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Blackholes + Revelations

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far away, this ship is taking me far away, far away from the memory of those who care if i live or die...

 

1. The Girl

 

Rey knew she shouldn’t be snooping around in the nether regions of Maz Kanata’s castle, but something called to her. It was impossible for her to ignore, and so she pushed onwards. Afterall, she was a scavenger at heart. She couldn’t resist having just a look.

She found herself in a back room before an ancient looking chest. Inside, there was a shiny chrome cylinder with a switch. What was it? A torch? Curious, she reached out.

The moment her fingers curled around the cold metal she felt as though she’d tripped into a wormhole.

Darkness, and falling.

Falling.

Falling.

Falling.

An impossibly tall figure loomed over her, receding in the distance as she plummeted endlessly into the abyss.

A scarlet red sword of fire blazed in his hand.

Rey came back to herself with a jerk, dropping the infernal object to the ground.

“I see the lightsaber called to you.”

With a yip of surprise Rey turned to find Maz’s tiny form in the doorway, blinking those huge eyes up at her.

“I…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have.”

“Don’t be.” The ancient lady stooped to pick up the thing, extending it towards Rey. “You should take it with you.”

“I don’t want to touch it again.”

Not listening, Maz put it in Rey’s hand.

She flinched, but nothing happened.

A wry little smile curled the pirate queen’s lips. “What did you see?”

“I’m not sure,” Rey answered truthfully, looking down at the odd contraption. It was an elegant piece of machinery, but also she got the feeling, somehow sinister. She’d heard of lightsabers, but of course had never seen one in person. The scavenger eyed the switch, but was reluctant to engage it indoors. “Just a nightmare, I suppose.”

“Heed your nightmares, girl,” advised Maz with a pat on Rey’s arm. “But do not let them stop you from doing what you must.”

 

★★★

 

Ever since learning there was a girl involved in this caper of the BB-8 droid and the map to Luke Skywalker Kylo Ren had known a certain sense of anticipation that went past the possibility of finally being able to avenge himself upon his treacherous uncle. It was almost a premonition, something whispered in his ear by the tendrils of the Force that guided him, and he knew her involvement would be significant to him somehow.

He found himself wondering what was she like? What kind of girl got herself mixed up with Han Solo and a rebel droid? Well...he knew what kind of girl exactly. One had given birth to him, after all, if not mothered him a minimal amount. He couldn't help but wonder if his interest was rooted in some perverse new parallel of tormenting himself with his past.

He needed to let the past die. In fact, he had a directive from the Supreme Leader himself to kill it. An uncle, which would be a pleasure. A father...he was not so sure, even if Han Solo had never been anything but a scoundrel at best.

Kylo Ren certainly did not expect The Girl to be like this. A feral little wildling of the woods who bared her teeth at him while ineffectually firing that diminutive blaster in his direction. He deflected these assaults with the shrieking red blade of his lightsaber, delighting in the chase in the privacy behind his mask.

She was like a warrior goddess of the woods, and when he swept her hand that gripped the blaster aside she immediately went for another weapon at her hip, a long silver cylinder that Kylo Ren recognized immediately for what it was.

Where the kriff did she get that?

Before she could thumb the emitter of his grandfather’s lightsaber Kylo Ren held both her arms immobile with the Force, flabbergasted that she would even try it.

A lightsaber. Against him. The Jedi Killer. The Master of the Knights of Ren.

She had guts, he would give her that. When was the last time someone stood up to him in such a way? Long before he had made his reputation as the most feared enforcer of the First Order, doubtless.

She was lovely.

That he had not expected, though he couldn't say why. She waylaid him with those too-wide green eyes, lush as the forest foliage that surrounded them, and the stubborn set of her determined jaw. When he held his blade to her throat it was for this transgression more than anything to do with the BB-8 or Luke Skywalker. Those eyes tugged at his very soul, at a place he thought long withered and dead, and for a moment Kylo Ren didn't know what to do.

There was a part of him, that darkest part that guided him through his worst deeds, that advised him to dispose of her now, before she could cause any more trouble.

She would be trouble, this one.

That he could see plain as day, and the sight of her tears hit him like a kick in a place between his heart and his gut. She was filled with Light, and that was something a creature of shadows like him should have shunned at all cost.

He should have destroyed her, but he wanted to keep her, like a precious treasure he'd come upon in the woods. Hoard her for all his own like a jealous dragon.

Impulse control had never been his strong suit.

Sweeping her slight form up into his arms like the antihero in some twisted fairytale, Kylo Ren carried her away with nary a thought for the droid.

She was all he needed.

 

★★★

 

Rey woke from a heavy sleep to find herself strapped into a metal chair. Panic swept through her and she struggled against her bonds, to no avail. She could feel someone looking at her, and when she lifted her gaze she found the masked monster from the forest seated across from her. Fear spiked through her bones and she struggled against her bonds ten-fold.

"I wouldn't bother. You'll only hurt yourself."

His voice was deep, yet so strange and mechanical through the modulator of the mask. It sent a creeping chill down her spine.

“As if you would care.” She struggled some more, if for anything just to defy him. Tears burned at the corners of her eyes. After so many years of avoiding capture by those who would use her for their own ends, now she was trapped. Trapped like an animal, and she’d never known a fear like this. It weighed in the pit of her stomach like a stone.

“I haven’t harmed you,” he pointed out, watching her struggles through that impassive dark helm.

She didn’t believe that would continue to be the case, though she didn’t really want to give this thing any ideas. “Where am I?” she demanded.

“You’re my guest.”

Straining against the manacles one last time, she let out a frustrated huff. Now her wrists ached, rubbed raw against the leather and metal of the restraints. “I find your hospitality lacking.”

A soft chuff emitted from behind the snout of the mask that might have been a laugh.

“Where are the others?”

“You mean the traitors, thieves, and murderers you call friends? You’ll be relieved to hear I have no idea.” Rey glowered for his summation. Perhaps Maz had been a pirate queen, but she’d also been kind. And what about Han? And Chewie? Finn? BB-8? Dread gripped her heart like a cold fist, and she tried to tell herself they’d gotten out of worst scrapes. But bad luck caught up with everyone eventually, and the thought that her compatriots may have come to harm in the raid stoked her rage for the man before her.

Murderers? You’re one to talk. You razed an entire village on Jakku. I heard all about it at Niima outpost.”

“It was the price they paid for harboring a fugitive. No one may defy the First Order and live.”

“You mean no one may defy you and live.”

“It is good you have arrived at that conclusion. It will make our time here easier for you.” This did not placate Rey in the least, and she glared at him.  “You still want to kill me.” He seemed surprised.

“That’s what happens when you’re being chased by a creature in a mask,” she spat.

Suddenly he stood, and she couldn’t help but flinch. He was so kriffing tall. Was he part Wookie?

Now she’d done it. This was the part where he started hurting her, she was certain. She recoiled as far as she could in her bonds, flinching as he lifted his hand. She’d seen what he could do with just a flick of his fingers in the forest.

There was the snick of a latch and a hiss as the mask released, and he drew the helm off his head.

Rey watched with wide hazel eyes, unable to tear her gaze away. She had heard all kinds of rumours about the dreaded Kylo Ren. That he wore the mask because he was horribly disfigured from a battle, or that he was ugly as a bantha’s arse. 

None of the rumours were true.

He was quite normal. Handsome, even, in the most unconventional way. A long pale face, a beak of a nose, proud full lips. And those eyes. Dark eyes that seemed as though they could devour the world, and Rey felt a very different kind of tremor in her core as they settled upon her.  

“If you were so keen to listen to gossip about me at Niima Outpost then you know I have been exceedingly kind today.”

His voice had the same deep cadence, but without the mechanical edge from the mask it was almost soothing.

This was very bad indeed.

“Kind?” sputtered Rey after a beat, fighting her fascination as she tore her eyes away. “You kidnapped me. I am strapped to a metal chair.”

“True. But you are still in possession of all four of your pretty little limbs.” He made a flippant gesture with his large gloved hand, and she felt something brush against her arm. Gooseflesh lifted upon her skin. “Thus far.”

The threat dropped like a stone in a metal bucket, and Rey’s heart fell to her feet.

He was going to hurt her. He was going to hurt her because she was not going to give him what he wanted, whatever that may have been.

“So tell me about the droid.”

“He’s a BB-8 unit with a selenium drive…”

“Yes, yes. He’s carrying a map. He showed it to you. A nobody scavenger from Jakku. Why would he do that?”

Rey felt her heart fall at his snide assessment of her. Did it hurt more that he thought so little of her, or that it was true?

She looked away as she answered, “He showed me a piece. I don’t know what it led to.”

“But I know. Let me see.”

“What?”

He lifted his leather-clad hand to her temple, not touching, but in a moment’s time she understood what he meant. She could feel him rifling through her mind, flipping through memories and thoughts slowly. It didn’t hurt, but it was extremely uncomfortable, like the beginnings of a hunger migraine. A pressure against her skull that wasn’t quite right.

Instinctively, she pushed back, causing Kylo Ren to frown. “Don’t fight me, Scavenger. Show me the map.”

No.”

The tears ran freely down her cheeks, because she didn’t want to give in to him, didn’t want to betray her new friends, but she feared she would anyway. How did a nobody like her from Jakku stand up to someone like Kylo Ren?

“You know I can take what I want.” She’d heard that threat from men before, though never spoken in quite such a velvety timbre. He was almost apologetic, and Rey felt her belly flip, the tips of her fingers and toes tingling with awareness of his large form looming over her. 

“I won’t give you anything.” It was a promise to herself as much as him.

“We’ll see.”

She set her jaw, determined. He pushed against her mind, and she pushed back.

He won.

She felt him slip beneath the surface of her mind, and suddenly there was too much. Too much pressure in her head, and she recoiled with more tears.

“You’ve been so lonely.” He spoke softly, and a more foolish girl could have mistaken that note in his words for sympathy. “I see you, waiting. Waiting, waiting for your family. You would think of an ocean. An island. You counted the days in hatch marks upon the walls of an ancient AT-AT leftover from a battle fought long before you were born. You gathered scrap for portions…and desert flowers for yourself.”

She shook her head, terrified that he could see the truth of her, whether she offered it to him or not. Did this make his victory inevitable? Should she cease to fight?

She didn’t know how, and she pushed against him again, feeling him retreat just a little before the Knight of Ren dug in his heels.

“Don’t be afraid.” He cupped the side of her face in his large hand, the leather of his gloves soft and supple against her skin. “I feel it too.” His gaze softened, and against her will she felt him thrust deeper into the grey-matter of her skull. “I see…Han Solo.” A bitter sound fell from his lips before he could quell it. “The father figure you never had? He only would have disappointed you, take it from me.”

That was too much, and Rey had to close her eyes against his boring dark gaze. Hot fat tears continued to slide down her cheeks, soaking Kylo Ren’s glove. He did not retreat, one long thumb extending to wipe a crystalline drop away from her skin.

“He’s your father?”

“You didn’t know?”

She shook her head, fighting the insane urge to lean into his hand, feeling so alone. She never let anyone touch her. It never led to anything good on Jakku, and surely the same applied to the rest of the galaxy. “He was kind to me.”

“Show me the map, Rey, and I will be kind to you.” Such a honeyed promise that Rey surely knew better than to trust.

“No!”

Again she fought back, straining against his heavy presence like a cloud over her mind, pushing, pushing. Slowly she felt him recede, until that full mouth curled in a snarl and he rallied again.

“Get out of my head!”

Back and forth they went, Rey straining against her bonds, her breath heavy as little by little she pushed against this intruder in her thoughts. It felt a bit like tripping, when she slipped from her own skull and into his. Kylo Ren’s mind was a dark place, prickly and labyrinthine. She felt his anger. She felt his pain. Betrayed. It was a jagged word written upon every wall in the halls of his psyche.

Also, afraid.

