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I Move the Stars for No One

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Once upon a time, there was a lonely prince whose parents always made him stay home, surrounded by servants and droids. The heir to a legacy far greater than any the galaxy had seen before, the prince was a slave to his bloodline until one day when he could stand it no longer, he found a new path. A presence made itself known to the prince and became his master, guiding him and the power he held. The prince abandoned his title, his name, and his parents’ heavy expectations. 

 

Time passed and the prince became a knight. Renewed by grand purpose, he no longer remembered the prince he’d once been until he captured a scavenger from Jakku. The girl was like the prince — alone, abandoned and blessed with abilities beyond her understanding. The knight chose the girl over his master, proposing a future where together they would rule the galaxy. 

 

The girl refused and fled. The knight sought her day and night, fading into his darkness deeper with each passing day. Yet the girl remained hidden from him. Word of her defiance spread across the galaxy, bringing hope to those who rebelled against the First Order.

 

But what no one knew was the knight had fallen in love with the girl and inadvertently given her power over him...

 


 

A sole figure stood at the jungle’s edge peering into the shaded clearing before her. In the seemingly peaceful area, a stream cut a path through the soft earth, leading further into the forest, away from one of the few remaining buildings on the moon. The building she now called home.

 

She missed her friends, the Falcon, and her co-pilot. Finn and Rose had married in a small ceremony last month, unwilling to wait for the war to end. Rey had watched from a temporarily linked communication device Chewie had brought her. She’d never been so happy to hide away in the Falcon as she had been that day. Her furry friend stayed with her students while she took advantage of the rare quiet time.

 

Her former co-pilot was the only live connection she had to her friends. He stopped by once a month to check in on her and drop off supplies until his next trip. Despite his aid in getting her aboard the Supremacy, he’d hadn’t stayed with her. Chewie chose to remain with the Resistance, serving faithfully even after having lost another friend.

 

Leia.

 

The last Jedi shook her head as if she could dislodge the unhappy memory from her mind. The General’s recent passing was felt by all who had known her, but her words to Rey constantly echoed through time and space.

 

We have all we need.

 

It had been three hundred sixty-eight standard days — one full year by Coruscant’s calendar since the Battle of Crait, and even longer since Rey left Jakku on the impossible journey which landed her here. Often she found herself wondering if she’d made the right choice. There was blood on her hands and the weight of past actions weighing on her conscience.

 

Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered...

 

As she neared her twenty-first year of life, the young woman reflected on herself and the changes which brought her to the jungle’s edge for the third day in a row.

 

Rey had grown out of the girl she’d been on Jakku, struggling to get by, into a Force-wielding beacon of hope for the Resistance. Immediately after Crait, a hefty bounty was placed on her head by General Hux of the First Order. It was because of the redheaded man’s merciless attempts to capture her that Commander Dameron urged Leia to send Rey away.

 

“We can’t lose her or we’ll lose any allies we might still have,” he’d argued.

 

The council voted and Rey watched as a group of strangers decided her fate was to serve off of the battlefield.

 

“Very well,” Leia hung her head in defeat.

 

Rey had never had free time before and after a week of meandering around the base, fixing droids — old rust-buckets which were poor excuses for actual ships — and updating the comm system, she was bored. Her restless energy had her looking for any task, no matter how minor to complete, so long as it gave her something to focus on.

 

She chased odd jobs until even those became tiresome and she could no longer hide from what chased her.

 

The energy from the shattered kyber crystal called to her. It sought her attention, demanding to be made whole again. Rey ignored it for weeks, too ashamed by her actions which resulted in the destruction of the saber to consider mending it.

 

A lightsaber was an elegant weapon and this one was no exception. It held a legacy, the lineage of the Skywalker family, a family who many believed was the most powerful in the galaxy. There was no reason for her to have it.

 

You don’t belong in this story. You’re nothing.

 

Rey grit her teeth, the words painful even after so much time had passed. Her parents hadn’t wanted to raise her. Finn hadn’t wanted to join her in returning BB-8. Luke hadn’t wanted to train her. It was always the same. No one wanted her.

 

But not to me.

 

No one except the last Skywalker.

 

Please, Ben, don’t go this way.

 

She knew inevitably they’d meet again. Before the war was over Rey would have to face him. So, when she could no longer put it off, she fashioned herself a new saber built from the broken pieces of his family’s legendary weapon.

 

The saber staff was unique, glowing purple instead of the former turquoise blue it had been. Leia hadn’t known what to make of it, which unnerved Rey, but the other rebels all stared at her in awe.

 

In fact, due to Commander Dameron’s boasting — she refused to call him Poe after he outed her to the council —, the Resistance members began to revere her as some sort of deity. People brought her gifts and food. They stopped speaking when she walked into the room and moved out of her way when she was strolling through the corridors.

 

Kaydel, Finn, and Rose laughed, loving extra portions at dinner and the fact they’d always have their choice of tables to sit at in mess.

 

Rey hated it.

 

She started taking her meals on the Falcon. At first, it bothered her friends but as the war raged on, they became busy with the fight and Rey was left alone again.

 

Then one day she felt it.

 

It was small at first, like the first embers churning in a fire. Slowly it became stronger. The harder she focused on it, the clearer it became.

 

Canto Bight.

 

He is there. He is there. He is there.

 

Rey left the very next morning. She’d felt him before Chewie landed the Falcon, already knowing exactly where she’d find him.

 

Temiri Blagg was an orphaned slave. Like her, he’d never known his parents and he was ignorant of the power waking up inside of him. Rey chose to remedy that.

 

Of course, she had to have a word with his ‘master’ before they left. If her identity as the last Jedi didn’t help her persuade the man, Chewie’s growls did. And as an added favor to Rose, Rey brought all the children back to the Resistance...after she freed the Fathiers.

 

They’d narrowly escaped the First Order, who descended upon the casino town at the first hint that the last Jedi was there.

 

Rey expected to see him then — the Supreme Leader — whether through the bond or other means, but she didn’t. She hadn’t known what to do with the feelings his absence brought up.

 

After Temiri, more came. Rey would awake in a sweat, the pulse thrumming through her body, calling her to them. She went without hesitation. It wasn’t as though she had anything better to do. Commander Dameron wouldn’t let her join in the fight, even after Leia tried to appeal the council’s decision.

 

As her collection of Force-sensitives grew, the available space at the Rebel base decreased. A change was needed. Leia was the one to suggest Yavin IV, having ties to a former Alliance base. Chewie set the coordinates and they were off — him, Rey, and half a dozen students.

 

The irony wasn’t lost on her.

 

While Rey grew up, the galaxy hit a milestone of its own. For the first time since the Empire — almost three decades — Darkness overpowered the Light. She could feel it, like a hand suffocating the last tendrils of hope out of the galaxy. It didn’t help that in her mind that hand was wide and wearing black leather gloves.

 

With a sigh, she returned to the present and her students.

 

They were collected from across the stars, gathered up before the First Order could snatch them from their homes. While the flags of red and black started to appear plant to plant, Rey shrouded herself in the Force, disguising herself as the nothing she’d been dubbed her entire life.

 

The First Order may have been looking for the last Jedi but they wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at the sight of another scavenger or bounty hunter traipsing through their post. Her former designation granted her a safety her new powers couldn’t rival. She was protected by her mediocrity.

 

If only the Supreme Leader knew...

 

Despite herself, Rey felt the edges of her lips tug upwards. Normally she’d didn’t allow herself to think of him. It was too painful. During the day she focused on her students, relaying to them what she’d been able to translate from the ancient Jedi texts and what she’d learned from years spent surviving on her own. But at night — it was more difficult to keep her thoughts from drifting.

 

Sleep had never come easily to her. When she’d been young, Rey constantly worried about another scavenger breaking in to steal her finds. Once she learned to defend herself — and reinforce her door — her sleepless nights were blamed on hunger pains. And now... well, now she saw him.

 

She saw him each morning when she tossed her legs over the side of her cot, reminded of how she’d shot at him in her hut on Ahch-To.

 

She saw him in her students when they grew frustrated. Their anger crackled and flared out across the Force, bathing the energy in spotted black because it was the way of the Dark Side.

 

She saw him when she closed her eyes at the end of each exhausting day. His face had been blasted all over the HoloNet. Supreme Leader Ren wanted to instill order to the galaxy and while there were many opposed to his methods, only a handful would openly disobey him.

 

The worst was when she saw him in her dreams because when she was there it was nearly impossible to refuse him. Rey saw the throne room, could feel the heat of the flames, smell the acrid smoke and hear the plea in his voice. The moment played on repeat, threatening to break her completely.

 

Yes, the last Jedi saw the Jedi Killer often. Just not through their bond.

 

Perhaps it was a cruel twist of fate or the Force’s will, but their bond remained quiet after Rey closed the door on him. There hadn’t been a single instance of it reopening since, not once in three hundred sixty-eight days. Rey knew the exact countdown to the second.

 

She had always been good at waiting.

 

The only problem was that this time she didn’t know what she was waiting for...

 


 

“Again,” Rey instructed a pair of her students. 

 

Her two oldest had been at this for hours and while Rey hadn’t needed to interject much, she was feeling the wear of the long day. She enjoyed teaching her students. Watching them grow under her care, knowing they’d never have to suffer alone as she had, made her proud. Seeing them develop made her even prouder. But there were days — like today — where their teenaged hormones got the better of her. 

 

Between the insults and the posturing, Rey was tempted to call it a night, but she had to set an example for the rest of her students. She refused to call them padawans. While what they were learning was primarily derived from what she knew of the Jedi, Rey chose to do things differently. After all, hadn’t Luke Skywalker himself decreed the Jedi should die?

 

Rey disagreed with her former master on many things, but on this one instance, she agreed. The Jedi way wasn’t perfect, not in the way the galaxy perceived it to be. She’d seen through the bond how the ‘right’ way failed a student. Rey didn’t want to go down the same path.

 

“Begin,” she ordered. 

 

Windbor and Ganrum circled each other, both gripping short sticks. The weapons were meant to mimic the size and weight of a saber, though they were far more forgiving than the actual weapon they stood in for.

 

“I thought an Ardeenian would be better at this,” Windbor shot at his opponent. 

 

The four-armed, lanky sentient blinked his wide brown eyes but gave no other indication of his oncoming attack to the Bothan. 

 

Rey noted how advanced Ganrum’s skills were becoming, though it wasn’t a surprise. He came from a race prized for their efficient combat tactics. If anything, she needed to be cautious about how rapidly he excelled in his training.

 

He kept on the balls of his feet, allowing himself to adapt in a split second to avoid an incoming attack from his opponent. When Windbor lunged at him, Ganrum deflected his strike to the left and sidestepped out of the way.

 

In turning over his opponent’s stick, he was able to come back around and smack Windbor across the hand. It was a warning blow, not meant to do significant damage, though it clearly wounded Windbor’s pride.

 

Agitated, the Bothan began slicing his short stick through the air. His emotions took root and his form suffered for it. While he stabbed at the air around Ganrum’s head, he failed to notice how the Ardeenian was closing in on him.

 

Ganrum dropped his weight, thrusting his stick into Windbor’s gut.

 

The other four students cheered.

 

“That’s enough for today,” Rey strolled forward, stepping between the two. “Good work everyone.”

 

The students dissembled, all migrating away from the training grounds to the old rebel base they called home. The upside of repurposing the base was everyone got their own room. The downside was there was only one fresher. Rey couldn’t imagine how an entire fleet managed that nightmare. She had a hard enough time getting her six pupils in and out. 

 

At least they are safe, she reminded herself, following them back inside. 

 


 

Rey picked at what her students had left her in the mess. She always allowed them to get their dinner first. Hunger pains from her former life haunted her even now. Some scars weren’t left on the skin. 

 

Scraping what was left from the pan, she filled her plate. She grabbed a cup of water and headed out through the forward flight doors. 

 

On evenings when the weather was nice, Rey and her pupils often ate together under the stars. Growing up with harsh environmental conditions made her appreciate the freedom to be outside. It was an added bonus eating under the night sky helped show her students how small they were. 

 

As with their previous meals, a fire was built in the center of their circle, providing natural light while the group ate. Chatter about the day, news from the HoloNet and typical complaints about the converted base trickled in and out as Rey chewed. 

 

Her mind was elsewhere, drifting to problems whole star systems away. She wondered where Finn and Rose were now. Were they safe? Were they fighting? And Commander Dameron. Was he still being reckless? How many times had he needed to straighten out BB-8’s antenna since she’d left? Did he even notice?

 

She sighed, wishing there was a way for her to check in on them, but it was too great a risk. The only updates she received came once a month with Chewie. It was the only way to ensure the Resistance’s safety and the safety of her students. 

 

Her mind continued to wander, bouncing around like a ship dodging incoming fire in an asteroid field. She only hoped she could pilot herself out before she ended up crashing. 

 

It wasn’t until she heard Kailale say his name that she latched onto the topic of their conversation. 

 

“He’s not the most powerful Force user in the galaxy,” Temiri stood up. “Rey is.”

 

Kailale stood up as well, strolling over to the young boy. “Really? Well I heard that he’s so powerful he can hear you from anywhere in the galaxy and if you call for Supreme Leader Ren, he and his knights will come and take you away. It’s treason.”

 

“That’s not true!” Temiri spat.

 

“Is too,” the female Chiss shot back. 

 

“Oh yeah? Then why don’t you do it,” he challenged her. 

 

“I’m not afraid of him, like you,” Kailale crossed her arms over her chest. It was a blatant lie but Temiri was too spun up to back down. 

 

“I’m not afraid,” Temiri growled.

 

“Prove it,” Kailale snapped. “Do it.”

 

“Fine!”

 

Even without the Force, Rey knew what was about to happen and yet she was powerless to stop it. She was paralyzed by the name which had crossed Kailale’s lips, a name she was all too familiar with. 

 

“I wish Kylo Ren would come take you away, Kailale,” he shouted. Rey felt her stomach pitch. “Right now.”

 

Everyone around the fire stilled. All eyes were on Temiri. Rey was gripping the wood beneath her so tight splinters started jabbing into her flesh. She could smell the copper of her own blood in the air and yet she remained frozen, not even breathing as she waited. 

 

She expected the bond to reenact with its telltale silence as if she’d been pulled into a vacuum. She thought she’d hear the cry of TIE fighters as they descended from the heavens, reigning blaster fire down upon them. She wondered if General Hux would come at her with a pistol again.

 

But in the end, nothing happened.

 

After what felt like the longest moment of her life, Rey realized how ridiculous she was being. Of course he wasn’t going to just show up because a kid mentioned his name. She felt like smacking herself. Had living out here alone with these children made her so gullible? 

 

Rising from her spot, she walked over to the two, Temiri now smug as anything and Kailale blushing in embarrassment. “Are you both finished now?” she asked, eyeing them both.

 

The smirk fell from Temiri’s face as he gazed up at her, his cheeks burning red from her chiding tone. Kailale bowed her head and took a step backward. 

 

“Apologies, Master,” the Chiss girl replied.

 

“Kailale, I’m no one’s master,” Rey reminded her. 

 

She hated that term. Too many years toiling under the sun and Unkar’s unfair portion control tainting her position on it. It was another part of the Jedi way she’d let die with Luke. 

 

“Rey.” Someone tugged on her arm wraps. Temiri was there, peering up with his docile eyes. It struck her just how young he really was and any disappointment she had in her students vanished. They were only children after all. To them, this was all a game. 

 

“Bedtime,” she announced to the entire group. 

 

They all shuffled back inside, leaving her to put out the fire. Rey stood over it, closing her fist over the flames and watching as it suffocated. A soft tendril of gray smoke rose up, dancing in the nighttime breeze. She watched it disappear into the darkness, an unsettling feeling working its way into her chest.

 

When she turned around, he was there.

 

Rey stilled, her hand immediately going to her belt, but he merely stared at her with betrayal in his eyes. He didn’t need to speak for her to understand. He hadn’t followed his own advice.

 

The past wasn’t dead.

 

Chapter Text

 

A prominent figure clad in obsidian robes stood behind the helm of the Elstree, his sable orbs staring out upon the cosmos. Some cultures believed a person’s fate was written in the stars, but the man in black had stopped believing in fairy tales long ago. After his innocence was cut away, his soul had been left with a void and the darkness had crept in. A darkness blacker than even the endless stretch of space.

 

While Archais Ren piloted the transport to Yavin IV, the Supreme Leader remained silent. The thrum of the Force was almost deafening, pulsing through him erratically as he counted down the minutes to breach the planet’s atmosphere.

 

For the first time since Crait, he’d hear her voice in his head, as strong and full of light as it had always been. When she had turned, Kylo caught the surprise in her eyes — a surprise which quickly morphed into fear.

 

At first, he could only marvel at her, at the scavenger who had bested him not once but twice. The year had changed her. He could see the wear the war had taken on her. Her light, though still brighter than most, had dimmed. Her golden skin appeared tired, like the rest of her tense form, but her eyes — her eyes were as vibrant as ever.

 

She stared at him, peering into his very soul. The anger flaring in her was rather un-Jedi-like, yet he found no satisfaction in the realization. He could see she still thought he’d been the one to make the wrong choice. He could see how the disappointment marred her perfect features.

 

He could also see her surroundings.

 

As she reached for her lightsaber — for it truly belonged to her — Kylo began to chart the fastest route to Yavin IV. He’d never had much to thank Han Solo for, but the man had taught him how to navigate the star systems. Kylo found himself thanking his father, though he knew the old rogue would be disappointed in his use of the knowledge.

 

The second the bond had closed, he hurried from his chambers, alerting the first officer he spotted to prepare his ship. He was done waiting. He was going to take what he wanted and he wanted the last Jedi.

 


 

 

“Come on, come on,” Rey urged her students, guiding them over the hill, about a mile from their base camp.

 

“Where are we going?” Kailale grumbled. “It’s the middle of the night.”

 

“Our position has been compromised. The Resistance will be here to transport us to a new location,” Rey announced.

 

The bleary, half-asleep glaze in her students' eyes vanished. They began climbing the hill, packs strapped to their backs with renewed energy. As each one passed, Rey counted. Her heart stuttered in her chest.

 

“Where’s Temiri?”

 

Everyone stared at her, frozen in their tracks, equally surprised with a hint of guilt.

 

“When was the last time you saw him?” Rey asked, breathlessly. Her mind was already reaching out across the Force, attempting to hone in on his location.

 

“He was right behind me,” Dar Leem spoke up. The Cathar’s ears folded away from his face in shame.

 

Rey eyed her other students but no one else provided further details. She swallowed the growing lump in her throat, her senses tingling with the incoming danger, warring with her call to find the boy. Her survival instincts had never failed her before, but things were different now. She couldn’t only be concerned for her life. She held the lives of six others in her hands. Her choice was already made.

 

“Ganrum, Windbor,” Rey called to her eldest pupils. They immediately stepped forward, both glancing at the other before meeting her stern gaze. “I need you to guide everyone safely to the rendezvous point. Chewie will meet you there. Don’t turn back, no matter what you hear. Just keep going. If anyone—,” she paused, choosing her words carefully. “If you are forced to engage with an attacker, stay together. Defend yourselves and the others long enough to get away. That is all. Do you understand?”

 

Both the Bothan and the Ardeenian nodded solemnly.

 

“May the Force be with you,” Rey dismissed them.

 

“And you,” they chorused back.

 

Rey watched them lead the younger three away, noting how Kailale kept glancing over her shoulder until they disappeared back down into the jungle.

 

The last Jedi inhaled deeply, forcing herself to turn away from them. They would be safe. Chewie would find them and carry them offworld. They wouldn’t fall into the First Order’s clutches.

 

As she focused on the dark energy swirling at the edges of her mind, Rey understood the same could not be said for Temiri.

 

Or herself.

 


 

The jungle made it impractical for Archais to land anywhere but the clearing he’d chosen. The remnants of an old Alliance base sat behind them, while the dark shadows and emerald vegetation of the forest blocked out all other landmarks.

 

Kylo exited the Elstree, scanning with his eyes and the Force for her. He could feel her, though it was faint. A smirk played across his lips. She was blocking him, but it mattered not. He was able to feel her. He felt a piece of his shattered soul fall back into place.

 

She was close.

 

He strolled towards the forest, knowing Rey would never be foolish enough to stay by the base. He’d seen her mind, knew how her scavenger instincts would persuade her to abandon her home for a safer location. Kylo had seen a hill in the distance. The high ground would put her at the optimum angle for an attack.

 

As he made his way out of the clearing, a spike in the Force alerted him to another presence.

 

“You’re him, aren’t you?” the boy questioned, staring up at Kylo with wide, wary eyes. “You’re Supreme Leader Ren.”

 

Kylo didn’t respond, artfully scanning the human’s Force signature to determine his lineage.

 

Canto Bight. Slave. Orphan.

 

Abandoned.

 

He nearly recoiled from the similarities he saw within the child, similarities the boy shared with both himself and Rey. Such power had been unknowingly gifted to them. While those who surrounded both would see them shackled and beaten down, the Force saw them as gifted wielders. Chosen.

 

The similarities took him by such surprise that he missed Rey's signature, warning him of her approach. Then she was there, appearing at the boy's side.

 

“What’s said is said,” he replied, indifferently.

 

“But I didn’t mean it,” the boy insisted, stepping forward.

 

“Oh, you didn’t?” Kylo queried with a hint of amusement.  

 

Rey instinctively placed an arm in front of him, holding the child back. Kylo’s eyes flickered to her face. The protective nature she had for this one was different than her other students. It was stronger.

 

Interesting.

 

“Please, don’t do this,” her voice came out soft, almost pleading. “Please, Ben.”

 

Rey spoke that name as if she hadn’t left him wounded and alone in Snoke’s throne room to die, as if he hadn’t offered her everything. She used the same tone as the elevator, her eyes the same faultless, hopeful shining orbs he’d fallen into.

 

Fury erupted inside him. She had no right to play her mind games with him. She’d refused him, left him to die at the hands of that rabid cur, Hux. She’d made her choice.

 

Now she would find there were consequences for such insolence.

 

He felt the presence of his knights in the Force as they drew near. They had been ordered to hold back unless he requested their assistance. Unlike the scrappy scavenger before him, they obeyed orders.

 

“You will be leaving with me,” he stated calmly.

 

“I won’t,” her eyes hardened.

 

“You will join me on Naboo and once the Resistance receives word of your capture, I will end this. Once and for all.”

 

“I. Won’t.” Rey ground her feet into the dirt, her eyes never leaving his face.

 

Always so stubborn. Always so naive.

 

“Don’t defy me,” he snapped and in a split second they both ignited their sabers and were clashing together in the midst of the humid jungle.

 

He became aware of the unique color of her blades, a violet shade purer than even the most beautiful bloom on Chandrila. The design of the blade was equally distinctive. He’d only come across the use of a saber-staff a handful of times in all his research. Ironically, it’s invention was credited to the Old Sith Empire.

 

Kylo was also vaguely aware of her student, crouching in a defensive position behind her. Of course her first priority was the child. She felt a connection to the boy who shared her tragic backstory. It was evident she wouldn’t leave him.

 

All his training had him latching onto her weakness.

 

“You’re no match for me and my knights,” he informed her. “You’re outnumbered, Jedi.”

 

“You’re not taking him,” she hissed, as feral as a loth cat. “You’re not taking any of them.”

 

“If you think I came here for them, you’re sorely mistaken, Rey.”

 

Her face fell at his use of her name and he pushed against her. The unstable crackling of his crimson blade against hers reminded him of Starkiller. His scar was a constant reminder of their snow battle. Kylo knew not to underestimate her.

 

She barely gave him an inch before she leaned back and swung her saber-staff around, nearly gracing him with a matching scar on the opposite side of his face.

 

“Temiri, run!” Rey shouted. She quickly sheathed her lightsaber, backing away from him before taking off.

 

Kylo watched them shoot off in different directions. “Bring me the boy. The Jedi is mine,” he growled at his knights, before stalking through the jungle after her.

 

He would not leave Yavin IV empty-handed. He’d caught her once. He would do it again.

 


 

 

Rey sprinted through the jungle, leaping over downed trees, ducking under low branches and diving through the maze of thick vines as she went.

 

Temiri knew where the rendezvous point was and with any luck he’d be able to get there without incident. Once Chewie had him in his sights, he’d be safe. The Wookie would never let anything happen to one of her students. He had a soft spot for children. And her.

 

They’d argued over the comm the night before. She’d never heard such profanity from her co-pilot, not even when she’d asked him to drop her off at the Supremacy.

 

Chewie was adamant about her getting onboard along with her students. He howled about her being as reckless as Commander Dameron, which resulted in them both going off on a tangent about the security of the new base. In the end, he promised if it came down to it, he’d deliver them to the Resistance and keep them hidden from the First Order.

 

Even if that meant leaving Rey behind.

 

What’s one more? she thought bitterly, as she slid along the forest floor to avoid an upturned root. At least this time, it was her choice.

 

She hurtled over a wide stump, her saber-staff clinking against her hip as she traveled deeper and deeper into the jungle.

 

When she’d taken off, Rey hadn’t had a plan. Going back to the base was suicide and leading Kylo to the Falcon was worse. She only hoped she could lose him in the winding woods. Maybe if she could stay far enough ahead of him, there would be an opportunity to double back and hop on the transport.

 

Rey glanced over her shoulder, curious to see how close he was. It was a rookie mistake and it cost her. When she righted her gaze to what was in front of her, all she saw was black.

 

Suddenly her feet were no longer on the ground. Kylo’s leather glove was stretched out in front of him, keeping her suspended above the earth.

 

“Why do you insist on doing this?” he chided her as if she was a disobedient child.

 

“Why do you insist on denying the light inside of you?” she spat through gritted teeth.

 

His eyes narrowed, as his fingers curled inward. Rey felt her body shift towards him, bringing her eye to eye with the Supreme Leader.

 

“Ben Solo is dead,” he growled lowly.

 

His face hardened, empty of any emotion except for his boiling rage. He’d never looked upon her with such a menacing scowl before, not even when she’d breached his mind in the interrogation chamber. Perhaps it was true then. Perhaps the Ben she’d seen on Ahch-To was gone forever.

 

Rey felt a sharp pain in her chest. The last of the Skywalkers was no more. Was that why the legacy saber had called to her? Because its owner no longer lived?

 

She heard the sound of an approaching threat. The Force darkened and she knew it was the Knights of Ren before they came into view.

 

“Master,” one knelt before Kylo. “We’ve secured the boy.”

 

They brought Temiri forth.

 

“No! You can’t have him!” Rey struggled violently against the Force hold. “I’ll go with you,” she gasped, kicking her legs out and pulling at the invisible threads which kept her bound. “But leave him here. Please.”

 

“The time for negotiation has passed,” Kylo informed her. “Take him back to the ship. Chart a course for Naboo.”

 

“Yes, Master,” the knight rose, falling in line with the others, who began to escort Temiri from her view.

 

“No!” 

 

Rey broke free of the Force hold, collapsing to the ground. Within seconds she was on her feet, one hand poised outwards, knocking over half of the knights while the other unsheathed her lightsaber. The purple blades blazed forth, keeping the rest at bay. 

 

She went towards Temiri, eyes defiant as she stared into the black helmet of the knight who held onto the boy’s arm. The knight had an electro-whip on his belt and his gloved hand twitched as he determined whether or not he had time to reach for it. 

