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Stop Loving Fire

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He was accustomed to the feel of her heartbeat now.  Haunting him like a ghost.

 

Kylo had not seen her since Crait.  She had managed to close their bond somehow,  slamming it shut as decisively as the Falcon door.  It was a surprising trick for someone of such limited training.  He wondered if she even knew how she did it.  

 

The Scavenger was unlike any other lightsider he had known.  A better comparison was a sandstorm– erratic and instinctive power that was barely under control.  She would’ve made a devastating Sith.

 

He could not see her, but he felt her.  She could not deny him that.  Her heart beating in his empty chest was a mockery and a taunt.  

 

He tried to forget her.  He couldn’t forget.

 

It would drive him mad. 

 

+++

 

   

In the months after the Rebellion’s defeat, Kylo Ren had taken his rightful place as Supreme Leader.  The galaxy bowed down to him in fear, which was far easier for him to maintain than respect.  

 

He learned that order was an illusion.  Power shifted inevitably to the strongest hands, so he made his an iron fist.  Supreme Leader Kylo Ren ruled with a discipline that befit an Emperor, leaving behind the tempestuous fits of his youth.

 

He knew who he was now.

 

His past was dead, yet he couldn’t seem to escape it.  Luke was gone, his father too, and now his mother had joined them after a short illness.  He was all alone on a throne of silence, but it was not sweet victory. It tasted like nothing, dry on the tongue.  

 

The Rebellion was dying, too.  It was only a matter of time until they were wiped out completely– like a spot of rust on steel.  Yet the scavenger girl stubbornly evaded him. She didn’t reach for him, not anymore, but her pulse called from across the stars like a siren song he couldn’t get out of his head.  

 

He had to stop it, or better yet, claim it.   Feel that steady throb for himself.  Wrap fingers tight around her throat as the pulse quickened and her lifeblood roared in his own ears.  Maybe then he’d find peace.

 

Scouts, spies, and the best the hunters in the galaxy took the bounty to bring her back to him in chains.  If not to sit by his side, then to kneel down before him.  

 

Yet in the end, none of them were necessary.  

 

Her heart gave her away, as it always did.  

 

+++

 

The remnants of the Rebellion were found on Pasana, evidently hunting for the same Sith artifact that Hux required for his new pet superweapon.  Not that Kylo Ren cared any for that.  

 

If she wanted the artifact, then he would find it first.  Find it, find her. Simple.

 

He could feel her telltale pulse in his veins.  She was down on the surface and separating from the fight in a valiant attempt to save her friends.  He sent the rest of his fighters to chase the Rebels and turned his sights to her.   

 

How quaint that the little sand rat placed sentiment over wisdom, exposing herself this way.  His gloves gripped the TIE controls so firmly that the leather creaked. Worse for her to have his undivided attention.  His dead master was correct after all– her naivete would be her undoing.

 

That thought triggered the memory of the red room.  Standing back to back, false tears and even falser hopes.  Kylo seethed and the dark anger fueled his power.

 

It was beneath him to care for her– she was a fool, blind even to reject what he had to offer her, when she had nothing, was nothing– but Kylo was never good at letting go of slights and was even worse at losing.  

 

She would not get away this time.

 

All his senses trained to her force signature as he dropped from the clouds to barely skirt the surface.  A glimmer of bright white flashed on the horizon It led him closer, like a beacon.

 

He would scare her and make her roll out of the way in a game of dominance.  She would relent and admit he had the upper hand. She must.

 

Following the steady heartbeat, he saw a blur of white on the gold sand in the distance.  She was holding the saber made from the shards of kyber they had split together.

 

He clenched his jaw and aimed for the light.

 

Her heart was beating as fast as his, a deafening drumbeat.  He could feel her power and the emotions she couldn’t possibly conceal from him at this close proximity– fear, anger, regret.  

 

He knew she wouldn’t let herself be mowed down, the risk was to her pride.  She would concede to him. Let her duck and roll away, like the coward who left him bleeding and unconscious amongst the bodies of her enemies in the throne room.  Let her admit she was weaker than him and finally feel the screaming pain of loss that he knew so well.

 

Let her hurt like he had hurt.

 

Kylo closed in without pity.

