'die' in the traditional sense. They become 'one with the Force' my mother always told me. I was never really sure what that meant, but I have heard talk of apparitions of the Jedi who have passed appearing to guide lost students."

"And no emotions?"

"Well, I know Jedi weren't supposed to have attachments" Ben paused, letting out a light cough before continuing "That's what the 'no passions' line is reference to. Jedi were always celibate, and couldn't marry. They were encouraged to not form attachments of any kind."

"That seems like a horrible way to live." Rey remarked, her voice shallow.

"I always thought so. Although that's not to say they were without feelings - Jedi are compassionate by nature and it's the driving force in what they do. I think the code is suggesting that romantic or familial attachments shouldnt transcend feelings of basic human compassion - should not develop into emotional attachments."

"I'm not sure how I feel about that" Rey murmured. Ben understood - she'd spent so long isolated, to remove all of the attachments she'd formed in her short time in the company of others would be difficult to face. He could hardly see her managing with such a task - it was clear her caring nature and need to put others before herself was a personality trait permenantly etched into her heart. If he was being honest, Ben didn't think it was something he could do either.

"Perhaps we should focus on other aspects of the code for now..." his voice trailed off as he studied the text again. "There is no ignorance...I think I can get on board with that."

"That's something at least. Perhaps we can try something more physical next" Ben's face flushed momentarily before Rey continued "I'd really like to learn how to do rather than how to think - are there any Jedi abilities that we both don't know?"

"Hmm.." Ben mused, casting to his thoughts to the little he did know. They'd practised levitation and the movement of objects. They'd continued training in combat. They had somehow mastered the ability to speak to one another through the Force - somehow. Teaching mind tricks would be tricky without a weak-minded subject.

"I've heard about a Force Cloak before. It allows you to disappear from sight, sort of like being invisible."

"Now that does sound interesting!" Rey exclaimed, shooting Ben a wide grin. "Let's try that."

They both closed their eyes again - and this time it was Rey's turn to reach out to the old texts until her palm rest on the one she was looking for. Flicking through the pages, her eyes still closed, they snapped open when she found what she was looking for, jabbing a finger at a particular block of text.

"There. We need to manipulate the light and shadows to hide within plain sight, but...hmm..." her voice trailed as she flicked back and forth between pages. "Great. It doesn't actually tell us how we do it."

"Perhaps if we meditate on it the Force can guide us."

They both closed their eyes again, taking a moment to centre themselves in their surroundings before reaching out across the Force. Both remained focused for some time, before Ben opened his eyes, muttering something about time wasting. He was shocked to see that Rey had disappeared before him.

"...Rey?" He crawled forward, reaching a hand through the thin air across to where she had been sat moments before, waving it back and forth. Feeling nothing, he rose to his feet, looking around frantically. "Did you work it out? Rey?" He moved forward quickly, pacing across the space and poking his head outside of the tree, giving the area a quick sweep before heading back inside.

"Ha! Gotcha." Ben practically flew out of his skin when faced with Rey, who stood directly in front of him, their faces inches from one another as he almost walked into her. A broad smirk spread across her face as she chuckled, reaching a hand across to pat him affectionately on the shoulder.

"Kriff, Rey!" His confusion melted into a frown, his lips bending downward. "Did you work it out?"

"No." She remarked, putting her hands behind her back before taking a step further away from him towards the texts. "But you were concentrating so hard that I couldn't resist the temptation."

"That's not very Jedi of you" he grumbled.

"Well maybe I'm not meant to be a Jedi" she shot back. "The code didn't say you can't have fun."

Ben muttered something under his breath before throwing himself back onto the ground in a huff, crossing his legs and picking up a random book. "Let's try something simpler."

Rey smiled, surpressing another chuckle upon noticing the man's grumpy demeanor, before sitting opposite him once again.

Chapter Text

Growing tired of translating old texts, Rey and Ben spent the rest of the afternoon sparring. The simple hand-to-hand combat kept their instincts fresh, and both got a thrill from the challenge. They were surprisingly well-matched, making the challenge even greater; Ben's years as a smuggler had made him observant and sneaky (something Rey put down to his father's influence). Rey's combat experience was a little more practical - used for self defence and survival. Her techniques were less refined, but she was quick, and skilled in spotting weak spots in her opponent.

As the sun began to set, they ceased training and made their way back to the huts to meet Luke for dinner. Neither had discussed the offer, but it seemed too rare an opportunity to pass up for either of them. Luke's cagey attitude was gradually starting to subside, but it was obvious to them both that he'd spent many years alone with no-one but the Caretakers for company, who were hardly conversationalists.

Both were secretly hoping for a little more trust from him - and Rey was curious to know more about the legendary Jedi. So far, he did not resemble the one she'd heard so many stories about - a young man filled with hope despite the near-impossible odds. She had always felt something of a kinship to him in stories - brought up on a desert planet until he discovered his legendary ancestry. The stories only fueled her hope for the return of her family - would they whisk her away on intergalactic adventures, or would she be forced to face them as foes? Now, on Ahch-To faced with a very real Luke Skywalker, she saw how naive she had been.

They found Luke hunched over a small fire, roasting what looked to be Porg's on a skewer. Upon spotting them, he beckoned them both over, handing each of them a stick stacked with indistinguishable plants and meats, which they both began eating eagerly. The day had been a taxing one - both physically and mentally - and they were exhausted.

"What did you learn from the Jedi texts?" Luke asked, his mouth full as he talked between chewing.

"Not a lot that was useful" Rey sighed. "I didn't know Jedi couldn't have attachments."

"Yeah I always thought that one was a bit much" he replied. "Although I do understand some of the logic behind it. After all, my father's fall to the Dark Side partially came about from his fears of losing the woman he loved. In the end, his fall to the Dark caused the very thing he wanted to prevent to come to pass."

Ben remained silent, listening without a word. This was the first time he'd heard Luke mention his grandfather.

Luke's voice was solemn when he spoke again. "I didn't know my father. Not really. But from what I've heard from those who did, his love for Padme was almost suffocating. He had a vision of her death, and despite being warned he became so terrified of losing her that it clouded his judgement. Their romance was a troubled one. Thanks to his position as a Jedi and her political status, they kept their love a secret. It was always bound to end badly. But Anakin couldn't see that. He couldn't see that his behavior, his turn to the Dark is what caused it all to fall apart."

Rey listened intently. She'd heard very little about the man known once as Anakin Skywalker - so clouded his past was thanks to the legacy of Darth Vader. How could a man who felt so much love go on to cause so much suffering?

"Grief can do strange things to people." Luke continued without missing a beat "The Jedi understood this, it's why they forbade attachments. Attachments were a distraction, and they cloud judgement in a way that is often unpredictable - and dangerous. That being said..." his voice trailed off for a moment, deep in thought, before he continued. "Our compassion and connections with others is such a primary driving force. Let's be honest - we've all made decisions we wouldn't have otherwise based on our humanity and connections with others. They may not always be the right ones, but attachment to others gives us perspective and bravery we wouldn't always achieve on our own."

Rey found herself nodding intently, her lips parted every so slightly as she took in Luke's every word. Her gaze quickly moved over to Ben, who also seemed entranced, listening intently, his frame bent forward just slightly.

"Did you uncover much else from the texts?" Luke asked, his fragility disappearing to be replaced by his usual sullen persona.

It was Ben's turn to speak now. "Not really. Its tricky to know where to start, and the language is so dense it takes a lot of energy just to focus on understanding it."

"I understand." Luke replied "It will come with time and practise. The answers will not all come to you straight away."

"Have you heard anything else from the Resistance?" Rey asked.

"Nothing yet. I assume they're still investigating what happened."

She nodded in acknowledgement, continuing to nibble away at the food while Luke pulled the remaining morsels from the fire, passing a skewer to each of them. The trio continued to eat until the sun's went down - they didn't speak much, all comfortable in the company and warmth of the fire.

Luke bade them goodnight, reminding them of the next day's early start. Ben was surprised to see Rey turn in early; she was usually one to stay up and talk, but today she made her apologies about tiredness. It shouldn't have bothered him, but he couldn't quite read what she was feeling, and he had this nagging thought in the back of his mind that he couldn't place. Choosing not to think too much of it, he too retired to bed.

Rey lay awake in her hutt, her body outstretched on the bed as she focused intently on a small mark on the ceiling. Once she was certain that everyone was asleep, she rose to her feet, putting her boots on before making for the door. She poked a head outside the door tentatively before stepping out fully once the coast was clear. Treading gently as not to alert a soul to her presence, she made her way down the steps to the edge of the island. She knew exactly where she was going.

Rey found herself stood over the deep cavern at the waters edge, staring down into the darkness below. Luke had warned her to stay away, but Luke told her a lot of things she wasn't totally convinced by. Since they'd arrived on the island she'd felt as though something was calling to her by name, drawing her in with promises of answers. She'd tried ignoring them, but they'd only grown stronger. She realised early on that Ben hadn't been experiencing the pull in the way she had, so she opted to keep this secret to herself until she could find out more.

As she surveyed the pit, contemplating how to enter, a strong gust of wind pulled her down, down, until she landed with a splash in a deep pool of water. Rising from her submersion, she let out a gasp of air before pulling herself onto the surface, slowly rising to stand. Giving the fabric of her top a twist and a squeeze to remove the excess water, she gave her body a gentle shake before turning to take in her surroundings. Beside the seawater she'd landed in, there was the dark rocky surface that she now stood on, not a plant or semblance of wildlife to be seen. Everything seemed...dead. As though life had never even touched the cavern.

As she turned, she noticed a frosty surface mirroring her reflection. She found herself drawn to this misty wall before her, reaching a tentative hand forward, fingers outstretched. "Let me see my parents" she whispered with more than a hint of urgency.

She closed her eyes, fingertips resting gently on the ice. As she slowly opened them, she found herself somewhere completely new - was she now behind the mirror, or inside it? Every surface around her was like mirrored glass - no entry or exit, just a vast room of Rey's reflected around her.

As she moved closer, the reflections followed her without a second thought, and she found herself approaching a surface towards the shadow of approaching figures. As they grew nearer, the figures combined, and she could just about make out the crisp outline of a person before her. Finally the fog cleared to reveal...her own reflection. Rey felt her voice choke as her throat hitched - why had she thought this place would provide her with answers? Luke was right - she had been foolish.

Before she had time to process her grief, she lost her footing and found herself falling down, down into a black pit. Unable to move or make a sound, she let go of her tension as she felt her limbs loosen, falling deeper into the darkness.

Rey snapped her eyes open. She was on the edge of the surface of the cave, drenched from head to toe and shivering. She felt warm arms enclosed around her and looked up to see Ben, cradling her at the waters edge, his fingertips digging into the soft skin of her arms. He brushed wet strands of hair from her face and mumbled words Rey couldn't quite process. Rey found herself muttering apologies profusely, not quite sure what she was even saying before everything came into focus and she could hear Ben's voice ring clearly.

"Rey, can you hear me? Are you okay?" Ben's eyes were filled with genuine, devastating fear.

"I'm okay. How did you find me?" Rey's palms rest against the rocky ground beneath, her nails scraping across the dirt as though trying to hold on to the world around her.

"I felt you leaving the tent, so I followed you. I saw you fall in and dived in after you - can't you swim? You fell straight into the water, I wasn't sure if you were unconscious or..."

It was now that Rey noticed Ben was soaking, strands of damp hair falling loose across his face. Dressed only in a loose black night shirt and trousers, the thin clothes clung to his skin - he was shivering much like she was. And that fear, oh that fear. His face terrified her. Was he shivering, or was he just shaking?

Rey cut off his words by placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry. And I'm fine. Thank you." His eyes softened at her words, and pulling him up when she herself stood, the two made their way back to the huts.

Chapter Text

"Rey. Tell me what happened."

Ben's voice rasped gently across the hut, and Rey couldn't help but notice a shiver running down her spine when he said her name. It must just be the cold, she concluded.

They were sat in her hut; Ben had started a fire to warm them up and they were both wrapped in blankets - Ben had fetched his bed linen, putting an extra layer around Rey, who responded with a heartfelt smile.

"I don't know. I remember making my way to the surface and I think I was in some kind of room of mirrors, although the details are a little fuzzy. All I remember clearly is asking to see my parents - and I didn't. Then you were pulling me out of the water." Her hands awkwardly fidgeted on her lap, tugging at the threads of fabric at the edge of the blanket.

"Rey, you never even reached the island. I saw you fall in, and dived in after you. You were underwater, I... I thought you were drowning." Ben's voice hitched slightly, a lump in his throat as he vocalised his fears.

"Maybe I was," she mused "Perhaps it was all in my head."

They remained silent for a moment, each looking away from one another. Ben was the one to break the silence.

"Why did you go there? Luke said-"

"I don't care what Luke said" she snapped, more than a hint of irritation in her tone. "He's too scared of what he doesn't understand to even be willing to explore the possibility of what it could teach us."

"I know, but going on your own was reckless. What did you think would happen?" Ben's voice rose, his posture tensing up. "You should have told me, I would have come wi-"

"Since when do I have to run everything I do past you? I can look after myself" she scoffed. "I've made it just fine on my own so far."

Ben felt his heart plummet in his chest, his knuckles tensing at his side. "Have you? You nearly drowned Rey. What would have happened if I wasn't there?"

"I would have worked something out." She spat back. "I don't need you to jump in and save me everytime something goes wrong. I'm just fine on my own!"

"Fine!" Ben sneered. "If that's what you want, feel free to go ahead and get yourself killed, I won't stand in your way."

He rose to his feet suddenly, throwing the blanket on the ground before storming to the door. How could she be so careless? Diving - literally - head first into any scenario without thinking - how had she got this far in life with this reckless attitude? Ben felt the heat rising in his chest, his anger bubbling under the surface. He paused at the door, a hand firmly gripping the frame, trying to find the words, before huffing and heading outside, throwing the wooden door closed behind him with a thud.

He was furious. Ben couldn't remember the last time he'd been so angry. And it was over some Scavenger from the middle of nowhere, some nobody. Why was he bending over backwards to help her? He didn't owe her anything, and he didn't give a damn what stupid plans she made for herself.

But he did. He did give a damn. She shouldn't mean anything to him, she shouldn't mean anything at all.