“You’re afraid,” she ground out, surprised by her findings. She saw an altar, and upon it a mask anyone in the galaxy would recognize. A mask he venerated, but… “You’re afraid you’ll never be as powerful as Darth Vader.”

Kylo Ren recoiled as though she’d physically struck him, those soulful dark eyes wild with shock.

Much to Rey’s surprise, without another word he turned on his heel and fled the room.

Chapter Text

2.    An Offer

 

The girl had made a fool of him.

The canny little minx was a Force Sensitive, and no wonder he’d been able to follow her signature through the woods on Takodana like a shining beacon.

Drawn to the Light indeed.

She was Force Sensitive, she was untrained, and she’d kicked him out of her mind like hucking old bath water. Such a turn was inconceivable, yet here they were.

Show me the map, Rey, and I will be kind to you.

Really? Had he really said those words? Had he really thought they would work?

Had they been true?

Kylo Ren was no stranger to sentient lifeforms cowering in fear before him, but the girl’s tears had moved something he thought long dead in the scarred piece of flesh that was his heart.

He’d wanted to comfort her. He wanted to touch her, and this impulse was as dangerous as it was laughable.

Though the Knights of Ren were not forbidden passion, they were certainly not allowed romantic attachment that could usurp one’s loyalty to the First Order.

Why he felt so certain the latter could pose a problem in regards to the girl after not even an hour in her company was…worrisome.

Hux too made a fool of him, or tried to anyway, in their meeting with the Supreme Leader.

Kylo did not know where he found the courage to lie to his Master. There had only been the absolute certainty that if he did not, he would lose the girl. That he knew, and so with a silver tongue he wove the falsehood that the BB-8 droid had been destroyed in the raid on Takodana, and the scavenger was now their only link to the map that led to Luke Skywalker.

He’d saved her life, really.

She should thank him.

Somehow, he didn’t think that would be terribly forthcoming. The thought almost drew a semblance of a smile from the corners of his mouth, hidden behind his mask.

His fierce little scavenger, a desert rat from Jakku, a mere slip of a girl who defied the Master of the Knights of Ren and lived. Did she even know what she was? What she could be?

Surely not.

He could teach her, though.

He would teach her. She would become his apprentice, whether she liked it or not. 

This personal decree calmed him more than destroying a console full of electronics with his lightsaber had. The stench of scorched wires and molten steel hovered all around, and Kylo exited the room with swift strides and a new sense of purpose.

Long legs ate up the distance through the unending sterile hallways to the holding cells. Near Rey’s new quarters a single stormtrooper passed him along the way, muttering under his breath.  It was odd, yet Kylo cared little, laser-focused on his new directive. Only belatedly did Kylo realize that the stormtrooper had not been carrying his blaster.

This was driven home when he beheld the Scavenger scurrying down the hall in the opposite direction, said blaster in hand.

“Stop!” ordered Kylo Ren, reaching out with the Force to halt her progress.

She promptly turned and fired upon him.

This again?

Kylo immediately ignited his blade, ducking one bolt and deflecting another. It ricocheted dangerously down the corridor, sizzling too close to the Scavenger for comfort. Her green eyes went wide as she seemed to take offense to this.

The irony almost made him laugh, which was strange in of itself.

In the next few seconds he was upon her, knocking the blaster out of her hands. Rather than try to flee, she surprised him when she barreled towards him. Not wanting to skewer her upon his angry crimson blade left Kylo wide open, and she took full advantage by trying to kick him in a rather sensitive area. Luckily his thigh took the brunt of the blow.

Infuriated, Kylo disengaged his lightsaber and returned it to his belt, taking the troublesome girl in hand. He could have used the Force to subdue her once more, but the Knight took an almost savage pleasure in pinning her against the wall, her delicate wrists dwarfed in his massive hands above her head. The weight of his body against hers pushed the breath from her lungs, her moss-green eyes wide with fear and fury as she looked up at him.

In that moment he cursed the fact that he’d replaced his mask. As in the interrogation room when she’d called him a creature, he desperately wanted her to see him in that moment.

See me.

Know me.

Know that I am only a man, flesh and blood same as you.

Somehow, he doubted it would inspire the desired effect, but maybe she would stop trying to shoot at him.

How did you get out of your cell?” He poured all the annoyance he possessed into his tone, hiding the fact that he was in fact more than a little impressed.

“I asked nicely.”

Kylo spared a glance to the stormtrooper still diligently making his way down the hall, and believed she was telling the truth. This girl had power. Raw, untrained, but nevertheless. With his instruction she could be a force to be reckoned with.

She could be his equal.

Clearly feeling cheeky, she dared go on, “People respond to manners, you should try it sometime.” She squirmed, trying to push him away. But he was too heavy, too large, and for a moment Kylo had to close his eyes to regain his composure. She was slight and lithe beneath him, and if this went on much longer he was going to embarrass himself.

Perhaps it was a good thing he’d replaced his mask.

Twisting her arm behind her back, Kylo muscled her into the cell, shoving her unceremoniously towards the sinister metal chair before hitting the button to close the doors. “I’m not going into that thing again,” she declared savagely, moving to hide behind the contraption.

She was beautiful in that moment, teeth bared and ready to fight him to the ground all over again. Had he not been a man so accustomed to hiding his emotions, he might have rubbed the place above his heart to relieve some of this ache.

“Very well. I don’t need it to restrain you anyway.” With a sweep of his hand he lifted her from the ground, her arms and legs prostrate. Rey closed her eyes and waited for him to vent his anger by slamming her into the wall, or using her as a punching bag.

The blows did not come.

She opened one eye, to find him simply studying her. Or so she assumed, as far as she could tell while he wore that inscrutable mask.

“Not bad for an untrained desert rat. Do you even know what you are?” His words dripped condescension, and Rey gritted her teeth in response.

“What do you mean?”

“You have power, girl. I could teach you how to use it.”

Those lovely large eyes widened. “I don’t understand.”

“How do you explain the guard? You told him to release you, and he did. You think he was just feeling benevolent today?”

“Maybe.”

“He’ll be punished for abandoning his post, you know.”

Too quickly she answered, “It wasn’t his fault,” before realizing her mistake.

“Ah.” Though she couldn’t see his face, she felt certain Kylo Ren’s expression was smug. “I would make you an offer, Scavenger.”

“I don’t want anything from you.”

Ignoring her barb, he went on, “Give me the map, and I will teach you how to use the Force.”

“I thought the Force was just a myth until today.”

Thinking it might serve his negotiations, Kylo Ren made a show of gently lowering Rey to her feet. “As you can see it is quite real, to those who know how to wield it. Do we have a deal?”

He dared extend his gloved hand to the unpredictable Scavenger, as though to shake upon the proposition. For surely she saw there was no other option for her. This was the only path. She could choose him, or she could die.

Rey regarded the paw for a long moment before crossing her arms. “Take off your mask,” she demanded.

It was not the response he expected. “Why?”

“You can’t lie to me, if I can see your face.”

“Someone’s confident.”

“Isn’t that why you wear it?”

He could hardly believe her impertinence. “I wear it because I am a warrior, and it is part of my armor,” he insisted, not fathoming why he would deign to entertain her question. Despite this, he lifted his hand to undo the latch under his chin, the helm releasing with a sinister hiss as though it was an entity with life all its own. Again, he found himself baring his face to this woman, inviting her judgment.

Rey raised one skeptical eyebrow. “You wear it because you’re…” Rather than finish her sentence, she raised a hand in a circular gesture in the direction of his face.

Kylo Ren did not know what that meant.

“Because I’m…?” he prompted, suddenly ravenous to know.

To his delight, the girl turned red as the Rebel Starbird from the base of her neck all the way to her hairline. She realized that perhaps it was not in her best interest to tell Kylo Ren he had the soulful eyes of an artist, or a mouth that looked better suited to reciting poetry than spouting threats.

Lips that were made for kissing.

She certainly was not going to admit that she found him attractive.

“Never mind.”

 He took a slow step towards her, so that she had to crane her neck to look upon him. He moved with the grace of a predator, and even though she knew she was the prey she stubbornly stood her ground, her heart pounding in her chest.

“Please, finish your thought.”

“I’d rather not.”

She also knew better than to insult him. Maybe he wore the mask because of his large ears, the myriad of beauty marks, or that beak of a nose that should have been absurd but somehow suited him to perfection. It wasn’t a nerve she cared to tread on, if it existed at all. Somehow, she suspected the Master of the Knights of Ren had better things to worry about.

He looked down that patrician nose at her, dark eyes like blackhole suns.

Do you find me handsome, Scavenger?

Somehow, he too lacked the courage to say it. If the answer was no—he didn’t want to know.

“Very well. Then what of our deal?”

Rey pressed her lips, considering what he offered with an opportunist’s mind. Taking his offer would mean getting out of this cell. It would mean learning something about herself that she didn’t have the answers to. It could mean power—something she’d never had much of before.

As though to sweeten the deal, Kylo Ren went on, “Imagine, Scavenger. You’ll finally find a place where you belong.” His own heart called out for this very reason—the desire to have a companion that could understand him burned strong, and it was a heady thing. It made him careless, for the frown that suddenly overcame her fair features he immediately realized he pushed too far.

“I had a place where I belonged,” she spat, daring to poke a finger in the center of his very broad, very solid chest. “I had my friends, Han and Chewbacca and Finn and BB-8, and you took me from them. And I won’t betray them for you or your First Order or the Force or whatever else it is you think you can offer me.”

If Rey thought she had a temper, the fury that rose in Kylo Ren at her defiance—that she would dare mention Han Solo to him—filled the room with a dark cloud of dread. It was so palpable Rey could feel it on her skin, practically see it swirling through the room. Suddenly he seemed twice his true size, and she recoiled in fear. “Fine,” he snarled through gritted teeth. “Then you can rot here.”

In a whirl of dark cape Kylo Ren stalked from the cell, the whole block seeming to shake in his wake. 

Quivering in her boots, Rey was beginning to see a pattern in their encounters.

Chapter Text

3.    The Treacherous Snake

 

In all his rage Kylo Ren knew he would not be able to sleep. He punished himself in his personal training room instead, pushing himself through weights, cardio, and forms until his muscles quivered and his legs felt like jelly. He showered, scowled at the dinner a serving droid brought, and attempted to meditate.

His grandfather had precious little advice these days, and even less to say about the girl.

Did you really think she would come to you so easily?

That was his own inner voice chiding him. It was a litany he knew well.

Rejected by a desert rat. Not even she wants you.

It should not have hurt this way. He did not even know her. The logical parts of his brain insisted upon this, whilst his heart stormed like the R’iia of Jakku.

The problem was that he didn’t feel like they were strangers. From the moment he set eyes upon her it was as though his soul reached out in longing. You belong to me.

Was it because she was a Force Sensitive, that his wires crossed around this girl? Surely not. He’d never lost his head for anyone at the Jedi temple, so many years ago, and nor did the Knights of Ren affect him in any similar way.

She was just…

 With a snarl Kylo doubled down and attempted to empty his mind.

It didn’t work.

Kylo Ren sat for another restless hour, unable to focus, before giving up and retiring to his bed. Certain he would toss and turn restlessly for the duration of the frozen planet's night cycle, he resigned himself to staring at the ceiling.

Still, he thought of her. Her strength, her determination, and the cheeky way she'd dared defy him after her escape attempt. Her little finger poked in the depression of his pectorals. Her body between his and the wall, small and strong and ready to fight.

She belonged by his side. He would accept no other answer. He would let her stew a little in the confines of her cell for a few days, then see how she responded. If she refused him again...well. There were ways.

This was the promise to himself that finally allowed him to slip into slumber.

It did not last long.

An excruciating pain in his side woke him with a start, the covers flying as he rocketed up in bed. A scream caught in the back of his throat—a scream that was not his. As quickly as it began the pain faded away, but suddenly Kylo simply knew. He only paused long enough to throw on an undershirt, belt, and boots, before streaking out the door, lightsaber in hand.

Hux, the treacherous snake.

