In 5000 BBY, the fugitive crew of the Starbreaker 12 inadvertently discovered a new hyperlane when they fled to lightspeed at Empress Teta and did not emerge until they reached Korriban. It's the longest blind jump in galactic history, a record that remains unbroken to this day. 120 standard hours hurtling through the starlines with no guiding coordinates, with nothing but a vague sliver of hope that the vessel and those onboard would not turn into space dust.
It had been sheer desperation that led Gav and Jori Daragon to embark on that treacherous journey from the Deep Core to an uncharted section of the Outer Rim. It is with sheer desperation that Kylo Ren now takes the path they'd forged, the Millennium Falcon creaking worryingly along its shatterpoints as he coaxes it from one system to the next, mass shadows of distant planets blurring past the corners of his eyes. When the navicomp indicates that he's reached Korriban, he pulls the freighter hard into the next junction, lurching out of the Daragon Trail and into the Nache Bhelfia, closer towards Rey.
She waits for him at the end of a string. The bridge that Snoke had built between their minds, that lingered like a scar even after its creator's death. Although perhaps linger is the wrong word— it implies faintness, it implies fading away, and what the Force bond does is— it burns. Not a scar, but a fresh wound steeped in bitterness.
A living thing, even more so after what had happened amidst the ruins of the Death Star.
After what she had become.
The Falcon rattles on its hinges as it veers too close to the unstable heart of the Stygian Caldera. Kylo barely has time to correct his course before the ship disintegrates. He feels no remorse about stealing it right out from under Chewbacca, Poe Dameron, and FN-2187's noses— it had been the first spaceworthy vessel he could get to in the aftermath of the cataclysm, even if spaceworthy is overly generous in this case.
It's a piece of junk. He'd done them a favor.
As if to illustrate his point, a fuse blows when he leaps back into realspace, the sharp pop as sudden and as loud as a blaster being discharged. Acting fast, Kylo yanks out the offending wires from the dashboard panel while acrid smoke fills the cockpit.
Rey laughs at him from wherever she is. Her amusement curls through the bond like tendrils of ink unfurling in still water. He doesn't ask her where she is. Doesn't so much as acknowledge her presence, afraid that she'll spook and shut him out completely. Instead, he lets himself be pulled along by the invisible tethers that draw him in and he tries not to think of spiderwebs.
Odojinya, she whispers in his mind, in a voice that rakes down his spine. To ensnare. It's an old Sith incantation that she should not know, but there had been holocrons lodged into the nooks and crannies of the fallen Death Star, torn from a central storage chamber and scattered every which way by wind and waves and gravity.
They had all opened for her.
Eventually the smoke clears and Kylo is staring at the ghostly, cratered orb of Krayiss Two looming beyond the transparisteel viewport. Suspended between binary moons, the planet was one of the five sacred worlds of the Sith Empire, along with Ziost, Khar Delba, Rhelg, and Korriban, strung like prayer beads on the Nache Bhelfia loop. It's uninhabited now— or, at least, it should be. The Jedi Order and the Old Republic had decimated this corner of the Esstran sector thousands of years ago.
Let the past die. He had told her that once. But what if it can't be killed? It's all around him, the celestial wastes of the old Sith Worlds, and there had been something on the Death Star, whispering along with the holocron gatekeepers but more than a memory unlike them. There had been someone, calling to both Kylo and Rey as they dueled.
She had answered. The water rising, great sheets of corroded metal swirling around them like a whirlwind, a thunderstorm crashing down over their heads. Soldiers— First Order and Resistance alike— swept away, or felled where they stood by an outpouring of some raw, terrible power. The center of which had seemed to emanate from Rey herself.
Kylo remembers the lightning. The look in her eyes, confusion gradually morphing into an inexplicable blank fury. The snarl that had curled on her lips before it all went to hell. She had left quickly afterwards, a semblance of sanity flickering across her features before she turned and ran to the nearest ship. He had chased after her without a second thought, leaving the war behind, leaving their respective troops to pick up the pieces.
And now the bond shivers in anticipation when he makes planetfall on Krayiss Two, where it is night, long and solemn and afforded a meager gleam of waxen illumination by the lower of the two moons that clings close to the planet's surface. The moment the Falcon docks and Kylo sets foot on the barren world, Rey's Force signature wraps around him in gentle nets cast out from the darkness, as if she is welcoming him home.
Nothing grows on Krayiss Two save for the obelisk. It rises from the parched earth like the sunken, hollowed-out destroyers of Rey's childhood, a gigantic black structure that is all that remains of a great Sith temple stained silver by moonlight. The battered starfighter she had commandeered is still and empty in the shade that it casts. Kylo approaches, the currents of the dark side prowling at his flanks like animals— there is a presence keeping them at bay, the same presence that had filled his head and drowned out Palpatine's summons. It's so tangible that he can almost feel someone looking over his shoulder, and he wonders who walks with him. What he'll see if he turns around.