Ben had been just fine looking out for himself so far, drifting through life without making any meaningful connections aside from Poe, who he knew had other friends, a life away from him. Even when he was on missions with Chewie, he always felt a divide - the ancient Wookie was his father's closest friend after all, and he knew their connection came from that existing relationship, and the duty Chewie felt to look after his best friends son. Being alone had never been a problem for him. Until now.

He felt a tug at the back of his shirt as fingernails clawed at his skin, before feeling a face press into the back of his shirt, hot tears seeping through the fabric.

"I'm sorry." he heard Rey mumble from behind him. Her head was resting firmly on his back, her hands clinging at his shirt, bundling it up in her fists. "I know you were trying to help. Please come back inside."

Ben felt his shoulders slump and the tension pour out of his body at the sound of her voice. He stood there for a moment, before turning back to face her, her hands loosening their grip on his shirt. Her eyes were red, Ben could feel the same stinging sensation she felt in his own, although he wasn't aware he'd been crying until now. Her hands were resting at her sides, still balled up into fists. Despite the fact that she'd clearly been crying, her expression was firm and still defensive, as though willing herself to put on a front - even for him.

Resting a hand on the back of her head, he pulled her into his chest - and she flew into his arms as he did, gripping at the front of his shirt tightly as though she was worried he might run away if she didn't.

He led her back inside the hut, resting a palm gently on the small of her back. They sat down, and they talked. Rey talked about the visit to the cave, and Ben listened. He didn't scold, he didn't judge - just listened. They talked about Jakku, about her parents - and Ben was almost surprised by how forthcoming she was. She'd always been honest around him, but this level of opening up - it was as though she was telling him things she'd never told anyone. Perhaps she hadn't. Ben could feel a knot tightening in his chest again, that familiar feeling of anxiety and dread. She had opened up to him. No-one ever really opened up to him. And he was holding on to his own secret that he felt it was time to share.

The hut was silent now, and Rey pulled the blanket tighter around her small frame. She looked across at Ben, who maintained eye contact but seemed distant. 'Are you okay?' she whispered through the bond, reaching across gently, just enough to nudge him back into focus. He twitched before nodding, his gaze falling to his hands.

"I think I need to tell you something. About my past."

"Ben" she murmered softly "You don't have to tell me things just because I'm over-sharing." She let out a small chuckle, smiling at him.

"No, no it's not like that." Ben waved a hand up and smiled back. "And you weren't oversharing."

"Hmm" Rey hummed, satisfied with his response. "Tell me, then."

He could feel her welcoming warmth spreading across the bond, telling him not to be afraid. Ben cast his gaze down to the fire, watching as the flames licked at the firewood and willing the stirring of butterflies in his chest to subside. Trying to disregard the voice in the back of his head that whispered to him.

She doesn't care what you say. You'll always be a monster.

And you'll always be alone.

Ben swallowed, and took a deep breath before recounting a story he'd kept inside for an eternity.

Chapter Text

Poe was frustrated. He was antsy, and fidgety, and frustrated. After his and Ben's run in with Han after 'borrowing' his speeder (Poe didn't consider it stealing - they'd always planned on returning it after all), things had become a little boring. True, Han had kept to his word - he agreed to teach the two how to pilot in a safe environment. The pair flitted between lessons with Han, then with Chewie, and sometimes both. Han was a hard taskmaster - from Poe's limited interactions with his friends father, he expected him to be more lax with rules given his character but nope - Mr. Solo (which he insisted on being called during their lessons to the embarrassment of Ben) was a tough teacher. He'd shout if they got something wrong, if they forgot to fully follow his careful safety instructions and pre-flight checks. But as much as they both hated to admit it - it was working. Both were becoming beyond competent - and Mr. Solo promised that they'd both be flying without him in no time.

But despite all this - Poe was bored. And he knew Ben was too. Leia had been keeping a much closer eye on them both since the incident - he understood why, but it still made their lives annoying. They wanted to go out and explore, 'do what kids do' as he once told Ben. But when Poe was staying with them, it was all fun and games from the comfort of inside the mansion - and no unsupervised trips outside. He had an inkling there may be other reasons behind the sudden paranoia - but Poe was too young and naive to understand what the Solo's motivations were, so instead it was deemed a nuisance.

On this particular day, the pair were hanging out in the living room - emphasis on the hanging. Like most kids cooped up inside for too long, they were restless - Poe was hanging upside down from the plush recliner, his knees hooked over the back as his head hung down, thick curls falling loose across his face. Ben chose to lay on the floor, legs and arms splayed out. They'd been sharing stories they'd heard about the Clone Wars, and the long gone days of the Empire, sharing laughs and gasps as they wondered how many of the stories were true.

Poe let out a exasperated groan. "I'm soooo bored! Ben can we please do something?"

"Like what?" Ben scoffed "Whatever we're allowed to do is gonna suck." He let out a huff, blowing tufts of dark hair from his face.

Poe's eyes darkened, a look of pure mischief "Who said we had to do something that were allowed to do?" He pulled himself up onto the lounger, unhooking his legs and sitting upright.

"I don't want to deal with Mom's temper again anytime soon" Ben whined.

"What she doesn't know won't hurt her, right?" A huge smirk crossed the young boy's brow as he spoke, an idea beginning to brew. "We just tell her we're studying or something in your room. She won't know any different."

"And where are you suggesting we go?" Ben asked, his interest piqued, sitting up.

"We explore the old town. It won't take us long to get there, even if we go on foot. We can look for that buried treasure you were telling me about earlier."

"I'm pretty sure that's just a story, Poe" mumbled Ben, recalling the story of old pirate treasure hidden in the abandoned part of town. Once an Imperial base, it was soon taken over by some below the law types to smuggle goods across the city border, before being abandoned completely. But the stories of left behind treasures, abandoned after the fall of the Empire persisted.

"Well, we don't know for certain until we look, right buddy?" Poe leaned forward to pat his friend on the shoulder with encouragement. "Hey, it'll be fun!"

Ben looked across at his friend. His troublesome, but annoyingly persuasive friend. Ben wondered what kind of leadership role he'd end up taking as an adult - he was a very skilled negotiator. Ben sighed, nodding in silence as Poe let out a celebratory 'yes!'

Tricking Leia was easier than they'd both thought. She was so surprised to see the pair agreeing to do some school work together, grabbing snacks and drinks from the pantry and insisting they be left to focus had taken her aback so much that she didn't seem to even consider the possibility it was a lie. Poe's charm always proved a valuable asset; while Ben had a face that couldn't hide a single emotion, Poe's award-winning grin and gift of the gab was even able to pull the wool over this experienced politicians eyes. Poe told them they'd be putting some old adventure holos on in the background to keep them motivated - blathering something about 'education being the greatest adventure'. Ben had to suppress a laugh at that one. But Leia simply nodded, wishing them well and encouraging them to let her know if they needed anything. Ben found it entertaining that they thought he was the bad influence in this friendship. How little they knew.

The pair hurried back to Ben's room, bundles of snacks in their arms before pulling the door gently closed behind them. Once inside, they filled their satchels to the brim with snacks, before pulling on their boots and jackets. They left the holos blaring in the background as they climbed out of the window, landing on the ground below with a gentle thud.

Aiming for a little anonymity as they passed through the more populated areas of town (Ben proclaimed that his Mom had 'spies everywhere', although Poe figured that was something of an exaggeration), they'd opted to each throw on a few scarves and pairs of goggles. When both children were older, they'd laugh at this attempt at disguise, but for now, both seemed content with them. It took them less than an hour to cross through town, Poe knew of a few shortcuts and side streets that Ben didn't, allowing them to evade a few familiar faces that Ben spotted as associates of his mother. The crowds began to disperse as they reached the edge of the city, and the densly populated area instead became a collection of scattered old houses until they finally reached the edge - coming face to face with a tall metal fence. They were able to get a glimpse through the gaps at the old base - it was abandoned alright.

Both boys were able to scurry up the fence and over the other side without too much difficulty - a metal fence was hardly a deterrent after all. Both failed to notice the sensor they triggered as they landed on the other side. Brushing the dust from their outfits, the two boys tentatively moved forward, getting to grips with their surroundings fully.

The old base lay up ahead; the military grade entrance was imposing and just like both had imagined it would look from the old holos and photos they'd seen of other Imperial bases. This base however was covered in many years worth of graffiti; layers of messages against the Empire, gang tags and childish nonsense coated the walls and the front doors. The pair chuckled after spotting one of the cruder drawings, and marvelling over phrases like 'Imperialist Pigs' and others they couldn't quite bring themselves to repeat.

As they grew closer, they noticed a small gap in the bay doors - clearly the motion sensor had kicked in long ago, probably left wedged open by other explorers, they assumed. The boys squeezed through the gap, and Poe let out a stunned 'wow' as they took in their surroundings. Long, brutal metal corridors faced them, rust seeping through from the edges of the panelling. Smashed up screens were present by each door - not much need for a secure entry system anymore. As they rounded a corner they came across a small room, both heaving to pull aside the metal door to enter.

"Woah, look at these!" Poe gasped as he shot forward, grabbing at stray blaster from the metal table at the other side of the room. There were lots of blasters - too many - Ben thought - but Poe was so excited he figured his unsettled feelings would prove unwelcome. Poe had his hands on a much larger blaster now, running his fingers along the rutting as he hummed with wonder. Ben wasn't especially interested in weapons, choosing instead to hover awkwardly against a wall, eyeing up the rest of the room without a word.

"Uh, is that a good idea?" Ben interjected as he spotted Poe pocketing one of the smaller blasters into the side of his boot.

"Sure!" he scoffed. "Better safe than sorry, right?" He laughed, before folding the edge of his trousers over his boot, hiding the weapon from sight. Ben shrugged. No use trying to stop him. If Poe wanted to do something, he'd do it, simple as. They made their way back through the metal door, following the corridor further until they reached some kind of control room. Now this was more Ben's area; he gently placed himself on one of the seats, barely breathing, as he ran his hands across the buttons. This is where the Empire would control and communicate - perhaps to some it was boring, but the level of organisation involved was something that filled Ben with a kind of guilty awe. You had to admire the sheer brilliance of their tech, and Ben imagined himself, in a room filled with other young recruits, the atmosphere buzzing a a General barked orders about the advancing enemy. He smiled to himself. It was fun to pretend, at least.

He was startled by a sudden yelp dragging him out of his trance, and he threw himself up from the seat as he saw a group of much older men gathered by the door, one with a blaster held firmly at Poe's head with a strong hand gripping his arm.

"What the hell are you kids doing here, huh?" the one holding Poe muttered, giving him a sharp shake.

"We were just looking around! Is there a law against that?" Poe shouted, trying his best to deepen his voice and give off an air of authority that didn't convince the gang for a second.

"I don't believe that for a second - who do you work for? Red Rain? Kanji Club?" The man prodded the blaster at Poe's head.

"We don't work for anyone! We were just exploring!" Ben piped up, raising his hands upwards in surrender. "Please let him go."

"We ain't letting you go anywhere!" another member of the group shot as the others laughed. "You're on our turf. No one gets away with breaking into our turf without being punished."

Ben felt his temperature rising in his chest, a bubbling rage simmering, but he put it to the back of his mind. "Please let him go!" he begged.

"Were gonna make sure this one learns a valuable lesson about spying. We may not know who you're working for, but we ain't taking any risks." The man with the gun spoke again, tapping the blaster at Poe's head as the young boys eyes squeezed shut with fear. Ben could feel his hands tightening into fists.

"What do you think boys? Do we take an eye?" The men laughed as Poe squirmed under the man's grip, some of the others moving forward quickly to hold Poe still. One of the men approached with a sharp knife in his hand. Poe yelped at the sight of it as the grip of his captors tightened.

"STOP!"

Ben's voice rang through the room before silence filled it. His arm was stretched out, a hand raised. The men and Poe stared back at him in awe, as the gang found themselves floating upwards slowly, dropping their weapons. Their eyes wide, they were unable to move, limbs frozen in place as they floated higher and hovered in the air as Poe looked up in horror from below.

Teeth bared, Ben's face was a picture of pure rage, the pupils of his eyes narrowed revealing a piercing and frightening stare, as his hand trembled slightly. He felt his outstretched fingers slowly close into a fist, and the men began to writhe and stutter from where they hung, as though struggling to breathe. The leader, who had moments before been holding a gun to Poe's head, began to murmer slightly through rasped breathing, begging for mercy. Ben's vengeance did not falter, and he tightened his fist further as each of the men audibly wheezed. Poe looked Ben in the eye, seeing nothing but fear and chaos, silently pleading for him to stop but it was no use. Ben was going to kill every single one of these men. Poe's eyes widened in horror at the realisation.

Suddenly, the room froze, and before Ben had any time to react, his eyes fluttered and he found himself falling slowly, until gentle arms caught him. As his eyes fell shut, he looked up just in time to catch site of his Mother, pulling him into her arms.

The men fell to the ground suddenly with a thud, and Leia motioned a quick wave of her hand at Poe, who slipped out of his trance and ran over to her, Leia wrapping a spare arm around him protectively. The men began staggering to their feet, and with a stern glare and a wave of her hand, they took one look at Leia before turning on their tails and scampering out of the room without a word said.

Once a minute or two had passed since the gang had fled, Leia leaned down and gave Poe a squeeze. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine" he murmered, as his cheeks pulled up and tears streamed down his face. She gave him a tighter squeeze.

"I'm sorry about all this. Let's get you both home."

- - -

Ben opened his eyes and his vision came in to focus. He was in his room, in his own bed. Raising a hand to his head, he rested his fingers on his temple, troubled by a sharp throbbing pain. He couldn't remember how he'd got to his room, or anything past him and Poe arriving at the old base. He felt...funny. Tired, and strange.

A low rumble in the back of his mind told him that he'd got angry, and attacked some people who threatened Poe. Almost killed them. They were bad men, the voice concluded, and they deserved to be punished. He had a vague memory of falling, and now he was here. And the voice told him it would be okay. He'd unlocked a power quite special. That he was special.

What's your name? Ben asked the voice. Snoke, it replied. I'm a friend. Ben closed his eyes, and drifted back to sleep.

