The first time Kylo saw you, the darkness in the way he looked at you belied the soft brown of his eyes. You’d figured as Snoke’s second apprentice that there would be competition between you two. You were prepared for that, though it had been hard work getting this far, especially when you and Kylo sparred. He was stronger than you were, both physically and in the Force, and you always ended up on the ground in tests of strength with him, but you were smaller and faster and so much more adaptable. Snoke had been wise in choosing you since you made an excellent team. Once Kylo had realized that, that darkness had been replaced with respect, then something almost (but not quite) like affection. Sometimes that soft brown brightened when he looked at you even if the stony set of his face did not change. He seemed to look forward to your sparring together and even occasionally asked you to join him for meals, or said yes when you asked if he wanted to meditate with you. Otherwise, he kept himself and his emotions carefully guarded.
That’s why your confusion rose up so intensely inside you when you answered Snoke’s summons, walked into the throne room, and saw Kylo standing there at Snoke’s right hand. The darkness in his eyes was tenfold what it had been that first time.
With a struggle, you tore your gaze from his nearly murderous one and bowed silently to your master, going down on one knee and focusing your eyes on the floor. You could feel Kylo towering over you, radiating in the Force.
“I know you’re wondering why I have summoned you here, my apprentice,” Snoke said to the top of your head. He was always so massive—massive in the Force, massive as a holo projection; somehow it was when he was in person, sitting on his throne, that he always made you feel your smallest. It made you so uncomfortable every time you knelt before him. Around Snoke, you were just a worm squirming on the floor.
“I always come when you call, Supreme Leader,” you said, to his chuckling approval.
“Yes. That is why you are my favorite. You may rise.”
Favorite? you thought with a start that you tried to keep from showing. It was true he had been watching you very closely lately, but you thought that was because he was thinking of ways you could improve, not because he considered you as his favorite. If anyone, you’d figured it would have been Kylo.
You stood up, purposely ignoring the increasing heat of anger from your fellow apprentice.
“I can sense your surprise,” said Snoke, tilting his head back, “just as I can sense the hatred in you, Kylo Ren.”
Your heart fell at that. Hatred…You and Kylo had just started to become almost friendly with one another. Hatred was not something you had ever thought he would feel for you again. But when you finally looked at him, the normal softness of those eyes had gone hard and glinted with quiet fury. There was no hiding that.
“You are wise, Supreme Leader,” you said into Kylo’s silence.
Snoke stood up with an elegance that made his frail body seem willowy. You would have thought him weak if you didn’t know better. He said, his gaze sweeping over you both, “The First Order is forever, but no one person is, not even I. The seat of Supreme Leader must have an heir. I am inclined to give it to you.” He nodded to you, and you tried to mask your shock. With a small smile, he continued, “But Supreme Leader is a powerful position, and should therefore go to the one who is most powerful. Tomorrow you will prove to me which one of you deserves the seat.”
You both sank immediately to your knees and said together, “Yes, Supreme Leader.”
He dismissed you. Kylo stormed out quietly, trailing cold rage and not even looking at you as he exited. You kept your composure until you were out of sight of the Supreme Leader. You broke into a run following him down the hallway before he could reach his quarters and seal himself away from you for the rest of the night.
“Kylo!” you kept calling to him, but he didn’t stop or even slow until you caught up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. It was a reach since he was so much taller than you.
He was imposing when he turned, a wall of blackness and fury. You shivered involuntarily. If he decided to pick you up and throw you down the hallway right now he absolutely would be able to; you’d seen him do it to things heavier than you were.
He said nothing, just stared down and waited for you to speak.
“I swear I had no idea,” you stammered up at him. “I never could have foreseen this, not even during my deepest meditations. I have no idea why he thinks of me as his favorite.”
The muscle in his jaw twitched. He shook, though imperceptibly. “It should have been me,” he said thickly. “I gave up everything to be his apprentice. I’ve killed for him so many times. I was here first, I’m stronger in the Force, I deserve the Supreme Leader seat.”
“And I agree with everything you just said. Trust me, Kylo, I’m not here to steal the seat from you. I don’t even want it.”
“The Sith don’t trust each other. Trust gets you killed,” he said, but he visibly relaxed at that. Some of the anger in his aura drained out into the Force.
“Maybe…maybe I can just tell him I don’t want the seat,” you said, but as soon as it came out of your mouth you knew that wasn’t going to be possible.
Kylo looked down the hallway. The door to Snoke’s throne room was still within eyeshot, and that made both of you tense up. He jerked his hand in a “come with me” motion and started off toward his quarters, and you followed him silently.
It wasn’t the first time you and he had walked wordlessly somewhere together. Kylo was always the type to appreciate a good silence, and as long as you were with him you had learned to find it refreshing instead of awkward.
Kylo used the Force to open the door to his quarters. It submitted with a hiss as it opened, and gave a sister hiss when it shut behind you two, plunging you into the austere dimness of his chambers.