 

But instead of falling down, she leapt into the air.  

 

She flew from his grasp in an intolerable show of grace and strength, escaping him yet again.  Kylo roared in frustration as her saber arced through the air and sliced through the right wing on the downstroke.

 

With a hiss and a cloud of sparks, the cabin alarms sounded around him.  The hydraulics were useless. He wavered in the air, then listed left as the wing dug into the dunes.  He hit sand at incredible speed and spun out of control.

 

His arms flew up to use the force to shield his face from impact and debris.  His dead ship slid to a stop as he was wrenched in his seat.

 

Before the dust had even settled, Kylo unhooked his harness and ignited his saber to  cut himself from the wreckage. He landed on the dunes with a soft thud and threw his billowing cape over a shoulder.  Despite his fury, he couldn’t contain his eagerness to see her. His eyes traced over her hungrily and he strode forward with his weapon drawn.   

 

She was more woman than girl now.  The pure energy of youth had been molded into elegance, her raw power honed with a fine edge of control.  He stalked across the distance and could see the flashes of trepidation and resolve on her features.

 

Under that, he could sense something pushed down and covered in a futile attempt to keep it from him.  She lit her saber and he lit his, the angry red tip of his blade dragging on the cracked earth as clouds formed above them.

 

Ah, yes.  This close, she couldn’t hide it from him.  After all these long months, unbelievably, it was still there.  Hope.   She still had a glimmer of hope for him.  

 

Good.  He would use that against her.

 

He raised his weapon.  She swirled hers in a show of bravery, although he didn’t know for who’s benefit– his or her own.  

 

Before she could attack, before they had even exchanged words, he ducked to the left to throw her off guard.  While her mental shields were down to focus on her parry, he waved his hand quickly to knock her into a force sleep.

 

She dropped helplessly to the ground.

 

He shut off her saber and hooked it onto his belt next to his.  Kylo scooped her into his arms, just as he had done in a forest long ago, and felt her heart thudding in solid tempo along with his.  His prize was in his arms, finally.  

 

The plan was in motion.  He called to his Knights with his location.  The sabers would be stored with Ethseba Ren for safekeeping.  They wouldn’t need them where they were going.

 

Kylo took a moment to luxuriate in victory.  The weight of her in his arms was more satisfying than claiming the throne.  She was finally at his mercy.

 

This time she could not say no.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Rey jerked herself awake in bed.  

 

She was alone in a vast room with no windows.  The obsidian walls were as dark as they were blank. It looked as if they were carved from a mountainside.

 

She was immediately aware of two things.  

 

First– this was a planet.  There was no telltale scent of machine-filtered air; no discernable micromovements of a ship in motion.  It was warm, very warm, and the heat seemed to leach inside through the walls. She doubted she was still on Pasana.  

 

The second thing Rey noticed was that she was naked.  

 

Not a strip of clothing, not even her bindings or armwraps, came between her and the crisp, charcoal sheets.  She rubbed her temples– a headache always followed a force sleep, she noticed– and found her hair was down to her shoulders.  She searched for the pins through her loose waves, but they were gone. He had taken them, too.  

 

Rey ground her teeth.  She pulled the sheet with her as she sat up.  Kylo Ren was a coward to knock her out rather than meet her head on.  Rey hated that she succumbed so easily to a cheap trick. So focused on his attack, she had let her shields down.  It wouldn’t happen again.  

 

The room didn’t look like a prison cell, at least none that she had seen.  It was bare except for a small table in the corner with a small pile of clothes.  Rey wrapped the sheet around her chest and stood. The smooth, stone floor was warm under her bare feet as she walked across the room.

 

The tidy, folded pile included a fitted tunic and leggings.  All in black, of course. She lifted the top and a pair of small undershorts fell to the ground along with some type of bodice.  She assumed it served the purpose of her bindings. Rey’s cheeks flushed hot when she realized Kylo had probably seen her underthings, and had most likely been the one to remove them from her himself.  What else had he done while she was asleep?  

 

Fury rose thick in her throat.  She would carve her name into his wide, pale chest next time instead of his face, just to show him she could.