It could be none other. The general surely thought to get the information of the map and steal the glory before Kylo had the chance.

What few guards were on duty for the graveyard shift were surely surprised to see a half-dressed Kylo Ren sprinting through the halls of Starkiller Base. His long legs ate up the distance between him and the cell block where he'd left Rey. It felt as though it took an eternity to reach them, and with every step his ire doubled. He'd been incensed before, but it was nothing compared to the inferno that raged inside him now. His anger and his power coiled about him, making him strong.

He really would murder Hux, if he was too late to save her.

Two stormtroopers stood sentinel outside Rey’s cell. Kylo did not even break stride as he slew them both with one sweep of his lightsaber before entering. As he suspected, there was Hux standing over the Scavenger, his favorite torture droid at his side. Rey's tunic was open, her undershirt torn in two to reveal the skin beneath. Only the wrappings that bound her breasts preserved some modicum of modesty. Her leggings were also torn up the sides.

Kylo saw red.

"You would dare?" he bellowed, knocking the startled general into the wall with a sweep of his arm. Hux crumpled to the floor and did not move. Kylo hardly noticed, too busy driving his lightsaber down through the body of the torture droid, metal and wires hissing and sparking. Its spider-like arms tipped in its terrible implements slumped down to its side, and as he withdrew his blade it crumbled into a smoldering pile of mechanical parts.

Rey.”

It was the first time he used her actual name. Bloodied and haggard, hair askew and eyes wild, she recoiled from him in the confines of the metal chair. “No,” she whined, her voice raw from screaming. “Don’t touch me. You did this, don’t touch me!

His hand, which had been well on its way to cupping the side of her face, halted in its tracks.

I did this? How?” he scoffed, confused. His eyes swept the length of her body, assessing the damage done by the droid. She was cut and burned, and in some places even pierced by long barbs of metal. 

“You sent him,” she whimpered. “He told me.” Those green eyes rolled in the direction of the red-headed general, who still was not moving upon the floor.

“He lied,” Kylo insisted. “Rey, he lied.” He willed her to believe him, reaching out to touch her face. One eye was swelling, turning a deep shade of aubergine, and there was a trickle of blood at the corner of her full mouth. “I did not want this for you.”

If Hux was not yet dead, he soon would be, Kylo vowed to himself.

Rey closed her eyes, but let him smooth his palm along her hairline. “I want to go home,” she said softly.

I am your home.

He couldn’t bring himself to say it aloud, but he felt it to the marrow of his bones.

She was in a great deal of pain. He could feel it radiating from her, and it tore at his insides. Removing those barbs from the flesh above her ribs was going to hurt, and he didn’t want her to hurt anymore. Without another word he spread his large hand over her face, putting her into a Force Sleep that would lend a merciful oblivion.

What to do with her?

Take her to the medbay would be the most logical answer, but Kylo rebelled against it. He did not want to take her somewhere Hux could have access to her again. The red-head was not dead, to Kylo’s regret. He could feel his Force signature, faint but steady. Knocked out. For a good while, hopefully.

His eyes swept down her slight form once again. There was not a stitch of spare flesh upon her, lean from eking a living out of such a sparse land as the desert upon Jakku. Her hipbones jutted, and he could count every one of her ribs. It made him ache, and he was struck with the impulse to feed her.

First, he would have to heal her.

Kylo rebelled against the thought of anyone else on the base laying eyes upon her in this way, which only left one option. He would have to do it himself.

Force Healing was a Lightsider ability. One he was familiar with from his days at the Jedi academy, though not something he had ever particularly excelled at. It took too much patience, and too much compassion. But maybe just this once, just for her, he might be able to muster it?

He had to.

He decided to start small with one of the lesser abrasions, trying to remember his training as he gently placed his hand over the wound. Calm. Serenity. Light.  

Ha.

 Nothing happened, and he felt the urge to smash something. He’d been in the Dark for so long.

But again his gaze travelled over her broken form, covered in cuts and bruises, and his heart ached for this girl. This was not why he brought her here. This was not how this was supposed to go. He wanted…good things for her. To see her smile. To make her laugh. To feed her and make her strong. Perhaps selfishly, for he wanted these things for himself, but was it too much to ask?

These thoughts ignited the most unlikely little light of hope in his shadowed heart, and Kylo grasped onto that desperately, channeling it into his touch. He wanted her to be whole. He willed it so, and he could have wept with relief as the energy passed through his hands and her flesh began to knit together. Clinging to this tenuous connection to the Light with all his concentration, he worked quickly. His hands were large but sure, and one by one he removed the barbs that pierced through her skin and staunched the bleeding, pouring energy into Rey to convince her body to heal.

With the worst of her wounds tended, Kylo Ren scooped the Scavenger up into his arms for the second time in less than twenty-four hours and spirited her away to his chambers. He encountered very few sentries on patrol of the base, and no one dared question him on the way. 

Once safely ensconced back in his rooms, he was left again with the question of what to do with her?

Though her clothes were dirty and blood spattered, he still lay her down to rest upon his sleeper. After such a horrible night it was the least she deserved. Then he went about healing the rest of her abrasions, burns and cuts and scrapes that the torture droid had undoubtedly administered as painfully as possible. Rage reared again, but Kylo pushed it away for now, knowing he could not administer the necessary Lightsider ability of healing while channeling the Darkness that came so easily to him. He took his time, careful not to hurt her, and by the time he finished he was truly exhausted, drained of all his energy.

Once again, he stole a glance down at her newly healed body, and now that she was whole again his gut clenched in knots for the purity of her loveliness. He knew he should not ogle her yet he could not tear his eyes away. It was the thought that Hux had undoubtedly enjoyed this view in the same way, relishing her helplessness, that brought Kylo back to his senses. It might have been practical to change her into clean clothes, but he suspected she would feel violated enough as it was.

So badly, he wanted her to trust him.

He re-wrapped her tunic around her and covered her with the blanket, sparing one last glance over her from the doorway of his sleeping quarters. The sight of her in his bed inspired something savage within him, an almost primal glee that he knew should provoke caution, not the dark joy that danced through his heart and veins.

She would be trouble.

He shook his head at her prone form before retreating to his couch in the next room to finally rest.

Chapter Text

4. Always This Difficult

 

"I hate it when they fight."

Rey sat across from a small boy with a mop of dark hair and large ears. They were crammed in a small space. A closet, maybe. The sound of raised voices filled the air. A woman, fiery and righteous. A man, sarcastic and—he sounded uncannily like Han Solo.

"It will be all right," said Rey, trying to soothe him. "It's just an argument."

"It's always like this, when he comes home. Sometimes I wish he would just stay away.”

“You don’t really wish that.”

The boy shrugged narrow shoulders.

Rey could hardly make out any of the words in the ruckus, though one name stood out clear as a bell. “Who is Ben?”

“I’m Ben,” he said sulkily, looking down at the floor. “The Master says they fight because Father doesn't love me. He thinks I'm strange."

"He’s your father. Of course he loves you. "

The boy canted his head, fixing Rey with a very canny look for one so young. "How would you know? You never knew yours."

 

★★★

 

Rey bolted up right with a gasp, her mind a jumble.

She was not in a closet with a sad-eyed little boy.

Nor, however, did it seem she was in a First Order restraining chair.

In fact, she was swaddled in covers and sitting upon the softest sleeper she’d ever known. The blankets were black and grey. The room was dim, though in the shadows she could see it was not a cell. There were too many amenities. Tables, lamps, a chair, a closet.

This was someone’s bedroom.

Then she remembered the chaotic whirlwind that had been Kylo Ren’s rescue, the shriek of his lightsaber and the fury of his voice as he swept General Hux away as though the man was nothing but a paper doll in a wind storm.

Her heart skipped a beat as she dared wonder, was this Kylo Ren’s bed?   

She remembered her extensive injuries with a shudder, the bruises and cuts and punctures—miraculously she was not in pain. Had he drugged her? She looked down, peeling away the layers of her clothing to behold the skin beneath.

She bore no wounds. Not even scars.

Fear and wonder spiked through her system in equal measure. What had he done to her?

Slipping out of the bed, Rey tied back her tunic, covering herself to the best of her ability. The sides of her leggings flapped loosely all the way up to her thighs. She spared a peek and found that those cuts were also gone. Quietly she made her way into the next room, guiding herself with a hand upon the wall.

This room too was dim, a single recessed light in the wall providing a soft glow. It was larger than the other, open, and appeared to be a sitting room and a dining room combined. Her eyes trailed over the contours of the furniture, until they came to rest upon the couch with a start.

Kylo Ren’s long form sprawled atop the black leather seating, his feet hanging off the end of the armrest.

He was asleep.

Bare of his usual garb, dressed in only in a sleeveless undershirt and loose pants, he looked innocent in slumber, his oversized features relaxed, those burning eyes shut to the world. She could almost see the boy from her dream in this man when he was at rest, and it inspired a baffling ache in her heart. She wanted to coddle Kylo Ren, and she knew she well and truly was losing her mind.

This lasted until her gaze drifted to his bare arms, long and chiseled with muscle—definitely not a boy’s, and Rey felt a blush starting at the roots of her hair.

She couldn't stop herself from taking a step closer.

His eyes moved behind his eyelids, a line appearing upon his brow. He shifted, and a wave of dark hair fell over his face. Rey could not resist the urge to reach down and sweep it away gently, tucking it back behind his ear.

Not again.

Rey did not know if he said it aloud, or if the thought appeared in her head. Suddenly she was in his grasp, her wrist engulfed in one of his large hands, and his other hand encircling her throat. She let out a surprised gasp, and his eyes flew open. Immediately he lessened his hold upon her neck, though his grasp on her wrist remained firm.

“What were you thinking?” he scolded, the peace of the room shattered in his sudden wakefulness.

That I had to touch you.

She wouldn’t dare say it aloud.

“Sorry.”

In contrast to his harsh words he withdrew from her throat, his long fingers sliding lightly against her skin in a way that made her heart quicken. Kylo’s thumb stroked the inside of her wrist absently as he looked up at her, for once finding himself the one who had to crane his neck. His lips parted as though to say something, but instead he released her as though he'd been burned. "You're a mess,” he snapped. “There's a refresher through there, go clean yourself up."

The judgment in his tone stung, and she was glad to scurry away in the direction he indicated.

It seemed Kylo Ren was not a morning person.

Or—someone in his past had tried to hurt him in his sleep.

Rey found the room in question and made a small sound of wonder. It was large and sleek, decorated in shining shades of black and grey materials from all across the galaxy. She’d never seen anything like it outside of a holovid. But the thing that really inspired her awe was that the refresher used water. Creature of the desert that she was, this was the true height of luxury.

Rey partook, luxuriating in the warm water sluicing over her sore muscles. She didn't know how Kylo Ren had healed her so seamlessly without the help of a bacta tank, but it seemed her body still remembered some of the trauma.

She shuddered with revulsion at the memory of Hux leering down at her, demanding that she describe the section of the map she carried in her head. He'd taken such joy in her pain, laughing at her resistance and reveling in the victory as bit by bit he broke her down. He’d been so happy to tell her that her droid had been destroyed in the raid, drinking in her tears with greedy eyes.

A pang of grief squeezed her heart as she thought of the spunky little droid.

Poor BB.

She hoped the rest of her friends fared better. She was almost afraid to know.

When she had lingered in the warm waters of the refresher for as long as she possibly could, Rey shut off the valve and wrapped herself up in one of Kylo’s plush oversized towels. It was black, of course.

Just as she was wondering what to do about the pile of rags that had once been her clothing—could she repair them?—a sharp knock on the door made her jump. “There are fresh clothes for you outside the door,” came Kylo’s gruff voice from the other side. Her small murmur of thanks received no reply.