- -

Ben never asked what happened, and his mother never questioned, but he assumed she must know something about the incident. He only learned of her involvement, when discussing it weeks later, Poe had let slip that his mother had been the one to stop Ben, before taking them both home. The voice in the back of his mind told him that she'd let the men go, that they did not see justice. Ben ignored the words in his head - she had her reasons to do so, he thought. When the voice told him that she had her own agenda for stopping him, and it wasn't to protect him, he once again ignored it.

Some weeks went by since the incident at the base. Poe and Ben didn't discuss it much further, almost acting as though it had never happened. But it all came bubbling to the surface again when they went back to school after the summer break. Some of the older kids were picking on Ben, calling him names. They weren't the most intelligent insults but they stung nonetheless. He could feel his anger rising, until the voice in the back of his mind encouraged him to teach them a lesson. They were cruel, it mused, and needed to be taught their place. What if they were nasty to others too? He'd just be doing a duty to the rest of the students in school.

Without a second thought, Ben's arm rose suddenly and the group of kids flew back suddenly, hitting the pavement with a thud. The ringleader needed to be dealt with, the voice reasoned. Not much, just enough to scare him, it continued. Ben nodded, before clenching his fingers as the boy in question came flying forward, his shoes scraping against the rough ground. The terrified boy floated just above Ben as his fists remained clenched, his eyes filled with hate as he glared at the older boy, who now had tears streaming down his face.

"You think you can just say whatever you want to people?" he spat, clenching his hand tighter as the boy grappled desperately at his throat as an invisible grip tightened around his lungs. "Well, do you?" The boy shook his head quickly. "Then why do you? Why do you even speak at all?"

The air became more restrictive for the boy, whose breathing grew shallower as he clawed at his throat, trying to remove whatever invisible force held him.

"Ben, stop!" A voice rang out across the school grounds, and he turned suddenly to see Poe, panting as though he'd been sprinting, surrounded by a group of other school children who looked horrified. "Please Ben! Let him go."

Ben's eyes softened, and he dropped his hand suddenly, collapsing to the floor. The floating boy fell too, before scurrying to his feet and running away with the rest of the group. Ben glanced up at Poe, seeing the genuine fear in his eyes, and began to sob.

- -

It was at that point that the Solo's decided to pull Ben out of school for a while before deciding what to do. Han had asked him if he wanted to train with his uncle, and he had refused. After telling them about the voice, his parents went from angry and disappointed to genuinely concerned, making him promise to tell them whatever it told him, that they'd work together to tackle it. Ben returned to school a few months later - to a different school, in a different city. Thankfully they didn't go far, his parents recognising the importance of keeping him close enough to still see Poe regularly.

Ben was sure he wouldn't hear from or see his best friend again after the events at the school - and he was relived when he was proven wrong. Poe never stopped visiting, and they never stopped talking. Ben was thankful, but felt it was undeserved, all of the affection he received. He was a monster.

But Ben did his best to deserve at least some of their support. He continued to confide in his mother and father every time the voice spoke to him, and before long it faded into the background. It never completely left, but it was like background noise, incomprehensible static. He became so used to disregarding it that it almost felt like it had disappeared completely. In many instances, he chose to do the opposite of what it advised.

He worked hard in school, keeping his head down, studying more. He had always been a natural academic, but he wanted to do his mother and father proud given all the trouble he'd put them through. But he isolated himself further - aside from Poe, he avoided the companionship of his peers. He kept himself to himself, even when others his age would try their best to befriend him, he would rebuff them. It was best not to get too close, he reasoned to himself.

Ben made his way through school without further incident. He kept his abilities hidden from those around him, and almost suppressed them entirely, aside from the occasional floating trick to startle Poe. As he grew older, he grew taller, and his features hardened - giving off the cold, unforgiving demeanour that he hoped gave the impression he wanted to be left alone. And after completing his studies, he took up his father's offer to join him on missions, eventually becoming a fully fledged partner.

Sometimes he would go on trips with his father, sometimes Chewie, and sometimes both. But never alone. One or the other was always there to keep a close eye on him, and honestly, Ben wasn't used to the company. It made him feel overwhelmed, sometimes crowded. But neither his father or the old Wookie were especially sociable, and he found plenty of opportunities to saunter away to a more private area of the Falcon to escape their constant bickering.

Ben was comfortable, relatively happy with his life. He liked his job, and he had a good family, a good best friend. But he was unfulfilled. He felt as though he was floating through life, letting it pass him by. Every time he spoke to Poe it just pushed the point home further - Poe had found his calling, found his place in the universe. He'd worked hard, and everything had clicked into place just right. But Ben? He didn't feel right. He never felt fully at peace with himself, but he had no idea what he really wanted. Where was his place in the universe?

But then he landed on Jakku, and everything changed.

Chapter Text

Rey could feel herself staring at Ben, but she couldn't help it. The story he'd just told her - it was so...heartbreakingly sad, that she couldn't help but ache for him. Perhaps the bond made it a stronger feeling somehow, but she felt a literal knot in her stomach. She could feel his intense loneliness, his isolation, his deep shame. She could feel that he'd begun to mentally punish himself for these actions a long time ago, and that he'd cut himself off from those around him too. Rey had been alone for as long as she could remember, and she'd hated every second of it - but to be alone through choice? To feel as though you didn't deserve the company of others? To a child, beginning to learn about the world - it must have been terribly lonely.

"Ben. I know you don't believe it, but you deserve to have people around you. You have your powers under control - and with Luke's guidance, you don't have to hide anymore."

Ben's gaze remained firmly on the ground below his feet. "Rey, I almost killed those people. All of them. Without a moments hesitation, I would have. If my mother and Poe hadn't intervened, I would have."

"You don't know that."

"I do." He rasped. "I can feel it, deep inside. The desire to end their lives. I wanted them to suffer. I wanted to see them punished for what they'd done - to see the life drain from their eyes. For a child to think such things - it was monstrous. I'm a monster."

"No, you're not." Rey murmured, her voice soft. "I know you Ben. Better than you might think."

Ben raised his gaze to her, looking deep into her eyes with an incredible sadness etched into his pupils. "My mother knew it, my father too. 'Too much Vader in me' I heard them say. It's in my blood. I wear this...this mask, of normality, but underneath there is so much rage that I'm barely able to contain. And the voices, they never stopped." His voice choked. "I ignore them, but for how long? In the end, I'll always be alone with my dangerous thoughts. I'm just a ticking time bomb."

His shoulders slumped, and he crossed his arms across his knees before letting his head fall down, his eyes covered by soft dark folds of hair. A moment later, he heard a gentle shuffle, and a warm hand covered his. He looked up to see Rey stood above him, and she knelt down, her face parallel to his.

"You're not alone." She whispered, giving his hand a squeeze. The simple action sent shock waves through Ben; there was something about this woman's touch that sent electricity through his veins.

Ben sat up, yet her hand remained. He flipped it, lacing his fingers between hers and looking across at her with a half smile. "Neither are you."

She beamed in return - Ben couldn't help but be warmed to the very core. There was something about Rey - she just understood. She knew what to say, but not just to make him feel better. She said what she believed to be true. She trusted him, and she believed in him.

Ben was used to sensing the emotions of others - especially their fear. His father, when he came to see him after speaking with Luke about Ben's troubling rage. His mother, in refusing to address the incident at the old base, even to this day. His uncle, refusing to teach him, convinced he would turn to the dark. Even Poe, his oldest friend - he knew their bond was a strong one, but he never forgotten the moment he shouted at him across the playground. Poe was brave, yes, but he'd felt it pulsating between them - he had been scared. Scared of him.

But not Rey. Not once had she feared him. They were so intuitively connected he could sense her every emotion, even the ones that were fleeting, even the ones she thought lay hidden. Her fearlessness. Her curiosity, from the ways of the Force to wondering how deep the ocean surrounding Ahch-To was. Her loneliness, that she tried so hard to bury. The shame, the guilt, the belief that her parents had abandoned her because of something unfathomable that she'd done. Her overwhelming, almost suffocating hope - hope that things would work out, despite how bleak they sometimes seemed. And occasionally, fear - fear of the responsibility she now held, fear she would be alone again eventually, she would fail in this task and would have to return to Jakku. And fear for him. She worried about his low self esteem, his anxiety around others, his loneliness and internal conflict. But she never feared him. Not once.

Images flashed across Ben's mind - of this very hut, this very moment touching hands - but he sensed in this vision he was not physically present with her, instead reaching out to her across the stars, the conflict and heavy emotions palpable as though he was there with her. He could feel an ache across the right side of his face, building from his lower neck up across his jaw to his temple. Rey looked no different to how she did now; draped in blankets, damp from the cave, eyes glowing with wonder. But the vision changed - the hut collapsed around them and the last thing he saw was a glimpse of his uncle, screaming, hand outstretched. He shook his head and was back in reality - back with Rey. He sensed she too had seen the same thing, as her eyes were filled with the same horror he was certain reflected across his.

"You....you had a scar. Right here." Rey moved her fingers up across his face, tracing a line where the phantom pain had spread.

"Mhm. I could feel it." He tried not to flinch at her touch, the feeling of her fingers grazing his skin like burning firecrackers.

"What do you think it was, a premonition?" She lowered her hand from his face.

"I don't know. I don't know what any of it means." He rose to his feet, returning to his previous seat across from her, the fire separating them once again.

They sat there in silence for what felt like an age, both deep in thought, until Rey spoke. "Let's just forget about it for now." Ben nodded in agreement, and the pair moved on to discuss simpler things - their training with Luke thus far, comparing what they'd learnt and what they hoped to achieve. Before long they were both slumped on the floor, leaning on elbows to continue their conversation despite heavy fatigue falling over them both. Soon he realised Rey had dozed off into sleep, but rather than wake her, he blew out the fire and laid his head on the ground below to sleep too.

- -

Rey found herself sharply awoken by an aggressive knocking, rubbing her eyes before sitting up to find the source of the sound. She'd fallen asleep on the floor of the hut, and upon rising to her feet noticed Ben lightly snoring opposite. She found herself warmed by his presence, watching as his chest gently rose and fell, an arm resting across his eyes to block out the light and one knee slightly bent. As she found herself waking, she realised that Luke was shouting from the door, so moved faster towards it, letting out an exasperated sigh. Had they woken up late for training? Rey had no idea what time it was but she barely felt rested at all, the sun just beginning to seep through the windows of the hut as though dawn had not fully broken. She quickened her face and pulled open the door to a surly faced Luke.

"Finally!" he huffed, pushing her out of the way to enter. "Is he here?" His voice was seething with rage. What was his problem this time, Rey wondered as she rolled her eyes. Ben had clearly been woken by his uncles shouting, as he now sat up, hair strewn about his face and his eyes barely open. He mumbled something under his breath, clearly unimpressed by Luke's sudden outburst.

"I know where you've been. All of my teachings, all of my warnings and you completely disregard them!" Rey's eyes widened as she began to realise what Luke was so enraged about - but was confused to see him directing the majority of his anger to a confused, and still very tired Ben.

"I don't know what you're talking about Luke" Ben murmered as he stifled a yawn. "If you're going to burst in at this hour blasters blazing you may aswell be direct about it."

Rey felt the smallest tug at the corner of her lips. Morning Ben had more attitude and she appreciated it. The hut was silent for a moment before Luke continued to rant, his voice low, almost venemous.

"I know you went to the cave. I thought I taught you better than that. Ben, you went straight to the dark without question and what's worse is you took her with you!" Luke shook his head in disappointment, his knuckles raw and fists clenched at his sides. "I always knew there was too much dark in you but I didn't know you'd so brazenly give in to it and take others with you."

Ben rose to his feet quickly, striding across the room with urgency until he stood toe-to-toe with his Uncle, who he hovered above, eyes darkening. Rey moved forward, opening her mouth to speak but Ben raised a hand to silence her. "So what if I did?" Ben cocked his head to the side ever so slightly, his gaze firmly on Luke, his voice gravelly and low. "What if I went there. Took Rey with me. You've just been itching for an opportunity to tell me how much of a disgrace I am. Even if I hadn't taken her, we'd no doubt still be having this conversation about something else."

Ben edged forward, Luke taking an instinctive step back. "Don't try to justify your actions" muttered Luke, his confidence faltering.

"I shouldn't have to. The Jedi nature is to explore, to understand. But never to explore the dark. Doesn't that seem contraditorary to you? We can learn from both sides. Look what happened to the Jedi Order. This island, you..." Ben prodded an accusatory finger at his uncles chest "...are all that's left of that old religion. A dying breed." His cruel words hovered in the air for a moment before he continued. "Why should be follow the teachings of old if the previous Jedi learnt nothing from it? It was their mistake to stick to their old ways and never learn, never progress. Perhaps it's time to let the past die. Kill it, if you have to." Ben's words reverberated through the hut as he gazed down at his uncle with a look of pure seething resentment.

It was silent for a moment again before Luke spoke. "I was right after all. You're just like him. Just like Anakin. You speak of letting the past die but here you are, mirroring his sentiments. I won't let history repeat itself." The old Jedi's voice was shallow, and Rey found her eyes drawn to his waist, a hand slowly moving to his belt.

She saw him unhook the loop that held his saber in place and found herself instinctively reaching out through the Force, pulling the weapon from his holster and gripping it in her own hands. She ignited it instantly, pushing Ben back and standing before Luke, her stance defensive, the blade glimmering and reflecting across the man's terrified pupils.

"That's enough!" she shouted. "Ben didn't take me to the cave, I went, willingly - the choice was my own. Ben followed me to check on me. He saved my life, he didn't 'lead me to the dark' at all" she spat, echoing Luke's earlier words. She edged forward, the hiss of the weapon piercing the air as she moved. "So do your worst to me. But don't speak to Ben like he's at fault for any of this. You treat him like he's a moment away from choosing the dark, but he couldn't be further from it. I know him. And I know his heart-" she paused for a moment, turning back to meet Ben's gaze "- and it is filled with nothing but the purest light." Ben's lips parted slightly at her words, and he felt her sending warmth across to him through the bond.