 

Refusing to wear them from spite, Rey dropped the clothes to the floor in a messy pile.  She knotted the sheet securely at her chest instead. She strode to the door and pressed her palms to the stone with closed eyes.  She reached out in the force to detect any life forms nearby.

 

There was only one other being in the structure– him.   Kylo moved, clearly sensing her intrusion, and she quickly moved away from him.  Expanding her search outward, Rey frowned. It was too quiet, yet they couldn’t be the only ones here.  She reached beyond the walls and into the sky as her uneasiness grew.

 

Still, so still.  This was unnatural.  No voices or cries, no movement of wings or feet, not even the small glimmer of a seed growing under the soil.  The force on this planet was an empty void. The planet felt as dead as a tomb.

 

She focused her power and delved deep beneath her feet.  All at once, her fingers began to vibrate with a new energy, both powerful and ancient.  Whispers floated up and began to swirl in her ears as red flashed behind her eyelids like lighting.  An ancient tongue repeated unknown words in a chant . . .

 

Klazje berniuk, zhol kash kam tu noret, zhol kash kam tu adata, atsvara ir midwan, visa nuo tu, tave plejada kash tu\'iea ar tu tik aukoti kash, accept jis, accept Kylo Ren vi tu\'iea meistras . . .         

 

His name.  

 

With a gasp, she broke off the connection and stepped back from the door.  Fingers pulled into fists at her side as her heartbeat raced.

 

The door creaked open on its own.

 

Swallowing, Rey strode out of the room proud as a queen, with the tail of the sheet dragging behind her.

 

She found him in a large, central room staring out the window.  His hands were clasped behind his wide back and his stance was even wider.

 

Poison pooled on her tongue.  Rey inhaled, preparing either a tirade or a demand to fight, but her breath caught when she saw what he was looking at it.

 

It was a world on fire.  A lake of lava, fed by smaller volcanic bodies, with sparks and shimmers of heat waves.  Everything burned, and it oddly and conversely made her blood freeze in her veins.

 

“Where are we?”  She asked.

 

“Mustafar,”  Kylo said, and turned his head to the side when she didn’t respond.  “Do you know of it?”

 

“No,” she said.  Rey took another step forward to get a closer look, but stayed outside of his reach.  She’d never touch him again.

 

“My grandfather built this castle during the Empire,” Kylo said and looked up, a touch of awe in his voice, “He would come here for meditation and restoration.”

 

She snorted.  “That explains a lot.”

 

He turned around, dark eyes fixing on her face finally.  “It has its charms. As you’ll discover for yourself.”  

 

His gaze dropped to the knot on the sheet.  His tongue pressed out against his lower lip.  “Did you not find the clothes to your taste?”

 

“I don’t want anything from you.”

 

“Can’t say that I mind your improvisation.”

 

He flicked two fingers and a breeze blew across the floor.  Rey had to catch the sheet on her thighs to stop it from blowing open.

 

“You’re a bastard,” she said, as if the words themselves were bitter on her tongue.

 

Kylo smiled.  “My mother denies it, but I have my suspicions.”

 

She jutted out her chin.  “Where are my clothes?”

 

He shrugged.  “Incinerated, with the other trash.”

 

“How dare you.”  Her blood boiled like the lava outside.

 

His smile was infuriating.  “They were filthy. I beg your pardon, I didn’t know you’d find cleanliness so offensive.”

 

She almost growled at him, hands fisting tighter.  “What did you do to me while I was asleep?”

 

His eyes sparkled with excitement.  She realized he was enjoying himself.  Rey wanted nothing more than to claw that look of amusement off his long, pale face with her fingernails.

 

“I cleaned you.  Couldn’t you tell?  Luckily I have a working fresher.”

 

“What did you do to me?!”  She stepped closer, calling the force to her fingertips and preparing to strike.

 

Kylo closed the distance between them.  He flashed white teeth, but it wasn’t exactly a smile.  “Believe me, when I touch you, Scavenger, you will know it.”  

 

They stared at each other for a long moment, each waiting for the other to make the first move.  She took a long breath and then walked past him to the window, crossing her arms.

 

“It won’t work holding me here.  The Resistance has orders not to stage a rescue if I’m captured.”

 

“Oh, good.  Then we won’t be disturbed.  Not that they could find us, anyway.”