Rey waited a few moments to open the door, moving quickly to snatch up the neatly folded pile of garments, though Kylo was nowhere in sight. There was a pair of soft black leggings and a dark grey shirt of a similar material. No undergarments, though she honestly thought this to be a product of male oversight more than a gesture of lechery. She briefly considered using her bindings, which were quite filthy—and spattered in blood. Rejecting the idea, for it wasn’t like she had much in the chest area anyway, she pulled on the dark clothing.

Briefly she considered the toiletries lined up neatly upon the sink. Her hair was a rat’s nest after being towel-dried—did she dare use Kylo Ren’s hairbrush? She already smelled like his soap and shampoo, headily spiced and masculine concoctions that made her senses reel, and she decided she might as well.

With nothing left to do, Rey found herself trepidatious to set foot outside the private, steamy bolt hole of the refresher. Out there the real world awaited. Out there she was a prisoner of the First Order, in the personal care of Kylo Ren, and whether he’d saved her or not she didn’t exactly trust his intentions towards her.

She had to keep telling herself that, even if it seemed he was being kind. At least his terrible temper had a way of reminding her, when her own good sense did not.

Deciding it would be too mortifying to make the Master of the Knights of Ren drag her out of the ‘fresher kicking and screaming, she padded silently on bare feet out to the main living area. Kylo Ren was fully dressed now, minus his helmet, seated at the head of his dining table with a datapad in hand.

“Feel better?” he asked, not looking up.

“Yes.” She took a tentative step towards the chair at the opposite end of the table, until Kylo pointedly pulled out the seat at his right side, indicating with a nod where he wished for her to sit.

Rey paused, but in a small act of defiance took the seat she’d originally intended. It won her a lift of one dark eyebrow. “This is the thanks I get?” he asked, his tone surprisingly light.

Thank you. But let’s not forget I’m here because you kidnapped me,” parried Rey, folding her hands in her lap.

Kylo’s nostrils flared with a pained sigh. But rather than argue, he asked, “What do you like to eat for breakfast?”

The question took Rey wholly unawares. “Breakfast? I…I don’t know,” she honestly answered. 

“You don’t eat breakfast on Jakku?”

“All I ate was veg-meat and polystarch on Jakku. There was nothing else.”

A dark look overtook Kylo’s expression, though he said nothing, just stabbed at his datapad for several moments. A long silence ensued. Rey resisted the temptation to fidget, instead quietly taking in the fixtures of the room in the elevated light. It was all very sleek and masculine, dark surfaces and chrome accents. There was no view outside, and Rey wondered where exactly she’d been brought. 

“Are you in any pain from last night?”

The question startled her from her reverie. “No, not really,” she answered truthfully. “How did you manage that?”

The Knight of Ren looked unbearably smug as he lay his datapad to rest on the lacquered tabletop. “Through the Force all things are possible. It is but one of many things I could teach you.”

“I suppose it’s the first useful thing you’ve offered to teach me.”

This pulled a tick of a smile from the corner of that full mouth. "Interesting that you think learning to better defend yourself would not be useful. Under my tutelage you would need never fear a man like Armitage Hux ever again."

“And what about a man like you? "

“Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, Scavenger."

It took Rey a moment to realize this forbidding boogieman of the galaxy was teasing her. She actually had to suppress a smile, biting down on the inside of her cheek. It was too much and suddenly she felt incredibly overwhelmed. "Why me? Why are you so determined to teach me about the Force?"

Kylo thought of all the answers to that question. He could have told her how he'd felt her in the woods of Takodana. How she'd called to him with her very existence. How the moment he set eyes upon her he knew he would make her his. Though accurate, none of these facts would have swayed her to his side. He settled for another truth. "I sense a great and rare power in you, and it would be a shame to let it go to waste."

Rey looked down at her hands in her lap. "I won't betray my friends. I won't give you the map."

Kylo narrowed his eyes, if for anything, coveting such fierce loyalty for himself. "Forget about the map for now. That old fool Luke Skywalker is probably long dead anyway." Funny, how not even a day ago Kylo Ren thirsted for a long-delayed revenge against his nepoticidal uncle. Now it seemed a distant dream next to his desire to take this nobody desert rat from Jakku as his apprentice.

Rey too found it strange that he would be so willing to forget about the map. Cautiously she asked, “Do you know Skywalker?” Something in his tone suggested the answer was yes.

Kylo’s lip curled with contempt. "Too well." For the moment, it was all he was willing to say on the matter.

Their eyes met, and Rey felt an invisible force tugging at her, willing her to his side. Was he doing that? She wiped at her arms as though brushing a swarm of crawling insects away. "Stop that."

Before he could deny it there was a chime at the door, and not one but two serving droids entered the room laden with trays. With wide eyes Rey watched as they unburdened themselves upon the table, heavenly smells wafting from beneath the lids. Upon unveiling the feast the droids beep-booped the binary equivalent of bon appetit before rolling away.

“You did not need to order so much food,” insisted Rey, even as she could not tear her eyes away from the succulent feast, her mouth watering. Had she ever seen such a variety of dishes? Not even on market day in Niima, when the spiced smell of frying meat would drive her to distraction because she knew she couldn’t afford it.

There were pastries and eggs and toasted bread, flat cakes and cold cuts and some kind of little sausages, fruit preserves and real butter. Quite against her will Rey’s eyes filled with tears at the sight of so much food, and she held them wide in an effort to not to let the moisture fall.  

“I disagree,” said Kylo flatly, unfurling a napkin. “You are in sore need of a square meal, I think.”

Rey realized that he indeed had surely seen the sharp planes of her boney torso, bare to scrutinizing eyes. The thought made her wrap her arms around herself, her eyes averted. Kylo sensed this change in her emotions, her Force signature dipping into sadness and embarrassment. In a rare moment of empathy he regretted causing her such discomfort. “There’s no shame in it, Scavenger,” he tried to amend, his voice surprisingly gentle. “You’ve had a hard life. Now share a meal with me.”

Let me feed you. Let me care for you, when no one else would.

He was surely losing his mind.

Looking up, Rey met his earnest gaze and could hardly believe how her life had taken such a turn in just the past few days. She had gone from subsistence scavenging for portions to piloting the Millennium Falcon, meeting the Han Solo, and now she was sitting down to dine in a First Order facility with the legendary pilot’s son, the Master of the Knights of Ren. 

She could hardly fathom where she found the pluck to inform the latter, “I won’t be bribed with food, even if it smells heavenly.”

“Are you always this difficult?” he asked, lifting a bite of cold-cut meat to his lips. He did not smile at her, but there was a note in his voice, a certain sparkle in those space-black eyes.

He was amused, and it inspired her honesty.

“Yes.”

Chapter Text

5.    Groomed For Darkness

 

“Tell me about this,” said Kylo Ren after they finished their meal, producing the lightsaber from the grottoes of Maz Kanata’s castle and resting it on the table between them.

“I don’t know anything about it,” said Rey, which was mostly true.

“Where did you get it?”

“I found it.”

“Where?”

“On Takodana.”

Rey didn’t want to implicate Maz anymore than she had to. Yet another life Rey prayed to whatever galactic deity may have been listening, had been spared.

Where on Takodana?”

“It called to me.” The words left her mouth before she had the chance to bite down upon them. She suspected that somehow he was encouraging her to speak freely, and she doubled down concentrating on not revealing too much.

However, this tidbit seemed to catch Kylo’s attention like blood in the water to a firaxan shark.

“What do you mean?” His tone was deceptively gentle. She sensed something rippling beneath the surface of his emotions—was this man always so volatile? Deadly calm one moment then an erupting volcano the next?

She didn’t know what would be worse. Reveal how she’d found it, or risk his wrath with her silence. Either option seemed a trap she didn’t care to tread in.

“I don’t know,” she attempted to evade. “I’m a scavenger. I was looking around the castle and I found it in a dusty old trunk.”

Suddenly he stood, towering over Rey, and she found herself recoiling a little before gritting her teeth and standing her ground. He picked up the Jedi weapon and set it directly before her with a thunk.

“Does it call to you now?”

Not in the way it had before, though she still felt the irresistible urge to hold it in her hand. It was a kriffing lightsaber, after all!

“No.”

“Touch it.”

“No.”

“You were carrying it on your belt. Now you’re afraid to touch it?”

“You’re up to something.” She scooted out her chair with the intention of rising, but long fingers wrapped around her upper arm, preventing her retreat. He did not hurt her, but his hand was large and strong and she knew she wasn’t going anywhere.

“So are you. What aren’t you telling me?”

She felt that light pressure on her mind, and knew he was trying to probe her memories again. Irate, she slammed back against him in her head, actually causing him to flinch. “You are trying my patience, Scavenger,” he snarled, the calm façade of earlier cracking like a lava flow.

“It gave me a nightmare.”

This gave the Knight of Ren pause, and he canted his head curiously. Those soulful eyes drew upon her, and this time she didn’t think it was a trick of the Force. She feared it was simply him. He pulled at her like gravity in the most unexpected moments, and a part of her wanted to grab on and not let go.

She knew, thankfully, that would be a terrible idea.

“You’re full of surprises. What kind of nightmare?”

She had to look away then. “You,” she answered quietly. “I saw you, and your lightsaber, looming over me.” She didn’t have to tell him that he’d been terrifying. He felt it through the Force, and a part of him regretted it, if not only for her sake.

Kylo’s grip softened slightly on her arm. “You had a vision of the future.”

“I was falling.”

Lightly he touched her chin, turning her forest-green eyes back up to his. He too felt caught in her gravity, helpless to pursue any other path than what might bring her closer to him. “You did fall, Rey. Right into my arms.”

 

★★★

 

Suddenly Rey felt as though she couldn’t breathe, such a weight pressed down upon her chest. She didn’t know what to blame—be it the Force, destiny, or finally the tipping point of too much stress for her body to bear. She felt as though she stood at the edge of a precipice, and just the slightest touch could send her careening into the abyss.

She feared she wanted that abyss.

Kylo Ren began to lean closer when suddenly a terrible racket at erupted at his door, loud banging and an irate voice crackling over the com. “Open this door now, Kylo Ren, or I will blast it open!”

Both recognized the dulcet intonations of General Armitage Hux. Kylo’s expression sharpened to that of a wolf on the hunt. Spoiling for a fight, he strode towards the door with his hand upon his lightsaber.

For a moment Rey considered hiding in the back bedroom, but a stubborn impulse not to scurry away like a coward won out. She did stand from her seat, putting the heavy dining room table between her and the entrance of the apartments.

Opening the door revealed Hux, and he had not come alone, a contingent of stormtroopers flanking the irate general. Rey’s stomach felt as though it was filled with thrashing eels, but she stood her ground.

“No more games. I have come to collect the girl.”

“Games, General? I threw you into that wall with all sincerity,” deadpanned Kylo Ren.

Hux dared to stride into the room. His stormtroopers seemed reluctant to follow, no doubt having heard of their slain brethren from the night before. Rey couldn’t help but sympathize, thinking men like Finn could be stuffed inside those uniforms.

“Your assault upon my person aside, we have a direct order from the Supreme Leader to obtain information contained in that rebel scum’s skull!” Hux pointed an accusing finger at Rey, his eyes filled with hatred. Of its own accord, Rey’s hand reached out to touch the lightsaber upon the table. Maybe she had no idea how to use it, but she would not let Hux take her without a fight.

“I have that well in hand, Hux. The droid was destroyed. The Rebellion has no way of accessing the information themselves. Trust my methods.”

Hux cast eyes over the array of breakfast dishes cooling upon the table. “You intend to dine it out of her? Why not try flowers and jewelry while you’re at it. I see exactly what you’re up to—”

Suddenly Hux’s speech was cut short, Kylo Ren making a pinching gesture with his fingers. The General’s hands flew to his throat, clawing for air.  Then with a flick of Kylo’s wrist the General levitated off the floor, his boots six inches from the ground.

"I will do this my way, and by the time I'm done with her the Supreme Leader will be exceptionally pleased."

The confidence in this promise sent a chill down Rey’s spine. She didn’t know what exactly that meant, but she didn't like the sound of it one bit.