 

“Release him,” she demanded, twirling her weapon slowly to come below the man’s jaw. “Now.”

 

The nameless knight tilted his head back slightly. Rey saw the reflection of another closing in behind her, but it was already too late. 

 

A sharp pain erupted at the base of her skull as one of the knights used the butt of his blaster rifle to strike her.

 

Temiri’s eyes widened and he struggled in vain against his captor’s hold. It was the last thing she saw before everything went black. 


 

“Feodras,” Kylo snarled, encircling Rey’s waist before she fell. “I specially instructed the Jedi was to be left to me.”

 

“She was a threat, Master,” his knight responded, bowing his head in submission. “She would have turned her saber on all of us to get the child.”

 

Kylo resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his prominent nose. When Rey woke, she would be displeased. While he knew she’d be unhappy be taken, he had hoped he could convince her to stay of her own free will. In time, perhaps she could forget about the Resistance and be persuaded to join him, as he’d always wished. 

 

Of course, that option was less likely since she’d been harmed. 

 

He lifted her into his arms, the feel of her cradled against his chest familiar. If he could go back to Takodana forest, he wouldn’t have changed a single moment. Her fire, her fearlessness had called to him. He’d never been impressed before and certainly not by some scavenger from a backwater planet. 

 

She’d taken root in his mind that day. Like the nightbloomers which grew under the harsh Jakku sun, her presence in his mind survived through Snoke’s retribution until it was the one piece of himself that Kylo couldn’t cut out. More telling was the fact he didn’t want to. 

 

Unable to afford a glance at her face, he raised his dark eyes to his knights. “We’re done here.”

 

“Why do we need the child?” Cadmus questioned, hoisting the vicious little brat over his shoulder.

 

“He’s leverage,” Kylo replied.

 

The boy spat at his boots. His eyes darkened with wrath but he didn’t raise a hand to him. “You’re a monster,” the brown-eyed child cried at him.

 

His nostrils flared at the barb; so familiar, yet striking to hear from someone other than Rey. It was nearly as striking as the boy’s appearance.

 

Kylo hadn’t taken notice prior, too consumed by his need to capture the last Jedi. The boy had brown eyes, lighter than his own but darker than Rey’s hazel orbs. His skin was tanned from hours spent outside, like hers, yet his hair was the color of raven’s feathers, like his. His features were a blend of them both — the light and the dark. It was uncanny…and confusing.

 

“Put him on the spacecraft” Kylo ordered Cadmus Ren.

 

“And the Jedi?” Feodras queried.

 

“I will deal with her,” Kylo responded in a tone which left no room for further questions.

 

We have much to discuss.

 


 

Rey felt a weight around her. She inhaled deeply, expecting the heavy smell of the planet’s humidity and dying embers from their nightly fire. Instead what she smelled was sterile; cold metal and sanitized sheets. On the cusp of it all was something warmer, a familiar scent of parchment paper, ink and loneliness. 

 

Her eyes flew open to inspect her surroundings. The vibrations of the ship had kept her cocooned in sleep, lulling her into a false sense of comfort. She was on a bed, draped in black fabric, woven from what she could only assume was some of the finest material in the galaxy. It was thick, though not coarse, and it served as a blanket, tenderly wrapped around her form. It too was familiar.

 

“Good morning,” a deep voice greeted from the shadows in the corner. 

 

Not this again...

 

Rey sat up, crossing her arms over her chest as she glared at the Supreme Leader of the Galaxy. “Where is he?”

 

“He’s here, onboard the Elstree,” Kylo replied from where he sat. 

 

Her chest tightened. If the Knights of Ren held no qualms about attacking her, did their training also permit them to harm a child?

 

The Supreme Leader must have sensed her unease because Kylo rose from his chair and came to stand before her. “They won’t raise a hand to him.”

 

“You and I both know there are ways to cause pain without physical contact,” she replied stonily, shoving his cloak off of her. 

 

“I commanded them to leave the boy be,” he added, retrieving his garment. “They will watch him. Nothing more.”

 

“Sure,” Rey grumbled, one hand absently rubbing the back of her head where she’d been struck. 

 

Kylo watched her, his lips pursed into a tight, thin line. “I apologize. That was...”

 

“Uncalled for,” she supplied. 

 

“Unfortunate,” he finished. “You were the one to initiate the attack. Had you not, the Knights wouldn’t have felt the need to defend themselves.”

 

“Defend themselves? Against a ten-year-old child?” she raged.

 

“No,” Kylo insisted, “Against the one who brandished a weapon with the intent to kill.”

 

“I didn’t wish to kill him,” Rey snapped. “I only wanted my student back.”

 

“You have him. He’s here.”

 

They stared at one another for a long, tense moment, both their chests rising and falling as they silently came down from their quarrel. 

 

“I want to see Temiri,” Rey informed him, standing up. She purposely shouldered him as she moved past him to the door. Slamming her fist against the pad, she waited for it to slide open. It didn’t. 

 

“I can’t permit you to wander about the ship unaccompanied,” Kylo announced.

 

“Because I’m your guest?” Rey taunted, agitation flooding her senses as she peered at him over her shoulder. 

 

When he didn’t respond, she sighed, crossing the room to the viewport. Her breath caught in her throat when she beheld the colorful planet coming into view. The swirls of blues, greens and white interlaced together in a mesmerizing puzzle. She leaned in towards the glass, captivated by the sight.

 

“Is that Naboo?”

 

“Yes,” Kylo answered, his voice closer this time. Rey jolted in surprise, feeling his massive form as he hovered behind her. 

 

“It’s beautiful,” Rey breathed, watching the delicate transition of the colors come into focus as they neared the atmosphere. 

 

“I’m pleased it’s to your liking,” he replied. “I have accepted Theed Royal Palace as my birthright.”

 

Rey turned just enough to gaze up at him. 

 

“My grandmother ruled here for a time,” he explained. “This is her birthplace. They were one of the first to join the First Order after the fall of Snoke.”

 

Though he didn’t speak his intentions out loud, Rey understood the expectation assigned to her. 

 

“Ben, I can’t stay here. My students—.”

 

“If you tell me their location, I will—.”

 

“No,” Rey cut him off, turning around fully to give him an icy stare. “I’m not giving you anything. If you want to decimate the Resistance than you should have blown me and that piece of junk out of the sky when you had the chance.”

 

He flinched, clearly unaware she’d heard his contempt-filled vow while they’d been on Crait. 

 

Good, she hoped he felt as disappointed as she had been. When Finn had played the comm recording for her, Rey had barely believed it, first because the Resistance’s tech was so outdated but mainly because she thought Ben would come back to the light. 

 

She’d been wrong. 

 

“Rey—.”

 

“I want to see Temiri,” she demanded. 

 

His expression hardened at her order. “The knights suggested I cuff you. I informed them it wasn’t necessary,” he stated flatly, backing away. “Don’t force my hand.”

 

With that, he stalked out of the room, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

Chapter Text

 

“Is it done?” a sharp voice hissed across the HoloNet as a transparent blue form became clear on the speaker’s end.

 

“There were complications,” the flickering figure responded.

 

“Complications?”

 

“The Supreme Leader has...compassion for her. He does not wish to see her executed. He claims to have other plans.”

 

“Other plans?”

 

“He intends to keep the Jedi on Naboo,” the holo clarified.

 

“She’s a traitor. She is responsible for the death of the Supreme Leader,” grumbled the first.

 

“There’s more,” the cloaked figure communicated across the HoloNet.

 

“Go on.”

 

“He will not permit her to be bound. The suppressant cuffs were part of our initial plan. Without them, her Force abilities will be intact and it will be nearly impossible to take her out,” the faceless specter responded.  

 

“Ren was always too weak to do what was necessary,” the second man growled, his leather-clad hands balling into fists at his side. “Find another way. I want it done.”

 

“But-.”

 

“Find another way, or consider our agreement null and void.”

 

“As you decree, General Hux,” the hooded figure replied dutifully. “All hail the First Order.”

 


 

Kylo Ren paced his chambers, his mind too restless for sleep. There was a disturbance in the Force, an uncomfortable scraping at the back of his mind, but he couldn’t identify the cause. Hard as he tried, he was unable to pinpoint where the irritating sensation had originated. Though his first impulse had been to check on Rey, he was acutely aware of how his presence affected her.

 

If Kylo suspected he’d seen the worst of her temper in the past, he was wrong. When he’d arrived to escort her off the Elstree, Rey had thrown a lamp at him. Instinctively, he dodged it. It was in that moment he realized the projectile was a distraction. Kylo caught her around the waist the second she attempted to escape. She’d forced his hand and he’d removed the legacy lightsaber from her possession. She’d still not forgiven him for that, but he was too exhausted to argue with her. It was getting him nowhere.

 

As the moons rose from the horizon line, he stood at his balcony doors, overlooking the famed Royal Gardens. The expansive courtyard was gated, well-maintained solely for his use and the use of anyone he authorized access for. He’d only been inside once since he made the palace his home.

 

During his stroll, he’d come across a fountain with a statue of his grandmother. The image of Padme Amidala — still considered one of the greatest rulers in the galaxy — unnerved him. The formidable woman had defied the odds, ruling as one of the youngest monarchs the planet ever had and would not be bullied by far larger, far superior organizations. She’d risked her own life on numerous occasions, convinced her ideals were worth dying for.

 

Had he ever lived with that much integrity, with that much passion?

 

Even cast in stone, her eyes were filled with hope and light, so much like Rey. He’d briefly wondered what the two would think of one another if they were able to meet. While he was sure his grandmother would be disappointed in how he’d come to power, he was also certain she’d take an instant liking to Rey.

 

Of course, it seemed most took a liking to the last Jedi. Before her interception of the Resistance on Crait, the supporters of his opposition were dwindling. However, once news of her defiance was known, things changed. His troops were refused. His requests were denied. When governments began to turn away his offers, he’d been required to take more drastic measures to secure resources for the First Order.

 

All because of one girl.

 

One girl who managed to turn the galaxy on its head. One girl who managed to turn his head.

 

Kylo sighed, staring up at the stars as if they could provide the guidance he sought to navigate the tumultuous waters of the female mind. Han Solo had never managed the task. The cunning scoundrel was a master pilot, yet he’d never found safe passage through the minefield of his wife’s heart. Kylo held very little hope he could succeed where his father had failed.

 

The Supreme Leader ordered the last Jedi to be placed in a room in the opposite tower, knowing she’d find comfort in the vibrant fauna below. His staff had informed him she’d been attempting to break out all day, fighting them tooth and nail. Though Snoke had insisted she’d fall, Kylo was well acquainted with Rey’s tenacity. Her spirit would not be broken.

 

Breaking her was not his goal. It had been Snoke’s short-sightedness which had cost him his life. Unable to understand the conditions of the human heart, Kylo’s former master was detached from the strength of their connection. He’d underestimated how deep their bond went.

 

Kylo would not make the same mistake.

 

If Rey was to join him, it needed to be of her own volition. He needed to determine how to ensure that happened and that was the problem.

 

Rey had come from nothing. She wanted for everything. When he’d laid the galaxy at her feet, he’d expected her to be awed or at the very least appreciative, but she was repulsed by the gesture. Seeing the tears in her eyes had broken what was left of his tattered heart. How he had misinterpreted the signs, he would never know.

 

But he had a second chance.

 

He could right the course.

 

If only he could determine where he went wrong.

 

The child’s words echoed in his mind. Apparently, Rey’s teachings went beyond theory and skills training. The boy — Temiri, she’d called him — shared her quick-to-anger personality, as well as her fierce loyalty. Kylo began to question his judgment in ordering the child be brought along.

 

Who would watch Temiri while he pled his case to the last Jedi? The Knights had already shown they were incapable of handling a child. His lips pursed as he recalled how vicious Rey became upon seeing the boy be brought forth.

 

Kylo recognized the overwhelming fear in her eyes because it was the same pain he’d experienced on the Supremacy when Snoke had her in his clutches. The only difference was that this time the pain was caused by him.

 

He was a monster, just as the child had said.

 

His head hung in defeat. Each time he attempted to gain ground with Rey, she propelled him back. The harder he pushed, the more determined she was to push back. She met him Force for Force, going toe to toe with him as if he wasn’t a full head taller than her or an entire decade wiser. How could he hope to make her see?

 

Straightening up, he spotted the towering hedges at the far end of the garden. The labyrinth maze had been created as a form of entertainment for the royal family. It hadn’t been used in decades, parts overgrown and others closed off completely. A clear route to the exit was not visible even from his perch several stories above.

 

He’d never been inside but he had read the royals once held competitions of wit by leveraging the maze. In the times of the Old Republic, some of the families had chosen suitors for the eldest in their family line by making the candidates run the maze.

 

Kylo smirked, an idea forming in his head.

 


 

Rey woke to the sound of someone rustling about in her room. Bleary-eyed and tense from the night spent in an unknown place, her mood was unpleasant. When her eyes met the petite form of an Iakaru moving about, Rey’s first instinct was to reach for her saber.

 

Her frustration grew when she remembered it had been removed from her possession. Kylo insisted there was no need for her to have it, claiming there was nothing for her to fear while she was under his care.

 

Yeah, right, she thought bitterly.

 

“Excuse me?” She shifted where she sat in bed in an attempt to get a better view of her visitor.

 

The stout figure turned, glanced at her, then resumed her work, muttering, “Oh, it’s you.”

 

Rey’s eyebrow furrowed in confusion. What in R’iia did that mean?

 

“Excuse me.” The female Iakaru gave no indication she’d heard Rey. She was humming to herself as she began laying out garments on the dresser. “Excuse,” Rey continued. “I arrived with a boy, about ten standard years old. Do you know where he was taken? I need to see him.”

 

The woman didn’t respond. Rey sighed and tried again.

 

“Do you know when I might be able to speak with Ben?”

 

“You would do well to remember to call him Supreme Leader Ren,” the small woman huffed.

 

“I’m not the one who needs to remember his true name,” Rey replied agitatedly. “He was born Ben Solo.”

 

The woman made a sound of surprise before facing her, “And who might you be?”

 

“I’m Rey.”

 

“That’s what I thought,” the woman sighed.

 

Rey climbed out of bed, walking over to the Iakaru. “Can I...can I help you with something?” she asked.

 

For the first time since they’d begun to have a conversation, though it was mostly one-sided, the woman’s orange eyes connected with hers.

 

“You ask a lot of questions, Madame Jedi,” she replied, but her cold exterior was melting away.

 

“Rey,” she corrected. “It’s just Rey.”

 

“I’m Aubani,” the Iakaru replied.

 

“Nice to meet you, Aubani,” Rey smiled. There was a pause before she queried the servant. “Does Be- Supreme Leader Ren treat you well?”

 

The Iakaru nodded. “He has high standards, but he is a fair man. He doesn’t strike us if we fail to complete a task. In fact, in all the time I’ve been here, I have never seen the Supreme Leader inflict any form of physical punishment upon one of his staff. I can’t say the same of my former masters. Can you?”

 

“No,” Rey admitted softly. Plutt had never been fair and he liked to cause pain; thought it made his underlings fear him.

 

“Hmmm.” The petite sentient stared at her and Rey couldn’t help but think of Maz Kanata crawling across the table on Takodana to assess Finn. That day felt like a lifetime ago.

 

The day she’d met Ben.

 

Rey shook the thought from her mind. It was Supreme Leader Ren now.

 

The Iakaru must have found what she searched for in Rey’s face because she nodded and announced, “Let’s get you ready.”

 

“Ready? Ready for what?”

 

“The trials,” the woman informed her flippantly.

 

“What trials?”

 

“The Thirteenth Hour, a Nabooian trial of wit. It’s tradition, though in your case there is the added element of combat with the Knights of Ren.”

 

Rey felt her body stiffen. Trial by combat was a concept she was familiar with, having seen it evoked to settle disputes at Niima Outpost. It often ended in one or both parties dying, in which case Plutt had come out the true victor.

 

She swallowed, a vain attempt to sooth the sudden dryness of her throat. Even though she already had her suspicions, she asked, “Who raised the challenge?”

 

“Supreme Leader Ren.”

 


 

Kylo sat at the head of a long table, a steaming mug of caf and a spotless plate set out before him. Two additional settings were positioned on either side of his, one with caf and the other with a glass of Jogan juice.

 

Just as he was about to consult the chrono for the fifth time, the double doors to the dining room opened and the first of his morning guests arrived.

 

“Come along now,” Carsmica Dobcar ushered Temiri into the room.

 

Carsmica was a Gungan who had served in the Palace for the last few decades. An elder in her own community, she’d developed arthritis, making it difficult for her to work in the underwater city due to the chill. The former royal family had granted her a home within the Palace, but she’d insisted on working. She’d been in charge of the nursery, which made her the perfect candidate to watch over the last Jedi’s student.

 

“Let go of me,” the boy wrenched himself free of the woman’s gentle hold.

 

Or not...

 

Kylo rose from his seat, meeting them at the opposite end of the table. “Carsmica is not to be treated with disrespect,” he instructed Temiri. “If you’re in a foul mood, you may aim your adolescent anger at me, but you will not be rude to my staff.”

 

The boy glared at him, bold fury burning in his young eyes. “I want to see Rey.”

 

The Supreme Leader caught Carsmica ’s gaze above the child’s head. Her eyes held a mixture of pity, concern, and understanding. He sighed.

 

“You will,” he responded. “She will be with us shortly.” When the boy didn’t respond, he resisted the impulse to pinch the bridge of his nose in frustration. “Thank you, Carsmica,” he addressed the attendant. “You are dismissed.”

 

The Gungan bowed, exiting the way she’d come, making sure to close the doors behind her.

 

“Breakfast is ready,” Kylo gestured for Temiri to sit by the Jogan juice. “I’m sure you’re hungry.”

 

The child followed him, taking his seat but his face remained pinched. His arms were crossed over his midsection, as he sat slouched over, a deep crease in between his eyebrows. The petulance wasn’t endearing and for the first time, he questioned how taxing he’d been to his own parents.

 

Not wanting to follow that particular line of thought, Kylo tried to fill the growing silence while he waited for Rey to appear.

 

“Tell me, Temiri,” he began. “What do you know of the Force?”

 

“Like I’d discuss it with you,” the boy huffed, rolling his eyes.

 

While the youngling remained stubborn in the face of the Supreme Leader, Kylo hadn’t failed to notice the way the boy’s eyes flickered to the array of dishes set in front of them.

 

“The Bunn is quite good, if you’d like to try it,” Kylo offered, floating the bowl over to him.

 

Temiri’s eyes widened slightly and his arms loosed as he inspected the sticky grains. Then, as if remembering himself, he shrunk back, a scowl replacing his curiosity.

 

“No?” Kylo held back a chuckle. The child was remarkably like Rey, driven by his stomach, but as skittish as a wild Tauntaun. “I suppose I could eat the entire thing myself.”

 

He maneuvered the bowl back to its former position, reaching for the ladle to pour the contents onto his plate.

 

Despite his act of defiance, Temiri watched each move, his interest peaked. Kylo raised his spoon theatrically, the boy’s eyes trailing the slow progression of the utensil to the Supreme Leader’s mouth. For the child’s benefit, he made sure to slurp the contents loudly. He repeated the gesture a few times, pleased to notice how Temiri’s arms uncrossed and he began to lean forward.

 

Next, Kylo moved onto sample some of the sliced up Dressellian prunes. The rich amethyst color of the fruit stood out amongst the porridge, cereal and toast offerings nearby. Temiri didn’t appear to have a preference. Each dish held his attention equally and Kylo found himself wondering if the boy had suffered nights without a meal as Rey had. He made a mental note to check in with General Hux on the state of their galaxy reform project.

 

The loud creak of the double doors opened again, alerting them to the final guest’s arrival.

 

“Rey!” The boy jumped out of his seat, breaking into a run when he saw her. The Supreme Leader followed quietly behind.

 

“Temiri.” She sounded relieved as she knelt to receive the child’s hug.

 

“Good morning,” Kylo welcomed her, willing his face not to fall when she met him with an icy glare.

 

She only looked at him for a second before her attention returned to the boy. “Are you alright?” Rey asked, tucking his hair back behind his ears. “Did anyone hurt you?”

 

“I gave specific orders regarding his care,” Kylo answered, but Rey ignored him.

 

The boy glanced up at him, as if confused by his reply, then gave his own answer. “No,” Temiri shook his head, “but they wouldn’t let me see you.”

 

“It’s alright,” Rey reassured him, her hands on his shoulders. “I’m fine.”

 

“Are you hungry? We’re having breakfast,” Temiri announced, his tone rather content for someone who had been so against eating only moments before.

 

Rey appeared to be as surprised as Kylo, her brows knitting in suspicion.

 

“I promise it’s not poisoned,” he informed her.

 

The last Jedi stared at him, her expression unreadable. He considered peeking into her mind through the bond, but he didn’t want to chance upsetting her any further than he already had. He doubted she’d forgotten about her missing saber staff.  

 

“I could eat,” she finally admitted, allowing Temiri to lead her to the other end of the table.

 

Kylo easily strolled past them, moving to pull out the chair for her.

 

Rey gazed at him with the same indeterminable face. Then she let out an almost inaudible, “Thank you,” as she took her seat. Kylo eased her in towards the table, finding Temiri already digging into the Bunn with gusto.

 

As he settled into his own spot, he was tempted to call the entire challenge off. For the first time since the Supremacy, he could see it — their future together. It was clearer than the Force bond vision, but it felt right. Having Rey here, seeing her at his side, his right-hand — it was enough to give him hope.

 

Perhaps this could be their life.

 

It could be just as he’d said. They’d rule together, live together...love together. If she wanted to continue training her students, there was more than enough room in the palace for all the children. He’d set up a training room for them, give her access to all the courtyards and gardens. He’d do whatever she asked of him, as long as she accepted him. Accepted them.

 

It was the will of the Force. They were meant to be together. He knew it. Rey knew it. She only needed to stop denying the truth.

 


 

Rey ate in silence, her mind filled with a collection of questions. The man to her left was an enigma. Everything he did contradicted his corresponding actions. He’d taken her lightsaber but rejected his knight’s suggestion to place her in Force-suppressant handcuffs. He’d locked her up in a tower, but hadn’t stationed any guards by her door. He’d raised an ancient challenge which risked her life but invited her to dine with him. What was he playing at?

 

Aubani had mentioned Kylo’s compassion for his staff and she’d been surprised to see Temiri so at ease with the ruler of the galaxy when the Iakaru had delivered her to the dining room. Temiri was suspicious of everyone, a lasting impression from his formative years growing up in slavery. Yet with Kylo, he seemed comfortable.

 

She wondered if she was dreaming. Perhaps in a moment she’d wake up back on Yavin IV, groggy for the start of a new day.

 

“Want some, Rey?” Temiri asked, holding out a bowl of Bunn to her.

 

Eyeing the goop, she shook her head no. She opted for some Dressellian prunes and a slice of toast instead.

 

As she bit into the violet fruit, juice dribbled down her chin.

 

“Allow me.” Suddenly Kylo was leaning over, dabbing at her face with a cloth napkin.

 

Temiri didn’t appear to care about the intimate act, but Rey could barely contain her blush. “Thank you,” she replied softly.

 

“How did you sleep?”

 

“I didn’t,” she admitted.

 

“Such a pity,” he remarked, cutting up another prune and handing her the fresh slices one by one. “The rest would have done you a service.”

 

“So would have my saber,” Rey shot him a knowing look. “I don’t appreciate having my weapon stolen.”

 

Kylo smirked. “Now you know how I felt.”

 

Rey opened her mouth to respond when a knock at the door cut her off. Kylo stood, eyes hard as a short man rushed into the chamber.

 

“What is it?” Kylo demanded, a sharp tone to his voice.

 

Rey’s fingers wrapped around her knife, her body poised to strike at the danger she felt lurking just beyond the dining room.

 

“The Knights of Ren are ready for you, Supreme Leader Ren,” the squirrelly man notified him.

 

Kylo’s jaw tightened, but he didn’t comment on the news. “Thank you, Mitaka. I’ll be with them shortly,” he informed the man.

 

The lieutenant gave a curt bow, then closed the doors as he backed out of the chamber.

 

“Shall we?” He offered his arm to her.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“I believe Aubani made you aware of the trials,” Kylo quirked a brow at her.

 

“You can’t honestly expect me to go through with this,” she scoffed.

 

“You’re the one who called to me, Rey,” he pointed out. “What would you have me do?”

 

When she couldn’t offer him an answer, he produced her saber staff. “You’ll need this.”

 

It was the last thing he said to her before he was sweeping her and Temiri out of the dining room. As they exited, she spotted the Knights of Ren congregated at the end of the corridor. They fell into step with their master, surrounding her and her student.

 

Rey marched out of the palace, flanked by the Knights of Ren as she followed Kylo to the gardens. Temiri clung to her hand, his Force signature vibrating with nervous energy she wasn’t able to calm. Her body was exhausted and sore from sitting up all night, attempting to find a way out of the palace and off the planet without detection.

 

It had been a fruitless pursuit for freedom. Even if she hadn’t needed to factor in Temiri, there was no way Rey would have been able to slip out of the palace unnoticed. Between the Supreme Leader and his twelve knights, her Force signature was sure to trigger a response.

 

Regardless of their quaint breakfast and the way he’d looked at her, Kylo still led her outside to the maze. Having grown up around thieves and smugglers, Rey knew very little of royal customs, including the Thirteenth Hour Trial. She had a feeling even if she managed to navigate through the labyrinth, the knights would do everything in their power to ensure she didn’t survive to see the next sunrise.

 

They came to a halt before the entrance to the maze. Kylo reached a hand back to her, leading her away from his knights and her student. She gave Temiri’s a hand a squeeze, stepping between the dark-cloaked entourage to follow the Supreme Leader.

 

Once they were out of earshot, she implored him to reconsider. “Ben, please don’t do this,” Rey begged of him.

 

“You said you would take on the Knights of Ren by yourself,” Kylo reminded her. “I’m merely giving you the chance.”

 

“It’s not a chance, it’s a test,” Rey hissed.

 

“You have thirteen hours in which to solve the labyrinth and survive the trials,” Kylo went on. “If you complete the maze within the allotted time, you and your student may go. You have my word that no one shall follow you off-world and no tracking devices will be used.”

 

“And if I don’t?”

 

“If you are unable to complete the maze, you remain here with me,” he concluded. “Forever.”

 

Rey forced herself to not react to the underlying meaning. She swallowed, glancing nervously behind her at where Temiri was. He mirrored her defiant expression, but she caught the hint of fear in his orbs.

 

Turning back to the narrow path cut from the hedges, she gave the Supreme Leader a curt nod. He stepped back, placing a hand on Temiri’s shoulder as they both watched her enter the labyrinth.

 

Her hand went to the saber on her belt, feeling comfort in the familiarity of the cold hilt against her palm. This was just another one of his games.

 

Besides, it didn’t look that hard...

Chapter Text

 

Rey strolled through the hedge maze, eyes scanning each leaf as it rustled in the breeze. She kept one hand on her lightsaber hilt and one ready to shield herself, in case of attack. Old habits from her life as a scavenger kept her on the backs of her feet, prepared to duck or dart away at a moment’s notice. 