 

She turned sharply, voice full of venom.  “Why didn’t you just kill me while you had the chance?  Get it over with.”

 

His mocking humor vanished.  His jaw tightened as his eyes darkened.  “Why didn’t you?   When I was at your mercy on the floor?”

 

Rey turned away and didn’t answer.  How could she put into words the very wrongness of that to him?  Not only because of her principles, but because it went against the will of the force that had bound them together?  

 

Rey could never admit aloud that she still carried the smallest sliver of hope that things could be different.  That what she had seen in her vision– them standing side-by-side, belonging somewhere finally, a future that didn’t seem to contain fear– was so tempting that she didn’t want to give up on it yet, not only for him but also for herself?  

 

How could she admit to the things that she knew she shouldn’t want?

 

“Answer me,” Kylo demanded.

 

“It wouldn’t have been right,” she said quietly, hoping he would accept that.

 

“Ah, your precious morality then.”  The mockery had returned. “And not the misplaced sentiment of a naive girl.”

 

She set her jaw and refused to look at him, watching the red-orange plasma ooze over rock instead.

 

“I have no such constraints, Scavenger.”  Kylo stepped closer to speak just behind her ear.  “I could have tucked you into a bed of fire instead, but I didn't.  I kept you.”

 

She closed her eyes.  “Why?”

 

“Because I wanted to,” he said.  “Now come to dinner.”

 

His heavy footsteps trailed away.  Rey stared out at the burning world until her eyes filled with tears.



Chapter Text

Oh, but she was a stubborn little thing.  

 

Kylo stroked his upper lip to obscure a delighted smile as he stared across the long table.  Rey sat with her hands tucked in her lap– prim as a princess, despite wearing only a bedsheet.  Her eyes looked anywhere but at him.  

 

In the vast and empty room in an abandoned castle, it took quite an effort to avoid the only other living thing so persistently.  

 

It was delicious.  A rich feast of obstinance.  Kylo licked his lips. After all, there was no satisfaction in an easy conquest.

 

The door to the kitchen swung open and a service droid rolled in carrying silverware and goblets of Corellian wine.  The electronic sounds of wheels turning and metal clinking filled the silence between them.  

 

Had the Scavenger ever tasted fine wine?  Kylo wondered idly if he would be able to share her pleasure through the bond, or if it was only the darker emotions– pain, fear, rage, loneliness– that bled through with such flavor.  So much yet to discover. So much still to learn.

 

Since she refused to look at him, his eyes were free to roam over her.

 

Her hair was longer than he remembered.  The first time he’d seen it down– that night by the fire, when she’d called to him, soaking wet and with a desperate ache– and it was burned into his memory.  When he finally had the opportunity to touch it, he pulled out the buns to feel the loose strands between his fingers.  

 

Kylo threw out the pins so she couldn’t tie it up away from him again.

 

That was the only pleasure of touch he had allowed himself to take from her.  Despite her accusation, he had not touched her body beyond what was necessary to divest her of the filthy rags she called clothes.  He’d even kept his gloves on as he put her in the fresher. The smooth curves of her unconscious body were merely a tantalizing hint of what was to come to him.  

 

There was no joy in a conquest if she wasn’t awake to be vanquished.  

 

The droid returned carrying the plates of food.  She was hungry– he could tell by the way her eyes flitted to the plates then away again.  This close, she could scarcely hide anything from him, least of all her hunger.

 

Dinner was served, yet she made no move to touch it.  Oddly polite for a desert rat.

 

“Please,” he said, inviting her to dine with a wave of his hand.

 

Her eyes finally fixed to his.  A barely-veiled rage burned through her.  Her hatred made such a pretty light, and he basked in it.

 

“What did you do to it?” she asked.

 

His tongue swiped across the front of his teeth.  He picked up his fork. “Why would I poison you now?”

 

“To watch me suffer,” she replied.

 

“I can do that better with you alive.”  He took a bite and chewed slowly, savoring both the taste and her anger.

 

“What do you want from me?”

 

Time– but he wouldn’t tell her that.  No answer would satisfy her anyway.  He took a sip of wine instead.  

 

“You should try this, it’s an excellent vintage.”

 

“How long do you think you can keep me here?”