She turned back to Luke, soaking up the terror in his silent gaze before switching off the saber. "Its people like you who turn others to the dark. Do you think there is inherent good and evil? There isn't. There's conflict, there's selfishness, greed. And there's shame. And anger. And disappointment. If the things I've heard about Vader are true, then he turned because those around him who should have supported him turned their backs on him." She threw the weapon to the ground where it landed at Luke's feet, her shoulders slumping as the tension in them loosened. "So maybe you should spend less of your time criticising Ben and more time looking in the mirror." Rey sharply turned on her heel before storming off out of the hut.

Suddenly broken from his trance, Ben went to bolt after her before a firm hand stopped him. He turned back to see his uncle's hand gripping his elbow, a look of pure sorrow in his eyes. "Let her go. We have much to discuss."

Chapter Text

Ben found himself being led out of the hut by his uncle in the opposite direction of where Rey had just stormed off. They headed down the reclining hill, stopping at a cliff edge that looked over the raging ocean below. Ben found himself overwhelmed by it all - his uncles rage, Rey's outburst - but now he found Luke to be solemn, and dare he say it - in some kind of deep shame.

"I owe you an apology." Luke murmered, his gravelly voice breaking the silence. "More than that. I owe you an explanation." Ben turned to face his uncle, who was looking out to the violent waves before them, a firm intensity in his eyes. Ben remained quiet, willing him to speak further.

"When your mother called me many years ago, concerned about you, I was very worried. Less so for your outbursts, but more for the voice your father told me you'd been hearing. Can you tell me about it?"

Ben swallowed before speaking, his adams apple bobbing. "I can't tell you when exactly it started. Perhaps it was always there, in the back of my subconscious. It started comforting, whenever something went wrong, whether it was arguing with my parents or facing some kind of internal conflict." He fiddled with the edges of his shirt, picking at the lining as it rest on his waist. "It would offer me solutions. But it also fed into my anxieties and fears, I can see that now. It told me I was valid, and that my feelings were valid. For a long time, Mom and Dad didn't uh..." He stumbled through his words, fidgeting further with the fraying shirt edge "... They didn't talk to me about it. About the Force, my abilities. It was very isolating. I know they did what they felt was best and I can't fault them for that, but it left me with this voice that assured me everything was okay. I assume it was some kind of coping method for the confusion."

"Let me stop you for a moment." Luke raised a hand, halting Ben from speaking further. "There's no easy way to tell you this, and you have every right to not agree with my methods but I will explain my reasoning. The voice in your head - it's not your subconscious. It's a very real, very powerful being."

Ben felt his limbs tense up, a deep pit forming in his very core as though the ground beneath him had been pulled away suddenly. "What exactly are you saying?" he murmered.

"Snoke is real. As real as you and I."

Ben felt his body fall to the ground below at a different speed to his vision - it reminded him of the times him and Poe had snuck liquor from his father's cupboard when they were far too young to be drinking it. He slumped to the ground, his vision blurring as tears formed at the edge of his eyes.

Soon Luke was crouched next to him, placing a gentle comforting hand on his nephews knee - the show of affection taking Ben by surprise. "I'm sorry Ben. For everything. For how I've treated you. For not helping sooner. But it's important you know this now that you're old enough to handle it, to do something about it." He took a sharp inhale of breath before continuing to speak. "I was worried that by telling you he was real, you'd lose control over it. If you believed he was just in your mind, with support and care I believed you could learn to ignore him and find your own power and strength against him that way."

Ben remained silent, the tears threatening to spill. His brow furrowed at his uncles words, but he said nothing.

"I know you're angry. I don't blame you, I'd be angry too. But to tell a mere child that the voices telling them to do bad things was a very real, very powerful being - not only is it terrifying, but how would you have handled that?"

Ben pondered his uncles words for a moment before responding. "I'm not sure."

"If your parents had told you that, when they told you his words meant nothing, and that you could ignore them and fight him - would you have believed them?"

"No."

"Exactly. But you fought it. You fought him, and you overpowered him. As a child, you were able to take on one of the most powerful living beings in The Force. Your willpower is strong, stronger than you realise. Only someone truly aligned with The Force could achieve such a thing."

"If you believe that then why have you been acting like I've turned to The Dark?" Ben accused.

"Because I needed to be sure. And because...I was terrified. Terrified you'd succumbed to the darkness that had plagued your mind. And that I'd failed you, by doing nothing." Luke's intense gaze turned to his nephew, who he regarded with a look of empathy and sadness. "I did fail you. Snoke remained in your mind because I wasn't able to stop him. I failed as a Jedi, and I failed as your uncle." He moved a finger up to his cheek, looking almost surprised as he felt the wetness of tears staining his skin. "Rey was right. By pushing you away, by assuming you were already lost I could have pushed you to The Dark. I'm sorry."

Luke moved to rise to his feet, but found himself stopped by Ben, who gripped firmly to the edge of his tunic. And just like that, Luke found himself looking at a child, the teary eyes of his nephew, his eyes filled with forgiveness. He crouched back down to pull his nephew into an embrace - the first one since the boy had reached adulthood - and he found himself overwhelmed as tears streamed down his face.

"I'm sorry Ben. I'm so sorry" he whispered as the younger man held him as they both shook.

And just like that - years of animosity and turmoil slipped away with just a few simple words: "It's okay. I forgive you. Let's start again."

- - -

Rey found herself storming furiously up the hill. She was surprised to notice Ben wasn't following; it was not that she wanted him to, but she hadn't expected him to stay behind with his uncle. In some ways she was glad he'd stayed - she needed some time to clear her head, although she hoped she hadn't crossed the line with her outburst. She was fairly certain pulling a weapon on someone and threatening them was crossing a line, but by Rey's standards that's just how things went. You had to act fast on Jakku, and her quick instincts had saved her skin more times than she could count.

She found herself instinctively moving towards the wilted old tree that stood at the centre of the island - the home of the sacred Jedi texts. Neither of them had made much headway with them yet, but she found the presence of the hollowed out trunk soothing and peaceful, deciding to hole herself up there to think. Rey traced light fingers across the wooden structure, imagining a time when this tree was just that - no sacred artifacts, just an ordinary tree growing oblivious to the world around it. She found herself thinking back to just a few weeks ago - before she'd been whisked away on what could only be described as intergalactic adventures. She recalled the markings scratched into the metal of her old home, counting down the days, and wondered how long she would have remained there if not for her encounter with Ben and Chewie. She knew it was wise not to dwell on it, but she cast her mind back to that first introduction when she'd ransacked their crashed ship, completely unaware of their presence. Not thinking to check if there were any survivors in the crash. The next meal ticket was the only thing on her mind.

Now she didn't want for food, for water - or anything really. She found she much preferred living on Ahch-To to the Resistance base; here she at least felt she could earn her keep; hunting for food at least felt more natural than just receiving without having to offer anything in return. She'd grown used to the barter process in her old life, and old habits were tough to break. Much like the ones that made her threaten strangers within an inch of their life without a second thought.

She wondered if Ben and Luke thought her to be some feral creature; completely uncultured and uneducated as she was. Ben - despite his difficulties - had been brought up in priviledge, and while she knew little about Luke's life before it seemed he too had a sense of normality even if he'd chosen to live as a recluse in his old age. She found herself feeling adrift - the way she'd grown up, the things she'd known were not the norm - and for that she was thankful - but adjusting to thinking of others rather than just herself and her immediate needs was still new. She still had to pinch herself whenever she sat down to eat.

She sat cross-legged on the rough ground, closing her eyes to focus on the essence of her surroundings. This was something she'd picked up fairly quickly; she'd always considered herself to be relatively intuitive and observant, and she'd honed her skills in focusing on her surroundings on more than one occasion.

Rey felt one of the books call to her - a ringing, gentle sound reverberating through her ears as she began to focus in on the book in question. She lifted it, flicking through pages until she found what she was looking for - and she began to read.

- -

Ben and Luke sat talking for what felt like hours. Ben hoped Rey was okay, but sensed she needed some time alone to reflect, and was certain she'd understand why he didn't go to her straight away. The uncle and nephew exchanged tales about their relations - Luke howled as Ben told him about stealing his father's speeder with Poe, and Luke recounted memories of times spent with his sister and brother-in-law in their youth. Ben was elated to hear about the trio and their time spent together; he'd always found Luke to be cold and distant - hearing about him in his hayday helped shape a little bit of the uncle he'd barely come to know.

They talked about Snoke - how he'd risen to power and was said to be the main driving force behind The First Order - although few had come to encounter him and lived to tell the tale. Ben listened intently - curious to know more about the shapeless voice that had plagued him in his younger years. While he was still shaken to the core to discover that Snoke was a living, breathing being, he could understand why Luke had chosen to keep this from him. If he'd been told that those voices had real consequences, real power - he wasn't sure what he would have done in his most vulnerable moments.

Ben confided in him about his visions, along with his bond with Rey; recounting their meeting and the strange occurrences that had drawn the two together. He couldn't help but gush about her raw talent and sheer optimism as Luke nodded intently.

"It's like we're connected in our minds - instinctively we can tell what the other is thinking. Even communicating, passing messages and feelings to one another. I've read about Force Bonds before but this seems different."

"It's definitely a Force Bond alright - your mother and I share something very similar - although we could never move to anything like actual conversation. She was never especially interesting in exploring her strength in the Force - just wasn't her thing I suppose."

"Probably for the best. She'd show us all up no doubt anyway." Ben snorted.

"You're not wrong." Luke chuckled. "She's a strong willed woman. Who knows what she could do if she properly explored that power. Although I don't think she'd have the patience for Jedi training."

Ben nodded in agreement - knowing his mother like he did, he was certain Luke was right. She'd no doubt completely excel in everything through instinct alone but would chastise the training for being too restrictive and too slow. She was a woman of action, after all. Perhaps that's where he got his defiant traits from.

"Ben, about your bond with Rey..."

Ben turned to face Luke again, his expression now more reserved, gone were the laughter lines that had formed at his cheeks after so many years of solitude.

"What you both share is clearly very powerful, unlike anything I've seen in my lifetime and unlike anything I've read about. While it's absolutely worth exploring, you must be careful."

"How so?" Ben asked, his eyes narrowing.

"She's very powerful, and so are you. You're both strong personalities - both strong with the Force. But you're both different. And she is new to this. Reckless."

"What exactly are you implying?" Ben pressed.

"I'm not implying anything, and I'm not telling you not to do anything. I just want you to be careful and not get in over your head. Ah, just forget I said anything." Luke waved his hand and Ben chose not to press any further. "You should probably check she's doing okay. She was pretty angry."

"She pulled your own lightsaber on you, I'd say she was more than angry." Ben remarked as he pushed himself up onto his feet. "But I will. Let's talk more tomorrow."

"See you around, kid." Luke raised a hand to wave as his nephew strode away, remaining perched on the cliff edge to look out across the waves.

Chapter Text

Rey looked up as she heard the sound of a gentle noise at the edge of the tree, and found herself faced with Ben, his head bent down to fit his tall frame under the gap, a clenched hand resting where he'd knocked on the inside of the hollowed out relic.

"Mind if I come in?" he asked gently.

Rey simply nodded, and he lowered his head further, making his way across to crouch beside her. "What are you reading?"

"What do you think?" she said, her face deadpan as Ben's expression faltered. "I'm kidding. It's a chapter with an excerpt on old Jedi beliefs. I felt like it was calling me."

Ben cocked his head slightly, scooting a little closer to Rey as she handed him the book, pointing at a passage on the open page. "Read this" she breathed gently.

Ben read the passage, then read it over again, resting gentle hands on the old parchment as he familiarised himself with it.

The truth in our soul,
Is that nothing is true.
The question of life
Is what then do we do?
The burden is ours
To penance, we hew.
The Force binds us all
From a certain point of view.

"What does it mean?" Ben whispered, re-reading the passage.

"Not sure. But I feel like it makes sense to me, in some way."

"From a certain point of view..." Ben murmers, as though testing the sound of the words on his tongue. "Interesting."

"Did you talk to Luke?" she asks, changing the subject. Ben closes the book and puts it down, turning slightly to face her.

"I did. You actually managed to knock some sense into him."

"Really?" Rey asked, taken aback. "And here I was certain you were going to break the news that he was kicking us off the island." Ben chuckled gently at that. "What did he say?"

"A lot. I'll tell you about it later. I came here because I wanted to see if you were okay."

"If I'm okay?" she scoffed. "I want to know if you're okay. I'm sorry if I oversteppe-"

"You didn't" Ben interjected "And I wanted to thank you. For what you said, and what you did. Perhaps it wasnt the most...orthadox technique, but it did get Luke to be open with me for the first time. And..." He paused, ruminating on the right words. "...did you really mean what you said? That saw light in me?" Ben found himself instinctively moving closer, reaching a hand across to rest on her knee.

"Of course. You've shown me nothing but kindness when no-one else ever did. And I know you. You've not forgotten about the, uh..." her voice trailed, and she pointed at her head, then motioning to his. Ben found himself chuckling, and Rey let out a small laugh too. "So, I know you. And I see nothing but goodness in you."

Ben quirked his head to the side, his face warming with a lopsided grin. "Thank you, Rey. I mean it. No-one has ever stuck up for me like that."

"I can't say it's something I've done a lot. You learn to focus on looking out for yourself when you're a Scavenger." Her eyes cast downward before she continued. "But I couldn't stand the way he was talking to you. I don't understand how it didn't make you angry too."

"Oh, it did." Rey's head shot up, a look of bemusement on her face. "I'm just better at controlling my emotions than you."

"I can control my emotions!" She scoffed.

"Can you?" Ben quirked an eyebrow up. "It didn't seem like it. Not very Jedi of you."

"I'm starting to get the feeling I wouldn't make a very good Jedi." She laughed gently, leaning back and letting her head rest on the curving wood behind her as she raised her chin to upwards, closing her eyes.

"It takes practise, Rey. I can teach you, if you like." Ben's voice was low and quiet, but Rey's ears pricked at the words nonetheless.

She remained silent for a moment, mulling his words over. "Mm. Okay. You can teach me. So what is it, some kind of Jedi meditation you do, or...?"

Ben chuckled gently. "No, no nothing like that. It's all about restraint. Discipline. You still feel the emotions, but you let your mind contemplate them. It's less about acting on instinct, more about taking a step back from the emotions."

Rey nodded, her lips slightly parted, eager to know more.