 

Luke had never taught her any Jedi combat tactics, despite the fact he’d been willing to pick a fight with her the instant she arrived on Ahch-To. 

 

She suspected the knights would be well trained, but she also suspected they’d never fought to avoid starvation. Fighting for sport and fighting to survive were two separate things. If it came down between her life or theirs, Rey knew what would happen.

 

If it hadn’t been for the challenge, she would have enjoyed being surrounded by the lush vegetation; the varying shades of emerald, jade, and myrtle. Rey was tempted to run her fingers over the greenery, even if only for a second. It was unlike the jungle on Yavin IV or the moss which grew all over Ahch-To. 

 

Her childlike wonder didn’t last. 

 

She came to the first of many intersections. Her hazel eyes flickered at the two directions lying before her. One veered to the left and around a bend. The other went off to the right for a long stretch before disappearing beyond a great tree. 

 

Both appeared safe. They were well lit and clear of overgrowth or raised roots. To anyone else, there would be no debate. Either direction could lead safely to the exit. But Rey was wise enough to understand it was all a mirage. Nothing inside this labyrinth was that simple and it certainly wasn’t safe. 

 

It was all a game — perhaps the most dangerous one she’d ever played. 

 

Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply. Rey heard the world around her drift into the background, never completely letting go of her awareness but allowing herself to sink into the Force. She reached out, not with her hand, but her mind. 

 

She could feel the life energies nearest her first — winged creatures and insects. Spiraling out from her, there were other sentients — probably the knights and beyond that, the palace staff, Temiri, and Ben. 

 

Her brow furrowed at the name. Referring to the Supreme Leader as Ben stung more than it should. She chose not to analyze why instead of searching beyond the palace grounds. 

 

The planet was teeming with life from various species. The Force pulsed through each of them, just as it pulsed through her, the invisible connector of the galaxy. 

 

Rey smiled to herself. The first time she had felt the Force flow through her, the power had scared her. She’d sworn to never use the ancient energy. It had been potent, almost intoxicating in the way it compelled her to fight back against Ben. She’d given into it, permitted it to overwhelm her to ensure survival. Once she recognized what had happened, Rey knew she had to learn to control it. It had taken time for her to accept the change within her, but now she welcomed the energy as an old friend. 

 

Trusting in her own power, she honed in on the path which veered to the left. There was only one Force signature if she went that way, but the darkness around the signature was suffocating. Rey coughed as the Dark Side pressed against her, frantically pulling back. 

 

She scanned the path to the right next. She could feel three knights lying in wait for her, one barely more than a hundred paces ahead. The tree could offer coverage, but there were no rules stating only one knight could engage her at a time. Taking on all three at once wasn’t impossible, but it would leave her vulnerable to another attack if the Darksider to the left chose to chase her down. 

 

Rey blinked, coming back to herself as she weighed her options. She didn’t like the odds. Glancing over her shoulder, she noticed she couldn’t go back the way she’d come. The entrance was sealed up.

 

Alright, then.

 

Left or right?


 

Kylo gazed down upon the labyrinth, able to see the top of Rey’s head from where he was perched above. She’d been frozen for several minutes. Each moment she remained still, his apprehension grew. 

 

He’d felt her signature brush across his own as she searched for his knights, but before he could respond in kind, Rey yanked back. Kylo nearly howled in frustration. 

 

She still didn’t understand. The Resistance had brainwashed her so completely, she wasn’t able to see what was right in front of her. To her, he was the villain, having tricked her into coming onboard the Supremacy when all he’d wanted was to help her find the belonging she sought. 

 

He wasn’t done with her yet. He would show her where her place was in the new order, in the galaxy. 

 

Kylo had ordered his knights to disarm her but gave them strict instructions not to harm her. Rey already bore marks from their battles. He wouldn’t allow any further injury to come to her. 

 

Regardless of the monster she saw when she looked at him, Kylo had only one reason for raising the challenge. By the new laws and old, Rey would be his. If she won, per Naboo culture, she’d be deemed fit to be his bride. If she lost, the terms of their agreement meant she’d live out her days with him. Either way, she would be his and his alone.

 

It’s only forever, not long at all...

 

A knock sounded at his door. 

 

He didn’t budge from his station, unable to tear his eyes from the brunette as she finally chose. 

 

Another knock.

 

“Enter,” he called out.

 

“Supreme Leader?”

 

“Carsmica,” Kylo gestured for her to join him on the balcony. “What updates do you have for me?”

 

“The boy,” she began hesitantly. 

 

“Yes,” he gave a curt nod, signaling her to continue. He watched Rey veer to the left and straight towards Archais Ren. 

 

“He is refusing to come out of his room,” the Gungan sighed. “I asked him if he’d like to join Force discussions at your grandmother’s school, but he refused. Quite fiercely, in fact.” 

 

Kylo wasn’t surprised. The boy had shown impressive loyalty to Rey. When she entered the maze, Temiri had started running for her. Kylo caught him before one of the Knights of Ren did, holding onto the boy’s shoulders as they both watched the last Jedi disappear.

 

The fealty his knights were sworn to was nothing compared to the way Temiri’s eyes hardened and his jaw set after Rey had been taken from him. It had been the same way his face had contorted when Rey escaped from Starkiller base with that traitor. Kylo had stared at the former Stormtrooper with the same loathing expression. 

 

The boy promptly yanked free of his grasp, storming back into the palace once it became clear Rey’s only way out was to go through. Temiri had been indignant ever since. Kylo was once again obliged to acknowledge how alike they were, though he refused to admit it to anyone. 

 

Their similarities gave him insight into the boy’s mind, an advantage Carsmica did not have. 

 

“I shall speak with him,” Kylo decided. “Bring him here.”

 

“As you wish, Supreme Leader,” Carsmica bowed and left to retrieve Temiri.

 

Kylo turned his attention back to the labyrinth just in time to see Rey avoid an attack. She ducked as the end of Archais Ren’s quarterstaff sliced through the air. Kylo lost sight of her for a few tense moments. He held his breath, gripping the balcony railing and inadvertently leaning closer to the action.


 

Rey scarcely had time to dodge as the dull end of the faceless knight’s weapon came at her. The quarterstaff was a tool she was intimately familiar with. As she spun around, kicking up dirt from the path, Rey focused on the angle of his incoming attack.

 

The opposite end of the staff circled around, aiming for her temple. She bobbed out of range, ripping her lightsaber from her belt and ignoring the dual blades. If the knight was unsettled by her plasma blades against his carbon steel ones, he didn’t show it.

 

He charged at her again. Rey backed up until the branches of the hedge dug into her back. She kept her saber in front of her, ready to twist it just so. With the proper leverage, it would be all too easy to slice off his wrist.

 

The second she recognized that he must have too, switching up his stance to strike at her ankle. Rey spun away, kicking her feet up and landing her right heel into the crook of his elbow. Her hit sent his own arm slamming into his ribs. His head dropped and he released a low grunt upon impact.

 

Rey darted across the pathway, leveraging the opposite side of the labyrinth wall as a way to project herself back at the knight. She shrieked out a battle cry as she brought her saber-staff down over his helmet.

 

But he rolled off to the side.

 

And promptly tossed a handful of dirt into her face.

 

She reeled back. Momentarily blinded, Rey sheathed her blades. Her senses immediately heightened. Thanks to her Force-sensitivity, she was able to feel her attacker corner her. Rey heard his heavy boots against the earth as he approached and brought down her hilt with all the strength she possessed.

 

The metal found its mark, striking him on his transverse arch. He jolted back and Rey ignited her blades once more. The gesture sent a clear message to the knight.

 

Back off.

 

Wiping her armbands across her face, she removed the residual dirt. She blinked a few times before her vision cleared.

 

The knight, whose face was still hidden by his helmet, was watching her. As he assessed how best to proceed, Rey remembered what Master Skywalker had told her about the Force.

 

It’s not about lifting rocks.

 

Apparently, Luke had been wrong again. That or the Force had a sense of humor.

 

Rey flickered her fingers down, the way she’d seen Kylo do in Snoke’s throne room. Suddenly the wall behind the knight exploded, the underlying stone construct bursting into hundreds of shards. She ducked as the organic shrapnel came flying at them.

 

It hit the knight with enough strength to dent his helmet and tear up his armor. The blow had also divested him of his quarterstaff, which now resided on the ground in front of Rey. She stepped on the metal weapon, dragging it closer to her body and out of his reach.

 

As she straightened up, she watched him warily, her staff at the ready. Rey had learned from the manipulative nature of those on Jakku that no opponent was truly down until they were dead. She’d made such a careless mistake only once in her young life. She would not be so foolish as to make it again.

 

When Rey saw the blood seeping onto the ground, her resolve lessened. She felt his life Force, scanning the energy to determine whether the wound was superficial or not. The instant she identified the cause, she returned her saber to its holster and knelt by the knight.

 

“You’re quite a surprise,” a deep voice chuckled from under the helmet. “I can see why he’s taken with you.”

 

Rey hoped her blush wasn’t noticeable. “How do I call for a medic?” she questioned.

 

Another chuckle.

 

“In the times of the Empire, there would be no medic,” he informed her. “There was no need.”

 

Her eyes widened. Surely Ben didn’t expect her to...

 

“It was considered a great dishonor to live once defeated,” the knight mentioned.

 

“I don’t believe in needlessly taking a life,” Rey stated. “I’ve seen enough death.”

 

“As have I,” the knight nodded.

 

She offered him her hand, surprised when he not only allowed her to help him to his feet but pressed his helmet to her skin.

 

“You’re a rare flower indeed, Rey of Jakku,” the man commented, as he pulled back. “Kylo is lucky to have found you.”

 

“I’m sure the Supreme Leader has other consorts,” she replied dismissively.

 

“None he would consider,” the man said firmly.

 

Rey wasn’t sure how to respond to that. She’d suspected in his new role within the First Order, Ben would seek to forge a political alliance. He was a brilliant strategist, like his mother, a trait which he had proved time and time again by finding the Resistance.

 

When Ben had made his true name known to the galaxy, collecting his birthright, dozens of powerful families aligned with the First Order. As the Supreme Leader he was intimidating, but as a prince, he was desirable for the power and wealth he could provide. She suspected he’d marry soon. Not for love, of course, but for tactical reasons. General Hux would probably be the one to arrange it. Rey had to admit, whoever she was, she’d be fortunate to have him.

 

Though at times he had the reckless attitude of his father, Ben had proven he was level-headed as a ruler. From what Rey could tell, he was fair to his staff, a rarity in her opinion. She was sure his compassion would extend to whoever he chose as his partner.

 

She ignored how that thought felt ugly and heavy in her chest. Caring for him was unwise and, given her current circumstances, also unrequited. She shook her head, ridding the thought from her mind.

 

“Here,” Rey handed the knight his quarterstaff. “This belongs to you.”

 

“Thank you,” the knight bowed to her one final time, indicating he was going to take his leave.

 

“Wait,” she called after him. “I didn’t get your name.”

 

He glanced at her over his shoulder and she could swear she felt him grin. “Archais. Archais Ren.”

 

“May the Force be with you, Archais.”

 

“And with you, Rey of Jakku.”


 


Upon the balcony, the Supreme Leader blinked. His stunned stupor steadily subsided. The tightness in his chest loosened until he was able to breathe and he exhaled. 

 

Rey extended a hand to Archais, who stared at her perplexed for a moment before raising his gloved hand to take hers. He bowed his head forward, gently touching the front of his helmet to her knuckles. It was a sign of respect and fidelity. The knight had formally accepted her as his superior, a sight which had Kylo smiling. 

 

The last Jedi may have been angry with him for the challenge, but this was her first step. She was meant to be with him, this common girl with no legacy, no family name. She balanced him, came to him as an equal with no expectations except for her need for acceptance. They were the same. She need only believe it. With the majority of the maze left to cover and eleven remaining knights, it was only a matter of time before Rey understood. 

 

Archais bowed, allowing her to go on her way. Kylo watched her make her way towards the west end of the maze, pleased with her progress. 

 

It was then that Carsmica returned with Temiri, who appeared sullen as ever. 

 

Kylo left the balcony to join the boy in his main quarters. “I hear you’ve been trying the patience of my staff,” he remarked. 

 

“You can’t brainwash me like you do your Stormtroopers,” the child snapped. 

 

The Supreme Leader raised his eyes in silent question to Carsmica, who shrugged. “What gave you such an idea?”

 

“That’s why I’m here, isn’t it? You’re going to use Rey and I against the Resistance?”

 

Kylo didn’t have to look up to know Carsmica’s face was filled with worry, though whether it was from Temiri’s unparalleled cheek or her own opinion of him, he couldn’t be sure. Carsmica tended to keep her thoughts closed off from him. 

 

Narrowing his eyes at the boy, Kylo dismissed the Gungan. “He’ll stay with me for the remainder of the morning,” he announced.

 

Carsmica exited his chambers, closing the heavy doors behind her. 

 

Once alone, Kylo glanced at the chronometer, ticking down the time remaining for the challenge. Rey still had over twelve standard hours. He reached out, brushing across the maze to pinpoint her location and then the locations of each of his remaining knights. 

 

He had time. 

 

Crossing the room, he knelt in front of the boy. “You remind me of the girl,” Kylo smirked. 

 

“What girl?” Temiri questioned. 

 

“The girl with untold power.”

 

“What kind of girl?” The boy sat, tilting his head, his interest caught by Kylo’s introduction.

 

“Quiet,” the Supreme Leader commanded calmly, “and I’ll tell you.”

 

Temiri sat down on the floor, cross-legged and waiting. Kylo began his tale. 

 

“She was a scavenger girl.”

Chapter Text

 

Rey had been walking along the winding path of the labyrinth for over an hour. Since Archais had departed, she was left alone.

 

Again.

 

Despite his purpose to engage her, Rey had actually felt a kinship to the knight. He held himself in a determined way, one she recognized. She wondered what it was he survived. Knowing how the First Order operated, she was sure it wasn’t pleasant. Archais hadn’t been a soulless murderer, as she suspected. Even if she hadn’t seen what existed beneath his mask, Rey felt his darkness ebb in her presence. Maybe Kylo wasn’t the only one who could be turned. 

 

She pushed the thought from her mind.

 

Hope was a tricky thing. It could make one feel protected and justified, but it could also make you wait for something which would never happen, forcing you to give up something better. While Leia had subscribed to it, Rey doubted its capacity to carry her through the trials ahead. 

 

The green walls of foliage began to blur until they all appeared identical. It wasn’t until she singed a mark into one wall with her lightsaber that she realized she was going in circles. 

 

“No,” Rey groaned, staring at the mark in disbelief. She ran a hand over her head, smoothing back a few stray strands while contemplating her next move. “You can do this, you can do this,” she told herself. 

 

Her freedom was on the line, as well as the safety of her pupils. By now they were probably offworld. With any luck, Chewie had already delivered them to the Resistance. She could only imagine how Finn, Rose and Commander Dameron would react when they found out she wasn’t part of the drop-off. As bad as that was, nothing could compare to how alone her students must be feeling.

 

There was no trying to win this challenge. She had to win. 

 

Rey strolled forward, marking the maze walls as she went. She burned tiny signs to herself in the most obscure language she could think of: Mando’a. There was a chance the remaining knights would notice her tactic and either cut the entire panel off the wall or cover the mark with one of their own so she could no longer decipher it. Seeing as she’d rather chance that than continue wandering aimlessly, Rey went about leaving herself breadcrumbs.

 

Once she was able to discern the various intersections and turns, she began to notice a pattern: right, left, left, right, left, right, left, left, right. The significance of the pattern wasn’t recognizable, but it mattered little to Rey, whose main objective was to escape.

 

As she made up for her lack of progress earlier, a dark shadow passed overhead. Rey glanced up, shielding her eyes as she watched a First Order transport skim over the gardens. The red insignia stood out against the black ship, a taunting reminder of how the First Order had stolen her not once but twice.

 

Not the First Order.

 

Ben. 

 

She sighed again, annoyed with herself for being unable to refer to him by his chosen name. He didn’t deserve her forgiveness. He’d made the decision to come after the Resistance. He’d made the decision to come after her students. He’d made the decision to come after her. 

 

After all they’d shared and he still thought of her as...what? His enemy? His prize?

 

And then there was that moment at breakfast. She blushed, recalling how tenderly he’d cleaned her face, not at all repulsed by her lack of table manners. 

 

How could someone who loathed her as much as he did turn around and act so graciously? The man was an enigma. 

 

Like this maze, Rey thought. 

 

Her attention shifted back to the path before her. There was a spike in dark energy within the Force, indicating her next challenger was approaching. Rey stilled at the next intersection, awaiting the knight. 

 

"'Ello," a voice greeted her in Huttanese.

 

She grinned, replying back in the same dialect, "Did you just say 'hello'?" His candor was almost humorous.

 

Almost.

 

"No, I said “‘ello,” but that’s close enough,” he returned.

 

She quirked a brow.

 

"Apologies for the lack of formalities, Madame Jedi." He gave a mock bow and she narrowed her eyes.

 

“It’s Rey, not Madame and not Jedi.”

 

“No?” the faceless warrior stepped out from behind the curved wall to her left. His — she assumed from the deep pitch he was a man — head was tilted in interest, no doubt surprised by how well she could speak the language. “It appears I am mistaken then. I believe the trials were for a Jedi.”

 

Rey didn’t let her eyes leave him, her hand already closing around the hilt of her saber staff. Their banter was friendly so far, but she knew this was all a part of the game. A little loth cat and mouse...

 

Too bad she was neither. 

 

Her eyes narrowed at her next contender. In retaliation, the man snapped out an electro-whip, the blue energy crackling as thong came to life.

 

Rey dug her heels into the ground, testing the earth’s texture as she readied herself for his attack. She’d noticed the change in the pathways at the intersection. It was subtle, but even the slightest misstep could cost her in a critical battle. She’d learned that lesson the hard way on Jakku.

 

Mind your surroundings, Mashra had warned her. If it hadn’t been for the Aqualish, Rey was sure she’d have died in the Sinking Fields. Mashra had always advised her to wait for an opponent to attack.

 

So she did.

 

But she didn’t wait long. Like Archais, this knight gave very little warning, charging at her with clear intentions. Spinning away from the end of the whip, Rey wondered if his enthusiasm was due to his intense training or orders from his master.

 

The whip clapped less than an inch from her face.

 

Perhaps it was a bit of both.

 

Rey ignited both ends of her saber staff. The electro-whip shot out, aimed at the top half of her weapon. She twisted the staff, avoiding his attack and shifting out of range. He recoiled and struck again, this time going for her ankle. Leaping into the air, Rey somersaulted over her blades. She hissed when she slid backward. The path had transitioned from dirt to small pebbles, affecting her landing.

 

The knight provided no time for her to collect her thoughts, engaging her immediately. He brought the whip down. It was sheer survival instinct which allowed her to raise her staff in time to keep the weapon from embedding itself into her shoulder blade.

 

Beads of sweat rose on her forehead from the severe heat of the electro-whip. Its proximity to her bare skin frightened her. This nameless knight was proving to be more challenging than his brother.

 

With a shove of the Force, Rey broke away. She stabbed the end of her staff at him, intending to hit the knight in his calf. Incapacitation was her goal. There was no need to kill the man, no matter how intent he appeared to be on ending her.

 

Her strike barely missed, the knight side-stepping at the last possible second. Rey twirled her saberstaff, ready to catch him on the upswipe when the whip snapped out, singeing an errant strand of hair hanging by her ear.

 

She felt a vibration through the Force.

 

Apprehension. Rage. Vigilance. And...

 

...fear.

 

Fear of losing her.

 

Rey’s impulse was undeniable. She glanced up, catching those dark eyes which haunted her lonely nights on Yavin IV. Those same eyes which had entrapped her on Ahch-To. Those eyes she knew she’d never escape from, whether she won the trial or not.

 

“Ah!”

 

Her skin burned as the whip collided with her side, searing through her tunic to leave an angry red burn along her torso. Gasping, she instinctively reached for the wound. It felt as if R’iia herself had held a torch to her side. The opening was slick with a mixture of fluids, hot to the touch and pulsing.

 

The Force rippled with his wrath, the darkness so great it stole the breath from her lungs. Or it may have been the pain. In any case, Rey found it difficult to breathe.

 

She shuffled backward, rocking on her legs unsteadily as she attempted to put distance between herself and her attacker. The knight advanced, unaffected by the surge of power which had impacted Rey so violently. She chided herself for being rendered immobile by those eyes. Hadn’t Master Skywalker warned her about them?

 

Would she ever learn?

 

The knight’s whip lashed out once more. It came at her like a meteor propelling through the atmosphere, deadly and destructive. Rey ducked, nearly losing more hair in the process. Her buns bobbed against the curve of her head as she dodged another stroke and another, her mind scrambling along with her feet.

 

She tried to lose herself in the Force, but all she could feel was Ben’s uncontrollable fury. The boiling heat of his temper scorched across the bond. It almost made the pain of her fresh wound seem bearable.

 

Almost.

 

Then the heat shifted and she felt a different kind of warmth, like a balm being spread over her wound. It came across their connection, persistent and unyielding, just like her bond mate. There was an underlying calm to it, as if all the frenzied madness within him had burned out, leaving behind only this. This warmth. This passion.

 

Rey allowed the sensation to wrap around her. It filled her with peace and cleared her mind.

 

She could smell her sweat on the breeze and taste the trepidation hanging between them. She heard the air fill her attacker’s lungs. She could feel his muscles tense as he prepared to attack.

 

Another burst of electric blue soared by, narrowly missing her and effectively jolting her out of her tranquil cocoon. Rey clenched her jaw, breathing out through her nose as she steadied herself on the dirt path. She’d lost ground by retreating, but it was a favorable option compared to losing her head.

 

Hands wrapped around her staff, her eyes locked onto the approaching knight. She counted his steps as he charged.

 

One, two, three and lift—

 

Crouching down, she twisted her body up, angling it to the slide before slicing her saber staff through the air. The staff’s blades cut forward with ease, causing the knight to jump over it and, by extension, Rey.

 

She countered by swinging her weapon around and straightening, her blade ending up tucked under the helmet of the knight. She held it in position, wedged between the top of his armor and his face covering, the gentle thrum of the blade the only sound between them.

 

For a moment, all was still.

 

Rey held her breath, unwilling to flinch while in such a critical position. The knight must have shared her opinion, remaining frozen until Rey eyed his whip. She tilted her head slightly, merely enough to communicate what she wanted.

 

With a grunt, the knight tossed the weapon several paces out of reach. Then and only then did Rey start breathing.

 

“Madame Jedi,” the knight spoke in Huttanese again. He moved to kneel and Rey sheathed her lightsaber.

 

When his knees hit the ground, he removed his helmet, revealing a Thradian face. His full black eyes held hers, before he bowed his head in respect.

 

“You can call me Rey,” she reminded him, bolstering her weapon.

 

“I am called Cadmus,” the yellow-skinned sentient replied, rising to his full height.

 

He was taller than her, though nowhere near the height of the Supreme Leader, whose Force signature had calmed dramatically. Rey didn’t allow herself another look up at him, too concerned by his effect on her and what it had almost cost.

 

“It was an honor, Madame— Rey,” the knight kept his head bowed, but withdrew a bacta patch from his robes. He handed it to her, indicating she should use it on her wound.

 

“You’ll have to teach me how to use one of those someday,” Rey grinned, pointing to his whip, as she applied the patch. “That’s the second time someone has used one on me.”

 

“It would be my pleasure,” Cadmus promised, retrieving his weapon.

 

“I will take my leave. May the Force be with you.”

 

Rey smiled, pleasantly surprised to hear those words pass his lips. “May the Force be with you, Cadmus.”

 

She watched him walk off, ignoring the gaze she could still feel from above.

 

And the warring emotions in the bond.

 


 

Kylo watched her move further away from him, seemingly uninfluenced by the way the Force connected them in her moment of need. 

 

He’d felt the way everything had stilled, almost as if he was experiencing it for the first time. In fact, Kylo half-expected her to turn her weapon on him, until he heard her quick inhale and felt her confusion. It was only then he realized she saw him. 

 

Time stood still.

 

It had nothing to do with the Force and everything to do with Rey. She’d always managed to make him feel trapped.

 

The day he’d found her in Takodana forest, he’d been grateful for his helmet. While it intimidated her, it also hid his surprise. She was so beautiful— the most gorgeous thing in the galaxy. And as if that wasn’t enough, she was more powerful than she realized, gifted with the Force, like him. The pull to her was as unexpected as it was undeniable. He’d gone for her, disregarding his orders in favor of having her, consequences be damned. 

 

Kylo never regretted it. 

 

Even after spending a year parted from her, worried Hux would snatch her up, or worse, that she’d be hit by a stray blaster bolt, he never considered an alternative. There was only one woman in the galaxy who truly knew him. She didn’t agree with his methods, but she understood them. She understood him. Was that why the Force had connected them?

 

Their most recent Force bond was short-lived. When she took Cadmus’ hit, Kylo’s body had instantly jerked, as if he’d been the one burned. It had taken all of his hard-earned willpower to keep from leaping from the terrace. Feeling her pain was one thing, but seeing it etched on her face...it nearly destroyed him.

 

And it was all his fault. 

 

Watching Rey falter had his hands balling into fists at his side. His rage rolled through him, disappointment in his own choices following close behind. Once again, he had chosen poorly. Once again, he’d made a mistake where the Scavenger was concerned. No wonder she didn’t want him. No wonder she’d left. Everything he did was for her, yet in the end all he managed to do was hurt her. 

 

Rey already bore a scar from Snoke’s throne room, a jagged cut on her upper arm which marred her sun-kissed skin. Kylo winced, recalling how he hadn’t been able to get to her in time. No, in the end, he hadn’t been enough. In fact, she’d saved him. 

 

He watched his knight advance, his heart stuttering in his chest. Rey was too still. Why wasn’t she moving? What was she—

 

Like the Knight of Ren, Kylo saw her attack too late. In the next instant, she held her blade to the Thradian’s neck. Another victory. Kylo could breathe again. 

 

She was safe, but she was the only one. 

 

He was grateful Carsmica had come to collect Temiri from his care. Kylo was in no condition to watch the boy while subsequently chastising his knight.

 

Cadmus had not heeded his warning. The Thradian would be severely punished for his insubordination. Kylo’s displeasure only increased when he witnessed Cadmus’ offer following the duel. Cadmus had charmingly volunteered to teach Rey and it incited a potent spark of jealousy within him. Rey was his to teach.

 

His. 

 

Eyes darker than a sea tempest, Kylo watched as Cadmus exited the maze. He would return to the palace to report in. Once alone, the Supreme Leader would ensure such impertinence did not happen again. 

 

He’d been clear when he’d directed his knights. Any choice they made to disregard his orders could be viewed as treason. And Kylo did not tolerate treason— ven though he had committed the ultimate act of betrayal by cutting Snoke down. His knights didn’t need to know about that, though. Only Rey knew what had happened in the throne room. 

 

Like the Force, the secret bound them.

 

“Master,” a voice called to him. 

 

Kylo turned away from his balcony, joining the speaker in his main chamber. “Archais.”

 

The knight knelt, head bowed in submission. When he rose, he addressed Kylo. “I see your catch has succeeded yet again.”

 

The Supreme Leader narrowed his eyes. “The last Jedi is not one to be underestimated.”