 

He shrugged.  “You’re my guest.”  

 

She crossed her arms.  “Word will get out.”

 

“I thought you were friends wouldn’t come for you?” he said, volleying her prior words back at her.  “Even if they did, they’d never find you with behind the stealth shields. The planet looks like a lake of fire on any scans.”

 

The flicker of darkness across her face was very becoming, he thought.  “I’ll find a way to escape,” she said. “Or I’ll kill you.”

He smiled at that.  “I don’t doubt you’ll try.”  His anticipation rose as he watched for her reaction.  “But there’s nowhere to go. There are no ships on the planet.”

 

Ah, there it was.  A bit of surprise and fear, a touch of despondency, perhaps?  Not complete hopelessness, she was far too stubborn for that. That would come later.

 

The color drained from her face in almost equal measure to the stretch of his smile.

 

“There are no weapons, except for practice staffs and whatever tools are in the kitchen.  No other living creatures to manipulate with the force, just the two basic droids with defense protocols so you can’t destroy them for parts.  No communications or advanced technology beyond an ancient bacta tank.”

 

He looked around the room in appreciation as his hand waved vaguely.  “The castle is empty and isolated, like an island in a sea of fire. My knights will return in a few weeks to drop off provisions.  Until then–”

 

His eyes returned to her and he was rewarded with the most lovely venomous glare.  “It’s just us.”

 

“You’re a monster.

 

“So I’ve been told.”  He sliced through another piece of meat, making a show of nonchalance as he looked down at his plate.  “You may as well eat before it gets cold.”

 

Her chair scraped back and there was the slightest sound of movement through the air.  It was sudden but not unexpected. Kylo raised his hand without looking to freeze her knife a few feet from his face.  It hovered between them.

 

He drew it to his palm and placed it down on the table.  Rey stood panting with clenched fists, glowering at him. The force energy crackled between them, electric and disturbed, bouncing between their two poles of light and dark.  Unstable, yet balanced. Matched in strength.

 

They were equals in a stalemate.

 

“Please.”  He slid the knife back to her across the smooth, black table.  “Eat.”

 

Rey set her jaw and after a few moments sat down again.  She blinked. Finally she picked up her fork.

 

They ate in silence.

 

+++

 

Since the entire castle was a prison, there was no need to contain her.  He retired to his own suite and left the angry Scavenger to her own devices.

 

Kylo got into bed and stared at the ceiling.  For months, while Rey had been blocking him from the bond, he had been honing a new skill in secret.  He had perfected the technique with the knowledge from ancient Sith manuscripts. Now he could cloak himself in shadows to reach out in the force and observe her undetected.  Even a powerful force wielder like her would not know he was there.  

 

Rey roamed the castle halls like a caged lothcat as he tracked her.  She tested corners and walls for any weaknesses. He knew she wouldn’t find any.  After several hours, she finally wore herself out and returned to her room.

 

Kylo smiled as he crossed his arms on his chest, closing his eyes.  It was all working out so perfectly. He felt the moment the last gasp of her consciousness crossed over into her dreams.  Then he began.  

 

He sent out thin tethers through the force.  Tiny filaments of connection that allowed him access to her mind.  Not enough to wake or disturb, certainly not enough to change her dreams or influence her.  Just enough to watch.

 

For now.



Chapter Text

The pounding in her head woke her– as loud as a fist on the door.

 

The dream slipped away like a shadow in the midday sun.  There had been heat.  A familiar place like Jakku, or maybe Pasana?  Darkness. An enemy . . . The details were gone now.   All that remained was a vague sense of unease.  

 

Even after a full night’s sleep, Rey did not feel rested.  Rubbing her temples, she sat up in bed as loose hair fell over her eyes.  Anger flashed hot in her veins– she hated that.  If you couldn’t see, you couldn’t fight.  Annoyed, she tucked it back behind her ears and looked around the room.

 

It was the same as yesterday.  The black clothes were neatly folded and stacked on the table again.  By a droid, or by him? Either way, her mood soured at the invasion of her space.  It sunk even further with the realization she thought of it as her room now. 