Then Kylo Ren turned his attention to her. Something had changed in him from earlier this morning. He felt dark, dangerous, and his voice came cloyingly sweet as he called in that deep voice, "Would you like to have your revenge, Rey? Would you like to take up that lightsaber that belonged to my grandfather, Darth Vader, and run it through this man's sniveling little heart?"

Hux's eyes widened with alarm, and he tried to shake his head. "You're mad," he gurgled, and Kylo’s lip curled cruelly.

The stormtroopers looked amongst themselves uneasily but made no move to help their General.

"Come," he invited again. “How many hours did this man cause you pain and enjoy it? Wouldn't you like to return the favor?"

Something pulled at her, wrapped her up with a beguiling warmth that slid over her skin and coiled within her belly. She would like to give this wicked man a taste of his own medicine, wouldn't she? Wasn’t it only fair? Yesss hissed something outside of herself, and Rey knew true fear.

This wasn't right.

This wasn't her.

She planted her feet, determined not to answer this dark invitation.

When she gave no reply Kylo dropped the general to the ground like a rag doll, leaving him to gasp and wheeze at his feet. "The girl is my apprentice now. You will treat her with proper respect. Touch her again, and I will end you."

Hux got to his feet in as dignified a manner as was possible, lifting his chin. "The Supreme Leader will hear of this."

"If you choose to bother him with such minutiae, be my guest."

General Hux turned on his heel and stalked out.

When Kylo Ren turned back to Rey with a triumphant gleam in his eyes, Rey gulped. His irises had taken on a red tinge, and she could see the cobalt tint of his veins beneath his skin. Ignoring her fear, or relishing it, he stalked across the room to her, his cape furling out behind him. "This is destiny, you and I. The Force has brought us together. You cannot deny it."

He strode to stand before her and she put up her hands to fend him off, certain he meant to grab her up. The moment her hand pressed upon his broad chest the crackling tension in the air seemed to deflate. The red in his eyes receded, his skin returning to its usual pale pallor.

With a sharp intake of breath he engulfed her hands in his own, holding them against his heart, his eyes wide with surprise.

"I never told you that I would be your apprentice."

Kylo looked down at her, the weight of worlds in those deep brown eyes. He thought of the lightsaber, a relic supposedly lost to the ages, and the vision it gave to Rey.

Grandfather.

He had been silent for some time, but finally Kylo Ren felt certain Darth Vader had sent him a sign. He had sent him Rey.

"You must."

His presence suddenly filled the room with an almost suffocating energy, and his tone was pure durasteel, insistent and unyielding. Gone was the sickly-sweet persuasion of earlier, his will pressing down like a heavy weight upon her mind. This was Kylo Ren in his purest form: a conqueror who expected to be obeyed. She would do well not to forget it. It dawned upon Rey, clear as day, the obvious fact written on the wall before her. Her fingers curled in his surcoat, gripping the fabric and wishing it was his throat. "You meant to keep me all along. Whether I gave you the map or not."

He did not answer, only lifted his chin imperiously.

“I won’t be your slave.”

“No. Not a slave. But everyone serves some master, Rey.”

“Like you serve the Supreme Leader? I’m not sure I see a difference.” She thought of what young Ben had said in her dream. That his master spoke to him in his head. Had the Supreme Leader been grooming Kylo Ren for darkness since he was a child? And did he think he could do the same to her? The contempt in her tone drew a furrow in Kylo Ren’s noble brow.

“You do not understand what you speak of. I will let it slide, for now.”

Restless, frantic inside, Rey withdrew from his grasp and went to stand across the room. He let her, though he glowered magnificently, immediately coveting the calming balm her touch brought upon him. For the briefest moment he knew true peace, for the first time in he didn't remember when.

Drawn to the Light.

If Darth Vader had chosen her, perhaps it was not the weakness he had supposed.

What are you up to, Grandfather?

He continued to weigh her with that piercing stare, and with a creeping fear Rey realized she had no choice. That if she did not acquire the skills that Kylo Ren offered her, she would never be able to escape him.

Even though she quivered inside, she lifted her chin, resigned to the means as an end. "Fine. When do we begin?"

Chapter Text

6.    Tears for a Monster

 

A different man might have seemed pleased by her acceptance. Kylo Ren only let out a long, pained sigh through his nostrils, as a man who had narrowly sidestepped some grave fate. 

“We begin now. Come.”

He held out his hand to her, craving her touch once more. Rey took a tentative step towards him but did not accept his hand. Pretending it did not sting to the marrow of his bones, Kylo Ren turned on his heel and headed for a different door Rey did not notice before. On quick feet she followed, not wanting to anger him by falling behind.

They found themselves in a smaller chamber, almost a closet. It was dimly lit, with recessed light panels in the walls. Rey paused at a brazier like an altar that displayed a half-melted helm, that even in its ruined form was distinguishable all across the galaxy. She recognized it from Kylo’s mind, only a day ago.

Darth Vader.

A chill ran down her spine.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Kylo softly. “He spoke to you, through his lightsaber. He chose you for me, Rey.”

Rey frowned at that assessment of events, but there was a note in Kylo’s tone that warned her to be cautious of this subject. He believed this to be the truth and would not be parted from it. Not at this moment, at any rate.

“Sit with me.” Kylo folded his long limbs with surprising ease into a cross-legged position upon a cushion. He procured another such seat for her, directly across from him.

“What are we doing?” she asked, mirroring his stance. He reached out to pull her cushion closer, so that her knees nearly brushed his. She resisted the temptation to adjust this distance, unnerved by his proximity, and the warm feeling it inspired within her core. No matter how he frightened her, she could not shake this primal attraction to him. It was baffling.

“I’m going to teach you to access the Force.”

He instructed her in the art of meditation, how to slow her breathing and open her senses to the large world around her. At first she thought his ramblings on this energy that connected everything insane, but then it was as though a curtain lifted, and she knew she could never regard the world in the same way again. It was as though she held the entire universe in her heart. She could feel every lifeform upon this base—it was huge, teeming with people scurrying about to do the First Order’s bidding, filled with sorrows and hopes and fears—and further, into the cold forest that covered the planet. She felt the towering trees, and the few fierce creatures that were hardy enough to survive on this frozen planet.

She could also feel the man sitting before her, his presence large and looming in the Force. With a scavenger’s curiosity she pushed forward, inquiring if he would allow her in. It was not like before in the interrogation room, when they had pushed and pulled at each other with a vicious tension. This time she was able to ease into Kylo Ren’s mind—she suspected that he let her. She could feel the heat of his anger, always present and simmering, ready to boil over at any given provocation. Under that, she felt the sea of his loneliness, vast as an ocean. It hurt her heart, and she recognized it well because she carried her own.

I don’t understand. You had family. A father. A mother. What happened?

On the surface it seemed he’d had everything she’d ever wanted, and she couldn’t fathom how it all could have gone so wrong.

She pushed further, combing through the shadowy corridors of Kylo Ren’s inner sanctum. In the distance, far far away, there was the faintest glow of light. Rey gravitated towards it, ever curious, but something stood in her way. There was something in his mind that did not seem made wholly from him. A stygian darkness took up a corner of his mind, a creeping wicked thing that spread its tendrils outwards into his psyche, attaching itself like a parasite, spreading its venom. Rey nudged at one of these tendrils, winning the thing’s notice. With a chorus like the hissing of snakes it reared up at her, and quickly she backpedaled before the thing could strike.

Rey came back to herself with a startled cry. She was not the only one who called out, and the bones of her wrist ached, gripped in Kylo Ren’s massive hand. There would be bruises, but the thought was secondary to what she’d just witnessed. “It’s eating you alive,” she rasped as she struggled for breath. “That thing.

“It makes me strong.” But his eyes were wild, and in that moment he did not sound so convinced.

“There is Light in you. I saw it.”

“As there is Darkness in you, Scavenger.”

A hot wetness streaked down Rey’s cheeks, and she realized she was crying. She half expected him to scoff at her tears, chide her for weakness or say something snide. Instead he reached out to wipe away a tear with a gloved thumb, staring at the quivering crystalline droplet upon his finger like it was a precious gem.

“Enough of this for now,” he finally spoke, shaking his head as though waking from a dream. Her wrist still caught in his gloved paw, he pulled her to her feet. It seemed he was reluctant to let go of her, and they stood nearly chest to chest. She should have pulled away, told him to unhand her, even if she didn’t have a prayer of unseating that viselike grip. But his solid hold upon her made the world stop spinning, like he was her anchor in a windstorm.

She was afraid.

There was no denying that, but also she was determined. She had that feeling that sometimes overcame her on a difficult salvage. A challenge to push through her hunger and the heat and whatever wreckage stood in her way, to find the most difficult piece of machinery that would bring the greatest reward. She’d seen the light in him, and Rey was determined to find it again.

“I think something more physical is in order.” Despite the intensity of his gaze, Rey was relieved there was no lechery in his tone.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m going to teach you how to fight.”

 

★★★

 

 

Tears for a monster.

Kylo Ren never thought he would live to see the day. It had taken every ounce of his hard-won self-control not to snatch her up into his arms. For who had ever taken the time to see him? Really see him? Not his own mother, or father, or uncle Luke.

She’d been frightened by what she saw, but it was not enough to make her retreat. No, he’d seen determination in her eyes, and he wondered if he should be cautious of such foolhardy zeal. He was not the one who needed re-moulding, after all. It was too late for that.

“I already know how to fight,” she’d said, once he led her through another door to his personal training room. “A little. With the quarterstaff.”

Kylo Ren just barely managed to suppress a smile, the corner of his full mouth quirking slightly.

“Indeed? Let’s see it then, Scavenger.”

 

★★★

 

Rey found herself standing across from Kylo Ren with the familiar weight of a quarterstaff in her hand. It was her favorite weapon by far. Had been her constant companion on Jakku. Had saved her from numerous indignities from predatory locals and rowdy Spacers in Niima Outpost.

Kylo Ren, however, looked down at her curiously, as though he didn’t quite believe her claim that she knew how to use it. Her eyes followed him as he removed his cape, hanging it on a hook alongside a myriad of various weapons mounted on the walls.

“Alright, Scavenger. Try to hit me.”

At first she was surprisingly reluctant. Something about having just been in his head, having seen the chiaroscuro values of light and dark that made this man who he was, left her feeling…attached? Perhaps not. Compassionate. That was closer, but still not entirely right. She’d sensed that he’d been hurt by many people throughout his life, and she found she didn’t really want to be yet another one of them.

She just stood there weighing him, and it won her a roll of those expressive dark eyes. “Well, this is impressive.”

Funny, how once he opened his mouth she wanted to hit him.

Rey swung and the match was on.

She reveled in the tap tap tap of their staffs, almost as if it were more a choreographed dance than an altercation. It felt so good to have something familiar in her hands after the whirlwind of strange trials she’d been whisked through the past few days. She kept on the offensive but somehow it seemed that Kylo anticipated her every move, deflecting her effortlessly. She tried to trip him, but suddenly he had that massive arm around her throat, pinning her back against his body with the haft of his staff.

“Not bad.” She could feel the rise and fall of his chest behind her. For a moment she fancied she could even sense the quickened beating of his heart. “Now open yourself to the Force, Rey, like earlier in the meditation room.”

“Let go of me.”

She squirmed against him. He wasn’t hurting her, but their proximity awakened something uncomfortable inside. His muscled form behind her had absolutely no give, and it made her feel weak.

“Make me. Close your eyes, Rey, and let it flow through you.”

She tried, but all she could feel was him. A tower of warmth and strength behind her, and a part of her wanted nothing more than to turn in his arms and climb him like a tree. As soon as she thought it his hold seemed to loosen upon her, and she managed to twist away.