 

“I know,” the knight chuckled and removed his helmet. 

 

Archais was unique. Unlike the other knights, he was human. Like his master, he preferred to keep that detail a mystery, hidden beneath his armor and his mask. What was beneath the protective shroud was another reason why Kylo’s second in command preferred to keep covered. 

 

Lacerations, long since healed, decorated his swart skin. The lines were dusty pink, raised from his cheekbones and dipping under his jawline. There were similar marks on Kylo, running along his back, down his legs, winding like a serpent around his arms. All came from the same tormentor, a true monster.

 

Snoke.

 

Archais was the only one who remained from Kylo’s time as Ben Solo. He was the sole survivor of the purge Snoke ordered upon his apprentice, focused on breaking him, snuffing out the light for good. Each time Ben watched another companion fall to their death, more of his soul shattered, allowing the darkness to creep in. One by one they were ripped away from him until only Archais remained. 

 

Either too stubborn to die or too foolish to surrender, the man remained. He held true to his declaration to follow Ben from the academy and walk a new path. 

 

The choice had nearly cost him his life. 

 

Kylo had little to be grateful for, but Archais’ friendship was a rare treasure. He held it close. 

 

“You best reign in your emotions, Master,” his ally suggested. “Cadmus may not follow protocol, but he isn’t ignorant enough to disregard how you feel about her. It won’t bode well for Rey if you place an even larger target upon her back.”

 

“I’m not—“

 

“You are,” Archais interrupted.

 

There were few people who could cut off the Supreme Leader. Very few. The man who stood before him and the young woman in the gardens below could be considered either extremely lucky or extremely unfortunate to have earned such favor with him. It all depended on his mood. 

 

Currently, Kylo was less concerned about being interrupted and more concerned with what his friend had uncovered. 

 

He’d only spoken of Rey to Archais once. Apparently, that single conversation was enough of an anomaly for the knight to put it together. 

 

“What have I done?” he questioned, running a hand through his hair. 

 

“You gave her a chance,” Archais responded. “If you showed her mercy, there would be questions about your tolerance for the former Supreme Leader’s murder. You would have a mutiny on your hands. And if you executed her—”

 

“I would never—”

 

“I know, I know,” Archais held up a hand, pursing his lips. “But Master, your emotions have always been your weakness. If you don’t conceal them, they will bring an end to this...for both of you.”

 

There was a long pause as the weight of what his knight said settled between them. When the Supreme Leader broke the silence, his tone changed. “She and I...we’re bound,” Kylo admitted. 

 

It was the first time he’d spoken of their connection out loud to someone other than Rey. The only other person with knowledge of their bond had been Snoke and he was in no position to tell anyone.

 

“Through the Force?” It was a question, but the way his knight spoke made it sound more like a statement. He nodded. “That is rare indeed,” Archais remarked. “What does it mean?”

 

Kylo shook his head. Over the past year, he’d researched Force bonds, but there hadn’t ever been a recorded instance of one existing between two individuals who were neither master and apprentice nor family members.

 

The two men stood in silence for a time, each processing the complicated nature of having the Jedi Killer and the last Jedi bound. 

 

Then a knock sounded. Kylo’s eyes flickered to the double doors and back to Archais. “Make yourself scarce.”

 

“Master,” the knight bowed, retreating out through the emergency passage in Kylo’s bedroom.

 

It was a safety precaution for the royal family, one Kylo had shared with only Archais, Carsmica and Aubani. He had it on good authority his grandmother had leveraged the hidden network of tunnels and corridors during her reign. He intended to do the same if it meant protecting his secrets. 

 

“Enter,” he called through the door, his demeanor instantly changing when he caught sight of who it was.

 

“Cadmus.”

 

“Master,” the Thradian immediately went to his knees. 

 

Arachis’s warning was at the forefront of Kylo’s mind as he stared down at his knight, only the second of twelve sent into the maze. If there was any chance Rey would make it through, he needed to send a message.

 

No one would dare disobey him again. 

Chapter Text

 

“Are you incompetent or are you simply unable to recall the specific orders I gave you?” Kylo snarled. His knight remained kneeling where he had dropped upon entering the Supreme Leader’s chambers.

 

“Master, I —.”

 

“I do not wish to hear your excuses,” Kylo’s volume increased, along with his frustration. “You deliberately disobeyed orders.”

 

“Master, what does it matter if the Jedi girl is left alive or not? General Hux has ordered her to be executed for the death of Supreme Leader Snoke.”

 

Kylo felt his anger flare at the knight’s remark. Like a wildfire, the flames of his wrath burned within him, consuming everything. Despite the warning Archais had provided him, he was unable to keep his indignation from leaking into his tone. “I am the Supreme Leader,” he growled. “General Hux and his armies are under my command. You’d do well to remember that, Cadmus.”

 

“Yes, Master.”


Han Solo may have been a smuggler and a thief, but his father had taught him how to bluff.

 

Or he had tried.

 

When Han sat him down at the dejarik table, his father instructed him to act as though he had a winning hand, even if he didn’t. “You can’t allow your opponent to see your strategy, whether by the moves you make or by your facial expression. Be neutral.”

 

Kylo struggled with the concept, overwhelmed by his emotions. He felt too much and not enough all at once. If he lost, he was quick to anger. If he won, he was bashful about accepting the praise, unused to hearing kind words from his father. But by the time he was fifteen, the games stopped. He was sent away, cast out. His uncle didn’t want him to bluff about his feelings. Luke didn’t want him to feel at all.

 

Like a house of cards, all his carefully structured plans fell.

 

Kylo left the remains of the academy with his rage and disappointment clouding his mind. It served as the perfect gateway for Snoke to secure his place in Kylo’s life. It wasn’t until the Scavenger, Kylo felt the light try to break through. Allowing him to chase after her had been Snoke’s biggest mistake and also Kylo’s first success with bluffing.

 

Keeping his true intentions veiled was imperative to save Rey when he had murdered Snoke. It had taken every ounce of his control, but for her, he’d do it again.

 

“Her execution needs to come at a time when the Resistance will have all eyes on us. The end of the Jedi can be manipulated to solidify our victory. All who continue to fight against the First Order will have no choice but to pledge their loyalty, once the rebels are defeated,” he informed Cadmus.

 

He barely recognized his own voice, so cold even without the modulator of his mask. Kylo had relied on the helmet for years. Like his grandfather, he’d utilized technology to make him whole, especially when it came to completing the image of intimidating enforcer. Yet, he knew there was more than one way to wear a mask. Han Solo had taught him that too.

 

“Yes, Master,” Cadmus nodded dutifully.

 

Kylo felt the knight’s satisfaction through the Force, though a hint of skepticism remained.

 

“Until then, the Jedi is to remain unharmed,” he ordered. “Let the Resistance fall into a false sense of hope. Then we will strike. It will end the war once and for all.”

 

“Of course, Supreme Leader,” his knight acknowledged.

 

“You are dismissed,” Kylo kept his eyes on the Thradian until Cadmus exited his chambers.

 

He was uneasy.

 

The knights had never openly opposed him before. He felt as though he was perched on a precarious slope, teetering between falling over to one side or the other. There was much to be lost if he failed to get the situation under control, though nothing as costly as Rey’s safety.

 

The boy who once had run to his mother late at night, seeking comfort from nightmares, ached to once again run to the formidable woman. Leia had been an excellent strategist. She would have known what to say, would have known exactly which steps to take to ensure he maintained face, while simultaneously protecting Rey.

 

He crossed the room to his desk, sinking into a chair and pulling up his holopad. Her face was still shown on the Resistance propaganda. The Princess. The Senator. The Rebel. She’d been all those things and more, but to him, she’d been Mother. And he found himself wishing she was with him.

 

He needed her now more than ever.

 

Kylo swallowed thickly. He’d missed her funeral. It wasn’t as though he could attend. The Supreme Leader showing up unannounced and uninvited to the burial of Resistance General Leia Organa would surely have caused quite a stir. He could picture Dameron’s face, all pinched and exasperated. It might have been worth kicking off another battle if only to see that. He loathed the ‘best pilot in the Resistance.’

 

Regardless of the arrogant man’s reaction, Kylo regretted not seeing her one final time. He hadn’t properly mourned her, not the way he had for his father. His mother’s death was harder to accept.

 

A sound from the gardens grabbed his attention. In one fluid motion, he was up and stalking to the balcony.

 


 

Trying not to think of Ben was as pointless as praying for rain on Jakku. No matter how stubborn she was, Rey couldn’t hide from her true feelings for long. They had an annoying way of rising to the surface, demanding to be dealt with.

 

Walking along the stone pathway, she focused more on how their bond had changed than her actual bond mate. It was the less dangerous train of thought.

 

At least, that’s what she told herself.

 

When Cadmus landed his strike, the bond altered. Or she believed it had altered, but as she revisited the events, Rey wondered if in fact, the Force shifted or if Ben had.

 

His fury was unmatched in the galaxy, the fearsome Kylo Ren, who had lain waste to whole settlements in his search for the elusive last Jedi. His hunt for the map to Luke Skywalker caused their paths to cross and since that day they’d been undeniably tied together. His search became less about Luke and more about her until she was the one chasing after him.

 

And now...

 

...now Rey wasn’t sure what either of them was chasing. Power? Control? Belonging?

 

The way he’d reached for her across the bond had felt far more intimate than their hand touch, even more intimate than when he wiped the juice from her lips this morning. She blushed, remembering how gentle he’d been, so unlike the dominating force she knew he could be.

 

Her blush deepened again at that particular thought.

 

Rey understood what happened between a man and a woman. Jakku didn’t have much of an education system, but life lessons were readily available. If she hadn’t been aware of sex before, the Resistance certainly would have supplied her with plenty of material. Most of the rebels went at it like rabbits. She didn’t understand the appeal, or more accurately, she didn’t find anyone within the Resistance appealing.

 

Ben, on the other hand, with his gorgeous hair which was the color of a starless sky, was attractive. She chewed on her bottom lip. Even with the remnants of the scar bisecting his face, he was handsome, unfairly so.

 

Her traitorous mind replayed the conversation she’d had with Archais.

 

Kylo is lucky to have found you.

 

I’m sure the Supreme Leader has other consorts.

 

None he would consider.

 

Rey struggled to swallow, her cheeks practically burning. The knight couldn’t have meant...

 

No. She was no one. Ben told her so.  

 

As her thoughts warred internally, she came upon a gazebo, standing alone in the center of a circular clearing. Her instincts told her this was the center of the maze. While Rey was pleased to have made such progress, she was also filled with dread. She’d only battled two of the twelve knights. And there were only so many hours left for her to complete the challenge.

 

What if she failed? What would happen to Temiri? What would happen to her students? What would happen to her?

As if hearing her thoughts, four dark figures stepped out from behind the gazebo pillars. Their black robes billowed in the breeze, a stark contrast to the white marble columns. Like their predecessors, their faces were completely covered by masks, giving her no indication of their race or gender. Not that those details mattered. Their intent was the same regardless.

 

Rey came to a halt, eyeing them warily as each withdrew a weapon.

 

The tallest of the group wielded a long blade. Counter-clockwise from his position at the front of the platform, the shorter three converged together. There was one with a pair of numb-chucks, another with a pair of short sticks, and the last held twin blades.

 

Offhandedly, Rey wondered if they were related, triplets perhaps, considering their similar build and choice in weaponry.

 

As with her attackers from before, they didn’t utter a word. If they wanted to scare her, they would have to try a different tactic. Rey had already squared off with four Praetorian guards. A few knights weren’t going to frazzle her.

 

The tall one stalked towards her, his long blade grasped firmly in his left hand. She’d seen one like it before, holstered at the side of a Quarzite Warrior who was passing through Jakku. She envisioned the pale skin and cat-like eyes the Kage species was known for. There was a good chance her attacker was one.

 

Electro swords were deadly in battle, but they were no match for a lightsaber. Rey engaged hers, watching as the violet beams shot out from both ends. If the unique color struck the knights as odd, they veiled their reactions beneath their masks.

 

The Kage swung his blade at Rey. She dove out of range, back-stepping to bring her lightsaber over his head and drawing the hilt up against his throat. Behind her, she heard the other three charge. 

 

Rey used all of her body weight to flip the long blade-wielding knight around, leveraging his body as a shield so she didn’t lose her hold on him.

 

If fighting on the desert sands had taught her anything, it was to take down the largest opponent first. If the victory didn’t scare off the other attackers, at least the worst one was out of the way.

 

The other three, who she was already referring to as the triplets, stilled. By the way their heads tilted slightly, Rey guessed they were reassessing their strategy.

 

They began circling her, Rey dragging her larger attacker around with her as she turned in response. She kept the three in her sight at all times, never lingering in one spot long enough for them to be at her back. The triplets moved closer, in range of their fellow knight’s long blade, which coincidentally put them in range of her saber staff.

 

Rey dropped her weight to the right, before slamming back up to the left. She knocked the taller knight to the ground, shifting around to face him. Standing over his form, she kicked the long blade out of his hands, while twirling her saber staff to slice through one of the triplet’s short sticks and destroying the other’s numb-chucks. 

 

On the ground, the Kage reared up, grabbing hold of Rey’s ankle. She swung her blades in a downward arch, resting one end at his jugular and keeping the other end up to protect the side of her face. The Kage froze, but his fellow knights continued to close in on Rey.

 

Spinning on her heel, she rotated around, stepping away from the tallest knight and windmilling her arms around to keep the others at bay.

 

When the first of the triplets charged at her with his twin blades, Rey ducked, flipping her saber staff over her back to catch in her opposite hand, before coming back around to slice through his weapons. The pieces of the twin blades clattered to the ground. 

 

Rey would have smirked had it not been for his brother charging at her. The second triplet brought down his remaining short stick. She slid across the gravel on her knees, wincing at the brush burn it caused. It was minor compared to the pain another direct hit would have caused.

 

Facing them, Rey remained low to the ground, allowing them to come to her. Her size gave her speed and agility. She only needed to be wise enough to save her energy for critical blows.

 

When the triplet with the short stick lunged for her, Rey stood. Slicing her saber staff through the air, she barely missed her attacker’s chest as she cleaved his weapon in two. He came to an abrupt halt.

 

The four weaponless knights crowded her. Rey stared at them all, eyes narrow, jaw clenched. Her hands twisted on the hilt of her lightsaber.

 

Let them come for her. She was outnumbered, but she wasn’t weak. She knew how to defend herself.   

 

Rey waited for them to attack, expecting them to converge on her all at once.

 

They didn’t.

 

Together, they knelt before her in the gravel. She furrowed her brow, unsure if this was submission or a trick to get her to let her guard down.

 

Slowly, they removed their helmets. As she suspected, the largest of the four was a Kage. The other three were identical in appearance, down to the dull color of their skin. They were Geonosians, which explained why they operated as a unit. Geonosians were known for their hive mentality.

 

“Jedi,” the Kage addressed her in Galactic Standard.

 

“It’s Rey,” she sighed, wishing the knights were bonded so she could stop repeating herself. “Who are you?”

 

“Baccaus Ren,” he replied, bowing his head.

 

“Genesis,” the first Geonosians informed her. He had been the one with the numb-chucks, probably a weapon of his own design.

 

“Henus,” his brother introduced himself, no longer in possession of his short sticks.

 

“Icarus,” the last one announced.

 

“If you are done, I’ll be on my way,” Rey declared, not sheathing her blades.

 

Her lack of awareness during her last battle had cost her. She wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Despite the bacta patch, her side still burned. The recent influx of physical activity wasn’t aiding the healing process, though the patch had kept her wound from opening.

 

Infection could be a cruel killer. Just as cruel as dehydration or starvation.

 

Rey shivered, not wanting to think about that at this particular moment.

 

“We will take our leave,” Baccaus rose first, signaling his fellow knights to do the same.

 

She waited patiently for them to go, her weapon at the ready while they disappeared from sight. It wasn’t until she felt their Force signatures depart from the maze that she finally holstered her weapon.


 


He would never grow tired of watching her fight. Snoke had called him raw, untamed power, but the more Kylo saw of Rey’s fighting techniques, the more he believed his former master’s praise should have been bestowed upon her.

 

While Rey lacked finesse, the strength she emitted was unparalleled. She managed to cover for her weaknesses by adapting to each opponent, anticipating their strikes before the attacker fully committed to them. Her true gift was in her ability to pick apart their fighting styles and respond accordingly.

 

The fear he had held onto at the start of the trials lessened. It no longer suffocated him like a massive weight bearing down on his chest. Instead, he could appreciate her style for what it was: successful.

 

He watched her walk away, a bit winded but otherwise unharmed.

 

There was a knock and then, “Supreme Leader,” Carsmica called through the door.

 

“Enter.”

 

“Someone wished to see you,” she announced, leading Temiri in.

 

The boy had become less hostile towards the palace staff since Kylo had taken the time to discuss Rey’s Force-sensitivity with him. Carsmica continued to keep an eye on him, reporting to the Supreme Leader often. It seemed Temiri had taken a liking to the library, pouring over old texts in a corner window overlooking the city until he’d been summoned for lunch.

 

“And how has your day been?” Kylo addressed Rey’s student, hunching over so he could be eye to eye with the boy.

 

“Fine,” he shrugged indifferently.

 

“You’ve spent the past couple of hours alone,” Kylo went on. “Why?”

 

Another shrug.

 

“I always have to share everything at the camp. And before. I like having my own space,” he explained. Then, as if reassessing, he sighed. “But I miss Rey. When is she coming back?”

 

Kylo smirked. Straightening up, he addressed the Gungan over the boy’s head. “Thank you, Carsmica. You are dismissed.”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader,” she left them alone in the room.

 

“Would you like to see her?” Kylo asked the child.

 

His brown eyes lit up and the hint of a smile played on his lips. “Can I?”

 

“Come.” Kylo led him to the balcony, stopping at the railing to overlook the labyrinth. “Can you see her?”

 

Temiri sprung up on his toes, peering over the edge. His ardent eyes darted over the hedges and walls, searching for his teacher. She was hidden from sight, a fact Kylo knew well, but he wanted to test a theory.

 

“Is she done? I can’t see her,” the boy complained.

 

“Don’t look with your eyes.”

 

The child scrunched up his face, but after a moment, he inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. Kylo felt him reach out, tentatively at first, then with more confidence as he explored.

 

Temiri’s Force signature was different than that of Kylo’s knights. It was unlike either his or Rey’s. There was something unsettling about discovering another anomaly on top of his Force bond with the last Jedi. It made his inquisitive mind eager for the trials to end so he could scour over his research for ideas on what was happening.

 

Ever since Kylo discovered Rey on Takodana, the Force had shifted. A new era was approaching, one Kylo was unsure how to handle. It felt different than when he’d been a child or even when he’d been studying under his uncle. This strand of the Force felt new, like the first bud of a flower, slowly opening up to the dawn. He was uncertain what it meant, but Temiri had it.

 

The boy was in tune with the Force whether he was aware of it or not, a fact made all the more clear when he shouted excitedly and pointed to a portion of the maze towards the west. “There! She’s there!”

 

Kylo grinned. “Well done.”

 

“She’s pretty far,” Temiri beamed up at him. “She’s going to win!”

 

“Rey is doing quite well in the trials,” Kylo agreed honestly.

 

Temiri’s eyebrows knit together in confusion. “You aren’t mad.”

 

“No.”

 

“Why not? I thought you didn’t want her to win?”

 

“I don’t want her to leave,” Kylo replied. Again, he added silently.

 

“She doesn’t want to be part of the First Order,” Temiri reminded him. “She doesn’t belong with them.”

 

“Perhaps not, but she does belong with me,” Kylo affirmed.

 

The boy stared at him for a moment, his mind firing off in several directions before he landed on a conclusion. “Because you need a friend?”

 

“I don’t have friends,” Kylo grumbled. Just a friend, he thought bitterly.

 

Friendship was one of many social elements he had failed to grasp. He had bonded with Archais over their shared need to survive. Once the threat had passed, it seemed best to remain allies and over time allies had turned to friends.

 

As Supreme Leader, friendship wasn’t a luxury he could partake in. Anyone who sought him out now was doing so based on one of two reasons: to manipulate his wealth and power or to identify a weakness in order to overthrow him. Having friends was not an option for the ruler of the galaxy.

 

“Maybe if you did, you wouldn’t be angry all the time,” Temiri observed.

 

Kylo nodded, not bothering to suppress his growing grin. “Maybe.”

 

They stood in silence for a time, both following Rey’s path through the Force, both invested in her progress. When the top of her head could once again be seen from the balcony, both visibly relaxed.

 

“Just so you know,” Temiri raised his eyes to Kylo. “If I were you, I’d want Rey for a friend too.”

 

The boy turned back to the maze, leaving Kylo alone with his thoughts.

 

He did want Rey.

 

But not as a friend.

 


 

“She’s nearly halfway through,” the cloaked figure spoke to the ghostly holo.

 

“Ahead of schedule?” General Hux snarled, his hands clasped behind his back as he glowered at the screen.

 

“Her knowledge of the Force is rather...peculiar,” the speaker noted. “For someone as untrained as she is, there is an uncanny similarity in her skills to the Supreme Leader’s.”

 

“That shouldn’t matter,” General Hux spat. “She should have given up by now.”

 

“She’ll never give up,” a second voice joined the first speaker. “She’s the hope of the Resistance.”

 

“No?” Hux quipped, eyeing both hooded figures. “Then perhaps we should snuff the hope out of her.”

 

The faceless figures turned toward one another and nodded in silent agreement. 

 

“Send word when it’s done,” General Hux demanded. The communication flickered off, leaving the speakers alone. 

 

“Rally the others,” the first spoke to the second. “We need to incapacitate the Jedi before the coup.”

Chapter Text

 

“I thought you said you knew where you were going?” Finn huffed agitatedly.

 

“I’m only as good as the blueprints the General left me,” Poe returned, as he led them down the third identical looking corridor in Theed Palace. 

 

The blueprints in question were meant to direct them through the subterranean tunnels connecting the hangar to the palace, but so far, the Resistance members hadn’t made much progress. They appeared to be lost. 

 

In between the two squabbling men, Rose Tico rolled her eyes, fingers nervously stroking her Haysian medallion. Her husband had been on edge since news of Rey’s capture hit the Resistance base. He’d immediately stormed into the command center to order a strike team be assembled. Of course, Poe had already begun doing just that.

 

It had taken her a few hours to change the electronic read-out on the First Order shuttle they’d commandeered, but once the tracker was rerouted and the codes were updated, they were ready to go. 

 

Rose reached for Finn’s hand, giving it a gentle squeeze through the rough leather of their First Order uniforms. Why these people insisted on wearing so much black, she would never understand. It was constructive and muted, though Rose figured that was to be expected. The First Order did not breed independence. It bred discipline. 

 

She shivered as she recalled Finn’s upbringing — or at least what details he’d been comfortable enough to share with her so far — and vowed to rescue whomever she could from a similar fate. No child should be subjected to such a life. 

 

“Almost there,” Poe shot over his shoulder.

 

Ahead of them, Rose saw a pair of doors. The corridor was a dead end. As they came to a halt in front of them, Poe’s holo flickered out. 

 

“Kriff,” he cried, smacking his palm against the projector. The map didn’t reappear.

 

“Give it to me,” Rose grumbled, snatching the device out of his hands. She turned it over, scanning the underbelly of the outdated piece of equipment, while the two men inspected the doors.

 

“Which way would you go?” Poe asked them. “Left or right?”

 

“How am I supposed to know?” Finn muttered, anxiously checking behind them.

 

Her husband had been watchful ever since they disembarked the shuttle. Rose understood his concern. They’d barely escaped capture last year, only to nearly die in a firefight afterward. Of course, his concern wouldn’t outweigh his fear for his friend. Finn was a true rebel, even if he was just only coming to terms with it. 

 

“You’re the one who worked for the First Order the longest,” Poe remarked. 

 

“In case you haven’t noticed, Poe, this isn’t the Supremacy or Starkiller. This is Theed, a palace which has stood centuries before either of those bases,” Finn groused. “I wouldn’t know which way to go, which is why we brought the kriffin’ map!”

 

“No need to shout,” Poe stated, running his hands over the doors as if he could discern what was on the other side simply from touching them. 

 

“Keep it down, both of you,” Rose asserted, glancing up from the device long enough to give them both a pointed look. “Someone might hear you.”

 

“Yes, little rebels,” an unfamiliar voice entered the conversation. “Someone might hear you.”

 

The trio spun around. Finn and Poe aimed their blasters at the owner of the voice, while Rose backed up a step, clutching the holo map tightly. The speaker was tall, dressed in black robes with his face hidden under a helmet. 

 

One of the Knights of Ren.

 

Rose swallowed. She’d heard stories of the ruthless warriors while mining in Otomok. Together they could overthrow entire planets, more efficient and powerful than the whole of the First Order armies combined. Standing before one now, she found she couldn’t disagree with the assessment. The sight of the man alone had her pulse quickening. 

 

“Back off, bucket head,” Poe barked. “We’re here for our girl.”

 

“Your girl?” The knight’s head tilted slightly with what Rose would have called amusement, if she wasn’t debating how to get them out of this situation. “I believe you are mistaken, Commander Dameron. The last Jedi belongs to no one, least of all you.”

 

“Where is she?” Finn lunged forward. “Where is Rey? What has he done to her?”

 

A low chuckle was the knight’s only response. The sound had gooseflesh rising across Rose’s arms under the stiff material of her stolen uniform. It sounded inhuman coming from the faceless creature. 

 

“You’re outnumbered,” Poe went on. “Just tell us where Rey is and we’ll be on our way.”

 

“I’m afraid you do not fully grasp who is in power here, Commander,” the knight continued to chuckle. 

 

“Oh yeah?” Finn managed to get off a shot, but the bolt never made contact. It remained in the air, hovering in the space just past the end of his weapon. 

 

Poe cursed under his breath before following suit. The end result was the same. Rose stared wide-eyed at both men, then glanced at their target. The knight flicked his wrist. Both blasters and their frozen shots crashed against the side wall. 

 

“As you were saying, Commander?”

 


 

 

Rey headed away from the gazebo. Her instincts told her this direction would lead to the labyrinth’s exit. She wasn’t sure when she’d encounter the remainder of the knights, but it seemed the closer she got to the end, the more eager they were to see her fail.

 

Her wound continued to pulse, heat radiating from the burn. Engaging the four earlier had winded her and aggravated it. Rey looked for a place to rest.

 

While the stubborn part of her brain urged her forward, tending to her injury was imperative for survival. Besides, it wasn’t as though she’d be left alone for days in a sweltering AT-AT nursing the wound. Once the trials were over, Rey could go on her way.

 

She spotted a tiered fountain and took a seat on the edge of the bottom row.

 

Carefully, Rey peeled back the bacta patch to inspect the damage. She winced at the sight. The laceration had begun to heal, but it was still a raw, angry red color. With the palm of her hand, she smoothed the patch back in place. Hopefully, the remaining bacta gel would mend the injury so it didn’t scar.

 

The gentle sound of water trickling down from the top tier was soothing. Rey couldn’t feel any knights in her proximity, so she took advantage of the rare moment to simply sit and breathe.