 

Rey was nothing if not a pragmatist.  Denial didn’t keep you alive in the desert.  Her whole life, she had scraped together an existence from whatever pieces she had found.  The first step was clear-eyed acceptance of the truth: Kylo had caught her. She was trapped.  She believed him when he said there was no transport off the planet. Although her skin itched to admit it, he had the upper hand.  

 

Although she could accept she was trapped, she found it difficult to believe that he wouldn’t have a way to communicate.  Some kind of lifeline to his forces. It didn’t seem his nature to entirely cut himself off. Kylo could be hiding it from her.

 

If a lifeline existed, Rey would find it.  She was very good at finding things and had nothing but time.

 

Throwing back the covers, she walked to the fresher.  It was like nothing she had seen before. Antiquated with strange faucets and a large container in the corner that surely couldn’t be for holding water.  It would be far too much, wasteful. She inspected it with bald curiosity about the mechanics. With a twist of her wrist, real water sputtered and then poured out into the large basin.  Her eyes opened wide. What a lewd luxury, to have a whole pool of water on a planet of heat. She turned it off quickly.

 

To her amazement, the shower also rained down pure, filtered water.  She’d never experienced such extravagance. What other surprises did the castle hold?  Eyes closed, Rey threw her head back and drank the water down as she rinsed her hair. Her mouth snapped shut when she noticed she was smiling.

 

There were no other options for clothes besides the bed sheet, which held its own obvious disadvantages.  She grit her teeth and dressed quickly to not dwell on his petty victory. She’d get hers soon.

 

Rey had survived for years before hearing the name Kylo Ren, and she’d live for many more long after he was forgotten.  That’s what she told herself as she threw open the doors to go look for breakfast.

 

+++

 

Kylo wasn’t there, thankfully.  Breakfast was set out on her end of the table.  Once she pulled in the chair, the droid rolled out with hot caf.  She ate in silence and found it tolerable. The food was good and there was plenty of it.

 

She tried not to think of her friends.  She’d told Finn, Poe and Chewie it was too dangerous for them to follow once she felt Kylo’s presence on the surface.  She drew him away to give the Resistance time to escape. They would worry– and for that, she felt the most guilt. It was a pain in her chest she couldn’t rub away.

 

When she was done eating, Rey re-started her investigation of the main floor.  Most doors didn’t even contain locks and led to empty rooms, but she found one door at the end of a long hall that was barred shut.  Even using the force on the lock mechanism wouldn’t budge it. Interesting. You only lock things of value.

 

The sound of clattering nearby caught her attention.  Rey followed it around the corner. A set of double doors was open and she peeked around the door frame.

 

Kylo was training with a wooden staff.  He practiced drills against a mannequin.  She stood watching him silently for a moment.  It was a rare opportunity to see his movements unnoticed.

 

He was an absolute beast of a man.  Tall, wide, powerful even without the force.  He had stripped down to a fitted black tank and pants with suspenders, his arm guards and tunic discarded.  He spun and on the downstroke the wooden staff cracked against the solid torso of the dummy. The floor shook with reverberations.  He turned over his other shoulder and elbowed the neck before twisting behind it to land a one-two hit on the abdomen that would send any creature to the medic, if not the mortuary.

 

The pale bands of muscle in his arms strained.  Her own heart beat faster to match his. The effect of the bond was heightened by close proximity.  Rey took deep, slow breaths to wrestle her own pulse down again.

 

Kylo sensed her and straightened.  With a toss of his head, he cleared his eyes and turned.

 

“Good morning,” he said, his voice deep and smooth.

 

“Is it?” she replied curtly, crossing her arms.

 

“Every morning you wake up breathing is a good morning,” he said simply and smirked.  

 

His good humor and calm had a disproportionate and opposite effect on her.  Rey clenched her jaw in response, oozing hatred in his direction.

 

“Rough night, was it?”  Kylo called another staff to his hand with the force.  “Let’s put that bad mood to use.” He tossed it at her, and she caught it.  “Spar.”

 

“You can’t be serious,” she said.

 

“What else is there to do?  You’ve searched every inch of the castle already.”  His eyes poured down her body. “And you don’t want to lose your muscle.”

 

She sneered at him.  “You brought me here to train with you?  Wouldn’t anyone else play with the Supreme Leader?”  She narrowed her eyes in mockery.