"You can't let your emotions control you. You can work with them, and bend to them - but it's important to understand them before acting on them. I imagine I'm in a room, looking at myself reacting from a distance - and I assess. What are the possible outcomes of my instinctive reactions? What are the possible consequences. And most importantly - is my emotion the result of a knee-jerk gut feeling, or is it something that lingers? Its not always possible to ignore our feelings, but we must assess what value they have to us and our long term goals."

Rey nodded and quirked an eyebrow. "Is that why you're so brooding? You're 'assessing' everything?"

"I'm not brooding!" Ben scoffed, a slight doubt in his tone. "Do you think I'm brooding?"

"I'm just joking!" Rey laughed, gently nudging at his shoulder with hers. When had they gotten so close to one another? Rey hadn't even noticed that they'd moved so close, they sat side by side, shoulders touching.

"You just have to think a little more before you do stuff. It's not even a Jedi thing, but the benefit of being powerful in the Force is you can centre yourself more. Why don't you try it?"

"I'm not feeling any strong emotions right now though." Rey remarked.

"I see. Well, I can help with that." Ben leaned closer to her face, and Rey could feel her breath hitch as she felt his shallow breathing on her cheeks. His eyes moved to her mouth, and before she had time to react, he moved a hand up and flicked her on the forehead with a loud 'TWACK' before jumping up and scrambling away from her.

"Hey! What was that for?" Rey cried, standing to rise and rubbing her forehead, a frown appearing.

"I'm trying to make you angry, Rey." Ben drawled, raising a hand and bending his fingers, beckoning her. Rey's brows furrowed, and with a light grumble she strode forward with haste, a closed fist narrowly missing his chest as he darted to the side, grabbing her arm and pushing her away from him.

"Ugh, you're annoying me but you're not making me angry" Rey grumbled as she made a dive towards him again, Ben once again ducking from her incoming attack. "I know you're just trying to get a reaction out of me. It doesn't feel real." She made another move towards him but this time he pushed her back and she landed with a thud on the dusty ground.

"Okay. Let's leave this for another day. But remember what I've said. The next time you're feeling an intense, uncontrollable emotion - just try it." He reaches a hand down to her, and she gripped it, being pulled to her feet by an apologetic looking Ben.

"I will. Now, onto more important things. The first one to catch our dinner gets the biggest portion" With what seemed like lightning instincts, she flicked at Ben's forehead before sprinting for the trees exit before he even had time to react.

"Ow! Rey!" Ben whined, raising a hand to his forehead before begrudgingly breaking into a sprint to follow her. Well, he couldn't let her win, could he?

Chapter Text

The next few days followed without incident. Ben had been right - Luke was more patient, kinder, and more understanding with the pair of them - even when Rey found herself venting her frustration at the often restrictive Jedi rules. She was certain that she spotted telling eye twitches on more than one occasion when she was being particularly vexing, but it was clear he was trying his best so she tried to keep her questions a little more diplomatic.

Ben welcomed the calmer Luke with open arms - and found less time spent suppressing his frustration and anger meant more time to focus on his lessons. He'd spent so much of his time keeping in a bunched up frustration around most of the adults in his life (he wasn't sure he considered himself an adult yet even if he was - he still felt as though most people tip-toed around him like a difficult child) - whether it was his parents or Luke - so his uncles new demeanour was refreshing to say the least. And he could see he was trying and felt genuine remorse for their poor start. He took to Rey's questions with more openness than before - despite being considered in many ways the 'Last Jedi', Luke's training had been minimal and unconventional to say the least, and a lot of his knowledge had come from the Jedi lore of old. He did his best to adapt based on what he did know - but was growing to be a bit more lenient with some of the more old fashioned, less flexible recommendations.

It was clear to Ben that Rey was trying too - he wasn't sure if it was due to their talk after the incident, or because of a change in heart thanks to Luke's new attitude - but she seemed to be doing her best to get less riled up by his uncle. She was evidently a quick learner - and picked up a lot by merely seeing someone else do something. He wondered if there was something worth exploring there within her powers. He found himself feeling a swelling of pride as she honed in on and fine-tuned her abilities; her Scavenger beginnings made her a scrappy, but resourceful, fighter - and sparring with Ben and Luke taught her to be less reactive and more calm, more thoughtful in her attacks.

The pair found themselves sparring frequently in their down time between lessons - partially to keep themselves fit and energised, but also because they both enjoyed it. The pair were well matched - while both had experienced winning and losing, they each had their own distinct styles that complimented well and as a result, there was not a clear 'stronger' partner. This kept the sparring fresh and often enjoyable - both got a thrill from the daily challenge.

Today was another of those days - the lessons for the day had come to an end, and Luke had chosen to retire early to meditate - although Ben suspected he just needed some time alone. Something they both had in common. So, much like many days before, the pair had opted for another sparring session. The sun was slowly setting over the island, casting it in a soft glow of orange and gold.

Ben found his mind wandering to Luke's words to him from a few weeks before - they'd been troubling him for some time now, playing in his mind during his quieter moments.

You're both strong personalities - both strong with the Force. But you're both different. And she is new to this. Reckless.

"Quit your moping Solo - are we doing this or what?"

He was pulled out of his musings by the sound of Rey goading him - the sleeves of her light jacket rolled up, stance ready to fight as she quirked her head to the side slightly, eyeing him up.

"Alright, so long as you're sure you don't want me to give you a break because you don't think you can take it." He responded with equal bravado.

"Psh, not a chance! We both know I'm the better fighter, as much as it may hurt your pride to admit it" Rey sniggered.

"We'll see about that." Ben drawled, sprinting toward her as she moved to dodge him with ease.

Rey simply smiled at him from her crouched position, raising an eyebrow at him. Ben went into the attack again - he knew he should just let her make the first move but he enjoyed the thrill of it all. This time he opted to be a little less direct, choosing to stop suddenly before attacking and dart to the side after a brief pause, throwing her off kilter slightly as he managed to get one hand on her shoulder and another at her back in time to send a blast of energy into her, throwing her forward through the air. They'd agreed fairly early on that using Force tricks would benefit their training, allowing them to experiment and focus on using their skills in combat.

Rey huffed - it wasn't against the rules, but she was surprised and mildly annoyed that Ben had resorted to using the Force this early in the fight. Blowing the stray hairs from her face, she pulled herself up and dove forward.

Ah, as expected, Ben thought to himself. It didn't take much to rile her up. Anticipating her attack, he dodged, but not before getting another blow in, sending her flying back again. Muttering curses under her breath, Rey rose to her feet again, a fire lighting behind her eyes.

"What was it you said about being the better fighter?" Ben chided as she huffed.

"Figured I ought to let you feel like you were winning for a bit, just to mix things up a little" Rey responded with a slight stammer, the last blow having knocked the air from her lungs a little more than expected.

Don't get in over your head
Luke's voice echoed in his mind. What did he mean by that anyway?

Rey had caught on to his momentary distraction and used the opportunity to sneak forward, catching him by surprise as she launched at him. Ben didn't quite react as quickly as he should have, but the move still threw Rey's attack in disarray, and they both fell to the ground in a tangle.

"Got you." Rey crooned from above him. She'd wrapped her hands firmly around his wrists, holding them down above his head, and she was pinning him down with her legs on either side of his torso. "I win Solo."

Breathing heavily and looking up at his sparring partner, Ben was able to prize a hand free, flicking his wrist quickly and sending Rey flying back. He took the momentary lapse in her judgement as an opportunity, reversing their positions and pinning her down, his large hands wrapped firmly around her wrists as she struggled against him to no avail.

"Nice try Rey." He drawled, his low velvet voice almost sounding like a purr. "I win."

"This isn't over Solo" Rey shot, her eyes fierce but struggling to keep the smirk from her face.

They stayed there for a moment, both suddenly overwhelmed by the somewhat compromising position they were both in. Ben felt a prickle rise up his spine and his heart began to beat faster as he kept his eyes locked on hers, observing the delicate flecks of gold illuminated in her eyes by the setting sun. He observed the freckles lightly dancing across her nose and cheeks, and couldn't help but spot the light blush that rose there. Her breath was still heavy from the attack, her chest rising and falling.

"You're beautiful." Ben rasped, his voice just above a whisper. His eyes searched hers as she blinked and averted his gaze.

"Ben." Her voice was light and scolding, a nervous laugh leaving her lips.

"Its maddening that you don't realise just how beautiful you are." Ben found his grip loosening from her wrist, using the spare hand to move a stray hair from her face, letting it rest on her cheek, a thumb gently stroking the soft skin.

Rey couldn't help her breath hitching as she let the words tumble from his mouth, enamoured as his eyes seemed to devour her hungrily. She knew she should turn away from his intense gaze again but she couldn't bring herself to break eye contact.

"You have some funny ideas about beauty then." She scoffed under her breath, never breaking eye contact with the man above her. "It's like you've never seen a girl before Solo." She chuckled lightly, but didn't smile.

"I've seen plenty of girls Rey. But no-one like you."

Her breath hitched again as he moved slightly closer, her pupils darting to his plush lips and the soft red blush forming across his cheeks. It wasn't as though she'd never realised he was handsome before - stars, it was the first thing she noticed when they first met on Jakku, but being this close to him now, having more than passing glimpses and being able to fully appreciate the intricate details of his features, she found herself completely enamoured with his gaze. The intensity of it all overwhelmed her, and the heat rising as his hand continued to stroke her face reminded her of her now free hand.

Her hand slowly moved to his chest, her fingers trailing up across the hard muscle she knew lay beneath, and taking advantage of his distraction, she pushed forward with a sudden intensity, the strength of her Force push throwing him through the air as he landed with a thud a few metres away. She jumped to her feet, brushing herself down with shaky hands.

"Flattery won't get you anywhere Solo" she shouted across with a smirk. But for all of her bravado, she still felt the rising heat in her chest.

Ben remained still for a moment, still in shock from the surprise attack, before laughing and shaking his head lightly. She'd won this one.

Don't get in over your head
Oh.

Chapter Text

Ben found himself back in his hut, sitting in silence. He was struck by an inexplicable feeling that he wasn't sure he'd experienced before - and as someone who didn't have the most confident grasp of feelings, he decided the only option was to consult someone who did. Before he had time to think, he was dialling in the code of Poe's personal communicator, with no care to know what time of day or night it was at his friends end of the galaxy. He just hoped he wasn't in the midst of a battle or mission - hell, even if he is was it could wait.

"Ben, hey!" The voice of his oldest friend came bubbling through the receiver, and he involuntarily grimaced at the volume, having become used to the quiet and solitude of life on Ahch-To. "How's Jedi training going?"

"Uh, yeah it's okay. Poe I need to talk to you about something." He paused for a moment. "Alone."

He heard mutters and whispers from the other end of the receiver followed by shushing and sudden silence. Ben simply rolled his eyes. "C'mon Poe, I know the kids there with you."

"How did he know?!" A voice whispered louder than intended. "I bet he used some of his Jedi mind tricks."

"Finn, I don't have to be strong in the Force to be able to hear you when you're being so loud." He winced, pinching the bridge of his nose as the younger man made flabbergasted noises from the other end.

He heard Poe try to stifle a laugh before speaking up. "Okay, fine, just us. Finn, can we catch up later?"

"Sure, sure. Tell Rey I say hi!" Finn shouted from the other end. The sound of footsteps and a door slamming (is everything about this kid loud? Ben wondered) could be heard before Poe spoke again.

"Alright, just you and me bud. What's up?"

"Mind telling me what that was all about first?"

"What what was...wait, me hanging out with Finn? Don't get jealous, I can be friends with people other than you y'know."

Ben simply laughed. "Poe."

"What?"

"I've known you long enough. I'd just like to point out that I saw this coming a mile off."

A moment of silence filled the air before Poe finally let out a sigh. "Fine. But he doesn't know. We're just hanging out. I mean, we're hanging out whenever we get any spare time and it's just us and its fine bu-"

"You're sure he doesn't know?" It was a question, but Ben wasn't sure he intended it to be one.

"Well I haven't told him so unless you managed to project it into his mind with your Jedi powers then he shouldn't know!"

Ben sighed, exasperated. "First of all, they're not 'Jedi powers', and second of all - that's not what I meant. You don't think he feels the same?"

Another sigh from the other end of the communicator. "I don't know. I mean, I haven't asked. It's not come up. I don't even know what his preferences are uh, romantically, and I need to cover that ground before I can even think about the idea of telling him how I feel."

Ben pursed his lips. "It's weird hearing you nervous."

"Right? I'm second guessing everything I say when I'm around him. Like the words come out and I realise I'm just rambling nonsense."

Ben couldn't help but laugh. "That's pretty normal for you, the only thing that's weird is that you've become, dare I say it, self aware."

"Ben!" Poe scolded. "This is serious. I like him a lot." His voice grew quiet. "Perhaps too much."

Ben smiled to himself from the other end of the receiver. It was a little entertaining to see his friend in such a state. Poe, the confident, self-assured hot shot was never sheepish, never nervous. This could be the real deal for him.

"I think you should take a leap of faith and tell him. I've known you long enough to be able to read you like a book. I see the way you look at him."

"Like the way you look at Rey?" Poe questioned.

Ben's heart plummets in his chest. "Yeah, about that..."

"Come on man, you say you know me but don't forget I know you. You look at her like every word that comes out of her mouth is poetry. Seriously, you're in deep buddy."

Ben sighed, running a hand across his face and pushing strands of stray hair back across his scalp.
"I can't deny it. It's the reason I called you. This isn't like some little infatuation Poe, it's like I'm inexplicably drawn to her from across the galaxy. We barely know one another but I feel like I've always known her - like we would have always known one another no matter where our paths took us."

Ben explained their bond - Poe didn't seem all that surprised until Ben explained to him that no, not all Jedi talk through their minds to one another, only then did the magnitude of their situation start to sink in.

"Whenever we're apart I feel this deep agony, like being without her is torture. Is it supposed to hurt this much?" Ben found his voice cracking just a little, as though his throat was closing up.

Both fell silent for a moment that felt like an eternity.

"I don't know." Poe croaked.

Another moment of silence before Ben spoke up again.

"I almost kissed her today."

Ben covered his ears instinctively as he heard the incessant shouting of his friend from the other end of the receiver.

"Then what the hell are you doing? Why didn't you go through with it?"