 

Unlike the thick, humid air on Yavin IV, the air on Naboo was crisp and fresh, with a hint of salt from the Great Lakes. Rey leaned back on her hands, inhaling deeply. It was refreshing, this change of scenery. Though she didn’t want to admit it, this place was beautiful. She understood why Ben had chosen Theed Palace as his home.

 

Her stomach grumbled, reminding her how long it had been since lunch. Rey groaned inwardly. After years of unstable nutrition, her time with the Resistance and on Yavin IV had spoiled her. Even though it had only been a few hours since breakfast, her belly ached for sustenance.

 

Rey pushed off from the fountain, wandering around the enclosed area. There were a couple of trees located near where she’d entered the clearing. None of them was fruit bearing. Around the other pathways, there were thick shrubs. She searched under the leaves and along the thin branches, hoping to find some berries or something.

 

Then she saw a blend of orange and pink. Ducking down, Rey drew back some thicker branches at the base of one of the shrubs to reveal a peach. Dirt covered the soft fuzzy skin of the fruit, but she didn’t care. The forgotten treat was exactly the kind of nourishment she needed.

 

Rey retrieved the peach, turning it over in her hands. She returned to the fountain to wash it off before using her tunic to wipe it dry. Gripping the fruit in one hand, she raised it to her lips and took a bite.

 

The second the taste hit her tongue, Rey recognized something was wrong. Sihan peaches were known for their sugary sweet flavor, but this one had a strange acidic taste.

 

Rey dropped the peach, immediately feeling the effects of whatever poison had been injected into the unsuspecting fruit. Her skin grew hot and itchy while her insides began to cramp. The unexpected discomfort stole the breath from her lungs and she crumbled to the ground.

 

Rey clutched her side, her vision beginning to blur as a fever settled over her body. Her lips were chapped and her mouth was dry. She tried to pull herself up enough to drink from the fountain, but each attempt to move resulted in pain. The pain started as a dull, throbbing sensation before it increased to sharp stabbing agony.

 

She resigned herself to sit back against the bottom row.

 

That was when the knights appeared, a dark horde bringing the promise of death.

 

Despite her delirious state, she noted they were one short. Archais wasn’t standing with his brothers.

 

“What have you done?” she hissed at them, as they surrounded her.

 

“Our duty,” one — she thought it may have been Cadmus — responded. “Snuffing out the light, once and for all.”

 

The knights couldn’t have known that while they carried out their orders, they were awakening a power far darker than anything the last Jedi had used before.

 

A power better left dormant.

 


 

 

Kylo decided to have lunch served in his chambers in order to keep Temiri content. The boy hadn’t left the balcony since they saw Rey. Kylo could feel him testing his abilities, searching the maze for the Force signatures of each knight still in play, as well as his teacher.

 

The minutes were ticking by and Kylo’s relief at knowing Rey was safe was only slightly tainted by his fear of losing her. If she continued to surpass each test, win each battle, he’d have no reason to keep her on Naboo. He’d given her his word. As much as it hurt him, Kylo wouldn’t lie to her the way the Skywalkers had.

 

He couldn’t.

 

No, if she won, he’d honor their arrangement. He’d allow her to leave with Temiri and then...

 

...then he’d be alone. Again.

 

His mood spiraled from hopeful to sullen as the servants brought in dish after dish for their afternoon meal. While they set up a table and spread out the food, Kylo turned his attention away from his aching heart.

 

Temiri was leaning on the railing, both arms propped up on the marble as he peered out onto the gardens.

 

“Lunch is ready,” Kylo called to the boy.

 

He rushed inside, taking a seat next to the Supreme Leader. Like Rey, the child seemed to respond well to food. Kylo would gladly order Rey a ten course meal each evening if she’d agreed to stay with him. He’d give her anything. He’d give her everything. 

 

Kylo was musing over what incentive he could offer her when Temiri began carving up a nerf steak. He smirked, amused by the boy’s appetite and sat down. 

 

The servants left them to eat together. Kylo was impressed by the variety they’d provided. The table was decorated with various meats, fruits and vegetables. As he scanned the available options, his eyes caught the rare orangish orb sitting atop a bowl of fruit. 

 

Sihan peaches were a delicacy this season, considering the drought in the Kathol Outback. He briefly wondered how the kitchen managed to retrieve the sweet products of Sapella. Kylo decided it was a perk of his status as Supreme Leader and plucked the plump fruit off the table. 

 

He started to bring the peach to his mouth but found himself unable to move. 

 

“Stop!” Temiri’s eyes were wide, his hand outstretched towards the fruit. 

 

“Temiri—.”

 

“It’s poisoned,” the boy cried. “Can’t you sense it?”

 

Kylo shook off the child’s Force hold and analyzed the fruit. On the surface, it appeared normal, but when he inspected it further, he felt the treachery hidden inside. 

 

Poison.

 

Shoving back from the table, he stood up, dropping the peach in the process. Kylo stared at Temiri, who slowly rose from his seat, mirroring the Supreme Leader’s stiff posture. 

 

“Master,” Archais charged through the double doors unannounced.

 

Kylo tore his stunned gaze away from the boy to his loyal friend. “What is it?”

 

“I’ve captured three rebels breaking into the palace. They came for the Jedi,” Archais informed him. His brow furrowed and he glanced at the table, then at Temiri and finally Kylo. “What has happened?”

 

“Hux,” Kylo sneered, coming to the most logical conclusion. “This has his signature all over it.”

 

Archais’ hand went for his weapon, but Kylo shook his head. “No,” he directed his friend. “You are the only one I can trust. I need you to take the boy and the rebels to the rendezvous point.”

 

“Master, do you think this course of action wise when they—.”

 

The Supreme Leader placed his hands upon the knight’s shoulders and stared into his mask. “I have asked a lot of you over the years, my friend,” Kylo told him, “but what I ask of you now is perhaps my greatest request of all.”

 

“Until the end,” Archais replied dutifully. “I will meet you at the safe house. You and your lady.”

 

Kylo nodded his agreement, hoping it was that simple. These things rarely were.

 

“Temiri,” he dropped his hands and turned his attention back to the boy. “I need you to go with Archais.”

 

“I want to stay with you,” the child whined, his eyes filling with tears as he picked up on Kylo’s apprehension.

 

“It’s not safe for you. Or Rey,” the Supreme Leader admitted. “I need to find her.”

 

“I’ll go with you,” Temiri insisted.

 

“No,” Kylo argued. “Rey entrusted you to me in her absence. I won’t betray her trust by risking your safety.”

 

“But—.”

 

Kylo knelt before the boy so they were at eye level with one another. “You saved my life and for that, I owe you a great debt, but this I will not allow. Do you understand?”

 

“Yes, but...,” the child struggled to form his next words, “but you’ll bring her back, right? Both of you will come back?”

 

“Of course,” Kylo ruffled Temiri’s hair the way his own father had down to him as a child. “We’ll see you soon. Both of us.”

 

The boy nodded and Kylo straightened up. He guided the child towards his knight. Archais reared his gloved hand on Temiri’s shoulder.

 

“We will see each other again,” Archais told Kylo.

 

“May the Force be with you.”

 

It was the first time Kylo had uttered those words in years, yet they’d never felt more right than in that moment.

 

“And with you, Master.”

 

Once Archais and Temiri were out of sight, Kylo scanned his chamber. Other than the poisoned Sihan peach, there was nothing amiss. Odd. He’d thought Hux would want proof of his demise.

 

Unless...

 

He felt it then — the panic, the fear.

 

Rey!

 

Ben!

 

Everything stilled, going silent as the Force connected them with a jolt.

 

She was clutching her side, bent over on the ground somewhere within the labyrinth. Her forehead was beaded with sweat and her skin was sickly pale. He felt his entire body go rigid with terror. Temiri may have saved him, but no one had been watching the last Jedi.

 

“Poison,” she fought to speak.

 

Kylo watched helplessly as her eyes darted around. He couldn’t see her surroundings, which made it difficult to determine if her reaction was due to the toxin or the approach of an oncoming attack.

 

“Rey, I’m coming for you,” he promised. She didn’t appear to hear him. “Rey?”

 

She cried out, curling around her midsection. He recognized the symptoms as his fear became reality. The venom of the Parnassos beetle worked immediately if ingested. He needed a medic and he needed one now.

 

“Rey!”

 

The bond snapped shut, throwing him back into his chambers.

 

Kylo roared with rage. He’d kill them. Every single one of his knights would meet the end of his lightsaber for daring to defy him. And Hux. Hux would get the public execution he so desperately wanted. Kylo would see his head on the chopping block for this.

 

He stormed through the secret passageways, a force of nature as his surroundings blurred. When it came to Rey, he’d always had tunnel vision. She had a way of pulling him into her orbit. As bright as the sun and just as gorgeous, it was impossible not to be drawn to her. The fact that someone had ordered her light to be extinguished infuriated Kylo.

 

Even if he hadn’t identified the poison as the same kind which had killed Brendol Hux, he would have suspected Armitage to be behind the coup. The red-headed officer was cowardly. He preferred to remain in the dark and let others carry out his dirty work. The stench of his disloyalty filled Kylo’s nostrils as he made his way to the last Jedi.

 

First, he’d secure Rey.

 

Then he’d deal with the rabid cur.

 


 

He’s coming for you. Ben is coming, her mind chanted over and over again. It was the only shred of light Rey could hold onto.

 

The pain was excruciating, ripping through her like a jagged blade. It tore away at her organs, striking her all over at once.

 

She was barely conscious of what was happening around her. Her heart beat wildly in her chest, an uneven staccato rhythm which indicated the poison was fast-acting. Once it was in her bloodstream, it was just a matter of time.

 

A lesser person would have given up, allowed fate to run its course, but Rey refused. She hadn’t survived the wastelands of Jakku to die here.

 

Not like this, not before she could tell him the truth.

 

Something nudged her side and she howled. The slight tap from what she assumed was a boot tip was torture. Her insides roiled, stinging with every breath she took. Her head pounded from the fever.

 

It would have been so easy to simply slip into the black, to close her eyes and allow it all to wash over her. It would have been easy to let herself die, but Rey had never done what was easy.

 

And she certainly wasn’t going to give the First Order the satisfaction of her death.

 

When the knight tapped her with his boot a second time, Rey forced her eyes open. She glared up at him.

 

“Won’t be long now,” he observed. The others murmured their agreement, drawing closer to her. “Then we check his chambers. With any luck, he’s already dead.”

 

Her gasp came out as a sputtering mess of saliva and shock. She hadn’t suspected Ben knew about the poison. His reaction had been enough to convince her he wasn’t behind the deadly scheme. Rey hadn’t considered the possibility he was also in danger.

 

Dead.

 

Was that why he hadn’t come for her yet? Had Archais been dispatched to murder his master?

 

Tears pricked at the corners do her eyes, not from the pain of her body but from the fear in her heart.

 

Something inside of Rey snapped. It felt like a bone being set, as the latent piece of her found it’s rightful place. Around her, the Force shifted dramatically. The air suddenly stilled, a weight settling over the clearing.

 

The knights glanced around at one another. Rey inhaled deeply and pushed herself up. Her pain receded as she stood. Her saber staff remained clipped to her belt. She made no move to take it, even when the knights brandished their own weapons.

 

“Stand down,” she instructed, her voice level. Not a single one of them spoke as they fell into their attack stances. “Last chance,” Rey offered.

 

Their answer was to charge.

 

A calm fell over Rey, an unfamiliar confidence overwhelming her as she stretched out her right hand.

 

Before any of the knights managed to strike her, lightning shot forth from her fingertips. The dark ability coiled around her, protecting and empowering her. Beams of crackling light targeted each of her opponents, freezing them in place as the dark side of the Force penetrated them. It wound around them like a serpent, strangling the life out of them. Their bodies convulsed and their eyes bulged.

 

She held them captive, allowing the darkness to pour out of her. It flowed effortlessly. The immense feeling of power was as addictive as it was potent. She could feel their life forces dimming. They had been charged with snuffing her out, but they were about to be the ones extinguished.

 

“Rey!” A voice called to her. “Rey, let them go.”

 

She blinked, struggling to maintain her concentration. She couldn’t let them go. They had killed Ben. They had tried to kill her. No, they had to pay.

 

“Rey,” a hand wrapped around her wrist. “Rey, sweetheart, come back to me. Please .”

 

She winced as light cracked open in her chest, banishing the dark, and lifting the veil from her eyes.

 

Ben.

 

Their last hope to bring balance.

 

Her only hope for the future.

 

She dropped her hand, the lightning vanishing just as suddenly as it had struck.

 

Her body felt too heavy and her head was spinning. Before her the ground was littered with unconscious bodies, the knights incapacitated, but not dead. The weight of her actions hit her, causing her vision to dance. A wave of nausea came over her, followed by a bout of dizziness. Her legs gave out.

 

Rey was vaguely aware of Ben catching her as she collapsed. He leaned over her, cradling her to his chest.

 

“Ben,” she breathed his name, raising a shaking hand to his face.

 

He was alive. He was safe.

 

“I’m here,” he replied.

 

She tried to tell him the truth, tried to find the words to express the depth of what she felt. It never came out.

 

The darkness finally took hold and everything faded to black.

 

The last thing she heard was Ben screaming her name.

Chapter Text

 

Varykino was a place for ghosts, haunted by the shadows of its former tenants. It had been abandoned by the Naberrie clan after Padme’s funeral. The wedding, which never was, had left a mark on the once serene lake community. Local residents avoided the house at all costs. The property had been untouched for decades with an unseen, but apparent blemish.

 

When Kylo disembarked his ship, cradling Rey’s motionless form in his arms, he barely noticed the overgrowth and decay. His only concern was the unconscious Jedi he carried. Nothing existed outside of her, for she had become his world.

 

Piloting his Silencer had proven tricky. The TIE fighter had been designed to only carry a single passenger. Its purpose was for war, not as a transport vessel. Kylo was grateful he’d made modifications to the base design. The alterations he’d requested to accommodate his massive size allowed him to keep Rey in his lap while he flew them away from Theed Palace. 

 

Of course, having Rey in his lap introduced a whole array of problems — none of which had anything to do with piloting his prized craft. He’d fantasized about having her in his lap on numerous occasions, sometimes in the Silencer and sometimes on his throne.

 

One look at her pale face and Kylo pushed those thoughts aside. 

 

Everyone was already waiting in the foyer when they arrived. Archais gave Kylo a curt nod, his hand resting on his weapon, ready to engage if, for any reason, Kylo had been followed. Temiri, who was corralled between the three Resistance fighters in the corner, was the next to notice the Supreme Leader. 

 

“Rey!” 

 

All eyes were instantly on Kylo and the girl he carried. Two glanced at Rey, then up at him, clearly concerned, while the other three glared daggers at him.

 

“What happened?” The traitor snarled, making a beeline for the Supreme Leader.

 

Apparently, FN-2187 hadn’t learned his lesson on Starkiller. Kylo was prepared to give him a refresher course. The man wasn’t getting anywhere near Rey. No one was.

 

As Kylo summoned a surge of the Force, Archais stepped in the man’s path, his staff outstretched as a warning. In response, the pilot pulled out a blaster and the technician aside him yanked out a taser. Three against two were unfavorable odds, but Kylo had learned from a young age to ignore the statistics.

 

“Give her to me,” FN-2187 demanded.

 

“No,” Kylo growled.

 

“She deserves to be with her friends, with people who care about her,” the former Stormtrooper insisted.

 

“She deserves a level of care that you can’t provide,” Kylo shot back.

 

“And you can?” FN-2187 challenged him.

 

Kylo seethed, reaching for the Force in order to silence the man once and for all.

 

Tension in the air crackled. 

 

“Is she going to be alright?” Temiri queried, more concerned about Rey than placing blame on anyone. The child’s innocent question cleared Kylo’s mind and he withdrew his attack.

 

“I don’t know,” he admitted defeatedly.

 

He’d never beheld such power before. In all his research, there had never been a Jedi capable of Force lightning. It was an inherently Dark power, and even then, it was rare for a Force user to control the energy for such a blast. The extended period of time Rey had managed to wield the power was another anomaly. 

 

Kylo was already worried about the poison she had unknowingly ingested. Combined with the dark power coursing through her system, he feared only one outcome was possible. But he’d be damned if he gave her up without a fight.

 

“Did you obtain a medical droid?” Kylo asked Archais.

 

“No, master,” the knight apologized. “In securing the rebels’ safety, I was unable to procure the medic.”

 

Kylo caught the wide-eyed glance the trio shared. Good, he thought bitterly. They should be ashamed of their antics. Their foolishness had once again done more harm than good.

 

“I need a place to set her down so I can examine the extent of the damage,” he declared.

 

“There’s a room upstairs that can offer you the privacy you need.” Archais backed away from the trio of friends.

 

They regarded the Supreme Leader warily, but none made a move to interfere. Perhaps he hadn’t been the only one affected by the child’s words. They didn’t try to stop Temiri when he said he was going with Rey and Kylo. It wasn’t until Kylo had moved past the trio that he felt the boy’s Force signature. He was keeping them frozen in place. Kylo stifled a chuckle.

 

Archais guided them out of the foyer and to a large marble staircase. Like the rest of the house, the statues in the landing niches and the decorative end tables had been covered with basic cloth to keep the dust off. Each article was draped in white fabric, furthering the feel of desolation and abandonment.

 

“She’ll be okay, right?” Temiri asked, falling in step with Kylo as they ascended. “She’s going to wake up?”

 

He wanted to tell the boy that she would, but Kylo could feel Rey’s pulse weakening with each breath she took. Her light was being extinguished and he had no idea how to stop it. In the end, he remained silent.

 

They stopped outside a bedroom suite — if Kylo had to guess, one reserved for dignified guests based upon its size. As he took his first step inside, the lingering scent of sage and sandalwood filled his nostrils. The locals must have attempted to cleanse the house of Darth Vader’s negative energy. He hoped they had been successful. 

 

For a moment, he stood stock still, clutching Rey to his chest as he scanned the room. After the altercation with the Resistance and fleeing from the palace, he was on high alert, questioning everyone’s motives, doubting every shadow that flittered across his line of sight.

 

“Kylo?” Temiri tugged at his robes. 

 

“Let him be,” Archais said gently, placing a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “We must all let them be.” 

 

Kylo shot his friend a look of gratitude before his knight shut the doors, allowing him privacy to lay Rey upon the bed. 

 

Since they’d landed she’d grown paler. Her chest barely moved with each inhale and exhale. Her lips were as colorless as her skin, adding to her sickly complexion. 

 

He stood over her, unsure what to do. Without a medic to diagnose her, Rey was on borrowed time. Every minute he spent deliberating was one less minute she spent in his presence. Anxiety gripped him, paralyzing his body until all he could do was stare helplessly at her motionless form. 

 

Was the Force punishing him? Had Rey suffered because of his own misguided decisions?

 

Misguided.

 

It was a term he’d heard often in reference to his grandfather from both sides. His mother, who rarely spoke of Anakin, called him misguided in how he came to power. Snoke spoke of Darth Vader being misguided in his use of the power, convinced he had never achieved his full potential.

 

All Kylo was convinced of was the fact his grandfather had been conflicted and that conflict clouded the galaxy’s perception of the fallen Jedi.

 

The Supreme Leader thought conflict began and ended with the Skywalker line. Based on his schooling, whether on Chandrila, the Jedi Academy or on board the Supremacy, the galaxy’s wars were a result of a series of events propagated by the Skywalkers. It was an endless cycle, one he had hoped to end.

 

And yet, he found himself once again stuck between the Light and the Dark, unable to see a clear path out.

 

I’ll help you.

 

He recalled Rey’s offer in the turbo lift. Why hadn’t he gone with her then? If he had, he would have seen his mother before she passed. He wouldn’t have another family member’s death weighing on his conscious, because Luke would still be alive. He wouldn’t have spent the last year searching the stars for the last Jedi, because she would have been with him.

 

Misguided, indeed.

 

A knock sounded at the door.

 

“Enter,” he called out, his eyes never leaving Rey’s face.

 

“Master,” Archais came to stand behind him. “General Hux has issued a kill order for the last Jedi, the boy, myself and...you.”

 

“Obviously,” Kylo hissed. 

 

The rabid cur hadn’t even waited a day to send his attack dogs after them. It complicated matters, but it wasn’t unexpected. Kylo knew Hux to be a shrewd man, a coward, but crafty. Their timeline had just been cut in half. 

 

If Rey even made it through the night.

 

If she didn’t...well, Hux would be the least of his worries. Kylo would burn the galaxy to ash and he’d take all those who had a hand in Rey’s demise with him. 

 

Perhaps he could go back to Theed, sneak in using the secret tunnels and steal a medical droid. Of course, that meant leaving Rey and he would sooner turn himself over to the Resistance than—

 

Kylo froze.

 

The Resistance. They had medics — and good ones, if their resilience was any indication. He needed one of them — all of them — here.

 

“Bring me the pilot,” he ordered.

 

Archais bowed and retreated backward.

 

Kylo listened to his knight's footsteps as his friend exited the room. He was sure Archais knew of his intentions, but the other man had remained loyal this long. It appeared he’d be loyal to the end.

 

With a sigh, the former Supreme Leader sat on the edge of the bed. He had only one chip left to play. He would play them all if it meant she’d open her beautiful hazel eyes. She had sacrificed so much, it seemed only fair for him to sacrifice for her in return. 

 

“Hang on for me, sweetheart,” he told her, brushing a lock of hair from her face. “I need you.”


 

“Rey.”

 

“Wake up, Rey.”

 

Someone was calling her. Whoever it was, it was someone familiar. Rey had heard them speak to her before, long ago when she’d been on Takodana. Now, she could hear them as if they were right in front of her, but she couldn’t see. She was surrounded in darkness, trapped in the cold consuming power of the Dark side of the Force.

 

“Rey.”

 

She focused on opening her eyes, attempting to call upon her own power to break out of the hold. She couldn’t.

 

“You can,” the voice argued.

 

Whether due to her need to prove the stranger wrong or simply from sheer will, Rey opened her eyes.

 

She found herself still in the black, but not completely lost to the darkness. Small specks of light dotted the inky black and a long narrow path lay before her. Rey scanned the area, unsure what would become of her if she were to step off the path. Her instincts told her nothing good. The pathway seemed to go on forever — just like the labyrinth, intersecting other paths up ahead. 

 

“What is this place?” She asked the incorporeal entity.

 

It didn’t answer her.

 

Rey stepped forward along the bridge. Each time her foot connected with the ground, the vibrations of the impact rippled out, as if she was walking upon water instead of a solid surface. She stared at her feet, mesmerized. 

 

“Your focus determines your reality,” a new voice stated.

 

Rey glanced behind her, expecting to see someone before her, but she was met with only darkness. 

 

“Somebody has to save our skins!” 

 

“Leia?” Rey whipped around. Was this a place for Force ghosts?

 

“In a manner of speaking,” the original specter chuckled. 

 

“Lucky me,” she replied sarcastically. She reached for her lightsaber, only to find it was no longer attached to her belt. 

 

“In my experience, there is no such thing as luck,” he replied. “There is only the Force.”

 

Rey paused, watching as a human male appeared before her on the bridge. He was dressed in traditional Jedi robes, the same ones Master Skywalker had worn on Ahch-To, but he was older than Luke with kinder eyes. 

 

Her body tensed, ready to defend herself if the need arose, but the man merely smiled. 

 

“Welcome, Rey of Jakku to the World Between Worlds.”

 


 

“You wanted to see me.”

 

Kylo gazed up at the lone figure in the doorway. With a final glance at Rey, he rose from his seat and crossed the room to stand before the pilot.

 

“It’s your lucky day, Dameron,” he announced while regarding the shorter man. “I am willing to make you a deal.”

 

The pilot cocked an eyebrow. “A deal?”

 

“I’ll turn myself over to the Resistance,” Kylo offered. “In return for a favor.”

 

“A favor?” Poe scoffed. “I don’t need to give you a favor. The war is coming to an end. Once Rey wakes up, she’s bringing you back to our base.”

 

“Rey isn’t going to wake up if she doesn’t receive medical attention,” Kylo snapped.

 

“Yeah, whose fault is that?” Poe quipped, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

Kylo ignored his childish behavior. There was no time. Once Rey was awake and stable, then he’d have words with the pilot. “I will permit you to escort me back to the Resistance. I vow to offer up no fight. If your wish is to try me for my crimes, then so be it.”

 

“Is this a trick?” Dameron queried skeptically.

 

“No,” Kylo confirmed.

 

“They won’t offer you a pardon,” Dameron divulged. “Not after what you’ve done.”

 

“No,” Kylo agreed. “I wouldn’t expect them to. It doesn’t matter either way, because what I want isn’t for me.”

 

For the first time since entering the chamber, the pilot’s eyes flickered to the last Jedi. “Is she...?”

 

“I need your medical team,” Kylo requested, ignoring Dameron’s incomplete question. “And I need them here now .”

 

The pilot stared up at him, scanning his face as if he was searching for a sign of trickery. “And then you’ll turn yourself in?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Just like that?”

 

“Told you it was your lucky day.”

 

Dameron fell silent for a moment, mulling it over as he observed Rey’s shallow breathing. When he reached his decision, he focused back on Kylo. 

 

“Why?”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“You heard me,” the pilot snarked. “Why? Why do this when there’s nothing in it for you?”

 

Kylo blinked, unprepared for this line of questioning. “That is none of your concern.” Dameron snorted. Kylo was not amused. “Time is a commodity I don’t have. Do we have an agreement?”

 

“Fine.” The pilot held his hand out. “I’ll comm Harter.”

 

Kylo nodded in thanks and the pilot turned to leave, before pausing with his hand on the door frame. “Does she know?” he asked.

 

“Know?” Kylo queried.

 

“That you love her.”

 

He felt his face heat up with a mixture of anger and embarrassment. Angling his head away from Dameron, he muttered, “I never got the chance to tell her.”

 

“You should,” Poe commented. “Before it’s too late.” With that, he left to contact the doctor. 

 

Kylo returned to Rey’s bedside, willing the medic a swift journey across the stars. 

 


 

“Who are you?” Rey asked the man.

 

“A Jedi, much like yourself,” he replied. “My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

 

Rey’s body relaxed. Even if she wasn’t feeling like much of a Jedi, the man’s calm manner put her at ease. “What do you want with me?”

 

“Oh,” he chuckled. “I assure you, it isn’t what I want.”

 

She scowled. “It’s what the Force wants?”

 

“No, Rey,” he corrected. “This is about what you want, what you need .”

 

“What?”

 

“Walk with me,” he invited her. 

 

Rey fell in step with Obi-Wan. Together they passed several gateways, each calling to Rey in one form or another. The first showed her the lake on Takodana, the one she had planned on taking a dip in before Han flew her home to Jakku, back when she still didn’t fully understand how her life had irrevocably changed. The next showed nothing, but she heard a disembodied voice. “The time to fight is now!” A young woman rallied.

 

Rey passed each of the portals, giving them a fleeting glance. Nothing more.

 

“Tell me, Rey of Jakku, what do you think brought you here?” Obi-Wan asked.

 

“The Force,” she replied without hesitation.

 

“Indeed, but to what end?”

 

They passed another gateway and what she saw through the portal made her freeze.

 

Rey saw herself with Ben in the middle of their fight against Snoke’s guards. She swallowed thickly, watching the way they moved as one, as though they had been fighting together for years. It was beautiful, a rhythmic dance amidst the fire and fury.