Without a word he went to a mat in the corner and sank down to the floor, crossing his legs and holding his hand to you, palm facing up.
“Meditate with me, please?” he said.
You raised your eyebrows but joined him on the floor, facing him and taking in a sharp breath when he grabbed both your hands. His eyes were closed, though, so you followed suit and didn’t pull away.
When you meditated together in the past, sometimes you could hear snippets of each other’s thoughts or read the faintest bit of emotions as the two of you sank deeper into trance. Today, those thoughts flowed freely through the joining of your palms, the physical closeness multiplying the closeness in the Force. As experienced as you were in reaching trance, it took only a few breaths for the hum of the outside world to fade away completely.
You found yourself looking not into the black of your own closed eyes, but out on the gray-blue of an ocean sighing so far away. Cool wind laced with the smell of salt played with your hair. Below you stretched a cliff face, and beside you was the man who had brought you here, his hands clasped behind his back and his face turned toward the sea.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he said. “This is where I come when I meditate. The ocean is so big, so full of possibility. It helps me think.”
You wanted to ask him if this was a real place that he had visited in his past. Instead you said, “Yes, it’s beautiful.”
He finally turned to you, smiling slightly. The wind caught a bit of his hair and sent it dancing across his face. “We’re safe here. He can’t hear our thoughts as easily when we’re in trance together.”
So that’s why he’d brought you here. You nodded, giving a sound of acknowledgment.
“I’m sorry about getting so angry with you," he said. "I thought I’d been working too hard for him to say something like that. I felt—”
He paused and looked down, as if he’d said too much. You stopped yourself from putting a hand on his shoulder, wanting to comfort him, to reassure him.
“It’s alright. I think he—I think maybe he’s saying such odd things about us because he wants us to hate each other. Although I can’t see why.” You shuffled your feet in the sparse cliff grass.
“Hate is a powerful emotion, but it’s…bad for team building.”
“Just when things had been going so well,” you sighed, still studying the patches of vegetation beneath your feet. “I just wanted to serve the First Order. I didn’t want to lead it. But it’s not our place to question the Supreme Leader, and we can’t just tell him we don’t want to fight.”
“A leader who pits his subordinates against each other doesn’t deserve to be called one.”
Your head snapped up to look at him. It was something you had always thought and had tried to keep buried deep inside you lest Snoke find out how much you despised him, how much you hated feeling so small in his presence. You had joined the First Order to feel like you were a part of something larger, and thus feel just as large, but Snoke had always made you feel like you were…lacking. Especially next to Kylo Ren. You had even avoided being nice to Kylo around him, just in case something like this happened. You knew Snoke had a way of finding out your weaknesses and using them against you.
Well, it was happening. And Kylo had echoed your sentiments.
“We should do something about that,” you said just above the sound of the ocean, as if speaking softer would protect you from Snoke’s wrath.
“My thoughts exactly.”
You thought about it for a few moments, listening to the screech of a seabird far off. You could still very faintly register the grip of his hands on your own somewhere outside of trance.
“I think…I have an idea,” you mused. You whispered it to him even though you knew you didn’t need to, your lips so close to his ear.
When you came out of trance, the first thing you noticed was how dazzling his grin was. You had never seen him smile so widely and wondered if such a smile had ever graced his face before; you knew you hadn’t smiled like that since becoming Snoke’s apprentice. It looked good on him. You didn’t mean for your blush to reach your cheeks so quickly. You looked down to hide it and noticed that he had not let go of your hands.
“I feel like things are going to get better,” he said. The sound of his voice was different in here, away from the hiss of the ocean.
“Me too, Kylo.”
The next morning, Snoke called you to him the way he always did—with an invasive, irresistible pull deep in your mind. You slipped on your clothes, strapped your lightsaber to your side, and tried to keep your thoughts free of anything but the battle with Kylo ahead.
You had never been able to get there before Kylo did, and this morning was no exception. He was there on bended knee before Snoke. He did not look at you as you approached, not even after lowering yourself likewise and shooting him a glance.
“Now is the time to prove yourselves worthy. Rise, both of you,” Snoke boomed from his throne.
You obeyed, your eyes flicking from Snoke to the Praetorian Guards along the wall behind him. Their uniforms blended into the red of the wall, which would have made them unnoticeable save for the gleam of the light across their helmets and the subtle sense of dangerous capability they emitted. You set your mouth in a grim, determined line.
“You should have no problem besting this one, Kylo,” Snoke sneered to him. “You have always been superior in lightsaber combat. And despite that, you are not my favorite. How could that be?”
Kylo ignited his lightsaber, its garbled, unnatural noise deeper than the smoother hiss of your own. His face was twisted into a glare, but it lacked the malice of yesterday. You tried to channel some of the bitterness you had seen from him then. You raised your lightsaber and widened your stance, sinking down into combat posture.