"I don't know. I didn't plan it. I guess I just got caught up in the moment. I suppose too caught up, because she threw me through the air and then she won the fight."

"The figh-? Ah Ben, buddy, you have no idea what you're doing. In the middle of a fight?!"

"We were sparring, we do it every day, it's no big deal."

"Man and I thought I was clueless" his friend muttered from the other end of the comm. "Do you think she feels the same? Or was that her way of telling you to back off?"

Ben ruminated on this for a moment. "Hmm, it didn't feel like it. It almost felt like she was...well, flirting. Not that I've had much experience with that either."

"Buddy, having known you for as long as I have girls have flirted with you on plenty of times and you haven't noticed. If you think it's flirting, its probably the most obvious flirting the Galaxy has ever seen. Didn't she like, live in the desert for most of her life?"

"Jeez Poe, that doesn't mean she's a cavewoman, calm down." He rolled his eyes again, even if he knew his friend couldn't see it. "She does have this way of getting under my skin. I can't explain it. She's always challenging me - not necessarily in a confrontational way, but challenging me to think outside of my limited viewpoint. I've got so many new perspectives on things that I didn't have before I met her. And Poe, look I know she's not your type, but have you looked at her? She's gorgeous!"

He heard Poe tut from the other end of the receiver. "Alright Romeo, so she's your type and she's got magical Force powers like you. And you're both psychic. And she challenges you. There's clearly something there. I mean I knew there was the minute you both rolled up on base together but I think it's safe to say the feeling could be mutual."

"So what do I do about it? How do I know for sure?"

"You don't! What was it you said to me earlier...a leap of faith? Look, let's make a pact. You tell your lady how you feel and I tell Finn. And if it backfires on both of us, well then we both at least have someone to cry to about it afterwards."

"I can't argue with that." Ben chuckled, but he felt an intense knot forming in his stomach all the same. "If nothing else hopefully it works out for at least one of us."

"And the other has to deal with moping and despair and as much as I'd like it to work out for me and Finn, I don't know if I feel like dealing with your angst more than normal."

"Alright, it's a deal."

They both laughed, moving on to other topics. Poe filled Ben in on the Resistance - Finn's knowledge of First Order tech had come in handy after all and they were planning an assault on the Star Killer base itself. Ben told him about his training, the conflict with Luke and the improved mood on the island. Poe was just as surprised as Ben had been to learn of Luke's improved spirit - he'd only met him once or twice on trips to the Solo home in his youth, but had always remarked that he had a 'permanent scowl on his face'.

Ben stifled a yawn. "Well, I'd better go, it's getting late."

"Buddy, it's 4am here, just be thankful I answered your call - just assumed you were dying or something urgent like that."

"Psh, you were the one hanging out with an entirely platonic friend in your room at 4am. You were awake anyway."

"Alright, alright. Its been good catching up. I know we're both busy but let's do this more often. I miss you, much as I hate to admit it."

"Wouldn't have it any other way." Ben chuckled. "We'll talk soon. Let me know how it goes with Big Deal."

He could hear Poe's howling laughter at the other end in reference to Finn's nickname around the Resistance base - Ben took a mental note to tell Rey the story at some point.

"Later, Ben!"

Ben clicked the receiver and the hut was silent once again. He lowered himself down onto the bed, a little too small for his tall frame as his ankles rest on the edge. Stretching arms across his chest, he closed his eyes and willed himself to sleep, trying not to think too hard about the magnitude of the promise he'd made to his friend.

Chapter Text

Many years earlier.

Luke left his sisters home feeling a sense of overwhelming turmoil. What his friends had told him had truly shaken him to the core. Leia, who was always so strong resembled a fragile glass doll, frozen suspended inches above the floor. Han, who he had always somewhat admired (Luke wished he could command a room just by entering it the same way his brother-in-law did) seemed like he was almost off his axis, his usual calm and reasoning rationality diminished by a simmering anxiety that threw Luke a curveball. They'd always been a good match, Han and his sister - even before he knew that Leia was his sister he couldn't help but feel a sting of protectiveness over her when Han was around - even if she was more than capable of fighting her own battles. And it wasn't as though he didn't trust Han - he was a hot shot, sure, and an outrageous flirt, but he was also strong willed, honest, kind. Their strengths went hand in hand with their imperfections, two individuals so perfectly suited that they almost seemed at times in synch. Boy, did they argue. Those kinds of strengths and imperfections were the kind that meant all reasoning went out of the window when ones ego or opinion was in dispute - and he'd seen them argue on plenty of occasions. Even when he'd found Han sat in the cold rain outside their new home after a particularly bitter row, so scared of his new commitments as a husband and a father that he almost wanted to run away from it all - even then, when he'd spent an hour talking him into staying - even then, he did not falter like this.

Their son. The perfect marrying of their two personalities. They had both developed stronger maternal instincts than Luke had suspected, and as Ben grew older their love for him only grew with him. And that fear. That deep, all-encompassing fear. He saw it in both of their eyes when he spoke to them, as clear as day. Not fear for themselves but an uncontrollable terror for their only child. Strong Leia, unable to stop something - so used to leading, to commanding attention, always in control. And Han, the resolute, rational rock of the family, unable to stop an unseen enemy - they were both terrified. Both of their strengths combined could do nothing for their son. They could only watch, in horror, as this creature consumed his soul.

And Luke. Well, Luke was afraid. For the first time, truly, in a long time. Since the war. Since the passing of his father. He had to find out more. He had to stop this.

Luke had a few contacts scattered here and there across the galaxy - not nearly as many allies as the Solo's, he mostly kept to himself. But he'd come across those strong with the Force over the years, the few who still fully understood it, even those who chose to worship it. Someone would know something. He would get to the bottom of this. And he knew exactly where to start.

His small, unmarked ship docked a short walk away from Maz's Tavern. The wretched hive of scum and villainy was certainly not his usual haunt of choice - much more Han's style - but Maz knew everyone that was worth knowing. He hoped his simple attire and absence from public life for many years would lend him a degree of anonymity, but alas, this was Maz's bar.

"LUKE SKYWALKER!"

Luke wondered aloud if she greeted everyone in such a manner, having once witnessed a similar welcoming when visiting with Han. The short woman almost sprinted towards him despite her small stature and stick thin legs - not forgetting her age. Maz never missed a beat and she never slowed down - and she never tolerated mention of her age. Luke had his guesses, but had enough sense to keep them to himself.

"Maz" He greeted the incoming woman with as much warmth as he could muster in a dingy tavern where everyone seemed to be staring. "So good to see you."

"Where's Solo?"

"Just me today I'm afraid. No Falcon, no Han, no Chewie."

She let out a disgruntled huff. "That gorgeous hunk never comes to visit me."

"Well Han is happily married with a child now Maz, so-"

"Ugh, not him you wretch!" she scoffed with disgust. "Leia may see something in him, but I certainly do not. Not my type." She flicked a small hand through the air, as though swatting an invisible fly.

Luke only rolled his eyes. "Look, as much as I'd love to sit here and discuss your unusual taste in men, I do desperately need to talk to you about something of great importance."

Maz squinted her eyes, focusing the lenses of her almost comically oversized glasses. "Yes, yes, I'm sure you do. Come, come." She motioned for him to follow her, and he did.

They came to rest in a small, dimly lit booth on the far side of the bar. Luke couldn't help but think back to his first introduction to his brother-in-law and the 'gorgeous hunk' Maz referred to. Different bar, same energy. He smiled to himself as he glanced across the bar. Similar clientele too, it seemed.

"Well then, cut to it. What do you want?" Luke found the older woman leaning across the table eyes narrowed, clicking her fingers in front of his eyes. "I haven't got all day."

May aswell cut to it then, Luke thought. "Are you familiar with a being named Snoke?"

Maz was uncharacteristically silent for a moment, her lips pursing into a tight frown. "I am familiar with the name. And the legacy that comes with it, although I've not had the displeasure of meeting him myself."

"What do you know about him?"

"Many things. How many of them are true, it's hard to say." She pursed her lips tighter, the lines of old age spread across her face. For the first time, the sprightly woman looked old, tired. "But he's dangerous, that much is certain."

Luke nodded his head slightly, urging her to continue.

"He's almost like a ghost. A whisper in the wind. Few have seen him, and even less of them have lived long enough to tell the tale." She paused briefly to take a sip of drink. "He's been around for a long time, although exactly how long I'm unsure. I do know he was present for the fall of the Empire, hiding in plain sight I would assume. He's had his tendrils in The Force for a long time, but I assume for tactical reasons he kept that a secret."

"Was he formally trained in The Force?"

"I don't believe so. It seems that he's been building allies across the galaxy in secret, biding his time. There are rumours that he is trying to ascend to leadership of the First Order."

"Well that's something I'd be keen to avoid." Luke muttered.

"That makes two of us." Maz uttered. "I feel it is inevitable though. And I assume we have bigger things to worry about if you're here."

Luke nodded solemnly. "It seems he has been reaching out to Force sensitive younglings, though how many I am unsure. Communicating with them through their minds, planting seeds of doubt and isolation to suit his ends."

"I'm not surprised. He's already been kidnapping younglings from the outer regions for the Stormtrooper programme."

Luke cursed under his breath. "Then it is worse than I thought. Maz, I need your help. I need to get to him now, before this gets any worse. I must stop him."

"Luke." Her voice was firm and assured. "It is not your cross to bear."

"I'm sorry?"

"You heard me. I may be no Jedi but I know the Force. And I know that the time is simply not right. I cannot say how I know this. But it is not your destiny to face Snoke."

Luke frowned, his voice growing louder. "Even if that is true, do you expect me to let another Sidious rise to power? To destroy the lives of millions across the Galaxy?" He motioned to stand until Maz waved a hand, ushering him to sit.

"That's not what I'm saying. A power is growing in the Dark, yes, and Snoke may very well be an enemy to be reckoned with. But power is growing in the light too. It is only a matter of time until the tide shifts for the better - but there are trials to be faced and things will changed irreversibly."

"Come on Maz, you know I'm not fluent in riddles."

"It's just a feeling, Luke, not something I can see solid and clear." The small woman cleared her throat, looking frantically around before speaking again. "But the light side will rise, and everything will change. Your time to be the hero is over - you must prepare yourself to train others, pass on what you know so a new generation can bear that burden."

Luke's eyes widened, and he nodded slowly, acknowledging her words as he leaned back into his seat with a sigh. "So I just sit until the light rises, is that what you're saying?"

"No." Maz's voice is firm. "There is a place where old Jedi texts lie. You must seek this place out and learn more. Refine your skills not to fight but to teach."

"Well how will I find this place?" Luke almost whined.

"You'll find a way. Now, I need something of yours."

"Look, Maz if you think that was reading me my fortune I'm not giving you credits."

"Hah, no." The woman chuckled to herself, taking another swig of drink before leaning forward. "Your lightsaber."

Luke had chosen the wrong moment to take a swig of drink because he almost spat it out, throwing it down on the table with his mouth gaping open. "Wha-? No, I can't give you that! Why?"

Maz leaned forward, swatting his raised hand with a resounding 'fwap'. "Don't be such a child!" she scolded. "I will keep it safe for now. And when the time is right, it will return to you."

Luke muttered under his breath before reaching for his holster and uncliping the metal cylinder. "Here."

Aged hands reached across the table to take the weapon, and Maz's fingers closed around the hilt, studying it for a moment before hastily wrapping it in old cloth and depositing it in a bag on her belt. "Good. Now, I have things to do so I suggest you get going."

"You're such an accommodating host, Maz." Luke drawled, eyes rolling. "But yes, I must be going. A few of your patrons have been eyeballing me a bit too long for my liking." He motions to a gathering of surly creatures to their left, all muttering amongst themselves and occasionally casting a glance their way.

"I don't want trouble in my bar, Skywalker" she warned, rising to her feet. "I don't care if you saved the galaxy, I won't have it, so you'd best get moving. I'll keep a watchful eye on your new friends."

Luke reached a hand out to shake Maz's. "I appreciate the help, even if I'm not entirely sure what it means."

Maz simply nodded, turning on her heel to make her way towards the group in question. "You will eventually." She called out, raising a hand up to wag a finger as she walked away.

Luke heeded her words and gathered his coat to make a hasty exit, not before hearing a loud smash behind him, chancing a glance as he exited. Maz was stood on the table of the watchful group, a smashed bottle in her hand, waving it frantically at the sheepish looking patrons whilst scolding them. He chuckled to himself, and pulled the door closed behind him. Time to get off this planet.

Chapter Text

The following morning, Luke sat the pair down in one of the larger huts, books piled up to the ceiling and threatening to fall. Notebooks and journal's littered a small table on one side, and Ben caught a glimpse of some almost manic looking scrawling on an open page, the ink glimmering and still fresh.

"I'm afraid we've come to the end of our training. But this is not the end of your journey."

Rey and Ben were surprised, but curious to know more and remained silent. Luke gestured for them both to sit, and each took a place on the dusty floor, legs crossed. Luke reached to the table behind him, grabbing a book and skimming through until he found the pages he needed, standing to face them.

"Jedi are accustomed to having lightsabers as I'm sure you both know - these are powered by Kyber Crystal's, rare and elusive gems that remain scarce across the galaxy. For each individual Jedi it is often a rite of passage to find your own crystal - one that calls to you. This allows the user to craft a saber attuned to their skills and strengths. It is a important step for all Jedi, and marks the end of their initial training."

Luke moved to sit, pushing the open book forward for the two of them to look at closer. An old faded illustration depicted what seemed to be an individual entering a cave, with swirling shapes and what looked almost to be monsters floating above.

"In order to obtain your crystals, you must face your greatest fears. This is a task to be done alone, and I can assure you it's a testing challenge. I may not have experienced it in its rawest form, but I had a glimpse at the kinds of visions you'll both no doubt encounter when I was training with Master Yoda." He jabbed a finger at the illustration again. "The Force will take the form of your greatest fears through audio and visual hallucinations that will no doubt feel very real. But this is all I can tell you. They must be faced alone, and only you can decide the best path to combat these fears."

"Where can we find this cave?" Ben enquired.