 

She barely recalled the details of the battle. In the moment, all Rey had been concerned with was surviving. Her sole goal was to get both her and Ben back to the Resistance.

 

When one of the guards sliced her upper arm open, she witnessed Ben’s reaction. His jaw set and his eyes were on her. Only her. In that instant, she saw him mouth, “Hold on.” At the time she hadn’t noticed, too preoccupied with avoiding a follow-up attack, but in hindsight, her heart ached for him. They’d both been fighting off multiple aggressors and, yet, he had been worried about her.

 

“Ben.”

 

Obi-Wan placed a hand on her shoulder. “He was named after me, you know.” Rey gazed up into his shining blue eyes with curiosity. “I knew his uncle, Luke, and his grandfather, Anakin,” Obi-Wan explained.

 

“You mean Darth Vader?”

 

“I mean Anakin Skywalker, my Padawan and my best friend,” Obi-Wan clarified.

 

“But he turned to the Dark,” Rey pointed out.

 

“No one is ever really gone,” the old Jedi assured her.

 

“What do you mean?” Rey asked.

 

“Go,” Obi-Wan directed…

 

…right before he pushed her through the portal.

Chapter Text

 

Kylo paced the length of the bed, his gaze flickering between Rey and the chamber doors. 

 

Dameron had commed his medical team as requested, and they were en route. He’d done all he could do, yet it still didn’t appear to be enough. Kylo kept seeing her, every detail cataloged in his memory the way some connoisseurs collected fine wine. 

 

Eyebrows knit and jaw clenched in concentration as she fired at him in the forest. She was frightened, but his mask didn’t deter her from her path. She was resolute in standing against him — a true rebel.

 

Her pupils blown wide as he brought his saber precariously close to her cheek. Kylo meant to intimidate her, show her how powerful he was, but Rey still resisted.

 

Her struggle to not make eye contact with him in the interrogation room. It had frustrated him. He’d caught the way her pupils dilated when he removed his mask. Why wouldn’t she look at him?

 

Scared, but determined, as she wielded the legacy lightsaber for the first time. He was sure that was the moment he fell in love with her. Seeing her channel the Force, truly give herself over to it, was magnificent. She’d never looked more beautiful than she had in that moment.

 

The way she had gazed at him before she abandoned him in the snow was conflicted, but in the end, she chose her friend. It had hurt worse than his scorched flesh, knowing that she was his equal — that she had been made for him — but even she couldn’t be made to stay. 

 

Sleepy and unfocused as she woke on Ahch-To, only to harden her gaze and fire at him. Why was it that she always shot first? There was a cosmic joke in that. He knew his father would have been proud of her. Of course, Kylo suspected Han was already proud of her.

 

Eyes sparkling with joy as she held her hand out to feel the rain; such a precious commodity considering where she was from. But that joy disappeared the second she felt him, her eyes narrowing at his intrusion. 

 

Then the tears, the terrible, gut-wrenching pain as she came to understand Luke’s betrayal. How he had hated to disappoint her, but she needed to know the truth. He was worried about her, about what his uncle might do to her.

 

Hopeful, cautious, but curious as she reached across the stars for him. Her hand had been so small in comparison. Small but warm and he felt his heart jump into his throat when he heard her gasp. Oh, what that sound had done to him. How many times had he replayed it in his mind while he waited for her arrival?

 

And then the throne room...

 

When she’d looked at him then, he’d felt something fall into place. Kylo had always been aware of their connection. Even before he interrogated her on Starkiller, the Master of the Knights of Ren knew the scavenger was important. 

 

At least to him.

 

But in that instant, watching how he changed in her eyes, seeing Rey view him as a hero, as the one person who had finally chosen her, it transformed him. Snoke had claimed he was unbalanced and it was true, but the moment Rey joined him, Kylo felt himself become whole again. 

 

Even after she left, he couldn’t deny how it had felt. The sensation of their combined power still burned across his skin, a reminder of how it could be. So he had followed her, vowing to have her at his side again. 

 

Their interactions were nothing more than fleeting moments, minor details in the tapestry of his life. Nevertheless, it was those moments he treasured more than the power he’d obtained, more than the legacy he’d been born into and more than any riches the galaxy could offer. 

 

All he wanted was her to look at him the way she had in the throne room, just once more, before Dameron dragged him away in cuffs. 

 

Kylo was aware of what awaited him at the Resistance. Execution was a nasty business, but if he had to go out, allowing the rebel faction their small victory was preferable to Hux’s publicized demonstration. 

 

If done correctly, the Resistance could use the news to their advantage, permitting Rey and her students adequate time to escape the First Order. He’d send Archais with her. He trusted no one else with his life and when it came to an end, at least he could pass on knowing she held his heart. 

 

The familiar sounds of a transport breaking through the atmosphere caught his attention. Kylo stalked over to the windows, peering outside to see an outdated ship landing on the yard. The Resistance’s medical team had finally arrived. 

 

He waited by Rey’s bedside and moments later, Archais delivered a team of four individuals to the chamber. 

 

“This is your entire team?” Kylo was not pleased. He expected more. One glance at his knight and his assumption was confirmed. 

 

The doctor stepped forward, separating herself from the medical technicians who made the journey with her. “I’m Harter Kalonia,” she introduced herself. “I worked for your mother.” 

 

Ignoring the mention of General Organa — he couldn’t allow himself to be a slave to his grief — he gestured to Rey. “She needs immediate attention. I don’t care how long it takes or what you need, just bring her back.”

 

Kalonia’s team fidgeted uneasily, but the good doctor only gave him a curt nod. She turned to her team and began listing out instructions. Each one moved around the room, checking their fear at the door as they got to work. 

 

“It would be best if the team was left alone so we can assess her state,” Dr. Kalonia told him.

 

“Archais.” Kylo addressed his knight and the man departed. 

 

“I meant everyone, Supreme Leader Ren,” Dr. Kalonia pointed out. “That includes you.”

 

“No.”

 

“Supreme Leader—”

 

“I will not be parted from her,” he argued, his tone unyielding. 

 

The older woman pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. “Very well.” She joined her team around Rey. “Let’s begin.”

 


 

“Ugh,” Rey groaned as she landed.

 

Lifting her face off the ground, she glanced around. There was nothing. Like before, she couldn’t see anything but an endless sea of black. The coil of the Dark side pulsed within her as she gazed around the void. 

 

At first, she assumed she was alone, fated to exist in the nothingness because that was what she was. 

 

Nothing. 

 

Then she saw him, dressed in raggedy robes and hobbling along with a cane that matched his short stature. 

 

She raced after him. “Excuse me? Can you help me, please?”

 

“Oh, young Rey!” The small sentient being appeared pleased by her presence. “What do for you, can I?”

 

“I...where am I? Where are we?”

 

“Not a question of where,” the creature corrected. “But a question of why.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Why you cannot cross to the other side,” he clarified. 

 

“I’m...I’m dead?”

 

“No,” the sentient chuckled. “Not dead. Cloaked in darkness, you are. Stuck between the Light and the Dark, unable to choose completely.”

 

“I have chosen!” she insisted.

 

“Thought you chose, you did, but in your heart, conflict, I sense. Great conflict.”

 

Rey sighed exasperatedly. “Are you going to help me or not?”

 

“Alive, I may be no longer, but wise, I still am. Yes, wise.”

 

Rey furrowed her brow in confusion and annoyance. It figured she would be stuck with another complicated Jedi master. As if Master Obi-Wan hadn’t been cryptic enough, now she was with this green...whatever he was...trying to figure out how to get back to the maze.

 

“Some times the way back, the way forward is,” the creature stated arcanely. 

 

“What?”

 

He narrowed his eyes at Rey. Before she could anticipate his attack, he struck her behind her kneecaps with his staff, sending her sprawling to the ground. When she glanced up, he was eye-level with her, gazing at her intently. Rey blinked, stunned by the strength of the tiny sentient as well as impressed. He had earned her undivided attention.

 

“Quite often, young Jedi, seems that we aren’t getting anywhere, it appears, when in fact, we are,” he informed her, taking a seat.

 

She settled into a meditative sitting position next to him. “I’m certainly not getting anywhere with Ben,” she admitted. “Every time I think he understands, things get worse. Every time I think he might actually… ” she trailed off, shaking her head. “It doesn’t matter now.”

 

“Why?” the creature asked. 

 

“Because,” her voice cracked, as she recalled what the knights had said before she fell. “He’s dead.”

 

“Yes,” agreed the sentient. “Vanquished, Kylo Ren, is, but Ben Solo is not.”

 

Rey stared at the Jedi elder. “Ben survived?”

 

He gave her a curt nod in response. “Waiting for you, he is.”

 

Immediately, Rey glanced around the void, searching for any sign of Ben. All she saw was the inky blackness. 

 

“Where is he?”

 

“Waiting. Choose a path forward, you must.”

 

Rey mulled over his words. He specifically hadn’t mentioned either the Dark or the Light. She thought of the Prime Jedi embedded in the floor of the Ahch-To temple and Master Skywalker’s words came back to her. 

 

Powerful Light. Powerful Darkness.

 

Staring down at herself, Rey saw that her robes were covered in dirt, sweat, and blood. The battle she had waged against the knights had taken so much of her, robbed her of the remaining control she possessed. When her heart broke over the news of Ben’s demise, the power she feared — her own power — had been unleashed. 

 

Only he hadn’t died. 

 

He’d been there with her through the ordeal. She’d killed the knights, becoming the monster she had always feared. Because, if Rey was being honest with herself, what she truly hated about Kylo Ren had nothing to do with his powers or his tactics. What Rey actually loathed about the First Order enforcer was how similar they were. 

 

Stubborn, quick to anger, lost, alone… they were both all those things.

 

And now Kylo Ren was gone and Rey was a monster by herself, no longer bound to Ben through their turbulent power. He had mastered his unruly side. In the face of losing her, he had rallied his control over the energy source, whereas Rey had given into it.

 

She wrapped her arms around her midsection, hugging herself as the realization fell over her. A tear escaped her eyes, rolling down her cheek until it dropped into the dark void. 

 

“Troubled, you are,” the sentient observed.

 

“It’s my fault,” Rey said regretfully. “I didn’t understand what Ben was offering. I did the exact same thing to him that everyone else did. I rejected him.”

 

“Learn from your mistakes, you must. Grow beyond them, you should.”

 

“How can I?” Rey queried. “I did turn to the Dark side, just like Master Skywalker predicted. I lost myself.”

 

The creature made a humming sound. “Balance, the Force is. Unbalanced, without you, young Solo is, just as you are unbalanced without him.”

 

Rey considered his guidance, turning the words over in her mind. Back on the island, when she and Ben had touched hands, she’d seen everything he’d been through as if she’d lived it all herself. It was different from her experience, yet the same, much like them. Their pasts had molded them, shaped them into the people they were as if they were two halves of the same person. 

 

Two halves of a whole.

 

Like the temple mosaic.

 

Rey pushed herself up to her feet.

 

“I know what I have to do.” 

 

“Then chosen, you have.” The sentient smiled at her. “May the Force be with you.”

 

Light broke through the darkness and Rey walked into it.


 

Kylo watched each technician with a calculating gaze. They had been at it for nearly an hour, running test after test. Each time Dr. Kalonia straightened up and came near him, he expected her to provide an update. Instead, she would duck her head back down and continue her assessment. 

 

His frustration was at the point of boiling over. 

 

“What is her prognosis?”

 

“Supreme Leader,” Dr. Kalonia began.

 

“I want answers, not excuses,” he interrupted her.

 

She took a long, calming breath, closing her eyes. When she opened them once more, Dr. Kalonia politely asked her staff to give them privacy.

 

“Leave us,” he barked when they didn’t immediately exit. They scattered, running in fear while their leader stood glaring at him defiantly. He waited until they were alone for the doctor to continue.

 

“I’ve run every test I know of. Unfortunately, all of the results are inconclusive. There isn’t anything I can do to help her.”

 

“You mean you won’t help,” he hissed, eyes narrowed into slits.

 

“No,” Dr. Kalonia responded flatly. “I mean, I can’t . Her issue isn’t medical. It’s neurological, or at least I would believe it was neurological if she wasn’t Force-sensitive.”

 

Kylo quirked a brow. “You’re saying that her condition has something to do with her Force abilities?”

 

“I’m not Force sensitive. I’m merely venturing a guess here, but it appears that the only reason the poison hasn’t killed her is because her power is keeping it from entering her bloodstream.”

 

“So she’ll wake up?” he surmised.

 

“I don’t know if she can,” Dr. Kalonia answered. “Currently, it appears the Force is controlling her while she remains in a state of unconsciousness. Once Rey is conscious, the Force will take a backseat and then the poison will be released.”

 

He turned back to the motionless form lying on the bed, in the exact same place he’d set her down hours before. His heart clenched. Either she died from the poison, or from the Force draining her of her own life force. Neither option permitted her to return to him.

 

“I’m sorry. I wish there was more I could do.” Dr. Kalonia gently placed a hand on his arm. “I’ll give you time to say goodbye.”

 

As the woman exited the bedchamber, Kylo could only stare at her retreating back in disbelief. After all they had gone through — the battles they’d fought, the war which raged on between them — that couldn’t be it. Could it?

 

He clenched his jaw, his hands balling into fists at his side. Once again, he had failed. He had failed to keep her safe. He had failed to tell her how he felt. He had failed Rey.

 

And now she was lost to him.

 

An anguished cry escaped his lips, ragged and heavy. It broke through his chest, burning as it poured forth. Pain bloomed through his abdomen, but he could no longer hold it back.

 

Kylo staggered over to the bed, dropping down to sit beside Rey. He reached out, tentatively, to brush her hair away from her face.

 

“I’m sorry.” His chest heaved as he spoke to her. “I’m so sorry.”

 

She didn’t respond and even though he hadn’t expected her to, the silence tore away what was left of his dignity. He gathered her body into his arms, while the tears spilled down his cheeks, staining her tunic.

 

“I should have gone with you,” he apologized. “I didn’t understand then, but I do now and now it’s too late.”

 

He buried his face in her hair, breathing in the floral scent that always seemed to hover around Rey. It smelled of sunshine and summer, fitting for the last Jedi, a ray of Light for the galaxy, his final hope.

 

But there was no hope left.

 


 

Breathing hurt. A massive weight was crushing her. Saltwater laced the thick air. Was she drowning? A desert rat who died of drowning. The Force certainly had a sick sense of humor.

 

Rey blinked several times, struggling to wake up. Her body felt cold and weak, as if she had been stuck in her AT-AT for days without food. But she wasn’t on Jakku anymore. She was somewhere else...

 

...being strangled by the Supreme Leader.

 

“B-Ben?”

 

Her mouth was so dry it actually hurt to speak, but not nearly as much as it hurt when Ben’s hold tightened even more.

 

“Ben, you’re squishing me!” she hissed.

 

He instantly released her, leaning away so he could scan her from head to toe. “Rey?”

 

“If you wanted to kill me in my sleep, you could have just suffocated me with a pillow like any normal assassin,” she tried to tease him.

 

The joke fell flat. He just stared at her, as if he couldn’t believe she was sitting up talking to him. His eyes were wider than she’d ever seen before and his eyebrows arched into his mop of black tresses.

 

“Rey.”

 

She was about to say something sarcastic about how much she hated his damn maze, but she never got the chance.

 

Ben slotted his mouth over hers, rendering her utterly speechless.

Chapter Text

 

“Rey.”

 

He couldn’t have stopped himself from kissing her if he had wanted to. Nearly losing her had rocked him to the core, proving he wasn’t as alone in life as he had always assumed, at least not as long as she lived. Without her, though, Force, without her, there was no life. At least not one that he was interested in living. 

 

“Ben?” Rey leaned back, her eyes wide, as she searched his face for an answer.

 

A better man would have been ashamed. A better man wouldn't have put her through such an ordeal to realize what he wanted. A better man would have gone directly to the waiting individuals below and informed them that their Jedi was alive and well. A better man would have apologized for stealing her breath away so soon after she woke.

 

He was no such man.

 

“Everything I’ve done, I’ve done for you,” Ben whispered against her lips. “I move the stars for no one.”

 

He gave her the answer she sought and in turn, she stole his breath away, taking what she wanted. The first press of her lips, soft and tentative on his own, was like a soothing balm of bacta over scorched flesh. It renewed him, a sign of her consent.

 

Kylo pulled her into his lap, one arm wrapped around her waist, while the other cradled her head. Rey responded by grabbing onto his shoulders, steadying herself as he moved her. She didn’t break their kiss, too lost in the heady combination of arousal and power of being the one to render him silent. Kylo allowed her to chase the feeling, content to give her whatever she wanted, as long as it meant she would stay with him.

 

“I’ve thought about this.” She gasped, sucking in a breath. “Thought about you.”

 

“I’ve thought of little else since Takodana,” he admitted. Her eyes widened, gold flecks in the hazel orbs glistening in the dim light of the bedchamber. “You’ve turned my world upside down, sweetheart.”

 

“I love you,” she confessed suddenly. Kylo stopped breathing. “I…I should have told you before. I thought I wouldn’t ever get the chance and—.”

 

“Rey,” he cut her off, unable to hold his own admission back. “I love you. Nothing else matters.”

 

“All the time we wasted,” she argued, shaking her head.

 

“Sweetheart,” Kylo said softly. “We’re together now.” His heart ached, knowing that it would only be for a short time. After all, he had a deal to maintain.

 

“I don’t want to waste any more time,” Rey told him.

 

He watched, enthralled as she began to remove her arm wraps. Shimmying off his lap, she stood and kicked off her boots. Surely she didn’t mean to—

 

“Ben?” His gaze snapped up to her face, while he internally chided himself for allowing his eyes to skim over her form. “A little help?”

 

She placed her hands on his shoulders, inclining her head towards her belt. His large fingers fumbled with the worn leather. It took him three tries before he was able to work the accessory off of her.

 

“Thank you.” Rey stepped out of the last of her garments. Then she was crawling back onto the bed, kneeling in front of him completely naked.

 

He lost the ability to speak, to form a coherent thought, kriff, to breathe. How was he supposed to function when she was bare and staring up at him like that? Kylo no longer felt like a strong Force user. He was no longer the Supreme Leader or the Master of the Knights of Ren. His titles had all been stripped away, but he’d never felt more vulnerable as he did then. Seeing Rey so open, so trusting had his mind reeling and his heart thundering in his chest.

 

“Ben?”

 

“Y-yeah?”

 

“I know I’ve never done this before, but I think you need to take off your clothes too,” she instructed shyly.

 

It was the most timid he’d ever seen Rey. Her cheeks colored as she waited for him and she lowered her gaze, biting her lower lip in doubt. Her lack of confidence was not something Kylo ever thought he’d witness, but it only lasted a moment.

 

“May I?” she asked, taking one of his hands in both of hers.

 

Mutely, he nodded. He watched as she carefully tugged off one glove, then the other. She placed them to the side, her nimble little fingers going to his shirt next. She untucked it, gently guiding it up and over his head. Then she was undoing his belt and then his trousers. Kylo’s breath hitched when her hands trailed over the growing bulge hidden underneath the dark fabric. Rey’s eyes flickered up to lock with his. She pressed her palm to his erection, lips parting when she heard his responding moan.

 

Snatching her by the wrist, Kylo flipped her onto her back, bringing himself to hover over her. “Tell me this is what you want, Rey.” He watched her eyes darken, as she nodded. “Say it.”

 

“I want this. I want you.”

 

Her words undid him. There had been no hesitation, no refusal — just pure commitment to him, to them. Kylo surged forward, hungrily capturing her lips. Rey melted into the kiss, winding her arms around him to pull him down over top of her.

 

“It’s you,” he told her, maneuvering so he could yank off his remaining clothes. “It’s always been you.”

 

All his reading and research couldn’t prepare him for the sensation of sinking into her. The first push was too much and yet not enough. The tight warmth of her wrapped around him, stunning him into silence. Rey’s nails dug into his flesh, but he barely felt it. It took a long moment for them both to settle and then everything shifted into place.

 

Kylo found a rhythm as if a song was playing in the universe that only the two of them could hear. He rolled his hips with the beat. Rey’s tiny murmurs of pleasure and gasps encouraged him to increase his pace. Pressure built in his abdomen. His thrusts became quicker, fueled by the new sensation growing within him. The deeper he pressed, the more he believed they had truly become one entity. He could live here, buried beneath her skin.

 

Rey withdrew her nails, clinging to him so she could pull herself up to kiss his face, his neck and his chest. Her lips seemed to be everywhere all at once, adding to the expanding pressure. Kylo groaned when she found his pulse point. Her teeth scraped along the flesh, teasing him to the point he was sure he would shatter.

 

And when she repeated the gesture, he did.

 

When he crested over the edge, he felt reborn. The pressure burst forth like an explosion and he pressed his lips to hers as his climax roared free. Fever erupted within, a scorching heat tearing through him, burning away all doubt, all fear and all anger. Rey’s light cleansed him, chasing out the lingering tendrils of darkness, purifying him as if he was a bleeding kyber crystal brought back to its original state. 

 

A year ago, he had told Rey to let go, to let the past die. He realized he should have taken his own advice. 

 

The people of Naboo had long believed Anakin Skywalker’s fall began in Varykino when he defied the Jedi Order to marry Padme. It seemed only fitting that the same could be said for his grandson. Kylo Ren fell for the last Jedi. He gave himself to her completely and in doing so, he opened the door for Ben Solo’s return. 


 

“Sweetheart.” Rey hummed, nuzzling her face into the crook of Ben’s neck sleepily. “We should get dressed,” Ben suggested. “People are waiting for us.”

 

They hadn’t spoken since she’d woken up, at least no more than a few words of praise here and there as they explored one another. Rey wasn’t even sure where they were. The chamber held Ben, and upon waking, that was the only detail that mattered. 

 

“They can wait a bit longer,” she told him, pressing a kiss to his jugular. 

 

His hands came to her bare waist, hidden by the thin sheet covering their bodies. “Rey.” He sighed. “I need to go with Dameron.”

 

Her eyes opened and she propped herself up on his chest to stare at him. “Poe’s here?” When had the Commander made it to Theed? 

 

“Your entire band of merry rebels are here,” he remarked. “Along with Archais and Temiri.”

 

“How is he?” She immediately asked, her location no longer critical. Ben didn’t question which ‘he’ she meant. 

 

“Temiri is fine. He’s sleeping downstairs. It’s been a long day…for all of us.” Rey nodded. “His power is quite unique,” Ben added. “I can see why you’re so protective.”

 

“He’s under my care, of course I want to protect him,” she replied. Then softer, “thank you for watching over him.”

 

“Anything.” Ben leaned forward to press his forehead to hers. “I’d do anything for you...which is why I have to go see Dameron.”

 

Rey quirked a brow. “What aren’t you telling me?”

 

“I made a de—.”

 

A sharp knock interrupted his answer. Ben’s face bloomed into red, as he scrambled to make sure she was sufficiently covered with the sheet. 

 

Whoever had intruded on their time together made the decision to knock again. Rey ignored them, reaching out to the Force to get a handle on where they were. It was certainly not Theed Palace. 

 

“Ben?”

 

“One minute,” he shouted at the door, before meeting Rey’s insistent gaze. “I made a deal with Dameron.”

 

An uneasy feeling settled in her gut. “What kind of deal?” She asked warily. 

 

“A deal to save your life,” Ben admitted. “The rebels came to rescue you, but as usual, their plan failed. Archais was able to intercept them. During Hux’s coup, I ordered him to bring them and Temiri to a safe house, while I went after you.” He paused, running a hand through his disheveled hair. “Do you remember anything from the gardens?”

 

“I remember everything,” Rey confirmed. “But that doesn’t explain why you have to go with Poe.”

 

“I didn’t have access to a medical droid and your condition wasn’t improving, so I told Dameron I would...” He inhaled deeply, pinching the bridge of his nose. Rey held her breath, waiting for him to finish. “I agreed to turn myself in if he brought a medical team to Varykino.”

 

“No,” she refused flatly. She had stopped listening to him as soon as the words ‘turn myself in’ left his mouth. 

 

“He upheld his end of the bargain, Rey. Now I must do the same.”

 

“No,” she repeated, more forcefully this time. How could he have made such a bargain? Didn’t he realize what he had done? “They’ll make you stand trial, Ben. They won’t understand—”

 

“It doesn’t matter,” he cut her off. She blinked, startled Ben had interrupted. Cupping her face in his hands, he locked eyes with her. “You’re alive. You’ll be safe with Archais. He will be as loyal to you as he was to me. He’ll help you disappear.”

 

“I don’t want to disappear,” she snarled. “I don’t want to be safe. I want you. I want a life with you!”

 

“I did this so you would have a life,” he argued. “Seeing you lying there...I couldn’t stand there and do nothing. I’ve already lost so much. My title, my knights, my family...I couldn’t bear to lose you, Rey. You promised I wasn’t alone.”

 

Rey’s eyes, which had narrowed out of anger, widened at his confession. She swallowed against the growing lump in her throat, taking a deep breath before speaking. 

 

“You’re not alone,” she promised. “You’re never going to be alone again. Neither of us is.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Get dressed,” Rey ordered. “I have a plan.”


 

Ben descended the staircase clutching Rey’s hand like a vice. Her plan hinged entirely on the Resistance’s trust in her and while Ben had no doubts that they were loyal to her, he wasn’t sure it was a good idea to test the limits of that loyalty by throwing him into the equation.

 

“Rey!” 

 

He watched as the trio converged on them. Rey made no move to disentangle herself from him, her hand wrapped firmly around his own. The contact did not go unnoticed.

 

“Let her go,” the Traitor spat.

 

“Hey, buddy.” Dameron placed a hand on the other man’s chest, stepping between them. “It’s fine. Remember? We talked about this.”

 

“How are you feeling?” Their petite counterpart asked Rey.

 

“Fine, Rose,” Rey responded with a smile. “How did you guys find us?”

 

“Your students told us you were abducted,” the Traitor spat. “Didn’t take long to figure out who was to blame.”

 

“Ben isn’t to blame,” Rey stated evenly to her friend, before turning to Dameron. “And he isn’t going back to the Resistance.” 

 

“He is,” Dameron insisted, wheeling around to face the last Jedi.

 

Ben watched cautiously as Rey and the pilot stared one another down. Seeing her defend him with as much fervor as she had shown in Snoke’s throne room had him contemplating if he could sneak her back upstairs before they went forward with the remainder of her plan. His pants were feeling rather tight. 

 

“We need him,” Rey countered. “Hux has control of the First Order. I think you all know what that means.”

 

“I’m not worried about General Hugs,” Dameron replied dismissively.

 

“Then you’re a fool,” Ben grumbled. “He’s a strategist. Just because he isn’t a warrior, doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to manipulate those around him to do his dirty work for him. He has the loyalty of my knights.”

 

A throat clearing warned Ben’s attention and he found Archais standing in the corner. 

 

“Except one,” Ben amended. His knight cocked his head to the side, reminding him of the missing party. “And keep your voices down. You don’t want to wake the child.”

 

“We can handle Hux,” Dameron claimed, narrowing his eyes at Ben. “And don’t tell me what to do.”

 

“And the knights?” Rey challenged.

 

“That’s what we have you for,” he answered simply.

 

“There are eleven of them,” Ben pointed out.