His nostrils flared as he drew in a deep breath, regarding her with narrowed eyes across too little space. He seemed annoyed, and something else Rey didn’t exactly care to name. It was too dangerous. She shouldn’t even allow herself to have such thoughts, and she cursed her baser instincts for the traitors they were. Maybe if she wasn’t so lonely, and if it hadn’t been so long since she’d been touched by another human being…

Realizing she’d drifted in her thoughts again, Rey bared her teeth in a snarl and attacked again.

“Use the Force,” Kylo urged as he fended off the rain of blows from both ends of her staff.

Rey didn’t understand exactly how she did it, but it was like flipping a switch, or connecting a wire that was the last repair needed to bring a reactor to life. That immense energy she’d sensed before filled her like a cup and spilled outwards, connecting her to everything. Suddenly she knew Kylo’s next moves too. She knew how he would block and where he would step and it was almost like she acted outside of herself as she swung her staff through the opening in time, space, and his guard.

A dark curl of triumph roiled within her as the end of her heavy wooden pole connected with his cheek. It all seemed to happen in slow motion for Rey. The impact whipped his head sideways—blood spattered in a slow arc from his mouth to the floor. He fell back, his large form hitting the mat with a thunk.

At the sight of him prone and bleeding that wisp of darkness in Rey blew away like smoke. Immediately she felt terrible, certain she’d hurt him beyond the parameters of the game they were playing. “Oh!” she cried out, rushing to his side.

Suddenly his hand was on her throat and she found herself airborne, tossed onto her back and Kylo’s intimidating form looming over her. “Never show compassion for an opponent during a battle,” he scolded. His hand remained on her throat, though his grip became lighter, almost a caress. Rey had to swallow an ill-timed sigh.

“Are you all right?” she asked, all but ignoring his admonition as she lifted a hand to touch the bloodied corner of his mouth.

The question seemed to poleaxe him completely, the Knight of Ren staring down at her with a feral gleam, his gaze travelling a circuit between her eyes and her mouth. However the moment passed quickly as he sneered, “Of course I’m all right. We’re fighting with sticks.” He shook his head as though clearing it of fog and pushed to his feet, offering Rey a hand up. Against her better judgement she took it, and his grip upon her lingered a moment longer than it had to before he took back up his staff.

Again,” he demanded, and so began the next round.

 

★★★

 

 

After taking her turn in the refresher Rey lay down upon the soft leather couch and immediately fell asleep.

She didn’t mean to.

But after just half a day of martial-arts training with the unrelenting Kylo Ren, she’d never been so exhausted. Considering the life she’d led before this particular turn, that was considerable.

She’d done well. He had not heaped her with praise, but she could tell that she surprised him on more than one occasion. She nearly took his head off more than once, which was extremely gratifying. He did not punish her for it, but she could tell he would not go easy on her.

That was good, she reminded herself. Because she needed to learn to fight as well as he did, if she ever hoped to escape this place. That was her goal, and she could not let herself forget it.

 

★★★

 

When the evening meal arrived via serving droid the girl did not stir, and Kylo Ren found himself reluctant to wake her. She’d done well that day, though she had much to learn. It was so easy to watch her in rest, her youthful features peaceful in her slumber, those fierce green eyes closed to the world.

During their sparring session he’d realized he made a gross miscalculation in providing her wardrobe. Her sweat soaked shirt had clung to her every curve, leaving nothing to the imagination, including the fact that she’d not been provided with undergarments that morning.

In his distraction she’d nearly taken his head off.

He’d made arrangements for an assortment of practical clothing to be delivered the next day.

In the end he decided she needed to replenish her energy stores. He touched her shoulder gently, and even through his gloves the intoxicating thrill of that small contact coursed through his bones. Whatever this was between them, he feared it could only mean one of two things: his salvation, or the very death of him.

“Come eat, Scavenger,” he said in that low baritone. “Your body will thank you for it later.”

No doubt caused by the smell of hot food in her nostrils, when those moss green eyes fluttered open she actually smiled for a moment, before she remembered where she lay and who woke her. That dazzling 500-watt grin powered down considerably, and Kylo knew an unbearable ache in his chest, bereft for the loss of it.

He really was losing his mind.

 

 

★★★

 

For the second time that day Rey felt full almost to the point of pain.

It was somehow lovely and shameful all at once. She couldn’t keep doing this, but her host tempted her with such an array of succulent dishes, an opulent feast that she knew couldn’t be his usual nightly fare.

She knew because she’d gotten quite an eyeful of him earlier that day, when he’d removed his cape and surcoat for better movement in their practice. Perhaps it hadn’t been a proper eyeful—no actual skin had been bared—but the shape of him would forever remain burned in her mind. He was 1.9 meters of pure muscle, long limbs and a lean core, and yet he moved so gracefully through the footwork of combat—and somehow she’d held her own against him.

After dinner Kylo Ren flipped through his datapad with a frown of concentration. “Can you read, Scavenger?”

Insulted to her toes, Rey hissed, “Of course I can read!”

Nonplussed by her ire, Kylo rose to hand her the datapad. “Excellent. Then I expect you to complete this tonight, before you retire.” Rey glanced at the text, and immediately discerned it would be dense-going, at best.

All of it?The document was pages long, and she was exhausted.

“Yes, all of it. You have a lot to learn.”

She scanned it again. “These are Jedi writings.” It was the last thing she expected to be fed by Kylo Ren.

“Yes, some of it.”

“You hate the Jedi.”

“As will you, when you reach a full understanding of things. But this is a good treatise of the basics. A textbook, as it were, for beginning padawans. You know so little, I fear it is necessary.”

Rey ignored the last snide comment. It wasn’t her fault she didn’t know anything. “Did you read this when you began to learn?”

His expression remained pure stone as he answered, “Yes.”

Rey tried to picture it. A young, perhaps awkward boy, all lanky limbs and protruding ears, bending over his reading. The picture she found in her mind was endearing, if not hard to reconcile with the forbidding tower of a man who stood before her. Kylo felt the projection of her amusement through the connection they shared, and narrowed his eyes down at her.

For some reason—maybe she had a death wish?—this only made her grin.

Shaking his head, Kylo retreated into his bedroom with a swirl of black cape. “Cheeky girl,” she heard him grumble under his breath, though the warmth she received with it belied his presentation of ire.

With some relief, Rey supposed that settled the sleeping arrangements. Kylo Ren was certainly too long of limb to spend another night on the couch, but…there had been a part of her that had wondered if he would ask her to share that large soft bed with him. She was not completely ignorant in the ways of the world, and his heated looks throughout the day had not escaped her notice.

Don’t be afraid, I feel it too.

She did feel it. She wished she didn’t, but as soon as his door shut the room felt sadly empty.

Gathering the datapad and a blanket to decamp to the sofa, Rey told herself that the sensation she felt in the pit of her stomach was not disappointment.

Chapter Text

7.    Bound

 

At breakfast the next day Kylo Ren’s mood hung over the table like a dark cloud. It was only as the meal was nearly finished that he finally spoke, drumming those long fingers upon the table. “What was his name?”

“Who?” asked Rey cautiously.

“That fat Crolute who kept you a slave for portions on Jakku.”

This was not the direction Rey expected the conversation to go. “Unkar Plutt? How—”

“I saw it. I saw you. In a dream. He refused to give you a fair price for your bag of scrap.” Then his voice dropped an octave, grating with anger. She felt it prickle across her skin like a sandstorm. She felt it inside her. “He propositioned you. He always paid you less than the others trying to wear you down, but you never gave in.”

“No.” Even clawing hunger had been better than the thought of becoming that sort of slave to Plutt.

Somehow, Kylo’s expression darkened even more. “I’ll kill him.”

Surprised that he would make such a heartfelt if not terrible declaration for her, Rey raised an eyebrow.  "Someone just like him will take his place."

“That someone will not be someone who tried to hurt you, though. "

Rey knew it was wrong, but his words moved her. No one had ever cared one way or another about her before.

That's not true, she reminded herself. Han cared. Finn cared. She couldn't forget them. It was scary how easy it could be to forget here, where she was fed and sheltered and Kylo Ren was actually almost kind to her.

"Have you been having dreams of me, Scavenger?" His tone was deceptively gentle, and through the Force Rey felt a tendril of dread. She realized he feared what she might have seen of him, of his past.

She might have tried to lie to him once, but in that moment she knew better. What would be worse? That she had beheld a scene of sin, or of happiness that could never be recovered? It was the latter that filled her dreams the night before. “Yes.”

The Knight of Ren bowed his head, resigned. "And what did you see of my life?"

“I saw you when you were just a boy. Your father was teaching you to pilot the Falcon. Your mother was there too. You all were so happy."

That full mouth pressed in a hard line. "A rare occurrence."

Rey thought back on their faces, the handsome smuggler Han Solo, his beautiful Princess Leia, and the mop-haired boy that would someday become Kylo Ren. In that frozen moment of time, they had practically glowed with affection, and amidst the heartbreak Rey also knew envy.

“They loved you.”

Kylo scoffed, clenching his fists.  "Then why were they never there? And why did they send me away to that madman, Skywalkwer?" He was not asking her. Not really. There were no good answers to such painful questions. Why had Rey’s parents left her on Jakku? She feared she would never know.

"Skywalker was your teacher?"

Kylo sneered. "Foolish old Jedi. It took me too long to realize he had nothing of use to teach me."

Rey dared press, "What happened?"

Kylo, however, held up his large hand in a staying gesture. He knew if he went down this road there would be no salvaging the day. Already he felt the tendrils of the past tugging at his mood, threatening to drag him down.

He would be stuck in a black spiral, and he found he didn't want that with Rey. He wanted to enjoy a day of teaching her.

He wanted her light.  

“Soon you will understand,” he promised her. “And when that day comes, you will give me the map to Skywalker freely.”

Rey couldn’t fathom how it could be true, but he spoke with such earnest belief that she also could not bring herself to contradict him. There was so much she did not understand. "Why is this happening?" she asked, unable to hide the desperation in her tone. "Why are we sharing memories in our dreams?"

"I don't know," Kylo answered with a note of bewilderment, and Rey believed he told the truth. "We are bound, somehow." He dared not ask his Master yet, unwilling to risk the tentative dynamic of comradery that had grown between them after her rescue. Snoke would kill it or corrupt it, as he did all things.

As Snoke had done to him.

"Bound?" She was not proud of the hint of hysteria in the word.

"I have felt it since the forest on Takodana. This pull.  And in your company...it grows. You change me, Scavenger. There has not been a day since the night I…fled Skywalker’s care that I have not wanted to burn the galaxy to the ground. Yet this morning, the only man I wish to end is a man who hurt you. What do you make of that?"

Shaking her head, Rey’s heart did a somersault in her chest, her grip white-knuckled upon the arms of her chair. Like in the forest, she felt the need to jump up and run. To flee and not look back.

What would it take for you to let me go?

A useless question. She knew it to the marrow of her bones. Kylo Ren had no intention of letting her go.

 

★★★

 

“It’s just so…vicious,” complained Rey of a particularly underhanded maneuver that involved breaking an opponent’s arm in two places.

“I want you to be vicious,” growled Kylo Ren, frustrated by her reluctance. The day before she had made such a promising student. Now, she was all hesitance, about everything he tried to show her.

He could not stop thinking about his vision of that fat fuck Unkar Plutt and the way he’d dared leer at Rey. “That’s my girl,” Plutt had said to Rey, every time she brought in a load of parts. It made Kylo grind his teeth, and made him determined to arm Rey with the tools that would prevent anyone from even thinking of speaking to her that way again.

Rey was his girl.

The Force had decreed it so, he felt ever more certain with every passing moment.

Biting back his rage, for it was not Rey who deserved to be punished, he added, “So that no one hurts you ever again.”

The heart of her complaint aired in a voice barely louder than a whisper. “But I don’t want to hurt anyone.” She didn’t want to be made in his mould. She didn’t want to become him. She could not stop thinking about what he’d said about this bond.

You change me.

Would it have the same effect upon her? Would she become quick to anger, tempestuous, blood thirsty, cruel? As much as she wanted to escape, she wasn’t sure she was willing to pay that high of a price.