"There are many like them across the Galaxy, but I have found three within easy travelling distance from this island." Luke reached back to grab an old tattered sheet of parchment, bringing it closer to reveal a map. He pointed at three distinct 'x's marked in red. "These are your best bets. Relatively straight forward to fly to, with easy route back to the Resistance base when your training is complete. I'd recommend you both travel to one, it's a dangerous task that has driven many would-be Jedi mad, and given both of your skills I wouldn't suggest you split up."

Ben took the map in his hands, tracing the lines with his fingertips. "Ah, I know of this one. We can go there. Its an easy route to the Resistance from there."

"Lah'mu." Rey whispered, tracing along the delicate scrawl.

"It's relatively desolate from what I know. Used to be a farming planet but a lot of the crops were destroyed in the war. The originally small population grew smaller, and now very few people live there, so you'll be fairly isolated. A wise choice."

Rey and Ben looked at one another, their eyes connecting in acknowledgement. This was the one.

- -

At the Resistance base.

"Hey, Poe! Wanna grab a caf?"

Poe turned his head, slowing his swift pace toward his quarters to see Finn waving at him from across the hangar, and he swiftly turned on his heel, settling into a light jog to meet him.

"Sure! I wasn't doing anything anyway."

Poe's words were spoken without a hint of sarcasm, but this was not strictly true. He was going to have a much needed shower, but spending time with Finn easily trumped this - and though he felt a bit unpleasant and self-conscious around the source of his affections, he figured Finn would be plenty used to sweaty, smelly Resistance fighters by now. Plus, the temptation of caf was a much needed distraction from his exhaustion. The two stepped in time together, making their way toward the mess bay.

The last few weeks had been physically exhausting. Poe had been back and forth on countless recconaisance missions to fine tune their knowledge of the First Order's deadly weapon. Much had been learned, and extracting information from willing sources had run as smoothly as it normally would, but the back and forth between different planetary atmospheres and climates had taken an undeniable toll on him. He loved flying, but right now he just felt drained, and a bit of time relaxing with a friend was just what he needed.

"Wait, hold on. So you haven't heard music before?" Poe's jaw hung low, a resounding metal smack ringing through the empty mess hall as he almost threw down his mug onto the steel table.

"Well, I heard like, the stuff they wanted us to hear. I heard the Imperial March plenty of times. I'd be quite happy to never hear that again though." Finn's expression was sheepish, a light blush crossing his cheeks.

"But weren't you ever...curious about what other music sounded like?"

"Honestly? Not really." Finn shrugged. "There were people in the Order who had ways to sneak stuff in on the down-low, there was a bit of an underground scene of people in my unit who would get together after hours and listen to recordings they'd traded."

"And you never listened to any?"

"Nope. Wasn't really sure what all the fuss was about. And you're forgetting I was a model soldier until you rolled up." Finn teased, playfully punching Poe's shoulder with a chuckle.

"You made that choice on your own buddy, I did not influence you in the slightest." Laughed Poe. "But seriously. Music is a window to the soul, man. You can tell so much about a person by the music they like listening to."

"Really?" Finn quizzed.

"Sure! Listening to music is such a personal journey; the music may have been written by someone else in a different time, with experiences completely different to yours. They could even be long gone. But hearing something that hits you emotionally, that you can identify with - it's freeing."

"What sort of music do you listen to?" Finn leaned forward curiously.

"A bit of this, a bit of that. Mainly upbeat stuff when I'm flying, it's a great way to get in the zone. Then when I need some time to focus or mellow out, the music I listen to reflects that." Poe's eyes lit up, and he sat up abruptly, struck by a sudden idea. "We need to get you to listen to some real music! Come on!"

Poe hoisted the man up by his arm, almost sending him crashing onto the mess hall floor. "Now? Like, right now?" Finn whined, trying and failing to grab his remaining cup of caf before being jostled away by Poe.

"I've got some tapes from my collection you can try. C'mon, it'll be fun!" And with that Finn smiled gently, skittering ahead to catch up with his briskly walking companion.

Poe's room was a mess as always, old clothes thrown into a corner and boxes piled up with what most would pretty much consider junk. A life in the Stormtrooper programme bred a lack of excess - materialism wasn't something Finn had to deal with and even though he was free now, old habits died hard, and his room was almost bare. He had discovered early on in their friendship that Poe would collect keepsakes from the systems he visited for the first time - a pebble here, a shell there, occasionally a local knick-knack if he'd had time to visit a market. This collection was strewn across the room at random; Poe didn't have much time between missions to pull it together into something substantial Finn supposed. It made him smile though - to someone else with an untrained eye this could be mess, but he could only see the joy it brought the pilot.

Poe pulled a box from under the bed, throwing a small electronic device onto the mattress above before continuing to rifle through, occasionally peering at the plastic boxes that lay inside with scrutiny before returning them and continuing to search.

"Just choose something man, it doesn't matter I'll listen to whatever."

"No!" Poe shot, turning sharply to point at the other man. "This is going to be the first song you ever listen to. This could change the course of your musical interests going forward. It's got to be the right song. This could change your life!"

"Okay, jeez." Finn muttered, shuffling his feet.

The rifling stopped suddenly, and Poe pulled a small rectangular shape from the box. His shoulders slumped ever so slightly, and he ran a thumb across the text scrawled on the cover tenderly, as if recalling a pleasant memory. "Got it."

Poe led them beyond the base, outside into the cold as Finn grumbled half-heartedly about the weather. They followed a barely trodden path through woodland, eventually reaching a clearing through some trees. The view really was something, Finn thought to himself. The greenery of the hill they'd made their way up looked out across the base, presenting the peaceful solitude of a sleeping airfield. The sun was beginning to set across the skyline, and Poe took a seat close to the edge, shrouded by some smaller trees, patting the ground beside him, motioning for Finn to sit.

"Okay, so I should tell you that this is music that means a lot to me. You don't have to like it, and you don't have to get it, I know this is still new for you. But I...ah, whatever, just try it." Poe fidgeted nervously with the device, slotting a small black box inside and handing it over to Finn. He motioned for him to put the small round buds in his ears, which he did. Poe edged closer, his finger hovering over a button as he glanced at Finn anxiously, before his eyes darted away and he pressed the button, skirting away.

Poe sat in silence for a few minutes, shuffling around slightly as though on edge. Perhaps he shouldn't have chosen something so personal? The music he'd chosen reflected the deepest desires in his heart. What if he didn't like it? What if he thought it was stupid? What if he felt nothing at all?

He noticed the gentle buzzing subside as the song came to a stop, and glanced up slowly to look at Finn, who sat motionless, staring ahead blankly. Poe didn't know what to do - he looked almost confused or conflicted some how. Was he stressed? Did he hate it? He scooted closer and lifted his hands slowly to remove the buds from his ears, giving Finn a gentle wave across his face.

Finn snapped back into reality, turning his head to stare at the other man. His gaze was calm, focused, almost determined, but there was something in it that Poe couldn't quite place. He continued to stare but said nothing.

"Look, it's fine if you didn't like it but I'm kind of sharing my soul with you here so if you could just say somethi-"

There was a sudden rush of movement, and before Poe had time to process what was happening, he felt warm lips crash into his. The pair remained frozen for a moment, until Finn pulled away suddenly, a look of sheer terror crossing his face.

"Oh god I'm so so sorry, I just..."

And in that moment, Poe laughed. A hearty, full laugh, and he looked up to see Finn frowning back at him.

"Okay well there's no need to laugh at me, I'm bearing my soul here too you know!"

"Oh, no no no!" Poe smiled, grasping Finn's shoulders with firm hands. "I'm not laughing at you. Just, this."

"Yeah, somehow I feel like that's worse..." Finn grumbled.

"No, you don't understand. See I was getting so worked up about just making you listen to a song and I thought you would think I was crazy or worse, you'd understand and be disgusted by it. But no." He squeezed his shoulder. "You get it. And better yet, you did what I was too scared to do and just went for it. I've spent so long, going back and forth in my head about how I should tell you an-"

"Hold up, so you're not freaked out? That's...good?" Finn's eyes softened.

"Yeah buddy, it's good." Poe moved closer, bringing his forehead to rest against Finn's, moving his hands to rest tenderly on the other man's neck. "God, you're adorable when you're freaking out. I'm..I'm so glad I can say that."

And with that, Finn's mouth spread into a wide, bashful grin, and the two moved closer, their lips joining once again into a heartfelt, delicate kiss. Finn's hands moved to Poe's waist instinctively, pulling the man closer as they embraced.

Poe scoffed, pulling away suddenly again, attempting to stifle a laugh.

"Poe! Seriously, is this gonna happen every time?!" Finn whined.

"No! No, just I remembered something. Me and Ben had a bet about who would share their feelings first. Does it count if you beat me to it?"

Finn sighed with relief. "Pretty sure that's a win in my books. Wait, you told Ben? Who is he-"

Poe captured the man's lips again with a chaste kiss. "Shh. I'll explain later. Promise I won't laugh next time."

"You'd better not!" Finn scolded, before the pairs lips collided once more as the sun cast simmering reds across the sky.

Chapter Text

The small ship landed on Lah'Mu without incident - the simple, but undeniably beautiful landscape welcomed them with open arms, providing a steady descent and plenty of flat, stable land for the ship to park. They located the cave from studying a map on the journey; it was situated around half a miles walk from where they'd parked just alongside the ocean, reached by crossing the deep obsidian beach that looked out into the vast sea.

Ben led the way, but stopped when he noticed the gentle crunch of footsteps behind him had subsided. Turning, he saw that Rey was frozen a few metres behind him, wide eyes gazing out to the ocean.

"Don't you recognise this place?" She whispered under heavy breath.

Ben took a few steps towards her, before kneeling down and placing his palm on the surface, closing his eyes for a moment.

"This is the place from the dream" he croaked. Images came flooding back - walking across an empty beach, following Rey as she led him to the graves of his family and friends. How had he not realised sooner? It was just as he remembered it. Ben felt a knot forming in his stomach and a sinking dread begin to consume him, but he rose to his feet and turned briskly on his heel. "We should keep going."

They followed the shore line until they reached the cluster of steep ruins, seditary rock forming into repetitive geometric shapes, arching upwards to form a cliff edge. Below was a curved opening, and the two peered into the endless darkness at its entrance.

"We stick together" murmered Ben, and Rey nodded.

A moment of hesitation and silence came and went, and the pair proceeded to enter the cave. The darkness soon consumed them; the bright light reflecting from the sea soon fading into obscurity as the shadows enveloped them, their eyes slowly adjusting to the new lighting.

"Hang on, I have a light" muttered Ben, rummaging through his holster until he grasped a small torch. Flicking the switch was met with nothing, so he shook it, muttering obscenities under his breath until finally a bright light cast around him.

"...Rey?"

Ben swung on his heels, looking around him and calling her name over and over, but all he heard was the sound of his voice reverberating across the cold stone walls. She was gone. And he was alone.

- -

"Ben?" Rey whispered, spinning around when she realised the comfortable steady breathing of her companion had ceased. She reached out lightly in her mind - and sensed his presence, although she could not locate it. He wasn't in turmoil or distress, and her shoulders slumped a little in relief. She recalled Luke's words about going the journey alone, so she decided to continue ahead.

After walking for what seemed like an eternity, a small spark of light in the distance caught her eye. Perhaps it was Ben, perhaps she'd caught up with him? She increased her steps, pacing nearer to the dim shimmer as it got closer and closer until it fizzled and disappeared before her eyes. Shaking fingers reached up to touch it as it faded from view. She pulled away suddenly, as though jolted by something invisible.

Quickening her pace, she continued ahead, doing her best to get a sense of her surroundings as best she could, but everything looked the same in the dark. There was nothing distinct about this cave, nothing familiar that she could call upon to lead her way. Then, a thought struck her. She rifled through her holster to pull out a small tool that she used for emergencies, and approached the wall to her left. Gripping the tool in her hand, she dragged the metal against the flat slate surface until a small line appeared. Content with her handwork, she pocketed the tool, returning it to her bag. Rey was nothing if not resourceful. It was a technique she'd used when scavenging in larger ships with complicated paths - she would leave a mark on the surface of the wall every ten metres or so to determine where she'd been, to make sure she wasn't walking in circles. Rey continued this for some time, feeling satisfied that she was moving ahead steadily. But before long, she started seeing her markings again. How had she got lost? She'd been walking steadily ahead for what felt like hours, so there was no way she could have backed onto her old route.

Furrowing her brow, she pressed onwards until she spotted something else that caught her eye - the same white chalk markings, but this time, two of them. How odd. That wasn't something she would do. Perhaps she'd crossed paths with Ben? Or perhaps they were from other people who had entered the caves? As she continued forward, the number of tallys increased, and the quicker she moved, the more they seemed to overwhelm her. She quickened her pace and began to run ahead, spotting more and more of the cursed white scratches until she found herself surrounded by them.

I know all about waiting.

Two shadowy figures flashed suddenly across her vision, the hint of a memory, a distant vision. A ship, soaring off into the sky before disappearing into cloud.

They left you. Just like everyone else.

No-one ever stays.

She collapsed on the rocky ground, tears threatening to spill as she felt a piercing anxiety rip through her heart like a dagger piercing flesh. She winced at the pain, grasping at her chest in reaction to the phantom injury.

"I don't need them!“ She sneered, still clutching at her chest. "I've done just fine on my own!"

Her voice reverberated and echoed through the empty cavern, reminding her that she truly was alone.

No. It didn't matter.

She soldiered on, ignoring the throbbing pain in her heart, as voices began whispering in her ear. She shook her head and squeezed her eyes shut, trying to ignore them.

You're just a lonely Scavenger. Did you really think you were important?

No-one would care if you were gone. No-one would mourn you.

"That's...that's not true!" She croaked.

It is. You know it is.

Your so-called friends don't even care that you left. It seems like they're getting on fine without you.

And him. Do you think he cares for you? You think he won't drop you at the first sign of trouble? The minute he gets fed up with you he'll leave you. Just like the others.

"Liar!" She hissed, spinning around and pointing an accusing finger at nothing in particular as her eyes darted back and forth through the darkness.

You know its true. To him, you're nothing. Just a filthy Scavenger.

"No! No, Ben, the others, they care for me! I know they do. They won't leave me." She collapsed to the floor, tears streaming down her face as she gripped her head in agony. "They won't."