 

“We only need one of Rey.” The pilot wouldn’t be swayed, but Ben caught the way the Traitor’s gaze shifted to Rey and then to Rose before centering on the Commander. 

 

“I need Ben,” Rey demanded. “I can’t win this fight without him.”

 

You could, he sent across the bond. You took care of them well enough in the maze .

 

I nearly killed them all, she shot back, appalled.

 

They would have killed you, he noted. 

 

Taking a life should only be used as a last resort, Rey returned. 

 

It was your last resort. You did nothing wrong.

 

Because you were there, she reminded him. You pulled me back before the darkness took over. I need you. 

 

Just as I need you, he agreed. 

 

Her lips curled up into a smile. 

 

“Excuse me?” Ben’s attention snapped to Dameron, who was waving his hand in front of them. “Want to explain what that was?”

 

“A Force bond,” Archais answered indifferently from behind the trio. 

 

“Excuse me?” the Traitor questioned.

 

“They are bound through the Force, able to communicate across the galaxy, share experiences, skills, and much more. It is rare,” Archais remarked. “Nearly as rare as the Supreme Leader of the Galaxy engaging in an audience with a bunch of rebels.” 

 

“I’m no longer the Supreme Leader,” Ben said quietly. 

 

“That doesn’t change the fact you need to be held accountable for your crimes,” Dameron demanded, taking a step towards him. 

 

“And what of your crimes?” Rey asked, wedging herself between them. “Are you saying you’ve never taken a life, Poe?”

 

“What?”

 

“All those missions you flew,” she clarified. “You killed members of the First Order.”

 

“They are the enemy!” he objected.

 

“That’s what you were trained to believe, but what about those who had no choice, people like Finn, who were born into it with no choice?” Rey opposed. 

 

The Traitor shifted uncomfortably behind the pilot. Ben watched as the girl Rey called Rose came to stand beside him. 

 

“It’s not the same. Finn left. He got me out of Starkiller and joined our side,” the pilot recounted.

 

“Ben left the First Order to save my life. How is that any different?” Rey asked. “We want to end this war so there won’t be any sides. It doesn’t serve the galaxy to exist this way, always fighting, always labeling each other. There is another way.”

 

The room fell silent for a moment while everyone mulled over the last Jedi’s words. Ben stared at the woman next to him. Once again, she had proved to be his equal in all things, his one true partner. She held a radiance about her, a power that had nothing to do with the Force and everything to do with Rey the person. He imagined his grandmother was smiling down on them from wherever she was. 

 

“No,” Dameron declined. “This plan won’t work, Rey. I can’t trust him to watch my back and he sure isn’t going to trust me to watch his.”

 

“I would never do anything to endanger Rey,” Ben spoke up. “And I would sooner die than lose her trust, even if that includes saving your pompous ass, Dameron.”

 

“You won’t be saving anyone, Ren,” Dameron insisted, poking a finger at Ben’s chest. “You aren’t the hero here. That position has been filled.”

 

“By who? You?” Ben queried skeptically. 

 

“Enough!” 

 

Everyone stopped to stare at Rose, who was seething with her fists clutched at her side.

 

“That’s enough,” she repeated, somewhat calmer. “You know Hux,” Rose directed her words to Ben. He nodded. “So you know what he would do. We can be ready for him, find a weakness and leverage it to finally end this war once and for all.”

 

“Yes,” Ben confirmed.

 

“Then I am in,” she stated. He noticed she stroked something beneath her jumpsuit as she spoke, a medallion of sorts. “No one else should have to die.”

 

The Traitor put his arm around the petite girl’s shoulders. “If Rose is in, I am too.”

 

Dameron glanced at his friends, then at Rey and Ben, then back at his friends. Jaw set firmly, he extended his hand to Ben. “I’m not letting them go at this alone. Count me in.”

Chapter Text

Once Poe agreed to join them, things proceeded quickly. He commed Officer Connix, alerting her to the plan and asking for reinforcements. Despite his agreement, though, Rey was guarded around the Commander. She could feel his irritation at having been out-voted. His thoughts conflicted with his actions, putting her on edge.

 

More than once, Ben caught her hand hovering over her saber, ready to engage the Commander if he pulled any ill-advised heroics. But it was Temiri who lashed out first.

 

While they waited for the reinforcements to arrive, Ben ushered her down to the kitchen for nourishment. Her stomach was grateful, even if her mind was preoccupied by the tension in the lake house entryway. 

 

Fresh fruits and vegetables were no longer grown in the garden outside, but stores of ration cubes and nutritive beverages lined the cabinets. Rey’s stomach turned upon seeing the dry cakes she had once lived on. She shut the cupboard and continued searching.

 

They were rummaging through the pantry when Rey felt the crack of Force energy gathering. Ben caught her gaze and together they sprinted into the foyer to find Poe hovering several feet off the ground. The pilot was hollering obscenities, while Archais chuckled in the corner. Finn and Rose stood off to the side bewildered as they watched Rey’s first pupil manipulate the Force to suspend Poe’s body. 

 

Temiri was staring curiously at his work, one hand outstretched in the direction of the Commander. 

 

Before Rey had a chance, Ben crossed the room to the boy’s side. “Put him down,” Ben instructed calmly. 

 

She watched, fascinated, as her student listened to Ben’s guidance, carefully lowering Poe to the floor. Temiri appeared calm and collected next to the former Supreme Leader. He showed no signs of fear or intimidation. Instead, he was eager to show Ben how well he could control his power. 

 

Regardless of his control, his use of the Force wasn’t acceptable. Rey knelt by her pupil. “Temiri, what were you thinking?” she asked.

 

The boy's eyes narrowed. “He called you a traitor,” he responded angrily. 

 

Rey’s gaze snapped to Poe. He glared at her defiantly, not denying the accusation. Finn and Rose shifted uncomfortably, confirming the child’s story. Rey straightened up and took a step towards the man she had once considered a friend. 

 

“If you have something to say, Commander, say it,” she challenged. 

 

The room went still. 

 

She could feel Ben tense behind her as he readied himself to push Temiri over with Archais and charge the Commander. 

 

Let me do this, Rey said across the bond. 

 

As you wish, he relented. 

 

“Well?” She raised a brow expectantly at Poe. 

 

“You know what he’s done, Rey. He tortured me. Kidnapped you. Killed his own father, almost killed his mother and then—.”

 

“And then he saved my life and gave you a way to win this war,” Rey finished for the Commander. “Things aren’t always what they seem. You can’t take anything for granted.” His eyes widened as though she was speaking to him in a different language. Rey shook her head, her voice softer when she said, “I thought Holdo taught you that.”

 

Shame and regret flickered in Poe’s eyes. He dropped his gaze to the floor. 

 

“If you aren’t with us, then you should leave,” Rey suggested. “Because I won’t stand for an attempted mutiny if that’s where your head is at.”

 

“Are you going to make me leave?” he questioned, his voice hoarse.

 

“If you try to undermine our efforts, I’ll do what I have to.”

 

“For Kylo Ren?” He spat incredulously.

 

“For Ben Solo.”

 

“Call him what you want,” Poe snapped. “He belongs in a cell.”

 

“Either you publicly grant him amnesty when the Resistance arrives, or you can board the transport, turn right back around and try to win this war on your own,” Rey insisted. “Your choice.”

 

Finn cleared his throat, appearing more uncomfortable than before. Rose was glaring at Poe and Archais was surveying the entire situation with a keen eye. 

 

“Not much of a choice,” Poe grumbled. 

 

Rey held out her hand and when Poe offered his in return, she gave it a firm shake. They had reached an understanding, but Rey’s trust in the man would never return. 

 

After their scuffle, Rey kept her distance from Rose, Finn, and Poe. Archais and Temiri joined her and Kylo in the kitchen, where they made a meal of energy pudding and protein paste. There was no flavor to their dinner, but at least it was something to fill their bellies.

 

While they ate, Archais, Ben and Temiri filled in the blanks for Rey, cataloging the missing time since she had gone in the maze and been wounded. When her pupil asked her about where she’d gone, she told him the truth.

 

“The World Between Worlds.”

 

She didn’t share information about her visions with anyone in the Resistance, including Finn and Rose. She knew what she had seen was real, but there wasn’t a way to describe what she had experienced, at least not to someone who didn’t have the Force. Archais had his own opinion about what it meant and how it would affect their bond. Temiri merely thought it was cool and asked if he could visit one day.

 

Ben supported her in her decision, keeping his own thoughts on the topic between their small group of four Force-sensitives. Temiri was all too happy to have a secret that connected him with the former Supreme Leader and Rey was pleased to see how the two got along. At least she didn’t need to worry about them, just the incoming ships of Resistance fighters who were due to arrive any minute.

 

Her worry lessened when she spotted the famous Corellian freighter break atmo. Chewie brought a couple dozen reinforcements, some pilots, some soldiers and some that Rey wasn’t quite sure what to do with. 

 

Thankfully, Ben had his own plan. While he carefully avoided the Wookie, Rey and Rose split all the new arrivals into groups. Archais took those with weapons experience. Temiri helped the field crew get set up. Finn and Poe worked with the pilots, while Ben announced his suggestion to leverage Varykino as a stronghold to the admirals. 

 

“It’s close enough to Theed Palace that we can make alterations to our lines of attack as needed, but we’ll still be far enough away that we have the element of surprise,” he informed their newly assembled allies. 

 

Rey smiled at him, watching him take control of the room, not with the power he had wielded since he was a child, but with the diplomatic leadership he had inherited from his mother. She wished Leia could see him, taking his rightful place in their story. 

 

She wasn’t the only one who thought so. Doctor Harter Kalonia, the medic Ben had bartered his freedom for, approached them after the debriefing. 

 

“Your mother would have been proud to see the man you’ve become,” the doctor remarked. Unlike the other Resistance members who had joined them, she showed little to no hesitation when speaking to the former Supreme Leader. “I can see so much of her in you, but there’s still that hint of scoundrel that is all your father. I think he would be proud too.”

 

Ben mumbled a hurried ‘thank you’ and excused himself from the chamber. Temiri went to run after him, but Rey kept her student with her. She could feel what Ben needed. They didn’t have much of it, but she could give him a few minutes to collect his thoughts. He deserved the time to make peace with his parents passing. 

 

“You’re going to stay here with Harter and her crew,” Rey instructed Temiri, leading him down the corridor to a separate room being set up as a makeshift hospital.

 

“But I want to go with you,” Temiri whined. Harter shot Rey an understanding look. 

 

Rey knelt in front of him, both her hands on his shoulders while she stared at him. “Temiri, it’s dangerous and you haven’t completed your training yet. I need you to stay here so Ben and I can focus on what needs to be.”

 

“I can help,” he insisted.

 

“You can.” Rey smiled. “You can stay here and help Harter assess the incoming wounded. We need someone with your abilities to help her prioritize who needs attention the quickest. As a Force user, you’re more attuned to the needs of everyone. She’ll be counting on you.” 

 

“I will,” the doctor agreed. “And so will everyone fighting alongside Rey and Ben. There is more than one way to be a hero,” Harter explained. “Besides, we have all the best toys,” she winked at the boy. 

 

When she held out her hand to lead him into the infirmary, Temiri eagerly took it and went with her. 

 

Rey mouthed a ‘Thank you’ to the doctor, then went off to the garden to find Ben. 

 

She could feel him through the bond, pacing outside. Though she wanted to grant him more time, their window of opportunity was rapidly closing. If they were going to make a move against Hux, it had to be now. 

 

Rey found him by the lake, feet hitting the ground in long even strides, a constant staccato beat on the stone, in tune with the hammering of her heart. 

 

Even after all they had faced, she still felt her breath catch when she looked at him. He was so large with his impossibly broad chest, towering frame and dark locks. It was no wonder he intimidated so many and made others, like Poe, second guess themselves. Ben Solo’s presence demanded attention. 

 

For a moment, she watched him walking the same line back and forth, head bent down in thought, muttering to himself. He was completely unaware of her, giving her a chance to observe him. 

 

It was almost humorous, the way he was so unaware of his effect on her when for Rey, he was all she could think of. Like his physical self, her perception of him was just as overwhelming, taking up all available space in her mind, until he became synonymous with all she knew. 

 

However this war ended, Rey understood they would be together. One way or another.

 

“Ben.”

 

He froze, full lips parted as he gazed at her. “Rey.”

 

“They need us in there,” she told him, as she approached. “Are you alright?”

 

He sighed, shoulders hunching downward as if he was attempting to make himself smaller. “I will never see them again, neither one of my parents. My family is gone. I’m all that’s left of the Skywalker line.”

 

Rey reached up, cupping his cheek in one hand. “I never had a family before, but I don’t believe family has to be made up of those you are bound to by blood. I found my family in Finn and Rose and Temiri and you. You are who I chose to have as my family.”

 

His arms wrapped around her, hands clasping behind her lower back, dragging her to his chest. She slipped her own up and around to card her fingers through his hair. His head bowed, resting on top of hers. “You always know what to say.”

 

“I know you,” she admitted. “Even if you doubt yourself, I know Harter is right. You’re a good man, Ben. And your parents would be proud.”

 

She felt his tears before she felt him shake. His breathing was ragged, uneven and heavy as it blew across her hair. Her fingers stilled. Rey let him cry, this massive man who the galaxy had painted a murderous monster, one whom she had dubbed the same not that long ago. She could feel his anguish screaming across the bond, a wound far deeper than the one she had given him in the snowy forests of the Starkiller base.

 

“I’m sorry,” he chanted over and over. 

 

Though Rey knew the words weren’t meant for her, she held him tighter, resuming her ministrations to comfort him. She’d given everything to find her way back to him. In his moment of need, she refused to let him be alone.

 

Rey had made Ben a promise and she intended to keep it for the remainder of her days.


 

He was being foolish, crying over the past, a darkness he couldn’t escape even with Rey at his side. Her light couldn’t erase the fact of what he’d done. The atrocities he had committed were unforgivable. 

 

And yet, she stayed. 

 

She clung to him with the same desperation as he held onto her, two wayward ships lost in the night, tethered together by some unseen element. If he was a good man, the type of man she believed him to be, he would let her go. He’d encourage her to find someone worthy. 

 

But Ben Solo was not a good man. He was selfish. 

 

“You’re not,” Rey whispered. “We’ve all done things we regret, Ben. No one is completely made of the Light or the Dark. We all strive for balance, somewhere in between, somewhere in the shades of gray.”

 

He’d heard the term Gray Jedi before. The term had come up in his research, but few had ever walked such a line. Due to the seductive nature of the Dark side, many fell. True balance, a clear understanding of other sides of the Force was crucial for the success of such a belief. 

 

It was difficult, but it wasn’t impossible. 

 

Rey knew nothing of the Gray Jedi. Despite her lack of training, she was once again a step ahead of him. Her idea was worth looking into, after they dealt with Hux and the First Order, after they were free. 

 

Which brought him back to the task at hand. 

 

The galaxy would never know peace if Hux remained in power. Ben would never know peace. He’d be on the run the rest of his days, always looking over his shoulder, always fighting for his next breath. It wasn’t the life he wanted. He wanted a life with Rey, a quiet life, a balanced life.

 

Maybe Ben Solo wasn’t a good man, but he could be a good man for Rey. He could give her the life she deserved, one where there was an abundance of green and it rained and there would be enough food so she never went to bed hungry again. He’d bring an end to the First Order, so his scavenger, and those like her, would never have to suffer needlessly again. 

 

After tomorrow, neither of them would have to suffer again. They would be home, with one another.

 

“Rey?” He released her enough to lean back and peer down at her face. Her eyes were wide, a beautiful mixture of emerald and bronze. “I—.”

 

Ben swallowed. He’d never had the opportunity to ask his mother how to court a woman properly. As with most things in his life, he read about it and tried his best to execute accordingly. 

 

He cleared his throat. 

 

“I love you,” Ben started. She opened her mouth, but he continued before she could interrupt. “I almost lost you and it would have destroyed me. All this time we’ve wasted. I don’t want to waste another moment. Once the war is over, will you...would you consider...I mean, could you ever—.”

 

Yes.” 

 

He stared at her bewildered. She was beaming up at him, her teeth on full display and her cheeks dotted with dimples. “Force bonded, remember?” 

 

He let out a huff, then chuckled, the tension receding from his body at her luminous smile. “Always so stubborn,” he mocked playfully. “Couldn’t let me finish? I was trying to be romantic, sweetheart.”

 

“You are,” Rey told him, rising to her tip-toes. “But if you want to ask me again, I promise to be quiet this time.”

 

Ben smirked, finding it just as hard to concentrate the second time, when her lips were precariously close to his own. 

 

“Rey of Jakku, would you do me the honor of taking my name as your own and becoming my wife?”

 

Her responding kiss nearly drowned out her answer, but he heard it.

 

His joy couldn’t be contained. Enveloping her in his arms, he spun her around, feeling his shroud of doubt fall away. Just as with before, he felt the darkness dissipate. Rey’s light blossomed around them and the Force pulsed between them, as if joining in their celebration.

 

Against all reason, she had said yes. She was his. 

 

As he spun her, Ben planted kisses along the crown of her head down the curve of her cheekbone and to her collarbone. Rey laughed, keeping herself as close to him as physically possible, until a throat clearing burst their little bubble.

 

Ben halted and released his soon-to-be bride, glancing over her head at their audience. 

 

“Chewie.”

 

The Wookie stood stiffly by the patio doors, silently waiting for them to part. Ben had known this day would come to pass, sooner or later. It appeared that it was to be the former. As disappointed as he was to let go of Rey, he knew he owed it to his father’s co-pilot to talk one-on-one.

 

Ben felt Rey’s apprehension prickle across his skin. “It’s fine,” he reassured her. “I’ll be along in a minute.” 

 

She paused between the two men, unsure. Chewie rumbled a promise not to tear Ben’s arms off, along with something else Ben didn’t catch. Her face broke into a grin. 

 

“See you both inside,” she called over her shoulder, before entering the lake house. 

 

Ben met the deep-set eyes of his father’s co-pilot, indecision and regret washing over him. 

 

“I could tell you I’m sorry, but I know it won’t mean anything,” he began. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish he was still flying with you instead of...” Ben trailed off and his throat tightened. “I was so angry with him for so many years. I never understood why he left, why he gave me up. I never understood what he wanted from me.”

 

“He wanted you to come home,” the Wookiee replied in Shyriiwook. 

 

Ben hung his head, his fists clenched at his sides. In the split second that followed his worst mistake, he had seen forgiveness in his father’s eyes. That moment showed him what his father had really come to do — prove he loved him. And then he fell.

 

It was the vision that haunted Ben the most. 

 

He’d stood frozen, watching his father’s lifeless body plummet into the darkness, while his soul shattered. But through the cracks, the light started coming through. Rey had broken in, and then Temiri, and now others. 

 

He had his father to thank for that. 

 

“And now you have,” Chewie remarked. Ben glanced up, just as the Wookiee embraced him. “Your father died bringing you home. In the end, it was all he wanted, little Ben.” 

 

For the second time that day, Ben Solo wept for his parents. 


 

“The element of surprise is our best bet for success,” Commander D’Acy was saying when Ben and Chewie finally joined the council.

 

Rey smiled across the room at them, glad to see the two had aired their grievances. Ben came around to stand by her side, while Chewbacca chose to remain off to the side. She felt Ben’s hand rest on her lower back and he leaned down.

 

“If I remember correctly, that was my plan,” he commented on the Commander’s statement.

 

She grinned. “And if it doesn’t work?”

 

“Then it’s her plan,” Ben shrugged, feigning indifference. 

 

Rey had to hide her laughter in her shoulder, turning away so the council didn’t see her inappropriate outburst. 

 

“If we want the entire fleet to get close enough to the palace to fire, we will need a distraction,” one of the pilots pointed out. 

 

Commander D’Acy nodded in agreement. “Anyone have any ideas?” Poe’s hand shot up, but the Commander dismissed him. “Anyone other than Commander Dameron?”

 

Tentatively, Rey raised her hand. 

 

All eyes focused on the last Jedi, including her future husband’s.

 

Rey shivered. She couldn’t think about that right now, even if every fiber of her body was buzzing from his proposal. 

 

She cleared her throat, willing her nerves to settle. “There is a weak point to the Palace’s construction.”

 

“The hangar?” Snap Wexley questioned.

 

Rey shook her head. “That one is obvious. They will be expecting that. No, I’m planning on hitting them where it hurts,” she explained. “The Supreme Leader’s chambers.”

 

Murmurs filled the room as the group speculated how Rey would have such knowledge, though considering how close Ben was to her, she assumed they already had an idea. It didn’t matter that she had never been in Ben’s quarters in Theed. She had seen the wide opening the grand balancing provided. It wasn’t large enough for the Falcon, but an X-Wing could fit. 

 

Or a TIE.

 

“No,” Ben refused, already aware of what she was about to suggest. 

 

“It will work,” she argued, turning to face him. 

 

“You aren’t blowing up my ship,” he argued. 

 

“Well, we can’t afford to lose any of our fleet,” Rey insisted. “Besides, yours still bears the First Order insignia.” 

 

“Rey.” 

 

He was upset. She knew he would be, but she didn’t have any other ideas. Rewiring the capacitor would allow her to turn the ship into an explosive, one which was sure to do a great deal of damage if she managed to lodge in into the palace first. It would give their fleet the opening they need and leave Hux and the knights scrambling. 

 

But Ben didn’t seem to be on board with her plan and no one in the room dared defy him. 

 

“Do you have a better idea?” she asked.

 

“Actually.” He smirked. “I do.”

 

Rey tilted her head, intrigued.

 

“Have you ever played chicken?” 


 

As the sun set on Naboo, Ben watched the sky change from a clear blue to a blush of reds and oranges, before darkening into an array of pinks and purples. The colors melted into one another until there was no clear start or finish to where one shade started and the next began.

 

They had spent the remainder of the day together practicing. Once, he had proclaimed that she needed a teacher and it was true, but she had taught him as well. Hours of training had left his body sore and his mind a mess.

 

Rey had suggested a quiet dinner in their chamber. After they had each taken a turn in the ‘fresher, they collapsed in bed. Their weariness was set aside in lieu of a more pressing need, one which he intended to explore as many times as he could with his bride to be.

 

He felt her behind him, lying silently in bed as she waited for him to return from his perch by the window.

 

Ben turned away from the wide opening towards Rey. With only a thin sheet to cover her, he could make out every delicate curve of her frame as she lay on her side, propped up on one elbow.

 

“Come back to bed,” she coaxed.

 

“If I come back to bed, I’ll never find the strength to leave,” he admitted. “I’d stay here with you until the end of time.”

 

Rey smiled and shook her head. “You wouldn’t. You care just as much as I do...maybe more.”

 

He sighed, running a hand through his hair. She was right, of course. He couldn’t remain here, not while Hux was in power. He had to end it.

 

Tomorrow.

 

It felt like a lifetime away. It felt too soon. Ben stared at Rey, wishing they had more time like this, more quiet moments where it was only them, only their love and their talks of the future.

 

“We have time,” she assured him, patting the mattress. “After tomorrow, we’ll have all the time we need. We’ll be free.”

 

Unable to deny her any longer, Ben crawled under the sheet. Rey welcomed him into her arms, combing her fingers through his hair and massaging his scalp until his breathing slowed. He buried his face in her chest, allowing the soothing to sensation to lull him to sleep.

 

His last waking thought was how much he wanted her to be right.

Chapter Text

 

Commotion filled the lake house. It was still dark outside and under the cover of the lingering night, the Resistance was finishing their final preparations. Their attack was to commence at dawn, just as the first beams of light hit Theed Palace. They would hide their ships in plain sight, using the glare of the early morning rays and Rose Tico’s latest cloaking technology to become invisible. 

 

Rey stood staring out at the lake and trying to count the many stars reflected in it. She thought of how only a few days prior she had stood in the same stance on Yavin IV staring out at the jungle. As with that morning, Rey reflected on how much her life had changed. She was no longer part of the Resistance, no longer a teacher, no longer the last Jedi. 

 

But she wasn’t alone. 

 

She smiled, tracing her fingertips across her lips as she thought of Ben’s kiss. Her first kiss. He held her heart and while the truth of that should have frightened her, Rey found herself reveling in it. She had a home with him, in him. No matter what came to pass, they were together now. She would fight with everything she had to keep it that way. 

 

A pair of thick arms encircled her waist and Ben rested his chin atop her head. “What are you thinking about?”

 

She laughed. “I thought you could take whatever you wanted.”

 

“Maybe I like hearing you tell me,” he replied wistfully. 

 

She inhaled deeply, before answering. “For so long I thought I was searching for my family, but I realized that I wasn’t actually looking for my parents. I needed a place to belong.” She turned in his arms, peering up at him. “And I found that...in you.”

 

He held her against his chest, stroking one hand down her back and pressing his cheek to the crown of her head. “When this is over, we’ll go wherever you want. We can do whatever you want.”

 

“What about what you want, Ben?” 

 

“I already have what I want,” he answered. “I have you.” 

 

Rey tilted her head back to kiss him, pouring all her hopes for their future into it. Ben clung to her, his hands gripping so tight it nearly hurt, but she didn’t care. She would take what he would give her. She wanted all of it. She wanted all of him. 

 

In that moment, the Jedi Killer and the Last Jedi only saw one another. 


 

Armitage Hux sat on the throne of Naboo, a prominent seat for a powerful man. Kylo Ren may have seen this place as a homecoming of sorts, but to Hux, it felt like victory. He had taken Ren’s control of the knights, the palace and his only hope. All that was left to take was the man’s life and Hux would become the man he had always sought to become.

 

All-powerful. 

 

“General?”

 

“Supreme Leader!” Hux corrected enraged. 

 

He was furious that the Stormtroopers couldn’t keep up with the change in his rank. The messenger froze, unclear whether or not to continue with his news. 

 

“What?” Hux snapped. 

 

“The last Jedi.”

 

“What of her?” He muttered disinterestedly. 

 

By now the girl was dead. There was no antidote for Parnassos poisoning. It had removed Brendol Hux from the world and he had been a difficult man to kill. Armitage smirked, recalling the look on his father’s face when the older man had succumbed to the poison. He wondered if Kylo Ren wore the same expression as he watched his precious scavenger die. 

 

“She’s here!” the Stormtrooper announced. 

 

“What?” Hux bellowed. 

 

“She’s in the gardens approaching the palace now.”

 

“Well, stop her! Send the knights out! Pull out the cannon. She must be stopped!”

 

The Stormtrooper nodded dumbly.

 

Hux growled. “Do something. Don’t just stand there! Move!


 

Ben clenched his jaw as he sat in his Silencer, waiting for the signal to lead the Resistance’s attack on Theed. 

 

Steady, Rey sent across the bond. 

 

She stood with her hands at her side, simply waiting in the gardens for the Knights of Ren. Ben could see her miles away through the bond. It was both a blessing and a curse. 

 

I have a bad feeling about this, he shot back. 

 

This was your plan, she reminded him.

 

He fidgeted in his seat, growing more uneasy by the second. Sending her out all alone was meant to draw the knights out and away from Hux, but seeing her march forward, a solitary figure on the horizon, terrified him. She was an easy target. 

 

Excuse me? 

 

You know what I mean, he huffed. 

 

It will be fine, Ben, Rey reassured him. We practiced this, remember?