“That’s a fine sentiment to have, in a world where there are plenty of people who want to hurt you. Did you ever hesitate to defend yourself in the desert?”

“Of course not.” He quirked one dark eyebrow, as though to ask then why would you do so here? “That was…that was survival.

Kylo Ren canted his head, looking down upon her as though she’d grown another arm. “If that is what you require…come.”

He nearly held out his hand to her but thought better of the gesture. It hurt too much when she refused to take it, like a vibroblade between the ribs. This girl had power to tear him to pieces, and he should have been more reluctant than he was.

“Where are we going?” she asked, trailing along after him out of the practice room. She tried not to admire the breadth of his shoulders, or the musculature of his pale arms bare to her view in his sleeveless shirt.

He was beautiful.

Why did he have to be so kriffing beautiful?

“We’re going outside.”

This was the most interesting thing he’d said all day. Rey couldn’t help but fantasize about an opportunity arising for escape. If she could render Kylo unconscious, sneak past the Stormtroopers, and steal a TIE awaiting in a hangar…

“You’ll want this,” he said, tossing a coat from the closet her way. She only managed to catch it after it hit her in the face. “And these.” Boots followed, tumbling to a stop before her.

“Whose clothes are these?” she asked, curious where he’d procured her new wardrobe. Several new garments had arrived neatly folded in a trunk that morning.

“You’re not the only woman on the base,” he answered simply.

“You ordered them to give up their clothes?”

“Would you prefer to go about in the blood-stained rags you came here in?”

“Not particularly.”

“Good, because I’m fairly certain the housekeeping droids relegated them to be incinerated.”

Rey’s heart fell at hearing that. Threadbare linen they had been, but they at least had been hers.

She finished dressing before he did, and was left free to watch him don his cloak, the fabric swirling about his broad shoulders. Was it just her imagination, or was he less imposing without it? Much to her surprise, he forwent the mask, instead gesturing again for her to follow him out the door.

As they traversed the corridors of the First Order base Rey struggled to memorize the way, but it all looked the kriffing same. Then she decided to try a different tactic. She reached out with the Force, attempting to feel her location on the base, trying to make note of different signatures as landmarks. She began to make a map in her head, knowing that she would need it someday if she ever hoped to get out of here. There was an underlying energy to this place that gave Rey the creeps. Something wicked, and Rey knew she couldn’t get out of there too soon.

The energy of her travails in the Force caused Kylo Ren to pause in his tracks, peering down at his apprentice with suspicion.

What are you doing?”

“Just…looking around.”

Dark eyes narrowed, but he made no further comment, continuing to stomp ahead in those heavy leather boots.

“Why do they call this place Starkiller?” she asked, peeking into a room as the door slid open and closed, briefly revealing several First Order personal in front of computer monitors.

Kylo Ren sighed, from frustration with her incessant questioning, or some other reason, Rey could not tell. “You’ll know soon enough, Scavenger.”

“That sounds ominous.”

“Because it is.” His tone contained nothing, the Knight of Ren clamping down on his emotions, but Rey picked up the faintest waft of sadness through their bond. 

After passing through a heavy blast door they were soon outside, tromping through snow towards the dark forest. Rey quickly decided this was not exactly a pleasant sojourn outdoors for the girl who grew up on a desert planet. In places the snow drifts reached as high as Rey's knees.

To her irritation, this did not slow down Kylo Ren with his annoyingly long legs one bit.

“Keep up, Scavenger.”

At passing a fist sized stone, she briefly considered picking up said rock and throwing it at him.

“Not your best idea of the day.”

Even more vexed that he read her intentions, Rey shoved her hands deeper in her pockets and pressed on, stepping in the depressions Kylo’s massive feet left in the snow.  The forest was beautiful in a primal way, the trees towering all around. Rey was not used to not being able to see for miles around.

 Within ten minutes her teeth were chattering, despite her borrowed coat, gloves, and boots.

"Where are we going?" she groused. "I can't feel my toes."

Kylo Ren spared her a glance over his shoulder, his cape billowing out behind him in a gust of wind. His usually pale cheeks were pink with cold, and she wondered why he hadn’t worn his helm for protection from the wind. "We're almost there."

Almost there apparently entailed a long climb up a steep rock face. Rey looked at the wall of craggy stone with trepidation. She was used to climbing great heights, but not while she was so cold she couldn’t feel the tips of her fingers. What she could feel of her hands throbbed, needles of pain shooting under her skin.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“If you can make a map of the base with the Force, my apprentice, I believe you can use it to scale a wall.”

So, she had not fooled him one bit.

How?” She knew she was whining, but she had never been this cold in her life.

He moved to stand directly before her, so that she had to crane her neck to look up at him. “Close your eyes.”

Suddenly she was reluctant to do so. This felt too intimate, somehow.

Forbidden.

Alone, in the dark wood with this ominous man, his hungry eyes upon her. It was like a fairytale she’d heard one of the travelling bards tell in Niima Outpost. She couldn’t remember the ending. Did the girl make it out alive in the end?

“Close your eyes, Rey.” He said it softer this time, and she felt the nudge of persuasion through the Force, through their bond. At least she was beginning to recognize when he used his powers against her. With a reluctant sigh she did as he asked, and his dulcet baritone went on, “Open yourself to the Force, just like before. Feel it all around. Feel it in you. Let it make you strong. Let it guide you as you climb.”

“What if I fall?”

“I’ll catch you.”

For some reason this simple promise clenched her heart like a fist. Her eyes flew open to find him staring down at her, though his stoic expression betrayed nothing. Only his eyes, those expressive orbs, betrayed that something profound moved the wine-dark waters inside this man.  

“Fine.” Only the slightest quaver in her tone betrayed the way he moved her. She didn’t want him to know. She didn’t want him to know any of it, because he would only use it against her.

Rey did as he said, and found that opening herself to this mysterious lifeforce did make her feel lighter as she climbed, guiding her handholds, making her fingers sure. Kylo waited until he was certain she’d found her stride before following behind her.

Despite how high they’d climbed, they still couldn’t quite see over the tops of the trees that grew below. It reminded Kylo Ren of the Ewok villages of Endor—a warm village welcome, playing with the baby Ewoks, braids and flowers in his mother’s hair—but that was a bittersweet memory he kept to himself. He’d had enough of remembering the better times of his youth that day. They carved at his heart like a dull knife, and there was only so much he could bear.

Master and Apprentice—though she refused to use the title out loud thus far, and what a kind teacher he was not to make her—stood side by side upon the precipice, the gaping mouth of a cave behind them. Rey no longer peppered him with questions, catching her breath after the climb, and perhaps even content with the view.

“To master the Force is to hold life and death in your own hands. You saw what I did to Hux yesterday. I could have crushed his windpipe with a clench of my fist.”

He raised said massive fist, as though imagining doing just that. The thought seemed to bring him pleasure.

“That’s a Darksider ability,” said Rey, not relishing the thought of doing that to someone one bit.

“Ah, so you did do your reading last night.”

“It was…interesting.” She’d fallen asleep with the datapad on her chest, but she hadn’t been able to put it down until utter exhaustion claimed her.

“So, you’ve already decided you’re too good for Darksider tricks?”

She wasn’t.

That was the thing that scared her. How slippery a slope would that path prove, once truly set down upon? 

“I already told you. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“Except if they’re trying to hurt you.”

“I suppose.”

“Good. Then forget the old titles. Darksider. Lightsider. They’re just words put down to paper by men and women whose bones have long joined the Force.”

Rey wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by that.

Kylo Ren sat down on a rock, arranging his long limbs in a way that suggested he was waiting for something. The bond tugged at Rey, beckoning for her to take the seat beside him. Press her side against his, and drink in his warmth.

Fighting it, Rey crossed her arms against the cold. “You don’t think those men and women were wiser than us? Or more experienced, at least?”

One broad shoulder lifted in a shrug. “What does wisdom written a thousand years ago have to do with our time, Rey?”

“Some things never change, I suppose.”

He leveled a long searching look upon her that made her feel bare, and with inexplicable heat licking at her throat she turned her back upon him.

“What are we doing up here?” she demanded, her words sharper than perhaps the situation warranted.

“You’ll see.”

As if on cue, there was a chuffing growl in the distance, emanating from the other side of the outcrop upon which they stood. Rey threw a wide-eyed look over her shoulder, a flutter of fear in her belly. “What was that?”

Kylo appeared nonplussed. “Your lesson for the day, apprentice.”

Chapter Text

8. The Way of the Galaxy

 

The growl came again, only louder this time. Much louder.

“Kylo?” She could not hide the alarm in her tone.

“Don’t panic.” He seemed entirely too calm for what sounded like it was on the other side of those boulders, not but five meters away. “You can do this.”

“Do what?” she snarled.

“Save yourself.”

“I don’t have a weapon.”

“You are a weapon.”

Then the beast rounded the corner with a mighty roar, and Rey’s heart stopped in her chest. It had to have weighed a ton, maybe more, and was a lumbering mass of fur, muscle, and teeth. “What is that?!”

“It’s an ursabor. More importantly, what are you going to do about it?”

It clawed at the rock shelf upon which they stood, leaving deep gouges in the hard granite.

“I think I’d like to run.”

Kylo looked around, pursing his lips. “Where?”

“Kylo!”

The ursabor roared again, so loud that Rey’s ears rang. It had two rows of razor-sharp teeth, and three eyes upon a bony forehead, all of which were trained upon Rey.

“You have to reach out, Rey. You have to stop it, or it will eat us alive.”

“This isn’t fair! I’ve never done anything like this before!”

“Use your fear to fuel your power.” How did he sound so kriffing calm?

The ursabor chuffed and grumbled and crouched to spring. In desperation Rey extended her hands, reaching out with this thing that lived inside her, willing it to stop. The beast struggled, moving a few centimeters, but somehow it worked.

Stars help me,” she whispered under her breath, concentrating with all her might. This animal was huge, and she grappled with it through the force as it tried to break free from her hold. And if it managed to do that…it would eat them. She had no doubt. “I’m going to lose it!”

“Then you’d better disable it.”

How?

“Reach deeper. Feel the systems that power its life. Veins. Organs. It has three hearts. Do you see that?”

She closed her eyes, probing with the Force, finding a map of the beast like she had of Starkiller Base. “Yes,” she whimpered.

“You’ll only have to crush one of them.”

Rey threw a panicked look over her shoulder at her teacher, and the ursabor broke partly free, moving towards them half a meter. She screamed, clenching her fist, and the animal stopped its progress. It whimpered like it was in pain, and Rey’s vision swam with unshed tears. She didn’t want to do this.

Then there was a smaller mewling growl around the corner of the rocky shelf. Two younglings ambled around behind the full-grown ursabor, fuzzy and wide-eyed, looking upon Rey with fear. One made a high-pitched whine, hiding behind what could only be its mother.

  “I hate you,” Rey sobbed, daring to steal a glance back at her mentor. He seemed as surprised as she was to see the ursabor cubs.

“Good, you can use that too,” he muttered, urging her on. “You can’t hold her any longer, Rey. Finish it.”

Rey’s anger swirled inside her, opening a door in her heart that filled her limbs with a cloyingly dark strength. She could feel the beast’s every vein now. Every artery, every organ. Hearts, lungs, and all the rest. She could sense the points in which the flesh was weakest, and knew she could rend them should she decide where to push.

She didn’t want to do this.

This truth cut through the rage and fear that tinted her vision red at the edges.

She wished she could make this fierce but innocent beast simply go away.

As though responding to the thought, the ursabor began levitating in the air. Rey gasped at the sight, amazed. And then the idea overtook her. The certainty that she could end this without bloodshed. She continued to levitate the beast, and pushed it away. Away, away, over the precipice and towards the woods, through the trees until she could not see it anymore. She closed her eyes and sent it as far as she could, doing her best to lower it to the ground. The effort brought her to her knees.