He growled and came at you then, and with his first strike came a brute strength that sent you down nearly into a crouch. You twisted out of the lock and swiped at his ankles, and he jumped over the blade and parried into another lock as your lightsaber swung back around. You pressed up off the ground and wrenched your saber out to the side, sending the both of yours in an arc and giving you room to somersault backwards out of his way while he recovered. There was only the drone of sabers as you stared at each other from across the throne room, both of your faces bathed in red light.
Snoke gave a raspy chortle.
You were the one who attacked first this time, and after a series of parries and flourishes you ended up staring each other down again, getting ever closer to the throne. Snoke’s subsequent laughs quieted more and more with each cycle of the routine until they turned into huffs of frustration.
“You cannot hop around each other forever,” he rumbled, watching the dance that had practically gotten close enough for him to touch. “Just as you cannot avoid your destiny. Someone must be struck down. Strike!”
You and Kylo reached for each other, simultaneously wrapping your fingers around each other’s palms, and the points of your lightsabers went from diving toward each other to diving straight at Snoke’s chest.
And then you were on the ground, looking up at the ceiling as your lightsaber was ripped from your hand to float above your head. The gasp that came from you—when the hard thunk of the floor against your back knocked your breath out—hadn’t been loud enough to drown out the rustle and shing of the Praetorian Guards drawing their weapons. You tried to rise, but the slowly growing pressure on your chest kept you pressed to the floor.
Snoke loomed just above, gazing down a wrinkled nose. “Did you not think I had sensed this long ago? That I had not foreseen this betrayal? I am disappointed that you would think me so easily destroyed.”
The lightsabers hovered inactive next to each other, yours smaller and more elegant, and Kylo’s with its strong hilt facing away from Snoke, toward the door.
“Either of you may have been a good Supreme Leader of the First Order and the galaxy. It is a shame neither one will ever sit on that throne. I will make sure to find suitable replacements for you both, and someday far from now, someone much more powerful than you two will—What are you doing?”
You couldn’t get up, but you could still turn your head and found that Kylo was already looking at you. The fall hadn’t made either of you release your grips on each other, and as he tightened his hand in yours, your eyes traced the scar on his face and darted to every tensed muscle, every twitch of an eye or a cheek. In the space of a heartbeat your combined strength in the Force multiplied over and over, bouncing off itself through the link in your hands like infinite mirrors until your power had exploded to rival Snoke’s own.
Snoke’s face had gone from haughty, to confused, to enraged. He slammed his presence down harder into your chest with the Force, hard enough to send the taste of blood welling up from somewhere down inside you, but you and Kylo only continued to grow in power and strength through tightly entwined fingers, shielding Snoke away from the thoughts of what you were about to do.
“You will not defeat me,” snarled Snoke, preparing to come down on your chest hard enough to crush you both to death.
You mentally grabbed hold of your lightsaber and felt Kylo do the same to his. In a blur of motion, you wrenched your sabers free of Snoke’s Force grasp and activated the blades, plunging them into Snoke’s eyes.
The Praetorian Guards were on you before Snoke even hit the ground. You were dizzy and tasted metal as you leaped to your feet and snatched your lightsaber out of what had become the sheath of Snoke’s face, but a gentle nudging in the Force kept you from falling over, broadcasted from a telepathic link that was there even after you let go of Kylo.
During meditation you had felt a fraction of the power of this bond you now shared, but now it was as if you knew his thoughts and feelings before he did and could look through his eyes and move through his hands. It felt like the Force was an ocean and you two had dissolved in it completely, becoming one, your movements flowing as free as your thoughts did.
The Guards were nothing before the power that you two had reached. Within moments they all lay dead beneath your sabers.
The room was starting to come back into focus now as your dizziness lifted and the metallic taste faded away. Little fires had started from who-knew-what. Sparks flew from panels in the walls that had been destroyed by sabers or staffs. No one stood but you and Kylo.
You deactivated your saber and looked from the red pile of a Guard and up into the face of Kylo Ren, and the wonder and awe in how he looked back made you blush.
“Who’s going to be Supreme Leader now?” you asked. You gestured to the empty throne with your saber’s hilt. “You said you wanted it. You deserve it, Kylo.”
He stared at you with that same wonder in his expression. Then he held his gloved hand to you, palm up, like he had when he asked you to meditate. His lightsaber crackled, then whooshed as his blade went back up into the hilt.
“Let’s lead together,” he said.
You clenched your hand around your saber and shook your head. “There can’t be two Supreme Leaders. There’s never been more than one, just a leader and a right hand. I can be your right—”
“This was your idea. You have so much more power in you than you know.” His fingers moved a little toward himself, and his eyes were pleading. “You will be more confident in time. Join me…please.”
You placed your palm into the smooth leather of the glove and smiled.