 

When we practiced, Dameron didn’t have guns aimed at my back , he retorted. 

 

Commander Dameron wouldn’t fire on you and give up our most valuable strike scenario, she reasoned. 

 

And after the attack?

 

We’ll deal with that later, Rey remarked.

 

Ben’s eyes narrowed as he sensed her spot the first black cloaked figure. The bond expanded his vision, allowing Ben to see Cadmus as he strolled towards Rey’s position. Where there was one, there were at least two others. His pulse quickened, eyes scanning for them. 

 

At your eleven and two, Ben called out. 

 

I see them. 

 

I’m coming, he declared, beginning his takeoff sequence.

 

Not yet, Rey warned him to hold off. They aren’t all here .

 

Hux would never permit them all to be here. He will want them at his side for protection, Ben told her. The coward.

 

No, Rey argued. They are coming. I can feel it.  

 

As if to prove her point, Ben saw them emerge, one by one, until they were standing before Rey in a semicircle. All but one.

 

Wait, Ealous is missing, Ben alerted. 

 

A metallic groan came from the palace, followed by a heavy clinking sound of steel on granite. The missing knight appeared at the gateway, but it wasn’t him that Ben fixated on. It was what was behind him. 

 

What is that? Rey asked.

 

Ben saw the knights part as a super laser siege cannon slid into position. The support vehicles veered off, returning to the palace, while the knights remained to the sides where they would be out of range. 

 

He thought the weapons were all off-world, assigned to other outposts across the galaxy to maintain order. He briefly wondered when Hux had managed to slip one onto Naboo. 

 

It didn’t matter now. The power of the cannon’s blast couldn’t be matched. 

 

“Get out of there!” Ben shouted. 

 

Rey shifted her feet, getting comfortable in her defensive stance. What was she doing? Couldn’t she hear him? She glanced over her shoulder at him. Her face was one of determination. 

 

Then she ignited her saber staff. 

 

“Rey?”

 

She turned back to face the knights and the ram. Both blades pulsed in the early morning light, casting an unnatural glow around her. 

 

“Rey!”

 

It will still work, she insisted. Stick to the plan, Ben.

 

Gripping the controls, Ben pressed down and forward, directing his TIE towards her. “Go!” He ordered across the comms to the rest of the squadron. “Go now!”

 

He dove, feeling the sides of his ship shake from his sudden exertion on the controls. 

 

Hold on, sweetheart. Hold on. 

 

The cannon’s barrel began to whirl. Its dark belly ignited into brilliant hues of orange and red. Like her traitorous friend, Rey didn’t shy away from the attack. She took off, barreling towards the cannon. 

 

Ben pushed his TIE to the maximum speed, calling on all those who came before him to guide him in his most critical hour. 

 

He couldn’t fail.

 

The Silencer dropped out of the golden sun, howling against the air as it propelled itself at the last Jedi. The knights staggered back a step in shock, but Ben’s focus was on his intended. He watched as Rey’s boots hit the ground in timed beats. He held his breath and clutched the controls. 

 

One...two...three!

 

Her feet lifted off as she called all her power into and leaped. For a moment, she was completely suspended in the air, flipping over. Ben struggled to not pinch his eyes closed, so afraid that he had overshot it, afraid she would fall off the back end or...

 

Ka-dunk

 

Thanks for picking me up, she said. He could hear the smile in her voice.

 

Ben let out the breath he had been holding and opened fire on the knights below. He was joined by the Resistance fleet, providing more coverage for him and Rey. 

 

“Alright, break off,” Dameron commanded over the comms.

 

The X-wings peeled off in various directions, raining blaster fire as they went. 

 

The knights went scattering behind the siege cannon, too concerned about dodging fire to notice Rey spring off of the TIE to land atop the cannon. 


 

The cannon wasn’t a weapon Rey was familiar with, but she had seen complicated construction before. If she could fix the Falcon’s hyperdrive, she could certainly destabilize the cannon. 

 

Carefully, she sliced through the top of the weapon to get a clear view of its inner workings. Colorful wires criss-crossed inside overtop glowing batteries, as long and tall as the sides of the battering ram. It depended on solar energy to charge. Without access to the battery cells containing that power, the weapon wouldn’t be able to fire. If Rey could sever the power connector, she could neutralize the threat. 

 

“Jedi,” a voice hissed. 

 

Rey rolled out of the way of the electro-whip, barely avoiding the hit. Cadmus Ren stood behind her, his face hidden beneath his mask. 

 

“We’re not done yet,” Rey snarled, ignoring the irony of her words; those same words Ben had uttered to her in the snow. 

 

“That is where you’re wrong,” the knight replied smugly. “Your pointless attempt to restore the Jedi Order ends here.”

 

“You’re so right,” Rey smirked, as she straightened up. “It’s time for a new order.” 

 

Cadmus charged. Rey unsheathed her saber staff and met his blow, the crackle of the energies between them drowning out her labored breathing. 

 

The electro-whip wrapped around the top portion of Rey’s saber. For a moment, she glared at her reflection in Cadmus’s helmet. The kyber burned against the electrified wire and the knight recoiled. While the whip could withstand a lightsaber blow, it couldn’t hold onto it permanently. 

 

He cocked his arm back, ready to strike her once more. Rey swung her staff around, spinning her body in time with the weapon. She kicked Cadmus in his center before bringing the edge of her saber staff to slice through the air right beneath his chin. 

 

It wasn’t meant as a blow. It was meant to be a warning. 

 

But Cadmus ignored her in favor of hooking his whip handle around her saber staff and yanking it out of her grasp. Her double-blades weapon turned off and went skidding across the top of the battering ram.  

 

Rey shoved her full weight into Cadmus, throwing him off balance so she could dodge his counter blow. 

 

“I don’t want to kill you,” she hissed through clenched teeth. 

 

“Don’t worry,” the Thradian replied. “You won’t.”

 

He snapped out his whip again. 

 

She skidded across the top of the siege cannon towards her saber staff. As her hand reached for the inactive weapon, the blue light of the electro-whip invaded her peripherals. Rey ripped her hand away and ducked her head. 

 

The heat of the whip skimmed by her face. She jerked back in response, trying to put more distance between her and the knight. Rey reached out and called her saber staff to her with the Force. The weapon rose up and was quickly snatched out of the air by the electro-whip.

 

Rey’s eyes widened as she watched the staff be pulled out of her reach. Cadmus tucked it into his belt and raised his own weapon. 

 

“Goodbye, Madame Jedi,” he crooned. 

 

Time seemed to stand still. 

 

She felt the tendrils of the Dark side snaking through her, begging to be released. It would be so easy, like flicking an insect off her shoulder. One little flinch and she could kill him. 

 

No.

 

Rey would not resort to such tactics. That was the path of the Dark Side and the way of the First Order. That was not her way. It wasn’t Ben’s way. 

 

In an unexpected move, she dove at Cadmus’s legs, knocking him down, as she angled her own body away to avoid being struck by the whip. Her saber staff sprung free of the knight’s belt and she shot out her hand, calling it home. The second it landed in her grasp, she ignited both blades and fell into a combative stance. 

 

“Impressive,” the knight grumbled. 

 

She lunged at him, striking the bottom portion of her saber staff at his ankle, while thrusting the top portion up against his jawline, right along the cusp of his helmet. 

 

He sidestepped, narrowly avoiding her blades. Rey swung back around, aiming to disarm him, but he tried to hit her blind spot and she felt her saber cut through his upper arm. 

 

Cadmus let out a howl. The sound was more creature than sentient and Rey immediately felt guilt weigh upon her. 

 

Which was why she didn’t see his next hit coming. 


 

Hux glared at the chaos erupting across the horizon. He perched on the balcony of Ren’s chambers, watching the battle unfold. The sky was lit up with blaster fire as the Resistance cut down the Stormtroopers who had been unprepared for the attack. 

 

On the ground, their secret weapon was charging, but there were no forces to fire on. Unlike Crait, this battle was being fought solely in the air, with the exception of the last Jedi, who was currently engaged with one of the Knights of Ren. 

 

The cry of a ship coming in forced him to duck. Hux grimaced as an unmistakable TIE fighter flew overhead. 

 

Ren. 

 

Hux’s displeasure grew at the sight of his adversary. He had considered the possibility of an attack on the palace, but he had never thought Ren would be foolish enough to launch one. 

 

Theed was to be another triumph Hux could hold over Snoke’s protégée. If only Snoke could see his beloved Force user now. Clearly, Ren had taken up his mother’s mantel. He was flanked by a couple of Resistance pilots, sweeping across the gardens to cut down those who opposed him. His fire was focused near the battering ram. 

 

Hux sneered. 

 

The girl. 

 

The great and powerful Ren brought back to the light by a lowly scavenger. How quaint. And pathetic. 

 

Hux’s lips curled in disgust. He didn’t know how the girl had survived, but he’d make sure she didn’t live to see the sunset. The knights would deal with her. She’d die by their hands and it would ruin Ren. It would snuff out his will to live, extinguishing the light forever. 

 

And once it was done, Hux would bring an end to the Skywalker line. 


 

Ben circled around the palace, eyes scanning the destruction for an opening. His mind and heart were pulling him in separate directions. While he knew he needed to get the fighters into the palace, Ben was overwhelmed with his desire to protect Rey. Cadmus and the others were well-trained. Despite her ability to hold their lives in her hands, Ben knew she didn’t want to kill them. She was afraid of falling too far into the Dark side. 

 

By striving to maintain the balance, she was cutting herself off from the easiest way to ensure their victory, but Ben wouldn’t push her. She was right. There had already been enough bloodshed. If they could spare a life, it was their duty to take the higher ground. They needed to lead by example and craft a new order for the galaxy, one not built on fear and submission but unity. 

 

A squadron of Dameron’s fighters shot across the sky above him before looping around to fire on the Stormtroopers in the courtyard. The soldiers were frantically attempting to take down the X-Wings with heavy artillery, but their fire was no match for the agile pilots. 

 

Ben rolled the Silencer, diving in for another sweep when his eyes caught a figure watching from above.

 

Hux.

 

Ben glowered at the red-haired man. He was the cause of all of this. He was the one who ordered the Hosnian system to be decimated. He was the one who nearly killed Ben and who had almost succeeded in killing Rey. Hux was his to take down. 

 

But unlike Rey, Ben wouldn’t show his opponent mercy. The rabid cur didn’t deserve it. 

 

Ben landed his TIE under the cover of the chaos in the skies. Smoke and debris would have made it a challenge to land the craft for a normal pilot, but he came from a long line of gifted fliers on both sides, so he managed. 

 

Finding his way into Theed Palace wasn’t nearly as troublesome as it should have been. If Hux meant to slip away, go into hiding, lick his wounds and then re-emerge, he could have. The man was nothing if not resourceful, but Ben had an inkling that the former General wanted to be found. The knowledge had his senses heightening and his muscles tensing in anticipation of an attack. 

 

He navigated his way up a spiral staircase along the north tower to the throne room. There was no trace of Hux or any Stormtroopers. The chamber was completely empty. 

 

Ben knew there was a passage behind the throne, one meant for escape and subtle entrances. He had used it a couple of times, once when he no longer wanted to entertain the council of First Order officers settled around him and once out of pure curiosity. The passageway veered off in three directions — his private quarters, the hangar, and an inconspicuous alleyway in the main city. 

 

Hux didn’t know how to pilot any of the crafts in the hangar and he loathed being forced to mingle with commoners. He considered them beneath him. Which left only one choice — Ben’s former chambers. He charged forward, his saber clicking against his belt as he ran. 

 

Upon entering the room, Ben didn’t immediately see the red-haired man, but he could sense him. The contempt Hux felt for him was potent, a toxic cloud of agitation which lingered in the chamber like a heavy fog. 

 

“Ren.” Hux stepped out of the shadows of the balcony’s interior curtains. Ben stared at the man, his hand itching for his saber. “I knew you would come. Always so predictably foolish, charging into situations you have no business being a part of.”

 

“You had no business staging a coup.”

 

“Ah.” Hux chuckled darkly. “That’s where you’re wrong. It’s not a coup, Ren, it’s retribution.”

 

“What?” Ben growled.

 

“You had me searching the star systems for the girl, claimed she killed the Supreme Leader,” Hux explained, his eyes narrowing. “But it was you! You, who he chose. You, who he trained. You, who he gave power to and you cut him down like he was nothing.” 

 

“He was nothing,” Ben hissed. “Nothing more than a tormentor.”

 

“He was the Supreme Leader!” Hux hollered. “And for what? That girl? The scavenger?”

 

Ben gritted his teeth. “You’ll pay for what you did to her.”

 

“I don’t think I will,” Hux replied smugly. He inclined his head towards the balcony.

 

It was a mistake to take the bait, but Ben leaned over, peering down at the madness. His gaze immediately locked onto Rey. His breath left his lungs.

 

The second his eyes found her, he felt the hit as if it was searing into his own skin. Cadmus struck her with the electro-whip, the wire connecting with her torso, right where her previous wound was. Ben snarled, his body ready to pounce on the Thradian. 

 

Suddenly the pain in his side wasn’t a shared Force sensation. It was real. 

 

Rey gasped. He heard her, even over the roar of battle, as if she stood next to him. Their eyes found each other and Ben realized his mistake. 

 

Behind him, Hux retracted the blade. The glint of the metal was muted in the light, tainted with thick crimson fluid. It wasn’t the blood which had his stomach roiling, it was the fact he had played to Hux’s hand. 

 

Ben stumbled back a step, adrenaline pulsed through him, filling him with a debilitating fear of never being with Rey the way he had promised her. 


 

Rey screamed his name as Ben disappeared from her sight. She’d never felt as helpless as she had watching him take the hit. None of the suffering the young woman had lived through on Jakku compared to witnessing her other half be wounded. 

 

While the battle raged on around her, Rey’s senses dulled until all she could hear was her own breath. Cadmus coiled his whip, preparing to strike, but Rey closed her eyes and felt the Force take hold. 

 

Like before, when she had been on the verge of death, the energy enveloped her, filling all the voids, mending the cracks until she was whole. One with the Force.

 

When she opened her eyes, everything was clear. 

 

The remainder of the knights had climbed on top of the siege cannon. They converged on her from all sides, ignorant of what was about to happen. They hadn’t learned their lesson. They needed a teacher. 

 

With a smirk on her lips and determination in her heart, Rey swung her saber staff. 

 

Block. Parry. Lunge. Shift. Block again. 

 

The movements were fluid as if she was merely practicing on Yavin IV, unhurried and natural. She felt wisdom beyond her own experience flow through her, many lifetimes, many skills, all honed in to serve her in her purpose. 

 

When she finally stilled, Rey was surrounded by unconscious bodies, fallen in a circle around her position. She gave them a fleeting glance, before she stabbed the end of her saber into the battery lines, disabling the weapon. Then she leaped off the battering ram and darted towards the palace.

 

Though she had only been inside once, Rey didn’t get lost. She ran up staircases, past closed doors and servants who were scrambling to find a place to hide. The Force guided her to where he was, just as it guided her to Temiri. 

 

But it couldn’t guide her emotions. 

 

The second she stepped inside the chamber, her heart launched into her throat and her stomach pitched. 

 

There was blood everywhere. 

 

A black shadow loomed to her right. Beneath him was the former General Hux, nearly unrecognizable due to the lacerations on his face and the disheveled state of his clothing. 

 

Ben stood over the other man’s mangled body, laid out on his ruined dining table. He had one hand wrapped around Hux’s throat, while the other kept his saber precariously close to the man’s head, angled to burn his ear off. Ben’s eyes were so deep that they were nearly completely black. Dark power rolled off of him in suffocating waves. 

 

“Ben!”

 

He made no move to turn around.

 

Rey approached him, ignoring Hux’s terrorized cries. “Ben,” she said softer, placing a hand on his forearm. “Come back to me, please. Come back, love.”

 

A ragged breath escaped his lips and then he stepped back, releasing the red-haired man. His saber shook in his hand and Rey reached down to sheath it. 

 

“It’s done,” she told him. “He can’t hurt us anymore. It’s over.”

 

“I’ll hunt you down,” Hux spat. “I’ll make you wish you stayed in that desert wasteland, scavenger. I’ll end—.”

 

Ben backhanded the man, knocking him out.

 

Rey arched an eyebrow, tilting her head up.

 

“What?” Ben smirked. “I didn’t kill him.”

 

She smiled. “He was getting rather annoying.”

 

“Finally.” He chuckled. “Something we can agree on.” 

Chapter Text

 

Ben overlooked Varykino with proud eyes. Below him in the courtyard, students of varying ages were grouped together for training. Together they exercised their abilities — both with the Force and without — in a safe space away from the threat of the Dark or the unobtainable perfection of the Light. They lived somewhere in between. In the gray. 

 

In the year since the end of the First Order, much had changed. 

 

Following the siege upon Theed Palace, Ben and Rey stood side by side before what remained of the Resistance, the First Order, and Naboo. He declared the war over, asking everyone to lay down their weapons and disperse. He never would have been able to do it without Rey holding his hand. 

 

There had been a tense moment where he prepared for a revolt, the backlash for his demands. Then someone moved.

 

It was FN-2187 who took the first to steps forward. He placed his weapon on the ground and then stared down his comrades and former Stormtroopers. His show of commitment to the current state of things was what prompted Ben to name it the New Order. 

 

It wasn’t easy. The First Order had done extensive damage to the galaxy’s trust but Rey’s presence as the last Jedi opened doors formerly closed to Ben. 

 

Together, they shaped the new world, a universe without the threat of mass destruction, without suppression of the weak, the different or the strange. It was a truly free galaxy. 

 

They surrounded themselves with counsel, Archais, FN-2187, Rose, Mitaka, and Carsmica were among them. Dameron was, thankfully, not included in the group. It was more for his self-preservation than his need to fly, as he claimed when people asked.

 

It had been Rey who suggested the timid lieutenant. Despite Ben’s initial misgivings, the man had developed into a level-headed advisor. He had an excellent handle on supply routes and trade missions, often securing lower rates through more efficient routes. 

 

Carsmica was good with people. As talented as she had been in the nursery, she excelled even further with public relations. Naboo was taken with her. Once she had their approval, it was easy for her to gain the respect of the other planets. 

 

FN-2187 and his wife handled outreach and transitional programming. With his background as a former Stormtrooper and hers as a mining worker, they had immediate credibility.

 

Archais, while relieved of his position within the Knights of Ren, now disbanded, struggled with his transition. He had a mind for strategy, yet no desire to continue discussing battles or defenses. For months, he appeared lost, alone, and adrift. Ben worried for him, unsure what to give the man who had given everything to him.

 

As always, Rey knew how to fix it.

 

One day, she invited a Resistance Communications specialist to stop by their council meeting. At first, Ben thought nothing of it, until Rey mentioned that the girl’s sister had been part of the city assault, specifically the Corp of soldiers who got cornered by the elite Stormtroopers.

 

Archais had been dispatched to that sector. He’d single-handedly freed the Corp, and it appeared his heroic acts had left an impression. Rey smiled smugly over at Ben when the communications specialist asked if Archais would like to join her for tea one day. They were married not long afterwards. 

 

The former knight’s mood brightened considerably and he found a way to spend his retirement. He and his wife were the first volunteers to join the staff of Rey’s new school for Force sensitives.

 

Ben had the lake house converted, thinking how much his grandparents would have appreciated being able to see the property restored and full of light, laughter and love. 

 

It had been a year of immense change, but perhaps the most important change was the one which gifted Rey a surname. Ben fulfilled his promise and married his scavenger.

 

After whisking her away to revisit the place where they had met, Ben dropped to his knee deep within Takodana forest. He produced the ring he’d made for her using a piece of his Silencer and a broken coupling from the Falcon. The final touch was a new kyber crystal. It was far too small for lightsaber construction, but perfect for the ring construction, as if it had been waiting for him. 

 

Rey’s teary-eyed yes has been all the consent he required before he swept her off her feet. Unlike the first time he’d taken her from the forest, Rey was conscious. Her fingers were in his hair, her lips were on his throat, and her desire was overwhelming their bond. It took Ben mere minutes to get them back to their ship.

 

They had a simple service held in the gardens. With Padme’s statue watching over them, Ben pledged his life and his heart to Rey. There was no greater moment in his life than when she did the same for him.

 

Temiri held their rings during the vows, presenting them to Maz Kanata when she instructed him to.

 

“Bound in the Force, bound in love, you are choosing to bind yourselves to one another in this life and the next,” the Pirate Queen told them, as she wove their clasped hands together with red string. 

 

It was an ancient tradition, rarely used anymore, yet Ben could think of no better way to surrender himself to the love of his life.

 

Ben sighed, smiling to himself as he came back to the present. Today they would leave, entrusting the school to their friends while they escaped for a short time. Taking a honeymoon seemed almost too normal, too domestic considering all they had done to get here but Ben was eager for some alone time with his new wife.

 

“What are you doing out here?” She asked, wrapping her arms around his torso from behind and leaning into him.

 

“Thinking,” he answered.

 

“Brooding.”

 

“I do not brood,” he grumbled.

 

“You do too,” she laughed. The sound vibrates through his back. “Every day, in fact.”

 

“Solo’s do not brood,” he informed her.

 

“No, but Skywalkers do,” Rey teased, giving him a squeeze.

 

Ben shook his head and changed the subject. “Are you ready?”

 

“Yes,” she replied, releasing him to return inside their chamber. She had a single bag packed and waiting by the door. Ben arched a brow.

 

“What?”

 

“That’s all you packed?”

 

“How many clothes do you think I need?”

 

He shrugged. His mother had always traveled with an entire wardrobe. “I don’t know. Don’t you need a dress or something?”

 

Rey groaned. “You know how I feel about dresses. I thought a honeymoon was a vacation.” Ben considered her response but before he could reply, she added, “Besides, Rose said newlyweds don’t need clothes.”

 

Ben coughed so she wouldn't hear the raw choking noise he made at her insinuation. 

 

Rey grinned wickedly.

 

“Right,” he wheezed. “Point made.”

 


 

They met their friends in the courtyard. Chewie had given them the Falcon as a wedding present, telling Ben that it belonged in his family and it would make his father proud to see him pilot the legendary ship.

 

The Wookie stood with FN-2187, Rose, and Archais to say farewell. 

 

Archais stepped forward, allowing Rey to hug him before he took her hand in his.

 

“Goodbye, Rey of Jakku,” he bowed his head, pressing it to her knuckles as he had done the first time they met.

 

“Just remember this, Rey,” Rose instructed as she handed over a new homing beacon. “Should you need us.”

 

“Yes, should you need us for anything at all....” Archais trailed off.

 

“Yeah,” Finn agreed, patting the former knight on the back. “Should either of you two need us,” he clarified, giving Ben a curt nod.

 

“I can assure you, we won’t,” Ben replied, wrapping his arms around Rey. As grateful as he was to their friends, he had no intention of seeing them during his honeymoon.

 

His wife giggled softly, her Force signature singing with amusement at his response.

 

“Will you be able to handle them while we are gone?” she asked Archais about the school.

 

Her eyes roamed across the courtyard to where Temiri was sitting with a set of younger students, barely old enough to walk. Ben watched her bite her lower lip, unease marring her prior joy.

 

“They’ll be fine, sweetheart,” Ben promised, pressing a kiss to her temple. “It’s only one standard week.”

 

She nodded, blinking back tears.

 

He knew this was difficult for her. Rey was attached to each and every orphan they found amongst the cosmos, though none were quite as exceptional as Temiri, which was why Ben had one final gift for his bride.

 

“Come here.” He guided her away from their friends to stand down by the water. “I know you’ve been feeling guilty about leaving.”

 

“I haven’t-.” He interrupted her with a knowing look. “Okay,” she huffed. “But they look to us for guidance, Ben. We are all they have.”

 

“That’s not true. They have Archais and his rebel,” he pointed out.

 

Rey rolled her eyes. She did not find his nickname for Archais’s intended funny. “Her name is Lindsay, not Rebel,” she reminded him. 

 

He shrugged. “She’s not so bad, even if she is Resistance.”

 

His wife elbowed him. “Former Resistance. Besides, technically, you’re Resistance now too.”

 

“No,” Ben corrected. “We are the New Order.”

 

Rey shook her head but he could see her smiling. “Is that why you drug me over here?”

 

“I have a surprise for you.”

 

“Ben,” she admonished him. “You’ve already done too much!”

 

“Hardly, but I have the rest of our lives to try,” he responded. He started to tell her, when he felt a third Force signature nearing. “Ah, perfect timing.”

 

“I thought you left without saying goodbye,” Temiri commented, accusingly.

 

“We wouldn’t leave you,” Rey insisted. Ben could feel the cracks of her resolve deepening. She was beginning to think they should stay on Naboo. 

 

“Temiri, we discussed this,” Ben reminded the boy. “You’re to work with Archais while we are gone. You’ll be the strongest one here. We’re counting on you.” 

 

The boy’s disposition shifted and he smiled. “I’ll take care of them.” Rey relaxed, visibly pleased by his response. “I’ll miss you,” he admitted.

 

Ben placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “We will miss you too but when we get back, we will be together...as a family.”

 

“A family?” Temiri glanced up at Ben, then at Rey, confused.

 

Rey was staring at Ben, eyes widening as she pieces together what he was saying. 

 

“I visited Canto Bight last week about your records,” Ben explained. “Their paperwork was incomplete, which is regrettable...for them. For us, it made things easier.” He withdrew a holo from his robe pocket, sharing it with his wife and Temiri. “As of today, you are no longer a ward of the galaxy. You are ours.”

 

Rey started crying. Temiri could only stare at the holo in disbelief. “Y-you mean?”

 

“You can still call me Ben,” added awkwardly. After all, the boy was already eleven. There was no reason to think he would—

 

“Can I call you Dad?” 

 

Ben swallowed thickly, ordering himself not cry until he and Rey were alone onboard the Falcon. 

 

“If that is your wish.”

 

“It is,” Temiri confirmed. “And I can call you Mom?” he asked Rey. She nodded. 

 

He paused for a moment then threw himself at them, hugging them both. Rey kissed the top of his head, embracing him back before she gazed up at Ben. 

 

‘Thank you,’ she mouthed.

 

“Wait, does this mean, I’m going to be the older brother?” 

 

Ben stiffened. Older brother? What in the ‘verse did that—

 

Aside of him, Rey’s Force signature spiked with alarm and embarrassment. Her mental shields slammed down at an alarming rate. 

 

“Temiri.” She sighed, as she stepped back. 

 

“Ooops,” the boy winced. 

 

Ben stared at her. He had noticed she’d been eating more at mealtimes, though Rey always ate a lot, so that by itself wasn’t much to go on. But she’d also been sleeping in and allowing him to take over more of their training sequences. Then there was her physical appearance. Nothing had changed, per se, but she seemed different, somehow luminescent, as if she was a sun, glowing with a brilliant light from within. 

 

Then he felt it, the soft tendril of life at the core of that light, the source of that light. 

 

How had he missed it?

 

“I was going to wait until we were off-world,” she apologized. “Are you upset?” 

 

“Am I upset?” Ben chuckled, running a hand through his hair in awe. “How could I be?” He opened his arms and hugged her tight, before whispering into her hair. “We’re going to be a family.” 

 

Rey smiled up at him. “We already are.”