 

Kylo seemed unaffected by her venom.  If anything, his smile only widened with his stance.  He twisted the staff between his huge hands. “You’re the only one I want to play with, Scavenger.  Begin.”

 

She wanted to wipe that infernal grin off his face.  Kylo was a brawler, used to two-handed weapons, not a staff fighter.  She should have the advantage. It would feel nice to hit him a little.

 

With a snarl, she lunged– swinging the top end of the staff for his shoulder.  She’d expected him to block her easily– which he did– so she used the rebound energy to slap his thigh with the other end.  Hard.

 

Kylo grunted and took a step back with a grimace.  He circled around her and his smile returned.

 

“So angry.  So very angry for a Jedi.”

 

“I’m no Jedi.  You of all people should know that, Jedi killer.

 

A flicker of annoyance crossed his features, but the smug mask returned.  “Better for you. It was a failed ideology that collapsed under its own weight.”

 

“Then why did you wipe them out?  If they weren’t a threat?”

 

She struck again before he could respond.  A quick barrage of jabs that landed a solid blow to his ribs, despite him blocking her more serious strikes.  You needed balance for staff work, and speed.  Rey had both on her side.

 

They circled each other like two lothcats, ready to spit and scratch.  The force energy rose and swirled around them with dark stripes of anger.  There were other emotions twisted together that she couldn’t tease apart.  

 

Fear, perhaps.  Envy.

 

“The rot came from within the order.  Failure was inevitable.”

 

The staffs clashed again in a dance of aggression.  

 

“That’s not what you believed when you trained with Luke.  Before you gave in to your own weaknesses.”

 

She sensed a new feeling.  Frustration.

 

A small muscle under his eye pulsed.  She had offended him.  Rey took very un-Jedi pleasure in that.  His defensive posture changed, and Kylo lunged forward in an attack.  

 

She blocked the powerful swing, but her arms shook from the effort.  He struck again, using broad, heavy blows to keep her backing away on the defensive. 

 

Their staffs crossed and Rey stood her ground.  Kylo pushed her back a step, and she grit her teeth and held firm, muscles straining.  She could see the fleck of gold in his eyes shine as he stared down at her.

 

“Using the dark inside you is a strength, not weakness.  You of all people feel that power.  Don’t deny it, just give in.”

 

Something new.  Desire. 

 

She closed her eyes briefly, trying to shut down the bond before she could sense any more.  It was nearly impossible with him so close.  Resist.

 

“Never.”  Rey snarled and pushed against him.  Their arms shook with the effort of matching strength for strength in a balance of aggression between the light and the dark.  The force hummed around them, electric and unstable, yet equalized.

 

Kylo was close enough that Rey felt his hot breath on her cheek.  His voice lowered to a near whisper.  “You're right– you’re no Jedi.  Denying who you really are weakens you.  Let me show you.”  His eyes dropped to her lips. 

 

Lust.  Want.

 

Resist.  All she had left was that thought.  She clenched her jaw and pushed the thought back at him through the bond like a cry.  Resist.

 

“I’ll never be like you.” 

 

Rey shifted her weight to kick his calf.  She twisted away from him as he staggered back.  With a growl, she attacked while he was unbalanced in a flurry of small blows.  He may have power, but she was speed.  Rey struck the outside of his shoulder, his back and his knee before he could block.

 

His knee gave out and landed on the floor.  She stepped before him and swung wide for his jaw.

 

He caught her staff and held it firm.

 

“You already are like me.”  He was panting and staring up at her.  “That wasn’t the light side fueling you just now.”

 

Rey froze.  Her furious expression relaxed back to neutral as her eyes widened.  He was right.

 

Kylo took that moment to yank the staff toward him.  Rey stumbled forward and had to grab his shoulder so she wouldn't fall into him.

 

Still on his knees, he raised his eyebrows to her.  His voice was softer.  “Just give in.”  

 

He had no right to look at her like that.  With eyes too warm and voice too soft for an enemy.  She hated him.  She hated him even worse for that.

 

She pushed away and dropped the staff to the training floor with a clatter.

 

“Never.”

 

Rey spun and left him there on his knees.

 

It wasn’t until she was out of the room– and out of his sight– that she balled her fists to stop the shaking.