The fur-covered younglings watched this inexplicable feat with wide orange eyes, and with plaintive bawling scrambled in the opposite direction to follow their mother, leaving Rey and Kylo Ren alone on the rocky outcropping.

Unable to hold herself up, Rey collapsed onto the ground with a sob.

“Impressive, Scavenger. Not what I had in mind, but impressive.”

He dared to kneel down and place a hand upon her back, his large paw spanning her shoulder blades.  At his seemingly casual touch her anger returned, imbuing her limbs with renewed strength. She struck out, slapping Kylo across the cheek. “How dare you!” she hissed. “You would have left those cubs orphans, just to teach me a lesson?”

Kylo adjusted his jaw with a dangerous glint in his dark eyes, though he did not strike her back. “I didn’t know about the cubs. I just knew about the ursabor because it had eaten some of our workers when we were constructing the base.”

“As they well deserved. You invaded its habitat. But then, you First Order types don’t see the problem in that, do you?”

“It’s the true way of the galaxy, Rey. Something you Rebels just can’t seem to grasp. Nothing’s fair, and power takes all.”

Again she felt that intoxicating surge of anger within her, and she struck out again. Kylo was ready for it this time. This first punch, at least. The second caught him by surprise, as did her knee to the solar plexus. All this went on dangerously close to the cliff’s edge, and a gust of howling wind was all it took to push them over the brink. Rey felt herself falling, flailing for something to hold on to.

A strong arm fastened about her waist, and they hit the side of the rockface with a painful thunk. Kylo Ren held on to a crevice with one hand, his body straining to hold them aloft.

I’ll catch you.

He very easily could have let her fall, but for some reason he’d held true to his word.

“Well done!” he snarled. “Can you grab ahold of the rocks?”

Biting down on the scathing remarks she still wanted to fling at him, Rey focused on survival, looking for a handhold. She found one, and a place for her foot. “I’ve got it,” she grumbled. She tried to use the Force to help her climb, as she had going up. It was harder this time. She was so tired.

“Climb down. I’ll follow.”

She did so, finding it easier this time to find the right handholds, even if her arms shook with the effort not to let go of the rocks. When at last she set foot on the ground Kylo Ren was only half way descended.

He peered down at her, and in a brief but loaded moment of eye contact he knew what she intended to do. “Rey,” he warned, but she was off like a shot. She ran like her life depended on it.

Her life did depend on it.

Downhill was easier than the slog up into the mountains, and she channeled the force to help lift her legs in the deep snow, to decide where to put her foot next. It felt like flying, and for a brief moment she thought she might actually have a chance at getting away.

She had to hide. She could never outrun Kylo with those long legs. Not like this. But she was small, and clever, and if she could find the right spot… She jumped up on more rocks so as not to leave tracks and searched for a bolt hole, her heart pounding in her ears. Finding the perfect cranny among boulders, she squeezed herself in and tucked up as small as she could. Her own heart sounded loud as blastercanon fire in her own ears, and her heavy breathing like the winds of Ri’ia.

And just what was her plan, should she evade Kylo Ren? Go deeper into the forest? Survive on nothing, as she had on Jakku?

She would think of something. She always did.

Heavy footsteps approached, and she tried to make herself even smaller.

“You cannot hide from me, Scavenger. I feel you.” She could feel the prickling roil of his anger through the Force.

Rey took off like a shot, legs pumping beneath her, flying down the snowy hillside again.

Did it work? Did she get enough of a start?

A heavy blow slammed into her side, sending her reeling into the snow. They rolled down the hill, each struggling for the upper hand. Rey thrashed like a cornered loth-cat, but the weight of Kylo Ren’s massive frame pinned her down. He managed to grab her wrists just as her teeth found the base of his throat. She bit him through the cowl of his shirt, only just managing to pinch actual skin.

He made a sound that didn’t quite equate to pain.

Stop.”

“If these are the lessons you have to teach me, you might as well throw me in a cell. I won’t do it,” she snarled.

“It’s for your own good,” he barked back.

That darkness rose within her and again she squirmed and fought, gnashing her teeth. It seemed to distract him, enough that Rey managed to get a foot under him, pitching him off of her. Rather than run again she pounced, riding the tide of anger within her, pinning him with her weight upon his broad torso.

A wicked little voice in the corner of her mind whispered, turn it on him. Hadn’t that been her plan all along? To use his teachings to facilitate her own escape? Without even thinking she reached out with her newfound ability, finding every vulnerable point in Kylo Ren’s flesh. His heart. The crucial veins in his neck and thigh. The stem of his brain. The organs that made up the complex machine that was the human body. Quietly, the voice chuckled. Go on.

Rey felt a cold weight in her own bones, Kylo Ren’s eyes boring into hers. She knew he was doing the exact same thing to her in that moment, and that they stood at an impasse.

In the flight and struggle her hair had come half down, and in that moment he found her beautiful and terrible of a goddess of the hunt. Despite his fear, Kylo had never seen a thing more lovely.

“Are you sure this is a road you want to go down?” he asked quietly, mournfully.

She laughed, knowing she sounded more than a little mad. “We could die together here. It would almost be poetic.” She flexed the hold she had upon his insides, making him gasp beneath her.

“It wouldn’t be the best poem I’ve read,” he deadpanned, though his voice came strained. She realized he feared she would actually do it. That the entire cumulation of everything he’d ever done would be to die in the snow tangled with a scavenger girl from Jakku. The great Jedi Killer himself taken out by a nobody desert rat.

She looked down upon him, his long handsome face pulled with concentration. In his pale skin and dark eyes she could see the sad little boy from her dreams, and amidst the shatterpoint of his corporeal form she also felt his disappointment and his sorrow—she felt his light, faint as it was, and something inside her could not bear the thought of snuffing that out forever. Not but yesterday she had wanted to help him, and now a part of her wanted to kill him.

Do it, hissed the voice, but something better in Rey answered No.

She couldn’t.

She couldn’t do it, not even to save herself. Completely wrung of all her strength, Rey collapsed upon Kylo Ren’s broad chest with a cry of frustration. He felt her release her hold upon him, and he was relieved to do the same.  “I can’t,” she moaned between wracking sobs. “I can’t.

It was pure instinct that brought Kylo’s arms around her, holding this fierce woman to his chest and hoping he had not broken her in his vanity. The thought of Unkar Plutt or anyone else in the galaxy daring to lay claim to this girl drove him single mindedly to teach her to annihilate anyone who would dare. But Rey of Jakku was not made for vengeful destruction.

A revelation struck Kylo with the weight and gravity of a Force vision.

He could not train this woman in the ways of the Sith.

Not directly.

Not without making her hate him.

He could not ambush her with impossible tasks that would chip away at her soul if she succeeded, and win punishment if she failed. He could not subject her to the cruelty. The threats. The despair. The meditation with the old Sith holocrons, and pain for the slightest infraction—the thought of doing that to her, as his Master had done to him, actually made him feel sick.

It wasn’t that she was not strong enough, but that she was too pure, too full of light. No matter how she hated her parents for leaving her behind, she did not hate enough. She would rather die than cause unnecessary harm.

Such treatment would break her, and that was not what he wanted at all. He needed her light—as much as he needed her darkness.

Yes, there was Darkness in Rey too, like a shy shadow that kept to the wings awaiting its cue. It was delicious, and powerful, and in order to harness that power Kylo now understood that a direct approach would not do.

No, this girl, this would-be Jedi in another time and place in the Galaxy, required different handling. Kylo sensed there was only one sure way to access that well of dark matter that resided in Rey. Hatred was not her fuel, as it was for him. But to be the thing she loved?

She would fight for you to her dying breath.

Of that, he had no doubt.

All right, all right sweetheart, all right,” he found himself soothing her, one massive hand placed protectively on the crown of her head. He sat up slowly but did not lessen his hold. She clung to his surcoat, her face buried in the hollow of his throat. There was a sweetness in this moment that nearly paralyzed Kylo Ren. He had not comforted a crying woman since he was only a boy, having happened upon his mother after one of the numerous times his father left them. He had not even touched another being with affection since he was a child, before his time at the Jedi academy. “I won’t make you do it again. I promise,” he said into her hair, feeling as broken up inside as she was on the out.

She relaxed a little at hearing that, the tremors of her tears lessening. “Promise?” she sniffed, her breath warm upon the hollow of his throat. He held her a just a little harder, never wanting to let go.

“I promise,” he reaffirmed, his nose in her hair. She smelled like his soap, and sweat, and something soft that he realized could only be her.

Kylo Ren had made plenty of promises in his lifetime, and broken most of them. This one, to his marvel, he meant to keep.  

He could not stop thinking about his revelation. To be thing she loved most. It filled him with a longing most profound. He'd never been the thing anyone loved most, and the voracity with which he coveted that from Rey was dizzying.

Something rumbled in the bond between them, like the last peals of thunder from a retreating storm. Kylo realized he was rocking her slightly, and she still did not pull away. Perhaps contact was as rare a thing for her as it was for him. 

“From now on we’ll just focus on lightsabers…and levitating things,” he said, trying to lighten the mood. “Not that you need instruction in that. Apparently.”

Rey pushed back, and immediately he mourned the loss of her tucked up so perfectly under his chin, as though she were a puzzle piece made to fit there. Yet now he could see her face, her eyes red-rimmed from crying and seeming even more green because of it. Kriff, she was lovely. And, she was sitting on top of him. Now that the apex of her grief had passed, he became painfully aware of this fact, his groin stirring in response to her weight and her warmth upon him.

Rapidly she blinked those hypnotic eyes, holding back the last of her tears. Her voice came raw as she said his name, "Kylo...," and reached up very slowly to brush a lock of his hair from his eyes. With bated breath he felt as though his life hung on her next word, unable to stop his gaze from fixating upon her mouth. "I’m freezing."

Inwardly he groaned, and pushed to his feet, still holding Rey in his arms. He didn’t want to let her go, and he considered carrying her back to the base in his arms as he had on Takodana. “Show off,” she teased with a ghost of a smile, but even that small sign of mirth made his heart stutter in his chest. Every nerve in his body came to attention as he released her to slide down his tall form, until her toes touched terra firma.

When she put a step of space between them it was like losing a limb—an essential part of his being suddenly denied to him. She crossed her arms against the cold, her teeth chattering, and he couldn’t help but note her skin tone looked a little blue.

“Your blood is thin, Scavenger.” 

“I’m from the kriffing desert,” she sniped back, a hint of her old fire returning. “And you tackled me into the snow.”

The tackling hadn’t been entirely necessary, but in that moment? He’d been furious that she ran from him, and it seemed only a physical altercation would do. And this little girl from Jakku nearly handed him his ass on a platter. How had she slipped past his defenses so easily, he wondered? He could only chalk it down to the fact that she had great power, and perhaps also this inexplicable bond could be blamed.

Her sour look changed to wide-eyed surprise as he removed his cloak and swung it in an arc to affix it over her own head. The fabric still held some of his body heat, and she could not stifle a small sigh of relief as he tucked it around her, arranging it upon her shoulders and wrapping it around her body like a blanket, his large hands surprisingly deft. Again, she had to crane her neck to look up at him, and a pregnant moment of intimacy passed between the two Force Sensitives. Rey felt it in the bond, pulsing and longing, urging them closer still. Those dark eyes flicked down to her mouth once more, and for one terrifying moment she felt certain Kylo Ren was going to kiss her.

A roar from far in the distance shattered the moment, both of them turning to search the tree line. The primeval forest loomed around them, the end of the planet’s day cycle casting their surroundings in shadow.  She watched as Kylo released a very long, very slow breath through his nostrils. The wind stirred the waves of his black hair, and the Knight of Ren closed his eyes, lifting his face to the biting cool.

Something clawed low in Rey’s belly, a thing of which she feared was disappointment.

“Come on, Scavenger,” he urged, a hand at her lower back guiding her forward. “You can have a hot shower back at the base.”

He feared he would require a cold one.