Don't, Rey murmurs. Tapti' kia nun.
Come to me.
He obeys despite the fact that he is wary, despite the fact that she speaks in the guttural language of the ancient Sith. He would follow her anywhere, even to the very edge of the Netherworld itself, even if it should prove to be his own ruin. The glyphs etched along the base of the obelisk glint and thrum as he draws ever nearer, and they ripple at his black-gloved touch as if they've been spun from air and not stone.
The walls part before him. A set of stairs unfolds, leading down into some infinite abyss. His every instinct cries out in warning but, then again, he's never known what's good for him and this, too, feels like destiny.
Find me, Rey says. She sounds a little more like herself this time. As if what's left of her has broken through the surface for the most fleeting of moments.
I will, Kylo promises, and he descends.
Before time buried most of it beneath the ground, the temple had served as a library— a place for meditation and a repository of Sith magic. The residue of old spells is written into the very foundations, which remain untouched by dust and grime. Even though there are motion-activated torches that light Kylo's way with each step, the shadows are still long and they sing of poison and embers and anguish, the twisted paths, the hardest truths, the Left-Handed God.
Nwul tash, says the creak of stone. Dzwol shasotkun.
Peace is a lie. There is only passion.
"I believed that, once," remarks the one who walks with him, here under the earth. Who exists at the periphery of his senses, helping him stay afloat in these labyrinths where the dark side threatens to engulf everything. "And its counterpoint, before. That's the thing about being born a slave— you don't realize that you're trading one set of rules for another. And so it goes."
"Why are you helping me?" Kylo asks, uncertain whether there are words being said out loud or if the whole conversation is happening in his head.
"Because he has returned, and cannot be allowed to triumph after all that has been lost. Because this is the same war, but it doesn't have to end the same way. And because—" A hand on his shoulder, perhaps. "Because you asked me to. Now go, and give this story a different ending."
Anakin Skywalker does not stay until the end. He had died in the light, for which there is no room in the deepest bowels of the temple where the dark festers at its thickest. To his credit, Kylo manages not to flinch when the wards carved along one of the ancient doorways that he passes tear his grandfather from him; it won't do to show fear in this place, to feed the unseen specters that scrabble at the walls of his heart.
I will show you fear, Rey tells him, and it sounds like a promise, like the highest attainable pleasure. Tapti' kia nun.
After the wards is a narrow path that ends in a set of closed obsidian doors. Rey is on the other side; he senses her on the tip of his tongue, at the base of his spine. Kylo hesitates in front of the doors, only to find himself moving forward again in a matter of seconds when she bids him to enter in a voice that sounds— that feels— like a slim finger crooking in invitation. Beckoning him to intimacy, to secrets, to paradise.
The doors do not open. He walks through them, as if they have suddenly become curtains of mist.
This new chamber is vast. The size of a starship's hangar, made entirely of black Sittana marble shot through with veins of Kallistan gems that glow silver despite the complete and total absence of any light source to reflect. It's enough to see by, these rivers of stardust— enough for Kylo to spy the slender, hooded, black-clad silhouette standing in the middle of the room, the roughly-hewed, pyramidal outline of a crystalline ritual altar looming from the shadows behind her.
His first thought is how pale she looks, her face a sallow contrast to the halo of midnight fabric. He had pursued her up the Daragon Trail for two standard days, during which neither of them had slept— had, instead, circled each other in the bond— and it shows in the bruises under her eyes. His second thought is how beautiful she is, draped in a long tunic cinched at the waist, with high slits cut into the sides for ease of movement, worn over skintight black leggings. Her cloak is made of some sort of diaphanous material; it looks like it would be soft and silky to the touch.
His gloved fists clench at his sides. He aches to touch.
He aches to do a great many things.
Without Anakin Skywalker's presence to shield him the way it had amidst the Death Star's wreckage, the dark energy that pours from the altar is sinking its claws into Kylo's veins, rushing into his lungs like mud, filling his head like a cloying perfume.
"You were foolish to come here alone," Rey says. Her voice echoes through the chamber, as cold as her eyes.
"I'm not alone," Kylo tells her quietly. Reminds her. "And neither are you."
Rey tilts her chin up, nostrils flaring. Although the snug, full sleeves of her attire cover her wrists, her hands are bare. Another contrast, and how often has he kissed those hands in his dreams? They're folded in front of her, clutching something close to her abdomen. It's a lightsaber, but a variant that Kylo has only ever seen in old texts and holocrons— until now, that is. Two hilts, interlocked on a hinge.