Her eyes shot open as light burst into the cave; the piercing brightness faded to reveal a burning room, fire and crumbling remains. The figure of a broad-shouldered man in black stood with his back to her, before turning, his stare threatening to break her as he glared at her with distain.

Ben slowly moved towards her before crouching down beside her. Rey scrunched her eyes shut again, willing the vision to disappear, but she opened them again when she felt cold leather gloves grazing her cheek, gripping her chin and turning her head until she was looking him directly in the eye.

"You come from nothing, Rey. You're nothing."

Rey broke down into a sob as he pushed her face away, a look of disgust crossing his gaze.

"This isn't real." She whimpered through sobs.

"It is." Replied Ben. "It's what will come to be."

"No!" She spat, throwing herself to her feet and stalking away from him. "I won't let it."

Foolish child. You can't make someone love you. Pathetic.

Rey screamed.

- -

Ben noticed the nudging feeling in his mind and ignored it. He was used to the voices now. They may never go away, but they can never hurt him, he reassured himself. He's in control.

A bright light streamed across his vision, and he instinctively moved a hand up to cover his eyes. When he lowered it, he was faced with a familiar scene - his childhood home. He spotted his father, pacing back and forth. And his mother, pulling a small figure into her arms. He heard screams - his screams - of protest, but his mother hushed him, reassuring him. They'd just be gone for a while. He'd barely even notice they were gone.

But he did. They were gone for weeks. Ben felt the time pass, their absence burning like a scar. Eventually they returned, but they paid him no mind - a pat on the head here, a squeeze of the shoulder there. He found he spent his time alone, no Poe to keep him company, no friends to speak of. The trips became more frequent; sometimes it was his mother, off on a diplomatic duty. Other times it was his father - some mornings he'd head downstairs to find he was gone, the Falcon absent from the hold. Often they were so caught up in their own lives that they failed to notice if he was left alone for a few days, a few weeks.

He was pulled from the room to a new place that he didn't recognise. It looked like an old temple, the ornate decorations suggesting it was built much before he was born. He was training with other's his age, overpowering another boy by throwing him down with the Force, pointing a long wooden staff to his chest. He saw his uncle looking on from a distance, his gaze distant and hazy but he could feel the distrust and the conflict rolling across the room without even trying to seek it out.

Dangerous. He's a dangerous child.

He's too powerful. That kind of raw strength cannot harbour anything good or pure.

You're a monster!

His head shot up at the sound of Rey's voice - she was on the island, standing by the Falcon, looking at him with utter distain, her rage suffocating.

"Murderous snake!" She acused, her brows deepening as she shoot him another look of pure venom.

"Why do you hate your father?"

"I don't!" He stammered, taking slow steps towards her.

"Then why did you kill him?" She screamed.

Suddenly everything moved again, and he could feel the gentle hum of cold metal and radiating heat, looking down to find a red lightsaber in his grip. As though in slow motion, his head slowly moved up to see what it was pointing at, to find the blade had impaled something, someone.

"N-no. Please no." He stammered, as he felt a soft, ramiliar hand graze his cheek, before he watched, motionless, as his father plummeted into darkness.

He snapped back to find himself as he was before, but this time the gentle hand grazing his cheek was that of his best friend, Poe's pupils shocked from the betrayal. And again. And again. And again. His mother. His uncle. Then Rey. Each vision ended the same way, with each falling from the blade into dark vastness below.

Yes, that's it. You are a monster. And why try to hide it? Why run from it?

Embrace it. Embrace your true nature. Fulfill your destiny.

"No!" Ben shouted, waving his hands around him as though trying to find the source of the voice. It spoke again with a vicious sneer.

Yes. Let the darkness consume your soul so you can become who you were born to be.

"I was not born for darkness!" He roared, pulling a small blade from his holster and swiping it through the air.

Ah, but you were. The blood of Vader himself, and so much power. So much hate. You can harness it to become even stronger.

Ben shook his head, pacing back and forth and swiping the knife back and forth through the air.

I can see your thoughts. If you think that girl trusts you, then you're very much mistaken.

"That's not true." He choked through sobs.

But it is, child. I can see her thoughts, just like I see yours. She is scared of you, although she hides it well.

In your arrogance and lust you've failed to see her how she really sees you.

A monster.

"LIAR!" Ben roared. "You underestimate Rey. And you underestimate me. We are both stronger than you could ever imagine."

A cruel laugh echoes through the expanse of the cave.

Ah, so you're in love with her, are you? Do you believe she can save your soul? It's not worth saving. And she will soon fear you. She will leave you. Just like everyone else.

Ben felt his heart hammering in his chest, threatening to break his ribcage and leave him stuttering for breath. The deep ache in his chest felt ready to consume him, to swallow him into the darkness.

No. He wouldn't let it.

Ben. Ben?

The cruel voice faded into the distance as the soothing sound of Rey's voice filled the air.

"I'm here, Rey. I'm here."

Follow the sound of my voice.

Ben stuffed the blade back into his holster, running a nervous hand through his hair before pacing in the direction of the voice.

I'm here, Ben.

The gentle waves led him through a narrow expanse of tunnels, growing narrower in width until he turned a corner to see a dim light glowing in the distance. Pacing closer slowly, he was met with a shallow humming sound and a glowing red hue peering through a crack in the wall. Stopping before it, he raised a hand to touch it, lifting the crystal instinctively from the wall. The red glowing Kyber Crystal radiated from the palm of his hand.

- -

Rey saw herself alone on Ahch-To, Ben nowhere to be found. Training with her staff, alone. Meditating, alone. Luke would appear as a distant mentor every once in a while, hovering from a distance, watching her with disinterest.

"This isn't going to go the way you think!Luke screamed as she drew a lightsaber on him, her eyes filled with hatred.

Something inside me is awake.

Suddenly, she was alone again in the Jakku desert, the familiar piercing heat and humid air sending shock waves down her spine.

I know all about waiting.

She was still alone, still in her crumbling AT-AT home scratching marks on the wall beside her bed. Her hair grew longer, and her frame grew frailer, the deep wrinkles of age marring her face, the heavy sun staining her skin and hands growing calloused from years of scavenging metal.

Suddenly, the aging Rey looked up, and she followed the gaze to hear the gentle sound of a deep voice calling her name. Turning on her heel away from the sad scene, she let her feet instinctively move toward the sound of the voice. Through a thick fog, she saw a dim glow flickering, and reached a hand out until she grasped something cold and solid.

She found herself back in the darkness of the cave, glancing down at her open palm to see a glowing blue Kyber Crystal pulsating light through the darkness.

- -

Ben found the caves exit with ease, and he suspected the glowing crystal gripped firmly in his hand had something to do with it. Ducking slightly under a low hanging rocky structure, his vision was flooded with light. He was back on the beach at the caves entrance. The sound of lapping waves filled his ears, and he spotted Rey waiting a few metres away, a glowing blue emitting from her palm.

"Ben!" She turned at the sound of shuffling feet, barraging into him and pulling him into a tight hug. "Are you okay?" She muffled into his shoulder.

"I am now." He smiled, pulling her in tighter. "I was worried I'd lost you in there."

"Me too." She murmured, pulling away slowly. "Let's go home."

They moved along the beach side by side in silence, the atmosphere thick with unspoken words. As whirring thoughts stirred in her mind, Rey tried to find the courage to speak, but struggled to find the words. As she opened her mouth to start, Ben spoke.

"Rey. You know how much I care about you, don't you?" He stopped in front of her, resting a hand on her shoulder. "I would never leave you. Never."

Rey nodded, a warm smile spreading across her lips. "You're better than you tell yourself you are, you know. You have so much light in you, just streaming out. How anyone could ever fear you, I don't know." She took one of his hands in hers, squeezing it. Ben smiled before quickly turning away and continuing the walk ahead, but their fingers remained interlaced for the entire walk back to the ship.

After an emotionally draining day, neither had the strength to pilot the ship back, so they agreed to remain docked at the shore line, get some sleep for the night, and depart in the morning. They moved slowly to their rooms, and as they said their goodnights Rey found herself hovering slightly at Ben's closed door, as though waiting for something, before shaking her head lightly and retreating to her room.

Ben lay awake for what seemed like hours, an arm resting lazily across his chest, a hand shielding his eyes from the glare of the light above him. His eyes flickered back and forth, deep in thought.

He rose suddenly, slamming a hand onto the control panel and moving through the sliding door with urgency. Determined steps brought him a little down the hall, until he stopped outside of Rey's door. He raised a hand as though to knock, but before he could do so, the door shot open, and he round himself faced with a surprised Rey, flushed as though she was exiting her room in a hurry.

Her hazy eyes met his, searching them for some kind of meaning or understanding. But before she had the chance to vocalise her swirling thoughts, Ben leant forward, cupping her face with his hands and pulling her in to meet his lips with hers.

They remained still for an endless moment in time, until Ben dropped his hands suddenly, muttering apologies as fear crossed his eyes. Turning to leave, he was stopped by the feeling of hands gripping the back of his tunic, and he let the soft hands turn him back to face her. Rey's hands travelled upwards, pulling him back down into a searing kiss. Gripping at the collar of his shirt, Ben found his hands travelling to her waist, pulling her flush to him as she dragged him into the room with her, closing the door.

Chapter Text

"We shouldn't" Ben murmured against her lips, refusing to loosen the arms draped around her waist, pulling her flush to him. She responded by pulling him closer to the bed, never breaking the kiss.

"Mhm" she murmurs, continuing as though he had said nothing.

"No attachments, remember?" He affirmed, pulling away suddenly, cupping her cheeks with his hands as she leant into his touch.

"Ben." Her voice was soothing, gentle. "You know I don't care about that stupid Jedi Code, and neither do you. What are you afraid of?"

"Everything." He whispered, running a thumb across her face as he felt her almost melting under his touch. "I'm afraid that this is too much, too soon. I'm afraid that you're only responding to what I want because of what happened earlier today. I'm afraid you don't feel as I do in my heart."

Her hands reached up to rest on his and her gaze softened, searching his face until his eyes acknowledged hers. "Ben. I want you. Just you. I've never felt for anyone else as I do for you. It's not just today" she whispered, her voice faltering ever so slightly as she lifted her palms from his, leaning closer to rest them on his collarbone and running a finger along the edge of the bone as he took a sharp intake of breath. "Its always. Since the moment I met you. My feelings for you have never changed, only grown and become more unbearable, threatening to break me. I hoped every day that you could feel as I do." Her eyes bore into his once again, the certainty and assurance of her expression taking Ben by surprise.

He made a small sound in the back of his throat before crushing his lips into hers again, and she returned to meet him in kind. He found himself wanting to touch every ounce of her, committing the tiny details to memory in case this was the only chance he'd ever get to know her like this. Rey pushed assurances at him through the bond - she wanted this, and she wanted him, if he would have her.

"What makes you think I wouldn't?" He stopped suddenly, his hands cradling her waist as she sat between his legs on the edge of the bed.

Rey tensed and squirmed in his arms. "I...I haven't been with someone this way before. And I'm...this." She motioned up and down herself feebly. "Just a Scavenger, with all the scars and marks to prove it."

"Those scars are what make you who you are" He whispered, tracing a delicate thumb along some of the marks she'd highlighted. "They're your life, your experiences showing themselves. You are beautiful Rey, and I'm enamoured by you - body and soul."

"Ben" she replied softly, a gentle smile crossing her lips that threatened to break him it's so heartfelt. She softened in his arms.

"You should know - I've wanted to kiss you for so long, to touch you, to hold you - but I was terrified. This isn't just a moment for me, you are everything."

Her smile grew wider. "Tell me. About the times you wanted to kiss me."

His expression grew sheepish. "When we held hands in the hut." She nodded in silent acknowledgement. "When we sparred recently and I told you that you were beautiful."

She blushed furiously at the memory of Ben pinning her down, his face so close to hers. The intensity of the moment that had plagued her mind countless times shot through her, until she remembered he was still straddling her on his lap, his hands gently grazing the tops of her thighs. She was surprised when he spoke again.

"And when I gave you that old helmet."

"Really?" Rey was surprised. She assumed it was only recently that he'd wanted to act on this infatuation.

"Yeah." He was a little shy now, tapping his finger tips gently on top of her thighs as though trying to release some kind of nervous energy. "Even when I saw you looking at that old helmet like it meant so much to you, I knew I had to bring it for you. And when you took it, looking at it like it was the most magical thing in the world. I think I knew then that I was in love with you."

He felt the words spill out as if he was watching from a distance, and only fully acknowledged them when Rey's grip on his arms tightened.

"You're in love with me?" Her voice sounded small, filled with disbelief.

Ben paused before speaking, searching her eyes in the hopes that she would believe him. He took her hands in his, and rested his head against hers, closing his eyes and letting the thoughts and memories he'd been holding behind a locked door finally open to her.

Rey opened her eyes to find herself looking into the past - she spotted the two of them meeting for the first time outside the Falcon, her profusely apologising and his grouchy attitude that she'd come to understand now was a defence mechanism he put on when smuggling. She noticed his eyes soften as he spoke to her back on the Falcon and shared his food with her, and the tension loosening in his shoulders as they shared childhood memories with one another. It was clear that Ben was a calmer, more at peace man when he was with Rey.

Ben reached for her cheek and let her take it all in as the tears began to fall. To him she was purity and wonder in more ways than he could describe and he would do anything for her - and he hoped she could understand that through the bond. He was surprised to find her feelings returned as she traced fingers across his face, grazing the moles at the curve of his chin, leading up to his lips. They opened their eyes, and she kissed him tenderly, whispering that she loved him too as the kiss grew more passionate.

He pulled her closer to him, clinging to her tiny waist, only loosening his grip as she began clawing at his shirt until he raised his arms so she could move it over his head, throwing it to the floor without missing a beat as her lips moved lower, to his collarbone. She continued to pepper delicate pecking kisses across his shoulders, only stopping to loosen her belt as Ben slowly lowered the fabric from her shoulders to reveal her undergarment. He marvelled at the freckles lightly dusting her skin, nipping gently and lapping his tongue along her collar as she moaned at his touch.

Through the bond they whispered that they loved one another as their clothes fell to the floor and they became one as the sun set on the planet and the day became new.