"You're wrong," Rey says. " I was wrong. Everyone is alone. It's a hard lesson to swallow, and perhaps that was why I had to keep learning it. On Jakku, on the Supremacy..."
"You left me first," he whispers, stung. How can it be that a year has passed, and yet they still carry these wounds between them?
"I left before I could be left, or imprisoned, or killed," she counters. "In the end all I will ever have is myself. You taught me that."
As he watches, she thumbs the activator buttons and their eyes meet through the haze of twin plasma beams that are jagged at the edges and undeniably crimson red, like arterial blood.
His heart breaks.
"Akisi," croons the icy and cruel thing that isn't Rey, cocking her head at him with an almost reptilian curiosity as she calls him the old Sith word for beloved— when all he wants is for her to call him Ben— "yaik unsin j'us narduksun?"
Why do you weep?
It is only then that he becomes aware of the hot wetness dripping down his cheeks, the taste of salt on his lips. Ashamed, he blinks his tears away.
With a flick of her wrist, Rey snaps the dual blades into a staff-like configuration that blazes in the gloom. "I thought this was what you wanted." With her free hand, she gestures down the length of her body as if presenting it to him for consumption.
"I want you," Kylo says hoarsely, fighting the stab of arousal that ignites low in the pit of his stomach. "This isn't you."
She laughs. The sound is smoky and rich and it touches off inner chords within him that, despite his protests, thrum with yearning. "I feel more like myself than I ever have. Was I not always meant to take up this mantle, to wield these blades? All of this was laid out at the altar, waiting for me when I arrived."
"When you ran," he argues. "You ran before you could inflict more damage, before you could hurt anyone else. That was you."
Although she's still a few feet away, he can almost swear that he sees her bat her lashes at him, the faint trace of laughter still on her lips. "And who did you follow all the way to the ruins of an empire? What you see is what you get. It's me, or nothing at all."
"That's the dark side talking. Palpatine—"
She shakes her head. Red light gleams in her shadowed eyes and suddenly he knows the truth before it leaves her mouth. "He's not here, Ren. I've shaken him off for now. I told you." Her smile widens, and it is a predator's smile. Sometimes it takes darkness to unlock darkness. To free what's always been there. "What you see is what you get."
And she leaps at him like she's going for the throat.
Kylo draws his lightsaber on instinct, the serrated red beam of his crossguard blade screeching against hers in a burst of sparks. Their faces are close, so close now, separated only by the intersection of burning light.
"There is only one man I might yet wish to call master," Rey purrs, the crimson glow bleeding over her lips like melted rubies, and a high, keening sort of adrenaline pounds in Kylo's ears as he imagines it— Rey on her knees before him, naked and exquisite and subservient, his fingers tangled in her hair as she fucks him with her mouth, and these are dark side thoughts, projections of lust and power in a shrine that amplifies them, but that doesn't make his twisted desires any less real and—
— And it was a trick on her end. Kylo realizes that almost too late, he is almost sliced in half when she swings the other end of her saber on its hinge. It's too late to dodge what will undoubtedly be a lethal slash and so he splays his fingers, shoving her backwards with the Force. Instead of regaining her footing, Rey allows herself to drop closer to the floor and she spins, her long legs sweeping his feet out from under him. His back collides with the marble tiles, the impact knocking the breath out of his lungs as he blinks up at an obsidian ceiling, and then— as swiftly as a flash of lightning— she is above him, victorious, filling his world, straddling his hips, their blades crossed at his throat. Her hood has been knocked askew and her hair is pulled back in those three buns, a couple of loosened strands framing her face as she peers down at him.
"Or perhaps you should be the one calling me mistress," she says, her lips twisting into the most dangerous— and the most alluring— smirk that Kylo has ever seen on a woman. "There should always be two, yes?" She's referencing the Chwayatyun, the Sith doctrine. "One to embody power, the other to crave it."
Kylo can't think straight anymore. Her body is pressed against his and she smells like incense and she is every sun that ever was. "I crave only you, cyar'ika."
It's a ragged confession, hushed beneath the shriek of their lightsabers, solemn amidst the ghosts of the long-dead Sith. His eyes hold hers in challenge; he wonders what her next move will be.
He doesn't have to wonder for long. Red light inches closer to his neck as the dark and fatal creature that is Rey pushes further into their blade-lock, leaning forward so that the furious hot plasma is a hair's breadth from her own throat as well.
"Kotswinot itsu nuyak," she hums sweetly into the infinitesimal space between them.
My chains are broken.
He swallows. Her eyes track the movement the way a hunter tracks the next kill.
"Wonoksh Qyasik nun," she breathes, all shivery as her form stretches above him like the tide, and there are gems glittering like stars over her shoulder and there is something of the wolf in her gaze when she slants her lips over his in a languorous, open-mouthed kiss.
The Force shall free me.